Under Cover of Darkness
From the outside, the house looked to be a great place to drink away your federal assistance. The shutters were chipped, and the steps were rotting, and the storm door had long since peeled away from the jamb. It was less a home than a tomb. The curiousness of his circumstance was not lost on the man in the suit, but he did not smile, and made no wry remark to himself.
He ascended the stairs in two soundless strides, not bothering to peer through the cloudy cataract glass of the windows, and his suit folded neatly when one pipe-cleaner arm reached out to ring the doorbell. When he heard nothing, he resorted to a short series of knocks, and then sheathed his hands in his pockets like ceremonial weapons. The man's jacket was black, and his shirt was black, and his tie was black and his slacks and shoes, too. The waistcoat was black, and the belt, and the cufflinks in his sleeves.
After a lengthy half-minute, there was motion on the other side of the door, and a voice creaked like the hinges of a crypt gate. "Who's it?" the voice said; and the man in the suit sucked his teeth before replying.
"Just me," he said, and when he was met with silence he remembered himself. "Can I come in?" His accent was neutral and his enunciation perfect, which made him sound like a radio host. The dead air that followed did nothing to change his demeanor.
"Yeah," came the reply, at length. "It en't locked." There was a noise of metallic protest as bearings scraped against axles, and then the silence returned, and then the man in the suit turned the knob and stepped into the dark.
Crates in varying stages of decay made a labyrinth of the entrance, navigated deftly by the suited man and only through heroic effort by the man in the wheelchair. Where the man in the suit looked young and vital (if a little pale), the handicapped man appeared every bit as dilapidated as his home. Etched into the stone of his face were a thousand stories, and the creases of his forehead spoke to the toll he'd paid; and the sparse gray clinging to his jawline represented more of a desire to grow a beard than an actual beard.
A portrait on the wall drew the suited man's attention, and he peered at it for a few moments too long. Next to the picture of salt-and-pepper dignity that the wheelchair-bound man had once been, there was a woman with hooded eyes and hair the color of sunset. She had been a pretty ornament in a once-pretty life, and the man in the suit had never liked her, but he had not killed her, either.
"I heard," the suited man started haltingly, "and I'm sorry, Joseph."
Joseph lifted his hand in a manner that only the infirm and the newborn can manage. Everything in his being had sunk and withdrawn, and still the man in the suit thought he was beautiful. The house, too; craning his neck to stare into the rafters, the suited man envied Joseph's lack of vaulted ceilings, envied that his home did not look like individual rooms selected from a catalogue and plugged into a building like Lego bricks. Man and home together were dying, and it was beautiful.
"You en't come to talk on that," Joseph said in his oxidized voice.
"I did not."
The man in the suit sucked his teeth again, and shifted his weight from foot to foot, and beneath carefully stylized hair he lifted his eyebrows. He was handsome in the manner of news anchors and politicians - forgettably so. Joseph had never looked like someone you would forget.
"I thought I would at least try to give you the offer," the man in the suit said, doomed words carefully measured. Still, he was not pleased at how his voice had threatened to crack.
Joseph distended his upper lip with his tongue but did not hesitate. "No," he replied. "I don't think so."
"We wouldn't have to be -" the man in the suit started hastily, and he stopped when he realized his hands were balled into fists, deep in his pockets. Friends? "You'd still be you. Young again, after you..." He did not say the word fed, but it hung in the air anyway, no different from the columns of dust visible in the filtered light of the moon. The silences were beginning to twist at his gut, and he spoke just to speak, all at once and in a torrent of emotions long suppressed. "It could be like it was in the Sixties, Joseph, and you could fight again, we could fight and we could hate and it could just go on and on like that, Joseph, you chasing and me running, forever, and-"
"And," the wheelchair-bound man interrupted, "end up like you?"
The man in the suit recoiled, and feigned indignation, and his sneering warped the gentle features of his face into something far less wholesome. Dagger teeth gleamed in the half-light. "A monster?"
"Alone," Joseph answered. His breathing was ragged and liquid, and the man in the suit knew he had little time left to negotiate.
"Please," he said, nostrils flaring. "Please, Joseph. You were the best of them, do you understand? The very best!" Emotion climbed into the timbre of the suited man unbidden, and his words grew thick. "What can I do, now? What the gently caress am I supposed to do, now?"
The old hunter said nothing, and as the man in the suit searched his face, he found nothing. If there were profundities in Joseph's weathered granite countenance, the man in the suit lacked the code to interpret them.
And so the man in the suit slumped his shoulders and sank to the ground, spine against a box that read beach trip 1986, and he drove his fingers into his hair. "I am going to be very bored when you're gone," he said slowly. He tried to breathe in a rhythm. "I don't know - I don't know what..."
Joseph appeared to think for a moment, and he lifted a palsied hand, pointed his index finger at the man in the suit like a pistol, and asked, "Well, you got any cigarettes?"
The man in the suit exhaled, and then he smiled, and he said, "Of course."
They sat together on the porch, Joseph in his dead wife's rocking chair and the man in the suit on the decomposing steps, the wheelchair discarded and upended on the gravel of the driveway. They talked about the Red Sox, and about Joseph's father, and the near-miss when Joseph had had a stake drawn back high and only the tremors of the ship sinking had thrown his aim off. The man in the suit even showed him the scar, which never healed, and caused his left shoulder to click in its socket from time to time. They breathed smoke into the night and before he knew it, the man in the suit had only two cigarettes left in the pack.
"You could stop," Joseph offered. "En't hafta drink. Just..." And he gestured indistinctly with trembling hands. "Find a little peace."
"I could," the man in the suit replied, and nodded slowly, but as soon as the words left him he knew that he would not just stop nor find a little peace.
Joseph leaned back in his chair and it groaned at him in a wooden whine, and he coughed for an uncomfortable length. The man in the suit's eyes flashed with concern. The old man waved him off. "You know," Joseph said, "I almost did it. Almost said 'yes.'" He did not laugh so much as snort, derision aimed squarely at himself.
"I wish you would," the man in the suit said softly.
Joseph said nothing.
And in the quiet shared between them, the man in the suit only stared into the dark and saw nothing. There were no adventures on the horizon, no narrow escapes, no measuring himself against the greatest that humanity had to offer. There would be no further escapades, capers, exploits, or anything else. From here on out it was smooth sailing - just inexperienced children with something to prove, the occasional inter-familial squabble, and all the time in the world to deal with them. The man in the suit lolled his head back, looked at the low-slung moon, and thought miserably: I won.
He thought he smelled burning flesh amidst the acrid air. "Joseph?" he asked.
The last of a menthol had ashed all the way to the filter, still nestled between the old man's fingers.
So the man in the suit just sat, alone, finished his own cigarette, and slipped the near-empty pack into the other man's pocket. One for Denise, too. He reached out, and he touched Joseph's face in tenderness, and he fought back the knot in his throat. He said something inaudible. Then he was gone, slinking back down the driveway, and the darkness swallowed him up after that.
|# ? May 22, 2015 07:36|
|# ? Dec 8, 2022 17:30|
Trexedes brawl results
You both amused me. That's good. I cracked a smile at least once while reading each story. That said, both had a couple problems.
lols: You were riffing on comfortable ideas, which I was a little bit but there were a couple things I thought you did well. Pretending I don't know your character and haven't read any of your other stories, I actually like the idea of rebellious Jesus trying to weasel out of getting a talking-to from Dad. I cracked up when he was slapping prettiness into the cops. I appreciated the references to your other stories, though I know that might irritate readers who aren't me. But hell you both knew you were getting a sucker when you let me judge. You are, as I said, super comfortable writing Black Jesus. I guess I would've liked to see that sort of swagger and humor injected into a different character, maybe?
Plot: Black Jesus gets cornered by dad's lackeys and is like "gently caress no". He then proceeds to issue a whole lot of "gently caress no" unto some motherfuckers. I mean, all else aside, I think you came up with the right size story for the word count.
Mechanics: Tense shifts, bro. You've got them. It's one thing to drop from present tense into past tense, but going from past to present? You sort of slip into it as jesus is slapping cops.
lols: Your protag is of the unflappable adventurer ilk. Some of his dialog is pretty amusing, but at other parts his cavalier attitude made the story feel like it was dawdling a bit. The heavy exposition about the statues and the nazis and etc was fun in an old movie kind of way. I had no problem with it. But then Marco read like a hybrid between Indiana Jones and James Bond, which felt weirdly like too much? Like when I type it like that, it sounds like a fine sort of character. But in this piece it gave it a bit of an "everything but the kitchen sink" sort of feeling, since the word count was relatively low.
Plot: Our hero was caught by a mad nazi doctor in an attempt to steal a statue which is instrumental to resurrecting the soul of hitler via an aztec god. He's also knighted, so presumably is on a mission for her majesty? But then, he's kind of an antihero in that he likes burning people. I was kind of irked at the false "reveal" that the Dr.'s face was all scarred and burned, since that felt like something Marco should've noticed right off the bat. Like, for such a clever guy, why didn't he put together that an obvious burn victim was a past acquaintance? Since burning people is his "thing." But ok this was tongue in cheek, so I shouldn't really question it too much. I guess that's the problem, I did start questioning. In the end, our hero escapes using a mix of guile and luck. That was satisfying enough. And then he burns the place down, cause that's his thing.
In retrospect, I kind of wish you'd honed in on his struggle with his shoe while keeping up some light banter with the evil doctor. By adding so much, I was taken away from what should be a real simple yarn about how a clever bastard outsmarted the nazis.
Mechanics: Eh, you had some typos that made me feel like you didn't edit this a whole lot, cause I know you'd have caught them otherwise. I'm not holding them against you or anything, but it did give me the feeling that this was a first-draft sort of thing.
Honestly, neither of these really stuck out as the obvious winner. Merc was derivative, T-rex was slightly convoluted, tone and plot-wise. Ultimately, I have to go with the story that was easiest to read, and got the most smiles out of me, which was Mercedes. I don't usually like to validate a gimmick, but if I set that aside, his story was direct and punchy. Grats to both of you for not failing to write words.
|# ? May 22, 2015 09:51|
BONUS CRITS 1/2 – newtestleper, Broenheim, Benny the Snake, ravenkult, kurona_bright, Dr. Kloctopussy, skwidmonster, Wangless Wonder, curlingiron, Auraboks, Doctor Idle
newtestleper – The Truth Above All
This story... is like river. It come and it go. And man watch. And shrug.
So this is about a modern-day Icarus from the POV of a close observer, but without any of the details that make it come to life. I want to see Louis’s obsession and how it affects him and the people around him. I want to feel the bond between these two friends and I want to know why the narrator decides to be this guy’s Watson, and how their relationship suffers from Louis’s obsession. I want none of the pretentious student intro bullcrap and less of all the ticking-off-the-boxes-getting-my-protags-from-A-to-B laundry list stuff during their unremarkable climb to nowhere, because that poo poo is boring, and right now that’s the main ingredient of your story.
The ending is bad because the “flight to moon” arc jumps ship along with the protagonist and then it ends with Louis being found dead in some Nazi warplane or whatevs and it just kinda comes out of nowhere and I’m like ????
Basically, what’s the point? What is interesting about this story? I’d say it’s the crazy guy and his crazy flight and the fact that someone out there decided to be his personal butler. Maybe you agree. Either way, this is flash fic so take anything that isn’t interesting and drop it like a one hundred and fifty two pounds piece of ballast.
Broenheim - Don't Want It Anymore
This has a really decent base of an idea but the execution is kinda phoned it.
The conflict is there (Charlie has to go, Monster doesn’t want him to leave), but it comes a bit late and you don’t do anything with it, it just exists and Charlie says he’ll go anyway, and does so over and over again and that’s the entire second half of the story. I don’t feel like anything’s been resolved at the end because I never learn if Charlie does come back. For all I know it’s back to square one for the lonely monster with nothing much learned except for a language it will never use again. I don’t see the monster cope with or overcome its loneliness. I don’t see Charlie deal with his guilt or reunite with the monster. All I get is a projector sheet that says “Charlie ran out of funding on the way back to his home planet.”
On a technical level this alternates between serviceable and poor. You have some serious proofreading issues. Like really major stuff. Some of your scenes suffer from poor and lazy blocking, where you describe a bunch of tiny motions and pauses and the likes without attaching any kind of meaning or attitude to them. The meeting between Charlie and the monster is a bit weak, the chopper scene even moreso. I never get much of a read on Charlie during these moments. Is he sad? Is he afraid? Does he feel guilty? Is he scientifically curious? Does he have an opinion? It’s kinda there, but you have to squint.
It’s a pretty simple story otherwise and I could follow the general plot. The description of the monster and the first few paragraphs altogether, work nicely, and yes, the beginning is interesting. Though after a while I wonder what Charlie is doing on this island. You conjure some monetary problems out of thin air mid-story so I then guess he’s a scientist? The narration from his POV makes him sound like he’s a child.
I have no idea how good or bad Monster week was as a whole but I wasn’t too impressed with this to be honest. The writing just isn’t that good and the story is pretty messy and meandering. It’s tonally consistent in being cutesy and the language is easily comprehensible so it’s a cut above the average dome story, but not by much.
Benny the Snake – And Hell Followed
Yeah I remember this. I just read it again and I still hate it. It’s that kind of gimmick story that you shouldn’t ever attempt unless you’ve earned your spores with a normal story first. So basically you’ve written a newspaper article. How often do you read the papers and go, “Wow that’s crazy, I have to find out what happens next to this guy”?
There’s just not much of a reason to spend time reading this. As a mock news article it isn’t particularly novel (“failed experiment blows up”). The narrative is poor in that you start by telling me that everything is going to blow up and then you take it from the beginning and tell me how it is going to blow up, and briefly why the scientist blows it up, and how the blowing up is engineered, and again, none of that is novel or interesting. It’s a checklist of tech jargon wedged between the double repetition of an explosion. No attitude, no personal details, very little emotion towards the end and a conflict that is glanced over. Even the description of the explosion is lame.
As a real newspaper article it would still be stale. You have to include the victims to garner interest, or show me more of the scientist’s struggle against the company or whatever the hell. Details, Benny. Spidey pictures and personal details. That’s what people want to see.
Like everyone expected, the juicy insider info on engineering hurt you more than it helped you, because you have a tendency to write wikipedia articles instead of interesting stories and that’s what you did: jargon everywhere, important stuff nowhere. How did the guy sabotage the Well? Why did he sabotage the well, he’s a loving engineer, didn’t he know this was going to happen? Who was affected by this? What kind of a person was he? How did he make the decision? Did he try other things first? Who is the face of the evil company? Where’s the struggle? Why should I read this?
Bottom line is, this is a very uninteresting story and from what I recall it only won because your opponent hastily scribbled his own thing on the torn-off corner of the I.O.U. note he tried to pay his crack dealer with.
ravenkult - Nine Wolves
“Bla bla bla my entry is terrible please don’t crit it”. Screw you. And your terrible entry.
This is about as focused as a cluster of shotgun pellets at the end of a five mile voyage. There’s so many actors here and all of them have goals and motivations but every single one of them is nebulous and I have no idea which one is the mainliner of your story. There’s a magical slave woman who keeps getting killed and revived and she kills random other people because the wizard says so, for reasons. The wizard does the things he does because because Conan was on TV last night, and tells the Earl, whom I initially thought was the Earl’s brother, to go die somewhere. That ritual works so well it might as well have a “Made in China” label stuck to it so thanks for spending half your story leading up to it. Meanwhile the Earl and his party take half a day to climb up a hill and then they smile and wave their swords and then they climb back down and then back up again, because wait a minute, something was a little weird up there.
There’s a revenge plot here somewhere but the reasons are never explained and it actually took me a second read to understand that the feud was between Svartr and the Earl, not the woman. But right at the beginning the woman says “what will you do to me in the name of your revenge” and the Earl is a faceless entity at this point so it’s easy to misunderstand you, and really, that’s a problem throughout your entire story. Clarity. A lot of the scenes are hard to imagine for the same reason. Take the burial: she is killed next to a shallow grave, and Svartr starts burying her, and in the next scene the Earl and his men find her body and then they dig it out??? I get that Svartr only buried her head after I take great pains to analyze the scene. But if someone’s supposed to read this casually and still get away with all the necessary information, you have to point out that he stops the burying at the head.
Basically this needed an outsider’s perspective, and badly, because there’s so many of these unclear and messy parts that your story is nigh incomprehensible. Even now I still don’t know why the wizard is taking revenge on the Earl. Not that I particularly care. Is Svartr even the protagonist? If he is, why should I root for him? And what’s the point of the woman? The story starts with her but she’s just a soulless device. She could easily be a random zombie. Or another wolf.
I mean I’ve seen worse but this story was about as organized as a room full of toddlers on a sugar rush. Now I’m not sure what I’ve been reading other than an intricate failure at magical conjurement and wolf murder.
kurona_bright - Lakeshore Lure
That first sentence needs to gently caress off and die.
The writing isn’t really top-notch here guvnah. You use too many cliches and soulless throwaway lines to portray emotion where more attitude in the narration could lead to the same result. “It was scary how fast his voice had turned grave” is okay. “Her eyes were wide” a dozen times, not so much. See through the eyes of your protagonist. Think differently.
The beginning is a bit confusing when you jump around between the two girls and have all this crappy, sober blocking going on and then I think you even confuse the names at one point. Other than that the physical action is okay, but there’s not a lot of thematic cohesion. What’s this story about? Is it about grandpa and the kelpie, and friends doing bad things to each other? Weak, because you barely see them together. Is it about grandpa’s niece getting kidnapped by the kelpie? Weak, because that problem is resolved easily and immediately and I don’t actually know there’s any danger coming from the monster before it’s already been killed. Is it a story about sister rivalry? Weak, because that’s obviously not what the story is about.
Personally I wish I could have seen more of the kelpie and the girl. The monster was the most interesting part of your story and you just glanced over it so you could have a Lassie scene with the timid sister and her gramps.
Dr. Kloctopussy - The Bone Loom
I’ll start with the problems I had:
There’s a lot of deeply emotional events (death of the twins, their exhumation, ect.) to keep me invested and it just gets creepier and gorier as it goes on without ever disturbing me enough to stop reading, because everyone reacts so humanely to it. Tissai vomits as she does her gory, necessary deed. The village people avoid her and pretend they never had anything to do with her.
I really want to see how it turns out because of how much is on the line. You reuse assets beautifully, and everything ties together into your main theme of gazing into the abyss, fighting darkness with darkness. It’s a very tight, neat story that still covers a grand theme.
Have a gold star.
skwidmonster - When He Sleeps
A literary defecation in two acts:
PART I: Two nameless people walk around and one of them coughs and talks about how he never had children. I have no idea what’s going on or what the story is about or why I am here. It also has nothing, NOTHING to do with part two. Only good line: seventy coughs.
PART II: a placid mess of a child and a mother talking. Somewhere someone did magic, or maybe not because kids tell all kinds of bullshit stories. Then, oh boy, a child abuse joke, and it’s also terrible (I don’t know in what part of the world “riding the slug” is colloquial language for sexual intercourse). The mother scolds her child and it cries. The end.
What was your mission statement for this? What was the story you were trying to tell? Because you failed. Seriously, for a story where nothing goes on it’s kinda amazing how messy and dumb this is.
Scrap this. Wipe your hard drive. Burn it. Rent a plane and spread the ashes over all three oceans. Fly into a volcano.
Wangless Wonder - Sigil
This has a nice beginning, with a bizarre but understandable situation and some funny banter. I like the dialogue throughout the entire story really, and don’t think I didn’t see you sneak all that exposition in, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I quickly understand what’s going on, what the situation is, what powers the wizard has and why he does what he does, and why it matters. I get a real good impression of the guy as some kind of cocky hero.
This takes a turn for the worse when the paladin arrives because that’s when you stop being clear. I’m not sure at first if the paladin is actually the cop or a separate entity. I assume that the wizard stopped time or something and there’s only the cop around and then suddenly someone’s talking to him so it has to be the paladin, who is also the cop? And then the story moves on to some storm and I’m completely lost. Of course it later turns out that the two run past the cop, and the storm was just you loving up your tenses. But while it happens, these clarity issues are jarring.
The ending is kinda smart and even funny. This is a complete story, although it’s a shame that it never explores any deeper themes than those of an average Saturday morning cartoon. So I like the dialogue, and the setting, and the tone. It even reminds me a bit of the Dresden Files. However, those books have been proofread before submission.
curlingiron - Twelve Steps
You’re usually one of my favorite writers so this stinking little bundle of joy was quite the face-heel turn. I don’t know if this was a failed attempt at humor or just a rushed entry. Maybe it was both.
For a story that is primarily about feelings, the characters’ emotions are bafflingly unbelievable and poorly communicated. There’s many “he smiled”s and “she smiled back”s, sudden crying and tears streaming down people’s faces, and generally lazy swipes at conveying joy and sadness that take an already shaky premise and turn it into an unsalvageable ruin of authorial indifference.
The narrative flatlines right from the start. It’s basically repeating the same thing over and over again, doing little more than communicating your prompt to me until I’m yelling at my screen to cut the bullshit because I loving get it already. “So there’s this wizard who steals people’s emotions for power.” “What does he do in your story?” “He goes somewhere and steals people’s emotions.” Cool story bro.
The way you use your wizard is just one huge middle finger to the prompt. He’s there and he’s being odd and that’s it for a while, but even when he’s doing magic stuff or when he dies a horrible, magical circus death people are mostly indifferent to him, or maybe mildly agitated as they now have to step over his remains on the way out. It ends with everyone forgetting about what just happened as the cardboard protagonist meets Mr. Dashing-Cardboard and for some reason feels “happy for the first time in a while.” Congratulations, you unlocked ending A. I guess at least they didn’t start making out on top of the wizard’s remains, because I was halfway expecting that. I’m not joking.
I’ve seen some good stuff from you and the more I think about it the more I’m convinced you got lazy and/or didn’t like your prompt. In a better world this would have DMed. In a perfect world this wouldn’t exist. Namaste.
Auraboks - Open and honest discourse
I had a hard time swallowing this. I can’t rightly believe that, even as a top-notch journalist, especially as a top-notch journalist, you’d notice all these connections from an outside perspective and come to the conclusion that there’s magic involved, and it’s coming from that dorky speech writer. Or, alternatively, that he’s never been found out before if it’s really that obvious.
I do kinda like their exchange and how he resolves the problem. I mean you have a decent conflict here and you spend some time escalating it and that’s more than most other domers can say for themselves. I’m not so sure about your decision to tell most of the story through two dialogue-heavy scenes. It doesn’t seem incredibly intricate or even necessary to have a repeat interview session and their voices aren’t that interesting. I never get to know the protagonist as anything more than a snarky, opportunistic douche with magic powers. Maybe that’s all he is, but then I don’t care as much about him.
Personally I’d like more action and less interview. Cover a broader range of events. Show me some character development. Give me tough choices. Leave me with a bit of a lasting impression. As it is it’s kinda light-weight and seems more like the run-up to that punchline ending that comes out of left field.
Doctor Idle - Helka's Inheritance
I don’t know what went through your head when you decided that portraying a girl’s journey through an empty Disney castle made for interesting yarn but whatever it was I hope this kind of substance stays illegal in my country. I scrolled down after a while to see how much longer this snoozefest would take and holy poo poo it goes on foreverrrrr.
There isn’t really any plot and that’s a shame because you did have an idea: there’s a being that destroys worlds, and the wizards are sacrificing themselves to hide their world from the monster while simultaneously looking for a way to defeat it. That’s interesting. That’s something I’d like to read about. That should have been your story. As it is the whole thing just exists as a mediocre world-building exercise and maybe to present the blurb of a better story at the end. You wrote a movie teaser.
There’s a ton of grammatical errors and typos and even some tense shifts so I’m thinking this probable first-draft-submission wasn’t necessarily crafted with a ton of love and attention to detail. Spacing and pacing are horrid - too many short paragraphs, and the story barely moves forward.
If there really is a monster who destroys worlds I hope it starts with this one, so this story stops existing.
|# ? May 22, 2015 10:20|
BONUS CRITS 2/2 – Line crits for Maugrim, Bompacho
Maugrim - Thinking Dogs for the Stupid
As soon as Seth crossed the threshold of the mansion, everything went dark. This is a decent first sentence. What it tells me: fantasy, wizard-stuff, Seth is probably intruding a mansion.
Man that ending is weak. It takes you so long to establish the conflict (dog gets stolen) that you have to pull a Deus Ex Machina to finish it within the word limit.
Basically this whole thing is like a Mr. Potatohead put together by a special-needs kid. The vital exposition is in the back. The conflict begins in the middle. The beginning of the story is majorly ballast. Feet on top, mouth to rear end. There’s a very tense situation when the dog is taken and forced to serve a different family away from Val. It’s a strong conflict but it doesn’t last nearly long enough.
You have some good characterization in this piece so it doubly hurts that with all the words you’ve put into this, very few of them go towards genuine bonding moments between Val and Seth.
What is this story about? Is it about the bonding between the two? Or is it about the kidnapping? Pick one, and focus on it, and use the other one secondarily. Right now the whole story is written like it only serves the purpose of awkwardly relating its premise of a helper dog to me, through means of random_shit_happens.txt. My suggestion to fixing this is to either use the kidnapping as entry point for Act 2 (move forward/longer imprisonment and rescue) and write a story about a stolen dog and his attempts to return to Val, or keep it as entry point to the finale but totally overhaul everything before it to a story about the personal growth and bonding between a very special wizard and his helper dog.
Speaking of the dog I thought it was weirdly sentient and verbose so even now I’m still not sure if it isn’t actually a wizard in dog-form.
Nice idea but the plot and pacing kill it.
Bompacho - Baxter's Second Hand Books
The glare of the sunrise reflected off the dusty glass door. This opening sentence sucks. Maybe today will be the day I clean it. commaBaxter thought to himself as he struggled with the key in his shaking old hands, run-on sentence finally, he got it. The deadbolt unlocked with a commanding clunk.
This is a pretty run-of-the-mill rushed family feud wherein dad and son quarrel over a piece of property across a very cliche dialogue scene full of exposition and then I guess he gets cancer and goes crazy, because if you’re already doing a soap opera highlight reel why not go the whole nine yards with it.
Needless to say I’m not the biggest fan of this piece. I think the central conflict is supposed to be between the dad and the son, since that most closely resembles the flash rule I gave you, but the fight isn’t really pronounced. There’s a ton of needless intro and then a short bit where they bitch at each other and then the story moves on to other things. I’m not sure if Baxter breaks down at the end or if he just burns the store to spite his son. It all happens so quick and there’s very little attitude in the story.
Grammar was really poor, right down to some super basic stuff like proper comma usage and dialogue attribution. Your proofreading was also bad. I feel like you started writing on a sunday and went with the first thing that came to your head, raw and unedited. Not impressed.
|# ? May 22, 2015 10:21|
I'm going to be doing FIRST PARAGRAPH CRITS this week for everyone who enters. I will do all of them before judgement is released, but I won't post them until then. I will be focusing like 80% on your first sentence.
After the crit, I will predict based on your first paragraph how good/bad the story will be as a whole. I expect my guesses to be fairly accurate.
|# ? May 22, 2015 12:35|
Trexedes brawl results
|# ? May 22, 2015 18:51|
Need to drop out. I fail. I'm terrible.
|# ? May 22, 2015 19:32|
BONUS CRITS 1/2 – newtestleper, Broenheim, Benny the Snake, ravenkult, kurona_bright, Dr. Kloctopussy, skwidmonster, Wangless Wonder, curlingiron, Auraboks, Doctor Idle
Thanks for the crit, Entenzahn.
|# ? May 22, 2015 19:44|
I'll go again, baby
|# ? May 22, 2015 19:44|
Ok, I'm just going to be giving crits for the people who are mentioned because pretty much for everyone else, your stories were middling at best and just barely better then the DMs at worse. If you did not get mentioned in the results and want a crit then ask in PM or irc like I said a million loving times already. Though I'm actually serious here if you don't get to me in a week I won't be able to crit you guys because I'll be out for awhile. So do it now, or risk never getting it.
Thanks for the crit.
|# ? May 22, 2015 19:51|
Thanks for the crit Ent!
|# ? May 22, 2015 20:41|
BONUS CRITS 2/2 – Line crits for Maugrim, Bompacho
Really good crit. Much appreciated.
|# ? May 22, 2015 23:01|
The Jewel of Kazaar
"Captain, she is coming into view!"
I looked through the periscope, and sure enough, our prize had just broken through the mist. The RLS Intrepid of the Republic League navy was an unassuming vessel, a freighter brought into service for the war effort, but it carried what might be the very thing that had the power to sink the League and win the war: the legendary Jewel of Kazaar.
"You are right, lieutenant", I said.
"This is excellent news", said my lieutenant. "With the Jewel of Kazaar in our hands, we will surely crush the League and bring final victory to the Empire!"
"Yes indeed", I said. "Alert the men, we are taking her down."
The lieutenant saluted and scurried down the lenght of the submarine. I had always hated that man. He was a fool, an idealist. Only a mind as miniscule as his could not realise how much bigger the Jewel of Kazaar was than either the Empire or the League. A smile crept across my lips. Once the jewel was in my grasp, I would rule the world.
The Intrepid approached steadily, oblivious to what was about to befall her. The moment was perfect. She was on shallow waters just off the coast of the jungle, and we were hundreds of miles from the nearest League outpost.
"Fire", I commanded.
There was a satisfying clatter of machinery, and soon a torpedo rushed out of its tube. Whether the crew of the Intrepid noticed the torpedo trail heading inexorably towards their feeble ship, or whether they were unaware until the last, I do not know. But I do knowthat when the torpedo crashed into the side of the ship, blasting a vast hole in its side below the waterline, it spelled the death of the Intrepid.
"Take us in close, they're going to try to escape with the jewel and their lives", I said.
The hum of propellers spread throughout the submarine, and we sailed slowly towards the dying Intrepid. The ship had turned, and it appeared that its crew was trying to beach the flaming hull before it could sink. As we surfaced, I climbed up the hatch just in time to see the Intrepid tip over as it ground to a halt on a sand bank near the coast. The desperate shouts of its crew still trying to put out the fires were carried through the dense mist.
I climbed back down. "I'm not taking any chances, they might have weapons on board", I told my lieutenant. "Get a man on the turret, and if you see so much as dart gun, you are permitted to mow down every man, woman and child on that ship."
It turned out that we were not going to be challenged as we approached the beached Intrepid. When they saw us, a crewman on the ship frantically started waving a pillowcase that could charitably be recognised as a white flag at us. The rest of them continued to fight the fires raging onboard. Incredibly, with the stability gained from beaching the ship, it appeared that they were just managing to bring the flames under control, and as they died down, my men started boarding the ship.
Once I had word that the Intrepid had been pacified, I climbed aboard it only to find myself in a very unexpected reunion.
"Captain Lucette", the captain of the Intrepid said dryly, held in place by two of my men as several others watched him with machine guns at the ready.
"Captain Smashing", I replied, a broad smirk on my face. "This is indeed a pleasure."
"It's all yours, I assure you", he said. "Taking out small civilian merchant vessels? This is a new low for you, Lucette."
"You know as well as I do why I have come for this miserable little ship", I said. "Where is the Jewel of Kazaar?"
His eyes flickered. "Why would you think that the jewel is aboard this ship? Command would only ship that with a giant armed convoy, losing it could spell the end of the Republic League."
"Don't play dumb with me!", I said.
"Captain!", one of my men interrupted. "We found this in the captain's quarters."
In his hands, he held a small, matt black box, completely innocuous except for the League seal imprinted on top of it. Opening it, he revealed the blinding sparkle of what could be nothing other than what I had come here for. The Jewel of Kazaar.
"No!", Captain Smashing cried out. His despair only made it all the sweeter as I took the jewel out of its box and held it in my hands. My palms started to sweat, and radiant light from its myriad reflections danced across my face. The jewel was absolutely unmistakable.
"You'll never get away with this, Lucette!", Captain Smashing said hopelessly.
"Oh, I think I will", I said. "And don't think you'll be able to get it back from me later, Captain Smashing, this is the last time you're going to be able to meddle in my plans. You'll hang from the side of this ship before nightfall."
Before he could reply, the deep sound of a distant fog horn cut the conversation short. I turned around, but there was nothing visible in the mists.
"What is going on, Smashing?", I asked, but he didn't reply. He peered out into the mists as well, apparently just as unaware of what was going on as I was.
Another fog horn rang through the air, this one coming from the other side of the ship. As the mists started clearing up, the bow of a large ship appeared on starboard side. Then dozens of heavy cannons. Machine guns. Radar antennae. As the ship's tower came into view, my heart stopped at the sight of the flag flying over it. This was an enormous League battleship.
"Looks like the cavalry has just arrived!", said Captain Smashing, struggling with the men holding him to get a better look at the ship.
I nearly broke my fist as I slammed it into his smug face. "What the hell is this!", I yelled. "You tell me right God damned now what that ship is doing here!"
Turning back, I saw that the ship was not alone. It was now surrounded by a legion of smaller ships, destroyers and torpedo boats, and appearing from the thinning mist were now additional battleships and even a couple of aircraft carriers. This was not just a League battleship, this was the entire League fleet.
I squeezed the Jewel of Kazaar hard in my hand. Its sharp edges dug into my palm, and the jewel started turning crimson. On port side, more ships appeared, big and small. Not only was the entire League fleet here, it was much bigger than I had ever imagined it to be!
Looking closely, the port-side ships were subtly different from the starboard ones. The higher profiles, the larger guns, the familiar colours fluttering above them.
"Ha, haha, hahahahaha!"
Manic laughter consumed me. This was no vast second League fleet. This was the imperial navy!
"You lose, Captain Smashing!", I shouted. "The imperial fleet will crush you like insects! We will yet rule the world!"
Captain Smashing had grown silent. In the distance, the fleets were maneuvering into position, but no shots were fired yet. The calm before the storm was deafening. One wing of the imperial fleet sailed towards us, a massive battleship flanked by cruisers and destroyers. It was the INS Empress, the imperial flagship, and to my astonishment, right there, aboard the ship, stood the empress herself.
Imperial marines came and brought us to the deck of the giant battleship. I had only just managed to shove the Jewel of Kazaar down into my pocket along with my bloody hand before I was presented to her. I bowed deeply.
"Your Majesty, I am honoured", I said, my voice overflowing with insincere gratitude. "As you can see, I have managed to subdue Captain Smashing."
The empress nodded. "Yes. And secured the Jewel of Kazaar, no doubt."
I suppressed a grimace. I had planned to withhold the jewel for now, this was a problem. "Yes, your Majesty", I said.
She nodded. "Well done, captain. Now that you have the jewel, I am sure you wish to proceed with your plan to overthrow me and take over my empire, do you not?"
"Your... your Majesty, I would never!", I stammered.
"It's no use, captain Lucette, we know all about your little schemes", she said.
"But how?", I protested.
"It is all thanks to your lieutenant: Captain Smashing!", she said. I turned to see my lieutenant grab hold of his own face and tear it off, revealing none other than Captain Smashing behind a rubber mask!
"Impossible!", I cried. "How can there be two captains Smashing?"
"Take her away!", said the empress.
A marine unceremoniously stripped me of the Jewel of Kazaar, and as I was being dragged away, a League helicopter landed on the battleship. The last thing I saw before being stuffed in the hold was the republican president stepping out of the helicopter and shaking the empress' hand, sealing both my fate and the peace of all the world, forever.
|# ? May 22, 2015 23:06|
|# ? May 22, 2015 23:26|
|# ? May 23, 2015 01:47|
Critiques for Week CXLIV: Claven666, Blue Wher, spectres of autism, PoshAlligator, hubris.height, JcDent, TheGreekOwl, bigperm, and Broenheim
This was a strange week, strangely sex-focused despite the ban on erotica, and it left me with a desire use Lordi's sparking axe to set a few contestants on fire. Failing that, I'd like to send them out to sea in a Turkish manboat, where hopefully they'd fall under the waterline and drown. I could go on for a while, but I should probably cut to the crits before I link to some guy rapping about the Euro for the hell of it.
Note: The scores I've given use the ESC system, which allows 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, or 12 points to be awarded.
Claven666, for Switzerland 2014: "No More Hunting Stars"
Lyrics: Sebalter - "Hunter of Stars"
Kai's Video Notes: The combination of a bouncy, cheerful, whistling tune with somewhat ominous lyrics may be what makes this entry so memorable. I give credit to the bellhop flinging spaghetti in his manager's face, personally. Everyone except the beleaguered boss is having so much fun that it's contagious, and even Grumpypants lightens up by the end. Themes: Hotels, guests, stars, conflict between employer and employee, hunting, predators and prey, lies, noodle incidents, fun, reconciliation.
Ooooooof. You made use of your video--too much use. The overt references everywhere didn't have any natural flow. They came off as very try-hard, and by the time I got to "I wanted to roar my feelings for you like a lion" I was cringing outright. The borrowed lines crippled the work, because you didn't, or couldn't, make them fit. At times the whole piece read like a flimsy chain connecting reference to reference rather than like a story.
To make it worse, I never had a clear idea of what was going on. As far as I could tell, Seb (that reference was kinda cute) and Walter (that one was already laying it on thick) conspired together to swindle... something... away from Mark. What that something was remains an enigma. I'm guessing they were diamonds--stars--but you never said that. Amidst some random nudity and grab-rear end (and while I'm shaking my head at that, why the hell did Walter rip off his shirt in the first scene?), Walter confessed his love for Mark, who was his ex or some such. At the end Walter left Seb for Mark because he valued love over money. It's a shame you never convinced me any of these people loved each other at all. Going overboard with the prompt was understandable and in the spirit of the thing; serving up a murky mess... let's just say I know how Grumpypants felt when that spaghetti hit his face.
I did like some of your visual details in the opening section. I could picture Seb on his balcony, flicking a glowing cigarette into the night. The brief fifth scene had good introspection. Unfortunately, it followed the ridiculous "kumquat" conversation. The mood of that was all off. Everything else was serious, but when they were talking about the "it" and "them" that Mark wanted Walter to wear, they turned into camp stereotypes being oblique to baffle the reader. Don't baffle the reader.
The American judge gives you: 3 points.
Blue Wher, for Montenegro: "Mother's Violin"
Lyrics: Knez - "Adio"
Kai's Video Notes: These are cool landscapes. What they have to do with everybody striking poses in black clothes is not entirely clear. No one's smiling, but the song has some energy, especially when the panoramas kick into overdrive. I'm intrigued by the single building. The lyrics make more sense of all the nature shots; the somber models are still a mystery. Themes: Nature, distance, the sky, estranged love, refusal to let go, wistfulness.
The violin, the landscapes, the mood, and the motif of good-byes connected the entry firmly to its video. Claven666, take note: this piece took clear inspiration from "Adio" without going overboard. A reader ignorant of the prompt wouldn't have felt he was missing something, because it stood on its own rickety, knock-kneed legs.
Good use of the prompt doesn't guarantee a good story, however, and this one had plenty of issues. The writing had signs of inexperience all over it. The sentence-level mechanics weren't too shabby other than some gaffes with pronouns and... sigh... dialogue punctuation, but you went heavy on book-saidisms; the dialogue itself rang false, especially that between Jessica and her mother; there was a lot of telling going on; the prose had a sickly purple tinge. At several points, you went for sweet and moving but landed on corny instead. It looks like what I strongly suspect it is: amateur work. No problem with that. We all start somewhere. But you won't likely find success in the arena until you improve through practice.
The mechanical faults: When you use "Mother" as a pronoun--a substitute for a name--you need to capitalize it. "She smiled softly at me, 'good, now, show me what I just showed you'" is an abomination before God and Man. The comma after "me" should be a period, because that phrase isn't a suitable dialogue tag; "smiled" isn't a verb that has anything to do with speaking. "Good" should have been capitalized. Following a dialogue tag or no, it was the first word of a sentence! Check out the link I gave above. Lots of people have problems with dialogue. Lots of people are going to wake up some night to find me glaring at them through their windows if they don't learn better. As for the paragraph in which you had two separate characters speak, let us never mention it again.
Book-saidisms: These are verbs used in place of "said," and used sparingly and in appropriate moments, they can work. Look at your verbs: "I mused," "I baby talked" (what? "I baby-talked to the goats" would have been okay, but you needed the preposition), "she explained," "I reveled" (ugh), "my violin seemed to sing," "I cried," "I sighed," "the server pled," "Nicholas inquired," "I responded." Holy hell. Did you use "said" even once? My God, you didn't. Stop avoiding that word! Unlike most tags, "said" is invisible to the reader. The eyes skip right over it. The rest of these call attention to themselves. (Note that I'm leaving out "asked": for my money, this is just as invisible and more appropriate than "said" for questions.) Some were especially egregious: "mused," "reveled," and "pled" were all some shade of overblown.
The dialogue: Have you ever had a conversation that sounded remotely like Jessica's conversation with her mother? I haven't. The mom sounded like a character in a cheesy movie... or cheesy story. People don't generally talk like this. The scene in the restaurant felt forced to me; that lady can't imagine living without goat milk, really? Rein it in a notch or two.
Telling: The third scene opened with a block of exposition. Here and there throughout, you directly told the reader something that you could have let him infer. For example: "I picked up a 'houses for sale' magazine in the hopes I could find a new place that spoke to me." You could have cut everything after "magazine" and the idea would have been the same. It's quite possible to err on the side of too vague, as I should know, but you erred instead on the side of clarifying what was already clear. In the case of Jessica's feeling that she didn't fit in, what you told and what you showed didn't match, and that was a problem too. Where did this feeling that she didn't fit in come from? The townsfolk were super friendly!
Purple prose: It wasn't just the dialogue that was melodramatic. You chose dramatic words and phrases when simple ones would have done. "I sniffled and whimpered as I yearned for the past and grieved for my mother"--oy vey, not only is "yearned for the past" distinctly violet, but those verbs make the protagonist sounds more like a puppy than a person! Most of this story was small and personal in scale. Phrases like "merely the faintest light," "I marveled at nature's beauty," "my mind ablaze," etc. stood out. Even in an epic story they might have been too much; they definitely were in a story about a young woman deciding whether to stay on her goat farm.
Not a successful piece overall, but there's no reason to think you won't improve and every reason to fervently hope you will.
The American judge gives you: 3 points.
spectres of autism, for Macedonia: "Dragon"
Lyrics: Daniel Kajmakoski - "Autumn Leaves"
Kai's Video Notes: The loving stick figures aren't facing each other in the first couple of drawings, which may not bode well. Nope: despite some good times in a tree, the boy is crying polka-dot tears. He's the only one shown to be sad, but she still has to hold on to keep him from falling off a cliff. It's for the best they didn't get back together, I suspect. Themes: love, change, loss, heartbreak, healing through time, the passage of seasons, eventual rebirth.
The comma, Kaishai thought, is a useful bit of punctuation, one that sometimes, just sometimes, is what a sentence needs. A thought tag is good sometimes too, Kaishai thought. But, she thought, better so in moderation, like the comma, because when you string either too many commas or too many "s/he thought" interjections together over a short span, the reader notices. Kaishai thought about how she was also bemused by "some make-up" as its own clause, as though the heartbroken man had been kneeling in front of the woman and also a case of eyeshadow. Then she considered how too much introspection could get annoying. All of those things except the make-up were all right when they weren't taken too far. spectres of autism, though, had tipped over the line. Not much. But too much. Enough to distract her as she read.
You get the idea. If you revise this, I advise breaking up some of your longer sentences and/or varying your punctuation and the rhythm of the prose. Most of the issues I mentioned above were at their worst in the first four paragraphs and faded to a tolerable level after that, so it shouldn't be hard to restructure things and strengthen your opening. The exception was the introspection that doubled as exposition. The fifth paragraph went into bizarre detail about Goofy Gus's IQ; the resolution to the test episode was completely irrelevant. The fourth paragraph from the end... I don't know where to start. It was an indigestible eleventh-hour introduction of the main character's ~heart's true desire~, a lump of information apparently intended to close out Jason's story--but this wasn't Jason's story. More on that shortly. You can't pull some hitherto-unhinted-at revelation out of the anal vortex at the very end and call that a conclusion.
About Jason. You wanted him to be your protagonist, I think, but Mr. Rejected was the figure around whom the story revolved, and every piece of Jason's personal character arc had to be wedged in with a crowbar. It's surely possible to pull off the trick of one character's external, obvious struggle mirroring another's inner conflict, but when you have to keep pausing the story to dump the perspective character's personal details on the reader, you're doing it wrong.
"He remembered the I Ching reading. Hexagram 1. The Dragon. Dynamic, arousing force." Was this sentence from an entirely different draft? Was your title? Neither connected to anything else.
Jason's speech to the children and the couple really did sound like a Saturday Night Live parody of a motivational speaker. It's a wonder he didn't mention living in a van down by the river. I can't imagine any woman deciding to stay with a man she'd already realized she didn't love based on such a speech. I liked that Mr. Rejected and his lady didn't get back together, but did you have to contort the situation so he'd get to have a take that! moment at her expense? Bleah.
Except for the fourth-from-last paragraph I preferred this entry to the two before it, but only just.
The American judge gives you: 4 points.
PoshAlligator, for Slovakia 2010: "The Black Mountain's Bell"
Lyrics: Kristina - "Horehronie"
Kai's Video Notes: The costuming and those glass beads dangling from the ceiling, glowing green, make me think of forests and druids. The mist rising from the stage is a nice touch. The beat is great, and the dancers make the most of it. When the lady in white begins to sing, the possible religious slant gets more pronounced, and I wonder if they're meant to be the Mother granting a blessing to the Maiden's rite. The English lyrics--which I'd avoided until now--confirm that nature is the heart of the song. Themes: Nature, plants, trees, forests, druids, rites, sorrow, the power of the natural world to combat despair.
As far as I can tell, this is what happens: An unnamed protagonist (why do you do this why) sits on a stump in the forest at the foot of a mountain. A bell rings from within the stone. When she hears it, she's suddenly in a post-apocalyptic ruin. She follows a trail--a trail of what, I do not know--into a building containing the wreck of a glass case. A dark lump is inside, apparently? She pokes it with a random cattle prod that she has. Oh, the lump is red and purple and smells like food. A heart, perhaps. Performing defibrillation on it opens a door. Sloooowly. While the door creeps up, ominous things take place outside. The woman flees the vaguely malevolent lights by running into the mountain. Somehow she knows which way to go; God knows how, she just does. There's the bell! It sounds pretty! A cage descends! For the bell? To... ring the bell? How does a cage ring a bell? Oh, whatever. She goes to sleep and wakes back up and there are mushrooms. She touches the bell with her cattle prod, and something is finished. I do not know what. An unnamed something hits her in the gut, slams her around a bit, and chases her to the bell, which shatters; she has mushrooms in her hands, by the way, not that it's important. THEN SHE WAKES UP.
What the hell did I just read? What connection did it have to your video? A woman as the protagonist--was that all? Maybe the dead lamps were supposed to be the crystals dangling above the stage. You did have mist; you allegedly had a forest before it turned into a wasted city or whatever the heck. You ditched the forest so fast that it was only window dressing. If it were a good story, maybe the weak ties to "Horehronie" wouldn't matter. As it is neither good nor a story, however... you have no excuses. Nothing pushed you in this direction. Nothing called upon you to throw an action scene at us with no explanation or plot behind it; nothing demanded your protagonist have no personality. Nothing and nobody ever asked for "Puttin' on the Ritz, Redux."
I'm grateful that you've moved away from the sentence fragments, but your prose still suffered from poor mechanics that didn't improve the abyss that yawned where clarity should have been. Your first sentence/paragraph was a wreck. "The clapper hit the rim of the bell just once, but it echoed many times through caverns of black rock, bouncing off thick walls of rock, around stalactites, finding their way through cracks where stone turned to cracked mud, spreading out into the forest that grew thick and lush at the mountain's base." First, the subject of the sentence was the clapper--so when you said "it echoed," you were saying the clapper echoed. Bzzzt! You used "of [black] rock" twice in succession. You referred to "their way." Whose way? The clapper's way? But the clapper was singular! And probably not that mobile! You put "cracks" and "cracked mud" within a few words of each other. That worked better than repeating "of rock," but repeating yourself twice in the same sentence--it was only the first line and my face was in my hands.
"She'd been sat on a tree stump"--no. "She'd been sitting" would have been correct. "Something wet dripped on her nose and she looked up" needed a comma after "nose," but "riveted, metal sheet" shouldn't have had a comma. If you wouldn't say "adjective and adjective," don't use commas; it was a sheet of riveted metal, not a sheet that was riveted and metal. The phrase "so thick she'd have to detour" shifted your tense from past to present. You should have said "so thick she had to detour." "Heavy, they left grooves in her thin fingers." The pronoun was unclear; I had to read it twice to guess you meant the shutters. "The heavy shutters left grooves in her fingers" would have been better. You could easily have trimmed adjectives throughout.
Going back a step, why say "tiny holes rimmed by a rust brown"? On a metal sheet, right? So isn't it rust? Just say rust!
I could keep complaining, but the problems at the sentence level weren't what murdered the entry in its sleep. You had no plot; you had no character; something changed by the end, but darned if I know what. I'm not sure it wasn't all a bloody dream sequence. I didn't care about any of it. I had no investment in the blank mannequin that was your main character or in her unexplained, undeveloped world. I wondered back in Dewey Decimal Week if you'd submitted a small piece of a larger work, and I would wonder the same now if I could imagine this piece functioning no matter how far you expanded it. This really is a whole lot like your Music of the Night entry, with every one of its faults except for the fragments. Why would you expect the result to be any different?
The American judge gives you: nul points.
hubris.height, France 2008: "Saccharine and Gasoline"
Lyrics: Sébastien Tellier - "Divine"
Kai's Video Notes: This man's backup singers have his beard and glasses, even the women; he coasts onto the stage holding the Earth in his arms; he drinks air from it between verses. Does he have the world's largest ego? Nah. The song assures me he just really digs Chivers, whatever they are. Themes: Divinity, tranquility, the beach, sunshine, hip young musicians (also known as Chivers--thanks, Google), beards.
Julien had a beard. He raced a vehicle in France. You attempted to work the song title into the story in a meaningful way, though unless Julien was either a towering masochist or a modern Job, I don't understand how his pain qualified as divine. Maybe he did enjoy suffering! I couldn't say, since I know almost nothing about him as a person. You hurled bricks of exposition at my forehead to hammer his situation home, but the only chance you had of keeping my interest through that lengthy racing sequence lay in making me care about Julien himself. You did not. What's more, tragic endings don't work so well when the character in pain is featureless; it's like painting tears on a department-store mannequin, one that doesn't even have a face.
That said, I would have forgiven you almost everything else if they'd been racing golf carts. You got half a point for Dr. Tellier. You lost it and more for the unnecessary SF setting: that bit about the MilkyWays Colonial Corporation added precisely nil.
Neither golf carts nor beach balls nor a half-dozen more beards would have softened the infodumping, though, and it did you in. In other respects you were no worse than the middle of the substandard field, but none of the others thought their characters needed to be told, "You lost your entire family in a single night only three weeks ago.” Sweet criminy Christmas. That is the sort of thing you would think Julien would already know. Of course, he did know it, and his maybe-undead wife knew he knew it, and that made it a completely ridiculous thing for her to say. Ditto that for "It could also be your last year in the race, and on Earth!" If this man has to be told what planet he's on, he's been sucking worse than helium out of the inflatable globe.
Wedged as you were between PoshAlligator and JcDent, your sentence-level writing was a breath of stagnant-but-breathable air. "'You’re a fantastic driver,' came her voice, crystal clear and soothing, through the speakers, 'Julien; you’re going to win! [...]'" was a comprehensible arrangement of words. A good arrangement, not so much. "Came her voice" was a terrible dialogue tag. The comma after "speakers" should have been a period. The semicolon after Julien should have been a comma. In the sentence "She left after him, and locked the door behind her," the comma shouldn't have been there, or else you should have given the phrase after the conjunction its own subject: "and she locked the door behind her." The adjective "trance-like" needed a hyphen. "The dull, 'thwop thwop thwop,' of the helicopter blades" was bad handling of onomatopoeia; you punctuated the sounds like dialogue, but they weren't. I'd have done it like this: "The dull thwop thwop thwop of the helicopter blades." Etc. Those weren't the only errors; I'm grateful I could read your prose without wanting to die, but you have a lot of room to do better.
The bright side is that most of these look like new-writer problems. Your goal should be to improve through practice, experience, and reading until your work is not so close to the bottom of the barrel.
The American judge gives you: 2 points.
JcDent, for Sweden: "Shame of Shamus"
Lyrics: Måns Zelmerlöw - "Heroes"
Kai's Video Notes: I most like this before the chorus and before the tempo picks up, oddly. Maybe it's that country twang. I can't decide whether "he" is God or a mortal father, and I'm not sure it matters a lot. The visuals are a snooze, so it's a good thing the music and the words offer plenty of material. Themes: history, decline, inner conflict, restoration, building on the foundation provided by those who've come before, the strength in every man to change the world.
Dismay! Disbelief! Boredom! That was the life of Kaishai as she read this story! Decent in its use of the prompt, bad in every way else, it should have been the loser of its round! But! The WTFery of PoshAlligator's choices! TheGreekOwl's scattered shards of sense! Kaishai sighed, for, unlike the entrants, she had to read them all. Weeks were different, names were different, but the crap remained! Dammit! The story continued! Shamus's name should have been Grignr! But would "Shamus's Shame" win dishonor as past bad entries had done? (drat straight!)
I bounced hard off this merry parade of exclamation marks, Theisian phrases, hideous punctuation, and SFnal babble. My attention didn't so much wander as run screaming away every time I tried to read it. Eventually, I got something like this: Shamus's father was a gunman. A bounty hunter, possibly. He and his kind fought to create a peaceful utopia. Now there's no need for Shamus to wield a gun--instead, he's something like a janitor, the quiet caretaker that his people need. Such a role doesn't offer any glory, only mild appreciation and the occasional cupcake, and Shamus has no hope of ever using a gun openly considering that the people around him flee at the sight of it (psst: this is insane). He runs computer simulations in vain, hoping to find a situation in which he could be a different kind of hero.
You know? That wasn't a completely terrible premise. It certainly pulled from the song; I'm not sure you intended Shamus's hopeless reiterations to mirror the repetitions of the chorus, but hey, you hit the prompt head-on either way. However, the premise was all you had. Nothing changed for Shamus. Nothing happened. This is the second piece I've read of yours that didn't go any-drat-where, and even though it had more under the hood than the pointless scrap you wrote for Season/Element, that did not make it a story.
Nor do you seem willing to drop the SF technobabble that has turned too many of your entries into gobbledegook. It's obvious this kind of thing is what you love. I'm a genre hack myself, so I'd never tell you to give it up long-term. But you need a handle on basics of storytelling, especially plot and clarity, before you can afford complicated settings or liberal amounts of jargon. If I were you I'd write a few things set on normal, everyday Earth--a recognizable world you wouldn't have to explain--and only stop when you get consistently good feedback, because trying to pull off these SF worlds now is like trying to do algebra when you aren't very good at addition.
Going back to my sentence-level complaints, what I mean by "Theisian phrases" is stuff that reminds me of Jim Theis's classic "The Eye of Argon," ridiculed and cherished for its incredibly overwrought prose. Phrasings like "His world didn't need hand-canons that risked shattering wrists and fired with an explosion that drowned out the biggest fight" (psst again: canons and cannons aren't the same things) and "viscous red fluid" (blood? Let's not jump to conclusions) don't add drama, which I'd guess was your intent. They're silly. What the heck kind of guns did these people have, anyway? You aren't going to drown out an entire battlefield with one pistol shot.
Your mechanics were horrible. One example: "This might have not been the thing to say to younger Shamus, but his father was as frank as well known – and that was a great deal ,'It's the culmination of my work and the work of Fellows. Your world is different'." Space, comma, quotation mark. What. The. Hell. Read this link--read it again if you've already seen it--and read more fiction, paying attention to how sentences are structured. You'll find they never look like that! The sentences should have looked more like this: That might not have been the thing to say to the younger Shamus, but his father had been as frank as he'd been well known--and that was a great deal. "It's the culmination of my work and the work of Fellows. Your world is different." Do you see the change I made to the verb tense in two places? You made a royal mess of your tenses, starting in present, shifting to past, neglecting the past perfect, and giving me a headache.
I had your entry below TheGreekOwl's in my rankings for a while; that was unjust, but jeeze, what a mess.
The American judge gives you: 1 point.
TheGreekOwl, for Greece: "One Last Breath"
Lyrics: Maria-Elena Kyriakou - "One Last Breath"
Kai's Video Notes: The blue lights are pretty. The shift to fire orange as the song intensifies is cool--the rain of confetti is more random. Emulating Denmark in 2013, maybe? The song itself isn't much more original, more's the pity. You're going to need to get yourself out of that firing hell, lady, because that man isn't coming back. Themes: love betrayed, heartbreak, despair, helplessness, defeat.
If I interpreted the prose correctly, the story was this: The narrator--who had no name; no characters had names; that was a terrible idea--lived in a village to which an outsider came. Her intention was to raise havoc by decrying the village people as hypocrites, accusing them of... something, and generally being obnoxious. She stuck her nose into the lives of people who had nothing to do with her and felt terribly righteous about denouncing them. After she was blamed for arson, imprisoned, and beaten, she blamed the one person who'd ever listened to her for not standing by her in her actions. Somehow those actions were patriotism, in the narrator's eyes. The villagers took her to the stake and burned her. It's all right, though. The narrator was going to outlive the village and do something to those who were corrupt... whoever they were.
You can probably tell from my phrasing above that you failed completely to put me on the outsider's side in this story or make her views or actions sympathetic at all. She was a judgmental troublemaker coming from outside specifically to meddle in what was none of her goddamn business. She threw rice at people, for God's sake. And I was supposed to think it was terrible that the villagers told her to leave? Why wouldn't they? I didn't know whether to believe her or not about the center hall. Either way, she was so unpleasant and went so far overboard in condemning the narrator--couldn't she understand why he wouldn't believe her?--that I wasn't exactly torn up over her unhappy ending.
The focus on her lack of shirt was odd and off-putting:
beneath the sweat, bruises, and red marks on a topless body.
She saw me, and she came alive with a gleaming chest.
It wanst’ the nudity
and she was brought topless through the group outside.
That's a lot of reminders of a half-nudity that never mattered. Maybe you meant it to imply something that it didn't.
One reason I disliked the outsider and didn't sympathize with her quest was that you didn't show me or even tell me what the villagers were doing that required someone to give them hell. Adultery? Not something of which I approve, but again, none of her business. Fraud? What fraud? Who was defrauded and how? You made no case for the outsider. I wouldn't take her word on any of that. It's funny, but I'm not inclined to immediately trust the words of those who have decided it's their role in life not only to judge others but to act on those judgments.
I do see ways in which you pulled from the video, or tried to: the outsider was defeated and helpless, as was the narrator; while I didn't see real betrayal taking place, the outsider felt otherwise. You did a pretty good job of spinning something out of a bland ballad.
Now to address the elephant in the room. I used the verb interpreted for a reason. I think I sussed out the gist of your story, but the less-than-fluent English was crippling. Fatal, to be honest. The prose was by far the worst of any entry's; the fact that you had something like a story, something like characters, and something like reasons for them to do the things they did saved you from the gallows, but PoshAlligator submitting what he did was a major stroke of luck for you.
To some extent there's no way out but through: to improve you need to write more. You could still do a better job of proofing your work. Neither "atleast" nor "wanst'" should have escaped a spelling check. You left periods off the ends of sentences, didn't capitalize every pronoun, and made other mistakes that being ESL didn't excuse. Going by the things you've submitted so far, your English is sufficiently rough for now that you must proof and polish to the best of your ability. You can't afford to compound the oddball phrases you can't help with sentence-level errors that you drat well can.
The American judge gives you: 1 point.
bigperm, for Slovenia 2014: "Danes Odhajam"
Lyrics: Tinkara Kovač - "Round and Round"
Kai's Video Notes: Flowing red cloth, flowing black pants, what looks like coal, mountains, a lake--there's something extremely elemental about it all, with the red shawl and the girl's hair standing in for fire. The body language of the dancing couple is fantastic too. But I can't decide whether those things on the singer's ears fill me with envy or sympathetic pain. Themes: Change, the elements, time as a wheel, human interaction--specifically in love and hate.
For three strange-yet-dull paragraphs, I disliked this. Then something magical happened. Maybe it was only that I'd read four poor entries just prior, I do not know, but when I saw "the asphalt plant" I grinned; and when Mama pulled out her flute, I laughed; and when you got to the horse-whipping suit I cracked up and fell a little bit in love with the story. Thanks for that! Oh, it was inane and dumb as a standalone piece, and if you were seriously trying to win then I don't know what to tell you, but I couldn't hate something that amused me every time I read it. Nor could I blame my co-judges for feeling otherwise, more's the pity.
The American judge gives you: 5 points.
Broenheim, for Moldova 2013: "A Million Things I Wish I Had Done"
Lyrics: Aliona Moon - "O Mie"
Kai's Video Notes: I wanted someone to pick this one in its year because of the beautiful and weird visuals. Her hair and headdress even aside, look what they do with that dress! She's wearing a meteor shower, a lightning storm, a bonfire. Her backup dancers give her six arms. All the while, moons and stars and explosions surround her. It culminates in a solar eclipse. This nearly demands a dramatic story, but the comparatively quiet, slow intro makes a low-key interpretation plausible. Themes: Differences, love lost, heartbreak, loneliness, world's end, destruction, stars, planets, storms, fire.
Stars, check; millions, check; heartbreak, check; destruction, check; world's end, check after a fashion. Your main character may have been a fighter, but over-the-top masculinity was hard to see. Putting Zdob si Zdub into the story as jingling mobsters was a move so absurd that it amused me in the same manner as bigperm's crazy flautist mother. Your story was otherwise serious, however, so the gnome-hatted mafia stuck out like a hangnail. You met the prompt but flubbed your flash rule.
Even though your execution still wasn't there--I've linked that page about how to punctuate dialogue a million times (ba-dum pum); find the link in JcDent's crit and read it, would you?--I'll give you this: yours was the first story to make me feel anything for the main character. Poor guy. He loved this woman, while she loved his potential fame. That was all she seemed to care about. "You gotta go to the top." "You'll make it big." "If you're gonna be the champ, you have to take a few hits." She cared so much more about that than David did. That drained sweetness from your love story. It was nevertheless sad that he watched her die, sadder yet that she'd been shot by Moldovan jesters, and marginally uplifting in a bittersweet manner when he left fame behind.
If I think too long about the Jesters, that ending weakens. David wasn't worried about them as he sat in the open, planning to leave. Why not? Probably because they'd fulfilled their roles in the story by creating all this angst and wearing pointy hats while doing it. They were a shallow, one-dimensional narrative tool, poorly integrated into the story, and when I look at them in that light I see your hands at work behind the curtain. You made a grab for my heartstrings, but your manipulation was obvious and clumsy. Ultimately the story landed in the realm of the mediocre.
The American judge gives you: 5 points.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 15:36 on Sep 28, 2015
|# ? May 23, 2015 02:40|
Critiques for Week CXLIV: Jonked, Schneider Heim, Tyrannosaurus, Benny Profane, Grizzled Patriarch, Killer-of-Lawyers, skwidmonster, crabrock, Sitting Here, and Ironic Twist
Jonked, for the United Kingdom: "Love You While I'm Gone."
Lyrics: Electro Velvet - "Still In Love With You"
Kai's Video Notes: Faux-vintage costumes and old-timey music provide flavor. Sudden techno and day-glo provide Eurovision magic. Glow-in-the-dark lipstick! Painted jazz hands! I have no idea what any of that has to do with what the song is saying, but it sure isn't dull. Themes: the early twentieth century, fashion, dancing, protective love with a dash of possessiveness, affection that persists through absence.
A story otherwise known as "I Ran Out of Time."
You had enough minutes to spare to make your punctuation and spelling less embarrassing to behold. "Mr Jones," "boxom," "Rubinesque," "curvacous"--I know and you know and you know that I know that you know better. Some of your phrasings were nearly as bad: "the likelihood of recovery in these situations becomes increasingly unlikely." My patience with such follies became increasingly impatient. Mike referred to his fiancee as his wife. Maybe that was a clever touch--in the story's present, presumably, she was his wife. I'd put my money on it being a mistake, all things considered.
Mike's wife turning his machines off for selfish reasons and Mike dying happy in a dream of sex with another woman were hints of an interesting story. They weren't enough to satisfy, and Mike's fantasy wasn't worth reading on its own. I suppose the last line was a play on la petite mort? I could have done without it.
Kudos for submitting something coherent rather than failing--you hit your song, too--but it's just as well this was too short to earn more ill will.
The American judge gives you: 4 points.
Schneider Heim, for Georgia: "The Final Siege of the Black Steel Castle!"
Lyrics: Nina Sublatti - "Warrior"
Kai's Video Notes: These women are about as convincing as warriors as Spain's male singer is as a marathon runner. I blame the lush fur coat worn without pants. Those dogs, on the other hand, are quite convincing as demons out of hell. Did you know "oximated" is a word? I didn't! It means "converted to an oxime." Eurovision is always teaching me new things. Themes: war, warriors, female fighters, strength, isolation, rebellion, any of various compounds containing the divalent group C=NOH and obtained chiefly by the action of hydroxylamine on aldehydes and ketones.
Otherwise known as "I Got Lost on the Way to ADTRW." We couldn't decide for certain whether this was a misfired parody or played entirely straight, which probably saved your bacon, since if we'd known you'd submitted giant robot anime in earnest you would have swum in the DM sludge with the rest of the shameful. You're long past having any excuse for this. For eff's sake, the story was half dialogue! Surely, I thought when I reached the ice cream line, surely he's going to pull out the twist that a bunch of kids are playing pretend. That would have been the predictable route to take, but the better one for all of that, because what you offered instead invited the suspicion that we were supposed to take the Super Heat Knuckle seriously all along.
Your finale didn't make sense or resolve the story, either. Were the man and woman Bernard and Agatha? What was the training? What "they" were coming back? Why did Richard repent so readily--oh, right, anime. That's not a medium that makes the transition to full text well, it seems.
Count your blessings there was worse on the table, because on top of everything else, your use of your song was about as unimpressive as it could have been without blowing the prompt altogether.
The American judge gives you: 3 points.
Tyrannosaurus, for Austria 2003: "It’s Not Always A Serpent That Makes You Sin"
Lyrics: Alf Poier - "Weil der Mensch zählt"
Kai's Video Notes: One marker of a wonderful Eurovision video is confusion as to what the hell I'm looking at, and that puts this right up there with crabrock's silver-suited Ukranian. Those fake animals just... stand there. Watching him. Judging him. The women make the best of it, but if I were them I'd be afraid. The lyrics do not inspire me to rethink that sentiment at all. Themes: Animals, people with the heads of animals, body horror, bubbles, silent and incomprehensible audiences, single-minded enthusiasm, unsettling interests, pancake stripes.
There were a lot of things to like about this. It answered the prompt well by making the animals its characters, and you covered single-minded enthusiasm too. It was a full story with an introduction, conflict, climax, and resolution. Aside from one persistent and frequent error, the mechanics were clean. There were points at which it made me smile. Although the characters were animal archetypes acting largely in expected ways, Cat's proposal and Bull's acceptance of it pulled the story from a predictable course and led to a twist ending that worked. The path the story took from goofy to serious to grim was smooth enough that the tonal shift didn't jar at any point. It checked structural boxes and was pleasing to read. So what went wrong?
Not much--I can point to things I didn't like so well. You made one mistake over and over in the punctuation of your dialogue. See this? "'Yeah,' Bull said quietly, 'Sure.'" Either the comma after "quietly" should have been a period, or "sure" should not have been capitalized. You did this a lot, and it drove me mildly barmy. The humor didn't miss, but it wasn't a dead hit, and the situation of a virgin badly needing to get laid was more tepid and worn than fresh and hilarious. The cow coitus interruptus didn't add much to the piece; I didn't need the explanation of why exactly Bull was a virgin. That segues to the next minor flaw, that you used extra words when cutting cow sex and turd-chewing (though YMMV there: that didn't amuse me, but it might be funny to somebody) would have brought you under the limit. I didn't mind the length otherwise! The words flew by.
The thing I liked least about the story, the thing that probably hurt you the most aside from the humor not fully connecting, was that it painted Cat as the villain. He was an rear end in a top hat. Oh, yes. What about Bull, though? Bull was willing to kill his friend at the request of a known rear end in a top hat in order to get some sex. Cat, by comparison, manipulated an rear end in a top hat to get rid of somebody he didn't like. You know what I think of suddenly? Othello. Was Othello blameless because Iago was a dick, or was he a villain in his own right given what it was only too easy to make him do? Bull was not a good guy, not for killing Dog and not for killing Cat, and I had no respect for him; at least Cat never pretended to be a friend of the creature he plotted to kill. At the end Bull had discovered a way out of his pen. His punishment was that his longtime desire was spoiled for him, at least for a while. If he was to pay so light a price then I wish there had been more regret, that Bull had looked back after the kick... something. At the end, two people were dead and an rear end in a top hat lived on with only mild remorse implied.
That did not make this a bad story. I'm trying to figure out why I didn't like it better despite seeing good qualities in it, though. And I think that was the reason: it was mildly effective as a comedy but failed for me as a tragedy.
The sharp ending will stick in my head, and Entenzahn pointed to the story's interesting theme of freedom. Bull wasn't free. Now--I hope--he never will be. He can't leave his own actions behind. I'm not sure how that works thematically with the free will he used in choosing to kill Dog. Maybe he was free all along in the ways that mattered and ultimately imprisoned himself? Maybe I'm over-thinking things. When you start comparing a TD entry to Shakespeare, maaaaybe it's time to back away.
Obviously, the win was a point of contention this week. While I firmly and unsurprisingly disagree that you were robbed, you represented yourself well and have grounds for pride.
The American judge gives you: 8 points.
Benny Profane, for Norway: "The Saunier Mausoleum"
Lyrics: Mørland & Debrah Scarlett - "A Monster Like Me"
Kai's Video Notes: Sure, it starts slow. A man tells his lover he isn't good enough for her. She retorts that she isn't good enough for him. But then! She spikes champagne with black poison! Flowers are beaten! Roast chickens go flying! It's the best dinner party ever! And by their Mona Lisa smiles across the table at each other, they clearly agree. Themes: remorseful villains, regret, self-sacrifice, conspiracy, poison, madness, truth, food fights, joy and love found in destruction.
Tons of introspection and description at the expense of character, plot, action, and dialogue was a risky road to travel, one that didn't carry you past the upper middle tier. This piece was pure tell and no show by design. Not much happened in it other than a sex scene--a peculiar choice when the prompt forbade erotica--and a revelation that destroyed the relationship between the melodramatic narrator and the girl we saw only through his eyes. The beginning was slow, caught between lush and melodramatic. The ending felt rushed: a bombshell dropped out of nowhere, left unexplored, and then the story was over.
Your video had two distinct moods; you went entirely with the darker. Not a problem. Jess was the monster of the song. I thought you were trying to paint the narrator as a monster too, but if so, it didn't fly. A fifteen-year-old boy recoiled when his lover confessed to murder? How terrible! Only not. I had no idea what exactly Jess had done, only the word murderer as a clue, and I'm kind of okay with judging people for killing other people. You badly needed to be more clear. Hints of who and how and why could have made her action more terrible or more sympathetic, depending on how you wanted to shade it.
Did you run out of time and hit the wall? That would explain the uneven pacing and why the final line was so flat and feeble. It's a shame. Tell-y as it was, the prose was good. The Gothic, morbid atmosphere suited the Gothic, morbid romance. I wanted to like it more than I could. I didn't hate it by any means, but I wish you'd told the story as it happened rather than in retrospect, so I could have gotten to know Jess and felt the narrator's shock and loss.
The American judge gives you: 6 points.
Grizzled Patriarch, for France: "Tiny Edible Things"
Lyrics: Lisa Angell - "N'oubliez pas"
Kai's Video Notes: A sandy shoreline is an intriguing setting for a song about memory; waves washing the sand clean is more often a metaphor for forgetfulness. Being forgotten is what the lyrics are about and against, though, so I guess it works. Themes: war, devastation, hope, rebirth, history, remembrance.
You came nearly as close as PoshAlligator to missing the prompt! Memory had nothing to do with your story. War did--either as a background event, which would have been godawful weak, or embodied in the person of the blind and all-devouring man. I suspect the latter is what you were after, if only because otherwise there would have been no point. Why did the voice of devastation speak in French in what was presumably a World War story? Why did Albert imagine himself as a head and not the terrible man? What even happened to the devourer? Did you think a bunch of images strung together would pass for a story? They didn't. Another judge brought up your name for a dishonorable mention, but the number of worse things to consider kept that discussion brief. I'd be glad I wrote nice sentences, though, if I were you.
One more thing: there is no "Belgian" language. Belgians speak French, Dutch, or German.
The American judge gives you: 4 points.
Killer-of-Lawyers, for Latvia 2010: "The Star and The Skull"
Lyrics: Aisha - "What For?"
Kai's Video Notes: Okay, so the performance isn't good. It doesn't help that she's dressed in gladiator sandals and a satin sheet. The song wants to say something grim, but then Aisha sings about God's cell phone being out of range and I just can't take it seriously anymore. That's why I love it--that and a tune that sticks in my head and keeps me coming back to listen, though only Mr. God knows why. Themes: Religion, existential questions, grief, despair, isolation, helplessness, a lack of answers.
This was not a full story. That nearly worked for you. None of us is Mr. God to know why exactly the nurse did what she did, and her wordless mystery made the story what it was. Any explanation of the bodies on the couch, the multiple helmets, or anything else about the house would have required her to say more than the one word; I was left like Yegor, wondering. At the same time it was terribly logical that a foreign nurse would want to hurt an enemy (presumably, given she spoke his language only passably) soldier. There probably was a reason. That made it worse. You nailed the prompt, but there wasn't enough meat on the bones to satisfy, and despite the execution yours was the most forgettable entry of the lot.
Your title may have been the oddest, because the only skull in the story was clumsily shoehorned in and the only stars were those Yegor saw while in agony. I sort of think you might have been alluding to the Star of David and World War II, but--meh. It wasn't worth the skull on the knife, which looked like either gratuitous detail or blatant symbolism you didn't need.
All told, not bad; considering why some of the other entries will be remembered, "forgettable" is praising with faint damns.
The American judge gives you: 6 points.
skwidmonster, for Azerbaijan: "Mr. War Criminal"
Lyrics: Elnur Huseynov - "Hour of the Wolf"
Kai's Video Notes: Does it hurt to do that to your ear? Putting on a shirt and wandering around an apartment is not scintillating. On the other hand, I want to know why he's holding his fingers in the candleflames. The words make all that pensive staring into the sunset more meaningful. Themes: Sunset, night, encroaching darkness, anticipation, pensiveness, a struggle with the self, persistence, the choice to face fear.
My take on what happened: Tiff had the odd job of standing around in a rich eccentric's hall; he employed a pianist who, as he walked by Tiff, dropped something into the glass of "strawberry" that another woman had brought her. Whatever it was, it made the drink bubble and seethe. She didn't drink it. Bright girl, that Tiff. Her employer seemed to be aware of what had happened. He departed. At three-fifteen in the morning, the house/compound was broken into by a group of invaders that included at least one of Tiff's regular co-workers. It appeared that Tiff's employer was named Ruslan Canavar and that someone had hired a strike team to apprehend him for reasons unspecified. Mr. Canavar took advantage of a moment of distraction to pour the "strawberry" on Nora's head. It was acid! Acid severe enough to make her body smoke! I assume that he and his pianist had known this attack was coming and had prepared the world's weirdest weapon in advance. Mr. Canavar convinced the strike team to depart with the help of a gun, expressing anger that they had voided his trust in his favorite people in the world: his personal milk-warmers. He intended Tiff to go with them, though she was innocent--maybe. But Tiff returned loyalty for loyalty instead, and she went back to Mr. Canavar, to flee the only town she knew at his side.
I didn't hate this despite the places it just didn't make any sense. I couldn't argue for a moment that it wasn't confusing. "Strawberry" and "whole" don't bring milk immediately to mind; the only clue as to why Mr. Canavar was anyone's target was in the story title; Mr. Canavar was a thoroughly strange man; I still don't know whether the pianist was working on his side or the side of the invaders. A glass of milk with extra acid in it was absolutely bizarre as preparations went. How did the scene in the kitchen unfold, that Mr. Canavar could get hold of the glass and dump it right over the top of Nora's head? How much taller than her was he? How could he get so close? Every time I try to picture this in my mind, it looks absurd.
The story ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, with Mr. Canavar's response to Tiff and what they would do next left a mystery. I wondered about their future, so good job making me care somehow. Canavar's very eccentricity hooked me. That strange man lived a strange life, and I would read more about his strange adventures and what past events had stolen sleep from him. My interest carried me on through awkward lines like "It was a slow song, ruinously slow, and it dragged so that it was almost impossible to count" (count what, beats?), through the excess of characters (what point does Kendra serve?), and through the lapses in mechanical quality (never have two characters speak in the same paragraph!). My co-judges weren't so interested, and they found the whole thing a boring, eye-crossing muddle. It's easy to see why; the execution was undeniably too poor for an ambitious plot.
It was cool though that you used the apartment in your video as your setting and tried to explain its peculiarities: the women and their goblets, the pianist. What were they doing there? I'll never know! But you've provided a new spin on it all, for which you have my thanks.
The American judge gives you: 5 points.
crabrock, for Ukraine 2007 and Denmark 2013: "A Probabilistic Route to Happiness"
Lyrics: Verka Serduchka - "Dancing Lasha Tumbai"; Emmelie De Forest - "Only Teardrops"
Kai's Video Notes for Ukraine 2007: Who knew that happiness and delight would find their physical incarnation in a Ukranian man wearing a silver combination of suit, dress, and sports jersey, singing about love as two women and an accordion player in gold spangles shake their keisters behind him? Who knew? This is all that Eurovision should be. Themes: Silver, gold, disco balls, outer space, outrageousness, being true to one's self, stars, love, dancing!! For Denmark 2013: Tame though it may be in comparison, this is beautiful too thanks to a lot of fire and the haunting fife strains. It's hard not to wonder how safe it is to walk on a Eurovision stage with bare feet. Her hair, fringe, and jewelry give her a vaguely wild look that goes well with the drumbeats, and the soldierly appearance of the drummers meshes with the words about conflict. Themes: Combat, stress, vengeance, blame, attempted reasoning, attempted reconciliation, cycles, tears, fire, passion, hope.
I'm surprised how little of "Dancing Lasha Tumbai" made it onto the page and how much of "Only Teardrops" did. That's not a complaint; they're both present. Robot 7712--sieben, sieben, ein, zwei!--doesn't have a star on his head or tights under his suit, so far as I know, but his metallic status brings to mind the silver costume of Verka Serduchka. I love you, the Ukrainians sing, and love is the core of your story. Meanwhile, Denmark 2013 is everywhere. In Emmelie, naturally. More importantly, in the cycles of love and loss and love again. How many times will they have to choose? How many times will they win or lose? I wonder whether it's the first time Emmelie and 7712 have had this conversation. I wonder how often they'll have it in the future. She's engraved in 7712's being too deep to be erased. Without his chip, he may not remember next time that he needs to give her up. Nor may her heart change.
The themes and the emotional core seized my interest and ultimately approval in a way no other story managed, but let's look more carefully at what you did right and wrong.
Wrong: Compared to other entries, this is golden in terms of prose and errors made, but you suffer when you write at the last minute and have no time for proofing. You missed putting a line between two paragraphs and--for God's sake--screwed up dialogue punctuation with "'Clear.' I say." Sometimes you used commas where you shouldn't have. It sucks for you that we all know you know better, because it means we expect better.
I was willing to go along with the premise that a robot held onto some memory after being reformatted because the story needed me to, but... why? Did it make things easier? Could the humans not do the equivalent of formatting the C drive and reinstalling the data they needed the robot to have? While I was down with the Impressionist blur-in-peripheral-vision nature of most of your setting, this was important enough that I wanted to understand. Tyrannosaurus explained too much; you explained too little. I could accept that robots could learn emotion, though. That's the kind of almost-possibly-true that SF is built on.
While I don't mind a slow burn at all, your opening sentence and the paragraphs immediately after it led me to expect a different sort of story than what you delivered. The concentration-camp setting was never irrelevant, but the story wasn't about the camp either. The robot's view of himself as a prisoner didn't get that much play. On the other hand, it was probably his and Emmelie's shared wish for freedom that continued to draw them together. You could have drawn the line between these points more boldly, assuming I was meant to make that connection.
Some of Emmelie's dialogue was infodumptastic. The robot's lack of memory excused this to a degree, but "You insisted on telling them about your thoughts of freedom" still clunked like a muffler dropped on the road.
You used "peaked" when you wanted "peeked."
Right: You have great strength in developing characters between the lines. You told me 7712 could take Emmelie away for processing; you let me draw conclusions from the fact that he didn't. You told me he was supposed to send the man with the shiv to be hanged. He didn't. I could infer things from that, too. Emmelie wanted the robot to come back "half as stupid," and from this I knew she cared for him, because his "stupidity" was his love for her and his wish to be free; she would sacrifice those if it meant he would survive. (And probably, more selfishly, that she wouldn't have to go through the cycle of love and loss anymore.) I saw her mood in your choice of verb when she slopped the beans. Possibly my favorite example of something you said without saying came from these lines: "She turns back around and pushes me, and my threat detection monitors ring. I silence them." He let her punch him because she was in pain and he wanted to be what she needed, even if it was a punching bag.
Since he was a robot, this worked. He was remarkably close to human and yet subtly alien. I loved both your main characters. Emmelie dreamt of freedom and had built a love with a robot who wanted the same thing, one that persisted through her frustration with him and fear for herself. When he was jealous, she was happy--despite everything. The robot was a fine man for something that wasn't a man at all. He would try to sacrifice his love for her. Did he know he would fail? On some level, he must have.
In your piece I had the sense of a larger world. You only hinted at it, but that was enough. These characters had a past and a future. Further, the concentration camp was vivid in my mind despite few concrete details being given.
This is a story that I love despite its flaws, which aren't severe. You still need polish. It's not your strong point and maybe never will be. But there's something rich and beautiful here. Something that's a cross between a ballad and a stranger song. Something that moves me, and the win of which puts a smile on my face, because this is the music I want to hear again.
The American judge gives you: 12 points.
Sitting Here, for Belarus: "Full Circle"
Lyrics: Uzari & Maimuna - "Time"
Kai's Video Notes: And the reward for best cracktastic video goes to...! You might think it would be Spain's, but this song is a lot more catchy. Those delicate, melancholy notes are a fake out: the man with the elf ears is right around the corner, grinning and gape-mouthed in the face of debris. He'll rescue you from your hourglass, fiddler lady! You and your snake! Unless you put him into your prison, of course. Maybe he can use his questionably placed fireballs to melt his way free. Themes: Limited time, approaching doom, imprisonment, helplessness, rescue, determination, running, thunder, fire, serpents, betrayal, reversal, earpieces that steal the show.
Even though I enjoyed reading this piece much more than most, in part because it did a good job of evoking memories of wood shop and fireworks, I have to agree with another judge: carrying a torch for forty years? Worth a cringe. Though the idea that love doesn't age is a beautiful one, if Chris was so out of touch with Lacy's life that her husband was a hypothetical to him--people change, and four decades is a long time. If I think about that, the scenario becomes a mixture of sweet (since Lacy reacted well), sad (did poor Chris have no one else in his life?), and unsettling. It's possible the intended idea was that Chris wanted to do something for a friend that he should have done long ago, before it was too late, but his thoughts about jealousy and his urgency in running toward her suggested romantic leanings.
Do you know, if you'd kept everyone involved a teenager, you would have lost certain sweet elements--it delighted me that Lacy in her wheelchair, with her grey hair, took Chris's breath away--but everything would have made so much sense: the high emotion, the grand gesture, the fixation of boy on girl. The passing and pressure of limited time could still have come into play. It would also have worked set a few years later, in college.
Both themes and visuals from your amazing video were in evidence. The running may have hurt you, but I liked the elf ears! I enjoyed the fireworks as substitutes for fireballs. The story stood alone, but keeping the video in mind let one appreciate it on another level. That was the sort of thing I was after, so good show there. Your mechanics weren't altogether smooth. In the sentence containing "Chris taught her how to use a tablesaw, and admitted he liked to watch" etc., there shouldn't have been a comma after "tablesaw." I saw a few such erroneous commas (scroll down to Rule 13). The semicolon in "And yet the smell was the same; cut grass" should have been a colon; "metal-working classes" needed a hyphen. Those are small errors that anyone might make, but "[...] pleading, 'auntie! Auntie! I’m so sorry, I couldn’t see to hole!" was heinous, and I hope you're writhing in shame.
Time wasn't good to you, though, was it? You submitted an hour after the original deadline. You would have had to blow us all away to pick up honors, and that didn't happen. I doubt an HM would have been in the cards regardless, despite the fact that you were the second favorite of two judges. I enjoyed your prose and characters, and although your premise suffered from scrutiny, you hit the targets at which you aimed. That just wasn't saying enough this time.
The American judge gives you: 8 points.
Ironic Twist, for Italy: "Sunstroke"
Lyrics: Il Volo - "Grande Amore"
Kai's Video Notes: Those red plastic frames don't go with your suit, sir. Is there even any glass in those things? The clay scene reminds me of Ghost. Are the singers laughing at the nerd's beatdown? Wait. Wait a minute. Spiderman's on the ceiling. Now I see! All these romances are movie references! But I can't blame the red frames on Daddy McFly. Themes: Love, movies, nostalgia, dramatic romance, arts and crafts, the universality (despite the lyrics) of love as a power that drives events.
I disliked your first line, but that wasn't your fault. Much. By the time I read your entry, I was sick of stories focused on sex. A clickbait-style opener is a risk since it acts as the opposite of a hook when the reader is repelled rather than compelled.
Like Benny Profane, you gave us the study of a relationship, and like Mr. Profane you told much of it in retrospect, though at points you showed events rather than describing them. Your Sharyn was more alive in the text than his Jess. I didn't care about your narrator, however. This was kind of equivalent to a stranger coming up to me and telling me about this relationship he had once and how it ended. Nothing about it was especially engaging.
The prose was good enough to keep it from being completely dull, though, natch. I expect this could have been a good read if you'd changed the time perspective and ditched the frame. You and frames! Flash fiction lengths are so short for them--you have to rob from the story core to have words for the frame, and unless the frame is drat good, it won't be worth it. This one? No. It had a much better relationship to its contents than the frame in "YX" had, and I understood it, but the narrator's current relationship was of zero interest.
The narrator's list of reasons he wasn't romantic both worked and didn't work. That he would make such a thing and what he put on it illustrated his character, but it also felt like a cheap way to tell me things about him, possibly because the botched tenses made me too aware you, not he, wrote the list. Why would he say "No romance novel covers were set in Wisconsin" or "there were no love poems"? At the time he wrote those sentences, he wasn't looking backward. He was living in his present. He should have said are. (Psst: there are romance novels set everywhere. I once saw a series that had one book for every state. Your main character quite reasonably didn't know that, but now you do!)
You chose a love song and wrote a love story: fair enough, and nothing in it is Italian at all as per your flash rule. Maybe nerdy Mr. McFly inspired your narrator? Nostalgia and art were present, too. You could argue that Sharyn was the narrator's unique love, but I'm not buying her as a great one. Then again, a deconstruction of that concept could have been the idea.
If you'd submitted on time, you would have landed in the middle, outside the spotlight but safer than most from the danger zone.
The American judge would have given you: 6 points.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 10:20 on May 25, 2015
|# ? May 23, 2015 02:40|
thanks for the crits Kaishai and Entenzahn
|# ? May 23, 2015 02:51|
Thanks for the crit en10
|# ? May 23, 2015 03:26|
Would I be able to get a crit from 2 weeks ago, the smelly week?
Here you go, Noah:
My first comment is that the opening, while good, doesn’t tell me as a reader where the story is going. Oscar is a good cook, there’s a cook-off coming… okay, but where’s the conflict? What’s the question that’s going to make your reader want to keep going?
““No blood, no cum,” Garaban sneered at him.” I don’t know what is going on with this line, but I found it jarring, gross, and out of place.
Likewise, I’m not sure what the Dieda flashback is supposed to accomplish.
Finally, the ending, with the blood. What?
I don’t know if I am missing something, but I don’t understand why this got an HM. My biggest complaint is that the reader is never told what the cook-off means to Oscar. What are the stakes?! Stakes are key to a story. What will happen if Oscar loses? If he wins? By withholding these details, you rob the story of the suspense it could have. For your next story, I want you to carefully consider what each character desires, and what each character feels will happen if they are successful or fail. That is the source of drama.
|# ? May 23, 2015 05:38|
I'll go again, baby
Sorry broski, summer classes are in full swing and I have class nearly every single weekday. Next time you'll be able to challenge me to a duel, we'll probably be having beers together.
|# ? May 23, 2015 07:06|
Signups are closed
Get that poo poo in.
|# ? May 23, 2015 08:56|
Appreciate the crit, Kaishai!
|# ? May 23, 2015 13:18|
The Wrath of Wasp
crabrock fucked around with this message at 05:47 on Jan 1, 2016
|# ? May 23, 2015 16:57|
Tied to a chair, James Frink held his head down, his eyes squeezed shut.
"I haven't seen your faces, I don't know where I am, just let me go and it'll be ok. I'm just a building inspector, man, just let me go!"
He gasped in spite of himself when an unseen hand grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head up. The metallic sound of of scissors made him open his eyes--Jesus, were they going to cut off his ear for the ransom note?
In the dim light he saw a large figure leaning over him from one side. Three times he felt the man's hand grab a chunk of hair, then snip it off. Shifting his eyes around he could see they were in a half-built house, the walls framed up but lacking insulation or drywall. The only light came from a single trouble-light lying on the ground in the corner.
"We're gonna let you go, but first we're gonna take some of your hair."
"Hurry up, Rob, IKEA closes in like an hour and I need to return that chair still," came a new voice from somewhere behind James.
"Shut up, Mike," the first figure grumbled.
"It's the last day, man, they only take returns for seven days and my wife won't want it--"
"Shut the gently caress up, Mike!" Rob barked. "Get over here and take some hair. JD, you too."
Rob stepped back a pace as two men walked around James' chair from the rear. One was muscular, younger-looking, while the other was hugely fat, the kind of fat where each step takes on a sort of rolling, swaying profoundness.
"Ok, guys," Rob said, "here's how it works. You hold the hair in your right hand like this, then you say the words like I taught you. Just keep saying them as long as you need it to last."
Though the light was poor, James was starting to make out some facial features on his captors. Rob looked the oldest, balding, maybe 55. He was holding up a lock of the freshly-cut hair and as Jim watched, he began to softly mumble words too low to understand but with a cadence and tone that sounded far from English. The younger guy (Mike?) had a Van Dyke beard trimmed short, and JD must be the fat one--
His observations were cut off by a piercing pain that started in his head and rapidly spread through his whole body, a feeling like ten thousand fish hooks ripping out chunks of flesh. He grunted with the pain, then moaned, tasting blood in the back of his throat and feeling it begin to run down from his nose and drip off his upper lip.
The pain dulled a bit when the older one--Rob--stopped mumbling.
"You see, Jim? We don't have to be near you to do that, either," Rob said. "We're gonna let you go. We want you to sign off on the plumbing layouts for Upton Heights, or else we'll do the hair thing again until you're dead."
Rain sluiced off the windshield of Rob's pickup as he pulled into the driveway. He broke into a shuffling jog to get into the shelter of the mostly-finished house.
He followed a line of muddy footprints on the bare plywood floor into the downstairs bathroom. There was no floor there, yet, and Mike was bent over applying PVC glue to the toilet's outflow pipe.
"Last one, right?"
"Hey Rob, yeah, this is it. How's JD coming?"
Rob yawned and scratched his cheek. "He's doing OK. His journeyman was giving him a hard time about some of it but we took care of him."
"What, you killed him?" Mike asked.
"Christ, Mike, no--we just gave him a couple hundred bucks and told him to get it done. You know how these fly-by-night developers work, he'll think we're just cutting some corners."
Mike straightened up, hitching up his pants. "Well, that's it. I'd be done already but some guy used his own glue instead of our special stuff, so I had to redo the toilet. Let's get a beer, huh?"
"You'd think this kind of thing would have to happen at night, you know? Like in movies," Mike said, flipping open the cooler and fishing out a beer.
"Well, we don't set the schedule for it. Now shut the gently caress up, Mike, it's the kickoff," JD replied.
The three sat in folding lawn chairs, eyes on a small portable TV. Despite the beer, they all had a nervous edginess to them. The January sun was low, but from up in their hilltop campground they still had plenty of light to see the quiet streets of the city below them.
"I wonder what He'll choose as his vessel. Who, I mean. Not what," Rob mused.
"Dunno, man. A hot chick would be cool. Actually, that would be weird, never mind," Mike said.
They watched the TV in silence for a while.
"OK guys, this is it, they're going to commercial!"
They stood, JD puffing as he hefted his girth up from the chair, and walked to the edge of the campsite to look down at the city.
Meanwhile, thousands of people jumped up and ran to the bathroom as the first commercial break of Superbowl XLX began. Across the city, thousands of toilets flushed nearly simultaneously.
In the Upton Heights subdivision, and in several others plumbed by Mike, JD, and Rob, those flushes flowed to the sewer by rather non-standard routes. Arcane routes, even. The lights of the city took on an unhealthy purplish tinge as sigils made in carefully-placed PVC and copper tubing were activated by running water. The whole thing had been slowly charging since the houses were built, one random flush or shower after another, but it took the synchronization effect of a nationally-televised football championship to push it over the edge into full-on activation.
"Hot drat," Mike breathed.
The glow soon faded as people returned to their couches. Only the trio on the hill knew that somewhere down there, Chemosh the Subduer had arrived and chosen a host body. Soon, though, the whole city would know, as their new god made flesh established his reign.
"Welp," Rob said as he opened another beer and dropped back into his chair, "I wonder if He'll let me rule Greece. I just fuckin' love gyros, you know?"
|# ? May 23, 2015 22:53|
Cradle to the Grave
Prompt: Competent supervillain with a child
Inhuman wails echoed through the decrepit castle, rippling over crumbling walls and seeping through even the thickest doors. It buffeted the shuffling inhabitants and caused the torches to gutter in their sconces. It was a rippling shriek of agony, of pure suffering.
"Shh, it's all right," cooed Lord Mourir as he gently cradled the crying toddler beneath his torn cloak. "Daddy's here, daddy's here, everything will be all right-"
"Is everything well, m'lord?" A tall figure in midnight black armor appeared in the doorway, helmeted head cocked. Its eyes glowed balefully, and what little of the face the glow revealed showed that it was bleached bone.
"It's all right Dumont," Lord Mourir said, turning his head toward the inquiring warrior. "And put away your damned sword, you'll scare her!"
"Why does she cry so?" Dumont the Dread's hollow voice was tinged with both curiosity and faint irritation.
"She has an upset tummy," Mourir said, soothingly stroking the child's back. "Too much cake after dinner, yes? Yes, it's okay, dear-"
"Powerful lungs for such a small child," Dumont muttered, running a huge gauntleted hand along his helmet, his skeletal features somehow peevish in the reddish glow of his eyes.
Mourir's expression went from gentle sympathy to cold, seething anger as he shot a frozen glare toward the grumbling Dumont. "Oh? Do go on, my loyal servant."
Dunmont froze. He remembered the endless void of death from which Lord Mourir had rescued him and his fellow Dreadblades -- Mourir's power over the forces of death and entropy was legendary, and with the army he'd raised he'd forged a modest kingdom out of a dozen tiny baronies. He'd treated his subjects fairly, asking only for taxes enough to maintain the infrastructure and a decent standard of living -- well, existing, along a monthly tithe of fresh corpses to raise into soldiers and servants. He was probably the fairest ruler in living memory in most regards, but the punishments he doled out were the stuff of nightmares. And Dumont knew Mourir could send him back to the void with a single syllable.
"Merely complimenting the child, sir." Dumont muttered lamely, hiding his gaze.
"She has a name," Mourir hissed, his black eyes glittering like frozen obsidian in the normal torchlight of the nursery.
"Indeed she does, m'lord." Dumont made a sound like a nervous swallow -- old habits lived on despite death.
"Then use it." Mourir patted the wailing child again on the back, still glaring.
Dumont had difficulty remembering anything not related to his duties as lieutenant and leader of Mourir's Dreadblades, i.e., putting sharpened pointy bits into the soft fleshy bits of suspected rebels. "L-lacey?"
"Lucy," Mourir spat. "Her name is Lucille, you clattering charnel-heap! Remember it! She is my reason for living!"
"Forgive me, sir!" Dumont bowed his head again and again like a drinking bird. He paused, then looked up from his forward lean. "Have you tried some warm tea for her indigestion? Always did the trick for me back when... when I worried about such things."
Mourir thought for a moment, then gave a thoughtful nod. "Worth a try. I could do with a cup of tea myself. Come, Dumont -- we go to my chambers."
Later, after a pot of tea had been made and little Lucy's bellyache had gone away, Mourir sat upon his throne of skulls and calmly regarded his favored servant.
"You must overlook my mood," Mourir said as he took a sip of tea, adjusting his grip on his daughter to make her more comfortable as she snoozed beneath his moth-eaten cloak. "I have not slept in some time."
Dumont didn't question why. Rebels lurked in the villages of Mourir's modest kingdom, and they had the villagers' support. Mourir's deathless army was powerful, but not large -- it took much willpower to maintain them, and their bodies were only good for so long before they rotted to uselessness and had to be replaced. Dumont was one of a special few to remain in service sans flesh, his body a suit of armor encasing reinforced skeleton.
But the rebels were numerous; Mourir's spies reported they were being led by Garrett Wills, the son of one of the deposed barons and a pawn of the church, and even a necromancer as great as Mourir couldn't raise an army strong enough to resist them.
Mourir and Dumont spoke at length about what they'd discovered, but even Dumont's significant military experience failed him -- he could not figure out a solution.
"They don't want me," Mourir finally said, his voice soft but his tone cold. "Ten years ago, I led them. My powers saved them. And now they turn upon me."
"Ingrates," Dumont hissed. "They would rather be enslaved by a tyrant than live under a necromancer. It's infuriating."
"Tyrants are merely men, and men they understand." Mourir shook his head. "They mistrust anything else -- they mistrust me. And the plague did us no favors."
"Even now the fools are convinced you were its cause, despite you suffering as much as any." Dumont turned away for a moment and let out a long, rattling sigh. "But they are wrong."
Mourir regarded the soft, chubby-cheeked face of his daughter as she lightly snored in his arms, his pale green eyes watery with unshed tears. "And that matters naught. Weakened by the plague, my wife dies in childbirth, and still they hound me!" Mourir turned his face toward Dumont and hissed. "They deserve the church! They deserve a spoiled noble!"
Dumont was quiet for a long time as he weighed their options. He turned toward Mourir and gave a slow, meaningful nod.
"And they will have them. But they will not have them easily. I promise you that, my lord."
And with that, they prepared for the hell to come.
"By the light of the sun and the grace of god, we will cleanse this land," Wills spat through clenched teeth, his hand tight about his sword's hilt as he surveyed the broken corpses of the necromancer's minions. "My father and my people will be avenged!"
"Your 'vengeance' ends here, little boy," boomed a voice from within the hall. It sounded like rocks rolling inside a boiler. "You face Dumont, Dreadblade of Lord Mourir!"
Seven feet of black armored menace stepped out of the gloom, baleful red eyes glowing from the dread figure's visor. It swung a blade easily as long as itself in a wide arc and let loose a low, metallic growl.
Wills dodged Dumont's brutal swings, carefully gauging the armored behemoth's movements. There was no tiring it, no overpowering it -- Wills had to slay it in one blow.
Dumont stepped forward, wielding that great, sharpened slab of black iron with unholy might, eyes glowing a bloody red in the darkness of his helmet. He let forth a bellow of rage as he brought his blade down.
Wills had trained for ten years for this moment. A sharp pivot of his right foot, a twist of his back, a quick, sharp jab of his silver-inscribed blade right between the bloody embers of its eyes.
"Aim for the skull," his mentor had advised. "The skull is where the spirit resides. Destroy it, and the binding spell breaks."
It was true. The moment Wills's blessed blade pierced Dumont's skull there was a low, keening cry that rose in volume as the dread figure's body vibrated. The bones within burst into flame and exploded, and Wills found himself obliquely thankful they were encased in such heavy armor, else he would have fallen in Dumont's death throes.
He stepped over the smoking suit of armor, childhood memories flooding back as he wended through the halls of his youth. He knew where to find the necromancer -- usurpers clung to whatever shreds of legitimacy they could grasp, which meant he would be sitting in his stolen throne. Wills was vaguely satisfied when he found Mourir doing exactly that.
"You killed Dumont," Mourir said, somberly impressed.
"Just as you killed my father," Wills spat, blade pointed at the thin, wasted man.
Mourir was not the imposing demon the hierarch claimed, Wills noted. The necromancer was pale and stooped and skinny, and Wills felt a pang of regret. This was no fearsome ghoul, but a man. An unarmed man.
But he was also a necromancer. A murderer. A usurper. A heretic. Mourir made no sound as Wills ran him through, and he looked oddly at peace as Wills sheathed his blade and left.
Long moments passed, and then a small shape crawled from behind the throne and pulled itself upright to lean against the corpse's leg.
"Dada?" Lucy's hand gently pulled at Mourir's limp hand. "Dada?"
Mourir's eyes opened, and he regarded his daughter with a smile. The plague had claimed his wife, yes, but it had claimed him shortly thereafter. His daughter had inherited his power, and she would keep her father around for as long as she needed him.
"Let's get our things," Mourir said as he got to his feet and picked up his daughter, smiling warmly with bloodless lips. "And find somewhere nice and sunny for you, Lucy."
She giggled, and hugged him tight.
|# ? May 24, 2015 04:19|
thanks for the crits kaishai and broenheim
rough couple weeks but im feelin ok about this week so far
|# ? May 24, 2015 04:49|
Thanks to Entenzahn for my crit. Newspaper reporter I ain't.
|# ? May 24, 2015 05:25|
Preston Panzer IV was savoring the closest thing to a real hamburger that money could buy. The lettuce, tomatoes, pickle, and onions were all locally sourced organic vegetables, of course. The meat was actual one hundred percent ground up dead cow. Worldwide, the total cattle population was stable at about a hundred thousand. Preston's personal herd numbered one hundred and twenty head, enough to keep him in meat, milk, and cheese. The ketchup and mustard were as real as such things ever were. Everything was real except for the bun.
Even someone as rich as he couldn't track down enough intact grain to make actual bread. No, it was the same processed algae synthfood that his corporation produced by the megatonne, Even after bleeding edge state of the art texture and flavor enhancement, it would never be quite the same as even the most generic bread from before the Staple Wars. Not bad enough to ruin the whole meal, unlike some synthetic foods he could mention. The real meat made most of the difference.
Preston carefully wiped his mouth and hands, activated his earpiece and pulled up a keyboard. It was time to get to work. The keyboard and earpiece connected him to Alice. Alice was Preston's baby, his girl, his favorite toy. A hacking rig with as much raw power as money could buy. One of the few dozen major corporations Preston had a board seat on was AeGeist, a grade AA computer security outfit. Alice was loaded with the cream of the crop of intrusion and decryption tools that AeGeist had access to. Preston wasn't nearly good enough of a coder to have written anything like this, but he was more than good enough to use them effectively. A man had to have a hobby, Preston always thought, and what was the point of being so rich as to be utterly untouchable by the law if you didn't commit some major felonies every now and then?
“Peeps here,” Preston said. His voice was edited and modulated to sound like a much younger man. He had no doubt that the others did the same.
“About time,” said Rabbit. “Mark and Slash are both here with eyes on the target, been waiting for you and Nix.” It was one of the better teams Preston had assembled. Rabbit, Mark, and Slash were muscle, mainly, although Rabbit had strong skills in locks and physical security and Mark was a solid driver. Nix was on drones, working from a safe location far away from the action, just like Preston.
After a few minutes waiting, Rabbit broke the silence. “This sure is out in the middle of nowhere. Probably not far from where they faked the Mars landings.”
“Jesus,” said Slash, “Not this again.”
“Why in the world would anyone fake a Mars landing on a practical location?” asked Mark. “Why not just go pure CGI?”
“Don't encourage him,” said Slash.
“Microsignatures,” said Rabbit. “Patterns at the sub-pixel level. Someone looking at the images closely enough can reverse engineer the random number generators and boom! The jig's up.”
“Nix here,” came a woman's voice on the channel.
“All right,” said Mark. “We're on the site, waiting for go.”
“I count four eyes on the site,” said Nix. A list of four digital addresses appeared on one of Preston's screens. Preston ran some scripts.
“Alpha and Delta are deeply sloppy with their signals,” said Preston. “And now they're mine.”
“Beta has police markings, so a scrambler should work there, but Gamma's a ghost,” said Nix. “Could be the site's own watchdog.”
“Then it's got to go,” said Rabbit.
“Agreed,” said Nix. A few minutes later Preston heard the faint explosion through Rabbit's gear. Preston was mostly out of the loop for the next few minutes of the plan, during which Rabbit, Mark, and Slash would physically infiltrate the target location. All he had to do was feed the two functional drones a loop of old data while the three of them crossed over the open space to the target and got themselves inside.
The target was a small black site operated by the Wuxaio corporation way off the books and way off the main roads in West Texas. Wuxaio was a front for the kleptocracy running the Shanghai Zone in former China, and they had executed a nicely planned operation against a Grady Corporation genetic research laboratory near Houston. Grady's defenses managed to wipe all of their research data clean before Wuxaio could get it, but they couldn't do the same for the physical samples of the Radix. So Wuxaio brought it here, where they warehouse stolen goods and hard currency, the safest place they could manage until transport back to their home territory could be arranged.
“We're in,” said Mark. “Plugging you in now.” Like any well-designed secure facility, no computers in the site were connected to any major network. So they had to make our own connection. A tiny box that Mark spliced into one of the on-site network cables established a tight-beam connection to Nix's drone and from there to Alice. As usual, Wuxaio put too much faith in their physical security and disconnected network. It was trivial for Preston to completely compromise their networks. Preston noticed an insistent alert from one of his scripts. It was something he had been expecting, although he hadn't been certain who it would be. Mark and Nix, then. He'd deal with them soon enough.
The building was guarded by a total of fifteen men: five Chinese Wuxiao officers and ten local talent soldiers, Mexican and American. Five to one odds would have been insurmountable in a fair fight, but Preston didn't believe in those. With the security system completely under his control, he could lead the enemy into ambushes and provide Mark, Rabbit, and Slash with exact locations down to head positions before they entered a room. They cleared the opposition without taking a single stray round. That left the vault door.
“That's a nice one. Magnetic bolt, time lock, reenforced steel door,” said Rabbit. “No way to finesse this one.”
“Are you saying you can't get in?” asked Slash.
“No,” said Rabbit. “But you're going to want to stand back. This one's going to require a massive pulse electromagnet, shaped explosive charges, and microsecond-scale timing. Good thing I brought all three.”
Rabbit continued to talk as he worked. “The Radix is Staple Wars related biotech, right?” They had agreed beforehand that the Radix would be Peeps' share. The others would split the other contents of the vault. “You know the big Biocorps were the ones behind that, right?”
“Oh for the love of-” said Slash.
“NuFud, MannaTech, all of those guys,” continued Rabbit. “Come on, who benefits the most? Not the nations that the official story tells you came up with the Blights.”
It wasn't true, of course, but Preston wasn't terribly offended. The truth was the official story. Biological warfare directly targeting humans fizzled out every time someone tried it, because medicine was just too good and humanity had plenty of healthy genetic diversity. The worlds major food crops, though, not so much. So the Rice Blight hit, followed by the Grain Blight, the Corn Blight, and the Potato Blight. Synthetic food had to expand as fast as possible. Preston was no war criminal, but he was one hell of a war profiteer.
“Okay, ready to go,” said Rabbit. The sound of his tools dismantling the secure door was loud and screeching, followed by sounds of celebration. The team quickly exited the warehouse and returned to their vehicle. Nix dispatched a small cargo drone to pick up the Radix package, and the group dispersed.
Preston immediately dove into other business. Mark had modified Preston's infiltration box with a device designed to trace Preston's location and report to Nix. Nix was more pilot than hacker, though, and she wasn't nearly as smart as the people who made Alice. He'd turned the tables, and gotten right into Nix's own systems. The first thing he did was add one more package swap to the series of exchanges Nix had set up for the Radix, undoing that part of the double-cross. The second thing that he did was to introduce a tiny data leak into Nix's anonymity routines. She'd been using milspec drones in US airspace for this job. Preston had already traced her physical location to an isolated compound in the middle of Alaska, far enough away from populated areas that the army would respond with an airstrike first and ask the corpses questions later. Mark would have to wait is turn. A suicide mission of some kind, maybe. “Peeps” wasn't the only hacker identity Preston could call upon.
A few hours and a dozen cut-outs later, the Radix package arrived in Preston's hands. He opened it up. Five jumbo-sized potatoes, each one fully resistant to all of the various strains of the Potato Blight. They could have been a rebirth for mass agriculture, but Preston didn't see much profit in reintroducing dirt farming to the world.
Instead, his next few hamburgers would come with a side of fries.
|# ? May 24, 2015 05:34|
Destroyed By Your Own Creation
Judging by the number of occupants in the break-room Lars could assume that there weren’t many employees on the sales floor. Any minute now one of the other managers would be coming in to chastise his coworkers for slacking off. He could hear Casey’s voice in his head That guy’s been poking through the music section for a good 5 minutes...what, you don’t care? Right now it didn’t appear anyone did, as their eyes were glued to the television as a news anchor led into the next story.
“We must warn you, the footage you are about to see may be disturbing.” The news anchor was visibly shaken as the words left his lips. Lars suppressed a laugh, covering his mouth in fake horror. His coworkers leaned in to the picture, mouths agape at the security footage being aired. Lars ventured a look at the screen, impressed at the fruits of his labor. A monkey stood triumphantly on the corpse of a fallen giraffe, pride oozing from his face as he raised a shotgun over his head. Lars nodded to himself thinking, This monkey is an icon of the revolution, his monkey brethren will sing songs of the night he broke their bonds and slayed the long-neck. They will cheer his name for generations. MC, Emcee...Monkey Commander.
The news anchor returned to the screen, “Authorities and Zoo officials are as yet unsure as to how the apes escaped their enclosure, and where they acquired the firearms, but foul play is suspected. Preliminary registration checks of the firearms used have yielded no useful information. In total twelve animals and two zoo workers were killed, several more were injured.”
“Break-time’s over, let’s get back to work.” Lars’ said. His employees groaned as they filtered through the door. He enjoyed his new position as department manager. Being promoted from the inside made his associates more likely to listen to him, if not a little bitter about having to do as he said. Still, Lars was sure to be a fair and just ruler. It was all part of his persona. If the police came to his place of employment and asked his coworkers which of their fellow employees would be the most likely to: break into a zoo, release the primates and give them guns he would probably be one of the last names considered for any of the charges, let alone all of them.
The workday dragged on, and Lars struggled to keep focused on the dull work of selling computers. More than one of his customers tried to talk with him about the massacre at the zoo. Some had a sense of humor about it. Most however, were utterly appalled. Still he felt no remorse for his actions, just a slight anxiety at the idea that he might be caught.
“Are you alright?” James, one of his regular customers inquired, “You seem distracted.”
Lars sighed heavily, “I’m just still shocked at what happened at the zoo today,” It wasn’t a lie, he was just shocked for reasons that differed from most reasonable people. “How does a monkey end up killing a giraffe. I mean, I get that he had a gun, but how did he know how to use it and why did he decide to kill a giraffe?”
“Don’t let it upset you too much. The animals that were killed weren’t exceptionally rare. Besides, with the cameras we’re adding this week I don’t think we’ll have any more break ins. The monkey with the shotgun killed the alpha male of the giraffes however. It’s pretty depressing because according to the zookeepers he was prime breeding stock.”
As he scanned the items through the register, Lars saw an opportunity to make things right. He felt bad that his actions had lead to the death of a great leader, “When are these cameras going up? I’d like to help if possible.”
“We’re planning on getting started with the install tomorrow. Don’t you do this sort of thing?”
“I just install the cable, but if you’d like I’d be willing to do it free. I can run everything tonight after work and you’ll just need to mount the cameras tomorrow.” Lars hoped this worked. Having
“Be at the main gate at eight tonight, I’ll let you in. You’re not afraid of being in the zoo alone at night are you?”
“Not at all.”
“Good, I’ll see you then.”
Lars had planned on the monkey revolt being a one-time deal. He hadn’t considered that the apes would be expert marksmen, and he had definitely not planned on them taking down a giraffe. As impressed as he was at their tenacity, he was wracked with guilt at being an accomplice to the murder of the giraffe leader, and knew full well that he could not let such a crime go unpunished. This was his mess, and he would help his giraffe brothers in their quest for revenge. The primates would pay for their carelessness.
War was coming to Monkey Island.
James was waiting at the gate when Lars arrived.
“I really appreciate you doing this,” He said, “there’s nothing I hate more than pulling cable, especially when it’s outdoors.”
“I don’t know, I find it relaxing.” Lars smiled as he spoke, “So where are these cameras being put up and where do the cables run back to?”
“Follow me, I’ll walk you through the setup.” James led Lars through the weaving paths of the zoo. The new cameras were being placed in a way that would have made the previous nights activities near impossible. Monkey Island would no longer have the blind spot that had allowed Lars to extend the drawbridge and sneak in the firearms that led to this tragedy. His blood boiled as he caught site of the Monkey Commander. The two locked eyes and the monkey produced a toothy grin.
You won’t be smiling much longer. Lars thought as he clenched his fists, returning the monkey’s smile with a scowl, The Giraffes will have their revenge. I gave you this power, and now I must take it away.
They reached the security building. James opened the door for Lars and introduced him to the security guard inside.
“I’m sure you’re familiar with the equipment, we’ve got more than enough cable, so go ahead and get to it.”
“You’re sure you don’t want to give me a hand?” Lars asked James, grabbing a box of cable.
“No way, I’ve got a long day tomorrow and need my beauty sleep.” James began to walk back towards the zoo entrance. “Try not to work too hard.” He turned the corner and
Lars turned to Lisa, “I’m going to get to it then, I’ll let you know if I need anything.”
After about an hour of working, Lars figured security was still as lax as the night before. He hadn’t seen a single patrol come through. Lars blocked the camera with a coil of cable and made his way into the monkey enclosure. Too easy He thought.
His first kill came easy and didn’t make a noise let alone resist. The next went down just as quickly but not as quiet. Letting out a howl before succumbing to asphyxiation. The tables had turned on Lars, he had lost the element of stealth, and now every ape in the enclosure was out for blood.
A pair of adolescent males leapt at Lars from a tree trunk, missing and tumbling into the moat below, he heard panicked screeching as they struggled for purchase on the smooth walls of the island. A smaller male tried to corner Lars but was caught mid-air and slammed into the ground.
Lars was impressed with himself, surrounded by angry animals nearly twice his strength and he had yet to take a hit. Not bad for a retail clerk, he smiled at the thought. One by one he felled his enemies, until all that was left was their alpha-male, The Monkey Commander. Lars imagined this was how Dr. Oppenheimer felt when he saw The Bomb go off. The two circled one another, Lars’ opponent bared his teeth, issuing a challenge that could not be ignored. The monkey closed the space between, the man stood his ground.
“Look what you’ve become Emcee,” Lars spoke but expected no reply, “You’ve become a murderer, a poacher, and a monster.” The words hung heavy in the air, sorrowful and sincere. “It’s not your fault, I made you this way...and now I need to unmake you.”
Emcee chuckled, and was immediately chastised by Lars.
“You arrogant bastard, you think this is a game? That wasn’t just any Giraffe you killed, that was their leader, that was their future. I should have known the power of firearms was too much responsibility for you.” Lars tripped on a broken branch and hit the ground hard. With a shriek Emcee lept on top of him, a large rock held proudly in the air.
Lars knew the end was coming, time slowed as the rock came bearing down on his face. Left to his thoughts Lars couldn’t help but think that maybe he was crazy for trying to arm zoo animals. His last thought was perhaps the most lucid he’d had in his entire life. What if I’m just crazy?
|# ? May 24, 2015 11:17|
poo poo came up, apologies for ruining a good prompt, but I'm out.
|# ? May 24, 2015 11:25|
That Time I Induced Stockholm Syndrome in an Owl and Leveraged It Against My SHITBAG Neighbor
That bastard, Jerry, had thought he’d won. He had the bigger house, the bigger acreage, the bigger dick. As a result, he had my wife. And I had to suffer seeing the two of them canoodling on his property next door. Lunching in his gazebo. Once I caught them half undressed in MY barn, and for this he offered no recompense. Only a smug grin.
But he hadn’t won. I had yet to unleash my torments upon him, make him regret crossing me. I decided to show him what it meant to lose everything. I would hurt him. I would hurt him until his pain weighed the scales of justice back in my favor. All I needed was an owl.
It isn’t hard to capture a barn owl. I broke a chick’s neck and placed it in a cage up in the barn rafters. Attached to the chick, I placed a weight that I connected to the door with a string. When the owl entered the cage to eat the chick, the weight moved and the door clicked shut.
My uncle used to tell me an owl’s a lot like a person. It will bond with its captor as a means of survival. Get attached to him like Stockholm syndrome. You capture an owl, soon enough it thinks you’re its mate. That’s how you win its loyalty. Then you spend late nights hooting at it so it knows you still care. That’s how you keep its loyalty.
Next came the training. I’d start each session by starving the thing for a couple days. Got it real motivated to learn how it might get fed. Then I’d let it out of its cage; it wasn’t going anywhere while it was imprinted to me. There was glove training, feeding the thing only after walking around for a couple hours with it perched on my falconer’s glove. Then shoulder training, pads recommended. Soon after, I taught it to associate one whistle with flying overhead, one with perching, another with hunt-and-retrieval, and a final one with targeting the nearest moving creature.
The thing was tame in no time. Nothing motivates like starvation and strong attachment. The important part was preparing it to execute OPERATION RUIN JERRY. And for that, I needed it to wear clothes.
I made a small maroon button down vest for it, the same as the train conductors wore. The owl was so docile at this point, it had no objection to wearing it. And I swear to God, I even got it to wear a matching fez. I’ll show you the Polaroids sometime. Anyway, I dressed myself up in the same uniform (sans fez), bade the owl to perch on my shoulder, and made my way to the train station.
Step one was to intimidate Jerry. Soften him up for the finishing blow, so-to-speak. Back then, he worked as the top groundskeeper at the Roosevelt Mansion in Hyde Park, twenty minutes by train from Fishkill. And he always took the same train.
No need to pay for a ticket. I had the uniform instead. As I stepped up to the train, the boarding agent said, “You’re not bringing that animal on board.”
“She’s property of the company, and I’ve got my orders. Take it up with management if you want,” I told him.
“Well…she is in uniform, I guess.”
I stepped onto the train and found Jerry seated next to an old woman. He frowned when he saw me.
“Ma’am, I’m gonna need you to change seats,” I told the woman.
“Do you work here?” she said.
“I don’t think he does,” said Jerry through clenched teeth.
The woman continued. “I see you’re wearing maroon, but I’ve never seen you here before. Nor the owl.”
I laughed and pointed to it. “Well, put it this way, if I didn’t work here, d’you really think they’d let me aboard with this thing perched on my shoulder?”
The woman twitched her nose. “I suppose not.” She vacated the seat.
There I sat next to Jerry for twenty minutes. I didn’t say a word. Just leaned slightly toward him, the owl inches away from his face. He spent the trip fuming, red faced with his arms crossed and his eyes fixed on the floor.
Hyde Park. That’s where the real fun began.
I left the train before Jerry and put some distance between myself and the station. With a sharp whistle, I commanded the owl to circle above me. Didn’t want to run into any problem with Roosevelt Mansion staff by entering the property with the bird on my shoulder.
The fez fell off at this point, but I really had to admire the thing for keeping it on so long.
Glancing back at the station, I spied Jerry walking in the direction of the mansion. I followed at some considerable distance as the owl flew high above me.
At the mansion, staff let Jerry through a gate and into the gardens. I let out a long “perch now” whistle, and the owl wafted to the roof. The only way for me to get to the gardens behind the gate was to join the tour group. So that’s I what I did, meandering through the property while some deep-fry-faced guide regurgitated one projectile factoid after another.
When we got to the gardens, I slowed my pace and let the group get far ahead. Rows of bushes, flowers, even some vegetables stretched before me. I cut across the foliage and wandered until I saw Jerry, maybe fifty yards off. He was in the rose garden near the 32nd president’s tomb, peeling away some dirt with a trowel.
I circled around and hid behind some trees. Then I let out two low whistles and waited for the owl to arrive. It perched on my shoulder. A broad grin swept across my face. This was it.
While Jerry toiled at the earth, I let out a long, ascending whistle. The closest moving object was Jerry; he might as well have been an injured field mouse. The owl took to the air, and swooped to press an attack.
Believe it or not, I didn’t want to do him much physical injury. OPERATION RUIN JERRY had other, less violent objectives. But amidst his girlish screams, his desperate flailing at the air, Jerry failed to protect his face from some minor scratching. I let out three soft whistles and the owl flew off. Two of Jerry’s grunt workers came running, summoned by his wails.
“It was Gus, my bastard neighbor. He did this to me,” Jerry yelled, pointing to a facial scratch that had not broken the skin.
“How? Where did he go?” one worker asked.
“I don’t know,” said Jerry. “He made an owl do it.”
“His owl. I recognized it from the train earlier. It’s wearing a maroon vest. Seems to have lost its fez.”
The two workers exchanged a quizzical look. One smirked. “Did it have a monocle too?”
“How about a top hat and a cane?” the other said, laughing.
Jerry’s face flushed. He stomped away from his sniggering underlings, and I followed at a distance.
The owl was nowhere to be found. Three soft whistles communicate “You may hunt. Bring what you find to your target.” It was maybe ten minutes before the owl soared back into view, loomed above Jerry’s head, and airdropped a freshly dead rat.
I can’t say for sure if what happened next was triggered more by the rat or the worry that he’d get clawed again. But Jerry ran screaming past the tomb, past the rose bushes, past the rows of vegetables, flowers, and bushes, and into a field trip of terrified elementary schoolers.
Needless to say, he lost the job. In turn, he lost my wife.
He didn’t take it lying down though. I almost have to respect the guy for retaliating. He couldn’t prove that I’d attacked him, but with a phone call and the game warden’s surprise visit to my property, he proved that I was keeping an illegal pet.
“Tell it to someone who cares, owl man. It’s time to give it up,” the warden said to me. I’ll have to teach him that nobody talks to me that way. And nobody takes away something that I hold dear. I’ve spied some hawks on my property these past couple days. Young ones. Ideal for training. I will tip the scales of justice back in my favor, and this warden will suffer for it.
|# ? May 24, 2015 11:54|
I apologize in advance for what is likely utter garbage. I tried to produce something coherent but feel I failed miserably. I fell short on motivation/logic/just about everything. I think I might have done better if I'd written in first person, but I've never been confident in my ability to do so. I know this was awful, and I'm relying on you all to tell me how much so.
That Time I Induced Stockholm Syndrome in an Owl and Leveraged It Against My SHITBAG Neighbor
This is what I was kind of going for, but feel like I missed the mark. I like the sinister vibe of the narrator. He's rightfully pissed but resorts to cruel and unusual means because he's loving crazy. I love it.
"The thing was tame in no time. Nothing motivates like starvation and strong attachment."
I'd argue that this is the weakest line of the story, the 'starvation' and 'strong attachement' clash in my head. I get what you're trying to say but it just reads weird in my brain voice.
"The important part was preparing it to execute OPERATION RUIN JERRY. And for that, I needed it to wear clothes."
This made me laugh, because it reinforced the idea that while he is a psychopath that knows way too much about avian psychology, he's still just a bitter man with a grudge.
"The fez fell off at this point, but I really had to admire the thing for keeping it on so long."
As a reader I would have liked to be reminded that the bird was wearing a fez.
Everything about that ending made me smile.
I'll do more reader crits later on, but I'm about to leave work and still have tickets to close.
|# ? May 24, 2015 12:33|
“We’re dying on the inside,” Mikhail said, and I laughed, because this wretch had meant to invoke some spirit of beast, or certainty, but he could barely stand under his own power, and of power, his words had none. He had spat them out like one coughs up blood, as the grim struggle ends.
“Times are tough,” I explained, and it might have been better had I restrained the sneer that rose from my breast like an uncoiling snake, but I could not resist reminding him of what he had despite everything. “You have your sister,” I said, “her beauty to keep you warm on those frozen nights.”
Anya was beautiful indeed. Many was the time I dreamt of knowing her, as much for the pain it would cause Mikhail as for the pleasure her embrace would bring. Thus far, I had kept myself satisfied with these dreams, and with these lustful references barely disguised as compliments.
The anger in him was like a dog whose tail had beeen trod on, of one who fears even more torment from his oppressor. After the instinctive glare he hastily looked away. “Am I to tell my comrades that there is to be nothing for them this winter?”
“You can tell them what you like,” I gloated. “Tell them the drink will flow like the fountain of Selsibel. They will only hate you when it does not come, and curse you with parched tongues.”
I watched him slink away, a broken man. What pleasure there is, in breaking a man so. There is an art to it. Any fool can kill a man, can deprive him of his needs so that he succumbs quickly to death or to his devils. But it takes a true craftsman to give him what he needs for the moment, and for the next moment, and maybe the next, but so that he depends on you even as you leech him of his strength, take it for yourself, so that what is left is a ghoul who stares at you with hollow eyes and meekly accepts his meager rations. I have done this to Mikhail, and to his friends before him, men who went to their grave knowing that they served me to the end of their days.
Some, I have heard, give their workers drink. They claim that the drink softens their workers’ tempers, keeps them dull and content with their lot in life. I say they are fools! I know what happens when workers gather over their drinks. A fire is born in their hearts which cannot be easily quenched. I say give them nothing, and keep the drink for myself.
This then, may be why I have no problem sleeping. After enough vodka has been drunk, slumber comes easily, though truth be told I could sleep without it. My conscience does not bother me when I have a worker whipped for disobedience, incompetence, or simply because I feel like it. It does not bother me when I water down the stew, though profits are up. And it does not bother me as I lay in my warm room, with my workers left to winter’s grasp.
So when she entered my room I thought it was another dream. Another dream of Mikhail’s beautiful sister. She stood there, golden-haired and proud, nude as the moment of her birth. “An angel,” I murmured, “here to be corrupted,” and when she frowned I realized that I was awake, for in my dreams she fell into my arms no matter what I said.
“Vadim,” she said, “I have seen the way you gaze at me, your eyes filled with need. I will be yours, but only if you promise to give your workers extra meat and drink this winter.”
“Of course, my dear,” I said. “Anything you say. I am a generous man, after all. Now, you must be cold, standing there like that. My bed is nice and warm.”
During the act, she did not look happy, but that is not such a bad thing. As long as the legs are open. When I was finished she left, like a spirit that perhaps was never really there. I did not stop her, having gotten what I wanted. But before she left she bade me remember my promise.
Of course, my promise. It is true, I had given my word. But I have given my word before, for many things. A word is made to be given, or else what use is it? And so I had no intention of keeping it. Besides, it is unfair to expect a man to keep to words uttered in pursuit of the fairer sex. Authors write novels, poets compose verse, and a man may say anything in such a situation.
And so the winter came, and I gave them nothing extra. I watered the stew down further, and laughed as I did it. I passed the extra meat onto the foremen, watched as they got stronger while the workers got weaker. And of course, I kept the drink to myself. I was never sober, I admit it. There was so much drink, so much profit in my business.
At this time, my eyes were only on Anya. She came every day after work to console her brother. And I would see her eyes on me, blazing with the passion only a woman can command. I was drunk, I think, as much on her hatred as on the vodka. I would wink at her, make a show of it, and the foremen would laugh with me as she turned her head in disgust and walked her brother home.
And so, when Mikhail came to to see me again, he was shaking even more than usual. Some disease, I reasoned, had finally laid claim to him, and it was likely he would not live to see another winter. He was a hard worker, it was true, but his death would probably break the workers’ spirits even more. And so I was overflowing with mirth as I greeted him.
“Mikhail,” I said, “friend, it seems work is not agreeing with you. Perhaps you should take some time off, spend time with family.”
Then he walked up close, with a speed I did not expect, and there was suddenly a coldness deep inside my chest. “My sister,” he growled, “you dog.” A piece of metal, I realized, from the machine; the foremen must not have been have been watching a broken man very carefully. As I began to drift away, I could see the foremen rushing up, weapons raised; the man would be obliterated for daring to kill someone so important. Behind Mikhail I saw the golden hair, a furious smile, a smile of triumph. None of that mattered, because the exploitation was over, the needle that I had driven into their veins so desperately, because it was desperate, it had always been desperate...
|# ? May 24, 2015 17:01|
In general, hold TD Crits until AFTER judgment comes out.
Recently a few judges have said that the Critzkrieg is ok before judgment, but that has not been said this time afaik
|# ? May 24, 2015 17:10|
TD is like that one lovely card game where the point of the game is for people to mess up the rules
|# ? May 24, 2015 17:21|
The rules are simple.
shut the gently caress up and don't whine
|# ? May 24, 2015 17:33|
Sun Eater (1548 words)
I am born, and I hunger! I blast down torrents of time, solar winds ripping the lanugo from my hide. I rear my hideous head, and planets shake. I bare my hideous fangs, and galaxies quiver. My body stretches from star to star. I am vast! My Mama, vaster still, lolls in a bed of comets. My twenty newborn sisters, sodden and mewling, suckle at her tits. I roar my fearsome challenge. There can be nothing in this universe that is not mine. There will be nothing in this universe that is not I. My sisters shrink from me. They flee. I care not. I rend. I tear. Their twenty corpses drift in space. My Mama, torn from womb to throat, moans once and dies.
My people are vast, and they hunger. All around me are brown limbs, lean and scarred brown bodies, faces like brown moons with coronas of wild hair. We reek of poo poo and swampwater. The land we have crossed is dead and rotten. The fields of our village were dead and rotten. We have not slept or washed since we left the valley three days past. No matter. Tonight, we will feast on the cattle of the Sun People. Tonight, we will wash ourselves in the blood of their men and the cunts of their women. The drums pound once, then twice, then begin a furious tattoo. I send up the war shout, ha. The people roil and surge. I leap from the boulder where I stand and into the pack. I shove and am shoved. I strike and am struck. My heart throbs with the drums. We are the ocean that a million men will drown in. We gorge, and we grow! Ha. We are the beast that rips out the throat of life.
I hunger. I gently caress her like a drowning man. I want to tear her heart from her breast and smear myself with her blood. I want to run naked into the Budapest snow with my cock still wet from her oval office and my hair still smelling like her lavender perfume. Her four-poster bed slams against the drywall and somewhere, far away, a half-full wineglass falls to the floor and shatters. I've lived here for four months, and for four months I've sat on my balcony every night and looked down at the expat bar across the street, taken shots of cheap palinka, and read the same two English novels over and over and over. But tonight the Romanian girl, who has a sun tattooed on her neck and breasts like two full moons, shouted at me to come down and say hello. Her friends cackled and hushed her, but when I sprinted down the grimy stairwell and across the street, breathless, she was still waiting. Later, sated, drowning in her down comforter, I suck at her earlobe and whisper: "Oh, God, oh, God, I need you." She rolls over, shameless, half-lidded, and says: "Well, have me, then," and laughs.
I blaze through space. I leave great swaths of nothing in my wake. I am the void, the shade, the great black dog that lopes at the heels of time. I am the darkness that puts out the light. For epochs I gorge on all that I see. Where once there were worlds, I swallow them whole and I grow. Yet I am not unopposed. One last galaxy clutches at the skirts of life. They bomb me, they blast me, they set me ablaze. They tear at my flesh with great shrieking machines. They poison me. They bore through my brutal skull. I die a dozen times. But when I hunger, I will not go unfed! I look about me. I fill this soap-bubble universe almost to bursting. I am my own dominion. I force myself up. I lunge. I swallow. Their hundred billion suns burn my gullet, then fizzle and die. I let out a sigh.
The Sun People link arms between us and their village. Each holds a knife in his right hand. They stare at us, grim and silent in their painted masks: hares, jackals, wolves, hawks. In our stories, a man who does not speak is already dead. My people tremble. We are dazed and dizzy with hunger. The Sun Chief speaks. He wears the mask of a great black bird. He says that we need not fight. I laugh in his face. To fill the bellies of my people, I will fight for a thousand lifetimes. We carry the flame. We are the storm that rips forests from the earth. I open my throat and loose our war cry. Ha. A storm does not fight but devours. Ha. I snatch the flame from my torchbearer's hand. Screaming over the beat of the drums, I burst from the crowd. Ha. Now my men are running at my heels. Ha. We crash against the Sun People. We crack their slender bones. We drain their blood onto the earth. The sun sets. The village blazes. And our hearts continue to beat.
She said she needed space. It's harder to punch through glass than I thought. She wanted to take a break. The pill bottles in her medicine cabinet are all labeled in languages I can't speak. She said not forever and she meant forever. I am wounded but not dying. She wraps my wrists in gauze. She's still wearing lipstick and my blood is smeared on her forearms. "You should've been a nurse," I say. She looks away. I try to stand, and the bathroom floor heaves. The pills I've puked up float in her grimy toilet, unflushed. She walks me to her bedroom and strips me down to my briefs and tucks me into her four-poster bed and pulls the down comforter up to my chin. I wish that she would cry. I reach out and hook one of her belt loops with a finger. "Lie down with me," I say. "I need you." Without undressing, she lies down beside me, on top of the covers. But an hour later she quietly undresses in the dark and quietly climbs on top of me and very quietly fucks me, gently, not touching the bandages, and not saying anything at all.
I have devoured. Now I float, unmoored. I see nothing. I taste nothing. I am what remains. For a billion epochs I drift from nowhere to nowhere. My wings quiver. Then I drift for a billion epochs more. Each nerve prickles electric. I hunger still. Impulses wend their way from my brain to my tail. Slowly, very slowly, I whip it around. I take its tip between my own teeth. There is no more starlight to see by. I bite into the flesh of my tail. I groan, and my body vibrates like a drum. I start to eat.
The bodies of the Sun People are as light and dry as driftwood. In their storehouses are only a few black kernels of grain. Behind their fearsome masks, their faces are scarred with pox and blisters. Their eyes are the color of cornflour. Their cows totter in the field, their udders loose and their wounds swarming with maggots. In their well floats the corpse of a dog. Our women warm their cold hands by the blazing village. Somebody weeps in the dark. There will be fewer of us in the morning. Ha, I say, and pound my skinny fist on the war drum. Ha, we will march on the next village in the morning. Ha. We will eat, if we must tear at our enemies' flesh with our teeth! Ha, the feeble cry goes up. We will walk to the edge of the sky if we must. We must.
In my daydreams I run through the snow behind her train as it pulls away. In my daydreams she slips a letter through the mail slot at four in the morning just before she leaves. In my daydreams I race to the door, only to see her coattails vanishing around the corner. I tear the envelope open and read her desperate tearstained declaration of love and loyalty and fall to my knees right there in the hallway, sobbing, and the beautiful neighbor I never knew I had makes me a cup of herbal tea and invites me to join her in her claw-footed bathtub. But instead I fall asleep on the couch, and in the morning the fire alarm's run out of batteries again and is letting off a high-pitched squeal, and my head aches and my mouth is sticky. I've been crying in my sleep, and my nose is red and two veins stand out on my forehead. The train tracks are cordoned off with barbed wire, and they won't let me onto the platform without a ticket. I sit at a coffee shop next to the station. I sip the dregs of an espresso. I stare out into the snow, watching for her black coat and her red scarf, until my eyes burn. After a long time the owner taps me on the shoulder. "Time to go," he says in throaty English. "Or you will order another? No sitting without drinking." So I stand up. I put my coat back on. And I go.
|# ? May 24, 2015 17:48|
The Zurich Teleportation Caper
“What could Dr. Appleby want with me?” Mitzi Auer grumbled to herself as she walked through the University of Zurich. She kept her head down and ignored the rude stares and comments thrown at the “blue-haired punk freak”.
“Nice piercings, I’m sure the professors were so impressed by your thesis defense looking like that,” said a rather snide former classmate, whose name she never cared to remember.
“Shove it,” Mitzi said as she walked past him. She heard the man continue his taunts, but she ignored the buffoon.
She entered the familiar building that housed the offices of the science faculty, and hurried up the stairs as quickly as she could; the less time spent around other people, the better.
Mitzi quickly reached the professor’s office, and was surprised that only a couple of other grad students were hanging around; certainly there had to be more people interested in seeing a Nobel Laureate, right?
Before she could knock on the door, the door opened. “Ah, Mitzi, glad you could make it,” Dr. Appleby said before shooing the other students away from her office. “Come in.”
Mitzi took a seat while the other woman locked the door behind them. There were dragon figurines everywhere. Dr. Appleby grinned, and asked, “like my dragons? They’re but a small sampling of my collection.”
Mitzi shrugged. “Whatever. What do you want with me?” She asked in her thick German accent. “Here to make fun of me like the other professors?”
“No,” Dr. Appleby said as she sat down at her desk. “I called you here because I want to make you an offer.”
Mitzi stared at the older woman, who hardly looked older than herself despite being double her age. “You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, but I am.” The exalted professor smiled devilishly. “People here respect me, and I can make or break the careers of grad students. You, Mitzi Auer,” she pointed at the younger woman, “are one of the most brilliant students I have ever met.”
“Psh, tell that to the assholes who trashed my thesis.”
Dr. Appleby snorted. “They’re just frightened that some icky girl just outsmarted them on the concept of manipulating wormholes. Unlike them, I know that you’re onto something, and I can give you everything you want to bring your idea to life.”
Mitzi raised an eyebrow. “What’s the catch?”
The professor laughed. “Come with me, I’ll show you.”
Dr. Appleby stood up and laid a table flat on the ground. She stepped on it. “Step on this, and we’ll go.”
Mitzi rolled her eyes, certain that someone here was insane. She stepped on the table, and shrieked when they were propelled out of the office, going up through the ceiling like they were ghosts.
“Don’t be scared, you’re perfectly safe. While on this platform, we are basically ghosts. No one detect us by any means.”
Mitzi gawked as she stared at the ground below her. “How?”
Dr. Appleby chuckled. “I am known as an inventor, and I’ve made a pretty penny with some of my computer patents, but I have inventions that reach far beyond what anyone else on this planet is capable of.”
“And you don’t share them with anyone?” Mitzi asked, incredulous.
“Goodness, no! The world doesn’t deserve my brilliance.”
“What do you mean?”
Dr. Appleby sighed as they flew over the outskirts of Zurich. “I had wanted to help the world advance technologically, and I knew I had the capability to do a lot by myself, so I made wonderful computer components that vastly advanced our technology in a heartbeat, things I wanted used to help people in hospitals and third-world countries. Just like so many inventors before me, I had to watch as every powerful military in the world used my inventions to hurt people.”
“And what does this have to do with me?” Mitzi asked as they approached a small house on a hill.
“Good question. You see, ever since then I’ve been advancing my own technology so that I could have my revenge. Everyone knows of my inventions and my Nobel Prize in Physics.” Her smile became devilish again. “No one knows that I can pretty much make any country bow to my demands. I’ve literally hacked the computers of most countries. They don’t know who I am, as my advanced computers literally go unnoticed in their systems, but I’ve hurt them and bent them to my will on several occasions. Most of these nations are frightened to go to war now because I’ve threatened using their own nukes and weapons against them, and-”
“That’s cool and all, but you didn’t answer my question,” Mitzi said as she tapped her foot.
“All right, fine, I’ll answer your question. I need a partner in crime, and you have an idea that could help me immensely. With your help, I want to build a teleportation device. Computers can only reach so much information, so I want to be able to go anywhere my heart desires and take whatever documents I can find, information I can use to blackmail the assholes who dared abuse my inventions. The CIA in America is a hotbed of papers! So, Mitzi, now that you know everything, are you in?”
Mitzi pondered for a minute as they landed in the middle of some trees. “Yeah, all right, fine,” she said. “I’ll join you. I kinda wanna get back at the man myself.” Mitzi held up her hand in a fist, showing the anarchist tattoo on the back of her hand.
“Excellent. Now, if you’ll follow me, we can begin our work.”
Mitzi smirked as she followed Dr. Appleby underground.
Mitzi and Dr. Appleby stood proudly as they looked at the device that had been they had labored on for the past year. To a pedestrian, it merely looked like a big steel marble, but to the scientists, it was their finest invention.
“This thing looks ready to go. The CIA won’t even see us coming!” Dr. Appleby said as she flipped up a panel and typed something on a keyboard.
“Are we doing this now, then?” Mitzi asked.
“Why waste time? Let’s do this now!”
The two of them touched the sphere as it hummed. The next thing they knew, they were floating in a rather cold ocean.
“What the gently caress?” Mitzi exclaimed as she struggled to tread water.
“I don’t know, I must have hosed up the coding! Don’t worry, I can get us back home!” Dr. Appleby looked around for the sphere, only to realize that it had sunk.
Mitzi couldn’t hold on much longer, and she dropped underneath the surface. She quickly blacked out.
Mitzi was quite surprised when she woke up in a warm blanket. She recognized her surroundings as Dr. Appleby’s lab. “I’m alive?”
“Well, of course you are, silly, I wasn’t just going to leave you for dead in the ocean.” Dr. Appleby said as she stood above her. “I had several devices on me that could save us from just about any error. I was able to catch up with your drowning body and the teleportation device pretty quickly thanks to this.” She held up a little device that looked like a miniature propellor. “And once we got back to the surface, I was able to reprogram the teleportation device and bring us back here.”
“Well that’s neat,” Mitzi said as her still blurry vision caught some large stacks of papers lying not too far from her. “What’s that?”
Dr. Appleby laughed. “After I made sure you were stable here, I went and raided the CIA. You were out for a couple of days.” She walked to one stack of papers. “There’s so much juicy data here I didn’t have before. Now I can really gently caress with the American government, and it’s all thanks to you!”
Mitzi smiled. “Glad I could be a part of this. gently caress authority.”
“gently caress authority indeed.”
|# ? May 24, 2015 18:33|
|# ? Dec 8, 2022 17:30|
paper cranes are hard to make when your hands are for the gun
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:22 on Jan 8, 2016
|# ? May 24, 2015 19:10|