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May 23, 2008

First thunderdome, haven't written in 15 years.

Bring it.


May 23, 2008

Word count is without spaces right?

May 23, 2008

Jitterbugs by William Johnson - 1045 words

story by madpanda 1036 words

My car protests mechanically as I tear down the rural highway. Only its incomprehensible metal language, and the wind, provide a interruption to the sounds of country summer. Large creatures of the exoskeletal clad variety creating noise with their appendages. Train horns in the distance, an amateur fireworks display, livestock chatter.

Tonights weather is just chilly enough to ward off any thoughts of outside enjoyment. A final “gently caress you” before summer is gone for good. Winters early scouting party for its planned 6 month

My destination tonight is a way-station from reality. Somewhere to pass the hours in slightly less of a depressed state. I know this respite is false; that I am only engaging in escapism. For now though I don’t see a better move.

This bar didn't have a name , it didn't need one. Not quite fitting of the “watering hole” description, that implies too much of a welcoming atmosphere. Pub conjures visions of an establishment with a decorating budget. Degenerates and high seekers of all types could suss its purpose by visual investigation alone. Its exterior adorned by neon signs mostly in a state of disrepair.

Tonight’s specials are half-off drinks and live jazz. One out of two isn't bad.The entryway is a re-purposed closet door. It appears to have been cut to size with a sturdy bread knife. Off to one side is a parking area, its borders marked by rusted garbage cans. A few ancient compact cars, pickup trucks, and 1 tractor are present.

Upon entering, the smell hits me like a tire iron. Old cigarettes, spilled drinks, and regret. All deeply ingrained into the ancient green and orange carpet. Every surface is covered in a layer of dust that never seems to clean up right. Rumor is the owner won this place in a game of Russian roulette with his uncle. I think the uncle got a better deal.

I sat at the bar, why anyone would choose to delay delivery of intoxicants to their system is beyond me. The bartender is a weary old man, whose uniform is a pair of ripped jeans and a dilapidated white t-shirt. His face a leathery topographical map with many craters.

Topics of conversation tonight include a golf game playing on the geriatric tube tv and the economy. Periods of time would pass when the only sounds I hear are drink glasses hitting the counter only to rise up again, and cheap wheel cigarette lighters flicking on. Delivering a poisonous but comforting rush of chemical heaven.

Around half past too drunk to care and too sober to leave, the sound of brass instruments punctuate the relative calm. A few gin embalmed cadavers are revived, never to reach Valhalla.
Brass instruments fill the room with a melody that has no definitive rendition. One of those songs older than written history. The tune of two sad people in a grey world finding a moment of connection.

A group of blue collar workers from the local auto factory enter. They all have the same company working overalls and were all sold the same story. That their dedication to working an assembly line would lead to good things for their family. The factory is moving operations to the next state over, for a small bottom line bump. They don’t know yet that the factory is closing.

My eyes searched for the antique cigarette machine. The kind which delivers an emergency supply of stale smokes with the pull of a nob. Instead I found on an oasis of color in the gloom. This is not generally a place happy people linger, but someone didn't tell these two. Dancing and holding each other in a way that causes a bit of hope to coalesce in my mind. To them the concerns and troubles of the world were forgotten for a time.

I would need more booze for that temporary bout of amnesia. My attempts at hailing the bar tender fall on deaf ears.He stands transfixed on a distant object. Following his gaze leads to the dancing couple. Other patrons are noticing them as well.

A roomful of eyes is on the couple dancing now. Their limbs bending and moving at non euclidean angles. In my drunken haze they almost appear to be one entity. The instruments now seem to be taking tempo direction from the couple. A wild cacophony of sound that makes you want to move. Move no matter what troubles you in life.

Others were spurred to action by the music. Swaying back and forth, while holding a table or bar for support. Some even found the motivation to entice a partner. More lonely vagabonds finding comfort.

The scene quickly overwhelmed me. This much happiness was sure to be a harbinger of bad times to come. I got out into the cool early morning light and caught my breath. The decision was made to sleep myself sober, in the back seat of my car. Around these parts this was a common practice.

Commuting to work the next day, I notice details that hadn't been apparent before. My apartments lawn was a vivid shade of green. A classic muscle car painted blue like a Caribbean ocean. The industrial area I travel through to reach work doesn't smell quite as putrid today.

I pull into the gravel parking corral next to my employers rented business trailer. Turns out when you run a company which specializes in workforce reconstruction consulting, it is imperative to have a quick exit strategy. The trailer is a shade of brown similar to cheap coffee with powdered creamer.

The thought of cheap gas station coffee, aged multiple days, infused with flavored chalk hits my brain. Looking at my half full half wet pack of cigarettes; I feel ill. This hellish combination has been my breakfast for the past 5 years.

The only time I have felt something was last night. Watching that couple dance their cares away. I wasn't quite sure what it meant yet, just that the time for change had come. After a quick existential crisis and survey of funds I head west to the coast. Where I came from and never really left.

May 23, 2008

Thanks for the feedback.

I am reading through criticism for previous weeks Thunderdome entries. As well as proofreading tutorials. The formatting got screwed when pasting from google docs to SA. I didn't notice this.

May 23, 2008

Is the passive voice suitable for biographies?

May 23, 2008

I'm sorry you had to re-read that. I rarely read lines out loud, or did any kind of proof-reading. I didn't write for about 10 years, prior to that pile of poo poo, and wanted to see how bad my starting point was.

Reading, writing, and proof-reading others work is eye-opening.

The Fiction Writing OP is very helpful.

It now takes me 20 minutes to write, edit, and re-write a 5 line post but whatever.

May 23, 2008


Every morning I wake up…and put on my mask.

May 23, 2008

SA Thunderdome Entry “The Virtual Folks Blues” by madpanda 4/14/2015

Every morning I wake up…and put on my mask.

Word Count Target: 1300. Word Count Actual:1311
Entries Close: Midnight EST on Friday, April 17
Submissions Close: Midnight EST on Sunday, April 19

I turn my computer on, and finish a cold pizza breakfast while it boots. The new dungeon opens tonight and I plan on spending the next 24 hours leveling and looting. I start the game and am greeted by a familiar face. That ugly, pre-expansion model, dwarf. Harbinger of server downtime. His apologetic shrug and stupid helmet pisses me off each time.

“World Server down for maintenance. We do not have an eta.”

I make sure the server status app on my phone is functional. Then I notice another voicemail from dad. He has been distant for a few years. I was at school when he found her, in the garage. Sitting in that station wagon they just paid off, with the windows rolled up. Wikipedia defines it as Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Mom didn’t leave a note.

A few weeks after, he signed over my trust fund. I could get by without working, but not by much. I took a break from college. Dad started drinking. He left a voicemail, two weeks? No, it was more like three weeks ago. I’ve been busy with the new game content. I decide to give him a call.

“Hi Brandon, it’s good hear your voice” he says
“What’s up dad?” I reply.
“You never call, did my son meet someone? I could use a few grand kids” he says with a tired chuckle.
“No dad, just busy” I say.
“Did you get a chance to read those college brochures I sent?” he asks
“Dad, i’ll have a developer job by new years. Might even be working on the next expansion pack” I reply.

“Have you been playing that game again?” he asks
“Only a little dad, don’t worry about it” I say
“That trust money was for making your life easier… while getting over Mom...not to avoid living..” he trails off.

“Lets meet for dinner soon” he says.
“I’ll be over Sunday” nobody raids then anyways.
“I love you son” he gets out before I hang up.

The trust ran out about 6 months ago. I’ve been working delivery jobs and using credit cards.

Server comes up two hours later. I’m the first in guild to login. My new computer is lightning fast, it’s the same model world ranked Arch-mage Cha0sph1re uses. My new credit card gives in-game rewards, so the computer pays for itself really.

I head toward tonights dungeon, through the molten caverns, and the swamp of eternal dusk. I avoid some of the dangerous monsters out of habit. When I was level 53, the ash gargoyles and shadow strikers annihilated me. I have raid gear now, it’s just easier to avoid them.

I arrive just as our guilds A team logs on. KingKrunk the half-ogre Berserker, who I met at level fifteen. Walking down the road in Lumberdale, I noticed a troll overwhelmed by molekin. I had a quest for molekin ears so I jumped in. He sent me a group invite and the rest is history.

Fantomas a kobold Rogue has been in guild for two years now. Decent player, doesn’t study his class much. He lives in Germany which is cool.

Holyroller is a human smite priest. He has also been banned several times for running gambling scams.And offensive character names, often themed around bodily functions of pop stars.

I play an elven Arch-mage. Which is highly effective race/class combination for raiding. I spend a lot of free time studying the best spell rotations, armor enhancements, and combat theories for this class.

Casting astral leash teleports the missing group members to my location at the dungeon entrance. We buff up and embark. The walls inside use a new texture, polished prismstone. A pale blue flicker of energy darts through them. The ground glitters like untouched snow.

The game fills our last roster slot with a random player. Class doesn’t matter, as long as they don’t actively sabotage us. A planar arch-mage materializes. Planars are a race of elementals without an affinity. They can choose one at level 100, after doing an epic quest. .

Group chat lights up.

Zhek:“Greetings fellow waywards, I am Zhek of the Ethereal Ronin.”
I’ve played an arch-mage for years and haven’t heard of this guy. Hope he doesn’t take my loot.
Zhek:“i prefer shattering resolve and rending minds. Though, Planars are flexible by nature”
Zhek:“I like debuff/crowd control, can spec change”
Me:”ok whatever, lets roll”

Krunk moves down the right hallway and is stopped by a hovering barrier of crystal shards. Densely packed with a symbol floating inside. Three red concentric circles. We return to the intersection and go left. This leads us a to room inhabited by two construct bruisers, and a large mechanical pillar.

Krunk charges in, raining down axe blows and generating aggro. Zhek casts lockdown on the pillar while Holyroller sets up a sanctuary zone. I let loose a flurry of arcane destruction. Fantomas maneuvers out of area attacks, exploiting vulnerabilities with his new dagger. Both constructs die just as the pillar activates. Its three sections rotate independently, firing magical artillery everywhere. We take minimal damage, and prevail with surprising haste.

Holyroller:”goddam Zhek you do some beastly damage”
Fantomas:”oh wow what is your build?”

Zhek uses the polite bow emote. I scour fight logs for an explanation. How could this guy be beating me by 25%? Our gear is nearly the same.

Me:”Zhek you cheating?”
Zhek:”whatever do you mean?”

Me:”How is your damage that high, is it a bugged spell or an item? share dude. Like when you could quad-cast meteor whirl if it was keybound to caps-lock
Me:”Unless you are cheating, I don’t see how you could be beating me on the damage meters”

Zhek:”Out-of-character: I am not cheating, However I am insulted. This is just a game I play for fun, can we chill out and continue?”

KingKrunk:”yea let all relax”
Holyroller:”afk beer”
Me:”fine whatever, lets go when he gets back”

The run finishes without incident, he continues to beat me, I log off without saying anything.

Skype rings, it’s Krunk.

“Dude you ok, what was that about?” he asks.

“I get serious about my damage.” I say.

“Uh , yea i get that, but this is a game dude. If you are getting this upset, it might be time to take a break. Ten hours a day will burn anyone out” he says.

“Do you want me to quit the guild? So Zhek can replace me for raids?” I ask.

“What? No Brandon, enough about games, talk to me as a friend, what’s wrong?” he asks.

I tell him about everything. How I dropped out of college, playing the game all night, moms suicide, credit cards. He convinces me to talk with my dad and afterward, Fantomas. A few years back Fantomas offered to show me around Germany.

Over dinner that weekend I open up to my dad about it. We have a few beers, well I have a few beers, he is trying life sober for a while. I tell him about Germany, and he is a bit hesitant. I don’t blame him; I squandered that trust money.

He asks for access to my game account, so he could monitor my playtime through a website. I go through scenarios in my head, he could delete my characters, or disband the guild. I blurt out my concerns. His face becomes a bit more pale than usual, and he says something I will never forget.

“Son, you didn’t get that upset when Mom died..” he says
“She used to talk the same way about those goddamned slot machines…”

I spent the next week at his place, Only logging in to leave a guild note, saying I would be taking a break. On Friday I boarded a plane bound for Germany.


How do I keep the formatting from making GBS threads itself when pasting from google docs to SA?

May 23, 2008


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May 23, 2008


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