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Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
I hate this prompt because it will make me do research in my limited free time, but I am in because I promised on IRC I would be.


Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
912 words

I wooed Rosanna with cheese.

I judge by your expression that you don't think there is a natural connection between romance and cheesemaking. You are wrong. Like any true Italian, I am a passionate man, and my passion is my inspiration. The cheese I created for Rosanna was as pale and creamy as her skin, as deep and sultry as her gaze. It took six months to make. I called it Sensuale. We shared it beneath an oak tree as the river bustled past, and when I asked her to marry me, she said yes.

I tell you without boasting, I am a master of my craft.

From my love for Rosanna came many soft, rich, joyful cheeses. I flavoured them with the sweet tang of her lips on mine in the night, and the heady grace of her movements as she stalked through the midday market. Every man there desired her, and my secret jealousy became, in my cheeses, a salt, sharp aftertaste that drew praise from all quarters.

I won awards, first in the village, then throughout Lazio. My hobby became a business, and my cheesemaking shed became a barn in which three men laboured. The money I earned bought gifts to delight Rosanna, and the savour of her delight inspired pungent, strong, confident cheeses: for I myself was strong, confident, in control of my career.

I made a trip to Rome, where a friend had offered to introduce me to the best cheesemongers of the city. The first of them loved my cheeses and we made a deal for all of my stock within the hour.

I hurried back to Rosanna. Perhaps I told myself that I would surprise her with my early return, but I think even then I suspected. That salt, sharp jealousy that throve on men's gazes in the market - I had controlled it, channelled it, but never mastered it. And now, her giggle mingled with his moans as I stood beneath our window, and the jealousy gained free rein inside me.

I waited in the barn to watch him leave. His name was Rodrigo. Not one of the young men from the village; they had always been beneath her notice. He was a city fellow, a cheesemaker I had become acquainted with at the competitions in Rome. I said nothing to Rosanna, but my next few cheeses were thick and savage and bitter.

He called again, Rodrigo. I was careful never to catch him, but I always knew. My workers made the cheese to my old recipes, and as the business continued to thrive, I turned that knowing to a new project. It takes years for a good cheesemaker to mature a strong, hard cheese; it also takes years for a good man to mature a strong, hard resolve to murder. In me these things became natural partners, and the cheese I created from my hatred of Rodrigo was strange and spicy, deceptively unaromatic, yet pungent on the tongue. It was one of my finest creations.

The first national cheese competition was to be held in the Visconti Castle of Pandino. This castle is not like your English castles, all thick grey stone and scowling arrow-slits. It is an elegant pale yellow like a fine cheese itself, and airy and open. The inner courtyard, where the public would taste our cheeses, is surrounded with open colonnades and balconies.

We met Rodrigo on one of those balconies, as he watched the crowds below. The smile he gave me was insolent. He fingered his moustache and carefully kept his eyes away from Rosanna at my side. "Giovanni! Good to see you."

Two years a cuckold to this rat. Two years of pretended ignorance. Two years hiding the aching bitterness of every minute in my own wife's company.

I smiled back at him and gestured to the judging taking place in the courtyard below. "You fancy your chances?"

"Less so with you here," he replied affably. "What categories have you entered?"

"All, naturally. I expect the hard cow's cheese to do best."

"Ah, drat. I was pinning my hopes there myself." His mouth quirked. I hated him even more.

"Try some," I suggested. I waved my bag of samples at him. "See what you're up against."

"Oh! I didn't know you'd brought those," said Rosanna.

"Don't mind if I do," said Rodrigo.

My hand was steady as I handed him his death: a blue-wrapped cube of excellent cheese, laced with aconitine.

He bit off half, savoured it, nodded appreciatively. "Could be a winner," he said.

Rosanna stole the second half from his hand and popped it into her mouth, giggling.

I should have stopped her. I should have seized her and taken it from her mouth. I should have confessed then and there. But that giggle stopped me. I had heard it before: standing beneath my own window, jealousy seething within me.

I nodded to them both. "Excuse me," I said. I found a stair, descended, and passed through the courtyard, through the crowd, seeking escape and the open hillside.

"The winner, in the hard cheese category: Vendetta, by Giovanni Bertoletti!"

I barely heard the judges' announcement as I stumbled out of the gateway. What did it matter what they said? I had lost. The sun poured down upon me as I laughed at the sky.

My next cheese would be world famous. A deep, dark cheese, mould-ripened and tearful, stagnant in sadness. I already had a name for it: Rosanna.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Yeah, welcome to THUNDERDOME CXXVIII. I just crawled out of my eldritch mahogany bed with its pillows stuffed with the zephyrous sighs of tormented spirits and springs reforged from the steel blades of countless abyssal warriors. You assholes wrote a bunch of lovely stories and landed me, of all people, on this hell-forsaken thunderthrone, and already you're clamouring for a prompt. I haven't had my morning tea yet. My rage is unbounded. I hate this throne. I didn't want this throne. For this, all of you will suffer.

You will dance to my discordant, agonising tune. You will write me epic stories. Not just epic stories, but epic black metal stories.

I wrote an IRC bot some years ago that generates black metal album titles. You will either choose one from the pre-generated list below, or ask me to generate you a new one and I will oblige. Reuse of prompts is fine. If I generate you a new one, you are stuck with it.

WORD COUNT is 1000 words. If I can make loving cheese epic in under 1000 words, you can certainly do the same for black metal.

SIGNUPS are due by Friday, 16th January at 11:59 UTC.
SUBMISSIONS due by Sunday, 18th January at midnight UTC.
PAY ATTENTION. This is UK TIME, you fucks. If you don't like it then gently caress you.

Me, sebmojo, Sitting Here.

The Pestilence That Enthralls
Subliminal Silence Of Maggots
Night Of The Armies
Visions Of Sumerian Night
Yearning For The Yellow Cities
Desert Disintegrates The Forest
Lethargic Army Of The Souls Of Burning Torture
The Screaming Of Goats
Void Vampires
The Miasma And The Leprosy
My Bloodshed Drowns Him
The King Of The Whores
Insufferable Commandments Of The Pagan Shrine
The Citadel Of Dwarves
Revealing Cthulhu

You may also ask for a new prompt to be generated just for you.

Wait! Here's another rule!
Look, just because I hate each and every one of you with a hate individually crafted on the forge of Satan's hornéd torturesmith, that doesn't mean I want to stifle your creativity. Don't feel genre-bound. If you want to write a wrenching family drama, pick a prompt and go for it.

But whether you decide to play this prompt straight or not, I don't want you using it as a crutch. Black metal is inherently epic, but we're here to learn how to write good stories. At least one character must display a range of emotions as your story unfolds. Convince me that they are a thinking, feeling human being, dwarf, vampire or maggot. You maggots.

Quidnose - Bloodstained Corpses Of The Twisted Quest (Flash Rule: Only the nose truly knows)
newtestleper - Rampage Of The Crimson :toxx:
crabrock - Murder Me
SurreptitiousMuffin - Yearning For The Yellow Cities
PoshAlligator - The Hunger That Burns (Flash Rule: No self-inserts about your drive to write. Nothing to do with you particularly, I just hate that particular device with a passion and this seems like a prompt that could go in that direction.)
tenniseveryone - Revealing Cthulhu
Entenzahn - Lethargic Army Of The Souls Of Burning Torture (Flash Rule: A character can't spell and that makes everything become terrible)
leekster - Night of the Armies
SadisTech - The Miasma And The Leprosy (Flash Rule: Arithmetical incontinence)
Jonked - The Citadel Of Dwarves
J.A.B.C. - The Angel And The Reaper
ZeBourgeoisie - Acolyte Of The Parasites :toxx:
Schneider Heim - My Bloodshed Drowns Him
Verus - Xanthic Leviathan Of Battles
DreamingofRoses - God's Venomous Bitter Dragonflame :toxx: if the story isn't interesting (Flash Rule: A florist's shop must play a key role)
JcDent - Coffee Disintegrates The Night
Doctor Idle - The Pestilence That Enthralls Glorious Altars Of The Blood-red Insanity
Flesnolk - Killing The Necromancer
Screaming Idiot - Void Vampires
Ironic Twist - Desert Disintegrates The Forest
Grizzled Patriarch - Its Enslavement Enslaves Them
WeLandedOnTheMoon! - The King Of The Whores
Hammer Bro. - The Screaming Of Goats
Bushido Brown - The Imprisonment Of Odin
hotsoupdinner - Insufferable Commandments Of The Pagan Shrine
Fumblemouse - Last Brimstone Of The Tombs Of Blistering Procreation (Flash Rule: Your story must involve someone going from point A to point B. Point B must be somehow important to the story.)
chthonic bell - Defiling The Dark Corpses
Your Sledgehammer - Unmaking The Carnal Demons (Flash Rule: Face to face in a different place when it all comes crashing down)
Auraboks - Embers Of The Xenocidal Queen
Walamor - Screaming At Hecate
Nubile Hillock - Agitated Hunger Of The Kittens Of Grandiloquent Infinity (950 words)
Bad Ideas Good - Visions Of Sumerian Night (940 words)
Benny Profane - Dreams Of Apocalyptic Parasite (930 900 words) (Flash Rule: In your story someone speaks one word too many.)
Benny The Snake - The Screaming Of Goats (920 :toxx: 800 words)
asap-salafi - Its Fire Torments It (910 words)
Megazver - Insufferable Commandments Of The Pagan Shrine (900 words)

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 20:52 on Jan 16, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Quidnose posted:


make me a new one~

Bloodstained Corpses Of The Twisted Quest

Read the prompt post you loathsome excrescence. Pick a prompt from the list or ask for a new one.

crabrock posted:

Generate me one, you pile of human filth, or I'll poo poo in your eyes so hard your dead grandma will go blind.


Murder Me (that's your prompt, just to be clear)

PoshAlligator posted:

Thanks for the crits. Very pleased to have neither a DM or a Loss this week too.

I am in so that I have the opportunity to disgrace myself. Please generate me one if that's okay! Generate me one you big idiot I am so mad and amped to do the writing grrrr. :arghfist:

The Hunger That Burns (FLASH RULE: if this is a self-insert about your drive to write I will personally tear your head off and poo poo in your neck. Also disqualify you. Nothing personal.)

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

J.A.B.C. posted:

Maugrim the Postwelder! Count my bloody pen IN and bring forth a prompt so that I may slay it!

Yes you're right I weld posts all the time, I weld them like nobody's business

I craft them from the flayed skins of people who can't spell simple words like "wield", and then weld them together with their hot, hot tears

Your prompt is this:
The Angel And The Reaper

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

ZeBourgeoisie posted:

Bah! Generate me a prompt!

And just to make up for last time's embarrassment :toxx:

Acolyte Of The Parasites

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Verus posted:


obviously as a first time entrant I have to roll the dice, so generate me that goddamned prompt

Welcome to Thunderdome, brave soul.

Show me:
Xanthic Leviathan Of Battles

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Then use the dictionary definition of Xanthic which is "yellowish" you illiterate nematode

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

DreamingofRoses posted:

I'm IN, with a :toxx: contingent on making an actually interesting story.

Also: asking for a prompt and flash rule.

God's Venomous Bitter Dragonflame

Also what the gently caress is a contingent toxx. I'm counting this not a toxx until you stand up strong and bellow your unequivocal commitment to the skies.

vvvvvvvvv Okay, if true, that's actually a pretty bold toxx. Accepted.

JcDent posted:

I'm in, for the shame of missing a Thunderdome deadline can only be washed away by either blood or pig poo poo.

ED: Oh and a prompt, please!

Congratulations! You get the first prompt to use one of the "quirky" words I threw into the bot's lexicon for amusement value.

Coffee Disintegrates The Night

Flesnolk posted:

Someone I know keeps going "try Thunderdome!" so here I am, trying Thunderdome. Generate a prompt, please.

I salute your courage.

Your prompt is:
Killing The Necromancer

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 18:12 on Jan 13, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Grizzled Patriarch posted:

I like the cut of your jib. Give me a prompt you son of a bitch.

I want to see you do something creative with this weirdness:
Its Enslavement Enslaves Them

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Bushido Brown posted:

I'm in. Would you please generate a title for me?

What is this timid bullshit

Bushido Brown posted:

I'm in. Give me a loving prompt before I rip out your entrails and stuff them down your throat.

Much better.

The Imprisonment Of Odin

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Your image has inspired the bot to produce:

Rampage Of The Crimson

Fumblemouse posted:

In - please generate a thingy for me because I need more chaos in my life.

Chaos you say? Here, have a borderline-nonsensical and potentially alarming prompt.

Last Brimstone Of The Tombs Of Blistering Procreation

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

chthonic bell posted:

I'm in. Generate me a prompt, because Muffin took the one I was gonna take.

Defiling The Dark Corpses

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Your Sledgehammer posted:

In, :toxx:, prompt me up you wily bastard

Unmaking The Carnal Demons

Auraboks posted:

In. Prompt me.

Embers Of The Xenocidal Queen

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Walamor posted:

Give me your most metal prompt before I battleaxe down your loving door and rip off your fingernails as a sacrifice to the Lord of Nails.

I approve of this request. The Lord of Nails and I are good pals.

Your prompt is:
Screaming At Hecate

Edit: we now have 30 entrants and I'm getting pretty pissed off at the amount of reading I've landed myself with.


:siren: Flash Rule for all signups from here on :siren:
The word count is now 950, and will reduce by 10 after each signup.

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 00:57 on Jan 14, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Nubile Hillock posted:

okay after some deliberation I'm in. Prompt me, you shitloving turdhuffer!!

You get another comedy word insertion.

Agitated Hunger Of The Kittens Of Grandiloquent Infinity (950 word limit)

Benny Profane posted:

Been lurking a while, making a play for the chalice.

Your bot is a miserable exercise in impoverished imitation. If it can cough up something that doesn't sound like a middle-school band of mouth-breathing virgins who just discovered Lovecraft, I'm in.

Hey gently caress you I'll take my lumps but you don't diss the GrimBot :mad:

Just for that you're getting the first thing he spits out, rather than the product of skipping through two dozen nonsensical ones. Here:
Dreams Of Apocalyptic Parasite (930 word limit)

Oh that could have been worse.

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 09:59 on Jan 14, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Benny Profane posted:

If someone gives you something, do you not take it from them? Are you trying to make a semantic argument here, or are you just being pedantic for the exercise?

Your statement "I'll take the flash rule" appeared to imply that you had some kind of choice in the matter.

I will personally be delighted if your apparent confidence is well-founded, as it will mean the mountain of poo poo I'm expecting to grind through will be 0.9 kiloturds smaller.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

asap-salafi posted:

Can I can still sign up for this weeks Thunderdome? Generate a title for me please!

You're good. Signups close in 23 hours and 10 minutes.

Your prompt is: Its Fire Torments It (word limit: 910)

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 01:53 on Jan 16, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Doctor Idle posted:

Maugrim, I'm a terrible human being with terrible tastes. Will you generate me a metal prompt that kicks me in the nads and washes my palate clean of my previous poor decision?

Did you just change your mind and then pre-empt my insulting you for it? Who the gently caress do you think you are ugghhhhh I'm gonna castrate you with a garden rake and feed your gonads to the pigs

I suppose if it will result in a better story you can have:
Glorious Altars Of The Blood-red Insanity


:siren: Less than six hours till signups close :siren:

Also, in an effort to encourage staggered submissions,

:siren: I will (at some point) do line crits of any entry submitted more than 24 hours before the final deadline :siren:

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 19:23 on Jan 16, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
:siren: Signups are now closed. :siren:

I can't wait to find out in what creative ways you're all going to fail me.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
24 hours till submissions end.

The following people will be getting line crits on their stories:
chthonic bell, SadisTech, Benny Profane, Hammer Bro., hotsoupdinner, Megazver

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
:siren: Less than four hours until the deadline! :siren:

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
:siren: Submissions are now closed! :siren:

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Djeser posted:

Finish that poo poo up quick and post it. Disqualified for being late is better than nothing at all.

This. If you submit, you will be DQ (and can still lose if it's awful) but you will not get a Failure.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
:siren: Mewling creatures, cease your noise. Your judgment is at hand. :siren:

As I sat high upon the blood-red Thunderthrone, I looked upon the masses arrayed before me, and I despaired that such vermin should occupy my precious waking hours. Yet it is the duty of a King to pass judgment.

Truly, vermin you were. I suffered through over thirty stories that ran the gamut from dreadful to merely confusing. The few that weren't rife with grammatical, tense and punctuation issues were like tiny lighthouses guiding me through an ocean of blithering lexical incompetence. A significant number of you decided that the prompt made a good title for your story; you were almost without exception wrong.

Quite a number of you failed to observe the secondary requirement of demonstrating emotional range, although only one of you completely failed to hit the prompt itself. (Special mention to JcDent who managed to hit almost every prompt, which would probably have earned him an HM for sheer gumption if only he'd managed to do it within the word limit.)

How do I hate thee all? Let me count the ways.

Dishonourable Mention to asap-salafi for managing to completely miss the personal tailored prompt. An ambiguous line shoehorned in right at the end doesn't count.
Dishonourable Mention to Doctor Idle for his Glorious Altars of the Blood-Red Insanity. Using such an overblown prompt as your title was a terrible idea even before you juxtaposed it with a boring mess of a story that contained precisely one memorable sentence.
Dishonourable Mention to ZeBourgeoisie for a low-effort non-story that you blatantly hadn't bothered to edit.
Dishonourable Mention to Bad Ideas Good for following up one of my favourite opening paragraphs with a schizophrenic mess of tense issues, continuity errors and a confusing non-ending.
Dishonourable Mention to newtestleper, special courtesy of sebmojo, for ITS ITS ITS ITS ITS JESUS CHRIST THERE'S NO APOSTROPHE IN THE POSSESSIVE RRAAAAGGHHHH.

Our loser this week, by unanimous judge decision, is leekster. As a very basic starting point for your next effort, please at least try to make us care about your characters.

The honourable mentions this week gained that honour simply by virtue of being somewhat competent stories amidst a sea of festering wordvomit. Let's see who didn't make the judges want to claw their own faces off!

Honourable Mention to Ironic Twist for an enjoyable story with, crucially, a somewhat clever title that wasn't the loving prompt.
Honourable Mention to Auraboks for a funny, readable and memorable story about a misunderstood guy who just wants to slaughter things and make beautiful gifts out of their corpses.

Well that was a short list.

Much to my despair, every week has to have a winner. Fortunately, I am saved from taking a knife to my own throat in protest of this rule by one person, who submitted a story that stood out to every judge as a well-written, impactful tale of brotherhood and redemption, despite its comically awful title. Congratulations crabrock, your Some Artificial Raspberry Flavoring Comes From The Anal Gland of a Beaver has earned you your week on the Thunderthrone.

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 03:22 on Jan 20, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Week CXXVIII Judgecrits!

chthonic bell, SadisTech, Benny Profane, Hammer Bro., hotsoupdinner, Megazver - all of you are getting linecrits, so you will have to wait a little longer.

Your Sledgehammer, Quidnose, J.A.B.C. - you were all disqualified for late submissions so I haven't read your stories yet. You will get crits after the rest are done.

In addition, to the above, I will do extra linecrits for three of the people critted below - all gone now (Doctor Idle, Benny the Snake, Walamor)

ZeBourgeoisie - P-Type Engineer

Read-along comments:

Mr. Bulwark is an interesting name.
You are working your descriptions of the characters slowly into your prose but it's unsubtle and kinda drags me out of the story. Does it matter to the story that Max is blond or are you just saying "the blond" as a way to avoid saying "Max" again?
Wait, they're getting up? They only just sat down. That wasn't much of an interview! Don't bother to seat them if they're only going to have this short a chat.
Max is as confused as the reader at the abruptness, that's good at least
"The young man" - you don't need to do this. There's a reason we use names - they stand for the person they refer to and are generally fairly invisible, so don't be scared of repeating them or just using "he".
I don't get a sense for how big the flea-like parasites are until the very end of the story.

HIT PROMPT? Yes (Acolyte Of The Parasites)
WORD COUNT? Yes, some way under
RANGE OF EMOTIONS? They're there, but somewhat hidden

Overall thoughts: This is only barely a story - there's a conflict, but it gets resolved in a few seconds. You came in well under the word count - I'm going to charitably assume that you were going to be busy and had to rush this in to avoid the toxx. In your favour, you hit the prompt fine and there are multiple emotions to be found, if fairly sketchily depicted. Not in your favour are a variety of issues large and small that should have been picked up in an editing pass. I'm half tempted to do a linecrit, but I don't think I want to make the effort given how little effort is apparent on your part. DM candidate.

WeLandedOnTheMoon! - The King of the Whores

Read-along comments:

"This ogre" - unlike the other ogres? "was foul heap" - was a foul heap
"a shimmering steel chain" - this doesn't convey the image you mean it to. "Chain" as shorthand for "chain mail" is RPG nerd lingo.
"capped" - again not the right word. Going to stop critting word choice here or I'll never get through it
Tense issues (memory-lane trips that should be in the past perfect are in the simple past)


Overall thoughts: This isn't a terrible story, and given the prompt it could have been a lot worse. Your basic writing is letting you down though - it's rife with poor word choice and tense issues. I also didn't see much evidence of emotional range in any of the characters. I struggled a bit with the opening, but on a re-read it has some good foreshadowing. You also chose a good point to end it. Middle of the pack.

JcDent - Necrosphinx

Read-along comments:


HIT PROMPT? Yes, all of them (including the key one, Coffee Disintegrates The Night)
WORD COUNT? No - way over (DQ)

Overall thoughts: A few grammar issues, a deluge of details, and a disqualification for being way over the word count. Nevertheless your achievement in spinning this into a somewhat coherent, entertaining, epic story is monumental. If you'd managed this inside 1000 words I'd be pushing for an HM at least.

Schneider Heim - The Royal Scam


Overall thoughts: I enjoyed this one, but then I'm a sucker for sci-fi. Well-written for the most part, self-consistent, and I felt some sympathy for Princess Hyouko. You hit the prompt and the "range of emotions" requirement. This was an HM candidate for me; sadly, my fellow judges disagreed.

Benny The Snake - Separation


Overall thoughts: You transcribed the prompt wrongly at the start of your post, but at least you didn't use it as the title. Honestly, up until the end I thought this was a decent effort. You hit the prompt and the range of emotions requirement. Some oddness in the tenses, some weird phrasing/images, but you set up the characters quite well and I was genuinely interested to find the cause of the screaming.

Then, Billy gored everything to death (goats don't gore ffs) and the screaming turned out to be heralding the apocalypse, which was anticlimactic to me - you're resolving what I thought was a pretty interesting mystery by having the pastor mentioned at the start be right, and then leaning on the Bible for your emotional impact rather than creating it yourself, which I guess would work if your reader is a believing Christian, but I am not.

Nubile Hillock - The places you walk

Read-along comments:

ok this cat is coooool
wait where did that daylight come from?
wait is she actually a cat? obv not if she was kicked to her knees. I think my expectations were warped by knowing the prompt.
ok she had a gun literally stitched inside her skin. Ew.

HIT PROMPT? Kinda - where does "grandiloquent infinity" come in? (Agitated Hunger of the Kittens of Grandiloquent Infinity)
RANGE OF EMOTIONS? Yes, although kind of forced at the end I think

Overall thoughts: Not bad. I don't get the title. I enjoyed the opening and would have liked the rats/talking to animals to play a larger part in the overall piece. A few odd grammar/wording issues, and I'm a bit confused by the rush of memories at the end, which feels shoehorned in to meet the "emotional range" part of the prompt. I also had no idea what the "transformation" was at the end - was it intended to be obvious? That confusion is what dooms this story for me.

leekster - Black Sea

Read-along comments:

Boy I sure hope nobody is red-green colourblind!
Okay these acronyms are blatantly hiding something
Needs another editing pass and a spell checker
I never found out what those acronyms stood for :(

HIT PROMPT? Yes (Night Of The Armies)
WORD COUNT? Yes - very short in fact

Overall thoughts: This is a vignette that uses 60% of the available word count and isn't terribly well-written either. I don't know enough to understand any of these acronyms and war porn. I don't understand the title. I don't have any reason to empathise with the characters. I don't see a range of emotions, particularly. All in all, I got nothing from this story. DM/Loss candidate.

Auraboks - Embers of the Xenocidal Queen

Read-along comments:

The prompt doesn't a particularly good title.
Hahaha these names hit the spot for me.
"An absurdly large battleaxe" this is a missed opportunity to describe it.
screaming flesh-closet, I love this
Would have been nice to know exactly why the Queen was dissatisfied? [LATER] Oh this is a plot point, cool.
"Killing the poo poo out of" - kinda funny, but lazy, you can do better than this
Abrupt switch to a sort of fairy-tale tone here.
"You have got to stop with this arts and crafts poo poo!" Ah brilliant, realisation strikes


Overall thoughts: The prompt doesn't make a particularly good title, although it almost works for the tone of the piece. This was easy reading and pretty funny. On occasion your descriptions were a bit lazy. The ending was... hmm. Bit of a cop-out maybe, but kinda works. I'd call this an HM candidate for sheer entertainment value.

tenniseveryone - Revealing Cthulhu

HIT PROMPT? Yes, from a pretty funny direction

Overall thoughts: I love the idea of a stripping Cthulhu, it's a great take on the prompt - but for my money there's too much set-up here and not enough words spent on the climax. The out-of-sequence segue into what happens to Anders later is jarring, and I think would be better not included. Mid to low.

Ironic Twist - Serpenteen

HIT PROMPT? Yes (Desert Disintegrates The Forest)

Overall thoughts: A great title that stands out in a week of lovely titles. This got off to a strong start, I really liked it up until the end of the first scene. But I felt like I'd lost the plot after that - I didn't know what the red thing was that had flashed, and I didn't know where we were with Tania, or who Tania was. The ending was good, although relies on remembering that the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge are different things. Tania's name changed to Nadia right at the end, which confused the heck out of me and I'm not sure it was deliberate. Still, a nice piece that hits the prompt just fine. High pile/HM candidate.

PoshAlligator - The Hunger That Burns

FLASH RULE? Yes (No self-inserts about your drive to write)

Overall thoughts: Is submitting a Google doc a thing now? I'm not sure how I feel about that. *shrug* This is a good story that plays the prompt straight. It has some minor issues in the text and you could do more with the language in places, but really its simplicity is what makes it distinctive. I enjoyed your careful, loving descriptions of the process of eating. The sudden breaking point in the middle was unexpected and horrifying. The ending was pretty disturbing too and I wanted to know more, but I didn't really need to. High pile for me.

crabrock - Some Artificial Raspberry Flavoring Comes From The Anal Gland of a Beaver

HIT PROMPT? Yes (Murder Me)

Overall thoughts: Holy poo poo. Well you hit the prompt all right, and this was a pretty affecting story. Given how you made me hate the protagonist at the start I really didn't expect it to end that way, but when it did, it worked. Nice job. HM/Win candidate.

newtestleper - Revenge of the Crimson King

HIT PROMPT? Yes (Rampage of the Crimson)

Overall thoughts: Good descriptions/scene setting at the start - without ever having been anywhere near Jakarta I still got a strong sense of the atmosphere. I know you struggled like mad to get this under the word count but it doesn't show; the piece is pretty tight without being stilted anywhere. Not an ending with any great emotional impact, but I liked it. On the down side: you had some grammar issues (possessive 'its' doesn't have an apostrophe, and watch out for comma splices). I also never particularly warmed to the protagonist, and I'm not convinced you hit the "range of emotions" part of the prompt, which is the main thing that prevents this being an HM candidate.

Screaming Idiot - Voidborn

HIT PROMPT? Yes (Void Vampires)

Overall thoughts: You hit the prompt, and had the sense not to use it as the title. The range of emotions part was fulfilled by the officer rather than the protagonist, but you hit that too. I got a chuckle out of the sudden change in tone following the lead-in, and at least a wry smile at several other points, but as a pure comic work this falls a bit flat. Part of the problem is it doesn't feel like much of a story - there was conflict all right, but no real tension. OK so they're vampires, it's established that they don't much care what happens to them, they get attacked, the main character is resigned to his fate, the end. Middle of the pack.

Grizzled Patriarch - Body of the Host

HIT PROMPT? Yes (Its Enslavement Enslaves Them)
WORD COUNT? Yes (very short actually)

Overall thoughts: Your usual strong stuff. Forced me to think about what was going on. Came at both the prompt and the "range of emotions" rule from an interesting angle. Unfortunately I was left a little confused by the ending; my poor brain can't quite fathom the symbolism.

DreamingofRoses - The Farewell

HIT PROMPT? Yes (God's Venomous Bitter Dragonflame)
FLASH RULE? Yes (a florist's shop must play a key role)
FULFILS TOXX? I guess so (interesting story)

Overall thoughts: Your prose is fairly hard to read. Long paragraphs of long, winding sentences with the occasional sloppy connection forcing me to reread them. You segue into way too much irrelevant historical description when I just want to get on with the story. I agree that some background is necessary to set up the emotional connection, but I feel this story would be tighter and have better impact if told straight-up chronologically rather than constantly dragging the reader out of the current scene with memories. Nevertheless, you did set up enough of a connection that I felt something at the end, and you hit both aspects of the prompt as well as your flash rule. I'm going to count this as fulfilling your toxx.

asap-salafi - Its Fire Torments It


Overall thoughts: Huh. Okay. Your story has a lot of show/tell issues and I can't detect any hint of connection with the prompt, apart from a tenuous attempt to shoehorn it in in the final line, which makes using the prompt as the title of your piece extra bad. The rape stuff and "Fee-Fee the Monster" came out of nowhere - you'd have done better to foreshadow that a bit. The ending twist was half-clever but could have been clearer - I'm assuming Fee-Fee only pretended to poison himself but I can't be sure. If that is the case then I don't have much sympathy for Jai because he's stupid and blind to his brother's flaws and you haven't really sold me on why. Low pile.

Bad Ideas Good - The Baker of Lagash

HIT PROMPT? Yes (Visions Of Sumerian Night)

Overall thoughts: I really like your opening paragraph. It goes downhill a bit from there though. The archaic phrasing is shaky in places, but more importantly your story is absolutely rife with tense issues. (Aside: A good rule of thumb is if you're going for an archaic vibe, stick to the past tense. That goes double if you're planning to include memory fragments, because if you're writing in the present and looking back, neither the simple past nor the past perfect sounds entirely right in English imo.) There was a continuity error with the bread, which burnt to ash and was then taken out of the oven only slightly scorched. And your ending was a confusing non-ending. Low pile/DM.

Jonked - The Citadel Of Dwarves


Overall thoughts: I like poetry and blank verse so I'm glad you wrote this. Iambic pentameter is a safe choice. You slip out of strict iambs unfortunately frequently though, usually with a wayward trochee, and some of your phrasing doesn't sit right with me. You told a good tale and hit the prompt, although not so much the "range of emotions" requirement. Mid to high for me - could have been great with just a little better execution.

Walamor - Screaming At Hecate


Overall thoughts: Whyyyy is everyone using their prompt as the title. It's not too bad in this case but I think you could have come up with something better. Good opening line though. It's unusual that you're using overtly modern language in what is presumably an ancient history setting, but I liked it. I like the names you've chosen but it's hard to keep them straight as they aren't really differentiated individuals. (good thing most of them die, then!) You have issues with cliché, unnecessary telling and POV - this might be a good one to line crit actually. Despite all this, it's a decent story sitting solidly in the middle of the pack.

Doctor Idle - Glorious Altars of the Blood-Red Insanity


Overall thoughts: A prompt is not a title, god dammit people! You have tense issues right from the off. The story is boring - boring - boring - what the gently caress is happening - lol cop-out ending with a side order of what the gently caress. Straight into the DM pile.

Entenzahn - Embers

HIT PROMPT? Yes (Lethargic Army Of The Souls Of Burning Torture)
FLASH RULE? Yes (A character can't spell and that makes everything become terrible)

Overall thoughts: Fowl != foul (I was making a pun when I did this in the other thread, goddammit). "It tasted like iron" is a cliché, although my noticing this did make it work when you reused it later. You hit both the prompt and the flash rule early and took the story from there, although I'm not sure you hit the "lethargic" part given that you say "the demonic hordes had made quick progress". Overall, you wrote a good story that I enjoyed, but nothing terribly memorable. Mid-high but no HM from me.

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 18:43 on Jan 20, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Doctor Idle, I just noticed last week was your first entry. I was pretty frazzled by the time I got to your story so my crit wasn't exactly in-depth. If you think a line-by-line crit would be helpful to you, you're welcome to claim one of the three free ones I advertised above! Totally up to you though.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
In-depth line crit for chthonic bell. Don't be intimidated by all the bold, this really wasn't a bad piece.

chthonic bell posted:

Defiling The Dark Corpses
998 words
I'm sure you could have come up with a better title for this story

Anzu Menelik lies on a table under a paraffin lamp, his head resting on a textbook of spirit-binding. OK, present tense. Seems to be a common choice in Thunderdome, but it's not standard and I'm not a huge fan of it as a default choice - I'm fine with it if it clearly works with your story, but this one doesn't seem to demand it. Ehh, just a personal preference anyway. At least you don't screw it up by constantly slipping into the past tense like most of the other entrants who tried it. He's a page's thickness away from a doze good phrase and link to the context, but clunky to read - deleting "away" helps when the basement door slams open, the patter of his twin's tread almost lost in the heavy beat of his master's. awkward - everything after the comma should be in a sentence of its own A pungent, unfamiliar smell you don't need 'pungent' here, of course it's pungent if it's reached him already. Better to convey the nature of the smell, e.g. 'putrid' reaches his nostrils and he gags, his face twisting. He's smelled a great many corpses in the past few years, but nothing like this. Your frequent use of italics in this piece is probably its most glaring issue. As a rule, avoid them outside of dialogue unless it's unclear to the reader which word should be stressed - i.e. very rarely. It surpasses even the revenants his master raises. He hops off the table, the high heels of his boots clacking on the floor.

"Darlings," he says. "What the blazes italics not needed have you dug up this time?"

Siris, his twin, grins and winks at him. Master Raimut remains impassive. Slung across his atlassian nice word, so he's huge and musclebound? Should be capitalised though - Atlassian shoulders is a sack too small to contain the human body Anzu had expected. This here is my biggest gripe with the present tense - it's hard to put bits in the past tense without sounding awkward. In this case "Anzu expected" (simple past) is the correct phrasing, but now it sounds a bit like you're slipping into default writing tense by accident. Anzu stares.

"No, ah, really," these italics are kind of OK Anzu says. "What--"

"You'll see," says Siris. Her grin broadens. "It's bloody amazing." Raimut gives her a sharp look and tosses the sack down onto the table. It splits, revealing a slimy, black-furred flank. The corpse smells worse than wet gangrene, with an undertone that bypasses Anzu's nose and twists his stomach. He gags again and turns away to dry-heave. Raimut snorts. This last sentence is blocking (basically stage directions, thanks sebmojo) for the following line. It belongs down there with it, not here.

"Really, Anja?" he drawls. Is Anja a pet name or..? Why is it italicised? This confused me. "Man up."

Anzu shudders and looks back at the corpse, not touching it. Whatever it had been has been, see what I mean about tense trickiness? "Has been" or "was" are correct, but sound weird. "Whatever it once was" might be your best bet it's mangled, missing half its head. Anzu can only tell for sure that it once had four cloven-hoofed legs. does it not anymore? There's an air of wrongness about it cliché that's not quite a real aura but not quite his imagination.

"What is italics not needed it?" he says, weakly. Siris shrugs. Blocking again, belongs at start of next paragraph

"We think it was a goat," she says. "Not the important bit. This was momentarily confusing - not the important bit of a goat? It's, er. A former vessel." italics not needed

"Vessel," Anzu repeats, with numb lips. Odd phrase He steps away from the table and tears off his fur stole and suit jacket, tossing them back over his shoulder. I can't interpret Anzu's action here, is he horrified? Preparing for action? "Vessel! Why didn't you say italics OK here if you're emphasising his campness so, dearest?"

Raimut crosses his arms, watching the twins with hooded eyes. This is blocking for the line spoken below - don't split them up

"I wanted you to figure it out for yourself," he says. "A little ... challenge, as it were."

Anzu barely hears him - he's rolling up his sleeves and hunting for the sharpest scalpel in the metal tray, I noted the same as Hammer Bro. here - what would be the point of a blunt scalpel? hands trembling with excitement. Aha, it's excitement - OK then He's never been so close to a formerly-possessed animal that was so marvellously intact. He's never even caught a glimpse italics not needed of one that wasn't a mess of bloody chunks and scraps of fur. The low spirits ride their victims hard. I like this line

He pulls the torn sack off the corpse and drops it under the table. Irrelevant detail and slightly unnatural - wouldn't he have to bend down/reach under to drop it under the table? Why not just throw it into a corner? Beside him, Siris leans on the table. Her grin has faded, but there's a sharp, hungry look in her eyes.

"All right, dearest," Anzu breathes, turning the goat onto its back. "I've got italics not needed this, so you just, ah, bear witness italics not needed, would you? I'll ... I'll examine it and-- and-- see where the spirit dwelt and--" He pauses to compose himself, resting a hand on the goat's chest. Through the whirlwind of excitement, he realises there might be a paper in this and laughs aloud. Let's see the Academy dismiss him as a profane butcher then! italics not needed. Apart from all the random italics this is a good paragraph

A faint, almost imperceptible pulse shudders under his fingers. Anzu glances down, frowning, and the goat strikes out at his nose with a hoof. He yelps and jerks backwards, almost falling over. He grabs the edge of the table, head craned away from the goat. The goat's legs spasm, kicking at the air. The remains of its head toss, sending blood and flecks of brain flying. A chunk smacks wetly into Anzu's cheek. The goat's body convulses, thumping against the table.

Either the spirit has not entirely fled the vessel or the goat isn't dead yet. You said earlier that half its head is missing. The latter doesn't seem like a realistic option in that case. Anzu's not sure which is worse.

He reaches out, hand trembling, and clamps down on the goat's neck, squeezing until he can feel its trachea crack. The goat arches its back, jaw grinding, ears flicking. Again, if half its head is missing, how does it have both a complete jaw and both ears? It rocks its torso back and forth, until it wrenches its neck free from Anzu's hand and falls to the stone floor.

It lands at Raimut's feet, the skin of its belly splitting open. Viscera, blackened and putrefying, spill over his shoes. Raimut wrinkles his nose and takes a step back. The goat shudders and rocks. The stubs of its hooves scrabble for purchase on the floor. As Anzu stands rooted to the ground in shock, the goat hauls itself toward him, jaw chewing. This is my favourite part of the piece - you nailed the descriptions and it's pretty horrifying

Anzu shrieks and throws his scalpel at it. The blade nicks its sole eye, bursting it. Vitreous humour sprays everywhere I get the feeling this can't be right, but I can't bring myself to google "sliced-open decaying eyeballs" but the goat is unimpeded. Anzu reaches for the heaviest thing nearby - an amputation knife, curved like a farmer's sickle. He brandishes the knife at the goat, preparing to throw it, too. Raimut chuckles.

"What do you think that's italics not particularly needed, here but you can get away with them going to do?" he says.

Anzu keens in terror. The goat crawls on, its intestines dragging on the floor, leaving a slug's trail of bile. The skin and muscle slough off its side. One of its back legs gently parts ways with its pelvis. The goat stretches its neck, jaw chomping, tongue reaching for Anzu's boot. This is awesomely graphic

"loving bind italics not needed it or something!" Siris yells, her voice hoarse. "Before it rides you!" These italics, on the other hand, are warranted as the stress would otherwise be on "rides"

Anzu kicks the goat, sending it skidding across the floor, under the table. He drops to his knees and pushes his thumb against the tip of the amputation knife. The pain shakes him, empties his mind. Teeth grit gritted, he smears a sloppy rune of binding on the floor with his blood. It comes out crooked, but the goat gives one last twitch and falls still. Anzu sticks his injured thumb into his mouth, shaking from adrenaline. The vessel is ruined, he thinks, blankly. There goes the paper.

Raimut grunts and shoves him aside. He picks up what's left of the goat and deposits it onto the table.

"How much," he says, "do you think the Academy will pay for a bound low spirit?"

You hit the prompt nicely, as expected, and achieved emotional range. My gripe is it's lacking in context, feeling more like an extract from a larger work. It's pretty good though and left me wanting to know more. Great descriptions during the action part - I felt suitably disgusted by the goat. The ending doesn't really work as an ending for me because, lacking a larger context, I can't guess the answer to Raimut's question.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

200 words

The ballet slippers sat in the cupboard and hated her.

When Sian put her feet in them, she could feel their resentment, pulsing up through the flimsy pink canvas. She rarely put her feet in them, but sometimes she had to, because they were the only ones she owned.

Sian's ballet teacher hated her too. She danced stompily, which was not how ballet was done, but she needed to keep the slippers in line or they would kill her. They'd already tried once; she'd caught her arm a fearful crack on the concrete steps, and was lucky it hadn't been her head.

"Demi pointe!" shouted Miss Treveille, and Sian lurched up onto the balls of her feet. The slippers groaned and hated.

"My dear girl, you must at least try," murmured Miss Treveille into her ear. Sian always tried very hard, but somehow never looked like it. The slippers chuckled and whispered.

"Soubresaut!" called Miss Treveille. Sian hopped forward, but the slippers resisted. She landed, wobbled forward, and smacked both knees into the hard floor. Pain flared white-hot. She rolled to the side and began to cry.

When she burnt the slippers that night, they crackled and spat and raged.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Line crit for SadisTech's Black Metal Week story. Sorry these are taking so long, everyone.

SadisTech posted:

Prompt: The Miasma and the Leprosy
Flash: Arithmetical Incontinence

Svarngrim the Reaver

In the foul depths of winter, when darkness ruled daylight, and sea-spray ice-coated the Thane-hold's great door, Whoa you're really piling on the compound words in this opening paragraph. I get that you're going for a lyrical, epic feel but it's too much. the mist came a-creeping. A-creeping in particular sounds dumb, like you're telling a nursery story to your kid. Thick-stinking and silver, it coiled through the village, and animals fled to avoid its cold touch. It took me till this point to realise that all the weirdness was to get a steady rhythm. OK - starting again. Did you consider presenting this in verse form?

Svarngrim the Reaver, many kills to his glory, stood proud-shouldered, gaunt in his dire-bear furs, and stared up the mountain. Mist rolled down upon him. He knew it uncanny. No, I'm sorry, this isn't quite working for me. As much as I love a strict rhythm "He knew it uncanny" is just nonsense. Find better ways of maintaining your metre. Though fear did not touch him, disquiet rose within.

Three nights fell the fog, and the youngest, the oldest, had the the taint of the mist graven into their skin. A fever, a weakness, and silver-scaled peeling. Nails sloughed from their fingers and blood wept from their gums.

Svarngrims-son Jutan had counted twelve summers. Strong-limbed and handsome, now shuddering sick. He called for his father: "The mountain cries to me. It whispers of knowledge that men should not know.

"Your shield on the wall? The handspans across it would encircle its rim an accounting of three; and then one part of ten, and four of one hundred, and one of one thousand and the numbers go on; they go on forever and keep getting smaller and they burn in my mind like the mountain at dawn." This part is pretty cool and kept me reading, although I didn't realise you were describing pi until the second run through. Nice.

And Svarngrims-son Jutan tore his face with his fingers, and the tearing of soft-silver skin only stopped when his father released him. There was almost no blood. The boy's strong-limbed body was hollowed and husk-like; and so Svarngrim's soul. Again, I didn't realise this meant Svarngrim killed his son until the second read through. "Released" is a bit too euphemistic.

The mist-stricken villagers writhed and spoke numbers; they screamed of the angles of doors and of stars. They counted the reeds in the roof and the matting, excellent image and numbers flowed from them like piss at a straw-death. not sure what a straw-death is or why piss is involved though Their bodies decayed as their minds caught aflame.

And always the pull to the mountain within them.

Donned Svarngrim his doom-armour, blackened and bristling. Donned he his great cape of dire-bear fur. Donned he his corpse-paint, sign of a dead man, a warrior lost to the warm halls of life. He took up his shield with the sigil of Wotan, and took up his great-axe, reaper of men. This is pretty metal

To the mountain came Svarngrim, skin growing silver beneath the stark corpse-paint smeared on his face. Climbed he the slopes where the foul mist came rolling, leaping the chasms with uncaring ease.Watch your subject - the last part of this sentence is talking about the mist but I don't think it's meant to be

The numbers plucked at him, frothing and hissing. Found they no purchase on icy resolve. Bad and awkward Waves of equations came tumbling and crashing, This pulled me out of the story. "Equations" have no place in a Vikingesque epic, I feel like the narrator shouldn't have a clue what they are. only to break upon his steadfast shores.

Svarngrim the Reaver came climbing the mountain, only death in his heart, only death in his mind.

'Neath the peak of the mountain a cave stood in waiting. The plague-mist came trickling in gouts from its mouth. A fish-belly glow shone within the dank tunnel; Svarngrim readied his weapons and bellowed his rage. Using "he" instead of "Svarngrim" here works fine and maintains the rhythm better

The challenge was answered in crystalline echo. The source of the mist stood revealed in the cave. A larval-white body, pulsating and throbbing, and jetting forth spray in a manner most vile. Around it, attendants of spidery glass-stuff, ticking and clicking and stroking its bulk. It wouldn't go amiss if you slipped in a rhyme or two here and there. Reading this paragraph I stumbled a bit on "vile" and "bulk"

From the ringing of echoes an eldritch voice sounded: "Mighty Svarngrim, we pray that you hold your axe fast; we offer you wonders and give you forever. Do not act in haste until you understand."

Then the Reaver reeled back at the highest of horrors; voice of Svarngrims-son Jutan came forth from the mound. Spoke the pulsating worm: "They have caught me within.

"Their web of cold numbers entangles my spirit. A world built of figures and smoke and no more. And they tell me that I shall live in here forever.

Hey, Jutan is pretty metal too

And Svarngrim leapt forward and the great-axe was singing, and the Reaver was chanting a song of his death, his voice hoarse and rumbling as he cried of destruction, and the spider-things shattered before his great wrath. Their razor-legs cut him and pierced him; but bloodless was Svarngrim, and hollow his flesh.

"Why cleave to this world?" chimed the great pulsing creature. "We bring you forever in order and grace, yet you choose death and ignorance, darkness and squalor. The strongest man, Svarngrim, in this pitiful world -

"But the biggest maggot in a vast rotting carcass. We would set you free and enlighten your mind."

Upon it spat Svarngrim. Raised he his great-axe, holding it high. His death, creeping into the edge of his vision; one perfect blow lying coiled in his heart.

"Order and grace are creations of weakness. Free? I am free by my own force of will. Your knowledge is worthless. The darkness will have you, fight it or no; embrace it and own it and welcome your end."

Howled down the great-axe. Screaming, the creature. No, both these sentences are awkward - it's a shame this is your ending Laughing fell Svarngrim into the night.

HIT PROMPT? Yes (The Miasma And The Leprosy)
FLASH RULE? Hit (Arithmetical incontinence)

Overall thoughts: You hit the prompt and did a great job with the weird flash rule. You told a story and it was suitably metal. I'm a sucker for the lyrical epic style and I'm glad you made the attempt, BUT... even with a ton of forced phrasing, it still managed to suffer from some stumbles of rhythm. There were awesome passages and dreadful passages. I also kinda wanted to know what happened to the villagers at the end - I think it might have benefited the story to use some of your 210 remaining words in a short epilogue. This might also have helped you hit the "range of emotions" rule, which I wasn't really feeling otherwise.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Line crit from Black Metal Week for Benny Profane.

Benny Profane posted:

Prompt: Dreams of Apocalyptic Parasite
Flash rule: One word too many
Words: 900

The Last Corpsewitch Nice title, made me want to read to find out what a corpsewitch was

Deep in the earth, suspended within roots and soil, Maga had been dreaming of fire when she heard the faintly spoken words of the awakening ritual. The witchblood seeped downwards through ancient clay towards her body, and Maga could feel the faint vibrations of roundworms wriggling to avoid its descent. Her flesh had been eaten long ago, replaced with stones, mud, roots, fungus, and worms, High five, Oxford comma buddy! but as the blood of her kin reached her its power lent physicality to the hatred that burned behind her empty eyes. She stirred in her dirt prison for the first time in what felt like a very, very long time, and slowly began to claw her way to the surface. Her stony talons tore through a cracked tarry layer lain laid - although juxtaposing two words from the same root is a bit awkward anyway, so consider rephrasing over the surface of the earth, and Maga pulled herself up into the circle of her liberators. Faint light fell from sputtering orange lamps; there were no stars. Putrid, smoky air surrounded her, and there was no hint of the smell of the forest in which her body had been buried. The gathering that encircled her was strange; witchblood flowed in their veins, but their garments were coarse and unbecoming of hallowed ritual. Maga remembered the corpsewitch raisings she had performed when her own blood ran in her body. This was a pitiful farce by comparison.
Solid writing, but the giant wall of text at the start of your story made me flinch before I'd even started. I can see at least three potential paragraph breakpoints in there - use them.

A woman stepped forward to speak, old but not ancient, more bitter than hateful, weak. Maga's skull rotated atop its nest of roots and worms to face her.

The woman's tone was a feeble simulacrum of imperiousness, wavering with uncertainty. "O Great Maga, first and last corpsewitch of the Dying Age, hear my comm--"

"Enough," Maga interrupted, a dismissive wave of her arm skittering pebbles and dirt across the ground. Her voice was the sound of grinding stones, a writhing tongue of worms shaped her words. "Why have you woken me?"

The witch shifted nervously. "Great Maga, we summon you to birth the World Eater from the shared blood of the last witches."

Maga's initial shock quickly gave way to pride. Of all the dead witches, they had chosen her, Maga, to carry the seed of the End. The last witches had given their power to her in their blood, and her bones would sustain the first growth of the World Eater. She could not have dreamed of such honour in her flesh life, and yet, after so long spent in the earth, never letting go of the hate, never succumbing to the void, perhaps she was worthy.

Maga surveyed the gathering of witches, joints scraping and screeching as her body contorted inhumanly. "So few."

"We are all that remains. All among us has have - "all have" or "each has" given our power so that you may complete your task."

Maga flexed a tendrilled talon, testing the blood that animated her. She felt no great power; could the meagre power awkward repetition of 'power' in this blood possibly be all that was left? Maga supposed she would soon see.

Maga turned back to their leader. "You have the Seed?"

The woman nodded to the man at her right, who held a small iron box, plain and old. Maga nodded. I'm having trouble imagining a skull atop a pile of stones and roots "nodding" convincingly. "Lead me."


The procession of witches walked timidly Yeah, I get it already, the coven is weak and unworthy. You rather harp on this point - you can afford to tone it down a bit over suburban roads, under street lamps and across bridges, past windows and alleys, all unfamiliar and alien to Maga. Maga dragged her limbs along the ground, pebbles falling with each motion. She regarded her surroundings curiously, filled with questions. "Where are the trees that stood here? How could you suffer these stones to be broken?"

The witch leader hesitated, fearful. "Great Maga, there have been no forests here for a thousand years."

How long had Maga slept in the earth among the roots and stones? Too long.

"A thousand years," Maga rasped.

"Great Maga, you must be silent, we must not be discovered here." A light sprung forth suddenly Use of this word is almost never a good idea. It doesn't make things sudden, it slows the action down from a high window above them, and the leader of the witches shrank in fear.

The light was extinguished, and the witches scurried on. Maga felt an old hatred writhe in her bones. Her kind were once feared, mighty. These frightened few were no kin of hers.I gathered that


When they reached the sacred ground, the man opened the iron box and removed a tiny white seed.

"Behold: the seed of the World Eater, who shall consume your bones and our blood to reach its first form, and therefrom end the world. Once the seed has been planted, you must use our last power to protect us, so that we may serve and not be consumed."I'm sure this is meant to sound ritualistic, but it actually just sounds expository. You're telling us what you're about to show us anyway.

Maga looked over the witches around her. Mewling spawn of rats, all. She bent her head forward towards the man. "As you command."

Satisfied, the man pushed the seed into Maga's skull, where the blood of the last witches mixed with ancient soil.

"Speak the words, Maga! Let us serve the World Eater!"

Maga obliged. "Kupsa pajwa, ap sal minam." Nice authentic arcane-sounding lingo Extinguish the sun, save my children. The witches exhaled in collective relief. All weak. Are they? Cool, I wasn't sure. Within her skull, the seed pushed hungry tendrils into the bloody loam of her body, and Maga spoke one more word. "Net."

The witches recoiled in terror at the negating syllable, and Maga began to laugh, a slippery laugh like stones dropping into a rotten swamp. Some even turned to run as the World Eater grew within her, and Maga only laughed louder for she knew they could not hide.

HIT PROMPT? Pretty much (Dreams of Apocalyptic Parasite)
FLASH RULE? Hit (Someone speaks one word too many)

Overall thoughts: With only a few minor issues, this is a well-written, enjoyable story that hits the prompt nicely. I suspected when I read it that you'd go far in Thunderdome - grats on your HM in Spaceship Week by the way. However, there's not much in the way of conflict/resolution. This was an HM candidate for me as I'm a stickler for grammar, clarity and good sentence construction, but in the eyes of the other judges that wasn't enough to save it from a slightly lacklustre story.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Oh hey look it's another linecrit for Black Metal Week! (Sorry for the slow pace of these, life and stuff, you know how it is)

Hammer Bro. posted:

The Screaming of Goats (942 words) Since you only half hit this prompt, I wasn't a fan of you using it as the title, particularly as it's a complete spoiler, as we will find out shortly.

Jimbob Okay so it's a redneck story. As a British gent I know gently caress all about rednecks beyond the standard jokes. The culture is entirely alien to me and maybe that's part of the reason I disliked this story far more than my fellow judges. glared at the lifeless doorway. 'Doorway' is the opening through which you pass; 'door' is the thing that blocks it. Power must've given. He pried it open with his hands and lumbered inside. First the whiskey, then the canned food. The produce was probably rotten, but Jimbob plodded in that direction.

He almost stepped on a corpse.You can't call it a corpse straight out and then prove it isn't in the very next sentence - that poo poo just confuses the reader. Calling it a 'body' would be ok though as it leaves things slightly ambiguous.

"P-Please... water."

Still alive, then. "Ain't no more water here. Barely any whiskey."


The man's pallid skin was marred by festering sores, and his legs were gnarled and misshapen. No wonder he hadn't evacuated. Not that the treatment worked. What?


Jimbob spat his tobacco and dug out a can of peaches. He laid it sideways on the ground, drew his hatchet, and chopped it in half. Not convinced this would work, but at least you don't say he does it in one blow... Then he scooped up the oozing fragments and swallowed the peaches whole.

He wiped his mouth, pointed to the runoff on the floor, and chuckled. "Help yourself."

In this scene you've done a decent job of establishing that it's some kind of post-apocalyptic survival story and that Jimbob is a massive dick. So far so good.


Jimbob shouldered his cabin door open. "Belle! You in there?" Hey, I bet Belle is a goat like in the title. Sounds like a goat sort of name.

Belle coughed and turned toward him.

"Got us some dinner from the market."

Her eyes lit up.

"You want to eat now or later?"

She came closer and began licking Jimbob's fingers, nibbling suggestively at the tips. Yup, licking and nibbling fingers, that's a goat all right.

"Oh-ho-ho. You're right. Later."

He drew her lips to his and kissed her. Oh god he's kissing a goat. I don't think I'm supposed to realise she's a goat yet. Give your story a different title if you want to achieve this.

Ignoring the unfortunate giveaway of your main twist, the writing in this scene is a bit staccato. You could improve the flow (and make it less starkly obvious that Belle isn't actually saying anything) by reordering it a little and combining dialogue and descriptions.


Clack. Clack.

Belle must have been be combing through the garbage again, salvaging the scraps that were still edible. She had been looking a mite pale. Well yeah, she's a goat. This bit of misdirection did amuse me a bit. But Jimbob felt fine this morning; he always did. It'd take more than a plague to keep Jimbob down.

Clack clack clack.

Was that... the door?

Jimbob pulled on his britches and went to the window. "We ain't got none!"

"What?" a muffled voice responded. "No, I don't need help. I'd just like to talk."

Jimbob groaned but opened the door. The man outside wore clean clothes and looked reasonably healthy. Must be the respirator.

"I'm Alexander Svartebok," the main man said as he extended his hand, "from the CDC."

Jimbob scowled.

"We thought this area was completely abandoned until a drone spotted you wandering the city three nights ago."

"What's yer point?"

"You clearly have a natural immunity to the Shriveling. If you'd let us run some tests at our lab in Tallahassee, we might be able to develop a cure for this blight."

"Don't need me no cure; ain't got me no sickness. This is a pretty decent line 'sides, your kind cooked this up in the first place."

"That's not--"

"That is. Now you get off my property 'fore I pry that fancy mask from your pretty face."

Alexander's eyebrows arched then furrowed, but he retreated without another word. Belle poked her head out from under the table.

In this scene you do a decent job of sating my curiosity about the disease, although a dozen post-apocalyptic movies and games have established the trope well enough that I hardly needed to be told. There's nothing especially different or interesting going on in this version. Shame as I generally love post-apoc stuff.


Two days later, Belle was dead. Jimbob stared at her motionless body, then quietly turned away. He retrieved his shovel, went to the yard, and began digging.

Slowly, methodically, mechanically, Jimbob dug a grave for his departed lover. With that slightly odd phrasing, it's pretty obvious you're trying to hide something even if you hadn't spoilt the goat thing in the title. He fetched her carcass, laid her to rest, and stood in solemn silence for an hour.

When returned to his cabin, he leaned the shovel against a wall. Jimbob looked around the room, at the table and chairs and bundles of hay. He drew a slow breath.

"God DAMNIT!" he slammed his fist on the table, then shattered the plates with a sweep of his arm. He whipped around and stomped the trashcan flat. Fuming, he braced his hands against the wall and slammed his head into it.

His wail became a roar. Blood clouded his vision while rage colored it. The walls, the furniture, the stockpiles all transformed into colossal red demon. Jimbob jabbed at its knuckles; the demon cracked a smile. Jimbob bit into its palm; the demon throbbed with pleasure. Jimbob drew his head back and howled, flinging spit and fury to the corners of the globe. The demon cackled with delight. Whoaaa berserk rage out of nowhere. This is pretty overblown to the point that I assume it was shoehorned in to fulfil the "range of emotions" rule. But hey, at least you made it interesting to read.

At some point Jimbob collapsed.

He was awakened by knocking.

"I'm fetching my hatchet!" he bellowed. The response was unintelligible.

Jimbob burst out of his house, weapon in hand, and saw Alexander standing twenty feet away with his palms raised.

"I told you to leave!" Jimbob shouted.

"Hear me out," Alexander said. "We'll give you anything you want. Money, shelter, women. You'll be immortalized as a hero and hailed as a savior!"

"Don't want none of that. Have all I want except-- Except..."

With a deafening grunt Jimbob hurled his hatchet at Alexander and dropped into a sprint. But last night's exigencies still haunted him, and the other man quickly disappeared into the forest.

Jimbob returned to the ruin of his cabin and lay face-down atop the wreckage.


All that week Jimbob had unusual dreams. Harpies flew in unison, etching incomprehensible runes into the sky. The sun set across the ocean. As the sky faded to a swirling dark cocoa, the effervescent water glowed a radiant amber. Three naked pixies circled his head, each speaking to him in her own private language.

The first evoked thoughts of a wind, ancient and forgotten, dragging sand back and forth against an endless expanse of limestone.

The second sounded like the jingling of sleigh bells in a warm, precipitous cavern. How is a cavern precipitous? And what does the jingling of sleigh bells in one sound like? I guess it's a dream so logic hardly matters.

The third sound was that of shattering glass, followed by three staccato thumps.

Jimbob rubbed his bloodshot eyes and stumbled toward his window. Wait, is Jimbob still asleep here. I feel like you've missed out an important paragraph where he actually wakes up. Among the shards and debris was a stone with a crudely painted '5' followed by a 'V' with a line through the middle. I have no idea what the significance of this is

That was the last straw. Jimbob went to the closet, fetched his rifle, and loaded it. He crept up to the front door, took three measured breaths, and flung it open.

Standing in the clearing, Whoa we're in a clearing? I was imagining a wasteland/outskirts of a ghost town this whole time. Would have been better to establish the setting for Jimbob's home much earlier in the story. tethered to a stake, was a glossy, healthy, golden brown goat.

She was the most beautiful thing Jimbob had ever seen. Annnd realisation strikes! His lover was a goat all along! Except, yeah.

HIT PROMPT? Goats? Yes. Screaming? No.
RANGE OF EMOTIONS? Yes, although a bit hamfisted
Overall thoughts: Honestly, on the first reading I hated this story. The very first word (stereotypical redneck name) predisposed me to dislike it. It lacks any sympathetic characters, the setting is run-of-the-mill, the execution is pretty bad (the twist seemed so obvious to me I was left wondering if it was a twist, while the other judges didn't even notice it), and there isn't even a hint of epic/metal to help me forgive your other sins. It was the moderating influence of the other judges who saved you from a DM, and you were actually my pick for the loss until I got to leekster's offering. ON THE OTHER HAND you did actually tell a story, you hit (some of) the prompt and the range of emotions, and your sentences are punchy and readable, which I perhaps didn't give you enough credit for on my first run-through.

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 22:01 on Feb 7, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Linecrit for hotsoupdinner from Black Metal Week.

hotsoupdinner posted:

Insufferable Commandments of the Pagan Shrine I've been deriding most people for using the prompt as their title, but for this story it works fairly well. Hooray!
995 words

It was a good day to kill. The Skull Priest Oh my *rubs hands gleefully and settles in for a proper Black Metal story* gave his vile what does this adjective actually tell us about the sermon? You can do better with something more descriptive sermon from the altar. Tufts of hair and skin still stuck to the fresh skull that made up his headdress. I'm having trouble visualising this - how do you make a headdress out of a skull? We stood tall, row after row of warriors waiting to be commanded. The Phalange Priests moved between us. They quietly girded us in blessed armor with heads bowed low. The finger bones sewn into their gloves clicked together as they worked. Some of my fellow Rib Priests mocked the Phalange Priests behind their backs, but I knew better. The Phalange Priests were the hands of the gods -- performing their divine will. Each of us had our place: the Skull Priest spoke for the gods, the Phalange Priests served the gods, and we, the Rib Priests, fought in the name of the gods. This sentence is telling me what you have already shown me.

As the benediction came to a close, the shrine grew silent. It was time for the gods to choose a sacrifice from among their servants. A death ensured victory. A low drone emanated from the altar and a dark voice Lazy adjective choice again, I have no idea what a "dark" voice sounds like spoke a name. The chosen priest hobbled towards the altar on a crutch. The left leg of his trousers was empty and dragged across the floor. He appeared to be in a trance, in ecstasy over his chance to serve the gods. The Skull Priest drew his dagger and dragged it across the sacrifice’s throat. It wasn’t a clean cut, but ragged. It was a ragged cut. I looked away as the priest was murdered. Interesting that you choose such a loaded word - implies that our narrator doesn't approve of the sacrifice/has doubts about his calling. Deliberate? I turned to my brother standing next to me. Ambiguous - is he your blood brother or just a priestly "brother"? You do clear this up later on with reference to "the same mother" but it would be better to make it explicit from the start. I could see in him the same ecstasy as the murdered priest.

The battle was favorable. My blade separated many souls from their bodies. We brought much glory to our dark lords and the world was one step closer to drowning in the blood of eternal darkness. It was not until the day was won that I heard of my brother’s injuries.
I know the battle scene isn't core to your story, but I'm a bit upset that you've described it in about the least interesting way possible. It's very common for writers (myself included) to hate writing action scenes and skip over them with a bit of telling. Try to address this habit. You're shortchanging your audience by depriving them of excitement, and denying yourself useful practice.

The Skull Priest blessed the wounded while the Phalange Priests reset bones and sewed up gashes. Screams turned to whimpers as the wounded breathed in the holy vapors that dulled pain and turned consciousness into a distant memory. My respect for the Phalange Priests grew. I watched them make sick men whole.

“It’s nothing,” said my brother, “a small price to pay for eternal glory.” I wondered how much vapor he had breathed in. His wound was much more than nothing. The Phalange Priest caring for him lifted the bandage at his shoulder. The flesh beneath was mangled and torn. He had been bitten by one of the Wolf-rider’s wolves.

“The beast barely scratched me,” he said. “My pain is insubstantial next to the agony of our lords as they wait chained in their plane of torment to be loosed upon the world. I like the hint of ritual/quotation about this and it's acceptably metal It is my side that hurts more than anything.”

In truth the beast had trampled my brother. One of the ribs that formed his armor had cracked under the strain and pierced my brother’s side. What terrible wisdom had our gods if they would punish one of their faithful using their very means of protection. However, it wasn’t the mangled shoulder or punctured lung that worried me. Those would heal. Fragile skin would soon be replaced by scar tissue, that most beautiful form of flesh. What worried me was the stump of my brother’s wrist, where his where my brother's hand had been.

My brother seemingly read my mind. Bit of a cliché “It was more than a fair trade. My hand for its life.” The Phalange Priest unwrapped the bloody stump and left for a moment to gather the tools of his trade. I waited until the Phalange Priest was gone before speaking.

“I am worried about the next sacrifice.”

“Do not be.”

“Missing a gives you candidacy.”

“Good. My life in service of the gods.”

“Do you truly believe in the gods?”

“Do not ever let me hear you say such things again, brother.” The venom in his voice dripped off his tongue with every syllable. “For I might forget we share the same mother and murder you If he's a true fanatic he probably wouldn't think of it as murder as I would any unbeliever.”

“I will not let anything happen to you.”

“You cannot stop the what the gods will.” The Phalange Priest returned with a knife glowing red-hot. I stepped aside to let the Phalange Priest him perform his work. I knew my brother’s pain would intensify for a few moments, but that pain would promote healing.

As I left the room my ears were filled with my brother’s screams cliché and the smell of his scorched flesh. Your ears were filled with the smell of his scorched flesh?

That was the last battle of the season before winter’s snows made warring impossible. My brother grew stronger with my help. I sparred with him every day. We grew keener and more bloodthirsty. I prayed that the gods watched us and could see my brother’s great worth as a warrior.

When the snows thawed we gathered again in the shrine for a blessing before battle. The tufts of skin on the Skull Priest’s headdress had rotted off. Nice touch As the sermon neared its end my turmoil grew. I tried to adopt the placidity on my brother’s face. Finally, the hall grew quiet as we waited for the altar to speak. The voice like thunder issued forth and named my brother as sacrifice. "Voice like thunder" is a bit of a cliché but better than "dark voice". Regardless, it would be better if the voice spoke actual words.

No. I would not allow it.

I unsheathed my blade and turned to the Phalange Priest next to me. I cleaved off his hand with a clean slice. The room was stunned and I acted before anyone else could. I yanked the glove off the severed hand and pulled it onto my own. Now I wore the protection of the gods and the hand of the gods.

Several of my fellow priests tried to stop me. I cut them down. I turned towards the Skull Priest, the man who spoke with the voice of the gods. Soon I would take that voice from him.

The gods were dead. The gods were not worth serving. I would become a god in their place.Yeah I quite like this. You told a story, well done!

RANGE OF EMOTIONS? Yes, although somewhat distanced

Overall thoughts: This is a decent story, decently written, and nailed the prompt. Unfortunately, it's rife with lazy writing - there's a lot of telling and cliché which means it ends up distanced from the protagonist's emotions. As a result, it's not as engaging a story as it could - should - have been. Focus on making your words work much harder for you, and you'll be in good shape for an HM.

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 20:27 on Feb 8, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Linecrit for Megazver from Black Metal Week. Finally!

Megazver posted:

You know what I'm going to say here don't you? Yup: you can come up with a better title than this.
As for the video link - Tenacious D huh? Okay cool so this story is going to be tongue-in-cheek. I'm down with that!

It was month four of us sitting under the walls of Polka-Mazurka, waiting for them to either "either/or" is used when there are exactly two options surrender, die out from hunger or get smote by divine wrath of Our Lord Metal and I was running out of ways to kill time.

“Growler, you ugly gently caress, are you trying to scalp yourself?” Corpsecunt I chuckled was inside the tent, leaning against one of the femur bones supporting it. One of the perks of being the commander of your own mercenary company, a personal tent for your troops to harass you in. Her war paint was already slathered on, Drowner Blue As in the Witcher monster or the indie rock band? being the color of the day. She leered back at me.

I scowled. “It’s called shaving. It’s that for me or a comb-over. Can’t headbang a comb-over, can I? And that’s ‘sir, you ugly gently caress, sir’ to you, you insubordinate bitch.”

She stuck out her pierced tongue at me. kinda childish but I can picture it “You already shaved it three times this week. One more pass and you’re a phrenology exhibit.” Lol, nice. Enjoying this so far but wondering where it's going.

I dunked the razor into the bowl and turned to her. She wasn’t wrong - I was only doing this out of boredom - but admitting it would be poor form. It was time for a diversionary maneuver. “Well, someone has to shave for the two of us.” I made a spectacle of moving my eyes over to her crotch and raising my eyebrows.

She snorted, otherwise ignored the bait. “Poor Growler. So bored, so shiny. Well, good news.” She reached behind her back, tossed me a scroll. “We’re being reinforced. For an assault.”

This wasn’t right. Polka-Mazurka just wasn’t worth this much effort. It wasn’t even worth our effort. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to imagine the map, the Metal Armies on it. “By who?” Not many of them were campaigning close enough to matter. “Progs? Industrials? Goths? Not Heavies or the Power or any of the others, they’re too far away. How many centuries are we being sent?”

“Not centuries, Legions. And their Frontmen, too.” She studied my face.

“Well gently caress.”


The Crimson King Prog rock, right? I had to look it up arrived first. His Legion is The March Of; I didn't get this bit though appropriate, given the poor bastards had to force-march through the Razor Fields to get here. I wondered if he made them goose-step all the way in 7/4 or if he took pity and settled for an irrational polyrhythm for the sake of urgency. hehe Moloch (Moloch! Moloch!), the impatient incomprehensible throbbing hate dynamo that he is, excellent straight up punched a tunnel through the Chrome Crags to get to us in time. We breathed the fumes of his Kampfmaschine long before we saw them. And Grief December, her camp just appeared beside ours the morning of the assault. Slithered out of the darkness, so hush-hush not even my sentries noticed. Generally this paragraph is really cool but it feels like I'm missing references I should be getting. Anyway, up to about this point I've been enjoying myself and you've been having fun establishing the setting and characters. From this point on, it goes a bit downhill...


The city fell so fast, there’s barely anything to tell. The Crimson King came out of his Fibonacci Pavilion, stood on one loving foot, and played his little flute, and as we shut our ears, and gritted our teeth, the dotted spires swayed, then toppled. He turned around and went back in, just like that. The others didn’t even come out of their campaign-palaces to watch. lol at the flute, but at the same time, this is a let-down. Could have been so much more epic.


I received an invitation to attend to the Triumvirate four days into the sacking. Considerate of them, to let my men first have their fill. It made me all the more suspicious. Still, I’m not dumb or suicidal. The first night after battle a mausoleum emerged in the field, a profane slab of black marble, ornamented with the bones of the defeated, to serve as their neutral place of meeting. I headed there.


The King was impossible to discern. Tried as I could might, he was nothing but a red blur. He whispered:

“Weep! Shriek! Howl! The good news - Our Lord of Metal rests bound beneath these crumbled stones.”

Moloch was impossible to look at. I did not even try. A barrage:

“Inculcation: Meatshit utility peakage imminent, meatshit purpose assignment commencing.”

Grief December was impossible not to look at, a cold, lethal perfection. I wished I could turn away.

“You go beneath the city. You find him. You set him free.” I love the way you've written this scene/meeting, but it's an abrupt change in direction of the story. It makes the overall piece feel a bit fragmented.

I shuddered under the weight of the revelation. It was impossible to argue and dangerous to ask:

“Why me? Why not you?”

A silence.

“Hindrance! Malefaction! For you to pass, to slither through we the mighty must wrench open a rift.”

“Only one of us could enter. One then receives divine favor above her peers. This, predictably, is a point of disagreement.”

“Assessment: Meatshit null. Meatshit favor-extraneous. Meatshit instrument of collective glory. Balance conserved.”



We inserted in a small file. ESL? "We entered in single file" Me first, Corpsecunt, then two dozen of my best headbangers. The rift shut behind us; we were alone.


A week of terror and deprivation. Most of us made it. I understand you're butting up against the word count at this point. Would be cool to read the longer version.


The gate was as they described; carvings of our glory, carvings of our doom. I entered alone.

Darkness. Silence. Oblivion. Then, an inflicted epiphany:





Silence. I turned around to leave. “HALT.” A chuckle. “WHAT ALSO IS UNMETAL?” I waited. “MALE PATTERN BALDNESS.”

“THERE." Smiled at this ending. Nice tie back to the start.


HIT PROMPT? Mostly - not getting the "insufferable" part

Overall thoughts: I know you struggled with the word limit here, and it shows. The story as a whole is fairly unbalanced because the intro/scene setting take up pretty much half your story. You didn't really manage to fulfil either the "insufferable" part of the prompt or the "range of emotions" requirement. Still, I liked the theme, the opening scene was good, the dialogue was strong throughout and you dragged a couple of chuckles out of me. Overall, middle of the pack.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

A Classy Ghost posted:

If you're over it by 6 words you can definitely find something to cut out.

Yeah, it depends on the judge - some people are a bit lenient but you should never count on it. Personally I would get irrationally angry if you were over by such a tiny amount because trimming 6 words is an absolutely trivial exercise of an essential writing skill.

Anyway, crits for Black Metal Week's disqualified-for-lateness submissions:

Your Sledgehammer - The Acolyte

HIT PROMPT? (Unmaking The Carnal Demons)
WORD COUNT? Yes (but DQ for lateness)
FLASH RULE? Kinda (Face to face in a different place when it all comes crashing down)
Overall thoughts:
Um... I haven't a clue how this piece relates to the prompt? Others have already covered the other main issue: there isn't much of a story. Person is a scientologist, person wants out, person makes a plan to escape, person escapes successfully. I guess it's about his emotional journey, but that's hard to do convincingly in the space you have. There are a few tense and grammar issues noticeable, but the overall writing is pretty okay. There's nothing in here to make me sit up and take notice.

Quidnose - The Sweet Smell of Success

HIT PROMPT? Yeeees... (Bloodstained Corpses Of The Twisted Quest)
WORD COUNT? Yes (but DQ for lateness)
FLASH RULE? Yes (Only the nose truly knows)
Overall thoughts:
I think you cheated a bit by hitting the prompt purely by including it as the band name! Though I suppose it could also describe the quest for a new WMD, so I'll give you a pass on it. Anyway, you incorporated your flash rule very thoroughly and it added a distinctly surreal element to what would otherwise have been a fairly straightforward story. I think it's better for it, actually, as weaponised black metal on its own is not especially original. You did fall down on the ending though, as it's completely unclear how the sounds they're making, which translate into delicious smells when filtered through specialised apparatus, get weaponised?

J.A.B.C. - The Choices of Dead Men

HIT PROMPT? Yes (The Angel And The Reaper)
Overall thoughts:
You have a pretty weird and off-putting turn of phrase. "made it on land and braced with their foes"? "Now cry and scabbing"? "His voice whispered past closed lips"? There's a lot of stuff like this throughout that makes me blink twice and re-read. I suspect this is a consistent problem for you that others have pointed out, so I'll stop critting that and focus on the story. I liked your description of the reaper, and that the soul made an unexpected choice at the end. Overall, this was quite an understated story, which I think it made work. It didn't hit the "range of emotions" requirement, but I did enjoy the imagery. If it hadn't been DQ, I think I'd have placed it somewhere in the middle, neither a DM nor an HM.

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 20:28 on Feb 28, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Linecrit from Black Metal Week for Doctor Idle

Doctor Idle posted:

Glorious Altars of the Blood-Red Insanity - 1000 words
Not a good title for this particular story!

First things first: I'm assuming you pasted this from a Word document or something and didn't bother to preview the post, because your paragraphs are all smushed together, your scene headers aren't formatted, and you have a load of tabs in there that don't show up in the post itself. Next time, make sure you take the time to preview your post and sort out the formatting.

Like an infant opening its eyes for the first time, Barnaby Dalton painfully peeled back his eyelids under, debatably, more precarious circumstances. finding He found himself half inside a dumpster with assorted trash stuck to his person. Sentence 1: past tense A creaky door opens nearby and an older man peeks his head out. Sentence 2: present tense. Do you see the problem yet?
“Barney, you out here son?” shouts a familiar voice. Barnaby stirs from his position in the dumpster. His vision begins to come back into focus, Clause 1: present tense but coordination was still dragging behind. Clause 2: past tense. What the hell, man? He tries to lift himself out, but only manages to sink further into the filth.
“Barney, I see your leg moving. Son, are you alright?”
Barnaby recognized the voices as his uncle Tate’s and although he couldn’t pull himself free of the trash, he could manage speaking.Past tense
“Yeah, uncle Tate, I’m here.” Barnaby says, not sure what to make of his predicament. Present tense “You need help getting out of there?” Tate asks his nephew. . Needs a new paragraph for the new speaker. Also you have a stray extra full stop there. Try to give yourself more time to proofread.
“Uh… Nah, unc’ I think I got it.”
“Oh, well ok son, you had one heck of a night, wanted to make sure you were ok.” Boring filler dialogue. Also it's "OK" or "okay", not "ok".
A flood of peculiar, unpleasant memories fill Barnaby’s head.


23 Weird to start a sentence with just a number. Also in formal writing it's usual to spell out numbers of two words or fewer - like so: At twenty-three, recently graduated with only pennies to his name, Barnaby, or ‘Barney’ as he liked to be called You don't need to tell us this here - you've already shown it in the intro. took the B-Line out of Cool Palms, New Mexico across Texas, where he eventually caught a bus to Yampaw, Louisiana. He Boring unnecessary detail planned to start his life anew as a Bbutcher, following in the steps of his uncle and grandfather.
His mother had always told him Uncle Tate was weird, Ooh, this looks like a tiny bit of foreshadowing - the first hint that something interesting might happen in your story but with few options and no income, this seemed like his only choice. It had been nearly 15 years since he had seen his aunt or uncle so he didn’t know what to expect when he arrived, but Barney found himself pulling into a quaint bayou town. Gulls flew high overhead, and the marsh waters left the air somewhat boring qualifier salty, and refreshing.
His aunt and uncle were waiting there for him at the bus station and were glad to see their nephew It feels like you've switched from Barney's POV to the aunt and uncle's here. Also a show/tell issue - instead of telling me they're glad, show me how they display their gladness - do they sweep him into a hug or what? who was had been only 7 seven when they'd saw seen him last.
“Oh my goodness, boy, you sure have grown up! You take after your daddy.” His aunt says to Barney as he retrieves his bags from the undercarriage of the bus. Aaand we're back to present tense again - sigh. You were doing so well!
“Hey, aunt Deb,” he says shyly, coyly careful - "coy" has connotations of coquetry and I think (hope) he's not trying to give his aunt the come-on slinging his bag over his shoulder before and walking over to give her a hug.
“Boy, it sure is good to see you.” Uncle Tate says, placing a heavy hand on Barney's back before joining in on the heartfelt hug with his wife and nephew.
“Well, we got you a little bedroom set up above the deli. Not much, but it should be comfortable. I got the nNintendo too. I know you like your games.” Although I'm taking the time to correct your grammar in the above sentences, you'd be better off just cutting them and getting on with the drat story. Ask yourself if any of this mundane detail is interesting to the reader? You only have 1000 words - you could be making far better use of them.
Barnaby smiles politely. “Thanks, I appreciate it, and I’m really glad you’re giving me this opportunity.”
“Don’t sweat it, boy. Your name may be Dalton, but you’ve got the blood of a LeRoy, and us LeRoys are butchers at heart.,” Uncle Tate says with a toothy grin.


They arrive at the shop and Barney gets settled in. The store had been closed that day so they had plenty of time to get caught up.
“If you’re hungry, we got plenty of things to eat in the deli fridge up front. Help yourself to some grub and then come on back, I want to show you some things.” Tate tells his nephew, who is gracious grateful for the hospitality. Show/tell
Picking a plate of leftover meatloaf, Barney quickly eats and puts his dishes away Present tense so that he could Past tense join his aunt and uncle in the back.
A chill runs down Barney's spine as his hand touches the cold meatlocker door and his stomach begins to turn. He ignores it and enters the frigid storage. Present tense The room was dimly lit, and the hanging carcasses cast ghastly silhouettes that twisted in the faint traces of light coming from a room up ahead.Past tense
As he moved into the locker, he began to hear heard the patter of drums and a bitter wind swept through the room. The carcasses turned to rolling hills and their shadows into desolate crags that jutted out spasmodically I don't think this word means what you think it means from the alien terrain. The drumming became louder, and a low and ominous chanting accompanied it. And FINALLY something interesting is happening! You could have cut the entire first two sections and instead spent those words developing this nightmarish Narnia you have going here and it would be a much better story. Not a great story - see notes on the ending - but better.
Barney had never felt more terrified in his life, but he felt compelled to push forward. A glance back at what had once been a meat locker revealed only an abyss, speckled with forms that became increasingly distant before vanishing altogether.
He was close to the light now, pushing up a jagged, ice covered hyphenate compound adjectives - ice-covered bluff. Upon reaching the top and found two cultists exsanguinating a virgin show/tell - are they plunging a dagger into her chest or what? atop an altar covered in blood.
“Nay, you wicked fiends, I will strike thee from this world!” Barnabus I'm assuming the name change is deliberate, in which case lol, nice touch cried out, unsheathing his crystalline sword, leaping . He leapt at the hag who tossed up her arms futilely. “Your wicked spell nearly cost me my life, but no more. You are slain. More show/tell issues - weird for him to talk about these things having happened, rather than actually showing them happening Now, your time is at hand, foul warlock.!Barnabus declares slicing He sliced the warlock’s abdomen open.You were doing pretty well at sticking with the past tense for the last couple of paragraphs, but whoops! You've slipped back into present again here.
He races towards the altar, but is too late. The dark ritual had completed, and madness struck the brave warrior who reeled away from the blood soaked stone. And back to past tense we go, whee He gazes up at a starless sky and falls from the frozen crag into the abyss...Psych! We're still in present tense really!
Barnaby finally manages to pull himself out of the dumpster, concealing himself with newspaper.
“We thought that you had gotten hold of that stuff, and I said oh lLord, not my nephew, but then I saw what you had eaten and I put two and two together.”
“W-what? I had a meatloaf.”
“Nah, son, that wasn’t no meatloaf, that was bad steak. Now get cleaned up, it’s time to eat breakfast.,” Uncle Tate says chuckling with a chuckle.
“Alright, unc’ just give me a minute.” Barney says embarrassed, Present tense but he too found himself laughing at the strange circumstances.Past tense
“Good.,” his uncle says, staring into his eyes, and smearing blood-soaked palms across his face. “Prepare for a glorious meal.”
“Holy poo poo, mom was right. You are weird.”

Overall thoughts:
This story makes me really sad. It's not even a story, really. It's a series of mundane things that happen to a mundane chap called Barney, with a brief hallucinatory interlude in the middle that contains the only bit of actual interest and conflict in the entire piece. But because you'd spent so many words on irrelevant scene-setting and pointless dialogue, you couldn't do the interesting part justice and had to completely gloss over the epic battle with two warlocks over a blood-soaked altar. And even if you'd cut the irrelevance and written a most excellent tale of heroism and crystalline swords, your punchline of "bad steak" is on a par with "and then I woke up and it was all a dream" and would probably have earned you a DM all on its own.

It's not all bad though. There is that little nugget of good stuff hidden in there that you can develop. And you did occasionally manage to keep a consistent tense for whole paragraphs at a time, which convinces me that you could get it right if you were paying attention. I hope you'll continue to enter Thunderdome as, really, there's nowhere else to go from here except up.

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 01:28 on Mar 1, 2015

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Linecrit for Black Metal Week - Benny the Snake

Benny the Snake posted:

Separation (794 words)

"The Screaming of the Goat" Actually your prompt was "The Screaming Of Goats"

"...experts have now officially deemed this unseasonably warm weather as to be permanent climate change. Reservoir levels have reached critical, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has been almost completely drained as-"

Farmer Liam Thomas This is silly - if he was, say, a lawyer, would you call him "Lawyer Liam Thomas"? - and a show/tell issue to boot. If it matters to the story that he's a farmer, just show him doing farmery things. If it doesn't matter, leave it out. shut his TV off and threw the remote away from himself before covering his face in despair. Central California used to be known as as the most fertile area in the world and now it was nothing more than another dust bowl waiting to happen. The pastures were now bone dry and his flock of sheep was reduced to only a handful.


He turned around.  "Yeah, stringbean?"

"You're doing it again."

Liam smiled at his daughter Molly. Show/tell - why are you telling us her name is Molly here when you show it in dialogue literally two sentences later?  He hated to see his little princess scared.  "Everything's going to be okay, Molly."

"But Dad," she said fearfully, "the pastor said that these are all signs, that something big is happening."

Liam motioned for her to sit next to him.  "Molly, did I ever tell you why I stopped going to church?"

She shook her head and sat down next to him as she sat. (You've already told us where she's going to sit, no need to repeat it.)  "I got tired of somebody scaring me into becoming the good person I already am, that's why."

"But Dad-"

"Let me worry about my own salvation," he said and patted her on the head. "Why don't you go feed that damned goat of yours?" Is it significant that he's referring to the goat as "that damned goat"? It seems out of character with the dialogue we've seen so far. I'm left wondering if you shoehorned it in to show how "fallen from grace" Liam is.

Molly gave him a look.  "Dad, his name's Billy."

He shrugged.  "He's not my goat." Again, this callousness seems out of character as you've told us how much he dotes on his daughter. If the goat is a sore point with him, then you may need to give some indication of why.


"Hi Billy," Molly said as she went to the corner of their small field where Billy was penned.  

"Nyeehhh," Billy baaed said. Two points here. First, in my experience goats are more usually described as "bleating" rather than "baaing". Second, "baaed" (or "bleated") means the same as "said 'Nyeehhh'", so using both is redundant. Hope that makes sense!

Molly smiled and went inside to feed him.  Billy voraciously fed into from the bucket full of feed This was super weirdly phrased as she patted him on the head, starting from his pointy horns and down to his forehead.  "Billy," Molly said and paused for a moment.  "Do you think I worry too much about Dad?"  

Billy looked into her eyes.  Some people said that the square-shaped eyes rectangular pupils of a goat looked demonic, but Molly had always thought they looked adorable ever since she'd started raising him when he was just a kid.  The goat snuggled up against her and baaed bleated again.  "Neeeehh."

Molly smiled.  "You always know the right thing to say." bless 'er dear little heart


Liam and Molly woke up in in the middle of the evening So around 8pm or so? Why were they asleep that early? --someone was screaming at the top of their lungs.  Turning on the floodlights, Liam burst out of his house only to find that it was Billy.  Hearing a goat scream is quite possibly the most uncanny thing you could ever hear--you just don't expect something that walks on four legs and eats cans urban myth, check your facts to scream like a human does. True enough, but a bit of a weird POV shift - an omniscient narrator suddenly addressing the audience directly. Wouldn't it be better to write this from Liam's POV in the story? "Shut the gently caress up!" Liam shouted at the screaming goat.  

"Billy!" Molly cried out as she ran towards her goat.  "Billy, calm down," she said and tried comforting to comfort him.  Instead he bucked and almost gored her with his horns Unnecessary - what else would he gore her with?.  Liam slammed Billy with the heel of his boot on Billy.  "Dad!" Molly shouted.

"He almost gored you!"

"He doesn't know any better!"  

"The hell he doesn't!" Liam shouted and kicked him again but Billy kept screaming in horror.


Billy's nightly screaming continued for about a week, always at random times, never for any discernible logic reason. ("with any discernible logic" or "for any discernible reason")  One night, his screaming was joined by the screaming of others.  When Liam and Mary Molly got out to investigate, they were greeted by encountered a gruesome sight.  Billy had forced himself out of his pen.  He was surrounded by the corpses of the farm's miniscule minuscule (besides the misspelling, this is a slightly odd word for the context. Just go with "tiny") flock of sheep.  All of them had multiple puncture marks in their bodies, their red blood in macabre contrast with their pure white wool. Unless they're unusually well-cared-for show sheep, their wool is more likely to be grubby yellowish white than "pure" white. I think you're being a touch lazy with your descriptions. And there Billy was, his horns and face covered in blood and gristle, his eyes mad with blood lust. What does that look like? All goats look pretty mad to me.  Molly covered her mouth to stifle her terrified scream.  Liam didn't say a word--he was too livid for words.  His face flushed with rage you already told me he was angry in the last sentence and his breathing shallow, he walked back in to retrieve his shotgun.

"Dad, don't!" Molly pleaded with him.

"Don't look," he said and kept moving.  

"He didn't know any better!  He's just a-"

Liam pushed his daughter aside and advanced on Billy.  Grabbing the goat by the neck, he tied him against his pen as hard tightly as he could.  Ignoring the tears on his daughter's face and her pleadings, Liam loaded the single shell into his over-under gun and aimed at the damned goat took aim. It's possible you were trying to make a link back to the start of the story with the phrase "damned goat", but it's just awkward.

Before he could pull the trigger, a loud trumpet sounded. You can avoid weighing down your prose with boring adjectives and adverbs by choosing better verbs. Instead of "a loud trumpet sounded", try "a trumpet blared" or something. The sky was alight as fire rained down like hail from the heavens. Billy's screaming grew louder and louder.  Liam let his gun fall to the ground and fell to his knees.  Molly did likewise and stared at the sky.  For the first time in her life, she was truly terrified.  Not for herself,; she knew she was saved.

She couldn't speak for her father, though.

Overall thoughts: So yeah. You already know I'm disappointed that you took an interesting premise and then turned it into just another heavy-handed Judgment Day Parable. Your other main problem is a penchant for weirdly ungrammatical or over-worded phrases, especially when prepositions are involved. I didn't hate the characters - they seemed generally believable and Molly was quite sympathetic, although they were both pretty stock, which my fellow judges tell me is a characteristic of your writing. Not bad overall, but plenty to work on.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Linecrit for Black Metal Week - Walamor

Walamor posted:

Screaming At Hecate - 998 Words
I am fairly indifferent to this as a title, it's not nearly as bad as some others!

In the middle of a shattered town, ten men lay down to die. Excellent start A priest moved among them, placing a concoction vague, low-information word. You'd do better to describe the vessels that contains it (clay bowls or something?) and leave the reader to infer the mysterious "concoction". in their hands . He mumbled and mumbling praises to Hecate and w . When he got to the last man, the man grabbed his hand. Minor thing but I feel this is a better way to divide up the clauses

“gently caress Hecate and gently caress her blessings,” said Alkides. I really like the names in this piece, they sound cool and have an authentically Greek ring to them The priest recoiled in shock. “She owes us this.”

“Only a fool bites the hands of the gods,” said Demonax, rising up on one elbow. “Even when they deserve it. Shut up and take the offering.” I also like your decision to use straight modern language rather than, say, writing it like something translated from ancient Greek.

Alkides stared daggers at the priest and grabbed the herb mixture out of his hands.

“Chew,” said the priest. Oh, the concoction is chewy? I assumed it was like a potion or something. “I don’t know how long you’ll have in the underworld, or even if you’ll come back.” He looked down at Alkides. “You’re probably hosed.” The priest spun haughtily and stalked away.

“Let’s get this over with,” said Demonax, stuffing the foul-tasting hyphenate compound adjectives mush into his mouth and laying You lie down; you lay something else down back down. Pain coursed through his body cliché and the world closed in around him. Soon the blackness enveloped him, and he lost all sensation.

When he came to, he stood up, surprised that he still had all his armor and weapons with him. The other men were doing the same, surveying the surroundings as they checked their equipment.

They found themselves atop a mound of compacted ash and bone. In the far distance there was a city, glowing with an unholy glow. What colour is unholy? Before them lay a foul Another vague nonspecific adjective - in what way is it foul? bog, a dark river winding its way through it.

“Where is the ferryman?” said Hagnon. “This isn’t right.”

“Many things aren’t right,” said Demonax. “But we see the city. Let’s go.”

“I dislike that bog,” said Kimon. “It looks… unnatural.”

“No poo poo?” said Demonax. “The underworld looks unnatural? I’ll be damned.” Kimon flushed. “Would you like to stay here?”

“I’m not stopping until I get my family back, same as you,” Kimon said and marched forward, the other men falling in around him. Good that you're showing their motivations through dialogue rather than telling us straight.

The distances were deceiving, and the group arrived at the bog quickly. The very ground sucked at their feet, and the trees seemed to block them at every turn. Finally they reached the river and stared down at the rushing torrent of blood that sped past them.

Hagnon reached out a hand as if to touch it.

“I would not do that, if I were you,” said a deep, thunderous voice. Weapons leapt into the men’s hands weird cliché as they tried to find the speaker. A tree moved closer to the group and a strained face appeared in the bark, made of ever-changing knots. Neat

“Where is the ferryman, tree demon?” said Hagnon.

“The boatman is for the dead,” said the tree. “The living may not cross. You must turn --” started the tree demon, cutting he cut off his own sentence with a scream. Demonax raised his axe for another blow,. He cut cutting deep into the tree, and sap pouringed out of the wound. The way you wrote this sentence, the raising of the axe, the cutting and the sap pouring are all happening simultaneously, which is nonsense.

Soon they had killed enough of the shrieking trees to make a raft, using young sapling children to bind the corpses of the adults together. The crossing was difficult, the blood rising until a wave surged over Machaon, washing him overboard. Then the blood subsided, permitting a safe crossing.

Their journey continued, with many challenges laid before them. Some were familiar priests’ stories, and some were beyond anything the darkest mind of men could have created. They were all overcome by might or wit, but the party’s numbers dwindled. Unnecessary telling. The following sentences are much stronger and stand quite well on their own. Pammon succuumed succumbed to the wiles of a witch, Stentor chased a specter of his wife, and Thestor wrongly chose an answer. Vettias and Zenodoros simply laid lay down to sleep and never woke. Kimon wept until his tears turned to blood and his body dried up. Hagnon turned back to find the ferryman.

Finally the city appeared before Demonax and Alkides. The yellowish glow they had seen was a barrier laid before them. They beat upon it with their weapons, their fists, but it held strong, and there was no riddle to solve, no monster to defeat.

“No!” screamed Demonax. “Not after all we’ve suffered,” he said, starting to crying tears of frustration. Clunky. If you find yourself writing someone "starting" to do an action, check if they can't just... do the action. Alkides looked at him in shock. Never had Demonax cried, even after the loss of the rest of their companions.

“drat you Hecate! Lower your barrier!” yelled Demonax, flinging his axe at the wall. It hit and shattered into pieces, raining metal onto the ground. “Give me back my family!”

The gate to the city ground open and a woman came out, riding a horse, a dog at her side. She glowed, the same yellow as the barrier. She was a dangerous sort of beautiful, with a snake draped around her shoulders. She didn’t hold a candle to his Callidora. I kinda like this, but it's a slightly jarring POV shift. Up until now it's been distant third person, now we've gone to a close third with Demonax.

“Silly mortal man. I cannot give you your family back, for I only have influence over the barrier between life and death. But, you have traveled far, and endured much.” She motioned behind herself and his wife and son appeared. Demonax fell to his knees, his hands reaching out to them but stopped by the barrier. His family knelt on the other side, pressing their hands opposite to his. He stared into their eyes and saw his love reciprocated. He was weeping again, this time tears of joy.

“They want you to live, Demonax. Come join them with when the time is right,” said Hecate.

“Can I talk to them,?” asked Demonax, still looking at his family.

“Not just yet. But you will be with them, eventually. It is time for you to go.”

“No, please, just a little longer!” said Demonax, but it was too late. A white portal had opened behind him, and he was drawn inexorably towards it. Pure white blinded him, filled him completely.

Before he lost all his senses, he heard Hecate. “But you, Alkides, I have been saving for something special.”

Alkides’ scream was still echoing in his ears as he sat up back on the surface, gasping in lungfuls of air, the priest staring down at him in shock.

Well I guess Alkides got what was coming to him, heh heh! There were some stand-out bits to this story - I especially liked the first line and the details of what happened to the men of their expedition during the trek through the Underworld - but the overall plot and ending weren't notably exciting. I think because of the way you chose to tell the tale (in a distant third point of view with a very simple, matter-of-fact tone) it was difficult to really identify with any of the characters. You might have done better by going with a close third POV on either Demonax or Alkides throughout, which would have helped the reader to identify with the character in question and really feel it when bad things happened to them at the end.

You could also have done more with the language in various places - keep an eye on your adjectives and make sure they're doing as much work as possible and not just there because it "seemed natural to put them there" - which is often a warning sign of cliché.

Still, overall, it was a nice piece that I enjoyed reading as a fan of classical mythology.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
In. Never listened to the band so I will require a song. Tough as you like.


Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
Chess Piece Face
1000 words

I'm hardly superstitious, but there's something unsettling about being awake, alone, at three o'clock in the morning that bypasses ego and heads straight for the id. So, although I'll laugh at myself come daytime, I'm committing yesterday's strangeness to paper. Maybe once that's done, I'll be able to sleep.

There's a painter I know: a gentle old geezer named Jacob with a rambling beard, stained yellow with nicotine, that he never bothers to tame. I occasionally visit him at his cottage, which nestles shyly on a wooded hillside, off the beaten track but on the path of one of my favourite walks.

Every wall of Jacob's cottage is decorated with paintings. Not his own: they're replicas of old masters, especially Rembrandt. I asked him about this during a chat over tea in his conservatory.

"The painters of the Dutch Golden Age," he said, wagging a flimsy rollup at me, "brought us to the pinnacle of "real". Chiaroscuro, shadows and forms, brushstrokes too small to see. Accuracy of depiction, that was their grand achievement. But Rembrandt found something most of his contemporaries didn't: soul. Those people you see on the wall there," ash dripped onto the grubby carpet as he gestured, "are characters, not just would-be photographs. Do you see?"

I looked, and nodded politely. My artistic education is lacking, though I've picked up snippets from these chats. Still, the paintings did have something: the wrinkled, lumpen features seemed all too human, thrown into relief by dim candlelight. There was one painting there that didn't belong, though. Amidst the browns and oranges and Dutch period dress, the green apple hovering before the bowler-hatted face seemed practically luminous.

"Isn't that one Magritte?" I asked, proud at remembering the name.

"Hmm?" He followed my gaze. Then he started violently and dropped his cigarette. He strode to the painting, fists clenching. "You!" he shouted. "What the hell are you doing there?"

I hastily retrieved the fallen rollup. "Sorry... Did I--?" I flinched as he wrenched the offending painting off the wall, scattering flecks of plaster, and hurried from the room with it.

I sat in shock for a moment. Jacob was an eccentric old codger, true, but I'd never seen him behave so. For lack of any other polite course of action, I decided to finish my tea and await his return. After a few minutes and an empty cup, however, I grew impatient, and went looking for him.

Paintings adorned every wall, from waist height up to the ceiling beams. I didn't recognise many, but they were mostly portraits, and as I prowled about looking for Jacob, I felt as though they were eyeing me with suspicion. Eventually I discovered a little wooden door in an alcove beneath the staircase, half-hidden by a battered piano. I opened it, and found a set of stone steps leading down to a cellar. A light was on down there, and I descended.

The cellar was a workroom. Jacob had shown me his little garret, once, with its single easel and scattered paints, and I'd thought him little more than an eccentric dabbler in his retirement; but here was a whole studio, with canvases big and small stacked haphazardly against walls, on easels, and across desks. Were these all his work?

One nearby caught my eye, and I examined it more closely: a man in a top hat and frock coat, standing on a cricket pitch in front of a burning pavilion. His face was obscured by a chess piece, a white pawn, blank and smooth. It was like the Magritte, but every detail was different. The colours were muddier, more like the Rembrandt's, and the flare of the firelight behind the man cast deep shadows across the pawn/face. I felt a great curiosity to see behind that odd mask.

Looking around further, I soon realised that every painting in that room was similar, yet different. Men and women, mostly with headwear but some without, their faces obscured by a miscellany of objects.

"It's a metaphor, of course," said Jacob. I swung round; he stood in a doorway to a back room that I hadn't yet noticed. He looked defeated: his shoulders slumped and his face slack. "Magritte was saying that we all wear masks. The face we show to the world isn't the face we see ourselves. An elementary truth, really."

"Is that why you paint - these?" I asked, gesturing around. "Are masks so important to you?"

His mouth twisted. I'd said something amusing, apparently. "You could say that."

"You aren't selling them?" I asked. "They're really good. A bit disturbing, but ... interesting."

He took a few steps, his eyes wandering around the workshop. For a moment he looked confused, and very old. "Sell? No, no... that would be like slavery, wouldn't it? Oh, I wish I could be rid of the drat things. Take one! Take this one." He thrust the painting of the pawn-faced man at me.

I took it; it was only polite, and it was a rather good painting. "Er-- thank you. What do you mean, slavery?"

"I told you," he said earnestly. "It's about soul. The people I paint are people. Learned from the best, heh. I have to cover their faces just to get them to leave me alone at night. Some of them are really nasty pieces of work." He glanced at the painting he'd handed me, and his face twitched.

I'm ashamed to say I made my excuses at that point, and left. I hadn't realised he was quite so senile, but I do feel sorry for him, and he's usually good company.

The painting makes me uncomfortable, honestly. I've put it in the back of the wardrobe, but I have a strong urge to take it out and look at it, try and see behind that mask. Maybe a little paint remover - just a little, to take the top layer off. See what's there.

Maybe once that's done, I'll be able to sleep.

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