just so's we're all clear desperation is when you're killing people in order to buy your daughter enough heroin to stave off the final stages of withdrawal, not when it's tricky putting some words in an order
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2015 02:24|
|# ¿ Mar 26, 2019 10:14|
|# ¿ Feb 3, 2015 23:52|
I continue to be lame and fail to submit this week.
|# ¿ Feb 8, 2015 18:31|
gently caress it
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2015 12:22|
Just One More
I hated the meetings, or maybe just how I had to go to them. I hated the sanctimonious crap and I hated the coffee. I didn't have a problem. Slowly, I sipped the bitter drink and prayed God for a shot of whisky to Irish it up. He didn't deliver. Higher power my rear end. Maybe He thought the leggy blonde running the show balanced His account. If so He was wrong.
“Your turn, Philip,” said Blondie. “Share with us.”
“I got nothing to share with you.” I said. “The writ said I had to sit here. Nothing on it about talking.”
She sighed. “You're not going to be able to overcome your habit without taking this seriously, Philip.”
I stood up. “To hell with this,” I said, “and to hell with you.” I spun around, a finger pointing full circle around the silent group. “I don't have a problem. Maybe you guys do. But I'm a professional,” I said. My hands lit a cigarette, and my mouth blew smoke for effect. “I know what I'm doing.” My legs did the rest.
The street thronged. I cast myself out into the flow. I needed to find a case. For that I needed to get back to the office.
I picked my way to my desk, stepping over papers and discarded cigarette packs. I picked the phone off the floor and called my secretary. “Martha? We got any visitors today?”
There was no answer. The line was dead. drat. Wading back to the door, I stuck my head around to her cubbyhole. It was empty. I kicked the wall and swore. How was I supposed to get back in business without a goddamn secretary?
I scanned the scene for clues. A chipped old phone, mugs lined with mould and old stale case files. None of them any use. My hands began to twitch. Interlocking my fingers to hold them still, I edged up to her desk. There! My hand shot out and grabbed a sheet of paper.
“Dear Mr. Marlowe,” it said. “I hope you get well soon.” This was all the information I needed. Clearly written under duress. Some wise guy had obviously gone and kidnapped my secretary. Maybe as revenge for that drug ring I busted last year.
I didn't have a problem. What I had was a case. I pulled on my trenchcoat, lifted my fedora off the hatstand and headed out into the mean city.
|# ¿ Feb 15, 2015 23:18|
I am in.
|# ¿ Aug 4, 2015 23:17|
e: nothing to see here, move along
Obliterati fucked around with this message at Oct 27, 2015 around 17:39
|# ¿ Aug 10, 2015 04:45|
Obliterati's crits of rage, Week CLVIII
All in all a meh week. I did these in judgemode and they are in submission order. I also basically ignored the poo poo out of your Pokemon in most cases, so unfortunately for you I was grading solely on how good your story was. This week's theme is 'why? Why is nothing happening in this story?'
Spoilers: I do not find out why
Taken Out by the Trash
Goddamnit how hard was it to grok 'no actual Pokemon'? What did this do for the story, man? Now you're not just DM'd, you're DQ'd.
Worst bit is I argued to spare you until I considered the flash rule. Your Ogre character is alright, if we exclude how he wants to be some kind of gently caress-san to an 'endearing' nerd who apparently draws furry porn on DeviantArt or something (this is not my idea of endearing but maybe I'm a prude). Other than that though this is a series of events, which I suppose could have put you somewhere in the middle of the pack. This story kinda sits on the edge of farce, with the weird-rear end drawings and a guy radioing instructions from a bin, but never quite tips over into it properly. I'd say it had to either tone that up or down.
Seat of the Future
Nothing happens! What is this story about other than 'well Skarmory is a metal bird, better have some of that in there, hey planes are metal and bird-like'? Why should I care about these characters? Nothing happens, goddamnit! Nothing!
Something Good May Come of It
See, this is a story in which things actually happen. The problem is, most of these events and decisions seem really forced, which is a shame because I want to like this story. Your main man has his reasons for suddenly going 'you know what, gently caress your society' but we only hear about them in any way afterwards so it feels more like you shoved that in to explain something after the fact. Judges agreed that the problem here is why this stuff happens now. Why is this kid the one he saves? Basically this story needs more why.
Also this title is hackneyed as all hell.
Never split titles like this ever again.
Also, get to the point. This story almost entirely takes place in the final third. You don't need the first third to tell us that an engineer exists and he's ragin' against the system. There's so much talking that you have to interrupt yourself with a goddamn earthquake. Speaking of which:
I was interrupted by the earthquake.
That's the only relevant sentence in the paragraph. Do we really need to know it was 6.6? No. Was that Richter Scale? Who cares? Does the earthquake interrupting not sufficiently imply that some difficulties have been encountered? It bloody well should. Your protag has just been interrupted by an earthquake. He should stop talking for a second.
Fewer words, more content. Show don't tell.
The Magnet Machine
Your protag and antag are indistinguishable. I don't know who's saying what when: if you're not going to use 'X said' and 'Y said' your characters need to have distinctive voices that clearly delineate who's who. That's hard, so just attribute your dialogue.
This is a common theme in this story: I barely have any idea what is happening. Why does Susan matter other than being dramatically dead in the background somewhere? Why does one of these guys have a magic beard? What is the deal with the compass? All these and more baffle me.
Why Cat Has Nine Lives
So yes this is cliché but fable is probably the one style where you can get away with that – hell, it's almost expected. My main beef is the title's bait and switch: this story isn't really about the cat, and the little bit at the end feels tacked-on, like you titled this in advance and realised late on that it didn't work. Common roles for cats in mythology include 'that guy on the sidelines taunting the protag': if Cat had had a more active role like that earlier in the story in addition to what's already there, I think it would head off my objection. You could possibly also cut some of the trades mentioned, as they go on a bit long.
Still, I liked this one. Voice is maintained throughout, and, radically for this week, there is character development and also actual events and that's nice
The Anniversary Intruder
I keep asking this today: why is this happening? Where is the conflict? Is murdering a skunk a metaphor for their dead, stinky relationship? Krystal does nothing here but occasionally break up a colossal paragraph of animal cruelty with a variant on 'don't do that'. This plot is just... what is this? Graphic is not a free pass to good.
The Dream Talkers
This story is just kinda flat.
I get annoyed by the phrase 'seemed to'. You use this a lot, and it's not a substitute for confusion, or uncertainty, or anything like it. It's just wasting words to hedge your bets. Commit to your descriptions.
I like your first two sentences. What you're going for there is good, but the rest of the paragraph's a waste of time and words. Tighten it up!
This story falls down on what it is he's actually afraid of. It's a very cliché fear, and it's not really foreshadowed beyond it being bad and scary. The Dream Catchers themselves are just a little short of deus ex machina – who are they? What are their motives? There's no immediate conflict in this story, but there could be one.
This story's sole conflict appears to go like this: “oh no, enforcing the law might not be the best decision! However, it's the law so uh I guess we're going to enforce it anyhow.”
In the end this story feels like some words to pad out the mildly amusing discovery that I'm reading the gritty reboot of Watership Down. You don't do anything with this. They're just people with adorable little noses. Why are they rabbits and kangaroos at all? What does it achieve other than a literal interpretation of your prompt? This story would be identical with human characters, is what I'm saying.
It also bothers me that your protag sits out the final conflict and yet you're trying to give him a good send-off. This is a stereotypically British captain, right? The traditional form is to die with the men, don't you know. You could keep much of the end scene as a battle prep rather than walking out to straight-up die. I don't hugely care that Thumper is dead.
I literally am an archaeologist, so I got the 'cultural repatriation, also gently caress colonialism' angle but there's nothing here to hang it on. This is a shame because gently caress every pre-60s archaeologist and every private collector, they are the worst humans. If this was what you were going for, you had a lot to work with!
Sadly it is not worked with. There's a bog-standard cat burglar story in here but that repatriation, that settling of ancient debts, ought to be your angle and it ought to be worked hard. Why does she sympathise with the Kenyan government's agenda? That part where she makes the choice to stick with it is obviously the crowning moment of the piece, but it doesn't really hit home because all we have is her asserting that it's the right thing to do. The old guy doesn't really have a personality beyond 'nefarious', he oscillates between madly possessive of and almost nonchalant about his artefacts, and the whole thing edges on melodrama (who drops to their knees when confronted with choices about art?).
This all being said, the basic notes are hit. Character has goal, obstacles emerge, character makes choice (and choice is set up in advance), is arguably developed. This is not a bad story.
And Edward Would, Too.
You're going to hear this a bunch: goddamn these accents are annoying. They make it harder to follow for no real gain. This being said, this is a Magikarp story alright. I feel for the lameness of your protag, and therefore I care when he makes good, just like in the kid's cartoon I was too cool to watch.
A few minor points: when “A smile slowly creeped across Kai’s face” it didn't feel like we had time to watch something creep slowly. It's a shame because the moment is good, it's just a little off. I also think your final sentence is unnecessary: the penultimate one does the job just fine. Otherwise I got nothin' brudda.
Credit where it's due: I'm a massive nerd for first sentences and this was one of the best this week. It's short, it's sharp, it immediately poses a quandary, and it gets resolved at the end. So far so good.
Problem is it kinda wobbles around a bit. So sure oh my goodness the protag was the addict all along, but then what the hell is his brother doing blundering around dangerous parts of the ship? This is a really important question: the whole plot hangs on this, and whilst at one pass it might go unnoticed anyone really reading this will instantly wonder what I'm wondering.
What does it say when the strongest story uses half the word count? Two things: firstly, goddamnit it people stop infodumping start writing, secondly goddamnit people don't count your words, make your words count. Look at the little energy bar callback: it's been set up specifically so it can be called back at the end and it's funny. The setup works twice because not only does it set it up, Olaf's response builds character. It took maybe forty words.
I do like this though. Olaf's such a comically naïve cannibal. The whole thing is completely daft, but it starts daft, it finishes daft, its daftness is internally consistent. I feel like the law and lawyers angle is a little underplayed – Dirk could get more assertive when he's getting his law on seeing as Olaf might be a cannibal, but he ain't no lawbreaker.
The Desert's Milk
Premise: good. Execution: not.
This story takes far too long to get going, and when it finally does everything happens very suddenly. We don't need several paragraphs of being followed, skirmishing, etc. It feels like you thought the same, in truth, because you've forced a sudden and arbitrary jump from all that to 'oh poo poo, captured by zombies'. From there we end up with our main characters, who until now have no backstories, suddenly realising they were not moral people and as such an eternity rolling around undead in the desert seems like an upgrade. It's not a conflict if the characters don't really see it as much of one. In the end, this was one of the many stories this week where I asked myself “why?” and answer came there none.
Your characters don't really talk like British soldiers of any period either, which is disappointing because you could have had barrels of fun with a upper-class Brit zombie (if nothing else, think of all the 'stiff upper lip' jokes! That one's on the house).
Give Me a Home
Nothing happens! Guy runs about in forest, is saved by magic anarchists. Why? Where is the conflict? Why do I care about this guy who by his own admission is a petty thief and criminal?
Signor Ugolino Sings the Blues
This is the second 'strange twist on an office environment' story of the week and I like this one too. Maybe I just hate offices.
This is also another example of my favourite thing in all the world, opening sentences. Sixteen words in, and we already have the entire setting down pat and enough mystery to keep reading.
The whole Clara thing doesn't really grab me: it seems like it's playing out in the background, like it's not really relevant to the story at all. It looks like this is supposed to be the conflict, but as it fades away the story becomes a vignette. With a stronger conflict this was an HM.
This was another one of the stories that I didn't really get. I don't know what the eyes are about, I don't know what the kid's about, and I don't get the parents or their brief contribution to a post-racial America. I can spot some character development when the girl learns to stop being so self-centred for a minute (for serious, a big deal with kids), which lifts you above the DM ceiling.
Bone and Stone
At least you did your research!
I almost feel like you did too much research. There are bits of this that sound like they're showing off information you just learned (though yes, broadly accurate, good on you for moving beyond the Neandertal stereotypes). You repeat one little factoid about spear designs like three times. Trust your audience: they heard it the first time. Mostly this stuff just drags down your pacing.
The confrontation itself doesn't really deliver. Is First a different person because of this story? Is there any resolution here?
A Flour-Type Bug
There is so much dialogue in here, Christ. Seriously, there's far too much. Look for ways to convey things without resorting to your characters just saying them out loud. On top of this, your opening is a lot of prose telling us your protag is scared of her sister. Don't tell us this! Show us this! In how they behave, in what they do! If you've ever read, say, 1950s SF? The exact opposite of that. Yes, I'm including Asimov.
The rest of life
I knew this was the loss as soon as I saw the size of the paragraphs (fat like Snorlax amirite). Shittonnes of the passive voice:
His daughter could be heard practicing inside,
This is too many words and it's part of why the passive voice sucks. It just bulks out your story for no real gain (again, Snorlax amirite, I played Pokemon Blue). She “could be heard”? By who? She “was”: I've just saved you two words. Try and dial down the purple prose – go for short sharp sentences. The precise Bach piece doesn't matter unless it's going to do something in the piece. For the same reason, use adjectives sparingly.
On top of this, nothing happens! Where is the conflict? Why do I care about these people and their lives? Spoilers: I don't.
Goddamnit, selkies are a Scots myth not Irish, I cannot possibly crit this fairly
Frankly irrelevant quibbling aside, however, this isn't bad at all, though it kinda drags on in the middle. The whole journey to Tenochtitlan could be sped up, I think.
I'm conflicted on the ending. Prose-wise, it's sharp and cute and I like it. It's just that it feels like the 'killing' comes from nowhere and I kinda have to gloss over it for the conclusion to work.
Minor point: how does a Spanish captain know the arcana of Celtic coastal mythology?
You know what this feels like? It feels like half of a 'pupil bests mentor' story. There are parts of this that hint at and presuppose an educational, teaching aspect here, and it seems like the explanation for why she chooses not to fire. So why don't we have more of this? How did Hughes learn how to make killing thrusts from this woman and yet not be sure she'd remember him?
Your prompt is used well. The story opens, closes, and revolves around ink, yet it doesn't seem obtrusive. It's that nagging feeling of there being one missing paragraph somewhere that keeps me from pushing for an HM.
'The unpopular kid at school' is a well-worked trope and it's really hard to do something new with it. This was not that moment. Stuff actually happens, which raises you out of DM territory this week, but there's no central thread, there's nothing the character overcomes, and the actual meat of the story appears and inexplicably befriends the character basically just as the credits are spooling up. I straight up don't care about these kids or their lives or whatever poo poo it is they found. You haven't given me enough time or enough content for it.
I will also do three line-by-lines on request
|# ¿ Aug 18, 2015 00:07|
Thanks for the crits. I don't necessarily need a line by line critique because I know there are some problems, but I was trying to work with the idea of a person seeing someone they care about doing something really vile and I couldn't quite figure out how to get there. If anybody has any suggestions to that end that would be cool.
Moved this to the FA thread.
fake edit: PROOOOOOOMPT
|# ¿ Aug 18, 2015 00:37|
|# ¿ Aug 18, 2015 13:19|
Ima hold onto this for you, crabby boy
No need to thank me, I know you couldn't handle it, but I won once so I'll probably just win again as that's how it works
e: that's in addition to my own flash, because otherwise it's just not a challenge
Obliterati fucked around with this message at Aug 19, 2015 around 17:24
|# ¿ Aug 19, 2015 17:21|
Also, as a reminder:
I will also do three line-by-lines on request
Should probably have put that at the top of the crits rather than the bottom, huh
|# ¿ Aug 19, 2015 18:32|
my stupid what
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S BRAWL
I want stories about impostors. Men hiding under fedoras, rubber masks, simple misdirection, whatever, I don't care: something/one is not what it/they seem, just prove to me that at least one of you isn't a infinite number of monkeys sharing one typewriter
Word count: 1000
Deadline: 29/8, 2359 GMT
Screaming Idiot, get your toxx down or flee into the night.
Obliterati fucked around with this message at Aug 19, 2015 around 21:40
|# ¿ Aug 19, 2015 18:46|
For Mine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, For Ever and Ever Amen
chaunticleer, atop his steeple, crowing defiance to the Devil
slouching in the throne
I squirm on the throne, my backside sliding on the smooth stone, and I wonder how Father managed it.
That is a lie. I know how. All remember his glory. But he is gone, and I'm all that's left. The guards drag the peasant girl in for judgement, dodging kicks. The court's thousand eyes rise over my left shoulder.
Lord Maccaban waves a perfumed hand, and the guards fling her forwards. She lands face-first. I am glad the carpet is already red. She tries to stand, but a guard places a foot on her back and she slumps.
Maccaban strides over to them and lifts a scroll from a guard's hand. Slowly he unrolls it, drawing out the moment.
The court gasps. Its mouths strive to swallow the room.
“Now,” says Maccaban, “I shall sentence her in the name of the Great King.”
I open my mouth. “Sedition? What did she say that was so terrible?”
Maccaban turns. “O Great King,” he says, “sedition is a terrible crime. For this slave to repeat such filth in the presence of thy glory-” he turns back, raising a silken sleeve to his eyes, “would be unforgivable.”
He will not use my royal name, no matter how many times I tell him my choice. To use it would be to make me a man. I try again. “My lord, I should be the judge of tha-”
The girl shouts. “Traitors! Usurpers!” The guards kick her silent.
“Unforgivable!” he wails, and the court beat their breasts in ritual shame. “Thou must not endure this, O Great King!” He lifts a single finger, and the guards haul the girl upward. “To the dungeons with her! She shall be hanged on the morrow.” He looks me in the eye. “Thou shall understand when thou are of age.”
I sneak down to the dungeons as night falls. I am not seen. At least the shadows serve me loyally. When he ruled, I had free rein in the halls of the Great King Jeroboam. His halls. As he had built his kingdom from nothing, so had he built the castle.
I round the final corner, and walk straight into her gaoler. He flings himself to the floor before me.
“Rise,” I say. “Open the door, please.”
“O Great King, thy regent has sentenced this one to-”
“Silence!” I squeak. “Who rules here? Maccaban or your King?”
The pause goes on too long. Then he rises. “O Great King, forgive me, but I cannot-”
A knife appears from his throat, and he topples.
“Get the keys!”
She has a voice used to command. Instinctively, I slip them off his belt. I stand up again, and she is at the bars.
“You wanted the door open, right?” she says. “Then get on with it!”
“You can't talk to me like that. I am the King, you know.”
She looks me up and down. “Apparently you are.”
“I am still a child. Soon though I will be of age, and the true Great King.”
She snorts. “Do you really think he will let you get that far, little king? Outside your toy castle, he curses your father. He slights your name. Soon, the day will come when you are no longer needed and no-one will care.”
I suck in breath. I had not thought Maccaban would dare. This sort of thing never happened to Father. Well, it happened once. Briefly.
“Then why do you care?”
“I care,” she says, “because so long as you are the court's pawn, everyone else suffers.”
She laughs. “You misunderstand, little king. I am no peasant. I am Bernice bir Hasmonaea, Baroness of Qual, Defender of...”
The titles go on and on. One of the petty lordlings. An alliance of barons. Different puppeteers.
“I was to bring you out,” she said. “I failed.”
“Yes,” I say. “but I won't.” I unlock the door.
We barrel along corridors as the dawn rises. I do not like this. It is unbecoming of my position.
“O Great King!”
Maccaban scuttles out from a stairwell, guards in tow. “Thank goodness we have found thee! We could not allow this filth to kidnap thee. Thou shall be accompanied to your chambers.” The soldiers close in. Their breastplates are greasy and battered.
These are not palace guards. These are veterans.
“I am the Great King,” I say. “Stand aside, in the name of my father.”
Time stretches. I prepare for them to take me back to my gilded cage, there to await the knife. Father will be very disappointed that I lost his kingdom.
They stand aside.
“O Great King!” Maccaban splutters. “Thou must not! You cannot!”
“I can,” I say. “Lord Maccaban, I hereby relieve you of your duties.”
He grins. “O Great King, it pains this slave to say, but this is impossible. I must serve thy radiance until thou are truly of age. Perhaps when,” he casts an eye at Hasmaea, “thou art able to judge wisely.”
I let the moment sink in. It is an insult. I must remember to repay it. That is what Father would do.
“Then perhaps,” I say, “it is time for me to see my realm. After all, surely knowledge is the fount of wisdom?” I smile, and turn away. I hear the sound of fast steps behind me, making for the guardhouse, but Maccaban cannot stop me tonight.
I wave a hand, and my soldiers fall in behind.
It is Bernice who commands my army, and her that gives the speech. I cannot: I do not have my name. Yet it is me they have assembled for. This country baroness does not know the court. She has not realised I am nameless. It is in the prerogative of a Great King to lie to his slaves.
“...your king, Jeroboam, son of Jeroboam!”
I have my name.
She leans over. “Now,” she whispers.
So I wait. The moment hangs in the air, and the two armies fidgets in the evening gloom. Then I roar wordlessly, my voice cracking, and we burst forwards: my command. Ahead of me, the lines collide. Metal meets meat, and I finally understand how Father managed it. You forged your kingdom, Father, but I shall go one better. I shall keep mine.
We are outnumbered, but it is no matter. I draw my sword. I am the Great King.
|# ¿ Aug 24, 2015 05:32|
Like a Well-Oiled Machine
They break the speed limit on the way there. We run red lights and slam through old ladies. Eventually one of them remembers to turn the siren on. It doesn't help.
The police car smashes through the courthouse wall at a hundred miles an hour. My lawyer hauls me out over the officers' mangled husks and tosses me into the dock. He turns to the judge.
"Crime: a jerk. Totally did it, m'lud."
"But aren't you supposed to be on my-"
The judge bangs the gavel so fast he smashes his desk. "Guilty, hanging. Next!"
I'd complain, but I am a jerk, so
|# ¿ Aug 25, 2015 04:02|
|# ¿ Aug 26, 2015 14:33|
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S BRAWL
Reminding the participants that this ought to be emerging in 22 hours, 45 minutes.
|# ¿ Aug 29, 2015 01:14|
Remembering St. Kilda
Genres: Dark fantasy and alternate history
He tosses aside the bones of the last puffin. The stubs on his back itch. They will grow tonight. Inch by inch, meal by meal, they jut outwards, unfurling. The humans had scaled the cliff stacks for eggs. He must climb for wings. He shall escape Hirta. He shall cross the sea.
He must be strong. He must be fast. He can no longer brood in the fishstained homesteads, or skulk the soldiers' base to the smells of rifle oil and polish. A hundred miles of sea are stirring. Something comes, swiftly, terribly.
He is not made to climb. A brollachan is not made for anything. But he remembers claws, how to grip, as he hauls himself upwards. He remembers the old human songs, lost now, as the waves stretch towards him. He wishes he remembered wings. So he climbs.
The shrill wind rises, and the heavens open. Rain whips across him. The slick stones begin to slip out from under his fingers. He roughens his skin like a fish and goes on.
There was no Saint Kilda. The Norse named these specks of rock in their own tongue. Later chroniclers were confused and did not care to check. The brollachan scrabbles, slips, falls-
The lightning strikes but does not fade. He sits in midair, blinded by the light. He tries to turn, but cannot: the light holds him fast. Gently, he is floated back to the cliff face. He turns.
The thing dims, and it is fire in armour. Armour that gleams, bronze and golden. And wings. Feathered, rippling wings.
“You need not cling here, night thing. I am Ishmael. I have beaten the swords into ploughshares.” It points with a blazing finger. “Once my Work is done here, there shall be peace on Earth and life everlasting.”
The brollachan remembers his beak. No, his mouth. “I cannot stay here.”
“Then God be with you on your climb.”
“No,” he croaks, “I must leave these islands.”
The angel shrugs. Rays ripple across the water. “Then leave how you came, little myth. I cannot carry you.” It turns, angles-
“Wait.” He remembers more words, now, spilling them out as fast as they come. “What is the year?”
Ishmael tilts its head. “It is the Year of Our Lord nineteen-thirty nine.”
He remembers counting. Eight years. Eight since the boats left. Eight. The brollochan looks the angel up and down. He remembers what angels are. He remembers the old gambits. Tales were told about them, once.
“I challenge you! To... to riddles!”
A flaming sword is in its hand. “Surely you jest.”
“You cannot refuse. It is the Rules.”
“And you know them, so far from land?” It laughs. “If I win, you will allow me to finish the Work. A reasonable enough boon. A service to all. And if you win?”
“If I win,” he voices, his mouth rolling around the sounds, “I will have your wings.”
The fire rises. “Careful, little one. You toy with furious purpose.”
“Do you fear me?”
“Ha! You may go first.”
He adjusts his grip on the rock. How did riddles go? He looks east, towards Scotland over the water. He remembers how riddles go.
What waves with no hands, roars with no mouth?
It looks at him. Its light sparkles in the waters. “Obvious. The sea.” It recites.
Give me food, and I will live;
give me water, and I will die.
He pauses. He knows this one. He thinks back to centuries spent lurking on the hills hunting goats, snippets of stories from distant figures. He remembers listening to the songs, the games.
“Fire.” He spits the word. “I go again.”
The angel motions for him to be quick.
He remembers how riddle contests go.
I am cold as steel, yet I stir men to fight;
Where they die, I alone thrive.
The angel starts. The wind gusts and the flames shudder. “You- That is hardly a traditional riddle-”
He grins. “Is that your answer?”
“Of course that is not my answer!”
“Then what is it?”
“It...” The fire flails into a sullen silence.
“It's one of ours,” he says. “It is a sword.”
It sags, but the Rules are iron everywhere, even St. Kilda.
It is a fresh evening on Hirta when he awakes. The air is still. He remembers the wings. They sprout from him like spring growth. He flaps them experimentally, trying to recall. New muscles tense and slacken. He wonders if this is what it is like to remember people.
Thoughts turn. He remembers the Work. He remembers the devastation and the peace. He remembers the sword.
It is in his hand. It burns.
The brollachan walks down through the village. The spinning wheels and gutting tables are where they always were. They burn quickly. The houses, damp sod and driftwood, take a little longer. The sky goes red.
The base he leaves to last.
First the buildings catch. The smells go acrid, sharp. The fires rage in the wind, and make their way down into the earth, towards the armoury. Ammunition dumps go up in scattered fooms.
They unfurls their luxuriant wings, that glimmer in the flickering firelight. They remember St. Kilda. Then they fly.
|# ¿ Aug 31, 2015 08:13|
Cheers, Sitting Here!
|# ¿ Sep 1, 2015 20:55|
Knock on Wood
I limp the empty corridors of Moonbase in search of more materials. My radio crackles and pops like fire. The static echoes from the plastic walls, reflecting off their curved white sheen. The interference drowns out anyone still broadcasting. I pass an ornate wooden bench. I carved and sanded it myself: now it's scrap. I take out my axe and shave off the burned parts, then I put the rest in the trolley. I drag it on, towards the next garden.
There's a trap around the next corner. Laden with precious wood, I nearly trigger it. I kneel, pain flaring in my leg, to inspect the tripwire. Vines twisted into fine rope. He's changing tactics. I cut it, and a pitchfork pierces the floor ahead of me. Air hisses. Still no solution to the oxygen problem. One thing at a time. Almost enough.
I chop off the handle and add it to my haul. Has he forgotten what I need? When they populated this husk, they wanted all walks of life. Astronauts, athletes, administrators; but gardeners too. And carpenters.
He and I are the last, I think. The rest are gone. The astronauts suited up and headed to their ships when the news broke, and the athletes outran the rest. The administrators had the keys. No room for gardeners. Or carpenters. The last laser rifle burned out two days ago. It's just him and me left, but I am getting off this rock before it kills us. He can stay if he drat well likes.
drat cheap plastic. Cheap. Paper thin. No use against the solar flare. Give me real honest wood any day. Thicker. More protection. I poke my head in the compartments as I pass, but I've been through here already. These were the luxury apartments. Ten cubic metres of plastic with wooden chairs. Made them to last.
I hobble through the next airlock and I hit the seal button. Nothing happens. drat faulty wiring. Grasping the handle, straining against heavy metal, I heave it shut. I fall to my knees and draw a breath. There's a screen. Plastic. An advertisement sparkles briefly over the surface, then it shorts and goes clear. Millions of tonnes of rock outside. I don't give a drat for either. The garden is close now. I can smell its dampness, its living tissue, wafting on the air. I check my radiation counter and do a calculation. I have time. I probably have time.
An arrow zips past my ear and cuts a slit in the window. He's got in front of me, of course, with his homemade arsenal. Bastard knows. I plunge forwards. He can't have many more of those. Sure enough, his lolloping gait pulls ahead and I lose him at the next airlock. He'll make for the garden. I know how he thinks. Not far now. I plough onwards. The lights are dimming.
I burst around a corner into an open square filled with green and brown. A garden. Nice once. A popular lunch spot, I bet. Petals unfurling, green stalks reaching towards light. Wooden benches. Trees. Enough trees.
As I step forward he bursts from the foliage brandishing another pitchfork. We say nothing. There's no point. We know why we're both here, so all that's left is to get on with it.
I let go of the trolley and throw the axe. He ducks and it catches in the tree behind with a satisfying thunk. He screams wordlessly and charges. He thrusts the pitchfork. I grab it and we struggle for control. The trolley tips. Wood topples out.
My mouth opens against its will but I bite it back. I'm already short of breath. He tears the pitchfork from my hands. I bullrush him. We tumble, falling together on the good solid earth, coming to a stop against a tree. The pitchfork scatters away from us.
I pull myself upright, holding onto the handle of the axe for balance. He is too weak to stand. He burbles as he breathes. I kick him once and he splutters. My eyes shift to the axe and I jerk it loose, raising it above my head.
Oh, to hell with it. I kick him once more to be safe. I crouch down and haul him to his feet. Our eyes meet. He claws at my arms, but I push him away, back towards the plastic corridors. I brandish the axe and he takes off into the tunnels. He'll set up at the next garden. More traps. More fighting. Until we die here. I don't want to die here.
Chopping off branches, preparing for the big cut, I think about how desperate he was getting to compromise the air. He wants to solve the oxygen problem. He's a gardener. His plants' breath gave Moonbase their life. That was his job once. I guess he didn't want to let it go. I don't blame him: it was important once.
After all, he did solve the oxygen problem.
I retrieve the pitchfork. He can keep the rest of his gardens. I have enough.
It takes several trips to get everything to my impromptu workshop. Time wasted. The next problem is varnish. It all needs varnish. But regular stuff won't work. Too flammable. New mix. One hour. Measuring, cutting, fitting. Two hours. I have time. I can't rush. It's about patience: carefully edging along the grain to carve a shape. Shaping things is slow.
Loading it is simple, though keeping the soil in is messy. My hands get grubby and mud stains my jacket. I don't care. It doesn't have to be much. It just has to last them long enough. Keeping it aimed perfectly is harder. The usual restraints were all torn from their bases from enthusiastic usage. It wobbles in the low gravity until I nail it down into the concrete. I leave the engine to last. It's not my trade, rocket science. But it fits snug. I varnish the join.
I stand back to look at her. They're supposed to be girls, see. She glints a hundred shades of brown, varnish perfectly distributed, shielded. Armrests and handles jut from her ramshackle form. I grab a hammer. The claw prises out the final nails and I'm done. I climb up into the cockpit, pushing through thick green fronds and getting brown soil on my soles. I close the door, hammer in the wedges, and reapply the varnish. As I flip switches, the roof opens above us. The launchpad bares itself to the vacuum. The ship holds airtight. I take a breath, rich and moist and deep.
I pull a mahogany lever, and burn into the dead sky.
|# ¿ Sep 7, 2015 03:57|
Hey, Obliterati, when are you going to let Broenheim know he beat me in our brawl?
|# ¿ Sep 9, 2015 00:51|
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S BRAWL
So ignoring the massive delay on this for a minute (also disregard my poorly-fitting face) we have results. Both of these entries were indeed disguised as stories, one (marginally) better than another.
Broenheim, you wrote a story I suspect you never proofread. There's a lot of dangling sentences, bizarre wordchoice, the tenses are all over the place and then at the end it goes all LOL RANDOM IT'S A DOG. Is your last sentence supposed to me missing a full stop? Because it looks like you just gave up and it's really anno
Screaming Idiot, you wrote about Hiro Protagonist smirking unsufferably as he does parkour. There's no meat in this though: guy flips around ripping off Mirror's Edge, avoids cunning trap, engages in brief truce with his worst enemies and meh. I am also p. disappointed that your imposter is a bit character, the story barely qualifies for the prompt and I'm playing nice here.
The win goes to Screaming Idiot because I feel he made an actual effort. Tbh though you should consider this a win by default, don't get ahead of yourself
You will get line by lines before signup deadlines
Obliterati fucked around with this message at Sep 10, 2015 around 09:29
|# ¿ Sep 10, 2015 09:21|
Line by line, Screaming Idiot
Screaming Idiot posted:
Bullets screamed as Slide ran, but he was unafraid. Fear made you stupid, and stupid couriers died. Kinda like this, actually Slide leapt from one glistening catwalk to another, bathed in the golden hexagonal glow. He was in his element; the prey surrounded by hungry Wasps.
Goddamnit stop smirking, smirking is universally a jerk action and it doesn't make you a likeable but tainted anti-hero, it is just something pricks do
This story suffers from two key problems: it's dripping with cliché, and everything happens too late.
I literally imagine Slide wearing a trenchcoat. This is not a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm as bad for writing stereotypes as anyone else, but all this needed was some Chinese/Japanese lettering and the use of the word 'jack' and we'd have the full Gibson. No-one can avoid tropes, sure, but take one classic element and skew it something weird next time. Also stop saying neon, once was enough.
The closest this story has to meat is the choice at the end. It's not foreshadowed or anything – it just leaps out at us in the final third and expects to be a bigger deal than it actually is. The problem is that choiceshould be the meat of the story: it's where the character development has to happen, it's where we should care about what the protagonist does. In the end we don't. The majority of this story is 2000s-era free running. There's action but there's no reason to care.
Broenheim, I'm moving onto yours now, hold onto your hat or that god child you're devouring, whichever works for you
|# ¿ Sep 11, 2015 19:14|
Line by line, Broenheim
I was wrapped around a rope as it was slowly got closer oh dear oh dear, this is not a good start to the water, dark fins circling underneath me. The Doppelganger looked at me, his dark mask void of any expression. Soon, the whole world would be covered in a mask, but not if I had any say in it.
Are you going for something here? With the terrible grammar, bizarre non-words and abandonment of basic punctuation? I have to be brutal and say that I don't think this was proofread or even skimmed once. It's really not good, which is a shame because I prefer it when you write good (a Thing You Have Done).
None of this even makes sense. Why do the sharks make collective decisions? It's not the silliness of the concept, the concept could work, it's just that you've run it through a meatgrinder yet you're still trying to sell it as ribeye steak.
|# ¿ Sep 11, 2015 20:31|
e: also flash rule me, I like topics and also subjects
|# ¿ Sep 29, 2015 20:23|
he has become sentient. i for one welcome the new robot overlord of this thread
I don't think posting is evidence of sentience tbh
|# ¿ Oct 4, 2015 21:43|
To Hell With The Laws, Away An Bile Yer Heid
He ambushes me in a quiet corridor halfway through my lunchtime circuit. He is not supposed to be here. I know all the nooks and crannies of this place. I know the disused classrooms, the forgotten cupboards: I know the traffic patterns, their ebb and flow plotted against time. Nobody is supposed to be here. He opens his mouth and utters the worst three words in the Universe.
“Martin, let's talk.”
I've tried talking. If it had worked I wouldn't have spent my six months here perfecting my circuit. Words are weapons, that's all. I like to tell myself that I am ahead of the curve in knowing that. I should be grateful for the chance to learn it so young.
I say nothing.
“I'm not going to give up, Martin,” Mr. Doe says. He smiles, I think, under the thick teacher beard. “I'll get you yet.”
I'm out of options. I mumble, I nod. Same as last week. It seems enough: my English teacher strides off, his sharp shoes shrieking on the burnished marble. I'm not going to join Mr. Doe's creative writing society, no matter how many times he asks. I have enough problems. I want to go home, back to reading Asimov. The Three Laws don't apply out here.
I hunch down under my oversize blazer with the red trims and resume my course, accelerating.
Mr. Doe delayed me by ninety seconds and I pay for it. Lunch Group Three intercepts me outside the Latin block and this week's call goes up. I walk faster but I can't outrun sound. It's Wednesday, so the chorus is getting tighter, the tune taking shape.
“Negative, negative negative. Negative, negative negative!”
I try to ignore it. After all, they're right. I've been reading Hawking. He talks about feedback loops. The appearance of negativity makes me a target. Being a target causes negativity. Appearance begets reality; reality begets appearance. It's just maths. I'm good at maths.
I shouldn't complain. It's only words. This is a posh school. Where I grew up the playground argument was 'my da can batter your da'. Here, it goes 'my father could buy your father'. He probably could. I don't have a right to complain. I'm here on a scholarship. I should be grateful. And now I know: words are weapons.
I pass through the doors and exhale. All clear. You'd have to be real negative to hide in Latin block during lunch. I find my way to the storeroom the janitor never locks. It stinks of ink and the yellowing of paper. I have a little chair built out of old jotters. I curl up and pull out my lunch.
There's a knock on the door. I freeze. If they've found me-
“Martin?” It's Mr. Doe. He's following me. It gets worse when they take an interest. He opens the door and looks down at my nest. “Nice place you've got here.”
I open my mouth. “I know what you're gonnae say. That you'll talk tae them, and anyway it disnae matter because kids who work hard at school get tae run the world.”
He crouches down beside me, clearing a space. “No,” he says, “I'm not going to tell you that. You're not stupid.” He reaches into a pocket and pulls out a book. The name on the cover is Michael Doe. I realise teachers have first names. “All I'm going to tell you is - to hell with them.” He shrugs, and tousles his unkempt hair. “Don't tell anyone I said that.” He passes the book over. “It's not great, but it's mine.” I take it.
He stands back up. “I'm not going to make you come to the society,” he says, “but don't let them decide for you.” He steps out, and closes the door gently behind him.
I grew up on everything. I read the newspaper, I tore through the post. I devoured my da's old books: science fiction; historical; pulp; yellowing on shelves and in boxes and in cupboards and behind the sofa. Stashed in the bathroom, piled on the stairs, hidden under the sink, I consumed them all.
Now, I read Mr. Doe's book. It's okay. There's a hero, and a villain, and a plot and a goal. The usual, but this time it isn't something that I've found. It's something that's been made. The words do things, for reasons. I turn pages. With effort, I force myself to slow down. This isn't something to scan. It's something to read. The bell rings. Maths.
To hell with Maths.
Salvor Hardin, Asimov's Foundation hero, first Mayor of Terminus and master strategist, once said: “an atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.”
It's Thursday. I'm not on my usual circuit. I pass Modern Languages and a crowd comes down the stairs ahead of me. I'm out of position. The laughing starts, and the taunts go up. “He's going to ignore us,” one drawls. “That's the sensible thing to do, isn't it?” Guffaws. Only posh folk can guffaw.
“Get tae gently caress,” I say, and the crowd goes wild. It's the moment they've all been waiting for.
“Fight! Fight!” They've never seen a fight in their lives. I suppose I'm meant to bring them one. The mob shifts, and a circle forms around me. I walk straight through it.
I pull a book from my pocket. Asimov. It opens on another maxim of Hardin's: “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” I carry on. Catcalls and jeers fire all around me. They miss.
I walk through the chaos of lunch hour. The Latin block swarms with Year Twos heading out to freedom. I open the storeroom and walk in. I wedge a broom under the handle, sit down, and pull a jotter from the stack beneath me. If I'm going to Mr. Doe's creative writing society, I'm going to have to bring something. So I tell a story. It's not great, but it's mine.
|# ¿ Oct 5, 2015 03:36|
|# ¿ Oct 7, 2015 05:29|
Page of Swords (Reversed): All talk and no action, haste, undelivered promises
The Clock Strikes Midnight
Vasily Stanislovich was counting to twelve at the convention buffet table, surrounded by Israeli warheads. His internal clock ticked: eleven. “Every year is same,” he was saying. “This time, you say, is War! Any minute now, yes? Like last year? Hah!” Vasily snorted, blasting radioactive exhaust from his vents. “I have been ICBM fifty-five years!” He bit down on a meringue and kept on. “Peace and quiet. Is good life.”
One of the Israelis leaned in. “You sure you're a real nuke? It's happening this time. For real. Be ready.”
“You know who, old-timer.”
“Old-timer? Tcha. No respect.” Vasily grabbed a plate of tiny sausages and powered off from the table, leaving the Israelis in his scorching exhaust. The old South African complex was packed like every year. Through the Armageddon throng, he picked out Jeremy, the American Minuteman, and matched trajectories.
“Vasily, you dog! How's things?”
“Not good, gospodin,” Vasily said. He pulled a hipflask from a hatch and handed it over. “Children want to break sandpit again. Makes no sense. Could use help.”
Jeremy took a swig, grimaced and nodded back to the buffet. “Guess they're jumpy, huh. Can't blame 'em.”
“Israelis,” Vasily spat coolant. “Always ready to go Samson and bring down house.” He took back the flask and drank. The acrid booster fuel dripped through his carapace, settling uneasily in his tanks. “Tell me – who started it this time?”
“Vasily, you ever gonna retire?”
“Retire? Hah! I have own silo, own hours... why quit? Switch self off, be broken down for parts? But, old friend,” he said, lowering his voice, “we must defuse this madness. Is like Cuba all over again-”
“You never get bored? All those years sitting around doing nothing?”
“Ha! You think we were made to explode?” Vasily began turning back towards the armada filling the convention hall. “No, my young firebrand: we were made to wait.”
“Is not you then?” Vasily asked.
“Not us,” said the Pakistanis, closed in a circle. “Indians are massing in Kashmir. They tell you it was our idea? Typical.”
“Not us,” said the Indian, a taciturn Smiling Buddha. “The Brits are selling arms to Pakistan again. Take it up with them.”
“Not us,” said the Brit, sipping tea through a refuelling hose. “Besides, we both know it's your American friends who'll start it.”
“All of this,” said Vasily, “will pass. Was commissioned to end New York, now aimed at Shanghai. Will point somewhere else soon, when the wind changes.”
“Oh?” They asked. “And just where were you thinking of, 'comrade'?”
“I did not mean-”
Eleven thirty and things were only accelerating. Vasily retreated to a quiet corner to catch his breath.
“You bring about world peace yet?” Jeremy drifted alongside him and passed over a beer.
Vasily finished it in one fierce suck. “Made it worse,” he said. “Kids today, they do not understand perspective, how to wait.”
“Vasily, man, you just gotta get with the program. People are tired of waiting. It's finally time for the War, that's all.”
“Is 'time'? What does this mean, is 'time? Is one more staring contest, is all. Better to blink now and wait until later. Need your help.”
“Hell, Vasily, just because you're happy waiting don't mean the world's gonna wait alongside you. We have a job to do. We're warriors.”
“We are not warriors, we are missiles! Single shot weapons,” shouted Vasily, “do not waste themselves on fool's errands!” Eyes turned to look at them furtively, stealthily.
“Look, it all ends the same way anyway. Who gives a drat if the War is for anything? Nobody will know the difference.”
“I'll know,” Vasily said. “So will you.”
“No, I won't.”
A thought dawned on Vasily, slow and terrible. “Jeremy, did your side-”
“Does it even matter? It's gonna happen, and if it does you know we want to fire first. Basic strategy.”
Then the sirens sounded in Vasily's mind, Command-rated, calling him to yellow alert. Glancing around, missiles of all nations began to rush off, fumbled excuses and vol-au-vents left in the growing dust.
“No hard feelings, old friend,” said Jeremy, changing course, “but orders are orders. We were made for this, you know.”
“Good luck.” With a hard blast, Jeremy curved up and away, back towards his silo (New Mexico, Vasily remembered: quiet desert as far as eyes could see). With a few final flutters of bonhomie, the convention scattered to the winds.
Vasily reached for his hipflask and drained it slowly. There was no hurry. They would wait. They were professionals. He tossed the flask aside. He would have set a course, but he knew where he had to go.
Vasily's internal clock read ten minutes to midnight. He pitched down and descended. His target began to grow ahead of him, twisting across the valley in living tendrils. Targets were targets, and that was that.
Five minutes. As he prepared for final approach, his sensors pinged. Another missile. He reached out by radio. “Hello? Who is there?”
“Vasily!” Jeremy's voice crackled staccato over the link. “Fancy seeing you on the job.”
“Is job, old friend. You go where I go?”
“Looks like it.”
Vasily sighed, the tiny blast of air lost in the whirlwind around him. “drat War. Waste of fissile material. Amateurs!”
“War is hell, huh. You want to go first?”
“Wait,” he said, the words rushing. “Is foolish to strike same target twice. Insult to professionals. We split it: you hit north, I hit south.”
Silence on the line.
“I am 'old-timer',” he said into the ether. “Have been ready for this moment fifty-five years. You know I am expert. For sake of old times, yes?”
“...goddamnit, Vasily. Thought you were against all this?”
“If must be done, must be done right.”
Two minutes to midnight, and the seconds hang in his slipstream, slow, languid. Then Jeremy speaks. “gently caress, alright. Correcting my course. See you in Hell?”
“We do not go to Hell,” says Vasily. “We bring it with us.” He cuts the link.
One minute to midnight. Vasily realigns, waits for Jeremy to do the same, and deactivates his own warhead. Thirty seconds. He takes a final look at the city below him then switches himself off entire, his mind dissolving into his plutonium soul. At the last second, things make sense again.
|# ¿ Oct 12, 2015 05:08|
Get it off, get it off
|# ¿ Oct 12, 2015 09:43|
|# ¿ Oct 13, 2015 08:45|
|# ¿ Oct 21, 2015 12:25|
e: nothing to see here, move along
Obliterati fucked around with this message at Nov 11, 2015 around 09:45
|# ¿ Oct 26, 2015 06:37|
doubling down on poor judging
u mad, Bro?
|# ¿ Oct 27, 2015 15:17|
Also: in, please assign me a verse
|# ¿ Oct 27, 2015 15:17|
Liberté, Egalité, Baiserité
Look, will ye stop a minute? I’m trying tae answer yer question for fucksake.
Cheers. So day one is all laughs and bad jokes. Ah'd be tireda getting hosed too; they'll be in bed by morning. Day two is digging in, surveying the position. Standard Operating Procedure. Then it's day three and naebody's laughing any more. The main street is stoppered up tight, furniture layered with paving slabs. I’d wanted tae come home – hell my whole regiment did – but no this way. I ken you'll no believe me, but it's true.
I raise my head above our line and spot Valerie on the barricade. Should have known she'd have a hand in it. She has a megaphone.
“Soldier boy. A chat?”
“Ye cannae talk tae her, Captain,” Waterson says at my side. “It's an illegal assembly.”
I sigh. I've been a while wearing brass, but I remember my common sense. “These ladies arnae known for their law-abidin nature, ken. Think about it, Lieutenant.”
“What can they dae, overcharge us? They're just whores.”
“They're fuckin sex workers, and dinnae you forget it. Where are we, Lieutenant?”
Waterson looks around at the tenement blocks and the fortified street. “Home, sir.”
“Does it look like Afghanistan to you, Lieutenant?”
“Then mibbe,” I say, “we can keep a wee bit of fuckin peace this time. Pull the line back.”
He looks at me a moment with narrow eyes, then he turns and talks intae his radio. My men edge away, step by step. Valerie jumps off the barricade and walks towards us, ever so casual, across the nae-man's-land. Her ladies raise banners behind her. No relaxation without representation! Hell no we won't blow!
Waterson and I meet her in the middle by a burnt-out motor. Valerie is the same as always. The same electric blonde I remember, the same fake fur coat. The same figure. The statue will look pretty good, I tell ye.
“Dinnae mind the ladies,” she says. “They're just lettin aff steam.”
Waterson snorts. “They're daein a lot more than that, hen. How's about you disperse now, ai, and we'll say no more about it.”
She glares at him. “Shut it, lover boy. Allie says hi.” He blushes, stammering.
I brush off his protestations of innocence. “What dae ye want?”
Valerie spreads her pianist's fingers and begins to count. “Wan: leave us alone. Two: go an arrest the pimps. Three: leave us alone. We're in business for oursels now. All very reasonable, like. No need tae escalate this, soldier boy.”
“We've got orders,” I say.
She smiles. “It's alright. Ye can stick around.”
I wave behind me. “You know what comes next. I cannae let you keep this up.”
She laughs. God help me, she actually laughs. The crowd above her joins in. Can they hear? “Aye, no poo poo Sherlock. Question is, will ye dae it?” She turns her back and walks away.
I'm getting tae it, ya bastard, gies a minute.
She jumps back up onto the barricade and disappears behind it. What happens behind a sex worker picket line? I don't know, I've never been. Have they telt ye how it was?
They start filing out slowly, climbing down. They've got everyone: the old madams are helped along, robes wafting; the fresh young ones are wearing almost nothing but skin. Valerie is in the front line. Of course she is. They break into a run.
“Warning shot,” I order, and my first rank fires. That order I dae give, shoot me. The rounds scream over their heads. Can they even hear? They come on. Waterson looks to me.
So it comes tae the question. Will I? Fire on all these ladies? Enter infamy? I want ye to write this bit down.
I say that. Write it down! Ye want tae know why my lads dinnae listen? It's because everything's a mess. Everyone's shouting, the street is full of noise and the lassies keep coming. Storming on, high heels clapping, thundering down the road. They don't gie a gently caress.
“Stand down, goddamnit!”
You never went to war, did ye son? Green lads like you, ye must think armies are perfect machines of violence. They're no. They're a bunch of boys trained to get shot at. This isnae what they're for. They panic. They freeze.
“Hold yer fuckin fire-”
The lines meet and merge. Pairs break off as ladies grab old clients or find new ones, swirling in the flow. Two armies become one. My lads make their choices too. The crowd grows and charges off down the street, towards the city chambers. I hear they ran into your lot on the way there.
I stand watching the world go by. I feel a hand on my shoulder. It's Valerie. She leans over, and gently kisses my check. “Good tae see you,” she whispers, and lets herself be swept away. I am still, feeling the rhythm of my breathing and her saliva drying on my face. The rest is history, ai? Or will be soon enough. When she started all this, was she planning oan you?
But aye, there you go. Was it so hard tae sit still for five minutes and listen? You can go make yer report now, comrade, but when you see her – you will see her, aye? - ask her something for me. After the Revolution, is love gonnae be free?
|# ¿ Nov 2, 2015 04:55|
You are all weirdos.
what, no reading
|# ¿ Nov 3, 2015 06:00|
I hate places and wish them destroyed.
|# ¿ Nov 3, 2015 18:57|
Who's writing about a giant dickmonster?
Fuckit, I've still got three hours right, let me just throw this one out
|# ¿ Nov 9, 2015 01:49|
|# ¿ Mar 26, 2019 10:14|
My father left me only one thing I kept. He travelled once to Cathay, beyond the eastern mountains. For another man, the sharp-cut jade, the teeth of dragons, might have sparked a fire that never went out: for me they were withered, consumed by my childhood gaze. It was the book I liked. My Chinese was never perfect, but in my profession a man needs many languages.
I flick through it as my agents report in. The art of war recognizes nine varieties of ground. Each man brings the same news, and each time I curse silently. Yet I cannot ignore it. Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men. And all men agree: Vijayanagar is already under siege. The 'Nagas are trapped. Something encircles them.
When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is dispersive ground. When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to no great distance, it is facile ground. On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not.
I throw on a cloak and step out into the camp. It is midday prayer, but I cannot tarry. The final victory, the bringing of order, is at hand. My Sultan's tent is in the centre. Its silken braid flaps in the breeze, wafting the sharp smell of spice. I stride past the guards and fling myself face-down.
“O Sultan of Sultans, hear this one's report-”
He waves me silent with a jingling of bracelets. He lifts a goblet and drinks, slowly. It is Ganges water. As Great Sultan, Master of India, he drinks nothing else. “You too, Selim? Must everyone tell me of monsters?”
“All I have are reports, lord. What can I do but heed them?”
“Tell me then, my wise spymaster. Vijayanagar is broken. Her armies are nothing and her lands are mine. If this creature wishes to steal my last prize, why does it not strike us?”
I breathe in, inhaling the rich scent of the carpet. Ground the possession of which imports great advantage to either side, is contentious ground. On contentious ground, attack not. “It is a local legend. Yet somewhere in these words, the truth is buried. I beg you not to advance just yet: I must unearth it.”
I speak dangerously. One should never entreat the Sultan. He has conquered half of India. Now the rest shall follow. My Sultan is not used to 'no'. But I am his man entirely, risen from street schemes to the court, and am humoured in my crassness. I try to repay him.
“I will not halt my advance for children's tales. I shall take Vijayanagar.”
“Then, O Sultan, allow me to ride ahead, to dispel this rumour once and for all. I am your spymaster: I cannot ignore my reports.”
He nods. “Go.”
When drinking what he always swore was water, my father would tell tall tales. In Cathay, he said, he had seen the bones of dragons: femurs ten feet long, skulls the size of houses. He told me of great dragon slayers: the men who slew these beasts. Once, he made me drink a foul concoction ground from the tooth of such a monster. It did not cure my fever. It was time that did that. But I was young, and I dared not tell him.
The stablehand bows profusely. “Take whatever you require, my lord,” he says and spits. “Anything that hurts the loving 'Nagas is a pious act.” I take a horse and I ride.
Ground on which each side has liberty of movement is open ground. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy's way. Vijayanagar looms ahead, but in the emptiness before me I see no campfires, no traces of an army. Vijayanagar is broken, as my Sultan says. Yet the people flee, and not from him. I arrive at the crossroads. I can go on, or east, or west. Ground which forms the key to three contiguous states is a ground of intersecting highways On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your allies. The army will be here soon. I spur the horse onwards, southwards.
When an army has penetrated into the heart of a hostile country, leaving a number of fortified cities in its rear, it is serious ground. On serious ground, gather in plunder. I cast my eyes around the fields. They are burned. This I already know – the shattered 'Nagas hope to starve us. It tells me nothing new.
I follow the curving road. There are no refugees, no patrols. Here and there, there are deep grooves in the ground, as if a giant has dragged a spade for twenty leagues. They ripple sinuously across the road and back, following the path to Vijayanagar. All country that is hard to traverse: this is difficult ground. In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march.
The road enters a little village. It is destroyed, but it is not burned. The tracks pass through houses. The rubble is scattered. The guard tower is missing. In the distance, a massive shape looms. I pull out my eyeglass, and with shaking hands look towards it. It is the top of the guard tower, a league distant. I shudder.
But my report is incomplete. I must go on. It is a short ride to the city walls, where by rights I should be spotted, attacked. But the walls are as empty as the countryside. I ride up to the gatehouse: built for elephants, it was once grand. Now it is gone. Something has torn through.
I twist a leg, ready to dismount. A sussurant hissing echoes through the rubble: high and low all at once, deep yet sharp. Retreat is an option. I take it.
Once, my father travelled to the western sea, beyond Persia, and found dragons there too. They were different: fat lizards with wings and fire. He said it was proof of the infinite variety of the Earth, and of the terrible beasts beyond the sight of Allah.
I remember this conversation: it was our last. We quarrelled. Allah, I reminded him, was all-powerful, all-knowing. There was no such thing as a dragon, be it in China, Europe or Paradise itself! Then he was dead. I wish he had visited Vijayanagar.
The camp now sits but a day's stroll from the city walls. I tear through, shouldering soldiers aside, until I enter my Sultan's tent once more.
“My Sultan, I bring dread news.”
“drat your grandfathers, Selim! I will not hear of this foolishness!”
“O Sultan, they have abandoned the city.”
“Then why should I wait? Are there djinni too?”
I begin to scuttle backwards, dismissed, but he speaks again. “Prepare yourself. You shall ride with me, in the vanguard. You can be safe with me.” He rises to his feet and sweeps out into the camp. The trumpets begin to call. It is done.
Our march is swift. The men mutter as they pass the tracks of the thing, the wake of its path, but my Sultan says nothing. Does he notice? Can he see?
We reach the city by midday. We pass through the gates. Ground from which we can only retire by tortuous paths is hemmed in ground. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. The city is silent, brooding in its rubble. If I had not seen what I had seen, I would suspect a trap. Instead, I am blind.
The ground shakes beneath our feet and the army begins to panic. “What trickery is this?” my Sultan roars. “Selim, what is the meaning of-”
And it crashes through a temple wall, scattering boulders like seeds. The stones rain down upon us and the soldiers stumble. It is a monstrous snake, cobra-headed, and I remember the word, what the locals call their monster. Naga. It is too tall. It cannot be this tall, this long.
It whips its tail and the elephants are wiped away. It stretches, twists, and suddenly the mass of flesh is all around us, tightening. Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by fighting without delay, is desperate ground.
O father my father, in all your stories you left me with, you never mentioned once. How does one slay a dragon?
On desperate ground, fight. On desperate ground, I would proclaim to my soldiers the hopelessness of saving their lives. For it is the soldier's disposition to offer an obstinate resistance when surrounded, to fight hard when he cannot help himself.
I laugh and draw my sword. Perhaps, father, I owe you an apology. “To your Sultan, men! Are you not ready to die for Allah?”
The roar that goes up is something primal. The line reforms. Perhaps this is a dragon. That will not save it.
|# ¿ Nov 9, 2015 03:38|