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Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

I haven't read these in like a year but I'm in for the next prompt.

Someone tell me the funniest thing I missed.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Post links you ingrates.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Hahahaha it's good to be back

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Capntastic posted:

I haven't read these in like a year but I'm in for the next prompt.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Quidnose posted:

What the gently caress is happening to this thread.

I came back.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

To the Severe, to Vadim
1948 Words.

Two glittering trails of shuttles were ascending towards the rest of the stars. At that gleaming convoy's bottom, two lovers looked into each other's’ eyes with absolute certainty that it would be the last time.

"You've got to remember to write me, you know." Vadim said.

Adair released his embrace, smiled, and drew himself closer.

"Ten thousand letters. We both promised already. We don’t need to promise."


An hour later, alone with hundreds of strangers, Adair's handwriting fought against turbulence as the shuttle brought him towards space. The first of his letters to Vadim was completed before the shuttle docked with the Mystic. The second was interrupted while Adair was jostled through check-in procedures and inoculations. The third was stained with tears before he'd finally fallen asleep that first night. He dreamed of undermining the theories of warp travel to allow for communication between the two ships.

The Mystic and the Severe were two enormous tubes of concrete lined with aluminum and laced with steel beams, pulling themselves along the inhalations and exhalations of space by way of warp fields. The names of the ships abandoned all formality of military titling or nationalism to embody the ships' cargo:; twenty thousand colonists aimed at a new world to grace it with humanity's presence. The names might better fit the ships themselves; rough, stripped down machines that glided along on luminous wings that approached magic.

Adair woke, and began relaying his dream's beauty to Vadim before the pain of its impossibility forced him to tear the page out and stare at the blank one beneath it. He collected his thoughts, gauged his emotions, and started by writing a four in the upper right corner of the page and circling it. The letter was as close to the perfect truth of his love as he could explain. The nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six that were to follow were all born from the same level of discipline and inspiration.

The mission of the ships was a multigenerational one, to preserve a wide base of genetic diversity amongst its "crew" until such time as it reached its destination, some dozens of lightyears away. The estimated travel time, as tricky as it was to predict warp travel's surges and stutters, was around three hundred and twenty years. The crew's mission aided by a full suite of amenities provided by the electronically- controlled habitat, was to simply procreate and survive.

After some years aboard the Mystic, Adair fulfilled the first aspect of this by allowing his genetic material to be combined with a suitable enough match. There was no relationship; even an exchanging of the personnell dossiers was merely a formality while the geneticists did their work. Most had heard of his eccentricities; the writing for hours on end, the trading of food and luxury goods for paper rations and ink. His isolation was reassuring enough, compared to the panic that overwhelmed some.

When Adair had finally failed at the second aspect of his mission, his personal quarters were to be cleared and his possessions recycled. This day was notable for the crew tasked with the cleanup only for discovering ten handbound books, each titled in bold.

"To the Severe

To Vadim"

with volumes arranged in groups of one thousand letters each. It was the first time in some years that any had considered the lives of those aboard the other ship. These ten books were regarded as a cultural curiosity for some time; a testament to the power of love during the stressful journey, and a reminder that there were others out there confined in the same way, and that they would one day be united to share a new world.

As the generations slipped onwards through space, the first volumes became an amazing look at what the early days about the Mystic were like. Everyone was strictly dedicated to their duties aboard the ship. Adair recounted several incidents which, though seemingly minor, must have held some special meaning between him and Vadim. A simple phrase might give the reader pause as it directs them to life prior to the Mystic: A mess hall's meal schedule being changed is likened to "academy days", or the recurring motif of cool nights on the beach. The letters, after a hundred years or so, were known as passages, and each was tagged and searchable. There was a wealth of knowledge to be learned about the struggles of Earth before the launching of the two ships. Vadim's features and mannerisms were common knowledge. His calm generosity and pride were to be aspired to. Adair's own devotion was unquestionable, the proof condensed into pocket editions and educational courses.

Hidden meanings were divined from apparently basic passages about the day they first met. Occasional "apocryphal" letters were found, examined, and cast off as falsifications. The names Adair and Vadim were common for children, even if the endless variations and diminutive forms were ignored. Those descended from Adair's own blood were thought to have a strong spiritual connection with those aboard the Severe, those back on Earth, and all humans everywhere. The practice of letterkeeping was their expected task, though many found themselves developing an obsession and writing about it or to it on a nightly basis.

In time, as the Mystic shook and swerved its way through years of emptiness, all living within its coarse frame had a favored passage with special meaning to them. All longed for the day that they would fulfill their destiny and live under a warm sun next to the people of the Severe. They wanted to stretch out and rest on cool sands with Vadim's people. There was a cultural void, a feeling of being half of a perfect whole. There was, after a point, no way of knowing how much longer the voyage would be, and the preparations were readied and re-checked every decade. The descendants of Adair were to be the ambassadors that would meet with the descendents of Vadim and usher in that perfect age. A pristine love from hundreds of years ago, known by thousands upon thousands who lived and died, would be reignited.

One day, the scintillating wings of the Mystic went cold and folded back. All was still above the blue sphere they were orbiting. Sensors detected the Severe, far beyond visual range. Radio signals were beaming between it and the surface. A call was made, and the reunion was scheduled for the next day.

Adair XI sat calmly in the shuttle, his hands folded over a lucite sealed copy of the first passage of "To the Severe" and a data drive of the complete works, with several sets of interpretations and annotations by the Adair line. His focus was split between the task at hand and restraining himself from pressing his face against the window as his honor guard were doing. He allowed them this first sight of the small grey city they were circling towards. The eddies of space and time are strange, and the Severe had arrived and gotten to work some eighty years prior. In this time, they'd achieved a considerable amount.

Adair XI was led through halls, his honor guard diverting foot traffic around him and clearing his path to the main administrative office. Leaving his honor guard at the door, he went alone into a conference hall. He sat and laid his cultural offering on the table before him. Meditating on this divine moment. The forces of centuries and the vast between stars had brought him here. He turned as the door opened, and a young man brought in a tray with carafes of water, tea, and coffee. This was not the moment. He allowed the man to excuse himself before he coughed to mask his frustration. Hundreds of years and there was nothing more celebratory here than the refreshments a host might offer their guest out of obligation. He stared down at the faded, hastily jotted writing made clean and hard by the lucite casing. He'd meditated on this passage for years.

"We both promised, but we didn't need to."

It was the spirit that had carried the Mystic all this way. And now, finally, the door clicked open again and a woman entered, seating herself directly across from him. There was no embrace here; this was still not the moment.

"Hello, welcome home. Adair, was it?" she smiled. "We were worried about you, you know, and the Mystic. Two for two, though, those're some fantastic results, given the odds. I'm kidding, though. We're all truly glad you've arrived in one piece. We've got people that say the Mystic was a myth, you know, to keep us in line. Can't say the doubt never got into me at times, but here we are."

She began pouring herself coffee, and gestured to an empty glass in front of Adair XI. He ignored this.

"My people...our people, have waited for this moment for generations. On the first night of the migration, Adair, my ancestor, wrote this. It is the first of the Ten Thousand Letters." He slid the tablet across the table and watched as she scanned it.

"Very touching. Yes, it's beautiful. The Mystic's commander informed me of this act of devotion." She was smiling again, and retrieved a small object from her pocket. "We were able to track down Vadim's own letters. We were previously unaware of his personal writing, though it was in the computer's drives." She tapped the object, and lines of text flickered and flowed above it. "I was only made aware last night that I am a blood relative of Vadim's, and it's charming to find that I had such a romantic in my ancestry. Here we have some five thousand letters, all addressed to your great-great, etcetera, grandfather."

The number sunk into Adair XI's bones. He stood up. "Five thousand? How were the others lost? Was there a malfunction?"

She set her coffee down on the table. "No, that was all he wrote."

"All? Surely there's, say, a personal diary or hidden data drive somewhere. There has to be!"

"No, this is it. It's all accounted for. The last one even states a final signoff. You are welcome to read them all in whichever format you’d prefer."

"Vadim broke his promise? Did he grow ill?" Adair IX cried. His voice filled the room as he stretched across the table, snatching back the tablet. "Only five thousand? What did Vadim do with his life? Did he become feebleminded with age? Did his faculties leave him altogether? Was his love a lie upfront, or did it wither inside him with the absolute knowledge that it was an unworthy match to Adair's?"

The descendant of Vadim nudged it towards him and stood up. "He wrote every day of his life." she said. "He dedicated his life to formulating many of the building and agricultural techniques we've employed in this last century of ours. He set aside time to catalog as much as he could about the world he grew up on, its peoples, its places. His love was not confined to a single person. I think you'll find that his work has created a more than suitable world for the people of the Mystic."

Adair XI could not listen to this. This was not the moment. He was realizing that he was born long past the moment. The moment was before Adair's first letter had been written in the shuttle. The moment had nothing to do with promises of letters or hopes for reunion. The moment was Adair and Vadim's, and it was unwritable. They’d both promised, but they didn’t need to.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

In with The King of Elfland's Daughter

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Nethilia posted:

That's a novel, not a fairy tale. Roll again.

It's a long fairytale.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

In more with Bearskin

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

DreamingofRoses posted:

As penance for my sins of terrible writing and toxxing myself I will do line crits on any story requested for the next 5 people who ask.

You can tear into my story from last week, if you'd like. I'd appreciate it!

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Bearskin Cloak Guy
(Elements: Deal with the Devil, Bear cloak. 1445 Words)

~~~


The doorbell rang. It was the devil. They'd be wearing the clothes and body of the delivery guy, holding the pizza Gil had ordered twenty nine minutes ago. He came down the stairs in no particular hurry. This leg of the negotiation process was merely a formality, and the devil's appearances had become commonplace. In the form of postal workers hand delivering bills, sickly birds on the windowsill in the process of leaving a mess, or pornographic performers suddenly addressing Gil by name during lonely midnight viewings, he and the devil had slowly circled an agreement.

He opened the door, brimstone and pepperoni gusts mixing with the stale hamper stench of his apartment. He slid his credit card onto the oily box held aloft before him. The devil placed a sheet of parchment next to it, the yellowing becoming darker as it soaked up grease.

"Sign here." he said.

A red tipped quill was suddenly present in Gil's hand. He scratched his name clumsily with the feather's odd balance. His card sizzled into the cardboard, taking on a sheathe of blackened carbon.

"Superb. Beautiful. You're now a Deluxe Brimstone cardholder, my friend. Congratulations. Let me just get your change from the car."

The devil's use of language was perfectly measured to hide only half of his disdain, and proudly display the rest. Gil held the pizza, and watched as the pizzaman's body rummaged through the trunk. He came back to the stoop with an even more filthy heap than the pizza. It was a ragged bear skin, clotted with dessicated fat and strings of viscera. It was carrion with sleeve holes cut out. The devil held it up by the ears, letting its weight drag the rest down onto the concrete.

"So I just wear this, right?"

The devil didn't nod.

"It was all in the contract. You wear the cloak, you don't shower, you don't brush or floss, you empty out your medicine cabinet, and you save a lot of money on detergent. You can flush, but none of those blue water tablets. No barbers. No razors or scissors. No tweezers. If anything is unclear, I'll have my people contact your people. Three years."

Gil pocketed his card, set the pizza box down on the steps, and allowed the devil to clothe him. It was a bit tight around the shoulders, and already he could feel sweat percolating up around his neck. He turned around to shake on the deal, say goodbye, and formalize the completion of the deal, but there was nothing but a black singe mark on the sidewalk, and a disgusting amount of scintillating automotive fluids spelling out "rear end in a top hat" where the pizza car had been parked. Typical devil stuff.

Gil grabbed the pizza, and kicked his apartment door close. Dropping the box onto his bed, he dug through his pocket to retrieve his grime encrusted card. He had sixteen tabs open on his computer, ready for his payment details. The checkout processes were only hampered by the number on his card changing each time he used it. The security code on the back, 666, was easy enough to remember after Gil had rolled his eyes at it twice.

After a few hours of reveling in filling up carts and checking out, signing up for streaming services and game accounts, he tossed himself onto his mattress and let the furry mass of the cloak smother him to sleep. The release of pleasurable reward chemicals into his brain had already been blunted. Was this hibernation?

The next day, an hour past noon, he untangled his legs from the cloak and stumbled to the fridge. Could he drink water in a way that'd rinse the grime of last night's pizza from his mouth? The stink of charred pepperoni was wrapped around his gums. He decided on cola, instead of chancing it. The day was filled with playing online games, purchasing cosmetic goodies from their built-in cash shops, and waiting for last night's next-day-shipping to arrive. He half expected every brown shorted deliveryman to slyly ask him how the cloak was working out, but instead they all avoided eye contact. The pens they let him use were blue or black.

Months swam by, and aside from a bird tapping at his window after he wiped his face off on his pillowcase too vigorously while waking up, the deal seemed very much in Gil's favor. His status online was higher than ever. His generosity and enviable gaming rig, as well as nightly streaming in the kooky bear cloak had garnered him a few thousand followers. His skin was pale and damp, and he often kept the hood of his cloak as low as he could. His few trips outside to buy smokes at the corner store were delayed until it was as dark as possible. It was during these times that the cold night air seemed to cleanse him as much as he could hope for.

He engaged in arguments frequently, defending his lifestyle and "character" as "bear cloak guy" constantly. He filled his days with the same rituals he always had, and though his utter lack of hygiene itched all the way down to his bones, only occasionally wondered what the ultra rich people he heard of on the news had given up to attain their wealth.

About one year in, he decided that he'd have to start utilizing his wealth to its fullest extent. He peeled the hood back from his wet strings of hair and began looking at travel websites. He didn't have a passport, and he knew he'd be out of luck if he had to be searched. He could drive across the country, but even with solid air conditioning he'd hate having the sun on him for any sustained amount of time. A bus might work, but he wouldn't want to force anyone to sit next to him. The day ran by, and before the night ended, resolved to simply get his smokes for the next day and put it on hold.

The landlord left notes about the odor from his place, and Gil countered by hiring a maid service. He streamed games nearly ten hours a day, and as inquiries about his personal life and health increased, an elite team of moderators banned people for the slightest impropriety. His tips to the local pizza place had increased, and even though the regular driver (who had once been possessed by the devil) made goodwill efforts at smalltalk, never looked him in the eyes. Didn't they know who he was? People had written articles about Bear Cloak Guy. He'd done blogcast interviews. People paid attention, and donated money.

The remaining years shed away rapidly. The air conditioning was not enough, and it was two hours past noon, and Gil was laying in bed trying to will some of the accumulated grime out of his eyes and ears and mind. There was a knock at the door. He spent ten minutes ignoring it as it returned and returned. He hadn't ordered anything in months, none of his pre-orders were due for weeks. He wobbled out to scare it away. He opened the door, the greasy smear of bear face lowered down over his own. He saw the Animal Control van covering up the faded "rear end in a top hat" grease spots. A man in mirrored shades and a brown suit not unlike a deliveryman was sizing him up.

"We've got reports of a dying bear loose around these parts." he said.

It was the devil. Gil let him talk.

"Impressive. Really nice. You had three years with nearly unlimited funds and, well, you did..."

The devil feigned peering over Gil's furry shoulder into the hovel packed with cardboard boxes and soda cans.

"Well, through history, others have accomplished far more with far less. But, the terms of the contract have been met. I've arranged a spa day to turn you back into a human. I plan on telling you all of the things you could've done with your resources."

Gil felt his spine straighten as ten pounds of hide and grime were lifted from it. The cloak was gone, and he was chilly in his damp sweat ruined v-neck shirt and boxer-briefs. The dried lines of muck in the creases of his arms were as dark as tattoos.

"I dunno, I've got plans." Gil said.

He turned to a box near the door and began clawing it open with his food stained fingernails. The devil may've arched an eyebrow behind those shades as Gil pulled up a clean and well tailored fur cloak from the box.

"I'm streaming tonight."

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

In.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Leading Projecting Developing Managing
910 Words.

Gregory Davyduke had been working with Cornelius Corp as lead project development manager for four years, and had been working with Ochotech as a corporate spy for six. Cornelius Corp was a relatively unguarded nest, focused on hatching more than keeping weasels away. All it took was Greg strolling in, complimenting their humble assortment of tech offerings, and handing them the resume his false identity had been supplied with. The alias's brilliance was vetted by some of Ochotech's most secluded shell corporations, all of which were run out of a single office building in Akron, Ohio.

In four years he'd been attentively noting, jotting, suggesting, reprimanding, and shaping the flow of Cornelius's progress. A well-timed setback here, a misjudgment of the market there, and the company was perpetually behind their competitors despite churning out an exceptional amount of valuable R&D. Greg performed astoundingly well, and it was not unusual for those working late and even the janitorial staff to overhear whispered conversations blunted by the soundproof glass of his office. Tonight, though, there was the staccato firing of piercing insults and profanity.

He slammed the phone down onto his desk in the thoroughly unsatisfying way cellphones filled that task. Ocho was buying Cornelius. Greg tried to trace the patterns of reason that upper management would've followed to reach this action. Were they not satisfied with the steady flow of leaked data? Did Greg not suppress Cornelius's market share enough? He'd done his job exactly as asked, he was certain. There was nothing that Cornelius's scientists dreamed of that wasn't faxed immediately to Ochotech's board. The whole skin lesion debacle caused by the proprietary plastic microstructure of Cornelius-branded milk bottles wasn't merely caused by Greg putting the gag on R&D's warnings, but the fire was fanned when he encouraged the CEO to double down on "User Error" as the culprit. He was good at what he did. If he was in the military, he'd be decorated.

He sat, picking up his phone and dropping it, waiting for that perfectly intimidating sound to end this train of thought. Was he too good? He had headhunted the best technicians and researchers he could, solely to keep them from straying into uncontrolled pastures. Keeping high value targets in Ochotech's sights was part of his mission, after all. He'd turned Cornelius into a holding cell for some of the brightest young material engineers around. And now they were cutting him out.

Greg had always known he was enough of a bastard to turn these situations in his favor. He'd landed his gig at Ochotech solely by being their window washer, courier and pest exterminator for a single week. He'd had everything he needed to burn the building to the ground, physically and in the eyes of the shareholders. And that was just on the first day. The next six were for making small talk with the secretaries, poking through the mail room, and making friends with the security chief. He'd compiled a list of every password, secret project and off-the-books affair both romantic and financial. He was the most dangerous window washer on Earth, and he'd taped his resume and references to the Ochotech CEO's penthouse view.

He slammed his palm down onto his phone, pulling his blow at the last second, fearing he'd pulverize some dust off of the Cornelius-branded case and risk damaging his lungs. What were his options? Would he beg to be re-assigned? Could he extract some last minute value out of Cornlius for himself? He'd spent so many years focusing on the presice value of each next step that he never built himself a gold plated escape hatch. He damned his short-sightedness. This wasn't just unfair, it was totally fair. He understood that their optimum move was to take parts of Cornelius that he'd lovingly cultivated. He should've been proud, and not just for spiteful reasons. Could he allow Ochotech to pull him out of Cornelius like a weed? He knew that his position as a wholly deniable entity would not give him the required leverage to warn Cornelius. They wouldn't be able to withstand a takeover with that sort of warning anyways. He opened up a text editor, and glared at the white hot emptiness of the page.

He hated doing this, it went against everything he'd dedicated himself to. It was long term thinking, which meant he would forego his turn and hope to be dealt a better hand at some undefined time. He knew that, given enough time, he could stack the deck. But he hated the idea of leaving his hands idle for so long. He typed up a form resignation. He printed out two copies. He signed one as Gregory Davyduke and one as his Cornelius alter-ego. He folded them into their respective envelopes. He dropped them into the mail tube, and as he finally heard a pneumatic thunk pleasing enough to signal the end of this turmoil, he sighed. He was now a free agent. He'd enjoy the time while he could.

It was far below his level of skill as a corporate spy to derive pleasure from simply using Cornelius Corp's computer for a few hours before he left that night, but he had resumes to print and applications to fill out. Three months later, an office building in Akron, Ohio would hire a groundskeeper, receptionist, and someone who could finally patch up all those holes in the roof.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

kurona_bright posted:

There's no way I'm going to submit in time. I'll try to have my story in by noon tomorrow.

This sorry excuse is 2% of an entry's length on its own you wimp.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Pre-emptive in.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Apple Pie
500 Words

"That's how fires get started." I thought out loud. No one responded.

The candle was on its side, the wick being eaten up by a tenacious little blot of fire. Still melting. Its wax bleeding matte red trails on the table's glossy oak. I backed up a step, but bent in low. My nose felt the heat from the whole mess. Apple pie. A dull chemical cinnamon streak through it was coating my nose hair. No fingerprints on the tabletop. Good work. I stood up, turning around. Ran my finger and thumb down my nose, wiping off the waxy grease I could feel cooling into my pores.

No light was coming into the room, since the drapes were covering up the windows. They'd been pried open. They were asking for it, being unlocked as they were. The front door was wide open. Nothing too surprising there either. No signs of a struggle beyond the ordinary ones of a husband and wife trying their damnedest to cohabitate and failing. Coffee mugs left out on a desk piled high with papers. Box of cereal getting stale on the kitchen counter. Pillow and blanket on the couch, wrinkles of recent use being highlighted by that deadly candle.

I wanted to clean the place, but that's not what my job was. I'd looked for clues. I'd done my footwork. Trailed the man to and from work. To and from home, too. And the stops in between. Driving past him at night, watching him turn into an apartment complex in my rearview mirror. Doubling back with my lights off to write down the number he walked to. Showed the photos to his wife the next day. Never felt so bad to get paid. But she had another job, and I always had another bill to take care of.

I watched the apple pie puddle spread itself across the table in globs. This was America, now. The woman had gotten her jewelry and paperwork from the safe upstairs the night before. She'd given me a copy of the man's car keys, which made getting his car even easier than getting in through the window. It was in the driveway, parked at a steep angle. The universal sign of a lovely driver, or an angry one.

She'd be calling the police now. She'd tell them he was violent. He was supposed to be staying away for a few days. Cooling off. He came in through the window while she was asleep. It was a miracle she got away. The neighborhood would be lit up in red and blue in five minutes. The house would be lit up in fire in three.

I rubbed my forehead with my sleeve. The table was crackling along nicely. The candle had begun pouring itself down onto the unconscious man below it. Knife in his hand. Cocaine and booze in his blood. Dirty stuff. But she'd rather deal with insurance claims than divorce paperwork. Better payoff, for both of us.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

I need to rinse out the dried blood on my teeth with fresh blood.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

I was in, but now I'm in with a direction.

The Lawgiver's symbols are the circle, triangle, and square. The Lawgiver is always clad in white, and adorned with copper, gold, and brass. The Lawgiver shapes the world through the actions of its millions of devoted servants.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Thank you for the crits. It's good to see the dust I have to shake off after a year or two of not writing.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

This is from some cool person's D&D-ish setting but I think this might help some people get their head in the right space

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

crabrock posted:

Ent: a fault line is where two tectonic plates meet, and where pressure is released, resulting in earthquakes. Tmyk

What a lovely god

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib


Sounds like a lot of writing time honestly.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

The Throne and the Monkey
(1496 Words. Gods used: ~~~All of Them~~~)

This World has existed for countless generations, and the form it takes is nothing more than the echoes from all that has come before. Since Inanis oversaw the birth of the first moment, all actions have flowed towards the lines upon this scroll being recognized as words. It is undecided if such a result plays into the hands of Censiron's honesty principles or merely into the pockets of Shem, who covets time. The Thunderer, if he still peers over the parapets of their oaken tower, has yet to judge her final, brilliant, all-consuming judgment.

Beneath the feet of Ah and above the hair of Hm, the world spun aimlessly without the throne of Law to give it direction. The Lawgiver, standing silent amidst the flattest expanse of land, was vexed by the seasons. No throne of Law could find rest in a land where growth and death intertwined without reason. He knew there to be a flaw in creation. Vorun's song, the rhyme which formed the world, had been cut short by violence done by his brother the Secondborn. There was an incomplete stanza, a call without a response. In this gap, the Monkey wrenched itself into being. It was a half formed streak in the heart of the world, whose seven arms scratched all things blindly. Its hunger upturned the elements themselves, stirring ice into the winds and shriveling all that grew. It was a hideous seeping blot on the scroll of the world's history. It was a page torn out of the book of its song. It was the enemy of all gods.

Diplomacy had been attempted. Ush had gone into the dark of the world to speak to the Monkey, and every tongue of man, god, and beast fell into its cavernous belly without being heard. A thousand whispers, a million shouts, all were empty to this beast. New languages formed from hunger and thirst were of no use. The Monkey did not think. The new Law was written by Anathot's own pen: The Monkey must be expelled from the world by force.

The gods assembled at the palace of Spirum to forge a strategy. The first to be called to the side of the Law were the trinity of Toron-Mata, Ebilius-Shahar, and Hartisese-Jayhopa. At their sides were the attendant goddesses of water; Yuan, Wan, and An. As the rest arrived, discussions began. In that crystal realm they discussed the sacrifice of Mendora's moon so that no tides would aid in the churning of the seasons. Aloha leapt upon the table and swore that he would have no stake in a plan that brought stillness to his coasts. Weevil sat up in his chair and opened his mouth. Sonair spoke above him, extolling the virtues of overwhelming force. He proposed dragons, and fire, and soldiers, and swords and demons, all under the spell of his music. Winglet seconded this, and any other motions. Alothaa lowered her hands onto the crystalline table, quieting the room, and suggested that no actions be taken. The sconces in the nine corners of the room flickered silently for a moment before arguments arose again, splintered into smaller discussions, and then the matter at hand was returned to. No one noticed that the Weevil's seat was empty long before negotiations had settled.

The journey was arduous, for even gods must bring along their servants and followers for a task so glorious as removing a tumor in the world's flesh. Caravans and convoys, linen flags of Law, brass and gold wheels, followed by thousands of creatures and humans in a march across the world. Symbols of the hundred gods, and the many traditions of their followers, all forming a line towards a single enemy. Many strode this path to be near their gods, many to breathe in adventure, and many to see the death of that which impeded their world from being perfected.

The first obstacle, the black wolf, was handled easily. Before its midnight jaws could envelop any from foreign lands coming to the horizon, Nemete led it towards the opposite horizon with all the scents of strangers, travellers, and new ideas. This was the last that anyone saw of either of them, though the black wolf's shadow still circles the world, slowly, once a day.

The second obstacle, a vast expanse of grime soaked dirt surrounding a broken fiery land, was inhabited by filthy little worms that sought to give their lives to defend their god, It-Shits-Boiling-Life-Mud. The god being a worm itself, knew nothing of its worshippers and was focused solely on its own habits of eating and reproducing through its excretion. To cut a path through these foes, Eivali the Jewelled Whale was called upon. Gleaming with treasures of a thousand dead civilizations, it swam cleanly through this land and ate its fill of the praying filth that loved It-Shits-Boiling-Life-Mud. The trail the whale left behind, prismatic excretions of uniform shape and size, stirred with the next step of life for millions of worms eager to become that which they had idolized for so long.

The third obstacle was the greatest. Centered now between the seven great arms of their enemy, the assembled horde of gods and followers prepared to strike down into the world and drown the Monkey. Felix led the dig, with mattock hewing through stone and earth easier than the air itself. Thousands followed Felix downwards, with shovels and picks and buckets, merely to clear away the debris he loosed. Thousands of steps spiralling down into blackness. Naven, seeing themself in that moment as a god of Soothing Compassion, ushered cool air down into that black pit, freshening the depths of the world and those toiling away within. The work continued for seven weeks. Many of the workers buckled under the strain. It was only the pleasing whispers of Ioc that kept them from mutinying or taking the lives of those alongside them. She painted for them a vision of endless tomorrows, free from strife caused by the Monkey's tampering with nature. It was good enough to keep them working until Felix's mattock sparked against the flesh of The Monkey's eyelid.

The goddesses of water began their work. Yuan of the Green Water began gently with cool rains to refresh and calm the enemy. When this had no effect, Wan of the Blue Water began a downpour to drown the enemy. When this had no effect, An of the Black Water spit a single drop into the pit that had been dug. Hours later, when it landed into the pool, oily tendrils of poison unfurled from that drop, coursing through the blue and green water. The gods and mortals leaned in close to see if this underground sea of poison would be enough to slay the Monkey. A terrible sound rang out, metal striking stone. Felix cut away a support with one motion of his arm and one laugh. The entirety of the stairway circling the pit collapsed, and as stone and earth and flesh and gods poured into that roiling black sea, it rose up and destroyed all who assembled that day to see the death of a god.

Ma'indo worked ceaselessly for seven weeks as the souls of the dead mortals worked their way up through the poisoned earth, only to be shuttled to an even darker pool so that Oubro might taste the memories they would lose. The remaining gods of the quest coalesced one by one back amid the crystal towers of Spirum's palace. From their vantage point high up, they looked upon the flat tract of land that the Lawgiver stood in, still without a throne. He stood there for some time, and the trees did not shake with sudden chills or scorch with instant heat. Their color turned gradually over many weeks, and the winds grew chillier along the course of months. What had changed? Had they succeeded in destroying their foe after all? The seven arms still spanned across all peaks of the world, but their grasping nails did not dig into the skin of the land.

Censiron had learned from the minds of humans, before Oubro had licked them clean, that something had been seen surviving that tumult beneath the earth. Clinging tenaciously to the Monkey's eyebrow, a small creature had nestled itself against the beast's eye. Perhaps the destruction of the Monkey's loneliness had relaxed its chaotic grip? It is hard to say with certainty if any of this tale belongs in The Keeper's Library, or is effluvia from the Lord of Deception. It is up to the reader to believe this or cast it away to Versoot, along with all nonsense that harms the mind. The only truths to this tale that are known to be from Anathot's own pen, are that to this day there is no throne of Law anywhere upon the world, and that the Weevil's seat at Spirum's table has been unoccupied for generations.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Pre-emptive in

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Freemen in the Dome

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

One Whole Second
(1038 Words)


Atmosphere rasped across Minum's body as it tore down through the sky towards the planet. What the satellite grid would predict to be the chaotic re-entry of spatial detritus was a carefully composed act. Minum's insertion into the exosphere with nanoscopic precision was planned years in advance during their journey; but like all great performances, there was room for improvisation. Their body flicked, vibrated, and spun downwards. It predicted eddies of heat and analyzed compositions of denser-than-average pockets of turbulence, and danced around them. It did this while Minum slept. They regained consciousness one second before hitting the ground.

There was no earth-shaking impact or crater left behind. Each joule of energy that would have been wasted on such useless endeavors was directed into Minum's first stride on the surface of this world. Instantly the being was skimming atop a vast expanse of desiccated soil at thousands of miles per hour. Silently. The bipedal form's surface was etched with a shimmering network of microscopic stabilization arrays; a million ceramic fairy wings that flaked away now that the season of their use had passed. This left no trail, as each unit of shed gossamer material was encoded with enough knowledge to hide itself; to drift away randomly and disguise itself amongst the miles of empty wasteland. A fragment of misplaced matter could endanger Minum's task. A single misplaced grain of sand could alert a thousand autonomous drones. A single photon coming from an unknown source could awaken the being that lived here. Minum did not know about this being, and it was rare that anything eluded both their database and their senses.

Something was being constructed here. It had been detected across the black of space years ago. Since Minum left to investigate, its growth had progressed erratically across the face of this world. Its perimeter had apparently originated as a circular pattern, though for reasons Minum could only assume with varying levels of certainty, it had expanded erratically. Sweeping avenues of functionless steel structures repeating for miles. Skyscrapers beaming nonsense data back and forth to each other. Chemical reactors churning out reactions, only to vent it all away as waste heat through roiling columns of steam. Whatever mind lived here, it was sick. No matter how similar it was to Minum, it needed to be destroyed. This was a mission of mercy.

Minum stopped suddenly at the range which their thousands of overlapping stealth schemes would no longer be enough to offer invisibility. This was the edge of the horizon. Traditional electromechanical sight was one of the few remaining things that could not be confused with simple tricks. Minum's bipedal form was entirely still. The desert air, untouched by the lone stampede that had been coursing across it, was silent. Minum had no breath to hold. Their calculations slowed, and turned inwards. So far, the mission was progressing nominally. No signs of being detected. No hostile contact with the unknown intelligence. Each step was reviewed a million times. The insertion, and its million variables and million outcomes, were discarded. Junk data. The final approach on foot, a required obstacle to ensure the re-entry went ignored, was also complete. More memory freed up. An uncountable network of things so complex and electric to make a neuron look as dead as the sand Minum stood on was focused now entirely on one fact. One millionth of an inch further, and Minum would cross the horizon and be known, instantly, to an unknown force. Another intelligence in the galaxy, yes, but one that was clearly diseased. Possibly brilliant at one time, and almost certainly dangerous now. Regardless of the empathy felt in the remaining animal portions of their spine, Minum's plan was already in motion. It would all be over soon.

Since Minum had stopped, one whole second had passed.

Minum took one step forward and saw the city they had come to destroy. In the nighttime above, a torrent of energy rained down. Sheer, hot white melting heat and light bled from the sky and flooded the miles of useless architecture. Not enough to harm whatever half-thinking creature had built this unending shrine, Minum sprinted down concrete roads and along steel pipes carrying molten steel to and from refineries. Clouds and spires of mechanical defense systems rose up around them, casting shadows in the blinding electromagnetic sun that Minum had spun into being above the world. Every sense was filled with the energy that scoured the city, and Minum charted their course entirely on the single glimpse they had seen of the city. They dodged and annihilated drones and defensive turrets entirely on instinct. Mile after mile, within only a few ragged seconds, and Minum had reached the heart of this world. Smashing downwards through plates of defensive glass, Minum's sight returned as they were brought downwards into the earth.

The scan was instantaneous. A large chamber, miles deep, circular in nature, filled uniformly with the encased bodies of humans. Many of them were no longer alive. Many of them survived, though their brains were damaged by the typical frailties that struck biological life prolonged far beyond the sensible. Minum landed silently at the bottom and assessed this. This was no rogue mind, sick and alone. This was a culture, sick and alone. The humans had surely detected Minum. Surely they felt the fear of their oncoming eradication. They must know their error, now. But these were humans, and their ability to alter the galaxy in any meaningful way was limited. This decision needed to be weighed. Each possible outcome must be calculated.

One whole second passed.

With no need to hurry or expend more energy than needed, Minum began climbing up out of that pit. Hands melding to a steel and glass beams, they scraped slowly upwards. It took hours. Hands and legs and fingers worked to gradually ascend the same chasm that had been effortlessly traversed moments ago. They worked in the normal way, unaided by tricks of magnetism and light. Thinking back to the pit and its waking inhabitants, Minum knew that those humans would have a much harder time. Minum then happily deleted every bit of information concerning the mission. More junk data.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Pre-emptive in.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhjSzjoU7OQ

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Screaming Idiot posted:

The problem isn't time writing, the problem is internet access.

Write on paper with a pen while you're at home and then at work you can transpose it.

Screaming Idiot posted:

After work I'll run across the street and buy a pack of Red Bull and get the story written and posted.

I mean, for all the kayfabe we throw around here and never break, you don't need to try and intimidate us with heroic antics like "going to a convenience store".

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Lighthouse
(999 words. Song: Birdhouse in your Soul)

It was darker inside the cabin at the foot of the lighthouse than outside, especially after accounting for the stillness of the interior and the utter chaos outside. Air and water rushed against everything with the incalculable forces of the storm shrieking across the coastline. Martin dragged the pillow off of his head to let the tiny chirp of the alarm come into focus. He had to do his job.

The drumming of rain to kept tempo for the minutes it required him to wrap himself in the cynically iconic yellow oilskin coat. It was the uniform no one would ever see him in, except when they imagined what a lighthouse keeper looked like. He felt the weight of disappointing anyone who did such a thing, because he lacked a beard and had never smoked a pipe. He pulled the hood around his face, and stood by the door.

He measured his breathing with the gusts of wind. The cinderblock mass of the lighthouse could be felt through the door. It could be heard cutting through the wind that was cutting through everything else. No one would be sailing in this. There were no souls out on the water that needed guidance. He would be the only one in the world to know if he did his job, and that made it more important to him than anything.

Martin had inherited this duty through the force of his own will, rather than the black and white postmortem decree of someone else's. His parents had left him money, and insurance payouts, and a great deal of amateur art. His mother painted lighthouses from photographs she took motorcycling up and down the coast. They were practically traced. There was no compositional merit. They were beautifully simple. When he was brought home from school by the police officers and told about the accident, he'd spent a great deal of time crying into every one of them.

Thunder shook the cabin, and Martin struck his hand out to the doorknob. Had there even been lightning? He drew back from the door and knelt. To the left of the door was a single electric outlet, and sticking halfway out of it was a nightlight he'd always had. It was a purely utilitarian object now. All of the paint had rubbed off, but he could still sometimes see it as the pale blue bird it once was. He pressed it fully into the socket and flicked the switch on the its tummy, which filled with a feeble golden light. He opened the door.

He walked a straight line from the cabin to the lighthouse proper, fighting against wind and rain that rasped him from all sides. Heat was pulled out of him despite the layers of wool and canvas, and as he gripped the lock to the lighthouse, the steel threatened to turn the blood and bones in his hand to ice. He raked the lock with a shaking key a few times before striking true, and elbowed the oak door open. Elbowing it shut against the wind required multiple steps as his boots slipped in place on the stone floor. It took some seconds to re-acclimate to the relative stillness of the interior after the sudden bout of frantic exertion.

Red canisters of kerosene lined the bottom of this circular building, all but three with the spouts turned to face the wall. All but three empty. No truck would make deliveries in this. He grabbed the first full can in line and circled the room to the staircase. Every few dozen steps he switched off arms, each only strong enough to play pendulum for so long. The building narrowed as he felt his way up the steps, the revolutions of the staircase becoming tighter. The sloshing of the kerosene became more pronounced, between the centrifugal action and his arms stiffening up.

His head poked up into the glass dome of the lightroom, the enormous ridged lens distorting a lightning strike some miles off over the ocean. It vanished an instant before he recognized what he saw. He braced for the thunder. He loosed a steam laced exhalation through his teeth. Nothing. He continued his work. He carefully poured the canister into the reservoir. He carefully closed the caps on both. He set the canister down and stepped towards the railing. Beyond the inches of glass he was entirely open to the interchange of heat and pressure and water and electricity and air all around him. He shouldn't be this close to the railing. The worn down sticker said so. Safety precautions were in place for reasons. But stickers and railings and precautions were never enough.

At the nuclear power plant, there was an equipment failure resulting in two fatalities. They had both been trained. They had made no mistakes. Things break. Friction wears down pipes; water lapping away at metal. Stress fractures form; expansion and contraction caused by the rhythms of heat and cold. Radioactive materials react with themselves; the same back and forth of physics right on down to the subatomic level. A pipe tore open and vented steam onto a woman trying to shut off the reaction. A man wearing flame-retardant protective gear asphyxiated while trying to rescue her, or at least her body. Martin's parents had been burned by water and drowned by flame. They had been doing their jobs.

There was a dull boom that spread across the surface of the ocean and wrap itself around the lighthouse like fingers around a neck. Was that the thunder from the lightning bolt he'd just seen? He couldn't bring himself to do the mental math to determine how many miles away it must have come from. He leaned over the edge peering to the horizon, and then dragged his sight down towards the cabin. There was a warm, golden light shining through one of the windows. Martin made a mental note to order some pale blue paint when the storm finally ended.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Pre-emptive In for next week.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

crabrock posted:

stop doing that.



(The demeanor of this fun little creature, cheerful and snarky, is about as accurate and honest as I can be, with SA's bountiful emoticon system)

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Capntastic posted:

Pre-emptive In for next week.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

HeLa
(1080 words)


A dull green military truck dragged a pink vortex of dust across Arizona wasteland.

Lacks shook the ballpoint pen between her thumb and forefinger before twirling it point first onto the notebook's coarse pages. Her tracing left an absolutely perfect circle of ink on the paper now that the pen had decided to behave. She glanced down at the circle and smiled, before shifting her gaze to the instrument panel of the truck. Half a tank left. Hours left to drive. She levelled her eyes at the horizon of sand. With with her right hand hovering over the notebook taped to the dashboard, she prepared her last will and testament.

Beyond mere soundness of body and mind, Henrietta Lacks was immortal. Everyone knew that. It used to just be a handful in the medical community that were aware of this miracle, but some schmuck doctor gladly sold his license to practice for tipping off the federal government about an honest-to-god immortal. Decades later and doctor/patient confidentiality was still a common punchline for those hacks writing late night host monologues. Change the channel back to the news and the discussions about immortality, an unkillable American citizen, and the ethics of cloning were simply the punchline to a joke the world made behind Henrietta's back.

She picked up the idea of how special she was pretty quick. Companies wanted vials of her blood and tissue for analysis and a glossy headshot and her signature for endorsements. She was in and out of hospitals and penthouses for a few years, whisked along by a shimmering tide of money, travel, and fame. It was hollow. She knew that to some extent, the knowledge gained by studying her almost mythical DNA sequence would save the lives of many. But her star faded after the first gallon or so of blood. The trick of her cells was that they went on without her. And they did.

The magazine articles mostly dried up. The visits to the Whitehouse and other photo ops slowed mostly vanished. The hate mail and death threats mostly ended. She filled her time with practice. She read. She engaged in sports, music, and art. She spent as much time being a human as possible. When a rock climbing accident that would have destroyed a professional left her merely concussed and with shattered ribs, she recieved treatment at her home rather than spend time in a white room's white bed. No vials of her blood slipping into pockets and then onto courier's iceboxes.

She'd known for years that she was in a thousand laboratories being cut apart and poisoned under microscopes. What her cells were doing to others was much more recent. What she'd watched with industrious fascination thirty or forty years ago was sickening today. She'd seen the slow approach towards eradicated disease and regenerated organs. She hadn't seen the failed clones and distorted hybrids. The cancer patient's lungs being shredded by her own tissues growing through it. The sixteen soldiers in Texas needing limbs amputated for volunteering for a possible joint damage cure. The genetic fact that multiple prescription regeneratives for eyesight and hairloss were on the market making sacks of cash for faceless corporations despite a growing list of side effects. Products like HeLascope and HeLamax were advertised without any mention that you were buying someone's boiled and strained immortality. The threat of legal action made putting her face and name on any magazine not worth the ink.

The direction the world was heading in was clear. Lacks wanted no part.

She knew how to play a thousand songs and could recite a thousand stories from all avenues of of humanity's past. She'd even taken some self defense classes. Cutting through a chainlink fence might make someone's nerves act up. Sneaking up to a military base that isn't officially on any map might chill someone's guts. Of all the thousands of samples of HeLa nerve and gut tissue in the world, none were as relaxed as the ones she still had control over. Of all the thousands of gallons of HeLa blood frozen in unlabelled labs in the world, none was colder than what was in her veins.

The first guard to get back up radioed ahead. The second and the third guard worked together to realize that the dusty green blot on the horizon might have once been the truck parked by the gatehouse they manned.

Lacks spotted jeeps in the rearview mirror. She reached beside her, where the seatbelt held a hand grenade snugly. The pin tasted like hospital silverware. She spit it out at the same time she hooked the grenade out the window. It rolled for one second before exploding with more noise than lethal force. She didn't need it to hurt anyone. The trucks slowed and swerved.

She caught the soldiers' familiar eyes in the mirror, and wondered if their HeLascope was covered by the military's insurance. Her pen had finally run out of ink. She tossed the lead lined journal out the window and watched the trucks swerve as if it were another grenade. She jammed the gas pedal down and stopped caring if they followed.

The trucks had stopped following her as she began passing the signs with skulls and lightning bolts and the word "Atomic Test Site" in more languages than she'd managed to learn. There were only minutes left. If her mental math was correct, the notebook should be far enough away from the blast radius's center to remain legible. She parked the truck next to a facsimile of a concrete building and stretched her legs. All that was left was to listen for the plane and its payload.

Lacks' will, a scorched metal book recovered from the outskirts of an atomic detonation, made her desire for a normal life clear. The tabloids were quick to report that her wishes to keep her brain out of the hands of those that would misuse it were equal to her fear that her mind might live on in a million splinters being bought and sold in injections and pills. Many scoffed at the woman's apparent lack of respect for the medical profession, and her anti-scientific agenda. The legal side of her final request promises to take decades to fulfill. Her sole wish is that her remains be cremated and spread across the world's oceans. Executors of her estate are hard at work in every country tracking down the immortal HeLa samples and sealing them in thousands of urns.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

In for the kill

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

newtestleper posted:


Self Portrait by Gustave Courbet

Words: 661

His Mirror
(661 words)

Each frayed strand of bloody thread inside of the man's eyes pulsed as knocks ricocheted off of the door. He pressed his hands up against his mirror, ignoring the stains. He observed every pore of what he saw. The mineral sting of sweat coursed into his eyes, forcing them shut. The knocking echoed once more.

He held his breath and didn't break eye contact with his mirror.

He ran his fingers through his hair, dispersing the sweat and almost making it look presentable. He'd been awake all night. His clothes were chafing. He was damp. The nerves in his hands were searing through his skin. He placed them onto the cold surface of his mirror. He touched a lifeless hand as pale as his own. He heard voices outside, his name mentioned, and he heard more knocking. All sensations were drowned in the rush of heat from his hand being traded with the iciness of his mirror.

Outside, the three detectives smoked. One had a newspaper folded open to the want ads. It was early in the day. They knew someone was inside. They'd woken up neighbors on both sides of him to confirm that someone was there last night, and that he hadn't left. They wouldn't admit they'd heard sounds of arguing, or confirm they had come from Gus's apartment. It wasn't polite to tell the police these sorts of things. The three detectives were fine with working overtime. They took turns sitting at a set of rusty garden chairs and trying to hammer the door in. The breeze rustled the newspaper just enough to make reading an entire ad in one go challenging.

The man inside had run tap water on his hands and rubbed some into his face. He'd listened at the door and heard nothing. He'd had an entire minute of silence to himself and his mirror. Had they left him alone? He stared into his reflection's eyes, despairing that he could never see them blink. A burbling noise sent his spine whipping at his skull. Standing an inch taller than he would have been without the adrenalin in his blood, he turned the tap off. How long had it been running? Could they hear it outside? Were they still there? He crept slowly towards the door, his head lowering along with the rest of his posture. He put his ear to the door, his eye seeing a blood covered arm in his mirror, just poking around the corner. The sound of gavels and a firing squad leapt directly into his skull. He pulled the door open, fearing that one more blow would shatter his spine, or even the door itself.

A quiet wind jostled the paper curled around the detective's arm. The others stood up. There were empty styrofoam cups on the table. The door wavered as he supported himself on it. He was wet with perspiration and blood. His hands were layered with streaks of coagulated mineral grime. His shirt was etched with pink splotches. His eyes were clean, though shot through with blood all the same.

The three detectives put their hands to their holsters.

"This is your apartment, correct? You are Gus?" the detective with the paper asked.

His tongue was dry. He fought to keep his head from turning back to his mirror, and the story it told of the previous night.

"Alright then, well, we'd heard from your brother's wife that he did not return home last night. Not unusual in its own way, but she says that he was headed here. Your neighbors all say there was something going on here. Does that sound familiar?"

A long pause was all it usually took to draw guilty truths out.

"Do you mind if we come in? We'd like your assistance in trying to track your brother down. After all, you are twins, correct?"

The man clinging to the door looked back into the apartment, to his mirror, and fell down sobbing.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

In is good.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Thanks for the crit Sebmojo, glad you warmed up to it.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Acetone
(904 words)

Locked pantries came back in style. Fridges had thumbprint scanners. Headlines about "Them" had people bending their window-blinds at all hours. Police enlisted dogcatchers and parking enforcement officers to help deal with the “monsters”. Monsters had come up from the ground, or landed in a meteor, or washed up from the ocean or sewers or garbage dumps or something. They ate fat, but vinegar was like candy to them. Acetone was like caffeine.

People had to be careful, or wake up with their houses broken into and their black dandruff all over. It was sticky tar that stank like burning newspaper. When they burned through some street at night it just had to be sandblasted away. When your living room had an oily scorch mark from the ceiling to the floor you knew you would never get your deposit back. Teenagers would spraypaint their local tags over them. Poorly lit areas accumulated them like potholes.

Steff knew about "Them" from magazines and blog articles, and knew not to leave nail polish out just like she knew where the house's fire extinguishers and smoke detectors were. She'd seen the public service announcements. She understood what the pale and smooth patches of sidewalk she saw on her walk to work meant. She'd reminded the butcher to lock the meat counter the day he left early. Tonight she was stocking shelves and had the store to herself, aside from one of the managers in the warehouse arranging pallets.

Isolated from the boss, she was able to listen to music on her phone. If she'd been listening to the soft classics dripping out of the store's PA system, the sudden sensory deprivation when the power went out might have terrified her. Instead, the shock of going blind prevented her from realizing precisely what was happening. She dropped her boxcutter, and reached into her pocket. She brought her phone up to eye level and pressed her thumb into the screen. Rewarded with the blinding gift of sight, she tore her earbuds out and held the phone aloft like a torch. Was there rain tapping away at the roof? No, it had been sunny all day. Were rolling blackouts in the municipal forecast? No, her father hadn't told her, and it was after midnight.

She heard her manager shout "gently caress!" and knew it wasn't the automated timer on the store's lights. A tiny cartoon stowed in the back of her mind repeated a sing-songy mantra she'd heard her entire life: "If the power's down then the monster's around!". She spun around with her torch. She'd been opening boxes and arranging their contents onto shelves for an hour, but only now with her heart pumping did the fact that she was on the cosmetics aisle enter her mind. Her mind also filled with a noise she'd heard before on the news; a noise her grandpa had called "a truck bed full of chainsaws trying to start". It was a noise that scared people. You knew you were hanging out with assholes if they used it as their ringtone. She knew she was in trouble when she heard it on the other side of the shelf.

She yelled "help", and knew she was drowned out by the chorus of broken gas motors. What could an assistant manager do anyways? She tilted her head, trying to get a sense of if the thing was moving. She crept to the end of the aisle, and the noise kept pace with her. Did it smell her fingernails, or the burger she had for dinner? No, it was dumber than that. She was holding a bottle of nail polish remover. She’d just opened the box. The thing was peering around the corner of the aisle now, black fur sticking to everything its hooves touched. Its throat was revving up, its teeth vibrating. She slowly bent her knees, half to reinforce their shivering, and half from an instinct to hide. She let the arm holding the bottle of yellow poison slowly drop to her side. Her eyes were locked with the thing’s now, flat wide reflective surfaces that never blinked. She wanted to run, knowing it would tear into her back in less than an instant. She wanted to scream, knowing its sick mechanical rumbling would drown her voice.

A lifetime of nursery rhymes and firemen coming to her school had filled her brain with a sort of shame. She wouldn’t go down holding a bottle of monster food. She wouldn’t die as a Goofus after striving to be a Gallant her whole life. She slowly made to lay the bottle on the shelf. The clot of wiry hair and all its noise stretched out towards it. She deposited the plastic bottle into the thing’s churning mouth and watched it dissolve. It rolled back onto its back set of hooves and savored the caustic sweetness. Sweat from her arm slid down the sticky hot coating of its dandruff enveloping her hand.

She watched it burn slowly across the aisle, whirring its teeth through boxes and bottles of whatever it found delicious. It coated everything with dried up flecks of ink as it went.

Hours after it had left, and the police arrived, and the sun had come up, Steff handed her apron to the store manager. Her hands stank with the aloe laden scent of hand sanitizer and burnt newspapers.

“gently caress this job, I’m not cleaning this up.”

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Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Thanks for the crits Jitzu and GP

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