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God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Ush is the goddess of all tongues, all words, and all speech. No word that is uttered can help but be a prayer to her.

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God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


God Over Djinn posted:

Ush is the goddess of all tongues, all words, and all speech. No word that is uttered can help but be a prayer to her.

Screaming Idiot posted:

In with Toron-Mata, Second of the Trinity, Guardian God of Knowledge, Logic, and Speech. He is the brother of Ebilius-Shahar, Third of the Trinity, Warrior God of Freedom, Instinct, and Action, and lover of Hartisese-Jayhopa, First of the Trinity, Mother Goddess of All That Lives.

The Gift of Tongues (950 words)

Ush has followed the beast for days. It is neither well-loved nor well-nourished. Its skin is stretched drum-taut across its bony back. It has won no mate of its own, and has sired no young, and its brother will not let it return - this much has been made clear through hoots and grimaces - until it has felled and butchered an atti. It has not been lucky in the hunt. Yet Ush notes with pleasure its cunning expression. It squats before her in the dust, trembling but too curious to flee.

She mimes to it, opening her mouth, and it opens wide in mimicry. Its macroglossic tongue lolls from between its teeth. Ush's own teeth have been filed to points. She smiles like a cat and stretches out a hand. Her fingernails are knife-sharp.

Before the beast can react, its tongue is caught in Ush's pincer-grip. It gibbers and jerks away, but she has already rolled it onto its back. It is pinned to the ground, and she wrenches its jaw open wider, forcing the spike of her fingernail into its tongue. It gurns at her helplessly. Bloody froth drips from its mouth. The nail's point seems to grow barbed and impossibly long, piercing through muscle and tendon, diving into the beast's mandible like a fishhook. Now Ush braces herself, kneeling on the beast's heaving chest, and now she yanks.

The beast's eyes roll back in its head. What she is drawing forth through the wound in its tongue is impossibly large. Surely, it must choke. It shrieks and whimpers. What Ush has caught is something larger than a condor's egg, larger even than the beast's own meaty fist. It gags, the pain in its mouth and throat as if its very heart is being ripped from -

With a pop, the pain is over. The beast has voided its bowels in panic. It rolls, cross-eyed and mindless, in its own mess.

Ush wipes her bloody hand on her robes, which stay an immaculate white. With the same hand, she slaps the whimpering beast across the mouth. Her nails leave bloody traces where they slice its skin. She draws herself to her feet and straightens her clothing. "Stand up, boy," she says.

The sound of it is an explosion behind his eyes. He understands.

"Stand up," Ush says. "I won't hurt you again."

He hears the words through two sets of ears. The ears he has had for twenty seasons: they hear only the tongue-tip t, the sound one might use to call a dog. The purring ns of his brother's woman's love-cries, the ous and ohs and eis that he hears when he lies awake at night, curled against the cold in his lowly place, furthest from the fire. But the other ears, the set that this woman has granted him: she means for me to stand, they report. She will not hurt me again. He gasps.

"Speech," says the goddess. "I have given you speech."

His tongue is a trembling creature. He curls and stretches it, flexing his mouth around the words. "Thank you," he says, hoarsely, and his eyes widen at the sound of his own voice. The goddess grins again. Her hands are the white of sun-bleached bone, but her teeth are stained with red.

"I name you Toron-Mata," she says. "A fine name for a man who will serve a goddess."

Toron-Mata bows his shaggy head.

"You will go now and teach your people to speak," says the goddess. "You will tell them what has happened here. You will tell them of me, and of the gift I have given you, and you will teach them to revere me. I freely grant you the gift of speech. But every word that is spoken must be as a prayer to me."

He catches sight of his bony, poo poo-spattered legs. His knees are trembling still. He sees himself, for a moment, as his people must see him: filthy, underfed, underfoot, empty-handed. Never the stronger brother.

"Mind you never ill-use the words I have given you, Toron-Mata," Ush says. "They may come from your mouth, but they are mine, not yours. Tell this to your people. Be ever grateful."

Toron-Mata has been four days on the hunt. He should have brought home a feast, his first triumph in many moons. He should have earned a smile from his brother's woman. Instead, he will lay at her feet this gift of words. He will speak to his brother and tell him -

Tell him what? He knows no better than his brother where the hunt is richest, or where the ripest berries grow. Yet at least he can speak of this white-robed woman, who -

He looks up. She is gone. Only swirling dust marks her passing.

- who, he thinks, flushing, made him cower and shriek like a child. Who left four bloody slashes across his yet-unscarred cheek. Who shamed him like a whipped dog. Who then - he narrows his eyes - ordered him to tell his brother of this shame. Who ordered him to tell it to his brother's dark-eyed woman, who will laugh at him from behind her hand, as she laughs when the tools he whittles snap in his clumsy hands. Curse the goddess who made Toron-Mata her messenger.

But was the goddess ever here? She has left no footprints, has she? Toron-Mata tests out his tongue. "I have created speech for you," he whispers experimentally. And who could say that he did not? He is a clever man. Now that the words are his, he can say whatever he likes. And oh, he has plans for this gift of tongues.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


in

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


in

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Mercy (1499 words)

He's already sitting at a table in your favorite coffee shop when you get there. He's here at the coffee shop where that barista who works on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, the one with the pierced lip and the blonde undercut, now after seven months of meticulous tipping writes your name on your twenty-ounce to-go cup without even asking, and even goes so far as to sometimes ask you if you want 'the regular' this morning, on hearing which comment you always have to fight the urge to glance at the hipsters behind you in line (you're a little stodgy for the place, in your dress-code-compliant chinos) to check whether they've noticed that you're a regular, and then fight the subsequent urge to totally go off the rails at yourself for caring whether any dread-head recognizes your propriety over a coffee shop that used to be called Thanks A Latte and now goes by the presumably heavily ironic Brew Ha Ha. What he's drinking, the man in the corner, looks a lot like your own beloved caramel mocha, and the name your barista has inscribed in the cup in her loopy grade-eight handwriting is none other than your own. You think something like huh and you let your eyes be drawn over and up: up to the neckline of the man's own robin's-egg-blue button-down, a hair better-fitting than yours; up to his narrow jaw, neatly shaven. You refocus like a cheap camera. The man in the corner, he's got the same face as you.

The barista says something huffy. Same eyebrows trending towards bushiness (his a bit more recently waxed), same pianist's fingers, same ice-blue, long-lashed eyes, the only feature of yours you've ever liked. He stands and you startle but he's not looking at you but instead over your shoulder at the barista, who you glance at just as she gives him a thousand-watt smile (lip-ring clacking on teeth), waves girlishly, and says: "Same time tomorrow, Gary?"

"You bet," he says, in your voice.

You tremble.

You're a perfect simulacrum to his original. You hustle onto the street behind him. He introduces himself, mad as you must seem: your name, your tiny hint of a lisp on the hissier syllable codas. That might be recognition in his eyes. "What the hell is going on here?" you ask and he says "Hey, man, I could talk about that all day, but I've really got to get to work." He gestures towards your own bus. Warmly greets your driver. Gets off at your own stop. Walks into the foyer at Walker & Wellbert Insurance, inc, with a stride a touch more confident than your own. Baffles the receptionist into refusing you entry - Gary already signed in, I have no idea what you're trying to pull here. "Is this a prank?" you ask the receptionist, whose name is Marlene, and she adjusts her tortoiseshell glasses before responding Is what a prank, sir? but now you've strongarmed your way through the security door - you do have your own keycard - and now he's got his arm around your boss's shoulders in a way more fraternal than you've been towards anyone, up to and including your own actual brother. He's logging in at your terminal. He's wearing your headset, the one that you don't even lend to the most conscientious of your fresh-out-of-school coworkers. You're clenching your fists. You think about going to the hospital. You think about going home and going back to bed. The word confidant bubbles into your head. He casually puts one hand on the tricep of the female recent hire who does triathlons and smells like vanilla extract and whose name you do not know. You watch him stand and walk across the room, a beatific smile on his face. You jerk out of the way as someone says "hey, watch it" and half-tumbles over you with a box of paper. You take a breath. You do something that liberally might be called storming across the room. He isn't looking at you, even though a few other people now are, in a look-at-that-rear end in a top hat sort of way.

You plant your feet and say "Look, buddy." You've never called anybody buddy in your life without at least four and a half beers in you, and at this moment the word seems to bounce buddy buddy buddy off of the industrial-beige carpet, and industrial-grey modular cubical walls. You dredge up the word galvanized from some old SAT flashcard and soldier on. "Look," you say again, "I don't know what the gently caress exactly is going on here." He hasn't looked at you yet. Does the picked-at cystic acne under your own jawline really have that same raw-hamburger look to it? "But you've got ten seconds to explain to me who the gently caress you are and what you think you're doing, showing up out of nowhere and trying to take my life right out from under me -" You try to decide if the little squeak at the end there, the echo of a postadolescent voice-crack's echo, was audible to you alone or to you as well. He just stands there for a full ten seconds - an epochial length of time, three entire breaths, eighteen and a half heartbeats, enough time for you to be gearing up for a real red-faced throttling meltdown when he finally looks up from the table where he's now filling out what appears to be a get-well-soon card for a coworker regarding whose name you can only dredge up vague shame-memory-type associations (last year's Christmas party, a meaty-palmed fumble behind the buffet table) and says "Aw, I'm sorry. You weren't using it, were you?" with a smile whose warmth could melt Nurse Ratched's heart.

And you know what? When you calm down and think about it for a second, he's actually got a point, this man who wants your life. Are you still the boy, say his (your) blue eyes, who spent your own tenth ice-skating birthday party sobbing quietly in the handicapped stall because your grandmother gave you a Transformers action figure that you already had one of and your mama turned around and gave it away to William Dickert, who wore the same World Wrestling Federation t-shirt every day and had a raw eczematous rash around his mouth that made it look as if he'd always been eating red popsicles, sobbing not because you'd ever begrudge William Dickert a Transformers action figure, but actually because as soon as your mama said 'you don't mind, do you Gary?' you began to feel the self-righteous fury sizzling biliously up your throat and the devil of need inside of you wanted to actually rend her with its claws, wanted to rend its own breast at the heartbreaking loss of a plaything that was rightfully yours, and moreso even because you knew even at age ten that to even have entertained such a hateful feeling towards poor William Dickert and towards your kind, long-suffering, narrow-faced and lank-haired mama, a mama whose Job-like suffering in the raising of you is elevated to martyrdom in your personal mythology, whose aureole shines from her (Cleveland. Six years back. Anal cancer, just like Farrah Fawcett) deathbed, whose memory in your heart is a pulsing cyst that can't be touched for fear of popping it - and the thing that made you cry the most wretchedly (handicapped stall, tenth birthday party, Transformers action figure, William Dickert) was knowing that to even entertain that feeling for a moment tattooed you as a piggish, lustful thing better suited for the trough or the killing pens than for a picket-fence adulthood. You start to take the next step in the good old game of Who are you, anyways? which is to recall that your lifelong obsession with your own greed and filthiness is in itself a reflection of a nasty self-indulgent self-absorbedness that doesn't even begin to manifest itself in other people, with your face, who are busier thinking about girls and insurance policies and vaccinating Guatemalan orphans -- no, that last bit is you being snide, and you almost start all over but the man with your face winks at you as if he can read your thoughts and is trying to say, knock it off with the ouroboric bullshit and do something useful already. "Fine," you say. That face of yours. It's not like you really loved it, anyways. "Fine. Keep it, buddy." He's still sincerely smiling. You used to want to be better than you were. These days you just want to want to want to want to, and so on down the recursive plughole. If you remember correctly, you used to want to buy a good pair of shoes, head on out the door, and not stop walking until you saw the sunset over the Pacific. And you're still young. The sun still sets every evening. So maybe you will.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


I've been felled by jetlag. Prompt will come crashing down on your unwary heads in the AM (eastern US).

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Thunderdome 140: Who do you think you are?

Write the biography of an imaginary person.

1500 words
signups by 10pm PDT Friday April 10
subs by 10pm PDT Sunday April 12

There are no rules beyond the ones above but if you're going to go off the deep end you'd better write one motherfucker of an entry, you dig?

e: I knew I was forgetting something.

judges
Yours truly
Djeser
curlingiron

biographers
Thyrork
Killer-of-Lawyers
Jitzu_the_Monk
A Classy Ghost
Tyrannosaurus
Grizzled Patriarch
spectres of autism
newtestleper
Screaming Idiot
skwidmonster
Sitting Here
SadisTech
Bompacho
sebmojo
Benny Profane
Ironic Twist
Broenheim
HWPS
Wangless Wonder
After The War

God Over Djinn fucked around with this message at Apr 13, 2015 around 02:30

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


A Classy Ghost posted:

Could I get a flash rule?

Your character is the world's best at doing something, but there are very important reasons why nobody but him/her knows this.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Ironic Twist posted:

in, sorry Djinn.

this had better be one drat good story idea that you managed to generate, champ

Djeser posted:

I'll judge because this sounds like a week full of awful storytelling fun

you, on the other hand, are now officially in my good books

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Reincarnation.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


If I remember correctly, crabrock got an HM that one time by writing a story about his own penis. So there's precedent, is what I guess I'm trying to say

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Entries closed. Get writin', scrubs.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Only one of those is literally about your penis (I hope to god)

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


put down your pens & prepare to meet your judgment, suckers

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Thunderdome 140: results

This was a good week to judge. Even though there was a lot of bad writing here, there were a lot of smart ideas and well-observed moments and generally surprising, engaging, inspiring stuff. There were a lot of stories I didn't quite want to HM because they had serious issues, but to whose authors I'd like to say something like 'keep coming back'. Also, just because you didn't HM (or DM) doesn't mean that one or more of us didn't love (or hate) your story - I tried to keep it light on mentions this week since there weren't too many entries. More detail in forthcoming crits, now on to the good stuff.

Winner:
Grizzled Patriarch - Gliding Over All (poignant, heartbreaking, non-traditional without feeling forced or gimmicky. Well-observed. Good work.)

Honorable Mentions:
Ironic Twist - I Really Don't Know How To Lose (one of your judges hated this but it made the other two of us laugh an awful lot and your writing is absolutely on point, so I couldn't not HM it.)
A Classy Ghost - The 51st President of the United States of America (a dark horse favorite from one judge - but I confess there's a lot to like here. More in crits.)

Dishonorable Mention:
HWPS - I'll be your guide (your judges aren't psychic, bro, even though it might seem like it sometimes? I really wanted you to have written a delightfully creepy story, but then I realized that I was giving you way too much credit here.)

Loser
Thyrork - Biography of a Dragon (layers of slop piled on top of a shopworn narrative, with an ending that comes out of nowhere and lands with a thud. The one story that I struggled to actually finish reading.)

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


gimme onea them wizards

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


I am in and I am .

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Sun Eater (1548 words)

I am born, and I hunger! I blast down torrents of time, solar winds ripping the lanugo from my hide. I rear my hideous head, and planets shake. I bare my hideous fangs, and galaxies quiver. My body stretches from star to star. I am vast! My Mama, vaster still, lolls in a bed of comets. My twenty newborn sisters, sodden and mewling, suckle at her tits. I roar my fearsome challenge. There can be nothing in this universe that is not mine. There will be nothing in this universe that is not I. My sisters shrink from me. They flee. I care not. I rend. I tear. Their twenty corpses drift in space. My Mama, torn from womb to throat, moans once and dies.

---

My people are vast, and they hunger. All around me are brown limbs, lean and scarred brown bodies, faces like brown moons with coronas of wild hair. We reek of poo poo and swampwater. The land we have crossed is dead and rotten. The fields of our village were dead and rotten. We have not slept or washed since we left the valley three days past. No matter. Tonight, we will feast on the cattle of the Sun People. Tonight, we will wash ourselves in the blood of their men and the cunts of their women. The drums pound once, then twice, then begin a furious tattoo. I send up the war shout, ha. The people roil and surge. I leap from the boulder where I stand and into the pack. I shove and am shoved. I strike and am struck. My heart throbs with the drums. We are the ocean that a million men will drown in. We gorge, and we grow! Ha. We are the beast that rips out the throat of life.

---

I hunger. I gently caress her like a drowning man. I want to tear her heart from her breast and smear myself with her blood. I want to run naked into the Budapest snow with my cock still wet from her stinkyhole and my hair still smelling like her lavender perfume. Her four-poster bed slams against the drywall and somewhere, far away, a half-full wineglass falls to the floor and shatters. I've lived here for four months, and for four months I've sat on my balcony every night and looked down at the expat bar across the street, taken shots of cheap palinka, and read the same two English novels over and over and over. But tonight the Romanian girl, who has a sun tattooed on her neck and breasts like two full moons, shouted at me to come down and say hello. Her friends cackled and hushed her, but when I sprinted down the grimy stairwell and across the street, breathless, she was still waiting. Later, sated, drowning in her down comforter, I suck at her earlobe and whisper: "Oh, God, oh, God, I need you." She rolls over, shameless, half-lidded, and says: "Well, have me, then," and laughs.

---

I blaze through space. I leave great swaths of nothing in my wake. I am the void, the shade, the great black dog that lopes at the heels of time. I am the darkness that puts out the light. For epochs I gorge on all that I see. Where once there were worlds, I swallow them whole and I grow. Yet I am not unopposed. One last galaxy clutches at the skirts of life. They bomb me, they blast me, they set me ablaze. They tear at my flesh with great shrieking machines. They poison me. They bore through my brutal skull. I die a dozen times. But when I hunger, I will not go unfed! I look about me. I fill this soap-bubble universe almost to bursting. I am my own dominion. I force myself up. I lunge. I swallow. Their hundred billion suns burn my gullet, then fizzle and die. I let out a sigh.

---

The Sun People link arms between us and their village. Each holds a knife in his right hand. They stare at us, grim and silent in their painted masks: hares, jackals, wolves, hawks. In our stories, a man who does not speak is already dead. My people tremble. We are dazed and dizzy with hunger. The Sun Chief speaks. He wears the mask of a great black bird. He says that we need not fight. I laugh in his face. To fill the bellies of my people, I will fight for a thousand lifetimes. We carry the flame. We are the storm that rips forests from the earth. I open my throat and loose our war cry. Ha. A storm does not fight but devours. Ha. I snatch the flame from my torchbearer's hand. Screaming over the beat of the drums, I burst from the crowd. Ha. Now my men are running at my heels. Ha. We crash against the Sun People. We crack their slender bones. We drain their blood onto the earth. The sun sets. The village blazes. And our hearts continue to beat.

---

She said she needed space. It's harder to punch through glass than I thought. She wanted to take a break. The pill bottles in her medicine cabinet are all labeled in languages I can't speak. She said not forever and she meant forever. I am wounded but not dying. She wraps my wrists in gauze. She's still wearing lipstick and my blood is smeared on her forearms. "You should've been a nurse," I say. She looks away. I try to stand, and the bathroom floor heaves. The pills I've puked up float in her grimy toilet, unflushed. She walks me to her bedroom and strips me down to my briefs and tucks me into her four-poster bed and pulls the down comforter up to my chin. I wish that she would cry. I reach out and hook one of her belt loops with a finger. "Lie down with me," I say. "I need you." Without undressing, she lies down beside me, on top of the covers. But an hour later she quietly undresses in the dark and quietly climbs on top of me and very quietly fucks me, gently, not touching the bandages, and not saying anything at all.

---

I have devoured. Now I float, unmoored. I see nothing. I taste nothing. I am what remains. For a billion epochs I drift from nowhere to nowhere. My wings quiver. Then I drift for a billion epochs more. Each nerve prickles electric. I hunger still. Impulses wend their way from my brain to my tail. Slowly, very slowly, I whip it around. I take its tip between my own teeth. There is no more starlight to see by. I bite into the flesh of my tail. I groan, and my body vibrates like a drum. I start to eat.

---

The bodies of the Sun People are as light and dry as driftwood. In their storehouses are only a few black kernels of grain. Behind their fearsome masks, their faces are scarred with pox and blisters. Their eyes are the color of cornflour. Their cows totter in the field, their udders loose and their wounds swarming with maggots. In their well floats the corpse of a dog. Our women warm their cold hands by the blazing village. Somebody weeps in the dark. There will be fewer of us in the morning. Ha, I say, and pound my skinny fist on the war drum. Ha, we will march on the next village in the morning. Ha. We will eat, if we must tear at our enemies' flesh with our teeth! Ha, the feeble cry goes up. We will walk to the edge of the sky if we must. We must.

---

In my daydreams I run through the snow behind her train as it pulls away. In my daydreams she slips a letter through the mail slot at four in the morning just before she leaves. In my daydreams I race to the door, only to see her coattails vanishing around the corner. I tear the envelope open and read her desperate tearstained declaration of love and loyalty and fall to my knees right there in the hallway, sobbing, and the beautiful neighbor I never knew I had makes me a cup of herbal tea and invites me to join her in her claw-footed bathtub. But instead I fall asleep on the couch, and in the morning the fire alarm's run out of batteries again and is letting off a high-pitched squeal, and my head aches and my mouth is sticky. I've been crying in my sleep, and my nose is red and two veins stand out on my forehead. The train tracks are cordoned off with barbed wire, and they won't let me onto the platform without a ticket. I sit at a coffee shop next to the station. I sip the dregs of an espresso. I stare out into the snow, watching for her black coat and her red scarf, until my eyes burn. After a long time the owner taps me on the shoulder. "Time to go," he says in throaty English. "Or you will order another? No sitting without drinking." So I stand up. I put my coat back on. And I go.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


in

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


I will be writing on the topic of 'A Cold Freezin' Night', which is the only song by this band that I'd ever heard before and coincidentally a pretty good song.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


in

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


The Hand That Stills My Wings(1186 words)

I was six years old, and I loved that house: I loved the scars on the hardwood floor that traced out strange words; I loved the owls that sang lullabies at my bedroom window; I loved the gallery of photographs that ran up the front staircase and down the upstairs hallway. I loved that house nakedly, and when my parents sat me down at the kitchen table and told me their scheme to rip me away from it (Divorce: my mother sitting awkwardly in the place we normally saved for guests, my father leaning, arms crossed, against the opposite wall) I went mad. I screamed until I thought my throat would bleed. I wondered if I could hate forever.

I woke up after midnight, tender and raw, with the kitchen table's carved edging embossed on my cheek. Nobody had put me to bed. A light shone under the guest bedroom door, and my mother's music was playing quietly. I called out. After a minute (shifting from one foot to the other, timid of being outside of my own bed so late) the radio went silent, but nobody came to comfort me. I think I must have put myself to bed, then, alone in the dark.

I had a nightmare where I was a lighthouse. I strained to show the way to shore, but boat after boat blundered into a jagged reef and shattered. I didn't think there were so many boats in all the world. When I woke, there was a sound in my ears like a waterfall. My mother walked into the room and I saw her, through closed eyes, as though I was looking through a block of ice. She spoke, but all I heard was rushinig water. My body thrashed and spasmed and tumbled to the floor, and the sheets seemed to constrict around my neck, and all I saw was white.

Nobody realized what had changed about me, not for more than a year. I had been desperately sick, I was weak, I spent my time sleeping fitfully while my parents quietly fought downstairs. After some weeks (was it summer still or was it already fall? All I know is that I was still aflame with fever) they bundled me into blankets, wheeled me to a car I had never seen before, and took me to my father's new house. I clung to the doorframe where they'd etched lines to mark my growth. I begged them to let me take a keepsake, anything, a pebble from the driveway, but they couldn't understand me or didn't care to. They carried me through the door of a ragged house that smelled of mildew, installed me in a too-large, too-firm bed, and left me alone. It was in that ugly house, where my father paced in circles from office to hallway to kitchen to porch, that I slowly recovered. It was in that house, eighteen months later, that we realized what had happened. A hand had been raised against me: halt. I could no longer grow.

I had never been tall, but in eighteen months, the five-year-old son of my father's housekeeper towered over me. (I have one photograph of the two of us: me, frail and yellow with the expression of a porcelain doll; him, plump, brown, and robust.) At first, the doctors reassured us. The body has a way, they explained, of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Just in case, I wouldn't return to school. I wasn't to exert myself, because my heart was fragile. My one job was to lie right there (young lady) and try to grow.

In the early months, my father would sit in my room and work. I read and reread my dozen comic books until the covers grew soft with oil and peeled away. Asking him for new ones, even asking him to go to the library, would mean admitting defeat. So I carried on, needing nothing, and I was given nothing in turn. Did I try to grow? I'm no longer sure. My father grew his hair long and stopped ironing his pants. The doctors injected something into my stomach with a big needle. I turned eight, then nine, then ten. I was weighed and measured weekly, then monthly, then not at all. I was always fragile, but never quite broken. Now, my father worked alone in his downstairs office. My mother called on Christmas, but her voice was slurred, and in the background I heard jazz and shouting. My father stopped answering the phone. I didn't grow. He grew hunched and transparent, like a ghost.

I decided, over many days' thinking: the night I had the fever, I had split myself in two. Now one part lay in its oversized bed or sat in front of the window, memorizing Archie and Wonder Woman. The other went to school in the morning, and ate supper with its parents at night. One had ground to a halt. The other had carried on growing.

Every morning at my father's house, the mailman left his truck at 9:08, took ten steps to our mailbox, and deposited two letters and a paper-wrapped parcel. Then the housekeeper's son appeared on his yellow bicycle. He caught one wheel in a rut and tumbled over, then abandoned the bike on the grass.

Each day, 115 cars drove by. 68 were traveling west, and 47 east. For the eighteenth day in a row: five were red, 28 were silver, and 29 were white.

Was it summer still, or was it already fall?

Had I ever spent a winter in this house?

I opened my bedroom door, toddled downstairs, and laid a hand on the yellow bicycle. Hadn't the housekeeper's son been two years younger than me? Shouldn't he be twice my size? I heaved it upright. I could reach the pedals with my tiptoes. At 4:05 in the afternoon , the ghost would walk outside in his pajamas to pick up the morning paper. I had to go now, so I did. The old house, where I still lived with my mother and father, was a mile away. I had dreamed the trip a hundred times.

As I wobbled around the last corner before the old house, I heard laughter and the sound of hammers meeting wood. I could tell before I got there that something had changed, that more light shone between the trees, that the echoes of sound that reached me had caromed off of strange surfaces along their way. And then I saw: the lot had been stripped bare. A dozen men swarmed over the half-assembled frame of a new house. Where I recalled that the willow trees had taken me into their arms and rocked me to sleep, there was a pile of pallets. I wondered if my family had been crushed when the house was torn down? I wondered if my mother and father had been buried in the rubble.

I wondered if the part of me that remembered how to grow, had escaped alive.

I wondered where she was now.

I wondered whether I could pedal there.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


here is ur crits for last week

In case anybody hasn't listened to my babbling in IRC for the last 2 weeks or w/ev, I lost the use of one hand and I've been condemn to hilarious and bewildering typos. I was going to edit these to make them all nice and tidy but I'm grouchy and mojo had a solution:

[17:25] <%sebmojo> post them unchanged djinn
[17:26] <%sebmojo> let them sift for kernels of golden meaning through the rich meaty slurry of your brainvomit

So if you can't tell what the gently caress I'm talking about then sucks to ur assmar



Pumpkin mash
- your writing style reads like a Sweet Valley high novel
- dialogue is bizarre
- just very juvenile
- " grotesque gargoyles, who scared off the people who wanted to attack the castle but who were actually her best friends in the castle" wtf is this poo poo

meat loaf
tongue-in-cheek?
No real motivation for the guys actions
cute but blows away in the wind

the abduction myth
try to look sexy - show don't tell.
Kinda like the hit girl concept but I think it would work better in a movie than a story.
Success comes too easy, no struggle, just a retell of things that happen in a story - nobody changed, didn't learn anything

housework and roadwork
don't mind the beginning, he probably should have started with Dan digging the hole but it's intriguing enough
couldn't pick up a telephone that handles on cute
not quite a narrative, compressed, should have used extra words

when all else fails on the campaign trail
hah, this is cute. You're creating a fun and intriguing universe, I want to know more
actually made me laugh a couple times and I'm famously humorless

how Sy lost his hop
first of all, you got one mother Fokker of a flash rule, and I admire your guts for even writing this at all.
Okay, fairytale type tone, you don't quite nail it - your veering a little bit too far into 'children's book' territory, may be reread the so loud - but I get what you're going for and that's more than I can say for a lot of these
WTF happened at the end here, did you just get sick of writing

34th and Cicero
why is this in the present tense?
Feels like a zit being squeezed - ha ha great
okay I got now why it's in present tense. Maybe some kind of introduction for the concept would have made it more clear, also the beginning is not special enough to drag on for as long as it does
"inciting their frustrations into outright aggression" WTF
you would've been better if you had gone more surreal at the end, even - as it is it's just not quite far enough to be 'out there' like I want it to be

the rooster's last stand
good!
You hit a poignant note that I think the original missed, it's less ambiguous
almost feels cinematic

50m
good opening, and intrigued
ackkkk the plural of merman is mermen
ha, I like the tongue-in-cheek thing with the orca hormones, the delivery
so actually like this, as ridiculous as it is - it's a simple story, although you could have used your extra words to elaborate on some stuff. It's not going to win, but you ought to be proud of your ability to set priorities in your writing

mist
the salt mist of early winter cut sharply into his moist palm.
Overwrought and kind of gross sounding
actually just overwrought and purple in general, tone it down you
okay this is boring, overwrought, and melodramatic. And some of your word choices are just bewildering 'shared their plaintive cry', 'for the first time he imagined their fragile white bodies' what you're blocking is also really really weird and the beginning isn't intriguing enough to make me want to wait for the punchline. This is bad.
What's up with the blindfold?
Yeah what's the point. This is awful

with every stroke
ha, you're gutsy. I love that's you totally reframed your original story and a sincerely novel way but in a way that leaves it recognizable - of course the fact that I'm impressed here depends entirely on the fact that I have unfortunately read their braces at sea but you still get some points.
Rowing is the only sport in which the competitor can watch their foes disappear in front of them. Clever observation
it's a little unmoored, lacking context. I'm not really that interested in Lena and rama maybe if you gave me a reason to root for them earlier on instead of putting the bit where you frame them as underdogs in the middle -
lol what's going on with the ending. Way too different of a tone, I get what you think you're doing but you need to support this earlier in the story - it just comes out of the blue.
You certainly outdid the original the!

Textual analysis of the Europa fragment
ooh, super interesting take on a rewrite. I'm intrigued
I wish you would have tried to elaborate a little further on what the narrative is here on what exactly was being described in toa's story. As it is, I feel kind of lost, and I even read the original story. I think part of it is that there isn't really a narrative and part of it is that I don't know who your narrator is.
That said I really respect what you're trying to do here I think it's clever and I think that it was the right choice for this original story. I just think you could've done a better job
you're kind of dancing around what seems to be really interesting story - are they cleansing the planet of this one guy who's left there, this outsider? They're going back to kill him? That super interesting but there just isn't enough there be a little more explicit.

Predators squared
nice use of language, technically strong writing.
Some really good descriptions - 'it's feet were below the horizon' is a nice one
it's is only ever short for it is!!! Jesus Christ, proofread a thing
too much description of action. You don't have to do the whole TV play-by-play; it's getting boring. I don't care about every single thing she did
they were still as thick as her body. It didnít look like it had good control over them, but wild flailing was dangerous nonetheless. What
eh boring mostly.

The predators' end in the long grass
so - technically good poetry, you've good command of meter
end is awkward, doesn't really 'take it further' or show us anything novel and interesting; his poem is just a rather eloquent description. I you start to get it something that's pretty compelling in the third stanza when you suggest that may be the creature the man was fighting was just defending itself and was willing to stop, but the man wasn't - but you don't go any further with this. And you fall apart technically - slightly - in the last stanza. blerch.

cronus
I didn't really quite get the connection between the narrative and the Greek stuff - was the guy history professor something?
This is novel and clever, I like the idea of the zombie who doesn't quote want to be a zombie.
Well written to. If it wasn't for the slightly tortured Greek history connection, and also the fact that I have no idea how the zombie managed to befriend the survivors or end up in a position to lecture them on history, and why he didn't get shot by them, also whether or not he was deliberately setting them up to get eaten by esau, then I would want us to win as it is maybe an HM

the last man on earth
like the opener, especially the comment that Stuart took her to Paris - cute and clever.
This is a fantastic take on the Apocalypse - the small within the large. I'm actually laughing here, the idea of this poor guy and his mom fighting about who set off the end of the world
wow, this is dark as hell and I love it - I actually went and looked up who had written is after reading it, because I was super impressed. I could see it winning. Because you've done something genuinely novel here.

It was all a teenage fantasy
beginning is too long - make it punchier. I mean it's basically a joke, everybody told her that rock music was satanic, turns out it is played tongue-in-cheek.
Who is violet?
ground cratering attack wtf
amazingly boring for the subject matter
stupid pun ending
not impressed

cervical fracture
again, a bit purple, a bit overwrought
and your title is sort of unfortunate - it gives it away, doesn't it?
The ambiguity at the end is a little unpleasant
but the story really isn't bad - I think this is one of the few cases this week where you didn't use all of your words by far, but you didn't really need to use anymore to get your point across. Story is just a bit dull and unoriginal.

From moment to moment
eh, whatever. Clear enough, workmanlike, but not exactly inspiring, and I'm not really getting the impetus for g's change

did he who made the lamb make thee?
ooh, neat. I'm vaguely familiar with the concept - I think that in the original the expectation was that the children, speaking Hebrew? Or something like that - so I'm curious what your take on it is
oh geez, so people don't often do horror very well a in a thunder dome, but you did a nice job: the moment that got me was where the boy is gesturing towards the Tigers but, because he doesn't know how to speak, isn't able to communicate anything towards A. poo poo, that's scary. Nicely done.

Sol invictus
whoa. I really dig the change in perspective. You didn't quite nail the 'woke up' bit, although I do like that you're playing around with time and perspective; maybe if you'd portrayed it as a series of days in her life before moving to Seattle? That said, I don't think the story really stands on its own without the original - I think a lot of the delay I'm getting from this comes from seeing a totally unique perspective on my own story :3
she wants the plane to crash before he remembers - Jesus, brutal

funerals are there to make people forget
typo in the second sentence, yeesh. Actually a whole bunch of spelling errors - shutter, peddle. costed
okay the ending brings a little something extra in their but you missed a good opportunity to add some kind of conflict. Kind of boring that it's just all reflection the narrator doesn't really do anything and it doesn't seem like a very big deal for him to go back to the house,

taijitu
living and eating chamber - holy crap what a clunky description
wait, I seriously don't get what happened at the end - why does cyra change your mind?

Giant robots are cool and awesome
lol, the wall bit was cute - I liked the beginning, it was funny
dialogue is to tongue-in-cheek, comes off as stilted, like their spots where you're making fun of yourself just a little bit too much - 'those look a little bit like flying robots', 'kick in rad ED's tunes', 'roboty thing'
aw, cute ending.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


in

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Holes (1097 words)

Something is eating Laura alive. This morning, she stood at the bus station until every bus had come and gone twice and a driver she'd never seen before hopped down from her seat and asked Laura, "Honey, do you need me to call someone?" Overnight, the thing in her head had eaten the memory of the bus she'd taken to campus for 12 years. "No," she said, so sharply that the driver shook her head as she turned away. The Thing wanted Laura to cry, or scream, or throw herself to the ground. Instead she called Theo, and when he asked why she needed a ride to campus, she told him that she just wanted to see his handsome face again. The tumor wouldn't say that, Laura thought. So it must have been me.

The tumor likes the taste of names. Sitting in the department head's office, smelling on his breath the onion bagel he always eats for breakfast, she remembers the title of his last book but not what his mother calls him. If she must, she decides, she'll just call him Dr. Larkin. She published her dissertation before he left high school, but he won't notice the irony. He makes his grad students call him Doctor, she remembers, and wants to laugh. Or maybe it's the Thing that would have her laugh in his jowly face instead of later, at home, over dinner with Theo. "Let me get right to the point, Laura," he's saying. "What the hell is going on in English 104?"

Laura searches her lacework of a memory. English 104 is her freshman literature survey, her single class in her last semester. "You can't just give up that easily," Theo said, when she told him she was retiring. "Congratulations," said the other adjuncts, incuriously. They don't know about the Thing. After hearing that for the tenth time, she snapped: "How old do you think I am?" The Thing has made her skin dry and her eyes glassy. She looks in the mirror and thinks to herself, hag. But Larkin (Roger? Robert?) is looking at her expectantly, and she needs to decide what Laura would say.

"Learning, mainly," she tries. Before the last syllable leaves her mouth, she knows that she's let the tumor speak for her again. The Laura who faithfully taught English Lit every semester for 16 years, never asking for so much as a faculty parking spot, is not a sarcastic soul. Quiet, yes, bookish, romantic, even, given to quoting her favorite novels unattributed. Stubborn, maybe, but not nasty. But the day before they found the tumor, she and Theo had such a fight that he slept on the couch for the first time in 22 years. About what, she can't remember: the Thing took that memory too. Every time she speaks it's there, now, trying to speak for her. Irritability. Mood swings. Changes in personality.

Larkin isn't smiling: he prefers people who let themselves be trampled. "Hah," he says, but it isn't quite a laugh. "Well it does seem, Laura, that there are many unhappy students in this particular class." He clears his throat. "So I've heard."

The tumor hasn't swallowed Don DeLillo, or The Razor's Edge, or "Why I Live at the P.O." Laura still remembers every work of fiction she's taught. She can still lecture, although every week lecturing feels a little more like flying a plane: she has to stay above her stall speed or risk crashing. But what of it? She never used to teach from notes, and now she does. Is it a crime, though, to go from extraordinary to ordinary? So what else has changed? Only everything, she thinks. The first time she taught a class, she wasn't so naÔve as to think that she could change her students: grad school had taken care of that. Nonetheless, over the next 40 semesters, she had abandoned more ideals than she'd ever known she had. A student lied about his mother's death, and Laura stopped believing excuses, but on Larkin's orders, she didn't stop accepting them. A student complained about her grade, and Laura changed it, and went home and cursed herself but didn't change it back. A favorite student copied her term paper from a dusty old journal in the library, and Laura quietly stopped letting herself have favorites. But she remembers a conversation with Theo in the oncologist's waiting room, the same day that she decided that this would be her last semester. "I think I had it right to begin with," she said. "I'm done managing students. One more semester, and I'm going to try just teaching them. We're just going to read books well and talk about them."

The funny thing was, it worked. At home, the Thing swallowed her soul by inches. She'd find herself looking at her wedding album, unable to place the people standing next to her in the pictures. Or she'd catch herself in the hallway with a box of Band-Aids and a fleeting feeling of inexplicable urgency, and Theo would have to tell her, hours later, that he'd cut his thumb peeling carrots. But in front of her classroom, the Thing was silent, and Laura herself could speak.

And now there have been complaints.

Larkin is talking again. "...don't know how to calculate their grades..." she catches. "...more information about what to expect on the final..." Laura has had a headache for the last six months. "And are you not using the standard Freshman Lit syllabus? Because we've standardized it for a reason..."

Laura is staring at Larkin, she realizes, with a look on her face like her life is ending.

"...very unusual to hear this sort of thing about you, of all people, Laura, after so long with no issues," he says. He peers at her. With uncharacteristic gentleness, he adds: "is everything okay? Is there something new going on that I need to know about?"

Laura thinks, for a moment, about those 40 semesters of teaching. She imagines that the Thing is thinking too, in some dark corner of her brain. It would make an easy scapegoat, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it be simple enough to blame this last semester on the tumor in her head? After all, hasn't she been different lately? Who becomes an optimist at 47?

"Nothing's wrong," she says, and stands up, looking down at ruddy, self-satisfied Larkin. She doesn't know what she's going to say until she says it, but when she does, she's pretty sure it's Laura speaking. "I just think you're an rear end in a top hat."

She smiles all the way home.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


in

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


hear ye hear ye

let it be known to all and sundry that the ignoble wretch commonly called sitting here did not even slightly deserve her last brawl win against me, by virtue of not writing a story. i thus formally request that she beat me fair and squarelose like the puny baby she is in a second contest of writin' stuff, with the caveat that we both have to write actual stories, written-down ones, with words in 'em and whatnot.

calling the moderately honorable ironic twist to judge: we await your prompt.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


in

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


god over djinn vs sitting here thunderbrawl where we write stories with words in 'em

In defense of the wandering dead (2500 words)

The body of Guillermo de Luca washed up on shore, still hot with the dregs of a terrible fever. The shades of old women huddled around it. The hems of their dressing gowns brushed its skin. They laughed amongst themselves. Jumped off the boat before it got here, eh? I reckon him a restless soul for sure.

Guillermo tested each limb, dragged himself painfully to his feet, and began to walk. Where d'ye suppose you're headed then, young man? someone called after him, but Guillermo did not turn. They didn't follow. They were only wights, and they vanished with the next strong wind.

A milky sun floated just above the horizon, and a nameless restlessness drove Guillermo towards it. He walked through brush, then pebbles, then sand. If he had thought to inventory his memories, he would have found them stripped bare, his mind hollowed out as if by fire. The landscape grew flatter and paler as he walked.

He looked up, and a woman with goat's eyes was standing before him.

You may not wander here, she said, and he felt her voice inside his tired bones.

"What will I find if I do?" he said.

What do you think you'll find? the psychopomp asked.

"Only death," he said, and he suddenly knew himself for a man who did not fear death. He smiled at the thought. The psychopomp, obeying some indiscernible cue, bowed her head and stepped aside.

Guillermo walked, and he came to a place that he had seen at the end of his life. He was standing in a sun-cracked market square. Across from him, dark-skinned people in sarongs huddled around a dead or dying man. Their bare footprints passed in and out of the pool of blood. Guillermo wondered whether he had been shot, until he felt the weight of the gun in his hand. He had shot another man, then. The locals looked at Guillermo with horror, but made no move to detain him. They were too afraid. They were afraid of the disease he had brought from the jungle, he realized. It was killing him even then. He had lacked the strength to brush the flies from his skin.

He remembered the name of the man he had shot: Orion. With Orion dead at last, he had nothing more to fear, whether in this life or at the end of it. He smiled again, feeling a terrible relief.

Before he could die a second time, he walked on.

Guillermo came to the edge of a marsh. Bloated, half-sunken trees bobbed around him like the bodies of drowned men. He had seen a body once, after drowning, though he could not remember where or who. The skin had been mottled white and purple, and when the body had been moved it had split and sloughed off in sheets. For years thereafter he had suffered dreams where his body swelled or shriveled or burst. The marsh pulsed with things against which human skin was no armor. Yet now, he did not feel afraid.

Guillermo had followed the man Orion there, not so long ago. He had spent three days encamped on the outskirts, wishing that he would wake up and his map would no longer show a route through the marsh. On the fourth day, he threw away his fear and gave chase. He left the marsh with both less and more than he entered with: he had caught the fever that would turn his skin yellow, parch his lips, shrivel his limbs, and kill him. He had shed the terror of deformity that had dogged him. And his hands had nearly closed around Orion's throat.

Guillermo walked easily into the marsh. He needed no map, this second time through.

He walked until his feet should have bled and his throat should have burned. He saw the shades of a few true friends he'd met on the road. He never saw the shadow of Orion, but he walked through the scenes of a dozen near-misses - pubs the hunted man had left an hour before Guillermo had arrived; hotel rooms he'd checked out of a moment too early. Guillermo's heart thrilled with the memory of the chase. He came to the ocean that he had once crossed by boat, when Orion had fled the continent. Guillermo remembered crossing the gangplank to his boat, trembling. Now, in death, he leapt fearless from the rocky bank and swam. He walked through the trainyards and factories where his arms had grown hard as steel and his pockets had filled with the coin that he spent on his travels. Now he smiled as he walked, and he whistled a half-remembered song, and the milky never-setting sun seemed almost warm.

He could just make out a town in the far distance. He stopped whistling while he squinted at it, trying to place it in his memories, and when he continued he found that he didn't care to take up the tune again. Even at this distance, the town seemed the most cheerless place he'd ever seen. A little canal ran through a copse of moldering clay-brick buildings, each leaning on its neighbor like an old woman on her cane. The place seemed somehow deformed, and as he came closer, he saw that what ran in the canal was not water, but something tarry and black. Empty boats sat in it like beetles stuck in glue.

He walked slowly onwards, suddenly conscious of the breath that no longer filled his lungs. The little town almost seemed to reach out to him, and as its arms started to embrace him, he finally placed it. This was the town he'd spent his first twenty-three years in, before he began his hunt for Orion. He had never once come back.

Clay-brick buildings shifted in the sand. Guillermo could not tell if he was traveling forward into the town, or if it was sweeping closed around him. Some alleys opened before him, and others slid shut, and he was swept along. Old men and older women watched him silently from rocking-chairs on their porches.

He looked up, and suddenly knew where his journey ended. He fell to his knees in the street, unable to carry on. The building that loomed before him was not the little house he'd shared with his mother. It was the building where he and his wife had rented their first and only home, and he knew what he might find inside, and though Guillermo had already died once, at that moment he felt as if he might again.

Orion had been a thief. He was among that rare breed of men who are brutes but not fools. He had piercing blue eyes, set into a face like a broken boulder. They never knew what had brought him down on their village, but he had taken up residence there in the summer of Guillermo's twenty-third year. With his modest habits and his careful selection of marks, he lived comfortably wherever he cared to.

Guillermo barely noticed the man. He had just married, and Roxanna was the only thing he had ever wanted in life. He was blind to all else. Guillermo was a pale, flabby young man who worked in a bakery, poorly. And unless Roxanna was mad, or foolish, or playing a prank, Guillermo was the luckiest man on earth: she was lighthearted where he was serious; she was open where he mistrusted everyone he met. Guillermo was petrified of dancing, but he sometimes would, for her. She was a wonderful dancer.

Orion was a wonderful dancer, too.

Roxanna let him take her to a dance while Guillermo worked overnight. The idea of protesting this didn't cross Guillermo's mind until much later: he had fallen in something even more than love. Something that Roxanna said to Orion, that night, must have shown her as an easy mark. He must have figured that he could make off with both her body and her family heirlooms. Like the fool she sometimes was, she must have fought him.

Guillermo saw her body in the morning, swollen like a bruise, floating in a foot of tepid water in their claw-footed bathtub. He grabbed at her, tried to pull her out, and felt her skin slipping from the dead flesh under his fingers. It sloughed off her body in sheets. Guillermo had never returned to the flat after that, and he never looked at a lake or a river or a bathtub again without flinching, not for many years. He spent that night at his mother's house, not sleeping, but gently nursing a small and restless flame that was growing inside of him. It wasn't quite a different man who left the next week to chase down Orion, but it was a man who didn't care to stay the same.

He opened the door with a trembling hand and stepped inside. A heavy candlestick lay on the carpet in the entryway, and he remembered the feel of it in his hand. He had picked it up and stumbled down the stairs, wailing, as though he might be able to catch Orion leaving. He picked it up again. Its weight was a small comfort, and he imagined himself clubbing Orion with it, sending him off to some second, darker death. Perhaps that was the restless need that had driven him along. Or perhaps some sickness in him had driven him back to see Roxanna's body, over and over again.

He touched the door of the flat, then jerked his hand away, then before he could think better of it, pushed it open too quickly, almost stumbling inside.

He fell into a warm and well-lit place, redolent with cooking-smells, and into a woman's arms.

His wife held Guillermo up until he no longer thought he would collapse, and then he still clutched her in his arms, his face buried in her hair. "You're here," she said, and her voice had its same old lightness and warmth, and Guillermo's heart nearly juddered out of its stasis. "I knew you'd come someday, but still, I can hardly believe it."

"You were - I saw you, in the bathroom -"

"Let's not speak of such horrible things," she said. "I died, and you have died as well, and now we are dead together, although you're a little older than I am, now." She laughed. Even the wallpaper was the same, a crisp and cheerful blue that they' d decided on together. "We'll have enough time for stories later," she said. "Dance with me. I want to hold you."

She switched on the radio, and Guillermo took her in his arms, and they danced. "I hardly know what to say," he said.

"You're a better dancer than you were before," she said, laughing. "Have you been practicing with other women?"

"No, no, of course not."

She raised a finger to his lips. "I'm only joking. Here, let's have another song."

Much later, she drew the curtains. They lay in their feather bed and spoke of this and that. Guillermo's body, accustomed to sleeping in cheap hotels and on the softest bits of earth he could find, screamed in protest. Something else in him still cried out to wander onwards. He tamped it down.

" Mama is here, and she's well again," she was saying, "and your Nana, and your cousin Michael too, although I haven't seen him. And Mr. MacAllen, if you remember, that sweet man who used to run the grocery downstairs. It took some getting used to, realizing that I wasn't in the sort of Heaven they talk about in church, and it's a bit grim, really, but it really isn't so awful here, now that I have you. Will you stay here with me, forever? Will you please promise me that?"

"I promise," Guillermo whispered, exploring the tautness of her skin with his fingers. Yet he had barely heard her. He was a hair's breadth from naming his uneasiness. "What did you say about Michael?"

"That he's here," she said. "But I haven't seen him yet, he just died a few months back. They keep a ledger, though, in City Hall, with all the names. I hate to look at it, though, I was always waiting for your name to turn up, and it seemed so cruel to hope you'd die before you were old. But your Nana reads it, and she told me, last she came by."

Guillermo supposed that the dead never needed to sleep. Yet she did fall asleep, and he held her for a long time. He wasn't sure how to fall asleep, himself, and he studied Roxanna instead. She was still twenty-one years old. Her hair still fell in golden curls down to her collarbones, and she still covered her mouth with one hand when she laughed, and her cooking was still awful. He kissed the freckle just below her right eye, then slipped his arm out from under her shoulders and walked outside. She seemed so terribly, beautifully young.

The ledger in City Hall was more slender than he'd expected, only a folio really, with a black leather binding and rice-paper pages. It seemed to only record Guillermo's own dead. He supposed that the elderly people who languished on their porches would find a much thicker book in its place. He ran a finger down the list of names: Roxanna de Luca. A few dozen schoolmates and traveling companions. A handful of authors and artists he'd loved, and others he hadn't. The woman across the street who had, in his youth, always given him the heel of a fresh loaf of bread. His mother. His father. And not Orion.

Not Orion, who had somehow survived. Guillermo, unbidden, had a vision of the man sitting in one of the pubs he'd spent so many nights in himself, telling the tale of the time he'd been shot and lived. Orion was a whisky drinker, like himself.

Guillermo was not angry, and he was not afraid. He felt only something that might have been sadness, and might have been something very much like sadness. He thought about slipping back into bed with his dead, beautiful wife, who floated softly in a sea of time, fifteen years distant from Guillermo. It seemed even further, like an eternity. Like a lifetime.

He left City Hall, and walked away.

The woman with goat's eyes stood before him, stark against the pale sand. You may not wander here, she said.

"I will not wander," Guillermo said. "I'm going to find a man. I've found him once already, and it may take some time to find him again, but find him I will."

And then?

" I'll return to you, with my arm around his shoulders."

The psychopomp nodded once, and stepped aside to let Guillermo pass. Guillermo set his eye on the sun and walked towards it, through sand and brush and pebbles, until it began to set.

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God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


sebmojo posted:

lolol

I will fight the winner, with the loser as judge



i need a couple weeks for this one too though, i still have a stupid uncooperative left hand

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