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Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Starting off the New Year by resolving not to write like poo poo. So, I'll post some overly mannered, self-deprecating audio that reminds me of what writing like poo poo is like.

Jitzu_the_Monk: Calvin's Business



Jitzu_the_Monk: Pride and the Quest to Subdue the Gahmgat

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Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Screaming Idiot posted:

Can anybody write critiques on stories? I've received a lot of great feedback on my stuff, and I feel bad not contributing. I've read so many good stories in Thunderdome that could have been great were it not for some minor issues.

Yes extra crits are great (I'm going to do some myself this week). We just ask that you wait until after judgement is rendered before posting them.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Had some extra free time this weekend so I’m posting crits. In keeping with this week’s theme, I’m characterizing each story as a typical acquaintance from high school.

1. Screaming Idiot - Like Old Times

- Markie is running down a city sidewalk, naked, carrying a gun and gushing blood from his side. See the problem? It seems weird that the streets were “deserted” considering it’s the type of place that has a 32nd Street and a Geno’s Pizzeria. Even at night, shouldn’t he be bumping into pedestrians, pushing them aside as he runs past? Aren’t they screaming, clamoring, or at least pointing at Markie?

- I’m getting a little lost at the beginning because you’re introducing characters who don’t initially seem distinct from each other. We’ve got Markie, some guy who happens to be the protag. Then Duane (some guy), Andy (some guy), Eddie (some guy), Chuck (some guy), and Ortiz (some guy).

-If Markie is “just grazed,” how is he “bleedin’ pretty fuckin’ bad here,” enough to leave a trail, feel woozy, and wince at his “open wound”? Make up your mind about the extent of this injury.

All in all the story is cliché and forgettable. Apparently the only people who exist in this world are a bevy of generic, cookie-cutter mobsters and their victim(s).

Your story is: That guy from high school who made it a point not to stand out in any way. You’d almost forgotten about him, but now ten years later you bump into each other at the mall, and walk on without saying hello.

2. Cacto – The will

-This one is hard to get through. It’s a slog to read a story that advances mostly by stilted dialogue.

-Davinia, Edmund, and Sam are not very distinct from each other. They are all rich assholes with similar personalities. In fact, they are so similar that I’m not sure why the story needs Sam. Imagine cutting Sam and telling the story from Edmund’s perspective. It would be practically the same thing.

-It would help in getting the reader to care about your story if you’d give the reader a character to root for. Davinia, Edmund, and Sam are detestable, we don’t know much about Harvey, and all Ludwig has going for him is eccentricity. I mean, at least you succeeded in making it easy to hate Davinia, Edmund, and Sam. But hating characters doesn’t amount to much if the reader doesn’t care about anything else in the story.

-I’m assuming Ludwig is the killer because he said that he “knew exactly what to do.” If that’s the case, I’m not sure what his motivations were. He’s presumably Beth’s lawyer or at least the executor of her estate. He doesn’t seem to be in the will, so why blow up the house and kill everyone in it? I’m not sure how he benefits. Yes, Beth’s family is awful. But murder? This is the type of murder fantasy that makes me wonder at the psychology of the story’s author.

Had I been judging, I would’ve voted DM/Loss.

Your story is: The rich kid in high school who thought he was interesting because he wore khakis every day and used to unironically call everything “quaint.” You forget about him after graduation, until noticing ten years later that he posts something dull to Facebook every so often.

3. Schneider Heim – New Habits

-This fits the prompt very well.

-You made me curious about the history between Blake and Solveig, and the nature of the heroes and villains kind of world that they live in. There is a refreshing air of intrigue in this story, and you pace it well.

-Great ending! Great job showing that Blake really has changed, instead of having him do the easy thing and just betray Solveig.

Because of good pacing, tight prose, and a great ending, I would’ve considered this an HM candidate, had I been judging.

Your story is: The popular kid in high school that was pretty chill, and you couldn’t help but like him even though he could be an rear end in a top hat sometimes. You lose touch after graduation, but ten years later you bump into him in a bar. He recognizes you, and buys you a drink. You chat and it becomes clear he’s matured and is really a stand up guy. You agree to stay in touch and now he’s one of your good friends.

4. Nethilia – Out of My Life

quote:

She hasn’t been ‘Ginger Kennedy’ since she’d married Gabriel five and a half years ago in a quick ceremony before a judge on a warm March afternoon, with Minnie cradling Joyce over one shoulder and Gabriel’s hands squeezing hers tight, promising to love and cherish both her and the child he hadn’t fathered but wanted to parent. <--Run on sentence!

-I’d recommend paring down the prose just a touch.

-Good job with this. You seem to have a knack for writing stories about broken families. I understood Ginger’s motivations and I felt her anguish.

Had I been judging, I would’ve considered this an HM candidate.

Your story is: Your friend from high school who had it rough as a kid but who overcame it all and is now a beautiful person. You never lost touch after high school, and you’re still good friends.

5. Your Sledgehammer – Two Bullets

-Your story structure is mostly strong. The jumping back and forth through time is executed well.

-I like the bit about the eye makeup at the wedding. Subtle, but clear.

- “His old service pistol was clutched in his right hand.” It would be better if it was just some gun that he owned. I’m pretty sure his old service pistol would’ve been taken from him when he got booted off the force.

-“an angry hole.” Hmm, it strikes me as strange to describe a hole as angry.

-The ending has some flaws. It would have been more dramatic if Larry was still alive when Rich got to the house. Then you could’ve done one of several things that would’ve had significant emotional impact:

For example, you could’ve had Rich talk to a dying Larry, discuss things, maybe had Rich communicate his feelings about having failed Larry despite being indebted to him. Alternately, you could have had Larry threatening Sandra’s life and then Rich would have to make a decision about how to handle things given that he’s indebted to Larry but also has a duty to protect Sandra. Or if these two options are too cliché for you, then you could’ve thought out of the box, but it’s a cop-out (no pun intended) to have Larry be already dead when Rich gets there. They need to interact after all these years and Rich has to make decisions that resolve the conflict which stems from his history with Larry.

Had I been judging, I would’ve appreciated the story overall, but because of the ending I wouldn’t have been able to vote HM. With revision, this story could be very good though.

Your story is: Your good friend from high school, who used to be one of the coolest people you knew. But, he got into a car accident after graduation and developed a traumatic brain injury. Though he started off being one of your favorite people, he ended up as a vegetable.

6. Fumblemouse – Football and Fireworks

-Normally I hate dialogue-driven stories, but this one works.

-Creative idea to make the acquaintance an imaginary friend.

-My one gripe is that the reveal doesn’t come as a surprise to the reader. That is, the reader figures out what Emily is halfway through the story, but Jeremy finds out at the very end. It can be frustrating to understand something early on and then have to plod through a character’s discovery process until they finally understand what you already know. Dramatic irony is hard to pull off, but I get the sense you didn’t intend for readers to figure it out very long before Jeremy anyway.

Overall, I liked the story. It’s a little bit vignette-ish; it doesn’t really have much plot structure. Still, it was creative and interesting, and I’m impressed that you wrote something good despite it being a dialogue dump.

Your story is: Your first real friend in elementary school who moves away. Then you go to the same college and reconnect. After college, you live in different cities for a while, until at last he/she moves back to your town. You meet up and decide that there’s probably a reason why fate keeps crossing your paths and you decide to be close friends from that point on, no matter what.

7. Sitting Here – Touch and Go and Touch Again

-The wildflowers metaphor feels a little shoehorned into the story. It’s a bit forced.

-Hmm. I’m not 100% sure that this is what you were going for, but my interpretation is that Nasatya and Dasra being soul mates in The Eternal Gardens is real, and then the whole bit with the dream tank is just something that they happen to do in one of their incarnations on Earth. For me, none of this was a dream except the Mumbai part.

I’m gonna keep this crit brief, because I liked the story so much that if I offer too much comment, it will become gushing. TD really isn’t the place for gushing praise. Suffice it to say this is my new favorite piece of yours. Maybe consider publishing after some revision?

Had I been judging, I would’ve voted win.

Your story is: Your high school valedictorian AND prom queen, who also bagged the lead role in the school musical and is on the verge of becoming a professional opera singer. Despite being popular, she has a heart of gold and took an autistic kid to the homecoming dance because she knew it would make him feel good. Ten years later, she attends the class reunion, and is super excited to see you.

8. Lou Begas Mustache – Penny Pusher

-This is a solid piece. No complaints. The action was good. I could identify with Alvin’s drive to succeed. I liked that since he was relying so heavily on Sayid to win, he really didn’t stand a chance when fighting Sayid.

I would’ve considered this an HM candidate, had I been judging.

Your story is: Your chill friend from high school whom everyone knows to be a stand-up guy. You never lost touch with him, you hung out for years after graduation, and you’re getting ready to be the best man at his wedding.

9. Walamor – Decisions

-I’m already biased against stories driven by this much dialogue, so do take that into consideration as I crit this.

-I realize the story is about the relationship between these two guys, but I’m more intrigued by the whistleblowing aspect. I wish there had been more detail about that.

-Some of the dialogue feels like any other cliché argument between two people that care/cared about each other. Consider: “I thought we had something. It meant something to me,” “If you truly believed that, why are you still wearing our ring?” or “Or was everything we had just bullshit to you? Isn’t it worth your effort?”

Overall, I didn’t much care to see these two guys bicker at each other.

Your story is: The kid from high school who raised his hand at every opportunity and tried to argue with the teacher. Ten years later, you bump into him at the grocery store and say hi out of politeness, but he looks into your shopping cart and tries to argue with you about the things you intend to buy.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


In

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


More crits for this past week.

10. Anomalous Blowout – When You Need It Most

-“Where on earth did you get this? It’s been missing for like a week. Mom’s been panicking.” It seems like Maggie’s mom could just get her a new inhaler. Call it in to the doctor and get a new prescription if necessary.

-Good job structuring the story so well.

-I wish I knew more about Mr. Hanrahan’s motivations other than he’s just a nice old guy.

Your story reminds me of a King’s Quest game. Threatened by a dog? Reach into your inventory and pull out a treat. On the one hand you did have a somewhat creative concept in Mr. Hanrahan and his sure-to-be-useful items, but if you’re playing a King’s Quest game and you just get the items handed to you up front rather than creatively searching for them, it sort of takes the fun out of it.

Your story is: Your high school class president. Looking back on things, you can’t remember why she won the election, other than maybe that her opposition was split among so many other candidates of similar strength. Ten years later, she runs a small business that makes useful phone apps, and when you think of her you shrug.

11. docbeard – Good Night, Miss Mason

-The first section is intriguing, makes me want to read more.
-Then the rest of it kind of unwinds in a dull way.

It wasn’t awful, it’s just that the hook of mystery in the first section doesn’t really pay off with anything very interesting. There’s not much more to say about this piece. It’s squarely in the middle of entries this week.

Your piece is: A kid from high school whom you knew slightly. He seemed like an okay person, and you always wondered if he’d be fun to hang out with. Ten years later, you work at the same job and hang out together during a company luncheon. Turns out he’s not that interesting.

12. Ironic Twist – Crush

-I could talk about how this story is too simplistic, and how the horror aspects fall flat, but I think my critique is best summed up by the acquaintance rating below:

Your story is: That crazy Goth girl from high school, the one who used to play with headless dolls at the back of the classroom. Prominently displayed through her clear plastic backpack were the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe. Ten years later, you wonder what’s become of her and a friend tells you she developed schizophrenia, became a luddite, and froze to death in a self-made shack in the woods.

13. leekster – Injury Reserve

-You’ve got proofreading issues. Consider: “Agitated he went down to the next aisle in hops it was with the cumin…” and “Marcus unloaded what he had could grab…” You had could better learn never to write like this again.

-Too much dialogue for my taste and it’s stilted as gently caress to boot.

-So…your story is two former teammates have an altercation at a grocery store? It’s not clear why you thought that might be an interesting premise.

Your story is: The kid from high school who used to slip out at lunch and drink forties. He never made it to graduation. You haven’t heard from him since.

14. Jonked – The Pearl

-I’m not thrilled about the repetitive conditional use of the word “would” in the first section. You could’ve made the prose flow smoother if you had said something like “On most days, Joe did x, y, and z. But today was different.” That way, there isn’t an awkward gear shifting of tense.

-Also I think you linger too long on Joe’s usual routine. The reader quickly loses interest.
-It’s not really clear to me what the gently caress is going on in the story. Who is “The Lover” and why would he, or Joe want to be partnered with Sarah? She doesn’t seem desirable in the least. Joe wakes up early to avoid her and has to slap her aside when she ravenously goes for the package. I really can’t make sense of all this. Obviously Sarah was altered (ruined?) by The Lover, but what is the nature of that alteration and how and why did it happen?

-Everything after the pearl is an even bigger mess. Now suddenly we have time travel, some woman named Mary, an apparently post-Lover Sarah, and then it just ends. What the gently caress?

Your story is: The kid from high school whom you barely remember because he was absent almost every day. Ten years later, he bumps into you at a sporting event. He tries to talk to you but he’s so wasted he makes absolutely no sense.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006




But srlsy, fjgj.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Some more crits for last week's stories:

15. kurona_bright – Stump Talk

-Proofread: “But quite evidently, she was the only one was bored, since Chris and Gavin were chatting away behind her.” Also, this is a bad sentence. It’s telly, and the prose is clunky. I’d recommend cutting it.

-Just a couple of paragraphs in and your prose is already loaded with adverbs: quite evidently, earnestly, endlessly, basically. Instead of tossing in so many adverbs, it’s better to pepper the story with lively verbs and adjectives. Don’t just tell us something happened “earnestly” or “endlessly.” Show us that using vivid yet elegant prose.

-A number of stories this week had the problem of beginning with a dump of generic characters who aren’t very distinct from each other. At the outset, there’s not much in here that helps me to keep a distinct mental picture of Chris, Gavin, or Andrew.

-It’s a slog to read. There isn’t much plot. Hook the reader with the promise of something interesting and then deliver.

Your story is: The kid “not pictured” in your high school yearbook. He must’ve been absent all or most of the year, every year. Had you even met him?

16. Crabrock – Waves

-Do med students in the top of their class really go into obstetrics? I could be wrong, but I thought the relative underachievers gravitated toward obstetrics. Med students at the top of their class don’t want the liability issues.

-I like it overall. The lines vs curves metaphor works well to characterize different types of relationships we have throughout our lives, especially since the distinction between a line and a curve can get blurred. I also like the message that our friends don’t have to live the same kind of lives that we do in order for the relationship to mean something.

Your story is: Your friend from way back who is one of the few people who really knows you through and through. It’s a blessing to have someone understand you so fully, but it can also be limiting, even pigeonholing if this person holds you back while you reinvent yourself.

17. Tyrannosaurus – Teeth and Time

-This is similar to a bad story I wrote a couple months ago called Tidal Forces, except this is even worse for having less plot.

-There’s not much here, but I understand you were under the gun to submit or face failure. I don’t think you’d consider this representative of your usual writing, so I won’t spend too much time on it.

-The story is vague. I’m not saying everything should be spelled out in every story. More like, unless the reader has a strong reason to invest attention into piecing things together, he/she will likely shrug and move on.

Your story is: “Hey, remember so-and-so from high school? No? Okay, nevermind.”

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Thai Cringe
(1065 words)

In all of Phuket, there was only one prettier, harder working, or better English-speaking courtesan than Sumalee, and that was me. Competition between us was fierce. We vied annually for our brothel’s “Top Earner” bonus. Sure, there was money on the line, but more than that there was pride. Sumalee was a condescending bitch and I wasn’t going to let myself lose to her.

It all came to a head when the house announced a new prize, “Annual Top Devirginizer.” Management had decided to promote specials to self-described virgins. Hook them their first time, give them an unforgettable experience, and they’ll be sure to come back. That was the theory anyway. When a man claimed to be a virgin, there was no way verify it, but that didn’t matter. If they booked with me for thirty minutes or more, they were an extra tally mark on my way to Top Devirginizer.

Throughout that year, Sumalee and I spent countless hours promoting ourselves to virgins online. Day by day, scores of men trickled into the brothel and waddled nervously to the bar. Sumalee and I would practically trip over each other getting to any we thought were virgins. By the second day of our New Year celebration, Songkran, we were neck and neck at fifty-three virgins for the year. By the end of day three, the house would tally the final score. This was my last chance to pull ahead.

The morning of the third day, I walked to work through the crowded streets of Phuket. It must’ve been something about what I wore that day, but the vendors took me for a fool. They were shouting “grilled squid, five hundred baht,” a price only tourists and morons would pay. I haggled a vendor down to eighty for squid on a stick and forty for some pineapple, which I ate on the way.

The brothel was already crowded when I entered. Tourists know to take advantage of Songkran. I scouted the parlor for likely virgins and struck up a conversation with one, a short-statured gentleman from Hong Kong. But then came Sumalee.

“Oh, Songsuda! You must introduce me to your handsome friend,” she said. She stepped in front of me and shook the guy’s hand. Then she turned her head back to me, raised an eyebrow, and smirked. Vile bitch. I was going to beat her no matter what it took.

A little later, I met a man with receding blond hair, thick glasses, and a pot belly. I introduced myself and asked where he was from. He told me “I am Joran from Rotterdam,” but he seemed somehow unable to look me in the eye as he said it. I made small talk with him, though he didn’t make it easy. He kept staring at the floor and giggling, seemingly at nothing at all. I had I feeling I’d found my virgin.

When I invited him to my room to negotiate, he flashed me a broad grin. I parted the mosquito netting and set him on the bed to make my opening pitch. All courtesans know to highball, so I offered him the ridiculous rate of 20,000 baht for a half hour.

“Sure!” he said. “That’s fair!”

I recoiled. Was this guy that inept?

“So,” I said, “how best can I satisfy you during our time?”

Joran cleared his throat and started to blush. “Well, I am a virg—”

“—YES!” I exclaimed. Joran’s eyes widened. I bounced on the bed and clapped my hands together. “You know we offer a reduced rate for that?”

“Thirty minutes for 20,000 baht is fine,” he said. “But, there’s something I need to tell you.” His head slumped as he continued. “Just so you know, I have kind of a smaller penis.” Then he made direct eye contact with me for the first time. “I am not ashamed.”

“Uh…yeah that’s perfectly fine,” I told him. “Why don’t you put the money on the bed stand and get undressed?”

Joran parted the mosquito netting and stood up from the bed. I watched him place the money on the stand and disrobe. He looked even worse naked than I’d predicted. He turned to me, exposing sagging pectorals, uneven patches of blond chest hair, and a penis that couldn’t have been more than eight centimeters. Hard. Still, he wasn’t the least attractive man I’d entertained.

I removed my clothes and made a “come here” motion with my index finger. He slipped back inside the mosquito net and stared at me.

“You’ve got a nice, um, vagina.”

This guy was hopeless, but that didn’t matter. I just needed to keep remembering that he’d bring me one step closer to beating Sumalee.

“Thanks,” I said, smiling. I reached under the pillow for a condom, undid the wrapper, and unrolled it onto Joran. “Do you wanna get on top?”

“Sure,” he said. He entered me and began thrusting awkwardly, though I barely felt anything.

I winked at him and said “So, you’re not a virgin anymore.”

He lowered his brow. “Virgin? What are you talking about? I’ve had tons of sex.”

I pushed him off me and slid back. “WHAT?”

“What’s wrong?”

“When I asked you how best I could please you, you started to tell me you were a virgin!”

He crossed his arms. “Oh, before you interrupted me? No, I was going to tell you I’m a Virgo. I like things to be slow and methodical. That’s how you can satisfy me.”

Enraged, I vaulted from the bed and put on a robe. gently caress that Dutch rear end in a top hat, I just wanted to get out of there. I ran out of the room, my eyes welling up. As I turned the corner into the parlor, I felt a sharp pain in my shin. I hit the ground hard and rolled over to see Sumalee with her foot outstretched.

“Songsuda! Have you met many virgins tonight? I just had a ménage with three of them!”

I stood up, took a breath, and reacted. It was the first time I’d ever tried to claw someone’s eyes out in earnest.

Sumalee can keep her virgins, I’m done with this business. As a matter of fact, I’m considering opening up a food stand. It’s going to be a gold mine. The better dressed tourists are dumb enough to pay five hundred baht for grilled squid.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006



Or instead of guaranteeing yourself a toxx suicide after you lose to Mojo, you could just quit your drat bellyachin' and learn how to read a prompt. This hyperventilating is unseemly. But if you do manage to load your gun in between breaths, save a bullet for me.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


I'm in.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


The More Things Change
(Word count: 1612)

The hostilities started right in the middle of Todd’s holo-presentation. He was showing his classmates how the ship’s spin generates enough centripetal force to simulate Earth gravity, but Sebastian wasn’t having it. Todd’s effete voice was just too rich a target. Sebastian kept interrupting Todd with whispers of “fairy,” “I fuckin’ hate this kid,” “Is this kid gay or what?” The teacher sat glassy eyed at her terminal. She couldn’t be bothered to discipline the bully, nor the growing body of students pointing and laughing.

Todd meant to ignore the crowd, but he was already trembling from public speaking. As the insults piled, his voice shrunk to a pathetic quake. He broke into a cold sweat, terrified at the sensation that his throat was collapsing on him. The class’s laughter roared; its ringing echoes pressed against Todd’s skull. His chest felt like a knife was slicing its way through it. Todd winced from excruciating pain and gasped for thinner air. He staggered out of the classroom, the world now reduced to a fog punctuated only by the chorus of laughter behind him. Todd made it within ten feet of the mid-ship lift when he collapsed.

When at last Todd felt a hand on his shoulder, he expected the physics teacher. Turning, he was amazed to find Alison Bloom. She was a puppy-love crush of Todd’s back in Kindergarten. He hadn’t spoken to her since, though they shared physics class. Now a popular student, Ali flashed a bright smile at Todd. His gaze fixed upon the gleam of her emerald eyes.

“It’s called a panic attack,” she whispered. “I’ve had them before too.” Todd started to speak but choked on the words. She continued, “You look like you could use a friend. Wanna walk me to my quarters after school?”

**

They didn’t take the lift. Ali told Todd that they should walk the seven kilometers to her quarters in aft section. It would give them lots of time to talk. And in that seven kilometer stretch they joked, traded gossip, and discussed Ali’s impeccable taste in shoes. “Well, I’m a Pisces,” she announced. “We know how to accessorize.”

“Oh, I’m not sure what my sign is,” admitted Todd. “But if you ask our physics class, I think they’d tell you I’m a Faggitarius.” Ali threw back her head and laughed. “Really, Todd? And here I had you pegged as an Aqueerius.”

When they arrived at Ali’s quarters, she thanked him for escorting her. “Let’s make this a regular thing,” she said, winking.

“Ali,” Todd said. “How come you’re being so nice to me?”

“Well, I’ve always wanted a gay friend.”

Her words cut deep. “I’m not…” Todd’s voice trailed off. He lowered his head and said, “Listen, I refuse to live in a world where those assholes from class are right about something.”

Ali pouted. “I’m sorry, Todd. Those guys really are assholes. Especially Sebastian. I hope he gets a job in Engineering so he can have his face melted off by engine swill.”

“I hope we get boarded by pirates so they can kill Sebastian first.”

“I hope he blows himself out an airlock on a dare to see how long he can hold his breath. He deserves no better.”


**

“You’re gonna laugh when I tell you,” Ali said. She rested her hand upon his. From the bench, their view was superb. Tall pines, a babbling brook, even synthetic sunset. Over the weeks, the long walks to Ali’s quarters hadn’t been enough. They began hanging out in the mid-ship nature preserve.

“Well since you obviously hate engineering, I know that can’t be it. Just tell me! I won’t laugh, I promise,” Todd said.

“Okay, but I’m holding you to that. The truth is, it hasn’t changed since kindergarten. When I grow up, I still want to be Mary Poppins.”

Todd’s hysterical laughter filled the better part of the preserve.

Ali hit him. “You promised.”

“I can’t help it. I know that movie too well. You put me on to it way back then. So now do you want something to laugh about? When I was little, I idolized Julie Andrews. I used to watch Mary Poppins and mimic her speech, her gait, even her manner of singing. She was my hero, pretty and powerful; taking after her helped me forget the fat, clumsy little boy I was.

“Todd—”

I don’t think I ever told you this, but back in those days, my mom would sometimes catch me signing “Spoonful of Sugar” and beat me for it. She’d bear yellow teeth at me and bark “I ain’t about to raise no fags.” For my eighth birthday, I asked for an umbrella so I could be like Mary Poppins. Caught a beating for that too. My mom kept screaming, “Ain’t no rain on a fuckin’ colony ship!”

Ali frowned. “You know what, Todd. Forget what I said. You can laugh at me after all. What’s the point of having me for a friend if you can’t laugh about me wanting to be Mary Poppins?”

Todd shook the bad memories from his mind. “Funny thing is, that movie is what, over a hundred years old? And people are still watching it. On a loving colony ship. No chimneys to sweep, no birds to feed, no kites to fly. But somehow people still relate to it.”

Ali shrugged. “The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.”

“Maybe that’s the problem. Sameness. There never was a time without moms beating on their kids. Never a time when bullies didn’t call a kid human being just because he was different. So much for progress.”

Ali put her arm around Todd. “We’ve got technology. Mary Poppins didn’t have holograms.”

“I don’t know if technology can save us. Not from human nature.”

**

Sebastian went first. His presentation involved ship propulsion, so the class had taken a field trip to Engineering. Ali kept interrupting him.

“Laaame! Lame-rear end. Are you trying to give a presentation or just bore us to death?”

The teacher couldn’t be bothered to discipline Ali. Todd watched her lean against the holo-emitters and chat up some young science intern.

BOOM. The room shook. Engineers, the teacher, and the entire class flew into the bulkhead. Todd banged his temple. Hard. Though dazed, he was roused by his classmates’ screams and the nauseating effects of sudden weightlessness.

Todd felt a hand on his ankle. It was Sebastian. “What’s going on!?” the bully demanded. Todd had a feeling he knew. “Pirates,” he said, trembling. “Breech the hull, the ship stops spinning. No spin, no artificial gravity. Then board the ship, and take advantage of everyone’s disorientation to secure Engineering. Threaten to disable the engine unless your demands are met and get away with whatever you can extort from the crew. It happened before, thirty years ago.” Todd wasn’t surprised that a jock like Sebastian wasn’t well informed about colony ship history.

The teacher drifted away from the bulkhead. “I want everybody to…BURRP...remain calm.” No sooner had she said it than she gripped her stomach and tossed her breakfast. Chucks of lime and beige poured out of her mouth, suspended in the air in front of her face. She passed out.

The class let out a sustained wail, drowning out the engineers’ frenzied commands to one another. The laments continued until ten men burst into Engineering. The pirates were dressed in black, their faces covered in nylon. Guns being inadvisable to use in microgravity (not to mention so close to the outer bulkheads) they carried spears.

Todd lost himself in the terror. Sweat formed at his temples. His throat slammed shut, and his heart hurt like it was being scraped with a cheese grater. The world around him became a blur, perceivable only between desperate gasps. He saw pirates rounding people up at spearpoint. He saw one of them wrap his hand around Ali’s neck when she tried to fight back. He struggled through gripping dread when another pirate wafted toward him and shoved him in front of the holo-emitter beside Sebastian. Todd’s eyes were watering from chest pain and throat pressure when Sebastian turned to him.

“We’re gonna die. All of us. I’m gonna die next to a loving queer.”

Todd winced and sprung off of the wall to the center terminal. He’d only have a few moments before the pirates would notice. His thumb print activated his cloud account. The holo-emitters came online. Nearly floating away, Todd gripped the terminal with one hand as the other mashed POPPINS.EXE.

Pew Pew, the emitters sounded as they zapped every handheld object in the room. Purses, engineering tools, and pirate spears alike transformed as holographic umbrellas superimposed upon them. True, holographic umbrellas are solid enough to be used as weapons, but they were less threatening than spears, and now a number of students were similarly armed.

Still struggling through searing chest pain and shortened breath, Todd gazed at the class overwhelming the pirates. He felt himself float backwards right before passing out.

**

“Hey rear end in a top hat, have anything to say to Todd now, other than calling him gay?” Ali yelled at Sebastian in the mess hall.

Sebastian turned red, looked at his feet and stepped over to Todd.

“Um. Thanks, I guess. I owe you one. You’re not so bad for a fag after all.”

“He’s NOT a fag!” Ali yelled.

Todd held up his hand. “You know what? Actually, yes, I am gay. And yes, Sebastian, you do owe me one.”

Todd pressed Sebastian’s face to his. When the class began to point and laugh, this time it was at Sebastian.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


In

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Tuesday at Work
(496 Words)

Black clouds weep over the top level of the garage. Hers is one of the few cars still parked this late. As I walk toward it, I see her sprawled on the ground, face down. Her blonde hair is sopping wet.

I crouch down and shake her. “Miss! Miss, are you alright?”

She groans and turns over, her forehead bruised.

“Slipped.”

“My name is Andrew. Let’s get you someplace dry.”

She stumbles as she rises from the ground. “Andrew?” she says. “Do you think people get what they really deserve in life?”

She’s perfect. “Yes!” I tell her. “I think so.”

She sighs and turns her back to me. She walks to the concrete border at the edge of the parking garage and jumps to get a hand along the edge. Scraping the concrete with her stilettos, she hoists herself over.

I run to the stairwell, to ground-level, and onto the sidewalk. She’s lying there in the darkness. Broken, but smiling.

**

Nobody can fake a smile like that. Broad grin, eyes all wrinkled up on the sides. She’s happy. Gotta be. Blonde, radiant in stilettos and a navy-blue dress. I think any man who won her heart would wind up happy too.

Eight-and-a-half hours a day, I ignore her. I have to. Work comes first; lose my focus and I’m no better than a bum living under the docks. Life gives people exactly what they earn. If a man isn’t satisfied, the onus is on him to work toward deserving satisfaction.

But thirty minutes a day, I indulge. In between eating at my desk and catching up on some off-the-clock data entry, I gaze into her office. She’s glowing, sending an immaculate aura across the alleyway from her window to mine.

I earned my window. Worked my rear end off for it. Spent seventeen years cloistered in grey upholstered walls with black trim. The old timers counseled me on how to advance. “It’s about attitude. Be eager to make sacrifices, and do it with a smile.” So I did. And now I have my window.

Her smile fades. A red-faced man approaches her. He’s pointing at her with one hand, the other holds a handle of vodka. She steps backward and out of my view.

She’ll get off work soon, walk across the street to the parking garage and drive off for the day. By tomorrow, she’ll be smiling again.

“—Andrew?”

I stand at attention. “Sir! What can I do for you?”

My supervisor laughs. “Nothing, Andrew. You’re doing fine. I just came by to offer you good news. You’re getting a raise! Thirty cents.”

I clutch at my heart. “I…don’t know what to say. I put my heart and soul into my work. But thirty cents?”

“Congrats, Andrew. You’ve earned it.”

He walks away and I take a breath to still my beating heart. I’m worth thirty more cents. Every hour. Every day.

I think I’m finally ready to talk to her.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


crabrock posted:

Thunderdome Week CXVIII: If on a Winter's Night a Fire

Judges:
Kaishai, sebmojo, and Sitting Here.

25.4% of TD wins

THUNDERDOME CXXXIV: Run Domer Run

Judges:
Ironic Twist, LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE, Jitzu_the_Monk

0.7% of TD wins

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Ironic Twist posted:

Personally, I'm glad of it.

Me too. Can't wait.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


:siren:Quick Crits Part I, Week #134 - Run Domer Run (aka Two-Dimensional Characters Week):siren:

Way to disrespect Twist coming off his first win, assholes. Next time apply some more :effort:


1. Jake Wilkins is a Cool Guy - Bompacho

-There’s something off-putting about the narration here. How does it serve the story for the narrator to make a snarky reference to Spiderman? Why not just say outright that Jake reeked of three brands of liquor and piss?

- “ ‘That bitch’ was his wife Belinda and to understand why she’s a bitch one must travel back in time 12 hours.” It’s oddly precise for the narrator to have timed this out so exactly. Also, please spell out numbers less than 100.

- “Now Jake was a cool guy. If you ever met him you’d buy him a beer. He paid his taxes, worked hard, gave blood regularly and volunteered for charities. But Jake was about to become the victim of a cliche so enormous that the author of this tale had to stand up, move to the bathroom mirror, and take a long, hard look at himself.” This narration is not working at all. First, it’s telly. You’ve shown us Jake being anything but cool, so if you want us really to believe that he actually is (was) cool, it’s best to show it up front rather than flatly stating it. If you're being sarcastic (more than likely), it's falling flat.

-Also the breaking of the fourth wall here is a misfire. It doesn’t help your story for you to de-immerse the reader from it. All this does is leave me scratching my head wondering why the story is narrated this way and why I should bother continuing to read. And you’re glibly signaling to the reader that a huge cliché is imminent? What is wrong with you?

- “Remember, he was a cool guy and didn't deserve to be used and discarded like the handyman’s glow-in-the-dark condom which in hindsight seems like a redundant feature when you’re loving at 2:45 on a sunny afternoon.” Wait wait wait, so Jake got home, saw his wife getting hosed, then shouted and left. But somewhere in between he felt the urge to conduct so thorough an investigation into the handyman’s dick that he noticed not only that he was using a condom, but if it hadn’t been broad daylight, this condom would have glowed-in-the-dark? Smh.

-Not thrilled about the waiter being the guy in the bathroom stall that Jake puked on. Also I’m not clear on where Jake was when he did the bathroom puking. If it wasn’t the Sushi place, then that is a pretty big coincidence that the puke-victim just happened to be the same guy who works at Nate’s choice of restaurant. But if it was at the Sushi place, why would Jake agree to go back there? Also, it seems really weird that the waiter would poo poo in Jake’s shoes at all, the bathroom incident notwithstanding. Jake left his shoes outside and stepped into them again outside. So did the waiter really drop trou in the parking lot and risk criminal, civil, and occupational sanction all to poo poo in Jake’s shoes? It doesn’t work for me.

-This piece oozes with desperation. It’s desperate to be raw, desperate to be snarky, desperate in its attempts to win over the reader with edgy humor. My vote: DM/Loss candidate for poo poo-trash narration.

2. To Fly in the Skies of the Ocean - Fumblemouse

-Nice, smooth prose.

-Plenty of motion and suspense.

-This story has a pleasant air of mystery around it. I felt motivated to read it in order to find out what happened to the crew.

-Hmm. The mystery didn’t quite get solved. We’ve got potential mermaids, zombies(?), the bizarreness of the guy in the crow’s nest. You needed a more definite payoff after setting up the mystery.

-There’s nothing in here that really blows me away, but the ending is alright and you satisfied the prompt.

3. Freefall - Hugoon Chavez

-Good opening line.

-Sloppy editing; please use line breaks to separate different lines of dialogue.

-Character assassination by fetish exposé. Interesting. I’m with you so far.

-And then you lost me. Do you really expect your readers to be satisfied that all of this drama stems from misremembering a person’s name? That’s lame. Following a conversation that important, it’s silly that Jason can’t even keep the guy’s name straight. The last line is also unsatisfying. It doesn’t serve the piece to close it out with Jason making an offhand reference to Mark’s MLP fetish.

-This piece had potential but instead you pissed all over it and tried then tried to feed it to us. Welcome to the ‘dome. My vote: DM/Loss candidate.

4. The Adventures of Nobodyman - Entenzahn

-Good use of imagery.

-Good job being subtle in showing that Nobodyman isn’t real, e.g. the ashtray, the fact that no one else ever sees or interacts with Nobodyman. On the other hand, his name itself is anything but subtle.

-Making Nobodyman Karen’s conscience fits the prompt’s justice/revenge theme well.

-This piece becomes interesting the moment the reader realizes that Nobodyman is all in Karen’s head. That element of the story mitigates some, but not all, of the hardboiled cliché.

-Well, it’s somewhere in the top half of the stories this week, but that’s not saying much.

5. A True Believer - hotsoupdinner

-Hahaha, I love the beginning section. The cynicism toward faith healing is delightful.

-When I read “I almost had Bobby’s money saved up,” I thought that Bobby might be a sick relative of the protagonist, who might be motivating the protagonist’s con artistry. Later on, I read “Almost enough to pay Bobby back,” which was disappointing. The protagonist would be vastly more interesting if he were more three-dimensional. As it is, he’s just the cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill, cardboard-cut-out con man stereotype. Give this guy some depth. Show that there’s something more to him then the stereotypical con man in debt.

-The ending is satisfying, if not a little hard to swallow that the protagonist has even a desperation-fueled hope in the preacher.

-You HM’d partly due to an entertaining beginning and ending, but moreover because your competition was bottom shelf. If you had given real depth to the characters or better explored their growth you could have been a contender for the win. My vote: HM candidate.

6. Goliath – Benny Profane

-Beautiful prose, good imagery.

-The story structure works, it is appropriately suspenseful.

-You’ve nailed the prompt. Good job.

-There are some issues with the story. In some ways it feels like a bit of a Black Swan rip off, albeit a decent one. You shared in the folly of just about everyone else this week with the poor characterization. Thera is poorly fleshed out. But, at least you TRIED to show the readers that she’s more than a Black Swan cardboard cut-out (the state of her apartment, what kind of neighborhood she lives in). The thing is, these means of characterization were too peripheral. I wanted to know more sides of who she was, and I wanted to find that out through a deeper exploration of her feelings, words, and actions.

-With just a touch more characterization, you would’ve HM’d. You still came kinda-sorta close.

7. Golden - Wangless Wonder

-Middling stories like this are the hardest to crit because my impulse is just to shrug and give it a “meh.” The piece isn’t terrible; it’s just that I felt like I’ve read it a hundred times. Boxing story, plenty of action, the final fight has interpersonal implications that go beyond the ring. It’s an old story, but to make it feel fresh, it needs to have a stronger emotional impact. Fully fleshed out characters and a compelling arc would also help. You’ve got semblances of these story elements, but in 1200 words I was looking for just a little more oomph.

8. Flaming Night - ZeBourgeoisie

-“The robbed robed men and women…”

-You’ve got some proofreading and verb tense issues in this piece.

-Sandra = generic damsel in distress and Ronald = generic knight in shining armor. There is no depth to your characters whatsoever in this piece.

-The tone of your piece seems off. For example, Roland screaming, “The power of twelve gauge compels you, you bastard!” It’s jarring and out of place.

-I take this to be a low effort story. C’mon, Zeb. I’ve seen you do way better than this. My vote: DM candidate.

9. Really, it's because I don't want to pay the ten bucks – Djeser

-No sense critting a joke post. Also, gently caress you. My vote: DQ/DM candidate.

10. Mercury - Fuschia tude

-I’m six paragraphs in and still NOTHING HAS loving HAPPENED. The beginning section of your story is boring descriptions of people and things I’ve been given no reason to give so much as one flying gently caress about.

-“2 eggs over easy and a grilled cheese sandwich for her, gazpacho for him.” You persist in describing minutiae. Why is the precise nature of their restaurant order important? And look! You’ve started a sentence with “2.” I suppose hunting and pecking t-w-o on the keyboard was too challenging.

-Where is the hook, the compelling characterization, the rising tension, the sharpness of prose, the mystery of how your protagonist might try to overcome whatever conflicts prevent her from getting what she wants? Your story is literally woman breaks up with a douchebag in a club and oh by the way there’s a gun involved. It’s less a story, less even a vignette, and more like a sentence stretched out over a thousand words. My vote: DM/Loss candidate.

11. The Smell of Victory - A Classy Ghost

-You know what? The humor somehow works for me.

-I like the fact that the werewolf happened to be a nerd. The running joke with Febreeze made sense in the context of the story, and paid off at the end. The story structure is okay and the tone is charming.

-I wish I had a better sense of who Nick and Jake really are, other than baseball player and his friend.

-You managed to submit something and it wasn’t horrible. This week, that’s saying a lot. Still, I think you’d agree that taken as a whole, the story leans in a direction of being low-effort and even asinine. I described it as a “guilty pleasure” when discussing it with Twist.

12. Living - Savagely_Random

-You use the passive voice in much of the story and it’s not clear why. It’s kind of off-putting.

- The prose is sterile. Many of your verbs feel weak. I wonder if you have more experience with academic writing than fiction. In the first few paragraphs, some of your weakest verbs are developed, was set down, got, was made, had to make, governed, had closed, let out. I recommend using stronger verbs, something that puts a more vivid action in the reader’s mind.

-This is supposed to be a story. In stories, characters perform actions. So why are inanimate objects and concepts the subject of so many of your sentences instead of people? Partly this is a side-effect of using the passive voice, but you do it too often even in the active voice. Consider sentences like “It [carrying trays silently] was a trait developed out of the justifiable fear of the wrath of one’s ‘social betters.’ ” Why not make it “Gabriel developed this trait out of the justifiable fear of the wrath of one’s ‘social betters.’ ”?

-Gabriel’s life up to now is supposed to be tragic, and the general’s villainy is supposed to induce the reader’s disgust. But all of this intended emotional liveliness dies out from sterile prose. Because of how the story is written, readers struggle to find resonance. It was a slog to read.

-Another judge pointed out to me that the prose gets better as the story goes along, and that’s true. As Gabriel demonstrates agency, the writing improves. But even if symbolic, your terrible prose is inartful. ‘Naw man, I painted this terrible painting ON PURPOSE. Don’t worry. Off in the corner it’s not so bad.’

-Even I’ve never written prose this bad for TD, and that’s saying a lot. Homework: Do me a personal favor and read this book cover to cover before entering TD again. My vote: DM/Loss candidate.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Crits Part II, Week #134 - Run Domer Run

13.All In - sebmojo

-This piece has lively prose and it’s paced well enough to hold the reader’s attention.

-The plot is okay but not very memorable. I had to run through the story again for the third time in order to refresh my memory enough to write this crit.

-Nothing inherently wrong with popcorn fiction, but it’s hard to wow the judges with it, IMO. In a rather dismal week, this was highly ranked and fell just shy of being HM worthy. Had it been a touch less ordinary, it likely would have HM’d.

14.One Whole Second - Capntastic

-The “they” aspect as well as the atmospheric re-entry intrigued me early.

-You’ve got a creative premise. That helped you to stand out from some of the ordinariness this week.

-Minum is an interesting character are interesting characters. I love that you’re showy and not telly about Minum’s nature, the bit about the spine for instance.

-I get why the prose has a certain density to it—the protagonist is a cyborg. For me, your sentences were smooth enough to compensate for this density, but to at least one other judge it came off as stilted. Keep in mind that writing in a cumbersome, weighty, almost academic way will turn off a large chuck of your audience.

-Apparently this story fits into the “justice” aspect of the prompt, but the details are vague. The story could be improved with a little more context and an ending with a clearer significance.

15. Lilies of the Valley - Grizzled Patriarch

- “The basement is silent except for my huffing breaths and the whir of the RidePro’s flywheel.” NOOO. Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine but it seems really asinine to write something that amounts to “it was silent except for the noise.” I feel the same way when people write “it was dark except for the light, and empty except for the people/things.”

-Prose good, imagery good, emotional impact good.

-The ending was among the most satisfying this week.

-In judging this piece, our major complaint was that it felt a touch lean. The piece left us wanting more, and that can be both good and bad. I get that your best writing tends to be lean, and I still had you as my top choice for winner this week. Yet, the piece was so good, we found ourselves lamenting that there wasn’t just a touch more meat to sate us.

My vote: Top choice for winner.

16. Severance Pay – leekster

-Not a bad vignette but the prompt called for a story.

17. Cranky Thievery - kurona_bright

-Not everyone will agree, but I think stories this dialogue-heavy tend to be really weak.

-This was a good effort but there wasn’t enough tension or conflict to hook the reader.

-Your audience needs more of a reason to invest in the characters.

-My only note-to-self about your story after my first read through was “meh.” On the second read through I crossed it out and wrote “bleh.” Spend more effort on plot structure and characterization next time.

18. Falling and Falling – crabrock

-Congrats on being able to win even when you don’t want to. Must be nice.

-The reason you earned this victory was that you accomplished something few others did this week: You created a three-dimensional, fleshed-out character who developed throughout the story.

-Your plot was interesting and carried some emotional weight.

-My only gripe was with the ending. It felt empty for the protagonist to kill the uncle. I also had a hard time picturing the mechanics of the protag rapid-wheeling toward the uncle and bowling him over the cliff. Even though the ending didn’t sit right with me, I couldn’t really hold it against you. The prompt asked for revenge and you gave it to us. Can’t fault you too much for that. I ranked this second overall, right after GP’s piece.

My vote: HM/Win candidate

19. Birds – Tyrannosaurus

-Same as with Djeser’s piece, this one is too unfinished and too low effort to crit.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Great prompt. I'm in.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Everything He Owes
(Word count: 1399)

Marshall wiped the blood from his mouth. Between shallow breaths he whispered, “Tell Hailie I still love her.” With a heavy swoop of his exosuit arm, Tupac smashed the little man’s skull.

He waited for his visor to update. TARGET: EMINEM, ELIMINATED. SEVENTH BEAT UNLOCKED.

This beat was the freshest so far. Velvety syncopation wrought by upright bass poured itself directly into Tupac’s cochlear nerve. He smiled, anticipating the rhymes he would spit to this music and the powerful effect they would have on his exosuit.

“--Agent Shakur?”

“I read you, Hailie.”

“Did…he say anything?”

Tupac hesitated. “Nah. Not a loving word.”

“DYNASTY changed him so much.” Her voice started breaking. “The father I knew died a long time ago.”

“Took it like a gangsta tho. Not like that punk-rear end DMX, tryna hit the self-destruct on his way out.”

After a while, Hailie spoke. “Let’s get you back to HQ.”

**

En route to HQ, Tupac’s transport pod soared above New Detroit. One hand on the control stick, the other on the blunt, he skirted over DYNASTY-controlled fiefdoms. But not even a blunt could ease the nausea he felt at having aided DYNASTY’s rise to power.

Block after block of misery stretched before him. Ragged men and women darted beneath heaps of urban ruin. They toiled in porch, lawn, and sky gardens, DYNASTY labor enforcers never far behind. Children with distended bellies knelt before marble statues, and venerated their many-named king. “Hov,” “Jigga,” “Jay-Z.”

Tupac glanced at the pits where the other statues had been removed. His own, Kanye and Nas’s after they defected, and those of the DYNASTY warriors killed in Tupac’s rebellion--50 Cent, Diddy, Missy Elliot, DMX, and Snoop. Eminem still stood. Wouldn’t be long before DYNASTY caught up to current events and removed him too.

“--Agent Shakur?” The comlink cut through Tupac’s ruminations.

“What you need, Hailie?”

“Checking in to see how well you’ve integrated the seventh beat. Are you freestyling better?”

“Aw, yeah. Flows like water while I spit fire at fools.”

“Good! Where we’re sending you, your exosuit is going to need to run off of the illest beats and rhymes possible."

“Say what?”

“We’re rerouting your transport pod to rendezvous with Agents West and Jones.”

“Whatchu got Kanye and Nas doing?”

“A little recon. If our intel is right, we’ve located Jay-Z’s hideout. ”

“The HOVEL?”

“Your ETA: 140 minutes.”

“I’m comin’ for you, Jigga.”

**

Tupac stared at the refuse littering the bright white hallway. It was a heap of torn flesh and DYNASTY uniforms.

“Kayne and Nas didn’t waste any time,” Tupac said to himself.

He walked the length of the hallway and entered a small room through some double doors. To his left and right, he found walls of solid steel. Across from him there was a door resembling a bank vault. Atop the door, a viewscreen flashed a familiar face.

“Been a long time, Pac.”

“You gonna die tonight, Hov. You heard?”

“Don’t forget, the man who built DYNASTY got the strongest exosuit and the freshest rhymes for it to run off of. Your friends here tried to kill me. I stomped on ‘em instead."

The camera panned over to a bloody rack. Kanye and Nas were nailed to it by their hands. Tupac clenched a fist as he watched his comrades writhe.

“You still got time to save these traitors. But you gotta get to ‘em first.” Jay-Z blew a kiss to the camera, then shut it off.

KLANG. A steel plate slid in front of the double doors behind Tupac. The left and right walls rumbled and began to compress the room. He rushed to the vault door. It wouldn’t budge. A feat of strength such as this required more power to the exosuit. It was time to bump the beats.

Tupac laid all seven beats on top of each other and blasted the volume. The music was perfect, but the situation’s urgency wiped his mind of rhymes.

For a moment, he flashed back to the events that led him here. He saw himself enforcing DYNASTY’s oppressive control over New Detroit. The serfs had bent to his will, to Jay-Z’s will, and Tupac had reveled in the luxuries that followed. He remembered gourmet meals served by starving people, drugs that kept him awake for days at a time, the women—the women!

Tupac recalled an engineer he’d been with early in the days of DYNASTY. Shaunte, who had designed the exosuits. He began freestyling.

Hit an engineer from every angle,
turnt out her caboose
She had a cute pussy
but I made it obtuse


The tightness of his rhymes sent a surge of power through the exosuit. Tupac ripped open the vault door and sprinted into the next room as the steel walls slammed together behind him. He recognized his present location as the room from Jay-Z’s viewscreen. He looked upon the rack and winced. The stench was horrid as the sight. Kayne and Nas must have died hours ago.

“Pardon the deception,” said Jay-Z, stepping from the shadows. “I got a flair for the dramatic. And what could be more dramatic then showing you a pre-recording, convincing you that if only you acted soon, you could save your friends?"

Tupac couldn’t let Jay-Z see his grief. “They knew they was soldiers. Sometimes soldiers gotta die.”

Jay-Z struck first. He seized Tupac and flung him into the far wall. Tupac was startled by his adversary’s strength and agility, but then he realized that Jay-Z had been able to acquire Kayne and Nas’s beats upon killing them.

Tupac hoisted himself back to his feet and engaged Jay-Z head on. He was blasting his combined seven beats and spitting bars off the top of the dome.

I hit you wit the ruga when you feelin’ real tough,
You think you spitting that fire, but you really a bitch
I got two in the chamber
You choose—which.


Sparks flew as the two warriors traded rapid exosuit jabs. Jay-Z spat some heavy verses, but his flow crumbled as he saw that Tupac was doling out more damage than he was taking in. At last, Tupac landed an uppercut that tore through Jay-Z’s exosuit. The DYNASTY leader collapsed at Tupac’s feet, coughed blood, and laughed.

“You don’t know who really in charge here. All the orders, logistics, coordination of thousands of DYNASTY enforcers, you think that was all me? Nah, nigga. It takes a more mechanical mind. This ain’t over, Pac. You best reconcile wit your God, ‘cos—”

Tupac stomped Jay-Z’s neck.

He waited for his visor to update. TARGET: JAY-Z, ELIMINATED. EIGHT, NINTH, and TENTH BEATS, UNLOCKED.

Tupac was looking for an exit when the ground began to tremble. He heard two distinct voices superimposed on one other. One was full throated, the other synthetic, distorted by some kind of autotune.

“You think you the only survivor, nigga? You think you the only nigga who faked they death after the East-West conflicts blew up? Mother fucker, say your prayers.”

Distorted or otherwise, Tupac knew that voice well. “Biggie.”

Up from the ground ten feet across from Tupac burst a large figure, half black, half…titanium? He was a patchwork monstrosity, fatty flesh jigsawed between ducts and wires, bionic limbs, metal plating, and a red laser emitter over his left eye.

Biggie stepped toward Tupac, but hesitated. He raised his hands to the top of his end, and his laser eye deactivated.

“I can’t control myself, Pac! You get yo’ rear end out this motherfucker—”

The laser eye powered back on, and Biggie bore his teeth. “You better be ready to die, nigga.”

Tupac and Cyborg Biggie laid the hurt onto one another, their rhymes endowing their mechanical apparatuses with unthinkable force. Tupac spat the realest verses of his life, but just like in the Madison Square Garden rap battle of ’93, he was no match for Biggie Smalls. In short order, Biggie had cut through the top half of Tupac’s suit, and wrapped a cold metal hand around his neck.

“Fight it, Biggie. I know you in there. The real you.”

Biggie’s grip loosened as his laser eye shut down. “I don’t…wanna live…no more.”

Seizing the moment, Tupac reached for the autodestruct. “Rest in peace, Big. There’s a heaven for a G.”

The last thing Tupac saw was the red glow of Biggie’s laser eye reactivating.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


newtestleper posted:

If for some bizarre reason this needed clarification for you: spaces do not count as words.

word <- this is a word
<- this is a space

if you are worried about your wordcount use https://www.wordcounter.net. This is what I will check with if I am suspicious that the stated wordcount isn't correct.

But wait you USED words to refer to a space so which is it my world is spinning:psyduck:

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Crits - Week #138 - Aaahh!!! Real Monsters - Part 1

Some decent action, some decent forward movement, a couple stories with emotional impact, all-in-all this week was alright to judge. However, there were significant proofreading issues throughout the stories, including the good stories. Way to set an example for our five first-timers.

1. Nutrient Solution - ZeBourgeoisie

-The contrast between the cold researchers and the trusting, loving hatchling adds an emotional resonance to the piece, and that is welcome.

-Some of the piece has a creepy vibe and I encourage you to develop this unsettling, not-quite-human aspect throughout your writing. I think your strengths as a writer lie here.

-Hiding the hatchling in the toilet tank was a good idea, and it showed a nice degree of agency and creativity on Max’s part.

-The ending seems like it’s meant to be funny or tongue-in-cheek, but it doesn’t quite pay off. I’d recommend a more serious resolution. Maybe Max whips up a nutrient solution at home that they can both eat, and he and the hatchling bond further over their shared enjoyment of it. The peanut butter is a touch hamfisted, and I wanted Max and the hatchling to have a more sentimental moment at the end to punctuate their mutual affection.

-Congrats on showing us a monstrosity who doesn’t act like the cliché monster.

2. Scrawl – SadisTech

-Where’s the word count?

-The first person narration works. I had no trouble believing that this was being narrated by a grizzled, tired woman.

-You’ve only really developed the protagonist, and even she herself isn’t THAT developed. I don’t see her grow or change in any appreciable way. Other than resulting in her death, the events in the story don’t seem to impact her very much. Character death isn’t the same as character development.

-The biggest downside to this story is that I’ve read it a thousand times. Granted, with all the zombie saturation in popular media today, it’s hard to whip up a fresh take.

Your story had a strong sense of voice and a mood befitting the horror genre. Though I didn’t advocate for you to HM, I can appreciate why you’ve earned it. Good job.


3. A Funny Story – Benny Profane

-This was the first :wtc: story this week.

-It’s not clear what the yellow-eyed creature is, nor the significance of his funny stories.

-The story lacks emotional resonance. It’s bizarre in a detrimental way. It also feels cursory—no component of the story is explored in depth.

-*INHALES* “Wait man, I get it now. It’s like, the monster…represents DISAPPOINTMENT and that’s *INHALES* why it grows and why it says it will consume Mary and why she kills herself. Nah, nevermind. I think the story is just broken.

My vote: DM candidate

4. Don’t Touch That Dial – Franco Potente

-Throughout the first two-thirds of the story, your style drifts dangerously close to purple prose, thesaurus mining, and clause heaviness.

-You’ve got some sentences that appear alright until closer inspection:

“His days…were combatted by his application of words.” So you have ‘application’ fighting against ‘days’. Is that really sensible?

“…the night-light…didn’t ameliorate things anything:” Needs more proofreading.

“Night operates on a different logic, one that is exploded in the light of day.” Passive verb aside, “exploded” doesn’t seem to fit well with “logic.”

“The boy’s fingers pulled themselves toward the nightstand.” The boy? James is grown. He goes about his adult business and lives by himself.

-James is odd, but the story provides little insight into why that is. Nor does the story hook the reader into caring about James.

-Your monster is a lump of darkness that happens to be friendly. Doesn’t interest me, I’m afraid.

My vote: DM candidate

5. Hyacinth – G-d Was Missing Us

-The prompt cautions against worldbuilding, and you drift dangerously close to it.

-The dialogue was smooth enough to work.

-The story is entertaining, but it would be more gripping if it had more conflict. As it stands, the conflict is that Layla needs to kill/pluck Ka, but is concerned it might be difficult. That’s about it; the tension all stems from that.

-The twist ending was a genuine surprise, but you didn’t set it up with adequate presaging of Roc intelligence, so the twist feels too out-of-left-field. The twist also leaves nagging questions. Why is Layla the Roc goddess? Have they merely identified her by her leg? What’s with the statue being part Roc, part human, and how does that relate to the presumably all-human Layla?

6.Tangly – A Classy Ghost

-The plot is satisfying; the dysfunction of Lydia’s family gives the story a bit of emotional resonance.

-Lydia and Tangly demonstrate agency and even a little growth. Well done.

-There was judgechat about your ending feeling kind of shoehorned into too tight a narrative space. One the one hand, I expected that there was something like another dimension under the bed from the start, because how would Tangly have fit under there if it didn’t lead somewhere else? On the other hand, the judges had a point: the arctic dimension needed more breathing room than a few quick concluding sentences.

-Out of the “nice” monster stories, this was among the better written ones.

My vote: HM candidate.

7. Howling – hotsoupdinner

-This story works well overall. You’ve got an actual monster, who is actually terrifying. You build up the suspense well.

-Your protagonist has agency. That’s a plus. He doesn’t develop much, but the story seems to carry the protag through well enough despite his lack of growth.

-Your story has a tense, almost desperate mood. Well done.

My vote: HM candidate.

8.Monster in your head – CancerCakes

-This story had potential. You had an interesting premise, enhanced semi-sentient body parts as monsters. But then you threw it all away on shock value.

-It’s not clear how you thought readers would react to your story, but my reaction is one of confusion. There are ways to make the eye vulgar without lazily grasping at the lowest common denominator. And the joke at the end? Not only is it not funny, but it underscores the weakness in your piece. I’m not sure what you were trying to accomplish.

-You’ve got no character growth, nothing likable about your characters, no real reason for a reader to respect this piece.

My vote: Loss/DM

9. The Cauldron – Thyrork

-You’ve got several proofreading errors.

-You’ve got some sentence structure issues. Consider, for example: “He came into the room at her side, tall, stocky and tired looking,. His his ribbon of red down one arm complimenting Cinna’s.”

-The story is overloaded with dialogue, and it’s fairly stilted at that.

-Sorry to say, but it reads like a hastily thrown together D&D campaign. The characterization is cursory, the plot is childish, you haven’t given readers enough reason to care about these people or their battle with the Necromancer.

I recommend sticking with TD, but working on creating interesting characters that develop in response to plots that have some kind of intrigue/emotional resonance/compelling drama.

My vote: Loss/DM

10. Silk – spectres of autism

-The story starts out all over the place. The combination of Caster, jetpacks, and raptors was jarring.

-When Eric concludes that he’s in an anime, that “meta” aspect actually starts to make things interesting for me. It adds mystery; it made me wonder if he really was just a self-aware anime drawing.

-I assume that Eric really is in an anime, because that’s the only way I can make sense of your story. I was hoping for a more concrete resolution to that question though.

11. Close Your Eyes If You Want To Keep Them – Something Else

-The story opens up with some nice mystery. I’m motivated to keep reading so I can figure out who these mercs are and what’s going to happen with this jelly monster.

-How did the protag know he was in the van for five hours? Didn’t seem like he was in a position to keep track of the time.

-You’ve got some proofreading errors.

-The action holds the reader’s attention well.

-Please give your characters names.

-It’s unclear to me how certain parts of the story are actually functioning to serve the story. For example, you mention that the woman is wearing vat-grown gator skin because gators are rare in the wild. Why mention that? What impact does it have on the story to know that gators are rare? It doesn’t tell us much about the woman other than that she has vat technology. But we already knew the story was futuristic, and we already saw other examples of high-tech capabilities. So, why include the commentary about gator skin?

-The ending is satisfying. Good job overall.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Crits - Week #138 - Aaahh!!! Real Monsters - Part 2

12. A Common Enemy - LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE

-You’ve got a couple proofreading errors but then again so did most people this week.

-The prose feels a touch clunky to me.

-“Cerneau guessed that he got lucky and caught the monster off guard…” Given that the monster got the jump on Cerneau and stole the torch from him, I’d think not.

-Is it just because of the gun that Funghead was defeated? Did the other would-be Funghead-slayers just not carry guns?

It’s hard to pinpoint, but this story has kind of a glossed-over, uninspired feel to it.

13. The Mind Killer – Jagermonster

-Hmm, the old “Wrath of Khan” brain-eating, face-orifice-crawling pincer monster. Okay, you’ve got a pretty decent opening here.

-The prose flows nicely. Also Roman’s talking and Jimmy’s silent reactions in the beginning build tension well.

-I LOVE Jimmy’s initial defiance. You’ve got interesting characters and there is good contrast between them.

-He’s trying to sew sow fear or whatever.”

-There’s something cheap about Jimmy’s confession. At first he appears to be a reasonably strong character, but then he issues a whimpering confession because he’s afraid of The Mind Killer. Jimmy’s weakness here makes him less interesting, and in any case his capitulation makes more emotional sense than logical sense. Logically, if either way Jimmy is going to spill the information and then die, he might as well resist. That way, he can at the very least force Roman to waste a valuable Mind Killer on him. I get that a person might prefer a gunshot death to a brain damage death, but Jimmy is at his best when he is a strong character, and a strong character would resist to the end.

14. Lakeshore Lure - kurona_bright

-I’ve got one major gripe here. I don’t really buy that the grandpa would let these kids play unsupervised in an area known to have dangerous monsters. It seems like “don’t go near any animals” isn’t enough. The grandpa obviously cares about these kids, so it’s strange that he allowed even for the possibility of something like this happening.

15. The Dog in the Sewer – Screaming Idiot

-This has been a rough week for proofreading, e.g., “Proud men are often see their flaws in other men.”; “In the back of came a quiet gurgle…”

-Most of your prose flows nicely.

-The plot structure is okay, but I saw the Eric betrayal coming a mile away. These things are tough because you don’t want things to come out of left field, but you also don’t want to foreshadow so much that the story’s ending is predictable. I think you erred in making the foreshadowing too obvious.

16. Reaping – Wangless Wonder

-I’m afraid I have no idea what’s going on in your story. I wish I had more feedback for you, but it’s hard to detail ways your story could be better when the whole thing is just so vague. I get that the characters are thieves but I have hard time telling exactly who/what else they are. And then…something goes wrong during the heist, not clear exactly what’s happening there. And then, your characters are walking around town. How you got from point A to B and what happened in between is fuzzy at best. Maybe you were trying to avoid being too telly? Next time, work on clarity instead.

My vote: DM

17. Til Chicago – docbeard

-Good opening line.

-I like that the witch occupies a moral grey area. She admits that’s she a horrible monster, but is enough of a three-dimensional character also to have the capacity for good. Well done with that bit of characterization!

-This was a decent contribution. There isn’t anything glaringly wrong with the story, but didn’t blow us away either. Judgechat regarding this story was minimal.

18. Don’t Want It Anymore – Broenheim

-The children’s-book quality of your writing here is refreshing.

-You've got some proofreading issues, e.g. “Charlie stared into the creature’s eyes. It threw its hand off of his head as its eyes widen.”; “Charlie set out…but couldn’t find a trail. As he searched for it, a branch snapped behind me [< shifts narration].” In a usual week, I feel like proofreading errors like this could have wrested the win away from you. Lucky for you, most of your competition had similar problems.

-“The money went dry and he would be shipped back home the next day.” Woah, what money? I’m guessing Charlie is some kind of field researcher, even though he has a childlike quality. But this sudden financial issue is coming out of nowhere.

-The piece manages to pack a significant emotional punch. And it touches upon some interesting ideas. When you become highly attached to just one person, is it ever fair to that person? What constitutes being “alone,” and how important is the physical presence of a loved one in combating loneliness?

Thank you for writing this; it’s a beautiful children’s story. It's emotional resonance and strong thematic quality are still with me as I write this. This is the type of story that is not only valuable as art, but could also have a practical value, like to help kids cope when their best friends move away.

My vote: Win

19. The Circumstances of Love and Danger During Sophomore Year – Tyrannosaurus

-The dialogue feels natural.

-Tanner’s role at the end seemed a little cliché. Misaki’s escape = wait for a knight in shining armor, then point and shoot. I was hoping that your set up of Misaki as the damsel in distress was going to be a red herring—a way to throw off the reader before you pulled a more original conflict resolution out of your sleeve.

-Still, the characterization worked. The story was entertaining, but didn't really stand out this week.

20. Shadow of a doubt – SurreptitiousMuffin

-Was there a single story this week that didn’t have proofreading issues here and there? “The looming bulk of Mount Victoria could not even covers its lower body.”

-The prose is great; the imagery stands out. I especially like this image: “…crushed so flat that his toenails broke themselves against his teeth.”

-“A retired army mechanic who loved nothing about his son, his wife and his car.” I’m guessing this is a typo? Jan seems awfully attached to a guy who loved nothing about him, if indeed that’s what you meant to write.

-The plot feels hobbled together, messy, lacking in sharpness. There are also some loose ends. It’s not clear to me how every member of the crowd comes to believe that the monster is their father. I’m also not clear on what the monster is or what his motives are for lumbering around and crushing things. There is something to be said for keeping things mysterious, but at least give me something to hang my hat on. The plot is the weakest aspect of the story, and the fact that you got a well-deserved HM despite that weakness is a testament to your skillful use of theme, mood, and imagery.

-You explore compelling themes here: when you’re young your father is invincible, gargantuan, seems to have dominion over the whole world, etc. You know a story is really good when it stays with you and makes you ponder its themes. This story reminded me of Freud’s thoughts on religion—that to many young children, their fathers seem godlike, so when they grow up they’re drawn to lives of faith to satisfy their still-present need for a “god-dad.” Maybe that’s what the crowd is doing in this story. They’re longing for the security and love that comes from an all-powerful paternal force, and they’ve projected that need onto this monster that’s stomping over everything.

-Every time I went back and looked at this story, I liked it a little more.

My vote: HM

21. The Real Homuncuwives of Atlantis – Doctor Idle

-Real housewives fanfic?

-The Antonio and Tina middle section stuff is tedious.

-Well, the story is a mess but it held my attention and had enough “attitude” to it to keep it out of the bottom few stories this week, imo.

22. Acetone – Capntastic

Congrats, you win a random linecrit.

Capntastic posted:

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. Okay, you’ve shown how pervasive the public fear of the monsters is, that goes a long way in building tension. I also like that they crave acetone. It feels fresh to have a monster crave acetone instead of brains, blood, etc.

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. Ick. Well, you’ve succeeded in explaining how gross these creatures are. At this point in the story, I have an uncomfortable feeling. One thing that works well is how unique these creatures are. They don’t seem to map on to any conventional type of monster.

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. I’m not a chemist, but given the necessity, couldn’t people just develop some of kind of non-acetone based nail polish remover? 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. Kind of a moot point since she hadn’t. 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 in 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. Well done breathing life into these monsters by giving them such a horrible sound. I have no trouble imagining it, and you’re right, irl assholes would totally use it as a ringtone. All of this detail makes Steff’s world come alive for the reader. And the sound being so close ramps up the suspense nicely.

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. This is where you lose me. Nail polish remover is not so important that this society would allow it to be sold in stores if it attracted terrifying monsters. 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.”

All in all, I liked this story. It had good atmosphere and your monster was among the most unique this week. But, I wasn’t thrilled at the idea that acetone-based nail polish would still be sold in grocery stores if it attracted monsters who could “tear into [your] back in less than an instant.”

23. Spear – Killer-of-Lawyers

-I don’t think a spider quite fits the prompt of “monster.” It might be terrifying to a tiny creature like Verna, but it’s just too mundane for monster week. I don’t think that Verna really counts as a monster either, if that’s what you had in mind.

-You describe this small-scale world well. The action is also well written. For a first entry into the ‘dome, this was a good effort.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


CancerCakes posted:

You drop the n bomb you're going to get at least a mention.

It is unlikely to be favourable.

If. You. Say. So.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


in

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Anthro 837
(Word Count 1089)

Bogda thought in pictures. The twisted tree, the heaping bone mound, the brook with the red stones. She apprehended a sprawling landscape by way of mental images. So it was with all humans in the age before language.

At the start of her most fateful day, Bogda saw the elder lean against the twisted tree. He spewed antelope marrow, eased himself to the dirt and grew still. Upon seeing him, the others took aurochs bladders and made for the brook. Bogda followed. There amidst the red stones she filled an aurochs bladder, like the rest of her brethren. But something made her recoil. The notion of collecting water—her image of it—was polluted. A different vision forced its way into her mind. She imagined a bird perching beside the brook and drinking. Glug glug glug. She’d heard this sound countless times before but never truly listened to it.

Glug glug glug. When Bogda filled the aurochs bladder, she heard the same sound. She mimicked it, then put the bladder to her lips and drank. Suddenly, she pictured an infant opening its eyes.

Forgetting the elder’s plight, Bogda grinned and ran to a large woman close by. “Glugglugglug,” Bogda said. The woman furled her brow and crouched low. “Glugglugglug,” Bogda continued. The woman scooped sand and tossed it at Bogda’s mouth.

Unphased, Bogda spat and walked toward a nearby child. She held out the aurochs bladder. “Glugglugglug.” The boy frowned. “Glugglugglug.” Bogda repeated until the child glanced at the brook, then back at the bladder. He took the bladder, drank from it and said “Glugglugglug.”

Bogda smiled and turned toward her brethren, who were gathering around her. The large woman who had thrown sand at Bogda’s mouth, crouched down and lobbed some more. Bogda dodged the projectile, but others starting throwing sand also. Bogda ran to the other side of the brook and sat. The crowd left.

Bogda pictured a jackal, whimpering and sitting apart from the pack. She turned to the water and saw her image on its surface—skin like night when the stars forsake the sky and a mouth restless as the brook itself. “Glugglugglug,” she said to the image. Bogda's head hurt at the sight of her human mouth doing water things. She pictured the angry woman from earlier and tossed sand into the brook. Ripples pulled at the image.

When she rejoined the others, she saw the boy with whom she’d shared her image-noise. He ran to her and said, “Bzzz.”

The noise gave Bogda an image of flies feasting on something rotten, something dead. She looked to the twisted tree, but where the elder had been she saw only freshly disturbed earth. She repeated “Bzzz” to the boy and approached the others, who were huddled around the bone mound.

Some of the others stared at the bones. Still more of them hung their heads low. Bogda could not ignore the connection between her noise image and what she saw before her. “Bzzz” she said.

Hearing this, the large woman winced and covered her ears. She glared at Bogda beneath a furled brow. Then, she reached into the mound and extracted an antelope femur. The crowd watched, motionless, as the large woman charged at Bogda. In four brutal swings, she struck Bogda in the face.

Bogda reached for the bone but could not wrest it from her much larger adversary. Though she tried to dodge the blows, she was too slow. Struck once more, Bogda pictured a crocodile eating a gazelle. She knelt in acceptance of her fate, but then something curious happened. A noise-image crept into her mind. Unlike the others, it did not refer to anything Bogda could picture. Though incongruent with any real image, the noise corresponded to something else. It aligned itself with what was happening inside Bogda at that moment—with a feeling.

“N…nn…NA!” Bogda screamed. The large woman leapt backwards and crouched down. “NA!” said Bogda once again.

The large woman rose, her body tense in response to Bogda’s noise. She raised the bone and charged at her once again, but halted at a new sound.

“NA!” screamed the boy from earlier. The large woman pivoted and charged at the boy. When she reached him, she raised the bone above his head.

“NA!” said the crowd. Bogda’s eyes watered at the sound.

The crowd wrestled the large woman and used her antelope femur to beat her. The woman, now broken and bruised, hobbled away from the bone mound.

The boy ran to Bogda, aurochs bladder in hand. He raised it to her and smiled. “Glugglugglug.”

**

“So, wait…how does Bogda have a name without having grown up with a language?”

Dr. Rosenbaum chuckled. “I’m afraid you’ve caught the faculty on this one. Bogda doesn’t call herself anything. It’s a name we’ve given to her.”

Chad raised his hand from the back row. “Uhh, professor? How do you know so much about Bogda’s life? It’s not like there’s any written history from that time.”

The classroom filled with gasps.

“You’re an undergrad.”

“Yeah…I thought—”

“—I’m not sure who let you in here, but this lecture is for doctoral candidates only. I will see to it the Dean hears about this. Class dismissed.”

Dr. Rosenbaum collected his things and slipped out of the classroom. Erica, his graduate advisee, caught up to him.

“This is bad. I told you we weren’t going to be able to keep a lid on this.”

Dr. Rosenbaum walked out of the building and onto the quad. He cut through the grass on the way to his lab. “It doesn’t have to be bad. Temporal extraction is going to reserve places for m—for us in history books yet to be written. That goes for the anthro and physics departments both.”

Erica shook her head. “Morty, she’s not just the first person ever to speak. She’s also an ancestor to all of us. What are people going to do when they find out the matriarch of all modern humans is holed up in your lab?”

“Nothing," said the professor. "I mean, the fact that we’re all still here suggests that the physicists will find a way to send her back.”

“Morty!”

Dr. Rosenbaum said nothing until he arrived at his destination.

“Meh,” he said, turning to Erica. “Best case scenario, they give me the Boas Award. Worst case, they arrest me. At this point, I guess I’ll have to take my chances.”

With that, Dr. Rosenbaum unlocked his laboratory door, where he would continue his research.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Untitled Opening
(422 words)

You grew up Mormon, but that’s not why you aren’t Mormon, is it? No, no. You smoke two packs a day and won’t drink anything unless it’s got caffeine or alcohol, but that’s not why you aren’t Mormon either. Get a grip on yourself, Jill. You can’t hide from your own mind. Hmm, you think it’s useless to ask unknowable questions like whether there’s a God, whether he’s married to another God, or whether given an eternity to grow after death all good people could achieve godhood. But all that pales before your true concerns. Denial doesn’t suit you, Jill. I will make you see.

Ah yes, now you’re staring it in the face. You aren’t Mormon because you’ve got a secret. It solves nothing to repress your own nature, Jill. No matter how much you try to block it from your mind, your secret stays with you. You hide it from family, from your colleagues at Harding Elementary, from anyone who might get close enough to find out that you’re a monster. Chapel is out of the question. You don’t need a community, nor the scrutiny that comes with it. Still, your heart betrays you. It cries out for a companion, someone who won’t judge. Maybe someone who could share in your…um…interests.

But vetting a companion is hard. Never forget that. You can’t get close to just anyone. Sure, your colleagues wander in and out of the teachers’ lounge, chit-chatting, trying to get to know their mysterious co-worker. But that doesn’t make them trustworthy. If they found out, it would be all over. You have to be discerning, Jill. Can’t just open your mouth and invite someone to the apartment, after all.

“Wanna hang out at my apartment after work?” Oh God. You just blurted it out. What have you done?

“Sure!” said Nuar.

Slipped up. Got too impulsive. Allowed your heart to steal away your good judgment. It’s wishful thinking. Yeah, Nuar used to team teach with you; she seemed open minded enough. But no. Jill, you need to get a hold of yourself. Nuar seems nice, I know you want this bad. But what if she saw…

“We’ll meet up in the parking garage. You can follow me back to my place.”

HALT THIS MADNESS.

Jill, let’s be reasonable. I feel for you, really I do. But what will Nuar think when she gets to your apartment and finds out what you really are? The world isn’t made for people like you. Oh God, JILL, what are you doing?

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


The Art Lesson
(943 words)

After years of searching, Roberta Laksi stood before her sister’s murderer. She tried to imprint his outline into her brain, every crease, every wrinkle. He was seated at an easel facing the sun as it rose over the bay. He clutched a nub of charcoal in sharp bony fingers, using it to make thick, bold strokes on the page. In his left hand he held a rag which he used every so often to smudge and smooth in the image.

She watched him work in silence. He was nearly done. The sunlight glimmered from the corrugated siding of nearby factories by the time he seemed to be satisfied.

At last, he stood and acknowledged her for the first time. “Thank you,” he said, as he pocketed the charcoal. “It’s such a fleeting thing, you know, capturing the way the shadows fall in the early morning.” He continued to talk as she drew her gun, a revolver, awkward and heavy in her hands. “After that, the shadows almost disappear. There’s no light, no dark, no black and white, just gray.” She cocked the gun. “It’s dull, really. I can’t do anything with it after that point.”

She raised the pistol to a level in line with his wispy white head. “I just have one question,” she said. “Why did you do it?”

“Beg pardon?” the old man asked. He scratched under his chin.

“Why did you kill Leslie?”

“Hmm? I’m sorry, I don’t know who you’re...” He looked around, and his eyes fell on the drawing. “Oh!” He picked it up from the easel and turned it towards the light. “I’ve finished another one. It’s got some lovely contrast in it, don’t you think? I do love drawing here. It’s the perfect place to capture the sunrise.”

Roberta felt faint. Had she confronted the wrong man?

No. The aquiline nose and browline were unmistakable, if a bit sagged compared to how they appeared in the old photograph. And Sam had been adamant about this place: the old man came here every day to draw or paint, he said, as the fishing boats left the village. They had spent months together trying to track him down, scouring old travel documents, reading through file records abandoned in dusty government buildings, cross-referencing names and dates.

“Mr. Jackson?” she asked, hoping he would say no, hoping for anything at all but what came next.

The old man squinted at her. “Yes? I’m sorry, do I know you, girl? My memory’s not quite what it used to be, you know. You’ll have to be patient with me.”

Roberta shook her head. Jackson was staring down a revolver’s barrel, and instead of begging for his life he was playing the doddering old fool. She’d get no answers out of him.

The recoil came as a surprise. When she pulled the trigger the gun sprang from her hand. But where she expected to find a smoking revolver, she found instead a toy gun with a flag sticking out of the barrel. It read “Bang.”

“What?” Roberta croaked, breathless.

“Are you here for the art lesson, young Miss?”

Roberta thought of her sister. How she looked when she found her. Gray-blue skin, eyes bulging. A body slumped in a wheelchair, deep bruises on the neck. Frantic, Roberta scanned the ground for a wooden pallet, a piece of frame, anything besides a toy gun that she could use as a weapon.

Jackson frowned. “Things getting grayer now.” He bent down and pulled a charcoal engraving from his satchel, another depiction of the bay but with less contrast. In the middle ground, a woman held a gun with a flag sticking out. It read “Bang.”

“Wha—”

Jackson turned to his stool beside the easel and slumped down on it. “Heard you were coming, Roberta. Sam is my best student. I’ll ask once more, are you here for the art lesson?”

“I’m here to get justice for Leslie.”

“Hmm. Can’t give you justice. Could sketch it though, while the lighting’s still good.”

“You took my sister from me!”

Jackson sat up with a start. “Took her? No, no. Borrowed her, maybe. If you’ll only stay for the lesson…”

Scanning the bony, effete old man, Roberta wondered if she needed a weapon at all. Perhaps she could exact justice with her bare hands.

“Everything exists somewhere,” Jackson began. “Nothing in the universe is created or destroyed. That includes art. You can’t depict what’s not real; you can only pull depictions from some reality, from the everything. And even then, art isn’t representational. It’s commutable. It’s a tunnel into the everything itself.” He bent down and rifled through his satchel. He grabbed an engraving and propped it on his knee.

Roberta had heard enough ranting. She stomped toward him, but hesitated when she focused on the engraving. It was Leslie. Not a representation, not charcoal. It was her sister, eyes alive, ascending a marble staircase. Walking.

Roberta shed one corrosive tear. It burned its way to her chin. “How?”

“I told you, I borrowed her. Liberated her from broken flesh in precisely the way she wanted,” said Jackson. “Pick the gun up, Roberta.”

“Would you?”

Jackson nodded.

As Roberta picked up the toy gun, Jackson began to sketch alterations to his depiction of her. She stuffed the flag back into the barrel, placed the gun inside her mouth and pulled the trigger. Then Jackson turned to the depiction of Leslie. With nimble strokes he placed Roberta there, arm in arm with her sister. Then he tucked the image under one arm, and stepped over the body beside him, casting no shadow upon it.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


in

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


That Time I Induced Stockholm Syndrome in an Owl and Leveraged It Against My SHITBAG Neighbor
(1436 words)

That bastard, Jerry, had thought he’d won. He had the bigger house, the bigger acreage, the bigger dick. As a result, he had my wife. And I had to suffer seeing the two of them canoodling on his property next door. Lunching in his gazebo. Once I caught them half undressed in MY barn, and for this he offered no recompense. Only a smug grin.

But he hadn’t won. I had yet to unleash my torments upon him, make him regret crossing me. I decided to show him what it meant to lose everything. I would hurt him. I would hurt him until his pain weighed the scales of justice back in my favor. All I needed was an owl.

It isn’t hard to capture a barn owl. I broke a chick’s neck and placed it in a cage up in the barn rafters. Attached to the chick, I placed a weight that I connected to the door with a string. When the owl entered the cage to eat the chick, the weight moved and the door clicked shut.

My uncle used to tell me an owl’s a lot like a person. It will bond with its captor as a means of survival. Get attached to him like Stockholm syndrome. You capture an owl, soon enough it thinks you’re its mate. That’s how you win its loyalty. Then you spend late nights hooting at it so it knows you still care. That’s how you keep its loyalty.

Next came the training. I’d start each session by starving the thing for a couple days. Got it real motivated to learn how it might get fed. Then I’d let it out of its cage; it wasn’t going anywhere while it was imprinted to me. There was glove training, feeding the thing only after walking around for a couple hours with it perched on my falconer’s glove. Then shoulder training, pads recommended. Soon after, I taught it to associate one whistle with flying overhead, one with perching, another with hunt-and-retrieval, and a final one with targeting the nearest moving creature.

The thing was tame in no time. Nothing motivates like starvation and strong attachment. The important part was preparing it to execute OPERATION RUIN JERRY. And for that, I needed it to wear clothes.

I made a small maroon button down vest for it, the same as the train conductors wore. The owl was so docile at this point, it had no objection to wearing it. And I swear to God, I even got it to wear a matching fez. I’ll show you the Polaroids sometime. Anyway, I dressed myself up in the same uniform (sans fez), bade the owl to perch on my shoulder, and made my way to the train station.

Step one was to intimidate Jerry. Soften him up for the finishing blow, so-to-speak. Back then, he worked as the top groundskeeper at the Roosevelt Mansion in Hyde Park, twenty minutes by train from Fishkill. And he always took the same train.

No need to pay for a ticket. I had the uniform instead. As I stepped up to the train, the boarding agent said, “You’re not bringing that animal on board.”

“She’s property of the company, and I’ve got my orders. Take it up with management if you want,” I told him.

“Well…she is in uniform, I guess.”

I stepped onto the train and found Jerry seated next to an old woman. He frowned when he saw me.

“Ma’am, I’m gonna need you to change seats,” I told the woman.

“Do you work here?” she said.

“I don’t think he does,” said Jerry through clenched teeth.

The woman continued. “I see you’re wearing maroon, but I’ve never seen you here before. Nor the owl.”

I laughed and pointed to it. “Well, put it this way, if I didn’t work here, d’you really think they’d let me aboard with this thing perched on my shoulder?”

The woman twitched her nose. “I suppose not.” She vacated the seat.

There I sat next to Jerry for twenty minutes. I didn’t say a word. Just leaned slightly toward him, the owl inches away from his face. He spent the trip fuming, red faced with his arms crossed and his eyes fixed on the floor.

Hyde Park. That’s where the real fun began.

I left the train before Jerry and put some distance between myself and the station. With a sharp whistle, I commanded the owl to circle above me. Didn’t want to run into any problem with Roosevelt Mansion staff by entering the property with the bird on my shoulder.

The fez fell off at this point, but I really had to admire the thing for keeping it on so long.

Glancing back at the station, I spied Jerry walking in the direction of the mansion. I followed at some considerable distance as the owl flew high above me.

At the mansion, staff let Jerry through a gate and into the gardens. I let out a long “perch now” whistle, and the owl wafted to the roof. The only way for me to get to the gardens behind the gate was to join the tour group. So that’s I what I did, meandering through the property while some deep-fry-faced guide regurgitated one projectile factoid after another.

When we got to the gardens, I slowed my pace and let the group get far ahead. Rows of bushes, flowers, even some vegetables stretched before me. I cut across the foliage and wandered until I saw Jerry, maybe fifty yards off. He was in the rose garden near the 32nd president’s tomb, peeling away some dirt with a trowel.

I circled around and hid behind some trees. Then I let out two low whistles and waited for the owl to arrive. It perched on my shoulder. A broad grin swept across my face. This was it.

While Jerry toiled at the earth, I let out a long, ascending whistle. The closest moving object was Jerry; he might as well have been an injured field mouse. The owl took to the air, and swooped to press an attack.
Believe it or not, I didn’t want to do him much physical injury. OPERATION RUIN JERRY had other, less violent objectives. But amidst his girlish screams, his desperate flailing at the air, Jerry failed to protect his face from some minor scratching. I let out three soft whistles and the owl flew off. Two of Jerry’s grunt workers came running, summoned by his wails.

“It was Gus, my bastard neighbor. He did this to me,” Jerry yelled, pointing to a facial scratch that had not broken the skin.

“How? Where did he go?” one worker asked.

“I don’t know,” said Jerry. “He made an owl do it.”

“An owl?”

“His owl. I recognized it from the train earlier. It’s wearing a maroon vest. Seems to have lost its fez.”

The two workers exchanged a quizzical look. One smirked. “Did it have a monocle too?”

“How about a top hat and a cane?” the other said, laughing.

Jerry’s face flushed. He stomped away from his sniggering underlings, and I followed at a distance.

The owl was nowhere to be found. Three soft whistles communicate “You may hunt. Bring what you find to your target.” It was maybe ten minutes before the owl soared back into view, loomed above Jerry’s head, and airdropped a freshly dead rat.

I can’t say for sure if what happened next was triggered more by the rat or the worry that he’d get clawed again. But Jerry ran screaming past the tomb, past the rose bushes, past the rows of vegetables, flowers, and bushes, and into a field trip of terrified elementary schoolers.

Needless to say, he lost the job. In turn, he lost my wife.

He didn’t take it lying down though. I almost have to respect the guy for retaliating. He couldn’t prove that I’d attacked him, but with a phone call and the game warden’s surprise visit to my property, he proved that I was keeping an illegal pet.

“Tell it to someone who cares, owl man. It’s time to give it up,” the warden said to me. I’ll have to teach him that nobody talks to me that way. And nobody takes away something that I hold dear. I’ve spied some hawks on my property these past couple days. Young ones. Ideal for training. I will tip the scales of justice back in my favor, and this warden will suffer for it.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Sitting Here posted:

What if I don't capriciously close the thread cause no one would shut up about stuff that doesn't matter?

You won't.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Benny Profane posted:

Crits make me happy.

Seeing crits paid forward makes me happier.

Offering two linecrits, any week. If you take one, you should pay it forward, not just because it will make me happy, but because it is the correct thing to do.

I'd like one for my biography week story. I will gladly pay it forward.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Thanks for that helpful line crit, Profane. I'll pay it forward. Two line crits, any TD story. Any takers?

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Line crit for Redtonic.

RedTonic posted:

Speak to Us of Teaching
WC: 1389

Asher and Najib argued even while Ziyad’s cousin was throwing them all out that night. -Cool character names His wife and daughters tossed their meager baggage into the street -Whose wife and daughter's? The as-of-yet nameless cousin's? It isn't clear. Najib heard the laughter of onlookers as they witnessed the spectacle and imagined their sly jests -Strange syntax. Who imagined jests? Contexts suggests it's Najib, but the way the sentence is written makes it seem like the onlookers were imagining jests. The sting drove venom into his words.

^There are a number of issues with the above paragraph. For one thing, it's a beginning to the story that does little to hook the reader. It hints at a conflict, but is otherwise mundane. It dryly describes people getting kicked out of someplace, but doesn't establish much mystery, excitement, uniqueness, interesting characters, etc. There isn't much to motivate the reader to continue on at the point. Additionally, the prose is a bit weak. The sentences have a clunky, start-stop rhythm.

Najib bared his teeth in a grimace. “Why don’t you even practice your name? A man should be able to read, to write! I offer you the world--”

“Of what? Your scrolls? A pale country as nearsighted as you!” Asher’s barking laugh set Najib’s teeth on edge.

He tried again anyway. “Knowledge, and with it, freedom--”

“Of ink-stained fingers? Arms with all the strength of khubz?” Asher was unrelenting. He pointed to the girls. “If it’s in your power to grant freedom, give it to them. As for me, I was born free; I am still free; I will die free--I need no blessings from a merchant tribe.”

For their part, the girls fled into the safety of their home without sparing a word for a single member of the company.

“Why won’t you put forth a little effort? I don’t know why I even w--” This time it was Najib who interrupted himself, snapping his teeth shut before he finished the last word. He flogged the air between them with the tasseled end of the Holy Word.

“Waste your time?” Asher finished in a low voice. “I don’t, either.”

Najib grabbed his pack from the rutted mud and jammed spilled scrolls back inside. No one had taken care to ensure that the prophets’ words were protected. Darkness hid his angry flush from anyone who might have mocked him for it. Asher stalked off after the rest of their company, leaving Najib to straggle behind.

They camped well outside the city limits. Ziyad’s cousin had been their only connection in the whole city; no one else would welcome strangers in their homes during wartime -At this point in the story I'm wishing you would show instead of tell. Much of the story is telly, and yet I still don't have a good grasp of what the story is about or where it is going. So far, my best evidence that "the company" is a group of adventurers comes from the prompt, not from the story itself.. Najib lay awake under the thousands of lantern-blooms. They were beautiful, but their light kept him from sleeping. He hadn’t mustered the strength to set up a tent.

Soft crunching caused Najib to roll over so he could see who approached, even though he knew by the clatter and clink of tools that it was Ziyad.

“Hey,” Ziyad said. He sat in the circle of grass Najib had flattened for himself. “Not tired?”

“Sorry about…” Najib trailed off. “I’m really sorry. I’ve embarrassed you.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Zayid dismissed the apology with a wave. “Cousin Amir isn’t exactly legendary for his hospitality. But,” he lowered his voice, “I think this is getting out of hand.”

“It’s important.”

“I can see it’s important to you. But have you ever told him why?”

Najib closed his eyes. “Isn’t it clear? Every man should know his letters. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is freedom. It cannot be stolen. The patriarchs of old valued it above almost every other virtue.”

“Our ways aren’t those of Asher’s tribe. The Bedu don’t all--” -At this point in the story, the reader is hoping for the plot to move along. So far there isn't much plot, just worldbuilding and character introduction (as opposed to character development). Readers typically don't have the patience to stick with a story if it hasn't hooked them by this point. If I were not doing a line crit, I would have stopped reading here.

“As he likes to remind us--”

“You need to tell him why it’s important to you. I don’t even know why.” Even Ziyad’s patience had its limit.

Even with his eyes closed, The lantern-blossoms were too bright to allow Najib easy sleep. He had never been able to adopt the pragmatic catch it when you can attitude the warriors and sorcerers of the company had about rest. He had blamed it on the need to pray, the need to petition spirits and prophets for the powers he used to keep his companions whole and safe, but he knew the problem was within him. Only a guilty heart struggled with sleep. Asher always slept soundly; he was probably asleep now.

“I’m afraid,” Najib admitted. “Even blessed Miriam will not let me look past the veil despite my prayers. I don’t know what will happen after we reach the ziggurat. All I see is Angra Mainyu.”

Ziyad touched his sleeve for just a moment, just as long as it took for a breeze to wind through the camp.

“We won’t fail,” Ziyad said. “And if we die, we will be welcomed as heroes.”

“I don't fear death any more than you do -- what I fear is that our souls won't all go to the same place.” The words spilled from Najib’s lips in a rush. “It took us this long to find each other and I fear that this is my test -- that I must save his soul before we mount those steps, or when the time comes, we’ll be parted. Forever. I'm afraid that I don’t have enough time.”

The grasses rustled with the breeze’s return. They listened to the singing insects relishing the last of the warm summer nights. Najib’s body thrummed with tension, a barely repressed quiver which rose and fell in time to those songs. Any other night he might have been beside Asher, dreaming, content; but now there was no time. Dawn would come soon and so would another day’s progress towards Angra Mainyu’s temple. Less than a handful of days were left.

“You should tell him,” Ziyad said again. “As you love him, be honest with him.” He left silently this time, with all the artful stealth that Najib would never master.

Najib opened his eyes. Tonight might be the last time he saw the night in its full glory. -The story is almost over and yet all that has happened so far is these guys got kicked out of the city and made camp. You've got to pace your plot so that exciting events happen in the early and mid parts of your story.

He still could not bring himself to speak with Asher the next day. He could feel the warrior’s eyes on him whenever Asher thought he was paying attention. The reality was that Najib could never be anything but aware of Asher at all times. He relived all the awkwardness of his first love without its soothing sweetness. Instead, he anticipated an ending. Their ending.

Asher chose to end their little dance two evenings later as they pitched tents at the edge of the arid lands. -Two evenings later and STILL all that they company is doing is making camp again? ARRG. No one wants to read about people just camping in various places, unrequited love notwithstanding. Najib was stumble-footed with weariness and struggled with his own pup tent. He had not set one up alone in months and had lost the knack for doing it at dusk. Asher took the guy-lines, leaving Najib to hold the central pole, and soon the tent was fully pitched in the midst of their encampment.

“Tonight is the last night we’ll have a fire,” Asher said. “We’ll be in the evil one’s lands tomorrow.”

“I know.” Najib sighed and scrubbed at his eyes. He believed in the company’s goals. He knew the plan was their only hope of success. But he could not put his heart at ease.

“So will you join us?” Asher sounded impatient.

Impulse moved Najib to grab Asher’s hands. They were calloused from the three war disciplines of the Bedu, the triple paths Asher loved so well. -This seems more like world-building than character development.

“Forgive me,” Najib said. “I am a fool.” Asher waited, still as a deer in the twilight, as Najib poured out his fear and longing. They flowed from the only words he had, dim glints compared to the pure and straight words of the prophets, whose tales and holy laws lay coiled in the tent, scrolls now stained with mud and sweat.

Ziyad had been correct, as Ziyad was always correct: a thief who saw right to the heart of matters, who cut through ignorance and who had always led them on the best path.

“But I never needed to be saved,” Asher said after silence had pooled around them. Najib had exhausted all his words and felt liquid; if not at ease, then at least empty. The sun had set and the last sliver of the moon was high.

Asher freed his hands and pulled something from his kibr -His what?. He pressed it into Najib’s waiting palms. Stone, still warm from Asher’s body. Najib could barely see so far from the fire but he felt the outline of a horse.

“If victory requires our lives, if all else fails… Would it be so bad to come with me?” Asher asked. Najib felt the ghost of Asher’s hand hovering, not quite touching his cheek, and leaned into the touch. “We would ride forever, dawn to dawn. If I cannot meet you, will you not meet me instead?”

Najib knotted the leather thong at his nape.

“If you cannot come to the gods’ gardens, then I will walk to your desert,” he answered.

The story suffers from some structural problems related to the plot. The company is headed to a ziggurat to fight some kind of evil, but do we get the fight, the suspense, any rising action or increase in tension? Not really. The story is all prologue. It suffers from being the least interesting part of their quest.

In terms of characters, I don't think you satisfied the prompt's directive that the characters be interesting yet so distinctive that a reader could know who was saying what without attribution. That's not to say that the story was void of characterization at all, but the characters were a bit two-dimensional and they didn't really develop. Additionally, the story didn't give readers much of an incentive to care about the characters, which is a problem because the only real conflict in the story is a character-driven disagreement, between Najib and Asher.

My recommendations for your next story: 1) Study up on conventional plot structure and pacing. Your stories should have a brief exposition, the introduction of interesting characters and conflicts, a rising action of tension where the characters want something but the conflict steadily makes these wants less likely to bear out. 2) Think about what makes characters interesting. Are your characters unique in some way? Good at something? Can readers relate to them? More importantly, think about how you want your characters to change over the course of the story. Significant events change people; your stories should be full of significant events.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


"Peccantem me quotidie et non penitentem. Timor mortis conturbat me, quia in inferno nulla est redemptio." (I do sin daily and don't repent. The fear of death disturbs me, for in hell there is no redemption)

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


In :toxx:

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Galen, Free Version
(Word count 1038)

Yellow screamed at the listless teenager. “Move your rear end, dipshit. These boulders ain’t gonna lift themselves.”

Phlegm plodded up to the stones and shrugged. “Whatever.”

Together, the boys managed to dislodge the rocks that blocked the narrow path to Gall Point.

“Ready to tell me what we’re doing here and why I should care?” asked Phlegm.

Yellow flashed a grin. “Old Lady Gall’s got an open wifi network. The old bat is too demented to password protect it.”

Phlegm looked at his feet. “Downloading more porno to your phone? Isn’t that why your dad changed your home wifi password on you?”

“Not porno, ya stupid fairy. I need a wifi connection to download my brother’s app. I’m locked out of my home network, and lord knows your po’ white trash family isn’t running wifi. That leaves Old Lady Gall’s place.”

They came upon a stately brick and white pillar home. A woman sat on a porch swing, fussing over curlers embedded in her grey hair. The teenaged boys ducked unnoticed around the house’s perimeter. Yellow reached for his phone.

Connected Wifi Network: GrandmasWifi.

“What’s so special about Black’s app anyway?” asked Phlegm.

Downloading: Galen , Free Version

“Black may be a nihilistic douche nozzle, but he knows his way around app development. I talked to Big Red while they were still together. She says this Galen program will be revolutionary. Some kind of connection to the secrets of the universe; it’s a peak into another dimension.”

Installing

Phlegm squatted against the brick wall and yawned. “I don’t see what we’d wanna learn from a prick like Black.”

Yellow’s phone played a notification—the sound of a belch. The boy slid his thumb across the screen and mashed the Galen icon. The phone lit up. BALANCING HUMORS

Yellow looked away from the screen, hoping to get a rise out of his friend.

“Phlegm?” Where the indifferent boy had sat been, only brick and grass remained.

The phone burped again. PLEGM DRAINED

Yellow’s eyes widened. He looked around but saw no sign of Phlegm. Returning his gaze to the screen, he mashed the Galen icon yet again.

You are using the Free Version of Galen. To unlock additional features, please upgrade to Premium.

“The gently caress is this bullshit?”

**

“I didn’t know who else to go to. I know you and Black were close.”

When Yellow first greeted her, Big Red had looked sanguine as ever. Beaming smile, curly red hair, an auburn sweater fitting her full figure. But when he told her about the Galen app and Phlegm’s disappearance, she rested her face in her hands and shook her head.

“I mean, he’ll surely know how to find Phlegm. I don’t doubt that he has a full grasp of his program. It’s just that…he’s changed, Yellow. It’s hard to love someone when they’re going through these kinds of episodes.” She let out a tear.

“He’s gotten worse?”

“Developed his ideas too far. Became untethered from reality.” Big Red sighed. “I’ll tell you where to find Black, but I can’t promise that he’ll help you.”

**

He found him in a hostel amidst the Pineal Slums. The place was dimly lit, but the filth was apparent. The walls were lined with math problems and mold, the former written in brown chalk. The floors were a mess of tobacco guts. It smelled like charcoal and cottage cheese in there.

“Black? I know it’s been a while since we’ve…”

“Sit down.” Yellow’s brother sat crossed-legged on the floor. He was wearing a black beret and turtleneck. He raised a cheap cigar to his mouth.

Yellow looked around, but saw no chairs. He sat on a mound of tobacco and plastic wrap.

“I know why you’re here. You want Phlegm back.”

“Where is he?”

“Getting a taste of reality. I developed the app to test a theory. Turns out I was right.”

“Listen, Black. Tell me where Phlegm is, and I’ll leave you alone. Not trying to dick around with your theories right now.”

Black ignored him. When the silence became unbearable he said, “Nothing is actually real. It’s narrative, all of it. What we call reality is somebody’s story, and we’re just the people in it. And that goes for them too, the ones reading the story. Their lives are narrative too.” Black laughed. “I can see you haven’t puzzled this out yet. But they have. The ones watching us. It’s obvious to them where we are, and probably where Phlegm is as well.”

Yellow shifted his weight. “Can we just cut the bullshit?”

Black threw is cigar on the floor, and grimaced at Yellow. “We’re in a body, you dumb gently caress. Everything that we perceive as ‘town’ or ‘people’ corresponds to a part of the body. The important people in your life, me, Big Red, Phlegm, we’re humors. Our names and personalities match the theories of Galen.”

Yellow raised an eyebrow. “You expect me to believe that we’re in a body? Whose body?”

“I can’t tell you. He’ll get mad. Punish us. You don’t understand, he’s judging us all and he’s gonna hate this. What we’re doing right now. This breaking the fourth wall stuff is exactly the kind of thing he’d find hipsterish and asinine. We’re hosed.”

“I really don’t need this,” said Yellow. “I’ll find Phlegm on my own.” He stood up.

Black stood as well. “But you haven’t asked me about the premium edition. You want to go where Phlegm went, you have to upgrade to premium.” Black reached into his pocket. “Here. The password for my wifi, and some premium login credentials.”

Yellow connected and upgraded the app. His phone emitted the belch notification. Yellow mashed the icon.

DRAINING YELLOW BILE

**

"Thanks for coming in on such short notice, Brian. You sound less nasally today. I take it the allergy meds worked?"

“Yeah.”

"Good, good. Ehh, anyway the reason I called you in was to discuss the results from those tests we ran. We aren’t sure why, but your yellow bile count is high. Very high."

“Great, just what I need right now.”

"We’re gonna do some further testing, but for now, we should really clean out your system. Please take these purgatives…"

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Armack
Jan 27, 2006


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