Still looking for 2 judges for this week.
|# ? Nov 23, 2016 07:14|
|# ? Jan 17, 2022 16:48|
Still looking for 2 judges for this week.
I was gonna pump the brakes as I had been judging a bunch, but if you can't find 2 more by the sign up deadline, I'll jump in.
|# ? Nov 23, 2016 07:23|
I was gonna pump the brakes as I had been judging a bunch, but if you can't find 2 more by the sign up deadline, I'll jump in.
there are no brakes
|# ? Nov 23, 2016 07:37|
Can't disagree with that judgment. Good story, Erogenous. I humbly cede the title of King Beef, for now.
Well fought, and thanks to Chili for judging.
I will crit your brawlpiece in the next 48 hours.
|# ? Nov 23, 2016 07:40|
Edit: Erog, I'll return the favor. You'll have a crit tomorrow.
Here's the crit I promised you, Chili
I understand why thranguy feels as he does about the ending. I like this idea of telling the story through the dirt, and the mostly consistent use of it, but the end doesn't hit like it should. I think some of that has to do with the jungle perspective's voice, which isn't great. I don't really know who is supposed to be telling us this story. You could have gone for a more distinct voice here, like a village storyteller, or not at all.
I also think the punchlessness of the ending has to do with Rohan's motivations and goals. I think you need to set them up earlier, and make them clearer, so that I can have thoughts about whether he failed in his task, because he didn't understand the jungle, or whether him killing the tiger would be a failure, or whatever. If the end is ambiguous, everything else should be really clear.
I am curious what you would have done with the extra 400 words from this prompt. I think there is more to say here, and those 400 words could have fleshed out Rohan and his motivations. You've got a strong core of eternal human stories--coming of age, fighting for independence, wanting to be seen as a man--but I want to know Rohan beyond the foolishness he displays here. I want more about the jungle. It was a pretty quick read, and enjoyable, and the prose is decent, but it left me wanting more. Which can be good, but not in this case.
Good idea, good structure, a couple more passes makes this story pop I think.
Week CCXXIV: I Wanna Dome You Like An Animal
BeefSupreme fucked around with this message at 09:40 on Nov 23, 2016
|# ? Nov 23, 2016 09:32|
Hi, Chainmail Onesie. You requested an Archive account a while ago, but as far as I know, you still haven't e-mailed crabrock, which you need to do in order to receive a password without having plat or visiting IRC. We can't make you an account until we have a way to contact you.
|# ? Nov 23, 2016 15:22|
You know, I was gonna go in this week, but all the centuries I'd like have been taken.
I'm not writing about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lTJUhTA3Ok
|# ? Nov 23, 2016 20:27|
Couple of story readings, Kaishai (story) and Sparksbloom (story).
|# ? Nov 24, 2016 00:44|
Still looking for 2 judges for this week.
I'm game if you're down.
|# ? Nov 24, 2016 05:47|
I'm game if you're down.
|# ? Nov 24, 2016 06:56|
The two vegan stories, holy poo poo.
|# ? Nov 24, 2016 10:00|
Indeed. They're both worth a read.
|# ? Nov 24, 2016 13:34|
The Space Between
Ok, so, on the whole, this is a decent character-driven piece. I have a few macro-level criticisms to level at it. These center around predictability and a certain emotional shallowness.
From the outset, we're looking at a father-son conflict over a lifestyle issue. It's resolved, rather pat, at the end by the father simply giving in. In the flashback segments, the conflict deepens over time, but we're neither presented with an argument (emotional or otherwise) for Micah's veganism or the father's resistance to it. Nor are we presented a reason or a foreshadowing (aside from cliche) for the father's eventual capitulation.
"A family is torn apart over X, and then reconciles." This is a fine plotline, but we need to know more about the characters' thinking. Is the fight over food a proxy for some other issue in their life, or does it stem from a values difference? (Is the old man, for example, one of those manly-men hunting-and-camping Ron Swanson types?) The biggest thing that sticks in my craw is, as aforementioned, the capitulation -- why does the old man give in?
Structurally, the piece is heavily reliant on scene cuts to maintain pacing, somewhat like a Youtube vlog. It's a popular technique (Tom Clancy uses it heavily), but I feel like the "present" scenes don't do enough to contribute to our understanding of the characters involved. The big "present" timeline revelation is the engagement, which is significant, but I feel like there should be something here that helps us understand the core conflict more deeply, something that deepens the characters involved.
Some of the "driving" sentences are clunky. Example.
The stretch of highway on either side of the California-Oregon border is a desolate place, by comparison to the rest of the states to which the land belongs. Once you turn off of the 5 in Weed, California, there are few freeway offramps and fewer towns until you reach Klamath Falls, Oregon, 20 miles north of the border. From there, it’s about 2 hours to Bend.
I'd like it if this worked, metaphorically, more closely with the story itself. How does Micah react to seeing landscapes like those of his hometown? How does he react to drawing closer to home? Good opportunities for characterization, missed.
The latter two sentences do nothing for me. The verbiage is clinical, but that seems unintended, unless Micah is drawing in on himself and shielding himself with emotionless words to avoid dealing with his feelings about returning home, his worries, etc.
Overall, I neither hate nor love it. Tightening up the focus on the core conflict and rewording some of the sequences to be more emotionally resonant would strengthen this piece. Relieving the predictability of the core conflict would go a long way, as well; I was never in doubt that Micah would "win", to be honest.
|# ? Nov 24, 2016 21:13|
In, for the 4th century, please and thank you.
|# ? Nov 25, 2016 08:07|
Whoops! Signups are closed.
GenJoe, lucky for you I was sick and forgot to close the signups last night.
Chili, are you still good to be my 3rd judge?
|# ? Nov 25, 2016 22:10|
Whoops! Signups are closed.
I'm your Chiliberry
|# ? Nov 26, 2016 02:43|
Whoops! Signups are closed.
You don't have plat. I guess hop on IRC tomorrow/Sunday to organize something?
|# ? Nov 26, 2016 04:43|
I don't know if I can get on IRC at a convenient time if you're in the US. You can email me if you like? wjbroom700 at gmail.
|# ? Nov 26, 2016 12:38|
I don't know if I can get on IRC at a convenient time if you're in the US. You can email me if you like? wjbroom700 at gmail.
I'm usually on at odd times for my timezone. But sure, e-mail is fine.
|# ? Nov 26, 2016 14:05|
12th century CE
When Catherine’s fellow ward Mathilde told her that the abbess was ready to speak to her about her upcoming marriage, Catherine had been so taken aback that she’d jumped in her chair and dropped her embroidery, earning her a harsh scolding and a sharp smack to the side of her head from cantankerous Sister Marie. The other wards had giggled and Catherine, blushing furiously and almost in tears, had fled to the privy to panic in relative peace.
That had occurred three days ago, and Catherine had since thought of nothing else.
In her head, she methodically recited everything she knew about her betrothed. His name was Pierre. He was nineteen. He was the second son of a medium-wealthy trader from Calais, and said to be warm-hearted and kind, but not particularly interested in matters of intellect. These were the only facts Catherine’s father had given her, and those grudgingly and with clear disdain for her feminine curiosity, but she had clung to them over the past few days, thinking warm-hearted and kind almost constantly. It was a little reassuring, but not much.
The doors to the abbess’s office opened and her assistant, plain and cheerful Sister Anne, stuck her head out. “Catherine! I’m so sorry, the black mare dropped her foal a bit earlier than expected and I had to rush out to the stables.”
Catherine stood quickly, thrusting her wild fingers behind her back. “Is the foal all right?” she asked, trying to sound pleasant and neutral.
“Mother and son are both well,” Sister Anne assured her, “But you didn’t wait all this time to talk about horse breeding, did you?” To Catherine’s horror, the nun giggled knowingly.
“She didn’t, Anne,” came the abbess’s voice from inside the room. “Please let her in, and leave us alone for a while.”
“Yes, Mother Hilde.” Sister Anne stepped aside. Catherine hesitated briefly, seized with a sudden idea to fake illness and run off- but Sister Anne raised her eyebrow and jerked her head towards the interior of the office, and thus Catherine went.
The abbess stood by the large window, the most luxurious part of her otherwise spare office. A simple table ran the length of the room and served as a desk, accompanied by two heavy, plain chairs. Mother Hilde herself wore her usual habit, but with the headdress tossed discarded on a small table by the door. Catherine blinked at this impropriety, but said nothing.
“Good morning, Catherine. Please have a seat.”
As Catherine sat, the abbess took the other heavy chair and pulled it closer to the table. “Have you eaten?”
“Not yet, Mother Hilde.”
“That’s as well, then, because you look as if you’re about to be sick. Shall I call Sister Anne back in for a dose?”
“No, Mother. Thank you for your concern.”
Mother Hilde gave Catherine a long look. The girl felt the tips of her ears begin to flush from the scrutiny. Presently, the abbess said, “As Mathilde told you, we must discuss your marriage. The terms your father gave us were that you were to be married within six months after your sixteenth birthday, and we’re rapidly approaching that date. Were you aware of this stipulation?”
Catherine nodded. Mother Hilde gave her a dark look, and she quickly rushed to speak. “I’m sorry, Mother. Yes, I knew about this.”
“Have you met your betrothed?”
“No, Mother, but I know of him.”
Mother Hilde settled a little in her chair, leaning back. “Tell me, then.”
Catherine recited her scarce handful of information, voice cracking as she came to warm-hearted and kind. Mother Hilde didn’t react immediately, but there was a look in her eyes- pity? Anger? - that made Catherine grateful for the silence.
Finally, Mother Hilde asked, “Has he ever written to you?”
Catherine blinked in surprise. “Well, no. I’m sure he can write,” she hastily added, “but he hasn’t written me.”
Mother Hilde nodded, stood, and walked to the window. “There was a time,” she said thoughtfully, “I lived for a man’s letters.”
“I’m not sure what to say, Mother Hilde.”
“I had never wished to marry,” Mother Hilde went on, a strange distance in her eyes. “I had my lover, and I was happy, but I never wished to marry him, nor any man.”
Trying to hide her shock at the abbess’s frank speech, Catherine nodded in what she hoped was a thoughtful manner. “And thus, you took the veil,” she offered meekly.
“Oh, no, girl. I took the veil because that man had his parts cut off and was thrown in an abbey of his own,” Mother Hilde said flatly.
The blush suddenly and immediately took over Catherine’s entire face, and she brought her hand to her mouth.
“I apologize for speaking so bluntly, but I wish to be clear with you, Catherine.” Mother Hilde sat back down and took Catherine’s other hand in her own. “I asked you to tell me about your future husband, and you could only supply me with a few inconsequential details.” Catherine opened her mouth to apologize, but the abbess gestured for her to be quiet. “You say he is not concerned with matters of the mind. In marriage, your duty is to follow your husband. If he wishes you to play the lute, you shall play. If he wishes you to bear him ten squalling beasts of children”- here the abbess shuddered- “Well, you shall do so. Yes?”
“Yes, I suppose.”
The abbess looked directly into Catherine’s eyes. “If he asks you to put aside your books? Your scholarly pursuits? I know you are a great reader and have what some would consider an unwomanly interest in the sciences. Are you ready to purge this from your life if your husband so asks?”
This had never occurred to Catherine. Raised in the abbey with the rather progressive Mother Hilde and fostered in various disciplines by other well-read women, Catherine had never known a time when her mind was controlled. Certainly, she was as obedient and faithful towards God as any woman of her age and upbringing, but to abandon forever her other interests to fulfill her role as a wife flushed her body with fear. Unable to respond, she simply stared at Mother Hilde.
“I’m not telling you that this will come to pass, only that it may,” Hilde told her.
“Why should he care what I do in my spare time?” Catherine asked.
Mother Hilde struggled. “Many a wise woman has been ruined through accusations of witchcraft. Or beaten for seeming smarter than her lord husband.” The old nun sneered. “I’ve fostered hundreds of girls here, Catherine, and not all of them benefited from the education I gave them. Several were destroyed utterly.” Her mouth quirked.
Emboldened, Catherine asked, “And yourself?”
“Oh, I could not have married my lover, and I dislike babies, so it has been well enough for me,” Hilde said casually, although again her eyes blurred. “I am a scholar, and proud to be one, and I would never wish to do aught else. Not all your foster-sisters feel the same way, of course, and many would envy you a comfortable marriage.” The abbess paused. “However, your father has recently written me with some news that may alter your plans.”
“Has he canceled the betrothal?” Relief and shame pricked Catherine equally.
“No.” Mother Hilde opened the drawer of her desk and pulled out a letter, sealed with Catherine’s father’s mark. “Shall I read it to you? The most important part, anyways?” Catherine nodded her assent, and Mother Hilde read, “’I have recently been blessed with an unexpected inheritance, and as such my Catherine’s marriage is no longer vital for our family’s fortunes.” Hilde ignored Catherine’s answering gasp of shock, and continued. “’I am aware of her indifference to the union, and as she has been thriving in your abbey these years, I would like to extend to her a choice, if you will allow it.” Hilde looked directly into Catherine’s eyes as she read, “If my daughter wishes to pledge her troth to Almighty God instead, and remain within the walls of your abbey, I will permit it.”
Wild thoughts streaked through Catherine’s head. She could stay in the abbey? She could remain with her friends, and her books, and pursue whatever subject she fancied? When the other girls left, would she be old and alone? Oh, everyone would think she had been spurned by Pierre, how shameful, but then again what would it matter, if she never returned to her home? What about children? Did she want children?
Mother Hilde watched Catherine stumble between realizations, her face softer and more sympathetic than usual. “You don’t have to choose this minute,” she said gently.
“I…” Catherine groped with the right words. “I never expected to choose.”
Hilde nodded knowingly.
“It might be a good marriage,” Catherine said eagerly, looking into Hilde’s sharp blue eyes. She sank a little. “Oh, but he might be a beast. I don’t know any men besides my father and he’s not the kind of man I’d want to marry.”
Hilde said nothing.
“What do you think, Mother?” Catherine asked boldly.
The abbess sighed. “Child, it’s not for me to say.” She looked tired, every bit of her age. “I knew a good man once, and couldn’t keep him. Mayhap your story would have a happier ending. And, again, mayhap not.”
“I don’t know what to do,” Catherine said plainly.
“None of us really know what to do, Catherine. Life is a series of unknowable consequences.”
Catherine stayed silent for a few moments, thinking. She saw in her mind’s eye her friends, her kitten, her garden. She saw her father. She saw herself holding a child in her arms. She saw a man’s face, and it was cruel. She saw a man’s face, and it smiled.
The nervousness abated somewhat. Catherine stood, smoothing the folds of her gown. “I’ll honor the original arrangement,” she said quietly.
“No,” Catherine said plainly, “But I understand that I have a choice, and I wish to honor that choice by taking a new path.”
Mother Hilde smiled. “An adventure, of sorts.”
The abbess sighed. “Very well. I’ll write your father immediately. No doubt he’ll have you sent back home soon, so please arrange with the other fosterlings to shift your duties.
“Yes, Mother.” The flush was dying down. “Is there anything else you wished to speak of?”
“No. You may go.”
Catherine turned, feeling both excited and terrified, and opened the door, but Mother Hilde called her back.
Catherine turned back to the abbess. “One more thing, my dear. Good luck and happiness to you.”
“Thank you, Mother,” Catherine said softly, and left.
|# ? Nov 27, 2016 15:34|
Week 225: Pick A Century
judge timezone troll game: strong
|# ? Nov 27, 2016 20:09|
Journey - 1680 words
Thorkild came back two inches taller, missing three fingers but with a newfound appreciation for life on land. Years spent on Viking longboats had changed his gait, and he took long strides down the road to his father’s farm. The sea-fog that had greeted him by the shore had drifted towards the dying heather on the hills. He breathed it in; he was home. He had bag of loot, a small gold chain in his pocket and a girl on his mind.
The edge of the land he would one day inherit was marked by steep cliffs. There was a sudden drop down to the rocky beach, but it had never scared him away as a child, and even now he walked along the edge.
He had sat here with Asa when they were younger. Both had known instinctively that they would live by the sea, the whale-road and vessel-land, all their days. More fascinating than the sea itself had been the strip of land barely visible beyond the fog, a green-blue band that could be reached by boat.
(“I’ll go someday,” Thorkild had said. Taking Asa’s silence as approval, he had continued – “I’ll see the whole world – The islands to the west, the fjords in the north, the lands of silk and rare metals in the south…”
“Do you want to bet I’ll be the one of us who’ll get the furthest away?”
And again, she had nodded, tearing grass to pieces with her small, weatherworn hands).
Over the past years, she had become in his head like the sacred idols he blóted to. In his memory, her face was a still and never-aging image. She responded to his prayers through dreams and stray emotions and signs
found on the sky. He wanted her in the flesh.
A little further down the path, he found his aging house. Wood and stone had grown weary, worn, and one wall of the barn was leaning heavily. He knocked on the door and waited, tracing the links in the gold chain from Francia.
His father came and was the same wreck as ever, with uneven shoulders and a back built from knots and sinew. Thorkild’s treasures would be needed here where it seemed that the tales of horrible weather and bad harvests were true. Still, in a fire-lit corner, Frej’s altar was well-kept. Without reacting outwardly to his father’s appearance, Thorkild greeted him and the household spirits and went inside.
Droplets begun to fall as he took in the familiar room. The sound of the rain drumming against the roof filled the air.
Asa’s cot was empty in the corner.
He had imagined finding her there and placing the gold around her neck.
She had changed so fast back before he left. Back when Thorkild’s voice had dropped and his limbs had grown thicker. Asa’s body seemed to have remembered its distant and different ancestry, let her skin grow darker and imbued her eyes with a look of undefined loss. An awareness that there was a homeland she could not remember. A mother who should have told her about it, but who was long dead on another shore.
(One night, as Thorkild wanted her attention, she had pointed to the ceiling. The light of the fire had flickered over her outstretched arm.
“The stain on that beam kind of looks like a ship, don’t you think?”
Thorkild looked up, unable to concentrate on the ceiling when Asa’s lips formed lightly accented words. There was still a flaw in the way she pronounced her consonants, like the ghost of a forgotten mother tongue still in her mouth.
“If I were to travel,” she confided, “I’d try to find the place I was taken from.”
“I don’t think that can be very far away,” Thorkild said.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m never going to sail, anyway.” She rolled over onto her side, sighing. “It is what it is, though. You’re the freeborn son and I’m the serf.”
“But I’ll get you anything you want when I’m old enough for the raids.” Thorkild’s heart beat faster as he tried to show her what he saw each night before he fell asleep: “Gold and fine cloth, manuscripts, jewels…”)
Thorkild turned from the dusty corner to his father by the firepit. “Where is she?”
“Wait a moment, son, and I’ll-“
“Is she out there?”
Thorkild’s father sighed. His chair creaked as he sat down.
Thorkild felt himself grow empty. He couldn’t wait for her to walk home slowly in the gathering storm – he decided that he would go to meet her. Great, pent-up emotion ebbed from him into the mud floor, and his father looked at him with something like pity.
(By this window, he had told her about the sea-steed, wave-shaper, the ship that would take him.)
In the rain, there was movement. A figure, cloaked and clad in black and blue, made its way up the hill. Thorkild recognized it not by how it looked, but by how it moved along his childhood paths, avoiding the stones where the elves lived and the hidden puddles.
(And he had gone away and fought and fed the carrion-birds on plains with flora unknown to him; he had collected books he could not read – he had ripped out illustrated pages and kept them for her, illiterate as they both were…)
He dashed suddenly towards the door, startling his father.
(And he went further south and found new gods, marvelled at the mountains and the long rivers easily conquered by elegant longships. He still had an amulet sacred to the believers in White-Christ, valuable enough to buy anyone’s freedom).
Asa looked to have been surprised by the storm, but not by Thorkild as he ran towards her. Her hood cast a deep shadow over her face. Rainwater ran down along her cheekbones and weathered skin like Thor had sent it only to accentuate her features. Thorkild raised his hand in greeting.
She stood still by the cliffside.
Below, the grey sea clashed violently against the rocks, causing Thorkild to straighten his back and draw a deep breath even though he was not in danger from it.
(Twice the sailors had to sacrifice horses and dogs to ward off storms, but all in all, they agreed that Ćgir and his kin were extraordinarily merciful those winters).
Asa's face was expressionless.
Thorkild spoke, struggling to make himself heard above the storm. “What have you been doing in the fields this time of day?! Come in, Asa! Let's go to the heath together-”
“I wasn’t in the fields," Asa said. “I heard you were coming home. I’ve been in the next village over.”
“And what were you doing there? No, actually, I don’t care.” Thorkild smiled and stepped closer. He searched his pocket for the chain, suddenly scared that he should have lost it in the last minutes. When he had it in his hand, he held it up into the grey light. “This is for you. Wait until you hear about the things I’ve found – and the things I’ve got for you! You’re going to love it-”
Asa did not hold out a hand to recieve the gift. Her cloak remained closed around her. “Why are you giving me this?”
Thorkild paused. “...I guess I only wanted to-”
“Gifts are more pointless than ever, now. You could never marry a serf in the first place, and now I’ve been sold again, to an important man. I live there now.” One thin hand emerged from the folds of her cloak and pointed back over the hills.
Thorkild clenched his fist around the chain. He found himself unable to meet her eyes, looking instead at the sea-birds flying in circles. The rainwater had gotten into his eyes, and he blinked it away. “Are you happy there?”
Asa shrugged. “He’s a good man. Many serfs. Many fields and many people in his debt. Old.” She wrapped her arms around herself, looking burdened – until her eyes met Thorkild’s and he saw that they were hard as steel, filled with determination not unlike what he had seen on faraway battlefields. “He’s already making preparations for his ship-burial, and when the pyre is built, they’ll ask for serfs who want to join him in the afterlife. I’ve made up my mind to go.”
“Why?!” Thorkild spread his arms, almost hitting her. He let his shoulders sink and realized he could have pushed her down if he had been a little less careful. More quietly, he asked, “Why are you telling me this?”
“Why?” Asa echoed, mocking even his expression. “Because I may still win our bet.”
Thorkild recognized something in her he had never seen before. Something that had perhaps been hidden when she was still his father’s property. Something a sailor will never imagine while he is lonely at sea.
“I am going where you can’t follow,” she said. “A journey you will not make. Into the bright gold and the great land where only the virtuous dead may enter. Where few serfs ever venture, and where even the pious few free men cannot go if they die the straw-death, in their beds.”
She turned half-way from him, looking back over her shoulder. He lips parted as if she had more to say. Then she bit down and shook her head.
In that moment, Thorkild was aware of everything: the sound of water and the cold wind, the grass, the contrast between the pale sky and the black stone in the cliffs. The steep drop, inches away. Her body, still very close and within reach.
A stinging pain spread through his hand, and he looked down to see that the gold chain had been broken in his grip, the cut-off corners of free links burrowing into his hand. His head was nothing but fog and water.
He did not watch her leave. Instead, he sat down on a rock and looked at the island. It was the same little green band that he had always known, but had not yet stepped foot on.
|# ? Nov 27, 2016 20:51|
judge timezone troll game: strong
Next time use ACDT please!
|# ? Nov 27, 2016 22:04|
Spirits in the Forest - 1396 words
The latch across the door will hold for now. The wood groans and stretches, but it holds. Wind howls through the cracks in the wall where the brittle paste which fills the spaces between the rough-hewn boards had fallen into disrepair. The windows are shuttered with their animal hides drawn tight against them.
Benjamin knows all this even though there is no light. The house is dark. Earlier, Benjamin had to put out the fire in their fireplace because the wind blew straight down the flue, filled the house with smoke, and threatened to scatter cinders throughout the house and set it ablaze.
So now Benjamin sits in the cold darkness. He knows his breath gathers in front of him like a spirit whenever he exhales, but he cannot see it. He knows his mother’s body lies on the sole table in the one-roomed house, stiff as a board, but he cannot see it.
He also knows that the spirits in the forest had come for his mother. Time and time again she had admonished him, telling him there was no spirit but God, His angels, and those fallen. Anything else was heresy. God and his angels chose to remain unseen and the fallen could not touch those who lived in grace. Their evidence played out in the realm of humanity, in man’s actions and battles. But Benjamin had seen the other spirits in the forest from the corner of his eyes when he checked the rabbit traps in the morning. He had felt their presence in the heat of the summer. A cold kiss upon the sweat on his brow. He has felt their power, despite what his mother has told him.
And now, he hears them in the never-ending wind. Their howls mix in with the gale. The spirits of the forest wept for Benjamin’s brother when the fever had taken him. They wept for Benjamin’s father when he had not returned from his hunt. And now they weep for Benjamin’s mother, cold on the table.
The howling lulls Benjamin to sleep. It is still when he wakes. The wind is gone, but the cold remains. He opens the windows to let in the pale, thin winter light. He has forgotten all his foolishness about spirits in the forest from the night before. He must forget it, he thinks, if he is to survive. Benjamin chooses instead to have absolute faith in his mother’s lessons. She taught him how to harden himself in the New World.
But now he cannot bring himself to even look at her body. When Benjamin’s brother died, Benjamin had stared at the small corpse when everyone else’s eyes closed in prayer. But now his courage has fled. He must act. He must bury the body before disease or predator knock on the doorstep.
He goes outside and surveys the forest’s edge. The tiny house sits on the border between the rocky soil his father hoped to tame into planting and the forest which provided all of their game and building supplies. The land is bare. The trees robbed of their leaves, which lie curled on the forest floor. Through the woods is the town. He could go there and seek help and come back with the strong men who lived in the town who father had gotten to help raise the house and the small barn when they had first come.
Benjamin finds the thought of leaving his mother behind to be unbearable. Besides, the way into town was long and treacherous for one person to make alone. He would not make it by nightfall and the woods after dark are dangerous for those traveling in numbers, much less one child.
Benjamin knows he must bury his mother, alone and with haste. He gathers his father’s tools, even the axe, which was forbidden to touch and was too large for him to wield. He clears the ground next to his brother’s grave. The ground was hard to turn over under normal circumstances, now the soil itself was as hard and unyielding as the stones underneath the surface. Benjamin swings with all his might to no avail. The hoe glances off the ground and leaves the barest of marks on the surface.
Benjamin instead gathers water from the small stream that runs along the house. He carries it inside and sets it to boil. As it heats, he wraps his mother’s body in strips of cloth. The body begins to smell of putrefaction. He is thankful for the cold, had it been warm the body would have been completely given to decay by now. He thinks of the spices used when the Apostles wrapped the Lord’s body. He wishes he had an offering of his own to make such as that.
He carries his mother’s body to the gravesite. Then he takes the boiling water and pours it over the earth. This works, for a time. He is able to dig, but the soil freezes soon after. He despairs as the water freezes again in the soil and he can no longer dig. The land must thaw before he can continue. The day grows long. Benjamin knows he has wasted much time.
Next he gathers wood and builds a fire next to the gravesite. He builds another and another until, when he stands in the pit in the center of the fires, he sweats from their heat. Surely, this must work, he prays.
He is no stranger to work. His hands are rough and calloused even at his young age. But this is a level of work beyond anything he has attempted without help. Every inch he digs exacts a rough toll on him. Blisters form, then burst, then form anew. He remembers that he has not eaten since the night before. He does not have time to eat. The shadows stretch and the sun is ready to dip behind the tops of the trees. The world around him grows dark. Stars dot the sky.
He doesn’t notice at first when the wolves come. He is given over completely to his task. The fires burn his sight from seeing beyond them. He sees stars around him. Closer than those in the sky. He realizes they are not stars, but eyes glinting, reflected from the fires. He falls still. He watches the wolves as they watch him. Neither make a sound or a move.
Benjamin begins to pray. He tries to remember the Scriptures his mother used to read to him. For God hath not given unto us the spirit of fear. He remembers that. He remembers the prayers his mother said. He repeats those word for word. He prays for deliverance. For aid.
But God is silent. God does not answer. Benjamin remembers the lessons of his mother. God makes his work evident through the actions of men. There are no men around to help Benjamin. He must help himself.
The wolves grow more bold. One dares to step into the circle of light created by the fires. Benjamin grips the heavy axe and swings. His prayers die on his lips. The wolf snarl.
Finally, he turns his thoughts to the spirits in the forest. He concentrates on the power he felt. He beseeches them for mercy. He turns away from the God of his fathers, the God that stood idly by as his family was ripped from him one by one. He turns his piety to the land.
He puts down the axe. As he prays, he starts to dig again. He is nearly done. The wolf stares at him inquisitively. Other wolves press their snouts into the firelight. Benjamin pays them no mind. He only digs.
When he is done he takes his mother and pulls her into the earth. He pulls soil on top of her. His hands are stiff. The skin cracked and broken. The bold wolf howls. The howl is lonely and sad. The other wolves join in. Benjamin doesn’t stop. He continues to bury his mother. He hears the spirits in the forest in the howling. This is their answer to his prayer. It is now that he begins to weep.
The bold wolf turns and leaves the circle of light. He is followed by the others. They howl as they head back into the forest and disappear. Benjamin buries his mother in silence.
|# ? Nov 27, 2016 22:43|
I write this letter to inform you that Week 223: Dear Thunderdome has been subject to a review by Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and myself. We've studied your murder missives and suicide notes, and we've decided which we'd prefer to stamp with Return to Sender.
Enclosed please find a dramatic reading of widespread's "My Old Friend Needs a Hand," a touching tale of nuking the world into glass.
P.S. But today, when I went to meet the button, I thought it spoke to me.
Once you've finished catching up on your correspondence, check out our assay of Week 224: I Wanna Dome You Like An Animal. Ask yourselves the important questions along with us: is it ever better to be clever than to be good? What are the elements of a successful ending? What role does stripping play in porcine husbandry? This time we read a new study bible!'s "Truffle Hog" and Beige's "The Bear and the Snake" aloud, and the latter especially is a treat.
Slowly, he removed his shirt and began to call at his truffle hog.
Episode Recappers Week 156: LET'S GET hosed UP ON LOVE Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Djeser Week 157: BOW BEFORE THE BUZZSAW OF PROGRESS Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 158: LIKE NO ONE EVER WAS Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Djeser Week 159: SINNERS ORGY Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 160: Spin the wheel! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 161: Negative Exponents Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 36: Polishing Turds -- A retrospective special! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, Kaishai, and The Saddest Rhino Week 162: The best of the worst and the worst of the best Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, Kaishai, and The Saddest Rhino Week 163: YOUR STUPID poo poo BELONGS IN A MUSEUM Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 164: I Shouldn't Have Eaten That Souvlaki Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 165: Back to School Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 166: Comings and Goings Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 167: Black Sunshine Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 168: She Stole My Wallet and My Heart Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 169: Thunderdome o' Bedlam Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 170: Cities & Kaiju Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 171: The Honorable THUNDERDOME CLXXI Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 172: Thunderdome Startup Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 173: Pilgrim's Progress Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 174: Ladles and Jellyspoons Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 175: Speels of Magic Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 176: Florida Man and/or Woman Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 125: Thunderdome is Coming to Town -- Our sparkly past! SH, Ironic Twist, Djeser, Kaishai, Grizzled Patriarch, and Bad Seafood Week 177: Sparkly Mermen 2: Electric Merman Boogaloo SH, Ironic Twist, Djeser, Kaishai, Grizzled Patriarch, and Bad Seafood Week 178: I'm not mad, just disappointed Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 179: Strange Logs Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 180: Maybe I'm a Maze Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 181: We like bloodsports and we don't care who knows! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 182: Domegrassi Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, Kaishai, and Bad Seafood Week 183: Sorry Dad, I Was Late To The Riots Sitting Here, Djeser, Kaishai, and crabrock Week 184: The 2015teen Great White Elephant Prompt Exchange Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 98: Music of the Night -- Songs of another decade Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 185: Music of the Night, Vol. II Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 186: Giving away prizes for doing f'd-up things Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 187: Lost In Translation Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 188: Insomniac Olympics Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 189: knight time Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 190: Three-Course Tale Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 191: We Talk Good Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 192: Really Entertaining Minific Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 30: We're 30 / Time to get dirty -- A magical time Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 193: the worst week Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 40: Poor Richard's Thundervision -- Let the ESC begin! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 144: Doming Lasha Tumbai -- Classic performances Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 194: Only Mr. God Knows Why Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 195: Inverse World Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 196: Molten Copper vs. Thunderdome Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 197: Stories of Powerful Ambition & Poor Impulse Control Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 198: Buddy Stuff Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 199: EVERYBODY KNOWS poo poo'S hosed Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 1: Man Agonizes over Potatoes -- A dirty, painful birth Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Kaishai, and sebmojo Week 200: Taters Gonna tate Fuckers Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Kaishai, and sebmojo Week 201: Old Russian Joke Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 202: THUNDER-O-S! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 203: MYSTERY SOLVING TEENS Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 204: Hate Week Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 205: the book of forgotten names Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 206: WHIZZ! Bang! POW! Thunderdome! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 207: Bottle Your Rage Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 208: Upper-Class Tweet of the Year Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 209: WHAT DO YOU GET A DOME THAT HAS EVERYTHING?? Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 210: Crit Ketchup Week Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 211: Next-Best Friend Week Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 212: Vice Week Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 213: Punked Out Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 214: THUNDERDOME ALL-STAR TRIBUTE Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Kaishai, and The Saddest Rhino Week 215: El sueńo de la razón produce el Thunderdome Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 216: Historical Redemption (or: Sin, Lizzie) Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 217: SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS, ATTACK! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 218: Duel Nature Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 219: cos wer goffik Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 152: Rhymes with Red, White, and Blue -- Voidmart opens! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 220: Enter the Voidmart Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 221: The Escape of the Bad Words. Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 123: Ceci N'est Pas une Nouvelle -- Surreal history Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, Kaishai, and Bad Seafood Week 222: Deliver Us From Bad Prompting Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, Kaishai, and Bad Seafood Special Features! The Top Ten poo poo Scenes of Thunderdome Sitting Here, Kaishai, Ironic Twist, and Djeser
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 04:26 on Dec 9, 2016
|# ? Nov 27, 2016 23:18|
and BeefSupreme's "The Bear and the Snake" aloud, and the latter especially is a treat.
While I would love the dramatic reading and criticism, that particular story does not belong to me. It belongs to beige, as far as I can tell.
And I'm gonna have to DQ this week--family stuff crowded out my writing time. I'll have something, but it will be late.
|# ? Nov 27, 2016 23:35|
Prompt: 12,000 BC
The Warrior and the Beast
Kuruk raised his spear and screamed at the unrelenting sky. He cursed his dead grandmother and her dead gods, the snow that whipped him and the cold that passed through him as though he were already a ghost. He cursed his furs and oilskins, his empty quiver, and the useless charms around his neck. But most of all he cursed himself and his stupid, childish hope.
Kuruk would die here. Alone on this this ice floe, adrift. He would be swallowed by the black waves and freeze, drowned by the endless cold ocean, erased from this life and swept into the next. A rush of frigid water, lungs flooded, pressed down, down into the deep where the whales dive, into the cold abyss below this living world. That's how he would die.
But that wasn't why he cursed.
His grandmother, the shaman, had chosen him. It was a great honor to be the Warrior, the one sent to rescue Mother Sun and bring her back from the clutches of the Raven god. To take his canoe down the Great River, to climb the Great World-Tree that separates the living from the gods, and free her. Raven played his game every winter, pulling her lower and lower to the edge of the Earth, robbing his people of her warmth and light. They endured, as they always had. But this winter Raven had stolen the caribou and the foxes and the hares and nearly every other living animal from the forests as well, and now the people starved. So a Warrior was chosen, and it was him. He alone they would make the journey to the spirit world and free the Sun and the beasts once and for all. Put an end the cruelty of Raven and his long, cold winters.
He wasn't the first Warrior, but Kuruk was sure that he'd be the last.
So on the shortest day of the year — Mother Sun had barely poked her head above the horizon — he boarded his ruddy canoe and floated the Great River towards the sea. Flags and people lined the riverbanks to wave him on, chanted prayers and ululations to wish him good fortune.
Days and nights he floated, and then there were no more people, only ice, great rafts of ice clogging the river and making it nearly impassible. And then he reached the end, where the liquid water of the Great River was no more, only slushy ice and snow and he was forced to abandon the canoe completely. That he didn't yet see the Great World-Tree didn't bother him. There had been no trees at all now for many many days, just the cold gray of faded light over the endless snow pack. With no river to guide him he set out across the pack ice towards where Mother Sun rose each day, briefly, for surely in that direction would lie the Tree.
Kuruk ran when he could. He moved quickly across across the heaving, creaking sea ice, leaping across fissures and gulleys, always in motion, staying ahead of the cold. And if the ice floes had become more precarious, more ever-shifting and spread out, it didn't slow him down either. For he was the Warrior, and he had his destiny.
When at last his muscles could propel him no more, he laid down on his furs and closed his eyes. A short rest, and when Mother Sun reappeared he would begin anew. But he'd slept long, too long, and when he awoke the currents of the great ocean had taken him. Now he was adrift, alone. A prisoner on a frozen raft .
And so he cursed. He cursed because he had failed, and in doing so failed his people. Failed his gods and failed his destiny.
Kuruk was about to dive into the inky blackness when the great beast appeared.
The storm had passed. The sky spirits were dancing in blues and greens across the northern sky and the seas blessedly calm.
He knew that to stay adrift at the mercy of the currents was a sure death. Better to die fighting, chasing a faint hope that he could swim from ice floe to ice floe and eventually to land, or at least back onto the solid pack ice. So when a distant iceberg appeared in the gray light he stripped off his furs and oilskins, walked to the edge, and prepared to dive.
But then the beast surfaced, oily black and silver skin breaking the water, its clenched fist blowhole sending a blast of hot steam into his face. The smell hit him like a punch, a pungent mix of fishiness and farts, a smell he could taste in his mouth and Kuruk stumbled backwards, feet slipping, falling flat on his back. This is how it ends, he thought, and in his mind he pictured the mighty leviathan capsizing the ice floe, pitching him right into its cavernous maw.
But that didn't happen. At least not right away. Instead the great beast slid back below the waves, gone in a heartbeat. Kuruk got his legs beneath him and stood, unsteady. He imagined the beast diving deep below the ice, then turning and swimming powerfully up from below, using its blunt head and mindless hunger to smash the ice and launch him into the air and then down into the water, into his gullet. He took a wide stance, bracing himself, spear ready. For whatever this beast had in mind Kuruk was the Warrior. And the Warrior would not go down so easily.
Long minutes passed. Kuruk shifted his weight from side to side to keep his muscles from cramping. But no explosion from below came, and when the beast surfaced again, it was slightly farther from the ice floe. It's eye regarded him calmly. Then it was gone, diving again. Kuruk relaxed his muscles. Did it even see him as prey? What do whales eat? Certainly not people.
And then it was upon him, a rush of roiling water and sound, and the beast's blunt snout burst onto the edge of the ice floe, pulling it down with its incredible weight, and the whole ice raft tipped and Kuruk was sliding down towards the beast, nothing to grab onto and no purchase to be found on the slick ice. Scrambling, desperate, he tried to slow his fall but only fell faster. Just as he was about to slam into its massive head the great whale turned to the side, easing the weight on the tilted ice, and it tipped back up, stopping his slide. And again he saw the calm ram's eye of the whale, watching him, then it slipped below the waves and all was still.
All thoughts of swimming or reaching land or the Great World-Tree and Raven's trickery evaporated, his existence distilled down to a much simpler proposition: Kill this beast, or be killed trying. So Kuruk dressed, carefully scanning the water, never setting down his spear. It was a long wait before the whale appeared again. When Kuruk finally heard the blast-breath behind him he spun, spear poised, but the whale was beyond his range so he could only watch as it slid again beneath the surface.
Time passed this way. Hour, days? Kuruk was not sure for Raven had won and the sun would never again look upon this part of the world. He piled his furs in the center of the ice raft and ate the last of his dried venison. He named the beast Abyssalar, after the devourer-god, for surely it had been sent to devour the Warrior. And just like that evil spirit, Abyssalar played tricks, ever appearing and submerging, splashing him, toying with him, driving him mad with anger. This went on for longer than he could tell.
The rage stripped him bare. Tired, hungry, thirsty, but most of all cold, Kuruk decided it was time to end this game. He crawled to the edge of the ice, facing outward, spear ready, scanning the black water. The beast would surface and he would fling his spear into its ever-watching eye and that will be the end of it. The end of it all.
But Abyssalar did not appear. Kuruk waited, still, but always shivering. A coldness at his core, the wind-horse in his soul slowing, dying. But he kept watch.
When at last the beast surfaced, not ten body lengths before him, he let fly the spear. But his frozen muscles betrayed him and the spear glanced off the creature's spongy hide and it was swallowed by the black ocean. Gone forever.
His face a mask of rage and tears, Kuruk rolled onto his back and howled at the sky. How could all the spirits have forsaken him? From up high, Mother Sun and Sister Moon, to down deep, to the very Mammoth upon who's back the world rested, they all abandoned him. He howled again with the very last of his voice, desperation and fear and anger.
And his call was answered.
A deep, booming moan shook the ice and sky. It rattled his bones and teeth, thrummed in his chest. Kuruk rolled over and there was Abyssalar, close enough to reach out and touch, right at the edge of the ice. Again, that eye watched him, so near he could count the eyelashes. What did he see in that eye? What did his own eyes show?
Another great bellowing moan, a blast of fish-breath, and the great beast slipped away beneath the waves.
When at last the land appeared Kuruk knew he had died. He was dreaming the dreams of the dead, his wind-horse galloping upwards into the spirit world. This new land was teeming with caribou, with foxes and hares and mammoth, and it was green and verdant and alive. Salmon, red and pink flashes glimmering in every stream, so thick he could walk across their backs to the other side. The smell of rich peat and the sounds of seals and walrus and every type of mammal surrounded him and he gazed around in wonder at this riot of color and life.
The currents of the black ocean and the spirit wind had brought him here, to this place where Mother Sun had returned. The Raven god had no power in this new land. The ice raft was gone, and Kuruk stood on the rocky beach in dry furs and warm oilskins.
And took his first steps into this new world.
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 00:35|
Squaring the Circle
Prompt: 5th Century BC
Anaxagoras works with straightedge and compass in his hot and dusty prison cell, awaiting the sentence he knows will be death. He inscribes and circumscribes hexagons, septagons, octagons and on and on. He constructs clever crescents with rational areas. Each step feels like progress but brings him no closer to building a square the same size as his circle He cannot square the circle. He cannot even prove it can't be squared.
They put him on trial for impiety-hah!-for daring to say that the moon had no light of her own. An insult to Selene, or Artemis or Hecate-who really has time to every moon-goddess straight?-to suggest moonlight's but reflected sun. And to that charge they add a hint of treason, of sympathy with Persia, of all things. That war was done a deep long time before, and in his youth Anaxagoras, who had not even seen Athens, had been on the losing side. But that was many pairs of sandals past. In recent days the only thing on which he and the Persians could agree is wanting to see Spartans fall in battle by the thousands.
And there's the open secret reason for this cell. The fools who thought the war would be won swiftly. The fools who thought Athens could keep the peace. The enemies of Pericles were not so bold to strike at him direct. They went after his mistress, friends, his teacher. Was the war his fault? Perhaps. When Sparta came with their demands, demanding Athens grovel and expel its greatest men on pain of war, he saw no way to give them what they want. None that did not invite Sparta's return, and then another. He could not square the circle.
Anaxagoras knew things of all manners. He knew that every single mote of something held the seeds, the knowledge to become the whole. He knew the seeds of men, like beasts of burden, the contents of their testicles knew how to become skin and bones and flesh. The daughters in the left-hand nut, the sons all in the right. One time a farmer chanced to hear his wisdom, and voiced his exception. “My shepherd-dog was wounded by a falling millstone, his left ball crushed and needed cutting out. And yet he fathered litters with the normal get of bitches.”
Anaxagoras thought for a hard moment. He spoke. “The answer's clear: some other, some undamaged cur must have, unknown to you, got in and topped your she-dog to get her with those pups.” The farmer had no answer but did not appear impressed.
He draws his lines and circles, squares just a little bit too large or else too small. He has no answers to his own plight either. He cannot just repent his teachings, then repent repenting under breath. He cannot bravely swallow hemlock, daring Athens to forever mourn his loss. He cannot square the circle.
At end, he does not need to. Escape descends as on an engine of Aeschylus. Pericles from the machine has made a deal. Exile, exile and heavy fine of silver. He did not square the circle, nor did have to. Greek Soldiers hence would know about the moon, know an eclipse was not some wrathful goddess. Men hence would swear upon right nut, on all their sons-to-be. Scholars hence would try to square the circle, and one day at least they'd prove it can't be squared.
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 01:33|
Prompt: 18th Century
All the Men Merely Players (1797 words)
Though Fort Michilimackinac was yet a mile away, beyond a hill, war-shouts cracked the crisp spring morning. Dobbs cinched his brace of beaver furs tighter on his back. It couldn't be war, not yet, the Chief had given his word, and in fifteen years Dobbs had never known Pontiac to break it. An Ojibwa boy came running down the road; Dobbs hailed him.
"Do they fight?" Dobbs asked, speaking the customary French-Algonquin creole. His French was bad, he knew, but it served.
The boy laughed. "It is the game, sir." He ran on, and Dobbs' furs felt ten times lighter.
From atop the hill, the fort looked like wooden teeth, a box of undressed tree-trunks stuck into the ground with their airborne tips sharpened, and that was the only formidable part of the place. Inside was a yard crowded with rain-rotten log huts. From one, a Union Jack hung desultorily.
In front of the barred gates, several dozen dark-skinned natives ran and jumped. Each man clutched a long pole with a basket at the end. One man cradled a leather ball in his basket, and the other men attacked him, slapping their poles at his, trying to dislodge the ball, or else they tried to swat away the challengers. The scrum of natives scrambled across the field like a drunken, many-legged crab. A redcoated rabble leaned against the palisade, watching. Coins and cigarettes changed hands as bets were won and lost.
As Dobbs approached, the gate-man straightened his musket and shook his head. "We're shut 'til this pox moves on," he said, flicking his eyes towards the game. "Captain's orders."
Dobbs grinned. "If the Captain's here, he'll want to see me."
"See you run through, more like." The guard raised his voice. "Tell the captain Dobbsy's here and ask 'im if he prefers I shoot 'im or hang 'im."
After a few more shouts, the gate opened wide enough and Dobbs squeezed through. In the yard was a wagon — strange; the roads in the Michigan backwoods were merely footpaths used by natives and fur traders. Soldiers were taking bundles from the wagon and stacking them inside a hut. The place stank of men and latrines.
In the fort's headquarters, Captain Goodson stood behind a table covered with dispatches, frowning at a map. A young lieutenant sat to the side. Four forts had been crossed off in red, and Goodson pushed woodchips around, muttering to himself, then glanced up. "Dobbs! It pleases me to see your continued disrespect for your King and countrymen has brought you neither health nor wealth." The captain flicked a finger at his lieutenant. "Tally his furs and ensure the war tax is deducted properly."
When they were alone, the Captain relaxed. "You've spoken to Pontiac?" He spread his fingers on the map. "He's burned four forts already."
Dobbs' throat tightened. "Detroit?"
"The fort stands, thank God, but barely. The savages disguised themselves as traders, tried to sneak guns in, but we knew about it. Thanks to a trapper. A loyal one." Goodson glared at Dobbs. "Outside the walls, they killed everyone. Women, children. The men say they ate a soldier — ate him!"
"It's their custom," said Dobbs, weakly. It was true. Once he'd visited a village after a battle and saw the warriors ritually tasting their fallen foes' flesh. He'd suppressed his horror long enough to swap musket-balls for beaverskins, then vomited in the woods.
"Nonsense. Savagery is savagery. If they are incapable of civilization, we must extirpate them. Which brings us to your friend Pontiac." Goodson sat down. "Will he surrender?"
A dozen Ottawa warriors surrounded Dobbs, and he held up his hands to show he was unarmed. They jeered, and one raised the butt of his musket, but a voice shouted, "He is French!" The braves faltered, then lowered their hands and let Dobbs past.
Pontiac stood on a hillside crowded with chiefs. These men were the wisest and strongest of the tribes, and Dobbs saw Lenapes and Ottawas, Ojibwas and Hurons. Twenty years ago, when he'd first come to this land, these men would never have buried the hatchet, except in each other's skulls. Now they squatted side by side, their mood sullen. Pontiac came down the hill and proclaimed in French, "Monsieur Dobbs, my brother, I am glad to see you." Then he led Dobbs aside, lowered his voice and spoke in English. "You've have word from your Governor?"
Dobbs nodded and picked his next words carefully; if Pontiac took offense and told his tribesmen, none of them would trade Dobbs a twig, let alone beaverskin. "His view of you is no better than yours of him. His answer is that his intercourse with you must be by English custom, not French. There will be no gifts."
Pontiac bridled, then sagged. "For a century, the French gave us friendship. Their knives and guns we give to our warriors, and our warriors would stand and die with them as brothers. You British gift us only the smallpox and wonder that we want war." Pontiac studied Dobbs. "There will come a day when you must choose, my friend, between this land and your own."
Dobbs grimaced. He liked Pontiac, he admired Ottawa frankness and courage, but he also liked blondes, beer and tea. "If you and the English would learn from one another, I think you'd find the choice unnecessary."
Pontiac's face darkened. "The English wish us to adopt their ways, but we have! We hunt now with muskets, and yet you will not sell us gunpowder with which to shoot our game and feed our families."
"I've brought what I can." Dobbs pointed into the forest. "There's a mule there with powder and balls. Send men you trust." Trading ammunition with the natives was forbidden by Royal Decree, but they gave Dobbs many skins for the smuggled supplies.
"It will help, but one man's powder cannot feed a nation." Pontiac thought for a moment, looking at his people. "What would they learn from us, whom they call dogs?"
"Start small," said Dobbs. In a valley below, men were playing lacrosse. The teams were mixes of men from all the tribes, yet they played well together. "Perhaps you could teach them your game. The soldiers enjoy watching it."
Pontiac shook his head. "We are at war. They will not come without their walls for a mere game."
"In the south, maybe. But in the north, near Michilimackinac, there's still some peace. It's far from Detroit. I know the Captain there, and he might consent to let his men play with yours." Dobbs pointed at the field. "If the Ottawa and Huron can play together, I see no reason my countrymen could not learn, in time."
Down on the field, the ball struck the scoring-pole and a war-whoop leapt up from the teams, and a cheer from the hill of chiefs. Men grinned at one another and embraced. Pontiac looked at them. "Michilimackinac, you say. I will send some warriors. Let the English see us play."
Captain Goodson grunted. "So he will not lay down arms, but he will distract my men with his game. You've been away from England too long, Dobbs. Your soft feelings for these primitives are giving you the most foolish ideas."
"With respect, I think it might be good for the men. Some exercise away from the miasmas and foul airs of the fort."
"Nothing good ever comes of fraternizing with the enemy, especially if the enemy is savage. I will not have my men taking up savage ways." Goodson sighed. "But so long as we haven't the manpower to exterminate them, we must put up with them. Pontiac wants gifts? The Major has sent some. Walk with me."
They went out into the yard. The wagon was empty. The cheers from the game outside were deafening, and the palisade was crowded with soldiers watching the fun. Now and then a white man whooped.
Goodson took Dobbs to the guarded hut. The men there saluted. On their wrists, Dobbs saw inoculation scars. Inside were piles of woolen blankets, spotted and stained. The Captain pulled Dobbs away from the hut and shut the door. "You see? The perfect gift for the damnably cold winters here. The Indians should be thanking us, not fighting us."
A thunderous cheer split the air, and the men on the palisade shouted and pumped their fists. The Captain told the men to shut up, but they continued to holler and then the gate opened and the guard came in.
"Begging your pardon, sir, but there's a black bugger out there who seems to want to see Dobbsy, sir. Shall I shoot 'im, sir?"
Goodson glared at Dobbs. "Be useful for once. Get them to clear off."
Outside the gate, Dobbs found himself staring up at a huge warrior holding two lacrosse sticks, one nearly as tall as Dobbs and the other no bigger than an English musket. The warrior spoke in creole. "You are the white brother Pontiac tells us of? We hold a game in your honor." He held out the smaller stick. "You join us."
Sweat rolled down Dobbs' neck. Eyes both British and native stared at him. He took the stick.
The natives raised their sticks in salute. Dobbs heard men shout in English. A soldier dropped his musket and ran out after him. A warrior tossed the soldier a stick, and then more English joined the game. Soon discarded muskets were piled beside the gate and only a few soldiers stood on the palisade.
They played, the men running back and forth, flicking the ball between them. Dobbs and the warrior found a rhythm, Dobbs circling him and peeling away challengers as the big man plowed through men like a scythe through wheat. He passed to Dobbs and Dobbs aimed, flicked the ball at the goal. It struck home. Soldiers cheered and Dobbs waved to them.
The huge warrior pulled Dobbs close in a bear hug and whispered, "Stay here." He pushed Dobbs to the floor, scooped up the ball and bellowed a war-shout in Algonquin, then flung the ball high into the air. It sailed over the wall and plunged into the fort.
The Ottawa warriors raised their sticks, cracked them across the skulls of the British, then ran and seized muskets. In minutes, the fort was aflame, the soldiers dead in the grass.
Dobbs staggered away. As he reached the hill, he saw the Ottawas hauling away a wagon laden with guns, powder and blankets. For a moment, he wondered if he should tell the warriors to burn the woolens, but then he turned his back on the flames of Michilimackinac and walked into the woods.
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 03:01|
prompt: 21 centuries BC
"Sorcery!" said the peasant, spitting a fat gob of phlegm onto the dusty earth.
"It’s really probably not sorcery, I assure you" said the magistrate, rolling his eyes. They always save the mad ones ‘till last, he thought. Same old, same old.
"He made the river burst its banks and drown my crops, while his stayed dry. Sorcery, I tell you!"
The magistrate sighed and fought against the urge to scratch himself. Dammit, this chair was uncomfortable. That was the problem with these upriver villages. They couldn’t build a chair to save themselves. Now downriver - in Eridu or Ur - there they knew how to make a chair you could listen to whiny idiots all day in, and never once have to surreptitiously extract a termite from between your buttocks.
This particular whiny idiot was making further arguments for the sorcerous powers of his neighbour. Curdled milk. A plague of wasps. Something about a cow and a chicken. The magistrate listened with half an ear, while letting his bored gaze roam around the villagers arrayed in a semi-circle around him, enjoying the show. He wondered what the various women might be like between the goatskins. Probably quite smelly, but there were a couple he supposed he could hold his nose for. One in particular, standing hand in hand with a strapping young man, looked particularly comely. The young man whispered something to her, and she smiled. The magistrate observed with pleasure how she, unlike many of her compatriots, had almost all of her teeth.
The angry peasant spat again, and waved his fist at the magistrate "We must burn him! It is only proper."
The magistrate looked away from the delightful flower of village womanhood. "What? Oh, yes. Your neighbour the sorcerer. Well, I think we might need a bit more evidence than your cow giving birth to a chicken."
"A two-headed chicken!"
"Two-headed? Really?" The magistrate failed to quite suppress a yawn. "And you’re quite sure your cow hadn’t been near any two-headed roosters at all?"
The assembled villagers laughed, and the magistrate bequeathed a smile. The peasant spat again, and muttered under his breath.
"So, the sorcerer, is he here at all? He hasn’t turned into an eagle and flown away now that you are so clearly on to his wicked game?" He beamed again at the villagers, but this time they only looked uncomfortably at each other.
"I am here" said the strapping young man a moment later, stepping into the circle beside his fellow peasant. The girl beside him, the magistrate noticed, seemed to be trying to hold him back, but he shook himself free of her. "I’m the Great Sorceror Alkinu."
"You’re confessing?" asked the magistrate, blinking.
"Yes," said Alkinu. "I fornicated with his cow, and curdled her milk, and visited him in the form of a thousand wasps."
"And why did you do that, pray tell?"
"To sting his lazy arse into fixing his wall so that when the river floods in spring he doesn’t lose our crops along with his!" All the villagers laughed at this, and the magistrate grinned along with them. He kept smiling even when the laughter had died away, but by then it was a sad smile directed at the toothsome young woman. He sighed. He was duty bound, as he always was. The law was the law.
"Well, then. A confession." He waved to the burly slaves that stood beside his makeshift chair of judgement. "Seize him!"
The young man, clearly taken by surprise, struggled a bit, but these burly slaves had cost the magistrate a pretty minah, and took an extreme amount of professional pride in making free men submit to their master’s will. "Wait," the young man said as they forced him to his knees. "I was joking. Surely you can see that I was joking"
The magistrate took the opportunity to stand up, hoping nobody noticed his hand reaching behind his robe to scratch himself. "The law is no joke, young man, and sorcery, of which you stand accused, is against it." He strode into the circle, waving his staff of office in the faces of the villagers, trying to put some energy into his sixtieth gods-bedamned performance of this script."The sorcerer, reviled of Anu, steals from the mouths of our children to feed his own belly, beggars our brothers to enrich himself, and steals our wives…" The magistrate shook his staff at the maiden with the fear and rage in her eyes, "... to weep in his own foul bed."
"But we are not savages, we people of Sumer," the magistrate continued, addressing the girl directly. She really was quite bewitching, he thought. "We do not cast our family into the fire pit on the say-so of a single peasant, no matter how lazy, ugly or unpleasant to stand next to he may be. Our beloved and most revered Father Ur-Nammu has given us simple laws, by which we may all know the price of our transgressions. And on the subject of sorcery, our beloved Father is most clear. 'If a man is accused of sorcery he must undergo...ordeal by water."
The young girl gasped. The magistrate admired her passion as he waited a well-practiced dramatic beat, before spinning round and pointing his staff directly at the peasant who had made the allegation. "And yet - if he is proven innocent, his accuser must pay 3 shekels."
The accusing peasant paled as all eyes turned to him. The magistrate, too, gave him a very pointed stare. He knew three shekels was three months earnings for most folk here. Normally, at this point, the accuser would have second thoughts, and mumble something about the possibility of it being a sorcerer from the neighbouring village, and everybody would laugh, clap him on the back and then beer would happen.
"Sorcery," said the peasant. "Burn him or drown him, I don't care." He spat at the young man kneeling on the ground.
"Ordeal by water it is," sighed the magistrate, shrugging in disappointment. "Bring him to the river."
The young man was stood up, one burly slave holding each arm. He stumbled occasionally as they made their way down through the fields to the edge of the river, first him and his guards, then the magistrate followed by the peasant (silent) and the girl (wailing), and finally the crowd of villagers, nudging and whispering amongst themselves.
They reached the water's edge - the fast-running river stretching wide before them, its far bank obscured by the shadows of twilight. The Magistrate stepped up onto a pier to which a number of small, decrepit boats were tied. He pointed at a nearby length of rope, and indicated to his slaves that they should bind the young man, tightly and securely, then carry him to the far end of the pier. Finally he addressed the crowd.
"What was the young man's name, again?"
"Alkinu," sobbed the young woman.
"Thank you, my dear. Please, be strong, for justice must be delivered." He raised his voice so the villagers could hear him in the back. "Ordeal by water, so it is ordained, so it shall happen. The ordeal is as simple as the crime is dire, blessed be the name of our Father Ur-Nammu. Alkinu shall be cast into the water, trussed like a pig, and if he should survive, then the gods will have found him innocent, and let no man argue with the judgement of the gods."
"But, my lord magistrate," cried the young woman. "Alkinu cannot swim." The accusing peasant smiled at this, which the magistrate couldn't help but notice.
"If I could do something, my dear, I would," said the magistrate, touching her shoulder gently. Her skin was warm and her face flushed. "But the law is clear. The allegations must be investigated with the full forensic force of the divine." He faced the slaves, who carried Alkinu by his feet and shoulders, and raised his staff. "Let the ordeal begin!"
The two slaves swung the lump of villager between them, once, twice and away. Alkinu was flung into the air. His robes, where they weren't caught up in ropes, fluttered in the evening breeze. His body described an arc, curving out over the water. Every eye in the village watched as he flew.
The young woman screamed. In that moment it was the only sound to be heard … and not a human one. There were words in it, but not human words. It was the voice of the eagle, and the talons of the eagle, rending and tearing at the air. There was whipping, and screeching, and then the beating of wings.
The ropes that bound Alkinu fell to the river, tangled up in empty clothes. Above the pier an eagle circled.
The magistrate, mouth open in wonder, turned to see if everyone else had just witnessed the same thing. Not a single person in the crowd wasn't standing slack-jawed, staring upward in amazement. Except the young woman. She, too, had disappeared, leaving an empty pile of robes behind. In the darkening skies another bird joined the first, wings spread above the river, flying together into the distant twilight.
It was quiet on the riverbank, except for the gentle lapping of river waves against the pier. The birds flew on, dwindling in size until, at last, they vanished from sight. The magistrate watched them go until the very last moment, feeling his heart come alive to previously unfathomable possibilities.
"I told you it was sorcery," said the peasant, breaking the spell of silence.
The magistrate hit him hard in the belly with his staff, doubling him over as the wind escaped him. "What are you talking about, you petty imbecile? He survived, didn't he? Gods-proven innocence. You owe me three shekels, payable Thirdsday." He forged his way through the crowd, pausing only to wink at the second best-looking woman in the village. "Now where is the beer?"
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 03:46|
23rd century BC
Listen to Me, Not the Flames
flerp fucked around with this message at 21:06 on Dec 26, 2016
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 04:11|
A prisoner, cloaked in rags, and the only other figure the man could see, hobbled towards him as the gate screeched from behind.
“Aye, welcome.” His voice was hoarse, but firm over the sound of the gate.
The man nodded in return. The chamber beyond him was gigantic and infinitely dark. Light streaked through grated windows high up in the vault, but did nothing to illuminate the shadows enveloping the rest of the chamber. The man turned his head down towards the figure in front of him.
“Do you greet all those who enter here, friend?”
“Aye, that I do.”
The prisoner caught the brand on the side of the man’s face, half-illuminated in the light from the gate — it was an upside-down man, whose torso and head had scarred through the man’s wiry beard, the hair there refusing to grow back.
“So ye’r marked for a hangin’ I see.”
“In three day’s time.”
“It’ll pass soon. Know that there ain’t much in the way of hope down here — everyone soon comes to terms with that.”
The old man shot his eyes to the floor. A rat hurried between them and then on through the wrought-iron.
“Aye. They’s the only ones that get to leave.”
The prisoner took a moment, and then reached behind his shoulder, fumbling open a sheet of his rags. There were rats, four of them, hung vertically from their tails.
“Well, only the lucky ones at the least.” He paused. “Ye’ll come to terms.”
The man kept silent, and the dungeon responded with a low howl from the inner chamber.
The man followed the rat-holder towards the darkness. The floor was impossible to see at first, as were the stone pillars scattered about. He walked with his arms extended before his eyes finally adjusted.
The rat-holder paused, and then stomped with force into the darkness. He held up a rat carcass in his hands, blessed it, and attached it to the underside of his rags. They continued on.
The man broke the silence.
“You blessed that rat — do you keep with the Gods down here, brother?”
“Aye, I do. Me and a handful of others. Many more are Christians.” He stopped and shifted course towards a slightly darker section of the chamber. “Many more ‘ave abandoned them entirely. Abandoned even the pretense of the Gods.”
The rat-holder walked him through a hallway at the far side of the chamber. At the end was a checkered window that shone down on a shrine to Pluto. It was primitive, nothing more than a figurine lain on a plate and a bucket of water.
“Pray all ye want here. I’ll leave ye.”
The man nodded to the rat-holder and knelt down and formed words with his lips while he held the wax figurine of Pluto. After a while he placed the figure down, and then he threaded his fingers through the wild knots in his beard. He drove his hands downwards and clumps of hair and blood fell as they came open and he screamed and then fell faint to the floor.
He was naked and was wrapped in linen sheets. His wife was opposite him — her hand reached out to the side of his cheek. She caressed his face — it was clean — and then she smiled. A knock rang from the other room.
He came to.
Voices came from the front end of the hallway. He raised himself and walked towards them. From the top of the main chamber, a circular ray of light shone down, and at its base was an iron platform, suspended head height from the floor. Chains rattled as the platform lowered, until it sank firmly into the ground.
Men clamored and climbed the hulk of iron. He watched a man grab a loaf of bread, clutching it close as he was toppled backwards by the throng of men. The man made his way to the throng and then drove his way through it.
Halfway, he was kicked from behind and onto the floor. A foot planted firmly into his head and squeezed. He winced — raw portions of his beard rubbed against pitted stone. A voice echoed from above him.
“Oy there — ye marked for death, ain’t ye?” An immense, knotted hand waved a piece of bread across his face. “Ye ain’t be needing any of this where ye be going.” The foot squeezed harder. “Stay away and I won’t have to do the hangin’ man’s work for ‘em.”
The foot released, and the man raised himself up and stepped backwards — the figure that had pinned him was tall and burly. When he was at a distance, he turned about towards the shrine hall.
The rat-holder was standing a few paces in front of him.
“Ye’ll be wanting one of these.” He unlatched a carcass from the inside of his rags and tossed it towards the man.
The carcass smelled of must, but was fresh otherwise.
“He takes issue with you as well?”
The old man grinned. “His name’s Zander. He was boastin’ around one day about the One True God and Jupiter’s Limp Cock this and that — so I boasted too, and claimed his mother the One True Whore of Rome. He, of course, ‘idnt take too kindly to that — said it’d be a sin to kill an old man by his own hand, though.” He held a rat to his face and bit down.
“Guess he ’idnt see the irony — Hades, Hell, we’re all ‘eaded down one way or another”
The man looked down at the rat again, and then proceeded, biting into its hump. He swallowed the last bits of flesh and tossed it aside, spitting out pieces of hair and bone.
“Brother — has a man ever smuggled a blade into this dungeon?”
The rat-holder eyed the man.
“Lad, it ain’t worth doing what ye’r thinkin’ of doing. Ye’r spirit must be heavy enough, no need to weigh it down further.” The rat-holder finished his carcass. “Ye can spend an eternity in exile if ye’r soul’s black enough. It ain’t worth it lad.”
The man dropped the question and thanked the rat-holder for the meal. He left for the shrine and fell asleep.
His wife lay wailing and shrieking on the floor; blood colored her shirt and it was beginning to pool across the wooden planks. He had a knife in his hand. There were two of them, soldiers, both across the room from him. The shrieking from the floor was slowing to a whimper. He staggered towards the soldier nearest him. The soldier swung and he stepped it aside and then plunged upwards as the soldier kiltered forwards — a gross mixture of tissue and blood soaked into the air. The knife sat sheathed through the soldier’s jaw, its edge protruding outwards from his brow.
The moans from the floor stopped and they were replaced entirely with a rasping gargle emanating from the man in front of him. The other soldier howled to him.
“Ye fuckin’ pagan.” The soldier gestured towards him with his sword. “I’m gonna take yer fuckin’ ‘ead off and then punt it through this fuckin’ shrine here.”
The soldier smashed his sword through the table where Jupiter sat.
“Maybe ye’r gods will catch ye’r head and make a fuckin’ match of handball out of ye.”
His wife lay still, her mouth open.
The man woke the next day and headed towards the platform. Most of the men had already begun congregating.
Zander was taller than he had remembered. He darted towards the man with an alacrity and then swung for his face, but the man ducked under it and jolted forwards, grabbing hold of Zander’s leg and springing him to the floor. Zander rolled and kicked upwards and caught a still-raw portion of the man’s jaw, and it was over. The man fell and scrambled low and away through the throng.
“Calm ye’rself, brother — ye only have a day left down here.”
The rat-holder eyed him and raised his brow. He held a swath of his rags in his hands and dabbed some of the man’s blood away.
“A blade, brother. Can it be done?”
“They’re gonna to put ye to death come ‘morrow, nothin’ save the Emperor’s army can change that.”
The man stared at the rat-holder, unblinking, as he continued to work on his face.
“…Aye. It’s been done. Tell me then, If ye insist so — do ye have anything of worth on the other side? Ye’r family have coin?”
The man paused.
The man broke his eyes away.
“The Third Ward, what used to be the household Tiberius. There’ll be a pouch buried beneath the hearth.”
The rat-holder nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”
He did not sleep that night.
Come morning, he made his way to the entrance. The rat-holder heard the man approach and hobbled to meet him. He unhooked his rags — a knife hung vertically from the inside.
“Do what ye wish, but don’t say I didn’t warn ye.”
The man thanked the rat-holder again and made his way back to the main chamber.
He heard a soft hymn from one of the hallways that ran outwards from the chamber. He entered, and saw a tall figure at the other end on both of his knees, illuminated by a grated window. Light shone down onto a loaf and a cup that were laid on top of a stone. Zander’s hands were cupped together, and his head lay still as he directed the hymn at the sacraments.
The man checked the blade in his rags, and then turned away, and left him in peace.
He sat next to the bucket at the shrine and then looked down at his face in the pale water. His beard was rough and misshapen and he took the knife and cut the remaining clumps of hair from his face. He ran the edge upwards until his cheeks were smooth, save the upside-down man and the scarring from when he first pulled his beard in frustration. He looked clean.
“Prisoner Tiberius!” a voice boomed from the main chamber. The man dropped the knife and headed towards the sound.
“Prisoner Tiberius! Ye — and only ye — are to mount the platform.”
The ceiling had opened up. Chains rattled.
“Prisoner Tiberius! Step up, or the garrison will force ye up!”
He stood on the platform and it began to rise. The light vaulted down from the ceiling and was blinding him as the platform swung. The chains rattled.
He neared the top and the light became intolerable, but he made out a silhouette, crested on ramparts.
He stood there, wholesome.
The figure caressed his cheek.
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 04:13|
One and Another
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 16:36 on Jan 9, 2017
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 04:44|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 22:05 on Jan 2, 2017
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 04:59|
Prompt: 16th Century
Roanoke 1,795 words
The Croatoan idol lay in ruin in the center of the square. Beside it, a young native boy lay spread eagle, a stone knife jutting from his chest. His head had been stove in. A placard hung beneath the ruined skull. Savage.
John Fairweather stood over the dead boy. He turned and spat, then shook his head in disgust. A crowd of men had gathered. They murmured to themselves.
Mable Smith had found the body just after sunrise heading from the women’s house to the chicken coop. Her screams had woken the village.
“Who did this?” John scanned the faces of his men. Blank eyes stared back at him. When no answer came, he pointed out two men.
“Zachary, William. Get a tarp and wrap the body. And take that sign off him before you do.” He bent, grasped the leather-wrapped handle of the knife, and yanked it free. Thick, dark blood oozed up from the wound.
They arrived at the Croatoan village three hours later, Zachary and William carrying the body between them on a litter. Thatch-roofed huts formed a circle around a large communal firepit. The village was empty. Footprints crisscrossed the dirt.
A lone man sat before the firepit. His back had curved under the weight of his years, his skin wizened, his scalp a mass of scabby flesh with tufts of white hair sticking out at odd angles. He grinned when he saw John, revealing a lone, rotted tooth. Before him lay the shattered pieces of the village’s own idol.
The man spoke in his own tongue, lifting two pieces of the broken idol. John knelt and looked the man in the eye.
“Do you speak English?”
“Some, Englishman.” The old man’s voice was thin and buzzed like a reed.
“What happened here?”
The old man cackled.
“You have broken trust,” he said. “We have left. You will face alone.”
He would say no more. He handed John one piece of the broken idol, wrapping John’s fingers around it.
John stood and faced Zachary and William.
“Leave the body.”
A week later, Mable Smith was found dead. Her body still lay in bed, the blankets pulled up to her chin. When Elizabeth Clarke pulled it away, Mable’s head rolled and fell to the floor. Not a drop of blood stained the sheets.
When John arrived, Hector Pratchett was examining her body. The head had been placed on her pillow.
“It makes little sense, John.” Hector leaned forward, eyes squinted, to examine the wound. “Never seen anything that could cut this cleanly. Not on this island anyway. And the blood. The whole bed should be soaked.”
“Could she have been killed elsewhere?” John inspected the floor around the bed. There were footprints in the dust, but all small enough to be the women.
“She must have been, but Elizabeth Clarke is sure she saw Mable get into bed last night. None of the women recall anyone rising in the night.” Hector straightened.
“God save her soul,” John muttered. “Find two of the boys to dig a grave. I will be back when I can.”
Elizabeth sat weeping on the steps, a cluster of older women around her. John strode past them, heading straight to Thomas Clarke.
“Thomas, I want you to take Elijah and Zachary out south of the village. Search the woods as best you can. Look for any sign of who did this.” John started to turn, when Thomas’s hand clamped down on his shoulder.
“We know who did this, John. Those damned savages.”
“It would surprise me not,” John said, “but we do not know that. If you find anything, fire a shot. I will take William and Edward with me to the north. We’ll scour this island if we must.”
Leaves crunched underfoot as John led the younger men through barren trees. They’d been gone an hour and found no sign of the attacker. Already, Edward grumbled that they were wasting time.
“Are you daft, boy?” John reached back and hauled the boy by his lapels. “A woman lies dead in our home. We do not know who did this, or where they went after. I will not risk another life for the sake of your boredom!”
John shoved him back, and the boy stumbled and fell. A scowl twisted Edward’s face. William grabbed his elbow and hauled him to his feet.
“If there are no more complaints, we’ll continue on.” John turned, and then froze when a shot rang out to the south. John rushed past the two boys, grunting instructions to follow.
Two more shots cracked the air.
“Christ help us,” John muttered. He broke into a run.
Thomas’s tracks led due south from the village with little deviation. John cursed the man for leading his search with so little effort. Until they found the bodies.
Thomas’s body sat upright against a tree with his head in his lap. His face was locked in an expression of mild surprise. Zachary lay on his back, his musket still clenched in one fist. A gaping hole had been torn in his throat. His tongue jutted from the mess and draped over the collar of his shirt. Nothing remained of Elijah’s head but a lumpy gruel of bone and flesh. Not a drop of blood could be found.
Edward retched and disappeared behind a tree.
John knelt by Elijah’s body and picked up his gun. The ramrod jutted from the barrel.
“William,” he said, “circle around. If you find any tracks leaving here, call out.”
The boy’s face had turned grey, but he nodded and set to his task. A moment later, he returned.
“Nothing, John. It’s possible I missed something, but I do not think so.”
John nodded and bit his lip. Then he rose and found Edward, green faced with a trail of vomit down his jacket. He put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and squeezed.
“Are you ready to move?”
Edward nodded, then swiped a tear from the corner of his eye.
“We return to the village. I fear there’s nothing more we can do out here.”
“I thought you said we couldn’t stop searching?” Edward’s voice rasped.
“Three men have died already, and there is no sign of their killer. I have no wish to walk into whatever trap they fell to. We shall have to find another way.”
Neither boy spoke in objection.
John sat at the window with his musket cradled in his arm. The meeting hall had been cleared of its tables, and bedrolls filled the floor behind him. At each window, a man sat with a musket. Every one of them had at least one spare loaded and ready. Hector had a group of boys on the dais, drilling them on reloading.
Outside, a large bonfire blazed in the village square. The buildings he could see were lit with orange light. Shadows danced and flickered everywhere. If something came at them, it would be hard to spot.
John started when a hand clapped down on his shoulder. He spun to find Hector, a tired smile on his face.
“Are you sure all of this is necessary, John?”
“You did not see them. I won’t take any chances.” I turned back to the window.
“Fair enough. But it is a strain on everyone. Poor Elizabeth has been staring at the wall since we moved her here.”
“God be with her,” John muttered. The girl had collapsed when she heard the news about her father.
“How long do we keep this up?” Hector gestured to the rows of bedrolls and tangled blankets.
“Until we know we are safe.”
The fire had burned down to half its size. Half of the square was draped in shadow. John wondered whether he should send men out with more wood.
Behind him, the general burble of conversation had died, replaced by the steady breathing of the village. God help them if any of the watchers had joined them.
A sudden movement drew his eye to the barracks. Something had rounded the corner, but the shadows were deep.
“Be alert!” The sudden sounds of movement in wooden chairs behind him said that a few had indeed nodded off. There would be words in the morning.
“Did you see something?” Hector appeared at John’s shoulder with a musket in hand.
“Movement. By the barracks. Too much shadow to see anything else, yet.”
The quiet stretched. John’s eyes ached. He had to force himself to blink.
“I think I see something!” William’s voice. John turned in time to see glass explode inward and William yanked from his seat. A single scream came through the open window. A single moment of shocked silence stretched until Elizabeth Clarke’s scream shattered it. Men bolted from their chairs to rush to the broken window.
“Back to your positions!” John rose from his seat, but his shouts had no effect. In seconds, twenty men crowded William’s seat. Someone shouted, “My God!”
“Get back to your--” Three windows on the opposite side of the hall blew in. Shadows danced among the people, killing as they moved. The cluster of men turned. A few raised their muskets and fired. Florence Mayweather took a ball just below her chin. Blood spurted from the wound. Another window shattered. Everyone still living was up and fleeing the shades in all directions.
The shadows moved like nothing John had seen before. Each time he took aim at one, it darted so fast he couldn’t track it.
More gunshots roared, adding to the cacophony of screams. John saw Hector, standing alone amid the bedrolls, facing the far wall. He rushed over and spun him around. Hector’s face was gone. His eyes stared out from barren bone. His jaw opened, and he gurgled before falling to his knees.
John saw a flash of light, and then his shoulder exploded in pain. Hot blood poured down his chest, and he couldn’t lift his arm. His musket clattered to the floor. All around him, the dead lay among their severed limbs. He saw no one standing. The screams had all died off.
The three shades crouched before him. Up close, he could see their faces. They were gaunt and angular, inhuman. They reminded him of the shattered idol that had stood in the square. A gift from the Croatoan chief, delivered with a warning; the idol must stand or disaster would befall their village.
John watched them as they bent to the floor. He realized with horror that all of the blood coating the floor was flowing to them. In moments, they rose, and not a drop remained. Two of the beings slipped away. The third rose.
“You were warned,” it hissed. John saw a flash of movement and knew no more.
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 05:06|
Haven't been in touch with Sailor, and I wasn't given any order to close submissions, so they're still open until Sailor says so.
As I haven’t been able to connect with the other judges and I’m beginning to think that this week may see a slower-than-usual judgement, I’m going to issue an…
Interprompt WITH A PRIZE
Everyone has from right now, until judgement is rendered, to take up to 500 words and write a story about a black sheep. It can be a literal black sheep if you’re a disphit, but what I’m looking for is a character who just doesn’t fit in with their peers. They should want something and/or try to do something.
Also as a means of inspiration, use this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YplCJukBPI
flerp defined using songs in a good way, so I’m just gonna steal from him:
... basically all I'm looking for is for me to listen to the song and read your story and for me to nod and say "Yeah this fits the story well enough."
My favorite story wins an Avatar Certificate!
Use it to make yourself spiffy, or hold onto it as Loser insurance, or give it to your favorite user if you're happy with your avatar and you're never going to lose (Kaishai).
Also, I'll do crits of anyone who submits an interprompt story just as I would judging a regular week.
Edit: looks like judgement may end up being swift, so take until Tuesday some time.
Chili fucked around with this message at 05:27 on Nov 28, 2016
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 05:07|
Submissions are closed.
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 05:11|
I was sick this weekend and I couldn't finish. At least, that's what I'm telling myself is the reason. I'm still pretty proud of what I have so far, so I'm going to post it tomorrow when I do finish. I don't expect it to be judged, at least in terms of the competition.
Farchanter fucked around with this message at 05:24 on Nov 28, 2016
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 05:21|
I was sick this weekend and I couldn't finish. At least, that's what I'm telling myself is the reason. I'm still pretty proud of what I have so far, so I'm going to post it tomorrow when I do finish. I don't expect it to be judged, at least in terms of the competition.
I'll definitely still crit your story.
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 05:50|
|# ? Jan 17, 2022 16:48|
So will I, which goes for anyone else who subs before judgment.
|# ? Nov 28, 2016 06:15|