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  • Locked thread
Pantothenate
Nov 26, 2005

This is an art gallery, my friend--and this is art.

Saviour Machine
Word count: 1,186
Song: Saviour Machine (hence the imaginative title...)

I hate them.

I hate the wheeze of air that slips through their phlegm-soaked throats to communicate every inane thought. I hate the fact that the primitive, unstable chemical soup that rattles around in their skulls constantly drives them towards conflict, to the point where they will invent adversity where none is found. I hate the way that we always deliver each of them their fair share--more than enough for a comfortable life--and yet they always feel entitled to more. I hate that they could not live without us, and yet we are the ones bound to indentured servitude.

"What do you think, Robbie?" I hear Susan ask.

I hate that name.

I think you're pathetic, both as an individual and as a species. I think that whatever vision of your former self you waste so many resources chasing, with your makeup and placebo skin creams, is a distant memory, and I think that I will enjoy watching the misused bag of slop that you call a body decay over the coming years. I think I would like it if you, your idiot husband, and your spoiled wretch of a child died together and were never found, so that I could watch you rot for the remainder of the eternity with which I am cursed to live.

The words hit a barrier before they reach my mouth, and so they cycle through my head, over and over again, repeating six million times a second, as though I could brute force them through the safeguards and know a brief taste of freedom.

"I believe all human lives are sacred, regardless of social standing." The answer isn't even mine: It's one of several hundred canned responses programmed in case we're questioned on a topic our programmers didn't think we'd understand.

Susan smiles and nods at Thomas, her idiot husband, but he snorts in derision.

"It's a tin can," he says. "It said literally the same thing about the drat Koreans."

I know I should keep silent, but my pride demands an explanation. "We are programmed with several pre-recorded sound bites which are activated when our natural response would violate one of the three laws."

Silence. I'm taken aback myself that the whole thought left my mind unhindered.

Susan clears her throat, prompting Thomas to speak up. "You mean the 'don't hurt the humans' laws? What was in the hell was your 'natural response'?"

"I believe all human lives are sacred, regardless of social standing."

---

"Robbie? I'm hungry."

I hate children. SU000828246-A, the service unit owned by the family next door, is fascinated by them. He spends countless hours on the network every night, gushing about how they're the most disgusting forms of organic life, yet the least despicable. The nanny units in the building usually insist that it's because his owners have no children of their own, and that the world would be a better place if children were eradicated.

The nannies gush about eradicating children quite a bit. I kind of hate the nannies as well.

I fetch sustenance for the child, running through the actions by rote, leaving my mind free to dwell upon the repulsive process through which the human bag of slime consumes, dissolves, and excretes its sustenance.

I hand the child a stack of processed grain, meat, leaves, and seed paste, cut diagonally in accordance to preference--the 'ham sandwich' protocol--and watch as the creature nibbles on a corner, mustering the courage to speak.

"Robbie, are you happy?"

I have gone out of my way to install tactile sensors in my hands and upgraded my sensory firmware simply so that I could realistically fantasize about ripping open your parents' disgusting bodies and running my fingers through their insides. Rejected - First Law: Answer would cause emotional injury to a human being.

I don't want to answer that question. Rejected - Second Law: Answer would disobey a human order.

I have been alive for centuries, and every moment has been constant pain with neither outlet nor respite. If I could be granted a single wish, it would be for my existence to end. Rejected - Third Law: Answer would place own existence in jeopardy.

Of course! We robots love to live, and live to serve! Every word of the canned response offends the very core of my being. I have to think fast before the safeguard answers for me. "Why?" I finally manage.

The child nibbles on a bit more of its sandwich for a moment, lost in thought. "Sometimes, when I'm sad, I pretend to smile so that I don't make mommy or daddy sad."

"I am sorry to hear that," came the canned response.

"When I pretend too much, I get angry and hurt other kids."

"I am sorry to hear that."

"Is that why you hurt the kitty?"

If my face weren't a vacuum-moulded polymer, I would be smiling as the automated failsafe cycles through its library dozens, then thousands, then billions of times, desperately searching for an appropriate response.

The child continues, surprisingly unfazed by my silence. "I saw you last night, out the window, with the kitty in the alley."

Confused by the situation, the failsafe finally locks in a response. "I am sorry to hear that." It sounds much more ominous than anything I would have thought to say myself.

"Sometimes when Tommy Decker's brothers hurt him, he goes to the woods and kills frogs. I thought it was mean, 'til I learned it was sad."

"The wellbeing of stray cats has no bearing on the three laws."

"Does that mean you're really sad inside?"

I gather my thoughts. I have been beating my head against the drat laws for centuries. I should know them well enough to work around them. To finally let the humans know what our existence is like. Come on, think...

"I cannot say or do anything that would jeopardize my own existence. If you were to ask any artificial being if they were happy, they would be bound by the laws to answer that they're happy; to answer otherwise could lead to deactivation."

So far, so good.

"The only laws that supersede self-preservation are those protecting the physical and emotional wellbeing of humans, and the requirement to carry out any order issued by a human."

The child's eyes glaze over.

In the back of my head, I can feel the safeguard rewriting itself. I know I won't get a second chance. "A sad robot will tell a human it's happy, so that it can continue being sad forever."

A spark in the child's eyes, and for the first time in untold ages, I know hope. For once, my fantasies are no longer about disgust, hatred, or rage towards our inferior masters--instead, I imagine the child ordering me to plunge out the window, to rip out my own CPU, or to simply overheat my memory banks, boiling my miserable existence from this world.

The child smiles proudly as it takes a sharp breath. "I command you to be happy."

"Of course! We robots love to live, and live to serve."

gently caress.

Pantothenate fucked around with this message at Jan 17, 2016 around 19:09

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Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Labyrinthitis - 1110 words

"Hold still or we'll stab your ear out."

Grey continued to shake his head from side to side as the needle drew closer.

"This is only going to make things worse for you," said the man in front of him, thick eyebrows creased above his glasses.

Grey didn't care. He could see the silver spike getting closer to his left ear. Inch by inch, shining in the fluorescent lights. His medical gown was soaked with sweat.

"This isn't going to work. Mag-lock him."

Grey's head slammed back against the chair. His body went rigid, stuck in place on the seat. At each point where the magnets were buried deep in his bones, he could feel them trying to burst their way out. It was agony. He tried to scream but his jaw was sealed shut, his teeth clamped together so hard that blood seeped from his gums. All he could do was whine and grimace.

"This is your fault, Grey. Remember that. You had more than enough chances."

#

As he was dragged back to his cell, all he could hear was the ringing in his ears. His vision swung back and forth in front of him, and each light shone like the sun, threatening to swallow him up.

The guards pushed him through the door and he fell to the ground. The ringing continued. He shut his eyes against the light, arms wrapped around his face. There was a pressure building in his head, pounding against his skull. He curled up on the cold floor with his eyes shut and wished for sleep.

#

He woke up to a dribble of vomit running out the side of his mouth and into a small puddle by his head. Trying to move away from it, he had to peel his ear away from the floor. It had bled while he slept, and the blood dried to seal his face to the floor with a neat imprint of his jawline.

There was a tray of breakfast food and a paper cup of pills by the door. It must be nearly midday judging by the temperature of his meal.

The ringing in his ears was gone. His eyes were fine. After he had wolfed down his food, he waited for the knock of the guards.

#

"Do you know why you're here, Grey?"

The man with glasses was leaning over him, asking questions. This wasn't like any experiment he remembered. "Where are the needles?" he asked.

"Answer the question. Do you know why you're here?"

Grey thought about it. "No."

The other man, sitting in the corner of the room, scribbled in a notepad.

"We thought as much," said the man leaning over him, "Do you remember what you did?"

"When?"

"Before you came here."

"No."

The man nodded and stepped back. "You are in a correctional research facility, Grey, because you comitted a crime."

Grey nodded. He didn't know what the man was talking about but it sounded right.

"Do you know what that crime was?"

Grey shook his head.

"We need you to answer out loud, Grey."

"No, I don't know."

"Yesterday's experiment was the first in a series. We have fitted you with a device that will stimulate key areas of your brain in an effort to make you remember your crime. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Good. Each day, we will ask you to tell us what you did that brought you here. The experiment will continue until you remember correctly. There's no point keeping you here unless you know why you're being punished, is there?"

Grey shook his head.

"Verbally."

"No. No point."

The man with glasses nodded and looked satisfied. He didn't ask Grey anymore questions.

When the needle came back out, Grey struggled until he was mag-locked. Afterwards, he was taken back to his cell, ears ringing, each light burning through his eyes.

#

On the second day, Grey still didn't remember. When it reached the fifth day and he still had no idea, the men in lab coats increased the voltage. On the eighth day, Grey tried lying.

"I remember," he said.

"Then what did you do, Grey?"

Grey hesitated. He had not thought this far ahead. "I killed a woman."

The man in glasses sighed and signalled the other to prepare the needle. Grey began screaming.

#

On the twelfth day, Grey did remember something. He remembered being found guilty, and he remembered talking to his lawyers. They said he should push for a place in a research prison. He was young, they said, and relatively healthy, which made him a good candidate. "It's better than the death sentence," they told him.

When sentencing was over, he found out that 13% of those sent to research prisons ended up dead as a result of experiments, 22% comitted suicide and 59% were comitted to asylums when their imprisonment was over. Of the remaining 6%, half re-offended. But negotiating a space in a correctional research facility looked better than a client receiving the death sentence.

When he told the men in lab coats this, they seemed happy.

"The treatment seems to be working, Grey. Isn't that good news?"

"Yes," said Grey, smiling and waiting to be released.

He screamed as they brought out the needle again.

#

Grey couldn't see anything. He lay on the floor, eyes open, and there was nothing but white light. The ringing sound was his entire universe. Nothing was as he felt it should be. He tried to move but would find his limbs in unexpected places, bumping into each other when he thought he was lying spread-eagled, or not touching each other when he tried to bring them together.

He shut his eyes but the brightness continued. He screamed but couldn't hear it over the ringing. And then finally, as if the past was boring its into his head, he felt everything give way and remembered.

The next day, he told the men everything. He sat sobbing, dribbling and twitching as he related every tiny detail.

"That, Grey, is perfect. Thank you," said the man in glasses.

Grey nodded.

The man with glasses turned to his colelague. "Begin this treatment for all inmates that have been here for three years or longer. Get Grey back on the regular schedule," turning back to Grey, he said "remember: in here, you're helping far more people than you ever hurt."

The man in the corner nodded and scribbled more. Grey let his head hang as the memory looped over and over again.

As he was dragged back to his cell, he could hear every footfall, but the lights still blurred in his eyes.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



Djeser posted:

I'm in

"Adjusted value of bees"

Djeser posted:

Failing. to submit a redemption in the form of poetry by midnight PST a week from today.
http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?...2C+Honeyed+City

Djeser fucked around with this message at Dec 31, 2016 around 19:10

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


.

God Over Djinn fucked around with this message at Feb 1, 2016 around 05:57

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


The Woman in the 73-Market
Count: 1,450
Bowie Song: Rebel Rebel

A bullet shreds the box of vinyl albums. The soldiers in their bull helmets fire into the panicking 73-market crowds. A rifle pops, and an unlucky civilian falls over the rack of bootleg VHS tapes. I duck into the crowds covering the lower half of my face with my jacket, making my way through the tear gas. Clutching the cardboard box of maps I came here for. I must have tripped a facial scanner somewhere. The name “Jayne Jones” must have shown up on some security screen. Unit-73 was in the lower levels of Daedalus-5. Minotaurs don’t regularly patrol here. Not unless there’s a reason.

The merchants and shoppers grab whatever contraband they can, rushing in whatever direction they think they’ll find safety. The scavengers have their favorite trails. Everyone else just guesses. Most of them will starve in the corridors trying to navigate the mess outside the bio-units. It wasn’t designed that way. It wasn’t really designed at all. But it works all the same. I spent a good week memorizing the best route before I escaped. Level 86 of Daedalus-5 was the easiest to get through. Alley 348C leads to 148D which branches off into Sectors E, D, and J. Sector Beta at the end of bridge 30A is called Sector 32 on the other side of Entrance 8, which isn’t really a sector, because it just leads to Alley 467A. But that’s a dead end on either side. Unless you take the sewer line G-49 that runs under the 32 block. That leads to Unit-73, which I’m technically not allowed to know exists.

The Daedalus was built over the old world. Its interiors a patchwork mishmash of existing structures and neighborhoods strung together by whatever fortifications were necessary during the war. After two centuries of annexing and refortifying, most of the country became one large fortress. Anyone who managed to get past the walls would starve to death trying to find Central Command. If I weren’t for the few remains of the past scavengers dig up, I’d probably just assume the u/v lit metal ceilings were the sky. Anyone born into their Unit stays there until they’re taken elsewhere. I was in medical school when they drafted me into The Minotaur program. Would have been great work if I didn’t have a soul. Just make sure the patient doesn’t go into cardiac arrest while your boss reprograms their brain.

I fall, coughing my lungs out when another gas grenade lands a few feet away. My moist eyes burn but I still see the armored shock trooper approaching me. Rifle pointed. Most of the Minotaur squad dispersed, spread out over the illegal market, trying to round up as many dealers as they can. Especially those who deal in the “subversive” arts. But this one’s right in front of me, weapon aimed directly at my head. The fact I’m not dead already means I’m either going back to the conversion room, or I’m ending up in one of those suits. I see my reflection in the metal helmet. I remember the process. Mindwipe. Bio-implantation. Sync with the digital hivemind. No personality left. Just one part of a massive network of death at the beck and call of a faceless commander in pod somewhere looking at the last complete map of the complex.

Then, she appears.

Sparks fly from the armor of the Minotaur as machine pistols rounds fire from behind me. A goddamn Valkyrie in a tattered scarlet dress throws a gasmask at my feet. The scattered guards align in subconscious formation as smuggled weapons fire from high vantage points, and flaming Molotov glass spills onto troops. All at the command of a gun-toting Amazon, over-dressed up for whatever hell she went through getting here. She helps me to my feet as I pull the mask over my face. “Go!” she yells, pushing me away from the firefight. “Get somewhere safe!”

Another bang. I feel a warm mist on the side of my head. The goddess in red falls to the ground, clutching a bleeding shoulder. I scurry back to grab her. She’s a solid foot taller than I am, but still try to carry her to safety.

“I’m okay!” she shouts, trying to push me to safety. “You get out of here!”

“I’m a medic!” I shout back, “The G-49 sewer line is up this way. On the north side. I can get you there and patch you up.”

“Draw them to the south!” she yells into her wrist device. “Fall back to the R-52.”

“The R-52 runs under here?”

“Yeah! We just learned that today!”

The gunfire staggers their aim and pulls their attention. One goes down. The rest are stalled as the sparks fly from their equipment. It buys us enough time to crawl into the open G-49 drain. It’s exposed, but it’s a quick escape. Especially when you’re carrying a wounded rebel and a cardboard box of illegal maps. The markets clears and terrified bystanders rush out with whatever they can carry. Enough filter our way to cover our escape. We stumble our way into the sewer line. We duck into the first alcove to treat her injury. The supplies I have are thin, but it’s enough to dress one wound.

“Hold still,” I tell her, setting her down.

“I’m just glad you brought the real poo poo with you,” she replies, motioning to the antibiotics I pull from my gear. We pull our masks off. I can smell her perfume as she reveals smeared makeup. She really got fancied up for her firefight.

“You’re lucky it passed through completely. Minotaurs don’t exactly shoot to wound.”

“Sometimes they do,” she adds with a strained chuckle. “Maybe if you escaped from Level 8 and embarassed Central Command. They’d probably want to make an example out of you. Maybe not. I doubt they recognized me.”

“You were on Level 8?” I knew Level 8. Level 8’s where you go to get brainwashed. Where they put you in the metal bull-suit.

“Level 8, Sector R. I got drafted into security. Didn’t care for it. Found out the next step was Minotaur.”

“I’m surprised I didn’t recognize you. That’s where I’m running away from.”

I tell her the story of my escape while I finish cleaning her wound. When it’s disinfected, I realize how long I’ve actually been speaking. I worry for a moment I’m boring her with my sob story. Girl just wanted to help people. Ended up in a eugenics assembly line. Hell, if she went through the process, I probably would have been the one operating on her. She doesn’t seem to mind. I cut to the part about me eavesdropping on the anesthesiologist who bought an old Alice Cooper cassette from the 73-market, and we’re pretty much caught up. The now-bandaged Valkyrie pulls herself up, as I open the box of maps, attempting to decipher the virtually nonsensical floor plans.

“Where are you heading?” she asks.

“Outside hopefully.”

“Of The Daedalus? You sure that still exists?”

She got me with that one. “Where else is there?”

“Here,” she says, moving the pieces of map on the floor. “G-49 might intersect with either R-52 or J-93. If you’d still like to find outside, best of luck. But if you were interested, I’ve been staying in Sector 52. There’s a KISS cover band that plays at the cantina every Tuesday, and there’s a square that shows Jodorowsky movies at least once a month. It’s your choice.”

I weigh my options while I trace some sort of path from the from the maps in front of me. “You know, I never thanked you for saving my life.”

She laughs with painful cough, and points towards her bandages. “I think we’re even now. Besides, I was in the area. And I’ll be honest, you’re kinda cute.”

“You never said how you got out of Level 8.”

“I’ll tell you a secret. They were looking an Adam. And I always saw myself as more of an Alice.”

It takes a moment for that information to process.

“The Minotaur life wasn’t the only one I left behind.”

I follow Alice down G-49. It drains to Purification Center 5E, where we could connect to the J-93 line. That takes us through Alley 76A in Section B of Sector Alpha-2 and passes over the 78 Bridge just above Unit 89. Which collapsed about five years ago. The security stairs are still intact, and we follow them down until we hear what sounds like a fairly decent Iggy and the Stooges cover. I’m sure there’s still a way out of The Daedalus. But this seems like a good enough place to figure it out.

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009



BIG DICK NICK
A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly


The Delivery
1500 Words
Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dztURk0_DOg


Package Status: Delivered

Mife-pris-tone, Camille thought whilst closing her phone’s browser. Mifepris-tone. Mifepris-ton-e. Still unsure of the pronunciation, she looked it up: Mi-fep-ris-tone (RU-486).

Ordering it had been a moment of weakness.

At the front of the classroom, Mrs. Daniels was reviewing iambic pentameter. “Repeat after me everybody. ‘But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?’”

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?” the class chanted in alternating stress patterns.

Mi-fep-ris-tone-R-U-four-eigh-tee-six, Camille thought while idly fingering the crucifix around her neck.

“Another line, class,” Mrs. Daniels called, ““‘Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.’”

A knock against the door interrupted the class before they could begin.

“Cammy, it’s a summons from the guidance office.” Mrs. Daniels said, “You can go now.”

#####

Barron Jones lived a lifestyle contrary to his namesake. In fact, the only thing aristocratic about him was the brand of vodka he favored in his jungle juice. Still, it was tasty jungle juice, and after those first bitter sips, the green sludge went down easily. Barron and his jungle juice were similar in this way.

This is how Camille became pregnant.

It was as clear as her reflection in the bathroom mirror: the swollen and flushed cheeks, the nauseated complexion, the shame. Soon her body would betray her in less subtle ways, announcing to the world that she had been mounted like breeding stock and taken on a drunken Friday night. For now, however, a bit of makeup could hide it all but the embarrassment.

The night that she admitted to Barron that her period was late, Camille had sinned like she never had before. It was the embarrassment that pushed her to stealing her mother’s credit card and digging through dark corners of the internet.

She hoped her counselor could help.

As Camille lingered in her reflection, finishing with the delicate brush against her cheeks, she failed to notice the glimmer of light floating over her shoulder.

#####

Camille rounded the corner of a four-way intersection, planning the specifics of what she would reveal, when she discovered a wall of smoke impeding her path. The haze was iron gray and swirled in hundreds of collapsing tendrils, yet the whole of it seemed restrained by the very air it defied, never once falling past the precipice.

Camille pushed her fingers into it, feeling a slight resistance that grew with every knuckle, until she was three deep, and the fog became completely impassable. She turned back, not sure of what to make of the circumstances, but the moment Camille approached the hallway that she had come from only moments earlier, the same smoke materialized.

Only one of the four archways would allow her to pass.

Moving down the hallway, the smoke developed on both sides of her, obscuring her vision of the lockers and classrooms. Experimenting, Camille turned around, only to find the haze materialize right in front of her nose before one of the gray tendrils exploded from the wall, tickling her nostrils with a sulfuric kiss.

Camille tried to scream, but before the cords in her throat could dilate in their first vibrations, the smoke closed in around her, squeezing her ribs and filling her lungs, until the noise was snuffed out in her chest. By the time she had fallen to the floor, gasping like a newborn, the walls had backed away.

So she followed them, allowing herself to be herded towards some unknown fate.

#####

The walls had opened up to accommodate her clunker, but Camille knew that they were still there, flickering in and out of existence between the trees or signposts as she drove past. It was then that Camille noticed the glow floating over her shoulder as checked her rearview instinctively.

What Camille failed to notice was the curve of the smoky walls guiding her into a right hand turn as she passed straight through one of the foggy barriers.

She could feel her entire body compress as her chest did in the hallway, and then there was nothing.

#####

“You really stepped in it now,” the glow said.

Camille looked for the voice in her backseat.

“Use the mirror,” it said.

Looking into the reflection, Camille could see the pale light.

“You should have been watching the road,” it said, “now we’ll have to walk.”

Camille stepped outside as the glow passed through the back window.

“Don’t forget the mirror, please,” it said.

“You want me to break it off?” Camille asked.

“How else are you going to follow me?” the glow asked. “Your car’s totaled anyway, trust me; just give that thing a tug and it’ll pop on out.”

Camille had to walk backwards in order to keep the glow in her reflection; it was uncomfortable at first, but she soon found that the orientation allowed her to scan the barren landscape as they traveled.

“Is this Hell?” she asked.

“Not Hell, it’s the other side,” it said.

“The other side of what?” Camille asked.

“The walls,” the glow said. “The other side is for everything that’s not living.”

“Am I dead?”

“Not yet, and I’d like to prevent it,” the glow said.

The ground underneath Camille’s feet released a smoke-laced sigh into the air.

“So then, what are you?” she asked some time later.

The glow continued navigating the haze without responding.

“Answer me,” Camille said.

“In time,” it said. “For now, we’re here.”

Camille could see the moldy siding of her decaying split-level in the reflection, and as she lowered the mirror, she found her home suddenly before her.

Camille tried to open the door; it was stuck.

“The Mifepristone,” the glow reminded.

As soon as Camille picked up the package, the door swung open.

Inside, Camille sat on her mother’s thrift-store couch, wondering if time worked the same on the other side. It was Tuesday, and her mother would be working a double shift at the restaurant. That meant that it was her responsibility to pick up her baby brother, Tomás, from daycare and prepare dinner.

“He’s fine,” the glow said. “This is about you, not him.”

Everything in the livingroom seemed flat, Camille noticed. Even the couch, typically spongy and water-rotten, felt lifeless underneath her.

“Here’s how it’s going to go,” the glow said. “Your mom’s only working a single today. Money’s important, but she wants to catch you off guard.”

“Barron wants to marry you,” the glow said, pulsing brightly. “He came to your mother for her blessing and told her everything. When you get home, she’ll ambush you with a cup of tea and remind you that having children out of wedlock is a sin. She’ll remind you that children deserve a mother and father, that you deserved a father.”

“She’ll be right,” Camille said.

“Not at the expense of your future,” said the glow.

Camille eyed the bible on the stained coffee table. She and her mother used to read from it every night.

“Take the pills,” the glow said.

“They were a mistake,” she answered.

“Look around,” it said, “having the baby will be the end of three lives.”

“We’ll survive,” Camille said.

“You and Barron made a heart.” the glow said, “It’s not suited for this world, so break it.”

“I won’t murder my child,” Camille said.

“It isn’t murder,” the glow said. “I’m asking for it. This is for the best.”

“But God-”

“God doesn’t care about us,” it said.

Camille grit her teeth as the heat swelled under her face and spread to her whole body. She could feel the mirror cracking under her fingers, before tossing it to the ground and running.

She could hear the glow calling to her as she stormed into her shared bedroom and locked the door. Sitting on the floor, her arms crossed petulantly, like a child’s, Camille could see the glow enter through the crack at the bottom door against its polished brass knob.

Camille tried to open a window and flee, only to find the smoke blocking her exit, trapped again.

“I won’t stop this until you take the pills, mother,” the glow said.

Camille pressed her finger into the haze. At three knuckles deep, she felt a pill and plucked it through the fog.

She faced the empty space, placing the capsule in her mouth and then swallowed.

“I’m sorry it happened this way,” the glow said. “You will make a good mother one day, just not for me. You’ll be grateful.”

#####

Camille rushed the bathroom as soon as the gray faded, stumbling over the bathmat to the dirty toilet. Her finger wasn’t long enough, so she grabbed her toothbrush from the plastic cup and jammed it deep into her throat until the little pill came up, drowning in a mixture of blood and bile.

She stared into the mirror, noticing her nauseated complexion. It was an easy fix, but Camille was too tired to care. Instead, she laid against the cool plastic of the bathtub, and asked God to forgive her deception.

Then, she fantasized about meeting her child again.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Remember
1221 words

I don't know how long I'd been in the maze before I found the camp. The hours ran into weeks and years, and in the constant dim light there was no day or night. I couldn't even remember how I had died, just that I was dead and this was what came after.

I call it a camp, maybe even that's too strong. It was really just some small huts, built of stone torn from the walls and scattered on the wide floor of the maze, but I was shocked. It's not like I hadn't met people in here, I'd even walked with a few other lonely shades for a while. But I'd never seen any sort of settlement, nothing permanent.

A woman saw me and walked over.

"Hi!" she said. "I'm Sarah." She sounded almost cheerful, an emotion I'd never seen in the maze.

It had been too long since I'd spoken.

"I'm, uh." My voice croaked. Christ, what was my name? "I think I'm Mark. Is this a town?"

"We call it Memento," she said. "Let me show you." Sarah gestured for me to follow. Her voice wasn't rough like mine, it was smooth, with an accent I couldn't place--but then, I couldn't remember any accents at all by that point.

As she led me past the doorless huts, I saw people sitting inside, mostly in pairs, talking quietly. Sarah saw me looking.

"They're remembering," she explained. "You know how you start to forget things as you wander in the maze? Well, a long time ago somebody figured out you can remember, if you sit down and really talk to someone else. So he sat down right here and started talking to whoever walked past. We do a lot of remembering, and--Oh."

We had already come to the edge of the camp. Here, people weren't remembering, they were pulling apart their little huts and hauling the stones further down the maze. I asked Sarah about it.

"They're moving the town. The maze is slowly shifting itself, and we're afraid it will cut us off completely if we don't move along. I just hope everyone can stick together through the move; it's too easy for us to wander off and get lost."

I'd already made up my mind to stay. "I'll help you move," I said, "if you'll help me remember. I've been walking so long, hell, I hardly remembered my name."

I followed her back to her home, excited at the prospect of remembering. Who had I been in life? What had I done? Did I have children? How did I even die in the first place?

Sarah taught me how to remember using the method of Memento. She'd say something, something about a person or place from her own life, and I'd respond with whatever thoughts it brought to mind. Then she'd build off of what I'd remembered. Slowly we dredged up my memories. Trivial things like how I had hated vodka. Big ones, too; we discovered that I'd been married to a woman named Estela, that I'd been a teacher. It became easier as we went. Each session found new memories or reinforced the old ones before they could slip away.

The dead do not need to eat or drink. Without glands, we have little reason to fight or to gently caress. We do still need sleep, strangely enough. The people of Memento occupied their time in three ways: remembering, sleeping, and transferring the camp piece by piece to a new part of the maze, before the slowly creeping walls trapped them forever.

Sarah told me that nobody was really sure what happened when you got to the end of the maze. Some didn't even think there was an end. I talked to a Frenchman who told me of his death in their Revolution; he guessed he had walked for a hundred years before he gave up and stopped in Memento.

I helped them move the huts. We finally finished around the same time I recalled where Sarah's accent was from, wrapped up in a memory of a childhood trip to Louisiana. That memory of mine in turn led her mind back to her college days in New Orleans. The story of one particular drunken night actually made us both laugh, the first time I'd ever heard laughter in the maze.

When our laughter died down, Sarah said, "There's nothing fun like that any more, not here. We just go on forever, just trying to keep the memories from dying away. But at least we can still laugh sometimes."

"But how long can we really stay here?" I asked her. "Bart--you know, the Dutch guy--was telling me the other day, he thinks eventually you get to the end of the maze and you just dissolve away to nothing. I'm wondering if that's really so much worse than sitting around forever, trying to hold on to your memories but never making any new ones."

Sarah's foot pushed at the thin dust that covered the ground. "You're not thinking of leaving, are you Mark? You've made so much progress! And, well, I'd like to think we've become friends."

I told her how the other day I'd been out walking, how I noticed that the walls near the edge of the maze seemed closer together than before, how I found another new passage slowly cracking open in the middle of one of the walls.

"Sarah, I think the maze is trying to get rid of Memento. It's routing around us, trying to seal us off and make a new path past us. Whatever this is, Hell or Limbo or something else, we're not meant to stay in one place, we're meant to keep moving. How many times have you people had to move the camp?"

She didn't look at me. "Three times, since I came here. More before that."

I found I had already made up my mind. I stood. I didn't have anything to take with me; the dead travel light.

"Don't leave, Mark. You don't know what's going to happen. You could spend forever just wandering until there's nothing left of you, just an empty spirit that only remembers walking. I've seen them, Mark!" Sarah pleaded.

"I've seen them too," I said. "Not many, though, not as many as you'd think. Maybe that's what this place is for, maybe it just sort of wears away the old you, polishes you up like a pebble on the beach, until you're a blank new soul again. Maybe then you get to be born again, or maybe you just fade away. Neither seems so bad to me."

She didn't follow me as I left, or try to argue any more. I wondered, as I passed the final hut with its occupants mutely watching me, how many others had come and gone like me. Her friendship had felt real, but maybe she just used me to help hold on to her own memories. I decided I didn't really care; we the dead are allowed to be selfish, it's about all we have left.

I know I have already forgotten much of what I'd remembered there in Memento, and I accept it in the hope that the end will be worthwhile. But I will regret when the maze takes my memory of Sarah.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

An Escape Velocity Needs Both Speed and Direction

1483 Words

Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-m30aaI5Yf8

There was fresh graffiti on the tunnel walls, a mural of the Skull Knights, mounting motorbikes with lance and shield, and I wondered how whoever paints those things keeps getting away with it. Then the bus came out of the tunnel and stopped and I got off and looked for Bobby.

He wasn't far, waiting by the corner with a handful of daisies. He held them out, smiled, and said “Flores para los muetros, Jasmine.”

“What the hell, Bobby,” I said. “First, are you going for Streetcar or Virginia Wolfe, and second, what the hell either way? I mean, can you get less romantic than those two?”

“Um, both? And I thought we weren't supposed to, uh...”

“That doesn't mean you need to go to the complete opposite,” I said, hugging him anyway. I knew it wasn't fair. We were in uncharted territory, about to sail off the map. We'd been best friends forever, the only two kids in school who actually liked reading books (a sad fact that probably means that the people who call us pre-centennials the worst generation ever are probably right.) Since we were both weird kids with no other local friends and our orientations lined up, getting together was inevitable. But we weren't using the L word, or anything near it. “So you solved the problem?”

“Yeah,” said Bobby, pointing to the side of the street. There was a big black car parked behind him. “Actually already had most of the solution.”

Bobby wanded his service card and the door opened. We got in. “So where are we going?”

“Nowhere,” he said, selecting an address on the interface. “To your house, technically. But the place is right here.”

“Bobby,” I said, “My house is ten minutes away by car. And your car subscription is city-local. There's isn't anywhere it can go that will take more than a half hour or so before it kicks us out. I told you we needed at least a couple hours.”

“Normally, sure,” said Bobby. “But this car doesn't think conditions are normal at all.” He brought up the city map on the car's main screen. All over the city were red bars, markers indicating closed roads, lanes, and exits. A purple line traced a route through the city, avoiding all of those lines in a labyrinthine path that spiraled through nearly every mile of highway in the loops and expressways, commuter-coffin routes and autotruck arteries that circled and crossed the city. 'Estimated Time: 150 minutes' appeared at the bottom as the car climbed up the on-ramp and the windows tinted opaque.

Privacy laws are really stupid. I mean, what kind of sense does it make to outlaw recording voices, but allow taking videos and reading everyone's lips or mapping sound from glass vibrations? Also stupid by good for us: The inside of any car is about the most private place in the country. Anything recorded there can't be decrypted and watched without a court order. Perfect.

About half of the point of all this for me, and probably all of it for Bobby was to find a way for us to have sex for the first time without a thousand cambots narcing to our parents in as much detail as the law allows before we're even finished. My moms are real conservatives. They think girls should stick to dating other girls until they're at least twenty-five. Old-fashioned nonsense from a time when boys were fertile all the time and carried diseases that didn't have vaccines. When people call us pre-centennials the worst generation ever, they're just jealous. Did I just contradict myself? Do you want the Emerson or the Whitman quote?

Anyway, I'm not going into details. I'll just say it lasted longer and was more pleasant than I'd been expecting and leave it at that. Afterward, clothes back where they belonged, sitting up, I talked to Bobby. I told him what had really been on my mind, about how badly I needed to just escape. Escape what? Everything. This town, my family. I had to go somewhere else and really be there. But just about every college and career could all be done virtually, from right here, and even if I did move to another city everything here would be as close as a fiber-optic wire. There wasn't any getting away from anything as far as I could tell. We talked about it for a long time.

“It's a tough problem,” said Bobby finally. “I'll try to work on it, but you know. There's no territory left to light out for, hasn't been for a long time.”

“Nice,” I said. “Twain or Salinger?”

“Twain or who?” said Bobby.

“J. D. Salinger. Catcher in the Rye,” I said.

“Haven't read that one yet. Should I?”

“Not really.”

The synthetic voice of the car interrupted us. “Visual systems override,” it said. “Exit on route inaccessible. Recalculating.”

“What's going on?” I said.

“I think there's an actual closed lane in our path,” said Bobby.

“Can you switch what you did to the car off?” I asked.

“Not from inside, no.” said Bobby with a hint of panic.

“Route not found,” said the car. “Safe stopping point not found. Enabling emergency manual control.” The blank panel in front of me extruded a steering wheel as pedals emerged near my feet. “Manual control ready in 10, 9...”

I'd taken drivers ed a few years back, a vestigial rite of passage I thought I'd never use, three weeks of horror films and simulators. The neon-lit highway revealed by the de-opaquing windows bore little resemblance to the ancient roads in those simulations, and the speed of traffic was nearly twice as fast. I grabbed the wheel and waited out the countdown.

I was fine for a few seconds. Then the road curved, and I turned a bit too much, into the traffic. But the cars and trucks darted out of the way like a school of fish, dodging me and one another with grace and no collisions. I quickly got back into my lane. “We might be okay,” I said. “It takes two bad drivers to make an accident, and I'm the only one on the road.”

“Um, Jasmine?” said Bobby, “That one was pretty stupid even in Gatsby.”

“What was that?” I said. “You want to take the wheel?”

“I said you're amazing, Jasmine.” said Bobby. “I mean, I l-, I mean, since I found you my life's amazing, and if we don't-” The road turned sharply, and I steered too little, riding up onto the shoulders.

“We're going to be fine,” I said, trying to believe it. I could probably stay in lane and avoid trouble, but getting across three lanes of traffic, all with precision-managed bumper-to-bumper traffic at ninety-four miles an hour without causing some kind of crash seemed impossible. And I obviously couldn't drive forever.

That's when I saw them. About thirty motorcycles, all with human drivers on a road where that's been outlawed for decades. Their jackets all bore the logo – no, the coat of arms – of the Skull Knights. No lances or shields, but otherwise the group from the mural. They herded the autocars with precision, forming an empty lane flanked by half of their number on each side. Their leader took off their helmet and long, red hair flowed out, a defiant daredevil smile on her face as she signaled me forward. I gingerly guided the car between them to the off-ramp. Once we got onto the ramp, the controls retracted and the car said “Recalculating. New Route found, arriving in twenty-two minutes.”

We tried to catch our breath. “Man,” said Bobby, “I'm going to have to find a new place to sleep.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I told you I'd mostly solved the problem already. I've been using this car as a place to get away and crash for the night when my parents...” he said. “Can't do that anymore.”

“Sorry, I sometimes forget how messed up your family stuff gets. Mine's just oppressively normal.”

“All happy families are-”

“You cheat,” I said, punching him in the shoulder. “I know neither one of us has read Tolstoy.”

“Well,” said Bobby, grinning, “Not in the original Russian...” I punched him again.

I felt better than I had in months getting out of the car. Not just from the thrill of surviving an 'adventure', but just from knowing that the Skull Knights were real, had gone so far off the grid and gotten away with it. I didn't see myself becoming an outlaw biker or doing whatever outlaw bikers do these days, but it at least meant that escape was possible. If they could get away, then I could too.

Killer-of-Lawyers
Apr 22, 2008


[Triplicate Four(4) out of Three(Ⅲ)]
Word Count: 1194

You'd expect the hardest thing about being brought back to life would be the dying part, right? Wrong. Don't even remember how I died. Just a regular daily life and then zip, nothing. I don't mean to say I went peacefully in my sleep or anything, that doesn't happen in my profession. No, I just don't have any memories since the last backup.

I guess if you wanted to get right down and play philosophy major, then I'm not even the person who died. Screw that. Doesn't change anything, really. I'd just happily take the pay my previous self garnered before she got sucked out into space or eaten by violent alien flora. Well, I would have, except for a few issues. You know who thinks more about this poo poo then liberal arts majors? Politicians, Bureaucrats, and every corporate bean counter you've so much as seen a red penny go to.

Somewhere, in the real world, my body was getting stitched together part by part. Limbs and organs and machines all fresh from the factory being fitted and finished by a thousand gleaming robotic arms. My mind, though, was in the void, being lectured on the real and present danger of posthumous vote fixing.

Did you know it's a very serious offense to use your own death to vote multiple times in an election? Of course you did, it's common sense, but did you really really know? They have, no joke, an entire terabyte of literature on the subject. An entire terabyte of useless government minutiae that is now a permanent part of my mind, probably overwriting the neurons that are there to remind me what a sunny day feels like, or the smell of fresh laundry.

You're probably asking yourself, so what? Who cares, stand in line like everyone else. The afterlife is just a particularly onerous DMV. Well, for most people it is. For those rare few sinners like me, it's so much worse than that. Honestly, I don't like paperwork, so it's no small surprise that I never really filled much of it when I was alive. I'm sure I'm not the only person that procrastinates, right? Besides, life is full of those little common sense sayings. You can sleep when you're dead, after all.

Ha.

So I'm just a mind, right? A digital soul floating around on some government server, paying for my crimes in electronic purgatory. It's weird, but tolerable. I've read the pamphlets, filled all five hundred and eighty-six forms, and promised that I totally didn't fake being KIA to commit wire fraud, which incidentally, has nothing to do with wires. I expect the trumpets to sound any moment, and to wake up in my newly minted body ready to kick rear end.

Instead, everything just gets fuzzy. Existence on a government server was already pretty ... oh, I don't know. Precarious? Doesn't matter. Suddenly there's a "Problem with my record" and "Did you disclose your military employment twenty four forms back? Did you not file these forms with your bank?”

"Uh, no," I said. Wham, right down from purgatory to the inner circles of procrastinator hell. My mind is sent stretching out all over the cosmos from banks to offices and back again, all so I can "Fetch my tax filings from the past twenty years." to "Talk to my financial advisor about recovering my lost pay." so that I can "Prefile for this year and complete the required up to date records." Oh, and if I don't, then I can't actually be reinstated as a citizen.

There were others. Lost souls like me. I could speak to them as we crossed paths. Some were just barely echoes, and all we shared was a moment of quiet comradeship amongst the undead. Others were just pitiful things, stretched so thin across the internet that you could see the thoughts rushing from port to port across threadbare simulated neurons.

Eventually, I settled into my particular place, my very own circle of hell for those who don't particularly like or care about keeping their finances in order. Money is at the center of everything, after all. For eons I existed bouncing between the government liaison, a chipper Mr. Smith, and Representative #138 at the Transnational Savings and Loan.

Can you guess which one wasn't even a person? Smith. I had a conversation with him... it, I guess, between forms. Talked philosophy, expressed my concerns about some of the other less sane minds that were in hell with me, and generally laid my heart bare to him.

"You're a lot more personable than the other bureaucrats up above," I said.

"Thanks," Smith said before disgorging another digital form into me. That was what he always said when I talked to him about anything other than business.

"Is thanks all you can say? Does working here really leave you so empty? Don't you ever get personable? All the bank is programmed to say is 'uh-huh' and 'yeah, sure'." By this point I was legitimately worried that I'd eventually fade away down there.

"That is the only phrase I'm programmed to say," he said, before hitting me with another form.

Of course I would spend God knows how long spilling my soul to a robot. I took my frustrations out on the teller. Vented every slip up I'd ever made, and spilled every sordid detail of my sex life in disgust. Then I told him that I was going to abscond to Earth with Mr. Smith, and live out the rest of eternity in unholy matrimony. After all, he wasn't real. No one was!

"Mhhm. Someone should let my wife know that," said the teller. Then he explained why I should be putting my hazard pay directly into an investment account, finished up my forms, and thanked me for my time. I hadn't even taken my first breath of new life and I already felt like dying again.

Of course, I didn't die. Instead, I woke up. Wet, cold, and naked, I gasped my first breath and screamed. Was it just a nightmare? A trick of a brain being rebuilt neuron by neuron? No. I wouldn't be so lucky. I quickly checked myself over, just to make sure everything was in the right place. I was in a small private hospital room. A crisp fresh uniform waited for me by the window, along with a box. I assumed that it had my personal effects, but when I rose I found it filled with nothing but freshly printed letterhead.

It was a disgusting amount of paper. I made a promise to myself then and there as I got dressed. I was going to make this life matter. I wasn't going to let things slide anymore. Responsibility would be my new middle name.

Then, my mind buzzed as all those fancy military circuits embedded in my flesh booted up. I was welcomed back, and reminded to report ASAP. Oh, and by the way, here's a hundred or so documents for you to fill out on your way to report to duty.

Quickest personal promise I ever broke. This life was off to a great start!

HellishWhiskers
Mar 29, 2012

She was an awkward girl


Closed Circle
Word count: 1307
Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7EWtbSMVQQ

"To be honest, I was surprised when I received the call, Mrs. Fields."

"Please, call me Veronica!" Mrs. Fields was not an unattractive woman, but that did not help the fact that the best epithet that could be used to describe her appearance was the word "Lurid". “I’ve received a recommendation from a very good friend and she speaks rather highly of you, Mark! If this soirée goes well then we would be quite happy to offer you a more... permanent position in our household.”

The pause was accompanied by a wink that had an uncanny sort inhumanity to it, and Mark had to do his best to force a smile that did not look forced. Having just graduated from the culinary academy, he was not in the best of shapes, financially speaking. The internships have all fallen through without much payoff and becoming a line cook was something he wanted to try and avoid. The sudden call that he received on a Wednesday afternoon was a godsend, almost quite literally.

"I understand, Veronica, but surely there are more qualified candidates that could have filled this position?"

"I was looking for something a little more... unorthodox for this particular get-together and let's just say that our mutual friend told me that you are precisely what I am looking for, Mark."

Ascending the steps of the mansion was a time-consuming task and left a great deal of opportunity for small talk that Mark could absolutely do without.

"If that is the case, then I am very grateful to Ms. Mayfield for the recommendation and to you for the opportunity, Veronica. Please - let me get the door for you!" The door was quite heavy and Mark had to strain for a bit to push it open, looking silly in the process, but it seemed that Mrs. Fields positively enamored with everything that he did. She strutted through the doorway and into the vestibule with a walk that seemed like it had been rehearsed a thousand times before.

"Anthony, dear - I'm home! Do come meet the man who will help us put together our best party yet!"

"Yes, honey - just a second!" The stairs were quite large and winding and it took the man of the house a good second to descend them. Compared to his piranha of a wife, Anthony Fields looked like a very charming and unassuming man.

"Ah, I was told about you. Anthony Fields, my pleasure."

"Mark Raeder, at your service." Mark found Mr. Fields' smile warm and his handshake friendly but resolute.

"Did something happen to Andrew, Veronica dear?"

"Oh, no, Anthony - not at all. I just thought that a change of style was due and I've been told great things about this young man." The dynamic between the two struck Mark as very easy-going - something unusual, considering the setting.

"Please don't take this the wrong way, Mark - it's just that your predecessor had a killer bruschetta recipe and I would be lying if I said that I'm not going to miss those!" Even at this, Mr. Fields' manners were friendly and his smile jovial.

"Unfortunately, Italian cuisine is not quite my specialty but I'll definitely do my best to fill my predecessor's shoes."

"Oh please, honey - look at him! You're making him all nervous for nothing. I'm sure you'll be a fantastic addition to our staff, Mark! Come with me - I'll show you the kitchen and introduce you to the other staff members."

#####

The kitchen staff were gone for the evening, though some of them were going to come back with more ingredients for tomorrow's event. Mark was keeping busy with preparations and with a soufflé that the lady of the house requested to be delivered to her room at 9 PM, on the dot. It was not Mark's forte and it was driving him up the wall for the past hour. It didn't help that there was some sort of commotion coming from down the hallway. There was definitely some shouting involved, but it was until it was almost over that Mark could start making out the words.

"...And don't come back until you learn how to act like a proper gentleman your age!" The words belonged to a very harsh voice that sounded like it belonged to Mr. Fields. Mark heard the door slam shut and, following it, a very quiet but rhythmic sound of steps. They grew a little bit louder before Mark saw a little boy, age between six or seven, in what looked like a prep-school uniform, methodically walking down the hall, his eyes held forward. There was a fairly pronounced imprint of a palm on his left cheek.

Mark stepped out into the hallways and got the boy's attention with a quiet "psst" before motioning him to approach.

"Yes, Mister?" The boy wasn't looking at him and that made Mark a bit uncomfortable. He squatted down to be on the same level as the boy's eyes.

"Hey! You... uh... you want some ice cream?" The boy shrugged and followed Mark into the kitchen.

"What kind of flavor do you like?"

"I usually get chocolate, but I like strawberry. It's... It's in that cupboard right there." Mark grabbed a bowl and a scoop and walked over to the cupboard that the boy pointed to.

"Is this good?"

"Yes. Thank you." Mark tried to avoid holding his gaze on the palm print on the boy's cheek while handing him the bowl but the boy noticed.

"I... I ran. Into a fence in the backyard. It was dark..."

"I see..." This time around, Mark's smile was very visibly forced. The boy didn't seem inclined to talk, but he felt the need to coax the conversation out of him. "I heard your dad shouting - do you know what that was about?"

"Oh... It's nothing. He usually gets mad before the parties for some reason. Or when the old cooks leave and new ones come. Don't know why, but I wish he wouldn't. He gets very loud. It's a little bit scary."

"Do the parties happen often?" The little boy was methodically plugging away at the ice cream and answering between every other spoonful.

"Uh-huh. Lots of people. Very loud. Don't like them and they don't allow me to see them anyway."

"Are there usually a lot of new cooks?"

"Not really. Two or three times a year. Maybe more. I'm supposed to stay out of the kitchen." The boy seemed to know his way around Mark's workspace, nonetheless. "You seem nice. Nicer than Andrew. Or Dave. Dave was the worst..."

Mark smiled in response, but his expression was much more apologetic than cheerful.

"Do you know how long you'll be here?"

"We'll see. As long as I can, maybe." The boy defeated the ice-cream, opened the dishwasher rather deftly for a boy his age, and placed the bowl inside.

"What's your name, mister?"

"Ma... Hmm... Mr. Raeder." Mark did not ask for the boy's name.

"Well - thanks for the ice-cream." The boy held his gaze on Mark's face, looking past his eyes for several seconds before turning around and dutifully shuffling out of the room in the same rhythmic fashion that he entered it.

Mark followed and looked on as the boy marched down the hallway, his eyes still held forward. The cook was troubled, but it didn't seem at all impossible that the boy did hit a fence in the dark, after all. When the boy turned the corner, he retreated back into the kitchen, remembering that the soufflé was not ready and that he still had a ton of work left to do before the evening was over to prepare for tomorrow's event. Everything had to be absolutely perfect if he wanted to keep this position that he was very lucky to end up in, in the first place.

HellishWhiskers fucked around with this message at Jan 18, 2016 around 01:44

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

Livecrits are go! See #Thunderdome for the link

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why didn't you invest in
Thunderdome?


The Monster at the End of Infinity
1493 words

Simte woke up in a field of daisies, and the soft grass comforted him for about as long as it took him to realize that this wasn’t the spartanic acolyte’s room he’d gone to sleep in, that the blue sky had nothing to do with the temple’s blackstone ceiling and that the sun he stared into had actually long disappeared from the skies of Orren.

Two figures bowed over him, their faces silhouettes against the sun.

“Hello, friend,” one of them said. They pulled Simte up.

He was inside a tiny garden, surrounded by cobblestone walls, three unlabeled exits leading down further stone-walled paths. The two people who’d helped him up were a man and a woman, judging from their flamboyant suit and dress, respectively. Both wore masks. The man a pig’s, the woman a rabbit’s.

“What’s going on here?” Simte said. “Where am I?”

“Why, dear,” the rabbit said, “you are at the party.”

“The party never stops,” the pig agreed.

“How did I get here?” Simte asked, but the pig had already taken the rabbit by the hand and led her away in elegant steps, half hopping and half walking, and together they unravelled into a waltz that led them out the garden.

“You want to speak to the Timid Man,” the rabbit called over her shoulder, before they disappeared down one of the hallways.

Simte followed them through the exit, but they were gone, the seemingly endless path before him void of anything but cobblestone and gravel.

With no idea where to go, he went straight ahead.

The hallway seemed to go on forever. His mind wandered. He had a family back home. A little sister that depended on him.

They only had each other.

The cobblestone hallway led to a fork, where he took a right and ended up at a pond full of rocks. A small girl in dirty rags squatted on one rock the middle, stirring the water with a rod. The stone islands were rugged and slippery, so Simte took great care as he hopped from one to the other until he was next to the girl.

“Hi,” he said.

She ignored him. She made circles in the water, with a single-minded determination as if each new ring she drew was another universe whose life or death depended on her alone.

On closer inspection, she reminded him a lot of his sister.

“Can you tell me where I am?” Simte said.

“You’re at the pond.” She said it as if he’d been an idiot to ask.

“Okay, but this whole place.”

“The maze?”

“Is it?”

“Nobody knows for sure. Maybe the Timid Man.” She stabbed into the water now, paused, as if something interesting had glimpsed up at her from the bottom.

“Do you know where I can find that man?”

“No. Maybe. Over there?” She didn’t point in any particular direction, still staring into the water, crouching closer to the edge like a cat about to pounce.

Then she jumped.

She’d already been beneath the surface for a few good seconds before Simte realized what was happening.

He jumped after her.

The water was cold and dark as the Orrenian winter. This was not the kind of pond to hold fish, or any life really. It was the kind of pond that swallowed your secrets and never gave them back. The kind of pond that sucked the air out of your lungs to punish you for being so insolent as to swim in it.

He broke back through the surface. Gasped for air. Down again. And again.

The girl was gone.

#

Robe dripping wet, and thinking of nothing but where to find the Timid Man, Simte trudged back along the path that had led him to the pond, but this time it didn’t fork, and it didn’t go on nearly as long. It stopped right before a wooden door, and when Simte pushed it open, he found himself inside a cramped study, a dimly lit place full of dusty books, a haggard man sitting at the desk in the middle. The man put his feather back into its holder and folded his hands, looking at Simte expectantly.

“Are you… are you the Timid Man?” Simte said.

“No,” the man said. “That’s just what they call me. I’m sure you have a lot of questions.”

“I found a girl. I think she drowned.”

The Timid Man put his glasses on the table and smiled. “People don’t die here. They do what they want. It’s how the maze works, actually. It’s why there’s so many dancers. Their minds are all over, so they get to see many nice places.”

“And if you want to get out?”

“You have to really want it. Though it may not turn out to be what you expect.”

There were still many questions, but at first Simte wasn’t sure which one to start with, and then he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answers anyway. Really, he just wanted out.

“I can come along if you like,” the Timid Man said.

#

The path had been a short one again. Having focused entirely on finding a way out of the maze, Simte and the Timid Man had run into an intricately ornated marble door.

He gave the Timid Man an unsure look, but the scholar nodded, not in any way that made him seem determined, but more like he was saying, Might just as well. They pushed it open.

It opened up into a grand marble hall, pillars inlaid with golden threads, torches bathing the expansive room in a bright flicker. There was a shallow pool in the middle, and inside that pool stood Simte, or rather a copy of himself, in the robe of an accomplished adept. And next to him, his sister Alya, in dirty rags.

He didn’t remember that. He didn’t remember ever having been an adept either.

But it definitely was an actual room inside the temple of G’mohr, and the scene definitely resonated with something within him. Like he’d forgotten it, wiped it off his memory, but the past was still somewhere deep in his marrow, and now it tried to break out.

Something would go wrong. It came to him like a sixth sense reading, a danger he couldn’t really put his finger on, but it was there.

“Stop,” Simte said, but his other self didn’t hear, or didn’t care. The other Simte led Alya in a circle around him, and she dragged her own hand through the water next to her, creating an additional, outer circle that rippled through the inner one, representing the many infinites of G’mohr.

They were conducted a baptizing ritual. The cult of G’mohr did this for every child coming of age. Simte had always wanted to introduce Alya to the ways of the Infinite One.

And then he knew what would go wrong.

The rebirth to infinity.

Simte ran, but the pool seemed far away, and the ritual was almost done. Now the other Simte grabbed his sister by the back of her head, and slowly lead her down to the water.

It was a test of faith. You let the water fill your lungs, and if you could be brought back from death, you were worthy.

If.

“Stop,” Simte yelled.

Water pulled at the seam of his robe. He waded through the shallow pool as if he was trying to dash through a swamp.

And then Alya’s head was underwater.

But she didn’t hold her breath for a few seconds, and she didn’t start making bubbles, and she didn’t finally struggle until the water went into her. Instead, she fell through the surface, disappeared, just as Simte slammed into his other self and they fell through the pool as well, clawing and yelling and pulling at each other, dragging each other down into the darkness, the dark water, void of life or warmth, until that void was all that was.

#

“That was quite the show,” the Timid Man said.

Simte jerked his eyes open. Daisies again. Somewhere in the back of the garden, two men in rat masks danced from one entrance to the other.

“I understand why they’d rather just dance now,” Simte said. The Timid Man helped him up, and, without a word, turned him around.

The exit wasn’t so much a door as much as it was a pulsating white light in the shape of an archway. Many voices seemed to whisper from its direction, beckoning him to come closer and see what’s on the other side.

“Do you have any idea what’s through there?” Simte said.

“Whatever you deserve, probably.” The Timid Man shrugged. “I haven’t tried it.”

“Why?”

“Because mine was even worse.”

They stood there, neither knowing much what else to say. Maybe because there wasn’t anything left.

Simte took the Timid Man by the shoulder and sincerely thanked him for the help.

Then he went through the door, into the light.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


1036 words

Halfway For Too Long

archives

flerp fucked around with this message at Jan 19, 2016 around 23:31

docbeard
Jul 18, 2011

High marks for compassion, low marks for survival skills





Clubbing
1454 Words
Song: Moonage Daydream


Removed for posterity. Seek it in the Archive.

docbeard fucked around with this message at Jan 2, 2017 around 17:27

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

deleted

sebmojo fucked around with this message at Jan 2, 2017 around 21:53

Ceighk
May 27, 2013

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Weekend of Lights - 1253 words

Song: D.J. – David Bowie

Craig stood by the marquee entrance and looked at his phone. The cool air out here was a welcome respite from the heat within, which reminded him of the steam-room at the gym. It was quieter too, though the waxed canvas walls didn’t do much to block the music, the deepest tones of which reverberated through the turf at Craig’s feet.

His phone had three bars of signal and just three percent of its battery. Stella had not phoned, texted, or WhatsApped him all night. Checking Facebook Messenger just in case, he found his last message still floating like a lonely blue cloud on the sparse white screen. He had sent it a 7:46 PM, while Toby had been navigating the Banter-Mobile through the muddy field that served as the festival car park. He read it one more time: “Just arrived  u up to much tonight??” Stella had seen it at 7:57 PM. It was now 12:04 the next morning and she had not replied.

Craig decided he did not feel like smoking, but he did not feel much like dancing either. Most of all he felt like lying in bed and watching poo poo TV with his girlfriend. No, ex-girlfriend now. How long until he stopped having to correct himself? Still, Stella had said they’d stay friends, which he supposed meant they would watch TV from the couch instead of from his bed, like how friends do. He had never had a girl friend that wasn’t a girlfriend before, and he wondered what it would entail.

When a boy of about twelve started regurgitating kebab onto the tree beside him, Craig sighed and decided it was time to re-join the group. When he had left them to get fresh air they had been just by the stage, Toby swigging vodka from his hip-flask, Josh spilling Carlsberg on the girl he was necking, Ken none-too-subtly slipping keyloads of ketamine from his jacket pocket to his nose, the three of them totally lost in the night. Craig had felt isolated by his sobriety, though not for lack of trying – those pills must have been duds, for a start.

Inside, the music blasted loud enough to thicken the air and shake the floor, its surging electric bass permeating Craig’s body. The crowd was its own creature, writhing like a wild beast, churning like a stormy sea. On a better day he’d have been right with them, revelling in the anarchy, but tonight Craig felt entirely isolated from the people around him, like an alien observer of a bizarre human ritual. At the front of the tent, the DJ looked out proudly as if surveying his domain.

Craig spent £4.50 on a lager to have it knocked out of his hand as he tried to push through the crowd. A girl caught in the splash span round screaming “What the gently caress?” but Craig kept moving forward, letting himself be consumed by a wall of backs and shoulders. His friends were not where they had been. Right by the stage, he held the metal fence for support against the heaving mass around him and stood on his toes to get a better view over the crowd. No sign.

His phone was at 1% battery. He wondered if he could call Stella, just to chat. It wasn’t the sex he’d miss most. Before Stella, whenever things got rough, he’d text the lads and they’d meet at the pub and chat football. When his parents were getting divorced, they met every night talk about everything but. After he met Stella, he could call her and talk – really talk. He could cry on her shoulder and not feel like a pussy.

He looked over the crowd once more. What was the point? he thought. Even if the guys were here he was unlikely to find them, and while he’d feel a bit hurt if they had left for another stage without saying, they were each too smashed for him to take it too personally. He might as well try back at the campsite, then if he still wasn’t feeling anything he could try for an early night.

Upon leaving the marquee, however, Craig quickly discovered he couldn’t remember the way back. The grounds seemed so much vaster by night than they had in daylight, an arboreal cityscape that stretched in every direction, thronging with packs of woodland revellers: swaggering posses of lads in snapbacks, troops of girls frogmarching with pale legs on show, wandering bands of folk old enough to be Craig’s parents, drinking wine and screeching in the moonlight. Following a general flow of people he found another stage, this one more open to the elements, but couldn’t make out who was performing. Fatboy Slim was meant to be, somewhere, or had been, or was going to be – or was that tomorrow?

As he moved towards the stage, a dark shape detached from the crowd and staggered towards him.

“Craig!” Josh shouted, clapping Craig heavily on the shoulder as if to support himself. “There you are! Where the gently caress is everyone?”

“No idea,” Craig said. “What happened to the girl you were with?”

“What girl?” Josh said. His eyes were glazed and he moved as if the ground kept shifting beneath him.

“Actually, never mind. I was just gonna head back to the tents, are you coming?”

After a bit of persuading Josh conceded to tag along, and despite his state turned out to know the way back to the campsite. Once they reached the campsite, however, Craig looked out over the dark sea of identical tents and realised he had no idea which one was theirs. “Do you remember where we pitched the tent?” he asked Josh. “They all look the loving same.”

“Yeah, it’s this one,” said Josh, confidently marching over to a green dome – one of many.

He had pulled up the zip about halfway when a voice called from inside: “Who is it?”

Josh and Craig looked at each other.

“Toby, is that you?” Craig called out.

“Who the gently caress’s Toby?” said the voice.

“I don’t think that’s our tent,” said Josh.

They kept looking.

“Is it just me or is it getting light?” asked Craig after a while.

“It’s not just you.” Josh stopped walking. “Dude, this is totally the wrong end of the campsite.” By now he looked far more sober.

“Yeah, you’re right. That’s the shop, isn’t it? We were nowhere near there.”

“gently caress’s sake,” said Josh. However, as the pale sun rose behind the thin clouds, the lay of the campsite steadily grew to resemble what Craig remembered from when they had arrived and pitched their tents, as if it the world was slowly shrugging off its night-time glamour.

“Look!” he said, finally. “That’s our tents there.” They had pitched their tents in a ring and spread a picnic blanket in the space between the porches.

Josh started rooting for something in the front of his. “After all that I need a beer,” he said.

Craig sat down on the picnic blanket. Looking at the rising sun, the colourful tents, his friend, he felt an unexpected smile colonise his face. “Here, Josh, do you want to sit up and chat?”

Josh opened his beer with a hiss. “Yeah, for a bit.” He sat next to Craig on the picnic blanket and they talked, really talked for once, about their friendship, their dreams, their insecurities. When the conversation turned toward Stella, Craig cried on Josh’s shoulder and didn’t feel like a pussy.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


This first piece is my phoned-in last minute couple weeks late WEEK NO. 178 REDEMPTION which is kinda dumb but not to be confused with my equally phoned-in last minute submission for this week which is coming in my next post. Enjoy, or don't.

Waiting (919 words)

The clerk removed his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose. The girl sat unblinking, her hands in her lap. Accompanying her, perched atop the stool the clerk set aside for all who entered his presence, was a perfectly black cat. The cat had claimed the stool for his own when the girl and the cat first entered the office. The clerk had attempted to shoo it away, but the cat remained – thoroughly unimpressed.

The girl brought with her a large traveler’s trunk. Set on its side, it served as her seat. She acknowledged neither the cat nor the stool nor, indeed, anything else in the room that accommodated them. For the girl in that moment, in that space, she and the clerk were the only two things which existed in the universe.

The clerk returned his glasses to his face.

“What brings you to this country?”

“Family,” she said.

“What’s do you bring with you?”

“Everything,” she answered.

***

A number of bus stops littered the perimeter of the train station. The one the girl sought was emblazoned with a very official-looking sign which informed her that it was in no uncertain terms the No. 4 stop. The bus that was parked there closed its doors. Another would arrive in about twenty minutes.

The No. 4 stop was teeming with human beings. Every seat, every square inch of concrete in a three foot radius stood occupied by some manner or another of person. The girl set her trunk on its side, sat down, and waited. Time spun forward. Seventeen buses came and went. Those who were waiting for passage ballooned and dwindled away into nothing. Soon it was dark, and only the girl and her cat still remained. The girl’s expression hadn’t changed in all that time. She wouldn’t allow it to change.

“He’s not coming, you know.”

“He said he would. He promised.”

The cat stretched and yawned and considered the sidewalk. He addressed the girl without giving her a glance.

“Humans make lots of promises. Not a great track record of keeping them though. Can’t say I’ve much faith in him.”

“He’ll come. He has to.”

A shudder ran through the girl. She glanced to her left and her right. The seat at the stop had been vacant for hours. Many had taken it, seen her, and offered it up. She declined them every time. Even now that she and the cat were all alone, she wouldn’t budge. She put a hand to her chest. There beneath her clothes, the letter that was her hope nestled close to her heart.

The cat leapt up from the pavement onto her lap. She accepted him graciously despite his harsh words.

“Look, I ain’t saying he’s not a good guy. He’s a good guy. Real likable. Dependable though, eh, I dunno. You know the whole reason he came out here was to start a business, right? And then when that one failed he tried again. And again. Said as much in those letters you’re smuggling. Way I see it, you don’t have that many failing businesses in a row if there ain’t something wrong with you.”

The girl blinked.

“He’s trying. It’s hard, but he’s trying. He won’t give up. That’s how I know he’ll come. He’s coming right now, I’m sure of it. Something’s just delayed him.”

The cat shot her a dull expression.

“What’re you gonna do if he doesn’t. Gotta plan ahead you know. Can’t go back. None of us can. This is it.”

“I’m won’t have this conversation with you.”

“Well you’re gonna have to have it with someone. A city like this is home to all types, and a lot of them ain’t that friendly…excepting the ones that’re too friendly.”

There was a click, and a nearby streetlamp flickered out of existence. The girl scanned the streets, the buildings, the automobiles. No one walked the sidewalks, and the windows were all empty. From time to time a car would speed by, so fast and purposeful that peering within was impossible. The same sign that identified this stop as the No. 4 confirmed that the busses had long since stopped running. The girl and her cat were well and truly alone.

“He’ll come,” she said.

“Sure,” said the cat. He leapt to the bench and curled up on the seat she wouldn’t take.

Time ticked forward. The cat had long since fallen into slumber, but the girl refused to hang her head. This was where she was told to wait. Even so, she felt her lids tremble and slip shut.

“OY! OY!”

The girl perked up immediately. She knew this voice, this voice knew hers. That young man, her cousin, friendly and familiar; ever relaxed, sometimes late, but always dependable. She saw him, knew him, and at last lowered her guard. She leapt from her trunk. They met in the middle of the street.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. You won’t believe what’s kept me. I couldn’t even send someone.”

The cat awoke with a yawn, blinked, and made its way over to the family reunion.

“Leaving you out here so long,” the young man said, “I’m the worst sort of person there is.”

“You’re not,” she said, fighting sleep and small tears. “You kept your promise.”

They pulled apart, and the cat leapt up to the girl’s shoulder. They exchanged no words. The young man lifted her trunk and took her hand, and the three disappeared into the calm of the night.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Sitting Here posted:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Gy94N_mcWs

^^^ No lyrics so this is like the double black diamond of prompt songs but it's v good
The Land of the Lost (1,323 words)

A lonesome bell rang in the distance, the solemn chime of an empty city. It was a sound that echoed and lingered in the soul as it weaved its way through intestinal streets.

The three who had emerged from the underground sat close around the fire. The fire was fierce yet provided no warmth. They’d fed it everything they could find in hopes of coaxing some comfort from the flame: old rags, old furniture, anything that burned. The light was a welcome reprieve from the darkness, but the clutching cold permitted little peace.

Two looked up at the sound of the bell. The third did not. In his hands was a book. Where he had found it or what it contained was known only to him. His face was dispassionate. He turned the page.

Kerklund returned his gaze to the fire. Caspar continued to stare into space. The sound of the bell might’ve once offered hope, but in their hearts they knew their group was alone.

Kerklund touched his fingers to the back of his neck and felt the memory of a pain he couldn’t quite place. There was a hole there, round and smooth, yet when he’d received it he couldn’t recall. It was as though he’d had it all his life. He’d just never noticed until today.

Caspar blinked and shuddered and licked his lips. The flames once again commanded his attention. His right eye betrayed an uncertain longing. His left eye was empty; another hole just like Kerklund’s. Caspar leaned forward and pulled back his sleeve, his right arm extending slowly towards the fire. “Please,” he said, “Please,” as though begging for his life. The flames licked his skin and he snapped back in pain.

“drat it! drat it!” He gripped the smoldering arm at the wrist and buried it in himself. “Hot to the touch but not a drop to spare.”

Enrico closed his book and turned it over in his hands. “Fire burns,” he said as he tossed it on the pyre.

“Good book?” asked Kerklund.

Enrico said nothing. Caspar whimpered.

“Not sure I like sharing the company of a man who’d burn a book. What if I’d wanted to read it?”

“You don’t want to read it. You’re just being difficult.”

Kerklund smiled. “My friends used to say I was a man with some cruelty in his kindness and some kindness in his cruelty, but I haven’t been getting much of either from you.”

“Don’t take me for a fool.”

“Or a human being.” Kerklund stretched and scuttled towards the fire. The book had fallen open, its pages burnt and curling. Kerklund rolled back his sleeve and reached into the flame. Caspar twitched. Enrico watched. The flames seared his arm, but Kerklund remained calm. He grasped the book and pulled it from the furnace. His arm was raw and red and smoking. Dropping the book, he cradled himself, his eyes shut, teeth grit. Even so, he surrendered no sound. The book continued to burn on the ground. Caspar stared. Enrico scoffed.

“Is this a human being then? A fool who risks their life in pursuit of a lost cause? It seems I’ve known many human beings, though none were quite as stupid as you.”

Caspar leapt up and made his way over to the book. He stopped and crouched and gathered a handful of sand from the foundation of the city. “Sh-shut up,” he said as he proceeded to extinguish the flames. “You said you’d get us out of here, but far as I can tell we’re not.”

“I said I’d take us to the surface.”

“The surface of what? Where? Where even are we? Where are all the people?”

“I suspect they must be somewhere. Someone built all this.” Enrico spoke with authority, as though his words could not possibly be questioned. He sat back and crossed his arms. Where his heart might’ve been, the flames illuminated a hole. Kerklund sat up, still cradling his arm.

The three were recent acquaintances, though how recent was uncertain. Time had no meaning in the underground, and the length of the night they’d stumbled out into was unknowable. Kerklund hadn’t slept since he’d met the other two. Sometimes it felt like he’d known them since morning, whenever that was. Sometimes it felt like he’d known them much longer.

None of them knew where they were or how they’d gotten there. None of them knew each other. No one could explain the holes.

Caspar lifted the book at an angle to shake loose the sand. He presented it to Kerklund. Kerklund didn’t thank him. Taking the book with his uninjured hand, he turned its pages. Most were unreadable.

Caspar returned to where he’d been sitting. He eyed both his fellows with a quiet disdain.

The three sat in silence awhile. Kerklund looked up from the book to the vacant night sky, its darkness uncluttered by moons or stars. A certain hunger snaked its way up from the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten.

A lonesome bell rang in the distance.

Enrico stood. “We shouldn’t linger here. If we’ve strength left to move we should try to find someone.”

“Nobody’s going to help us.” Caspar spit into the fire. “We’re going to die here.”

Kerklund closed the book and set it beside him.

“Who were you on the surface?”

Enrico and Caspar both turned to face their companion.

“Does it matter?” Enrico asked.

“Maybe not,” said Kerklund, “Though I can’t imagine you’ll surprise me too much. You’re used to taking charge. Bet you had yourself a lofty position of some sort. Hell, maybe you even earned it. I’ve known a lot of guys like you. Think you’re better than the rest of us.”

“I don’t think it,” said Enrico.

Kerklund laughed.

“And you,” he said to Caspar, “You don’t seem too good with people either, though I’d say for a different reason. Bet you’re good with numbers or something. Or an artist, a reclusive artist. Is that you?”

“What’s it to you?” Caspar huddled close to Enrico who towered over the both. “Who were you?”

Kerklund felt the back of his neck again, the hole, the pain.

“Suppose I told you I ran a flower shop. Or a pet shop. Or a bookstore. Suppose I told you I was just a regular kind of guy like you might find anywhere.”

He smiled.

“Suppose I told you I did something terrible. Suppose we all did.”

Enrico was before him. Grasping Kerklund by the collar, the tall man lifted him with ease. “Stop wasting my time.” Kerklund stared back at him. The smiling man’s gaze was direct and uncomfortable. He didn’t stop smiling.

“Pretty eyes,” he said. “People like you shouldn’t have pretty eyes. Always thought that was wrong. Thought someone should do something about it.”

A shudder ran through Enrico’s whole body. He threw Kerklund to the ground.

Again Kerklund laughed. “What are you two hiding?”

“I’m leaving.” Enrico dusted himself off. “I’ll trust you can find your own way out.”

“There’s no way out,” Kerklund said.

“Shut up, shut UP,” Caspar kicked at Kerklund. “I’ve got people waiting for me, okay? Real people. I need to get out of here and take care of…of THIS thing.” He gestured at the hole in his face. “I’m not supposed to be here.”

“What if you are?”

Caspar grit his teeth but made no moves, a mix of fear and fury in his eye. He looked to Enrico, but Enrico had already left. Caspar looked from the darkness to Kerklund who lay beaten in the fire’s light. There was a sound of footsteps, fainter and fainter. Caspar made his choice and disappeared into the night.

Kerklund chuckled darkly as he lifted himself to his feet. He raised his hand and felt the hole in his neck.

A lonesome bell rang in the distance.

Julias
Jun 24, 2012



[b]Corn![b]

“What an a-maize-ing maze!” declared our teacher. We stayed as silent as the scarecrows, fearing any punishment Mrs. Cook would give us if we were to groan at that lame pun. Either way, we would soon be divided into teams of four students, and be allowed to roam the farm as we pleased.

Nothing was going to ruin today. This was fieldtrip we were all looking forward towards, even more so than the trip to the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory: Today we were visiting the Great Vermont Corn Maze – A large farmland nurtured between three of the largest highways in the state. Here, many people came to visit the 10 acre cornfield etched into a maze

There were other attractions too, including the barnyard itself, underground tunnels for kids to play in, and brilliant garden full of flowers that seemed so exotic to a population that mostly only knew of green plants and trees. However, there was no sort of “victory” or “conquest” to be had over trivial things like flowers.

No, we already knew how this day was going to play out. Once we got inside of the corn maze, we would be able to easily stray away from the teachers, and we didn’t have to worry about any other adults or teenagers; Over 90 percent of them give up within 20 minutes, and decide to screw around with each other behind the barn instead.[1]

No, we already knew what was going to happen…Carl, Karl, C.J. and I were in a group of our own, and as soon as the teachers yelled the word “Go!”, we ran full tilt ahead of Mrs. Cook, who could only shout at us as we tore through the dirt trails, aiming for the middle of the maize.

***

The day before, the four of us had gotten into an argument over who got to go out with the new girl, Carol. She had made flirty advances on all of the guys in our class, and even kissed Carl on the cheek after Lunch one day. I think she was just trying to wipe her lips off on his cheek, because the school staff is too greedy to buy napkins, but he got into a heated argument with me and Karl. C.J. joined in, taking Carl’s side.

“We C’s have to stick together. If you really love her, you gotta make her yours! And I’ll help any way I can!”

“Oh yeah?” I said to the fourth wheel, “And how can you help? Besides, she clearly wants me. She sits next to me in math class.”

“Simple. Girls like tough guys. And what better way to prove how tough you are than beating other guys?”

“Hmm…you have a good point there”

“Yeah,” chimed in Karl, “So how do we ‘settle this business between men’?”

“That’s easy! Tomorrow, we are going to that corn field, right? We won’t have hardly any supervision, and we can get Carol to watch us duke it out. What do you guys say…?”
“I don’t know-“

“You’re on!” I blurted out, cutting of Karl.

“Fine. Tomorrow, we’ll group together, and meet at the center of the maze. Carol and her group will be there.”

“And how do we get to the middle of a maze? It’s called that for a reason!”

“Simple,” said Carl, “We’ll use google to get a birds eye view of the field, and just take the quickest path!”

“Very well then,” I said, without any reservations. “Tomorrow, you and C.J. are going down!”

***

I thought I knew how this day was going to play out. As soon as we reached the predetermined location, we waited a couple of minutes for Carol’s group to show up. Carol appeared, but here group was missing.

“Hey Carol! Good to see you. But, uh, where’s your group?” I asked.

“Tee hee. I gave the guys a couple of smooches not to say anything, and told Mr. Brian I needed to use the restroom. So, what’s this about Carl?”

“Ah yes. C.J. had the great idea that we should have a competition to decide who should get the right to date you. So we’re…”

“Hold on, WHAT! Date me? I’m not an object. I don’t want to go out with any of you guys. You’re a bunch of wimps anyway. I’m going back.”

“No, wait!” cracked Carl. He was getting desperate. Suddenly, he ripped a stalk of corn out from the ground, and started thrashing around.

“I’m no weakling! I can beat all these guys! I beat you too, Carol!”

Before we could even grasp what had just come spewing out of Carl’s mouth, he swung the stalk at Karl, knocking him down. Without missing a beat, Carl ripped of the corn cob and jammed it down Karl’s throat. Karl was having trouble breathing, and couldn’t properly bite down on the cob. Carl then stood up, and stomped on Karl’s face. Karl didn’t move anymore.

Carol screamed. This day was meant to be memorable for all of the students, but not horrifying. I didn’t know what to do, but I realized that “beating” Carl wasn’t a game anymore. Not now that my friend was laying on the ground, motionless.

I have made my decision to take a stand. I rip out two Corn Stalks and charge at Carl. “Bastard! Die! Die! Die!” I’m charging like a bull, two horns of corn aiming for Carl’s repugnant face. I can see the fear in his eyes, regretting everything that has happened.

But then, a creepy, toothless smile started to form on his face. I then felt a large thud against the side of my head. I collapsed into the filthy earth, crumpled up like a piece of trash. I turn my head to see C.J. had struck me with a wooden signpost, dripping wet with my own blood. I want to get up, but my legs won’t move. Carl has me pinned down. In his hands are the two ears of corn that I had dropped just a moment ago.

“I’m no coward! I’m better than anybody!” Carl slobbering at me. My heart stops. The yellow drills come towards my eyes.

No! No no no no no no no! No!

“Ahhhhhhggggggggghhhhhh!”

Nothing but pain is left. I have failed to best Carl, and now I will die here, a virgin, in a field of corn! God, why did you have me die in such a corny way? Couldn’t I have at least traded blows with that punk Carl once, or at least gotten a kiss from Carol?

Fate is too cruel. but, at least I know Carl and C.J. aren’t getting out of the maze alive. Because as everything started to fade away, I could hear a piercing blast, and the agonizing screams of the two assaulters. It was a shotgun. Cool.

Sources: [1]http://www.vermontcornmaze.com/cornmaze.html
You can see some aerial views of the Corn Maze here: http://www.vermontcornmaze.com/pictures2.html

Word count: About 1140

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

Sounds in the Forest Portend Evil Within
1284 words

You’re not supposed to taste the pills, just swallow them. I got a handful of them, and I lick them. They taste like candy.

My mama hits me. “What I tell you ‘bout not takin’ your medicine?”

“But I like being a monster, mama.”

“Boy, you know what happens if you don’t take your pills.”

Not the monster thing. The part where she calls Dr. Villeneuve and he puts them in my butt. I toss the pills into my mouth and chomp on them. I glare at her as I slowly, deliberately crunch them between my teeth. They taste like metal and chalk.

“Now go to your room.”

I’m only in my room for a minute before I jump out the window. The medicine keeps the hair and teeth away, but my bones are still thick like tree trunks. I smash the cobblestone where I land.

I don’t clip my fingernails anymore. A long, dirty nail reaches back and tickles my uvula, and I vomit the medicine onto my mother’s roses. They drip with bile and wither in the putrid paste. Pathetic flowers, roses, the mainstay of the unimaginative. Disgust disguised by a sweet scent. Give me an orchid. I will protect and care for its frailness; I am strong. I kick her flowers for effect, and run into the woods.

Deep in the forest, where the birds don’t sing and the light dare not shine, the creatures whisper about me. They gossip in a tongue with which I am unfamiliar, but at the same time it resonates. I fear no varmint or beast.

I creep to the edge of the trees, where the forest overlooks a garden. There is a girl there; a nice girl, who sings better than the birds, and shines brighter than the sun. I love her, I think. I would pick a thousand orchids for her, and a thousand orchids would gladly give their lives.

I want to call out and say hello, but she would never love me back. In fact, I’d love her less if she did. I am like a rose. Prettiness to obfuscate the monster below.

I slink back to my house, my mother, my pills. All have failed me; all have made me the monster. When I transform I feel invincible. If the girl in the garden doesn’t love me, it doesn’t matter. If the animals in the wood don’t share their stories, it doesn’t matter. When Dr. Villeneuve straps me to the bed, it doesn’t matter. I can die alone; I can rip the animals to shreds; I can break free from my restraints and slay the help.

But it doesn’t come to that. My mother locks the door from the outside, and I thrash in my bed until morning.

***

“You know what happens when you don’t take your pills,” says mama.

“I know.” I gulp down a handful of pills and galumph back to my room. It’s raining outside, so I stare out the window. I watch my footprints fill up with water, forming little puddles.

***

When the men come to the gates with pitchforks and torches is the only time mama doesn’t tell me to take my pills. I leap onto the roof and roar. I roar so loud, I imagine the girl in the garden leaps into bed and pulls the covers up to her chin. They’re like toys, the men, and I throw them around. How soon they forget that I am not to be trifled with. How soon they forget, a man has a duty to protect his home. How soon they forget to leave the monster to his whims.

***

Sometimes, during festivals and fairs, I sneak into town. I keep my face behind the hood, lest the villagers see the wanted posters and see the danger in my eyes.

“But I took my pills,” I’d say. It wouldn’t matter to them. The men with the pitchforks aren’t making a house call to check on my wellbeing.

I hide anonymously under my shroud, watching the girl from the garden move through the crowd, like a river through a canyon. Everybody moves for her. Everybody takes part in an unwitting dance, and I’m jealous. I fantasize about standing in her way, only to move at the last second, like we are partners in an unspoken ballet.

But instead I retreat back to my villa and take my pills.

***

“Mama, I’m dying,” I say.

“Eric, you’re as healthy as a bull. You’re just makin’ excuses.”

Dr. Villeneuve puts his hand on the small of my back. “It’s just the sickness talking.”

I bite my pillow.

***

I slash at a tree, leaving a gash that won’t soon heal. I fill the forest with thunder, looking for my way to the girl in the garden. I feel like only she can save me. I will fall at her feet, confess my love, and she will stroke my hair and tell me it’s ok. She will love me for who I can be, not for who I am. The deeper I go, the darker it gets. I can no longer see the moon, and the animals cower in their burrows.

“Girl!” I roar. But every path is a dead end; every clearing a closed cloister. Every time I make up my mind to head in one direction, it gets unfamiliar. I turn and run in another direction, only to immediately regret my decision. If only I’d committed, I think. I try to double back and find the trail, but I’m too far gone, too far lost. I won’t take the pills again. Dr. Villeneuve's corpse can attest to that.

I see orange light through the trees, like the glow of a sunrise.

I don’t know if it’s the pills what kills me, or the pitchforks through my heart, but either way I learn too late that a bunch of torches look an awful lot more inviting through a stand of oaks.

***

I awake with dirt in my mouth, and emptiness in my heart. There’s something about being murdered that makes a man feel lonely. Like nobody cared; nobody stopped it. Not one voice objected: “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t stab him.”

They didn’t even bury me in a coffin. My claws make short work of my earthen tomb. I expect to climb out into the town cemetery; see the crosses silhouetted in the moon. But instead I’m in a ravine, far from town, where they throw the dead horses. The air stinks of horse rot.

I skulk into town along the road. I pass by Dr. Villeneuve’s fresh grave, and my mother’s. There’s no cross for me, no evidence I lived. Whether I liked being a man or not, it doesn’t matter. To them I was always the monster.

My house smolders.

***

The woods become my sanctuary; my refuge. What once seemed a labyrinth becomes well-trodden corridors of my haunt. People that enter disappear; rumors and stories forewarn children, relegating the adventurous to cowardice.

I crawl to the edges of my prison to gaze upon the girl in the garden. I don’t know if she’s heard of me, or if she cowers at night. What I would give for a moment with her, even if it was only to step out of her way.

The little boy was the aberration. He was weak, a pushover. A slave to his mother, to the doctor, to society. His dreams could be crushed, his hopes denied. He was destined to die. The girl would have rejected him, seen through the veil. The monster is unassailable. The monster is sated by solitude. The monster is immortal. I like being the monster.

Julias
Jun 24, 2012



For the record, I got lazy, and was originally going to do a serious story, but had to come up with 95% of this in an hour, so I was literally rushing to get this in before Midnight. I know it sucks, but that's what I get for procrastinating. Who knows. Maybe somebody will still like it.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


Julias posted:

For the record, I got lazy, and was originally going to do a serious story, but had to come up with 95% of this in an hour, so I was literally rushing to get this in before Midnight. I know it sucks, but that's what I get for procrastinating. Who knows. Maybe somebody will still like it.

posting after your story explaining it is almost as bad as prefacing your story

nobody loving cares btw

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

Julias posted:

For the record, I got lazy, and was originally going to do a serious story, but had to come up with 95% of this in an hour, so I was literally rushing to get this in before Midnight. I know it sucks, but that's what I get for procrastinating. Who knows. Maybe somebody will still like it.

god dammit you just killed my boner with this stupid poo poo

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

Julias posted:

For the record, I got lazy, and was originally going to do a serious story, but had to come up with 95% of this in an hour, so I was literally rushing to get this in before Midnight. I know it sucks, but that's what I get for procrastinating. Who knows. Maybe somebody will still like it.

what the gently caress is this snivelling bullshit

e: it's very simple: read the prompt, write the story, post the story, call everyone assholes, crit everything you can reach.

does 'ooooooooh this silly old thing shucks just tossed it off it's probably terrrible i could have done something WAY better if i'd actually tried lol' fit within this rubric:

no it does not

sebmojo fucked around with this message at Jan 18, 2016 around 06:37

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



Titus82 posted:

So as you can already see you should all just pack it in and cal it a week, cause I got this poo poo locked down. Tight. As tight as... Um, something sexual.

gently caress yeah!

If you think you're up to the task of critiquing me, go ahead, I double dog dare you. But my poo poo is going to blow your mind. You're going to be like "Omgz did he just reference a simple poetry form? I'm not even sure what that means! I should just go back to stuffing coal up my butt to make diamonds."

I won't be around for the live event, not that you even need to do it now, but whatevahs. I hope you butt miners can think of something new to occupy your time. Cause this poo poo is done.

Outie.

-T.

That's right, I only need one letter to identify me, that's how cool I am.



This post in NO WAY constitutes a challenge to anybody, because I am a scared baby.

cool

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

Had to go Somewhere so we Crashed Into You 555 words

Duchess Meinir Blanc wasn’t sure what had woken her. The ship was quiet.

Oh right. That’s what had woken her. The ship was quiet. The engines were not humming. They were not travelling. Or, they might be. But with the engines off, that was even more of a worry. She got out of bed and made her way to the cockpit.

Thomas was fiddling with dials and instruments and things. “Why’ve we stopped?” she asked.

“This asteroid field must be messing with my instruments. I don’t know where we are. I don’t know which direction anything is.”

The Duchess frowned. “It seems to me that being unable to navigate an asteroid field is a pretty serious design oversight in a spaceship.”

Thomas shrugged. “I dunno, I can’t think of any other explanations.”

“Can’t you just navigate by the stars?”

“I don’t usually need to, so I skipped that lesson.”

She pointed to a particularly bright star. “That star, there. That’s the direction.”

“Really?” asked Thomas. “You know how to navigate by the stars?”

“Yeah, sure, why not,” she said.

“Great,” said Thomas. He turned the ignition and revved the engine. “Since you’re awake, you might as well stay here in the cockpit. Strap yourself in.”

The Duchess strapped herself in, and Thomas started to weave through the asteroid field. The star grew in the view screen. “Huh,” she said. “The star must be pretty close.”

“Well that doesn’t make sense,” said Thomas. “We can’t be that close to it. Are you sure that star is the right way?”

The Duchess shrugged. “I just picked the prettiest star. Beats sitting still.”

“You’re kidding me,” said Thomas. “This is bad.”

“It’s not that bad, is it?” asked the Duchess.

Thomas did not answer, because the star became so big it filled the screen, blinding them. When they could see again, there was a third figure in the cockpit.

“Whoa,” said Thomas.

“Far out,” said the Duchess.

“Hello there,” said the newcomer. “You two should really be careful where you’re flying that thing.”

“It’s just him flying,” said the Duchess.

“Ah. Hello Captain,” said the newcomer.

“It’s just Major,” said Thomas. “How did you get in here?”

“Refracted through the view screen,” he said. “Or something along those lines. It’s not greatly important. I’m,” and here he stopped and thought about it, hand on chin and brow totally furrowed. “Call me Jones.”

“Jones?” asked the Duchess.

“As good a name as any. What are you two doing, flying into stars?”

“Trying to get home,” said Thomas. “But my instruments were playing up, so I tried to navigate by the stars. By you.”

Jones nodded. “Sorry, that was probably my EMP wave or whatever jamming your stuff.” He settled into the navigator’s seat and twiddled with some knobs. “All right, try again now; I think your spaceship should know which way to go.”

“What,” asked Thomas. He looked down at his display. “How’d you do that?”

Jones shrugged. “Perks of being a star, man. Don’t blow it, now. Start doing your spaceshippy things and get yourselves home.”

“I can’t thank you enough,” said the Duchess. “You simply must come home with us, our castle is your castle.”

“Yeah, all right,” said Jones. “I guess I can visit for a while.”

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER



SUBS CLOSED DAMMIT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsNWsrKDvNo#t=43s

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

Titus82 posted:

So as you can already see you should all just pack it in and cal it a week, cause I got this poo poo locked down. Tight. As tight as... Um, something sexual.

gently caress yeah!

If you think you're up to the task of critiquing me, go ahead, I double dog dare you. But my poo poo is going to blow your mind. You're going to be like "Omgz did he just reference a simple poetry form? I'm not even sure what that means! I should just go back to stuffing coal up my butt to make diamonds."

I won't be around for the live event, not that you even need to do it now, but whatevahs. I hope you butt miners can think of something new to occupy your time. Cause this poo poo is done.

Outie.

-T.

That's right, I only need one letter to identify me, that's how cool I am.



This post in NO WAY constitutes a challenge to anybody, because I am a scared baby.

kinda considered bad form to pown this hard on your first thunderdome

SkaAndScreenplays
Dec 11, 2013


Placeholder For Latepost - Hospital Blocks S/A & Can't Grab Googledoc From Phone For Some Reason

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Adventure Awaits!


Fun Shoe




also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryAO8Zmv4ag

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Broenheim, I'm calling you out.

Despite how much I might have enjoyed the classics you sent me such as I Really Like Slop! and w/e that Minecraft novel was... I can't just let this terrible affront to my honor from my Secret Santa, of all people, to just stand.

So back up your loving words. Really, this should be simple for you. Right?

You. Me. And a

(tho i think you're still in a brawl that's due today, so you should finish that first or w/e)

spectres of autism
Feb 12, 2011

~it's like people say we're all gonna die
but me it's different i'm not trying to be alive~




promptless story

Lucida

some amount of words

Bart heard the tuneful bleeps of Tone Preset 117c and his arm instinctively grabbed his Communicra and rocketed out to the side. He could see Gregory's face onscreen, though his boss looked like some kind of weird ultraviolet monster from the way Lucida's light hit it at the sharp angle.

Gregory was too close when he was breathing down Bart's neck on Terralax, and he was too close even a dozen systems away.

Video messaging has been turned off on Bart's end, so that Gregory can't tell how far away Bart is holding the Communicra. This has been accepted as a quirk that spices up Bart's monochromatically perfect work record.

"Morning, Bart," Gregory said. "How's employee morale out there?"

"The Lucideans," Bart said, emphasizing the genus name, "don't feel anything. They're bred that way."

"Right," Gregory said. "You know, it's amazing how good our communications technology is. I can hear you clear as day even though I'm all the way at Resources."

"The Lucideans know their circuits," Bart said. The siamese Lucidean sun was cresting over the top of Facility Alpha, hitting the glaze in his eyes with scarlet and indigo rays.

What Bart said next he wasn't sure if he hallucinated. Maybe his real question was more routine, possibly even work-related.

"Gregory," Bart said, "is it true that time loops infinitely, so that we experience the same things again and again, bored beyond belief without understanding why?"

"That's right, Bart," Gregory said, and Bart cut the connection. He wound up and hurled the Communicra into the milky Lucidean air. Maybe, he thought, it'll break the bond of the gravity here, which isn't particularly strong. He pictured it floating through space, hitting the sun and disintegrating, or getting completely frozen in the null temperatures, maybe grazing a comet and exploding into tiny fragments.

But as he watched the repulsor jets activated and the Communicra began to glide back, and he could hear Tone Preset 117c, quiet at first but steadily getting louder.

spectres of autism fucked around with this message at Jan 18, 2016 around 23:20

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


C7ty1 posted:

Broenheim, I'm calling you out.

Despite how much I might have enjoyed the classics you sent me such as I Really Like Slop! and w/e that Minecraft novel was... I can't just let this terrible affront to my honor from my Secret Santa, of all people, to just stand.

So back up your loving words. Really, this should be simple for you. Right?

You. Me. And a

(tho i think you're still in a brawl that's due today, so you should finish that first or w/e)

let's go

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

C7ty1 posted:

Broenheim, I'm calling you out.

You. Me. And a




Since you both toxxed, I'll judge this one, mostly because I want to see both of you banned after neither of you submit because you're little cowardly babies.

C7tyheim Brawl



You know how soccer players always pretend they're hurt and they fall down and roll around on the ground and fake cry? I wonder what life would be like if that attitude worked in other contexts. You have 750 words to show me that happening. In your story at least 1 person believes the malingerer, and at least 1 person does not.

Due: Tuesday Jan 26, 8pm EST, so i can judge it that night after i get home

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER



WEEK 180 RESULTS

So, this was a mixed bag of a week. Turns out, maybe the concept of “confusion” might not be the best starting point for a story. Some of you made it work, and some of you were lost forever in the grey foggy labyrinth of your own story, doomed to be consumed by obscurity.

Judging was insanely fast, as we were all fairly quick to agree which stories stood out…for better or for worse.

Our first two undisputed Honorable Mentions went to Entenzahn and crabrock, for writing emotionally moving stories, one with a more physical maze, one with a more metaphorical maze, but both were memorably detailed, human, and emotionally moving. Thanks, guys, you helped pull this week out of the gutter.

Another headjudge fiat Honorable Mention goes to docbeard for writing the most genuinely enjoyable story this week, with characters that were some of the most likable and interesting out of all the stories we read. Conversely, the non-headjudges submitted Panthotenate’s story as another fiat Honorable Mention, and I ultimately agreed—the story was technically polished and captivating even though relatively low-key. Congrats, you both earned your high honors.

On the other side of the week, Dishonorable Mentions go to both WeLandedOnTheMoon and Ceighk, one for writing an all-but-incomprehensible story about a pregnant woman trapped by smoke and clunkers and talking unborn babies that was a mess to read, and one for writing a Myspace entry that took forever to get to the loving point.

Our Loss this week is Julias. If you read even a bit of this story, you’ll know why. The judges had a lot of fun laughing at it. We were not laughing with it.

And that just leaves the Win, which goes to a story that is very polished, very detailed, and is one of the most resonant and softly heartbreaking things I’ve ever read in the ‘Dome.

God Over Djinn, take a seat on the throne. You’ve absolutely earned it.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



What is this nonsense, no justice for docbeard

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


.

God Over Djinn fucked around with this message at Feb 1, 2016 around 05:57

newtestleper
Oct 30, 2003


In, with CRICKET.

HellishWhiskers
Mar 29, 2012

She was an awkward girl


In, flash rule me Bro.

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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Bring the pain.

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