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flerp
Feb 25, 2014


Quidnose posted:

Can a prompt be given to me? I thought a prompt was gonna be given to me. I can generate until I like one, but, someone give me one.

SEE WHAT WENT DOWN WHEN WE WERE IN A COMA FOR PASSOVER IN BORNEO

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Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

THUNDERDOME LOSER

The Brothers Natalya (1300 words)

Sergei looked up from his work and saw Dmitry running across the field, his phone held out in front of him like a totem. He was trying to film the sky again. Almost none of that footage ever made it into his videos, but he refused to delete any of it. Sergei’s biggest fear was that his brother would trip over and drop his phone in the mud. He didn’t know what they’d do if they didn’t have that phone.

While his brother shot videos, Sergei got back to work. Their father had ordered that the new fence be finished by Friday, and it would be long hours more for Sergei to get it done. Not for the first time, he thought about asking his little brother to help, but what could the boy do? He had woman’s hands, the other farmers used to say. He had been ill when he was a baby, which made his limbs thin and brittle, but on top of that he was just useless with any kind of practical work. No, better to let him do his films. Their followers would be expecting a new upload.

Later, as the sun sank, the boys trudged home through the muddy field. Sergei made the fire and started cooking dinner, while Dmitry chopped the vegetables.

“Computer?” he said once he was done.

Sergei shook his head. “You know not yet, little man.”

Their father came home around eight, later than usual. He must have had a good run at poker. He sniffed Sergei’s broth with a scowl on his face.

“The fence is done?” he said.

Sergei’s heart fluttered. “It’ll be done by Friday, I promise.”

“It better be.”

He ate the soup and then took his vodka to the kitchen. He wouldn’t leave there again tonight, so Sergei gave Dmitry the nod.

They had inherited their home computer from an uncle who lived in Moscow. The machine was ancient, only a few years younger than Dmitry himself. The younger boy booted it up, plugged in his phone and began downloading the day’s footage.

The brothers worked in silence, Sergei patching their clothes, Dmitry making vines. His face, framed by a pair of oversized headphones, was bathed in garish pink and green light. The screen flickered with reflections of distorted culture-fragments from distant lands. American memes and movie clips passed like ghosts across Dmitry’s rural Russian landscapes. Ironies bled into sincerities.

When he had finished the clothes, Sergei looked up and saw his brother slumped over the desk asleep. Sergei lifted him up gently. The movement accidentally pulled out the headphone jack, releasing a Yugoslavian pop song to play over the computer’s tinny in-built speakers. Sergei muted it hastily.

There was a moment of silence, then the sound of heavy boots in the hall. Their father appeared in the doorway, squinting meanly.

“What’s this?” he grunted, looking at the screen.

“Nothing,” said Sergei, kicking out the plug from the power point. When the screen died it filled the room with darkness and turned his father’s face into an unreadable silhouette. They looked at each other for a long time. Finally his father grunted and stomped back to the kitchen.

In Sergei’s arms, Dmitry breathed slow and regular.

---

The next day they were up before dawn. It was an hour’s walk to the nearest internet connection, at the squat Soviet-era public library on the edge of the village. Each library member was granted 15 minutes a day, and there was always a long queue. Sergei and Dmitry got there third in line.

To maximise their efficiency, they planned out everything they were going to post before they began. Dmitry made the videos, Sergei wrote the text. It was all bundled together into a package and uploaded to their social networks with practised fluidity.

The library computer was like a window to another world, a world of colours and concepts spiralling away into the distance. Here in the real world they were pig farmers, just like all the other pig farmers for miles around. Online, though, they were Natalya, a 19-year-old student in Moscow, who ran the popular Facebook page ‘America Video’. They were friends with other alienated young women from all over the world: New Jersey, Manchester, Jamaica, the Philippines.

Dmitry had a special talent for mimicry. When he was a baby he used to imitate the voices of the presenters on TV. It was the same for American culture. Sergei doubted that he really understood the significance of most of the images he put into his videos, but the way he assembled them made it seem like he did, even to the foreigners whose culture he was repackaging.

They got to the front of the queue and Dmitry uploaded his videos. He made dozens of them, but there were only three today that he was willing to post. Then it was Sergei’s turn and he played the role of Natalya. He chatted with a young feminist in Venezuela. He daydreamed about what it would be like if she were his girlfriend.

---

Coming home, seeing from afar that their father’s truck was in the driveway, Sergei knew at once that something was wrong. Father should not be home at this time. He should be at the bar where he always was.

Sergei told Dmitry to wait outside and crept into the house. A chill entered his spine. The computer was gone. His father emerged from the kitchen, drunk already.

“Where is it?” Sergei asked.

His father gave a cruel smirk. “I sold it.”

“It wasn’t worth anything.”

“Somebody took it off my hands.”

“Who? I’ll buy it back. Please. Dmitry needs it.”

His father lunged at him, but drew back his hand at the last second. Satisfied with Sergei’s flinch, he stumbled out to the truck and drove away, leaving deep ruts in the mud.

Sergei stared at the pale patch on the desk where the computer had been. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of six-second videos on that hard drive. Hours and hours of Dmitry’s work. Not to mention all the raw footage—of skies, trees, roads, mundane things that Dmitry somehow made beautiful. He never threw any of it away.

Sergei remembered when Dmitry’s old SD card had died. He hadn’t eaten or slept for a week, hadn’t shot any more videos for a month. And that had only been 2 or 3gb of data. When he found out about this loss, it would destroy him.

“Sergei, can I come in?”

Sergei’s mind raced through possible avenues of escape. Try to get the computer back? No, his father would never tell him where it had gone, and whoever bought it was probably already tearing it apart for scrap. There was no way out of this. As soon as Dmitry saw that empty space on the desk it would all be over.

“Sergei?”

The only way out that he could think of was if Dmitry never saw the empty space at all.

“Stay outside, little man.” He grabbed Dmitry’s phone charger, some food from the pantry, and a few other things. Then he went outside and shut the door behind him.

“We’re leaving,” he said.

“When are we coming back?”

“Never. We’re going to Moscow.”

He took Dmitry by the hand. The sky ahead was thick with grey clouds. It was an hour’s walk to the village. Two hours to the next town. To Moscow, he didn’t even know.

“We can’t,” said Dmitry. “We don’t know anybody in the city. How will we live?”

“Natalya will take care of us,” said Sergei.

And as he said it he thought he could already see, far off, that glittering world from beyond the computer screen: a single clean point of light amidst the mud and the pig poo poo and the rain. And they began to walk.

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Oh yeah just reiterating my headline was: HOW MOSCOW'S VINE IS FULL OF ABUSED PIG FARMERS

Don't know if I'd get in trouble for editing my post to add that in

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.

Sailor Viy posted:


Don't know if I'd get in trouble for editing my post to add that in

You would have, so good decision on not doing that thing.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

Don't edit your posts. Don't introduce your posts. Write good stories. Stop PMing me asking when submissions close its Sunday at midnight EST.

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

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


Hey guys how do I sign up for this? Do I just say in? If I say in am I in? Do I get a prompt then? Can I still sign up? Where is the prompt? Do I just make my own? Can I write whatever I want? Can I just write fanfic erotica? Is it okay if I submit this? Is it-- I swear I have a really good reason but I forgot to say it when I submitted. Can I still edit it in? Or does that disqualify me? And does that mean I cant win anymore? Can I disqualify myself and not lose? How do I wipe my own rear end? Do I just print out one of flerps stories and then roll it up and bend down and shovel the poo poo out my rear end in a top hat? Is it weird if this excites me? Please help Im confused


Entenzahn

---------------------------
"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
- Jack London

anime was right
Jun 27, 2008

by R. Guyovich


Entenzahn posted:

Hey guys how do I sign up for this? Do I just say in? If I say in am I in? Do I get a prompt then? Can I still sign up? Where is the prompt? Do I just make my own? Can I write whatever I want? Can I just write fanfic erotica? Is it okay if I submit this? Is it-- I swear I have a really good reason but I forgot to say it when I submitted. Can I still edit it in? Or does that disqualify me? And does that mean I cant win anymore? Can I disqualify myself and not lose? How do I wipe my own rear end? Do I just print out one of flerps stories and then roll it up and bend down and shovel the poo poo out my rear end in a top hat? Is it weird if this excites me? Please help Im confused


Entenzahn

---------------------------
"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
- Jack London

this story sucks. not a fan of this entenzahn character, totally unlikable. whats his motivation? zero agency throughout this whole piece.

9/10 story because of frog gifs. HM

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

Entenzahn posted:

Hey guys how do I sign up for this? Do I just say in? If I say in am I in? Do I get a prompt then? Can I still sign up? Where is the prompt? Do I just make my own? Can I write whatever I want? Can I just write fanfic erotica? Is it okay if I submit this? Is it-- I swear I have a really good reason but I forgot to say it when I submitted. Can I still edit it in? Or does that disqualify me? And does that mean I cant win anymore? Can I disqualify myself and not lose? How do I wipe my own rear end? Do I just print out one of flerps stories and then roll it up and bend down and shovel the poo poo out my rear end in a top hat? Is it weird if this excites me? Please help Im confused


Entenzahn

---------------------------
"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
- Jack London

don't isgn your posts

Paladinus
Jan 11, 2014



Just wanted to say thank you to some poor saps who not only read my lousy words, but read them out loud for some reason. In return, here are some words (mentioned by the very same saps) read out loud by me while sitting on the toilet.



Fart.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Paladinus posted:

Just wanted to say thank you to some poor saps who not only read my lousy words, but read them out loud for some reason. In return, here are some words (mentioned by the very same saps) read out loud by me while sitting on the toilet.



Fart.



This is great.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

Paladinus posted:

Just wanted to say thank you to some poor saps who not only read my lousy words, but read them out loud for some reason. In return, here are some words (mentioned by the very same saps) read out loud by me while sitting on the toilet.



Fart.

We you Paladinus

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGK8IC-bGnU






Next THUNDERTOME meeting is Friday, September 16th.

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Grimey Drawer

Paladinus posted:

Just wanted to say thank you to some poor saps who not only read my lousy words, but read them out loud for some reason. In return, here are some words (mentioned by the very same saps) read out loud by me while sitting on the toilet.



Fart.

Well done.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.


You are the wind beneath our space-bat wings.

Quidthulhu
Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!


flerp posted:

SEE WHAT WENT DOWN WHEN WE WERE IN A COMA FOR PASSOVER IN BORNEO

Yes, I will take this. Thank you flerp.

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011



hi trusted goons, i rewrote that one story about hardboiled ants and if someone could take a look at it itd be cool. crits here or in the gdoc and if you do ill try to do a rly good crit of anything you want. ill also be yr best friend


thnx

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.

Chili posted:

Still debating if I want in or not, so have this one for now:



Russian Goodfellas

Friendly Match 610 words

“In Soviet Russia,” said Vladimir…

“Yeah?” I said.

“It is very cold,” said Vladimir. “This time of year, I am very glad to be here instead.”

“Not the direction I thought that was going.”

“Oh?”

“Never mind.” I took a sip of my coffee. “Anything on this weekend?”

He nodded. “We’ve got inside guy on armoured van.”

“Well, all right,” I said. “I was thinking more in terms of leisure activities, but that’s interesting too.”

He shrugged. “Sorry. In Soviet Russia, we didn’t take many weekends.”

“Did they take you?”

“What?”

“Never mind.” I sipped my coffee again. “So anything you need from me?”

“Not so much on armoured van,” he said, “but we’re playing friendly football match against Tony’s boys on Saturday.”

“And you need an extra player?”

“No,” he said, “but we need referee. One who will make… right calls.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You’re not asking me to be a biased referee, are you?”

“No,” said Vladimir, “I’m asking you to… yes, I am asking you to be dishonest referee.”

I shrugged. “Well, you do tip very reasonably, and I’ve not been broken into at all this year.”

“Then it’s settled,” he said. “You will referee for us, and we will savagely beat Tony’s boys in football match. And also score more goals than them.”

~

Saturday came around, and so did I to the oval where the match was being played.

By half time, it had become clear that even with my help, it was going to be a tough ask for either team to get a win.

It was directly after time on for the second half that the armoured van drove onto the pitch.

‘Drove onto’ doesn’t really adequately describe the situation. There was an overpass that passed by the field. The armoured van came off the side of this overpass, bounced once on the turf of the field, and came to rest on its side in front of the opposite team’s goals. While Tony’s boys scattered to avoid the van, one of Vladimir’s lads dribbled the ball into the goals. I blew my whistle for a goal, and then blew it again to signal full time.

Tony came over to me. “Was that the full time whistle just now?”

“That’s right.”

“We’ve played five minutes of this half, if that.”

“I’m afraid the game has had to be called on account of damage to the pitch,” I said.

Vladimir came over at this point as well. “You gents might want to get your heads down,” he said. “Me and the lads have business with that van.”

“Right,” I said, and ran over to the change rooms, where I hid during the unpleasantness that followed. There was some shouting and some breaking windows, but I blocked them out by humming to myself and playing word games in my head until it was all over.

After the sounds had subsided, Vladimir poked his head into the change rooms. “It is done,” he said.

I nodded. “I think I’m going to go home now,” I said.

“You have to pick man of match,” said Vladimir.

“Um. Right,” I said. “How about your lad who kicked the goal? Very calm head under pressure.”

He nodded. “Nikola. Very good, I will let them know. Thank you again for refereeing.”

“I didn’t realise the football match and the van job were happening at the same time.”

“Did I not tell you?” he asked. “No matter. Is done now. See you in your shop some time this week.”

We left the change rooms, and I ignored the wreckage of the van, got in my car, and drove home.

The Unholy Ghost
Feb 19, 2011

"I can't wait to see you say it again after I come back from the military."


Headline: "We Flew to Jerusalem and Sold Moody Crystal Meth for Shits and Giggles"
Title: No-Doze
Word Count: 1499

Here, in these tunnels, we exist.

I imagine myself buried alive here, sleeping in-between sheets of rock and compact sand, dreaming of time as generations go by; fragrant clay accentuating the idea.

It only takes the thought of one such person, one accidental immortal: buried away and alive some feet away from me. I begin to shiver and squint in the darkness, wanting out.

“Christ.” Christina lights a cigarette some feet away, a lone flash and skritch of blaze in the pitch darkness. “Dare I ask what now?”

“Wait.” She holds up a hand before I can answer. “It’s ghosts, isn’t it? If a place is gonna be haunted, it’s going to be a place like this, right? If that sort of thing bothers you, I don’t know why you even agreed to this assignment…”

“I’m not afraid of ghosts.” I snap back, fumbling around in my pants pockets. “It’s more existential than that. drat phone…”

“Don’t turn your light on.” Christina growls, the flame by her mouth flicking up and done for a moment and casting a hint of her face.

“I can’t see a drat thing,” I complain, “Except your light.”

“The light of your little phone will ruin the ambience of this place.” Christina sighed. “To write the archeological article we need to get a sense of what life was like here three thousand years ago.”

“This was a water tunnel. People didn’t live here.” My hands start to tremble as I imagine a sound winding from somewhere down the corridor.

“Shhhh.” Christina dismisses caustically. “I think I hear something.”

“What?!” I tense. “You too-?”

“Shut up!” Christina demands. “There’s definitely something down this way!”

She starts plunging deeper into the tunnel, the lit tip hanging from her mouth suggesting her movement. I scurry after, growing increasingly afraid of becoming lost in the tunnels. Blindly guided by Christina’s light, I bump several times into the clammy walls and earn another spike of anxiety as I scrape desperately along.

Suddenly the light is gone, and Christina’s voice disappears with a gasp.
In another moment I am taken, and gone too.

***

It was a miracle we had even managed to sneak in there. Apparently the majority of police had been busied by some kind of festival or holiday that was happening in the ancient city. A grand religious event, a distraction.

“Cheer up.” Christina advises as we walk empty streets. “We’re lucky to have made it out with such little trouble.”

I breath in the cool night and let the empty open air wrap around me. “How did we make it out?”

“It’s a simple matter of bribery.” Christina is lighting another cigarette, to make up for the one that was knocked away from her. “The police here don’t really care if some tourists are mucking about in abandoned water tunnels… they have to arrest us in the name of the law, or in the hopes of some goodies. Today, we provided them some goodies.”

“Huhh…” I let out my breath and watch the slightest hint of mist swirling about, forming curving spirals into the atmosphere. It reminds me of the vortex of water created within an experimental vacuum, and thus I’m comforted.

After a moment of silence I decide to ask: “What are we doing now?”

“Well, we didn’t quite get the story we wanted,” Christina shrugs, “But I still have some meth left over.”

“Meth?” I wince. “Did you say meth?”

“Christ, what are you even doing here?” Christina rolls her eyes. “Yes I said meth. With what did you think I was going to bribe a couple a’ foreign police officers with?”

“Something that isn’t illegal?” My breath is starting to become ragged again. Visions of police cars swerving through twisted streets—rolling rolling coming after to arrest me—begin to dart at the edges of my sight.

“Everyone who’s seen enough poo poo enjoys some sort-of drug.” Christina chews at her cigarette. “What with the terrorism stuff here and the Things people are seeing in the tunnels…”

“Things people are seeing in the tunnels?” I repeat, my mind starting to go hazy. “What are you talking about? The tunnels, uh, we were, the article…”

“On the cover we were reporting on some new archeological findings, sure.” Christina stops and begins to dig around in her purse. “On the flip side, I’m more interested in the crypto- side of things.”

I shake my head. “I’m not in the mood for jokes. I can’t… What am I doing here?”

Christina shrugs. “I don’t know. What are you doing here? You wanted a different kind of assignment, here you are. I don’t know who was dumb enough to approve you for this sort-of thing, though.”

“And what, a different kind of assignment is looking for monsters?” I stammer angrily.

“No, this is just my thing. Sometimes I find something, sometimes I don’t. More money if I do.”

We’ve come to a stop in a quiet part of town. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else out, and there’s hardly any lights on in the windows nearby. I can already sense what’s coming out of the purse— Christina confirms it successively:

“How about some meth?”

***

“I don’t think this is meth.” I say quietly, staring into the depths of my coffee.

“What makes you say that?” Christina is reading a local newspaper across from me, her whole self (excepting her hands) hidden by the parchment.

“Well, we’re not losing our poo poo, for one.”

The newspaper shakes as Christina shrugs. “Perhaps you could say this is the ‘good stuff’.”

The door rings. I look up: two familiar-looking men have entered the American-style café, taking a seat in the booth behind Christina, and across from me. They begin talking in Hebrew, or maybe Arabic.

I sip at my coffee and pause, thinking appreciatively about the calm that’s come over us, the peace, the loss of my thoughts. The loss of my thoughts…

Christina puts down her newspaper and sighs. “Hum. Four people found dead near the caves of the old city. It’s similar to the earlier incidents that made me wanna come here.”

I opened my mouth to tell Christina to be quiet, but I realized that for once I wasn’t getting scared at all. I truly felt at peace.

“Is this a certain kind of meth?” I ask, looking back into my coffee.

“Oh ho, the fledgling likes it!” I can feel Christina’s grin beaming into my bent forehead. “I knew you’d like it. Didn’t I say you’d like it? Didn’t I say you’d feel better?”

“I didn’t say I liked it.” I reply, almost irritably.

“You clearly like it.” Christina schmoozes. “You’ve haven’t shaken for the last twenty minutes— that’s the longest since we got off the plane.”

I try to be angry, but I can’t.

“This is a special kind of meth.” Christina whispers in a sultry voice, pushing her finished tea cup to the side of the table. “It cuts you away, shaves you down to your most inherent nature. It removes all of you except for what you are.”

I rub my temple and think about my recent behavior. “Except for what I am. Then what am I?”

“You seem to be…” Christina pauses in faux-thought, “Boring.”

She cackles as someone walks by and takes her cup away. I don’t appreciate the non-joke and so I drink more of my coffee, thinking vaguely of biscotti.

Behind Christina only one man is sitting. Subconsciously I watch him finish his drink, place something in it, and loop past our table, leaving it on our table. Before I can speak the man is looping around and going out the door, following after his companion who had already left.

The cup is full of money.

“Why did you just sell meth to some random people?” I ask flatly.

“Oh-ho! Your mind is cleared up too, huh?” Christina smirks. “I sold for the same reason I do everything: for fun and money.”

More questions come to my mind: When did you arrange this? Where did you get the meth anyway? But I decide they don’t matter. Or, at least, my true nature does.

I lower my head to the table and think of the tunnels. I think of the dreams they’ll inspire in the future, the nightmares I’m sure to have when I’m back to my normal, disastrous self. A dream of the afterlife, of being chased in the dark.

“Do you think we’re dead?”

Christina rolls her eyes. “If we’re dead, why does this feel exactly like being alive?”

I bite my tongue and feel a dulled sense of pain.

Christina rubs her chin and starts to philosophize mockingly. “If death is the same as life… then death would no longer be death, would it? The whole point of death is to be the end of life. A ceasing of movement.”

Wishing I was sober again, I look at the fingers of my right hand and imagine tunnels.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Because gently caress You, That's Why (1433 words)

Prompt: Meet the Taoist Steel Workers Who Are Putting Soft Grunge Back on the Map.
Flash Rule: Your protagonist wants to be the lead singer, but he can't sing.
Flash Rule: There must be a limerick in your story.

---------------

"The Sultan. The Sultan! The Sultan's coming to town!"

Miriam had had just about all she could take of the stupid "festival".

"Don't fault him, exalt him! Let's bask in his renown!"

She was just trying to get to the market to buy some produce. She'd hoped to wait it out, but the celebrations had been going strong for over a week.

"Praise him. Upraise him! Do naught to make him frown!"

If those sweaty bastards got any closer she was going to have an aneurysm. Then they'd likely trample her without even realizing--

"Implore him, adore him! Make sure to--"

"SHUT the EVERLIVING gently caress UP!"

The revelers stopped in unison. Some froze mid-stride from the force of her blasphemy. All eyes faced Miriam, though only the closest could see her.

"Don't you people have anything better to do than dance and praise some distant idol? How do you put food on the table if all you do is sing? Have any of you even seen this Sultan you waste your lives for?"

There was a moment of silence. Tendrils of ice sashayed down her spine. The crowd hadn't so much as blinked during her outburst. Miriam turned to find them parted like the Red Sea.

Standing amidst them was a single man; a man of such concentrated intensity that all the details of Miriam's surroundings swirled away into nothingness.

"Perhaps they have not. But you have."

Oh, poo poo.

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean it! I was just so fed up with all the noise that--"

"Tut, tut." the Sultan said as he put his finger gently to her lips. The last guy who'd tried that had gotten a black eye, but Miriam found herself as immobile as her surroundings.

"I don't normally meddle," he continued, "but given the severity of your transgression, I feel I must."

Miriam quailed.

"It is my decree that henceforth, you shall be the leader of all musical celebrations in this town."

No. No! Miriam's eyes widened, and the spell was broken. She wheeled about and sprinted as fast as she could, weaving through the crowd of cardboard cut-outs, mindless as to where she was going. Away. That was her only guidance.

---

It had been hours since the irrational fear had subsided. Miriam was in a strange part of the sultanate, one she hadn't known existed. The huts were no longer clay, but some well-worn metal that did nothing to convey opulence. Most appeared abandoned, and many were obviously unfinished.

Miriam hurt all over and could hardly breathe for thirst, but she knew she couldn't go back. At least not until the fervor died down. After all, who was she that the Sultan should take notice? She was a nobody. He didn't even know her name. In a day or two this would all blow over; she just needed to lay low until then.

One particular building pulsated hypnotically. Miriam approached it like a moth drawn to a flame, but was interrupted by the bellow of the most reverberant whistle she had ever heard. The door crept open, and behind it stood three identical monks. They did not seem surprised to find a bedraggled stranger in their demesne.

"Blessed be the traveler, for his privations repel stagnation," one said. "Even a god requires respite," said another. "Every man deserves shelter," concluded the third.

Something about their demeanor drained the last vestiges of adrenaline from Miriam's system. She did not remember passing out.

---

Miriam awoke with a start and jerked upright. Mistake! her body protested. More delicately, she lifted a nearby pitcher of water and drank until her stomach ached. Then she surveyed her surroundings.

The room she was in was made of metal. The walls were metal, the floor was metal, even the bed was (painfully) metal. She hadn't seen this much metal in her entire life.

Groaning, she pushed herself upright and left the room in search of her new hosts. The air throbbed with a steady thumping, occasionally undercut by something she could not make out.

She traced the sounds to their source and found the monks, industriously pounding away at molten iron. That explained the thumping, but not the other noise.

The monk with the hammer set the stage. "Pump the bellows, spin the wheel. Turn that iron into steel!"

You have got to be kidding me.

Another joined in. "Shape your future with your hand, at Commissioner's command!"

Seriously?

"Work the body, work the mind. The reward is the work you'll find," the third concluded.

Miriam swallowed her first response. "What are you doing?" she asked.

The men wiped their brows and turned to face her in disconcerting unison.

"Let not your vision exceed your eyes," spoke the first. "The only worthy effort is the one which engages all senses," said the second. "The bat screeches because it must, but the bird salutes the dawn with glee," finished the third. drat they're weird.

"O-kay. Is it all right if I stay here a few more days? You said I could."

One said, "What is sought is not always found." Then another, "A plant cannot grow without sunlight." And the third, "The free exchange of gifts leaves all parties enriched."

Did they have to talk in proverbs?

"So you're saying I should help out to earn my keep?"

"The light of wisdom penetrates even the darkest corners." Hey! "What's congenial to the quail is congenial to the covey." "A single drop is harmless, but the mighty ocean erodes mountains."

"I think I've got it. Just tell me what to do and I'll try my best."

The monks turned back to their refinery as though she hadn't spoken. One monk began rhythmically pounding slag while another pumped the bellows in harmony. The third scraped around melodically with tongs.

One of the monks began to sing. "Every piece can sense its part. Combine them into works of..."

All three looked at her while they hammered out another measure. "Art," a different one chimed in at the last second.

Miriam's jaw dropped. This was what they wanted?

A different monk picked up the mantle. "Let us work in har-mo-ny. Surely four is more than..."

Another measure passed and the monks began to scowl. "Three," the third one finished.

Fine, drat it! If this was what these freakshows wanted then Miriam was going to give it to them.

With a note of warning in his voice, the third monk opened, "Everyone deserves a chance--"

"So shut your mouth and drop your pants!" Miriam shouted arrhythmically.

The monk with the hammer missed his mark and the one with the bellows paused. The one with the tongs narrowed his eyes.

They quickly returned to their musical machinations, but before the next measure arrived Miriam barreled forward.

"You goofy dolts are weird as balls. Where'd you get those overalls?" She managed to be both monotone and out-of-key.

The first two monks cringed while the third remained impassive. A whistle blew and they tossed their tools carelessly to the ground.

"What, why are you stopping?" Miriam teased. "Can't handle the straight truth?"

A new voice spoke behind her. "I am pleased to see you've been practicing."

Goddammit, not this clown again. Miriam turned to face the Sultan.

"You!" she pointed. "You were in on this the whole time!"

The Sultan took the accusation with pride. "All things conform to my strictures. Those that resist may cease to exist."

Great. Even this onion-headed asshat was starting to rhyme.

"Are you ready to return to town?" he asked. "The people await you."

Miriam was more than ready. "Hey, monks!" she barked. "Strike up a tune."

The monks gathered their instruments reluctantly and returned to their work. A rhythm established itself, but Miriam failed to follow it.

"There once was a Sultan of slaves,
who treated his subjects like knaves.
If he had the chance,
I'm sure he would dance
on top of their mis'rable graves."

Miriam glared as though daring the Sultan to object. The monks shook their heads in collective dismay.

The Sultan burst out laughing.

To her surprise, Miriam was not offended. His was an honest laughter, one that held no judgment nor malice. Soon she found herself smiling at the absurdity of it all.

"Does that mean you're not going to punish me?" she asked.

"Oh, no," his chuckles subsided, "you'll still have to lead the celebrations. But only you can decide if that's punishment."

Miriam thought about that for a moment then broke into a wolfish grin.

Maybe the festivals wouldn't be so bad after all.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Week 212 Submission
Headline: Find Out What Went On When We Were Undercover for 48 Hours in Ukraine

Man-Made Elements
1495 Words


There’s always a tightening in your chest when they look at your documents. When you’re backed by the good ol’ US government, the forgeries are top notch. But there’s that slight worry in the back of your mind: did they change some form, or update some protocol that Intel missed? Communication can be spotty. Someone misses a dead drop with the latest passcode and your goose is cooked. Or it’s straight up intercepted and this whole thing’s a trap.

You think, oh, they’re just bureaucrats. This is routine and they’re working the rubber stamp until quitting time. But things are different over here. There’s a sense of duty beyond obligation or a paycheck, more than saluting the flag and feeling patriotic. There’s something else. They’re always on edge, looking up at the sky as though the B-52s will zoom over the horizon at any moment to bomb them back to the stone age.

Best way to overcome it is to detach. Stay mechanical and rote, remind yourself of the hundreds of times you’ve slid through a checkpoint without incident. Just feel yourself lift out of your body and watch things unfold at a distance, like it’s on TV. Then comes the sense of relief as you snap back into your head; papers in order and you escape the steely gaze of the customs officer.

The apartments are austere; so different from the old metros like Leningrad or Moscow, where the baubles of aristocracy and the church still pepper the cityscape. The modern currency is concrete, sturdy and efficient. Brutalist boxes of black and grey.

My bunkmate is unpacking when I get to the room. “Leonid Tartarov,” he says with a thrust of his hand.

“Nikolai Amelin,” I reply as we shake. Of course, that’s a lie. “Niko.” The best way to avoid suspicion is to breed familiarity.

He shows off a new, laminate identification card. It’s the highest scientific clearance. “I just received my promotion,” he says, brimming with excitement.

“Congratulations.” I smile and pull my own from the pocket of my suitcase. It’s the same top secret clearance, but it’s been artificially aged with scuffs and a yellowing of the plastic. “We should celebrate.”

The stereotype about Russians and their vodka is essentially true. Thing is, Gorbachev’s priced it out of the common man’s pocket, so any alcohol is hard to come by. Fortunately, I’m prepared. I dump the contents of my suitcase on the bunk. Nothing special, clothes, work boots, toiletries.

The lining unzips fully from the case; it’s pillowed like an inflated raft. I nod toward the water glasses on the sink and Leonid arches an eyebrow as he brings them over. Every spy has a goodie bag. Chocolate bars and booze are the quickest ways to make friends when you don’t have feminine wiles.

A twist breaks the seal at the top of a pouch and I pour a double vodka into each glass. Leonid sniffs at his and his eyes grow wide. “Nastrovia,” he says in thanks.

“Za zadrovye,” I return. To your health. We down the shots and I pour a second round. The scientists and engineers are all from Russia, and I speak it with a light Moscow accent. It lends authority anywhere in the Union. Civilians of a certain age only speak Ukrainian here, and I know it well enough. The pogroms hit virtually all areas of the USSR, and well-educated Jews that escaped to America were recruited to teach many local dialects.

“Let’s go up to the roof,” he suggests. I sweep my glass towards the door and out he goes.

We lean against the cement balustrade looking out as the sun begins to set, arms and drinks dangling over the edge, sixteen storeys above the town. It’s curious; there’s a hammer and sickle emblem painted up here on the roof, but it’s impossible to see from the ground. A taunt for the eyes in the sky, it seems, and I’m sure Washington is watching.

“When I was a boy,” Leonid starts, “I never dreamed of anything like this. My parents farmed. Peasants, I suppose. I’d work from sun up to sun down, then study by the fire. We didn’t even have electricity.” He laughs and takes a swig. “But somehow, my talents were discovered and when I was sixteen, I was sent to Volgograd to study. Now, here I am. I’m working to light the entire nation.” He’s flush with drink and pride.

My cover story is well rehearsed. Good family from just outside Moscow, mid-level party officials, not high-ranking enough to bring attention. Was always expected to go to university and make something of myself. The obligated achiever is common here. But Leonid’s background is strikingly similar to my own. The CIA has a knack for finding the brightest minds early and plucking them in the name of democracy and national security.

He points out some landmarks. “They’ve built a pool, and the library is astounding. Basketball courts. And of course, that.” It’s impossible to miss—the Ferris wheel nearly as tall as the buildings that encircle it, golden gondolas catch the fading light. “This is home, Niko.”

The concrete monstrosities surround a community. It looks friendly from up here. These apartments are a far cry from a three-bedroom ranch with a picket fence, but families do live here. There’s room for more life than just work and sleep.

“To home,” I say and clink my glass on his. Pripyat looks different from the inside.

The morning brings even more color. The forest glows brown and green in the sunlight. Maybe I refused to see it before. The spring doesn’t care which side you’re on. Leonid and I walk around the town. He’s only been here for a few months, but he talks like he’s been here his entire life. Knows every alleyway and monument. We sit outside and eat a simple lunch under the shadow of the Ferris wheel. The entire amusement park will open in a few days. I get a sudden pang that I won’t be able to ride the wheel with Leonid. No, bury that. Deep. It’s an excuse to head back the apartments and get some rest before the shift tonight. Maybe another drink.

It’s a short ride on the shuttle bus to the plant. Leonid sits beside me quietly. I’m grateful for that. I can’t let him distract me.

Orientation is compartmentalized, but I’m exactly where I need to be: Coolant Systems. Leonid’s in Core Control. Not everyone here is as enthusiastic as Leonid. That’s exactly what I want. Exploit the boredom of routine. Tests have been going on all day, by the book. I’m just hanging back and observing. Watching people watch gauges.

Finally, it’s time. An engineer gets antsy. No problem, I’ll cover things while you relieve yourself. I sit at his console. Just a steady turn of the dial and the coolant pressure decreases. It doesn’t take much for an alarm state, the rods to be doused and then ruined.

Two days work, one twist of a knob, and I’ve set the Russian nuclear program back a year or more. Maybe take all four reactors offline while they figure out what happened. Halt new construction.

Klaxons blare. Leonid is on the intercom, “This is Core Control, we’ve lost coolant pressure. Bring it up immediately.”

My reply is terse. “Systems malfunction. Initiate emergency shutdown.”

“Inserting control rods. Get coolant online now!”

The needles on my panel redline. I open all the coolant valves. But it’s too late.

The core rages out of control.

I scream into the intercom, “Evacuate. Evacuate. Core temperature critical.” Before I can repeat the command, an explosion shakes the facility.

Steam erupts from pipes all around. A panicked runner is vaporised. Geiger counters click so fast it’s one long tone, cicadas heralding the plague.

The intercom crackles. “Coolant, respond.”

“Leonid,” I shout, “You have to get out.”

“Niko?”

“This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

There’s nothing I can do but run. There are a few people lying outside. I feel sick. More explosions as I collapse, a geyser of flame shoots high in the sky.

Leonid finally emerges from the building. His ID badge is a blackened lump fused to his shirt. I can see his skin blistering. He drops down beside me. He sobs, but he’s unable to form tears. “I did everything I could, Niko.”

I can barely turn my head. “My name’s Daniel. Nearly yours backwards. We’re opposites.”

“What?”

“Nevermind. I’m sorry, Leo. You never got a chance to ride the Ferris wheel.”

“Niko. . . .” It’s the last thing he says.

We lay there, the two of us. Leo closes his eyes, and it’s my fault. One last look at Leo’s face. He’s almost unrecognizable, but I see him in there. I hear his ragged breath. I die a Russian. Deniability stateside. The headlines will blame Leo. My civic duty done, my comrade betrayed. The forest around us glows red and amber.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER



WEEK 203 [TEEN MYSTERY WEEK] CRITS



Candybrain

You have this thing you do in a lot of your stories where what you show the reader is only the tip of the iceberg that is this foreign environment, and in this story it’s a lot more palatable because you’re working with terms and tools that the average reader can still understand—there aren’t any proper nouns or story-specific verbs or things that would need a thousand more words to explain. It’s about a boy in this Brave New World-like society where he’s (I’m assuming) having his thoughts and actions monitored and altered by whatever’s been implanted in the back of his neck. The freak football tackle damages the implant enough to jar him loose from being controlled for roughly a day, where he plans to escape his situation before having his antenna fixed overnight by someone else, presumably his “mother”. This HMed on the strength of the concept and sentence-level competency alone, because it’s not really a satisfying story—there’s a glimmer of agency and then it just dies at the end with no fanfare. It was believable enough, and the narrator was likeable enough, but it could’ve used more of an actual arc, or a murkier ending.

Rocket’s Mine

This was funny enough, I guess. It just sort of meanders and rambles along, even after the joke is explained, until it ends. The dialogue is stilted and really un-childlike, but I guess that’s intentional. I had fun reading this, and it was enough of a story that it had no danger of losing, but it wasn’t anything to write home about.

The Secret of Trevor’s Hollow (An Ellen Hunt Mystery)

This was fine. I appreciated that you really tried to represent the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew style. The drawback in trying to fit one of those novels into a 2000-word confine is that the mystery has to be oversimplified, especially in regards to the ending, where the main Bad Guy reveals his plan to Ellen’s live-streaming smartphone (which is still presumably in her pocket?) (and also can tell the stream audience where she’s located?). They find one clue, and then the mystery’s solved, so it’s more like Encyclopedia Brown than anything else. The kids seemed characterized and charming enough, though. Another note, I’d have started the story with the box being opened and the “fossil carnage”—that could’ve given you more room to flesh other things out.

Family Fabric

This fit the prompt in a more lateral sense, but I liked it because it was genuinely heartwarming, and ultimately it might have been a smarter move to go with a less literal mystery. It gets a bit overly sappy and telling at some points, like in the last paragraph, and there were parts where you could have played around with the setting, made it from the perspective of Michael, like a Calvin-and-Hobbes sort of thing, or you could’ve gone the other way and added a third character, a friend of Verde’s in order to give the story some real-life contrast. I liked the way this played out, though.

Dreams High Up Above

Would this have escaped the loss in a larger week? Probably, but looking at it again, there’s still no there here. It’s a very airy and wispy story that spends all six hundred words looking for substance. There’s this conflict of Sabien wanting to be a pilot, then the distress of knowing that he’s never going to become a pilot, then the acceptance of…just wanting to be a cloud? It’s something that seems like it works better as a metaphor than as an actual story, because while I legitimately am intrigued by the main character and the way he sees the world, he never does anything more than just sit there and think. All his adversaries are in his head, and they’re easily dealt with. I wouldn’t mind seeing Sabien in a different story, though.

Mischief In The Deep Creeps

Just like Thranguy’s was the only story to attempt the Hardy Boys route, this was the only story to attempt to go full Pulp. Ultimately, it read more like the opening scene to a movie rather than a full and rounded story, but I had no problem parsing the action scenes, and the characters were interesting enough even though they were sort of interchangeable. It also does the whole fantasy setting well without making itself inscrutable or inaccessible, so that was appreciated. I would read a full book with these characters and setting, but at this length the whole enterprise suffers, which was why you finished in the middle. But it still stuck out in a good way this week, even though the characters were probably the least interesting things about it.

Two Brothers and a Tiger Named Buddha

“My brother couldn’t make up his mind whether he wanted to go punk or monk” is a fantastic first line, and it immediately tells you what kind of story this is going to be. It was far and away my win choice, and the only problem I had was that I wanted it to be longer—not simply because I liked but because there could’ve been a stronger conflict. The brother making a deal with Tan for his reincarnated soul was a nice little lurching moment, but other than that, the tiger’s not a huge hurdle, nor Tan, nor Maung. It’s a sleepy sort of story, like a Sunday afternoon, but I kept feeling it was missing an extra sort of grit that would make it better. Like the tiger’s owner finding them, for instance. Or the floods actually happening. As it is now, it’s closer to a character piece than a story, but it won anyway because the characters are really well-written. If you made this into a longer piece, I would read it in a heartbeat.

Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at Aug 28, 2016 around 21:26

Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

Headline: We executed Daniel Radcliffe and Live-Tweeted about it

Purely Coincidental (1498 words)
Daniel Radcliffe was eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes by the kitchen window when it burst in around him. A rock, fist-sized and jagged, slammed into his shoulder blade.

"Holy poo poo! -it! -it!" came an echo from the dark. The trees rustled and chirped, releasing a flock of witnesses into the night sky.

"Shut the hell up!" Em said. Not with words, but with a sudden turn of his head, furrowing of his brow, and strained clasping of his hands around his invisible tits, as Daniel Radcliffe’s bowl was launched across the countertop and out of sight, presumably joining the chorus of brittle fragments shattering against porcelain.

"Sorry," Janice whispered, "but, Jesus! Is he okay?"

The plan had gotten off to a shaky start, but her main goal of Getting Paid was still well within reach, so long as Arg had not just brained Daniel Radcliffe with a lump of granite. Over Em’s shoulder, she could see Arg stumble, his outstretched arm relaxing and dropping to his waist, face wearing an expression she could not quite place. Had Em been looking, he would have described it as one of the finest smizes he had ever seen. Janice did not know what a smize was. She may have worked it out, had she been paying closer attention, but she was briefly distracted with the notion as to how much a set of as-new lockpicks could fetch on eBay.

Em looked back as Daniel Radcliffe slumped to the floor. He was supposed to be asleep. That was the plan. He would disappear quietly from his home in the middle of the night, and re-appear a few days later, like magic. But as the show started, as the house lights came down and a surprise showing of Harry Potter and the Nocturnal Lactic Treat lit up the screen, Arg decided that night’s performance was going to be a little more improvisational. Em was cool with that. Job like this is supposed to bring a certain level of infamy, no point letting piddling poo poo like "subtlety" and "not murdering the target with a half-brick" work against that.

As the trio approached what remained of the window, Daniel Radcliffe popped back to his feet. Hunched over, arms covering his head, he made a break for the door. Janice thought she saw Arg reach for something by his hip.

The last things Daniel Radcliffe remembered were the feelings of milk and wet corn against his bare feet, a squeak, a thud, and then darkness.

---

"I told you, we are not doing an ISIS. Wh—" Janice covered her mouth and spluttered, "Why would we do that?" The atmosphere of the warehouse was made up mostly of concrete dust and the scent of damp carpet remnants. The walls were cracked and pitted, and the floor was littered with discarded pieces of chipboard and rusted nails. A spotlight hung from the rafters, gently swaying back and forth. Sitting underneath it, debris cleared from nearby, was the STEFAN she had bought from IKEA. It was affordable, functional and, most importantly, had a variety of Daniel Radcliffe’s limbs duct taped to it.

"Tellin’ ya girl, get a camera, fire our demands up on YouTube. poo poo’ll go viral in like a second." Daniel Radcliffe’s eyelids flickered. He was starting to come to. "Man, gently caress it, I’m gonna ask, uh..." Em looked blankly around the circle of light in the middle of the room. "Where the hell did Arg go?"

"He said he was going to grab a few things from the van."

Arg was in the back of the van, kneeling on the rough, wooden floor, and surrounded by clumps of his own hair. The interior lights bounced off the nicks and scratches that marked the top of his head, as he pulled up an eyebrow with one hand, and gingerly scratched at it with a disposable razor.

"Mrph!" Daniel Radcliffe was awake. "MRRRPH!" he said, louder, accompanied by an emphatic shoulder gesture which hurt more than he anticipated.

"Oh, right, this guy. Find out what he wants, I’m gonna see Arg." Em disappeared into the dark of the warehouse, and Janice relaxed a little. Maybe with the kid out pestering Arg with frivolous nonsense, she could actually think for a minute.

"MRRR-ERRPH!" repeated Daniel Radcliffe. Janice pulled the tape from his mouth.

Arg ran his palms along the bumps and contours of his skull, over his eyes, and down the ridges of his jaw. His head was smooth, hairless, the transformation almost complete. He picked up the knife and drew the steel against the bottom of his nose. On the blade, two dull circles expanded and contracted beneath his nostrils. It was time. The Dark Lord would rise once more.

"Rupert’s going to kill me, you know that, right?"

"Who?"

"Rupert."

"Who the hell is Ru—"

One loud pop. Rustling. Chirping. Witnesses.

Click-clack.

Janice winced, her heart aching from the Maserati-shaped hole developing in it. She thought about calling it quits right there. Leave him to his miserable fate and make a run for it. But there was only one door and, were those footsteps?

Click-clack.

Definitely. Footsteps. She doubted whoever fired that shot would just watch as she fled into the night and, if not out, where else was there to go? She paced around the glowing island, not daring to venture into the gloom, searching for the most solid piece of board, with the longest, rustiest nails in it.

Click-clack.

Arg was here, probing the light with the barrel of his gun, before creeping in himself. He was draped in a black cloak, fashioned from what appeared to be a king size bedsheet with a hole cut in it. It dragged limply along the ground behind him, collecting the garbage strewn across the room into a neat pile beneath. Resting on his head was a scuffed hat, conical, with a wide circular brim, and covered in silver tinfoil stars. His eyebrows were missing, and a bread knife was embedded behind his nose, just beneath his eyes, with dark smears running across its length.

"MINNER PO—" He coughed and spat to the side. "PONNER." Arg spoke with the cadence and articulation of an upper-class goose being waterboarded. "FAA-NA-NEE, WE MEE A-HMM". He lowered the gun to point at the seated Daniel Radcliffe. Janice slipped between the two. After the days of planning to get here, and the grave disappointment of seeing that plan go to hell in a complete travesty of an evening, she was not going to watch her payday take a bullet to the skull. She demanded more. She demanded that, at the very, very least, she would get that bullet first.

"OH HO!" Arg's cheeks pushed up against the spine of the knife. "WA HA WEE HEAH?" His inflection suggested he was angling for some spirited banter, but Janice said nothing. This was a stalling tactic, partly. Mostly, she had no idea what could be said. Instead, she glanced down at her salvaged nail bat. No way to get close enough from here for a solid swing. Maybe a decent throw? She raised the bat to her shoulders. He frowned, and raised the gun to her head.

For a moment, they froze, silent, but for the hum of the fluorescent light overhead, sailing in a pocket of light through an ocean of darkness. Three people in a snowglobe.

Then, a fourth burst through the glass. Their blood-soaked hand emerged from over Arg's shoulder, wrapped its fingers around the hilt of the knife, and pulled. There was a wet, hollow crack, as his nose detached and flew through the air, spinning, sending thick, red globules flying into the dark.

Arg fell to the ground. Behind him, Em, bloodied knife in one hand and clutching his stomach with the other, quickly followed, plunging the knife into Arg's back as he fell. Janice ran to them, taking care to avoid stepping on anyone's nose. Em's shirt was covered in blood, pouring from a bullet wound from his gut. He was not going to make it.

Her hands hovered over Em, fluttering back and forth between his wound and his face. "Sorry, I can't— There's nothing I—"

He caught her hands mid-air. "Nah, girl, don't worry. This is my story. See this mess, right here? This is how I get mine. Going viral." He wheezed out a light chuckle. "You see him?" he said, nodding to the man taped to the chair. "That's how you get yours."

Moments passed. Em passed. Janice stared at Daniel Radcliffe, the last dregs of this disaster, looking back down at her. But it wasn't all for naught, not yet. There was still a chance. Still some way she could make this work.

He saw her eyes harden.

"No, please I— HELP! HEEEEELP!"

She scooped the gun from Arg's hand, put the tape back over Daniel Radcliffe's mouth, and started dragging at the back of the STEFAN.

Janice was going to do an ISIS.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


Gam Zu l'Tovah
1246 words

“We can’t just leave,” Ibrahim said. “This is our home. Not Britain, not France. And not Israel.”
“Khartoum. Sudan. They're just places,” Lina, his wife, said. “And it isn’t safe for us here any more. You know the stories of life under the Mahdi’s rule. Forced into Islam, practising our faith in the shadows. My grandfather was even forced to take a second wife.”
“If it comes to that, dear wife, I will run in any direction you want.”

They walked down the street past the many different shops of their small community. Textile shops, food outlets, Maurice’s ‘First Class Opticians.’ Some of their children trailed behind, whom Lina told to hurry, and others ran of ahead, whom she told to slow down. She had even scolded Ibrahim when he had chased them earlier.

The community in Khartoum was small, numbering in the hundreds. But they were bound tightly to the neighbouring groups, who all came to Khartoum for the synagogue each week and for festivals. Today was the last day of Pesach. In addition to the festivities, Rabbi Elbaz had requested a meeting. Sudan had escaped from their British shackles only a few months ago. Uncertainty permeated their small community.

They arrived at the synagogue, a simple building but one that instilled pride into every member of the community. Built from their collective resources to replace the initial shack, it reminded them of their strong connections. Ibrahim and Lina entered. He saw the rabbi and the other men collected to the side. Children ran freely, between chairs and under tables. Their excitement concealed the tension among the adults. Ibrahim kissed Lina’s cheek as she peeled off to join the other wives and older girls.
“Shalom, Ibrahim,” said Rabbi Elbaz. “We can begin now.”

The rabbi told the men that they had to decide whether to stay or to leave. He invited them to speak their minds. Some spoke of their fears that they would be treated the same as the Jews in Egypt, where there was a state sponsored boycotting of Jewish businesses. Others spoke of the growing animosity against their people in Africa and the Middle East ever since the West established Israel as a state. That they were no longer welcome in countries where they were once integral members of society. They pointed to the fact that the only civil servant left among them was Ibrahim. The rest had been forced to leave their positions.
“The very reason the British trusted us is the very reason the Sudanese distrust us,” one said. “We are outsiders.”
Another spoke of the difficulty of obtaining matzah for Pesach. The Sudanese dock workers wouldn’t deal with the shipment because they had a large Magen David on them. The Magen David meant Jewish, Jewish mean Israel. So they had left them.
“Ah, but that was easy to rectify,” said Rabbi Elbaz. “I just went and removed the Magen David from the crates. They were just stickers. And without them, the dock workers were happy to help me load them up.”
Ibrahim took the opportunity to convince them that they should stay. He highlighted that the issues they had faced were nothing compared to what their people had faced in the past. He was sensitive towards the men who had lost their state jobs, but focused on the support they received from their friends and family here in Khartoum and the other nearby towns like Omdurman. He spoke at length of the difficulty of reaching Israel or Britain. Of having to leave their property, their businesses, and their Sudanese friends behind. Because they were also still part of a wider community here with many friends outside of their religion.
“Whatever we decide,” he said. “To leave or to stay, we must do it together. Preserving what we have here, that is what is important.”

Rabbi Elbaz called a vote. The remain vote won by a smattering of hands. Ibrahim had done enough, but only just. Relieved, he went to join the children to enjoy what remained of Pesach.

****

Half a year had passed since their Pesach vote, and things had gotten worse for Ibrahim’s community. People refused to serve them in shops, bogus crimes were created to arrest young men, and Sudanese newspapers were full of antisemitic propaganda. Ibrahim’s Sudanese friends retreated from him. This was repeated across the whole community, so that they were more isolated now than in any recent time. But Ibrahim was still convinced they made the right choice. Despite the increasing volatility towards them, they had remained together. Yet some grumbled, and talk of leaving was often heard.

Ibrahim entered the governmental building where is office was situated, having walked thirty minutes from his home in the blistering heat. He still had his job, but he was training a young Sudanese man to replace him. He wasn’t happy with the arrangement but he was the only shohet in Sudan and their was plenty demand for meat, so he had work outside of his political commitments. Abdo was a quiet and well-mannered man. He treated Ibrahim with respect despite the current acrimonious climate. He was smart and tried to learn things properly. This all tempered Ibrahim’s disgruntlement towards his early retirement.

“Morning, boss,” Abdo said.
“Morning.”
“Have you heard the news?”
Ibrahim shook his head and sat down at his desk.
“Last night Israel shot down an Egyptian plane.”
Ibrahim sank further into his chair. He feared he knew what this would mean. But there was always hope that it wouldn’t develop into a full-blown conflict.

At 1500 that day, Israeli Air Force P-51 Mustangs attacked multiple Egyptian position in the Sinai Peninsula. The ground invasion began when Battalion 890 of the Paratroop Brigade were dropped near the Mitla Pass. Ibrahim’s hope had dissipated.

Ibrahim rushed home that evening. On his way he saw the Abboudi family frantically collecting their belongings. He had expected the rabbi to call a meeting tonight for them to discuss leaving. He knew he would not convince them this time. He was no longer convinced himself. He had resolved himself for this eventuality. But he had never imagined that anyone would think of leaving so soon. He called out to Shalom Abboudi, imploring him to wait. Shalom pointed to his eldest son, who turned to face Ibrahim. His right eye was swollen shut and crusty blood covered the majority of his face.
“Already they’ve turned to violence,” Shalom cried. “We should have left at Pesach.”
“I’m so sorry,” Ibrahim said. “I understand your pain. But we should all go together, can you not wait a little longer? We can leave within days. Together.”
“No point in waiting. We’re going to Israel.”
“I’m sure most of us would choose Israel, if we must leave. Why can’t you wait?”
“We've discussed it already, while you were working for them. The same thing happened to David’s son. So the Annis are going to Britain, and so are the Tammans,” Shalom continued. “The Ashkenazis are going to France, they have family there. We can’t stay here any longer. We won’t.”

Ibrahim arrived back at his home. He found that his family had not suffered due the swift increase in antisemitism. Relieved, he sat down at the kitchen table. Lina sat across from him.

“We have to leave,” she said.

Ibrahim knew she was right but he couldn't utter a word. He stared out of the window. Out across the only land he knew.





Vice Shite: Find Out What Went Down When We Were Conducting Sacrifices for Passover in Sudan

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

WHO LOVES BLOOD SODA?
KEL LOVES BLOOD SODA!


I do. I do. I do-oo.


Perennial
1453 words

Linette’s coughing started during the City of Lebanon’s Spring Garden Tour. Not thin, dainty things but rough, phlegm-filled hacks. In those early days, Jeff had looked around at his assembled neighbors, searching for concern in someone else’s expression. Instead, Linette would put a delicate hand to her throat before continuing to talk about seed types. Jesus, he thought, my wife coughs like a man.

Jeff said nothing, too afraid of making it real, but the coughing didn’t stop. By March, she had become perennially out of breath. She moved from the front of garden parties to the back of the crowd, usually supporting herself against a fence or tree.

He tried to voice concern, but her eyes flashed and her smile became poisonous. She would not be seen as dependent.

By April, though, Jeff’s concern blossomed into panic. He found hunched over on their back patio, amid scattered bulbs and seeds. “I’m fine. I’m fine,” she wheezed. Her breath was mucky like swamp water. “Just help... me… clean up before the neighbors arrive.”

It was only after the spring garden season ended that he convinced her to see a doctor. The man, thin with a flourish of red hair, hesitated a moment before entering their room. An x-ray poked out of the top of his manila folder. Jeff looked at his wife’s folded hands and her firmly creased lips. They both knew the words before the doctor spoke.

“I’m sorry,” the man said, “I’m afraid it’s serious.”

And with that came the deluge. The physician scheduled them an appointment with an obstetrician, who brought in an oncologist. The young men, serious in a way that young men usually are, recommended aggressive treatment. Chemotherapy. Possible removal of the left lung. There would be prescriptions to fill out. Bills to pay. Children and relatives to call. They would need to act quickly, the doctors urged, before the cancer spread to multiple lymph nodes.

Jeff remained silent as his wife scanned through the growing pile of pamphlets and forms. She was cool and dispassionate. She wore a sunhat that concealed curls of white hair.

“And this treatment,” she said at every appointment, as though haggling over petunias, “what affect will it have on my mobility? I’m afraid I have a very busy schedule.”

Linette listened to the answers, spoken in dour and consoling voices. She nodded politely, thanked the doctors for their time, and promised to make follow-up appointments. As they drove away, she would fold the pamphlets and prescriptions into triangles and toss them out the window. Jeff said nothing.

In the rearview mirror, the discarded papers looked like flower petals.

***

Life continued as though uninterrupted. Linette confirmed that she would participate in Lebanon’s Summer Garden Tour, joking with the committee organizer about the price of honeywort and sweetpeas. Linette had kept her garden in the committee’s rotation for twelve years, a distinction that did not go unnoticed among Lebanon’s seed-obsessed nouveau riche. “This year will be lucky number thirteen,” she laughed one night over dinner.

Their guests laughed as Jeff made a half-hearted grunt. Linette had started buying painkillers from the CVS two towns over. He had driven her during these excursions and had become complicit in her denial. When people asked how his wife was doing, he shrugged.

Looks were important and Linette knew how to impress.

***

The garden was dazzling menace, creeping along their back fence and overflowing onto the house. In the spring, she had scattered yellow and red orchids across the garden. Now, she tore through the earth and impregnated it with dahlias. Hours passed with mud and dirt caked to her. Then, for just as long, she locked herself in the bathroom, preparing herself to play hostess.

Two weeks after the first flurry of appointments, she was tending to the campions.

“Jeff – the mulch!” She called, adjusting her gloves as she spoke. They were loose. She had stopped wearing rings because they kept slipping off her fingers.

He grunted acknowledgement and waddled to get the wheelbarrow. Dark, earthy smells wafted through the air. A pitchfork jutted out awkwardly from the pile.

“Thank you, Jeff.” She rubbed her gloved hands against her planter’s apron and surveyed her dominion, tallying up which areas needed most attention. “That’s all.”

He looked over his wife again. He had ignored the hospital calls, but now she was so thin. A sheet of sweat clung to her, masking the dull scent of death. She noticed him staring.

“You don’t approve of this, do you?” She said, more as a statement than a question.

Jeff said nothing, then realized he had nothing to say. They had run through life without ever having any real arguments. He had never questioned any of her decision and their disagreements had gone unsaid. Their life was pleasant, but now that pleasantness seemed somehow insufficient. They had lost something.

He grasped for words. “Please, Linette, what we’re doing isn’t normal. At least talk to me about, you know.”

She bristled at the implication. “I won’t be made weak. Not by you. Not by anyone.”

And with that, she picked up a pitchfork full of mulch. They were done.

***

Dark April rains gave way to May. Linette began hacking up blood. She tried to hide it from him, retreating into the bathroom or the garden whenever she felt a fit coming on, but Jeffrey could not help seeing the thick, red droplets scattered across their house, their bed. He moved an armchair to the back porch and watched her for hours. The garden’s garish colours imprinted themselves on the insides of his eyelids.

“It’s going to be wonderful this year,” Linette mumbled to herself. Her taut frame was stooped. People had started calling the house, expressing concern. Linette’s watery voice had become shrill when the head of the garden tour committee suggested that she skip a few of their social gatherings. “Oh, it’s going to be so beautiful this year. Mark my words, Jeffery. Mark it.”

She hobbled through the garden, stumbling over vines and discarded buckets of seed. The garden seemed wilder and more vicious than in years prior. The cedar trees stood proud around the lawn, their uncut branches waving like pikes in the breeze. Thick clumps of ivy clawed over the garden path.

He watched her stumble with a bag of fertilizer, almost toppling headfirst into a bed of tulips. He got up from his chair. Without knowing why, he suddenly felt agitated. Do something, you idiot. Stop this before it’s too late.

“Linette, for God’s sake,” he said. “You’re going to kill yourself.”

He pushed through the tangle of plants towards her place in the garden. At first, he thought she was smirking, taunting him. But as he got closer, her sharp expression softened. Her sharp gaze dulled. The dark floral pattern of her apron was grotesque and cartoony amid the hungry plant life.

Linette swayed in the breeze. Her hand searched for a support. “Jeff. I-. I need.”

Then she collapsed.

***

Jeff helped Linette into the armchair on the back porch before he came back out with the comforter. She took hold of one end, but let him swaddle the fabric around her. She bowed her head and coughed out something dark. He pretended not to notice.

“Warm enough?” He asked.

She nodded and looked across the garden with a weak, watery eyes. “Don’t water the sages this time, Jeffery. I don’t want them dying before the garden tour.”

He grabbed a pillow from inside the house. The sharp bones of her back bore into him as he pushed it behind her. After she fainted, the paramedics had picked her up off the ground like some ancient antique. At the hospital, Linette had been assigned to the same red-haired doctor. This time, the man had recommended hospice. Jeff had left with his wife and a prescription for fentanyl.

“Oh, the garden is going to look so beautiful this year,” she said, dream-like. “The women will be impressed, won’t they?”

Jeff sighed and laced the garden apron around him. The head of the garden tour committee had called, first to ask about Linette and then her garden. Jeff had assured the woman that he had no intention to cancel. Both had had the good taste to pretend Linette would be around to attend her thirteenth summer garden tour.

A swarm of flies buzzed in the muddy May sun.

“Linette,” Jeff said, looking at her one last time, “do you think we did the right thing? Do you still feel strong?”

He let the silence grow between them before turning back towards the flower beds. The garden was its own form of atonement.

Prompt: 13 Reasons Why Lebanon is the Seediest Place in the World

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning


Just got an emergency meeting call. Will not make it but may submit later in the day. ok bye

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

Archives

Thranguy fucked around with this message at Nov 4, 2016 around 03:46

Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006



Yams Fan

Prompt: Meet the Writers Behind Berlin's Version of T.O.W.I.E.

Life of the Party in Dead Berlin 1,469 words

Hans loved Kate and Kate loved that Spanish motherfucker, that pretty-boy with the poo poo-eating grin, that Pablo Fernando. God, it was so loving obvious. The way she stared at the vid-screen each time his mug swam on. The way she had a picture of him set as her iPhone 9 background. The way she said his name at every Season Fifteen writers meeting. Like it was a whispered secret. Like it was made of crystal, had to roll off her tiny lips and into the world softly, lest the precious thing might break. God, Kate’s lips were beautiful.

“It should be Pablo on all the posters.” Kate’s lips said. “He’s the viewers favourite. Ratings skyrocketed when him and and the two supermodels crashed the antigrav-bike last week. Did you see the way his hair looked, when he pulled them from the rubble?“

“Pablo goes on the posters, yes,” Herr Schmidt, the boss, said. “And Pablo is who I am thinking should have the central plot-line for Season Sixteen. I did see his hair. Nobody in Free Germany was watching anything else but his hair that night.”

Nobody in Free Germany was watching anything else except for Life of the Party in Dead Berlin because the Sino-Soviets were shelling Budapest again, and every living room in the country was weary form the on-going wartime feeds on the other channels. Pablo Fernando’s hair helped you forget that, all around Europe, Russian plasma-troopers and Chinese las-tanks tore cities to shreds. Berlin was already a ruin, from an older war, but at least it was a ruin reclaimed, firmly within Free Germany’s borders. Hans wondered what would happen when the enemy reached it again. They were bound to. Would the team evacuate the stars, save the show? Would Herr Schmidt keep the cameras rolling for as long as possible, stay true to the network’s slogan, “The Realest Reality TV?”. Hans imagined Pablo Fernando lying lifeless in a pile of rubble. Hans smiled, leaned back in his chair, took a long drag of his vaporiser. A mix of nicotine and weed swam into his lungs and took the edge off. There was always an edge to take off.

The bare-walled room where the three writers sat stank of stale sweat. Hans was doing everybody a favour with his tangy strawberry blend.

“I hate it when you do that,” Kate said. Oh, that’s why Hans did it. It gave Kate something to say to him, kept Hans on her mind, made him part of her world. And he needed to be part of her world, because Hans loved Kate, while Kate loved that loving imbecile, that straight-toothed rear end in a top hat, that Pablo Fernando.

Yes, Hans decided. Pablo Fernando needed to die.

“We fly out in two days,” Herr Schmidt said. “to the set of Life of the Party in Dead Berlin. We will be the hottest show of 2035. We shall make the season finale the best one yet! Who knows if we have a chance to make another one?”

#

“What are you thinking about, Pablo?” the gorgeous actress asked, pouting big red lips.

Pablo Fernando perched on a ruined wall, stared into the night sky, and lit a Gaulois. What do you see there, Pablo Fernando? Is it your perfect hair, reflected in the sky’s smooth mirror? Is it the folly and meaninglessness of the never-ending party on the set of Free Germany’s highest rated reality television show, Life of the Party in Dead Berlin? The sounds of the party was a distant murmur, the bass-drum of a minimalist techno track echoing through the darkness in four-four time. All around, the ruins of Alexanderplatz were vine-covered echoes of a long-ago glory. Just think, Pablo: these cobblestones once bustles with people, cars, bicycles. Life. Now there are TV cameras, a dead city, and a techno party that does not ever end. Season Fifteen’s almost over, Pablo. Perhaps it is time to move on. Yes, Europe was on fire, and here he was, shirt-collar stained with fake tan, left nostril dusted with fine Columbian cocaine.

“Pablo, I get so scared when there are such a many stars in the sky.” the gorgeous actress said, batting big eyebrows. “Will you hold me, Pablo?”

Pablo held her.

#

“We will pretend,” Herr Schmidt said, “that the Sino-Soviets have invaded Berlin. Pablo Fernando will have to make a choice that will haunt him forever! Will he save lovely Hilde or sultry Federica from what he believes to be certain death? Oh, the viewers will tremble in their seats. I have already put out the call for extras, and the Props department have shown their wonderful plasma-bomb replicas to be as fearsome as the read thing.”

“We won’t actually kill anyone, will we?” Kate asked.

“Oh, no,” Herr Schmidt said.

Oh, yes, Hans thought.

The antigrav-train sped through the Bavarian countryside. Hans vaped out the window, after had Kate had chided him for the fourth time. Her tiny glasses fell askew on her nose when she was angry. The way she flicked her cropped blonde hair when she turned to rebuke him made his heart clench. He pictured the cloud of strawberry-scented vapour morphing into letters: Hans Loves Kate.

“I don’t know, boss. Pablo is very emotionally sensitive,” Kate said. “Our psychological analysis show that…”

Kate Loves Pablo, the vapour seemed to say.

“Fräulein,” Herr Schmidt said, “do now worry. Adopt the demeanor of your worstwhile colleague, old Hans, here. It was his brilliant mind that came up with the idea to stage a fake bombing raid!”

Yes, Hans thought. Stage a bombing raid.

#

The sun set before Pablo Fernando, as if it was taking a bow, exiting the world bent at the waist with eyes downcast. His perfect green eyes squinted at the horizon and the world did not know what he was thinking.

“Pablo?” the beautiful singer said, pressing herself to his chest. “What will we do next season?”

“You mean,” Palbo said, after several heartbeats had passed, “what will you do?”

“Pablo?” the gorgeous actress asked, wrapping herself over his bicep. “Is something wrong?”

A gust of wind blew his hair back like a pennant. Somewhere in the distance, an 808 hi-hat sizzled into life.

“They are coming,” Pablo whispered, so quiet that the women could not hear.

Did you know, Pablo? Did you see the outlines of the Suvorov-class bombers on the horizon? Did you hear the bumblebee-buzz of their engines, the low drones of a plasma bombs being loaded? What did your green eyes see?

#

When they pulled Pablo Fernando’s body from the rubble, live on television, the camera zoomed in on his youthful face, and he seemed a sleeping prince, innocent and pure. When his eyelids fluttered open and he took in a sharp breath, the entire nation breathed with him, a collective sigh of release. There was not a dry eye in Free Germany.

#

“Everybody except for Pablo is dead. This will be difficult to explain to the network president.”

The writers, in their antigrav-copter, circled what was left of the film set. Alexanderplatz. A twice-ruined scar. Below, Hans could see the wreckage of a set of turntables, a single charred crater where the bomb struck. Beside him, Kate stared out her window, motionless. She wore black lipstick, in mourning, and large black sunglasses that she had not taken off since the news came through that, against all odds, a real plasma-bomb was mistakenly used instead of a prop.

“Pass me that vape, Hans,” Herr Schmidt said. “I would try some.”

“It’s empty, sir.” He waited for Kate to say something, but she didn’t. God, she looked even lovelier than usual.

“My friends,” Herr Schmidt said, “I will not lie. We are in trouble. I have sent out a call for actresses for the next season of Life of the Party, but no-one is willing to step up and take the role. And Pablo Fernando! Oh my — he is insisting to retire from the show and go out into the world. What we need is to find a beautiful woman—who knows him like no other—so she may seduce him, make him fall in love with her, and keep him onboard for more and more seasons!”

The copter made another pass over the ruined square.

“But where can I find such a woman?” Herr Schmidt said. “Where?”

Kate took her sunglasses off and turned to face her boss. Herr Schmidt’s mouth spread into a buttery smile. Hans went for a hit of his vape — forgetting it was empty — but even so, as he placed his lips over the mouth, Kate seized it, cracked the copter window, and hurled it — and he watched it tumble down, into the crater, and wished that he was tumbling down along with it.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



The Saddest Rhino posted:

Just got an emergency meeting call. Will not make it but may submit later in the day. ok bye

Wow, cool!!

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

I got it wrong. Look, I'm well aware I got it wrong and uh, I got it wrong.


The god squad: inside the secret society of Salt Lake City
1100 words
4 reasons Sundance is the most dangerous place on earth.


It was some real hosed up poo poo; me screaming in Sumerian while flying through the air, wielding my laptop like a club; me, the last thing standing between a 4000 year-old god and the entire population of Salt Lake City; me, a wicked-cool Vice reporter whose closest thing to demon-slaying experience was dropping a mescaline/MCAT hybrid in the backstreets of Harajuku.

Let’s back it the gently caress up, man. I was on the Sundance beat; watching cool movies from Africa and poo poo, smoking weasel dust with bicycle mormons - pretty pedestrian stuff. I’d just gotten out of this very bae French movie about incest when I ran into this San Francisco hipster type; old guy, technicolour robe, tattoos in cuneiform on his forearms, which of course I immediately recognised.

“Yo man,” I said, “you holding?”

He bowed. “I hold the secret to ultimate pleasure.”

“Oh cool, disco biscuits?” You’re never too cool to get high with a fun old dude - this is a life lesson I’ve learnt and now I tell to you, my reader. Old dudes basically invented getting high, and you should treat them with respect.

So this old dude, he just walked off, and I followed him - he seemed to be on some powerful poo poo, you know? So I followed him, then he goes into a vine-trellised alleyway and just walks clean through a loving concrete wall with a blop. That was kinda the noise he made - organic, liquid; one second he was there, then he wasn’t. Blop. So I followed, because whatever poo poo I was on was pretty amazing and I wanted to keep the good times going.

I walked through the wall with a blop - there was a holy moment of trickling cold, like praying beneath a spring of young meltwater. Then I was through, standing in a stone alcove, looking down on a circle of cool old dudes in tie-dye robes. In the middle of their circle was a burning altar made from film cameras, wine bottles, and carnival masks.

“MARDUK, MARDUK SUM EH-AH AKITU,” they sang as they danced in a circle. Marduk of course, is the ancient Sumerian god of the festival: sometimes called the Dancer on the Sun. In the earliest days of human civilization, upon the banks of the Euphrates, people would pray to Marduk by putting on plays, and celebrating by telling stories in the firelight. Marduk: the Saint of Sundance. It all made so much sense: all the loving movies made him powerful - all those stories flying around in the open air. The sunbaked Utah flatlands probably reminded him of home.

I tasted iron, and spices. The air crackled with something like electricity, but more vital - more alive. From the bonfire rose a dark figure wearing a crown of peacock feathers. The old dudes gasped, and screamed. This didn’t seem to be the dude they were expecting. It had too many teeth, and its eyes were empty. Its clothes were beautiful, but ill-fitting.

poo poo went wild. Old dudes starting popping like water balloons filled with guts.

“TIAMAT,” cried the leader of the old dudes. He leapt forward with a gold-tipped spear. Tiamat shrugged, and snapped her fingers - with a cricky-cricka-crack of snapping vertebrae, the old dude-leader’s head spun all the way around.

In less than ten seconds, every old dude was dead: their funky tie-dye ensembles stained with the many colours of the human body - reds, pinks, greys and browns. I was alone in the room with Tiamat. Her eyes glowed red. She turned to me and said “you are not worthy of death” “you are totally awesome and up with the times, and we’re gonna have a final showdown later.”

Then she vanished into a cloud of perfumed mist that stank of oranges and decay. I was about to leave, when something grabbed my ankle - it was the old dude from outside. His pale eyes rolled in little oceans of blood. One of his legs was twisted entirely the wrong way, and the other was missing. “Tiamat ha-he mus,” he said, “Tiamat utika, ha-he mus. These words will weaken her, so you can – can --”

Then he died. It sucked. Pour one out for my cool old dude. For a moment there, I was done - this was like the third craziest poo poo I’d ever seen. I took out my laptop, and found it was ruined - the screen showed jumble of coloured blocks, like somebody had covered the drat thing in magnets. I sat beside the old dude’s corpse, and I cried because I’m sensitive. My whole article was gone, and also a lot of people were dead. I know you’re not supposed to get sad when people die, because you’re cool and cynical and whatnot, but it’s easier said than done. Your humanity is always there, lurking below the surface, threatening to pierce the veil of irony.

It’s pretty loving upsetting, honestly.

I got up, then went back through the wall of blop, and arrived to a scene of carnage. A great storm wracked the sky, and ancient two-headed dragons swooped down to snap up passing tourists and critics. Out of the alleyway and into the street, Tiamat stood with her arms open wide.

“FEAST,” she cried, “FEAST, MY MINIONS. PROFANE THE FESTIVAL OF THE SUN DANCER.”

She was taller now, and glowing a faint blue. As I watched, a bolt of lightning came down and earthed itself in her chest. She smiled, and grew taller.

“Tiamat ha-he mus!” I said, “Tiamat utika, ha-he mus!”

She glared at me. She stuck out her hand, and I staggered back as a blast of wind nearly knocked me off my feet. “Tiamat ha-ha mush!” I said. No wait, gently caress. Tiamat he, uh –

gently caress it.

I held my broken laptop high, and screamed “I WORK FOR VIIIIIIIICE” as I charged. The storm raged around me, but it meant nothing - I was protected by the old dude’s magics. The sound of cheap plastic casing colliding with a god’s skull is hard to describe - like a tearing in the fabric of the real; like the best idea you’ve ever had and will never remember; like lightning that knows how little time it has left to live. Tiamat reeled back and shrieked. I hit her again, and the dragons fell from the sky. I hit her one last time, and the storm broke. There was nobody there.

I stood, surrounded by the corpses of unhip old theatre critics, and I was the coolest man on earth.

Quidthulhu
Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!


Psalm 121
Prompt: SEE WHAT WENT DOWN WHEN WE WERE IN A COMA FOR PASSOVER IN BORNEO
1286 words

Like yesterday morning, I spent most of the time between six and seven AM watching the cigarette smoke curl in tendrils on the ceiling. I had decided that surely this couldn’t be healthy for end stage lymphoma patients, but I wasn’t in a position to complain about it, and even if I had been, it gave me something to watch. The ceiling was dingy but had been repainted recently enough that nothing was peeling, so even there, there was no joy. Unless, of course, someone was smoking, and everyone was smoking in Israel nowadays.

I wondered who it was today who came to sit at me. I had ceased feigning any pretense that my visitors came to be present with me some time ago, or maybe not very long ago. In the early stages of my diagnosis Alona had sat with me and read from the Book, squeezing my hand and singing the Psalms one by one from beginning to end of both Torah and visiting hours, but those were the days in which I could sit up and piss from my zayin instead of a tube, so I told her if I Am had given up on me than I was surely giving up on I Am.

“Don’t be a fool, Gidon. God gives up on no man, even the stubborn old dying ones who spit in his face.” She pushed a finger into our worn Torah. “Omar layhwah mach’siy um tzudatiy elohay ev’ach-bo-

“’Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare,’ et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, it’s all bullshit, Alona, can’t you see.” I motioned for her to bring her cigarette to my lips since I could no longer hold my arms upright. She clucked her tongue at me but obliged, and I breathed deep from the teat of acrid death and her lipstick. “Six million Jews Hitler took; the war, countless more men. Where was their deliverance? Where was their refuge, their fortress?” I took another drag and coughed, choking and laughing bitterly at the same time. “He did not show his face then, and I will not show him mine now.”

She frowned deeply at me. “He is showing it to you now, word by word, moment by moment, Gidon. ‘There is no day that goes without the moon and no day that goes without sunrise and sunset.’”

She offered the cigarette again and I shook my head, motioning for her to take it away. “I hate your Marlboros. Why can’t you bring me my Pall Mals like I ask you.”

“They are not so easy to find now, with the border fighting–“

“Bah.” I shifted my back down into the bed, casting my eyes at the ceiling, watching the smoke tendrils slowly curl out the open window. “’The only solution for Palestine – elimination of Israel.’ What did we fight a war for?”

She let the Torah fall into her lap and reached for my hand, but the sharp movement of her elbow knocked the bedpan to the floor. I jolted awake, a motion I neither felt nor showed on my hollow shell. There was someone in my room and everything smelled of piss and poo poo and dirt. Where was I? The shadows from the streetlamp outside danced on the ceiling, casting long fingers like death approaching. I could smell the smoke, too, but couldn’t see it in the dark; kreteks, maybe? All the young nurses were smoking those nowadays. I felt a hand on my arm and heard the squeak of the bedpan cart; a sharp knife of light crossed my line of vision, blinded me temporarily, like the quick flash of anti-aircraft utility. I couldn’t feel my legs; I couldn’t feel my legs. Where was my gun, get up and hand me my gun, Harold, stop clutching that cross around your neck, He didn’t throw us from that plane so we could poo poo ourselves here and die in the goddamn mud like sniveling little tsoyg, did he, charge, you piece of poo poo, charge, you sons of bitches, we’ll send this island straight down Hitler’s throat and make him piss it out his rear end in a top hat, charge, charge, ammo, fire in the hole, medic, get down, there’s too much smoke, there’s so much light, holy God just one more hill, shir la-ma-alos, eso aynai el he-horim, may-ayin yovo ez-ri, ez-ri may-im adonoy, osay shoma-yim vo-oretz-

There was smoke everywhere and Arthur was desperately trying to put out the Shabbat candle. I opened the flap to the tent and stuck my head out, coughing fresh air as smoky tendrils rushed past my head. Samuel continued with the final prayer even as Arthur scrambled to find a way to keep our tent from catching flame: “Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiymanu, vhigi-anu, laz’man hazeh. Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occa-“

His prayer was cut short by the entire contents of two canteens being emptied onto our makeshift seder table. It soaked the cocoa powder and stuck it to the table, pushed the rest of the applesauce onto the dirt. Our makeshift charoset erupted up and on to Samuel’s tallit before he could scramble back in time.

I watched from the tent flap, fanning smoke towards it. “How both of you have survived this long in combat, I will never know.”

Samuel brushed at the sticky nut mixture, attempting in vain to remove it from his prayer shawl. “Perhaps we should have tried harder to find something bitter, rather than letting Yahweh bring it to us…”

Arthur picked up the soggy Torah from carnage before us. “This is certainly the most unique take I have seen on the dipping of the karpas.”

The back of the Torah was where we kept our cigarettes, and that, of course, was ruined, as was our pesach dinner, meager as it had been. Undeterred, we left the tent flap open for Elijah, who we knew would not come, and went begging to the gentiles. They pitied us because we were Jewish, but we knew they hated us because we were kikes, and we all of us were in the South Pacific so what did it matter, anyway? Gey gezunterheyt. We three were all the Jews left in our division, and we were seen as lepers by Axis and Ally alike. We had joined the War to liberate the camps, and instead we hopped from island to island, iron birds calling out for the release of death. They said we were winning.

We sat under the stars and smoked our cigarettes. We did not know when the next assault would come, but we knew it was being planned. There was always another island, always another hill to take. Our cigarettes were Marlboros, which I hated. The smoke rose into a blackness I could not fathom or comprehend. There were so many stars, like so many fallen Jews, like so many fallen men, like dingy ceiling paint aching to chip. Half asleep, or maybe half awake, I thought I felt the bedsheet on my legs, but I knew it was a phantom shimmer of a distant memory. Alona was reading the Torah, and I could feel her hand in mine. Samuel sang from the Bekol Ram: Od tir’eh, od tir’eh, kama tov yihiyeh; bashana, bashana haba’ah. My cracked voice echoed his words in my throat but did not ring, as the plane burned around me: You will yet see, you will yet see how good it will be next year. A sharp knife of light crossed my vision, blinded me. I couldn’t feel my legs. I couldn’t feel my legs.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER



WEEK 211 CRITS

That Much He Knew

Okay, so you’ve gotten a lot of extensive and valuable feedback from many other authors in the Dome and I recommend you study all of it. I just want to add my two cents on something in your story that I took issue with: “as boring as humanly possible”.
The thing is, when you’re in an arena like this, or you’re working with a lowered word count in general, you only have so many words to grab the reader’s attention and hold it there. For the first half of your story a man’s just lying in bed, being as boring as humanly possible, and why should I, not just as a judge but as a random reader, keep reading if I have no confidence in things getting more interesting or more coherent? In a way, I almost wish that the halves of the story were swapped, and we could start with the succubus scene. It wouldn’t have made the story better, but at least I’d know that you were trying to captivate the reader.
Go look online for some stories by Amy Hempel, the shorter the better, if you want to learn a lot about hooking readers with the first line and packing a lot into a small space. Or stories by Donald Barthelme, or Etgar Keret, if you want examples of concise stories that are able to use speculative elements like gods and magic that advance the story and incorporate themselves into the plot without distracting from it. Read more. Write more. Repeat.

Last Light

My main issue with this story is that a lot of the plot elements and timeframes just blended together, partly because there were no scene breaks, but also because it came off like you were trying to do way too much with a limited space. The descriptive language is on point in a lot of places, but it feels like anytime you have to address characters, whether through description or dialogue, the writing weakens. Overall, the story feels like it’s taking place in real time, where events just come and go with the same emphasis and there’s no real rise and fall of a story. It feels like a diary, which is sort of charming, but also pleasant—in the way that connotes low stakes. Not a bad effort, nonetheless.

Midnight

This was alright, the creature was well-described, and the scenes with the violence were fairly moving, but I knew where this was going as soon as we saw Dad for the first time. You write a lot of stories about kids who don’t have a lot of power and resort to magical means (or magical friends) to make up the difference, and that’s exactly how this story ended. Now I want to know what happens after, when she’s just alone in the house with a creature with sharp teeth that has already killed and eaten someone in front of her. Is flesh its favorite food now? Does she have to keep feeding it?

How Feathers Fall

This had a lot in common with Last Light—phoenixes, give-and-take of life essence, charming endings that feel sort of unearned. You were definitely more economic with your sentences, though. It felt more like a fable or a fairy tale, which definitely earned it some points, but it was missing the depth of character in the same way certain fairy tales are. Definite improvement, though.

IV

I liked a lot of things about this story—it had the realistic literary bent that I’m partial to, the pet monster was probably the most creative of the week, the character had a fair amount of dimension and agency, and all these things made it one of the better stories this week. If it had went a little further with the ending, made it seem more real or impactful instead of closer to “it was all a dream”, then this might’ve earned a positive mention. I also wished the monster had a little more of a personal connection with the narrator, rather than just being a sentient Swiss Army Knife. It was more of a tool than a companion, even though it was certainly both. Anyway—decent concept, could’ve had better execution in the second half.

Chasing That

The creature is interesting, but it’s really the only notable thing about this piece, and what does it do, exactly? Just sort of drags him into the path of these girls who are at first disgusted, and then one of them turns on a dime and finds this flying whale creature charming again. You could’ve had Moby as a German Shepherd and not much would have changed about the story, and as it is, not a whole lot happens anyway. The character changes without any sort of real decision made on his own, and there’s no resolution or inkling that anything has changed for good. The story just needs any sort of forward motion, but instead it wanders off and gets tangled in a random plot device.

Nature Abhors A Vacuum.

I would guess that this is a personally motivated story, and I can understand that, but the prompt was intended to foster stories of a human being and their creature companion who helped them combat some other antagonist. Here, your companion is literally a demon anchoring the protagonist down until they’re finally able to shake themselves free after a day of being locked together, seemingly irrevocably. It takes a day to get rid of this monster that’s been built up to be insurmountable. Even disregarding the prompt, this is a story that starts and then grinds to a halt almost immediately due to some force of the narrator’s will that we can’t see. It just seems like you got way too enamored with this vacuum concept and you let it drive the story into a ditch. The writing is good on a sentence level, but the conflict is so impersonally threatening and I don’t get to see much of the main character at all—and the main character is the one who should be in the driver’s seat.

Color In The Blind Girl’s Eyes

The other judges were more immediately drawn to this story than I was, but after re-reading it I couldn’t deny that it had something to it. The descriptions were nice, but I also felt like they were rooted in the most basic interpretations of color, hot/cold/earth/air/etc. You could’ve really just gone full Hailstones and Halibut Bones and given us much more vivid descriptions, especially in relation to the creature, but it felt like you held back. Other than that, it’s a basically charming story without much of a conflict beyond the nebulous shutting-yourself-off-from-society, which also probably hurt it in the full term, because those aren’t high stakes at all. Solid effort, nonetheless.

A Riddle: What The Best , Gets

This was okay. I didn’t hate it, even after the last line, which I honestly felt was more charming than annoyingly clever, maybe because the name thing was set up at the beginning. It felt like a lot of the action scenes blended together and maybe that was because I was waiting for the pet punctuation to take more of an active role in helping Mark fight off his enemies. Give the apostrophe a spin dash or something. Also give Mark more of a personality, because that was lacking as well, and punctuating his name didn’t add an exclamation point to his strength of character. This story was squarely in the middle for me, but it was a good week, so feel good about it.

Ig, from Beyond

I suffer with/have suffered from a lot of the same issues that were creaturified in this story, so it’s not like it was completely lost on me. You already know my feelings about this not meeting the prompt whatsoever, but beyond that, the story just seemed…inconsequential. I didn’t buy the narrator calling her crush up as this finite resolution to the story at all—one thing I know about these issues is that they’re in no way that easy to get rid of or excise completely. Maybe it was just meant to be seen as a first step, but even then, it still felt like a limp sort of ending. spectres mentioned in his crits that you spent way too much time describing the monster when anxiety is never that glamorous, and adding to that, I think it ultimately crowded out any character depth you could have shown us from the narrator—she seemed really nondescript in comparison to this demon you created to torment her, and that could’ve been another reason why I didn’t buy that it faded out so easily. Anyway, I saw what you were going for, and you executed it the way you wanted to, but I don’t think it was the right thing to try to execute in the first place, if that makes sense.

Jane Air

Yeah, you know what went wrong here as well as I do. It’s a story without a second half, or even much of a first half. You cut out at the very beginning of the rising action, when the story was supposed to start, so, yeah, not much else to say here.

Bon Voyage

I had this as my win pick, because I liked the characters and the sentences and the way the pet was incorporated and also it felt like a real pet and there was a resolution but it wasn’t too neat of a resolution and the reflection gimmick was creative and the two scenes were tight and looked jagged but were actually good at not wasting words. Like I said, there was a humanity and a messiness and an incorporation of the pet as this device that kept these two people together but at the same time wedged them further apart. The dialogue felt real and emotionally resonant, and the ending was the right mix of effective and imperfect as a solution. They found a way to deal with the 800-pound woolly mammoth in the room, finally. If I had to change something, I’d redistribute the first paragraph throughout the story and start with “My pillow smells like her”, because as good as the first paragraph is at establishing character, it feels like the second paragraph is where the story starts.

If One of Them Is Dead

I liked this. Most of the judges liked this. It’s well-written, polished and evocative. The creature and his magical power are both creative and they moved the story along efficiently. The reason it fell just short of the win for me...if I had to put my finger on it, it was probably the shift from “personal secrets” to “the age-old secret of life and death”. It was a tonal shift that didn’t quite land, but more than that, it felt like it didn’t follow the first half of the story, when something like a mere mortal secret that the narrator wished he didn’t know might have been more apropos. A lot of your stories end with the character confronting these life-or-death questions, and I understand that it’s a theme that you’re attracted to, but here—at least in my opinion—it hurt the story and added a bunch more pathos that didn’t feel earned.
Nonetheless, it was still a really good story, and you don’t need me to tell you that your skills are top-notch.

To Make An Omelet

Why an egg? Why a sentient, floating egg that heals the narrator’s leg through the power of eggitude? And why is the egg more developed as a character than Rosa? If there’s some sort of metaphor in this story that’s hidden between the lines, it still doesn’t make the story compelling. An egg heals her leg. Not much happens, the main character doesn’t have to do a whole lot or make any hard choices, it’s all a straight and smooth road. You want your omelet without breaking any eggs, but you can’t have both.

The Hunters

Pretty standard first effort, nothing abominable here. Really the most offensive thing about this story is that it builds up to this big confrontation between Arla and her thief and when she finally reaches him, he’s in pieces, and luckily Ishtar’s there to clean up the evidence. The characters were okay, but they didn’t have to do much of anything, and that’s where the story dies. I liked the device of the diary, but again, it was something interesting that went nowhere. Think about conflict, and think about resolution. What does a character want, but just as importantly, what do they have to do in order to get it?

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

Deadline is now.

anime was right
Jun 27, 2008

by R. Guyovich


since this week is closed, here is some vomit from week 200, it is called untitled anime story. i seek redemption with this first draft on my hard drive that contains 946 words. i did not proofread it:

It’s always eye magic. I backed him into the corner and he threw up his hands like it’s all over and when I swung my sword at him, there’s lasers shooting from his face and the audience scrambles out from the coliseum seating when the beams make contact and explode. I feel the dust at my shoulders and the pebbles patter down into the dirt floor arena.

He twists and spins to my right and I follow through with a swing of my sword. It rips through the side of his shirt and from the impact I’m pretty sure I’ve hit him. It’s satisfying, because eye magic users always frustrate me. You can never look ‘em dead on and get a feel for if they’re about to give up or not, plus high lineage and incestuous bloodlines and all that. He’s on his knees and he’s already thrown his hands up in defeat.

“I Carlbek of the great Lasustrous line concede to Johnny the Swordsguy.”

There are few cheers, after all, who roots for the only guy without magic who came here just to get magic so he’s not ostracized by magic users?

***

I return to my designated room. Comfy place, what with a stone bench and a fancy lookin’ bucket, real hospitable. My spare change of fighting clothes are on the floor and I look over my sword that my dead mentor gave to me. He said the sword holds a powerful secret when he died, but I’m pretty sure he was just loving with me. Dude said if I got him a new ox he’d teach me how to jump again in the air and then he laughed at me and called me a stupid weirdo.

There’s a knock on the door and an official comes in. Fancy hair, fancy jacket, plain face. He didn’t even wait for me to respond. He stands in the doorway and folds his hands in seven different ways before he speaks.

“Your next match will be against Talon Ravenous,” he says.

“He sounds stupid,” I say.

I spot someone behind the official back in the hallway. Carlbek notices my eyes and steps forward. My gut sinks because I’m pretty sure he’s gonna eye laser my face off but instead he drops his sight to the ground.

“Talon Ravenous holds a terrible secret. I want you to beat him for me.”

“Revenge? Family history? Personal grudge?”

“None. Just keep an eye on where the first one rests.”

Of course a pompous eye magic user would use cryptic hints. I raise my hand as he’s about to leave.

“Lay off the mystery. How do I kick his stupid face into his stupid butt until he’s got a double stupid butt for a face?”

“I have said too much.”

Might as well have told me he uses raven magic.

***

Of course he uses raven magic. I’ve swung my sword through him three times and he turned into a million bird shadows that flap around and reassemble as a whole in a new location. In the meanwhile I’ve swatted down at least six actual ravens that tried to claw out my eyes like they’ve got bread magic or something.

Talon turns into another bunch of shadow birds as I swing at him. They form into his general shape across the arena. I can barely heard the flappy noises over the loud cheers for him. Bloodlines, lineage, same crap different rear end in a top hat.

Ravens peck at me, and one even unravels a bit of my sword grip. I swat him away.

But as he forms my sword grazes his pinky finger and when he shoots more carnivorous birds at me I notice he’s missing a finger. He’s off in the far distance and I rush towards him and slash at his face and he turns into more shadow birds. The first one settles over in the opposite direction and I run there as a raven bites my ear. I stick my sword right where his guts are and when he comes to his magicless eyes go pale and small.

I hate raven magic, but at least I won. I turn my head toward the audience and raise my hands. There’s one person cheering. It’s Carlbek.

***

I sit on the stone bench and peel back the bit of grip the raven pecked at. There’s an engraving beneath.

Your will to succeed can defeat all obstacles.

Powerful secret that is.

The same official knocks and walks in without asking. He says Carlbek wants to see me and I should see him in his room. He leads me through a series of hallways and up some stairs. Dude’s got two rooms and a bed and he has a fancier bucket and it’s for holding water.

“Your hint was kinda useful. But I’m pretty sure I woulda gotten it by myself. Why were you rooting for me?”

“Because when you can’t be the greatest, there’s consolation in losing to the greatest. If you win it all. Maybe I’m not that bad.”

“Dude, you have eye magic. The most intimidating thing I have is eye contact.”

He looks at me and smiles. He invites me to stay in the room and get a good rest before the next fight.

***

It’s weird. You’d think defeating Glromax Titanon to win the magic tournament and finally getting some sort of magic would make me feel great. But the few people cheering for me, Carlbek Lasustrous, Talon Ravenous, and a few others. They clap and clap. And a few more pick up. There’s not an applause, but a few people look at me and think, hey, yeah, I’m with them.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

Thranguy wins
Lazy Beggaer loses
The Cut of Your Jib HMs
SurreptitiousMuffin HMs
Some Strange Flea DMs

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



anime was right
Jun 27, 2008

by R. Guyovich


Quidthulhu
Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!


....pr....oooompt?

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

Salior Viy - The Brothers Natalya


This was written in what I like to call “Storyteller voice” which is this bizarre cant filled with unnecessary commas put in the place where a speaker might pause and covered in pseudo-poetic descriptions that don’t actually add to the story. Everything needs to add to the story. Everything needs to add to the story as a whole and not just the moment. Take, for instance, the father’s “cruel smirk.” You put this in to make sure we knew the dad was a real rear end in a top hat, right? Well, it would have been much more interesting if he was more than just that. If he had some motivation for selling the computer. Him being dismissive of his sons, of being ignorant, of being cruel in his lack of understanding would be more impactful that just “omg dad u didnt!!!” “lol yes i did.” Does that make sense?

The spine of this story was pretty solid and I read through it in one sitting despite its grammatical errors. If you finish early next week, take a day off and come back and edit with a fresh pair of eyes.

2. Friendly Match
Conceptually, this story is just loving hilarious to me given the prompt. I had to read it and then re-read your prompt and then a moment before I realized what you did. So, uh, well done you.

Not really much of a story in terms of emotionally depth or character development but it clipped along well and it kept me amused the whole time.

Going from ‘said Vladimir’ to ‘I said’ back to ‘said Vladimir’ was a little jarring for me.

Vladimir lost his accent at the end and that was disappointing. example: “You gents might want to get your heads down,” he said. “Me and the lads have business with that van.”

3. No-Doze
loving said bookisms. Was this some kind of personal challenge to only use those annoying fuckers? I did not like that at all.

“You seem to be…” Christina pauses in faux-thought, “Boring.” --- This story is boring.

Your opener was strong and it fell apart pretty quickly after that. Some people wander around a tunnel and talk about nothing. Police are bribed offstage. Coffee is drank. What was the point of this? It wasn’t poignet. It granted no insight. It was poetic enough to work as a vignette. I did not like reading this. Nothing interesting happened. That’s, like, cardinal writing sin number one.

4. Because gently caress You, That’s Why
Strong title.

I’m not of all caps yelling. I do like your interjections of comments between describing the main character's thoughts.

Wait. Was the title actually directed to me? It kind of feels that way. I have no idea what I just read. Sultan isn’t real. Then he’s super real. Then there are some monks and some rhyming and a limerick and I don’t know what the gently caress you were shooting for but I’m pretty sure you missed the mark. I didn’t like this or that I spent time reading it.

Hard prompt. I appreciate the attempt.

5. Man-Made Elements
I thought the whole story was gonna be done in second person. Then it wasn’t. This is jarring. I didn’t like it.

Aw that was kind of sweet. I wish you hadn’t had him reveal his real name at the end though. It was too “wrap this up with a pretty bow” for my tastes. If you go back to this, you should potentially rearrange the ending sentences and definitely conclude with “I die a Russian.” Also, let me know more of what screwed up. Seems kind of random.

6.Purely Coincidental
The “going to do an ISIS” bit worked. I liked it.

I couldn’t tell your characters apart at all ever. The repeated use of Daniel Radcliffe didn’t quite get to “funny” or “charming” or “interesting” and stayed “irritating.” Your action sequences could use work because I had trouble following what was happening. This felt inspired in a good way and rushed in a bad way. Needed more time and more editing and more words and more thought.

7. Gam Zul ‘Tovah
It’s not that hard to hit preview before submit and make sure you don’t have loving stupid formatting issues goddamn off to a bad start

Interesting. I read quickly. I would have appreciated a more poignant ending. Perhaps more fully demonstrating Ibrahim’s defeat and the loss of what he holds dear? Just a thought.

This is a story that took place over a long period of time which led to some handwaving of major events for the sake of word count.

Good arc.

8. Perennial

Good read. Lots of nice sentences with solid phrasing. Poetic. Predictable. Just short of powerful. There was something missing here that would have moved it to being a solid story but I can’t place my finger on what exactly. Maybe because it never branched out from where I thought it was gonna go. Good imagery.

9. Greedily and Two Deep
I love LOTR

Ooooo what an opener

Section 1 - I’m hooked

loving rad. Dope names, sick world, clippy pulp style, super solid imagery. HM at worst. Best thing I’ve read so far

10. Life of the Party in Dead Berlin
A dialogue insertion masterclass. Well done.

I think you succeeded here because you didn’t try and make this a commentary on reality television but rather used reality television as a platform to tell your story. An important distinction. I wish more people would write like this. The setting is there to prop up the important stuff. That’s what you did here.

Why was Pablo the only one to survive (other than author fiat)? What happened with the fake bombing. Too unclear. You should fix this if you ever come back to this story.

11. The god squad: inside the secret society of Salt Lake City
Yeah, I dug this. I think if you had failed to capture that loving yuppie millennial vice voice this story would have been a shitshow and you would have eaten a dm. But there were a lot of fun truths buried in this and a lot of lovely writing. I enjoyed reading it in a guilty pleasure way. Not a lot of crits. It was what it was.

12. Psalm 121
Even though I knew that this was set in the Pacific Theatre it didn't particularly feel like it. You got really mumbly at the end. Probably because you were trying to cram in an ending so you didn't miss the deadline. Being mad at God is pretty standard and you didn't really bring anything new to the table. What's more, your dialogue didn't feel particularly authentic. Was this an extension of the author's feelings toward religion/God? Kinda feels like it.

Quidthulhu
Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!


Is this the new standard turnaround for crits and winners / losers because hot drat, thunderdome, hot drat.

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flerp
Feb 25, 2014


Quidnose posted:

Is this the new standard turnaround for crits and winners / losers because hot drat, thunderdome, hot drat.

fjgj

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