I'm gonna be late with my story. I'm working with a stinkyhole of a nurse who goes apeshit if I'm in my phone or doing anything non work related
|# ? Sep 11, 2016 22:23|
|# ? Jul 22, 2019 20:23|
A Time to Sing, a Time to Talk, a Time to Dance
Word Count: 1023
a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at Dec 15, 2016 around 02:46
|# ? Sep 11, 2016 23:51|
Moving this to Monday, September 19th at 8 PM EST to accommodate different schedules. I'll be in IRC all night, probably.
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 00:17|
New Weird Americana, South Pole
An Aquarian Expedition
“Look,” said Clarence, “I'm not going, so the band's not going. That's that.”
“You can be replaced,” said Rose.
“I'd like to see you try,” said Clarence. “I was with White Ship from the start. I'm the beating heart of the band.” One line in a Rolling Stone writeup eight years ago that the man's been nursing ever since. “'Sides, ain't nobody else who'd sign up for this anyhow.”
“You can be replaced,” repeated Rose, “With a fifty-dollar machine.” It wasn't untrue. Nobody came to see White Ship for the drums.
“Yeah, fine,” said Clarence. “Good luck with that. Eden, you coming with me?”
I could see a moment's hesitation in her deep violet eyes, and started to hope for a second. The band was like a family, a anti-nuclear third-generation hippie family. Rose and I were together, and so were Clarence and Eden, but in a long standing free love open relationship thing that mostly just meant we switched partners occasionally, since groupies had been thin on the ground the past couple years and we were all getting too old for that kind of thing anyhow.
“No,” Eden said. “This is, you know, too important. This peace, they need it, we need it, the world-”
“I need you, baby,” said Clarence. “Don't go get yourself killed for-”
“She said 'no',” said Rose. And that was that. I'd hoped things would go the other way. The whole thing had seemed like a good idea at the time, but at the time we were all higher than satellites. A peace concert, for the benefit of and delivered live to the misunderstood (alien? prehuman? The scientists couldn't be sure.) beings deep in the interior of the frozen continent. In the relatively sober light of day, I was with Clarence. But I wasn't willing to break up the band, or with Rose, over it.
We shelled out a full nine hundred bucks for the machine that replaced Clarence.
* * *
The trip from the shore to the venue took almost a month, all told. Most of it was in relative luxury, inside a mobile base, essentially an RV on treads driven by our Norwegian sponsors, slowing crawling across the ice, anchoring deep when the bigger storms came. It had enough plowing power to push through even the big snow-drifts. It took us most of the way there.
The roughest part of the trip was keeping each other together, mentally. Our chemical options were down to beer and prescription pills, so we were on as straight an edge as we'd been since the early oughts. With Clarence gone, I was on emotional support duty for both Rose and Eden. I know what you're thinking, 'Oh, poor you, having to ball not one but two gorgeous musicians.' And twenty years ago I might have agreed. Now, it's real work. They're barely even looking at each other, so it's all got to be done one on one. More than the physical side, the emotional support is exhausting. It doesn't help that, no matter how much Rose believes in the cause, no matter how much Eden feels that the stars are in alignment for success, we all know that we're almost certainly going to die horribly in a few days.
“I don't know why people keep insisting on going there,” said Kjell, our main contact with the Norwegian crew. “But every twenty years or so someone does. And it always ends the same way.”
“The Pym and Dyers expeditions were pure colonialism,” said Rose. “Of course the indigenous...”
“Creatures,” I supplied.
“People,” said Rose, glaring. “Had every right to resist.”
“Okay,” said Kjell. “Let's assume that. The Halvorsen expedition was purely scientific. So was the Gerry. And they got just the same.”
“Looters and grave-robbers, you mean,” said Rose.
“I'm sorry,” said Kjell, “But you've got to at least accept the possibility that the sho-”
Rose threw a glare and hiss at Kjell that stopped him cold. “Sorry,” I said, “We don't use the s-word.”
“Why not?” said Kjell.
“It's, like, a slave name, a name given in a place of fear and hate, and we should be using the name that they give themselves rather than the one the masters used,” said Eden.
“Their masters died billions of years ago,” said Kjell. “According to the theory, at least. That name was Dyer's work.”
“Under the influence of the old masters' glyphs,” said Rose. “And they were imperialist Brits, so just as bad.”
Eden nodded. “We will wait for them to share their true name with us. As the piper-gods lull the nuclear chaos into the sleep that allows our galaxy to live, so shall music bring peace to all of Earth's intelligent peoples.”
“Right. Well, my people aren't going to get killed with you. This is as far as we'll go,” said Kjell. “You ask me, we should make up our minds and just stay away forever or else nuke the whole mountain off the ice.”
“That's why we're doing this,” said Rose. “Because sooner or later someone would make the wrong choice from those two.”
* * *
The roof of the abandoned Gerry Expedition headquarters made a fine natural stage. We set up equipment, including Clarence's drums since that section would be empty without them. All our cold-hardened gear, relics from the early days when doing an outdoor concert in North Dakota to empty fields was the best idea we could think of to get onto MTV.
Our audience wasn't anywhere to be seen, but there were signs: the stench of rotting penguin, the faint bell-like whispers on the distant wind. We tuned up and waited. We weren't going anywhere, and neither was the antarctic sun.
The first few arrived in less than an hour, and I set eyes on the sight that had supposedly driven men insane. Formless blobs, constantly writing, constantly forming and reabsorbing eyes and tendrils and organs and limbs of no discernible function. I'd seen worse dropping acid with CNN left on in the early 2000s.
More followed. We had an audience, or we were surrounded. It was time to begin. I touched my keyboard and started the intro to our opening number, Shores of Dream. Eden came in after me with the baseline, and the Roland Rhythmmachine provided the beat. Then Rose struck the first chord on her guitar.
North of sea, and South of sky
Sailing to the falcon's cry
Sadder than a lover's sigh
What is dreaming cannot die
She sang, without a hint of fear. Only conviction. The audience shimmied and swayed, forming inverse spirals across their transparent skin that I could only guess were a kind of ear. She continued.
Follow me, follow meee, follow me, beyond, the shores of dream
We played, and they did not charge at us to consume or trample us to death. We finished that song, went on to Arkham Workhouse Blues, Lavender Moon, and our covers of Age of Aquarius , Come Together and Incense and Peppermints. It's during that last one that the drum machine went out.
I ran over to try and fix it, but it was no good. It wasn't nearly as cold-proofed as the people who sold it said it would be. The audience writhed menacingly, and over the buzz of the amplifiers I could hear it, again and again, that bell-like sound. “Tekili-li”. “Tekili-li”
“Do something,” hissed Rose at me, covering her mic. I moved back to the keyboard station. The audience seemed even larger than before. “Tekili-li.” Not having any better ideas, I matched the rhythm and the notes, near the high end of the keyboard. The audience grew silent and still. I repeated the notes, then transitioned into Orchid of Mars. I cursed myself as soon as I'd done it. That song was heavy on the drums, was almost hopeless without them. Rose and Eden knew their parts, and tried to play them without that driving beat.
One of the sh- one of our shape-shifting brothers or sisters in the audience, the biggest one, began to move. It charged toward our stage, forming spring-like tentacular limbs on its underside to leap up. It was close, literally eye to eye, eyes forming where ever on its surface I looked. I could smell rancid penguin meat and a dozen smells completely alien to my nose on the air expelled through its orifices. I thought I was seconds away from a messy death. Then it continued, slid past me, past Eden and Rose, and sat itself down in front of the drums. And we jammed, for hours. It wasn't particularly good, and it didn't know any of the songs, but it was still music.
We went back to where the Norwegians had camped after the final encore. Our replacement drummer stayed behind, of course. Kjell was less than pleased as he administered the blood draws. “Who told you you could put one of them up on the stage?”
“That wasn't exactly planned, Kjell,” I said. “Worked out, though?”
“Worked out?” he said. “We'll see. On stage means on camera, and our contract with the broadcasters called for no images of the sh- of them at any time. We'll be lucky if half the world isn't in the loony bin by the week's end.”
“If they had killed us,” I said, “They'd have been on screen then.”
“People are ready for a disgusting monster. It's a disgusting person banging on the drums that'll give them nightmares.”
“They're not that bad,” I said. “I think the earlier explorers had already gone half-mad on the ice.”
“You'd better hope so.”
That night, when I went to Rose's room to celebrate, it was locked. There were noises from within, loud, sensual noises. Rose's voice, and Eden's as well.
I smiled to myself. It turned out that I wasn't the center of the White Ship's little universe, that the angles of the triangle didn't add up the way I'd thought that they should. And wasn't that wonderful?
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 01:06|
1696 words. ^
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 01:07|
Sri Lanka, Progressive Bluegrass
Maybe It Was Fate (or Sita Sings Bluegrass)
What if you ran away?
It starts off like that. A dark, sinister idea that hooks into the back of your brain. You think about it as you clean the dirt off your sari and string your husband’s bow. You think about it as you watch your husband, the Lord and God Rama, disappear into the forest to hunt. How long would it take him for you to react to your absence? At what point would your betrayal derail the devas’ pre-written narrative?
Would he rage and scream? Would he give the same placid smile that has come to define your marriage?
Is it selfish to want escape at any cost?
It’s not that you hate him. Days pass without challenge or disruption. He never comes home exhausted and fearful of the day to come. He never fights or argues with you. Rama is driven by a simple plan: To kill Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, to be crowned king, and to preside over eleven thousand years of prosperity. He does not need to cope with the everyday ordeals of marriage and romance. You are less of a person than an ideal. Your actions mean nothing if they do not him towards his destiny.
If Rama knows about your frustrations, he does not show it. When you are alone with him, he acts like a school teacher lecturing a slow pupil. Because the future has already been written, passion and spontaneity are beyond his understanding. His blue skin, which you once associated with divinity, now suggests a numbness.
What good is unrequited devotion? What good is a story that you had no part in writing?
At nights you write secret letters. The first few are ignored, but your persistence is rewarded by Ravana’s hesitant scrawl. He is afraid of the future. He is afraid that history will turn him into a caricature, a many-headed demon driven by spite without courage or wisdom.
Together, you hatch a plot to spin the world off its axis.
You tell your husband about a golden deer lurking in the forest. You ask him, beg him, to retrieve it as a symbol of his love. And though he is suspicious, he grabs his bow. He lingers for a moment in the doorway, as if scared for the very first time, and then disappears into the encroaching darkness.
How long should you wait before abandoning him? A minute? An hour? As you debate, you hear the low roar of thunder and the rustling of trees. The future, once solid, begins to crack.
You leave your hut as though wading through dark flowing water. As feet become miles, you pick up speed. By the time it begins to rain, hard and heavy, you are zipping through trees and laughing like a schoolgirl. The infinite chain of causality slackens around as you find Ravana, the hulking, ten-headed beast, and put your hand in his.
With that, you’re gone. Your departure echoes through the past, present, and future.
You have no time to walk Lanka’s seldom-seen shores or admire its impossible gardens because fate is already working against you. The storm that chased you from India has transformed into a cyclone that threatens to rip apart Ravana’s island fortress. Lanka shudders and quakes. A tower, eight miles tall, is torn from its place and topples into the sea.
You are cloistered away in an inner chamber, away from the storm and the outside world. Though all of Ravana’s heads laugh and smile in your presence, his expression is tainted with fear and worry. Servants speak in whispers throughout the palace. Gold and jewels are stored away in great underground vaults. The storm rages on. More towers fall.
At night, you sneak from your refuge and listen at the door of Ravana’s chambers. His councilors speak in frantic, high-pitched voices about your husband. Rama has destroyed the oceans. Rama has found an ally in the monkey king. Rama leads a heavenly host towards Lanka, full of rage and fury. They urge Ravana to surrender you to the storm.
Rama’s story has already been written, but Ravana’s story has not. Even if he is destined to become a slain monster in another man’s story, Rama can make sure that history does not forget Ravana. He can still be remembered as more than just a ten-headed demon.
Ravana is silent for a long time. You lean towards the crack in his door. You lean until you can see the silhouette of all ten of his heads. In the candle-light, they seem to bob and shake, but the room is devoid of laughter.
When, at last, you are certain of his betrayal, Ravana speaks. There will be no surrender or retreat. He will meet Rama in an open field. He will see this rebellion to its conclusion, if not for his sake then for your own. He made a promise. He will not abandon you.
There’s a dull throbbing in your head as the other room falls quiet. You consider fleeing into the stormy night. You consider throwing yourself from some high tower, but you find that you cannot abandon him. What is a person without ideals? What are you if you condemn Ravana to the fates?
You hatch a plan without Ravana. You try not to think about the future.
On the night before the battle, you sneak from Ravana’s ruined palace into Rama’s camp. The cyclone has centered itself on Lanka, filling the air with a prenatural stillness. A potential energy. Rama’s tent sits atop a great hill overlooking the storm-swept citadel. You try not to look at the ruined spires.
Rama says nothing as his guards lead you into his tent. He remains silent as they bow and leave. The small chamber reminds you of your hut in the woods.
“Rama,” you finally say, “stop this.”
The sound of your voice seems to unleash something inside him. Any patience he had is gone. “The future is preordained, Sita. You, of all people, should know that.” He snaps. “Even if I wanted it, Ravana’s fate is beyond my control. The demon-king will die.”
“I don’t mean his life. He doesn’t care about his life.” You refuse to look away from Rama’s face. You refuse to be intimidated. “The battle will happen, but you control how it will be remembered. Let others remember Ravana as your equal. Let him be remembered for his intelligence, courage, and endless kindness.”
Rama’s anger recedes and, for a moment, pity flashes across his face. You wonder what he remembers the monotony of your old lives together and your frustration. “And what will you sacrifice for his memory?”
You take Rama’s hand. You feel the chains of fate once again tighten. The world tilts back onto its axis.
At the very least, Ravana’s story is one you helped write.
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 01:19|
Itinga wished that she had time to linger. As she moved across the floor of the open forest, carefully avoiding concealed tree roots, she was constantly aware of her surroundings’ beauty and intensity. Every waft of fragrant sap, every unknown bird call, every perfect beam of dappled sunlight pleaded with her to stay and discover more about Savai’i. Even the heavy midday heat suited her well. If only she’d arrived under better circumstances.
At first Itinga wondered if someone with magical ability was even needed. Everything seemed to be as it should. But as she neared the edge of the rainforest proper she understood. One moment the air was filled with forest noise, the next everything was deathly silent. She could even find the exact edge of the effect after experimenting. As strange as that would have been anywhere it made even less sense this close to dense rainforest, which should have been almost deafeningly loud. Itinga’s curiosity was suddenly supplanted by unease. She pressed on into the deep jungle.
Itinga realised she couldn’t even hear her own footsteps on the leaf litter, or the sound of any movement she made at all. She started to hum, to make sure that she was not the problem, and also to calm her nerves. As she moved ever deeper into the rainforest Itinga realised that her voice was not the only audible noise any more and stopped humming. She covered her ears, checking that she was hearing an actual sound. There was no doubting it. There was some kind of distant music, though it was too quiet to distinguish, even with no other sounds competing. Itinga frowned. This meant the trouble was probably human in origin.
The music became louder as Itinga pressed on. She realised, with some shock, that she recognised the music, making human involvement a certainty. She had met magical creatures from three different continents, had heard of hundreds of others, and not one of those creatures had ever shown any interest in Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy. It would have been almost comically absurd but for what happened immediately afterwards. Itinga noticed movement out of the corner of her right eye. She quickly turned. Before her, seemingly uninterested in her presence, was a figure in roughly human shape and proportions, but more like an artist’s mannequin in detail. It seemed to be made out of wood, as a mannequin would be. The bare wood, contrasted against living trees and the verdant rainforest, looked almost like bleached bone. The figure’s gait was graceful, and Itinga noticed that all of its movements were in time to the music’s melody. Before her eyes it pirouetted, using the momentum to chop a tree trunk with its bare hand. It sliced through the bole as though it was no effort at all. Itinga instinctively ran for shelter in a ditch as the tree toppled.
Itinga used the next few seconds to work out what to do. She was sure that the figure was artificial but she couldn’t simply blast it with a stream of fire. Such an attack would likely set the whole rainforest ablaze. If she had been home in Waipoua perhaps she would have judged that a necessary sacrifice, but this was not her land. She was here at the invitation of the Samoans, and there was no point in ‘saving’ the rainforest by burning large tracts of it to the ground, not if that could be avoided. Instead, she pulled a small but valuable object out of her leather pouch; her shaper. The metallic tool resembled a candlestick but it was entirely hollow from bottom to top. She secured the wide end of the shaper against her right palm, took a deep breath, and charged out of her ditch.
The wooden figure continued to take no notice of Itinga as she sprinted. Perhaps this would be easy. She ran right up to the creature, placed the tip of her shaper against its right shoulder joint, and allowed a heartbeat of fire. The wooden arm burned clean off. The other arm came sailing around, too quickly for Itinga to react. It impacted hard against her left arm. She yelped in pain and frustration. This time she burned through the neck, severing her opponent’s head. The creature’s movements were no longer in time with the distant music but that still wasn’t enough to put it down. It kept swinging wildly with its remaining arm. Angry, and desperate, Itinga pushed the wooden figure onto the leaf litter with all her strength, planted the shaper on the stump of its neck, and fired a longer charge that plunged into the creature’s body from top to bottom. It finally stopped moving, and Itinga breathed a long sigh of relief.
Fire was not the only magic at her disposal, but the creature had still managed to bruise her left arm quite badly. She cursed herself for dropping her guard. She wrapped up the bruise whilst examining the creature’s remains. There was no machinery inside it, making it something like a wood golem. She noticed a rounded area within the torso where the grain of the wood shifted. Itinga wondered if this was the wood golem’s heart, and made a note to aim for that in future. Having learned all she could, she got back to her feet, and continued to head towards the music. She didn’t even need Sugarplum Fairy now, she was following a train of destroyed forest that was clearly the wood golem’s handiwork.
Her gut instinct that there would be more was soon proven correct. This wood golem seemed to be doing something with a felled tree. Itinga was not cautious in approaching, the last one had ignored her until she had made her move. She came close enough to see what this wood golem was doing, and her heart sank. It was carving a copy of its own body parts out of the fallen trunk. Another wood golem was almost off the production line. This magical problem was not merely damaging, it was self replicating. Itinga knew she had to abandon all caution, and wasted no time. She marched up to the wood golem playing at tree surgeon, placed the shaper over the rough location of its heart. This time she needed no second or third attempt, and earned no new bruises.
But that was when all hell broke loose. Itinga saw wood golems rushing towards her from all directions, though she could still not hear any of their movements, seconds after their compatriot had fallen to the floor. She had marked herself as a threat. Itinga didn’t have time for this. Their movements were still all in time with the music, the source of the music had to be the key to dealing with this, removing that was more important than dealing with dozens of the wood golems. Now she ran towards the music, leaving the creatures in her wake as she outpaced them, barging aside the few that managed to get in her way. She ran and she ran, ignoring the pain in her legs and her lungs.Then, finally, she found it. There, in a huge area of destroyed rainforest, was the source of the music.
It didn’t look like much, it was nothing more complex-looking than a triangular obsidian rock. But there was no doubt that the music was coming from it. Itinga didn’t have much time before the wood golems caught up, she had to think of a plan or get beaten to death. It didn’t look like she could crush it or even dent it with her bare hands, and she dared not risk either of the hands she needed for her fire magic. She only had one realistic course of action and she didn’t know if it would work. She tried anyway.
Itinga dropped her shaper. She picked up the rock with both hands, and began to build heat. Even normal obsidian took high temperatures to melt, she had no idea how long this was going to take or if this was even possible. She had to try. Then the wood golems finally caught up to her. Only one move was left that didn’t require her hands, and it was desperate. She had just enough concentration to bring a spiral of flame into life around her, but it was weak without her hands to feed it. Wood golems tried to break through and burst into flames. Still the rock wouldn’t melt. The spiral wavered, she was beginning to panic. Wood golems began to push through her defences, even as they were set ablaze. They started landing blows on her before succumbing to the flames. Pain and panic won, the spiral died entirely.
Heavy impacts began to crunch against Itinga’s back and sides. She could no longer hear anything, not even the music. She was too late, and now she was dying. It was over. She waited for the end to come. It took her several moments, through the fog of pain, to realise that she was no longer being hit. Then she heard a raindrop hit a fallen wood golem. She could hear normally. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy had finally died. Itinga looked down. The stone had melted in Itinga’s hands. She had finally built up enough heat. The wood golems were all lying motionless, even those who hadn’t been burned. She hadn’t been too late. She had done it. It was over.
She needed to figure out who had set all this in motion. She needed to tell the Samoans that Savai’i was no longer in danger. She desperately wanted to apologise for the creatures having already managed to destroy a swathe of rainforest. But as it began to rain, she stood there for a moment. The drops became a torrent, and water ran in streams down her face and body. She let it wash over her, let it sting her wounds as it soaked her clothes. She let it wash over her, and slowly forgot the melody of the Dance of the Sugerplum Fairy.
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 02:21|
Pornogrind / Pitcairn Islands
It all started because of Suezan’s husband, Alek. He was Jewish, so often they would spent a weekend in Haaretz. An ancient land, so different from their modern Australian town. After one of those trips, Suezan felt like she had to make the ancestry DNA test to get in touch with her own heritage. To no one’s surprise most of her long-dead relatives were from British countries. For some time Suezan was very enthusiastic about her newfound roots, she’d even learned some Millennial English, and Suezan and Alek went on a journey across both Britains on that account. But compared to ancient streets of Haaretz, it was too mundane: same money to buy the same street food, and same nu-Anglo to talk to people. They never visited Britains again.
There was, however, one genetic marker in Suezan’s DNA that gave her hope. For more than three hundred years, as it turned out, her ancestors lived on a small island closer to America than to Australia. Three hundred years until, along with some neighbouring islands, Pitcairn sunk underwater in a dim blaze of a volcanic eruption.
After one year of unsuccessful search for fellow Pitcairnese, and after learning all there was left to learn about the island’s history from open sources, anyone would have given up on the whole idea, but Suezan decided that she was responsible for preserving Pitcairn culture. To read academic papers from literal centuries ago, she had to learn even more Millennial English, but this only got her a dozen of words in Pitcairnese and fairly boring trivia about the fishing industry on the island.
In the end, it was all worth it, though. She was at Virgin auction house waiting to bid on what was in her mind the final piece to her identity. Virgin was one of the few remaining old-fashioned action houses that required bidders’ personal presence. On top of that, all communicators, internal or otherwise, had to be turned off during the auction. Antique cutlery, toys, metal pre-digital money from all over the world, all that was of no interest to Suezan, but she had to watch people throwing years worth of her not at all meagre managing director salary for hours, and she couldn’t even text to Alek or read her mails.
Finally, once a deformed can full of most certainly rotten meat and carrots had gone to the svelte gentleman with a monocle, it was time for Suezan’s lot.
‘An audio recording on a compact disc storage drive, twenty-first century, pristine condition, encased in protective plastic, never opened. Believed to be the only surviving recording of Pitcairnese language’, announced the auctioneer program and displayed a holo image of the item. A yellow piece of paper was stuck between two layers of plastic. ‘Canal Inspectors – We Sing ina Pi’kern’ it read in blue letters in a peculiar font. ‘The house’s suggested opening bid is five hundred thousand dollars.’
For a moment Suezan was lost in her thoughts full of disembodied tenors singing about the oceans and the warmth of the hearth at home accompanied by archaic string instruments. This was definitely a low price for such a grand piece of history. Her history.
Nevertheless, there was not a single bid for solid twenty seconds, and Suezan felt a sting of offence by this blatant disregard of her culture. Trying to convey as much anger and shock as possible, Suezan raised her hand so that the auctioneer could detect her bracelet.
‘Five hundred and fifty from the lady in a green dress. Going once, going twice, sold’, said the program without a pause between counts and played the gavel soundbite. ‘Sold for five hundred and fifty thousand to the lady in a green dress.’
Suezan transferred the money, collected the item, caught the fastest cab, and three time zones later she was back in Australia, the exact same time she left the auction house. Alek wasn’t in the main room, so Suezan hurried to her study on the second floor. Family matters could wait.
With care and respect, Suezan cut through a layer of plastic with scissors. With shaking hands she opened the case and put her half million dollar compact disc into her quarter million dollar antique player. Suezan took a deep breath and pushed the button with a triangle on it.
Discord of distorted noise filled the room. Was something wrong with the recording? Suezan bought the player specifically for this and she made sure it was fully functional. ‘01’ on the player’s primitive display changed to ‘02’, and it still was the same noise. This time Suezan could pick up an assortment of ‘cunts’ and ‘fucks’ among the growling vocals. Those words, thankfully, survived in nu-Anglo without any changes.
Suezan inspected the compact disc case again. On the other side of the yellow sticky note was track listing. The second track was called ‘Nobbing and Gobbing’. Then it clicked in Suezan’s head that an island wouldn’t probably have any canals. What she thought was a ‘c’ was actually a stylised left buttock in the band’s logo complementing the a-shaped right one.
The study’s door slid open, and Alek found Suezan laughing louder than Anal Inspectors’ rediscovered hits.
‘You know, Alek’, said Suezan through tears, ‘I think I’m fine with being the old boring Aussie now.’
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 02:40|
Jean and Milan
Disneycore / Amirante Islands
Tyler Milan first broke onto the pop scene in 2009 at the age of 16, with three consecutive singles topping the Billboard charts by the end of the year. During his 2011 tour, he set five individual arena attendance records. A filming of the Madison Square Garden performance was given a theatrical release, grossing $350 million at the box office. Since turning 21, Milan has taken to celebrating his birthday at a luxury resort on the lower Amirantes: Les Châteaux de la Fortune.
I know all this, because I have spent the last six months sharing a prison cell with Jean. And as my ears still ring from the gunshots fired during our escape, I’m still listening to this goddamn lunatic ramble about Tyler loving Milan.
“It will be an honor to meet him and bribe him!” Jean exclaims, his smile revealing a red coating on his teeth that somehow survived the swim to shore. From when he bit the guard’s ear off.
“And how do you think we’ll bribe him?” I ask.
“Drugs, Morgan! You will get him drugs! And he will take us to America!”
The bushes under the large palms of Marie Louise Island are enough to cover us. Jean scurries like a roach from cover to cover as we crawl up the grassy hill. We keep to the ground as we follow its incline. I try to keep pace with him, but move too fast, straining an injured back. I stall with grunt.
“Are you alright?” Jean asks.
It’s an injury from the prison. About two weeks ago. I had the nerve to demand food that wasn’t rotten. The guards laid into me with their batons. Made an example for the next inmate who makes demands. In the back of my mind, I wonder if they were also on the payroll of my former employers. Like the NDEA agents in Mahe. The ones who arrested me the authority of an “anonymous tip.” Seychelles’ new Minister of Home Affairs was cracking down on the heroin trade, so the drug lords threw me to their favorite officials. I was locked away with the pirates and murderers. If it wasn’t already clear I didn’t belong, how I took the guards’ beating confirmed it. I suspect, at least. Because that was when Jean first mentioned escape.
“It’s sore, but nothing’s broken.”
“That’s good. Because Tyler Milan is not a doctor. Though he can cure a broken heart.”
I wish I didn’t know those were song lyrics.
It’s still dark by the time we reach the hill’s summit. Looking down, we see the orange lights of the bight-side villa reflecting off the dark wood exteriors. The reflections rippling off the largest private pool on the island as statuesque models dance to American pop music. Tuxedo clan waiters moving effortlessly between them as black suited security pace around the edges. This must be Les Châteaux de la Fortune. I turn to Jean, who may as well be looking under a Christmas tree. I almost breaks my heart to shove him back to the ground, but the white jeeps pulling to the front force me too. It’s faint from this distance, but I make out the blue checkered lines on the doors, framing the word “Police.”
“We have to hurry,” I mutter
“You’re right!” Jean replies, “If his birthday goes on too long, he find another drug dealer.”
“I told you. I’m not a drug dealer.”
“You’re so quick to talk about your crimes, but you never ask about mine.”
“A lunatic like you? I’d rather not know.”
Jean chuckles. “Then I must have done something right in prison.”
Two men come from the first jeep, and the echoes of voices find their way up the hill. Not enough to make out distinct words. But enough to know police are speaking with the waitstaff. I assume about a prison break just off the coast.
“I have to ask,” I say, “But are you sure this is it?”
“Absolutely! I recognize the pool from US Weekly.”
“How did you get an US Weekly?”
“And you’re sure he’ll take us to America?”
“Tyler Milan will be moved by our story! He has a very big heart! Every year, he donates to seventeen individual charities, and has personally matched every--”
“Then why are we bribing him cocaine?”
“Because we don’t have cash and I don’t want to be rude!”
Speaking to black suited security officers is a man of barely over twenty. Probably about six foot allowing for three inches of coiffed hair. It’s a style I haven’t seen outside of TV or photos online. But those that wear it do so to emulate one person.
“It’s him!” Jean says, barely containing his glee. “Tyler Milan is here!”
Milan seems to be yelling at his security guard. Frustrated that the police are interrupting the festivities. “It’s my loving birthday!” echoes up the hill. “This is bullshit!”
Jean doesn’t seem fazed by this. An idol he has only seen from smuggled magazines stands just at the foot of this hill. Reverberating around us, a voice he has only heard from the iPods he somehow managed to replace every time they were seized as contraband. I watched this man bite and claw his way out of our prison with the hope that his freedom lay with an international pop sensation, half-convinced that destiny chose Les Châteaux de la Fortune for this very day.
“Hey,” I say as I nudge Jean, “I think he’s going inside.”
Milan picks up a cellphone and storms from the poolside. I look at Jean. We both know this is our chance. We slide down the hill, keeping our pace steady, and our movements quiet. The windows of the villas are large. The inside lights piercing in the island night. Staying out of sight requires precision as the police watch over the exits. We cling to the bushes. Tracking Milan as he walks from room to room. A lone officer stands by the outside door as the occasional patrolman circles the perimeter of the resort.
“How do we get in?” I ask Jean.
He laughs, picking up the largest rock he can reach. “Same way we got out,” he replies with a smirk. That loving lunatic.
I try to stop him, but he’s too quick. If I call any louder I’ll get myself caught too. Jean darts between white jeeps, clearly stalking his prey. Focused like a surgeon staring at an open wound. A brief thought flashes through my head. What if it works? I have to follow him now. I mimic his movements, staying a step behind. Far enough away in case I need to escape. Close enough in case the bastard actually pulls it off.
A bit of commotion from one of the other villas. The lone sentry turns his head for a second. Long enough for Jean to strike. “gently caress you!” I hear as he brings the rock down on the guard’s head.
The guard goes down instantly. Holy poo poo. I run up to join him. I hear a few screams, possibly from the source of the previous commotion. I look in the window and see a horrified pop star in the room, yelling into his phone. Jean tries the door. It’s locked. Doesn’t faze him. His eyes are just as wide. His smile just as toothy. And red.
“Mr. Milan!” shouts a star struck Jean, “It’s an honor to meet you!”
Jean lifts his rock, and smashes it through the window.
“Who the gently caress are you!?” Tyler Milan yells dropping his phone, backing towards an open closet.
“Is that the fur coat from the Be My Glamor Girl video!?” shouts Jean as he eagerly opens the locked door through the shattered glass. “It’s even furrier than it looks in the video!”
Jean wastes no time moving inside as Milan backs away. “You get the gently caress away from me,” Milan says, fear in his eyes.
I hear shouting. I turn to see police with weapons drawn. They fire as I dive through the door. “Jean!” I yell, “Give Mr. Milan a hug!”
“Get the gently caress off me!” Milan yells as Jean’s arms wrap around him.
“I am overwhelmed with emotion,” Jean says fighting the tears in his eyes.
As I hear the running police, I charge the embracing duo, knocking them both into the closet. Slamming the doors shut as the authorities rush in. I do my damnedest to hold them as Milan frees himself from Jean.
“I’m your biggest fan, Mr. Milan,” Jean manages, his eyes moist with joy. “I know you have a good heart. We are poor unfortunates from the islands. Please find it in your good heart to take us to America.”
“I don’t give a gently caress who you are,” Milan starts, seething with equal parts fear and anger, “You just hit that cop with a loving rock! Why the gently caress would I take you anywhere?”
Logically, I know he’s right. But it’s easy to forget that logic when I look at Jean, barely holding himself together. His face melts. The smile etched on his face crumbles. The tears he’s been surpressing flow freely. “But,” he utters, “My friend will get you cocaine.”
I leave the doors to grab the fur coat, and pull it over Milan’s head.
“What the gently caress are you doing, Morgan!?” Jean yells as Milan tries to squirm his way out.
“We have a hostage now!” I shout back. “Try to tie the sleeves.”
“Forgive me, Mr. Milan,” Jean says, attempting to follow my command.
Milan is stronger than he looks, forcing me around as I cling to the fur. I struggle to keep my footing, but it’s a losing battle. I lock my arms together as Milan forces his entire weight back, slamming my beaten spine against the wall. I make a noise. I think you could call it a whimper. He does it again. That time I make a yelp. He forces me around and slams us both through the closet doors. Jean rushes to see if we’re okay, only to get multiple pistols pointed to his head. I see the officers surrounding us. I see them help Milan out of his exceptionally soft bindings. And I see the tears rolling down Jean’s face.
“Mr. Milan,” he says, desperation in his voice. “Please. I’ve never had joy in my life. When I was a boy, I was kidnapped by pirates. I had to join them. I had to hurt people. Or else the pirates would kill me. And I was sent to a terrible place for it. And the only thing that gave me joy, the only light in that maddening darkness, was your music. Please. Don’t send me back.”
Milan pulls himself up, taking the coat with him. He reaches into the left pocket, pulling out a wad of American dollars. “The cop outside,” he says, “Is he breathing?”
“He needs a hospital,” one of the cops says, “but yes.”
“Good,” Milan replies. The police lower their weapons as Milan distributes the cash. “This never never happened.”
The police file out of the room. Jean slowly rises to his feet, extending a hand to me. Putting his other on my back as he helps me up. We sit on the edge of the bed as Milan turns to us and says “You said can get me coke?”
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 02:45|
Word Count: 1260
Cisco kicked a rock over the cliff’s edge and waiting the 22 excruciating long seconds until it ricocheted off the next ridge and tumbled over little ruts and juts until eventually disappearing into the lush canopy below. The distance between the entrepreneur and the trees was so great their relationship to one another was similar to an eager child standing over a jungle Lego set. He imagined the locals and their temporary, fragile structures somewhere down further below the canopy. They too reminded him of the Legos of his youth. He looked forward to breaking down their culture and restructuring it in his own design.
“This is an impossible endeavor. You saw it, there’s no potential here. No one would ever migrate to such an inaccessible venue. Now please, let’s get off this God forsaken mountain and back to civilization,” Toni whined, the pessimistic counterpart to the opportunist in Cisco.
“You’d spit on utopia if you found it any place less convenient than your parlor. Come over here to the ledge if you need a push in the right direction,” Cisco hissed back, motioning Toni to his side.
Scoffing, Toni settled onto a fallen log, drawing his left leg over his right knee and lacing the fingers of his hands upon them in an attempt to communicate his disdain for the notion. His pessimism wasn’t completely unfounded. They had been hiking for hours and though the elements weren’t particularly unpleasant, (although the heat of the day had given them a bit of grievance, first making them sweat to excess, then burnt their exposed skin, leaving them chaffed and irritable with their jackets slung around their necks like a gentlemen’s sweater at a cocktail party) the wildlife they encountered had given him plenty of reason to sport a sour disposition.
“Snake, small snake.” An hour into their adventure, their tour guide, a local, dark in complexion with deep white grooves carving up his body (which he boasted had come from his many victories over wild beasts), assured them in broken Italian as he stomped on the head of a Puff Ander, embedding its bared fangs into the dirt. The serpent’s dying body swayed slowly, rustling the likewise expired leaves and twigs of the forest floor, camouflaging itself yet again as a final act of defiance against the unworthy invaders of its sacred land. Marqi kicked the snake for good measure then held his arms out, extending them to their full length. “This. Like this. Small snake.”
The other two cringed at the prospect that even larger, more dangerous animals lurked in the brush, but continued onward. Until they reached the peak of their excursion they encountered a few other “minor” scares (“Go slow. Leopard, maybe.”) and one intense moment in which Cisco, for all his enthusiasm and impatience, insisted on scaling the limbs of a river bush willow to determine how near they were to their destination only to accomplish seeing a fine array of leaves, which upon his intention to part, caused the branch to snap, lending the Italian to fall through the various levels of wooden discomfort until he was finally pitied by an outstretched arm of the tree and saved from plummeting to his death. (“White people, no climb.”)
When at last they did reach the peak the partners turned on one another in such an exaggerated display of animosity even Marqi who knew even less about Italian body language and tone than he did vocabulary became uncomfortable of the tension rising between the two and excused himself hastily to fill their canteens at a nearby stream. Upon his departure the attitudes between the experienced con artists and lifelong friends lightened and Toni rose from his log throne, stretching his arms up to embrace the sky.
“Why do I always have to play the tentative one?” Toni yawned.
“Because I possess a talent for conveying respect and confidence in 27 languages. You on the other hand couldn’t convince a log to roll over even in your native tongue,” Cisco laughed, a hearty sound that echoed in the great expanse of the uncultivated land before them.
“I get the ladies to roll over in every place we go,” Toni countered.
“Yes, yes, but that comes later, once the music makes them dumb with love for you, the savior bringing them salvation through disco.”
“Italo disco,” Toni corrected.
“You know it’s the same thing you pretentious crook,” Cisco beamed at him, knowing for all his pessimism he was on board with his newest marketing scheme.
“You have to buy what you sell, you know.”
“And partake of what you steal.”
They joined in laughter, shook hands and looked out over the ridge, envisioning the future, a primitive society ready for exploitation, desperate for anything that would allow them to partake in the delicacies of the first world. Just then Marqi appeared, pushing his ways unto the ridge to join them, slinging the water canteens like trophies of war. He took a swig off his own and held it out to them smiling as an offering. They smirked, taking a swig each. As Marqi sealed the lid they knew they’d won him over and he would speak on their behalf and begin the negotiations with the tribe leader, a man they knew would be persuaded greatly by what mattered little to them and naively offer much in return.
“Good you friends. Friends again,” Marqi beamed, joining their hands and placing his hand on top. “Good friends.”
“We’re all friends now.” Cisco grabbed Marqi by the shoulder, pulling him between Toni and himself on the edge of the ridge. Toni mimicked the gesture, pressing their key to success close between their villainous bodies. Marqi accepted their embrace, hooking his arms around the waists of his new partners, ignorant of their means to exploit him, content just to be included.
“What do we call this place?” Cisco asked more to himself than the others.
“God’s Window,” Marqi replied, “This place has name. You say it, God’s Window.”
“I like that,” Cisco said again more to himself than the others, looking out and beyond, allowing himself to be overtaken by the wonder of the clear blue sky and the vibrant green tops below, the opportunity, the innocence. As the three stood perfectly still in admiration the shadows of a trio of Cape vultures overtook their heads. They circled for a minute, their dusty brown wings glinting like gold in the brilliance of the sun. Then, having decided the men were only doomed, not dead, they moved on, lingering on a jutting cliff ledge to evaluate the new scavengers of the land.
Cisco stooped, snatching a rock from the ledge and upon rising chucked it at the birds. Used to only interacting with carcasses the birds were not quick to scatter and the rock collided with a deafening crack into the skull of the smallest. The cannon swallowed its companions’ squawks as the sacrifice tumbled off the ledge and through the sky to be welcomed by the treetop haven below. The remaining two fled, disappearing from their sight in the crevices of the cliff and the sky retained its blue calm again.
“We’re gods now and this place shall reflect our view,” Cisco whispered.
Toni nodded solemnly at the proclamation and Marqi followed suit, not knowing quite how to translate the words he had barely even heard. Then the three turned and disembarked from the mountain, Cisco in the lead, Toni looking over his shoulder at the prospect, and Marqi padding along, dumbfounded, in the rear.
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 03:30|
Dixieland / North Korea
The Student (1520 words)
A few hoarse, wet notes slithered out of the trumpet. Jong-un’s face was red with exertion. In the vast space of his studio, the music sounded tiny and weak. With difficulty, he worked his way through ‘My Old Kentucky Home’, then leaned back gasping for breath.
“How was it?” he said.
The music tutor bowed deeply. “I am humbled by the perfection of your artistry. Your playing would put any Western musician to shame. I could not presume to teach you, for you are already far above my level.”
“No, no! You’re useless. Get out!” Jong-un flung his trumpet at the teacher. It flew over the man’s head and bounced off a marble statue. The man fled.
“General!” Jong-un shouted at the antechamber. “Send in the next tutor. And get me a new trumpet.”
General Jang appeared in the doorway. “Supreme Leader, it is with deep regret that I must inform you there are no more music tutors. Shall I fetch more? I could arrange to kidnap some from Japan.”
“Don’t bother. They’ll all just tell me I’m perfect already.”
“Supreme Leader, I am uninformed about jazz music, but might I venture that if so many masters say it, then perhaps it is true?”
“You get out too,” said Jong-un.
When he was alone in the studio, Jong-un turned on his sound system and let the music of Louis Armstrong flood through the room. The studio was littered with his previous artistic endeavours: his abstract statues that had been praised by dozens of critics; his shelf of novels that had each sold millions of copies; his trophies from dozens of sporting competitions. All of it seemed pale and empty in comparison to jazz. No matter what his subordinates told him, he knew he couldn’t play as well as Louis. It made him feel something he had not felt in a long time: he wanted to be better.
If the hired tutors couldn’t help him, he’d have to resort to a different measure. The note from the Chief of Secret Police was on his desk: just an address on the outskirts of the city, and a password. He slipped it into his pocket and went out.
The man on the door looked like he could just be loitering there alone. When Jong-un came up to him he just tapped his cigarette and said: “Yeah?”
“I’m here for the show,” said Jong-un. “Duke sent me.”
The doorman nodded and pulled the door open. “Third floor, second door on the left.”
Jong-un glanced back at the street before he went in. It was an old neighbourhood, abandoned after the closure of some factory or other. All the way there through the darkening streets, he had felt watched by the statues and murals of his father and grandfather. If they knew what he was doing tonight they’d turn over in their graves.
He was more worried about the eyes of those statues than any real people who might recognise him. He’d gone incognito a few times before. The image of his face was burned into his citizens’ retinas, but it was all about context. Put the same face under a beanie, and replace the military uniform with a hoodie, and he was a completely different person.
He went up the empty stairwell, down the corridor and into the room. It must have once been an apartment, but all the furniture and appliances had been stripped out long ago. The room was packed with people, pressing their backs to the walls to make more space for the performers.
The five-piece band set up and began to play. Jong-un had seen festival concerts that cost millions of dollars to produce, but he had never seen anything like this. They played in the kitchen, underneath a flourescent light. The saxophonist’s spittle flew out onto the crowd as they snapped their fingers and tapped their toes.
To import American music was a crime against the state. It was unimaginable that these people had not only heard it, but learned to play it themselves. Jong-un had thought his secret police were doing a good job of keeping the populace ideologically pure. He should have been disgusted by this display of license, but instead he felt his feet tapping along as well.
The trumpeter was a shaggy-haired old man, wearing clothes not much more formal than pyjamas. He didn’t move much or dance around like the others, but there was a quiet energy that flowed through every note he played. Jong-un was hypnotised. He knew this was the man he needed to be his teacher.
When the show was over, the trumpeter slipped outside immediately for a cigarette. Jong-un followed him down the stairs.
“You!” he said—then, remembering he was in disguise, tried to be less commanding. “Ah, your playing was magnificent.”
The trumpeter shrugged.
“Could you teach me to play like that?”
The man took Jong-un’s wrist and looked at his hand. “Doubt it,” he said. “No calluses.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Jazz is about discipline. If you want to be good, you’ve got to play till your fingers bleed. You need to be obsessed with it. I don’t think you’re obsessed.”
Jong-un’s face flushed. “I could be.”
“Trust me, kid. Go find a hobby that won’t get you sent to a reeducation camp.”
Jong-un tried to think of something to say: that he was a genius, not someone to be dismissed; that his father had written 1,500 books of ideology, and his grandfather had driven the Japanese out of the country.
Before he could speak, two gunshots rang out from the apartment above. Then dozens of screams and thumping feet.
“poo poo!” said the trumpeter. “Get out of here, go!”
He ran, and Jong-un ran after him. A black car pulled up at the end of the block and three secret police officers stepped out. The old man dodged sideways into an alley and Jong-un followed.
For a moment he wanted to turn back and command the secret police to stop. But would they really recognise him as their beloved leader? And even if they did, how would he explain this to his generals?
At the far end of the alley, a red pickup truck screeched to a halt. “Moon-soo, in here!” the driver shouted. The trumpeter leapt into the back of the truck. Jong-un scrambled up after him and they sped away into the night.
Jong-un and Moon-soo clung to the bed of the truck, receiving a new bruise with each turn. The police sirens rose and fell in the distance. At last the truck slowed down and pulled over. Jong-un climbed out. They were on a dirt road in a forest somewhere.
“We’re in deep poo poo, kid,” said Moon-soo. “They’ve seen our faces, they probably know our names. I can’t go home now.”
“Moon-soo,” said the truck driver. “You know my cousin has a boat. He can take you to the South. But it’s going to cost.”
Moon-soo laughed hoarsely. “I’m a musician, and I didn’t even get to bring my instrument with me. What kind of cash do you think I have?”
The driver shrugged. “To me, you’re a legend, man. I’d take you for free, but it isn’t up to me.”
“How much does he want?” said Jong-un.
“Six, seven million won.”
Jong-un reached into his pocket. “How much in U.S. Dollars?”
He pulled out a thick roll of bills that he had grabbed from his studio drawer before he left. The truck driver let out a low whistle.
Jong-un turned to Moon-soo. “If I take you to the South with me, will you teach me to play jazz like you?”
They lay low through the next day, and drove down to the coast after night had fallen again. The truck pulled up in a secluded inlet where an old fishing boat was waiting.
“You sure about this, kid?” said Moon-soo. “Crossing the border is dangerous, and you might be fine if you just go home.”
Jong-un hesitated. He’d made his offer to Moon-soo on impulse, and he’d half expected to give up on it after a night’s sleep. But in the morning he’d woken more convinced than ever.
“No, I’m going,” he said. “Jazz is my passion, and I can never pursue it here.”
Moon-soo nodded. “Maybe you’ll play good trumpet after all.”
They hurried down the beach to the boat. The fisherman took Jong-un’s money, then hid them at the back of the galley behind a false wall. The boat began to move beneath them.
In the cramped darkness, Jong-un whispered: “Teacher, every day I have listened to the music of Louis Armstrong. Tell me, how long will I have to practice until I can play as well as him? A few weeks? A few months?”
“Uh,” said Moon-soo, “Armstrong was a once-in-a-generation genius. You can probably never play as well as him, no matter how hard you work.”
“Oh,” said Jong-un.
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 05:41|
Moving this to Monday, September 19th at 8 PM EST to accommodate different schedules. I'll be in IRC all night, probably.
Crud, I'm not gonna get home that night until 10 probably. Just about to finish the book too.
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 05:48|
“I, uh, quiero barco.” Craig Billings had nearly reached the end of his patience. He was in a foreign country with a language he could hardly speak, at least a hundred miles from his destination, and nearly out of money. He would need to start tapping into his credit soon, and he shuddered at the thought of the ATM fees. He adjusted his pack, ludicrously large and heavy and digging into his shoulders.
He was on the verge of a monumental discovery, he was sure of it. He had narrowed down the location of one particular ancient Roman shipwreck to a small island off the Atlantic coast of Spain. If the stories were accurate, it went down with a cargo hold full of British silver, wine, and jewelry. His point of departure would be a small town outside Santiago. Money was tight, so it took him nearly three days to travel there once he had arrived in the country.
Craig now found himself in a dingy shop, the only place here open this early, a shop that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since the 70s. Its stock seemed to date from the same era, mostly furniture and touristy knicknacks. He had had no luck so far with the short man behind the counter, who eyed Craig with suspicion, like he was some exotic animal.
“Yo quiero barco,” Craig said again. He needed a boat. “Where do I... uh, dónde?”
The short man stared at him, squinting. “Barco? Qué?”
“Por... uh... por agua...” He flipped madly through the pages of his pocket language-guide-slash-dictionary. He was starting to wish he had one of those Blackberry computers his cousin was always raving about.
The man only stared at him as he searched.
At last, Craig found the word he was looking for. Rent. “Por—alquilar. Un barco... de alquilar.”
The man shook his head. Dust puffed from the shelf behind him, floating lazily in the light of the rising sun streaming through the shop windows. “No tengo.”
“No? But I need... necesito... Yo pagar...”
The man turned his head at an angle, then stepped back from the counter. “Wait my brazzer,” he said, and disappeared through a door behind him. Craig was left wondering if the man had just addressed him as a brother.
His question was answered when the short man slipped back through the door, followed by a taller, thick-chested man wearing a heavy coat. Both had the same thick straight black hair and tanned leathery skin, and both wore scallop shells in strings around their necks. “My brazzer,” said the first, beaming.
“Hola,” Craig said, offering his hand.
“Hola,” the tall man said as he grasped Craig’s hand. “My name ease Captain Rodrigo de la Reina. My brazzer Luis tell me you are wanting a boat.”
Craig used the last of his cash to charter de la Reina’s boat for the day. The man offered his services as captain as well. The tricky thing would be finding an ATM around here, but he could worry about that later. At least the man spoke better English than his brother.
He considered trying to contact Regine, his co-explorer, one last time. She was supposed to be flying from Paris, but had apparently run into issues with Customs—something about a problem with her ID. As far as he knew, she was still stuck back there.
He decided against it. This find would be his alone. Only he knew the exact island, and he had an idea where to search in the waters around it. Besides, he didn’t really want to put another long-distance call on his card.
De la Reina’s boat wasn’t much to look at. It was small and white, or at least the flaking and discolored paint looked like it had been white at one time, with a one-room cabin on its single deck. The outsides bore dark green stains, and the railings were in rough shape, but at least it appeared seaworthy. And it was small enough for a crew of one, which suited Craig’s needs just fine. He had never been a great crewman.
They chugged away from the dock, swiftly leaving behind the dusty town. Soon, the mountainous shoreline slipped below the horizon entirely as the craft pulled out into the full sun of the day.
“We are going nordoeste, yes?” The captain didn’t look at his passenger. His eyes were fixed on the endless expanse of sea ahead.
“Uh, yeah. Northwest.” Craig pulled out a faded map, torn in two places, from a side pocket on his bag. He pointed to a small circle 50 kilometers from the shore. “This island, here, you know this one?”
De la Reina barely glanced at the map. “Island, yes, yes, she ease known.”
“Right.” Craig moved back to the portside rail, watching the waves roll past. The sun was on the other side of the ship. He was going to need an unimpeded view of the water.
It was an hour before he first caught a glimpse of the island. Craig poked his head in the cabin. “Pull around from the north side,” he told the captain.
“Yes, ze norze,” de la Reina said.
Craig waited for the ship to approach the island, then called into the cabin: “I’m going down here. Wait for me—I’ll pay you for your time.”
He remembered how incredulous the captain had been when he realized the charter was just for Craig to go swimming off of a distant, uninhabited island in the Atlantic.
“Swimming?” de la Reina had asked, with a curled lip.
“Yeah, uh, nadar, that’s right.”
“But zere... ze water is here. You can swimming here.”
“I have... Uh, I’m looking for something.”
But the man had only shrugged as Craig explained his plan, and once he had finished, said only “Yes, eat can be so.”
Craig was in his wetsuit now, looping the airline through the railing and attaching it to the compressor. He pulled down the full face mask over his head. It was warm here in the Atlantic summer, but he didn’t know how deep he might need to go, and the water grows deathly cold as you descend into its black depths.
With everything set, he waved to de la Reina in the cabin. The man watched him, grinning as he munched on a torta, and turned on a radio inside. Then Craig switched on his compressor and pushed off from the railing.
He swam deep into the cold water, low enough to touch sand or rocky surfaces in a couple of points, but his search radius was limited by the length of the orange cord. The line was necessary to breathe at this depth, below scuba levels.
After a fruitless search, he climbed back to the deck of the boat. One site to cross off of his map, at least. He checked the GPS coordinates and noted them in his logbook.
“OK, now we move a bit closer to the island,” he said to the captain.
“Yeah OK,” de la Reina said.
The search continued another two hours. Every time he came up, the radio was playing some hideous high-speed electronic music. “Nueva musica, you like?” de la Reina asked him the first time he returned. “Eat ease somezing new, from Greek.”
“It gives me a headache.”
De la Reina frowned and turned down the volume. But he turned it back up as soon as Craig left the cabin.
As the sun arced toward the horizon, Craig decided to make one more attempt. He still had a quarter-tank of gas left for his compressor.
“Take us almost to the mouth of that cove,” he said to de la Reina, and pointed at the dark spot on the rocky cliffside.
The man stared at the island for a moment. He showed no reaction to Craig’s command, just started turning the till. He pushed the throttle up with his other hand and the boat kicked forward.
Standing in the doorway of the cabin, Craig was nearly tossed out by the lurch, but managed to grab onto the rim of the doorway just in time, dropping his mask in the process. “Watch it!” he cried, struggling to hold on as the craft continued turning.
Then the boat swung a hard right.
Craig heard his dive equipment and compressor smack into the railing, followed by a heavy splash. He flung himself into the room. “What are you doing?!”
Then he saw the pistol under the captain’s coat, visible as he shifted with the movements of the boat. De la Reina kept his left hand on the till—pushed far to one side—as he raised the revolver with his right, emotionless, steady despite the violent rocking of the boat on the waves, and aimed it at Craig’s head.
A wave knocked Craig from his feet and he collapsed in a corner with a crunch of wet rubber and plastic. “Why...”
“No one can know,” de la Reina said. He pulled back the hammer.
When Rodrigo came back at sunset, his brother was waiting for him at the dock.
“There was no problem there?” Luis asked.
“No. No problem at all.” The captain shook his head as he tied the boat to the mooring. “It is safe.”
Nitzhonot | Camino de Santiago
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 06:30|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at Jan 2, 2017 around 15:19
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 06:41|
Gonna do something different. Instead of closing submission calls I will throw out some combinations anyone can claim until close of submissions in two days time
im spoiling a lame intro. this is a loveletter to a scene that is no longer with us. there are a million in-jokes and references and i rly dc. blood geis 3/3
Out of Memory
“Where were you in ‘89?” the graffiti asks. It flows cursive over a landscape mural. Over a city at night, lights dense as stars that blur behind the building silhouettes. It loops in a spectrum of hot pinks, purples, oranges, and implores in cherry red.
Xuan was six. She was born in 1983, the last year of the Dirty War, when the fascists decided their children would be next if they spared anyone who loved and cared. That year took her mother. Like the year was a space-time distortion that swallowed her out of memory.
Now it’s a year into the echoes, twin slivers after the scifi dream. 11 minutes into the future. Xuan is 26. Later they will say that chiptune is dead, that by now it was dying. She will sit in her compressed cube apartment in Tokyo, another star in the cyberpunk sky. She’ll stretch against a window overlooking a sprawling square, and wonder why. She’ll drink from her thick plastic cup, and think it over. No matter how long her hair grows, no matter how many times she'll cut it off, she'll never truly know. But she'll know she left a piece of herself behind, a pixellated ghost calling from her past.
She was six, probably listening to her father rant about how they all owed America money. Sometimes he’d cry, hug himself. He wouldn’t hug her.
So she shrugs off the question, like she’d shrug off the night sky if she could. She has a different question for herself. A line she read once is looping in her head. I’ve seen your future and it doesn’t work. Does her future work? Does her future with Alec work? He’s somewhere inside Nadir, and she doesn’t know if she even wants to see him.
She woke at his place, saw his cereal stash, and left so fast the wind hitting her breaker snapped her eyes wide open. She hasn’t eaten since then. It’s one of her bad days.
Nadir is a club at the end of a dilapidated, industrialized street. That’s what makes it cool, that it’s just another warehouse but this one has all night chipraves. In theory. Actually, its nihilism aesthetic evaporates when the first thing you see entering is the front girl’s cleavage. A cheap table, the girl sitting down low, and Xuan likes boys but it's so plump she stares as her hand gets stamped.
She doesn't see much more because there aren’t many girls. Chiptune is dying. And the dudes are all wearing trucker caps and pumping beer cans. Hunger is already making her feel a little faint, a little faded at the edges. She moves through bodies, can’t tell if the boys are ‘miring her hair or trying to bypass it in their fantasies.
The opening act is low-grade and they haven’t put the visuals on yet. A few dancers cast bunnyhopping shadows on the blank white wall. Otherwise the floor is empty, dense around the sides with lurkers who can’t be bothered. Distracted, she bumps into a girl. She’s a waif with long black hair and a scared expression. Xuan gives her soft eyes as she moves to the bar. Trying to move gentle now, like she’s not a jerk.
The bar is actually just a table near a kitchenette in the corner of the warehouse. There’s a fridge on one wall and a microwave above a sink on the other. The bar makes the area three sides of a rectangle. Alec is playing later tonight. He’s inside the VIP oblong, pouring himself whatever he wants.
What he wanted was two cups of beer. This freaks her out. Yeah, he was expecting her to show up, but he isn’t psionic. How long has he been double clutching like that?
When he sees her he grins wide. The lighting blasts red all over everything. It sets off whatever he’s drinking, gleaming in his teeth.
“Ayo gurl,” he says, and the u makes her queasy, because it’s the pit of her stomach, the acid just burning skin. He gives her a cup, and she takes it, but doesn’t feel like drinking. Instead she hugs herself with her empty arm. 1989 sinks in and she tries to remember why that year is so important. Maybe they made the internet better. By like, a lot.
Over here it didn’t even exist. So what are we? Like the Flintstones, and Japan is a country of Gazoos. We’ll always be on the outside looking in. We’ll always be chipbros.
She watches the people lurking the edges of the floor, fuzzy through her hunger. Like shy ghosts. She wishes she could hug them all at once. But instead Alec wraps his arm around her, and his beer cup’s in her face, and he’s just a chipbro, and she’s just his chipgirl.
The AV people have got it together. They're visualizing retro screensavers, so old they’re just looping repeated sprites. Right now they’re sleeping cats blowing snot bubbles. She watches it while the guy at the laptop sequences three abrasive tones over and over and soon she hates cats, would kick one if she could get away with it.
Being close to Alec was always quantum. Turns out being pressed into him like he owns her doesn’t feel good. So she’s happy when he kisses her neck, says he’s got to set up, and drifts back and to the right, to pass around everyone and move behind the speakers.
The bar table digs into her back. She has to writhe to stay comfortable. She’s thinking about her mother. Her mother is quantum. Maybe she was loving. Maybe she was sad. Her heart sings a broken song.
She’s thinking about how she loved these bleeps and bloops once, and if she could love them again. She loved them because they looked back to a time that was special to people. Not special to her, but special to others, and everyone made of the same star stuff in the end. Liking chiptune was liking another reality, but maybe there are no other realities. Just this one, where she’s waking her life next to someone she doesn’t like. Maybe there’s no scene that makes up for people being gone. For sorrow looking out through your eyes, never becoming you.
She’s hungry. She’s dazed. She imagines the beer hitting her stomach crater and screaming. Then she sees the girl drenched in fake blood.
The fake blood glimmers in the strobelights. The floor dancers are trancing out to the bit shifter but she caught the girl mid whirl. Her black hair waves past her bloody face as she dances, the ends dripping dark. Xuan sees rivulets float away slow, like in zero gravity.
Circe, she thinks. A magic goddess.
Holding her beer automatic, she starts moving. The threshold to the dance floor is liminal though it’s a micrometre high. The dancers are carving out spaces and she has to twist to the bleeps to get by. She still hates them. She remembers when they sequenced songs like the spring breeze. Now it’s all noise to her.
But blood splattered Circe is worth the crossing. As she approaches she feels a blush work from the corners of her mouth, embers behind her cheeks. The girl’s face is still lost behind her hair. But are those the whites of her teeth she sees, shining in the strobes, pure like space?
As Xuan gets near her dancing slows and she brushes the tangle. Xuan can see one eye now, ocean blue. Then everything goes wrong.
The screensaver shifts and she looks at it. It’s row over row of pizza slices, the pixels squaring the pepperoni. Her lungs empty out. Gasping, Xuan shoves her beer cup in the girl’s face. She’s so confused it hurts to look. But she takes it and Xuan spins for the bathroom way past everyone. All the dancers around her move in sharp fractals. She smashes into them, ruining the patterns, glitching them out. She still feels eyes on her in the back shadows of the warehouse. She rams through the door of the solitary bathroom and barricades herself in a stall. But the beast is growing stronger.
Porcelain never seemed real to her. Like she could phase through it. It’s too sterile. Life isn’t sterile, she thinks. People blooden it. She used to think if everyone listened to chiptune there’d be no wars. She can hear it now, through the walls. The tones are binary harsh. They’re heaven and hell and tight cymbal shifts. She wants to hush them away.
She remembers her father saying her mother was quantum. She’s not sure about the year. Post-1986. She walked free, explored every space of their dirty gray apartment.
Her father showed her a photograph. It’s a woman with big eyes, hair draping her shoulders, and a floral dress. Her mouth danced at the corners.
“Is that mother?” she asked.
“I’m not telling you,” he said. “You don’t know, understand? You’ll never know her. She’s gone and she’s not coming back. That’s what matters.”
He had dark spaces under his eyes, she remembers. Waves rushing to their shore.
“She’s quantum. This could be her. Or it’s someone else, some photo I found. She's beautiful. But maybe I don’t fall in love with looks.”
“I want to know,” she said.
“A photograph is someone’s skin,” he said. “That’s not enough to know anything.” He held the photo close. In front of her eyes, already welling with tears, he tore it slow.
She remembers this as someone calls from the other side. A liquid voice.
“I miss you.”
She hears the sound of running water.
She stands up, away from the porcelain, and opens the stall door to find her Circe.
She’s filled the cup with water. She hands it to Xuan. Xuan drinks deep. Circe pulls something from her dress. Fake blood is glooping onto it, the stain hued dark.
“Water and cigarettes,” she says. “Then we’ll get you to food.”
“I can’t eat,” Xuan says. Circe sparks the cigarette. Her eyes are calm in the bathroom light. “I have Soylent at home,” she says. “You’ll love it. It’s the future of nutrition.” She laughs, gives it to her. Xuan pulls it. Circe was right. The beast is drowsing.
Circe pulls her through the crowd. Alec is playing now. She sees his eyes on her as the two move flat against the warehouse wall. He looks angry. The people are nodding solemn, but she can’t tell if it’s to his dirge melodies, or the two of them, making spirit tracks to the girl at the front and her cleavage.
Outside the graffiti still wants to know her. But she keeps her face to her Circe. She's dizzy again. But Circe pulls her close. Rubs fake blood into the back of her neck. It explodes white light through her eyes.
Circe walks her to the all night bus stop.
Her real name is Solange. It doesn’t work. But it’s better than what she knew before. She learns to let go of the quantum. You can find closure in the modern world. The distance of Tokyo helps things with her father. They talk about her mother over video calls. The spaces under his eyes disappear, call by call.
Chiptune is dead. In Japan they move on. They make programs that sing songs for them. Holographic girls with big eyes.
Somewhere in the future, somewhere in Tokyo, Xuan raises her cup to her lips, and slurps more Soylent.
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 06:54|
Psychedelic Soul / The Andes
Joleen peered at the village through her binoculars. She still had a long descent ahead, and this was all but another village to go to. She absently felt her backpack tug at her shoulders, where all her worldly possessions fit snugly. She had quit her job at Wall Street, sold off everything she couldn't carry, and embarked on this journey to bring her father back. With renewed vigor, she continued her descent at a renewed pace, almost reckless, hoping against hope that she could finally reach the end of her quest.
A full hour later, she reached the base of the mountain. She made contact with a villager, who was sleeping underneath a tree.
"Hi," she said, starting with English. "Does Funky live in this village?"
"The Chief?" the villager said, breaking into a smile. Joleen's eyes lighted up. "We don't get enough visitors. Please come with me."
Joleen was in a somber mood as she reached the village. What was she going to say to her father to convince him to go back to civilization with her? He used to be a saxophonist for a soul band. She used to attend their gigs with her mother. When mom passed on, she had no one but her father left. But one day, he decided to quit the band and leave for the Andes. God knows what got into his mind.
The villager led her to a large hut in the center of the village. Joleen went through a bright-colored curtain, unprepared for what she might face. A man with graying hair sat in the center of the room, flanked by no less than three adoring young women.
"Daddy!" Joleen said.
"Joleen?" Funky replied. "My girl?"
"I can't believe you, daddy!" Joleen said, struggling to find the words. "You know that mom passed on, but you do this?"
"My girl, I can explain," Funky said. "Your mom wouldn't be smiling in Heaven if I wasn't happy on Earth." The women, who were barely out of their teens, snuggled closer to Funky.
"What about the band?"
"It was a mistake."
"The wonderful music you made was a mistake?"
Funky shook his head. "The evil, consumerist soul that had permeated every pore of the music industry is a mistake. That's why I'm here, Joleen. I traveled the world, found this humble village, and now it's doing mighty fine because of me!"
"I know that the world is screwed up, dad, but you and your talents should be out there, changing the world for the better."
"This is changing the world for the better, girl," Funky said.
Joleen frowned. "Stop calling me girl. I'm twenty-eight."
Funky sighed. "Joleen, you're welcome to stay here, girl, but I ain't leaving."
"I swear, daddy, you'll regret this," Joleen said. She turned around contemptuously and left.
Fifteen years ago, Joleen was in a front-row seat at a The Psycho Metrics gig. Her father was the saxophonist, and he applied soulful solos and complemented the guitar riffs with his own tunes.
After the gig ended and the groupies dispersed, Joleen and her mom approached Funky, their starstruck eyes threatening to go nova. Joleen's mom hugged Funky, as the girl precociously watched the band pack up their things.
"When I grow up, I wanna be a saxophonist," Joleen said.
"Well girl, you gotta practice," Funky said.
"Can I hold it, daddy? Your saxophone?"
Funky hesitated, then gave his precious instrument to his daughter. Joleen had watched her father perform countless times. She fumbled a bit with the holes, then managed a clean B-flat sound.
"Whoa!" Funky said.
Joleen followed with a D, then an F, forming a chord.
"This kid is insane, yo," he said.
"She's your daughter, of course," Joleen's mom said, beaming.
At three AM in the morning Joleen rose, playing her saxophone in an ever-repeating solo as she traipsed through the village. People shambled out of their homes, half-awake and in a trance from the otherworldly music. They formed a crowd, following Joleen wherever she went.
Joleen took them to the mountains. Ill-equipped and in their bedclothes, the villagers followed, seemingly uncaring about the harsh conditions.
She had left a note on Funky's hut: I have your villagers. Follow me south, to the mountains, if you want them to live.
Funky put on his worn cloak and saxophone case, the only things left of his former life, and ran to where Joleen told him to. It had been almost an eternity since he crossed the Andes and stumbled upon this idyllic village. He was not going to let anyone disturb the peace, daughter or not.
He spotted a glimpse of the villagers climbing up, unmindful of the thin air or the drop below. He picked up the pace.
Funky reached Joleen's camp after two hours of frantic climbing.
"Wish you'd use that sense of responsibility to raise me," Joleen said, playing a tune to get the villagers up. They formed a neat square between her and the cliff.
"But you grew up just fine, Joleen," Funky said. "I'd have made a bad father. I mean, I wasn't really around in the first place."
"It's a little too late for regret, don't you think?" Joleen said. "All I'm asking you is to come back with me. Reform the band. Touch lives. Right your wrongs."
"I already am doing that," Funky said. "Don't hurt them, please."
"This is all on you, daddy," Joleen said. She put the sax's mouthpiece on and started playing a tune. The villagers turned about face and started walking towards the cliff.
Funky got his own saxophone out of its case and played a counter-melody, which prompted the villagers to stop in their tracks. He continued the tune, layering notes and outdoing Joleen's own tune to save his people. The villagers took a collective step backwards.
Joleen fought back Funky's counterattack with her own solo. The villagers retraced their steps to unwitting suicide.
Perspiring, Funky poured his heart and soul into his tune. He trilled a loud, soulful note, shattering Joleen's hold on the villagers, save for one kid, who was closest to the precipice. Funky ran past Joleen and pulled the child away, but the ground was slippery and he went past the ledge. He grabbed the saxophone as it fell but failed to secure a hold on the ledge...
Joleen held on to his outstretched hand. "Help me!" she yelled, and the villagers helped her pull their chief up to safety.
Panting, Funky lay on the rocky ground. "Ain't ever gonna do that again," he said.
Joleen was aware of everyone's eyes on her. "So, are you gonna push me off the cliff instead?" she said.
The boy's father took a step forward. His hands were wide apart in a gesture of non-violence. "The Chief wouldn't want that, and neither do we."
"Joleen." Funky lay a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I suppose we gotta talk once we're back in the village."
Joleen looked at the rising sun. "Yeah."
"I'm thinking of going back to my job," Joleen said. "Managing funds wasn't too bad." They were drinking tea brewed by one of Funky's wives.
"I've no idea how money works, but it looks like you've got a knack for it," Funky said. "And your sax?"
Joleen's hand twitched. "I'm afraid to touch it again. I might... you know. Do bad things with it."
"It's a gift, Joleen. You use it to do the right thing."
Joleen took a long sip of her tea. It tasted just like home, wherever it was.
"I'd like to stay for another day, daddy," she said. "I wanna play with you again."
"No tricks this time," Funky said, grinning.
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 06:54|
“Liberian Police Used Deadly Force on Peaceful Protest, Acquitted”
The world pulsed into existence with a deep reverberating thrum. My companion, a raggedly dressed old man, gazed wide-eyed and mouth agape as people and cars digitized all around. When the sounds of the city took us, I still managed to hear him whisper, “Oh my God.”
“Zokaya,” I said gently, placing a hand on his filthy shoulder. He flinched away from me, staring at my hand in wonderment. I calmly placed my hand back to my side. “You asked me what the catch was. I felt it unfair to tell you until I showed you first hand what you are getting in return.
“This is Monrovia. The virtual Monrovia. There is one difference between this world and the real world.” I pushed disdain into that word. “The real world doesn’t care about you. It’s happy to crush you under its heel and discard you to the dirty alleys. No one cares that for forty years you had to fight for the privilege of eating garbage and sleeping on cardboard.” I had his rapt attention.
“This world,” I punctuated the statement by jabbing my finger toward the ground, “this is your world, Zokaya. It is yours to shape, yours to control and if you deem fit, yours to destroy.” I clasped Zokaya on the shoulder again, and this time he didn’t pull away from my touch. “If you can imagine it, it can happen here.”
He looked into my eyes briefly then turned to admire the world. “What do you want?”
“You’ll live here in paradise for one hundred years. You won’t get sick. You won’t grow old.” I squeezed his shoulder. “In return, you can’t go back.”
The breath caught in Zokaya’s throat. I removed my hand from his shoulder and left him to his thoughts.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth,” he paused, turning to face me, “about all this?”
I smiled. Got him. “Think about what you want, with the intent of having it right now.”
A few moments passed until a long black limousine pulled up beside us and a waiter wearing a black suit with white gloves stepped out holding a silver domed tray. Zokaya looked to me briefly, as if he were asking for permission. He turned his gaze back to the tray and slowly, almost reverently, he pulled the lid up and away.
I saw him blink rapidly; fighting off tears as he looked at a porterhouse steak garnished with asparagus and roasted brussel sprouts. “I’ll do it,” he said, wiping his eye with the back of his hand.
“I’m glad to hear it,” I said, curtly inclining my head toward him. He wasn’t even paying attention to me anymore. He had his eyes closed as he savored what was probably the first steak he’s had in decades.
I took a step back and the world shot away from me in streaks of light. In my periphery, ‘00:00:12’ flashed, informing me how long I was asleep in the real world. Vertigo assaulted my senses as gravity’s influence whipped me around like a dog shaking a chew toy. The sensation abruptly ended, my eyes flew open and with great urgency I turned and violently retched over the side of my chair.
“Oh you bastard!” Tohya cursed in surprise. He dropped the thick cord connecting me to a large computer. “I didn’t even get a chance to piss, mate.”
I spat bile from my mouth and waved him off. “I’m a natural, what can I say?” I spat again, trying to rid my mouth of the acidic aftertaste. “Once he finishes uploading, start prep for him and the other bodies, ya? I need to get myself cleaned up.”
“Yea, I figured we’d have to do this soon. The election is in what?” Tohya turned, leaned back and squinted to look at the swimsuit edition calendar on the wall. “Two days, mate. You think seven bodies will be enough?”
I groaned as I pushed myself out of my chair. “I wish we had more time and more bodies, but we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got. Besides, we’re going in like a surgeon’s knife, not a drunk man’s cock.”
Tohya burst into laughter. “Jeez, mate, go get cleaned up.” He reached behind me and tapped on the thick cable connected to the base of my skull. There was an audible click and he gently pulled on it. I felt a slight hum in my head and briefly my senses flared; I smelled fresh chewing tobacco, I saw colors I had no name for, mercifully I tasted bubblegum instead of vomit, my skin pricked and then just as sudden as the onset, I was back to normal. Tohya placed the cable on the table and I saw a shimmer of color as the microscopic filaments played with the light while it slid back into the cord.
“We’re going to make history,” I said as much for my benefit as his. “Liberia will have a chance for a free election and it will be because of us.”
“And all it’ll cost are the lives of a few bad apples.”
I nodded, looking at the seven homeless people who unknowingly signed up to spearhead the liberation of Liberia.
I opened my eyes and found I was looking into my face. “Hey beautiful,” I said in a voice that was not mine.
“Hey yourself,” my original replied. “Hold still while I make sure the conditioning took.”
With a button press, my body went numb. I watched him - myself study the graphics as my body attempted to react without my input. “For my sanity, what do I call you? And don’t say father or I will punch you in the mouth.”
He chuckled, his teeth reflecting the light from the holographic monitor. “I think we should use code names…” he mused.
“So Jackal it is.”
Jackal shivered visibly. “That was unexpectedly creepy. You voicing my thoughts like that. No wonder copying your consciousness to multiple bodies is illegal.”
“The world can’t handle this much sexy.”
Jackal gave me a sideway glance. “You haven’t seen yourself in a mirror lately.”
I inspected my teeth with my tongue and found many of them missing.
“Zokaya,” we both said simultaneously.
With a flourish, Jackal tapped a button and I felt the control come back to my limbs. “All the neural connections are are firing as expected. Try out a couple of moves to see if you’re calibrated, will you?”
“Sure thing,” I said. As I stood up, I felt a natural urge to move like a ninja ballerina. I was fluid and relaxed, yet I could tell there was great capacity to do serious harm. With machine precision, my body went into lightning fast Krav Maga drills. I had no actual experience with the martial art, but the nanomachines coating my neurons and strengthening my muscles were driving this bus and I was just a giddy passenger.
There was a low whistle from behind. “Money well spent, mate. Ain’t no one gonna expect an old dude to move like that.”
I turned to face Tohya. “You got skills.”
“Shut it, you suck up.” He smirked. “You and three others are going to hit police stations. We got the good and bad cops all categorized so just let the biosensor do its thing first so you know who to grease. Don’t kill the good cops. You’re more robot than man at this point and you have plenty of options when it comes to nonlethal neutralization.
“Carve out the cancer and be thorough. We only have one shot at this, mostly because we’re broke now.” Tohya pointed at me with two fingers, the cigarette held between them. “I also have a surprise for you when this is over because ‘ethics’ and all that.”
I grinned, my gap filled mouth for all to see. “I do like surprises.”
As I walked into the Liberia National Police station, my logical mind told me I should have felt nervous, but this body’s conditioning kept me at an unnatural calmness. I clinically scanned for my targets, made easy by the red halo surrounding them. Even easier because I could see the shapes of their bodies through the walls.
Time decelerated as my brain overclocked my ability to process information. Four marks in the room. I slid right up against a walking officer and before he could react to my sudden movement, I had displaced his center of gravity with my own, drove an elbow to his temple and drew his pistol. Four shots that sounded like one continuous explosion of sound found each of their marks. Spurts of blood blew back from each head, spraying the unfortunate people behind them with bits of bone, blood and brain matter.
Time snapped back to normal and I charged through the shocked mass of armed officers. As I reached the stairs, the police finally came to their senses and the emergency alarms wailed overhead. To my left was a red outline behind a closed door. I snapped two quick shots, one made a hole in the door and the second made a hole in his head. I dropped the pistol’s magazine into my waiting hand and then threw it to the stairwell where I came from. I forcibly manipulated the air among the throng and the word ‘grenade’ was heard from their midst.
Not waiting to see their reaction, I rounded the corner and exploded through a set of double doors into a room of two targets and far too many innocents. I threw the empty pistol at the closest officer, overclocked my brain and danced through the sea of clutching hands and swinging fists. A wrist slid into view. I snatched it and up-ended its owner over my shoulder. He flew over me, I reached up and snatched the pistol right from his holster and got off one shot, threading the needle through multiple moving bodies. One target went down in a spray of blood, clutching at his throat.
One more left and he was running away. I went to turn the gun on him, but someone was already moving to knock my arm upward. My skin pricked with power as electricity coursed under my skin. I felt my body grow weak as a quick burst lightning arced through the bodies, dropping a large number of people to the ground. I chased after the fleeing officer and right before I made it out of the door, a bullet struck me in the shoulder and I spun. As I fell, I trained the iron sights on the running man through the wall, prayed the the walls were thin enough, and emptied the gun with unerring accuracy.
The officer’s legs turned to jelly and he face planted.
Not long after I hit the floor, I felt the searing pain of bullets perforating my body.
The world pulsed into existence with a deep reverberating thrum. The city of Monrovia was gone, replaced with stone houses, and a castle in the distance. Standing in front of me a young and muscular Zokaya with a mouth full of pearly white teeth and a long sword balanced over his shoulders.
I noticed a man with long pointed ears walk past.
“I was told to expect a visitor, but I didn’t think it would take years,” Zokaya said, taking my hand in a firm shake. “Thank you for this. Really.”
“You’re welcome…,” I trailed off, jutting a thumb back at the elf.
Zokaya smirked. “I played a ton of Dungeons and Dragons 27th edition back when I was a kid.” He hefted the sword off his shoulders and tossed it to me. I caught it and staggered under its weight. “Come on, we got a gorgon to slay.”
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 06:54|
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 07:30|
You thought I was gonna be late, did you?
Well then gently caress you! *violently grabs testicles* Skin of my teeth, motherfuckers!
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 07:42|
These are some really fun stories. I mean that in the best way.
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 11:26|
Phew, you dinguses almost broke my brain. My crits are writ, but judges meeting has yet to be convened and my thoughts relayed to head judge Rhino. Maybe not settled until this time tomorrow so have this to chew on:
give me a little taste about a bribe, payola, graft, palm-greasing, *ahem* you know, nothing that will call unnecessary attention
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 20:20|
Blood Money (400 words)
Sidney placed it on the table. A small medical vial filled to the brim with human blood, certified.
Franco glanced at it from behind his newspaper like a weary footsoldier atop the walls of a besieged, still-standing coastal fortress. He turned the page.
Sidney poked the vial. "It's for you." It rolled an inch or so across the marble table's polished surface.
"I can appreciate that, but what is it?"
"I mean, you know." Sidney looked around. His finger twitched. "It's blood. Human blood."
Franco turned the page.
"Why are you giving me blood, dear Sidney?"
"Well, I mean, you know...ah nevermind, sorry, sorry, forget it."
Sidney reached for the vial, but it was already too late. The defensive perimeter of the paper was gone. Where he might've felt glass he instead felt Franco's hand. Franco pinned the vial to the table, his eyes fixed on his coworker.
"Why did you, Sidney - my cherished and capable coworker - think it was appropriate to give me, Franco - your cherished and capable coworker in charge of filing the workplace survey results this week - a hospital vial designed for the collection and containment of human blood - a task which it is presently fulfilling."
Sidney waited a little longer than he should have for the question mark at the end, but it never came.
"Look man, it's been a hard week, alright? My girlfriend, she broke up with me. I'll make up the missing reports over the weekend, okay? I know I've been slacking this week, but I'll make it up to you, honest to God."
"And what does that," Franco shifted his eyes from Sidney to the vial, "Have to do with this?"
"Just, you know, I wanted you to know I'm on your side man. I scratch your back, you scratch mine." Sidney tried to smile. He was failing.
"Why blood, Sidney?"
"...Your a vampire, right?"
Franco's newspaper crinkled in his other hand. It was a sound like thunder.
"You think just because I'm a vampire I drink blood? Human blood? In this day and age?"
Sidney had no response. He stood and walked away.
Franco unfolded his newspaper with a snort and searched for where he'd left off. Briefly, his eyes drifted to the table, the vial. He glanced right, left, and behind himself.
Franco left at midnight, and with him the vial.
|# ? Sep 12, 2016 21:53|
ALL STAR RESULTS
Another week, another Thunderdome. This round, I would have put in effort to make this results post more interesting but I forgot to bring home my laptop and typing on an apple keyboard sucks (why isn't swift key working) so let's cut the fat and get to the meat.
Decisions this time was almost universal with hardly any disagreement, marking for an unexciting finale with zero suspense. How do you even make good television one of you judges was supposed to be falsely outraged. In any case. We felt the stories that worked the least for us were not terrible or atrocious, but suffered from being either boring or confusing from a character motivation or plot standpoint. With that, the DM are Intense Heat, Stretching Silver and Soul/Off respectively by Daeres, Fuschia tude and Schneider Heim. The loser, which reads less like a story and more like an overwritten vignette with some minor problematic (and hopefully accidental) characterisation and nebulous feature of the music genre, is Llamaguccii with God's Window. Please do not jump off the cliff of that mountain though
For the best of show, we were happy with two of the HM, both of which featured a series of fun action sequences and presented a sense of urgency lacking in some of the mid tiers. These are “Liberian Police Used Deadly Force on Peaceful Protest, Acquitted” and Jean & Milan respectively by Mercedes and Caligula Kangaroo (who I note jumped from DM to HM this week).
For the winner we were torn between two stories, both we consider publish-worthy quality. Both incorporated one of the two conditions masterfully, but falters on the other (perhaps too subtle, or too much in the forgotten background). Ultimately, we were unanimous that one story triumphed than the other in the usage of the two conditions, but both are great works. Thus, the first runner up HM goes to Tyrannosaus with Wolf Honeymoon. And the winner is Pale Spectres for the story Out of Memory .
[credits sequence as confetti falls and everyone hugs the winner, host pops up to say "see you next week!"]
|# ? Sep 13, 2016 14:47|
|# ? Sep 13, 2016 15:38|
|# ? Sep 13, 2016 15:52|
Jib's Crit Recap for Week 214 - THUNDERDOME ALL-STAR TRIBUTE
I read in judgemode, so anonymous crits. These are ranked in my preferred order, which wasn't much of an issue this week, at least for the top and bottom entries. Good, mid, and bad were pretty clearly stratified. I wrote a summary sentence or two about each one to give to the other judges and my rankings for Rhino to consider. That's provided, then the reading crit follows for each.
1 PALE SPECTRES - "Out of Memory"
I can tell right away this was written in Spectre-vision. I feel like I’m watching an old 3D movie without wearing the paper glasses. Your style is unique and often inscrutable without having a decoder ring, but I like trying to puzzle it out even if I’m not part of your club. Some people probably hate that though, so who knows where this will rank when all is said and done. I think T-Rex has the win probably, but I’d give you two HMs [ed. you won and it wasn't a fight]
So Xuan is 26, so this is taking place in 2009? It’s written in super cyberpunk future language (which I dig) but I also remember people still listening to chiptune stuff, and I recall going to some shows in the 2006-2009 years so it wouldn’t be that dead of a scene. I guess maybe under the Tokyo lights. . . . Oh, this is a slice of spooky action at a distance since Tokyo and her father is on the other side of the ocean. It took me until second reading and I looked up Dirty War to realize this wasn’t in Japan somewhere, even with the Fred/Gazoo contrast mentioned.
The quantum business is a little fuzzy, since there’s other meaning outside the uncertainty principle which you reference, like a photon referred to as a quantum of light, and you refer to the fake blood causing an explosion of light from her eyes, which I guess allows the word to pull double duty, but also muddies things up a bit.
I was really imagining the dance floor like a Pac-Man board and the dancer all power pellets and ghosts, but then the fake blood is everywhere and I don’t get it. Circe the temptress with the cup and food I understand, and fake blood/’fake’ soylent connection, but I can’t tell if the over arching comparison is between meat and digital space and that’s what the blood represents. So hmm.
I might try to dissect this point some more in the future, but I will say that Xuan meaning ‘choice’ in Japanese but John in Spanish is interesting. You might have made the gender and preference of the main character vague or fluid to match. Or a straight up change between when Xuan is in Argentina vs. Tokyo.
Doesn’t seem like there’s much consideration of a choice between Circe and Alec for Xuan, so there’s a chance to mine that, too.
Your saving grace is that you pack so much imagery into this that practically anyone who thinks about it metaphorically AT ALL will be able to get something interesting out of it. I really can’t tell if this is meticulously plotted metaphor or your brain just works like this naturally, because some things feel like happenstance, but I keep finding things to ponder, so it’s fascinating. Anyone who reads it as purely literal will think it’s dumb
It just gave me so much to think about and connecting the dots is cool if you like the trippiness of overlaying real science on the story and just seeing so many patterns. I think I'm turning into Nicolas Cage. (help)
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Music OK, location wasn’t clear from context without specific knowledge about the Dirty War, but doesn’t really impact the story since it’s mostly in da club
2 Tyrannosaurus - "Wolf Honeymoon"
Can’t figure out where Rap Opera fits in, but it’s a solid story. I was prepped for bad with the first use of the dead body as a pillow, then soon realized what was going on and it was good. Like, this is a crystal clear story about a fever dream, whereas Spectres wrote a fever dream seen through a prism. So toss up on which I like better, they’re both so different. I think this will probably win since it could probably be published in a small magazine as is, rap opera be damned. But we were hoping for this as subtext: http://www.somethingawful.com/your-...notes-kellys-2/
Would you like to join me in using our compatriot’s dead body as a pillow? In my version that should come after the first scene change. One little section of war normalcy so the surprise of odd behavior and madness hits harder, or maybe something less squicky as the first sign.
I like this story. Aside from the music theme being completely obtuse or unused (the structure with the chanting?), the traditional superstitions and such were clear from context clues and unlike a few, I didn’t feel like I had to read a cultural primer to understand the story.
Making an eyepatch for the corpse and tying it to the tree to protect it from floodwaters are good details and I can rationalize doing it myself when trapped with a dead so-and-so I know. It sounds grim and a little crazy, but realistic. I’ve seen the slyly eating a beetle then looking around in some movie or several, but for the overall theme of PTSD in a warzone, this is a good piece. One of the best of the week. I need to watch that Daniel Radcliffe fart movie soon.
Setting fine, still unclear about how the rap opera is included.
3 CaligulaKangaroo "Jean and Milan"
This has some proofing and grammar issues that keep it from being a winner (and maybe even drop it out of HM contention), but it was the one I enjoyed the most. Good character voice especially when discussing Tyler. Definitely the most fun use of the music genre out of all the entries.
Loads of energy and a good sense of humor. A few typos and awkward wordings that a little polish would fix, but it was fun to read. Maybe one too many uses of ‘lunatic.’ Paragraph explaining your narrator’s background with the drug lords and getting beaten for asking for decent food is especially sloppy. We all run in to time constraints, but proofread, goddammit. There are missing words that jar the reader right out of the story. That alone can drop you into DM range, regardless of any redeeming qualities. A fun mess is better than a polished turd, but why make us choose?
Some situational problems. It’s rather unbelievable that a star of Tyler loving Milan’s stature can’t get coke. A guy like this would have an entourage far beyond some local cops. I think your heroes would end up smashing a bodyguard or manager. Now that could work if you knock out a manager and then the pop idol wants to get score some drugs.
I think the ending fell too far into cliche from the temptation to have a zippy last line with a turn. The clean cut Disney star wanting drugs and being a bit of a bad boy is something that has not only happened for real, it’s been parodied many times.
But I like Jean and the narrator’s relationship and Jean talking about Tyler is done right. I’d like the continuing adventures of these two. "I am overwhelmed with emotions," while glomping onto a pop idol in a fur coat just tickled me.
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Seychelles, sure. Weirdo busting out of prison to stalk his pop idol is the cleverest use of the genre
4 Thranguy - "An Aquarian Expedition"
Felt like two stories mashed together, not bad but not great in any way. Skips over fleshing out the love triangle/quadrangle to get to Lovecraft monsters without any real horror.
So that took a turn. The dynamic of an aging band is always ripe for exploration, and the beginning is decent. Nice touches with recalling an old Rolling Stone article and the long-winded hippie relationship explanation. Believable scenario. I even thought the first mention of “misunderstood beings” was more drug-fueled and less literal than it turned out to be.
Clarence’s dismissal really didn’t mean much in the end. You still had them cart the drums and set them up, anyway. And wouldn’t it look more odd having an empty kit while a drum machine plays? It was all done just to get a seat for the Lovecraft monster. In the spirit of communion or whatever, it would have been nicer for Clarence to have a change of “beating heart” and willingly give up his stool to the alien.
Narrator says that all this emotional support is exhausting, but that’s all there is. Tell but no show.
Exposition dump in dialogue with the driver that I don’t really care about. Should have been a more natural discussion between bandmates. Even some of that is too vague, and assumes that you know something about the Lovecraft story to make sense of it.
More to the point, are they really that dangerous? Narrator claims an acid trip is more trippy than these creatures that supposedly cause madness. I mean at worst, viewers will think it’s a well produced music video, right? Or hologram or something.
And what are the Norwegians trying to get out of this? They’re broadcasting this but don’t want creatures on camera, but they clearly want White Ship to play there. Kjell draws blood after the show, and I honestly have no idea why.
At the end, the narrator seems surprised that he isn’t the center of the band, even though the argument was with Clarence at the beginning. Should have shown a little bit of self-centeredness there so his surprise at being unneeded in the bedroom was more evident. Though there’s an undertone of melodrama and world-ending madness, the whole thing was so light that I expected a Shoggoth to pop out at the end with a towel around its waist, glasses askew only to be yanked back inside the room by the two sexpots.
So the band stuff could make a fine story on its own, and you seem dismissive of all the Lovecraft stuff, so why bother with it? A world peace concert from a hippie band in Antarctica staged by a promoter who wants to profit from it would have been perfectly fine without the supernatural inclusions, and would have given room to expand the characters on their month-long journey.
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Antarctica, sure. Went a little too literal with the weird though.
5 Djeser - "Time Writes No Wrinkles On The Bay"
Cool premise, but not much to it. Did not like seeing a comment in IRC about throwing something together just to avoid toxxing. That makes a judge sad even when it might be a joke. Still, ranked closer to the top then the bottom during this week, so. . . .
The tone is a little sedate for someone who just had the entire team meld into a coral. It’s clear from the question at the end of the first paragraph that this already occurred and the rest is reflection on what’s happened. It might be OK if this was a break-up and the narrator was detached, but something other-worldly has happened. So when it’s revealed that there is more of a relationship than just co-workers and the narrator is desperately trying to make contact the tone is doubly odd.
I also wonder about what is calling the scientists to the sea brain and why the narrator doesn’t feel the same call. Eventually, even the narrator’s partner walks into the sea to join the conglomerate; but after two weeks, the narrator is still sitting on the dock.
I went through this a couple times looking for some tricks with pronouns, especially where you, we, and I were used, but I couldn’t find any slickness there. It would have been cool to discover something about when each was used — especially since this is about a colony/hive mind.
I don’t understand why you call it a “non-living” intelligence. I don’t get a sense that the sea brain is anything but a weird coral. Moreover, I think it’s a little far-fetched that a scientist would identify some undiscovered intelligence and not attempt communication.
The other sentence that really sticks out is “Is it like I've been gone for only a moment, or is it like I've been gone for an eternity?” It’s a little unwieldy to project that onto the person who, from the narrator’s point of view, is the one who disappeared. I think trying to delve into how an immortal intelligence with no true sense of time (if that’s even possible) is something you could spend pages dissecting, so the one-liner feels out of place.
But anyway, on the surface, I liked reading it. If this was expanded in the same style I would read another thousand words. Just make sure you steer clear of Michael Crichton.
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Not specifically, but the throughline about listening and communication was effective. I suppose you used the chiptune part of Nintendocore but I was hoping for the dueling metal guitars since I put on my Mini-bosses t-shirt just to read this.
6 QuoProQuid - "Maybe It Was Fate (or Sita Sings Bluegrass)"
Attempt at POV shift on a traditional religious tale, not enough changed in the retelling to make it special, second person narrative a little odd for the subject matter.
I like the retelling of a legend from a different perspective, but there’s not much of a twist here. You have Sita run away rather than be kidnapped, and that could be an interesting spin, but the motivations aren’t explained very well. I guess it’s all a meditation on fate, because none of the action changes anything.
I think it would have been better to present this from Ravana’s point of view, to show more specifically that the Rakshasa aren’t so bloodthirsty as they’re made out to be. You touch on that ever so slightly, but what compels Sita to write to Ravana in the first place? How does she know that Ravana’s not as bad as Rama paints him?
I mean his goal is to defeat a demon-king which will bring eleven thousand years of prosperity. I don’t think a boring marriage would compel someone to romance the devil.
I guess the initial frustration is really just boredom, but Sita seems to have some celestial responsibilities in the form of a crop/harvest goddess, so she’s not solely a bored housewife who has a distant husband. The golden deer hunt is part of the traditional telling, so why is Rama suspicious there? On second read, I wish you had included a few bits of Sita doing things differently so Rama could sense fate-quakes or whatever when things are being changed.
The first section isn’t bad on its own. Some pretty good internal monologuing. But the second opens with no hint of how Rama discovers where Sita is. It appears that he immediately knows Sita is in Lanka and wages war to recover her. And it’s never stated that Rama understands she ran away rather than being kidnapped, so there’s no resolution on that front.
Sita runs from one place where a man protects her, right to a different man who protects her, then back to the first one. Her relationship with Ravana isn’t explored aside from a quick mention of Ravana smiling. And Rama shows a moment of pity, but still demands that Sita make a sacrifice (of her autonomy) just so Ravana isn’t smeared by the post-war propaganda.
The second and third sections are pretty boring even though there’s a war with demons and monkey kings going on.
She’s not intimidated by Rama, but Rama never changes, Sita is right back where she started, and we never see Ravana’s ‘intelligence, courage, and endless kindness.’ Ravana says he won’t abandon Sita, but then she ditches him when she’s sure he’s going to lose the battle. So what does she think about herself? I think I have a lesser view of Sita at the end than I did at the beginning. I don’t think that was what you were going for.
Even though it’s second person, it has kind of a mythic quality to the writing. I’m not sure it’s the best choice though, since it’s impossible to see myself as a character that may as well be a historical figure. If this was a wholly unique work it might have been easier to inhabit Sita’s headspace.
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Lanka is pretty clearly used. Prog Bluegrass? Covering a traditional folk song, maybe? I definitely think of coalmines and trailer parks when I think about bluegrass, and a story about gods and demon wars is pretty far from the pedestrian concerns that the genre usually tackles.
7 Mercedes - "Liberian Police Used Deadly Force on Peaceful Protest, Acquitted"
Practically all cliches, but action was good and cyber-y
Matrix meets Manchurian Candidate meets Deus Ex with a dash of Ghost in the Shell. I mean the steak scene is lifted straight out of The Matrix. You hit a ton of sci fi action cliches in this, from downloading martial arts to throwing the empty pistol at an enemy to cheeseball nicknames. The action sequence is pretty clear, though nothing really new or exciting happens in it.
As far as I understand it, Liberia is working on reforms and cleaning up after civil war/unrest now. Maybe it’s still a hotbed of corruption, but I find it hard to believe that these guys are going to clean it all up on their own with a few assassins. Even tougher to believe that free elections haven’t happened before D&D 27th edition.
So maybe it’s a semi-current revolution, then future instability, then your robo-hobos are tackling a new despotic government. In the end, I suppose that doesn’t matter too much for the story. It’s just a fancy future political thriller with the focus on the thrills and not so much on the politics.
The D&D reference at the end was super cornball though, and in keeping with the cyber-flavor it might have been better to say Dragon Age 27 or Final Fantasy 50 or something like that to ground it in the future of this timeline.
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Location used superficially, but at least a little effort to tie real world politics to it, and I think the genre was supposed to be vaporwave (which would have produced something completely different), rather than vaporware (which is what we got), but oh well.
8 Sailor Viy - "The Student"
Kim Jung-Un fanfic. Mostly cliche, with a slight twist on the ending, but the prose is clean and clear.
Anyway, seems impossible that Jong-Un would have US currency. I might accept that he has a drawer of South Korean won, or even yen (since the Japanese are mentioned). But it’s most likely that he doesn’t have any physical money at all, since when would he personally ever need it?
This story didn’t need to have glorious leader be the protagonist to work, and it might even work against itself, since you don’t really deal with any hypocrisy that he’s practicing jazz at home and sneaking to concerts while sending the secret police to stamp it out.
Musically speaking, a trumpeter would talk about lips bleeding way before fingers. I think you’d be doing something wrong if your fingers bled from playing a trumpet. Same goes for sax spittle. I suppose it’s possible, but you’d be playing poorly. Minor issue on both counts.
This is decently told but relies on the stale trope of the king’s sycophants not telling him the truth and him being self-aware about it, then going out in disguise to find a mentor among the commoners. I like the twist of him just abandoning his kingdom and then being told he’ll never achieve his dream.
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Yes and yes, though a little forced.
THE BAD - be OK with DMing any of these, really
9 Paladinus - "Homeland"
All setup to a lame punchline. So much you could have done with the prompt combo. Best of the worst, though.
Wait, what? The things I know off the top of my head about Pitcairn Island are the Mutiny on the Bounty and the sexual abuse and child pornography trials, so the joke feels a little uncouth, especially when you mention the auction house is a Virgin auction house. I realize that’s probably meant to be the Branson company, but I still connected those unfortunate dots. You got a bit of a bum deal (oh, ho ho) with your genre and location, at least to write a story with the tone you chose.
How did Suezan do that much research about a very tiny island and not encounter the scandal (or the mutiny history)? Seems convenient. I’ve seen some episodes of Who Do You Think You Are?, and someone with great pride in their heritage discovering a dark secret in their lineage is always interesting. I wish this wasn’t a jokey piece where the auction is attended by aristocrats with monocles.
You have to attend this auction in person where the auctioneer is a computer? That seems weird. And there’s no indication of how much inflation has happened between now and then. If we just take your figures to mean today-dollars, no matter how not-at-all-meagre my salary I would not be laughing at a $800K wasted on an Anal Inspectors CD.
Anyway, this is all sort of a setup for a lame punchline and the real Pitcairn history ignored.
10 Fuschia tude - "Stretching Silver"
Straightforward pulpy sea adventure with some hideous Fantasy Island accent work. Camino de Santiago connection requires a leap in logic and outside research to see.
De plane, de plane! More broken English. I could live with the bad accents if the two brothers had a good conversation in perfect English at the end and that was all just a con on Craig.
I don’t really get why the brothers are protecting sunken treasure, it sounds like they’re guarding some sacred relics or something rather than trying to make a maneuver to excavate the site themselves. I was expecting a double-cross from Regine and the captain pulls out one of those new-fangled Blackberrys to take her call. So, yeah, are they protecting something bigger than just loot?
Turns out they are. One legend about Camino de Santiago, which is actually a pilgrimage route on the Iberian:
“After [St.] James's death, his disciples shipped his body to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago. Off the coast of Spain, a heavy storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean. After some time, however, it washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops.”
So the body is still at the bottom of the ocean in your version, I guess? That’s what it seems like, but the change in legend isn’t made clear from your story, and without knowing your prompt, the connection would never be made, so a vital detail to the meaning is missing if this were in a publication elsewhere.
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Music shoehorned in, setting tangentially used.
11 a friendly penguin - "A Time to Sing, a Time to Talk, a Time to Dance"
Opposite tone to the music prompt, so that’s weird. Religious differences are superficial to the point of just talking about the hijab, really. But the paragraph about the miscarriage drags this to the bottom of the bad entries.
I don’t know Spanish so I had to look up the untranslated quotes. I sort of see the theme you’re going for with grace and power; but you messed up somewhere because this is weak and inelegant. At least the Spanish language portions weren’t important plot wise for the story, just added some flavor, but you have one in there that’s isolated and italicized. If I didn’t have Google translate, this is where I’d put the story down until I could look it up since that seems very important.
I don’t know much about Berber Jews, and even going from the very basic Wikipedia article, I find it hard to believe that Kenza’s family would have no issues with her marrying a Muslim. I think you threw that in because your setting is Morocco, but it seems like there are very few Berber Jews left there, so she would be something unique. Maybe I misread my research, but the point stands that the religious divide is glossed over except in the most cursory manner.
I don’t even think Sayeed would participate in co-ed swimming so it starts off implausibly. Since they pursued no common amusements, swimming is not amusing, I guess. Strolling is not really something one does in the swimming pool. I get your meaning, but it’s a poor choice. I don’t know if a swim/pool-related phrase would be better, but things like this stick out and it’s right at the beginning of your piece.
So Sayeed seems like a friendly and fairly open minded kind of guy, and even though he doesn’t understand dancing, he’s great at it. They get married and buzz around all the colorful parts of town, and it’s only later that we’re told his family doesn’t approve and that he wants to make Kenza wear a hijab and only leave the house with an escort.
But also I guess the family DOES approve, since they dance around aunts and cousins? (Oh, I get it now, they’re not yet married when you first say “They married.”) But anyway, is it really finding grace to switch religions because of her husband’s “power”?
So then he tells her to get to work, and by that he means get pregnant, so she does. I guess she’s sad because her TWO SERVANTS don’t help much, but she’s still cheerful enough to sing with silent passion.
Then the baby has receded and been expelled. These are bad sentences.
I really don’t understand what Sayeed’s problem is with going to Spain. It’ll make what look worse? His power for not having strong enough seed? I’ve heard things like that before, but you don’t explore it at all.
I really don’t understand what you’re trying to say with this. Two diametrically opposed people meet and fall in love. Then it turns out he’s a jerk, she miscarries, then jumps into the ocean presumably to never be seen again. Strait of Gibraltar is a very difficult open-water swim, and while possible, an untrained housewife would probably not make it.
And when she’s giving up and going to swim, why did she put on her dress and hijab only to strip it off at the beach? I think you could have made a stronger point here.
Finally, I’m the worst at trying to come up with story titles, but how can you include all that in your title and not have a swimming reference?
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Morocco was explored enough that I was satisfied with the setting. The relationship was really the important part of the story, anyway. The music, lessee:
Zar·zue·la: a Spanish traditional form of musical comedy. THIS WAS A COMEDY???????
THE REALLY BAD - DM for sure, Loss candidates
12 Schneider Heim - "Soul/Off"
The resentful father/daughter relationship and finding the hippie father in a primitive-living commune had potential; but their dialogue is bad, motivations end up being selfish and unappealing, and the magic sax battle was really bad.
Hold up, a kid is starstruck by her father after watching him perform countless times? Unlikely. And then a chord on a sax? Impossible. Also fumble with sax holes? Are you sure you’re thinking of a saxophone? This is another one of those music things - the keys on the sax are pretty easy to handle to play a simple note - it’s the reed and your breath that’s the tough part. But whatever.
Funky stinks. The music battle was kind of lame, and takes the psychedelic part a little too literally. Joleen stinks even worse. He says she grew up just fine while she’s threatening to walk an entire village off a cliff?
The little action with saving the kid is unclear too. I guess Funky threw the kid before falling off the cliff? (And unless it’s a soprano, saxophones have a strap that goes around your neck to hold them, kind of like a guitar strap). So anyway, Joleen was the one trying to get people to fall, so her statement “are you gonna push me off the cliff instead?” doesn’t make much sense here, but that doesn’t really matter much because the entire thing doesn’t make much sense.
Magical pied piper wants to get her estranged dad to reform their old band, but he’s happy with his polygamist village cult in the Andes because he hates evil consumerism and doesn’t understand how money works and she can’t move past her mother’s death.
Just let Funky live his life, geez Joleen.
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? I don’t know if I’d consider this pychedelic soul, there’s nothing really trippy about it. It’s pretty straightforward silliness. Location, sure.
13 Daeres - "Intense Heat"
So many words to say so little. Nothing intense about any of the action, it’s a 16-bit RPG random encounter battle when I’m trying to avoid chump enemies to get to the boss without wasting time and HP. The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy just doesn’t fit at all into your setting.
Hooboy. This is a hell of a lot of words to say a fire mage beat up some mannequins and melted a rock.
There’s very little characterization other than profession for Itinga. And looking up Waipoua, it’s basically another forest. So, even her wonderment at the beginning is lessened by coming from a similar environment. As a fire wizard, why not have her be from a desert or something so the rainforest can be an unfamiliar environment?
This is a world in which The Nutcracker exists and yet there are lots of magical creatures around. None of that is explained. Is this a secret magical world like Harry Potter, or is magic commonplace? Don’t have to go into great detail about any of this, but a line about what the world is like would be nice. Seems to be some sort of mage-for-hire, but who knows?
Is she human? This isn’t really clear, but her disdain for humans is. The magic rock at the end doesn’t indicate human activity, or at least it isn’t explained that humans are involved. I think you have a world developed in your head canon, but it doesn’t come across here at all.
I thought at first this was like a forest sprite, and the creatures she was going to encounter were like loggers with chainsaws and earthmovers, or something. That sort of thing can be good when human activity is seen through foreign eyes. But alas.
There’s a lot of passive voice here. Example: “the creature had still managed to bruise her left arm” to “the creature bruised her left arm”. Four words chopped out like a wood golem’s heart and no information lost. It was a slog reading this since there are so many unnecessary words. You made your action boring.
Do people go around trying to get magical creatures to appreciate Tchaikovsky? It’s such an odd choice to have The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy be your touchstone of human activity. No magical creature would ever be interested in ballet. Stranger still, DotSPF is associated with the celesta, a musical instrument that sounds like bells and is meant to evoke dripping water of a fountain, so why does the rain start after the music is destroyed?
Why is she apologetic for stopping the Samoans’ problem and saving the island? That’s silly and makes her weak. There’s no why or how, just someone beating up wooden dummies in the forest. Your last paragraph starts with “She needed to figure out who had set all this in motion.” That’s where your story should have started.
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy had finally died. Me, too. Me, too.
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Samoa vaguely. Ballet? Much to my chagrin.
14 Llamaguccii - "God's Window"
Overblown prose and really bad characters, insulting attitude towards indigenous populations, bad accents, but fortunately there’s little of it. Insulting to Lego. Real toss up between these bottom three on who loses, but I think this single sentence settles my vote for worst:
"Until they reached the peak of their excursion they encountered a few other “minor” scares (“Go slow. Leopard, maybe.”) and one intense moment in which Cisco, for all his enthusiasm and impatience, insisted on scaling the limbs of a river bush willow to determine how near they were to their destination only to accomplish seeing a fine array of leaves, which upon his intention to part, caused the branch to snap, lending the Italian to fall through the various levels of wooden discomfort until he was finally pitied by an outstretched arm of the tree and saved from plummeting to his death."
Can they really be considered con artists for exploiting a “primitive society?” I guess they’re going to build a hotel or something? I think the government would probably be involved rather than dealing solely with a local tribal leader. Anyway, the specifics of the con are the least of the problems here.
The naive primitive native, dark of complexion speaking in broken English (“Italian.”) is worrisome. Marqi is played off as a jungle rube, and why would he be desperate for the friendship of these two idiots who nearly fall to their death by climbing a tree and falling through 27 branches before stopping like a cartoon? The dialogue is ridiculous and all the book-saidisms are just as bad. The prose is so overwrought that Marqi should have translated each paragraph-long sentence.
I’m not sure if this is a troll or not. The punctuation and spelling looks polished, but it makes every “rookie mistake,” so I dunno.
I hope they get dysentery from drinking water out of the stream without boiling it first.
Did it incorporate your music genre and location? God’s Window, sure. Disco? Seductively.
The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at Sep 26, 2016 around 09:54
|# ? Sep 13, 2016 18:30|
|# ? Sep 13, 2016 21:00|
A chart showing the position of TD winners's position in the week (represented as a ratio of position/number of entrants), sorted by week:
And by position, to illustrate frequency:
|# ? Sep 13, 2016 21:06|
yeah i did that analysis a while ago and found no statistical significance for where in the week you submitted.
|# ? Sep 13, 2016 21:42|
Djeser had to get to this sweet insider info out ASAP there was no time to label the axes or make it pleasant to look at or at least readable (much like his stories)
|# ? Sep 13, 2016 22:39|
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|# ? Sep 13, 2016 23:15|
|# ? Sep 13, 2016 23:32|
|# ? Sep 13, 2016 23:38|
A chart showing the position of TD winners's position in the week (represented as a ratio of position/number of entrants), sorted by week:
I appreciate that the graph has two y-positions labeled "0".
Thanks for the crit, Jib!
|# ? Sep 14, 2016 02:18|
I appreciate that the graph has two y-positions labeled "0".
Tell excel to let you input fractions and it'll tell you that .9 is 8/9.
|# ? Sep 14, 2016 03:20|
|# ? Sep 14, 2016 03:38|
Our glorious champion has forsaken us. Who will fill the farty power vacuum that remains??
Djeser I choose you! Use: Fast Prompt!
|# ? Sep 14, 2016 03:50|
|# ? Jul 22, 2019 20:23|
|# ? Sep 14, 2016 04:45|