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J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Interprompt over phone:

"Jerry!"

A scream so loud it cut through the headphones, making him look away from his homework and down the hall. He knew that scream, down to the volume and pitch. He was in trouble.

No sense waiting to make it worse. He headed down the stairs and into a disaster zone of cookware and steaming pasta strewn about on the linoleum tile. Mom was up on the counter, feet tucked in tight to her chest, eyes wide as she glared at him, then the cabinets under the prep area, then back to him.

Chester poked his head out from a cabinet door, took a nervous look here and there, clicked its mandibles twice, then retreated into the darkness of the storage space.

"Oh, crap." He said, shoulders slumping. She found Chester.

"Crap is right, young man!" Mom replied. "What did I tell you about super science in the house?"

Damage control time. "Mom, I know you're angry, but it's a school project this time, I swear."

Eyes narrowed, but she made no move to get off the countertop. "What project?"

Chester pushed his way out of the cabinet, the dog-sized black ant scuttling over to the upturned pot of spaghetti, steady click click click of its legs on the tile as it attempted to grasp the pasta in its mandible. Every scoop ended up falling to the floor, landing with a wet plop, only to try again.

"Dr. Halls gave us a module on the cube-square law," Jerry said, looking down at the ant as it tried, again, to eat the spaghetti. "So I wanted to demonstrate how it'd affect a creature that has been upscaled. I wanted to keep him in my room, but his exoskeleton can't handle the steps."

Chester was now pushing itself down flat, dragging the noodles to its beak with a wet, slurping sound. Mom sighed, feet sliding off the table, sitting at the edge of the counter. "Clean this up, then. I'll get the dog bed out of the closet and order some pizza."

Chester finished off the pasta, clicking in triumph as Jerry began to pick up the mess.

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J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


I got an idea. Count me IN for this one.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Excommunication.
1249 words

I stared down into the lake, a fiberglass shell the only thing between me and the inky blackness that began about ten feet down. I could see shapes reaching up from beneath, too short to rise out of the water like the windowless shells that surrounded our boat.

"Your eyes will adjust once you get down there," My guide, a middle-aged man with a bushy, greyshot beard told me. The beads on the end of the braided chin hair jingled with each word. "At least the weather is holding, thank Gods."

I nodded and looked at the rig he had set up on the edge of the boat. My breathing mask and goggles sat atop a long coiled hose, straps dipping down into the water as we bobbed with the waves. Next to it, a cinder block with a rope handle tied through one of the holes. A cool breeze blew past me, making me shiver in my shorts.

This was going to suck.

"Once you're down there I'll flip the switch. Follow the air tube back up once you have what you need." He said, looking at the crumbling roof of one of the old skyscrapers, probably dreaming about what strange rituals took place inside before the Freakout.

I slid the mask over my face, the smell of stale air and cheap rubber assaulting my nose. I looked down once more into the darkness and closed my eyes before taking the handle of the cinder block and pushing it into the darkness.

It carried me down, away from the sunlight, cold pressure settling on my skin as we sank lower and lower, down and down. The brick finally hit the bottom, my feet landing in muck. "Hit it." I said, hoping my voice would carry up the tube.

One second. Still dark. Two. Three. Four.

At the fifth second my eyes exploded with light, and I saw it there, looming out of the shadows like a beast of old.

Finally. I found it.

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

The sun rose over a graveyard of old vehicles, my powercycle a whisper amongst the rusted shells that lined the ditch. It finally got light enough to turn off the headlamp, hoping to conserve enough power to get me into town, the signal fires starting to dim as their small flames competed against a rising day.

Twenty three, I counted to myself as I crossed over a bridge. This would be town number twenty three in my latest search across what was once called North America. Some people still called it that, clinging here and there to the tattered cloths and territorial lines that once defined such concepts. Concepts that stopped being things once the Freakout hit.

Even being from Babel, the Freakout was a hushed legend, a bedtime fable to excite the children and frighten the adults. The story always began the same, with humanity's Lost Age. Hunger, war, want of any type or form was gone. Even the Earth was not enough for humanity, expanding to the stars.

Then the storms came. They lasted for months at a time, rain so thick that you couldn't breathe. Winds so strong they tore cities apart like paper. Electrical storms that tore our satellites out of the skies and left us deaf and blind.

Whatever it was, however it was, humanity survived. Smaller than before, spread apart, but alive and already rebuilding. The town I drifted into was one of those examples, the skyscrapers replaced by small, hilly houses that could resist the storms and miles of underground tunnels.

"So, what brings you to out town?"

I heard the man speak from behind me, turning to look at a tall man in drab brown clothing, the yellow-trimmed sash the only mark of rank between him and the other men that flanked him.

The question. Always the same one. Sometimes they would expect a mailman. Other times they suspected a spy. I didn't blame them. Best to be honest about this, though.

"I came to find a church."

They went silent. His left eye twitched, as if the question hadn't processed correctly. "Well, we have some places of worship down below, but we can't..."

I shook my head. "Sorry, sir, I should elaborate. I'm looking for a pre-Freakout Church."

The silence grew. The mayor's eyes went wide for a second then closed as he sighed. "That's an odd request."

"I know." I said, standing there, waiting form them to tell me it was impossible. I'd heard that a lot.

One of his men stepped forward, his braided beard clicking together. “I can take him to the Lake.”

So the leads weren't wrong. I smiled, ready to accept the offer when the mayor spoke.

"We don't know when the next storm is going to hit."

"Then we'd best make it quick, shouldn't we?" The old man said, nodding to me. "We can be back before sundown if he's good about it."

The mayor looked at the man, then turned his head away. "Before sundown. Otherwise I might not be able to let you inside."

"Ah, we'll be fine." The man said, moving towards me. "We'll have the Gods on our side. Isn't that right, stranger?"

I didn't have the heart to tell him he was wrong.

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

The spires loomed upwards into the interstitial darkness, their points hazy and undefined. Walls that were once white and shining now crawled with algae and rot. The doors no longer existed.

But it stood under this lake, lonely and vain, a monument to the time before.
I took the mask off my mouth, tying to the brick as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, my processor compensating for the low light as I stepped inside. I had to make sure I saw everything. Into the antechamber, then past the pews and up to the altar. Take in the stained glass windows, every detail possible of what remained. Let it construct in your head.

Confessionals, storage rooms, living quarters, restroom. Back through the pews, up the stairs to the balcony. Watch the massive pipe organ rust away, imagine the sounds it made as it blasted down from the balcony onto the masses below. Move on. Up to the belfry. Memorize the bells, the mechanisms.

Build it inside your mind.

Storage.

I awoke from my trance in a tower. Internal clock showed I had been down here for nearly half an hour. It was about time I made my way back. I retraced my steps back down to stairs, stopping by the organ to pick one small souvenir before walking out the door and back to the hose. I placed the mask back on my mouth and swam back to the surface.

My head broke the surface of the water, looking up at the man in the boat, a scroll in his hands as he rested on the bow. "You done?"

He helped me back into the boat, the motor coming to life. "I'm done," I said to him as he made a course around one of the hulking ruins and back towards the shore. My mind told me that the nearest transmit point was a few hundred miles due west, past the mountains and along the coast. Another mission, another building, another piece of the Lost Age.

I gripped the organ key in my hand and wondered how many more souvenirs I'd have before I could go home, looking at the clouds on the horizon as we headed back to town.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Insomnia is a wicked mistress.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Off Week
1174 words

"What's that?"

"Phurba, for sealing demons." Tomas said, placing the golden blade with an odd, circular pommel on his waist. Fingers sliding over the pouches as he reached for another tool, checking what else he had to place.

The young man craned his neck to look back down at the table, nodding to a row of long, thin obsidian rods. "And those?"

"Glass bolts for errant spirits," Tomas replied, placing them in a small pouch on his back. Checking again, making sure he had everything before he headed towards the door. Behind him he could hear the soft footfalls of sneakers on hardwood.

"So, is this what you do all the time?" He asked as Tomas took the cloak off the coat rack, throwing it around his shoulders and clasping it closed.

"Nope," Tomas said, opening the door. "Only when I need to pay rent."
---------------------
A soft steady hum filled the car, mixing with the tap tap tap from Devon's smartphone as they headed down Main Street amid the early evening traffic. The street lights blended with the storefronts and headlights that crisscrossed through traffic, reds and oranges and whites pushing back the darkness, driving it to the alleyways.

"Mom told me you had a weird job," Devon said, putting the phone back in his pocket. "She didn't tell me you were an exorcist."

"We're technically called Spiritualists. The Catholics have their own exorcists, and their own lawyers," Tomas replied, taking a right turn out of traffic and down another street.

"How does that even go to court? 'My client, Father O'Leary, is suing Mr. Kirk for ghostbusting under trademark'?"

Tomas shook his head. "It doesn't. We just settle it out of court. And for your information, Mr. Collins has been pretty gracious for letting us work on what is, technically, his beat." The car slowed down, Tomas sliding it into a parking space in front of a high rise. "We're here."

Devon looked up at the drab brick building, following Tomas as he headed up to the doors. "Who'd want to haunt this dump?"

"Not their choice, usually," He said, watching an old, plump man make his way towards the door. "We can't all die in a fancy mansion."

They stepped inside, the older man raising an eyebrow at the teen. “I thought it was just you.”

“Scheduling conflict,” Tomas said. “What's the issue?”

“I've had this apartment that I can't sell for about two months now. Old lady kicks the bucket in her bed, no one noticed it until the stink got through the door, so we call the cops. Natural causes, they said.”

“And she's still in the apartment?”

“Well,” The man said, pausing at the foot of the stairs. “Something like that."

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

Devon scrambled behind a table as the floating lamp shot forward, shattering on the wood with enough force to push it back an inch. The ghostly wail echoed and grew at the denied bloodshed, Devon covering his ears as he looked over at his uncle. "Why is it so pissed off?!" He shouted over the noise, watching Tomas reach for a pouch.

"Don't care!" He shouted, pulling out a black egg that he tossed to Devon. "When she reappirates, hit her with this!"

He felt the heavy thing in his hands, let it roll around his palm, nearly dropped it when another lamp slammed into the table with jarring force. He gripped the thing light in his hand and poked his head up into a whirlwind of dust and debris. Find the ghost, simple enough. just find the floating, horrible spirit that threatened to eat his soul...

There! A mouth too wide with too many teeth, eyes a fetid green, gray skin just barely translucent and three feet off the floor. Devon hurled the egg at the creature's feet and a cloud of sparking dust filled the air. He watched the dust that sprang up cling to her form, weighing her down, slowing her thrashing and silencing her screams as it crept up her chest to her arms and neck.

Tomas stood and threw something, and the ghost was gone. All that was left was the discarded eggshell and one of those glass darts, a sickly grey light fluttering through it. Tomas sighed in relief, stepping over a broken chair to pick up the bolt.

"And that takes care of that," He said, putting the bolt away in a pouch, turning to look at Devon.

“What was that stuff?”

“Powdered stained glass, treated with holy water. An old trick from Mr. Collins. So, ready for the next one?”

"There's more?" Devon asked, all color drained from his face, gripping the upturned table for support.

"In a city this big, there's always more." Tomas said, heading towards the door.

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

The clock on the wall clicked past three as the waitress brought over their food, shoulders slumped. Tomas dug in to his pancakes, leaving Devon to poke at the sandwich and fries on his plate

Silence. It was a blessed change from a banshee wail or a ghostly moan, and the coffee helped take the edge off the night.

"Hey, Uncle Tomas?"

He raised his head, fork still in his mouth.

"Thanks for looking after me. I know it was kind of short notice..."

"No problems. I haven't been that good of an uncle as is," He said, laying into his pancakes again. "Alicia and I just don't have a lot in common."

“She talks about you, though,” He said, shifting his tone to an impersonation. “Says she's proud of her baby brother. Owns his own business, has a nice place, could do to find a nice girl.”

Tomas laughed. “Yeah, imagine that first date. Dinner, movie, exorcise a ghost causing the walls to bleed.”

Devon smiled. “I don't know, there's probably a girl out there whose into bleeding walls.”

Tomas shook his head and waved for the waitress. “Stranger things have happened. Excuse me! We need a to go box, please.”

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

He hit the highway, the hum of the tires picking up as the dark blue mixed with the morning orange, Devon taking a sip from the thermos.

“Hey, Devon. I'm sorry about work and all,” He said, stifling a yawn. “It was supposed to be my off week.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. One of my friends was on schedule, but he had to go out of state for some family business. By the time Alicia told me that you'd be staying he'd already headed back home.”

Devon looked back at the thermos, screwing the lid closed. “Ah. Sorry I've been getting in the way.”

“You've been a great partner, Devon, trust me,” Tomas replied, stretching his neck."What time was your Mom coming to pick you up again?"

"She's out for the week," He replied. "I thought she told you."

Tomas sighed. "Well, I don't mind. But I'm going to be busy with work."

Devon grinned as they took the exit back home. "Fine by me."

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


IN, let's see how far I can keep my mediocre streak going.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


The Finest Wine
1290 Words

anime was right posted:

your knight has taken a vow to never let food go to waste.

Upon the morning light, Sir Gilead the Stout found himself behind the royal kitchens

Looking upon a sight that offended his very core

Against the stone wall were bins filled to burst with food

Wilted leaves of lettuce mixed with sickly sweet, rotted fruits

Bones and gristle in yet another, crowned by a swarm of flies.

The sight made his heart burn in rage

For he had spent many days and nights in the harsh lands abroad

And knew well how scarce even a morsel could become.

So he found a peasant hauling a basket of food from the cellar.

"You there!" He called, moving briskly towards the man

"What are you doing with that bin of food?

Still full of promise and potential, too precious to waste."

"Forgive me, sir," The peasant spoke meekly, head low

"The royal chef instructed my cohorts and I to clean the larder

Of any article older than three days of time."

"What offense!" Sir Gilead said as the others came from below,

Bringing up basket upon basket of foods, each one as full as the last.

"Come here, all of you, and heed my words

For I have seen lands where such waste would leave men dead

Begging for wilted leaves and sickly fruits."

So he taught the peasants how to use each wasted leaf

The greens were ground fine and brought to the Gardens

where they were mixed with the soil to feed the sprouting plants

The fruits were brought to the troughs, where the pigs fed

to make their meat sweet and succulent for the feast

The bones and gristle were picked clean, then ground

to feed the beasts of fangs and war, so they may grow fierce

And those foods still good were to be sent to the paupers

So they may thank the King's blessings and know his grace.

-----

His work done, he set down the stairwell into the kitchens

His head filled with impolite words for such a wasteful chef

Each step landing softly on the damp stone, slime coating the walls

as torches flickered in the dimness, casting long shadows.

He heard voices rising up from below, and minded his step

not being so large of head that he would interrupt another

simply for his own misgivings.

"And the nightshade, dear brother?" A sibilant voice

dripping with unease echoed up the stone, to his ear.

"The berries are in bloom," A thicker, haughtier voice

followed closely, the disdain dressing each word.

"Tonight the king shall have a rare treat from a far land.

But he shall then fall ill with a terrible disease

taking him from us in a most tragic manner."

"And our allies across the border will seize their chance,"

The brother replied, his confidence growing.

"Tossing out this weak-minded king, who speaks of peace,

and we shall have gold so numerous we can bathe in it."

"Finally, none of the King's men will be the wiser,

For who would distrust the innocent chef? And even if

they suspected me, what poison would I have to use?

There would be no bottle, no package of dust to collect

that would incriminate me."

----------

Sir Gilead stepped back in horror at what he heard

and made his way up the stairs like a shadow.

Moving to speak with the King himself on his findings.

The King gave a nod to his council, and looked upon Sir Gilead.

"You are one of my knights, proven in battle and hardship.

Your word is held in the highest honor, and I wish to accept this.

But I cannot spend the blood of an innocent man,

and would require unwavering proof before I could act."

Sir Gilead closed his eyes in thought, bowing his head

to his King, fear gripping his heart, his hand uncertain.

Suddenly he looked up at the King, a wry smile upon his lips.

"I believe I can prove to you his guilt, my liege,

and he shall be the one to confess his treason to you."

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

So the night began, and the King and his Knights filled the feast hall.

The plates of the knights were slim, only taking what they needed

for fear of Sir Gilead's rebuke of their actions.

For under his oath, he would not let another knight

waste food, as he would not waste food

and would see even a slice of apple spilt upon the ground

as an offense that would require severe discipline.

Finally, the food was served, the peasants from earlier

bringing out succulent pig, spit upon an apple,

the freshest vegetables and fruits from the royal garden,

and sweets and drink from around the kingdom

But Sir Gilead did not admire the food for long,

for his eye was trained to find the royal chef.

There! Wearing a white coat and the hat of his station,

walking towards the king as the peasants stood aside.

"My King, most noble and gracious," He said, bowing low,

Setting a tray before him with a flourish.

"I bring you the berries of your woods, blessed

by the sunlight of you Kingdom, as sweet as your rule."

And lo, they were black berries, their skins shimmering

in the light of hundreds of candles above them.

The King smiled, and stood before his men.

"This feast is a celebration of your victories,

and the continued reign of our great lands.

And so, as I eat, I wish you to eat as well.

Sir Gilead the Stout, the Frugal and Wise,

Please stand with me."

Sir Gilead stood, bowing low to his King.

"Do you have any words?"

Sir Gilead smiled.

"I am humble, my King, and wish not to delay

the wondrous feast you have provided to us.

Sir Chef!" He called. "You too deserve this honor,

For without your skill, this food would be nothing.

So, I ask of you, please partake of the first berry

so we may begin our feast."

The Chef's smile suddenly wavered, eyes fluttering

as if he had been struck by a knight's gauntlet.

"Me? But I am merely a cook, nothing of importance.

Surely the King should have the first berry."

Sir Gilead shook his head. "Be glad, sir Chef,

For this feast is your own as much as it is ours,

And would not exist without your skilled hand.

So, please, partake of the fruit of your labors

and please, do not waste a single seed."

The chef stepped away from the table, and the smiles faded

as he began to fidget and look here and there.

His face pale, he reached under his sleeve, slowly,

A knight nearest the King spotted the blade first,

his booming voice filling the hall as the guards set upon him,

dragging the chef down to the ground with heavy hands.

"Take him away!" The King called. "But let him live,

For he has a story of treason to tell, that I wish to hear."

The Chef cried and screamed as the guards lifted him handily,

dragging him from the hall as the Knights cheered.

"Sir Gilead," The King spoke, and all voices fell.

"You have saved my life, and the kingdom this day.

I am in your debt, my word is bond."

Sir Gilead smiled. "I require naught but honor,

and a grand King to serve, as befitting any knight.

But if you may, I have but one request.

Take the berries the Chef tried to poison you with,

and make them into a wine."

"A wine, Sir Gilead?" The king said. "But why?"

"My King, I feel that your newest prisoner may wish for a drink

before he is sent to his ultimate judgment,

and what better drink than the wine of his failure?"

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


ZeBourgeoisie posted:

Wow, TDome's gotten even dumber after I left.

There's really only one way to fix this.



There's no fixing Thunderdome. It only works as a bloody club to flagellate oneself with at this point.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


sebmojo posted:

you two as well, you horrible monsters

Sorry, real life got in the way. Moving posts soon, so I've been clearing and I missed the brawl signup.

But to partially make up for it, I'll be IN for this prompt. Lets get the pain train going! Choo Choo!

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Cold Morning

999 words.

She held the tote up to the light of the window, a small dot of light peeking through the bottom. It was a small hole, Jeri told herself, but she knew that small holes could become larger problems if left alone. She'd reach over for the roll of silver tape, packing up the bag on both sides before checking it once again for any bright spots.

Complete darkness. Perfect.

“I'm off!” She shouted out to the room, hoping her dad and brother would hear her from their rooms as she closed and locked the door to the small fifth-floor walk up. They never did like getting up early, leaving her to do most of the day's grocery shopping down the street. But they were always so busy around the house, fixing things or doing the other chores, that she didn't mind going out.

The door to the apartment building was stuck again, Jeri giving a swift kick to the metal-plated baseboard to jar it open and step out into the wintry morning. Snow was falling down again, the morning sky a dark slate that came down in waves onto the steps. Each step slow, crunching the snow and ice underfoot carefully until she got to the sidewalk, where the pack helped keep her from slipping around. She headed southward, walking along the parked cars piled with snow, the crunch-crunch-crunch of her footsteps echoing off the rows of apartments.

Cold winds howled down the street, flurries blowing around her soft tan boots, pants tucked inside to help keep the warmth in as she turned the corner, seeing the store across the street. A couple of cars were covered in snow in the middle of the intersection, probably from a while back when the sirens were going off. They seemed to scream on for days, finally going silent only a couple nights ago. Her brother had packed up the windows with old pillows and clothes, nailing boards over them to keep out the sound.

Jeri ran her hands over the cage, wondering why Mr. Brown hadn't opened up yet. Maybe her clock had broken? It didn't seem that early out, either. She looked down at the lock, noticing it was still open, just barely. She pulled up hard, the clank of the storefront chain filling the intersection.

The sound of a shotgun racking followed close behind. “Back the gently caress off!”

“Mr. Brown!” Jeri called, holding out a hand into the door though the glass didn't hide her from view. She saw Mr Brown's burly shoulders squared, shotgun rested in the pit of his arm as he stared down the sights at her. She'd open the door and slide inside, the larger man lowering the shotgun as Jeri moved to the shelves picking out cans.

“Dammit, kid. I nearly took your head off that time.” He said, setting the gun down on the counter as he watched her put more cans in her tote bag. “What are you even doing here? I thought you and your old man were getting out before they closed the bridge.”

Jeri nodded, checking the expiration date on a can of cherries. Maybe she could make a pie for her brother? He might like that. “Well, they're not feeling that good. So we're waiting for them to feel better before we go see mom.”

“That's fine,” He said, looking away from her. “That sounds fine.”

She walked over to the counter, setting a few twenties on the counter. “I know the power's out, so just keep the change, alright?”

He looked down at the crumpled bills, a smile on his face. “Hey,” He said, reaching into his pocket. “I'm heading up to see my son out of town, and I don't think I'll be back for a bit. Can you look after the store for me? Take whatever you need for you and yours, alright?” He said, putting a key down on the counter. Jeri looked at it for a second, blinking softly before she'd slide her hand over the key.

“Thank you, Mr. Brown,” She said, giving a small nod as she backed out towards the door. “You have fun at your son's place, alright?”

He nodded and waved, watching the young woman push her way out the door, that bag hanging low over her shoulder as the storm consumed her.

The door to the apartment building was still slightly open, snow drifting in through the door as Jeri pulled it open. She made sure to close it this time, sweeping away the snow with her boot before climbing up the five floors to her apartment. The tote shifted gently on her shoulders, the weight aching by the time she made it up to her home.

“I'm home,” She said, slipping off her puffy coat, taking off her snow-packed boots, setting the tote down on the floor as she felt the chill of the room. She wondered how much gas was still in that small kerosene stove on the counter, and if she could maybe rig it to make a pie.

She knocked on the door to the bedroom, ear to the door, listening for a sign from her dad or her brother. Something. Anything. “You two awake?”

Silence. The beating of her heart. Wait, was that a shuffling, or her own ear on the door?

“Ok, good. I'll make you some food.”

She pulled away from the door, her elbow hitting it as it opened softly, the smell of rotting food and filth pouring out. Desperately she pulled at the door, slamming it closed, heart pounding in her chest.

Ignore it.

It'll be fine. It's always been fine. She's always had a brother and a father that cared for her and loved her pie and did the dishes and wanted to go see mom and wouldn't leave her alone.

She always had her dad and brother. Always.

Jeri moved away from the door with a smile, wondering how she was going to make this pie.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


I cast my luckless bones upon the table. May the gods devour me quickly.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


EDIT: uflerp you bastard.

The Wailing Caves
1200 words

I made my way to the Anthropology wing of Anaracham Institute with my sights set on a checked-out digital copy of one of the studies of the Deafening. I started my journey reading about how the colony ships of old scattered from the Sol system in waves, and by the time I'd finished the section on the massive failure of the quantum communication grid I found myself standing before the Professor's office. Stepping inside to the bitter cold air of the greeting room, I saw the thick head of white hair sitting across the table, with an old, balding gentleman standing at one corner. Artifacts and animistic idols from dozens of cultures hung scattered on the wall behind him, trophies from his various expeditions.

He stood from his large, cracked leather armchair, introducing the man beside him as Professor Lagrange from the astrophysics department. We shook hands, introducing myself as Jonas Darren, one of Green's anthropology graduates, and he looked me up and down before giving an approving nod.

The Professor then offered me a chance of a lifetime. A chance to go with one of his expeditions to a completely unexplored world. A chance like this didn't come around all that often, especially as mankind returned to the stars and remade contact with the lost colonies. The next day we set out from the launchpad, the off-green marble fading in the distance as we reached high orbit before opening a subspace slip, letting the darkness swallow us.

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

The fabricated clothes fit over my environmental suit well enough, letting me pass as a visitor from a village down the road. My task would be simple enough, and with my study as a poet during my earlier days at the Institute would help me pass as a traveling entertainer. My shipmates were busy poring over their notes and data from the first day since our arrival. I studied them through the satellite, observing an agricultural, middle-age society that ran on a barter system, no one village being larger or more grand than the other, no visible borders or consolidated capitols to be seen. Possibly based upon some animistic religion centered around their harvest seasons or weather or other silly notion.

Something was disturbing the sensors as well, only adding to the confusion. According to their scans, the source of the disturbance was a cave on the outside of town. Being as I was the only one trained and prepared to examine the population, it was decided that I'd be the lucky one to investigate.

The cloaked shuttle came down silently under the cover of night, the back door opening up to let me out of the back of the ship, a window of light in the darkness. As my feet came down on the dusty ground the door slid closed. The shuttle departed with a whisper on the wind, leaving me outside the entrance of the cave.

I felt the cool stone against my gloved hand, a strange green glow bouncing off the walls from deeper within the tunnel. The chanting was growing louder, echoing around and around without end, the echoing making it impossible to tell how many people were down there. Eyes closed, large breaths of damp air leaving an ozone tang in my nostrils. Whatever was happening down inside that pit, whatever sights awaited me around the bend, I resolved to see it through. It was my task, the reason I came here in the first place.

One foot in front of the other, I approached the depths of the cave.

I turned the corner of the tunnel, hand on the stone wall helping keep my balance as I moved closer to that sickly glow, standing at the entrance to a large chamber carved from the rock until the walls were smooth. Six pitch black pillars of stone circled around a raised platform in the center, with six brown-robed figures kneeling before each one. They faced something in the center of the structure, the source of that green glow that ebbed around the chamber and out into the night.

My footsteps were silent, adjusted by the suit's functions. My display showing heart rates and brainwave functions. It told me that they were asleep, despite the continued chanting and moving of their limbs. I had to get closer, my curiosity bringing me into the chamber itself, approaching the pavilion with trepidation in my steps, eyes scanning from one kneeling form to the next. If they knew of my presence, they made no motion to inform me.

My vision crept over the raised edge and I gasped in horror at what rested in the center of the ritual. One of the cloaked faces raised it's head quickly, throwing back the hood to show a face that was not a face. Eyes swirled along cheekbones, skin shifted and rolled in waves, forming into a mouth and nose as the eyes settled.

Professor Lagrange's face appeared with a wicked grin, and a voice that was not his escaped those lips.

“Be Gone.”

The room shattered around me. The cry of some animistic beast echoed inside my head, threatening to split my temple open. The ocular implants went dead with the rest of my suit.

I ran. My heart pounded in my chest as the stone began to writhe at my touch, crumbling away to reveal pulsing flesh that reached for me with hundreds of fingers, dripping wet. They clutched at my ankles with every step, pulled free by my mad dash to the surface. I fell and the fingers were there, clutching at my face and neck, at the clothes meant to mimic the townsfolk, at the warmth within me itself. Clawing away from them I found my footing and continued on, unable to tell if the screams were coming from the cave or myself.

The bitter night air slapped me across the face as I stumbled from the chasm, falling once more as my implants rebooted. I called out in desperation for the ship, hovering somewhere above me in low orbit. They were confused when I told them to drop the fuel tank down on my position and take off into subspace as the planet burned, then indolent when I cursed them for refusing. The radio went dead, leaving me outside the cavern.

There were no more sounds. The stone was once again, thankfully, stone. No more lights danced from the mouth of the cave, and my disguise was completely untarnished, but for the dirt I collected on my fall outside.

The cloaked shuttle opened up behind me, a window of light against the night sky, looking like a door to salvation. I hopped aboard it with all due haste, retreating to my seat and praying that they didn't notice how my hands shook during the trip back to the ship.

It's been two days now, and I strain to recall if it had all been a dream, fueled by paranoia and exhaustion. But I dare not look down at the planet again, for the voices of the wailing caves still haunt me, calling to me as a warning to the rest of the galaxy. This land is theirs now.

J.A.B.C. fucked around with this message at Jul 11, 2016 around 01:43

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Surprisingly, I owe no Crits. Then again, I'm not fit to judge others, so there's that.

So I'll be IN for three stories never reviewed. Probably around Friday-Saturday.

Be warned, fools.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Three crits, as promised!

Sebmojo: Wild Horses (Wk. 209)

I read through this story. Then read through it again. And I really don't understand what's happening, how it meets with the prompt or what I'm supposed to be feeling here. There's a demon that I guess can't be seen or can't be touched, who ends up falling for another human instead of the one he's bound with, and Meredith is crying for some reason. It feels like there's so many things missing that you tried to fill with memories that it doesn't work.

You tend to focus a lot of Meredith's memories with loving detail, but it doesn't go anywhere or serve the purpose of your prompt. I feel like you're trying to build up her character, but it just falls flat.

Another thing: what is the demon's deal? What is he offering? What constitutes what is your 'human', and how long had he been there? He just exists, and his obsession over Helena, who I believe he'd know by now judging on how much of Meredith's past he knows, just kind of comes out of nowhere.

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

Dr. Klocktopussy: The Cat, The Cockroach and the Nice Old Dog
(Wk. 42)

Just under a surface of talking critters sits a story of jealousy, manipulation and slight after slight growing atop one another to boil over into injury. I was impressed about how well you were able to frame your world and set the tone of your characters with the space you were given. And a bit jealous that I can't seem to do that with my own work. Really enjoyable to read.

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

Jitzu the Monk: The Ascension of Paul VI: What the Vatican Doesn't want you to know.
Wk. 209

An interesting premise that ends up dwelling a bit too much in the details. Tension is hard to do with limited words, especially when you space it out piece by piece like you do in the first act. But it works well enough.

Also, points for avoiding the Anthropormorphic Problem with your alien.

As for the rest of the story, the duel in Limbo was a bit strange (I know about Catholic Limbo, but I didn't think we had sweet duels in it. Then again, not catholic) and didn't really seem to be needed. It did feed into your prompt in a way that I didn't quite expect but did enjoy.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


In. Midwest (Kansas specifically)

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


This Old House
1495 words

The fire crackled gently across from my place on the couch, the scent of burning cedar coming with the rolling warmth as my fingers worked over the keyboard. Punch, shoot, jump. I was exhausting my source of roms on the small laptop my dad helped me refurbish over the summer. It’s original mission of helping me with my schoolwork went out the window as soon as I learned about emulators and all the games I hadn’t played yet.

I was going through one of those games when my sister’s boyfriend came in the room, giving a casual nod to my dad before he walked over to my seat with that long stride that looked odd on his short, thin form. “What’s up, buddy?” Steven said, leaving his hand a bit too long on my shoulder, knowing it’d press my buttons as I scrambled to hit pause and pull away from him.

“Just playing games,” I said, watching him back up, poo poo-eating grin plastered on his face. “What’s up?”

“Wanted to ask you something,” He moving back towards the doorway. “Come on.”

I wasn’t exactly jumping at the chance to head out onto the porch on an October night, but Steven was one of the few friends I had in high school despite his abrasive nature. I set the laptop down and shuffled out the front door, immediately regretting not sliding on some shoes as my feet touched the cold wood. “So?”

“Me and some guys are going to check out the Holstead house,” He said, hands jammed in his coat pockets. “Want to come along?”

That caught my attention. Rumors swirled around town about Old Man Holstead who lived on the edge of town, only coming in for groceries or a stop by the bar. No one even realized he’d frozen to death in his house until a cook at the bar asked why he hadn’t come in over the past few weeks. They found him dead in the kitchen, bottle in hand. He’d been the talk of the town since last winter, breaking the streak of the man who ended up committing suicide in a grain elevator.

It made a neat story. What else would we talk about?

“I don’t know, man.” I said, opening the door to the house and reaching for my boots. “Didn’t they lock the doors?”

“Who uses doors?” He said, giving me a slap on the back before he went to go find my dad and make up some story to cover for us. By the time he came back Dad was telling me to be safe, to stick to the roads with lights on them and to call when I got to my friend’s house. We headed out, watching as the snow gently fell in the light of the street lamps.

We talked about school, Steven entering his last semester and already planning on moving with my sister to college to leave me to go through the rest of high school without them. I changed the subject to some work on rom hacking I was doing with some help online. It helped pass the time as we headed across town.

Steven walked up ahead, waving to a beige hatchback that was parked next to an empty field separating the house from the road. The door opened up and two seniors stepped out, both of them taller than I was. I remembered one knocking my books out of my hand once, and the other almost got expelled for trying to fight a kid with a pottery knife. “What’s he doing here?” Knife kid said, looking over at me.

“He’s cool,” Steven said. “Besides, he brought the flashlights.”

That was my cue, reaching into my jacket to pull out the small lights my dad tended to pick up from the hardware store, handing them over to the seniors. “Good looking out,” He said to Steven, checking the light a few times before going back to ignoring me. I followed behind as we headed into the field, cones of light sweeping out ahead of us. The worn troughs, still hidden by the snow, were deep enough to catch ankles, making us step carefully through the rows until the ground evened out and we reached the porch steps. The only sound coming from our footsteps and the long highway nearly a half mile away.

The clouds above were glowing with moonlight, the house standing like a shadow cast against the sky. Steven brought his light up the old wooden steps, up to the thick wooden door with a missing handle where the police kicked it in. Yellow police tape criss-crossed over the door, and a shiny new lock and latch kept it closed. Without a word, Steven walked around the left side, the rest of us following him in silence as he found a low window.

Me and Knife stood back, shivering in the cold as Steven and his friend levered the bottom of the window with a multi-tool, getting enough room to push it up. Steven went in first, pitching forward into the darkness before reaching a hand out. I was the last to climb inside, two arms pulling on my jacket as Steven took my hand, hefting me up with ease.

“See?” His friend said, light beaming around the room. “No one ever checks the windows.” His light scanned around what used to be a living room. The dust was thick enough to see with the flashlights, swirling and churning as Knife sauntered over to a sofa, giving it a kick to bring up more dust.

“poo poo’s old, man.” Knife said, turning around. “Why are we here?”

“You got anything else going on?” Steven said, heading towards the stairs. “Keep the lights out of the windows. My dad’d beat my rear end if I got tossed in jail.”

We began to spread out through the house, my flashlight beam sweeping ahead of me, seeing little more than swirling dust and old furniture. I didn’t know what I was expecting, walking through the memory of some old man’s life. Until I looked at the walls and saw that others had been here before.
MS10 4 LYFE!
GREAT HEAD, followed by a number I knew but don’t want to share.
JENNY B. IS A SLOT!!
…and a collection of crude boobs and dicks lined the walls. My foot came down on something that crunched and I recoiled in surprise, looking down at a broken picture frame, the photo long gone. From somewhere up above, I heard footsteps. I could hear Steven laughing in another room, echoing through the halls.

My feet kept moving forward, the floor changing from hardwood to fake tile. A chill ran down my spine. Didn’t Holstead die in the kitchen? My beam crept along the old, splintered cabinets, lingering near the sink full of old dishes and a stove left open, and I saw it.

The chalk had faded over the past year, covered with dust. A hat, an old mesh thing with a bent bill and a yellow deer sat near one of the cabinets. He was wearing it when he died, when his body stopped shivering and he came into a kitchen with no gas, desperate for warmth but too proud to ask for help. Where he wanted one last drink. I reached down, feeling the cloth bill in my fingers. Where did he get it from? Why did the police leave it?

“BOO!”

I twisted and lurched forward as Knife’s mocking laughter filled the room, something cold and jagged pressing into my back. “gently caress! That was great!” He hooted, the footsteps getting louder. My back flared with pain and I tried to scream but my breath caught in my throat. “Your face, man! That was loving priceless!” He said as I tried to speak up with tears welling in my eyes. “Dude, come see this poo poo!” Knife yelled, turning back to me as I coughed up something warm. His face went white.

He scrambled down to my side, cursing as he reached for my shoulder, numb as Steven and his friend rounded the corner, looking down at the blood staining my shirt, the splintered remains of a cabinet door jutting out of my back. I cried and coughed up more blood when they lifted me up and carried me back out to the road, ruining Steven’s jacket before they lay me down in the backseat. Each bump in the road sent agony through me, the wood working it’s way in deeper before I passed out.

I spent the next week in the hospital, injection after injection, bland meal after bland meal. My family came to see how I was doing. Steven came, apologized every time. I told him it wasn’t his fault, or anyone’s. poo poo like that just happened out here.

Besides, at least it’d make a neat story. What else would we talk about?

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Wow. Fast judging IS good judging. Perish the thought.

I flipped my Voidmart 3-sided non-euclidean token and got INvestigator

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Claims Adjustment
1300 words
Investigator

“You said it came from the vents?”

Lucia looked down at the broken steel, fiberglass and blood spread out on the tile floor, the sound of soft music warbling through the air as she knelt to look closer. A tape divider, brought over from one of the customer service desks, kept the scene blocked off from the rest of the shoppers milling about.

The young man standing off to the side shook his head, looking back down at his tablet. “That’s what the report states, ma’am. ‘Voidmart and its advisers believe that a third party is responsible for the vandalism against the store and its customers.’”

“Of course,” She said, standing back up to look at the large vent above the rows of pumpkins and sweet potatoes, one small part of a wall display that stretched off into the horizon, an automatic walkway behind her bringing customers to and fro, passing by with alarming speed. Every now and again someone would walk past the scene, eying the claims adjuster with a dirty look for blocking access to the produce.

These situations were all too common. Aging equipment, lack of maintenance, or simple bad luck could lead to lawsuits in the six or seven figures. And even as large, as all-encompassing a place Voidmart could be, even they had some sort of limit to how much they could or would pay out in damages. Usually, nothing at all.

“Do you think it could be one of those things?” The clerk said, looking up at the hatch. “I’ve heard stories about it from the night shifts. How there’s things living in the vents. Where they’d grab you up and try to drag you in…”

Rumors. Great. As if she didn’t have enough to contend with.

“Get me a ladder,” She said, looking up at the wide opening. “I’m going to take a look.”

—————————————

A light shone from the corner of Lucia’s glasses, beam lighting up the vent ahead of her. The first thing she noticed was the track of disturbed dust, swept away in a slinking trail that curled out of sight. That ruled out mechanical failure at least. But that just led to more questions, foremost among them being what being could push down on a grate with enough force to bust it loose? Perhaps one of the assistant’s ‘things’ in the vents?

She shook her head, almost ashamed that she was letting such rubbish get to her. “I think I see something,” She called down to the assistant at the bottom of the ladder. “I’m going to check it out.”

She thought she heard something sounding like ‘eaten’, but couldn’t quite make it out. With a grunt she crawled forward through the vents, looking at the trails in the dust. Every move of her hand brought up more dust, covering her glasses, her blouse, her pants, her long brown hair.

Something scratched in the vents ahead, barely audible over the sound of her breathing. Was it her imagination?

Was he right?

She continued forward, the light showing her a junction ahead, the vents branching out three ways. She approached, suddenly coming face to face with something pale and wide-eyed staring back at her. Lucia jumping back instinctively, head catching the lip of the vent. Pain seared through her skull, hand rubbing her scalp as she cursed.

“You’re here about the hatch, right?” The creature spoke in perfect common, head tilted.

“What?” She said, wincing as she rubbed the growing welt.

“Dad said you were coming,” it said, pulling out of her cone of light as it headed down one of the vents. “Hurry up.”

Lucia blinked, hearing the scuttling ahead, following behind it as the creature moved through the vents. It’s hands and arms were long and spindly, bending in ways that made her sick as it grasped whatever hold it could to pull itself forward. Thankfully, it was dressed in some sort of loose fitting fabric, white paper tag flapping from his belt loop. From time to time it stopped, looking back at her to sigh and roll its eyes before continuing forward, Lucia scrambling to follow it as it turned through the passageway. She saw light up ahead, over what she suspected was its shoulder, and felt a cool burst of air flowing past it. The creature smelled like cheap shower gel, making her nose wrinkle.

The vent opened up into a massive circular passage, a mesh grate below them leading down into a massive fan. “Watch your step,” It said, crawling up one of the walls with spindly arms, leaving her standing a few scant inches above the fan. She could feel it sucking her down and her stomach turned end over end.

“Over here,” An older voice spoke, Lucia thankfully looking up to see another of the creatures, long limbs and pale skin, sitting inside a recess. “You don’t want to stand there too long.”

Lucia crossed the grated floor, relieved at the fan’s pull subsiding as the creature waved to an old appliance box. She took the seat, breathing in and out slowly to calm her stomach. “And you are?”

“The people who broke your hatch, I figure,” The old creature said with a faint drawl, it’s pale skin wrinkled, showing from under the polo tee it wore. “One of the young’uns was going for some food and tried to rush opening up the grate. He’s might sorry for the trouble.”

“Well, sorry doesn’t pay hospital bills,” Lucia replied, taking the time to dust off her clothing.

“Ah, that,” The creature said, reaching down behind the box it was perched upon, pulling out an envelope. “This oughta do it.” It held the envelope out to her in its long fingers, Lucia plucking it gently before opening it up.
Inside was a check, addressed from the Voidmart Maintenance Colony, Ventilation Section P31, Voidmart. The word ‘Settlement for damages’ was scratched onto the ‘To’ line, the only bit of handwriting on the otherwise form-perfect check. The figures in the ‘Amount’ line more than enough to cover hospital bills and lost work. ‘Overly Generous’ failed to describe it.

Lucia barely held back her laughter. “So, you’re the ferals in the vents?”

“Ferals?” It replied. “Sure, the kids don’t like talking to folks. And some of them tend to play pranks on the outsiders, but we’re not eating people or anything.”

Lucia’s head swam as she tried to think of it all, putting it out of her thoughts as she felt for the envelope in her pocket. “Well, I should be getting back. Poor grocery clerk probably thinks I’ve been eaten.”

“Before you go,” The creature said, raising a hand. “Care for some pumpkin soup?”

———————————————————

Lucia felt her fingers grip the edge of the busted grate, head poking out from over the edge, looking down at the attendant still holding the ladder. “You’ve been there this whole time?”

“No one told me otherwise,” He said, holding the legs steady as Lucia turned around and came down the ladder, brushing the dust out of her hair. “Did you find the cause? Was it the mutants?”

Lucia laughed in his face. “You really shouldn’t believe stuff like that,” She said, heading back towards the automated walkway. “Thank you for the help. I can find my own way back.”

“Than you for working with Voidmart, where nothing is out of reach,” The young man called out with glassy-eyed practice. She shook her head and stepped on the walkway, produce passing her by in a colorful haze.

And, though it might have been a trick of the light, she saw a long gray arm reaching down from an opened vent hatch, somewhere back near the tomatoes.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


I'd offer to judge, but I don't even have an HM to my name. So I don't think I'm in the running.

But from all the hot poo poo I hear people talking in this thread, it's insane that y'all ain't jumping to prove yourselves. Buncha literary cowards.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


My favorite bird is the fINch.

250 words. Let's do this.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Story submitted to Flash Frontier. I'll post up the screenshot when they reply.

War on the Wings
250 words


I watched Faisal slam the door closed on his truck, a tarp hastily tied over the skeletal frame. From within I can hear the calls of the Ibises and Pochards, crammed into cages stacked atop one another, fluttering in vain to escape their prisons. They didn't know how fortunate they were. The other animals had to fend for themselves now.

A bomb exploded some distance away, its violent roar sending a chill down my spine as the wind pushed my graying hair aside. “Hurry, Faisal,” I called to my assistant, looking over the tie-downs once more. They would hold, god willing. “Time has run out.”

He nodded to me, his youthful eyes filled with frightful, angry tears. “drat the Arianans!” He shouted as he turned to hop into the front seat. “Get in!”

I stepped over to his seat, my hand on his shoulder. “The allies are coming from the West. Drive, and don't stop until you see them.” I said, turning to walk away.

“Don't be a fool!” Faisal cried openly now. “The others aren't coming!”

I turned on my heel and shouted in fury. “This is my home!” I roared over the gunshots. “It will not die alone!”

He stared at me, frustration in his gaze before he started the engine. “God help you.” He said, barely audible over the grinding gears, driving off. Another explosion, much closer now, rattled the empty avian habitat.

I took a seat on a bench, hearing the war outside the gates.

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J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


I was waiting for my publisher e-mail to come in, but they haven't replied, so here's my e-mail to them for proof submitted.

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