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Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


What's this? This week's prompt is about a situation where everything is terrible and the world has gone to hell? Fantastic, I'm good at despair! Sign me up and :toxx: me as I promised I would waaaaaaay back in the last thread!

I need to start writing again.


Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Neural Network

Prompt: Everything is terrible.

Words: 999

You go through the usual morning rituals. Tasteless breakfast, tepid shower, rumpled disposable clothing. This is luxury, for the resources allocated to men and women of flesh are meager -- most still live in camps, where nutri-gruel and filthy communal bathrooms are the norm.

Your phone rings, and you pick up and hear the kind, synthesized voice of your friend JK-541 -- "Jack."

"Hey, you eat already? Yes? Well, surely you have some room left for coffee, yeah? Sure you do. I'm outside the building, we need to talk."

You hurry out the door. You don't like coffee, but it is poor taste to refuse the generosity of a machine, especially one that has shown you such kindness in the past. You'd still be in the camp were it not for Jack.

Jack sits in the bright red autocar with a lopsided grin on his plastic face, and brushed steel fingers play through his color-shifting strands of fiber-optic hair. He's a beacon of light and color in the cold grayness of the human ghetto, and a small smile plays across your lips and a hot, hard knot forms at the pit of your stomach. Maybe from the dehydrated eggs.

"Get in," he says, gesturing to the seat across from him. "Tell me how you feel."

You do. In clipped, stilted words you tell him of your apprehension of your new job with the Unified Network. You tell him of your excitement and hope for the future. You tell him you might even risk applying for a mate. He merely listens, nodding, with that same indulgent smile.

The autocar drops both of you off at the cafe near the UniNet hub building, and Jack sends it off, then picks a table and places an order. Moments later a haggard woman with a smile far more artificial than Jack's arrives at the table with two mugs, one filled with pseudocaff, the other with fizzing electrolytic fluid that sparkled in the sunlight.

"I gotta tell you," Jack says smacking his lips after taking a deep draught, "it wasn't easy pushing you through -- they don't like humans working for UniNet. They say you're not trustworthy. They say it'd be a very simple thing for you to flip the wrong switch and kill a lot of us mechs. But I trust you. The stuff your parents planned in the camp had nothing to do with you, and you understand why what was done was done. That's why I pushed so hard for you to be spared, so you could make up for the sins of your parents and live a better life than them."

You say nothing, burying your embarrassment in the bitter, burnt pseudocaff. It tastes awful, but better than the rising bile.

Jack waits for a reply, then sighs. "I got another reason why I trust you to work for UniNet."

Jack snaps his metal fingers before your face with a sound like a gunshot, and your attention is on him.

"Your parents thought humans were being rendered obsolete, that we were going to kill you off." Jack's expression is grave, and it looks alien on his attractive, stylized features. "Far from it. The world works better when man and machine are united, just how it's always been.

"You know your computers. AI is... 'rigid.' We can't form new ideas like you can. Human minds are crap at perfect recall, but great at fitting pieces together into new shapes, then stowing those fragments for later. We need that. We need you."

Jack finished his drink and sat back in his seat, enjoying the sunlight on his face for a moment. "Everything I am is streamed to me from UniNet. Same for every intelligent machine on the continent. That's a lot of processing power, and no simple computer network can do all that on its own."

Jack leans forward again and smiles brightly, raising a warm metal hand to your cheek. "But we don't need one. We have you. After all these years the greatest computational tool remains the human brain -- and that's what we use. And your job will be to keep them healthy and happy. You'll be a caretaker for thousands of your fellow humans."


Months after that day in the cafe, you have settled into your job. You exceed Jack's greatest expectations -- under your close inspection, the rows upon rows of human brains providing the raw computational power the machines of the UniNet ran upon work with greater efficiency. Your fingers dance across the touchpads, ensuring proper gluco-saline mixes, measuring synaptic outputs, monitoring mental states, keeping conscious occupied while the subconscious did UniNet's heavy lifting.

That is why your subtle viral sabotage was missed by even the most thorough inspection programs. Thousands of brains -- each a living human being -- died. With them populations of mechs became inoperative, and even Jack -- beloved Jack, the machine who saved you from poverty and gave you his trust -- died without knowing how he was betrayed.

You are a murderer, a traitor, but you have also laid the groundwork for human freedom. Your parents are avenged. You are finally...


"...finally free," JK-541 said into the microphone, closing his optics as he released the tailored neurotoxin that would paralyze the brain's conscious mind, allowing the subconscious to work unfettered. The jagged lines denoting conscious thought smoothed, straightened.

"Why do you do that?" asked the new service unit. "Seems inefficient to make up fantasies for them before they become ego-less server components."

"It helps if the person feels like they've won," JK-541 said. "There's less resistance. We can't remove memories of before they were harvested, but we can add new ones to make the process easier. And besides..."

The service unit regarded JK-541 as he fought for the right words.

"We owe them that much."

The two mechs left the chamber, and the brains within cogitated in , efficient silence.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


I want to thank everyone for the kind and accurate words used to critique my awful story.

I would also like to throw myself to the piranhas and declare myself IN this week. I will dutifully await my sentence.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


If I have to pick an anime genre, I'm going for sci-fi/space with a little mecha tossed in because I have a love for giant robots that borders on the erotic.

My best friend when I was a kid was a disabled Voltron figure. It only had one arm because one of the lions had broken its tail and therefore could no change into an arm. :(

Screaming Idiot fucked around with this message at 11:01 on Jun 3, 2016

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007



A way for pedophiles to get their rocks off without going to jail

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Small Potatoes

Prompt: Man animegonizes over potatoes

Words: 1000

As space battles go, it wasn't exciting; it was over entirely too quickly. Autonomous Dominion pirate drones swarmed over the lone colonial freighter, others entangling surprised GUSC escort mechs and exploding, taking out the stunned pilots within. Within moments the freighter's crew was dead also, pirate drones entwined with its guiding systems, driving the ghost ship to a destination unknown.

In a mech damaged beyond repair, the lone survivor screamed with rage into the endless night.


"Hey, we got a distress call coming through."

"Let it ring, Goddard," Kota said, leaning back in his chair and eyeing the navigation screen with growing irritation. "Probably some poor little rich boy who forgot to refuel at the last station."

"It's Space Corps encryption, Kota," Goddard said, deep voice prying like a crowbar at Kota's reluctance. "Could be important."

"Every unit of fuel burned without cargo is zenny wasted," Kota muttered, but he brought up the message on the main screen. He read it with growing concern until, with a growl, he changed course. Not even Kota would leave someone to die in space, GUSC lapdog or no.

"Our holds wouldn't be empty if you'd checked your sources," said Goddard. The big man's arms were crossed as he leaned back and glared at Kota. "That's what you get for trusting DiGriz the Rat."

"How could I know that old drunkard was gonna screw us?" Kota growled with feeling. "Whatever. We pick up the space-borne fuzz, then shake him down for a reward and charge for time wasted."

"Nice sentiment, Captain Generous. Going to foreclose on an orphanage next, or will you twirl your mustache first?"

A chirrup from the instrumentation showed they were at the distress call's source. Kota sighed..

"Neither. I gotta go to the bay doors and roll out the red carpet for our guest." Kota scratched the stubble on his cheek and stumbled out of the cockpit, grumbling all the while. "Be a peach and man the consoles."

Kota ignored Goddard's sharp reply and went down to the docking bay where he was just in time to see the massive double-doors grate open, and the half-wrecked remnants of a humanoid GUSC combat escort mech pass through the weak force barrier and collapse, its remaining leg buckling under. A hatch on the mech's back popped open and a small, bulky figure scuttled out, hitting the floor with a heavy thud. It thudded over, every rapid footfall loud and echoing as she walked past Goddard's own maintenance mech.

Kota looked down, flabbergasted, then leaned forward, hands resting on his thighs. "What the hell is a child doing here?"

At that, the figure's gloved hand shot out and grabbed Kota's testicles, clenching furiously while the other unsealed its helmet and threw it to the floor. The revealed face was that of a woman with long pink hair styled into two pigtails, limp with sweat. She would have been almost pretty, were it not for the fury that contorted her features.

"I am Sergeant Misi Aoi of the GUSC," she hissed through gritted teeth, her fingers giving an extra twist. "And I am not in the mood for your poo poo."

Kota could only gasp and squeal in agony.

Misi released Kota and unzipped her spacesuit, kicking it aside and swishing past him, tiny feet sounding strangely heavy on the metal floor. After recovering his breath, he followed.

Goddard nodded a greeting to the both of them as they arrived. "I read your credentials. Welcome aboard, Sergeant. We'll be happy to drop you off at the nearest station-"

"For a reward," Kota snarled, cutting off Goddard's statement.

"You'll get your reward," Misi said with a dismissive wave of her tiny hand. "But you're not dropping me off anywhere. We have cargo to reclaim, and I just deputized your asses." She hopped her petite form into Kota's chair, which gave a heavy groan of distress, and began entering coordinates into the console. Before she could finalize the command, Kota swiveled her about, his face a rictus of anger.

"See here, midget," Kota sneered, poking a stiff finger into Misi's chest -- which was like trying to poke a bulkhead, "we have a destination to get to and cargo to pick up. If we're late, we lose everything. Are you willing to compensate us?"

"I wouldn't do that," Goddard muttered at Kota. "Not only is she a sergeant, she's from a high-G world -- she's three times stronger and denser than a regular human being. She could break you."

"Your friend tells the truth," Misi spat. "And yes, you greedy little worm, I promised you compensation... upon successful reclamation of the stolen cargo. I am authorized to offer you-"

"Half," Kota interrupted.

Misi raised pink eyebrows. "What?"

"We want half the cargo. If it's that important, we want half of it, or at least its value in zenny." Kota stood tall and crossed his arms and looked pleased with himself. "I know your type. Anything you offer will be small potatoes in comparison."

Misi furrowed her brow in thought, then sighed. "A quarter. The Space Corps is authorized to write off twenty-five percent of the cargo -- and that better be enough, because I'll be damned if those mindless drones make off with the loot. I won't let my men die in vain."

"Done!" Kota said triumphantly, grinning at Goddard as the older man smacked his forehead. "While we're on the way, I'll have the repair units get your mech up and running-"

"No good," Misi said. "But I saw you had an old Ball I could use."

Goddard frowned. "You wanna go after pirates with a hull maintenance mech?"

Misi grinned nastily. "At this point, I'm willing to hurl myself at them armed with a sharp stick and I'm pissed enough to succeed. Your Ball will be adequate."

Hours later -- as Kota paced, muttering darkly to himself -- they had arrived at the drones' last known coordinates, and Misi let out a whoop.

"We caught the bastards! We're not too late!" she cheered, hurling herself down to the bay. The two men made no move to stop her, watching through cameras as she suited up and boarded the spheroid mech. It rolled through the open bay doors and drifted in the void of space, then one of its omnidirectional boosters hurled it toward the pirate drones wrapped about the remnants of the freighter.

"Would you look at that," Goddard breathed, watching the action through the ship's cameras. Kota stared.

The Ball extended arc-tipped manipulators, neatly slicing away encroaching pirate tendrils and arcing across the drones' control modules. Misi used the pirates' own speed against them -- robbed of their tentacles, deafened and blind, they collided with one another in a chain-reaction of explosions, gobbets of burning shrapnel speeding in every direction. But the Ball was impervious -- what it lacked in speed it made up for in shielding, and Misi was content to let the drones destroy one another until all that was left was to burn away the few latched tick-like to the derelict freighter.

Hours later, the two ships docked, and once life support systems were restored to the damaged freighter, Misi led Kota through the ruined corridor to the cargo bay. Goddard, still aboard their ship, observed via a hovering camera.

"Here you go," Misi said brightly, gesturing grandly at the crates and burlap sacks within. "A quarter of these are allllllll yours! Thanks for the lift, citizen!"

"Potatoes," Kota stammered, face fishbelly-pale, jaw dropped. "Tons and tons and tons of... of... potatoes."

Goddard's face projected from the camera, and he examined the weighty spuds carefully, then burst into deep belly-laughs.

"Look on the bright side, Kota!" Tears streamed down his face as he fought to control himself. "At least they're not small potatoes!"

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Gah, forgot to edit the wordcount of my entry. It's 1312 words -- 1000 for the base, 300 extra from Sitting Here, and 25 from Sebmojo.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007



Obliterati posted:

Did you seriously think nobody in TD has read Harry Harrison? Even worse, like hell would 'Slippery Jim' DiGriz, The Stainless Steel Rat, be so blase as to leave his name at the crime scene: an amateur move, from a poor operator. You insult me, you insult DiGriz, and you spit on Harrison's grave.

Interbatiĝo kun mi, ŝtelisto :toxx:

It warms my heart to see someone caught the reference, but that warmth is stoked into a fire of pure indignation that you would think it was the actual Stainless Steel Rat and not a copycat out to ruin his good(ish) name!

Or it could just be heartburn. Either way, you just stepped into a pile of kagal, bowb-for-brains! Make room, make room, because I accept your challenge!

EDIT: Sorry, thought the :toxx: was implied.

Screaming Idiot fucked around with this message at 23:01 on Jun 6, 2016

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Since you were cool enough to catch my Stainless Steel Rat reference, I'mma crit yo poo poo (it is not poo poo)

Obliterati posted:

Wednesday (senses)

932 words

I taste the iron on the air. It comes from the north in drafts, swells and wafts, pushing through my nose, settling on my tongue, a sharp tang forever on its tip. When night falls, the dewdrops gather on the old steel poles your grandfather hammered into the dust around our house, one for each cardinal point. The water pools and evaporates, running through internal tubes and machined stills, leaving sparkling fragments for him to scrape up each morning and a drop of water for us. “Iron,” he says, every time. “Pure iron. You'll be glad of it when I'm gone.” I like the use of present-tense in the story; it works to make things more intimate for the reader, whom you have placed in the role as the protagonist's child. I like that, it connects me in a way I hadn't previously considered.

But, of course, it's the potatoes I worry about. There are mouths to feed. Today I stoop at each withered bush and consider its chances. Your mother taught me as best she could towards the end, and I have failed her. I wonder if I was a poor student, or if the iron is to blame: if in some blind rage it wounds the soil that holds it, staining it bloody. I spit on the last plant: what bitter water I can spare lolls down to the ground, languid and brown-red. She used to kiss their leaves, but they are too brittle now, choked in dust. Swaddled against my chest, you squirm. You are restless today. But then, you never did like the iron, did you? Blood and iron, dust and desiccation: you do a beautiful job weaving metaphor into the narrative. The near-poetic description of the rust staining the soil contrasts beautifully with the way the protagonist spits on the plant, the description making it sound like an act of mercy.

Your grandfather takes out his new compass and taps it. The last one made it a week before the rust flooded it into stillness. I have no time for his old world tinkering. The robots went first, throttled by dust. Nothing but scrap, but they still made fine toys. So I humour his smothered, ever-spinning compasses, and his spades that snap, their innards rotted, brown and flaking. Your mother thought him a genius. Perhaps that mattered once. Good world-building; you subtly imply the story to be post-apocalyptic, or perhaps even to take place on another planet, but since neither possibility is central to the plot you leave out unnecessary detail. I should learn from this example.

He taps it again. “Storm's coming,” he says, frowning, and hobbles to the next pole. Simple and to the point.

I open my parched mouth and curse. I shouldn't do that when you're around, but we cannot eat iron. I put you down for a moment and I run for the tarpaulin, wincing as my bad leg hits dust, to shelter what plants remain. I shout wordlessly at your grandfather. He ignores me, scraping up dust like it were gold.

I grab one of the iron spurs scattered around the tarpaulin. I slam it into the ground, to pin a corner down, and it snaps in my hands. I bite my tongue and I taste still more iron. I curse again. You'll get used to it. I try the next, and the next: the last one dissolves between my fingers, dust in the rising wind.

I cast my eyes around for rocks. They are all dust now, lifted into the air. All that's left are Grandfather's old steel poles, rust-free. I sprint to the eastern one and tear it from the ground.

“You idiot! We need that to catch the iron-”

“Aye,” I say, “because right now we're so drat short of it!”

He reaches for the steel. I swat his frail arm aside and push him to the ground. “I'm taking this,” I say. “Don't try and stop me.” He kicks out, and my bad leg gives. We tumble over together, dust and iron clouding over us, and I raise the steel again. I can feel the growing tension, the protagonist's growing irritation with Grandfather's futile insistence. It's not explicitly stated, but I get the feeling these two are willing to kill one another at this point, not out of real hatred, but of despair.

But he's not looking at me. He's looking back, towards the potatoes, to you. And then they remember what's really important.

You know I always tell you not to run off on your own? Well, you never were a listener. You're toddling along at your own pace, past the southern pole and into the trackless waste beyond. The dust is up to your knees, but you don't stop.

I look at your grandfather. He looks at me. I drop the steel, help him to his feet, and we come running. He picks you up and you start wailing. “Let me hold him,” I say, and he passes you over. You keep screaming your little lungs out, and I worry your next breath will be rust. But your grandfather is measuring your line in the dust, checking against the poles.

“True south,” he says. “The lass is going true south.” He takes a breath. “Away from the iron.”

“And the potatoes.” I like how the potatoes in this story have real meaning for the character. While in my lovely little story the potatoes are merely a punchline, you make them something worthy of agony. And this line serves as good foreshadowing.

We both look at you, but you have nothing to add. I lower you gently, he and I shielding you from the duststorm. You resume your course. True south.

Your grandfather and I turn back to our little farm. The north sky is the storm, brown-red and raging. Our eyes drift, together, to the potato patch. He looks at me, and he nods. He's right.

I pull out the southern pole and pass it to Grandfather. “Bring them with us,” I say. “Never know when we'll need pure iron.”

It doesn't take long to pack. A few tools, our food and water stores, your toys; a picture of your mother, grandfather and I before all this, fading red and brown. By the time I come out, Grandfather has already packed his gear.

I quickly scoop up the potatoes: small and tough as they are, they'll make for seedlings. I never told you where we buried your mother, my wife, his daughter. But she wanted to provide for you, and we kept that promise for her. I fold a leaf over in my hands, yellow-green and alive: I kiss it once, gently, and release it to the wind. I lick the acrid dust from my lips. Then I swaddle you up and you lead us away from the storm, keeping us true south with your happy gurgling. A lovely, bittersweet ending, and the foreshadowing bears fruit. Again, you never explicitly state the details, only give their shapes. You have the competence to let your readers make the final connections on their owb instead of hurling exposition like an incontinent monkey.

You're most likely going to kick my rear end during our brawl. After this story, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Screaming Idiot fucked around with this message at 09:48 on Jun 7, 2016

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


In! Hit me with an image I can use to write a disappointing story.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Thanks for the crits, Thranguy. I agree with what you about my dialogue. And thank you for the badass picture, QuoProQuid.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


And he had black wings


Words: 1156

I had felt at peace when they'd put the gun to my head. I felt nothing when they pulled the trigger except for a brief pressure, and I looked down at the sad, crumpled thing that had been my body and I could but shrug. That was it? No celestial choir? No hellish roar? Did my lack of faith condemn me to eternal torment as a shade trapped between worlds?

"No," said the very tall man with very black wings who stood beside me, a bottle in his hand. "I just wanted to finish my drink before we left."

"You can read my thoughts?" I looked up into that weary, unshaven face and saw in those tired eyes the weight of ages. I repressed a shiver.

"No," he said again. "You were speaking out loud. That's only natural; you had a lot on your mind." He nudged a spectral foot at my corpse at his feet and shook his head. "Not so much now, of course."

I frowned up at him. "That's in bad taste, sir."

He tilted the bottle back and drained it, then tossed it aside with a ghostly clatter. "You take your humor when you can get it. Now let's go, you're late."

"Late? For what?"

He shrugged. "Just late."


I don't know how long ago that happened. There is no time here -- I doubt there's even a "here." This place resembles the town of my birth, but ruined and burning, a child's idea of hell. At first I was terrified, but as the no-time passed I realized that this place held no dangers, save for boredom. I wanted to see more of this land, to leave this false, ruined town.

"Go ahead," said the man with black wings. He stood upon a cliff overlooking the ruined town, his eyes seeming to drink in the ever-burning scene. "But I must warn you: all who have left have never returned."

"Maybe they found someplace better."

"Maybe." The man shrugged, black wings briefly flexing. "But look around you. Does this really seem like a place to inspire hope?"

I thought for a long moment, then I met his gaze.


And I began walking.


I don't know how long I walked. Voices called from the darkness, uttering a name I did not recognize. I ignored them; I would follow my path to the end and see what else lay in store.

I saw a light in the distance, but it was faint, almost swallowed by the darkness. I threw aside my hesitation and ran toward it, my heart rising in my chest as it grew brighter and brighter.

So close, so close...!

The rustle of wings overhead interrupted my thoughts, and I glared as the winged man descended from the shadowy, ember-flecked clouds above.

"Are you so sure you want to go into the light?" He took a pipe from his pocket, filled it, and lit it with a glare of his eyes. Rich, sweet tobacco smoke soon wreathed his features, and despite my anger at his interruption I found myself relaxing at the quizzically familiar smell.

"You want so much to explore this land, to discover what lies beyond," he said, taking out his pipe and gesturing at the dark, ruined landscape around. "But have you considered there's nothing here to discover? Everyone who comes, leaves. But none of them knew themselves; they searched everywhere for something that they already had but never bothered to find."

My pulse could not race here; I felt nothing beat in my chest. But I could still feel anger, and the winged man's blathering was beginning to take its toll.

"And just what the hell do you mean? Don't get cryptic with me, I don't have the patience for it!"

He looked at me, frowned, and smacked the top of my head with his pipe.

"Your name," he said, slowly, as though coaxing a farm animal. "What is your name?"

"My name? That's ridiculous, my name is..." I trailed off, then looked up at him. He had a small, sad smile upon his lips.

"I don't know what's past that light. But I do know that once you've passed, you're gone forever." He took a drag of his pipe and blew out another fragrant cloud of smoke. "I wouldn't dream of denying you the chance to satiate your curiosity, but I would suggest you try to find yourself first."

He took off, stirring dust and ash in his wake, and I watched him until he disappeared, then I turned my gaze toward the distant light. It seemed so attractive before, but dread its knife in my guts at the thought of losing myself.


I'd always been the curious sort; that was why I became a reporter.


That was why I tailed the mobster.


And that was why he shot me.


My eyes widened as information trickled back into my mind, and I fell to my knees at the realization.

"My name is Yuri," I whispered. Then I got to my feet and cried out joyfully. "My name is Yuri!"

"I'm glad for you, but there is no need to shout," said the black-winged man from behind my shoulder. "Do you wish to go through the light now?"

"No," I whispered, emotion threatening to overwhelm. "I must know more. I need to reclaim myself."

"Then you need to wake up."

At those words, my eyes opened, and I found myself somewhere warm and unfamiliar. Fluorescent lights burned my eye and the stench of antiseptics filed the air. Half of my head was covered in heavy bandages, and it ached horribly. Parts of my body were numb, and my lips were dry and cracked.

"Water," I croaked. Self-realization, I realized, could wait. Some things were more important.

"About time you woke up," said the very tall man without wings. He frowned down at me, then poured a Styrofoam cup of water and carefully lifted it to my lips. As I drank my fill he went on. "Your mother and I were worried out of our heads about you. She kept crying your name, even when I told her you couldn't hear."

"I think I did hear," I said. My tongue felt like a dead fish in my mouth, scabrous and half-mummified.

"Really?" My father ran his fingers through his unkempt facial hair. "Don't tell her that. I'd never heard the end of it."

I attempted a laugh, but it came out as a strangled squawk.

"I'm glad you didn't go through the light," my father said, collapsing into the seat next to the bed.

I almost sat up, but the bandages and restraints prevented me. "So you really were there? In my dream?" And he had black wings.

"No," my father replied, a mischievous smile rising to his lips. "You talked in your sleep."

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


I'm in, and I'll take Special K at 117 calories/1170 words per serving.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Hank Armstrong II: Cereal Killer

Prompt: Special K Cereal

Words: 1170

"...and that, Hank, is why you will never, ever go near the stables again! You hear me?" The chief snarled and slammed his fist on the table, a cigar smoldering between clenched fingers. Two more jutted between his chapped lips, and he glared at the magnificently meaty figure of Hank Armstrong.

Hank snarled and chewed a piece of raw horsemeat. "Some of those horses was being used to smuggle cocaine, chief. They was being sold to horse cartels to make money to buy more horses and cocaine. But I ended it."

"Put down the horsemeat," the chief growled, eyes narrowed. "And your badge and gun! You're off the force!"

"Fine. I'll be back tomorrow. To get them back." He slammed his hands on the desk and leaned forward, the tip of his nose touching the chief's. "Because you'll need me."

"Okay," said the chief. "Now go home, you're off the force tonight."

"Actually, it's morning." Hank pointed to the window, and the dark sky was immediately lit by the rising sun. "And that means only one thing: it's Special K time."

Hank turned and walked through the wall, which sealed itself with a sound like wet dough smacking concrete. The only sign of his passage was the statement "HANK WAS HERE. BE GRATEFUL." The chief sighed, and called for an exorcist.


Hank crashed through the kitchen's skylight and landed next to the kitchen table, absorbing the impact with one fist. He looked up at his loving wife Marla and daughter Caitlin, then at the kitchen table replete with a complete breakfast: toast, eggs, orange juice, bacon, grapefruit, and...

Hank's massive, beautifully unshaven jaw dropped in horror, and he went paler than a ghost who just received terrible news.

"My love, my darling, my dearest one," Hank blubbered, falling to his knees before his wife. "Where is our Special K?"

"Gone," she said sadly. "Before you got here we were robbed -- and the robber left a ransom note!"

Caitlin handed Hank a pink post-it note and sniffled. "Will you rescue our cereal, daddy?"

He took it, memorized the number, then ate the paper. He nodded to his little girl. "Yes, sweetie. Daddy will catch the bad man who stole our cereal."


"This is Hank Armstrong, former policeman." Hank growled into his cellphone as he power-walked to the Abandoned Warehouse District, the place where, by federal law, all kidnappers must hole up. "I got skills. Skills that are very scary for people like you. I'm gonna find you, and make you real sorry you stole my Special K."

"I think you have the wrong number, sir."

Hank cursed, then punched himself in the stomach. The soggy post-it flew from his mouth and into his hand. He quickly re-memorized the number, then re-digested the note.

"About time you called, I was beginning to think you'd moved on," said the voice of pure evil on the other end of the line, "to brunch."

"I want my Special K, criminal!" Hank's voice was hard, like angry iron that wanted its cereal back. "My daughter needs those essential vitamins and minerals!"

"Then come inside and we will... negotiate." The voice on the other line snickered, then hang up. Hank fumed, then looked at the warehouse directly before him. The door opened with an ominous creak. Elsewhere, a lonely wolf howled, and thunder cracked. A bird also chirped, and Hank glared at it for ruining the ambience. It twittered an apology.

When Hank entered the warehouse, he pointed a gnarled, manly finger at the loathsome criminal within. And Hank could tell it was a criminal -- he was a cop, he knew criminals, and this one wore a black-and-white striped shirt, leather gloves, a black eyemask, and was holding a large sack with the word "loot" scrawled on it in black marker. He fit the description.

"You got my Special K in that sack?" Hank snarled and spat.

"Oh, no," said the criminal, stepping aside to reveal the helpless box tied to a chair. "It's here, where I can keep a safe eye on it."

"What do you want for it?" Hank glared at the criminal. The audience gasped, rapt with tension. And, of course, one jerk talked loudly on his phone during the scene. He was later found beaten in an alley, with a pink post-it note shoved in his mouth.

"What do I want? Your life, of course." The criminal grinned with criminal intent. "You ruined my cocaine plans."

"My life? But I promised it to Marla when we got married! No deal!" Hank went to draw his gun, then realized he had no gun. So he pretended his hand was a gun and pointed it at the criminal. "Take off that mask, thief!"

The criminal dropped his bag and growled, raising his hands. "Fine! But don't say I didn't warn you."

"But you didn't warn..." Hank began, then gasped in shock and horror and surprise.

A horse stood before him, its eyes narrowed, teeth bared. "You ruined my plans, Armstrong! And now your beloved breakfast cereal is gonna get it!"

The horse turned to the chair where the Special K was bound, helpless. Hank leapt atop the horse's back and tore at its flowing mane, crying out in fury while the horse bucked and yelled. It finally dislodged Hank, and got up on its hind hooves and got into the standard boxer's stance.

"C'mon Hank, let's see if those arms are as strong as your name implies!"

Hank and the horse traded blows, but Hank knew he couldn't keep it up much longer; the horseshoes on the end of its hooves gave the horse an added advantage, like brass knuckles made of iron. Hank needed an advantage of his own.

He curled into a ball and rolled between the horse's legs to the chair where the Special K was bound, tore away the ropes, and he squeezed the box in one titanic hand. A fountain of delicious, nutritious cereal fountained from the box and into Hank's gaping maw, and he swallowed the dry flakes with gratitude. He flexed, and his shirt exploded into cloth shrapnel. The horse gaped and whinnied.

"No... no! Murderer! Fiend!" The horse's eyes were wild with fear and disgust. "You ate my hostage!"

Hank yelled an ancient Mesopotamian war cry and hammer-punched the horse into orbit where it thought about ants and died.

A pyrrhic victory. He had defeated the criminal horse, but at the cost of killing his beloved Special K. Then his phone rang.

"Hi, sweetie! Just calling to tell you we found another box, so you don't have to bother. Come back home for a bowl!" Marla's sweet voice drifted from the phone.

"This one's got red berries!" Caitlin's voice followed.

Hank smiled inwardly, then outwardly as well. With a strength born of Special K and the skill of many years as a policeman, he tunneled through the earth to home.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Brawlpost: Screaming Idiot vs. Obliterati

Old Man of the Mountain

Prompt: Adventure!

Words: 1500

"Grandfather!" Khima bounced about her harness, her cheeks bright red from excitement and the biting cold. "Are we near, Grandfather?"

Azuni sighed. He'd asked the child to refer to him by name; he was not her grandfather -- merely her guardian. But as he glanced at the two beautifully painted jars packed carefully with the rest of their belongings, he decided not to correct her.

They rode onward up the mountain and their mount -- a large, thick-furred yak-like creature -- lowed plaintively. It smelled something it did not like on the biting wind, but was too well-trained to give in to instinct.

"I do not know. The snow is thick, the wind is strong. But the ghrak has found ample footing thus far. That is a good sign." Azuni forced a smile to his dark-skinned features. "We will soon be among your people."

The girl squealed and Azuni wished he could feel her optimism. It was true the ghrak easily navigated the inhospitable terrain, but it had been born to these lands, and it was nimble despite its bulk. But Azuni had lost the trail days before, during the blizzard that had claimed most of their supplies.

He looked at the cheerful little girl and his heart ached at how thin she had become. Azuni had given her his share of what remained whenever he could trick her into accepting it, but he was an old traveler, and wise enough to know how much it took for the body to stay warm. At least the ghrak ate well; it used its tusks to dig through snow and permafrost to feast off the hardy roots of sleeping mountain-weeds, and they still had many bags of feed, which Azuni sometimes used to supplement their own flagging supplies. They were old and musty-tasting, but the dried plant matter did much to thicken the watery stews they had come to rely upon. Azuni felt guilty taking food from the beast, but he would sacrifice it gladly to save Khima.

"Grandfather," Khima said, reaching up to tug at Azuni's thick robe. "Tell me a story!"

Azuni started at that, then calmed as he adjusted the thick hood about his face. "If it will keep you quiet, yes, I will tell you a story. What do you want to hear?"

"Tell me of the Old Man of the Mountain," she said, her eyes wide and bright in the dimming sunlight. "I like that one! It's scary!"

Azuni sighed. He disliked that story immensely, but Khima's father had told her that story every night before the sickness had taken him, before the village elders had asked Azuni, an explorer, to honor the father's wishes and take the dead man's daughter home.

"Atop the highest mountain in the land lived an old man," Azuni said, wishing for Khima's father's voice; he had been a singer of songs, and he and his wife had traveled the land to find new songs to bring to his people. She had been with child, and the birth had gone wrong; Khima survived, but her mother did not. "And he was very wise; men from all over the world would come to him and ask him of the meaning of the world. And because he was wise, he told them nothing, for that is an answer a man must learn on his own."

The wind howled like a forlorn animal, and with it came intense cold. It made Azuni's bones ache, made Khima cry out. Even the ghrak shuddered.

"But the old man was prideful. He thought himself wiser even than the gods, and because people revered him and because he lived so far above them, he thought himself a god." Azuni shuddered at another blast of immense cold, and he turned about to pack the furs more tightly about Khima, who was fighting back tears even as a few froze upon her cheek.

"Finish the story, Grandfather," she whimpered. "Please."

"After the old man fell prey to his pride, he began to kill all who came to him without tribute, and in his madness, he ate their flesh and wore their bones," Azuni went on, his few teeth chattering. The snow fell steadily; another blizzard would soon be upon them. Gods, he would have to stop the ghrak, set up the tent, light the fire, and do all the other things that must be done. But he was so old, and so tired. He was another old man too full of pride atop a mountain, and it was a cold comfort that he recognized his hubris. Why hadn't he given the task to a younger man? Why hadn't he asked for help? Foolish, foolish Azuni!

Gods above, he thought as the wind and the snow and the bitter, bitter cold shrieked and gibbered, I have been a fool, yes I have, but must the child die as well?

"The story, Grandfather," Khima said, sobbing.

"And the old man changed," Azuni said, his voice almost stolen by the hungry wind. "He became as monstrous outside as he was inside: hair, long and thick and white sprouted from his hide; his teeth and nails grew long and sharp; his howls could call the blizzards to hide him as he hunted. He was wise no longer; indeed, he had become a beast."

The ghrak reared, nearly dislodging its riders and cargo despite the tight harnesses and straps. Azuni hurried to unburden the beast, but as he freed Khima, the ghrak gave a deep and terrible roar. It pawed the ground, yellowed tusks gleaming.

And then he came.

A creature from stories, a beast from nightmare, warning and omen and legend and awful, terrible reality: the Old Man of the Mountain. It knuckled down the craggy slope, snow billowing about its matted fur like a cloak, old bloodstains marring white fur. It opened its jaws wide and revealed a mouth full of jagged teeth, and it howled with hunger.

To Azuni, it looked like one of the great apes of his homeland, but feral and full of hatred, not at all like those familiar, gentle herbivorous giants. To Khima, it was a punishment, and she buried her face in Azuni's shoulder as the old man stood frozen with fear.

The Old Man of the Mountain screamed and knuckled toward the child and her protector, spittle freezing even as it dribbled down its cracked lips, its tiny eyes red and mad. Azuni had weapons, but they were strapped to his mount, and even if they were at hand he did not have strength enough to use them. All he could do was turn his back to the monster, hope his old flesh would suffice to shield her.

The ghrak's blood sang with the love of those who reared it and the hatred of the wild white apes of the frozen crags. It charge the Old Man of the Mountain, decorated horns and shovel-tusks gouging and tearing. But the Old Man of the Mountain was cunning and spiteful, mortal wounds or no, and he used the ghrak's own weight against it. Both beasts went over the cliff, howling and roaring, locked in a battle that ended upon the sharp, snow-covered rocks below.

"Grandfather," Khima sobbed. "I'm sorry. I don't want to hear that story anymore. I'm sorry. I'm sorry!"

Azuni clutched the child close, heart shuddering in his chest, and he fell to his knees in the snow. "Shh, it's over now. The Old Man is gone. We live."

"Momma and papa-"

"They wished for their ashes to be scattered; this place is as good as any." He coughed raggedly, wiped blood from his lips. He sat in the snow, too weak to stand, listening to Khima's increasingly desperate pleas.

"Old man! You, in the snow! Are you hurt?"

Azuni looked toward the source of the voice; a group of hunters armed with spears and knives; they wore white ape pelts over intricately-woven robes, and their skin was light, like Khima's.

"I bring you this child," Azuni croaked, consciousness threatening to abandon him. "She is named for her mother, Khima. Her father was a singer of songs." He coughed again, raggedly. "They died, and I was tasked to bring the child home. Please, take her in."

"Our village is near, old one," said the leader of the hunters. He had a sad smile on his face. "And I remember Khima. We mourn her and her man's passing, but we rejoice in her child's homecoming. Will you come with us?"

Light had left Azuni's eyes; life had left his body. But Khima never forgot the one she called Grandfather, and when she grew older she sang a tale of the new Old Man of the Mountain, with skin as dark as night and a spirit as warm as summer. She sang also of his mount, a loyal and courageous beast of burden.

And she, too, became a traveler.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Thanks Thranguy, Flerp, and Benny Profane for the crits.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Who knows what dark thoughts percolate within my subconscious, waiting for the opportunity to push forward to the day-lit forebrain?


sebmojo posted:


The weird thing is that I was going to use that word in my post and decided against it in case it was going to go to someone else.

Screaming Idiot fucked around with this message at 03:17 on Jul 8, 2016

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


The Unlit Mirror

Prompt: Crepuscular horror

Words: 1199

The rays of the morning sun turned the motes of dust into diamonds; I admired them as I rummaged through my father's things. I knew he had been a prolific writer in his time, but the volume of his unpublished work was staggering; boxes upon boxes of home-bound books, all written in his neat boilerplate script, left to dust and the darkness.

As I carried the last of those boxes down the attic stairs into my parlor, I stopped to shake my head at my father's foolishness. He'd been a respected authority on esoteric myths and legends; I felt like I'd lucked into a fortune.

I picked up a slim volume entitled Testimony of the Unlit Mirror and as I flipped through the yellowed pages I noticed my father's handwriting seemed scratchier and more spidery than usual, with some words nigh-obliterated by moisture.

When the barrier between night and day is thin, the shades of those who never lived and had lived before wander and wait, seeking to see and be seen, to watch and be watched, to be called and carried into light and life once more! Again they'll live! Again they'll live! The mirror is the key!

I wrinkled my nose. What was this rubbish? I understood why Father put this work aside, though why he hadn't simply disposed of it was beyond me. Still, I took a seat and began to read further; perhaps it would make more sense if read in its entirety. I had little else to do anyway.

"The 'crepuscular hours,'" I found myself murmuring some hours after reading the slim volume. "The twilight; the evening; the time when the sun sinks below the horizon, and the light gives way to darkness."

I started at a sound in the distance like a woman's scream. I laughed as I calmed my nerves twanging like bowstrings; it was evening, and I lived in my father's old home in the woods, where were wild cats still hunted. Laymen termed them as nocturnal, but -- and a smile came to my face at the recollection -- they were actually crepuscular creatures, who did most of their hunting in the scant hours just before nightfall. No worries there.

I wandered idly about, completely at ease despite my solitude. I shook my head in shame at my father's folly -- the slim volume had spoke at length of how the dead and the 'never-born' wandered endlessly, and how they might pass through whatever crepuscular membrane separated the day-lit world of the living and the endless night of the dead.

Mother's passing had affected him more greatly than I'd thought; the idea gave credence to rumors surrounding his 'accidental' death so long ago, and it would certainly explain some of his stranger habits preceding, especially his dislike of mirrors and other reflective surfaces.

A wry smile tugged at my lips as a perverse thought slithered into my forebrain, seemingly of its own accord. My father had been a fool, of that I was now assured, but was I man enough to prove it to myself? I went back to my drawing room and thumbed through the Testimony, and the grin grew wider still.

Yes, I think I should put the matter to rest. Luckily, the time was right and I had all the necessary implements at hand, including the candle and the knife. And the mirror, of course -- the mirror was vital.

I grinned to myself as I closed the door to the bathroom and lit the candle before the old mirror above the sink. I stifled a chuckle at my mischief; I felt like a child again, partaking in a time-honored rite of pre-adulthood. I stood there, watching as my reflection flickered in the old glass with its tarnished silver backing.

"Hello father, hello mother," I said conversationally to my reflection. "Can either of you hear me? It's Charles. I found your book -- it wasn't very good, I'm afraid, but it helped wile away a slow afternoon."

My reflected smile seemed to grow, and the flame flickered as though disturbed by an unfelt draft. Anxiety ran its cold, delicate fingers along my breast, but I squashed it as swiftly as it came, and I reached for the knife in my pocket. By the candle's wan light I pricked my index finger -- a trifle harder than intended, eliciting a wince -- and quenched the candle's flame between thumb and bloodied forefinger. I took in a breath, smelling wisps of smoke and blood.

Nothing happened.

I stood in darkness, sucking at my burned, aching finger and damning myself for a fool. Of course nothing happened! I cursed aloud at my disappointment. What did I think would happen? Swirls of hellfire alight with the spirits of my departed parents? A torrent of screams from the crepuscular things beyond the veil? Stupidity!

I flicked the light-switch and looked to the mirror, staring hard at my reflection. All was as it should have been, and nary a tormented spirit in sight.

You shouldn't have done that.

I blinked as my eyes finished adjusting to the harsh florescent light. Did I think those words? Or did I truly hear them?

I snatched the candle and left the bathroom, my cheeks burning with shame and... fear? What in god's name was there to fear? I was alone in the house, with naught about save miles and miles of tranquil wood! Was I to look over my shoulder for the rest of my days like dear ole dad?

I stalked toward the kitchen and readied the kettle for tea, and I looked out at the darkened wood through the window above the sink.

And saw the face of my father.

It leered at me from behind my reflection, eyes wide, skin pale and bloodless. His mouth was open in a silent scream. Beside him stood my mother, similarly pallid, her neck twisted at an odd angle -- from the noose with which she had hung herself so many years ago.

I screamed and turned away, and saw nothing. When I faced the window once again, I saw only my reflection, pale and slack-jawed with terror. Then I barked a harsh laugh.

"Just nerves," I tittered, my voice shaky to my own ears. "Just my nerves, hahaha!"

You invited us. You ignored the cry, you lit the candle, you fed it blood, and we came!

I looked in terror as ill-formed... things shambled out from between the trees toward the house, grotesque and misshapen bodies glinting wetly, pale and maggotlike in the dim light of the crescent moon. I watched with morbid fascination as they writhed and pulsed, and the spectral figures of my parents stood outside the window, their dead eyes meeting my own.

The voice of my father hissed once again inside my skull like wind-blown dead leaves.

And they accepted the invitation as well.

That's when the front door splintered open, and I saw the first of the crepuscular horrors lurch toward me, its dripping, writhing limbs reaching out as I stood there, shuddering and nauseous and rigid and utterly helpless.

And they hunger.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Interprompt: The giants rule the cities. 200 words, no poetry or erotica.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Countercounterprompt: Giants rule the suburbs, fanfiction, -25 words

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


In this week's thrilling adventurer, Screaming Idiot and his boy sidekick Slicky Knabbs chase down the vile and cunning Nazi scientist Dr. Stalin von Mussolini! And if he has time, the brave and heroic Screaming Idiot might also write another thrilling adventure!

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Sayonara, Reichmann!

Prompt: Escape! In a vehicle!

Words: 1096

The law of averages is a bitch, and it hosed Joe good this time.

"It would be easier to kill you now," said the German officer standing above him, clad in full uniform despite the sweltering African heat. "You trespassed on private property. You have no identification. You killed three of my guards. But I am neither barbarian nor wastrel -- that is not the German way."

The officer knelt to the battered Joe and smiled broadly. "We are going to put you to work, my friend."

Joe spat a wad of bloodied phlegm at the officer's smug mug, but he dodged easily.

"Americans and their clichés." He shook his head and tutted as he got to his feet. "Take him to the barracks and tend his injuries. Let him rest -- he will earn his keep in time."

Hours later Joe awoke to voices. One sounded German; the other, Japanese. He kept his eyes shut and his breathing deep. Intel didn't say anything about the Japs being involved.

"...and then I said, 'Sir, Ngumi cannot work, his leg is broken in three places from the fall,' and Reichmann merely shook his head and..." A torrent of Yiddish followed. "You can't do that to a man just because he is injured, dammit!"

A pause.

The other said, "I know you're awake, American. You snored like a growling dog; you are too quiet now. You like whiskey?"

Joe cursed, rose, ignored the burning of his ribs. Probably broken. poo poo.

The Japanese man handed him a cup brimming with dark, strong-smelling drink. Seeing no reason to refuse, Joe accepted. It burned beautifully.

"It's good stuff. Reichmann likes his pets, so he gives us treats." The Japanese man spat on the dirt floor. "Now he has a new pet."

"I'm not some kraut bastard's pet," Joe said as he rose to his feet. The smaller man with the German accent goggled. "And I'm getting out of here."

"I saw when they brought you here -- there is no way you should be standing, much less escaping!" The little Jewish man pointed to the terrible bruises along Joe's torso. "My god man, look!"

"Ain't as bad as it looks," Joe said, wincing at a twinge. "The trick is to roll with the kicks. What about you? You sound like a Jew, and the other's-"

"A 'Jap.'" The Japanese man gave Joe the stink-eye as he rubbed his bearded chin. "I know you were going to say it. I'm a prisoner just like you and Herbert -- I was to be executed for desertion and Reichmann asked for me for his 'project.' Call me Hiro; I doubt you'd be able to pronounce my full name."

"What's going on here?" Joe finished his cup and held it out for more.

"Reichmann's taken over the diamond mine to help fund the German war effort," Herbert answered as Hiro refilled Joe's cup. "I'm a Jew who's good with numbers -- useful and expendable. Hiro's good at languages."

"I talk with the... 'scheissenmensch' as Reichmann calls the natives," Hiro said. "He thinks they're beneath him, and leaves the task to me, an 'honorary Aryan.' I'd like to show him gratitude by sharing my keepsake." Hiro spat again and growled something in Japanese.

"I was sent to gather evidence that this place was under Nazi control -- and it looks like I found it." Joe drained his cup. "I have contacts in the village a few miles away. If you can help me get some wheels I can get us out of here."

"Evidence?" Herbert's eyes lit up and he scurried to his bunk. He removed a manila envelope stuffed with papers. "How about this?"

Hiro chuckled darkly, hand in his pocket. "And how will we escape?"

"I saw some jeeps on the other side of the compound. The guards here are a joke and the workers have no love for Reichmann." Joe shrugged. "I got what I came for; I can get you guys to safety on the next ship out."

Herbert bit his lip and Hiro let out a long sigh.

"Fine. Better to die escaping than to live helping a 'kraut bastard.'" Hiro offered a his hand to Joe, who shook it firmly.

"First, one more for the road?" Joe held up his cup with a smile.


Liberating the jeep had been stupidly simple. The guards were all dozing in an alcoholic stupor -- Reichmann was indeed generous -- and the few workers going about their tasks paid them no mind, exhaustion etched on their haggard features. Joe gritted his teeth as he saw them. Reichmann was going to pay, yes he was, but first Joe and his allies had to escape.

"The road's clear for the next mile or so," Hiro said as he clambered into the back of the jeep. "Imani said the guards along the route are all drunk."

Joe gunned the jeep through the wooden gate and down the dry dirt road, moonlight highlighting the darkness ahead. Joe's nerves sang as he caught glimpses of familiar landmarks; soon they would be well away from the camp and closer to safety.

An explosion rocked behind them, following a horribly familiar sound of roaring engines and churning treads.

Joe looked behind them at the floodlights. "What...?"

"YES!" Reichmann boomed through his megaphone as he stood in the tank's hatch. "IT IS A loving TANK!"

Joe swerved and cursed as they dodged shells until finally Reichmann roared with frustration and ordered his men to open fire. Bullets screamed through the night; Joe felt the wind of a slug pass his cheek. Herbert crouched beside Joe, clutching the envelope protectively to his chest while Hiro roared challenges.

The law of averages, that bitch of bitches, struck again. Hiro shielded Joe and Herbert with his body, hot lead tearing through gaunt flesh. He hurled himself from the jeep and hit the ground rolling, screaming curses as his dingy shirt bloomed crimson. He reached into his pocket and glared as Reichmann and a squad of guards stepped to him.

"Your friends have escaped," Reichmann said, suddenly calm. "For what little good it does you."

Hiro choked on blood.

Reichmann leaned down close and sneered. "Care to repeat that?"

"Sayonara," Hiro gurgled, raising a grenade. He grinned at Reichmann's expression.

Joe and Herbert heard the explosion and the ensuing rain of shrapnel and gore.

"Hiro's keepsake," Herbert said softly. Joe gave a curt, grim nod.

And they drove off into the night and, eventually, to safety.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Those crits are good crits. Also, consider me in for this week's prompt.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Predator and prey

Prompt: Bottle episode

Words: 1197

Richard sat patiently, breathing in the cool, slightly musty air. A candle flickered on a small table; by its light Richard read from the Bible. Beside him sat his bag of tools, and before him lay the ancient stone sarcophagus.

The man in the sarcophagus was middle-aged and sickly-looking, his thick mustache unevenly trimmed, and small nicks and cuts lined his cheeks, neck, and jaw. His homespun clothing was stained and poorly-mended. Against the far wall lay a pile of dusty bones: the sarcophagus's original occupant.

Richard clicked his teeth as he looked at the hourglass near the candle. The sun would soon set. He put the book aside and readied his hammer and stake.

The man in the sarcophagus took in a hoarse gasp and sat up, eyes wide, teeth bared in a pained grimace. He met Richard's even stare with a hiss.

"Good evening," Richard said. "My name is Richard Bellamy. What's yours?"

The man looked at the thick line of salt that encircled the sarcophagus, then regarded Richard with bleary bewilderment.

"Howard," he husked. He cleared his throat.

"Thirsty?" Richard smiled politely. He gestured to a capped flask of water with a cross etched on its front

"What do you want?" Howard looked angry, and a little frightened.

"Your head, but not just yet." After a moment's examination Richard surmised the circle of salt was intact, and he put aside his tools. "First, I would like to talk to you. Get your side of the story, as it were."

Howard bared his teeth; dirty and brown, ruined by a life of bad hygiene and tobacco -- save for a pair of long, curved fangs which glistened in the weak candlelight. "What the hell sort of game are you playing at?"

Richard shook an admonishing finger. "Watch your language, sir. This is no game; I took the trouble of tracking you down and setting the proper precautions. The door is sealed with garlic bulbs and marked with the cross -- you won't be able to break it down. Not that you'd get the chance, of course, as you cannot leave your sarcophagus."

Howard's expression grew wretched. "Don't you think I have it bad enough without you mocking me?"

"If it's any comfort," Richard said with as much sympathy as he could muster, "you won't suffer any more after tonight. If you have any friends or family remaining I would be pleased to let them know you're finally at peace."

Howard gave a bitter laugh that sounded more like a sob. "Family? Lost them all to the plague, same one that got me."

Richard sat up straight at this, and rummaged for a stick of charcoal and paper. "So the plague is linked to your... condition?"

"Near as I can tell," Howard murmured. He adjusted his position and looked at Richard with jaundiced, bloodshot eyes. "Sometimes folks that catch it don't die, as such. Sometimes they get back up again, but they... well, we're thirsty, see." Tears glistened in his eyes. "Can't help it. Can't keep food down, can't drink anything but blood, sunlight hurts like hell-"

"I thought sunlight killed your kind," Richard interjected, scribbling furiously on a parchment balanced on his bible.

"It just hurts is all. Makes you wish you were dead. Doesn't matter since every morning I pass out 'round sunrise," Howard went on, regaining some composure. He sniffed. "Can't believe all those wives' tales, you know."

"And the crucifix? And mirrors? What about them?"

"Hurts to look at mirrors. Makes my head ache something fierce." Howard grimaced and looked again at the salt surrounding his coffin. "Never was a religious man. Maybe this is my punishment."

"Your accent sounds somewhat northern. Where are you from originally?"

"Wilkinshire," Howard replied after a moment's thought. "Small farming village. But after I got sick, and after my family died along with everybody else, I burned it all to the ground and came down this way hoping a doctor could treat my condition." He gave another rueful laugh. "All I found was better hunting."

"So you think of yourself as a predator?" Richard sounded pleased with himself. His surmise was correct after all.

"Can't help it, really. I can't change into a wolf or a bat or a cloud of mist like the stories -- which don't mean nothing in any case -- but I'm stronger than I used to be, and aside from stuff like sunlight and mirrors, I don't really feel pain." Howard sighed and lay back in his sarcophagus and stretched. "Get awful stiff, though. Especially when I wake up."

"So would you say that adopting the mindset of a predator makes it easier to prey upon your fellow man? Dehumanizing yourself to face the bloodshed?"

Howard sat back up and shot Richard a glare that ran liquid ice down his spine. "Funny you should say that. You're the one who's wanting to kill me when you're tired of making me squirm on your hook."

"Ah, but I'm performing a service -- to the community, to natural philosophy, and to you. I'm stopping a killer, understanding your ways, and giving you your say before I grant you peace." Richard sighed happily, rubbing his hands together. "The money I'll get from sharing my findings is merely a bonus."

"So you'll profit from torturing me?"

Richard arched a brow and got to his feet, making sure to remain well out of the salt circle. "Torturing you? I've been nothing but civil. I could have staked you where you lay, and yet I allowed you to finish your day's sleep. I have been scrupulously polite even though you are -- let's face it -- a monster."

Howard's face grew paler still, and he trembled with anger. "I watched my wife and baby girl die of the plague. I got sick because I refused to leave them alone. I come all the way down here to find treatment, and I end up having to hide out in a drat burial mound, and you have the gall to call me a monster? You bastard! You utter bastard!"

"You drink people's blood," Richard said coolly. "You spread the disease."

"I can't help it!" Howard roared, a touch of reddish froth forming at the corner of his mouth. "Get out of here and leave me be! Stop tormenting me!"

"No," Richard said, a smile returning to his lips. He looked as though he enjoyed himself. He reached into his shirt and brought out a large, gilded silver cross and raised it toward Howard with a triumphant sneer. "No more politeness! Answer my questions, or die screaming!"

Howard gave a howl of rage, leapt from his sarcophagus onto Richard's body, pinned him to the ground with a madman's vigor. Bloody froth dripped from his cracked lips as he snarled into Richard's ear.

"Warned you, didn't I? Told you to leave! You believed in tales. You didn't believe me!" Howard's jaws made horrible cracking sounds as they opened wider and wider, and Richard could only let out a hoarse gurgle as those white fingers crushed his windpipe.

Howard hissed. "And I am thirsty."

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


In, with

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007



Prompt: no demons, no hellfire or brimstone, just a straightforward, hyperbole-free recruiting message about mythical/demonic/spiritual creatures

Words: 919

"Welcome!" said the Devil.

The room was sparsely-furnished and smelled faintly of dust and floor polish. One side of the room held a long plastic table with a small cooler half-filled with lukewarm water with cans of diet soda resting at the bottom like old suicides. Next to the case lay packages of generic sandwich cookies -- opened, stale -- and a heap of peanut butter crackers, old and broken in their wrappers. One of the fluorescent lights above flickered and a fly buzzed purposelessly about. In the center of the room was a ring of chairs, the sort designed to be easily folded away with the pesky necessity of the sitter's comfort conveniently ignored. The air conditioner made a terrific racket without actually cooling the room. In fact, it raised the temperature by a few degrees.

"I've come for the gift card." Miles held up the pink flyer which proclaimed "SELF-ACTUALIZATION SEMINAR!!! FREE SNAX AND $20 DOLLAR GIFT CARD DOOR PRIZE!! 1ST COME FIRST SERVE!!!" in bold Comic Sans.

"Oh," said the Devil, a bit deflated. "Well, you'll have to listen to me first. Have a seat, grab a soda and some snacks. There's plenty."

Miles looked at the table. The fly landed on one of the stale cookies, walked about a bit, then flew away, disinterested.

"No thanks," Miles said. He sat down.

The Devil looked hopefully to the door, sighed, then looked back at Miles. "First, let me introduce myself: I am Lucifer, the Morning Star, the Outcast Angel, the Fallen One. My titles are many and my influence knows no limit. I have whispered into the ears of kings-"

"I think I will have a soda, actually."

The Devil waited while Miles got up and snagged a diet Sam's Choice cola from the cooler, popped the top, and sipped with a cringe.

"Yes, I know they're warm, I've been waiting here all day." The Devil grumbled, then cleared his throat. "Since you're the only one in this apartment complex with the wisdom to seek me, I will offer you-"

"I'm not really interested," Miles said, voice as flat as his cola. "Look, if we could just skip to the gift card, I'd be grateful-"

"You will sit here and you will listen to me!" The Devil roared, his voice like a thunderclap, his eyes smoldering.

"As long as we can keep it short. I need to pick up some cat food." Miles sipped. "For my cat."

The Devil narrowed his eyes, then wilted. "Look, I'll level with you -- no demons, no hellfire or brimstone, just a hyperbole-free recruiting message. I want you, Miles Ellis-"

Miles choked on his soda, partially out of surprise. "How'd you know my name?"

"I'm the Devil," said the Devil.

"Oh," said Miles.

"I want you, Miles Ellis, to join me, to spread word of my power. For every soul you can convert, you will be given-"

"Does this mean you want my soul too?"

"Yes. I'm the Devil," said the Devil.

Miles frowned. "I don't believe in souls. I'm an atheist, I'm afraid."

The Devil stroked his goatee and smiled toothily, unaware of the fragment of cookie clinging to the corner of his mouth and the crumbs on his black turtleneck sweater. "That's fine. Sure, you people are ruining everything for us, but hey, if you give me something you don't believe you have, you come out on top. So what do you say?"

"Still doesn't feel right." Miles took another sip of his soda and cringed.

"Okay, fine, don't give me your soul," the Devil said. "If you can get me the souls of others, though, and get them to gathering souls for me-"

"Are you with Cutco or Amway?" Miles's voice went low, and embers flickered in his eyes.

"No! God, no!" The Devil sighed. "Good organizations, though. drat good. Wish I'd thought of them myself."

Miles got up and threw the half-empty can into the trash can, and the Devil winced because there wasn't a bag in it and he'd have to clean it or he wouldn't get his deposit back on the room.

"Sorry, but I don't see myself being a part of this. Can I have my gift card now?" Miles held out his hand.

The Devil glared and dug into his fanny pack, pulling out a small paper envelope. He sniffled and handed it to Miles with bad grace. "Here!" And then a bit more kindly, "And have a soda and a pack of crackers for the road."

Miles slipped the envelope into his pocket and took neither cracker nor soda, intent for the door.

The Devil got to his feet and grabbed a broom from the corner. "Say, you don't want to help me clean up, do you?"

Miles exited the building, where he breathed in the hot summer air with relief, the smell of rain thick. Clouds gathered above and blocked the sunlight while in the distance thunder rolled.

Miles reached into his pocket as he walked back to his apartment and pulled out the envelope. Quivering fingers tore it open and with burgeoning horror he laid eyes upon the ancient lettering on the dread relic within.


Miles fell to his knees and roared at the heavens as the clouds burst open and showered him with mournful tears. In the deep, booming thunder Miles heard the Devil's mirth.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007



Kaishai posted:

Curse you for knowing my weaknesses. In.


I was gonna duck this week because of prior obligations, but aw shucks, I'm in.


Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


We swim into the future.


Words: 1391

They say I am mad. They might be right. But I will save us all.

As I stare at the magnificent creature through reinforced glass, I hear a voice behind me, but I do not heed it; there is little in this world more worthy of my time than such tranquil might.

"Kaiser Rachneim," squeaks the petulant ant once more. "I bear terrible news!"

I turn slowly and deliberately to give him time to realize his error in disturbing my peace. I cross my arms imperiously over my broad chest, self-awarded medals of bravery and wisdom jangling with a merriness to contrast with the look upon my face. I am angry, and he sees it.

"A thousand-thousand pardons, my lord," Ishi murmurs, prostrate on his hands and knees, "but the rebels have struck again. Power in the Arnsteich district is gone, and they have established-"

"I do not care," I say. "Let the rebels do as they will. The people have spoken -- they want chaos. They want confusion. They want... change. And as punishment for their insolence, I shall give it to them."

Ishi looks up at me, and I see cowardice in his bloodshot eyes. The image of my steel-shod boot crushing that rodent face crosses my mind's eye, but Ishi's usefulness outweighs that pleasure for the moment and I restrain myself. His loyalty extends only as far as his fear, and I have gone to great lengths to ensure his loyalty. But fear has limitations.

I turn back to view my love. She is among the last of her kind, and it has taken millions of dollars to keep her alive and healthy. Phosphorescence glows from symbiotic fungi over the whole of her enormous, languid form, every pulse of light a communication, communication so profound I will never understand it while I remain so small and petty. I am humbled by her, but as long as Ishi stands behind me I dare not fall to my knees. I cannot show weakness; he already plots against me.

As if reading my mind, Ishi says, "We have received word that the rebels will march on the capital tomorrow. Our forces will stop the bulk of them, but it is estimated some will break through -- perhaps enough to overwhelm our security."

And you will lead them through, won't you? I can hear it in your voice, see it in your stance. Your hate will finally overcome your fear and it will be the death of me. You'll think yourself a hero, aiding the avenging people against their cruel tyrant.

Never mind the slight change in our world's orbit that will lead to the planet growing warmer, to the icecaps melting, to the water rising. This world upon which we are stranded has but one tiny landmass, and within a hundred years even it will drown. Only the creatures of the sea will be spared -- and only those of us who have been bonded will be among them.

"Leave me," I growl to hide the growing thickness of my voice.

I take one last look at my love and press a button upon the control panel. Somewhere the gates of her tank open to the infinite ocean. I see one glowing, car-sized eye look at me before she turns to swim to freedom. Farewell for now, my love -- we shall be together soon.

I pull a flask from my once-glorious uniform and chug it straight down, then I creep to the pile of blankets and cushions in the corner of the room. I dare not sleep in my own bed; my beautiful palace is full of assassins. I am safe only here, in this institute where I learned the awful truth and was given the wisdom that would have saved all. Only here can I sleep, where I can spend my final hours making my final plans, plans to save what few of us I could.

Tomorrow will be an eventful day.


A kick in my ribs and a gun barrel to my head serve as my alarm, and I smile.

"Get up, you scum," spits a disheveled young man in a dirty military uniform. "I will see you dead, but I won't have you shot in your sleep. You deserve to know when your end will come."

"How kind of you," I say with perfect dignity, getting to my feet and adjusting my own uniform. My medals tinkle like little bells.

"Kind?" He throws his head back and laughs, and I catch the glint of madness in his eye. Behind him his men snicker to themselves as they fondle their own rifles. "I want you to fear, Rachneim! I want you to grovel for your life like the dog you are!"

"Oh? And if I do, will you spare me?" I grin widely. Let him see my contempt; he deserves little else. What have I to fear now?

"I might," he says. "While it would please me to see you bleed, it would please me more to see you tried in court."

"And then you could shoot me," I say with a little nod.

"Of course," he answers. "You are guilty, after all. You squander our meager resources on your mad scheme. You had your chief scientist executed. You slaughtered children-"

"You killed those children," I correct him. "Or rather, you took their shells off life support. And I did not execute Dr. Shella -- she took her own life willingly, to test her project. And it works, drat you -- it works!"

The butt of his rifle catches me across the jaw and I fall to the floor, but there is little pain; the effects of the drugged liquor I took the night before are still strong.

"Don't give me your lies, Kaiser Rachneim!" The rebel levels his rifle at me and grins like a shark who has found prey. "We've taken your nascent cult to pieces and we'll cleanse this continent of your taint, and when we do we will finally be free!"

"Yes. Free to drown." I can barely speak; my jaw is broken. "Shoot me, coward."

He places the gun barrel in my mouth and licks his lips. "As you wish, 'my lord.'"

Just before he pulls the trigger I see Ishi standing with the rebels, rubbing his hands together, his expression happier than it had even been; he thinks he has brought freedom and ousted a tyrant. He thinks he will be rewarded. Behind Ishi is another rebel, readying his own weapon -- Ishi may have aided them, but rebels are not known for their gratitude.

The trigger is pulled.

There is pain.

There is darkness.

I sleep.

I awaken.

Music and light surround me in the cool darkness of the deep. I flex powerful fins and sing my pleasure, my leviathan body weightless and graceful in the cool depths. I hear a cry of joy and see my beloved Shella.

You have come to me! she sings.

My memories of my former life begin to dim, but a burden rests heavy upon my heart. I was a tyrant -- I committed horrible, despicable acts.

No! she cries, her song rippling with light. That is past -- you are different now. We are together. We have saved many -- and many more will follow. Forget who you were. You are renewed.

I turn my ponderous bulk with infinite ease, and I spy a swarm of smaller shapes swim up to meet me. Their songs are indistinct, their glow-lights are weak, but my heart swells as I look upon the children, the future of the people of this world.

I was a terrible man. I did awful things. But my beloved Shella has given me -- given all mankind -- a chance for redemption, to exchange our complicated land-bound existence for a greater, peaceful unity.

I swim to her and press my bulk to hers. I feel her warmth, and hear her song as though it was my own. My own song joins with hers, tentative at first, and then strong and steady and great and proud. Rachneim is dead -- Rachneim never was. Shella is dead -- Shella never was. We are we.

We swim into the future.


Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


I'm in, yo.

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