|# ¿ Jan 5, 2016 21:06|
|# ¿ Oct 22, 2021 16:27|
|# ¿ Jan 9, 2016 19:59|
I'm in and would like to request a Bowie song.
However, since I said I wouldn't sign up again until I turned in one of my two redemptions, I must post one of them ITT before I am allowed to submit my story.
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2016 04:06|
This first piece is my phoned-in last minute couple weeks late WEEK NO. 178 REDEMPTION which is kinda dumb but not to be confused with my equally phoned-in last minute submission for this week which is coming in my next post. Enjoy, or don't.
Waiting (919 words)
The clerk removed his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose. The girl sat unblinking, her hands in her lap. Accompanying her, perched atop the stool the clerk set aside for all who entered his presence, was a perfectly black cat. The cat had claimed the stool for his own when the girl and the cat first entered the office. The clerk had attempted to shoo it away, but the cat remained – thoroughly unimpressed.
The girl brought with her a large traveler’s trunk. Set on its side, it served as her seat. She acknowledged neither the cat nor the stool nor, indeed, anything else in the room that accommodated them. For the girl in that moment, in that space, she and the clerk were the only two things which existed in the universe.
The clerk returned his glasses to his face.
“What brings you to this country?”
“Family,” she said.
“What’s do you bring with you?”
“Everything,” she answered.
A number of bus stops littered the perimeter of the train station. The one the girl sought was emblazoned with a very official-looking sign which informed her that it was in no uncertain terms the No. 4 stop. The bus that was parked there closed its doors. Another would arrive in about twenty minutes.
The No. 4 stop was teeming with human beings. Every seat, every square inch of concrete in a three foot radius stood occupied by some manner or another of person. The girl set her trunk on its side, sat down, and waited. Time spun forward. Seventeen buses came and went. Those who were waiting for passage ballooned and dwindled away into nothing. Soon it was dark, and only the girl and her cat still remained. The girl’s expression hadn’t changed in all that time. She wouldn’t allow it to change.
“He’s not coming, you know.”
“He said he would. He promised.”
The cat stretched and yawned and considered the sidewalk. He addressed the girl without giving her a glance.
“Humans make lots of promises. Not a great track record of keeping them though. Can’t say I’ve much faith in him.”
“He’ll come. He has to.”
A shudder ran through the girl. She glanced to her left and her right. The seat at the stop had been vacant for hours. Many had taken it, seen her, and offered it up. She declined them every time. Even now that she and the cat were all alone, she wouldn’t budge. She put a hand to her chest. There beneath her clothes, the letter that was her hope nestled close to her heart.
The cat leapt up from the pavement onto her lap. She accepted him graciously despite his harsh words.
“Look, I ain’t saying he’s not a good guy. He’s a good guy. Real likable. Dependable though, eh, I dunno. You know the whole reason he came out here was to start a business, right? And then when that one failed he tried again. And again. Said as much in those letters you’re smuggling. Way I see it, you don’t have that many failing businesses in a row if there ain’t something wrong with you.”
The girl blinked.
“He’s trying. It’s hard, but he’s trying. He won’t give up. That’s how I know he’ll come. He’s coming right now, I’m sure of it. Something’s just delayed him.”
The cat shot her a dull expression.
“What’re you gonna do if he doesn’t. Gotta plan ahead you know. Can’t go back. None of us can. This is it.”
“I’m won’t have this conversation with you.”
“Well you’re gonna have to have it with someone. A city like this is home to all types, and a lot of them ain’t that friendly…excepting the ones that’re too friendly.”
There was a click, and a nearby streetlamp flickered out of existence. The girl scanned the streets, the buildings, the automobiles. No one walked the sidewalks, and the windows were all empty. From time to time a car would speed by, so fast and purposeful that peering within was impossible. The same sign that identified this stop as the No. 4 confirmed that the busses had long since stopped running. The girl and her cat were well and truly alone.
“He’ll come,” she said.
“Sure,” said the cat. He leapt to the bench and curled up on the seat she wouldn’t take.
Time ticked forward. The cat had long since fallen into slumber, but the girl refused to hang her head. This was where she was told to wait. Even so, she felt her lids tremble and slip shut.
The girl perked up immediately. She knew this voice, this voice knew hers. That young man, her cousin, friendly and familiar; ever relaxed, sometimes late, but always dependable. She saw him, knew him, and at last lowered her guard. She leapt from her trunk. They met in the middle of the street.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. You won’t believe what’s kept me. I couldn’t even send someone.”
The cat awoke with a yawn, blinked, and made its way over to the family reunion.
“Leaving you out here so long,” the young man said, “I’m the worst sort of person there is.”
“You’re not,” she said, fighting sleep and small tears. “You kept your promise.”
They pulled apart, and the cat leapt up to the girl’s shoulder. They exchanged no words. The young man lifted her trunk and took her hand, and the three disappeared into the calm of the night.
|# ¿ Jan 18, 2016 04:56|
The Land of the Lost (1,323 words)
A lonesome bell rang in the distance, the solemn chime of an empty city. It was a sound that echoed and lingered in the soul as it weaved its way through intestinal streets.
The three who had emerged from the underground sat close around the fire. The fire was fierce yet provided no warmth. They’d fed it everything they could find in hopes of coaxing some comfort from the flame: old rags, old furniture, anything that burned. The light was a welcome reprieve from the darkness, but the clutching cold permitted little peace.
Two looked up at the sound of the bell. The third did not. In his hands was a book. Where he had found it or what it contained was known only to him. His face was dispassionate. He turned the page.
Kerklund returned his gaze to the fire. Caspar continued to stare into space. The sound of the bell might’ve once offered hope, but in their hearts they knew their group was alone.
Kerklund touched his fingers to the back of his neck and felt the memory of a pain he couldn’t quite place. There was a hole there, round and smooth, yet when he’d received it he couldn’t recall. It was as though he’d had it all his life. He’d just never noticed until today.
Caspar blinked and shuddered and licked his lips. The flames once again commanded his attention. His right eye betrayed an uncertain longing. His left eye was empty; another hole just like Kerklund’s. Caspar leaned forward and pulled back his sleeve, his right arm extending slowly towards the fire. “Please,” he said, “Please,” as though begging for his life. The flames licked his skin and he snapped back in pain.
“drat it! drat it!” He gripped the smoldering arm at the wrist and buried it in himself. “Hot to the touch but not a drop to spare.”
Enrico closed his book and turned it over in his hands. “Fire burns,” he said as he tossed it on the pyre.
“Good book?” asked Kerklund.
Enrico said nothing. Caspar whimpered.
“Not sure I like sharing the company of a man who’d burn a book. What if I’d wanted to read it?”
“You don’t want to read it. You’re just being difficult.”
Kerklund smiled. “My friends used to say I was a man with some cruelty in his kindness and some kindness in his cruelty, but I haven’t been getting much of either from you.”
“Don’t take me for a fool.”
“Or a human being.” Kerklund stretched and scuttled towards the fire. The book had fallen open, its pages burnt and curling. Kerklund rolled back his sleeve and reached into the flame. Caspar twitched. Enrico watched. The flames seared his arm, but Kerklund remained calm. He grasped the book and pulled it from the furnace. His arm was raw and red and smoking. Dropping the book, he cradled himself, his eyes shut, teeth grit. Even so, he surrendered no sound. The book continued to burn on the ground. Caspar stared. Enrico scoffed.
“Is this a human being then? A fool who risks their life in pursuit of a lost cause? It seems I’ve known many human beings, though none were quite as stupid as you.”
Caspar leapt up and made his way over to the book. He stopped and crouched and gathered a handful of sand from the foundation of the city. “Sh-shut up,” he said as he proceeded to extinguish the flames. “You said you’d get us out of here, but far as I can tell we’re not.”
“I said I’d take us to the surface.”
“The surface of what? Where? Where even are we? Where are all the people?”
“I suspect they must be somewhere. Someone built all this.” Enrico spoke with authority, as though his words could not possibly be questioned. He sat back and crossed his arms. Where his heart might’ve been, the flames illuminated a hole. Kerklund sat up, still cradling his arm.
The three were recent acquaintances, though how recent was uncertain. Time had no meaning in the underground, and the length of the night they’d stumbled out into was unknowable. Kerklund hadn’t slept since he’d met the other two. Sometimes it felt like he’d known them since morning, whenever that was. Sometimes it felt like he’d known them much longer.
None of them knew where they were or how they’d gotten there. None of them knew each other. No one could explain the holes.
Caspar lifted the book at an angle to shake loose the sand. He presented it to Kerklund. Kerklund didn’t thank him. Taking the book with his uninjured hand, he turned its pages. Most were unreadable.
Caspar returned to where he’d been sitting. He eyed both his fellows with a quiet disdain.
The three sat in silence awhile. Kerklund looked up from the book to the vacant night sky, its darkness uncluttered by moons or stars. A certain hunger snaked its way up from the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten.
A lonesome bell rang in the distance.
Enrico stood. “We shouldn’t linger here. If we’ve strength left to move we should try to find someone.”
“Nobody’s going to help us.” Caspar spit into the fire. “We’re going to die here.”
Kerklund closed the book and set it beside him.
“Who were you on the surface?”
Enrico and Caspar both turned to face their companion.
“Does it matter?” Enrico asked.
“Maybe not,” said Kerklund, “Though I can’t imagine you’ll surprise me too much. You’re used to taking charge. Bet you had yourself a lofty position of some sort. Hell, maybe you even earned it. I’ve known a lot of guys like you. Think you’re better than the rest of us.”
“I don’t think it,” said Enrico.
“And you,” he said to Caspar, “You don’t seem too good with people either, though I’d say for a different reason. Bet you’re good with numbers or something. Or an artist, a reclusive artist. Is that you?”
“What’s it to you?” Caspar huddled close to Enrico who towered over the both. “Who were you?”
Kerklund felt the back of his neck again, the hole, the pain.
“Suppose I told you I ran a flower shop. Or a pet shop. Or a bookstore. Suppose I told you I was just a regular kind of guy like you might find anywhere.”
“Suppose I told you I did something terrible. Suppose we all did.”
Enrico was before him. Grasping Kerklund by the collar, the tall man lifted him with ease. “Stop wasting my time.” Kerklund stared back at him. The smiling man’s gaze was direct and uncomfortable. He didn’t stop smiling.
“Pretty eyes,” he said. “People like you shouldn’t have pretty eyes. Always thought that was wrong. Thought someone should do something about it.”
A shudder ran through Enrico’s whole body. He threw Kerklund to the ground.
Again Kerklund laughed. “What are you two hiding?”
“I’m leaving.” Enrico dusted himself off. “I’ll trust you can find your own way out.”
“There’s no way out,” Kerklund said.
“Shut up, shut UP,” Caspar kicked at Kerklund. “I’ve got people waiting for me, okay? Real people. I need to get out of here and take care of…of THIS thing.” He gestured at the hole in his face. “I’m not supposed to be here.”
“What if you are?”
Caspar grit his teeth but made no moves, a mix of fear and fury in his eye. He looked to Enrico, but Enrico had already left. Caspar looked from the darkness to Kerklund who lay beaten in the fire’s light. There was a sound of footsteps, fainter and fainter. Caspar made his choice and disappeared into the night.
Kerklund chuckled darkly as he lifted himself to his feet. He raised his hand and felt the hole in his neck.
A lonesome bell rang in the distance.
|# ¿ Jan 18, 2016 04:57|
Bring the pain.
|# ¿ Jan 18, 2016 23:33|
Get Your Goat (1195 words)
I still remember the fields where Kazuma Joe played. “Buzkashi needs to be played under an open sky,” my father told me. He was always saying things like that. “Coke is best in green glass bottles. A good pot of coffee needs a view of the sunrise.”
The Syrenian steppes seemed as endless as the ocean then, sparse grass beneath a blue sky. I was twelve, and my father thought I ought to experience one of our ancestral sports played by the best there ever was.
That was him: Kazuma Joe. He was the best. Galloping at top speed on horseback, reins in one hand, a dead goat held by the neck in the other. He wore an old soviet tank commander’s helmet like an imperial crown, horsewhip clutched between his teeth. He was smiling then and laughing later. Laughing like it was the end of the world. That’s what stuck with me, really. More than anyone else, he looked like he was having fun.
Buzkashi is the sport of nomads. Ten trained horsemen fighting over a goat; kicking, whipping, cursing, chasing. Kazuma Joe didn’t curse and he didn’t chase. He seized the goat and rode off howling like a madman.
“How’s it look, Fam?” I asked.
“Pretty bad, Buck. Kyrgyzstan slammed us pretty hard. First half was a slaughter. Don’t think we’ll be walking back from this.”
Fam lit a cigarette before he remembered we were in the locker room. A stern look from Khan was enough to make him snuff it. I sat there between then, head in my hands. I was rubbing my eyes and I didn’t know when I’d stop.
“What’s the damage?”
“Kept the goat for a bit then we never got it back. Bastards were studying us. Gave us a free point, took nine for themselves. Janissary and the rest should be back any minute. Try not to stare too hard or you’ll bore a hole in ‘em.”
On queue, our defeated countrymen shuffled through the door. Their faces were hard, their eyes to the ground. The first four entered silent into the showers; the last, Janissary, looked me in the eyes. “Your turn, kid,” he said. Then he too was gone.
Goose wandered in after the defeated party. He turned and slammed his fists into a locker. Fam clicked his tongue and looked at me. Khan continued getting ready. Slim Jim snapped his fingers.
“So what’s the plan, Buckaroo?”
“We ride cool, Jim. We ride cool.”
The five of us entered one at a time to a crowd of millions, the Syrenian flag displayed in our honor. High above a tarp had been stretched across the open mouth of the stadium. They said it might rain. It didn’t.
“Smile for the cameras, Khan,” said Fam. “This ain’t the old country. We’re on television. Let the people know you sometimes, occasionally, briefly entertain the thought of happiness.”
Khan was our best horseman. He was about as good at riding as he was at not smiling.
Across the field were our opponents, as impressive and imperial as a conquering army. Small yet muscular, they looked as though they’d been born and bred to play this game. I felt neither contempt nor pity from their eyes. We weren’t even human to them. We were obstacles.
A lone referee cut between us, a fresh goat carcass laid across the saddle of his horse. He walked beside his steed until they reached the center. He pulled the goat from his seat and placed it on the ground. For the next 45 minutes, that goat would be the center of the universe.
I gave Slim Jim a nod. Slim Jim snapped his fingers. He was a farmer’s boy, pure and simple, who spent many an afternoon snapping the necks of chicken with his bare hands. He was our grip, and we were glad to have him.
Our teams bowed to one another from across the way. The players from Kyrgyzstan all bowed as one; their horses, too.
“Now they’re just showing off,” said Fam.
“A well-oiled machine,” said Goose, a certain grim resignation in his tone.
There was silence, then a whistle. The game began.
Khan and Slim Jim broke for the center, whips in hand. The first to the center was one of theirs, followed by the Great Khan. Khan’s horse collided with his opponent’s and pressed it away, Khan’s whip raining down like the wrath of God. Slim Jim sped past and snapped up the goat. He circled around and tossed it to me.
Clutching the goat, I broke for the far side. All I needed was distance, but the arrival of the other team denied me. I held the goat tightly as the first blow came to the back of my neck, the next to my shoulders. Two horsemen, identical at a glance, had me at their mercy. I kicked the left away, but the right snuck in a strike against my chin. My teeth came down hard on my tongue. I tasted blood and was kicked from my saddle.
I struggled to my feet, but the rider I’d fended off returned. He snatched up the goat without giving me so much as a glance. I hadn’t let go, and was dragged several yards. My arm felt like it’d been yanked out of its socket. At last I released him, and the man rode to victory.
It was Goose who helped me to my feet as the rest of the team gathered. Slim Jim’s nose was broken. Fam’s mouth was open, his tongue inspecting his teeth.
“It’s ten to our one,” said Khan entirely unperturbed by the swelling in his face. “What’s our move?”
“Forfeit,” Goose said to me. “There’s no point in letting this continue. Even if they weren’t some unstoppable juggernaut, there’s no way we can make up that point difference. Let’s resign gracefully.”
Gracefully. There was something about that word that rubbed me the wrong way. In the theater of my mind an old reel showed Kazuma Joe. He was anything but graceful. He was wild, erratic. He whooped and hollered like a bandit. He’d ride his horse to exhaustion, fall off, and laugh.
I looked to our opponents across the way, each of them graceful and dignified. Graceful and soulless. Goose had had it right when he called them a well-oiled machine. Not one of them played out of love for the game.
“We can’t win,” said Goose.
“No,” I said, “But we can put up a fight. Go down in a blaze of glory.”
“Wait, what?” said Fam.”
“It’s the Olympics,” I said smiling softly. “If they want the gold so badly, let’s make sure they’ve earned it.”
My teammates responded with silence. In the distance I could see the referee approaching. Then, so loud that it started us, Khan began laughing. Then Slim Jim. Then Fam.
“Give ‘em hell then, eh?” Khan asked. I saw a strange power in his eyes. “We can do that.”
“Make ‘em remember Syrena,” said Fam.
Slim Jim nodded. Goose at last allowed himself to smile. “Alright then, let’s hit them where it hurts.”
We clasped hands.
|# ¿ Jan 25, 2016 05:26|
Maybe this time around you'll be better at turning in your homewfirstcricketmatchofthesesaonork.
EDIT: I will be writing about the Domegrassi film club, which is a wholly separate institution from the Domegrassi movie club. The movie club watches movies, the film club makes them - or tries to. They've got some retention issues though and a very particular reputation around campus with a specific membership, so please contact me if you're gonna invoke them in any way just so we don't contradict each other.
Somebody else can do the movie club. The film club doesn't like the movie club.
Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 21:14 on Jan 26, 2016
|# ¿ Jan 26, 2016 20:39|
Posting crits is good and should be done.
"But Seafood," you might say, "You forget to post crits all the time."
I do, and that makes me a loser, but it doesn't make me wrong.
|# ¿ Jan 27, 2016 22:24|
Post the crits.
|# ¿ Jan 27, 2016 22:24|
The First Last Road Show (1,275 words)
The film club was dying. Walker had tried fighting for it, but there was nothing he could do. The school charter stated any and all after school activities required at least six members to justify their existence. The film club had three, and was unlikely to get more.
“So that’s it then, isn’t it? Bloody ‘ell.” It was lunchtime and Moira was sitting atop her desk. The bag of chips in her hands opened with a pop; Hawaiian barbeque, her one true vice. She didn’t count swearing. Her family was Irish. They’ come over two years ago. Her mother was a Catholic and her father was a car mechanic. She’s inherited a little something from them both. She munched on a chip.
Eddie had a DS. He always had a DS. He slouched in his chair, stylus in hand. He’d been playing an RPG when Walker came in. The boss waited patiently as his party stalled out, their human master’s attention turned elsewhere. “Dude, that sucks. So what do we do?” Eddie had only recently started calling people dude. He called them dude because his brother called them dude, and Eddie’s brother was pretty much the coolest guy in the universe. Walker and Moira had never met him, but they had it on good authority from their friend that it was so.
Moira was the cameraman. “Oy now, that’s camerawoman thank ye very kindly.” Eddie was on special effects, such as they were. “Gonna make the next Alien, dude. You seen Alien? It’s totally freakin’ scary. Watched it with my brother and couldn’t sleep all night. Please don’t tell my dad.”
Walker wrote the scripts. And directed. None of them were editors.
“That’s why we’re gonna make one more film,” said Walker with a sort of resigned enthusiasm. He was a boy who whenever he smiled, no matter how hard he tried, he looked like he was weakly humoring you. People who knew him well enough knew he wasn’t. Most people didn’t know him well enough. “It’ll be our piece of resistance!”
“…Our what?” Moira asked, her words muffled by the sound of crunching chips.
“You know, like the grand finale where the hero goes down swinging, resisting.”
“I don’t think you know what that word means, dude,” said Eddie.
Only two of the film club’s original ten members remained: Walker and Moira. Eddie had come later during the flux in attendance. Sometimes it was more, eventually it was less. The previous fall semester cut them down to four, now three. A few kids jumped ship when they learned making movies wasn’t as easy as it looked. As for the rest…
“Oy, oy, pixie, between the tape!”
The school roof was typically off limits, but Walker had convinced Principle Derek to let them use it on the grounds that the movie they made was “Kickin’ sweet.” Moira and Eddie had shown up early to set up shop while Walker tried to rope in a few drama students. They were attempting to film a fight scene in one take. Long blue strips of duct tape denoted what was in or out of frame, and Lando Calhoun, Defender of the Universe (real name Eric) was stepping over it in his bid to take down one of the several cardboard and tinfoil robot costumes Eddie had created over the weekend.
“Excuse me?” said Sarah, hands ever on her hips, “What did you call him?” Sarah was a serious girl for a serious Earth. She was going to win an Oscar, save the rainforests, and walk the Great Wall of China. In that order. Today - against type, she reminded everyone constantly - she was a damsel in distress.
“Well he’s sure flutterin’ ‘bout like one,” said Moira from behind he camcorder. “Can’t swing too wide, too fast with this you know?” She shook it around like she was shaking up a barrel full of festival tickets. “Gonna get folks sick, make ‘em think they’ve got vertigo.”
While Sarah and Moira argued, two of the invading enemy robots got bored and began fighting one another. “KA-ME-HA-ME-HA!” said the one pushing outwards with his hands. “NOOOAAAAAAARGH!” said the other, bracing for the imagined impact only to fall backwards on the cold hard surface of the concrete roof, far from the safety mats Walker and Eddie had laid out. With an uncomfortable crunch, the back of the robot’s impenetrable cardboard armor crinkled.
“Oh, dude,” said Eddie, the ketchup bottle he was planning on using for blood spray slipping from his hands. “Dude no, come on, I only made like four of these.” He rushed over to inspect the damage. The foil had torn and would need to be replaced; redrawn over too. Eddie would’ve brought some along just in case of such an emergency if he hadn’t already used up several rolls from his mother’s cupboard.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” said the robot child who had delivered the fatal blow to his esteemed opponent.
“Relax man,” said the defeated robot as he righted himself, “All this stuff looks like crap anyway. Nobody’s gonna take it less seriously just cause it’s torn.”
“Hey, hey,” said Eddie, “It’s not crappy. It’s cool. My brother agrees with me.”
“He’s five years older than you dude, he’ll say anything to shut you up.”
Across the way, Eric – the mild mannered alter ego of the great Lando Calhoun, Defender of the Universe – debated Walker over the script.
“Anybody told you this stuff is dumb? Cause it’s dumb. Real dumb.”
“You said you’d do it,” Walker said.
“Yeah, for a little bit, but Saint Patricia over there keeps telling us to do it again.”
“Cause yer doing it wrong,” Moira called over, her argument with Sarah put on hold for a whole two seconds.
Eric rolled his eyes. He began flipping further through the script. “Just how long is this thing?”
“Only twenty pages,” said Walker. “I chalked it down from thirty.”
“Twenty pages of this? You serious?” Eric shut Walker’s binder and tossed it at him. “This is kid’s stuff.”
“I agree,” said Sarah, deliberately loud, approaching from where Moira stood fuming. “Come along Eric.” She took his hand and led him away. Walker sighed wearing his same worried smile as always. It was only then he and Moira noticed Eddie was fighting with one of the robots. They pulled him off and their extras disappeared. They left their impressive robot exoskeletons at the door.
The three friends sat in a circle. “Wot a bitch,” said Moira. Walker said nothing. Eddie had a bloody lip.
“So what’ll we do now?” Eddie asked at last.
“Feels like we’re the only three who care,” said Walker.
“We are the only three who care,” said Moira.
Walker looked up from the concrete he’d been staring fixatedly at.
“Then let’s make a movie just for us. By us, for us.”
“I can’t act,” said Eddie.
“Doesn’t matter,” said Walker. “We had a fun two years; let’s have a fun last film.”
The film club was officially disbanded at the end of the year. It would not be restarted in the next. The Adventures of Lando Calhoun was their final production, heavily rewritten to feature only three characters. Walker held the DVD containing their finished 17-minute film in his hands. Moira and Eddie were with him. Across the hall was the campus movie club. They’d been invited to share it.
“He was right you know,” said Moira. “Eric, I mean. It’s a pretty bloody stupid movie.”
“That’s fine,” said Walker. “It’s our movie.”
“Yeah dude,” said Eddie. The three friends fistpounded.
|# ¿ Feb 1, 2016 05:00|
|# ¿ Feb 16, 2016 19:31|
Yeah, this is just not happening for me this week. I'm out.
Per tradition, since I can't say I'm fond of toxxing, I cannot re-enter TD until I've redeemed either this or my previous (still unclaimed) Bingo Night failure. That said, since this failure was due more to me wasting time playing video games in my spare time than anything else (go go Ethiopia), I'm gonna throw this out there as an extra layer of punishment for my procrastination and last minute panic: If I owe you a crit for any week in TD history where I was a judge and didn't deliver, I will provide late crits to the first ten people to quote this post and provide a link to their story from a week where I dropped the ball. Furthermore, if the judges call time and ten people haven't cashed in on their IOUs, however many slots remain will be opened up to any story by anyone from any previous week besides this week.
|# ¿ Feb 22, 2016 03:06|
I declare myself the King of Thursday.
My previous entry requirements still stand. I'll work something out.
|# ¿ May 31, 2016 06:20|
You may also request a genre or anime-inspired flash rule from me, the King of Anime, directly.
|# ¿ Jun 3, 2016 02:36|
Your story takes place within the context of the dreaded tournament arc.
I would like an anime flash rule please.
Slice of life in a world filled with a ridiculously inordinate number of cats.
i will take one (1) anime flash rule ty
A small island trapped in a temporal loop.
can i enter on the premise of an anime flash rule only thanks
|# ¿ Jun 3, 2016 05:58|
Your protagonist is disguised as a member of the opposite sex for plot reasons. Nobody notices.
So, I will right now plant my hideous flag on the Mecha genre, because why not and it's probably horrifically awkward to write concise fiction about people sitting inside giant robots' chests, pushing buttons that make the robots do things.
Two of your characters are engaged in an protracted, ongoing philosophical discussion. They must still feel like people and not just mouthpieces for the views they espouse.
Bad Seafood, please flash me like one of your animes.
|# ¿ Jun 4, 2016 04:34|
My redemption and crits will be posted within 24 hours of this submission.
FLASH RULES: Anime (genre: fantasy), "Calathumpian"
A Starchy Situation (810 words)
The potato child wobbled as it sat, its nub-like limbs ill-suited to its purpose. Its eyes were small and black and perfectly spherical, like pearls for sale at a merchant’s stall. Marcus saw himself reflected in those inky depths. His expression hardened, his mind made up.
“Not finding an entry for it,” said Freja as she turned the page of the book in her hands, “Though I’d imagine it’s a member of the mandrake family. Did it scream when you pulled it?”
“Ain’t done no pulling,” said Sasha, arms crossed, “Found it wandering about on the lonesome…and anyway, wouldn’t that kill us?”
“I suppose.” Freja shut the book with a soft snap and tossed it toward her trunk. The trunk sprang to life, its open lid a gaping maw of teeth and treasures and books and supplies. It caught the cast-off tome and dutifully swallowed without chewing. Freja gave it a little pat and locked it up tight. “In any case, good of the two of you to scrounge up something to eat.”
“We’re not going to eat it,” said Marcus. “We’re going to keep it.”
The three had gathered in a modest clearing, a circle of sunlight in the dark and dismal woods. Floating in the center was a cast-iron cauldron, its black belly heated by the warmth of living flames. Freja and Sasha stood bathed in that warmth; Marcus sat apart, the potato child at his shoulder, his helmet on the ground.
“We’re going to…keep it?”
“YOU WANNA KEEP IT?”
Sasha marched towards Marcus who stood at her approach. Clad in armor painstakingly preserved, his features stern and imperial, he towered over her like a living, breathing castle. “NOW LISTEN HERE YA BIG-” Sasha stopped, her irritation reflected in the polished sheen of his breastplate. She leapt up, snagged his ear, and yanked him down to her level. The potato child held on tightly to his collar. “Now listen here you big lummox. We ain’t had nothing to eat for a day and a half. Freja says she can cook any drat thing we find, and that right there’s what we find. It’s all we find. Soup’s up.”
“Even so,” Marcus shot up, his right hand steadying the creature at his shoulder. Sasha held on (“H-hey!”), her whole body dangling a good foot off the ground. “I cannot allow us to harm his small creature.”
“Because…?” asked Freja. She fanned he flames with her wide-brimmed hat.
“It’s…it’s just…I mean, look at it.” Marcus gestured. “It’s adorable. Followed us here like a puppy. We didn’t hunt it down, didn’t kill it, didn’t have to fight it off its parents. It’s just so small and innocent and unsuspecting. It wants to belong.”
“It belongs in my stomach!” said Sasha, her free hand extended. Marcus batted it away. She lost her grip and tumbled into the grass.
“It belongs with its mother then,’ said Freja.
“I-I’ll be its new mother!” Marcus shielded the potato child with his hands.
Sasha sat up, disheveled from the fall. “Are we really having this conversation?”
“How calathumpian of you,” said Freja. “Nevertheless-
The sound of roots being crushed underfoot interrupted whatever she’d wanted to say.
The lot of them turned to look. There, at the edge of the circle, a large forest troll stood blinking, growling, his hands occupied by an uprooted tree. Freja snapped her fingers. The floating cauldron launched from its position, wreathed in the searing fire of an angry flame. “Right between the eyes,” she muttered, but it never got that far. The troll swung his tree like a bat and knocked it into the sky. Freja stared. Her trunk whimpered and hid in the undergrowth.
Sasha produced a number of throwing knives from her belt. She aimed for its eyes. Her knives struck home. The beast howled in pain and clawed at its face, its trusty tree left by the wayside, but in a moment its pain would subside, and all it would know was fury.
Marcus looked about for his sword. He saw the hilt stuck beneath the troll’s tree.
The potato child pulled on is ear. He looked to it, and in seconds understood.
“Everyone! Cover your ears! Now!”
Freja and Sasha complied with his instructions. He cupped his own just in time. The potato child opened its mouth. It was unexpectedly wide.
It screeched. For the three with their ears covered, it was merely unpleasant. The troll howls of pain disappeared. Blood slowly trickled down from his ears. He lurched and loomed and fell flat on the ground.
Marcus turned to his newfound friend. “You did it little guy! You really did it!”
Sasha shot the creature a wary glance. It smiled back at her.
“Well…I suppose…I suppose it’d be rude to just…cut it up now.”
Freja considered the troll. “I wonder if it’s edible.”
|# ¿ Jun 6, 2016 07:16|
LATE CRITS FROM ASSORTED WEEKS
Because I try to be a man of my word, even if I'm not particularly punctual about it.
Heavy Lies the CROWN OF BLOOD by Curlingiron
I selected this story to win its week, and reading it again reminded me why. Your characters all manage to fill specific roles without being bound to or solely defined by them, most impressively the dark spirit inhabiting the Crown of Blood which was more or less exactly what I wanted from the flash rule I gave you. It's only technical downside is it follows a very well-worn arc (but then again, so did my story this week) without too many surprises: someone new is introduced but their character/credentials are doubted, they prove themselves and win the begrudging respect/admiration of their naysayers. Regardless, you wrote a fun story about characters I enjoyed spending time with. Good show.
Free Skate by Kaishai
First off, you do an absolutely wonderful job setting the scene and drawing out the atmosphere in this story. You were given the 80s to work with and this feels 80s. What's more, you manage to walk this thin line between being vague and specific, which gives the whole story this dream-like quality without sacrificing the realness of what's transpiring. Your protagonist is tempted and resists, and must fight for her soul - metaphorically, of course, but with a kind of surprisingly sinister undercurrent that makes it feel like more's at stake. In he end she wins, and we're glad of it. One hopes she'll be able to win every time.
Psalm 130 by QuoProQuid
While it's true I owe quite a few crits spread out over quite a few weeks, this was never one of the weeks I ever intended to revisit for one big reason: most of these submissions were never going to be able to stand on their own merits, divorced from the proceedings which created them. This one is no different. As a piece of the larger "Puzzle" it fits in about as well as the majority of its contemporaries, but on its own it lacks a certain substance. Your protagonist is definied more by her "Job" than who she is as a person; she has an objective, stumbles upon something she thinks will help her achieve it, then exits stage right. There's just not a whole lot going on here beneath all the words. Sorry.
Wish You were Here by Kaishai
It's been long enough since I last read this that I completely forgot the "Twist." It's a good twist, and a nice take on the week's theme. Although this was already covered by the prompt then, I'm glad you don't waste time spelling out the hows and whys behind the letters; they just work, because that's how it goes. The characters have a familiar warmth to them and an intimately knowable relationship, which works well even if it is a bit well-trodden path.
Saving Daylight by Chairchucker
So I really liked this story. You slowly sketched out what exactly was going on in a really satisfying way, and while you only really have one character she's got a lot of it - character, I mean. The tone is a little wonky, sometimes solemn, sometimes snarky, but it works more than it doesn't since it suggests a certain sort of narrator, and our protagonist is the narrator. The bittersweet ending was well-considered as well. I'd enjoy seeing more stuff like this from you, Chair.
Four of Five Come Down Vesh Mountain, Carrying with them Divine-Ordained Change by Thranguy
A bunch of people talking about stuff I don't understand or care about, followed by a cluttered action sequence I don't care about, followed by a bunch of exposition about a several plot details I now understand but still don't care about. You spend a lot of time trying to "Suggest" your world rather than spell it out, which would be good if it weren't so reliant on referring off-handedly to labeled concepts and events we couldn't possible know, but your characters lack anything to really draw me in. I'd rather have interesting characters in a bland setting than bland characters in an interesting setting, which was the whole point of this "Fantasy RPG party" exercise. Apply yourself.
|# ¿ Jun 7, 2016 07:10|
WEEK NO. 102 REDEMPTION
Blessed (821 words)
The roof of the cave was a tangled network of roots. The old man found a sturdy one, testing its strength; he hung his lantern. Bathed in the light of a strange blue flame, strange shapes churned in the shadows of the ceiling.
In the corner sat the girl. In her arms was his dog. The dog’s breath came in short, haggard bursts, his foreleg wrapped in provisional bandages. The girl had applied them herself, tearing her skirt, pulling it taught. The old man looked to the mouth of the cave. Beyond beat the rain, harsh and unrelenting.
Track her down. Bring her back. The old man’s instructions lingered in his mind.
She was a girl with plain, solemn features and dull and distant eyes. Marking her forehead were twin nubs that had once been horns. Beautiful horns more analogous to antlers. They’d been found sawn off, left behind in her bed.
The old man sat across from her, his face half in shadow. He raised a hand and felt his budding whiskers. The flame in the lantern flickered and danced.
“Will he live?” he asked, though he knew the answer.
“He will,” said the girl. Her words were absolute.
A hunter’s trap, poised and ready, lay hidden in the undergrowth. An arrow coated in poison. The dog barked, the girl ran, and the dog chased dutifully after. The girl tripped the snare, but the dog took the arrow.
The old man drummed his fingers against the stock of his rifle. Trapped in this cave, isolated by the rain, they were like the last survivors of some great cataclysm. He looked to the girl and the dog. This cave was their ark.
The girl held the dog’s leg in her hands. She caressed his wound with a gentle, knowing touch. It was the same touch she used in the village square. She reached out, as though plucking ephemerals threads from the air. She whispered words that had never been written. The dog’s breathing settled. He welcomed sleep. She let out a sigh, a finger to her temple.
“Mother always told me anyone who lives their life for another is blessed beyond measure. I don’t know whether I believe that or not, but I’d like to believe it. I’d like to think it’s true. You and your dog,” she scratched behind its ear, “As far back as I can remember you made the rounds, kept us safe. Did you feel blessed? ”
The old man halted his drumming.
“Not especially,” he said. The drumming continued.
“I see.” The girl looked to the mouth of the cave. For awhile there was silence. Then the man spoke.
“I take it you didn’t?”
“Not especially,” she returned his words.
“Is that why you ran?”
“I’d think anyone would.”
“You didn’t feel needed?”
“They don’t need me.”
“You’re an essential part of the village.”
“They don’t even know my name.”
She looked to the old man.
“Do you know my name?”
The old man didn’t answer. He didn’t need to.
The spell of the lantern’s sway continued into the night. The gulf of silence between the girl and the old man grew, until they could be no further apart. The old man inspected his rifle. He took it apart, piece by piece. Each piece he studied in the pale blue light. He put it back together under the girl’s watchful eye.
“Why did you stop to save my dog?”
The girl blinked, her expression uncertain.
“Why did you stop? You could’ve easily made your escape.”
“The fault was mine. I’ll not be used, but I’ll not leave debts.”
The old man scratched his chin. “Go to sleep,” he said.
The morning brought with it the strength of the sun, the dwindling sea subject to its whims. The old man stepped out and shielded his eyes. The girl followed after, and with her the dog.
“I suppose we’re going back then,” she said.
“We’re not,” said the man. He whistled, and in an instant his dog was at his side. He bent down and undid the bandage, the torn skirt now stained dark red with died blood. The dog stood tenderly on his leg. At a glance he bore no trace of a cut. The old man gripped the fabric tightly. “After weathering the storm, this is what we found.”
The girl watched him disappear into the distance, rifle at his shoulder, his dog at his heels. In time he was naught but a memory. In time so was she. Beyond the forest there ran an old road, a vein for commerce and families on foot. In the distance was a city. The girl stepped toward it.
“Well now, what’s all this?” The speaker was a young woman smoking a pipe. She drove a horse and cart. She appraised the girl. “What’s your name, forest child?”
The girl smiled softly. “I’m glad you asked.”
|# ¿ Jun 7, 2016 09:25|
|# ¿ Jun 7, 2016 23:26|
|# ¿ Jun 12, 2016 05:16|
One hour until the deadline!
Misremembered the deadline as PST instead of EST. I'll still turn something in
Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 07:27 on Jun 13, 2016
|# ¿ Jun 13, 2016 03:34|
A prompt like this is simply too intoxicating to ignore.
|# ¿ Jul 4, 2016 20:54|
Yeah, I'm out this week.
Instead of excuses I'll churn out some crits. Pretty sure I still owe a lot of those.
|# ¿ Jul 11, 2016 04:05|
|# ¿ Jul 12, 2016 23:20|
I'll be commandeering that helicopter. In.
A LOOSE CANNON COP wants to BALANCE THE BUDGET OF A SMALL COUNTRY.
|# ¿ Aug 2, 2016 19:43|
In which a HELICOPTER PILOT wants to CREATE THE PERFECT PAINTING.
Something Beautiful (1163 words)
The plaza was as calm and cool as a Christmas morning. The people, the press - the hounds - had been kept at bay, corralled by miles of black and yellow tape, kept in step by an army of policemen. About the parimeter of the plaza stood a skeletal network of scaffolding, carefully constructed, a good three stories tall. Each plank at each level was lined with innumerable cans of paint. It'd cost the city a small fortune to set all this up.
Moira put out the cigarette in her hand. She seldom smoked, but today was special. Today she needed a little something extra. Behind her sat her modified Messerschmit Bo 105, a lightweight helicopter she'd customized herself. Normally a regal red, today it was painted black. Its name was Howard.
"After Hughes, the aviator?"
"The duck, actually."
At the time she'd thought naming it after the famous Howard Hughes would afford the modest craft a certain air of dignity, but she'd come to loathe the oh-so-clever smarmy smiles of those who guessed its namesake immediately. Having been born without a smile herself, one could scarcely tell if she was joking or serious when she uttered her "Incorrection" as she would call it. She liked it that way.
Moira had been taken with helicopters ever since she'd read as a young girl that a spinning rotor blade was sharp enough to take off a man's hand. It was such a vivid image in the theather of her mind that she decided she had to learn more about them, and soon she was consumed. Her morbid fascination soon turned to genuine mechanical interest, and eleven years later she earned her right to fly, to build, to perform. There were less than a handful of pilots of her calibur in the world. She didn't like it that way, but that's life.
Moira turned to toss the cigarette into a nearby bin, only to remember there weren't any. The whole of the plaza had been cleared, her launchpad and her canvas. She took out her hankerchief, a stark white, and folded the cigarette into it.
"Right. Well then."
She turned to board Howard.
Moira's parents had both been bleeding hearts with the best of intentions. Their daughter would be, could be, should be anything - whatever she wanted - only what she wanted hadn't exactly fallen outside their expectations so much as substantially below them.
"A pilot? Are you sure?"
"Moira. It's the 21st century. A young woman of your intelligence has," her father waved his arm drammatically, "Near INFINITE prospects, I'd think. You could be a musician, a scientist, a CEO. You could be president of America. Wouldn't you rather be president of America? Couldn't you just see me being first dad?"
"I think I'd rather be naked on television than president of America, but fortunately for both of us I'd rather be a pilot than do either of those things."
Her mother recoiled. "I can't believe you'd even joke about something like that. Your father and I have worked hard these past years to present you with real opportunities, and you want to be something as common as a pilot? You could change the world. Being a pilot won't put your mark on history."
"It worked for Amelia Earhart."
"She was the first, dear, not the thousand-and-oneth."
"We'll compromise then. I'll be the president's personal pilot. Or the first nudist pilot. That should put me in the newspapers, or do you think there's already one of those?"
In the end they'd relented. They weren't about to become their own parents, her grandparents, and dictate their daughter's future to her. Even so, they lamented their daughter would never do anything great or important or beautiful.
Secure in the cockpit, Moira took the cyclic control in her hand. The blades started to spin.
"I hear you're something of a 'Trick' pilot," the mayor said to her the day she'd been called into his office. The way he smiled and made air quotes with his fingers irritated her, but she remained seated, quiet. "We were wondering if could do something for the city. As I'm sure you're aware we've recently finished rebuilding the central plaza after that earthquake a year ago. Look at it." He pointed out the window where the last of the construction trucks were loading up. "Pristine. Flawless. Clinical. Boring. I've got an idea, and I'm wondering if you'll hear it..."
Howard took to the skies admist a storm of applause, not that a peep of it reached Moira's ears over the whip-whip-whip of the blades overhead. There were only four people in the world who could do what she was about to, and only Howard or another craft like him could hope to perform under such pressures. She approached the western side, the third floor scaffolding laden with cans upon cans of sky blue paint. Like facing her executioners, she thought. She'd already had her last cigarette.
Like knives, cold and precise, the rotor blades sliced through the nearest stock of cans, staining Howard and the ground with thin blue blood. Turning Howard on his side, then upside down, she began to paint the cobblestones without touching them, the rotor blades flicking the still wet paint onto her yet blank canvas. Again the crowds cheered.
"I have a condition," Moira had said.
"Name it," said the mayor.
"I'll accept your generous payment, but I wish to remain anonymous."
"Anonymous?" The mayor said the word as though he weren't sure whether he should laugh or be insulted. "This'll be a grand event. Thousands of spectators, television cameras! You said yourself there're only so many pilots in the world who can do what you do. Surely that'll make it easy for them to narrow it down?"
"Then let them. If they ask after me, I'll answer, but I don't need my name in lights."
The mayor fiddled with his pen.
"If you're sure."
It was an artistic project a week in preparation and several hours in the making. When viewed from above, the city crest was as clear as day in vibrant colors, expertly slung. At the show's conclusion, Howard - black and blue and red and white and countless other colors - took to the skies and disappeared into the sunset. Those with cameras were forbidden from following by the police.
Moira returned the following weekend in sunglasses and a hoodie. She reached for her hankerchief, only to find a forgotten cigarette wrapped within its folds. She smiled, as if for the first time, and tossed it in a bin.
|# ¿ Aug 8, 2016 07:12|
|# ¿ Aug 20, 2016 03:31|
In with dieselpunk and I must submit my crits from the last time I judged before I submit anything.
Also, since it's been a bit of a problem for me lately, in the event I submit nothing this round I will crit all my competitors.
|# ¿ Aug 29, 2016 06:21|
Dieselpunk, crits to follow before I go to bed.
The Bottle (1852 words)
The man who fell in from the sky wanted liquor, but the boss kept his whiskey in a strongbox on his desk.
"Tis a sad man what keeps his medicine under lock and key. A good drink's meant to be shared in good company, or don't ya agree?"
The man smiled. It was a subtle, knowing smile, as though he'd recalled an old joke he had no intention of sharing. His hair and speech were wild and unkempt, but he conducted himself with a certain hospitality. His right foot lay twisted, injured from the fall.
"Fraid that's the state of things, sir." She caught her breath. "Would you rather some milk?"
The girl craddled the bottle in her arms, its contents still settling from her sudden sprint. Beyond the storeroom where the two conversed were the tankers who patrolled the factory floor. She was used to eluding them, not that they were ever looking for her in particular. They roamed all night and day without stop. She almost pitied them, though of course they weren't human.
She was a girl with evil eyes, but an uncommon kindness. Two slight scars ran the length of her cheeks.
"A poor substitute for a kick of the spirts, but I suppose the throat don't care so long as it's something. Pour me a round, keep."
The man produced an old tin cup from the pocket of his coat. Spinning it around his finger, he waved his hands and produced another.
"What do ya think?" he asked as he set the cups down.
"Ain't a bad trick, sir."
"Ain't no trick. I'm a magic man."
"I thought you were an idiot who fell through the ceiling." The girl opened the bottle, dutifully measuring out two portions.
"Ain't no two things exclusive, child."
"I'm not a child. And I have a name."
"Ah, well then, forgive me madam." He put his hands up. He might've bowed had he the strength to stand. "I submit my apology."
"Accepted. I'm Sasha."
The factory was a dingy place, but the ceiling was glass, and beyond that glass stretched an endless gray. Sasha had been told once that it was blue, or used to be - as blue as Kirklund's coat, she imagined - but the gardens of the imperial capital had been seeded with iron, a vast forest of smokestacks belching smog and raining ash. By the time her guest came crashing through it, she'd long since stopped looking up at the sky.
He'd appeared in the middle of the night. He wasn't supposed to be there and she wasn't supposed to be awake, but there they were. He winced in pain but didn't cry out. Sensing they'd both be in trouble, she hid him. Dragged him off to the storeroom. The boss concluded a tanker malfunctioned.
The storeroom was a tribute to modern automation. Three large machines took care of everything. One handled delieveries, another sorting, and the other dispersement. There was absolutely no need for any human being to enter. It was the perfect hiding spot.
Kirklund grasped the cup and threw it back to quench his thirst. Sasha hesitated, then followed suit. She coughed. He laughed.
"Aye, that's the good poo poo," Kirklund said.
"The good poo poo," Sasha agreed.
Kirklund's expression soured a little.
"Hey now, a fine young lady shouldn't be go about with a swear on her tongue."
"You just swore yourself, sir."
"And I ain't no fine young lady. Not no sir, neither. I've seen some poo poo, so I can say it."
Sasha's brow furrowed, but she made nothing of it. She stood up and swept the hem of her clothes.
"In the morning, then. I'll sneak you some breakfast."
The imperial capital was at war, and the war required strong men to die. A thousand miles away, thousands were dying for their country at that very moment, drunk on the wine of nationalism. Here, in the shadow of the imperial throne, children and tankers labored beneath canopies of soot, while those few men who abstained from the drought of patriotism checked their pocketwatches. Tankers were large and lumbering things. You filled them up with oil and they performed their duties without worry or care. It was good, perhaps, taht so many men were dying abroad. Should they have come home, they would've found themselves obsolete.
But sometimes delicate work was required. The tuning of clockwork, or cleaning small spaces. Youths were required to fill these positions, and war orphans were plentiful. Sasha was one.
The room where she tinkered was filled with books she'd never read. Letters were a foreign language to her. She'd been taught to do one thing, and so long as she performed that service she was useful. She wanted to be useful. She feared being useless. She had no idea what the device before her was called or what it did, but whenever it was broken it fell to her to fix it. Today it was merely maintainance.
Behind a desk laden with open books, his finger at one index or another, her boss took a swig from a bottle. He was a stern-looking man with tired eyes and an expensive suit that was nonetheless worn at the edges.
"Take a break. You look tired."
"I'm fine sir, honest."
"Don't lie to me." He set the bottle down. "There are circles under your eyes. Your eyes and fingers are valuable commodities. Please get some rest. I'm sure the machine will be fine. Have a sweet, if you'd like."
The boss kept a small bowl of candies at the edge of his desk. Dutiful workers were permitted to partake.
The door opened. It was boy, several years Sasha's junior. He held a letter in his hands. The boss beckoned him closer, took the letter, and deposited a candy in the child's outstretched arm. Sasha packed up her kit.
Whatever the letter's contents, it seemed the caused the boss some discomfort. He pocketed the letter and strode out the door. Sasha almost followed after, only to stop at the doorframe. She turned around. There atop the desk stood the whiskey bottle, opened and unguarded.
"Well now, well now," Kirklund scratched his neck. "Put a roof over my head and bring me breakfast, and now a touch of life!"
It would've been suicide to steal the whole thing. Sasha was smarter than that. Even so, she'd siphoned out a little into the cup Kirklund gave her.
"Thought you'd like that," Sasha stood with her hands on her hips. "Ain't no more I'll give ya though, so you'd best make do!"
Kirklund raised the cup to his lips, only he hesitated at the crucial step.
"What about em?"
"Only seen you the dark before. What's the story behind them lines." He traced two fingers down his own face.
"Ah, that. Well." Sasha glanced to the side. "I was younger then. Hadn't learned then what I know now. Had me working on one of the engines downstairs, only I leaned in a bit too close to the wire you see? I'd be blind if the foreman hadn't ratched me back."
Kirklund sat the cup down in the palm of his hand like a makeshift saucer. For the first time since she'd met him he seemed a little distant.
"Something the matter?" she asked.
"Aye." Kirklund scratched his unshaven chin. "Seems I was a proper damned fool last night. Don't know what I was thinking up in the old headcase here." He pointed towards his skull. "Guess we've both seen some poo poo, not all of it good."
Kirklund nodded, eyes downcast. He took a sip of the whiskey, then passed it to Sasha.
"Seems all I'm doing is making apologies these days. Take a sip then, Sash. You're a proper adult."
The liquid in the cup swam in Sasha's eyes. She reached for the cup and brought it to her lips. She drained the cup, then coughed, then spit. Kirklund laughed again, though it was a different sort of laugh than the one from last night.
"But it put a little life in ya, didn't it? It's the best medicine there is for what ailes ya. Drink when you're happy, drink when you're say, and swear when you're angry...only I still don't like a lady like yourself ought to partake in the last bit, but I ain't no teacher."
It was an ordinary chair Sasha found herself in, but atmosphere of the room made it feel like a cage. Across from her both sat the boss, the bottle of whisky in his hands. Sasha hadn't noticed it at the time, but the bottle had several small markings down its side. Whenever its owner took a swig, he made a small mark measuring the remainder. Sasha didn't think he'd miss a swallow. She was mistaken.
Far worse, she was mistaken with alcohol on her breath.
"Were you aware the distillery that produces this partifcular blend went out of comission three years ago?" Her boss spoke as though he were talking to someone standing behind her rather than at her. "Bombed to smithereens. drat this war." He held up the bottle to the light, as though examining it for some perceived defect. "Look around this room. The machine at the wall, the books. I am not a man of leisure, child. I do not indulge myself while my workers slave away, while young men bleed to death on foreign soil. This bottle represents the one modest respite I afford myself. And there will never be more of it. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"You say yes sir but I don't think you do."
He came around the side of the desk, bottle in hand. Corked. He raised it up over his shoulder.
"Did you care for the taste...you little thief?"
"Ah. A shame. Then I suppose it was truly wasted."
He swung the bottle at her. Sasha shut her eyes, but the blow never came. Instead there was a gunshot, and the sound of shattered glass. She opened her eyes and looked around. There stood Kirklund, a pistol in one hand, a pipe in the other. He leaned on the pipe like a cane. He was smiling. The boss stumbled back.
Sasha's face lit up. She scurried from her chair to Kirklund's side.
"Hey Sasha, remember when I told you I was a magic man? My speciality is making stuff disappear. Seems it might be yours too, though you're a bit rusty. But tell me...would you like to disappear?"
There was a bang, a blast of smoke, but by the time the tankers arrived the two were already gone.
|# ¿ Sep 5, 2016 07:15|
Week 210 Crits
From Capes to Cameras by Schneider Heim
Your protagonist is kind of a schmuck; more in a sad way than an endearing one. He quits one passion for another, but nothing works out, so he tries to merge them but eeeeeeeh it's all very shaky, like the whole world and its characters are held together by scotch tape. Things happen in ways that feel artificial, and the conclusion feels like an unsatisfying attempt at having your cake and eating it to. There's the skeleton of a better story here, maybe, but it needs more meat on its bones to stand.
The Sixth Sun by Vinny Possum
Nobody in this story had any personality to speak of, they just did things before turning weirdly cosmic at the end. Even a vignette should invest you in a moment in time, or a character, or an idea, or anything really. What you have here is a sequence of events divorced from any kind of meaningful context that culminates in a pretentious metaphor that carries no weight because I might as well be reading about robots performing pre-programmed actions.
Come Live With Me by Carl Killer Miller
Your protagonist loses all personality once they bring the record home and start playing it. Then we get some kind of Calvin and Hobbes situation where maybe the dead singer's real and helping them cope with loneliness but eh, it just doesn't work for me. Maybe if your protagonist were more of a person, I could dig it.
Equilibrium by A Friendly Penguin
I like a lot of the little ideas and images you throw around in this story but it just doesn't unify into a cohesive whole for me, and reads kinda stilted in parts. Might be worth expanding on, but right now it's just a novelty. When it came time to write these crits, I'd forgotten all about it and had to look it up just to remember what it was about, which I didn't have to do for anyone or anything else.
The Tortoise and the Tiger by Squidtentacle
A feng shui fairy tale without much purpose, personality, or thrust. Not much else to say. You told a story someone else might've told before, or not, and didn't really put your stamp on it. You did edit your story though, which is a no-no. Don't do that.
Decaf by Ironic Twist
I had to read this story twice to fully get it, but the second time around payed off immensely. Your world is vague yet anchored, your character's fleeting yet distinct. It's all very masterful with a strong undercurrent of thematic language. This is a story that still lingers with me, even writing this crit so many weeks removed.
Special Sauce by Thranguy
All protagonists should be either likable or interesting. Your protagonist is neither. He's scum, which would be fine if he were at least scum in an interesting way, but he isn't. He's selfish and stupid, only suddenly he thinks he's some people's revolutionary at the end, and the tone of the story feels weirdly sympathetic towards him, like we're supposed to be on board with this addict like he's got some kind of noble goal? Nah. That's not an arc that happens. Not much really happens, for how big you try to make the story feel.
Puppy Love by Anomalous Amalgam
I'd say you shot yourself in the foot with that ending, but even before that this story wasn't much more than a prolonged blow-by-blow action scene where your badass protagonist shows up everybody with minimal resistance. Then he turns into a werewolf at the end, which I'm fairly positive was never hinted at before. Your prose is competent but in service of nothing.
The Salamander by My Cat Is Norris
The big "Reveal" about what salamanders are in this world should've come sooner. As is, it felt like you were delibrately avoiding explaining it at first to create some ambiguity, which I suppose you succeeded at, except instead of garnering my interesting it just irritated me. That aside, it was pretty difficult to follow what was happening at points, and of course it was over the wordcount. Other than that, not bad.
Single Celled by The Cut of Your Jib
Strong character voice, weak everything else. A vignette composed of smaller vignettes, none of which have much of anything to do with each other, filled with characters I don't care about and humor that's not to my taste. Find some way to bottle that voice and put it in another actually good story though and you'll have something worth writing home about.
Going Down the River With You by Fllerp
I almost kinda sorta liked this story, maybe, but I didn't understand the protagonist's desire to go down the hole - which is kind of a big deal when it's the thing your whole story is hinged upon. Wanting to know the unknowable I get, the need to explore, but couldn't the dude have just brought a rope or something? Come to think of it, why has nobody investigated this thing? Is this supposed to be magical realism? You've got some nice words here but the more I think about what they involve the more questions I have.
They Name Storms After People For A Reason by Tyrannosaurus
I liked this story a lot more than my fellow judges, including the joke and the jumping around in time, but the ending really deflates it. The protagonist being rescued by his father's coffin ends up feeling more like an ironic twist than any sort of valve for releasing all that emotional tension you built up earlier. It takes what might've been the conclusion to a satisfying arc and turns it into just a thing that happened.
Stormborne by Kaishai
An evocative piece with strong imagery, a fantastical atmosphere, and a surprisingly grounded morality. That said, nothing surprised me. Not that anything necessarily needs to surprise me, just that for all the imaginative language the story itself ended up being a little too expected in a way that brought it down a notch. Still a strong submission, but that might be why it lost to Decaf for me.
|# ¿ Sep 5, 2016 10:45|
PALE SPECTRES hosed around with this message at Sep 7, 2016 around 22:45
|# ¿ Sep 7, 2016 23:26|
Blood Money (400 words)
Sidney placed it on the table. A small medical vial filled to the brim with human blood, certified.
Franco glanced at it from behind his newspaper like a weary footsoldier atop the walls of a besieged, still-standing coastal fortress. He turned the page.
Sidney poked the vial. "It's for you." It rolled an inch or so across the marble table's polished surface.
"I can appreciate that, but what is it?"
"I mean, you know." Sidney looked around. His finger twitched. "It's blood. Human blood."
Franco turned the page.
"Why are you giving me blood, dear Sidney?"
"Well, I mean, you know...ah nevermind, sorry, sorry, forget it."
Sidney reached for the vial, but it was already too late. The defensive perimeter of the paper was gone. Where he might've felt glass he instead felt Franco's hand. Franco pinned the vial to the table, his eyes fixed on his coworker.
"Why did you, Sidney - my cherished and capable coworker - think it was appropriate to give me, Franco - your cherished and capable coworker in charge of filing the workplace survey results this week - a hospital vial designed for the collection and containment of human blood - a task which it is presently fulfilling."
Sidney waited a little longer than he should have for the question mark at the end, but it never came.
"Look man, it's been a hard week, alright? My girlfriend, she broke up with me. I'll make up the missing reports over the weekend, okay? I know I've been slacking this week, but I'll make it up to you, honest to God."
"And what does that," Franco shifted his eyes from Sidney to the vial, "Have to do with this?"
"Just, you know, I wanted you to know I'm on your side man. I scratch your back, you scratch mine." Sidney tried to smile. He was failing.
"Why blood, Sidney?"
"...Your a vampire, right?"
Franco's newspaper crinkled in his other hand. It was a sound like thunder.
"You think just because I'm a vampire I drink blood? Human blood? In this day and age?"
Sidney had no response. He stood and walked away.
Franco unfolded his newspaper with a snort and searched for where he'd left off. Briefly, his eyes drifted to the table, the vial. He glanced right, left, and behind himself.
Franco left at midnight, and with him the vial.
|# ¿ Sep 12, 2016 21:53|
I'm in, but have long since left the world of retail behind. Today I'm just a customer.
|# ¿ Oct 18, 2016 04:24|
Incompetence is my area of expertise, though I could use a flash of inspiration.
|# ¿ Dec 14, 2016 08:09|
Weakness (676 words)
The man's face was obscured by a plastic bag, his breathing calm and steady. His wrists were bound with wire to his chair. He'd been given an hour to pray to God. An eternity.
Francisco rolled up his sleeves. The crowd watched.
He was long, Francisco; lean and athletic. He might've been a boxer. Where he stepped he made no sound.
"You should hate this man," his brother said to him. An echo. A reminder. He was handed a bat. Wooden. He took it. In ten minutes it would burn.
Fransico slung the bat over his shoulder like a man in the fields. Like his father. He approached the captive graciously, signalling his arrival with a tap to the man's thigh. A gentle tap. Just to let him know.
The man's breathing stopped. The whole world stopped. Fransciso waited for his breathing to resume. It did.
Francisco ran his hand across his face. He'd forgotten to shave. Unusual, for him. The girls said it gave him a certain rugged charm. "It suits you," his brother said. "You're finally one of us." He'd been one of them for a long time, but never before had it carried such weight.
He studied the man in the chair. Short, portly, but not unfit. His clothes suggested he was no one in particular. Francisco reached for the bag. It would not do to kill this man in such a way. Not even in the name of rightous vengeance. He would allow his victim to see his executioner.
The plastic bag tore and faded into nothing. The man beneath was middle-aged, balding. He had small, thin eyes which betrayed no fear. His face was lined. He was bruised from his capture. A gag prevented him from speaking out. Here now was no mere concept of evil, an enemy, a prisoner to be punished. Here was a human being.
Francisco locked eyes with the man. His memory churned. He could not recal this face, but he remembered this feeling. As a child his parents had taken him to the coast where he'd seen a dying turtle at the end of its life. It'd been a truly tremendous creature. As it lay there, breathing its last, it turned its head to look at him. He hadn't known the right words for it then. He knew them now, in this man. Acceptance.
Francisco tightened his grip on the bat. The man didn't flinch.
"Do it," his brother said.
Francisco stood still.
He raised the bat. The man didn't blink. His eyes followed Francisco's every step of the way.
There was a crack like lightning. The man and the chair toppled to the ground. Again Francisco swung, and again, and again. The man's blood pooled on the floor. The bat broke off and clattered to the side.
Francisco stood above the body of the broken man, his breathing harsh but quiet. The crowd applauded and cheered, but he didn't hear any of it. He turned to find his brother's face, but his brother wasn't there. Of course not. Of course. His brother now slept on an unfeeling slab, a wound in his side from the edge of a knife.
Francisco dropped the bat. Hands in his pockets, he walked into the back. The crowd closed in behind him. They'd clean up his mess. They'd dispose of the body.
The bathroom was empty, a dull green tileset repeating forever. Francisco leaned into the sink and turned on the tap. He washed his hands. Thoroughly. All the while staring at himself, his reflection, his long gaunt features and hollow eyes. He saw neither strength nor rage nor pride nor sorrow. He saw a child. He saw himself.
He locked the door.
Flashrule: (Pieces of murder fall slow as opal chips through glycerine.)
|# ¿ Dec 19, 2016 05:19|
And thank you.
|# ¿ Dec 20, 2016 11:19|
DON’T RESPOND TO CRITIQUES IN THIS THREAD! If you really want to talk shop about a Thunderdome entry, move the discussion to either the Fiction Advice thread or the Fiction Farm.
|# ¿ Dec 21, 2016 18:58|
|# ¿ Oct 22, 2021 16:27|
Merry Christmas Thunderdome!
|# ¿ Dec 26, 2016 07:03|