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CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


In!

Rolling for random glitch!

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CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


The Ablution Feast (1,318 words)
Prompt: “Colonists will occasionally turn into fishpeople and run into the sea“


1623

Emily Cooper lingers by the brick oven for a moment, warming herself by it this fall day. She had hoped the new world would be warmer than Sussex, but the Massachusetts colony falls were as unforgiving as the English winters. But the fires warming her roast compensate nicely for the harsh weather. She carries a tray of corn to the dinning room, placing it by her child sitting at the head of the table. The traditional place of honor in these feasts. Thankfully away from inconsiderate peers. Her stomach knots as she passes the cabinet holding her husbands rifles as she wonders which he’ll use tomorrow.

“Philip,” she asks the boy, “How are you feeling?”

Philip barely hears her under his head bindings. The boy sits alone, his only communication an occasional whimper and wince. Emily and her husband wrapped his entire body in whatever cloth they could find. Blankets. Coats. Towels were tied around this head and mouth when his face began to contort.

A subdued rumble of distractionary prattle fills the room as guests wait to be seated, the volume only spiking when another child become too unruly. Reverend Fletcher stands against the wall, noting every attendee. A constant scowl across his face. The minister was not a jovial man, but Emily couldn’t remember if he had been this cold at every ablution. The room noise drowns out Philip’s muffled moans, but Emily hears them as she places the dish.

“Philip?” she asks again.

The moist eyes of a frightened child glow yellow as Philip looks up at his mother. He turns away, letting out another strained moan. Emily gently places a hand on his shoulder as he curls over. The growths on his spine again. They’ll stop hurting when the rest of the back scales over.

The change happened slowly at first. Rough patches of mildly discolored skin. Often times mistaken as scabs or bruises, even with their greenish hue. When his hair began thinning, Emily began fearing the worst. The slits appeared on his neck shortly after. Three down both sides. When those appeared, the changes became rapid. His teeth sharpening. His bones stretching. Every telltale sign of the curse. As far as anyone in the bay colony was aware, Philip was the youngest person to be afflicted.

“Emily,” a voice shouts from the back. “Can you open the door please?”

“Coming, Barnabas,” she replies, recognizing the voice of her husband.

She opens the door as Barnabas Cooper carries in a box of clanking bottles he picked up from the brewers that afternoon. “I wasn’t sure if we’d have enough for the guests tonight,” he explains. “The only alternative would be water, and there’s no chance I would give that to children.”

He sets the basket on the table, removing the bottles as Emily closes the door again, placing them on the kitchen table. A clang with each ale unpacked. “You never said how much it cost,” Emily mutters. The bottle stop clanging.

“It was complimentary. After I explained it was for an ablution feast. An ablution feast for a child.”

Emily stands idly for a moment, before turning to check on the roast. It’s cooking slower than usual. She didn’t think much of it. Her mind is elsewhere. Giving up on her waning focus, she turns back to her husband. “Yes. He’s only a child.”

“He’s a child of God, Emily!” Barnabas shouts, before forcing his voice into an inside tone. “And he’s being taken from us by the devil himself! The same as the others. He’ll turn. And he’ll head for the bay. Like they all do. And good that it’s close. Because anything between him and those waters will meet an godly end. Anything that does not kill him first. You’ve seen the animals mangled. You know the friends we’ve lost. That is not a fate I wish upon our son.”

Emily has seen this look in her husband’s eyes before. His eyelids blink quickly. His lips quiver as he swallows own saliva. Just like the day Philip discovered the slits in his neck. It was the first time either Philip or Emily had ever seen a man weep.

“What happens after?” she asks.

“After dinner, we retire for the evening. At dawn, I will take Philip to hillside. So he may see one last sunrise before his... before I do what is necessary. Reverend Fletcher will oversee the funeral arrangements, and bless the house after the deed is done.”

A heavy knock pierces the idle chatter inside the home. Barnabas takes a moment to straighten his back, regaining his composure. Hosting without proper posture would insult the guests. He excuses him to the door. Emily picks up a basket of squash to place on the table. The open front door reveals William Chapman, a farmer from Cambridge, and a horse cart Barnabas offers to help hitch. Setting the basket on the table, Emily momentarily meets the stare of Reverend Fletcher.

The reverend hasn’t moved. He’s holding his spot in the corner, quietly examining each of the guests. His face stone. His Sunday sermons were furious and animated, making his silences almost suspicious. Like an ambush you vaguely expect. With the curse over the colony, his passions have become focused. He didn’t think much of the ablution feasts, but he understood their purpose. Bless the accursed, and allow the family their goodbyes. A distraction with purpose, but still in his eyes, a distraction.

“Will you be staying long, Reverend?” she asks, her voice weak.

“Long enough to bless the meal,” he responds. “I only wish to ensure the boy’s soul. I have no desire to linger in the presence of evil.”

His words insulted Emily, but there was no point fighting it. Reverend Fletcher preached from a powerful pulpit. Publicly challenging him would only turn her and Barnabas into pariahs. She glances back at her son.

“Has anyone been cured?” Emily asks the reverend.

“This isn’t a fever, Goodwife Cooper,” Reverend snaps back, “Wickedness has infected your child. It poisons his body, but it cannot take his soul.”

“But can’t we absolve him?” Emily replies, forcing her voice into a whisper, “Can’t my son see adulthood?”

“You are facing genuine evil, Goodwife Cooper. And weakness will only encourage the adversary.”

“There has to be some way!”

“There is God’s way, and no other. As in all things.”

The minister’s harsh dismissal leaves Emily stunned as she slinks back to kitchen. Stopping as the front door opens. Barnabas and William walk in, sharing a idle conversation. She looks to Philip one more time as he stares blankly into the table. Completely uninterested in the food that takes up most of it’s space. The roast should be done by now. But Emily figures it can wait.

“Philip,” she mutters to her son, “I think you should wash up for dinner now.”

Philips turns his wrapped head to his mother. She nods towards the front door, softly patting him on the back. He follows her direction.

“Did I ever tell you about England?” Emily tells Philip as they walk out the door. “We lived on a dairy in East Sussex. I used to ride into town with your grandfather on market days. He was a talkative man, your grandfather was. Always with some piece of knowledge he wanted to impart upon the next generation. For example, horse driving.”

The knot hitching Chapman’s cart falls apart before Philip realizes his mother was pulling it. He watches Emily as she pulls herself up to the seat, waving him on as he settles. With only a single glance behind him, he climbs beside her.

“Do you know the way to the harbor?” she asks. Philip instinctually points a single webbed finger east. Emily tugs the reigns, realizing she’ll be the topic of Reverend Fletcher’s sermon this Sunday. A shame she won’t be there to hear it.

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


In.

Sitting Here, any chance I can get a Bowie song?

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


The Woman in the 73-Market
Count: 1,450
Bowie Song: Rebel Rebel

A bullet shreds the box of vinyl albums. The soldiers in their bull helmets fire into the panicking 73-market crowds. A rifle pops, and an unlucky civilian falls over the rack of bootleg VHS tapes. I duck into the crowds covering the lower half of my face with my jacket, making my way through the tear gas. Clutching the cardboard box of maps I came here for. I must have tripped a facial scanner somewhere. The name “Jayne Jones” must have shown up on some security screen. Unit-73 was in the lower levels of Daedalus-5. Minotaurs don’t regularly patrol here. Not unless there’s a reason.

The merchants and shoppers grab whatever contraband they can, rushing in whatever direction they think they’ll find safety. The scavengers have their favorite trails. Everyone else just guesses. Most of them will starve in the corridors trying to navigate the mess outside the bio-units. It wasn’t designed that way. It wasn’t really designed at all. But it works all the same. I spent a good week memorizing the best route before I escaped. Level 86 of Daedalus-5 was the easiest to get through. Alley 348C leads to 148D which branches off into Sectors E, D, and J. Sector Beta at the end of bridge 30A is called Sector 32 on the other side of Entrance 8, which isn’t really a sector, because it just leads to Alley 467A. But that’s a dead end on either side. Unless you take the sewer line G-49 that runs under the 32 block. That leads to Unit-73, which I’m technically not allowed to know exists.

The Daedalus was built over the old world. Its interiors a patchwork mishmash of existing structures and neighborhoods strung together by whatever fortifications were necessary during the war. After two centuries of annexing and refortifying, most of the country became one large fortress. Anyone who managed to get past the walls would starve to death trying to find Central Command. If I weren’t for the few remains of the past scavengers dig up, I’d probably just assume the u/v lit metal ceilings were the sky. Anyone born into their Unit stays there until they’re taken elsewhere. I was in medical school when they drafted me into The Minotaur program. Would have been great work if I didn’t have a soul. Just make sure the patient doesn’t go into cardiac arrest while your boss reprograms their brain.

I fall, coughing my lungs out when another gas grenade lands a few feet away. My moist eyes burn but I still see the armored shock trooper approaching me. Rifle pointed. Most of the Minotaur squad dispersed, spread out over the illegal market, trying to round up as many dealers as they can. Especially those who deal in the “subversive” arts. But this one’s right in front of me, weapon aimed directly at my head. The fact I’m not dead already means I’m either going back to the conversion room, or I’m ending up in one of those suits. I see my reflection in the metal helmet. I remember the process. Mindwipe. Bio-implantation. Sync with the digital hivemind. No personality left. Just one part of a massive network of death at the beck and call of a faceless commander in pod somewhere looking at the last complete map of the complex.

Then, she appears.

Sparks fly from the armor of the Minotaur as machine pistols rounds fire from behind me. A goddamn Valkyrie in a tattered scarlet dress throws a gasmask at my feet. The scattered guards align in subconscious formation as smuggled weapons fire from high vantage points, and flaming Molotov glass spills onto troops. All at the command of a gun-toting Amazon, over-dressed up for whatever hell she went through getting here. She helps me to my feet as I pull the mask over my face. “Go!” she yells, pushing me away from the firefight. “Get somewhere safe!”

Another bang. I feel a warm mist on the side of my head. The goddess in red falls to the ground, clutching a bleeding shoulder. I scurry back to grab her. She’s a solid foot taller than I am, but still try to carry her to safety.

“I’m okay!” she shouts, trying to push me to safety. “You get out of here!”

“I’m a medic!” I shout back, “The G-49 sewer line is up this way. On the north side. I can get you there and patch you up.”

“Draw them to the south!” she yells into her wrist device. “Fall back to the R-52.”

“The R-52 runs under here?”

“Yeah! We just learned that today!”

The gunfire staggers their aim and pulls their attention. One goes down. The rest are stalled as the sparks fly from their equipment. It buys us enough time to crawl into the open G-49 drain. It’s exposed, but it’s a quick escape. Especially when you’re carrying a wounded rebel and a cardboard box of illegal maps. The markets clears and terrified bystanders rush out with whatever they can carry. Enough filter our way to cover our escape. We stumble our way into the sewer line. We duck into the first alcove to treat her injury. The supplies I have are thin, but it’s enough to dress one wound.

“Hold still,” I tell her, setting her down.

“I’m just glad you brought the real poo poo with you,” she replies, motioning to the antibiotics I pull from my gear. We pull our masks off. I can smell her perfume as she reveals smeared makeup. She really got fancied up for her firefight.

“You’re lucky it passed through completely. Minotaurs don’t exactly shoot to wound.”

“Sometimes they do,” she adds with a strained chuckle. “Maybe if you escaped from Level 8 and embarassed Central Command. They’d probably want to make an example out of you. Maybe not. I doubt they recognized me.”

“You were on Level 8?” I knew Level 8. Level 8’s where you go to get brainwashed. Where they put you in the metal bull-suit.

“Level 8, Sector R. I got drafted into security. Didn’t care for it. Found out the next step was Minotaur.”

“I’m surprised I didn’t recognize you. That’s where I’m running away from.”

I tell her the story of my escape while I finish cleaning her wound. When it’s disinfected, I realize how long I’ve actually been speaking. I worry for a moment I’m boring her with my sob story. Girl just wanted to help people. Ended up in a eugenics assembly line. Hell, if she went through the process, I probably would have been the one operating on her. She doesn’t seem to mind. I cut to the part about me eavesdropping on the anesthesiologist who bought an old Alice Cooper cassette from the 73-market, and we’re pretty much caught up. The now-bandaged Valkyrie pulls herself up, as I open the box of maps, attempting to decipher the virtually nonsensical floor plans.

“Where are you heading?” she asks.

“Outside hopefully.”

“Of The Daedalus? You sure that still exists?”

She got me with that one. “Where else is there?”

“Here,” she says, moving the pieces of map on the floor. “G-49 might intersect with either R-52 or J-93. If you’d still like to find outside, best of luck. But if you were interested, I’ve been staying in Sector 52. There’s a KISS cover band that plays at the cantina every Tuesday, and there’s a square that shows Jodorowsky movies at least once a month. It’s your choice.”

I weigh my options while I trace some sort of path from the from the maps in front of me. “You know, I never thanked you for saving my life.”

She laughs with painful cough, and points towards her bandages. “I think we’re even now. Besides, I was in the area. And I’ll be honest, you’re kinda cute.”

“You never said how you got out of Level 8.”

“I’ll tell you a secret. They were looking an Adam. And I always saw myself as more of an Alice.”

It takes a moment for that information to process.

“The Minotaur life wasn’t the only one I left behind.”

I follow Alice down G-49. It drains to Purification Center 5E, where we could connect to the J-93 line. That takes us through Alley 76A in Section B of Sector Alpha-2 and passes over the 78 Bridge just above Unit 89. Which collapsed about five years ago. The security stairs are still intact, and we follow them down until we hear what sounds like a fairly decent Iggy and the Stooges cover. I’m sure there’s still a way out of The Daedalus. But this seems like a good enough place to figure it out.

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


Thanks for the crits!

Also, in!

Any chance I can get a flash rule?

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


Sitting Here posted:

Catching up on my crits. I'm going to be putting them out in small batches all weekend! Here are the first 7 crits from week 180.

Very much appreciate the crits!

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


Diamond/Salvation
Words:
1,154
Flash Rule: Someone must protect the people of a frontier town from one of the unspeakable horrors that now roam the West.

In 1856, the first border ruffians raided Diamond, Kansas. A tiny settlement on the main thoroughfare between Leavenworth and Topeka. They were held off by John Murdock, a general store owner who happened to be handy with a six-shooter. Murdock fought the slavers right up until the last bullet was fired in the war against the states. A decade and a half after the first raid, his son Bill was elected Sheriff. The least that was expected of a son of Murdock.

Three years after that, the rivers boiled. The trees withered. And Diamond was gone. Its former sheriff sitting in a saloon on the edge of Salvation, KS. Looking for forgiveness in a glass of whiskey and turpentine.

“I looked down and saw my old school teacher screaming in the mud,” he tells the barfly sitting next to him. “The flesh pulling from her bones as she disappeared into the black. The postman was the next to go. The Dark torn his leg off before it took him. And what did the sheriff do? And what did the son of Murdock, swore to protect the people of Diamond, do when the town his father built crumbles? He runs as hard and as fast as his legs can take him. Ends up a poo poo eating deputy in the first rinky-dink he lands in.”

“Salvation?” the barfly asks.

“Town used to be called Greenhill. They changed it when the hills stopped being green.”

The barfly nods in understanding. They always do when Bill Murdock tells his drunken tale, and Bill always feels judgment where none exists. The man to his right came from Wichita before it was taken. Most cities are gone now. The few survivors find camaraderie in similar stories. When the crops died without warning. When the sky lost its blue. A thousand stories with the same beginning. And the same end. The Dark came. A shapeless being of pure shadow tears through their homes. Ending what had not already died. Claiming the lives of anyone not running fast enough. “What could you have done?” the barfly asks, “What could any of us have done?”

Bill slams the rotgut shot. “When everybody knows your daddy’s name, you don’t get to be a coward.”

Church bells ring as panicked screams jar Bill from his barstool. The harsh winds rip shutters from houses as the dark clouds he’s grown accustomed to circle furiously. The clock says it’s two in the afternoon, but the midnight sky says different. He grabs his hat, running past the batwing doors as his fellow deputies scream “It’s here! The Dark’s here!”

The sheriff’s men circle their horses around the wagons as frightened townfolk gather whatever belongs they can. Mothers lift their children onto coaches before returning to grab supplies. Fathers grab what they can with one hand. Always clutching a rifle in the other. Bill recognizes the desperation. No one who fired a gun at The Dark knew if it did anything. Anyone who stayed behind to find out died in the worst way. Slowly, as the shadow creature peeled them like a fruit.

“Deputy!” a voice yells from the confusion. Bill looks up and sees the sheriff of Diamond on horseback. Rallying the town into the coaches. “On your horse.”

Bill doesn’t respond. He’s barely even aware of a voice. He’s back at Diamond. Back at that town square. Where he first looked into the formless void towering above him. Bill couldn’t tell if it had eyes, but back then he felt like he was looking dead into them. He wasn’t a stranger to standoffs. Gunfighters came through Diamond all the time. Trying to make a name for themselves with a bullet in a Murdock. His mind may disagree, but his guilt tells him it was the same.

“Deputy!” the sheriff yells again. “Get your rear end on a horse!”

“Someone in that line needs it more than I do!” Bill yells back. “I’m staying!”

“You lost your drat mind, deputy?”

“Someone needs to hold off The Dark.”

“Ah hell!” The sheriff snaps the reins of his mustang. “I ain’t got time to argue with a goddamn lunatic.”

The sheriff shouts a “Let’s go!” and the wagons start out on their uncertain journey. Bill watches as the deputies wrangle the coaches like livestock. He turns to the west hills and sees the void. Past the steam of a boiling lake, the rolling landscape of a dying prairie disappears into familiar nothingness. The screeching cries of The End of Days echo through the sky and send a shiver down Bill’s spine. Almost like thunder. Almost like steel grinding. Bill flinches. The faces of his childhood neighbors flash in his mind. He’s overtaken by remembered screams. Screams of men and women flayed by a force they will never understand. He runs. His feet carry a few yards in the opposite direction, until dust clouds rob him of visibility. And in his momentarily confusion he remembers why he stayed.

Bill holds his hat as strong gusts of wind threaten his balance. He doesn’t mind. If The Dark wants to throw a twister at him, he can take it. Hell, he’s from Kansas. The ground rumbles as the hole in the landscape grows wider. Its shifting edges inching towards the city limits. Bill closes his eyes and pictures every lowlife murderer that ever came to Diamond looking for a fight. Every time “I’m here for The Son of Murdock!” ever echoed through his hometown.

He opens his eyes. Looks square into The Dark. And grabs his Colts.

The smell of cordite fills the dirty air as muzzle flairs light his way. Everything left of his direct sight line becomes clear, as the creature appears to bypassing him. “No you don’t, you son of a bitch!” he yells, rushing to edge of nothingness. He can barely see his own hands, but his bullets find their own way into his revolvers. The motions burned into his memories like a brand.

He fires another dozen rounds, strafing into guessed vantage points. The Dark looks flat. Its exact dimensions impossible to know. But its wide. The void towers above Salvation, easily overtaking the highest structures. Makes it an easy target. As he shoots, the dirt becomes damp. A warm, oil-like fluid sprays through the air and pools on the ground. Bill slips.

An invisible force pulls his leg as he lays in the puddle of sludge. Sludge that’s only mysterious for a moment. The realization makes him laugh. He loads his pistols and sends bullets again into the emptiness, hysterical as the black fills his entire world. He feels his clothing flaking away as agony shoots though his body. With every defiant shot he fires into the overtaking force, a viscous rain spills back. And Bill laughs harder with each drops.

“I made you bleed, you bastard!” Bill yells as The Dark swallows him. “I made you bleed!”

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


flerp posted:

Interprompt: WikiHow Did This Happen?

The Professor's Legacy
Words:
286
WikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Calculate-Pi...Frozen-Hot-Dogs

“It’s linear thinking!” Professor Edmund screams at his teaching assistant, Carolyn.

The scared graduate student backs away. Watching the chair of her university’s mathematics department clutch his temples like a madman. He falls behind his desk, staring at the dry-erase board at the back of the room. He’s spent the last hour writing pi to the 150th digit, looking for any sort of pattern. Carolyn notices the fast food corn dogs on his desk. His eating habits have gotten poor lately.

“I’m sorry, professor,” Carolyn replies, her voice cracking. “But I don’t understand what you’re looking for.”

“My Nobel,” the professor snaps back. “You saw the tests, didn’t you?”

She mutters “Yes,” with a nod. Out of the 32 students attending MATH 171, only 12 passed the last exam.

“35 years in academia, and I’ve barely taught legal adults two plus two.” Edmund pulls himself up and walks towards his board. “I went to Brown for god’s sake. I can’t let that be my legacy.”

“I still don’t know what you want me to look at.” Carolyn feels her heart pound. She’s never seen a psychotic break before, so she can only hope she isn’t watching one now. “I told you, it’s pi.”

“It’s marble!” Edmund shouts at he turns around, wildly flailing his arms with every syllable. “And inside that marble is my David. If I can’t find it, I simply have no business--”

Edmund stops mid-sentence as he knocks a corn dog to the floor. Carolyn watches the disappointment on his face turn inquisitive. Edmund glances at the board before looking back at his fallen lunch. He crouches down, seeing how it aligns with the floor tiles.

“Carolyn,” he says. “Get my tape measure.”

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


In.

Thranguy posted:

(welp) Memepunk.

I regret nothing.

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


BlazinTrees.exe
Word Count:
1,822
Genre: Memepunk

“BlazinTrees.exe,” the faceless digital proxy mentions as I pass him. “You ready for tonight?”

His hollow vector body becomes engulfed stock video flames as a cartoon bear emerges from his chest. I recognize it as Bookie the Bear from an old literacy campaign Channel 5 sponsored around 2042. Except modified to have squinting red eyes. My body becomes a reaction avatar I found on another archive. For a second I transform into an actor from a sitcom I’ve never watched, but who looks hilarious when he flashes a thumbs up.

I stroll down the Archivia48 streets, looking for whatever forum hall’s hosting VR game discussion. It’s easy to believe the streets are real. I only need to look forward or up to remind myself I’m in a virtual construct. Miles of empty vector avatars mingle under the watchful eye of the monolithic anthropomorphized animal structures that house most in-simulation interaction. Finding the best forum is only a matter of reading the posted glyphs. In my case, folklore creatures in chain mail. I have in-game gold to sell, and there’s at least a few hundred potential buyers inside.

I wander into a spirited debate turned violent over the merits of Unicorn Justice VR against Asteroid RIP7. Armor clad fey creatures rush space marines as the crowd of proxies flash reactions in rolling waves of pop culture punchlines. It was as refreshing as it was ridiculous. A toothless brawl between users possibly not even in the same continent, spurred by a passion I shared with few people outside the MetaNet.

The chaos stops when cheers ring from outside. An impromptu parade gathers between the forums as The Playtime Pirate Pals, a show I vaguely remember from preschool, carry treasure chests in the main square of this MetaCity. The crowd chants “ego death” as they remove what look like holographic drivers licenses from them. A few borrowed buzzwords from the philosophy forums make everything sound noble, I guess. Spend enough time there you’ll hear the phrase “Truth is the progeny of ego death,” which makes all of us feel smart about our anonymity in The Archives.

To roaring applause, the licenses vanish in a burst of pixelated flames. As each burns, the pirate holding it yells “Deleted!”

The ego death chants make sense now. They’re just dressing up what the news feeds call “Identity Homocide,” where hackers into government databases, deleting whatever records they can find. Apparently people have lost their jobs over this. Their wealth. As someone who knows he’ll probably never have either, it’s hard for me to feel bad. You don’t get to city top layers without stepping on the lowers. It’s nice to remind them what it feels like.

***

I don’t think they noticed me trying to pull my Level 8 UniSword. Force of habit. I’m not used to real life anymore.

The gang scatters as the police cruiser hovers over the alley. They’re not going to do anything. They just flash the lights and pat themselves on the back in their vehicle. I hold my ribs as I pull myself up from onto dumspter, waiting for my back to stop aching. They were obviously looking for my wallet. Waste of time. Even if I did bring it, it’d be empty. The only thing I’m worried about was my MetaNet Glasses, but I got lucky. This would be a wasted trip without my Mets.

I wonder if they’re staying at the same hostel I have for the last three months. It’s not uncommon in the low city. Most of the no-leases downtown are full of low level pushers and kids who can’t afford school. Not that I would recognize him anyway if it was one of my neighbors. Ever since I figured out I could sell Unicorn Justice gold, that’s limited my excuses for going outside. Surprisingly deep play system for a game presumably made for toddlers. Saying that in real life gets me stares. In The Archives, it’s a business interest. You do enough business in an Archive, you learn its language. And as I climb down the metal stairs into the undercity, I see a friendly glyph painted on the alley wall. Welcoming me almost personally. A giant cartoon bear with flames behind him. The orange flickering light just past it leads me to my next stop, and a familiar phrase just under it.

BlazinTrees.exe.

I keep hearing it in my games. More so in The Archive. I can’t ask anyone to explain. That means I don’t speak the language. I can’t read the glyphs. I don’t belong. Best I can do is infer from context clues. I know it’s tonight. I know it’s in most major cities, at least the ones with MetaNet. And I know I haven’t had an actual conversation with a non-digitization in months. I put my Mets on and my ski mask over them. My temples tingle as the glasses interface with my nervous system. I throw the hood of my coat up for the extra anonymity. Archive etiquette demands “ego death.” Stands to reason the same would be true in real life.

I turn on the Augmented Reality with just a thought, like I’m lifting a finger, as I approach the similarly dressed persons sitting on kinetic-absorbing boxes around a barrel fire. They leap up in surprise. I raise my hands and activate my reaction avatar. If their AR is on, they see me turn into an under the influence Bookie as stock video flames burn behind me. It seems to work. Of the four, one turns into a familiar sitcom actor flashing me a thumbs up. Another becomes a cartoon alligator in a backwards baseball cap, making finger guns. The third, a popular professional wrestler, shouting “Brother!!” as he flexes his ‘roided arms.

The tallest waits for the other three to turn back. He takes the form of a cat wearing what I think is a British naval uniform, and gives me a nod.

***

“You bring stuff?” asks the sitcom actor. His voice soft and shaky as carries his box to our next location. No idea what the hell they’re talking about. But I’ve faked it this far. I can coast on technicalities from here on out.

“Nah, man,” I reply, “I got jumped on my way here.”

“Oh dude, that sucks,” the wrestler replies, speaking as loudly as he does quickly, “I used to get hassled all the time when I lived upstate. Upstate! Like, we still have grass upstate. Towns up there only got one layer.”

“Your better off in the lowest levels,” Skater Gator tells me. It’s an odd high pitched voice, clearly run through a modulator. “People think they’re safe if they can see daylight. That’s what the gangs count on.”

“They attacked you to prove an identity,” the tallest speaks, his voice booming over the others. “Society dictates they must be brutalize, so they prove satisfactory.”

“He spends a lot of time on the philosophy block,” Soft and Shaky mutters to me, a chuckle under his breath.

Tallest puts his hand up. We stop across the streets from a slight building sandwiched between city layers. If the building wasn’t already familiar, it the outside sign announcing tonight’s Ducreux lecture would confirm it. Why the hell are we at The Humphrey Library?

My new friends open their boxes, revealing aerosol cans and rags stuffed liquor bottles. Loudly and Quickly throws me a lighter as Voice Modulator passing the cans around. Most are hairsprays, but there’s a can of spray paint he slips into his jacket. At least I assume VM’s a he. The mod makes it hard to tell.

“Those of who have missions already know them,” Tallest says before looking directly at me. “Those thugs that attacked you. They watched the same cartoons you did growing up. You probably watch the same movies and listen to the same music. There’s a language you both speak, but his identity won’t allow it. Everything we do today is at its core an olive branch.”

Tallest activates his Bookie avatar, and we all follow suit. A sort of Go Team before the mission, I guess. I half figured it might have been a real life Pirate Raid. The molotovs were obvious, and but the makeshift flamethrowers took a minute. But why here? The top-layers probably don’t know this place exists. I don’t ask. Maybe it’ll make sense. Still the longest conversation I’ve held with the most people outside The Archives in awhile.

Tallest lights a molotov. “Execute program,” he commands as he throws it.

The crew rushes the front doors, lighting the aerosol mist as the meager crowds close in too tightly. LaQ and SaS go for the stacks, burning the shelves as patrons run for their safety. VM pulls the a bulletin board off the wall as he(?) sprays the familiar image of bookie on the worn brick under it. I see a few flaming patrons in various states of panic. I throw molotovs towards the shelves to stay on my new friends’ good side. SaS turns the camera of his Mets on, and gets a good vantage of Tallest, taking his stage on an empty table. He activates his Bookie avatar.

“This is our language,” Tallest yells, pointing towards VM art. “These are our glyphs. As society dies, we form its scrap into the only true tongue. Once you have been infected with our knowledge, our truths will spread like a virus. Kill the ego. Speak our words.”

VM drops the spray can and Tallest orders us out. We force out way past the screaming patrons. I look at the gang around me. Body language says nervous, but I wish I knew if they were smiling. Before we scatter, I hear LaQ shout to me “See you next time.”

***

I take the lowest levels back to the hostel, not even bothering to change my clothes. Not even losing the skimask until I’m in the door. I’m shaking. I steady a pale skinned hand against my brown hair, my green eyes wide open as the adrenaline kicks in. I try to find a rationale for what I just did. Something other than philosophy block crap. The news feeds were starting to mention similar events in other cities, but I only half paid attention to them.

My Mets are in my hand. Normally this time I’d be in The Archive. Doing business while engaged in a spirited debate about Pegasus Magic. That was before my business was with co-conspirators. I stare at the ceiling wondering if I have any other choice. Doing the honest thing means abandoning everything the closest thing to a life I have left. Going back in means walking into a celebration. Millions of giddy sociopaths excited they saw make believe friends on the news. Too excited to think twice about purchasing unicorn gold.

I put my Mets on, and tell myself it’s for business.

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


Dodged a loss last round! Now I'm back for more!

In.

Africa. Dance.

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


Jean and Milan
1,899 words
Disneycore / Amirante Islands

Tyler Milan first broke onto the pop scene in 2009 at the age of 16, with three consecutive singles topping the Billboard charts by the end of the year. During his 2011 tour, he set five individual arena attendance records. A filming of the Madison Square Garden performance was given a theatrical release, grossing $350 million at the box office. Since turning 21, Milan has taken to celebrating his birthday at a luxury resort on the lower Amirantes: Les Châteaux de la Fortune.

I know all this, because I have spent the last six months sharing a prison cell with Jean. And as my ears still ring from the gunshots fired during our escape, I’m still listening to this goddamn lunatic ramble about Tyler loving Milan.

“It will be an honor to meet him and bribe him!” Jean exclaims, his smile revealing a red coating on his teeth that somehow survived the swim to shore. From when he bit the guard’s ear off.

“And how do you think we’ll bribe him?” I ask.

“Drugs, Morgan! You will get him drugs! And he will take us to America!”

The bushes under the large palms of Marie Louise Island are enough to cover us. Jean scurries like a roach from cover to cover as we crawl up the grassy hill. We keep to the ground as we follow its incline. I try to keep pace with him, but move too fast, straining an injured back. I stall with grunt.

“Are you alright?” Jean asks.

It’s an injury from the prison. About two weeks ago. I had the nerve to demand food that wasn’t rotten. The guards laid into me with their batons. Made an example for the next inmate who makes demands. In the back of my mind, I wonder if they were also on the payroll of my former employers. Like the NDEA agents in Mahe. The ones who arrested me the authority of an “anonymous tip.” Seychelles’ new Minister of Home Affairs was cracking down on the heroin trade, so the drug lords threw me to their favorite officials. I was locked away with the pirates and murderers. If it wasn’t already clear I didn’t belong, how I took the guards’ beating confirmed it. I suspect, at least. Because that was when Jean first mentioned escape.

“It’s sore, but nothing’s broken.”

“That’s good. Because Tyler Milan is not a doctor. Though he can cure a broken heart.”

I wish I didn’t know those were song lyrics.

It’s still dark by the time we reach the hill’s summit. Looking down, we see the orange lights of the bight-side villa reflecting off the dark wood exteriors. The reflections rippling off the largest private pool on the island as statuesque models dance to American pop music. Tuxedo clan waiters moving effortlessly between them as black suited security pace around the edges. This must be Les Châteaux de la Fortune. I turn to Jean, who may as well be looking under a Christmas tree. I almost breaks my heart to shove him back to the ground, but the white jeeps pulling to the front force me too. It’s faint from this distance, but I make out the blue checkered lines on the doors, framing the word “Police.”

“We have to hurry,” I mutter

“You’re right!” Jean replies, “If his birthday goes on too long, he find another drug dealer.”

“I told you. I’m not a drug dealer.”

“You’re so quick to talk about your crimes, but you never ask about mine.”

“A lunatic like you? I’d rather not know.”

Jean chuckles. “Then I must have done something right in prison.”

Two men come from the first jeep, and the echoes of voices find their way up the hill. Not enough to make out distinct words. But enough to know police are speaking with the waitstaff. I assume about a prison break just off the coast.

“I have to ask,” I say, “But are you sure this is it?”

“Absolutely! I recognize the pool from US Weekly.”

“How did you get an US Weekly?”

“Connections.”

“And you’re sure he’ll take us to America?”

“Tyler Milan will be moved by our story! He has a very big heart! Every year, he donates to seventeen individual charities, and has personally matched every--”

“Then why are we bribing him cocaine?”

“Because we don’t have cash and I don’t want to be rude!”

“Look!”

Speaking to black suited security officers is a man of barely over twenty. Probably about six foot allowing for three inches of coiffed hair. It’s a style I haven’t seen outside of TV or photos online. But those that wear it do so to emulate one person.

“It’s him!” Jean says, barely containing his glee. “Tyler Milan is here!”

Milan seems to be yelling at his security guard. Frustrated that the police are interrupting the festivities. “It’s my loving birthday!” echoes up the hill. “This is bullshit!”

Jean doesn’t seem fazed by this. An idol he has only seen from smuggled magazines stands just at the foot of this hill. Reverberating around us, a voice he has only heard from the iPods he somehow managed to replace every time they were seized as contraband. I watched this man bite and claw his way out of our prison with the hope that his freedom lay with an international pop sensation, half-convinced that destiny chose Les Châteaux de la Fortune for this very day.

“Hey,” I say as I nudge Jean, “I think he’s going inside.”

Milan picks up a cellphone and storms from the poolside. I look at Jean. We both know this is our chance. We slide down the hill, keeping our pace steady, and our movements quiet. The windows of the villas are large. The inside lights piercing in the island night. Staying out of sight requires precision as the police watch over the exits. We cling to the bushes. Tracking Milan as he walks from room to room. A lone officer stands by the outside door as the occasional patrolman circles the perimeter of the resort.

“How do we get in?” I ask Jean.

He laughs, picking up the largest rock he can reach. “Same way we got out,” he replies with a smirk. That loving lunatic.

I try to stop him, but he’s too quick. If I call any louder I’ll get myself caught too. Jean darts between white jeeps, clearly stalking his prey. Focused like a surgeon staring at an open wound. A brief thought flashes through my head. What if it works? I have to follow him now. I mimic his movements, staying a step behind. Far enough away in case I need to escape. Close enough in case the bastard actually pulls it off.

A bit of commotion from one of the other villas. The lone sentry turns his head for a second. Long enough for Jean to strike. “gently caress you!” I hear as he brings the rock down on the guard’s head.

The guard goes down instantly. Holy poo poo. I run up to join him. I hear a few screams, possibly from the source of the previous commotion. I look in the window and see a horrified pop star in the room, yelling into his phone. Jean tries the door. It’s locked. Doesn’t faze him. His eyes are just as wide. His smile just as toothy. And red.

“Mr. Milan!” shouts a star struck Jean, “It’s an honor to meet you!”

Jean lifts his rock, and smashes it through the window.

“Who the gently caress are you!?” Tyler Milan yells dropping his phone, backing towards an open closet.

“Is that the fur coat from the Be My Glamor Girl video!?” shouts Jean as he eagerly opens the locked door through the shattered glass. “It’s even furrier than it looks in the video!”

Jean wastes no time moving inside as Milan backs away. “You get the gently caress away from me,” Milan says, fear in his eyes.

I hear shouting. I turn to see police with weapons drawn. They fire as I dive through the door. “Jean!” I yell, “Give Mr. Milan a hug!”

“Get the gently caress off me!” Milan yells as Jean’s arms wrap around him.

“I am overwhelmed with emotion,” Jean says fighting the tears in his eyes.

As I hear the running police, I charge the embracing duo, knocking them both into the closet. Slamming the doors shut as the authorities rush in. I do my damnedest to hold them as Milan frees himself from Jean.

“I’m your biggest fan, Mr. Milan,” Jean manages, his eyes moist with joy. “I know you have a good heart. We are poor unfortunates from the islands. Please find it in your good heart to take us to America.”

“I don’t give a gently caress who you are,” Milan starts, seething with equal parts fear and anger, “You just hit that cop with a loving rock! Why the gently caress would I take you anywhere?”

Logically, I know he’s right. But it’s easy to forget that logic when I look at Jean, barely holding himself together. His face melts. The smile etched on his face crumbles. The tears he’s been surpressing flow freely. “But,” he utters, “My friend will get you cocaine.”

I leave the doors to grab the fur coat, and pull it over Milan’s head.

“What the gently caress are you doing, Morgan!?” Jean yells as Milan tries to squirm his way out.

“We have a hostage now!” I shout back. “Try to tie the sleeves.”

“Forgive me, Mr. Milan,” Jean says, attempting to follow my command.

Milan is stronger than he looks, forcing me around as I cling to the fur. I struggle to keep my footing, but it’s a losing battle. I lock my arms together as Milan forces his entire weight back, slamming my beaten spine against the wall. I make a noise. I think you could call it a whimper. He does it again. That time I make a yelp. He forces me around and slams us both through the closet doors. Jean rushes to see if we’re okay, only to get multiple pistols pointed to his head. I see the officers surrounding us. I see them help Milan out of his exceptionally soft bindings. And I see the tears rolling down Jean’s face.

“Mr. Milan,” he says, desperation in his voice. “Please. I’ve never had joy in my life. When I was a boy, I was kidnapped by pirates. I had to join them. I had to hurt people. Or else the pirates would kill me. And I was sent to a terrible place for it. And the only thing that gave me joy, the only light in that maddening darkness, was your music. Please. Don’t send me back.”

Milan pulls himself up, taking the coat with him. He reaches into the left pocket, pulling out a wad of American dollars. “The cop outside,” he says, “Is he breathing?”

“He needs a hospital,” one of the cops says, “but yes.”

“Good,” Milan replies. The police lower their weapons as Milan distributes the cash. “This never never happened.”

The police file out of the room. Jean slowly rises to his feet, extending a hand to me. Putting his other on my back as he helps me up. We sit on the edge of the bed as Milan turns to us and says “You said can get me coke?”

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


In with No. 50: Los Chinchillas.

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


Capricho No. 50: Los Chinchillas (The Chinchillas)

The World Goes Dark, and I Am Afraid
Word Count:
725

1811

The world goes dark, and I am afraid. Fear underscores the dry Mexican heat as sensation returns to me. The weight of my rifle a forgotten anchor as I attempt to stand. I regain my sight, though I see little. The streets of Saltillo drown in dust and black powder smoke as my fellow revolutionaries pass between clouds.

“What are you doing, Panadero?” one of them yells. “Stand up and fight!”

Viscera tears through his civilian clothing as Spanish Royalist bullets rip him apart. Pink mist lingers in the fog of battle.

“Hidalgo has been taken!” a Spaniard yells between rounds. “You have no one to lead you!”

I force my stagger into a pathetic run. My eyes blur. My head is light. The ringing of my ears drown out the screams and gunshots. Sweat pours down my face as my heart pounds its way through my chest. My rifle is missing, yet I know not for how long. The world goes dark again, but only for a second. I force myself to stay conscious, straining to keep my eyes open. The gunshots fade. The screams cease. I fear I have gone deaf until the dull echo of a woman’s voice passes from behind the clouds.

Turning to face its source, I find instead a lone Royalist solider. Unarmed. Unthreatening. Blank eyes locked on mine as my body tenses. Hope suggests he won’t know I’m a rebel. I wear no uniform, and now carry no gun. But his stares pierce the dense fog that swallows us, even as the battle quiets.

“Can you help me?” I ask, forcing myself to speak. “I need to find my way home.”

He says nothing. He makes no movement. Not even to blink.

“Do you understand me? I need to go home!”

Still nothing. The air chills. A few rain drop touch my skin. Lightly at first. Building momentum as my limbs cramp. Dizziness turns my stomach, shaking me from the ground below. I focus my last strength on holding my head up and my feet flat. The same woman’s voice passes through the air again. I ignore it.

“Are you a deserter? It’s alright. I won’t tell anyone. I won’t even remember I saw you. Just point me in the right direction, and I will walk away. You just need to point.”

Roars of thunder crack the silence as rain turns to storm. Harsh winds crashing waves of freezing moisture upon the two of us. The Royalist doesn’t flinch. Doesn’t even squint as the ice cold spray batters him where he stands. I clutch myself for warmth with rapidly numbing arms. I can barely stand, but I sacrifice my footing to approach the frozen Royalist.

“For the love of God! Please just tell me how to get home!”

“It’s for your own good, Señor Panadero,” the female voice says as ice water fills my lungs.

Two large men garbed in white pull my freezing body from an ice bath. A nun holds her hands together in solemnity, muttering a quiet prayer as I emerge out of the steel tub. I want to lash out, but my body simply can’t. A straight jacket keeps my arms in place, and my unbound legs dare not unclasp, in fear of losing the vaguest idea of warmth.

“You were out of control, Señor Panadero,” the nun tells me. “It was necessary to calm you.”

The men carry me down a brick hall of iron barred cells. The prisoners behind them either screaming or cowering in their own private hells. In one of these cages, I find a familiar face. His eyes still locked on mine. His expression still never changing. Though he wears no uniform and sits on the stone floor of this asylum, I recognize him as the Royalist.

“Help me get home,” instinct compels me to say, but I only produce a slurred mess. My tongue sits like a dead fish laying beneath numb lips. Chattering teeth butchering my vain attempts to enunciate.

The men unceremoniously drop me in my cell. My vision fades, the the walls blurring as the iron door clangs. What little moonlight the outside window allows in dims as I feel my brief lucidity passing from me. In the last aware moments before the illusions retake me, I pray these will be visions of peace.

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


Kaishai posted:

We then cleanse our palates and hopefully yours with a reading of CaligulaKangaroo's heartwarming story of drug dealers, "Jean and Milan."

No joke, this totally made my day. Even with all the cringing I did at my own typos.

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CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


Sitting Here posted:

ty for the crits kai

THIS

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