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Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
:siren: Thunderdome week CLXXVIII Critiques – I LIED :siren:

Real talk, I expected more. Because the prompt was easy. Someone makes a promise. It’s simple, and there’s so much poo poo you can do with that, so many themes to work with. Duty. Trust. Betrayal. Guilt. Tons of inherent material for conflict, but of course nobody could just write a nice story about a single promise, no, you had to write about someone else’s promise, or maybe there was a promise there but you didn’t tell me what it was, or it was there but it didn’t really matter next to all the other crap, or maybe you just wrote a thousand words of “tee hee hee aren’t I cute???” (no)

My co-judge for this week was Broenheim, and there wasn’t really much discussion. The week was bad, but not terrible. The worst entries were dull and stupid and the best entries were slightly above mediocre.

At least this was a light week so I’ll give a line crit to anyone who wants me to point out their terribleness in even more intricate detail.

klapman – The Night Winds
Bro and I discussed this story in the same way that I imagine a pair of deaf Fonzies haggle with each other, by twitching their shoulders and going, “ehhh?” a couple times. I actually put some effort into reading this and I’m fairly sure I get what’s going on some level, like I know there are either pirates or smugglers, and they use some illegal route or something, and for some reason they wave their flags at each other. But none of that is actually said. Instead you say, “they were people of the illegal sort, wandering the sea but not on their feet!! And they made a contract, the kind without pen and paper, that they should lower and then raise their flags in a most greeting manner whenever they passed in the passage that was not to be seen by the government’s eye.” It’s like this whole story exists so you can flex your prose muscles, and admittedly, there’s some nice bits and pieces here, but I have to wade through a fuckton of junk to get to them and even then that’s not what I came for. I came for a story about a promise. Tell me what the promise is. Tell me what the story is.

So through this fever dream of a prose experiment a bunch of stuff happens and somehow situations take a turn for the worse, not that I know why or how, but they do, and then I think the two pirate captains attack each other, but then they stand on deck and talk to each other and it’s such a bizarre scene, it’s like those parts in Assassin’s Creed where you slaughter everyone and then you have this paranormal chat with the big bad before you lay him down and say “Requiescat in pace”, which is the same thing I wanted to do to this story, just finally let it rest in piece, but it didn't, it went on and on and on

Now I don’t want to be unfair here. You had a story in mind, I can see that. And I think it would have been pretty loving baller. That’s what’s so frustrating about this piece. You have a proper voice and nice images and you have a good idea for a plot but you are so obtuse and unclear because you try to be fancy and then you end up burying the meat of your story in garnish. It’s such a waste. I mean I’m sure I could decipher this entire thing if I really had a mind to comb through it, but nobody wants to comb through other people’s stories, and certainly not when they still have a whole bunch of them to read.

There’s not much to say other than this was a mess. A line crit might do you better. I’m offering some this week, so speak up if you want one.

unwantedplatypus – Lasting Peace
This was pretty decent, except you lost track of your story halfway through. The beginning was strong, you’ve got this cool internal conflict of a woman who deals with losing her husband to war, and there’s all these cool themes of her coming to grip with reality and what kind of naive person she used to be. But then nothing else happens.

Instead you go off on a long rant about war and the people that suffer from it, and then she goes back to how much she misses Pierre, and yadda yadda more backstory, and I’m like, bro, I got it, war is bad, okay. And then you’re finally done with that tangent and you loop back into your protag’s depression, and then it just… solves itself. She sits down and starts writing, and then she realizes that the words she wrote actually make sense, so she writes more and just like that her feeling of guilt evaporates just like any hope I had that we might still get to see how she genuinely deals with her internal struggle instead of having it fizzle out into a thin cloud of self-granted redemption.

You could have started earlier in the character’s transition, and shown us her transformation from a patriot to a disgruntled realist. You could have shown me how she gets over Pierre by using actual concrete events that illustrate a major internal change. Instead you wrote a character who aggressively explains her motivations at me, and then she has an epiphany because. There’s some decent writing in this and the setup is okay but everything after that is a letdown and that’s sadly all I can really say in this crit because this is the number one issue that absolutely weighs everything else down. Your prose is fine. Your characters are fine. I even like this whole idea of finding a path to catharsis, of finding a way to let yourself let go. But the plot, the device that drives the action and keeps the momentum moving forward, is entirely absent, and that's kind of a big deal.

Wangless Wonder – The Ballad of Einar
Holy gently caress it’s like two different people wrote this simultaneously, and then through a series of small aggressions where they reached into each other’s territory to make minor adjustments they escalated into in some kind of total editing war right until the last second so then this jumbled mess got posted. There’s a neat concept for a comedy story here, and I like that your promise actually drives the conflict, but the prose and the voice and the feel of the story are all over the place.

Like, comedy pieces can still be serious. They can also be light-hearted and silly. This clearly starts out as whimsical slapstick, but then you tack some message on to the end, some somber note of Einar’s deeply-hidden inferiority complex and it just comes out of nowhere. It’s just so sad and serious compared to the juvenile tone from before that it feels like it doesn’t belong.

In the same vein the humor is sometimes cool (Too fat for the window. Too fat for the wardrobe. Too many whores under the bed.) and sometimes the prose just falls apart like a set of mikado sticks, dragging the joke that was built up on it along with it (Einar said, recalling his Hallucinogen Testing and Human Flight Engineering special force. <-- wat?).

Some jokes are also just not funny because of the delivery: Einar picked up Brynjar, Ax That Split Mountains and Slayed Dragons, mighty relic of his forefathers, and removed half a lemon from its rusting edge before hefting it above his head and and aiming it towards the doorway, arm shaking under the weight. You want to contrast the overblown introduction of the ancient war axe with a crisp comment about its improper use: Einar picked up Brynjar, Ax That Split Mountains and Slayed Dragons, mighty relic of his forefathers, and removed the lemon from its edge. But even then, I wonder, why a lemon? There’s probably something funnier that can be on the axe but I don’t want to put more effort into this joke than you did.

I like that you have a conflict here. The coward warlord dodging his draft is one of the stories I half expected, and I’m glad I got it and I even think this had some fun ideas. But it needs more work. Even juvenile comedy needs effort. As it is, it just reads rushed, like you came up with all this as you were writing it and then you didn’t bother to go back and do another editing pass, so now all the blemishes are still there and nothing that you’ve tacked on at the end has any mention in the beginning and you didn’t bother fixing the bad jokes either (there’s still a lot of those :ssh: ).

Also please don’t name your main characters Einar and Erik. Rule of thumb, every major character’s name should start with a different letter, and they should generally be distinguishable on a quick read-through.

All in all this was mildly amusing but that’s it.

Ironic Twist – Fallaway
So the number one question I had right from the beginning was, why are they here, like, I get that Mia is looking for her sister, but why at this specific well, what nightmares did she have, why did she think that she’d find her sister at the bottom of a goddamn well two states over? You tease me with some arcane reason for their being here, but it’s never mentioned again and then it doesn’t make much sense without the explanation, so it might have been better to just slap your balls on the table and say, well, here’s the well and they’re loving going down there and that’s that. Or you could have just explained it a bit more. That would have been even better because it would have been a good opportunity to foreshadow the monster.

There used to be a time where you wrote a lot of stories like this, where some vaguely paranormal thing just happened, and admittedly, those were much darker days full of shady characters with dubious intentions. I mean obviously this had enough redeeming bits to still get HM’d, but most of that comes down to your strong prose and your likeable characters, and the fact that all the attention to detail that you put into the sibling relationship gets me interested enough to want to see the end. But I still feel cock-blocked because once you get me proper invested a monster appears out of nowhere and snatches the story away from right under my nose and drags it back into the forest screaming and thrashing and all I can do is watch and cry and mourn all the fun times we could have had together, if only things had turned out different.

It’s creepy enough for a monster but it’s a complete shift in the story that leaves the actual plot hanging, so then I get this feeling that really all this time you just wanted to write about a magical well that perpetually lures people in and then eats them and the rest is just pretext. And it’s a cool idea, don’t get me wrong. It just comes out of nowhere, and then I’m left wondering why you spend all this time giving us the background info on Mia and her sister. The two facets of the story don’t mesh very well, and I don’t feel like you put a lot of effort into blending them together.

Also you screw up your tenses in the flashback sections :cmon:

Thranguy – Seventeen And a Half Broken Promises
Somehow I always end up judging weeks where you’re trying weird gimmicks. That said, I thought this one was… kinda cool? Wait! Wait wait wait. Addendum: it was kinda cool, in theory. It had a lot of potential for enabling a character study that still had a sense of momentum and plot progression as we spiral deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole that is the protagonist’s ever shifting goalpost of what constitutes a justified broken promise.

But then for some reason you decide to slap a magical mob story on top of it and - presto - the whole thing collapses under the weight of your combined ideas. Sometimes you fuse two neat elements and they make something that is more than the sum of their parts. Sometimes they actively detract from each other, because they don’t fit, like gluing a pair of springy eyes on top of a spooky scarecrow.

I really like the idea of telling a personal story arc by going through all of a character’s broken promises, and the ending is sweet and gives me some closure, but the magic thing just doesn’t fit. It’s a nice idea for a setting, but you have a very specific and concise format, where each major point in the timeline gets exactly one paragraph. That’s not a lot of breathing room, so when you force your urban fantasy setting in there along with your character portrait they both just suffocate, a sad and lonely death. So then we end up with a nice portrait that doesn’t get the space it needs to touch my delicate heartstrings, and an urban fantasy setting that’s too generic to justify the space it takes up. It reads like something stuck between a wistful nostalgia piece about a notorious liar's regrets and Bizarro Harry Dresden fanfic.

Grizzled Patriarch – Scar Tissue
This was the best story. It was good. That said, in a better week, it might not have won, because there are still a bunch of things dragging it down. Granted, you avoided a lot of problems I used to have with your writing. Because I understand what’s going on. Because it has an ending. Because the protagonists are relatable and understandable. It’s a story I can follow, and it’s interesting enough for me to do so.

Your biggest problem, though, is your lack of focus. It’s a good portrait, the way you describe the family is fine, the way they act and speak, it all checks out. But I’m still kinda scratching my head as I go through this, wondering what the story is about. Because at first it’s about welcoming the black sheep back home into your family, but I’m not yet sure what the conflict is. Then it turns out they’re unable to handle him, and he immediately relapses (which is a bit on the nose). Then it’s about child abuse? Life sometimes moves in the same kind of frantic paces, but we’re not writing real life, we’re writing stories, and flash fiction, in my opinion, should be neater than this. There needs to be focus. I need to know what to get invested in, what to hope for or what to expect. Because when you start the story with Kit’s alcohol problems and all the effort his mom is going through to keep him sober, I hope that he gets clean, and then the issue is dropped halfway through. Ironically, the fact that this is such a real piece is also what’s keeping me interested. But then it’s a family drama that just kinda happens. The beginning to a bigger piece, or maybe the best E/N post you’ll ever read.

I mean don’t get me wrong, it is real strong. It’s got all these super sad notes, where the mothers tries her best to help her son and just wants to have a nice, peaceful family, and where the protag doesn’t really know how to deal with the situation because he’s such a goof and all that. It’s bitter, and it’s effective at that, but I didn't get a lot of closure from this story because there is not much of one single focused arc to follow.

The ending is there, but it’s as open as they come: the protagonist realizes the problematic relationship between Kit and Jackie and takes her away. It won’t solve anything, but it closes the scene for the moment, and what comes next is part of a different story. You still had like 500 words so I’m not sure if I wouldn’t have liked for you to deal more with the aftermath, but it was serviceable, and it still worked as some kind story about a hosed up family reunion.

So this is a bit muddy, and it piggybacked off a mediocre week, but don’t let that detract from your victory. It’s still a strong portrait with some really effective moments. Good prose prevails once more, I GUESS

Killer-of-Lawyers – One Last Play
This is pretty much the ur-story, and what I mean by that is, well did you notice how ever once in a while a newbie marches into this thread and fails so spectacularly at trying to be fancy that we’re forced to knock the crayons out of their wobbly baby hands and tell them to learn how to write a straight loving story first? This is that straight story. So if you had troubles with that in the past, congratulations. As far as the technical workings go, this is complete. It has a beginning, middle and end, the characters have motivations, the action is rising and all scenes and plot points logically feed into each other. It’s a solid foundation, the first stepping stone on the stairway to writer olymp.

The reason this still didn’t come close to an HM is that a stepping stone as such is relative dull and forgettable. Because this starts out as a story about a guy secretly playing football and I’m wondering, how are you going to make that interesting? The answer is, you don’t, it just stays that same story and then it ends. Like, it’s solid, but it’s also so goddamn non-consequential.

So now that you’ve got the foundation in place, think about what makes a story interesting. Think of a cool twist, or up the stakes, or give me some heart. Give me a reason to get invested. I want to be at the edge of my seat. I mean I guess I like your wife character for not flipping her poo poo when she finds out what her husband did, it’s kinda cute, but it doesn’t make for a terribly intense reading experience. There’s so many things you could have done: give him a real injury; use his lie as the first misstep in a crumbling, distrustful relationship; show how she tries to organize a football match as a birthday surprise for him and then she finds out he’s secretely been playing all this time and it’s super heartbreaking; ect.

As it is it’s the kind of placid comedy strip you usually see in a newspaper comic. Might be worth a chuckle but eventually it goes in the trash, and that’s where it belongs and you know it.

Sitting Here – High Maintenance
I read this story and it seemed like something a person working in a hotel would write when they spent too much time playing videogames instead of working on their TD entry, so I genuinely crossed my fingers before turning off judgemode hoping I didn’t have to hit you with a DM, but this is the real life where wishes don’t come true for us normal folk. But then you say this wasn’t a rushed entry, and I believe you, so now I kinda want to see the outline you did for this, since I think you’re usually more the discovery writer, so maybe your outline was not serviceable, or you’ve asked the wrong questions, or overlooked some structural flaws.

Right, why did I hate this story so much that I almost considered it for the loss? Many reasons. Let’s take it from the top: the beginning is a mess. You reference two different rooms, one by number, and one by naming it “The Suite”, even though the suite also has a number as we later find out. I don’t go through these stories with a magnifying lens, and I don’t stay in hotels often enough to know if there’s always just “The Suite” and it’s like one of those hotel tropes where it’s always one special room or sth, so then I lose track of which room is which, especially when you also mention a fake emergency maintenance situation in the room, and then tell me that the suite actually did have a maintenance situation, but wait, the suite is not the room, you’re just bringing that up for yet totally unrelated reasons.

We have two characters who are in some kind of conflict but it’s a really boring one because you basically describe a help desk scenario. There’s no personal investment here, and the conflict is resolved by giving Mr Schipper another room and that’s it. Then we get to the staffer that hosed up the order, and I think, okay, maybe now we’re getting somewhere, because Linnea is genuinely pissed at this guy. But nope. I don’t even know why that part exists. It has nothing to do with the story, and this is flash fic, so it really shouldn’t be there. Then we segue into an off-hand comment where you’re like, the room we just gave to Mr Schipper might not be ok. RUH-ROH!! And then she’s like, I’m sure it’ll be fine, which is not just super professional, it’s also an obvious way of telling me that five lines from now it very much will not be fine, so why not just go there right away?

The dialogue is pretty bad. This is something Bro might cover because he explicitly mentioned it when we talked about this story, but I noticed it too. From the point where Mr Schipper complains about Linnea’s style of management deteriorating the place as if he was a permanent resident there, to the part where he has a deeply emotional breakdown over his dead wife and Linnea grins at him as if they were two teenagers about to sneak into the local theater’s late night screening.

Basically half my notes go “What’s the story?” and the other half go “Wait what???” I appreciate that you tried to tell the heart-wrenching tale of an old man trying to take his dead wife on one last trip, but you either need to start with that or you need to keep me interested until you get to the reveal. At the very least the conflict between Linnea and Mr Schipper should not have been suspended in the middle.

That said the finale is touching, yeah, and the image of this guy sitting there and going “this is actually appropriate because this is what I feel like” is probably something I’ll remember for a while, just everything leading up to it is such chaff. Come to think of it I would have probably liked this story more if you would have tossed the entire first part. It might not even have DM’d. It would have still been goofy, but this was a goof week so

kurona_bright – Moving On and Up
This is the kind of thing that happens when you can’t effectively gauge word count limits. Because you came up with so much stuff for this, this huge fantasy setting, and the city and its history and the war and the city’s belief system and the protagonist, who is a god in that belief system, and his family and their history where there was some kind of taint that dragged some gods to the bad side, and in the end you’ve got so much stuff in this story that you can’t do much more than mention it all in some arbitrary order and hope I’ll be fine with it. I’m not fine with it. I wanted a story, not a worldbuilding entry.

So what was your story here? People are at the base of a tower. One of them (somehow) discovers that the other is a god who actually owns the tower, except he doesn’t really because it’s actually his god-sister’s, who’s dead, but now the first person is pissed at the god-person because she has to deactivate all the traps, because they have to get up that tower because there’s a power source for a force shield that whoa, whoa whoa my head is spinning i need to sit down.

Do you see what tripped you over? Too much. Way too much. For each major plot point you add you lose some options and then you have a ton of information and all of it is equally relevant so you will inevitably end up writing a story that is about finding out what the story is. Because there’s just no other way to physically fit all the words in there before it’s over.

I find it hard to say much else about the story because the massive world-building elements press all the imagery and voice and characterization out of it to a point where I can’t do much else than point at it and say, yup, that’s a skeleton alright. I guess the thing where Oari comes to grips with his sister’s passing and the fact that he can’t forever compare himself to her is kind of a neat idea, and that’s what you should have focused on, and then you wouldn’t even have needed half the crap you had in the story. His sister? Gone. Why? Doesn’t matter, gods disappear. The tower? gently caress the tower. He unlocks his godly powers to activate the city’s force shield. The human charade? Drop it. Done. A story about a smaller god trying to work his way around the destined pecking order and step up for his people. How exactly? That’s your story to tell. All I’m saying is, drop the ballast.

Also you called the sister Frente and the city Riente, which is seriously confusing and makes an already messy story even harder to understand.


Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
also i'm brawling sh

she knows what she did

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward


Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

"New dwarves take impact damage on arrival. One died."

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
Bedrock Bottom
1198 words

Dwarven burials were a grim affair, especially on penal outpost El’Ghora, where there were no wives and mothers to soften the air with their sobbing, and even more so when they buried Orik, son of Grimbart, for the lad had not deserved to die. Poor boy had never done anything to anyone. But the king had his reasons and vendettas, and the makeshift elevator to their penal colony, poorly maintained as it was, had been long overdue to take a life. Finally, the king’s neglect had claimed its first victim.

So when Grimbart, father of Orik, stepped up to his son’s tombstone, and it was his turn to etch the royal insignia into the marble, and Lobi, king’s adjutant, gave him the tools, it came to Grimbart clear as quartz to knock them out the drat lickspittle’s hands and say: “To hell with it!”

The collective gasps of an outpost full of dwarves shattered the bedrock.

“How dare you,” Lobi said. “It is a sacred tradition.” He reached for the tools, but Grimbart kicked them away. He would not let his son’s grave be defiled.

“To hell with tradition!” he said. It was a sacrilege, but there it was, and honestly, it was high time someone had said something. “The king is treating us according to tradition. According to tradition,” he pointed at his son’s grave, “this is right and just. ‘Tis not!”

He turned to the audience, and there were some who murmured approval into their beards as he motioned at them, and the cavernous outpost that contained them. “All this is right, according to tradition. A life in misery, away from our loved ones. Treated like dirt, murdered, for dissent. Is that just? To hell with it! My poor boy, nary ever laid a finger on none. Dead! I look in yer faces and yer angry and ye’ve got every right to be. ‘Tis not right for the king to treat us so.”

Before his fall from grace, Grimbart had been a royal magistrate. He was still respected amongst his peers. There were nods, and a general sentiment of agreement, which was about as riled-up as dwarves would ever get from a simple speech. Men in the back struggled to get to the front, to better hear Grimbart out, and men in front stood, arms crossed, no matter how much Lobi flailed and ordered for the dissenter to be taken away.

“Piss on the king,” Grimbart said. “He thinks we’ll be digging down towards the Golden Core. Oh and dig we will. But we’ll dig up. We’ll go home, and we’ll give the king a healthy serving of Dwarven justice!”

And as he was finished, and Lobi, royal lickspittle, stood there, defeated and mouth agape, one by one the other dwarves stepped up to Grimbart. Each one gave him an item of theirs, a hammer or an axe or a pick, for Grimbart to return it back to them.

And so, Grimbart became king of El’Ghora.


Digging up through the bedrock was even more dangerous than digging down, because you never knew what might come crushing down on you. Vanguards changed regularly, so that every dwarf share an equal risk at the spearhead.

Naturally there was some open dissent. Grimbart was aware of that. Lobi, for example, he was better off the way things were. And who knew what secret friends he had. But Grimbart would not play their game. They were regular citizens. He would do them no harm if they gave him no reason.

That reason came in form of a message, a letter, crumpled up inside a smashed open rock, which was in turn held together by a thick linen coat. It had come tumbling down the elevator shaft that had once brought them new arrivals.

“Elevator repairs underway. King Nirgen wishes to inspect El’Ghora. Will visit once repairs complete.”

There was little doubt in Grimbart’s mind as to why the king had decided to come exactly now. Someone had told him, somehow, what was going on here. And there were not many people who had reason to return to the old system. Only Lobi. There were rumors he’d been seen inspecting the site of the elevator accident anyway. Looking for a way to send a message, probably.

But Grimbart was kind, and just. He did not execute Lobi for his obvious treason. Instead, he gave the old adjutant a chance at redemption: permanent, solitary mine shaft vanguard. It was a fit punishment for one so eager to return to his king. It would also spare Grimbart’s loyal subjects. Those he couldn’t afford to lose.


It was not long before Lobi’s assignment paid off. An underground river, he’d discovered. The hard way. The kind of way that squashes your body inbetween the mine shaft’s perimeter dam and a massive body of water. The better news was, he was the only casualty.

Still, some blamed King Grimbart for this so-called “disaster”.

But had Lobi’s punishment not been appropriate? Had his subjects not been aware of the risks of digging upwards? Had his safety measures not saved many lives?

If they mourned for royal bootlicker, they could take his place.

And so he decreed.


King Grimbart had not wanted to slay Euri, son of Bort. But the dwarf, stubborn fool, had refused his place at the vanguard. Had said, “If ye want to kill me, just get it over with.”

What else could he have done? There had to be order. If one dwarf could refuse duty at the vanguard, all of them could, and then they’d never go home.

Now the streets of El’Ghora were ripe with talk of another revolution. Not out in the open, but it was there, like a diamond stalactite just out of reach. You can see it, but you can’t quite touch it. Lobi’s shadow circle. Euri’s relatives. Grimbart had made enemies. They didn’t see the bigger picture, and people who’d turned against their king once could do so again.

He kept his axe sharp. He had to find out who his true friends were.


It ended with the day’s second vanguard shift. From what little Grimbart knew, there had been no words. The men had just picked up their tools and used them on the overseers instead of the bedrock.

El’Ghora was small, and the fighting had spread quickly. Old scores were settled. New ones were made, and then also settled, until nobody was sure who they were supposed to fight anymore, and then everyone was just fighting, not for anything in particular but because you didn’t know when it was safe to stop, and then the ground was slick and red and there was no more sound except for Grimbart’s breath and the crackle of the torches and the pounding of the open wound in his side.

Another rock fell down the elevator shaft.

“Elevator repairs complete. King Nirgen will inspect shortly.”

The others were all dead. Bloodies tools and weapons lay scattered across the outpost. Hammer and chisel in hand, Grimbart hobbled to his son’s tombstone and carved his insignia into the marble.

Then he went to the dam, and prepared it for the king’s arrival.

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

Sitting Here posted:

BTW I will be assigning exclusively Bowie songs, hit me up for a flashrule if you want to get your Bowie on


Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
The Monster at the End of Infinity
1493 words

Simte woke up in a field of daisies, and the soft grass comforted him for about as long as it took him to realize that this wasn’t the spartanic acolyte’s room he’d gone to sleep in, that the blue sky had nothing to do with the temple’s blackstone ceiling and that the sun he stared into had actually long disappeared from the skies of Orren.

Two figures bowed over him, their faces silhouettes against the sun.

“Hello, friend,” one of them said. They pulled Simte up.

He was inside a tiny garden, surrounded by cobblestone walls, three unlabeled exits leading down further stone-walled paths. The two people who’d helped him up were a man and a woman, judging from their flamboyant suit and dress, respectively. Both wore masks. The man a pig’s, the woman a rabbit’s.

“What’s going on here?” Simte said. “Where am I?”

“Why, dear,” the rabbit said, “you are at the party.”

“The party never stops,” the pig agreed.

“How did I get here?” Simte asked, but the pig had already taken the rabbit by the hand and led her away in elegant steps, half hopping and half walking, and together they unravelled into a waltz that led them out the garden.

“You want to speak to the Timid Man,” the rabbit called over her shoulder, before they disappeared down one of the hallways.

Simte followed them through the exit, but they were gone, the seemingly endless path before him void of anything but cobblestone and gravel.

With no idea where to go, he went straight ahead.

The hallway seemed to go on forever. His mind wandered. He had a family back home. A little sister that depended on him.

They only had each other.

The cobblestone hallway led to a fork, where he took a right and ended up at a pond full of rocks. A small girl in dirty rags squatted on one rock the middle, stirring the water with a rod. The stone islands were rugged and slippery, so Simte took great care as he hopped from one to the other until he was next to the girl.

“Hi,” he said.

She ignored him. She made circles in the water, with a single-minded determination as if each new ring she drew was another universe whose life or death depended on her alone.

On closer inspection, she reminded him a lot of his sister.

“Can you tell me where I am?” Simte said.

“You’re at the pond.” She said it as if he’d been an idiot to ask.

“Okay, but this whole place.”

“The maze?”

“Is it?”

“Nobody knows for sure. Maybe the Timid Man.” She stabbed into the water now, paused, as if something interesting had glimpsed up at her from the bottom.

“Do you know where I can find that man?”

“No. Maybe. Over there?” She didn’t point in any particular direction, still staring into the water, crouching closer to the edge like a cat about to pounce.

Then she jumped.

She’d already been beneath the surface for a few good seconds before Simte realized what was happening.

He jumped after her.

The water was cold and dark as the Orrenian winter. This was not the kind of pond to hold fish, or any life really. It was the kind of pond that swallowed your secrets and never gave them back. The kind of pond that sucked the air out of your lungs to punish you for being so insolent as to swim in it.

He broke back through the surface. Gasped for air. Down again. And again.

The girl was gone.


Robe dripping wet, and thinking of nothing but where to find the Timid Man, Simte trudged back along the path that had led him to the pond, but this time it didn’t fork, and it didn’t go on nearly as long. It stopped right before a wooden door, and when Simte pushed it open, he found himself inside a cramped study, a dimly lit place full of dusty books, a haggard man sitting at the desk in the middle. The man put his feather back into its holder and folded his hands, looking at Simte expectantly.

“Are you… are you the Timid Man?” Simte said.

“No,” the man said. “That’s just what they call me. I’m sure you have a lot of questions.”

“I found a girl. I think she drowned.”

The Timid Man put his glasses on the table and smiled. “People don’t die here. They do what they want. It’s how the maze works, actually. It’s why there’s so many dancers. Their minds are all over, so they get to see many nice places.”

“And if you want to get out?”

“You have to really want it. Though it may not turn out to be what you expect.”

There were still many questions, but at first Simte wasn’t sure which one to start with, and then he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answers anyway. Really, he just wanted out.

“I can come along if you like,” the Timid Man said.


The path had been a short one again. Having focused entirely on finding a way out of the maze, Simte and the Timid Man had run into an intricately ornated marble door.

He gave the Timid Man an unsure look, but the scholar nodded, not in any way that made him seem determined, but more like he was saying, Might just as well. They pushed it open.

It opened up into a grand marble hall, pillars inlaid with golden threads, torches bathing the expansive room in a bright flicker. There was a shallow pool in the middle, and inside that pool stood Simte, or rather a copy of himself, in the robe of an accomplished adept. And next to him, his sister Alya, in dirty rags.

He didn’t remember that. He didn’t remember ever having been an adept either.

But it definitely was an actual room inside the temple of G’mohr, and the scene definitely resonated with something within him. Like he’d forgotten it, wiped it off his memory, but the past was still somewhere deep in his marrow, and now it tried to break out.

Something would go wrong. It came to him like a sixth sense reading, a danger he couldn’t really put his finger on, but it was there.

“Stop,” Simte said, but his other self didn’t hear, or didn’t care. The other Simte led Alya in a circle around him, and she dragged her own hand through the water next to her, creating an additional, outer circle that rippled through the inner one, representing the many infinites of G’mohr.

They were conducted a baptizing ritual. The cult of G’mohr did this for every child coming of age. Simte had always wanted to introduce Alya to the ways of the Infinite One.

And then he knew what would go wrong.

The rebirth to infinity.

Simte ran, but the pool seemed far away, and the ritual was almost done. Now the other Simte grabbed his sister by the back of her head, and slowly lead her down to the water.

It was a test of faith. You let the water fill your lungs, and if you could be brought back from death, you were worthy.


“Stop,” Simte yelled.

Water pulled at the seam of his robe. He waded through the shallow pool as if he was trying to dash through a swamp.

And then Alya’s head was underwater.

But she didn’t hold her breath for a few seconds, and she didn’t start making bubbles, and she didn’t finally struggle until the water went into her. Instead, she fell through the surface, disappeared, just as Simte slammed into his other self and they fell through the pool as well, clawing and yelling and pulling at each other, dragging each other down into the darkness, the dark water, void of life or warmth, until that void was all that was.


“That was quite the show,” the Timid Man said.

Simte jerked his eyes open. Daisies again. Somewhere in the back of the garden, two men in rat masks danced from one entrance to the other.

“I understand why they’d rather just dance now,” Simte said. The Timid Man helped him up, and, without a word, turned him around.

The exit wasn’t so much a door as much as it was a pulsating white light in the shape of an archway. Many voices seemed to whisper from its direction, beckoning him to come closer and see what’s on the other side.

“Do you have any idea what’s through there?” Simte said.

“Whatever you deserve, probably.” The Timid Man shrugged. “I haven’t tried it.”


“Because mine was even worse.”

They stood there, neither knowing much what else to say. Maybe because there wasn’t anything left.

Simte took the Timid Man by the shoulder and sincerely thanked him for the help.

Then he went through the door, into the light.

Nov 15, 2012

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I'm in

Nov 15, 2012

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also i'm giving everyone in my team an unlimited amount of precrits for any of their outlines, ideas, drafts or "finalized "stories""


Nov 15, 2012

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:siren: ATTENTION TEAM OCK :siren:

I look into your faces and I see that you are scared, and you have every right to be. Because you are terrible. But I believe. I believe that, by working together, we can overcome the unsurmountable odds of facing the team that has the one good writer in it (no, not crabrock). I believe that, by pulling your heads out of your asses and actually giving a poo poo sooner than sunday evening, you can maybe, MAYBE be mediocre enough to win through sheer neglect on the enemy's side.

Our locker room channel is #crabrocksAtrociousWriting

Use this channel to discuss ideas and collaborations, ask for advice, show off your stories and otherwise not be dead weight. Remember, we're all in this together. If you lose your duel and I find out that you never ever talked about your story, got feedback, or participated in any way I will probably be very mad and/or brawl you.



mermen drools ock rules

Entenzahn fucked around with this message at 02:00 on Jan 20, 2016

Nov 15, 2012

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Mercedes posted:

Problems etc - Entertaining, kinda. A few jokes and funny situations kept me gritting my teeth to force myself into reading, but goddammit, there is absolutely no sense that I got your two bros were once inseparable bros. At most, they're just rivals. Bros don't knock each other down, they build each other up. Also ease up on the fantasy trope cliches, jackass. I have a feeling Shnieder Heim wrote this one.

i wrote the best comedy story

considering this a moral victory

Nov 15, 2012

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There are some naughty OCKians who I still haven't seen all week and normally I couldn't be arsed to care about what terrible life choices they make but I think they are the kind of people who would really benefit from UNLIMITED FREE FEEDBACK this week.

A lot of us are already in the channel and it's one hell of a party so GET IN and DON'T FAIL (please)

Entenzahn fucked around with this message at 02:43 on Jan 23, 2016

Nov 15, 2012

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Broenheim posted:

Word Bounty for Everyone Involved

my other ref is too nice. all this stuff about fans and friendship and bullshit. gently caress that poo poo, this is sports, were loving fighting each other 'cause there's only one person on the time that matters and that's you. everyone is loving morons who cant hit a ball. so then, i want you to write about why you think youre the best, why youre going to win this entire thing, and why everyone else youre playing against is poo poo and why the rest of your team should thank you for providing even a little bit of quality (up to 300 words). when you submit you must also do something else. you may either claim the words, or you may say that you want to delete some of your opponent's words. if you want the words put i want the words at the top and if you want to take the words put take my opponent's words at the top. then when im finished judging these ill tell you how many words you get (up to 100) or how many words youre opponents have lost (up to -100 words). this is going until midnight PST today, so get them in quick.

i want the words

because lol if you think I care about the word count of a guy who's notorious for slapping a bunch of pretty words from his thesaurus together and going "eh gently caress it, good enough" 400 words into his worldbuilding exercise. Seriously, the only thing that's worse than waiting for GP to write a story with an ending is waiting for him to post a goddamn prompt. And here I thought old people were supposed to get up early.

Anyway. I'm taking the words, not because I want to write more, gently caress no, I've already churned out so many precrits my keyboard is begging me to END IT ALREADY (its death will be in vain. we all know what we do with feedback in the 'dome :ironicat: ). I'm doing it because the judges deserve better. They deserve better words. They deserve 100 of them. And who will deliver them, if not me. You? Ha. Ha. Don't be ridiculous. I've read your draft. Unless you're on team mermen. They don't draft. They don't even have a coach, though I hear sh makes a fine babysitter when she's not busy aggressively procrastinating.

I understand why she does it. If I'd have to watch 1000+ words of sh-prose dance across the screen, every single week of my life... well, I'm just saying.

Nov 15, 2012

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1069 words
-130 words to SadisTech

I’m the headline act. Three months of recovery and I can barely walk without crutches, but I can sit, and I can push the gas pedal down, and my agent wants me to get back in the saddle before the fad is gone, and I want to get back in the saddle before I’m out for good.

Three months is a lot of time in the monster truck derby business.

The stadium is full. Of course it is. I’m a hot loving internet meme. Been ever since that late night host showed a photoshop of me chasing Freddy Krueger down Elm Street. “The Monster Trucker”. That was the joke. I drive a monster truck, and I look like a monster now. Some argued that making fun of a burn victim was a bit tasteless, and then half of Twitter fought over my dignity.

But it was an opportunity. They’d dropped me after the accident, and now they wanted me back. I got my own TV commercials. “Unleash the monster.” Good stuff. Scary, but good.

The announcer’s voice blares through the arena like the word of God filtered through a subway speaker. I can faintly make out the word “Monster.” It’s the first time I ever hear the crowd cheer even before the arena horn blows. My children are watching too, somewhere. Watching daddy drive the truck. I give them a show. I floor the gas pedal, let my engine roar like an approaching thunderstorm, and flick one of the switches on my pyrotechnics board. Flames shoot out the side of my car. The scars on my face tingle at the sight, and my face is all scars. But I’m not afraid.

The crash almost took everything from me. Today, I’m taking it back.

The arena horn blows. My wheels kick up a metric fuckton of dirt and I drive straight into the dust, into the storm. I already know what’s at the other end: a carambolage. It’s a sacred tradition, and it separates the wheat from the chaff. If your car sucks, if you suck, this is where your derby ends.

But my truck is massive, and I know how to drive this thing: straight-ahead. Because the front is more solid than anything else. Newbloods swerve and brake and that’s when you scoop them up and toss them aside like wet paper towels.

The carambolage claims its victims, engines stuttering out pathetically, throwing up smokescreens and belching fire, drivers thrashing around behind their windshields, the word “gently caress” clearly written on their lips. I know some of those guys. One of them made fun about me on facebook. I put the truck in reverse, drive halfway around him and slam my grill into the side of his silly green-camo lightweight. The look on his face as I topple his little toy truck is priceless.

I lose myself in the derby, this orgy of metallic noise and sparks, this clash of steel titans, obliterating one another, squashing each other like beer cans on an Alabama summer day. My hands all but melt into the wheel. I’m back in my element, a shark in the ocean, dashing through the smoke and the fumes and the fire, that battlefield of a stadium, always attacking, retreating, going in for the kill, regrouping, attacking again. The noise of the derby drowns in cheer. It’s a good show.

Eventually I’m the only one still going.

Maybe it’s the rush, the adrenaline, the finally being back on the stage. The knowledge that, if I’d have hosed up today, my comeback would have been over before it had started. Maybe it was rigged. I don’t know. I was good. I won. That’s all that matters.

I’m taking my victory round. I make a point out of crashing into every defeated enemy on my way. I flick another switch, and a distorted dinosaur roar blares from my speakers while flames shoot out of the roof of my truck. I bathe in chants.

Mary and the kids are by the pit. Out of the car, through the fence. I hobble towards them with open arms, the smile of a winner under my helmet. But Mary’s face is a rock, and she stands there like one too. The kids are running towards me. Then I move my hands up to my helmet, and they stop, and so do I.

We just stand there.

They shy away from me.

Because it doesn’t matter. Because my horrid face is still there, underneath the helmet, and all their memories are just that, memories of a friendlier face, a face that’s gone now, replaced by a halloween mask, the kind of horror they usually think is hiding in their closet at night.

The things third-degree burns do to a family.

“They saw your commercials,” Mary says. I don’t ask which. The kids are back to hiding behind her skirt, just like they’d done ever since they first saw me at the hospital. “So are you done now? Your one last time?”

“I… don’t know. I just won. I have to give them a rematch.” I think it’s a reasonable offer. The rematch is basically still part of the first match, and besides, I just proved that I’m safe in this truck. I can handle it.

But she disagrees, and it’s obvious long before she starts speaking, the way her face drops, the way she has to take a deep breath to stop her lips from quivering. “It’s always the same with you,” she says. “Your goddamn trucks. Nearly killed you and the first thing you do is, you come back here and do it all over again. I can’t take this anymore.”

She turns around before I can say anything else, kids hurrying behind her like a line of baby ducks, and I call after her, ask her to stop, stop and talk things out, but she doesn’t, and we don’t, and then I’m alone in the pit, just me and the crowd. So I get back in the truck, and the engine is still running but there’s nowhere for me to go and nowhere else I’d really wanna be, and I don’t wanna be here either but at least the engine and the crowd and the thundering applause drown out the two voices in my head, the monster and the father, and the monster roaring and the father crying his ugly little eyes out.

Nov 15, 2012

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Nov 15, 2012

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Broenheim posted:

oh hey that's cool i guess, good thing u guys are putting a lot work in as judges trying to help everyone out its just uhhhh



but it's alright, youre just following the time honored tradition of being lazy poo poo judges

i guess the judges had new year resolutions to be loving garbage. great work so far guys.

that reminds me, SaddestRhino still owes me his noir week crits from a year ago

where are the loving crits rhino


Nov 15, 2012

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docbeard posted:

So did anyone want any crits or what

Can you be a peach and crit my dwarven epic? Thanks.

Nov 15, 2012

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ill be judge #3 but only if i get to be judge #2 and flerp is judge #3 instead

Nov 15, 2012

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Djeser posted:

I won a week with this:

Thunderdome Cabal is alive and real and must be stopped.

tbf that's a non-representative example because the good lines are all exclusively in the second half of that story.

Nov 15, 2012

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Nov 15, 2012

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468 words

Never get between a fat manchild and the last set of Star Wars lego. You learned that the hard way today.

Okay. It’s not like you had much of a choice. Christmas is around the corner and your son knows what he wants. Even worse, so does your wife, and she will roast your balls on the fireplace if you gently caress that one up. Possibly even put them up on display above it. Show them to all your friends when they’re coming around. “These used to be my husband’s once. Alas, last Christmas…”

So. It did probably seem like a good idea, at the time, to literally fight another man over a set of legos. And to be fair, he looked a lot like bipedal pudding, so it stood to reason that the fight would be short, and easy, and if you had known that this was going take more than a gentle tug on the box you might have looked for another hill to die on.

But you didn’t, and as it happens when pushes come to shoves, somebody got hurt. Many people got hurt. Many more people got hurt than have a right to get hurt in a toy store, over a set of Star Wars lego.

“Why are you in here?” says the burly man sitting next to you on the bench, and you swallow and say, “shanked a biatch.” He is not convinced. And that is coming from the only person in America that hasn’t yet had a chance to see the video of your Great Marble Avalanche, trending under the hashtag #hurricaneManchild.

Towards the end of said video, a sweaty you wades through a shiny, colourful floor of marbles and injured shoppers, barely quick enough to avoid the basement-dwelling mammal at your back. There are incomprehensible grunts and shouts, and a panting figure closely resembling you yells something about “Mah leggos.” You don’t remember that. The video ends as you disappear around the corner. Just seconds later you will run to the cashier and pay for the lego set, thus completing what constitutes a legal transaction, and, in fact, probably your only legal action that day, no matter how often you will insist towards the perplexed cashier that you’re going to “help fix this mess.”

“Was it worth it?” the burly man next to you says. You look up from the box of LEGO on your lap, follow his gaze and realize that the Great Marble Avalanche plays on TV. A sinister knowledge stirs in you, phantom goose bumps growing on your genitals. Your wife watches TV this time of the day.

“Friend,” you say, “here’s the cold hard truth about Christmas: no matter what you do, you’re hosed.”

You give the box a shake.

“But at least I have LEGO.”


498 words

“We can’t make this work anymore,” Miranda says and you agree. You’ve gone over the numbers a dozen times: the buffer between your household’s income and expenses has always been thin enough to slice a piece of bread and spread some discount “butter” on top, but now the district’s forcing you to renovate your old house and no matter what kind of generous payment plan you’ll take: you’ll have to sell some stuff.

“What about Robby’s old toys?” she says.

“The Lego?”

“I don’t think he minds.”

It is true. Robby is 24 years old. He probably plays with girls these days.

And yet, you are reluctant. There are memories here: that rainy day when Robby and you built the Alien Spaceship w/ Two Pilots and Scientist, and you couldn’t find the piece that closes off the prow so you looked through the entire room, and the entire house, before you found it two days later when you took the dog for a walk (that was when you realized the little bugger had a thing for plastic, but that’s a whole different story). Or that one time when it was two days before Christmas and you shopped for Star Wars lego so hard it got you prison time.

Maybe it’s nostalgia, but something in you stirs, like a tiny little children’s heart beating inside your big, manly man’s heart.

“I should make sure that the sets are still complete,” you say.

You set up your base in the attic. You start with the spaceship. You’re not sure if you ever replaced the prow piece or if you just washed it off and threw it back into the box after you’d found it.

As you build, you think about calling Robby, but you never get past the first half of his number before you decide that he’s probably just going to laugh in your face. So you stay up in the attic alone, and you build, castles and robots, space bases and mining outposts, every evening, until you are done, and you know which sets are complete, and which ones aren’t, and which ones are a pain in the rear end to build (surprisingly, a lot).

But as you move to box your creations up again, tears well up in your eyes, and within them, kaleidoscopes of possibilities: like a castle… with a space robot on top!

And then another week goes by, and the sets aren’t so tidy anymore.

“Dad?” Robby says.

“Oh. Hi, son.” You’re trying to get between him and the lego, but the lego is everywhere, so it kind of doesn’t work.

“Mom said you’ve gone crazy and I should talk to you.”

“I was going to sort through your old sets but… I guess I got a little carried away.”

“I see that,” he says. He looks at the castle with the space robot on top. He tries hard not to smile, but you notice.

“Maybe I could help,” he says.


497 words

A dark corner in a dark alley was not a reassuring place to do business. Robert nervously played with the keys in his pocket, lined them up between his fingers. Because that was what the laser-gun-wielding criminals of Rodham City feared most: pudgy mid-forties who cosplayed Wolverine.

“You da boy who want dat leggo,” a voice said from a shadowy spot inside the dark corner.

“Can you please come out I can’t see very well in the dark,” Robert said.

The guy shuffled out into the twilight, looking sleazy like a night in a Nu Las Vegas strip club, unshaven and dressed in an undershirt and bootstrapped camo pants. He had a box of Star Wars lego wedged under his armpit.

“Dis prime stuff,” he said.

Robert took the box and wiped the grease off. Anakin Skywalker Pod Racer. That was it. He’d been looking for this thing for months. Ever since Emperor Clinton had outlawed fun, lego had been hard to get by.

“You’re not a cop, are you?” Robert said.

“Nah,” the sleazy guy said as he took Robert’s money. “Private law enforcer.”

Robert clicked his heels together and his rocket boots sprung to action. He exploded into the sky as enforcer sirens flared up below him.

Two rocket jumpers gave chase. They danced through the night sky, stars above and lights beyond and laser fire in the middle. Luckily Robert was a pro at Dodge Dogde Revolution. He ducked back down into the streets below and shielded the precious lego box with his body as he propelled himself into a heap of trash bags. It was still fine. The two enforcers landed behind him, but one of them had a harder time of it than the other, judging from the crunchy noises.

Robert ran out onto main street, which was deserted in this shady part of town since the poor people had all been outsourced to China. But the running was not as quick as the rocket boots so the enforcer caught up with him, slamming into him from behind. Robert found himself on his back, the enforcer sitting on top of him, shoving the gun in his face.

Robert wolverined him.

The enforcer recoiled, yelped like a beaten puppy. Robert didn’t wait to check what damage he’d done. He clicked his heels back together and launched metabolized rocket fuel into the villain’s face as he propelled himself along the street and then up and away.


His father’s hospital room was warm, and well-lit, and would have overall been much nicer than the dark alley if it wouldn’t have necessitated his father’s hospitalization. Robert placed the box on his father’s nightstand.

“Lego?” His dad chuckled, then stopped himself from laughing with a pained grimace. “Isn’t that illegal?”

“We used to build this together, remember?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Look, I know you’ve got a lot to do, what with the cancer and all. But maybe, I thought…”

“Son,” his father said, “you were drat right.”

Nov 15, 2012

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In. Electrolite.

ty 4 the crit

Nov 15, 2012

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The Free Radical
1197 words

When the gunshots started ringing out, Dominic got out of the car, blatantly ignoring the Captain’s orders to stay out of trouble. He turned a knob on his wrist-mounted computer, LECTRO, and the readings from the warehouse electronics filled his conscience. The idle hum of a garage door. The nervous buzzing of an alarm system, signals running through the warehouse like ants racing up and down his spine. The faint impulses of racing hearts, beating against his chest like they were his own.

And something else. Raw, furious energy. It tasted off. Too… rich. An empty warehouse didn’t taste like that. It was too much.

He twiddled with LECTRO’s controls as he moved closer to the garage door. The control box’s charge prickled on his tongue. As a kid he’d taken singing lessons, learned how to shift his resonance to different parts of his body. It was mostly a mental thing. His gift worked similarly. It was a ghost muscle, reaching out of his mind and folding ions into place.

The electric flow in the control box shifted. The garage door screeched open.

Might as well have smashed the car into it.

The men that came out hid their guns well. They were hard to see from around the corner, but they wore the black and blue ribbons of NWO troopers on their sleeves.

Something else came out with them. Dominic’s senses were flooded by a new reading. Supercharged. Chaos. A haystack of buzzing ions. Pollution. Magnetism. LECTRO’s readings oscillated off the screen in multiple directions. It was raw impact. It was a mouthful of salt. It punched him in the face and pushed him underwater. He took deep breaths, and adjusted his wrist module’s setting until he could think clear again.

The doomsday device. They’d been looking for it ever since the rumors had first come up.

Okay, the Guardians had been looking for it. Dominic just rode along. They wouldn’t have him, but they also wouldn’t let him run loose. He had powers. They just didn’t trust him with them.

He slipped round back, running his fingers along the building, reaching into the alarm system, a complicated tangle of currents and dependencies. Sorting through a spider’s web. He pushed against the current, rerouted, searched and then he found the alarm box at the back end of the warehouse, and he told it to hush, and be quiet. He opened the door.

Waves of static washed over him. The device was close by. Primed. Ready. Surging, surging. Devouring. Hungry. About to erupt. Dominic had to recover from the impact. Catch his breath. It was ready. If it really was the doomsday device… he had to find the Captain.

The ringing in his hears subsided. There were faint voices, and he followed them into the main hall, where the Captain stood in an open space littered with cables, radios, consoles, still alive, hands raised, surrounded by maybe seven soldiers.

Dominic felt silly. The Captain had this well under control.

He was talking to one of the soldiers, a man with an informal posture that made him seem important. “We have already hacked into the device,” the Captain said, and the man laughed. Because the device couldn’t be hacked. That’s what the Captain was doing: find out just how the device worked, and how it could be deactivated.

There was nothing Dominic could do here. Maybe he could take another look at the device instead. He moved through the shadows, and got caught in the wiring. He didn’t trip. But his movement was just quick and loud enough for guns and flashlights to turn his way.

Many things happened at once: the NWO commander shouted something; the Captain began to move; soldiers crooked their fingers; and Dominic pulled on the charge in his wristband computer.

The hair on his head stood up like it was trying to leave his body, just out, anywhere. Without thinking, he willed LECTRO’s charge into shape, inversed it, re-inversed it, ad nauseum, like fluttering his eyelashes, but faster, faster, until the magnetism exploded outwards, until it could be folded, blown up, a ghost bubble forming around him, and then the guns went off and the room drowned in sound and lightning and the cries of guns and men and deflected bullets going haywire, and time was gone, and it might have been seconds or minutes or hours or days, but he held on, grit his teeth and held on to the bubble, because the guns couldn’t hurt him here.

Something slammed into him.

Outside his forcefield, the warehouse air felt fresh. The Captain took a cursory glance at him and then moved back into the room. Dead men lay on the floor all around, riddled with bullets, and some still only dying, gurgling, drowning on their own blood.

“How do we turn it off?” the Captain asked. He got no reply.

“Captain, are you hurt?” Dominic said.

“We have to call the other Guardians,” the Captain said over his shoulder.

“I’m sorry. I think I screwed up.”

“You tried to help.” It didn’t sound very sincere, but then the Captain probably had other things on his mind.

“I don’t know if there’s enough time. I’ve been back there. It’s hard to describe, but it feels… ready. Done.”

“All the same.”

Never had Dominic felt so useless. He overlooked the carnage he’d created. There would not be enough time to stop the device. There just wouldn’t.

He waited until the Captain had left for the car.

The energy trail led all the way to the back of the building. There was a lead box, static charge pushing against its doors from within like a caged monster. Dominic forced the magnetic doors open, and light and noise and pain flooded into him.

He locked the door from within.

The doomsday device was a nondescript iron block, about as tall and wide as multiple book shelves next to each other. The static load was so thick that every hair on his body tried to pierce through his clothes. It was like rain, pattering against the inside of his head, a constant barrage of signals, information, noise. He tried to adjust LECTRO. It took him a while to realize that he was staring at a blown-out display.

Something slammed against the doors. The Captain tried to break through, yelling something fierce. But his voice didn't reach.

Dominic only had ears for the static now.

Truth was, he couldn’t handle this kind of load. He acknowledged that. But he could disturb it. At the very least he’d short-circuit the machine.

Beneath the surface, there was raw energy, wires full of want, veins, spines, information running up and down and left and right, setting states, saving, loading, adding and detracting, requesting, delivering. Dominic slipped his broken LECTRO off. He breathed in through his nostrils. There was a pattern in the rain. A tic-toc, a rise and fall of energy, a soft hum.

If he listened to it long enough, it made sense. Actually, it was music.

The Captain still tried to break down the door. Dominic turned around to salute.

He put both hands on the device.

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
In. Flash.

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
The Boy Who Couldn't Do Anything Right
2100 words

“Pass me the salt,” Ma said.

It was another demonstration. The entire Tommenek clan stared at Fenten as if he was about to do a magic trick, and Fenten himself stared at the salt shaker as if he could just focus and the drat thing would move on its own. Because otherwise, he’d have to do it. He’d reach for the shaker, and he’d knock it over, and once again Ma would sit back and suppress her smile, try to seem disappointed, because that boy just couldn’t do anything right.

He lifted his hand, and he reached out. Slowly. Carefully. As if he was picking up the shaker with a pair of pincers. It was light, cool. He had it. Maybe he really could--

It slipped, and white salt spilled all over the table, candlelight throwing tiny shadow pebbles across the ornate tablecloth, as if the dinner scene had been peppered as well.

All the eyes now wandered over to Ma, who leaned back in her chair and fondled her armrest. She sighed, and she was altogether very disappointed.

“Don’t worry, dear,” Uncle Stewart said. He put a hand on Ma’s arm. “Tomorrow we give him to the dragon, and then your worries are gone.”

But the poor woman was not consolable. She pulled herself away and went back to her undersalted venison, drowned it in gravy, buried it beneath dumplings. It was an opulent feast. It was Fenten’s funeral, after all. Although they’d called it a farewell party.

Because those who are given to the dragon do not return.

The toppled salt shaker winked at him in the flicker, and Fenten reached out, slowly, but Uncle Stewart slapped his wrist.

“Have you not embarrassed us enough?” he said.

“Sorry.” Fenten looked back down on his plate. His venison cut lay untouched in a sea of gravy, surrounded by islands of potatoes and hashed beets. The dinner had been prepared by his sisters Macy and Louise – all day they’d worked in the kitchen, joking about the things the dragon would do to him – and they had also arranged the plates, and Fenten just knew that he would screw it up if he’d try to eat. Maybe a piece of meat would slide off his fork and splash gravy over Uncle Stewart’s flamboyant suit, or maybe a potato would slip off the plate, fly right into Grandpa Lou’s open mouth, suffocating him, and it would all be Fenten’s fault. Or maybe he’d just use the wrong fork. As far as his people were concerned, it was all the same.

The dinner went on without his participation, and everyone’s mood was as fine as the food until all the plates were empty, except his, and Uncle Stewart did not fail to remark how ungrateful Fenten was, to not even touch the meal that had been prepared in his honor. And then they drank their spirits and they toasted to Fenten, and he nodded back at them and said thanks, and then he excused himself. And as he went up to bed, he slipped on the stairs. Just slightly, but he knew, behind him, Ma would turn to the others, and she would shake her head.

Because that boy just couldn’t do anything right.


The next day they dressed him in a fancy suit, ruffled sleeves and tie and all, and they put him on a cart, because if he’d go there by himself, he’d never get there. They pulled him to the cave of the dragon, all the while they sung the songs of those that are about to pass, usually reserved for the sick or elderly.

[i]How good it was to know you,
How sad to let you go…[i]

The dragon’s cave lay at the foot of the Mountain of Fae. There’d been fairies here once, but then the dragon had moved in and eaten them all, or so the story goes. The entrance was a wide open maw that led down into pitch-black, tickled by the faint flicker of distant torches further down.

Fenten’s fingers dug into the edges of his cart. He couldn’t run anyway. He’d screw it up anyway.

His clan dragged him further down the entrance, a rocky crevice just wide enough for the cart. A faint rumble emerged, like a giant snoring far away, and it mixed with the many echoes of his family and their songs, and the louder it got the more there was an audible rise and fall in it, rise and fall, and then he realized: it was the dragon’s breath that mixed with theirs. It seemed to encircle them, like a summer ghost, warm touch on his shoulders and face and neck, so gentle it almost made him feel comfortable through his fear, and then the rumble got so loud there was no more point in singing.

They had arrived at the dragon’s cave.

It was like the inside of a diamond, sparkling jagged edges all around, stalactites and stalagmites of all sizes and shapes and colors dipping the cave in vibrant colors. The dragon’s scales shone like patches of oil on a sea, many rainbows shimmering against the crystal lights. The dragon was as tall as ten men, and he sat in his diamond cave and looked down on them, waiting.

“Hello, Sir Dragon,” Ma said, slowly, and hesitantly, because none of them had ever seen the dragon before, let alone knew how to address him.

“Mhhh. Another reject?” The dragon’s voice was soft, but with a clangorous note to it, as if it was reverberating through the diamonds around them, clinging and throwing echoes from all the facets of the cave’s stone tapestry. “What’s the matter with him?”

“I’m--” Fenten started, but Ma cut him off: “The boy can’t do anything right.”


“He is a burden on the family,” Uncle Stewart agreed.

“So you say.” The dragon looked Fenten up and down, and when their eyes locked, a calm came over him, like the dragon’s gaze had muted his racing heart. “Get off the wagon, boy.”

Fenten got up and promptly fell off the cart, slamming into the ground like a wet towel.

“See?” Ma said.

“Yes, very impressive. Now, if you will excuse us.”

Fenten fished for his mother’s dress. He didn’t want to be left here, not with the dragon. He didn’t want to be the family’s forgotten shame, to be someone they’d pretend never had existed, the black sheep nobody would miss.

He didn’t want to die here.

But she just moved her leg away, ripped herself free from his grip. All had been said and done. There was no going back after a farewell party.

“It’s better like this,” she said, and her voice even seemed a bit shaky there. “Now for once in your life, be good and stay here.”

They disappeared swiftly and unceremoniously. Some nodded at him, a final goodbye, or at least a casual acknowledgement of their departure, but altogether they left with nothing but their escape in mind, like a group of people who’d just dropped big rocks off their shoulders.

The dragon still mustered Fenten, and the way his wings moved, slowly folding and unfolding, made him seem pensive. “Well,” he said. He blew vibrant fumes out his nostrils, and the rainbow fog hung in the air like an unfinished sentence.

Fenten swallowed. “Are you going to eat me?”

“I don’t think so. Can you walk in a straight line?”

“Probably not. I can’t do anything right.”

“I would like you to try.”

Anything was better than being eaten. So Fenten got up, and he started to walk, and he got as far as five or six steps before he tripped over his own feet. He brought up his arms just in time. If there was anything he was good at, it was falling.

“Peculiar,” the dragon said. “Now we try something else. “First, climb on my back.”

The dragon’s rainbow texture made him probably seem more slippery than he really was. Still, he was tall as three houses, and Fenten had never been much of a climber, for obvious reasons.

“Is there a problem?” the dragon said, not in any way agitated or authoritative, but Fenten twitched anyway.

“You are so tall, and there are no footholds. How am I supposed to--”

“Here,” the dragon said, and he turned the front part of his body sideways, exposing his flank, where a pylon-shaped crystal about Fenten’s size seemed to grow out of his side. “You can hold on to my wings for half the way, but then they will extend too far outwards. You have to step on the diamond and continue from there. Just do not upset it under any circumstances, for it is already cracked, and fragile. It cannot be allowed to slip out.”

The dragon unfolded his wings again and brought them down, like glamorous rainbow sails pushing against the wind, in a wide arc around the dragon’s body. He lowered them to the ground, and Fenten held on and rode back up half the way, where he jumped off, landed on the crystal, and instantly tipped it down. The dragon groaned.

“I’m sorry,” Fenten said. But the pylon was not done moving. There were vibrations below his feet, like a mid-air earthquake, and then cracks rippled through the stone’s surface, and then the tip broke off, and then the entire back half, and as Fenten ran away from the destruction, towards the dragon’s body, he tipped the pylon even further down, and further, until it finally slid out and the dragon’s roar rattled the crystals all across the cave.

For a second, Fenten fell freely.

But the impact wasn’t hard. Instead, he found himself sitting inside a rainbow sail, surrounded by diamond dust. The dragon had brought his wings down just in time.

“I don’t--” Fenten said. “I mean I didn’t mean to--”

“It’s alright,” the dragon said. He slid Fenten off his wing. “This crystal has been a thorn in my side for many years. I cannot reach there, and nobody has ever managed to remove it.”

“But you said…”

“Fenten. The problem with people like you is not what you accomplish. The problem is what we expect of you. What you expect of yourself. See, sometimes, one person’s wrong is another person’s right.”

“So you’re not going to eat me?”

“I don’t eat people, boy. I help them find their place. And your place is with your family. Now, this may sound odd, but give me your shirt.”

Fenten tried to take it off, but it clung to him, so tightly, that he could only lift it part of the way. And as he did, the dragon moved his wings again, and diamond dust rained down, landing in Fenten’s held-up shirt, enough to feed his family for years, or maybe forever.

“This is so generous of you. I don’t know what to say.”

“It is fine,” the dragon said. “Just remember what you learned today. And if you ever find someone in need of my help, tell them where to find me.”

“I promise.”

“Now go back to your family, but remember: fall down every step of the way, and lose your diamond dust before you can give it to your mother.” The way he’d said that last word did not make it seem like he held much love for her. “If you even want to.”

And Fenten did. He “fell” back all the way, outside the cave, one missed slip-up after another, and the diamond dust remained safe and sound in his shirt, until he was back outside in the cool air, the chirping of birds replacing the constant rise and fall of the dragon’s breath, and Fenten’s family stood outside, huddled around Ma, who seemed to have broken down crying a while ago, and they all had their mouth agape at the sight of him.

“The dragon… we heard the roar,” Uncle Stewart said. “We thought…”

“I’m sorry,” Ma said. She inched towards Fenten, and now it was her who pulled on his trousers. “I’m so sorry. I thought you were dead. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay Ma,” he said. “Look what the dragon gave me.” And he knelt down next to Ma, and he showed them the diamond dust, and their mouths opened even wider.

“drat,” Uncle Stewart said. “Just drat. We sent you there to… and you… who would have thought.”

“That’s my boy,” Ma said then, and she ruffled Fenten’s hair and sniffled. “Can’t do anything right, my boy.”

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
Because the truth was, my wife didn't understand, couldn't understand.

Back home I stood before the front door for the longest time, staring at the knob, dumbfounded. I didn't have it in me to open this. I didn't have it in me to go through.

And then the knob turned all on its own, and there she stood, blond as grass in the summer heat, my lovely wife, and her eyes widened as she looked at me, and she screamed, "Holy poo poo, it's a bear."

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
Give me a video

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
In with Tartan Noir :toxx:

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

Thranguy posted:

Tartan Noir
Investigation: Ex-armed forces and contact
Friendship: Friends with far too much sexual tension
Crime: Neds with a proud set of ABSOs
Tae get pished...'cause it's all gone to shite
Residential: Comfortable three-bedroom house
Personal: The medal you won that time
Mayhem: Cold-blooded score-settling

1282 words

A dead woman lies in the living room of her house in rural Aberdeen, eyes staring out of a swollen face with not much of an expression on her face, arms and legs mangled like a swatted spider lying in a pool of blood, mud and glass shards. It’s probably the busted cabinet that killed her for good. The broken glass front still glistens with her blood.

There are three other people in the room: Bruv sits sideways across the recliner, mud-caked boots dangling from the armrest. He flips through a notebook that, judging from the puppies on the cover, isn’t his. Melik doesn’t say a thing. He stands by the window, looking out, just in case. Occasionally he takes a drag from his fag and ashes land at his feet and race for the cracks in the wooden floorboards. Gregor enters, suitcase in hand, looks at the woman, at Bruv, Melik, back at the woman, and then locks the door behind him and says, “Fack happened?”

“Someone’s been in a rush,” Bruv says. He holds up the notebook as if it had been too dark to read down in his lap. “Been fifteen minutes. You been in the neighborhood?”

“Can you cut the shite?”

“‘Twiz like that when we got here.”

Melik blows smoke out his nose, but he’s got nothing to add. Bruv climbs out of the chair, not failing to muddy it in the process, and tosses the notebook over to Gregor. “We’re here to, uh, inquire from the poor lass. Someone beat us to the punch.” He looks down at the woman, and when he notices what he just said, he adds: “Heh.”

Gregor puts his suitcase on the coffee table and opens it up. The various cleaning tools inside are all neatly laid out. He gives the muddy footprints a glance and says, “And you were going through her things, clarting all over the place.”

“Why, yes, Gregor. Scotland Yard would be proud of you.”

“Take off your shoes next time, you dafty prick.”

“Look,” Melik says. “Do yer job and let us do ours?”

“Just want to know what I’m getting into,” Gregor says.

Of course it’s none of his business. Here’s why it matters anyway: the girl’s name is Rachel Maddok, and Gregor, whose actual name is Tane McMannon, reported to her on a weekly basis. It’s wasn’t much. He’s only part of the mob’s cleanup detail, but it‘s something. A criminal career in progress, and everything he’s learned so far, she’s heard.

The other reason it matters is that Rachel and Gregor go way back, until before either of them had ever been with Police Scotland. It leaves tracks. Gregor has looked through the room and there’s nothing giving him away, although there’s one picture on the commode that had been flipped face-down.

“Who did it then?” he says.

Melik shrugs. He sucks on his cig one last time and flips it away towards the corpse, exhaling as he speaks: “Who cares, oval office’s dead.”

“Just saying it might be good knowing. You’re gonna find pure hee haw when I’m done here.”

“Suppose it doesn’t hurt to have a butchers,” Bruv says.

“Suppose,” Melik says.

The two leave, and Gregor realizes that he’s still holding the booklet. He flips through the pages until the others are nothing but a faint echo deeper in the house, two voices arguing with each other over Lord knows what.

Gregor doesn’t take the time to read through the book properly, but he scans it for the words he fears to find most: Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit; Tane; Undercover; February; They’re all in there. Not “Gregor” though.

As he leafs through the book, he inches closer to the commode.

He reaches for the picture.

Tane McMannon and Rachel Maddok are sitting in a quaint English cafe. There are other people there, but the two of them are the centerpiece. Everyone is smiling at the camera. Everyone is having cupcakes and tea or coffee. Rachel has something that looks like strawberry cake.

Up in the corner there is a bloody fingerprint.

He puts it back down and closes his eyes. A million thoughts race through his head, a million options, all weaving together into the few certainties that remain: Rachel is dead. His cover is blown. And Bruv and Melik are going to be back any second.


Two rooms down Melik gets off the phone and says, “Right.”

“We’re chibbing the scunner?” Bruv says. But he’s already got his knife out, a mean and jagged thing. The kind of knife that could either cut real nice, or hurt real bad, going in and out.

“Need to know what he knows.”


When they return to the living room, Gregor is dusting up the floor, scooping up shards and pieces of dirt and putting it all in a black trash bag. The book lies unopened on the coffee table next to the suitcase. The picture is still face-down.

“Gregor,” Melik says.

Gregor doesn’t stop cleaning, doesn’t turn to look at them. He just says, “Wat?”

“Have a seat.”

But he doesn’t. Bruv and Melik exchange a glance: something’s up. They move in together. Bruv still hides the knife behind his back. Melik puts a hand on Gregor’s shoulder, and says, “Gregor, sit--”

A scoopful of glass shards flies into his face.

The knives come out, but Gregor is faster. Bruv catches a punch straight to the face, one, two, three. He reels back, his scary knife flailing through the air like it’s trying to fight invisible flies. Melik, bleeding from a dozen cuts, doesn’t dare open his eyes to whatever has been thrown into his face. He opens his switchblade and stabs into the darkness. His arm is caught, twisted. A hot knife buries into his chest. His feet leave the ground and the screams of three men mix as Gregor pivots Melik around his shoulder and slams him into the ground like a barbell at an olympic weightlifting competition. The air goes out of him.

Bruv charges back in, and the look on Gregor’s face coming at him, this twisted grimace filled with bile and anger, almost makes him flinch. He buries his knife in Gregor’s shoulder. Gregor buries a glass shard in his throat. Holds it, shoves it in deeper, and as Bruv he reaches up, Gregor swats his hand away.

“Don’t. It’s just gonna bleed you. Stop. It’s over.”

“It’s over.”

Bruv slides down his chest, his legs, finally falls to the ground limp and lifeless. Melik still twists on the ground, staring at the knife in his belly with disbelief. Gregor reaches for the blade in his shoulder, gives it a tug and grunts. The jags are buried deep inside his flesh. He’ll take care of it later.

“I’m dying,” Melik says. He sounds like it just came to him, and finally it scares him.

“Maybe,” Gregor says. He takes a knee next to Melik. “Knife to the gut is a slooow way to go.”

“Oh shite, man.”

“She was me friend, you know.”

“Look.” His words come out in quick bursts, interrupted by rapidfire breathing. “Bruv got carried away. We was just asking a few questions, giving her reasons to answer them. You know how it is.”

“Yeah.” He reaches down for the knife in Melik’s gut and gives it a gentle twist. “I know.”

“Oh gently caress hamshanking piss.”

“Now, to my questions.” He leans back to swipe Rachel’s notebook off the table. To his great disdain, he finds that he has blood on his fingers, and they smear the booklet.

“What do you want?”

He flips the book open. “Who do I kill next?”

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

One is a strongman with a nebulous past. The other is a circus clown who lives, and dies, for his role.

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
yo tyr my wunza isn't on the wunza list you loving HACK

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

sparksbloom posted:

I'll wipe the floor with you, why not.

Jitzu_the_Monk posted:

Well I did ask for a challenging duel, but sure, I'll settle for beating you instead.

pony up some toxxes and the prompt of your dreams could be waiting around the corner

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

The Crane, the Drifter and/or the ARRRRgly

Pick two:

Write story.

I don't care how you use this. I expect at least a modicum of action, preferably more. I'll be giving you two weeks for this, because a) I'm busy playing Overwatch next week and b) I want you to take the time and do a little research about how to write action (pay attention to verb usage). Hunt for some cool stories or look up some writing advice blogs or whatever the gently caress. I think Jim Butcher is generally considered a good action writer but I don't know if he ever talks about this poo poo. Hey whatever, it's not my homework.

Also please don't forget to make me care about your protagonist because you're too busy describing explosions.

Word count: 1,500
Deadline: Sat, June 4th, 23.59 CEST (that's in Europe, chucklefucks)

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

Sitting Here posted:

So currently I'm trying to judge Sebmojo and Muffin's latest, frothiest round of hatefucking and I CAN'T DECIDE WHO WINS.

poo poo sh, did your magic 8 ball break down? im sorry to hear this

since youre clearly in no condition to judge right now how about you brawl me instead

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

Ironic Twist posted:

Me. I'll judge.

Your word limit is 1500, your deadline is Wednesday, 6/1, 2359 PST.

Your prompt is:


Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
I'm late ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Tyrannosaurus posted:

One is a strongman with a nebulous past. The other is a circus clown who lives, and dies, for his role.

1299 words

When I entered the ringmaster’s office to collect my weekly paycheck I was not greeted by the usual routine, his gloved hand twirling his flamboyant moustache and him going, “Igor, Igor the Great, what can I do you for, boy?” Instead I looked at an empty table, and a bloodstain on the wall.

My master was on the ground behind his desk, half-slid, half-fallen out of it, wheezing, huffing, blood trickling from his gut, wettening the floor. Whoever had done this, they’d tried to make it slow.

I rushed towards him, and I knelt, and I tore a handkerchief off the table to press it against his wound, but I’d seen this before, and I knew he wasn’t going to make it.

“Boss! Can you hear me?”

But the old man had no words. Only the gibberish of those delirious with death.

“I will call the ambulance,” I said.

His hand shot up, found the strap in my spandex suit. Pain etched itself into the old man’s face as he pulled himself closer to me.

“Help,” he said.

That one word had taken all out of him. His final breath concluded, he fell over backwards, hand still caught in my jumpsuit. I lowered the boss to the ground, careful, as if I could still break him, and ran a hand over his face to close his eyes.

There was a squeak behind me.

I spun around, ready to hammer the fool that had snuck up on me. But it was just Bodo. The clown stood there, caught somewhere between coming and leaving, not quite sure what to make of the scene. The flower on his chest deflated.

He honked.

“I don’t know,” Igor said. “We must avenge him.”

He held up a matchbox. “I found this outside. Come and take a look!”

It was a trap, but I didn’t care. I reached for the matchbox and water shot out the flower on his chest. Funny.

The Kitten Cage. A so called gentlemen’s club with rumours about shady backroom dealings dangling over it. Drug dealers. Assassins. Kingpins. One of the first things I’d learned coming into this town: it all comes down to the Kitten Cage.

“You found this outside?”

“Remember kids,” Bodo said. “I also do strip clubs.”


It wasn’t like me to cut the queue, but there was no way Bodo was going to make it past the bouncer anyway.

“What do you jokers want?” the bouncer tried to say, but my fist met him halfway. I took his walkie-talkie and pushed the door open. Wafts of cigar smoke clawed my lungs from the inside. It was like walking into a World War One trench, a bombardment of bass and light, a sensory overload machine the shape of a night club.

The front of the Kitten Cage, the part that keeps officials happy, that’s where they keep the trash, the millennials, the mid-forties with neon sneakers and Kanye West tracksuits. Bodo wasn’t the most poorly dressed clown in this room, but eyes turned our way regardless.

A waitress came by to ask for our order but Bodo just grabbed her nose and honked some more. You can’t take that guy anywhere.

“Where’s the boss?” I said.

She didn’t answer, but her nervous glance led me to a nondescript double-door, guarded by two suits. They must have spotted us, because their hands went up to their ears and they started talking, mute lips dancing to what I can only describe as a discord mashup of Hip Hop rhymes and the sound of exploding porta-potties.

We moved towards them, and they made the mistake of trying to keep it on the down-low, waiting until we were almost there before they drew their guns, and then mine were faster. Muscles bulging like tiny raging bears, I grabbed them by their necks and smashed them into each other.

The backroom was dimly lit and well-conditioned. People were hard to make out, a room full of silhouettes and shadows, sitting, conversing, making business. You only spoke in whispers here and even the music tried to keep it hush-hush, classy jazz trickling from the speakers. It was like the front part of the building didn’t even exist.

I had just enough time to readjust my senses to hear the sound of multiple guns, cocked and drawn.


A man in an expensive looking pinstripe suit emerged from the shadows. He smiled amicably, and extended a hand. I took it.

“My name is Adolfo Gabbone, and this is my establishment,” he said. “Before I kill you, might I ask what brought you here?”

I took the matchbox out from my jumpsuit and threw it in his face.

“Someone killed our master. They left this.”

He lifted it off the ground, turned it around, examined it. “Yes, this is ours. And I might even be able to tell you more about it.” He opened his hands and folded them again, a shrug with a flourish. “If only you had made an appointment.”

My mind raced. But then, I was only a simple strongman.

There was a honk behind me. Adolfo raised his eyebrows and bowed sideways, looking past me. Apparently my massive frame had hidden Bodo from his sight.

“And you are?” he said.

“Hi! I’m Bodo the clown.” He extended his hand.

A hint of disgust snuck into Adolfo’s face. Like it was one thing to barge into his hideout and embarrass him in front of his colleagues, but another to do so dressed like a literal clown. I shrugged. What can you do.

So maybe it was making a point when Adolfo took Bodo’s hand, show everyone just how civilised he was. Or maybe he really was a gentleman to a fault. Anyway, he shook Bodo’s hand, and then there was a buzz and Adolfo started twitching, and in the split second that it took everyone to realize that their boss had just fallen for the oldest trick in the book, I had already bolted forward, and now it was time for my muscles to do the talking. The room descended into chaos, people firing blindly through the twilight, some, I assume, turning on each other, me tearing and hammering and clobbering my way through the suits and their misguided bullets. Then came the cakes, cakes everywhere, and to this day I have no idea where Bodo had hidden them, but there he was, doing his thing, throwing pastry, and pastry with weights in it, and pastry with banana peels, and making people slip and fall and drowning the mayhem in a cacophony of laughs and cheers and honks.

And then it was over. The entire room was coated in frosting, sticky layers of pink and white muffling the speakers and mummifying the fallen. I detected a pinstripe pattern somewhere underneath and pulled on it, tore Adolfo out of his blanket and held him before me like a caught fish.

“Iw teww u--” Adolfo spat out a huge piece of cake, “I’ll tell you what I know. Just stop.”


“These weren’t my men. Look, I only hear the rumors, but your ringmaster, he owed money. Nothing official. Something, like-- man, do you know how hard it is to get a circus permit in this town? Impossible, if you don’t grease the right hands.”

“My master would never--”

“It’s all the same. He stopped bribing the right people, or maybe he never did it in the first place. This is what you get.”

My heartbeat dropped. Somebody high-up was involved in this. Somebody official. Bad news. If you thought the crooks on this town were bad, well, you’d never been to the City Council.

I let go of Adolfo, head-first. He went out cold.

“Remember, kids,” Bodo said. “I also do fundraisers.”

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
I'm in and :toxx: to submit a first draft to Kai until Sat, May 28th, 23.59 CEST

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
sitting here more like standing here and going "uhm uhm excuse me is this seat already taken? uhm. excuse me? excuse me?"

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
counts as my diss for the megabrawl btw


Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
I'm sorry, but you're hosed
741 words

The iron bull or the flaying knife?

Don’t look at me like that. I’m not the one calling the shots here. I mean, yeah, in here, with the chains and the thumbscrews. It’s my domain. But you know what I mean. It’s my dad. He’s making me do this to you.

I’m just as innocent as you.

Hell, I like you. You were nice to me, even back before this whole vendetta thing, you know, when our families were all roses and daisies and nicely worded letters. Even then my father hated my guts. Me, the devil’s breed, the ginger bastard. You took me in when he wouldn’t have me anymore, and it was a bit odd being your servant, or, what did you call it? Retinue? But it was decent living, and even better, it pissed off my father, so thanks. No, seriously. I’ll never forget that.

That’s why you get to pick how you die. I know the choices aren’t great, but it’s all I can do.

I don’t want to do this. I’ve always kind of admired you. Growing up in that estate with its marble pillars and fine art statues and grape vines growing from the walls, those vines, so rich you can just go there and pluck ‘em any time of the year… it gets to your head. It sure would have gotten to mine. Your family has its own brand of wine, I mean goddamn. But not you, not Sir Lennard McTallister who haggles with Lords to buy bread for the poor.

Yeah. I could let you run. I don’t know if you’d get far, but I could.

But I won’t.

I’m sorry, but this isn’t going to end well for you.

I know. It’s not fair. You weren’t the one loving ma behind my dad’s back. You sure as poo poo didn’t beat your uncle within an inch of his life in retaliation. No, you’re the opposite of that. Regardless of how much bad blood was spilled in the recent months, you always took the high road. They say you defeated two assassins at once. They say you spared their life. I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly speaks to your character.

Really pissed off my father anyway. Because you didn’t just beat him. You made him seem petty. So I guess this is why we’re here now. You’re as much to blame as me.

Calm down. Don't make me tighten the screws again.

There. Better.

So if it’s any consolation to you, this isn’t going to end well for me either. Because my father doesn’t just want you dead. He wants you to suffer, and he wants you to suffer at the hand of your best friend, of that ginger bastard, that guy your own dad told you to never, ever trust. It has to be slow, and it has to be nasty, and it has to be me, because that’s going to hurt the old McTallister even more, that I used your own good nature against you when you I lured you into that alley.

Then who do you think gets it next? Who do you think dies a slow and painful death? It’s not like my dad likes me now. He just needs me, and my use expires after this. So if it’s any consolation to you, everything I’ll do to you now? I’ll get it back.

But here’s the thing: I’ll have played my part. Just this once. Lured you into that ambush, took you out, made the poor old McTallister cry his crocodile tears. My dad will remember that. He won’t remember me with the same fondness that old men have of their good old days, he definitely won’t cry at my funeral, but he’ll be there. The sarcophagus will be empty, for the obvious reasons. He won’t see me go under. But he’ll be there, and somewhere, deep down in his head, inside this old, complex web of grievances and accounts, he’ll have a checkmark under my name right next to the part that says “Has been useful just once in my life.”

And that’s good enough for me. Because I’m still his son. And despite all he’s done to me, well...

You know how it is.

Alright. I’m droning on, but this isn’t going to get any easier. So I’ll ask you again.

The iron bull, or the flaying knife?

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