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Sep 2, 2016

In with Crustpunk XD


Sep 2, 2016

Stream of Consciousness (Crustpunk)

Word Count: 1515

“I’m a little disappointed those are all the questions you have for me.” He drug the back of his hand across his nose, using the rough knuckled section of his thumb to apply pressure to his nose as his sniffed. It was an involuntary action, an acquired motion from years of cocaine use. He hadn’t snorted in several hours, but that wasn’t why he was edgy. He never partook of anything to ease his senses before a big set. Said it would impact his clarity, the raw emotion he felt once he’d cleansed himself in retribution.

She’d been sitting at his desk, in the cramped office space behind the concert hall that shook every time the bass dropped. The sound oriented much of their conversation. Sometimes his speech would spew forth, a frenzy of impassioned words as walls reverberated the beat of the music and crowd thudding faster and faster until suddenly, there was a moment of calm. He’d smile at her then, like he was now, light a match, inhale off a joint (he smoked marijuana every day of his life and didn’t consider it to diminish the mood).

His smile revealed cracked teeth, probably from a brawl over some trivial conspiracy theory he’d staked his life on for the evening. When he laughed, his grin opened wider to reveal the darkened, decaying spots near the gums. Years of neglect, or meth, or both, exposed him to the hollow parts of himself. The laugh turned to a coughing spasm and he pounded his hand into his frail chest, rattling himself back into reality.

“You won’t get away with this,” She clutched her laptop to her chest with both arms crossed, trying desperately to shield its contents from his corruption. “I have backups. Hard drives. Plus, the stream was live, everyone knows I’m here.” The laughter interrupted her. The coughing wracked his lungs harder, she’d amused him much for the evening, and he was forced to stand, white knuckling his splintered desk sides for support. His unwashed hair fell in clumped sections over his forehead and around the sides of his ears. He pushed it back to meet her eye, his just as dark and slick as the hair which framed them.

“I invited you here, remember? You can stop cradling that pitiful device. I have no interest taking it from you. It’s cancerous, but it contains the truth now. The truth I told you, on purpose. You came here for the truth, the inside story. Were you not flattered I contacted you?”

She blushed despite her terror. Cardinal Cain had never given anyone an exclusive before, in or out of costume. He was the best kept secret of the modern music industry. He rose from the ashes of worn out musicians a month prior and had been rampaging around from set to set on a rigorous tour schedule ever since, a ghost producer with the skills to suggest he’d been active in the industry long before the catastrophe which robbed it of any prestige. Teenage girls on social networks, frat boys blaring the latest hit, the industry was just a postcard for polarized populace, a reflection of a cookie cutter society boarded with artsy trim. That was before Cain arrived on the scene. He opened one night beneath a cloak of blackness and captivated the masses with his sound, his uncanny ability to capture their souls and leave them breathless, lifeless on the dance floor.

“Your fans are dying.”

“They were already dead.”

“What about you?”

She tried to swallow, but her throat was dry, scratchy. She wondered if she’d already been infected. For all he’d told her about his ruse for redemption she had no idea how he actually implemented any of it. Was it in the air? The water he’d offered her? He stared her down, lowering the full length of his elongated slight frame into the chair opposite her.

“Are you infected?”

She knew he was referring to the Dance Revolution that had swept the nation. She had covered it herself in the weeks prior. The massive flood of young people dropping out of school, trailing their favorite artists around the country and even out of it. The UK and Japan were refusing US citizens entry to their countries, hoping to contain the epidemic. The youths that had flown abroad in the initial wave had all but been bagged and sent back. They wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t sleep for days. Nothing could stop them short of incarceration and even then, many died of exhaustion, shuffling in their cells for hours on end trapped in the rhythm of their own heads.

“You look awfully clean to be a crust punk, but you do work on a strictly freelance basis now, am I correct? That seems to be an oddly characteristic symptom these days.” He inquired coldly.

“I can’t work for the industry right now. They, they just – all they want to cover are the bands. The DJs. I can’t just keep running around from set to set and covering the aftermath. I don’t want to just be a column count of dead bodies.”

“Isn’t that all the news cares about though? Sex, drugs and death?”

“I care about the culture.”

“The culture,” he paused, allowing for the bass line to mellow before continuing. “What do you know about the culture?”

“I know it had to start somewhere. I know there was a cultivation period. I – I think – I think that’s who you were before. Why you were so familiar with the scene. You were one of the original producers, weren’t you?”

“That’s certainly an interesting theory.” Flat. He squashed his joint into the desk, flicked it off and didn’t reach for another.

“You’re not hiding from the public. You’re hiding from them. You know they’ll stop you if they find you, but what I don’t understand is why didn’t you stop them. You could have stopped the whole Revolution. You never had to let them release it. You knew!”

“Enough. I think you’ve gotten more than you came for,” He strode to the door in two quick strides and nearly yanked it from its hinges. “You need to leave.” The neon lights from down the corridor danced across his face, painting the horror displayed there in such beautiful vibrancy it took her aback.

“But you haven’t even helped. You haven’t answered my questions. People are dying Cain, people who came here just to see you.”

“I told you, they’re already dead. Do you have any idea how powerful a sound wavelength can be?”

“But – “

“They are young and impressionable, just like you. Now get out,” He clawed his fingers into her arm and yanked her from the seat. He hadn’t touched her all evening so the sudden outburst caught her off guard. Her laptop tumbled from her arms, but he snagged it just before it shattered into the cement floor of the warehouse. He shoved it, hard, into her chest. “Take this information and go.”

She staggered out, into the hall. Her heart racing with the music, rising with her panic. She could feel herself sliding, her vision blurring. Through the crack of the door she saw him don his cloak and gas mask, concealing his face. He snagged his laptop from the tangle of cords on the desk and slung studded headphones around his neck. The last thing he grabbed before slamming the door shut was an oversized lap top bag. He dropped the bag to the floor beside her. Kneeling down, he pushed her bangs back from her face, now clotted in strands with sweat.

“You’re not the cause – you’re the cure,” She clung to his cloak, the cloak he had pulled from the bag, identical to his own and draped over her.

Your trust, the most gorgeously stupid thing I ever cut in the world,” He kissed her forehead then pulled a gas mask down onto her face. Opening her laptop he resumed her live stream.

“What – I don’t –“

“I’m not The Cure. For all your research, you really don’t know much about our culture after all, do you? But don’t worry, you’ll learn. Rest now.” With that he rose and strode purposely to the end of the hall. She blinked through the mask, the steam of her own breath creating a haze on the lens. As she struggled to stay conscious she saw Cain joined by three others, identically concealed, at the base of the stairs to the concert hall. In unison they raised their hands to wave at her. She stretched her hand out to them in disbelief, but the figures vanished into the staircase.

All she could see were the neon lights, the darkness beyond. She could hear the crowd cheering, a pounding in her head as the MC announced their arrival.

The producers you’ve all been dying to meet: Cardinal Cain and friends…

From where she lay, with every blink, she could see the rising count of viewers on her stream. Viewers who saw her, cloaked, masked, reaching out to them and believed everything.

Sep 2, 2016

In with electronic Africa please

Sep 2, 2016

God’s Window
Word Count: 1260

Cisco kicked a rock over the cliff’s edge and waiting the 22 excruciating long seconds until it ricocheted off the next ridge and tumbled over little ruts and juts until eventually disappearing into the lush canopy below. The distance between the entrepreneur and the trees was so great their relationship to one another was similar to an eager child standing over a jungle Lego set. He imagined the locals and their temporary, fragile structures somewhere down further below the canopy. They too reminded him of the Legos of his youth. He looked forward to breaking down their culture and restructuring it in his own design.

“This is an impossible endeavor. You saw it, there’s no potential here. No one would ever migrate to such an inaccessible venue. Now please, let’s get off this God forsaken mountain and back to civilization,” Toni whined, the pessimistic counterpart to the opportunist in Cisco.

“You’d spit on utopia if you found it any place less convenient than your parlor. Come over here to the ledge if you need a push in the right direction,” Cisco hissed back, motioning Toni to his side.

Scoffing, Toni settled onto a fallen log, drawing his left leg over his right knee and lacing the fingers of his hands upon them in an attempt to communicate his disdain for the notion. His pessimism wasn’t completely unfounded. They had been hiking for hours and though the elements weren’t particularly unpleasant, (although the heat of the day had given them a bit of grievance, first making them sweat to excess, then burnt their exposed skin, leaving them chaffed and irritable with their jackets slung around their necks like a gentlemen’s sweater at a cocktail party) the wildlife they encountered had given him plenty of reason to sport a sour disposition.

“Snake, small snake.” An hour into their adventure, their tour guide, a local, dark in complexion with deep white grooves carving up his body (which he boasted had come from his many victories over wild beasts), assured them in broken Italian as he stomped on the head of a Puff Ander, embedding its bared fangs into the dirt. The serpent’s dying body swayed slowly, rustling the likewise expired leaves and twigs of the forest floor, camouflaging itself yet again as a final act of defiance against the unworthy invaders of its sacred land. Marqi kicked the snake for good measure then held his arms out, extending them to their full length. “This. Like this. Small snake.”

The other two cringed at the prospect that even larger, more dangerous animals lurked in the brush, but continued onward. Until they reached the peak of their excursion they encountered a few other “minor” scares (“Go slow. Leopard, maybe.”) and one intense moment in which Cisco, for all his enthusiasm and impatience, insisted on scaling the limbs of a river bush willow to determine how near they were to their destination only to accomplish seeing a fine array of leaves, which upon his intention to part, caused the branch to snap, lending the Italian to fall through the various levels of wooden discomfort until he was finally pitied by an outstretched arm of the tree and saved from plummeting to his death. (“White people, no climb.”)

When at last they did reach the peak the partners turned on one another in such an exaggerated display of animosity even Marqi who knew even less about Italian body language and tone than he did vocabulary became uncomfortable of the tension rising between the two and excused himself hastily to fill their canteens at a nearby stream. Upon his departure the attitudes between the experienced con artists and lifelong friends lightened and Toni rose from his log throne, stretching his arms up to embrace the sky.

“Why do I always have to play the tentative one?” Toni yawned.

“Because I possess a talent for conveying respect and confidence in 27 languages. You on the other hand couldn’t convince a log to roll over even in your native tongue,” Cisco laughed, a hearty sound that echoed in the great expanse of the uncultivated land before them.

“I get the ladies to roll over in every place we go,” Toni countered.

“Yes, yes, but that comes later, once the music makes them dumb with love for you, the savior bringing them salvation through disco.”

Italo disco,” Toni corrected.

“You know it’s the same thing you pretentious crook,” Cisco beamed at him, knowing for all his pessimism he was on board with his newest marketing scheme.

“You have to buy what you sell, you know.”

“And partake of what you steal.”

They joined in laughter, shook hands and looked out over the ridge, envisioning the future, a primitive society ready for exploitation, desperate for anything that would allow them to partake in the delicacies of the first world. Just then Marqi appeared, pushing his ways unto the ridge to join them, slinging the water canteens like trophies of war. He took a swig off his own and held it out to them smiling as an offering. They smirked, taking a swig each. As Marqi sealed the lid they knew they’d won him over and he would speak on their behalf and begin the negotiations with the tribe leader, a man they knew would be persuaded greatly by what mattered little to them and naively offer much in return.

“Good you friends. Friends again,” Marqi beamed, joining their hands and placing his hand on top. “Good friends.”

“We’re all friends now.” Cisco grabbed Marqi by the shoulder, pulling him between Toni and himself on the edge of the ridge. Toni mimicked the gesture, pressing their key to success close between their villainous bodies. Marqi accepted their embrace, hooking his arms around the waists of his new partners, ignorant of their means to exploit him, content just to be included.

“What do we call this place?” Cisco asked more to himself than the others.

“God’s Window,” Marqi replied, “This place has name. You say it, God’s Window.”

“I like that,” Cisco said again more to himself than the others, looking out and beyond, allowing himself to be overtaken by the wonder of the clear blue sky and the vibrant green tops below, the opportunity, the innocence. As the three stood perfectly still in admiration the shadows of a trio of Cape vultures overtook their heads. They circled for a minute, their dusty brown wings glinting like gold in the brilliance of the sun. Then, having decided the men were only doomed, not dead, they moved on, lingering on a jutting cliff ledge to evaluate the new scavengers of the land.

Cisco stooped, snatching a rock from the ledge and upon rising chucked it at the birds. Used to only interacting with carcasses the birds were not quick to scatter and the rock collided with a deafening crack into the skull of the smallest. The cannon swallowed its companions’ squawks as the sacrifice tumbled off the ledge and through the sky to be welcomed by the treetop haven below. The remaining two fled, disappearing from their sight in the crevices of the cliff and the sky retained its blue calm again.

“We’re gods now and this place shall reflect our view,” Cisco whispered.

Toni nodded solemnly at the proclamation and Marqi followed suit, not knowing quite how to translate the words he had barely even heard. Then the three turned and disembarked from the mountain, Cisco in the lead, Toni looking over his shoulder at the prospect, and Marqi padding along, dumbfounded, in the rear.

Sep 2, 2016

In with Capricho No. 63: ¡Miren que graves! (Look how solemn they are!)

Sep 2, 2016

llamagucci: Capricho No. 63: ¡Miren que graves! (Look how solemn they are!)


Word Count: 1,100

They murdered the family of five and rode off, solemnly, on the decrepit mules toward Harlington.

They’d only wanted the steads. And food. And maybe a little water preserves if the family had any easily accessible in the store house on the far side of the property. But the boy, a petite lad of ten, scrawny, with blonde hair the color of the hay he slept in, had been guarding the stables. Or more, he’d been asleep in the stable, cradling a shot gun, far too large a weapon for him to hold, let alone use. Then again, Dr. Henry, not a hunter himself who only kept the gun he’d inherited from his late father as a precautionary measure, had never thought little James would ever have to fire on anything, let alone any one.

There had been some townsfolk runts, not any older than the boy himself, who’d been sneaking out and about on the country roads a few nights prior. They’d been making mischief of one kind or another on every farm they’d passed, mostly startling chickens out of their coops, tipping cows and letting lose the Tanner’s horses, which were recovered trampling the wife of the major’s flowerbeds the following morn. The Tanner’s only lived a quarter mile up the road so the father of the Henry household decided to leave his young son out in the stable over night to scare off any of his peers and maybe catch a glimpse of the offenders’ faces. Rumors circled there’d be a stick of gun and a chocolate bar in it for any lad or lass that bore witness to the school yard authorities and identified the menaces. Since none of the boys yet been caught in the act for the third night in a row, the headmistress was eager to land a blow of the belt on anyone the least bit suspicious.

When they approached the stable they were drunk and not the least bit quiet. The farmhouse, after all, was quiet a length from the stable and the men figured they’d make off with whatever fine steads they could mount before any one was the wiser. They hadn’t expected to stumble into the sight of little James, glowing in the light of a child-sized lantern, shakily pointing a shotgun in their general direction.

The boy called out, his voice sobering them on the spot. They could see his terror, exaggerated in the lantern’s light. To James, they resembled monsters as they advanced upon him. James panicked, twisting the gun from one shadow to the other, struggling to pull the trigger. The monster on the right kicked his lantern over. The one on the left grabbed him.

The boy screamed.

The shotgun sounded.

A light in the farmhouse shone.

James lay still, his features forever frozen.

And the stable was ablaze.

They’d never killed a boy before, or set a stable on fire. The leader of the two instructed the other to rope the horses and was dismayed when the other returned with only two old mules shuffling along. They would have to do. The leader ordered the mules to be tied to a fence-post near the road and then to barricade all the windows and doors of the stable from the outside. The lesser protested and was flung to the ground. A kick to the ribs spurred him to action and he left to complete the woeful task.

The leader took stock of the flames rising around him, his senses heightened by the guttural sounds the pigs emitted. Their pen was nearly consumed in the fire. He could smell the hairs on their fatty backs burning off first, one by one, adding a blackened hue to the cloud of grey smoke swelling in the suffocating stable air. He turned his attention back to the family. James! James! The mother was wailing more insistently every time her son did not respond. Grab the pails, all of you! The father stoically commanded, as though a fire of this magnitude could be put out by pails carried by the arms of a doctor, his near faint wife and two small daughters, struggling forward in their nightgowns, sloshing a bit out with every step.

When they reached the stable he was ready, tucked away behind the door so he could peer through the crack and watch their tragedy until the final fated second. He stole a glance back at his partner. The moonlight illuminated his idiotic frame, large, bumbling, already mounted on his pitiful stead. His shoulders were heaving. The leader wondered if he was crying.

When he turned back the mother was crying, clutching the mangled body of her murdered son. The youngest sister, maybe three at most, dropped her pail, spilling what little water was left into the hay. She attempted to pick it up, a sopping wet mess, and put it back. The middle child, a more reasonable age of six, dumped her pail and that of her mother’s on the inflamed carcass of the closest pig. Its blackened body dropped beside her and was trampled by another, still burning orange, it’s eyes frenzied, snarling viciously through the fencing. She fell on her hunches, onto the saturated ground, and wet herself.

The father was still yelling. He was yelling at his daughters to run. He was yelling at his wife to save the girls. He was carrying a newborn lamb under one arm, a hen with missing feathers in the other. The hen had clawed his clothes to red ribbons and dug holes into his arms and chest with its desperate pecking. He seemed not to notice.

He did, however, notice, the monster, the man, through the haze as he swung the door of the stable shut, trapping them inside. His yelling turned to pleading, as his cries mingled with the remaining exertions of his family as they began to burn alive. The leader stood on the other side of the stable door, his palm flat on the panel to feel the heat and the vibrations as the father flung his body against it time and time again in a desperate attempt to save his family. The vibrations stopped before the heat was too much to bear.

When at last he joined his partner on the road he saw he had indeed been crying. Now, now. The leader soothed. We’ll find some real horses in the next town and then we can kill these wretched things.

They turned their backs on the murdered the family of five and rode off, solemnly, on the decrepit mules toward Harlington.

Sep 2, 2016

In! Thanks for the fast judging and quick prompt upload. :)

Sep 2, 2016

The Munster Monster

Word Count: 1151

Limerick, Ireland August 12th, 1989 – Two children murdered outside of country home. Cause of death: multiple hatchet wounds. Female child exhibits wounds on head, torso and chest. Male child exhibits wounds on neck and face. No defensive wounds present on either child. Hatchet handle recovered in bushes near bodies. Missing hatchet head. Never recovered. Family border collie is discovered, mutilated on edge of property. No suspects. Investigation status: inactive.

Ellis Island, USA December 10th, 1989 – Irish immigrant Bridget Sullivan, 23, is admitted to the United States. Sullivan is accompanied by single male minor: Timothy Murphy, 14. Sullivan claims Murphy is the illegitimate child of her late mother.

Fall River, Massachusetts February 1st, 1990 – Bridget Sullivan accepts housekeeping position in the two story home of Andrew and Abby Borden.

Fall River, Massachusetts April 12th, 1992 – Bridget Sullivan admitted to Saint Anne’s Hospital by brother, Timothy Murphy. Symptoms present: swelling over right eye, split lip, slight bruising on neck, forearms and thighs, heavy bruising on left side of rib cage. Sullivan refuses rape examination. Sullivan refuses to give statement as to cause of injury. No charges filed. Sullivan released to the care of Timothy Murphy.

Fall River, Massachusetts April 13th, 1992 – Timothy Murphy admitted to Saint Anne’s Hospital by sister, Bridget Sullivan. Symptoms present: right eye blackened, bleeding from right ear, three ribs cracked, right wrist fractured. Murphy gives statement as to cause of injury: physical altercation at Borden residency. No charges filed. Murphy released to the care of Bridget Sullivan.

Fall River, Massachusetts July 1st, 1992 – Bridget Sullivan attends walk-in hours at TruMed Clinic complaining of stomach cramps, nausea and mild headaches. Physical and urine test administered. Results: hCG level 8,500 mIU/mL. Prenatal supplements prescribed. Estimated due date: January 3rd, 1993. Follow up appointment to be scheduled in one month.

Fall River, Massachusetts July 30th, 1992 – Bridget Sullivan admitted to Saint Anne’s Hospital by brother, Timothy Murphy. Symptoms present: Intense vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain, bruising on right side of stomach. Sullivan gives statement as to cause of injury: fall from second story down stairwell at Borden residency while dusting banister. Status of pregnancy: miscarriage. Sullivan released to the care of Timothy Murphy.

Fall River, Massachusetts August 4th, 1992 – Officers dispatched to Borden residency in response to call received from housemaid Bridget Sullivan stating her employers had been murdered in their home. Cause of death: multiple hatchet wounds. Abby Borden is found face down in an upstairs bedroom with multiple hatchet wounds to the back of the head. Abby Borden also exhibits a broken nose. Andrew Borden is found lying face up on the downstairs couch with multiple hatchet wounds to the face. One of Andrew Borden’s eyes has been split in half. No defensive wounds are present. No DNA or finger prints are present at crime scene. Hatchet handle is recovered in basement. Missing hatchet head. Investigation ensues.

Fall River, Massachusetts August 11th, 1992 – Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew Borden, is taken into custody for the murder of the Bordens.

New Bedford, Massachusetts June 5th, 1993 – Lizzie Borden is tried for the murder of her parents. No physical evidence is able to be linked to Borden. Bridget Sullivan is brought on the
stand, but her testimony does not help to incriminate Borden of the murder. Borden does not take the stand.

New Bedford, Massachusetts June 20th, 1993 – The jury acquits Lizzie Borden for the murder of her parents.

Limerick, Ireland July 17th, 1993 – Bridget Sullivan returns to Ireland accompanying minor, Timothy Murphy.

Limerick, Ireland August 7th, 1995 – Anonymous caller reports hearing screams and seeing a shadowy attack behind closed curtains in a residency on the outskirts of town. Witness cannot be identified. Officers arrive on scene to find Larry and Jann O’Conner murdered in their home. Cause of death: Multiple hatchet wounds. Jann O’Conner is found in the hallway with multiple hatchet wounds on arms, neck and stomach. Larry O’Conner is found face-up in bed with multiple hatchet wounds on face and neck. Defensive wounds are present on Jann O’Conner’s arms. No DNA or finger prints are present at crime scene. Hatchet handle is recovered on back porch. Missing hatchet head. No suspects are taken into custody. Investigation status: inactive.

Ellis Island, USA August 22nd, 1995 – Bridget Sullivan is readmitted to the United States, unaccompanied.

Helena, Montana July 26th, 1905 – Timothy Murphy arrives in the United States. Purpose of travel: pleasure.

Helena, Montana July 28th, 1905 – Bridget Sullivan marries John Sullivan, no relation. Brother Timothy Murphy is in attendance.

Helena, Montana August 2nd, 1905 – The bodies of James and Marilyn Hughes are found by a jogger in Spring Meadow Lake State Park. No witnesses. Cause of death: multiple hatchet
wounds. James Hughes is found face down laying on top of Marilyn Hughes, partially naked. Both have multiple hatchet wounds to head, face, neck and arms. Hatchet handle is recovered in a nearby trash barrel. Missing hatchet head. No DNA or finger prints are present at crime scene. Marilyn’s ex-husband Aaron Lyons is taken into custody for the murders. Lyons is later released when his alibi is proven. Investigation status: inactive.

Limerick, Ireland August 3rd, 1905 – Timothy Murphy returns to Ireland.

Limerick, Ireland December 12th, 1906 – Timothy Murphy is in a near fatal auto accident, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Limerick, Ireland June 1st, 2027 – Timothy Murphy dies of liver failure.

Fall River, Massachusetts June 1st, 2027 – Lizzie Borden dies of pneumonia.

Limerick, Ireland January 2nd, 2028 – EasySpace Self Storage auctions off the storage unit belonging to Timothy Murphy due to lack of payment for a six-month interval.

Limerick, Ireland January 3rd, 2028 – The new owners of storage unit 63 discover four rusted hatchet heads in an unlocked toolbox. Newspaper clippings featuring brutal murders in both the United States and Ireland from 1989 through 2005 are found under the lining of the toolbox. No hatchet handles are found in the storage unit. Police are notified.

Limerick, Ireland January 24th, 2028 – Detective Patrick O’Brian attributes the murders of the Bordens of Massachusetts, the O’Conners of Limerick, the Hughes of Montana and the two unnamed children of Limerick to Thomas Murphy, the illegitimate child of Brenda Sullivan, brother to Bridget Sullivan. All inactive cases are closed and families notified.

Limerick, Ireland January 25th, 2028 – The Limerick Post headlines Thomas Murphy as “The Munster Monster,” Limerick’s first serial killer. Details of crimes are released through a leak in the police department. The story is run inter-nationally.

Lucerne, California April 7th, 2030 – A new student is admitted to Lucerne Elementary from Fall River, Massachusetts. At recess, she teaches her new friends of the infamous Lizzie Borden, who murdered her parents just down the street from her old house. “Lizzie Borden took an axe, And gave her mother forty whacks; When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty- one.” They jump rope and laugh at the rhyme until the bell tolls.

Sep 2, 2016

In. Thanks for the fast judging btw.

Sep 2, 2016

Generations of Squander

Word Count: 2383

Pearl didn’t give a gently caress about the preservation of society.

She was a mother, instinctual. She didn’t care about how the elders had declared Theodore destined to repopulate their decimated island community. He was three days old and she just wanted him to live.

Theodore was born six weeks to the day after the initial explosion from the dog food manufacturing plant that belched heinous clouds of black terror into the sky. The impenetrable fog that clung to the lower levels of the atmosphere wasn’t harmless, like the radio station broadcast from the mainland promised them. And the plant didn’t manufacture dog food either. It made sense, after the flames brought enough light back to illuminate the situation. The island was remote, scarcely accessible by ship, and cargo planes only landed to resupply the general store from the far off mainland every other month. There had never been a need for ChompChow Inc., like the signs on the exterior of the military grade facility suggested.

No one knew why or how the biochemical weapons engineering plant exploded. Anyone who knew what was being made, or how deadly it was, or even how it was transmitted was combusted in the initial blast. The devastation of the explosion charred awestruck bystanders in a two- mile radius, and inflamed all the infrastructures on the outskirts of town. It was October. The landscape was brittle with dying grasses that escalated the flames and directed the fires in towards the heart of the island’s singular city.

Panic rolled like thick damnation over the lucky inhabitants who survived the first wave. They worked in a frenzied network to convey water from the coast to quench the flames. Despite their efforts, all that remained to facilitate security as the night approached were the two story school house, the general store, some scattered homes, and an old armory that had long been deemed unnecessary and stood vacant. It was in the abandoned armory the governor, a man of fifty and excitable character, urged survivors to congregate. The people emerged slowly from the haze, skirting the smoldering corpses of neighbors.

In the days that followed the locals attributed the governor’s sudden onset of symptoms to the incessant way he bellowed into the megaphone, his lungs expanding to their fullest extent to project his voice over the cackle of the fire. From his vantage point on the roof of the school yard he was the closest to the ominous cloud, directly immersed in the misty lower levels of poison. After only an hour his cries were overtaken by a stifling cough that wracked his entire being. Old and feeble, it did not take long for him to expire. His attendants, who carried him from the roof and laid him in the student grown flower bed in the side alley, reported in the first few coughs the governor had emitted a volatile black substance that, though liquid on impact, quickly solidified to a tar-like quality on the forearm of the companion who tried to steady the governor through his convulsions.

Rodrigo, the man with the arm of tar, raised the evidence of the governor’s death above his head as an exhibit to the people. A murmur arose in the crowd. Some attempted feebly to attribute it to a prior lung condition, but soon even the most optimistic of spectators swallowed the impossible truth: they were trapped on an island, forced to breathe polluted air. Their horror increased as the tar on Rodrigo’s arm began to bubble. Petrified, his face froze in incommunicable terror as the substance morphed to a molten consistency, which sizzled against his skin to the sickening tune of a fizzling firecracker as it melted his flesh to the bone. When at last Rodrigo’s voice returned the sound which escaped his lips was so guttural, so inhumane, the people recoiled in further fear as he desperately eyed the crowd for assistance. When none was offered he seized a bread knife off the table where one of the company organizer was trying to console the people with rations and sawed savagely at his arm above the spot where the poison was ravishing him.

Rodrigo fainted dead before he could complete his grotesque amputation. His body dropped to the concrete floor, splashing his puddled blood upon impact and breaking free the last of his bone with a violent snap. Many of the closest onlookers fainted at the sight of his brutally severed arm, still bleeding and bubbling and fizzing to their horror. No attempt was made to revive them as the crowd scattered to the furthest corner of the armory terrified for their survival and ignorant as to the degree of his contagion.

In this moment Pearl, seven months pregnant, was resting on a tree stump, cradling her protruding stomach while her husband raided their fallen neighbors’ homes for anything that might be of use in the apocalypse. Trisha, however, witnessed the scene with repulsion and was one of the first to faint. She too was seven months pregnant and the impact of the fall on her stomach, mingled with the adrenaline and fear of the evening caused her to begin contractions. At first the people took her cries of agony to mean infection and refused her pleads for assistance. Eventually, however, it was noted by a more collected bystander that the woman was excreting what appeared to be water, mingled with blood, from between her legs, not the deplorable blackened tar of death. Enough people were persuaded by this observation to offer her assistance. It was determined she should be moved to the infirmary of the school where she could deliver her infant with the greatest comfort. Supported by two brave nurses who declared they would rather die than hinder the baby’s birth, Trisha staggered to the ill determined delivery room.

As both the midwife and local surgeon had perished in the initial blast, her delivery was conducted by two of the island’s most renowned nurses. Agatha was lesser than the surgeon only in procuring a degree and Heidi was so mild tempered and optimistic what she lacked in experience she made up for in hospitality. In the care of the two Trisha dared to believe her child would survive.

The nurses, however, did not. After quitting her in a drug induced slumber with pain relievers Heidi had acquired by raiding the general store’s pharmacy, the two retired into the dimly-lit hallway. Heidi spoke first.

“Babies have survived at seven months before.”

“With proper medical treatment. Not during the apocalypse.” Agatha did not dare to entertain her companion’s optimism, though she felt a fondness for her for expressing it. “The baby might live for a few hours, but they won’t make it in this world.” As if to corroborate her point, a miniature explosion was heard as a backyard barbecue’s propane tank popped with the heat. The sound startled Heidi from objecting to the infant’s death further and she sank, dejected, into the wall.

“This isn’t a world any of us are going to survive, is it?” Heidi sighed.

Agatha hesitated. Though not one to indulge in melancholy, she also didn’t aspire to mislead others with artificial hope. A moan from Trisha bought the nurse some time and when she returned from her bedside she addressed Heidi in a tone of realistic resolution. “It’s prudent at this point to not dwell on death beyond necessary measure. The infant’s death is certain. They are premature. Even in a world not intoxicated with malicious fog their underdeveloped lungs would struggle to breathe. We cannot save the infant, but we can save the mother. She is strong. Our focus needs to be there always now, on saving the strong and not working in vain to elongate the inevitable death of the weak. Do you understand?”

Heidi only nodded solemnly, her eyes downcast, littering the tiled floor with sympathetic tears. Agatha’s heart ached with pity for her, but she knew that which the others did not. With the expiration of the governor and surgeon she was the oldest inhabitant of the village by a decade. She was one of the original “transplants” of the New Coast from the mainland. She remembered the government gathering together a dozen newly-wed couples and forcing them upon the island under the guise of some societal experiment engineered to save mankind. She, like the others, had been sworn to secrecy and condemned if they were ever to tell their offspring about their origins.

“We’ll drown your babies in the ocean and leave you here to starve,” The men in white told Agatha, a mere 17 and timid, as she clung to her equally young and terrified husband. “Never a soul.”

That was 60 years before Trisha’s son was delivered in a makeshift delivery room and died a few short hours later. As Agatha wiped the baby’s blood from her smock, she considered sharing the knowledge, though minimal, she had of the people’s shared ancestry. She figured the men in white from the mainland had something to do with the explosion. And that the radio station which had since turned to static crackle since the first feeble broadcasts was lying about the deadly nature of the fog. But she was old, nearly 80 and tired. She didn’t have any information which would help the people, nor any inclination how they could save themselves from this engineered apocalypse. Agatha had no doubts their island society was under scrutiny of the rest of the world, but there wasn’t a drat thing her story could do to save them, even if they believed her.

So she kept silent. They all did. A somber silence filled the island as day after day more bodies were buried. The death became so routine they stopped mourning. The holes were dug, the bodies rolled into them and covered. Usually the why in a tragedy doesn’t matter, just is, but in this case it meant everything. At first, it seemed like coincidence that the men were the only people dying. They attributed it to men making up the raid parties and therefore being more directly exposed, but as the male death toll accumulated the women were forced to take on the role. The women survived the raids, day after day, while the men that accompanied them died in a rage of coughing, clawing at their throats, puking black vile. Before the third week after the initial blast concluded, all male inhabitants were dead and unceremoniously buried.

They called it the Y Chromo epidemic. Women seemed immune, but men young and old succumbed to the fog. None but Agatha suspected the government’s goal to create and monitor an all-female society. The rest thought it was an unfortunate accident, a hiccup in their genetic code that made them susceptible to the deadly poisons of the fog. Gradually, the women of the society began to accept their new circumstances and rebuild. All except Agatha and the still pregnant Pearl.

Though not the only women pregnant at the time of the explosion, only Pearl, Trisha and a teen named Hannah survived the initial blast. Trisha was the first to give birth in the night while the fires still raged and her son was lost to frailty before the fog could claim him. Hannah anxiously suffered through a hard labor to be rewarded with a daughter, full term and capable of surviving the harsh island air a week later. Pearl, however, remained pregnant, cultivating her child, through the death of her husband as he lay beside her one night when he could no longer resist the toxin of the fog.

It was three weeks and two days since the last man died when Pearl awoke to fluid drenching her night gown. Her eyes were greeted by the sight of a clear blue sky, fog free, shining through the window of the delivery room. The nurses had insisted she be relocated there after the death of her husband so they could eagerly monitor her pregnancy and offer what little assistance they could to prolong her labor by offering her all the comforts they’d been able to procure. She lay among the fluffiest of pillows, with the softest of sheets and her room smelled of the freshest flowers. Heidi, considerate as always, had gone to great lengths to give the delivery room the appearance of being pre-apocalyptic. Only, there was no medical equipment of measure. Everything in the hospital had been destroyed and for all Heidi’s attempts at uncovering something of value in the rubble she had not been successful.

A strange calm overtook Pearl as the nurses prepared to deliver her baby into the incredibly hosed up world. Though her pain was immense, she seemed incapable of processing it. Heidi eyed her with inexpressible concern, but Agatha knew what thoughts transpired behind her glazed eyes as she breathed deeply through contractions. Pearl was contemplating the loss of her child. Praying for it to be a boy, just so he wouldn’t have to endure the hardships of a cursed life.

When Theodore was laid upon her chest, Pearl at last began to weep. Her cries came in choked sobs as she cradled him to her chest, hoping beyond hope when he began to cough death that he would spit innocent bile upon her heart and take her with him into the world beyond.

Only he never began to cough. Lungs so small should have been overtaken within a few hours, a day at most. Yet, he never coughed, only cried. Eventually Agatha urged Pearl to let him take her breast, drinking life. She saw in the infant a hope before inconceivable and her heart swelled with affection for the child which might save their small, isolated and forsaken society.

“How’s the little chip doing?” Trisha motioned towards Theodore, sleeping soundly amidst blankets at Pearl’s feet. Trisha seated herself on the shore beside Pearl and mimicked her stare out over the endless blue immense before them. Both imagined the same thing. Their children dancing, laughing and twirling in a land far away, where there wasn’t death and destruction and the occasional oven that still exploded on ignition.

“He’s still alive,” Pearl replied coolly. Trisha understood. She rocked the infant with her foot, staring off into a future completely unimaginable.

Sep 2, 2016

*** Submission for LOSERBRAWL ***

Take What I Have, You Gluttons

Word Count: 450

There isn’t a single thing he hasn’t already written worth submitting. He stretches. His fingers pull one another taut as he extends his wrists up over his head. He knows it’s bullshit, but it’s a consistent lie. It’s a lie that he can swallow down with the whiskey. Jameson. He mulls over if the name would work for the rugged character he’s been contemplating. He decides it can’t. Or more, it could, but he simply can’t write the character. And he can’t give a bullshit character a bullshit name any more than he can write a drat story. He used to be able to write a story, but that was when he had something to say that mattered. Or at least was interesting. Or revolting. Hell, anything that deserved more than a quick skim.

He’d never had the capacity to write anything worth remembering, but people had read him at the airport, maybe, on a long flight when they’d ran out of peanuts. Or in the shitter, at least, while they waited for a sympathetic roommate to replenish the toilet paper from the hall supply closet.

He writes the date on the top of the page like this is a loving journal entry, and he’s a fourteen-year-old girl, and somehow spilling out his emotions on the page is going to amount to something.

October 3rd

Today is a lovely day. I hate life.

He laughs, takes another drink. He doesn’t hate life. But he hates the day he optimistically joined their ranks of writers. The day he decided to give more of a poo poo about the words than the people that read them. The day he split his soul between the devil of diction and the god of syntax, and only got a handful of lukewarm critiques in return. It wasn’t a lovely life. It was a lovely occupation.

He changes his entry.

Every day is lovely because I hate writing.

He lights a joint. It was more accurate, but still not completely true. He didn’t depend on writing for his livelihood, yet he couldn’t seem to survive without it. He was an addict, lusting for a fix even when he knew what the brutal end result would be. Writing was his dirty little call girl. His subconscious routinely slipped her a key when all his mind really wanted was some loving peace and quiet.

He inhales, erases the entry. The blank page and the viewers beyond mock him. A crossfaded passion of contempt and unrequited respect creeps into his fingers as he strikes the keys, annihilating the page.

gently caress the readers, and gently caress you, too.

He hits submit and doesn’t feel the need to gratify them again until Sunday.

Sep 2, 2016

In. Thanks for the fast prompt upload. (And fast judging btw)

Sep 2, 2016


Maigius posted:

I concede the Loserbrawl. I am not able to come up with a single not dumb idea.

Thanks for giving me a very dissatisfying win by default.

Sep 2, 2016

Authorial Intent
Word Count: 742

You are Marcus:
You’re sitting at your desk, feeling guilty about the murder at the end of chapter three. You tell yourself it was necessary. Inevitable. Your fingers itch for a revival, but you’re writing in the realm of realism. You can’t just go and resurrect some quirky guy you’re feeling extra attached to. So, you write him a back story. It’s mostly useless garbage about not liking popcorn, and girls he’s fondled and poo poo, but it makes you feel a little less awful about offing him so early in. You sit there thinking about him, and all the characters just like him you loved but couldn’t keep. You wonder if maybe you could have helped him hang on for just a few more pages, but you know that’s not how it works. Kill them while you can, keep them if you can’t (yet). You know they all die eventually, even if you don’t do them the honor of spilling out all the gory details. Irrelevance is a cancer all its own.

You are Yahweh:
You’re sitting at your desk, feeling guilty about not murdering Marcus at the end of volume three, chapter two-thousand-sixteen. You tell yourself it wasn’t necessary. Avoidable. You probably should have killed the bastard, but gently caress man, you just made his personality too interesting. If you’ve ever really created any characters in your image Marcus sure as poo poo is the one. You question if maybe you’ve invested just a little too much of yourself in him, but gently caress it, sometimes your voice just creeps into a character and refuses to get out. You figure it won’t really be all that unnatural to use him for commentary purposes. He’s just sitting there not really doing anything other than thinking about the process anyhow.

You are Marcus (Again):
You wonder if you’re irrelevant, too. Like you’re just some stupid character in some long-winded book God decided to write for all his buddies. Like they’re up there in heaven (which is probably just a code word for some lovely pub) and they’re all drinking and smoking and making bets on who can write the better apocalypse. And the guy to your creator’s left is talking poo poo to the girl on the right, saying her world building skills suck rear end. And she’s leaning back in the chair with the uneven legs saying, why don’t you go gently caress yourself? And the cocky motherfucker on the left is saying, why don’t you gently caress me, and she’s saying she doesn’t do fantasy. All the while God, your God, almighty author of Tales of the Earth, is just sitting there between the two, drumming his fingers on the table and trying to figure out whether or not he should kill you off or let you tell his side of the story.

You are Yahweh (Again):
You’re not even sure you want to tell your side of the story. Who would really want to read about that poo poo? You’re just some guy like all the other guys with an ink pen and coffee stains on his teeth and a nervous habit of biting his nails. You’re just a guy who goes to the pub on Sundays and orders an ale and broods over a draft and tries to tune out all the poo poo all your friends say that you don’t want to hear. All of them have got these successful worlds to brag about all bound up. Like being a creator comes naturally to them. Like they’ve got the constructs of a hundred worlds all sketched out in their head. Like they’ve got all eternity to dick around in their realms. But you’re just sitting there, trying to go unnoticed with your one manuscript that you’ve been writing since the dawn of time. And they’re making jokes about you. Like how you’re so hung up on some little square named Marcus when you ought to have snuffed out all of mankind and moved on a long time ago.

It Doesn’t Matter Who You Are:
You’re sitting there (it doesn’t matter where) and you’re realizing that if you are just some pathetic pawn in some sick gently caress’s mind then it doesn’t really matter what you think after all. So you take the pen and you write it down, all of it, every single thought you did or didn’t have. You just write it and say it’s the word of God and don’t give a gently caress who gets it.

Sep 2, 2016

Thanks for the crit and fast judging. Also, in for whatever the prompt ends up being.

Edit: Lake County, CA Gothic

llamaguccii fucked around with this message at 20:42 on Oct 11, 2016

Sep 2, 2016

What the Eyes Can't See
Word Count: 1076

Alison didn’t believe in demons, but she wished she did.

When the M.E. examined her he determined the raw ligature marks on her wrists and ankles were antemortem. The abrasions indicated she had been held captive for several days. Though the body was water logged from being submerged in the lake before eventually becoming caught in the algae overgrowth and surfacing, signs of rape were still evident. The varying degrees of bruising reflected multiple occasions of trauma. Contents, or lack thereof, in her stomach confirmed she had been starved in the days preceding her death. Despite her injuries and evidence of extreme malnutrition, Alison’s cause of death was determined to be drowning.

She was not the first victim to be claimed by the murky waters of Clear Lake. Bodies were not uncommon, but most were attributed to accident, not malice. Boating mishaps accounted for a few a year. Drunk driving incidents with intoxicated teens swerving around the winding mountainside road and flying off into the water boasted the rest. There hadn’t been a confirmed case of murder in the lake for fifty years.

When the police officers came to tell Alison’s parents her body had been found, they clutched one another, sobbing incoherently. Her grandmother, blind and senile, pushed herself past the scene in the hallway, her tennis ball covered walker legs scuffing along. Her face was distant as she stared toward the officers, the corners of her mouth twitching up, as though she wanted to smile, but had forgotten how.

The devil did it¸ was all she said before she pushed onward, into the kitchen to await the preparation of her lunch.

Her brother had been the first. Probably not the first boy to ever be murdered in the lake, but the first to have his death recorded. He was 15, the same age as Alison, the day he went into the lake and never came back. He was boating with friends. None of them survived. They told her they were only going to go see Snake Island. Maybe just dare one another to take one step on the poisonous shore. Maybe carve their names in the closest tree. No one knew. The boys died and their bodies weren’t found for days despite search parties combing the water and shore. By then, it was impossible to tell what had truly taken their lives.

Bethany was 10 the day her brother James died. She woke up to see him sneaking out their shared bedroom window, in the house, up the street from the lake. Don’t tell, dad, he told her, I’ll be back by dawn. She’d stayed awake all night. She imagined she saw him lying in his bed, like he’d never left, his chest heaving under the covers. She imagined she heard the soft exhalations of his breath, just across the room, in the shadows where the streetlight didn’t quite reach. Then at 3am she heard it. She heard him gasping, thrashing in the bed, and then there was nothing. She was too scared to get up. Too scared to see if James was still alive. So she laid there, shivering under her own covers until dawn and when her father asked her the next morning if she knew when James left, she didn’t say anything.

Bethany was 60 years old the day her eldest granddaughter died. Alison had been missing for six days, but teenagers do these things, or so they say. It must be hard, she thought, growing up in the Emerald Triangle. Their relatives always joked when they visited there was nothing in Lake County to do, but drink, do drugs and have sex. Alison had been caught doing all three in the same night. Her parents had been hard on her. Her father used a belt. It was an outdated method of punishment. Child abuse, the authorities would have called it, but Bethany didn’t bat even a blind eye at the desperate cries of her granddaughter. Alison went missing the following day.

Bethany woke up every night while Alison was being tortured by the men she wished were demons so she could believe she was in hell and not only five miles up the mountain in a house she’d once partied with the “older boys” who were now the men who tore her clothes and chained her limbs and came inside her. Bethany laid on her back, in the same room she and her brother had shared all those years ago and stared with blind eyes over to the corner where her brother once slept. She imagined she saw the devil on top of him, choking him beneath the sheets. She imagined she heard Alison’s screams behind her, in the neighboring room, through the wall they shared. She never got up to check on her either.

The cops didn’t pay her any mind. Bethany was going old sooner than most. She’d had several nervous break downs in her youth. She’d been admitted, released and readmitted more times to the local psyche ward than any officer cared to count. She’d even undergone a controversial exorcism from the church. She was mostly mild mannered though, content with the occasional demonic ravings under her breath. They watched her disappear into the kitchen and didn’t pay her a second thought.

Bethany stared forward, her hands folded over one another on the table cloth, oblivious to the grief in the living room. The chair opposite her was pulled out, slightly turned to the right, as though someone were sitting in it. Bethany’s eyes that couldn’t see met his darkness and he engaged her.

It’s nice to see you again, Bethany.

Quite. She smiled in the way she couldn’t quite manage.

Let’s talk about Alison. He said coolly, cradling Bethany’s eyes in his heinous hand.

Go on.

She’s a good match for James, yes?

As good as any. She just needed to be broken in.

They’re happy you know, The devil grinned his fanged teeth, She’s the perfect mate for the prince of darkness. I knew you’d breed one eventually. I was so disappointed when you only had that pitiful son. It’s important to keep out line pure, you understand.

Completely. She closed her eyes.

Do you see them?

Yes. She almost achieved a smile.

Very good. He stroked her face and dug his clawed finger into her heart. Hush now, it’s time you joined the family.

Bethany went home before her body hit the linoleum floor.

llamaguccii posted:

Thanks for the crit and fast judging. Also, in for whatever the prompt ends up being.

Edit: Lake County, CA Gothic

I added my initial in post because I didn't see my name on the participant list.

Sep 2, 2016

<b> IN </b> as an employee.

Also, thank you for the super fast judging and crits.

Sep 2, 2016

The Plunge
Word Count: 572

I hate how they treat you… like you’re not even human. I turned away, but her upper limbs twisted their way around my neck. They intertwined themselves into my tangled hair.

But I’m not human, you know that, silly. Ixa’s suctioned cupped body smacked softly against the exposed portions of my dirt streaked skin.

I know. It’s not… You’re not… You just… I tried to struggle away from her, but her fifth and sixth limbs slipped around my waist.

I just… manage their entire ecosystem? Ixa turned me, lifting my chin. Her twelve midlevel eyes blinked playfully from the center of her octopusian-ferned body.

But… They don’t even… I couldn’t fight for her. I couldn’t fight her.

Hush, darling. I really don’t mind. I have you now. Her pollen-pocket mouth met mine. I stopped resisting.

Together we plunged down the drain…


I sat in a straight backed chair with only one arm support as a thin manager with sporadic balding peered at me over cracked spectacles. I was nervous.

“So, it says here your eyes are green. They look a little more blue to me.” He looked nervously from my hiring packet to my pimpled face.

“No, sir. They’re green. Sometimes they do shift a little.” He rubbed his glasses on his jacket and looked again.

“You’re sure?”



“Yes, sir.” I fidgeted. “Is my eye color important?”

“Most definitely. It’s one of our qualifying categories for placement.” He shuffled threw my papers some more.

“Well I’d be happy to work anywhere.” I’d heard Voidmart had odd hiring techniques, but eye color seemed a little far-fetched even for them.

“Well, I suppose they are green enough for the Garden Shop.”

“The Garden Shop?”

“Yes, all the green-eyed ones are there. Work better with the plants, you see? It’s all about retention.” He began furiously signing my papers as though the matter were settled.

“Isn’t it a green thumb you want for plants? I honestly don’t even know the difference between most plants I see. I don’t think my eyes will help much.” I offered in a desperate attempt to be replaced. I knew nothing about plants and killed all those I encountered.

“Here at Voidmart we tend not to be too particular about body parts. After all, many of our veteran employees are missing several.” Before I could protest the manager showed a name badge into my hand. Andy – Garden Shop.

“Excuse me. Thanks for giving me the job, but I think there’s been some mistake. My name’s Connor, not Andy.” I tried to give the name badge back, but he refused it.

“Not to worry, not to worry. Andy’s a good name, gender neutral, perfect for a place holder.” He pushed me out the door and towards the Garden Shop, pulling out employee pamphlets, guidebooks and a vest along the way.

“Place holder? A place holder for what?”


I never got any answers from Voidmart, but it didn't stop me from knowing Iza. I knew about Iza, where all her eyes came from. Green eyes, like mine, like all the other Andy’s. Enough eyes to watch and lord over all the plants. She never asked for my eyes, but she asked my name. As if something like that mattered in a place like Voidmart where no one could remember anything anymore.

That’s a nice name. She said. Then she wrapped her grassy tentacles around me and we plunged.

Sep 2, 2016


The Saddest Rhino posted:


You don’t touch each other to conserve energy.

In the spirit of fresh eyes, here’s a critique for Ascent by The Saddest Rhino.

Good stuff:

Solid opening. Eyes communicate intrigue, so opening with a line about seeing gets me in the mindset of wanting to be shown (not told) the story through the narrator’s eyes.

I love the use of the second person. It works really well here, adds to the mystery of the piece. It also forces the reader to become intimately attached to the narrator’s perspective.

The dialogue of the greeter is strong and definitely propels the story forward by offering pertinent information about the operations of Voidmart.
“You don’t touch each other to conserve energy” – great line.

I can totally buy the struggle of the ascent even though it’s completely impractical. It is told in a way that is acceptable to the characters, so as the reader I accept it also.

All the descriptions of Lakshmi are great. The descriptions of the still birth and wife dying are chill worthy.
The last line feels accurate, not cliché in this piece.

Not so good stuff:

“You have scaled across deserts.” “Scaled” in reference to “deserts” bugged me.

“It warms your face with indifference.” This sounds cool, but I don’t think it adds anything. Are you implying they actually have suns up there? And if so, then why is it getting colder (snowing) the closer you get to them? Does indifference really warm your face? Is the character or the light really indifferent to each other?

“She let it fall into and in between the fingers of Smith.” I guess I could see it fall both onto (but not into) and in between the guy’s fingers, but I’m not sure what the significance is. I feel like there has to be some sort of significance, but it’s lost on me. Also, it has a sexual vibe to me.

These points are definitely nit-picky, but this is a really strong piece (like usual) and my favorite out of those I’ve read thus far for the week. I felt like the story had good pacing and the reveal of the stakes at hand came across as a surprise (although looking back it makes perfect sense). What else would the characters go to such great lengths to restore if not love?

Sep 2, 2016


flerp posted:


a very slow and bad judge(s)

150 words

Deliver Us From the Interim
Word Count: 150

Like all good trinities, one divinity co-existed devoid of responsibility. These divinities, for lack of better name, shall be referred to henceforth as: The Judges Three. For further clarity, we bow before the Judge of Sitting, The Judge of Twisting and The Judge of… Non-existence. Now, Non-existence is not a nice name to give someone of judicial stature, but can one be blamed for the making of such distinctions in the absence of defining presence? We poor souls of undesirable fate, lament the fractions of weekly trinity. Please, we beg, Judge of Non-existence make thyself know. Join the favored wielders of anguish. Trample our pitiful frames with your mighty presence. Squash our creation into the foundation of despair. Appear! Almighty deliberant, be our deliverance from the interim. We lay ourselves before you, casual casualties. Claim us. Maim us. Just don’t leave us be, quivering in the darkened posts of indecision.

Sep 2, 2016


Kaishai posted:

Voidmart Crits for BeefSupreme and llamaguccii

Thanks for the crit!

Sep 2, 2016


contagonist posted:

*patiently waiting for crit*

I'll crit yours tonight (even if someone else does it before then).

Sep 2, 2016

Crit for Aisle Null by Contagonist

Okay, so I did a line-by-line crit of this. I wrote it as a I read it for the first time, so if there's some confusion that is later cleared up, that's why. You can find specifics of what didn't work within the piece, but I'm going to mention some overarching issues here.

You have way too many characters that are totally unnecessary. Darla and Miles do nothing to further the plot. Dusty is pretty irrelevant as well. He could easily not exist at all, or just point to the disturbance and then vanish. I've worked retail and usually people do not stick around to watch you clean up the mess they're complaining about. What do Darla and Miles do? Do they work at Voidmart? Why is Miles drinking Pepsi? Why does Jim have such an intimate relationship with the mop? Why does Darla bring up dick-size, then after that every reference to sex is made by Jim? This story could easily have existed for me with just Jim, "female-male" (who really should have been named something) and the bug.

Speaking of female-male, purple, hairless, naked thing... what the hell is going on here? Nothing else in your story warrants this sort of weirdness (I mean, yeah, you have a big bug, but so what?). Also, if they are naked, why can't you tell the sex? What about their body has Jim popping boners left and right? I could dig this was a weird story about inter-species eroticism (although I know erotica is frowned upon in the realms of Thunderdome), but I didn't get any actual sex in the story. What the gently caress, man? How many times are you going to mention dicks and not give me a sex scene? I felt like I was reading this story just to get to the sex scene. What's the point of the fetish (and Darla's manhood questioning) if there isn't going to be sex, or at least attempted sex, or interrupted sex, or some sort of sex? gently caress, it would have been better if Jim just jacked off into his mop bucket at the end.

Dialogue is really bad in this. See line notes.

You didn't expand on the two interesting parts of the story (inter-species fetish) and the timestream stuff. I wanted to see more of one or both of these and way less filler dialogue and mop interaction.

One last thing, I couldn't believe in your characters, especially not the female-male one. They didn't even seem to know what they were. How was I supposed to figure it out? Plus, they totally changed personalities from being passive to aggressive towards the bug. One thing I will say struck me as surprising about your piece is that you chose to define the creature first with a feminine descriptor (female/she/her) before the male. I found that to be refreshing considering usually any sort of gender hierarchy promotes males "on top."

I would really like to see what you submit next week. I'm not sure if this is your first week, but it's the first time I've read something by you. If you submit again this week, I'll do another crit for you next Monday.

contagonist posted:

Week 220: Enter The Voidmart
Employee, Maintenance Engineer
1296 words

Aisle Null

“So, you’re a janitor?” Miles asks for clarification, pointing a finger, rest of the hand holding a pepsi bottle. Too many words. Why is it important he is pointing? Why is it important he is holding a Pepsi bottle (which should be capitalized btw). I really hope Pepsi is crucial to your story because I can't imagine why you'd want to plug them for free. Could read "So, you're a janitor?" Miles asked.

“The proper term,” starts Jim, placing a hand on his chest, pal pressing his fresh violet smock, “is Maintenance Engineer.” He’s holding the mop handle in his hand to the side, at an angle, as if it were a microphone stand. Again, get rid of all the added words. Could easily read "..." Jim corrects, pressing down his violet smock with pride, "...." Next line sounds awkward. Could be condensed to, He grasps the mop handle like a microphone stand.

“Yeah but you can get us smokes, right?” Darla asks, throwing an arm around Mile’s shoulder, leaning on him. “You said you could get us smokes.” Who the gently caress is Darla? You're four sentences in and have three characters. I don't even know anything about the first two yet. What does being a "Maintenance Engineer" have to do with getting "smokes?" Very confused, and not in a good way, at this point.

“Probably. Maybe. Yeah,” Jim says, pushing the mop on the floor, leaving a mirrored finish behind its path. “Not just smokes and booze but drat, you wouldn’t loving believe the shirt here,” he says, both hands on the stick, pushing. Mirrored? Really? This doesn't seem to serve the plot, nor does it really make a whole lot of sense. I think you mean poo poo, not "shirt" and where is "here?" The character's actions here are still jolted. I can see what he's doing, (pushing a mop) but it doesn't read well.

The smartphone on Jim’s hip beeps, saying “Temporal Cleanup – Aisle Null,” before clicking off. This sounds more like a pager. "Before clicking off" is unnecessary.

“That’s for me,” Jim says, dipping the mop into the bucket, then pushing said bucket forward. Darla and Miles follow. They banter and bitch about biology homework, between Darla asking Miles and Jim about the sizes of their dicks. No, no, no. There's no justification for the word "said." It's the bucket. There's not twelve of them and this one is special. Also, why am I reading so much about the mop? I hope this mop turns out to have awesome mystical magical powers.... What the gently caress did I just read? She better gently caress one of them by the end of this to warrant this random narration about her blatant curiosity about their dick sizes.

Above shelves taller than buildings, suspended from girders crisscrossing underneath a domed ceiling, hangs a sign: AISLE NULL: TACHYON PRODUCTS, BOSE-EINSTEIN CREAM, QUANTUM CONDENSED GOODS. Eh. This sentence is probably the best yet, but I'm still not sold on your descriptors. For instance, since buildings are all different shapes and sizes (for instance Voidmart must be huge) it's difficult for me to picture just how tall "taller than buildings" really is.

Standing in front of the aisle is a man with a beard, dressed in a linen shirt and denim pants, wide brimmed hat – all covered in dust. His eyes are open as wide as his mouth, and he slowly cranes his head around. What if you chopped up this section? Standing in front of the aisle is a man with a beard. He is dressed in a linen shirt, denim pants and a wide brimmed hat, all of which are covered in dust. It would make the read easier.

Jim, Miles, and Darla pretty much say at the same time, “cosplayer.” No. They do or they don't say it at the same time. Also, they don't need to say it. That's weird, and not in an interesting way. Why not just say, "They recognize him as a cosplayer." Also, what is he a cosplayer of? I didn't get the cosplay vibe. Maybe clarify what type of cosplayer. Like, famous scientist cosplayer or inventor cosplayer or something.

The man hears them, shifts his attention – eyes locking on the VOID MART smock Jim’s wearing. He points at the aisle behind him, saying “pardon me, but you seem to have a bit of a varmint problem in your establishment.” This is the first time you've mentioned VOIDMART.

Jim mouths, “motherfucker,” as he walks past the man, flipping out his mop and pushing forward the bucket into a slide. He turns the corner into the aisle and finds a giant, carapaced thing crawling over the shelves. It’s grabbing canisters, throwing them at some beautiful woman-man with purple skin, no hair, no clothes. Um. I know Voidmart is weird, but I don't think the weirdness justifies introducing too totally new creatures in a two sentence span. Also, if the woman-man is naked, wouldn't you be able to see it's junk and identify it as woman or man OR maybe it has both OR maybe it has neither. Seriously though, if it has no clothes on it and it's naked, that's the first place I'd look to determine what sex I'm looking at. I think either it should be sexed, or clothed.

She-he says to the bug, “stop doing that, this facility is a contingent on a capitalist economy. You are minutely damaging their primitive quality of life.” Okay, side note. This has happened several times already and I feel the need to address it. You need to capitalize the first letter in the first word of your dialogue. Also, I'm kind of confused about the she-he's argument. I don't think "minutely" is the right word choice. Also, if I read this right, the argument is the bug is destroying merchandise, which Voidmart then cannot sell?

Jim stares at her-him and gets the strangest boner as the bug throws another container, which shatters on the ground spilling a liquid that dramatically increases in volume into a small flood, smells like acetone and menthol. gently caress yeah, that's a strange boner. Should probably read though: As Jim stares at her-him, he gets the strangest boner. The bug... Also, I'm getting tired of the her-him/she-he thing. Can't they have a nickname or something? ... small flood. It smells like .... Use periods. Please. Pleaseeee.

Jim, Darla and Miles behind him, all say “what the gently caress,” one word each. Stop with this group speech. It's not a play. That only really works in plays. Also, where did Darla and Miles come from? This could read better as "What the..." (line break) "gently caress?!" Darla and Miles finished, rounding the corner to investigate the noise. Or something like that.

Jim grits his teeth and tightens his grip on the mop, trudges forward through the foaming slurry, splashes freezing before collapsing. He flips the mop, hard end up, and swings it at the giant bug. What's splashing? What's freezing? What's collapsing?

It chitters obscenities at him, throws a rubber bottle that bounces off of his head, sends him stumbling back. Hahaha. Still breaks the sentence: throws a rubber bottle. It bounces off his head.

The purple woman-man reaches a hand towards him, then looks back at the bug, saying “both of you cease your needless harm doing.” Buahaha I'm dying now.

Jim snaps back, “it’s throwing poo poo everywhere, just need to get it down,” he says, resuming the poking and jabbing with the mop stick. I don't think this is supposed to be funny, but I just this it's hilarious.

The dust-covered man, Miles, and Darla watch on. Dusty remarks, taking off his hat, “s’like an angel and a demon, and man struggling tween the two.” Since when did he start talking like this? Where did he come from? When did he show up?

Then Jim remembers something from the biology book. He grabs the mop bucket, dumping in more soap as the bug whistles and snickers and steals more unpronounceable things. This is okay, but boring. Also, nothing about Jim to me reads like college student. I really know nothing about him, but he does not seem to me to be capable of comprehending Biology based on how he speaks.

After mixing the solution, Jim turns to the woman-man, and asking, desperately trying not to stutter or ask her-him for sex, “can you help me chuck this at the bug?” OMG why?! This is the weirdest fetish thing I've ever encountered, and I'm certainly impartial to the weird fetish. I need to know why this sexless creature makes him want to hump so loving bad. Like seriously. I could buy it if I just knew why. Give me some interiority to chew on or something.

She-he shrugs, and they both grasp the bucket and chuck it at once, launching a gallon of soap-water on the creature. The mixture splashed on the bug, coating it. It’s chittering and whistling changes to gurgles and spits. It shudders, then falls off the shelves, hitting the foam-covered floor softly. This is certainly a wishy-washy non-sexed character. One minute they want them to desist the next they are apt to being an accomplice in oversized insect murder. And not only that... THEY ARE LAUGHING ABOUT IT. Oh, I'm laughing about it. Oh, cruel world.

“What did you do?” asks the woman-man as both she-he and Jim walk towards it. Yes, finally you have made all my dreams come true by making woman-man AND she-he appear in the same sentence.

“Soap water, clogs up the breathing hole things in its carapace,” he says. So your character knows the word carapace, but can only manage "breathing hole things" to describe the creature further?

“Mmm, that might kill it,” she-he says. Is it dead? Is it really? If it is... Then I think saying it "might" kill it doesn't really make sense... Since, you know, it's obviously dead. (Unquestionably)

“Well I could rinse it with water or something but this isn’t the aisle, wait,” he stops, as the woman-man walks to a shelf and looks around. She-he grabs a canister with a dial on its side, turns it, and unscrews the top before pouring it over the bug. A surge of water rushes out of the canister as if it were a fire hydrant, dousing the bug. The woman-man closes the canister and it just… stops. The dialogue transition here is awkward. He needs to acknowledge their last line (or dismiss it) in some way. What stops? The story could have stopped here. I could have stopped reading here, but I'll go on.

After, the woman-man grabs the bug, still struggling and gasping and rocking on its back. She-he lifts it’s whole bulk up over her-his head and shakes it vigorously, water flying off it. The bug’s breathing eases, but it continues to struggle, vainly, in her-his hold. Oh, so the bug isn't dead? That could have been clarified earlier. They're being very nonchalant about this considering the bug isn't dead. How did they go from being a pacifist to shaking the bug "vigorously" so quickly? I think the she-he creature is also bi-polar.

“We have subdued the vandal,” she-he says. “But there’s still the tachyon leak to deal with.” So that's the stuff all over the floor? (Also, I have not as of yet seen the Pepsi bottle come into play, or Miles really do much of anything)

Jim turns his head, puzzled. “The what?” he asks, reaching down into his smock pocket and pulling up the VOID MART Standard Issue Employee Smartphone. If Jim doesn't know what they're talking about I certainly don't. Earlier the Smartphone was on his hip.

“Hmm, to put it simply,” she-he starts, holding the bug as its trashing subdues, “something, somewhere, somewhen is dumping 4th dimensional particles into the timestream and causing an erratic temporal collapse. Parts and pieces of this stores futures and pasts are joined together in the now.” Someone, not somewhen, is what you meant, I think. I feel like your story is finally getting interesting, right here with all this timestream stuff, but the story is almost over... You still have a few lines left for redemption: don't disappoint me.

Jim’s nodding his head, following along and trying to hide his erection. He scrolls down the text on the Phone’s screen before finding the HOW-TO guides. “Ok, ok I found it,” he says. “I just need to find the leaking Tachyon containment cell and put it in… an Other Bag.” The boner is backkkkkkk. Oh, yes, indeed. Just throw it in "an Other Bag." That will solve all your problems in a jiffy.

Jim pats himself down, reaching elbow deep into one of the smock’s pockets and pulling out a opaque black, plastic bag, with bright yellow letters reading “OTHER.” "Pats himself down" imeadiately made me think he was about to start jacking off because of all the prior boner references.

He looks back at the screen, reads more. “But before I seal it up, I need to make sure everyone’s in their own time fragment,” Jim says. As he looks around, he notices that the bottles, canisters, and boxes lining the shelves have a subtle disuniformity – most are written in English, some with modern label designs, others with old-time slogans and held brown, green glass bottles. I don't really know what you're going for here describing the discrepancies of merchandise on the shelf. They don't seem that different. I could easily see items of this appearance sharing homes on shelves of regular stores.

Others still were in languages he didn’t recognize, half with elegant glyphs, others with crude but intricately arranged marks. Okay, this piques my interest a (wee) little bit.

“Pretty sure we find that out by the labels on the stuff,” he says. “I take it that that’s your time-section thing?” he says to the woman-man, pointing at the more elegant labels and sophisticated containers. She-he nods, walking towards it. They find out what dimension or whatever it's supposed to be in?

She-he says, still hoisting the bug, “Tell me when you’re about to bag the tachyon container, I’ll throw our distant descendent into its section.” She-he is cray-cray.

Jim trudges through the foam, now all decaying into a fine pale powder, to Dusty. Would be easier to read as Jim trudges towards Dusty through...

“Sir, if you could stand by those green and brown bottles of.. liniments and.. stuff,” he says, Dusty nodding. Again, with the vocab discrepancy. Liniments and stuff don't belong together.

Darla and Miles are just watching him do the thing. (Darla and Miles probably shouldn't be in this story)

Jim scans the aisle, up and down, before finding a cracked Tachyon container on the floor. He picks it up out of the powder, walks near the woman-man. Why did it take him so long to find it if it was only a scan away?

“Uh,” he starts, face reddening. “I gotta say, before I do this,” "before I do this..." He wants the nonexistent D/V!

The woman-man smiles, interrupts, “I understand your attraction, and were you.. mature, we could have enjoyed ourselves. Perhaps some day in your future.” I feel like she-he is implying he has a baby-dick here. Based on his intellect thus far I don't think he's going to be mentally/emotionally maturing any time in the near future.

“Uh, yeah,” he says, glancing away. “J-just toss the bug.” Ahh, Jim. Embrace the flaccidity of rejection.

Jim steps away from her-him, and she-he throws the bug into its section, and he drops the container into the Other Bag. Dusty, the Bug, and the woman-man vanish when he closes the bag. This seems very anti-climatic. A very (literal) bag and tag sort of deal.

Then, Jim refills his bucket and starts cleaning up. If you were going to end on such a mundane line you could at least ditch the "Then."

Sep 2, 2016

In. Thanks for the crits.

llamaguccii fucked around with this message at 19:18 on Oct 27, 2016

Sep 2, 2016

Power In Death

Word Count: 250

Eat your meat. My mother coaxed. It’ll make you strong. Pushing steak around on a dinner plate, I knew that was bullshit. When I lost the ability to hold the fork, I was forced to swallow her spoon-fed fairy tales.

But spinal muscular atrophy has no happy endings.

In middle school, the kids called me Bird-Boy. I looked like a bird. Not an eagle or anything valiant like that. With my skinny elbows bowed out from my chest due to contractures, I was their chicken, the tormented class pet. Their laughter echoed as I squawked myself to sleep, on a bi-pap. My mother, that wouldn’t let me die, lay curled on a cot in the far corner of the room.

I didn’t want the vomit inducing experimental drugs. I didn’t want slightly increased motor-function. gently caress walking, I wanted to fly. I wanted to be a vulture.

If that sounds morbid it’s because a child who has tried to snuff themselves three times by their thirteenth birthday is bound to be a little dark. I admired vultures. They were scavengers, but at least they were the ones circling corpses.

I was tired of being a corpse.

I drove my new chair, my adult chair, electric and massive, in circles. I wondered if I charged the sliding glass door, would it actually break? Did I have any power over my life?

You’re doing good, Carter. My mother, who had never expected me to live, smiled.

I flew forward. The illusion finally shattered.

llamaguccii posted:

In. Thanks for the crits.

Sep 2, 2016

In. Congrats, Flerp. XD

Sep 2, 2016

Moving On
Word Count: 359

Mr. Peterson’s wife is clutching Paul’s neck as he flings her around the room. Her pregnant bell rings into him and her shoes are nearly flat. A couple of jack rabbits twirl past and Mrs. Peterson is saying, “I’ll eat the Alisons for breakfast.”

Paul is trying not to step through the floor. The black and white squared tiles crumble under his foot. He’s really popping now. Knees to chest, real high, like the first brave boy to dance on coals. Mrs. Peterson laughs. Says, “I didn’t know you could move like that.”

Paul is not a good lover. His wife circles by in the arms of a helicopter. The blades are whooshing her hair around and around, cutting the air between them. His wife soars off through the chorus and down the banister running up the hall. If he wasn’t a louse, he could catch her.

“Mr. Peterson isn’t fond of snakes, either,” Mrs. Peterson is saying. Paul doesn’t remember their conversation. She is chewing the flesh off a cherry she plucked from the string quartet. Paul watches the pit slither down her throat. It plops into the pitted eyes of her unborn child. The child blinks. “Funny, you never quite get used to the kicking. Would you like to feel?”

Mrs. Peterson is offering Paul her swollen stomach through her slip lining when he sees the clock hands. Falling off the wall, they’re stretching into the arms of his wife. Ticking up and down his cock as she strokes him into softness. Whispering, Honey, don’t you think it’s time to start trying?

Paul is saying no and Mrs. Peterson is letting his hand fall limp. She’s drinking a Virgin Mary. “Some snakes have live births, you know,” she confides in him. “Fascinating creatures.”

Paul is saying, “Is that so?” and melting into the sticky smacking of her lips against the glass. She chews it up. Swallows the shards. He wants to tell her to stop, that it will hurt the baby. But Mrs. Peterson’s glass is still whole and Paul’s only baby is stillborn.

So he doesn’t say anything at all. The next song begins. Mrs. Peterson is too tired to dance. Paul moves on.

Sep 2, 2016


Forgot to add song

Sep 2, 2016

Thanks for the crit Flerp.


Sep 2, 2016

In (Please give me a creature)

:toxx: for not submitting last week.

Thanks guys, for the TOXX tutorial.

llamaguccii fucked around with this message at 01:50 on Nov 17, 2016

Sep 2, 2016


Boaz-Jachim posted:

A Black Shuck. Flash rule: Trying to make friends.

Foaming for Friends

Word Count: 1,100

Ben should have been terrified to stare into its reddened demonic eyes, but he felt strangely relieved. After a year of failed relationships, unsuccessful job hunts and a receding bank account, Ben didn't couldn't see any reason to live. Too unambitious to take on the responsibility of ending his own life, Ben strove for close chances with inevitable mortality. He went to bars partial to impassioned political outbursts and chose to rile whichever side was more likely to smash a bottle of overpriced beer over his head. Ben fantasized about a hefty ginger-haired man with a gallant beard, grasping the neck of the bottle and shoving the jutting shards into his throat. He’d stumble out, belligerent through the alleys and wake up hung over the steps to the stoop of the shack he rented after Melinda left him, perfectly unmolested. He cursed God for abandoning him. He cursed the devil for ignoring him. And he cursed himself for being so loving incompetent.

Melinda never would have left if he could've supported her, but he couldn't and never would. She wanted a ring. She wanted a house, kids, more than whiskey dick on Friday nights and watching soap operas alone while he gambled what little money they had, while his good-for-nothing-mate, Johnny, called for him to raise the stakes higher. Later Johnny would raise Melinda higher and higher, against the wall, through the roof and into another life where Ben wasn't passed out, empty-pocketed on the sunken couch and his best mate wasn't lifting her skirt and thrusting with the stunted rhythm of low expectations.

Ben blinked with anticipation, half expecting the ghostly shadow of the dog to disappear, and half expecting the horrid beast to bound suddenly out from under the boat ramp, across the sandy shore and knock him from his off-balance lawn-chair, his feet and beer flailing up like the ocean crashing into the rocky shoreline. The eyes were lower, but still just as distant, as if the dog had crouched in the sand, a predator waiting for the perfect moment to attack. Ben took a swig of his beer. It was hot, and flat, and it reminded him why he hated life. It was tasteless and difficult to swallow.

He threw the bottle at the dog. It shattered against the barge. The dog seemed to flinch back into the shadows, but it reappeared a moment later, scrambling up on the deck to investigate the ruckus.

“It’s glass you stupid mongrel,” Ben half slurred, half shouted. “Why don’t you come over here and fight me like a man?” But he wasn’t a man, he was a dog. A massive, black, shaggy monster of a dog. Ben tried to stand, fell into the sand. The oceanic water rolled up on his ankles and he sunk a little. He rolled over, on his stomach, and craned his neck to see the monster-dog. It was pacing the deck, back and forth, throwing glances at Ben as he slur-shouted obscenities. He got sand in his mouth. Spit it out. Cursed the dog. Tried to sink into the ocean.

The dog, that wasn’t a dog, but also wasn’t a man, began to howl. It was a low, guttural, mournful sound that seemed to roll out from its great pit of a stomach where Ben imagined the souls of other pitiful men lolled back and forth, reverberating the sound out over the waves. Ben closed his eyes, and told himself this was the moment when he would die. The Black Shuck had come for him, the feared monster-dog of death had come, and would be the only witness to the bitter end of his friendless existence. Melinda was gone. Johnny was with her. But the dog was there, singing the ominous chords of death so stoically, not even the waves could break them.

But the waves broke Ben. They foamed up against his ankles, his knees, his waist. There they held him, their cool embrace pulling him in. He didn’t resist the tide. He was drunk. He was tired. He couldn’t kill himself, but maybe he could die, lying face down, choking on the sand and soaking it with his tears.

When Ben woke up, his body was dry and his face was wet. Something foreign and scratchy pulled up from his cheek, to his forehead, flipping up into his long, stringy black hair, leaving a warm, sticky slime in its wake. He blinked, once, twice, into the moonlight, but there was something blocking his sight. He groaned and remembered the dog and the ocean and wondered if he was dead.

“Wow, you look like hell.” Someone said, somewhere above him, in the moonlight where he couldn’t see anything. He tried to shield his eyes with his arm, but felt it pushed back by the same scratchy assailant. The slime dripped down his wrist. “Get off him, boy. Give him some space to breathe.”

There was a struggle in the sand and finally Ben could see. A few feet away stood a man, in a Hawaiian shirt and a worn Dodgers cap. His tanned arms were clasped around a large shaggy dog, with bloodshot eyes. The dog’s head rose nearly to the man’s chest and his massive paws, dug into the sand, throwing it up into Ben’s face. He coughed out the sand and rubbed his eyes, half expecting the dog and his presumed owner to disappear, half expecting it to break free and dig its ghastly teeth into his leg, drag him into the ocean and leave him to be eaten by blood-thirsty sharks. Before the man could stop him, the dog pounced onto Ben’s chest. It swung its massive head down and buried it between his neck and chest, drooling. It tickled, Ben couldn’t help but laugh. He thought it must be nice to die from being eaten alive while laughing.

“You know,” the man said, shaking his head. “Your dog looks an awful like you with all that black, stringy hair hanging all over. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re both a couple of those Black Shucks the locals are all riled up about.”

Ben stood, shook the sand off his body. His companion turned on the man, its stark-white teeth glistening as it curled its lips back, foaming from the mouth.

“We’re bad luck all right,” Ben replied coolly. He shook his hair. It fell in a long mane over his shoulders. “Bad omens. It’s like they say, the hair of the dog that bit you, am I right?”

Ben howled. The ocean swallowed the man’s screams.

Sep 2, 2016

In because my last final is on Saturday!


Sep 2, 2016

Unfinished Sketch

Weather Forecast: Overcast Skies
Work Count: 821

On the day my father died it rained. More than that, it poured. I sat, knees to chest, in the closet, next to his shoes. They were so much bigger than my own. I was barefoot and the carpet was soft. I wanted to sleep there, tucked between his briefcases, and pretend I wasn’t a fatherless boy. My mother found me. I don’t know how. I sat very still and never cried. I just kept staring into those dark little holes in his shoes and listening to the pitter patter on the roof shillings of the house we would soon be forced out of.

My mother found me, but I don’t think she really saw her youngest child sitting there, among her dead husband’s shoes, barefoot and cold. Her eyes scanned my body until they rose above my head and lingered at the height where my father’s face should have been. She pulled a dress shirt from the rod above me and left me in the darkness. Thunder rumbled outside and a flash of lightening illuminated the shape of my mother through the crack in the closet door. I saw her sink into the side of the bed she never slept on until her body was consumed by the covers of grief. The sound of her sobs drowned out the storm.

When my mother died I was in Arizona, at college. It was hot, which was nothing unusual, but as I read the text from my older brother who had never left home, I staggered under the weight of Santa Ana winds only native to our home town. The bus ride was long, stifling. I didn’t want to see her body so I drank Tequila in the tiny backyard littered by broken lawn chairs and faded children’s toys, watching my brother’s kids chase each other with a water hose.

When my brother asked me to stay with them after the funeral my voice came out flat and dry, like the wind. He drove me to the airport in the sane beat up station wagon my mom got after the debt piled up and the bank repossessed, our car, our house, our lives. I picked at the cracked upholstery and pretended not to notice how many times the car turned over outside the Greyhound station.

“You know, Javier, you don’t have to go to that school,” he said, cranking the key.

“I know.”

“You and me, we can go somewhere new. We can,” he tried again, “we can go to New York. Florida. Hell, we can go to Alaska. Any of those places on those post cards you used to pin to the wall. Martha will watch the kids for a few days. I’ll take some time off from the auto-shop.”

“I’ve got to get back, Carlos.” The engine refused to yield.

“What’s the rush? That’s an art school, man. With talent like yours, you don’t need some school telling you how to make your mark.” He looked tired. Older than I remembered. He smiled, a broken half-assed clip of hope I remembered seeing when we were kids and I still believed in dreams.

“Thanks, Carlos. I mean it, but I’ve got to go.” I grabbed my backpack and ran. I ran from my brother and the car that wouldn’t start and the hometown where my parents were buried and the plots on either side of their graves reserved for my brother and me. I left him, standing, one leg out of the car, the other inside it, wanting to run after me and not knowing how. But then I heard the car start and he got back in and drove away, back to the life I was supposed to have.

I took a seat next to the window and pulled out my sketch book with the charcoal pencil shoved in the binding from my backpack. I looked out at the sky. It was grey, overcast. It was just as inspiring as it always had been to me. Dark and brooding, the sky didn’t make any promises. It just looked down on me and I looked back at it, a sad understanding passing between us. It wasn’t beautiful, but I loved it. I loved it because I loved myself. I loved that I didn’t cry, torrents of rain. I loved that I didn’t scorch, others with my hatred.

I bit the back end of the pencil, hesitating above the unblemished surface of the page. Yes, I was apathetic. Yes, I was grey. Yet, unlike the brother I left behind, with his fully illustrated life of sorrow and dead ends, I didn’t hate myself, or my life, or what the world had done to me.

I could love myself because I knew like the storm, the guilt for leaving would pass.

I knew I was an unfinished sketch.

As the bus pulled away, I pushed the pencil down and made a new mark.

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