I'm in for some surrealism.
|# ¿ Nov 2, 2016 14:15|
|# ¿ Oct 28, 2021 08:47|
Prompt music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFpIMLL9V0c#t=78s
How Birds Are Born (760 words)
The poster above the train seats explains what birds are. The letters are bright and large enough that even the children, loosely strewn around the floor, can read helpful tips: ”A BIRD HAS WINGS. A BIRD HAS TWO EYES. SOMETIMES THEY HAVE BEAKS, AND THEY LIVE IN TREES.” The guide accompanying my little kindergarten trip ignores the posters and painted buzzards. He seems to care only for his assortment of pickaxes.
I grip Sarah's tiny hand a little tighter, and she looks at me, squinting. Her first time at a feather-farm, even though she’s older than the other kids. She stares at the painted toy animals they play with, but when she reaches for a miniature mouse, her hand is swatted away.
"Hey now," I say, trying to sound like the responsible teacher I’m supposed to be. "Let her be. Go have a look at the sharks instead, okay?"
With excited squeals, the kids run to the windows, suddenly reminded that we're about to pass under the lake. It is as blue as bug-wings and the bellies of its lazy fish. As the train turns, the boys admire the air-bubbles caught in the feathers that line the entre exterior. Sarah crawls into a corner and crams the mouse into her mouth in the usual manner to get to the gooey candy insides. Eyes that are not like mine or anybody else's peer out from the shadow of her red cloak, second eyelids blinking irregularly - also in the usual manner.
The train shudders as it emerges from the lake and coos happily to itself as it slows, window-membranes quivering. I count the kids on the platform once they’re in their usual cheery line. A pickaxe-armed guide takes us in along a worn path, up across low ridges and into the woods.
"We're almost there," I tell Sarah. "What kind of bird do you think we'll find?"
"Owl!" she exclaims. ”Like my plush!”
“And where’s your plush now?”
“Gone. But my ma kept th’ eyes.”
Turning to the guide, I ask, "What kind of bird today?"
He shrugs, broad lumberjack shoulders rising and falling. "We'll see," he says. "Over there's them first trees."
These trees are black, the trunks thin though still beset with familiar bulges and pustule-like growths. They bop back and forth. They swell.
"These are corvids," says the guide, "not ready yet."
Further on, the first egg technicians wander around in their white and yolk-yellow costumes, gently tending to their crop. Their wicker baskets overflow with eggs, white and pink. They do not look at us, but wave at each other in passing.
We approach trees taller than grown men with branches twisting in every direction, steel-grey, leafless. The ground is marked by footprints as the technicians take good care of the plants in this last stage of their life. Bark distends rhythmically as the bulges move.
"Quiet," I tell my children, and in the silence, we can her clacking of beaks and faint, faint rasping sounds, synchronized with the swelling and shrinking.
The guide swings a particularily light pickaxe.
The tree splits with a sound like an eggshell cracking. Round, wide-eyed bird-heads poke out, competing for space until the first ones take flight, and then they come out one after another, owl after perfect owl, finally born. They are a little wet, tree sap still clinging to large feathers, but they'll shake it off quickly. A living cloud blathers in bird-language above us. I am close enough to smell their rich scent and feel their wings brush past my face. Sarah, clinging to my leg, yells -
But even though I could grab the last rotund birds straight out of the air - I don't. They are too beautiful in the golden late-afternoon light, castng blue shadows on the lake.
When it is over, Sarah lingers by the empty trunk.
I tell the kids to go, too distracted by Sarah's mumbling to come along. When I turn to her, she is crouching in the grass, hood pulled up so that the doll-eyes sewn onto the back of it are watching me. They blink.
"What'd you find?" I ask her softly.
She stands up and shows me what she found on the bottom of the crack, in the depth of the tree-trunk. The bird that didn't make it. She cradles the half-formed owl-creature as it lies in her arms, one-legged and sticky with one eye bulging out far more than the other. I don’t know if that owlet smiles, but I am certain that she does.
|# ¿ Nov 5, 2016 23:19|
I'm in, and it'll be properly formatted this time! Hit me with a flash rule.
|# ¿ Nov 9, 2016 18:51|
"I'm not sure if you got my last letter (you didn't respond), but I just want to clarify one last thing "
To a Seaside Well - 722 words
Love, I’m writing to you again. I am sitting on the edge of the well in my nightdress, wearing your old boots.
The trek out here was long. I stopped at every other rock to sit down and consider whether I ought to be going at all, whether it served any purpose. I stopped when I thought that this ritual for sending letters to the dead was simple superstition – that you won’t get the letter anyway. And then a few yards further on, I thought I knew in my heart that it wasn’t. I'm not sure if you got my last letter (you didn't respond), but I just want to clarify one last thing. I want to tell you I’m considering sailing away. And if this hole really reaches to the underworld, perhaps you can know this and find some way to communicate what you think.
Things have gotten worse since October. Our little island will be gone soon. (If you could see the way the waves come closer and closer, I think you would feel the same panic as me. I can't breathe well when I go down to the beach and see the surf creeping in).
Cousin Sally came on the boat today - she's leaving tomorrow, and wants me to come with her. (She’s borrowing my boots).
People on the mainland have calculated it all. Our home is due to lie underwater before the end of the year. Sally promised to help me settle on the mainland. When she said that, I looked out towards this well. The moss-covered stones, seaweed-green, shone with slick moisture like back when you slipped in.
I should fear losing the farm. The fields of heather. The granite grave-markers in the hills. I don’t, surprisingly enough. I just think about this place and your abandoned body, lying too deep for human hands to reach. Our ancestors must have been possessed by spirits to dig that hole until they broke clean through the world – or maybe not; Sally said it’s a natural crevice that leads to an underground cave. Her geologist husband told her so. (She could also explain how each time the water sweeps across the beach, millions and millions of grains of sand get stolen away into the sea and wash up on other coasts. Why'd it have to be our island donating to those distant places? It was just the right tiny size).
Our island hides your body well, and I want to believe that your soul can be in the wind and between the dying heather-flowers. You and I are island people, built differently from the mainlanders, raised waiting for boats and the seagull-cries that follow them. Granite in our skulls. That’s not just something I’m writing to be poetic: I finished the biology textbook you bought me. (I remember how you detested giving hard-earned money to a passing student on the ferry for it). There’s this concept called island evolution. Things in isolation grow differently, become their own thing. Sally says that she’s sure I’ve misunderstood it. I have not told her that I have sent you letters.
She doesn’t understand why I’m paying so much attention to the birds, the weather and the things that wash up on the beach. I can’t help but pay attention. We have always been told that the pheasant crossing the road in front of you at sundown is a warning, and that stumbling upon a circle of stones means good luck. And then the moment I see them, I explain them away as rationally as I can. (It’s all nature, physics, sciences with names I have yet to discover. The mainland can calculate that chances for all of these things, I think). You would have mocked me for it.
You are quiet now. If you remain quiet, I’ll leave you and your dark hole behind, drop no more letters and try not to think too much about how the eels will move in and settle between the green rocks in the flooding well.
Sally says her husband will help me find a good place to learn about geology and evolution and other mainland concepts. And now I feel the tide change in my bones.
The gulls will start calling soon, and then the ship will sail – about that, if nothing else, I am certain.
|# ¿ Nov 13, 2016 18:30|
In, with the 9th century (AD).
|# ¿ Nov 22, 2016 14:08|
Journey - 1680 words
Thorkild came back two inches taller, missing three fingers but with a newfound appreciation for life on land. Years spent on Viking longboats had changed his gait, and he took long strides down the road to his father’s farm. The sea-fog that had greeted him by the shore had drifted towards the dying heather on the hills. He breathed it in; he was home. He had bag of loot, a small gold chain in his pocket and a girl on his mind.
The edge of the land he would one day inherit was marked by steep cliffs. There was a sudden drop down to the rocky beach, but it had never scared him away as a child, and even now he walked along the edge.
He had sat here with Asa when they were younger. Both had known instinctively that they would live by the sea, the whale-road and vessel-land, all their days. More fascinating than the sea itself had been the strip of land barely visible beyond the fog, a green-blue band that could be reached by boat.
(“I’ll go someday,” Thorkild had said. Taking Asa’s silence as approval, he had continued – “I’ll see the whole world – The islands to the west, the fjords in the north, the lands of silk and rare metals in the south…”
“Do you want to bet I’ll be the one of us who’ll get the furthest away?”
And again, she had nodded, tearing grass to pieces with her small, weatherworn hands).
Over the past years, she had become in his head like the sacred idols he blóted to. In his memory, her face was a still and never-aging image. She responded to his prayers through dreams and stray emotions and signs
found on the sky. He wanted her in the flesh.
A little further down the path, he found his aging house. Wood and stone had grown weary, worn, and one wall of the barn was leaning heavily. He knocked on the door and waited, tracing the links in the gold chain from Francia.
His father came and was the same wreck as ever, with uneven shoulders and a back built from knots and sinew. Thorkild’s treasures would be needed here where it seemed that the tales of horrible weather and bad harvests were true. Still, in a fire-lit corner, Frej’s altar was well-kept. Without reacting outwardly to his father’s appearance, Thorkild greeted him and the household spirits and went inside.
Droplets begun to fall as he took in the familiar room. The sound of the rain drumming against the roof filled the air.
Asa’s cot was empty in the corner.
He had imagined finding her there and placing the gold around her neck.
She had changed so fast back before he left. Back when Thorkild’s voice had dropped and his limbs had grown thicker. Asa’s body seemed to have remembered its distant and different ancestry, let her skin grow darker and imbued her eyes with a look of undefined loss. An awareness that there was a homeland she could not remember. A mother who should have told her about it, but who was long dead on another shore.
(One night, as Thorkild wanted her attention, she had pointed to the ceiling. The light of the fire had flickered over her outstretched arm.
“The stain on that beam kind of looks like a ship, don’t you think?”
Thorkild looked up, unable to concentrate on the ceiling when Asa’s lips formed lightly accented words. There was still a flaw in the way she pronounced her consonants, like the ghost of a forgotten mother tongue still in her mouth.
“If I were to travel,” she confided, “I’d try to find the place I was taken from.”
“I don’t think that can be very far away,” Thorkild said.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m never going to sail, anyway.” She rolled over onto her side, sighing. “It is what it is, though. You’re the freeborn son and I’m the serf.”
“But I’ll get you anything you want when I’m old enough for the raids.” Thorkild’s heart beat faster as he tried to show her what he saw each night before he fell asleep: “Gold and fine cloth, manuscripts, jewels…”)
Thorkild turned from the dusty corner to his father by the firepit. “Where is she?”
“Wait a moment, son, and I’ll-“
“Is she out there?”
Thorkild’s father sighed. His chair creaked as he sat down.
Thorkild felt himself grow empty. He couldn’t wait for her to walk home slowly in the gathering storm – he decided that he would go to meet her. Great, pent-up emotion ebbed from him into the mud floor, and his father looked at him with something like pity.
(By this window, he had told her about the sea-steed, wave-shaper, the ship that would take him.)
In the rain, there was movement. A figure, cloaked and clad in black and blue, made its way up the hill. Thorkild recognized it not by how it looked, but by how it moved along his childhood paths, avoiding the stones where the elves lived and the hidden puddles.
(And he had gone away and fought and fed the carrion-birds on plains with flora unknown to him; he had collected books he could not read – he had ripped out illustrated pages and kept them for her, illiterate as they both were…)
He dashed suddenly towards the door, startling his father.
(And he went further south and found new gods, marvelled at the mountains and the long rivers easily conquered by elegant longships. He still had an amulet sacred to the believers in White-Christ, valuable enough to buy anyone’s freedom).
Asa looked to have been surprised by the storm, but not by Thorkild as he ran towards her. Her hood cast a deep shadow over her face. Rainwater ran down along her cheekbones and weathered skin like Thor had sent it only to accentuate her features. Thorkild raised his hand in greeting.
She stood still by the cliffside.
Below, the grey sea clashed violently against the rocks, causing Thorkild to straighten his back and draw a deep breath even though he was not in danger from it.
(Twice the sailors had to sacrifice horses and dogs to ward off storms, but all in all, they agreed that Ægir and his kin were extraordinarily merciful those winters).
Asa's face was expressionless.
Thorkild spoke, struggling to make himself heard above the storm. “What have you been doing in the fields this time of day?! Come in, Asa! Let's go to the heath together-”
“I wasn’t in the fields," Asa said. “I heard you were coming home. I’ve been in the next village over.”
“And what were you doing there? No, actually, I don’t care.” Thorkild smiled and stepped closer. He searched his pocket for the chain, suddenly scared that he should have lost it in the last minutes. When he had it in his hand, he held it up into the grey light. “This is for you. Wait until you hear about the things I’ve found – and the things I’ve got for you! You’re going to love it-”
Asa did not hold out a hand to recieve the gift. Her cloak remained closed around her. “Why are you giving me this?”
Thorkild paused. “...I guess I only wanted to-”
“Gifts are more pointless than ever, now. You could never marry a serf in the first place, and now I’ve been sold again, to an important man. I live there now.” One thin hand emerged from the folds of her cloak and pointed back over the hills.
Thorkild clenched his fist around the chain. He found himself unable to meet her eyes, looking instead at the sea-birds flying in circles. The rainwater had gotten into his eyes, and he blinked it away. “Are you happy there?”
Asa shrugged. “He’s a good man. Many serfs. Many fields and many people in his debt. Old.” She wrapped her arms around herself, looking burdened – until her eyes met Thorkild’s and he saw that they were hard as steel, filled with determination not unlike what he had seen on faraway battlefields. “He’s already making preparations for his ship-burial, and when the pyre is built, they’ll ask for serfs who want to join him in the afterlife. I’ve made up my mind to go.”
“Why?!” Thorkild spread his arms, almost hitting her. He let his shoulders sink and realized he could have pushed her down if he had been a little less careful. More quietly, he asked, “Why are you telling me this?”
“Why?” Asa echoed, mocking even his expression. “Because I may still win our bet.”
Thorkild recognized something in her he had never seen before. Something that had perhaps been hidden when she was still his father’s property. Something a sailor will never imagine while he is lonely at sea.
“I am going where you can’t follow,” she said. “A journey you will not make. Into the bright gold and the great land where only the virtuous dead may enter. Where few serfs ever venture, and where even the pious few free men cannot go if they die the straw-death, in their beds.”
She turned half-way from him, looking back over her shoulder. He lips parted as if she had more to say. Then she bit down and shook her head.
In that moment, Thorkild was aware of everything: the sound of water and the cold wind, the grass, the contrast between the pale sky and the black stone in the cliffs. The steep drop, inches away. Her body, still very close and within reach.
A stinging pain spread through his hand, and he looked down to see that the gold chain had been broken in his grip, the cut-off corners of free links burrowing into his hand. His head was nothing but fog and water.
He did not watch her leave. Instead, he sat down on a rock and looked at the island. It was the same little green band that he had always known, but had not yet stepped foot on.
|# ¿ Nov 27, 2016 20:51|
Okay sorry, sorry I'm here.
Prompt will go up in a couple hours once I've thought of something. ::
Okua fucked around with this message at 16:36 on Nov 30, 2016
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2016 16:33|
Week 226: Viking Wisdom
Since I won with a story about vikings, and had Snorri's Edda right beside me as I opened this thread, I think we'll continue with that theme. For each person who signs up, I'll get a random number and assign that person a stanza from Hávamál. These are the words of Odin, the god of wisdom himself, and based on your stanza you will write a story. It can be any genre in any time or setting, so get as creative as you want. You don't need to make a morality tale - you may interpret and work with the stanza however you like as long as I can see how it is related to your story. Hávamál can be found in full here if you want that.
*Edit: Limit is 1500 words*
Signups close Friday at midnight, CET
Submissions close Sunday 20:00 CET
a new study bible!
Fuubi (with Toxx)
The Saddest Rhino
Baleful Osmium Sea
Okua fucked around with this message at 23:02 on Dec 2, 2016
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2016 17:39|
You may want a word limit.
In for some Vikinging
"Let none put faith in the first sown fruit
nor yet in his son too soon;
whim rules the child, and weather the field,
each is open to chance."
"A fourth [song] I know: if men make fast
in chains the joints of my limbs,
when I sing that song which shall set me free,
spring the fetters from hands and feet."
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2016 18:15|
Sign up post
"Of dry logs saved and roof-bark stored
a man can know the measure,
of fire-wood too which should last him out
quarter and half years to come."
"Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die, --
the doom on each one dead."
"He hath need of fire, who now is come,
numbed with cold to the knee;
food and clothing the wanderer craves
who has fared o'er the rimy fell."
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2016 18:40|
Vikings?? By Muspel's cleansing fire I'm IN!
"Like the love of women whose thoughts are lies
is the driving un-roughshod o'er slippery ice
of a two year old, ill-tamed and gay;
or in a wild wind steering a helmless ship,
or the lame catching reindeer in the rime-thawed fell."
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2016 20:01|
"A greedy man, if he be not mindful,
eats to his own life's hurt:
oft the belly of the fool will bring him to scorn
when he seeks the circle of the wise."
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2016 21:26|
In. Give me some of that sweet Viking wisdom.
"A guest thinks him witty who mocks at a guest
and runs from his wrath away;
but none can be sure who jests at a meal
that he makes not fun among foes."
"The pine tree wastes which is perched on the hill,
nor bark nor needles shelter it;
such is the man whom none doth love;
for what should he longer live?"
Yeah give me some Swedish or Norwegian wisdom or whatever, in.
"sickly calf or self-willed thrall,
witch's flattery, new-slain foe,
brother's slayer, though seen on the highway,
half burned house, or horse too swift --
be never so trustful as these to trust."
In because Skyrim is for the Nords.
"Like an eagle swooping over old ocean,
snatching after his prey,
so comes a man into court who finds
there are few to defend his cause."
In with a
"When I came ere long the war troop bold
were watching and waking all:
with burning brands and torches borne
they showed me my sorrowful way."
|# ¿ Dec 1, 2016 06:36|
okua will decide
Then you shall be welcomed among the judges.
Okua fucked around with this message at 18:16 on Dec 1, 2016
|# ¿ Dec 1, 2016 15:33|
"Most dear is fire to the sons of men,
most sweet the sight of the sun;
good is health if one can but keep it,
and to live a life without shame."
|# ¿ Dec 2, 2016 11:08|
Yes OK viking me.
"Herds know the hour of their going home
and turn them again from the grass;
but never is found a foolish man
who knows the measure of his maw."
|# ¿ Dec 2, 2016 20:06|
In with the Vikings
"Fiercer than fire among ill friends
for five days love will burn;
bun anon 'tis quenched, when the sixth day comes,
and all friendship soon is spoiled."
"A twelfth I know: if I see in a tree
a corpse from a halter hanging,
such spells I write, and paint in runes,
that the being descends and speaks."
Aaaaaaand as of right now, signups are closed!
|# ¿ Dec 2, 2016 23:02|
Okay, submissions are closed!
As it stands now it looks like I'll read and get on IRC tomorrow, late afternoon/evening in GMT, for judging
|# ¿ Dec 4, 2016 21:39|
Thunderdome Week 226 Results
The winner of this week is Hawklad - Enjoyable to read. Good tension, nice language and it fits the prompt very well. Good luck with judging!
HM goes to Baleful Osmium Sea for basically being different and having cool imagery that made even a long, extended metaphor worth reading. Clear connection with the prompt.
This week's loser is Sailor Viy. The entry seemed unfocused. Too many clashing ideas at the expense of characterization makes it the weakest of the bunch.
Nothing meriting a dishonorable mention. All in all, there was not much debate between judges and a fairly even field with nothing truly terrible.
|# ¿ Dec 5, 2016 22:15|
In with a flash rule.
|# ¿ Dec 6, 2016 07:26|
|# ¿ Oct 28, 2021 08:47|
Ash - 857 words
Flash: Story must involve a small dog
(*Edited only because I forgot wordcount*).
On August 16th, an old man named David shot his dog while I watched. It happened so quickly, and I did not stop him. I have no hands or voice, no body. Out there in the woods, I just surrounded the two bodies, one living and one dead, with air - because my name when people knew it was Notos and Auster and many others, and I am wind.
It is hard to interact with people and change their world in any meaningful way. I have grown used to moving the clouds around, running through the grass and taking care of nature and being satisfied with that. Only this time, as the first flies settled on the corpse, I wanted change. I wished things had been different. Sometimes I change from gentle to violent and back - I shrink or swell depending on sun and sea and the great mechanisms of this earth. I felt change coming now, as David picked up the strange body of the dog I knew well, groaning as his joint ached from uncountable age-related sicknesses. He headed back towards his car. I followed, looking at the dog.
It was a mess of an animal. It was the sum of all the breeds found on David’s farm, with ears and paws from wilder things mixed into the bloodline decades ago, if not before. It was fourteen, but had genes from the stone age and wolf-traits that I recognized - and still it was so small. Old like me.
It’s only sin was a limp it had developed. It had started to whine and had become useless for hunting. I had drifted above the vet clinic and heard the late arguments, but I did not understand what the voices below meant by mercy.
Forecasts heralded my coming in many places, but I was too focused on these woods. Earlier, I had scared the birds and led them to the poor dog, letting it show its remaining enthusiasm for the hunt, but it did not run, could not overcome the handicap it suffered. It collapsed in a pile of pained fur, mouth open, eyes glassy. I knew its life would be over soon, but I thought that someone with hands might pick it up and hold it. Take it home.
Blood ran into the murky water in the woods. Not bird-blood. A different scent. A furrow formed between David’s brows. A hole shot through my patterns of gusts and breezes; a gunshot in me.
I gathered myself over the course of David’s car ride back, carried along with the slipstream.
Smoke rose above the crematorium towards evening. I stayed for a while, twisting the black plume into spirals before I abandoned it and went to David’s house. It was a place full of dogs-sounds that I carried down towards the road and the outskirts of the nearby village – at that point all that was left was the faint echoes of barks. Big boulders littered the ground, as old as me.
The dog was in a porcelain urn on the mantelpiece.
From the other side of a glass pane, I saw David pat the head of a much larger, younger dog. I was afraid that that dog should stumble and fall and break a leg. Then this thing started to happen inside me. The forecasts were slowly coming true. Something cold and warm within me met above the house; I grew and shook.
I have newer names than those in Greek and Latin – and some I only use at certain times. At that moment, I had a name in English.
I was Tornado.
Me and David both moved quickly – he tried to save all the things that mattered to him, such as his dogs, a few items from a drawer, and his own life. He had a shelter and the dogs were smart. I didn’t think about them much.
I thought about the urn and the windows and the doors and smashed all of it to pieces. I soared and lifted all the things I had destroyed with me, invited them to be a part of this bigger and greater thing I had become.
Now, the dog was everywhere. Despite its small size, it filled the house. It was with me in a mess of whirling ashes.
The dog was in me, rising above the house and drifting away. It was on the news as parts of the wind that I was, headed east. It was in clouds. It would be in clouds for weeks and even longer in the atmosphere. Tomorrow, it would be dust-motes in the bright sunlight. It would be in David’s lungs. In dogs not yet born. In wolves. Without a body, it was just carbon and hydrogen and smaller amounts of other things that I was made of, too.
I did something almost equivalent to taking a deep breath. Warm and cold air collided, expanded, caused sounds like groaning and whispering and communication audible to David in his shelter and then -
Then I was satisfied at last when the dog-atoms scattered everywhere across the plains and deep into the woods.
|# ¿ Dec 11, 2016 21:13|