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  • Locked thread
Aug 2, 2002

posting early in the thread so that all year i can find my post easy and push the ? button and see all of my posts.

edit: there's gonna be a lot.

edit2: not making any predictions this year. i'll probably just fall over and stop working.


Aug 2, 2002

this is just as great as all the stuff you brought us in 2015 :rolleyes:

Aug 2, 2002

oh look a bunch of brawls that nobody will submit to. awesome.

Aug 2, 2002

nah, this isn't a brawl, it's a fake week now.

but without the possibility of losing, so basically it's TD for cowards.

Aug 2, 2002

it's my fault

Aug 2, 2002

i woulda judged this week, but since it's all fulled up, i gotsta go in. <3 Bowie.

give me a song, sittun hur

Aug 2, 2002

Sounds in the Forest Portend Evil Within
1284 words

You’re not supposed to taste the pills, just swallow them. I got a handful of them, and I lick them. They taste like candy.

My mama hits me. “What I tell you ‘bout not takin’ your medicine?”

“But I like being a monster, mama.”

“Boy, you know what happens if you don’t take your pills.”

Not the monster thing. The part where she calls Dr. Villeneuve and he puts them in my butt. I toss the pills into my mouth and chomp on them. I glare at her as I slowly, deliberately crunch them between my teeth. They taste like metal and chalk.

“Now go to your room.”

I’m only in my room for a minute before I jump out the window. The medicine keeps the hair and teeth away, but my bones are still thick like tree trunks. I smash the cobblestone where I land.

I don’t clip my fingernails anymore. A long, dirty nail reaches back and tickles my uvula, and I vomit the medicine onto my mother’s roses. They drip with bile and wither in the putrid paste. Pathetic flowers, roses, the mainstay of the unimaginative. Disgust disguised by a sweet scent. Give me an orchid. I will protect and care for its frailness; I am strong. I kick her flowers for effect, and run into the woods.

Deep in the forest, where the birds don’t sing and the light dare not shine, the creatures whisper about me. They gossip in a tongue with which I am unfamiliar, but at the same time it resonates. I fear no varmint or beast.

I creep to the edge of the trees, where the forest overlooks a garden. There is a girl there; a nice girl, who sings better than the birds, and shines brighter than the sun. I love her, I think. I would pick a thousand orchids for her, and a thousand orchids would gladly give their lives.

I want to call out and say hello, but she would never love me back. In fact, I’d love her less if she did. I am like a rose. Prettiness to obfuscate the monster below.

I slink back to my house, my mother, my pills. All have failed me; all have made me the monster. When I transform I feel invincible. If the girl in the garden doesn’t love me, it doesn’t matter. If the animals in the wood don’t share their stories, it doesn’t matter. When Dr. Villeneuve straps me to the bed, it doesn’t matter. I can die alone; I can rip the animals to shreds; I can break free from my restraints and slay the help.

But it doesn’t come to that. My mother locks the door from the outside, and I thrash in my bed until morning.


“You know what happens when you don’t take your pills,” says mama.

“I know.” I gulp down a handful of pills and galumph back to my room. It’s raining outside, so I stare out the window. I watch my footprints fill up with water, forming little puddles.


When the men come to the gates with pitchforks and torches is the only time mama doesn’t tell me to take my pills. I leap onto the roof and roar. I roar so loud, I imagine the girl in the garden leaps into bed and pulls the covers up to her chin. They’re like toys, the men, and I throw them around. How soon they forget that I am not to be trifled with. How soon they forget, a man has a duty to protect his home. How soon they forget to leave the monster to his whims.


Sometimes, during festivals and fairs, I sneak into town. I keep my face behind the hood, lest the villagers see the wanted posters and see the danger in my eyes.

“But I took my pills,” I’d say. It wouldn’t matter to them. The men with the pitchforks aren’t making a house call to check on my wellbeing.

I hide anonymously under my shroud, watching the girl from the garden move through the crowd, like a river through a canyon. Everybody moves for her. Everybody takes part in an unwitting dance, and I’m jealous. I fantasize about standing in her way, only to move at the last second, like we are partners in an unspoken ballet.

But instead I retreat back to my villa and take my pills.


“Mama, I’m dying,” I say.

“Eric, you’re as healthy as a bull. You’re just makin’ excuses.”

Dr. Villeneuve puts his hand on the small of my back. “It’s just the sickness talking.”

I bite my pillow.


I slash at a tree, leaving a gash that won’t soon heal. I fill the forest with thunder, looking for my way to the girl in the garden. I feel like only she can save me. I will fall at her feet, confess my love, and she will stroke my hair and tell me it’s ok. She will love me for who I can be, not for who I am. The deeper I go, the darker it gets. I can no longer see the moon, and the animals cower in their burrows.

“Girl!” I roar. But every path is a dead end; every clearing a closed cloister. Every time I make up my mind to head in one direction, it gets unfamiliar. I turn and run in another direction, only to immediately regret my decision. If only I’d committed, I think. I try to double back and find the trail, but I’m too far gone, too far lost. I won’t take the pills again. Dr. Villeneuve's corpse can attest to that.

I see orange light through the trees, like the glow of a sunrise.

I don’t know if it’s the pills what kills me, or the pitchforks through my heart, but either way I learn too late that a bunch of torches look an awful lot more inviting through a stand of oaks.


I awake with dirt in my mouth, and emptiness in my heart. There’s something about being murdered that makes a man feel lonely. Like nobody cared; nobody stopped it. Not one voice objected: “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t stab him.”

They didn’t even bury me in a coffin. My claws make short work of my earthen tomb. I expect to climb out into the town cemetery; see the crosses silhouetted in the moon. But instead I’m in a ravine, far from town, where they throw the dead horses. The air stinks of horse rot.

I skulk into town along the road. I pass by Dr. Villeneuve’s fresh grave, and my mother’s. There’s no cross for me, no evidence I lived. Whether I liked being a man or not, it doesn’t matter. To them I was always the monster.

My house smolders.


The woods become my sanctuary; my refuge. What once seemed a labyrinth becomes well-trodden corridors of my haunt. People that enter disappear; rumors and stories forewarn children, relegating the adventurous to cowardice.

I crawl to the edges of my prison to gaze upon the girl in the garden. I don’t know if she’s heard of me, or if she cowers at night. What I would give for a moment with her, even if it was only to step out of her way.

The little boy was the aberration. He was weak, a pushover. A slave to his mother, to the doctor, to society. His dreams could be crushed, his hopes denied. He was destined to die. The girl would have rejected him, seen through the veil. The monster is unassailable. The monster is sated by solitude. The monster is immortal. I like being the monster.

Aug 2, 2002

Julias posted:

For the record, I got lazy, and was originally going to do a serious story, but had to come up with 95% of this in an hour, so I was literally rushing to get this in before Midnight. I know it sucks, but that's what I get for procrastinating. :v: Who knows. Maybe somebody will still like it.

god dammit you just killed my boner with this stupid poo poo

Aug 2, 2002

Titus82 posted:

So as you can already see you should all just pack it in and cal it a week, cause I got this poo poo locked down. Tight. As tight as... Um, something sexual.

gently caress yeah!

If you think you're up to the task of critiquing me, go ahead, I double dog dare you. But my poo poo is going to blow your mind. You're going to be like "Omgz did he just reference a simple poetry form? I'm not even sure what that means! I should just go back to stuffing coal up my butt to make diamonds."

I won't be around for the live event, not that you even need to do it now, but whatevahs. I hope you butt miners can think of something new to occupy your time. Cause this poo poo is done.



That's right, I only need one letter to identify me, that's how cool I am.

This post in NO WAY constitutes a challenge to anybody, because I am a scared baby.

kinda considered bad form to pown this hard on your first thunderdome

Aug 2, 2002

C7ty1 posted:

Broenheim, I'm calling you out.

You. Me. And a :toxx:

Since you both toxxed, I'll judge this one, mostly because I want to see both of you banned after neither of you submit because you're little cowardly babies.

:siren: C7tyheim Brawl :siren:

You know how soccer players always pretend they're hurt and they fall down and roll around on the ground and fake cry? I wonder what life would be like if that attitude worked in other contexts. You have 750 words to show me that happening. In your story at least 1 person believes the malingerer, and at least 1 person does not.

Due: Tuesday Jan 26, 8pm EST, so i can judge it that night after i get home

Aug 2, 2002

k i'll do it

Aug 2, 2002

God Over Djinn posted:

Welcome to team SPARKLING MERMEN. Your coach is crabrock. He'll show you the locker room.


Aug 2, 2002

I'd be impressed if team mer actually submitted stories.

I am proud of you for just trying, team :)

Uh, free Shasta cola after the game.

Aug 2, 2002

me i'll take him

Aug 2, 2002

Chairchucker posted:

I am officially a sitting here superfan now. After she absolutely brutalises ironic twist in SPORTS, I am gonna go and set things on fire and put cars on their side, it is going to be the best. I'm also pre-emptively tattooing SITTING HEAR SPORTS CHAMPION 2016 4EVA on my left buttock.

i am gonna block that buttock

Aug 2, 2002

feel a little uncomfortable right now, like do we know each other or something?

Aug 2, 2002

Do yourself a favor and take his words away

Nobody wants to have to read even more drivel about hats or beads or whatever boring thing sebmojo is going to write about this week. Oh look, a stern look at the injustices of pheasant hunting in the 1700s, but also for some reason lasers? FANTASTIC.

Just take his words and put them in straight into the garbage. Never think of them again. You wouldn't if sebmojo wrote them out anyway. Since I've started writing, he's only won four times. Do you think that's a coincidence? No. It's because that kiwi motherfucker writes poo poo that makes a robot's error log look riveting.

His fiction is the literary equivalent of when your rug gets sucked into the vacuum, and you struggle to get it out, but then it's got a big hole in it. You just gotta toss it. Doesn't matter if it was your favorite rug from college, it serves no real purpose now. It's ratty and disgusting. It's time to discard it. sebmojo is a washed up old man.

Aug 2, 2002

Kaishai posted:

This pledge has been fulfilled, and sebmojo's sweet avatar is safe for another day.

Dear god, i hope you didn't have to read it.

Aug 2, 2002

La Petite Roche

Little Rock languished in the long shadow of the Ozarks, who had fallen in love with the sky. She sighed when she caught them gazing at each other. They would apologize, but every year, before the trees had even lost their leaves, they grew impatient of their restraint, and would consummate their love with a million snowflake kisses.

The Arkansas River was Little Rock’s friend, confidant, and provocateur. She gushed in a hurry to meet her own lover, the Mississippi. “Oh honey,” said the Arkansas, witnessing Little Rock’s longing. “You really gotta find somebody.”

“Oh!” said Little Rock, as her oaks turned red and their leaves fell to the ground. “It’s hard to meet somebody when you’re a city.”

The river crashed against Little Rock’s banks, playfully flirting with her friend. “You meet tons of others,” she said. “Just last week I brought you a paddleboat. What was wrong with that?”

“I don’t know,” said Little Rock. “I imagine myself with something bigger. Somebody magnificent.”

“Nobody like that ever comes round these parts,” said the river. “I mean, you’re pretty and everything, but if you wanna attract somebody of that caliber, you gotta doll yourself up a little.”

“Like open a museum?”

The river laughed. “I’m talking parades, concerts—”



Little Rock’s factories belched smoke, buses looped through her neighborhoods, and streetlights clicked on at sunset. Months after toiling away, she had an epiphany.

It was time to primp.

The throng of jumbo jets on the tarmac at Clinton National Airport were painted in the various colors of their respective countries. Teams disembarked, dressed in tracksuits matching their airplanes, waving tiny flags that matched still. They smiled for the plethora of camera flashes.

Little Rock watched nervously, waiting for one plane in particular. But it hadn’t come.

“Don’t get too nervous,” said the river. “You’ll start raining.”

“I’m calm. I’m calm,” said Little Rock. A bus crashed into a double-parked van on Cantrell road. “Oops.”

“He’ll come,” said the river.

Little Rock felt like a debutante: her streets swept, banners fluttering from every light post, newly constructed arenas for the hodgepodge of events she’d planned. Though she was engorged with many potential suitors, they weren’t enticing like he was.

She glanced toward the Ozarks and the sky, who hadn’t yet kissed. She muttered curses under her breath. Yet another display of affection would hit like an avalanche. She’d heard of towns that had drowned their villagers in a fit of jealous rage. She wouldn’t do that—she hoped.

After all the teams had gone to their hotels, and the restaurants had closed, Little Rock still scanned the sky. Then, amongst storm clouds, a blinking light.

Team Syrena’s plane was a converted Kawasaki C-1 they’d purchased on the cheap at an auction, on account of the rust. She didn’t see the rust, only the green and blue of Syrena’s flag.

“He’s here!” shouted Little Rock. She felt the pressure rise in her water mains.

The plane landed and taxied to the terminal she’d specially prepared. The reporters had gone back to their hotels, and team Syrena disembarked sans flashes.

“What’s a small city like you doing hosting an event like this?” said Syrena.

Little Rock’s voice quivered. “Oh, you know, just things.”

“Hm,” replied Syrena, as one of his team tripped exiting the plane. “You look familiar. You ever been to Europe?”


“Well you’d fit right in with the castles there.”

“I’m thinking of getting some castles built,” she said.

He smiled. “You should.”

Little Rock gave Syrena the tour, and as the night progressed, she leaned in a little closer to him. At the end of the night, they huddled close and stared into each other’s souls.

Little Rock trembled. She wanted Syrena to kiss her, but he seemed distracted.

“Tonight has been lovely, but I have to go,” said Syrena.

“Was it my dump? I’ve been trying to get them to recycle, honest,” she blurted out.

Syrena laughed. “No, it’s my team. They need me now.” He looked over toward their hotel, where the last light went out. “You know, we’ve never won a gold medal. I can’t let myself get distracted now. Goodnight, Little Rock.” And he was gone.

Little Rock stayed up all night watching over her guests, replaying the night’s events over and over. The storm clouds rumbled over the Ozarks. She resolved to get her kiss before the first snow.

The sun popped up from the east, and people emerged from their hotels. The stadiums filled up and the speakers blared foreign music.

The 14th Autumn Olympics had begun.

[to be continued...]

Aug 2, 2002

:siren: This is WLOTM!'s story. He had to go to bed so I am posting it for him. :siren:

Heel Turn
1200 Words

Kasper’s earliest memories came from behind a set of eyeholes.

He had been taught to be brave and noble, so when the blaze swallowed his toys and his clothes and his family, Kasper didn’t run; he fought until it swallowed everything he loved.

And then it swallowed his face.

He awoke in the hospital, bathed in light and wrapped in gauze. At first, the whole city supported the orphan with new toys and new clothes and well wishes, but soon the attention faded.

His only sources of comfort during those days were the comic books. There were only a few in total, but Kasper read them cover to cover every night, studying each panel in a near-holy reverie.

“You know,” his night nurse said, “you’ve done things that are more heroic than anyone inked on newsprint.”

“But I failed when I tried,” he said.

“Don’t the men in your books fail sometime?” she asked.

He could only nod in agreement.

Kasper never once cried during his treatments. It was a matter of pride for him, to be tough, but when the bandages were cut away, clinging to the splotchy plastic skin of his disfigurement, his eyes welled in anticipation of a mirror.

So he wrapped his face back up.

At first he used up the gauze and surgical masks to recreate his coverings, but after the doctors removed all the bandages from his room, Kasper ripped the pillowcase away from his bed and punched out two eyeholes.

Eventually they took those away too.

Weeks later, Kasper was again visited by his night nurse.

“Kasper,” she said, “I am worried about you. Tomorrow you’ll be off with your aunt and soon you’ll be back to doing brave, dangerous, things.”

She held a gift, wrapped in newspaper, in her liverspotted hands.

“Please take it, and I hope that one day you can throw it away.”

Kasper slipped the contents over his bald head, and once again felt safe.


Main Event: Fight & Flight vs. The Bigg Boys

Six minutes after the main event has started, Kasper Krol will land a frogsplash from the top rope against Lucius Bigg for the three count. Syrena will upset the United States, winning the country’s first Olympic Gold.

Kasper ran his thumb over the embossed circles of the AIOC letterhead in dozens of revolutions. The stationary was heavy and formal-- the ink used to sign the document, smudgable and signed by Jos[color=#333333]é[/color] “Rabid” Rios, the head of the Olympic Professional Wrestling Federation.

It was legitimate.

The Americans would not be happy to lose in the title bout. Professional Tag Team Wrestling was their forté, but it had been predetermined. Tonight, the crowd would witness one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.

It was happening.

“For Syrena!” Kasper shouted.

“For us,” his partner, Igor said.

“Yes, my friend,” Igor repeated, “for us.” He took a half step towards the weight room before turning back once more. “The gold will look good around my waist,” he said before stepping off to finish his warm up.

“It will, my friend” Kasper agreed.

Kasper thumbed the pinstripes running down his singlet. Green and cyan, the colors of the sea. His mask was black like frostbite, and untied, so he pulled at the laces until the mottled skin of his face burned under the squeezing leather.

“It’s a good color on you,” a voice said.

Kasper immediately recognized the stocky man as Martin Ves, the owner and producer of the New National Wrestling Tour, the world’s largest promotion.

“I take it you know who I am,” Ves said with a wheeze that rattled in his throat. The man tottered across the room on the assistance of a cane. “And I know about you,” he said.

Ves had fingers as gnarled and stubby as tree bark, and in those fingers he held a comic book, the cover of which featured a horribly twisted face, grinning and hale with bloody eyes and a knife in his hands.

“Do you know this character?” Ves asked.

“No,” Kasper said.

“His name is Gore,” Ves said, “and his comic is the most popular book in America.”

“A villain?” Kasper asked.

“Don’t underestimate the villain,” he said as he lit a cigar. “Without the villain, how could the public root for the hero? The world needs villains.”

“Son,” the troll-like man said, “I need a villain.”

“There’s a steel chair hidden under the ring across from the announcer’s table. Tonight, when your goody-goody partner, whatever-his-name-is, is in the ring celebrating the win, get under the mat, then take him out. Do it, and the crowd will roar like you’ve never heard. Do it, and I’ll have you a visa before the night is done. You’ll top the card every night. You’ll be my champion, the world champion.”

Kasper took the comic from Ves’ knotty hand and dropped it into the trash.


The gymnasium was a sea of American colors, but Kasper could spot pockets of the homeland in the crowd. In the front row, a mother and father sat with their son. The boy’s face was painted cyan and green; he held a sign above his head:

Syrena ♥’s Fight and Flight!

The Americans started the match strong, nailing a running lariat against Igor before suplexing him into the mat. While Igor lay stunned, Liam Bigg tagged out to Lucius Bigg, who trapped Igor in an ankle lock. Kasper shouted over the crowd, urging Igor to use his massive arms to pull himself to the tagout, so he did.

Kasper came flying over the ropes with an assault of light punches and kicks on Lucius Bigg. Bigg rallied, kneeing Kasper in the gut and pulling him into a DDT headlock. Lucius held him for a second, and the crowd fell silent.

This was the moment for the reversal.

Lucius relaxed his grip enough for Kasper to slip the hold and somersault over the American’s shoulders, springing to the top of the turnbuckle. It was time for the finisher. From his perch, Kasper imagined leaping into the air and flying like the men in his books, flying home to Syrena with the gold around his waist.

Suddenly, a hand from his own corner swept his legs from beneath him.

As Kasper tumbled from the rope, he could see Liam Bigg slide a steel chair into the ring.

The impact of crashing into the mat was second to that of the chair across his back.

“The winners,” the announcer called, “via disqualification, from the nation of Syrena, Fight & Flight!”

Kasper tried to stand, ready to shake the pretense and actually brawl with the Americans, but instead he found a hand pulling at the laces along the back of his mask and lifting him.

The crowd erupted in anticipation.

From the corner of his eye, Kasper could see the painted boy crying into his hands.

“The world championship will look good on me,” Igor said. “Look for me on the television and remember this victory.”

Kasper wondered how bright the lights would be as the jagged seams ripped against his sensitive flesh. It was enough to blind him. Then, a steel chair against his skull sent the world to black.

Aug 2, 2002

La Petite Roche cont.

Little Rock hid behind the Metropolitan Tower, peeking out every few seconds. Syrena roamed, looking for her. Was he mad? she thought. Was he happy? It was hard to tell.

He’d never kiss her know, she knew it. She’d grown impatient, watching the Syrenians fumble and fail. Even when they were competent, they couldn’t pull off a gold. They needed her. She had to help.

The skies above the mountains howled, and Little Rock shivered in the cold breez that swept over the city. She cowered behind the skyscraper.

“That was desparate,” said the river.

“Well, did you see them?”

The Arkansas River bubbled and splashed against the field where the Syrenians had humiliated themselves in capture the flag. “I saw.”

“I’d never have gotten that kiss if I didn’t do something,” said Little Rock.

“Maybe. Or maybe he’d be looking for a shoulder to cry on and you’d be there for him.”

“Does that ever work?”

“No. They usually just destroy things. You heard what the Mississippi did to New Orleans?”

Little Rock shuddered. “was that…”

The river nodded.

“Yeesh.” Little Rock peered around the tower at Syrena. He seemed angrier.

She spent the next few hours avoiding him, leaping from tower to tower, always out of view, fogging up the windows in the cold.

His search for her intensified, and she could only scamper so fast. She was frantic, zooming under tunnels and through the branches of trees awash with the color of fire. The pillars of the Big Dam Bridge offered her refuge, and Little Rock pressed herself against them.

“There you are!” said Syrena.

Little Rock froze.

He continued: “I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“I didn’t do the thing they said!” she cried.


She’d said too much.

“Wait… the wrestling match. Was that… you?”

“Would you be mad?”

“I’m not mad,” he said. “It’s a gold.”

Little Rock turned away. “And so I guess you’ll be leaving now.”

“I have to.”

“I know. It’s just a part of me…” Little Rock trailed off. She didn’t want to say that all she had before he showed up was paddleboats and driftwood the river drudged up.

“I understand,” said Syrena. “It’s getting cold out.”

“I’ve noticed.”

“Should we go to the ceremony?”

“I guess,” said Little Rock. She took Syrena’s hand and let him lead her to the stadium.

Little Rock and Syrena nestled against each other as they watched over the closing ceremonies.

The countries accepted their medals: in the lead was the United States, accustomed to bitter air and fallen foliage; next was Russia, immune to the site of leafless trees and dying grass. The countries’ anthems played in turn, and last was Syrena. They stood proud while their anthem played, and the hosts handed them the golden belt.

“Look at that belt,” beamed Syrena. “It’s shiny as poo poo.”

“I’m glad you like it,” said Little Rock. She leaned in close.

He leaned in close to her. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you ever since we landed,” he said.

“But you have to leave in the morning.”

“Then let’s make tonight count.”

Little Rock’s stadium went dark in preparation for the finale.

There were fireworks.

Among the flashes of red, green, and blue, the first snowflakes drifted from the clouds.

1317 words

999 words
+218 fuschia tude
+100 C7ty1

Aug 2, 2002

God Over Djinn posted:

Done. blackmarketlimb is now officially SPARKLING MER's pinch hitter. If anybody on TEAM SPARKLING MER fails, blackmarketlimb can replace them. Offer good for one failure only.

Also, crabrock's maximum word count is now 1000 words. Unless the rest of SPARKILNG MER wants to share.

Finally, if you've inferred that signups are closed, you've inferred correctly. If you really want to hold me to the deadline and sign up in the next 1.75 hours, PM me and I'll take care of it in the morning.

e: I'm dumb

blackmarketlimb, i swear to god if you don't post you've just become a persona non grata with me. I loving GAVE UP MY WORDS FOR YOU.

Aug 2, 2002

pizza party for team mermans when we win.

Aug 2, 2002

All the judges this week:

Aug 2, 2002

sounds like somebody has a hankering for a brawl

Aug 2, 2002

that's art u racist gently caress

Aug 2, 2002


Aug 2, 2002

:siren: Broenheim vs. C7ty1 brawl results


This has the makings of a good story, but it is not a good story. First off, I like the conflict that a hangman has been excused from his duties, but now must train his son. He doesn’t want to make his son suffer through that, so he goes and starts slitting throats instead. The main problem with that is it doesn’t really pass my “reality” test, in that I doubt the prince’s prisoners would be getting their throats slit for five years before getting caught. What kind of kingdom is this? What the heck is his son doing during all this time? Also the prompt stated that one person had to believe your faker (the prince) and somebody didn’t. Who didn’t believe his faking? Also instead of purposely failing, it sounded like your character made an honest mistake and then made an excuse. That’s not really flopping on the ground to try to get things to work in your favor. The consequence of this dad’s handiwork now being that he gets his head cut off, and his son has to go to killing dudes anyway, I’m assuming? You probably should have written a way that the son now had been assigned to a different profession since there was no killing, and had the deaths be more subtle than a slit throat. Lastly, I didn’t understand how the old man had died without a scratch but the dude remembers slitting his throat. I’m assuming there’s some symbolism there or something but you didn’t make it connect with me.



What the gently caress is this? On first read, I have no idea what the hell you were trying to do here. I can’t even evaluate it because I didn’t understand wtf was going on at all. I’m going to go reread it, and hope I get more from it the second time. “all of them didn’t even me standing there” you’re missing a verb here, and that’s kind of important. I’ll assume it was “didn’t even see me standing there,” since you focus so much on being seen. Part of the problem I’m having here is, I don’t know who your narrator is. Is he the defense attorney? Is he being prosecuted? I’ll assume he’s a defense attorney since apparently he’s talking to a witness? The flow doesn’t really seem to fit what I know about courthouses, as it sounds almost like your narrator is on trial, but he wouldn’t be being asked to speak if there was a witness on the stand. I’m assuming he’s a lawyer now because he said he COULD object, but I don’t understand why the other lawyer is like, talking to him. Then he screams “stop” and follows it up with “that’s what i’m saying?” I don’t get it. He is besmirching the man’s name? I’m really confused about what he’s trying to pull. Also the other lawyer can’t just interrupt the other guy during his speech. Also you keep talking about being in the middle. The middle of what? I can’t picture what is happening in this courtroom. Like right now I think it’s a guy standing behind a desk, there’s an officer on the stand, and for some reason the purple-shirt lawyer is like leaning in and poo poo. Then he asks if he could continue…. continue what? The purple shirt guy has been talking the whole time. Really, what the heck is going on here? Ok, so the defense attorney loses… WHAT THE gently caress WAS THE CASE? WHO WAS THE DEFENDANT? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? so then the other lawyer comes out and is like “it’s cool dude.” and your main char is crying because…. he needs people to look at him. You really lose me with this whole “woe is me, i’m a loser, nobody looks at the loser.” Lots of people look at the loser? People like a trainwreck. I think i see what you were trying to do, make him look like he was invisible and just shuffled out of the courtroom, but I’ve never seen this guy win/lose a case, I have no idea what his record is, and if this is normal or not. Is this the first time he’s lost? Does it happen all the time? Is he actually a good lawyer or is he lovely? You forget to really define this character at all other than he’s a narcissist who just wants to hear his own voice. But then he loses so he cries to get attention? In a parking lot? what the hell.

I don’t understand how this fits the prompt at all. Who is faking here? It just sounds like the other lawyer is a better lawyer. He sounds charismatic. He’s not really “flopping,” so much as he is “dominating the gently caress out of the other lawyer.” It’s more like he’s getting dunked on than falling to the ground pretending to be hurt. Or maybe the whole flop is the crying part at the end? That somebody sees him crying and believes it? Who sees it and doesn’t believe it, as the prompt stated?

Gotta give this win to C7ty1, though I felt both of you missed the prompt pretty hard. At least I understood most of C7’s. I really felt like I was looking through some sort of weird kaladiscope when reading bro’s story. Things didn’t make sense and everything seemed shuffled and out of place. Also a father trying to save his son from pain is a better motivation/ending than a guy who just wants some attention and cries.

Aug 2, 2002

boaz-jachim, i'll help u judge.

join IRC or send me an email: my username at gmail

crabrock fucked around with this message at 06:51 on Feb 2, 2016

Aug 2, 2002

ok people can stop signing up now :cry:

Aug 2, 2002


Aug 2, 2002

sebmojo posted:

:siren: supplementary flash rule :siren: a piece of furniture talks. no one finds this odd or remarkable in any way.

Aug 2, 2002

Hey boss judge, how do you want to discuss stories, or at least receive my feedback?

Aug 2, 2002

Week 183: Apocalypse Crits

I anonymously judged this week. Each of these stories was bleak and filled with despair. Hasn’t anybody heard “it’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine?” I’m sure the end of the world would have some happy times too! Anyway, the main problems this week were characters with no real obstacles, and unending world building. Too many of you spent too much time on WHY the world ended, and not the consequences of it. Some of these crits are a little short, so if you’d like me to expand on why I hated it, let me know.

White Powder Black Oil

I hate the man and all, but this story is a little hollow. This dude is a stereotype, done before, basically just leo’s character in Wolf of Wallstreet. I don’t really ever empathize or feel for him. The “backstory” of his wife’s death is not interesting enough to really hold the piece together, and I don’t really understand who is killing people or why. I thought it was a world for hippies? Pacing wise this is ok, and it has most of the elements for a story, I just found it to be pretty boring. Run of the mill “society collapses in on itself” stuff. The people that are shooting him have no real motivation other than “oh yeah, obviously everybody starts killing each other at the end.” There’s no real reason why his death means anything. Without some truly stellar chars, this isn’t really worth it.

One Rainy Day

Another story that satisfies the prompt and qualifies as a full story, but lacks in the “interesting reasons to read” section. This chick, who I really know nothing about other than she is a “scientist,” has her son kidnapped...somehow...and just happens to have finished this lifesaving device that was a secret but “the militia” knows about it? Anyway, we’re 2 for 2 this week for cardboard villains that haunt our protag just because it’s the end of the world and they are evil. Why did she even want sam back? he kinda seemed like a lil bitch. Where WAS he that he let himself get kidnapped anyway. did this chick just leave him home alone while she went to work on her device? If the militia dudes went to her lab to leave the note, and the device was finished, why not just steal it? Why didn’t they just shoot the lady and her son and call it a day? I don’t really understand why most of this stuff happened.

Rainy City Brews

I zoned out pretty hard after they snuck into the stadium. I skimmed back through to make sure I didn’t miss anything. This is one of those “ha ha, get it?” pieces that I don’t really care for. Your story is basically one giant joke that isn’t funny. Every time I am just about to forget, you remind me with a quip about some hipster poo poo and I’m annoyed anew. Your apocolypse is so mundane you don’t even bother describing it at all. it’s just a thing that happened and now there are no hops. Ok… anyway, I don’t really care that much for this char, because mostly he just complains about how others see him, and how he wants that to be different. He’s not really interesting in his own right. You would have been better served by showing a scene of him being a little punk bitch to everybody else, and then having him overcome that. Anyway, yawn.


Your opening is a bit muddled, especially the last bit. The shells are also too short to reach out of the water? Instead of “I could see” try “i saw” or alternatively, leaving that out altogether. This story suffers from “TV cold open” syndrome. You have this “tense” scene filled with mystery, then right when your nar sees the thing you cut away. This is done on TV to get you to sit through commercials to see what happens next. I hate it in a short story. I’m also starting to get a little annoyed at “you know it’s the future, because every thing you know has a different name.” Powercycle… how is it different? you just say “powercycle” and rely on that for this otherworldly feeling, rather than giving me any actual detail. it was once north america… then you don’t give me what it’s called now… whyyyyyyyy.This worldbuilding is making me soft. Ok, you spent WAY too much time on worldbuilding and that left very little room for your story. A guy drives to a town, asks some dudes where a church is, goes out on a lake and into the church, takes off his mask, grabs an organ key, and then is done. There’s no actual story here, it’s just a list of events in semi-chronological order. This is bad enough for a DM if other judges push it.

Audio Artifacts of Earth’s Final Days

“novel electricity generator” lol. Gamma ray bursts travel at the speed of light, so they are undetectable beforehand. “that perhaps only I am immune to” man you are just really filling this story with contrived bullshit. The fact that you resort to footnotes to explain some of your concepts means you’re doing a poo poo job at showing me. “my portable generator to turn on their computers and read their information.” Just like that, huh? No struggle, nothing. just did it. “have almost ran out” tsk. “I have found the spacecraft!” oh boy, how exciting. not really though. This guy just kind of comes up with issues and solves all of them with one sentence. This is very boring for a reader. There is no drama. “seems to have been built about 250 years ago” WHAT IS TELLING YOU THIS? HOW DID HE GET THIS INFORMATION?! WHY NOT SHARE IT WITH US? it’s because you, the author, don’t know. you just keep solving problems FOR your character, rather than having him do any loving work. “ sustain any life “ well how loving convenient, and totally arbitrary. It doesn’t matter if the aliens were plants or carnivores or bacteria, this ship can feed everything! lol: “guys this ship broke let's just leave it here for no reason.” “I believe I have repaired the ship’s hyperdrive,” HOW. so these alien motherfuckers who have light speed and advanced spacheships can’t fix their ship, but these random earth guy just does it, WHILE FLYING THROUGH SPACE no problem?what a mary sue. “a device I perfected months before the gamma ray apocalypse.” lol. lol at that ending. I hate this. I would not feel bad if this lost.

Through the fog and filthy air

“Out of the haze, Pete emerged.” Pete knows how to make a loving entrance. “Sasha rocked, ready to assert her authority before stopping.” this sentence is ambiguous and it took me a few rereads to parse it. “The gun pressed against her back” huh? whose gun? “ignoring the speed limit and the groaning engine” they ignored the groaning engine? that’s kinda weird. wtf the story ends, and there was no gunshot? did you literally just checkov’s gun this poo poo? Anyway this story falls flat because I didn’t connect with any of the character. You forced the drama too hard, and I didn’t care that sasha was getting dumped or that frank didn’t want to be there. Because all you showed me was the breakup and whining. To care about characters breaking up, we have to develop an attachment to them by seeing the good stuff. Your character’s motivations are a little muddled here, in that I’m not really sure what “the fires” were, and why it still matters about killing executives and burning oil rigs? I didn’t feel like sasha WANTED anything. She was just doing stuff for ~reasons~. Even the other characters in the story didn’t really care about her.

Diamond / Salvation

Your tenses are all over the loving place here. You start in past tense, but then when the dialogue starts you’re in present. wait i’m really confused here… you start off with some backstory, seemingly from third person omniscient. Then you say “he tells the barfly” but you’ve only talked about the son of murdock, so i thought that was who was speaking, but he’s talking ABOUT murdock, so i don’t even know who is talking right now. wait, it DOES seem like it’s bill murdock, but now i dunno wtf he’s talking about. is he not talking IN the town he’s in now? why doesn’t the barfly know what town it is? why is he talking in third person? “A shapeless being of pure shadow” how loving boring. This story is quickly going nowhere. I’m not impressed by the droning on about the darkness. So they’re back in diamond? I have no idea wtf is going on with this timeline. Wait, he’s not in diamond, but the sheriff of diamond is there? I thought HE was the sheriff of diamond and a deputy in salvation? Man, gently caress this confusing horse poo poo. I just skimmed the rest. He sacrifices his life to save “somebody who deserves it more” for pretty much no reason. What made him have this change of heart? Just sitting and talking about it in a bar? Write more clearer next time.


That’s quite the runon of a first sentence. Holy poo poo, it’s ALL Your sentences that are run-ons. Dude i’m like, getting anxious here reading these paragraph-length sentences! Slow down! Take a breath! use a period! “I tell her it’s he, that I’m trans and I need this testosterone to not want to kill myself” show don’t tell. This is too on the nose. Now it just feels preachy. And now the lady is using trite crap and being a strawman against transgenders…. ugh. you had the makings of a good story, but ruined it by being so obvious. The whole story is like “look, i’m trans!” instead of just having a trans character that has to deal with poo poo. You make this whole show about this one aspect of him, and we don’t get to learn anything else about his personality. Like his whole life revolves around this one aspect. And the woman is just an amalgamation of all the worst things people say, she literally just spits them out one after another. She’s not a character so much as an argument. Anyway uh, you get some credit for focusing on characters and not THE DARKNESS so good job? Just make your characters more rounded next time, don’t try to bullshit your way to empathy.

Can’t Say It

“I’m not leaving you” forgot your period. Also this back and forth feels like a soap opera. All the drama is in the spotlight, being openly talked about. Everybody says exactly what is happening and what everything is about. There’s no real ~dialogue~ between people. Oh my god, this back and forth of “go,” and “no i can’t,” is killing me. Did you lose a bet or something? You have to write a story that goes back and forth as many times as it can without actually saying anything useful or interesting? I loving GET THE POINT. you’re really belaboring the point that this char doesn’t feel good and is in pain. This story treats me like I’m some sort of idiot. You spend all your words basically saying very little. Instead of showing me she doesn’t wanna die alone, you just go back and forth with “leave” “i can’t leave” then “man i sure wish i wasn’t alone.” I actually couldn’t keep straight who was who and who was leaving and staying and all that other stuff, because nobody says anything of value.

The Very Last Moment

Don’t really like a bunch of heads talking about why they can talk and live. Because I’d assume that this had already been discussed when these things first happened. You have the benefit of the doubt when I first start reading the story. I’m willing to buy into some heads talking. But when you have them talk about WHY they’re able to do it, it just reeks of worldbuilding and rips me out of the story. Don’t do that. Own your world, make me think OF COURSE heads can talk. Don’t ever even act like it was questionable. Overall this is the first story I’ve kind of liked. I don’t LIKE like it, just sorta like it. Holtzman does a good job of actually making me fear the forever with his little story. Then I’m sort of drawn into this guy walking around dropping heads into pools of time so that they can die. The very end over does it, though, and gets a little too self-congratulatory.

The Heat Death of Everything

This whole “no fire works” thing is a bit contrived. Also, did you just switch POV to the old man on the roof? what the gently caress? this story is as dumb as free condoms at a convent. You start with a boring druggie, then randomly switch to some dumb old dude and then it gets weird, but not in a good way, and just ends. Like you forgot to say anything about the character you spent 3/4ths of the story creating. DM or loss here, you idiot.

The Benefits of a Penthouse Flat in Kensington

this story is pretty much all world building so far. All i got is that a guy dies and refreshes in a new body. That’s not enough for a story. now you’re blathering on about what ended the world. newsflash: i don’t really care. I care how people deal with it. get to that part. wait they only went like 39 miles in eighteen hours? so a little over 2 miles an hour? that’s hella slow. lol what. he just gets killed? This whole story is like, a pre-story. Nothing good happens. Just a bunch of world building. Then he randomly gets killed by some non-character and it ends. jesus christ, you need a lot of help with your story telling.

comes now the deepest night

““Cool, mister,” he said.” did you mean she? “devil himself were” the devil is only one dude. This is the first story this week I don’t hate. It is a bit too light on why the girl changes her mind. I was legit surprised at her betraying Gibbo, so congrats on that. I was like “no how could she!? right after he said that nice thing.” so i believed it when she doublecrossed the cultists and rescued gibbo, though I could have done with a bit of her looking on in worry, or something like that. just a tiny bit of foreshadowing. The voices of the dead daughter didn’t do it for me though. Maybe a different way to show that he’d left her behind? Also, gibbo didn’t really seem to struggle with leaving this new girl behind at all. It seemed sort of obvious to take her after she saved his life. So maybe a scene where he was going to abandon her too, but then has a change of heart. Hopefully this story marks the turn into “decent.”

Internal Narrative

I want to like this more than I do. At its core, I love the idea of some being slowly losing it by willful ignorance; deleting memories and pieces of his consciousness that don’t mesh with how he wants to view the world. On the other hand, this is a very rough story and reads like a one-man play or something. I don’t really understand WHAT is happening, and at what time line this is playing out. At first i thought the first satellite was sputnick, but he says they used to be among the stars or something? So I get confused about WHEN this is taking place. Further, I don’t really know what this “god” is supposed to be? An old satellite? an actual artificial intelligence? Actual god? I’m not sure. I was afraid a corny twist was coming, so I thank you for not including that. So in the end, the ideas here are good, but the writing needs a lot of work.

Clay and Fire

“as she triest” lol. I like this typo, but proofreading, man/woman, it’s your opening sentence! JELLY TEETH. lol this dude tried to hump that dying girl. awesome. ok dude. so like, i was actually really digging the loving emotional barrage of this dude carrying his dying wife/girlfriend up a mountain, knowing she’s going to die and not being able to do anything, then you go and turn it into a comedy about porn. and then just shove the whole message down my throat about porn destroying the world. and being like “prometheus logs into wifi lol.” i’m done, gently caress u.

The Rose

hahahaha. poop planet gently caress fest. why?

Terra Infirma

I like this, but it is a vignette when it’s all said and done. A quick look in the life of a bomb. It needs to be fleshed out more. Also i’m confused because it talks about having like, arms and hands and stuff.

Destiny Through Sickness and Ash

this reads really pretentious like. The narration and the dialogue both seem a touch unnatural. Like everything is stuffy english aristocrats. So it seems like this is in the past, the fall of the south american empires? I like the twist, and the interpretation of “apocalypse.” However, the voice is weird, alien, here, and it doesn’t seem right. Maybe this is more of a personal preference, but I just feel a little off when reading this story. But my biggest problem of this story is what exactly does the main char learn? How does she change or grow? It’s a very straight story of two wandering girls, one who is constipated, and they make their way to a big town where they hope they can be safe. The stronger sister basically is in one mode the entire time. She’s a goner and she knows it, so nothing is sacrificed, there are no hard decisions. Without a real conflict (danger isn’t necessarily conflict), there is no story. This is the opening act to a story, and for what it is, it is decent.


“Normalax sounds like a laxative” -my wife. “like he’s watching a baby animal die in an old animation.” what the gently caress kind of simile is this? “Normalax, Krull thinks, suddenly, fiercely, is the real horror.” A. get rid of those stupid adverbs. B. “hey that’s the name of the show.” “more unchill, I think. For some reason.” seriously? why not just say “the author has no idea!” “She did more than usual because there are a lot of penguins around.” this is feeling more like nothing more than a joke. Guessing it’s ChairChucker.

Waltzing Matilda

“pile of four” guessing this was supposed to be “flour?” was confused for a sec. “One minute it was over the city and the next only air.” makes it sound like it was over the city, then it was over air. I think you meant to imply that only air was over the city and that the plane had vanished. “Conspiracy theories abound until the Earth switched its orbit with Jupiter.” tense shift. Also wtf. If the Earth was where Jupiter was, we’d freeze almost instantly. This story… uh. I kinda want to like it. But it’s so far up its own rear end that I can’t. It feels like masturbation a bit, like I think the author was really getting into writing this story, and making it weird. But then it got really boring because i didn’t really care about matilda that much, or really know what she wanted. All i knew is she toasted a bagel and for some reason that hosed up the whole world? This piece is a hot mess. Back to the drawing board for you.

Snake Stew

You’re laying on the accent a little too thick. “the vultures would be hootin’ and hollerin’” This is just a comical parody. You seem like an outsider trying to write this accent, and it’s distracting. “I could’ve easily had my neck in one of his nooses by now.” why? what’d this char do? they seem pretty… benign… and uninteresting. “I felt my eyes get real wide,” sometimes, in an effort to avoid telling, people show too much. this is one of those instances. Anyway, this story is ok. The accent ruins a lot of it, because it’s hard to focus. For most of the story, this character just kind of reacts to stuff and things go on. He does eventually realize that maybe the lightning is the thing that kept him alive, and he sets off to find the girl, but he does so pretty easily. Everything just works out for this guy (besides being ugly and everybody being dead). there needs to be a bit more on him giving up and something, when he’s at his end, that makes him realize the lightning is the vaccine. there are some real good parts of this story, the pacing and setup, foreshadowing et al are great, but the voice needs some work.

Heart of Stone

“her hand brushing against the bundle of soft fur inside,” does she… have a dead puppy in there? You’re being too vague and ~mysterious~ about who Tina is. How does she know tina? Ok it’s her daughter. Who are these salty people who had her? (ha ha, get it?) Anyway, her daughter is basically a macguffin at this point. ok, so like, she finds her daughter in a cliff face that pops up for no reasons because she runs away screaming and crying? there’s really not any growth in character in that setup. blarp. i don’t want to comment on boring characters that don’t deserve the electrons that go into powering my monitor, so just read some of the previous crits about boring characters who don’t really make any choices and just exist in the story and do some things.

This is a Story …

Full disclosure: I know this is Tyran’s because I saw his name in the “longest titles” category for this story by accident.

That sure is a world-buildy title. Just cause it’s in the title doesn’t make it better. Especially the breaking the fourth wall part. “He watched Teddy dress.” creepy. You switched from being outside both characters to now being inside Teddy’s head. A little jarring. Is there a word for a story that continually uses lines from another work? Cause we had one a little back that did that with shakespeare, and I didn’t like it. I don’t like it now either. I don’t feel like having animatronic Teddy stuck with a limited amount of things to say really adds anything to the story. It just reminds me of Arrested Development, when GOB puts an audio magazine ad into his puppets mouth, and all he can say is “my name is judge,” and even though it’s usually not appropriate, that’s all he can say, so GOB tries to shoehorn it into everything. That’s what I feel reading this. In the end, this is an enjoyable read, but I have a bit trouble understanding what is the point? What did Hussein want? He just seems to be wandering the desert trying to not get killed. Also this doesn’t really feel post-apocalyptic, but more like Wild Wild West with Will Smith. The wild west but with some weird steam-punky reality. I was continually thrown off on how you wrote Hussein like the main character, but we would slip into Teddy’s head. In the end, I’m not really sure who the main char was. It kinda seems like teddy, but he didn’t really have much of the spotlight. I like the concept, the execution was decent, but the pacing and tone was a bit off.


What the gently caress is this? This is terrible. I couldn’t even pay attention while reading it, so I can’t really give you any constructive criticism. Don’t do this again?

The Devil’s Grin

“If he had been a turtle it” typo? This dialect is terrible. “Half kiss, half feeding. The fat man rubbed her breast at the same time. His other hand was deep inside her. When she was done. He took his fat hands, each like a oily sausage and licked them clean.” lol. i uh….. you better have something amazing in this story, cause a fat dude fingering some chick then licking his fingers is a thing to have in a story for sure. It’s hard not to make that seem like some cheap cinemax late night softcore porn. Also I feel like this is Jabba the Hutt fanfic. ““Think about Bounty Hunter.” ok. *thinks about bounty hunter* holy poo poo that poem is absolutely atrocious. haha. gently caress this story. gently caress you for writing it. easy loss.

Aug 2, 2002

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

i dont crabrock is a butt

Aug 2, 2002

I will take 59) Magical Realism and Historical Fiction

and give me a flash rule for MORE WORDS plz :toxx: for submission

Aug 2, 2002

judging is a good way to help hone your internal editor, which can pay off for your own writing, so even if you don't feel you're "good enough" you should totally do it.

Aug 2, 2002


gently caress your archive


Aug 2, 2002

my second is 117) Your magic ages you a bit more each time you use it, but you will never die

though i was tempted to somehow write magical realism historical fiction space western romantic comedy.


Aug 2, 2002

The Train to Charlotte
1235 words

The Charlotte Express was 250 tons of American Iron, replete with satin curtains, mahogany arches, and defeated traitors. If my glare could have killed, there would have been two more dead rebels under the crystal chandeliers. Though I was headed into the Hornet’s Nest for business, I always relished the chance to travel in first class.

It was a shame my trip had to be spoiled by the presence of personified treason. I muttered something about the French, my admiration of their liberal use of the guillotine to rid their country of the profligate, and struck a match.

While I lit my cigarette, one of the dirtier graybacks stood. His dirty, cracked fingernails dug into the back of the rococo seat cushion.

“If you have something to say, speak it to my face, carpetbagger.” He pulled his jacket aside to show me his Derringer.

“Cute toy,” I said. “Though I still don’t think they should allow unwashed children on a train this fancy.” I let my mouth hang open, and cigarette smoke wafted out at its leisure.

The dirty bastard tucked his smile behind his lips and reached for his gun. His friend grabbed his arm. “Not now, Ambrose.” He nodded in the direction of the marshall, who had temporarily suspended his focus on his plate of potatoes

Ambrose huffed but restrained his rage.

The marshall stood, set his napkin on the table, and tipped his hat. “Don’t let me stop you fine gentleman from protecting your honor,” he said. “Always thus to the usurpers.” He squeezed Ambrose’s shoulder and exited the dining car. On the other side of the door, he made a show of drawing the blind so that none of the fine folks in coach would have to witness my unplanned retirement.

I carefully tapped the ash from my cigarette into the tray on the table. “It amazes me,” I said, “that the Southern Pacific Railroad is concerned with such a trifle as cigarette ash, yet they have not provided me with a large box labeled ‘whoreson confederates’ in which dispose of the lot of you.”

The other man released Ambrose’s arm, and his smile crawled back out from his lips as he aimed the gun at my head. “And to think, Henry, here I was thinkin’ I’d never get another chance to kill a yankee queer,” he said. His friend laughed.

He pulled the trigger, and the bullet buried itself in the window frame over my shoulder. Ambrose turned to Henry and shrugged.

I set my cigarette down in the ashtray, still lit. “Now Ambrose, you’ll never get ahead in the world with poor language like that,” I said.

He fired again, shattering the window behind me. The frigid air blew in from High Rock Lake and rustled my grizzled whiskers.

I continued: “Luckily for you, I am a man of medicine.” I drew back my coat in a similar fashion as Ambrose had done earlier, but instead of crude weapons I revealed my collection of snake oils in small, glass vials.

The other erstwhile rebel grabbed the gun from Ambrose. “You drunken fool, you wouldn’t be able to pull on your own britches if there weren’t your name sewed in the back,” said Henry. He too took his turn projecting lead in my general vicinity, tarnishing the elegance of the carriage.

I stepped up to the men and removed an empty vial. “Now this one, which I paid a handsome wage for the steward to slip into your soup earlier, relaxes the muscles and makes them suggestable to even the most subtle influences. Say, a wary glance or a disapproving tone.”

The gun weighed down the rebel’s arm as I drew closer, as if it was afraid to point at me. If he pulled the trigger again, he would have shot off his own toes.

I tossed the vial onto the marshal’s empty table and drew another from my waistcoat. “This one, Ambrose, is harvested from the most erudite rattlers in California, and should help with that nasty tongue of yours.”

Ambrose trembled as I removed the dropper from the vial. I brought it near his face and he leaned his head back, mouth agape. Two drops of cottonmouth snake oil slid down his throat, and he crumpled to the ground, retching on exquisite carpeting.

I tucked the vial back into my coat and produced another.

A large, dark spot grew on the front of Henry’s trousers as he found himself unable to move.

“Isn’t it nice to relax?” I said, pouring a drop of oil onto my hands. I rubbed it into my palms and put my hand on Henry’s forehead. “The Carolina Corn Snake is unique to a small swamp just outside Charlotte,” I said as Henry’s eyes rolled into the back of his head. “It produces an oil that can reverse the effects of aging.”

Ambrose looked up from his spot on the ground and hissed at me. His forked tongue flicked from between his lips.

“Now doesn’t that feel better in your mouth than those nasty words?”

Ambrose clasped his hands over his mouth and did his best to slither underneath a bench. Henry sunk back into his seat, his eyes completely white. He murmured in a language forgotten by adults.

Memories of my youth flooded back as the wrinkles of time faded from my cheeks; Henry didn’t have the luxury of a millennium buffer, and he let out a piercing scream as his mind was consumed by the horrors of childhood.

The marshall ran through the door with his revolver drawn. He took one look at Ambrose stuck half under the bench, his rear in the air, and Henry folded over on the table, and he aimed his firearm at me.

“Not another inch,” he shouted over the howl of the night air whistling past the broken window.

I put my hands up in the air.

“What the hell happened here?” he yelled. Several rubberneckers craned to look past the marshall. Some of the women let out little yelps at the site of the two indisposed men.

“Well, they seem to have fallen ill,” I said.

The train entered a turn, and I reached for the handle to steady myself. The crack of a .357 pierced my eardrums, and I felt the familiar sting of hot lead in my lung. I staggered back a few steps and the marshal pulled the trigger again.

I guess he hadn’t eaten the soup.

I stumbled back until I leaned against the window frame. The landscape rushed past like a revolution. There was no use riding the rest of the way to Charlotte, I thought. I’d have to kill a hell of a lot more people just to sit for a few more hours.

I pitched myself out into the dark as the marshal emptied the last of his bullets into my chest.

I lay for a few moments in the dew-covered grass, watching the Charlotte Express race away from me. The sky was beginning to lighten in the East, and the birds were just waking up. I stood and surveyed my jacket of broken vials and sighed. I’d have to track down a lot more snakes to replace the lost oil, but I had the time.

I got up and walked the tracks toward Charlotte, my hair returning to its familiar gray color. I whistled as I walked.

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