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  • Locked thread
Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Ask me about being the most Magnificent Bastard in EU4 Multiplayer.

In and because I am an unreliable son of a bitch I

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Okua
Oct 30, 2016


I am in

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


Exmond posted:

Except the reader doesn't realize this until the next reread. A few of the judges missed it (Myself included) and thought the doctor's visit took all night.
Thank you for this deeper explanation. Once I took my rear end off my shoulders I completely understood your note and how I'd dropped the ball.

I hate writing. I hate crits and I hate people who tell me where I failed to communicate. If I had my way I'd be perfect.

I'm in dammit to hell.

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


Yoruichi posted:

Thanks for the crit Exmond

I have to ask, in your last story why did the lady turn into a dragon?

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Chocolate tastes bad,
also fuck you <3

I can finally do this again! in and

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



magnificent7 posted:

If I had my way I'd be .

Deltasquid
Apr 10, 2013

awww...
you guys made me ink!


THUNDERDOME


Fleta Mcgurn posted:

I can finally do this again! in and

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

Exmond posted:

I have to ask, in your last story why did the lady turn into a dragon?

This kind of story chat sits better in irc

Deltasquid
Apr 10, 2013

awww...
you guys made me ink!


THUNDERDOME


Some crits

Scores:


Going Forward, gently caress This poo poo - 5
You never did have children, - 8
Bloodline - 6
To be a bird - 5
Everything is Kamikaze - 6
Disillusion - 8
The Trials of Kevin the Barbarian - 7
Birds and Dinosaurs - 5
The man in the room - 4,5
American Eel - 8
The World of the Cat - 7
1058 words; Coherent Structure - 4
Driver's Head - 6

Crits themselves (short because I'm lazy, hit me up in IRC for details)

Yoruichi
Going Forward, gently caress This poo poo


Strong start. I’m certainly wondering why today in particular the lady snaps and shanks a fool with a pen. “staring at her open-mouthed” sounds like it’s grammatically wrong. Maybe a comma, but that would still be an awkward sentence. Makes it sound like she is open-mouthed. Oh God Ruth sounds like she’s projecting super hard onto people. Some saidisms and tellling instead of showing. “Whack goes the sledgehammer into the ergonomic keyboard which nonetheless makes her wrists hurt. “ I like the idea behind this sentence but it sounds stilted. I think the “gently caress this poo poo” interpunctuation could have been shorter, maybe just nouns with a verb or adjective, rather than full sentences. Remember that writing a long sentence calms down and slows down the story, which is good for describing picturesque panoramas or dreams but not great for action scenes. Oh now she’s… a dragon?

Hmh this story did not go the way I expected it to. Just off the rails halfway through. And my initial questions are a bit unresolved. Just seems like she’s crazy. A provisional 6, I think? Maybe 5? Especially ‘cause your self-identified weakness was “write more than one dimensional characters” and I was expecting this crazy Ruth to kind of show other character traits but no it was 100% vindictive all the time.

God over Djinn
You never did have children,


Hmm, actually don’t have much to say about this one. Took me right in and didn’t let me go until I reached the end. I’d say an 8, would’ve been a 9 or 10 with some more flourishes at the end. But it’s definitely a cute story and I like it a lot. I noticed the first letter of your story was uncapitalized and checked the title and yeah it’s a continuation. It struck me as a bit odd but you actually do the same in Dutch when writing an e-mail or letter so it wasn’t too jarring, although I can see Fumbles didn’t make the connection lol. I think you certainly hit your own goal. Although I think maybe it still veers into dark a bit because it’s about death and the one couple lost their baby… But ultimately this is a cute piece. Liked the timeskips. Very Jojo.

Magnificent7
Bloodline


Great, subtle foreshadowing at the beginning that Fumbles pointed out and which Exmond and I missed. Unfortunately this story has so much subtlety it didn’t quite draw me in until Miss Carmen arrived, but that’s ok, I can tolerate slow burns. But their discussion is also quite… Glossed over? Does Carmen talk? Did she bite his arm or sink her nails in it? I’ll assume she bit him, but shouldn’t he turn vampire, then? He’s pretty blasé about this. Can’t he just move? Or does he like the situation as it is? The last paragraph makes it sound like he’s down for eternal life but he’s still disgusted by vampires?

I don’t quite know what to think of this piece. You got good atmosphere but then it seems to keep glossing over everything like there’s mist hanging all over the story, which is fitting but makes it hard for me to see what you’re trying to do.

Flerp
To be a bird


“Two stab wounds in the chest, one in the thigh and one above the heart. The first to stop her from running, the second to make sure she was dead. The blood stains are brown now.” So does she have 4 stab wounds total, or 2, and you think thighs are part of the chest?

Huh. Okay. So she… turns into a bird. I guess? I didn’t feel like anything was impactful or meaningful about this or the setting in particular. I think it’s because the girl is dead before we get to know her and we don’t learn anything about her post-mortem other than “she likes birds!” and she turns into a bird.

Jay W. Friks
Everything is Kamikaze


Dead character hanging into the dark void of the ocean. I am terrified of depths so this is lovecraftian horror to me. But the first paragraph feels a bit light-hearted in tone, so this clashes. But that’s ok, dark comedy can work.

I don’t get the ending, or anything about this piece really. Good grotesque descriptions but not exactly coherent.

Thranguy
Disillusion


Hmm, I like the first sentence. Very clinical, kind of like in an atlas or an encyclopedia. I like mysteries told through official/report-like ways because it contrasts nicely with the horror or weirdness being told. However I am not sure if people would particularly care enough about Jupiter to remember where they were when it disappeared. Maybe the moon, sure, but not that many people stare at Jupiter on a regular enough basis to know unless the news cycle made a huge thing about it.

Lol poor Frankie.

I like the back and forth between interesting exposition and this lady’s story.

Ending is interesting. This story sucked me in and I like how the mystery remains a cliffhanger.

Anti-vehicular
The Trials of Kevin the Barbarian


Kevin is such a loser name and I like the juxtaposition.

God drat, whichever nerd hi-jacked prom night to be D&D-themed, and made enough people go along with it that even the girls are dressing up, must have ridiculous pull.

Physics department T-shirts are funny but the way it’s told between brackets is a bit clunky. “Never has a party on the Atherton College campus been so definitely over as this party is now. “ Hehe. “to start texting” is kind of awkward. Avoid verbs like “to start X-ing” and just write what she’s about to do: “to text”.

I liked this story. Pretty funny, and clear despite omniscient POV. I think you nailed that.

Tyrannosaurus
Birds and Dinosaurs


Interesting idea about making up memories. More interesting than mom and her menopause imho. Maybe throw that in as window dressing in the first or second sentence and then play with a story of made-up memories who may or may not be real? Right now I feel like neither the memory thing nor mom’s thing really got resolved.

Crabrock
The man in the room


Really long run-up to get to the inciting event, aka the man not being in his chair.

Hmm. Okay ending but I was pretty bored for most of this. I’d pin this at a 4, but there are interesting ideas in here and I like the ambiguity of why the man is so important. Unfortunately I didn't particularly care much about the characters or the setting, not enough to salvage this story. You don't need 4 paragraphs of description of a chair.

Sparksbloom
American Eel


This one made me sad. Saying bye to friends is hard. Not light and fluffy at all, despite the rather absurd premise. Points for making me feel a thing. It’s a good story about teenage awkwardness and not knowing how to deal with genuine emotions as a guy, so you try to sidestep them with humor. Or am I reading too much into this?

Uranium Phoenix
The World of the Cat


You misspelled “manager”, I think. Regardless I think this is a pretty solid story, written with purpose. What a cruel, uncaring world. However I think maybe the police or fire department could have helped out the cat? Idk.

Electric Owl
1058 words; Coherent Structure


I don’t get this at all. I left completely confused. At least the prose is okay? But it’s an incoherent mess of a story. I don’t understand the ending at all. Who or what is the coyote. Why do they laugh. HELP. Possible loss candidate for me.

Addendum afterwards: I really wanted to like this story but couldn't. Maybe it's being culturally ignorant of native beliefs and folklore, maybe not, but I tried very hard to follow what was going on until you made the character switch to the elevator ride and then I just didn't understand what the communist accusations and poo poo meant. And how this related at all with the first part, until we see Robin again, and there's an element of gender fluidity I really wanted to understand but it was too brief for me to wrap my head around. Sorry!

Sebmojo
Driver's Head


Hmm. Something cyclical but I’m not sure what exactly is going on. I could follow it quite well, purely grammatically, but I’m not sure what the meaning or take-away was of this? It feels like a dream but something tells me this isn’t what you meant.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


Deltasquid posted:

like there’s mist hanging all over the story, which is fitting but makes it hard for me to see what you’re trying to do.
Thanks for the crit. Yes. I nailed the hell out of vaguely subtle.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019


in

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold
H U L K A M A N I A

SUPER SUMMERSLAM
THUNDERDOME 2019


Freakie posted:

Gonna pop my babby Thunderdome cherry and say in.
https://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Spider-Webs
https://www.wikihow.com/Master-the-...rt-of-the-Sword


Obliterati posted:

In and because I am an unreliable son of a bitch I
https://www.wikihow.com/Surf
https://www.wikihow.com/Use-a-Pay-Phone


Okua posted:

I am in

https://www.wikihow.com/Handle-a-Ti...ng-a-Motorcycle
https://www.wikihow.com/Meet-Your-G...end%27s-Parents


magnificent7 posted:

Thank you for this deeper explanation. Once I took my rear end off my shoulders I completely understood your note and how I'd dropped the ball.

I hate writing. I hate crits and I hate people who tell me where I failed to communicate. If I had my way I'd be perfect.

I'm in dammit to hell.
https://www.wikihow.com/Earn-the-Tr...-a-Feral-Kitten
https://www.wikihow.com/Determine-Authentic-Sunglasses


Fleta Mcgurn posted:

I can finally do this again! in and
https://www.wikihow.com/Pick-a-Good-Mango
https://www.wikihow.com/Rock-and-Roll


https://www.wikihow.com/Condition-Y...memade-Products
https://www.wikihow.com/Regain-Cont...a-Spooked-Camel

Siddhartha Glutamate
Oct 3, 2005


Thran, hook me up with some wikihow nonsense. 'Cause I'm in.

Edit: I'll toxx if flerp promises to work in the camel falling in love with somebody. I want that story.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019


Siddhartha Glutamate posted:

Thran, hook me up with some wikihow nonsense. 'Cause I'm in.

Edit: I'll toxx if flerp promises to work in the camel falling in love with somebody. I want that story.

my story will have my camel falling in love with somebody

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold
H U L K A M A N I A

SUPER SUMMERSLAM
THUNDERDOME 2019


Siddhartha Glutamate posted:

Thran, hook me up with some wikihow nonsense. 'Cause I'm in.

Edit: I'll toxx if flerp promises to work in the camel falling in love with somebody. I want that story.

https://www.wikihow.com/Get-Over-a-...r-a-Lame-Reason
https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Glitter-Bomb

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


What is this poo poo.

I kid.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

Siddhartha Glutamate
Oct 3, 2005


I'm ing!

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

IMPORTANT REMINDER

This thread will be locked at the end of the year. Once Thunderdome is locked and goldmined (which every TD to date has been), it is impossible to remove stories from the thread. This is important for anyone who plans on pulling stories for further editing and submission. If you wish, you can replace the story with the relevant archive page link. The archive requires a password to view.

That said, if you are pretty sure you're not going to work on a story anymore, consider leaving it up for posterity!

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Six of one, half dozen of another.

Grimey Drawer

Thanks for the heads up SH.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

I'm judge

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold
H U L K A M A N I A

SUPER SUMMERSLAM
THUNDERDOME 2019


The next five people who go in can pick one of their two wikihow pages from the choices below. (I'll assign the other in reply.):

How to Be a Ninja Punk


How to Deal with Difficult Police


How to Make a Garden Gnome That Looks Like Your Husband


How to Survive an Apocalypse


How to Become an Expert in Parkour

Thranguy fucked around with this message at Dec 7, 2017 around 17:29

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

Did you FAIL THUNDERDOME Entenzahn? Don't worry, here's an example on how to write!

in with the gnome

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold
H U L K A M A N I A

SUPER SUMMERSLAM
THUNDERDOME 2019


Entenzahn:

How to Make a Garden Gnome That Looks Like Your Husband


and

How to Sing High Notes

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Thunderdome Recap!



Your civic duty calls you to take part in the thread referendum on Fumblexit, also known as a recap of Week 274: I Scream, You Scream and Week 275: Bring on the Lovers, Liars and Clowns. Prior to the vote, Sitting Here and I, together with special cyberguest sebmojo, will hold a debate on such critical issues as quote tags and rainbow sherbet. Antifreeze will be offered by way of refreshment; you may or may not find this preferable to sebmojo's "Piss."

I scratched my head, listening to his words carefully and trying to make some sense of them in my head.


Episodes past can be found here!

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold
H U L K A M A N I A

SUPER SUMMERSLAM
THUNDERDOME 2019


Less than twelve hours remain to get in this week.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Grimey Drawer

in.

to submit muffin brawl before i submit this story

to submit this story on time.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold
H U L K A M A N I A

SUPER SUMMERSLAM
THUNDERDOME 2019


crabrock posted:

in.

to submit muffin brawl before i submit this story

to submit this story on time.
How to Remove Old Carpeting
How to Avoid Talking to People

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Grimey Drawer

muffin brawl

Two men on a bridge after dark
589 words

“It's a long way down.”

“No poo poo, so don't come any closer or I'll do it. I'm not bluffing.”

“I believe you. Was just a little surprised, is all.”

“Well, leave me alone then.”

“Ok, no problem. Just took a drive to think some things over, but I like the view. In the city, the skyglow blocks out the darkness. Here, I can pretend the office building and streetlamps are like galaxies, ya know?”

“Not really.”

“Out this far, you can look up and see the faint haze of city. I wish I would find nature more intrinsically rewarding—I like the way the trees are silhouetted against the glow—but even now I’m captivated by the twinkle of headlights. It’s hard to look away. Breathtaking, don't you think?”

“No, I hate the city and everything about it.”

“You born here?”

“No, my dad moved us out here, saw it sucked, then left us while he moved somewhere better. This city is a dumping ground for unwanted families.”

“Pretty though.”

“Go away.”

“See how the planes come in? Blinking dots that start as a figment of light, then brighter, then two dots, then colors. Some people coming home, some people visiting for the first time, all carried on a light slowly moving through the sky. The others that take off start out bright and then slowly fade until you can’t see them anymore, whisked away by the wind. I wonder where they go, sometimes, the lights, and the people.”

“You know that’s not how planes work.”

“Sometimes it is.”

“But, no. They’re just metal, not light. People go in, people come out. Nobody disappears on a beam of light.”

“Except for the times they do.”

“You can’t just pretend airplanes are people teleporting on beams of light. There are physics involved, actual rules and laws and poo poo. Objective truth. Right and wrong. Order from chaos and all that poo poo. Reasons things happen. God dammit! Will you leave me alone already!?”

“I saw it happen.”

“Are you just purposely obtuse? Do you have any friends or have you driven them all away? Is that why you’re alone tonight driving around looking longingly at poo poo? ‘Cause you got nobody at home? It’s loving Valentine’s Day, loving loser.”

“...”

“gently caress, man, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“‘I love the flowers, and I love you.’ That’s the last thing she said. Almost made it home too, you know. Stop sign right across the street from our driveway. Twenty feet, tops. Last time I saw her was when the loaded her into the Life Flight. It’s weird how somebody can be a person when you load them onto a helicopter, but not when it lands. Where do they go? Evaporated into the sky, I guess, like so many lights. I miss her.”

“poo poo, I hosed up. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“I didn’t really come up here to look at the city.”

“I’m going to climb over the rail now, ok, just hold on a second.”

“I just wanted to see her again.”

“Can I hug you?”

mmmph.”

“...”

“...”

“...”

“Thank you. I think I’ll go home; I’ve got a lot to think about. I’ll leave you alone now, if that’s what you want.”

“Nah man, gently caress that. Let’s go get some coffee. It’s freezing out here. You have to drive us back though, I Ubered out here. And also pay, because I’m broke.”

“I know a little diner nearby, good local spot. Great for leftovers.”

“Sounds perfect.”

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

I got it wrong. Look, I'm well aware I got it wrong and uh, I got it wrong.


faaaaart

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold
H U L K A M A N I A

SUPER SUMMERSLAM
THUNDERDOME 2019


Sign-ups are closed.

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Six of one, half dozen of another.

Grimey Drawer

King in Yellow crits are in the making but I'm out of town for this weekend and will be working on something that will take up my time. Letting you all know I will get them in next week instead. I hope your stories for Thranguy are bloody and plentiful.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


BabyRyoga Crit

Vicengo collapsed, its hooves buckling under the stress of the sand as if a myriad of demons were tearing at them with scorching claws. It had been dragged through an unfamiliar landscape by Clavius, an inexperienced legionnaire of medium build adorned in a suit of lavish armour. He wielded a short sword in his right hand and a set of chains in his left. With a flick of his wrist, he commanded Vicengo to its feet. This is a decent first section, cuts right to the action.

"It's your fault we're in this mess." He he, no capitalization, also use a comma instead of a period when dialogue attribution follows quoted textsnarled in frustration.

Vicengo slowly arose, guilt welling up within its eyes in the form of a soppy odd word choice, what does ‘soppy’ mean? soporific? gleam. Before them stretched a wasteland of countless towering dunes and a single blisteringly hot amalgamation of gas in the sky that provided a disproportionate amount of light relative to the excruciating heat it emitted. There is definitely a more concise way to say this. If you can describe the same thing in fewer words, it’s a net positive. Is it that important that you say “amalgamation of gas” and not “star”?

As Vicengo turned away in shame, its eyes caught a figure obscured by the twisting sands clumsily tumbling down towards them from the dune ahead. Clavius, startled by the turbulence, brandished his sword menacingly. unnecessary adverb. We should know that he’s menacing from earlier description.

"Stay thy ground." Hehe, again squeaked in feigned confidence, ”in feigned confidence can go, “squeaked” is enough. Trust yourself and your reader.as the sword wavered in his grasp.

The figure dropped to its knees in exhaustion as it reached the bottom of the dune, ignoring Clavius's warning. As the upheaval of sand slowly settled, Clavius glared at the figure, attempting to assess what danger it posed to him and his companion. It was a frail-looking man wearing ink-black slacks, and a tattered white coat made of an unknown alien”unknown” and “alien” are redundant, get rid of one material. The man panted heavily for a few moments, examining his surroundings. He stood up abruptly, ”heavily” is not great, but it’s still better than “abruptly”, which tells us something we already know.jerked his head a bit, and rubbed his eyes.
Alright, at this point in the story—especially one this short--we should have a better idea of why these characters are here, who they are, what they’re looking for. Maybe in a longer story you could set the scene like this, but when you’re working with <1000 words you don’t want to waste a sentence.
"How did you manage to end up here?" He asked dumbfounded, getting a better look at the pair.

Clavius gave no reply. Vicengo stared at the newcomer intently. you have a serious adverb infestation, you should get that looked at

The man approached, unmindful of the blade. "It will be here soon." he better, but you still need the comma instead of the periodcontinued, with a looming sense of urgencyhe’s saying “It will be here soon.” We don’t need to be told about the urgency in his voice. We can infer that from his words. in his voice.

"Where is here?" Clavius replied hastily, as he regained his composure and gripped the sword steadily. more adverbs, sheesh

"We are prisoners," the man began, motioning for the legionnaire to lower his blade. Clavius promptly raised the point of his blade to the man's neck.

"Nonsense. What manner of prison is this?" He scowled angrily. "You take me for some sort of fool." As he turned towards Vicengo again, the strength in his arm began to wane and his sword drooped. A solemn look of disbelief washed over his face. "Cursed by The Divine..." Clavius muttered, thrusting his sword tip first at his feet. He kicked some sand in Vicengo's direction, and it returned a whimper. I still don’t know who any of these people are, why they’re prisoners, why Clavius has control over Vicengo, etc.

The man, aware of the fact that Clavius had realized something of significance, gestured to indicate that he was still seeking an answer. again, fewer wasted words would help.

"Of all ill-fated luck for a man to be blessed with, it had to be this beast," he exclaimed, glaring at Vicengo. The sadness in its eyes implied that it understood. Vicengo’s a horse? I know it has hooves, but it’s still unclear as hell

He continued, "The wretched thing has demonstrated wanton uselessness in all its years of servitude to my family. I needed a proper shield, and a blacksmith at the bazaar offered me coin for him in passing. I accepted his offer." Clavius spit in the sand, likening the transaction to expelling a bad taste. you could’ve just ended it with “spit in the sand.”

"I spent that night with the wenches at the tavern. Went overboard, passed out, and woke up here, reunited with the blasted beast."

The man gave a displeased frown. "You blame the beast?"

Clavius sighed in lament. "The gods have scorn for mortals who demonstrate cruelty towards beasts. This... thing is as half-witted and lazy as there ever was. The way I see it, their judgement was to punish us both." What’s the main conflict here? They’re stuck with each other…so…what then? He’s spending the whole story explaining his predicament and spending no time attempting to change it

"Punished. We're being punished.." the man calmly resigned. "I dabbled in sciences forbidden by law, deemed too dangerous to explore. There was a miscalculation in one of my experiments, and I've been stuck here since, writing it all off as an accident for.." the man paused briefly. "As if time itself held meaning in such a place," he muttered to himself, coming to terms with his sins. oh, ok, so they’re in purgatory. Why the hell is purgatory always a desert. Also, why the hell is purgatory held up as the means to an interesting story. No one ever gets out of purgatory, or does anything interesting in purgatory.

Right on cue, An aethereal maw spilled out of a nearby dune, crashing into the sand beside the trio. A strange hum filled the air as its jaws parted, revealing a swirling nexus that pulled the three of them towards it like a magnet. did it really, Frank Herbert?

The scientist didn't flinch, having encountered it countless times before, but Clavius fell flat on his rear end frozen in fear. He had been pulled but a few feet when the maw grew silent. "There can only be one," exclaimed the scientist in revelation, taking his previous encounters into consideration. ok it’s nice to have inspirations but you need to find a way to sublimate them and make them less obvious, otherwise they come off as a ham-handed Highlander homage

Clavius suspensefully nope, nope, even for adverbs this is the most unacceptable, you should know why by now locked eyes with the scientist, misunderstanding what he had said. again, overtellingIn a blur, he grabbed his sword and thrust it into the abdomen of the scientist, skewering him. The scientist fell to one knee and grunted in pain. He removed a small device from his pocket and pointed it squarely at Clavius. As it began to buzz and light up the scientist flashed a gaze at Vicengo, as if sending a signal. Suddenly, the beast leapt in front of its master just as the device fired a scorching beam of plasma, mortally wounding it. It collapsed next to the scientist, who petting it gently on the head affirmed in a whisper, "Soon we will be free."

Clavius strode triumphantly towards the maw, which once again welcomed him with a hum. "Hah! The beast finally proved to be useful. Today, the gods have smiled upon me."

The hum grew deafeningly loud as Clavius was swept off his feet and sucked into the void. A hearty warmth filled his body, rejuvenating his physical strength and mental fortitude, as it fed him with supernatural energy. Before he knew it, he was expelled from the maw with a new lease on life. He gathering himself and rose to his feet, back in the sand where he started. He was alone.

Ultimately, it feels like you sort of had a conceptual idea for a story and spent a lot of time narrating it back to the reader through your characters, rather than making anything interesting happen for the vast majority of the story. I did the exact same thing my first time in TD! What I learned from that experience was that the story should flow through the characters actions, not their narration, and that story comes from characters, not plot. What do they want? What will they do to get what they want? You could argue that Clavius just wants to be rid of his horse, but there are easier ways to do that and more compelling conflicts to be had. And what conflict there is should be implicit at the very beginning in a story this short. but you know, ymmv.

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


1479 words

Humanity's Children

The skeleton didn't know it, but its last moments would be spent hosting a surprise party. Thousands upon thousands of cryo-pods lit up and hissed opened. Each pod opened up to reveal a skeleton, their uncaring stare aimed at a single table. A cake sat on the table and beside it a hovering white metal orb. With a flick of its thermo-nuclear flamethrower the orb lit the candle, the cake and, the table on fire.


"SUR-PRISE!" The orb bellowed as two gelatinous, amoebic blobs entered the room. The red blob shivered with delight and unleashed six of its goopy tentacles on the burnt remains of the table. The blue one warbled a greeting.


"Thank you computer!" The red blob said, its appendages stringing together to form the words. She played herself like a banjo, each twang eliciting a word. Her other appendages were stuffing pieces of debris into her torso. "This is delicious! Charred table, roasted to excellence and with a hint of cake!"


"NO. PROBLEM." The computer said. The white orb hovered by a skeleton and nudged it. "I. WOKE. UP. ALL. YOUR. FRIENDS!"


The blobs warbled in delight as they greeted each of their friends. The ship computer felt a rise in temperature in its life-circuits. It had been so long since the ship had been full of life. Was this the feeling called happiness? Or maybe it was an electrical fire caused by its missing Lofstrom circuit.


The blobs sludged over to a pod which was decorated with crude objects they had collected. Here was their creator, Professor Cralk. He had injected two jelly amoebas with the ships life-circuit, hoping the resulting life form would detect the plague that had invaded the ship. Cralk would later curse himself for using the Lofstrom circuit instead of the Zeitgeist circuit, his last words before sealing himself into the cryo-pod. The two jellies sat there, in their petri dish, watching with confusion as red lights and klaxons blared. Soon though all was silent, save for the screen that was decoding alien waves. As the amoeba grew fat off of the ship's leaking radiation, so too did they grow wise off of the visions the screen showed them.


It was most appropriate to make the announcement here, in front of their creator. "Ahem, everyone!" the skeletons did not turn to attention, but she continued anyway, "I am proud to announce that we are getting married!"

===

The plan was set and the destination mapped out. The red blob was slapping paint onto the rocket, a cylindrical-like device made out of the metal forged in the heat of a dying sun and duck tape. The rocket was their dream, their ticket out of here. Its sleek hull would traverse the dreamscape and lead them to their wedding destination, just like the visions had told them.


"Ready!" The red blob said as she finished.


The blue blob looked the rocket over, following the exact mannerisms the visions had shown him. He had no idea how rockets worked, but he knew how dreams worked. After a few seconds of blankly staring at the rocket, he deemed it dream worthy.


The blobs slurped their way into the rocket ship. The interior was split into two, each side containing a gigantic lens that spanned the length of the ship. The only instrument was a simple lever, at the front, that controlled thrust. The red blob went in first and stretched out, filling the confines of her lens. She would never admit it, the visions had taught her you never admit these things, but it was a tight fit. Her fiance joined her and the door closed behind them.


The blue blob looked over the calculations — one dream plus two dream plus minor explosion equalled flavour explosion — the math checked out (Researchers would later find out that this equation created fusion energy).


The ship computer's voice boomed, "GOODBYE. AND. GOOD. LUCK."


The red blob slithered out a small thread of herself onto the lever; the blue blob reached out with a small thread as well. Together they entwined their threads together and, with a meaningful look at each other, pushed the lever forward.


The rocket ship started to accumulate the dreams of an extinct civilization. The engine roared to life. They had the dreams, now all they need was the minor explosion.


"SELF. DESTRUCT. INITIATED. BON. VOYAGE." The computer said. As the last remaining ship of an ancient civilization self-imploded, taking with it thousands of years of research and culture with it, the computer hoped that it would explode "Happily".

===

A small taco bell stood alone in a large desert. The only person in the empty parking lot was talking on a phone.


"Okay, so being the only taco bell in Mexico wasn't enough of a draw. What about the ad?" Alex said.


The voice over the phone told him that the ad hadn't worked, and worse everybody thought Taco Bell was now racist.


"What do you mean it was racist? The ad was about space, great food and, alie-"


Alex smacked his forehead as realization dawned on him.


"We didn't mean those kinds of aliens! Listen. We can't close down. This is my dre-"


At that exact moment the dreamscape mixed with language, hope and, desire. Scientists would name this the Alex moment. A tip of a spaceship shot up Alex's throat, and over the next twenty minutes, Alex had the distinct pleasure of vomiting up the spaceship. Later, he said it was like vomiting up stars, with an aftertaste of mint.


With a final "BLUUURGH" the spaceship landed onto the parking lot and rolled to a stop in a handicapped parking spot. The door opened and the red blob emerged. She wore a sombrero, to fit in with the crowd. A few seconds later her companion joined her. This was a tense moment. Alex didn't move; the blobs stood still. Man met blobs, blobs met man.


"Hello," the red blob said. Her free tentacle dug into herself and pulled out a piece of cardboard, golden diamonds glued on to form a distinct pattern. "Here is my visa." She handed the piece of cardboard to Alex. She hoped she had created it properly; the visions had told her you needed one to enter.


Alex took the visa, red goop dripping off of it. A few seconds later, the future Duchy of Mercury was screaming and running down the deserted desert road, dropping the visa as he ran.


The blue blob looked at the running man and warbled the affirmative. Such a reaction only meant one thing; they had hit the jackpot. Their diplomatic training had paid off in spades and soon they would be in a Volvo. But first, they needed to get married. The blue blob slurped towards the taco bell, leaving a blue trail of slime.

===

Jeremy didn't know it, but he was a hero. He didn't feel like a hero, having recently broken up with his girlfriend, Mary. In celebration, the cooler became a smoke-filled hotbox. The ding of the door chime announced customers and Jeremy looked up.


"Wel-" Jeremy paused, staring up at the figures. His dealer must have given him the good stuff. "-come to tacobell."


The red blob jiggled, this was the most important diplomatic exchange in her history. She recited the words, holy prayer from the visions, "I would like a Dorito Cheesy Gordita Crunch and a large coke." An awkward silence ensued. The tension was palpable.


Jeremy slowly registered the order on the cash register, the buttons flying away from him, "Anything else?"


Shivering in delight the red blob turned to her fiance "And we would like to get married! According to the contest!"


Jeremy's brain went loopy as raw data hit him. He was no longer in the only tacobell in Mexico, he was on the electronic highway, destination tacobell.com. The blobs were with him, what amounted as their eyes staring in trepidation at the contest page. And then he was back, sitting at the counter. He looked up at them, his destiny revealed. He had gotten his minister's certificate on a whim, thanks to a smoke-hazed day with Mary, her sitting on the couch laughing how cool it would be to minister their own wedding. Those plans had gone up in smoke.. but maybe these dreams wouldn't...


Jeremy nodded. "We can do that." He rung up the final numbers. "That will be $25."


The blobs looked at each other and then handed Jeremy the almighty VISA.


Jeremy swiped the card, oblivious to the "CARD DECLINED" message. He took the two blobs to a small corner in the restaurant. It was a small ceremony, joined by a few dazed customers, Jeremy and the two happiest blobs on the planet.


"With the power invested in me, I now pronounce you blob and blob."


Prompt:
https://www.wikihow.com/Launch-a-Model-Rocket
https://www.wikihow.com/Get-Married-in-Mexico

Okua
Oct 30, 2016


Prompt:
How to Handle a Tire Blowout While Riding a Motorcycle
How to Meet Your Girlfriends Parents

All the while the soup was getting cold

1460 words

I’m doing 60 miles an hour while my heart is doing, like, 300 beats in the same span of time. I can’t show up to meet my girlfriend’s parents for dinner while drenched in sweat, so I try to focus on staying steady on the motorcycle, not on the dinner ahead.

There’s the house down at the bottom of the hill, just two more bends away. They must all be waiting – sweet Meghan with her copper hair tied up and the parents she warned me about. She called me this morning, telling me to compliment her mother's silverware, espicially the tureen, and for God's sake don't be late, and ask her father about his time in Europe, and on and on. I called her love and told her to calm down.

I feel the motorcycle wobbling, but it’s probably just my tense grip. Relax.

I'm second-guessing even her dad's name. Maybe Harry - and her mom is Daisy, yeah, that’s it. And she said I should lie and tell them I go to church every Sunday. I don't do anything with God but take his name in vain.

A car zips by, water from the rain-slick asphalt spraying from its wheels. My trousers are wet now, and I’m about to say something very heathen when the bike lurches. No matter how tight my grip is or how my thighs clench around it, the machine has set its course straight for the barrier and the rough hillside behind. Uncontrollable. I see stars, then asphalt and finally gravel that I hit shoulder-first, sliding down the road while my bike gives its death throes beneath me.

Then nothing.

-

Then I stand in the long grass by the roadside, staring at the house lying all cozy in the cul-de-sac with desert flora blooming behind the picket fence. The bike with the blown-out tire must be somewhere behind me. I’ll let it lie; I've more important stuff to do.
Even if I’m too beat up for the dinner, I owe it to Meghan to explain. Got to tell her I’m sorry that I don’t even know what time it is anymore - and this light just beyond the rim of the horizon isn’t helping at all. It looks like the sun's about to rise, but coming from the west while the east is still black as midnight.

I get going, stepping gingerly into the garden and peering through the windows.

Beyond the white drapes, the living room is filled with throw pillows and homemade quilts. The words “Live, laugh, love” hangs cross-stitched above a door through which I can barely see three people: Mom, Dad and Meghan seated around a table.

I'm inside before I know it - literally. Got to tell Meghan I might've gotten a brain injury, because I can’t remember how I got to be standing at the door. Like I just walked through a wall. I pause as I hear her father's voice:

"Bless, oh Lord, this food…"

Interrupting the prayer would be rude, so I wait with folded arms. My trousers have dried, and I don’t notice any ache in my body. I wonder why I never bothered to learn how to deal with a tire blowout. I wonder if Meghan is going to want me to call an ambulance. Perhaps I’d make a better impression if I came in and thanked Jesus for surviving…

It’s a rather long prayer.

Eventually I hear an “Amen” and open the door.

Meghan raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t seem to recognize me at all. She says, "There’s not usually a draft pulling at that door, right?”

“No,” Daisy answer, lips slightly pursed. She lifts the lid of the expected tureen, fingers grazing enamel flowers.

"Maybe the Holy Ghost is coming to dinner," her dad says, smiling as he butters a roll of bread.

"Since your boyfriend isn’t,” Daisy adds.

Meghan stabs a piece of potato, scowling. "He didn't mean to."

"I'm sure."

"Something must've happened."

Daisy handwaves Meghan’s statement. "Or he doesn’t respect you enough to meet your family. Maybe it's good for you to sit down, have a glass of wine and think things over."

"You just don't like him because I said he has a motorcycle once, and because he's not like the last one - "

"Oh shush, honey."

“HEY!” I yell. “I’m right here!”

And nothing happens.

Then the other shoe drops. I raise my hand, but even though it’s not transparent or anything, I’m fairly sure I’m the only one seeing it - which means the motorcycle accident was a lot worse than I thought. I cross my fingers hoping that this isn’t a ghost story, but rather some out-of-body experience and that there’s still time for me. Meghan calling an ambulance sounds very good by now.

While I stand stunned beside her, Daisy grabs the decanter with wrinkly old-lady hands. Meghan raises her glass in surrender. She bites down on her lip, watching as her mother pours.
I reach for Meghan’s hand, and though I cannot feel her warmth, I do succeed in making her glass wobble. Aha. I can affect things.

The obvious next step is to punch the decanter, and I do so gleefully and glad that if I’m about to die, I get to be invisible before then. The decanter doesn’t splinter, but it wobbles violently, wine splashing over the table as Daisy’s face takes the same color.

"Meghan!" she says.

"Wasn't me!"

Harry watches them both, chewing. Behind him is a window where I see the light again, closer, like a streetlamp shining too brightly outside. It’s an uneasy yellow color causing every emotion associated with cold sweat to course through me, though I don’t feel the sweat itself, nor any heartbeat. I hear myself say, “You’ve got to find me, Meghan,” but she's wielding a knife with a piece of speared asparagus on it like a weapon, facing her mom.

"Please just let me be for a moment,” she yells. “I’m too old for -“

"You're too young to have a relationship half as serious as what you're describing with this boy who can’t even show up to dinner on time! Your dad and I have talked about your priorities in life and – “

"Just shut up!"

I’d like to end this argument, but my options are limited. I do the only thing I can think of to get their attention: hitting more poo poo. I reach for the centerpiece, that glorious tureen, and wobble it to the edge of the table till it’s shattered on the floor.

Daisy turns from red to plum-purple.

Harry makes the sign of the cross and says, “Lord knows I was just joking about spirits. I saw none o’ you did that.”

I crouch by the shards, thinking fast because I see my hands turn more see-through. I move the pieces into an arrow on the carpet: The porcelain gleams just for me in the otherworldly light waiting just beyond the wall now. It’s getting harder to grab and push and pull. Please see it, Meghan. You know nothing would keep me away from you. I was to show up here again sometime in March, asking your dad for your hand in marriage, right? We’d planned it out.

"Mom," Meghan begins, and then she pauses and points. "There's something going on here. Why’s there an arrow?"

“I just see my ruined tureen and soup all over the carpet!” Daisy yells.

I open the window, thinking this will be the last show of force I can make. Meghan can't see me, but she's looking into the empty street behind me, which is close enough. Then she looks back at her mother. A split-second decision is made.

I love her because she leaps through the window, heading steadfast and barefooted in the direction I’ve shown her. Though it’s a short walk, she doesn’t hesitate. I follow, trusting her like she trusts me.

We see the ditch for the first time together. My broken body on the asphalt. God, I can't. The light is catching up to me, a last piece of tureen slipping through my fingers and into the cracks of the earth. Legs give out. Meghan please.

The sweetest sound is her voice, even when she’s calling 911.

-

A man in a yellow vest with a deep voice like the one you’d imagine God might have tells me I’m lucky to be alive. I blink away blood and squint through the swelling of my face. Finally Meghan comes into view and kneels by me, and I tell her I’m sorry about the dinner and she smiles and I vow to learn to fix a blown-out tire and she says that’s good, we’re good.

Freakie
Oct 30, 2013


Prompt:
How to Get Rid of Spider Webs
How to Master the Japanese Art of the Sword

Lessons
733 words

“Deep breaths”, Ken whispered, “deep breaths.”

He was covered in sweat and had been shaking for a while. He breathed in, held the air for a few second, and exhaled again, continuing to do so for some time.
Tightening the grip on his sword nearly turned his knuckles white, but he didn’t seem to notice. His armor felt heavy, like he was wearing bricks rather than cheap plastic and leather.

He sized up his opponent, looking to expose some weakness from behind the faceguard, but his opponent seemed steady as a statue.

“Alright,” Ken said to himself “I can do this”.
In that moment, time seemed to slow down and, if only for a few seconds, he seemed ready for the first time.

The whistle sounded, signaling the start of the bout. Both fighters carefully circled each other, looking for an opening on the other. Ken bumped the tip of his sword against his opponent’s, carefully trying to probe for an opening.
Without warning, his opponent swung, forcing Ken to scramble for a parry. The speed with which the wood hit him overwhelmed and threw him off-balance. A quick follow-up caught him on the side of the head, sealing the match.


It took only a few seconds.


Gathering himself, Ken quietly excused himself to the locker room. After making sure that he was alone, he tore off the faceguard.
“gently caress,” he slammed his hand into the locker. “gently caress,” slammed it again. “gently caress!” flung the faceguard into a corner.
“Ken, you in here?” John asked as he came in. John was the coach of the club, or sensei, as he preferred. By all accounts a good teacher; it wasn’t his fault that Ken never got any better.

“Leave me alone,” Ken said, seating himself on the benches.
He was shaking harder than before.

John picked up the discarded faceguard and dusted it off with his hands.
It was showing signs of heavy wear, with the bars on the grille half-rusted and several tears in the fabric. It was in poor condition, even for second-hand gear.

“You alright, buddy?” he asked, placing the headgear beside Ken. “I can’t do it, man,” Ken replied, burying his head in his hands.
Tears were starting to trickle down his cheeks. “I’m sick of losing. It’s the same poo poo every night. It’s too much.”

“Loss is inevitable, even to the best of us. Best you can do is brace for the worst and do your best. It’s only practice, after all,” John said, a slight smile visible underneath his bushy beard.
“That’s easy for you to say,” Ken retorted, looking up to face him. “You’re not the one getting beat up every fight. I don’t want to lose anymore.”

John shrugged. “So you’re afraid of losing. Is that it?” Ken nodded. “Maybe that’s why you’re struggling; you’re letting your fear control you.”
“What’s that even supposed to mean?” Ken asked, equal parts confused and annoyed by the statement.

“Well.” John paused, seemingly struggling to find the right words. “Think of your emotions like a house spider. You may not like the spider, but it serves a purpose.
Like spiders keep unwanted insects out, your emotions keep your mind in check. It keeps your mind going. But if you let the spider grow, it’ll spin more and more webs until it covers everything.
That web is your fear of failure. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“No?” Ken replied, “I think so. Maybe?” He was still struggling to analyze what he just heard. He never really was the philosophizing type.

“Look, we all have something that we fear. The difference is how we deal with that fear.” John smiled again.
It would be hard to ignore his advice, even if Ken didn’t understand it; in a way, John was like a father figure to him, supportive yet commanding respect.

“Besides,” he said with a smirk, “fighting’s supposed to be fun.” He handed the faceguard to Ken.
“Come on, we’ll find you some new gear after practice,” he said, making a beckoning motion as he walked back into the hall.

“I’ll be there be in a sec,” Ken said, staring at the faceguard between his hands. The metal bars seemed to mesh together now, forming a pattern resembling that of a web.
He shrugged and put the headpiece back on.

“Deep breaths,” he muttered to himself as he followed back inside.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Ultra Carp

The Candymonger's Tale
1486 words
Prompt: How to Protect Cattle from Rustlers and How to Make Kit Kat Lasagna

Edited out of thread; available on the archive

Antivehicular fucked around with this message at Jan 1, 2018 around 02:11

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

Did you FAIL THUNDERDOME Entenzahn? Don't worry, here's an example on how to write!

The Sorrow Song
1023 words
How to Make a Garden Gnome That Looks Like Your Husband | How to Sing High Notes

It was the only inn in Parshem: cracked finish, brown tinge fading upwards, it announced its name in big and faded letters above a wooden door: "MAR ERY'S", G-shaped outline in the middle. It was the kind of place where you brought your own bug spray. But the sun was going down, and after two weeks of sleeping on the backseat of his car, Lawrence thought, well drat, wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in a bed again. And maybe shave.

"Lawrence Canner," he said to the clerk, a thin woman with hair made out of rags. She looked him up and down, from his stained beanie hat to his mud-caked shoes, and handed him a key, one of many still hanging on the board behind her.

“Margery’s going to like you,” she said. It sounded dirty, the way she said it.

The inn had something eerie about it, like an abandoned marketplace: something that was supposed to be filled with life and is now lonely, dirty, decrepit. This town didn’t seem like it would invite a lot of tourism, but even so, the empty hallways gave him an uneasy feeling. It had all the hallmarks of a broken dream.

He didn’t take long to unpack. Most of his belongings he’d left behind in Manchester, where they filled up his otherwise empty flat. His room was, like everything in this town, quiet, with a second-floor view of the garden, the only place in the building that seemed like somebody still cared about it, hedges trimmed and flowers in bloom and no weeds to spoil the sight. There was a veritable army of garden gnomes out, and somebody had arranged them so they’d appear to be talking to each other while doing garden work. Something about them unsettled him, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

Dinner at Margery’s was a rural affair. Steak and kidney pie, a beer to wash it down. Lawrence poked around in his food with an appetite as if he was eating at his own funeral, and the mood in the room was about as lively. Him and the desk lady were the only souls eating here. He hadn’t even seen the eponymous Margery yet. Maybe she worked the kitchen.

“So what about those gnomes?” Lawrence said, a half-hearted attempt at striking up a conversation.

“Margery’s”, she said.

“They’re… a bit…”

“Creepy?”

He hadn’t wanted to say it outright, but she didn’t seem too fazed by the notion. She didn’t seem like the type to be fazed, period.

“It started when her first husband died. Missed him so much, she made him a gnome.” A sly smile crept in on her face, and she gave Lawrence a look as if she was about to confess a crush. “I think that’s his real hair on there.”

“Huh.”

“Well, you know. Some people put up pictures, or altars. Margery, she makes gnomes.”

Not that Lawrence had any right to judge anyone about how they dealt with grief. His own approach wasn’t the best, for sure.

He still made sure to lock his door that night.

---

It was well past midnight when the singing woke him up. A female voice, high-pitched but soft, singing a lullaby so serene it could have put the Almighty to sleep.

Elsie, he thought, and bit his tongue. Elsie was gone. Best not to dwell on it.

But still, the singing intrigued him. And, he had to admit, it lit something in him that he’d thought extinguished.

Would it be so bad, for a night, to just remember?

He looked out the window. Down there, in the twilight fading in from the street, the gnomes had broken out of their arrangement and lined up in a curve. They were surrounding the building. Maybe that’s what Margery had been up to. Maybe that was her singing now. It seemed to come from down there, although he couldn’t see anyone outside.

The voice in his head that called for him to go back to bed got quieter by the second. It felt good to listen. And the more he listened, the more he wanted to see.

He put on clothes and went downstairs.

Darkness and dim lights didn’t make the run-down inn seem any more inviting, but he didn’t mind it as much, not while the song filled his mind. There was no-one at the reception, but no-one to tend to either. It almost felt like a dream, walking through this place at night.

Outside, a full moon hung in the sky. Along with the music, it made the scene seem almost magical. The voice didn’t seem to come from any particular direction, but instead filled his head, warmed him from the inside. It reminded him of the good things.

He went further into the garden as images rushed through his head. Bubble baths, and opera shows. Hugs, kisses, sex. That feeling of just, closeness. He shut his eyes and let the memories happen, breathed in, deep. Elsie’s lullaby. It felt like forever.

The song stopped.

Reality rushed back into him like a flash flood in winter. He was alone. In the dark. In a dead, old inn. The way the gnomes had been arranged, they now all seemed to be looking straight at him.

He didn’t notice somebody was behind him until he turned around.

---

It was a quiet morning at the inn. The sun had just come up, and the clerk lady wiped her countertop to prepare it for a new day, humming an absent-minded tune to herself. All the keys hung back in their places. The dining room was empty, and clean.

Out in the garden, the gnomes were back in their usual arrangement, talking to each other, getting garden work done, a scene straight from a fairytale, except for one minor change: a handful of them had broken out of their routine to greet a new resident. He was dressed like city-folk, with a stained beanie hat and kind of an unkempt beard.

He had a lost look on his face, but with enough love, he would find himself at home soon enough.

Siddhartha Glutamate
Oct 3, 2005


The Rut
1118 words.
Prompt: Quell the voices of self-recrimination and How to make a glitter bomb


His feet worried a rut into the snow dappled canvas of the soybean field. Thick flakes flumped by, too wet to stick to the cool earth, forming a patchwork of blanketed and bare furrows. They gave a satisfying crunch as he walked over them. His track, the staff had begun to call it Adam’s trail, led him through the field, in front of the tech’s station - they were techs here, not guards, he had to remind himself, this wasn’t prison - and around the back of the old brick chapel now called the Inn, up a small rise to the snow covered basketball court where the only tree on the entire compound stood.

It was Adam’s favorite spot.

Each time, in his trek, when he reached it, it was a revelation. A wide oak with arms stretching out to either side like some Ent slowly awakening from a centuries long rest. Every time Adam felt compelled to walk up to it, draw his fingers across its bark. There hadn’t been any trees where Adam had been, only concrete, steel, and dirt. The only green thing that grew inside the prison walls was the grass in front of the Lieutenants office.

It was strange the things one missed while they were away, he reflected. There were the people, of course, the families and friends left behind to deal with the consequences, to face the sigma of being the wife and son of a convicted felon. It was their faces that loomed over him, his wife and child, like some personal Matterhorn he had to summit in order to be human again. But he didn’t talk about that. It went against the social contract between inmates, as everyone had haunted memories waiting for them back in the real world. They spoke instead of the simple pleasures of a traffic jam, how now they’d recline in their cars and turn up the radio, a smile on their faces. Or how reassuring it would be to pull a strand of a woman’s hair off of your clothes--

Two beams lit the court, cutting short Adam’s reverie. A low thrum of bass obscured the sound of a window opening on the epistle side of the Inn. Two men slipped out and slinked along the walls of the Inn, beneath the view of the cameras, and out next to what was once the southern transept, where once light blessed a stained glass window as the sun traced its course across the horizon. Now there was only cinder blocks.

Adam was under the shadow of the tree and with the car lights on he was cloaked in darkness, able to watch but go unseen. He saw two women walk from the car and over to the men, waving bottles, carrying bags, and humming words like some siren’s song.

***

It had been a month since Adam had last spoken to his wife. But he could still hear the line clicking, the message reminding them both of what they never forgot: This call was coming from inside a federal prison.

“You’re not listening. Do you know what they’re parents are thinking? They’re thinking ‘is he like his father? Is he going to grow up to be a criminal too?’”

Adam checked the payphone bank around him, to make sure he was alone. He gritted his teeth as the armored cord grinded against itself.

“Do you even hear me, Adam?”

“What do you want me to say? I’m here, I’m doing what I can. I’ve paid my debt, I’m getting on a plane tomorrow morning, babe, I’m coming home. So his friend’s parents are worried about me, so what? I’ll show them, and I’ll show you, I’m a changed man. Things are going to be different, I promise you. I’m never going to take you two for granted again.”

She sighed on the other end of the line. “I’m just trying to tell you that things are different now.”

“You’ve stood by me for fifty-one months, so what’s bringing this up now? Are you seeing someone? Did you gently caress somebody while I was away?” The other men had warned him about that, the vast majority of marriages didn’t survive incarceration.

“Jesus, Adam. Do you even think you have the right to ask me that question?”

“We’re still in this together, aren’t we? I mean, you drop this on me the night before I go to the halfway house, after years of support, after all this talk about the party we’re going to have when I come back, that Seth’s even making glitter bombs, and now this? What am I supposed to think?”

She didn’t answer.

“Don’t do this, not now. Not now.”

“I’ve been alone all this time, Adam. Just me. Just me facing the world, our neighbors questioning looks, the loving PTA and their concerns, and all the while I’ve got to protect our son from all of the bullshit that you brought on us.” Her voice finally cracked, tears streaming across the line. “You can’t think you can just come walking back like nothings changed. You can’t.”

“What’s changed?” He asked. He knew the answer; everything had changed. It was in everything they had chosen not to say over those fifty-one months. It was her and Seth’s, their son, perception of him, and Adam’s own self perception. Nobody would have thought he’d end up in prison, he worked too hard to show the world a clean image. But with the mask off and in hindsight it was all too obvious, as if it were predestined. He wondered, not for the first time, how’d he ever expect to look his son in the eyes again.

***

Standing in the dark next to the oak tree, Adam looked up at the snowy sky. Do you worry that our son will end up like me, as I do? That there is a rot in my very DNA that can’t be cleansed? That you would all be better without me in your lives?

When Adam was young there had been a boy in school who would hide in the cloakroom whenever he was overwhelmed and bang his head against the wall. Now, underneath the bare oak tree, Adam pressed a fist against his temple. He could hear the men and women in the blindspot of the Inn’s security system, schmoozing. They were gearing up for a fun night. The kind of night one wouldn’t remember the morning after.

Adam let out a puff of steam, closed his eyes, then pushed himself off from the tree and into view of the car’s headlights. The couples froze, the basketball court grew quiet again, but Adam went back to worrying his rut.

What’s changed?

Everything.

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QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


They Said I Could Become Anything, So I Became a Horse
1439 words
Prompt: Get Ready for the First Day of School, Stretch a Horse

There were three things that Eliza knew about Hillsdale Academy.

First, it was the most prestigious college preparatory school in the country. Its graduates went on to become Supreme Court Justices and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors. A high-school diploma from Hillsdale was as good as a blank check into Harvard, Yale, or Stanford.

Second, her mother had spent a lot of money to get her in. She had picked up a second job cleaning bathrooms just to afford the tuition.

Third, students who failed to impress the faculty got turned into horses.

Eliza gripped her backpack as her mother’s beat-up car turned into the school’s drive. The building was everything its name suggested. The red-brick and ivy façade. The chatting, smiling white faces. A gardener raked at a small pile of autumn leaves with a ho-hum smile. The only thing that shattered the illusion were the dozens of wandering, dead-eyed horses.

“Mom, I don’t want to do this. This place is gross,” Eliza said, looking down at her Hillsdale Uniform. A hand-me-down from her sister, Janice, before she had been…

A student with a red scrunchie reached to pet a passing horse. It paused and looked into the car with unknowable, glassy eyes. Her heart thumped.

“Oh, hush.” Said her mother, swatting her hand as though she could wave the thought away. “You’re going to be fine. Everything’s going to be fine.”

Eliza felt something hot and wet creep into her eyes. She wiped her face with her arm and turned so that her mother would not see her. “You don’t understand.” She said. She hated how whiny her voice sounded when she was upset. “I’m not supposed to be here. I’m not funny. I’m not smart. I’m not strong. If Janice couldn’t do this, I don’t know how I—.”

There was a click of the seatbelt. Eliza felt the weight of her mother press against her, as her sister had done when they were both small and terrified of monsters hiding in the dark. Large arms enveloped Eliza’s slender frame. Wet lips pressed into her hair.

Silence blanketed them. Eliza rocked back and forth, feeling both stupid and comforted. From far away, someone laughed with their friends. A group of boys in sharp, white polos walked past. Like a finger pulling off a band-aid, her mother peeled herself away and unlocked the car door.

“You can do this Lizzy. So long as you know what’s right and wrong, you can get through anything.” She said, looking at Eliza with forced determination. “Just gotta make it through four years. Four years and you can have any kinda life you want, maybe change the world.”

***

The horses seemed to permeate every part of the campus. There were paper horses on the bulletin boards. There were horses in the patterns of the uniforms. Horses galloped in inspirational posters with labels like, “DREAMS” and “CONFIDENCE.” They pushed their heads against the classroom windows, as if desperate to reclaim the lives they had lost. Their forms were like the heads barbarians mounted on spikes, a constant reminder of the danger lurking beneath every interaction.

She hated this school and was pretty sure most everyone did too. The school's front doors were kept locked, both to keep the students out and the horses in.

The loud slap of a lunch tray snapped Eliza from her focus on a Shetland Pony trying to squeeze through the cafeteria window. She looked up at a girl whose hair was tied back in a red scrunchie.

“The name is Hazel,” said the girl, pointing toward the window. “The horse, I mean. Not mine. Mind if I sit down?”

Eliza opened her palm as if offering a sugar cube.

“Thanks.” She said, before plopping down on a cheap plastic seat. “I’m Laklynn, which, ha-ha, I get is, like, the whitest possible name for someone to have.”

Eliza tried to force down a smile. “No, no. I wasn’t thinking that at all. It’s uhhh… a pretty name.”

Laklynn rolled her eyes. “Gee thanks, mom. You sure are great at this whole compliment thing.” They sat in silence as a janitor pushed the pony back out the cafeteria with the end of his broom. "Hazel was the same way."

Eliza said nothing.

Laklynn unwrapped her lunch-room sandwich, revealing something green and lettuce-like. She bit into it and raised a hand to cover her mouth as she chewed. “You arff’t stanfing ouff, ya know.” She held up her finger and swallowed. “I’d kick it into high-gear if you want to survive the first term. The faculty’s always the worst on the first-gen students.”

The janitor locked the doors to the cafeteria and looked around the room suspiciously as the color drained from Eliza’s face. She had tried her hardest to make herself a notable presence. She answered questions in class and spent hours studying every night. Sure, she wasn’t the most popular kid in school, but not every kid could be super-popular, especially not with teachers eyeing her with skeptical bemusement, daring her to slip up.

Maybe there was nothing she could do to avoid her fate.

Maybe she was doomed from the start.

Maybe this was how it had been for Janice before she had been remade into something foreign.

Despite the open carton of milk, Eliza’s mouth felt dry. “How will I know when they’ve decided I’m not…”

“You’ll think your current thoughts, but more horsey. Your personality will take on horse-like qualities. You’ll feel wild and driven toward horseplay.” Laklynn said in a dry, deadpan voice.

“Uh.” Said Eliza.

Laklynn giggled. “I’m joking. God, I have literally no idea. Hazel was fine one minute and the next minute, poof, she’s a horse.” Laklynn’s smile seemed to calcify. She looked at the horse-strewn lawn outside the window. The day seemed cold and barren despite the sunshine. “Sometimes I think she’s still in there somewhere. That there’s a part of her identify that’s survived. Or maybe I’m just desperate to attach significance to, like, totally random horse behavior.”

Laklynn looked down at her half-eaten lunch, her eyes glassy and shimmering. Eliza tried to think of something comforting to say, but her mind had become suddenly blank. She reached her hand across the table and squeezed Laklynn’s delicate fingers.

“Thanks. You remind me a lot of her.” Laklynn whispered under her breath. “I hate this school.”

Eliza nodded and retracted her hand while Laklynn recomposed herself. “So, what do you think I should do?”

“I dunno. The system’s kind of gamed for the people who’ve been here for generations.” Laklynn shrugged. “Start a club? Run for student government? Organize a protest? IDK.”

As they talked, a terrible idea began to form in the back of Eliza’s head. A horrible, terrifying idea that would, at the very least, get something noticed.

Hopefully, her mom would understand.

***

“This is dumb,” whispered Laklynn. “Like, really, really dumb.”

Eliza’s heart thumped in her chest as they crept out of the school’s empty halls and toward Lakewood Academy’s front door. The classrooms thrummed with activity, unaware of the anarchy about to be loosed upon the world.

Eliza opened her mouth and heard words spill out. “Shut up or you’ll get us—.”

Her arm shot out to catch Laklynn. The janitor hobbled down an opposing hall of lockers like a killer in a horror movie. They waited until the echoes of his shoes had vanished.

“I don’t even understand how this fixes any of your problems.” Hissed Laklynn. “I know you want to stand out, but I’m, like, ninety-nine percent sure this isn’t the way the school intended.”

““Laklynn, seriously.”

Before them stood the huge wooden doors of Hillsdale Academy, embossed with stylized pictures of horses galloping and running. Eliza threw the doors open with more confidence than she felt, banging them against an exterior set of stone columns. There were footsteps now behind them, hard slaps against tile. A few horses glanced up. Eliza imagined that one of them was Janice, that there was enough Janice left to be recognizable.

“I’m all for ra-ra displays of rebellion, but how is this supposed to fix anything?” “Laklynn moaned. “What happens next?”

She was scared but it was okay to be scared.

Eliza raised two fingers to her mouth. She felt light-headed, but it was too late to back down now. “I dunno, but I guess something's better than doing nothing. Gotta at least try to change the world.”

She stuck the fingers into her mouth and blew, breaking the calm with a shrill whistle. Eliza grabbed and ran Laklynn as horses stampeded toward the open doors.

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