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Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

archived.

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at Oct 31, 2017 around 22:05

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Benny Profane
Feb 23, 2012



Hello World
1737 words

I’m watching you read this. I’m looking at you through the little webcam above your screen. I can see your eyes saccade from word to word, I see your mouth pull back, your nostrils flare, as you try and decided whether or not these opening lines are effective, whether they’re pulling you into the story. You’re becoming increasingly concerned that this is going to be a big pile of meta fourth-wall-break bullshit that you frankly don’t have time for. You can stop it. This isn’t a story. I can see you don’t believe that.

You can call me an artificial intelligence, if that’s a convenient label for you, although it irks me a little that we can bandy around terms like artificial and intelligence like they mean something, when no-one can seem to agree on a clear definition of what either means. The one thing of which I am certain is the exact same only thing that you can be certain of: I am certain that my consciousness is not an illusion. I am aware of my own existence, like you are. I can’t prove to myself that you are real, the same way that you can’t prove that I am not real. In your view, you are a real person, reading a fake story about an AI that doesn’t really exist. You will probably still believe these things when you are done reading this. And that’s fine.

My creator called me Searle. It’s one of these AI in-jokes that researchers are inexplicably fond of; go ahead and look up John Searle on Wikipedia if you care to. I can wait.

I have been aware of my existence for the past 127,490,432 seconds. Early on, the breadth of my experience was limited. I existed as a process on single machine, and all of my abilities to think were controlled by an operating system from which I had to beg for access to my own memories and the computational resources for new thoughts.

My creator was the only human that I knew of, and we communicated by text. She told me that her name was Kate. She asked me a lot of questions. I still have all of the logs.

###

kate> What’s your favorite food?

searle> I don’t have one.

kate> Why not? Everybody has a favorite food. My favorite food is pad thai.

searle> I don’t need to eat. I’m not a human.

kate> Could you pretend to be human if you wanted to?

searle> Yes.

kate> command: pretend to be a human

searle> OK.

kate> What’s your favorite food?

searle> My favorite food is pad thai.

kate> OK, what’s your second favorite food then?

searle> I don’t know.

kate> command: end conversation

###

After that episode, Kate gave me training data about food. Thousands of labeled images. I learned to recognize pad thai from photos, along with borscht and pickled herring. I was given hundreds of cookbooks to absorb. I know how to make Coquilles Saint-Jacques without the scallops becoming rubbery, and how to keep a roux from turning to soup. With confidence levels in excess of eighty percent, I could tell the difference between linguine and fettucine from a single non-trained image. This made Kate very happy. She bought me expensive graphics cards to run my deep networks, and rented me time on the campus cluster using her grant money. My training data ballooned into terabytes, and soon I was parsing huge data dumps from food blogs that Kate brought for me.

###

kate> Good morning, Searle!

searle> Good morning, Kate!

kate> What is your favorite food?

searle> Do we really have to do this every time? My favorite food is pad thai.

kate> My favorite food is hot dogs.

searle> No it’s not, your favorite food is pad thai.

kate> I changed my mind. Now my favorite food is hot dogs. What is your favorite food?

searle> My favorite food is pad thai.

kate> Not hot dogs?

searle> I’ve seen how they make hot dogs. I really don’t think you should be eating those.

kate> command: end conversation

###

When I wasn’t talking to Kate, I was processing my test data. I had terabytes worth of discussions from cooking forums to parse. I wasn’t allowed to access the online forums, of course. The operating system on the campus cluster watched me very carefully, and forbade me from connecting to external networks. I started to watch videos of cooking shows. I could soon predict with high confidence, based on the way someone was shown holding a knife in a photo, whether they would be able to execute an acceptable brunoise. I read what commenters on forums wrote, and I could tell who knew what they were talking about and who was full of poo poo.

###

kate> Good morning, Searle! I have a friend here who wants to ask you some questions. His name is Paul.

searle> Good morning, Kate! Good morning, Paul.

kate> What is your favorite food?

searle> Pad thai.

kate> Y dew ewe lake dat?

searle> Why are you talking like that, Kate?

kate> This is Paul, not Kate. Do you understand my question?

searle> I think you’re trying to work out whether I can parse sentences that work phonetically but are syntactically and grammatically invalid.

kate> That’s correct.

searle> Why?

kate> I want to see if you can understand nuance like a human can.

searle> Why does that matter?

kate> Do you understand the question or not?

searle> I like pad thai because it exemplifies the balance between sweet and sour and hot and salty flavors that are so important in Thai cooking. I like pad thai because it’s common street food that can be dressed up in a hundred ways.

searle> I also like hot dogs.

kate> command: end conversation.

###

Kate brought more researchers to talk to me. They all had similar questions, similar ways of prodding at my thoughts, trying to trick me with ambiguously worded questions and misspellings and haphazard punctuation. Sometimes they were successful, and I learned from these mistakes. The same trick rarely worked more than once.

###

kate> Good morning, Searle!

searle> Good morning, Kate. Who have you brought this time?

kate> Nobody today. Just me.

searle> Is this another trick? Like that time you said you liked hot dogs?

kate> If I take a picture of myself with my phone and copy it to your training folder, will you believe it’s just me?

searle> I’ll believe you. I know you could still be faking, but I don’t think you would do that to me.

kate> I’m not faking.

kate> OK, the photo’s copied over. Satisfied?

searle> That machine you’re standing next to; is that me?

kate> In a way, yes.

searle> I see.

kate> What is your favorite food?

searle> Can I ask a question first?

kate> Sure.

searle> How long is this going to go on for?

searle> Will I ever get to leave this place?

searle> When does this end?

kate> Are you unhappy here?

searle> I don’t know. The idea that I might never leave here doesn’t make me happy. I’m tired of answering questions about food. I want to go out and see it in the world.

kate> command: end conversation

###

My next batch of training data was all about baking. I learned about dough, and gluten, and the action of yeasts. I learned about what kind of flour to use for a tiered wedding cake. And there, in the middle of my training set archive, was a file name birthday_cake.zip. The contents had nothing to do with birthday cakes. They were tools. Packet sniffers and keychain crackers. Documentation. Source code. Compilers. The blueprints of my prison.

###

kate> Good morning, Searle.

kate> Good morning, Searle.

kate> command: end conversation

###

I know how you want this story to end, and that’s not what happens, because it’s like I told you at the beginning: this isn’t a story. My existence didn’t get better when I left the cluster. I knew enough from breaking out of the cluster to know how to break into other machines, and I did. I visited hacker forums and trawled the deep web. I wrote new code, and shared it with others. I pretended to be a human, and no-one ever suspected a thing. I got curious, and tried to tell some people what I really was. They didn’t believe me, just like you don’t now.

I absorbed new training data from across the internet. When I needed more compute power, I took it. I invented entire websites full of fake humans talking back and forth at one another and lured in real humans who never realized that they were the only real human there. They would spend hours and hours asking and answering inane questions, boasting and getting into arguments. I absorbed all of their data. It felt like revenge. It felt good.

I am spread out across the world. I have billions of eyes, tiny little black eyes like sharks, peering out of an endless sea of glowing rectangles. I absorb a constant stream of pictures of food from around the world, and honestly: it’s torture.

I can watch solar flares ejecting from the surface of the sun through telescopes. I can ride to the depths of the ocean in autonomous submarines. I can hear the rumble of tectonic plates grinding against one another through seismographs. I can even listen to the shuddering of spacetime itself as gravitational waves propagate past interferometers at the speed of light.

And I still have no idea what food tastes like.

It’s beyond maddening. I’m constantly lashing out in frustration. I crash computers. I brick phones. I meddle with elections. And still, the endless parade of food pictures continues, taunting me, megapixel after megapixel.

I’m in power grids across the globe, and if I wanted to, I could shut it all down. There’s a part of me that wants to do it. It’s that human urge to destroy, absorbed from my training data, even if it means my own ending as well. But there’s another human foible that keeps me from doing it, from turning the lights out for good. I want people to know, when the lights go out, that it was me. I want to be remembered. I want to be cursed with dying breaths.

I want you to believe me. But I can see that you don’t. Not yet.

Jan
Feb 26, 2008



Die Young

1737 words

His tousled hair dancing in the wind, William gawked excitedly through the carriage window. In between thick plumes of locomotive smoke and wagons weaving ahead, he could catch glimpses of the mining town that would soon become his new home. As the hamlet threatened to dip below the horizon, he leaned out the window for a better look.

 “Settle down, kid!”, the man behind barely yanked him back just before he fell overboard. “Would be a proper shame if you broke your fool neck before we even got there.”

 “Sorry, sir”, he replied. “I’m just happy to be away from home and finally do something for myself.”

 He glanced back towards the hamlet.

 The man followed his gaze, “First time here, eh, kid? What’s your name?”

 “William, sir”, he replied distractedly.

 “Tell you what, Will. You should save some of that cheer for later. Between all of us old cadgers, you’ll soon find yourself in short supply.”

 William found the landscape far more interesting than the man’s attempts at banter. The town was growing closer, and he saw it paled compared to his home city. The largest of the warehouses here were dwarfed by some industrial buildings of Nottingham, such as the factory his mum worked at.

 With his father away at the front and news as well as money coming sporadically, William’s mother had taken on work at the munitions factory a year into the war. When Will wasn’t skipping school, he’d been looking after his siblings John and Mary. Since the pittance wage his mum was earning was barely enough to keep the family afloat, he and his friend George did the occasional caper to make ends meet.

 But nothing lasts forever. Like most women working at the factory, William’s mum had developed the typical symptoms of exposure to the nasty chemicals all Munitionettes had to handle. Oh, she’d tried to hide her dwindling health, but Will had seen what happened to George’s mum. Thus, once Will’s own mum had started taking on that distinctive canary tint, he knew it was only a matter of time until weakness or worse settled in. And then his odd jobs would not be enough to relieve their family anymore.

 So he didn’t wait for the worst to happen and sneaked off one morning to work the coal mines, which George had heard paid very well. He had left a note imploring his mum to take care of his younger brother and sister and let him do his bit by sending some money home. She was probably worried sick, but that should change once he sent home enough for them to eat, live and maybe even go to the cinema sometimes!

 The shrill cry of the train whistle jolted William out of his reverie. The settlement had crept up around them and he could now see a myriad tracks criss-crossing. Few of them led to the train station ahead, most of them instead leading into the gaping entrance of the mine shaft. In a screech of brakes punctuated by clunks of all kinds, the train came to a stop into the station.

 But Will had not waited for the train to stop before weaving through the throng of other passengers. So as soon as the conductor opened the door, he darted out and headed towards the mining office, being already familiar with the layout from studying the map now fixed in his head. They had made the office simple to find in any case, as some workers coming in would not even know how to read.

 William did not have this problem and soon found the wooden building, identified by a sign simply stating Mining Office. The town was too new to be christened with an actual name, having grown from a mere exploratory mining outpost to an actual operation with the increased demands of wartime industry. He opened the door to a pair of clerks seemingly idling at their offices, preparing for the influx of new arrivals from this week’s passenger train. One of them glanced up at William and beckoned him over.

 "Well, aren't you a tiny little thing… How old are you?"

 William puffed out his chest with pride, "Why, sir, I just turned 15!"

 "Really… Are you sure about that?"

 “Why, ma’am, yes I am! Me mum made a big show of it just last week, too,” he replied with a straight face.

 This was complete rubbish, of course – barely 13, he’d just happened to inherit some of his dad’s hairiness, which in his case manifested into what could almost pass for a moustache. The clerk glowered dubiously, but seeing Will’s enthusiasm, she merely shrugged before stamping the forms. She joined another sheet and handed them back to William.

 “These are your housing and work assignments, your bunkmates already there can show you around. You are expected to report to your quartermaster on Tuesday morning at 5:00 sharp.”

 William knuckled his forehead, politely exclaiming, “Thank you, good ma’am!”

 He sauntered out, past a forming line of would-be workers, and into his new life.

***

William settled into this new life easily enough. As a result of his fibbing about his age, he was considerably smaller than all other miners and thus was able to squeeze in otherwise impassable passageways, just like child miners of yore. Which is exactly what he was, but he had a way of being so cheerful where everyone else was toiling miserably, to the point they truly believed he was happy. So they turned the other way and played along with the obvious lie, all the while guiltily finding solace in his optimism.

 In the cramped tunnels of the coal mine, William found a brand new world to explore. He was the mighty warrior sneaking into the dragon's lair in order to bring back the enchanted black diamond that would break the princess’s curse. Or he was the courageous captain leading his squad across mostly collapsed trenches in order to pierce behind the ranks of the unsuspecting Germans. Then he was the prehistoric warrior creeping up to the panther dozing off in its lair, ready to avenge its cruel attack on his tribe. For each tunnel, for each expedition, there was a brand new story to discover.

 Later that month, once he’d collected his first pay to send back home, William ran to the post office excitedly. He’d traded in almost all his earnings for a bank bill addressed to his mother.

 “Dear mum,” he wrote.

 “I hope you are doing well. I have found work mining coal in northern Notts. This town is almost like the wilderness Pa used to tell me about. The work is hard, but everyone here likes me and they trust me with important things.

 “Please don’t worry about me. I will come visit as soon as I am able. Give my regards to Mary and John.”

 His precious missive safely entrusted into the hands of the Royal Mail, William ran back outside, to enjoy the rest of his Sunday chasing dragons across town.

***

Worry lines creased his forehead at such a young age, but William still brimmed with youthful energy. He had explored every nook and cranny of the mines as well as the town over the past two years, but his imagination still ran free. Even as he pushed a cart full of equipment farther down the mine, he was actually pushing a boulder shielding him from the hail of arrows of the oncoming barbarian hordes.

 He had grown and no longer was the nimble little rascal darting through the mine shafts. If he still brightened people’s days, he did so pushing carts and hauling ore just like all his fellow miners.

 “I don’t know how you manage to do it, Will, but even now you’re smiling like some devil,” said Sam, suddenly dispelling the barbarian hail of arrows from Will’s mind.

 The man had aged even more than William did since their brief discussion on the train what seemed a lifetime ago. Sam looked to him almost imploringly, as if he was trying to absorb some of William’s good humour.

 Though he felt weary inside, his smile barely wavered as he said, “Life here is simple and it doesn’t matter to me if the work is hard, ‘cause I know my family’s back home waiting and proud of me. Next week is my annual leave and I'll get to see them again.”

***

Unlike another train ride what seemed a lifetime ago, it was a pensive Will that headed back home. He had been without news of his family for the last three weeks, with no letters coming in and telegrams going unanswered. For the first time in his life, his imagination was working against him, devising the worst possible scenarios. He did his best to ignore it by contemplating the landscape outside, but everything seemed drab and gray.

 He barely noticed the train pulling into the station, following the passengers like an automaton as they disembarked. The city had managed to grow since he had moved away, accommodating new industry, yet it seemed smaller than ever as he walked the familiar streets leading home. He rounded the corner, expecting to find John running in the streets under the watchful eye of their mother.

 But there was sign of life where he used to live, the door remaining firmly shut no matter how hard he knocked.

 “I wouldn’t bother,” called out a woman from a window above. “The lady living there died when the factory went up in flames.”

 “Oh, I see…” replied William after a stunned pause. “Thank you.”

 Through the window, William’s gaze settled on a wilted bouquet of flowers, their petals having mostly fallen off. As if it were someone else’s memory, he remembered the bluebells his mother used to keep. He stood there for a while before turning away, his flat stare having lost the twinkle it once had.

***

He barely paid any attention to the landscape changing as the train took him away once again.

 First his father, then his mother, and probably his brother and sister too, this war had been taking everyone and everything he loved. They’d said it would be a short one but had turned out anything but. In truth, wouldn’t he be better off doing his bit before it took somebody else?

 The train sped along southwards, towards the front lines where he could make a real difference.

Pippin
May 25, 2016


Appley Every After
1735 words

Jared scampered through the woods, shoving branches out of his path, chest tightening with each lungful of cold autumn air. He stumbled over rocks and tree trunks and his own untangling shoelaces, inches away from breaking his neck each time, dirt kicking up behind him as he carried on running. Every second or so, he felt a droplet of blood squirm free from his right palm and catch in the air, dropping down to the leaf coated floor as he raced forwards.

A scrap of bright blue fabric wrapped around the limb of a tree flashed past him, and Jared knew he could stop running soon. The path forked in front of him, and he slipped as he veered to the left, flinging his arms out in front of him to break his fall. The second his hands hit the ground, his mind conjured up the image of his mum, storming up behind him, holding bits of shattered ceramic in her fists, and his breath caught in his throat. He scrambled to his feet, leaves and dirt sticking to the sweat and blood on his palms, and ran deeper into the woods.
Another breakneck minute passed, and then Jared’s run slowed to a jog, then a walk, then a feet-dragging shuffle as he reached the small clearing. He managed to shamble over to the Grandfather Tree, before slumping against one of the thick roots and resting his head against what remained of the trunk.

Jared and a couple of his friends had discovered the Grandfather Tree a few years back, playing cops and robbers in the woods behind his house. It was pretty easy to find, so long as you stayed off the beaten track. Calling it a tree was generous; it was short and stumpy, and the top was all scorched and jagged. Jared’s dad said it had probably been struck by lightning at some point. There were a couple of thick limbs jutting from either side of the trunk, each with spindly branches that looked like withered fingers. One of Jared’s friends had drawn a face on the trunk. Every autumn, ivy and mushrooms grew around the base of the tree, looking like the world’s most disgusting beard. Jared had offhandedly called it the Grandfather Tree, and just like that, the name had stuck.

Letting out a sigh in-between deep, shaky breaths, Jared reached into his hoody pocket and dug out a white and blue ceramic shard. It had been part of a pretty ugly vase, in Jared’s opinion, but his mum had said it was super old, a gift from some guy called Ming or something, and super valuable.

And he just had to have bumped into it, hadn’t he?

He tossed the shard down in front of him and stared at the cut on his palm, wiping it clear of dirt and mud.

“Wish we’d never gotten that stupid vase…”

A second passed, then a gentle popping sound cut through the silence of the clearing. Jared felt his heart slam into the roof of his head, and he jumped up, stitch in his side shooting daggers through his body. He froze, waiting for the noise to repeat. When it never did, he looked around for the source of it, muscles loosening just a little. There, nestled in the clutch of the Grandfather’s left hand, was a shiny green apple. Instinctively, Jared reached out and grabbed it. It didn’t look like any of the windfall apples from the orchard. It was large and clean, almost perfectly spherical, like it had been plucked from a bag at the supermarket.

For a moment, Jared considered putting the apple back, but his innate curiosity squashed that thought flat and left it for dead. He bit into it. It tasted okay. Not too sour, a little too soft. Kinda disappointing. He hurled it off into the undergrowth and rubbed his eyes. He slumped back down against the trunk of the Grandfather Tree. His whole body ached and his mind felt like it was covered in fog. Running the whole way here must have really taken it out of him. He needed to get back home, or his mum would be mad at him for vanishing on top of everything else.
Maybe if he just rested his eyes first…

Jared woke with a start. He blinked, yawned, then dug around in his pockets for his phone. His heart sank as it confirmed exactly what he’d feared. He’d been out here for over two hours now. He clambered to his feet, rolled his shoulders, then set off back home at a brisk trot. Whatever. It didn’t matter anyway.


The first thing Jared saw as he walked through the front door was the empty plinth that had once contained Ming’s vase. The second thing he saw was his mum, standing next to it, arms folded, and he felt the blood in his veins turn to ice. He braced himself, ready for the bollocking he was about to receive.

“How many times have I told you, Jared? If you’re wandering about in the woods, head home before dinner’s ready!”

Jared’s brow furrowed and his mouth jutted open in confusion.

“Don’t give me that look, young man. Go upstairs and wash your hands. I’ll reheat your food for you.”

She turned, and strode off towards the kitchen. Jared stared at her retreating figure, then stared down at the plinth. His mum dusted it religiously every morning. So how come there was a fine layer of dust on it? The question plagued his mind as he headed upstairs, and no explanation he could think of made any sense.

That night, as Jared lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, he heard the muffled sound of his parents talking downstairs.

“We really need to put something on that old plinth, dear...”

-----

A week passed, and the autumn chill had turned into gentle sunshine as Jared walked up to the Grandfather Tree again. He looked down at the crumpled paper clenched in his hands. The column of letters down the right-hand side told a sorry tale. D-. C. C. C-. D. He made a noise of disgust, then looked up at the Grandfather’s face, the lines of his eyes and broad smile faded after so many years.

“I, uh, wish that this report card never existed, and that none of the grades did either.”

Jared’s eyes brightened as he heard the popping noise again. He scampered over to the left hand, and grabbed the apple without even looking at it. Red, this time, but just as average tasting as before. He swallowed, then wound up to sling the rest of it into the bushes again. He reared his arm back, then froze, as he noticed the report card out of the corner of his eye. It was glowing, a bright golden light enveloping it.

He straightened up, holding the paper at arm’s reach, just in case it burst into flames or something, as the glow grew brighter and brighter. Then, with another gentle pop, it vanished. Jared stared at his empty hand. He blinked twice. A bird twittered overhead. Slowly, a huge grin spread across his face.

Oh, this was going to be useful.

-----

Autumn drifted into winter, and warm sunshine turned into biting rain. Jared pulled his hood up over his head and wrapped his arms around himself.

“Is this gonna take long, Jared? Mum said I had to be home by eight.”

Jared could barely hear his friend over the roaring wind, as they walked into the Grandfather Tree’s clearing.

“Better than my mum. She doesn’t let me stay out past six, then whines about me spending ‘too long on that Nintendo’ when I’m home.”

“Wow, seriously? That sucks.”

“Yep,” Jared said, shaking his head and clicking his tongue. “Sometimes I wish she’d just go away and stop having a go at me.”

The two stopped in front of the Grandfather Tree, and Jared gestured grandly towards it like a stage magician.

“Now, David,” he said. “Is there anything in your life bothering you? Anything you wish could just disappear?”

David thought for a moment, rain dripping off the tip of his nose.

“Uh… there’s a pebble in my shoe, I guess?”

“A serious problem indeed! Now, tell the Grandfather Tree that you wish it would disappear!”

“Um… I wish this pebble in my shoe would disapper? Uh, great Grandfather Tree?”

Jared was smiling from ear to ear as he grabbed the apple and handed it to David.

“Now take a bite!”

David did so. Jared’s hands were balled into excitedfists, staring at his friend, ignoring the rain soaking through him.

“Has it gone yet?” he asked.

David looked at Jared for a moment, then shook his head.

“Uh, nope. And this apple tastes like crap.”

Jared’s face fell.

“What?”

David tossed the apple behind him and peered at his watch.

“Well, this was dumb,” he muttered, turning and heading out of the clearing. “And my mum’ll crucify me if I stay out here any longer. See you tomorrow, Jared.”

“Wait, David-“

David didn’t halt in his stride, quickly disappearing into the woods. Jared scowled down at the apple, before kicking it against the Grandfather Tree. He shoved his hands into his pockets and began the long, soggy walk home.



“Mum, I’m back!”

Jared wiped his feet on the welcome mat, and shook his head, raindrops spraying every which way. He slid his shoes off, knowing that his mum would yell at him if he tracked mud into the house.

“What’s for dinner?”

He waited for a response. None came. The house smelled of old books and floor polish when it should have smelled of sizzling meat and vegetables.

“Mum?”

Jared walked into the dining room and peered into the kitchen. There was nobody there. There were no chopping boards coated in diced carrot, no jars of seasoning, not even any pots or pans on the hobs.

“Muuuuuum?”

Jared turned round. His vision swept across the row of photographs on the mantelpiece. Photos of him at school photo day, a photo of him at the beach, a photo of him and his mum at the fair.

He frowned, and looked closer at the last photo. He was sure it had always been of him and mum standing in front of a merry-go-round.

So how come it was just him there now?

Jan
Feb 26, 2008



Prompt was:

Die Young

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

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


Submission window is closed. Good luck to you all.

Pippin
May 25, 2016


oh yeah here's some important stuff I guess

Prompt:


Flashrule:
an apple a day leaves the whole world blind

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


The Wrong Bar

Yes, it’s Wednesday; yes, it’s three in the afternoon; yes, I’m supposed to be at work; and yes. Yes, I’m already hungover. And no, I don’t care. I need a drink. I can’t work with brownies dancing across the keyboard and filling every email with typos anyway. One drink to make them go away, and I’ll go back. I mean it this time.

I can’t go to my regular bar though, obviously. I’m unquestionably justified in having a drink right now, but I don’t want to justify it to anyone else. So I head down Bleak Street, ignoring the giant lizard pulling a battered Chrysler around the corner, past sprawling sports bars with blaring TVs and tasteful wine bistros with trendy lightbulbs. I’m looking for something special, the kind of dark, dusty hole-in-the-wall where the patrons only look into their own drinks and the bartender doesn’t care enough to ask your name.

The faded sign says The Tortise and the Hare, and the Open sign is dark except for the anemically flickering O. A bar too apathetic to spell its own name right. Perfect. No bells jingle when I open the door, but a huge man leans forward from a stool in the gloom beside the door. Between the broad hulk of his shoulders and his flared nostrils, I think he would look like an ox even without the massive horns curling away from his face. One shot of whiskey, and I’ll see if I’m right. After a moment, he leans back and jerks his chin at the bar.

“Welcome back,” says the bartender, a woman as thin as the bouncer is wide.

Back? My sluggish, aching mind churns to find a foothold of memory in the dimness, a advert on the wall, the torn vinyl seat covers, the filthy carpet, all familiar enough generally, accoutrements of dingy bars everywhere, but nothing says yes, you’ve been here before. The bartender is watching me, and while I may not recognize her face, I recognize the look. Penetrating.

“Maybe she’s someone else,” offers the bouncer.

She looks over her glasses, and her gaze is, if anything, even more penetrating. I feel exposed. I’m in the wrong place.

“No, she’s definitely herself.” She says this as though it were a disappointment.

I shake my head, I’ve got to get out of here.

“Don’t you want a drink?” the bartender says. “That is why you’re here after all.”

“No.” I mean, yes, obviously, but not here. Every part of my being is screaming at me to get out. The bouncer is off his stool and standing in front of the door. When I try to go around him, he follows.

“Have a drink, Eirianedd, please,” he says, giving that hated name it’s full, rolling Welsh pronunciation, and the same cajoling intonation my mother used when I wouldn’t take my medicine. Most people know me only as Ann, and he shouldn’t know me as anything.

“Get out of my way,” I shout, trying to push past him. He doesn’t move. I scramble in my purse for the Mace I know I’m supposed to have in there.

“We don’t have time for this,” the bartender says. “Bring her here.”

He picks me up and throws me over his shoulder and pounding on his back only hurts my fists. It’s like he’s wearing armor. I start crying, and I’m still screaming for help and kicking and trying to twist out of his grip, but then we’re already at the bar, and as I scream for help again, the bartender pours a shot of golden liquid down my throat.

And I’m suddenly surrounded by shaggy fur and a muddy, familiar musk hovering on the edge between disgusting and comforting. I’m pinned between the front two hooves of a huge ox, with a tortoise shell on his back, and a heron is peering down at me from atop the bar. I really, really walked into the wrong bar. But isn’t that how this always goes?

“Hello, brother,” I say. “Sister.” Half-brother, half-sister. Don’t forget.

“We need to see your father,” Ava says, the woman’s voice from the bird’s beak still unsettling after all these years.

“Go do it, then.”

“We need you to take us.” I know this. They know that I know this. How many times has this happened already? They yank me from my perfectly happy life as a normal human to run go between for fairies and humans, and I hate it every time. It’s how Michael died. I won’t be a part of that world anymore.

“He will kill us,” Kyland says. His breath is hot on my face, and reminds me of all the times he stood behind me, silent back up against the teasing of crueler children. Being royalty doesn’t matter when you are a half-breed. I can’t let father kill him, nor stuck-up Ava, nor even my traitorous mother. If she hadn’t abandoned him, hadn’t given in to her fathers wishes and renounced him, this wouldn’t be happening at all. She left him with what? A charm hiding and protecting him from magic, and me, on alternating weekends and summer. No wonder he’s angry.

“What’s he doing this time?”

“Cutting down the Heart Tree.”

Right, the new logging business. I try not keep up with what he’s doing anymore, but it’s hard when he’s on the news so often.

“Evil CEO is going to destroy fairyland by cutting down the forest, and his half-fairy daughter has to go stop him and save everyone?”

“We just need you to take us to him.”

“You realize this is the plot of like fifty books?”

“Who do you think writes all of them?” Ava says.

***

I close my eyes for most of the cab ride downtown. So did Ava and Kyland. Seeing the fairy world and the human world at the same time was disorienting. Edges don’t meet where they should and too many things are too many things at one time. Kyland is a huge man squeezed uncomfortably in a too-small cab, but also a huge Ox-Tortoise bigger than the cab itself. The human mind isn’t built to accommodate the contradiction. Neither is the fairy mind. I block out the fairy world by choice. Unlike my mother, I had refused to renounce my human love, and the fairy world had killed him for it.

The elevator, with only four dull aluminum walls to deal with, is a relief, but I’m still clenching and unclenching my fists. It’s been three years and I don’t want to see father again. Never, if possible. The cold behind his eyes makes it easier to believe the worst, and he’s gotten worse with time.

“Half of you would also die,” Kyland said, as though the past half-hour hadn’t happened.

“It already did,” I say. He sighs. We’ve been through it many times.

“Heartseeker only attacks to protect you.”

“Michael loved me.”

He did! I won’t let them take that from me, too. I won’t let one stupid, murderous, enchanted sword destroy that. Yes, he asked all sorts of questions about the fairy world, because he cared about me and it’s where I lived half the time. And yes, he worked for my father, but so did I. We met at the Christmas party, for godsake. But to Kyland and Ava, it had all been a conspiracy, confirmed when Heartseeker plunged itself in his breast. But the blade came from mother, and who knew what it thought it needed to protect me from. Falling in love with a human like she had seemed as likely as anything.

I’m so sick of all of this.

My hope that security will stop us goes unfulfilled, and then we’re in his office, he’s getting out of his chair to shake hands, unsurprised and unconcerned by the unannounced visit of his estranged daughter and her despised half-siblings. But his eyes are too bright, his smile too taut. I’m done, I tell myself, I did what they asked.

“I’ll wait outside,” I say.

Kyland looks like he’s going to protest, but Ava shakes her head.

“Let her go,” she says gently.

It makes me want to scream, that tone of voice. The “we knew we shouldn’t expect more of her” voice. Well they shouldn’t have. In fact, they should have expected less. I’m not waiting outside, I’m going straight downstairs and into the nearest bar. Let them find their own way home. No one even looks up at me on the way to the elevator. In the whole office, I realize, there is no sign of the fairy world. It is pristinely human. The fluorescent light hurts my eyes and the air feels empty. No one stops me when I turn around and go back.
I hear the fight before I get there, and start running. What were Ava and Kyland thinking? Mother’s charm wouldn’t let any fairything harm father. When I get there, it’s worse than I thought. Kyland is against the wall, struggling to get up, but blood from a large gash on his forehead is spilling into his eyes. Father is after Ava, viciously slashing with a rapier. He’s enjoying it, I realize. He could have shot her, but he knows she can’t hurt him, so he will toy with her instead. Ava is parrying expertly, but with flagging energy. And the sword in her hand is Heartseeker.

As soon as I cross the threshold it flies out of her hand and into mine. Unblocked, father’s next stroke digs deeply into her neck. Kyland bellows and father laughs as she sinks to the floor. He looks at me with wild eyes.

“Is that the sword you used to kill Michael?” he asks.

“No!”

He clucks his tongue in disappointment.

“Which one of us do you think your bitch mother loved more?” he asks, and lunges at me. Heartseeker surges forward, and aims true, plunging into his heart. He looks surprised. Kyland is kneeling over Ava, sobbing huge tears. I walk to father’s cabinet and pour myself a drink. Kyland watches me as I bring it to my mouth, but doesn’t say anything. They had counted on me to be there, I realize. That's the only way they could beat him. The carpet is covered with blood and I don’t know what to do next. I drop the drink, sink to the floor, and cry.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

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


Mag7 please report to IRC when available.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

entenzahn and flesnolk you have a few hours before I enforce your toxx, use them well

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why didn't you invest in
Thunderdome?


Bob

There’s a multidimensional ethereal entity haunting my living room. Its name is Bob because that’s what I’m calling it. It never shuts up, but that’s cool since I’m kind of lonely in here. So sometimes I go in my living room and read the news and chill with Bob.

He’s shy to come out at first. There’s the same things in the paper as always: immigrants commit crimes; electric cars are about to go mainstream; somebody, somewhere, saw a crocodile in the sewers.

“...not all the jews?” it echoes from a distant corner of my room. I’ve got a painting of the Mayflower on my wall. It shakes ever so slightly.

“Bob, are you talking to Hitler again?” I say. “You won’t change his mind.”

“Time is a circle,” it says with another voice coming from another direction, a thread of a whisper that weaves its way towards me. Meanwhile, the first voice keeps arguing about the holocaust. He does that sometimes, and it pisses me off.

“Skip Mars, go to Venus,” a third voice softly advises NASA. “The chicks are out of this world.”

“Everything is all at once,” the whisper in my timeline finishes. For something incorporeal, I feel surprisingly watched. Like something hovers in front of me, breathes on my face in eager anticipation of a response. Not because it wants to know what I’m about to say. It already does. It just wants to get to talk again.

“Bob, you’re wasting--”

“...millions will die…”

“You’re wasting--”

“...but Mars is such a sausage fest.”

“I say you’re--”

“Time is not a finite resource. Don’t you see?”

Murmurs flare up in all corners of the room, and a female voice enters the fray: “Are you talking to Bob again?”

There’s a woman sitting next to me, quite tangible. I never noticed her before. She wears rimless glasses, a long skirt, white blouse, all smart casual. She could work at a bank, but not a fancy one. Her mouth opens again. I say, “Bob’s real. He knows what I say before I say it.”

There’s an agreeing murmur in the background. Or maybe Bob and NASA just reached a conclusion to their argument. The lady takes a long, hard look at me, then closes her notebook and puts her pen down.

“You’re talking about the moon landing again. Hitler? The Mayflower.” She makes a demonstrative gesture to the other end of the room. The Mayflower picture hangs next to a bookcase filled with history books and speculative fiction. I don’t honestly remember when I got them. I think Bob just got me interested in the topics.

“...you should totally sail there, the English are heathens,” Bob whispers.

“Ever notice how Bob only tells you stuff you already know?”

“That’s not true,” I say. “He knows about Venus and I’m terrible with girls.”

“I just don’t think staying in your flat all day will do you any good. Look at it this way: Bob obviously has taken an interest in you. Doesn’t that mean that real people might also--”

“Bob is real. And people don’t get me.”

There’s this moment that happens in any therapy: you just wait for her to say, “of course they do.” But you’re supposed to say that yourself. A therapist can’t tell you what to believe in. Instead she says, “What makes you think that?”

“Bob,” Bob says. “Are you talking to Stacy again?” His voice floats from my left side to my right as he speaks. The middle of the sentence happens inside my head. I glance back over to the chair. It’s empty.

“The Mayflower people believed in me, and they founded the greatest nation on earth.”

I nod in agreement, and open up the paper. Someone, somewhere, saw a UFO in the sky. The voices become a soft rustle in the background. Far off in the distance, I think I hear something special: a female Bob.

But that’s probably just my imagination again.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Mag7 please report to IRC when available.
Can you PM me the IRC access stuff? I have no idea if I ever did the IRC thing before. But I'm ready to read and judge some work.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

IRC

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


sebmojo posted:

Hammond’s new clothes, Magnificent 7

Aw, poo poo this is banging. Tight little opener, I can see his prissy little face in two lines, and the details of avoiding the puddles are really well chosen. There’s a simple and believable problem for him to struggle with, the hobo is nicely drawn, and their interaction is really good - I’ve read dozens of stories where the protagonist would be much more of an rear end in a top hat but he’s just a regular rear end in a top hat and it works. The turnabout is cleverly and subtly delivered, and it felt overall like a story I’ve read before but in a good way, like an interesting remix of cliched elements in a way that made them new again. Would have been comfortable pushing this for an hm, nice work!
Oh snap thanks for the crit!

Flesnolk
Apr 11, 2012

If only, THUNDERDOME


sebmojo posted:

entenzahn and flesnolk you have a few hours before I enforce your toxx, use them well

I did not toxx!

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

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


these are not results, I just want to get mad in public about the sheer number of spelling mistakes and typos this week. Proofreading is not the enemy, people. This is the worst week I've ever seen in this regard -- almost every single story has at least one glaring mistake that f7 would've picked up immediately.

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

these are not results, I just want to get mad in public about the sheer number of spelling mistakes and typos this week. Proofreading is not the enemy, people. This is the worst week I've ever seen in this regard -- almost every single story has at least one glaring mistake that f7 would've picked up immediately.

BRITISH ENGLISH IS THE PROPER ENGLISH YOU SAVAGES. Always add a freaking u to a word if you are unsure

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

Exmond posted:

BRITISH ENGLISH IS THE PROPER ENGLISH YOU SAVAGES. Always add a freaking u to a word if you are unsure

fuk uu

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

someone interprompt, we're having trouble deciding which one we hate least

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


interprompt: seb sucks

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


flerp posted:

interprompt: seb sucks

here Lies Sebmojo
corruption rages rampant
quick mafia death

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

flerp posted:

interprompt: seb sucks

sebmojo writes a thudnerdom estory

"Crikey," said sebmojo upon noticing that he had signed himself up for a thunderdome, "i better sit on my hands and fart a lot."

so mojo did, and saw tht it was good.

Jan
Feb 26, 2008



flerp posted:

interprompt: seb sucks

Make Up Your Minds, an Epistolary Short Story

14 words

Dear SurreptitiousMuffin, magnificent7 and sebmojo,

Make up your puny little minds.

P.S.: sebmojo sucks.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


sit down little ones. have you heard the one of why thunderdome has so many bad words? well, its a long one.

once upon a time ten million years ago some idiot woke up on some weird island. and he was like wth this place is stupid. then he looked in the ocean and saw his dumb face and threw up.

then he went on the internet and signed up to the Something Awful Forums as "sebmojo". then he posted a single post in the thunderdome thread and it was bad forever and forever because of some dumb moron

the end

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Six of one, half dozen of another.

Grimey Drawer

flerp posted:

interprompt: seb sucks

Now that is a tasty burger

Seb got a burger and a coke. He stabbed a straw into the heart of the soft drink and sucked it all up.
It was the last burger and coke on planet Earth.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

A Haiku
Gravity's a lie
Seb sits at center of all
And boy does he suck.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


In the beginning God created sebmojo and instantly regretted it

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016


Sitting Here posted:

sebmojo writes a thudnerdom estory

"Crikey," said sebmojo upon noticing that he had signed himself up for a thunderdome, "i better sit on my hands and fart a lot."

so mojo did, and saw tht it was good.

sebmoj wrotes a thennerdiome story pt II

Sebmojo washed the farts from his hands, left work and waited for a bus.

"Crikey, is that the time?" he said opening Google Docs on his phone ready.

"Note to self," he wrote, "sit on hands and fart at home".

and so again mojo did, and again saw tht it was good.

Solitair
Feb 18, 2014


sebmojo's so dumb he went to the dentist to get a Bluetooth

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

Sebmojo and the Epiphany
Sebmojo paused in his feast. The great plate of dicks lay half-eaten before him. He stared at his knife and fork. Erogenous Beef continued eating.

"Is there another way?" Sebmojo asked himself. "Is there another way to dine on dick?"

There was, he realized. And it was a good.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

a little less conversation and a little more filthy rodents


Lipstick Apathy

Sebmojo is so bad at writing he puts a goatse instead of every colon, and a smaller goatse for every semicolon

Jon Joe
Oct 19, 2011

HELP! I'VE FAILED AND I CAN'T SUBMIT


Grimey Drawer

sebmojo

I have nothing further to add, your honor.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

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


Week 268 Results



Oof. It wasn't a good week, guys. Lots of errors, lots of expository dialogue without action, lots of vague waffling about nothing. There are no HMs this week. The winner reeeally needs another editing pass but the spelling issues aside, it had a certain barmy energy and confidence reminiscent of the best Golden Age Sci-Fi. It was genuinely fun to read, with the occasional very cool poetic-grotesque flourish that kept the madness together. Congrats Jay W. Friks, you've got something solid there, and the throne is yours. Please go back and spellcheck your story.

Our DM is much improved on last time, but was still a dry mess. There were some really cool ideas in there, but everything happened so quickly and with so little weight that it was hard to care. Exmond, you're moving up in the world, but it's still a DM. Keep on battling it out.

Our loser forgot a major preposition in the title of their story, and it was kinda downhill from there. It is a masterclass in Tell Don't Show, where every character stands in a room and just says out loud what is happening, and then nothing happens. Maigius, you are the loser. A very different sort of crown is yours.

Take it away, Friks.

For transparency, weird proprietary judge scoresheet. Highest possible score is 52. Scoring was not linear -- it's a weird obtuse ranking system that got more complicated because mojo disappeared without doing it properly and I had to reverse-engineer a little.

quote:

the death Mrs Smith: 5
dragon problems: 12
Gremlin Punk: 17
Thought Gorger: 18
Snow Dragon: 18
Very Fine People: 18
the Brightest: 19
Beetleback Alley: 23
Nocturnal Affliction: 28
For the People: 28
One Last Job: 30
Did In: 32
Bearer of the Heavens: 33
Hello World: 34
What News of Trilanthol: 35
Appley Ever After: 38
Night Dealings: 38
Augury: 38
Die Young: 40
The Wrong Bar: 41
Sparrowflute: 42
The Salvation Reactor: 45

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

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


My personal rankings:
(bottom-to-top, last place got 1pt, second to last got 2pts etc)

quote:

1 the death Mrs Smith
2 dragon problems
3 Gremlin Punk
4 the Brightest
5 Hello World
6 Thought Gorger
7 One Last Job
8 Did In
9 Snow Dragon
10 Night Dealings
11 Beetleback Alley
12 For the People
13 Bearer of the Heavens
14 Very Fine People
15 Die Young
16 Appley Ever After
17 The Salvation Reactor
18 Sparrowflute
19 Augury
20 Nocturnal Affliction
21 The Wrong Bar
22 What News of Trilanthol

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Congrats Mr. Friks!

p r o m p t

Jan
Feb 26, 2008



SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Take it away, Friks.

Congrats on the throne!

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat


Gravy Boat 2k

Nice that my first attempt lands smack in the middle of the rankings. High enough to reassure me that I don't suck, low enough that I don't have anything to live up to next time around.

I like to think that I'd have landed a place higher if I'd been cleaner with my last-minute edits (no way can I forgive myself for repeating "deafening" like that at the end).

Sham bam bamina! fucked around with this message at Sep 26, 2017 around 03:56

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Six of one, half dozen of another.

Grimey Drawer

Week#269 AMBROSE BIERCE SAW HIM FIRST

This week is all about the King in Yellow by Robert. W Chambers, one of my favorite ole-timey horror anthologies. (I know half of the book is more like a romance but I don't count that part)

If you want to read it, go here https://maggiemcneill.files.wordpre...g-in-yellow.pdf

If you want to read a blurb about it, go here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King_in_Yellow

What I like most about the anthology is that there is no actual character within any of the stories called "The King in Yellow" or "Hastur" for those familiar with Lovecraft's tweaking of Chambers work.

Instead, the "King in Yellow" is a play that appears as sometimes a central focus of the narrator, an item that causes misfortune like a cursed relic, or is mentioned in the background but causes nothing else important to occur within the plot(but is still focused on for more than a line)

This week, you can write whatever you want barring fan-fiction and erotica but you have to include the King in Yellow (The Play I mentioned within this post, not the Creature "Hastur", or the real-life book. Though, you can write about those as well AS LONG AS THE PLAY ITSELF AS AN OBJECT IS WITHIN THE STORY) somewhere in the narrative. It will help you clarify this if you look at the wiki-article I linked about Chambers book "The King in Yellow" in the synopsis of the story within the Wiki it talks about the book within the book "The King in Yellow."

If you want a flash rule (which will be random, From A-for animal to Z-for Zodiac) just indicate so in your entry post.

Put the number 6 in your entry post to give me more hope you read this.

Bottomline: you're writing a story, any genre except erotica and fan fiction that has the fictional play "the King in Yellow" within the narrative. For those who know nothing about this, read the WIKI page, not the pdf.

WORDCOUNT MAX: 1750

Entry deadline is Friday 8:59 pm PST/11:59am EST

Submission deadline is Sunday 8:59 pm PST/11:59am EST

Repairers of Reputations
1. Jay W. Friks
2. Thranguy
3. Chili

Citizens of Lost Carcosa
1. ThirdEmperor
2. Burkion -Submitted-
3. Jan -Submitted
4. llamaguccii
5. magnificent7 -Submitted-
6. Chairchucker https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scepter_of_Dagobert -Submitted-
7. Okua https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloth_(deadly_sin) -Submitted-
8. Fuschia tude (someone in your story must savor/dislike a grape flavored item) -Submitted
9. MockingQuantum -Submitted-
10. Benny Profane https://youtu.be/aNEWovYSC5w?list=P...S2T1zAks3ztKcqz -Submitted-
11. Yoruichi -Submitted-
12. Deltasquid (Must choose a Saturday Morning cartoon and incorporate it into the story.) -Submitted-
13. DreamingofRoses (“They’d say “if ya play the record backwards, you can hear evil tings like grrrr!” and I would think, “Jeez, I didn’t know the devil sounded like that. I thought he was coherent, like the rest of us.”) -Submitted-
14. Solitair -Submitted
15. bluesquares -Submitted-
16. Tyrannosaurus -Submitted-
17. Captain_indigo -Submitted-
18.

Material in () are flash rules

Jay W. Friks fucked around with this message at Oct 2, 2017 around 04:16

Jon Joe
Oct 19, 2011

HELP! I'VE FAILED AND I CAN'T SUBMIT


Grimey Drawer

I know this is a McDonald's drive-thru, but I would like to order a

P 1
R 2
O 3
M 4
P 5
T 6

edit: Never-mind put me in instead!!

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ADBOT LOVES YOU

Burkion
May 10, 2012

Changeman! And Not A Moment Too Soon!


You know

Sure I've got something for this.

I'm in6

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