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  • Locked thread
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Six Portraits of Negative Space

3798 Words

I. This Year's Girl

Something's missing.

The thought refuses to leave Vikki Carter alone. She keeps thinking it. On the drive from home to work. As she rewrites the principle's drafted emails to make them look almost as literate as they expect from the students. Something's missing.

At lunch, the obvious answer stares her in the face. The pictures of poor Jenny Green, on posters and milk cartons with 'have you seen' phone numbers, always the same picture with the half-bangs and crooked smile. If anything is missing in Oak Grove high or Oak Grove itself, well, what else could it be than the Junior who vanished at the end of last year? But Vikki doesn't think so. It's all very sad and all, but Jenny meant nothing to her, not really, nothing but another reminder of how things work. Some pretty white girl goes missing, she's a celebrity. If it had been her daughter, she'd just be a statistic.

Something's missing. Something else. She makes an appointment with the father of a new student, a last-minute addition to the rolls. He's charming on the phone. “My name is Thom,” he says. “With an 'h', I'm sorry to say. And my son is Finn, without any surplus letters.”

“And his mother...?” She asks, filling in the first form.

“Is not in the picture,” says Thom. She goes over the list of paperwork, birth certificate and passports and proofs of vaccination that he'll need. He says he has everything in order, so she finds a light spot in tomorrow's schedule and sets the time. She's surprised to discover it almost time to go as she hangs up the phone.

Something's missing. The thought returns as she starts the drive back home. It stays with he as transfers today's dinner from freezer to oven and prepares a light salad for a side. It's there as she eats to the soundtrack of Gordon's drone of workday minutia and Maggie's exhausted sighs and eye-rolls. It's there as she watches the people on TV solve all their problems in at most an hour. It's there after Maggie's gone to her room if not to sleep, as Gordon dutifully and vigorously drives her body to what she has to admit qualifies as an orgasm. And it's there when she wakes up in the morning.

“So what brings you to Oak Grove, Mr. Murray?” He barely looks old enough to be the father of a high school student. His eyes are deep, deeper than his skull should allow, she thinks. She has to stop herself from staring, from trying to see all the way back to Ireland in them.

“I'm a bit of a refugee,” he says. “The new regime and I have irreconcilable differences.”

“The one here's not so hot either,” she says.

He laughs. “True, but it is a big place, and Washington is very far away.”

She looks over the crisp sheets of documentation and feeds them to the photocopier. “You're all set. Finn can join the Senior class starting Monday. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Well,” says Thom, “I am new to this town, and you're the only person I've met here so far who's remotely interesting. Maybe you could let me buy you whatever passes for a decent meal in this town?”

“Mr. Murray,” she says, “I'm a married woman.”

“I'm glad to hear you say that,” says Thom.

“You are?”

“In my experience,” he says, “Nobody accidentally leaves out 'happily' when they say that.”

“I think you should leave,” says Vikki.

“Of course,” he says. “You have my number already, if-”


The workday continues. Something's Missing. It's a drumbeat, or a tuneless earworm, more persistent every hour.

On her way home, she stops as a chain pharmacy and purchases, with cash, a pre-paid cell phone, among a few other things.

II. Suspicion

“Don't leave town,” the police said every time. As if I weren't still living with my parents, as if I even had the money for a ticket or for enough gas to even make the state line. As if there was anywhere far enough to go to get away. It's a global world, a global network, and no matter where I went I'd still be Elias Ruiz, the missing girl's boyfriend. The prime suspect. Or the 'person of interest' when people are feeling worried about getting sued. As if anyone in my family would step into a courthouse without a summons.

I got picked up for drunk and disorderly, trying to walk the night off, and the cops decided to go another round. My choice, ask for a lawyer and spend the night in the drunk tank or spend a few hours going over things again. Probably thought I'd say something I didn't mean to while drunk, but by the time they had everything ready to go I was mostly straightened out anyway. Just the same questions over again. Where I was, who I was with when. Where we were as a couple. What we fought about, and how much.

By the end of it they were as bored of all this as I was. They asked me to tell them something new, something I hadn't said already and maybe I was still a bit drunk but I gave them what they wanted. I told them something I'd left out every other time before. “We never even, you know, did it.”

“That's hard to believe,” said one cop. “A couple of healthy All-Americans like you, in this day and age, and her not even all that religious.”

“You must have been frustrated,” said the other. “Angry.”

“No,” I said. “I mean, it's not the choice I'd have made, but I thought it was pretty sweet. I mean, it's not like I was some frustrated virgin nerd myself. I've had other girls before. I could wait.”

“So you were going to marry her, that it?”

“Yes,” I said. “I mean, maybe. If things kept on working out, yeah, I guess.”

“You've picked up quite the drinking problem, haven't you?” The police love to turn the conversation on a dime like that, catch people off guard or something. I slowly nodded. “It's almost as though you weren't illegal to serve at your age. Tell me, you ever black out? Lose time?” I nodded again, even more slowly. “And you have no idea what you might had done in that state, right. So you could have-”

“No!” I said. “No,” more calmly. “That's only been, you know, after.”

“As far as you know,” said one of the cops. “That's the thing about lost time. Finish off a hard night with one more shot before going to bed and then wake up the next morning. You probably just pass out, but if that swallow pushed you over the edge and you decided there were things you had to do, well, you'd never know, would you?”

“I know,” I said. “I wouldn't. Couldn't. And I'm done talking.” I guess they were in a better mood than usual, since they showed me to the front door rather than back to the holding cell.

“Don't leave town.” Just stay in a piece of poo poo town where everyone figures you're probably getting away with murder, at least until a body shows up. If Jenny's even dead. But of course Jenny's dead. She wouldn't put me through this, wouldn't put her family through this. She's dead, and someday someone's going to poke into the right hole or lake bed or car trunk and it won't be “Don't leave town” any more, it'll be “You're under arrest.” and “Confess and maybe you won't get the Death Penalty.” Even though I didn't do anything. Didn't do anything but not doing anything to save her.

III. Seven Dates

Finn Murray first asked Maggie Carter out for a date in the school library. The librarians had, several years ago, made a disorganized rout in their crusade for total silence within those walls, retrenching in a small section for quiet study, and so the main stacks were engulfed by a susurrus of soft conversation and instant message arrival pings. She had not been expecting anything of the sort. Finn was handsome, athletic, popular in a low-effort sort of way, and Maggie was not the sort of girl that kind of boy paid any attention to. At first she expected a trap, the kind that ended in pig's blood and tears. She didn't think enough people noticed her to make her that kind of unpopular, but there was always a bit of doubt in her mind on that score. But nothing she had seen or heard of Finn led her to think him capable of that kind of cruelty. So she answered with a wary yes.

Their first date was dinner at a chain restaurant, the kind desperate to distract from its own fundamental American-ness. The food was passable, the conversation pleasant, and it ended with a kiss on the hand at her parent's doorstep as they waited, excited and apprehensive at this somewhat belated milestone in their daughter's life.

Their second date, agreed to via text message during Calculus, was a movie, the sort of romantic comedy that was neither romantic nor comedic. Afterward, after a few awkward seconds, they talked a long hour over everything in it that they both found absurd. He kissed her cheek, light and brief as a raindrop at the evening's end, and she could feel the echo of that touch all night.

Their third date might have carried certain expectations, and to defuse them they engineered a group event with two other couples from the school, eating Japanese food prepared live with showmanship and soya while talking about all the pressing news of the school and town, mostly regarding potential match-ups in the football Regionals. The presence of the other couples made any kind of advanced shenanigans impractical.

For their fourth outing they took a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon. She told tales on his new friends from Elementary school while he spun unbelievable yarns about life in Northern Ireland. In the middle of it, they were set upon by an old woman with ragged white hair and mismatched eyes. She stared at Finn and walked backwards in front of them. Finally, he said “Do I know you?” and she shook her head and wandered off. It mostly killed the mood, but the date did end with a kiss, a real and proper kiss, on the lips, held long enough for her lungs to remind her to breathe.

On their fifth date they talked about sex, and why they wouldn't be having any, about how she was saving herself, if not for marriage than for someone who would be with her for longer than a season. He heard the accusation in her words and couldn't deny it. They talked, negotiated, set forth rules for what they would and would not do with strict restrictions on positions of hands above and beneath clothing, which would stay entirely on. Then they spent the evening testing the edge cases and loopholes they had made.

On the sixth date they talked about love, and futures, and the lack thereof. One of them said that the kind of person who married their high school romance was the kind of person who never escaped their hometown, and that Maggie was anything put that. By the end of the talk they knew their relationship was doomed – just by the fact that they called it by those words made it so – and resolved to end it on as high a note as possible, with one more perfect date together.

On that seventh date they ate together, laughed together, and walked together. In his car they did things that a stickler would say broke the letter of the rules that they had made, but they kept to their spirit. And then they parted a friends: not the kind of friend you keep close in your life, that would have caused trouble. But the kind of friend you know you can call on at need and ask for almost anything. And they exchanged gifts. She gave him a book of sketches she had drawn, of him, or her, of them both together. She did not often show her work to anyone other than for a school assignment, but she knew she was good at it, at least at the technical level. He promised to treasure it forever, and in turn gave her a bracelet, worked iron with semi-precious stones. He told her he'd stolen it from his father, but that was okay because his father stole it himself, and that made pilfering it traditional. She realized how little he'd ever said about his father, about his family as he spun a story about its power to protect the wearer from harm by calling animal spirits. And then it was over, all but a final kiss that lasted forever and was over too soon.

IV. With Colored String to Show the Connections

Elias Ruiz tried to kill himself yesterday. They're trying to kept it quiet, for the family, but my people gave me the inside info. Drove his car into a tree stone cold sober. He's still alive, in bad shape, may not walk, may not even wake up, but alive. He left a note. It wasn't a confession. I'd have been surprised if it was. I was already fairly sure he's not the one who killed my big sister.

When something like last summer happens, you can drive yourself crazy or you can try to do something about it. I've been trying to avoid going crazy. The person I was last year wouldn't have done half as well. But if you want to solve a crime you have to become a detective. So I worked hard to stop being the headphones-wearing loner I had been. Taught myself things. How to Win Friends and Influence People. Found the book on the free table at a library store. Took it, read it, learned it, lived it, love it. It still holds up.

To be a detective you solve cases. Ask for favors, pay them back, ask again for more. Build contacts, develop trust. Find somebody's lost class notes. Figure out why somebody got stood up or outright dumped, which of the identical tests was copied from which. Or don't, keep a secret tight if that's the better deal. But find out everything, and put it all together.

I have a chart, a poster with all the things I know, organized with colored string to show the connections. The string doesn't help much, but that's the way these things are done. I keep it in our secret fort, a place only Jenny and I ever went. It's a good thing. There's lots of things that would disturb my parents on it, and that's just the front side. The back side is where I put the things that can't have happened. The crazy stuff. The lies the old woman told.

The front is a maze of dead ends. Elias's alibi is solid, he was with his friends and teammates constantly that weekend. Jenny's best friend is out and gay and punk these days, could have been some kind of failed advance gone way wrong, but her parents had her tethered to a phone with a GPS snoop. All the time accounted for. Her deepest secret is that she only rocks the blue half-shaved half-spike and leather jacket is so that her parents will lump that together with the lesbian thing, assume it's just a phase, and put off disowning her for a while. Nobody our age has the ability to make a body disappear anyhow. The police were thorough that summer. Took the trained dogs everywhere, send divers into all the lakes and creeks and rivers.

I even investigated my own family. It's tough to face, but I couldn't just rule anybody out, not without checking. Found out some things I'd rather have not, starting from old bills and applying footwork. They wouldn't do it, couldn't, of course, even though I had to be sure. I did find out that my mother had been having an affair. Someone called Arlan Wade. It had ended more than a month before Jenny vanished, him leaving the country. The police knew about him, but were satisfied with their European colleague’s assurances that he couldn't have come back to the US at that time. As for me, well, he's one of the only three faces left on the chart without a red line through them.

The other two are the Murrays, Thom and Finn. I thought they'd be easy to clear, not even in town until months later, no connections to our family at all. But then it turns out that Finn's paperwork is completely bogus and there's no legitimate record of him existing before this August, and it turns out that Thom's carrying around with married women with daughters around Jenny's age, and suspicion won't let go. Except Thom looks nothing like Arlan. Different hair, eyes, nose, ears, lashes, height, build.


What are the odds that two people would look literally nothing alike? Especially if they're the same ethnicity to start with? Wouldn't two random people have at least one feature that's pretty similar?

Crazy, I know. Obviously a waste of time. Plastic surgery takes too much time to recover, and you can't add five inches with it anyhow. Any other idea is back of the poster stuff, more of the lies...

I will get to the bottom of this.

V: The Lies The Old Woman Told

Yes. And I know you, too, though you wouldn't believe it any more than would the other.

Call me Gwendolwn. I think that's my name. My memory isn't what it was, but some things I do know.

I remember the hunting trip.

Me, my husband, and two of our sons. The middle and the youngest, the eldest being fostered with an old ally of my husband's mother's nation. I missed him so, but had the others to keep me busy. We were in the Queen's woods, hunting stag and boar for the celebration. The men carried spear and bow while the youngest beat the bushes to lure out the prey and the Queen's men stood guard to keep us all safe should anything go wrong.

I remember the rustling wood and the roaring pig as it rushed towards the spears. I remember the crash, and the blood, and the laughing. We dressed and trussed the boar and my middle child and husband carried it by the pole, heading back to camp. And then one of the guards stepped behind my middle son (why can't I recall his name? What could that possibly have bought that was worth the cost?) and cut his throat open with his silvered knife.

My husband dropped his end of the pig and turned, weapons drawn. “What means this?” he asked.

“We serve a new Queen now,” they said, and charged. I held my youngest close, to shield him with my life, as they fought. He made quick work of the traitors, but not before one lunged at us. I gladly took the wound to my gut, keeping the blade from my child.

He wiped his blade and sheathed it, then came to pull our son from under me. “Goodbye, wife,” he said. “I must escape with my last live heir, and you'd just slow me down.”

“Your last live-” I said. “But what of our firstborn? At the court-”

“You foolish bitch,” he said, and for the first time his glamour slipped and I saw his true and terrible face. “My mother's oldest ally is the Devil, and sending my children to Hell is the price for youth eternal. Now, one last payment, for services rendered: shall I give you the mercy stroke?”

I refused. He left, taking the high road out of the kingdom. I survived, and made my way along the low, bartering my face, my voice, a great many memories and years of my life to make my way back home, where only a season had gone in the decades I'd spent away.

Believe what you will.

VI. Nobody's Girl

Maggie Carter sees him across the parking lot. She tries to duck her head, avoid him, but he sees her as well

“Maggie!” he says. “A word,” and she can't find it in her to be so impolite as to ignore him. So she walks over.

“You know my mother wants nothing to do with you now,” she says.

“And what make you think this has anything to do with her?”

“What else-”

“What else might a man and a woman have to do with each other? I can think of a few things.”

Ew, she thinks but doesn't say. “Aren't I a bit young for you?”

“You're a woman grown, well past legal in this state.”

That doesn't make it any less creepy she tries to say but can't. What kind of person knows the age of consent without looking it up anyway? also goes unsaid. Her hand goes to her left wrist, touching iron. A bird swoops down and Thom has to dodge a gob of birdshit. “You should back off,” she says.

“Good to see some feist in you,” he says, putting hands on her shoulders. She, or at least a part of her, wants to object, to scream and kick even, but that part is growing smaller by the second and the part that wants nothing more than to stare forever into the vast kingdoms of his deep, deep eyes grows larger and larger. Her right hand touches her left wrist again. A tomcat howls, setting off a dozen nearby dogs to barking. He backs away, repelled, as if electrically shocked.

“Ah,” says Thom. “I see you've had a gift from my son after all, though not the one I'd feared before. Well, so be it. His traitor's blood will serve me as well.” He turns and run.

She pauses for a minute to catch her breath, then dials his number. A man she's never seen before steps up to her. He's short and white-haired with leathery skin. “Tell Finn the new Queen can offer protection,” he says.

Finn scoffs when she does. “My enemy's enemy, is that it? I'll take my chances alone.”

It's the last she hears or sees from either father or son.


Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

You Can't Enter Heaven Until I Enter You
Words: 1780

A sudden explosion jolted Sebastian from his sleep and sent him scampering back, frantically clawing his way through the darkness. His world rocked when an open hand slap knocked him to the ground.

“Open your eyes, my nigga,” a gravelly voice gently said.

Sebastian opened his mouth to sardonically protest that eyes had exploded out of their sockets but stopped when he realized something had changed. He saw the warm red of a light source seeping past his eyelids. He fluttered his eyes open and focused on the man backlit by torchlight from the other side of the cross-shaped hole.

Light from the end of a cigar cast a warm glow over the sexy face of Black Jesus. “Come on kiwi, we don’t got a lot of time before “You-know-who” comes and eats our faces like a retard on bath salts.”

Sebastian had a look of bewilderment. Mouth open, eyebrows fighting to unite, the whole nine yards.

“I’m saving your soul, let’s go!” Black Jesus barked, grabbed Sebastian by the shirt and dragged him to the exit. “Dad give me strength.”

Stumbling through the hole, Sebastian saw a few bedraggled prisoners and a few impossibly beautiful soldiers - no one he recognized. His gaze stopped over a beautiful woman who walked in his direction carrying a red guitar.

Adrenaline dumped into his system. With the athletic ability of a cranked out cocaine addict he spun on the ball of his foot and sprinted toward the hole to his cell that was no longer there. For the second time today, he saw stars.

“Get him away from me!” Sebastian wailed as he clawed the unyielding stone. A brisk flamenco guitar riff punctuated the escape attempt.

“Corporal Sancho, impeccable as always,” Black Jesus said, stepping between the woman and Sebastian. “I save all souls and give everyone a chance at redemption. That includes you and this guitar.” He tilted his head back and to the side to acknowledge the instrument. “Anyone can be reborn.”

Sebastian stopped and turned to face the Nigga of Man. “That… monster she holds in her hand is a… is a,” he sputtered.

“A monster, yes, he was. It’s all good now, he’s good.”

Sebastian scoffed, “He’s good. Gotta be kidding me.” He ran his fingers through his dirty brown hair and stormed up to Black Jesus. “You don’t know what he made me do!” he shouted, pointing at the guitar.

“You’re going to do a flashback aren’t you…” Black Jesus said, rolling the cigar in his mouth.


It all started when -


The taste was slapped out of Sebastian’s mouth and he stumbled to the side holding his jaw in surprise.

“Maybe you don’t realize how little time we have here,” Black Jesus said, taking the guitar from the woman and slinging it over his back. He spoke to her, “Give him a bible to defend himself. We gotta bounce.”

Music swelled to a frantic rhythm as the cries of the damned shook the room. “We got incoming!” Sancho shouted. His hands blurred as they flew over his guitar.

One by one, giant winged demons with giant muscles and giant smooth criminals landed encircling the group. Sebastian watched in horror as the 40th demon landed. He looked down at his bible and back at the demonic guards that towered over him by a few feet. He looked back at his bible disbelieving this would do anything but offer a gentle massage to these walls of meat.

The tear of fabric pulled Sebastian’s attention back toward Black Jesus, the woman and another soldier. All three were now shirtless and standing between them and certain destruction. Sancho’s music abruptly stopped.

Forty pairs of egg yolk eyes looked down upon them, the hatred plain. It started out with one broad-chested monster - his pecs bounced up and down. Slowly, the behavior spread to others until all the demons were partaking in this bizarre ritual. In sync, the demons flexed their enormous pectorals with what must be an intimidation tactic. It was alarmingly mesmerizing. Sancho strummed in time with each bounce.

Sebastian couldn’t see what Black Jesus or the other two were doing, but they were like statues watching this terrible show of masculinity. The woman acted first. “WE ARE THE SANDAL MEN! ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR,” she yelled and dozens of rocket powered tampons erupted from her crotch and swarmed the demons in a chaotic string of explosions. Sancho’s music renewed once again and Sebastian felt his blood quicken from the battle song.

The demons that still stood rushed forward. Out of the corner of his eye, Sebastian witnessed the second soldier standing at ease with his arms clasped behind his back and his pectoral muscles whipping out like fleshy wrecking balls.

Black Jesus had yelled, “Plank Stance!” and was now swinging his own body like an axe, chopping into his opponents, flinging them off the precipice. Yet as the Black Satan’s minions fell, more winged bodybuilding demons flew in to replace them. Their bulwark shrank against the persistent onslaught. The other prisoners of Hell cried and cowered, wishing they were safe back in their eternal prison. These people were all going to die, some of them for a second time, if he didn’t do anything to help.

He saw his guitar by where Black Jesus battled for their lives. His fingers dug into the bible and he bared his teeth into a snarl. Screw that rear end in a top hat. I’d rather be the support beam to an Eiffel Tower. Sebastian lept forward and swung the bible right into a nearby demon’s low hanging fruit.

The fiend’s good n plenty’s were torn clear off and bounced off another demon’s face. Sebastian swung again taking another demon’s leg from underneath him. Another swing shorn a leg. Another swing bowled another backward. But they still kept coming and now he was a target. He heard the fist whistling through the air, but was unable to move out of the way and it plowed right into his stomach.

Sebastian thought that since he was fighting alongside Black Jesus that physics would take a hike. He imagined taking a blow like this would send him flying back to crash against a rock, miraculously on his feet and the rock would crack behind him. He thought wrong. Sebastian stumbled backward, barfed all over his clothes, tripped over something as was knocked unconscious when his head hit the ground.


It’s about time you felt me up. What does a guy gotta do to be treated like a piece of meat around here.

“Xavier, couldn’t you have the common decency to stay dead when killed?”

And miss the opportunity that you’ll hold me tightly in your weirdly muscular hands again? You must have me confused with another one of your besties, Xavier said, taking a long pause. You heard what BJ said about me. I’m converted, I’m good yadda yadda. So just do that thing we did last time and let’s get on with it so we can get you out of this poo poo hole.

“No loving way, man. I’d be an idiot to let you trick me again. You forced me to kill innocent people,” Sebastian said angrily, “I’m not giving you another chance to sink your claws into me again.”

Xavier took another long pause, and when he spoke he had an uncharacteristically serious tone.Listen, Sebastian, I’m sorry. Words can’t express to you how much I mean that, but believe me when I say that a thousand years of rehab can do some wonders especially when BJ gives you a new purpose.

Sebastian kept silent, so Xavier took the cue to continue talking. His personality was back to normal.

Imagine if demons and humans were food. Humans are like Chicken McNuggets with the wrong kind of dipping sauce. Demons are a loving bone-in ribeye. Their corrupted souls are make me cream my pants so good. Come on man, you gotta do that thing! Do you think I can lie to Black Jesus?! Just do that thing! Come on, finger me with those fat sausages you call fingers! Diddle me like one of your french girls-

“Alright!” Sebastian shouted, “I’ll do it if you shut up!”

Sebastian felt Xavier shaking with excitement.


Strings whipped out in all directions and with unerring accuracy and speed, carved up the six of the closest demon beef injectors into roast beef curtains. The demons fell over in random positions, their hands clutching their brand new front butts.

“We gettin’ the funk outa here ladies!” Xavier’s voice bellowed from the vibrations of his strings. “Why don’t these butthole sniffers have any pants on? Get that drat yogurt slinger out of my face!” A glitter of steel strings snapped through the air and the demons in front of Sebastian fell to the floor in quivering chunks of flesh seeping ichor.

Black Jesus grinned, his bejeweled teeth sparkling. “I was wondering when you was gonna pitch in. Lead the way, my nigga.”


“So let me get this straight, Black Jesus,” Sebastian said, slapping a string that was caressing his inner thigh away. “Stop me if I’m straying. You rescued me, restored my eyesight, purposefully fought like crap so that I would feel obliged to help, all for the purpose to be reunited with my rear end in a top hat guitar who had forgone centuries of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ type of rehabilitation,” Sebastian slapped another string that was caressing his butt, “for the slight chance that I would join your Sandal Men and fight evil?”

Black Jesus took another puff from his cigar and rolled it to the side of his mouth. “I also saved a few helpless souls to up the stakes too. Can’t forget them. Lieutenant Napster, the one with the massive pecs, was supposed to fake going down to force you to act, but the hero inside of you needed to come out way before then apparently.”

“What if I said no?”

The Nigga of Man shrugged his shoulders and blew out the rest of the smoke. “Then you walk away with a magical guitar who would beg you daily to feed it demon blood until you run your head into a wall for the sweet release of unconsciousness.” Black Jesus laughed at the image and shook his head. “Your freedom from the clutches of hell is what I was originally after. You joining us to free others would be a cherry on top. The offer will always be open to you.”

“Do it, do it, do it,” Xavier buzzed in Sebastian’s ear.

Sebastian took a deep breath. “You already knew I was going to join, didn’t you?”

Sep 14, 2007

Like most things, I am nothing

When It Raines, It Pours
1688 Words?

I have loved three things in my short life. Number two on that list was the military. My career in special forces was cut short, though—I’ll tell you what I can of that story some other time—and so I found my third love, acting.

My first love, though—and still my greatest—is my twin sister, Iselle. She is just like the hurricane she was named for: powerful, wild, and impossible to ignore. She cannot help but leave destruction in her wake. I was lucky enough to be born in the eye of the storm.

I would die for my sister.

And tonight, I might have to.


“Evenin’,” I say as I approach the only two gentlemen in the lobby of an obscenely expensive apartment complex. “Here to see Mr. Warren.”

“Is Mr. Warren expecting you?” the one on the left asks. The two are in dark suits and are wearing earpieces, and aren’t shy about the guns at their hips. The lift they are guarding goes directly to the penthouse suite; it’s the only way to get there.

“You know, I’m really not sure.” If Mr. Warren did know the woman he’s got up there is my sister, I’d imagine he’d have left her the hell alone. Or, he’s very, very foolish.

“If you aren’t expected, you’re not welcome,” the guard says. He moves to cut me off, raising his hand to gesture at the exit, but he stops midway—his eyes flash in recognition. His hand drops and smile forms on his lips. “Hey, aren’t you Lucas Raines?”

“Oh poo poo!” His partner, apparently, has connected the dots. They do know who Iselle is.

I’m quicker than they are. Before either moves, I slam my knife into the armpit of the closest guard. I step close, and my hand goes to his holster. Behind him, I can see his partner scrambling for his gun and his radio at the same time—too slow. My shot rips across the empty lobby, and the second guard slumps against the wall.

“drat.” The guard in my arms gurgles. I start dragging him toward the elevator. “I didn’t want to kill y’all, but ya got Iselle up there. And I know how Mr. Warren gets down.” The guard doesn’t say anything, just gurgles. “I coulda been in and out in five minutes, but y’all had to recognize me. And I had to kill you.” I use his gun and end his dying.

“Guess that’s the price of fame.”


The Hollywood rich can’t help themselves. Buy a beautiful, one of a kind painting, the kind people might pay to see, then put an outrageous solid gold frame around it. The whole building is like that. Always one step past tasteful.

The elevator is a monster of burnished brass and mirrors, on every possible surface. I punch the only button: 20th Floor, PENTHOUSE.

Mr. Warren—the owner of the building—is an indecently wealthy man with a variety of odious—and illegal—habits, habits he shares with his employees. I know this because Mr. Warren and I have a professional relationship. He funded a big part of my last movie—Dead 2 Rights. To get that funding, I had to spend a whole lot of time in his company. I had hoped not to return.

But, like I said, the Hollywood rich can’t help themselves. Only this time, it’s going to cost more than he’s got.


The elevator opens onto a lounge area full of more gaudiness, all white leather and crystal and gold. A guard sits on one of the couches, reading a magazine. He looks up at the ding of the elevator, and his eyes go wide--


And stay wide, as the knife buries itself in his forehead. “What the---!” Two guards to the left whirl to face the elevator doors, hands flying to their holsters, but I’ve got them already. Each of my hands holds a gun, already trained on them, and two cracks ring out in quick succession. Both fall dead, small rings of red in their forehead.

The room goes quiet. Electronic breakbeats pound through a set of polished wooden doors, off to the right, and a variety of colors leak out around the edges of the frame. I take a couple of steps forward into the room and retrieve my knife, which I sheath at the small of my back.

From the left, a man in a bright purple shirt and white dust all over his face walks through a door. It takes a couple of seconds to figure out what he’s seeing, but then he sees me, throws his hands in the air and falls to his knees. I motion him to the elevator, and he sprints to it without a word. I watch him go.


A blow to my neck sends me sprawling, my hands losing grip on both guns. I quickly roll and bring my knees and elbows together in a guard position—just in time to ward the next blow. A man dressed like he never left the 80’s is flying at me, his multicolored track suit highlighting the arcs of multiple punches. They land, but only partly.

I kick out with my legs and catch him in the stomach—solid. Muscular. He retreats, but retains his balance. He’s well trained. I stand, and we circle.

These kinds of fights are my favorite. Martial arts are popular out here in California, especially in Hollywood. We use them all the time for our movies. They’re very impressive. Lots of neat moves, fancy sequences, etc. And everyone want to spar with THE Lucas Raines.

I’m happy to oblige. I always know I’ve got ‘em.

There is a difference when the blows are real. You know what a punch does to a man. You know what you can take. And let’s just say Hollywood types usually aren’t getting in those types of fights.

This one is confident. He swipes his bleach blond hair to the side, smiles, and rushes me. I let him come.

His first blow lands—harder than I expected, and it knocks me a step sideways, allowing him to land his second in my ribs. He’s stronger than any man in neon has a right to be. Not strong enough, though, as I absorb the blow, sidestep and land a glancing blow to the side of his head.

It’s enough to stun him, and I have my opening. I leap forward, fist high. He sees it, raises his guard, and ignores the rest of my body going low. I tackle him to the ground, and use my momentum to straddle his torso. A couple heavy blows to his face and he stops struggling. I stop punching.

“Sweet hair-do, man. Where’s my sister?” He blinks sluggishly, and grits his teeth through a mouth full of blood, but says nothing. I reach behind and give him a sharp blow to the gut. He coughs up blood. “Where’s my sister, Vanilla Ice?”

He doesn’t get the chance to respond before I feel a ring of steel pressed into my skull, and the cock of a hammer. poo poo. Only now do I notice that the music has gotten significantly louder.

“Well, well, Lucas Raines,” a deep, throaty voice says from behind me. “So it’s not all acting. Come on, let’s go have some fun.” Mr. Warren grabs my arm and lifts me up, turns me toward the double doors.

“I was hoping you’d join me at one of my parties again, Lucas. We missed you.” We walk through the doors, down a corridor splashed in neon light. The walls throb as the bass pours into them. The corridor opens into a circular room filled with couches, low tables, and white lines. People are draped across the furniture in various states of dress and consciousness.

“Have a seat.” There is a chair in the middle of the room, and he puts me in it.

“I was wondering if you’d show up.” The voice comes from a doorway on the edge of the room. It’s a voice I know well. Iselle walks out of the doorway, dressed in red, hair a violent mass of curls. A man grips her bicep tightly. Her eyes are slightly unfocused. She smiles. “You do know I can handle myself, right?”

“I gotta tell you, Lucas, Iselle is spirited.” He stands in front of the chair, the gun casually pointed at me. He’s dressed in all white. “I thought she’d be a lot of fun to have around, but she’s been… resistant.”

I smile and let out a short laugh. “Oh, you’ve walked into hell, Mr. Warren. You just don’t know it yet.”

“Hah. Right.” Mr. Warren moves in close, leans over me. He presses the gun into my shoulder, and stares at me with heavily dilated pupils. “Well, this is your swan song. Come on, let’s hear a couple more lines from the great Lucas Raines!”

“Sorry. I don’t work for free.”

My right hand rips my knife from its sheath and buries it in Mr. Warren’s midsection. My left shoulder explodes as the gun fires. I grunt, but follow the shrieking Mr. Warren to the ground. My right arm pulls the blade out, then finishes the job.

The man holding Iselle throws her against the wall and sprints at me, but stops when he sees me holding Mr. Warren’s gun and pointing it at his mid-section. He’s unarmed, so I let him turn and run back through the doorway.

Iselle picks herself up from the floor, a little wobbly, but okay. She rolls her neck a few times. She walks over to me and helps me up.

“Did you have to kill him? He was gonna give me a boatload of money.”

I laughed, then pulled my sister’s arm across my good shoulder. “Come on.” We both turn and walk out of the room, past an array of coked-out onlookers and a few dead bodies.

I told you. Destruction follows my sister. She can’t help herself. She’s Hurricane Iselle.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Aaaaaaand, it's gone!

Chili fucked around with this message at 11:38 on Jan 2, 2018

Apr 22, 2008


Killer-of-Lawyers fucked around with this message at 03:55 on Jan 3, 2018

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


sebmojo fucked around with this message at 10:44 on Jan 5, 2018

Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!

curlingiron fucked around with this message at 04:48 on Dec 29, 2017

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

One Man's Trash

1989 words

“Brett? Buddy? You OK?”

“Hmm? Yeah.” The lie was practiced. Brett slid the empty wineglass across the concrete balustrade that separated the front steps of his rowhouse from the neighbors’.The foot of the dollar store glass screeched as it scraped until Jeremiah snatched it from his hand.

He didn’t know why he did that. To be standoffish, he supposed. He only came outside to have a quick smoke before crashing for a few hours. It was after midnight and work started before first light. He didn’t notice Amy and Jeremiah sitting with some friend on the front steps until it was too late. As soon as Brett opened the screen door, they invited him to sit and have a drink.

Amy was unconcerned as she opened the spigot of the boxed wine and filled the cloudy glass, but Jeremiah covered his slight embarrassment by swirling his glass as he sniffed it then said, “The plastic bag gives it a certain je ne sai quoi.”

Brett nodded with a little shrug. He lit his cigarette and Amy handed him the glass. The divider that separated their front porches was less than a foot wide, but he was miles away. The wine was better than the idle conversation.

That was two glasses ago, and rather than get up, Amy passed the refill to some girl who had to put her phone down to take it. They all had phones. Always connected, texting away. It was better than talking. Brett had a mobile but it was old and rarely used. When Mitch or one of the other guys called to have him cover their shift, kids with beards at the bar loved it. They called him retro, but the phone was sturdy and served its purpose. There wasn’t anything hip about it.

This some girl put the glass on the concrete and slid it across to him. Jeremiah cringed and sucked in a breath. She watched his face and giggled a little as she pushed it across the divider, eking out every awful noise she could.

She turned back to Brett and kept her smile as he took the glass. She wasn’t really a girl. Thirtyish, Brett thought. He had less than ten years on her. She had a young smile, still bright through the wine stains.

“Thanks,” he said as he pulled a Ziploc filled with tobacco from his pocket. Brett started rolling another cigarette.

“Do you think I could have one?” The woman asked.

Brett shrugged and pulled a second paper from the bag.

“Can I do it? Show me how.”

“Alright.” Brett stepped over the balustrade and sat down; his feet rested on their steps. Before he knew it all four others were studying his demonstration and rolling up their own crooked, lumpy smokes.
The puffed and coughed for a little while and then Jeremiah flicked his half-finished butt in a high arc that flared across the smog-haloed skyline. For a brief moment he was angry—he would have to run to the outlet that much sooner. But they were as friendly as acquaintances could be. Let it lie.

Brett let his last drag linger in his throat before he tossed his own butt over the balustrade into the grimy earthenware pot that he used as an ashtray. “I’m going to use the bathroom,” he said. It wasn’t a request it was a matter-of-fact statement.

The house mirrored his own. Of course it did. The floorplan was recycled up and down the block, ten or more houses all the same. But there was a key difference. This place felt lived in. It was a home. Warm.

Maybe there wasn’t anything to that. Warmth was a delusion of earthy paint and curvy knick-knacks. Nonetheless, it pulled at something in him. And then Brett felt the bile rise up and he thought, gently caress’em.

The little bathroom had old tile, but it was clean. Medicine cabinet. The mirror was freshly Windexed, but the rust spots on the frame mirrored his own. Just the way it was in old houses. He opened it and rifled around. Usual poo poo: Tylenol, Neosporin, Band-Aids, Tums, all the brand names. And the brand name he was looking for: Vicodin. A prescription in Amy’s name filled two years ago. She hadn’t used most of it, and surely wouldn’t miss it.

Brett stuffed the pill bottle in his pocket and felt guilty for a moment. He peed, then wiped the rim with some toilet paper. Wiping piss from the toilet wasn’t the same as assuaging guilt. But for a moment he imagined they might be the same. He was just a drop of piss to be wiped away on flimsy tissue and flushed.

He flung the door open in that drunken way and was surprised by the girl/woman leaning against the island in the kitchen. A fancy exhaust hood floated in the air above the flat burners of the stove. The whole drat thing looked like a TV set.

“We weren’t properly introduced,” she said, “I’m Clarissa. And yes, I’ve explained it all.” She smiled again. The reference wasn’t lost on him but he wouldn’t have brought it up in the first place. It wasn’t his way. He hoped she’d give him the same courtesy, but he could never bank on it.

“Hi,” he replied. “Brett. But you know that.”

“What do you do, Brett?”

There it was. “I’m a garbage man.” No frills, no sanitation engineer or any of that. It was what he was. It was, in general, boring hard work.

Brett would probably continue until his knees gave out. There was some sort of zen quality about it. Clear goals, and the harder you worked, the faster you were done. Morning people were friendly people and they were easy—the five AM runners never stopped to chat. They just gave a little wave acknowledging that they’ve seen your face before, then they were on their way.

And the people who were still on their porch at five AM waved in a slightly different way. But nobody messed with the garbage man. That was the best part. Mitch listened to his audiobooks while he drove and all Brett did was huck garbage into the back of the truck. Aside from the exercise, people didn’t really think about how much heat the decay and compression generated.

People were, in general, nice. About three times a winter, he’d find a new pair of gloves and a scarf on top of a garbage can. Mostly hand-knitted. They left plenty of used coats, but never a new one. The shelf below Brett’s TV held ten copies of Men at Work, the house on the corner of Sixth and Elm left it on a can every year.

Brett didn’t know what the occupants looked like. Clearly, they never imagined the same people would be collecting their trash year after year. On copy number three, he imagined the mental break and marching a gift basket filled with the copies of that lovely movie up to their door and acting like a passive-aggressive poo poo about the whole thing then maybe punching somebody. But then Charlie Sheen started his descent and the copies kept coming, so they went from irritating to a kitsch he could appreciate. There wasn’t much that could even turn the corner of Brett’s mouth, but seeing that DVD case tucked in the can handle some Tuesday in December was one.

“You don’t have to pretend to be interested.”

“No, I am. I mean—”

“You’re not.”

“Well, sort of . . .” she trailed off. Brett didn’t help her out. “Men at Work sucked.” Pause. “But it’s so great, isn’t it?” She continued, “I’m a vet. Work at an animal hospital.”

“Sorry,” Brett replied. She looked at him quizzically for a second before he kept on.. “You must see a lot of death. I always wonder why people would take those kind of jobs. I think I’d probably get more upset if my cat died than if one of my cousins died. Proximity, I suppose. If your cousin crawled into your lap every night people might think oddly of you.”

It was more than he’d spoken to anyone in a long time, weird as it was. She smiled, though. The burgundy stain on her lip went well with her eyes. They were a deep green with brown flecks. It had been months since he’d really looked anyone in the eye, let alone taken notice. He couldn’t quite bring himself to smile back, but it worked well enough as deadpan.

“Well, um, it was good to, uh,” Brett struggled with the hello/goodbye since he didn’t really expect to see Clarissa again, but he was spared. Amy and Jeremiah bounded into the kitchen. They clanked their cheap wine glasses onto the outlandishly pricy granite counter in unison.

Jeremiah opened his little bar cabinet. It had an engraving of a horse in gallop engraved on the lid, some sort of family heirloom. He pulled a poo poo-ton of sterling cups and plates from it and placed them around the dining table.

It wasn’t really a poo poo-ton, once Brett figured out what he was doing. It was only a short moment before Jeremiah announced, loudly, what he was doing, “Here we have, the same items that Toulouse-Lautrec used on the final night that he drank absinthe in the Moulin Rouge before died. Was it alcoholism and syphilis at thirty-six, or like Van Gogh, was it suicide?”Jeremiah relished the theatrics as he placed a sugar cube on the grate of each small silver cup and poured the absinthe over each until the cube dissolved and the cups filled. “I got this in Italy, you know. It’s brewed from actual wormwood.”

Brett sat on the stool next to Clarissa and his forehead creased as he looked into those green eyes. “This doesn’t actually cause hallucinations, you know.”

She shrugged back at him. It was fitting, to get a shrug in return after he had been more open than he had in a long time. But Jeremiah carried on, blah, blah, blah, shake your can, can, can. Finally he was set, and the tall candles on the kitchen table were lit. Incense smoked in the corner near the toaster.

Jeremiah flipped the sterling grate off his little cup and held it to his lips. He waited for the rest of us. We did the same, Amy, Clarissa, and me. Then, as one, we tipped them and drank the shot of absinthe.

“It doesn’t do anything,” Brett announced, again, this time to all.

“Oh, ye of little faith,” Jeremiah retorted. “Just you wait.”

There were no hallucinations, nor any affect more than a shot of booze would give you. If you really, truly believed, maybe you’d feel the heart of an artist beating just behind your eyes. But Brett knew that was just the effects of the alcohol after a long night of drinking.

Yet, it did something to him. Brett went to the bathroom and took another pee. He wiped down the toilet same as he always did. Then he looked at the wooden door, the veneer was warped and the tile around the frame was solid. Brett put the Vicodin back in the cabinet.

The silly, day-glow communion made him feel better than he had in a long time. He didn’t need the pills. At least he knew where they were if he changed his mind.

But no, this Clarissa might be OK for now. Brett left the bathroom and sat back down on the kitchen stool beside her. She smiled at him again. She always smiled, it seemed.

Oh yes, she smiled at him.

Brett pulled his old retro loving flipphone from his pocket and called Mitch. Mitch groggily answered.

“Mitch? Cover my shift today. I have better things to do.” Brett finally allowed himself to smile at Charissa. He felt better than he had in a long time.

Dec 27, 2013



(2073 words maybe)

There was a Lass, tan and tall
A beauty of the seas
She wed a Pirate with forty ships
And together they ruled with ease

Their crew was loyal, brave, and true
And steadfastly they sailed the blue
Until that Pirate Lass one night
Tried to sail against the breeze


Cannon fire.

Leora shot up in bed, drenched in a cold sweat. She had been dreaming of a past battle, but the sound of cannon fire had suddenly become real. The sound reverberated through the cabin again, and she realized it was not a cannon - it was thunder. Her husband, the captain, was beginning to stir too. Leora, wide-awake now, rushed to the door.

She opened the door of the captain’s quarters and stepped into cacophonic darkness. The only light came in bursts when lightning struck around the vessel. The drum of the storm was deafening. Leora saw from the flashes that the storm extended far along either side of the ship.

The night crew scrambled around her, trying not to fall overboard. Leora jumped up to the helm and just as she grabbed hold of the wheel, the ship pitched violently. She tightened her grip and forced the wheel clockwise. Her husband leaped up onto the deck beside her.

“We have to turn back!” She yelled above the booming waves, “We’ll never be able to sail through this!”

“We can’t outrun it either!” He yelled back and pinned her between the wheel and his chest as the ship rolled into a deep trough. He spoke directly into her ear, “if we turn our back on it, it’ll surely kill us.”

Resolve overcome her fear. “We face it head on, then.”

Just then, a wave crashed below them, onto the main deck. The ship rocked, and Leora slipped from between the wheel and her husband. The storm came upon the ship like a hawk upon a wounded mouse, and Leora struggled to find purchase as she fell onto the drenched main deck. She desperately grasped for the poles lining the port side, but the ship was tossed again into a wave. Leora looked up just as the lightning struck, revealing an all-consuming wall, hundreds of stories high, towering over her.

The wave washed away from the main deck and took Leora with it. She was pulled by the current into suffocating darkness.


The Pirate Bride awoke in awe
Alive, but underwater
And floating there in front of her
Was the Mermaid Queen’s fair daughter

Said the Lass, “I must return!
To the love within my heart that burns!
And the ships that sail at my command!”
The sea around grew hotter



Leora opened her eyes wide and was startled by a bright, warm glow in front of her. She squeezed her eyes shut and started to bring her hands to her face, but was surprised again. The movement was difficult and slow, like moving through water. She opened her eyes, slowly this time.

Sand below her, a whale’s rib cage surrounding her like prison bars. She let her eyes adjust to the greenish glow in front of her. Leora was staring at a mermaid.

She clutched the whale bones and squinted at the girl.

“Did you bring me here?” Leora demanded.

“You were drowning,” The mermaid girl spoke slowly, “so I rescued you. I used my magic to -”

“I have to get back,” Leora pressed herself against the whale bones, trying to squeeze between them.

“Back?” The mermaid swam backward, just out of Leora’s grasp.

“Yes, back,” Leora said sternly, “Thank you for saving my life, but I must get back to my crew. They’re in danger!” Leora was almost shouting now, trying with all her strength to pull the whale
bones apart.

“You’re… one of them?” The mermaid girl edged farther away. Suddenly she tensed up and twisted her body around to see a distant glow, growing larger. She darted towards Leora’s cage.

“Please, don’t tell mother you’re a… a…” the mermaid struggled, her face full of fear. She turned towards the glow that was now upon them.

Leora watched as an octopus with glowing tentacles stopped just in front of them, and began contorting its body. The tentacles started elongating and splitting into fine strands, the head of the octopus stretched into a beautiful tail and body. The parts twisted and writhed until they formed the shape of a woman, strong and tall, with a massive silver tail and red hair flowing in every direction. A large metal fish hook wrapped around her waist shimmered by the bright blue glow of her skin. She stared down at the two forms.


The Mermaid Queen appeared!
And struck down the Pirate Bride
She cursed the Pirates who disturbed
The seas on which they ride

The Pirate Queen stood fierce and proud
Defending her Pirates, a motley crowd,
And bet to prove they loved the sea
Lest she fade into the tide


A booming voice.

“Who have we here?” the Mermaid Queen’s voice filled the sea around them. Leora felt it reverberate through her body, just as the thunder had. She looked up at the glowing figure that towered above like the wall of water that brought her here.

“I’m Leora, the Pirate Queen,” she answered coolly, “and I demand to be released.”

The mermaid let out a laugh, slow and indulgent. Leora glanced over to the daughter, whose face looked pained.

“A Pirate Queen?” The mermaid bent down, so her face was at the same level as Leora’s. The two women locked eyes, fearsome tension building between them. Without looking away, the mermaid spoke to her daughter.

“Why is she still alive?”

“I didn’t know she was one of them,” the daughter looked down at the sand, “She was drowning and-”

“Is she from the ship that passed through yesterday?” The Mermaid Queen broke eye contact briefly to inspect her daughter, who nodded silently. She turned slowly back Leora.

“I believe a few of your loyal subjects,” the mermaid smirked, “became familiar with my waters yesterday. And I plan to meet the rest of them at dawn.”

“You…” Leora whispered at first, her anger growing with her understanding, “You set the storm upon us. You’re the reason we almost sank! You’re the reason I’m here!” Leora was panting with fury. Her knuckles were as white as the whale bones they clutched. “Why?” She roared.

The Mermaid Queens smirk was replaced by skepticism, “You claim to be a Pirate Queen, yet you know nothing of your history? Very well. I will show you.” She snapped the surrounding bones, entwined her fingers into Leora’s hair, and suddenly Leora was surrounded by a luscious coral bed bustling with sea creatures. Leora looked around for the two mermaids, but they had disappeared as well. She stared in awe at the thriving marine life around her.

“This,” the Mermaid Queen’s voice echoed in her head, “Is what my kingdom looked like before your kind destroyed my waters.” Suddenly spears shot down around her and skewered every fish in sight. Cannon balls fell through the water and crushed the coral reef under them. A whale with a gash in its side floated down around her and began to decompose, its ribs splaying open as eels slithered through it. The bones were soon picked clean, and Leora felt the Mermaid Queen release her head as she drifted back into the present.

“I’m sorry that this happened to your kingdom,” Leora met the Mermaid Queen’s eyes again and sneered, “but my crew is not responsible. We respect the ocean. I have taught them that much.”

“You have?” The mermaid let out another laugh, “My dear, they showed no respect for the ocean when they arrogantly sailed through my storm.”

“We had no choice!” Leora pushed herself out of the broken whale bones and reached towards the Mermaid Queen’s neck. The Queen grabbed Leora’s outstretched wrists and flung her down, pinning her against a bleached flat coral.

“Neither do I,” The Mermaid Queen snarled, her face inches from Leora’s. She reached back to the shimmering fishing hook tethered around her waist.

“Mother, please!” Suddenly the daughter wedged herself between the two women and forced them apart. The Mermaid Queen roared in anger. Leora scrambled upright and spoke quickly.

“Let me prove it!” She said, watching the Mermaid Queen carefully. She stilled. Leora continued, “If I prove they respect your waters, will you let them live?”

The mermaid turned over the fishing hook in her hand. After a moment, she looked at her daughter.

“You wish to show her compassion when her kind has shown us none?” The mermaid looked into her daughter’s eyes, exasperated.

“That is what you taught me, mother,” the daughter replied.

“Very well,” the mermaid turned back to Leora, “I will turn you into a dolphin, and you will swim alongside your ship until they see you. If they spare you, I will spare them. Fair?” The mermaid extended a hand, and Leora shook it.

“Good,” The mermaid grabbed her shoulder and spun her around. Leora felt a sharp pain as the Mermaid Queen stabbed the fishhook into the small of her back. Leora tried to scream, but her voice no longer came. She tried to look at her hands, but she couldn’t see them. Her feet became long and flat, and her legs joined into one smooth muscle. She twisted and thrashed until her body stopped burning, and she found it much easier than before to turn through the water and stare at the smiling Mermaid Queen. “Let’s go,” said the mermaid, and they began swimming upwards.

When they reached the surface of the water, it was almost dawn. The Mermaid Queen had led them to her ship. She pulled gently at the line attached to the fishing hook piercing Leora’s dorsal fin.

“I’ll be watching from below,” The Queen said, and dove down. Leora was left alone, keeping pace on the starboard side of the vessel. She steeled herself and propelled upwards. She caught a quick glance of the ship’s side before splashing back into the water. She swam away from the boat’s side and darted above the water again, this time catching a glimpse of the deck. Her heart sunk as she saw her husband, repairing the damage from the storm. He looked weathered and weak. She dove into the water again, her heart racing now. She breached the surface one last time and locked eyes with her husband. She splashed below the water, exhilarated and fearful. Below her, she saw the Mermaid Queen’s figure approaching. She swam forward patiently, keeping pace with the boat, awaiting the Mermaid Queen’s apology.

She felt a sharp sting in her side.

Then another.

She was pulled to the water’s surface. Panic set it. She flailed about but a net enclosed her. She tried to scream as she saw the Mermaid Queen smile below her. Suddenly she was being
lifted up the side of the ship, and she felt the two spears being ripped out of her sides. Her useless body flopped onto the main deck. She opened her mouth, but only strange noises came out. As her husband approached her, she screamed his name with every fiber of her being. She saw him withdraw his sword, and she could only thrash around. She felt her crew, the crew she loved and respected, pin her down on all sides, and prepare her to be slaughtered. She tried to look into her husband’s eyes one last time, but he avoided her. He disappeared behind her, and she braced for death.

She felt his sword stab into her dorsal fin, still tender from the Mermaid Queen’s hook, and then...

She felt the hook being cut out of her and heard it clatter onto the deck next to her.

“Toss the poor beast back in,” her husband bellowed.

And as her body was thrown back into the water, now freed from the magical hook, her arms extended back out and her tail separated into legs. She swam back to the surface, as the

Mermaid Queen’s hook sank into the depths.


The Mermaid Queen was honorable
She did as she had said
And as the Lass climbed aboard her ship
The ‘maids below retreated

The Queens returned dutifully
To their Kings - one man, one sea
And with a newfound reverence
Into the blue horizon, they led.

Oct 30, 2003

1300 words

“Of course I remember the warehouse. His Dad owned it. Coop’s Dad. Mr Cooper.

“When we rocked up the first time the red sticker had sort of peeled off the door, but it just hung upside down from one corner, the word ႶИƧ∀ԷE clearly visible through the back of the paper.

“There were just five cars in there, then. One for each of us, each member of the band. Each member of liquefaction. Four were little 80’s Nissans, all beige, all rusted to hell. The last one was a Mazda, missing all its doors. I mean, sure, they were pieces of poo poo, but they were loving Tesla’s compared to what would come later.

“All that really mattered was their tape decks. You know, that they still worked and all.”


“He’d recorded these cassettes. They were labelled with co-ordinates, like off a spreadsheet. The wee stickers were made with one of those electronic label makers.

“We pressed the chunky plastic play buttons simultaneously our band burst into life from the tinny speakers, one instrument per car. They were recordings from the recording session we did when we had first started out, and I cringed at each mistake. It was cool, though, walking between the cars, feeling the music ebb and flow. I sat for an hour in a back seat, surrounded by Drums. They drowned everything else out. Eventually I could only feel them, and the other instruments came back, playing around and through the rhythm that had become part of me. When I stepped out my vision blurred - no wonder Oliver’s eyes were always like that.

“And through it all Cooper sat in the middle, watching us take it in.

“-We need more, he said, and I looked around me and felt small and cold in that huge, dark, dry space. That was the start.”


“I hung sheets to block off one corner of the warehouse. That was where we slept. The council hadn’t cut the water yet, and we had gas cookers to heat food.

“I’d stay back with Cooper while the others were out, learning the system, how to edit. Jack would come back with recordings on his phone, and we’d map them out onto grids ruled onto huge rolls of brown pattern paper. He’d try to tell me how everything worked, how all the sound fitted together, and sometimes I got it.

“We did this one that was just insects. Jack had worked out some way to record them like they were inside your ear, by catching them in a plastic cup and resting the microphone on top. Each was different. The moths was soft, the cicada as loud and harsh as you’d expect. The footstep of an ant sounded like a snare. They all followed the same pattern though, they’d get louder at first, then dying off until they were silent. The ladybird lasted the longest, 57 minutes.

“We attached their bodies to the cassettes with sellotape, and played them all together, a buzzing diminuendo. I lay down amid the cars, there were dozens by that point, listening to them die. The noise was enormous, and they overlapped in ways that made my ears hurt.

“The day was for sound, playing and listening. At night we’d work. There was no-one for miles, the whole industrial park was red-stickered. Hazel and Oliver got more cars.”


“We lost him about a month in, a month after the first performance.

“We’d cashed the factories and warehouses. We’d learned things: That people leave keys in company cars. That very few diggers have stereos, but some do. That very small cars can tow very large cars, given strong enough rope. That Oliver ties better knots than me. That policeman don’t have any better sight than the rest of us. That people genuinely don’t care what happens to their poo poo after it’s been assessed for the insurance claim. That there’s very little damage an earthquake can do to a vehicle.

“A few nights before, Oliver had brought a portable CD player from home. He put it down in front of Cooper.


“-But it’s all the same, isn’t it? It’s all, like, noise? It’s too risky. The cars. It’s too risky, to get the cars, Coop.

“-It’s too easy. Easy to make, easy to destroy. Art’s not easy.

“Cooper picked up the stereo and threw it back over his head into the depths of the cavernous space. It arced high in the air before disintegrating on the roof of an old Toyota Hi-Lux.

“So we went further afield. We went to the red-zone suburbs first, where people had left their lives in an afternoon. There were cars up on blocks in back-yards and garages, we’d put scavenged wheels on them and tow them back to the warehouse. That night we had to hide while private security waved lazy torchlight up and down the black rows of overgrown hedge. I could hear croaking. The frogs had come back.

"Then they heard us. I was sure we could outrun them, but Oliver stepped out and walked towards the dark figures.

"-Go, he hissed.

"I just stood there.


"I watched through a tangle of roses while took him and held him down still. He was always moving. I never realised he'd got so thin."


"I brought back the final recordings and gave them to Jules. She put them on the computer and listened through a pair of earbuds.

"-I can't believe this is the last of it. I’m sure they’re perfect! Where do you get them?, she said, her eyes sparkling through the darkness.

"I didn't answer her, just climbed into my sleeping bag and screwed my my eyes shut. I was exhausted. I was always exhausted. I’d go into the world, alone most of the time, and take sounds from the world. Tribesmen feared that cameras would take their souls, but they didn’t spare a thought for those that would have to carry them. This was worse than the insects.

“The project, Cooper called them projects now, was to replicate Colombo street at the time the February quake hit. A bus had been crushed by masonry there. Eight had died.

We’d spent a full week on it so far, and Jules was barely speaking to Cooper. They worked together silently, and she’d roll her eyes each time he issued an instruction, but would keep ruling lines or copying files regardless. Pattern paper stretched around the entire wall, a mess of grids and handwriting.

“I heard Cooper talking to Jules.

“-They’ll do. They’ll have to.

“We listened to it the next day. The tapes had to be started in a certain order to ensure they’d sync up, so we’d scurry around carefully calculated tracks, hitting buttons to start the various tapes and CD’s to meet in the middle.

“Then we’d close our eyes and it was like being there. We’d marked out the street in masking tape on the floor, so I stood in the middle, straddling the centre line. The bus was stuck at the lights, and I could just make out two men talking. They were old, and their words were warm but I couldn’t quite understand. The bus started to pull away and I first walked, then broke into a jog to try to stay with them. I needed to hear them, but the sound of the quake, the low rumble that you feel first in your guts started and drowned them out and my shin connected with the tow bar of a white Toyota Estima and as the masonry fell I could feel blood running down my legs and soaking into my socks, pooling in the bottom of my shoes and I lay down on the cold floor, between the cars, inside the tuning fork hum of freshly split rubble.”

Mar 21, 2013

Don't Fear the Reaper (Yes, Really)
[1210 words]

The first time I tried calling him "heavenly", Gabe had pulled away, looked up at me, and said, "Really, Morrison?" If it hadn't been for the crinkles around his eyes, nobody would've known to look for the chuckle underneath the all-too-familiar growl that usually meant what the gently caress, dude.

The remnants of those laugh lines might still be on the specter that faced me now, but there wasn't really anything I could feel other than shock.


The growing certainty that I was finally snapping. It was inevitable, I supposed, with the stresses of the daily grind and of never having quite enough and the waves of guilt that still washed over me every night.

Gabriel Reyes had been dead for precisely one year now, having breathed his last in a sterile hospital room. His family hadn't invited me to the funeral. That had hurt, even though it was only fair.

But he was standing in front of me now, or at least he appeared to be. If I was hallucinating, my brain had decided to go all-in on the details, because the scent of greasy, rotting food emanating from the nearby dumpster was subsumed by a mustiness that reminded me of the cathedrals in Europe. Gabe's hospital gown was gone, and in its place was his usual black t-shirt, those familiar battered jeans; he didn't look gaunt, or thin, or dying -- even the rich brown of his skin had turned to a deathly, dull gray.

"Surprised to see me?" he growled, but didn't wait for an answer. "Makes sense. New York is pretty far from Los Angeles."

The mockery and delivery was familiar, but the voice that delivered them was deeper. Grittier.

"Gabe." I got out, then swallowed. "I don't understand."

"I wouldn't expect you to." He stepped closer, and I couldn't help but back up, even though he was blocking the only way out.

"You're dead. Healer Stiles told me himself."

The man had been a professional when he'd called me, his voice lacking even the slightest hint of accusation.

"Well, he wasn't wrong."

"But you're not a hallucination."

I couldn't see his sneer in the darkness, but I could hear it.

"No, I'm not. Just a magical accident."

We stood there, each waiting for the other to speak, but Gabe had always been more patient than me.

"Are you just going to stare at me?"

"Why did you leave?" he asked, just like he did in every one of those loving dreams.

"It's not important."

All of a sudden, I found myself slammed against the rough brick wall behind me.

"I'll be the judge of that, Jack," he growled.

I tried to push him off me, but he was utterly immovable. Apparently, turning into a remarkably well-preserved reanimated corpse wasn't the only way in which he'd changed.

"I came back," I finally offered, but even the most casual of Gabe's acquaintances could predict how he'd respond to that.

"Sure," he sneered. "And? Doesn't change the fact that you left."


His arm pressed against my throat, his lips pressing together into a tight, pale imitation of a grin. I gasped for air, clawing at him, but he was immovable.

"Are — you going — to kill me?" I got out, almost certain we both knew what the answer to that would be.

But apparently, he didn't. He drew back as if stung, and I collapsed to my knees, clutching my throat.

He stared down at me as I stared down at cracked concrete, unwilling to meet his eyes.

"Answer the question."

"I got a job offer," I muttered. "Highest salary I'd ever seen."

"Ah, money. Wouldn't have figured you to take after Judas so literally."

I tried to get up, but he just nudged me over with his foot, sending me sprawling against the brick wall behind me.

"That's not everything, though. There's something you're not telling me," he mused. This time, when I pushed myself to my feet, he let me.

"C'mon, Gabe. People stab each other in the back for money all the time." I chuckled weakly. "Never thought you would pass up the chance to be cynical."

I found myself pinned against the wall for the second time in five minutes. He grabbed my chin, and stared at me. "Not when it comes to you."

I closed my eyes so I wouldn't have to look at him.

"I filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy a week before you died."

As he stiffened, I continued, words falling faster and faster out of mouth, "Two days later, one of my old friends from the Army told me about an open position in Manhattan. If I didn't pick it up right then, it would go to someone else. I was desperate and I..."

I trailed off, and it was a couple more seconds until he broke the silence.

"You never told me."

"I didn't want you to know!" I did my best to jerk my head to the side, to look away, and his grip had slackened enough that I could. "Gabe, you were dying. You didn't need to know."

"How nice of you to decide that for me," he hissed.

"I'm sorry," I snarled back, and abruptly hit my limit. I couldn't take this. I slumped back against the wall and buried my face in my hands.

"Jack." He sounded surprised. Well, I suppose I'd never really let him see me like this.

When I didn't answer, he drew closer.

"Jack?" he said again, and placed a hand on my shoulder.

We stood there in silence for a little longer, then I said, "You're not here to kill me."

Gabe sighed. "No. It would be easier if I was."

I wiped at my cheeks, glancing briefly at him. "Well, now you know."

He nodded, once. "I should've asked."

"Gabe, I told you — I didn't want you to know."

"I guess I did have to literally come back from the grave to get you to tell me the truth." He said, deadpan. Then he snorted, and I let out a watery chuckle.

The echoes in the alleyway died out, and he leaned in, close. Our foreheads knocked together.

"This doesn't fix everything," he said.

"I know that," I whispered. "But does it at least fix something?"

In lieu of a reply, he pulled me forward and his lips pressed down on mine.

His mouth still tasted like a blend of coffee and cigarettes. Which was good. No matter how much I loved Gabe, I would've gagged if this had really been like kissing a dead man.

I wrapped my arms around him, hand cupping the back of his head when we finally broke apart. His cool breath wafted over the back of my neck as I closed my eyes and let my head rest in the crook of his neck.



"Can I still call you 'heavenly'?"

He sputtered, and I couldn't help the smirk that sneaked onto my face.

"Jack, what the hell—" he got out before I cut him off.

"Because you seem a lot more like the devil than an angel with the red eyes, and I—"

His shoulders started to shake, and I took that as a cue to switch my tone to mock outrage, eyes fluttering open.

"Honestly, Gabriel. This is a very important question."

He pulled back, his face set back into that easy, sly smile, and I found I couldn't do anything but look at him.

"I know," he said, and kissed me again.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Typos will haunt me
Steelers playoffs, all the seasons
gently caress up, as always

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




:siren: Submissions closed! :siren:

everyone who signed up submitted, and then some. good job thunderdome.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

:siren: Thunderdome Recaps! :siren:

The usual suspects return from holiday hiatus to dish about Week 228: Unqualified; Week 229: The War, on Christmas; and Week 230: Slaying the Cursed Yearking in a festive triple feature full of chemicals, cocaine, and Dickfuckery. Stop trying to run that cell phone through your garbage disposal and listen to Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and I speculate on Satan's weapon of choice before we read The Unholy Ghost's "System Memory" and Krunge's "Bugging Out" in full.

“Get your gay sex cat off me, Schmitt!”

Wait! We're not done! We sit down at the kids' table with the entrants of Week 231: No Grown-ups! and come away with cooties. Ewww! We may more likely come away on an NSA watchlist after some of Djeser's jokes, but never mind. This time we look over the positive mentions as well as the negative, and Jay W. Friks' "Agua Mala, Agua Pura" gets the dramatic reading treatment.

For now, she was only asking for water, crying to her kidnappers and slowly nodding during his long expositions.

Episodes past can be found here!

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 20:46 on Mar 19, 2017

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




:siren: Judgment! :siren:

may take a while. So I encourage everyone to go into an insane crit frenzy. With these larger weeks, it's way better for all participants if more people write crits! So I'm opening the thread up to do that while we judge. Usually, this works out really well and there are more crits for everyone. I'm already impressed with you this week goons but you could make me SUPER DOUBLE IMPRESSED by critiquing each other's stories. I'm not asking anyone to read and critique the whole week (only crazy people would do that), but if you can write even one extra critique, I'm sure the recipient would appreciate it.

Oct 30, 2003

Crit of Before the Lion, he laid Bare by Boaz-Jachim

First line has me thinking you're on my wavelength. Hoping for some Borges style metafiction here.

AHA! knew it! I wrote the above sentence before the Borges reference.

Hey this was pretty decent! It's definitely a strict imitation of Borges - I don't really see that you've added anything or incorporated your own voice in any way, but it's well done for what it is.

I had a little problem with the framing story - it didn't hang together all that well for me, and the "I am nothing" = disappearing author thing was a little on the nose, but it was enjoyable enough.

I think that if a reader didn't get the reference it could appear very stilted - it only works as a story if you're a Borges fan.

Thanks for writing this!

Sep 14, 2007

Like most things, I am nothing

I asked which story I should read, and flerp chose this one :airquote: randomly

flerp posted:

528 words


In my hometown, don't think there's a reason not to mention Brentwood here, since you do in the next graf the park is flooded with cold winter rain, brown and still I assume the park is brown and still, but grammatically this makes it seem like the rain is. There are kids with a couch on the edge of the creek, one of them carrying a big stick they found, thinking they can use it as an oar. They think that, somehow, if they follow the flooded creek, they’ll find something new at the end. That there isn’t just fields of modular homes and dead grass. I like this--makes it seem like the grass has died while homes have 'grown'

It’s been raining for four days straight, which is a godsend in a drought, but not in suburban Brentwood. It’s worthless when everyone has sprinklers. Rain just means my dad can’t jog what a wimp, and then the FitBit was a waste of a Christmas gift.

In Merced, two hours south from Brentwood, there’s a sign that says, Pray For Rain. It was written in red paint by the almond trees and the dry dirt. sentence construction makes it seem as if the trees and dirt did the painting They stay up all night, wave their leaves in the wind, and ask the gray clouds to not mock them anymore. To let freezing rain fall onto them, asking for a chill to run up their trunks, to make them feel like they can bloom.

I don’t hate Merced. comes out of nowhere--why would you hate Merced? The roads are full of potholes and there aren’t any storm drains on Yosemite Avenue, so it floods in the rain. The air tastes like cow poo poo. I lock my car doors when I drive past the train tracks. It’s not far enough away from my hometown.

In Brentwood, the air is stale, tasteless. My room’s wall is a dull, genderless brown. People in their jogger pants smile at me when I walk by. The roads are empty by 8 PM. When I sleep, I don’t dream. The rain can’t soak through my thick jacket.

I’m going back to school in Merced tomorrow and the window’s open. I can taste change, a dull sour, like a cheap lemon candy. I’ll be back atin Brentwood in a couple months and back a couple months after that.

I don’t want to tell my parents that if I had the chance, I’d be an almond tree’s white flower. I’d wait for someone to pluck me off and then I’d float in the air. I’d follow the wind south, or east, or west. I’d get buried in the hot sands, or freeze solid in the Sierra Nevada. Just never north. Even if it means I’ll have to bury myself into the soggy dirt and never leave Merced. I really like this imagery. Really clarifies how much you hate Brentwood (a lot)

Tonight, when I sleep, the blanket will feel smooth. Empty. I wonder what it must feel like to pray for rain. To need something so badly that I’d sit on my rooftop and hold out my hand and smell the rain soaked streets. To know, when I hear the drops patter against my windows, that the words I whisper in the dark were heard by the gray clouds. this is good

Somewhere, there’s an almond at the bottom of a creek, waiting for me to pick it up and carry it until we can hear the trees whisper next to us, telling us that they were waiting for us. Waiting to give us not a home, but a place that has meaning.


You've got 500 words here on how much you hate Brentwood, and how much Merced is crappy but I guess it's fine, and something about the drought? As someone from nearby, I can vouch for the accuracy of this, but I'm not sure that it really makes for a story. Nothing really happens here. Maybe that's part of the idea? Nothing happens east of Mt. Diablo, or in the Central Valley? Idk. It doesn't make for super exciting reading.

On the other hand, you've got some really nice imagery, mostly when you talk about trees and almonds and stuff. The bit about praying for rain is nice. Unfortunately, it doesn't really accomplish much, aside from helping to build the general sense of malaise. And unfortunately, I don't think malaise is the strongest idea to build a story around.

Overall, the writing is fine, even good in spots, but doesn't really do much. If you're not going to write an actual story, with characters and endings, it's gotta be a badass piece of writing. This isn't.

Mar 21, 2010

I was like "I am gonna be helpful and do the crits" then the very first story I went to read was erotic Overwatch fanfiction

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

I was like "I am gonna be helpful and do the crits" then the very first story I went to read was erotic Overwatch fanfiction

promise is a promise muffzor

Mar 21, 2010

Okay well I am not really into Reaper/76 slash as a rule because I don't really see them ever getting together. It's not like they're old war buddies who ended up on different sides of the same coin and hatefuck occasionally (that's Reaper/Mcree tyvm) -- Morrison and Reyes were in different units and haven't really interacted all that much in the official background.

Your OTP sucks, Kurona.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Okay well I am not really into Reaper/76 slash as a rule because I don't really see them ever getting together. It's not like they're old war buddies who ended up on different sides of the same coin and hatefuck occasionally (that's Reaper/Mcree tyvm) -- Morrison and Reyes were in different units and haven't really interacted all that much in the official background.

Your OTP sucks, Kurona.

crits or gtfo

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


Each of the critiques I’m going to post is structured so that it hits first impression, summarizes the story, names a distinctive feature, then goes over some strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, this shows each writer what one idiot reader (me) got out of it. I am implicitly assuming each author had something important to say. Sometimes, I might miss something other readers find obvious. Hopefully it’s all helpful; the goal is to be constructive but honest.

Crit of Rite of Passage by curlingiron

My first impression was that this girl was dead and in some sort of hell/purgatory. I thought we might find out more about her and why she was here, but it seemed she would be trapped in lifetimes of various miseries forever and we learned nothing meaningful about her. That left me with the thought, “well, dang, that sucks I guess.”

The precipitating event is that Dani is in this purgatory place and wants to escape. The goal is escape. The story seems to imply she started this journey willingly. Her punishments are our rising action. The climax seems to be her encounter with nothing, needing to come to terms with the non-existence death brings (which seems to be contradicted by the fact that there is an afterlife, however torturous it may be). We end with the her opening another door, and given the rest of the story, this presumably leads to either a place she’s been before or another punishment, not escape. This is probably deliberately left open. The message I get, then, is that death is a rite of passage, and there is no resolution to death. Nothing is resolved in this story, after all.

The setting is interesting enough. The descriptive language is solid and creates a surreal place with an atmosphere of slow despair. The weakness is that we know nothing of the main character, learn nothing of her, and nothing is resolved. This pointlessness could be the point of the story, but if so, it’s not very satisfying. The Collector delving through Dani seems like a place to revisit part of her story that came before this so that the reader can connect to her, learn about her, and perhaps learn about why/how she must change in this purgatory place to get release (whether exit to heaven, embracing non-existence, or whatever), but that opportunity is missed.

Crit of You Can't Enter Heaven Until I Enter You by Mercedes

My first impression came from reading the title, which implied non-consensual sex as payment for entry to heaven. Perhaps the innuendo was unintentional? I suspect not. My next impression was that I was reading a parody of, uh, something, akin to Dogma but with a lot of emphasis on lovely action sequences. The precipitating event is Black Jesus trying to save Sebastian. Sebastian’s goal is not really clear beyond “do what the story around me is doing.” He seems more dragged along for a ride. The rising action is the demon attack. The climax is Sebastian playing the demon guitar. The falling action is that Black Jesus set it all up, retroactively undermining the already weak sequence, and that they’re all going to fight evil together. The message seems to be that anyone can be redeemed, including evil guitars. The redemption arc, then, seems more focused on Sebastian’s musical instrument than him.

The strength of the story (and what distinguishes it) is when the narrative plays with the flashback, and the main character is slapped out of having one. That’s a genuinely funny moment that I think speaks to the attempt of the story to play with the structure of narratives. There’s another attempt to do that when Sebastian is knocked unconscious instead of embracing the Hollywood action trope of being just fine despite a horrific blow (but then he’s fine anyways). However, the rest of the story is confusing. I don’t buy into the action, because at no point do I give a poo poo about any of the characters or what happens to them. It’s also often hard to tell what’s going on. Black Jesus, sinister talking guitars, demons, and the battles of heaven and hell with references to all sorts of weird poo poo are a lot to dump on the reader such few words. The story has a distinct structure and passable dialogue and description, but the banality of the content and non-connection to the characters is a large weakness.

Crit of cage by SurreptitiousMuffin

My first impression is that the author has something genuinely poignant to say, but doesn’t know how to say it yet. That description runs in parallel with the main character, I think. I don’t think I can assign a meaningful story structure here. The goal of the main character is to hide her bloated tummy, which is metaphorically and literally her pain.

There’s are two strong descriptions with “grasping roots, a strangling vine, a monstrous blossom” and “hurt is, in general, woven through me like highways through a nation, like mineshafts through the earth, like bones through a carcass.” However, we never find out why the character is in pain, why she must hide it, why her pain is manifesting literally. Not all of those “whys” need to be answered, but we do need at least some reason to care about him/her. The story has plenty of potential; our society is full of toxic structures that encourage people to suffer in silence, be lonely, hide our feelings, etc. It could be a story about toxic masculinity. It could be a story about a tragedy. It could be a story about body image. It could be a story. It would need specifics, characters, and conflict first though. It isn’t a story yet.

Crit of UNSAFE by newtestleper

My first impression was mixed. Partially I was confused by the setting, the fact that everything was in dialogue tags, and things like “why cassette tapes?” I also got the distinct impression by the end that this was one man’s way of coping with tragedy, a death from an earthquake. It makes a sort of sense to respond to the destructive waves of an earthquake with the similar but audible waves of sound.

The precipitating event is the earthquake, which we learn about earlier, but for our purposes it’s the quest to create sound. The goal of the main character—Cooper, not the narrator I’m thinking—is to create a tribute of sorts. The rising action is the increasingly bizarre actions taken to create this tribute, going from breaking and entering to killing insects to grand theft auto. The climax is the revelation of what this project is for. As revelations go, it makes sense, but is not very dramatic. The conclusion is the final recreation of that event.

There’s some strength in the descriptions like “tuning fork hum of freshly split rubble,” and “private security waved lazy torchlight up and down the black rows of overgrown hedge.” The narrator’s voice is established and consistent. The setting is probably the strongest part; we get a distinct impression of old rusting rundown places full of broken down cars; a setting of forgetfulness, decay, and ruin that parallels the ruin from the earthquake event. A major problem, however, is that I think we need a better reason for grand theft auto than ‘art is supposed to be hard.’ Why? All Cooper’s friends just go along with it all. But who died in that earthquake? What is the narrator’s connection, what is Cooper’s? We need to know that connection for this story to work, need to know why they need to recreate the sound of the quake so badly. What about them requires the catharsis of sound? There’s also a lot of characters, but they’re just background noise, indistinct, mostly. Quite the conspiracy, jacking cars and all, and no conflict within the group about how to handle the tragedy. Why is the group so united? Implicitly, there must be a common connection. And who is the narrator talking to? There doesn’t even seem to be a hint. We need reasons, motivation, and more real characters. The conflict is also just sort of glossed over, so there’s no tension in the story. Never are we worried about the fate of these characters. What resolution do they come to, having recreated the traumatic event? Basically, there’s a lot of questions the reader has, and I don’t think the point of the story is not to answer them.

Mar 21, 2013

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Okay well I am not really into Reaper/76 slash as a rule because I don't really see them ever getting together. It's not like they're old war buddies who ended up on different sides of the same coin and hatefuck occasionally (that's Reaper/Mcree tyvm) -- Morrison and Reyes were in different units and haven't really interacted all that much in the official background.

Your OTP sucks, Kurona.

Well actually Reaper used to be the old leader of Overwatch and Morrison joined alongside him and they were "friends" (ha). And then Morrison got promoted over Reyes and Reyes got really loving jealous and they had an epic break-up that ended up blowing up the main headquarters of an international organization as well as the organization itself. So basically you're wrong and you should read up on canon more, you utter scrub.

Also all they did was kiss so if that's "erotic" for you I feel really sorry for you man cause that really sucks

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Interprompt: chess, the anime (100 words)

Sep 14, 2007

Like most things, I am nothing

Uranium Phoenix posted:

I am implicitly assuming each author had something important to say.


anime was right
Jun 27, 2008

death is certain
keep yr cool

sebmojo posted:

Interprompt: chess, the anime (100 words)

"ha, he'll never see this coming," said Gardock Mestefereferus

"w-what!? impossible, moving a bishop that far out of his pawn line? is he mad?" exclaimed Wally Flowers

"and when i move my bishop, it ends! chekkumeito!*" said Ponn Royale. winningly.

tl note: chekkumeito means checkmate

Feb 25, 2014


SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Okay well I am not really into Reaper/76 slash as a rule because I don't really see them ever getting together. It's not like they're old war buddies who ended up on different sides of the same coin and hatefuck occasionally (that's Reaper/Mcree tyvm) -- Morrison and Reyes were in different units and haven't really interacted all that much in the official background.

Your OTP sucks, Kurona.


kurona_bright posted:

Well actually Reaper used to be the old leader of Overwatch and Morrison joined alongside him and they were "friends" (ha). And then Morrison got promoted over Reyes and Reyes got really loving jealous and they had an epic break-up that ended up blowing up the main headquarters of an international organization as well as the organization itself. So basically you're wrong and you should read up on canon more, you utter scrub.

Also all they did was kiss so if that's "erotic" for you I feel really sorry for you man cause that really sucks


Sep 14, 2007

Like most things, I am nothing

also the rest of you stop your dumb posting and crit

here i'll show you how

Solstice by Uranium Pheonix

Your story is clearly trying to say something important, but it doesn't succeed in doing that. I don't see anything particularly profound here, just a lot of life is hard, people are dicks, death is meaningless stuff. It would be one thing if every word in this story was hellbent on delivering that message, but you're really trying to communicate like seven different things and I don't think any of them hit. I also don't know if I would call this really a story: you tell us the girl will die, the mom is certain of it, and then she does. If that's the way you're going to structure it, you better make us feel it, big time. You don't.

Uranium Phoenix posted:

It was a senseless death, for what else can the death of a child be? But it was not a simple death. It was a death that started long ago, but seemed to come abruptly. It was not unique in this sense.
This is a bad start. First of all, every 'it' in this graf has no antecedent. What does it refer to? We technically don't learn until the end of the story, when she actually dies, though we can figure it out. Some more clarity here would make this feel less pretentious. As it is, this seems like an attempt to say something important, but really says nothing. I also take issue with the structure here, like I said above. If you are going to tell us the end of the story at the beginning of the story, you sure as hell better make the rest interesting.


It was a cold walk home for Esrela, beneath a pale, open sky that kept leaving patches of frost around.
I don't know what the second half of this sentence means. Maybe I am missing something. I am also not sure it accomplishes anything for you, though, so I'd probably cut that bit.


She sensed something was wrong as she approached her weary cottage. Normally, the front shutters were open, and there was a candle lit. Her daughter Tayka loved to watch for her by that window after a long day of play and chores, loved to move her hands over and quickly through the candle flame. Normally, the smoke from the chimney was thicker. Normally, the things did not seem so silent and still, but perhaps that was the winter, chilling the world so that it slowed.
I think you could increase the impact of this by flipping the structure. Again, you tell us something is wrong first, then show us what it would normally be like. How about telling us what Esrela is looking forward to--seeing her daughter at the window, seeing the thick white smoke--and then showing us that something is wrong?


But there was that pit in her gut. She knew.
Based on the start of the story, I assumed she was already dead. Upon finding out that she's not, just moments later, I don't know what it is that Esrela knows. Also: what pit in her gut? 'That' makes it seem as if it's a recurring thing.


This year, the taxes had gone up again to pay for the war. She’d heard of grand battles in Solamoth and Kiresmalt, faraway places south and west of the capital. The names meant nothing to her. One of her fellow weavers, her friend Silsa, had watched her son march off two months back. There was no word from him yet.
This seems thrown in. In general, it seems like you're trying to make life seem awful by throwing every terrible thing possible at it: gender discrimination, poverty, war, etc. It's overkill. Focus.


On the eve of the winter solstice, Tayka’s heartbeat stilled. Her breathing stopped.
Okay so everything before this is fine. Mom's deep in the quest to save her daughter, tries everything she can. Then her daughter dies anyway. BUT... I already knew that was going to happen. Now, I could hear arguments that knowing the outcome can strengthen the impact of the pathway there, but not in this case. You've robbed this moment of it's emotional impact, and not for any big reason.


Esrela cried and held her love, held her everything. She clutched at her daughter’s soul. She howled at the faces across the veil that were grabbing at her daughter, and pulled with all her might. She pulled against the celestial God, pulled against the endless armies of angels and spirits, pulled against the might of death, screaming defiance. It took all the legions of heaven to pull that soul away from her, and it was a slow, torturous ripping. Then at last, she stood empty handed, feeling less.
THIS. This is the good stuff. More of this. Especially this: "it was a slow, torturous ripping". Like, that's where the emotional weight of this story could really hit. What does this death do to the mother?


Of course, that never happened. She merely felt like it did, but it might was well have happened. So it did happen, after all.
It didn't happen? It did? This graf is bad, and useless. Whatever you were trying to say here, you did not.


They lowered her daughter into the frozen earth, and the few people that came offered their condolences. A priest offered a short prayer. Some men offered their spades to pile the frost-bitten ground back where it had come from. After that, Esrela was left alone next to a bare patch of scratched earth and the thin whisper of the cold winter breeze, and silence.
Now all these people care? Now they help? Either this doesn't make sense, based on the characters who scoffed at Esrela all along, OR this is a really interesting facet to explore and I need more of this.


What else was there to say? It was, after all, a senseless deathstory.

Just kidding. Your story isn't bad. It is overwritten in spots, and it plays at being more important than it is. But, there are seeds in there, and your actual prose is mostly fine. I think if your story had a more single-minded purpose, it would be stronger. I also think restructuring it, or rethinking how you frame it, would make what you already have into a better story. But, for a newbie, this is passable.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


Much appreciated. Thank you.

More crit:
Crit of Spider by sebmojo

My first impression was that the story was about isolation, and exploring the mindset of someone with an atypical brain navigating through life. The exploration is achieved rapidly by using the anomalous event. There did not seem to be a resolution. The precipitating event is the disappearances, and the rising action the continuance of it, and the climax his brain (and it’s metaphorical spider)’s reaction to the now-empty-of-people world. Having reread it, I still don’t think there’s a resolution.

The strength of the story is in the voice, and I like the spider metaphor. As an introvert, it connects with the way I view social interactions. It’s also a nice metaphor for how people construct schema of the world and interpret it, and the strong visual of the spider hunkering down because it just has no clue how to interpret what is essentially a nonsensical event (in that it doesn’t make sense, given all previous knowledge) is apt. The lines “I had always had a spider in my head watching everything and making sense of it and weaving a web that explained it all and I could feel it watching now, puzzled, pedipalps twitching, anterior tarsus poised, waiting to draw a conclusion that didn’t exist” and “The spider curled its legs in close and hunched down like a puppy outside the kitchen door” are the strongest in the story, so the title works. That is also where it’s made clear that the narrator is atypical in some way, not because his brain works so very differently than anyone else’s, but because of the metaphor which reinforces his rather blasé reaction to the supernatural events around him. You also have generally strong sensory descriptions throughout the story.

As a specific critique, the descriptions of the narrator’s life as falling down a mineshaft and hitting the floor of the mine are too far apart, especially because the strength of the spider metaphor distracts from remembering it. In the end, the narrator seems both killed by the isolation (bottom of the mine, terminal) and relaxed by it (letting out his breath, slowly). The message, then, seems to me that only when alone, free of others, can we be who we are and relax. I’m not really sure, though. As I said, I don’t feel like the story has meaningful resolution. It’s also hard to point to any conflict, since the narrator seems to take the end of the world in such stride. It seems like a real event though, not just a figurative one, which makes it confusing as to why someone like his wife is taking it in such stride too (just before she disappears). I get the feeling the story is commentary of our society of some sort, but I’d be hard pressed to say of what.

Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

Uranium Phoenix posted:

Thanks for the crit!

Jul 25, 2012


sebmojo posted:

Interprompt: chess, the anime (100 words)

Taito-Ku, F5
(97 words)

“I banish you from this realm!” Shiro Joō shouts as brilliant light pours from her scepter.

The Burakkushikyō growls. Shiro Joō’s beam burns the sorcerer’s beastial form, and the robed monster vanishes in a burst of colorless flame.

“You have done well, Shiro!” I say through her marble tiara. “But you must stay to defend Taito-Ku! The forces of darkness stand ready to strike again!”

As she transforms back into her human form, I watch from the crystal orb deep in the Gēmu Realm sanctum. I look to the opponent sitting across from me.

“Queen takes F5.”

Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica

So that I can post a brief crit on everything this week and a couple of line crits.
As soon as those are in bring the hammer down and I'll see you all on Friday...
Or just ban me as soon as judging is in and I'll post when I fork over the :tenbux:
I would like to giveth the feedback before it comes down on me.

Sitting Here posted:

I'm not asking anyone to read and critique the whole week (only crazy people would do that).
You rang?
:toxx: to have at least a couple lines of feedback on each story by 11:59 PM Wednesday assuming I somehow HM'd or the banhammer hasn't yet come down...

SkaAndScreenplays fucked around with this message at 11:18 on Jan 17, 2017

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

SkaAndScreenplays posted:

So that I can post a brief crit on everything this week and a couple of line crits.

As soon as those are in bring the hammer down and I'll see you all on Friday...

Or just ban me as soon as judging is in and I'll post when I fork over the :tenbux:

I would like to giveth the feedback before it comes down on me.

Anyone can call in a toxx, I won't do it until the crits are up, can't speak for anyone else.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 06:54 on Jan 17, 2017

Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica

sebmojo posted:

Anyone can call in a toxx, I won't do it until the crits are up, can't speak for anyone else.

You are a gentleman and a scholar sir.

The Unholy Ghost
Feb 19, 2011

Kaishai posted:

:siren: Thunderdome Recaps! :siren:

The usual suspects return from holiday hiatus to dish about Week 228: Unqualified; Week 229: The War, on Christmas; and Week 230: Slaying the Cursed Yearking in a festive triple feature full of chemicals, cocaine, and Dickfuckery. Stop trying to run that cell phone through your garbage disposal and listen to Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and I speculate on Satan's weapon of choice before we read The Unholy Ghost's "System Memory" and Krunge's "Bugging Out" in full.

Thanks for the extended review, even though I ran over the word count— and thanks to Erogenous Beef for his review as well. My only defense for my mess is that I feel more suited to writing novels rather than short stories.

Feb 25, 2014


The Unholy Ghost posted:

Thanks for the extended review, even though I ran over the word count— and thanks to Erogenous Beef for his review as well. My only defense for my mess is that I feel more suited to writing novels rather than short stories.

we dont need or want a defense

Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica

Your Soul My Crits:
Installment One Of Three...

DJESER: Wake Up In The Morning Feelin' Like E. Tiddy
Fun story. Given the absurdity of your toxx I'm glad this came out as enjoyable as it did.

ME: Salvage Law
A sequel of your best story to date was a daring move but the characters were again likeable. Ending is a little too convenient (just like last time) and I have a feeling you were worried about bloating your wordcount with how rushed you are coming to a conclusion. Pacing is otherwise decent but there's a lot of character building without any payoff plot wise.

ME: Fires of Discontent
Script format of boring vampire politics that is kind of bad but okay dialogue exchange. You could have done well to provide more context to the conflict.

Goddamned you. How do you do so much with so few words? This is super ambiguous and it draws so much power from that fact. The only thing stronger than your imagery is the overall allegory. It hurts to read in the best way. High concept in that anyone who reads it will probably find something to identify with.

JAY W. FRIKS: Outside A View
This formatted really weird in the archive and I'm not sure if it is deliberate. Either way it makes it hard to follow. Some of the phrasing is sloppy.


It moves closer. It leaves an envelope from her desk on the cement railing. She opens it up, slicing away the logo
of her father’s company with one of her long uncut nails. They aren’t painted or manicured but left to grow from a fear
of nicking the cuticle. It’s the image of the eye from her exhibit.
The formatting is a really really big obstacle to reading this. Not sure if it just copied bad from your word processing program or what but I just can't get over my eyes shooting all over the page due to erroneous line breaks in the middle of sentences...

JITZU THE MONK: Soul, The Contents Emptied
I find this abstract in a refreshing way. It reads like a creation myth for the digital age. The repetition of thirteen helps solidify it as some sort of modern mythology. All in all a nice read; the growing despair of Ankh & Net's attempts at unity becomes more and more powerful with each iteration. The ending is satisfying in the way it circles back to AnkhNet once again being a single entity as your malevolent god fin.

A solidly depressing (as in being empathetic not just pathetic) lamentation of capitalism if there ever were one. The futility of a mother's struggle weighs heavy in each sentence. It never loses the tone of struggle and the bleakness is clear from the start.

BOAZ-JACHIM: Before The Lion, He Laid Bare
The opening paragraphs are a bit dry but I can see where this is going so its forgivable. The story nested within a story nested within a story is handled well. My main complaint is that your sentences are very long throughout the story. If you're making allusions to existing works of literature or existing fables I'm not picking up on those easter eggs but I'm uncultured and underread by my own assessment. The shift two first person at the end is a bit jarring too. I get that it's epistolary/anecdotal in styling but I think a taste of that in the first two paragraphs would have helped more than it hurt.

PRESTER JANE: The Cave Adventure
Effectively A Line Crit...
The narrative struggles with too many parenthetical intrusions and lost some voice due to them. The dialogue is really rigid with punctuation about as atrocious as mine is.[url = ""] I think DocKlock is to thank for this super helpful link but I'd bet that pretty much every one of the vets has linked it at some point...[/url]
The dialogue attribution is clumsy and repetitive as well. You've got a decent chunk of redundant phrasing that drags things down as well.


The Square Holes was the border of the deepest we had ever been in the cave. They were large square holes Well no poo poo... (big enough for Nathan to crawl halfway into) in the cave wall, stacked on top of each other going from the cave floor to higher than Nathan or I could reach.
As Nathan is the narrator's brother you can refer to him as that without confusion...

I pointed my foot towards towards Nathan's voice and took a slow step, gingerly putting my weight down lightly until I was sure I had found a flat part of the cave floor.
This is far and away the worst sentence I've read so far this week. You've got three different words all implying cautious movment and none of them are very strong. The whole story up until this point has been absurdly passive in voice and this chunk is far and away the worst offender thus far.

In past cave adventures we had found many interesting things to play with in the square holes.

“Lets go deeper now” Nathan said This is pretty drat bland, his voice sounding weird HOW! as it came from the inside bottom Square Hole. I felt giddy emotions are visceral give me some standard of comparison little kids are all about similies so use that to your advantage as I started to feel Using 'feel' in two different contexts within the same sentence is bad along the far side of the Square Holes.

Next to the holes was the Soft Wall,
a wall of thick soft material
:siren:OH poo poo REALLY?:siren:
that came down from the top of the cave and stopped above the floor

Nathan and I had both felt the edges of the Soft Wall before but had never ventured into it.
This sentence is absolutely flavorless and does nothing for the story...

Nathan was a much better crawler than I was, so he started to feel his way on all fours, inching his way into the gap underneath the Soft Wall. I pushed my hand into the Soft Wall, and found a place where the wall gave and my hand was able to slide inside the wall. Feeling a sudden rush of adventure I pushed onwards, and soon the Soft Wall WE GET THAT YOU'RE AT THE SOFT WALL SO PLEASE STOP REFERRING TO IT AS SUCH enveloped first my shoulders, and then my entire chest. I pushed You have a serious problem with repeating the same words way too loving soon and often in the same sentence. This is far and away the most maddneing thing about this story so far in deeper.

Getting out of the Soft Wall was much easier than getting in, and I emerged into darkness that was suddenly cool and refreshing. Nathan was near my feet, crawling from under the Soft Wall. Happy from my adventure, I sat down on the cave floor next to him.

Within moments Nathan and I were back near the cave entrance and the tiny slit of horizontal light that it provided. We soon created a game of taking turns guessing how the Mom shoe would land before tossing it. We became swept up in our game and lost ourselves, forgetting that we needed to keep quiet right now. We started tossing the mom shoe further and higher each time, until on my turn I tossed it a little too hard and it thudded into the far cave wall, and then thudded again when it hit the floor. From outside the cave we heard a series of angry thuds moving in our direction.
-----I am so totally hosed for trying to interperet what in the actual gently caress a "Mom shoe" is or why I should donate one of the increasingly few fucks I have left for this story to understand...

The closet door burst open and Mom stood there, outlined in the light and staring angrily.
----------Even still the voice is so passive and the word choice so flat that it's a disappointment.
---------------- Are they sent to this closet as punishment? Was there a reference to them escaping punishment on their expidition? If they are sent to a closet as punishment that's loving tragic but not as tragic as the storytelling up until this point.

“You two kids need to stop roughhousing, punishment time is not play time,she said sternly, her eyes blazing
The very redundant phrasing is abound in this repetitive sentence and is punishable by exile to the closet...

“Do you need to go peepee go poopoo?” she asked. Both Nathan and I shook our heads no. She started to turn to close the door when I spoke up.
gently caress this line; gently caress it sideways with a mom-shoe...

Some deeply unsatisfying conclusion.
The ending of this story should have been teased better throughout the narrative. Seriously though how loving big is this closet.

The mom could have been made out to be a loving monster but she just comes off as an irrational poo poo-demon with zero motivation.

“Its still two hours. Keep whining and it will be three.” And with that the door closed, and Nathan and I were plunged back into darkness.
The story should have ended here.
This was so bad. Even with 22 more stories left to crit I'm willing to bet that this emerges as the clear loser. So thanks for the save on that from my second submission I guess.

I feel bad for being so harsh on your first TD entry. I'm normally not one to give scathing crits but this suffered from so many problems I find it hard to sugar-coat anything about it.

Don't take that as me saying you should quit writing. Everybody has bad weeks and for all any of us know this may just be one of those for you. Maybe the vagueness of the prompt didn't help much or maybe you just weren't feeling it.

Write more and you'll write better.

gently caress it I'm not going back to fix the bad links and formatting tags.
gently caress it I fixed them anyways...

SkaAndScreenplays fucked around with this message at 10:39 on Jan 17, 2017

May 3, 2003

College Slice

Okay Ska I took on your Leviathon of a story since you're doing all these crits.

SkaAndScreenplays posted:

Salvage Law
3828 words
The one in which I foolishly :toxx:'d HM or Bust...

The command crew of the Leviathan sat before Thessalia wearing looks that ran the gauntlet from stunned silence to skeptical amusement. She’d gone into this briefing knowing that it would draw mixed reactions; she hadn’t planned on it dividing her officers so completely. skeptical amusement? Doesn't sound too serious. kinda defuses the seriousness of the situation, no?

“Permission to speak frankly sir?” says who?

Thessalia answered her first officer’s question with the appreciative smirk she could never keep off her face when looking at Lieutenant Jenkins. It was a look that never failed to provoke flushed cheeks and a downward gaze from her second in command.

Here in the ready-room Maura kept her composure. confusing! Who is Maura? Is she Jenkins? The first officer? Is this one person or three? If they're all one person then you just contracted yourself...the look that 'never failed' just failed b/c she kept her composure.

Real Navy, the captain lamented silently, too respectful of rank and regulation to put herself first… (is this spoken dialogue? If so it should be in quotations unless theres something weird going on here. cool, breaking down the 4th wall, very meta..oh wait probably should have edited before posting.

“Your plan is batshit sir,” Maura’s words belied her disappointment. go look up what belied means “Even if the Aegis had survived landfall I don’t expect it would be able to maintain life support let alone break atmo.” no clue what break atmo means, hasn't it already crashed?

“Duly noted.” Thessalia surveyed her officers. “Anybody else want to take a stab at breaking my heart today?”

A data-slate slid across the table coming to a clean stop at the captain’s fingertips. Thesallia thumbed through a few pages worth of bad news before looking up to the one delivering them.

“Those are the latest reports on Khanate fleet movements in the systems surrounding Parthia.” Strateo Norris who? sighed as disappointment darkened her features. “As much as we all would love to have old bucket of bolts back a salvage op is off the table.”

“The High Command is getting better at dealing with an insurgency it seems.” The captain flicked back and forth through the reports looking for some way to recover her old ship without losing the one they’d taken as restitution. that's a new development just sort of thrown in there w/out explanation “Take a look at this.”

With a tap on the corner of the data-slate, the room darkened. Pale greens and deep blues washed over the awed faces awed? seriously? like isn't this tech gonna be pretty common for them? of her officers as the abstract numbers of registry numbers and their coordinates were given life as a hologram projected from the table.

Norris’ again, who? tone had gone from crestfallen to offended, “Why am I just now finding out about the glossy hologram table of strategic miracles?”

“Because I just found out about it before calling this briefing.” Laughter from her officers filled the ready-room putting Thessalia at ease. She steeped in the warmth of camaraderie for a moment before getting back to business. i guess that explains the awe but it is weak and unnecessary

“The Khanate has a pretty devious trap laid out for us.” Tapping a few images Thessalia brought a few key systems into focus on the display. “We can get into the system any number of ways but with the power required to escape the star’s pull. We’re going to light up every dial and doodad on every ship within sensor range.” because there's no setting here outside the ready room i have no idea where they are or what's going on

Every face in the room went deadpan. don't like that word, usually implies humor A few faces in the dark slowly contorted under the strain of finding an answer to a question not yet asked.

With her best sailors hinging hanging? on her every word Thessalia filed her request, “I’m not giving up on salvaging the Aegis just yet. Engineering gives a best-worst-case scenario of two-hundred hours to get that tub space worthy again.”

The captain rose from her seat. A chorus of clicking heels and harmonious ‘sir’ echoed through the room as the assembled officers snapped to attention.

“If we don’t think we can make it happen then we won’t try, but I’ll be goddamned if I don’t think it’s worth trying. I’m giving you two days to come up with a way to pull it off. If we don’t have something by then I’ll deep-six my homesick and we’ll go back to doing hit-and-runs to avoid getting our asses kicked.” Dropping the data-slate on the table Thessalia made for the door. “You’ve got two days free of regular duties to come up with a plan sufficiently ludicrous to impress me.”

Sixteen hours later, Captain Anthony is this a new captain? so confused.... stood atop the observation deck of the the shuttle bay. She wasn’t usually the type to get pre-mission jitters but the insanity in which she was about to partake demanded a bit of apprehension.

“You’re loving crazy Jenkins, you know that?”

“Aye sir,” her lieutenant replied with a smile, “but only as ordered by my commanding officer.”

“So run down how this plan is going to work one last time before I die trying to pull it off.”

“We’re flying at the rock the Aegis splashed down on at full tilt. We’re going to cut engines just before entering the system relying on momentum to carry us the rest of the way.”

“Sounds simple enough.”

“We’re gonna hit the moon’s atmosphere. With a little luck and a whole lot of skill, we’ll skip off without losing too much speed. Assuming perfect timing, we’ll dump the shuttles just fast enough that they won’t need to fire their engines but just slow enough that they won’t be dragged in our wake. From there you just need to track down your ship and pull off an impossible amount of repair work before the Khanate sends a ship to investigate.”

“What’s the margin of error on our approach?” Thessalia chewed at her thumbnail; an old nervous habit that she hadn’t succumbed to in years.

Lieutenant Jenkins looked her captain square in the eye; her worst tinted with uncharacteristic humor, “I assure you Thess you don’t want me to answer that.”

“Humor me.”

Maura laughed. “If it goes tits up you’ll have the good fortune to die almost instantly.”

Thessalia placed her hands on Maura’s shoulders. “You know Maura you really know how to put a girl at ease…”

“I try sir,” Maura said with a smirk. “Look at it this way… at least this way we don’t risk losing the Leviathan too.”

“Not helping Jenkins.”

Klaxons rang through the corridors of the Leviathan followed by a call for all hands to stations. Launch crews streamed out onto the flight deck below. The choreographed beauty of hundreds of individuals working in concert wasn’t enough to draw Thessalia’s eyes from Maura. Her stare was fixed firmly on her first officer as she studied the features of the most beautiful and loyal companion a woman cold hope for. ugh typo and just a bad over-the-top sentence to boot

“That’s my cue. It was Thessalia’s turn to blush as she committed Maura’s face to memory. “Wish me luck.”

Maura tightened the chest-straps on her captain’s flight suit before pulling her into a long kiss.

“Try not to die,” she whispered. “If we’re on separate vessels we can deep-six my worries about fraternization.”

“Well if that’s the case, I’ll see you in my quarters on the Aegis in 200 hours. Clothes are optional.”

The captain pulled on her helmet before sliding down the ladder to the flight-deck proper. Jogging the distance to her shuttle she tapped a button on her helmet, sending her voice echoing through every station and hallway of the Leviathan.

“You all know what we’re here to do. It may seem impossible but know that we’ve come out of far greater odds unscathed in the past. Pulling off the unfathomably stupid is what makes us Amazons!” oh so that's why they're all female. They're Amazons. huh.

The captain paused. If she knew her crew, they’d be cheering at the top of their lungs at that declaration. Imagining that the din had died down she continued.

“Let’s make certain this isn’t the last act of lunacy we commit together. Lieutenant Jenkins has the bridge while I’m gone. I expect you to follow her orders without question in my absence. If she says to blow the Aegis out of the sky when we get that old hulk up and running I expect the only argument to be who pulls the trigger.”

Thessalia double-checked her restraints before opening the windscreen of the shuttle. “I’ll see you all in 8 days. Captain Anthony out…”

The pilot of Thessalia’s shuttle was a jittery young man by the name of Ogedei. a guy? wha?? With an authoritative tap of his helmet he signaled his passengers to switch to the local comm channel before proceeding with his launch briefing.

“Good evening passengers. this is your pilot Ogedai Shen thanks star wars name generator speaking. Today we’ll be making the short trip to the desert moon of Karakorum from the shuttle bay of the Leviathan. Our elevation at takeoff will be negligently close and we’ll be making our final approach at a velocity well beyond what this tin can is cleared for.”

The engineers on the shuttle laughed at that. The marines just exchanged nervous glances. The pilot continued.

“We’re looking at a total travel time of oh poo poo between wheels up and wheels down and are cleared for ejection from the shuttle bay in thirty seconds. Now would be a good time to fasten your seatbelts and prepare yourselves for survivor’s guilt.”

There was a metallic clunk as the shuttle released its parking clamps. Thessalia felt her stomach lurch as the craft lifted gently off the deck of the shuttle bay. Karakorum and its host gas giant were now visible in the distance. The captain mused on how rare it was to realize just how terrifyingly fast space travel was as the moon grew ever larger in the viewport.

The launch controller counted down as they drew closer to their target. It felt as though an entire lifetime passed between each of those final fifteen seconds.


The captain admired the beauty the gas giant as a vein of chromium gas wove its way through a purple cloud of permanganate.


She hoped that Maura would remember to take care of her fish after she died.


We can do this… she failed to convince herself.


In an instant they were tumbling through the void; the Leviathan streaking off in the distance, already just a speck of black against the light of the system’s star. I'm not sure that's how momentum works, shouldn't they be going the same speed what with newton's first law and all?

Thessalia felt nothing but incredible loneliness. um why?

They fell towards the moon in silence for what felt like hours. weird I thought that this was all happening crazy fast The captain was only brought back to reality by the frantic buzzing of an alarm and flashing red lights throughout the cockpit.


“Flat spin,” the pilot barked. “Very bad but at least we weren’t dragged into the black by the Leviathan’s wake.” As shaky as he’d seemed prior to launch, Ogedai was in the zone under pressure. Flipping switches with the kind of confidence that could only come from having averted death a thousand times prior, he looked to Thessalia.

“I need your help getting this bird to cooperate.”

Thessalia turned to her pilot, her eyes pleading for guidance. “Tell me what I can do.”

“Get the airfoils out!”

Thessalia deployed the wings and rudder without question. The sudden loss of speed threw her forward into her restraints, stealing the air from her lungs.

“Done,” the word came out between gasping breaths as she struggled to inflate her lungs in the thin atmosphere provided by her helmet.

“We need to get our nose pointed down.” Ogedai was unshakable. He flipped another switch and a pair of flight sticks deployed between the legs of pilot and copilot. Easing the throttle forward he looked his captain square in the eye. “Watch my controls and do as I do. We’re going to need to wrestle this thing into cooperating with us.”

Thessalia mirrored the motions of Ogedei as he expertly worked to assume control of the plummeting craft. After what felt like an eternity, again with this eternity poo poo stop it you're slowing down the narrative the shuttle was streaking like an arrow down towards the steppes of Karakorum.

Thessalia had finally caught her breath. “Now what,” she panted.

“Pull up slowly,” Ogedai instructed, “and try not to blackout.”

Thessalia kept both hands on the stick and an eye on the altimeter as she followed Ogedei’s lead. Staying conscious was a tall order as the closer the shuttle got to level, the thicker the black rings at the edge of her vision got.

They had just barely saved themselves from becoming one with the scenery. The altimeter took up what was left of Thessalia’s sight. Another hundred meters and it would have been the last thing the captain ever saw.

Captain Thessalia Anthony blacked out, uncertain if it was due to relief, exhaustion or the g-forces finally besting her efforts to keep the blood flowing to her brain. um she blacked out so I doubt she'd be having an internal debate about the cause.


On the bridge of the Leviathan Lieutenant Jenkins found herself with the unforeseen consequences of not smashing her ship into a moon.

“Orders Captain?” she's a lieutenant the comm specialist had asked her the same question three times in as many minutes and Maura still didn’t have an answer. “The Drumheller is requesting a parlay. They want to know if we’ll host or if they need to.”

Jenkins chewed her lip in search of the answer. “Who’s wears the pointy hat on that boat?”

“Registry shows a Vice Admiral Ackerman wearing the pointy captain’s hat Sir.”

Maura pushed the panic brewing inside her to the back of her mind, hoping the Admiral was still a friendly face.

“I’ll take him in the ready-room,” She stated. “Have the escort team track down some N.C.O. uniforms. We need to all look like real navy when he comes aboard.”

“Aye sir.”

Now to to dig out my old set of whites, Maura pondered if she even remembered how to wear a real navy uniform.
no idea what this section was about. What's the new ship? Are they bad guys?

Thessalia awoke to the barking voice of Stratego Norris directing the repair crews from a roughshod wheelchair planted in the sand beside her bed.

“Get up you big baby,” Norris teased. “You’ve been out for ten hours. Some of us would kill for that luxury.”

The captain groaned. Pushing herself upright she gave in to gravity allowing herself to fall back onto the cot.

“Five more minutes.” she whined. Burying her head under her pillow she pled to Norris, “All I want is five more minutes.”

“You’re the captain,” Norris gave a condescending smile. “Just keep in mind I’m not reheating this coffee when it gets cold.” please stop this banter it's killing me

“Fine I’m up.” Thessalia stretched before accepting Norris’ offer. “What’s the sitrep?”

“Better than expected.” The stratego shifted her focus to the hulking silhouette of the Aegis in the distance. “Automated systems brought that old death trap down in mostly one piece. Most of the fixing is splicing blown electrics and patching hull breaches.”
I'm starting to wonder what it's doing there in the first place and why I've just read all these words about how they're salvaging it. Are there survivors on board? Some sort of valuable resource? Why is it on this moon in the first place? I'm not feeling this story at all here.
Norris winced as she adjusted her position in the wheelchai. proofread “Unfortunately comms and sensors are fried and we weren’t accounting on having to fix those. We’ll be heading back into the void totally blind when we’re back up and running. Three of five shuttles have the aerodynamic properties of bricks now so we’re salvaging what we can from them.”

“I was talking about the crew,” Thessalia didn’t mean to sound so short but was too fatigued to issue an apology. “Did we lose anybody.”

“Just you for half a day. Hard landings put a couple engineers and a handful of grunts in club-med. In all reality that’s the worst of our casualties.” Norris pointed to the slapdash cast wrapped around her unsettlingly ugh crooked shin. “So I hear you’ve got a weak stomach and a knack for atmo-flight?”

Thessalia gave her strategic officer a puzzled stare.

“What do you mean?”

“Just after leveling out you turned your helmet into a fishbowl.”

The captain sighed, suddenly aware of the stench of vomit permeating her hair. flagged for unnecessary grossness

“The enlisteds aren’t going to let me live that down, are they?”
Turning her chair to face the captain, Norris put on a devious grin. “Even if they do drop it at some point you can rest assured that I never will.”

A smile painted itself onto the face of the captain., yuck try "the captain smiled" “That’s fine I’m used to it coming from you.” She pushed herself to her feet. “Wouldn’t happen to know if the showers on that tub are up and running would you?”

“Never stopped working,” Norris replied.

“Good. I’m going to go clean off this puke before I get covered in elbow grease.” where are they? i thought they were in a shuttle now they have cots and showers and crap?


Maura snapped to attention as Vice Admrial Lance Ackerman stepped into the ready-room. He was a rugged man. Handsome in his old age with a warm smile buried under a face marred with the scars of a lifetime at war.

“Sir!” Maura’s right hand snapped up in salute, dropping in sync with the admiral’s as he returned the gesture.

“Good to see you captain,” he said as he closed the distance between them. “Now, since we’ve dispensed with the formalities of rank how about you give your grandpa a hug?” oh no you didn't

Maura obliged, pulling her grandpa in close. “How’s mom?”

“Worried about you. Captain Yamamoto said you’d gone native after your demotion and joined up with the revolt.”

Maura looked at her toes, fully aware that the Vice Admiral could see through the lie she was forming in her head.

“That’s just not true,” Maura’s words carried no conviction as they left her mouth.

“Don’t lie to me Maura. I want the truth.” The vice admiral didn’t sound angry. It wasn’t even tainted with a tinge of disappointment. “Do you believe what you’re doing is right?”

“Yes sir,” resolute sincerity rang proud in her voice, “I absolutely do.”

“That’s all I need to know then.” Her grandfather smiled at her with the same warmth he had at her graduation from the Naval Academy, “So, tell me how I can help.”

Maura looked dumbstruck at her grandfather. “What will you tell your crew about helping us?”

“The same lie you were going to tell me,” he said with a grin, “that you’re working as an operative gaining intelligence on the resistance and that we don’t plan on compromising that operation.

The lieutenant embraced her grandfather once more, grateful for his mercy but terrified of his insight into her behavior. okay so they're both traitors? cool i guess. Hope this has some bearing on the story later....


Back on the ground so where is the leviathon though all this? What happened to the bad guys that were supposed to be tracking them? the Aegis was ready for the do or die moment. Thessalia had always felt that it was the best ship in the void, a fact the grace of its auto-landing only served to confirm. She stood on the bridge, confident in the quality of their repairs.

“Let’s get off this rock,” she shouted.

“Aye sir.” The helmsman’s control interface lit up and he began the series of keystrokes that would set them on a launch trajectory.

“Everybody strap in.” The captain’s advice was unnecessary. Not a single member of the bridge crew wasn’t already firmly lashed to their chair as the front end of the battle cruiser tilted off the ground.

“Ten seconds to vertical,” the helmsman's voice rang through the ship as the ship turned perpendicular to the desert floor. A soft thud announced that they were ready for takeoff.

It was Thessalia’s turn to address the skeleton crew. With a few keystrokes she was ready to broadcast through the whole vessel.

“We may have gotten this tub space worthy again,” she began, “but we’re far from green as far as getting home is concerned. Sensors and comms are both down and we have no clue what we’re going to find when we break atmo so be on alert.”

She paused, running through the list of repairs that hadn’t been completed either out of urgency or lack of proper materials.

“The two big guns are ready to blaze but outside of that we’re defenseless so play it smart and don’t be quick to open fire.” With a sudden realization, she lamented their lack of ammunition. “Actually don’t fire at all,” the caption continued, “I’d rather have to break out of prison than survive the vacuum. I’m not normally one to consider surrender an option but if we encounter surrender stand down.” what happened to the crew of the aegis?

Thessalia adjusted the harnesses of her captain’s chair one last time. “Enough rambling out of me though, yeah seriously let’s get on with it then shall we? Approaching escape velocity in in t-minus five.”

The launch thrusters fired up, filling the ship with the fiery roar of a star.


The rest of the bridge crew snapped into action. It would take more than a lowly helmsman to get this tube airborne.


Slowly the hulking pile of metal rose from the desert floor. Once more Thessalia felt sick.


Faster now, the horizon in the skylight creeped lower and lower as their altitude increased.

“One…” you already did this countdown thing earlier, boring

Thessalia’s heart was pushed against her spine as the escape thrusters turned to full power. The sky grew darker every second. Once more she fought the g-forces to keep blood flowing to her brain, this time she was successful. After an eternity the force of acceleration ceased, ushering the captain back to the comfort of weightlessness.

“Good job everybody,” her compliment echoed through the corridors of the Aegis. “Now for the hard part; getting home in one piece.”


The Drumheller and the Leviathan sat in high orbit like a pair of raptors. Sensors and eyes alike scanning the surface of the moon for the telltale signs of a launch. aha that's where they are. that whole high speed atmo drop seems a little unnecessary if there's just hanging out up there, no?

First a brilliant flash of white as the launch engines flared.

Then a brilliant streak of white smoke as the escape thrusters fired.

Then the growing silhouette of the Aegis in the viewport.

Thessalia had her comms specialist hailing the Aegis at the first sign of recover. sentence makes no sense No response. She hoped the presence of their companion wouldn’t scare them off.


We’re hosed. Thessalia did not see the presence of the sector flagship for the Khanate as a good omen. We’re hosed and Jenkins is going to be forced to shell us to oblivion.

“Alright clowns I’m tasking you with finding a way to figure out what the gently caress happened that we’re staring death in the eye.” what

The crew did not seem enthused, but they set to work regardless as she did some brainstorming of her own. Ideas bounced from ensign to lieutenant to captain, none ever seeming good enough. boy they sure seem to have a lot of time to figure this out

“Morse code.”

The suggestion was barely a whisper. It had come from a tactical officer seated at the trigger of the big guns.

“Repeat that Commander,” The captain’s order was harsh. She didn’t have time for anyone to play coy.

The tactician cleared his throat of the uncertainty that had muted his earlier declaration.

“Morse code,” he continued. Old earth boats used flashing lights to send messages over short distances.” but why? Why not just send a regular message to Leviathan? Also morse code is a pretty worn out trope methinks

“Get on with it then,” Thessalia barked. “Tell the Aegis that we’re willing to stand down if they’ll escort us to dry dock for prisoner processing.” wait I thought Thessalia was on the Aegis? so confused

The beacon on the bow of the ship flashed in a sequence of longs and shorts. The tactical officer worked furiously to translate the message.

“Captain Maura Jenkins says we’re all clear to head back to friendly waters,” he stated. “Apparently the Admiral in charge of the Drumheller is going to act as escort to talk down any hostiles.”

“Send a reply.” the captain thanked her lucky stars. Her triumphant grin betraying an intent the crew had long suspected she continued, sloppy writing “Tell her I expect her in my quarters to explain exactly how in the hell she pulled that off at zero-dark-thirty.”

The tactical officer gave Thessalia a knowing smile, “Aye captain… Responding now.”

Somehow Captain Anthony’s crew had pulled off the impossible once more. cue freeze frame and ending music

oh its the end thank god. I still don't understand why they had to salvage that ship which is bad because its the whole plot of the story. Where did it come from? Why did it have no crew? What was it doing on the moon? Why did the captain have to go on the mission? In the end the chummy tone and clumsy writing stole any sense of urgency or danger from the story. You've written a lot better than this. It's in need of a serious edit/rewrite to make it passable. Also disappointed there was no climactic battle. You said the big guns were online so it sucked that they never got used (see: Chekov's gun)

Hawklad fucked around with this message at 19:15 on Jan 17, 2017

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Crit of Ironic Twist's Alouette

The opening is catchy enough, starting out with an interesting situation and mostly good words describing it. It's a bit slow to establish any kind of conflict, though, even for a story of this length. That's made worse by the fact that there's another long gap between where the conflict starts and where the reader has enough information to realize that's what happened.

Paragraph two:


The lights went out about a half-hour ago--it’s in the guidelines to give There's got to be a less awkward way to say this part (from the dash to here) every guest some time to settle down before we get to work. I can hear faint intakes of breath from the shadowy lump under the bed, light from a crescent moon coming in through the drapes.Your protag is hearing light?

The language is mostly strong, with good word choice that usually hits home, although there's an earlyish paragraph where you drop 'stationary' and 'antiquated' in quick succession where neither is doing much more than a simpler word would do.

On to story logic stuff. It's an interesting idea, but I sort of think that something this theatrical and choreographed would probably have strong rules against the Characters joking about the backstory with the Guests. (I'm using Disney Corp terms and capitalization because this feels sort of like a Disneyesque kind of enterprise going on here.) And that it would also spend more time on the backstory, make sure that the ghosts' presence in the hotel makes historic sense in the first place.

Also, at one point in the middle you say 'by the time I reach floor 13', which, I don't know, they reach floor 13 by going through the trap-door and that's not really a good way to describe that. And the bit at the end is momentarily confusing: perhaps you should mention room 1207 as the one beneath with the top of the trap door earlier. (And, now that I think of it, with this set up the entire 12th floor should be taken up by the operation's Backstage, which makes keeping the Guests out of the way there without breaking the illusion possibly awkward.

I'm not completely sold on the ending. The incidents leading up seem more about a direct attempt to sabotage the narrator's job, which could work either for pure malevolence or for an altruistic attempt to save them from something worse, but it doesn't work for me as just trying to make some kind of contact, not as an ending. The ending could work as the ending of a shorter version of this (I'm talking about a 3000-4000 word version, wouldn't want to imagine it shrunk further than that), or as an internal act beat of a longer version, but at this length I want more resolution from an ending.


Oct 30, 2016

Uh, first time giving a crit, but I made some notes while reading & I hope these comments are good.
Notes on Metrofreak's Heart Improvement.

First of all this punctuation mistake happened often and bugged me so much:


"Just dandy." he smiled
Either end the speech with a comma or capitalize the first letter of the dialogue tag. I also found a "tumblr" of ice water, and other spelling errors.
Why does the story start with that scene in the diner? It doesn't seem like that is when the immediate problem (the wound) first appears, nor is it a big turning point. It is an interesting opener that then goes on into... talking with a waiter. I ended up skimming the first lines just looking for more about the injury. It doesn't help that the sentences seem kind of awkward to me...? An example:


From the flip phone in his left hand came the electronic sound of his girlfriend, Jessica “So I’ll just meet you at home, ok? You know how crunch time is.” There was a creaking sound on the line, a chair, probably.
The sentence-length doesn't vary. The choice of what details to give seems weird to me. I don't know why it matters that the phone is in his left hand. And why mention the sound of the chair? It does nothing except establish that there is a chair, where describing a different background noise or a specific kind of chair could at least help create a picture of Jessica's enviroment.
There's also no punctuation between "Jessica" and the dialogue.

The fact that nobody else can see the wound and that this is a metaphor for Matthew's emotional state is established three times. (The girlfriend, the waitress and at the hospital). Some of those words could probably have been spent better elsewhere. In contrast, the end felt kind of rushed to me. Matthew loses his home and job and takes out the heart in the span of very few sentences considering its a turning point for him as a character.
In general, I feel that the story isn't complicated as soon as the reader figures out that the wound is methaphorical, which happens pretty quickly because it is established several times. More time could have been spent describing the character's change instead of the beginning and downward spiral leading up to the change.

So basically spell-check and pacing is important.
Those are my 5 cents :shobon:

*edit* I also just now got that the title is a pun :downs:

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