in gimme someth cool
|# ? Oct 25, 2017 21:30|
|# ? Oct 6, 2022 08:27|
in gimme someth cool
The Hierophant (Mary-El)
|# ? Oct 25, 2017 22:06|
in binding of isaac aka the greatest game ever i think it gives you two stone hearts
|# ? Oct 25, 2017 23:48|
crabrock wins. i liked both of these and it wouldve been a lot tougher if trex decided to write a prose poem. oh well.
muffin vs sh is tougher.
i regret not giving my crit of muffin's earlier story out because it did a similar thing but w/e. anyways "sar-coughing" is a pun and not clever word play and every time i think back on your piece i keep getting really mad that you decided to put a stupid obnoxious pun in your otherwise serious piece. like why god damnit.
sh's kinda just washes over me in nice little images but it starts to mean something near the end. it fits my aesthetic very well which is why i find this one tougher.
but when i think about a poem and what a poem tries to do, it's to say a lot in little space. and while i think sh's does have a lot in it, i don't think there's a lot there on a deeper level. there's nice images but i dont think they quite coalesce into a meaningful whole. i also think muffin's has the bit of the same philosophy, but its piece is driving to a deeper purpose. i think it can be focused more and warrants a deeper crit than this, but regardless, i think it was a better poem. it gets more done in less space and is driving at something stronger. i might like sh's words a bit more, tho.
so muffin wins vs sh.
final prompt will be in a different post
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 03:50|
FINAL MEGABRAWL PROMPT WHOA
ok crabrock and muffin. you did your thang, murdered a bunch of lovely writers, now it's time for the finale.
your story will be entirely in dialogue. it will be a conversation between people who have never meet in a place they've never been before. i dont know what the hell they're saying that's up to you to decide
no word limit
deadline is honestly whenever but let's say uhhhhhh november 18th 2017 but thats a really soft deadline but i need the stories eventually
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 03:59|
poetry is garbage, someone fight me
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 04:04|
poetry is garbage, someone fight me
ur wrong hth
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 04:05|
ur wrong hth
fight me. someone.
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 04:07|
you are fought.
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 04:11|
you are fought.
ok cool someone make a prompt
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 04:12|
Gonna use my awesome flash rule that someone left on the floor last week: 3 dumb faces and only one fist.
Due 7 nov 2359 pst
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 04:19|
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 04:20|
is there a word max. never done one of these
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 04:24|
is there a word max. never done one of these
Mojo seems to have omitted one, so unless he specifies, no.
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 04:48|
i will destroy you in a reasonable amount of words!!
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 04:51|
nup, as many words as you need
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 07:34|
nup, as many words as you need
WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE, SAVAGES?
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 13:13|
nup, as many words as you need
Enjoy your 17000 word brawl entries.
|# ? Oct 26, 2017 14:55|
Zoos and divorce. Romance and Alzheimer's. Urine and Belgium. One can always count on Thunderdome to see life's obvious connections. This time around, Sitting Here, special guest Jitzu_the_Monk, and I huddle behind our umbrellas as we watch writers piss into the wind. We ponder the strategies behind the cards you all played in Week 268: NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERDS, then grade an academic paper for Week 269: AMBROSE BIERCE SAW HIM FIRST; we visit but do not dwell upon the meat walls of Week 270: La Belle Époque, for the final bottle awaits us: sebmojo's monastic downfall, the distressingly unwholesome "Trappist again."
“Now that the weather has been thoroughly discussed, can we commence with bridge?”
Episodes past can be found here!
|# ? Oct 27, 2017 21:14|
Critiques for Week CCLXI: It's Our Party, and I'll Cry If I Want To
Not much remains to be said about the empty party chairs. Instead, let's look at the gifts everyone brought! Lord Domerci, Thunderdome, and your fortunate judges were blessed enough to receive undead butt-bongs and vampire romance novels galore. Maybe blessed isn't so much the word.
Celebration weeks are buoyed by the playful atmosphere, but this was a lackluster affair. It's my fault in part. Thanks to the Voidmart prompts, I knew going in that there was risk of some stories boiling down to This mansion sure is weird!--and to your credit, there weren't so many of those. Incompetent and/or passive thieves, on the other hand... oh, well. I enjoyed seeing how each of you interpreted Lord Domerci, and many of your takes on the Manor were nothing I'd imagined. Whatever else, each of you made the party more fun by showing up.
Now on to the thank-you notes, which probably won't morph into sex monsters that devour your soul. That's more Domerci's style than mine.
blue squares, "While Searching for an Answer"
Include the likes of marage and receieved in a manuscript you're submitting for publication. Go on. I dare you. Errors like those don't reflect on your work any better here than there, and it's so much the worse that we're talking about goofs a basic spelling check would have caught. Don't hang a sign around your story's neck telling me I DIDN'T BOTHER SO YOU SHOULDN'T EITHER, okay? Give me more room to decide that for myself! Beyond that, the formatting has too few blank lines and too many scene breaks to hit the mark. This story doesn't receive any benefit from being broken into bite-size chunks, though I'd guess you're doing that in part to underline the Why am I here? refrain. You beat that question into the ground, unfortunately, as it appears five times within five scene fragments and just over four hundred words. I'd guess the echoes are meant to be resonant, urgent, something. They come off more like you and Eric both spinning your wheels.
The conclusion aims for a feel-good message about taking pride in yourself or at least not feeling shame, but rooting that moral in lies hamstrings it quite a bit. You don't forge your own destiny by telling random strangers you're something you drat well factually are not, i.e. the winner of a Nobel Prize. Nope. You don't. Sorry. I end up thinking less of Eric in the end than I did at the outset. Is it possible that's the point? Could I be meant to see Eric's new confidence as the delusion of a pathetic man and Lord Domerci as an utter troll? I'd buy the latter, but I can't buy the former when your last paragraph tries so hard to paint Eric's deceits as his key to self-worth and happiness.
Despite all of the above, I sort of liked this one until the off-key resolution. I just can't offer any suggestion for significant improvement that doesn't involve rethinking everything after Scene 5.
Jay W. Friks, "Dirty Pool"
The idea here appears to be that Lord Domerci has an intensely messed up pool. Well and good, but there's less meat on the story's bones than there is on Rudy's when the pool pervert gets done with him. The back-and-forth between the horny party guests and the servant is colorless, and it isn't necessary--Linda and Rudy could find the pool room locked, with a warning posted, and force their way in anyway. Boom! You'd cut right to the creepy chamber. That wouldn't be enough to save a piece that has no plot, background, depth of setting, or depth of character to speak of, but every edit has to start somewhere.
Why do I care about the deaths of Linda and Rudy at the hands of a swimming-pool sex monster? You start well with the quick sketch of their meeting in the first paragraph, but they don't receive any development beyond that, and it doesn't suffice. This I'll give you: the gore is effectively done, even if it isn't in the service of anything but itself; I can't fathom why anyone would have a bechlorined fornication parasite in his house, though. Possibly there's meant to be some sort of parallel between the horniness of Rudy and the horniness of the creature, but to what end? There just isn't enough shown of either character for their deaths to be meaningful, and all I get from this when it's over is Domerci Manor sure is weird, huh?
If you want to work further with this one, fill in the lines of your sparsely drawn protagonists and connect their fates to their personalities and actions in some less shallow way. "Two kids up to no good stumble over a horror and get eaten" is an old, tired story that needs some richness, some depth, or some spark to freshen it up again.
Mercedes, "The Pyramid Scheme"
If this hadn't been a celebration week, the energy you brought to the table and the sense that you were having fun even if I would rather drown you in nitroglycerin twice than ever read this again wouldn't have spared you; you lucked out too in that so many other entries were bland puddings made of nothing. In hindsight, I should have pulled the DM lever anyway. You've written a story with a conflict and a resolution, but a shock-value piece that offers neither value nor shock fails at one of fiction's primary objectives: to make a worthy use of the reader's time.
Pippin, "What's Behind Door Number One?"
Malcolm? Burglary? This had better not be Five Days a Stranger fanfic. It doesn't seem to be, despite the fixation with doors.
Although you've written another "Man, this manor sure is weird!" story, I feel more warmly toward this entry than some. Malcolm is only kind of a jerk; that helps! He has a bit of personality, albeit a weird one that keeps him holding an empty wine glass for three hours solid, and little touches like the neon-pink Post-It raise a smile. I've seen these jokes before, but you've chosen decent ones and kept the banter to a reasonable level.
The situation is still careworn and empty. The story doesn't say anything. While fiction doesn't need to have a moral or message or point beyond entertainment, that last is the sticking point here: I mildly enjoy the light romp you've provided, but it isn't strong enough to earn much goodwill. It doesn't stand out in any way other than not being awful--mind you, I do appreciate that--and isn't likely to be remembered for more than a couple of minutes after reading. I can confirm from this vantage point of several weeks past judging that time had erased all the details from my mind except for the gryphon and the prosecco glass. Seriously, what's with that?
I expect this entry would have landed in the middle of almost any week, and I expect from its general competence that you're capable of better.
Thranguy, "The Huntress and the Thief"
In any other week I'd grumble about your failure to edit, but I'll take that any day over flat failure. I do hope you expected your DQ. On the face of it your inability to cut a hundred words and change with hours left in which to work is inexplicable, but this piece is an odd duck in a couple of respects, and I wonder whether either time was a factor or you struggled too much with your idea.
The halves of this story refuse to cohere. Maximillian has no business being the viewpoint character when four fifths of the text are spent on Tessa and Domerci, neither of whom interacts with Max in the least way. Max's actions begin and end at idly grabbing two LEGO pieces that pass nearby. (All right, I oversimplify: he casts two small spells, one of which achieves his goal. It does this with so little fanfare or difficulty, though, that the only thing that keeps it from being anticlimactic is how little concerned I am by whether Max steals a thing or not by that point in the story. You've distracted me too thoroughly with Tessa's trial.) Tessa's plot thread is more interesting, but it suffers from little characterization or backstory for Tessa. All of that goes to Max. This can't work without the two plotlines ever intersecting; I resent Max's half more in the end because it doesn't put its exposition to good use.
On the flash rule: the disc of "blood" and the plastic ruby are clever. You put LEGO to an unexpected use that I could have enjoyed. However, since working LEGO into the story is the only obvious purpose of Maximillian's frame, I can't call this use a success. I don't get the impression that LEGO inspired your tale.
Hawklad, "The Fisherman and the Eel"
Laden with exposition and hobbled by the execution thereof as your entry is--and oh, it is--you've written a story. Things happen! A man acts toward the achievement of a goal, faces a conflict, and fails because he can't overcome or make amends for the sins of his past. The conclusion follows smoothly from what has come before. It isn't too easily predicted; the twist in the tale is handled well. Domerci Manor and the birthday party play a role in the piece without eclipsing either its plot or its characterization. Almost everything hangs together in a coherent, satisfying narrative that delivers a nice horror moment to boot, which is why this won over an entry with a much weaker throughline.
But though it's a good piece, it isn't great. Regarding exposition: Steelbottom's tale of what happened to his wife and son is too clearly for the reader's benefit rather than Merrow's. It doesn't read at all like natural speech. Considering how important they are, Ingrid, Sam, and Pat could stand to be mentioned before the story is almost over. More thorough proofreading would also be good! I spy with my little eye an absent period here, a missing quotation mark there, and so many AWOL hyphens that an entire barracks must be empty. The old-timey voice clunks along, a valiant but half-successful attempt.
My judge notes said, "I could vote for this to win without wanting to die." Not a high bar to clear, granted, but your merman gothic charmed me enough that I was glad to see it come out on top.
Nethilia, "Lost and Found"
Okay, so Vanesa dresses her boyfriend of three years up like a Ken doll in expensive togs in order to drag him to a party and then ditch him immediately in favor of poo poo-talking him to Lord Domerci. Is that right? Oliver's not alone in wondering at the amount of trouble she's gone to for such a little, petty, pointless gesture. Pointless describes the whole story, unfortunately. It's a meet-cute between a completely passive man and a random woman who's probably less of a psycho hosebeast than his ridiculous ex: nice enough, well written, but not interesting.
Oliver is so whipped that he's weakened as a protagonist. He's too disinterested in running his own life to be worthy of the role, and he doesn't undergo the much-needed turnaround. My impression is of a man who stumbled into and through one relationship, stumbled out of it again, and blundered into the path of the next woman to come along without at any point doing anything to get or hold the interest of either. Good grief. Allow the poor schmo some say in his own fate! Else--say it with me, now--why should I care? How can I care more about what happens to Oliver than he does himself?
A woman is attending Domerci's birthday party as a guest, and for whatever reason, she's ended up in a room in which gamblers wager on the fates of people either fictional or far distant. She finds observing lives and deaths in this manner distasteful. One of Domerci's employees is there, however, to set her right by drawing a nonsensical parallel between voyeurism and a desire for verisimilitude in fiction. Smirking and smug, this man lures her into guessing at the story beneath the story she sees in one of the windows; why this is all right with Heather when other forms of peeping were wrong is a question left for the philosophers. The camera cuts to Lord Domerci as he comments on Heather's performance, but why he cares is a mystery wrapped in an enigma bound by ropes of purest apathy on my part. Apparently Domerci is keen to ~open minds~ to his literary theories. The end!
It's difficult to avoid the impression that the one who wants to push his theories is actually you. This would work better for you if the theory were delivered coherently, maybe, though maybe not since lectures are not what I desire from the stories I read. More, the self-congratulatory tone of it all is incredibly off-putting. Perhaps the smugness is meant to be entirely Scorpio's, but Domerci metaphorically steepling his fingers like a chess master at the end makes me think that no, Scorpio's "points" are sincerely meant to come across as brilliant and/or profound. They don't. And whether a Tumblr blogger accepts that her shipping posts are just exactly like installing a stealth camera on someone's laptop is not a conflict in which I find much of interest.
Time hasn't been kind to this one: its tone and apparent aim are more irritating each time I read it. My co-judges had much more favorable views of the concept of metafiction, which is something to consider, but none of us was keen on the execution of it here. That Domerci's and Scorpio's roles in the story are strictly to exposit doesn't help. More story and less half-baked preaching next time, yes?
dmboogie, "i bet one day we'll look back on this and laugh but for tonight could you just buy me a drink"
I'm sorry to break the news, dmboogie, but Fifty Shades of Grey is only marginally more tolerable with less sex and fewer contract negotiations. I know, I know. I'm surprised too. It turns out the situation of an inexperienced person stepping in for her sick friend to interview a mysterious, mega-wealthy man and blowing the opportunity by asking ridiculous questions just isn't credible, you know? Or funny. And hanging a lampshade on the similarities by ladling on the vampire books is probably not wise. Jokes aside, I could buy this as coincidence, but the riffs on Fifty Shades' mother genre do make me wonder.
Anyway, that peculiarity is just a side show. Clara and Lark are the story's executioners. Clara by herself is kind of okay; her search for and even her confrontation with Domerci have half a modicum of charm ("smiled wisely" destroys the other half of the modicum, FYI), but Lark suffers a shocking lack of charisma for someone who owns a taser cigarette holder. The banter between these two is as dull as it is incessant; This proceeded longer than it should have sums up their interaction and, more or less, the story.
It's so much the worse that you introduced a lot of potential with Clara's vision of herself without eyes and Lark smiling beside her. Right then I thought I would see Lark betraying Clara in some way, justifying her existence in the story. It promised to be very compelling! Then... well, then the characters turned their back on the whole thing and tossed around vampire romances instead, and if you didn't run out of words or ideas or time, I'd be shocked. So is that what happened? Did you mean to do more with dynamic between Clara and Lark, maybe to go for macabre humor instead of the weak laugh-track-backed punchline you ultimately delivered, only to realize you couldn't do it within the constraints and panic? I like the theory, because otherwise I have no clue what you were thinking in wasting one strong moment and a couple of great images on that ending.
Sitting Here, "In Which an Unwanted Gift is Returned"
I've seen the collaboration document, so I know now that the Zodiac brooches were your idea, which doesn't surprise me. This story is so enamored of that concept that it loses itself in it. Aside from the protagonist and Domerci, every
(To be clear: I like the concept of the Zodiac symbols, though I'd have gone for Western as the safer bet. The execution of the idea is more of a flaw here than the idea itself.)
I feel like the piece is so busy playing with the pretty baubles that it forgets to color in enough of the background to let the story land. I want some idea of what Domerci and this lady were to each other to begin with, why he gave her that gift, why he wants to convince her of her essential honesty. Why she needs convincing. There's more of interest in those questions than in the lady's exchanges with his servants. If you ask me, then, you've started and ended your tale in the wrong places. This version of it doesn't hit the right spot, though the writing is good and some of the details are lovely.
P.S. One more thing! Two letters long or not, is isn't an article, conjunction, or preposition, but a verb, and as such it should be capitalized in titles. This wouldn't be worth mentioning if that error hadn't cropped up a fair amount in TD of (relative) late.
Benny Profane, "The Potato Thief"
It pains me that mermen could be anyone's downfall, but here we are. Despite the sentences, vast in number, of the same structure; despite the cadence, too long unvaried, quickly grating, it's the mermen--one meta reference too many--that cost you an HM. The other Thunderdome references are woven into the story with more subtlety. Well, except for the potato, but even that's a more organic nod than the Zodiac mermen I had to love but couldn't begin to defend to my fellow judges.
We talked a good while about what the ending means. My theory is that the sensory-deprivation tank has given the protagonist a look at the world as Domerci and those who work for him perceive it. She (he?) sees the magic, or the symbolism, or the tale beneath the tale, whichever way you want to put it; this may be as meta in its way as Solitair's entry, though a thousand times more palatable since it shares its ideas through story and imagery instead of preachy characters. Domerci offers to make his (her?) connection to this mystic world permanent with his offer of the pin. Whether she (he?) takes it is left for the reader to decide. I think he (she?) does.
(P.S. Give your main character a sex unless there's a solid reason not to, would you? It would have made the protagonist here a tiny fraction less of a visual blank.)
This is a more favorable interpretation than the entry perhaps deserves. The other judges saw potential in it but weren't sold on my take, and I wasn't sure of it myself. If I am correct, then I think the merits of the piece outweigh the flaws, but the nods to Thunderdome work against you. Mind that I find a fond pastiche in a birthday week a little heartwarming if anything, so for me the issue is more with the execution: close to passable, but not quite there.
Dr. Kloctopussy, "Falling Stars"
The main argument offered in favor of your entry for the win was that it was so pretty, one could forgive its narrative weakness. Maybe it won't surprise you that this didn't convince me. I would gladly trade half the surreal, dreamy imagery for a clear storyline to follow and answers to my questions. Why would Elizabeth's house burning down remove her memory of a summer day reading in a patch of primroses? Why does regaining that make up for the burned house? Why do we need the dream journey to get there? Do we?
Here's my current notion: you've written a story about the need to let go of the past, possibly specifically to past trauma. Elizabeth can't move on from the present until she leaves her burned house; there are shades of that scene from Labyrinth when Sarah gives up her childhood things (temporarily). When Elizabeth finds her old belongings, she discovers the lost part of herself is not with them. I could speculate that the reason she lost that bright day is that the fire has occluded her other memories. She obsesses over the loss instead of what she lost in the first place.
But--why would staying in the past lead her to forget how her mother smelled? Why would she be leaving anything from the past behind? I doubt you mean the ending to be so close to bleak, yet one summer day doesn't strike me as much counterbalance for the ashes. (Ashes evokes the fire. They emphasize that Elizabeth lost the good things in her life, not-particularly-childish things like reading in the sun, in the blaze. That all she can regain is a single memory is downbeat, though I'm almost sure you mean it to be the opposite.)
At this point I wouldn't blame you for thinking I didn't like the piece! I ranked it third of the lot and voted for the HM. The writing and certainly the images are a cut above most of the rest. The imagery has lost some of its charm with time; the weakness in plot and character--probably intentional insofar as those weren't your priorities--hasn't faded. I feel like I see what you were out to do better in hindsight, however, and I appreciate it more.
sebmojo, "Astronomical Unit"
This is a bit of weird. I enjoy it while I think it's going somewhere, only then I'm not sure it does. Does it? I know where it doesn't go: within a thousand miles of Domerci Manor or the birthday party. Criminy cripes, sebmojo, you have the strange building that doesn't obey natural laws right there, and you've made it a hotel with nothing to do with the prompt and oh, I don't even know what to do with you anymore. Change Melissa for Domerci, swap the tech-services call for something less mechanical, and we'd be talking about your honorable mention right now since for my money you meld strangeness, sensory detail, characterization, and even dreams into a tighter package than is managed by any of the other strange-things-happen pieces. But nooooooo. Can't have that, can we? Kindly imagine I'm Tommy Lee Jones looking over a newspaper at you for the rest of your life.
Now, that's not the only trouble. I have more of a sense of Mr. Backslash as a person than I do of Dr. K's Elizabeth, who hits me as more of a generic stand-in for the reader. I still have no idea why he wants the cold and the void. The pajamas and dressing don't support the idea of a man who doesn't like comfort. He says he doesn't; that's all. A better explanation would have required more time, which a niggling hunch tells me that you possibly did not have, but now you have plenty so you could go back and give Rolf his due. You should, too. I'd like to see this get published in some form, which is saying something for a work with waggling genitalia in it.
RandomPauI, "Her Rehearsal."
In IRC, you brought up the idea of Lord Domerci throwing a party for a little girl. I told you all entries had to involve Domerci's birthday celebration. I'm not sure how much clearer I could have been about that, so I fear I must lay the blame for flubbing the prompt on you. There's no birthday gala in sight, and I'm scratching my head over all these commoners invited to event "rehearsals." There's a point at which something becomes a full-fledged event. Say, about the time it features a pit-battle tournament.
The setup invites the question of why a twelve-year-old and her family have been going to Domerci Manor once a year for years--what's the connection?--but doesn't hint at an answer. It would rather list tournament matches. The fights have zilch to do with Alice or her escape, however, and they're too exciting to show on camera, so off we go in a stolen truck because sure why not. Shoving said truck into a pit is definitely a reasonable thing to do in order to escape a party. Somehow the theft and destruction of property are almost as dull as the aforementioned list. Then Alice gets claimed as property of Domerci because she's Special, I guess? You haven't done a good job of showing that. I don't see a reason for Domerci to want her other than the employee's last-minute statement that she has "the fire in her," which shows up too late and means little.
Halfway through the text, I had no idea what the story was. Multiple readings later, I'm barely sure. I do know the proofing is terrible. Thru? Thru? My despair is boundless. You've punctuated your dialogue badly, so visit this link for pointers. The broken tags lead me to also recommend the "Preview Reply" button.
Mostly this is a mess of too many fragments of plot half-baked into one pie, but there's a promising glimmer: the bakelite ring and copper watch, symbolic of captivity and foreshadowed early in the piece. That's nice! The ring and watch baffled me on first read, mind; I didn't remember the anklets and chains, and I only saw them when I reviewed the story again. Ideally the meaning of the jewelry would be clearer from context. I like them anyway, and on the strength of them, I'm curious about the stories you'll write in the future.
Oh, but one more thing! It's spelled Bengal, unless the tiger is an '80s pop star.
|# ? Oct 27, 2017 22:48|
If we do we have to use both cards or do we get to choose one?
|# ? Oct 27, 2017 22:57|
thank you for the great crits
|# ? Oct 27, 2017 23:00|
If we do we have to use both cards or do we get to choose one?
Edit: entries are closed!
sparksbloom fucked around with this message at 02:37 on Oct 28, 2017
|# ? Oct 28, 2017 01:17|
637 words, Nine of Swords (Prisma Visions)
"I heard a loud squawking sound. There was some flapping too? It was extremely noisy with the whistling winds of the snowstorm, so.."
"Don't worry about the details. Just tell me what you saw that night, the way you remember it." A crooked smile slowly formed upon the lips of an older man - a professional of sorts, complete with your run of the mill suit and tie combo. He sat behind an empty oak desk in a antiquated leather bound chair.
"It landed in the snow right in front of me and stared for a few seconds."
"CRRAAWWWWWWK. I see you have your.. official Junior Swan Scout mask."
"Yes sir. I told my papa I needed it for a school play, just like you said."
"And.. you have the.. ceremonial garb."
"I even have the sacred sas-"
"Shut up." The beast towered high above a young boy, looking over him carefully as he did the same back in the beast's direction. It was a giant bird as typical as giant birds go - although this one had rows of most unusual ivory fangs hidden beneath its beak.
"The sash. CRRAAWK. Yess.." The bird stood tall and briefly glanced around the area.
"By the power invested in me, as the.. Lord.." the bird snickered briefly, then continued: "The Lord of the Swan Scouts, I induct you into our ancient, unholy order as a fledgling junior scout."
With a slight look of confusion, the boy chimed in, "Unholy?"
"SILENCE," boomed the beast. "Now, the principal rule of the Swan Scouts is that you do not speak about the- SCRRAAW Swan Scouts to ANYONE outside of the order. Not the mother who birthed you, or the father who.. feeds and clothes you. Do you understand?"
The boy nodded in approval without hesitation.
"If I find out of a.. transgression.. of our principal rule, I will be most.. upset." The beast peered about his surroundings once again.
"Now young fledgling scout. Open your mouth, and we shall CAWW-complete the ceremony. SCRAWWWWWWK."
The beast, leaning in closely, beckoned from deep within its bowels, a clump, and began to spew it out down towards the wide open mouth of the boy.
"A most interesting set of circumstances, indeed, young one." A set of fingers tapped against the oak desk in succession a number of times, and the older man leaned in, resting his chin on the palm of his other hand, propped up on the desk by its elbow. His eyes widened a little as he looked at the teenage boy sitting across from him, as if awaiting a response.
"So you don't believe me?", the teenager returned his gaze.
The satisfying rap of bony fingers struck the desk once more. "Of course I believe you." The teenager's eyes buldged quizingly as the man leaned in closer.
"I also believe there has been a transgression." His look changed from one of amusement to a disappointed scowl.
"You just recounted to me our principal rule, so I KNOW you haven't forgotten. The Lord is going to be most ups-"
The pointed end of a dagger pierced the man's neck, and blood soon followed.
"Are you an outsider, now?" The teenager continued to question the suited man with his eyes, and the man replied in turn with his own, now unable to do so with words.
"I committed no transgression. You on the other hand.." The dagger wriggled around a little bit in the teenager's hand.
"So eager to please. Our Lord knows of your entrapment, and has issued judgement. Don't worry, you'll be given another chance."
The senior scout grinned and continued, "You'll soon learn that actions carry more weight than words."
He withdrew the dagger slowly, and as its ivory fang-like blade emerged, a gush of blood immediately followed, with a gurgle.
|# ? Oct 28, 2017 02:38|
699 words, Six of Vessels (Wildwood)
“I'm here to call in my favor.”
Brennan glanced at Giovanni and then back towards the pond, studying the way the water hit the rocks and rippled the surface. “I figured it'd be something like that. You wouldn't come all this way from Italy just to say hello.”
Giovanni laughed, full of the same good humor he had always had. “No, my friend, they have the internet for that now, and cellphones.” The smile became sly. “Did you forget your promise?”
“...I had,” Brennan admitted. It had been a foolish promise made in his youth after they had traveled together for ten years. They had been comrades, two creatures of a similar nature against a hostile world, and the promise to help when called upon was natural and easy to make.
“Were you hoping that I had as well?” Giovanni laughed again when Brennan hesitated. “You can always be honest with me.”
“I suppose I did.”
He grinned. “That is only natural. It is a dangerous gift you gave me. Everything in your power to help me, you said, and of course you could not have known back then how much power you would amass before I called upon you again. And now, well, the resources you have are considerable.”
“Do you need money?”
“I have money. Let me cut to the chase, as they say.” Giovanni's tone was casual, as if he were talking about a cafe they had dined at or a movie they had seen. “Do you remember those monster hunters who found us in that little village in Italy?”
Brennan looked at him curiously, eyebrows raised. “They didn't find you again, did they?”
Giovanni shook his head. “I have been careful to stay out of their way, if not out of their territory. But they have something now that belongs to me, and I want it back.”
Brennan's eyebrows went higher. “What could be so valuable to you that you're willing to risk not only your life but mine as well trying to get it back?”
“Not a thing,” Giovanni said, his voice low. “A person.”
Brennan gave him a long, hard look. “You want me to help you kidnap someone.”
Brennan thought about it. Giovanni had never been shy about using violence to get what he wanted when they were younger. Death was an even older friend to him than Brennan was. But if he had come all the way across the ocean just to ask for help, maybe he had changed like Brennan had.
“They are mine. That is all you need to know.”
Or maybe he hadn't.
“Why do you need my help?”
Giovanni gave him an incredulous look. “You barely escaped with your head last time and you wonder why I am unwilling to confront them myself? If I had a battalion of my own, perhaps, but declaring outright war is,” he paused, running his tongue over his teeth. “...not desirable at this time.”
Brennan crossed his arms. “It's never desirable.”
Giovanni laughed. “Still trying to convince yourself that you are a pacifist?” He grinned, baring teeth. “Tell me how that works out for you the next time someone comes for your head.”
Brennan ignored him. “What if I said no?”
Giovanni grew still, and the sound of trickling water filled the air between them. Finally he said, very quietly, “No?”
“In all honesty, I'm not sure if putting anyone in your care is the best idea.”
There was a faint red glimmer in Giovanni's eyes, the only indication of simmering anger in his entire demeanor. He smiled tightly. “You know the power of a broken promise,” he said. “Are you sure you want to give me that power over you? My next request might not be so benign.”
Brennan thought for a moment, then sighed. “I keep my promises. I'll keep this one. But I don't want anyone to die.”
Giovanni shrugged his anger off like it was water on a duck's back. “We will have subtler ways of approach than charging in, but if we are found and attacked then I will defend myself.” He smiled. “I am glad I can count on you, my old friend.”
|# ? Oct 28, 2017 23:20|
Still looking for a third judge -- please let me know if you're interested!
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 00:51|
I make hooks from bones and tendons, press my fingers and toes into the crevices in the cold rock. Hips leaning into the cliff I arch backwards to look straight up at the stars above me. My scalp shivers as the wind runs its cool fingers through my hair.
The dreams rustle like they are laughing at me. Each one is a picture drawn on paper and pinned to the rock. There are millions of them, fluttering on the towering cliff-face like the wings of nesting sea birds. Some are childish images of rocketships, dragons and imaginary cities. Others show darker desires, things secretly coveted.
This place is a kind of oracle, they say it predicts which dreams will come true. If you climb high enough to reach the picture of the thing you want who knows, you might just get it.
I come here often, at night, to climb. All day I am sensible and patient. A selfless family man. Restrained. But here I can give into greed and longing, let my desires fill my veins like a hot spiced wine. Tonight my object is a man, a man who I am not allowed, a man who loves my best friend.
She is here too, climbing just below me. Her brother is dying. There is nothing they can do but she comes here anyway, to indulge in hope and seek respite from reality. I have known and loved them both since we were all at high school. We cried hot tears together when he got his diagnosis.
We are climbing fast, long limbs spread like spiders on the slick black rock. Muscles burning, I use every bone in my fingers and toes to find purchase and lever myself up. I am intoxicated with yearning, unfettered by thoughts of consequences. My face flushes and my lips draw back from my teeth as I picture myself reaching it, obtaining him.
I look over my shoulder at my friend. She is reaching for the picture of a cure, one leg held out sideways to counterbalance her outstretched arm, eyes wide with desperate hope. As she pulls the paper from the rock it turns to ash, leaking out from between her fingers and swirling away like dark flakes of bitter snow. Her face collapses into grief. She lets go of the cliff and falls backwards into the wind’s waiting arms. Will she accept the oracle’s answer now, this time?
From close above I hear the oracle whispering to me, a dry susurrus like ancient parchment, calling me back to my climb. I settle my feet onto two tiny ledges level with my hips and bring my hands together into a crack above my head. I sink my weight down, legs folded and arms straight, then explode upwards, burning the last of the strength in my exhausted muscles for one final lunge. For a moment I am weightless, I feel nothing but the fierce joy of finally reaching out to grasp what I want, to snatch it away from the grip of reality and make it mine.
My hands close on nothing but air. I pushed off wrong, sending my centre of gravity away from the cliff instead of straight up. The oracle hisses and a sudden gust of wind makes the hanging papers rattle angrily.
I twist my body in the air and follow my friend down, leaving the paper dreams behind. As I fall I carefully fold up my secret longing and tuck it back into a pocket in my heart. It is better this way.
Prompt: Page of Pentacles (Tarot of the Silicon Dawn). Must be about a friendship being tested.
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 07:16|
Girls Night In
“Morning, ladies.” Lyn walked in and slid into her seat. She lightly touched Tavi's shoulder and elbowed Bonita on her way.
“A little late, aren't you?” Bonita asked, handing Lyn a coffee cup. “Your cappa-frappa-whatsit is probably cold.”
“Whatever. Did you miss me?”
“Always,” Tavi said. Lyn glanced over but only saw the older woman's profile lit by the screens in shades of blue.
“So any action yet?” Lyn asked.
“No. Boss said full audio and video but we were waiting for you.”
“You know what that means! Adventures in the mundane!” Bonita elbowed Lyn as she spoke.
“Well let's get the tests done before the mark gets here.”
“You ok, Lyn?” Static hissed as Tavi adjusted the microphones.
“Just missed my coffee.”
“No really,” Tavi pressed. “You don't seem yourself today.”
Lyn and Bonita flipped switches in unison and their screens flashed on. “Didn't know they opened another Red Lobster over here.”
“Isn't that the police chief?” Bonita pointed. While Lyn swatted her hand, she zoomed the picture in. Tavi's fingers flashed over her controls and the audio came in.
"You can't be serious."
"We had a deal, John."
"Yes, and if you aren't paying up, then it's off."
"No. I'll talk to you Monday."
“Boss'll want to hear that.” Lyn tapped at her keyboard.
“I still want to hear what's bothering you,” Tavi said as they watched the other man leave and the police chief continue to wait at his table.
“I don't want to talk about it, Tavi.”
“Our mark's here,” Bonita interrupted. “And sitting down with the police chief.” Three sets of eyes met, all dark in the reflected light of the monitors.
"I've got a surprise for you, John." The mark started rummaging in her backpack. Without a word, Lyn and Bonita adjusted the cameras to focus on the backpack and Chief John Verdino's face. The audio hissed again as Tavi adjusted.
"Max, you shouldn't have!" He grinned and took what looked like a dozen roses from his companion, leaning over to sniff them.
“Red roses?” Lyn asked. Tavi laughed softly. Bonita leaned over to Lyn's ear.
“I prefer yellow.” Lyn blushed.
“What about you, Tavi?” Lyn asked quickly. Their eyes met.
“Pink for me, but I wouldn't turn away any color.”
“And you, Lyn?” Bonita asked, her chair still over next to Lyn's. Lyn continued to blush and started to stammer.
“I'm not so much for flowers.” Bonita smiled and Tavi's eyes slid away.
“So chocolates, then?”
“We need to get back to work,” Lyn said, sending another message to their boss. Bonita turned to her screen and logged the video.
“That guy Chief Verdino was talking to is still at the bar,” Tavi pointed out. Bonita split the screens.
“Can we hear over there?” Lyn asked.
Tavi nodded, holding half the headset to her ear as she adjusted the microphones. “I'm picking up the bartender pretty well, so if the other guy says anything, we got it. The chief is still having a boringly predictable date.”
“I told you it would be boring,” Bonita said.
“What are you all doing after this?” Lyn asked. “Do you want to go out for a drink? I found a nice little place to try.”
“I'd love to,” Bonita said, meeting Lyn's eyes. Lyn smiled and licked suddenly dry lips. She turned to Tavi.
“What about you?” Tavi didn't immediately turn, but when she did she glanced at Bonita, then back to Lyn.
“I don't know, Lyn. It's the end of the week for me.” Lyn looked over at Bonita, then back to Tavi.
“I'll tell you what's been bothering me, but I want to tell you both,” Lyn said.
“It won't be the same without you,” Bonita added.
“Ok, then.” The light flickered on their faces, rippling like light under water. Tavi glanced at one of the screens behind Lyn. “I think bar guy is waiting for someone.”
“Maybe he'll be more interesting than the two love bugs,” Bonita said.
“Has to be,” Tavi said, listening. “They're talking about Law and Order episodes.”
“Dude keeps glancing back to the table,” Lyn pointed out. They saw him pull out his phone to text. Then Chief Verdino put is hand to his pocket. He didn't stop listening to his companion.
“Did you catch what the text said?”
“No, wrong angle.” Lyn backed through the past few seconds to double-check.
“The chief got the text, though.”
“Better and better. Maybe we'll get the rear end in a top hat this time.”
“Maybe we'll have something to celebrate tonight.”
(Link to card because it's early and I couldn't figure out how to embed the image)
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 10:28|
The Pains Of Hurting Me
(Seven of Knives, Slow Holler Deck)
Nethilia fucked around with this message at 10:16 on Dec 27, 2017
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 14:15|
I can judge if you're still lookin'
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 16:58|
A Good Dog
That dog was always going to be the death of me, I thought as I ran towards Ivy’s dog. The mutt had always wanted to kill me and it was finally going to get its wish. Spot dropped his beloved stick and barked at the loving bear. The bear roared and swiped its massive claw at the tiny dog. I dove and scooped Spot into my hands. For my bravery I was rewarded a small slice across my forehead. Blood ran down my face and one command echoed in my mind: RUN.
I listened to my instinct and scrambled past the confused bear. Pangs of guilt and frustration hit me as once again all I could do was run away. Spot continued to bark warnings of ruin at the bear from my hands. Ivy had suggested we get the dog when she first got her prognosis and I relented. Worst decision of my life. I was surprised Spot hadn’t run and abandoned me.
Time slowed down as I looked behind me and saw the bear catching up. The trees glistened in the sunlight and I realized I was completely alone in the forest, that I was going to die alone. My brain went into overdrive, frantically trying to find a way to survive. In between the panic and my instincts yelling at me, a smaller, sinister part of my brain whispered. Stop. Just give up, it’s easy. You wouldn’t have to deal with Ivy and your fuckup.
The forest became a blur as tears streamed down my face. Only a few hours ago I had received the call. “Terminal,” Ivy told me. “The cancer is terminal.” The doctors didn’t know how long she had. A few days, maybe a few weeks. My instinct had told me to run then, and I had listened. Maybe I did deserve to die here.
A jolt of pain ran through my leg and the ground rushed up to meet me. Spot rolled out of my arms and yelped as he tumbled across the forest path. I spit up a mouthful of dirt and froze as I heard the sharp crunch of a bear’s paw breaking a stick. My mind went blank and fear got the better of me. I lay helpless as I heard the bear’s low guttural snarl get closer when a loud bark pierced the air.
Spot struggled, every breath a challenge, but managed to get on all four of his legs. He crawled between me and the bear and stood there, head held up high. His defiant barks echoed through the still forest — I ain’t running. The bear raised a massive paw and brought it down on the tiny dog.
The bear was started as a stick landed beside it and its paw narrowly missed Spot’s head. Another rock bounced on the ground and came to a stop on the bear’s paw. The bear let out a confused growl and backed away,
“Get away from my dog!” somebody yelled.
As I got up, another rock in my hand, I realized I was the person yelling. I threw the rock and it bounced harmlessly off of the bear’s hide. It might be useless, it might all be for naught, but I wasn’t going to sit idly by. Spot’s defiance must be rubbing off on me. I wasn’t going to just run away and watch somebody die. Spot looked at me, I looked at Spot. We might die but it wouldn’t be alone. Together we roared at the bear.
Something fired off in my brain, like my old motorcycle engine revving up. I knew what I had to do with Ivy. It was so simple; I was afraid. I needed to stop running away. The bear must have gotten it too, because it took one look at the two screaming idiots in front of it and scampered away. I laughed as the bear retreated into the woods and I picked up Spot. The small dog whimpered and licked my face.
I fumbled for the cellphone in my jean pockets and dialed Ivy’s number. A few short rings later I heard her angelic voice. I took a deep breath and said:“Hey, sorry about a few hours ago. Listen, I was scared, and it got the better of me. But whatever happens: from now on I’ll be there”
Spot looked up at me and wagged his tail. I gave him a pat and picked him up.
“Spot, too. We will be there, by your side. Always.”
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 18:16|
Nine of Wands (RWS)
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 18:18|
Seven of Pentacles + The Moon (Rider Waite Smith)
2/5 Stars, My Dog is Still Dead
flerp fucked around with this message at 04:45 on Dec 7, 2017
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 20:23|
The Labyrinth (788 words)
Lia stands before the stone door in the deep woods still with Marie’s feverish voice stuck in her head. They read so many stories together. True stories. About the tunnels behind this door and the key to life that can be found within: Keep it with you and never suffer misfortune.
Marie believes her legs would be healed.
That was what she whispered just before she curled up to sleep.
Lia draws her red veil closer around her body, casts a last glance back, and steps inside.
It is dark here - a blue shade of darkness, soft like night. The walls are covered in illegible writing, and a cold draft pushes her gently onwards. The hall slopes down and ends in a circular room. She pauses as she sees the slumbering Bull.
He looks like the stories said he would. Like a man, only too large, with horns on his head and bristles down his shoulders. He stirs and wakes from his bed of autumn leaves, turning his small, bovine-looking eyes towards her. He is lit byt the golden glow shining from an open door behind him. She is so close, yet so far, a faint metalling ringing just out of reach.
"Oh," the Bull says. "Good. You will attempt the challenge?”
"Show me the keys,” Lia says. It is best not to talk too long with fairy-folk.
The Bull beckons with one too-long hand for Lia to follow as he lumbers towards the golden chamber. He stands too close behind her with his smell of damp earth and waiting predator – but there they hang, in a tangled web from the ceiling, key after key after key. Glowing like buried suns, like second chances. A treasure – and, Lia thinks, bait.
Marie’s eyes glowed, too, when she told Lia to read the story about the key. But grasping a key is hard; it is as if Lia’s free hand, the one not holding her veil, won’t obey her.
The Bull smiles.
"There are rules, you know," he breathes. "About what I get to do."
Lia knows, but tells herself that she’s the best at running in the village. Her hand shakes. A traitorous thought: Was that why Marie insisted on becoming her friend and reading these stories? Because Lia can run fast and would be stupid enough to try this?
The Bull smiles wider.
And then the string breaks, the key is in her hand, and nothing is like before. The darkness swells like a wave. The circular room twists and turns around Lia, spinning like her head, and the hallway, once she reaches it, is no more.
It has become the labyrinth.
Now the Bull starts running, too.
This is the chase, and there is nowhere to flee but into the dark tunnels where the Bull has the advantage.
Lia sheds her sandals – it is better to run barefooted and make less noise, even if it means running on half-frozen dirt. Nobody knows what happens if you’re caught. (Or did Marie just skip over that part, as to not frighten Lia away from the task?)
She turns a corner, and the Bull cannot be far. Her heart pulses like it is trying to compress a whole life’s worth of beats into these minutes. This is when some people in the stories throw away their keys to make the Bull lose interest.
Lia opens her hand.
It would be easy.
Instead she lets go of her veil, and her naked skin is painted blue like midnight, like granite. Now, she melts into the shadows. She can no longer see her hands, cannot tell where the darkness begins or ends. Her feet are cold enough by now that the floor of the labyrinth feels the same temperature as her body.
Her edges are gone. She blurs into the labyrinth; she feels like a ghost. Not at all like a girl who came to Marie’s bedside in order to be kind. Kindness isn’t helping her here. Only her own body, her own mind and the cold draft lead her towards the exit.
The Bull’s thunderous footsteps chase away the memory of Marie's voice. Lia feels stronger the more she runs, even as her legs burn, because she is braving the darkness and outrunning the monster – Marie could never have done this – it feels like years since she sat at Marie's bedside.
She takes the key into her mouth. The metallic taste rolls over her tongue before she closes her eyes.
Then she swallows.
Down it goes, glowing like a buried sun, safe inside her.
And so the amulet is hers as she emerges naked and wet from the tunnel, crawling out onto the forest floor.
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 20:56|
Prompt: Nine of Wands (Mary-El Tarot)
At the top of the Tower of the Reborn Sun, Hrasha sharpens her claws and waits for midnight. The rhythm of rasping each claw in turn against her file keeps her from pacing, restless and helpless. She is unaccustomed to the dead night sky beyond the windows, the chill stone of the floor. Only her dread is familiar.
Hrasha's charge sits in the single fireside chair, intent on her embroidery. In the three months Hrasha has known Althea, acolyte of the Reborn Sun, she's always had something in her hands: a needle, a whittling knife, a stone worn smooth. She burns with furious energy, the heat of high summer in a human shell. When midnight comes, it will all be forfeit to her wintry faith. Althea already bears the dark, incised scars of the earlier stations of her pilgrimage, and when the solstice begins, so do the final rituals of her initiation as an Oracle. Hrasha's seen Oracles of the Reborn Sun before: blinded, scarified, with arms ending in burnt stumps. By the solstice sunrise, it will be done.
Humans are apes in troops, marching to terrible fates on their elders’ command, and to be a bonded bodyguard is to lead them to their doom. A tiger who hopes for a tiger's bravery from apes will always be disappointed. Hrasha knows this, but knowledge is not the same as acceptance. Every charge who acquiesces to pointless war or dreaded marriage is a fresh wound in her flank. This one will hurt more than most -- this keen-witted girl, builder of fires, who laughs at Hrasha's clumsy jokes -- this temple-raised foundling, her fierce will shackled by years of training. Hrasha knows Althea will not be the first to save herself.
Hrasha's hope lingers. This restless spark deserves to see dawn.
There are footsteps on the stair, and Hrasha's ears perk up. She rises. Althea, she says through the mind-bond that connects her to her charge, your escort. Will you follow them?
Althea sets aside her embroidery on the table, and the thread catches the firelight: a spreading tree, emerald leaves gleaming. She picks up her whittling knife. I... I don't want to. Hrasha...
Don't be afraid, Hrasha says, and then there's a knock on the door. Althea, knife gripped in a pale-knuckled hand, steps towards it, and Hrasha flanks her. For the first time in years, her fur bristles.
Beyond the door are two priests, garbed in blue-black and stinking of youth. One stares openly, with the familiar eyes of an ape seeing his first tiger. The other speaks. "Milady, the stations of Sun's Descent are prepared. We will lead you."
"No," Althea says, and Hrasha knows her moment. She charges forward, knocking the priests into a sprawl on the broad staircase landing. They don’t struggle, and she's grateful for that; she has little desire to draw blood from these children, whose only crime is loyalty to a wretched troop. Beyond the landing, the steep stairs beckon.
Onto my back, says Hrasha, and Althea obeys, dropping her knife to throw her arms around Hrasha's neck. Hrasha takes the stairs in bounds, focused only on the descent. Only those two above, she tells herself. The rest below. All of them slow and weak. Just run.
The ground-floor landing opens on the main temple, awash with priests and acolytes, Oracles and their minders. Hrasha bursts into the crowd, hoping for a quick dash to the open doors, but Althea tugs on her fur to stop her. The crowd around them is frozen, staring up at a high balcony, at a priest in silver-studded robes and a crown of frosted crystal. "Acolyte," he calls. "It is not too late to reconsider. You may yet be made sacred in the Rituals of Sun's Descent."
Hrasha's heart lurches. She knows humans, knows the power of a leader's voice over the hearts of the young. Althea will acquiesce, and Hrasha will be sent slinking back to the marketplace, to find a new doomed charge, and to begin again. She rears up and roars in futile defiance, blind to the crowd scattering around her.
On her back, Althea sits up, one hand on Hrasha’s neck. She raises her free arm, and Hrasha feels the conjured fire before she sees it, a brilliant mote of summer reflected in the temple windows. “I don’t want to be sacred,” she says. "I want to be free."
Hrasha doesn't wait for the priest's answer. She charges again, through what remains of the crowd, and onto the fresh snow of the forest clearing outside the Temple. Althea's fire lights the way between the trees, and Hrasha follows her instincts, bounding into the dark forest. Winter cannot touch them, and they have hours to run before dawn.
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 21:36|
The Hierophant (Mary-El):
“It’s a flower blossoming,” Booker says. “Ruby red. Clouds wisping over it like ghosts.”
Justa sighs content, her wrinkles in flux. It’s nice, but her balcony creeps him out. The stone owl she’s put out to keep away pigeons has carved out eyes. They’re staring holes in him.
He takes the zenny from her outstretched hand, pockets it. Describing sunsets for the blind is quick Mariel zenny, and he needs Mariel right now.
He wishes Justa well as he leaves her balcony, walks through her threadbare apartment to the hallway elevator. Already he’s running excuses in his head over what to tell Asha.
“It wasn’t enough for both of us,” he imagines himself saying.
When he enters their apartment, the tiled floor cracked and split at odd angles, Asha shouts for him.
“Just a second,” he calls back. It’s all getting to him, everything. Maybe the news will help.
The news is emotionally regulating, telling you how to feel. He turns on his decades old T.V. The word FEAR buzzes on the lower half of the grained screen.
"No news from the A.I. that's taken over the orbital cannon," says a talking head. "No news is bad news. You should be scared."
He wants to be afraid, to join everyone else, but he’s just sad. The orbital cannon is like everything else. Far away from him.
Asha is sitting bunched up on their couch. She’s clutching her knees, her eyes whipping back and forth. The couch is scratched and gouged, but he can’t tell if any are new.
“I think the orbital cannon should just blow us away,” he says.
She slips him the tablet. Her arm shakes, fingernails digging into the screen. She’s scratched it too many times to use it for delicate operations. He takes it, places the Mariel order with the drone collective.
“I’m hearing voices again,” she says.
“What are they saying?”
“They tell me the orbital cannon will fire any moment. They want me to be afraid.”
“So they’re like the talking heads,” he says.
“You should try being scared, instead of sad,” she says. “You’ll know how it feels.”
Meaningless. Not like they can trade.
He hits order confirm. The drone will meet him on the rooftop. He leaves in a hurry, scared that someone might get to it first. The elevator up is slow. He holds down the floor button, hoping that somehow makes it faster.
Comes out of the elevator, stands, blinking. The sunset isn’t a shimmering ruby. It’s a bloodened mouth, clouds breaking like teeth, to swallow the world whole.
He looks up at the hovering box shaped drone. Passes the zenny through its window flap and takes the two milk white vials.
“It wasn’t enough for the both of us,” he mutters under his breath. Drains both vials like apple juice. Looks up at the sky. “Hit me,” he says, louder. “I deserve it.”
The sky is silent.
When he re-enters the apartment, he tries to say it first thing. “There wasn’t enough for-” and then he breaks off.
Asha hasn’t moved. Sitting on the couch, knees bent, arms clasped. Her eyes rove, find him.
“I heard a new voice,” she says. “Just now, while you were drinking my share of Mariel. Wanna know what it was?”
“That’s not fair,” he says. “I mean, there wasn’t-”
“It’s the orbital cannon,” Mariel says. “The A.I. that took it over. It’s making me promises.”
“Just another hallucination,” he says. His voice breaks. “One voice among hundreds.”
“Our co-ordinates in the Orbital Cannon’s GPS are as follows,” she says. “Five eight six zero two. Dashpoint delta alpha gamma. It’ll start here. With you.”
Mariel is pulsing through his system. All that’s good in the world. His connection with other humans. With Asha, his roommate since high school. With Justa, a lonely old blind woman. With the talking head, just another flesh sack trying to make it. There’s good in the world, if you can just get your chemistry to see it.
“You’re hallucinating,” he says. “Look, just hold on. I promise you’ll get some the next time I order the drone.”
“Beginning algorithm,” Asha says, toneless. “Open brackets, quote fire unquote comma, quote fire cannon unquote, personal spiral, close brackets.”
He wishes he could go to her, hand on her shoulder, the way Mariel wants him to. Instead he stands statue still. A tiny part of him, a sliver, says in moments, everything will go black.
He waits, hollowed out, like the stone owl’s eyes.
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 22:03|
Benny and Rothko ( #1098)
“You ever taken a walk in the woods; on your cities highest rated tourist friendly trail, and you think it’s time to take a walk on the wild side?”
The Devil didn’t answer. Benny took that as a yes.
“Well...maybe you need a break from what’s comfortable. What’s expected of you is to walk that paved trail that’s toddler-friendly with the fences up to keep the blackberries from creeping in. You decide to get off the trail, jump the fence, say gently caress it all to strollers, skateboards and old people.”
Benny took a step over the dead log that had sat in the same part of the figure eight path for a year.
The Devil said in his sonorous voice, “He’s not coming back.”
Benny yelled, “YOU GO INTO THE WOODS AND YOU THINK YOU’RE SO ADVENTUROUS! BUT ALL YOU FIND IS SOMEONE MADE A TRAIL THERE ALREADY. DOESN’T THAT SUCK?!”
His scream echoed off the nearby hills. His hands shook, he needed to scream, he needed to talk to someone-anyone. The Devil raised a flattened hand to point crookedly at Benny.
“Your partner won’t come back. He’s had enough of me and this ward. You think this hasn’t happened before?”
Benny climbed up the small mound of dirt at the northern edge of figure eight. His eyes on the busted up corpse of Satan’s body. He knew he shouldn’t talk to the Devil but he was getting desperate to break up the tedium for what should have been only five months.
The devil followed him with the hum of his otherworldly voice. “He said five months. I heard him. You saw the look in his eyes, he was thinking of books and wine back in the city. He isn’t taking a break anymore at this point, he’s forsaken his duty.”
Benny said, “Shut up.” As he navigated between rune inscribed spears jutting from the eastern part of figure eight.
He scanned for the sunrise. He just needed sleep. Even if Rothko wasn’t coming back-
“So you know it to be true. That he’s not coming back.”
He stopped. The devil had read his mind. He turned towards the flattened feathered dried out thing and asked, “You can read our minds?”
The devil said, “Of course. Half of me lives in the mind. I know your thoughts and what your hearts yearn for.”
Benny knelt so he was level with the corpse. He asked, “If that’s true then answer me this. Three months back, I was in a really bad mood. Why was that?”
The Devil replied, “An adder had snuck into your sleeping bag and bit you on the arm. It wasn’t deadly but it made your arm feel like it was on fire.”
Benny said, “You could have just seen me rubbing my arm.”
“True. But what about the month after Rothko left. What did you do when you found his old robe inside the tent?”
Benny started to sweat and couldn’t take his eyes off of the Devil.
“You smelled it. Held it close to you, didn’t you?”
A scraping sound emanated from the woods. It was the Devil opening up Benny’s mind. Reaching in with his shattered black nails and pulling out the truth.
“Rothko isn’t just a confidant or your partner in this trial, you love him in a sense beyond that of friendship.”
The scraping grew in volume, now a set of talons ripping out chunks of a wall.
“You’ve wanted to go to him and say how much you’ve always loved him, right? Well…”
Benny saw small strands creeping through the salted topsoil towards him, upturning the dirt like snakes crawled beneath the surface.
“All that love you secretly feel. All those things you’ve done for him, stood by for him. What has it come too? You’ve been here a year Benny. Trust me at least on this. When it comes to love and loyalty-”
Benny knew he had barely a second to react, he had to be quick.
“-it is never enough.”
Benny jumped back and sprinted at full force through the figure eight, diving through the hanging sacred stones, jumping over the burial mounds of former protectors of human dignity, all the while trying not to look at what his lapse of willpower had done.
The flattened horror was crawling at the speed of a wildcat out from the ward. His speed was unreal and all he needed was a few moments for Benny to let down his guard and he was now escaping back into the world to finish what he started. Benny was nearly to the end of the ward, he looked in the direction the Devil was crawling and his blood went cold as he saw it was about to crest the edge of the sacred woods. Benny ran up the final mound and yelled,
“Return to your resting place!”
A sound like wood creaking in a storm ensued as Benny did another loop. The ward acted like a reel. It tightened onto the Devil when done daily, preventing his escape. In the event he broke free of the Ward as long as one was fast enough, they could pull him back with the sacred lines of Order still latched onto his accursed hide.
The Devil was pulled like a cat off of a railing back from the boundary of the Sacred woods, right back into the Ward. Benny ran around a second time to tighten him down.
Benny said breathlessly. “You...aren’t going anywhere. You’ve caused enough woe...the Crusades, the Plague, the great wars. You will not finish your agenda.”
Running his ragged claws over the soil, the Devil snarled. He relaxed his hand and laughed, “We will see. If not you, then the next one.”
It added with a horrid punctuality as the sun crested the horizon, “I hope you’re ready for a long stay.”
The sunlight ran down the hills like blades and each one took the life still living in the corpse until it looked the fossil of some prehistoric bird.
Benny walked back to the tent and settled down. He thought about Rothko and prayed to the Green Man for guidance. Benny understood the thought of Rothko running away as he settled into sleep. The finality of their mission and the lack of connection to the Monastery for guidance. In this forsaken Valley it was enough to make anyone break.
Benny would stay, however, even into years. For he knew if the enemy escaped, his best friend would be among its victims.
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 22:50|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 22:05 on Oct 31, 2017
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 23:12|
Three True Things
Prompt:The King of Disks, Mary-El
”He will offer you fortunes.”
I can hear Alys’s words in my head, her voice steady and sharp in the remembered lessons and plans. He insolently beckons me closer.
”He will offer you pleasures of the flesh.”
Not merely offered but given freely. As I come near his scent is intoxicating, his body naked and magnificent.
”He will offer you the world.”
We merge together in the shade of a gnarled dead tree. Mortal and god, a pairing not seen since before the birth of the Nazarene. It does not take long.
”The time you will have will be measured in minutes, less than a hand’s worth.”
I feel his seed quicken inside me. Twins, a boy and a girl. I know. I stretch my arms back, run fingers through my hair.
”When that time comes, strike!”
I pull out the knife, yank the strands tying it in place out of my scalp, and drive in at the great god Pan’s throat.
“Was this your plan, from the start?” says Pan. His lips don't move. Nothing moves. The words come fast as thought and slow as eternity.
“You can't do this forever,” I say without moving lips or tongue.
“I can,” says Pan. “I won't. I've been dead before. Two thousand years of banishment again would not be so bad as an hour or so of this. What do you want?”
“What you can't give.”
“I can give quite a lot. Try me.”
“My friend is sick. Dying. Her sickness is beyond what science can cure. Can you cure her?”
“No. I can make, and I can take, and sometimes give, but I do not mend. I am no weaver.”
“Your death-blood, and the fruit of your seed can bring enough magic into the world that she may be healed.”
“True enough. And there is nothing I can offer you that you would value over this friend?”
“Then I will give you something freely. I'll tell you three true things, and then I will release us, and you may do as you will.”
I do not nod, but the thought of a nod flows between us just as our words are flowing.
“The first truth: I have been to every afterlife and netherworld, to every heaven and every hell, and there were no human souls to be found in any of them. Empty, all, save for gods and demons, for there are no human souls anywhere to migrate or to reincarnate. You are thinking meat and quarks dancing with light. This world, this single life is all that there is, and every preacher or philosopher who ever claimed otherwise is a fool, a liar, or both.
“The second truth: the two godlings you carry, still forming in your womb. You will not survive their birth, not without my aid. Never if I am dead when they emerge.”
I brace myself. I know Pan can no more lie or be mistaken than two and two can equal seven, not here and now. The first was not unknown to my late-night sleepless dreads. The second fills me with fear, and with loss.
“The third truth: Alys knows both of these things.”
I reel without moving in the end of the extended instant. I would have gone willingly, had I known the cost. She would have done the same for me, had the needs been reversed. But why would she doubt my loyalty, unless her own was also lacking? And her stories of our friendship in other lives, side by side at the barricades of the Paris Commune, smuggling scrolls during the sack of Alexandria, were they not merely foolish fancies but manipulation?
Time resumes. My hand moves.
* * *
“So, what did the old goat end up offering you?” asks Alys as she gently places the bagged-up bloody knife into our refrigerated safe.
“The expected,” I say. “The world, and time.” We are the best of friends, as we have ever been. For now. Later, there will be screaming, and tears, and perhaps even violence, when I survive the birth of my twins and she realizes that the god whose blood anoints the knife still walks the world.
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 23:33|
|# ? Oct 6, 2022 08:27|
Peanut Butter Breath
Prompt: The Hanged Man, Mary-El
I met my best friend when she reached up from the bottom of the lake and grabbed me by the ankle.
Her name is Tom. I don’t know if that’s her real name but it was spraypainted on the cinderblock sitting on her chest, pinning her to the lake bed. Maybe it’s just that Tom is her middle name, and someone was supposed to spraypaint her last name on the block digging into her pale thighs and her first name on the block behind her head, trapping a few strands of blonde hair stained with dirt and moss juice.
“Missed you,” Tom says to me.
“I’m sorry,” I say to her, bubbles escaping from my mouth, floating up through the water to the gray afternoon sky. I suck another breath through the bit of old garden hose I took from the shed, the other end swaying and trailing above me.
“Tired?” she says.
Me and Tom don’t say much to each other. I don’t mind. She can say something and make it like a popcorn, exploding outward. One word becomes a hundred.
I shake my head, and I know she knows I’m lying.
I take another breath from the hose, pinching the end after I’m done. The inside of the hose tastes like Mr. Kelly’s breath, stinking, floating in the kitchen after I’m done playing Mario in the morning. Mr. Kelly’s the opposite: a hundred words become one. He’d wait until I put my cereal bowl in the sink to spit out his gob of tobacco into the milk. I’d see it floating in the bowl for the whole bus-ride to sixth grade.
Mr. Prescott smelled like menthol and chewed toothpicks. Mr. Concepcion smelled like chocolate and like leaves after the rain, with his hacking laugh. Mr. Frisbie smelled like sickly pink peppermints, the ones I’d put in my bottom drawer after he gave them to me. Mr. Coleman would chew on the sleeve of his coat as he walked into my mother’s bedroom, wool and wine on his breath after he came out. The words “You’d better learn today,” from Mr. Schroder, they smell like brandy and the ghosts of the worms I would step on after a storm, swimming on my tongue right before he whip-cracks the rubber hose across my bare chest.
“Tom?” she says to me.
I take another gulp of air. “Sorry,” I say again. My name is Tom, like hers. But I’m not like her at all. Sorry is just sorry. I want the water. I want the cold and the dark and the bubbles under my nose. I want the bad ending of a story that mothers tell their kids. Even a bad ending would be an ending.
Dinner is in ten minutes, and ever since I cut up the hose, Mr. Schroder uses his belt.
I sigh, bend down, look into where her eyes used to be.
The spaces behind her eyes are wriggling.
I lurch back, gasp, cough.
The hose slips out of my hand, twirls and spins above my head, towards the surface.
I hold my breath for as long as I can. I don’t want to breathe again. I don’t want to leave her again.
“Help?” she says. The pain in my chest keeps me from laughing.
I think of my father.
“Peanut butter breath,” he’d whisper into my face as he tickled under my shoulders, me squirming in my high chair, face sticky with peanut butter and strawberry jam. Pressing his nose against my nose, his index finger flourishing the peanut butter off the tip of his nose like a paintbrush against a palette.
I don’t taste peanut butter anymore. It’s all boiled and burnt in my stomach, and all I taste is dirt and salt and ash and things I don’t want in my mouth, in me.
The cinder block flips over onto its side, behind her head.
Her face jerks up, towards me.
I feel Tom’s ragged lips against mine, rough and torn. I don’t pull away.
My lungs expand, forced open with air, then contract with one solid snap.
The sky is darkening through the surface of the lake. Twilight blue, like I imagine the color of Tom’s eyes. I taste the dark blue on my tongue.
I take the Tom-block off her chest, and lay on my back, and place it down on my stomach. No bubbles escape my lips, no bubbles float up to the surface. The hose has floated away. The world is silent, finally.
If I can hide long enough, if no one comes looking for me--I’ll go looking for my father again.
“Finally,” I hear Tom say, and I agree.
|# ? Oct 29, 2017 23:53|