aw thanks thran glad ya liked it so much
legit, tho. thank you for the words. i'm experimenting a lot now.
I did some crits
I was going to do more but then the winner was announced and I stopped oh well
Yippee Ki Ay, Mozeltover
Chairchucker, I think you woefully underutilized your talents. Even it feels like you’re pulling things out of your rear end, your stories are quirky and fast-paced and fun to read. Like a Wes Anderson film that doesn’t plod along. Once again, I feel somewhat rushed and disappointed with your ending. As always, I appreciate your ability to juggle your reader’s focus in interesting ways.
Start with a Large Fortune
I don’t like not knowing what it going on. And after reading your first section, I still don’t know what’s going on. That’s not good. Especially on an 800 wordcount.
Ah, I see. This was a flashback piece. It’s too many flashbacks, though. You don’t have enough words to do this effectively. Pick one or two important moments and use those to highlight the relationship/conflict/etc
Human boys made me lol. I like it.
This is sad and great and wonderfully adolescent. Great use of monstrosity to highlight the uncomfortable nature of growing up and watching your friends grow apart from you. I hope you don’t win because I have a seasonal festive prompt I really, really, really want to use but I could see this one beating mine so I guess good job, jerk. Solid story.
Where the Metal Meets the Meat
Ah, man, cool story. Wish you hadn’t killed someone in a no death week. Lots of great little one liners. “What's left of me makes mince of him.” The fighting for repetition is effective. The only thing that I don’t think work is the second person stuff. I didn’t have enough to slide into the “you” character with all the focus being on the “I.” Other than that, great fun read. Thanks.
The Night’s Post
It is rare for me to read a story in Thunderdome that feels already published and widely enjoyed and recommended to me by another. This is exquisite and it is the best thing I’ve ever read of yours. I have nothing to add except, perhaps, to add more of your words. I would be stunned if it doesn’t win.
EDIT: color me surprised. not even an hm.
The lesson of the axe
I think “let out a surprised guffaw” is too wordy. I like the simplicity of “Yes.”
Interesting piece that I think is surprisingly philosophical. It is not the best of this week but the setting is interesting (if not a tad bit unclear) and it left me thinking so I liked it.
Sober as the Sky
Red-hot lattice is a good description. Die sober is good, too.
I like buried stories. I directed a play about a cave in once. I like that then. I like this now. This is unnerving. Your opening sentence is even better on a revisit. Your ending is a little two tied-up-with-a-bow for me but I think that’s because of the word limit.
Into the Wood
I think this opening is sloppy and amateurish. It has a very childlike feel but you kind of mess that up in the next paragraph when you drop a “gently caress.” The dialogue is strange-- casual but almost too casual. It doesn’t fit the situation and is jarring. It is unnatural. It doesn’t seem to flow very well. I also can’t tell how old the characters are supposed to be. The setting is unclear.
Silence speaks volumes
I don’t really the connection between your story and your prompt. Perhaps it has something to do with the actual meaning of the cards and, if so, please disregard the rest of my crit because I’m not going to bother looking it up.
The dialogue is too… coarse. It doesn’t sound natural. You do a good job of creating a sense of dread. The whole “not-watching” concept is sufficiently creepy and intriguing. The ending doesn’t make sense. Your title is too on the nose for my taste.
We Know Not the Hour
Very high stakes here, huh?
I have very general crits for this. You made good use of a limited word count. I like the setting. Interesting setting. But you need more little things to make it feel whole. More… unusual aspects to make it truly abnormal and not just typical-europeanish-fantasy-town-with-a-mask-on.
Predators and Prey
I like the use of your prompt.
Much like the characters in your story, this piece is too thin. It needs meat on its bones. The reveal is nice. But more needs expansion for it to hit properly with emotional resonance.
“At the first bench she found, Hélène removed the backpack and retrieved a bottle of water, chugging it with reckless abandon until she finished with a crass sigh” this is super wordy and is indicative of the writing in this story. You’ve also already let me know its super hot two sentenes before. Don’t waste words.
The true conflict appears too late. Do I really need to read about how hard it was too find The Energy? What did that add?
Peanut Butter Breath
I think this breaks the no death rule?
EDIT: guess not. grats.
Three True Things
Nicely done. Good symbolize. Good foreshadowing. Good use of words. My only question is if Alys knows the other things, why doesn’t Alys know that Pan cannot mend?
Personally, my vote for the win. Great story.
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 15:41|
|# ? Aug 12, 2022 23:54|
The story prompt is as follows "write a story based on that ice cream flavor."
So, every story has to about our assigned ice cream flavor?
Because if it wasn't wouldn't it be "Inspired by" that ice cream flavor?
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 15:48|
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 16:04|
my judge crits part 1
The initiation of a young swan scout into an order of assassins. The rule, much like fight club, is that it’s a secret, punishable by death. I’m afraid this story just isn’t very good. Took me two reads to understand what was going on, and then it’s just too thin and watery. The dialogue tags make it unclear who is talking and it reads stilted and clunky. I get no satisfaction from the junior scout killing the old guy to become a ‘senior scout’ the whole thing seems without a clear point, and the writing is unbearably smug. At least stuff happens so I’ll give it that.
Overall - low
I get the impression these guys are vampires or similar; now one of them is “retired” and the other comes calling because he wants help getting back some people that have been taken from him. Unfortunately this story never goes anywhere. It’s just Giovanni trying to convince Brennan to help him, which he at first refuses, and then changes his mind. A backstory between the two of them is hinted at, and some future action is assumed, but you chose to set your story in the at a very boring moment. If these guys are so interesting that I need to read a story about them, SHOW ME. The writing is fine, there’s just nothing memorable within.
Good imagery right off the bat, and it is sustained through the story. The bleak landscape of the dream-papers is well described and the physical description of climbing is well done. The fact that it’s all illusory, that the dreams are unattainable (at least the two presented in the story) yet we come back night after night to keep attempting the same climb, is poignant. Really liked this story, candidate for win or HM.
Girls Night In
I don’t care about any of the characters in this story. Having three ladies exchange dialogue is confusing and makes the conversation hard to follow--a better choice would have been two main characters. During the flower/chocolate discussion it’s clear that there’s some sort of romantic tension between them, but then it’s not clear why I should care? And the chief/bad guy/date scenario is unfulfilled also. They’re trying to get the dirt on the chief getting payed off or something...but it’s not explained what’s going on or why anyone cares except for their unnamed boss. The ladies keep looking at each other like there’s something going on but it’s never revealed. What’s really going on at the Red Lobster also isn’t revealed, so the story just ends without any satisfactory resolution
The Pains of Hurting Me
I’m torn on this one. On one hand, it has a good heart and explores the emotional pain of being transgendered honestly and with integrity. The pain John suffers is explored pretty well through the little vignettes, and I’m appreciative of his mom as a sympathetic figure in a town full or bigotry and intolerance. But therein lies the problem: the backdrop of White Hollow is so stereotypical “Southern” it’s just too much. You lay it on thicker than Granpappy’s grits, between the dialect, the Waffle House, the grits and twice-baked potatoes, and I don’t think it really serves the story. It’s just too stereotypically villainous for my tastes, like a cardboard cutout of southern intolerance. But a nice story and it painted a poignant emotional picture overall.
A Good Dog
Didn’t love this one, didn't hate it either. The story is about this guys abandonment of Ivy in her time of need. Do we really need all the bear action? I suppose your intention was that having his life threatened and the dog sticking up for him was allegorical to his having fled from his own duty to his girlfriend, but it didn’t really land for me. Your choice to have him ‘realize’ he’s the one shouting and fighting the bear was clumsy and dulled the impact of his change of heart. That sequence is indicative of the larger “things happen to our protagonist” rather than him making active choices throughout the story. The action in the first paragraph needs better blocking. It wasn’t clear until later that Spot had been injured, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a life/death chase like that but I doubt time would seem to slow down. I think you have an okay idea here, I just didn’t care for the execution.
⅖ stars, my dog is still dead
This was good. Emotionally resonant, clear, and the boy’s motivation is simple and touching. The title is stupid. The kid’s relationship with his mother could have been better explored, as it seems like that is the emotional touchstone of the ending. Overall I liked this one quite a lot.
Not sure about this one. The writing and imagery is good, it has a nice pace to it, and I’m on board with the chase and her clever way of evading the bull. But she is going after this key ostensibly to help Maria regain use of her legs, but at the end she swallows it? Presumably that gives her the benefit of no misfortune, not her friend? So her betrayal seems to come out of nowhere and I don’t get the motivation behind it (other than selfishness). Maybe if I understood more about her character and what drives her this final choice would be more satisfying.
The writing here is solid, and I appreciate the world-building that went into this one. Using the tiger’s POV is effective as the story unfolds, and gives the story a unique and interesting perspective. It is limited, however, in really fleshing out what is going on in this Temple, why they mutilate the Oracles and the significance of the rituals. I suppose it’s a good sign that I am curious about it, as your setting is intriguing. Overall pretty good, not great.
Overall - middle
I really liked this one. Once I wrapped my brain around the terms ‘Mariel’ and “zenny’ and understood what they were, it clicked into place. This future dystopia is painted in bleak and vivid images, and your use of language is sparsely effective. The ultimate futility of this ‘friendship’ is poignant.
Benny and Rothko
This story needs an editor. Pare it down to what is essential. When you throw in everything but the kitchen sink the impact gets muddled. There’s some good imagery but it all seems a bit of a jumble, the story lacks a coherent throughline for the reader to grasp and understand what’s going on. I had a hard time staying focused under the barrage of weirdness.
Maybe I’m dumb but I can’t help but get confused. The story definitely starts with three characters in the bathroom. There’s the 1st person POV character, her sister Ji-eun, and then a third character lighting up a fattie called alternately Our Girl and Athena--or so I thought. But then Our Girl and Athena are different characters? Multiple personalities? Why does she have such control over the others? Part of me thinks it’s some sort of metaphor perhaps and I’m just not understanding something larger going on here. Still confused after a second read, moving on. Also not understanding the point of this, nothing really happens here at all other than the exploration of some asian stereotypes.
Edit: other judges loved it so maybe I need to go back and read a third time!
As a side note, I find writing detailed crits of other people's work extremely difficult, but I figure even a lovely crit is better than no crit. I know I've learned a ton from even brief impressions people have of my work. Rest of crits will follow once I flesh them out a bit more.
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 17:26|
my judge crits part 1
For my part, these are good crits and I thank you for them!
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 17:44|
ty for the crit hawklad
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 18:03|
Thanks for the crits Sparksbloom and Hawklad
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 18:26|
spectres of autism - “Owl (Mariel)”
Oof. This is heavy and bleak in a way I really like, and I especially appreciate the way the addict’s self-loathing and excuses come out in this story, the way Booker only really sees meaning when he’s intoxicated. This all rings true. I also really liked the lines about sadness and fear, and being unable to trade. It’s a really strong emotional core, and I like the set piece of Booker describing sunsets to the old woman as well. What I don’t like is the TV that is literally broadcasting the word “fear” and literal messages saying “be afraid,” which seems like an awfully obvious way of evoking the dysphoric tone. But hey, it works for that well enough, it’s just a little over the top. I would have given this an HM, but one of my co-judges had this as a loss pick.
Jay W. Friks - “Benny and Rothko”
This feels padded and a little lifeless. Does this story really benefit from Benny sussing out the extent of the Devil’s mind-reading skills? I think it doesn’t, and distracts from what’s more interesting here, which is the relationship between Benny and Rothko, Benny’s insecurities about Rothko leaving, and what he’s willing to do when those emotions are tested. But there’s just not enough context to make these themes meaningful. Even when the story switches to action, the action is presented in this distant sense. This is an emotional chase scene, but the words you’ve chosen are so abstract, it lacks the visceral impact it needs for me to empathize with Benny’s emotional state. If you’re interested in working with this piece further, I’d be happy to do a line crit to show you what I mean.
Tyrannosaurus - “korean|american”
I love the dialogue in this one, though I have to admit I didn’t really “get it” until I read Thranguy’s crit, and I thought these were just Our Girl’s friends. I just liked this because the dialogue is lively and specific enough that I’m instantly invested in what might otherwise be seen as a really mundane conflict. Now that I see what you were really trying to do here, I like it even more, and I see it more as an exploration of anxiety, some of which is identity-based and some less so.
Thranguy - “Three True Things”
Excellent pacing. The story is constantly creating a sense of anticipation for itself, with the “three things” structure nicely entwined a narrator who’s enough of a person that I’m able to care for them. Pan’s dialogue is good, and the coda is a nice button on a story that otherwise threatens to be too tidy. I’m really enamoured with the kind of economy this story has, in covering a brief, meaningful episode and extracting a greater significance from it in well under the word limit.
Ironic Twist - “Peanut Butter Breath”
I loved this a lot for the imagery and the real sense of dread and mundane horror here. The idea of this kid diving deep under a water with a garden hose to just be in the presence of the one bit of love in his life hit me really hard. The kind of evocative imagery of the dirty, violent adults in his life on the surface stuck with me, too. But what made this so distinct is that this story asks us to sympathize with this young kid’s desire for oblivion, and it’s a little perverse, but by the end of the story I do. It’s messy and difficult, risky and bleak, and it’s memorable and powerful for exactly these reasons.
Deltasquid - “The Energy”
It takes way too long for anything to happen in this story, and when it does, it’s a conversation where people tell each other things they already know. I’ve also re-read this several times, and I can’t seem to locate the part where the tower actually catches fire. I don’t think the actual conflict between Hélène and Julie is bad, but it needs to be recontextualized and more immediate for this story to work and feel less dull. And the “you are lacking in empathy” part just seems so stilted and robotic. I like the image of her capturing the burning sculpture with her drone, but I think Hélène’s total lack of self-awareness isn’t intentional, and it comes off as distracting and frustrating more than compelling.
apophenium - “Predators and Prey”
This is fine. Technically, it’s very competent, with an obvious arc and a nice full-circle ending. Unfortunately, I don’t get much more than that from this. These characters are pretty hollow, and their lack of names reinforces this. I wonder if this is intended as an archetypical story, a sort of fable, as the lack of specific detail about the country or surroundings feels significant. If not, though, this is more of a skeleton of a more specific, developed story than a compelling tale on its own. I can’t tell how the boy views the woman by the end, and that’s the kind of context that would help the ending land a little better than it does.
Uranium Phoenix - “We Know Not The Hour”
This is well-told and hits its beats well, with strong prose and well-developed characters, and if I have a criticism it’s that this friendship’s tension is dissolved through logic more than choosing fondness. It means that the character and their choices matter less, and drains some of the potential emotional impact from the story. I also feel like the town’s mob mentality is a little too familiar, and I think it’s a wise choice that the story focuses more on Kas’s internal conflict of judging whether Leylace made the right call in providing false hopes. It’s a story that’s really wrapped up in this ethical/political question, but because it’s made personal to these two characters, who have enough definition beyond the themes of the story, I still ended up really liking this.
steeltoedsneakers - “Silence speaks volumes”
The tension is building too slowly. I’m really bored. This is a story about friendship and you’ve given me one about domestic architecture. I like that you use the house itself to reveal things about Steve’s biography, but a lot of the description here is at the expense of providing information about the relationships between these characters. And by the end, I only have a very faint idea of what they’re even doing in this house to begin with. Couple that with the fact that I can’t see any relation to the cards at all, and you have a story that really frustrated me.
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 19:13|
Crit on Jay's piece
Just remember you are a better writer than me, so take this worth a grain of salt among a very salty ocean made of my tears.
Overall: I liked this story, it has conflict, good prose. It deals with a simple thing, somebody being bored of their duty and wanting to leave. The way the conflict is laid out doesn't seem cliched. The start trips after making a sick music reference and the ending doesn't add much to the story. It's the middle, where we learn more about Benny and the devil has a chance to be the devil that the story delivers.
What worked: Exploring Benny, his relationship with Rothko. Your prose about the devil reaching into Benny's mind. When the devil speaks and tempts Benny away. That whole section flows nice and gets into the character.
What was interesting: The start asking the reader a question is really neat. It can also be used to sum up Benny and the ending of the story can be used to answer that question.
What didn't: The start fails to draw me despite it being interesting. I also don't get why Benny screams about finding another trail. The whole start fails to interest and it's only when we go to the ward and Rothko do I start to get curious. The devil escaping comes out of nowhere and the solution to the escape also comes out of nowhere. The ending, man... Agggh, if you were looking to answer your question at the start of the story you did it and that's great. That's freaking interesting and cool. If you wanted me to get closer to Benny, to deliver him closure, to have an arc... I don't think this ending did it.
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 19:23|
the story must be set inside a tub of ice cream (correct flavor)
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 19:39|
the story must be set inside a tub of ice cream (correct flavor)
"I woke up and found myself in a rounded tub full of cybernetic grandpas and vanilla ice cream. My own personal Valhalla. Only problem was I was lactose-intolerant."
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 19:43|
You're correct, it should be "inspired by". I'll add it to the prompt if people prefer. Your ice cream flavor does not have to be present in a literal manner.
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 20:22|
Thanks for the crits, sparksbloom and Hawklad!
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 20:24|
Preeshin' the crits y'all.
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 20:26|
Thirded, crits are much appreciated.
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 20:29|
You're correct, it should be "inspired by". I'll add it to the prompt if people prefer. Your ice cream flavor does not have to be present in a literal manner.
Thanks for the clarification Twist. I cannot speak for all people as I'm actually a spider so change the wording of your own volition.
|# ? Nov 1, 2017 21:52|
Thanks for the crits everyone.
|# ? Nov 2, 2017 09:15|
|# ? Nov 2, 2017 19:53|
Thanks for the crits everyone.
|# ? Nov 2, 2017 23:14|
|# ? Nov 3, 2017 05:14|
|# ? Nov 3, 2017 13:18|
yes, signups are closed. get to writing.
|# ? Nov 4, 2017 10:12|
The dust layered on the windowsills of Bobby’s Food Palace was baked in with years of sunshine but still smeared from rainwater running streaks and rivulets of grime, never enough to wash the ledges clear. The grot was typical of an old and tired city. A city packed with cars and buses belching fumes, packed more with people discarding dusty pockets of litter and shedding bits of themselves without ever realising. Most of all it was typical of Ray, son of the famed Bobby, to rely on the same old customers not caring about outward appearances, keeping up what little of his café he could manage.
Pushing back the door to the familiar sound of the bell ringing out Jean saw young Stevie sat behind a pile of books. When he wasn’t taking orders he was studying. Jean knew he wanted to get away from all this and she did too.
“I’ve got our ticket,” Jean said waving the small, yellow lottery docket loosely in the air.
“Jean!” the boy cried. She could see a few stray blonde hairs breaking out on his lip.
“You’re going to be shaving soon,” she said.
“Some boys in my class already do.”
“Maybe I’ll take you to the Turkish barbers, they’re famous for wet shaves. And burning ear hair.” She tugged at her earlobes and stuck her tongue out. The child half laughed but she could see the doubt play out on his face. “Put this hat on for me,” she said pulling from her bag a red cap with a big M printed on it.
“What’s the M for?”
“I thought Mario’s greatest fan would know about his hat.” Stevie shoved it on his head and pulled at his t-shirt with his thumbs as though he was wearing Mario’s famous blue dungarees. “Will we go to Italy if we win?” she asked.
The child nodded but turned straight back to his books. Jean saw Ray walk out from the kitchen with the stern face she wished he’d take off when he was around his son. He carried the biscuit tin that held the receipts and invoices that pained him at night, keeping him staring awake. Jean only knew about that after the rare nights they’d spend together. Her waking, finding him in the living room next to the lamp, and leafing through page after page of final notice.
“Where’d you get that hat?” he asked Stevie.
“Jean,” the boy said without turning from his copybook.
“I wish you wouldn’t spend money on him like that.”
“It’s just a hat,” she said.
“I still wish you wouldn’t. It’s wasteful.”
Jean grabbed at one of the cloths resting just over the ledge where the orders were balanced and began to wipe down the counter. The cloth was moist and warm, and the aged yellow counters shone with the dampness of Ray’s washing but still she wiped away.
“Why are you doing that?” Ray asked.
“It’s her ritual,” Stevie said. “You should know that by now. She does it every week.” Stevie wandered behind the ice-cream display case and picked up the remote, turning the sound up on the TV, then down, then back up again.
“No TV!” Ray said. “Not until you’re finished your homework.”
“It’s the ritual!” Stevie said.
Ray grabbed the cloth from Jean’s hand and threw it into the sink. “Every week you do this,” he said.
Both Jean and Stevie cried out at the same time, “It’s the ritual!”
“I’m surrounded by Satanists,” Ray said but if anyone’s eyes reflected the anger of a devil it was his.
Jean moved in next to Stevie, the two of them now behind the ice-cream display looking up at the TV and both held their hands on their heads. They turned in a circle, feet held tight together, and each of them slowly lowered one hand to grab onto their turning partner’s elbow.
“Where will we go if we win?” Jean asked.
“Italy!” Stevie said.
“Who lives in Italy?”
“The Pope!” Stevie shouted.
“The Pope lives in The Vatican,” Ray said to his son, massaging his temple as though his child not knowing where the Pope lived had brought on a disapproving, Jesus cast migraine. “Can I talk with you, please, Jean?”
Walking outside with Ray she could just hear Stevie say in defiance, “Well, how about Mario then? Mario if not the goddamn Pope in Italy!”
Ray held onto Jean’s hand as they stood outside the front door, knowing it was unlikely any customer would have to push past them. The street the café was on no longer had any big offices, most of the buildings had been converted into cheap warehouses and car parks, and the people in the apartments were more likely to order a delivery, something Ray couldn’t afford to provide.
“Computer game hats? Turkish barbers? Times are tough, Jean. I need him to learn how to keep things in check, without big, wild hopes. And here’s you buying lottery tickets and going through rituals.”
“Have you taught him to shave yet?”
“What? What does that have to do with anything?” Ray said but Jean could see the fright build up behind Ray’s eyes as they widened and glanced inside at his son.
“The ritual is just fun. It’s what, €2.50? That’s enough for a little silly entertainment, once a week. Something he won’t want to do forever.”
“Things are tight. You know that. You know that’s why I keep you and me separate,” Ray said as he rubbed Jean’s hand, in his grip, with his thumb. “Things could go wrong any day now.”
“There needs to be some respite from that. He deserves an escape,” Jean said hearing the bell ring out as she turned from Ray, making her way back inside to Stevie looking up from beneath the TV.
Standing next to him, waiting for the lottery’s show to come on Jean grabbed onto Stevie’s elbow, and him hers, they overlapped their feet and began to nod while bouncing up and down on their toes.
As the credits on the show before the lottery began Jean, despite all logic, hoped ritual or not this really would be their time to win. Even a small amount, whether it was enough for a weekend away or just a nice meal out.
Ray set three ice-creams down in front of them.
“What’s this, Dad?” Stevie asked.
“It’s Italian, spumoni, if we’re going to Italy with our winnings. But you can’t eat it until the numbers come up. And not at all if we win.” Stevie hadn’t been offered ice-cream, at least not without paying for it for years from his father and his face showed all the signs of confusion. “My part of the ritual,” his Dad said. Stevie placed his spoon back into the bowl and made a motion as though zipping his mouth. Jean could make out his fingers brush against the light blonde hairs that said he would soon be all too old for playing.
Jean, Stevie and Ray waited and watched the draw. Their ice-cream had begun to melt. Yet again their numbers didn’t come up.
Ice-cream: Spumoni, a molded Italian ice cream made with layers of different colors and flavors, usually containing candied fruits and nuts. (from wikipedia.)
|# ? Nov 4, 2017 16:04|
An Unpulled Thread
The wind rushes up the smooth curve of the wall beneath my dangling feet. I come here often, to this one stretch where the wall is bordered by a metal fence rather than a solid perspex barrier. I slide my legs out between the bars, rest my chin on my folded arms, and gaze out over the endless forest.
Behind me is my town, a small self-sufficient human paradise. Its bucolic appearance belies the complex network of pipes and sensors that run beneath the soil and through the highly engineered buildings. Carefully designed plants grow enough food and medicine to meet the population’s needs. The town’s central AI ensures that everything within the wall is clean and orderly. I like to pretend I know how the system works, but to be honest if it broke I would have no idea how to fix it.
I am contented with my life. I have friends, a family who need me, a good job on the town council. I would fight fiercely to protect these mundane, precious things.
There are tribes of people living in the forest too, but we don’t have any contact with them. Or rather, we’re not supposed to have any contact with them. People sometimes do leave, turning their backs on the safety of the wall and our comfortable, orderly way of life. I have always judged those who make such a choice harshly. Leaving causes so much pain, why would you do that to yourself? To us?
A flock of brightly coloured parrots bursts squawking with alarm from the huge tree directly beneath my feet, startled by something. A sudden curiosity overtakes me. The forest is dangerous, but it’s not like we never enter it – a few are allowed out to hunt game, and for the rest of us exploring the relatively safe glades near the main gate is permitted. There are other ways in and out, all securely locked, but as a senior member of the town’s administration I have some access privileges.
I descend through the sterile corridors within the wall towards one such fortified door now. It opens close to the spot below where I was sitting. There are deer tracks in the soft earth, even I can tell they were moving fast. Did someone have permission to be out hunting today…? I walk cautiously forward, feet rustling in the leaf litter between the huge trunks.
“Come with me,” says a man’s voice, right by my ear. I get such a fright I make a weird and unattractive “ungh” noise and my legs go stupid and wobbly (thanks body, whatever happened to fight or flight?). He looks at me, clearly surprised that I had failed to notice him sooner.
“Come with me,” he says again, more urgently. He is about my height, muscular, with long hair and dark, intense eyes. He is wearing rough hand-made clothes, nothing like the sleek, sensor-laden body suits that we wear inside the wall. What is a tribesman doing here, so close to a town?
“What?” I reply, one arm leaning against a tree to support my wobbly knees.
“There’s a predator nearby, I was about to move when I saw you come out of the wall. C’mon.” He grabs my hand and starts pulling. poo poo, I think, what kind? What is it? There are bears and other dangerous, but familiar, carnivores in the forest, but there are also those newer, more horrifying things. Inside the wall most know little about them, uninterested in history and the reasons the walled towns were built in the first place.
I go with him, weaving through the trees, jogging to keep up. There is a sudden growl from behind us and we both start sprinting. I daren’t look to see what it is, my only thought is one of panic that I am going to be left behind.
Ahead of me the man is climbing a rope ladder hanging down a thick trunk. Fear makes me clumsy as I start to climb up after him. He reaches down, grabs the back of my body suit and hauls me up. I collapse onto the tiny platform as he pulls the ladder up behind us. None of the predators I can think of are climbers – hence why hunters build these hides – but it makes me feel safer nonetheless. We are both breathing hard, but the forest is quiet, nothing is chasing us.
I feel like I have fallen to the bottom of a deep green ocean. It is still and quiet, sounds muffled by the layers of moss growing up the ancient trunks. Tiny shafts of sunlight flicker through the leaves as the wind rustles through the canopy, high above us.
I sit staring at him in the dim green light, at the shape of him. With the post-adrenaline rush a sudden knot of desire forms in the pit of my stomach. Distracted, I run my hand through my hair, messing up my tidy ponytail. He is looking at me too, appraising, a slight smile on his lips. God those eyes. Neither of us are supposed to be here, but the forest doesn’t care.
“What the gently caress is going on here?” I think. I need to go home and make dinner, I said I was just popping out for a walk. I think about my comfortable life. How easily it could be broken.
He leans forward, about to say something. The platform is small, our bodies close.
“Can you help me get back to the wall?” I ask. He sits back, ever so slightly.
“Sure. I think it should be safe now.” He understand the risks, must know what it was, but I don’t ask, reluctant to show my ignorance.
We walk back. He’s holding my hand again. His hand is warm, just the hint of a caress in the way his fingers touch mine. At the entrance I turn and thank him. A deep desire pulls at me, but to act upon it would be insane, an impossibility. I unlock the heavy door and step back inside the wall, watch him walk away.
So, here I am again, sitting on the edge of the wall, feet hanging in space, looking out over the forest. I can barely remember the man’s face now, just the intensity of his eyes when he looked at me. In my mind I get out my memory of that moment, that un-voiced invitation. I savour it. I’ve done this a thousand times, turning this memory over and over, perhaps changing it into something it never was. I don’t care. It’s my memory, I’ll do with it what I like.
Ask me again, I think. My answer won’t change, I love my contented life. But ask me again.
Prompt: Oyster ice cream. Someone wants something, but doesn’t get it.
|# ? Nov 5, 2017 01:30|
Week #257 - Judge failures week, or Wizard Week 2: Wizard Hard with a Vengeance (CRITS Part 1 of 4)
A bunch of "judges" decided not to “give” anyone "crits" so im shaming them by critting these “stories” take that ya jerks
The Shape-Shifter's Child by Djeser
Plot: A girl tries to emulate her shapeshifting mother. The mother reveals she’s adopted, but the girl embraces her.
Thoughts: The concluding revelation is rather abrupt, and while powerful, it seems not to follow from the rest of the story. It feels like we need more about the two’s relationship, and perhaps any troubles (the girl wanting to return to civilization seems like a good basis) in order to establish a conflict that the conclusion can then properly resolve. As it is, it doesn’t seem like there’s much conflict, only the brief threat of it that’s quickly resolved by a hug, though the ending could imply there may be a bit of resentment as part of the mixed emotions from the daughter (“Sarah felt the magic, hot and sad and furious… in her own veins”).
The first half of the story establishes the mother’s power and character and the daughter’s wish to emulate. This, in retrospect, is about how the shapeshifter became a mother to fill a need just like she becomes a hen to help get eggs collected. Find a way to explicitly connect the two halves, introduce a conflict so their relationship is under threat and perhaps Sarah finds a greater connection in nature or shapeshifting power in order to make the ending more emotionally impactful, and perhaps reference Sarah’s early history more so the second half of the story isn’t such a jarring shift. Also cut the line explicitly explaining your flash rule.
The Apprentice by Sokoban
Plot: A guy finishes work and runs to an underground stone hall. A wizard talks to him about art. He’s bad, the guy can draw better. The boy becomes an apprentice.
Thoughts: Your introduction is a bit confusing. There’s also several grammar errors (needs to be “crow’s flight”). As a note, don’t use untagged dialogue unless you feel you have a good reason. I don’t see a good reason here. It also makes it really hard to tell what’s going on in several areas. I also don’t get a picture of the key thing you’re trying to describe, these stone halls. You have a nice description of the sky (“rolled above, sullied and bruised” is nice) but other parts make it hard for me to picture what’s going on. What is the village like? Is it a forest, or mostly grasses and heather? Peer (odd name choice) is old enough to work, but Dad is mad at him, but why? The stone hall is granite and slate (pedantically, those rock types aren’t likely to be right next to each other geologically btw), but what does it look like? Some spirits come out, and one talks to him. They draw stuff, and Peer becomes the ghost-wizard’s apprentice. Or maybe not a ghost, I can’t tell.
At the ending, I still have no idea why this kid just ran into a creepy hall after work, or why his dad was shouting at him. Most concerningly, aside from the blatant grammatical errors that jar the reader out of the story, there’s no conflict, tension, emotion, or action in this story. The only problem that gets solved is that the wizard can’t draw, but Peer inexplicably can; still, neither grow as a character or change. In terms of characters, all I know about either is their skill as an artist. I think the idea of a wizard with the power to turn art into life, but is a rubbish artist, has potential as a comedic piece, but in its current form the story fails to deliver that. Alternatively, you could turn it into a story about how we use art to escape—presumably, Peer’s home life with dad isn’t that great, though we only get one sentence on that and have to infer everything else. The other critical issue is that you spend over half of your story describing this big hall that turns out to have no significance to the story whatsoever. The wizard could have been in a shack next door and it wouldn’t have changed the actual story. Start writing where your story actually starts. Finally, please don’t name your art-wizard “The Great Image” except swap one vowel.
Impatient Oaths by Jay W. Friks
Plot: A wizard-deity of promise gets annoyed at promise-breakers (mostly divorce rates, apparently), and casts a spell, which predictably backfires.
Thoughts: You quickly establish your world and setting. It seems like the wizards are more gods than mere magic users, though. At first, I thought the setting was more classical fantasy, but it turned out to be modern fantasy (with prenups and problems with Russia) which was jarring for me. You focus a lot on worldbuilding and describing the problems on Earth and the problems with the spells in very general ways. I wonder if the story would be more effective if it focused on a single family affected by the spell, and perhaps their plight leads to him releasing the magic, rather than being scolded by a fellow wizard. The story is explicitly about shortsightedness, and might benefit from focusing more on that and less on grand implications.
Basically, you took the prompt and applied the power to everyone in the story, but I think it might be more interesting to tighten the focus of the story. I do realize it’s not entirely serious, as Eides, for example, notes his tight abs in the mirror as a result of his spell. That’s the other direction you could take it—more humorous stuff, perhaps finding more out about the large population of zombies who are still under oaths, or even a crazy dystopia where people have exploited the power of oaths to an even greater extent. Anyways, interesting world, okay story, would need some large revisions to really shine.
Protean by Thranguy
Plot: Two kids are abused by their father and take vengeance on him, one through action, the other through inaction.
Thoughts: First, a few grammar errors, missing punctuation; proofread etc. etc. The story itself is obviously a dark one. It seems to center on action versus inaction in righting wrongs, as emphasized by the repetition of the line “But so do so many others….” There’s a few spots where it might do to clarify time shifts. It’s clear that the story is mostly set when they’re very old and very young, but with lines like “I held Pat’s hand as she died” it wasn’t immediately clear you were switching the first read. After reading the story a few times, I’m still not entirely sure if I like it. Setting it as a retrospective puts distance between the characters (and reader) and the conflict with the father. This makes the story less intense, and shifts it to be about them as resulting people. I’m not sure if I want a reason why the father was such a bastard; I suppose there are plenty of people like him who would do what he did with that sort of power, though perhaps with less brutal creativity.
Let the shadows reign by Fuubi
Plot: A guy wakes up, sits in a chair for a bit, then casts a spell.
Thoughts: The story starts with white-room syndrome (scroll till you see it, it describes the start of your story to a T). I realize it’s a hook, but I don’t think the first bit of setting should be in the fifth paragraph, and even then we just get that there’s oil lamps. There’s also some unnecessary repetition (for example “Uh-oh, he thought,
Inter by SurreptitiousMuffin
Plot: A person talks about their dead husband to a kid.
Thoughts: This story is about memory and wanting loved ones back. Obviously the narrator didn’t and isn’t following their own advice to let the dead rest. Translated from magic to real advice, perhaps they’re saying that it doesn’t help to spend so much time regretting and trying to figure out what you could have done differently, when generally the answer is ‘nothing.’ I think, but am not sure, that the narrator sometimes feels suicidal. There’s the image of the husband dying, the image of the alternate realities linked, but not much else. We only have one character, and the narrator is almost completely defined by their grief. Perhaps there’s something missing from the story; like who the kid is, and what they lived through, and why they need advice. Perhaps the story would be stronger by being in the moment, rather than a retrospective. There’s things you could try. As it is, to me it feels incomplete.
|# ? Nov 5, 2017 18:58|
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before
flerp fucked around with this message at 04:45 on Dec 7, 2017
|# ? Nov 5, 2017 23:15|
Flavor: Bastani Sonnati
Amon-Zeus (1224 words)
We lived like kings, and I hated it.
Alexander threw yet another banquet that night. I was reluctant to go, still reeling from the aftereffects of the horse race and feast from the evening before, but who can decline an invitation by their commander, King of Macedon, Pharaoh of Egypt, Son of Zeus himself, recently crowned King of Persia?
The celebrations were held in the satrapial palace, between the wine-red columns and the Persian-blue draperies that adorned the music room. I made my way through the dark hall reeking of spiced alcohols and dull incense. All of the officers and most Macedonians were present, and soon enough I chanced upon my good friend Timaios, lying at a table of fruits and sweets, surrounded by beautiful courtesans. He offered me a seat by his side, and reached for a cup of wine, the latter of which I politely turned down.
“No more alcohol for me, I’m afraid,” I said while ransacking a bag of nuts on the table. Timaios gave me a bemused smile, then downed the cup himself.
“There’s plenty more if you change your mind later,” he joked.
“Do you not tire of this?” I said.
In response, he squeezed the buttocks of the woman resting her head on his left shoulder. “With ladies like these?” he quipped, and she laughed at him. I did not believe she spoke a word of Greek. Timaios turned back to me and said, “Why? Do you?”
“I came here to fight the Persians, not become them.”
Timaios shrugged through his drunken haze and kissed the woman.
Three silhouettes approached our table, then lifted the drapery to join us. To my surprise, Alexander himself graced our company, and his bodyguards dismissed several of the girls to make place.
“Just checking the morale,” he said cheerfully. Two servants outmaneuvered us, filling our cups before we could react. “All goes well, I presume?” Alexander raised his cup, and the table followed suit. “A toast!”
I drank, less enthusiastically than the others. The warm, spicy brew warmed my throat and belly, and from the aftertaste I knew tomorrow would bring more headaches and regret.
We exchanged pleasantries, talking about the luxuries and arts that we had witnessed in Persepolis. Every so often, too often, Alexander would bring another toast, and eventually I said, “My most magnanimous and venerable King, Amon-Zeus. May I voice a concern?”
The table furtively glanced back and forth between us, but he smiled and said, “Of course.”
“For five months, we have enjoyed the fruits of our victories. Yet the lands to our East are bountiful and…”
Alexander interrupted by raising his hand. I swallowed.
“Come with me,” he finally said, “and let us discuss this outside.” I followed him with his bodyguards to a terrace overlooking the gardens, where he leaned on the balustrades. A chill wind swept across the steppes at night, but my dulled senses did not mind.
“You were saying?” he asked flatly.
I closed my eyes and let the wind caress my cheeks before answering, “I want to fight for you, my King.”
He violently shook his head. “Epiphanes was your name? Let us do away with the formalities and speak from one soldier to another.”
“Alexander,” I said, “I cannot lounge around in Persia like this. I thirst for battle, not for wines and rose water!”
He laughed, but without humor. “You’re a weird one. Most soldiers would consider this to be their retirement plan. To be fair,” he sighed, “Most want to go home.”
I pushed a vase off the balcony, which shattered two stories below. The bodyguards put their hands threateningly on their hilts but did not intervene as I shouted expletives into the night.
“And what about conquering the world, then?” I finally yelled.
Alexander raised his voice right back at me, “Why can’t you just be happy with what gold and luxury you have?”
“It’s not about the gold, man! This was your dream!”
Alexander calmed his breathing. Then, he slumped into a chair, wiping away sweat, or perhaps it were tears, with the back of his hand. “What do you care about my dream?”
“It was our dream,” I said. I fell to my knees before him, held his youthful face between my palms, felt the heat on his flushed cheeks. “I wanted to be a part of your dream, of your legacy. You are the son of the gods, destined to rule over the world from the Pillars of Hercules to the furthest seas to the East. And now you want to go home after a glorified raid into Persia?”
He looked up to me, and in his eyes I could see the fire in his heart was not yet extinguished. But it was deep, perhaps merely an ember, and he averted his gaze to weep. “I do not know how many rivers lie beyond the Indus. I cannot promise the men what I cannot see, and they already balk at the stories of jungle and elephants to the East.”
And with that, Alexander retreated into his chambers.
I rejoined Timaios, in no mood to celebrate. Joyless, we drank more wine, ate cooled bowls of fruit and honey, and left for the barracks. On the way back, we passed a tavern filled with Persians, and I think I incited a fight. I vaguely recall standing victoriously, but there was no glory in fighting drunken sots. And I knew there would be no more glory when Alexander emerged from his tent, three days later, and announced we would go Westwards, towards Macedon.
Rumors circulated the camp that he intended to cross the sea first, to subjugate Arabia on the detour, but alas, he fell gravely ill. On that fateful day, we passed his tent one by one, and he waved at us from his deathbed. I no longer saw that fire in his sunken eyes and emaciated cheeks; merely regret. I cried for Alexander.
Only then did it sink in, for everyone, that it was well and truly over. There was nothing left but to go home and wallow in our success.
We had peaked.
|# ? Nov 5, 2017 23:29|
prompt: rocky road flavour
We're starving. I’m happy.
My father was an alloy worker. His factory shut down on Black Thursday. For food we wait in the bread lines, get bread with butter so scraped over it was colourless. I like it. I see myself getting skinny, see my ribs protrude, my beautiful ribs. Mirrored surfaces are nice to me. I hold myself in them, trying to capture something, my sharp angles, my divides.
Turn away and see only bone, my skin a thin film.
I can see fear in my father's eyes when he looks at me. It's not my fault, I try to tell him with my eyes. He can’t know that I’m happiest like this, wasting away, barely on this side of life and death.
Everything is bleak. Autumn leaves cut into my skin, leaving marks as they whip past in the wind. The joy clings to my bones, whispers up my spine, until I’m nice and floaty, ready to drift away.
I cut myself open to feel the music. When the others would go to concert halls, I'd stay in my room with a knife and a tape player. The music would seep into me, notes thrumming off my blood cells, making my blood dance. I'd wear long sleeve shirts to hide the scars from my mother.
She doesn't notice. She's too busy enjoying the music themselves. The concert halls are magnificent, large oval shapes, hollowed out. Painted woodgrain. Each fits thousands of people. She disappears for hours.
The music I listen to isn't like the music she listens to. She listens to sweeping symphonies with brass and wood sections that float notes over crashing drums and mournful violins. The music I listen to is simple. Strummed guitar notes which sound like they might have been recorded around a campfire. Soft lyrics about life and love.
I sit on my bed under beige sheets. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I think about Corazon.
After school I'd go to the newsstands, look at the magazines until the clerk chased me out. I'd stare at the models, some of which were thin enough to inspire me. Others weren't quite there.
That’s where I meet Don. He's doing the same thing, except with the funny books. The clerk chases us both out at the same time. We collapse laughing on the dirty street.
He asks me my name.
"Megan," I said.
"I like Meg better," he said. "I'm Don. Look." He pulls a book from his pocket, unrolls it.
"You stole that," I say. "Why?"
Don shrugs. "God must be willing us to steal. We don't have the money to buy."
The book is called Fantastic Stories. He opens it to a splash page. It‘s an alien landscape, green rock set against a blue desert. A spaceman is marooned there. He looks so small against the boulders that I want to cry.
I’m listening to a cassette in my room when Corazon comes in. The steady backbeat is in my blood, running through me in torrents. She slips in noiseless, so I only know she’s there when she waved a hand in my face.
"I need to clean here," she says. Somehow she keeps bitterness out of her voice. But I know she must feel something.
I leave my room, go downstairs to the living room. The fireplace glows bright. My mom is sitting in the armchair, wine glass in hand.
"It’s unfair," I say, "that she’s a slave. That they’re all slaves."
"That's what happens when you get colonized," she says. "We were more advanced." She must be a couple glasses in, at least. Normally there's some affect of sympathy.
Not we, I want to say. We didn't do anything. We just sat here. But I hold my tongue, and for that moment, silence settles over us like a blanket.
She snorts. “Our music is better. You can’t argue with culture.”
Me and my father are gathered round the radio. For years it’s broken its promises, but we listen to it anyway. When we listen, hear Roosevelt’s brave tone, I see the fear in my father's eyes recede. Today Roosevelt is declaring war on Germany and Japan. I can see the wheels in my father's head turn. War means artillery shells. Artillery shells meant alloys. My father will have a job again.
I look at him, can't stop crying. He asks me why, and I tell him it’s because of the war, because of death. Inside my head I see it all coming to an end. My bones hungering for food. Gorging myself on meat and vegetables. I can't take it. I stand up, pushing away from my father, and go to my room.
I go to the mirror. Study my purity, my bones. My gossamer skin stretched over. I will not lose this, I tell myself. I’ll do whatever it takes to stay pure.
The next day I meet Don at the newsstand. It’s raining, the overhead barely keeping it off the magazines. Don lights a cigarette, cupped hands blocking the wind.
“Meg,” he says. “I’m going to war.” He says that’s what his father wants. He asks for a good luck kiss but I won’t give it to him. Tell him that there are lots of French girls to kiss.
When I sleep that night, I dream of worlds being purged of life, left barren for spacemen to find.
It’s blistering hot. I feel the sweat in my scars, dripping in the lines.
I’m tracing my scars with my fingernails. My mother is at the concert hall. I’m alone in the house with Corazon when it starts to shake. I’m thrown against my bed, my sheets wrapping me up, tangling, coming with me over the side of the bed.
I stand up, try to maintain balance as the ground dances under me.
I stumble downstairs, near sliding down the railing. Corazon is there, standing calm. I walk up to her, roll up the sleeve of my shirt, show her the scars tracing up my upper forearm.
She only nods. The window glass breaks, showering us with splinters of glass. I cry out in pain. She stands still, silent.
"God is purging us," she says. I look at my arm. The lines have thickened with the glass cuts. Opaque red, like someone’s coloured me with a marker.
I find my mom's wine stash, nestled in the second drawer of the living room cabinet. I open an expensive looking bottle. It’s the colour of my blood.
I offer Corazon one of my headphones.
We clasp hands, sit together while the music plays and the house shakes. The lyrics are about a girl’s beauty. She’s thin, pale, floats like a butterfly over paper white snow.
It’s like she’s somewhere out of our time, somewhere we can never possibly reach.
We clasp hands as the first tidal wave smashes into the house, seeps in through the broken window. The room is filling with water. We’ll float. We’ll drift away, together.
|# ? Nov 5, 2017 23:35|
Technically, You Would Only Need One Time Traveler Ice-Cream Social
Prompt: Chunky Monkey
Removed from thread, available at the archive
Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 02:10 on Jan 1, 2018
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 01:28|
PROMPT: Chubby Hubby!
He Came Back
Missy waited for the police in the kitchen, but couldn’t keep still. She was convinced that she still had blood on her, or that she had overlooked some obvious clue. That’s how they always got them on TV. A bloody knife carelessly mixed in with the other utensils. A threatening argument overheard by a neighbor.
The clock above the mantel ticked. A fly buzzed in a far-off room. She would not be one of those nameless women devoured by their own mistakes.
Missy pushed the bleach further back under the sink and straightened out the barstools. Then, thinking that too suspicious, made them crooked again. She went into the bathroom and slapped herself several times to get the tears flowing, to keep the officers focused on the panicked housewife and not the acrid smell of drying bleach or the clump of hair that her husband, Paul, had torn from the back of her head.
She touched the ragged skin and winced.
It had not been her fault. No one could blame someone for going a little crazy. It hadn’t been her idea to live out in the boonies, surrounded by bugs and filth. All she had wanted was a nice apartment in the city. Maybe with a daughter that she could dress up and parade around to oohs and aahs. But Paul had laughed himself to tears at that, his braying laughter suffocating her. “Aw, baby, how the hell would we ever afford a nice place in the city? And who in the city would want to be your friend?”
It had been a struggle to move Paul’s fat body.
Missy moved into the living room and tugged on her wedding band. A spider crawled near the edge of her vision and then disappeared beneath a door.
Through the window, she could see police pulling into the tree-lined driveway, sirens off. Around the cottage, trees rustled. She tried not to think of the blood soaking into wet dirt or the shovel in the garage, scrubbed of anything that might suggest foul play or signs of struggle.
“Oh, come in the house, please,” Missy said, tears rolling down her cheek, as she ushered the policemen inside. A fly buzzed in after them. She hated living near the woods.
Missy led the officers into the kitchen and sat them down in the crooked barstools. They did not look at the sink. They did not ask to look in the garage. They did not crane their necks toward the glass pane of the back door, where dark clawing shadows had gathered. Instead, they asked Missy the who, what, where, and why, just like in an episode of CSI.
She had practiced this story, giving her account all the classic dimensions. A cell phone not answered. Calls to friends and neighbors. A teary call to the police. The officers nodded along. Yes, yes. Paul had gone missing and his wife had looked everywhere. There would be a search party tomorrow. Maybe a news report. Then, when everyone had finally given up looking, she would run off to a clean apartment in the city to "move on" from the “bad memories.”
Missy gave a grim smile.
One of the officers opened his mouth, prepared to say something, then stopped. There was a knock. The sound of a fist on glass. Missy turned toward the front door, but the porchlight remained dim and unlit.
There was another knock. Missy turned toward the screen door and felt the blood drain from her body.
Draped in shadow and a set of muddy clothes, Paul smiled through the screen door. He fumbled a hand around the latch like a puppet being pulled by strings.
“Sorry, baby. I can’t believe I got so lost.” His teeth gleamed white. A wave of gnats followed him through the door. “Must have been my headache. My head feels like it’s about to split open.”
The clock above the mantel clanged with hum-drum instrumentality. There were more quiet dinners and half-hearted jokes. Paul went back to work. Missy ironed Paul’s shirts. It was easy to dismiss the entire affair as an overworked mind, a fantasy of an unhappy woman in an unhappy marriage.
But there was the cold slackness of Paul’s skin.
There was his insistence that he dispose of every spider and insect that crawled into the house.
There was his body. Paul had always been “on the heavy side,” but now his body seemed like a large, foreign thing. She found herself staring at the sackcloth of his belly and shuddering at the smell of rotting autumn leaves on his breath. In the silence of their bedroom, she could sometimes hear clittering and tapping.
One night, while Paul was with friends, she grabbed the shovel and ran off into the woods. Frost had already begun to set in, but she ignored the burning in her muscles and tore through the frozen dirt.
A centipede crawled through the earthy soil. She squashed it with her boot. Then, seeing something reflected in the light, leaned toward the insect. There was a patch of pale blonde hair and skin in its pinchers.
Darkness. The clock above the mantel thudded, its chimes ringing through the house. Missy held the shovel in her numb hands as she crossed through the backscreen door. Seated in a crooked stool in the kitchen was the dark shape of Paul. The smell of earthy soil and rotting leaves choked her.
“Paul?” She said, regretting the question as soon as she said it. Her voice seemed to rupture something. Paul swiveled in his chair. His belly churned like an overripe melon.
“Hey there, baby.” He said. Against the black of the kitchen, his teeth seemed to gleam in his withered gums. “You got me a present? Got me a real-nice anniversary gift there? Something for that apartment you’ve been lookin’ for? Ha. Ha.”
Missy swung the shovel into Paul. The blade lodged itself in the fatty flesh of his abdomen. She tried to pull it out, but something spiny creeped up the handle. Missy dropped the shovel and threw herself backwards, toppling the other barstool and ramming her elbow into the lights switch. Numbness shot through her as she opened her mouth to scream.
Paul was not Paul. Great black flies crawled from the opening that Missy had made in her husband’s flesh. A spider larger than her fist jumped from the gash and landed on the newly bleached kitchen tile.
“Ha ha. Baby made an uh-oh.” Said the things in Paul’s ragged skin. It took a step forward and the sackcloth of Paul’s belly ripped open further. Maggots and centipedes snaked their way through the rotten opening. Chunks of nest and larva broke open on the floor. The kitchen grew black and teemed.
Missy screamed and ran into the living room. The clock shattered against the carpet as the army of insects followed her. The withered remain of Paul swayed, black legs and pincers still pouring out of him. “Do ya still wanna go to da city wid me, baby? Ha. Ha.”
She threw open the front door and ran screaming into the forest. Darkness followed.
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 02:15|
sparksbloom fucked around with this message at 03:38 on Nov 27, 2017
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 02:20|
The suits of the space marines were built to survive planetary reentry, unfortunately, their bodies hadn’t advanced past the bit-of-bone-floating-in-a-bag-of-soup stage, and they splattered accordingly. After the ships left the system, the bodies of fallen soldiers littered the beaches of the crab planet.
Bleeborg the giant hermit crab was dumb in all the wrong ways. He watched the flashes in the sky but understood none of it. His smarter conspecifics had hidden beneath rocks or retreated to the sea, but Bleeborg picked over the dead bodies as soon as they landed, in awe of the shiny buttons and bits of tattered fabric. He used his big, scoop-like claw to remove the soft bits out of the soldier’s shell, and held it up in his claws.
The helmet was white, save for the black streaks of soot. One side had a clear section, and when Bleeborg twisted a dial on the side, a mirror fell down. An ugly crab with growths and a grotesque shell stared back at him. He dropped the helmet in his surprise, and it rolled onto its side and came to rest. The crab he’d seen in the helmet did not scamper out. Bleeborg crept up to the helmet, tapping the mirror with one of his long, jointed legs. “Who are you?” he asked his reflection. He looked inside the helmet, but saw nobody inside.
Bleeborg had never owned a nice shell. He awoke too late in the day to find any fresh ones discarded in the night by roving octopuses, and was not strong enough to hold onto any decent shell abandoned by his friends. This new shell was the fanciest he’d ever seen. Smoother than a pearl, harder than obsidian. Seeing nobody inside, he shucked his terrible shell filled with holes and asymmetrical kinks and slipped into his new decadent home.
He strutted down the beach like he’d found a shell made of pure nacre. His friends stuck their heads out of their hidey holes and gaped.
“Is that Bleeborg?” they whispered. “It can’t be.”
Oh but it was. There was no mistaking those pungent pheromones—a cross between decaying fish and sulphuric vents.
The other crabs approached him, both repulsed by his stench and enthralled by his appearance.
When Bleeborg turned to smile at them, they saw that he was still ugly, with crusty deposits and algae growing on his face. They recoiled away from him. But those behind him caught their reflection in the mirrored visor of the helmet, and sidled up close to him.
“You are so strong and handsome,” said the males, and he wanted to be their friend.
“I bet you would sire many strong babies,” said the females, and he wanted to be their lover.
But every time Bleeborg turned to his admirers they shrunk away from him. Others called out from behind him. The hapless crab heard all the compliments, but saw only disgust. He searched and searched for those who liked him, but could find them nowhere. He roamed the beach until dark, searching for his hidden adulators. When the sun went down, the compliments ceased, and the other crabs retreated from his stink.
Bleeborg crawled back to his hovel downwind of the other crab homes, and cried himself to sleep. He woke before dawn, and ran into the lush grasses, away from the beach and the other crabs.
He continued inland until he could no longer hear the crashing waves. Winged pests buzzed around him, and he snapped at them with his claws.
A bird landed on his helmet shell and pecked at it. Bleeborg crawled up inside and stared out the two-way mirror visor. He watched the bird hop off and walk around the helmet. It stopped to stare at its reflection, preened, and then scratched at the plastic.
Bleeborg had seen birds before, they often flew over the beach and snatched smaller crabs from the ground. They were pretty and white, like his helmet. This bird was uglier than him: its head didn’t have any feathers, and its beak was long and gnarled. What feathers he did have looked diseased and unkempt, and were the color of rotting squid. He was bigger than the birds at the beach, and Bleeborg shook with fear.
“Hey,” said the bird, “what kind of shell is this? It’s got nothing good to grab it by”
“It is a gift from the stars,” said Bleeborg. “They exploded, and this fell down from the sky.”
“Interesting.” The bird tried unsuccessfully to grab onto the smooth plastic, but gave up and sat down in the sand next to the helmet. “Don’t usually find you guys so far from the sea,” he said.
“I ran away, everybody runs away from me when they see me.”
The bird ruffled his feathers. “Why?”
“Because I’m ugly.”
“I don’t think you’re ugly.”
Bleeborg rolled his eyes. “You haven't even seen me.”
“True, but would an ugly crab be gifted with such a beautiful shell? You earned it, because you are so smart.”
“Then why do they run from me?”
The bird laughed. “Because they're jealous! Obviously! There was this one bird I knew with a full head full of feathers, and every time he looked at me I was so nervous I would fly away.”
“Really?” Asked Bleeborg.
“Would I lie to you? We're the same, you and me. We're just shy. Misunderstood.” The bird looked down at the ground, and if a beak could droop, Bleeborg thought his would have. The bird started to cry.
Bleeborg pushed up against the visor, wishing he could reach out and comfort his new friend, but crabs and birds did not mix, but he did feel like a kindred soul.
The bird sniffled. “I'm glad I met you, friend.”
Bleeborg hadn't ever had a friend before. He poked his head out of his helmet, ready to rush back in if needed. But the bird didn't stir from his misery.
The crab reached his claw toward the bird and patted him on the back.
The bird took his hand and squeezed it. “I want to show you something,” the bird said. Something I've never showed anybody else.
“I would be honored,” said the crab.
“Do not wiggle free.”
The bird held on to the crab's claw and took to the sky. Bleeborg watched the land shrink below him, and saw he had not ventured as far from the beach as he thought. He looked up at his new friend with wonder.
They soared above the rocks and the bird looked down at Bleeborg. “Ok, now close your eyes for the surprise, and don't be scared.”
Bleeborg closed his eyes and smiled as he fell. His new helmet had brought him what he'd always wanted.
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 02:20|
Prompt: Blue moon!
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 06:09 on Dec 5, 2017
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 02:40|
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 22:15 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 02:43|
Prompt: Cookies n' Cream
The Girl With Orchids in Her Hair
I am sitting under a Cha'kah tree, throwing rocks at the water when she appears.
Flat-faced with green and white orchid-woven hair. Water, dew-like on her skin, shimmering in the fading daylight.
She is smooth like the rocks that line the edge of the water. Like the rock in my hand. I set it down, gently. She smiles at me, and then is gone.
I walk back to the village. I see her in the Yaoche' trees, in the blades of agave, in the gathering clouds. She follows me, the girl with orchids in her hair.
I'm still young and unproven. When I am older I will join the hunting parties. Until then I gather roots and cocoa pods for my mother, who grinds them into paste and fires them into pocket breads to feed the hunters.
The roots. I'd left them at the lake.
I turn, and she's on the deer-path. A quick, shy smile, then gone, blinking away into the palms.
I lope back to the water. My hair falls in my face like wet clay. Sinew and gristle propel my limbs across the ground. I keep low. Dusk is setting in. The animals of the forest stir around me.
A crunch of grass on the path behind me. I turn. It isn't her—it's a jaguar, head low, haunches high. Ready to strike.
I put my arms over my face to block its ripping jaws and razor teeth. But it doesn't pounce. I hear a giggle from behind me. I peek out and the jaguar bounds away into the forest. When I turn she's gone, leaving a faint but sweet perfume in the air.
Over many days and weeks I beat the path to the lake bare. I call out to her. "Come back!" I say. "I want to see you again!" But she never answers.
I smell her perfume on the breeze. I visit her in my dreams.
I become a hunter, then a warrior.
Years later, my nephew is captured and taken for sacrifice by another village. We form a war party to rescue him, but we are met along the path by a hail of arrows and spears. A heavy shaft pierces my shoulder, spinning me around, then an arrow to my thigh drops me to the ground. I lie under a Cha'kah tree, listening to the whoops and hollers and cries of agony from around me. They fade until all I can hear is my blood tricking into the dirt.
Sweet, exotic perfume fills my nostrils and she is there. She has become a woman. The orchids in her hair have born fruit: long, pendulous pods that intertwine through elaborate braids, as green as her eyes, as green as the palms and agave and Kapok trees.
She smiles, caresses my temple, and my pain disappears. I rise and use her strength to lead my war party to victory, her song of laughter echoing through the great forest around us as we hunt and kill and cut trophies from our enemies.
I never take a wife. Instead I walk the path, searching for her.
Years later, rumors spread that ghost-people have arrived from over the Great Water on giant wooden ships.. Arguments erupt as to whether they are gods or demons. Soon news comes from other villages: they plunder treasure, they maim women, they rape children. They hunt us like animals. With that knowledge I know the ghost-people are not gods or demons at all,. They are men.
I am old. My skin is leather and my bones are brittle. I will be no use in the coming war. Now I bake the pocket breads for the warriors who defend our village, using my mother's clay pots and ancient knowledge. My love still visits me in my dreams. She, too, is old. Her eyes are dark and the green pods in her hair have dried into long, wrinkled fruits the color of old blood. But her perfume is still rich and smoky and intoxicating. She is my world, my beautiful, my one true love. But only in dreams.
One night I awake to shouts and cries. The ghost-men have come for our village. They carry sticks that spit fire and many warriors drop, their bodies bursting open under the onslaught. They are few and we are many, but as I watch our warriors fall to their savage weapons I know it is hopeless.
My nephew lets out a great cry to the gods, and the last of our warriors surge forward. The ghost-men are driven back for a moment. They hide behind the great, sacred Kapok and Yaoche' trees that ring our village, and reload their magic weapons for their final assault. Dead and dying warriors lie all around me. We haven't enough men left to defend the village. We'll all soon be dead.
Then I smell her perfume on the air.
The trees erupt in flame. The darkness of night is erased as fire climbs to the sky, licking the moon and stars above. The ghost-men are engulfed. Their screams quickly melt away under the fury of the flames, and then are gone forever.
The fire smolders the rest of the night as we tend the wounded and bury the dead. I watch it, looking for a sign. Looking for her. It burns brightest down the path to the lake, so I follow it, my old bones creaking. The fire beckons me onward.
All around is ash and smoke and burnt stumps of once-sacred trees. Heat and soot burn my nostrils. I suspect I will never smell her perfume again. Still I push on.
The fire recedes. Rising from ashes ahead of me I see a smudge of green. My heart leaps.
A few ragged steps bring me to the great Cha'kah tree by the lake. Its red bark is now covered by long green vines that have sprung from the ground and intertwine, wrapping around each other like a lover's embrace. From between it's mass of broad green leaves delicate white and yellow orchids emerge, radiant in the rising sunlight. I look around in amazement: all the trees that ring the lake are covered in the same beautiful vines, the same fragrant orchids.
Their exquisite sweet and smoky perfume overcomes me. I collapse in front of the great Cha'kah tree and my tears mix with the dirt. And the flowers transform. Delicate white petals peel back and green seed pods emerge, their intoxicating fragrance redoubled, pushing away the soot and smoke and ash. I pluck one and hold it close. It dries into a black cylinder as delicate and wrinkled as my own hand. Her final gift.
I think of the wars I have fought and the animals I have hunted. I think of the sacred trees and flowers and all the roots I gathered in my youth. I think of my clay pots and pocket breads, flavored with cocoa and chilies and honey. I think of my one true love and the gifts she has given me.
I think of the girl with orchids in her hair, and I smile.
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 03:28|
The Impermanence of Rainbow Sherbet
Frozen Explosion Cake
Top Rainbow Sherbet with relighting candles and write "Happy Birthday" or similar message in icing on top
"Wait," I said to Emma as we neared the checkout counter. "We gotta have rainbow sherbet, It's perfect for the whole 'vibrancy' theme."
"What's rainbow sherbet?" she asked, pulling the loaded shopping trolley to a halt.
"Well," I said, remembering it from every kid's birthday I had been to, ever. "It's like icecream, but less airy. And it's multi-coloured and flavoured - that's the rainbow. And it's swirly, not striped like neopolitan or anything. More like a Kanye West dye job. The clients will love it!"
"Ok, cool. We'll get some. You're the boss." She smiled indulgently at me and pushed off toward the freezer section. We rolled past units stocked with tubs of ice cream, packs of ice blocks, random mousses and then on to the frozen vegetables. We retraced our steps but couldn't find a single tub of sherbert.
I sighed. "Man, first the cat goes missing, and now this."
Emma put her hand on my arm and gently stroked it twice. "C'mon, ya big baby - Fluffbag will show up. And we'll check for your sherbet online when we get home. Someone will have some."
"Maybe," I said, brightening a little.
"There's probably porn about it, too"
"How would that even...no, I don't think I want to know."
We passed through the multi-coloured impulse buy machine of the checkout queue and went into the darkening evening toward home.
Serve Rainbow Sherbert into plastic cups with shaved ice and serve with spoons made of hard candy.
"Google has never heard of rainbow sherbert," called Emma from the lounge as I put away the groceries.
"What?" I yelled back as I balanced the old tub of margarine on top of the new pack.
"Google says there is no such thing. Same with wikipedia. God help me, I even looked on Bing."
I came in from the the kitchen and plummeted onto the sofa beside her like a disbelieving meteorite. Her laptop screen glowed white with the absence of search results. I checked her spelling, her use of quotation marks, even her net connection. All was in order. We could find a million flavours of sherbert, and every kind of rainbow up to full circle, triple ones, but the combination of the two was as absent from the online world as from our local supermarket.
"That's insane," I said at last.
"It's not just some family thing you guys did?" asked Emma. "You know, like, wizard hat wednesdays."
"No - it wasn't like that at all. And we only did the wizard thing once to annoy my brother. I remember the sherbert - tubs of it were always in the freezer. They were blue plastic, and the label top was this spiralling colour wheel, like you used to make at fairs with an old record player and some paint squirters."
"Can you remember the company? Was it Walls, or Streets, or anything?"
"Um, brock or broke or something like that. Brokemans, that was it."
Emma gave me a weird look, and tapped "brokemans sherbert" into the search bar. There was a single result, just a link, no abstract. "Googlewhack!" she said, and clicked the link. Up popped a ''DNS Entry can't be found' error. "Well, so much for that," she said.
"Not so fast." I pulled the keyboard toward me, went back to the results page, and found the cache of the page. A swirling kaleidoscope of cheesy flash animation spun around and around. I clicked it in several places to see if anything happened. Nothing did.
"Christ, I think that is giving me a migraine, " said Emma.
"Brain freeze?" I said, but she didn't smile.
Soak Rainbow Sherbert in Ginger Ale and whip until extra frothy
"Look, sweetie," said Emma, holding our landline to her ear with her shoulder, "can we just forget about this? I'm on hold for the fifteenth time. Nobody has heard of rainbow sherbert, or brokemans. I know you wanted a theme for the release party, but we've already got floats and hundreds and thousands and all that crazy 'Vibrancy' kids stuff..."
I sighed, recognising Emma's 'last politeness before turning the air blue with impressive vulgarity' tone. "Yeah, OK. Thanks babe, we tried."
"We did," she agreed, removing the phone from the crook of her neck and pressing the hang-up button with obvious pleasure. "Well, I'm off to bed - we've still got to get the decorations sorted for the hall tomorrow and I'm not sure the money we saved not getting caterers is quite gonna cover the drinks budget if we're inviting those XPerriants folks."
"I'm just going to keep working. Got a couple of other things to finish before I can sleep."
"Ok then," she called as she left the lounge. "Don't work too hard."
I didn't reply. Instead, I started looking at the source of the brokeman's cached webpage. Looking for clues, I told myself, but it was mostly gibberish to me. I tried following a few links in the code, but none of the domains seemed to be registered any more. I flicked back to the cached page, watched the rainbow spiralling away into infinity. The lines of colour all got thinner as they reached the outside edge. I tried to keep my eye on one single line, a blue one, tried to keep focussing on it as it revolved, as it got closer and closer to the edge, the colours around it getting narrower, blending together, going from a rainbow, to a dirty, muddy grey, to a gleaming white that grew around me.
I jerked awake as my head hit the wooden knob on the arm of the sofa. "Jesus," I said, rubbing the point of impact just above my ear. "I guess I was more tired than I thought, because now I'm talking to myself. Time for bed."
I shut the lid of the laptop and headed toward the bedroom. The hallway light was off, and I shuffled my way in the dark. Once inside, I listened for Emma's breathing. If she was asleep it would be louder than normal, but perfectly regular.
It was completely silent.
"Emma?" There was no reply.
I turned on the light and the room interior flicked into view. The bed was empty, and unslept in. The wedding photo of the two of us that stood on the nightstand was gone.
I hurried out of the bedroom, and made my way back to the lounge, looking in every door on the way. She wasn't in the bathroom, the laundry or the kitchen. Once back in the lounge I sat down in front of my laptop, ignoring the swirling, spiralling image on the screen. The photos of us that used to decorate the lounge were all gone. I opened a new tab on the laptop and typed Emma's full name into the search bar.
Find a compatible individual for conversation, companionship and intimacy
There were no results.
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 03:53|
He Who Tells Us What We Cannot Do
Prompt: Moose Tracks
This story is now here.
apophenium fucked around with this message at 22:52 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 03:53|
[Edited post-competition to remove a superfluous line that I hate.]
Can't Always Get It
"Mio..." Stifled tears. "Mio figlio. Non posso credere..."
The tears were getting less stifled.
"Shh. Ci sarò."
After some time, the landing gear lowered and connected.
Napoli wasn't supposed to be gray. It wasn't supposed to be cold, either. I knew that this was a stupid way to think, but all my life, I'd been shown the Mediterranean in exactly one kind of weather, and in the back of my head, it somehow felt like reality was wrong, not my stereotype.
It had taken me a long time to get here. Twenty-eight years. Twenty-six of them knowing that I was probably adopted, two filling in the blanks after the sketch was inked. And now, here I was, countless Internet rabbit-holes and telephone labyrinths, and a plane ride, behind me. The Spaccanapoli beneath, slick and caked with slush. And somewhere before me, a house where Carla Bianchi, my Neapolitan mom, was waiting.
I felt like the worst kind of modern schlub, an ugly American, nose buried in my phone as it led me off the main street past buildings I wished I could bother to look at. Or would gawking be the tourist trash thing to do? Why did I even care when whoever built them centuries ago would just be happy they were still here? I was suddenly at the door.
Knock. Knock knock.
The moment hung as I could feel the synapse of my life closing. I was here. I wasn't ready, but I reveled in it.
Huh. I really wasn't ready.
Not for the silence that had swallowed the stoop.
I knocked again, a little harder. Had Carla left for something without telling me? I reached for the bell, but there wasn't one.
Straining to the limit the reverence that I had built for this meeting, this person, I raised the bright screen of my phone to the window and peered in. The lights weren't on at 1 p.m., but with these clouds, there wasn't much sunlight either. But I could make it out in there, a rocking chair, a small table piled with silhouette. Wait, on the floor...
My numb fingers mashed out 112 (no idea how I remembered it), my lips slapped together something like the address, and I lay down shivering on the wet steps. They probably heard me on the other end.
She had left me a decent amount of money, and I gave a decent funeral back. Things began to return to normal, even if they did it without me.
Sham bam bamina! fucked around with this message at 05:16 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 04:57|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:24 on Jan 8, 2018
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 05:01|
|# ? Aug 12, 2022 23:54|
What is Superman Ice Cream? - Comments by a Viewer
The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 01:24 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? Nov 6, 2017 05:03|