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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


A Little Medicine (1080 words)

His daughter was a whore - Niles knew - but said nothing. His daughter was a whore; Niles knew, but did nothing. There could be no secrets between them. Their world was too small.

Niles stared up at the ceiling, his gaze glassy and unfocused in the light of a dull lantern. There were words. His daughter's, then the doctor's.

"Thank you so much for coming."

"Weren't no trouble at all. Had you in a fright, did he? He just needs more rest. More rest and more medicine."

Niles heard the clink of a bottle by his bedside. He shut his eyes. Tightly. He'd been a strong man, once. The strongest. The biggest and the strongest. Now he was simply big, and a burden. He couldn't be moved, and behind the doctor's pleasant demeanor lurked a man who charged extra when summoned from his clinic. A man who insisted he make monthly checkups. A man he'd tired of seeing long ago.

"Well, I suppose I'll be going then." The doctor collected his things. "Plenty more patients to attend to, you know."

"Ah, well, let me get the door for you."

"Ha ha, my, but what good service."

The door swung wide, out into the hall. Niles blinked and looked down, his eyes peeled, his vision fixed on the doctor's back. A moment of clarity bought by an inconvenient choice of words. He saw the doctor scribble something on a piece of paper and hand it to his daughter. The doctor tipped his hat and disappeared.

He heard the softest click as his daughter shut the door. His daughter, Audrey. The angel, the whore.

She'd been born in this room, her and her sister. Audrey and Alexis, with six years between. It'd always been cramped, but still, it was home. Niles remembered cradling them in his arms, their heads held up by kind, calloused hands. They'd pull on his beard. He'd howl in feigned pain. Their mother laughed, before she left. A military man would whisk her away.

"Does it hurt, daddy?" Alexis asked. Audrey's ears perked up. She listened for his answer.

"A little, a little."

Alexis stopped pulling on his beard thereafter. Audrey started tidying up.

Niles' own father had taken every excuse to turn to the drink. Niles wasn't like him. He couldn't be, wouldn't be. He worked every day to provide for his girls. In the mines, in the fields, in the forests. He had no time for vices or distractions. He had no time to find religion. He had the girls to think of, and that drove away his need to grieve. Audrey, old enough to remember the before times, made sure to include little kindnesses for him in her daily routine. Alexis, who wasn't, understood very little, and said even less.

In this way, their family approached what might've been an approximation of happiness. Until the accident. It took three men to drag him upstairs, to lay him down.

"He'll never walk again," the surgeon said. He took off his glasses and wiped them with a cloth. "And the pain, well, there's a remedy for that."

Niles had worked hard to provide for his daughters. They'd need to work harder still. Cooking and cleaning only brought in so much. Alexis, at least, had a head for numbers. Audrey did not. Alexis found work as a bookkeeper. Audrey found work at a brothel. Alexis worked days. Audrey worked nights.

Their room, once intimate, grew claustrophobic. Niles watched from his bed as his daughters went about their business, preparing for the day or detoxing after. In the corner of the room, obscured by little more than a ragged curtain, sat an old tin washtub. Audrey bathed every evening before she left, and every morning when she returned. Her morning baths were always longer. She return with a weary smile, turn, and disrobe. She'd returned one day with clothes that were much nicer than anything they could afford. She hung them with care and stepped into the tub. Sometimes there were marks on her back. Sometimes there were bruises.

The medicine Niles took dulled his reactions, but in his heart he cried out.

Audrey sighed. It was getting on in the evening. Soon Alexis would return. She clapped her hands to her face. She turned to her father and smiled. "Sis'll be home soon, then I'll be off." Opposite the washtub was some shelving. Audrey bent down and retrieved a certain book. She rifled through its pages until she found the one she needed. She took the paper the doctor had given her and placed it in the margin. Niles knew when Alexis returned, she would turn to that page. She would do the numbers. She would suffer in silence.

"Audrey..."

"Ah! Father!" She flew to his side, her finger to his lip. "You mustn't speak. You need to preserve your strength."

Niles' breathing grew harsh, then softened. "I have no strength. I've become a terrible chain 'round your necks. You and your sister...you work so hard. Too hard."

"Not nearly as hard as you, father."

"No. Harder. Much harder." Niles sighed. He raised his hand up to his daughter's face. He caressed her cheek. Her eyes were tired, but her smile was real. Niles closed his eyes. "Your sister will be here any minute now. Before she comes..."

He raised his hand and gestured at the far wall where an old hunting knife hung beneath a picture. Audrey followed his finger, then recoiled.

"What are you saying!"

"You're both still young. Too young to live like this. Take-"

Audrey slapped his hand down. Niles' hand was large, but he offered no resistance. His eyes betrayed confusion.

"I won't. And don't you dare pull this on Alexis. She won't either."

"Don't you want to leave?"

"If we'd wanted to leave, we would have!"

"Don't you want to...be free?"

"We are free." She took his hand. "And this is what we wanted."

"You're only staying because you feel guilty. You feel guilty your mother left."

"I'm staying because I love you!"

She buried her head in his chest, his wild and untamed beard. She held him close, held him tight. Niles hesitated, then put his arms around her. Slowly.

"I don't know if it helps to know this," she said, "But it's the truth."

Niles shut his eyes and shuddered. "It helps," he said.

"It does?" She looked at him.

He smiled. "A little, a little."

***

Flashrule: "Even when he's upright, he can't walk in a straight line, so his kids have to make their own way in the world."

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


GenJoe posted:

The winner this week is Tyrannosaurus.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Funerals are for the Living (957 words)

The boy Nicholas had arrived by way of the No. 4 bus some twenty minutes late. Kaufman checked his pocket watch. Twenty-two. Still, no matter.

"Must be Nicholas, then," he said. He was an enormous man, Kaufman, all dressed in black. Beady-eyed with a hawk-like nose, he reminded the boy of an overfed vulture. His voice provided the antidote to his appearance: in silence he was terrifying, but his voice betrayed a deep yet comforting drawl.

Nicholas stood motionless, his right hand gripping a weather-beaten suitcase. A mousy boy with sharp eyes, he glanced to the left and right, then answered.

"Yes."

Kaufman nodded.

"Look a mite stringy. Had yourself some breakfast?"

"No."

"Hmm, well, let's not piss away the daylight." He tilted his head down the street. "Yonder’s a diner should fix us up." He reached for the boy's suitcase. The boy held it tight. Kaufman considered the boy's face, frowned, then shrugged. "Suit yourself."

The diner was a cozy little establishment, scarcely big enough to serve a dozen people. Kaufman secured them a booth by the window. Confined in this space, he seemed even larger. A smiling waitress brought him a plate of chicken and waffles, with some pancakes for the boy. A jukebox in the corner played the same track on repeat. There were no words, or they might've unplugged it.

Kaufman cut into his meal with surgical precision, not a cell of butter and syrup disrupted. Delicate work for a man with his hands. Nicholas watched him for a spell, his own hunger growing in the pit of his stomach. At last he snatched up his knife and fork. Despite his stature, he made short work of his pancakes.

"Hmph," Kaufman said, his smile obscured by his napkin, "There's our human being. Had me thinking I'd picked up a robot."

Nicholas met his gaze, then looked away. "Sorry."

"Nothing for it." Kaufman stacked the plates. "Been through a lot, I understand. Be through more before this is over."

Nicholas looked out the window. Across the way stood a family in front of a toy shop. A young girl, hand-in-hand with both her parents. Nicholas rubbed his hands together under the table.

The waitress swung by. "Will that be all, boys? Could pack you some muffins for the road."

Kaufman's face hardened, but his tone remained charitable. "No, thank you." He waved her off. "Muffins," he whispered, shuddering. He shook his head. "Is there anything more disappointing?"

Nicholas cocked his head, confused.

Kaufman paid for their breakfast and led the boy a ways. Nicholas kept in step. It was a small town, yet decently sprawling. Aside from a few aparment buildings, an old factory, and an out-of-place cathedral, few buildings dared to encroach upon the sky. The streets were sparsely populated. Most people were at school or work, the boy surmised. A car passed by. He watched it disappear around the corner. The length of their walk began to weigh on his mind.

"Don't you own a car?"

"For emergencies. Walking's a better use of your legs, 'specially for the peckish."

The two turned the corner and emerged upon a field. Nicholas' eyes widened at the sight. It was a large, lush field fenced in by imperial-looking iron latticework, dotted with trees, divided into rows and columns of tombstones. Barring entrance was a foreboding gate. Kaufman fished a key out of his pocket.

"This is where you live?"

"Aye. Bit forlorn in the winter, perhaps, but it's lovely in the spring, or just after a war." He pushed the door open, paused, then burst out laughing. "Ha ha, gotcha. Nah, I've an apartment up the way. Work here though. Need a stop. Mind?"

Nicholas hesitated. He shook his head.

"I'm sure this ain't a place you're partial to but it's what I do. If it gets to ya you've a cousin three-" Kaufman counted on his fingers "-four states over."

Beyond the graves stood an old sandstone building whose majesty was evident even after all these years. Kaufman stepped through the garden, up the steps, and disappeared inside. Nicholas remained among the tombs. Things were still and quiet here, as though they’d entered another world entirely. Beyond the bars were cars and people and animals and radios, but they all seemed so far away. A bird flew in, a foreign invader, and landed on a tree branch, chittering.

There were some newer graves, but the vast majority were old and overgrown, covered in grass and leafs and flowers. Nicholas bent down to examine the site closest to him. Bright red poppies had sprung forth. He reached to pluck one, only to stop himself. He remembered a voice that once caused him pain, only now – only here – felt distant yet calming.

“A flower in a jar lives on borrowed time. Better to leave them as they are.”

Nicholas sat down among the graves, cross-legged, and opened his suitcase. Among his things, his clothes, was a small notebook and pencil held together with a rubber band. Retrieving them, he shut the suitcase and began to draw. He didn’t notice Kaufman looking out the front door for him, nor retreating into the darkness of the building moment’s later. For an hour he sat there, absorbed in the flowers.

“Sorry for the wait,” Kaufman said, his voice snapping Nicholas back to Earth. Nicholas turned and scrambled to his feet. He dusted off his pants.

“Sorry, sorry,” said the boy, his notebook in his hands. “I suppose we’ll be off then.”

“Somewhere more comfortable for sitting, I’ll wager.”

Nicholas turned and headed for the entrance. Kaufman looked down and saw the boy’s suitcase left among the graves. He picked it up and followed after.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Sebmod's gone mad with power!

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


People stopped kissing Flerp after they realized he wasn't turning into a prince.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In like Errol Flynn.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


One Last Job (630 words)

"I ain't gonna die or nothing."

She lit a cigarette, her sleeves rolled up past the elbow. She was a scrawny sort with hollow eyes, but when she smiled you knew it was real. Knew she spoke the truth, and only the truth. In that moment, she was immortal.

"You really think we can pull this off," I asked.

"We have to," she said. She smiled. "For the kid."

Four men had exited the train. Dangerous men. Between them was a suitcase. Our future. Our salvation. The conductor checked his watch and nodded. "All aboard?" We weren't. Not yet, though we held our tickets crumpled in our hands.

She kept her revolver in her lap, wrapped in velvet cloth. She checked the chamber with utmost discretion.

"Six shots," she said, "Minus four." She laughed. "Think you can handle two?"

"I have to."

"drat right."

I stepped onto the platform with a taste for blood. It's peculiar how familiar that taste can become. I approached them slowly, those lonesome demons. I knew them at once, though we'd one just met. The Little Man, the Mustache, the Cyclops, and the Scar. Men who’d sold their souls for cash. Well, I suppose I should judge.

"Excuse me," I said. They turned as one. Gaunt-faced and grim, except for the one. The Little Man, curious, had a smile something dreadful. He'd removed his hat and was fixing his hair.

"Can I help you, friend?"

I raised my shield, the King James Bible. "Have you heard the good news?"

There was a whistle, and the train began to lurch forward. The Little Man blinked.

"This a joke?"

"It's a robbery," I said. I punched him in the face.

The Little Man's nose bled out like a faucet. He crumpled to the floor, his fellows reaching for their backs; their guns, or knives, or whatever other evils men carry in secret. The Mustache seemed the quickest draw. I never gave him time to show his hand. He towered above as I dropped to the floor. I swept my leg and he toppled to the ground.

I snatched at the briefcase and glanced to the bench by the clock. She was gone. Gone? The butt of a gun brought me back to my senses. It belonged to the Scar, still clutching the handle of the case.

The Cyclops lashed out with a knife in his hands. I raised the Good Book instinctively, the blade penetrating clear through its spine. With a flick of the wrist I wrenched the blade from his grasp. I snatched it mid-flight, and drove it deep into the Scar’s snakeskin boots, now red and bubbling. The Scar howled. The case was released. I swung it aside just in time. I caught the Mustache, rising, in the chest. He toppled backward. Just wasn’t his day.

The train was moving.

The Cyclops threw a punch. I held up the case. I felt a tug, and looked down to see the Little Man snatching at my legs. I shooed him away with a kick to the stomach. He tripped up the Cyclops, who collapsed in a heap.

I sprinted for the train, and saw her hand extend from the door. “Get up, get up!” She pulled me to safety.

The rush of life caught up to me. I collapsed in the car, my breathing heavy.

“Where were you? Why didn’t you take the shot?”

“We’ve caused a commotion, don’t you think?”

“There was a commotion! I could’ve been killed!”

“But you weren’t.” She smiled. “And you won’t.” I understood.

She helped me to my feet, and shouldered me through the car.

"Of course," I said, "This means we have to talk about the kid."

"The kid?" she asked.

"Don't name him after me."

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Henpecked (1228 words)

Henrietta was loose. Again. The master would be furious.

Claire dipped her finger in the inkwell. In her free hand she held an egg, freshly laid. She stood before the table where the master handled his experiments. Even without him, the workshop bubbled and churned with activity, beakers filling beakers, autonomous devices clicking into place.

The floor of the room was buried in books. It'd taken her an hour to find the right one.

She withdrew her finger from the pot. The tip was black. Impossibly black, a painted void. She held the egg aloft and, with great care, began to trace a series of shapes across its surface. She glanced to the book between gestures. It was a simple enough ritual, but still, there were standards.

The egg was consumed in an intricate tattoo. A minor scribble on a larger object, but the egg was so small it dominated completely. Wiping her finger off with a handkerchief, she held the egg in both hands and closed her eyes.

"Take me to your owner, the one who made you!"

She turned and threw the egg to the ground. The egg fell and froze, inches from destruction. Wobbling in place, it rose a little, and began to jaunt off towards the door. Claire breathed a sigh of relief as she shut the book. She pocketed the inkwell and stepped into her boots.

Claire had only recently begun her apprenticeship, but she was a fast learner. Not of the material she studied, unfortunately, but of people in general, and the master in specific. He was a man who valued knowledge above all else, and just below that, keeping things tidy. He was a man who seldom took students except under supreme duress - such as the threat of losing his license if he didn't take a pupil. He was a man who'd rejected conventional notions of power, pleasure, and wealth, save for one: it seemed imperative to his health, his mood, his good humor, that he start every morning with an egg for breakfast. That was Henrietta's job.

Henrietta could be replaced, of course. But so could Claire.

"I'm off for the weekend," he told her as she stuffed his umbrella up the chimney. "Keep the place shipshape until I get back." He stepped into the hearth, shot up, and was gone. That was three days ago. He'd be back for lunch.

She stepped out onto the cobblestone streets, careful to close the door behind her. She carried no key, nor needed one. The door knew who was welcome and who wasn't. The egg swam on as it waltzed through the open alleyways, past the garbage bins and the stray cats. Claire kept pace, her eyes fixed on the wandering egg. She'd recalled playing in these streets as a shopkeeper's daughter. Her familiarity guided her steps.

"Where's she gone to?"

The egg proved a capable navigator, not that it could've been anything else. It weaved through the crowds, the majority of whom took no notice of it. Claire was the sore spot as she bumbled through the throng. At last the egg descended down a set of stairs, in the direction of the canal. Claire caught up, and saw it disappear.

Around the bend was Henrietta, strutting about the pier like royalty. Having found its target, the egg did a twirl, and zipped back to greet Claire as she came around the corner. She caught it just in time to avoid it shattering in her face.

She then looked and saw the boatman. He was pulling ashore, his eyes on Henrietta.

“Here chicky-chicky!”

Claire gulped, her eyes narrowing. Around Henrietta’s neck was a thin copper necklace. To the boatman, those lacking true sight, she looked like any other chicken. Claire knew better. She’d been trained to look. Henrietta was no mere chicken. She was a cockatrice. Half-chicken, half-lizard.

Perhaps the boatman thought he was helping. Perhaps he just saw an animal without an owner. Either way, a flustered cockatrice was dangerous. A peck from its beak could turn you to stone. Henrietta was better trained than to attack random people, but a strange man grabbing her would be a problem.

Claire hesitated, her hand in her pocket, tight around the inkwell. She wasn’t yet clear to practice in public. Catching Henrietta in a vacant alley would’ve been nothing, but here with a witness, she had to be quick.

The boatman moored his boat.

“Ah, you’ve found her!”

The boatman looked up to see Claire bounding down the steps. She held the egg behind her back, her thumb erasing some of the markings on its surface. The right ones, she hoped.

“Excuse me?” asked the boatman. He stood up to his full, considerable height. Claire draped herself protectively around Henrietta, her hands wrapped around its neck. Henrietta cawed and flapped about in resistance.

“My pet,” she said. She nestled Henrietta in mock-affection, and turned the bird’s head from view. She let slip the egg, which rolled away, and held Henrietta’s beak shut. She used the transferred ink on her thumb to draw a circle around the beak. Henrietta shuddered and fell silent, rendered calm. Claire hugged her tightly. “She’s been missing all morning! Thank you ever so much for finding her.”

The boatman looked her up and down.

“You saying this here is your bird?”

“I am. And she is.”

He folded his arms, thick and tattooed. “Got proof?”

Cripes, she thought, so that’s how it is. “Proof? What sort of proof? She’s got a necklace you know.”

“Necklace ain’t a collar, and I ain’t seen no names on it neither.”

Claire swallowed. “I wasn’t aware you needed to stamp your name on something to own it. Is there paperwork involved?”

“Don’t have to be.” The man stepped forward, one foot on the pier. He cracked his knuckles. “Let’s just say finder’s keepers, and you can be on your way.”

It’s a chicken, what, is there a lucrative black market for these things? “So that’s your angle, is it?”

“Aye. And I ain’t seen yours, missy.”

“Of course you haven’t,” she said, and the egg looped around from behind. It hit him in the head and shattered on impact.

“What the-”

The man spun around and was thrown off his balance. He fell into the canal with a splash.

“Pleasure doing business with you, then,” said Claire. She tucked Henrietta under her arm and rushed into the streets.

The route home was short. Claire’s preferred alleyways had never let her down. She grabbed the handle of the door and entered just in time to see the master emerge from the chimney covered in soot. He was shaking out his umbrella in the fireplace.

“Claire? Henrietta? Where have you been? Why’s half my library on the floor?”

Claire was about to answer when her breathing caught up with her. “Henrietta… got loose… sir. I had… to catch her.”

“And the books?”

“The books...” Claire fumbled for words. The master shook his head.

“Ah, nevermind. I’ll hear about it later. Now put her down and clean up this mess.”

“Sir, yes sir!” She rubbed the ink from Henrietta’s beak and set the creature loose into the house. She got down on her hands and knees and began to collect the strewn-about books.

The master examined Henrietta’s cage.

“No eggs today?”

Henrietta froze.

***

Prompt:

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Won't be long now before someone prefaces a story they didn't write with the story of why they didn't write it.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In with augmented reality glasses.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


The Beautiful World (970 words)

The year was 2041, and anime was finally real.

It was a simple procedure. An artificial membrane stretched across the cornea. You could touch it if you wanted, or control it with your thoughts. Everyone’s eyes were custom-tailored. In this way you could filter reality. The people of Earth had never been happier.

Milos nursed his drink, his eyes drawn to his reflection in the polished sheen of the countertop. He’d been born with a natural squint his chosen aesthetic stylized as shut. He raised his free hand and held the lid open. There it was. Hazel. Just like he remembered.

“You alright, Milos?”

A Better Tomorrow, Too was a cramped little space, cozy and compact. A dozen patrons would’ve been a crowd. But it was warm and tidy and the drinks were cheap. The cook was nice. The bartender was nicer. Her name was Hailey.

“Fine, fine, I’m fine.” He offered a smile, a wave of his hand. “Busy day, is all.”

“Ah, well, you looked right lost in thought. Leave you be, then.”

“No, no, it’s fine. Wouldn’t have come if I needed my space.”

Hailey shrugged. She was doing inventory. Thursday nights were slow nights. Only Milos came. “Thank God,” she’d say, “You’re the only one keeping us in business you know.”

He’d smile. “A financial burden, I assure you.”

She was an eternally youthful twenty-something with cat-like eyes and short, perfectly-feathered hair. She wore the uniform of her profession, a vest and collared shirt – black on white – creased and ironed. Her hair was a minty sea green, but her eyes were hazel. Just like his. It was her bar, and she went to great lengths to keep it spic-and-span. Her apartment was a nightmare, he heard.

They’d met at a concert in the square. That was some time ago. He worked days, she worked nights. He’d stop by in the evening. On Thursdays he’d have dinner. Always.

Milos tapped his eye. It felt like touching the screen on his phone.

The two were dolls in a playhouse, stylized approximations of humanity. It might’ve been jarring, but his eyes retrofitted the world to match. The backboard of the bar was a mesh of pastels, each bottle dazzling, sharply-inked. It was a world of solid colors, simply shaded, and vibrant. The geometry of the bar, the street, the city, was perfect, and only occasionally impossible. The look of it meshed. It all made sense.

“What about you,” he’d asked when they first met. “What’s your angle?”

“Ah, well.” She chuckled. “My dad loved his crime films, the old smoke and dramas. A bit young, then, but we watched them all the same. American mobsters, Hong Kong action.” She did a little karate chop. “When it came time to pick, well, I felt the need for heroic bloodshed, those neon streets with a dash of the noir.”

“Terrifying. So how do I look?”

“Oh, cool. Very cool. Especially your jacket.”

The jacket in question was sleepy blue. Milos himself wasn’t fond of it, but he always wore it whenever he visited.

He was summoned to the present by the ring of a bell. His meal was ready. The cook who’d prepared it was a faceless apparition, a shadow puppet in human clothes. Everyone started out that way, until you got to know them. Milos only now considered he’d never learned the man’s name. He must have a name. He deserved it. His food was exquisite.

Milos dug into his steak. He took a bite, chewed, and swallowed.

“Hailey.”

“Hmm?”

“I think I’d like…I’d rather like to see you.”

“Oh?” She cocked her head, hand to her chin. “Not sure how you’d like me to interrupt that.” Her eyes flashed with mischief.

“Ah, no, not like that.” Milos scratched the back of his head. “I want to see you. The real you. And this place. And I’d like you to see me. The real me, I mean.”

Hailey’s expression dipped, uncertain. She took a moment to process his request. “You mean…unfiltered?” She tapped her eye.

Of course you could adjust the filters. You could turn them off, if you wanted. Milos had seen the world this way since his teens. When he blinked, if he wished, it could all be over.

The previous weekend they’d gone to the mountains. A remote location deep in the woods. There’d been a lake there they hadn’t known about. In the heat of the moment, under a blazing sun, they’d gone skinny dipping. Their bodies were perfect, without blemish or flaw. It was something Milos had never really thought about until he’d seen her, heard her speak. She traced her finger up her chest, turning at the collarbone.

“Scared?” She grinned. “This is it. Quite the war wound, wouldn’t you say?”

Milos couldn’t see it. He’d known about it, the scar. She told him she’d gotten it in a car accident. She’d nearly died. She’d described the scar in loving detail. Horrible though it was, she saw its value. The experience had given her a new lease on life.

It was so important to her, and Milos couldn’t see it. There was no room for scars in his vision of the world. Instead she was perfect. But people weren’t perfect. He'd grimaced at the time. He figured he should.

He finished relaying this to her at the bar. A lack of other customers kept his words honest. She mulled them over.

“Well, I suppose that’s reasonable enough. But switching off’s easy.”

“Not as easy as it should be. That’s why I think we should do it together. It’d be strange if...if only I knew the true you, or you only me.”

He held out his hand. She hesitated, then took it. They looked into each others eyes.

“One…two…three.”

They blinked.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In, open to collaboration.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Supply and Demand (1,055 words)

Somehow or another, I ended up keeping the books for an evil organization. You know, like in the movies. Well, it’s not like I care who signs my paycheck. I’m not rich enough that I can afford convictions like only working places that recycle or respect animal rights.

“I don’t understand.”

The Iron Mandrill rarely does. He sits cross-legged, lounging, his many-ringed fingers unpacking a small candy taken from a glass bowl. His seventh in the last hour. I don’t think he knows.

“Well sir the existing timeframe established in your recent ultimatum to the mayor is simply incompatible with the current rate of production afforded by our black market factory operations, to speak nothing of the logistical challenges of keeping such an army of martial arts robots well-oiled, fueled, and fighting fit for the duration of a conflict set to far outstrip your projected window for victory by a week.”

The Mandrill rolls the little ball of chocolate between his fingers. I wish he wouldn’t. He’s going to touch everything, the paperwork, the doorknob. In the bottom drawer of my desk I keep a carton of cigarettes beneath a packet of sanitation wipes. I don’t smoke. Some days I just like to think about it.

The Mandrill leans forward.

“Now you listen here.” He points with a velvet glove perfectly coordinated with his feathered lapel, his tone like his face both stern and imperial. “I recorded that speech with the full assurance of my R&D team that we were set to march on the city this Tuesday while Captain Tomorrow is still in recovery. I’ve released the video on the Internet! Have you seen the views?” He produces his phone with a flick of the wrist.

“I’ve seen the views sir.”

He holds it up anyway.

“400,000 views! That’s a third of the city! Can the Iron Mandrill back down after such a proclamation has already been received by the people? Are you asking I rescind my call for conquest?”

“You’ll have to sir if you’d like to actually keep and consolidate your territorial gains in the wake of the merger.”

“I employ top men! And women!” he adds, as though I should be grateful. “Are you suggesting my loyal vassals have lied to me, withholding information vital to the implementation of my plans?”

“It’s a possibility sir.”

“Damnation!” He settles back into his chair, a hand to his chin. I notice the ball of chocolate’s gone missing. In my mind I’ve already removed my jacket, rolled up my sleeves, and started looking for it. The Mandrill goes on like I’m not even there. “How could they do this to me?” He crosses his arms, his legs. “Me! The Iron Mandrill!”

“It might boost corporate relations sir if you didn’t threaten your employees with termination over perceived setbacks.”

“Fear breeds obedience, Kaufman! I’m not running a daycare center; I’m trying to conquer the Western seaboard!”

I glance at the clock. There’s a sale on fresh vegetables down the street at the farmer’s market. I should pick up some tomatoes. After I find the chocolate. Before it melts.

The Mandrill sighs, eyes shut, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose.

“What…what do I need to do to make this all work?”

“I’m afraid there’s little we can do sir, at least at this juncture. For future projects of this scale I’d advise rebalancing the budget in advance. You’ve a number of unnecessary expenditures that might be better served cut as well.”

The Mandrill looks up at me perplexed, disbelieving. “Nonsense. All three of our Swiss bank accounts are at my disposal. All is distributed in keeping with my will.”

If I find the ball quickly, if there are no lines, I should be able to make 6:50. I click my pen and circle a number of items in the ledger.

“Be that as it may sir the funds you’ve diverted to maintaining your wardrobe, your employees’ uniforms, and the projected expenditures of dressing up your robot army in costume all constitute a considerable bite of the financial pie.”

“Have you ever seen a mandrill? They are creatures both beautiful and strong! The males especially! How do you expect me to birth a new order both beautiful and strong with plainly-presented minions?”

“Presumably sir by leaning harder on the ‘Strong’ part before easing into the ‘Beautiful’ bit once you’ve consolidated the power of your brand.”

“Bah!” The Mandrill takes another candy. His eighth. “You understand nothing. This pageantry is what sets us apart from the riff-raff, the common criminals! Would you have me stand atop humanity in suit comprised of brown paper sewn with twine, my robot army standing lock-step in donation-bin hoodies?

I snap the ledger shut.

“I admit sir that the finer details of your adherence to an operatic through line are indeed lost on me, but neither are they my concern. My continued contributions to this outfit begin and end with my ability to evaluate and keep your operation financially stable and possibly profitable. How you bring humanity to heel is your priority sir, but how you pay for it is mine. Now you can slash the costume budget or extended the deadline for the mayor to respond to your demands. The decision is yours sir, but those are your options.”

The Mandrill taps the unwrapped candy on my desk, his expression pained and solemn. I perform a discrete sweep of the floor beneath my desk with my feet and feel something roll out from under. Well, at least that’s one problem solved.

The Mandrill sighs. He combs back his hair with his fingers.

“Very well, very well. I’ll release a second video extending the deadline. Another week won’t kill us.”

“Two would be better sir.”

“I’ll have to think how to couch it.”

“You could stage it as an appeal to the people sir, encouraging the populace to pressure the mayor into responding while demonstrating your own capacity for mercy.”

The Mandrill scratches his chin. He nods, slowly. “That’s not a half-bad idea, I must say.”

The Mandrill is gone by 6 o’ clock. Getting up out of my chair, I stretch my arms above my head. I step around the desk to collect the chocolate. I toss it in the trash.

Tonight I’m thinking soup and salad.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


I'll be the third if Solitair wants.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In a world where the bomb was never dropped and Russia conquers Japan.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Illumination (1,500 words)

Brother Quinn nursed his wrist as he went to see the dragon by the cemetery gate. Brother Fergus had found it while making the rounds, and reported his discovery to the others over breakfast. “A great and terrible beast,” he’d said, “Long and winding!” He swept his hand in a serpentine fashion, teeth-bared, his fingers bent inward like the talons of a bird.

Quinn stepped out into the sunlight, shielding his sullen, tired eyes with the sleeve of his robe. He turned the corner, and stood in congregation with his fellows in the presence of the monster – which proved considerably less terrifying than advertised. The stately gray walls of the monastery had been graced by the coils of a sneering, circuitous dragon sketched in white.

Fergus clasped Quinn on the shoulder. “Well that’s it then, isn’t it?” His eyes were distant, his expression grim. “We’ll have to evacuate now that a dragon’s come to roost.” He caught Quinn’s glance, and his practiced stoicism shattered into laughter.

Brother Conall shot the pair of them a deep and dismal look. “Do you think this funny, Brother Fergus? Do you think us fools, and this a playhouse?”

Fergus straightened up, still laughing. “Your pardon, Brother Conall. I thought it novel.”

Conall exhaled his disappointment. “This is a holy place, Brother Fergus; a house of reflection and solitude, and we its humble caretakers. I should think the Lord and Father Rowan alike would thank you not to deface its surface.”

“Oh no, no, no,” Fergus said, hand extended. “This weren’t my doing, Brother. I only thought to make sport of the announcement.”

Conall traced the shape of the creature with his finger. He rubbed his thumb and index together. “Chalk,” he said. “At least it can be cleaned. Brother Fergus, if you would be so kind.”

Fergus shut his eyes and bowed respectfully. “Of course.” He offered Conall a theatrical gesture, then disappeared to fetch a bucket. The other monks began to dissipate. Conall remained to study the wall, before turning to see Quinn still standing there.

“Something the matter, Brother Quinn?”

Quinn’s attentions had drifted to his perch in the scriptorium. Conall’s question forced him back into the daylight.

“Hmm? Ah, no Brother Conall, no, just…” He rotated his wrist to hide his hesitation. “I’ve a lot left to do with the current page.”

“Are you getting enough sleep, Brother?”

“As much as I need.”

Conall glanced from Quinn to the dragon and sighed. He walked off into the cemetery.

Quinn stared at the dragon. His dragon, the exact form and flow…only he hadn’t drawn it. Not here.

***

The scriptorium was a symphony of scratches. The familiar rhythm of quills against paper calmed Quinn’s temperament. At his desk, his work station of twenty years, a bundle of half-finished Latin manuscripts sat awaiting the touch of illumination. The perimeter was littered with ink bottles, each containing a different shade of God’s creation. Only a few were labeled, but that didn’t matter. Quinn knew which bottles were which.

He gathered the manuscripts together and began leafing through them. The hallowed pages gave way to rough sketches, collections of mistakes, and practice drawings. There, at the bottom, was the dragon – his dragon – coiled at the bottom of the page. He frowned and held it before a candle.

“A perfect copy…”

He rubbed his nose. The dragon he’d penned was currently being scrubbed off the walls by Brother Fergus. Someone had seen fit to reproduce it. Quinn’s discomfort at someone rifling through his work was overshadowed by his awe at their own ability to mimic his strokes.

He returned the picture to the bottom of the pile. He’d let Brother Conall worry about the vandal. He still had several pages to finish. He whet his pen on the tip of his tongue, dipped it in one of the bottles, and began tracing in ink what he’d already outlined on the page. Slowly, yet not as slow as he would’ve liked, an unpleasant tightness crept its way up through the veins in his wrist. His grip shifted. He recoiled from his work, cradling his drawing hand in his arm.

“No, no,” he whispered, “Not now. Not yet. Please. Please Lord.” It was not a sharp pain, but it pierced him deep within his soul. It felt as though a lock were being affixed to his hand at increasingly regular intervals. He released his wrist, grit his teeth, and forced himself to continue.

***

Quinn awoke to the sound of breaking glass. He’d fallen asleep at his desk. Rather than move him, someone had seen fit to provide him with a thick blanket instead. He might’ve recognized the pattern as one of Conall’s, but his eyes were drawn instead to the figure that withdrew before him, a wide-eyed child, a girl from the village.

A cool breeze from an open window pervaded the room.

The girl retreated in the direction of the night sky, but tripped on a wayward scrap of parchment. Quinn held out a hand in the darkness.

“Wait, wait!” he said, “Please wait.”

The girl had already reached the far desks. She turned at his words, her youthful face half-bathed in moonlight. She wore the garb of one of the peasant farmers whose property surrounded the monastery.

Quinn sat up in his chair.

“Are you…are you the one who drew the dragon on the wall? I’m not angry with you,” he added quickly as she began to turn at the accusation, “I just want to know. I want to know who copied my drawing.”

The girl stood still, her eyes sweeping the formerly-thought vacant room. The world was tinted a dark and comforting blue.

“Aye,” she said, at last. “That were me.”

Quinn lit one of the candles at his desk. The tide of blue retreated in the presence of that soft orange glow. The girl approached him, cautiously at first, then without fear. Quinn shuffled the papers at his desk. He produced the dragon before her. She acknowledged it with a nervous father.

“Didn’t mean no trouble, Father. Coming in here. I just like to look.”

Quinn wanted to ask how she got inside the compound, but instead said, “Did yourself a little more than looking the last time it seems.”

“…Aye. It were just such a,” she fished around for the word, “Fearsome thing!” She threw up her hands. “Felt it belonged there, guarding a castle, or something like it.” She lowered arms along with her gaze. “God ain’t…angry, is he?”

Quinn held back a chuckle. “I’m sure he isn’t, child, though I must inform you Brother Fergus has slain that particular dragon.” He considered her again, then the parchment in his hands. “I must admit I am surprised you could follow my lines so closely.”

She shrugged. “Were right at home in me mind, Father. Just came out that way.”

Quinn’s expression shifted between amusement and intrigue. He glanced down at the manuscripts in his hands. He pulled out one of the incomplete ones and placed it on his desk next to a crumpled piece of blank paper he’d yet to transcribe. The girl watched as he pointed to an incomplete drawing of Saint Peter, his outline traced in dots but lacking in color and definition. “What do you make of this then?”

“Not quite so fearsome as the dragon, Father.”

“Indeed, I should hope not. Do you think you could draw this man here?” He pointed at the blank page.

The girl looked long and hard at the nebulous form of the disciple. For a few minutes there was silence. She took the pen from his hands and began to trace the man’s form in the air. Quinn pointed her to the black ink. She dipped the tip and began to draw.

She was a natural. The feather moved briskly in her hands, charting out the worn yet welcoming face of the apostle. She made no sketches, no mistakes. She simply drew what he’d shown her.

Could this be a gift from God, Quinn thought.

By the time the candle had burnt down half its length, the image had been completed. It was still in need of painting, but the linework was exquisite.

“Dear me,” said Quinn, “You’ve managed something miraculous, girl.”

She sat back and smiled, arms crossed. “I draws what I sees.”

Quinn flexed his wrist under the desk. “Thank you…” He felt he should know her name.

“Ciara,” she filled in for him.

“Thank you Ciara. You can run along now, should you like.”

Ciara nodded, stood up, and bowed deeply. Then she turned and ran for the window.

”Ah, but,” Quinn said, “Should you come climbing in here again, I’d appreciate seeing some more of your gift.”

She held her position at the open window a moment, then vanished into the night.

At the far end of the room, Brother Conally silently shut the door. He sighed, and relaxed. He felt no reason to report this.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In with some flash fiction.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


One Credit Clear (452 words)

Dad’s gun has a nice weight to it.

Don’t worry, it’s not loaded. I’m not crazy or anything. I don’t even know where mom keeps the bullets - or if we even have any. I just like to hold it sometimes. I don’t want to hurt anybody.

We’ve been learning about the American Revolution, the minutemen. The gun leveled the playing field between the settlers and the British. I’ve been thinking about that lately and it makes a lot of sense.

Four blocks down there’s this laundromat I like. Riley and I hang out there. It’s where I learned to smoke, out back by the dumpsters. Riley smuggled me some cigarettes out of her older sister’s purse. She demonstrated how to inhale, exhale, and look cool.

“It’s all about acting like you don’t care whether you live or die.”

I tried it. Inhale, exhale. Turned out I cared a lot. An awful, awful lot.

She still laughs about it. You know, when it’s just us.

The guy who runs the place installed a couple of arcade cabinets next to the magazine rack. Metal Slug X and Street Fighter: Third Strike. Not a bad way to blow a few minutes. I read in Japan they do this thing where if you die you’re done for the day. No continues. When I was younger I used to feed my whole allowance to those things. Now I don’t. Play better, too. A little.

The screen door slams behind me as I step out into the yard. The stars are out. I’ve got a dollar in quarters and my dad’s gun stuffed in my pocket. Four blocks.

It’s quiet tonight. Real quiet. Like in the movies when they’re walking through the woods and there’s no music. Just sound effects. I’ll take it. Usually there’s this guy across the street playing metal at all hours. Just about everyone’s called the cops on him at least once. Maybe they got him. Maybe they didn’t. Three blocks.

Some guy arguing with his kid. He’ll never go anywhere, never amount to nothing. He’s got a cigar and a letterman’s jacket two sizes too small. The kid just looks at his shoes. They’re pretty nice shoes. The dog barks at me. Two blocks.

Jeffrey Hansen speeds past on his bike. He’s alone for once. Guess his bodyguard’s out. I imagine him crashing into some garbage cans. I imagine him stuck there until the trucks come in the morning and they pick him up, can and all, and take him away from here. Forever. I feel the grip of the fun in my pocket. I look back and he’s gone. One block.

Riley’s standing out front. She smiles. We smile.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Looks like this week

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


went to the dogs.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Quit hounding me.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


You guys are barking up the wrong tree.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Just because you had a ruff week

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Doesn't give you license to treat me like a piece of shih tzu.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Thranguy posted:

Word Counts

One: 100 words, exactly. What some call a ‘drabble’, and others less imaginatively call a hundred-word story. (The title doesn’t count, but please don’t go crazy.) It’s a difficult format, in some of the same ways poetry can be difficult but hopefully not as intimidating. It’s also an editing test. I’d advise double-checking your count with the old mark I eyeball.

Prompts

Magic Realism
Homecoming (100 words)

My brother came back from the war a changed man. No one mentioned the hole in his head. A great and terrible gaping maw. You could see straight through him. Still, he smiled. He'd always laughed off misfortune.

The village afforded him every courtesy. They poured him wine and asked about the men he'd killed. I sat in silence.

I'd been sent home a month earlier, but I still remembered the smell of gunpowder and burning fat. I remembered the woman's cries, my brother's laughter.

I stared at the hole. I couldn't bear to tell them I'd killed their hero.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Prompt's ready but I'mma gonna wait for the new page to post it because I wasn't loved enough as a child.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqrGEZwZ60E

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


For real though I think this prompt will do better if everything's all on one page so people don't have to flip back and forth a bunch.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Okay here we go.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Thunderdome Week CCLX: Empty Spaces



There's a story behind everything.

I have a certain fondness for derelict, abandoned spaces - still and sterile, or reclaimed by nature. Here's an album of forty such places. Pick one (or ask for an assignment) and write me a story about it. You can write about whatever you want (you know, so long as it falls within standard Dome operating procedure - no fanfiction, erotica), but your picture should determine the central elements of your story and setting. Don't tell me about something that could happen anywhere but just so happens to take place here; tie it all together. Similarly, don't feel bound by extraneous particulars. This Japanese amusement park closed in 2006 due to low ticket sales, but your story needn't involve struggling finances or Japan or anything not suggested by the picture itself.



Once you've claimed your picture, that picture is yours. First-come, first-served. No repeats. A few places have multiple photographs, though never more than two. You may claim only one, and no one gets the other one. Your word count is a cool 800. Flashrules available upon request.

You have until Friday night, midnight (PST), to sign up with submissions due Sunday at noon. Normally I'd give you guys a little more time but my Monday's gonna be swamped since I'm packing for a trip.



The Thunderdome Archaeological Society Board of Directors
Bad Seafood
DMBoogie
Jitzu

People Who Belong In A Museum
Big Scary Monsters - Church steeple sticking out of a frozen lake
SurreptitiousMuffin - Lake house between red trees
ThirdEmperor - Obsolete power station; a man's home is his castle, but it shouldn't have to be a fortress
Jay W. Friks - Kaishai's house after an earthquake
Agent355 - Dusty garage
Super Sweet Best Pal - Stairs to nowhere
Crabrock - Tiger root canal
A New Study Bible! - Piano tree
Chairchucker - Sinking streets; the neighbors were terrifyingly human
Sebmojo - Pier pressure; your story must be presented as a palindrome and your protagonist is an organ grinder with a decrepit monkey which can only speak in German proverbs
Uranium Phoenix - Overgrown chapel
Djeser - Train track flower garden
Electric Owl - Doll factory; TOXX
Fumblemouse - Spiral stair in azure; the girl in the mirror knew everything
Thranguy - Forest of cars; they flourished in the forgotten places
Solitair - Shredded theater; it wasn't illegal, not back then
Magnificent7 - Sunken submarine shipyard; the Yelp review was terrible
Chili - Floating forest
Hawklad - Footprints in the reactor
Wizgot - Flooded mall
BeefSupreme - Remote island fortress sans island
Fleta Mcgurn - Rickety coaster in the woods; it began when the thieves stole fire from Heaven; TOXX
MysticalHaberdasher - Empty theater lobby
Sparksbloom - Dirty waterslide; TOXX
Mrenda - Red house on the lake
RandomPaul - Conga line of ships; she kept her memories in jars
Obliterati - Parish full of statues
Flerp - Asylum island
Kaishai - Bus in the woods

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at Jul 29, 2017 around 18:08

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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Please read the whole prompt post and not just the bold parts, you know who you are.

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