WEEK CCXXXI: No Grown-ups!
Good morning, Thunderdome. Today, we’ll be trying something that I am sure I will deeply regret on Sunday.
The focus of this week is children. Namely, I want you to write a story where all of the major characters are under the age of thirteen. No adults. No teenagers. You can include older characters in the background or as incidental characters, but I will put you in time-out if you focus too many words on kids outside your age group. Please don’t get cutesy and write about five-year-old girls who are secretly several hundred years old. Your characters should sound like actual children instead of like really short twenty-somethings.
If you need additional inspiration, you can ask one of the judges to assign you a LEGO set from the list here. The no fan-fiction rule still applies, but the set you receive should inform your story in some way if you request it. (I'm stealing this from Chairchucker's Week 81, but I loved that prompt so I don't caaaaaare. <3)
Good luck, domers. Go nuts. Be creative.
Final Sign-Up Deadline: 11:59:59 PM EST on Friday, 6 January 2017
Submission Deadline: 11:59:59 PM EST on Sunday, 8 January 2017
Word Count: 1,200 words
1. a new study bible (Intercoastal Seaport)
2. metrofreak (King's Castle)
3. The Cut of Your Jib
5. Chairchucker (Polar Base)
6. Thranguy (Sabre Island)
7. Farchanter (Mystic Mountain Time Lab)
8. Krunge (Pharaoh's Forbidden Ruins)
9. BeefSupreme (Western Train)
10. SkaAndScreenplays (Dino Quad)
11. The Saddest Rhino (Beta-1 Command Base)
12. Jay W. Friks
13. Benny Profane (Gold City Junction)
14. sebmojo (Swiss Villa)
15. Noah (Samurai Stronghold)
16. kurona_bright (Atlantis Exploration HQ)
17. Fleta Mcgurn (Temple of Mount Everest)
22. sitting here (Viking Fortress against the Fafnir Dragon)
QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at 04:16 on Jan 9, 2017
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2017 11:36|
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2023 00:24|
Sign up with Lego please.
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2017 12:03|
I'm in. Lego me.
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2017 12:19|
POINT OF CLARIFICATION: You will not get a LEGO set unless you explicitly ask for a LEGO set. I'm not making it mandatory, but it might be a good idea if you are struggling for an idea.
You know I gotta have me some LEGO
In, and Lego me.
In, with a Lego set.
Mystic Mountain Time Lab
In and lego me.
Pharaoh's Forbidden Ruins
in, and gimme some LEGO
QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at 00:26 on Jan 4, 2017
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2017 22:31|
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2017 00:21|
happy nu yr ginnme a lego set
Beta-1 Command Base
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2017 02:11|
In, and I'll take a LEGO set please and thank you.
Gold City Junction
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2017 02:26|
In, lego me up,
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2017 10:57|
In with a lego set and a
Atlantis Exploration HQ
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2017 22:58|
In, and I would like some Lego action, please.
Sorry about missing you earlier!
Temple of Mount Everest
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2017 23:22|
Sign-ups close in about 18 hours. Be sure to pick up some sweet LEGOs before that.
|# ¿ Jan 6, 2017 11:14|
in and lego me
Viking Fortress against the Fafnir Dragon
|# ¿ Jan 7, 2017 03:56|
And, with that, sign-ups are now closed.
|# ¿ Jan 7, 2017 05:00|
One hour remains.
|# ¿ Jan 9, 2017 04:01|
Submissions are now closed.
Kurona, you have until the judgepost for your toxx.
|# ¿ Jan 9, 2017 05:07|
Thunderdome CCXXXI Results
Hello, all. I want to thank everyone for a much better week than I could have anticipated. While none of the stories really wowed the judges, we felt that most of the stories ranged from good to satisfactory. There were few entries that were deeply disliked and none of you were outright offensive.
However, I do want to give a few general comments for everyone to reflect upon for this week. First, several of the stories really overshot it on the "Kidspeak" both in prose and dialogue. I recognize that this is partly my fault for demanding that kids not sound like they are short adults, but some people really overused childish sentence structure and ended up being difficult to read. Second, several entries were not stories so much as kids reacting to wacky and amusing situations. I'm fine with vignettes and was amused by some of the scenes, but a few stories ended up feeling insubstantial or underrealized. A more direct conflict would have really helped some people this week.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s announce the results. A Dishonourable Mention goes to Krunge's Unruined, for being the worst offender in terms of Kidspeak. The Loss goes to Jay W. Frink's Agua Mala, Agua Pura, which was almost incomprehensible to the judges and also went over the word limit. Best luck next time!
I also have several positive mentions to pass out. Despite some issues with the ending, the first Honorable Mention goes to sparksbloom's The Understudy for nailing a kid's voice without being overpowering. A second Honorable Mention goes to flerp's It's Not Much to Listen for capturing a difficult topic in terms that a kid would understand. The Winner for this week is Sitting Here and her story Dumb Baby Stuff. All of the judges really appreciated your entry about two kids overcoming serious family drama through the power of imagination.
You have the Blood Throne, SH.
QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at 23:31 on Jan 9, 2017
|# ¿ Jan 9, 2017 23:28|
Interorompt: the stupidest dog 75 words
The Stupidest Dog in the World
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2017 00:38|
k, im in.
|# ¿ Jan 24, 2017 17:17|
i've never seen a comic book irl and have no great love of the genre, so of course i am in
|# ¿ May 9, 2017 21:01|
“You know what I don’t get,” said Pat, nudging Marco’s shoulder, “Is why this guy is suped-up with like twenty different enhancements.”
It was SUPR’s first event since going public and the first since its “accidents” had wormed their way from tabloids into the New York Times. Marco raised his camera above the mass of reporters and would-be investors. The man on stage looked like every other self-proclaimed “thought leader” in Olympus City. Devoid of context, Marco might have assumed that Malcolm Sedgewell, with his gleaming blue blazer and glasses, was selling the latest iPhone.
But, there was something wrong with the presentation. Beyond the muffled thrum of the deformed protestors outside and the famous glow of Malcolm’s eyes, something about the man seemed off. Malcolm’s gestures were a little too perfect. His face was a little too numb to the chaos outside. The company’s stock had plummeted in recent days and, yet, Malcolm seemed as composed as ever.
From across the room, the ragged remains of a man screamed, waving a deformed set of wings and a placard that read, “HUMANITY IS NOT YOUR SCIENCE EXPERIMENT.” He managed four words of his screed before a SUPR SWAT guard teleported next to him, taser unhooked from his belt. Yells erupted from the crowd as people pushed away, but Malcolm continued with his presentation unfazed. His body seemed to shimmer in the spotlight.
“I mean, I get the rest of these schmucks who have more dollars than sense, but you ever think about how many guys like that he’s had to look at?” Pat leaned in closer as the room went dark and a video began to play. The SWAT guard lifted the unconscious man onto his back. “Would you want to mess around with your insides, knowing that it caused some guy’s skin to fall off? Or, if there was a possibility you could just wake up with extra eyes? Or, what if he was flying to work and all of the sudden his powers just...”
Marco imagined himself plummeting through the clouds. He could see small dots transform themselves into cities. Thin lines latticed out into streets. Skyscrapers and church steeples pointed their razor roofs up to greet him.
“Jesus, Pat.” Marco said, pushing himself through the crowd away from his partner.
“You’re the one that wanted to cover this thing!” Pat yelled.
Marco reached the front of the crowd as the video ended. Sedgewell gave a humble nod as cameras flashed and investors bared their white teeth in brays. A jumble of hands reached outward, each fumbling with a phone or drink. The building’s doors shuddered as a faceless group of SUPR SWAT guards teleported towards the exit.
Marco raised his camera to capture the scene, but he was more focused on the man on stage. The empty glow of the CEO’s eyes didn’t appear to see anything at all. Then, for a moment, the illusion faltered. Through his camera, Marco saw something underneath.
SUPR had gone all out on the event, with SUPR hero appearances and exhibitions. With a wave of his hand, a waiter transformed an uncooked steak into a blackened piece of meat. A petite woman shimmered in the spotlight before transforming a taller, slender version of herself. A suited man levitated glass baubles in the air as video endorsements of SUPR’s enhancements played out on a back wall.
The place had the feel of Jonestown readying itself for the apocalypse, but the cult leader was missing. He had last seen Sedgewell sitting on a bench as guards ushered the guests towards the reception hall. He had seen Sedgewell staring through the window at the deformed crowd as a woman, ulcers blooming from her mouth like dark flowers, tried to push her way forward. The episode seemed to leave Sedgewell unravelled. Marco had snapped a picture, but something had gone wrong with his camera. The photo had come out blurred and distorted.
Marco pushed his way through the flock of squawking influencers towards the outer-edge of the room where Pat crouched with a handful of other reporters.
“Can you believe that this room’s got only one outlet?” Pat said, flipping through his phone. “I mean, Christ, SUPR makes this place look nice but what kind of person designs a room with one usable outlet?”
“Based on the entertainment,” Marco mumbled, “there’s a good chance that someone here can charge your phone with their rear end.” The two stood in silence for a moment as a SUPR SWAT guard pushed his way through the crowd toward the sound of shattering glass. “Hey, you seen Sedgewell anywhere?”
Pat shrugged. “I’m just about stapled to this wall until my phone charges. But…” He looked back and forth with exaggerated deviousness, “I might have overheard one of those SWAT guards talk about getting Sedgewell out of here early to avoid a scene. Might not hurt to check the parking garage.”
Marco nodded as a troupe of illusionist dancers pranced across the room, their bodies seeming to blur in the spotlight. With the crowd distracted, he pushed his way toward the exit.
Marco pressed his body against one the garage’s concrete pillars and strained his ears for noise. Sedgewick’s idled in the dim yellow light of the parking lot, but all he could hear was a low, constant moan that reverberated across the room. The guards, once everywhere, had dispersed after helping their boss get into the car. It was as though they were not meant to see something.
Marco crept forward towards the car. He pulled open the car door.
“Stop! What are you doing!”
There was Sedgewick, perfect and shimmering in the dull yellow light of the parking garage. For a moment, his body shimmered. Then, like photograph overexposed to sunlight, Sedgewick’s body wavered and contorted. He raised a hand.
“Don’t come any closer!” His glowing eyes flickered. He moaned as the illusion faltered. The man, the thing, raised its arm.
Sedgewick’s perfect body unfurled into a mass of flesh. His lower jaw devolved into one large abscess as his arms splintered off into four different directions. Strange vestigial eyes erupted from his unblemished flesh. Rot and pus crept down across his chest. The side effects of twenty enhancement spilled out, no longer concealed by his powers.
“For the love of God, don’t let them see me like this! It will ruin this company! It will ruin me!”
Marco’s heart thudded as he raised his camera.
|# ¿ May 15, 2017 03:10|
IN A WORLD WHERE HUMANITY IS NO LONGER AT THE TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN
In a world without land
|# ¿ May 23, 2017 16:00|
QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at 02:49 on Jan 1, 2018
|# ¿ May 29, 2017 03:52|
sure, okay. im in
|# ¿ Jun 3, 2017 01:46|
The Big Dipper
“Mom!” Said Parker in his bright, needling voice. “Lucas keeps walking into me!”
The children followed Alexa across the parking lot, their footsteps seeming to echo through the half-empty rows. The gnarled silhouette of the Big Dipper, the park’s oldest ride, hung in the sky.
Lucas, not even bothering to deny the accusation, knocked his shoulder against his brother. “I’m just having fun!” He said. “We’re just playing around.”
“No, I’m not!” Parker’s voice wavered and grew heavy. Alexa could sense the oncoming torrent of tears. The sobbing. She looked up at the amusement park’s gaudy entrance. The mess of bannisters and trim reminded her of a haunted house. The blue paint, once vibrant, had faded to something thin and gauzy. A banner hung across the bottom. “CLOSING DAY! 75% OFF ADMISSION! THANKS FOR 127 YEARS OF FUN!”
What a waste, Alexa thought. This place was supposed to last forever and then they ran it into the goddamn ground. When she had heard about the park’s closure, there had been only one person she had wanted to tell. They had not talked in years, but she still had his old phone number. She had already planned out what she wanted to say, but the call never picked up.
That’s because he was…
“Lyle, stop.” Alexa said.
“My name’s not Lyle! Stop calling me that! You always call me that!” Lucas moaned. He waved his arms, hitting Parker in the chest.
“Moooom, tell Lucas that—.” Parker began. Alexa spun around, jerking hard on the arms of the two boys. Harder than she meant to. Parker let out a surprised yelp as he jerked forward. People aren’t supposed to grab their kids like that! He said with his wide, watery eyes.
Alexa loosened her grip, feeling a mixture of guilt and embarrassment wash over her. A minivan slowed down as it passed by them. They let it drive by in silence.
“Look, this place was just really important for me when I saw a kid,” she said in place of an apology. “If you two aren’t going to be nice to one another, we’re going to go back in the car and drive home. Do I make myself clear?”
She knew it was an idle threat, but the boys remained silent. Lucas looked down at his light-up Velcro shoes. He’s going to remember this, she thought, as the guilt grew hot inside her. When he’s in his 30s, he’s going to tell his therapist that he’s depressed because his mother attacked him when he was 11. She attacked him and it was all so he could see…
Alexa blocked the thought from her mind and pulled out three tickets. The computer paper had become crumpled and ragged in her purse. “Come on, do you want to go in or...
...do you wanna stay out here forever?” Called Lyle as he slammed his car door shut. It was the first sweltering day of what seemed like a short, formless summer. The parking lot teemed with life. A boombox belted out summer hits while screams drifted out of the park into the lot.
“I think I’m gonna stay here forever, actually,” Alex said, adjusting her ponytail. She had told Lyle that the only reason she had followed him to this dumb amusement park was because her boredom had finally overwhelmed her laziness. Well, that and her mom.
She watched a ratty man wander between the aisles of cars with a cooler of pops and beers that jangled behind him. “One dollar!” He shouted, except it sounded more like dollah than dollar. “Come on! Come on! Get a nice, ice-cold drink for just one dollar!”
Alex closed her eyes as the makeshift salesman disappeared behind a sedan. The air in Lyle’s car felt pleasant and heavy. She tried hard not to think about the end of summer, about the packed boxes stacked by the door, ready for college. She and Lyle had promised to stay together after graduation, but she could already feel the threads between them unravelling. Quiet moments felt incomplete. Every visit was a willful act that forced her to ignore the rough, disappointing edges of their conversations. She marveled at the amount of time they had wasted.
The Big Dipper, its wooden frame glittering in the sunlight, loomed over the park gates.
Lyle rapped his knuckles on the half-rolled window. “Excuse me ma’am, but are you aware that nine out of ten infant deaths occur in hot cars.” He forced his head through the window, dribbling his sweat onto her legs. “I just wanted to make sure you were aware of the many dangers facing—.”
Alex grabbed blindly for one of the beach towels in the back seat and threw it at his face.
“Oh, God!” Lyle shouted. Alex opened a narrow sliver of her eye. Lyle pressed the towel against his face and took a step backward in mock surprise. “It’s got me, Ripley!”
Alex got out of the car and pulled the towel from his leering face. “You’re so funny, Lyle, wow. Really incredible.”
He gave a huge laugh and leaned toward her. She gripped onto the hot metal of the car, ignoring the screaming of her nerves as he inched toward her face. Her heart raced. Then, as if a lightswitch had been flipped, he stopped. His face flushed red and he threw the towel through the open window.
“Well, it got you out of the car.” He mumbled. “Let’s get going.”
Alex studied her shoes as they walked towards the entrance. “So, uh, the gate is new.”
“Yeah, yeah. The park got bought by some rich dudes down in Kentucky and they really went all out on the remodel. I think they wanted to remind everyone that this thing’s been here since, like, the 1800s or whatever,” The words slid out of his mouth the way a fish slid out of a net. Lyle cleared his throat. “Y’know, besides that monstrosity of a gate, this place is pretty cool. The owners have been putting in a whole bunch of new rides ever since they took over.”
Alex rolled her eyes as they settled back into their normal groove. The moment in the parking lot had faded. She hoped it looked like she didn’t care. “I don’t need a history lesson. Can we just go in before they close?”
Lyle gave a smile that seemed to outshine even the hot summer sun. “Yeah, of course. We’ve gotta go on the Dragster and the Apollo and the...
...Head Spin is unfortunately closed.” The park attendant said. He was a pimply boy with a ragged mop of hair and he looked at Alexa and her children with a guilty expression. “Maintenance issues. Sorry.”
Alexa looked down at Lucas and Parker. Despite it being closing day, the park had been filled with a prenatural quiet. People shuffled from ride to ride, giving one another dark nods like guests at a funeral. The owners had already shut down large swathes of the park. Guess Your Weight machines stood unattended. River rapid rides baked in the dry heat. They had waited ten minutes to get cotton candy that the boys had devoured in five. Blue and pink stained Parker’s mouth.
She looked toward the wooden skeleton in the distance. “Is the Big Dipper still open?”
She knew the answer before he said it. The attendant bit his lip. “Yeah, I’m sorry. I think the old thing’s boarded up already, but I’m pretty sure the Thunderhawk is up and running all day. I can show you the way if you…”
Lucas tugged at his mother’s hand. “When are we gonna get to go on a ride? I’m boooored.”
Alexa scratched the top of her son’s head, but did not look down. There was a hard feeling in her throat. A strange heaviness. “Do you know what they’re gonna do to it?”
The attendant shifted weight from one leg to the other. He glanced down the dark, wooded trail that they had wandered down. Seeing no one, he turned back to her. “I hear they’re demolishing it the first chance they get. Half the park is a historic land site and they want to act before the historical society gets involved. Too expensive to maintain an empty park. Might as well raze it to the ground.”
Her heart dropped. I am never see this ride again. I wasted the whole day taking my kids to the decaying wreck of a park for no reason. I wasted my kids time. I wasted my time. I wasted that entire summer with Lyle. For nothing.
No. Lyle’s teenage voice boomed in her head. We’re going to do this thing.
She took a deep breath. “What if I paid you to get in? How much do...
...you want to sneak us in? It’ll only be a second. Promise.” Lyle said in a dark, oily tone.
Alex gasped and immediately hated herself for doing so.
The park attendant, an older man in a sagging polo eyed Alex and Lyle warily. The Big Dipper seemed to shimmer in the summer heat. Lyle and Alex had wormed their way through the park, riding everything from the carousel to the bumper cars. Now, only the rollercoaster remained. And, even if it was closed for maintenance, they were going to get inside it.
“Twenty bucks,” the man grunted. “And no drugs or sex stuff. You get caught and you’re on your own.”
Lyle struggled with his wallet as the man unlocked the fence leading into the ride. Holding Alex’s hand, he led her into the darkened pavilion. Devoid of people, the place had the feeling of a church. The two wandered around the wooded entryway, listening to the echoes of guests in the distance.
Alex pointed to a pole etched with different initials. “So, do we want to carve our names into this thing?”
It was only half a joke and they both knew it. Seconds ticked by.
“No, wait! That’s a great idea!” He looked at her with shimmering eyes. “This will be our thing. Our inside joke. We’ll come back here. Once you graduate, once I graduate, we’ll meet up and spend another day at the park. Just you and me.” Alex felt the desperation come off him in waves. “We’ll come right back here and we’ll laugh and remember all the summers we had together.”
Alex smiled so hard that her face seemed to crack. “You make it sound like this is final.” There was no joke attached to it. No sarcastic remark. The sentence hung in the air.
“Turn around. No peeking!” He knelt down in search of an empty section to carve.
Alex turned and wiped something from her face. “Just don’t write anything stupid, okay? No dumb references. No Latin. I just want...
...you in and out.” The pockmarked attendant pushed the gate open.
Alexa slapped a pair of bills into the boy’s hand and ushered her children up the stairs to the ride. Both seemed too shocked to resist, too surprised that their mother had bribed a guard, too surprised that they were sneaking up an abandoned rollercoaster.
“Will we get in trouble for this?” Whispered Lucas like someone entering a holy site. Parker said nothing.
“Hush,” said Alexa. With the two boys in hand, she traced her way back along the line that she and Lyle had carved years before. She walked, dream-like, to the place where they had spent some of their last moments together.
“Look,” she pointed to a neglected corner of the ride. Etched in the wood in a rough, angular scrawl were the words:
“Alexa Morgan and Lyle Stanley had one good day here in 1989.
And no matter how far they move apart
This ride will be a monument to what was.
(dum vivimus vivamus.)”
|# ¿ Jun 5, 2017 04:04|
trying something a little different.
crit for The Letter X by Jay W. Friks.
|# ¿ Jun 6, 2017 23:28|
crit for Those Statued Men with Acid Rain Habits by Tweezer Reprise.
willing to do a few more critiques for any of the stories last week. let me know if you are interested.
|# ¿ Jun 8, 2017 01:25|
yes, why not tyia
here ya go.
crit for Eagle, and Shark by Sebmojo
|# ¿ Jun 9, 2017 00:17|
Week 253 Crits: Part I
Matter Cannot be Destroyed - 5/10
What is this story about? A woman falls in love with someone who is not her spouse. The two run away together and enjoy a few years of bliss before dying. After her body decays and forms into new things, it remembers the few years she had with Margaret.
What do I think about it? I like the concept of someone loving someone so intensely that that memory leaves marks on all future iterations of that person. However, you spend too much time dwelling on the atomic contents of Margaret than the relationship itself. Counting the opening, Diana is not introduced until five paragraphs in. Their relationship is described only in the broadest terms because of an overly long introduction and a refusal to use the full 750 words. The reader is deprived of anything more substantive than a few fragments and poeticisms.
I think you tried a bit too hard to conjure feeling. Most of the descriptions come off as overwrought and shmaltzy. With the exception of the line highlighted below, I most like the descriptions that are understated and don’t rely on an overuse of clauses (e.g. “She had Diana, even though she died three years before her.”). I like my prose taut and terse and, unfortunately, this isn’t my cup of tea. As the results indicate, I was very much in the minority on this piece.
It isn’t all bad though. While I find the first three paragraphs exaggerated and tiresome, the piece becomes an easier read after Diana is introduced. She seems to keep the piece grounded and focused. The ending is also nice.
What lines did I like? “Margaret’s atoms were scattered about the universe but they didn’t forget Diana or the star... Warmth. Cherry perfume. Black lipstick. Cold nights in the park, pointing at the stars. Small fragments of Margaret that couldn’t die.”
Bioluminescence - 6/10
What is this story about? A girl spreads the ashes of her father on a ruined beach that they had fond memories of. The act of spilling ashes causes something to happen, but she is unable to get a picture and the memory disappears from her mind.
What do I think about it? There is some strong imagery strewn about this piece. I like the Bud Light cans and cigarette butts, the memento on the fridge, and the “eerie, glowing blue when he’s tossed me in the water.” What I like less are the occasional spelling errors (e.g. “dyer instead of drier) and how every sentence seems to spiral out into extraneous clauses. There are many overly long sentences that would have benefited in being split apart.
There are a few places where I think you are trying too hard to be poetic (e.g. “some ephemeral past” and “a peek of that ethereal shadow of my dad”), but overall this piece fills me with a strong feeling of nostalgia and regret. It is well-done in that regard. I wanted to know more about the father, but I suppose the piece is sufficient as is.
As one last note, I’m not really sure how to feel about this piece’s ending. There seems to be some symbolism at work with her being unable to capture a photograph and the memory eventually fading, but it is one hell of a downer. It might be intentional, given the “memento on the fridge” reminding her of the blue she saw as a youth, but I really wish you had gone in a different direction.
What lines did I like? “When I came back home that humid August evening, Lake Ensam smelled like sewage, and its beaches were covered in Bud Light cans and cigarette butts.”
Satellite of Love - 4/10
What is this story about? A guy is harangued by the Moon. He tries to ignore it as he goes through life. At the conclusion of his date, his girlfriend tosses the moon away (somehow).
What do I think about it? The best part of this story, by far, is this goofy, vaguely menacing moon. None of its threats are particularly unique or creative, but the flat way it states the obvious (e.g. “You know I control the tides, right?”) makes me imagine the moon from A Trip to the Moon leering down at some schmuck. It’s a little thing (and kind of onenote), but it made me giggle.
Unfortunately, the rest of the entry does not really jive with me. Phrases come off as mechanical. Descriptions scan poorly. There are a lot of unnecessary transition phrases. I spotted a few grammatical errors. More forceful language and a second round of edits would really have elevated this piece. As is, it doesn’t leave me with any strong feelings. I forgot it quickly after reading.
What lines did I like? “You’d better treat her right, Ben. If you break her heart, I will destroy your house. You know I control the tides, right?”
Collapse Sonata - 3.5/10
What is this story about? A man walks into a pit that causes excruciating pain for all those beings that venture near it.
What do I think about it? I had to read this story more than once to understand what was going on in it, which is not a great sign. While there is some interesting language scattered throughout the piece, it often gets in the way of comprehension. Despite you introducing Luso Ngai as a city earlier, for example, I had to reread “Luso Ngai ran out soon after the man's spine began to scream” to understand that you meant “The man reached the outskirts of the town.” It also took me some time to realize that the protagonist’s actual emotions were exploding out of him and that you were not being metaphorical, which could speak volumes about me as a reader.
Going beyond comprehension, the protagonist’s lack of personality prevents me from caring too much about this piece. You signed up for a flash story, not a short story, but I still need some reason to care about this person’s suffering. I don’t know why he is making this journey toward the Pit. The closest the reader ever get to the protagonist’s personal background is that he is good in construction.
I feel bad for not providing more positive content, but my eyes just keep drifting from the page on this story. There’s a lot of words, but I just feel bored by this psychosocial torture porn and overabundance of adjectives. It isn’t exciting to read and it doesn’t make me feel anything. Next time, I would spend much more time editing. When you edit a piece, ask if something is comprehensible to the reader and if they have any reason to care about what you have written.
What lines did I like? The phlegmy sound of a blister popping through drum-tight skin.
Stakes - 8/10
What is this story about? This entry was my pick for the win. It’s a strong piece that evokes strong memories of rural town life and the idiosyncrasies of the people who live there. Also, it’s got the literal Devil in it. Call me a sucker, but I love this Devil Went Down to Georgia poo poo.
What do I think about it? This entry was my pick for the win. It’s a strong piece that evokes strong feelings of rural town life and the idiosyncrasies of the people who live there. It’s an amusing story with a strong voice in a week full of dreary navel-gazing. Also, it’s got the literal Devil in it. Call me a sucker, but I love this Devil Went Down to Georgia stuff.
I don’t have many negative things to say about this story, but I suppose my biggest issue is that this story isn’t longer. I like how you tell this story like many people tell stories in real life: In a twisting way. However, I think you could have done more with that. The opening with the XBox is strong and similar tangents later in the story would have been welcome. The card game with the devil is functional but not terribly exciting. I agree with sittinghere that I would have liked to see you create more of an emotional bond with the ghosts.
What lines did I like? The Devil plays mean. Likes to check and raise when he’s got a strong hand. Knowing his style wasn’t enough to beat him, but it did help me slow down the rate at which he kept taking my chips hand by hand.
Uncle Matthew - 3.5/10
What is this story about? An old man in hospice care talks to his relatives
What do I think about it? I don’t have issue with one-sided dialogue so long as it is clear, concise, and written with a strong voice. In Dolores Claiborne, for example, Stephen King’s strong grasp of character and language helps elevate a rather conventional story about a woman who murders her husband.
I feel like you tried to do something similar here but failed for a variety of reasons. First, and this is a minor fix, the quotes around each paragraph make me think that you are describing a conversation and not a monologue. It took me a few lines to realize what you were doing. On a similar note, the bolding and italics around the narrator’s thoughts and the actions of other characters are distracting. I probably would have tried to find a more conventional way to distinguish it from the dialogue or removed it altogether. All-caps and exclamations like “Hhhg!” and “Mhhg!” are almost always schlocky. Remove.
The narrative itself needs serious edits. I find it difficult to read more than a few paragraphs at a time because there’s a lot of exposition and extraneous information. I suppose the idea was to make the narrator and his family seem more real by giving them all these quirks, but the piece itself just comes off as... distracted. I cannot really identify three distinct moments of escalation in the piece.
I argued against a DM for this piece because I think the underlying concept has some merit. I like what seems to be a discussion of toxic masculinity. Theme is good. Though most of your descriptions fail to hit the mark, there are a few nice fragments scattered throughout.
What lines did I like? There were posters of Jason Statham and President Putin along the walls of Dad’s bedroom and a freshly greased lifting set that came straight out of the dark ages sat at the foot of his bed. When I turned 13 his idea of a present was to give me that set. I didn’t want it but I lugged every weight and cord to the foot of the bunk bed to keep him happy. Dad made me promise to share it with Zeke when he turned 13. It didn’t matter though.
Call down the storm - 7/10
What is this story about? Two brothers, filed with regrets involving their father, sail across an ocean in a world where the “skies and seas are thick” with emotion. As they near their destination, one brother is exposed to guilt, leaving him a blubbering wreck. Faced with the psychological death of his sibling, the other decides to commit suicide.
What do I think about it? This is an interesting little story that, conceptually, reminds me a lot of “Collapse Sonata” above. Unlike Collapse Sonata, I like how the conceit is described in broad terms, leaving room to focus on the two characters and their relationship. There is nothing particularly awe-inspiring about how they are described here, but they are given enough shading for me to imagine them as real people. While the reader does not find much out about the dad, the call-backs and explanations help me understand why these characters are doing what they are doing.
The prose itself is well done. Instead of trying to conjure up emotion through overwrought poeticisms, like some other entries this week, you do a good job of letting little details speak for themselves. Things like Judas Priest, the giant octopus, and “Dad in the window next to his tank, hose, and mask” do a lot to distinguish this piece from its compatriots. Additional scene setting would have been nice (because certain elements come off as poorly integrated as is) but this is a relatively minor quibble.
I am not too enthusiastic about the apparent suicide-by-guilt emotion thing you end on. Ren’s decision comes off as a little abrupt, as though you realized you were approaching the word count limit. I think you could have done a better job of foreshadowing his decision or found a different note to end on.
What lines did I like? “And Jeff was going to take them through it. Back to the farm down South, across the strait and through the sounds. Back to Dad.”
The Prompt - 2.5/10
What is this story about? A teacher delivers a final exam and thinks with smug satisfaction about its questions. At the end of the exam, he is approached by a girl who threatens to accuse him of molestation unless he passes her. He does so.
What do I think about it? The prose in this piece is competent if a bit workmanlike. I am not enthusiastic about how the second-person perspective in the opening unfurls into first person narration or the back-and-forth perspective that appears throughout the piece, but can appreciate the moxie that went behind the decision. There are also a few elements (e.g. the Starbucks gift card, the flickering fluorescent lights) that evoke strong images of middle school/
Unfortunately, this is a piece that lives and dies by its characters and, ooh boy, I have some strong emotions about them. I’ll try to keep my thoughts fairly short and concise, but I did not dig anyone in this pairing.
There’s an unfortunate tendency in Thunderdome to make characters extremely pliable under pressure. I suspect that this tendency is the result of a limited word count, but it doesn’t make entries easier to read. Instead, it highlights the limitations of flash fiction and makes characters seem like shadow puppets. Characters don’t make decisions. They just act out whatever will help the writer reach the story’s conclusion as fast as possible. I won’t pretend that I’m immune to this (see: half my stories), but it is a bad habit.
So, let’s discuss Mr. Snyder. Mr. Snyder delivers a final exam and is given a serious threat from a student. There’s a variety of different responses that he could have to this development and I would expect him to have a lot of mixed emotions as he reviewed his options. Mr. Snyder, however, does not do that. He instead remains one-note throughout the piece. It’s weird to say that any reaction is hyperbolic in the face of a rape/molestation charge, but somehow you succeed in achieving that distinction. Every action is undertaken with a mouth that opens then closes, or ringing ears, or shallow breaths. I am not clear about whether this accusation is real or not, but the teacher’s response rings false regardless. The girl herself is given only the vaguest semblance of an identity. I don’t know why she is doing these things or why she has such distaste for this particular teacher unless her accusation is true, which is not clear.
Everyone is an rear end in a top hat in this story for seemingly no reason. It reminds me of a viral morality tale where everyone stands up and claps at the end or the protagonist turns out to be Albert Einstein. It is not good. It provides me no satisfaction. The ending manages to further underline my strong dislike for this story.
What lines did I like? “I think about the summer ahead. Beers on the porch, trips to the mountains, no alarm clocks. For a moment I forget you're even here.”
Some nights i wake and realise i am still meat it-- 7.5/10
What is this story about? An elder god ruminates on its entrapment in the physical plain and how this state of existence has left it in a perpetual state of suffering.
What do I think about it? This is a piece written by someone who knows how to write and it is drat good. The sentences scan well. The descriptions are on point. The entry manages to be poetic without seeming to try too hard. Each sentence has a purpose that builds toward a common theme: the futility of existence. Despite relatively few words, the story accomplishes its objective and leaves me with some very vivid images.
Moreover, it manages to elevate the material and make it interesting. I enjoy Lovecraftian horror generally, but even I get tired of the same tropes and cliches. Though you rely on Lovecraft for the content itself, the focus on the origin and nature of the “gods” is kind of interesting and unique. There is something deeply, essentially wrong with the physical plain. Flesh itself is tainted by some wicked force. No matter what the “gods” do, they cannot help but leave madness and destruction in their wake. They are a massa peccati, a mass of sin.
In other words, I liked the piece. It’s extremely short, but well done. If I have one criticism, it is that Hastur is underused. It feels like you are using him to signal that this is a Lovecraft story, but he seems to have little purpose beyond that. Some development would have been nice.
What lines did I like? “Somewhere in the space between spaces, souls dance on phantasmal winds. We are blind to this beauty now -- trapped inside prisons of meat. Somewhere on the wending way between stars, we came to sojourn in this place and the doors closed on us, severing the silver cords.”
i wanna blow a smoke ring at the moon so it can feel what it's like to be stuck in a circle, too - 4.5/10
What is this story about? A man ruminates on the futility of it all while taking a midnight smoke.
What do I think about it? Though it is in third person, this piece is essentially one long monologue on nihilism. While I can dig the concept in the abstract, something about this story doesn’t hit right for me. It might be the weird mix of slang that feels inorganic. Or perhaps it is the opening sentence that is almost an entire paragraph long. Regardless, this piece never quite manages to hit a sweet spot for me. There are moments where the prose get close to something meaningful, but no sentences that inspire no strong feeling in me.
After scanning through the piece again, I think my biggest issue with the entry is how stagnant it feels. The narrator ends in the same place he started, having accomplished nothing and undergone no metanoia. If your aim was capturing a sense of nihilism, I suppose that lack of movement was the point. However, it makes a dreary, exhausting read. Man is born. Man takes a drag from his cigarette. Man goes to bed. The end. It captures a feeling, but not one that I really have any interest in lingering on.
What lines did I like? “The cig smoke hasn’t masked the scent of fast food and grease yet, but it’s getting there.”
Restless - 5.5/10
What is this story about? An insomniac goes out to a diner in an attempt to reassemble himself into something coherent. When that attempt fails, the waiter drives him home.
What do I think about it? I can relate to this piece. While it isn’t an exceptional piece, I think it does capture the drugged-out feeling of being somewhere between awake and asleep. It feels like your brain has been turned to the wrong radio station and being forced to strain your ears to hear something between the static. Several of your descriptions, such as the “mechanical task of devouring the substance,” while inelegant, encapsulate that feeling.
Despite the protagonist being rooted to one spot for most of the story, it has more fluidity than many of the other flash stories submitted this week. I get what the character is feeling and enough happens to keep my attention. Even though the character’s range of emotions is limited, he never feels one-note or hollow.
There aren’t any outstanding sentences that I can point to, but it captures a feeling and keeps my attention. I find it satisfactory.
What lines did I like?
in my skin.
The Child of the Great Sky speaks to the Child of the Valley - 4/10
What is this story about? Something lectures another thing? Then that something dies?
What do I think about it? It makes me feel dense to admit this, but I have no idea what this story is about. I don’t know who is speaking to whom. I don’t know which descriptions I am meant to take metaphorically and literally. I don’t know if the narrator and its child is an animal, mineral, or vegetable. The title suggests something vaguely Native American, but I feel like I am reading a take on a myth that I am unfamiliar with. Devoid of context, the story comes off as strange and cryptic.
Is it a fox and a rabbit? A fox and a human child? That doesn’t seem to match the title, but I’ve got nothing. (I should probably reread this story again…)
I don’t have any issue with the writing itself, which conjures some nice melancholy vibes, but the lack of clarity really inhibits my ability to enjoy what you have written here. There aren’t enough clues for me to decipher through context and I feel stupid for not understanding.
Honestly, the strong descriptions and imagery are what save this from a DM for me.
What lines did I like? You cannot stay with me. But you can take my memory with you.
Extrinsic Behavior - 6/10
What is this story about? A woman uses a shady service that allows her to wear someone else’s skin. She changes into a boy, wanders around trying to pick up guys, and is then murdered. Her old body is loaded up for use by some other poor schmuck.
What do I think about it? Fun Fact: Forum emojis don’t appear in the TD Archives. I had to browse over to the story itself to figure out whether : phoneline: was an intended part of the story or not. For the future, I would recommend using *** or --- as a section break instead.
With that minor issue out of the way, I find this story rather interesting. It is a piece that uses science fiction to explore something adolescent. Deidre might be a twenty-eight-year-old woman wearing the skin of dead people, but she reads like a teenager. She is “in love” with her changing body and interested in exploring issues of identity. Though the ending was a bit obvious, I enjoy her questions about the body’s origins. And, as with all teenage protagonists, Diedre is also obsessed with sex.
Prose is competent but not exceptional. Diedre has a personality, which puts this story miles ahead of some of its competitors.
I have two small issues with this story. First, the shift from partying to sex to murder comes off as a little abrupt. I suppose you were limited by the word count, but the progression of events does not feel natural to me. Instead, it seems like you are trying to fit a lot of content into a very small amount of space. I would have tried deleting some stuff. Second, the ending is a wee bit on the nose. I suppose there are worse flaws, but I feel like there was a better way to stick the landing.
What lines did I like? “Where did he live, she wondered? What languages did he speak? What was his favorite music? Was he a virgin?”
Part-Time Work - 8/ 10
What is this story about? A woman works a sex hotline. While she does her usual routine, her customer breaks down into tears at the joke his life has become. The character agrees with this assessment, knowing that he’ll call back next week anyway.
What do I think about it? This piece fills me with a lot of conflicting emotions, but in a good way. The inherent fakeness in “Candace’s” job creates some nice moments of levity in a story that could easily get bogged down in depressive morass. “Candace” herself has a personality and her strong feelings about her job make for a very funny opening. I even get to feel a sense of pity for the man on the other end of the phone while sympathizing with “Candace’s” lack of sympathy. It’s a cool story that juggles a lot of balls at once.
It might be my exhaustion with the slew of brooding, navel-gazing submissions this week but I like this piece a lot. I like how the protagonist doesn’t fall back on obligatory sympathy when the man on the other end breaks down into tears. It is a nasty, brutish reaction but one that is mercifully unexpected.
If I had to find something wrong with this story, it would be that the school element seems a little poorly integrated. The hotline is the kind of thing I could see a student getting involved in for extra money, but when you have limited words, I might have dumped it. The payoff is ultimately a bit limited.
What lines did I like? Strip clubs, I muse, make sense. Porn makes sense. Erotica. But this? This is so empty.
Cut Off - 3.5/10
What is this story about? A wizard fails to produce satisfactory results for the benefactors funding his research. It turns out that his lack of satisfactory results was a ruse and an excuse to “set down [his] stakes somewhere else and continue work undisturbed.”
What do I think about it? For a piece that is meant to “giv[e] me a strong moment, feeling, image, or idea,” there’s a lot of exposition and world-building in this story. The reader gets a lot of back-and-forth between Aelwyn and Gaeron that gives some minor shading of both characters (although Aelwyn comes off as smug more than anything else). However, your ability to really define these characters is hampered by explaining a premise that is, frankly, not really interesting to me.
There’s another version of this story that spends less time on Aelwyn’s grandiose visions of himself and the council and more on his relationship with this character that he’s drifted away from. This alternate version doesn’t need to be melancholy rumination. In fact, the upbeat nature of your entry is one of the things I like about it. However, it would need to provide a more three-dimensional image of your characters, how they came together, and the forces that eventually tear them apart.
I don’t have much to say about this entry. It is a quick read but not really memorable. It would have not been my first choice for the loss, but I can’t say I am unhappy that it was.
What lines did I like? Well, I thought. Time to set out to forge a new age.
Excelsior - 7.5/10
What is this story about? A man and woman journey to a mountainside to see a legendary monk who has run up and down the mountain for centuries. They catch a glimpse of the man, but he is a gnarled, disgusting thing. The man and woman never talk about the experience again.
What do I think about it? I like this story. It reminds me of a roommate I had in college whose obsession with Bigfoot and the Melon Heads led us to late-night treks through the Ohio wilderness. The descriptions of nature are appropriately gross to foreshadow your conclusion and there’s an overwhelming feeling of unpleasantness throughout the piece. Even when you describe this legend, which is allegedly awe-inspiring, the description of the monk “losing a scrape of skin” makes me feel queasy.
It’s a rather cool and nasty take on a pilgrimage. There’s some interesting ideas here that are expressed very well. You have a strong grasp of language that makes me want to keep reading.
My biggest issue with this story is the interjection of the Legend of the Running Monk in the middle. While I understood what you were doing after the fact, I did not immediately register that this story was different from the introduction. I probably would have included the Running Monk and the purpose of Troy and Ada’s journey earlier in the story. I might have also framed the legend itself in dialogue to better integrate it into the piece as a whole. As is, it’s a jarring but necessary interjection.
What lines did I like? Each time the runner's hands came up the bloodsuckers broke from him, circled, came down again. He moved like a locomotive, arms chugging, feet shuffling. There was already something dead there.
|# ¿ Jun 17, 2017 02:14|
also, i guess im in with http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/labrador-retriever/
|# ¿ Jun 17, 2017 02:21|
|# ¿ Jul 1, 2017 02:24|
|# ¿ Jul 15, 2017 02:27|
In a world where there is one universal faith
|# ¿ Aug 21, 2017 23:53|
Diana did not have friends, but she did have fans. People from around the world tuned in to watch her. They set aside parts of their lives, spending hours to watch her fight with her mother, to watch her shop for clothes, to hope that she might mention their usernames on the Stream so that they could scrounge up a few followers.
It was a pleasure to be watched, and she tried not to take that fact for granted. Boring people didn’t end up in the top 200 on the Stream. Boring people didn’t get nice houses and clean food.
Her mother cleared her throat and glanced at the camera stapled to Diana’s shirt. The blinking red light had a hypnotic quality. Dark and tiny ghosts floated in its lens. The kitchen had an ethereal, almost plastic sheen.
“Diana, could you help me set the table?” Diana’s mother smiled. It was a pale echo of her own streaming days. Diana remembered when she had been a prop, an adorable face to keep viewers invested in her mother’s videos. “Your father’s coming home early.”
Diana looked at her phone. 321,432 people streaming. Too few for a Friday night.
“Why can’t you do it?” Diana said.
Beneath the murky depths of her mother’s placid smile, something shifted. Please. Her mother’s grin said. Are you really that desperate? Do I need to be the villain again?
There were no more secrets in the world, only barely concealed lies. Already, she was sure that a dozen amateur psychologists were analyzing their body language. People would tweet about them. They would write articles and blogs about the brewing fight.
Diana’s face said nothing.
Her mother brushed hair back from her face, ready to play the part. “I don’t think I like that tone.”
331,564 people streaming.
Diana snorted and put her hand on her hip. It was a gesture she had seen in her mother’s old videos. In the early days of the Stream, she had been one of its stars, one of the few people to pick it up over YouTube in the days when Amazon and Google still ruled the world. No one thought her mother was a star now. Her nose, which might have once been cute, was now too small. Beneath layers of make-up was a spider web of wrinkles.
Maybe at one time, her mother had been loved. Now, she was just a gimmick to keep people invested, another nameless, evil stepmother to be attacked online.
The Stream made her easy to hate. Everyone knew what she had done and who she had been. Some nights, Diana played on that anger and whispered about how she wanted her mother gone.
“Maybe I wouldn’t use that tone if you weren’t always telling me what to do!” Diana said. It wasn’t as though she had a choice. They lived in a nice safe house in a nice safe neighborhood because Diana’s mother had sold her life away to the public. Diana was just finishing the job.
“Oh,” Her mom chuckled. “I see.”
If her mother resented becoming a secondary character, at least it would at least make for good video. They shouted, back and forth, dredging up painful embarrassments. Her mother reminded her of the long hours she had spent caring for her, the long nights cleaning sheets after she had wet them.
348,770 people were streaming.
Diana screamed at her mother about how she had forgotten her at tennis practices to pretend to date some celebrity and rise a few ranks in the Stream. Vacations arranged in the middle of the school year to take advantage of some new opportunity. Elaborate parties that were better for adults to watch than for children to play at.
“It wasn’t my fault!” Diana’s mother yelled. If there was a line between reality and fiction, neither could find it. Diana wiped away the wet on her cheeks as the pot foamed on the stove and smoky tendrils snaked through the kitchen. Her mother opened her mouth to spit out some new, venomous attack when a noise jarred them back to reality.
The doorbell rang.
Diana’s Her mother turned. “Oh, that must be your…”
She looked at the oven clock and frowned. Diana followed her mother out of the kitchen and into the foyer. There was another knock at the door. She checked her phone. 678,900 people streaming.
Through the tinted glass of the front door, Diana could see a man. Not her father, but someone else. Nervous and skittish, with his eyes glued to his phone. Through the glass, she watched herself watching the man watch herself.
Diana rolled her eyes. It was another fan looking for five minutes of fame. Everyone wanted a cameo, but no one wanted to watch them unless the guest was attractive and famous.
Diana’s mother opened the door. “Get off the porch before I call the cops.” Her mother said, drained. She would need to be the villain of the story one more time for one more person. “My daughter isn’t available.”
The man’s eyes darted from her mother and then into the dark eye of Diana’s camera. He smiled. “Are you her mother?” He said, reaching into his pocket.
He did not wait for a response. Instead, he took out a gun and pulled the trigger.
The round struck her mother in the shoulder. Diana felt her foot vibrate and burn, but it was a sensation that she only half felt. The man pulled the trigger again and her mother collapsed. It was as though someone had dropped a rotten cantaloupe on the floor. The world sagged.
“Oh! Oh!” Diana said. She couldn’t hear her own voice. There was something wet in her shoe and she couldn’t walk. The man was smiling at her. He stepped over the writhing body. “Oh! Oh, God!”
1,340,208 people streaming.
She fumbled for the phone in her pocket, but her hands were shaking. These things didn’t happen anymore. These things did not happen to people who lived in nice houses in nice neighborhoods. All the excitement was meant to be artificial and plastic.
She crawled backwards. Red leaked from her shoe.
The man took another cautious step forward and looked into Diana’s camera. “I know you’re upset now, things are going to be all better now.” He lifted the phone from his pocket as sirens wailed from somewhere nearby. “People are going to want to see your face for this. They’ll want to remember that they were a part of this moment when you were set free.”
Diana opened her mouth but no sound came out.
There were 1,890,208 people streaming.
6,487,000 people streaming.
14,952,208 people streaming.
|# ¿ Aug 28, 2017 02:05|
vincent van cock is my spirit animal
|# ¿ Aug 29, 2017 20:42|
The client requested that he respond to the name “Vincent van Cock.” He was to arrive at 10:25 PM and park his car across the street. He should “not worry about the dogs next door because they always barked,” but “take care not to set off the motion sensor lights by the garage.” Also, he ought to “expect to have a basic familiarity with impressionism.”
Vincent was glad to finally put his bachelor’s degree to use. He would have to brag to his mother.
He parked the car beneath an elm tree and walked across darkly illuminated street. It was not the weirdest request he had received. Once, a client had asked him to roleplay as Shakespeare and he had spent the evening speaking in tortured iambic pentameter.
(“Would my dearest come up with me to bed?”)
The client opened the door before he could ring the doorbell. She was tall and wearing a dark dress. Not unattractive, he noted, trying to figure out his strategy for the evening, but not doing great. She smelled like a campfire doused in perfume and had been tugging at her wedding band for so long that Vincent could see a red line of irritated skin around her finger.
He peered around her and caught a shadow of her life. Family portraits trailed like breadcrumbs upstairs. In the kitchen, he spotted a counter lined with casseroles and a half-empty glass of wine. Several bundles of flowers lay on the floor. Darkness seeped through the other rooms.
The woman forced a smile, but it was one formed more out of courtesy than real joy.
“Hey,” he said, trying to mirror the woman’s smile. Vincent had always been told that he worked well around others, that he was a natural leader, but most interactions left him feeling hollow. He sometimes wondered if other people felt like this, or if an imbalance of chemicals had left him psychologically sterile.
Without saying a word, she stepped away from the door. When he had kicked off his shoes, she sealed the door behind him like the entrance to a tomb.
After the post-graduation job applications fell through (preservationist, archivist), he had spent his free time applying to random gigs on Craigslist. The ads had blurred together in his memory and now he only remembered fragments. High-paying, low-time-commitment! Weekdays and weekends! Discretion required! Eventually, he had moved onto seedier parts of the site. If you could order a person for groceries and housework, was companionship any different?
The woman stepped around him as he kicked off his shoes and walked into the kitchen. She took a swig from the wine glass and pressed her palms against the counter as if she were about to perform a gymnastic routine.
“I don’t normally do this,” she said.
Vincent nodded with what he hoped was an understanding expression. When he had first started, he had found the clichés amusing, then they had become infuriating. Now, he felt nothing but a great vastness inside him.
“Do you want something to drink? I…” She asked. She looked at her glass. “This wine is probably terrible. I’ve been drinking it all day.”
White lilies brushed against his leg as he crossed the room. Vincent shrugged. “I’d settle for drinkable.”
She gave a half-hearted smile and set down the glass. Soon after his first job, he learned that he should never make the first move. He was to follow and respond, speak as infrequently as possible and rely on predictable maneuvers that moved the plot forward. He looped his arm around her waist and pressed his weight against her. His heat radiated into her back. It was a mechanical movement that made him feel like a broken marionette.
She shrugged him off and disappeared into a nearby closet. The kitchen smelled putrid, a mixture of stale food, flowers, and alcohol.
“My husband always bought the wine. I don’t really know… I’m sorry.” She reappeared, carrying two bottles and looked at him. “I’m sorry.”
Vincent knew he should be concerned, but instead he felt slow and numb. Neurons sparked sporadically within his brain. He moved to embrace her again and felt the taut muscles beneath her pale skin.
“I was just trying to be funny. Don’t worry,” he said, trying to both comfort and bridge the liminal state between introductions and business. “You don’t need to serve me anything,”
“You’re right.” She said before staring into the solid darkness of the wine closet. Vincent followed her gaze. He half-expected something to stir in the darkness but saw nothing. “You’re right.”
They followed the trail of photographs up the stairs. The client clutched his hand tight and led him forward, as if she was afraid he might drift away. As they passed by a wedding photo, the woman smiling in radiant white, Vincent wondered if he should have asked for her name.
As if reading his mind, the client said, “Do you want to know about the name?”
Vincent said something that passed for yes. There was a barren space of wall of photographs. He wondered what had been there.
“It was a joke between us. Me. My husband,” she said, reaching the landing without turning on the light. They were pulled, as if by gravity, toward a closed door at the end of a hall. Even her sentences seemed to be pulled into tight phrases. “I was a tour guide. In the museum, we had his self-portrait. Van Gogh’s.”
Vincent remained silent.
“As part of my script, I was supposed to say something like, ‘van Gogh is considered one of the most important artists, blah blah blah, but most people pronounce his name incorrectly.” She stopped, transfixed by something in the dark. “A closer pronunciation is van GOFF, like off.’”
He stopped, aware now that his client was crying. Her fingers wrapped around the door handle.
“And, one day, I heard him shout, ‘Actually, it’s more like KHOCK as in cock.’” She giggled and wiped a tear from her face. “It became our joke. Who is at the door? ‘Look, it’s Vincent van Cock!’ Who is calling? ‘Vincent van Cock again!’”
Vincent cleared his throat, feeling something bitter behind his eyes. The woman turned and looked at him surprised.
“I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea. I just miss…”
Vincent did not hear the rest of the sentence as he cradled the woman in his arms. They swayed in the darkness, listening to the woman’s heavy, phlegm-filled chokes. He ran his fingers through her hair, trying his best to approximate companionship.
Vincent shut the front door behind him, avoiding his reflection in the glass as he did so. There had been no work, no grand moment of revelation. Instead, he had tucked the woman into her bed, still sobbing, and tried his best to arrange the house into something decent. Stale casseroles piled themselves into the fridge and trash before he knew what had happened.
He had wanted to leave the woman a comforting note, but found his inspiration evaporate when he finally found a pen in the kitchen. Instead, he had written, “It doesn’t go away, but it does get easier” in childlike letters.
Looking in the car mirror, Vincent felt sure that something physical had shifted inside him. Instead of investigating further, he pulled his car into the street and drove off into the night.
|# ¿ Sep 4, 2017 01:30|
Old sins cast long shadows
|# ¿ Sep 5, 2017 17:55|
morals are different from aphorisms
Don't poo poo where you eat.
|# ¿ Sep 6, 2017 00:13|
Let sleeping dogs lie.
People Vanish Every Day
There were invisible men in the street. They poured out of an invisible van, armed with invisible weapons, and grabbed the invisible woman from her car. She gave a wordless scream as drivers edged their way around the non-crisis. Her hands gripped at the grey-haired man in the passenger’s seat, then her driver’s seat, then the door. Then, she was too far away to grab onto anything. There was blood beneath her broken fingernails. Her screams became rough and ragged as she approached the dark interior of the van.
Venter’s mother pulled up the window and turned out of the school zone. Venter twisted in his seat to look at the woman’s grey-haired passenger. The man remained frozen in his seat but his face was wild and tear-streaked.
A smiling teacher watched as they pulled away.
“What was that?” Venter said. His book bag sat forgotten on the backseat. His school-time daydreams vanished back into the recesses of my mind.
She flipped on the radio. Soft rock seeped through the car speakers. “She was unproductive, Venter.”
He chafed against the seat belt, pushing against it until the belt clicked and locked. He nudged the back of her seat. “No, Mom, what was that?”
In the reflection of the rearview mirror, Venter caught his mother’s gaze. Her knuckles went white on the steering wheel.
“Venter,” she said, in slow, deliberate syllables, “do you know why Uncle Connor is staying with us?”
His heart thudded into his throat.
Uncle Connor had arrived under the guise of Father Christmas bringing small presents, but Venter had doubted the story from the beginning. His uncle’s gifts had been dollar-store trinkets wrapped in odd newspaper. Venter had struggled disguise his disappointment with sing-song politeness, but it hadn’t mattered. Uncle Connor had spent the entire holiday smoking and watching the news. He smelled like smoke and mildew.
Like a hobo, Venter told himself. He smelled like a dirty hobo.
The Christmas visit had stretched into January. Then January had stretched into the summer. His uncle never left the house or went near the windows. Friends weren’t allowed to come over anymore, which was fine. Their parents were too worried to let them play anyway. His mother had to take a second job so that she could support an extra person in the house. That was fine too. Venter barely cared. His mother was what his new teacher called, “productive.”
“Do you know anyone who is unproductive or misbehaving? His teacher said at the end of classes, smiling at all the wrong moments. She had arrived after the sudden retirement of Venter’s old teacher and knew more about politics than math. “Who here wants to make their community better?”
Venter’s mother cleared her throat and turned at an intersection. A book fell off the back seat and disappeared into the darkness beneath it, mixing with dirt and PopTart crumbs. Venter made a move to grab it, but his head swirled.
“Uncle Connor has to stay with us because some people think he’s not a productive member of society.” She spoke carefully, like a student who had been taught a lesson many, many times. “When people aren’t productive they get… taken away. That’s why it’s so important that no one know he’s staying with us.”
The radio sputtered out a hazy pop song.
She stopped at a red light and turned in her chair. “Venter, promise me that you won’t get involved with what we saw today. I need you to promise that you’ll stay away from those vans. There have been too many lives ruined by those things. There’s no need to create problems for other people, especially when there’s no need to get involved.”
Venter’s throat felt dry. The light turned from red to green. A horn honked behind him.
Making promises was easy as a kid.
So was spilling secrets.
There were nights when Venter’s mother sounded like one of the unproductive people that his teacher talked about. After she thought Venter had gone to sleep, his mother and Uncle Connor talked about money and politics.
“I can’t keep doing this, Con.” In the night, their voices seemed to drift and sway. Liquid sloshed into a glass. “People are starting to ask questions about how much I’m working and I don’t know how much more I can handle.”
“It’ll only be a little longer, Linda,” Uncle Connor whispered, but his voice was sharp and brittle. Impatient. Venter hated him more for it.
In the silence, Venter heard the drone of a television station that was more static than words. There were sounds of some distant battle. Some politician giving a speech.
His mother sighed. “Sometimes, I think they’re right. Sometimes, I think that if we had just kept our heads down and worked hard…”
Glass clinked against wood. Footsteps moved across carpet. “What do you think they are going to do after they round up all the nutjobs and delinquents? Do you think you can pretend everything’s fine? That everything will go away so long as you play by the rules?”
Half-asleep, Venter imagined his teacher sitting in the darkness and smiling. Do you know anyone unproductive, Venter?
There were too many teeth in her mouth.
The sky had turned a bruise blue by the time Venter’s mother dropped him off at the house. The streetlamps rattled in the firm, autumn breeze.
“Are you going to be okay?” She asked, mercifully leaving out alone with Uncle Connor. His mother moved the smiley muscles of her face, but there was no joy. “I can take you with me, if you want. I know the hospital isn’t the most exciting place in the world, but there’s a pop machine in the break room.”
Venter tightened his grip on his book bag and held something bitter back behind his eyes. He opened my mouth, but instead of crying, he said. “It’s okay, Mom. I’ll survive.” He took a breath. “I love you.”
She tensed the muscles of her face again. He tried not to wonder if he would ever see her smile again. “I love you too, honey.”
Venter waited until the car had disappeared before throwing himself toward the house. “Uncle Connor!” He threw his book bag, not caring where it landed. Books spilled out of an unzipped pocket. Darkness consumed him as he ran up the stairs. “Uncle Connor! Uncle Connor!”
Somewhere, a van moved down an empty street. A squadron of men readied their weapons. Storm clouds crackled as neighbors locked their doors and closed their eyes.
|# ¿ Sep 11, 2017 02:47|
|# ¿ Sep 11, 2017 23:59|
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2023 00:24|
All Things Are Now Empty
Alice floated near the edge of consciousness. Her arm felt sore. There was a terrible pressure in her face and she could not tell whether her eyes were open or shut. She tried to blink and a strange palette of shapes skirted across her brain. She raised a hand to her face. There was a horrible sucking sound as she pulled something sharp and brittle from her—.
“Liam,” she grappled blindly in the car. Her wet fingers brushed against something rough protruding through the windshield. She thought it was a branch, but it was covered in a strange fuzz. Her hand followed the thing to its base. Glass crinkled. There was fur and something sticky.
(In her mind’s eye, Liam turned onto a country road. Despite the snow, the car glided through the night with such grace that Alice could not tell if they were moving. “This must be what space travel is like,” she said, her eyes watching the neon green of the speedometer. A fluorescent sign labelled “Briarwood Way” zoomed in and out of sight.
Liam grunted. His beady eyes moved back and forth across the darkness, searching the forest for movement. Snow buzzed through the darkness, collecting around the edges of the window where the wipers could not reach. She cradled the small bump beginning to form on her belly, feeling useless and pathetic.)
“Liam! Oh, Christ, Liam!” She shouted. The dullness in her brain was gone. Her seatbelt had remained tight, but her arm twisted in a strange, unnatural direction. Flashes of hot pain shot through her body. Her window had shattered into confetti of glass that crunched beneath her feet. Through the jagged opening, fat snowflakes fluttered and melted on her skin. It soaked into her sweater.
She slapped away the wetness. She would not think about her body.
She would not think about the small thing that had been growing inside her.
Above the whir of a distant highway, the radio crackled in thin, short bursts. “…Cold one tonight. Highs… mid-30s and lows… Blizzard conditions... Avoid…”
Alice’s hand shot out toward the voice. She fumbled around torn fabric and pressed herself against Liam’s meaty flesh. She told herself she wouldn’t cry, but instead heard her breathe become heavy and ragged. Incoherent syllables spilled out of her mouth.
“Hey, hey,” he said. “It’s gonna be alright. It’s gonna be…” He lifted her chin and recoiled. “Oh, Christ.”
Alice could hear Liam collecting himself and taking inventory of the situation. His hand skirted down past Alice’s own and toward his own chest. He patted something wet. “Oh, oh, Jesus!”
“I can’t see, Liam. Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong with my eyes.” She pressed her arm against Liam’s own and felt something wet and sticky. Thin ropes protruded from his belly. Alice frowned. It felt like a grocery bag that had been torn. It felt like—.
A scream pressed against the back of her throat. She would not think about...
(“Surprise!” Alice pushed her way into her parents’ foyer, presents cascading down her front. “Merry Christmas!”
Music wafted over the garland-covered bannister. Her brother, Ash, peaked out from an archway as her mother waddled down the stairs. “Ey!” He said. “Look who decided to show up!”
Her brother’s cheer calcified at the sight of Liam in the doorway. He approached, frustration coiled around his politeness, and clapped a hand on Liam’s back. His bitter cheer did not stop until Liam had disappeared into the living room with a small pile of presents.
“So,” Ash said, “you two still a thing or…”)
“Alice? Alice, I can’t move.” Liam’s bravado melted as he grappled her wrists, pulling on the damaged bone and cartilage with such force that Alice wanted to scream. She could feel parts of him leaking out. The smell of warm poo poo wafted through the car.
“Liam, I think. I—.”
“God, Ally, shut up for five goddamn seconds. Let me think. Just…” His voice turned into a giggle that made Alice’s skin crawl. “We’re gonna die in this car. We’re both gonna bleed to death or freeze or get eaten by some wolves or I don’t even know.”
Blood throbbed in her head. She tried to pull away from his grasp. “Liam.” She said.
A gust of snow blew into the car. She could hear the tendons in Liam’s neck twisting and stretching. He released his grip and could feel him twisting in his seat. “There’s a mailbox and a driveway not too far behind us. It's like 100 feet, but I can’t see the door and they’ve probably already gone to bed.” He was wheezing. “We could try screaming. We could try screaming and maybe they’ll hear us, but I don’t know. I can’t—. I don’t want to—.”
(Alice had not wanted to leave, but Liam had grabbed hold of her arm and would not let go. Her mother tottered in the driveway. Her brother slammed the door as he came out onto the porch. The music in the house, once so inviting, seemed harsh in the winter air.
“You poo poo! You loving piece of poo poo." Her brother was angrier than Alice had ever seen him. He took a step off the front door and slipped on a patch of ice. His face slammed into the concrete and blood welled between his teeth. Alice moved toward him, but Liam reeled her back. Alice’s mother skirted past. From the ground, Ash continued shouting. “Do you think I wanted my sister to end up as a supporting character in a lovely Lifetime Original movie, preggo with some loser’s sperm?”
For a moment, Alice was sure that Liam was going to walk over and punch Ash’s teeth out. Instead, he reared his head back and snapped. “Who the gently caress are you to tell her what to do? She can talk for herself and make her own drat decisions.”
He pulled her in tight. With her eyes to the snow, Alice muttered an unheard apology. It was the kind of cliché that her brother hated. They walked toward the car.
“You’ve ruined her life.” Ash shouted. “She could have been anything but instead…)
Alice whimpered and immediately hated herself for doing do. She fumbled with her good arm for his hand. “I can go.”
Silence whipped through the car.
“No, you can’t.” He said.
She tried to make her voice sound firm and confident. “I can still move. I can go get help.”
“But, Ally, Jesus, your face. Your eyes.” His fingers brushed against her hair. His hand drifted toward her belly. “Your…”
(Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it.)
“You can shout to me. It’ll be like Marco Polo.” She moved the muscles of her face in something resembling a smile. “Just don’t let me get lost.”
She had meant it to be a joke, but the words had come out numb in her mouth. They sat, shivering in silence. The broken wreckage of the radio descended into garbled static. Alice could not feel her ears or the tips of her fingers.
Liam reached across her. There was a wet plopping sound. His muscles tensed, but he pressed forward, pushing on Alice’s door. It opened with the delicate crinkle of glass. Liam grabbed something sharp and cut through her seatbelt, freeing her from the seat.
“Just a few steps, Ally,” he said. Despite his firmness, his breathing seemed shallow. “Just follow the road. I’ll shout if you’re moving in the wrong direction.”
She fumbled her legs over the edges of the car. As snow seeped into her ruined socks, she remembered a story she had read about a group of German tourists who had gotten lost in a cave in South America. Once they let go of the walls, they were unable to find them again. They burned through the lantern oil first, then the matches. Then, there had been nothing but darkness and uninterrupted open space.
“That’s it. Just a few steps. Just keep going in a straight line until you feel the road.” He shouted over the howling wind.
After several hours, the tourists had begun to hallucinate. The human brain abhors a vacuum and will conjure up feeling when none is available. One of the survivors remembered his father calling to him. Another felt thousands of spiders crawling on his skin.
Alice inched forward with her arms stretched out. In the night was absolutely nothing. Nothing after nothing spread before her.
“You should feel the road any second.” He said. “When you feel it, turn left. Turn left.”
(They were in the car. Alice’s mother house disappeared behind a wave of trees. Liam switched on the station to the sounds of Jingle Bells.
“It’s my fault.” Alice said. “I’m sorry. I should have—.”
“Don’t.” Liam said. His eyes stared straight ahead. They were dark and glassy.
“It’s just that—.”
“Holy poo poo, Alice. Shut up. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to have a heart-to-heart.” He breathed in. Alice watched his nostrils widen as air escaped. “Let’s just get home and we can talk about it then, okay?”
Jingle bells turned into Silent Night. Trees loomed over them as Liam turned onto a side road, their snow-covered claws piercing through the headlights. As a kid, her father had scared her with stories of ghosts who appeared in the snow and of the Melon Heads, who lurched through the darkness looking for children to eat. She would be a better parent.
Liam sighed. “Hey, Ally. I’m sorry I snapped. It’s just that I—.”
She never heard the rest of the apology because some dark creature had leapt into the road. Alice screamed as the thing raised its antlers and froze in the headlights. It was the last thing she would see. )
Asphalt and ice replaced the crunch of snow. She edged her way forward into the great empty as Liam’s voice grew distant behind her. If a car came down the road—.
(Don’t think about it.)
If there was a wolf or bear—.
(Don’t think about it.)
If she slipped. If she lost the road and tumbled downward into the forest, they would not find her body until the spring. People died in winter all the time. Old people slipped on their porches. Children played too far from home and froze in the snow. Skaters stepped onto thin patches of ice and disappeared beneath the surface. Their skates carried them down to the bottom of the lake, where no one would find them.
Her feet shifted from one surface to another. Concrete. She reached her hands out and felt something cold and wooden. Her fingers traced a series of frostbitten numbers. A mailbox.
“Liam, I made it!” She shouted. There was nothing but icy breeze. “Liam?”
She shivered in the cold, but pressed against the wind. Her footsteps echoed against the concrete. It was only a few more steps, she told herself. The doorstep would only be a few more steps. Then, everything would be okay again.
(The living room was a mess of wrapping paper. Alice finished stitching the last box with tape and stood up to admire her work. “You almost ready to go?” She shouted toward the bedroom.
Liam emerged from the back wearing the Christmas sweater that she had bought for him. The bright-eyed snowman mismatched Liam’s own dull expression. “Do we need to do this? Your family’s gonna freak.”
Alice ignored the doubt creeping inside her and moved to lay her head on his chest. “You feel that?” She said, pressing his hand against her stomach. “It’s all going to be okay.”)
|# ¿ Sep 18, 2017 02:34|