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Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

In. Cover me like a Bruce Springsteen tribute band.

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Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer


wordcount:996

The Unbearable Lightness of Giant Robots

Tiny metal flakes drifted toward the last human city. The sun still shone, slicing through clouds like the lasers of God, illuminating an endless cascade of glittering dust. A snow day without the chill of ice; the people of the city played carelessly amongst the shining drifts.

Magnus squinted into the eyepiece of his telemagnetoscope, surveying the hapless populace from his skyscraping rooftop observatory, noting their casual disregard of security protocols. "This can't be good. Susan 2.0 - these 'snowmotes', any sign of Robotic origin?"

Behind him, a voice. A disembodied and artificial remembrance of what he'd lost. "No sign of Robot craft within the system perimeter. The snowmotes match no known Robotic configurations."

"It smacks of Robots, though, Susan2. Could be Titanobot tech, but they're usually more overtly destructive. The Nanobots? They've been quiet since Astro-7 but visibility isn't their usual MO. A new threat, perhaps?"

Distracted, Magnus smoothed his uniform where it was riding up his muscular thighs. Clusters of snowmotes dusted his hands so he shook them off. The motes sparkled in the sunlight as they fell, giving Magnus an idea.

"Susan2, turn sensors inward, onto the snowmotes themselves."

"Affirmative," said Susan 2.0, "Computing...Sensor readings indicate the dust inhibits certain electrical frequencies related to cerebral recall of previous Robot incursions."

"I knew it! Our observatory shields still clearly work, but the rest of the city is like a babe in the woods. I don't get it though. Our sensors don't care about memories, the Robots still can't bring any ships into the system, and they know we'll fight back with maximum force."

"True, but at what cost?" said Susan 2.0. Magnus thought it sounded almost Susan-like in its concern. He struggled to put all thoughts of the real Susan out of his head, to focus. Her soft voice, the way she used to hide her laser pistol in her shin-revealing splitboots, her death beneath the gigantic heel of a Titanobot, all receded.

"I just don't know, Susan 2, but to be safe, can you clean up all this?" He gestured at the gathering drifts of snowmotes, then returned to the 'scope.

Through its lens he could see the squat base of a hab-block where a group of children had rolled the snowmotes into a large sphere. To their left, more children rolled a smaller sphere towards them, and to their right, another small ball lay waiting.

"Snowmen?" asked Magnus, then gasped with realisation as the children assembled their crude metallic figure.

Magnified through the 'scope, Magnus saw everything. The snowmotes began moving toward the assembled spheres, forming clumps and larger groups as they did so, a mass of metal cockroaches carpeting the streets. Each sphere doubled then tripled in size as the snowmotes swarmed up and around them. The children turned and fled in terror, a few tripping and falling against the snowmote currents. Drifts flowed over them, covering them completely. The endless river, rushing toward the growing metallic humanoid, became its arms and its legs and its remorseless, blank face.

Magnus tore himself away. He didn't need the 'scope. He could see the vast and towering figure of a Titanobot tearing into the hab-block, ripping out the very walls to use as instruments of further destruction. In the distance, other Titanobots could be seen, half the size but growing every second. Still the flakes fell.

Behind him, a voice. "Magnus," she said softly.

Magnus spun round, the sight of her like a laser blast to the heart. Those splitboots, the short tennis skirt, her face - all a gunmetal grey. Then, like a screen turning on, the snowmote humanoid flooded with colour, and there was Susan, pulling herself upright against a nearby ledge.

"It's over, Magnus," said Susan 3.0, in a perfect rendition of Susan's voice. Beyond the rooftop came the terrible sound of buildings collapsing one top on one another. "Soon we will be complete."

Magnus somehow ignored the adrenaline rush of seeing her curls dangle around her face once more, the terror of the attack. "Who are you, really?"

"We are the summation of the Titanobot and Nanobot empires," said Susan 3.0, approaching slowly, reaching toward him, "Made glorious in our shared vision. We have united in our purpose to rebuild."

"You can't win, you know that." said Magnus. "This is a setback, sure but...

"Sssh!" Susan caressed his face, her fingers somehow warm like flesh. "We have learned from each other, as you will learn from us. The Robots were trapped in near immortality, unable to die, unable to forget. Just as humans have sought to prolong life, so Robots sought its destruction. But when I was crushed beneath the Titanobot, there were still latent nanobots on me from Astro-7. True to their programming, they captured my consciousness and transmitted it to the nearest receptors - within the Titanobot itself. Somehow we three, human, nano and titan, finally understood each other, and brought the Robots to our way of seeing. Now we need you to understand, my love, " She gently kissed his cheek.

Magnus pulled away. The city beneath him was a near flat-blanket of metal, with Titanobots and other, unrecognisable figures moving toward any last structures.

"We do not seek destruction," Susan continued, "only to remake the world free from the blind brutality of the Titanobot, the unfeeling sensorium of the nanobot, and the fragility of the human race. Don't you see, my darling? This endless war is finally over!"

Magnus fell to his knees. "Is that really you, Susan?"

"Yes, my love," she smiled down at him. "All of me and more."

In one whiplike motion Magnus drew the laser pistol from her left splitboot and fired a single shot, straight through her smiling face. "Liar!, " he shouted. "Susan would never submit to the Robot."

The two halves of Susan's face slid together seamlessly. She put her arms around him and took him, molecule by molecule, into Paradise.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

In

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Wordcount:795

Sumerian Blue

It seemed to Winella Marshal that she had only just stumbled home to bed from the Clattersby Activist Conference when she awoke to the sensation of blueness. Through half-closed eyes she saw a large, bare-chested man suffused with a strange azure glow, standing at the foot of her mattress. His blue beard was long and cut flat at the bottom, his blue frame well-muscled and his wraparound skirt split to one blue thigh.

"Argh! What the hell?" said Winella, gathering the duvet about her and scanning the room for usefully dangerous objects.

"Winella Marshall," said the glowing man, raising his right hand palm outward. "I am Ammon-Thok, Priest-Mage of Sumer."

"What do you want? I warn you, my girlfriend will be home any minute. She's a seven foot skinhead with a black-belt in macro--aggression." In the absence of weaponry, she grabbed Mr Doggles and waved him menacingly about, causing the speaker in his tummy to go "Woof Woof Bark".

Blue light bathed the confused look of Ammon-Thok. "Er, fear not, Winella. I am here to serve and guide you to victory."

"Fantastic. A big strong man to save the day with his big...blue...muscles. This must be a dream," said Winella. She contemplated pinching herself but remembered that was a painfully stupid thing to do so she didn't. "Isn't it?"

"In a sense it is," said Ummon-Thok. "I am your spirit guide, dream-travelling through the spirals of time, serving eternally the descendants of Ur. I have guided Cleopatra, Boadicea, Joan d'Arc, and now you." Ammon-Thok bowed deeply for several seconds then looked up. "Erm, what are you doing?"

Winella peered over her phone. "Just googling. Let me see. Cleopatra - Suicide. Boadicea - Defeat and death. Joan, don't even need to look her up - burned at the stake. So much for leading them to victory."

Ammon-thok looked embarrassed. "They are immortal in history, that's a kind of victory."

"Is that what you told them? Let me serve you and you'll die horribly and also be famous?"

"Well, no, not as such. Time spirals mean I'm actually doing all of this at once, so from my perspective we're all still working together. I had heard it goes badly though." Ammon-Thok's blue face looked even bluer.

"So no real wisdom of the ancients, then? No tips on how to get free from systemic patriarchal oppression?"

"Not really my field."

"Oh."

Ammon-Thok's forehead creased. "Would building a ziggurat help?"

Winella shrugged.

Ammon sat down on the end of the bed, his back to Winella. She heard him sigh heavily. Oh Christ, she thought, now I'm dreaming unpaid emotional labour.

"It's not easy, spirit-guiding, you know," said Ammon-Thok. "You're supposed to have all the answers, but everything's changed so much since Sumer. No wonder I wasn't any use to the others. And now you're the ninth descendant of Ur I've visited this century, and they've all said 'Thanks, but not much call for spirit-guides these days, we have the internet'.

Winella extracted an arm from her duvet, pulled a tissue from the box by her nightstand and offered it to him. He accepted and gave his nose a good blow.

"Have you actually seen the Internet?" Winella asked.

"No," he sniffed.

"Here - it's pretty cool, reactionary dickheads aside." She passed him her phone. "Just hold your finger on this button, and ask a question."

Ammon hesitated, looking at Winella. She nodded for him to go ahead. "Just talk," she said.

"Who … who is the most famous Sumerian?"

Google assistant piped up in a cheerful female-like voice: "Gilgamesh was the fifth king of the Sumerian city of Uruk. He became known as a demigod with superhuman strength in later legends and tales such as the Epic of Gilgamesh."

"Fffft. He was alright, I suppose," said Ammon-Thok. "Let me try again. 'Joan of Arc tactical review'." A flood of results popped onto the screen and Winella showed him how to scroll through the hits and click through to further details. "Fascinating," he said. "I can see how you'd find this useful."

"You can borrow it if you like. Something to do while you're looking for the next descendant of Ur."

"Really? Well, thank you. I shall endeavour to put it to good use." Ammon-thok began to fade like a dream in the morning light. "I suppose I've taken up enough of your time," he said before vanishing completely.

Winella lay back, and closed her eyes. "No problem, you crazy-rear end blue dream man."

***

"I wonder what I did with my phone," thought God-Queen Winella, donning her helmet as she wheeled out her electro-chariot.

A memory circled but then escaped her conscious mind.

"Et bien, c'est la vie." With a crack of her vibro-whip, Winella sped through the pyramids of the city.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

The wages of sIN are death

But the gift of WIZARDS is eternal

Give WIZARDS this generic gift-giving holiday season

WIZARDS

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer



The sin eaters are on the wrong side of history.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

Sitting Here posted:

There is a non-0 chance i missed someone in my quoting frenzy, so if that's you pls let me know

I also am forgotten among wizard folk.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

You're the wizard of holes. Big holes, small holes, portable holes, holes that lead to other holes and form a tunnel, holes in souls (and soles), you name it. Got a problem? There's bound to be a magic hole for you!
wordcount:1283

Minding the gap

"Mind the gap!" said the disembodied voice but Tim barely noticed. It was half past midnight, the perfect time for riding the Tube between worlds. He swung through the train doors just before they closed, the vertiginous 'gap' yawning like a precipice as he hopped over it, and took his seat on the quarter-full car.

Tim revelled in the familiar feeling of acceleration toward the infinite, unknown darkness. He loved the way the posters on the walls of the station passed slowly, then faster, turning into blurs of colour only to vanish, replaced by the stygian blackness of the underground. The windows turned into mirrors as fluorescent light from inside the carriage became the only light there was.

Watching himself closely, Tim combed his ragged beard with his hand. Behind him, in mirrorland, a suit with a goatee tried not to fall asleep. Tim smiled a toothy grin and worked his magic, feeling the edges of the underground, linking hooks in his imagination which rotated around the edge of the holes as they pulled and connected various intricate dimensions. The image of himself in mirrorland died in an explosion of light, as the tube train shot out of the inky black and into the glass conveyance tube high above the pyramids of Raza II

This was the best bit - Tim laughed at the half past midnight crowd, their drunk, high, in love faces. Some were too busy staring into each other's eyes to even notice Tim, or the change in vista. Some moaned and rubbed at their foreheads, as if warding off their inevitable hangover. Some just stared slack-jawed as the jewelled plains of Razanax passed by below with stately grace. Around them, the glass caused weird distortions to the flat of the landscape as the tube bent around an endless moving staircase. Tim craned his neck to see it vanish into the green clouds above, chortling and clapping his hands.

Like a roller coaster past the top of its highest peak, the train dipped its front and sped even faster. Unused to anything but the imperceptible gradients of home, even the most loved-up of passengers noticed this sudden shift in gravity. A few even gasped as Tim yelled and the train plummeted headfirst toward the side of a giant greenstone pyramid and into the opaque cavern in its side. Mirror-Tim grinned in silence as Tim cast his mental hooks and rerouted the train to its destination.

"Mind the gap!"

A few of Tim's fellow passengers shuffled off the train, surreptitiously looking at one another. No one said a word, but no one ever did. Tim watched them file past. The last one, the suit with a goatee, hung briefly to a strap while looking uncertainly at the gap. When he finally moved, he stumbled, but the doors closed behind him and the train set off before Tim could see what had occurred. The posters drifted, then sped.

The car lights flickered, and everything disappeared entirely for a fraction of a second. Tim felt the vibrations as the tube car rattled and shook, but as soon as the lights returned he was alone. But not quite - the reflections of the remaining passengers were still in the windows.
The lights went off again. They did not come back on.

"Mind the Gap!"

Tim blinked, trying to clear his eyes of the darkness, but it seemed to make no difference if he had them open or shut. His body felt as if it was still seated, still subject to the rattling movement, but as he twisted around, reaching out for something, anything, to grab hold of, that sensation fell away.

"Mind the Gap!"

Tim stood silently, reaching outwards with his imagination, casting about in the darkness for another hole to sink his mental hooks into, by which he could drag himself out of the abyss. But holes were emptiness in matter, and in the total darkness, there was no matter to be empty. His hooks fell away, unable to catch.

"Mind the"

Tim grunted in extreme annoyance and stamped his foot.

A hiss crackled and Tim sensed light behind him. He spun around to see projected upon nothingness, was an old black and white movie, a safety video entitled "Mind the Gap!" Tim didn't even bother to watch it. He focussed on the tracking holes that lay in the film itself and tore into them to see what lay behind.

On screen, the film fractured and warped like it was melting, but behind it wasn't the gleaming white of the projection beam. There were bodies. A huge pile of bodies stacked one atop the other. A wall of bodies, pressed and squashed, those at the bottom forced into impossible positions by the weight of the others, their silently screaming mouths their only possible movement in the darkness. And at the very top, a goateed man in a suit, illuminated from above, scrabbling for something unreachable above him.

Tim stared in horror as another body fell, injuring the goateed man, climbing over him, boot in face, to take his place reaching upwards.

And then the lights came on as the tube pulled into the station. The doors opened.

"Mind the gap!"

Tim ran for the door, skidded to his knees on the platform outside and peered down into the gap between platform and train. He saw hands ands fingers reaching upwards, grasping toward the light of the station. He reached out with the tendrils of his mind, but his hooks could not grasp well enough as they rotated through the dimensions. The gap was two edges along an infinite plain, not holes and Tim knew he only had power over holes. He forced himself to think. Perhaps it would be all right. Perhaps they would reach the top eventually, and be able to climb out. The train doors shut, and Tim knew that it would pull away in a moment, and the gap would be gone. He could not be sure it would return when the next train arrived. These were strange times. He would have to act.

Tim lay by the gap, imagining. He saw the bottom of it , just as he had behind the film, with the people squashed and broken. He saw the open mouths, lungs too crushed to scream. He cast his hooks into the bloody, blackened lips of the very lowest one and twisted them into intricate dimensions, widening them further and further, stretching them to the vast width of the gap itself. At the same time, he imagined the hooks in his own mouth, tearing his lips in the same way, pulling them beyond all endurance.

And then, one by one, the body beneath the bodies consumed those above, and Tim vomited them onto the platform. His throat burned with tearing hooks, but he persisted, until the last of them was reborn to stagger toward the streets above.

Tim lay there, gagging and making retching noises on his empty stomach. The was an acrid smell from his beard and he tasted blood. It wasn't enough, he realised, there was still the one body at the other end, his partner in rescue, all alone now, stretched taut and screaming for the light with all its new found breath.

Tim reached into his mouth hole, grabbed something made of flesh and began to to pull it out, feeling himself pulled in through other side.

****

Beneath the station, looking ever upwards towards the thin strip of light, Tim waits for falling bodies to rescue. It isn't as much fun as taking the tube between worlds, but it needs to be done, so he doesn't mind the gap at all.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

In

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Prompt: Time out of joint, 100 words

Cursed Spite

I told her I was out of time.

She tore away from me, pale and consumed, until she stares with a different face.

I tell her I am out of time and she avoids my gaze, drained and wan, until she will look at me with another face.

I will tell her I am out of time and she will tell me she has heard that story before, from other men so lost to history that she has forgotten all their names.

"Who are you again?" she will ask.

I tell her, as delicious colour poured from her ancient face.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

prompt: Nonsense, 500 words

Unfumbling

"How goes the armada?" asked the emperor, anticipation twitching his gilded whiskers.

"It does not, my liege, the worms have turned," said the janglemouse, trying to stand quietly but with many bells of office nervously tinkling .

"Traitorous worms," cursed the emperor, angrily nibbling at the aromatic Camembert Throne. "They would deny Us? Bring Us their representative."

The janglemouse produced and jangled a small bell, its tone drowned out by all the other jangling bells along his sleeve. The worm ambassador wriggled under the vast door to the audience chamber and past the assembled mousely court, sweat bubbling beneath his silk and diamond collar.

"Explain!" the emperor demanded. "We have a million fumblemice, clumsy and adorable. They await Our word to depart for the greater glory of Us."

"Well," said the worm, "you see…"

"Who are you to tell Us to see, blindest of worms? The janglemouse has assured Us Our plans are precise to the nunth degree,"

The janglemouse's nervous jangling increased.

"...and yet you worms seek to thwart Us, on this, Our finest hour?"

"Not really us, per se, your Emperoritude, the wormholes…"

"Do not tell Us about wormholes. We know about wormholes. These ingenious tunnels will bend the world to permit instantaneous travel everywhere for Our glorious fumblemice. All will fall before them and say "Squee!" Is that not correct?"

"Well, technically, yes, that's sort of how wormholes work."

"Then," said the emperor, standing amid camembert strands as his wrath grew meltingly hot. "What. Is. The. PROBLEM?"

The worm embassador wriggled uncomfortably, his collar of office uncomfortably damp. "We tried, honestly we did, but we don't have the knack for wormholes. We end up with wormcaves and half-buried fumblemice waving their tails in the air. The problem is, your Empericiousness, we're silkworms, not earthworms."

The emperor stared for a long, long time, then turned to the janglemouse. "There's a difference?"

The janglemouse shringled, "They looked wormy, my Liege. Who knew?"

"This is a disaster!" cried the emperor. "The adorkable antics of a million fumblemice, trapped and wasted." He glared at the janglemouse, who simultaneously withered in size and shook louder and louder until the throne room sounded like christmas. "This is your fault, janglemouse. I will have your bells!"

"Er. Wait a mo," said the ambassador, horrified. "We do have an idea for your empirical evidencement."

The Emperor paused mid-disembelling. "Yeeees?"

"Observe," said the ambassador. He wriggled toward the janglemouse and began to spiral around him, excreting a single gossamer thread as he went. After several hundred revolutions, the janglemouse was finally silent, completely covered in, and muffled by, silken string.

The ambassador sliced through the wrap with one diamond edge of his collar. It fell to the throne room floor, utterly empty of janglemice.

At that moment, the janglemouse burst through the doors of the audience chamber, jangling confusedly in a ringing endorsement of transportational success.

"It's based on silk theory, and eleven-dimensional connective silk vibrations." said the ambassador, but nobody heard him above the applause.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Can I be in too? Please your Enthroned Seafoodship, can I pick this one?



If you gotta flash rule me for my inexcusable presumption, that'd be OK, I guess.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

wordcount: 676

Rouge

I watch the girl in the mirror complete her makeup. First she brushes rouge around the apples of her cheeks. Next she smoothes it with her fingers to make it seamlessly blend. Finally she makes a fist and punches the rounded mirror from behind. Her face fractures into pieces and I turn away. My hand is bleeding.

I get up from the makeup table, remembering my husband rushing in from next door. In my memory he is distraught, terrified that I am going to make a scene on this night of nights. I drip blood all over my elaborate, crinoline-distended dress, down its satin creases toward the floor. Despite this he grabs my hand and tries to stop me from leaving. I say a single word to him, the word the girl in the mirror taught me. In my memory rage has made me strong, stronger even than he, and his head slams against the table corner, skull collapsing inward like a porcelain doll.

I glide smoothly out of the bedroom, into the gilded corridor. The yellow paint peels on the walls. There is a tiny flurry of paint-flakes as I pass, golden snow, as a breeze passes through a hole in the crumbling brickwork. In my mind's eye, I can still see the servant, see the look of horror on his face as he backs away to let me pass. I remember reaching out toward him with my bleeding hand, holding his face that must have seen something, must have known something. I am not looking into his eyes, though, I am looking at my hand, at all the tiny fragments of glass that lie buried in it. So many jagged shards, and surely more invisible splinters hidden by blood and flesh. Where does one even begin to heal? I recall the servant bowed somehow, escaping my grasp. Still looking at my hand, I let him fade into memory.

There is a staircase at the end of the hall, carved wood and iron-work, endlessly spiraling down into the palace depths. Each banister post has an iron motif, a single heart-shaped piece, bent sharply in the middle and with rounded curves that are bound to its post by more iron. I have counted each one a million times. I look down into the stairwell, holding the rail for support, and see stairs and hearts and carven curlicues twisting into the infinite. Blood from my hand pools on the rail until a single drop falls, down past two hundred hearts clapped in irons, down into the depths. Soon after, I follow.

It always takes an eternity to fall. I used to daydream that the dresses I was bound into each morning would become the method of my escape, that a zephyr would swirl beneath my vast, unwieldy skirt and take me into the clouds, toward new lands filled with romance and adventure. This same thought strikes me as I plummet, that the breeze could overtake me, carry me up, up, and out of this ancient building at last. There is wind rushing past my ears, but I know it will not save me. I find myself turned around, looking upwards with the ever-approaching floor behind me, and I see something that I had forgotten. Age has not dulled the paint beneath the spiralling stairs, though it too cracks and peels. I can see see that is blue like the sky, like I have fallen past the sky and am speeding ever faster into some heaven beyond.

But it is only a painted fantasy, so I close my eyes and land and crack and break all over again. We are all slaves to gravity and history.

I don't know how long it is before I open my eyes again. I watch the girl on the other side of the mirror, see her watching me as she sits at her makeup table. She seems pale, like a memory of an echo of a colour. She reaches for the rouge.

I lean in close to her and whisper everything I know.


Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

Liquid Communism posted:

In

In a world where love is the deadliest poison

in

In a world where gods are our pets

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Thunderdome dystopia - wordcount 1200ish

To live without

"You have to read this," whispered Elspeth, her third eye shining amber uncertainty from her forehead. Whatever this was, her light told me she was trusting me a great deal to share it.

I reached across the dark expanse between our cots to grab whatever she was holding out. I examined it in the nervous, grey light of my own eye: A thin book, with two scratchily illustrated people adorning the cover. Neither looked happy, and one looked decidedly ill. "What is it?"

"It's called Romeo and Juliet," said Elspeth. "I think it's on the verboten list."

My eye flickered amber, reflecting the double edged excitement I felt. "Verboten? Where did you get it?"

"I smuggled it out of my last work detail - clearing out a homophile isolation unit. A floorboard was squeaky, so I…"

The unmistakeable sound of the dormitory door opening reached us. We both clammed up, rolling onto our backs as I buried the illicit treasure beneath my leg so it didn't make an odd lump on the cot's thin sheets. Footsteps meandered through the room, down the centre aisle, sometimes stopping and waiting. I clenched my normal eyes shut, trying to breath slowly as if asleep, sure my third eye was radiating intense and worried black and grey. I hoped I could claim bad dreams if the colour betrayed me, but I knew removing the eye for any reason was a long, lonely spell in the stockade.

Eventually the footsteps passed us and we heard the far door click closed. Elspeth turn onto her side to face me. "Anyhow - it was hidden, so I grabbed it. It's incredible. There's this boy, and this girl."

I remained on my back, listening to her whispered attempts to set the scene, watching my light brush against the ceiling. The black and grey ebbed and amber returned. I fished out the book and turned to the first page

Two households, both alike in dignity

***

Whenever Elspeth and I were together we spoke of nothing but the musty, old, dog-eared book and the unexpected, electrifying tale that it told, a story set in a world where swords and boys and parents existed in equal, yet complicated and confusing measure. For one lesson, when fate brought us to nearby desks during the advanced colour drills our age required us to attend, we ignored the purple indicators in favour of trying to make sense of this intoxicating universe we had found hidden.

"Did they die of love or for love?" Elspeth whispered as the teacher droned on.

"Does it matter?" I mumbled back, bending my head forward and turning my neck to look at her. She crossed her eyes at me and stuck out her tongue..

But the opportunities to discuss were far and few between, so we grabbed what chance encounters we could. Even though we lived in the all-female section of the holding, we were cycled through workgroups and cot placements and rarely ended up in the same place and the same time. When we did, our third eyes glowed blue with comfort. If our paths crossed near the counter of the maternity ward, where the purple glow of mothers-to-be-separated flickered constantly we'd use the secret language we had learned.

"Please take this laundry to cubicle area two," I'd say, handing over my allotment of sheet dresses to the day-shift worker.

"I can think of nothing that I would rather do," Elspeth would rhyme, taking in the laundry from the designated deliver. Her eye would tinge purple in happiness, and her face would flush. I'd smile as I returned to the laundry room, aquamarine in contentment.

It seemed weeks before we were given cots close enough the same assigned dormitory that we could speak freely to each other for more than a precious few minutes. We seized upon the opportunity like starving people descending on a banquet. Long into the night we talked, stopping only to feign sleep at the sudden arrival of a nightwatcher. We spoke of sword fights and murders, couplets and metaphors, warring houses and the fate of the star-crossed. I passed back the copy of the book, now even more dog-eared by my indication of my favourite sections, and Elspeth took it, then grabbed my hand and held it tight over the darkened floor between our beds.

I saw her third eye light drift from purple to violet to red. I jerked, my real eyes wide - bright and true she shone a colour I had never seen. Behind her, my own glow against her pillow shifted from blue to uncertain amber to terrified black. Elspeth watch it change, and the sadness in her face broke me in two. Something glinted beside her real eye, liquid and clear, unable to reflect my black light. It pooled on the side of her nose. She coughed, once. Then again. But she still held onto my hand, even as the bile erupted from her mouth and she choked and gasped and spasmed so hard she fell from the bed. Only then did she let go, to curl in and clutch at her stomach, shuddering and retching blood black in the darkness, her third eye dim.

It was then the sirens started.

***

We were lucky, we were told. The outbreak had been contained, our systems were safe, and our holding secure. We were told Elspeth had been moved to a homophile isolation unit, for her and our protection. This was best for everybody, we were told, because female homophiles could not be kept in male or female holdings, the former a danger to them, the latter a danger to themselves. We were told her inclinations warranted a single male homophile for company, and that we shouldn't worry.

We were told one other thing - that we were lucky it hadn't been a male/female red-declaration to break out in a dorm, or there would have been fewer survivors. That was why we had to be careful, keep vigilant for purple in each other's third eyes, and report it if we saw it, because purple was the precursor to red. Red was love, and love was poison to all of us now.

We weren't told what happened to Elspeth's copy of Romeo and Juliet. I hope that somehow she still has it. I hope she reads it to her homophile boy and they are able to rhyme together as they deal with their allotted chores. I hope they hide it under a squeaky floorboard, for someone else to find when they meet their final destiny - whatever that might be.

But for me, there is just the work, and the days, and memory of what it was like to share a secret in the dark. The only thing I really have left of her is a mark where she held my hand, where her fingernails clawed into my palm. My wrist grows sorer every day, the joints in my fingers ache, and lifting the baskets and casks in the laundry and the warehouse gets harder. Yesterday my entire forearm felt numb. I should report it.

Is it better to die for love or of love, I wonder. Or simply to live without?


prompt : in a world with poisonous love

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Incy wincy spider

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Hawklad - Alzheimer's Disease
Fumblemouse - Munchausen Syndrome
Xelkelvos - Capgras Delusion

I'm bored at work so I'm going to annoy the judges by pointing out that none of the above are scientific or sociological theories, and I invite them to anticipate my poorly-disguised House fan-fiction.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

prompt: Munchausen
flashrule: small or far away
Words: 1251

The Object of the Exercise

My office, where I have practised the noble art of medicine these past thirty years, had its venerable, ordered calm disrupted when the other side of its door was slammed into by a person unknown. The glazed window, emblazoned with san-serif legend 'yorztiF .rD', vibrated against its putty, and the handle rattled as it twisted the wrong way.

The hallway discord both outraged and intrigued me. “Come in! It’s not locked - just a bit sticky.” But the door had already been flung open and the carpet was lurched upon in a manner befitting the furnishings of the mortally wounded.

It was a business suit, containing an awful pink shirt, and with last season’s tie and an oil stain on the lapel. Inside it was a man with so calamitous a demeanor that my seat almost relinquished me in order to assist him. But the hand that was not clutched white-knuckled to his chest flagged away such consideration. The leather bound and absurdly comfortable chair opposite me was grabbed so desperately that it needed to be wrestled back a little on its oiled castors. Still, it soon sat a conventional distance from my mahogany desk, containing the dolorous patient.

My eyes absorbed the man's appearance. His hair was shock white, ragged and spiked like a profusion of stalagmites. The 'whites' of his eyes were red around the pupils, bloodshot near to the point of glowing, and the pupils themselves were dilated to tiny pinpoints. Rosacea flared pink on his face and a multitude of subcutaneous lumps disfigured his hands. One finger was missing at the lower knuckle, the resulting stump long healed but still with a silvery scar.

A moment was all the time this observation took me, but further diagnosis was prevented by the door admitting the formidable Nurse Hutchings. Her expression read both anger and frustration. "He wouldn't stop at reception...".

A shushing was in order. "Shhh, Nurse! This man clearly needs my help." My hand waved her away. The muscles in the man's face relaxed in the minor way that only the most supremely discomfited can manage. "That will be all, Nurse Hutchings."

Her immediate departure was, amazingly, not immediate. "Dr Fitzroy. You don’t understand. This man is on the list!”

My spectacles barely contained the glare I leveled at Nurse Hutchings. They traveled down to the tip of my nose at my hands behest whereupon my eyes peered over the top of them. Bereft of lenticular mitigation, my glare increased tenfold. “Of course he's on the list. That will be all.”

Her upper uniform pulsated in exasperation, and her skull barely contained her rolling eyes. "Yes, Doctor.”

The door closed behind her with the merest hint of a slam, and my full attention was again directed toward the patient. “I do apologise for Nurse Hutchings. A fine practitioner, but time, tide and one’s health emergencies wait for no one, as she sometimes forgets.”

“Thank you for seeing me, Doctor.”

"Indeed,” I said, “And you are…?”

“Tamsworth, Doctor, Julian Tamsworth.”

“And I am to take it that you are not a patient here, but are well known throughout the medical fraternity in these parts?”

Julian's shoes became fascinating to him. They were hidden by my desk and so their precise nature was opaque to me. Julian's chapped lips burbled something vaguely affirmative.

“So I surmised,” I said. “The list our ever-so direct Nurse Hutchings refers to is the Munchausen List, circulated by necessity among physicians of repute, whereby those whose psychological profile tends towards self-inflicted malodies can be easily identified. Now let me see. Julian Tamsworth….J...u...l” The fabulously up-to-the-minute computer in front of me felt each tippety-tap on its keyboard, until the final 'click' of the enter key. With a resplendant 'ping' the screen displayed its hard won results. “Seventeen doctors visits in the greater area over the past two months. You outdo yourself, Mr Tamsworth.”

Julian's teeth permitted an inaudible mumble to escape.

“What was that?” I asked.

“I said, it’s true – but you still have help me. I’m very sick.”

My lungs admitted a large breath of air, to be slowly let out as a gentle sigh. “Go on,” I said.

“I admit, I’ve been less than truthful in the past,” he said, his face contorted by shame. One by one, the decrepit evidences of his condition were displayed to me. The backs of his hands, misshapen and lumpy. “I’ve injected talcum powder under my skin.” His left lower eyelid pulled down to display a vicious conjunctivitis. “I’ve rubbed faecal matter into my own face.” The sewn up stump of his finger exhibited at close range. “I’ve chopped off my own finger with a machete, all so I could have a few hours being the centre of attention, and sit in a nice, clean office like this, and have someone listen to me. It felt so right, but now...it's just wrong.”

“I am somewhat surprised by your summation of your condition,” I said, my eyelids blinking. "To be so honest and upfront condition shows considerable developmental change.” The 'list’ had contained no mention of any such embryonic self-awareness. “This is news indeed.”

“Is it?” A tear trickled down Julian's pockmarked, crusty face. "It just feels like I'm sick to the bone." A tissue erupted from the box on my desk and mucous flowed loudly through Julian's nose into it. "I've realised how ill I actually am. I suppose I always knew. I thought it was just a small thing, but really I was keeping it so far away from myself that I never noticed how bad it had become. I was so busy trying to be sick - I didn't even see how sick I was."

His lumpy hand was companionably touched by mine across some old Lancet photocopies. "You have come to the right place," I said. The lumps felt spongy to the touch. "Now the real healing can begin."

"So, what happens next? Therapy?"

"My dear fellow. Therapy won't help you. You've come to a fascinating realisation about yourself. But you must believe you can be good as new again! First, please twist your earlobe. The left one."

Befuddlement and Julian became intimately involved.

"Just like this, please," I said, my fingers miming the required motion.

Julian's hand paused mid-journey as he looked to me for reassurance. My neck bent my head in a nod, my lips smiled reassuringly.

The earlobe twisted with his hand, and Julian's faceplate swung open at the invisible hinge. His ocular rotormotors hummed as his eyeballs swivelled to and fro, freed from their restraints, surveying the elaborate circuitry within from unanticipated angles, reading the serial number behind his faceplate. MHS-3435-JT

"I'm a robot!" said Julian, LEDs lighting his face in astonishment.

"Well, yes," I said. "Technically a simulacrum, but you weren't to know that. Not to worry - the necessary repairs shouldn't take very long at all. We'll have you fully back to your regular Munchhausen protocol any moment. After all - without you 3435s, what would we robot physicians have to practice on?"

A nanodrill emerged from my right index finger and crept towards the patient's amygdala circuits. "It's probably an over-functioning awareness loop. Nothing to worry about. Now - this won't hurt…"

The nanodrill plunged into the depths of his consciousness modules. My aural cavities were filled with his screams as his layers of self-awareness were scraped away. Real humans would never make such a fuss, I thought. Perhaps I would even get to meet one someday.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

I am currently weak and vulnerable. Please let in and flash rule me.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

wordcount: 749
flash: When you think you've won but then someone no one cares about gets to decide and gives first place to the other guy

The Second Happiest Place On Earth

"I try and be discreet about it, the murdering. Can't kill just anyone, not here at the Second Happiest Place on Earth. That's what we call the park. Clever, huh? But you knew that, right? You're one of the smart ones. You know what's up."

"Mmmmhg."

"So I don't need to tell you that fun parks are supposed to be, well, fun. And if you're not having fun there - where the hell else you gonna go? There's something wrong if you can't even have fun at a funpark. But some people, even the smart ones, don't know how badly they're broken inside till they walk through our gates some morning, a fistful of ride tickets in their hand and then it hits them, right here, that gnawing, inescapable despair.

"I've got a knack for finding them. I spotted you, right? Saw you soon as you got off the bus. Those kids racing past you, laughing and calling each other names, and you didn't even crack a smile, just pulled your jacket closer and stepped up your pace, as if that would make the day go faster. I'm right, aren't I? I told you - I can spot 'em. The folks that can't be happy, ever. Betcha Disneyland ain't hired anyone like me.

"Gotta be careful though. The least fun thing in a fun park is someone finding a body, so, like I said, I'm discreet about it. Sure, there's lots of unfun stuff that happens in a fun park. People get off rides, wander around, and then just puke their guts out wherever they're standing. People get kid stressed and pick fights and then other concerned citizens join in and the next thing you know there's concussions all round and teeth on the cafeteria floor. Happens in Disneyland, too. But people finding corpses, what with the screaming and the police and the ambulances and everything, that is the absolute least fun. There's always an investigation, which means they close the park, which means lost wages for us carnies, which sucks. It probably sucks for the families of the dead people too, come to think about it."

"Mmmmmmmgh!"

"Shhh. It won't suck for you, because at long last, the pain is over. What a relief, huh? They'll never find you. You've run off to join the fun park. Like that song says, consider yourself part of the furniture. The only question is - where do you want to furnish? You like scaring people? You want to end up in the Ghost Train? Imagine your severed head in a pickling jar, glassy eyes frightening little girls closer to their boyfriends. What about a pirate? We could hang up your skeleton from a hook on Pirate Isle so it rattles when wind blows. Could even give your skull an eyepatch.

"Maybe the Hall of Mirrors is more your style. Lots of smart people just like you in there - a story behind every mirror. Gives 'em time to reflect, I like to think. Heh. Good one, huh? See, there's hidden panels in the halls and the mirrors are two way - so you can look out forever at people pulling faces and walking into things. Or we can put you on our recycling program, so you end up all over the park. A carved 'ivory' bridle on a merry-go-round horse here, a charcoal and 'leather' treasure map there, a rotating clown head people stuff 'ping-pong balls' into somewhere else.

"So what's it gonna be? I'm just gonna loosen your gag a little."

"Mgghff. Luh huh, huh. Let me go, you freak. HELP!"

"Shh - no point screaming way down here. It's your time. You know it, I know it."

"But I don't want to die."

"Oh come on, You do, you absolutely do. I can smell your misery from here. And your piss, but don't feel bad, that happens a lot."

"No, I don't. I can't. I...I...I haven't been to Disneyland yet."

"What?"

"Disneyland. You said this is the second happiest place on Earth. How do I know I won't ever be happy until I've been to the happiest place on Earth?"

"Well, dammit, bud, if you don't have a point. Ok. I'm kinda disappointed, though, I was starting to take a shine to you. Promise me you'll come back if it's no good?"

"I promise I promise I promise."

"Lemme untie you then. Off you go. See ya! What a smart guy. I told you fellers I can spot 'em."

"Mhhhhgh!"

"Mhhhhgh!"

"Mhhhhgh!"

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

curlingiron posted:

INTERPROMPT: Man Agonizes over Tomatoes

200 words

The Ventraglian serpent-weevil slid into my ear canal. "What's red and invisible?" it whispered directly into my cerebellum.

I thrashed against the bonds that held me to the gurney, wanting desperately ignore its honeysuckle voice. But the beast's secretions forced honesty from me. "I don't know," I said through gritted teeth.

"No tomatoes," it rasped from the center of my sense of self.

We started screaming, together.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

In

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

prompt: three of stones - wildwood tarot
wordcount: 794

Into the Wood

Suzy came racing down the woodland path, coat and schoolbag flapping behind. "I got your text, babe. What's the emergency? This had better be good because me and Sam are going out later for my...jeez, Luce, you're turning into a tree!"

Lucy stood surrounded by trees, and framed by a dolmen with blue electricity crackling along its carved spirals and whorls. She patted her thighs, which still remained flesh, to indicate the curling of trunk and roots that splayed out from them. "I know, right! I mean, what the gently caress?"

"Why are you a tree, Luce?"

"How should I know? Does it matter? I can't be a tree. Not after...just not. Can you stop it?"

Suz tapped at a root with her foot. "Not after what? Can you feel that?"

"Nope." Lucy drummed her fingernails against her hardening kneecaps. They sang out like a woodpecker. "Whatever. You have to get me out. There's never a good time to be a bleeding tree."

"Technically, a sappy tree," said Suz, kneeling down to inspect the earth into which stiff tendrils of Lucy were disappearing. "What can I do?"

"I dunno - can you pull me out?" Lucy held out her arms, and waved for Suzy to grab her hands. Suzy did so and yanked hard, groaning with the effort. Her feet slipped in the loamy earth and she slid onto her butt with a surprised yelp. Despite her predicament, Lucy giggled.

"Shut uuuup," said Suzy, standing and brushing off dirt. "Sorry, you're too firmly rooted."

"Tell me about it," sighed Lucy. "I think it's this weird stone thing. I was just going for a walk and I found it. It looked kind of cool, so I was checking it out, taking photos, when it started up with the glowy stuff. I touched it and next thing you know, here I am, like some forest nymph...thing."

"I always said you were a nympho, babes."

"Not helping. At all. What is going on?"

Suzy walked around the dolmen, peering at it intently. She reached out a hand toward the crackling capstone. There was a surge of blue light, reaching toward her fingers.

"Don't bloody touch it!" said Lucy. Suzy whipped her hand away. "I don't want you getting stuck too."

"Fair point, babes" said Suzy. "So, what were you doing out here anyway?"

"I told you. I just came out for a walk."

"This part of the park. It's kind of near Sam's place, isn't it?"

"I dunno. Maybe. Christ, Luce, I can't feel my legs."

"Yep," said Suzy, inspecting her closely. "That's your legs gone. Hey - you said you were taking photos, do you have your phone?"

"Sure," said Lucy. "I think I put it down after I texted you. Now I can't even reach it. What good is that going to do."

"We could call someone."

"A loving tree surgeon maybe? Jeez, Suz."

"Here it is," said Suzy, picking up the black plastic smartphone. "I'll call Sam."

"No! My hips are wood, Suze. I am never, ever, ever going to have sex. All those drat cosmopolitan quizzes I took, even the freaky seventies ones. Wasted."

"Why not call Sam?" Suzy swiped at the phone's screen, deftly drawing Lucy's unlock diagram. "Hey, there's a text here from him. 'Meet me in the park'. OMG, Luce, did you meet Sam here?"

"I really, strenuously, do not think that this is the time or the place," said Lucy. "I think my arms are…"

"Yes or no, or I leave you right here and you can be a goddamned tree by yourself forever."

"All right," said Lucy, waving two branches apologetically. "All right. We met. He said he wanted to talk to me. I thought it was about your birthday, but he said he had always fancied me. Suze, I don't want to rush you but my neck is feeling a bit stiff."

"Oh my god, you snogged my boyfriend on my birthday." Suzy's eyes glistened in sorrow and anger as she choked back a sob. "You bitch!"

"Check the photos..." said Lucy, her jaw locking as a branch burst from her mouth. Her hair erupted into leaves and flowers. Blue electricity filled the air.

Suzie stood alone in the clearing, holding the phone. She didn't move for a moment, didn't even think. A tear tickled her nose. A bird flew in and landed in a rush of wind and wings. Landed on the magnolia before her in full, glorious bloom. Still stunned, Suzie poked at the phone, started up the PhotoGallery app.

The fourth most-recent photo was Sam, curled into a ball on the loamy ground, holding his crotch.

Suzy reached out and touched the dolmen. Blue electricity crackled up her arm. It felt like love.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

In

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

wordcount: 1178

The Impermanence of Rainbow Sherbet

Frozen Explosion Cake
Top Rainbow Sherbet with relighting candles and write "Happy Birthday" or similar message in icing on top


"Wait," I said to Emma as we neared the checkout counter. "We gotta have rainbow sherbet, It's perfect for the whole 'vibrancy' theme."

"What's rainbow sherbet?" she asked, pulling the loaded shopping trolley to a halt.

"Well," I said, remembering it from every kid's birthday I had been to, ever. "It's like icecream, but less airy. And it's multi-coloured and flavoured - that's the rainbow. And it's swirly, not striped like neopolitan or anything. More like a Kanye West dye job. The clients will love it!"

"Ok, cool. We'll get some. You're the boss." She smiled indulgently at me and pushed off toward the freezer section. We rolled past units stocked with tubs of ice cream, packs of ice blocks, random mousses and then on to the frozen vegetables. We retraced our steps but couldn't find a single tub of sherbert.

I sighed. "Man, first the cat goes missing, and now this."

Emma put her hand on my arm and gently stroked it twice. "C'mon, ya big baby - Fluffbag will show up. And we'll check for your sherbet online when we get home. Someone will have some."

"Maybe," I said, brightening a little.

"There's probably porn about it, too"

"How would that even...no, I don't think I want to know."

We passed through the multi-coloured impulse buy machine of the checkout queue and went into the darkening evening toward home.

Rocky Rainbows
Serve Rainbow Sherbert into plastic cups with shaved ice and serve with spoons made of hard candy.


"Google has never heard of rainbow sherbert," called Emma from the lounge as I put away the groceries.

"What?" I yelled back as I balanced the old tub of margarine on top of the new pack.

"Google says there is no such thing. Same with wikipedia. God help me, I even looked on Bing."

I came in from the the kitchen and plummeted onto the sofa beside her like a disbelieving meteorite. Her laptop screen glowed white with the absence of search results. I checked her spelling, her use of quotation marks, even her net connection. All was in order. We could find a million flavours of sherbert, and every kind of rainbow up to full circle, triple ones, but the combination of the two was as absent from the online world as from our local supermarket.

"That's insane," I said at last.

"It's not just some family thing you guys did?" asked Emma. "You know, like, wizard hat wednesdays."

"No - it wasn't like that at all. And we only did the wizard thing once to annoy my brother. I remember the sherbert - tubs of it were always in the freezer. They were blue plastic, and the label top was this spiralling colour wheel, like you used to make at fairs with an old record player and some paint squirters."

"Can you remember the company? Was it Walls, or Streets, or anything?"

"Um, brock or broke or something like that. Brokemans, that was it."

Emma gave me a weird look, and tapped "brokemans sherbert" into the search bar. There was a single result, just a link, no abstract. "Googlewhack!" she said, and clicked the link. Up popped a ''DNS Entry can't be found' error. "Well, so much for that," she said.

"Not so fast." I pulled the keyboard toward me, went back to the results page, and found the cache of the page. A swirling kaleidoscope of cheesy flash animation spun around and around. I clicked it in several places to see if anything happened. Nothing did.

"Christ, I think that is giving me a migraine, " said Emma.

"Brain freeze?" I said, but she didn't smile.

Psychedelic Punch
Soak Rainbow Sherbert in Ginger Ale and whip until extra frothy


"Look, sweetie," said Emma, holding our landline to her ear with her shoulder, "can we just forget about this? I'm on hold for the fifteenth time. Nobody has heard of rainbow sherbert, or brokemans. I know you wanted a theme for the release party, but we've already got floats and hundreds and thousands and all that crazy 'Vibrancy' kids stuff..."

I sighed, recognising Emma's 'last politeness before turning the air blue with impressive vulgarity' tone. "Yeah, OK. Thanks babe, we tried."

"We did," she agreed, removing the phone from the crook of her neck and pressing the hang-up button with obvious pleasure. "Well, I'm off to bed - we've still got to get the decorations sorted for the hall tomorrow and I'm not sure the money we saved not getting caterers is quite gonna cover the drinks budget if we're inviting those XPerriants folks."

"I'm just going to keep working. Got a couple of other things to finish before I can sleep."

"Ok then," she called as she left the lounge. "Don't work too hard."

I didn't reply. Instead, I started looking at the source of the brokeman's cached webpage. Looking for clues, I told myself, but it was mostly gibberish to me. I tried following a few links in the code, but none of the domains seemed to be registered any more. I flicked back to the cached page, watched the rainbow spiralling away into infinity. The lines of colour all got thinner as they reached the outside edge. I tried to keep my eye on one single line, a blue one, tried to keep focussing on it as it revolved, as it got closer and closer to the edge, the colours around it getting narrower, blending together, going from a rainbow, to a dirty, muddy grey, to a gleaming white that grew around me.

I jerked awake as my head hit the wooden knob on the arm of the sofa. "Jesus," I said, rubbing the point of impact just above my ear. "I guess I was more tired than I thought, because now I'm talking to myself. Time for bed."

I shut the lid of the laptop and headed toward the bedroom. The hallway light was off, and I shuffled my way in the dark. Once inside, I listened for Emma's breathing. If she was asleep it would be louder than normal, but perfectly regular.

It was completely silent.

"Emma?" There was no reply.

I turned on the light and the room interior flicked into view. The bed was empty, and unslept in. The wedding photo of the two of us that stood on the nightstand was gone.

I hurried out of the bedroom, and made my way back to the lounge, looking in every door on the way. She wasn't in the bathroom, the laundry or the kitchen. Once back in the lounge I sat down in front of my laptop, ignoring the swirling, spiralling image on the screen. The photos of us that used to decorate the lounge were all gone. I opened a new tab on the laptop and typed Emma's full name into the search bar.

Partner
Find a compatible individual for conversation, companionship and intimacy


There were no results.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Ironic Twist posted:


The Loss pick this week, with acknowledgement that it still had potential, belongs to Fumblemouse. Sorry, man. You're a good writer,

Meh - I've posted more than my fair share of turgid, unclever, poorly edited and occasionally outright incomplete drivel yet miraculously avoided punishment because some goon/s had clung even more tenaciously to the bottom of the barrel. Not this time though.

I'm SO PROUD of you all right now!

/sniff

/honk

In.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at 23:37 on Nov 7, 2017

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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wordcount:998

Arthurian Commentary

Jamison reached to open the Prime Minister's office door, but the King Arthur put a hand on the doorknob. Jamison stared at the towering figure, his face pale.

"I distrust this place," the King reverbated from inside his closed helmet. "The wizard-lights in the ceiling, the unseasonal warmth, it smacks of sorcery. But the crones of Avalon have foretold you will lead me to the queen behind the Queen for good or ill. Do not betray me, Son of James." The King brandished his sword in a manner that indicated he knew his way around a set of entrails.

"It's Jamison, sir," said Jamison, smiling weakly. "Wouldn't dream of it. The Prime Minister is right through here, sir."

The King's helmet humphed. "It's 'Your Majesty', Jam-mis-son" he said then lifted his hand free. Jamison twisted the knob and swung the heavy oak door inward. The armoured man ducked into the room, lowering his helmet's crest as he passed the doorway. Jamison followed meekly behind.

There was an awkward moment as King Arthur stood there with sword in hand, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom looking at him and Jamison looking from one to the other. Arthur coughed pointedly. "Right," said Jamison. "Erm, may I present the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Prime Minister, may I present, erm, King Arthur."

"Once and Future King of Logres," whispered King Arthur.

"... , Once and Future King of Logres. I, uh, thought you ought to see him right away, ma'am. Before he killed any more policemen."

"Is this some kind of joke, Jamison?" said the Prime Minister, peering over her iron-framed spectacles at the King and then at his sword. Beneath her desk she stabbed at a security button. Two SAS soldiers burst from a secret room behind her and fired automatic weapons directly at Arthur. The sound of bullets pinging off armour filled the air like iron castanets. Arthur yelled a terrible battle cry, then swung directly at the nearest assailant, lunging at the same time to take his swing low, the sword slipping delicately beneath the kevlar and across the soldiers lower abdomen. The soldier fell, clutching at his frothing stomach. Moving like a ballet dancer trapped in a tin can, Arthur let his momentum take him close to the second man. He lifted one arm and slammed his metallic elbow down on the soldier's head, making the man collapse in a heap. Arthur kicked both of them in the head to make sure they lay still.

"I do wish they wouldn't keep doing that. Damned annoying," said Arthur, wiping the blood from his sword on a nearby armchair. Once cleaned the graven blade glowed with a faint bluish light. Arthur slid it into the beautiful jewelled scabbard that hung at his hip.

Now unencumbered, Arthur stood directly in front of the Prime Minister's mahogany desk. He removed his helmet, revealing a square jaw and piercing blue eyes beneath a shaggy mop of brownish hair. He slammed the helmet on the desk, doffed an iron gauntlet and pointed a meaty finger at the helm where a bullet had bounced away. "Look, there's a dent in it now. It'll take forever to get that out."

"What's this?" hissed the Prime Minister. Jamison peered out from behind the sofa he had been cowering behind and shrugged.

"Three groats worth if it's a penny," said Arthur. "But there are more important things afoot than mere smithing. Fair Logres has called me and I have come as I promised so long ago. From deep within the hollow hill, I have been roused from my slumber to rescue the land in the hour of its greatest need. The crones of Avalon have parted the mists of time and revealed to me the sorry plight of my once great nation. Your queen is old, her husband infirm, her children and grandchildren milksops and lillyhearts. None but I may deliver us from the Evil that besets us. And so I stand before you, queen behind the Queen, in your unworthiness and ineffectualness, to return the crown to my brow as I promised I would, and to pledge the might of Excalibur to defeat the verminous dragon Brexit and thereby make my Kingdom whole."

The Prime Minister sat looking stunned for a moment. Then she started laughing. Jamison laughed too, politely, and without any colour returning to his face.

"What?" said the King, his brow furrowed in annoyance. "What is it? What's so funny? Tell me now!"

"Brexit isn't a dragon," said the Prime Minister, like a schoolteacher talking to a particularly dull child. "It's a geopolitical realignment. We're not fighting anybody, we're taking back the sovereignty of our great nation, and letting Britain and select other areas be ruled by the British and the British alone, once again and at last. I'm terribly sorry - but there seems to be some mistake on your part."

"You sound like my sister," said Arthur stepping forward, withdrawing the mighty Excalibur and beheading the Prime Minister with it. Steaming black blood spurted from the neck as her head went flying. Her body squirmed and convulsed, limbs shrinking and shrivelling into her torso, which thinned and lengthened as it whipped around on the floor until at last it lay still. The head landed in front of Jamison slightly before her spectacles did. Her yellowing eyes stared at him with oval pupils. A forked tongue lolled uselessly in her mouth. Arthur lifted his iron boot and squashed the decapitated head into a pulpy mess on the carpet. It reeked of sulphur and Jamison bent over trying not to vomit. Arthur tussled his hair fondly.

"If there's one thing I learned in all my years as King, Jam-i-son, it's behead anyone who ever says 'geopolitical realignment' - immediately, if not sooner."

"Yes, your hhhhurp," said Jamison all over Arthur's boot as the smell became too much for him.

"Good lad. Now clean that up, would you? I can't go to your 'Parliament' smelling like puke."

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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"Also, why in the world does King Arthur use the word "puke" in the last sentence?"

Seeing as you asked - Puke goes back to at least Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man speech circa 1600 and I don't speak Welsh. Vomit may have been a better choice considering its Roman derivation, though. Thanks for the crit.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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In
Europe after

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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wordcount: 1243
prompt: Channel Islands Occupation

Two Birthdays

I remember me last birthday. Everyone were round at ours, my Da were all boozed up and my Mam, bless her, was trying to lace his whiskey heavily with water but he weren't having none of it. "Take this away, woman, and get me a real drink, so I can toast her proper." I were just beaming, I'd been sneaking some of me Mam's sherry so my cheeks were full flush and I couldn't help doing little dance steps. Me Da kept punching me on the arm, smiling, even happier 'cause I'd stopped seeing that lousy, two-timing John Tate that Da had always despised. Eventually Da got his whiskey, and he raised his glass.

"To me daughter Amy, who is everything I dreamed she'd be, on her birthday, may she get everything she dreams of. "

Well, we all drank to that all right, and the next one, so we were feeling right celebratory around the time I turned the radio on. It gave that loud 'pop' you get and I turned the dial slow to find a signal. We don't get much radio in the islands, but when the night is clear we can sometimes get the longwave from the BBC, and that night was as clear as a clergyman's dance card. I found an orchestra playing a song I knew, so I brought out me fiddle and played along. Sometimes the signal would fade, and it were only me, filling the gaps, trying to keep the time and the melody going over the hiss of the speaker.

Now Da were never one to shut up completely, so he were both listening to me and talking to uncle Ned, saying peace in our time was a wrong-headed fancy, doing his officer impressions -"We'll give bally jerry another punch on the old snozz." - and telling his old war stories. Me Da fought in the Great War, some folk don't like to talk about it, but he did and a half. Give him a drink and it were mud and filth and explosions for an evening. But when he told those stories, and he caught me watching him, I saw something in his face. Not sad, so much, but like there's something missing. Something he couldn't tell me, or I can't never understand even though I wished I did.

So that were me last birthday. This one's different. We're all sitting round quiet where the radio used to be. They came for them last week, every blimmen radio on the island, because of 'Espionage'. Hah. Few enough round here who could even spell it, let alone plot it. There's no whiskey, but someone brought homemade cider and we're making do with that. I dunno what went into it, but it weren't apples and it's hitting me like a ton of bricks. Me Mam is trying to feed everybody sandwiches, as if we didn't have bread rationing, and me Da just sits in Grandad's old chair, pale like a fish after all the fight gone out of it, drinking jar after jar of cider. Eventually he stands up, and he's swaying slightly. He raises his jar, and he says "I'd like to say a toast but gently caress 'em!"

"Language," says Mam, looking drat cross, but Da just pretends he doesn't hear.

"gently caress Churchill for leaving us here," he says, "so the Nazis can waltz in and deport old Schwartz to God know where. gently caress the nazis for taking our bread, and our salt, and our goddamned sugar so we can't make even a birthday cake and now they take our radios. Our goddamned radios. So raise your glasses and gently caress 'em all to Hell."

Nobody actually says anything, but we all have a drink, and my dad is getting that not-quite-sad look again. I have to say, losing the radio hit me hard, too. I were always trying to tune in to something most evenings, to hear new songs to learn on my fiddle. But when they took it, I got mad. I got so mad I followed them and saw where they went. "I know where the radios are, Da," I says all cheeky. "Been keeping my eyes open and I seen them going to the storehouse by the first camp."

Da straight looks at me, and I never seen him look at me like that, like he just seen me proper. "Right. That's it," he says, and I swear his face lights up like a candle on Christmas Eve. "I'm going to get our damned radio back." Me Mam looks up in horror, but we've all seen that look on Da's face before and know that we got no way of changing his mind.

"Me too," I says, and if Mam looked horrified before she's about to scream blue murder now. But before she can open her mouth, I grab Da by the hand and pull him out to the front door while Mam is still working up a head of steam. Da turns back to her, blows her a kiss, and then we're out, sprinting away and laughing like drunk schoolchildren.

We try and sneak down the road, half cut on cider and our own little adventure, whispering our plans loudly to each other. The camp isn't too far away by bicycle, but we walk it, because, as Da says, them radios are damned big bastards and you'd never fit it in the basket anyway. Besides, there's a curfew, so we stick to the copses and off the road. A couple of times a truck rolls past and we dive into the bushes like in some movie caper, probably making a hell of a racket, but for some reason the trucks don't even clock us.

By the time we get there, we're a little less drunk and a lot more cold. Da won't have any of turning back though. We can see the storehouse across a field, but two guards are there, standing in front with rifles.

"If this was a movie," I says, "I could seduce them while you sneak in."

"Not on your life, daughter of mine," says my Da, waving a slightly wobbly fist at me.

"What then?" It's dark, but I can still see Da's face. The moon is glinting in his eye and he's grinning like a loon. Right then I think I get a sense of what he's never been able to tell me, and I'm grinning wide too.

"We go round the back, like this." He gets down, all the way, so he's lying on his front,and starts dragging himself through the grass toward the back of the storehouse with his elbows, wriggling and pulling himself across the field.

There's an echoing pop, like turning on a giant radio, and Da stops right in the middle of the field. The guards run over, rifles pointing, shouting at us "Hände hoch, Hände hoch." I stick my hands right up, but I run towards me Da. He isn't moving at all and I'm suddenly afraid that I was wrong, I didn't understand and me Da would never want me to. I can almost hear him say something, but I can't make it out because he's lying face down, a spreading shadow in the grass. His voice stops and starts again, stops and starts but it's not any kind of words. It's only a scratchy hiss, dying away and I don't have any music to fill the gaps.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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In.

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wordcount: 963

Secrets and Silence

Ratuarn,

I am composing this for you in my head. I know you will be able to hear it, wherever you are. I know this because you left something behind last night - at the Embassy, when the talks broke down. We stood beside the tree on the edge of the lake watching your beloved Vastnesses ascend into the darkness. The waves of their radiation lit up the sky. You brought me beneath your transparent wing, and through it I saw their phaselight shatter like glass. I asked if they were angry, and you told me instead about the tree's branches. I was so close I could feel movement inside you, beneath the crispness of your carapace. I thought it was your laughter for a moment, until I felt it move inside me too. And then our soldiers came and took you elsewhere.

At first, when I felt it reach into me, I suspected you'd implanted some kind of device - Lord knows I should have reported it. But I felt the movement and saw the branches of the tree by the lake every time my eyes closed. It's true, isn't it? What you said? Each branch was a choice we had already made, and there are no secrets between us now. No secrets and no silence.

So I'm not afraid of what you've done to me, even if I don't understand it yet. I should be - I mean, the headaches, the little mental twitches that keep getting stronger and stranger. The last one seemed to stretch and pull my mind until I was paper thin and the whole darned universe shone through me. It sounds ridiculous, I know. I feel like I'm constantly on the verge of discovering something incredible, something life changing. It feels like I could give birth to entire worlds.

There's a wind in the branches. It's cold and I'm covered in goosebumps. I understand this sensation comes from you and I wish it could be different, but whatever you've done to me won't help. It can't. The decisions have been made and they have been made at a higher level than I could hope to influence. When your Vastnesses departed, they sealed their own fates. It's out of my hands now. Out of ours.

I'd like to think you knew that. I'd like to think that whatever you placed inside me, you did because I meant something to you. Physically, God only knows what you think of us. Too few legs, too few arms, no wings at all. But we worked together, weeks into months, trying to understand each other's point of view. I never saw your reports, but if they were anything like mine, talking to faceless superiors day after day was like trying to pour water into a cup made of sand - nothing ever held, and the cup would constantly fall apart. Over time, though, through the hours and the days, saying the same things to each other in so many different ways, I came to understand you, your perspective. To respect it. I'd like to think you...

...There it goes again. A little earthquake in my head. There should be pain, to go with the flashes and the tearing in my vision, but it's so peaceful. Beneath the tree, ripples in the lake spreading to the ends of me and coming back into the center.

They will kill you, you know. They will find a way, and they will kill you. They don't understand your Vastnesses, what they mean, the power of them. They think it's just another case of the Ishnis, or the Tendral, and the path they travelled before. We have weapons we haven't mentioned. Our exchanges told you much, but we never tell the whole story. There are tales we don't even tell ourselves about what we made with our own two hands and why no one will ever again meet a Tendral.

But there are no secrets. I can feel your forgiveness burning its way through my shame. What I couldn't tell you in our exchanges. The Tendral, the Ishnis, the Allarar. Gone, all gone. Their homeworlds shells, stripped surfaces and empty mines, every part consumed and spat out into…

...the land cracks, the lake is draining, and the tree is aflame. I see, I see now why the Vastnesses came to us, of all species, and tried to learn from us, tried to walk in our shallow footsteps. They were looking for a reason to save us, weren't they? Just one single reason. And then they left, empty-handed. I was right - oh, I can feel the anger in their silence now. Ratuarn, what have we unleashed?

But... how beautiful. The stars are fireworks, brilliant and then gone! Those countless lives we burned away. You know how we did it. How we burned them. How we placed devices on our our soldiers heads that recorded the stench and heat of burning life. How we took those recordings, copied and replayed them again and again in a song of fear and pain, so all our soldiers knew the tune by heart.

Please stop forgiving me. I don't think I can take it any more.

There is one thing you haven't told me, Ratuarn. What will become of us? If we have no secrets, don't you even know? All of us here, our solitary lives encased in soft flesh, no carapace between us and your beloveds. What will happen to us when they return?

There's nothing left of the tree by the lake, nothing beneath the vastness of the empty sky but silence. There are no choices left but the ones we have already made.

Except the one you offer me. All their fates forgotten, but life, in secrecy and silence, on transparent wings.

Yes.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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PROMPT - Get Your (Self-Improving) Freak On

Well, gently caress. It's been a while since I sat atop the bloody and mutilated corpses of my foes wearing nothing but a mouse-related fursuit and the personal fragrance of victory. This is, however, the tenth time ever, so I'm going to celebrate double figures by indulging myself a little. Because...



...well, gently caress.

So enough about my glorious, perfect ascent from the depths of losertarhood to throne of spikey bone by naught but my own bootstraps and the empowering, yet festering, hatred of my family for the time I spent crying over my laptop and throwing empty bottles at them.

In the spirit of that liquor-soaked bitterness - This week you will be penalized for writing a clear story in which someone wants something, has difficulty getting it, and then gets it (or doesn't).

Instead you are free to write whatever other kind of prose you like so long as it's interesting and meaningful, coherent things happen.

You might try a conflictless narrative structure

You might try a Gene Wolf style where the reader has to puzzle out what the gently caress is going on - but every necessary hint is there (and it better be there! This isn't an excuse to just wank)

Or you might try having a crack at the weird thing you've always wanted to do but thunderdome just never had the right prompt.

The only thing do you have to do is state when you sign up "Here is a writing aspect I am bad at." Your piece will show that you can, in fact, do it without sucking.

You have 1000 words and nothing to lose but the prison of others' expectations.

Judges
Me:
Someone Else:
Someone Else Else:

Signup: Friday 11:59 EST
Closedown: Sunday 11:59 EST

The Brave and the Bolded (thing that they suck at)

Crabrock - giving physical descriptions of characters and setting
Jay W Friks - being clear about the setting
Flerp - making setting meaningful and impactful
Antivehicular - omniscient narration / POVs that aren't stuck in somebody's head
SebMojo - starting before the last minute and having a rushed ending
Fuubi - getting to the point
Electic Owl - coherent structure
Magnificent7- endings
Sparksbloom - light, fun, but grounded
SteelToedSneakers - satisfactory endings
Thranguy - delivering huge chunks of exposition without losing/boring readers
Yoriuchi - writing characters that aren't just outlines of people
God over Djinn - depicting happiness/safety/comfort/love/anything other than the grimdark miserable slogging present
Tyrannosaurus - nonfiction without much dialogue
Uranium Phoenix - keeping stuff short and writing good characters


Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at 06:48 on Dec 4, 2017

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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sebmojo posted:

aw poo poo Candace Cameron and the setup was funny because having bad at starting before the last minute and having a rushed ending a good day and asked me to be on 6th and the setup was funny because having to keep track of two phones will tax my slender organisational faculties to be a shock twist on the bus now, I think I'm probably being optimistic about hiding say to yourself in

As this is a tricky one to judge, per se, you must provide a draft OR outline PMed to me before signups close (Saturday 6pm NZ time, I think) . Said preliminary work will be similar to (but hopefully worse than) your final entry post, so you can't just throw it out and start again at the last minute.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Attention!



If anyone wants to help me herd unleashed TD beasts by the sheer power of judgementalism, there's a couple of places free at the judging table. I'll bring the flensing knives.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Deltasquid posted:

gently caress it, I'm tempted to co-judge. I'm on board if you'll take me.

Yes - you will be perfect for my experiments first course magical bean detonation squad judging table.

I don't think you have PM(?) so send me an email at my username at gmail so we can co-ordinate the judging bloodletting.

Much obliged, Deltasquid

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Antivehicular posted:

Psst, FM:


I seem to have become that Friks clone there in the italics

It was Gremlins!

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Exmond posted:

You have my bad puns and anime sir! I shall co-judge if it is allright with you.

Bad puns and anime? You're on the squad, Exmond, and your tagname is 'Tryhard Stepdad'. I'll be in touch.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Time is fleeting, and indeed has run out for new entries.

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Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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If it's not in by now it's too drat late. Submissions are hereby shut.

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