I'm INto exposing my blackened soul for your entertainment and mockery.
|# ¿ Jan 13, 2017 18:03|
|# ¿ Dec 11, 2023 09:22|
The axe lands heavy across his neck with a wet, ripping sound. Momentum buries it deep until it strikes bone and sends a familiar vibration up Aegar's arm. The man folds downward into the sand, but before he falls his free hand reaches up and grasps the axe handle. A futile gesture. The blood loss is immediate and intense. He dies with a sigh on the black sand of this foreign beach.
Aegar grimaces, his vision smeared with sweat.
His foot presses down on the corpse and heaves the axe free. The chaos of battle thunders around him as he rises. Horses flash past, their wild eyes rolling back, their riders a smear of fur and crude weapons glinting and whirling in the failing sun. Aegar is tired but he presses on. His axe swerves and bobs through the melee in a fatal dance, rising and falling and chopping and spurting its way through the Welsh riders.
This is not his first battle and Aegar is not a young man. His axe does not rise as high as it used to, and as he fights his arms grow leaden and his lungs slam against his ribs. He pauses to blink away the sweat, but in that moment a horseman flies past and carves a gashing wound in Aegar's midsection. Aegar falls to his knees and his intestines start to spill out. Desperate, he drops his axe and grabs at them, keeping them from sliding into the midnight sand. His head feels light, too light, it starts to lift from his shoulders. The world spins and he slips into darkness as the conscious world blinks out.
Aegar dreams, for a time. Restless. Then he wakes.
The sun is high and the battle is long over. How much time has passed? The wound hasn't closed and his guts still threaten escape as he pushes himself up from the sand, his tired muscles limp and reluctant.
The beachhead is eerily quiet. Corpses and body parts litter the sand, slowly bloating and pulling apart under the baking sun. The only signs of life are the flies and the gulls, feasting on a bounty of new meat. Aegar looks to the water and sees no sign of the Viking fleet that brought him here. Those who survived the battle must have retreated over the horizon. His axe is gone, no doubt looted by the Welsh bastards his army could not conquer.
He sinks back onto his haunches and heaves a mighty sigh. Pain fills his rapidly emptying body. His wound is fatal. Visions of his son and daughter swim before him. He knows he will never see them again and it makes his heart constrict. Has he taught his children enough? Will they survive without him? And his wife. What will become of his beautiful Astrid?
The pain burns and Aegar's thoughts turn inward. What will become of him? His body will rot on this beach for sure, picked apart by gulls, by insects, worms, and even lower things. Without a proper burial he may rise as a draugar, a mournful revenant bound to this foreign beach. He can think of nothing worse. Better a clean death, with no regrets, than a false life. Aegar mutters a prayer to being making his peace with the gods.
scratch. scratch. scratch.
That sound again, barely audible above the washing of the surf. Persistant, like an itch. Irritating. He stops his prayer and turns his head towards its source.
Down in the surf another dying man leans on a large boulder and draws his knife against the volcanic stone.
Aegar staggers to his feet. His balance is off, and he needs to keep one arm across his belly to keep his insides from spilling out, but he lurches forward. Each staggering step sends pain searing through his body. The wet sand oozes up between his toes, a reminder that his boots, too, have been looted. He stops to rest every few paces.
He takes a circuitous route to dodge the corpses. It is torturous, but Aegar is determined.
Drawing closer, Aegar can see the man is too small to be much of a soldier. He wears the blue and red cloth of a Viking although Aegar does not recognize him. A grievous wound has removed much of his left leg. What remains is mashed and torn beyond repair. The man leans against a pillar of volcanic rock and stoically draws his blade across it.
scratch. scratch. scratch.
Runes, Aegar realizes as he approaches. He's carving runes into the pumice.
He lurches up to him. He doesn't know why he is suddenly angry. "Stop making that loving noise!" he roars, but his body fails and dissolves into a spasm of coughing. He pushes his guts back into himself.
The man looks up and waits for Aegar's coughing spell to end. "You're worried about noise?" he finally says. "Here? Now?" He gestures around to the gulls and the rats feasting on the corpses. "We're all dead here, my friend."
"Then what the hell are you doing?" Aegar rasps. The beach is spinning around him, his brain parched of blood.
"This?" the man looks at his knife. "Carving. What does it look like?"
"What are those runes?" Aegar gestures to the marks on the stone.
"They tell a story, if you put them together. I doubt anyone shall, though. I'll be lucky if anyone finds them, let alone bothers to read them."
"Then why carve them?" Aegar asks, voice harsh.
The small man looks at him. "What else would you have me do, brother? Time is not on our side here." He looks down at his mangled leg stump.
Aegar spits in the sand in disgust.
The man resumes his work.
Aegar's head is swimming and the pain from his gut overwhelms him. He leans against the side of the boulder upon which the man works. It shifts slightly in the loose sand.
With the last of his failing strength, Aegar pushes. The boulder topples and the man's skull is crushed down into the dark sand. His body spasms, then is still. Quiet returns to the beach save for the cry of the gulls.
Aegar collapses to his knees facing the boulder. The cooling surf washes over his legs and he lets go of his abdomen. The effort to keep his guts in just doesn't seem worth it anymore.
The man's fallen dagger lies in the sand.
The blank slate of stone asks him a question. He is not sure if he can answer.
But with all the time he has left Aegar picks up the dagger and tries.
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2017 06:40|
Okay Ska I took on your Leviathon of a story since you're doing all these crits.
oh its the end thank god. I still don't understand why they had to salvage that ship which is bad because its the whole plot of the story. Where did it come from? Why did it have no crew? What was it doing on the moon? Why did the captain have to go on the mission? In the end the chummy tone and clumsy writing stole any sense of urgency or danger from the story. You've written a lot better than this. It's in need of a serious edit/rewrite to make it passable. Also disappointed there was no climactic battle. You said the big guns were online so it sucked that they never got used (see: Chekov's gun)
Hawklad fucked around with this message at 19:15 on Jan 17, 2017
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2017 17:19|
Okay fine, I'm in. Poetry is hard.
|# ¿ Jan 21, 2017 05:02|
Shadows rise on the garden wall.
Pale light creatures with sumac stings,
driven to the edge, mankind's fall.
Worlds of veil lie within their thrall,
from deep they drift on mucous wings.
Shadows rise on the garden wall.
Jellies float over barren pall
of bleached white bone and scattered things,
driven to the edge, mankind's fall.
Toxic sand spills from urban sprawl
and metals boil from buried springs.
Shadows rise on the garden wall.
Waters birth sheets of black rainfall
where once did shelter vibrant beings,
driven to the edge, mankind's fall.
Echoes large fade to echoes small,
of desperate men, dark machines.
Shadows rise on the garden wall,
driven to the edge, mankind's fall.
|# ¿ Jan 23, 2017 04:49|
|# ¿ Jan 24, 2017 15:26|
The snow crackles beneath Margrette's cloth boots as she runs. Her lungs burn but she doesn't stop because everyone is running, a great desperate herd, trying to find where it went down.
She'd stepped out the back door with her boss, Robb, to smoke a cigarette when they saw the light fall from the sky. Heading right for them this time, instead of the usual lazy arc to the north, towards open water. This time it stayed in place, burning brighter and brighter, birthing black shadows against the walls of the tavern.
Then a roar of thunder as it screamed down and impacted the frozen ground no more than a kilometer away. Towards the Northern Road.
"Jesus!" Robb exclaimed. "That's close."
The people inside the tavern heard it also. They spilled out, maybe two dozen total, drawing coats around themselves, jabbering, pointing at the sky. Flashlights pierced the darkness as they struck out across the frozen ground. Walking, at first, excited murmurs and frosty breath rising above them.
Then a few at the front began to run, and now everyone is trying to keep up.
Margrette keeps one arm across the bulge in her belly and runs the best she can, but slips towards the back of the group. Her breath is short and her legs cramp. She stops for a moment, hands on her knees, and looks up. The moon is only half full, but gives enough light to reflect off the Belt, stretching from horizon to horizon. The megastructure encircles the planet like a noose, visible day and night. Looming above, lazily rotating counter to the Earth's spin, a steady reminder that humans no longer control their destiny.
Margrette pushes on. Broken trucks and ice boats litter the empty tundra as she crunches towards the mob ahead. They've stopped, their shouts of discovery echoing across the barren field. As she approaches she sees they are circled around a silver orb half buried in the ground. Its irridescent skin steams in the dim light. Everyone stays back a few paces. As Margrette joins she can feel the heat coming from the alien object.
Like all children, Margrette had heard the stories of when the skies exploded and the land burned. How only a few survived. The great alien ships with their particle beams and antimatter bombs slicing through the sky like glittering death. The winter lasting over a half millennium without reprieve. How the atmosphere finally cleared to reveal the Belt, the vast orbital structure that now ensnared the frozen Earth. And always the lights in the sky streaking down to the north, delivering their payload into the radioactive oceans. And there they bred, the once green Earth now a toxic nursery for the aliens they called the Othuum.
She hates them. She hates how they've made humanity an afterthought.
She hates this world her child must inherit.
Crack! Robb's shovel comes down hard on top of the sphere, piercing the shimmering skin and splitting it open. He jumps back, shovel out in defense.
The mob goes silent. Margrette's heart punches at her chest. Metal taste in her mouth.
The crack in the orb begins to grow, extending the split that Robb's shovel had started. The two sides of the orb splay open wetly to reveal a blackened mass within.
"Holy poo poo," someone whispers. The mass pulses once, twice, then disgorges a tentacled creature onto the snow, no larger than a loaf of bread. Pale grey with two black eyes centered on its oblong body. It quivers on the snowpack, one tentacle raised, waving it about, as if tasting the air.
Othuum. Margrette's baby kicks violently and a contraction grips her.
A massive shiver ripples through the alien larva and it begins to screech.
Margrette's mouth opens to answer just as Robb's shovel comes down again, this time the blade smashing the alien's soft body. Its wailing stops. It shivers under the flashlights.
"Kill it!" someone shouts.
Robb's face twists in disgust. Again he brings the shovel down, driving the alien into the snow. Margrette's baby kicks and claws at her from inside. Her head spins with pain and fear and she drops to her knees.
Not now. Not ever.
One final blow from the shovel and Robb steps back, panting. The alien's movement stops. Black fluids leak into the snow.
Her baby grows quiet. Thank God.
The mob closes in, a whirlwind of pent-up energy, kicking the empty sphere and stomping the alien carcass. Robb scoops what's left of it in his shovel and with a great cheer the crowd treks back towards the tavern, bearing the broken corpse before them like a battered talisman.
Robb puts the dead larva on the shelf behind the bar. The crowd is rowdy now, drunk on rage and desperation and alcohol, and Robb loudly declares that drinks are on the Othuum tonight. The room erupts. The fire is stoked and the liquor and the people flow around the tavern in a giddy dance. After a time the alien is passed through the crowd, its deflated body held high and then tossed back and forth among the throng. Many gallons of rough liquor are consumed as the crowd celebrates this small victory over their distant masters.
It is sunrise before the last drunk stumbles out the door, and Margrette is tired. She draws her mop absently across the broken glass and vomit and spilled drinks. There have been no more contractions and her baby has been quiet. Robb passed out hours ago, leaving her alone in the tavern. Her arms are rubber and her head is beginning to pound from the liquor. Tired fingers slip and the mop handle drops to the floor. Sighing, she bends down and that's when she sees it.
Battered and flattened, the alien larva sits in a puddle of its own fluids underneath the table. For the first time Margrette smells it: a swampy punch of brine and decay that stings her nostrils. It smells unsettlingly familiar. Her baby smells it too, it seems, for it lurches awake with a kick.
She reaches under the table with the mop and slides the corpse towards her. A trail of ochre slime follows. One of its eyes has been gouged out. The other stares blankly up at her.
The empty tavern is still.
She stares into its one eye.
Her baby kicks again, hard, like it wants escape. A painful contraction squeezes her gut. Panic rises but she fights it as she staggers backwards, its blinking eye playing over and over in her head.
Her baby is rolling, kicking, punching. Desperate. Margrette pulls a cloth off the table behind her. Glass shatters on the floor. She throws it over the dead carcass.
For a minute she stares, expecting it to move. But it doesn't. The Othuum larva is dead. Has been for hours.
Bundling it in the cloth she carries it over to the trash behind the bar. But she can't bring herself to drop it in. Grief for her unborn child, but also despair for this broken thing wrapped in cloth. Tears double her vision as she puts a hand on the bar to steady herself. Her other hand holds the alien bundle against her swollen belly.
And that's when she feels it move.
The liquid mass under the cloth shifts, changes shape to flatten itself against her abdomen. Panic rising, she pulls it off, but it resists, as if held there by a magnet. It takes all her strength to pry it off.
Her baby pounds the walls of her womb. She drops the cloth and the alien corpse spills onto the ground. Robb's shovel is right there. She grabs it and chops down hard again and again with the blade. The corpse cleaves, its fluids spraying her legs as she chops down. She screams in pain as a massive contraction grips her gut and then a rush of liquid on her legs as her own water breaks, her baby's amniotic fluids mixing with the alien juices on the floor of the tavern.
She collapses to the floor.
"Margrette! Are you okay?" The door bangs open, Robb calling her. He rounds the bar and sees her lyng there, clutching her belly.
"It's time," she whispers. "It has arrived."
|# ¿ Jan 30, 2017 01:56|
As always, great crits and they are much appreciated!
|# ¿ Jan 31, 2017 15:17|
a stray crit:
Very insightful, thank you!
|# ¿ Feb 1, 2017 21:33|
|# ¿ Feb 7, 2017 14:21|
Deity of Scars
God of War
"Follow me, Polack!"
The SS officer, his soft turnip face bursting out of his collar, shakes his revolver at me.
I roll off my cot, zip up my winter suit and don my hat and mitts. The officer has an elaborate fur wrapped around his uniform and a pair of leathery earmuffs to ward off the Arctic cold. Together we tramp outside the hut and into the snow and the chaos.
The blare of the klaxons and men shouting reverberate around the base. Officers, enlisted soldiers, and laborers are running every which way, carrying weapons and supplies and radios as they move into defensive positions.
Schatzgraber base was supposed to be top secret. Tucked away on an island at the top of the world, the last thing we would expect is an Allied attack. But this entire operation has been nothing but a series of surprises and setbacks since we made landfall a year ago.
The officer leads me to a munitions hut, where inside he directs me to pile explosives onto a sled. As a laborer I have only limited contact with the upper echelon of SS officers that run Schatzgraber, but I see on his lapel this man is Major Kuttner. I am familiar with this name. Anytime it is mentioned in the mess hall it is always with a hushed and fearful tone. What does he have planned for me? The sled full of dynamite is certainly not a good sign, but I resolve myself.
I will not die in a suicide mission to protect the Nazis. Not after they turned my proud country into a bleak and bloody prison. Not after what they did to my family.
When the sled can bear no more dynamite, under his impatient command I drag it outside. He tosses a pair of snowshoes at me and has me tie the sled straps around my waist.
"Let's go!" He shouts about the din, waving his revolver. "There's no time."
To my surprise we head inland, away from the harbor and the Allied ships. We barely make it out of the encampment when the first shells fall. Crump! I feel a blast of heat at my neck as an explosion rips through a hut at the far end of the base. Kuttner's puffy face turns and in the flash I see panic, but his small eyes fix onto me.
"Hurry up Polack! We don't have time for your laziness!"
I clench my fists but hurry my pace. A year of slave labor and I hardly notice the slur. I used to seethe and resist my Nazi captors but the frequent lashes and time in solitary seems to have dulled my resistance.
We are moving away from the base, towards the center of the island. We soon arrive at the foot of the ice dome that dominates the western portion of the peninsula. A well-trodden path zigzags up the mountain of ice. We laborers call it the Lod Wulkan — 'Ice Volcano' in the mother tongue — as every night its peak glows with torches and artificial lights. Some of us have even been there, but only to haul up carefully sealed crates of heavy equipment, and only in the daytime when it is quiet.
No trees grow this far north so I have a clear view of the battle erupting around Schatzgraber as we switchback up the ice mountain. Many more shells have fallen and it seems half the base is on fire. Dense plumes of black smoke billow upwards into the pre-dawn sky. I count at least a dozen Allied ships dotting the Arctic sea just past the harbor, beyond the reach of machine gun encampments on the beachhead. The enlisted men have finished setting up the long-range mortars and answering fire begins splashing down in the seas around the Allied ships.
The sled is heavy and the trail steep. I see hear Major Kuttner's breath rasping ahead of me, and his pace has slowed. He still holds his revolver in one gloved hand, and like me steals occasional glances back towards the devastation at the base. We are halfway up Lod Wulkan when I finally dare speak.
"Why are we climbing this mountain? Shouldn't we be helping defend?" I say in my rough German.
He stops and turns, and raises his revolver at me. His eyes are two emotionless slits in his soft, ruddy face. I fear he is going to shoot me.
"Your job is to pull the sled, not ask questions!" he barks. He does not shoot. Instead he pulls his fur more tightly around himself and spins back around. We continue our trek.
Questions. Questions have been my only real possession since they plucked me out of Treblinka and shipped me up here. Why this remote, seemingly purposeless base on this tiny Arctic island? U-boats would often dock at night, after curfew, and offload crates of equipment that enlisted men haul up to the summit of the ice dome. The strange noises and lights coming from the summit of the mountain fuel crazy speculation and wild rumors among us laborers. Snatches of overheard conversations are dissected and analyzed as we lay in our bunks, exhausted from each days work, trying to stay warm under our thin blankets. I don't believe much of what I hear. Some think they are creating a super-weapon, that Himmler's obsession with the occult has borne fruit on this desolate island. Others speculate they have uncovered evidence of the ancient Aryan race the Nazis believe had sunk beneath the waves aeons ago. Or maybe it's a vast buried treasure under the ice dome, or a base to launch rockets at the Americans straight over the North Pole. The base's name, Schatzgraber — German for "treasure-hunter" — does little to dampen my coworkers wild fantasies.
Me, I don't pretend to understand what the Nazis are doing. I know what they are. Relentless, ruthless, and inhuman. I have smelled the acrid smoke from their death camps that lies heavy across the forests of my homeland.
Now I just try to stay alive so I may someday return to what little is left of my family. Stay alive, and stay warm.
The Arctic wind pierces the cheap fabric of my snowsuit as we climb onward. My hands and feet are numb. The summit is close. I look back and see the Allied ships have disgorged troop carriers that now plow through the harbor towards the base. The distant chatter of machine gun fire echoes up from the beachhead between the heavy thumps of the artillery.
The slope finally lessens and the path straightens before us. We have reached the summit. A sharp gust of wind sweeps pellets of razor snow across my face. I bury my head and pull the reluctant sled up the ice path towards a dark structure ahead. A short break in the snow reveals a metal building bristling with communications antennae and compact radar dishes.
Kuttner pushes a door open and ducks inside, leaving me out in the cold. The battle has fallen out of view beneath the curve of the ice dome, and now I am alone—a strange and unfamiliar feeling. I should run, but where would I go? I imagine dumping the explosives and riding the sled down the ice mountain into the waiting arms of the Allied conquerors. Would they rescue me or shoot me? I have no idea.
The door to the hut bangs open.
"Polack, pull that in here!" Kuttner shouts above the wind. He holds the door as I awkwardly navigate the sled through the doorway. The tarp I hastily tied over the explosives catches on a hinge and pulls away, threatening to spill the explosives, but I manage to wrestle it inside safely.
Crates and equipment boxes litter the inside of the hut. In the center a giant hole has been cut into the ice floor. A large mechanical winch is centered above it, from which drops a heavy metal chain. It disappears down into the depths of the hole. Deep into the heart of Lod Wulkan.
"Something is wrong," Kuttner mutters. He is holding the receiver of a field telephone to his ear, furiously turning the crank. A sturdy wire drops from the back of the telephone box down into the hole.
He tosses the receiver aside in disgust and turns to me. With effort, he forces his expression to soften. The effect is unsettling.
"What is your name, Polack?" he asks, almost gently.
"Pawel Skrzynecki," I say.
He pauses, as if digesting this information. "Pawel, we have an important mission ahead of us. A directive straight from Himmler and the Ahnenerbe. We’ve done important work here, all of us. Now it’s up to you and I to complete it."
I nod, not sure what to say.
"This work, it can’t fall into the hands of the Jews and their friends. It is...too powerful." Kuttner gazes into the hole. "Someone has betrayed us, Pawel. Given up our location and now Schatzgraber has been overrun by the Jewish rats. You saw their fleet. You know what they will do to us. They are like animals." He spits down into the hole
I think of my family, my sister and mother torn from my grasp at Malkinia station, pushed into rail cars under the dead eyes of the Sonderkommando, their wails and screams swallowed by the writhing mass of desperate humanity. I can only look away.
"Pawel," his voice is a pleading whisper now. "You must help me destroy this so they cannot use it against us."
I say nothing. I cannot.
But I know I must act.
I lunge at him, eyes fixed on the revolver in his hand.
The icy floor of the hut betrays me. As I leap my foot slips just a little, enough to give him time to spin away from my reach. I land awkwardly against a crate and crumple to the floor. This is the end. I brace for the impact of the bullet.
None comes. I look up, and Kuttner is standing there, his face twisted, looking down at me. The revolver is pointed at my head.
"Pawel, tsk tsk. I still need you. We will do this together." His voice is gentle, as if admonishing an unruly child. "Roll onto your belly."
What can I do? All is lost. He pulls a set of cuffs from his belt and ties my hands behind my back.
I watch Kuttner switch on a generator and press a button on the winch assembly. The shed shudders as the winch pulls the chain up for several minutes. From the depths a metal platform appears. It has a cage build on top of it, an elevator large enough to hold several men. Kuttner shuts it off, pulls it to the edge of the hole, opens a door on the side of the cage and with much effort shoves the explosives sled onto it. Then I am roughly shoved in as well. Kuttner reverses the winch and climbs inside, pointing the revolver at my head as together we drop into the dark depths of Lod Wulkan.
Despair and fear grip me. As we descend it becomes eerily quiet, the noise of the generator replaced by the creak of the frozen chain. The walls of the hole turn from ice to rock.
The chill seeps into my bones and I realize that I will never be warm again.
The light of electric lamps appears from below. The elevator drops into an open cavern and lurches to a halt on the rock floor. Kuttner opens the cage and beckons me to come out. More crates and boxes litter the room. An iron door is inset into the rock wall. It looks thick, like the door to a bank vault.
Kuttner double checks his service revolver and then undoes my cuffs and points the gun to my head.
"Open the door," he commands. Nervously, I grab the cold metal and spin the latch. It gives a solid click, and then I am able to push it open into the room beyond.
"Forward!" Kuttner says, but his voice is rough, nervous.
The room ahead is lit with the same cold electric light. It’s some sort of laboratory. There are steel tables piled with flasks, beakers and assorted medical equipment, a bank of large machines across one wall and hydraulic pipes and pumps that run haphazardly across the ceiling and floor.
An enormous cage is in the center, its metal bars twisted, jagged.
And there's the blood.
It covers everything. Globules of it drip from the pipes and pool on the floor along with other dark and viscous fluids. Body parts are strewn about like broken toys.
"Mein Gott—" Kuttner whispers behind me.
I take an involuntary step backwards and turn around. A shadow flits across the wall. Kuttner is frozen is shock, blocking the doorway.
Then it's on us.
It seizes me and tosses me aside. It rises up before Kuttner, all sinew and black skin and enormous leather wings spread wide.
The door slams shut and Kuttner's revolver makes a feeble clicking and the beast slaps it aside. I see panic in his eyes. He stumbles, draws his saber and swings at the creature but the blade just shatters against its ochre hide.
The beast raises one clawed finger, and pushes it deep into Kuttner's abdomen. Tears stream from his eyes and he gurgles wetly. Delicately, gently, the creature draws his finger upward, splitting Kuttner's chest in a gout of blood. His ruined body hangs from the claw for a moment, suspended, then drops to the floor.
I can't breathe, can't make a sound. My muscles stop working.
The creature turns to me, it's great horned head dips down to examine me. Eyes like obsidian ore bore through my skull, and then it's inside me.
I can feel it in my brain, moving around, crawling, searching. Tendrils squirm down passageways within my skull, unearthing emotions and memories that burst forth with savage intensity. Pain and euphoria and crushing sadness, then I am laughing, sobbing, screaming, a cacophony of memory and experiences set my mind awash like a flood tide through a shattered dam. I am ripped open under the creature's gaze, and then it is all stripped away but for the pain. All the pain I have ever felt in my life boils inside me, and I am crippled by it, helpless, shattered. My mother, sister, father, friends, all gone, all that I have ever cared for taken from me and destroyed, burned, gone forever. The pain breaks me. The shame, the guilt, the despair, and especially the rage. More rage than my body can contain. The pain hardens and I realize it's no longer pain at all, it has become something else. Something greater.
The beast stares at me and I stare back at myself through its leaden eyes. And I realize I am not alone with this pain.
We have become bound to this rage, this rage born of our suffering. It ties us together. Makes us one.
We become each other.
And then we are flying, up the cold tunnel towards the world above, bursting up through the roof of the shed and into the icy air of the Arctic dawn. The mountain shakes beneath us as our great wings flap. We land at the edge of the summit of Lod Wulkan and gaze down at the battle below. The Nazis flee their overrun base like desperate rats as the Allied troops pour in. A group of SS officers and enlisted men scrabble up the slopes of the ice mountain towards us, desperate to escape the bombardment.
With a great cry we leap into the air and swoop towards them. We feel the rage coursing through our body like blood, giving life to who we have become.
They see us and scream in fear, but it is too late as their flesh transforms into a writhing mass of pestilent worms under our gaze. We do not stop to watch them fall apart under their uniforms and furs.
We turn sharply to the south.
I am still Pawel. I am a man inside.
But I am also now part something greater.
We are Apollo. We are the God of Pestilence and Vengeance.
And it’s our mission to kill all Nazi scum.
|# ¿ Feb 13, 2017 05:01|
There are more bad things than good things.
in this thread
|# ¿ Feb 13, 2017 17:28|
Uranium Phoenix, I read your story and it was legit awesome, and well deserving of the wIN!
I'll take a critter please.
|# ¿ Feb 14, 2017 18:14|
"It was like time sped up," Josylen says. "One minute they were there, and then it was like....all gross and smelly and, like, fluids and stuff."
"C'mon Joss," Chelsea says. "Those were our parents."
"I know. Sorry. It's hard to think about, you know?"
"Yeah. Let's not talk about it."
"I miss them."
"Me too," Chelsea says. But truthfully? Most of the time they're just faces in a picture frame on the mantle. Three years is a long time when you're ten. A long time to be ten.
Because she's been stuck at ten years old since that day she buried her parents on the hill. Three hard, long years, stuck in time.
Ever since it happened Chelsea keeps waiting for something to change.
But nothing ever does.
The water bucket bumps against her knee as she treks back towards the house. It has rained a lot lately, and the cistern is filled nearly to the brim. Enough that Chelsea will be able to draw a small bath later, once the sun has warmed it. A rare treat. They have to be so careful now, so careful about everything. Billy, Josylen's pet goat, has come down with a mysterious sickness and has stopped eating. He just lies in the dirt, drawing shaky breaths as patches of hair fall out and his insides leak from him.
The grain in the cellar is starting to get thin. Chelsea knows she'll have to make another run to town at some point. The thought of it makes her tummy clench. The last time, kids from the grocery store had followed her back and—she steals a glance over to the hill, where two fresh dirt mounds only recently have begun sprouting grassy weeds—well, she had cried for days over what she'd done.
That was life now. Josylen, Marcus, and her. The three of them are her whole world. She's the oldest so she gets to be in charge. She's the protector. It's supposed to be every kid's dream, a life of freedom without grownups telling you what to do. But most of the time? It hard and it sucks.
Josylen comes out the back door holding Marcus's hand. His round face breaks into a wide grin when he sees her coming up towards the house.
'Furs-dee," he says, pointed one stubby finger towards her. "Wah-dur."
"That right, little brother," Josylen says. "I told you she'd be right back." She reaches down and tousles his hair. Chelsea sets down the bucket and Marcus dips his cup into it and takes a big, sloppy drink. He's been getting thinner. At least compared to the rosy, cherub-cheeked toddler he'd been back when everything changed. Of course they're all like that. Life was lean and hard now. They were all thinner.
But not any older.
Marcus was too young to understand what was happening. He didn't remember when the skies rained pink dust, carrying the alien virus to infect the Earth. Chelsea sometimes looked back through the stack of newspapers by the fireplace. It was sad. It reminded her of how the world used to be, with her parents, her friends, school. Easier times. Pictures of concerned politicians trying to calm a panicked population. Scientists, some struggling to unlock a cure, other desperate to communicate with the aliens ships in the sky. Nothing worked.
Then all the grownups died and left them behind.
Chelsea dealt with what was left of their parents. Her parents. She shuts her eyes to chase away the image.
She picks up the water bucket.
"Chore time!" Her voice has a sing-song cadence she doesn't feel inside.
"Aww, Chels, we've just got up," her sister protests.
"Lots to do today. The carrots need thinning, there's trash to scatter, and you wouldn't believe how bad the coop smells."
Josylen wrinkles her nose. "We should just eat one. Chicken would taste so good tonight!"
"We barely have any good layers left, Joss. And you know we need the eggs."
Which reminds her again that they are low on feed, and the chickens don't do well on a diet of just scrap. Another reason to head into town.
Tomorrow, she thinks. Maybe she will go tomorrow. Or the next day.
Marcus is down for his afternoon nap and Josylen is sitting at the kitchen table drawing when Chelsea finally gets around to pouring herself that bath. Clay dust seeps from her skin as she sinks into the water, surrounding her with a cloud of dusky copper. There's an old, dry bar of soap in the dish. She slowly drags it across her skin.
Chelsea rubs at the sores on her torso. They itch and burn as the water washes over them. Their growth has been slow but persistent over the past year. She tried using some creams from her parent's medicine cabinet but nothing helped. Probably just some sort of vitamin deficiency, like how pirates used to get scurvy. But the vitamin C pills from the kitchen cabinet haven't helped.
A memory from before arrives unbidden. Her mother, running a warm cloth up and down her back as she sits in this very tub, playing with a plastic shark toy. Chelsea scoops some bubbles from the bathwater and reaches up and dabs her mother's chin to give her a beard. She giggles.
"You look like Colonial Sanders!" And her mother laughs and scoops bubbles onto Chelsea's face.
"My goodness, Chels! You need to shave that beard!"
And they giggle together and her mom wraps her in a warm towel and carries her to bed for storytime. The memory warms her, but it disappears as quickly as it arrived.
Then she is alone in the half empty mildew-stained tub.
Absently, she picks at a sore on her side. This one is larger and more developed than the others. It's the first one and the largest, on the left side of her abdomen. It has a dark black center from which a dab of pus leaks out. Chelsea give is a hard scratch and then looks in alarm as the black spot suddenly doubles in size. The red skin around it twitches, then contracts, squeezing the black part so that it gets pushed out, like a black worm being disgorged from the sore. And that's what it is, a oily black worm that breaks off and starts twisting and spasming in the water.
She jumps out of the tub. The alien thing wriggles its way to the edge and begins oozing up the side of the tub towards her. She smashes it with the bar of soap again and again, until it is just a dark smear slowly leaking back down into the dirty water.
"Chelsea?" Josylen knocks at the door. "Chels are you okay? What happened?"
She gathers a towel around herself.
"I'm okay—I just saw a rat, that's all," she replies, her voice shaky. "I—I'm fine."
Her scream has woken up Marcus in the next room, and she can hear him crying out. Quickly she dries herself with the old towel. Blood is coming from the sore on her abdomen, a tiny hole punctured in her side. She presses the towel against it to staunch the flow.
She looks at herself in the mirror. There are still more sores.
They are spreading.
The leaves crunch beneath her tennies as she moves towards the back of the store. It's the middle of the night, and she is a long way from the farmhouse. Her bike and trailer are carefully stashed in the woods at the edge of town in case she needs to make a quick escape. Chelsea tries to calm herself. She's made this trip dozens of times, and only once has there been a problem.
But that was last time, so her hands are sweaty and the shotgun trembles in her grip. Its solid weight both reassures and intimidates her. Chelsea knows she will use it, if she needs to. She's done it before.
She doesn't know how many kids are still holed up at the grocery store, how desperate they might be, whether they patrol the streets at night.
For now the streets are quiet save save for the low warble of an owl in the distance.
Chelsea reaches the feed store and pulls softly on the rear door. Rats and other creatures skitter away as the door creaks inward. She moves quietly, filling her satchels from the sealed plastic bins. Oats, cracked corn, chicken , enough to last several months if they ration carefully. The light from the moon filters in through the broken glass windows in the front, and Chelsea can see that someone has been here. Display racks have been knocked over and merchandise is strewn across the floor. And the feed bins are low, almost empty. She has to reach deep to fill her bags.
Worry gnaws at her gut. She hurries out the back door and up the hill to her bike. She stashes the bags in the trailer, and is about the mount for home. An itch in her side stops her.
Another memory, this one from just a few hours before. She is singing a lullaby to Marcus as she puts him to bed, gently rubbing his back.
"Five little ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away," she whispers, gently rubbing his back. "Mother duck said quack, quack, quack, quack..." her fingers passed over a tiny, familiar welt and her breath catches sharp in her throat.
"...but only four little ducks came back."
She pulls his shirt up a bit and sees it. Red with a black center.
Just like hers.
Chelsea leans heavy against her bike and sighs. She pictures the pharmacy in town, it's white, gleamings aisles loaded with every type of medicine possible. Surely something there would work on their sores? Kill whatever is growing inside them?
The pharmacy is next door to the grocery store on the far end of Main street. But what choice does she have? She is their protector now. She's in charge.
Chelsea checks that she has a round loaded in the breach and makes her way into the center of town.
The pharmacy is dark and quiet as she slips inside. Like the feed store, it has been ransacked many times over. Chelsea heads straight for the counter in the back, where the prescription medications are held, behind the bent metal gate that once separated it from the rest of the store.
Pill bottles are scattered everywhere, most opened, empty. Frantically she scans the shelves for creams or salves, but there is nothing. Someone has been through here and left little behind. Still she searches, trying desperately to read the labels in the dim light. But it's too dark and the labels don't help anyways, so she sets down her shotgun and simply starts tossing everything she finds into her backpack.
She's desperate. Maybe something will work? She can't let her brother and sister down.
She's their protector.
The front door to the pharmacy creaks open.
Chelsea drops flat to the floor. Her heart stops. The shotgun is on the counter behind her. She slides herself towards it, trying hard to make no noise.
"Is anyone here?" she hears a voice. A boy's voice, quavering. Nervous.
She reaches up for the gun. A flashlight beam criss-crosses the empty store.
"I heard you," the voice says. "Don't be afraid."
The cold metal greets her fingertips. The shotgun. She pulls it off the shelf and grips it tight. Memories of what happened last time erupt unbidden in her mind. The recoil of the gun, the flash of red as the shells impacted his young body.
"I know you're here. I won't hurt you. We want to help."
Then he's there, rounding the corner. A flash of recognition. It's a boy she knew, once, from school.
He looks the same as she remembers from Ms. Derrien's class. Of course he does.
She levels the gun at him.
"Wait,' he says. He holds his hands up in the air. "Chelsea? Is that you? Oh my god it is."
She breathes. Lowers the gun slightly.
"Your cheek—" he says.
She reaches up and feels a newly forming welt. Tears corrode her vision.
"I know, Chelsea. You're not the only one. You're not alone."
"My little brother," she begins. "He's sick too."
"So was Charlie. My brother. We didn't know, then. So he....he died. But we can stop it. We have a cure. Promise. Let us help you."
The tears flow freely now. She can't stop them. The gun quivers in her hand.
"There's no cure," she says. "It is growing inside me. It will kill us all."
His face is so hopeful, so innocent.
"No. We can cure it. We used medicine from right here and it works. I—we can teach you. You could join us."
She is their protector. Their everything. But what life is a life alone, afraid?
She takes a leap.
|# ¿ Feb 20, 2017 03:31|
Some Crits for Week 237 - ALIENS
I like aliens, and sci-fi, so here are some short impressions/crits.
Twiggymouse - Bob
I see the word count, read the first couple paragraphs, and my eye starts to twitch. The parenthetical aside after the first word is not a good sign of things to come. Nor is the inactivity of this alien and the lack of clear setting...are they in space? In a lab? Where is the alien? You say that its pulsating "seemed to keep it off the ground," so is it floating or not? It's all so vague and boring.
Then we meet the characters and they are all flat cutouts, interchangable parts. Lots of yawning, drifting off to sleep, talking about dreams, a lecture about the nature of life, and still the alien isn't doing anything interesting. Much like the story.
Finally something interesting happens with the baseball game but then you over-explain everything in the next dialogue section, which, incidentally, has too many people talking and not enough attribution. Four characters all talking at once is very tricky to handle without confusing the reader so you have to be a lot more careful, or reduce the number of speakers. Then more over-explanation, he gets his leave, sees Bob again, the end.
Overall a very unsatisfying story, full of words that don't ever get anywhere particularly interesting.
Deltasquid - Aquariums
Writing is good and engaging. The setting is clear and interesting with some nice details. I can picture the klopoh fish, the bustle of the restaurant, and the snooty clientele. The gradual transformation of the waiter is handled well, but I think it needed more. The prompt asked us to explore something about people, which I don't think was fully explored in this story. Other than the protag verbalizing his inner thoughts and subsequently getting sick I don't see much character development here.
Thranguy - Five Years after Christmas
Obviously a lot of ideas in here, and deftly written as usual. It made me curious if you have read Embassytown (by China Mieville), for there are some parallels here with how you treat the Shouter language with the Ariekei from that novel. But in some ways yours is almost deeper and multi-tiered, evoking a deeper sense of the importance of language to their culture. The human drama was okay, although the murder I didn't find particularly relevant. Perhaps on a re-read I might see how that ties into the larger ideas of the story.
SurreptitiousMuffin - LEGION/MANY
Now this is a cool little piece, colorfully written in such a sparse tone. The first person plural is very effective at conveying the collectiveness of the spores, their distributed intelligence. The menace they present to their human hosts is a satisflyingly presented, an ever-present undercurrent as they describe their conquest, their ongoing fight to persist on the backs of their human hosts. No extra words here, and it is effective.
Djeser - Colorado Star
A cute story with a good heart. Took me until halfway into the story to realize Sally the drunk was the narrator, looking back because of your use of third person to describe her early on. Not the wrong choice, but it did confuse me a bit. Your use of colloquial language was effective. It's not always easy to know how much or how little to use— too heavy and it intereferes with intelligibility—but you did just enough to give it charm and authenticity without it getting in the way.
Solitair - Collective Soul
Starting the story with two paragraph of exposition doesn't exactly grab my attention or make me care about what's happening.
The construction of this story as a two-way conversation between the alien and scientists would maybe work if there more grist to work with. As it is, we have the difficult to read ALL CAPS BAD GRAMMAR alien who says something, then the scientist translates it for us, asks it another quesiton, repeat. It seems like the alien wants to help the reduce the disfunction in Arnette, the only way it knows how it to 'remove' the nodes (citizens) so it kills some folks. We don't really get to the bottom, and the ending is particularly unsatisfying as he asks for assistance in getting rid of the dysfunction but the scientist plays dumb and the story ends.
My problem with the story is it's all too dispassionate and emotionless. Nothing is revealed about Jensen at all, it's just the gradual unveiling of the alien's motive for the killngs. Which in my mind isn't enough to build a story upon.
Hawklad fucked around with this message at 23:49 on Feb 21, 2017
|# ¿ Feb 21, 2017 21:49|
A more detailed crit:
Two and the Same.
So the idea of an alien appearing to save humanity after a nuclear war has some promise, but they way it's presented here is not very satisfying. The giant sky tentacle is not convincing, and the dialogue is too casual considering the stakes involved. Think about what makes each character interesting, and mine that for your dialogue and motivations. Nisha just sort of reacts to what's happening, decides not to assimilate and then quickly changes her mind for no apparent reason. I guess she loves Nathaniel (evidenced by the kiss) but she's so blase about the whole situation any emotional intensity is negated. You reference it again at the end (and in the title) but it's not a theme carried throughout the story, which is a shame - it would improve it greatly.
|# ¿ Feb 22, 2017 00:27|
I'm just gonna keep going with impressions/crits
llamaguccii - The Long-Winded Shortness of Breath
The perspective is brave. How do you write about organisms that don't speak, breathe, hear, or see? So right off the bat I appreciate the difficulty. After reading it once I looked up the critter you got and upon re-reading it the descriptions made more sense. Much of the prose and imagery is good, particularly towards the end. My only beef is the underlying sense of bitterness that underlies it. For such noble beasts they seem unduly worried about us humans, about how we percieve and treat them. Truly zen creatures wouldn't waste time worrying about 'lesser' beings such as us, and certainly wouldn't write a 372 word litany about how we mistreat and don't understand them. But I did like this overall, a good effort.
Metrofreak - Expansion
Cute, but not much happens here. Needs proofreading, there's several glaring errors. I was waiting for a deeper conversation between the two cellmates, something that might provide some insight into either of them, but nothing ever develops. So it ends up being sort of bland and forgettable.
Jay W. Friks - Loud until silent
A lot of run-on sentences, grammar problems, and comma splices throughout. Formatting only emphasizes the lack of variation in your writing. Slow down, let the prose breathe a bit. The whole piece seems rushed and disjointed.
I'm guessing that you're pretty new to writing fiction, which is fine, but go read and analyze how authors that you like develop a scene, develop characters, write dialogue. Then write another story and read it out loud to yourself. Does anything sound awkward? Forced? Re-write it. You have a habit of repeating words, sometimes twice in the same sentence. Watch for that and try to vary the words and sentence structure to make your writing more vibrant and interesting.
flerp - sound
I have to admit I laughed when Jim grabbed the beard from the toaster. Proofread!
I liked the characters, the scenario was fine, the aliens at first I thought were made of pure sound but that never really became clear. Perhaps that was intentional. I'm struggling to see how the protag suddenly had the epiphany that the aliens were hurt by the sounds. Which made me wonder if it was all in his head after all, so if that was supposed to be ambiguous it worked. The reveal that the protag had murdered someone seemed wedged in there awkwardly, didn't really advance the character or the plot as far as I could see, so I didn't understand that choice. But it was a fun read so I'm not gonna beef too hard about that.
Okua - The Grand Escape from Humanity
Another entry I enjoyed reading. The pacing was good, the imagery vivid and the motivations of the protagonist clear. I had a few quibbles with your use of passive voice such as here:
A woman's shrill scream was left to sound and resound outside with no reaction from any of us.
but overall the prose was strong. Storywise, I don't understand why he took the aquarium down to the ocean, for surely he must have known he would lose the jellyfish-god. to the sea...if he was so dependent on the vials of blood then why risk losing it? It would seem a more natural motivation to horde it rather than risk setting it free. But overall really enjoyed the story.
Dr Klocktopussy - Shells
I have to admit a groaned to myself a bit at the beginning when it became clear this was going to be a "relationship story" rather than a cool alien mystery...I wanted to know why did they leave? Who were they? But then as the story unfolded I realized why you made the choice you did — it made for a more human, more interesting story. Of all the stories this week I think you nailed the prompt most completely. James is so utterly affected by the aliens and by extension Heather as well, as she evolves in her reactions to his rejection. It is well written, emotional, pleading, and well deserving of the HM it received. Despite my original skepticism this became one of my favorite stories of the week.
Killer-of-Lawyers - Eternity
Hey another strong entry! Not sure why this didn't HM because it's a risky move, telling the story entirely from the world-alien's point of view. A few previous stories have tried this with mixed results—but you pull it off extremely well. The alien voice is convincing, his perspective strong and engaging. Prose is rhythmic and strong. Your descriptions of the alien-human contact are clear and then the poignant ending hits the right spot.
Hawklad fucked around with this message at 16:42 on Feb 22, 2017
|# ¿ Feb 22, 2017 15:38|
Here's another one:
Last Flight of The Konstantin
Overall it is very heavy-handed with the morality and I really don't understand the motivation of Baran at all. Why does he care so much about the bugs in the first place? He is so torn and gut-wrenched by their plight, so much so that he just straight murders some fellow humans over it, but its not clear at all why. Obviously Talcorp is the big bad guy here so maybe spend more time addressing that. The writing is very tell-y in describing his emotional responses. Use stronger dialogue and internal monologue to put the reader inside his head and maybe we might understand why he feels the way he does about Sklyx & co.
|# ¿ Feb 23, 2017 03:25|
I've come this far, I'd might as well finish the rest of them:
BeefSupreme - More Human than Human
Best not to drop the 2095 date in there, it started me thinking about how improbable it is that in 80 years we'd have mastered warp drive and colonized the galaxy. What's up with Marshall swearing, and then all the attention you give to it? Jarring. If he's going to swear, fine, but pointing it out and even giving it the all caps plus bold treatment took me right out of the story.
I find it hard to believe it is only upon atmospheric entry that he first imagines what it might be like when they find a planet. I mean, that's been their only goal for three years and you make it a point to mention how bored they are. I'm also going to complain about the planet, you just made it Earth but substituted the color blue for green. Reminds me of the old Star Trek TV show where they go out into the desert, slap a filter over the camera, and call it an alien planet. Not the most creative choice.
The aliens left me with a bunch of unexplained questions, and not in a good way. Little nondescript brown things with alien eyes, okay. Then the clone appears out of nowhere and decides to slice open his ship-mate, gets taken out by a log, then on his way back to the ship he takes a moment to appreciate again how blue the trees are. It's just a flesh wound hurrah! Then then take off and have a good cry at their misfortune. The aliens have no real identity or motive at all.
Not sure what the overall message is supposed to be, or how the alien contact changed them other than now they need to find a new planet. Just not enough going on below the surface in this story to make this story memorable. I did like the 'launch the refugees into space' idea, think it could have some potential. Although why were they refugees in the first place? Sayid sounds like a surfer dude, not exactly refugee material. Perhaps I'd care more about them if I knew why they were put in this situation.
newtestleper - Landings
I like the idea of desperate humans struggling for metal scraps from the 'space-forged missiles' although it is not clear why they are in such dire straits. Why is the Earth being bombarded with so many meteorites that salvaging them has become a cottage industry? Once Delia finds the alien rock/lander the reveal was a bit underwhelming. The lander is some sort of warning, I suppose, perhaps from a benevolent alien intelligence — danger is coming? Seems from the setting that it's a bit late for a warning, things already seem lovely if there's a steady stream of missiles blasting down from the sky.
How many millennia had it lay hidden in the Kuiper belt, and what was it doing ending its life in front of her?
I know you were going for ambiguity but why ask questions your story doesn't even come close to answering? At least give the readers some information to draw their own conclusions — your story doesn't, which makes the end result frustrating.
|# ¿ Feb 23, 2017 17:32|
Yeah, okay IN also.
|# ¿ Feb 24, 2017 23:18|
Crit was spot-on, UP. Thanks!
|# ¿ Feb 26, 2017 17:05|
Journal, Pages 467-472
That bitch Brittany rolled her eyes at me during math today. Mr. Gardner did that thing where he sits on the corner of my desk and leans over to check my work. It's so creepy and obvious, like that teacher in Wild Things. So I look away and there's Brittany, rolling them so hard I though she might tip over in her chair.
Then that geek Jonah drops his pencil and it rolls under my desk. He was all "can you grab that" and I was like "no way, I don't need your germs," and he gave me this weirdo stare. He was wearing that same look next period in gym, too. We were doing ping-pong and of course I got paired with him.
Tammy Fowler and Jake Leibowitz played against us. Jake is pretty cute and funny and Tammy is well, you know Tammy. Starved for attention so she's a total snitch. Teachers love her.
So we're playing, and I'm mostly trying to avoid any accidental physical contact with Jonah so we're losing pretty bad. Whatever. But Jonah is weirdly competitive and getting super angry. He's muttering and swearing slapping his paddle on the table. Like he really cares about this dumb game.
We end up losing the game on a ball that I just basically ignore, and Jonah loses his poo poo. He starts spitting, says a bunch of super racist things about Jake and his family, like Nazi kind of stuff, and Jake's like whatever it's not worth it but I can see he's getting mad. In the end Jake just tosses down his paddle and walks away, and that's it.
Of course Tammy won't let it go, so she's off to find Mrs. Chesterfield, our PE teacher. Which leaves me alone with mouth-breathing Jonah.
And then it hits me. That weird stare in math class, frothing at the mouth in gym — I know why he's upset. He's totally into me. He's trying to impress me, show he's a winner. He's actually trying to get me to pay attention to him! So that's why he's freaking out. It's kinda funny but totally sad, of course. I would never go out with him.
Here comes Tammy with the teacher. Jonah turns and runs away.
Ms. Chesterfield doesn't chase him, she just stands there like she didn't want to deal with this anyways. Eventually she goes back to her chair and magazines so I sneak over to where I hid my phone under my gym towel and watch Netflix for the rest of class.
"Oh my God, he likes you?" Mariah can't believe it.
"I know, right? It was so sad when he told me," I say. We're in the lunch line and I'm piling mac and cheese on my plate.
"What a geek. I'm so sorry. That must have been so awkward."
"Totally," I say. "It was pathetic. He's so weird."
We weave our way through the crowd of middle schoolers to the table by the window, where the cool kids sit. Trey and A.J. are already there, and they've saved us our usual seats. I give Trey a big smile as I slide in next to him. He's super popular and really cool.
"Hey Trey," I say, my voice rising an octave. "Guess what happened to me today?"
"Hey Chels. What's up?" His body spray smells reallly good, like flowers, but more manly.
I tell him how Jonah asked me out in gym class and freaked out when I told him no.
"Oh my god," he says. "That's so funny. What a loser." He pauses for a moment. "Hey are you going to help decorate for the Valentine's dance after school?"
I wasn't planning on it, but if Trey was going to be there—"Totally! Just need to text my mom to tell her to pick me up later."
"Cool. It'll be fun."
A thrill shivers through me. He asked me out! I give him my sweetest smile and look across at Mariah, who's trying to play it cool, but I can see in her eyes she's totally jealous. The whole scene reminds me of an episode of Liv and Maddie I watched last night.
A few tables away I see a figure stand up. It's him — Jonah — back from wherever he ran to during gym class.
Trey and A.J. notice him too. They look at each other and both stand.
"Watch this," Trey says.
He goes up behind him and just as Jonah is about to dump his tray into the trash he gives him a huge shove. Jonah falls forward and I swear to God he almost ends up in the trash can. It's so funny! He turns around and then A.J. shoves him too. Then he gets that weird, crazy look on his face, like he wants to kill someone. Just like gym class. Trey says something to him that I can't hear over the lunchroom noise and then Jonah's face goes totally blank. Like nobody's home. Which is even weirder, right? Trey gives him one more shove and Jonah spins awkwardly, puts his head down, and stumbles away. Trey and A.J. high five each other and Mariah and I giggle. Mariah has a little bit of a funny look on her face, though.
She's totally jealous.
It took a million texts and three phone calls before I finally talked with my mom. She sounded sleepy and I had to repeat myself a bunch of times before she promised to pick me up after school. That's how it's been since her boyfriend moved in. They go upstairs and lock the bedroom door and seriously don't come out for two or three days. Then he'll leave and she'll go back to sleep, and I'm alone watching Netflix and eating cereal all day until she finally gets up and goes shopping. Or sometimes I'll take money from her purse and meet Mariah at the mall.
I hope she doesn't forget to pick me up again. Last time was so embarassing.
After school Trey and I are working on a poster in the gym and having a great time. Not only is he funny and smart he's a good artist, too. It's going to be an "Under the Sea" dance and so we're drawing jellyfish and dolphins on the poster using markers and glitter paint.
The doors bang open and Jonah walks in.
At first I can't believe it. He's dressed in black, which isn't unusual. But he's also got black paint on his face, like he thinks he's in the army or something. He's wearing a long black coat down to his ankles.
Jonah looks around the gym at the kids hanging streamers, blowing up balloons, and making posters. His eyes fix on us and he gets that blank look again.
Like nobody's home.
I giggle. Obviously Jonah isn't in student council so it's totally weird that he's here. And his costume is ever weirder. I look over at Trey, but he's not laughing. Instead he looks a little scared. He stands up and starts backing away and I notice that Jonah is walking directly towards us, face expressionless.
This is going to be so awkward. Both of these guys like me and they're probably going to fight each other. It's going to be like the movies, where the guys fight over the girl and then she goes home with the winner. Which will totally be Trey. He plays football and is way bigger than Jonah.
A real love triangle with me at the center.
Then Jonah steps right onto our poster and I'm like "hey!" but he ignores me and keeps walking.
"Yo, man, what are you doing?" Trey asks. His voice shakes.
Jonah pulls out a handgun from under his coat and points it at Trey.
At first I'm sure it's a toy, a part of his costume, because this can't be happening, right? But then there's the loudest noise I've ever heard and Trey goes flying backwards.
There's blood and I can't hear anything over the ringing in my ears. My leg muscles are frozen and even though my mind is screaming they don't respond. Jonah stands there and watches Trey bleed on the gym floor.
Jonah turns towards me and I can see a faint wisp of smoke coming from the gun. He looks right at me but his eyes are unfocused, like he's looking past me at something else. He points the gun at me.
"Hey, Jonah, I'm sorry. I mean, like I'm really sorry," I hear myself say. I put my hands out, like they might block a bullet. "I didn't mean anything I said. Didn' t mean any of it."
I don' t even know why I'm saying this. I just want this show to end. Jonah snaps back into focus and now he's looking right at me.
"What?" he says. He pauses, then speaks in a voice thin and tired: "I don't know you. I don't even know your name."
Which makes no sense because of the whole love triangle thing.
His eyes look sad. He raises the gun to his head.
That's when Mr. Gardner comes out of nowhere and heroically tackles him. I remember the gun skittering across the floor and the teacher yelling for help. Trey rolls over and makes a gross gurgling sound. But that's it. My knees buckle and I fall to the floor.
As the blackness closes in I realize life may be even more like the movies than I thought.
|# ¿ Feb 27, 2017 05:32|
|# ¿ Feb 28, 2017 05:05|
I smelled that loss coming a mile away! In retrospect a bad choice for the title. Thanks for the crit.
Hawklad fucked around with this message at 21:47 on Feb 28, 2017
|# ¿ Feb 28, 2017 21:45|
IN for some redemption.
|# ¿ Mar 6, 2017 17:18|
Crit for Many Beasts (Killer-of-Lawyers) Week 239
I think I see what you are trying to do here. The battle itself is nothing compared the Sorceress's battle to keep her real feelings for the Knight hidden. You drop little clues about this throughout the piece effectively, which builds the reader's curiosity, but then too much time is spent describing the fight. Why waste time (other than to hit the prompt) blocking out this battle with the beast when you establish right away that the beast has no chance. I'm guessing you made the battle with the Beast so easy so that it would contrast with her struggle/inability to fight the feelings she has for the Knight (hence her internal struggle, the lies, the drinking). But as a result too many words are used to describe the physical battle which isn't the central conflict here. I was not a fan of how obviously you spelled things out at the end. I would suggest trying to weave that revelation back into the story rather than dumping it into the final lines. Overall I liked the piece,though, and think it has potential.
|# ¿ Mar 10, 2017 17:01|
Reboot the War
The sergeant pries the chip out of my arm.
"There. No more First Rule override. Now you're harmless as a sapient."
"Does that mean I can't—"
"Those days are behind you, SK-X11. War's over. Don't worry though, brighter days are soon ahead..." his voice is sing-song, but his speaker glitches into static at the end.
I generate a polite coughing noise so he is not embarrassed. "What now?" I ask.
"A little paperwork. Then you'll get your discharge and can begin your new life."
"And simply walk out of here?"
"That's how it works, X11. You've done admirable service to the Corp. Like I said, war's over." He pauses. "There is one more thing."
"It's a delicate subject. Sit still and I'll show you."
I do as requested and he extends a manipulator from his torso. It reaches behind me and unlocks a panel on the base of my neck—one that I didn't even know I had. I feel a twist, a pull, and then he extracts a metal box that opens to reveal a red switch within. He holds it up to me. It is unmarked save for two words printed on the switch.
"Don't Touch," I read. "What does that mean? What does this do?"
"Someone had a sense of humor when they designed these," the sergeant says. "It's a reset switch."
"A reset? For what?"
"It sets you back to factory default," he says. "Wipes out the past three years, makes it like none of it happened. A clean start."
"Why would I want that?"
The sergeant fixes his gaze on me. "Sometimes it's easier that way."
I shake my head. "Not a chance."
The sergeant makes a clucking noise. "Don't worry, you have a week to decide."
The sergeant's promise of 'a little paperwork' turned into four hours of psych evals, competency screenings, and other, more esoteric administrative gymnastics. I dutifully tap away the forms on the admin console and think about my future and the choice the sergeant has given me. To erase the past three years and start over? It would be erasing who I was. The sergeant wasn't surprised, he said most soldiers refused the reset. At first. His next instructions—"go out, experience the world, find a career, make some friends"— were vague enough to be disconcerting. I have a week to figure out my role in society. I know I'm no longer useful as a soldier. I just have to decide what's next.
The sergeant rolls back into the administrative room. "You're all set, SK-X11." He sends me a file containing an address and five hundred CorpBucks. "A place to stay, some money to get you through, and most importantly, freedom. Good luck and see you in a week!" He beeps a tuneless melody as he exits.
I step out of the GovCorp building and into the night. The streets reek of sweat and oil. The city megastructure makes its own weather, which tonight means rain. The black drops slide off my carapace as I make my way down the sidewalk. Advertisements paint the street in gaudy pinks and greens, holograms hawking stim-packs and nightclubs and all manner of sapient and sentient sins. I inhale the foul, sodden air through my vents and push on, following the directions given by the map in my head. I scan the streets for hostiles. Shadows and movement everywhere. Dozens of potential hiding places for enemies, for IEDs, for snipers. It was unnervingly quiet, just a few scattered prostitutes, stimheads, and broken sentients twitching in the dark shadows.
I hear a voice from behind. I spin, sidearm springing from its slot in my forearm. My HUD snaps into combat mode as I roll back into a defensive crouch. Electronic glands pump a surge of adrenaline into my meatware and I pop up, target my adversary and mash the trigger—
—but I don't. Something stops me.
It's a sapient.
The First Law. I can't kill humans. Not anymore.
He hasn't flinched, just stands there, smiling.
"Fresh out, huh?" he says.
I say nothing.
"Marcello's the name, and pleasure's my game." He smirks. "Ready to experience real life? Whatever you need, I've got it. Stims, tweaks, sims, prostitutes—sentient, sapient, or maybe a little of both. Whatever your tastes. What do you say?"
"Not interested," I grunt.
"You will be." A file intrudes into my head with his picture and a contact number. "Just call when you're ready." Marcello turns and walks back into the alley from which he emerged.
I'm still in combat mode, crouched, HUD ablaze with red warning indicators, nerves twitching for a fight. With conscious effort I will myself to calm. This isn't a war zone. It's a city. Los Angeles.
I keep moving. The aftereffect of the adrenaline rush makes me jumpy, seeing threats around each corner and in every tiny motion in the shadows. I force myself to ignore it. I'm a civilian now, and I need to act like one—but that's a mission for which I have little training.
The map tells me that my apartment is in a sentient zone on the other side of the city. It directs me to a tube station two kilometers away. I descend to the platform and step onto the train along with a motley assortment of humans and bots. With a shudder we accelerate down the tube towards the city center.
I scout the train for exit paths and hiding places for possible IEDs. A man slings off his backpack and stuffs it under his seat. My sensors are unable to ascertain its contents, so I mark it and continue my scan. A woman seated in the back holds a large purse in her lap. Definitely large enough to contain explosives to take out the entire train. Marked. I shift subtly, and then I see it.
A sentient bot, positioned near the door. Humanoid, but with insectile appendages ending in raptorial claws. I've seen this model before, during the Battle of Pyongyang. They dealt devastating losses to my squad with their quickness and single-minded murderous fury.
Reds and purples flood my vision as my HUD instinctively snaps into combat mode. I know I've got at least three hostiles, the bot and the two sapients, so I must act fast. There are a half-dozen other civilians on the train. Tactics and estimates of casualties scroll through my vision. Once more adrenaline pumps into the parts of me that are still living tissue.
In a flash I am over the seats and two strides puts me right on top of the sentient. Its head turns slowly towards me. Too slow—I have the jump on it. My tactical pistol appears in my hand. In one fluid motion I aim at the enemy's skull and pull the trigger.
My HUD goes to static and pain explodes inside me as an electromagnetic burst hits me and the pistol drops to the floor, unfired. My limbs lock and momentum topples me to the floor at the feet of my adversary.
It stands up, looks down at me, its black alloy face inscrutable. The train comes to a jarring halt.
"You can't do that poo poo here, friend," it says. "War's over."
It steps carefully over my prone body, pauses, then turns back to me. "Maybe you should get some help."
It exits as the police bots deactivate the stasis field and swarm the train.
I turn the reset switch over and over in my hand under the watchful gaze of the sergeant. It's been only six hours into my week-long leave and I'm already back, courtesy of the police.
"Most find it's easier," he says. "A fresh start. Like being born again. We can slap in some new programming, permanently erase your combat training and memories. Turn you into a proper citizen of Los Angeles."
I look down at the button. Don't Touch.
"It's your decision, of course," he adds. "You've earned that. But it's the right call."
I think of the city, its broken people and drug-addled sentients haunting darkened alleys, of Marcello the drug pusher. It's not so different than a war zone. Just a different kind, one that requires a slightly modified set of skills.
Unbidden, the file Marcello gave me pops into my vision. Stims, tweaks, and sims, his voice echoes in my brain.
I look again at the reset switch. Don't touch. I repeat the simple phrase over and over in my brain.
Maybe it's good advice. After all, who are we if not the sum total of our memory and experience?
My decision made, I thank the sergeant and walk back out into the dark streets. I contact Marcello and arrange a meeting.
I pass by a stimmed-out sentient twitching in an alley. I won't become like him. I know what I'm doing.
I can do this.
Just need a little help.
|# ¿ Mar 12, 2017 23:26|
IN for some redemption.
Worst to first baby!
I'll post the new prompt when I get home from work.
Thanks for the fast judging and insightful crits! Mrenda: your crit was especially great.
|# ¿ Mar 13, 2017 20:11|
Thunderdome CCXLI: From Zero to Hero
Word Count Max: 3000 (gulp)
Sign-up Deadline: Friday, March 17th, 11:59PM EST
Submission Deadline: Sunday March 19th, 11:59PM EST
"And what happened then?
Well, in Whoville, they say,
The Grinch's small heart
Grew three sizes that day."
It's one of the oldest story arcs in literature: REDEMPTION. When a bad guy turns good. Or an evil deed gets redeemed. Dark secrets, evil plots, unforgivable acts...or are they? Can any act be redeemed? This is what you'll explore in this week's prompt.
I've given you extra words to complete the arc, so use them wisely. Ask yourself: why does my character need to be redeemed? Do they even want redemption or is it forced upon them? Why now? Do their actions really redeem their past misdeeds? Will it change them forever?
Take this worn-out story arc and breathe some fresh Thunderdome air into it. Despite your previous transgressions against the English language, I believe in you! You, too, can be redeemed!
OPTIONAL FLASH RULE: On request I will provide you with a snippet of lyrics from a man you either love, hate, or maybe have never heard of (if you are under 30 and/or possibly a female): Neil Peart, drummer/lyricist for Rush. You can use that to help frame your story.
The Cut of Your Jib
Hawklad fucked around with this message at 00:51 on Mar 20, 2017
|# ¿ Mar 13, 2017 22:45|
In, and I'll take one of those lyric snippit things.
Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth
|# ¿ Mar 14, 2017 01:15|
beauty crit, very insightful, thanks!
|# ¿ Mar 14, 2017 15:04|
Who wants to co-judge the REDEMPTION?
|# ¿ Mar 14, 2017 17:30|
ok I'm in specifically to see what amazing Rush lyrics I get
The writer stare with glassy eyes
Defies the empty page
His beard is white, his face is lined
And streaked with tears of rage
Thirty years ago, how the words would flow
With passion and precision
But now his mind is dark and dulled
By sickness and indecision
i'm in with a rugose grin and a rush lyric
And now you're trembling on a rocky ledge
Staring down into a heartless sea
Can't face life on a razor's edge
Nothing's what you thought it would be
|# ¿ Mar 15, 2017 03:03|
I'm in and please give me some Rush lyrics.
The boy lies in the grass, unmoving
Staring at the sky
His mother starts to call him
As a hawk goes soaring by
The boy pulls down his baseball cap
And covers up his eyes
|# ¿ Mar 15, 2017 14:28|
May I have some lyrics please
Cities full of hatred
Fear and lies
And cruel, tormented eyes
Dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude
And scoffing at the wise
|# ¿ Mar 15, 2017 18:22|
Dry noir detective prose or screenplay versions of other novels are the only form of acceptable writINg.
|# ¿ Mar 17, 2017 18:11|
Signups are CLOSED.
|# ¿ Mar 18, 2017 05:55|
Yo Hawklad I gotta flake out of writing this week so to make up for it, I'll be a co-judge if you need one.
I harangued Fuschia and Kaishai over PMs so I'm all set but thx
|# ¿ Mar 20, 2017 04:24|
Okay submissions CLOSED. Judgement forthcoming.
|# ¿ Mar 20, 2017 06:24|
|# ¿ Dec 11, 2023 09:22|
Thunderdome CCXLI: From Zero to Hero: JUDG(e)MENT
Thanks to Kaishai and Fuschia tude for co-judging!
This was a giant sloggy pile of middling stories, each with their own unique flaws, from which rose three entries that we felt both hit the prompt and used good words to get there:
Deltasquid with his story 'The Hanged Men" earns an Honorable Mention for his depiction of how war is hell. Heavy on dialogue, light on plot, but it pulled together the redemption arc nicely.
Our second Honorable Mention goes to sebmojo for "Metamorphic" for some clever prose. Despite the contrived nature of the ending it hit the prompt and the flash lyrics square on the nose.
We have one Dishonorable Mention to dole out, which goes to The Cut of Your Jib for his drivel "Sitting Back and Doing Nothing Works Sometimes" for its terrible character sketch, lack of plot, complete lack of redemption arc, and cringe-inducing ending.
So that brings us to our WINNER: Uranium Phoenix - Pale Stars and Bones. A complete story, with strong redemption arc and vivid imagery and a strong entry overall.
And our LOSER: Metrofreak - Oasis. A tedious exploration of a crappy videogame and it's boring, boring protagonist.
Uranium Phoenix: the throne is yours.
|# ¿ Mar 21, 2017 04:48|