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newtestleper
Oct 30, 2003


Please don't rear end me

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Aesclepia
Dec 5, 2013
Next verse same as the first.

newtestleper posted:

Please don't rear end me

To dinner? But I thought I meant something to you, Newt!

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Thunderdome Week CCXCIII: These Sainted Days of Spring



Judges: Kaishai, Chili, and BeefSupreme.

This week many of us will celebrate St. Patrick's Day, whether by wearing green or by drinking enough beer to drown a country's worth of snakes. The Apostle of Ireland is well worth remembering, but we shouldn't forget his companions in Heaven: the patron saints who intercede with God on behalf of the world's English writers, funeral directors, and ice skaters. Your prompt is thus to pick a saint from this list and then write a springtime story in which all the characters are among his or her special charges. All of them!

One sinner (that's you guys) per saint: choices are exclusive. You may ask to be assigned a saint at the price of two hundred words off your maximum. And no, you can't take St. Jude and fulfill the prompt just by submitting a standard Thunderdome entry.

You probably noticed the word springtime up there. These tales should take place in the season of rebirth and renewal. More than that, spring must be significant. Whether that means sending your co-ed protagonists on a sunny vacation or having them file American taxes I leave to you; maybe the season matters because it means something important to your characters, but that's for you to decide.

No erotica, fanfiction, nonfiction, poetry, political satire, political screeds, GoogleDocs, or quote tags.

Sign-up deadline: Friday, March 16, 11:59pm USA Eastern
Submission deadline: Sunday, March 18, 11:59pm USA Eastern
Maximum word count: 1,200

Venerators:
flerp (Saint Gottschalk): "Words Only Go So Far"
Unfunny Poster (Saint Arnold of Soissons)
Flesnolk (Saint Eustachius)
Antivehicular (Saint Mary Magdalene) "Trust and Grace"
ThirdEmperor (Saint Barbara) "New Home"
newtestleper (Saint Eligius)
Thranguy (Saint Veronica) "Double Exposure"
Fumblemouse (Saint Agatha) "The Bellmaker's Wife"
QuoProQuid (Saint Anthony of Padua) "Paradise Lost"
Fuschia tude (Saint Rose of Lima) "Garnish"
CascadeBeta (Saint Homobonus)
starr (Saint Dominic)
Tyrannosaurus (Saint Edward the Confessor) "I am the King of Crete"
crabrock (Saint Valentine)

Kaishai fucked around with this message at Mar 19, 2018 around 04:17

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


in give me a saint

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

flerp posted:

in give me a saint

I charge you with honoring Gottschalk, patron saint of linguists, princes, and translators.

Mekchu
Apr 10, 2012



In with Arnold of Soissons as my savior.

Mekchu fucked around with this message at Mar 13, 2018 around 23:08

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Unfunny Poster posted:

In with Arnold of Soissons as my savior.

Just to clarify, it's cool to have the saint descend from heaven and drop knowledge on our protagonists right?

That would be legitimate, but even saintly infodumps may not be wise. Tread carefully.

Flesnolk
Apr 11, 2012

If only, THUNDERDOME


In, give me a saint.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


In, and picking Mary Magdalene, patron saint of tanners, hairdressers, pharmacists, and prostitutes.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013


SCREAMING YES
MOTHERFUCKER
I AM GUILTY, I AM DEATH


In with Saint Barbara

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Flesnolk posted:

In, give me a saint.

You are to honor Eustachius, patron of hunters, trappers, and firefighters.

newtestleper
Oct 30, 2003


Spring has sprung, the grass is grizz, I wonder where the birdies is?



with Saint Eligius

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Sumer Spring is icumen in ,
lhude sing: give me a saint

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Thranguy posted:

Sumer Spring is icumen in ,
lhude sing: give me a saint

Do honor to Veronica, who watches over laundry workers and photographers.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer



The SaINt

Can I have one ordained for me?

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Eighties Crits

The Wolf

The opening is a bit limp. The similar names is probably not going to help, in the first exchange you have a full name address that seems overly formal.

Doubled ‘as they’. Comma splice. Utter lack of stakes for the race. But then it gets interesting, if tragic. And then a bit more interesting. I hope you convince me you have a solution to the puzzle before the end.

Well, that's a solution. Not a very satisfying one, where the protagonist suddenly intuits the answer out of nowhere, having interacted with no other characters or showing any signs of a life outside of this perfunctory investigation.

Not a good start, could easily see this near the bottom.

Workout

The opening isn't spectacular, but it does start to develop a character with some ability to drive a story.

Overshooting, going too far as a motif, maybe. But it doesn't go anywhere, really. Maybe with her getting too much confidence, but that a bit too subtle to land if it's even intentional.

This is a weird little story. It feels a bit like it should have a twist ending but doesn't, or should go into full propaganda mode but doesn't. I think it would do much better if it either ended with her in worse shape or with a more solid sign of a hopeful future, depending on the type of moral you're going for.

I had this near the middle.

Call and Response

Interesting opening, but the syntax gets a bit mangled even for news reading.

I liked this one, quite a bit, even if the premise had some troubles. (For one thing, I'm pretty sure that they would have no trouble at all convincing some other ham radio operators to check out their signal.)

Could be high group.

Hiding

Anachronisms in the opening. don't know how much I care though. Not completely impossible to have a color mac in the eighties, but those things were mad expensive for a kid to use for gaming. Even if there were games enough for them, which there weren't.

Overall, a bit of a mess but with some heart to it.

Middle, probably.

For the Millionth Time...

This one is well written on the prose level,  for the most part, but vaguely unsatisfying. I have no idea what the colors business is about, the frogs comes out of nowhere,  I'm left wondering about bills and relatives and coworkers...

Low group I think

Rainbowland

Reasonably strong opener.

The whole thing is very strong, good economy of storytelling. I'd like to read a longer, more fleshed out version of this, with a few more characters, maybe going on a few levels of ‘what happens next’.

Top group.

Five and a Quarter

The opening dialog is a bit muddled and confusing. if I did what? otherwise we're in an interesting alternate history setting.

The biggest problem here is the ending.  There isn't one.  you just stop, having run out of words, at the end of the first chapter of a thriller.

The second biggest problem is that the worldbuilding doesn't work. this just doesn't remotely feel like a Soviet dominated Amerika at all.

There are other problems too, related to the surface plot. But ambition is enough to carry it to the middle of the pack.

Stupid Punk

I think the opening is overdoing things a bit.

mowahawks?

This is a weird story. I didn't  see much of the prompts in it, but there is the overall theme of taking money vs doing what's right at least. Interesting structure, with the very serious themes of abuse and suicide bookending a middle that's surreal and loopy. I mean, there's a torture scene in that middle but that doesn't have the impact of those bookends.

High group, prob not win contender though.

Desperate Measures

The opening is interesting but seems to fall apart just before the scene break.

I didn't really get this one on first read. Still didn't get this completely. Magic architect designed police station wrong, making prisoners nice, so has to fix using a stupid plan and magic and violence, and some of them might be demons? More bad stakes-setting. Could have been near the bottom, but the other judges got something out of it.

The Chain

I really liked this one. Slow but effective setup (I might have introduced a viewpoint character sooner), leading into an effective pseudohorror story.

My only logical problem here is that you don't discuss why surgical solutions aren't being tired, both by actual doctors and by panicked amateurs with sharp implements. maybe a length thing, but I'd think that would be done before trying chemo.

High group, in contention for win.

Greed is Good

best opening so far. Yeah, this is very good, win candidate among the archived stories. I didn't have many notes on this one during judging. Taking another look, this story’s biggest strength is its momentum. It moves fast enough to hide the fact that there's not much opposition to speak of. Other nitpicky issues: the scale of money feels off, and the relationship between Tricia and Ollie shifts around a bit, especially early on.

Nuggets

Typos in the opening are never good. Is Les a typo or do you have two characters with very similar names? Typo.

Definitely shows being a piece that just ran out of time. Doesn't work too well as a character sketch because this guy is a bit too boring, unconflicted. Too slow as the incomplete setup for a piece of the full length. Could work as a character backfill in a much longer piece, dropped after you've given us a reason to care about this guy.

I had this in the low middle.

Going Home

Interesting opening. A bit of mechanical trouble, relating to the direct thought quote, but I like the setup’s potential.

It doesn't quite meet it, though. A big part of it is that Brea doesn't have any real consequences for her choices. Also, are the Challenger 7 really any better off than they would have been, now at the mercy of her father, who doesn't seem particularly pleasant, and it ought to immediately occur to him that making them suffer would hurt/influence Brea. for that matter, why does she blame herself for this any more than she does for the suffering of everyone back home? her rules for accepting responsibility seem unsupportable.

Probably low middle.

Aro Street Gothic

One of the better opening lines this week. A sort of strong work. The narrator's trust level is a bit jarringly variable,  what happens in the end isn't fully clear. Always get a deposit/first and last weeks rent in advance, kid. and if you hadn't yet, when the girl moves in is the exact moment to revisit those terms. And I don't believe that this story is set in the eighties. The vegan bits felt deeply anachronistic to me. This may be wrong, there may have been groups practicing the diet and using the term, but part of the reason it feels jarring is that this story is completely timeless, nothing really anchoring it to anything specific. Could have been 1971 or 1956 or 2018 without changing a word.

High middle.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

WHO LOVES BLOOD SODA?
KEL LOVES BLOOD SODA!


I do. I do. I do-oo.


i have a medallion of st anthony of padua, but i can’t seem to find it anywhere...

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In, I would like a saint please and thank

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Fumblemouse posted:

Can I have one ordained for me?

Look thou to Agatha, patron saint of bakers, bellmaking, and nurses.

Fuschia tude posted:

In, I would like a saint please and thank

Your task is to venerate Rose of Lima, patron of embroiderers and gardeners.

CascadeBeta
Feb 14, 2009

But how are you on the dance floor?


In, rolling the dice.

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

CascadeBeta posted:

In, rolling the dice.

In your hour of need, pray to Homobonus, the patron of businessmen, tailors, and clothworkers.

starr
May 5, 2014

by FactsAreUseless


In with and leaving my saint to your choosing.

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

starr posted:

In with and leaving my saint to your choosing.

Your name suggests you should honor Dominic, the patron of astronomers, astronomy, and scientists.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Kiwi and Coffee Megabrawl Critiques

Most of the participants in the regional grudge match did well enough by themselves and their teammates. The stories that fell face-first into a pile of cryptid dung still showed signs of polish and care. Technical proficiency isn't everything, though, and few stories on either side were problem-free. Congratulations again to New Zealand for delivering the highest highs (in my book--the other judges had other views) while avoiding the lowest lows! The next time you lay siege to foreign shores, you'll find me in my bomb shelter.


Morning Bell vs. CantDecideOnAName (Loch Ness Monster, Spirit)

CantDecideOnAName, "Where do monsters go when we stop believing in them?": A couple of stories in the brawl live or die by the appeal of the character voices. In this case there's only one speaker, so it slaughters the story--"story," more accurately--that the voice is charmless. The narrator keeps telling his audience, i.e. us, to shut up, keep listening, and stop interrupting, and every time he does this I know you know he's a bore. So why not adjust his tone until the listener you imagine in your head no longer objects? There's nothing other than the voice on offer here, neither story nor situation and precious little Loch Ness Monster. It's uninteresting exposition all the way down.

Morning Bell, "Monsters Made of Straw": This doesn't go much of anywhere either. I'm drawn to the relationship between the father and son, conflicted from beginning to end. That nothing significant changes would be all right if much of significance happened, period. There's a bit, I suppose: since the Polish word means ready (I don't recommend relying on the reader's willingness to use Google Translate for a point this critical), the father's spirit is perhaps trying to tell his son through the psychic and this book that he's finally ready for "the truth." The son rejects it anyway. Fair enough, but the mantra The unready drown in the truth is too clunky; the dad sounds too out of touch with real life; turning away from his obsession is such a reasonable thing to do that the moment doesn't have much weight. I can feel sorry for the son from two directions if I try (sorry for him that his father was a nutbar, sorry for him that he'll never understand what his father knew), but doing so is like filling in blanks. I can't say you hit your target this time around. On the other hand, at least you aimed at something.

My verdict: Morning Bell

*******

steeltoedsneakers vs. Jay W. Friks (Man-Eating Tree, Air)

steeltoedsneakers, "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground": Predictable, and that's its besetting sin. I can't tell why your lady goes along with the tree so easily. Or rather, I can: because you need her to, but I couldn't fight it is a cop-out. As soon as Hope appears there's no question in my mind as to what will befall her. The lack of struggle against the tree leaves the story flimsy. It's a clean and tidy piece, though, complete in itself for all that it doesn't break any fresh ground.

Jay W. Friks, "Scrapper’s Gambit": I could summarize this as "A woman finds a tree-thing in a sci-fi setting, takes samples, and leaves." That would be reductive, but not by much. You deliver a hefty supply of exposition and not a lot else, and the world you build with it isn't fascinating enough to carry the whole story. Although there's a climax and a conflict of sorts, it's a blink-and-you-miss-it moment lost in the sea of setting details. I do appreciate the work you put into the proofreading, formatting, and clarity, as this is easy to read in all senses of the phrase.

My verdict: steeltoedsneakers


*******

Nethilia vs. newtestleper (Wolpertinger, Chaos)

Nethilia, "Discordia": Chaos doesn't have to mean monkeycheese, you know. Yours is the second story to lean too heavily on character voices that couldn't carry a feather. The antics of these kids don't entertain, although I'll give you that there are antics and things do happen. Dumb things! But things. The whole piece is nevertheless kind of twee and fails as botched humor inevitably will.

newtestleper, "Dead Letters": Five sixths of this (approximately) are the best writing I've seen from you, and in those sections Yola could be my favorite character of the brawl. The writing is skillful and deliciously satiric. That ending, though! It's garbage! Did you seriously cut a guy's foot off with water somehow? Either way, would it kill Yola to do anything to resolve the conflict? How do you think she's going to get away with making off with a human toe? Dammit, NTL. Go back and fix the problems someday. Maybe you could sell the resulting story, assuming it dunked slightly less egregiously on Seattle.

My verdict: newtestleper

*******

Sitting Here vs. sebmojo (Akkorokamui, Fire)

Sitting Here, "Aka-Sama Stirs After Centuries of Inscrutable Silence": A well-executed story with excellent visuals. The space kraken is vivid and unexpected; the Japanese touches, appropriate and not overwhelming. Everything is bound into a neat and tidy package in which a dramatic thing happens and a danger is resolved. It took me some time to figure out why it's an unsatisfying read despite its good points, but the issue is basic: agency. Aguri and Daitano neither cause the conflict nor help to end it. They don't participate in the tale. Maybe that wouldn't matter if Aka's motivation for acting were clear, making this less of a random sequence of events, but it explicitly isn't. The ending shrugs off the question. Monsters gonna monster, eh?

sebmojo, "Suckers": I don't so much like this as appreciate select moments of it and certain of its qualities. Merilee and Juan occupy a space between literal and metaphorical squid. That intriguing concept doesn't quite work, but it gets an appreciative Eastwood nod when I consider them as the embodiments of your cryptid--the octopus is a red herring. A city is burning down around these two, and their reaction to this is alien, inhuman. Their transformation is thus natural instead of bizarre. Your final three paragraphs cap the story so well I could almost forget how much of the rest is a confusing, muddled tangle, except for the part where no I can't because it's a mess. But your work says something to me about monsters and people, mess or no.

My verdict: sebmojo

*******

Yoruichi vs. Dr. Kloctopussy (Tikbalang, Earth)

Yoruichi, "rear end in a top hat": James is an rear end in a top hat, but he's a sympathetic one. He has more chemistry with Inna than Steph from the get-go. I'd bet he fell in with Steph almost by default, that she followed him around and he--burdened with self-contempt thanks to his wereshape--settled for the easy thing. Now he wants something more. Can I blame him? Not for the wanting, even if the acting strays into rear end territory. The interesting thing is that Steph has depths he hasn't realized, so he may get that more without needing to change partners. It's rather sweet. I like his realization of how much he doesn't know about her and how much he wants to know. The straightforward treatment of the shapeshifters and their world also appeals. After Muffin's, this is my favorite piece of the whole shebang.

Dr. Kloctopussy, "Home Means Never Having to Say “I Told You So”": One of those entries whose execution I have to admire (the writing is lovely) but the content of which doesn't altogether do it for me. The uncle-monster is great. Individual lines and phrases are wonderful. Do I care about the protagonist's situation with William, though? Not really. Does relationship drama centered on a magic sword feel somehow familiar? Yes, it does, and there's more charisma between the estranged lovers in that story. This one is kept afloat by the repartee between Maria and Tiba.

My verdict: Yoruichi

*******

SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Uranium Phoenix (Manananggal, Water)

SurreptitiousMuffin, "We fight monsters": I love, love, love Patti the Manananggal. She's exactly the creature that Wikipedia describes, without nonsense or metaphors. Your main character flies around with her guts hanging out and that's just how it is. At the same time, she's a person. She and Rose are people and monsters combined in battered packages. There's an ambiguity towards the end that I enjoy: is it feeling pain or inflicting it that these women may never be able to give up? Or is it both? The title also becomes excellent once the story's over and I've realized that Rose and Patti are fighting themselves. If this brawl had a single champion, it would probably be you, but you'll have to make do with sharing the trophy with your Kiwi mates.

Uranium Phoenix, "New Blood": Incredibly dark and impressive on that score. You go straight for the gut and land a hit. I don't get "water" from it at all, though. I wonder too where the other genetic donor is in this process, what the system is for setting up this harvesting; these feel like issues you didn't consider. One explanation for the lack of paternity may be hinted at so delicately that I'm fifty-fifty on whether you mean to suggest it: Torres and the great uncles could be the fathers of these endless aborted children, in which case I can guess only female embryos would ever be allowed to reach maturity. The single clue to this I see is the lack of young men anywhere. It's an idea in line with the other horrors of your dystopia, but doubt creeps in because I don't know why you wouldn't have made it explicit. The story's darkness is its strongest feature! Still, you've written something worthy of its very strong competition.

My verdict: SurreptitiousMuffin

*******

curlingiron vs. Fumblemouse (Flatwoods Monster, Sparkle)

curlingiron, "A Lost Page": Oh, hey, it's E. T. but sparkly! I enjoy this, but it doesn't soar to creative heights. It has the strengths and weaknesses of a decently made vanilla pudding. The images are nice, the girl is sweet, and the alien is gently pitiable. Their tale gives off a mild warm-and-fuzzy feeling. And if I ever think back on it after closing the door on this megabrawl, I'll remember that it was pleasant but probably not much else.

Fumblemouse, "Second Childhood": The sparkling appears forced. Way forced. What the cube is, what it does, why the aliens dropped it, how it could "want" to be found, the logistics of the meshing, etc. etc. are as vague when the story ends as when it starts. The thing could be some sort of fortune-warping device if I take Stanley's memories at face value, though my impression on my first couple of readings was that Stanley has never left this town and everything he "remembers" is a cube vision. The lack of explanation for anything significant baffles me considering the weight of exposition you ask the story to bear--couldn't the infodumps have dumped more important info?

My verdict: curlingiron

Kaishai fucked around with this message at Mar 16, 2018 around 14:20

dreadmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

newtestleper posted:

Seattlebrawl crits part the first

CantDecideOnAName - Where do monsters go when we stop believing in them?

I didn't like this at all.

The first sentence starts out poorly, by saying one kind of fictional being is a different, equally fictional kind of being. It's hard to find the meaning.

While that isn't ideal, it would be possible to take an odd non-statement like that and turn it into a story, if it were used to help flesh out a character who did stuff as part of the plot of a story where things happen. Instead of that you chose to string a bunch of equally untethered sentences together in a sort of non-specifically folksy voice, with literal zero actions.

Impressively, you manage one-up the incompetence displayed thus far with the ending, which is "and then he woke up and it was all a dream" minus anything to actually wake up from in the first place.

It sounds like the brawl was quite close overall, so I feel like this really let down the team. The gulf in quality in this duel was likely the deciding factor.

Jay W. Friks - Scrapper's Gambit

This has a little bit more to it. I liked the way the oxygen supply was set up as a way to build tension early (although you could take one and a half less sentences to do it) and a simple battle between your cryptid and an exosuit-wearing soldier is a perfectly reasonable approach to the prompt.

It was mostly let down by a lack of clarity. It wasn't clear at the start why Gehenna was hiffing around chunks of rock, and this was only kind of addressed half way through. I didn't really get what happened at the end at all - the tree sort of just stopped attacking her for no discernible reason.

This could have benefited from an edit for greater clarity, removal of almost all sentences that aren't action, a quicker and clearer setup of why Gehenna was there, and some kind of thematic element woven through to make it something more than a simple action sequence.

Sitting Here - Aka-Sama Stirs After Centuries of Inscrutable Silence

Great first sentences. These do so much work - the tone, the setting, the characters. Weird coincidence to use Hori as a name - it is a derogatory term for Maori.

Amazing world, prose, characters, squid. My favourite line is "Wind stirs my hair as precious oxygen is sucked upward to feed the flames."

Everything about this is so awesome, except the punchline. "Welp, inscrutable gonna inscrut *shrugs shoulders*" is deeply unsatisfying, especially when the thread of religion vs science has been laid throughout in such an interesting way.

I would love to read this again once the ending isn't a slap in the face.

newt where's the rest?

relatedly: to crit all the seattlebrawls by 22 mar 2359 pst

e: amazing crits kai thx ^^^^

dreadmojo fucked around with this message at Mar 16, 2018 around 11:00

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016



Thanks Kaishai!

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

Edward the Confessor. The Patron Saint of Kings.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Approximately one hour remains to choose a saint and your destiny.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

in with st. valentine, the saint of beeeeeeeeeeeees

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Sign-ups for Week CCXCIII are now CLOSED. Good luck, entrants. For your success, or at least for something that isn't abject failure, we pray.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

WHO LOVES BLOOD SODA?
KEL LOVES BLOOD SODA!


I do. I do. I do-oo.


Flash Rule: St. Anthony of Padua (patron saint of those seeking lost items or people, nomadic travelers, brush makers, women seeking a husband)

Paradise Lost
1,194 words

In the five years since the start of his mission, Father Dyz’urk had recovered many artifacts from the Age of Man. Charred rocket casings and gold-flecked heat shields glittered in darkness. Corroded satellites pinwheeled through the velvet of space, their panels still extended like the tattered wings of angels.

Dyz clittered as the Order of St. Anthony guided its latest relic through the airlock and into the ship. His many milky eyes stared at the immense spacecraft. It was another clue that might one day guide them to the promised land: Earth, a planet of eternal spring.

He waited for the device to land before smiling at Father Bel’urk. “We live in an age of miracles.”

Bel grinned, thrashing his mandibles, “You can save the theatrics for the Holy See. Right now, I’d just like to admire it.”

Dyz watched as engineers swarmed the device, stripping its panels to get at the electronics inside. The items would be rotten and tarnished, but they held hidden value. Minute details could help them better understand their progenitors and recover their paradise. Dyz’s most exciting discovery had been a set of blackened photographs hidden inside a capsule, each depicting bounty beyond imagination.

“It is beautiful,” Dyz admitted, awed by mankind’s majesty. “What do you think it was for?”

The priest considered the question. “Difficult to say, this deep in space. Could be a probe. Could be a satellite that escaped orbit.” Bel's enormous pincers rattled as he sighed. “To be honest, it looks more like a work of art than a spacecraft. It just reminds me of how little we know.”

Dyz fell quiet. In the darkest centuries, the Church had preserved as much as it could. They knew that humanity had descended from the heavens like angels made flesh. They knew that these first arrivals wore blue helmets and that next arrivals had brought tools and agriculture, art and music.

But then the story became muddled. Disease spread. Crops died. The blue helmets retreated from their planet, leaving the missionaries of the Church to keep order. According to tradition, Pope Sixtus VI abandoned the Earth as Adam had abandoned Eden and seeded the Word across their planet. He was followed by Pope Celestine VI, then Celestine VII, then Celest’urk I.

All that remained of the last human popes were a pincerful of bones buried beneath the hives of New Rome. The Order of St. Anthony had made remarkable achievements in retracing humanity’s steps, but they were still just steps. Their work was a shallow reflection.

An claw prodded Dyz from his thoughts. He and Bel turned to face Brother Pet’urk, a young engineer and barely more than a pupae. His eyes wide and unblinking. “Your eminences, I think you’re gonna wanna look at this.”

***

The relic stood half demolished. Its panels hung in the air, held up by web and wiring. The electronics inside looked like ruined hives. Brother Pet led them toward the discarded pieces, his movements nervous and jittery.

“So, uh, usually when we find these things, I have a pretty good idea of what’s inside. Transmitters and receivers. Rotted hard drives. Old measuring equipment,” the engineer paused and lifted a discarded fragment out of the hanging parts. “But we’ve never recovered anything like this before.”

The object shimmered in the dark haze of the shuttle bay’s lights, reflecting odd shapes on their thoraxes. The colors reminded Dyz of honeycombs in spring. It was a golden disk.

Father Bel lifted the item into the air. His eyes furrowed as Pet watched. “What is this?”

“A piece of art, perhaps? A mirror?” Said Dyz as he brushed its surface, tracing its grooves with one of his claws. The indentations were too ordered to be natural, too well arranged.

“Well, that’s the thing,” said Brother Pet, straining to reinsert himself into the conversation as Dyz flipped the thing onto its back. There was odd series of shapes. A circle on a track. A thin rectangle. Lines exploding outward. “I’ve been doing some reading and, I know I’m only a technician, but… I think I know what it is.”

The two fell silent and concentrated their pale eyes on the acolyte.

The young monk took a moment to regain his momentum. “In the archives, there’s an old story about a probe sent out to serve as a kind of voyager. A probe sent deep into space to make contact, one sent so deep that it escaped the carnage that ended the Age of Man. And, if this is that,” he leaned toward Byz and pointed a claw at the series of symbols, “then that means that this is a map. It’s a map to Earth.”

***

The ship hummed as it skipped its way through clouds of zinc and rings of ice. The Order entertained itself with speculation about Earth’s wonders as they shot deep the into unknown. A nun whispered that the seas would taste sweet like honey. A librarian cooed about grand cities, preserved as perfect monuments.

Brother Pet said nothing, stuttering and stumbling when congratulated for his discovery. He hid on the bridge, tracing the gold disk’s pulsar map through the dark curtains of the void.

As they punctured an asteroid belt, Pet called for Father Dyz.

“Look,” he said, pointing his claw toward the monitor. Dyz squinted and shifted his body close to the image. In a thin beam of light, there was a pale grey dot. “There it is.”

Dyz paused and tried to focus his many eyes on the insignificant speck. “It’s not very big.”

Pet said nothing and avoided Dyz’s stare.

“The records say that Earth was the color of heaven.”

Pet nodded and returned to his work.

***

Their ship set down on a rocky shore of a black and ancient lake. Alabaster trees jutted from their rocky crags, trembling in the heavy gusts of ashen wind. Father Dyz stepped from the ship onto the barren and godless landscape.

“It was supposed to be perfect. A paradise,” said Dyz.

Soft ash blew over the hills and splattered against his spacesuit. Dyz could hear the labored breathing of Bel as the priest scuttled after him onto the waste. “There is no paradise save for heaven and no perfection except for God. We were wrong to think otherwise.”

“There’s nothing here.”

The wind howled.

“We’re here. Maybe there never was an eternal spring, but something about this planet managed to produce something beautiful. We’re proof of that.” Bel looked up at the darkened sky. “Humanity is dead, but the faith was reborn in us. It lives on as long as we do.”

After a moment, Dyz nodded. “As long as we learn from their mistakes.”

Bel smiled. “I find it helpful to think of what the Bible called a mustard seed. It says it's a small thing when sown, but it has the potential to become a mighty tree that can conquer the heavens.”

They remained there until dark clouds peeled away from the sky and revealed the sun. A withered bud opened on its branch. A fish leapt out of the languid black pond. It was the start of a new spring.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Double Exposure

999 words

Prompt: St. Veronica, patron of photographers and laundry workers

It’s snowing in late April, one of those freak storms that puts an inch on the ground, all melting off by the afternoon, one last gasp of winter, one late frost to kill the March blooms. It’s snowing as we bury my mother. I say ‘we’, but I’m alone as ever with a droning priest and a crowd of strangers wearing two types of weak smile. One kind means they know me as a gap-toothed little girl with hair that refused to acknowledge brushes or combs and thick-lensed glasses. The other means they remember my high school junior year. We listen and watch as the fresh-trimmed cemetery grass disappears under the powdery snow. Nothing is left but grey slush by the curbs when I get back to the empty house.

It’s the bank’s house now, thanks to a reverse mortgage and today's housing market, but I don't have to hand over the keys for six months. Six months without rent beats the hell out of the last four years of couchsurfing, budget hotels, and doomed arrangements with roommates and lovers.

I say this, but I could have come here any time while Mom was still alive, and didn't.

My old room is a guest room. I feel better sleeping there than in the master. No sign of how I'd had the room remains apart from faded spots on the walls where once hung posters of Escher prints and album covers. I walk to the closet doors. They’re stuck from disuse, but it’s not much effort to force them open.

It’s as I left it, shelves of well-worn paperbacks with embarrassing titles and covers and authors, boxes of old photographs. On the top shelf I see my old camera, my first real camera. I take it down, dust it off, and notice that it still has film in it, three pictures left in the roll.

I set it on the nightstand and go to sleep. I dream of sex and hospitals and a world where nobody but me has a face.

When I wake up I grab the camera and walk downstairs. I finish the roll with shots of the living room furniture, then go into the basement. One of the rooms there used to be my darkroom. The equipment’s still there, behind a stack of boxes helpfully labeled ‘stuff’. I move them into the main basement room and take stock of what I need, mostly chemicals and a safe light bulb.

I go out shopping, in mom's old car. Mine now, free and clear. I haven't driven for a while. I almost leave the subdivision before remembering to release the parking brake. My favorite camera shop is out of business, but the second one I try is still going, still has a tiny corner for real film supplies. I get what I needed and leave.

Developing film comes back to me more easily than driving. I get into the routine, taking the film through each chemical bath. I don't look at the negatives as they hang beyond a quick check to make sure they haven't been overexposed or ruined by mold.

I have lunch, reheated casserole. I’m far too cheap to eat anything else while these gifts remain, but the supply seems endless and all of Mom’s neighbors seemed to be working from the same recipe. I’m not in a hurry, and eat so slowly I have to put it in the microwave a second time, and a third.

I start making the prints, looking at each one as it develops. I smile to see the old gang, the other outcasts of Senior year in glorious black and white, haunting the library steps, bringing popcorn to the skate park and cheering the spills. I look at each, remembering them, remembering why each stopped talking to me, every sad argument, blowup and breakup, all mostly my fault, all beyond apology. And I see someone else there,someone I don't recognize at all.

It's a kid, around ten years old, pale and thin and bald, wearing a hospital gown. I try to jog my memory. Did Keith have a sick little brother? No, that was Marcus, and this kid looked nothing like James.

I finish more prints, and the kid keeps showing up in them. In crowds. Walking behind the subject. Sitting on the ground cross-legged in my landscapes and architectural shots. I have no memory of him at all, and am wondering who this could be, someone stalking and photobombing me nine years ago without me ever noticing, when I reach the last three shots.

He’s there, sitting on my Mom's couches and chairs, not looking a day older than in the first ones.

I take digital shots of a few prints and send them to Tim, another freelancer, probably the closest friend I have left. He verifies that I’m not seeing things, that he sees the kid. He also points out a logo on an ID tag, for All Saints Hospital.

I drive there. I babble at the receptionist, who’s never going to let me past, when a man with sunken eyes and a bag of sandwiches walks by. He says my name.

“Do I know you?”

“Come with me.”

I know . Tears start to gather as we walk.

It was a closed adoption, but they knew who I was. I was local-famous, or infamous at least, the only pregnant teen at Harrison High. I never named the father, but people figured that out when the next girl did and the police found him dead in his car. I forgot him so hard I never got around to hating him.

There’s a woman and a younger kid and they say words but I don't hear them, I just know that the son I only ever saw but once is dead and I'm being hugged by strangers and hating myself for hurting so much more now than for Mom and I cry and I cry and

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

I am the King of Crete
1200 words

Interesting things we have learned about the outside world: trees, grass, sky, crocodiles, colors, fire, family, seasons, springtime, spirit animals, iron, diamond rings, lederhosen, proper grammar, home. Those are just a few examples. Uninteresting things is a much longer list and of some contention about what does or does not belong: windows, dancing, the Hindenburg, “yes” other offices exist, “yes” other offices have an Asking Machine, “yes” other offices have used it for non work-related questions, salt, death. Those are just a few examples.

I receive my yellow envelope from the Asking Machine. As I walk back to my cubicle, people yell questions at me. When was Scotland? Who was Ivarr Inn Beinlausi? Does the Nile still exist? People are very hopeful but I do not have their answers. Our company motto is EVERYONE IS IMPORTANT which makes sense because everyone here is the rightful king of something. Unfortunately, it is taking a long time to figure out all of those somethings. A person can only ask one question at a time and it takes between one and six months for its answer to be processed. We keep track of days and months and seasons by tally marks.

My cubiclemates are Ruben and Matthew. They are the true kings of the Ceredigion and Mar Quryaqus, respectively. Long ago, a cubicle was used by only one man at a time. I suppose a new man would move in when he died? I do not know for sure. I imagine it was very lonely with so much extra space to live but so little people. I like Ruben and Matthew. Without needing to ask, they use their bodies to help shield my envelope from the eyes of the others.

There is a white letter inside the yellow envelope. It says, You Can Walk Out The Front Door If You Quit. I show it to them.

“What was your question?” asks Ruben.

“What does ‘quit’ mean?” asks Matthew.

“Can I leave the office?” I say. “And I don’t know.”

We have a debate on if my answer is Interesting or Uninteresting. Ultimately, we decide on Interesting with a possible change pending further developments on the word quit. I tape it on the appropriate wall. The wall is gray. People crowd around it. Soon, the bell will ring and it will be back to work.

***

I do not understand green. I imagine it is the most beautiful color in the world. Green things: trees, grass, crocodiles, swamps, shrubs, jalapeños, Oscar the Grouch, limes, St. Patrick. Those are a few examples.

My crown is yellow. I made it out of envelopes from the Asking Machine and tape. But if I am right about the most beautiful color in the world, I will use a praying mantis or a pistachio or a leprechaun to make a new one. I do not know how rare such things are but I know they are a part of the outside world.

Uninteresting things that I disagree are Uninteresting: the March Equinox marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, plants bloom in the spring, plants are green, rabbits.

***

There are many ways to become kings. For example, we are kings because of succession. Matthew, for further example, has Assyrian royal blood. He is the most Assyrian of all of the last king’s descendents. So it is for myself and Ruben. A man can also become a king by declaration but I don’t fully understand how that works. I think anyone could just stand up and declare I am the King of this Cubicle but I am unsure if that is all it takes. I would use my next question for clarity but I won’t have any more questions because I have a declaration of my own.

I stand on my part of the cubicledesk. I raise my hands. “Excuse me, everyone,” I say, “I quit.”

I don’t feel any different but, then again, I didn’t feel any different when I found out I was a king. I will keep my crown for now.

“Goodbye Ruben,” I say. “Goodbye Mathew.”

“Goodbye,” they say.

***

There are too many colors in the outside world. The world does not need so many. For example, a flower has many colors instead of only one. And a second flower right next to it can have even more, different colors. And a third yet more still. I found a field filled with flowers and they were all unique. I think this is very inefficient. There are no alarms or cubicles or feeding tubes or people to track the days by tally mark. I think this is very inefficient as well.

But I was right about green. It is the most beautiful color.

***

Interesting things I have learned about the outside world: green becomes brown, hunger, thirst, EMPLOYEES ONLY, EXIT ONLY, flowers, rain, wet clothes, bumblebee stings. Those are a few examples. I make a new crown every other day so that the one I wear is always beautiful.

Eating is both efficient and inefficient. It is possible to chew and swallow most everything I find. However, a great deal of it comes back up through my mouth. The feeling is unpleasant.

I see another king. He is wearing a white crown. I think it is made of sticks. It could be bone but I do not know what bone looks like. He drags a black bag through the field of flowers.

“Hello,” I say.

“Oh,” he says. He turns towards me. “Hello.”

“Hello,” I say again. “I am the King of Crete. I am a king by succession because I have the best blood relationship to the first king, Minos. My people are a seafaring people on the Mediterranean.

“Hello,” he says. “I am the King of the Druids. I am a king by declaration. I did not like my other kingdom so I renounced it. My people are pagans and we hate civilization. We hold sacred the oak and the mistletoe.”

“Oak is a tree,” I say.

“Very nice,” he says. “I had wondered about that. I forgot to ask before I quit. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I say. I point to the bag he is dragging. “What-

Shhhhh,” he says. “Questions are a part of civilization. As King of the Druids, I must avoid using or hearing them.”

“That will make it difficult to learn things,” I say.

He nods. He thinks for a moment. “You can pull on your earlobe like this,” he says, pulling on his earlobe. “And I will understand that you are curious.”

It seems inefficient but he is a king. “Okay,” I say. “You are dragging a bag.” I pull on my earlobe.

He nods and smiles. “Very good,” he says. “Yes, I am.”

“I don’t know what is inside,” I say with a pull.

“Food,” he says. “Trash from the offices. But edible.”

“I am hungry,” I say with a pull.

“Join me,” he says.

We sit in the field full of flowers and share burritos. They are the same kind I would get from the feeding tubes inside the office except they are cold but I don’t mind. Everything around us is beautiful.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


Trust and Grace
1190 words
Prompt: Saint Mary Magdalene, patron of tanners, hairdressers, pharmacists, and prostitutes

The beauty salon is the last store in the strip mall with its lights on, and guilt starts building in Lisa's chest before she's even parked the car. She's keeping Helen here late again. The salon is open until 9:00, on paper, but she's never seen another customer there at one of her appointments -- just her and Helen, alone, in the bright white echo chamber of the empty salon. It's hard not to feel ashamed.

Lisa turns off the car, then reaches for her bottle of allergy pills. She can feel the last dose from lunchtime wearing off: stuffiness building in her nose, effort on the inhale and pressure on the exhale. At least, after six years at the tannery, she doesn't have much of a sense of smell to lose. Lisa wonders how terrible she must smell right now, the cowhide-and-aldehyde scent that made her feel like a walking morgue for the first year, but sets the thought aside as she gulps down two pills and a swig of water from the bottle in her cup holder. Helen won't say anything. She never does.

Lisa steps into the salon to find Helen sweeping, humming to herself before the door chime interrupts her. "Oh! Lisa! C'mon, sit down and let's get you shampooed." Even this late, her up-do and her poise are perfect. Helen is the sort of person who makes Lisa feel clumsy and ungainly in her body, the way she never does until she's reminded that she should.

"Okay," says Lisa, pulling her hair out of her work ponytail as she walks. It's just past shoulder-length now and uneven, the product of two months' grow-out in preparation for a style change she still hasn't decided on. "I'm sorry, it's probably pretty nasty. I had overtime tonight and I didn't wash it this morning. I'm so sorry to keep you here so late."

"Sweetheart," says Helen, "it's fine. I book my own appointments, remember? Now sit down and let's get started." She guides Lisa into the chair, gets the towel under her neck and apron around her throat. "What do you want today?"

"I don't know," says Lisa, trying to figure out the real answer, the one she's never found after a lifetime of mediocre haircuts. Saying "I don't know" to a hairdresser has always yielded a few followup questions, then a trim-the-ends job that leaves Lisa feeling cleaner but no less ugly. They always defer to her, a polite way of indicating that she's an uninspiring canvas. Today, she's decided, it's time to try again. If anyone might take her seriously, it's Helen. "I really don't know. What do you think would suit me?"

Helen's quiet for a few minutes, as she sprays down Lisa's hair and starts to massage in the shampoo, and Lisa is surprised to realize she can smell it -- one of the sweet floral scents she could never quite keep straight, even before her nose started going. Lavender? Jasmine? Not rose; even now, Lisa knows rose when she smells it.

When Helen speaks, she doesn't demur. "It depends on the kind of style you'd like. You've got strong cheekbones. There are a lot of short styles that I think would be very handsome on you."

Handsome, meaning butch. Lisa got the same advice from Chelsea, her first and last girlfriend, when she'd still been hopeful about makeup and skirts back in college. Going butch would be easy, but it's never felt right. "Maybe something a little longer?" Lisa says; the allergy meds are working, but somehow forcing words out still feels hard, nerves tightening her throat. "I... I know this sounds stupid, but... I want to be pretty. Is that all right?"

She's said it. Has she ever said it to anyone in her entire adult life? The last time she can remember saying it at all, she was 13, standing with her mother in the Plus section of JC Penney, and her mother laughed loud enough that the clerk at the checkout was startled. She'd certainly never said it to Chelsea, who was pretty without having to want it -- a girl Lisa's size, a perfect match for her when they were body-to-body, but graceful in a way she could never be. The same way Helen is. Helen's going to laugh at her, even as she washes away work-grime from her hair.

"Oh, sure," says Helen, and there isn't a trace of laughter in her voice. "What do you think of a long bob? We can layer it and trim it shorter in back. I think you'd look just lovely." She reaches for the sprayer again and begins to rinse Lisa's hair. "Low-maintenance, too, although you'll need regular trims."

That's not a problem. Lisa can make the time -- quite gladly, she thinks, as she looks up at Helen, who's humming again as she works. It'll make Lisa's stupid crush worse, but she can deal with that.

"There we go," says Helen. "Let's get some scissors on you. How's work going?"

Lisa tells her. Words are easy now. It's not particularly interesting -- just more of the same, ten-hour days working through a big automotive order -- but she tells Helen, and she listens, and the scissors make their soft metallic sounds. When Lisa's out of words, Helen tells her about the container garden she's been working on for her balcony and how the weather's finally warm enough to plant annuals. "Do you garden at all, Lisa?"

"I've never really tried," she admits. "We didn't have a lawn when I was a kid, and these days I wouldn't know where to start."

"Just start with what you like. Plants aren't as fragile as they look, and you'd be surprised what you can grow. Those bushes out there --" Helen pauses to gesture with her scissors out at the strip-mall parking lot. "Nobody ever comes by to tend them, and they're blooming just the same. Beautiful little things." She takes three more snips of Lisa's hair. "There we go, sweetie. What do you think?"

It's not a movie transformation; she's not gorgeous. She's still Lisa, but the even bob that frames her face makes her jaw look a little softer, her cheekbones less severe. It's precisely right. "I like it," she says, for lack of any better phrase.

"I'm glad," says Helen, with a smile that almost seems shy, a sudden tiny lapse in poise. She unfastens the apron, and Lisa follows her to the checkout desk. As she's filling out the credit-card receipt, Helen speaks again.

"Lisa? Forgive me if this is too forward, but would you like to go to the Garden Expo on Saturday? We could find you a little plant, and..." Helen pauses, eyes darting to the floor. "Have some lunch or some coffee. If you'd like to."

"I'd like that very much," says Lisa, and writes her phone number on the bottom of her receipt. The appointment card she carries out has Helen's number on it. She walks through the parking lot, past bushes with delicate five-petaled flowers next to big robust leaves, and she can smell spring on the air.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Slightly under ONE HOUR remains to say your prayers!

Mekchu
Apr 10, 2012



I may be able to do a late entry post deadline of thats OK. Would be submitted no later than 12ish hours from now.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


973 words

Words Only Go So Far

archives

flerp fucked around with this message at Sep 13, 2018 around 23:07

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

prompt: St Agatha - bellmakers, bakers and nurses
wordcount: 994

The Bellmaker's Wife

Harrison Bellfounder hurried through the darkening streets of his village, bag clutched tight, not hearing the voices of his children. The bakery bell trilled "Farewell and Enjoy" to a departing customer, but he didn't stop to hear its cheer. The Strutting Peacock tolled "Round for the House" as some drunkard bought popularity but he passed it by. It took the striking of the hour and St Albertine sonorously reminding the village "Souls are Saved on Sundays" before he paid attention. Are they, he wondered, the memory of Catherine creeping back once again.

Harrison shook his head, picked up his pace and held his bag closer to him. Easter was close, and there was still a lot to accomplish. It would not do to be waylaid before Lord Edward's bell could be secured within its newly-built belfry.

"It must be big, this bell." Edward had said. "To properly show my devotion it must be bigger than St Albertine's. It must be perfectly shaped and it must ring like a Seraphim singing. There's a generous bonus if all this is done by Easter service."

"And if not?" Harrison had dared ask. He winced involuntarily, remembering the reply in its considerable detail, and his unbounded loathing for Edward washed over him. But still he had taken the job. A chance like this would not come again.

Harrison hurried beyond the edges of the village market, and made his way down the long lane that led to the foundry. Inside was a quiet bubble of activity, as Edward's bell mould case was raised up inside scaffolding by a crane that stood three times the size of a man. Harrison watched, fascinated, as the case breakers took their positions. To make a bell this size, he thought, was madness, hubris, the worst type of arrogance. His lips were dry but smiling. After two endless weeks of cooling, he thought, now he would discover if all his calculations had been correct.

Every man in the foundry knew that Harrison insisted on silence, lest the bell take on the wrong voice. Some even swore they'd heard it happen - bells had quacked like ducks. Not at Harrison Bellfounder's though, never there. The separated pieces of the mould fell away and were caught by waiting hands before they could clatter on the ground.

The revealed bell hung suspended in lamplight. Harrison moved like a shadow around it, his own lantern illuminating metal edges, looking for imperfections inside and out and finding nothing. Perfect. He took a single step backward and raised the lantern deliberately. Two men emerged from either side of the structure, attaching ropes to the crane that gently swung the bell upside down. They stuffed gigantic feather blankets inside, then wrapped it with a long, thick sheet, and finally bound them to the bell with silken ropes, soundproofing it. A whispered cheer went up from the men, and Harrison heard the foundry bell wish them "Safe Journey." They filed out, back to their homes or to the Strutting Peacock.

Harrison nodded to each one as they left, thanking them with smiles and glances. He waited until he was sure he the last man had shuffled down the dark lane then he opened his bag and brought out a wrap containing five tuning forks, shining and new - Edward had insisted that only the finest tools were used. Harrison laid them out one by one, inspecting them and finding them suitable. Then he reached into his bag again for the precious item he had brought from his home, a silver bell, inscribed with the word 'Catherine' in his own flowing calligraphy.

He maneuvered the crane over the tuning lathe, and carefully, carefully lowered the bell onto it. Just before it came to rest, he slit the silken cords and tore away the blankets, then inched the bell into the lathe's padded cradle. Time to teach the Seraphim to sing, he thought, pulling the starting lever.

The lathe turned and the carving bit lowered, close to touching. Catherine's bell sang out in Harrison's hand, in the silvery voice of an angel of the highest order, "My Name Is Catherine Bellfounder and I Love You, My Husband."

Edward's bell spun faster on the lathe and the bit hit the bell side, casting filings into the air. Harrison's heart felt the first silver words fill its cavernous centre. Using the forks, his ear and his gut, Harrison smoothed the bell's sides, his lathe shaping the sound from Hum to Octave, closer and closer to perfection and to truth. In time, the large bell reverberated in Catherine's own voice, and tears mixed with the pouring sweat of Harrison's labours.

***

Before Easter Service, Harrison sat alone in the front pew of the church within Lord Edward's splendid new castle on Swallows Hill. By his side lay an untouched easter bun, apparently made by Edward's own humble hand. The honored guests had yet to arrive, but Harrison had been here since the bell-wraps were removed and the pull ropes attached. Soon, he thought. Soon.

He did not wait long. Across the nearby village, over brooks and dales, fields and streams, Edward's great bell rang out clear and loud, in the voice of Harrison's lost beloved: "My name is Catherine Bellfounder, and I took my life in shame after Lord Edward savaged me. Pray for my immortal soul. My name is Catherine Bellfounder, and I took my life in shame after Lord Edward savaged me. Pray for my immortal soul. My name is Catherine Bellfounder, and I took my life in shame after Lord Edward savaged me. Pray for my immortal soul."

There was the sound of doors opening as Lord Edward entered the chapel. He sat behind Harrison, listening to the pealing echo around them. "Magnificent, Bellfounder," he said at last, touching Harrison's shoulder. "Truly it is the sound of an angel."

Harrison's shoulders shook as he prayed with all his might that it were so.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013


SCREAMING YES
MOTHERFUCKER
I AM GUILTY, I AM DEATH


New Home
Saint Barbara, Saint of Architects
1,043

Rawley enjoyed the silence of his arcologies before they were filled with the one imperfect part, the people. The intricate dance of vents clicking open and shut, hissing, the gentle electrical whines, the low pressure that built in the empty halls that swept along in straight lines so far that sight of the end was cut off by the curvatures of the earth below.

Sprinklers tssk’d in the gardens. Riverlets dripped down the hanging aeroponic gardens. The sea washed against the foundations of the arcology, filling out the horizon with a long red flatness where waves rose, lost their strength, and were overtaken and smoothed back into the grey waters by the waves behind them, building into a hefty slap against the walls of his beautiful plastic pyramid, his monument to him.

The red was algae, a vast springtime bloom called the Dead Zone, where the oxygen-starved water filled up with small dark bodies suffocated in the depths below. Everything stank of ammonia. Pumps drew up seawater and hosed it out again hourly, pushing back the rusting red rot. It wasn’t enough.

Riley would be enjoying a council of biologists as his guests tomorrow, soothing them with all the percentage points he’d shaved off his carbon footprint. Asking them how to get rid of this smell.

And they could look at the Thing.

The buzz of chainsaws rose again. Down on the smooth plastic siding of the arcology, hanging by safety harnesses, workmen hacked away at the blobbish Thing that clung on stubbornly. The shrieking saws only managed to unfold the Thing to peel apart one layer so another could blossom out.

It was composed of black, clinging diaphanous sheets; its shape was three long tendrils spilling out from a fat baggy abdomen that drifted half-in and half-out of the waters, the emerged part half-crushed by its own weight. Patterns of slick, soft white netted its body in perfect symmetry and round gelatinous boils squeezed out of the spaces between. It smelled.

As they cut they peeled up greasy black threads and stagnant grey waters, patches of red algae, and stink. Mold crawled through every layer of the Thing’s body, if body was the appropriate word. There was a shout from below. They had burst into some kind of cavity, unleashing a rush of water threaded with oil slick and little glowing spores bobbing on the tide as it splashed down into the sea. The man who’d done it was panicking, shouting to be pulled up as he scrambled along the walls away from the Thing.

A second later the smell hit Rawley and he retreated, waving the automatic doors closed and rushing to the sink. He waited hunched over there there, pale and sweating, for what might have been an hour, counting the vents clicking open and shut as they sucked the last traces of the stench out of the room.

As he waited to forget what ungodly stink he heard the sprinklers click off, felt through shifting pressure the night wind press on the arcology walls, listened to the crew below wrap up and crawl clunking back up the sides of the arcology. The Thing wasn’t gone. He could feel its presence like an itch on the back of his neck.

There was a thump. A soft thump, and again, from beneath his window. The itch intensified. He went. Pressing his face to the glass and angling himself to see without having to open the windows, without having to smell the drat Thing too, Rawley looked, and saw the empty red sea.

The smell hit him first. He gagged, and in a kind of disaffected trance, stepped out into the hallway in his boxers. Nothing was there, of course.

He had to sidle past the scaffoldings and bound down the stairs and turn out into an entirely lower hallway, down in economy class where the corridors were cramped and sunless; down there he found the source of the thumping, galumphing noise.

The Thing had come inside. It reeked so bad he felt a painful white cold crawl up his nostrils.

Rawley felt the dreamlike logic of all this move him back up the stairs, stepping out of its way as it dragged itself through the hallway. He went the construction site to find a circle saw. In his state of dumb terror he made justifications after the fact. It had no right to be here. It was ruining everything.

He stalked behind it for a while, growing numb and woozy from the smell. Finally it turned a corner with an outlet, leaving slime on the walls where it passed, and Rawley lunged forward to slap the cord in and start up the saw. It was clumsy in his hands as he bore down on the back of the Thing.

Layer after layer of thin black shininess was torn away, tangling around the saw as it spun. Translucent threads splayed up as they were cut through. Finally, the saw burst into a cavity, and seawater gushed across his bare legs.

Within the cavern were tiny jellyfish, pale and frilled and slipping out as water sloshed through the hole he’d cut. Rawley had to scramble back to avoid being stung. He stepped over them as they wriggled on the flooring. Again. Another cut.

This time the cavern he broke into was full of colorful snail shells, piled high atop each other into askew towers so it looked as if he was peering down upon a miniature city. The breach he’d cut widened, and crushed can spilled out.

It was a thing of garbage, full of and animated by sea life. By things that could no longer live in the sea and had built a new home for themselves. It was strangely beautiful to him, seeing it fall apart, having reached some critical point and now unable to prevent itself from collapsing into rubbish and water and flitting tiny bodies.

He appreciated it, from a professional standpoint. They had needed a new home and built one from what there was to build with. But, from the standpoint of an entrepreneur he knew they couldn’t stay here. Not in his perfect world. Rawley started up the saw.

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Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Unfunny Poster posted:

I may be able to do a late entry post deadline of thats OK. Would be submitted no later than 12ish hours from now.

A late entry would be disqualified from winning (though not from losing), but submitting late has much more honor than not submitting at all. I'll crit any entry posted before judgment, DQ or no.

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