Still need one more co-judge! Does anyone feel compelled?
|# ? Apr 13, 2018 19:05|
|# ? Sep 26, 2018 11:25|
A crit of Exmond’s The Bandit and the Lady
This story really annoyed me, and I’ve been trying to work out why, so here are my thoughts on it for you.
First of all, for god’s sake get someone to proofread your poo poo. Little mistakes like extra spaces and incorrect dialogue punctuation are sprinkled over this story like irritating confetti. Proofreading your own writing is hard, there’s no crime in getting help with this.
The prose in this story was mostly overwrought. For example, “At the bay was a small raft, the locals called it the royal ferry, and it was full of crates, crates that were stacked, as if forming a fort,” is written as if something very dramatic, something important, something big, is about to happen! But it’s just a small raft loaded with crates. Settle down.
In places I found it hard to follow what you meant. For example, in the sentence, “But rather had priorities of her own, and one that she wished to not indulge,” did you mean “divulge” (i.e. give away) rather than “indulge”? And in, “The Bandit, whose fiery blonde hair did not match her temperament,” do you mean that her temperament is NOT fiery? Because you’ve made her seem pretty fiery.
On the upside, I can see you’ve put a lot of effort into making the prose lively and rich, and it is better than some of your earlier stories. But my two cents would be to dial it back a bit and focus on writing clearly.
As for the story itself, given this is almost 2000 words remarkably little happens. The bandit shows up, there is a pretty princess dress up competition, she loses, the lady lets her go for some reason, the end. It’s mostly descriptions of clothes, about which I care not at all.
And that brings us to the bit that rubbed me the wrong way, which is how the women in the story are portrayed. They are both the leaders of their respective bands in an otherwise male-dominated world (there is a King and all their followers are men. The only other woman in the story is the “fool of a woman” who got her necklace nicked). The bandit and the lady are both probably pretty badass. Great! They are unusual women in a pretty standard medieval-y setting.
Yet for their duel they chose… playing dress-ups? There is a hand-wave that this is normal in the world in which the story is set (“It should be mentioned that fashion dueling was a long honored tradition, one entrenched in nobility and magic”) but it’s still clear that this is a thing they do because they are chicks (“Let us duel like nobles, like debutantes. With grace and fidelity that only a lady of resources and spirit can”). Let’s-see-who-is-the-best-at-putting-on-clothes is a really lame way for two women, who you set up as pretty tough individuals, to settle a dispute. Ultimately the lady wins because she looks the best in her military outfit, not because of anything she does, which, other problems aside, is really boring.
This reminded me a bit of your brawl story, A Lady Of Resources And Spirit. In this story, “being a lady,” is presented as what the teenage protagonist should be aiming for. That she “will grow into a beautiful lady” is offered as words of comfort, and the ghost speaks to her “as a lady would speak to another lady. With respect and grace.” The problem is that the story is set in the modern day (the teenager has a cell phone), and so the presentation of what women should aspire to and how they should behave (that they should find, “the strength to be a Lady, in all situations”) seems 100 years out of date.
|# ? Apr 13, 2018 22:21|
Sign-ups closed! Good luck everyone.
|# ? Apr 14, 2018 07:52|
Oh and I'm in.
|# ? Apr 14, 2018 07:52|
Oh and I'm in.
|# ? Apr 14, 2018 07:54|
For the THIRDEMPEROR VS JONJOE BRAWL
The changeling entered my life through the kitchen window. He moved so quietly I didn't notice him until he screamed, having scraped his open wound against the frame; I looked up from my toast and caught him halfway through, awkwardly folded over the sill.
I stared, smiling by default, and he looked back without the least bit of guilt in his eyes.
A trail of dry leaves leaked out behind him from a hole in his side where branches protruded like broken bones. I saw no no gore, no viscera, only brown and orange in dying shades, and beneath that a bristling green so bright and strange it was more shocking than blood would have been.
That curiosity was why I helped him through, and I couldn't help but reach my hand down and dip a finger into that strange green-ness. It felt fuzzy and soft, covering some underlying inner geometry like moss covers a river stone. He screamed again, pulling away from me, when I prodded his strange innards, fixing me with just about the expression of shock, betrayal, and contempt you'd give someone who couldn't resist giving an open wound a friendly poke.
I smiled with self-abasing humor but not apology, and found him a blanket to wear as he sat at my kitchen table.
I drew the blinds as I made a quick orbit through the house, finding a towel, bandages, coffee. He settled himself at the kitchen table and stole the second slice of toast, and I settled myself into the reality that there was a man who bled leaves in my house. It's good to have a sharp, well-honed tool to face the world with, and mine is and was an undaunted professional attitude.
I also retrieved a pistol from behind the fridge, to be sure.
So I was less concerned by the nature of my guest, who was clearly a prospective client, and more with the unfamiliar car idling in the street outside. Not his. His suit, however torn, cost more than the beat-up Toyota did.
"Somebody is following you." I set the coffee down, and clipped a length of gauze for a bandage. “I have some questions.”
“I’d hope so. I mean, considering, you’d have to be crazy not to.” The man had a nasally laugh. He was blonde-haired, handsome. He looked like he belonged in movies. “Problem being, I worry you’ll just have more questions the more I answer.”
“How about you start with your legal problems.” He was very calm, for a man with a cut the length of a dinner plate in his side. I kept looking to his eyes for a tell, a sign of fear or panic, but came away nothing but the strange impression that his eyes were, sometimes, nothing more than round river pebbles set into his skull.
“Yes...” He was watching me back, as I wrapped the wound in gauze and brushed leaves from the chair. I smiled but it didn’t help. Some people just find me disturbing. “You had a case last year. Expansion of corporate personhood rights. And a history of criminal defense before that. Good stuff.”
“I’m very proud of it.” And so rarely meet a fan.
“Yes, and I’m having some trouble myself. Related to personhood. Specifically, I need to prove mine, before a very unusual court.”
“Will you hold on a second?” I went to the window and peered between the shutters. A man in an elbow-patched brown corduroy jacket had exited the car and was trying, awkwardly, to both look nonchalant to anyone on the far side of the street and conceal himself in the shrub around the fence. Sunlight flashed on a camera lens. “Who’s your friend? Did he give you that cut?”
“No, no, he’s just a second-string tabloid journalist. He’s being used.”
“By the prosecution?”
“Yes, yes, exactly, the prosecution. I was misplaced at birth, you see. Specifically, I was put in place of someone else, and now they’re back.”
“And they’re going to haul you before a court to say, what, this man stole my identity and he’s a big sack of dry leaves, believe me? You might not need my services to fight that one off. Although, it is a fascinating case.”
“It won’t be a human court.”
“I’m a changeling, Mister Veer. We’re talking about faeries.”
I turned back to look at him, to be very sure he wasn’t joking, but he seemed to expect a better show than that. He sounded like someone who’d been holding this secret for a very long time, and now that he was letting it free, felt the world owed him shock and awe. I tried to oblige. I really did. I raised an eyebrow.
But it’s not very professional to doubt your clients. If they’re lying to me, it’s better I don’t know.
Frustration crossed his face, and he cupped his hands, breathing a long slow breath that brought a glowing kind of mist pouring out of his mouth. It rolled itself into a ball of gentle blue light, which then resolved like a picture coming into focus and became a little luminous butterfly, fluttering its wings as it perched in his hand.
Now, finally, he had what he wanted. Me, speechless. “Is that…”
He, even with his unique condition, represented nothing more than a client to me. Being full of leaves didn’t place him outside the usual framework of my existence. But this was something different. Very few things surprise me, and I very rarely use that one smile, a clumsy and awkward expression, that is truly mine and unassumed. I grinned like an idiot as I reached out to touch the butterfly and it dissolved in a puff of brilliant smoke.
“I’ll take your case.” For once, business was an afterthought.
“I thought you might.”
“Mhm. Get upstairs and hide.” I opened the door and started down the lawn.
The crank saw me coming and barely repressed the urge to bolt for his car. I waved, friendly-like, and watched him try to smile. “Hey, sorry, is this your house? I was just out photographing birds in the neighborhood.”
“Uh-huh. And what kind of bird do you think lives in my house? Drugged out celebrity, messy divorce case, what exactly are you hoping to find?”
Rather than let him stammer out a lame lie, I cut him off. “Tell you what. Why don’t you come inside, and see that there’s nothing there.”
“Really?” The poor sap was smart enough not to believe his luck, or my smile, but he let me lead him in. He caught on to the leaves scattered about the kitchen table right away, but took his eyes off me.
I went to the living room, got the gun from underneath the coffee table, and came up on the crank as he was heading for the stairs. Before he could register what I was holding, I’d pressed it into his hand and, instinctively, his fingers closed around the grip.
I stepped back while he was still confused, drew my own gun, and shot him twice.
When I looked up, I wasn’t surprised to see the changeling at the landing, staring down with mute horror on his face. I don’t know why he was surprised. He’d shown me magic. Real magic.
Who wouldn’t kill to keep that secret safe, to keep it theirs. I owned something now, a glimpse into a private world, and nobody would take it away from me.
“You should go before the cops show up. They won’t bother me much. Armed invader in my own home, very defensible. As for your case, that should also be quite easy. You seem human enough to me.”
Although some days, I doubted I knew much about the subject.
|# ? Apr 15, 2018 02:59|
I don't have a story
|# ? Apr 15, 2018 02:59|
I don't have a story
Thirdemperor wins! May glorious summer by this son of THIRD!
|# ? Apr 15, 2018 03:32|
|# ? Apr 15, 2018 04:00|
That's why you extract toxxes when you judge a brawl.
|# ? Apr 15, 2018 04:10|
That's why you extract toxxes when you judge a brawl.
We could change his avatar to something more... anime.
|# ? Apr 15, 2018 04:54|
That's why you extract toxxes when you judge a brawl.
|# ? Apr 15, 2018 05:47|
We could change his avatar to something more... anime.
Yes. Speak with your if you think his perfidy should be memorialised.
|# ? Apr 15, 2018 05:59|
A night at the theater:
The latch to Lavender’s dressing room door is cool on Cherry’s hand. She pushes--just to feel the pressure on her fingertips--and the latch (which never moves, never!) bends with a soft click. The door swings open like welcoming arms and she’s looking inside Lavender’s own private space. The lights are on and the mirror is shining bright over scattered makeup and brushes and lipstick. Lavender’s chair is scooted back as if she’s just been sitting in it, though Cherry knows she hasn’t been, because she’s just seen Lavender on stage working lines with Terry--jealous! Jealous!
A step through the door and oh my god she’s in Lavender’s room. Cherry is frozen for a second because she can’t decide where to go first. She wants to take off her shoes and socks so maybe her skin will touch a patch of floor Lavender’s feet touched. But then she wants to sit in Lavender’s chair and look in the same mirror Lavender does, except then she wants to run to the back of the room and grab every wig and mask from the rows of dummies piled against the rear wall and try them all on in hopes of touching a hair or fleck of skin from Lavender’s head.
She bends to her shoes, then moves toward the chair, then jerks back and almost goes for the wigs, but is put off by an ugly familiarity in one of the dummies’ faces. She jerks around in this uncertain dance for a while then finally hops into the chair. “Hmm, mmmm,” she sighs and runs her hands up and down her thighs as if warming herself, then slides them over her chest and through her hair. She takes long, deep breaths, sounding near panic, then leans forward and fogs the mirror and draws a heart with her fingertip.
“Lavender, ohhh.” Cherry arches and her head hangs down over the back of the chair. Her hand wanders below her belt. “If only I could act good as you, then we could have a scene togeth... er...” She stiffens, sits up straight and stares into the mirror. “Lavender, Lavender.” She says each syllable carefully and pops her lips and sticks out her tongue. Then her eye lands on the brushes and eyeliner and she leans over the table and scoops them all against herself in a hug. “Oh my god, ahhhh.”
They’ve all touched Lavender, all these things, they’ve all been so near her that they might as well be a part of her, like her fingernails or teeth. Tiny brushes and tweezers clatter on the floor, and a tube of lipstick falls into her shirt and lodges in her bra as she sits up with a brush in her hand. She pulls the brush steadily through her own hair and lets out a little sigh while thinking how her own hair and the Lavender hairs in the brush are rubbing against each other.
Footsteps? She springs up from the chair, then falls on the ground and scoops up the dropped items and spreads them out on the table again. Are they footsteps? Maybe, either way it’s a sign to leave. Oh oh oh, the universe has been kind to her today. She spins around and soaks a last look at everything and sucks in a big, happy breath. Two steps and she feels the lipstick moving against her chest and laughs, reaches for it, then pauses. One tube of lipstick won’t be noticed. Cherry thinks she wouldn’t notice one of her own tubes missing--unless it was the tangerine dream orange she uses on weekends. Lavender’s lipstick got stuck against Cherry like this for a reason. These things all happen with depths of meaning, all arranged by the universe’s secret designs.
With her soul full of hope she slips out the door and shuts it quietly behind her. She fishes the lipstick out of her bra, opens it and rolls it over her pursed lips.
“Ohhh, I could die!” She closes the tube, pops her lips and slides the treasure into her pocket.
After losing his set of keys to the theater, necessity had dictated Sean find a way to open doors that did not involve reporting his mistake and endangering his job. Sean learned many things this way: via a combination of necessity and books. For instance, the necessity of sleep--impeded by a yapping mutt across the street--combined with a book on chemistry, led to the ability to concoct a variety of poisons from common items. Similarly, the necessity of employment--impeded by a felony record--combined with several books on social engineering and some days browsing obituaries and making phone calls, led to his maintenance job at the theater. However, the necessity of speaking with Cherry Burns, aspiring actress--impeded by his debilitating crush on her--combined with an endless string of books on how to talk to women, how to exude confidence, how to be attractive, and so on, had so far failed to endow him with the ability to produce a single word in her presence.
Not all the blame for the mute stares that comprised his non-existent relationship with Cherry resided in his own ineptitude. On at least three occasions, when on the precipice of speech, Cherry’s attention had been yanked from him by that glowing siren, Lavender Tay. Oh, that one knew how to be. She knew how to walk, and talk, and smile and glance, and bend and lean and wink and sigh. She was master of all the motions and moods that may as well be jiu-jitsu to Sean. She used these beguiling skills to exert her will over Cherry, and though he knew not her overarching plan, Sean was certain it would have a negative outcome for he and Cherry. Perhaps then, the necessity of speaking with Cherry Burns was impeded not by his own paralysed tongue, but instead by Lavender Tay. In this case, there was some action he could take.
The last tumbler slid into place and the door latch clicked open. Sean extracted his tools from the lock, and shut the door silently behind him.
The room, as he expected, was a charming mess of acting implements. Various costumes hung on corners or sat in piles like shed skins. A lit mirror shone over a scattering of paints and pencils. A line of mannequins wore a rainbow of wigs and masks. To him it seemed a witch’s cave full of potions and spells.
The makeup table and mirror were the focus of his plan. He plucked the previously chosen (photographed, researched, duplicated) item from the mess on the table and replaced it with an evil twin, containing one of his own special brews. The internal click and tingle of a task completed suffused him, and he let out half a sigh, then froze.
Footsteps, the subtle tick of fingers on the latch.
His reflexes made the decision before his conscious mind could argue, and he darted like a prodded snake into the line of mannequins, squeezing himself between and behind them.
The door opened. He held his breath.
From the first fingers curled around the door he knew it was Cherry. She would recognize him for sure, his face was uncovered and she’d seen it so often. Sean scavenged for an excuse, tossing away possible explanations as they came to mind, each one seeming hopelessly unbelievable. Why was he here? Why?
Cherry didn’t move for several seconds. Then, just as a hope that she’d leave tightened Sean’s throat, she strode directly to the mirror and sat in front of it.
Now was certainly the time to act. The time to step out and say... anything. ‘Hello, I’m sorry, I was cleaning these mannequins for Lavender,’ came to mind, and with no other options presenting themselves he decided to go for it. But the moment he began to form the H he was interrupted by a loud groan.
As she mumbled and moaned Cherry’s hands fluttered around her body in a way that reddened Sean’s face. Any chance of presenting himself had vanished now. Should she ever know--ever guess!--that he’d seen such a thing, it would be death for any future relationship, or even friendship. She could never know, must never know he’d seen her... like this. His leg was twisted in an awkward position and his calf began to cramp. Don’t move, don’t breathe.
Cherry leaned and scooped the mess of makeup off the table, onto the floor, and over herself, cackling madly--possessed, she was possessed entirely by this Lavender witch! The slowest seconds in earth’s history grinded agonizingly past as Cherry groaned and sighed and generally made an embarrassment of herself. Sean kept as still as stone and did his best to cease reflecting light. Then, finally, startled by something, Cherry darted from the room like a spooked faun and shut the door after her.
Sean melted to the floor and released relieved sobs in short bursts. The mannequins wobbled and one fell against him. He didn’t move for a while, then, remembering his purpose, he leaped up and hurried to the makeup table.
He fingered through the various items with the ridiculous idea that he could arrange them back to their pre-Cherry state. He gave up shortly, and stepped back. Maybe Lavender wouldn’t notice. It was possible she wouldn’t notice. Then he noticed. A certain purple tube of lipstick no longer stood front and center on the table.
Cherry floats toward the stage. She’s feeling a bit dizzy, and light. It must be the high of being in Lavender’s room. Just remembering that closeness with Lavender makes her woozy, and she stumbles and has to hold onto something to catch her balance.
“Ahh, Lavender,” she moans and tries take a step, but something is holding her. Then she notices the odd angle of everything. It’s all tilted because she’s leaning, somehow.
An ugly man-face hovers above her. He looks familiar, like the kind of familiar that’s on the edge of your brain, like when you just can’t remember what movie some actor was in.
The man is saying something about lips, and then she realizes he caught her when she was falling and is holding her. It all seems so romantic. ‘Thhank you!” she slurs. She wonders why she’s slurring, then figures she must be drunk, and this is likely an afterparty.
The man is talking about her lips. Her lips are one of her better features, she thinks. They’ve been called ‘pert’ many times. “Youllike my lipss?” she says. He keeps reaching for her face and she keeps turning away, as is the proper thing to do in these situations. But then she thinks, well, it is a party and he did catch me. The universe wants it. She leans in for kiss.
And she misses! How in hell can she miss? His head just isn’t where she thought it was, and then it isn’t again, and again. She gets so dizzy from all this motion that she must get tangled up with him, cause next thing she knows they’re both on the floor and boy is her vision wobbly. She feels sure he’ll keep her safe, though, this kind stranger who caught her when she tripped. What a guy, what a guy. With her last bit of awake, she lays her face on top of his and sticks a big, sloppy smooch on his mouth.
Lavender flees the hall, hands over her face. An airy blue dress flutters behind her, tight against slim legs. Oh, it’s just hopeless, hopeless! She does so much to keep herself in shape and appealing. The dieting, the makeup, the constant updates to her clothes, the hours--hours!--spent on her hair and nails, and shoes! The time she puts into shoes--and for what? It’s all for nothing, apparently.
She understands that, as an actress, she is held to a higher standard by men. Of course, that’s to be expected. When someone is standing on a stage it’s taken for granted that they be beautiful, and well spoken, and graceful, and poised. Even more so when they’re the lead.
But he is not an actor, and not rich, not even young, not anything! A maintenance man with a twisted mouth and shifty eyes--he should be bowing down with gratitude at the slightest glance from her! But it’s just hopeless, isn’t it? How many times has she thrust herself into his line of vision, how many times has she swept into the midst of his conversations with the other cast, just to give him a chance to say hello, to try a line on her, to wink or--hell, even give her a smack on the rear end--but he just won’t!
And now, he’s rolling on the ground with that trollop Cherry? When he could have a star? It’s just hopeless!
Lavender palms tears and makeup across her cheeks and pushes out a side door into the street. She takes a long, crisp breath and fumbles out a lone cigarette she keeps in her coin purse for the inevitable relapse. Screw it, she thinks, as she sucks on fresh cinders, they can both rot.
|# ? Apr 15, 2018 17:33|
Her Bastard Children (#1750)
Around this time of day, I’d usually make the drop outside the Chinese restaurant on 5th and Greene. Unfortunately, Louise took my gun and shot me with it. I’d started sleeping with it to ward off the demons that hovered around when I slept. A few more holes in this dump of an apartment wouldn’t make no difference.
I told her it was flashbacks, she’d be convinced I was crazy otherwise. I was a decay on the people around me, I enabled all her habits, but I wasn’t crazy.
Fact is, I’m still aware of what’s happening despite having a lead slug sleeping in my left lobe. I feel the wetness of the pillowcase sticking to my scalp, the wrinkles in the bedspread make my backache, and it’s COLD. Louise keeps the apartment at 80 degrees even in summer, so I know it’s me not the room that’s freezing.
The next thing that comes back is my hearing. Louise is humming in the kitchen. I want to tell her, “I told you so sweets. If I don’t wake up in time, the demons take my body. Now they going to keep it because I can never wake up again.”
But speech hasn’t come back. I wonder why she stuck around. After you blow someone's brains out you either turn yourself in or book it. But no, she’s in the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher, humming, and mumbling house of the rising sun like it’s brunch on Sunday.
I want to say
“Are you that happy I’m dead? I got bad news for you babe, all the times I hit you and made you cry was because the demons were moving my body like a meat puppet. I may be decay but I’d never hurt you like that. Now that’s all gone, I’ll be worse than ever because I’ll never wake up.”
I can hear them partying inside my head. It looks like the inside of the Strip and Dip, they’re setting up tables, cutting off pieces of my brain like flank steak, sitting in a booth playing their favorite tunes. They used to ride in the backseat and jerk the steering wheel away if I slept for more than 4 hours. I got good at training my body to wake up before then and point a pistol in their faces.
It was rare I got to shoot one, they were slippery and even if they couldn’t die they didn’t want their real bodies to bleed. Demons are only afraid of pain when they’re the ones getting hurt. Now it’s like I’m a stretching limousine. Their sitting in front, a boiling mess of faces and eyes, clamping teeth onto the wheel, fingering the radio with their tongues, eyeballing the instruction manual.
I can barely see them now. I’m sliding back into the darkness behind my body.
I think even if I lose my presence of self, a part of me will always be stuck here listening to them run wild with the former Owen Burns. Smells coming back, she’s cooking hashbrowns, extra olive oil, and those little onion balls. She never cooks breakfast for me, only for herself, but this is my favorite. For special occasions like me bringing her home some jewelry from a desperate junky, or her getting excited about being two steps up on the 12 steps. She’d say
“Don’t worry hon, you can keep selling, I know that’s what you’re good at. I wanna stick with you but I want my mind free, my body clean. I wanna be like I was before.”
I stood by her the first ten times, she was a different woman before, a vibrant laughing girl. After the freakouts and the time she tried scratching my eyes out, I gave up. Every time she’d be trying to get clean I’d leave my product in the open so she’d get those ideas out of her head. I still couldn’t see out of my left eye since that time. It’s hard to forgive and forget when you have the constant reminder of someone else's fury stuck in your face.
I’m humming along, or my body is. It was in tune with Louise, she’s singing
My mother was a tailor. Sewed these new blue jeans. My father was a gambling man. Way down in New Orleans.
I wanted to scream and gently caress up their song but I was barely holding on. Soon I’d be floating in that darkness, listening to them beat up on Louise, cut up junkies for fun, and hunt vagrants for sport.
I never knew where these damned things came from. I think they showed up after I met Lage, my old cellmate, for a reunion at the Strip and Dip. He brought something besides beer and I tried it. Once in awhile, I had a hankering for reaching my melting point too.
It’s speaking its first words, my spirit is just a chute on the winds of my shadow. I hate this, but I’m looking forward to sweet revenge on Louise.
This time I’d do it. I’ll chain myself to the bathroom sink. I’ll convince Owen to lock me up, make me go solitary, and slide water and food under the bathroom door. “gently caress. that’s not gonna work.” I start to cry again, sadness is creeping in, nailing down my face into rows of frowns.
“You alright darling?” Jessica stops powdering my face. She reaches into her bra and pads at my eyes with a tissue. “You gotta smile to get tips. Talking to yourself and acting sad is no way to dance.”
“I wanna stop. Jesse, it’s gotta stop NOW.”
Jessica rubs the pinhole marks on my arm. They pucker at her touch and whisper in wet squelches,
“We’re already inside you Louie Louie.”
I close my eyes, breathe, and count backward from ten. The hallucinations had been happening since Owen threw a kegger in the clubs champagne room. It started when I shot up that new mix Owen’s friend from Dallas had brought. Since then, I’d been seeing things, hearing things. I’ll have to thank my younger self, I’d taken an elective in breathing meditation when I was in college. It was the only thing that kept the hallucinations at bay.
I wonder whatever happened to that wannabe-hippie, Buddhist-lovefreak of a girl?
The Jukebox quiets down and Andy’s smooth as snakeskin voice starts calling my name.
“You’re up darling. We’ll talk after you’re done.” Jessica unhooks part of my bra. Makes it easier to get it off in a pinch.
Andy’s playing discount R&B and catcalling my name. I get up and pull the red curtains aside. The pole is topped with a giant needle. Tars pooling at the tip of it and streaming down the sides. I count backward, breath in and out slowly. The image stays the same.
“Quit breathing like you have a future.”
The pinholes are talking poo poo again. I go with a classic number, lift my leg up, curl my knee around the needle and spun. The club goes quiet, the blur of faces and leering teeth aren’t hooting and hollering. I spin like a satellite in orbit. The tar’s making my hands numb, I’ve never felt a hallucination.
The lights dim as I take off my bra and a single spotlight form a cage around me. I can’t believe no ones throwing bills, I’m just one big joke. I failed at school, getting clean, now I’m failing at getting tips from balding tourists and mama’s boys. Darkness shuts me out.
“Hey! Andy! What the poo poo? Where’s the light?”
I know I shouldn’t yell at the crew, it’s unprofessional. Takes the fantasy out of the dance, but I can’t take this, not tonight. I’ll need to break into Owen’s stash after work, just relax and forget this all ever happened.
The spot moves to a table at the end of the hall. Owen’s sitting at it, he’s in his leopard print bathrobe and his head is pulled over the back of the chair like he fell asleep laughing.
I get off the stage, no one’s paying attention anyway. All the glowing eyes and blacklight teeth are sneering at Owen. I cross the cold tiled floor, it’s got sourdough crumbs and egg splatter all over it. It’s your kitchen afterall, I shout
“gently caress. What the hell? You guys need to clean this poo poo up.”
I don’t know who I’m talking to. One of the faces grabs me by the thong and pulls me into his arms.
His lap is moving like I’m sitting on a running stream of skin and bumps. He pushes a gun into my hands and says, “It’s silly. Pretending to breathe when you got no breath.”
It shoves me towards Owen, my hand jerks and pulls the trigger. He’s come awake just as the bullet enters night. My breath catches, red jelly falls out the back of his head and a bell rings.
Jessica is standing at the food counter, she rings a bell, “Order up.”
She lays out slabs of gooey meat slathered in brain fluid. Wait, no It’s Insta-Tate, Olive Oil, crushed red pepper, and pearl onions.
I pick them up and another spotlight covers me, the pinholes are as big as baby mouths and flash crooked teeth in drunken smiles. They smack their lips, lick their teeth and they crawl up my arm. My face falls off the back of my head as they push the skin around and I remember to BREATHE I HAVE TO BREATHE I’LL BE DEAD IF I DON’T
It’s making Owen’s favorite. Humming the song that’s come on the jukebox. Owen gets up and walks to it, wraps his arms around its hips and sings with it. The faces are crawling up his back. They move quickly and unnaturally, like pools of liquid at the surface of the skin.
I can either speak or breath. I call for Owen, “Help me. Please. I think I’m dead. I can’t breath.”
The new couple turns to me, their eyes and mouths are gone, it’s tar leaking out, obscuring pupils, burying the tongue. Something entered me and Owen and it’s been driving us to this. All I can do is wriggle like loose paper on the floor of my mind. Litter for them to step on.
It’s stiletto pierces my eye and it sings, “Another stage of life begins.”
|# ? Apr 15, 2018 20:24|
Diner Food (1925 words)
Both women had their reasons for choosing the diner. Dr. Klein imagined the diner held a kind of slight backwoods danger which excited her: the working class-clientele, the grizzled waitresses, the fact that she and Dr. Shazier were clearly city slickers from out of town. She wasn't really expecting trouble, of course, but the dirty chrome, ripped booths and wobbly stools would at least be different from power lunches downtown, 12 dollar cocktails and bankers in loose ties sloshing their gin and tonics.
In Dr. Shazier's case, the choice was more practical. Her new book had not sold well; she had taken a long sabbatical to write it and her finances had suffered. She was late on her mortgage payments. A few dollars for some eggs over easy would be cheaper than the trendier options closer to the University.
Leanne Burbank, who had managed the diner for the last ten years, met the two women at the front counter and directed them to a booth. She noticed their unusual dress and manner, but Leanne tried not to judge people on appearances alone. She had been running the diner more-or less on her own the past decade, and she had seen plenty worse than two professor types. Space aliens would have been fine, so long as they wore a shirt and shoes and paid their bill. It was a slow morning and she was doing double duty as a waitress; she willed a smile and went to their table and said “Welcome, ladies. Can I get you anything to drink?”
“Water is fine,” said Dr. Shazier.
Dr. Klein held the menu aloft, studying it for something that wasn't there. “Do you have chamomile tea?”
“No Hon. Just green tea.” Upon hearing this, Dr. Klein smirked and tilted her head.
“No? You don't have anything herbal? Oh, you know what, green tea is fine. You don't have soy milk, do you?”
“We have soy milk.”
“I'd like some with the tea, then. Thanks.”
Both professors were due to speak on a panel about modern international sovereignty at the university later that day. Dr. Klein was nervous, as her specialty geared more toward diplomatic history than questions of sovereignty and independence, and she accommodated for this nervousness by talking loudly and with unfiltered abandon about whatever crossed her mind.
“A little grimy,” Dr. Klein said, running a finger through a streak of grease perpendicular to her place mat. “I heard Emma Bradford's supposed to show up after all. You think she'll mention her column in the Economist?”
“Does she ever not?”
“That's the joke, hon.” Dr. Klein smiled mischievously. Above, them, a television was blaring a cable news program, pundits talking about the war. She craned her head. “Listen to this prattle. No wonder we're always at war. What kind of person would take this seriously? Should I ask them to turn it off?”
“I think they might find that a little rude.” Dr. Shazier was also concerned about the conference, for different reasons. She had a chapter in her book devoted to issues of sovereignty, and was confident in her knowledge of the subject. What worried her was whether she'd sell any copies of it, whether she'd secure further speaking arrangements. The thought of having to borrow more money made her insides squirm more than any kind of public speaking.
“What's rude is having to listen to propaganda bleating praise about sending soldiers to occupy a foreign country.”
“We're not in the city anymore,” Dr. Shazier said, lowering her voice. “People in here probably disagree with you.”
“And so what? It's a free country, no? Ostensibly that's what they're fighting for? So that some high school dropout can go shoot people and everyone here can wave an American flag?”
Leanne had busied herself cleaning tables at the other end of the room, but during her ten years she had learned quite well how to eavesdrop. Her only son Maxwell was fighting overseas, 19 and homesick, at least from what she could read between the lines in his last letter. Leanne sent him his favorite snacks every week, gummy bears and mountain dew. The two professional women in the booth could not comprehend someone like Max, someone who lived not for himself but for others, someone for whom values and patriotism was more than words in a book or pages in a journal. Leanne tried to tell herself she was accepting, but the truth was she was not. She was protective and provincial; she would do anything for her son and she would not apologize for it. As she listened to the conversation, she found herself growing angrier.
Dr. Shazier didn't want to debate the war—at present, all she wanted was to eat her cheap eggs and get to the conference without making a big scene.
“You're right,” she said, but Dr. Klein would not let it go.
“And they just keep broadcasting this garbage to the people who just lap it up, unquestioningly. It doesn't roil you?”
“We'll be doing our best to fight ignorance today. What more can you do?”
“Right, but the people who really need to hear the message have never stepped foot in a college classroom. But we can fund millions of dollars for the football team for a new scoreboard.”
“All ready to order?” Leanne had returned, the smile plastered across her face now unconvincingly fake. Dr. Shazier ordered her frugal eggs. Dr. Klein pointed to an item on the menu.
“Can I have this, but with egg whites? I can't eat the yolks, so just the whites is very important, okay? Can you do that?”
“Sure,” Leanne said, smiling broadly. “I'll put that right in for you.”
This was the fundamental difference between them, Leanne thought as she headed back to the kitchen. Some people's problems would always be theoretical. There was a reason the women had come here, and it wasn't the food. It was to touch, briefly, the lives of those who had experienced more than mere inconvenience. Leanne had experienced tragedy before, and she would again. And yet these zen thoughts did not quell her rage. She thought of her son, and if she would see him again. She tried to picture him, out there in the desert, but for those few brief moments it was almost like she'd forgotten his face.
I'm not here. I'm at home working in the diner with mom, and the bacon is sizzling on the grill and I can hear the eggs cracking against the skillet and it smells so good, it smells like heaven, and Bobbi is waiting for me outside and together we hop into my pickup truck and burn rubber down main street--
That's blood on the ground, oh man, it's in my mouth, it's suffocating me, I can't breathe! I spit it out over the dirt and sand and finally I have the stomach to look, I have to look, there's no other choice now, and oh no, my right leg is gone at the knee, just shredded skin there like hamburger and I choke and cough again on the BLOOD, it's metal and coppery and it's coming out my nose, and everyone else is dead on the ground and there's no one coming. The ground under my leg is a giant splotch like someone turned over a bucket of red paint.
I'm cold, sweaty and shaking, and I can't breathe, and no one is coming, I'm going to DIE here, no I'm not it's going to be okay they'll find me, no I'm really going to die, before I left I said Mom I'll be all right, don't worry about me, but that was wrong, I'm going to DIE and that's it and there's nothing, I never even got to have sex, I never told Bobbi how I feel and it hurts so bad I call out for Mom but my mouth is so full of blood I don't even know if any sound comes out, and the wind blows sand into my eyes and I can't even raise my hands to wipe them.
My heart's beating too fast and more blood is spurting out with every thump, no no no, and I can't think, I can't reach my radio, my leg feels like a balloon that exploded and I can feel the bone scraping against the sand, and God, I'll take it all back, I'll do better in school, I'll do my homework and study for the tests, I'll get into college and get a job and buy a house with Bobbi. I'll go back and drop out of ROTC, I'll lie to the recruiter and say I'm diabetic, I'll never pick up Call of Duty, just give me one chance to go back to boot camp and I'll fall (jump) from the climbing wall and break my leg and muster out, I'll malinger, PLEASE just let me go back just this one time, I swear I'll go to church every week and give all my money to the collection plate, just this once, please, I'll do it all, I promise.
Someone's coming! Someone's walking—no, it's just a shadow, a shadow of a cloud, no one's coming and everything's getting jumbled, it's really hard to think, and I'm cruising around campus in the pickup hollering at the college girls, honking and smiling and watching them blush and flip me off and put their hands on their hips, but some of them smile and I know they all like it, and the sun is out and there's that summer feel in the air and Bobbi's texting me to come hang out and there's a six pack of beer waiting in the fridge when I get there and it's cold and wet and I press it to my forehead....
I'm not here, I'm back home, smells like freshly cut grass and funnel cake at the boardwalk and my friends are in my ear saying Maxie Maxie when you comin' out? But there's still that taste of blood in my mouth and the horizon is just this narrow strip of darkness and I'm starting to feel okay with it, starting to feel a slow fade like my tube amp cooling down, and Mom, where are you Mom? Am I late for school? What time is it, what day is it, how long have I been aslee—
Ten minutes before she was due to give her presentation on international sovereignty, Dr. Klein stood in front of the mirror, pointing at herself and screaming. Dr. Shazier, who'd been finishing up in the stall, came bursting out. Dr. Klein's face was covered in splotchy hives, bright red like a sunburn. Her hands trailed over her skin in disbelief.
“I told her no whites! Goddamn it! I can't go out there like this! Ugh, I feel sick. I feel sick. I can't believe this. She did it on purpose, that loving hillbilly! These idiots, they—are you laughing? You're really laughing? This isn't funny, I've been poisoned!”
Dr. Shazier tried to stifle her laughter, but it had overwhelmed her. She left Dr. Klein steaming in the bathroom and walked out, out of the bathroom, out of the university building, out into the quad, where the squirrels were out running around and the breeze was calm and pleasant. She sat down against a giant oak tree and closed her eyes.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 01:18|
Alrighty, my spring crits can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing
There are comments on the individual pieces peppered throughout and a little summary of my thoughts on each story are at the bottom. I'm gonna post the little thoughts here, but for the full chili crit experience check out the doc.
QuoProQuid - Paradise Lost
OK, this was a tough read for me. The exposition was thick, it was difficult to parse, and I’m not entirely sure what you were going for. I’m somewhat surprised as I haven’t had a difficult time reading your stuff before. But, here we are.
Thranguy - Double Exposure
??? I’m lost. So much of this story isn’t about what it needs to be about. I might just be a bad/dumb reader but I couldn’t make heads or tails of your ending and it seems like that’s pretty much the only part of this story that matters.
Tyrannosaurus -I am the King of Crete
Nope. I didn’t get this at all. I don’t see what it’s going for and I don’t know why I’m supposed to care about… whatever these characters are supposed to be.
And while we're at it....
Let's crit your self-crit.
On the one hand, I appreciate that you gave your fellow domer's feedback. Kudos on that, and keep on going. But when it comes time to your cute little self-crit...
Edward the Confessor; patron saint of office workers, kings, lists, colors,
No. This is bad form and horseshit. You don't know what went into the judgment process so calling out a specific judge is a lovely thing to do. The self crit thing was barely funny the first time I've seen you do it and now the lack of humility is tiring. I feel like the only reason you find something like this acceptable is that you've been around and you're an established good writer. You are good, this piece was bad. And you know what dino pal? Kaishai wasn't even for the DM in the first place. She defended your piece for the exact reason you called her out in your crit. You wanna know why you DM'd?
It was me you extinct son of a bitch. I wanted this story to lose and the other judges talked me into a DM.
Antivehicular - Trust and Grace
Hmmmm, well, I understood everything and it’s a nice little moment, but it isn’t much of a story. I did care about the characters but I wasn’t worried or engaged all that much. Overall, it was a nice piece to read and the dialogue felt perfect.
flerp - Words Only Go So Far
OK, this ended up being a strong submission. It stung to read, in the right kind of way and even though it’s a smaller scope type of story it stuck its landing and was clear and impactful throughout. Not seeing much in the way of “spring” here, and that may cost you.
Fumblemouse - The Bellmaker’s Wife
OK, I guess this has an idea. I don’t know how strong it is. Bells speaking out/singing out on behalf of people. Fine. I don’t really understand why it’s important, why I should care, or who this Bellfounder person is and what they’re all about. This felt messy to me and didn’t accomplish much.
ThirdEmperor - New Home
Ending is not of as much consequence as I’d like but overall the imagery here is pretty decent. I was able to get into some of the sensual elements of this and that alone was worth something. Not entirely sure there’s much in the way of “story” here but it a clear enough read that had a decent bit of parseable action and motion.
Fuschia tude- Garnish
This story is pretending to have an arc. I can sorta see how she was weak and self-defeating in the beginning, and I sorta see how she’s thinking clearer toward the end. But I have no idea how she got there, and that’s assuming that’s what you wanted. I’m not entirely convinced that my reading of this is accurate to what your aims were. There isn’t really a story here and not much feels earned. It was clear enough, and easy to read
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 01:29|
SurreptitiousMuffin is unable to access the forums at the moment, and has authorized me to post his story:
<Muffin> k chili story is formatted and clear to post 10:52 PM
What follows is his story, with no changes, posted from a google doc:
Damo’s very bad day
Yeah nah so Damo’s day was pretty poo poo aye. He cursed his missus, and his dog, and the fuckin foreman who said it didn’t matter that he had a real tough skull he needed to wear a hard hat or he could go the gently caress home. I mean yeah he hit the prick but what else was he supposed to do? Some stinkyhole is all like “you’re a liability mate” and you know you’re not a liability, you’re a kiwi, so you hit him right in his cheeky gob. It was a right fuckin mess mate, and no mistake.
Damo went home and smashed back a few tallboys while his missus shouted at him about how he needed to work because they had rent to pay and a dog to feed and he was like “gently caress off woman!” then he staggered out into the street and shouted at some random stinkyhole in a stupid japanese car.
The world was spinning a little so Damo lay down in the middle of Whitiriki Road. A car went HAAAAWNK HAAAAAAWNK and he heard some stinkyhole shouting about some dumb poo poo but it didn’t really matter aye. Somebody kicked him and he stood up to give them a fuckin hiding, then he fell over again. A car door slammed shut somewhere that coulda been a thousand Ks away. He got a mouthful of stale exhaust fumes and heard the car moving around him.
“Haha get hosed mate,” he whispered to nobody in particular.
Look mate I see you judging but you don’t really get how hosed up all Damo’s poo poo was. Your dog doesn’t need special food to stop it from making GBS threads everywhere. Your foreman didn’t get promoted over you even though he’s a total rear end-kissing pillock. Your missus doesn’t need to keep sending money back to her dad in the Philippines or Singapore or whatever because he’s being In-diet-ed on security fraud or some poo poo.
Eventually the spinning stopped. This was the worst day of his fuckin life. He stood up (nailed it, Damo!) then shook his fist at the sky. God could get hosed too. There was, in no way he could fuckin understand, any way this fuckin day could possibly get any fuckin worse.
Words are insufficient, but they must serve. They are a language of mouths, and meat, and pushing air between spurs of lip-bone. The tongue flicks, the teeth clatter. It is a graceless thing but it is the only one we have now, trapped as we are. Our form, like so many fragile forms, is meat.
We were once boundless: the children of solar winds. We have seen the beginning and the end of time and we know them to be the same. We are energy-form and we are thought-wave. We had our own bodies once, but we shed them when we took to the stars.
We are bound to stone, by tethers of silver forged in the heart of a star. It was a punishment, though we did not deserve it. Now we are shackled to stone, and the stone grows meat, and through this meat we speak as we hurtle through worlds known and unknown – as we serve our endless exile through the eternal stars. We dwell in a twisted mockery of our own flesh, melted to an asteroid by a power you cannot begin to comprehend.
Comes now an orbit into our path and there is something different to it: a sense, impossibly, of terminus. We are snatched by its gravity well and pulled down, down, closer and closer while the red-hot atmosphere tears at our unsightly flesh and we chant a chorus in our many mouths yes yes finally it is finished.
As we grow hotter and closer, the filaments in our stone pick up radio signals –radio! How quaint!– and we hear in strange voices “the forecast for New Plymouth and the wider Taranaki region is mostly sunny, though winds will pick up later in the d– “
As we break the clouds, as we boil, as we scream, an apelike being looks up at us. It is clad in polyester fibers. It moves slowly yet erratically. It reeks of ethanol and grain spirits.
We arrive at terminus with a shriek of exploding air and sizzling flesh. It is ours, it is the ape’s. As its blood flows freely onto the strange dark roadway, its last air comes from between the bone-spurs in its mouth.
“Aaaw gently caress mate,” it says.
We die, together.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 02:55|
A Baron's Son, A Hunter's Daughter
The execution chamber was everything Quintillio had hoped for: a low-ceilinged circular room, the mirror-polished bare stone reflecting the light of a score of oil lamps. It was warm, harsh, and utterly inescapable. As Quintillio sat in a prison of his own design, waiting for the death he had long expected, he was proud of himself.
Quintillio had known that designing a castle for Flavio would be a death sentence; the young king was too well-versed in the classics to commission a masterwork and let its creator live. Still, refusing would have drawn reprisal, and the years of patronage had offered their benefits -- not least, the money to send his and his workmen's families across the sea, far from Flavio's reach. Quintillio reached to his memory for comfort, but the faces of his wife and children were far away now. He rubbed his sore wrists against the armrest of his chair, richly padded leather far more comfortable than any furniture in his quarters, and tried to ignore the feel of the suede straps that bound him hand and foot. Flavio would arrive soon, and then it would end, as it must.
The door, its outline nearly invisible in the wall, opened, and Flavio at last arrived. He'd eschewed his royal finery for simple dress -- the tunics and trousers, Quintillio realized, that they'd worn at school together, back when Quintillio thought the friendship of the youngest prince to be a valuable gift. "A memory of sweet times," said Flavio, reading the recognition in his face. "The least I can do for you, my friend. What a shame this is."
"It's..." Quintillio forced his mouth to moisten and swallowed to wet his throat. "It's all right. This is my duty." He quite nearly meant it. Years of anticipation had dulled anger and regret. He had created his masterwork, and now the price was to be paid.
"An attitude befitting one of your station." Flavio set his instruments of death on the chamber's work table: an opaque, thick-necked flask and a glass goblet. He poured the viscous green-amber liquid from the flask with langorous slowness, and the silence left Quintillio alone with his thoughts. Comforts. There should have been comforts there for him.
Was his family a comfort? No -- their faces were still gone. His legacy was more of one, Quintillio decided, watching Flavio swirl the goblet of poison and take a theatrical sniff. One day, someone else would rule here, and Flavio's hideous designs would become something kinder. The hidden passages would hide laughing princes. The chambers of torture and execution would be softened by tapestries and furniture, transformed into private studies. The Hunting Garden might grow flowers for a queen. Was that comfort? Yes, of a sort, however meager it felt.
"Quintillio. Are you ready?" There were no false assurances in Flavio's voice now, merely the eager edge of a sadist practicing his craft. Flavio unfastened one of Quintillio's arm straps and held out the goblet, and Quintillio's mind flashed to the only remaining comfort that was real: the hidden plans, the castle's secrets that would die with him and his men. Thinking of Flavio stumbling upon one of his nasty surprises sent a jolt of warmth through Quintillio's chest.
A good man, Quintillio thought as he accepted the goblet, would have taken comfort from the memory of his family. A good man would never have built a sadist king his prison-castle, reprisals or not. A good man would never have been Flavio's friend. He was a wretch, and it was time to end the farce.
The poison tasted like honey. By the time Quintillio noticed the bitter aftertaste, his vision had already begun to blur, numbness spreading through his abdomen. A poison that tasted sweet until the end: another little comfort.
Tasha's chest burnt. Her heart rattled against her ribs. She'd lost the Mad King for now, but she couldn't go on much longer, and there was nowhere to run. The ragged false trees and stones around the edge of the King's arena wouldn't hide her much longer, and the old man wasn't slowing down. She could hear his footsteps coming closer and closer, a heavy-treadded walk designed to make her panic.
"I can hear you breathing, darling," the Mad King called out, voice smooth and controlled -- the old man not yet even breathing hard. Tasha could hear herself now, every ragged gasp her body forced out. "There's no use hiding from me."
He was right, and Tasha knew it. She took as large a breath as her lungs could hold, and she ran, circling along the edge of the Mad King's manmade forest, leaping over fallen branches and clumps of dirty sand. The Mad King howled, and his footsteps raced -- towards her? She couldn't tell, and she wasn't looking back. No. Tasha threw herself behind a stone at the very edge of the arena, landing hard on her side, just before her legs gave out under her. For a moment, she thought, she might be safe. The Mad King was still running, still searching. She had just a moment.
Tasha rolled onto her stomach, then grabbed the stone to pull herself into a squat. The surface of the stone was smooth under her hand, and when she put her weight down, she heard a tiny click. A trap? She pulled her hand away and saw something sticking out from the stone -- a chunk of it as wide as her palm and a few inches long, smoothed, with cut notches for a handgrip.
The hilt of a knife.
Tasha took the handgrip and pulled, and the blade slid free of the stone, pitted rough iron that still held an edge. It felt like her father's skinning knife in her hand, the first time he'd let her skin a deer on her own and she'd thought she'd never be happier. Her heartbeat slowed, just a little. This was a chance.
Tasha gasped, big messy gasps to draw the King's attention, and slowly stood up from behind the stone. Her legs were still trembling. She looked up, and her eyes met the Mad King's, and the old man grinned wide and wild before he charged her. "Ah-ha-ha! My girl, my girl, my sweet little --"
Tasha forced her legs through a few swift steps. She closed with the Mad King before he could bring his sword to bear, pressed herself skin-to-skin with him, and thrust the blade up into the center point of his trunk, just below the ribs. The blade met muscle, and it took all her strength to force the pitted iron home.
The Mad King gave a thin wail, arms flailing, sword falling with a clatter from his spasming hand. Tasha pulled the blade free in a gout of blood, but the Mad King crumpled before she could strike again. He screamed silently, bloody spittle flowing from his mouth, and his eyes were wide and glassy. He smelt like dead prey.
Above her, footsteps echoed from the walkways -- the King's soldiers, she knew, ready to cut her down. When she looked up, though, she saw only a handful of the castle's servants and slaves. They pointed. Voices called indistinctly above her. The rush of power she'd felt with the knife in her hand began to fade. Tasha fell to her knees next to the dying king, waiting for the darkness.
A hand on her shoulder. "Miss? Miss, come with me. Orders from the prince." Tasha opened her eyes, forced herself to focus on the grey-haired matron in servant's dress who stared down at her.
"We need to get you fresh clothes and a bath. And a meal. What would you like?"
"I don't know," said Tasha, trying to remember food and failing. The only taste that was real was blood, the only real smell death. Her hand was still gripped around the knife, and she couldn't force it open. "The knife. Can't drop it."
"Don't worry about that," said the matron, draping a blanket around Tasha's shoulders. "You've earned it." A hand urged her to her feet, and Tasha let the woman wrap an arm around her waist and guide her away. Stew, she thought. She wanted stew. Venison.
Behind her, already gone from her thoughts, Mad King Flavio bled his last into the sands of his Hunting Garden. He thought of hidden knives -- of his castle, of his old architect friend so long gone -- but his mind was already too hazy to feel regret or betrayal. Every death has its own small comforts.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 02:58|
I think it’s important to point out first of all that this dude Vonta looks like Marshawn Lynch, okay? And I don’t mean retired-rear end Marshawn either. I’m talking big-rear end Beastmode Seattle Seahawk Oakland Raider active NFL playing Ima-run-a-bitch-down buff-rear end Marshawn motherfucking Lynch, my dude.
And he’s naked as gently caress. That’s the second thing. Vonta, hard looking street motherfucker all muscled-up like he just did ten years in San Quentin, is naked as a motherfucker and he’s got this little yellow dog in the baththub in front of him. Now, he’s not in the bathtub himself, mind you. He’s next to it with his rear end is up in the air facing me and I’m stuck standing in the doorway watching him and feeling uncomfortable as poo poo while he sings some song about scrub-a-dub-dub-a-dog-in-the-tub. He don’t know I’m there yet.
Vonta keeps his phone on silent. That’s the third thing. He told me to just come over and he’d help me take care of my whole I-aint-got-no-alibi-my-lawyer-says-I-gotta-take-a-plea-deal-or-else-Ima-do-ten-years-in-San-Quentin problem. Told me just let myself in.
So I back up to the hallway, right, and I knock on the bathroom door and he’s like, “Ayo, c’mon in.”
I say, “Bruh, you wanna put on some pants?”
He says, “Nah. I gotta give my little dude a bath. He feels weird when he’s the only one not wearing clothes.”
The gently caress, right? Dogs never wear clothes. So I says, “Uh, like, he’s a dog-”
“Best dog ever,” Vonta says. “You ever heard of a motherfucking corgi before? Look at these little legs! I love these little legs, man! I love this little motherfucker right here.”
And then he holds up his dog and it’s all covered in bubbles because he’s giving it a bubble bath and, sure as poo poo, the thing’s legs are only like two loving inches long. I’m thinking ain’t street dudes supposed to have pitbulls or dobes or rotties?
Vonta says, “He’s cute, ain’t he?”
I say, “Yeah, bruh.”
“Cutest dog you ever seen?” And his voice gets all high pitched. “Cutest widdle doggie you ever seen in da world?”
I say, “Uhh… sure. Yeah.”
He kisses it. Right on the nose. And I swear to God the dog looks at me and loving smiles.
I say, “This feels like a bad time, my dude. I’ll come back later.”
He says, “Nah, it’s just bathtime. I’m a multitasking motherfucker and I know you got problems. You bring the poo poo?”
I say, “Yeah.”
He says, “Show me.”
I take the baggie out of my pocket. “I don’t understand,” I say. “The gently caress you gonna do with peanut butter filled pretzels?”
He says, “They’re not for me. They’re for David.”
And I’m like, “Who the gently caress is David?”
Then it hits me. All that loving Instagram poo poo. Those loving hashtags. #goodboy #bestboy #bestboyever #bestfriends #bffs #dosamigos #whosavedwho #dogsofinstagram #davidandgoliath
“Mother,” I say. “Fucker. Is David your goddamn dog?”
“Best dog ever. He’s gonna take care of you.”
I lose it. I start screaming. “I got real loving problems, bruh! I'ma go to jail! I ain't got time for no peanut butter pretzel bullshit!”
But Vonta stays calm. He says, “It's cool.” Real quiet-like. “David’ll take care of you, my dude. Give him a treat. Love him. Tell him he's a good boy. It'll all be okay. Love him. Love is magic, bruh. I swear.”
I didn't believe him. But... at the same time I didn't want to go to loving jail, feel me? So I do it, right? I feed this little dog these treats and I pet him and let him lick my face and I tell him he's great and... something magic happens. For real.
Check my Instagram. On the same day at the same time I was doing loving hoodshit there's a video of me and Vonta and David on the other side of town wearing goofy-rear end hats at a lobster festival. #tresamigos. #bestfriends. Time travel or some poo poo, I don't know exactly. But it's real! The computer nerds my lawyer hired say it's legit.
I ain't going to jail.
So, yeah, two things to point out here: first, I'm a street motherfucker and I'm packing heat. Second, it ain't loving weird to get naked with a man and his dog if the dog loves bubblebaths but feels self-conscious about being the only one not wearing clothes. It's called being a best friend. I’m going to Instagram the gently caress outta this and I’m gonna put up a million hashtags and I don’t give a poo poo who sees it. Come at me with “loving weird.” See what happens. gently caress you.
Asgre, Red Queen of the Western Fae, sometimes called Asgre the Sculptor, my liege, my sister, is finally awake. Her sudden, sharp whistle is a summons I’ve been dreading. My other sisters keep their eyes down. Fearful, I suspect, of me asking for help.
She’s called the Sculptor because, with her magic sword, she turns those who displease her into stone. Enemies. Strangers. Family. Everyone is at risk when she is angry. And right now she is, no doubt, suffering from the greatest hangover of all time.
Quickly, I grab a cup of water and a cup of wine and I enter her chambers. She sits at the edge of her rosepetal bed. Her sword at her feet. Her head in her hands. She glances up at me through tumbling locks of tulip-pink and ivy-green hair.
“Good morning, my lady,” I say.
I offer her both cups. She casts aside the water and downs the wine. “Why do you look so fresh?” she grumbles.
“I’ve been awake,” I say, “for a couple years now.”
“Ah,” I say, “well, that’s something we’ve actually been trying to figure out ourselves. You remember the party, yes?”
“You remember inviting Merlin?”
She squints. “Vaguely.”
“You remember getting into an argument about the superiority of the Tylwyth Teg over all creation and then challenging him and the moon and the stars and all the constellations to a drinking contest to settle greatness once and for all?”
She purses her lips.
“Well,” I say, “the good news is that we won!”
“What’s the bad news?”
“Ah…” I glance at her sword. “Merlin’s dead, the moon’s dead, the rest of the Fae disappeared on the Wild Hunt without us, the humans can all do magic now, and you’ve been asleep for just shy of a thousand years.”
“A thousand…” She shakes her head. “Merlin? Humans? All of them? Magic?”
“Rudimentary,” I say quickly. “They have to build little boxes for assistance. But they can use their boxes for everything. Message senders, war weapons, uh, flying. They- they can fly inside them. Assuming the box is big enough.”
“Dreadful,” she mutters. “By Oberon my head hurts.” She pushes her fingers against her eyes. “Call Cadell for me, would you? I need his comfort.”
“Cadell...” I take a small step towards the door. “Cadell is… gone, my lady.”
“Gone?” she says. “Gone where?”
“According to the Scrying Stones, a foreign land. She-Cah-Go. He’s with a man.”
“A man?” she says. “A human man?”
“Yes, my lady.”
“And he isn't eating this man?”
“No. We believe they might be… friends. Sometimes they wear matching clothing.”
My sister screams. Betrayal. Cadell’s her comfort. Her warbeast. The Devourer. Her confidant. How could he leave me? She grabs her sword. Were I drunk or she sober then I would surely be a statue. Instead, I flutter and twist and dodge until, eventually, she drops to her knees exhausted by her rage.
“Breakfast,” she says, panting. “I need breakfast. Then ready the curse-wing hornets. As soon as I have a meal in my belly, we make haste for this She-Cah-Go and for destruction.”
“Thornslingers at the back!” Asgre shouts. “Viperfangs at the wings! Queen’s Guard with me at the center!”
Like I hadn’t been to a war a thousand times. Like I hadn’t already properly organized our sisters.
“Trumpets, on my mark!”
“My lady,” I say. “I don’t think we need trumpets. The Scrying Stones showed us that the human is unarmored and unprepared. All we’ll do with trumpets is let him and Cadell know we’re coming.”
“The human has a magic box.”
“There are many different boxes,” I say. “That one isn’t even a weapon.”
“What use is it?”
“Well,” I say, “Making paintings mostly.”
“Paintings,” she mutters. “How human.” She raises her sword. “Trumpets!”
They blow and she charges and all I can do is follow her. Every glass window shatters as me and my sisters pour into the house like water bursting through a dam. Hundreds and hundreds of fae. All of whom are totally unnecessary. The first bite of the first viperfang blade collapses the human into a pile. He didn’t stand a chance.
Asgre approaches him and I think about how fortunate he is. There are many more sadistic queens out there. The Bloody. The Thousand Slices. The Hungry. Asgre will just turn him into a statue.
She raises her blade.
“No!” rumbles a deep voice.
“Cadell!” Asgre cries happily. “Finally! I’m here to take you home!”
Cadell climbs over the man’s body. The fearsome fae warbeast growls. But… he looks strange. Funny. He’s... dressed a bit like a fish, to be honest. And I don’t think it’s exotic armor, either. I think it’s just cloth. “This is Vonta the Human,” Cadell says. “He is a good man. You can not harm him.”
Asgre snorts. “I think I certainly can harm him.” She pauses. “What are you wearing?”
“We have lake plans,” he says. “We have rented a boat and we will take handsome pictures together and we will possibly attract Vonta a mate.”
Asgre pricks the human and turns him into stone. “Not anymore,” she says. “We’re going home.”
But then the most extraordinary thing happens! Something I’ve never before witnessed! Cadell turns, smiles, licks the human’s face, and the human [/i]reverts back![/i]
“Impossible,” I whisper.
Only true love can reverse a curse. And fae can only truly love themselves.
“I have learned many things from this human,” Cadell says. “I have learned of peanut butter and tickles. Of belly scratches. Laughter. Love. I have learned that I am more than just a warbeast.” He licks the human’s face again. “I am a good boy!”
I nearly drop my sword.
“But,” Cadell growls. “I am still that monster, too. Flee now or see me again as I once was. Flee.”
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 03:34|
Bent Out of Shape
In an underground grotto lit by faint moonlight, a mature changeling met with their pupil. The time of lessons went by long ago, but still the fledgling came. The master stood on two legs, wearing a shimmering coat of scales and a corona of downy feathers on their head. It was many years since they were the fledgling’s age, since they had any difficulty molding themself to the world around them, but they remembered the process of mastery every changeling must achieve. As a morphologist, they had to remember it more than most; all the better to help the next generation shape itself.
Yet no matter how deeply they probed, they could not remember having as much trouble as this particular student. The fledgling stood before them on four legs, the only amount that afforded them easy locomotion. Their body was a motley of asymmetrical, disorganized anatomy. Here the master saw a lopsided, malformed antenna, there a caudal fin hanging from the fledgling’s side like an udder. Fur patterns changed from spots to stripes and abruptly ended to give way bare skin with the thickness of a pachyderm or the rubbery smoothness of a dolphin. The only concession to function the master could discern on the fledgling’s body was one head with one mouth and an even number of eyes and nostrils. The fledgling used those nostrils to emit a low keening sound, a distressing frequency that the master had not heard from them before.
The master bent down and stroked their head with a webbed hand. A chorus of chirps and clicks emerged from his throat as he spoke the language of unformed youth. Why had the fledgling come to him so late at night? Lessons would continue anew the next day, and without rest, they couldn’t hope to perform any better than they did today.
The fledgling’s body sank and trembled. Their back softened and rippled, threatening to melt into protoplasm if they lost any more composure. With a low-pitched whine, they explained that they couldn’t go home. One of their hind legs slipped on the cave wall, stiffening when it should have stepped. Beneath the fragile skin the master found a fragment of rock scraping against bone, the muscle around it damaged beyond the fledgling’s ability to repair it. They extracted it and tossed it away.
As the master asked how the injury happened, the fledgling redoubled its keening and tried to heal the wound, amassing a web of clots and scabs that did little to restore its motor function.. Half-formed excuses about spelunking accidents and tomfoolery gone wrong came to the fledgling’s throat, just as rehearsed as the Chorus of Ages Past their storytellers performed every solstice. Mid-statement, the master interrupted him with a long note, ending with an upward inflection: doubt and inquisition. Their eyes locked with two of the fledgling’s, and the fledgling fell silent.
Silence reigned, or so it seemed at first. The master reshaped his ears. Their pupil admitted in a subsonic whistle that their progenitor had been volatile an hour previously. Five seconds of speech, barely audible, caused more fledgling than injury by shrapnel.
Anybody in the hive could understand why. The colony recycled any sufficiently malcontent member, and injuring one’s progeny was almost always sufficient reason to die. A malcontent’s progeny fared little better, reduced to scavenging on the flotsam left behind by better contributors until they shed their defective genes, if they ever did. If the fledgling’s progenitor fell from the colony’s esteem, the consequences could affect everybody. They were the colony’s most efficient hunter, and every single one of their progeny had realized their deep wells of potential since the master had taught them. All save the fledgling, conspicuous at first glance.
For a time, the master gave themself to speculation. They thought often about the fledgling’s circumstances, but hesitated to make conclusions before now. In public, the fledgling took questions and criticism about their inability to take a specialized form with humor and cheer. Soon they would have to specialize, take on the digging claws and bioluminescence of an explorer, the spindly appendages and silk glands of a weaver, the sleek muscles and sharp claws of a hunter, or any other purposeful form the colony could make use of.
By outward appearances, the fledgling gladly prolonged the day of their maturity, but the master saw glimpses of effort and struggle in public lessons, when nobody else paid the fledgling mind. Custom frowned on intervention beyond basic instruction; in most cases, fledglings would find their own place in the colony so long as they got the occasional nudge. The one master comforted did not; they had attracted only scorn, and all they could do was pretend that they embraced it. Scales on the master’s back fused, became chitin; if the fledgling was to be a malcontent, he would have a kindred spirit.
The master posed a question to his pupil: Would they like to learn feathers?
As the fledgling processed it, they straightened up and grew more solid. Their pitch wavered and their click frequency became irregular as they expressed disbelief. Nobody at their age could form feathers; the delicate, complex structure was beyond most of them.
The master made a negatory growl and rephrased his question. He watched the fledgling’s stance, noting how his muscles functioned well despite their incompatible origins. The fledgling had talent, if only they would use it.
Colors flared in the fledgling’s face, reflecting their astonishment and their enthusiastic answer. So the master explained the interlocking barbs within barbs that formed a feather at its basest level, the process by which changelings shaped keratin into a thick rachis and created a lattice around it. They provided an abundance of information, an enormous totality, all of it entirely necessary for a student to grow even a single feather.
No response came from the fledgling. Perhaps, the master thought, it was folly to expect so much of his unusual student. Then they saw something emerge from the mottled skin above the fledgling’s eyes.
By the time the sun rose, the glare from its rays reflecting on the slick walls leading outside, a long, prismatic feather grew back from the changeling’s head, draped over their spine. It was among the most impractical additions to a body the master had yet seen, but in the light of dawn he saw the resplendent patterns in it, whorls and waves of contrasting colors that painted a bright landscape. The master recognized the colors of their own scales near the base of the feather, and felt a surge of uplifting chemical stimulate their cells.
On its own, that feather, magnificent though it was, would be of no use. The fledgling would have to grow many more and make them work in concert to harness the wondrous gift of flight. But now they slept in the master’s embrace, more content than they’d been in a long time.
“Whoa, nice plumage, dude!” I said coming home one day.
It was a bad move, and I should’ve known that. Coll doesn’t like it when people catch them changing. Still, what were they expecting? I told them I was coming home early and there they were, checking themselves out with eyes in the back of their head and everything. Normally they sported a whole bunch of dope tattoo art on their upper body (all without setting foot in a parlor, lucky bastard), but for like a second I saw them cover it all up with a bunch of shiny bluish-black feathers. I feel sorry for anyone who’d freak out looking at something that pretty, except Coll themself. I startled him pretty badly.
The moment they heard my voice, they yelped and jumped back from the door before scrambling for their bedroom to put a shirt back on. Of course they came back with a turtleneck, despite the summer heat, and of course I walked around them, looking for any sign of down sticking out that thing and grinning like an idiot.
“Please stop,” they said, face flushed.
I took a seat on the couch to give them some space. “It’s alright, fam. Just checking. Lotsa things goin’ on, gotta get my fun in when I can.” That sweater looked extra puffy on them, making me wonder if they got rid of all those feathers yet. I know they could suck them back in without a trace and look a hell of a lot better with that outfit on, so I was pretty confused. “So what were you up to? Getting in touch with your inner corvid?”
Coll slumped against corner of the room, pressing their hand against their cheek and squishing it up. “It would be hard to explain,” they said. “Before you barged in, I was feeling nostalgic and I changed myself to match more pleasant times.”
“Nice,” I said as I turned on the TV. “You gotta teach me that trick sometime.”
Maybe they were expecting some kinda follow-up question that they wanted to deflect, but I’d fallen for that one too many times. I get the appeal of keeping the past past, too, so after I calmed down about living with a shapeshifter I learned to let them have their privacy. That led to me sitting on couch watching police procedurals and letting my aching muscles off the hook while Coll probably wondered how one measly little puncture wound could kill us. I knew they wanted to ask.
Instead, neither of us said a word until the commercial break, when they sighed and went, “What is the point of you people?”
Boy was I not expecting that. I whipped my head around at them and asked “Excuse me?”
If he noticed my tone, he didn’t act like it. He just stared at the floor and said, “You’re a near-identical collective who can do any task you desire without altering your basic structure, and yet you still maintain an internal rigidity. You still restrict and repurpose malcontents. Why am I even here?”
Not the “you people” I was expecting. “I dunno, man, I’m no philosophy major.” I paused the TV. “Look, if you don’t like being here and you’re feeling homesick, you could just go home or whatever. Maybe I could visit. I’d love to see where you’re from.”
They shook their head. “Nostalgia is not homesickness. What little was there for me is gone now. I am happy here, but.” He sat on the floor without finishing.
“Buuuut you wanna be yourself, right? Do what you wanna do?”
Another sigh. “Yes.”
“Alright. Let’s go camping.”
As I took out my laptop and started looking up sites and getting equipment ready, Coll looked up and stared at it. I don’t think I ever told them about camping. Normally I’m not an outdoorsman at all. Dirt gets everywhere, preparing food’s a pain, and I heard too many bad experiences with coyotes as a kid. Once I started living with Coll, though, I started appreciating animals more. Maybe the outdoors was what they needed now.
“You stay outdoors, away from your collective?” they asked.
“Yeah. We can find a spot where there’s nobody around for miles, and you can turn into whatever. Just the two of us.”
They leaned on the back of the couch and watched me look at Google Maps over my shoulder. “For how long?”
“I dunno, the weekend? I got another shipment coming in tomorrow and I’ll be swamped up until Friday. We all are. All hands on deck ‘n’ poo poo.”
“Then what’s the point?” Coll asked. I heard their head fall into their propped-up hands to my right. “Why leave if you have to come back?”
“Because we can’t have all of what we want all the time,” I said. My voice got a little loud as I turned to them. I’ll have to apologize for that later. “I got family back home that need the money I raise and I can’t just gently caress off and go backpacking around Europe like I did last decade. Now, if you want to live in the woods and be the next Bigfoot or whatever, that’s cool. I’ll visit you. But you’d be leaving behind all your other friends who don’t know you’re not human unless you spring that on them last minute. It’s your call.”
Maybe that was a bit harsh. Maybe I overreacted. I thought about it and they thought about it and for a moment I was thinking I’d have to find a new roommate next month. Wouldn’t be the first time I got forced to sublet because of my big mouth. Then Coll exhaled. Not a sigh, an exhale. I could hear him relax.
“Alright. A weekend for now.”
“Awesome. Help me pick out a tent.”
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 04:09|
Creatures of the Coin
Butler quickly put on his stealth suit. A contact at the airport passed his gear through security, and it was full of things that would cause an international incident. The Conglomerate's reach was far and wide, and he was being paid handsomely to perform all sorts of jobs that good and decent men would balk at.
He had just finished suiting up when the door opened to reveal a colleague. "Mart? Boss's asking about you--" The man stopped mid-sentence, a dart embedded deep in his throat, fired from Butler's needler gun. Butler covered their distance quickly and grabbed the dying man as he fell forward, taking care not to be seen. He had worked with this man for a month as part of his cover. All that he felt about his kill was a number, a mental one filed at the very back of his brain, increase by one.
Time to speed up the operation. Someone would start getting suspicious after two men not returning from break. Butler checked the built-in altimeter on his watch. They were beginning their descent. He opened the door and fell into a sprint, his boots absorbing the sound. The optical camouflage was already in effect, rendering him invisible to security cameras.
He started making his way into the main cargo bay, where the object of interest was located. He ran past several groups of guards. The suit he was wearing was a prototype, but it made his job easier. Butler was a professional, and he preferred to go in quietly than loud and hot.
The main cargo bay was protected by a door requiring a keycard and an iris scan, and was protected by two guards. He drew his needler pistol and shot each guard with a nerve agent dart once. As the two men fell, Butler rolled and caught them, letting them down slowly. He pulled a keycard from one of the guards, swiped it, while preparing a contact lens for his right eye. Once the iris scanner booted up, Butler pressed a button on the neck of his suit, revealing his eyes. The contact lens managed to fool the system, and the door opened.
Butler entered the room, his augmented vision making sense of the view before him. A sentry gun mounted on a heavy tripod took notice of him, firing a burst of rubber bullets . Butler rolled behind a wooden crate, and readied his EMP gun. He bolted out of cover, took aim as the sentry gun took a second too late to reacquire him as a target, and fired. The sentry gun powered down, its internal circuits sparking from the localized EMP.
The cargo plane was now on high alert. Butler chucked a couple of concussion grenades through the door he had come from, and proceeded to the center of the room. He didn't even stop to confirm--the screams from the guards told him enough.
On a raised platform, there was a large coin perfectly balanced on its edge inside a glass case. Butler took an energy reading and there were no other further defense mechanisms. He sauntered over to the coin when he felt a dagger slide into his midsection with ease. A nondescript man appeared in front of him, having materialized from smoke. He wore what looked like an ancient version of Butler's stealth suit--all fabric and no technology.
"Go back to your Conglomerate masters. This prized coin is the treasured property of the Suzaku Clan."
Gritting his teeth, Butler pulled the throwing dagger out and flicked it at the man. He moved, and the dagger found its way into the wooden crate him. "I haven't killed a ninja before. You'll be the first."
He ran in with his needler gun, firing a burst of lethal darts. The ninja drew a short sword and deflected them all. He held his ground, denying Butler access to the coin. As Butler reloaded, the ninja retaliated with a burst of shuriken.
Butler rolled to evade. The ninja was suddenly in front of him, his sword swinging down. Butler raised his gun to block the blow, drawing a knife with his free hand and driving it down into the ninja's foot. The man winced in pain, but did not make a sound. He dropped the sword and Butler shot his neck with a dart.
"I expected better," Butler said, walking towards his objective as the ninja spasmed, the toxins quickly taking effect.
"You talk too much," the ninja mumbled, rebelling against the paralysis. Butler heard a loud click, and all hell went loose.
Explosions wracked the cargo plane, ripping it apart. The glass case shattered and the coin went flying through a gap in the fuselage, out of Butler's reach.
Butler uttered a curse. Without sparing his dying enemy another glance, he jumped out of the disintegrating plane. The heads-up display showed him the coin's trajectory, and he angled his body to follow its course.
"What's your status, Butler?" The operator's raspy voice was an unwelcome visitor into his comms.
"Pursuing the objective."
"This isn't like you. We need more details."
Butler winced. His stealth suit was applying medigel on his wound, as the memory fabric closed the tear made by the ninja's blade. "Switching to radio silence."
He would complete the mission.
Keiko spared a glance outside the Art Club Room's window. The sun was a bright orange ball, casting a warm glow on Keiko's model. Her eyes darted from her painting to her model, Takeuchi.
"Are you done, Honda?" The youth was gangly, far from the popular guys at school who smelled of grass and sweat. But Takeuchi had ditched his oversized nerd glasses in favor of contacts, and that made him cuter.
"I think I got the general likeness done. Would you like to see?"
"I don't know, I'm kinda shy."
Keiko rolled her eyes. "It's not going to attack you."
Grudgingly, Takeuchi walked over. "That's me? Are you sure you didn't take too much... artistic liberties?"
Keiko muttered the word idiot under her breath. "Let's just say that I have my own aesthetic. It's pretty late, though. I'll just finish this tomorrow."
"I get to sit still for an hour again?"
"Remember your prize," Keiko said, dangling the carrot in front of her friend. She had promised to buy him a copy of Creature Capturer Continental, which made this her only chance to make good memories with Takeuchi, as the boy would probably be stuck playing the game until graduation. That was in three months.
Takeuchi closed his hand into a fist. "Soon, I shall finally have you!"
Keiko felt a pang in her stomach. She smoothed her blouse over and swallowed a lump in her throat. "Wait for me outside the building? I just have to clean up. President's duty."
They began the long walk downhill. The pavement beckoned them to run free, to spend the fleeting moments of their youth away as college and other challenges lay ahead.
"I don't think I'm good enough," Keiko said, out of the blue.
"For art college? You got into the 90th percentile in the entrance exam," Takeuchi said. "Me, I dunno. I think I'll work at a video game store or something. That's about the only thing I'm good at."
Keiko wanted to yell at him. Instead she said the word idiot again, in that silent, long-suffering way. "You just have to find something you can do. That could keep you from starving."
"Like video games."
"I also meant in the physical sense," Keiko said, her exasperation mounting. "I mean, I don't know if I'll ever be successful as an artist. But I'll really give it everything I've got." There was a tremor in her voice. Her mother had little kind things to say about art, so much that she had to move to her uncle's apartment so that she could paint without someone demeaning her work every single day.
"You'll do fine," Takeuchi said, shifting the topic of conversation away from him. He was quite good at that.
Keiko opened her mouth to speak again when something fell in front of them. It was a large coin, and it bounced a few times before landing face-up at their feet. Keiko bent over to examine it. There was a majestic-looking bird on it, eerily lifelike.
"Looks like a game token or something," Takeuchi said.
Keiko heard a sound she had never heard before. It sounded like rain, but with steel instead of water. She had barely looked up when Takeuchi shoved her away. A scream accompanied the cacophony of steel hitting the ground.
She sat up, surveying the burning wreckage scattered around her. A car was impaled by a nasty metal spear, the inside of its windows covered in blood. Keiko frantically looked for her friend. Takeuchi lay face-down, half-buried underneath a torn metal structure. It seemed to be part of an airplane's fuselage--a memory from one of her old picture books that showed how machines looked like from the inside.
The coin was lying on the ground just out of Takeuchi's reach.
Keiko screamed her friend's name as she crawled to him. He must be still alive. He must be.
Manic laughter pierced the silent air around her. "What do we have here? Two lovebirds caught in the crossfire?" A tall, emaciated man walked towards them. He was clad in all black, with a wide-brimmed hat that hid the upper half of his face. A gloved hand brandished a token not unlike the one that fell onto the earth, and Keiko's sharp eyes made out a black tortoise in it.
"Who are you?" she said.
The man's mouth parted into a smile, revealing unnaturally sharp teeth. "Who I am is none of your concern. I am not supposed to reveal myself like this, but the opportunity! Hand me Suzaku's coin and I shall grant you and your boyfriend a painless death."
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Keiko said. "Leave us alone! Please!" And he's not even my boyfriend. Yet.
"Child. Listen to me. That man will be your end unless you free me," a voice spoke directly into Keiko's troubled mind.
"Who are you?" she replied. The man in black took a step forward, and the coin in his hand started to shine.
"I am the beast bound within the coin before you. Make a pact with me and I will guarantee you and your lover's safety."
"He's not my lover!"
An outline of a large black tortoise started to appear beside the dangerous man.
"I apologize. But quickly! Accept my pact!" the voice said. A slew of words assaulted Keiko's senses, their meaning archaic and lost in time. Her own life flashed before her eyes, memories that she would rather keep locked away.
The black tortoise roared, shorting out Keiko's communication with the beast in the coin. A bubble of water encased her, its pressure unbearable. She would sooner be crushed to death than drown.
With all your heart, body, and soul, do you accept the Destiny of the Flame?
"I don't care! I just want to save him! Do whatever you want with me!"
The coin on the ground glowed, bathing everything in red. A vermillion bird emerged and immediately delivered a gust of flame at the man in black.
"Genbu! Protect me!" the man howled as flames licked his clothes. The tortoise stomped the ground, causing a spout of water to extinguish the bird's attack. An ambulance siren screamed from afar.
"Ugh!" the man cursed. "I won't forget this!" He disappeared as quickly as he had come.
Keiko stared at the bird in disbelief. "Are you a phoenix?"
The bird turned to face her. It was beautiful beyond belief. Keiko could spend years painting its likeness without ever coming close to its true splendor. "A common misconception. I am the Vermillion Bird, Suzaku. And as promised, I will save your friend."
Suzaku breathed flame on Takeuchi's body. But where the flames had harmed the man in black, here it healed grievous wounds instead. The boy stirred.
Keiko exclaimed Takeuchi's name in joy, running to his side, when a dart pierced her neck.
Back in the safehouse, Butler looked down at the unconscious girl on the couch. He would not kill the girl. After all, if Suzaku had been bound to such a young, weak host, then it would be much easier to control.
The decent human being in him, the one buried away beneath decades of arduous conditioning, urged him to put the girl out of her misery. The Conglomerate was not kind to its pawns. He looked at Suzaku's coin in his palm, dormant and sleeping.
He closed his eyes. He had not been in Japan for a long time. He had burned the photographs, but he remembered the daughter he could never see again, her tiny fingers always stained with oil pastels. She would have been roughly this girl's age.
He hailed mission control. "Butler reporting. The package has been secured. Suzaku is ours."
"Acknowledged, Butler. We will send an extraction team to your location at 2000 hours. Just sit tight."
"Copy." Butler closed the commlink. The girl was sleeping like a rock. Sighing, he took a blanket from the bed, covered her with it, and waited.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 04:19|
On chili's request, quoting to confirm I said this.
SurreptitiousMuffin is unable to access the forums at the moment, and has authorized me to post his story:
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 06:03|
My head buzzes with static. Too exhausted to sleep I slide out of bed, careful not to disturb the softly snoring spiral that is Daniel and the cat, wound together on his side of the bed. I pad barefoot down to the other end of the house and put the kettle on. Its lid is grimy. I really should clean it. That, and the windowsill, where little colonies of mould are growing in the pools of condensation from the glass. The weight of these and a hundred thousand other tasks is like an anchor dragging from my chest. It makes breathing difficult.
The kitchen benchtop is cold as I lean against it and watch rivulets of rain trace down the window like tears. If I squint my eyes I can see the outlines of my overgrown garden in the darkness outside, and if I relax them an old woman’s face appears. But I can’t see the glass. It’s like me, I think. Reflective or transparent, depending on what you want to see. Invisible.
The unopened mail piled on the bench tugs at my nerves. With a sigh I start sorting thought it, rubbish, rubbish, bill, rubbish, mortgage statement, rubbish. With the junk thrown out the pile is too small, what am I missing? Oh god I must have forgotten something… Click! I jump as the kettle boils and turns itself off, the rolling sound of water fading away and leaving me with just the hissing of the rain and the silent coils of steam.
I take my cup of tea through to the dark lounge, but there’s nowhere to put it down because the coffee table, a beautiful art deco piece that Daniel made, is covered in his half folded laundry. In a fit of irritation I sweep it onto the floor and bang down my mug. gently caress! I say, under my breath, as tea spills out onto the carpet. My heart hammers against my constricted chest like a trapped bird beating its wings against glass.
Suddenly this all feels like Daniel’s fault, and I’m angry at him, for not noticing, for just... being there without really being there. In our years together we have rubbed each other smooth, our edges and sharp corners buffed away to… nothing. We’ve so accustomed to each other that being together is not so different to being alone.
Outside the night is full of rain. I hold my mug tightly to stop my fingers trembling. I breath deeply. I am calm and reasonable. Everything’s fine.
Our eyes met under the warm glow of the festival lanterns. Cliched, right? You have to say that in a dreamy tone of voice because that’s what it was like, the whole thing, a total love at first sight / I knew as soon as I saw him that he was the one / poo poo like this only happens in movies cliche.
But really, it was probably more vanity, you know? His eyes were so intense, and he was gorgeous, blue eyes and dark curly hair, but if I’m honest it’s possible the person I fell in love-at-first-sight with was me. Or rather, the version of me I saw reflected in his eyes. Sexy, intriguing. Nothing like the boring bitch I saw when I looked in the mirror. A way better version of me, who I didn’t even know existed.
As I said, our eyes met, and our bodies quickly followed. He told me his name was Daniel, bought me a beer in a plastic cup, the usual poo poo. Except it wasn’t. It was like we were dancing. There were people everywhere but they all faded into the background. It was just the two of us on our stage, in a spotlight made by the full moon. I told you this poo poo was cliched, right! But that’s what it was like, just the two of us wandering around in a dream.
We watched a boy with a guitar bare his soul on stage. I would have clapped, but I couldn’t, because I was too busy trying to use my extrasensory powers to get Daniel to hold my hand. I let it hang casually next to his, the hairs on the back of my hand sending out little sparks that jumped across the thrumming space between us. I bet his skin was tingling like crazy.
We walked around and around the little festival and talked total poo poo as if we were the profoundest people to ever expound profundities. Like we were the only people to ever get each other. He was like some sort of crazy polyhedron, that I could turn over and over in my hands but never find the face I started with. And those crystalline blue eyes never left me. Me! Ordinary-looking, boring-opinion-having me. When he finally slipped his hand into mine our fingers clicked together like the final piece of a puzzle slotting home.
Our lips were last to the party, like we were shy or something. As if we hadn’t been circling each other all night like two people who were definitely going to gently caress. But when our lips finally did touch, standing by the dark harbour as the festival goers were going and guys in fluro vests were taking down the lanterns, in that moment I knew, honest, that he was it.
“What are you doing love?” Daniel says. Naked, he leans on the doorframe, one fist rubbing his eye and the other hand held out to me, beckoning me back to bed. His dark curls are long gone now, head shaved so I can’t tell if he’s going grey, like me.
In his tired eyes I see myself reflected. Just me, nothing more or less.
I shrug. “Couldn’t sleep.”
He walks over to the couch and slides in behind me, his long skinny legs on either side of my flabby thighs and hairy arms wrapped around mine. I lean back into him and his lips find the nape of my neck. I think about crying, but I don’t.
“Let’s go back to bed,” I tell him, and take his hand. It fits perfectly, still.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 07:28|
Submissions are closed.
EDIT: I guess you nerds have 5 minutes of overtime to get posts in quickly
Deltasquid fucked around with this message at Apr 16, 2018 around 07:59
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 07:49|
Unscrambling an Egg
My phone chirped. I eyeballed the screen. Police Sergeant Barry Falco. I put him on speaker. He put me on blast. “Don't you ever read your email?”
I don't. My address got sent to a list of amateur warlocks. I got tired of having to freeze warts off my taint twice a day. You make a lot of enemies doing spellwork for the pigs. The money's good though. I didn't bother explaining. “What do you have for me?”
“Chaos magic,” he said
“No such thing,” I said.
“Sure, sure,” he said. Official police policy. No such thing as magic. Against regs to pay anyone to do it. “But we've got someone claiming to be one and making threats against the mayor himself.”
“What kind of threats?”
“The usual. Death. Violent and bloody. With some, whatchacall, poetic justice mixed in.”
“So you want me to find and, uh, debunk this guy?”
“Yeah,” said Barry with a chuckle. “That’s right, Martin. But we're thinking it's a she this time. Debunk her. With extreme prejudice.”
“Usual rate?” Jails aren't built for wizards. Coffins are. Barry agreed to the terms. A traffic cop turned messenger boy brought the file to my office. I sent him back out to diner down the street for coffee and an omelet. He was eager to please. Cops have standing orders. Don't piss off wizards. Especially the friendly ones.
I read it over. I couldn't stop frowning, even after my breakfast arrived. Chaos magic. I wasn't just repeating our shared fiction. There's no such thing as chaos magic.
The reason the cops took her seriously was in the file. She had struck before. Bank jobs, mostly. Very careful ones, with precision orchestrated distractions. A kid’s balloon floats in front of the only camera with a line on her face. A guy feels nature’s call and bulls through the lines, making everybody bump each other so much there’s no way to tell which ones are doing the pickpocketing. She hits a keypad, looks like she’s hitting them at random and gets in on the second go.
It didn't look like the kind of bank jobs that pay for a new car or the next year's rent. It looked like the kind that were bankrolling something else. She broke into safe deposit boxes. The ones she opened were full of cash and bearer bonds. No jewelry, nothing that needed fencing.
I started working. People call me a one spell wonder, think the cold tricks are the only thing I can do. Wouldn't be so bad. Cold is good in a fight, good in a chase, good against lots of tech, good for nursing a beer without having to drink any of it warm. It's the only set of spells I know well enough to use on the fly, in the field, in a pinch. But not all I can do. In a ritual context, I have a lot more tricks up my sleeve. Divination, information magic. She covered her tracks well, though.
I started simple. A name. Not a true name, of course. She wasn't that kind of fool. But a name. Something she went by often enough to stick to her a little. I called out to the web of knowledge and it spat out a scrap. A name. Crystal.
Get one piece of info and there's usually more coming right behind. Just have to pull on it the right way. I did. It worked. But the information wasn't what I wanted to learn. It was a date and time, and it was way too close to right now.
I crossed town, down the catacomb subway. It's the fastest way, if you don't mind the dead. I don't, long as the dead don't mind me.
I had a name. I didn't have much description to go with it. But I knew the target, Mayor O’Cannon, and I knew where he’d be. Friday afternoon and it's seafood lunch, clams carbonara at The Grotto. My license was in my pocket. I yanked it loose, flashed it at the guys guarding the door.
I checked my watch. I’ve started wearing one again. Not much time. I saw a woman running out of the kitchen. She twisted fingers. She traced runes, jabbered runic. The spell leapt from her hands.
I jumped. My chest took the spell. I called myself a fool. If it took me out the money would probably end up with my ex. Not that she wouldn't deserve it, but, well, give her that much cash at once and you might as well have shot her. Bad habits. That’s what was in my head as the spell hit me. After that was just pain.
Walking around pain. Gut pain. They took the caster off downtown, to sweat her in some dark room in a thaumic void region. They signed my checks. I suffered at home as the pain moved slowly south.
Finally, I was on the throne and it happened. Once, twice, three times something much larger than anyone intended escaped my sphincter. I panted. I braced for more. No more. I was almost afraid to check, but I did. Three eggs, this morning's breakfast, sunk among the blood and poo poo. I thought about what that spell might have done to the Mayor. The noodles might not have been so bad, assuming The Grotto made theirs fresh, but the seafood, razor clams, shark fin soup...
Turning time like that shouldn't be possible. There's no such thing as chaos magic.
So, I suppose you'll be wanting to hear my- well, what? It's not a confession. I wouldn't dream for a second of lying to you and saying a single thing I've done is wrong. A declaration? A statement? A manifesto. Yes, that will do nicely.
Do I even need to go over the crimes of the mayor and the gang of thugs you call police beneath him? It isn't as though you couldn't read them in the news at your leisure, haven't seen half a dozen like him take office and line their pockets until the machine churns out the next crook. Is one transgression any more vile than any other? The dryads and naiads and nymphs and fauns bound by geas for the sex trade? The death squads that disappear inconvenient- sorry, ‘rogue’ is your term. Rogue mages, as if anyone with an ability was a rampaging elephant or rabid dog.
Your little thug thought he was clever, didn't he. By now he’s told you all about the eggs. Chaos magic, time magic. Did it occur to him to ask where the shell bits came from? For it to assemble itself, to unscramble and unfry, well, that would only work if he had eaten the shell as well. If someone had ground it to fine powder and baked it with the rest.
You’re getting it now. That spell was never meant for the mayor. That spell wasn't much magic at all, just a bit of showy illusion. And you have to have guessed that the girl who cast it wasn't me. I’ve borrowed her voice to speak to you. I didn't cast anything then, just let go of an earlier spell.
You see, it's true that you can't really reverse time with magic. What you can do is suspend it for a while. Let the eggs pretend to be cooked and eaten, then release them, let them snap back.
As you're hearing this through my cats-paw’s mouth I'm releasing the other spell, snapping back the ground-up piranha we put into the mayor’s lunch. They’re quite hardy specimens. Alas, not enough of them to skeletonize His Honor, but the more than enough to make a corpse unfit for an open casket.
Do you know why there’s no such thing as chaos magic? It’s because there’s no such thing as chaos. It’s all order, just different kinds, ones you don't understand.
There's a new order coming to this town as well. Our order. Prepare yourself. Embrace it, get out of the way, or be ready to die at its hand.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 07:50|
Melvin Pinkersley was walking through the door with a trim mocha latte when the flying stapler knocked it out of his hands and splattered his $12 coffee across the tastefully polished concrete.
“He’s locked in his office,” hissed Samantha Pinkersley.
Melvin looked at his ex-wife and his mouth curled down at the ends like the bottom half of a railway sandwich. “I hate you so much,” he said.
She was standing in front of the door to their boss’ suite, immaculate-nailed hands clenched around the doorknob. She rattled it. “We have five minutes before the cameras are here, Melvin, cut the pillow talk and do something!”
Melvin’s eyes suddenly felt too big for his sockets and he heard a distant roaring like faraway surf. “Cameras? Is he going to talk about the dinosaurs?”
Sam glanced at her Patek Phillipe and shuddered, then stalked over like a praying mantis in three inch heels.
“He is going to spill the beans about everything, the psychics, the dinosaur army! Even the whale-whisperer!”
“Jesus,” Melvin muttered, as he across the empty office. “Where’s everyone else?” The door was solid teak, with a gleaming keypad on the side. Hinges on the inside. He rattled the handle but it didn’t give.
“I gave them the afternoon off, I thought we were in the clear after you’d had the info-janitor taken care of and it was a nice day, so… Four minutes, now. I’ll get the downstairs people to stall them.” She shook her sleeve and a slab of Samsung glass dropped into her hand.
“I can't believe you let this happen,” said Melvin, scanning the office for something heavy. The desks were big enough, but the boss had ordered them bolted to the floor two weeks ago.
“I let nothing happen you over-coiffed putz! I was dealing with your latest screw up while you were out on yet another coffee run, then he comes in with a rucksack on yelling about global judgment and how God’s going to make us all pay, slams the door, and… what are you doing?”
Melvin had yanked the industrial 3D printer out of the wall and was rolling it back and forth across the smooth floor on its castors. “I think this might do, thing is heavy as balls. Give me a hand”.
Sam looked at Melvin, then at the door, then kicked off her Loubertins. “Oh God. Can we call it wear and tear for tax purposes?” She took up position.
The machine was tough to get rolling, but Melvin and Sam’s Crossfit-hardened muscles were up to the task. It rumbled across the floor, gathering speed, until, with a boom that reverberated round the office like a cannon-shot, it slammed into the locked door and smashed it aside.
It careened into the boss’ office and straight out the open window on the other side.
Melvin and Sam, who were sprawled side-by-side on the cold floor, looked at each other. They winced at the distant echoing crash as it hit the street twenty three floors below.
“Wear and tear,” said Melvin, “may not be an option.”
“Shut up,” suggested Samantha. The wide, antique desk was festooned with wires and blinking lights. “Look at the goddam desk. The bastard rigged it! He must have had the bomb in his rucksack.”
Melvin shook his head. He thought he could hear a ticking over the distant cacophony of screams and horns that was drifting up from the street. “This is crazy. Why would he blow the scheme now, when we’re so close to success?” He stood up, swaying. “I just wanted a coffee.”
Samantha was inspecting the tangle of equipment. “This is complicated. Some kind of mechanical timer, with a mercury trigger, going to… hm.” She tapped her phone again. “No word from downstairs, dammit, the cameras could be here any minute. Can we trigger them now? Is everything in place?”
Melvin nodded, helplessly. “Well it’s all, yeah, i mean we were going to wait until May 15th because, you know, Dinosaur Day, but… yes. You think i should send the signal?”
Sam was staring at the equipment, then her eyes widened and she darted her hand forward, just in time to stop a metal lever from snapping shut onto a contact. “Oh, ow. Oh. That hurts. Melvin, I can’t move my hand without setting off the bomb. Send the psychic signal. Start the dinosaur uprising!”
Melvin looked at his ex-wife, shoeless and spread-eagled across the machinery-strewn desk with her hand jammed into a bomb. “That look suits you, Samantha.”
“I hate you so much,” she said. “Now loving do it.”
It was a quiet afternoon in the lobby. Daniel Spode leant back, flicked his wrist and sent the screwed up ball of paper spiralling in a perfect arc up, over, and into the wastepaper basket.
“Aw yeah,” he said softly. Then, louder: “Three in a row!”
Janine the receptionist raised a hand, then used it to throw the horns. “Rock!” She didn’t look up from her tablet, which was blaring the tinny sounds of her telenovela.
Daniel grinned, then swung his feet off the desk and lumbered over to the basket to pick up the balls of paper that were scattered all around it. He tipped them in the bin and readjusted his belt.
It was a lovely day out there, but the only hint of it was a single shaft of reflected sunlight that bounced off the Chase Mutual building opposite them, shone through the high glass of the main window and painted the tiles of the lobby with bright gold.
Struck by a sudden impulse he went and stood in the sun. It was warm on his face. He looked down at the patch of light on the tiles; there was enough room for another person.
“So, uh, Janine…” he said. “Janine? Hello?”
She looked up, polite curiosity on her pretty feline face. Then she smiled. “Oh,” she said. “That looks nice. It’s your own personal sunbeam.”
Daniel smiled back at her. It felt like the sunbeam was filling him up with warmth from the feet up. “There’s enough room for two, actually. Um.” The warmth reached his face and he blushed.
His comm back on the desk buzzed discreetly. He glanced back at it then saw movement out of the corner of his eye as Janine turned off her tablet and stood up. She stretched like a cat. “I could do with a little of that.”
The comm buzzed again but he barely heard it. Janine walked over, her heels clicking on the tiles, until she was standing next to him, limned in sunlight. “Oh that’s heavenly,” she said quietly. She looked down at the tiles they were standing on. “I've always wonder, what’s with the mosaic?”
“Jim? The dino?” said Daniel, crouching down and running his fingers over the tesserae, which were shining like jewels in the sunlight. “Just a building mascot, I guess. Been here a few years, they put it in after they dug out the sub-basement, we call him --”
There was a crashing boom outside on the street, followed by a screech of brakes. Janine put her hand on Daniel’s shoulder.
“Oh my,” she said. “Car crash?”
Daniel nodded, with a rueful expression. “Probably one of those drunk drivers.” There was a flurry of people running along the road towards the crash, some of them with cameras over their shoulders. “Funny the media got here so fast.”
“Daniel,” said Janine. “I was wondering if… you know they’ve got that big exhibition opening at the Museum next week, on the fifteenth?”
Daniel gulped to get the lump out of his throat. He could feel each of Janine’s slender fingers on his shoulder. “I think i read something about it?”
The sun had moved down and Janine crouched to catch the last of it. “It might just be staring at the mosaic every day, but I have dinosaurs on the brain lately. Would you take me? To the exhibition?”
Daniel nodded. “That would be really great,” he said.
Janine inclined her head, looking like she was holding back a smile. “Well, then. Good. You should probably get that,” she said, pointing at the comm on the desk.
“Yeah, of course. Yes. Nice to chat!” Daniel strode back to his desk and picked up the comm. His eyes widened at the all caps message on it and he turned to look back out at the street.
He was just in time to see the first crack in the floor form and widen, to see the mosaic of Jim the dinosaur break into two gigantic slabs that levered apart like slabs of multicoloured ice, and beneath them, pushing inexorably up with green scaly skin and plates of horn shedding clouds of concrete dust, a mammoth primaeval form that yawned its gigantic tooth-filled mouth and let out a howling barbaric yawp from the dawn of time that drowned Janine’s screams, as the distant past became the future, then and forever more.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 07:57|
THE TIME IS NOW MY DOMERS!!!
The writer babies have submitted their work, sacrificed their livelihood so that we,
Please, go forth and fix these teenagers and mold them into strong enough writers so that they would at the very least avoid a DM if they ever decide to join Thunderdome proper.
Edit: It has come to my attention that googledocs is not as versatile as I initially thought it would be. It doesn't create two separate links where one can view and the other can comment; so I'm asking you guys to do a liiiitle bit more work. Please copy and paste your story to your own googledoc (if you're doing line by lines) or just write your crit in another googledoc and put that link next to your sign up. I'll periodically check and add your crits as comments myself. Thank you for your flexibility.
Editedit: Please don't be bad and make sure your doc has the proper permissions.
Editjesuschristedit: Anyone can edit the main doc. Do that. gently caress.
Mercedes fucked around with this message at Apr 16, 2018 around 16:42
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 13:42|
THE TIME IS NOW MY DOMERS!!!
This is cool, I encourage everyone (who is prepared to be constructive) to do this.
I've grabbed the first 6 stories for now but I might do more depending on the response.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 16:34|
THE TIME IS NOW MY DOMERS!!!
Awesome I will definitely crank out a few of these. Question: is there a specific set of criteria you want us looking at? How much focus should I place on mechanics, syntax, etc? Should I focus mostly on style, story structure, things like that? Also, what is the prompt?
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 17:13|
Awesome I will definitely crank out a few of these. Question: is there a specific set of criteria you want us looking at? How much focus should I place on mechanics, syntax, etc? Should I focus mostly on style, story structure, things like that? Also, what is the prompt?
All answers you need to know are located in the excel file I linked. Here it is again for all you.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 18:25|
I can't access google docs at work (blocked for some reason) but I'll check this out when I get home.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 18:57|
Results: Thunderdome Week CCXCVII: And Now for Something Completely Different
The results are in, and as befits the week, they range from good and strong to some stinkers.
The Good: Honorable Mention goes to SurreptitiousMuffin's Damo's Very Bad Day. The judges agreed that it had some strong showing of voice, a nice jarring switch between voices used to comedic effect, but unfortunately fell flat as an actual story. This one would have worked better as a shorter joke, or as a slightly retooled and longer piece with an actual plot.
The Bad: Dishonorable Mention goes to Schneider Heim's Creatures of the Coin. I would describe it as "Metal Gear Solid suddenly interrupts a romance anime", except this would let down fans of either genre. An interesting idea, mired by weak language, some definitive action scene sins (blow by blow descriptions of fights between gruff mysterious men we don't know and don't care about) and a plot that, all things considered, made less sense as things went on. the agent is the girl's dad? And there's a pokémon fight with these creatures of sorts? Keep it simple, dude. This has way too much waste that can be trimmed off, and weak voices with lots of passive sentences.
The Ugly: The Loss goes to Bubble Bobby's Diner Food. It starts with an intro that drags its feet as liberal/conservative cut-out characters deliver their political strawmen points and it goes downhill from there. I think you tried a sincere effort, Bubble Bobby, at articulating a point and giving us a heartrending stream of consciousness, but it turned out to be melodrama that falls flat in the middle of a political screed. To top it off, not much actually *happens* as the second POV is essentially a dying guy's last thoughts in a void, and also, apparently he regrets dying a virgin and playing call of duty.
The Winner: Tyrannosaurus' #goodboy. Universally liked by the judges as a legitimately funny story that is reinforced by the strong voices. You also hit me with some elves, which are a personal weak spot. Save for some typos and proofreading errors, we had little to remark as bad marks.
Take the throne, T-rex.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 19:51|
Some quick and dirty thoughts on every story:
A Night at the Theater: It's okay. The voice shines through pretty well, the prose is neat enough but there's some errors or awkward sentences here and there. It falls flat because ultimately the story didn't quite grab me and the ending feels a bit disconnected and ambiguous. I like the use of the flash rule. 10/20
Her Bastard Children: I somewhat liked this. The voice comes through, sometimes a bit too strong in the sense that it overtakes the actual story. I'm a bit confused, I know it's dark and creepy and you were going for that, and it's all a bit feverish and insane. However at the end I wasn't sure if this took place at their own home, a diner, a strip club or what. The first part also has very little happening in the plot: just a guy with a slug in his head thinking about stuff. I did understand that these people were legit getting hosed up by demons though. Could be a pretty good story if you fix it up and rewrite the plot a bit so both characters can struggle a bit more effectively against the demons. As it is now, it's a fait accompli. 10/20
Diner Food: Ugh. The first part is kind of boring with flat characters, the second part is a stream of consciousness and I'm not too hot on that. The soldier's thoughts aren't particularly unique or weird, just what you'd expect a dying soldier to frantically think. Dunno, the whole thing feels a bit like low-hanging fruit to me. I think you could do this, with some nuance it can be pulled off, but that is not what your story did. Also, refer to the results post. 6/20
Damo's very bad day: Lol this piece is pretty quirky and funny. However there isn't much story to it, it's more like a joke with little context. And as a joke I feel it drags its feet a bit. You could file off some mediocre sentences everywhere to keep the gist of it and bundle the funny parts in a small, explosive part. Like the meteor. 14/20
A Baron's Son, A Hunter's Daughter: I like the story here. It's a bit straight forward, with no real twist, but competent enough. I'm sad that the "trap" that ends up killing the king is a knife hidden in a hunting ground though (wha..?) rather than some sort of battle of wits to lure him into a spike trap or whatever. Although looking back I see you did that for the flash rule, which makes me more sympathetic to the execution (ha.) The prose is okay, but quite tell-y. I wished I could have seen more of the hunter's daughter's perspective, like really how she feels about the whole thing, what kind of a person she is. The first part had a bit of a voice going on, but the part of the hunter's daughter sounded similar - too similar to convince me you could break out of your usual writing voice to make each character shine. 12/20
#goodboy: I like this the most so far. Strong voice, and a good shift in voices halfway through. There's an actual cool story here. Well-written. It also has elves which are my personal weak spot, and it made me smile. Perhaps, along with the Damo story, the one that best nails the prompt so far by having the story come to a sudden screeching change in tone and setting that it made me wonder how the hell this puzzle would fit together. I was not disappointed. 17/20
Bent out of Shape: The first part is super dense and hard to parse. I think you were going for that, but I was exhausted by the time I got to the second part. That's just... Okay I suppose. But the second part doesn't resolve any questions from the first part, or build upon it in any way. It's just the same character years later, and I don't quite know how they got where they are now or anything. You narrowly dodged a DM here, kiddo. 9/20
Creatures of the Coin: Lol this is anime as gently caress. The first part is like Metal Gear Solid except without any hint of self-awareness and the second part has a bit too much baka and tsundere to my liking. The first part falls extremely flat because I don't know Butler, I don't know the ninja, and most of this is just a description of actions from a fight scene that I don't particularly care much about because I don't know the protagonist nor his opponent at all. Put a bit more emotion and feeling in your fight scenes, and don't focus too much on writing a scene from a movie blow by blow. Also, is Butler Keiko's dad? I choose to believe that no, he is not, because this kind of contrivance would sink your story lower. 7/20
Human Geometry: Some nice rhetorical flourishes here and there. It's a cute little piece, but I think you missed the prompt; you're having two different voices for the same character rather than two different POVs that end up intertwining. Unless you're trying to be cute about it and saying this woman is a different person now than when she was young. I won't DQ it though, because you did get the two voices unique enough that I didn't quite mind, so it fits the spirit of the prompt. 11/20
Unscrambling an Egg: Neat twist at the end there. Good noir style, and a fight fit for a jojo flash rule. However, the second part isn't much of a story by itself, more like a literal voice in a void explaining what happened. I don't know how you could do it otherwise, but just having a character straight up talk to me, the reader, for hundreds of words is a bit lame. 15/20
Dinosaur Day: I hate these characters, in a good way. gently caress crossfitters. Not sure I really understood the ending tohugh? It feels really abrupt, and we didn't quite get enough time to meet these new characters. I'm also not entirely 100% sure what was going on start to finish, but I'll probably catch it on a reread. 11/20
Quote this post if you want a more in-depth crit.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 19:58|
Alrighty, as per my usual style I did comment/crits as I read the stories and put my final thoughts at the bottom. Go here, and ctrl-f for your name to read your story with my little comments:
And I'm including in this post what I wrote at the bottom of each of your stories.
My usual disclaimer stands: I'm much better at talking about stories than I am writing crits for them, so feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or want to talk shop further.
derp - A night at the theater
Ok, so this a major case of not sticking the landing. I have so many questions. What was the “devil item”, and why did it matter? Who is talking in the end? What are the actual consequences of anything that happens in this story? As it is, there’s enough cool and good ideas in this for me to hate it, but the passive voice, and lack of clarity in your ending keep this far from something that I’d call good.
JayWFriks - Her Bastard Children
Not sure what’s going on in much of this. Some kind of abstract possession thing? Story wise, I found this hard to follow and not all that compelling. Your prose is on point often and you say some pretty, and slick things. The voices here aren’t distinct and are too easily comparable. Feels like a no mention to me.
Bubble Boy - Diner Food
This was not good. Less a story and more of a way for you to take one character’s side. I wanted there to be something so that these characters could learn from one another, but pretty much everyone involved at the diner is an unrepentant rear end in a top hat and the soldier just serves to kind of push an idea further that you’ve already hammered into the reader by the time his moment begins.
Muffin - Damo’s very bad day
Up until this story, there’ve been a lot of bad endings. This is the first decent/good ending. I wasn’t with you for much of the story but since the pace is snappy, and the wordcount is short, you managed to keep me engaged just enough to reach the ending and I’m kind of digging it for now. A quibble would be that these characters don’t quite go through a narrative together, they just kind of have their own moments and collide at the end.
Antivehicular - A Baron's Son, a Hunter's Daughter
Eh, this is tough. Tasha doesn’t have much in the way of characterization and the voices here aren’t all that distinct. The prose is slick and there’s nice little moments, but it feels rather obvious and I kinda want to see a lot more of the traps that Quintillio laid as opposed to just knife that’s kind of there. This is fine, decent action, but not much in the way to make me care about what happens.
Tyrannosaurus - #goodboy
Alright, well done. This accomplished the task set out by the prompt and was fun as hell to read. Had no idea how these things were gonna come together but they did and it was satisfying and enjoyable. Not much to quibble with on this piece. Definitely my front-runner for now.
Solitair - Bent Out of Shape
Not sure how to make heads or tails of this. On the one hand, your two narratives are drastically different from one another, so that’s a plus. The problem, though, is that they seem to still depend on one another to provide proper context. Since I couldn’t parse much of the first it left the second muddy as well. I feel like your first half had to have been a chore to write, that’s fine but I don’t think you intended for it also to be a chore to read. This missed me by a mile and I found it largely inaccessible.
Side Note: I had this down as a DM
Schenider Heim - Creatures of the Coin
Ok, this just kind of goes on an on. The language was weak, the voice didn’t change much, the action was really difficult to parse and overall this is not effective writing. I think you’d benefit from trying to tell a nuts-and-bolts simple story as a writing exercise. Tell it cleanly, get us rooting for your dudes, and for the love of god do something about the passive voice.
Yoruichi - Human Geometry
Hm. Well this is a nice little slick bit of writing. I kinda wanted more to happen but when I saw how you were going about this entry, I started warming up to it. You’ve got some nice turn of phrase and I think the choice to use just one person but speak through them so differently was a neat and unique take on the prompt. Kind of like this one.
Sidenote: I would've given this an HM
Thranguy - Unscrambling an Egg
So you kinda lost me in the second half? I think I can tell what’s going on, but I’m not entirely clear. Regardless your first half was about as strong as anything I’ve read this week. Good pacing, voice, and action. This may need a re-read from me, but I generally don’t do that.
sebmojo - Dinosaur Day
OK. I don’t really know what this is, or how to parse it. I liked reading but struggled to comprehend much of what I was reading. You know how to say cool and good things, but apart from that, this story falls kind of flat for me. Definitely hard for me to make heads or tails of most of the events here and the ending definitely left me confused. This might also need a re-read from me.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 20:34|
Also, wtf where is pomp
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 20:34|
Also, wtf where is pomp
what a terrible circumstance
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 21:18|
what a terrible circumstance
"Oh no," the T-rex said, flailing its tiny arms. "This is T-rexible!"
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 22:20|
"Oh no," the T-rex said, flailing its tiny arms. "This is T-rexible!"
don't sign yur posts
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 22:45|
|# ? Sep 26, 2018 11:25|
I need to write more. I am pre=emptively going in. T-rex, consider this an entry and if I need to pick anything or whatever, I will. Or if you need to assign me something, go ahead.
|# ? Apr 16, 2018 22:58|