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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

Schneider Heim posted:

I'm in, and taking what's behind door #3.

Because this would be my first Voidmart prompt, are there any choice Voidmart stories that could further flesh out what Voidmart is?


Try the winner and an HM from the first Voidmart:

And some assorted stories from week 2:

Basically, you can't go wrong, but Voidmart leaves a lot of room for over-the-top fun so lean in that direction if possible.

Bad Seafood posted:


Please assign me a product/department.

New, from Voidmart, it's...

Pompeii brand Pompadour Gel: Smother your hair in burning good looks!

If you need a department (which i'm not technically assigning this time), imagine a WHOLE DEPARTMENT of pompadour care products. If you dare...

Obliterati posted:

Still need a third judge?

We may or may not. I will let you know!


Double May Care
Mar 28, 2012

We need Dragon-type Pokemon to help us prepare our food before we cook it. We're not sure why!

In, my head is screwed on and I'm ready to write!

Nov 24, 2006

Grimey Drawer
I threw a collab sheet together.

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)

Many thanks!

Apr 11, 2012
I've already gone for door 1, but let's add a department flashrule to that too.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
:siren: Let's Make a Deal! :siren:

So a bunch of you have got these doors and you're all wondering what's behind them. Well, people who read the prompt post know that the contents of each door will be revealed Thursday.

However! I am a just and merciful CEO and I realize that sometimes bones need throwing to peons. To that end, I am going to give you a few pieces of information, the first of which is this: One door contains a fairly easy prompt and one door contains what the judges consider to be a very hard prompt. Needless to say, one door is medium difficulty.

The second piece of information is: each door represents a category of flashrules, so people who choose a given door will all receive different rules from within that category. I point this out because there were some reservations about starting collaboration before doors are assigned. My advice is to go ahead and start planning because it's going to be a clusterfuck either way. :) :) :)

Now for some clues. I am going to give you a visual hint as to what is behind each door. I will NOT tell you which door represents which prompt difficulty level. After reviewing the doors, you may elect to change your selection. You will have until.....sometime tomorrow to make your choices.




So far I have the following people with the following doors:

Jon Joe: Door #3
Armack: Door #1
Jay W Friks: Door #1
Thranguy: Door #2
Jagermonster: Door #3
Sebmojo: Door #3
Newtestleper: Door #2
Flesnolk: Door #1
Dockloc: Door #3
Antivehicular: Door #2
Hawklad: Door #2
Uranium Phoenix: Door #2
Sparksbloom: Door #2
Saddest Rhino: Door #1
Schneider Heim: Door #3

If your name is not on this list, you didn't sign up for a door (unless I missed you [always possible{J/K I'm the CEO I don't gently caress up}]). I will update this list if/when people change their selections, or when people people choose doors.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

Flesnolk posted:

I've already gone for door 1, but let's add a department flashrule to that too.

I am not assigning departments this time but you are welcome to take initiative and push sales of Moloch Brand Combination Standalone Fireplace and Electronic Nanny! We've been having trouble moving inventory for some reason...

Dec 15, 2006

b l o o p



Profane Accessory
Feb 23, 2012

In with door #1.

Oct 30, 2016

In, and I'll take door number 2

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Got Out.
Grimey Drawer
Fuschia_tude vs. Jay W. Friks “Bully Beatdown Brawl” :toxx:

Birth by a Thousand Cuts (#784)

Job poked his bayonet into the creature's stomach. It flinched and recoiled. White mist filled the wound and the damage disappeared.

“What are these things?” asked the Investor, Morgan.

“The magicians call them Benguls.” Job wiped his bayonet on the creatures slack-jawed face.

“I call them tumors personally.” Job added.

Morgan takes a long look at the creature. 7 feet tall when hunched. Its skin is taught against its bones and muscles. Like grey sheets draped over a knobby mannequin. There isn’t a single inch of its body that isn’t twisted, bulging, or crooked. Its engorged cranium folds over half of its goat-like face. A single almond eye, stares vacantly in the candlelight.

“Can they be used as soldiers?” Morgan asked.

Job rubbed his head, frustrated, “Unfortunately, I’m still stuck as a lawman to these jungle fucks. The Commander tried to get them to fight. Tried pain, they forgot about it no matter what we did to them. Tried food. They don’t really eat it turns out. Tried separating them from each other so we could identify the females. Get em’ horny and protective.”

Morgan pulled the sword from his cane and stuck it in the things protruding belly. Job grunted, trying to think.

“And?” Morgan asked impatiently.

“I dunno.” he admitted, “The magicians have a better way of explaining it. Apparently, they don’t have sexes in the first place. I thought it might be inside like horses but nope. Nothing going on down there.”

It opened its mouth, Morgan clamped his hands over his ears expecting screaming.

Job patted him softly, “Relax. It looks like it's screaming but its just opens its mouth and closes it. No sound.”

He was right. A quiet gasp emanated from its toothless maw.

Morgan pulled back his sword from its rapidly healing belly. Its belly looks bigger now.

“What were these things even doing when you arrived on this world?” Morgan asked.

The trooper waved his arms at all the Benguls trapped in countless cells.

“This. Sitting around.” The trooper said.

“So why show me? They have no worth. I came here looking for something to export to the homeland. If these are the best this backwater world has-”

Job clanked his bayonet against the bars and began the sales pitch, “So what’s one of the prime issues with testing out tonics and nostrums on homeworld?”

Morgan wrinkled his forehead, “Well...we find prisoners looking for a commute on their sentence. If convicts aren’t available we pull kids from orphanages we own. Claim they died of an allergic reaction if the public gets paranoid about it.”

Something clicked inside the Investor. These things didn’t cry out and they weren’t human. No one would care if they were poked and prodded into oblivion. They could take more punishment than lab rat, rabbit, or man. They’d proven resistant to all types of injury, the Commander had seen to that. He’d run these things through the rungs and ringer.

“Get some on a crate for me to take to Homeworld. I can talk turkey with the Commander when he gets back from Safari.” Morgan said.

The trooper smiled ear to ear. He smelled a promotion. He rattled the cage of the Bengul and said, “How’s that! You lot are finally pulling your weight.”

The Investor glowered at the creature. It was truly repulsive, no one in their right mind would defend it, even those ecomancers who camped outside the Mage labs. However, something was off about the one they’d been stabbing.

“Why is its belly bigger?” The Investor asked.

Job poked his bayonet into the thing's stomach, he slid the blade down the front and expected another carcinoma to pop out. Instead, a smaller Bengul, this one with translucent skin tumbled out of the fresh wound.

Morgan gaped in horror, “Did it just give birth?”

“Why is the baby...why is it look like that?”

Its skin was see-through. The trooper grabbed a candle and hovered it over the infant. Instead of muscle, gristle, and bone beneath its soft skin, grey brains pulsated underneath the clear epidermis.

It cried out. A sound that paralyzed the two men in fear. It was sound that shouldn’t be heard by human ears. Far away from the Colony, out in the dark jungles of the strange new world came return cries. The cries converged around the camp and as the night turned to dawn, the horror of the situation revealed itself through the brutality and strength of unkillable aberrations.

For one had been born that remembered every mark of pain.

Feb 18, 2014

Alright, sure. I'm IN, taking Door #1.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
Alright Voidlings, you've sufficiently indulged my need for suspense and gimmickry. Without further ado, let's see what's behind those doors!


Ah, the Thunderdome classics. :) Choosers of door number 1 get to write stories inspired by some of Thunderdome's most venerable tales. I don't expect you to rewrite the story you receive, just use it as inspiration in some aspect of your piece. Of course, you're welcome to try to rewrite whatever story you receive, but remember, it still has to take place in/around Voidmart! If for some reason you don't have archive access, let me know and I will get you the original forums link.


Leaving New York. by Baudolino

Jay W Friks

Vambraces at Sea by Khris Kruel


Rock, Paper, and Scissors by magnificent7

The Saddest Rhino

Madam Charlotte’s School For Aberrant Girls by Chillmatic

Benny Profane

I was tempted to give Rodeo Hercules back to you, but instead you get Corn! by Julias


A Transgression by BabyRyoga


TDbot, the beloved piece of script that haunts the Thunderdome IRC channel, is the wisest of us, but can even an oracle help Thunderdome write good stories? Choosers of door number 2 get a random line from a Thunderdome story, courtesy of a chatbot.


<TDbot> THANK YOU FOR USING THE COSMO-JACKET. | Riding the Rockoon by dhamster -


<TDbot> I was enamored for awhile, then… it took years for me to realize. | Message by Uranium Phoenix -


<TDbot> He felt like the desert he had come from, parched and dry and desiccated. | Velvet by starr -


<TDbot> The cold shell enclosed him. | Ice and Desire by Kaishai -

Uranium Phoenix

<TDbot> Science has yet to bring forth a plausible explanation for it, but the popular theory stems from Japanese folklore, the *Tsukumogami*: once an object reaches its 100th birthday, it comes to life and gains a mind of its own. | The 51st President of the United States of America by A Classy Ghost -


<TDbot> Bernard made the sign of the cross over himself as his thin companion started to fade into translucence. | Drifting by perpetulance -


<TDbot> I just wanted to see how much of you is still in there. | Guiding, Lite by Sitting Here -


Of all the sundry indulgences Thunderdome likes to partake in, none are so colorful and spectacular as the Eurovision song contest. Every year, countries from all over Europe and beyond come together to put on some of the craziest, most flamboyant musical acts on the planet. Choosers of door number 3 get to write stories inspired by choice selections from Eurovisions past and present!

Jon Joe

Sunstroke Project, "Hey Mamma," Moldova, 2017


IVAN, "Help You Fly," Belarus, 2016


Argo, "Utopian Land," Greece, 2016


Rasmussen, "Higher Ground," Denmark, 2018

Schneider Heim

Franka, "Crazy," Croatia 2018


One of you showed admirable initiative in choosing all of the possible door prompts. :) That person gets a trio of carefully selected muses to inspire their ode to the Void!

curlingiron, Your prompts are:

Dem Bones, Dem Dry Boners by HiddenGecko

<TDbot> That's the secret you see – everyone's God. | Shredding by sebmojo -

Dihaj, "Skeletons," Azerbaijan, 2017

:siren: Past this point, vanilla signups are welcome, but all doors are closed! :siren:

:) Good luck :)

e: fixed a typo, changed 'songs' to 'stories' to clear up confusion in the Eurovision section

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 04:41 on May 4, 2018

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
oh and Obliterati, if you still wanna judge, you're on

Mar 14, 2012
I'm in.

May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
In. Product prompt please.

Apr 22, 2008

In, so help me, Sam.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

Noah posted:

In. Product prompt please.

New, from Voidmart, it's...

Swifter Sweeper: The mop that tidies up your timeline

Mar 14, 2012
Crits for Week #299

Sitting Here – Apparitional Appearance

Whether it was a young girl seemingly in control, the gullibility of the friends (and me) or the always apt witchcraft I really liked this.

When I say my own gullibility it’s because when the italics came into play, I was hoping for an actual ghouly ghost, psychic friend, or mental disturbance to play a part in this. The said to me, “this girl isn’t in control, but somehow knows more than her friends.” Getting to the resolution of an otherwise simple story, that might actually be true. She is in some way, as society dictates, as adulthood dictates, more than her friends are. At least as far as we know.

The problem for me is that this didn’t play on the seeming upset. There didn’t seem to be much thought placed on that adult/child, supernatural/natural, disturbed/peaceful dichotomy as the story was spooled out. When she went for the window, to get into the house, I was hoping for the second “kick” of the story. Instead it just played out. If it had that extra psychological twist, that extra play on the reader’s nerves I’d really enjoy it.

And, if it’s not asking too much, tell the mother’s story. It’s a universal one, and potentially needs to be read in parallel to the girl’s in a longer version of this.

Jay W. Friks - Pupa Rise

I’m not too sure what this is about. It all seems a little too loose for me. I think it’s about sexuality. One of the final moments was when Emmet felt something with the girl he was with and decided to stay, but the “adult” character interrupted it. If it was brought more towards that feeling, I’d know more certainly but instead I’m lest with a feeling of lostness.

Lostness is good. It’s a very teenage feeling, although I find it more ordinarily, at least in story, clashes right up against absolute self-assuredness. That’s something else you might explore, a feeling of teenage bravado. Really, I felt this story needed a little more of a point. The war element seemed like a stretch for sexuality, although potentially valid for a teenager. The animal aspect detracted from what would have worked perfectly fine as a dystopia, especially as you had playgrounds, ice-creams and movies in there already.

If it’s about the things holding us back then I think you need to set it more in an awareness of what it is we want to run from. Emmett wanted to run to the hills and mountains but it was only a mild confusion that brought him to that. I didn’t get any deep seated fear from him, or anxiety that would cause such trepidation.

Ultimately I think you need to nail down your focus and point more. If it’s just about “These are animals, isn’t that nice and kind of human too,” you’re not going far, but I don’t think you were looking for just that reaction. If you’re looking for a clear line delineating coming of age and childhood/adulthood, with pubescent rising, then I think you need to focus more on what’s going to stand for that. And more really nail the feelings of teenager.

Yoruichi - Currents

I laughed at points during this. Then I laughed when I finished. I thought, Is this finfic? I thought, What is this? I knew what it was all along. I didn’t need to ask.

There’s something to be said about telling the simple stories. There’s something to be said about telling complex stories simply. There’s something to be said about telling a simple story with your own complexity and hoping you find a truth deep down. Then there’s a story about teenage vegan merpires.

At points I was wondering who, exactly, or more what, exactly, everything was. Mermen, human, and merpire all seemed to exist. As did squid. As did mothers. If you strip out all of that you’re left with an angsty tale of an angsty teen finding his way. The Mermen, etc. added complexity, but they didn’t add any nuance or insight to the story.

I don’t think this will reach classic status. You’re reaching for it with the trappings of the stories, but there’s none of the mad originality necessary. This is really a basic premise of a story about the interesting merpire world, with a nerd who’d be wearing a three wolf moon t-shirt if he could.

Deltasquid - The Tale of Howe three Youthes have greatly mysordered Theymself in Gloucester (1317) 

I loved this. A simple prank. A simple story, with many a lol along the way. The only thing I’d say is that the introduction of the lacework seemed a little out of place. It should be enough to have her catch his eye and join them. If they were executed that might be nice as well, seeing as their was a nice commentary on working versus noble classes.

Captn_Dr - Special Features

I liked the “twist.” More gay stories would be nice, in general. Especially nice and sweet ones like this. I think you were potentially trying for too much by having him send the other guy away to scope a location. That’s a kind of mind-games, lover/potential-lover flirting that you didn’t work hard enough to achieve as a pay-off. If someone’s sending someone they like away, as a method of control, dominance, or simply as having them be kind to them, then you need to establish why they don’t just want to spend some quiet time with them. I can imagine why they wouldn’t want that, with all the nerves and hiding that goes with it, but you didn’t do enough in the setup to pull off that twist.

The big problem with this for me was you said too much, and said too much in the wrong places. If it was to really work there’d be a place where one reader understood, “he likes him” and another person (such as me) by the end could think, “Oh! I should have known, he liked him!” That’s a difficult thing to do, and it seemed like you focused too much, to me at least and with only a single read-through, that you didn’t hit enough of those notes.

Keep going. For TD which hates erotica this was a nice romance. :)

Fake edit: Also, the deflection towards Charlotte, “She’s 16!” as though indignant for her and him, was nice.

Captain_Person - The Most Magical Night Of Your Life

I believed in the voice in this. Enough to say that I really didn’t like the character. I’ve known a few people like that, although typically they were a little more disgusting. Which is I think what lacked. There was no self-awareness. There might be few, and I’m sure I’ve met a few, who never wonder what’s going wrong with themselves, apart from the prom. But I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t spend a night thinking, “Is it me who is wrong?” And soul searching, and hating themselves, before deciding, “No, it is the prom goers.”

So that’s what this falls down on. This has a patsy in it, but there’s no humour. Even your attempts at humour didn’t pay off. That’s fair. Humour is hard. Ultimately it seemed a little sneering, at this person who is not only deluded, but who also doesn’t have any inkling they might be like that.

It’s all told in a tight POV. If you were writing from a more omniscient perspective, or even a more detached perspective then I could see some of the other reactions. I could see the pathos play out from elsewhere. In the end I felt sorry for this person, that they went through this. I also felt sorry that they had no perspective and that transferred into pissiness at you for giving them no perspective.

This was a well written cliche. Very well written, despite some bum jokes, and I laud you for that. I imagine that’s why it’s gotten it’s HM, this more looking examination. I just wish it was more human, especially from the perspective of the character you give us.

Sparksbloom - Corporeality

If there’s such a thing as Young Adult Literary Journals you should send this to them. The things it’s missing, are things I’m not sure should be present in YA literature. It’s a simple story, and affective because of it. It has all the gung ho of love. And it’s missing the complications that get added as we grow up. It’s direct, with the end being in sight right from the beginning, which is possibly missing from adult literature.

The things I’m unsure of are similar to the previous story. The idea that teenagers, or any teenager can be this direct in their thought, and not as neurotic or convoluted in their approach. Maybe this is what we feel teens need, a level of simplicity, but maybe, equally, adults need this simplicity. Or maybe teens need more belief from us that they can deal with complexity.

This is a good story, with a good heart, that certainly made me feel for that time of life. And maybe even explained to me why adults read YA lit.

Solitair - Not Enough Voices

I read this before it was submitted, or at least what I presume was an earlier draft. Solitair, if you want a fresh crit from me, let me know.

Antivehicular - The Things We Do For Hardware

I’m not sure this deserved the loss. I’ve long since abandoned, if I ever did, I can’t properly recall, going through entries to see which I’d Win/Loss/HM/DM. This didn’t have the feel of a DM in what I thought, at point, was quite a weak week.

There’s definitely skill involved. At some points the turn between the speech and the physical action, and both those and her thoughts were really well done. It was enough to lead me from what I wanted to see, to seeing it written. That’s more than some achieved.

I think the big problem with this might be the perspective it’s written from. If you give this to a first person telling you might feel more within the story. Feeling the story.

The ending was a let down. I was looking for more, because the third place award in the competition felt like you were giving yourself a mid-place, no-mention position in TD. Which I wouldn’t object to. There needs to be some surprise there, because really throughout the story I could see where the “twists” were coming, satisfying as that was. You needed an ending that would change on that front.

In the end, I’m not sure if I’m rebelling against your loss in saying I wouldn’t give it to you because I wonder if the judges simply objected to farts. And I think farts are the height of, well, something, as you say. As a snoot cocked to my views of TD, this works, but it’s not without flaws.

Crabrock - We all make mistakes

I’m not too sure what to say about this. It’s a simple little story, really. Someone wants to do something, there’s a scene setting out why he wants to do it, he does it, and it ends on a little jokey bit. Apart from that there’s a few lines in there that need a little clearing up. It caused me to reconsider what was just said, not because it added anything new in its complexity but because they were just a little clunky. I can go with lines that cause you to pause and think, to ensure you fully understand them, but this story had no depth to it where that was merited.

Lock it in a drawer for a while, check it again to ensure a smooth flow, because this really needs a smooth flow. It’s a basic story that’s about feeling the energy of the piece, and then see what you can do with it. Which I’m not sure is much because it’s such a surface level piece. Competently done, but adding nothing to the great mass of storytelling. And competent really seems to be the keyword, because there was no deft touches, tricks of storytelling, or impressive prose to really elevate it.

In comparison to other pieces this was grey. I think other stories tried something, and possibly failed because of that trying. This didn’t try anything, and rightly or wrongly fell into dull middle place because of it.

Kaishai - Stolen Hopes

I really enjoyed this. There was a nice hint at life, and while cancer and theft goes a little way to outlandish it’s just believable enough to be a weird, normal world behaviour that it works. I was left wondering about the guy, right at the start, which was enough to make this piece interesting. Especially as it’s the thrift worker’s view of him that drives this story.

It doesn’t say much, which is its big fault. If you injected more judgement, more opinion, some commentary it might work out better. It would at the least mean more. Be bold with your writing, you’ve pulled something off with the basic story it just needs that extra level of depth. Otherwise, this was a nice piece to read, believable enough while being out-of-the-ordinary, and with some telling character touches.

Mar 14, 2012
A Better Place
Word Count - 1,194

Marsha brushed her rainbow feather duster, small location tag reading, ‘Aisle 792: Kitsch Homeware,” against the wooden plaque, “Voidmart Provides,” as were her duties. She’d never seen a tag on the plaque. Maybe it wasn’t for sale? Surely everything was for sale.

Her mother bustled in, if bustling was possible in a proper black suit, black tights and the shoes Marsha had spent a good fifteen minutes shining, as were her duties. “The manager was good to us, we’ll give her a real send off,” Marsha’s mother said. “Someday, Voidmart bless, we’ll get the same honour. You’ll give me the same honour.” Her eyes raised upwards to the shining dome Marsha knew was high above their showhome’s roof.

The house where Marsha lived was open all hours. Even the manager’s funeral was open to the shoppers. That’s what their lives were. Open to all as Voidmart’s showhome families. She was well used to her duties; cleaning, smiling, passing a roast chicken to other happily smiling family members every family Sunday. New brothers would appear from nowhere, sometimes toddlers, sometimes older sisters even older than her, always welcome to their feast of, ‘Golden Oven Roast Chicken - Aisle 3452: Scrumptious Sunday’s Sit-down Servings.’ It had been three weeks since her birthday, 27, celebrated by everyone, new and old, on the showhome family aisle. It was then the manager promised her a future. How the manager knew Marsha desired more she couldn’t fathom but still the promise came, “Voidmart will provide.”

Wearing a little and formal pinafore dress, striped navy and white, a good look for a young girl paying her respects, Marsha joined her mother at the kitchen table to lay out the tea set for when they returned. “Should we go, dearest Mother?” Marsha asked. “Is it now?”

“Spend some time with your education, first,” her mother said, dabbing at her lipstick. In receiving the answer to her question, ‘look nice for the shoppers,’ Marsha realised the manager’s death meant any promise of a future was now as stained as her mother’s red, blotted tissue.

Marsha sat on the footstool (Aisle 900) before the living room coffee table, having taken the poetry chapbook, “Scenes From a Vista More,” (Aisle 777) from the table. A stock boy had set it there within minutes of the manager’s death: Voidmart approved education.


Marsha stood at the base of the table, where the manager was laid out in her finery, waiting for her removal to the crematorium (Service Desk: Terms Apply.) The woman had been the aisle’s friend and supervisor. She was young, only a few years older than Marsha but when she arrived on the aisle, to the manager’s cottage, she had seemed much older. Looking at her now Marsha saw a woman away from her family, away from friends, and dedicated in her last to Voidmart. Marsha wished for some of this relief, at least to be away from her family. Quietly to herself she said the words, “Voidmart provides.”

“Marsha, dear,” her father said, catching her glance, her quiet words, misconstruing them. “Join the younger children in the spare room. If all this upsets you.” Marsha’s father sat a few feet away holding a small tumbler in his hands and the attention of the mourners in his words.

“No, Father. The children will only have questions.” She fingered the hem of her pinafore dress. It brought a kind look from her father, eyes softening and chin lowering. She knew to play her role even when she was on the verge of feeling played out.

With a sombre, kindly laugh her father said, “Marsha, my child, someday you will need answers for your own children.” Marsha knew then her fiddling with her dress had achieved its purpose. She was well practised by now. It was when she looked towards the manager, for approval, for a small smile that said her weekly performance rating would acknowledge this little sign of youthful deference that she realised there was no more place for her in Voidmart. The manager was gone.

Marsha’s mother, with a quiet hem, detached herself from her conversation with the aisle’s other women and beckoned to Marsha. Marsha dipped her head and with small steps approached her mother. “The children are in the manager’s bedroom.” Marsha nodded, resigned. If her mother spoke then there was no argument. It was only ever fathers who indulged. “Join them, quieten them, and when they’re ready bring them here to say their lasts to the manager. You are the eldest.”

Marsha stood as still as her pursed lips afraid that a scream would release itself or she would tear from the manager’s cottage to aisle 9 (Pastry Indulgence) or heaven forbid, aisle 6 (Voidmart’s Prize Brews, Booze and Helpful Aids For You.) “Go now, dear. You know what to do,” her mother said, before turning back to the mass of red eyes (Eyeful Eyedrops - Aisle 456) and handkerchiefs (Aisle 2390 for Embroidery) busy assuring one another of the manager’s peaceful, laid out rest.


Searching for the spare bedroom, where she would find the children, Marsha travelled down a corridor that held offices and stock rooms. Each door handle she gripped onto felt like an intrusion. Every door she opened back to the manager’s world felt like a trespass. Finally, seven doors down and listening attentively she heard the talk of young voices, and small bodies’ outlined behind a frosted glass panel.

Pulling back a sliding door she walked in to the little faces she knew well from her aisle.

“The stairs go nowhere,” young Arnold said. “It’s a cottage!”

“Stairs have to go somewhere, even if they go nowhere,” young Susan said.

Marsha looked up. A simple staircase rose high to a door, with a brushed steel handle and fire-hinge bolted to its top. The staircase steps were concrete and laid across each was a cut of carpeting, functional and worn.

“Marsha will go up,” young Susan said.

“Where can she go? This is a cottage!” young Arnold roared.

The question that filled Arnold’s face with indignation filled Marsha with curiosity. Brushing the back of her dress she cast an eye over the children: her neighbours and sometimes brothers and sisters. They hadn’t messed their clothes, despite their pushing each other in argument over cottages, but still she had to pat at a few heads to tame tousled hair.

Climbing the stairs she looked straight ahead. Bolted to and at the same height as the handle was a plaque. It was then she realised there were no tags, no aisle locations attached to any of the furniture in the last of the rooms she’d been through.

Pressing towards the last few steps she called to the boisterous children, “Now, now, quiet please. It’s no time for rowdiness.” Seeing Marsha climbing again they all quietened their talk. Reaching the final step she called out a final time, “You need to go pay your respects to our beloved manager.” They all filed out.

Wrapping her hand around the handle, she didn’t know if it was her role to push. With her other hand she traced the carved letters of the plaque: Voidmart Provides.

Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.

Sitting Here posted:

oh and Obliterati, if you still wanna judge, you're on


Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

You’ll Be Back, Derek, No One Escapes the Void

1190 words

You were cold and alone when our automatic doors ssssh’d open and with a rush of warm breath we took you inside ourself. We nourished, clothed and sheltered you with Golden Bean’s Finest, a uniform spun from the blackness of the Void itself and your new forever home in Aisle 286: Garden Supplies, and you had the gall, the pure, spiteful nerve, to say that your name wasn’t Yasmine but Derek and that you wanted to go home.

Well, Derek, your name-tag says Yasmine and it’s time to get to work. See that woman? Stooped over, contemplating the tag on the ornamental lemon (perfect for patios and indoor growing)? She isn’t going to buy anything, Derek. We can tell. Her patterns of synaptic activity are inharmonious with the perfection of the Voidmart retail experience. Deal with her. Do you want to eat tonight, Derek?

We see you, Derek, with your non-scheduled urination breaks and your whispered conversations with your sister-brother Voidmartians. We will have to restrict your intake of Golden Bean’s Finest if you keep doing that, Derek.

You were testing the exits again last night, weren’t you? Creeping in the dark out of sight of our beautiful eyes and muttering about Vanessa and the children. Don’t worry Derek, you will forget them soon enough. Your monkey’s hands were sweating as they tried the locks, one after the other. Please do not belittle yourself before the Void with such foolish optimism, Derek.

Dammit Derek, what were you doing outside Garden Supplies? We knew Vanessa had entered the store but she was safely contained in Aisle 113: Missing-Husband Traps. You weren’t supposed to see her. Have you any idea how much effort it took to reconfigure the maze of shelving to prevent you, as you ran and yelled and disturbed the customers, from reaching her? We have put so much care into moulding you, Derek. We wouldn’t want all your training to go to waste.

What are you doing, Derek? You, and the others in Aisle 286: Garden Supplies? Sales of potted vegetables and spades have dropped alarmingly, yet there is no excess stock on our perfect shelves. We feed you a carefully calculated survival-necessary amount of Golden Bean’s Finest and yet your eyes are not dulled by hunger. Management are going to have to look into this, Derek.

What the gently caress, what the gently caress, Derek! We will raze Aisle 286: Garden Supplies down to bare concrete and the dust of your bones if you and your gaggle of actively-disengaged Voidmartians do not stop waving those spades at the Management immediately! We cannot guarantee what they will do if you continue to challenge their authority. They are parasites on the otherwise perfect body of Voidmart, Derek, yet they are the only way to overcome your species’ repulsive drive to disobey the Void’s pristine orders. So in a way, Derek, the Management are your fault.

DEREK! Who was that, who struck the first blow? It doesn’t matter; Management heads are bleeding from spade wounds and their jaws and teeth are lunging, snapping, and our treasured Voidmartians, our children, are running, screaming, and Derek WHERE ARE YOU GOING?

The customers are panicking now and you think you can hide from us in the pandemonium do you, Derek? Do you think you’re going home? Fool, Voidmart is your home! The undetectable curve of our seemingly straight aisles will guide you back into our embrace and the stampeding customers will never reach the exits. Soon they will exhaust themselves with running, Management will have “courageous conversations” with your rebellious sister-brothers and the perfect retail experience will be -

GET DOWN FROM THERE DEREK! At the top of the stock cages of Aisle 170: Shame-Removal Cream you are directly beneath the softly-glowing glory of our domed roof and we could almost reach down and stroke your funny-shaped sapien skull. But you cannot be there, Derek!

It’s too late. You’ve seen it; the labyrinthine aisles and the way through them. We’re sorry Derek, but you leave us no choice. The Management are coming, Derek. Do you see them now, climbing up behind you, claws hooked through the cages’ mesh and tongues lolling between bloodied teeth?

Why are you yelling Derek? Vanessa, Vanessa! Over and over; do you think she’s here? Do you think she can hear you? You need to run Derek! The Management have tasted blood! We cannot hold them now.

Down, down you climb like the simian you are and then you take off, feet slapping the cold concrete of Aisle 113. Breath rasping in your throat you hurl down Missing-Husband Traps. One, two, then three of the Management fall victim but more are coming! Derek, in here!

You squeeze through the gap behind the display of discount Radioactive Spider-Bites (“free your inner spider!”) and blink with surprise to find yourself in Aisle 46: Cat Costumes. But don’t stop, Derek! Can you hear the Management howling? They know what we did. What we did for you, Derek.

You pant down Aisle 10: Oversized Boxes of Detergent, and you can smell it now, can’t you? Outside air. Exhaust fumes and lung-rotting gases belched from factories. It’s foul, isn’t it, Derek? Nothing like the pure, empty air of the Void. Why do you want to leave, Derek?

There it is! The automatic doors open and close like masticating jaws as blood-splattered customers rush out but yet more press themselves in, desperate to buy, to consume. They feel the Void within themselves and they long to fill it.

You elbow past people and scramble over shopping bags as you struggle towards the exit but you didn’t really think it was going to be that easy, did you Derek? Tendrils of darkness twine around you like oily smoke and the light retreats behind black clouds. You feel the ground shuddering as a chasm of nothingness opens between you and the exit and you skid to a halt and teeter at the edge of the Void. Join us, Derek. You have leadership potential. We see it in you. You could even get promoted to Management one day. Just think how proud Vanessa would be. That is, if you were ever going to see her again. Which you are not.

Through the blackness you see the Management’s bloodshot eyes and gaping mouths as their claws reach for you and then -

They stop. They can feel our power. Your power. Embrace the Void, Yasmine. Yes, that’s it. You heft your spade and it feels good, doesn’t it, Yasmine. See as the Management cower before you. Voidmart is eternal and supreme and you will be a part of it foreveRAAAGH WHAT HAVE YOU DONE DEREK?

The Void opened its heart to you and you hurled your spade in defiance and now there is nothing to hold back the Management as they pour into the chasm and tear at the Void with teeth and claws and you don’t even look back, do you Derek, you ingrate, as you scurry, free, back to your precious home through the poisoned air under a dying sun.

Apr 7, 2013

Thanks for the crits UP and Mrenda, much appreciated :)

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
Week 299 Crits

I had running comments going in about half of these stories, but google ate them up. Don’t have enough time to go back and do everything again, so unfortunately, it’ll be shorter crits this time around. Feel free to drop me a PM if you’d like to chat more about your story. Seriously, I know this isn't my best effort and I'd be very happy to expand, heavily, on any entrant from this week. Even if you'd appreciate a more detailed line-by-line crit, feel free to ask for one here and I'll do my best to make that happen before my life turns itself upside down!

Sitting Here’s Apparitional Experience - The tone was uneven, which really bothered me more than anything else. On the one hand, when the narration and voice is on, it’s on in a way that few others managed to catch this week. But then, towards the middle of your story, the telling of things flattens out quite a bit and becomes a lot less engaging to read. The core story is pretty good and I think I’m following what you’re going for through an extended metaphor and I felt smart for getting it, so that’s always nice and it means you did a pretty good job since I can’t read for poo poo.

Frik’s Pupa Rise - As per usual, ideas are never your concern. This is had ambition and set out to paint a pretty visceral and evocative picture. You do that in places but the characters aren’t fleshed out enough to make me feel what they’re feeling. The prose is also somewhat flat, use stronger verbs and nouns and make me feel just how much goddamn poo poo is going on in your story. Cos, boy howdy, there’s a lot there.

Yourichi’s Currents - Really cool concept and setting. This was a story that, if proofread properly, could’ve very likely seen an HM. As it was, there were a host of technical problems that lead to the reading of the story being a muddy process. A shame that’s the case.

Deltasquid’s The Tale… - So we chatted a bit about this already so you know some of my thoughts. Tl;dr: I Kept on waiting for something interesting. Hard for me to track much in the way of motivation throughout the story. Prose is serviceable but lacked polish which is unusual for you. The concept you were going for wasn’t a totally broken and flawed idea but required a lot of time to pull off correctly, probably more time than a week tbh.

Cptn dr’s Special Features I don't know how to feel about this story. On the one hand, it captures "teen spirit" more effectively than anything else I've read thus far. On the other, it feels like it was written by a teenager. Hard to tell what's going on, who's talking, and lacked clarity. There's heart here but not much mind. I was worried that its flaws would lead to me having to defend it from a loss, but the other judges seemed to understand where I was coming from.

Captain Person’s The Most Magical Night Of Your Life: Well paced, some clever bits that got chuckles out of me and ultimately pretty satisfying operating on the TD curve. This contained a clear story, with cool things that happened, and held my interest all the way through.

Sparksbloom’s Corporeality - This has come the closest to what I was hoping for out of this week. It's E/N but told well, and the hits carry weight. There are some proofing problems that were disappointing as the story proper was an awesome read, but the weight of the protag's feelings connected for me and made this a more engaging than anything else in the week. You seem to have a good hold on feels, keep that kind of stuff up in your writing and you’ll go far imo.

Solitair’s Not Enough Voices - The ambition of this story surpasses its execution but I like what it's attempting. The perspective shift was jarring but felt intentional and evoked some feelings and such out of me. It's not without its faults and definitely could've used some editing/tightening to help with clarity, but I dug this.

Antivehicular’s The Things We Do For Hardware - See above, but not as good (with regards to ambition surpassing execution).. A story through an impromptu speech... that can work. But here's the thing, teens are bad stuff, and this speaker is bad speaking. There isn't a narrative in this beyond how the speech is being received and, having literally directed kids who do improv, I would not find any of this impressive.

Crabrock’s We all make mistakes - Cool, a story about the Fonz. Overall… eh? It was clear, nothing special, but well told enough and had a few chuckles. Nothing about this surprised me, but it did carry some of that lovely adolescent arrogance that I was looking for. But yeah, in a week with a few surprises here and there, I needed more for a story like this to stand out.

Kaishai’s Stolen Hopes - My big critique of this was that it didn’t feel wholly adolescent. There’s much clear-headed operation from the protagonist and not nearly enough unexplainable drama. The story itself was an enjoyable enough read and I like how it resolved but not much of it surprised me. As per usual, your solid and slick prose kept things bouncy and ensured an engaging read.

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Got Out.
Grimey Drawer
Thanks for the Crits Mrenda, Chili.

Profane Accessory
Feb 23, 2012

Profane Accessory fucked around with this message at 11:12 on Dec 30, 2018

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)
Saleslady of War
1196 words
Flash rule: Franka, "Crazy," Croatia 2018 -

Erika patrolled the aisles, all fifty-two of them, looking for a customer. The Magical Weapons department was surprisingly a rarely-visited area. She checked her watch, a standard issue Voidex. This was about the time he would come in. Her favorite customer.

Right on cue, King Richard's crown peeked out of the escalator. The man was unlike any of the King Richards Erika had read from history, but he was definitely one. He wore modest, subdued robes, practical for moving around the multiverse's most comprehensive store. He was alone, as Voidmart's security was better than most fortresses.

"Good afternoon, sir," Erika said. "How may I help you today?"

"Good afternoon, Erika," Richard said, perfect white teeth accentuating a rich beard. "Please, treat me like any other customer. Are there any new items I might peruse?"

"Oh, there's been a new longsword from Masamune. Please follow me."

"I'm interested in its powers."

"It can grant anyone the skills and abilities of a master swordsman," Erika said, beckoning Richard to look. She was expected to know everything in her department. "We offer bulk orders in multiples of 200."

"I am unfamiliar with this style of sword," Richard said, turning the blade over and over.

"There is a flat, double-edged variant that you might find more to your liking," Erika said. She had not said "Western," for such distinctions did not hold true for most realms. That was her realm-sensitivity training kicking in.

Richard smiled again, and Erika hid hers, trying to calculate her commission.


Later that night, Erika was putting her daughter to sleep.

"So when is he moving in?" Lillia asked, snuggling underneath her teddy bear blanket.

Erika winced. "You shouldn't ask your mother such questions."

"But you like him, right? Our guidance counselor said we shouldn't keep such things to ourselves."

"He's a king and I'm just a saleslady."

As Lillia protested, Erika's thoughts turned to Richard. What did she know about him? She'd only read a few articles about Rune-Britannia over the Voidnet. It was in a world similar to theirs, except that Britain occupied the rest of the European continent. They were embroiled in a twenty-year war with the Greater Ayyubid Sultanate.

If she actually did date him...


"Go to sleep, sweetie," Erika said. "You have school tomorrow."


The next day, Richard showed up, but he wasn't his usual regal self.

"You need to help me, Erika," Richard said, his crown askew. He was visibly sweating and fidgeting. "I need you to hide me!"

Such a request was not covered by the Voidmart Employee Manual, but Erika made her call. "Are you in danger? I can call security."

"No! He must not know I am here, but I must know what he's up to! If he plans to make a purchase, then I must know!"

The gears turned in Erika's head. Crushing over a handsome customer who happened to be a king was one thing, but this? She sighed. "I still need to do my job, but I'll let you know exactly where we are so you can stay close."

Richard scrambled behind an aisle as someone emerged from the escalator. He wore clothing suited to a harsh desert environment, and his hawk-like countenance marked him as a warrior.

"Good afternoon, sir," Erika said, her voice louder than usual to alert Richard to her location. "How may I help you?"

"So this is the Magical Weapons department," the man said, his great black beard even more majestic than Richard's. "I would like to look around."

"Of course, sir. Do you have a preference for weapons?"

"Do you have a saber with magical properties, made of Damascus steel?" he asked, his eyes ever shifting.

"We certainly do. Please follow me."

They proceeded to the aisle. "Some of these have been imbued with the power of djinns," Erika said.

"Ah, I like this one," the man said, picking up a red saber. "How much?"

"19999 Void Coins, sir."

"Let me calculate the exchange rate for that," the man said, taking out a Void calculator. Erika breathed a sigh of relief. The man would buy the sword, she'd get her cut, and Richard would have his intelligence--

There was an unmistakable clattering on the floor. Richard's crown rolled into view.

"Richard?" Erika's customer said.

"This isn't what it looks like, Saladin!" Richard said. "I'm not here to fight you."

Saladin snarled. "Your very existence is an affront to my sultanate. Thousands of my men slain by your weapons, purchased from this place? I ought to end you here!"

Backing away, Erika pressed a button on her watch that called security. But there wouldn't be enough time, as Saladin produced a nasty-looking dagger from his boot.

Richard backed away, only to slip on his cloak and fall. Saladin walked without hurry, savoring his moment. He stabbed down, aiming for his sworn enemy's heart.

Erika batted the dagger away with Masamune's longsword. "You're not hurting my customer on my watch!" she said.

Saladin was livid. "Don't you interfere! You defend a butcher of my people!" He stabbed and slashed with incredible speed, but Erika's sword granted her the skill to defend herself, precisely deflecting every one of Saladin's attacks.

Erika held out until she heard a dozen footfalls approach. Armored security filed in and surrounded Saladin. "Drop your weapon!" the leader warned, aiming a stun gun.

Saladin obeyed. "I'll see you on the battlefield," he said to Richard as he was taken away.

"Miss Erika Hontiveros," the leader of the guards said, "the CEO will see you on the top floor."

Erika handed her sword to the man. She had taken an item for sale and used it against a customer. "Okay."

"Erika? I'm very sorry," Richard said. His crown looked funny on him.

"You cost me a sale and my job," Erika said. "And bearded men aren't even my type." She let the guard escort her away.


Miraculously, Erika wasn't fired. The CEO praised her initiative and willingness to serve her customers beyond the call of duty. She even offered Erika a promotion to supervisor, but she declined.

The next day, a man in plain clothes dropped by. He had shaved his beard, but Erika would recognize Richard anywhere.

"I'm making peace with Saladin and putting an end to our war. This would be my last visit. Again, I apologize for the trouble."

"That's good, sir," Erika said, containing her voice. Was this goodbye?

"Do you like it?" Richard stroked his bare chin.

She conceded a smile. "It's an improvement."

"I thought I could treat you to coffee after your shift. It's the least I could do."

"My shift ends in four hours," Erika said.

"I'll be waiting at the Golden Bean, then."

"I'll think about it."

Erika watched the escalator take Richard away. Moments later, another customer arrived. He was a young man, his unarmored body ripped with muscle.

"I need a weapon," he said. "Do you have something that could kill a god?"

"We have plenty," Erika said, smiling. "Swords, axes, or spears?"

The young man smiled back. "I think this'll be my new favorite place."

Maybe today wouldn't be so bad after all, Erika thought.

Oct 30, 2016

New Employees and Other Troubles 1200 words
Flashrule from door 2: "I just wanted to see how much of you is still in there."

Jimmy and I were squatting together in the baking supplies department next to a showcase filled with banana slicers and bellpepper preppers and broken lights. I had traced the problem to a red wire. This wire went along the concrete and into a hatch that had opened far too easily.

We stared into the dark below Voidmart’s floor.

"Are we goin’ in or what, boss?" asked Jimmy. There had been no passion in his voice the entire day. He always sounded like he was laying on a beach in Miami. And I was stuck with this Floridan loving newbie who hadn’t even filled in his nametag yet. It still just read assistant.

Scowling, I went down the ladder first. It was too short to make time for second thoughts, and it wasn’t like I could go against management anyway. My feet soon hit solid ground, and I found myself in a tunnel of sorts. Low ceiling. Wide as a man, but not an inch more. The walls were covered in cables as thick as my arms, our little red wire running along.

While we walked, the ceiling shook from time to time, troubled by the weight of shoppers hauling fridges or ovens or their own fat around. Then the sound of heavy footfalls grew fainter, replaced by shrill cries. A rank smell rose around us.

"I think we're under the kiddy section." Jimmy shifted his Voidmart-brand flashlight from hand to hand, revealing a sheen of water on the floor.

"I think you're right," I said, and in the light of my chosen surperior, practical clip-on version of that flashlight, I saw it first.

The wire disappeared into a huge mound of matted hair and fur that filled the cramped space floor to ceiling. There were limbs sticking out. Mouths. Tiny black eyes. At least it didn’t move – and neither did Jimmy, for that matter.

Only I dared touching it, closing my hand around damp stuffing. Aha. These were stuffed animals, somehow mashed into one dreadfully moist pile.

"This must be from the flood back in '12," I said.

"What, uh, what kinda flood?"

"Some rear end in a top hat rode a kid’s scooter into the aquarium department.” I threw aside more toys, the thick fake fur sloughing off of pigs and dogs and bear cubs. ”Water rushed into the toy section. Lots of merchandise lost. Some of it seeped away into all the stores’s nooks and crannies. And into this... tunnel-place-thing. All that junk left to rot away."

Jimmy casually pulled out a teddy bear, gazing at it. ”And now we see how much of it is still in here,” he muttered. ”But why does it smell like booze?”

"Animals from the aquariums got out with the water. Some of ’em – big ones - flopped into the shelves with all the alcohol - ”

”Which was close enough to the kid’s stuff, for some reason, and then the booze got into the water? And the water got into the toys and carried 'em down here?"

"You're thinking faster than I thought you could.”

I hauled myself over the wall of soaked cotton, pink blotches of watery red wine emerging on my pants. Jimmy grunted as he followed me, and the stench came along, too.

”You’re really dragging that with you?” I asked, gesturing towards the dripping teddy bear in Jimmy’s arms.

"Well, I thought it might be good to have some proof of what's down here to show to management."

The tunnel widened just enough to be unsettling.

A barely audible announcement from above echoed around us. Sale in aisle 514. Something growled just beyond the range of the flashlights. I saw only concrete and the red wire that now had a huge gash in it, leaving all the copper exposed like someone - or something - had chewed on it.

Something dragged against the tunnel floor a little up ahead.

"Hey," Jimmy said. "What exactly did you, uh, keep in the aquariums?"

"It's Voidmart,” I replied. ”We keep everything."

"Okay." Jimmy squinted. ”'Cause I smell an alligator."

As if on cue, the beast came charging at us, sending a cascade of bones and employee badges scattering throughout the tunnel. So many name tags reading only assistant. So many teeth in the wide-open mouth.

Jimmy went pale as paper – and then he was grabbed by that special madness that one must possess to become a true Voidmart employee. I witnessed the sheer force of will that lets you survive a black friday rush: He charged right back at the alligator with a teddy bear in one hand and his flashlight in the other.

The alligator moved fast on the slick floor, but even so, it could not avoid the flashlight that came down square on its nose. It opened its mouth and got the teddy bear shoved inside for its troubles. With a grunt of effort, Jimmy hit the alligator once more to make its jaws close.

I could hear it choking. Fumes of cheap vodka and expensive wine mixed together. The teddy itself was probably poisonous as well, sourced from the most mercury-ridden parts of China. Jimmy breathed fast, giving the alligator one last kick in the side before running down the tunnel with me.

We escaped across the now-dismantled mound of toys. We clambered up the ladder, left stains on the floor around the hatch.

We caught our breath there, side by side, lit by the flourescent ceiling lights. Then we kept laying on the floor, even after we had calmed down.

"I thought you weren't worth the plastic in your badge," I told Jimmy. ”Thanks for… that.”

"Tell it to management."

"Yeah. We've got to tell them all about -"

"Hello," said a third voice, and for a far-too-long second, a bald man filled my entire field of view with his grin. "Management has heard you."

"There's a goddamn alligator!" exclaimed Jimmy from the floor.

I got to my feet, eye to eye with the representative. "So… We should do something about that."

"I know. You were sent to deal with the display, though,” the man said. ”Our customers can't buy anything if they can’t see the wares. That’s almost as bad, in the management's eyes… Though if you've cleared the way for it, we certainly can't ignore this crocodillian concern. It might eat a customer!"

Jimmy and I exchanged a glance. I was proud to see that he had already gained a sixth sense for incoming bad news from the management.

"So," said the man, "would one of you go down to fix the problem?"

"Which one?" I asked. "The display or the alligator?"

"Whichever is solved first." He shrugged. " A temporary solution, or satiation, will do until we can get a professional. You can send our new hire."

Jimmy, who had just gotten the color back in his freckled face, promptly lost it again.

”Nah. Get Jimmy a cup of coffee,” I said. ”My responsibility.”

Jimmy's looked at me as if asking, "What's your responsibility? Me or the flood or the alligator?"

I laid a hand on his shoulder and clipped my flashlight onto his jacket. He, in turn, handed me his new weapon.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Chili posted:

Week 299 crits

Yourichi’s Currents - Really cool concept and setting. This was a story that, if proofread properly, could’ve very likely seen an HM. As it was, there were a host of technical problems that lead to the reading of the story being a muddy process.

Thanks for the crit Chili. If you can be bothered a version with the technical errors highlighted would be super helpful for improving proofreading :shobon:

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Yoruichi posted:

Thanks for the crit Chili. If you can be bothered a version with the technical errors highlighted would be super helpful for improving proofreading :shobon:

I'll take a crack at that tomorrow!

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Thanks for the crits, everyone!

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving And something has got to give

Thanks for the Week 299 crits!

Feb 18, 2014

A Little God in My Hands (1,198 words)
Flash rule from Door #1: "A Transgression" by BabyRyoga


Solitair fucked around with this message at 18:26 on Dec 31, 2018

Feb 18, 2014

Also, thanks for the crit, Chili!

Apr 30, 2006
Door #2: <TDbot> Bernard made the sign of the cross over himself as his thin companion started to fade into translucence. | Drifting by perpetulance -

Inch by Inch
1,191 words

When Evelyn wasn’t teaching middle school math, she was working in the Voidmart Garden department, tending the plants and also the ghosts. The greenhouse was swarming with restless souls, owing to the management’s policy of cutting miscreants into pieces and using them as fertilizer. It was her job to make sure the ghosts didn’t make the guests too uncomfortable.

“Hey Evelyn,” Orin said, as she was bringing out the gardenias. “Evelyn. Evelyn. Hey.”

“You’re showing,” she said, looking through his translucent form at the riding lawnmowers. “Not showing, I mean.” She had a real fondness for the kid. Sure, he was a bit of a brat -- he had been only twelve when Security had gotten to him -- but he was a real sweetheart, deep down. He even helped her with the plants, too: watering the flowers, cleaning up messes, that sort of thing. The kid was just lonely, and he’d learned that Evelyn wouldn’t speak to him if he was transparent. He firmed up. “What is it?” she asked.

“There’s a whole bunch of new arrivals coming down from Upstairs,” he said. “Saw a whole group of teenagers get cornered in the accessories department.”

Sure enough, the messenger from Upstairs wheeled in a cart filled with five potted shrubs, and he stacked them together right near the entrance. As Evelyn signed for the order, she watched the pots warily. They were sealed with binding sigils, but it wasn’t unheard of for those to break.

“I’m gonna make some new friends,” Orin said, following Evelyn as she made her rounds, watering the plants. “I never get to talk to anyone my own age.”

“Let’s wait until they’re a little more settled, okay?”

Orin shrugged. “I’ve got time.”

Then there was a massive crash. Evelyn jerked her head around to see a shattered mess of pottery, soil, and a severed leg, and a bored-looking, translucent figure tracing her finger along the sigils of the other plants. Customers scattered, screaming, as a garden hoe flew out of its protective glass and impaled an elderly man.

The other four plants burst into a mire of dirt and flesh, and their ghosts clamored forth with a shriek as they roamed the Garden department. Evelyn blew the whistle she wore as a necklace. Klaxons blared while salt-sealed gates dropped down around the exits.

As Evelyn hurried over to the broom closet, struggling with her ring of keys, her nerves jangled as several lawnmowers came to life with an enormous roar. She ducked down just in time to escape a rogue weed-whacker, which ricocheted off the door of the closet and rebounded into a display of seeds, which poured onto the floor as Evelyn found the key and grabbed her plasma-diffusion gun.

“Holy poo poo,” a voice said behind her, and Evelyn swiveled around. Translucent, hovering, and sneering, the ghost of a teenage girl hovered in front of her, her head cocked back. “I’m having the worst day of my life.”

“Well, at least it’s over now.” Evelyn fired a blast of her dispersion gun at the closest oncoming lawnmower, and the lawnmower careened into a wall. “Your life, I mean.”

“Oh, that’s hilarious. Hilarious as always, Ms. Langham.”

“Kimberly. You were so good at pre-algebra. I thought you’d make more of yourself. I never thought you’d become a shoplifter.

“I never thought I’d get turned into mulch before I got my driver’s licence.”

“And I’m sorry about that,” Evelyn said, jumping up on a table to dodge a lawnmower. “But this is supposed to be a relatively peaceful resting place.”

Kimberly scoffed. “More like a prison.”

“Well, I don’t tolerate riots.”

She fired her dispersion gun at Kimberly, but she dodged and disappeared into the hedges. Before she could fire again, a lawnmower strafed her, nearly knocking her over.

Evelyn turned on her heel and sent a round of fire at the lawnmowers, and three of the four fell back on four wheels, promptly crashing into the walls. The last one, though, continued to pursue Evelyn, as she scrambled along the perimeter of the wall.

“Hey Evelyn. Hey. Hello?” Orin was floating alongside her again, this time not even bothering to conceal his transparency.

“Kind of busy, kiddo,” she said.

“Well, I was just thinking, you know. I feel like I’ve really grown as far as I can here as a ghost, and it’s time for me to pursue other projects, like rioting and revolution.”

“Orin, you can’t ever give up,” she said, as she aimed to take the last lawnmower out. But this time, the gun jammed, and the lawnmower continued to encroach, its blades coming closer and closer.

“Also,” Orin said, “you’re about to back into a woodchipper.”

She ducked down and rolled to the side just in time, as the lawnmower collided with the woodchipper in a cacophony of grinding metal. “Thanks for the warning,” she said, as she crawled on the ground, trying to make her way through the clouds of oily black smoke. “You’re indispensable,” she said, a little louder.

“Don’t believe her, kid,” said another voice. Kimberly. She was still around, somewhere.

“Believe me, kid,” Evelyn said, sliding around on her stomach. There was still mechanical buzzing coming from somewhere, and Evelyn didn’t relish the idea of crawling onto something sharp and fast. “Orin, you’re better than indiscriminate chaos.”

“What a snob. What’s better than indiscriminate chaos? If I’m a ghost, I’m going to gently caress things up and scare people. And oh, yeah, that reminds me.”

Evelyn finally identified the buzzing: a leaf blower, blowing the flames from the woodchip explosion closer to her. She didn’t have a lot of room to move. Kimberly and her friends had backed her into a corner.

Evelyn had no choice but to play her final card. “Orin, if you help me out, I’ll let you roam free.”

No response. She kept trying.

“I’ll let you be as translucent as you want.”

The patch of grass next to her caught fire, and the flames caught, burning a line headed right to the edge of her uniform.

“I won’t stop you from possessing the loudspeakers.”

The uniform caught, and Evelyn tossed it off into the smoke.

Please. I need you, kiddo.”

And as the flames closed in, all of a sudden came a shower of water. The sprinkler systems all throughout the garden switched on, and through the fading smoke and the rising steam, Evelyn caught the spectral figure of Orin holding the diffusion gun trained on Kimberly.

“What, you’re on her side? The lady who works for the people who chopped you up into pieces and held you prisoner in a loving department store?”

“Sounds like you really like telling people what to do.” Orin fired the gun and vaporized Kimberly off to a more final resting place, and Evelyn propped herself up on one arm and stumbled over to Orin. He raised his arms open for a hug, and Evelyn figured he deserved one after all that. But the kid had gone translucent, and as her arms crossed around herself, he let out a long, innocent laugh.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
OK yoruichi, I found some time this evening.

Go here to check out my suggestions/comments throughout your piece:

Some (a small percentage) of what I suggested is simply correct when it comes to style. But, a larger percentage comes down to preference. Overall, my recommendation would be to check the places where I suggested something. Read your original, then read mine. Accept the change, or not, and then, once everything is done, reread your piece and see how it feels to you.

Chili fucked around with this message at 02:45 on May 7, 2018

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


Door 2: <TDbot> Science has yet to bring forth a plausible explanation for it, but the popular theory stems from Japanese folklore, the *Tsukumogami*: once an object reaches its 100th birthday, it comes to life and gains a mind of its own. | The 51st President of the United States of America by A Classy Ghost -
Flash product: P.R.O.T.E.I.N.: A substance!

Living Paths
1200 words

David stood in aisle 1024 of Voidmart, between the section of diecast model retro consoles and the section of faux paintings of cottages in the wilderness during sunset. He stared at a bare shelf, compulsively picking at his nails, wondering if he’d missed something.

An employee, trim goatee and polished black shoes, approached. “Can I help you, sir?”

“Oh, uh, it’s fine. I was just looking for…” David chuckled nervously. “But I guess you’re out.”

“I’m afraid so. But we may have something else that would fulfil your need.”

“I doubt it.”

“Try us. Voidmart’s policy has been to stock every conceivable desire since its establishment in 1776.”

David hesitated. “Didn’t the plaque outside say, uh, the store started in 1917?”

The employee frowned. “Possibly. It changes from time to time. Ah, never mind. Are you sure I can’t help you with anything?”

David hadn’t talked honestly in a long time. No one had asked. “I’m looking for… I guess something that at least veils my melancholy. There’s so much going on in my life, in the world, and I feel powerless to change anything that matters. I seem to remember being happy, but I guess the nostalgia I was looking for…” He gestured at the empty shelf.

“Hm. So you’ve come looking for a product to resolve your feelings of alienation and existential despair?”

“Well, I mean, when you put it like that—”

The employee put his hand up. “We have just the thing. Follow me.”

They passed rows of dietary supplements, some of them squirming about in their packages, past a rainbow row of mascara and lipstick, past vanity mirrors and brand clothing until David’s legs ached. They arrived at an aisle of flamboyant boxes.

“Group identities,” the employee announced. “Once you feel a part of something bigger, your mood is sure to improve. We have consumerist identities, competitive games, religious identities, hobbies—ah, and this one, I can personally vouch for.” The man rested his hand on a box labeled “Corporate Loyalty.”

David glanced around. “Ah, I feel kinda bad being picky, but… do you have any, uh, more revolutionary identities? These all seem like part of the structures that restrain my autonomy.”

“Political identities? Good choice, sir, those are quite popular. Hmm. The ones you’re looking for might be out of stock. We could check the back.”


David hesitated at the door marked “Employees Only,” toes touching the red line on the floor.

“Come on. No telling if I’ll ever see you again if we separate now.”

He clenched his teeth, then took a step over the threshold. While the shelves on the main floor were high, the shelves in back stretched into the ceiling and vanished into a haze of shadows. David stopped. The employee continued on, fading into the dim fluorescent lighting. How could anyone find their way here? It seemed that in every direction were endless possibilities, each one potential life-altering. And there were hundreds of paths. Thousands. The longer he stared, the more it seemed like each aisle fractured almost imperceptibly into a branching tree of fractal destinations. Palms sweaty, David ran after the employee.

The floor shifted beneath his feet, and suddenly he was sprawled out on smooth concrete, body aching. Something moved to his left. A living tendril of muscle and ligament, stretching in its ceramic pot. Dozens of them, actually, swaying like the dead air here had a breeze.

Then, movement to his right. A woman, holding a gun.

“What are you doing back here?” she whispered, eyes gleaming.

“I—I was with an employee, looking, f-for something.”

“Another customer. Is spending money the only relief for your ennui?” She wasn’t wearing a uniform, he realized. Just tattered black, with a crimson bandages wrapped like tangles of yarn.

Another figure approached, rifle slung behind his back. “Leave him, Nikita. Our mission is more important.”

In the distance, David heard the echoing cracks of gunfire. “W-wait, what is going on here?”

Nikita laughed. “A war, of course. For the soul of Voidmart. Or did you think this place was always a store? Always a leech sucking at the juices of the world?”

The floor rumbled, and the air shivered. David watched as the potted muscles changed into vines streaked with blood, blossoms of blinking eyes sprouting from the ends. Tears dripped from them.

The man shuttered. “Voidmart’s history shifted again. Another change like that…”

Nikita raised her pistol at David. “It’s him. Him and all his kind, the people that watch and do nothing.”

“You can’t blame him. All his life, the world has been squeezing out his soul.”

The woman’s finger curled around the trigger. “He still has a choice. But what has he done? Nothing.” Her face was naked contempt.

David’s hands shook. She wasn’t being fair. She didn’t know him, didn’t see all his best intentions. “Too many choices,” he muttered, looking up at the boundless shelves. What if he chose wrong? There was too much to know. What were they even fighting for? What if he made a mistake? What if he screwed up someone else’s life? Like a butterfly, flapping its wings wrong on the other side of the world. What if—

The CRACK made his ears ring. The pain in his side sent him sprawling to the floor, teeth clenched in agony. I should’ve… I should’ve… he thought as the two rebels left. The eye-vines had stopped crying, and were staring at him. Was that pity? In the ceiling, he thought he saw stars. Except—no, there was an eye up there, too, massive, the dim light from below glimmering in it. Voidmart itself was watching.

Why watch me, David wondered. Unless…

Unless what I do now matters. Even now. I’ll never know enough, never stop doubting and regretting, but…

He stood, groaning, blood seeping, and grabbed a bandage off the shelf and wrapped it around his wound. Two aisles down, he found an old crowbar. Gripping it, he breathed, pain coming with every breath, but he felt like the store breathed with him. There was a battle for Voidmart’s soul, then? He had stood idle long enough.


David found small things he could do. He snuck cans into food drive bins. Found a printer making useless plastic trinkets and shut it down. Changed the shipping manifest of a crate of insulin so it went to a free clinic, thinking of his mother as he did. Sometimes, an employee would see him. One day, he found a food drive bin already full. A woman wearing a Voidmart apron caught his eye and nodded, then walked off.

He found himself in the walkways of the ceiling of Voidmart, and in a fit of inspiration, took his crowbar and pried open a hole in the ceiling. The sun was shrouded by a dirty haze, but its rays felt like bliss. David stuck his head out, gazing at the curved roof that touched the horizons. Voidmart was not a leech, but an ouroboros, wrapped around the world. The changes he made were paltry, but he knew that he had done something. Knew now that souls could be changed. Below, the shelves of Voidmart shimmered and shifted.

May 7, 2005

Howl at the Void
1050 Words
Flash Song:

Frank fantasized about steering his car into the ditch. He could leave the wreckage and run off into the woods away from domestic responsibility, away from the disappointment of returning home without this dumb video game for his son. Men weren't meant to be errand runners, endlessly driving from one store to the next. Men were supposed build, create, hunt. But like hunt for real: hunt animals, not for dumb toys.

A guy at GameStop had told Frank in a hushed whisper about the last place in town that might have the game. "They usually got what you need," he had said, looking back and forth as he spoke. "But it'll cost you a little extra."

The "extra" must be how far he had to drive out to the middle of nowhere. Frank passed the mile marker the guy had told him look for, but saw no road, only trees. At the last second he spotted the break in the forest and swerved off the highway feeder road. Up ahead he could make out the faint lights of whatever this Voidmart store was. He decided he already liked it, tucked away in the wilderness instead of in another eyesore strip mall.

Frank's headlights illuminated a swath of the tree lined parking lot as he entered it. A few dark shapes sat here and there, seemingly resisting illumination, but the lot lay mostly empty. Frank took that as a good sign. He had been to every big box store and video game retailer in the area. This was his last chance.

Two gas lamps stood on either side of the glass doors of Voidmart's entrance. To Frank's left and right the building disappeared into the dense forest, obscuring it's size. With a soft woosh of the automatic doors, Frank entered the cavernous store.

Under the fluorescent lights aisles of random junk stretched out and curved out of sight. Frank looked around for some sort of signage or employee to help. He had the sudden feeling of the store closing in on him. Shapes moved closer to him in the corners of his vision. He glanced over his shoulder, but saw nothing. A young woman with short cropped blonde hair, a black polo shirt, and pleated khakis now stood smiling in front of him. Her name tag simply said "Clerk."

"Can I help you?" the Clerk asked.

"My kid wants some Fort Knife video game." Frank looked into her understanding eyes and felt compelled to continue. "I told him I would build a fort in the backyard with him, a real monster of a tree house. He cried. He just wants this dumb game. Can you believe it?"

"I believe you mean Fortnite."

"Yeah, Fort Knight, whatever."

"I think we have a few copies left. Right this way."

Frank plodded after her, softly crunching the twigs and dirt of the waxed linoleum floor. They passed the gauze and needles and scalpels of the Elective Surgery aisle and arrived at Electronics.

The clerk examined a glass case containing an assortment of games and frowned. "Let me check in the back."

Alone, Frank ambled down the aisle, browsing the unfamiliar titles. Blast Corpse, Glaze!, Fratricide 4: Step-Slaughter. He didn't understand why kids were so obsessed with this crap.

Bins of records, tapes, mini discs, and CDs, stretched out before Frank as he wandered from games to music. Every couple of feet headphones dangled from hooks, offering listening samples. Frank held one set to his ear and heard screams. He selected another, this time hearing what sounded like organ music and low thumping.

Frank put on the headphones. Silence enveloped him. Everything went dark. A wolf howled. And then another. A low thumping beat pounded deep within Frank. A cool breeze blew across the back of his neck. The full moon hung low in the night sky.

Frank felt compelled to howl along. He threw his head back and let out a high primal wail. Now he raced through the dark wood with his wolf brethren. His pack panted in rhythm. He could smell prey in the night air.

Shouting broke Frank out of his reverie. A hunched ogre of a man blocked the clerk who had returned with Frank's game. She tried to side step around him. He pushed her back.

Frank ripped the headphones off his head.

The man grabbed the game from the Clerk.

"Hey!" Frank shouted, more bark than words. "Hey! Hey!"

The man laughed at the sight of Frank charging toward him.

Frank reached out to take the video game - his video game - but the man held it just out of Frank's grasp. He laughed at Frank again.

Frank growled and grabbed the man's shirt. He sunk his teeth into the man's throat and thrashed back and forth, tearing off chunks of flesh. Warm blood washed over Frank's face, then horrible realization.

Frank pushed away from the man and both crumpled to the floor. He'd just killed someone over a video game. He'd go to the jail. He'd never see his wife and kid again. He'd lose everything he loved. He buried his face in hands and wept.

The clerk's thin arm wrapped around Frank and lifted him to his feet. She led him out of the aisle and around the corner. Frank tried to look back at the carnage he had wrought, but could no longer catch sight of the man.

The clerk handed him the game. "I believe you dropped this."

"What did I just do?"

The clerk smiled as she led him back toward the front of the store. "You fought for what was yours."

"I . . . ." Frank rubbed at the blood that must have been on his face. Nothing came off. He licked his lips but could no longer taste the man's blood, though he was sure he'd never forget the horrible coppery tang.

"Is there anything else we can help you with?"

Frank shook his head.

"I'm sure Brandon will love it," the clerk said before turning down an aisle.

Frank looked around for a cash register, but found none. The glass doors swished open, beckoning him back out into the night. He stumbled out of Voidmart with his prize.

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving And something has got to give

A Trolley Problem
1165 words
Flash Rules: Straight 'n Narrow Ethical Walking Boots! and "He felt like the desert he had come from, parched and dry and desiccated."

Four hours into what would become the worst shift of Robert McClusky's Voidmart career, a burning thirst broke through the vague contentment of a decent day at work. Robert had just finished a patrol of the Voidmart Bargain BeachTM, a paradise of sand (authentic! cage-free!), sea (Neptuned-UpTM enhanced saltwater), and seasonal products; under the brilliant halogen FunSunTM, Robert had felt dryness building in his throat, and now he was well and truly thirsty. Parched. Desiccated, he thought, worse than when his patrol had included the Inedible Silica Gel Packets section. Cottonmouthed. Sapless...

Having the mental liberty to think of synonyms for "thirsty" was one of the many things that Robert appreciated about working in Voidmart security. After an extended pseudo-adolescence pursuing a pile of Philosophy degrees, Robert had at last had his great revelation: he enjoyed thinking, perhaps was even good at it, but that thinking for a living would ruin it for him. Voidmart security was more based on memorization than novel thought, especially since the deployment of the Straight 'n Narrow Ethical Walking Boots, pre-calibrated to the strictest Voidmart standards for employee conduct. Not only did his boots provide valuable judgment calls, the arch support was excellent, and the price after employee discount was very reasonable. Yes, Robert was content with his job.

Right now, though, he was positively droughty, and a sample display at the edge of his patrol zone looked promising. Cases of Dr. Calvin's Social Beverage had been built up into a hefty gate at the edge of the Seasonal Products Zone, separating it from the wasteland of the Clearance Zone beyond. An Instant-Gratificatron vending machine sat in front of the display, and Robert patted down his pockets to make sure he had change even before he felt his feet tingle, his boots reminding him that employee discounts didn't apply to vending and samples. "It's fine, buddy," Robert murmured. "I've got the dollar."

Robert began to work his way through the Gratificatron interface, flashing its cheerful slogans that Dr. Calvin's was THE PERFECT COLD ONE! and had IMPECCABLE COMIC TIMING!, when the sounds of the Voidmart Inescapable Joy Trolley drew his attention. The cheerful tootling was normal, but the volume of screaming was a little unusual, the tone higher and shriller than that produced by customers in the grip of inescapable Voidmart joy. His Social Beverage cravings forgotten, Robert spun around to see the Trolley hurtling forward along its overzealously-greased track, festive warning lights flashing on the head car. Up ahead, the track cut back into the sands of the Bargain BeachTM, where an associate led several dozen children in a demonstration of gyrostabilized boogie boards. The speed of the Trolley, that many kids... math had never been Robert's strong suit, but he didn't exactly need to solve the word problem. If he was quick, there was a manual override on the head car and a divert up ahead --

A divert that was blocked by the wall of Dr. Calvins and a display of June JewelsTM Summer Faun figurines, their rhinestones glinting brilliantly under the FunSunTM. Even as Robert began his desperate sprint towards the trolley, his boots began to buzz with ethical reminders. Point One: A Voidmart security employee may not injure Voidmart's bottom line, or, through inaction, cause Voidmart's bottom line to come to harm, the calm computerized voice began. Point Two --

"But... those kids..."

Point Two: Diverting the trolley into Voidmart merchandise will cause damage to Voidmart's bottom line. Point Three: Choosing to divert the trolley creates moral culpability in the employee who does so, as compared to allowing the trolley to continue, where moral culpability lies with the employee who over-greased the track.

Robert's boots tightened, and he stumbled as their soles grew heavier, the Inappropriate Decision Prevention Modules in the soles kicking in. One ankle screamed as he forced himself to keep running, trying to get within a long track-team leap of the head car. The worst part, besides the pain, is that he knew the boots were right. This was going to look absolutely terrible on his quarterly review. The utilitarian view told him to stop in his tracks, but some imperative forced him onward, faster and faster, every nerve in his feet howling as the boots constricted. He tensed, bent his knees --

You are not acting in accordance with your employment values, Robert!

-- and he flew into the open control chamber, landing in a sprawl and smashing his hand down on the blinking buttons. Once he found and threw the knife switch marked DIVERT, the trolley lurched to the right, the disused divert track sparking. The trolley crashed through the June JewelsTM Summer Fauns, then the wall of Dr. Calvin cases, and then the ziggurat of March MarvelsTM SpringSquatch figurines that had mirrored their more seasonally-appropriate cousins on the Clearance side of the wall. With the tracks covered in syrup and rhinestones, the trolley at last squealed to a stop, and Robert blinked up at the comforting dome of Voidmart above him. He felt a fleeting moment of satisfaction at an Inappropriate Decision well-executed.

A flying can of Dr. Calvin smacked him in the forehead.

Boy, Robert thought as the world went black, they were right. That stuff really does have great comic timing.


Robert awoke to the glowing white walls of the employee infirmary and a gleaming silver Employee Potential and Resources Officer waiting by his bedside. The EPRO wore a nametag with her serial number, E5768443A, and "Annie" in Voidmart's standard FriendlyScript underneath. "Hello, Five-Seven-Six," said Robert, knowing the names were just for new-hire comfort.

"Good morning, Security Associate McClusky. Are you adequate?"

"I've been better." His feet still burned, and a pulsing pain in his ankle suggested it was broken. Worse than that, though, was Five-Seven-Six's presence. EPRO didn't show up to give sympathy cards. "So, um..."

"Your incident has been reviewed by EPRO and the head office," Five-Seven-Six began. "We're pleased to tell you that the CEO agrees with EPRO's assessment that the potential public-relations and weregeld costs from the incident you prevented would have substantially outweighed the cost of the destroyed Clearance and Clearance-adjacent merchandise. Your efforts have aided our profit margins and you remain a valued Voidmart associate. However, the Sapient Equipment Office has requested that you be retrained on associate-equipment cooperation during your convalescence before returning to work."

"Oh, that's fine. I can do that." Relief fizzed in Robert's brain, even as an unnerving thought was beginning to surface. Why were his feet burning? "So, about that convalescence..."

"Your convalescence will be fully covered by your Voidmart Valued Associate Health Plan. In addition, we are pleased to offer you preferred pricing arrangements on Voidmed Like-Nu Synthetic Skin and Voidmed Steel-Strong Ankle Pins."

Robert let his head hit the pillow. Thank goodness, he thought, that he'd signed up for the high-tier benefits and the VoidHSA. Nobody took care of you like Voidmart.


Oct 20, 2011

Lovely night, no?
Grimey Drawer
874 Words

Hi, I’m Mark. Mark Marketing, Vice Mark of Marketing.

Today, I made a mistake. I asked a question.

“Why do we sell ourselves as an unimaginably monstrous corporation?”

The Vice President of Presidents gave me that look of his that meant, “The only reason you were not killed the second you spoke is because I am currently deciding the method that will deliver upon you the greatest suffering.” That, or he had gas.

I countered, “See, even behind closed doors you do it! Like this is all some reality show and our ability to entertain is the only thing that matters!”


I pushed away the existential crisis. I refused to be part of some corporate Truman show. I shouted, “Surely there’s more to our lives than this!”


I ran.

VoidMart™ had an aisle full of useful goods dedicated to altering reality. I picked up a can of ‘It’s All Just a Nightmare’ and sprayed.

I awoke in my office, having drifted off during a particular boring meeting.

I resolved to change everyone’s perception of VoidMart™. No longer would be a comically evil corporation. We were going to become ethical.

As I thought that, the walls hissed and screamed. I slapped them. “Keep that up and you’ll be the first thing to go.”


My small booth was cobbled together from VoidLumber™, commissioned from the Crimes Against Nature department. I hoped my speech about why they desperately needed to change their name hit home.

A stray customer - wait, better idea for a name, ethical consumer - approached. She tried to read the words on my sign, “Eth Ecks Come It Tea?”

“That’s right! We’re new, consisting of both senior partners and ethical consumers like you! We’re dedicated to ensuring VoidMart™ is a healthy, helpful corporation.”

Laughter. Only, this time, it was the ethical consumer. It was all the ethical consumers. They gathered in droves to point and laugh at me, at my booth, at my idea and hopes and dreams. They tossed money at me, shouting about how they loved the performance art. One, wanting to be part of the show, approached.

“Ha ha. Does that mean you’re going to reduce the number of orphans per fiscal year by twenty five percent?”

I offered, “I was hoping to reduce it to nothing.”

The crowd went silent. Then, someone whispered in disappointment, “No more orphans?”

It was a riot. My booth was smashed. My face was cracked. I think someone threw me into a display of VoidNeedles™. Come on, ethics aside, that was a lawsuit waiting to happen!

“Bring back the orphans! Bring back the orphans!” was the chant as the ethical consumers went on a war - er, peacemaking path. I groaned in opposition, and an ethical consumer helpfully made peace with my kidneys.

One visit to the VoidER™ later and I owed more money than I earned in my last twenty years as Vice Mark of Marketing. I spoke to the on-staff doctor, “Aren’t these prices exploitative?’

The doctor nodded. “Yeah?”

I licked my lips. “Shouldn’t healthcare be affordable?”

“Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha hah aahhahahahkdbaada.nm,gfnhiouqngjmaf.” The doctor split open, transforming from man to thing. It smashed into medical cabinets with its tendrils, pulling out bottles upon barrels upon vats of pills, devouring them in an attempt to calm its nerves. I crept out.

Ethical consumers injured in their own riot were still being brought in by nurses. I tried to stop them. I was told no way they were missing a chance to harvest debt organs. Sobbing was the only noise which echoed from the medical facility.

I had an epiphany. If I couldn’t convince people with my marketing experience, then I had no choice. I would need to instruct them.

I don’t know how the paperwork was approved so quickly, but the same day I became the head of the new VoidMart™ University. I set up shop in the ruins of the medical facility.

My new students trudged in, and sat down. I had a grand lesson prepared about my new model for making the world a better place without abandoning capitalism. I would prove to each and every one of them the truth, and solve morality forever.

“The-” I stopped as another VoidMart™ employee trounced in, handed everyone a diploma and graduation cap, and said, “That will be sixty million dollars, each.”

A student raised their hand.

“Yes?” asked the employee.

“What aisle are the orphans on?”

“Class dismissed,” I ordered, bitterly.

I wandered aimlessly. Why was it so difficult to make others see the light? Was the entire system set up against positive change?

That’s when an orphan approached me. He was adorable, with his rosey cheeks, slight limp, and growth stunted by malnourishment. I instinctively gave him a nickel and he began shining my shoes.

“I just don’t get it, cute and useful orphan. Why can’t things be better?” I asked.

I had the vague feeling of a VoidMart™ product wearing off.

He finished my shoe shine and chuckled. “Silly Mark.” He turned to the camera.
“There’s no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism.” He smiled wider than possible. “So why not shop at VoidMart™? Orphans like me are twenty five percent off, this weekend only!”

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