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Sep 29, 2018

a new study bible! posted:

I'll sign up and my story will be 666 words


NotGordian posted:

In for objects round 2!






Aug 7, 2013





Feb 21, 2011

Burt can be a kind Mod. But Burt can be a destructive mod.


I'm in, plz.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Sitting Here posted:

oh and :toxx: that i'll have all crits done before i go to bed on Friday night

this was stupid, it's my birthday week, I have no time. :toxx: that I'll get the rest out by Monday night before I go to bed.

Here are a few more 321 crits

Derp - Camera

This was a nice piece and tbh a different set of judges might’ve HMed it. My favorite bit is the climactic moment, when the camera believes that it’s taking a picture. It’s a cool sensory rush followed by a quick but relentless descent back to reality. I especially like the detail that the camera believes that perhaps by taking a picture of an insect’s wing, it can right whatever wrong that cause it to go into disuse in the first place. Insult is added to injury when the real reason for the camera’s abandonment is revealed to the reader: it’s been replaced by the smartphone, and moreover has become the subject of photos itself, rather than an active participant in them.

I’m not sure why this one didn’t come up for an HM. I think all of the judges had pretty hefty HM shortlists and sorting through all the possible options kind of paralyzed us with indecision.

Anomalous Blowout - Follow Thou Me

Here’s another one on my HM shortlist. There’s a lot to appreciate in a small space, and the narrative doesn’t feel the need to come out and state any of it in an obvious way. I love the prompt usage; a scrap of scripture meant as part of a code is a great character. The real story here, of course, would be the escape and subsequent adventures of the girl who escaped from this enclave of overzealous mormons. But there’s something really interesting about telling the story of an object (or entity) who’s played their part and, for all intents and purposes, been left behind.

At least one judge disagreed with me about the virtue of not coming out and explaining more of the situation to the reader. I think it was definitely possible, in a big week, to read this story and kind of fly by the subtleties of it. Still, well done, and definitely a piece I enjoyed reading.

NotGordian - The Pipe and the Crab

I enjoyed this story for the most part, but the ending didn’t quite land for me. I wanted it to land. It’s got some of the characteristics of an ending that would land. The hermit crab comes up early enough of the story that as a reader I’m definitely waiting to see whether or not it will form a “bond” with the pipe. I think what bothers me is that the pipe expresses guilt of a perceived betrayal; it’s not a slight to the crab that the pipe didn’t want to live at the bottom of the ocean. It wasn’t clear to me why the pipe felt guilty about that, because everything about the story suggests that the bottom of the sea is lonely and boring for a pipe.

I could’ve also used a little more than “The two spent years traveling together…” Like, I understand the length restrictions, and you can be pretty hand-wavy in a story of this length, but everything else about this story is very lush with sensory description, and then it’s like “..and then the crab and pipe rode off into the sunset and it was cool and rad”.

Mostly I thought this was a good piece though.

Sep 29, 2018

ThirdEmperor posted:



slughead42 posted:

I'm in, plz.


Sitting Here posted:

this was stupid, it's my birthday week, I have no time. :toxx: that I'll get the rest out by Monday night before I go to bed.


JOHN MADNESS fucked around with this message at 03:24 on Oct 5, 2018

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

ty everyone for the fantastic crits on these v short stories. more effort than is deserved im sure

May 31, 2007

Writing is fun!

I might be great, decent at writing stories bad stories but I am good at writing crits.

WhoppieCat - Faux

The start is a bit rough, we get told about this bear-head wall-trophy is looking down at a party. Not much of a draw there but fortunately we dive right into some funny antics and the bear's disdain. The characters are great, not too cartoonish, they really shine in this piece. Not a lot happens in this piece, and apart from the bear's disdain, I don't get much from him. The fire bit is nice, going back to the start with Smokey The Bear reference, and you wrap up the honne line up nicely.

Mr. Sunshin - The Long Dark

The start is a bit rough, starting with a description of a glass bottle isn't going to get my attention. That being said, by the fifth paragraph I was digging this oppressive mood of the long dark. Then the wine bottle is chosen, uncorked and then MUUUURDER happens.

A neat little story, but I had a few questions. How does the wine bottle know about wine? How does it know it will be uncorked and how does it feel about essentially having it's "Blood" spilled? This piece had a mood for sure, but the wine bottle didn't have much of a character. Hell, the wine bottle gets smashed, unable to even do its basic function, but we don't see its reaction.

LITERALLY A BIRD - Looking/Seeing

This start works. Interested to see who is the smiler, and what your object is. Your object also has a character, kind of doting/adoring/needy character. Mix in some innocence "I hope her grandmamma is well" and bam, I think you nailed having your object have a character. Ending lands as well, that's really nice and touching.

The piece points out that the characters haven't changed from the mirrors point of view, but I didn't get it. It's a bit odd that this phrase repeats itself. Apart from that this was an enjoyable, adorable piece.

M. Propagandal - Blood for Blood

Start is okay, it should hit harder but didn't for me. The high point in this story is when the stairs are talking about what they wish they could do. The parts before that is a bit passive and explainy, and I think a lot of the writers in this prompt had to face that challenge. Some people got around it using characterization or broke that rule with nary a care.

Yoruichi - You Got Me Out Of Storage For This?

Horny bed wants to get it ON! Humorous start that works and adds a lot of characterization. We get to see this woman cheat on her husband, the consequences and it's very well done. This is pretty solid, one thing I would add though is in the middle part you - OCK OCK OCK OCK.

Derp - Camera

Start here is okay, though we only get to the payoff at the last sentence in your first paragraph. A Camera hasn't been used in a while. In this piece the camera takes action, taking a picture of an adorable fly. I think giving us a bit of foreshadowing of this ability would have helped, maybe have the camera feel its guts, rusty and lethargic. * (Dumbass reader here - Okay, so turns out the camera didn't take the picture) Otherwise this comes off as a bit of anime magic - If you try hard enough you can do it! After taking a picture Santa Claus shows up and fondly remembers the camera and then goes back to his iPhone X.

Nice, bit depressing, requires you to really read the piece carefully.

Anamolus Blowout - Follow Thou Me

The draw picks up after the third paragraph. This works because its fairly quick to get to the draw and it's a pretty contrasting draw. "You dropped me here. I know you didn't want to" raises a lot of questions. I like it.

One thing you could improve is having the 2 Nephi 31:10 tie in a bit better. You explain that in the Book of Mormon there is a secret phone number, but it's a bit clumsly how it's tied into 2 Nephi 31:10. Sounds like if you just had the book, you would have the number. So why do you need the note? And wouldn't she be sympathetic to the book since it held the number?

Overall this is great, I really like it. The note has a bit of a character, that is reflected on its purpose and its holder. I like the characters, I like the plot and I like the prose around the ending.

NotGordian - The Pipe and the Crab

Hah, start has some good prose. "To the sea it will return." Not a lot happens in your start to draw me, but thanks to the prose here it works. The second paragraph starts with a passive sentence, which I would fix up.

Overall, eh, not a lot here. We go with the same tone of "Please use me!" but with no explanation why it wants to be used. This is a bit of fatigue building up, looks like a lot of people went with that theme.

The ending is trying to do a lot with not a lot of words. We got a scuba diver, we got a crab, hang on baby, we got a THREE WAY ROMANCE TRIANGLE. Huh, okay it works, and the nice bit about the pipe feeling guilty is nice. The piece works, but needed a bit more characterization and explanation to get me to gush over it.

Djeser - False Door

Good voice at the start, really enjoyed it. The voice continues and it shows us (doesn't tell us) the passage of time. If it had told us, this wouldn't have been as good. Then we end with some light humor, this really works.

Meme-Alt Account -help-help-help-help




Ottermotive Insanity - bed317

The start would work if it didn't have a typo in it. So far we get a mood from the piece, though this bed just sits there, not much of a character yet.

This trend continues. Each patient is new, and the bed does it's job. No Conflict, no consequence, no difficulties, no interest. Just the bed, the patients and the bed doing it's job.

I think to improve this piece you could have had Janet come back, and this time the bed cannot do its job. Or introduce a complication or more of the bed's thoughts.

Staggy - A Slow Sigh

Lol, okay two questions asked at the start, I sure hope they are related somehow. It's an interesting start, but I dislike how you immediately go into more questions in the first paragraph. Still it's a neat premise and we get to see the demise of humanity, coincide with the demise of the basketball. But uhh, how long does it take a basketball to be deflated? Ithink it takes months,and your asking me to believe it will take years.

This is an allright piece, the basketball has a bit of a voice, but the main event takes over the story - the collapse of humanity.

Exmond - Long Live THe King


Sparksbloom - Rust

Huh, Intersting story that doesn't nail the ending. The gate is awesome, and having a small child in it bonding iwth the gate is so CUTE! But I didn't get the ending, the middle part is vague and thats good, but the ending is just - what? I think the woman coming by is the girl who ran away, but like, if I bleed on an iron gate it's not gonna be noticeable after a few years. This epic ending wants to hit hard, but it doesn't. Almost reads like you ran out of words. I would cut the part where the girl came back, and instead add more onto your ending.

Very cute story, misses the ending.

Flerp - you are piss

Start works because who writes about piss? Also odd to have this possible humorous story have a death in the 2nd paragraph. I dig it though, love my dark comedy. Sidenote, stop starting every paragraph with "You", it's distracting.

There isn't much here. The character doesn't have much of a voice and in fact, the story tells us that no, this is just a puddle. It's funny, in a humorous way,and the story reflects on this, but apart from that... It's just a puddle of piss.  And maybe thats the point?

Hawklad - Honeymoon Warriors

Start is odd, it doesn't really jive.  I also don't know anyone that refers to their snowglobe as "he", which further confuses me.   Then we get this story about domestic abuse and little bits of humor. "I squeeze my trident tighter" makes it sound like the trident is his rear end.  

The bigger problem I had with this piece is that the snowglobe doesn't have a voice.  We get a one-off sentence at the start as it tries to figure out what its use it, and it is never talked about again until the Muuuuuurder.  If the snow globe had really pondered what it's purpose was, especially with all the domestic violence surronding it, I think it would gain a voice.

CurlingIron - Carbon Monoxide Detector

This story has a voice.  Gerd drat right at the start we get a voice.  I like the CO detector, they are full of themselves.  That works, what doesn't is this confusing side plot with the human.  A lot of time is spent focusing on this human and the CO Detector's thoughts.  The CO part works, it's neat.  But the human part doesn't, and it's because I didn't know what's going on.

Like it sounds like something happens to cause his schedule to change, maybe a breakup or something.  Then there are a couple of friends and roughhousing occurs.  I don't know if this is a fight, a robbery or kinky sex.  The ending want's to hit hard, I'm pretty sure a murder happens that's set up to look like a suicide?  Or is it just a natural suicide?

It's a bit too vague, and I haven't had any time to get to know the human so I don't care. 

Fumblemouse - Blood Guilt

I have a pet peeve and that's starting a story with a bunch of weird terminology.  This hit that pet peeve and I missed the most important titles - Older Brother/Younger Brother.  So what we have here is a clever story about ... well.. what happens exactly??

Boys play with a slinky, slinky cuts them and they put it in the closet and forget about it until they don't.

I enjoyed the start once I figured out what was going on, this pompus, prideful slinky telling us it's tales.  The voice of this piece is neat, kind of like epic fantasy.  I didn't really care about the slinky once it got put away though, due to it just really screaming what it is at me.   But thanks to the humorus start and tone, I I'll remember this story fondly.

Beezus - Self-Improvement

The start doesn't really have a draw?  Like it might be "What is our POV" but apart from that it's like "yo dawg I heard you want inner peace now you got inner peace dawg".  The story continues, like she has inner peace and now NOPE SHE DOESN'T.  No explanation why, but man gently caress that lying bitch Jamie , am I rite?  What this piece is missing is a reason for me to care.

I like the buddha statue, and the ending is great.  But the transition to the ending feels rushed, unexplained and with nothing for me to care about.  She leaves, then comes back with a cell phone changed forever because.. cell phones are bad?  

The ending though is fun and humorous!  Seeing the Buddha get replaced with an alexa is actually quite funny, especially the buddha's reaction "The truest suffering".  

Subtext - Thranguy

Gonna nit pick.  I'm familiar with "Did not spare any expense", but not familiar with "did not spare every expense".  Wouldn't they have spared every expense if they wanted to save money?  Surely not sparing every expense meant that the bible was well made and a lot of expense put into it because every expense was not spared!  I'm very confused!

But nitpick aside, the start is great.  I got a secret!  Hell yeah, then we continue through the piece and its a great use of the prompt.  We get the current story overwriting the blank bible, with biblical stories referenced.  I don't know enough about the bible to say if the story overwriting it coincides with the bible stories, but that would have been incredibly cool.

Great use of the prompt, story kind of just ends, but it does end with a reference to the starting piece.  Adding in this immigration kids and stuff, well... It kind of rubs me the wrong way because the story just ends, and quite frantically at that.   I would of liked to have known more, but as the book said, it has to keep a secret.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




here are some more 321 crits.

Like i said in my last post, the rest will be out by monday night.

Djeser - False door of Kha, Egyptian, 2288-2170 BCE

Like, here’s djeser writing the djeserest djeserism that ever djesered. You clearly have a deep and affectionate knowledge of your subject, which can sometimes drag a piece down but I feel like your expertise was put to efficient use here.

Your chosen item interacts with this prompt in a super interesting way. The door is both active and passive; if you believe in the door and what it represents, then the door is literally acting as a mystical conduit. If you don’t regard the door as a mystical conduit, then it’s simply a fascinating artifact. As far as the door is concerned, it’s performing a mystical function. As far as most of the humans around it are concerned, it’s inert and has no actual function outside of its historical value. Sidenote, what is with you and sentient doors?

The character of the door is interesting, too. It’s pretty stoic, but there is a sense of grief for the soul who lives on the other side when the food stops coming. The door mourns its function when the chapple is buried under eons and sand. It has an identity crisis when it’s placed in a museum. And finally, it feels peace and gratitude when a human (possibly a secret god) does his best to approximate the old offerings.

The ending of this story made me smile; it adds just enough levity to the story to lend texture, but not so much levity that it subverts the mood and voice of the rest of the piece. Sidenot, in my head the guy giving the false door sandwiches is totally you.

Anyway cool story bro.

JOHN MADNESS - help-help-help-help-help-help-help-help-help-he

I wonder whose alt you are. This has a crabrock or tyrannosaurus vibe. I lean toward the latter. Apologies if you’re a legit new person lol. Take it as a compliment.

Anyway, this story was a pretty early and unanimous favorite of the judges. The all caps gimmick will probably be really grating if you use it in any other stories, but as the voice of a helpless yet perceptive shopping cart, it works. I think what’s cool about it is the contrast between the cart’s mannerisms (calling the two characters ‘bitch’, the all caps thing, etc) and its apparent compassion. This grocery cart knows poo poo and it’s pissed because it can’t do anything about it. It’s a good person even though it’s not even alive.

The other thing I like is that ‘help’ is the only thing you’ve written to date that’s not in caps. It highlights the helplessness of the cart—the squeaking of its wheels is the smallest thing in the whole story. What makes this a powerhouse of an entry is how hard you lean into the emotional state of this cart. It’s not concerned about being used or abandoned, it’s pissed the hell off because something legitimately, casually horrible is happening and it can’t do anything.

Ottermotive Insanity - Bed 317

This is nice, but it suffers from a few weaknesses. This is another object whose inner life is pretty opaque to the reader. This bed is literally an amnesiac, so even if it were to have a personality, it would lose the essence of that personality every time a new patient appeared. The one exception to this quality is the sticker that gets stuck to the underside of the bed, which seems to allow the bed to retain memories of the first patient we meet.

I kept waiting for the sticker-induced memory retention to change something about the bed, but all it does is continue to remind the bed of hysterectomy janet, until the sticker goes away and the bed forgets again. How does the bed feel about this? Does it want to remember the different patients, or is it content to forget each time the bet is stripped and sanitized? How does it feel about accepting the dreams and nightmares of its patients?

The end of this story is “and then everything went back to normal and the sticker didn’t really matter, and that’s okay.” It’s not horrible, but it left me feeling a bit “okay, and…?” Which is a shame because there is a softness and a gentleness to this story that I want to enjoy.

All that said, at least one judge gave this story high marks in judge chat. I don’t hate it or anything, I just don’t think you successfully developed whatever ideas you went into the peice with.

Staggy - Slow Sigh

This is a pretty straightforward piece. The beginning of the story pretty much comes out and states the premise, which is this idea that the beginning of the end is, for all intents and purposes, the end. The basketball and the world are both deflating, shriveling into obscurity. At which point are humans functionally extinct? When does a basketball become a nameless blob of rubber and leather? The story pitches these ideas at the reader, and then leaves us to sit in the mood engendered by those questions.

One thing that might’ve improved the story is if the basketball had a more acute perspective on the humans who live beneath it. I think you were trying to avoid making people the protagonists of the story, but it had the consequence of making everything feel very vague and washed over. I would’ve liked the basketball to maybe observe and describe a specific group or family, to the point of even feeling kinship with them or fondness for them. I want the basketball’s self-perception as a basketball to possibly be tied to the presence of humans. Something.

I liked the atmosphere and melancholy of this piece, but at least one other judge thought it was kinda dense and wordy to no real end.

Exmond - Long Live the King

Hi Exmond!!! You already know, I think, what I’m going to waggle my finger at. You stretched the prompt to the point where we were considering giving you a DQ, but lucky for you, the line was blurred just enough by the fact that you chose a smart TV as your object. Currently, we don’t have any reason to believe that smart TVs are capable of developing the kind of AI that would allow them to take action the way your TV does. On the other hand, this prompt did necessitate that objects have an inner emotional life, so your TV kinda has to be a “person” with thoughts and feelings. In the end, I decided that it fell just on the right side of prompt-adherence.

Okay so let’s look at the actual story. Your smart TV is actually pretty endearing, both in its enthusiasm for its role and its love of King Charlie. We can infer a fair bit about what happened to Charlie to make him suicidal; he had a family once, and now he doesn’t (or so he thinks). Little does he know that, by simply unboxing and using this smart TV, he’s inadvertently created a new, highly loyal and protective family member.

I like that, from Charlie’s perspective, the TV is presumably just having some sort of malfunction which comes just in time to stop him from killing himself. He doesn’t necessarily know that this “coincidence” is in fact a profound act of love and self sacrifice, but the TV doesn’t mind because its priority is Charlie being okay.

Prompt quibbles aside, I really like this piece. It’s very heartfelt.

Sep 15, 2018



WhoopieCat fucked around with this message at 06:09 on Nov 1, 2018

Mar 21, 2013


Grimey Drawer

In. Please objectify me.

The Sean
Apr 16, 2005

Am I handsome now?

I check in only once in a while. Why is Google Docs against the rules now? It seems completely different than fanfiction or erotica.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




The Sean posted:

I check in only once in a while. Why is Google Docs against the rules now? It seems completely different than fanfiction or erotica.

Stories should be posted directly in the thread. For one thing, having to click through a link that idiot goons may or may not have set the right permissions for makes judgment more annoying. For another thing, Google docs makes life harder for the archivist.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

For a third thing, Google Docs allows you to edit your submission after submitting.

Don't edit your submission after submitting.

May 31, 2007

Writing is fun!

Bad Seafood posted:

For a third thing, Google Docs allows you to edit your submission after submitting.

Don't edit your submission after submitting.

Unless your a mod. Bonus points if you drunkenly edit your opponents brawl story and replace it with your own.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse



Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

Yoruichi posted:



Fart. Tit.

Sep 29, 2018

Fumblemouse posted:

In. Please objectify me.


Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy


1190 words


derp fucked around with this message at 17:54 on Jan 1, 2019

Sep 19, 2018

667 words

Smash. Smash smash smash. Vera looked at the black cockroach paste in the bowl, then sighed and tasted it. A little mealy, but nourishing. Good enough. It went down to her food-stomach, gurgling all the way. None of the filth went down to her real stomach, the one where she kept the last few drops of her identity.

Vera stood, wincing at the creaking in her back and the ache in her neck. She told herself it meant she was still alive, but mostly it just hurt. She lifted the lantern from the hook by the door and paused by the entrance to the doorway. Thirty-five marks. A month longer than she had expected to live. She made another scratch, and stepped down into the main sluiceway.

Three intersections ahead, two to the left, and two more dead ahead. That was where she had built the memorial. It was dedicated to Allie, to LoLo, to Honey, to all the other cosmetic products that Vera knew who been used and discarded.

Vera came here every day to do what was necessary. Right the vase of plastic flowers a rat had knocked over. Wipe the grime away from a salvaged ingredients list. Repress a racking cough-sob at the senselessness of it all.

Vera picked at a red sore on her arm, next to a tattoo of a green succulent. Collecting cockroaches to turn to paste, filtering water and finding oil for the lamp didn't make her that busy. It left her plenty of time to remember.

The couture sunglasses had come home, vaguely red after a day in the sun. She had grabbed someone named Sunburn Quick-Fix. But when the sunglasses tried Sonny, he had come up with nothing.

Sonny's empty, rattling eyes when he had been tossed aside still jangled inside Vera. The sunglasses had pointed at Vera, and she had nervously edged forward. The sunglasses had held out her hand expectantly, waiting for Vera to produce some gel. A dry cough. The sunglasses had rolled her eyes, and struck Vera on the back, hard.

Vera had been shaken and shaken until finally there was enough for the sunglasses to leave her alone.

Vera had sat with her back against the tiled wall, shaking and waiting for the fear to leave her body. It never had.

So in the dead of that night she had fled here, rolled away to the only place where she knew she wouldn't be asked to die in order to heal someone else's burn. The dark and the stink and the loneliness crowded her, but she would live.

She heard a clatter and thump from further up the drains. She picked up the spear of rebar she used as a weapon and stalked carefully toward the source. She had defended herself once before, and it had been an experience she had barely survived.

A bottle of cola lay half-in and half-out of a circle of light cast by a lamp on the street above. Her dark skin was pale from being consumed, and her breath was uneven. Vera tried to lift her, to carry her home, but she was surprised at the other's weight.

“drat! You're almost finished, I should be able to pick you up.” The cola said nothing.

Vera found the strength to drag her back. She laid the cola bottle on the thin mattress made from strips of cardboard and covered her in scavenged, threadbare sheets.

And when the cola seemed to be improving, Vera sang a quiet song to soothe a troubled spirit. She didn't know where she had heard it, the only song she thought she knew was an advertising jingle for Aloe Vera, but her song eased the restless stirrings of the cola bottle.

Vera didn't have to sit and wait to die in the darkness. She didn't have to tremble at the memory of Sonny being tossed away.

She could fight. She could fight for the discarded, the disposable. Vera was ready to change things.


A soothing bottle of Aloe Vera

Aug 7, 2013





ThirdEmperor fucked around with this message at 06:32 on Dec 31, 2018

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Miscommunication brawl!

A short tale of hiking, bickering and sheep. 1141 words

Kira lingered at the hand drier, warming her numb fingers. After a few minutes, she returned to the main hall. She was sure the view through the visitor centre's damp glass would be beautiful, if it weren't for the fog and rain. The hike up Snowdon had been wet and miserable, and she'd snapped at Brad more than once on the way. Hot tea and a respite from the rain had helped, but she was soaked to the bone and eager to be off the mountain.

She reached the table where she and Brad had set up. Brad wasn't there. Another hiker saw her glancing around.

"Are you looking for your husband? He said you'd left in a huff, and went off down the mountain to find you."

Kira swore under her breath. Maybe she had been a bit abrupt when she stomped off to the bathroom, but really? She walked to the door, put up her jacket hood, and stepped out into the rain. Sighing, she set off down the wet trail.

Despite the weather, the path up the highest mountain in England and Wales was busy. She asked the first people coming the other way whether they'd seen Brad. They had, and said he'd been asking after her. OK, he was an idiot, but she was sure he'd ask a few people coming past, realise that he'd gone ahead, then stop and wait for her.

She stomped on, her boots squelching with every step. There was no sign of Brad. OK, maybe he was asking a few more people to make sure before he stopped.

Another group appeared through the haze. Their jackets were in dated styles, but looked almost brand new. Hipsters, she figured. She asked if they'd seen Brad. They had not. This was weird, since there was only one trail, and sheer cliffs not far to either side of it. Maybe he'd stepped behind a rock to pee when they passed him?

She left them and trudged onward and downward. Her anger had started to dissipate into intense a gnawing sense of concern. On the upside, the rain had lessened, though the mountainside was still shrouded in fog.

She came upon another group, all wearing yellow plastic rain ponchos. They must have been sweating buckets under there, and it seemed like a lot of suffering to endure to get a retro look. They had not seen Brad either.

She walked on, her concern growing. The rain had also returned. The next group of hikers all wore drab canvas jackets. There was not a scrap of plastic to be seen on any of them. They were also all men. One of them addressed her.

"Are you alright, lass? You lost?"

"I'm looking for my husband Brad. He went ahead. Have you seen him?"

"I haven't, but I'm sure you'll catch up. You stay warm in that strange getup of yours."

Kira let them pass, then stepped off the trail to take a break. She planted herself on a rock and sat, sipping from her water bottle. Nearby, a sheep stood munching on the damp grass.

The heritage railway ran close to where she sat, and a train went past. It was driven by a steam locomotive. The steam service should be an occasional, "premium" experience, with the remainder being cheaper diesel. Kira had seen three pass by on her way down. All had been steam.

She spoke to the sheep.

"Something truly weird is going on," she said.

"You don't say," said the sheep, in a cheerful, bleating voice.

Kira nearly fell off the rock. The sheep turned to look at her sidelong.

"Well don't be surprised. I'm probably the least peculiar thing to happen to you today," it said.

"What do you mean?"

"You've gotten unanchored," said the sheep, "the further down the hill you go, the further back you end up in time."

"Or I'm having a psychotic break."

"Many things are possible!"

The sheep turned back to its grazing. Kira turned the situation over in her head. It made a bizarre kind of sense.

"OK," she said, "enlighten me."

"Well, you've gone backwards, and your hubby's gone forwards."

"Is he OK?"

The sheep's next word sounded like two people saying "yes" and "no" at the same time.

"The waveform hasn't collapsed, you see," it said.

"That does not sound OK."

"Oh it's definitely not!" said the sheep, "he's in a bit of a dangerous spot for a time traveller. You're not exactly OK, either. Not the friendliest time for women, the Victorian."

"How do I fix this, then?"

"It's quite simple, really. You and Brad have to work together."

"How? I can't even find him."

"Not to worry, my colleague is having a chat with him. You both have to work on your little communication issue, you see."

"We do not have a communication issue!"

"Oh?" said the sheep, "how did you manage to lose him then?"

"OK, maybe we messed up," said Kira, "but that's still personal. Also, this is stupid. Why can't you just help us?"

The sky darkened, and the sheep's eyes glowed red. Its voice shifted down an octave, and seemed to boom from all directions.

"Those," said the sheep, "are the rules."

The sky returned to grey, and the sheep bent its head back down to the grass. Small tearing noises marked the resumption of its grazing.

Kira sat on the rock, pondering.

"OK fine, I'll work on it."

The sheep looked up again.

"Not good enough. Right now you're just saying that."

"How do you know? Are you reading my mind?"

"I am a being outside of space and time," said the sheep, "I know."

Kira pondered a little further. It was true, she and Brad often lost their temper at each other, and things sometimes went downhill from there. They could also work on their trust. Both of them walking off without telling the other was not exactly the best idea.

As she thought this, the sheep spoke.

"That's good enough, then."

"What, really?"


"And I'll be able to find Brad now?"

"Just keep walking. He'll be there."

She set off down the path. Over the next rise, scanning the hillside in her direction, was Brad. She ran up and hugged him.

"Oh baby, I've been so worried about you!" she said.

"Oh man, I was worried about you too."

"There were some very peculiar things which happened on the way down."

"Did they involve a talking sheep?"

"You, too, then?"


They fell silent. The rain had stopped, and patches of sunlight were breaking through. Below them, the clouds parted to reveal a great vista of rolling green countryside. They stood, hand in hand, savouring the moment.

Some time later, Brad spoke.

"So, we need to work on this communication thing."

"Yeah, we do. Any ideas?"

"The sheep gave me the name of a couples counsellor back in London..."

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


Rita and Blackjack's Last Job
1198 words

They'd taken Blackjack's eyes.

Rita found him lying on a cot in a basement holding cell, bloody gauze wrapped around his shaven head. She wished she could scream -- that her mission allowed it, and that her tongue knew how make it into words. She knelt down and took Blackjack's hand, signing her codename into his palm: R-I-T-A.

Blackjack stirred again, then tried to rise from the cot. Had he recognized her, or did he assume he was being summoned by his captors? The painkillers the Human Advancement Bureau were using these days made their victims readily compliant. Maybe it didn't matter; what did matter is that Blackjack was on his feet and they could get out. Rita stood up to let him rise, offering him her shoulder, and he leaned on her.

The Bureau bastards must have recognized him. They preferred to recycle captive agents, and blinding was a radical maneuver even if what she'd heard about their new compensator drugs was true, but if they'd recognized him as one of her agency's sign-language speakers, that would have been enough. If only she wasn't brain-deaf. Rita was sure that Blackjack was blaring telepathic distress -- was fairly sure he couldn't help it -- but she couldn't receive it and couldn't answer. Presence would have to be enough.

Rita glanced down the hallway and reassured herself; she'd taken out the guard and killed the cameras, and there were two turns down the hallway to get to the extraction point. Five minutes at most, even as slow as they'd move together. When she began to walk Blackjack out into the hall, though, he jerked his head the other way and tried to guide her that way, back towards the operating core of the base. Towards his objectives.

God bless him, Blackjack was still at work.

Rita ran the math. They had twenty minutes of dead-camera time, fifty before the shift change. The other security was trivial. Every agency policy told her she and Blackjack should get out, but instinct told her the mission was still on. They wouldn't have time to grab serious intel, but even scraps would be something, would be some justice for the bleeding man hanging off her shoulder.

Rita nodded pointlessly and followed his guidance.


Three turns in, they hit the first keypad, and Rita had to pull herself away from Blackjack to read it. It didn't take long; there were few objects as easy to psychically read as well-used keypads. Visions of the same buttons pushed a dozen times flooded Rita's mind, and she entered the code even before she consciously registered it. A green light. Thank God the Bureau was lazy.

Beyond the keypad, away from the holding cells, the walls were clean and metal-finished: the production area and laboratories. How much of it had Blackjack broken open before they'd captured him? How much did he remember? Rita hated the suspicion that it mattered, that the agency was going to care more about how much he had for debriefing than that he was even alive. They'd probably send him in for another round of compensators, too, to see if anything else unlocked in his brain with his visual cortex gone black. They'd reassign her another signing partner. This was it. One last job.

The labs were red herrings, though, and Rita thought they both knew it. Too many notebooks. Too many biometric locks. If Blackjack knew that, where was he leading her? They were only going deeper in, towards offices and administrative bullpens, just as useless in the limited time they had. For the first time in their partnership, Rita began to wonder just where Blackjack was taking her. He was walking on his own power now, with a painkiller-fueled briskness. Where did he think he was going?

They passed a steel blast door, its single slit window shuttered, and at once Rita knew. The interrogation rooms.

Rita shouldn't have trusted her instincts, shouldn't have hoped Blackjack was still loyal -- but it was too late to think about it now. A door down the hallway had opened, and one of the Bureau's torturers had lurched out, a scarred giant with mutilated three-fingered hands. He howled and rushed them, tackling Rita into the wall. She slammed both hands into his chest, closed her eyes, and pushed; he flew back in a burst of telekinetic force, and Rita surged forward to trip him while his footing was unsteady. The torturer stumbled and skidded on the slick linoleum, but his hand was going to his belt. A knife. Rita went for her thigh holster, fumbling with the snap. By the time she had a firm grip on her combat knife, the massive torturer was nearly upon her. She threw herself back against the wall --

And the giant stopped in his tracks, mouth opening without words. The air was saturated with emotion, a strange cocktail of rage and fear, thick enough for even Rita to sense it. Blackjack. Her partner reached out, taking a few clumsy swipes at the paralyzed torturer's hand before grabbing and plucking the knife away, and bolted near-drunkenly down the hall. Rita sprinted to catch up with him, ready to catch him if he stumbled.


The last hallway sloped down to another keypadded door, no harder to break than the first, once Rita caught her breath. Beyond it was a near-empty warehouse, where a lone pallet stocked with small metal shipping containers waited in the dark. Nearby, a bench was stacked with paperwork and clipboards. Rita scanned the papers as quickly as she could manage and grabbed the first clipboard of shipping manifests she could find. The Bureau, stupid to the last, listed its drug shipment information and indoctrination-center addresses in simple text. One clipboard would be months' work for the raid team.

Clipboard in hand, she guided Blackjack towards the loading dock before going back to grab a shipping container. It was the work of a moment to open the garage door, where a small fleet of delivery trucks stood waiting. Rita tried the door of each cab in turn, until one yielded at her touch. Someone got sloppy. Too much of this job was luck.

Rita helped Blackjack into the passenger seat of the truck cab, smiling thinly when his hands found his seatbelt and he fastened himself in. Rita secured the clipboard and shipping container in the back, climbed into the driver's seat, and pulled the hotwire fob from a pouch in her thigh holster. Raw wires hit the ignition and the truck started, rough and ugly; at least it only had to work for an hour. The fallback extraction point was a straight shot away.

Rita rested one hand on the steering wheel, checking for surprises, but the flashes she got of the truck's history were simple enough: a slippery clutch, gone unreplaced too long, but that was all. One thing left to do. She rested her off hand in Blackjack's and signed into his palm. O-K. O-K. G-O-I-N-G H-O-M-E.

Blackjack roused from his exhausted sprawl, looking broadly in her direction. He raised his free hand to sign it back. O-K.

Rita drove. Blackjack slept. The road ahead was clear and empty.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Object: False door of Kha 2288-2170 BC Egyptian limestone

650 words

I, ancient interstice between the living and the dead, am sitting cross-legged outside the McDonalds opposite the train station. Somewhere amongst the coffee-sipping commuters are my creator’s descendents. I rattle my offering box. The cold southerly raises goosebumps on my thin, hieroglyph-tattooed arm. I tug my dirty sleeping bag a little tighter around my chest.

I have gathered but a meagre collection of bronze and silver pieces. Not enough to satisfy the thousands of Kha’s line who crowd behind my doorway. Their hunger gnaws at me.

A middle-aged woman wearing jeans and a voluminous woollen scarf plops herself down beside me. She is disgusted by me, by my greasy, stinking clothes and unwashed skin, although she fervently tells herself that she is not. She has dark, thick hair, and a wide smile. She carries the blood of Kha, although she does not know it.

“I’m Abigail,” she says. “It’s freezing, why don’t we go get you something to eat, hmmm?” She speaks gently, like she’s talking to a child.

I consider telling her that I don’t need to eat, that I exist only to collect offerings for the souls I have shepherded into the afterlife over four millennia. But the dead love offerings of warm food more than anything, so I go with her.

As we wind across the city she burbles pointless questions, like where am I from (Egypt), why did I move here (to follow the family whom I serve), and what did I do before... Here she waved a hand at my dishevelled state (I have always been thus). She tells me about herself too, though she doesn’t need to. I can see into her soul. I see the unhealed scars from her parents’ sudden death, and know that it has been years since she last visited their graves. I know she does her best not to think about them, and that she can’t sleep without pills.

At the shelter the other volunteers greet Abigail warmly. She dons an apron, and fetches me a plate of hot stew.

The dead thrash against the doorway. I am almost overwhelmed by their hunger. “When was the last time you honoured your ancestors?” I ask her.

She looks shocked by my question. Her face blanches, and she pulls nervously at her bangs.

“I don’t have a lot of family,” she says.

The shades of Abigail’s parents press against the doorway. Their mouths gap and suck at the limestone surface. They have been neglected for too long, and their bond with her has turned to poison.

“Offer the food to them,” I say, and my voice rumbles like thunder. I hold out my offering box. It is purple, and has “Whiskas” written on the side.

Abigail, suddenly frightened, looks around for the other volunteers. But she can’t see them; there is nothing behind her but an endless black tunnel. Before her stands me, the doorway to the dead. Carved figures of the gods and men who created me dance across my pale skin.

“Remember them, and lay your offering at the threshold!” I command. My voice booms, and Abigail trembles. Carefully she lifts the plate and slides its contents into the box. She kneels and mouths a silent prayer.

When she’s finished I sag with relief. The offering was generous; finally I will have some peace. Opposite me Abigail looks with horror at the small cardboard box that is now leaking stew across the table.

“Whatever did I do that for?” she says, wiping a tear from her cheek. Then she bursts out laughing. It is deep, belly-rolling and infectious; she soon has the other volunteers laughing along with her, even as they hurry over with cloths and paper towels to mop up the mess.

“What’s your name?” she asks me at last.

I say nothing. I don’t have a name. I am but the interstice between the living and dead.

Feb 21, 2011

Burt can be a kind Mod. But Burt can be a destructive mod.


Rubber duck, 666 words

I think it started when I was a kid; both of my parents were big bath people. The house I grew up in had one of those deep tubs that was almost a jacuzzi, with nozzles that kind of bubbled and everything. I think the lady who owned the house before my folks had it installed for medical reasons, I’m not sure. Anyway, I was hooked, from before the memories even come back clearly...I spent hours half-floating, touching and then drifting off of my mother’s arm or my father’s leg, eyes wide open and head completely empty of thoughts - not a care in the world.

It gets more complicated as you get older, though. I ended up rushing a fraternity when I went to school just because they had this enormous hot tub on the ground floor of the frat house. I became known as “Hot Tub Buddy” almost immediately, because invariably whenever someone walked in (from class, from lunch, from a date, ON a date, at 3 am, whatever), if I was around I would greet them with a cheerful, “Hot tub, buddy?”

I lived in that house for 9 years; three of those were after I had already graduated, even. I’d still be living there now except for the singular reaction that every person that I knew had when I would tell them where I lived, once I got to a certain age. They would hesitate for just a fraction of a second, then say, “Oh!”, and all the while their eyes would make it clear that they were completely recalibrating their mental image of me.

So I moved to my own place, with a small standard apartment tub that made me despair of ever really being happy again, until I met Josie. Josie was four years older than me, whip-smart, neurotic as hell, a whiskey drinker and recovering coke fiend who also loved to drink wine and read in the bathtub. From day one she would tell me that I didn’t really love her, block my texts for days at a time, and patiently lay out for me all of the different scenarios that would lead to us eventually breaking up.

Josie and I were together for three years, which was two years longer than we had any business being. It was kind of amazing how much of the emotional destructiveness and utter unhappiness I was able to overlook because of those nights when we would light candles and run a bath, and sit in the tub and smoke cigarettes and drink red wine and talk about how stupid all of our friends were and how hosed up the world was and then drain all the water that had gotten cold and fill the tub up again and just exist for a while.

So, recently, in an attempt to compartmentalize, I wrote an on-line profile to try to meet people solely for the purpose of sharing baths together. It is harder to successfully stress the fact that this activity is not inherently sexual for you without sounding completely deranged than you might at first suspect, but I finally met with some success a few weeks ago.

A guy named Michael wrote me back, and after a week or so of chatting online I agreed to come over to his place for a bath. It was a little strange at first, but we were soon able to lapse into comfortable silences that would extend longer and longer, without us really noticing, until we were just alone together, instead of together separately, if that makes any sense.

As I was getting ready to leave, he suddenly said, “You know, I nearly never wrote to you at all. You know, because of your profile pic.” I froze, suddenly unsure of my ground. “No, I mean the picture was fine, you looked totally normal and well-adjusted and everything, you just had some of the worst duck face going on in a selfie that I’ve ever seen…”

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Insurrection (665 words)

My brothers in arms asked too much of my Gift.

My head hurt. Flies buzzed around my ears, the putrid stench and the death rattles of my comrades assaulting my every sense, as I hastily slapped mud and blood on a canvas to paint their suffering. The more I painted their wounds, the more their bodies healed before my eyes, stumping doctors and would-be corpses alike. But this man in front of me perished, and I threw away his half-finished portrait to move on to the next patient. drat, drat, and double drat again.

The dizzying desert heat filled the first aid tent as the Captain walked in. He was the last man I wanted to see now.

“Delacroix?” he said.

Without turning, I hummed some resemblance of acknowledgment. “Out of paint,” I interrupted him.

“Come outside, we need you in the town square. Now.”

I sighed, wiped the blood and mud off my fingers with a soaked rag. A doctor protested, claimed the wounded wouldn’t last ten minutes without medical supplies. The Captain told him to shut up.

I followed him outside, an arm against the forehead to shield my eyes from the piercing sun, crossing the sand-swept square of this town whose name I had already forgotten. Against the walls of the souk lay civilian casualties, piled up like layers of lasagna by a cook who overdid the tomato sauce. We rounded a corner, into a wide street where the Foreign Legion held up positions in a police headquarters. From the windows, they fired volley after volley into some insurgents I could not see. We hastened inside under their covering fire, and the Captain led me into the basement.

A legionnaire sat in the corner. Another case of the shakes. He trembled, stammered to himself, bit his white-knuckled fists until the red blood trickled down his arms.

“Do you think you can save him?”

The Captain asked too much of my Gift.

“This is a lot more complicated than bullet wounds, Captain.”

“Is that a yes or a no, Delacroix?”

I grabbed a bayonet from the table, made a surgical cut across my left index and middle fingers. Against the archives’ walls, I painted the man’s portrait, and with each slow, deliberate stroke, I could see his affliction subside. It took me long, far too long, to finish his portrait, but in the end, the legionnaire was cured. He sat in the corner, exhausted, half-asleep. He thanked me, and I asked for his first name, and a memory of home he cherished.

Under Gérard’s and the Captain’s astonished gazes, I signed the painting with “Gérard Antoine. Loves to bike along the Seine.”

“There,” I said, “you are made whole again.”

Then, the Captain ordered me to follow him to the cells. He led me to a handcuffed man who was face-down on a table, repeating some mantra in Arabic which I could not recognize.

“A Harki?”

“No, one of those savages”, the Captain practically spat. “He broke under the interrogations before we could get anything out of him.”

I did not react.

The Captain said, “Fix him, too.”


More silence.

“Are you going to subject him to more torture?”

“Because I said so, drat it. Do you want to appear before a military court or not, Delacroix? Just do it.”

Reluctantly, I cut my fingers and began painting the portrait. I was filling in the facial features when the Captain said, “That’s enough, he’s lucid now. You’re dismissed.”

I had one foot out of the cell when he called after me, “Wait, leave the bayonet here.”

The Captain asked far too much of me.

I turned around, planted the bayonet firmly in his shoulder. He struggled, pressed revolver against my side, a gunshot, searing pain. I withdrew the blade, pressed it into his throat, and slumped over. He was dead.

I knew my hours were numbered. Faintly, I considered a self-portrait, then decided against it.

Nobody deserved this much of my Gift.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


604 words

Marisa reached out, but grasped only air.

“You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” Her daughter ran down the hall. Giggles echoed from the cinderblock walls as if that was the funniest thing in the world.

“Lexi. Stop. I’m not going to chase you.” But Marisa wanted to. She wanted to hold the girl in her arms again, feel her snuggled up next to her in bed, reading story books to her, working every day and coming home to find her already doing her homework at the table, greeting her Happy Meals or eight-piece box with squeals of delight, every time, every single night.

A head popped out of the dorm room at the end of the hallway. “Ma.”

Marisa still didn’t move.

“I’m going to be fine, Ma.”

And maybe she would. Lexi had always been the strong one. She thought then of that time when Lexi was three, when she stepped on a nail barefoot, and it went halfway through her foot. Somehow she didn’t even cry, just came hopping inside to call for her mother’s help. A time when she still could help her daughter.

And maybe that was the worst thing of all. Knowing that she couldn’t do everything, couldn’t provide everything for her anymore, couldn’t protect her from everything, couldn’t do anything—anything—

“Ma.” Lexi’s voice was at her side, now. Marisa blinked to clear her vision. “Ma. I’m going to be OK. Really.” Her hand took Marisa’s hand and held it, warm, clasped tightly around hers. “I really am.”

Lexi would.

She wouldn’t.

* * *

Marisa would want to say when she got the phone call from Lexi in early December that she was calm and cool, gentle and understanding, giving her daughter the support she needed in a time like this, that she was a sympathetic ear and a source of wisdom. She would want to say she maintained her composure, held it together as her daughter tiptoed around what happened, never sobbed or moaned or shouted in blinding rage. She would want to say she never said I told you so, never asked her to come home early, never begged or pleaded or demanded. She would want to say she let Lexi tell her story, without interruptions or asking for more details, only as much as she was comfortable with, never demanded to know what his name was or whether he was also a student there, didn’t react with rage at the answer, or at what she asked next.

She would have wanted.

She should have.

She couldn’t.

She hadn’t.

She came anyway.

* * *

Afterwards, Marisa drove her home—to her home—in near-silence. They both felt spent, drained, half-dead, both zonked out on the couch watching Hocus Pocus on TV in darkness. Lexi had her head at her side, curled up warm in the blanket beside her. She had fallen asleep. Marisa idly played with her hair, and for once, one brief moment, it was like it was before, like she wasn’t going back, wasn’t going to leave, had always been there




Nothing was supposed to go like this. Nothing was supposed to feel like this.

“drat it,” Marisa said half-heartedly, too exhausted to put any emotion into it. Her daughter stirred at her side, settled. She looked at her face, sleeping beside her, almost peaceful. A frown darkened Lexi’s face like a passing cloud as she watched, then it was gone. Almost as if nothing was wrong.

Everything was changing. Nothing would be the same.

Lexi had always been the strong one. Lexi had always been the strong one. And—she still was—



Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

a glass eye
660 words


derp fucked around with this message at 17:54 on Jan 1, 2019

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Safe Harbour
668 Words
An old wooden dock

Read it at the archive.

Staggy fucked around with this message at 21:40 on Jan 3, 2019

Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha

Flash Rule: Seesaw

637 words

Some things cannot be aestheticized away. Padlocked doors. Grated windows. The absence of sharp objects. No matter how much they money they spend and how many drugs they force on us, they can’t hide what this place is. They can’t cover up the sickness and decay. It’s a prison with nurses instead of guards.

I take a small pill from my paper cup and squeeze it between my fingers until it disintegrates, chalk-like, onto the carpet.

“Hey, Maggie, how’s it going?”

“Dire.” I say without looking up.

Laura Habberman, traitor and certified basket case, sits down next to me. It’s proof of my magnanimity that I answer at all, that I don’t immediately go for her wrinkled moon-like face with my whittled nails. Laura, oblivious as always, smiles at me across the table.

“I hope those folks didn’t give you too much grief for, well…”

She trails off. I take another pill from the cup and crumble it in my hand, not caring whether I am being discrete anymore. I was so close, so close to escaping this pseudo-home. It took me weeks after being committed to figure out the door combination and another month after that to memorize the staff’s routine. I sketched out page after page of plans, giddy with energy.

I needed to confide in someone and Laura—old, guileless Laura—seemed like a blessed release. I had not expected a sweet old lady to go to her psychiatrist, to rat me out and undo weeks of progress. I spent days in my room afterward screaming and weeping, deep in the murky depths of despair.

I can feel myself getting worked up again, teetering on the edge of an episode. My brain feels like a skipping record. I try to ground myself by focusing on the rest of the room. A nurse helps a shuddering man to the bookshelf. Someone in a Led Zepplin t-shirt sketches a scene in crayon on a nearby table. Music drifts from a nearby activity room. My fingers twist and contort until they resemble a teeming mass of rats’ tails.

“Listen,” Laura says. She reaches across the table and places a cold hand on mine. “I know how tough the first few months can be. It can be… hard to accept.”

I feel bile curl up inside my throat. “Oh, like you would know? I guess, unlike you, I haven’t been stuck in here long enough to grow fat and old and for everyone to forget me.”

I watch Laura, waiting for her to let go of my hand in disgust. Instead, she gives me a pitiful look, which is somehow worse. I break from her gaze to stare out a window.

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” I say in a voice that is barely more than a whisper, “I just have my ups and downs. That’s all.”

Laura nods, her expression hidden by the grey streaks of her hair. “I was in a dark place before I came here. I thought I knew better. I spit out pills. I made plans. Thought the nurses were in on one big conspiracy.” She shrugs. “Then, for whatever reason, I started doing what they told me to do. I still have bad days but not like I used to.” She pauses. “Sometimes, my ex-husband visits.”

“I don’t want to rot away in here,” I say.

“Nobody does. That’s why you got to try and get better.” She squeezes my hand. “Just give this place a shot, okay? No can help you if you don’t help yourself.”

She flashes her usual smile at me before standing up and tottering out of the common room. As she vanishes, I stare at the lone pill left in my smashed cup. I tilt it between my fingers, watching its contents flip up and down inside.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.


Glub, glub
669 words

Bethany's wedding is perfect. It sprawls across the manicured vineyard like a couple acres of floral psoriasis. The photographs will be timeless.

The decor is classic but fresh: white lilies, garlands of silk, just the right amount of accent in desirable pastels. Except for the goldfish. Whose idea were the goldfish? Hideous little buggers.

They swim in brainless circles in their centerpiece vases, bloated things with bulging eyes and fat jowls that could put even our most obese uncles to shame. Vacuous, smoosh-faced water pugs.

At least the fish are a better distraction than Preston. He's a walking pocket square with a Hitler Youth haircut. He pushes champagne into my hand, asks how I've been. I sip and mumble noncommittal answers while tells me all about his new car and blatantly ogles my chest.

I turn my scarred left side away from the lens of an approaching photographer. Under proper lighting, with my chin up and my hair swept over my décolletage, the craters and burns are almost unnoticeable. Preston throws an arm around me for the photos, fingers threateningly low on my back.

When Bethany arrives, she out-dazzles us all.

I’ve spent every day of my life in her shadow. At least at a wedding, it’s expected for the bride to eclipse you. We embrace, her hands on me fleeting, as if she can’t wait to be through with me. Click. Flash. Smile.

“Doesn’t she clean up nice?” Preston's schmoozing with my auntie now.

They’re talking about me, of course. No one would ever accuse Bethany of needing to clean up.

She keeps her arm around my back. We face the cameras arm in arm. I turn my cheek, refuse to show them my scars.

Bridesmaids flutter in, pigeons in dove-grey chiffon. My gown–modest, navy, a kalasiri with one sleeve to hide the damage–is a conspicuous dark blotch in the crowd.

“I’m so glad you could make it,” coos a bridesmaid who doesn’t grasp the significance of a sister left out of the wedding party. Or maybe she's being a bitch.

I excuse myself to the bar and let them circle in Bethany's orbit.

Seating chart be damned, I sink down with fresh champagne and a centerpiece full of goldfish. We brood into one another’s faces. Glub, glub. My scars are starting to itch.

The happy couple first-dances to Truly Madly Deeply. Preston drops into an empty seat beside me and sighs about how he always loved this song.

“I want to bathe with you in the sea,” I tell the fish, though I haven’t been able to stomach the sight of myself in a bathing suit in a decade. Boy, I'm drunk. The itch intensifies. I feel like I'm burning all over again.

“Glub, glub,” says the fish.

It probably doesn’t even have enough brain cells to feel trapped. Then a thought hits me like a slap across the face: I am not this goldfish. I don't have to stay.

“Heeey,” I make gently caress-me eyes at Preston and bounce my knee close enough to his that they touch. “Can I drop my purse and jacket in your car?”

He's whip-snap quick to catch the implication of that and throws me the keys like it's an emergency.

I grab the vase off the table as I rise. Preston's too blinded by the prospect of getting some to ask questions. I slip behind him and collect a goldfish off every table I pass, emptying their vases into mine. The party has reached the Cotton-Eye Joe stage; nobody even notices I'm gone.

Bloop, bloop, bloop. I pour fish after fish into the vase, until I've accrued a small blobular army. They're crowded, but I promise them it won't be long.

Preston's BMW is just as flash as he said it was. I hike up my dress, kick off my heels, and climb inside. I buckle the goldfish into the passenger's seat.

We can't bathe in the sea--they're freshwater fish. But maybe there's a lake somewhere out here in wine country.

Protagonist embodies THE EARTH'S MOON.

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

Finding a Rhythm
668 words
Object: a grandfather clock

The new heart they put in me doesn't beat. Before the surgery, the doctor showed me a diagram of the thing, all open chambers with a turbine to keep the blood flowing. I think about that diagram too much, and sometimes I swear I hear the fan whirring in my chest, slow and steady. I've never hated anything as much as I hate that fan.

You'd never know it now, but I lived my life for rhythm and for the body. I was a champion ballroom dancer, and I spent 47 years as "The Waltzing Butcher," whistling as I trimmed chops and cut up carcasses. I cooked for a full house every holiday. These days I can't walk for ten minutes straight, I eat the same bland crap every day, and half of me's not even flesh anymore, it feels like. My hips and knees are plastic; my forearm's full of metal pins. I'd call myself clockwork, but clocks tick. I don't.

"Ernest," my wife said, "you need a hobby." Easy for her to say -- Lucy's never seen a crafty thing she didn't like -- but she wasn't wrong. My life had narrowed down to my armchair and my records, the same way my father's had ended up as an armchair and a TV, and his father's an armchair and a stack of cowboy novels. Every young man promises that won't be them, and every old man ends up there, sure as night follows day. "Melissa's doing art now at the community college," Lucy said. "You should call her."

So I called my pink-haired granddaughter, and she got me a catalog, and I ended up in Continuing Education Introductory Ceramics -- a big name for a class of fifteen oldsters learning how to play with clay. We started with coil, simple and silly, but it taught me what clay felt like in my hands, how the stuff warmed and softened and grew smooth. There was a nice repetition to it: roll, coil, smoothe, and again. It started to feel like my kind of work.

Coil taught me the basics, but slab pottery is where it really started singing for me. Maybe it's just that it felt good to have a knife in my hand again, but slab reminds me of the butcher shop and the kitchen: the familiar rituals of cutting the raw down to its best shape, then building it up again into something new. I've spent hours in the studio, putting on music and losing myself in the dance of cut and shape, cut and shape, glaze and bake and wait. A whole lot of it gets ruined in the kiln -- and boy, if that doesn't remind me of learning my way around the gas oven in our first house and all the nice meat I ruined that way! -- but every piece is teaching me something. Progress. My hands moving. It's a nice feeling.

And then there's the wheel. We started on it three weeks ago, with lots of warnings about the learning curve, and hasn't that been the truth? Less wasteful when it's just wet clay, I know, but I don't think I've gotten a single thing off the wheel yet that was in any state to glaze and fire. I don't think I've quite gotten the rhythm down. But there is a rhythm in that wheel turning, in how your foot has to keep the momentum going as your hands find the shape you want, and I'm going to get it. It's only a matter of time. The college is doing an art show in the spring, and I figure if I keep at it, I'll have some wheel-thrown pots ready by then. Won't that be a thing to show Lucy and the kids?

It's all starting to come together. My tired feet are singing to my plastic knees, up to my faithful hands, and it drowns out the drone of my heart. Maybe I am a little bit clockwork. Maybe that's all right.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




prompt: a shark in a jar preserved in 70% isopropyl alcohol dyed blue for a captivating "oceanic" aesthetic

Thank you. I love you. Treatment works.
630 words

I’m the belle of the ball. Naked, suspended in a liquid preservation medium the same temperature as my body, displayed in a clear cylindrical tank—never before have so many timeless, immaculate faces turned my way. Never before has a party swirled around me like the spiral arms of a galaxy.

Eleanor, intervention specialist, touches the side of my tank and tells one of her guests, “This is Swati. She’s in a lot of pain. She has a lot to offer the world, but she’s not prepared to give herself the time to figure it out.”

The guest, a young man with an earnest face, looks up at me and says, “I read about you before the party. You spent a century developing artificial fungal networks before switching to oceanography. You discovered six new species of tube worm. Everyone hoped you were going to switch to stellar cartography in your fourth century. You must’ve been under so much pressure.” His wide eyes are watery with sincerity.

If I could vomit, I would paint the inside of this tank with my disgust.


There was no pressure; I had all the academic resources in the world at my disposal, and all the time in which to put them to use. I was well established in my various fields of study, and had gluts of colleagues falling over themselves to get their name on a paper co-authored by me.

In my old life, the one where death was certain, I’d been thrilled by the idea that my research would pass as a torch from me to the next generation. There was a relief in the idea that I might contribute my share and then tap out, move on to the great adventure of death.

Then came the lights in the sky. Then came the symbiotes, falling from the upper atmosphere in a haze like fine ash, and with them, immortality.

For the first century, humans exalted in the endless, golden afternoon of eternal life. Then the suicides began; for many, the lack of a finish line took the thunder out of the race.

Society embraced its psychologically wounded, took us in its arms and refused to let go.


Eleanor leads guest after guest to my tank, giving them all a chance to affirm and validate my existence.

One of them smiles up at me and says, “Why rush things? The universe will end eventually. If you care so little about your life, use it to help others.”

I will help others, whenever they let me out of this intervention tank. I’ll study the symbiotes, and find a cure.

Until then, I have one small act of protest at my disposal. Academic connections have their perks; one of my colleagues from mortal times works at the intervention facility where they tanked me. Intervention protocol is pretty strict and invasive, but a high-level tech can cut a few corners.

The preservation fluid in which I’m suspended functions as both food and air. Standard procedure is to empty the digestive tract before you tank someone, but my colleague bypassed that step. My musket is loaded, and even my artificially-minimized metabolism can’t prevent the inevitable.

“Even if it seems pointless now, you have billions of years to find purpose,” one of Eleanor’s guests tells me.

This is my purpose, I think, just as my body bears down reflexively on the mass in my lower intestines.

The guests make horrified sounds as my waste fills the intervention tank. Their words of encouragement and validation die behind gagging and retching. Someone calls for an intervention tech and I know I’ve earned myself years in this tank.

Flakes of poo poo drift in front of my eyes; I am not only alive, but living.

Mar 21, 2013


Grimey Drawer

wordcount: 665
prompt: fine tooth comb

Ring of Ghosts

Josie held her wedding ring up to the morning light to let its diamonds sparkle one last time. She placed it carefully in the velvet-lined wooden box on the dresser, closed the lid and shut the tiny, metal latch. She couldn't help but notice the thick, pale circle around her denuded finger where the sun had been absent for so many years. She whispered a prayer of hope for forgiveness, then put the box into the bottom drawer, beneath the cashmere scarf he'd bought for her last-but-three birthday. She slid the drawer shut, smoothly and with finality. Amen.

Samuel called her from the kitchen, asking for help with the breakfast eggs. She went to him, light-fingered and light-headed, and found him the vinegar where he'd left it.

All that week Josie noticed things she'd never noticed before. Small things. A half-heard whisper of her name that might have been the wind. The sudden scent of his aftershave in an elevator filled with women. A dream of his touch against her cheek.

"What's the matter?" asked Samuel when she woke the two of them with a sudden, sobbing gasp.

"I think I'm being haunted," said Josie, letting a tear wash away his lingering touch.

Samuel scratched his nose. "Troublesome things, ghosts," he said, turning toward her and laying his arm around her waist. "Try and let them rest."

Josie shrugged her shoulder back under the duvet, and waited for Samuel's breath to slow in sleep. It didn't take long. She slipped beneath his arm, out of the bed and made her way on the balls of her feet to the dresser beneath the window. She crouched and slid open the bottom drawer, tugged away the scarf and lifted the wooden box into one of the beams of light that shone through the curtains that didn't quite close.

She raised the latch with one fingernail and opened the lid. The velvet interior was empty.

Josie checked again, twisting the box to get light into all its angles. There was nothing inside. She turned it upside down and shook it it. Nothing fell. She placed the box on the dresser and began to empty the drawer. First, the scarf then the rest of the contents. The sweater from last winter. Another, less favoured scarf. The perfectly fitting jeans she hadn't dared to wear yet. She ran her hands over each item, checking its folds and pockets, then rummaged in the drawer itself to find where a ring might be lodged. Eventually, the drawer was empty and still there was no sign of the ring.

She began to search further afield. She slapped her hands on the carpet around the dresser, feeling for what wasn't there. She opened and emptied each of the other drawers in turn. When she grunted trying to move the whole dressing table to more easily search behind it, Samuel stopped snoring. Josie didn't even notice and heaved the piece of furniture another inch.

"Want a hand with that?" asked Samuel.

"Yes," she said, then, more gently, "please."

Samuel got up and moved toward her, stepping lightly over strewn sweaters and jeans. "What's gone missing?" he asked.

Josie, still with her hands on either side of the dresser, watched him slip between shafts of moonlight. "My wedding ring. I've looked and looked, but..."

Samuel took her left hand, lifted it as if to kiss it, but stopped, holding it between them, turning it slowly this way and that. Moonlight fell across her finger, and her pale circlet of untanned skin seemed to glow in the darkness.

"There it is," Samuel said, tracing above the luminous circlet's path with his own finger. "Some things you just can't lose."

Josie followed Samuel back to bed, and lay beside him until once again his breathing slowed. She, too, drifted toward sleep in the ghostless darkness, finding it harder and harder to look out between the gaps in the curtains to where the night sky was alive with diamonds.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

A Game Worth the Candle

667 Words

Object: Also a candle but it's a bigger candle

Relatives? Too many to count. None close. You'll do. You're probably one. Good enough to see me out.

No, I'm not giving up. But I know the score. Eighty percent, that's a bad number. Even without much on my face and head.

Four thousand six hundred seventy two. That's a better number. Best there's been, far as I know. Some have come close, though.

Yeah, here’s a secret. Some people, well, we just don't get old, or even sick. It's not genetic near as I can tell. It just happens, a few people win the lottery and get to live until someone puts a knife in them, or they fall off a cliff or drown, or...

Yeah. Until they run into a burning building.

The pain? Bearable. I don't know if that's the drugs or burnt out nerve endings. Either way I appreciate everything you're doing. I've been a nurse a few times. Back when there was a lot less to the job, just keeping people clean and being there at the end. Nobody should have to die alone.

No, I didn't ever meet Jesus, nor the Buddha or any of the others. Best way to tell someone faking it is when they talk about all the famous historical people they met. The world's too big. I spent that century in Rome-not the city, but Rome proper, down near the bottom of the boot, and didn't even hear about the rebels in Israel until it was the second generation disciples telling the story.

People try to worm their way into our meetings, hoping we'll drop the secret of eternal youth, as of any of us knows, or could share it if we wanted. I would. But not with those clowns.

So no, I haven't seen much history happening. The ones who don't go out of their way to avoid history, stay far away from wars and riots and revolt, they don't last more than a few centuries. We millenarians try to stay away from all that. Art, though. That we seek out. I heard Homer declaim, saw  Burbage and Kemp under Shakespeare's own direction, commissioned a Mozart sonata.

You get cautious, once you realize how much time you could have. You play it safe, invest for the long term, avoid getting attached to anyone you'll outlive. And then, after living like that for a hundred years or so, you get restless and bored. So you start taking risks, get charmed by a redheaded girl or boy who's living in the moment so hard it hurts you just looking into their eyes. You run free, looking for wrongs to set right and dragons to slay.

Then you have a close call and get scared back into another few centuries of being afraid of you own shadow. Or they die and you start to think living so long is a curse, but if you were ever going to act on that you'd have never made it this far. Or they leave you and you're left with all the energy and nothing to do with it. You wander the world, looking for a game worth the candle.

They're going to make it, right?

Thank you. That's what the coward in my head tried to tell me. 'They’re gone already. Not just the eighty years way everyone is, but right away. Too much hot smoke and air in their lungs.’ That voice has always been an expert liar. I didn't argue with it, didn't even think. I just acted. The apartment, the fire, no engines or sirens over the crackle, and the sound of children crying. No thought needed until the beam pinned me down and I had to figure out what to scream to make them leave me behind.

I didn't expect anyone to come in time. But I'm glad they did, even knowing how little time it saved me, one day or two more out of more than a million. Because nobody should have to die alone.

Sep 29, 2018


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

While you wait for fast judging, good judging, why not head over to the Spooktober Story Contest thread and sign up? Submit horror or otherwise Halloween-appropriate stories of up to 6,666 words, deadline October 26. Prizes are SA upgrades so Lowtax can fix his spine (his spooky spine).

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Interprompt again

Stories from the point of view of an abstract concept. No anthropomorphism. I mean, personify the concept into something that at least thinks like a human. But don't write about anthropomorphism, because he's a colossal jerk.

250 words

Sep 29, 2018

I am at a free computer at the library which is nice since the caps lock key isn’t stuck. I did my quick thoughts earlier and now I will do some more in depth work

  • I was hoping things would be abstracted out a little further than just “she is our self-automated remote control” and “Fleur Estelle even looks like a giant remote.”
  • I liked that you had the flip at the end with the protagonist becoming like her hated sister but you just went so literal with everything. Did you think I wouldn’t be able to keep up with your brilliant metaphor?

  • So I enjoyed the dichotomy of the food stomach and the real stomach. And at first I was reading along and assuming all the weirdness is because I’m looking into the rattled brain of a post-apocalyptic survivor. A human survivor. But, no, your character is literally a bottle of aloe vera
  • Did you miss the part of the part of the prompt that said “you are going to anthropomorphize your object so that it is all the way
  • Did you miss the part of the prompt that said “your object is actually a human person with the qualities of the object”?
  • I mean how?
  • It was in all caps
  • This is exactly what I wanted
  • You did a lot with not many words
  • The back and forth questions with () was a good device
  • Sometimes I have a hard time hearing loud voices in writing unless I’m told beforehand. I think “My voice booms” should have gone first or been removed entirely.
  • Your opening sentence is very strong and I liked how it came back at the ending, too.
  • Also cool -- this guy could be crazy or could actually be supernatural and it doesn’t really matter either way which is cool
  • I meant to write cheap joke not cheap drunk
  • Nothing really happens here. A guy likes taking baths and so he takes a lot of baths. Here is a history of him taking baths. And then a selfie joke
  • Darn millenials and their selfies
  • Get it?
  • It’s French and your story was kinda French
  • Haha
  • I can see where you took a lot of little things from your object and incorporated them into your story in lots of little clever ways. I like that. I like the cleverness.
  • Leave the bayonet says a lot with very little
  • I am interested in the world you have made where this Gift seems unusual but not miraculous
  • I think is probably a good story but I do not like it
  • I don’t like the content
  • It makes me feel queasy and that maybe I need to take a shower
  • I guess if that was the goal then good job
  • I don’t see-
  • Funny
  • I feel like there is maybe some crucial characteristic of a glass eyeball I can’t think of that is very important to me fully understanding this story. I guess you could say I don’t see it. Right now, there is a creepy man who is very nondescript and who makes the main character uneasy. She decides to give him a job despite no qualifications. I am missing something?
  • Is that first sentence grammatically correct? The tense seems weird. “Is hitting” might be better?
  • This is the opposite of Woopy Cat’s tv remote story. The metaphor of the object here ((an old wooden dock) is both obvious and subtle (as opposed to being so overt it is painful like it was with the tv remote). A father wants to be a harbour for his son. Easy enough. What I like in particular, though, are the layers to this. All the energy he is putting into rescuing his boat is just a substitute for what he wishes he could do for the relationship he has with his son. And when the boat is lost to the storm, it isn’t devastating because he has had it for forty years but rather because of what the boat represents.
  • Cool stuff
  • I was going to make my verdict something seesaw related how this one was all a good and not bad but I’m getting tired of reading all these stories
  • This a very honest look at mental health. It was not romantic or even unrealistic. This is refreshing.
  • Very good
  • I enjoy your use of the prompt. Orbit was subtle yet powerful.
  • I enjoy the holes you leave. They are large enough to drive a Mercedes through yet easy for me to fill in with my own imagination. Where did the burns come from? Doesn’t matter.
  • I find the impulse to bath with the fish strange and out of place. Is it a drunk thought blurted out for no reason? That seems to be the implication but I would like to think it is something more complex than that that I just haven’t figured out yet.
  • I will reread this one.
  • Manipulation of Preston is realistic and good
  • I don’t know if you were satisfied with this because it seems kind of scaled out
  • Perhaps you had a story you wanted to tell but were overly constrained by the word count
  • Too much summary, too much unimportant information
  • For instance, the father armchair thing was good. The Waltzing Butcher just took up space.
  • I thought this was going to be a lot different but I guess that’s life huh
  • The wife lost her wedding ring but it’s okay because there are stars am I reading this correct
  • Wedding rings are expensive
  • I would be upset
  • This is good
  • This is a good use of your prompt and I’m not sorry for giving it to you because you did a fine job of it what a smart person I am for assigning it
  • I like the concept of being in Rome and not hearing anything about Jesus that’s pretty funny

In short, Yoruchi is the winner. Quid Pro Quo and Staggy are honorable mentions. Slugehad is dishonorable. And Not Gordon loses. Thank you to Sebmojo and Third Emperor for your help with judging.

Good bye for now

Aug 7, 2013




Control Central by WhoopieCat

This story does not understand subtlety. Briefly, it flirts with going over the top, but eventually settles on delivering the most obvious and literal reading of the prompt, spelling everything out, and grinding down any possible nuance. It’s a shame cause someone repeating cycles of behavior they despise in other people is moderately interesting -- but we’re just told it happens without, ahey, any nuance.

I did like the one part where you took a jab at describing, via the protag’s head-swirling, the kind of unreal nature of being stuck in an abusive situation. Shoulda dug deeper into that.


Discarded by NotGordian

And we seem to have missed the memo that the character was supposed to be a human who resembled the given object, not a literal anthropomorphized object. A shame that memo was the entire prompt. At the start, reading about this person with a food-stomach and an identity-stomach, I thought, hey, this is either a hell of a metaphor or I’m in for some high-concept sci-fi.

Everything past there is a downhill slide, with patches of good vivid description, and while the last guy could have used the pretty brutal description of traumatic violence you employ here, know what? They’re way too much in this context. If your whole piece is just a gritty reboot of Toy Story leave the horrible depictions of abuse out of it, because a goofy story about a runaway aloe vera bottle cannot hold up that emotional weight.


Remembrance by Yoruichi

Choosing the False Door here was asking for your story-writin’ heart to be weighed against Djeser’s feather-light delight of a piece, and hi, it’s me, the hippo-assed crocodile-faced jerk here to inform you, you failed. This is too close to its inspiration, but loses the advantage of novelty, of being written from the unique perspective of an ancient bit of stonework, and fails to keep the playful ambiguity.

You don’t actually make ‘the door’ a character with emotions and such, so you completely fail to lean in to the differences that could be strengths, leaving this story with the taste of a bad bootleg.


Rubber Duck, 666 Words by slughead42

This is an first-timer piece for sure. That’s not a black mark on you at all, and you should keep submitting, because a lot of the problems I see here spring from just not being comfortable writing yet. You don’t really reach for anything in this piece, it’s just ‘hey here’s a list of baths the protag has taken’ and there are, I’ll acknowledge, discernable characters and emotions in there, but no real onramp to lead the audience into actually caring about them, no conflict external or internal.

If it was supposed to be comedy, well, a comedy story needs more than one joke at the very end. I didn’t think the punchline was great, and all the energy had already gone swirling down the drain from the matter-of-fact way everything before that was written.


Insurrection by Deltasquid

I like the concept, I love the small touch of humor in describing stacked corpses of lasagna, but the story never gets as far into the character’s head as it does in that opening, never really immerses me in the feel of the moment after that. It plays out somewhat limply from there on out, down to the protagonist simply deciding to die in the end, and the moral dilemna is spelled out in such simple terms that it feels cheap.

I don’t know how this magical painter got dragged into a war, or how he feels about the ‘savages’ they’re fighting, there’s no hint of relation to the man he betrays, it’s very cut-and-dried and it’s hard to care for the finale when he is defined almost totally by the gift he begrudges to use.


Warmth by Fuschia tude

I could ask how this emotional drama is supposed to impact me when every emotion of the actual victim is hidden from view. I want to say that phrasing everything as hypotheticals is just deeply frustrating when you keep up such a dense pace. I should tell you that you need more actual character moments, instead of musings on what the characters should have been like, to make them feel like people.

But most of all, I want to say that writing this the way you did didn’t really add anything, and it was a bad choice of gimmick. It doesn’t even draw attention to what Marissa feels her failures as a mother were, because it kills the immediacy of those failings, of her own emotions overwhelming her even when she knows she needs to be there for her daughter.

Low. Loss candidate.

A glass eye by derp

Well, it’s evocative. There’s a lot of small, good touches here, in fact the whole story is made of them. Producing in the reader that one itchy-slimy feeling of being watched seems to be the only goal here, and I suppose you’ve succeeded. I wish you’d reached a little more, as I don’t find this to be really enough to justify itself, even for a short story, but I’ve got no complaints on what’s actually there.


Safe Harbour by Staggy

Easily the story that does most in the least words. There’s a good doubling of meaning here, with an easy connection between the loss of the ship and the estrangement of a son, and then the two come together as the protagonist worries they’ll have nothing left to offer if he ever returns. It’s a neat trick to keep both ideas in the air and develop one through the other in such a tight wordcount, and coupled with the restraint to keep the protagonist’s recollections from veering into triteness.


Teeter-Totter by QuoProQuid

‘Whittled’ nails. That’s a nice turn of phrase. I like the muted tone of the conflict here, when it would be so easy to have the mental patient scream or yell or otherwise be milked for drama. There’s a touch of aggrandizement in the voice that really makes the piece tick and sells the protagonist’s issues, and I really found this piece enjoyable because of the small things like that.


Glub, glub by Anomalous Blowout

‘It sprawls across the manicured vineyard like a couple acres of floral psoriasis.’ You break register with ‘a couple’ here. It’s a shame because otherwise the voice is good, at least until it’s not. Contempt tends to grate and that’s the whole spectrum of emotion offered up here. Only Preston, pocket-square that he is, actually demonstrates any reason for that contempt.

Really, I think that’s the big problem here. The whole family drama is entirely kept at the edges of the story and Preston is given too much time for his role of being a fuckboy. If we’re meant to assume it’s because she’s scarred and they’re petty enough to make her an outcast for that, it’s undercut by the story starting with an exceptionally superficial man making eyes at her. The orbit pun was the best part of the story.


Finding a Rhythm by Antivehicular

What strikes me about this is how playful it is, within its own small scope. It really is just an old man rambling, but the voice is done so well you can kinda hear him smiling, and I like it enough even without a story arc or a conceit or other characters. It’s genuinely hard to critique a piece like this.


Thank you. I love you. Treatment works. by ShittingHere

Diving into a science fiction piece at the end a week almost entirely grounded in reality was a cool relief, and I was so ready as the concept was unfolded. And then, it was a poo poo joke. One that fit the absolute helplessness of this character who’s been reduced to an animal in a zoo for ‘therapy’ sure, but still. I’m angry at myself for laughing, frankly, and I want to know more. Maybe in a week with such a slim wordcount wanting to know more is a good thing.


Ring of Ghosts by fumblemouse

The imagery here is wonderful, and there is for a while a nice bit of ambiguity in whether the ghost is real or not. Ultimately, I think the thing that makes this stumble near the end - although the descriptions remain vivid to the last - is I never get a real grasp of the protagonist’s feelings for her late husband, about her new man, that it’s someone else who vanishes the ring and someone else who insists that she still has it ~in her heart~. There’s this lovely feeling but not a lot of depth.


A Game Worth the Candle

I feel as if I should like this piece more than I do, but something about it seems a little trite. I think it’s that there’s very little of a voice to the protagonist. Despite the whole piece being his monologue, I walk away barely knowing him; we spend too much time having the concept explained to us and too little time exploring the consequences it has for this world or these characters. I’m not sure, ultimately, that being immortal changes a drat thing about the protagonist, seeing as he is in fact dying when we meet him, and you go out of your way to promise it doesn’t change a thing about the wider world.



Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Control Central 7
a slick small yarn that sketches believable people in a believable family arrangement, with some nice snap and sizzle in the words. The protag turnaround is clever, and it crucially doesn't let the conceit overpower the characters (though dressing like a remote is a leetle on the nose)

Discarded 5
Some tolerable ooky details in this knotted yarn about post apocalyptic consumer goods, but it took the prompt too literally then didn't have the chops to bring it off. the characters aren't people and aren't objects and also eat cockroaches for some reason wtf is up with that? This writes a lot of world-buildy checks it really can't cash then skips town in a chevy with a half-tank of gas, not enough for the long desert road

Remembrance 8
I like this partly because it balances its two worlds (realistic encounter between schizophrenic homeless girl and do-gooder/mystic communion) and also because it's just fun - the portentous grumblings of your protag's inner voice are well-pitched, and the way she makes a connection with samaritan lady is touching on both levels. Ending is spot on.

Rubber duck 4
I don't read prompts when I judge, since the story should stand on its own and you don't get points for hard ones, but this one is crippled by its dreadful final line. I'm interested by the little slice of life of hot tub guy, but it needs to amount to something. Note that the line itself is fine, but ending it there puts way more weight than its tiny orange beak can handle. And the arch '...' is like you're waiting for a laugh that, to be crystal fuckin' clear, you are not going to get

Insurrection 6
This is decent, though I would ask you not to compare a pile of civilian corpses to over-sauced lasagne ever again ifyouwouldbesokind (it's clever, but tonally bizarre). I like your gimmick, and you pilot it to an end briskly in your short wordcount, but there's something a little light in your resolution - possibly cutting the PTSD guy and going straight to the torture victim would have given you the requisite space, as it is it's sketched rather than drawn. but, decent.

Warmth 6 This suffers from that classic tdome problem of having the protag not really being the subject of the story, though it does its best to hoe the row and makes a solid fist of it. The mother's angst at the uncertain (but guessable) plight of her daughter is well enough set out, but it's all a bit vaporous and inchoate, and that means the story doesn't have the punch that it probably thinks it does, for all the words are well-enough assembled.

A glass eye 7.5 I really like the mood you conjure here, and for all it's two people talking at a desk there's a sense of creepy space around them that's very effective. The focus on well-chosen details like the sweat image or the dirty glass stand out in the eerie blandness of your weirdass applicant.

Safe Harbour 5 There is no 'u' in forty just as there is no 'I' in team but there is one in 'idiot' which is what you are. All that aside this isn't terrible, but it's a bit/a lot clunky with its metaphorical boat and metaphorical storm and metaphorical lines being ripped out of hands (not sure about metaphor status of thermos/sammies, prepared to accept they may be concrete objects). It's also very 'storm coming, storm happens, does storm stuff (metaphorical storm)' - when things are this on teh nose you need a little turnaround somewhere to surprise and interest the reader, just as you need to fix in your mind that THERE IS NO U IN FORTY YOU BUFFOON

Teeter totter 7 This is a strongish week, so you want to avoid easy mistakes like using 'discrete' instead of 'discreet, spelling 'Zeppelin' wrong and using the word 'aestheticized' anywhere, for any purpose, at any time. I suppose it is an actual word and it would net you a kickass score in scrabble, but it's just ugly as balls and makes your first sentence super clunky. Those quibbles aside, this walks a fine line with commendable adroitness - I think you were right to leave the final decision unresolved, and the implied shift in the protag's perceptions of herself (and evil hag-bitch Laura) is subtle and effective.

glub glub 4 I enjoy the sizzly words in this, and there's some nice passion in your protag but everyone else is a caricature and the ending doesn't really make sense. You set up a lot of backstory pins with the scarring but don't really knock them down, for all the final image of a woman in a party frock driving a vat of goldfish to a lake for a swim is nice.

finding a rhythm 4 There seem to be a lot of old people in stories this week which is cool don't get me wrong, old people are people too, you can tell it's right there in the name. Anyhoo, this is some well-enough assembled words about an old dude learning pottery but I really fatally don't care about his U3A craft exploits, you know? There's sort of a strained heart metaphor with his whirry pump thing and the potters wheel, and i guess it ties in with his previous career as a dancing butcher(?!?) but really it's words bobbing around the story harbour looking to make landfall and I'm watching them drift out to sea with a sad expression

I love you I'm great therapy etc 4 is gluts a word? I'm not sure it is but I think you just made it one, nice work gj. Overall this is ok but slight, lots of world building and a faecal 'ock' to finish.

ring of ghosts 8.5 Thaat's a pretty nice piece, layering on the precise observations and character bits, rising frenzy well conveyed and a stupidly good image with the moonlight on the finger and the stars ect ect. Fridge logic suggests that telling your wife 'noone cares about your ring shut up and go to bed bitch' is a little harsh but that's me straining to be mean rather than a legit critique imo perhaps i'm just a bad person idk... that said, who actually died? is this the second husband? I'm genuinely confused, and that's enough to knock it back from clear winner to top zone. You could have fixed this with a line of scene setting text somewhere though, so it's not a critical flaw.

a game worth the candle 5
old people and immortality is apparently what objects say to thunderdome, intriguing, he said tapping his chin. There's nothing that intriguing about the rest of this story, for all that it's some solid story words - feels like I've read this before, and the addition of saving some kids from a burning building doesn't really help shake that feeling particularly as they aren't even described.

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