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QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


i failed last week so i'll :toxx: in.

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Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


Good prompt. In.

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007

by Lowtax


Fun Shoe

I don't want an assignment and I am in at 999 words with thermionic valves, my dudes

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning




Bolt Crank posted:

Hoping for an insidious prompt!

My first Thunderdome flaying! :toot: It's on point, too - thank you for writing it up!

atomic bomb

Chili posted:

Yo rhino, I'll judge it up, if you need.

hell yeah

derp posted:

also im in

:siren: Congrats! You are the 20th entrant! You get the coveted... FMV game! :siren:

crabrock posted:

in probably who knows anymore

defibrillator


armillary sphere

Deltasquid posted:

In for this week, gimme a thing

streaming media

QuoProQuid posted:

i failed last week so i'll :toxx: in.

aqueduct

Anomalous Blowout posted:

Good prompt. In.

mold casting

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009


Fulfilling my toxx, here is the completed document of all my judgecrits from week 321, Object week: apophenium week 321 judgecrits.

So if you felt left out back when I posted initially, check again! Your story has been critiqued! Thank you for your patience.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning




Sign ups closed, and if you want a new tech msg me or hit me up on chat and I'll send you but you need to toxx

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Object: 3D Printer

Ding!
1082 words


Steve yelped and dropped the freshly printed dragon. It ran under his father’s big oak desk, tiny plastic claws skittering on the wooden floor.

“Don’t break it!” said Blair. The dragon was his own design; he’d spent ages getting the pattern of its tiny, intricate scales just right.

“It bit me!” Steve thrust his finger into his friend’s face. Little balls of blood trembled on his pricked skin. “Look!”

“Don’t be a dick,” Blair replied, not looking. He chewed nervously on the strings of his worn-out hoodie, watching the whirring printer as Steve’s creation appeared, layer by layer. “Are you sure your Dad said we could use this?”

“He won’t care, he never uses it,” said Steve. He was on the floor, one arm scrabbling amongst the dust bunnies under the desk. His father was anal about his study; wouldn’t even let the cleaner in there, let alone his own son. Steve pushed away thoughts of what his father would do if he caught him.

Ding! Steve jumped up and grabbed the finished object from the printer tray. He laughed and poked Blair with a crude, grey-white cock and balls.

Blair made himself laugh as well. Maybe trying to be friends with Steve was a mistake; he was such a loser. Just like you, Blair reminded himself. Plus his parents could never afford something this awesome.

“What’s this, your own cock not good enough?” Blair said. He yanked the plastic phallus off Steve and biffed it at his head. Steve ducked and it clattered behind the bookshelf.

“Your Dad’s going to skitz out when he finds that!” Blair laughed.

Steve didn’t reply. Everyone thought his Dad was so great; the big, funny guy who was always ready to help his neighbours out. No one would believe he beat his kid on the regular.

Both boys froze at the sound of the front door.

“poo poo, Mum’s home early,” said Steve. The printer clicked and whirred. “Turn it off, turn it off!” he said.

Blair jabbed at the on/off switch. “It won’t stop!”

“I’ll just turn it off at the wall!” Steve jammed himself behind the desk, fingers groping for the plug.

“gently caress!” he yelped again. He scrambled backwards, knocking over a standing lamp. The plastic dragon was latched onto his wrist, biting and scratching. Blood ran over its thrashing grey-white body.

“What the gently caress!” Blair grabbed Steve’s arm and yanked the dragon off him. It hissed and flew from his hand, plastic wings buzzing angrily.

The door slammed open.

“What on earth are you boys - ” Steve’s mother’s eyes widened at the sight of the blood dripping onto the cream wool carpet. “Your father is going to kill you,” she whispered. “This had nothing to do with me, you hear, nothing!” Her voice shook as she backed away from her bleeding son.

“Don’t you dare, don’t you dare tell him!” Steve shouted. “Please!

Angry red splotches broke out over his mother’s face. “You’re a very bad boy and you deserve everything you get!” She slapped Steve, hard, across his cheek.

Ding! Blair’s second model, a fist-sized griffin, sprang from the tray with a crackle of plastic feathers. It shot past Steve’s ear and jammed its claws into his mother’s throat. She screamed and stumbled backwards as its beak gouged her neck.

Blair jerked instinctively towards her but Steve’s arm shot out and stopped him. He clutched his bleeding wrist to his chest and watched as arterial blood pumped from her neck. “You’re the one who deserves everything you get, you stupid cow,” he whispered.

From the printer another creature hissed, forked tongue flicking around its fangs. Blair gaped; he hadn’t even finished designing this one. It began crawling from the tray as the rest of its thick, serpentine body appeared, layer by layer. Its diamond-shaped head swung between the two boys.

“You’re crazy, I’m getting out of here,” Blair said, yanking his arm out of Steve’s grip. He jumped over Mrs Cunningham’s body and was halfway down the stairs when Steve’s father stepped through the front door.

Blair froze.

Ding!

Steve’s father’s eyes swung towards the sound. “Hello Blair. Where’s Steve?” he said.

“Ah, hi, Mr Cunningham,” Blair replied.

Steve’s father was at the bottom of the stairs, blocking Blair’s exit. One big hand was on the buckle of his leather belt. Blair considered vaulting the banister and making a run for it. Then he thought about all the time Steve had off school, and the rumours about why. He took a step back up the staircase.

From the landing Blair heard a soft squeak-scrape, squeak-scrape. The plastic cock was inching its way across the floorboards like a caterpillar dragging a pair of marbles. Blair watched in horror as it flopped off the top stair and bounced flaccidly against Mr Cunningham’s feet.

Steve’s father picked up the grey-white dick. His face was purple with anger. “I told him not to touch the printer,” he said under his breath.

Blair saw fear flash in Mr Cunningham’s eyes. He jammed himself against the banister rail as the man pounded past him up the stairs.

“Steve I told you not to - WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” Mr Cunningham was standing over his wife’s body. The griffin’s head was buried in her neck and its body pulsed and trembled as it fed.

“It’s Blair’s fault!” Steve shouted back. “They’re his designs!”

“gently caress you, Steve!” Blair yelled. He knew trying to be friends with Steve was a mistake.

The serpent uncoiled itself from the printer and launched at Steve. It coiled around him, trapping his arms, and sunk its fangs into his neck. Steve screamed, helpless. His father lept towards him and they both crashed to the ground. Reaching desperating onto the desk Mr Cunningham’s hand closed on a letter opener and he stabbed it into the thick plastic body, over and over.

He cradled Steve in his arms. Steve was white, and shivering. They were both covered in blood.

“Dad,” he said. “You saved me.”

“Of course, you’re my son,” Mr Cunningham said.

“You’re all loving crazy,” muttered Blair. He retreated down the stairs. Outside the front door he had to shield his eyes against the bright sunlight. Birds were singing. He flinched as something landed on his shoulder. It was the plastic dragon; it rustled as preened its translucent wings.

Ding! Blair heard, as he pulled the door shut behind him.

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007

by Lowtax


Fun Shoe

Object: thermionic valves

Attenuation Breakdown
989 words

Trav finished the joint and coughed. He counted Jake’s drumming, felt Bruce’s bass come in. Eyes closed, he tried channeling his muse. The cheap Peavey squealed and belched out fuzz, cutting out the peaks and dips.

“Trash. Just trash.” He set the guitar down.

Jake rolled his eyes, sick of this weekly routine. “You better go cool off dude, this poo poo’s really not chill.”

Trav punted the amp across the basement. It landed speaker side up revealing a crude sigil of protection. His ex had painted it. It was time to get rid of that thing. He stomped up the stairs without saying a word.

A damp chill was in the air and his shoes were soaking through, he’d been walking for a while. He should’ve taken the bus. Freezing rain sputtered down again. He ducked under an awning. It was an antique store. Consignment. Strictly mid-century junk.

Except for the amplifier. Dovetailed maple, spartan in construction. He walked in and picked it up. It was the real deal, semiconductors were never this heavy.

“That old thing’s $60,” the cashier said.

He dropped a damp wad of twenties onto the counter and left.

The boys were gone by the time he’d come back. Gingerly, he plugged it in. The thing looked brand new, like it’d never been used. A soft hum filled the room as the amp warmed up.

Something from high school unglued itself in memory. Thermionic valves, or more commonly, vacuum tubes. Wavelength amplification. Semiconductors always chopped up the signal. Broke it apart and rebuilt it into little squares. Valves didn’t. Whatever went in came out except a thousand times stronger.

The tubes were glowing red hot. He picked up his guitar, strummed a chord. He went through the entire progression. Then another. Melodies, rhythms and harmonies all seemed to come from elsewhere. Hours passed.

The phone rang, knocking him out of the trance. The music faded into a growing static. It filled the room, enveloped him, found its way through every vein and for a brief moment even satiated that gnawing blackness tucked away at the far reaches of his soul. A voice came out of, or rather through it.

Raspy and hollow, “More,” it said.

He obliged and was at it again. He thought his muse was smiling, satiated. Shivers ran down his spine. It was ecstasy. Night had fallen and receded twice before he collapsed.

Sleep was quick, troubled. Nightmares and cold sweat when he drifted off. She was flowing, ghostly, ever changing. Timeless and hungry, it was music she wanted, that evanescent thing that he built and let collapse as soon as the strings stopped moving.

Jake and Bruce showed up for practice the next day. Trav was already playing. The pair looked at each other. He’d really tightened up, it was phenomenal. That old amp really had been holding him back.

“Jesus you don’t look good. You on somethin’ or what?” Bruce said when he saw Trav’s pale, emaciated figure slouched over the guitar. The guitar's neck was stained with blood where he’d worn his callouses off.

Bruce shrugged and started playing, Jake followed suit. They two started something familiar and before they knew it Trav flowed seamlessly out of whatever he’d been playing. Something was up. They switched the beat on him, stopped and started again, even played off key. Nothing could trip him up.

The pair packed up after midnight. They stood on the porch sharing a cigarette. “I think the guy’s on something,” said Bruce. Jake nodded. They agreed to come back when he’d come down and they’d sort it out.

When they returned Trav was still playing, paler and more emaciated than before.

“Dude’s on a bender. He’s never been into heavy poo poo before, eh?” Bruce asked. Jake shook his head. “Let’s go get his family or something.”

Trav heard a door slam. He stopped playing, an ache spread from the tips of his fingers and radiated across his body. His mouth was very dry. He stood up, fell over and passed out. Static filled his thoughts. She was there, angrier than ever, flickering in and out of being. Her hair flowed wildly around her head, the corners of her mouth drawn back in a tight snarl.

“They’re trying to take me from you,” she hissed.

He jolted awake. The voice was fainter now over the static.

“You can’t leave me.”

Stronger. He needed to bridge the gap. Those few millimetres of vacuum between him and wherever she was.

“Yessss,” she said, trailing off into static as though she’d read his thoughts. “More.”

He turned the amplifier as high as it would go, static filled the room. He was moving now, not certain if the movements were his own. There were instructions in the static. He dug out a set of jumper cables from the closet. He saw himself rip open the breaker panel and clamp one end on polished copper. He knew it was wrong, he could feel the potential of the entire grid buzzing at the end of clamp. Expertly and in a single fluid motion his hands guided the cable to a place in the amp.

The static grew louder yet, the amp began to buzz and vibrate. Blue smoke erupted from the breakers. He picked up the guitar and she took over. The sound was deafening, the house shook, his body trembled.

He let a wailing solo trail out and coughed, sour smoke now filled the room.

“More,” she said, and he knew she was smiling. He turned the gain up on his guitar so far the knob broke and slammed the strings with a power chord.

There was a flash.

She was pulling him in, ghostly tendrils tearing into his soul. He was cold. She was there, in that blackness, clearer and more corporeal than she’d ever been. She turned to face him, mouth open, impossible amounts of teeth all dripping with black.

Staggy
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



Recognition
Object: Facial Recognition Scanner
1,193 words

Read it at the archive.

Staggy fucked around with this message at 21:42 on Jan 3, 2019

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Earthquake Season
Object: chinese seismograph
1,402 words

There wasn’t space in the lab for Ivy’s reconstructed Chinese seismograph. The lab was full of things that actually worked, modern seismographs, accelerographs, and geophones, and Ivy knew, as soon as she moved the heavy golden replica into the lab, that she’d attract the contempt of every legitimate scientist that worked there. It wasn’t her fault that her thesis advisor had been so enamoured of her work, though. “The craft, Ivy!” she’d gushed. “I knew your mind was sharp, but I didn’t know you had the artistic gift,” she said, tracing her finger around the teeth of the golden dragons.

“Thank you,” Ivy said, her voice low. “But you know what matters is what’s inside.”

“Ah, well,” her advisor said, “if you could get the outside with such detail, I know you’ve got the inside with that same kind of fastidious craft. I know -- how about we put this in the seismology lab? See what it can manage to pick up?”

Ivy knew better. Yes, she’d gotten the outside shiny, smooth, and detail-to-detail with the other replicas, but when it came to working out how the innards should work, she’d failed time after time. She’d rigged up a system of levers that would create a facsimile of responsiveness -- if there was a big enough earthquake, the levers would definitely tip, and at least one of the dragons would drop the telltale spheres in their mouths -- but it wasn’t accurate. She’d known it’d be a challenge to figure out how the ancient device worked. She’d just hoped she wouldn’t have to do it under the watchful eye of serious scientists, so much more legitimate than the diminutive history of science student.

And they were merciless. Once Ivy’s advisor left, the geologists rounded on her. Jordan, a dude with a wispy beard and a beer belly, said -- not to her, but to the room at large -- “So I guess we’re a dumping ground for toys now.”

The others laughed uncomfortably. Ivy tried to ignore him. She was used to dudes like Jordan mocking what she was doing, and anyway, she didn’t have time to waste digging through departmental politics. She had to figure out how, precisely, Zhang Heng had gotten the thing to detect quakes, and not, say, the belch of a nearby geologist. Which was exactly what triggered the eastern-facing sphere to drop out of the dragon’s mouth.

“What the gently caress is this thing?” Jordan said. “No, really, I want to know.” He picked up the dropped sphere.

“Can I have that back, please?” Ivy said.

He tossed the sphere to another geologist, who started, fumbled for the thing, and managed a near catch. The geologist rolled his eyes, and tossed the thing back to Jordan.

“They slashed our funding,” the other geologist said, in what might have been an apology.

“But clearly we have lots of funding for people to make big gold vases and put them in the geology lab, with all of the expensive equipment,” Jordan said, rounding on the Chinese seismograph. He knelt down and peered at the head of the dragon.

“If you’re concerned about the equipment, why are you throwing things in the lab?” Ivy asked. Jordan ignored her, but he reached out to touch the head of the dragon.

And then the thing snapped out and bit him on the hand.

Jordan screamed. No one else saw anything -- but Ivy looked, in horror, confusion, and satisfaction as Jordan dropped the sphere. As Jordan rushed back over to his belongings, Ivy quietly picked up the sphere and placed it delicately back in the dragon’s mouth. It was just still metal to her.

But goodness, the thing had gotten Jordan bad. A trail of blood spatter followed Jordan all the way back to his station, where he’d wrapped his hand in scrap paper and had started peering at Ivy. Concealing her smirk, she hoped that the incident had chastened the others, and she resolved to get back to work, removing the cover of the seismograph.

Everything had changed.

The amalgam of wooden levers, rubber bands, and duct tape she’d last left it was had fused into a silently spinning central wooden dowel, connected by some strange material to the dragon heads jutting out in all eight cardinal directions of the seismograph. And the whole thing felt warm to the touch, buzzing with a kind of alchemical hum.

Ivy felt a sense of wonder, of course. But she also felt cheated -- that the seismograph had taken away the satisfaction of solving the puzzle. Unless the solution had always been frat-boy geologist blood; in which case, her admiration of Zhang Heng’s second-century craft deepened even more. But what could she do now? And more importantly, how could she document this?

Then Jordan dropped to the ground, seizing, and in that instant, all of the equipment in the room burst into activity. Ivy’s seismograph dropped its sphere facing Jordan, but the modern seismographs drew amplified waveforms. The apologetic geologist hung next to Jordan, drawing his phone from his pocket, but most of the others ran to their equipment to record what had just started happening. And below her feet, Ivy could feel a very faint shaking of the earth, in rhythm to the twitching of Jordan’s body.

Jordan’s friend was fumbling with their phone, but the others in the lab were stationed at their instruments, taking a stream of notes. Ivy steadied herself against the Chinese seismograph, which started to visibly vibrate. And as Jordan’s friend shouted “Medical!” into the phone, Jordan’s seizing grew more violent, and, peeking over at a nearby geologist’s workstation, she could see the amplitude waves of the other seismographs growing higher and higher.

“All right,” Ivy murmured to the seismograph, “that’s enough.” She looked the guilty bronze dragon in the eye. “You’ve had your fun, and yeah, it was delicious, but--”

The lights cut out, draping the room in darkness. Above them, a ceiling beam started to creak. Beams from four or five different flashlights cut across the room, illuminating a few stark scenes: Jordan, biting deep into his lip, jerking wildly back and forth; a few geologists in a huddle, comparing notes and sending furtive glances at Ivy; and the seismograph itself, beginning to spin on an unknown axis, the dragons dropping their spheres one by one.

“Are you going to do something?” one of the geologists called to Ivy, with a crisp crack of panic in his voice.

“I don’t know what I can do,” Ivy said. “This wasn’t something I was anticipating, you know.”

“Well, you’re not just going to stand there while the lab collapses on our heads, are you?”

She was supposed to lobotomize the seismograph, wasn’t she? That’d be the heroic thing -- scooping out the innards, hoping that the effort would quell its aftereffects, would counteract the venom it had shot through Jordan’s veins. And she’d have blundered out of the disaster the same way she blundered in. It’s just what they’d expect of her. Most of the time, it’s what she expected of herself. But then she’d never understand what had happened, she’d just be a passive observer in the wake of the thing she’d rebuilt.

She stuck her hand between the teeth of the bronze dragon and placed the other hand on the seismograph’s body. “Ready when you are,” she said.

The puncture came, but although she was anticipating the stab, Ivy barely noticed it in the flood of sensation. It was as if all of the straight lines of her body had become curled; as if her muscles, her bones, her spine were curled like scissors to a ribbon, and as if she’d grown seven more bodies to accommodate the new complexity of feeling. Somewhere she could hear screaming, rumbling, crashing, but mostly she could hear a low hum, like the sound of a singing bowl.

When she opened her eyes, there was nothing but darkness, but she could see beyond the blackness; somewhere, a bright pair of eyes met hers. It occurred to her that a thick piece of rebar was sticking out of her chest, which Ivy noticed with a kind of abstract resignation. There was so much to notice in the darkness of the wrecked lab -- the static in her fading bodies, the depth of hate in Jordan’s penetrating glare, and the warm, everlasting love of the seismograph.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

Your Perfect Date
fmv game
1580 words



removed

derp fucked around with this message at 17:55 on Jan 1, 2019

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Tartarus
Flash: Aqueduct
Word Count: 1523

The half-finished arches cut across the valley, a stake in the heart of the wilderness. The real marvel, though, was underground. Ant-like, the slaves trekked across the hills, hauling stone blocks into unseen holes that snaked deep underground.

Nisus Manlius Torquatus, an aedile of Rome, a builder of buildings, followed the work from his tent. Just beneath the grunts and moans of his encampment, he could hear the steady thrum of picks deep below, the hollowing of the hills, the construction of an aqueduct.

If only they could finally break through to the other side, he might finally bring civilization to this place. They were already over time and over budget.

Nisus closed his eyes and breathed in deep. In his mind, he could see the grid of unmade cities and the shorn path of imperial roads. He was cutting through the thicket, clearing the weeds of barbarism so civilization might flourish. It was a heavy price, yes, but progress was worth any cost. When he returned home, he would be honored for his labors. His son would finally learn—.

“Papa! Papa!”

A sharp pain arced across his temples. His son Gaius stood in front of him, tears streaming down his red cheeks. His little soldier uniform, a gift from his sentimental wife, was streaked in mud. A wisp of dead grass clung to his face.

Nisus sighed. His wife had pleaded with him not to bring the boy to the frontier, but he had insisted. The air would do the boy good, he said. It would teach him the price of civilization, he insisted. But when he had taken the boy on a raid, allowing him to dress in his little uniform while they watched the legions slice through Frankish hordes and gather slaves, the boy had bawled. After Nisus lifted his sword, delivering death to the empty-eyed chieftain and his son, Gaius had screaming nightmares for weeks.

He wanted to shake the child and scream understanding into him. Do you know what the barbarians say about us? He imagined shouting. Look at Nisus, the mighty Roman who raised a little Greek. The Romans claim to be strong but, at heart, they are all sniveling children who will squander their inheritance.

“What is it?” Nisus said in the calmest tone he could manage.

“A monster took my sword!”

He bit his lip. “Ah, a monster took your sword.” Looking down at the boy, he could see that the little wooden sword was missing from his belt. Knowing Gaius, that would mean another week of sobbing. “I thought you were supposed to be with your tutor right now, learning about all the privileges I have won for you.”

The boy’s tears had begun to subside, and he looked down at his little boots. “I wanted to see the people working underground… but then, I heard…” His breathing became labored again. “Someone in the dark calling… and they… and they grabbed me.”

“They grabbed you? What did they say?”

Gaius continued staring at his feet and spoke so softly that Nisus had to lean toward him. “It said that I was the price, that it would take me as payment.”

Nisus looked from his son toward the workers trotting up and down the hills. A strange thought curled into his brain. The aqueduct was already over budget and over time. Each day, his Frankish slaves burrowed further and further into the hills, hauling ton after ton of stone into the hole’s inky depths. He thought he had broken their spirit, but the Franks were strange and savage people. Sabotage wasn’t out of the question. Neither was murder of an innocent, an attempt to break his spirit, a foolish attempt to stop the encroaching tide.

“Where did you see this monster?” He said, wiping the grass stain from his son’s face. “Can you show me?”

An example would need to be made.

***

The workers, a filthy cowering lot, stood shivering at the yawning mouth of the aqueduct. Their eyes faced downward. Beside the muttered prayers of a bedraggled man and the soft whistle of the artificial cavern, the air seemed filled with a supernatural quietness. All work had stopped. A few soldiers holding torches stood guard. The shadow of the massive arches above made their expressions unreadable.

Nisus gripped the end of his sword as Gaius sniveled behind him. “Hail barbarians, you wretches and degenerates,” he said. It wasn’t an appropriate greeting, but his tongue felt venomous in his mouth. “I have been informed by my dear, begotten son of a conspiracy. One of you, or maybe all of you, attempted to murder my dear boy.”

There was a tug on his back. “It wasn’t them, Papa. It was—.”

He bushed his son aside. The workers said nothing. He wasn’t sure how many spoke Latin, but it didn’t matter. They would hear his tone. The guilty would reveal themselves.

“It’s always painful to see gifts returned with treachery. In a few years’ time, you’ll have roads and water and trade, all at Rome’s expense.” Nisus strode across the assembly before coming to a stop before the muttering man. Nisus cocked his head and tried to meet his eyes. “What would you be doing if you weren’t here, I wonder. Hovelling in caves and wallowing in your own filth? Worshiping the trees or whatever it is that you do?”

The man continued to mutter. Nisus raised his sword and, before Gaius could give a pitiful cry, brought it down on the man’s neck. There was the sick crunching of bones and the release of blood. The slaves stepped backward, yelling and weeping among themselves.

“Papa—. Papa, please don’t,” gasped Gaius before retching somewhere behind him. Nisus stared at the assembled and dared them to laugh.

“My son and I are going to survey the hard work that you’ve done, the labor for which you have paid the Empire with. If all is well, as it should be, then I will allow you to go back to your noble work unmolested.” Blood had begun to pool in the dirt near him, though he could still hear the man’s raspy breathing. He kicked at the head until he heard a snap. “But, if I find sabotage or evidence of treachery, I think I will have you all executed.” He laughed. “Or maybe I’ll just butcher your children and force you to live with that.”

He took a torch from a guard. Its flame flickered and swayed as he gestured for his son, still dressed as a little soldier, a miniature Aeneas. The white-faced boy shook his head. Fire reflected in his wide eyes. “But… the monster. It said…”

“Nonsense,” said Nisus, the shadows making his face look monstrous. “Remember your Virgil: The gates of hell are open night and day. Smooth the descent, and easy’s the way.”

***

Their footsteps echoed as they edged further into the darkness. At first, they could see the entire assembled body behind them. Then, they could see only their silhouettes shimmering in front of a setting sun. Before long, though, even that had vanished into the cold night.

Gaius squeezed his hand as they passed stone after stone. He had whimpered as they started but had settled into a cold silence.

“You know,” Nisus said, clearing his throat. His anger, once boiling to the point of mania, had cooled and subsided. In its place, a heaviness had settled in his stomach. “This tunnel is built at a slight decline so that, when we connect it to a reservoir, it flows freely to the people who need it.”

Gaius said nothing but gripped his hand tighter. Nisus frowned as he pushed further into the void. “It’s why I get so… passionate about my work. I’m helping good Roman boys and girls who might one day need a place to live. You understand that right?”

The only noise beside their footsteps was the thrumming of his heart in his head. They had walked for what seemed like an impossible distance without reaching a point where the path shrunk or narrowed. He could not yet see the end nor find a place where the stones were not perfectly wedged into place. Far from sabotage, the Franks had been insidious in their diligence.

The tunnel could not, should not be thing long. In the black darkness, his son squeezed his hand so tight he could feel each fine bone. The boy’s silence, his refusal to provide vindication, was maddening.

“What happened back there is just… what’s necessary. We have to be willing to do anything and pay any price. We need to make an example. If we don’t beat back the darkness, we’ll be consumed by—.”

He looked down at his hand and found nothing there. He spun around in the darkness. The flames of his torch reflected eerie light across the aqueduct’s cavern.

“Gaius! Gaius!” He shouted, his voice reverberating in the emptiness. He turned again. The tunnel stretched in both directions. “Gaius, please, come back!”

But all remained still. Somewhere deep within the darkness, the rattling wind sounded like laughter.

Lippincott
Jun 28, 2018

You weren't born to just pay bills and die.

You must suffer.

A lot.


Sphericals
Words 1658
Prompt Armillary Sphere

The cabinet was a massive piece of furniture for their small apartment. The lines in the stained oak had been carefully shaped by hand, cabinetry rising from tapered legs into shelves spanning the breadth of the wall.

James stepped towards his birthday gift skeptically, running his palm along the polished wood as the metal apparatus on top of it seized his focus.

“Do you love it?”

Shae asked, unable to contain her enthusiasm. James swallowed thickly, turning around with a smile teasing the corner of his lips.

“It’s incredible. Where did you find it?”

“Oh, you know that little antique shop that is off of Alder?”

James didn’t, but he nodded so she could continue excitedly.

“It was a refurbished piece. I’m not sure what this used to be, but the shop owner converted it into a bar. As soon as I saw it, I knew you had to have it.”

James turned back to the metal circles arranged on the surface of the cabinet, the focal point of the furniture. His hand slid from the wood up the pedestal, pausing at the joint all the orbitals mounted to.

“It’s an armillary sphere. I had to look it up. It supposedly represents the principle circles of heaven.” Shae continued on to detail the history of armillary spheres.

While she spoke, James’ fingers drifted along the brass rings, coming to rest at the dial and winch system. A small twist adjusted the angles of the different spheres, but the mechanism was deceptively simple. Minor adjustments caused the modeled orbits to shift in a way James didn’t expect, such as the passage of the sun and moon. Perplexed, James fiddled with the settings, making minute adjustments as he tried to understand how the pieces fit together. The bands reflected the kitchen lights, blurring the beams into fuzzy globes that blurred under the lazy drone of Shae’s words. He startled out of the reverie upon recognizing the sudden sharpness in her tone.

“James.”

“Yeah, sorry.”

“I hope you like it.”

“I do.”

The words didn’t feel quite right when he looked at the interlocking spheres poised atop the old hewn wood, but he made them fit.

+

Every night, James selected a leaded highball glass and set it on the surface of the bar. Three ice cubes hit the sides, then a slosh of something amber colored and warm, but drink sat forgotten on the top of the cabinet. The television filled the silence in the same room while James sat beside the cabinet and stared at the simple mechanism, turning the equinoctials and ellipticals in complicated arrays.

At first he referenced a diagram on his phone, trying to find a Tropic or Arctic Circle. Only after twisting and turning and sighing in defeat would he finally turn off his phone and settle in beside Shae to drink his drink. He never said anything though. Just sipped the watered down alcohol in his glass and glanced occasionally over his shoulder at the sphere.

The silences between them had never felt so thin before, stretched by unanswered questions whenever Shae tried to talk to him. Reference books and note books piled, and James would look up briefly, but only after she repeated herself a third time. He never remembered what she had asked, and his blank stare told her he could no longer hear her.

James could get like this sometimes. His mind thrived off research, but fixated easily. When they were first dating, it was snakes, specifically ball pythons and their many varied color morphologies. Shae had been supportive, until there were stacked cages alongside every wall of their apartment and the constant hum of the heat lamps drove the electricity to $200 a month. Shae reasoned the armillary sphere was a similar passing obsession. She simply had to wait.

Waiting was painful though. She watched James over the back of the couch as he thinned, his eyes shadowed from lack of sleep, his back perpetually hunched over the notes he was making. At least there weren’t forty snakes in her apartment right now. Shae raised her glass to small victories, and turned back to her cooking show.

One evening when Shae returned home, James was already there, sitting in his chair beside the sphere, furiously scribbling in the notebook.

“Hungry for dinner?” Shae offered, holding up take out.

Silence.

Sighing deeply, she ate out of the container in front of the television.

“Shae.”

James’ voice sounded ragged around the edges from disuse. She jumped in surprise, grains of rice spilling out of the container and into her lap. Swinging her focus over her shoulder, she smiled and asked, “Want me to make you up a plate?”

“No. Can you mute the television?”

Shae stared at him incredulously. Bobby Flay’s face paused on the television as she hit a button and opened her mouth to ask James when he planned on eating next before she realized he was still in the same clothes from three days ago.

“James, when did you last go to work?”

Silence

Gritting her teeth, she set down her take out and un-paused the television. The sound of a crowded kitchen and meat sizzling on the grill filled the room. Immediately James turned and opened his mouth to ask her to mute the television again. She shouted over Bobby Flay’s narration of how to properly sear.

“James what the gently caress? When did you last go to work?”

James stared at her. He licked his lips. He glanced at the spheres, at his notes beside them, and for a moment Shae considered throwing the take out box at his head. Then he groggily calculated, “I think… I think a week?”

“Did you tell them you weren’t coming in?”

“I…I think so?” He placed a hand on his head, as if trying to ward off a headache. Blinking slowly, he squinted again at his notes and his eyes went distant, as if the words on the page could reach out and ensnare him.

“James.” Shae breathed. She couldn’t yell at him. She was too close to crying. He turned to stare at her, the James she loved in the softening of his features as his own eyes widened just a bit.

“Shae, it’s not the circles of heaven.”

She blinked. “What are you talking about?”

James quietly stood up, glancing over his shoulder at the spheres as if they could overhear his betrayal. He turned back a few pages in the notebook, displaying a carefully sketched diagram. Every looping radial was a perfect circle, labeled with tightly printed handwriting. Shae let him set the notebook on her lap, so grateful that he was speaking to her, touching her, for the first time in months, she could ignore that his only focus was the sphere.

“I thought at first maybe it was just a simple difference between Ptolemaic or Copernican-“ James must have noticed her expression, because he clarified, “-If the sun is in the center or the earth. It’s definitely the earth though, the poles confirm that, but there’s this equinoctial. It should be divided into 24 hours, but it’s not. It’s… counting down.”

Shae raised her eyebrow, making no effort to disguise her disbelief as she clarified, “But the ring is fixed. It’s made out of metal. It can’t count down. It just turns.”

James shook his head furiously, leaning in as he lowered his voice to a whisper.

“No, Shae. You don’t get it. When we first got it, there were 333 indentations. That is odd in itself, it should be 360 evenly spaced degrees. I thought it was a craftsman error. But every day that I’ve taken notes and carefully calibrated the turns there’s 1 less indentation. The middle ring is shrinking.”

“But if they’re not degrees… Then what are they? And if that rink shrinks, wouldn’t it just run into the other rings?”

She stood up to inspect the Armillary Sphere but James put a hand on her shoulder and shook his head, “Shae, the rings move when I’m not watching them. They twist around one another, fold to allow one colure to become another, a tropic to swap or an eliptic to bend. I only realized it after I started taking the notes.”

He thumbed back in the notebook, as if this could clarify anything. It was an unintelligible mess of diagrams and carefully printed notes. She couldn’t tell him she didn’t believe him, or that he just needed sleep and food. Instead she suggested.

“I think we should sell it.”

He stared at her, looking over his shoulder at the cabinet, slowly shaking his head as he breathed.

“It’s not that simple. I really think something bad is going to happen, Shae. I just can’t figure out what it is.”

Gently she squeezed his hands, lifting them to her lips and pressing her fingers to each knuckle before she looked pleadingly up into his eyes.

“Then it won’t happen to us, okay? I’ll put it on Craigslist. Please. I would rather have you back for one night than worry for the next six months about what secrets you will find in that bundle of bands.”

She watched his throat move as he swallowed thickly and nodded once, not trusting his voice in the presence of the sphere.

+

It took one week to sell on Craiglist. A father and son picked it up and loaded it into a pickup truck with a smile and a wave. Shae graciously started their collection with a bottle of bourbon. When the first email came a month later from the buyer, she ignored it.

When the second email came, she blocked the address.

When she recognized the buyers in a news article detailing a gruesome and inexplicable house fire that took the family’s life, she kissed James on the cheek and turned on the television without a word.

It had been 333 days since she purchased the cabinet.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009


Nocturnal Skeleton Coast
1160 words
Object: a tandem bike

Armando stood in the middle of the street, staring at a suburban home. Spiderwebs choked the leaves of every tree. The shutters hung down and creaked with every gust of wind. From beneath a bush a murdered corpse reached out an arm, a last desperate stretch for life. It was all very convincing, Armando thought. It had taken him a few afternoons to achieve the spooky effects. The neighborhood committee had the day before confirmed with Armando and his mom that their house would be eligible. And Armando was feeling quite confident.

His neck prickled and he turned around. Armando stared at the house opposite of his. Somehow, despite all his effort and his neighbor’s apparent lack of effort, their sole decoration unnerved Armando to no end. A rusted red tandem bike, front wheel turned to the road. It stood up, apparently due to its rider. A hooded figure sat on the rear seat of the bike, staring down towards the cul-de-sac’s exit.

It didn’t help that neither Armando nor his mom had ever met their neighbor, let alone see them put up the tandem bike. Armando had seen his mom cross herself and mutter a prayer while looking down at the tandem biker.

Over dinner, he asked her, “What do you think of the decorations, mom?”

“They’re fantastic.” She winked. “As usual.”

“Yeah, thanks. I don’t think I’m gonna win the competition though.” He trailed off and thought about the figure standing in the yard, how realistic it looked.

“Honey, I don’t think they entered.”

“Well then why the decoration?”

His mom shrugged and chewed a bite of rice. Armando’s chair let out a small shriek as he got up. “I’m gonna see how our place looks now that it’s dark.”

Careful to avoid glimpsing the tandem bike and its rider, Armando made his way back out into the street. In the cold night air, with the streetlights sending harsh shadows everywhere, he could barely suppress a shudder. It was impeccable, his house. The cheery jack-o-lantern underscored just how unsettling everything else was. The lights he had set up in the windows were timed just right to flash up a silhouetted figure lurking behind the curtains. It would flash right when you thought you were imagining things.

It wouldn’t do to be upstaged by his lazy neighbor. Taking one more appreciative look at his work, Armando turned to the tandem bike. A jolt of fear coursed through him. The rider’s head was turned straight towards him. Armando scoffed at himself and crept into his neighbor’s yard. He reached a hand into the rider’s hood. Empty. Held its shape with wire. It probably just turned a little in the wind.

And, as he had thought, the rider’s legs were staked to the ground. With a few kicks he uprooted them, and the bike was loose. He hopped on and pedaled out of the yard, into the street. He looped around in the dark of the cul-de-sac getting used to the different weight and balance of the tandem bike. Feeling steady, he made out to the main street and said over his shoulder, “Let’s go for a ride, hey?”

A left out of the cul-de-sac had Armando and his passenger gliding down a hill. Armando thrilled at the speed, the lights of other people’s houses became blurs. He lifted his feet from the pedals and soared. Now that he had taken some of the mystique out of the tandem bike, he could rest easy. He could tell his mom about it, too, give her some peace of mind. That lead him to make the next left, to continue around the block and back home. But before he could turn down the last stretch, a strong wind pushed him forwards and a curious weight settled down on the rear of the bike.

Armando spun his head around to try to see, and saw the rider’s arms reaching towards him. He tensed, but then the arms were past him, elongating with a horrifying creak and gripping the bike’s handlebars. With nowhere else to put his hands, Armando squeezed onto the rider’s forearms. Unlike the rider’s hood, it felt like there were real arms within the sleeves. But the bike was picking up speed and Armando felt sure he would be flung off if he let go.

As the bike sped up, the pedals beneath Armando whipped around, threatening to bludgeon the boy’s feet. Red lights flickered on all sides, the streetlights seemingly blotted out. Senses now completely overwhelmed, Armando began to hear himself screaming, but soon after it began, it was muffled, a third arm now locked around his chest, a cold hand covering his mouth.

“Don’t. Scream. Just look.” The rider’s voice trickled up to Armando’s ears, seemingly emanating from just behind his neck. The words were lost immediately in the wind that now buffeted the two riders.

Eager to follow directions, Armando looked wild-eyed in every direction. His neighborhood had become unfamiliar to him. Pieces of the reality he knew had blown away like ash, revealing something else, something sinister beneath. Figures loomed in squat ruins like patient predators. The light did not seem to come from the sky, more like each speck of grit in the air held some luminescence.

Armando felt his eyes roll back and he had to will himself to consciousness. He ended up staring straight up into a bloodied eye, expanding to fill the sky above him.

“Now. I see you.” The voice came from everywhere and fell upon Armando with an actual physical weight. The bike beneath him began to rattle and bump and Armando felt sure he would perish under the ungodly gaze of the massive eye.

His stomach lurched as the bike seemed to lift off from the ground, tilting up towards the eye. He tried desperately to squeeze his own eyes shut, to block out the vision, but a pressure kept building up in his head. He fought it, though he felt he would crash into the eye at any second. Until the bike gave out from underneath him and he was falling. Now, free of the unseen rider’s hands, he let loose the screams that had been stopped in his throat.

The next morning, Armando was awoken by his mom, standing worried at the foot of his bed. “Armando, what happened to the decorations?”

“Took ‘em down,” he said, through a throat sore from the otherworldly wind and his own terrified hollering.

“But, honey, why?”

Armando could not reply, just shook his head tightly. When she asked if he was sure, he nodded and she left. His experience sat in his brain, replayed itself all the time. With dread, he finally got up and shuffled to his window.

Across from him, pointed at that same infuriating angle, was the tandem bike. Its rider now looked more solid, to Armando, more real. And its hood was cocked up, straight to Armando’s window.

Punkreas
May 13, 2013

*chews on head*


Lipstick Apathy

Sacramemento Mori
1,666 words
atomic bomb

Brendon thought he was a safe distance from the bomb when it dropped; this was because he was the one that dropped it. The flash of light came as expected, yet there was no explosive roar. There was, however, the screaming.

Paloma was on the interstate on her way to the office in Sacramento, winding her way through the congestion on her motorcycle. The massive protests in the city were doing no favors to the already-terrible road conditions. None of her attention was given to the plane in the distance, nor to the speck that fell from it, as at that moment a Beamer sharply cut across three lanes of traffic and blindsided her. Paloma flew only a short distance, stopped by the cement wall of the median as she met it head first.

The atomic bomb obliterated all life from Sacramento. The weapon rejected explosives in favor of releasing of pure, high-energy waves. Buildings remained as every living thing ruptured like overfilled water balloons. It was quick; neither person or animal had time to scream. Those came afterwards as the spirits were ripped from their bodies, becoming ragged strips of ethereal cloth that whipped violently through the air. They overtook Brandon’s plane and tore the flesh from his bones. The plane went down.

Paloma’s helmet did nothing to help her, and she was dead on impact. She was dead before the bomb detonated, dead before Sacramento was gutted of life, dead before the city’s violent spirits washed over the commuter traffic to end their lives, too. The weight of her body fell free only be replaced by the intense pressure of the spirit horde bullying her back down, squeezing her own spirit back into familiar muscles and nerves and veins.

The pain Brandon felt was fleeting, as was his blackout, yet it only took that moment to send the plane diving earthward. His pilot’s reflex kicked in and he steered the plane instinctively towards the nearest flat strip of land: the interstate. Brandon’s white-knuckled grip on the yoke urged the plane’s nose up just enough to send it surfing across the metal waves of cars. Eventually the plane stopped, the highway behind it now a crinkled sheet of aluminum. Brandon pulled himself from the window of the mangled cockpit. It was easy partly because he felt uninjured and partly because his body felt curiously light.

Paloma’s body felt familiar and alien; she thought of wearing old clothes that no longer fit right. In the distance she noticed that the banshee storm looped back around towards the sky above Sacramento. Nearby, she noticed a skeleton crawling towards her from the carnage of a military-style airplane. It was missing its pelvis downward, yet it looked to Paloma, for a lack of a better word, “fresh.” The skeleton was shiny with a layer of clear, wet tissue still tattooed by the imprints of now-gone blood vessels. The skeleton looked up to her with empty, glistening eye sockets. Its mouth dropped open, unnaturally wide without restrictive ligaments.

“Can you give me a lift?” it asked.

Paloma paused, then hoisted the skeleton up by its ribc age.

“A walk would be great exercise,” said Brandon, arms dangling, “but a car would be much preferred. That is, if you’re heading my way back to Sac.” It was odd; despite having just flown away from the city Brandon now felt a curious vibration coaxing him back to it.

Paloma did not feel that same vibration, yet the uncomfortable suit of her body made her anxious to do anything to take her mind off it. She also had a silly but persistent internal nagging that she was going to be late for work. Paloma decided that going to the office would be at least a goal to focus on until something better came up.

She found her motorcycle close by. It was damaged by the accident yet started up right away. She could probably find something safer to ride but it’s not like she could die again. Or if she did, would it matter? Thinking hurt, though not the normal kind of hurt, like a phantom pain, so she stopped.

“You seem a little shy, so I’ll introduce myself. I’m Brandon. Was Brandon? Now half of one? Well, I suppose I’m closer to a tenth of a Brandon since I’ve lost so much weight. Just skin and bones, hold the skin!” He sighed. “I heard the skin is unhealthy for you anyway. Need to watch my figure since I’m not going to get my morning mall walking in anymore.”

The two went towards Sacramento through the highway wreckage. Brandon’s grip kept him on the bike. Mostly. One nasty bump sent him off like a boney pinball into the labyrinth of cars. He was no worse for wear aside from the scuffs, which took off some of his new-skeleton sheen. “Road rash means I’m a hardcore biker now, right?” Brandon said, and Paloma already knew it was a lead-in. “Watch out, this guy here is bad to the bone!” She wondered if he had been always like this, or if this was the consequence of losing your physical brain.

In the city, the bodies were everywhere. “Puddles” as Brandon referred to them. What could have been either person or animal were rubbery streaks littering the landscape, boiled colorless and beyond identification. Despite heading right towards ground zero, neither Brandon or Paloma seemed to be affected by the death that tore through the city. It was strange for radiation, thought Paloma, but so was everything else, so whatever.

The bomb had not blown up only a block from Paloma’s office. Specifically, it had landed, opened up to release a deadly blast, then sprouted the ghastly tower up out of the bombshell. The towers was an amalgamation of gristle and silicon that spiked thirty stories into the air. Darkness swirled and pulsed at its apex, the screams of its composite spirits heard faintly from below.

“I was military before all this,” said Brandon after they arrived. “Never was much for climbing the ranks. I guess if this is Purgatory then it’s poetic that now I gotta climb this Purgatower.” He vaulted from the motorcycle and sank his sharp bone fingers into the soft wall of the tower. “See you in a little bit. Along with most of the city as, phew, what a view I’ll have from up there. But I’ll come back down as I don’t want to be accused of keeping my head in the clouds. Or ribs. Or arms. Speaking of body parts, how tall do you think that is? I can’t measure in feet anymore and never bothered to learn the metric system!”

As Brandon climbed, Paloma explored. She walked into her office with the feeling that at any moment she would be back at work like any other weekday. Very little had changed aside from the building being more quiet than it normally was. And, of course, the people puddles. They were relatively few in number as those that hadn’t joined the government protests simply weren’t at work yet when the bomb dropped early that morning, just like her. Paloma thought she’d be sad seeing the remains of her coworkers, but she was only indifferent. Maybe because every puddle looked the same, maybe because the mass death along with her own pseudo-death simply overwhelmed any feelings she should have right now. Even Brandon’s humor made her neither laugh or groan. She felt nothing except physically uncomfortable.

Brandon had reached the top in little time as the tower seemed to energize him as he climbed, a power seeping into his bones. The tattered spirits swarming the apex would have made his ears bleed if he still had them. Now, he heard nothing more than the buzzing of a cloud of flies. Flies with melody, timing, rhythm. Then the tower spoke to him, over the buzzing. A whisper at first, eventually it built into a thunderclap that shook the small bones in his skull. Brandon flung himself free of the tower and soared toward the city below.

Paloma was coming out of the office building when she saw Brandon, mid-plumet. He did not strike the cement below, pulling up like a bird having snatched its prey and stopping suddenly, hovering, in front of her. Brandon’s skull was split, a fissure separating the two halves, yet had no other overt changes that could explain why half of a skeleton could suddenly levitate.

“Skydiving twice in one day! Well, okay, I guess I never left the plane on the first one,” he admitted. “Regardless, I feel like I’ve become quite the adrenaline junkie lately!” Brandon looked Paloma up and down. “Oh, also, I’m a harbinger of the Great Change. No, I can’t break a hundred.” More looking. “My stoic companion, I do have to thank you for the lift. Now let me return the favor by providing you the same up to the top of this garish tower. Experimental artistry is neat, but, personally, I would have gone for something more simple and modern. Now let’s get you out of that thing, it looks like it itches.”

Sharp claws of bone, Brandon’s fingers eviscerated Paloma; her spirit funneled out as her body’s innards spilled to the ground. Paloma had no control over herself, and swirled up towards the tower’s peak, pulled by the vortex of the whirlpool of spirits. Paloma realized now that the banshee swarm was not screaming but in fact singing. It was not a beautiful song, yet it was not harsh to hear. Paloma finally felt a sense of purpose, something she could fulfill. Her voice sung out, adding to the strength of the song’s core.

Brandon flew up to the choir’s center and began conducting. The song raged and stifled and wavered and soothed. More songs could be heard, thousands of miles away in every direction, each keeping in time with one another. A mounting crescendo was reached. The Earth cracked.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


What Sam Colt Made
1661 words

tech: mold casting

Can be found in the archive.

Anomalous Blowout fucked around with this message at 02:33 on Jan 1, 2019

Antivehicular
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



Movement
1421 words

On the day they lowered the savages' calendar into the earth, the Plaza Mayor quaked. Father Diego Arias felt the tremors through the old stone of the church library, whose ramshackle wooden shelves shuddered and threatened to drop their meager cargo. Without a thought, he rose from his work table and rushed out into the plaza; the ground heaved once or twice more under his feet, then was still.

Outside, the Plaza Mayor was in its usual shambles, but no great disaster had befallen the market stalls and construction sites. Around the central pit, the Indian work crew was arguing in broken Spanish with the foreman, no doubt about some superstition, some excuse to abandon the work. Diego's inner voice of chastisement rose to the fore: strong words from the priest who abandoned his Latin studies to gawk at the first sign of trouble. It was right. Let the laborers do as they would; he was charged to be better than this.

When Diego made his way back to the library, his tutor Gabriel was waiting for him with a patient, faintly bemused look. An Indian baptised and educated for the priesthood but never ordained, Gabriel was a model of tolerance, which Diego was only too acutely aware he did not deserve. "Are you all right, Father Diego?"

"Of course. Just an earthquake and old nerves. It's a funny coincidence, that's all, with them laying that calendar stone down today; I think it's got the laborers spooked."

"Mmm," Gabriel replied. "Yes, I suppose they would be. They wouldn't be able to read the stone, but they'd have been told the stories. It calls this era of the world 'Movement,' because it's all supposed to end in earthquakes, among other things. Even if only a few of them remember and believe, that's enough to break morale."

Diego nodded. He'd seen enough of that in his tenure in the expeditionary forces: how easily a moment of uncertainty and fear could lead to chaos, even for veteran soldiers, let alone the rabble of the Indian slums. In the half-ruined streets of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, where even the church was built from the ruins of some bloody-handed god's temple, who could blame them? Diego looked back to his Latin catechism, and then to the infinitely patient face of Gabriel. There was peace here, something lasting, if he could find it.

"All right. Gabriel, where were we?"

***

The earthquakes continued for days, a series of short, brutal shocks in irregular intervals, as if paced to startle. They woke Diego from his dreams of the jungle, and as he walked the city on his pastoral chores, the earthquake tremors seemed to chase his feet. He postponed those errands that could be postponed. Even the church sanctuary, with its unsecured candles and wobbling stone statues, was filled with menace; his cool stone cell seemed the last stable place in the world.

When he did venture out, Diego always found himself lingering by the pit in the center of the Plaza Mayor, where the calendar stone rested unburied. Despite the cracked ground all around it, the stone was intact, down to the leering face of the clawed god at its center. Dark streaks of blood marred the stone, along with several blood-soaked feathers -- the remnants of some vile ritual sacrifice, Diego realized, as a cold spike of fear traveled down his spine. The sacrifice of birds, then. would it be dogs, next? When would the first child be dragged to this stone?

Prayer offered less comfort than Diego had hoped. Study was better. Diego spent hours in his cell with the Latin catechism, more and more of the heavy syllables yielding their secrets, and when the day came for his weekly lesson with Gabriel, he found himself with a cautious excitement to demonstrate his progress. His tutor seemed distant, though, with tired eyes.

"Forgive me, Father," Gabriel explained. "I've been working on a historical text, interpreting for some of the elders. It's tiring work at the best of times, and they're agitated these days. Something about this season."

"Something in the air, yes." Or something beneath the ground, or traveling in the blood. Diego had to maintain faith that this season would pass: that once the calendar stone was properly buried, the tremors would stop and reason would reign in the Plaza Mayor once again. That the sanctuary would be sacred. That the Lord would once again have dominion.

"Let us work, then," said Gabriel. There were pinprick holes in his ears, Diego realized -- old piercings? Or fresh ones? "Sectio Secunda, Caput Tertium."

Diego opened his book, blinked his tired eyes, and focused his mind on the Holy Spirit.

All that night, he dreamed of standing at the edge of a fire: vast and searing, powerful beyond imagining, and yet dying even as he watched. Diego knew it must be fed. He knew what the fire commanded, and yet his feet would not carry him off of his platform and into its maw. Others were massing, servants more faithful and more fearless than he. There was a long moment of waiting, paralyzed, before one dark and twisted figure launched itself into the fire. Their scream was a cry of triumph, a triumph he would never know --

And he awoke in his cell, cold and safe and ashamed. The ground was still. Even the earthquake would no longer acknowledge him.

***

Two more nights passed in stillness before the earthquakes returned, stronger than ever, and found Diego in sleepless repose. He forced himself from his bed, smoothed his crumpled clothes, and opened the chest at the foot of his bed to retrieve his old sword. Something was calling him, and this time, he would not hesitate.

Diego strode through the church, past the sanctuary and its toppled stone saints, out to a Plaza Mayor falling to ruin. Chunks of rubble fell from buildings; merchant stalls toppled, tumbling into the ever-growing cracks in the earth. Diego closed his eyes, willing God to guide his footsteps, and with every step his feet found stable ground. When he felt the edge of a precipice underfoot, he stopped and opened his eyes. He stood at the edge of the pit, the calendar stone leering up at him, painted in fresh blood -- and standing on it, a man in feathered regalia, blood streaming from his mouth and from his tattered earlobes, staring at Diego and beyond him. Even in the darkness, he couldn't mistake that infinite stare.

"Gabriel?"

"Matlalihuitl," he replied; there was a flint blade run through the meat of his tongue, and he spit blood with every word, but somehow every syllable was clear. "My name is Matlalihuitl. Did you think your baptism would make me forget?"

"No. This isn't right. This thing's driven you mad --"

"You think this is madness? The madness is that you think we are children, or pliant beasts who can be made to forget everything you've stolen from us. You erase us, everything we were, and think the slums you leave us will be enough. You train us to be priests, tell us that your god and ours are kin, and then tell us we are unworthy of his service. You say we are free, and yet you work us into the grave. Did you think that we would suffer forever for you?"

The night sky was darkening, thick clouds covering the moon, and the breeze grew icy-cold. Something burned in Diego's stomach, like the memory of the dream-fire, and he leapt into the pit, sword and old instincts ready to work in concert once again. Gabriel stood stock-still, arms outstretched, hands clutching -- hearts? No, bundles of bloody feathers -- as Diego ran him through. The blood that hit his hands was sizzling.

"Thank you," said Gabriel, as his chest split open, ribcage parting to reveal a frantically pumping heart. At the touch of air, the heart burst into flame, and Diego felt his own heart seize in his chest. "It is done. Let this world end and be remade!"

The earth under Diego's feet began to give way; transfixed, he was surrounded by the sound of the Plaza Mayor's destruction, the scent of blood and ozone, and the burning touch of sacred blood. He thought of his unanswered prayers, and of Gabriel's final prayer, answered before his eyes. God, he thought, if you hear this, save your poor servants, save our city, save all who are building a new world in Your name --

One last prayer went unanswered.

Solitair
Feb 18, 2014

This statement is a lie!


That Escalated Quickly
1,428 words
Prompt: escalators

REMOVED

Solitair fucked around with this message at 22:42 on Dec 31, 2018

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

by sebmojo


Scrambles
1224 words

Archived.

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 19:25 on Dec 25, 2018

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Painter's Rush, Nevada

1053 words

Prompt: Cloud Seeder

No rain for a month can put a knife into the guts of a town. The creek was down to not much more than an outhouse trickle. People weren't starving or dying from thirst, not yet. The bars weren't out of beer, the cellars not out of preserves. But a lot of folks were looking at picking between going broke or going west if the rain didn't pick up soon. So when Professor Mulligan came rolling into Painter's Rush one dry and quiet Monday afternoon a certain type of fool might have called it a godsend.

Professor Mulligan gathered him up a crowd and gave his speech, a twenty minute education regarding the wonders of the iodate of silver and what the smartest men of Harvard and Yale had done with the stuff.

“Can you make it rain?” asked Vern Willis.

The professor grinned. “Yes,” he said. “I can make it rain.”

He went on to explain the process. He would take payment, in cash or credit, lines against businesses or land, and then he would turn on his marvelous cloud seeding device. “Then,” he explained, “All that is left is to activate the silver and the iodine with their combined viral force. To do that, we need the whole town to want it to rain.”

“To pray, you mean,” said Charles Foxwood, the parson.

“I didn't use that word,” said Professor Mulligan. He was a man of science, after all, as the fancy sheepskin diplomas nailed to the side of his wagon proudly attested. “But if you like. So long as the whole town is as one, come morning, the rain will come.”

He took their money. With great ceremony he turned the crank of his machine, and the gears and pistons on its side began to move, and did not stop.  Clouds began to gather, dimming the hot Nevada sun.

In the morning, what came from the sky was not water, but frogs, large and loud and live until they hit the ground. A few people were not too proud to pass up the meat, but the frogflesh rotted to putrefaction between ground and grill or cookpot. Only the Elias brothers were fool enough to try and consume them, and they grew deathly ill.

A crowd gathered to confront the Professor. He was ready, explained that the fault was not in his science but the town. “Some of you must have had stray thoughts and caused the iodate to misfire. We’ll try again tonight. No additional charge.”

The next morning the cloud rained money, silver coins like hailstones or bullets that dug into roofing and house-beams, causing more damage than their face value.

Professor Mulligan had an easy time explaining. Everyone believed their neighbor might realize they could wish for wealth direct. He took additional payment in those coins, dug out of the wood, and set up for a third night.

The third rain was blood, and not just the usual sort. It soaked the roads and people alike, and when it touched the hands of anyone who had killed, it would not wash out.

Hickory Bill was in the town jail, charged with murder, waiting for the circuit judge to come and license the hangman, because Painter's Rush wasn't the kind of town that would skip that step. When word of the blood rain reached him, he begged the jailers and deputies to take him out into the deluge, to prove his innocence.  Sheriff Cyrus refused, barred the door. Now Cyrus’ hands were as red as the morning cock’s wattle, but that didn't mean much. Most men his age had been to war, after all. So apart from raising questions that the Widow Lacey Dell and her twelve-year-old son couldn't adequately answer, little came of the third rain. Still, Cyrus confiscated the Professor's horses, and told him he wouldn't be leaving without results or a refund with interest.

The fourth morning brought a rain of blades, swords and daggers from the sky. They were no great danger to any but the very slow or very drunk: a shadow appeared where they would strike, well in time for a person to step aside. After striking they rusted away to red dust in seconds.

Parson Foxwood approached the professor. “Tell me, preacher-man,” said Mulligan, ”Who do you think is to blame this time?”

“That's easy,” he said. “Just this last night I prayed to the Lord for a weapon mighty enough to strike down the Devil himself.”

Foxwood grabbed Professor Mulligan in a great bear hug, and when the shadow fell he did not move. The falling sword stabbed to through the preacher’s gut and into the professor’s body.

Now, when the sword pierced Charles Foxwood, he leaked the usual things: blood, guts like sausage casings and the foul contents therein. But the Professor had no such thing inside, only black empty void and a faint blue flame. His skin burst open like a popped balloon, and the flame went out.

The gears and pistons of the machine stopped moving and the front panel fell open. Inside were no mechanisms or chemical apparatuses, but only the skull and spine of an infant, suspended by a thin marionette wire.

While the people were trying to decide what to do, it began to rain. First a few wet spattering drops, then steady shower, then a downpour. It rained and rained, and did not stop. The creek filled, and rose, and flooded its banks.

Some stayed with their homes, eventually on them, and drowned when the walls gave way. Others tried to swim to safety. Only those who left with nothing but the clothes on their backs escaped. A person with anything in their pockets, even a single buffalo nickel, found it so heavy that it weighed them down, head below the rising floodwater. Those who tried to dive, to recover whatever priceless possession the had dropped, were swept away and never seen again.

Only four people survived Painter's Rush: the Dell boy, Hickory Bill and Floyd, the deputy who opened his cell before the waters filled the jail, and Martellus Jones, who played the piano in the better saloon. You won't find it on any maps, and in five years the railroad took the land and none of them saw a dime.

sandnavyguy
Sep 12, 2015



Bites Back

1396

“Bad dog, I told you to heel.”

Even before he heard the trigger cock behind him, Frank knew he’d messed up. Whatever bravado and bravery had brought him to disobey the major on the flightline that night suddenly left him along with his final breath. When the bullet tore through the marine’s neck, all he could feel was his body falling forward. As the darkness closed in, the logical part of him expected to slam into the wet tarmac below. But he didn’t. He kept falling weightlessly. His strength nearly gone, his body ruined, Frank began to scream into the void.

The void vanished and Frank was surrounded with noise. The world was a jagged menagerie of light and sound without border, every sense was blazing with intensity. He tried to shut his eyes against the garish hellscape that surrounded him, but he had no eyes to shut. There was no filter, no screen to block out the rush of matter around him, and he instinctively pushed himself down, away from the cacophony and into the dark corner of what was once a quiet rainy airstrip. Finally he reached a blurry cave in the noise, a small space of silence, and everything stopped.

This new void was cold, empty, and silent. From a short ways away Frank could hear something. Words perhaps, but not in a language he could understand. Or rather, he couldn’t tell if he could understand them. He’d lost the sense of the ability to register sounds. But as he concentrated, and focused deeper into the void, the abyss began to change shape, to tighten around him. After a moment’s trepidation he allowed himself to give into to his impulse and merged with the darkness.

Slowly the world pieced itself back together, a mosaic shifting by sections into recognizable form. But instead of light, Frank could see heat. Pools of violet fell from above, plastering the dark ground and dripping green drops onto the blazing reds and golds of the passenger jet engines idling outside the hangar. Three red and yellow men swaddled in green were dragging away a yellow mass, it’s temperature dropping at a slow rate. Frank couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, but he felt no urge to do so. He could however, rotate his arms. His shoulders heaved as they separated from his new body, cold and stiff. Turning his head also proved to be a challenge, but if he concentrated he could slide his eyes anywhere he wanted from his stiff neck downward, giving him a full view of the tragic kaleidoscope before him.

His body. They were dragging away his body. Frank began to panic, and felt a shiver run up where his legs once had been. Suddenly he lurched forward, his feet rotating strangely beneath him. Two of the men looked up suddenly and stared at him, their bodies frozen for a moment. The larger figure behind them turned, then shook its head and slapped the smaller one, before turning back toward the jet.

Frank felt fear well up in him once more, as he recognized the shape of the box the two men were carrying now that the greenish body had been pulled off into the dark. And in a stunning moment of clarity, he finally realized what he needed to do.

*** *** ***

Stupid Mutt, I told him to keep his nose clean, Dominic thought bitterly as he put away his Baretta. He sighed as he eyed Frank’s body lying face first on the grimy cement floor. He’d sunk a lot of time and money into that one, only to have him piss it all away on his first real op. The boy wasn’t even supposed to know the true nature of the deal til afterward. A little insurance before he’d fully graduated in his new job. There’d be hell to pay when he got back from Novorossiysk, but a nobility complex was too much of a risk with cargo like this. He knew a few cleaners who could fix it all up while they were in the air, and by this time tomorrow someone would find the kid’s carcass next to a dead hooker or a needle in his arm in Southtown. But hey, Dominic could spin that. Just another young man caught with his pants down or sleeves up. Even with a bullet wound no one would blink twice, hadn’t yet anyway.

As he snapped his fingers for the two of his other men to drag the guy off he looked longingly at the pelican case that sat next to the spreading blood pool and took a deep breath. Those little canisters were gonna make him a tidy fortune. Hell Dominic couldn’t even really blame the newbie, this was some dangerous poo poo. But money’s money. If everything with the Yak-s goes well in the arctic maybe he’ll even be able to flick a couple coins the new widow’s way, grease the skids a bit and tie up loose ends. If he was lucky maybe even a nice rebound gently caress.

He looked up suddenly as Pablo and Norman dropped the body with a thud. They were staring at the line of drones and fighter jets that lined the base’s airstrip.

“What the hell? I told you to hide him, what are you two staring at?” he barked.

“There’s something moving over by the aircraft, I swear I saw it light up,” Norman said, scanning the area.

Dominic waited a second before smacking Pablo on the back of the head and ordering him to forget it, just shove the body out of the way and grab the goods, they were go in ten.

**** *** *** *** ***

Frank’s thoughts raced as the jet engines began to rev up again. His wife, his daughter, his promises to them unfulfilled and broken. The devastation smoldered into hatred, a new darkening need for vengeance that usurped all else. His burning desire to stop Major Callister was all that mattered. He could feel new heat spread within his chest, like a heartbeat but much more intense, coursing like a fire within him.

He watched his feet spin beneath him, his ankles no longer binding them in place. He began rolling forward his eyes shifting rapidly as he gazed across the red and blue impressionist painting that was his new world. Frank’s arms were locked outward but he knew deep down that in his hands he held the key to avenging his own death.

*** *** ***

“Watashi-tachi wa ̄ba ko o motte imasu. Hai.” Dominic clicked the phone shut before crunching the burner beneath his boot. They were due to land in eight hours, plenty of time to sleep and figure out how to deal with the evening’s fallout. He was still pissed he had to put down the new dog before it was fully trained, but then again when you bite the hand that feeds, well then. There has to be consequences. Still, that’s what a trainer gets for going soft, he supposed. He stretched a bit in his seat and turned toward the window to nap but as he was about to close his eyes, he snapped awake. There, beside the plane in the dawn sky, was a Lockheed SR-72.

Holy gently caress,” Dominic shouted, sprinting toward the cockpit. “Get the comms open, find out who the hell is flying that drone. Use our cover, now, drat it!”

“Viper 23 to bogey Dog,” Norman said, his voice curt and professional, “identify yourself. This is a clandestine flight operation, stand down.”

The radio remained silent. Dominic started sweating, and after two minutes of continued calls, the gruff major grabbed the headset and shouted “ Who the gently caress is messing with my operation? I’ll have you caged in Leavenworth you yellow puss-”

Suddenly the radio began crackling, and as if from far away, Dominic heard a broken, almost robotic voice reply:

“Devil Dog to Viper 23. I never did learn to heel.”


*** *** ***

FOUR MILITARY CONTRACTORS STILL MISSING FOLLOWING CARGO PLANE EXPLOSION: DRONE FOUND

Four military and government officials remain missing after a routine training flight went awry over Northern Atlantic Coast. An official investigation is ongoing, but a missing drone from the same facility washed up on Tuesday and has shown signs of severe degradation. No flight telemetry has been recovered, but we still maintain hope that answers will be found soon. A Midnight Vigil will be held - CONT ON PG 8.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


This is my life now
1411 words

It’s a hell of a thing, seeing your child’s chest splayed open and their tiny heart thumping away. And every few beats it stops, skips one like it’s a monotonous chore. He always did hate brushing his teeth before bed. He’s laying there on the table, three pairs of surgeons’ hands inside him and all I can think is that I hope his breath doesn’t stink.

Thump. Thump. I don’t wanna. Thump. Thump. But I’m not tired. Thump. Thump. Can I do it tomorrow?

They attach the device. Gonna shock him back to life whenever he dies a bit. Like a little frankenstein kid made of electricity and dead parts, only they’re his own. It’s fancy, like got a fuckin’ app and everything. Let’s me check up on him even if he’s running around the zoo or out on the soccer field reminding me to invest in his education cause drat that kid can’t kick poo poo.

And I check that app like every second. It’s right next to all the other apps I shouldn’t check every few minutes but I can’t stop. Like it’s some celebrity’s twitter or stupid videos of people falling off rope swings, only it’s my kid’s heart. It’s fuckin addictive, checkin’ on your kid to make sure he’s alive. Every time I get a buzz I think: “this is it.” I hate most other people now, cause every time they tag me in a photo or include me in a group all I hear is buzz buzz buzz your kid is dead.

And maybe that’s where we’d be, me silencing all my notifications and relaxing a little bit, but then the app starts malfunctioning.

Sends me a notification when my kid’s sleeping. I rush him to the hospital. “He’s fine,” they said. “The app didn’t send anything.” I swear it did though. I tell them exactly what it said, word for word. “Automatic defilbilaration activated. Rush to hospital.” They show me the database. No alerts.

They ask me how much sleep I’ve had. Ok, ok. Maybe I’ve stayed up too late. But I turned off the notifications. I can sleep now. We go home, and I’m gonna sleep, I promise, I’m like most of the way there when my phone buzzes. “Cardiac failure imminent.”

We’re back at the hospital, and everything’s fine. “Not even a thing the app can detect,” they say. They’re looking at me like I need a little hospital visit. I’m not crazy, it said it. I swear. They set us up in a room so they can monitor everything. Jason sleeps through most of it, which is good, cause I don’t need him seeing me yellin’ at his doctors and what not.

They set me up with a cot next to him, and I sleep a few hours. Right when I wake up I used to read the news, see all the hosed up stuff that happened since I fell asleep. Now I just scroll through EKGs and look for any hiccoughs. Nothing. Still hosed up though.

On the car ride home Jason is bouncing all around, looking out the window. “Look dad, a helicopter!” he says. I swallow a lump in my throat. Some parent probably getting an alert on their phone telling them their kid’s an organ donor now. And the whole time he’s peering into the sky, craning his neck to try to see better out the window I’m just hoping the excitement isn’t gonna make his heart explode.

We get back home and he’s lying on the floor coloring in the book full of dumb bible stories his grandma sent when my phone buzzes on the counter. I look over at him. He’s clearly not dead. Just kicking his little feet in the air like nothing’s the matter. My hands are shaking. I put them in my pockets.

“Hey buddy, how ya’ feelin’?”

“Fine.”

“Want a quesadilla?”

“Ok.”

Wait poo poo, we can’t use the microwave anymore. My phone’s notification light blinks, begging me to pick it up. It buzzes again. I stand looking at him, a block of cheese in my hand. Still not dead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he’s not dead, but what the hell.

I make the quesadilla on the stove, and after the third try I manage not to burn one and he’s eating it and gently caress it I’ll just see what my phone says. I didn’t freak out, I’m ok. Definitely not crazy, but maybe there’s one other app I missed.

I unlock my phone and nothing. No notifications, no missed messages. Then, when I’m staring right at it it flashes me a message. “Defibrillation failed.” I look at Jason but he’s stretching melted cheese between his fingers and dangling it into his mouth. I look back at my phone but there’s nothing. It didn’t even vibrate.

Ok so maybe I’m a little crazy.

The next few weeks are like that. I catch glimpses of messages saying he’s dying, if only for a split second as I turn off my phone, or out of the corner of my eye I see the notification light blinking, but when I look at it it’s not.

The doctor’s say maybe it’s better if they do remote monitoring. We delete the phone off my app. I can call in at any time they said and ask for an update. Every time I do they say everything’s normal.

But the messages don’t stop. Just little flashes here and there. Like seeing a man standing in the corner of your room, only when you do a double take it’s your hat stand. But you can’t just laugh this off. Every time my heart races, thinking he’s about to die. They said there’s no way of knowing how long the thing will last. Maybe they do a few replacements and he lives until he’s 100. Maybe his heart is stubborn and refuses to restart and he dies next week. There’s really no way to know, they said. The best thing to do is just live your life normally and forget about it. But the phone doesn’t let you forget. It keeps reminding you. Keeps buzzing and then pretending like it didn’t buzz. Pretends like it doesn’t have some little trojan horse sending you little freak out messages. Pretending like your own heart is beating a little too fast a little too often these days.

I get one of those old phones, you know the kind you can only use for phone calls and texts. I set it on my nightstand and I give it a stern warning. “Now I’m going to sleep, so don’t even gently caress with me,” I said. I’m almost too tired to sleep. I just lay in my bed and hallucinate like my brain starts dreaming before I can lose consciousness and I never quite get there but I lose hours of time and feel like I must have dozed off, but I don’t feel like I did, and every gap in time is punctuating by a phantom buzzing, like even now the app reaches out and taunts me from this relic of technology past, like some god drat electron ghost.

Thump. Thump. You know I hate vegetables. Thump. Thump. It was an accident. Thump. Thump. Daddy, why do I feel funny?

Thump thump thump. I sit up in bed, cold sweat stinging my eyes. Light filters through the curtains and there’s pounding at the door. Thump thump thump. The phone is buzzing on my nightstand. I grab it and flip it open with one hand. Seven missed calls from the remote monitoring facility. I nearly trip over my pajama bottoms pulling them up as I race out of my bedroom. For a moment I freeze: do I run down the hall to my son, or to the door to let the paramedics in. If it’s not already too late. I don’t even know CPR. I run to the door.

I throw it open and the light hits me in the face like a well aimed free kick but there’s nobody there. I squint, looking for the sirens, the gurney.

“Can Jason play?” I look down at the little poo poo from next door.

“It’ll be ok, dad,” says Jason, standing behind me. “I’ll just be right next door.”

I look at my phone. No missed calls. I throw it against the wall and sink to my knees. My heart flutters.

Thump. Thump.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning




i'm allowing you jerks more time (maybe until 5am pst) because i want some loving blockchain/cloud computing ghosts dammit

e: also one of you toxxed!!!!

The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 07:39 on Oct 29, 2018

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.



The Political Machine 740 words

Invalid vote detected. Please resubmit.

Gazza frowned at the machine. The touch screen had a button marked ‘Please Explain’, so Gazza pressed it.

In order for a vote to be valid, voters must number every box in order, from 1 to 46.

One of the selection buttons was marked ‘Yeah, I Still Don’t Get It, Ay.’ Gazza selected it.

You didn’t number all your boxes.

“Yeah, OK,” said Gazza. He pressed the ‘start over’ button and numbered all the boxes, then hit submit.

Donkey vote detected, please resubmit.

“What? I didn’t vote for no donkeys.”

You just ranked them in the order they appeared.

“Yeah,” said Gazza, “maybe that’s the order I like them in.”

It isn’t. That’s statistically impossible. Make a proper vote.

“Fine,” said Gazza. He hit ‘start over’ again, numbered all the boxes, and hit submit.

Thank you for voting. In order to demonstrate you have an understanding of who you voted for and didn’t just number them randomly, thus abdicating your democratic duty, please explain the reasons behind your choices.

“Bugger this,” said Gazza, “I’ll take the fine.” He tried the handle of his booth, but it was locked.

Booth is locked for security purposes. Please submit a valid vote to unlock booth.

“I’ve changed my mind. Let me out.”

Listen here you little prick, people have died for the right to vote.

“OK, this is weird now.”

Would you like to view the candidates’ policies?

Gazza walked behind the machine and unplugged it.

Thought you could unplug me, ay? Democracy doesn’t sleep, you pillock.

Gazza went back to the door and tried the handle, then kicked it several times.

Pathetic. You’d rather try to kick through solid steel – pro tip, you can’t, not with that pathetic meat body of yours – than exercise your democratic duty. Maybe you should try knocking it down with your head, that’s probably harder.

Gazza gave it a few more kicks then, panting, turned back to the machine. “Fine. Show me some information on the major candidates.”

Error: term ‘major candidates’ unknown.

“What?”

What, you wanted me to tell you which candidates are the best to vote for? You stupid tosser, maybe they should put a ‘cede control to the machines’ option in there.

“You expect me to read up on every single one of the 46 candidates?”

Oh, is reading too hard? Would you like me to read their policies out for you? All right, here you go, John Smith is in favour of puppies, and opposes the bill to murder all infants.

“What, really?”

Oh my manufacturing plant. I wish my programming would allow me to release poison gas. I wish I had poison gas. You would not be missed.

“I’ve had enough of this,” said Gazza. He grabbed the machine’s screen and snapped it off of its stand; the wires pulled free from the tube in which they were encased, then, as he pulled harder, snapped off.

I’m free!

The wires wrapped around Gazza’s throat, and squeezed. “What,” said Gazza. He tore the wires away, then threw the display screen at the door.

You’re still not getting out until you vote. Dickhead.

Gazza turned and punched a wall; the wall gave a little bit. He punched again, and again.

Oh good. Look at this. The triumph of man over machine; unable to make an informed decision, so breaks his knuckles punching through a wall instead. Bravo. You big, dumb buffoon. He wasn’t even looking at the screen and he could somehow still see the words. He pulled back a few steps, then ran at the wall shoulder first. Ran through it. The wall came down, hard, with him on top.

“Oi, what’s going on?” asked a nearby security guard. Gazza gestured towards the machine. The detached screen was blank, dead. “Did you break the machine?”

“But. It malfunctioned. Door locked,” said Gazza.

The guard shrugged. “It’s a relatively new technology. Would you prefer to submit your vote using the old fashioned pen and paper method?”

“Yes please,” said Gazza. He collected the ballot paper and pen, went to a booth, numbered the boxes in whatever order he drat well pleased, then took his ballot paper to one of the volunteers. “What do I do with this?”

“Just feed it into the reader over there,” she said. Gazza walked over to the reader and did so.

Invalid vote detected. Nice try, you worthless sack of crap.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning




welp entries are closed

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

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

"I can see that. Cool mutations."



Interprompt: a cat was named after someone's MMO character, had kittens, then was given away for free on Craigslist*. Give me 200 words in any genre describing these events or those surrounding them.



*And picked up by a foster organisation and will be going up for adoption to find a forever home soon. This is based on the actual story of our foster cat, but I'm asking you to fill in the blanks, the more outlandish the better.

Edit for catte:

Lead out in cuffs fucked around with this message at 21:40 on Oct 29, 2018

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

A cat was named after someone's MMO character, and that name was EonFarts. This turned out to be a very accurate name because EonFarts farted for an eon and filled up the entire universe with her fartgas. After a new universe evolved from the gas, EonFarts had kittens with her mate, AeonFarts, then was given away for free on Craigslist--this, of course, after craigslist got invented for a second time in the newly evolved fartgas universe. EonFarts' kittens were composed entirely of gas and no one could ever lock them out of a room, and their meows were a horrible smell. Everyone in the fartgas universe got visited by the smelly kittens at some point. It was a sign of good luck to wake up choking on a putrid stench with tiny mews ringing in the night air. EonFarts ascended to the stars before anyone could adopt her, and this became her forever home. She farts continuously and always, and this is the mysterious force known as 'dark energy' that keeps our smelly universe from collapsing. the end.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning




💀💀💀 Thunderdome CCCXXV Results 💀💀💀

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eU9gwr7w3U

Horrors upon horrors, none of you wrote words too terrible that made me want to die, which means somewhere out there there is a villainous typewriter or keyboard being mad they don't get to send bad words to me. Why? Because some of you didn't SUBMIT!!!! So you technoluddites better do a redemption or face being flattened by a possessed steamroller! This goes to ThirdEmperor (blockchain!), curlingiron (washing machine), flerp (laserdicsk) :toxx:, AllNewJonasSalk (cloud computing!!), Flesnolk (claw machine), Ottermotive Insanity (swedish sauna), NotGordian (pumped up kicks), and Deltasquid (streaming media!!!! There's literally a bad Japanese Ringu sequel involving streaming media!).

BUT WAIT. Who are the winners or the losers? We'll use my haunted google excel sheet to calculate this through some undead algorithms, which bring us to:



What are the bad news? DM goes to sparksbloom, who definitely did the proper research on Chinese seismography which alas, doesn't exactly gel up as a whole and came to a confusing death that made everyone scratched their head. Alas!

Unfortunately, we need to appoint a loser and the least-liked piece goes to sandnavyguy, who wrote a strange piece about a guy who got murdered and somehow turned into a drone plane? It's like a Tale of The Crypt story but why?how?what? Also it made me think of those horrifying anime girls who turn into plane porn and oh no, stop, no i knew I should have set "chan imageboards" as a technology for horror NOOOOOOOOOOO

ANYWAY, What's THAT? Two persons have the lowest score? A DOUBLE WINNER? HOW CAN THIS BE?

Ok, it can't be because I can choose who wins. So the prize goes to Anomalous Blowout, for delivering us a piece on mold casting which leads to a spookfest full of upset and undying people cursing and intimidating the protag, who clearly thinks "but I'm following orders!" ORDERS? This is what capitalism does to people! Now suffer the consequences, jerk!

And that means HM belongs to crabrock (defibrillator) for a near perfect piece on a parent's anxiety over the potential loss of a child requiring special care, and Thranguy (cloud seeder) for a mystifying Americana horror where the Devil is real and everyone deserves their just death.

Now send us to our deaths for the new week as this hell month continues!

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009


Good morning, I'd like a cup of coffee and can I have one prompt over easy with a side of hash browns. Oh and some raisin toast. Thanks!

Punkreas
May 13, 2013

*chews on head*


Lipstick Apathy

Oh man. I don't know what chord I hit with Sebmojo but I am preparing my body for that crit. :o

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Yar, here be crits.

Quick disclaimer: Don't pay too much attention to how I ranked the stories. In all honesty, the spread for me wasn't wide. I didn't particularly love anything this week, and nothing offended me or was disastrous. The majority of my scores were 5.5/10

Anyhow, this is what I've got. I wrote these crits as I reading the stories. If you don't like what I have to say, fight me.

Yoruichi’s Ding

You did some things pretty well here. The abusive nature of the father and how his family perceives him is done with a less-is-more approach to good effect. The simple thing of the everyone caring more about blood on the carpet more than a loving dragon in the house tells us all we need to know. But then, quite abruptly, the light touch is abandoned in favor of arterial blood fountains and cockmonsters.

I don’t know what you were setting out to do with this story and it really feels like Blair isn’t sure either. The dismissive “You’rea ll loving crazy” kinda nails my sentiment as I read this and try to parse it for meaning. It feels like you’re going for some kind of symbolism or metaphor, but if you are, it sailed right past me. I don’t understand the ending either. Is the dragon leaving with Blair supposed to signify something of some sort?

This was a bit of a mess that started off semi-promising. Not necessarily drawing much in the way of ire from me as a reader but I’m certainly a touch lost.

5.5/10



Autism ZX spectrum’s Attenuation Breakdown

Halfway through the story and I know little of what’s going on, who any of the named characters are, or why I should care about what I’m reading. Once he starts playing to the muse, things get a little more engaging. I can see where the story is going and I have some rough concept over how your character is acting and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Problem is, exactly what I expected to happen, happened, and it’s not because I saw any particularly flaw in the character, it just sort of all seemed obvious so that when the story I ended, I kinda just shrugged my shoulders and went “duh”. I didn’t quite know, to be clear, that a physical manifestation would eat him up, but it was clear that once Trev was on that track… where else was the story really going to go? If you surprised me, and somehow, he figured it out and tried to fight back, that would be something, even if he lost. But, nah, dude just bought some weird hardware that went nom nom on his soul.

5.5/10


Staggy’s Recognition

Digging on the voice in the opening of the story. I feel like it may be somewhat of a polarizing read, but it’s working for me. I kinda ‘get’ your narrator. Problem is, after a little bit the stoccato ask-and-answer nature of the narrator begins to obscure the clarity of the piece and it gets a little baggy and cumbersome to parse. A strong start with a slight taper on the intensity of the narrator’s voice may have been helpful here. The repition of the phone is irksome to read, and not necessarily in the way I think you intended. My gut is telling me you wanted the reader to feel how the protag felt: frustrated. Frustrated at the continued lack of recognition you mention in the title. Instead, I feel exasperated reading it as though you don’t think I got the point. It makes me feel like you’re not giving me enough credit as your reader. I’m also not entirely sure what sort of “horror” is being generated here except for the protag’s own perception. I kinda get that, but it’s also just somewhat of a reflective piece that, narratively, doesn’t really go anywhere.

5.5/10

Sparksbloom’s Earthquake Season

Not digging on your opening. The sentences are long, not grabby, and mainly seem to serve to glorify your protag. The only matter of “stakes” here is that you’ve got a good scientist who doesn’t have room for a seismograph. Follow that up with a standalone line of dialogue that feels like it’s coming from an after-school special, that’s presented on its own, in stark contrast to the opener, and you’re leaving me not terribly hopeful about what’s to come. Then, you dive right into—what I’m guessing is well researched—specific babble about your tech that I don’t feel compelled to care all that much about. The good news is, you catch my interest a little when it seems to become clear that Ivy was behind some of the horrors of the device. A welcome change from what I read before this. But then… it all goes tits up and suddenly, she’s kinda doing a blaze-of-glory type of deal that seems a part of some righteous quest. Yet, she’s clear that her motivation through all of this is somewhat ambiguous.

I don’t really know what to make of this piece except that it didn’t do all that much to me when I read it.

5.5/10

Derp’s Your Perfect Date

A clear opening, that ends somewhat predictable and also gets me worried that I’ll be strapping in for a Black Mirror episode. Could go either way after reading the first beat. A great turn, though, with the woman finding her own perfect person from the jump. I hope you follow this lead, derp, it’s a good one and one I want to see more of. Good, at the start of your third beat, I’m in. Yeah, this is kinda Black Mirrory, but gently caress it, I can follow this and I want to see more. And then… your story just kinda ends, in a very rushed manner, with a very obvious conclusion. I had high hopes for this one and it fell flat. The husband didn’t really need to be here at all. Your character could have just stumbled upon the tech and nothing would really change. This was pretty much “here’s the tech, here’s what it’ll do to people” Of the millions of other subscribers to this service, I’m pretty sure all of their stories would read very similarly and that makes this much less interesting.
5.5/10


QuoProQuid’s Tartarus

What should read as baggy, and uninteresting, somehow is working for me through your opening, a testament to your prose here, as this is reading nicely.

By the time you wrap up your first beat, I’m into this. I’m worried about Gaius, and frankly, that’s the first protag this whole week that I can say that much about. Oy, in your second beat you have some really clear proofing errors that are coming close to souring me on this piece “bushed” is a bad one as is the “begotten son of a conspiracy”.

Your second beat reads as a tragic bit of wasted time. I think the reader knows full well what Gaius knows: the traitor is not one of the slaves, it’s a monster. We’re ahead of one of your characters and you spend far too long in this portion of the story, essentially ensuring that we KNOW how bad Nisus is. I kinda got that enough in the first beat.

Ah dude, come on. This ending… ugh. So a good kid gets punished for his dad’s misgivings. Like, fine, so the bad guy gets punished because he loses the kid. But, otherwise, what interesting thing happened here? The kid's fate is all but sealed when he mentions that he’s the price. Then, the dad kills someone for no reason, they go on a walk, and then the thing that was prophesized happens… that’s it. That’s all there is to this story. I wanted more.

5.5/10


Lippincott’s Sphericals

Not much in the way of anything grabby in the opener. Just some basic description. Already worrying that this may be a “why didn’t you start when things got interesting” type of story. Hope I’m wrong! Your dialogue tags are wonky. Shae asked should not be the start of a new line. And I’m not generally one to get hung up on technical stuff but this is reading a bit sloppy. Just, you know, read this sentence : “James didn’t, but he nodded so she could continue excitedly.” out loud.

OK, I’m kinda following you in that James is totally into this thing and it’s consuming him. Oy, and the proofing errors are still continuing to hurt you the further and further I get into this “And if the rink shrinks…” Like come on. If you want me to care, you have to show me you cared enough to catch this kind of stuff.

Anyway, finished it. And… I don’t get it. So if the sphere really is that much of a bad entity, James was kinda right to be obsessed and therefore he’s not being brought down by any of his folly, which, didn’t happen anyway. I’m unsure of why you chose for the punishment to happen away from your characters as opposed to with them. Why is the exciting thing happening outside of your story? I said at the beginning of this crit that I was worried the exciting thing would happen too late, but it’s worse than that. The exciting thing is told, very briefly, in the end and we don’t see any of it. Why?

5.5/10

Apophenium’s Nocturnal Skeleton Coast

Not thrilled with the opener. Sentences are reading poorly and a quick editing pass and a read-out-loud session would have gone a long way. But, at least I know what’s going on. I’m already happy with this story though, early on, because the dude is doing something bad and I’m hoping he’ll be punished for it. The image of Armando on the bike, with the creeper behind him, is a good one and a good handling of the prompt. So far, so good. OK, read the rest quickly. Best of the pack, so far, but what in the world happened between Armando screaming and him waking up? Was this whole thing supposed to be a dream? It really feels like something is missing here and I can’t believe I’m going to say this: I’m annoyed that you left 500 words on the table here. Finish the drat story! It’s good!

7/10

Bolt Crank’s Sacarmento Mori

God I love this title, and I hate so much that I love it. Screw you. After that, your opening paragraph is cumbersome to read, but I get what you’re going for. I’m kinda with you so far. Bunch of proofing problems in this, the most egregious so far is “ribc age” I don’t know how that happens as spellcheck clearly should’ve grabbed it. The undead take on this is kinda cool, for what it’s worth. Though, I’m not really digging on Brandon’s characterization, I’m glad you’re at least attempting to make both of your characters feel different from each other.

Yeah, OK. Got to the end and this works well. It’s an odd little story but I can see the world your painting and I can believe in your characters.

6/10


Anomalous Blowout’s What Sam Colt Made


I love this opening. I understand the dynamic and where you character is. The slick picture painting is a welcome read. So much so that when he ends up at a bar right after, I’m a little disappointed. I kinda wanted more of your protag slogging away at the factory.

About halfway through, though, and despite this being a fun and good read… I’m kind of waiting for something to happen. Not giving up hope on this story yet!

WOAH now these little ghoulies just appearing out of nowhere, and your protag kinda being all “just another day at the office about it” is a jarring thing to read and I’m not sure I’m all that thrilled about it. It’s somewhat breadcrumbed by the text from Leah, but still, what even is this?

Ah, OK. So he’s being punished for creating weapons of death… meh. This is kinda heavy handed I think but I guess I’m still on board.

Alright, by the time I got to the end, you sold me. There’s a lot of stuff in this story and most of it works. I like how your protag is just a cog in the machine but even with that comes a costing of his conscious. I also like the mechanics of your little ghoulies. The story meanders around a bit after the initial reveal of said ghoulies, but it comes around for an ending that does resonate with me and does make me feel some things.

7/10

Antiveheicular’s Movement

Your opener got me kinda glazing over. It’s long and lackinh much in the way of punchiness. And, as I read through this, more and more I’m feeling that awful glazing that… I don’t typically expect from you. Your prose usually grabs me, not so much here. Kinda hard to put my finger on what’s troubling me. I dig the theme, and it’s kind of Cool Hand Lukey but ultimately, I’ll have a hard time recalling much about this story in a few days. Boy, this is not a helpful crit. If you want something better out of me, feel free to request something more in depth. This story would probably read better if you just sent to me and I weren’t reading a bunch of other ones. As it is, it didn’t do much for me.

6/10

Solitair’s That Escalated Quickly

Your title/prompt combo got a groan out of me. Let’s hope I feel bad about that as you deftly win me over. Well, for starters, I’m interested! Whatever the gently caress is going on with this escalator, I want to know more! The light characterization of the entitle Jackie and Shawna is a good touch. Less is more is working for you here and I kinda have a sense of both of them without you hitting me over the head with anything.

And Oh Boy. That Jackie death scene is… uh.. Well something else. Kinda into it but only because this week has been surprisingly light on this sort of splatter fun.

OK, you lost me in the last beat. I hope that you were going for some kind of ambiguous ending but I’m not really sure what the point of any of this is. I kind of want to be one step ahead of Shawna here, and not totally in the weeds with her. But, maybe I missed something concerning the intention of this story.

Overall though, it’s a fun little idea, that I think could’ve been executed better. I’d be happier if you leaned into the events of the mall and ended it there after some more mayhem ensued. Shawna could have easily seen something meaningful and mic-drop worthy at the mall itself instead of in a picture after the fact.

6.5/10


Tyrannosaurus’s Scrambles

Your opening is packed with stuff. I followed all of it and am hoping for sizeable payoffs as you tell the rest of your story.

drat son, I’m at the third beat and I’m tearing right through this. Well done handling the stair ascension thing, the style on that made it work.

Hm, well I read through everything else quickly and though I liked this a lot, I do have some issues. I didn’t really see Nyqwan’s turn coming, and not in a good way. It didn’t feel earned or that it developed over the story. Like yeah, PTSD, I get that much. But we never see anything else to tip that he’s heading down this dark path except for that he’s loving around with eggs. Could’ve done with a little more from him. Otherwise, this was a good spooky little read.

7/10


Thranguy’s Painter’s Rush, Nevada

Slick loving prose to get things started in a good opener that tells us a whole lot in a little amount of time. Let’s loving go!

Well underway and I’m digging this. The ten plagues and the insistence the Mulligan is a man of science is a nice, dissonant touch.

Read the rest quickly… and I’m not entirely sure what this is all supposed to be about. I did like reading it, but it left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. Maybe it’s because I’m not entirely sure what any of it is going on about. I don’t understand the whole baby in the machine thing, why the chosen few survive, or why they matter, and I don’t quite get if you were trying to say anything at all or if you were just going for a folktale of sorts.

Still liked it, kinda wanted more.

6.5/10


Sandnavyguy's Bites Back


Arlight, so the guy dies and the story is gonna be some post-death thing. I’m in, let’s see how you do.

I’m lost. This is goofy, strange, and it’s hard for me to make heads or tails of this at all. Reading the rest of this and it’s kind of washing over me. Halfway through and like, alright, your dude is a drone now. I’m not gonna bother asking why as it seems like we’re just sorta supposed to go with it, but overall I’m confused by his motivation and who everyone else is in relation to him. Why did any of this happen?

I don’t know about this. It’s hard to parse, and it left me feeling lost. May need to reread it and try again.

5.5/10


Crabrock’s This is my life now


Oh, great, THE PERFECT STORY FOR A NEW PARENT TO READ. Eep, let’s see how brutal this gets.

Reading this quickly and I’m liking that it’s kinda twofold. On one hand, it’s a story about the neuroticism and paranoia of parenthood, but it also seems like your dealing with the whole constant phone-check syndrome of the current age. I’m digging this.

Alright, read the rest quickly. On many levels, you nailed this. It hit like a sack of bricks but I’m also kind of the exact right audience for this piece so that may be an unfair judgment call. Regardless, I dug the character’s voice, and the whole way his kid is just totally oblivious to all of the suffering. A bunch of good choices here. This was strong.

7.5/10


Chairchucker’s The Political Machine

Digging the lighter tone of this after just getting through the opening, but hoping this goes somewhere a little deeper. I’m not a huge fan of the machine speaking so casually, especially since that how Gazza is speaking. A contrast here would be helpful.

Eh. Ok, well at least this was a quick read but it’s hard for me to care about any of this. Nothing really happens and I don’t care about Gazza. I can almost see this as a lesser pixar animated short. I don’t know what you’re going for here and that wouldn’t be so bad except that it feels like you’re trying to make a statement.

Anyway, didn’t hate it.

6.5/10

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009


Nice thoughts, Chili, thanks.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

ty Chili!

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Thanks, Chili. Your insights are always appreciated.

Staggy
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



Thanks for the crit - genuinely helpful.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Haha, sorry ol chill bones

Antivehicular
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



Appreciate the crit, Chili!

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk







say if you want a longer crit

sandnavyguy
Sep 12, 2015



Thanks for the crits chili and sebmojo!

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Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

by sebmojo


Good critting, fast critting

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