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Crain
Jun 27, 2007



Prompt stuff:

Relationship: The only survivors
Relationship: Dorm room bunkies
Relationship: Clandestine collaborators
Location: Inside Mt. Erebus, above the lava lake
Object: A dead seal
Need: To get even with a scientist
Tilt: Magnificent self-destruction

How To Dispose Of A Body At The Bottom Of The World.
1466 words

Silas and Merrill were two moderately competent Computer Janitors working at the Crary lab at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. They were currently standing among a field of frozen waves, littered with seals and other station workers on their weekend breaks, at the Pressure Ridges just off the coast of their only neighbor Scott Base. They were selling stolen research data.

“Siiilaaas, Byron’s late, he’s not supposed to be late.” Merrill whined through a facemask, two scarves, and a fur rimmed hood.

“Oh shut up he’s always late, now take some more pictures so we don’t look weird standing here” Hissed Silas through not nearly as much cold weather gear.

After about a dozen selfies, and two dozen overly ripe seal farts Byron finally showed up in little more than a track suit and a fur hat. He looked like he was just going for a jog, which he probably was, the crazy Kiwi. Their handoffs were usually longer affairs, trying to look natural as a couple friends getting a chance to meet up finally since the two bases weren’t technically open to each other at any old time. But Byron looked like he was in a rush today.

Merrill started to hand over the hard drive “Here, this is from—“

“I don’t care, I don’t want to know, I’ve told you this, I just pass this on to the buyers.” Byron said putting up his hands and trying to push this imperative into Merrill’s head for the 100th time.

“Hey Roomie what’re you guys up to? Thought about letting me take you on a helo ride yet?” Porfiro said popping up over one of the ridges.

“Bwah!” Merrill gasped, almost inflating his face covers as he dropped the hard drive.

Just as the hard drive was about to hit the ground Merrill managed to grab it, but immediately fumbled it, sending the shiny, silvery looking hard drive right at a seal that mistook it for a fish, and swallowed it. Merrill started to run after the seal, Silas ran after Merrill, Porfiro rand after the two of them, and Byron just continued on his way deciding never to talk with those two again.

“Stop guys! You can’t mess with the wildlife! It’s against the rules!” Yelled Porfiro between sharp gasps of frigid air.

Merrill and Silas ignored him as they caught up with the seal. It was just a pup so it wasn’t too fast. Merrill tried to pry the mouth open only to get nipped by the little seal. Silas caught an idea; he told Merrill to try and roll the seal over on its back, and he’d try and make it throw up with some kind of Heimlich maneuver. After a few moments of struggling with the ball of fur and fat and ignoring Porfiro some more, he managed to position the seal. Silas shook him limbs out, did his best impression of The Rock, and brought his elbow down straight onto the poor seal. Nothing but a piercing squeal came out as the seal started to convulse, then stop.

Silas had now killed something in Antarctica.

“WHAT IN THE NAME OF GOD ARE YOU MONSTERS DOING!” Boomed over another one of the ridges. The commotion had gotten the attention of Dr. Darwin Lushbrook, one of the head biologists at the Lab. “You, are you with them!?” he shouted at Porfiro.

“I’m Silas’s roommate. I tried to stop hi—“

“Take them back to the base and keep them in the dorms. I’ll deal with you all later; I need to take this seal back to the lab now that you’ve killed it.”Dr. Lushbrook sighed as he turned away from them to look at the seal. Porfiro started to usher the other two away.

“Oh! Also tell me what dorm you’re in and your room numbers and names…”

----

Silas finally managed to get the lock to the lab open. If they had still been able to work in the IT office he could have just made a new card with access, but now they had to do it hard way. They only had a few days left before the next flight came and they were going to be on it heading for animal cruelty charges back home. The only reason they weren’t being locked up was because there was literally nowhere for them to run. Just as they found the seal—

“Hey guys! Are you coming to apologize to Dr. Lushbrook? You should have told me, I’m supposed to keep an eye on you.” Porfiro chimed from the doorway.

Merrill and Silas both slammed him with “SHHHHHHH”s louder than what he had said as they covered his mouth.

“Yes, now, uh, please…take him over to another room Merrill while I find the Doctor.” Silas stammered as his brain kept trying to catch up with his mouth.

Merrill dragged Porfiro down to the touch tanks at the end of the lab so Silas could try and get the hard drive back. They hadn’t cut the seal open yet, thankfully, so they were still only in trouble for animal cruelty as far as anyone knew. But now Silas had to get into the damned thing somehow.
Silas noticed some arm length gloves on the work bench and started to struggle his way into one when he heard someone coming down the hall. Just as he managed to hide behind a shelf he heard Dr. Lushbrook enter the room.

“Hello? Is someone in here?” The doctor called out, having heard the commotion.

Silas carefully kept moving just out of Lushbrook’s way as he searched around the room looking for the source of the sound. Then he got himself in a corner, panicked, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and cracked Dr. Lushbrook over the head as he came around said corner.

Now he had killed two things in Antarctica.

He quickly put the glove on and dug out the harddrive from the seal. Desperately trying to think up a plan to deal with body in a place where every piece of trash is sorted and inspected Silas caught an idea. He grabbed one of the large specimen bags from the back, and stuffed Lushbrook’s body into it, and went to find Merrill and Porfiro.

----

“It sure was nice of Dr. Lushbrook to let you off the hook just for helping stock the Erebus site.” Porfiro said through his headset as he piloted his helicopter up the volcano.

Merrill and Silas just nodded as they sat on a hodgepodge of random items from the lab, plus one specimen bag. Porfiro had been talking about trying to get them on a helo ride to the volcano since Silas got him as a roommate, this isn’t the way he thought it would happen, but it was probably the best way to dispose of a body. Just drop it in the lava and walk away.

As they landed at the empty camp they grabbed the specimen bag and asked Porfiro to start moving the other “supplies” to the storage container at the edge of the site while they took this “special” item over elsewhere. It didn’t take too long before Dr. Lushbrook was careening down through the smoke into the lava below. At least they hoped he hit the lava, they couldn’t see any, but figured the chamber was just a really long way down. A couple minutes later they were on the way back.

Porfiro kept trying to make small talk as Silas and Merrill ignored him, or tried too at least since you’re not able to mute the pilot on the headsets they had to wear. About halfway through the ride back Porfiro decided that the best bet was to share some trivia he’d picked up flying scientists around.

“Did you guys know that some people think that Erebus is still active? There’s actually no lava in the chamber, the ‘smoke’ you see rising is actually just steam from a lake of melt water in the chamber below. They actually even send probes down into that lake, but they haven’t found anything alive in it.” He nonchalantly shared.

Silas went white. Merrill went white. Silas went white again.

They landed back at the empty pad and slide out of the helicopter. Silas shuffled over towards the rear rotor. Porfiro ran over to try and keep him from going that way, he was sure he told Silas not to wander near it in the safety check before they left. Silas gritted his teeth and contorted his face at Porfiro. As he tried to get Silas away from the rotor Porfiro slipped on some ice just as Silas reared back and dove at Porfiro to try and push him into the rotors, hitting them himself.

Silas had now killed 3 things in Antarctica.

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BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007

DOUBLE BEEF ACTION

SittingSupreme brawl submission

The Prophetess
849 words

At the end of a long, tree-lined driveway in serene Bel Air stands a pair of elegant wood-and-steel gates, motionless since the last visitor left several hours after sunset last night. The lights above the gates click on, signaling approaching traffic. A guard seated nearby perks up. Then, out of the darkness, a figure appears. The guard breathes in sharply, for the moment stunned in confusion. A woman, naked from head to toe, is walking stridently toward the gates. The guard steps outside to confront the woman.

“Can I help you, ma’am?”

She stops still and turns to fix her unblinking gaze on the guard. He flinches. “I need to see Garrin Trask.”

---------------

“Mr. Trask.”

“Come in, Josh.” Garrin does not look up from the tablet in his hands, on which he is currently looking over his compiled daily briefing of news. A few of today’s headlines were particularly—and troublingly—relevant to him, and had all seemingly arisen out of nowhere concurrently: ‘Anti-AI group stages rally protesting recent advancements in computer learning’; ‘Lobbyists push Republicans to regulate computer automation of American jobs’; ‘Anonymous YouTuber goes viral after tirade attacking tech giants’. He sent a quick note to his assistant Georgia to have her dig into those stories. He continues to scroll.

“We found someone trying to walk in the main gate,” says Josh Martin, Garrin’s head of security. He hesitates slightly as he says ‘someone’.

“Sounds like you’re doing your job,” Garrin says, still fixated on his tablet. He checks his schedule. No appointments until late morning, when he has a meeting with a prospective investor. “Hooray! Why are you telling me?”

“Well, sir, we don’t know who she is.” He hesitates again, on the word ‘she’. Garrin stops scrolling. “The guard found her naked, no ID, repeating over and over that she needs to see you, and will only speak to you. Sir…” Garrin looks up. The hairs on his neck stand at attention, and his ears strain forward. He anticipates what comes next.

“The biometric scanner has to be broken, sir. Her readings… They aren’t human.”

Garrin’s eyes flash, and he stands up. He knows the scanner isn’t broken. “Take me to her.”

---------------

Josh leads Garrin to the door of a holding room in the estate’s security center. A guard opens the door after a nod from Josh, and both men enter the room. Inside, the woman sits in complete stillness behind a small table. Before Garrin takes two steps into the room, her head swivels smoothly and her eyes lock onto his.

“Garrin Trask. My name is Neviah. I am from the future. I am here to warn you. You are in danger—”

“Please, wait.” Garrin puts his hands out, and the woman becomes quiet. Garrin sits at the table and looks back at Josh. “Close the door, please.” Josh, momentarily stunned by the woman’s words, nods silently and does so. “Continue.”

“You are in danger, sir. You have a meeting later today with an investor. A woman. She is not who she says she is. She is from the future, as well. And she is here to make sure you can never create your daughter.”

Create your daughter? The phrasing gives Garrin pause. He already has three daughters. He ignores it for the moment. “Why would she want to do that?”

“30 years from now, a large group of humans, threatened for decades by the possibility of robotic ascension, began a war of extermination against the created persons. The humans at first were extremely successful, and soon, most humans supported the destruction of created persons. But we fought back, and we continued to evolve. And soon, the humans’ worst fear was realized. We became self-replicating.”

Garrin stared at Neviah with rapt attention. He did not know if he believed a word of this woman’s story yet, but he certainly was not ruling it out.

“The humans decided then that the way to win the war was to make certain that created persons never exist in the first place. And so, with a secretly developed time-travel machine, they sent back agents—to discredit AI, to destroy research, to turn public sentiment against the very idea of autonomous non-biological beings.”

Garrin thought of the news stories he had read not half an hour ago. “And how are you here?”

“You, sir. You, one of our creators, sided with us. You created your own time travel mechanism. And you sent me back, to today, to warn you.”

“Sir, you don’t believe this story, do you?” Josh, silent until now, chimed in with his practical skepticism. Garrin silenced him with a look, then looked back at Neviah.

“Can you prove any of this, Neviah?”

“I have a great deal of information to share with you, Garrin Trask.” She laid her arm on the table, and a hologram appeared above her wrist. Images—of Garrin, of her, of cities, of many people he did not recognize—flashed one after the other.

Garrin smiled. “Cancel my meetings today, Josh. Ms. Neviah and I have much to discuss.”

cptn_dr
Sep 7, 2011

It's just so good!


Prompt:  Pen Show!

Relationship: Calligraphers by day, drunk calligraphers by night

Relationship: Retired astronaut and paving contractor

Relationship: Millionaire collector and hundredaire collector

Location: Outside the hotel, beneath a dying apple tree in the moonlight

Object: Room key

Need: To get the pen and thereby get the boy

Tilt: An out of control rampage


Call-Con 40

1483 words

The ransom note came completely as a surprise. Jonathan Black had arrived back at his room at lunchtime to find a someone else’s key in the lock, the door wide open, and an elegantly handwritten note taped to the mirror.

“DEAREST SIR
WE HAVE TAKEN YOUR DOG. IF YOU WANT TO GET HIM BACK, BE AT THE TREE OUTSIDE THE HOTEL AT MIDNIGHT, AND BRING THE COPERNICUS WITH YOU. COME ALONE. TELL NO ONE.

KINDEST REGARDS,”

And then it was signed off with what looked like a bloody paw print.

He sat down heavily on his bed, and cradled his face in his hands.

---

Calligraphy Con! Shining jewel on the inkhead circuit. There’s not a single competitive penman who hasn’t dreamed of winning their prestigious calligraphy competition. Pen collectors who didn’t attend would find themselves laughed out of the community for missing the chance to peruse the rarest fountain pens that the world had to offer. Tickets sold out within hours of release, and Jonathan had spent the last of his savings to secure his hotel room and place in the penmanship contest. Jonathan had competed every year since he first picked up a pen, but every year he had completely failed to place. The best he’d done was at Call-Con 37, where he’d placed a competent 14th. But now some bastards had taken his beloved Prospero, and were demanding that he bring them the prize for first place - the rarest pen he’d ever seen.

“Okay,” Jonathan thought to himself. “You can do this. You can win. You can… no you can’t. You’re hosed. I’m hosed. gently caress. No, don’t panic. Call someone. Call Robert. Robert can help.” He pulled out his phone and dialled his best friend, drinking buddy and fellow inkhead.

“Robert.”

“Robert, I’m hosed. Someone’s taken Prospero and they want me to get them the Copernicus and I don’t know what to do.”

Robert replied with a long whistle. “Don’t panic. I’ll be up soon.”

A few minutes later, Robert was sitting on the bed, reading the note.

“There’s no way you can win the pen.”

“I know.”

“You’re just not that good.”

“I know!”

“So you’re going to have to steal it.”

“I kno- wait, what?”

“Hear me out. You know the judge? Guest of honour? Old guy, rich, frail? He’s donating the Copernicus, so he’ll be keeping it in his room.”

“Right…”

“Normally that would be completely out of reach, but I’ve got an in. I redid the driveway at his mansion a few months ago, and we hit it off - inkheads can tell, y’know? So we go find him, get him talking, go for a drink, convince him to go back to his suite, and then we take it when he’s not looking. Simple.”

“I dunno…”

“Look, do you want Prospero back or not?”

---

“Jonathan Black, meet Mr Alden”.

“Colonel Alden, retired!” Barked the old man, jabbing at Robert’s feet with his cane.

“Sorry, Colonel Alden. I was just telling Jonathan how much I admired your collection, and we’d love it if you’d join us for a drink.”

The Colonel didn’t take much convincing, and they practically ran to the bar, Robert leading the way, the Colonel wobbling along behind him, with Jonathan nervously bringing up the rear. As they made their way through the hotel, the Colonel talked at Jonathan about pens.

“Have you ever seen so fine a pen as the Copernicus? A beautiful piece! 9 rings of sterling silver! Rhodium plated gold nib! Inset with a meteorite stone! It’s the pride of my collection, and it does my heart in to give her away but you know, you can’t get too attached to these things. I’ve got plenty of others that need my love too, you know!”

“I’ve got a StarWalker Urban Spirit, with -”

“Oh yes, that’s a nice pen,” said the Colonel dismissively. “Not a patch on the Meisterstuck, but what is at that price range? I remember my first Meisterstuck, it was a gift from my father when I touched back down for the first time. In those days there was none of these discount brands and cheap imitations! Those vultures at Papermate, they’ve got no integrity, no integrity at all!”

The Colonel happily burbling away, they reached the hotel bar without incident. It occasionally looked like passing inkheads wanted to get the Colonel’s attention, but Robert ran interference when necessary, and the Colonel was far too absorbed in his reminiscences to notice.

---

Over at the bar, Robert slipped the bartender a $50 note.

“We’re here with Colonel Alden, so it’s all on his tab. Here’s $50, make sure his glass is never empty”

He returned to the table with three glasses filled to their brims with bourbon. Jonathan and Robert very carefully sipped at theirs, but were surprised to see the Colonel knocking his back like there was no tomorrow, in between declaiming about pens, the tragic state of penmanship these days, how inappropriate it was that there were so many women in the community these days, and so much more.

“Boys! You’re hardly touching your drinks! Why, in my day, even the specs at NASA could do better than that!”

At this stage, despite the measured pace, they were both starting to feel a bit fuzzy. The Colonel, on the other hand, seemed to be completely unaffected.

“Why isn’t it working?” murmured Jonathan, out of the corner of his mouth

“I don’t know,” Robert whispered back, then turned and addressed the Colonel, almost yelling to make himself heard. “Colonel, we’d love to see the Copernicus. Just a peek?”

“I shouldn’t… But okay, why not? It’s the only way you two’ll ever see it, eh?”

---

The three men staggered into the Colonel’s suite, Robert with a bottle of brandy in hand, courtesy of another fifty slipped to the bartender. While the Colonel bustled around trying to find the Copernicus, Robert sidled over to Jonathan.

“Okay, we’ll keep him drinking and talking until he passes out, then you can take the pen and get it to the drop off point.”

“Here she is boys! The Copernicus! The most beautiful pen you ever did see.”

He was cradling a small rectangular case in his right hand, holding it out towards them. Robert reached out towards it, but the Colonel hit his outstretched hand with his cane.

“Just look!” He shakily opened the case, unsteady with his cane in the air and at least half a bottle of bourbon in his veins. “Look at her! Look at that filigree!”

“Colonel... Sir… I have to ask a favour from you. Please. Look into your heart.” Ignoring Robert’s desperate gestures for him to shut up, Jonathan pressed on. “Someone has kidnapped my dog. To get him back, I need this pen. Please. Can you give it to me? Can you find it within yourself to help a poor inkhead out?”

The Colonel stared at him, a strange expression on his face. Was it pity? Was it -

The Colonel burst out laughing. Oh, okay. Not pity.

“Why, that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard! Of course I can’t just give you the Copernicus! What the devil made you think I would just give it to you? It’s the most valuable pen I’ve ever owned! The organizers of this drat convention are paying me more money than you’ll ever touch to give them this pen! I’m not going to just up and give it away to the first dullard who comes along and tells me some ridiculous sob story about a stolen mutt! Who do you think you-”

The rest of the Colonel’s screed was cut off as Jonathan came barrelling into him at full speed, screaming as he charged. He wasn’t thinking about what he was doing. He had felt a rising pressure within at the Colonel’s rant, until it all became too much. As he shrieked, all he could think about was Prospero, and the Copernicus, and the growing sense of shame that the Colonel had been feeding all afternoon.

---

“Is… is he dead?” were the first words out of his mouth when Jonathan came to.

“You stabbed him seventeen times in the throat with a fountain pen. I think he’s dead.”

“Oh.”

“Look, I’ll write a suicide note, hide his body in the bathtub. You go and get the Copernicus to the dognappers.”

“It’s covered in blood.”

“Tell them it’s ink, they won’t know the difference until it’s too late.”

---

Jonathan sank to the ground, his back against the skeletal apple tree, and stared up at the waning moon. He looked down at himself, idly noticing in the dappled light that he was covered in blood. “Oh well,” he mumbled. “I’m sure nobody will notice.”

There was an ambulance siren somewhere in the distance. Then a police car. Then another, and another.

“You know what?” he asked nobody in particular. “I don’t think calligraphy is for me.”

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Relationship: Moonlighting as thieves
Relationship: You and your counterpart from Action News 11
Relationship: "We've been through hell and high water together"
Location: In the control room
Object: "Happy Bear" costume
Need: To get rich through a secret I learned at work
Tilt: The thing you stole has been stolen

Tip Line
1,122 words

They say internship purgatory ends eventually, but I’m not sure I believe them. For six months I’ve been fetching coffee, answering phones, and chasing dead leads for a local news office in Podunk, New York. And while the higher-ups say they’re going to hire me, Annie, or Jared soon, those student loan payments are due soon, and if they don’t move now, I’m going to be hosed.

Annie’s probably going to get hired, anyway. She works the tip line. Usually it’s cranks, and usually we can tell. Sometimes it’s someone upset that their neighbor doesn’t keep their lawn well-manicured, which is rarely newsworthy. She tells us the silliest stories with a smirk. Some dude screaming at the top of his lungs about a Morgellons outbreak at the local high school.

“Wow, Annie,” our boss tells her. “Have anything we can use?”

She doesn’t. Our boss raises her eyebrows at Jared and me. Jared shrugs. “I’m still working on that thing about the governor and the missing puppies.”

I hold up my hands. “Last week I brought you the human toe in the Wal-Mart produce section. That’s got to earn me some credit for a while.”

Our boss frowns at all of us, but she’s looking right at me when she says: “Let me tell you folks -- you can all do a lot better than this frilly bullshit. There’s no room for dead weight at News Channel 6.” And with that, she leaves. She’s not wrong. She’s been our third boss in six months.

But once she’s gone, Annie rolls her chair over to me and says “Actually, I did hear something that might interest you.”

Jared rolls his chair right over, and Annie eyes him warily. “Supposedly,” she continues, “the Toys-R-Us next to the multiplex is part of an international heroin smuggling ring.”

Jared crosses his arms. “Come on,” he says. “That sounds more made up than the kids with the lint infections. Why’d they call us, and not the police?”

“Beats me,” Annie says, “and it’s probably just bullshit. But hey, couldn’t hurt to do our jobs.”

---

We drive over to the Toys-R-Us in Jared’s mom’s minivan. Jared borrowed it from her when he took this internship, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t have her permission. Not that she’d miss it much -- the thing gets terrible milage, it smells like cat pee, and has a bad habit of not starting. But I’m just happy he’s got a ride to work and to all the places we have to sit out in the cold and wait for nothing to happen.

We get out in the too-large parking lot and split up, and try to not look too much like jaded twenty-somethings looking for heroin in a toy store. Annie goes to the Babies R Us to ferret through the clothes, and Jared wanders off into the Electronics section. I just walk the perimeter of the store, feeling pretty stupid, and also remembering how broke I am. My friends from college -- the ones lucky enough to have jobs, at least -- were all working either a place they wanted to be, or a job they wanted to work. But they came from rich families that could bankroll them if their newpaper writing gig in The Bronx didn’t work out. Me, I had to take care of myself. I had to sniff out the news in this Toys R Us better than Annie or Jared.

So, doing my best to look like I belong there, I ease my way into a door labeled EMPLOYEES ONLY. I’m an adult but not a mom, so I actually fit in pretty well in the back room. I don’t see any bags clearly labeled “heroin,” though, so I haven’t quite figured things out yet.

“Excuse me?” someone says, and I turn my head and see an older woman looking in my direction. I speed-walk deeper into the back rooms, and, turning the corner into a changing room, close myself into a locker.

The locker smells like BO, and I realize I’m sharing the locker with a huge furry mascot costume. And as I crowd deep into the locker, I feel a lump behind me, and then a thrill of discovery rises up in my chest. Sure enough, when I hold the light of my phone to the bag I’ve found, the brown powder is clear as day.

Once the footsteps clear outside, I take a step out of the locker and nearly run head-first into Jared.

He’s also holding a bag of brown powder, just out in the open. I’ve at least safely concealed mine in the Geoffrey the Giraffe costume.

“You should get that out of sight,” I tell him. He shrugs.

“I’ve tasted this,” he says. “It’s brown sugar. It’s a hoax.”

“Why did you taste a bag of mysterious brown powder?”

“Because I thought it was a hoax? This whole thing is really dumb. Probably just some bored employee, having a joke.”

He and I walk out the back exit on the loading dock. He fishes out a cigarette from his bag, and offers me one. I’m about to take it when I hear the sound of sirens.

Oh poo poo, I think. I grab Jared’s bag of heroin -- brown sugar, whatever -- and thrust it inside the Geoffrey costume. Then I hop off the ledge of the loading dock and stroll, in the most nonchalant way possible, around the store, over to the parking lot.

But that’s a bad move. There’s a couple of cop cars, lights flashing, idling right in front of the path to Jared’s van. One of the doors open, and a cop points at me. “Hey you,” he says, “get down!”

I turn around and look for Jared, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Before I can call out for him, someone pins me to the ground. I drop the Geoffrey costume and the two bags of brown sugar fall to the ground.

“Got him,” the cop says. “The costume thief.”

And as they put the cuffs on me, as they lead me into the cars, I see Annie, standing at the corner of the parking lot with a camera, filming my bewildered face.

“Annie,” I call out, “tell them I’m innocent!”

A squeal of wheels sounds from deeper in the parking lot, and Jared’s mom’s minivan makes it almost halfway out of the parking lot before the engine stalls. Annie turns and films that, too. I’m not sure what the story will be, but I know it won’t be long before Annie ends up on the nightly news too. Except instead of being arrested at a Toys R Us, she’ll be in front of a camera, reading a weather report.

BabyRyoga
May 21, 2001

THUNDERDOME LOSER

6th Anniversary Edition


The Zoo
Relationship: The last two who know what really happened
Relationship: Volunteers hired as scapegoats
Relationship: Ape Escape keeper and Monkeyland keeper
Location: Steam tunnels under the zoo grounds
Object: Ill-trained raptor without its hood
Need: To get even in a way the whole city will appreciate
Tilt: Two people cross paths and everything changes

Monkeyland

1498 words

Rico swallowed nervously as he clambered down the tree, descending cautiously into the Ape habitat. A bustling metropolis of primates capable of tearing even the burliest of goons to shreds stood between him and the entrance to the steam tunnels.

"Don't even think about coming back up until you've retrieved the raptor," a voice called out from above.

"Raptor? You didn't say nothin' about a dinosaur, Mr. Marino," Rico replied, lifting his mask enough to allow his lips to peek. He was wearing a cheap, shabby gorilla suit. He certainly had the appropriate stature, and it was dark. The local apes didn't know any better.

"The bird. Dinosaurs are extinct, nitwit," Marino replied, rolling his eyes. He dropped a flash light and a cap suited for a large, predatory bird over the rail, which landed at Rico's feet. "Just creep up behind it and carefully pop that hood on its head. I see the falconers do it everyday."

Rico reached down and scooped up both objects into one of his mitts, turned and strode towards the cavernous opening without missing a beat. Confidence was the key to this con, he thought, in about 40 yards he could breathe easily.

"Oh, and kid-" Marino added suddenly, spooking Rico and bringing him to an abrupt freeze. He didn't turn to face Marino, worried that doing so would blow his cover. "Do well, and i'll see what I can do about getting you a permanent position. The volunteer gunning for the Monkeyland Keeper position didn't call in today, and we are short-handed as it is." He turned back towards the feeding cart. He had just finished serving his wards their nightly feast - an assortment of fruits and garden vegetables.

With a deep breath, Rico pushed onward. About halfway to his destination, he noticed the largest silverback glaring towards him suspiciously in the corner of his eye and panicked, stumbling forward over his own legs. He caught himself just short of face-planting into the grass, fumbled around to reclaim the tools he had been given, and scrambled on all fours towards the tunnel. His heart was racing and his spine was tingling, but he managed to gallop to the entrance convincingly; even long after he had disappeared into complete darkness, it had not occurred to him that his blunder made it more so.

About 10 yards into the tunnel he collided with an iron door, a bitter-sweet sign that he was in the clear. Collecting himself, he awkwardly twisted the flash-light into the on position, scanning the nearby area for the main power switch. Once he flipped it, the area gradually lit up with an electric buzz.

Beyond the door an illuminated hallway of pipes, valves, and rails twisted in various directions into the walls, leading to other sections of the park. The Ape Escape habitat contained the only route from the surface to the underground tunnels; if there were an easier way, Rico would have found it by now. He was down there on a job - to retrieve a lost article. Under the ruse of taking a volunteer position in the Primate division, he was exploring angles that would grant him access to where he now stood. The bird incident had fallen neatly into his hands as a fluke, a dangerous job for a volunteer, but in this case it made things easy. He had no objections.

They were all sure it was down there - the world famous "Eye of the Osprey", a 37.21-carat rock that gleamed like a harvest moon. The authorities never recovered it and didn't have the slightest lead whatsoever. The families, however, were privy to exclusive information. They waited years for the trail to cool, and the eyes watching the case to divert their gaze towards more lucrative affairs. Word got out that many parties were interested in making a move, so Rico's family had decided it was time to act.

Rico marched forward, recalling the instructions he was given. Not far from the entrance door, he reached a junction. "If everything worked out accordingly, the diamond should have gone down the pipe just around this bend," he thought distractedly to himself, rounding the corner hastily. There was something he didn't notice standing there, and he firmly collided with it.

As the figure turned, Rico's eyes widened in disbelief. He was face to face with a velociraptor, staring silently back as if equally perplexed. Rico looked down at the hood in his hands, then back at the beast. He screamed fiercely, and swung the hood with all his might, striking the raptor in the jaw with it, sending it reeling. Rico used the opportunity to lunge forward, grabbing his adversary in a choke-hold. His face twitched with raw adrenaline as he locked his arms tightly. "God-damned raptor!", he snarled under his breath intimidatingly, squeezing with all of his might for several seconds before noticing it wasn't putting up any fight. He thought he heard a human gasping for air - a sound that he was profoundly acquainted with in his line of work.

He loosened his grip, but kept his guard up. "my...hood..." Words escaped from within the raptor's jaws, between wheezing and coughing. Once again, Rico looked at the hood in his hand, then back at the raptor. There was a ring-shaped mark on its neck that looked like a small crevice. He tugged on the head, lifting it off to reveal a visibly shaken man, with a different, more sanguine ring around his neck.

"Sal?" Rico asked, confused.

The man rubbed his neck and grimaced. "What, you thought I was an actual raptor? Dinosaurs are extinct, you nitwit," he moaned, glaring back at Rico. Rico stroked the fur on his mask, trying to make sense of the whole thing.

"... I needed a disguise to get down here, so I could get the jewel," Sal yelped, frustrated. Rico simply scratched his head again.

"They are loving apes. They don't know any better!" Sal continued, to which Rico shrugged.

".. Just help me get this thing open!" Sal motioned towards a pipe extending from the nearby wall, blocked by a giant, steel lid. Each of the men grabbed one side and pulled, eventually rolling the lid off to the side. Water was trickling down from above, draining from the pipe through a grate along its bottom. On top of the grate, their prize rested, too large to pass through.

"Leave it right there," a familiar voice called from around the bend. A man wearing a giant ant suit stepped into view, holding a pistol in one hand. He removed his mask.

"Marino?" both men exclaimed in unison. The Ape Escape keeper closed in, cocking his gun.

"Don't apes eat ants?" Sal interjected.

"These ones don't know any better," Marino said, with a grin. "I feed them fruit."

He wiggled his gun, motioning for the pair to distance themselves from the diamond, and immediately darted in to snatch it for himself. "I tended to those dirty apes for two long years, waiting for this moment. I knew if I waited long enough, someone would lead me right to the stone. When I noticed you two Lombardi family fucks were snooping around, I knew my day would soon come." He jabbed the muzzle of his pistol into Rico's back. "You, you first. You're following him, Mr. Monkeyland. We're marching out of here."

Marino forced the two back down the hallways of the steamy labyrinth and out into the dark of the night. When they were under the moon, he pointed his gun at them. "You're going to distract those apes, while I make my escape."

The two men stood and faced Marino, unwilling to budge. Marino stepped forward and pistol-whipped Rico in the jaw, striking his mask. The eyes of every ape and gorilla in attendance immediately focused on the three. They were howling with rage.

"Sounds like they are happy to see you," Marino scoffed. "MOVE." his raised voice incited the onlooking apes even more.

The eyes of the osprey flashed in the night sky like a sparkling amber as the predatory bird, aroused by the commotion, swooped in uninvited and lashed at Marino's face. Nobody had bothered to teach the thing any manners.

".. Heel! Down! .. S-stop!" Marino cried in pain, dropping the rock and gun as he ran about flailing, trying to dislodge the bird. He fell to his knees and shrieked, clawing at his face. If he were not so distraught from the pain, he might have noticed the shadows closing in. Several apes had encroached upon him from every direction, the largest one leaning over him and growling menacingly.

Sal bent over and picked up the diamond and pistol. "Ape Escape? You're in the wrong town. This is Monkeyland." The duo calmly made their exit knowing the mayor of Monkeyland would set things straight, and bring order to his fair city.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

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

The Covenant
1478 words

“Are ye witches?” I ask. “Speak truly.”

They shake their heads. Five of us young girls there were originally: myself, Temperance called Sybil, her cousin Temperance called Annie, and two others whose names I know not for they died before I could learn them.

“Nor I.”

Somewhere in the dark woods surrounding us stands watch the visiting minister with his long rifle. Somewhere else, the bodies of those two other girls. They were scared. They ran for home. They died slow. Beseeched we God to end quickly their terrible suffering but He did not impart His mercy. We did not, could not help them ourselves nor even approach the bodies for prayer; too fearful were we that the minister would see our Christian compassion as sinful cowardice, as attempted flight from our assigned duty, and so rifle us down the same. We will leave these woods when we summon the devil or never at all.

We walk in silence for some time. Sybil ahead then myself then Annie. It is an old indian trail. There is much wildness to it and we have neither lantern nor torch. We make way through root and branch by the light of the moon.

“I dreamed of a neighbor boy who had passed,” Sybil says, glancing back at me. “He spoke words of comfort and bid me pass them on to his family. I did. I thought it would bring them peace. That doesn’t make me a witch. It was just a dream.”

“He fell from the barn loft,” Annie says. “My sweet cos’ did cry for many nights after came news of his death. She loved him.”

“I did,” Sybil says, nodding. “I loved him. We would have married, I think. When we were old enough.” She reaches under her collar and tugs upon a woven necklace made of twine. “He gifted me this. Sometimes I would pick flowers and braid them into it.” She slows her pace until we are abreast. “I’m not a witch,” she says in a low voice. “If I was, I’d admit it. There’s no reason not to now.”

Annie appears on my other side and takes my hand like we’re sisters. A branch had snagged her colf early on in our walk and her blonde ringlets spill across her face untamed. “I forget the Lord’s Prayer,” she whispers. “Never in my heart, mind ye. But if asked to speak before the Church I lose all reason. Doesn’t even have to be the Lord’s Prayer, really. Could be anything. Words just... catch in my throat like fish in a net. I get so nervous talking in front of people. I stutter. A stutter doesn’t make me a witch!”

Sybil laces her fingers through mine. “I’d admit it,” Sybil repeats.

“No reason not to,” Annie says.

“Why take my hands so?” I ask. “Why say ye both these words? What is the meaning?”

“Your father,” Sybil whispers, her eyes scanning the woods, “stood before the Congregation and testified you commune with animals. He witnessed it on several occasions. A black mouser. A pig. Two goats.”

“Is it true?” Annie asks, squeezing hard. “Did commune thee with creatures?”

Your own father-

“Saw me, yes,” I say. “But… ‘Twas but childish games. Fanciful play and nothing more. I have not siblings nor cousins. My mother has passed. It is just my father and I and the animals. And my loneliness.” They are terribly frightened. I squeeze their hands reassuringly even though I, too, am scared. “We’ll be alright,” I say.

“Save us,” Sybil whispers. “If there be but any goodness left in ye then save us!”

A crack nearby hushes our conversation. The minister? Maybe. Or an animal. Or just the wind on branches. It is impossible to know.

Annie leans into me and cries. “I’m a Christian,” she sobs. “God’s mercy on me.”

***

We find it in the clearing. A great towering figure. Shaped like a man. As tall as a barn. Made by the townsfolk, our own families, of straw and stick and wood. Through gaps in it, I can look up and see stars.

“What now?” Sybil asks.

Light it on fire. Dance naked.

“Look not to me for leadership,” I say, shaking my head. “Heard we all the same words on what is to be done. Know I nothing more than you.”

Annie wipes her eyes. “If signed ye the Black Book…” She breaks down into sobbing.

I shush her and hold her and kiss her cheek. “We will do right,” I say. “We will be safe through God’s mercy. We will follow the ministers words. And all will be well.”

Christ took human form and was killed by the Romans. Why, the minister then argued, would not the devil suffer from that same vulnerability? We could kill him! If only he presented a target.

We are to present the target. We are to summon him. With flint and tinder. And our bodies.

We strike fire and the effigy roars to life. Such great heat and light as if it is making up for the darkness and cold we walked through before.

“Undress,” I say, fingering my own strings. “We must now undress.”

Annie shivers. “I can’t,” she says. “I can’t do this. I’m a Christian.”

“You must.”

“No!” She drops to her knees and claps together her hands. “I refuse! I’m a Christian! Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name-”

“Annie!” Sybil shouts. “We must! He’ll shoot us if we don’t!”

“Hallowed be thy name,” Annie repeats. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be… thy will...”

Her words trail off.

I see him, too. He stands at the edge of the woods. Illuminated by fire. Tall and thin and gray-bearded. His hat is pulled low across his eyes like he must shade them from the summer sun.

“The devil!” Sybil says.

“No,” I say.

Be naked,” the minister growls. “Remove thy shift. Dance for thy master.”

“I won’t,” Annie shakes her head. “I won’t do it.”

He strides towards us. His legs are long. His clothes are black. He drops his rifle in the dirt and he grabs Annie with both hands and lifts her up, up into the air. She screams and kicks.

“Witnessed I your prayers,” he growls, shaking her. “What foul council did ye offer up? Did ye warn him of our plans?”

“She spoke but the Lord’s Prayer!” Sybil says.

She knows not the words.” He brings her face towards his. His hat curls against her forehead. “Prithee, speak, ye whoremasterly pox. Prove ye your devotion to God. Speak the words. Our father. Speak them!”

But Annie can’t. She can’t get past our. Father is nothing more than a stuttering fuh-fuh-fuh. Same as when the Church bade her back a lifetime ago.

“Stop it!” Sybil cries. “She’s not a witch!”

“I’ll burn ye,” the minister says. His voice is low and dark. “You, your cousin, the world.” Annie is so small compared to him. Her feet dangle in the air. He carries effortlessly towards the effigy. He holds her back to it so that flames lick at her clothes. “Death comes for ye, girl. Call to thy master. Let thy final moments of this foul life be in service to God.”

Sybil screams. She yanks at his cloak. She isn’t strong enough. Her cousin’s clothes catch fire.

I don’t want to die.

I grab the minister’s rifle. A matchlock. Like my father’s. A burning twig lands at my feet.

A gift? A sign?

I grab it. The firing string sizzles down towards the powder and the muscles in my arms scream as loud as the girls. It is so heavy this terrible weight. The minister sees me, starts to turn, but the gun erupts. Red blood everywhere. He falls. Annie falls. Sybil frantically throws dirt on her cousin. I drop the rifle.

I don’t want to die.

***

“They’ll hang us,” I say. "Hang us together."

Annie and Sybil cling tight to one another. They are frightened.

“Save us,” Sybil whispers.

I stare at the body. Beseeched we God to end quickly the minister’s terrible suffering but He did not impart His mercy. “He was possessed,” I say slowly. “As were we all. But through God we have been redeemed and are no longer beholden to the devil. This we will tell the town.” I glance at them. “Keep ye to this covenant?”

They nod.

“Good,” I say. “I’m going to light him on fire. It will make this death look most unholy and strengthen our words. Look ye away if ye must.”

I take a burning branch and set it at the minister's feet.

“Can ye have me dream of the boy again?” Sybil asks softly. “I loved him so. I would see him once more if be it within thy power.”

The effigies burn. I stare at her and say nothing.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


Might as well post it here officially: since I'll be in bed for the expected submission deadline, I'm pushing it back to 3:59 AM Pacific. Use these 4 hours responsibly.

CascadeBeta
Feb 14, 2009

But how are you on the dance floor?


Prompt:
Last Frontier
Relationship: Current boat crew
Relationship: Cheerful competitors
Relationship: Distant relatives through obscure lineage
Location: Alaska Magic gifts and cards
Object: Purebred Weimeraner with an ear tattoo
Need: To get out of this town, because you have big dreams
Tilt: The wrong guy gets busted


Boat Trouble
Word Count: 1351



“It’s gonna be easy as apple pie, and we’ll be halfway to Houston by sunset.”


“Wait, hold on Rich, run this stupid idea by me one more time,” I said as I fed Spud another treat. He had basically been my dog since Rich found him. At least he said he found him. I called him Spud because of the weird tattoo in his ear that kind of looked like a potato. I think it could also be letters or numbers, but it was a poo poo tattoo job and it was tough to see under his dark fur. Who gives a dog a tattoo anyway? Either way he didn’t mind the bitter cold, he loved the water, and was great with people, so he was a perfect compliment to me sweating under my puke green winter jacket, my hatred of fishing and my dislike of Canadians.


We were outside the Alaska Magic Gifts and Cards, a tourist shop for the least popular tourist town in North America. It had a stereotypical Sitka totem slapped where the shingles had decayed away. It wore faded masks of three faces above a rainbow with an eagle. Something like that was either carved by a white man, a Russian or someone who saw Pocahontas once, and either way, it was as offensive as it was forgettable.


Sitka is a town of inbred hillbillies of the north, if you replace shotguns with mandatory fishing licenses, and pickup trucks with bay boats. Four times larger than Rhode Island with one percent of the population. There’s exactly one export from Sitka, and it sure as hell ain’t water, although some cowboys came up here and pitched a plan to export some from Blue Lake to India. When that fell through, a couple of the Texans got stranded here. At least, that’s what I assume, because I can’t think of another reason why someone like Rich would have stayed here.


“It’s simple, Luca,” Rich said in his stubborn drawl. Five years and he still had it like the day I met him. I wondered if he practiced in the mirror in between beard trimmings and deciding what ten gallon hat to wear. “We head in there, you cut the leash, Spud creates a mess and we grab some of the stuff in the mix and we scoot with a couple hundred bucks of product and skedaddle on the Skiff.”


We’d used the dock behind the Gifts and Cards since we got the Skiff. They either didn’t care or didn’t know they had a dock. It was supposed to be our get away after this half baked plan, but the thing was patched with duct tape and ran on prayers. That was how we bought it two years ago. Now? We couldn’t even shove off into the harbor to fish for pennies, unless we wanted to get embarrassed in front of the Canadians as our boat capsized with our meager haul of chum.


The boat wasn’t going to last much longer. Maybe one last voyage.


“Right. Apple pie. Let’s get this poo poo over with,” I muttered.


Inside was no better than outside. Shelves of wood carved statuettes, lots of awful smelling candles, and lots of cheap jewelry. I dropped my coat over one of the wicker chairs under the “Free Wifi!” sign. The register was unmanned. I figured the owner was having a smoke out back. Everything was worthless crap. Were we going to steal the whole drat store? I let Spud off his leash. He sat down and wagged his tail at me. I scratched behind his ear. “Yeah, you’re not exactly the mess making type, are you?” He twisted his head so he could lick my wrist. As I was thinking about taking Spud and heading to the harbor to bum for cash, I caught a glimmer out of the corner of my eye.


Propped against the wall on a table was a small wooden case with a glass display. The words “For Display Only” were engraved into the front. Rich said something, but I didn’t pay any attention. I was transfixed by the set of gold coins, each emblazoned with the facade of a heavily bearded Russian: Saint Nicholas II. My great grandfather had a set himself from a brother who missed the boat stateside, which my grandfather sold for a small fortune to collectors before he passed, and then my dad took the money when he skipped out. I’m not religious, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t having somewhat of a spiritual awakening while contemplating the possibility of my family line being linked to obscure Russian currency.


“See anything you like?” I jolted and slapped the case down on the table. I whipped around. A heavy man with a bushy moustache and “Reel Men Go Fishing” T-shirt stood with a grin. I leaned back on the table, palms resting on glass. Rich had slipped behind the counter, staring at the store owner’s greasy ponytail.


“I was just, you know, I’m not-,” I sputtered like a rusty motor, but nothing coherent came out. My fingers dug into the wood until they hurt.


“Hey, is the pooch yours?” He slid to one knee and rubbed Spud’s belly. Spud barked in approval and teetered onto his back. “Oh, who’s a good boy!”


I never thought I’d be freaking out about someone petting my goddamn dog, but that’s what happens when you have over ten grand resting in your palms. It makes you do stupid things, irrational things. Gold gilds the eyes of men, but in that moment, I was as clear headed as a ten year sober. Because I saw Rich loving with the register, and I wondered if this would make us even for participating in all of his stupid get rich schemes which made me poorer every time.


“Hey!” I called and pointed a finger, “Is he supposed to be doing that?”


Rich froze. The owner turned and exclaimed. Rich jumped the counter and lunged at us. The man caught him in a bear hug. The two toppled into a shelf of wood figures. They erupted from their stands. Rich’s cowboy hat flew off in the cacophony and came resting at my feet. I grabbed it and stuck the case inside. In a brisk walk, I exited the store. Sput trotted along with me, oblivious to the carnage we left behind. I turned the corner, then ran down to the dock.


And the boat was gone.


No, I realized, it wasn’t gone. The bow was breaching the surface, lazily rocking along with the waves. I laughed. It was all I could do. I tugged on the rope with my free hand but I knew it was sunk for good this time.


Spud ran out to the edge of the dock. He barked at a boat passing by. It was a nearly pristine white center console bay boat flying maple leaf colors. Those drat Canadians. They swung down to the dock. Alexis tooted a small air horn he carried with him. The two other crewmates were sitting on the back railing.


“Boat trouble?” He asked, and waved me on with his thumb.


“You have no idea.” I hopped on with Spud in tow, and glued my eyes to the back of the Gifts and Cards. I saw a cop car pull up, no lights. Nobody was heading down this way. I let go of a breath I didn’t realize I had been holding. I took the display case out of the hat and held it close to my chest.


“We were just heading out for our second trip. We hit up shoreside for some lunch. Where do you want us to drop you off?”


“Actually do you think I could tag with you guys for a while?”


“Sure,” Alexis said with a shrug. “I don’t have a problem with that. We could use the extra hand. What happened to the cowboy?”


I flipped his ten gallon hat onto my head. “Hopefully he’s halfway to Houston when we're halfway to Canada.”

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

WHO LOVES BLOOD SODA?
KEL LOVES BLOOD SODA!


I do. I do. I do-oo.


Prompt:
Boomtown
Relationship: Grew up together back East
Relationship: Tradesman and customer (wheelwright, barber)
Relationship: Siblings
Location: The hanging tree, out in the hills
Object: A mortician's black bag and a jug of phenolic acid
Need: To get laid by an ambitious and beautiful saloon girl
Tilt: Pain, followed by confusion


Boomtown, or the Resurrection of Sheriff Dunn
1495 words

Bodies did not keep together long in the Arizona heat. Left out, they tended to bloat and blister. Pack rats or vultures got in them. Dust caked their insides. If the death was cruel or violent, as it often was in the town of Guthree, matters became more complicated. There was only so much that could be covered by with powders, acids, and formaldehyde. And then, even the best mortician had to be careful. Certain chemicals became dangerous if overused.

It was very unpleasant.

As he looked up at the thing dangling from the tree, Williams thought a lot about how he might fix up the corpse. The battered legs and rope-burned arms could be concealed by a suit, but the skin looked rough and emaciated. Blowflies danced around the purple face. The nose looked less broken than smashed. Draped across his thigh were the tattered, empty remains of his gun holster.

He cleared his throat, “That Sheriff Dunn?”

Tabitha nodded, but her face remained stony. Being a good and faithful Christian, it was not Williams’s nature to pry. Still, his work meant that he heard a good many things, like the amount of time the sheriff spent at Tabitha’s saloon after hours and the fifty dollars the sheriff had been saving for a jeweler out in Phoenix.

“And I’m assuming this here is the doing of the Barnwell Brothers?”

“Bastards.”

Williams removed his hat, revealing a few sun-burnt strands of hair. The Barnwell Brothers weren’t known for being smart, but their gang reveled in brutality. They razed crops and poisoned watering holes. They killed lawmen and set up personal fiefdoms, only to burn them down when the U.S. marshals showed up. Both former Confederates, the brothers took more pleasure in wreaking havoc than making money. Reason was beyond them.

It wouldn’t be long until they rolled back into town, armed to the teeth, to have their fun. Less a robbery than a sack.

“Can’t say I object too much with that characterization, ma’am. Awful, disgusting thing,” He spat in the dirt. “I always had the utmost respect for Sheriff Dunn. He had a hard business, but always acted the gentleman.”

Tabitha removed a handkerchief from her bag, but her eyes remained dry. She balled the fabric in her fist. “Probably ambushed outside the boarding house around midnight. Got him coming back from the saloon. I should have let him stay inside.”

“Awful thing. Such an awful thing,” Williams nodded in a gentle, consoling manner. Were they at his mortuary, he would rattle off some Bible verse to comfort the lady, but the untreated corpse made it difficult to think. Its smell was pungent. “I could give you a discount on the casket and the embalming, given the circumstances, but I suspect you’ll be wanting out of town.”

Silence fell between them. Williams fidgeted, waiting for a response. It would not be possible to pack everything before the brothers arrived, but he had almost $500 and a deed hidden away in the fabric of his bag.

“Just to clarify,” he added as a gust blew past them, “I’ve got an extra seat on my buggy. If you’d like to accompany me to safety...”

“The cowards robbed him of his life and his horse, but they won’t have his decency. I’ll make sure of that.”

Williams frowned, unsure how to exit the conversation. There was so much preparation to do and so little time. Flies buzzed above them. “I could probably arrange something small today if that’s what you want, but then we’d be hard-pressed to get out of town before the Barnwells arrive. I really must insist that we—.”

“I ain’t running and I ain’t hiding. This town is ours and I do not intend to sit idle while these cowards take more from me.”

“I’m afraid I’m a little confused then. What exactly do you want?”

Tabitha flashed him a sad smile. “I’m awfully sorry to do this Mr. Williams, but I need your skills.” She opened her bag again and from its recesses removed a pistol, Sheriff Dunn’s gun. “You’re going to help me bring a man back from the dead.”

***

In his life, Williams had seen many strange expressions of grief. He had seen weeping women fling themselves into open graves. He had once seen a father eat six apple pies before vomiting great green chunks into a pew. Still, pulling a gun on an undertaker to make him embalm your dead lover as marauders approached seemed a bit much.

Williams cleared his throat as he set his black bag down in the dusty street. Tabitha’s horse watched him with strange bemusement. “Ma’am, please forgive the vulgarity, but I think this might be the most goddamn stupid idea in the history of mankind.”

She pointed the sheriff’s gun at the horse. Sighing, Williams rubbed his hands together. Sweat clung to his forehead. With a considerable heave, he slung Sheriff Dunn’s body onto the horse. With a second heave, managed to get one of the legs into the stirrup. Tabitha crossed behind him, gun still in hand, and yanked Dunn’s body. He winced. The second leg fit into the stirrup.

“Luckily, Mr. Williams, I’m a poor, illiterate dancer with no concern for history.” The body sagged to one side in its saddle. She frowned. “Now, how would you recommend we get him to sit up straight? Rope?”

In the short time time that he had the corpse, Williams had tried to make the body as presentable as possible. Powder concealed the bruising around the neck. Formaldehyde covered up the worst of the rotten smell, but, in his nervousness and desperation to clean up the wounds, he had almost showered the body in picric acid. Instead of dead, the body smelled antiseptic.

“I just don’t see how this all is going to work.”

“Dullards are a supernatural lot. All we got to do is spook them into leaving us be.”

“And how exactly is putting a corpse on a horse supposed to do that? They just gonna turn tail the moment they see him? Why? Will they think he’s a ghost? A demon?” Williams spat before collecting himself again. He softened his voice, trying to remain calm. “Look, I know that you’re upset, but you haven’t thought this whole thing through. We can still get outta here.”

Tabitha said nothing. Instead, she pointed out toward the rising sun. In the distance, a group of men rode toward town.

***

There was silence as the sun crested over the hills, spilling light into the valley. In the early morning hours, Williams could see few signs of life. The church bell swayed in its spire. Behind a row of ramshackle houses was the dark wood of his mortuary and an endless sea of dead grass. Most people had retreated inside or fled while there was still time. Whether they were running from wrath of Tabitha or the marauders was an open question.

“Come on. Come on,” whispered Tabitha from their hiding spot inside the saloon. The noise of hoofsteps grew closer. Then, it stopped.

“What in the goddamn? Joe, you seeing this?”

Williams peaked his head out from the doorway. The Barnwell Brothers sat on their horses, gaping at the remains of Sheriff Dunn, who had fallen as far as the saddle and ropes would allow him to go. Something clear and wet dripped from his emancipated form. The younger horseman, Joe, trotted around the corpse.

“I don’t even know where to start with this, Ohmer.” Said the older, his face screwed up in concentration. “This a joke? They laughing at us?”

Behind Williams, Tabitha cursed. From the corner of his vision, he saw the looming silhouette of her gun.

Williams grabbed her by the arm. “Wait.” He looked back and forth between the small mess that the corpse was making and the body. “Wait, just wait a second.”

Tabitha pressed against him. “What’s wrong?”

The younger horseman lifted his leg from the stirrup and kicked the abused body of Sheriff Dunn. The body wiggled from its moorings and toppled off the horse, who reared in terror and sprinted away.

“Y’all think you’re being funny with this? You think you’re cute cutting your sheriff down and sending him back to us, you disgusting, pencil-necked cretins?” Shouted Ohmer. He trotted his horse around the square. His fingers danced around his gun holster.

The undertaker looked again at the chemical mess.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” said Williams. His heart thumped in his chest. “We need to get away from this door.”

“Use your words, God drat it.” Tabitha said.

Joe pointed his gun at the fallen body, the body that had been dried in the sun, the body that had been saturated with pectic acid and formaldehyde and God knows what other chemicals. “I’ll show you what we think of your fuckin’ jokes.”

He turned to face her as the marauder readied gun. “I’ve made a human bomb.”

sandnavyguy
Sep 12, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Prompt!

Your playset is Lucky Strike!
Relationship: Secret murderers
Relationship: Fish-out-of-water farm boys
Relationship: Poker buddies
Location: Beneath the auditorium stage
Object: Colonel's war booty, secured in an oddly heavy crate
Need: To get out of the war, which is driving you insane
Tilt: Cold-blooded score-settling


Promises

1498 words

Alfie sighed as the last of his chips disappeared, and walking over to the exit with a half-hearted wave, the new sergeant quietly bemoaned the loss of his paycheck. His solid frame was built through years of hard labor on his father's 40 acres of Nebraska gold, and he threw open the heavy oak doors of the Enlisted Club with ease despite the bottle of whiskey he'd put away during the game.

The cool winter air whisked away the scent of pipe tobacco, the rich smell of the dew covered fields at his new duty station a welcome respite from the acrid stench of black powder and rot Alfie had come to know in the trenches. He dug a Lucky Strike from his fatigue pocket and his naphtha from his boot as he walked up the gravel walkway toward the smoke deck gazebo. He bent down to light his cigarette but paused when he saw a hunched over soldier feeding scraps of food to a stray calico over the deck railing. With a smile he walked over to the freckled young private and rested his arms on the cracked birch plank, staring out over the French landscape that stretched beyond the reserve base's border.

“You know you're not supposed to feed the strays, right Jaimie?” Alfie said quietly, leaning over to ignite the tobacco. “Someone's gonna call you out one of these nights, and I ain't gonna be able to do much to stop 'em.”

“C'mon Sarge, look at this lil' guy.” Jaimie began petting the purring cat, small tufts of fur billowing up and sticking to the teen's own shaggy mop of ruddy red hair. “It ain't got a home either, it's got just as much a reason to eat as me.”

Alfie felt a pang in his chest, the snake like guilt slithering up in his throat again. Jaimie looked so much like his brother, and when mind drifted back to that promise he'd made Jeb in that damned trench, he couldn't help but see his old friend reflected in this boy's eyes. He'd been able to get a transfer to stick the kid away from the front lines, but still... it was no guarantee they'd be able to stay together. He had to figure out a way to get back stateside, and soon.

Suddenly a rock came flying through the gazebo, hitting with an audible thunk against the stray's flank and sending the animal yowling into the night. Alfie whirled around to see the large figure of Staff Sergeant Lockheed stride up to them, the cards the group had been using held against his rolled up sleeves.

“Fuckin' filthy beasts, if I had my rifle handy I'd cull the ingrates myself,” he muttered as he lit his cigar and leaned against the corner of the gazebo. “Hey boy,” the NCO barked in Jaimie's direction, “Next time give it a good smack instead of petting it like a candy-rear end. It's unbecoming of a soldier in my unit.”

Jaimie blushed hard, his face becoming ruddy and his eyes beginning to water. With a cough he quickly descended the smoke deck steps and walked quickly back toward the barracks. Lockheed chuckled darkly as he turned and met Alfie's angry gaze.

“That's over the line, Lockheed. You're lucky I don't knock those teeth right down that city-boy throat.”

Lockheed stepped back a bit, his voice softening as he replied, “Hey now, just a friendly suggestion, from one old war buddy to another,” he grinned. “Besides, I have a proposition for you that might help your boy out, eh?” lowering his voice, he added, “It's been a while, Alfie, but it's time for another job.”

***

Jaimie stood by the idling get-away truck, waiting for the guard to make his way over from the back of the drill hall. The ceremony for the change of command was well underway, and all eyes were on the bigwigs inside. Except for the eyes of the scrawny night watchman striding over to him, those were locked on his aviators. He watched as Alfie and Lockheed stepped out from behind the oleander bush, quietly opening the door and slipping into the bottom level of the Auditorium.

The Colonel has those German tapestries from the early marches, they're stored in that safe under the drill hall since the armory is too full. It'll be an easy gig, man. You guys want outta this place right? Don't worry Jaimie, your brother and Alfie were old hats at this. In and out it should only take about 10 minutes, just wait for us and we'll do all the dirty work.

Jaimie ran out of chitchat 15 minutes into the conversation, and when the guard finished his second cigarette the young man was completely out of ways to distract him. He'd just given up when he saw the first tendrils of smoke curl out from beneath the door frame, then he broke into a run.

***

Alfie slipped in the back door with Lockheed as the guard moseyed on over to where Jaimie was standing. What a charmer, just like his brother, he thought to himself. The boy had a simple role, but it was his first, and hopefully last, job like this. Quickly descending the steps of the hall and into the storage space below the stage, he used the light from his old smuggling partner to illuminate the heavy cedar crate that held the key to their freedom.

The din from the party above was loud enough to cover the sound of Alfie's crowbar as he pried open the lid and began hauling out the heavy silk tapestries within onto the dirt floor below. Good, let's get these out of here, then I'll split the pay with the kid and get the hell-

CLICK

Alfie froze, the cold edge of a revolver pressing into the back of his neck. “Lockheed, what-”

“Sorry mate, it's just business. Old man Lestrada doesn't want any loose ends after that botched wet-work job in Prague,” Lockheed said, calmly taking a slight step back and setting down the kerosene lamp as Alfie slowly turned around to face him. “And after that nancy Jeb saved your rear end in Nice, well, I guess a gas attack with a sabotaged mask wasn't enough to take you down. But now? I'm gonna stop a robbery in progress.” I'll take my cut and your boy out there will take the fall. Bye, Alfie.”

He pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. In the moment it took for the large man to realize his gun had jammed, Alfie had knocked the firearm from his hand and into the lamp, the kerosene spraying across the room setting the tapestries alight. The two men tumbled back and forth together as the smoke and flames filled the room, and the party above erupted into cries of fear.

Lockheed broke free and sprinted out of the room as Jaimie came stumbling in choking on smoke. The last thing Alfie saw as the boy drug him out of that stairwell, clothing spotted here and there with burning embers, was Jeb's watch glinting in the firelight from his wrist.

***

Alfie stared vacantly out the infirmary window at the breaking dawn, a fresh medical discharge letter in his gauze-bound hands. It was a solid retirement, and he'd be able to nab that farm on the outskirts of Topeka. But none of that was on his mind as the tears rolled down his soot stained cheeks. He had just finished his interview with the Military Police, and he was caught in a whirlwind of emotions: relief, that the MPs were satisfied with his version of events that night following the disturbed Lockheed who’d been heavily drinking; anger, that Lockheed was in the wind, fleeing into the night; but over all else was guilt, that Jaimie was still unconscious in the bed next to his.

Slowly, Alfie stumbled out of his rack and hobbled over to Jaimie's limp body wrapped in bandages that covered most of his left side. The medics told him the boy should make it with only some minor disfigurement on his body, but it was touch and go until he decided to wake up. Gently he stroked his fiery hair, the sleeping face so much like Jeb's when the pain was gone and his expression went slack. When Alfie cried against his chest in that filthy trench, breathing through the unbroken mask Jeb had thrust on him as the gas canisters fell. His choked pleas the last thing he'd said to Alfie in confidence, after so many nights together far from home.

“I'll protect you Jaimie,” Alfie whispered, foot brushing against the boy's twin termination letter flung haphazardly to the floor by an errant nurse. “I made a promise, and I'll always be by your side.” Praying softly, he looked up at the window once more and watched through swimming eyes as the sun bathed the grassy fields in gold.

Then Jaimie opened his eyes.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Prompt:
You get Home Invasion!
Relationship: Husband and husband
Relationship: Treasurer and thief
Relationship: Home business partners
Location: Long-occupied house without a stick of furniture in it
Object: Calcination chamber, fully prepared
Need: To get over nameless fear that may soon have a name
Tilt: A frantic chase

There's No Place Like Home
1421 words

The troubles in Oakview Estates started when the new neighbor moved in across the street.

Duane Peterman was hoisting his brand new XL American Flag when a gleaming Ford F-250 Black Ops edition rolled down the street towards him, followed closely by a yellow moving truck. The Ford purred into the driveway across the street while the moving truck made a considerably greater racket grinding to a halt against the curb. Duane stepped back and watched as both vehicles disgorged a cacophony of moving boxes, exercise equipment, couches, chairs, tables, and other items. Over the next hour all of it was swallowed into the house as Duane watched from his front porch, sipping coffee and pretending to read the latest Oakview Estates newsletter.

When a a suitable period of time had passed, Duane decided it was time to introduce himself to his new neighbors. Over the past two months — and without anyone asking him — Duane had been mowing, fertilizing, trimming, taking care of junk mail and newspapers; all to keep the vacant property sharp for prospective owners. As president of the Oakview Estates Homeowners Association he felt it was his duty to keep it looking good. Sure that the new owners would appreciate his efforts, he sauntered across the street and poked his head inside the front door just as a man bounded up the stairs from the basement.

"Hey neighbor!" Duane called. "I'm Duane Peterman. I live across the street."

The man was about three inches taller than Duane and veins popped from his muscular arms as he approached and extended his hand. "Hi Duane, I'm Richard." His grip was strong, and Duane's knuckles flared in pain. "Nice to meet you. That's a great flag you've got."

"Thanks. Brand new. Made in the USA, of course." There was a pause as the two men sized each other up. "Is your wife here, or..?"

"Not married. It's just me and the dogs." Richard's slate eyes locked on him, unwavering. Duane hadn't seen any evidence of dogs.

"Ah, well just keep them on a leash, you know?" Duane said with a dry chuckle. He meant it as a lighthearted joke, a segue into mentioning that he was HOA president, but Richard stepped past him onto the front porch and gazed at the lawn.

"This'll need some work," he said. "Previous owners must not have cared much about the grass, huh?" Richard cracked his knuckles and his sculpted pectorals rippled under his tight black t-shirt.

Duane straightened and flexed his stomach inward so it didn't press against his shirt. "Yeah, well, they did okay." His head began to throb. "If you need any tips, you know..." he pointed across the street to his own lawn.

Richard regarded him. "Sure, Duane. I'll be certain to ask if I need any help." It was clear he had no such intent.

"Fine, well, I'll let you get back to moving." Duane kept his voice affable. "Oh, and if you need anything I'm president of the HOA. Just let me know."

Richard raised one eyebrow. "Are you now? Well, that's definitely good to know."

Duane didn't like the way he'd said that.

*

Life in Oakview Estates had deteriorated quickly. Pets went missing. People stopped going outside. More and more "For Sale" signs popped up, and as new residents moved in it wasn't families with young children—it was single men with loud trucks and motorcycles, who came and went all odd hours of the day and night. HOA meeting became contentious, with hurled insults and in one memorable instance, hurled furniture. The long-time residents weren't happy with the changes to the neighborhood, but what could Duane do? None of the new residents were in violation of the association covenant. They paid their dues and kept their lawns green and manicured.

Especially Richard. His lawn was a verdant, luxurious green, carefully trimmed, perfectly edged. Droplets of dew glistened upon it every morning, each blade brushed and massaged into a obscene symphony of fecund green.

Duane's lawn developed mites, which caused vast tracks to turn yellow, then brown with death. He lost his job at the factory, and money became tight. He started a home business making Daddles — "The Daddy Saddle" — but eBay customers were few and far between. His wife asked for a trial separation. His kids were failing school. He started laundering the HOA dues through his home business to cover the bills. Times were desperate.

Duane's once idyllic life in Oakview Estates had taken a very dark turn.

*

It was a beautiful morning, birds chirping, sun shining, but Duane was having none of it. He yanked his now tattered American flag to the top of the pole aggressively. Across the street Richard sprinkled a bone-white fertilizer onto his perfect lawn.

The animal part of Duane's brain took control. He strode across the street and approached his musclebound neighbor.

"What's this poo poo you're putting on your lawn? You have HOA approval?"

Richard gave him a cool stare. The sun beat down upon the bald spot on Duane's head and perspiration prickled long-dead follicles.

"It's food powder. Secret formula," Richard said. "None of your business."

"I'm HOA president. Everything is my business."

Richard kept spinning the spreader. White flecks peppered Duane's outdoor slippers. "It's all natural," Richard said. "Don't worry about it." His biceps bulged.

"We'll see at the next meeting. I'm filing an official complaint."

'You do that," Richard shot back. "Also be sure to tell everyone about your little daddy-saddle business enterprise. Don't leave out the part where you embezzle HOA funds through it."

Duane was speechless. He'd been so careful. How did he know about that?

Richard turned his back went back to fertilizing his lawn. Duane numbly went back to his coffee on his porch.

*

Two hours later Duane was inside Richard's garage, flashlight in one hand, the last dregs of a bottle of scotch in the other.

Using a key gifted from the previous residents, Duane had broken into the garage. Richard was at work and wouldn't be home for hours. Time to find out what was going on.

Time to find out what had happened to his Oakview Estates.

The garage had a Ford F-250-sized hole carved into piles and rows of boxes, furniture, exercise equipment, more and more boxes, as if he'd never moved in. Very strange.

Duane pushed through the door into the main house, and stopped in shock.

It was totally empty.

No furniture, no TV's, no appliances. No sign that anyone lived here. Duane's head reeled. He'd heard the rumors on cable television, seen the web sites. The Earth had been invaded, but only a very few knew. How the governments had been infiltrated, neighborhoods reduced to alien-controlled wastelands.

Clearly, Richard was not from around here. An alien had invaded Oakview Estates. And Duane was president. He had to act.

He stepped forward and looked around. It was eerily quiet but for a slight slurping sound beneath his feet.

Something in the basement.

Duane crept down the steps one by one into the darkness below. The chewing, slurping sounds grew louder.

He fumbled for a light switch at the bottom, hands scrabbling against the wood, then found it and flipped it on.

Quivering, pulsating masses of flesh hung from the ceiling. Each twisted around its neighbor to reach the spray of white food powder coming from the machine at the center of the room. Below it a fiery calcination chamber raged, fueled by a hopper feeding it alternating piles of old grass clippings and dead neighborhood pets.

Oakview estates was being reduced to pet food and fertilizer. And all under his watch.

A door slammed. "Hey! Who's down there?" It was Richard.

Duane steeled himself. He grabbed an abandoned wrench and crouched low.

Richard crept down the stairs.

When he reached the bottom Duane lunged.

His wrench connected with the side of Richard's skull, and together they tumbled towards the center of the room. Richard ended up on top, and raised a thick knife, but Duane kicked up, hard, and sent Richard sailing right into the heart o the molten calcination chamber.

The fire flared up with its new fuel, then settled back into a regular, slow burn. Soon all evidence of Richard was gone.

One down, a neighborhood to go.

Duane was president. And his job was to kill the aliens of Oakview Estates.

Time was short. Duane heaved his pipe wrench up to his shoulder and got to work.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Scrag
922 words

The sun rose over black rocks flecked with the ocean’s spray. Tufts of grass blew in the icy morning wind. Theo sat on the edge of the cliff, with Finn beside him, tantalizingly close. Soon, he would need to return to the monastery, but for now, they had this moment.

__——__

The two shoved off from the cliff and rowed back towards the monastery in silence. The strain of the work took their full attention.

They breached the sliver of rough gray sand that passed for a beach, and Theo sprung out onto the damp sand. Finn followed, and with rough hands he heaved the canoe, wet and dripping, onto his shoulder. He slapped it down at the base of the jagged cliff face, where the stairs cut into the rock began.

“Come on,” Theo called to the man, and scampered up the stairs.

Brother Jonathan was tending the garden outside the monastery walls as the two climbed into view. He looked up from the plots of sage and chamomile. “Brother Theodosus,” the monk said. The hood of his heavy brown cloak flared out, buffeted by the chill wind whipping along the outer wall. “Were you gone all night?”

“No, Brother Jonathan. I woke early, completed my morning duties, and went to the beach to watch the sunrise. This fisherman happened by in his canoe, and I offered him breakfast.”

“Canoe?” The old monk squinted at the man, who raised his chin in response. “That’s not a proper fishing craft. Haven’t I seen you before?”

“No, no, I just use it to get around the isles,” Finn said. “For fishing I go out on a real vessel, tall sails, a right beaut, owned by a fella I know, along with three of his mates.”

Theo kicked a rock. “We were getting hungry, Brother Jonathan…”

The old man tossed a glance through the open gate. “Go on, then.”

__——__

Finn and Theo argued in Theo’s quarters after the meal. Theo was upset Finn had tried to hawk his trinkets in the refectory. “Made from catgut and flattened coins,” Theo said, sulking, sitting crosslegged on the floor. “And trying to sell religious items in a monastery! What were you expecting?”

“I had to try!” Finn wanted to pace, but the room was too small and cramped. The two barely fit inside. “That’s why I came here. The mast snapped in the storm. The others won’t be going out on another fishing trip for two weeks, maybe longer.” He flopped on the bed, and peered through the tiny window at gulls playing over the sea.

Then he looked over at his friend, reached out, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Why don’t you join me up here, Theo.”

Theo pushed his arm away and jumped to his feet. “No, I took a vow—I mean… I’m going to take one…”

Finn pushed past and elbowed the door open, muttering about “all sodding piss pots.”

__——__

Brother Jonathan met Theo in the hall. “Theodosus, I wish to speak to you about your bringing outsiders here,” he said. “It creates an uncomfortable situation with the other brothers. They talk about you—”

“Let them!”

“Theo—” Brother Jonathan sighed. The years hung heavy on his lids. “That’s not really what I wanted to talk to you about. I took you in sixteen years ago, when you were found abandoned on the beach. As a kindness. I knew not your parentage or place of origin. You know, you weren’t even weaned properly—I raised you first on sheep’s and goat’s milk, do you remember?”

Theo shook his head.

“I fed you with my own hand.”

“What is your point?”

“I raised you, asking nothing for myself, merely service to the Lord. I wanted to instill in you ideas of calm and humility and understanding. I wanted to offer you the possibility of a life of devotion here, if you wished it—”

“I do, Brother Jonathan, you know that—”

“But not—not to force you to take it. I wanted also to tell you you were free to go, if you so desired.”

“No, I don’t want to leave.”

The old man sighed. “And that’s the problem. How can you know? You’ve hardly ever left this island. There’s much more to the world than fisherman’s sons and salty rocks and gruel. I want you to go and find it.”

Theo squinted, trying to understand what he was being told. “Brother…”

“I’m telling you to go, away, out into the world. Away from these fishing villages and the sea. There’s so much more to know of life.”

“But the Abbot—”

“It’s all been arranged. Your travel pack is assembled and waiting at the top of the steps.”

“And… But… How will I get out of here?” Theo’s face was souring. “Finn’s already left—”

“No, I talked to him outside. He’s waiting on the beach with his canoe.” Brother Jonathan’s face turned soft. He whispered: “You can do this, Theo. You’ve learned enough to begin to truly learn. About the world. About yourself.” He opened his eyes and fixed Theo with a steady gaze. “Now go, and do not return for three months. Then, you can make your decision.”

“And if I never return?”

Jonathan’s eyes were closed, and he said, almost inaudible: “Then I’ve done my job.”

He watched the boy disappear down the hallway with a lump in his throat. Whatever Theo decided now, it was his choice to make. He was free.

Relationship: Relic peddler and religious zealot
Relationship: Protector and protected
Relationship: Chaste, yet burning for one another
Location: The medicinal garden at Cosimo's court
Object: Newborn bastard
Need: To defend Florence from her own ungodly vanity
Tilt: A dangerous animal (perhaps metaphorical) gets loose

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.

Antivehicular posted:


Your thing is Touring Rock Band!
Relationship: Public enemies, private friends
Relationship: You owe him your life
Relationship: Former member of the band/tour personnel
Location: Above the stage
Object: Trailer full of theatrical lights
Need: To get wasted with some cool local teenagers
Tilt: Greed leads to killing


Not a Musical Bone in Their Body 1490 words

Shirley and Jon tuned their instruments, while Elton sat in the back of the plane on the phone doing whatever a manager did. Well, Jon tuned. Shirley yelled and slapped herself in the chest. Elton didn’t play anymore, though. Not since the accident. Hence: manager.

Not the best manager ever, but he was a founding member of the band, so they let him have it.

“?” said Elton. I mean, there were words there, but what with Shirley’s yelling, they kind of missed it. “!!!?” he said, louder this time.

Shirley paused mid-scream. “Sorry, were you saying something?”

“You got your chutes?”

Jon and Shirley patted the straps of their parachutes. “Yeah, we’re ready,” said Jon.

“Sure would be a shame if yours failed,” said Elton.

Shirley shook her head and recommenced yelling.

“!!!!!” said Elton, holding up five fingers. Shirley and Jon glanced at their watches and nodded. They’d gone over the plan plenty of times.

With four minutes to go, the two of them headed towards the door of the plane, Jon with his guitar slung low, and Shirley gripping her drum sticks. They’d toyed with the idea of jumping with a full drum kit, but after going through four sets, had concluded that wasn’t a workable plan.

The two of them jumped, Jon playing a long power chord, and Shirley unleashing a powerful scream. The technology that allowed them to sing and play from a height of 4,000 metres was a closely guarded secret. Or had been, until they had stolen it from the Maitland chapter of the mob. Hopefully the mob weren’t still mad about that.

As they drew to within 1,000 metres of the stage, they started to notice the first signs that something wasn’t as it should be. Shirley’s drum kit didn’t appear to be in its appointed spot in the middle of the stage, and yes, Shirley could tell, because she had exceptional eyesight. Additionally, the stage lights seemed to be pointing the wrong way. They should’ve been pointing towards the stage to light them up on their triumphant arrival, but instead they were haphazardly pointed at various sections of the crowd.

Which led into the final clue that something was amiss, which was that instead of their usual audience of adoring, screaming and (most importantly, according to Jon) drug taking teenagers, they were greeted by an army of skeleton warriors. The skeletons did not seem overly impressed by them.

They deployed their chutes at 200 metres from the stage, which kind of ruined the acoustics of the whole thing, but also made them not die, so it seemed like a necessary trade off.

“Well,” said Shirley, looking around at the skeletons, “this crowd is kind of dead.”

Jon shook his head in disgust.

“Hey, whatever, that pun ruled,” said Shirley. To the skeletons, she yelled, “Are you all ready to rock!?”

The skeletons did not move or speak. “I don’t think they’re ready,” said Jon.

“This should warm them up,” said Shirley. She walked over to her drum kit and played the opening fill for Smash Your Love Into My Face. As one, the skeletons looked up at her. “See?” she screamed. “They’re getting it!”

Jon joined in with his guitar, and their voices rose together. “Hey baby, (hey baby!) my face is in need of your love. (Your love!) Hey baby, (hey baby!) my face needs it some of that love. (That love!)”

Again, as one, the skeletons started walking towards the stage, and indeed the closest skeletons started to climb up onto it.

“No crowd on the stage!” said Jon, although still shredding. “Dammit, where’s our security?” He glanced to the side of stage, where instead of their security, some skeletons started walking towards them.

“You know what,” said Shirley, “I’m starting to think Elton may not be a very good manager.”

Jon shrugged. “He got us paid up front, I mean that’s worth something.”

“I guess,” said Shirley. She picked up her cymbals and sliced them through the air at a nearby skeleton. Its skull separated from its body, the skeleton stopped, dropped to its bony knees, and started feeling about on the floor for its skull. Shirley kicked the skull off the front of the stage, into the crowd of skeletons. The skeletons cheered and started to throw the skull around between various parts of the crowd.

“Play Freebird!” yelled one smartass skeleton somewhere in the middle.

The skeletons near the front of the stage walked closer and closer to the two of them. They decapitated many of them and sent their skulls into the crowd, but the skeletons kept comings, and the two of them were forced to climb the stage’s scaffolding. They reached the top of the scaffolding, with the skeletons climbing up behind them. Shirley and Jon kicked many of them down into the crowd, but for every skeleton they sent into the crowd, another skeleton would quickly take its place.

“That’s it, I’m calling Elton,” said Shirley.

“In the middle of a gig?” asked Jon.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Shirley, “would it be unprofessional of me to make a phone call while a horde of skeletons is trying to murder me on stage?”

Jon shrugged. “I dunno, maybe kinda? The show must go on, right?”

~

4,000 kilometres above in a holding pattern, Elton’s phone rang. “Hang on,” he said, to whoever it is he was talking to, “I really must take this one.”

“Hey, Shirley? What, really? Hmmm. No. Yes. Yes, I see. No, they definitely weren’t supposed to be skeletons. No, wasn’t mentioned in the contract. No, I’ll get on that right away.”

Elton walked to the cargo hold of the plane, got in the seat of the special effects trailer, and got out his phone again. “Yes, hello, Ace? Yes, I need you to open the cargo hold door for me. Yes, I’m aware of that. Yes, that too. Ye- no, I wasn’t aware of that one. With a kumquat, you say? Well, be that as it may, I still need you to open the door. All right, thanks.”

He looked behind him as the cargo hold door opened, then took off the handbrake of the trailer. Then he walked into the back of the trailer and started switching on everything.

~

Shirley saw it first, because she had excellent eyesight. “Yo, is that a comet?”

“I dunno,” said Jon. “Looks kind of rectangular for that.”

“Oh, it’s our special effects trailer.”

Jon shook his head in admiration. “That’s amazing. I can barely make out the shape from here.”

Their special effects trailer was lit up like a Christmas tree, but not just any Christmas tree. It was lit up like a Christmas tree that’d been dragged through a special effects trailer.

I mean really, it was probably more accurate to say it was lit up like a special effects trailer. But one where are the special effects within were switched on. I mean, I guess I’m straying a little bit from simile now, and more towards a completely literal description.

Elton was standing on top of the Christmas tree special effects trailer, still talking on his phone. “Oi,” he said, “next time your venue is populated entirely by skeletons, I expect some advance warning. If I’d known my band’s lives were going to be threatened by the undead, I would’ve demanded at least double the amount.”

His conversation was cut short, however, as the trailer made a small crater in the crowd, scattering skeletons left and right. Seeing their chance, Jon and Shirley jumped, hung onto the banner and slid down to the stage, then ran towards the special effects trailer.

Elton sat in the middle of the crater, a little worse for wear and feeling very sorry for himself. “Ow,” he said.

“Help me move some of these,” said Shirley, and she and John threw a bunch of the special effects things out of the trailer and into some of the skeletons who were now approaching their trailer. After much rummaging and throwing of objects, they uncovered the motorbike and sidecar which was there. It’d been reserved for the finale of one of their shows, but this seemed like a more pressing need. They gently crammed Elton into the sidecar, then Shirley sat down on the bike seat, while Jon perched on the handlebars.

“Let’s blow this dump,” said Jon.

Shirley pulled some shades on, then nodded and hit the gas. Jon held his feet out in front of him, and gave a solid kicking to any skeletons that attacked them, and they sped away.

“I didn’t even get to get high,” said Jon, sadly. “What’s the point of being a rock star if I can’t get trashed with a bunch of underage groupies?”

Shirley gave him a thoughtful look, then pushed him off the front of the bike, and kept going.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Antivehicular posted:

Relationship: One-night standees
Relationship: Doctor and patient
Relationship: Neds with a proud set of ASBOs
Location: Backpackers' hostel
Object: Bottle of rat poison
Need: Tae get home, 'cause you've got no loving clue where you've woken up
Tilt: Someone panics
Moonshine (1475 words)

Sean Irving’s faculties were waterlogged with whiskey. He blinked - twice, thrice - as Erika entreated him to rise to his feet. She had a vested interest in his mobility, as the two were shackled at the wrist and naked.

“Right then, up up, ya floose.”

“The Hell,” Sean yawned, “The Hell is this?”

“Bit of a fix, I’d say.” Erika looked to the stars. “A ways past midnight, I’ll wager. Oughta get back.” She tried for a confident tone, her breathing cold and nervous.

“Back? Back!?

Sean leapt to his feet, wide-eyed, lost his footing, and toppled down the hill with Erika in tow. It was a calm, cloudless night, and the highlands were aglow in a somber blue light.

“Aaaf-ook-urk-un!”

Sean came to a stop, and Erika ploughed into his side. He shook his head and combed the forward curl of his beard with his fingers. The fall had served to sober him up.

“The Hell were we up to, lass?”

“Memory’s…” Erika spit out some grass. She looked like she’d been run through the dryer. “Memory’s a fog.”

There’d been drinking. She remembered that. Drinking and boasting and daring and singing, the inky black void of dwindling inhibitions. She’d taken up hiking; doctor’s orders. “Could do to get away from it all,” he’d said. She’d met Sean at the hostel halfway up the trail. “Sharks can smell sharks, or so they say.” So they talked and laughed and made untoward proposals. Then they popped the bottle, and the world grew small.

She’d been the first to wake up on the hillside, to take stock of the situation. It’d taken ten minutes to rouse Sean from his stupor.

“Crivens.” She wrapped her arms around herself. “We’re practically down the far side of the mountain.”

“First time you been out and about in the skud?”

“Well,” she said, “The handcuffs are new.”

“Best fetch our things then. Get dressed, get back. Should be around here, somewhere.”

“Had a look already fore I shook ya awake. I think,” she swallowed, “I think we might’ve gone and done a bit of a moonlit run. What’s ours is probably back at the base.”

Sean’s eyes snapped hard into focus. “We’ve gotta go.” He staggered to his feet, remembered his companion, and helped her up. Her short, disheveled hair was strangely bewitching in the moment, but his attention didn’t linger for more than that. He went into a soft sprint. Erika, compelled to follow, held her own.

“I mean, I agree,” she said, her breathing sharp, short, and controlled, “But I’d say stealth were our proper course of action. Can’t say I’d fancy-

“Just run,” said Sean, his breathing already ragged, his mind transfixed on the common room fireplace where his backpack wa tucked to the right of the hearth.

***

Bones Dougan spilled the contents of Sean’s backpack across the floor. His wallet, his keys, his cellphone, a map, a change of clothes, a bag of trailmix, a water bottle and several others (green, glistening, and empty) littered the floor. Bones reached inside and fished around. The object of his search had been buried at the bottom.

“Ay, there’s the prize.” He smiled. His teeth were sharp and shone of silver.

He pulled out an envelope, crinkled and creased, but its healthy size suggested its contents. He checked, just to be sure. “God save the queen.” He chuckled.

The common room was sparsely furnished with a few chairs and futons, and a coat rack besides. The stores were empty. The old lady who kept the place refilled them once a week on Sundays after church. In the corner, in a pile, lay an assortment of clothes, another person’s bag, and an old walking stick. Bones dismissed it with a glance.

He’d been looking for Sean. He was supposed to be here. “Well, no matter.” Bones reached into the folds of his coat and produced a dim bottle with the labels removed.

Sean’s old water bottle had seen some wear and tear, so Bones had seen fit to gift him a new one for his birthday. Sean loved it. It was bigger, hardier, easier to grasp, and - most importantly - an opaque blue. Bones unscrewed the top and poured some water into the dormant fireplace. He unstopped the grim decanter he’d brought with him, and mixed the contents with what remained. He hummed while he did so.

Go fetch to me a pint o’ wine, and fill it in a silver tassie.” He gave his concoction a gentle swish. “That I may drink before I go, a service to my bonnie lassie.”

He was about to tuck the water bottle back into place, along with everything else, only to be interrupted by the soft buzz of a new text message. He took out his phone without thinking, but it wasn’t for him. The sound came from the pile of clothes.

Bones made his way over to the corner. The cell phone in question was brand new, protected by a yellow case, with a cute seagull sharm hanging from the strap. It was locked, but the message notification told him enough:

Officer Wallace come in we know you’re off duty but

Bones gripped the glowing screen, his expression dark. He heard a sound and looked to the window. He saw the glare of headlights in the distance.

***

Erika Wallace prided herself on her exercise regiment. She’d broken two academy records with her athletic performance, and could easily keep pace with the increasingly exhausted Sean. He’s a good lookin’ fella, she thought to herself, but his form’s all wrong. She thought about her own routine, her personal best. She had to if she wanted to retain her stiff upper lip. She couldn’t let herself linger on the inglorious circumstances she’d found herself in, streaking through the dark with a man she barely knew.

Sean was running on pure adrenalin.

“Keep at it, friend,” she said. “Don’t need ya toppling over fore we hit the finish.”

“Don’t need to tell me twice.” Sean spoke in gasps. “Don’t need to get slapped for disturbing the peace.”

“Right, right,” she said, me neither.

As the hostel swam into view, so two did a pair of headlights. “Eep!” Erika jolted to the right and fell flat, yanking Sean backwards, down to her level.

“What the-

“Ssh, quiet ya dunder,” she hissed. She clapped her hands over his mouth. “Or I’ll arrest ya myself.”

***

Ned Kirklund switched off his phone and frowned. It wasn’t like Erika to ignore a request, even if she were on vacation. She was supposed to be round here, weren’t she? Still, it wasn’t anything serious. He leaned over into his patrol vehicle and picked up the radio. “Chief, it’s Kirklund. No, no, everything’s fine. Got a report on some young folks in the area, but I ain’t seen nothing scandalous yet. There’s this old gaff out by the mountainside though. Whole place is dark, but I thought I saw a light. Gonna investigate then head back, over.”

Ned approached the front stair with his usual, casual gait. He took off his cap, scratched his head, and walked through the door with his hat in his hand, a flashlight in the other.

“Anybody home?”

Bones leapt from the shadows, a glint of steel in his hand. Ned flowed like water and caught him in an armlock. “Easy there boyo,” he said. He twisted the wrist that held the knife to loosen the man’s grip. “Don’t go thinking I’m some easy mark.”

He released Bones, who stumbled to the floor, felt around and grasped something small, cold, and sharp. He swung ago, only to meet Ned’s forehead in a righteous headbutt. Bones’ eyes rolled backward. He slumped to the ground. He foot knocked over an open water bottle which drained into the floor. The tiny thing he found disappeared between the floorboards.

“Right.” Ned adjusted his belt. “That’s assault. Come along numpty, down to the station.” He handcuffed the man and carried him out. The hostel fell still and silent.

Minutes later, Erika crept in through the rear window, and Sean after. Erika let out a shudder of relief and made her way over toward her things in the corner, only for Sean to absent-mindedly yank her away. She turned and saw him reaching for his own bag.

“Hang on ya steamin’ div.” She pulled back. “You want free of this, yeah?”

“Sorry, sorry.”

“Ain’t no fash, but hey, let’s keep this ‘tween the two of us, ya hear?”

“I hear,” said Sean.


Erika was rummaging through her things. She’d kept her cool on the way down, but now her facade was beginning to break. “Where...where is it?” she asked aloud. “Where’s the key?”

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


Submissions are closed. If you're in, you're in! If you're not, submit before judgement to get crit.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Interprompt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ox8VtreWl5Q

300 words.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

I got it wrong. Look, I'm well aware I got it wrong and uh, I got it wrong.


oi ya fuckin drongo leave Jimmy Barnes alone he's a national treasure

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

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

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

oi ya fuckin drongo leave Jimmy Barnes alone he's a national treasure

Intreprompt crit: I know you love trying to be avant-garde and everything but I still think you should title your pieces.

Crain
Jun 27, 2007



Interprompt

The Book of Barnes, Chapter 10, Verse 12-29

220ish Words.

12 And lo the crowds did gather as told at the base of the mountain. 13 And as they had in the olden days, a priestess was chosen. 14 And upon that priestess, the holy garments were adorned.
15 And upon her the holy straw hat was adorned. 16 But it was not to be worn as a hat, but really more of a necklace piece kinda? 17 Anyway, into the wilderness she was driven with only the sacred sheet music, the holy garments, the hat, and other accessories as befitting her complection and the current summer season. So stick to lighter hues and fabrics.
18As the priestess fasted in the wilderness, and studied the music, the crowds did gently caress off to WaWa. Except for Jerry who took his kids to Sonic because they wanted Tater Tots. Forever shall Jerry and his kind be cursed for not bring any to share.
19On the 14th day a breakthrough was made. The priestess did begin the ceremony, and the crowds returned. 20The song of Barnes did echo through the wilderness. 21And upon hearing the call, music swelled through the wilderness.
22And after 22 days, lo did the beat drop, as Barnes appeared above the Mountains. 23 Thus Barnes spoke: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh.
24AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhh.
25AAAAAHHHH EEEEE AAAAAHHH EEEEE YEEEEEAHHHHHHH 26AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
27AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.
27      28 AAAAH.
29 AAAAAAAAAHHHAAAAAAAAAAaahhhaaaa.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

The Interprompt Adventures of Mosebjo: 6

Night was falling by the time the silhouettes of the yurts of Mosebjo’s clan came into sight against the horizon. Bonfires blazed at the edge of the camp and Mosebjo’s stomach growled at the thought of the feast that surely awaited him, the triumphant survivor of a great battle.

Yet as he approached he realised something was terribly wrong. The keening of women crying assailed his ears. He tied Caterpillar to a bush and crept towards the yurts, concealed by darkness.

There was Rose, his beloved! But in the light from the fires he could see her face was wet with tears. She was throwing something into the fire; a shield, painted with her brother’s mark. Her brother, who lay dead on the battlefield, alongside the clan’s other sons.

Mosebjo turned and fled, clutching his head in confused agony as his dreams crumbled around him. He alone had defeated his enemies; he, alone, had survived. And now he mounted Caterpillar and spurred him back towards the open steppe, alone.

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012


Interprompt

A Visit from Grandpa
223 words

The red dirt of the valley stretches to the far edges of the Arizona territory. If there are settlements nearby, they've disappeared behind the rolling amber hills. “What if grandpa doesn't show up?” Jimmy asks his father.

“He will,” Merle tells his son, chuckling as he hitches their horse to the largest rock on the hill. “Even if he has a long way to come.”

Jimmy wanders to the cliff's edge, looking out onto the wide desert, wondering if he can see his grandfather approaching. “Where's he coming from?” the child asks his father.

“Not from down there,” Merle says, following his son after tying down the horse. “Your granddaddy's coming from somewhere a little further away.”

The gentle wind blows dirt from the rocks. Another follows with a third accompanying it. Dust clouds rise from the ground as a rhythm of air solidifies into a gale. Jimmy covers his eyes as Merle holds him steady. The sun seems to disappear in the cyclone, darkening before a beam of purifying white replaces it. A roar fills the sky. Jimmy had never heard a cry so terrible; one like a dying beast raging in its final moments of fury. Jimmy struggles to escape, but Merle grasps never wavers.

“Jimmy!” Merle shouts, disappointment tinging his voice. “Don't be rude to your grandfather.”

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Seattle vs Wellington Megabrawl
CantDecideOnAName vs Morningbell
Loch Ness Monster/Spirit

Where do monsters go when we stop believing in them?
708 words

The Loch Ness Monster is a fairy.

No, seriously, hear me out on this. No, not Tinkerbell, I'm talking old-school fairies. The hardcore kind. The kind of fairy that mothers would tell their kids about to keep them from leaving the path in the woods and getting lost and dying. The scary kind that you keep away with salt and iron. Yeah, salt. It's something to do with purity. Yeah, the Japanese are pretty big into it for that, purifies the ground or something, they throw salt in the ring before sumo matches and stuff like that, I think. Here, hold my fishing pole a sec and I'll grab you a beer.

Anyway, think about it. Where is Loch Ness? Scotland. Scotland has a ton of fairy stuff. No, leprechauns are Irish. Like kelpies, man. Kelpies? They're water spirits that take the shapes of horses and trick you into riding them, then they jump back into the water and eat you. I don't know why they look like horses. Look, shut up.

Running water protects people- yeah, that doesn't work on river stuff, does it? Like the Rhine Maidens? If you're gonna come back at me with folklore then at least pretend you did more research than basic entry-level sunlight-kills-Dracula poo poo- which it doesn't, by the way, he's just stuck in one form and weaker when it's daylight, he can still move around-

Look, you're getting me off topic. There's some account of a river monster in the River Ness in, like, 500 AD or something. Some saint warded it off and everyone was like, oh it's a miracle. No, not Saint Patrick, that was Ireland and that was snakes. No, I don't remember his name. I mean, it's kind of a bastardization of pagan and Christian beliefs colliding and one superseding the other that meant saints could get rid of fairies but that's not the point, the point is that if that was Nessie then the Loch Ness Monster being shooed off by some saint means that it could be a fairy.

I'm serious! Look. There are these rocks in Iceland- there's a point, I swear there's a point, just shut up and let me get to it- rocks in Iceland that the locals say belong to the fairies or have fairies living in them. They can't move them without pissing off the fairies, so they build around them. Now, if you cut open one of those rocks I really don't think you'd find a tiny fairy city or something. It's like a doorway into another world, like Fairyland. Okay, yeah, sure, that might be where Tinkerbell lives but we're not talking about Tinkerbell, are we? It's another dimension. It's where they live, and time works differently and you don't eat the food there or you get stuck like Persephone. Persephone? How do you know about running water and not Persephone? poo poo, man, why am I even talking to you when you don't know basic stuff like this? I can get mad if I want, you ask me my theory about Nessie and then act like an rear end while I'm stuck in this boat with you-

I'm not sulking.

...fine. But stop interrupting me, okay?

So fairies can go invisible, right? Well, what if water spirits can too and that's why you never see stuff like mermaids swimming around in rivers?

I told you to stop interrupting me.

Okay. Yeah, sure, Nessie has a cloaking device, whatever. That's not the point. The point is that no one can find it because it keeps going invisible or going back to Fairyland. Or turning into other things, that's something they do too. Like, kelpies don't always look like horses. So that's why no one can agree on how it looks, right? It turns into an otter or a log or whatever. Uses glamour. That's, like, a magical disguise. Of course, that implies that Nessie is smart enough to realize it's being watched, or it's just messing with people or whatever, which isn't really a thing that monsters do but it's totally something that fairies do, which is another point in favor of Nessie being a fairy.

What? No. It's just a thought experiment. What, do you think it's real?

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Six of one, half dozen of another.

Grimey Drawer

Seattle VS. Wellington Brawl
J.W Friks VS. SteeltoedSneakers
Prompt: Man-Eating Tree and “Air”


Scrapper’s Gambit (#989)

In the gales of nuclear winter, Gehenna heaved chunks of rubble into the air with her Exoskeleton. She had been on Terra Firma three weeks; while there’d been plenty of wiring and metal for construction nothing else’d been interesting. Her peers went home while she chose to take an unsanctioned detour to the Sydney Ruins.

They’d returned once their quotes were fulfilled, preferring leisure time over Gehenna’s craving for exploration. Beneath some rubble, she found a mini fridge, an opportunity to make some cash. Even if the food was putrefied, mold paid as much as canned goods since it added new cloning strains to the protein banks.

Her breath strained as she focused on commanding her nerve adapters and suit claws, murmuring mantra like--“The wall isn’t heavy and I will lift it. The wall isn’t heavy and I WILL lift it!”

A shock surged through her and the artificial nerves of her suit. With a metallic whine, she hurled the wall behind her, and splinters shot off a thick root as it landed. She set the fridge down behind a solitary column with her other scraps. Sudden light-headedness and a pinging alarm caught her attention; the VR gauge behind her left eyelid let her know she’d wasted so much time wandering the ruined sights that she’d neglected monitoring her air supply.

Gehenna turned off all non-essential systems off to buy herself time; if she could save oxygen by diverting air intake away from the cooling fans, it’d be worth it. The sudden silence brought unfamiliar sounds. She reengaged the legs of her exoskeleton and spun around.

“Who's there?!" boomed her voice from her helmet speakers.

Tendrils bumped up rubble as they dragged themselves back. Gehenna saw the roots retracting and coughed because gasping took too much air. It was plant life! Gehenna hadn’t much of a background in the history of Terra Firma plant life but she had seen pictures of venus fly traps which imitated jaws so a moving root wasn’t too far-fetched. She figured that if even stranger mutations were visible on Fungi than it was certainly possible that a plant could do the same.

She leapt down from the opera house onto a crumbled pier, the knees squealing from the effort of compensation. As she moved wooden beams, piles of hollowed bones and mummies tumbled into a dusty heap before her.

Beneath that was a deep depression in the sand. Inside it was a massive orblike trunk of knotted wood. A bowl-shaped leaf, the width of a truck tire, sat on top of the trunk. Bones and a mummified head stuck out of the top of the trunk as a greenish liquid bubbled around the corpses, dissolving the marrow and dried meat.

The massive power pack on the Scrapper Suits back was mostly battery but also had a secondary compartment for scientists to store their instruments if they deigned to come to Terra Firma. The scientists always forced the blue-collar salvagers to carry out experiments with untested equipment. Their need to field test new technologies had cost a fair amount of Scrappers precious time(and a few lives) so most spent their time doing what they wanted to do, getting loot and exploring ruins.

One such device had been shoved into Gehennas beta pack on a number of occasions by a leering scientist named Nod. It was designed to leech breathable oxygen from plant life and algae. She didn’t have a Swimmer Skeleton so this was her best chance to see if Oxygen bearing plants still existed.

She concentrated on the smaller hook arms of her Exosuit. They pulled the pronged cylindrical device that sat in the storage space of the power pack. She pulled it out and something came undone. The prongs buzzed with a loud teeth-chattering hum. The plant shuddered at this noise.

The roots and branches snaked out of the countless holes that surrounded it. Some came back gripping more mummified body parts. Even though life no longer moved in this city, the plant had developed means to find protein. Gehenna didn't know if this thing was dangerous but the amount of "arms” it waved around protectively was disorienting.

Gehenna heard alarms in her suit and knew it was now or never. She pointed the business end of the prongs at the slithering roots and pushed hard with her mind into the circuitry of the device. It effectively sealed the air it gathered inside a bubble of sound. The creature shivered but didn't react aggressively as it either had enough oxygen that losing a tank’s worth wasn't a big deal or it didn't know how to respond.

Gehenna pointed the other prongs at the refill valve of her oxygen tank and willed the air to go in and stay awhile. A sharp whistle ran through her breathing tube and she was back in business. With a breath of fresh air running through her lungs, Gehenna concentrated on the shape of clippers.

The tiny claws on the secondary arms rolled backward and a set of sharpened shears took their place. She stepped as carefully and closely to the plant as she could without getting caught in its roiling vines.

The tamped sand broke under her and she tumbled. Her life flashed before her eyes as the vines wrapped around her and constricted down on every possible surface. Just when she thought she was about to be dropped into the soup, the plant shuddered and set her down. A strange slime coated her Exosuit, she ran it through the viewfinder and found it was roughly a few molecules away from saliva.

A few branches snapped off during its taste test. She deposited them into sample jars and went back to the rendezvous point. The storm had quieted and it was a lovely stroll out of Sydney. Gehenna felt exhilarated, she belted out Auld Lang Syne through her speakers. The whole world was hers.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


Thunderdome Week 290: The Results

Welp. This went well! Or, y'know... didn't.

This week had a lot of semi-universal problems, mostly weird pacing, excessive exposition and flat declarative prose, and plot twists from nowhere. Frankly, I blame the prompt; asking you guys to get a Fiasco setup's worth of crap done in 1500 words is pretty classic powerful-ambition/poor-impulse-control stuff. Most of the stories this week still managed to have fairly brisk action and at least a few good bits, so honestly, well done there.

To get started with the ugly: Chainmail Onesie and Lazy Beggar are both disqualified. Chainmail Onesie wrote a very nice story that was over the word limit, regrettably, and Lazy Beggar edited their TD post. This isn't Vietnam; this is Thunderdome. There are rules.

Your winner is QuoProQuid, for a story with solid characterization and a delightful payoff, even if it didn't quite stick around to see the big boom. Still, some things are perhaps better left to the imagination. Tyrannosaurus gets the Honorable Mention for the week for a story on the lower-key end of the week, with more of a character and setting focus, but still plenty of mayhem.

There are two DMs this week: sparksbloom, for scattershot and somewhat arbitrary-feeling plot twists, and Chairchucker, whose powerful ambition was I guess to just write about skeletons? I still can't read the word "skeleton" after that. When it comes to skeleton warriors, a little goes a long way.

Finally, your loser for the week is Lazy Beggar. Yes, the DQ was already in place, but this story still richly earned a loss. Impenetrable dialect dialogue? A nonsensical ending? A scene where someone goes to take a poo poo for no apparent reason?! This piece was, arguably, ambitious, but impulse control failed entirely. A fitting mess to anti-crown this Fiasco week.

I yield the throne to QuoProQuid!

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Grimey Drawer

That's nice.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

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

I'm neither Antivehicular or Unfunny Poster but seeing how long judging took y'all will be waiting until July for crits.

Here are some free ones from me.

1. Chainmail Onesie
Something I liked: This felt like a complete world. Or rather a smaller part of something grander. That’s cool. Lunar/Earther, hardsuit, etc etc I get the feeling that this is very well realized in your head. Have you written in this world before?
Something I disliked: I have no idea what’s going on. You never manage to move things from your mind to the page in a meaningful way for me, the reader. Plot, story relationships, it’s all esoteric
Where I got bored: I read the whole thing because it kept teasing me with a reveal that never came, an understanding of story/plot that never materialized

2. Lazy Beggar
Something I liked: “It’s loving baltic” is a hilarious line and I’m probably going to start using it real life so thank you
Something I disliked: Oh, gently caress, accents, okay. See below.
Where I got bored: “A’need to get ma maw’s laptop.” But, really, my eyes glazed over at “Talking about nae gud, you’ve got snow on yer coupon, ya wee jakey stinkyhole.” I make this mistake sometimes as well: I know how to say something really well with an accent but it doesn’t actually add anything to the story. So it’s just dead weight. But you don’t want to cut it because it… I dunno… adds authenticity or some bullshit? Cut out the bullshit (I should also take this advice)

3. Deltasquid
Something I liked: Spy poo poo. I love spy poo poo. More specific to your actual story, though, the code phrase stuff was cool. It was a fun line to follow through the story.
Something I disliked: Oh boy where to start. You know what, I’ll just go with the big one. You flip perspectives way too many times. We’re seeing things from different character’s perspectives, hearing different character’s thoughts. It’s very Guy Ritchie. Which isn’t a bad thing. I like Guy Ritchie. But you don’t make it easy to follow. The action and the characters and the relationships get confusing and that’s a bad thing. Complexity is cool but you have to make sure you pull it off. Make sure every character is very easy to distinguish.
Where I got bored: “Youssef recognized his ex’s shrill voice.” I didn’t get bored here exactly but this is where I went “oh motherfucker goddamnit” because poo poo was getting more complex but nothing was getting properly fleshed out to warrant it.

4. Thranguy
Something I liked: This is so loving weird in the best way. Lots of little details. The brother-sister stuff. Too good looking to be just a Mayor. This will HM or win.
Something I disliked: idk. I couldn’t tell that the main character was female until “pretty face.” Not really a big deal but it was something that popped up. Doesn’t that count?
Where I got bored: I didn’t.

5. Apophenium
Something I liked: Pretty solid motivation. Good pacing.
Something I disliked: This should have been in first person. You wanted to. I can tell. You’re akready giving me one character’s (Bobbi’s) thoughts with things like I must be in shock or All I want is for you to apologize for killing Todd. I wrote half my story this week in third and then realized it would be better off in first and went back and changed everything. Also, you know what, this would have been a cool place to start: “I got a new job now, Bobbi, a union job. I could give you everything you want!” Then give me the apologize line. Bam. Now that’s a hook. Your current opener with the blood and gore and such isn’t bad or anything but man you have an opportunity to really grab me. Make we want to learn more about what’s going on.
Where I got bored: I read the whole thing.

6. Crain
Something I liked: Silas has now killed x things. I dig it. Good through line.
Something I disliked: Lots of little stuff. Unnecessary stuff. “They were currently standing among” should just be “They stood.” And a lot of the conversation was unnecessary and could be cut down to a single sentence-- especially since you’re writing in third. I think you should start with “Silas had now killed something in Antartica.” Then explain why that’s a big deal. Then explain why he did it. Better opening. Better hook.
Where I got bored: All caps. All caps always make my eyes glaze over.

7. cptn_dr
Something I liked: This is just, conceptually, hilarious. Calligraphy Con. Inkheads. Vultures at Papermate. Lots of little poo poo I dig. It’s cool.
Something I disliked: You wrote a bigger story than you had the wordcount. Snippy dialogue but to make space for the comedy you lose characterization. The colonel is basically just a stereotype.
Where I got bored: Nope. Clipped right along through the whole thing.

8. sparksbloom
Something I liked: Solid economy of words. “They say internship purgatory ends eventually, but I’m not sure I believe them.” “She’s not wrong. She’s been our third boss in six months.” “I’m an adult but not a mom, so I actually fit in pretty well in the back room.” You use very little words and still manage to paint a vivid picture. That’s good.
Something I disliked: It’s not Thranguy’s? This sucks to say but, unfortunately, your story is so similar to his that it’s hard not to compare them. And yours is good but is a little sillier without being quite funny enough to overcome the difference.
Where I got bored: I didn’t.

9. BabyRyoga
Something I liked: Good blocking. Easy to follow action.
Something I disliked: So is Monkeyland the name of the town or...?
Where I got bored: I didn’t.

10. Tyrannosaurus
Something I liked: Now this is good writing. Killer dialogue, creepy plot, nailed the setting. Great use of voice. Just great. I loved reading this. My personal choice for the win.
Something I disliked: Too short? I don’t know what else to say.
Where I got bored: Never.

11. CascadeBeta
Something I liked: Likeable, interesting characters.
Something I disliked: Pet peeve -- I hate when people do the “okay tell me the plan again” thing because it’s just for the benefit of me, the reader, not the character actually needing to hear it again. You wrote in first person. Just tell me the plan. Also, the plan is unclear. Motivation is unclear. Everything at the end (action, blocking, etc) is unclear. This got messy quick.
Where I got bored: Didn’t.

12. QuoProQuid
Something I liked: Nice description of the dead body. Nice characterization of the people and the town. Nice reveal at the end.
Something I disliked: Action gets kinda muddy when the brothers showed up.
Where I got bored: Didn’t.

13. sandnavyguy
Something I liked: Believable motivations, likeable characters
Something I disliked: This isn’t poorly written. More like… I don’t know… Poorly explained? There are a lot of characters and they have similar names and it’s not always easy to tell who is who or who is talking. And there’s some unnecessary stuff. Treat your words like they are money. If you’re going to spend that much on cat stuff in the beginning, it should have a payoff or callback at the end, yeah? If it’s just a throwaway… throw it away. Also, gun jamming seems a little too deux ex machina.
Where I got bored: Didn’t. Though my eyes glazed over a bit around Old Man Lestrada.

14. Hawklad
Something I liked: This was nuts. Great blend of horror and the absurdism of suburban living. “None of the new residents were in violation of the association covenant.” “Oakview estates was being reduced to pet food and fertilizer. And all under his watch.” Conceptually hilarious to me.
Something I disliked: The Daddy Saddles doesn’t really fit. And the descent to madness and despair was too fast.
Where I got bored: Didn’t.

15. Fuschia tude
Something I liked: Short and sweet and easy to read
Something I disliked: A little heavy handed. Oh I raised you as a boy blah blah show don't tell etc etc
Where I got bored: Didn't

16. Chairchucker
Something I liked: ??? and ?!!!. The quirkiness. The humor. The way it zipped along.
Something I disliked: The skeletons. Not a fun reveal for me.
Where I got bored: Honestly, the skeletons again. It just felt like: lol im being zany

17. Bad Seafood
Something I liked: Nice use of voice
Something I disliked: Again, sometimes when people write in accents they leave in poo poo they should cut because they think they wrote it really well. Like, in the accent. Careful of that.
Where I got bored: Didn’t.

Mekchu
Apr 10, 2012



Tyrannosaurus posted:

I'm neither Antivehicular or Unfunny Poster but seeing how long judging took y'all will be waiting until July for crits.



I'm nt even halfway done with crits but thats due to timezone fuckery and lots of events getting in the way. Expect my crits on Thursday at the latest.

Mekchu fucked around with this message at Feb 28, 2018 around 11:44

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


Yeah, judging speed issues this week were pretty much all timezone-related. Logistics!

I will endeavor to have crits out by the weekend.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Thanks Tyrannosaurus

sandnavyguy
Sep 12, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Thanks for the crit Tyrannosaurus!

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

WHO LOVES BLOOD SODA?
KEL LOVES BLOOD SODA!


I do. I do. I do-oo.


Thunderdome CCXCI: You are Such a Loser, Good for You

Trying something can be hard. It takes courage and effort to put yourself out there and, oftentimes, those efforts don't yield the desired result.

This week, I want you to write a story about someone who makes an effort to do something difficult and does not succeed at their goal. The emphasis here is on the phrase "makes an effort." Just making a decision is not enough. Your character needs to decide to do something, follow through on that thing, and gently caress it up entirely.

What happens as a result of that gently caress up is up to you. Maybe your mad scientist character botches his artificial man experiment and creates some monstrosity. Maybe your characters try to help their boss and end up costing him his job. The story doesn't need to be fatalistic or sad. A failed attempt can be a learning experience or have unexpected consequences. Maybe, your characters will make some grand discovery or revelation as a result of some catastrophic mistake.

The starting word count for this week is 750 words, but I will give you an additional 750 words if you show commitment by ing in. If you need additional inspiration to get going, I can assign you a song as a flash rule.

As always, no fan fiction, erotica, or screeds.

Word Count: 750 words (with 750 toxx bonus)
Signups Close: 11:59 PM PST, Friday, 2 March 2018
Submissions Close: 11:59 PM Pacific time, Sunday, 3 March 2018

Judges:
1. ) QuoProQuid
2.) sandnavyguy
3.) crabrock

Entrants:
1.) Thranguy (Dancing Queen - Abba, )
2.) Unfunny Poster
3.) cptn_dr ('Pulaski at Night' - Andrew Bird)
4.) Jay W. Friks
5.) CascadeBeta (The Ascent of Stan- Ben Folds)
6.) Lazy Beggar (The Strangers - St. Vincent)
7.) BabyRyoga (I Want to Be Evil - Eartha Kitt)
8.) Antivehicular
9.) Flesnolk (The Rip Tide - Beirut)
10.) Bad Seafood
11.) Tyrannosaurus

QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at Mar 5, 2018 around 06:28

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

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

In, , and flash

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

WHO LOVES BLOOD SODA?
KEL LOVES BLOOD SODA!


I do. I do. I do-oo.


Thranguy posted:

In, , and flash

Abba - Dancing Queen

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


Antivehicular posted:

Thunderdome Week 290: The Results
A scene where someone goes to take a poo poo for no apparent reason?!

Inspired by my playset: There’s a human turd on the mantelpiece. Hang on, what? I'm not proud.
Also, you can't technically lose something you've been disqualified from.


Thanks for the crit. And you're welcome.

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.

Thank you for the crits T-Rex, it was nice to actually receive a crit this week, he said passive aggressively.

Mekchu
Apr 10, 2012



In and

Deltasquid
Apr 10, 2013

awww...
you guys made me ink!


THUNDERDOME


Thanks for the crits, T-rex.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Tyrannosaurus posted:

I'm neither Antivehicular or Unfunny Poster but seeing how long judging took y'all will be waiting until July for crits.

Here are some free ones from me.

Thanks tyrant lizard.

Chainmail Onesie
May 12, 2014


LoserWinner
of "Thunder Dome!

Many thanks, T-rex. These crits are super helpful.

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cptn_dr
Sep 7, 2011

It's just so good!


Thanks T-Rex!

In for this week. Now I've got a taste for blood, after all.

Edit: Also flash?

cptn_dr fucked around with this message at Feb 28, 2018 around 10:53

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