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Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Everybody always says I'm a tool so I'm in

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Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Grimey Drawer

Happy Ranger Brawl Results



I went through each story and provided detailed comments as I read them. If you'd like to see those comments, head over here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

I'm pasting the overall crits here, which you can find at the bottom of the entries.

First, let's start with Friks's, Increaul

Good. This is a good story. It’s got some issues, and we’ll get to that but let’s talk about what I liked first. The story contains abstract ideas, fantastical elements, and extended metaphors. Yet, it reads very easily and I was able to follow all of the action with ease. That’s no small feat. Nevermind the fact that it does reach a satisfying conclusion. I noticed a lot of thematic similarities (probably unintentional) to similar works that I also really like. Most notably, this follows a similar arc to Paranorman, which was cool.

As for my qubbles… Roeper felt like an inclusion to simply satisfy the prompt. And like, OK, thanks for doing that. But really, it’s a story set in nature and that would have been enough for me. He didn’t add anything to the story and if anything it meant trudging through a few hundred words that we simply didn’t need. I would’ve definitely found it more interesting if, as I mentioned in the comments, this quest were his. You do a much better job of characterizing him early, so we could really be on his side. There’s also some proofing errors that I think you could have’ caught in one last proofing pass. They weren’t overly distracting but this story really requires the reader to buckle up and buy in. If you’re gonna ask that of the reader, you owe it to them to not leave any holes like that.

Overall, though, this was a solid entry. As it stands now, it’ll be a tough one to beat. Let’s see how Third does.

_______

Moving on to Third...

You didn’t title your story. I guess I’ll title it for you.

Third’s Dracula’s Cousin Tilly and the Case of the Horrible Hairdo

Alright Third, so let’s talk about your Dracula story. I didn’t get this much. Where the hell was Dracula, let alone his crazy cousin Tilly? Instead of a captivating yarn about horrible hairdos, we were left with a protagonist who seems to be somewhat of a deadbeat dad, who trolls animals and maintains a pompous aura of self-righteousness that hasn’t been earned at all. He’s not punished, he doesn’t change, and his story contains nothing in it that makes me want to root for anybody. I’m not sure what your goal was in telling this tale. The most interesting bit, and the bit that was the most focused was the segment between the father and son. That situation lends itself to interesting questions that I would have liked to see answers to. I’m not sure why, instead, you chose to follow around a doofus being a doofus.


Verdict:

If you read my comments at all, it should be pretty clear that I greatly preferred one story to the other.

Friks wins this one handily. His story had cool stuff in it, was told effectively, and engaged me as a reader. It wasn’t perfect, and though I don’t agree with all of the choices, I like the guts of it. It's got potential.

Friks get in touch with me about the avatar you would like to slap on Third’s rear end.

Chili fucked around with this message at Jul 18, 2018 around 05:33

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

Antivehicular posted:

Crit for Yoruichi's Week 308 story, "Searching for the Bottom of the Sea." On GDocs because I feel like comments make it easier to do line-by-lines.

That is a most excellent and very helpful crit, thank you

RandomPauI
Nov 24, 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

Grimey Drawer

My crits are incoming, I haven't felt so well for the past few days so my initial opinions were based on a blurry memory of stories from Sunday and what I was able to parse on Monday before crawling into bed. Now I can approach the stories refreshed and with new eyes.

The crits are going to be posted in batches of two or three at a time. Every story gets an averaged grade that's independent of my personal enjoyment of the story.


Light of My Life, Vaneveer
Averaged Grade: B+

Thematically, this story hit the right notes: the mother based her identity on the men in her life, she depended on them to keep things from falling apart, she refused to accept any further changes to the status quo, she killed herself and her son rather than lose what she had left.

That said, I didn’t like reading the story. The imagery was too sparse, the dialogue didn’t hold my interest, and I quickly figured she was going to kill him.

The story could be improved by actually describing the son's appearance at the start of the story where he’s weeding the lawn, shortening the starting bits about how the mom sees her son as an ideal, and showing how the two-act towards each other with dialogue, physical interactions, etc.

One side note, I was confused about her desire to call for help though if she had poisoned him to specifically keep him there.


The Ghost of Blackford Manor, Yourichi
Averaged Grade: A-

This story embraces both parts of Southern Gothic. The landed patriarch depends on a literal ghost from the past to maintain the appearance of having standing even as he’s lost relevance and influence. His transgressions are forgiven or at least ignored by his wife to avoid challenging status quo.

I anticipated the ending of the story but the little details held my interest. And I appreciated the hypocrisy of the northern woman continuing the pattern of oppression once she was able to directly control it.

There were a few things that didn’t work. The dialogue didn’t match a Southern Gentleman or a New York elite. The husband was presented in such a vile way that I couldn’t imagine why the modern wife willingly stayed in a place that was falling apart or where they even got their money from. And the murders were hand-waved away as if they didn’t merit investigation.

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

I'll take a (flips coin) mojo flash rule.

dreadmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

Thranguy posted:

I'll take a (flips coin) mojo flash rule.

the thrill of agony, the victory of defeat

Lippincott
Jun 28, 2018

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

You must suffer.

A lot.


I'm in for CCCXI

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.


Yoruichi posted:

Where are my crits in return HMMMM?

What story you want in crit in ye olde bastard?

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

Week 308

Erainor
Dec 30, 2017

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Uradriendra

Rien was the epitome of female perfection. She stood at a statuesque six feet tall, while filling out a Versace dress in all the right places. Long, perfect platinum hair that was always glossy and beautiful. Perfectly manicured nails without a single flaw or chip. Men wanted her and women wanted to be her. Rien was a lawyer, one of the best that money could buy and ruthless at ensuring her clients (who were always guilty) would be found innocent in a court of law. No prosecutor seemed able to get charges against her clients to stick.

The thing was, Rien had an ulterior motive for wanting to ensure these evil souls would not waste away in the criminal justice system. For Rien was not her given name. She was born Uradriendra over 10,000 years ago and she was a full blooded demon. Rien was the perfect cover for being able to trap the souls of the damned. While the criminals would be found not guilty in the court of law, they would disappear from the mortal world soon after. In a twisted way, she was justified in feeling that humanity benefited from her removing these souls from the mundane of existence.

Rien could not just forcibly twist these souls to her will, as that would have been immediately been stopped by the angels who sit in opposition to the demons. For long eons before Uradriendra walked the realm, heaven and hell had been at war. She thought herself to be one of the key players in this war. She wasn't a soldier, not truly, but she had a genius intellect that she had put to use in serving her master.

She used her brain to find a way to collect the souls that her master had tasked her with. Rien had to think of a creative solution to acquire the souls that she felt entitled to. So she studied and schemed and plotted for numerous human life times until she had come up with a solution. The solution was to convince the damned to sign their own lives away.

She had developed a binding contract whereby her clients would sign their own fates to be bound for all eternity. There was something beautiful and ironic about using the tool of the lawyer, the contract to trap the unclean souls into eternal torment. Every one of her clients signed over their eternal souls, and before they had any idea that they had been tricked the contract took effect.

In one country after another, Rien had been plying her trade for nearly 100 years posing as various high powered female lawyers. She had roles in Japan, China, Russia, Italy, and now the United States. She was nearly complete with the task that Lucifer had given her of acquiring 666 souls. In fact, she only needed one more soul to complete her mission.

This soul belonged to the most deranged serial killer of the modern era who was known simply as The Strangler. He was charged with a horrifying 13 crimes. How in all the realms of hell was Rien supposed to get this client to be found innocent? Her contract depended on it, The Strangler's soul would only belong to her if she was able to complete the terms of the contract. Only then would she be able to get back to Lucifer's realm which she wanted more than any mere human could desire.

BANG BANG!

The judges gavel rang out beginning the trial. The Bailiff called out “People of New York vs. Patrick Lancaster, alias “The Strangler.” The honorable Lucius Baelish presiding. All rise.” Rien did a double take, as sure enough the judge was Lucifer himself. She grinned sharply knowing that her master was present to see her final victory himself.

For six days the trial went on, as Rien built a case that Patrick was being framed by another man and she hoped there was enough evidence built up to put doubt in the mind of the jury. She would prove herself to her master and win what would be her final case. Oddly, her master wasn't really doing anything to help her to victory. If anything, it seemed like Lucifer was calling the trial right down the middle. No matter, she thought, I can better prove myself if I have to win fairly.

Soon, the defense and the prosecution rested, and the case was given to the jury. Rien was confident she would win, but she couldn't shake a nagging feeling that something was wrong. She walked to the lobby of the courthouse to get two of her favorite Starbucks beverages, a guilty pleasure for the demoness. She reached into her purse for her wallet, and soon realized she didn't have any cash. Haughtily, she pulled out a black AMEX credit card and swiped it.

When she was given a receipt to sign by the cheerful barista wearing a shiny name badge with the name Gabe written on it, she felt something but was unable to place her finger on it. She signed the receipt without thinking about it when suddenly she was teleported to a cold and dank prison cell. She looked around and saw the barista again, only this time he was wearing his full Archangel regalia.

“Uradriendra,” he said with that clear voice of an angel. “The Almighty will not allow you to complete your mission as the balance of power between heaven and hell would be shifted too far to the side of darkness. I was assigned to stop you, and I have done so. Fitting that you have been bound by a simple contract which was your tool of choice. For your crimes you will not return to your masters side instead you will spend eternity on the outside of both heaven and hell with no one but your own voice to keep you company.”

Uradriendra pleaded for her master to come to her aid, but Lucifer refused to help. Clearly he had thought her weak or a traitor to the cause in the end. Slowly, Uradriendra became insane with only herself to talk to as promised. A truly chilling fate for an immortal being of evil.

Erainor
Dec 30, 2017

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Oh forgot to post the word count, it was 1037. This was fun and I'll play again at some point

Invisible Clergy
Sep 25, 2015

"Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces"

Malachi 2:3


magnificent7 posted:

What is this poo poo.

I said FLASH rule not FLESH rule.

All hail the new flesh. Uh, on second thought, don't, since no erotica is allowed, and I'm sure your dick is as helpless before Cronenberg as mine.

I'm in like Flynn. I double checked the rules, and I don't think there's one against multiple people requesting from the same judge (if there is, feel free to flay me for my foolishness) but I'd like to request a flash from SittingHere, you seem pretty interesting and helpful.

Good luck, everyone.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

Invisible Clergy posted:

All hail the new flesh. Uh, on second thought, don't, since no erotica is allowed, and I'm sure your dick is as helpless before Cronenberg as mine.

I'm in like Flynn. I double checked the rules, and I don't think there's one against multiple people requesting from the same judge (if there is, feel free to flay me for my foolishness) but I'd like to request a flash from SittingHere, you seem pretty interesting and helpful.

Good luck, everyone.

"And remembering so well that the hand that brittles the rock can certainly roll the world"

RandomPauI
Nov 24, 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

Grimey Drawer

Revolver, MockingQuantum
Averaged Grade: B+


This story was a very good Gothic story in the American Southwest. I immediately got the sense that the story could only have a tragic ending. And the requirements allowed a fair amount of wiggle room. But I didn’t see how it was properly Southern Gothic.

The story was easy to read and the events flowed logically. The protagonist's motivations and intent weren’t immediately clear to me but everything clicked at the end. And there was very vivid imagery.

I’m ashamed to admit this. I couldn’t think of ways to improve the story as a story because I was stuck on how to fit it to the prompt. I couldn't think of any way to do so that wouldn't require making major revisions.


Homebound, Staggy
Averaged Grade: A+


This story hit the prompt and the flash rule well. The mother appointing the eldest son as the new patriarch and deferring to him: a minor who only knew violence. The youngest son escaping the doomed farm and finding his salvation in the city only to have to escape it a second time. And the protagonist deciding to murder his brother, destroying everything that’s left of the household and the family in order to find safety and freedom.

I liked being able to sympathize with the protagonist from start to finish. And the story works as a relatively timeless piece. Even so, I’d appreciate it if you’d clarify the timeline.

I wasn’t sure how old the protagonist was when his father died, and how long it took for Sean to become the new patriarch. The story could also have happened any year from the 1930s to today. The decade the story takes place in can greatly shift the significance of Sean using an old revolver and using kerosine lamps exclusively.

RandomPauI fucked around with this message at Jul 24, 2018 around 01:02

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

In.

Staggy
Mar 20, 2008

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


Entries closed.

Get writing folks.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

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


I guess we brawlin'

1484 words

DL1206

“Sir I need you to—”
“Look man I’m not even—”
“—step out of the line. You’ve been selected for a random inspection.”
“Random?”
“Yes sir, r—”
“Bullshit it’s random you’re just—”

Ten minutes later, you’re sitting in a windowless room. Clock on the wall: Mickey Mouse with his mismatched arms broken backwards – each little movement of those arms snapping away a piece of the afternoon. Who even has a wall clock any more? The interior decorator probably doesn’t know the Cold War is over. Eastern-Bloc chic, Made in America. Yee haw, God bless the Mouse and all his lonely friends.

Meanwhile, dad is dying in a hospital ward in Baltimore: sixty years of cheap food and cheaper cigarettes finally caught up to his heart, apparently. He was a good dad, which is to say he hosed up a lot but he did his best. Now he’s dying, and you’re going nowhere.

Back it up a minute. Who are you? You’re Ziyad. You’re not white, and that’s what mattered to the little man in the uniform. You overheard him talking to a colleague as they took you away – “yeah he’s one of them, whatsit? He’s from Pakistan.”
—but you’re from Baltimore and mom is from Chittagong which is barely even on the right continent: as far from Pakistan as B’more is from LA. But whatever: Muslim name, ambiguously brown, probably up to no good.

The little man returns. His nametag says he’s called Craig. He has sandy hair and he looks apologetic. He won’t stop calling you Sir, as if a spoonful of sugar will make the bullshit go down smoothly. He apologises after every question. He wants you to know that this isn’t a race thing and he’s really sorry but you shouldn’t have made a scene because now they need to ensure you’re not a flight risk and it’s taking some time to find you on file. No, he assures you, you’re not under arrest. He makes a joke about how much he hates paperwork and makes eye contact as if to say we’re both in this together. Dad is dying in Baltimore. You got the first ticket from LA you could find; it cost a small fortune. The flight departs in less than half an hour. Mickey the Mouse is breaking off the minutes: each one seems to cost years.

Craigs wants to know if he can get you anything: coffee, water. You ask for tea and he laughs, then he leaves. Mickey goes tick tick tick. Twenty-four minutes until the plane leaves. Dad never approved of your lifestyle choices; he never approved of LA. He didn’t think journalism was a real job. He wanted you to become a mechanic, like him. He’d make jokes about it whenever you came home, and he’d keep making them throughout the night until they stopped sounding like jokes. Twenty-one minutes left, and Craig comes back with a cup of unsweetened black coffee. You drink it politely, but the bitterness curls your lip. He makes conversation: asks how long you’ve been living in America, makes a joke about you scoring an American wife. You tell him you’re American and he says “yeah but you’re not American-American”. He laughs again: a short, double-burst haha. Two has every time: no more, no less. It sounds like he practices in the mirror.

His pager buzzes – pagers? Must be a security thing or a tech thing, like whyever-the-gently caress they do it in hospitals – and he apologises again, then steps out. He comes back almost immediately, frowning. They’ve found a Ziyad on the no-fly list and they need to check it’s not you. He’s Jordanian, with links to ISIS. He hasn’t been seen in over a year: he might be dead but he might also be trying to nefariously board a flight to Baltimore to visit a dying dad. Craig asks you whether you’ve ever associated with known terrorist groups, and the directness of it blows you away – as if some terrorist would go “yep, you got me” if you just asked nice. A joke rises in your throat and you push it back down: never make jokes in airports. Craig must see it cross your face, and he tilts his head to the side.

“Something funny?” he says.

“No sir,” you say. Something has changed in the room. He seems taller now. His eyes are hard. He frowns. You wonder whether they stop every Tim because they’ve got Timothy McVeigh on file – your name isn’t common, but surely they get a few through LAX a day. Craig tells you to sit tight so they can sort this all out. It’s probably just a mistake he says but we must be vigilant. You get it, man. Probably not your first time, huh?

Another man walks in. Tall, dark-haired, square-jawed. He’s wearing a suit. He isn’t wearing dark sunglasses, but somehow he radiates an aura of sunglass-ness. He’s got some sorta Southern drawl going on: like his mouth is filled with honey. He’s Clint. He’s with Homeland Security. He tells you he wants to be your friend, and help you out of this difficult situation. Mickey the Mouse has torn away another ten minutes: his malformed hour-hand is a little closer to 4, and his minute-hand is now twisted all the way back like it’s been wrenched right out of the socket.

Dad didn’t like your choice of college degree, but he took extra shifts at work to help pay for it. He was late to your graduation, because he got stuck in traffic; he had to stand at the back but you swear you saw him crying when you took your degree from the Dean.

Clint is behind you. He leans over you, and puts his hands on your shoulders. He asks about one of your friends from your Ethics 201 tutorial – you stumble over the words because you can barely remember him, but you tell Clint you haven’t seen the dude in years, and he doesn’t seem to believe you. Eight minutes left. Your friend from 201 went to Syria in 2015 and never came back. He’s on a watchlist. Clint wants to know whether he talked to you about your faith. You tell him you’re not a Muslim and he spits “you know what I mean.”

You honestly don’t know what he means. Or you do, but it doesn't seem like explaining to him is gonna help. His grip on your shoulders is starting to hurt, just a little. Craig is in the corner, not making eye contact. His arms are crossed. Seven minutes.

Dad once told you he was worried about your career – that print was dying, and the world didn’t need journalists any more. He still paid for your degree, because he knew that’s who you were, and he wanted you to be happy. You came home one time and find that he’d put a bunch of your articles on a corkboard in the garage. He’d even got a copy of The Valley Press out to Maryland somehow, one of your first gigs – a lovely pop culture beat. You never mentioned the board to him. You wish you had.

“No,” you say, “he didn’t.”

Clint clicks his tongue, and takes his hands off your shoulders. He paces the room, rubbing his hands together, not looking at you. You look at Craig: he probably thinks he’s nice, and maybe you can use that.

“I’m gonna miss my flight,” you say. He pulls himself away from the wall and looks like he’s going to say something, the Clint laughs and Craig laughs too, just a little. He slumps back against the wall and doesn’t meet your eye. You drink the last of the coffee. It’s making you jittery and nauseous, but somehow it’s better than doing nothing.

Four minutes.

The last time you spoke to dad, you fought. It doesn’t matter what you fought over: you can barely even remember. The last thing you said to him was that you’d talk to him later – not even the dignity of being a proper insult. That, at least, would’ve been a goodbye of sorts. Mickey the Mouse’s long arm is bent almost totally backwards, almost touching the six. His broken-ness belies his fixed grin. God bless the Mouse, and all his lonely friends.

You want to laugh, because it’s so stupid; throw back your head and let it out. You know it’ll only make you look worse, and you can’t afford that luxury.

“You guys need anything else?” you say. Or can I go?

Clint stares at you. Two minutes left. You hear the faint sound of a boarding call, muffled by the thick walls – you can’t be sure it’s yours, but you know on some level that it is. You’ve probably missed a few.

Dad is dying in Baltimore.

“Now,” says Clint. He sits down across from you, and scans his tablet. “Let’s go over these questions again.”

dreadmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

yeah im brawlin im doin it

Travelling light
1521 words

Eduardo was good at travelling. He liked airports, their interstitial "no-place" aspect. He liked travelling light. He could imagine himself bragging about that to someone, though it was hard to imagine a suitable context. So he wasn’t flustered when his plane was delayed.

He looked up at the board which, instead of saying a time for his connecting flight, just said CONSULT. It was doubtless meant to say who he should consult, but it didn’t. The sign was probably broken, he thought as he scanned for a ticket agent. He smiled at an officious lady in a slightly too large uniform who was standing behind a desk, but she shooed him away with an impatient expression as she muttered into her phone. He waited for a few moments, trying to work out what language she was speaking, but she glared at him and turned her back so he left her to it.

Eduardo glanced around, getting his bearings like the seasoned traveller he was. The airport wasn’t one he’d been to before, but airports were all alike for all the effort put into differentiation via carpets and font choice. There was always a place you could ask questions, an information kiosk or -- there, on the wall. He strode over to the customer service phone and picked up the receiver.

It buzzed at him for a moment, then a recorded message thanked him for his patience in five languages. He only knew one of the languages, but could pick up the meaning of the other four through context.

Eduardo hung up the phone and called out to a passing man in an airport uniform, who stopped and turned with a look of polite attention. Eduardo laid out his problem briskly but, he thought, with charm -- conveying, though words, expressions and gestures, that his problems were not vital or unique, but also communicating that it was important to him that they be managed and resolved.

The man listened with keen interest, nodding, then made it clear through gestures and words that he didn’t speak or understand English, but that he hoped Eduardo would find the information he was seeking and reach his destination.

Eduardo watched the man walk off, smiling like a man who’d earnt his money today, and looked around for the large suit woman, but she too had left, leaving a sign apologising for the inconvenience in her place.

The airport had long, slanting, transparent panes; like being inside a crystal cathedral. Outside, the sky was a smoky tangerine colour, shading into the blue of night. Eduardo looked out at the sky. A seagull perching on an antenna that looked back at him haughtily, then flapped off.

Thirty minutes later Eduardo was walking through an underground tunnel, having been pointed towards a distant terminal by a sullen Australian who’d missed a wedding because of the delay. It was a long way, but he told himself the exercise would be useful. His back was getting sweaty and he changed the shoulder he was carrying his pack on.

He heard the Terminal before he saw it, a humming buzz of impatience, like a disturbed beehive. When Eduardo saw the line for the customer service desk, which was immense and wound back and forth like a snake, a sense of helplessness swept over him. There was something in this airport air that made his blood thicker, he could feel his heart taking extra effort to pump it round his body. He trudged over to the back of the line.

Two hours later Eduardo was most of the way to the front of the line and his feet and head were aching. He had heard a lot of stories about the airport he was in from people around him in the queue, most of them about its failings. It seemed that this was one of the airports where things went wrong, worst in the city, in the country, in the geographical region. One burly man in a sweat-stained check shirt said his cousin had broken their leg in the toilet and lain there helpless for half a day. Another woman set out the experiences of her mother-in-law who had maggots fall on her when opening the overhead locker. The general slant of the stories was of the airport as a kind of malevolent vortex or maelstrom drawing all the ambient woe in the area into itself.

Eduardo was tired now, and hungry. He had an orange in his backpack but had decided against eating it untill he could wash his hands of the stickiness. Losing his place in the queue to get to a cafe was unthinkable, they had fended off nearly a dozen queue jumpers, sending them shame-faced to the back of the line. Then, at last, it was his turn.

The puffy-faced woman behind the counter had the air of an assembly line robot that was wall past its maintenance date, her eyes no longer blinking at factory assigned intervals. She explained that the planes were not flying, but that they might be flying in the morning, and Eduardo should return then. She gave him a piece of paper with a number he could call to stay at an airport hotel.

Eduardo thanked her and called the number, tapping it into his phone. A recorded message thanked him for his patience in seven languages, six of which he didn’t know (but could understand via context). He stood there in a loose crowd of his former queue-mates, smiling wearily when one of them caught his eye and looked away. They all had their phones to their ears and a piece of paper in their hands.

Eventually his phone ran out of power. There was a hubbub from the ticket counter and Eduardo looked over, blinking scratchy eyes. A short, elderly woman was lying on the ground, clutching her head. She looked foreign, and was moaning in a language he didn’t know.

Eduardo was ravenously hungry now, like he had a black hole inside him, eating away at his substance. The cafes were all closed; outside the Terminal, the sky was black. He reached into his pack, pulled out his orange and was about to peel it when he noticed the eyes of his former queue companions upon it. Ravenous, hungry eyes. Their phones were still to their ears, the pieces of paper in their hands. Eduardo scuttled away, looking for a corner to feed.

There was an overflowing rubbish bin with a sleepy wasp circling it, next to the airport bar. He crouched down beside it and carefully peeled it with trembling hands. The segments refused to separate cleanly, spurting sticky juice over his hands. Finished, Eduardo looked for a toilet to wash his hands. There was one across the concourse, but through the drifting clots of airport refugees he could see the sign apologising for the inconvenience.

Eduardo didn’t drink - he didn’t need it, he used to say to friends and family. He tried to remember the last time he’d said it as he stepped into the bar. It was very full. Everyone was talking very loudly, laughing like they’d been told the answer to a joke that no-one else knew.

He put his pack down under a barstool and waved at the sweaty barman, making a sign for toilets. It was an old man, bald, his eyes gleaming from within as he gestured towards the crowded back of the room.

There was a pool of vomit on the floor of the toilet, creeping out from under one of the stall doors. The acrid smell stung Eduardo’s nose as he stepped over it and spun the tap to wash his hands. Nothing came out. He tried them all. Then he remembered that he’d left his backpack outside in the bar. Eduardo preferred not to swear, because, as he often said, language was rich enough already, but he still said a swear word as he slammed open the door out of the toilet and hobbled back on aching feet, rubbing his sticky hands together, to where his backpack had been.

There was a space on the floor there now. The barman didn’t seem to know where it had gone, and the people who’d been sitting there had gone. A beery American in a MAGA cap clapped him on the shoulder and offered him a drink when he tried to ask about it. Eduardo felt a sharp spurt of acid in his throat at the yeasty smell, and staggered outside the bar. Next to the door a fat man was pissing on a wall, a wet black stain growing on the airport carpet.

Eduardo looked around for his backpack, with his boarding pass and his phone and his diary. It wasn’t on anyone’s back. He could feel a black void in his head, like the sky outside. He wanted to cry.

He walked across the dirty carpet, put his face on the long slanting pane of cold glass and slid down it, let the weight of travel pull him to the floor.

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.


SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

I guess we brawlin'

1484 words

DL1206

“Sir I need you to—”
“Look man I’m not even—”
“—step out of the line. You’ve been selected for a random inspection.”
“Random?”
“Yes sir, r—”
“Bullshit it’s random you’re just—”

Ten minutes later, you’re sitting in a windowless room. Clock on the wall: Mickey Mouse with his mismatched arms broken backwards – each little movement of those arms snapping away a piece of the afternoon. Who even has a wall clock any more? The interior decorator probably doesn’t know the Cold War is over. Eastern-Bloc chic, Made in America. Yee haw, God bless the Mouse and all his lonely friends.

Meanwhile, dad is dying in a hospital ward in Baltimore: sixty years of cheap food and cheaper cigarettes finally caught up to his heart, apparently. He was a good dad, which is to say he hosed up a lot but he did his best. Now he’s dying, and you’re going nowhere.

Back it up a minute. Who are you? You’re Ziyad. You’re not white, and that’s what mattered to the little man in the uniform. You overheard him talking to a colleague as they took you away – “yeah he’s one of them, whatsit? He’s from Pakistan.”
—but you’re from Baltimore and mom is from Chittagong which is barely even on the right continent: as far from Pakistan as B’more is from LA. But whatever: Muslim name, ambiguously brown, probably up to no good.

The little man returns. His nametag says he’s called Craig. He has sandy hair and he looks apologetic. He won’t stop calling you Sir, as if a spoonful of sugar will make the bullshit go down smoothly. He apologises after every question. He wants you to know that this isn’t a race thing and he’s really sorry but you shouldn’t have made a scene because now they need to ensure you’re not a flight risk and it’s taking some time to find you on file. No, he assures you, you’re not under arrest. He makes a joke about how much he hates paperwork and makes eye contact as if to say we’re both in this together. Dad is dying in Baltimore. You got the first ticket from LA you could find; it cost a small fortune. The flight departs in less than half an hour. Mickey the Mouse is breaking off the minutes: each one seems to cost years.

Craigs wants to know if he can get you anything: coffee, water. You ask for tea and he laughs, then he leaves. Mickey goes tick tick tick. Twenty-four minutes until the plane leaves. Dad never approved of your lifestyle choices; he never approved of LA. He didn’t think journalism was a real job. He wanted you to become a mechanic, like him. He’d make jokes about it whenever you came home, and he’d keep making them throughout the night until they stopped sounding like jokes. Twenty-one minutes left, and Craig comes back with a cup of unsweetened black coffee. You drink it politely, but the bitterness curls your lip. He makes conversation: asks how long you’ve been living in America, makes a joke about you scoring an American wife. You tell him you’re American and he says “yeah but you’re not American-American”. He laughs again: a short, double-burst haha. Two has every time: no more, no less. It sounds like he practices in the mirror.

His pager buzzes – pagers? Must be a security thing or a tech thing, like whyever-the-gently caress they do it in hospitals – and he apologises again, then steps out. He comes back almost immediately, frowning. They’ve found a Ziyad on the no-fly list and they need to check it’s not you. He’s Jordanian, with links to ISIS. He hasn’t been seen in over a year: he might be dead but he might also be trying to nefariously board a flight to Baltimore to visit a dying dad. Craig asks you whether you’ve ever associated with known terrorist groups, and the directness of it blows you away – as if some terrorist would go “yep, you got me” if you just asked nice. A joke rises in your throat and you push it back down: never make jokes in airports. Craig must see it cross your face, and he tilts his head to the side.

“Something funny?” he says.

“No sir,” you say. Something has changed in the room. He seems taller now. His eyes are hard. He frowns. You wonder whether they stop every Tim because they’ve got Timothy McVeigh on file – your name isn’t common, but surely they get a few through LAX a day. Craig tells you to sit tight so they can sort this all out. It’s probably just a mistake he says but we must be vigilant. You get it, man. Probably not your first time, huh?

Another man walks in. Tall, dark-haired, square-jawed. He’s wearing a suit. He isn’t wearing dark sunglasses, but somehow he radiates an aura of sunglass-ness. He’s got some sorta Southern drawl going on: like his mouth is filled with honey. He’s Clint. He’s with Homeland Security. He tells you he wants to be your friend, and help you out of this difficult situation. Mickey the Mouse has torn away another ten minutes: his malformed hour-hand is a little closer to 4, and his minute-hand is now twisted all the way back like it’s been wrenched right out of the socket.

Dad didn’t like your choice of college degree, but he took extra shifts at work to help pay for it. He was late to your graduation, because he got stuck in traffic; he had to stand at the back but you swear you saw him crying when you took your degree from the Dean.

Clint is behind you. He leans over you, and puts his hands on your shoulders. He asks about one of your friends from your Ethics 201 tutorial – you stumble over the words because you can barely remember him, but you tell Clint you haven’t seen the dude in years, and he doesn’t seem to believe you. Eight minutes left. Your friend from 201 went to Syria in 2015 and never came back. He’s on a watchlist. Clint wants to know whether he talked to you about your faith. You tell him you’re not a Muslim and he spits “you know what I mean.”

You honestly don’t know what he means. Or you do, but it doesn't seem like explaining to him is gonna help. His grip on your shoulders is starting to hurt, just a little. Craig is in the corner, not making eye contact. His arms are crossed. Seven minutes.

Dad once told you he was worried about your career – that print was dying, and the world didn’t need journalists any more. He still paid for your degree, because he knew that’s who you were, and he wanted you to be happy. You came home one time and find that he’d put a bunch of your articles on a corkboard in the garage. He’d even got a copy of The Valley Press out to Maryland somehow, one of your first gigs – a lovely pop culture beat. You never mentioned the board to him. You wish you had.

“No,” you say, “he didn’t.”

Clint clicks his tongue, and takes his hands off your shoulders. He paces the room, rubbing his hands together, not looking at you. You look at Craig: he probably thinks he’s nice, and maybe you can use that.

“I’m gonna miss my flight,” you say. He pulls himself away from the wall and looks like he’s going to say something, the Clint laughs and Craig laughs too, just a little. He slumps back against the wall and doesn’t meet your eye. You drink the last of the coffee. It’s making you jittery and nauseous, but somehow it’s better than doing nothing.

Four minutes.

The last time you spoke to dad, you fought. It doesn’t matter what you fought over: you can barely even remember. The last thing you said to him was that you’d talk to him later – not even the dignity of being a proper insult. That, at least, would’ve been a goodbye of sorts. Mickey the Mouse’s long arm is bent almost totally backwards, almost touching the six. His broken-ness belies his fixed grin. God bless the Mouse, and all his lonely friends.

You want to laugh, because it’s so stupid; throw back your head and let it out. You know it’ll only make you look worse, and you can’t afford that luxury.

“You guys need anything else?” you say. Or can I go?

Clint stares at you. Two minutes left. You hear the faint sound of a boarding call, muffled by the thick walls – you can’t be sure it’s yours, but you know on some level that it is. You’ve probably missed a few.

Dad is dying in Baltimore.

“Now,” says Clint. He sits down across from you, and scans his tablet. “Let’s go over these questions again.”

How DARE you make me feel these feelings sir! How dare you. +1

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Regular cleanings are essential to good oral health

(archived)

Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at Aug 13, 2018 around 22:33

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


Respect for the Dead
1240 words

Mike smoked the last of his pre-sanctification cigarettes and headed for the church vestibule. The priest who waited for him inside, in collar and street clothes, was a broad-shouldered chunky farmboy, with a wide gormless face that made him look about twelve years old. His gaze was fixed on a boarded-up window, until Mike's footsteps startled him into focus. "Father O'Connell?"

"Call me Mike. It's... Father Winthrop?"

"Jerry's fine. Do you want some coffee or anything?"

Mike shook his head. He never ate before sanctification; it was all he could do to get through the process with an empty stomach, a dead nose, and the taste of smoke in his throat. "No, thank you. Let's just get started."

Jerry led him back to the church's multipurpose room, still staged for a Sunday-school lesson: David and Jonathan, judging by the felt cut-outs stuck to the Velcro easel. In the center of the room, a long folding table had been set up with a CPR dummy on top, decorously covered with a bedsheet. Next to it stood two dark-haired women, clearly sisters, in stiff black suits: small-town morticians, silent and ready for their lesson. Mike set down his bag and began to stage his tools.

First out of the bag was the sonicator, snug in its black nylon pouch, alongside four sets of ear protectors. Then came the tool rolls, first the mallets and tongs and then the knives, all clean stainless steel tucked into rolls of black canvas. Finally, there were the reagent canisters, brushed aluminum with engraved labels. Everything was gleaming, sterilized, as surgical-looking as he could make it. Mike preferred the operating-room look to keep himself focused on the work and detached from sentiment. Besides, it cleaned up easier.

Mike looked back at his audience. The mortician sisters were in the same pose of grave expectance they'd been since he came in, but Jerry was starting to look a little nervous. Bringing out the tools did that. "Okay," Mike said, letting his voice drop into the soft, slow cadence with which he always taught. "Before we get started, I want to tell you that it's all right if you're not comfortable with this. Sanctification of the dead is not a pleasant process, and while you'll build a tolerance to it, it's okay if it's never easy. The important thing is to remember that this is part of our duty, and that unpleasantness for us now prevents suffering in the community later. With that said, let's begin."

Mike drew back the sheet from the CPR dummy. The thing's rubbery skin was discolored, starting to flake, with a ragged hole in the abdomen; frankly, he'd worked real corpses that looked better. "The first step in sanctification," he said, "is preventing resurrection. The easiest way to keep a body from rising is to disrupt the connection between the head and torso. Obviously, if you can sever the neck entirely, that's the safest, but that's not always feasible." That was the polite version. Mike had never worked with a mortician that could make a post-death sever look natural in a coffin. "The current state of the art is the cervical sonicator, which disrupts spinal cord integrity without breaking the skin."

Mike took the sonicator out of its case and held it up for his audience to see its shape, like a shallow pair of headphones attached to a hefty control box. "You'll want ear protection for the noise, by the way," he said, retrieving a set from the table. "What we do is that we fit the contacts to either side of the neck... think Frankenstein bolts..." He fitted the device slowly and carefully, watching the others don their ear protectors. "... and then, once it's fitted, we adjust settings on the control box. The manual goes into those. Once we're set, we just press this button here."

The blast of sound from the sonicator was loud and abrasive, enough to make Mike's skin crawl, even if he'd stopped jumping at it years ago. There was something ugly about it, and maybe that fit the ugly work it did. At least it was only a few seconds long, and after it ended, both morticians had drawn closer to look at the dark scorch marks the thing had left on the plastic.

"It does better on real skin," Mike said. "Easily covered with funeral makeup. Collars help, but no need for turtlenecks. Most mourners won't notice." One sister looked to the other, nodded silently, and they both stepped back. "Any questions so far?"

"Um," said Jerry. "Will breaking the neck work just as well?"

It wasn't the kind of question Mike had been prepared for. He'd expected an audience like his other small-town priests: nervous silence, broken by a cough or a groan; polite thanks at the end; then no further news until their town suffered another zombie outbreak three months later. Whether they were squeamish new seminary graduates or oldsters who'd lived by "respect for the dead" since before the outbreaks began, none of ever followed his teachings, and they paid for it in ruined graveyards and the shambling corpses of parishioners. His fellow Dignity Society volunteers, working to rebuild monuments and normalcy, saw their work ruined over and over again. But this time, maybe he was about to be pleasantly surprised.

"There's no reason it wouldn't," Mike replied. "It'd be less clean than the sonicator, of course."

"It isn't really about clean, though, is it? It's about doing this right. We can't go on like this."

"You're God-damned right you can't go on like this." The words came out quick and forceful, before Mike could even think about them, and to their credit, none of his audience flinched. "You want my honest opinion? You need to build a crematorium. When the true Resurrection comes, God can build you up from ashes, but until then, nothing else will. It's the safest and the easiest. But your congregation won't stand for that, I know, so we work with what we have. You'd better be all right getting your hands dirty."

"Father O'Connell," said Jerry. "Mike. I grew up on a farm. Chickens and pigs. This isn't going to be a problem."

"Good." Mike picked up one of the knives from his knife roll. "Let's get started on the failsafes. If you've done your work right, the dead won't rise, but if something goes wrong, you need to make sure they don't do damage. Let's start with the legs..."

The tension in the air had lifted. Walking through the failsafe techniques -- cutting tendons, smashing wrist and ankle bones, packing wounds with salt and ash and winding in spirit-soaked gauze -- wasn't exactly fun, but today, it was almost easy. The morticians even started to make noise, the occasional appreciative "hmm" or "ah," and when he'd finished working over the CPR dummy, it was one of them who suggested going out for a beer. Mike didn't drink often -- it wasn't a luxury he could afford -- but a brew and some lunch sounded about perfect. The tight knot of futility in his chest was beginning to loosen.

Outside, in the churchyard, his fellow volunteers were at work. Mike paused on the way to his car to to watch the stonemasons raise a new statue, an angel posed in prayer. He inhaled, let a lungful of sweet Vermont air clear his mind, and set off for beer and fellowship.

Lippincott
Jun 28, 2018

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

You must suffer.

A lot.


3 Hours
Word(s): 1225

“It’s only three hours.”

Jeff assures his wife. He’s said the same thing twice already. Karen wishes she shared his certainty as she as she adjusts the rearview mirror. The station wagon grumbles to life. Chad and Leesa are in the back seat, ages four and two respectively. Chad was intentional, Leesa less so. Now that Leesa sleeps through the night and Chad occasionally hits the toilet, Karen is taking them to visit her parents. Jeff has a golf tournament this weekend. It’s “very important” he make an appearance for the company. As he tucks Leesa into her car seat, he falsely promises-

“If all goes well, just think – we can do Disneyland next!”

The kids exclaim “DIDNEYLAND!”, and Karen’s heart sinks. Jeff closes the car door and waves, climbing into his BMW and easily shifting out of the driveway. Karen is left with her son’s imminent disappointment. “This will be a good trip too.” Karen promises her four-year-old as he struggles with the concept of “next time.” “Grandma and Grandpa have a pool and they’re so excited to see you!”

Chad asks if Mickey Mouse will be there.

“No, but we will see Mickey Mouse soon.”

The Disneyland money is waiting in the bank, but first Karen has to see her dad. The third round of chemotherapy made travel impossible, and they haven’t seen their granddaughter Leesa since birth. It’s only three hours. I should have gone sooner. Karen chides herself, turning up the air conditioner and ignoring the despondent noise of a child without Mickey Mouse.

The air conditioner blows cold for the first five minutes of their suburban neighborhood, then turns lukewarm. By thirty minutes, it’s sweltering and Chad is exploring the overuse of the word, “Moist!” to describe the sweat beading on Karen’s forehead. Leesa chimes in with a squalling, “Me hot!” Karen pulls over to crank down all four windows.

They start once more, and the wind whipping through the car blurs the edge off the noise. “It’s a safe, reliable car,” Jeff had argued, “We need to keep it simple. We don’t need all those bells and whistles! It’s just more poo poo to break.” Karen had lobbied for a minivan, something with a DVD player. “I remember playing Eye Spy with my brothers in the car! The kids can do that if they get bored!”

Karen tries Eye Spy as they approach Vacaville, but Leesa is more interested in parroting the word “blue” on repeat rather than finding something that color. Chad immediately points out a blue car. And another one. And another one. His shrieks of “BLUE!” become cacophonous, but at least he’s done with “moist.” Karen ponders if it’s too soon to bust out the bribery snacks.

“Do you think you two can be good enough for popsicles?”

A joyous shriek unanimously proclaims their mutual worthiness of popsicles, but when she pulls the popsicles out for distribution, she finds only juice bagged around a stick. She hands them back anyways, and “Me hot” becomes “Me sticky.” The upholstery in Karen’s car is battle-scarred with no hope for salvation.

After, she passes back a packet of wet wipes to Chad with instructions to clean himself up and then help his baby sister. Classic rock blares as they hit the Interstate. The task of doling out wet wipes encourages Chad to explore an air of responsibility and discipline on his younger charge.

“One for you. One for me.”

It seems like a fair distribution of wipes, until Chad suspiciously repeats and Leesa cackles in a way never inspired by moist napkins. In the rearview, Karen watches Chad feed the last wet wipe out the open window. Leesa supports his littering efforts, clapping her hands, as the towelette leaps into the wind and curves back along their drag like a released bird.

“NO! NOT OUT THE WINDOW!”

The force of the words leave Karen’s surprise her, coming from a deeply exasperated corner of her soul. She takes a steadying breath while the children are stunned into a momentary silence. Leesa breaks the peace while mommy attempts to salvage her tranquility.

“Mommy. Me tummy not all full of food.”

“Honey, you just had a popsicle.”

Leesa considers this, pondering the deep possibilities of fullness. She concludes, “Four more popsicles.”

“No more popsicles, those were a special treat. Let’s play a new game? Whoever can be quiet the longest, wins.”

A riot erupts over the very concept of the Quiet Game. Karen abandons the effort, letting the sounds of their quibbling merge with “Highway to Hell” on the radio.

She turns the song up until she feels it in her teeth, but still she hears Chad screaming “BLUE”. Karen looks to the green numerals on the dash. It’s only been an hour. She has passed back two new versions of snacks at this point, bananas that ended up smashed in the edges of the car seats and some ‘all-natural’ cheesy snacks that stained the maws of her starving brood. The car smells like the zoo’s ape exhibit.

“Honey, we’re done playing Eye Spy.” Karen begs Chad. Leesa begins to fall asleep, but every new, concussive “BLUE” from her brother rouses her again, her fierce determination to stay awake manifests in the form of screaming.

“We going to Didneyland, Mommy?”

“Chad. I thought we established that if you were good on this trip, we would go to Disneyland next. Not now.”

“Not now Didneyland?”

“No, not going to Disneyland-“

Chad has now hit critical mass of waking hours between naptimes. This re-discovery that they are still not going to Disneyland proves too much for his fragile sensibilities. His bottom lip trembles. He begins to stammer, “B-b-but-“ Leesa is screaming again. Chad has thrown her shoe out the window. He joins in with a low moan, as if he were being dragged behind the car instead of carefully restrained in a reclined car seat with extra padding. There are no more snacks.

“No” Karen decides suddenly, “We’re going somewhere better.”

As if by magic, the raging hoard has fallen silent. The peeping inquiries of “Where?” are met with only “Wait and see.” The anticipation tastes like rotting bananas and sticky hands. Karen sees what she needs and takes the next exit.

The wagon gutters into the parking lot of the car dealership, and Karen steps out. The children are covered in stick and sweat, and she shepherds them into the air conditioned show room with a sigh of relief as the cool air washes over them. Julio is politely willing to sell her “a car that runs and will keep me from killing these two for the next hour.”

“I have five at home. I completely understand. Here, let me show you what I just bought my wife.” Steering her towards the newest model of minivan on the floor, he waves off her worries about the children running amok. Karen catches her reflection in the rearview mirror, sweat stained and exhausted, with dark circles framing in her eyes with cadaverous weight. The car turns over easily and purrs to life with a blast of wonderfully cold air through the vents

“We had an old wagon too. They’re good cars,” he observes. “But you deserve an upgrade.”

The family’s vacation savings is liquidated in an afternoon. She lets Chad pick out the color. It’s blue.

Chuf
Jun 28, 2011

I had that weird dream again.


Sorry I will fail I am scum. Hoped for any time at all and then didn't have it

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

Tradecraft

1023 words

His gun is aimed directly at my lower chest, mine is useless dead weight in my holster. It's a risk any spy lives with, getting captured. I hold my hands up. His partner comes around behind me, roughly drags them down behind my back and applies the zip-tie, and it’s off to whatever undocumented site they have going here in Bulgaria.  No way to tell which agency, no way to tell if they’re working for the shirts or the skins. Nothing to do but wait and see.

We get trained on capture protocols.  Escape methods. Resisting interrogation.  I’ve been through the CIA training. I’ve been through a camp for the shirts that made that seem like a weekend at Disneyland.  People say torture doesn’t work, but just about every one of them would give up their ATM codes and passwords before the other guy finished pulling out his tools.  A few would last longer for the security code to where their family is living, but not much longer. Even with all the training in the world, nobody can last forever. No way to train an agent to resist the kind of interrogation that comes with permanent brain damage. It's all about how long you can last, and what kind of opportunity you can find, or manufacture, in the meantime.

They put me in a small cell, hands still bound. They're doing lightweight stuff so far. Bad music, loud, lots of water and no toilet. The cell is five degrees off level. A bit more sophisticated than anything the Bulgarian secret police would have, so I know this facility has to be run by the skins, at the top. I have to hope there are a few of us in the lower ranks. It isn't too much to ask for.

Shirts and skins. The two real factions in international espionage. The cynics leave it there, think there's no more difference than between the sides of a pickup game. Just a bunch of rich assholes who decided after Nagasaki that history was too important to be left to anyone else. But there is a big difference. Two approaches to long term survival and control. The skins are primitivists, the shirts are technophiles. Their guys want their grandkids to be the disaffected aristocrats of a late medieval crapsack world, while ours want their grandkids to be the disaffected aristocrats of a cyberpunk dystopia. I'm good with my choice. Give me air conditioning and internet porn over sustenance farming and Morris dancing any day.

They let me stew for a while. I know nothing is going to happen until after I piss my pants, so I don't try and be a hero holding it in. An hour later, they come by, cut off the tie, hose me down, and put me in prison clothes. They zip-tie my hands again, in front this time. It means they're going to want me to sign something. Sure enough, they bring me to an interrogation room, with papers and photos on the desk. Pictures of me, up to various sorts of no good. And one of those pictures is attached to one of those papers with a paperclip.

The standard paperclip is an amazingly versatile tool. In addition to its quotidian service physically joining documents, it can be formed into a useful hook, is so good for picking locks that zip-ties have all but replaced handcuffs for serious restraint, can puncture skin when applied forcefully enough, can be sharpened to a more weaponized point with a little time, and all in a package that can be easily palmed and concealed in at least seven places on a man’s body by anyone with even a little stage magic training.

This is not a standard paperclip. It was one of ours, which means there's someone here working for the shirts. First off, it's really two paperclips, one over the other. When they give me a confession to sign, I go right ahead and do it. No reason not to. A Bulgarian propaganda victory over the CIA doesn't mean a thing, really. The shirts and skins don't play that particular game. As I'm signing, I pull off the outer clip and palm it, leaving the inner one there and my opposites none the wiser.

The enhanced paperclip is much like the original. A bit stronger in places. The outer end is extra-stiff and has a subtle hook, making it nearly as good as locksmith tools. The inner has a needle-sharp tip and a razor edge on one side. And the middle breaks away with two feet of garotte wire between.

Back in the cell I get to work. Unfold, then cut the zip-tie off my hands. Then quickly work the cell door. Two guards outside, unaware. I pull the ends apart and get the thin cord around one’s neck, pulling tight to crush his trachea. A little too tight, the wire snaps. He’s not breathing well enough to do anything but fall down and gasp. The other has a truncheon. He swings it, high and wild. I hit him hard and low. He goes down. I keep moving, but run straight into three more, two guns and a Taser. Only one move left. I pull out the sharp half of the clip and drag it across my throat.

I wake up on a hospital bed, woozy and intubated, restrained and hooked up to drips of who knows what. There won't be any more opportunities for escape. Just recovery, more drugs, and questionings until I break. And I will break, eventually. I'll tell them every secret I know but one.

Getting captured is a risk any spy lives with. Sometimes, it's the job itself. They'll believe everything I tell them, just as the men who wear the shirts intend. Enough of it will still be true, still seem useful that the skins will fall for the parts that are traps. I can hold on to that lie, at least up to the point where when they hear it they’ll tailspin into questioning  everything they know. It's for the future. Their grandkids’, and mine.

Invisible Clergy
Sep 25, 2015

"Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces"

Malachi 2:3


Live and Let Dye

1033 words

First of the month.

Time to pay the Snakeheads.

Linh was still getting her papers piecemeal.

A birth certificate here. SSN there. She had them sent to different Amazon lockers in case anyone was following her. Hadn’t had any trouble yet, but that was because she was careful.

She was the first one in the salon on Tuesday mornings to unlock the place.

Plug in the foot baths. Top up the jars of Barbicide if they ran low. Dust off the globe at the reception desk.

Pick out a new target.

Linh had rules. It was the same as anything: follow the rules, keep your head down, and you wouldn’t get caught.

Never the same woman twice. Never less than a month since her last appointment. Never someone who had crossed her.

Linh sprayed ant killer at the remnants of a sticky puddle by one of the salon chairs. A customer had threw frappuccino dregs at one of the girls for pinching her cuticles.

The chemicals set and Linh knelt to scrub the remnants from the floor, so the smell wouldn’t linger, a paper mask around her face.

Amanda Stone. In at 8:30 for a cut and dyejob. Should be enough to work with, even if she wasn’t assigned to Linh’s station.

Morning was the same as usual. Boss passed out name tags with gweilo names on them. Linh’d been Florence yesterday. Today she was Judy. Customers didn’t seem to notice.

Stone came in and didn’t make much of a fuss. Linh’s job was sweeping up today while one of the other girls did the deed. Tawny 2A going from pageboy to pixie with auburn lowlights. Linh swept up after the cut was done and dumped the hair in the trash, aside from a pinch she secreted in a dime bag hidden in her shoe.

She took her lunch in the breakroom and crunched the numbers on her debt. This should be the last payment, if everything went according to plan. No bank account of her own, not yet, not without papers.

Some of the others gave her poo poo for Westernizing too much or too quickly. Denigrated her Lean Cuisines from behind steaming bowls of congee. Linh took it in good humor. It was part of her camouflage. No one would expect a banana like her to cling to certain old ways.

***

Once she was home, she could feed that part of herself. She locked the door to her apartment and pulled all the shades. A rolled oilcloth on the table held the instruments of Amanda Stone’s destruction.

Linh set herbs and roots and flowers and poisons and juices into a mortar and pestle and ground them beneath the light of a candle she’d dipped herself, a strand of her hair interwoven with the wick.

She began the words her grandmother had taught her, one bleeding into another until they became a low hum. Linh spoke without needing to stop for breath, the air moving in through her nose and out through her mouth, her circular breathing contained within her paper mask, ritual decorations painted on its surface in blonde whorls, red stripes, and black tangles.

While she couldn’t argue with the results, Linh didn’t want to breathe in any more of this chemical poo poo than she had to. The old ways could mingle with the new, same as anything.

She’d stapled a photo of Amanda Stone’s face to the doll on the table before her, already cut and stuffed, just waiting for the needle to be threaded.

Linh snapped on nitrile gloves and took a strand of hair from the dime bag in her pocket, wound and woven tightly. She threaded the needle and tied it in a knot, the rest lying pooled before her.

Her fingers slick with water, product, and dye, the needle got away from her and she jabbed herself. Blood ran down her hand and pooled in the strands before her.

Linh cut them apart from the rest with scissors and separated the piles immediately.

She looked at the needle to see if it was bent and chided herself. It was a poor craftsman who blamed the tools, her grandmother had always said as she showed Linh her family’s magic.

There was nothing else to be done with the spoiled sample. This was power, and she couldn’t let it go to waste. Linh raised her mask, pinched her nose and swallowed it with a grunt. She could leave nothing behind after this.

The doll was done soon after. She sent her templated blackmail email, having gotten the contact info from the salon’s appointment book. Send money to the Snakeheads’ account, or things would get worse before they got better.

Linh unwrapped a fresh hypodermic needle tip and drove it into the doll. The email would be specific about the phantom pain. Either she would play along or she wouldn’t. There was always more out there.

***

The next morning was uneventful. They seldom paid right away, and Linh, or Gertrude as she was called today, had learned by now to avoid checking her cell too eagerly for notifications. Her first payment could be no different from her last. This was what separated her from the kinds of people who got caught.

Two men came in, their off-the rack Brooks Brothers suits outside the salon’s normal clientele. Linh was at reception Wednesdays and smiled.

“Xin chào, how may I help you today?” she said.

“We’re with Seattle PD. We’d like to ask you a few questions about a customer who was in here yesterday morning. Amanda Stone,” one of them said.

Linh opened the salon’s appointment book like nothing was wrong. She’d protected herself. They couldn’t have found her IP. If they had, they’d have been arresting her by now.

“Yes, 8:30. Did we overcharge her by mistake or something?” Lin said with a polite laugh. Pretend to already be at fault, and people would apologize and leave you alone.

“I’m afraid it’s more serious than that,” said the other. He tossed a manilla envelope on the counter and flipped it open with his thumb. Nailbiter. But she had no desire to suggest a manicure.

The folder contained photos Amanda Stone’s corpse. It was badly burned by acid, its face a skull with a few scraps of flesh clinging to it, but Linh recognized it. It had the same pixie.

After all, you can’t digest hair.

Linh could feel it, knotted and vengeful in the pit of her stomach.

“Would you excuse me please? I have to go to the bathroom.” She fled from the counter, in her haste knocking over the globe from the desk. It rolled off its edge, but one of the cops caught it.

“Take your time, miss. We aren’t going anywhere.”

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Gifts of the Gods
(1,238 words)

Read it in the archive.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at Aug 2, 2018 around 22:29

Staggy
Mar 20, 2008

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


Okay folks, submissions are now closed.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



pre-judgement bullshit

By 2030, the court system was so overloaded that new cases had to be scheduled years into the future. Seeing a market opportunity, Universal Cybernetics developed the Electro-Bailiff, an 8 foot tall robot which could walk at 30 mph and speak at over 250 words per minute. The first year of widespread adoption, the Electro-Bailiff saved over 250,000 man-hours just on the "all rise" announcements (assisted by pneumatically-operated seats in the juror box and gallery).

A few years later U.C. introduced the Automatic Juror, for rent by the hour to persons summoned for jury duty. The first model would do little more than repeat racist statements to get out of jury selection, but the Mark III was actually deemed suitable as an actual jury stand-in when, in an experimental case, one stood in for Ethel Jones (age 87, of Phoenix, Arizona) and successfully convinced a human jury to convict because "you know how those people are." The Department of Justice considered that sufficient evidence that a robotic proxy could accurately represent the beliefs and reasoning of a human juror. Within a year, the majority of juries were entirely robotic.

When Universal Cybernetics attempted to promote the Judgetron Mark I, it met with significant resistance despite the public's rapid acceptance of electronic juries and courtroom assistants. Public opinion changed following a dramatic demonstration in which a Judgetron was set in a race against 10 human judges over a 24 hour period. Despite the best efforts of the human judges--particularly the Honorable Jonathan Henry, who heard cases through the night before dying of a heart attack at dawn--the Judgetron ruled on more cases than all the human judges combined. The Department of Justice approved the Judgetron. The verdict was clear: Fast judging was, indeed, good judging.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


Is your life currently meaningless because there's no results or prompt? Well, obviously. But did you know you can subdue your constant feelings of existential dread? This is especially true if you are one of the past judges who, say, forgot to do something, the one thing that matters in this life besides making GBS threads out horrible internet stories.

A
B
C

Always
Be
Critting

Always be critting!

Weeks 304, 305, and 310 have about a 33% completion rate of crits. Plenty of other recent weeks are missing crits. If you're not one of those judges missing a crit, try doing bonus crits of a few stories to help out! Thunderdome is nothing without the varied, honest feedback that helps us improve, and critiquing stories helps improve your own craft as well.

RandomPauI
Nov 24, 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

Grimey Drawer

The Piano, Magnificent 7, Averaged Grade: B-

I see how the story is southern, I had to worry about copperheads back in Virginia. I see how it’s got gothic elements: the setting is gloomy, there’s a love gone wrong. But it didn’t really feel all that gothic to me. And the parts of the song incorporated into the story felt cursory to its message.

I didn’t feel pulled into the story. It felt expository, like a deathbed confession. It could have been made longer, with the narrator going more in-depth about each scene. Or it could have been made shorter. Set the story during homecoming, have them find the place the first time, have him afraid to kiss her, and then have him be too aggressive.

One last thing. The penultimate line might work better as an introduction. Instead of wondering “what will make is this person important to the story” the reader would wonder “why would he kill someone he loved?”

RandomPauI fucked around with this message at Jul 24, 2018 around 01:05

MockingQuantum
Jan 20, 2012


Unlockable Ben

Getting some crits in before the banhammer falls!

Crits for Week 304

Return

This was an interesting take on the “self-fulfilling prophecy” but ultimately fell pretty flat for me. Who is this Coi, besides being a seer? That’s about all I got about her. Also the relationship between the king and the prince was muddled and I think it could have been established both more clearly and more concisely with some restructuring. Those two things really kept me from following the through-line of the story with ease. Also, I feel like I needed more setup to know how to feel when Nergal was brought up. I mean, god of disaster doesn’t sound good, but I needed more context of how Nergal is viewed/feared/shunned in this world. Some basic grammar mistakes like run-on sentences, incomplete sentences, etc. as well.

Release

Overall very good. The prose flowed nicely, the imagery was evocative, and I liked the completeness of the narrator’s journey. It feels silly to say this in regards to flash fiction, but honestly it felt a little too short to me. I feel you could really give us a sense of the importance of this ritual, who the people watching are, and what’s at stake for the narrator in another 400 words or whatever. I’d like to have seen more of a tension built up between the expectations the narrator thought were placed on them and their need for comfort/release. As is the story stands on its own merits pretty well.

Harbinger

I’m a little split on this one. In theory, I like the concept of the comet through the ages, the names evolving, etc. In practice it didn’t result in a story that really engaged me. It’s hard for me to suggest what would have improved on it as a reader. The length of the third section (which is most definitely the meat of the story and where the real conflict comes into play) makes the first two sections feel a bit arbitrary. They feel more like a preamble than part of the story proper. I think it may have worked better with the middle section cut out and more of a story presented in the first section. This does make it harder to identify that the names all stayed the same, but honestly in execution the name thing felt more like a gimmick than a significant contribution to what you were doing with the story. Sidenote: the phrase “of course” is a pet peeve of mine because it feels overly casual in a third-person narration, and it felt weird to me both times it appeared in this story. Saying that the copper hill “of course” had no copper left in it has a way of implying the reader should already know this information, which works if you’ve already established that sort of voice in the story, but in both instances here I think “of course” could have been cut entirely.

Ocean Music

Some really good imagery in here, and I liked the story being told. It was a little sudden, to me, that the god just got straight-up stuck in a lyre when I wasn’t given reason to even suspect such a thing, but I was engaged enough by that point that I just shrugged, thought “mythology is weird,” and rolled with it. Occasionally some sentence constructions felt like they tripped me up as much as they helped establish the imagery so I think there were various places where the descriptors could have been scaled back or cut entirely, but it wasn’t like a thesaurus assault or anything. One thing I personally hate, but is kind of common in TD, is when italics are used for emphasis, especially in stories where it only happens twice. I get it’s a way to immediately draw focus to a word, but here having “pulled” in italics kinda hit me over the head with the parallel I assume you were trying to draw, and it was a little strange when “pulled” was used in the same sentence with the second italicized instance. I’d encourage anybody to explore whether there’s a different word choice that’s more emphatic on its own without having to resort to formatting to get your point across, though I admit I can’t think of a better word off the top of my head.

Sacred Vessels

I don’t have much to contribute here in terms of critique. I think it’s a solid story, good imagery, interesting through and through. I especially enjoyed the storytelling format, I think it did a lot to convey the ancient-ness of both the setting and the story within the frame. I would read more like this, for sure. Well done.

Fox, Quick and Clever

Pretty good overall. I liked the mini world that the story lays out, and felt like I had a good sense of the main character. I also loved the imagery created around Fox. It made her feel simultaneously mundane and godlike in a way that felt very reminiscent of myth and/or folklore. I would have liked a little more of an idea what the main character walked away with at the end, beyond it being a stone (and knowledge). Not strictly a criticism, I’m just curious! Also I shuddered at “many eyes opened”. Blech. I said this in an earlier crit but I don’t like when TD entries use italics for emphasis on single words. I always feel like stories are better served with a different word choice or sentence construction that places the emphasis naturally, rather than relying on (sometimes borked) formatting. I felt the same here with an early sentence where words were italicized to create the parallel of it both being not important and really important to bring back something special.

Snow on the Shore

Hmm. This one is technically strong, the writing itself is fine, there's just... nothing happening? I have no sense of who these people are, what their story is, why the device is important. No real standout language for me either, but it was a quick read that flowed well, which isn't always the case with TD entries. I mostly wanted a lot more. I needed more sense of stakes, of why these people were journeying and what they wanted (besides "not to die in a storm"). I didn't hate this one, but I didn't feel much of anything else for it if I'm being honest.

The Legend of Fire

It seems like it's kind of a trend this week to have stories without a whole lot of plot. Not a grave sin in and of itself, but this story, like a lot of others, just didn't do much to grab me. I would have liked to know who the heck is talking, who these ambiguous "people" are, something more specific about the life god that sets them apart from any other faceless god, etc. As is it feels basically like a retelling of Prometheus with the serial numbers and all the interesting bits filed off. Nothing wrong with referencing mythology, especially in a week that lends itself to mythology, but I really wanted to see more done with the concept. Best part for me was that you used prairie dogs. When I was in grade school, there was a big to-do about prairie dogs because a big population of them were discovered to be carrying the bubonic plague.

A Hole in the Sky

Boy, this one feels like a missed opportunity. I liked a lot of what you have going on here: the hole in the sky, the dead city, the ghost not moving to the next life because the gods aren't paying attention... but the latter, especially, came so quickly at the end that it felt like a postscript. I think too much time was spent on unnecessary details when the focus should have been on the more compelling aspects you did come up with. Having not read the judges' crits, I'm not certain why this one DM'ed-- there were other stories this week that were definitely less technically sound and with weaker (or no) plot. Overall I didn't hate this one, but I wanted more of what you didn't give me and less about how people are born old and balls dropping. Doubly so given how far below the word count limit it is.

Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished

Like so many others this week, this story didn't have the most robust plot, but I'm... sort of okay with that? Strong characterization, a lot of interesting world aspects presented pretty economically, engaging language and pacing, etc. The ending was funny, though it felt a little unresolved to me. I think it may have felt unresolved in part because I didn't feel like there was a strong conflict or tension point set up early on. It sort of felt like the conflict was "shaman is a loner who can't read, then stops being a loner." Not fundamentally bad, but it definitely wasn't what drove the story for me. I was drawn along mostly on the strength of the little setting details you presented.

Elehu

I liked this one a lot, but I'm a sucker for expeditions and tombs and unspeakable horrors and bullheaded archaeologists digging too deep. This was one of the stronger ones for me. Only complaints are that things like Krl and the devil leaned on pretty established tropes, I would have liked more ominous detail laid out in a way that drew me along. As is, a lot of that was implied, which is fine, just as a matter of taste I'd have liked some of that lore presented to me. Also it's a personal pet peeve of mine when fantasy-ish stories throw around Capitalized Terms that clearly are A Thing in the world of the story, but I'm not given any background to follow up on it. I'm thinking specifically of the Unfurling you mention. I would have liked to know more, or for the orphaned Capital Word to go away entirely. As is it made me feel like I missed some detail that would have given me more context for what happened with Krl and its worshippers (I don't think I did miss anything, at least?). Overall, though, one of the stronger stories for me this week.

Power of Greyskull Raglatan

Sorry, couldn't pass up a dumb joke! Overall this story was fine for me, I liked the concept of the guardians, and the ending was fine. Fundamentally all the moving parts of the story were there, but for some reason I found this to be a bit of a meandering story. It felt unclear or muddy at times, possibly because of the order in which information was presented. Also, I feel like I didn't have a clear picture of anything but the mountain. Who are these people? Who are the raiders? What are the particulars of the setting? How advanced are these people? I couldn't be certain if they were extremely primitive or bronze-age advanced or what have you. Not functionally important to the story, but I think little details would have added a lot. I think the story could be restructured so the plot strings everything along a little more naturally, too.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Thunderdome Recap!



Insert the obligatory "things humanity was not meant to read" joke here: in this foray into Thunderdome's ever-mysterious depths, the recap team confronts Week 303: Things Humanity Was Not Meant To Know, in which we peel back prose flesh to view the horrors inscribed upon a story's skull; Week 304: Magic of Bronze and Stone, which teaches us all the important lesson that sometimes gods are dicks; and Week 305: "They sell tacos... and Potato Olés!"--a round considerably less satisfying than the potatoes that were promised. Our final objective is a dramatization of sandnavyguy's "In the Eye of the Beholder." Join us for some Valium, won't you?

Why Sarah, we have such lovely things to show you, such wondrous, curious things.


Episodes past can be found here!

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

BY THE POWER OF RAGLATAN thank you for the crit

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

Please don't ban me
767 words

Coorsley had an important flute recital the same day his flute starting playing only ooze. He hadn’t done anything to it, he just woke up the day of the concert, gave his flute a good tootin’, and instead of a beautiful, flutey sound, there was only ooze.

*gloop*

“Well this is bad,” he said, but he wasn’t worried. The flute repair store was nearby, and he was a frequent customer on account of his flute being cursed. He wiped his flute with a clean handkerchief and packed it into its crushed velvet-lined case.

He walked down the street whistling a jaunty tune that belied the horror he carried.

“Hey Coorsley,” said the postman. “Ready for your big concert today?”

“My spirt is prepared, but my flute is oozing.”

“Birds flying out of it again?”

“Nope, no birds. Just ooze.”

The postman frowned. “Well that sound disgusting.”

“It is much grosser than birds.”

The birds were kind of gross, because of all the pooping, but the ooze smelled bad.

Coorsley continued: “The ooze smells bad.”

“Like what?”

“Just kind of a non-descript stink. Like the inside of your belly button after a long hike.”

The postman wrinkled his nose. “Taking it down to JoBoMoRo’s Flute Shop?”

“Yes. By the way, do you have any packages for me?”

“No.”

“Please let me know if my flute de-oozer comes in.”

“When did you order it?”

“Three days ago. I had a feeling about the ooze. It’s always something with this cursed flute.”

The postman held up his finger like he had a bright idea. “What if you didn’t have a cursed flute, but just a normal flute?”

“But then I couldn’t play beautiful music because I made that deal with that witch.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. Well, I should finish delivering all these packages.”

“Yes, the witch will get angry if you are late again.”

The postman got back into his pumpkin and drove away.

Coorsley walked the rest of the way to the flute shop with a little skip in his step. He was so happy to be out in the sunshine, it was a really nice day and there were a lot of birds singing (not living inside his flute), and it general it was just a really nice day.

The door did that little jingle bell thing when he walked in, and O.L.A.F., the flute repair robot came out from the back.

“Good morning, Coorsley. Flute badoops again?”

“Yeah, it be badoopin’ when it should be a flutin’. Ooze comin’ out of all the holes, even the mouthpiece. I got some in my mouth. It tastes like sweet strawberry wine, but it smells terrible.”

O.L.A.F.’s hands turned into screwdrivers that were perfectly flute sized. “I’ll have it hollerin’ that flutey sound sans ooze quicker than you can say ‘10 Hello World GO TO 10.’” He winked a robotic wink. *clunk*. He had very heavy eyelids.

Coorsley tapped his foot in rhythm while the robot hammered on the flute with the screwdrivers in the same beat. It was real funky fresh and passers-by nodded their heads and said stuff like “Oh yeah.”

Finally after about five hours the robot was finished.

“Here, I’m done. I’ve deoozed it. The problem was you had an oozer stuck right up in there, and I yanked it out. Now I have it on the inside of that piano to give it an unlimited lifetime supply of piano grease.”

The store’s resident pianist belted out a quick ditty that sounded greasily fantastic. “Smooth.”

“Thanks O.L.A.F., just in time for my big concert.”

Coorsley took possession of the flute and headed towards the concert hall. He changed into his tux in the public bathrooms near the venue, and then headed straight to the main stage.

“This is my song I wrote, he said to the quiet audience.” He played it, and it was beautiful.

The witch was in the crowd, and she was proud of him. So many people she had traded abilities for a curse had spent all their time fighting the curse, or trying to kill her, and never really just leaned into it. She nodded at Coorsley, and he nodded back. After all the applause he invited her onto the stage and gave her a red rose of appreciation.

The end.

dreadmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

crabrock posted:

Please don't ban me
767 words

Coorsley had an important flute recital the same day his flute starting playing only ooze. He hadn’t done anything to it, he just woke up the day of the concert, gave his flute a good tootin’, and instead of a beautiful, flutey sound, there was only ooze.

*gloop*

“Well this is bad,” he said, but he wasn’t worried. The flute repair store was nearby, and he was a frequent customer on account of his flute being cursed. He wiped his flute with a clean handkerchief and packed it into its crushed velvet-lined case.

He walked down the street whistling a jaunty tune that belied the horror he carried.

“Hey Coorsley,” said the postman. “Ready for your big concert today?”

“My spirt is prepared, but my flute is oozing.”

“Birds flying out of it again?”

“Nope, no birds. Just ooze.”

The postman frowned. “Well that sound disgusting.”

“It is much grosser than birds.”

The birds were kind of gross, because of all the pooping, but the ooze smelled bad.

Coorsley continued: “The ooze smells bad.”

“Like what?”

“Just kind of a non-descript stink. Like the inside of your belly button after a long hike.”

The postman wrinkled his nose. “Taking it down to JoBoMoRo’s Flute Shop?”

“Yes. By the way, do you have any packages for me?”

“No.”

“Please let me know if my flute de-oozer comes in.”

“When did you order it?”

“Three days ago. I had a feeling about the ooze. It’s always something with this cursed flute.”

The postman held up his finger like he had a bright idea. “What if you didn’t have a cursed flute, but just a normal flute?”

“But then I couldn’t play beautiful music because I made that deal with that witch.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. Well, I should finish delivering all these packages.”

“Yes, the witch will get angry if you are late again.”

The postman got back into his pumpkin and drove away.

Coorsley walked the rest of the way to the flute shop with a little skip in his step. He was so happy to be out in the sunshine, it was a really nice day and there were a lot of birds singing (not living inside his flute), and it general it was just a really nice day.

The door did that little jingle bell thing when he walked in, and O.L.A.F., the flute repair robot came out from the back.

“Good morning, Coorsley. Flute badoops again?”

“Yeah, it be badoopin’ when it should be a flutin’. Ooze comin’ out of all the holes, even the mouthpiece. I got some in my mouth. It tastes like sweet strawberry wine, but it smells terrible.”

O.L.A.F.’s hands turned into screwdrivers that were perfectly flute sized. “I’ll have it hollerin’ that flutey sound sans ooze quicker than you can say ‘10 Hello World GO TO 10.’” He winked a robotic wink. *clunk*. He had very heavy eyelids.

Coorsley tapped his foot in rhythm while the robot hammered on the flute with the screwdrivers in the same beat. It was real funky fresh and passers-by nodded their heads and said stuff like “Oh yeah.”

Finally after about five hours the robot was finished.

“Here, I’m done. I’ve deoozed it. The problem was you had an oozer stuck right up in there, and I yanked it out. Now I have it on the inside of that piano to give it an unlimited lifetime supply of piano grease.”

The store’s resident pianist belted out a quick ditty that sounded greasily fantastic. “Smooth.”

“Thanks O.L.A.F., just in time for my big concert.”

Coorsley took possession of the flute and headed towards the concert hall. He changed into his tux in the public bathrooms near the venue, and then headed straight to the main stage.

“This is my song I wrote, he said to the quiet audience.” He played it, and it was beautiful.

The witch was in the crowd, and she was proud of him. So many people she had traded abilities for a curse had spent all their time fighting the curse, or trying to kill her, and never really just leaned into it. She nodded at Coorsley, and he nodded back. After all the applause he invited her onto the stage and gave her a red rose of appreciation.

The end.

Already queued it, with an extremely baller gif... i'll see if i can withdraw it

.
.
.
.
Yes, just in time. Heres the gif:

dreadmojo fucked around with this message at Jul 24, 2018 around 06:59

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

sebmuffin brawl number %n?! RESULTS

We asked for airport realism and that sure is what we got. Airports suck, we are but cattle in the face of their power to frustrate and confuse. Congratulations for writing such similar tales of Kafkaesque airport woe. They were both good, if not amazeballs.

I have recently been binge-watching Project Runway. Please read the rest of this post in the voice of Heidi Klum.

SurreptitiousMuffin: Your story packed plenty of emotional punch and the ending left me yelling gently caress you at a fictional character. Good job. However, your story failed to give us enough insight into the emotional state of the protagonist. Your judges wanted to know how he was feeling in response to this very stressful situation.

Sebmojo: The judges enjoyed Eduardo's metamorphosis, but your ending fell flat. I would have preferred Eduardo to scuttle off into the night, the airport having stripped him of all humanity, but instead he just sits down on the carpet. "The weight of travel" is also a very awkward turn of phrase.

Congratulations SurreptitiousMuffin, you are the winner of this challenge.

I'm sorry Sebmojo, that means you're out. You may leave the runway.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

Here are my judge-thoughts on your brawl stories. Sitting Here will no doubt have more intelligent crits for you shortly.

DL1206 by SurreptitiousMuffin

“Sir I need you to—”
“Look man I’m not even—”
“—step out of the line. You’ve been selected for a random inspection.”
“Random?”
“Yes sir, r—”
“Bullshit it’s random you’re just—”

So later I learn that at this point the protag caused enough of a scene to get him pulled aside as a potential flight risk. I would have preferred to have seen a bit more of this, rather than him just saying “bullshit.” I mean, his dad is dying, he’s probably pretty upset.

Ten minutes later, you’re sitting in a windowless room. Clock on the wall: Mickey Mouse with his mismatched arms broken backwards – each little movement of those arms snapping away a piece of the afternoon. Who even has a wall clock any more? The interior decorator probably doesn’t know the Cold War is over. Eastern-Bloc chic, Made in America. Yee haw, God bless the Mouse and all his lonely friends.

The repeated Mickey Mouse clock image is great.

Meanwhile, dad is dying in a hospital ward in Baltimore: sixty years of cheap food and cheaper cigarettes finally caught up to his heart, apparently. He was a good dad, which is to say he hosed up a lot but he did his best. Now he’s dying, and you’re going nowhere.

Oof that is a good emotional gut punch.

Back it up a minute. Who are you? You’re Ziyad. You’re not white, and that’s what mattered to the little man in the uniform. You overheard him talking to a colleague as they took you away – “yeah he’s one of them, whatsit? He’s from Pakistan.”
—but you’re from Baltimore and mom is from Chittagong which is barely even on the right continent: as far from Pakistan as B’more is from LA. But whatever: Muslim name, ambiguously brown, probably up to no good.

The little man returns. His nametag says he’s called Craig. He has sandy hair and he looks apologetic. He won’t stop calling you Sir, as if a spoonful of sugar will make the bullshit go down smoothly. He apologises after every question. He wants you to know that this isn’t a race thing and he’s really sorry but you shouldn’t have made a scene because now they need to ensure you’re not a flight risk and it’s taking some time to find you on file. No, he assures you, you’re not under arrest. He makes a joke about how much he hates paperwork and makes eye contact as if to say we’re both in this together. Dad is dying in Baltimore. You got the first ticket from LA you could find; it cost a small fortune. The flight departs in less than half an hour. Mickey the Mouse is breaking off the minutes: each one seems to cost years.

Craigs wants to know if he can get you anything: coffee, water. You ask for tea and he laughs, then he leaves. Mickey goes tick tick tick. Twenty-four minutes until the plane leaves. Dad never approved of your lifestyle choices; he never approved of LA. He didn’t think journalism was a real job. He wanted you to become a mechanic, like him. He’d make jokes about it whenever you came home, and he’d keep making them throughout the night until they stopped sounding like jokes. Twenty-one minutes left, and Craig comes back with a cup of unsweetened black coffee. You drink it politely, but the bitterness curls your lip. He makes conversation: asks how long you’ve been living in America, makes a joke about you scoring an American wife. You tell him you’re American and he says “yeah but you’re not American-American”. He laughs again: a short, double-burst haha. Two has every time: no more, no less. It sounds like he practices in the mirror.

Man Craig is a dick. Maybe slightly implausibly so? But the main thing in this para is the introduction of the idea that his relationship with his dad was far from perfect; I’m now automatically waiting for some sort of resolution or at least call back to this.

His pager buzzes – pagers? Must be a security thing or a tech thing, like whyever-the-gently caress they do it in hospitals – and he apologises again, then steps out. He comes back almost immediately, frowning. They’ve found a Ziyad on the no-fly list and they need to check it’s not you. He’s Jordanian, with links to ISIS. He hasn’t been seen in over a year: he might be dead but he might also be trying to nefariously board a flight to Baltimore to visit a dying dad. Craig asks you whether you’ve ever associated with known terrorist groups, and the directness of it blows you away – as if some terrorist would go “yep, you got me” if you just asked nice. A joke rises in your throat and you push it back down: never make jokes in airports. Craig must see it cross your face, and he tilts his head to the side.

“Something funny?” he says.

This bit is great, the Kafkaesque nightmarish-ness of it is making me squirm.

“No sir,” you say. Something has changed in the room. He seems taller now. His eyes are hard. He frowns. You wonder whether they stop every Tim because they’ve got Timothy McVeigh on file – your name isn’t common, but surely they get a few through LAX a day. Craig tells you to sit tight so they can sort this all out. It’s probably just a mistake he says but we must be vigilant. You get it, man. Probably not your first time, huh?
Why is his speech here italicised rather than in speech marks?

Another man walks in. Tall, dark-haired, square-jawed. He’s wearing a suit. He isn’t wearing dark sunglasses, but somehow he radiates an aura of sunglass-ness. He’s got some sorta Southern drawl going on: like his mouth is filled with honey. He’s Clint. He’s with Homeland Security. He tells you he wants to be your friend, and help you out of this difficult situation. Mickey the Mouse has torn away another ten minutes: his malformed hour-hand is a little closer to 4, and his minute-hand is now twisted all the way back like it’s been wrenched right out of the socket.

Your mouse-clock metaphor is really working for you now.

Dad didn’t like your choice of college degree, but he took extra shifts at work to help pay for it. He was late to your graduation, because he got stuck in traffic; he had to stand at the back but you swear you saw him crying when you took your degree from the Dean.

Clint is behind you. He leans over you, and puts his hands on your shoulders. He asks about one of your friends from your Ethics 201 tutorial – you stumble over the words because you can barely remember him, but you tell Clint you haven’t seen the dude in years, and he doesn’t seem to believe you. Eight minutes left. Your friend from 201 went to Syria in 2015 and never came back. He’s on a watchlist. Clint wants to know whether he talked to you about your faith. You tell him you’re not a Muslim and he spits “you know what I mean.”

You honestly don’t know what he means. Or you do, but it doesn't seem like explaining to him is gonna help. His grip on your shoulders is starting to hurt, just a little. Craig is in the corner, not making eye contact. His arms are crossed. Seven minutes.

Dad once told you he was worried about your career – that print was dying, and the world didn’t need journalists any more. He still paid for your degree, because he knew that’s who you were, and he wanted you to be happy. You came home one time and find that he’d put a bunch of your articles on a corkboard in the garage. He’d even got a copy of The Valley Press out to Maryland somehow, one of your first gigs – a lovely pop culture beat. You never mentioned the board to him. You wish you had.

Ok so here’s the call back to the relationship with dad that I was waiting. He was a good dad after all, so that’s good. Maybe there is some solace in that, although it makes not making it to him in time all the more heart-rending

“No,” you say, “he didn’t.”

Clint clicks his tongue, and takes his hands off your shoulders. He paces the room, rubbing his hands together, not looking at you. You look at Craig: he probably thinks he’s nice, and maybe you can use that.

“I’m gonna miss my flight,” you say. He pulls himself away from the wall and looks like he’s going to say something, the Clint laughs and Craig laughs too, just a little. He slumps back against the wall and doesn’t meet your eye. You drink the last of the coffee. It’s making you jittery and nauseous, but somehow it’s better than doing nothing.

Four minutes.

The last time you spoke to dad, you fought. It doesn’t matter what you fought over: you can barely even remember. The last thing you said to him was that you’d talk to him later – not even the dignity of being a proper insult. That, at least, would’ve been a goodbye of sorts. Mickey the Mouse’s long arm is bent almost totally backwards, almost touching the six. His broken-ness belies his fixed grin. God bless the Mouse, and all his lonely friends.

Ah gently caress so you really did want to see dad one last time. This kinda just takes us back to where we started, i.e. that his relationship with dad is not great, which I found a little unsatisfying. But maybe that’s the point.

You want to laugh, because it’s so stupid; throw back your head and let it out. You know it’ll only make you look worse, and you can’t afford that luxury.

“You guys need anything else?” you say. Or can I go?

Clint stares at you. Two minutes left. You hear the faint sound of a boarding call, muffled by the thick walls – you can’t be sure it’s yours, but you know on some level that it is. You’ve probably missed a few.

Dad is dying in Baltimore.

“Now,” says Clint. He sits down across from you, and scans his tablet. “Let’s go over these questions again.” FUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUU CLIIIIIIIINT

My main (and only really) complaint about this story is the lack of emotional reaction from the protag. The set up is a total gut-punch, the nightmarish-ness of it is really well done and deeply disturbing. But the protag is just so… chill. I mean, I know wigging out is not in his interests and that yelling and crying would be a dumb thing for him to do, but maybe it would have been better to show more of his internal state. Does he feel frantic? Anguished? Numb? All of the above? I would have liked to know.



Travelling light by Sebmojo

Eduardo was good at travelling. He liked airports, their interstitial "no-place" aspect. He liked travelling light. He could imagine himself bragging about that to someone, though it was hard to imagine a suitable context. So he wasn’t flustered when his plane was delayed.

He looked up at the board which, instead of saying a time for his connecting flight, just said CONSULT. It was doubtless meant to say who he should consult, but it didn’t. The sign was probably broken, he thought as he scanned for a ticket agent. He smiled at an officious lady in a slightly too large uniform who was standing behind a desk, but she shooed him away with an impatient expression as she muttered into her phone. He waited for a few moments, trying to work out what language she was speaking, but she glared at him and turned her back so he left her to it.

Eduardo glanced around, getting his bearings like the seasoned traveller he was. The airport wasn’t one he’d been to before, but airports were all alike for all the effort put into differentiation via carpets and font choice. There was always a place you could ask questions, an information kiosk or -- there, on the wall. He strode over to the customer service phone and picked up the receiver.

It buzzed at him for a moment, then a recorded message thanked him for his patience in five languages. He only knew one of the languages, but could pick up the meaning of the other four through context.

Eduardo hung up the phone and called out to a passing man in an airport uniform, who stopped and turned with a look of polite attention. Eduardo laid out his problem briskly but, he thought, with charm -- conveying, though words, expressions and gestures, that his problems were not vital or unique, but also communicating that it was important to him that they be managed and resolved.

I like the my-flight’s-delayed-but-that’s-no-biggy tone you’ve got going here, you’re landing it well (plane pun intended).

The man listened with keen interest, nodding, then made it clear through gestures and words that he didn’t speak or understand English, but that he hoped Eduardo would find the information he was seeking and reach his destination.

Eduardo watched the man walk off, smiling like a man who’d earnt his money today, and looked around for the large suit woman, but she too had left, leaving a sign apologising for the inconvenience in her place.

The airport had long, slanting, transparent panes; like being inside a crystal cathedral. Outside, the sky was a smoky tangerine colour, shading into the blue of night. Eduardo looked out at the sky. A seagull perching on an antenna that looked back at him haughtily, then flapped off.

Thirty minutes later Eduardo was walking through an underground tunnel, having been pointed towards a distant terminal by a sullen Australian who’d missed a wedding because of the delay. It was a long way, but he told himself the exercise would be useful. His back was getting sweaty and he changed the shoulder he was carrying his pack on.

I can feel Eduardo’s ability to cope with this situation starting to ebb away here - really well done.

He heard the Terminal before he saw it, a humming buzz of impatience, like a disturbed beehive. When Eduardo saw the line for the customer service desk, which was immense and wound back and forth like a snake, a sense of helplessness swept over him. There was something in this airport air that made his blood thicker, he could feel his heart taking extra effort to pump it round his body. He trudged over to the back of the line.

Two hours later Eduardo was most of the way to the front of the line and his feet and head were aching. He had heard a lot of stories about the airport he was in from people around him in the queue, most of them about its failings. It seemed that this was one of the airports where things went wrong, worst in the city, in the country, in the geographical region. One burly man in a sweat-stained check shirt said his cousin had broken their leg in the toilet and lain there helpless for half a day. Another woman set out the experiences of her mother-in-law who had maggots fall on her when opening the overhead locker. The general slant of the stories was of the airport as a kind of malevolent vortex or maelstrom drawing all the ambient woe in the area into itself.

Leg-breaking toilets and maggots on a plane? Wtf sort of airport are we in now?

Eduardo was tired now, and hungry. He had an orange in his backpack but had decided against eating it untill he could wash his hands of the stickiness. Losing his place in the queue to get to a cafe was unthinkable, they had fended off nearly a dozen queue jumpers, sending them shame-faced to the back of the line. Then, at last, it was his turn.

The puffy-faced woman behind the counter had the air of an assembly line robot that was wall past its maintenance date, her eyes no longer blinking at factory assigned intervals. She explained that the planes were not flying, but that they might be flying in the morning, and Eduardo should return then. She gave him a piece of paper with a number he could call to stay at an airport hotel.

Eduardo thanked her and called the number, tapping it into his phone. A recorded message thanked him for his patience in seven languages, six of which he didn’t know (but could understand via context). He stood there in a loose crowd of his former queue-mates, smiling wearily when one of them caught his eye and looked away. They all had their phones to their ears and a piece of paper in their hands.

Eventually his phone ran out of power. There was a hubbub from the ticket counter and Eduardo looked over, blinking scratchy eyes. A short, elderly woman was lying on the ground, clutching her head. She looked foreign, and was moaning in a language he didn’t know.

Eduardo was ravenously hungry now, like he had a black hole inside him, eating away at his substance. The cafes were all closed; outside the Terminal, the sky was black. He reached into his pack, pulled out his orange and was about to peel it when he noticed the eyes of his former queue companions upon it. Ravenous, hungry eyes. Their phones were still to their ears, the pieces of paper in their hands. Eduardo scuttled away, looking for a corner to feed.

Eduardo’s transformation is great.

There was an overflowing rubbish bin with a sleepy wasp circling it, next to the airport bar. He crouched down beside it and carefully peeled it with trembling hands. The segments refused to separate cleanly, spurting sticky juice over his hands. Finished, Eduardo looked for a toilet to wash his hands. There was one across the concourse, but through the drifting clots of airport refugees he could see the sign apologising for the inconvenience.

Eduardo didn’t drink - he didn’t need it, he used to say to friends and family. He tried to remember the last time he’d said it as he stepped into the bar. It was very full. Everyone was talking very loudly, laughing like they’d been told the answer to a joke that no-one else knew.

He put his pack down under a barstool and waved at the sweaty barman, making a sign for toilets. What is the sign for toilets? It was an old man, bald, his eyes gleaming from within as he gestured towards the crowded back of the room.

There was a pool of vomit on the floor of the toilet, creeping out from under one of the stall doors. The acrid smell stung Eduardo’s nose as he stepped over it and spun the tap to wash his hands. Nothing came out. He tried them all. Then he remembered that he’d left his backpack outside in the bar. Eduardo preferred not to swear, because, as he often said, language was rich enough already, but he still said a swear word as he slammed open the door out of the toilet and hobbled back on aching feet, rubbing his sticky hands together, to where his backpack had been.

There was a space on the floor there now. The barman didn’t seem to know where it had gone, and the people who’d been sitting there had gone. A beery American in a MAGA cap clapped him on the shoulder and offered him a drink when he tried to ask about it. Eduardo felt a sharp spurt of acid in his throat at the yeasty smell, and staggered outside the bar. Next to the door a fat man was pissing on a wall, a wet black stain growing on the airport carpet.

Eduardo looked around for his backpack, with his boarding pass and his phone and his diary. It wasn’t on anyone’s back. He could feel a black void in his head, like the sky outside. He wanted to cry.

He walked across the dirty carpet, put his face on the long slanting pane of cold glass and slid down it, let the weight of travel pull him to the floor. This last line almost, but doesn’t quite, work. While I like that “the weight of travel” is a call back to the I’m-so-smug-I-travel-light thing he had going at the start, “the weight of travel” is an just too odd a turn of phrase.

It was a close call between these two stories, but ultimately what tipped the win in Muffin’s favour for me was the emotional weight it delivered, compared to Sebmojo’s lighter tale.

Staggy
Mar 20, 2008

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


Week 311 Results - From Apprentice to Master

This week saw an interesting batch of stories that went places with the week’s theme that I wasn’t expecting, so thanks for that! Unfortunately if there was an unofficial secondary theme this week it was “not quite sticking the landing”. A whole lot of interesting stories that just fell a bit flat towards the end.

First up: disqualifications. SkaAndScreenplay, MockingQuantum, Chuf and magnificent7 are a sorry lot who shame their craft. SkaAndScreenplay and MockingQuantum in particular – there are better ways to contribute to Lowtax’s boneitis fund than this.

Crabrock: it’s a dangerous game you’re playing submitting that late but this week, at least, it’s paid off. This was a fun, quick read that had just enough charm to spare you the judges’ wrath. You just saved yourself .

Next up: this week’s loser is Erainor. Rien lawyered sexily onto the page before suddenly she was teleported to a cold and dank prison cell. Unfortunately in-between was a mound of rushed exposition hiding some good ideas. Better luck next time.

The dishonourable mention goes to Lippincott. Parenting as a trade or skill is exactly the sort of non-obvious take on the theme I was hoping for. Sadly a lack of polish and some truly unbelievable dialogue did not help your execution.

Pham Nuwen, Kaishai and Thranguy – you all had enjoyable enough stories but nothing that sizzled.

This week’s honourable mention goes to Antivehicular. Some clever, brief worldbuilding led to a fictional trade and tools that felt real. I would like to see more.

That means this week’s winner is Invisible Clergy! That goddamn pun in the title was outshone by a strong narrative arc, interesting take on the trade/tools theme and some nice, clear writing. The ending was a bit wobbly but that was pretty much par for the course this week. Good job! Another first-time winner, this time matched with a first-time loser. Grab your theme and your co-judges and have at it!

A big thanks to assistant judges sebmojo and Sitting Here. I’ll post some crits when I get a chance later.

Erainor
Dec 30, 2017

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I still maintain it was fun, even with the worst story of the week

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dreadmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

Erainor posted:

I still maintain it was fun, even with the worst story of the week

I'll do crits within 48 hours

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