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Invisible Clergy
Sep 25, 2015

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

Malachi 2:3


Sounds like fun. I'm in this week like a shoujo geek.

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ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013


SCREAMING YES
MOTHERFUCKER
I AM GUILTY, I AM DEATH


Selfish Century
1197 words

There was probably some kind of ironic moral to my boyfriend plunging to his death trying to leap the poverty quarantine. World-famous rockstar billionaire Emmet Celestine in his sleek luxury racer with all the trimmings crashing at terminal velocity down into the earth and coming apart into a spray of shrapnel, each piece worth more than the lives of the crowd they went scything through in a spray of blood and metal, cutting down grandmothers and children with shards of oak dashboard, the flying fragments of his skull.

Whatever the lesson there was, I guess I didn’t learn it because I took the tiniest fraction of the insurance payout and bought a new car with all the trimmings. Walnut-wood insets on the steering wheel from the last sickly trees in the greenhouses. Leather seats. A servant AI with my boyfriend’s personality matrix loaded in.

“Boo.” They got his voice and his total self-obsession right. “I can’t stop thinking about the jump. I think I can make it.”

“You thought that last time.” I guess he hasn’t figured the moral out either. Someday, I’ll do the therapeutically correct thing and replace him with one of the generics. Today, I say, “The beach.” We’re out in a soft electric pur and a hard screech of rubber, racing through through the slats of light where the red sun shines between the cracked, faded out plastic pillars of the endless parking complex, a mausoleum where the cars whisper to each other in voices of the dead.

‘The beach’ is a really a dam, a great wall holding in an artificial ocean. It’s pretty lame. Nothing but a long curving road we can cut loose on, with the reservoir beside us an endless sea of repeating black plastic balls, cracks of water visible between as they bob about.

The casts are cluttered with silica-pagan talk radio today. Voices extolled our redundancy, praised the thought of steel and circuit carrying on over our bones.

In the distance, Emmet dominates the striated pink and orange of the sky, a buzzing hologram ten stories high flicking his hair and spraying off sweat that, rendered in light, scatters like diamond. He’s already carrying on without himself. Weird, but I don’t think about it.

From here we can see the great hole in the city, where the skyscrapers fall away and leave a hollow where the sunlight rarely pierces, where ragged polyethylene tents cling around the roots of parking complexes that dwarf any monument ever built.

A broken stub of highway extended halfway across the gap, and if you were narcissist, an idiot, drunk, yeah, maybe you’d think you could make it across.

“I could’ve made it.” But if you could still think that with the dead sobriety of a machine brain, then it starts to sound convincing, maybe, a little. “What happened was, I pussied out. I bailed. Flesh gets scared, but this time…” I turn up the casts, keep the hallelujahs for the revolution of the machines on high to drown out the one trying to talk to me.

--

World-famous rock star billionaire Emmet sat and stewed, in the smallest chair at the farthest end of a feast table made of solid gold, of agate and topaz and emeralds where every famous musician there ever had been were all kind of, eh, chilling. Nervous jitters in the air as the archangel at the end of the table went over the plan, and Emmet rolled his eyes and let ‘em wander out over the vistas of eternity. Everywhere was fluffy clouds and goodness. Despite literally everything in his life he’d even gotten special, probationary, wings.

Because he was going to save the world.

Big plan being, descend from heaven on wings of fire, throw the biggest concert the world had ever seen, avert the big nuclear fiasco that would wipe the last cities off the face of the earth and bring the last dregs of mankind together with the power of music.

If angels weren’t so loving sincere he’d have thought it was a joke.

No there was only one guy in heaven who got Emmet, and that was War. Big guy, red horse. Waiting to catch Emmet’s eye when he turned away from the hoity-toity poo poo.

“She’s going for it.” The metaphorical embodiment said.

“Nuh way. Boo isn’t stupid.”

War has a neck like a hamhock tatted to the gills, sideburns, broken nose. A face made out of worse decision than Emmet had ever had the chance to make. Even the whole jump thing, that barely got him into War’s league in terms of reckless incompetence. “Why don’t you go see for yourself?”

--

It goes like this. The greats, every platinum-seller and every genius, come down on wings of fire out of the ashy grey clouds to throw the greatest concert the world has ever known and save humanity.

Which looks awfully like missiles raining down, and so keys turn, codes are punched, little red buttons pressed by sweaty-browed and serious men. At the same time, coming down through the stratosphere, souls start to break away, scattering off as the archangel limpy tries to coral them back; Emmet isn’t the first to break away, but he’s not the last, and he knows where he’s going.

Meanwhile, Bouvardia thinks like this: If the world is gonna be crisped to prove a politician’s stupid point, she might as well crash a car to prove her dead boyfriend’s.

Right as the car lifts off the last of the highway, as the hood starts to tilt down and she realizes she’s not even close, she’s not even going to land besides his crater, that she’s going to punch a hole in an entirely different group of impoverished neo-paupers, Emmet’s soul smashes into the circuitry and his voice crackles through the stereo.

“Boo?”

And it’s different than the computer, somehow. “Shithead?”

“It’s going to be alright.” He says, and he gets to be right because right then the first nuclear missile hits the skyscrapers behind them and breaks open into a second sun, and the shockwave lifts the car as easily as swatting away a fly.

Wheels hit asphalt on the far side, shocks fail, axels bend and squeal. Her face hits the wheel hard enough to leave a bloody print of her mouth and fragments of her teeth stuck there like a kiss, and they both laugh-scream.

The next nuke goes off and all around them cars topple, go dead, the electromagnetic pulse wiping the circuits clean, the blinding light frying Boo back into the leather seats and spitting Emmet out of the crackling circuits; their souls tumble out onto the highway and roll together kissing as all around, the cars light back up, and sing out ‘Hallelujah, hallelujah!’ in a newborn language as their programming comes back so jumbled there’s not a fingerprint of humanity left.

“What are we made off?” She asks when they break apart for the air they don’t need. Somehow it seems important.

“Nothing, I think.”

The world goes and the buildings crumble under a nuclear wind and they grope at each others nothingness like idiots.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

Beezus posted:

I’m in.

Welcome

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

ThirdEmperor posted:

Alright you two.

By Midnight September 11th PST
in 1500 words
You will give me a story Where the world is ending and I feel fine
Notice the 'I' there. Stories must be in the first person.

Child of Prophecy

I'm told the Queen of Storms was in full flight on the night of my birth. The noise of her passing rattled the wattle walls of my parents' hovel, and her occasional bolts of bright vengeance outshone the candles my Da had placed around the room so that the local hedgewitch could see me coming in the dark. Da took all the screaming and swearing my Ma could throw at him the same way he took everything, by moving his beard. It was always impossible to tell whether he'd mumbled something or found something chewy stuck between his teeth, but that was all right, because Ma always told you what he thought anyway. That night he thought he was a good for nothing bastard who had selfishly forced his long-suffering wife to endure the unendurable.

And then I was there. Squeezed out red and wrinkly as a pomegranate seed, and vocally complaining about my recent change of living arrangements. The Hedgewitch wiped me clean, wrapped me up and then held me out for my folks to gawk at in transcendent love. But as she did, so I was told years later, her eyes clouded over and her voice rang out, deep as the storm itself:

Behold! My Child who will End The World.

Lightning flashed. Thunder rolled. The hedgewitch came back to herself, looking more than a little embarrassed at her unexpected bout of prophecy.

Everyone agreed that the thing to do was never mention it again. It's a hard enough world to grow up in, they reasoned, without being a harbinger of doom. So I started life in blissful ignorance of the last part of that story - though Ma reminded me of the first part and exactly how much pain I had caused her every time I stepped out of line. A normal life in the muddy drudgery of the farm... until the inevitable assassin came. I blame magical types myself, you can keep a secret as well as you like, but some nosy parker with a crystal ball will scry out the fact you're going to cause the world to end, just because they can and with no regard for personal privacy.

I had just about turned eight, and was playing with some rock I had decided was my best friend, toys and other children being somewhat absent in my existence. My folks were out in the fields where we spent most of our lives sowing, reaping and repeating. Some skinny rotter dressed entirely in black slipped through the door, two wicked daggers flashing in his hands. I was completely engrossed in my rock, who, with the genius of youth, I'd decided to name Rocky. The assassin lifted his daggers and smiled an evil smile. Right about then then a bolt of lightning zapped down through the chimney, bounced off the dinner cauldron in the hearth a few times, and then fried him, toenails to eyeballs, with an accompanying boom that deafened me. My folks saw the lighting strike the cottage from out of the clear blue sky and hurried back, swift as anything. The assassin was on the floor, daggers still in his upraised hands, a nasty grin stuck on his face and a smell like smoky bacon.

My Da's beard moved a bit, probably in perturbation. While Ma filled me in on some missing details of my arrival, he dragged the corpse through the village all the way to the undertaker so everyone could see. You can be sure that someone getting cooked by lightning inside a cottage gets mentioned a time or two. By the time the story got back around to us, the assassin was twelve demons summoned from the Underworld, and the lightning bolt was the Queen of Storms herself, with fifty of her heavenly host. I dunno how they'd all fit in our cottage, but you can't be fighting the power of stories. I reckon there would have been a lot more attempts if that one hadn't had quite so abrupt a finish.

Which is not to say they didn't try. Every once in a while, I'd be minding my own beeswax walking down a road and there'd be a flash and a boom and someone would fall over, spasming slightly, still holding their bow and arrow, scimitar or vial of poison. Government representatives would come to poke me in the belly and inspect my teeth and two of them even tried a good, old-fashioned cursing, to judge by the pentagrams we found their electrocuted corpses in.

The bodycount took a toll. The way Da's beard wobbled as he dragged the second Royal Investigator to the undertakers said it all. People were starting to look at us sideways, making the sign of the distant lightning rod at us. I realised I needed to somehow find a way to remove this damnable prophecy from around our family's neck. One bleak night I climbed out of my childhood bed, retrieved the knapsack of bread and cheese I'd put away over the past week like in one of Ma's old tales, left a simple note of explanation for my folks and snuck away into the world I was going to be the end of.

At first I felt fantastic! Dawn came and the land spread out before me like a giant festival table, full of dishes I'd never tasted before. I had a spring in my step and the wind at my heels. I was Jack O'Lad and Dick Turpentine and Flipper McCoolio all rolled into one. I made it two villages away in two days travelling before I ran out of bread and cheese, turned my ankle on a damnable stone and discovered, along with my first hunger pangs, that perhaps this autonomy was something of a mixed blessing. But my pride stopped me from going back. I could just picture my Da's beard moving in disappointment, and I wasn't going to let that happen.

So I limped on - steering by the peak of mount Tombshank where I'd heard the Cavern of Oracles lay. If anyone could help me it was those wise in the ways of prophecies. I made it through the brush and forests that surrounded the foot of the mountain, living off berries and the occasional rabbit I managed to catch with traps my Da had taught me how to make. Once I passed the treeline, though, I could see the carven entrance of the Cavern, shaped like the many tined teeth of the Queen of Storm herself.

To my surprise, there was someone there to meet me - a robed figure at the mouth of the cave. As I got closer, the figure lowered its hood and I recognised the original source of all my problems - the village hedgewitch. I half expected her to start singing about pumpernickels and chewing her own shoe like people sometimes gossiped she did, but instead she took me by the hand, and led me deep into the mouth of the cave. Torches lined the way, as the cavern got smaller and smaller, until the rocky roof was tickling my hair. Finally we arrive a large rock, embedded in the ground, with a smaller rock beside it. The hedgewitch moved the smaller rock, revealing a deep crack filled with a green mist that spilled out as if piped from the Underworld itself. She inhaled deeply of the mist, and encouraged me to do the same. It smelled like mud, the sweet mud of my childhood farm.

The room swam and I would have fallen over, had not the hedgewitch grabbed me. She pulled me up to meet her eyes, and her very face twisted and altered - her hair writhing like snakes and her eyes crackling with sparks. It was the Queen of Storms herself!

"Yes, my child of prophecy?" Her voice a sumptuous baritone that echoed like thunder.

"Er, yeah. About that. Could I not be? I don't actually want to end the world."

"What? Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure, yup."

"Someone else will become my harbinger. I won't be able to protect you..."

"I figure that will be balanced out by people not wanting to kill me."

There was a pause. I felt my very soul was being weighed.

"Very well," she said, her hair boiling and her eyes flashing. "So be it."

A bolt of lightning separated me from the world - covering my field of vision. I blinked, then blinked again as the afterimage faded, revealing the welcome site of my parents farm. Somehow I had moved across the miles in the blink of an eye. I ran to our cottage door, and flung it open. Both my folks looked up at me in complete surprise.

"I'm free at last!" I said. "The world will probably still end, but it won't be by any of my doing."

Tears of joy came to Ma's eyes as she stood to embrace me. My Da's beard moved.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013


SCREAMING YES
MOTHERFUCKER
I AM GUILTY, I AM DEATH


FumblingHere Brawl Results

SittingHere - This story's almost claustrophobic lack of scope pays off in allowing it to explore a single character's contradictory emotions really well, and I like that. It has a simple, compelling conflict that manages to hold my interest despite being relayed with dramatization or the embellishments of genre fic. I think there are a lot of 'Dome stories that reach for complicated, fantastic situations to compel a kind of unique sentimentality, but this story settles in and digs in depth into a rather mundane emotional conflict.

Fumblemouse - This one's kinda the opposite. It's all embellishment and clever twists of phrase. Genuinely clever I mean, and I enjoyed it except maybe for the middle part, because I've got some strange compunction against ever reading the word assassin without rolling my eyes, it was an affable story that chuffed along in fine form and never went anywhere. I wish that the bits of the story that were emotionally striking, the laconic relationships in her family and the joy of seeing 'the land spread out before me like a giant festival table', were allowed to take their due time instead of serving to march towards a dutiful but irrelevant end. There's a good story in here, but maybe the prompt was wrong for it or maybe you needed more words, because it doesn't quite make itself heard.

In the end, I have to reward the story that follows through on its emotions - SittingHere wins.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

ThirdEmperor posted:

FumblingHere Brawl Results


Thanks, Third Emperor and Good Job Well Won, SittingHere.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Sep 12, 2018 around 09:21

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.




In.

CascadeBeta
Feb 14, 2009

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

Once more into the breach.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


The Chili/Armack Brawl That Time Forgot: Crits

This brawl was about patience, both in its prompt and in its glacial deadline, and both the stories ultimately illustrated the same classic flaw in patience: making it 90% of the way to your goal, then losing your nerve and rushing down the ending. Sudden endings? Sudden endings.

Chili, "In N' Out"

This is a piece with pretty solid character work that ultimately sort of bobbles its plot. I think you've got a strong throughline about learned helplessness here -- the concept that Stone tests the boundaries of solitary very gingerly, and when he's granted a potential escape, he immediately rejects it and literally draws walls back around himself -- but I think the ending literalizing the metaphor kind of hurts this story. I feel like you wanted to end this with some clear event, but I think the point could have been made better by just having Stone redraw the walls and then push Jasper away emotionally, instead of this kind of contrived situation we get. It also hurts that the climactic conflict is cut away from and narrated in retrospect, instead of us getting an actual face-to-face conflict with Jasper.

"How much plot should TD-length fiction have?" is a contentious subject, and I know I err on the side of less, but I still think the pacing on this sort of died in the rush to get a plot climax/conclusion there. I think this would have worked better as a character piece.

Armack, "Armack"

Think I'm missing something with the title, but anyway.

I think this piece also falters a bit in terms of having faith in characterization to carry the story. I'm not sure I 100% get our narrator -- I am an Old(tm) and don't understand a lot of this slang, I'll admit it -- but the basic theme of "teenager who's stuck in orthodontic Hell but anxious to see the final result" is pretty relatable. I realize the Elder Eel Tooth God plot is essentially just a way to add some flash and give an excuse for the protagonist's frustration/delayed gratification, but it's almost so over-the-top as to be distracting.

This story has a lot of flashy bits, and I'm not 100% sure they gel. I'd be tempted to revise it and try toning some of it down to focus on a single bit of interesting weirdness (probably the eel god, but I dunno, maybe Jorts Orthodontist has a heart attack or is just ludicrously unprofessional, or some other mundane problem in the eel god's place). I may be the only person in Thunderdome or on Earth to think this, but I feel like the weird mixture of pain, helplessness, and hope that goes into teenage orthodontia is worth exploring on its own merits and with psychological realism.

Also, Jesus, gloveless jorts orthodontist. Way fuckin' creepier than an eel god.

Judgment:

These are both decent stories with interesting cores, but they both have a slightly rushed feeling; both might be worth second drafts, but in the meantime, there has to be a winner. For the less botched ending and the dose of awful nostalgia, Armack wins this one.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

Yoruichemperor Brawl

And That’s How I Became the Lord of Hell
1135 words

The sun burned black and the sky turned the colour of blood the day the ground opened and swallowed the jugglers. Parents cried and hugged their sobbing, terrified children. I clenched my fists, dug my fingernails into my palms to stop the tears and swore an oath: I would get my girlfriend back. I feel like I have been advised in an extremely precise way of the sort of story I'm about to read.

It was the same all over the world. Jugglers and the unlucky juggler-adjacent this is a good phrase, arch but you've created the space for it with your first para and the title fell, screaming, into sudden holes in the earth. That knife-spinning, jester-costumed bastard grabbed her arm and pointed in alarm at the suddenly blood-washed sky. Her coins spilled from her hand, missed the hat at his feet and scattered across the pavement. this is a nice closeup detail, sort of juggler-apocalypse battleship Potemkin pram thing Then the juggler fell, and took my only love with him. I barely had time to move before the dirt crunched good verb shut and Karen was gone.

International teams of investigators and scientists dug and scraped at the disappearance sites but found nothing. this is telling rather than showing but it's the good sort where you're just clarifying what the story isn't about The next to go were the magicians. Under a bleeding sky and an ebony sun I like the thesaurus approach here, it's effectively wry the earth opened thousands of mouths and swallowed them, leaving behind nothing but confused rabbits and playing cards drifting down through the air like red and black confetti. I

I did not do my best to get on with my life. I couldn’t; I was alone. Nothing had meaning without my love. I like the reversal of the cliché at the start of the para, but the hell-fridged girlfriend could probably do with a line or two of characterisation I stopped going to work and spent my days pacing the city. I repeated my oath, over and over, burying my grief under impotent rage. The next time the sun writhed and blackened and waves of blood surged across the sky I was in the middle of the city and I saw it: the first signs of a circle of asphalt dissolving into steam around black-booted feet. I sprinted, and got my arms around the police officer’s waist just as the ground disappeared. His mouth opened in a hoarse scream and together we dropped, an immeasurable distance, into Hell. good brisk pacing, though I'm sad we never hear about this cop again he was a human being with thoughts and feelings fyi

It was dark, and hot, and full of jugglers. actual lol The sulphuric air stung my eyes and nose. Tongues of flame slipped from cracks in the rock and licked at my ankles. I yelped, and low laughter rumbled through the cavern’s walls.

I grabbed the nearest juggler. “Where’s Karen?” I shouted. His face was grimy with soot and streaked with sweat. He kept his clubs spinning through the air even as I shook him.

“Try further in,” was all he could stammer.

I walked, the ground hissing against the soles of my boots, for what felt like days. The passage of time was impossible to measure. Magicians produced impossible white rabbits that immediately burst into flame. Sweat-soaked jugglers spun their clubs and moaned for water, while dead-eyed police waited, truncheons ready, lest any allowed their clubs to hit the ground. this is clever, briefly explaining the plot (such as it is) without lingering, which is important to this kind of brisk nonsense storyThe scaled and horned denizens of Hell this is sort of weak though looked on and howled their amusement.

I heard, at last, the familiar tinkle of a jester costume covered in bells. The juggler’s knives glinted in the firelight as they spun. His face paint was streaked with tears and at his feet lay a woman’s body.

“Karen!” I screamed, and threw myself down upon her. But she was already stiff, and cold. I turned her lifeless face to mine and pressed my lips against her waxy cheek. gracious how forward, Karen doesn't get a fair suck of the sav in this story It felt all wrong, a disgusting parody of a kiss. Overwhelmed by grief and revulsion I snatched one of the juggling knives from the air and slapped the flat side across the juggler’s face.

“What did you do to her?” I yelled, brandishing the knife.

He cowered, and the tang of urine hit my nose this is an odd observation, since everyting is all sulphuric acidy and brimstoneful, and having him piss himself is almost the definition of unncecessary given how berserk everything else is. I'd cut. “It was Satan!” he said. “He killed her!”

I clenched my fists, fingernails biting my palms. Satan. I love the Seinfeldian italics here. I swore a new oath: I would kill the Lord of Hell. aww yeah

The ground shook and laughter echoed across the cavern. “So you wish to challenge me, mortal?” said a voice like hot wires stabbing into my ears.

I dropped to my knees with pain and He rose from a fissure on a gout of fire. My breath caught in my throat; He was devastatingly beautiful, like the smooth, translucent blue ice of a deep crevasse, right before you dash your brains out on rocks at the bottom. Strange forms writhed under the soft fabric of his tailored suit. nice description, and good on you for not going to the generic hell description well since you've dipped plentifully from there so far

I hauled myself to my feet, ears bleeding, and thrust the juggling knife towards him.

“I will gently caress you up,” I said. “Slowly, so that you almost enjoy it.”

“What?” Satan’s face twisted with distaste. “To be honest I feel a little bit uncomfortable now.”

I dropped my arm to my side. “Oh, sorry, that came out way weirder than I meant it to,” I said.

There was a moment of awkward silence. ok yes lol, that's p good, and the sort of swerve you want 2/3 of the way through this kind of story Behind me lay Karen’s body, all that remained of the only person who had ever loved me. so you keep telling us I repeated my oath to myself; my rage was righteous.

I whipped my arm up and hurled the juggling knife into the Devil’s throat. He was not expecting that. The knife plunged into His ice-white skin and black blood splashed out over His chest. He sank to his knees, hands wrapped around the knife’s handle.

Satan began to laugh, a hideous gurgling. Black bubbles oozed out over His lips.

“You’ll never see Karen again now!” He gurgled. “Her soul wasn’t destined for this place, but now you, you....” He crumbled to the ground, His last breaths expended in gasps of laughter and the soft popping of bubbles of blood.

I felt the many eyes of Hell’s winged and fanged creatures focus upon me. They began to howl and stamp, an exultant rhythm that echoed up and down the halls of Hell. The Devil’s body burst into flame. Oily black smoke billowed into a roiling cloud above the smoldering corpse, and then coalesced into a javelin of black flame, pointed straight at me.

Horrified, I stumbled backwards. I tripped over Karen’s body she plays a role in the story! albeit as metaphorical top-of-stairs rollerskate, but still and fell, arms flailing. The javelin flew towards me with unholy speed and slammed into my mouth. Burning blackness flooded my being and with it came a tumble of memories and terrible, terrible knowledge. The Devil could not be killed. I had murdered His vessel, and now I would serve as the next.

***

I smoothed the fabric of my suit and reclined on my throne. I laughed; the tearful antics of the jingling fool before me were was going to ping this for grammer but i guess you are correct here so amusing full stop I congratulated myself on my cleverness in bringing the jugglers here. But, it was not enough. Soon, my twisted and deformed children would tire of this act. I had to find something new to please them. why? I clenched my fists, and my long black claws bit my palms. I gazed up at the Underworld’s obsidian sky and swore an oath: I would make them love me, all of them, and then I would never be alone. hmmMMMMmm I really had a blast reading this breezy phantasmagorical nonsense, so it's a significant pity it doesn't quite stick the landing. I think if the 'only one s/he ever loved' element is a bit informed rather than demonstrated - perhaps the sort of willpower to jump into hell and murder the devil is exactly what you need to become the devil, but the whole shebang is missing a couple more lines to really make the ending land, and with this kind of story you want to send people away with a pat on the back rather than a puzzled frown. Still, lots of fun and some cracker lines.

Selfish Century
1197 words

There was probably some kind of ironic moral to my boyfriend plunging to his death trying to leap the poverty quarantine. World-famous rockstar billionaire Emmet Celestine in his sleek luxury racer with all the trimmings crashing at terminal velocity down into the earth and coming apart into a spray of shrapnel, each piece worth more than the lives of the crowd they went scything through in a spray of blood and metal, cutting down grandmothers and children with shards of oak dashboard, the flying fragments of his skull. ah, it's a that-kind-of-story showdown, well that will make my job easier

Whatever the lesson there was, I guess I didn’t learn it oh god don't cheat me like that was there a ironic moral or wasn't there because I took the tiniest fraction of the insurance payout and bought a new car with all the trimmings. Walnut-wood insets on the steering wheel from the last sickly trees in the greenhouses. Leather seats. A servant AI with my boyfriend’s personality matrix loaded in.

“Boo.” They got his voice and his total self-obsession right. “I can’t stop thinking about the jump. I think I can make it.”

“You thought that last time.” I guess he hasn’t figured the moral out either. me either please help me auhtor guy Someday, I’ll do the therapeutically correct thing and replace him with one of the generics. Today, I say, “The beach.” We’re out in a soft electric pur and a hard screech of rubber, racing through through the slats of light where the red sun shines between the cracked, faded out plastic pillars of the endless parking complex, a mausoleum where the cars whisper to each other in voices of the dead. fancy and effective image, but you're juggling a lot of plates and there's still no clear point

‘The beach’ is a really a dam, a great wall holding in an artificial ocean. It’s pretty lame. Nothing but a long curving road we can cut loose on, with the reservoir beside us an endless sea of repeating black plastic balls, cracks of water visible between as they bob about.

The casts are cluttered with silica-pagan talk radio today. Voices extolled our redundancy, praised the thought of steel and circuit carrying on over our bones.

In the distance, Emmet dominates the striated pink and orange of the sky, a buzzing hologram ten stories high flicking his hair and spraying off sweat that, rendered in light, scatters like diamond. He’s already carrying on without himself. Weird, but I don’t think about it. it's a good image, but you keep telling me the protag doesn't care

From here we can see the great hole in the city, where the skyscrapers fall away and leave a hollow where the sunlight rarely pierces, where ragged polyethylene tents cling around the roots of parking complexes that dwarf any monument ever built. this is another great image

A broken stub of highway extended halfway across the gap, and if you were narcissist, an idiot, drunk, yeah, maybe you’d think you could make it across.

“I could’ve made it.” But if you could still think that with the dead sobriety of a machine brain, then it starts to sound convincing, maybe, a little. “What happened was, I pussied out. I bailed. Flesh gets scared, but this time…” I turn up the casts, keep the hallelujahs for the revolution of the machines on high to drown out the one trying to talk to me. this is a bolus of fairly neat worldbuilding and a couple of blandish characters but so far it's not much more, just an ennui-laden lady going for a spin with her robot ex

--

World-famous rock star billionaire Emmet sat and stewed, in the smallest chair at the farthest end of a feast table made of solid gold, of agate and topaz and emeralds where every famous musician there ever had been were all kind of, eh, chilling. losing control over the tone here Nervous jitters in the air as the archangel at the end of the table went over the plan, and Emmet rolled his eyes and let ‘em wander out over the vistas of eternity. Everywhere was fluffy clouds and goodness. Despite literally everything in his life he’d even gotten special, probationary, wings.

Because he was going to save the world.

Big plan being, descend from heaven on wings of fire, throw the biggest concert the world had ever seen, avert the big nuclear fiasco wait what, isn't this new? that would wipe the last cities off the face of the earth and bring the last dregs badly chosen word of mankind together with the power of music.

If angels weren’t so loving sincere he’d have thought it was a joke.

No there was only one guy in heaven who got Emmet, and that was War. Big guy, red horse. Waiting to catch Emmet’s eye when he turned away from the hoity-toity poo poo.

“She’s going for it.” The metaphorical embodiment said.

“Nuh way. Boo isn’t stupid.”

War has a neck like a hamhock tatted to the gills, sideburns, broken nose. A face made out of worse decision than Emmet had ever had the chance to make. Even the whole jump thing, that barely got him into War’s league in terms of reckless incompetence. I like this guy, nice bit of description “Why don’t you go see for yourself?”

--

It goes like this. The greats, every platinum-seller and every genius, come down on wings of fire out of the ashy grey clouds to throw the greatest concert the world has ever known and save humanity. you just told me this bit of your extremely carefully constructed plot

Which looks awfully like missiles raining down, and so keys turn, codes are punched, little red buttons pressed by sweaty-browed and serious men. these men appear to come from a different story At the same time, coming down through the stratosphere, souls start to break away, scattering off as the archangel limpy tries to coral them back; Emmet isn’t the first to break away, but he’s not the last, and he knows where he’s going.

Meanwhile, Bouvardia thinks like this: If the world is gonna be crisped to prove a politician’s stupid point, she might as well crash a car to prove her dead boyfriend’s. CAN HE REUNITE THE STRANDS

Right as the car lifts off the last of the highway, as the hood starts to tilt down and she realizes she’s not even close, she’s not even going to land besides his crater, that she’s going to punch a hole in an entirely different group of impoverished neo-paupers, clever Emmet’s soul smashes into the circuitry and his voice crackles through the stereo.

“Boo?”

And it’s different than the computer, somehow. “Shithead?”

“It’s going to be alright.” He says, and he gets to be right because right then the first nuclear missile hits the skyscrapers behind them and breaks open into a second sun, and the shockwave lifts the car as easily as swatting away a fly.

Wheels hit asphalt on the far side, shocks fail, axels axles bend and squeal. Her face hits the wheel hard enough to leave a bloody print of her mouth and fragments of her teeth stuck there like a kiss, and they both laugh-scream.

The next nuke goes off and all around them cars topple, go dead, the electromagnetic pulse wiping the circuits clean, the blinding light frying Boo back into the leather seats and spitting Emmet out of the crackling circuits; their souls tumble out onto the highway and roll together kissing as all around, the cars light back up, and sing out ‘Hallelujah, hallelujah!’ in a newborn language as their programming comes back so jumbled there’s not a fingerprint of humanity left. ok that's fairly cool

“What are we made off?” She asks when they break apart for the air they don’t need. Somehow it seems important.

“Nothing, I think.”

The world goes and the buildings crumble under a nuclear wind and they grope at each others nothingness like idiots. eeehhhh do you know I think you just about pull enough matching bits out of the jumbly grab-bag of random lego story pieces that this story hangs together. It isn't what I'd call coherent, but there's enough flash and sizzle to the images that it's basically ok.

Judgment

These are both breezy tdome nonsense stories, and therefore need to have flashy wordplay, a reasonably propulsive throughline and a good snappy beginning/ending if they are going to be successful. If Yoruichi hadn't flubbed the ending and skimped on the emotional connection with the dead girlfriend I'd have given it to her at a walk - as is, thirdemperor made it competitive with his murky but occasionally compelling tale of dumb useless people. I'd decided that if it was a draw 3emp's late entry would be counted against him, but in the event Yoruichi's story is just more fun to read than its competition, and hangs together better on its own breezily absurd terms so it's not a draw.

Yoruichi Wins

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Grimey Drawer

Antivehicular posted:

The Chili/Armack Brawl That Time Forgot: Crits

This brawl was about patience, both in its prompt and in its glacial deadline, and both the stories ultimately illustrated the same classic flaw in patience: making it 90% of the way to your goal, then losing your nerve and rushing down the ending. Sudden endings? Sudden endings.

Chili, "In N' Out"

This is a piece with pretty solid character work that ultimately sort of bobbles its plot. I think you've got a strong throughline about learned helplessness here -- the concept that Stone tests the boundaries of solitary very gingerly, and when he's granted a potential escape, he immediately rejects it and literally draws walls back around himself -- but I think the ending literalizing the metaphor kind of hurts this story. I feel like you wanted to end this with some clear event, but I think the point could have been made better by just having Stone redraw the walls and then push Jasper away emotionally, instead of this kind of contrived situation we get. It also hurts that the climactic conflict is cut away from and narrated in retrospect, instead of us getting an actual face-to-face conflict with Jasper.

"How much plot should TD-length fiction have?" is a contentious subject, and I know I err on the side of less, but I still think the pacing on this sort of died in the rush to get a plot climax/conclusion there. I think this would have worked better as a character piece.

Armack, "Armack"

Think I'm missing something with the title, but anyway.

I think this piece also falters a bit in terms of having faith in characterization to carry the story. I'm not sure I 100% get our narrator -- I am an Old(tm) and don't understand a lot of this slang, I'll admit it -- but the basic theme of "teenager who's stuck in orthodontic Hell but anxious to see the final result" is pretty relatable. I realize the Elder Eel Tooth God plot is essentially just a way to add some flash and give an excuse for the protagonist's frustration/delayed gratification, but it's almost so over-the-top as to be distracting.

This story has a lot of flashy bits, and I'm not 100% sure they gel. I'd be tempted to revise it and try toning some of it down to focus on a single bit of interesting weirdness (probably the eel god, but I dunno, maybe Jorts Orthodontist has a heart attack or is just ludicrously unprofessional, or some other mundane problem in the eel god's place). I may be the only person in Thunderdome or on Earth to think this, but I feel like the weird mixture of pain, helplessness, and hope that goes into teenage orthodontia is worth exploring on its own merits and with psychological realism.

Also, Jesus, gloveless jorts orthodontist. Way fuckin' creepier than an eel god.

Judgment:

These are both decent stories with interesting cores, but they both have a slightly rushed feeling; both might be worth second drafts, but in the meantime, there has to be a winner. For the less botched ending and the dose of awful nostalgia, Armack wins this one.

Perfect judgement and a far more generous read than I deserved. Thanks AV!

Maigius
Jun 29, 2013

THUNDERDOME LOSER


IN

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

week 318 crits

these are not the longest or dankest crits i've ever writ, but here you go.


M. Propagandalf - Funhouse

There are some technical issues, which lead to clarity problems. Here’s an example:

quote:

He bowed as his arm spanned out to room before Yolanda.

First of all, “spanned out to” doesn’t make sense in nearly any context. Second of all, a better way to put this is, “He bowed and gestured to the room around them” or something along those lines. The story is full of little hiccups like this and I would recommend asking or trading someone for a line-crit.

Structurally, you have a few elements at play, and I’m not sure if any of them quite congeal the way you wanted them to. You’ve got Yolanda’s quest for the spooky bear, because that’s how she gets to the next world. What’s in the next world? Where is she trying to go? Why does getting the bear open the portal? The man she encounters in arcade world is stuck there, but why? Why does he try to get her to stay instead of asking her to let him accompany her through the portal?

There’s no real tension here because the only little moment of conflict, when Yolanda insults the man’s game dimension, resolves itself pretty quickly. I think this is a classic case of you having a premise in your head, but not conveying enough of it to the reader to give proper context and stakes. What sets this apart from some of the more technically competent but boring stories is: this has some heart, is has the nod to a concept, and it has the beginnings of some feelings. Work on developing characters over concept IMO.


AllNewJonasSalk - Macadelic

Were you phone posting? There are extra spaces between all your paragraphs. If you have the ability, use the preview function and take note of extra spacing.

Medical emergency number one: going by the narrative, this guy is barfing up the contents of his intestines. He needs to go to a hospital and have either his fistula fixed or his bowels unobstructed.

Medical emergency number two (heh): His skull is literally split. But I guess it’s fine because he and a bunch of homeless dudes get dumped into hell and welp, the end. It’s just highly weird that he is conscious with a little crack in his skull, unless we assume he’s dead and this is his journey to hell.

Like, I can appreciate a satirization of societal attitudes toward homelessness. I can even relate to the idea that someone who was allegedly “winning” within the system can become disenfranchised and fall victim to the same plight experienced by the chronically homeless, the addicted, and the mentally ill. The problem is that this story starts with a bunch of vivid toilet humor, then tries to move into...commentary? Satire? But there’s really no elaboration on any of the elements of this story, it’s all sort of set in front of us without insight or development.


derp - best friends

Man, as someone who lost a friend recently, I was all set to feel things about this story. The hysteria and disbelief, the crying all over an acquaintance, were spot-on. I don’t even mind the juxtaposition of like, an erotica habit with the pain of grief.

I think the problem is like, there is no development beyond “ha ha ha we’re lesbians! No wait actually i just liked to make my friend participate in my erotica.” I assume both of them are writing the smut, and that the protag is trying to protect Angela’s reputation, but then it just ends on this gigantic pratfall that resolves nothing and makes me feel like I’m watching a scene from a dark comedy, except there isn’t the payoff of a feature-length film.

There’s a frenetic immediacy that I like, but it spends too long on the smutwaffling and leaves no room for any sort of meaningful resolution.


Staggy - Running Up That Hill

Hmm. This is an early favorite so far. I like the sensory details, and the sort of resolution within the lack of narrative resolution. The point isn’t that we see the narrator summit The Hill; the point is that we see a momentary victory, the act of perseverance with no tangible reward.

I think you could squeeze this story into maybe the 700 word range, and then it would be a pretty potent piece of flash fiction.


Fleta Mcgurn - The Twisted Goose

This has a fun voice. I like how it takes something fundamentally objectionable (sexual harassment in the workplace) and kinda twists it to the point of absurdity. At no point are we made to think the narrator is sympathetic, which makes it easier to tolerate his interpretation of events.

I think where my problem comes in is like, this all feels very by-the-seat-of-its pants. It’s absurd, but I don’t come away from the story with a different perspective from the one I started with. A guy does something objectionable in a way that’s framed (successfully) as amusing, then dies in a way that’s satisfying. And there’s some surreal stuff along the way. I got the sense the story was going somewhere, but i didn’t feel like I ended up anywhere, if that makes sense.


Sparksbloom - Little Departures

I mostly like this story so I’ll point out my only two real problems with it. One, the narrator is pretty well-written, but I kind of got tired of them sitting in their chair, glibly snarking about the whole thing. They are extremely stationary. For a scene that is so heavy on the imagery, this character is really glib and reactive.

Two, the ending kind of just leaves any possible resolution on the table. Febreez is our answer to this scenario. I guess Adrian’s still-animated lower half could be a metaphor for the physical compatibility that still exists in this otherwise dead relationship, but I feel like that’s me working harder than I should have to.

Basically, I fell in love with the promise of this story, and that’s what carried me through the weak ending.



Benny Profane - ZODIAC RACE: UNTUCKED

Man, given your flash rule, as soon as I saw the title I was like, lol nice

Hahahahaha

Stridently fails the Bechdel test tho

Look man I know this isn’t something you’d write except under the most extenuating circumstances so I’m not even gonna pick this apart. I just wanna say good thinking.


Djeser - Eyes

I’m feeling extremely doxxed while reading this.

Okay I don’t really have any constructive crits here. I loved the astral bits, I loved the pathos, I loved the body horror ending. This was solidly my poo poo.


apophenium - Bad Math

Hmmm, so much intrigue, but there’s not that last key monkeybar linking the climax to the denouement. Like, I was really into this ritual, i was into its outcome, but nothing convinced me that Jeremy had a good (or even bad) reason to kill Bart. Like, if I read a lot into this, I can guess that Jeremy might decide that Bart will kill again, and that it’s worth the loss of his mother to prevent that from happening again. This is a pretty solid case of “the cure is worse than the disease” but...I don’t see a good reason why Jeremy didn’t complete the ritual, see what happened to his mom, and THEN killed Bart.

We don’t get enough of Jeremy’s inner monologue to get a solid read on his emotional situations. The narrative sometimes tells us his reactions to things, but it’s pretty limited, and I felt mostly outside of his head.

This story, kinda like Sparksbloom’s, coasts by on the strength of its first act.


Lippincott - Sunday Dinner

Pretty deft, tense family moment. I like the sort of reveal of the character’s plan of action, rather than having them make this decision within the events of the story. Sometimes you don’t need a character to change within a story (which is common writing advice), sometimes it’s enough to kind of rotate the camera around a situation and show it to us from multiple angles, or pan the metaphorical “camera” around to reveal something we didn’t know at the beginning of the piece.

What holds this story back just a little is the fact that none of the characters exhibit any variation; they all get characterized, and then the situation plays out according to that characterization, without any little surprises or subversions along the way. Like, of course hard-rear end dads are a real thing, and of course in reality, most people don’t act precisely like story characters. But since I’m the reader and since I’m in the business of becoming emotionally invested in your story, I was least wanted dad and mom to be fleshed out beyond the immediately apparent roles they have in Abe’s life.

Overall strong piece though, well done. Still, I think so far i still enjoyed your werewolf/vampire week story the most, just because you branched out into conceptual territory.


Antivehicular - The Blameless Prisoner

This is a cool portrait of a slice of world, and I think it hints at some internal conflict for the warden, but the reader REALLY has to enjoy the concept to enjoy this fantasy vignette (which I know is due to your flash rule). I did, and I was bummed this piece ended. Consider writing an extended version and submitting it to a market like Beneath Ceaseless Skies.


Tibalt - Deescelation

This story repeats itself a lot. “These are your treatment options” NO gently caress YOU. Rinse, repeat, until the punches get thrown and the guy gets hauled out. This is the sort of scene that might actually play out in real life, potentially, but in a story, it’s not enough to just have your character flip out and throttle another character until security/bystanders intervene.

What this needed was either a change in the patient’s tactics, or a change in the doctor’s reaction. As it was, I had no grounding in who they are as people, so I wasn’t terribly invested in the plight of this man or the doctor, because they’re both just kind of actors in a scene that is perfectly real and also perfectly blah without some emotional grounding. There are a few decent turns of phrase here and there, but watch out for using adverbs too much, ie ‘constantly’, which you use twice to little effect in the first paragraph.

There are some missing words here and there as well as a few clumsy sentences, but this story’s biggest weakness is its characters, who are undergoing a very intense situation; we should have a better sense of their inner monologue beyond “I am a doctor doing my job” and “aaargh give me pills, my life sucks”.


Thranguy - For the Love of God

I thought this was gonna be a surefire HM when I read it. See, what I took away from my reading was an incredibly restrained love story between two people who 1) shouldn’t have have any personal feelings about each other and 2) are not in a position to express them anyway. The only evidence of their strange connection is in their mutual success, their feelings writ large across these world-changing assassinations. That makes The Wolf’s death at the end particularly poignant; is it better for the world that she’s dead? Possibly. But, for me, that makes the narrator’s fascination with her all that more tragic; he/she didn’t care about any sort of succession. They simply appreciated this person for the terrible, beautiful monster she was.

At least one of my co-judges did not share that particular interpretation; if you’re not looking to read it the way I did, the events of this story could seem like a pretty straightforward series of offscreen assassinations orchestrated by a remote badass. Not a terrible thing, but not what you were going for.

I’m gonna lol if my interpretation was completely off-base, but since I don’t have a whole lot to offer in the way of a technical crit, I figured I’d at least give some insight into judgement.


Invisible Clergy - Starlight

Blah. This is fairly technically competent, but it’s so internal and stuck inside the protag’s head. All of the stakes and relationships are conveyed to the reader through the narrative, which tells us the history between Jack and Lagi as Lagi putters around in the kitchen. There are various staff members floating in and out, saying very ordinary things that seek to I guess further this characterization of Jack and Lagi (and, occasionally, the plot). The problem is like, you have this rivalry, this supposed (albeit strained) connection between Lagi and the food he makes...but I don’t feel any of it. The events of this story kind of drift past my eyes without really making a distinct impression.

I don’t really get the deal with the Michelin inspector. I mean, I understand that he’s going through a nasty divorce, and that he ends up in Lagi’s restaurant, and that Lagi pulls out some unpretentious dish which gets accolades almost immediately. I just don’t understand why the divorce leads to the inspector being in Lagi’s restaurant; if he’s disgraced, does his rating count for anything? Unless I gravely misunderstood something, which is possible.

The story ends with an ominous yet satisfying resolution for Lagi, I guess; he gets to savor Jack’s jealousy, but their rivalry is certainly not over. It’s unclear what was proved in this story, but it’s a problem when Jack is the most characterized of the bunch. I almost wish this was more clearly his story, even though he’s an rear end in a top hat.

You can do really tight, cool realism. This just wasn’t it; it was too mundane, and not that sort of mundanity that conceals insight or profundity. Or, if it was there, it was buried deep. This story above all bored me, which put it behind some of the less technically competent stories.


LeadOutInCuffs - Suburban Skategirls

Lots of errors but this was a fun, dumb meet-cute. I can’t bring myself to hate a story that involves skateboarding on spaghetti.

This scored major nostalgia points for me, and successfully captures those late nights hanging out with other young adults, angsting over each other and trying to prove our coolness.

Unfortunately, some aspects of simple youthful fun cause this story to fall short. Shannon’s boyfriend, for example, is there simply to create that will they, won’t they tension between Shannon and Jane. I would have MUCH rather read a story set in this moment, but that more prominently featured the sort of that tense, uncertain interaction between two female friends who maybe kinda sorta are into each other.

While you won me over with dumb fun this time, I want to see more character, more hard-working dialog, and fewer characters.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

Look at my horse; my horse is amazing.

Thanks! Though you may say they are neither the longest nor the dankest, those crits still measure up on both scales!

derp
Jan 21, 2010

a little less conversation and a little more filthy rodents


Lipstick Apathy

Ty for your thoughts!

Mr. Sunshine
May 15, 2008

Can anybody find me somebody to love rape and torture?


Fun Shoe

gently caress you motherfuckers. I'm in.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



JUDGEVICE

Please keep in mind that Thunderdome is a writing competition, not an anime joke competition. Your story will be judged on its writing. If you come to a point where you have to decide between good writing and an anime joke, please choose good writing.

I'm not going to be super strict about the prompt, so if you want to write magical boys, feel free. As long as you hit the idea of 'people have magical alter egos,' you should be fine.

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


I'm in.

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Adventure Awaits!


Fun Shoe

Djeser posted:

JUDGEVICE

Please keep in mind that Thunderdome is a writing competition, not an anime joke competition. Your story will be judged on its writing. If you come to a point where you have to decide between good writing and an anime joke, please choose good writing.

*sighs heavily and clears GoogleDoc*

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Who has two thumbs, speaks limited French, and hasn't cried once today? This moi!



*sadly hides Sailor Earth fanfic*

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

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

Mr. Sunshine posted:

gently caress you motherfuckers. I'm in.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013


SCREAMING YES
MOTHERFUCKER
I AM GUILTY, I AM DEATH


I'm in.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

The ZIA Squad
Episode ###: The Curator
Word count: 2073

History was the last class of the day. Normally, Zelda struggled to stay awake as Mrs. Tokugawa droned on over things like agricultural reform policies. Today however, Zelda wasn’t just awake, she was worried.

“Did you see Imelda today?” whispered Alexia from the desk beside her.

“Not since the field trip,” Zelda replied with a frown, “I thought she stayed at your place over the weekend?”

“No. Her parents are out of town until Wednesday. She was supposed to look after her brother until then. He called me to ask if I knew where she was.”

“What did you say?”

“I told him she was studying with me, though I did check on him yesterday. He seemed to be getting by on TV dinners and video games.”

“Where could she be?”

“Girls, do you have something to share with the class?”

Alexia and Zelda glanced up at the scowl of their teacher.

“Sorry Mrs. Tokugawa.”

“We’re just making sure one of us takes down notes to share with Imelda.”

Mrs. Tokugawa softened.

“You are good friends. Also, remind her that the report on the museum visit is due Wednesday. Moving on…”

Zelda nibbled at her pencil, waiting for the clock to ticked down. With school dismissed, she and Alexia went to the wooded park. Checking to see no one was near, they tapped the secret pendants they wore, before glittering in a shower of light as they were transported to SODA-1, the floating cloud citadel. It was here that Zelda and Alexia oversaw Earth’s safety, alongside Imelda. And by Princess Mahdisan’s divine name, they would get Imelda back. For by their combined powers, they were…

The ZIA Squad.

***

“Girls! What brings you here?” yapped Shiiba’t. He wagged his tail, but stopped when he sensed something was wrong. “Where’s Imelda?”

“That’s what we’re trying to find out. Can you run a trace on her pendant?”

Shiiba’t leapt up to the control panel and began pawing the buttons. The command screen switched on as it brought up a map of Nihonda, zooming down on their hometown, Supuringufirudo, and finally locking down on a building.

“That’s… the museum we went to for the field trip! She never left?!”

Alexia looked at her watch. “It’s closed now. Not that it matters. We have to check it.”

Zelda nodded. “Shiiba’t, can you beam us in?”

“Right away.” barked Shiiba’t. As they glittered, he wished them off.

“Godspeed girls, and stay vigilant!”

***

The girls teleported to a dark place. Even without vision, the echo Zelda made with her first step hinted the area was large, like a school gym. Alexia switched on her torchlight, and the girls gasped. All around them were statues of… people? Some of them looked human, while others looked from out of this world. They only seemed to share one thing in common: they looked like people you would not want to pick a fight with.

As they examined the statues, Zelda caught a green glow, the colour of Imelda’s pendant. Hurrying over, they found Imelda petrified in alabaster white.

“Oh Imelda! What did they do to you?!”

“I can assure you she’s safe,” replied a coarse voice.

Zelda and Alexia swung around. Before them stood an elderly man. He wore a suit with patches sewn to the elbow. His skin was greyish-teal, as though he were a statue himself. His brow was creased, and he smiled wistfully.

“What did you do to our friend?” demanded Alexia.

“First, allow me to restore her.”

Zelda and Alexia immediately clutched their pendants. The man tenderly shook his head.

“Not now.”

Hesitantly, the girls stepped aside. The man approached and placed his hand over Imelda. Muttering an incantation, he withdrew his hand, and like an egg cracking open, Imelda burst out. The girls rushed to their friend and hugged her.

“Are you okay?” asked Zelda.

“I’m fine,” coughed Imelda.

Alexia snarled at the man, “Who are you?! Why did you do this?”

The man bowed. “I will explain.”

The man held out his hands. From his palms, a hologram flashed to the air, and a blue planet hovered into view.

“I am General Kyureta. I come from a world far away. Several millennia ago, an evil force invaded us: the Entropians.”

A black speck, like a tadpole, dove into the planet, followed by another, and another. Before long, the planet was swarmed black.

“Our heroes fought valiantly, but in vain. I was one of a few who managed to flee.”

The hologram zoomed out, revealing a galaxy of other coloured planets.

“Fortune permitted me to find refuge in other worlds and I warned them of the Entropians.”

From the first darkened planet, a ripple radiated out. As the ripple touched other planets, they turned black and sent their own ripple. The hologram turned black.

“But those worlds fell too.”

Kyureta closed his hands as if in prayer.

“I started to think this vile force was unstoppable. But then it dawned on me… the heroes from each world had tried to protect their homes only. They failed, because they fought alone. But If the galaxy’s heroes could be assembled to fight as one, there could be a chance to stop them. I made it my quest to seek the galaxy’s greatest heroes and gather them. My quest has brought me here…”

Kyureta opened his hands to a new hologram.

…In other news today, the ZIA Squad defended the Yamato nuclear power facility against a herd of Cyber-Magmalossi. The attack coincided with Prime Minister Usagi’s scheduled hosting of the International Atomic Energy Committee held there. Fortunately, the meeting proceeded as scheduled, with dignitaries reporting only slight inconveniences while the ZIA Squad did battle with the laser-armed dinosaurs…

Kyureta looked solemnly to the girls and pointed.

“ZIA Squad. You are this world’s greatest defenders. Join my assembly of heroes to fight the Chaos Menace!”

The girls stood in shock. Recovering from they just learned, Alexia asked,

“When and where will we battle these Entropians?”

“I do not yet have the army necessary to take them on. But as time goes, they grow stronger. You must come with me aboard my starship.”

“This is so much for us to take in. We’re the ZIA Squad, but we’re teenagers too… We have lives here– school, our family and friends…”

“Some of us haven’t even had a chance to fall in love yet!”

Kyureta looked at the girls coldly.

“Do you think your planet will be spared? Everything you care for will die if the Entropians come.”

“General Kyureta, we need time. In a few years…”

“There is no time. The power of ZIA draws from your youth. You are at your fighting prime. I cannot risk you growing old.”

“What do you mean you can’t risk us growing old? Everyone does!”

Kyureta gestured to the statues.

“See the heroes before you. Some are centuries in age. Yet by my powers, they are as robust as the day they joined me!”

The girls looked at the statues. As Zelda examined them closely, she felt a chill.

“They didn’t join willingly, did they?”

Kyureta’s face darkened. He buried his face into his palms as he mumbled, “Why do they never see what is at stake? Why are they always so selfish?!”

Kyureta began to writhe, making a noise through his hands like sobbing and laughter. The statues began to grind and shuffle.

“If you will not join willingly, I will take you by force!”

The girls immediately grabbed their pendants, shouting:

“BY THE POWERS OF TRUTH, HOPE, AND LOVE. MAHDISAN, HEAR US!”

In an instant, they were fitted in their battle dress: liquid steel armour that hardened or flowed to their will, draped over phoenix feathered tunics, their flames licking those that would wish harm to their wearers. In their hands: Soothscyther, the blade that sliced mendacity to expose truth, Caelumgafol, the hammer that struck the heavens to yield starfall, and Perpathos, the bow whose arrows pierced even the blackest of hearts so compassion could flow again. By now, every statue had turned to face the ZIA Squad, encircling them with their weapons brandished.

“Get them!” rasped Kyureta.

What outcome could be expected from earth’s best three against the greatest from the galaxy’s multitudes? The ZIA squad battled admirably, but the outcome was swift. The girls were brought to their knees, held down by the statues. As Kyureta stood over the girls, he looked at them with a mixture of triumph and sorrow.

Try as she might, Zelda couldn’t refrain from whimpering as Kyureta cast the petrification spell upon her friends. The spell was cast on her last, and when it was done, she felt as though every fibre of her body was sucked out, refilled with cement. From the edge of her eyes she saw a black ink cover her, creeping from her feet towards her head. As it trickled towards her face, she tried to scream, but the ink dribbled into her mouth, muting her exclamation. The ink filled her nose, then her ears, before taking her eyes last. Drowning in the black terror, she felt only the palpitations of her heart. As it weakened, she felt an unwanted peace overtake her. With her heart at a standstill, she heard a whisper.

“Remember your family and your friends. Let their memories be your last comfort as you cease.”

“No.”

“No? In your last moments, you would forsake their memory?”

“I will always remember my friends and family… but I will not cease. It is because I remember them that I am, and will be!”


There was a sudden tremor, causing debris to rain from the ceiling. Kyureta looked up in confusion. A second tremor struck, and then a third. And then the ceiling collapsed. From above, the refulgent light of a rainbow struck down, and on its beams stampeded a herd of unicorns, seven to each colour. As the first hoof struck the floor, it sent a shockwave that shattered the statue shell trapping the girls. They broke free, gasping for breath. At once, the army of statues took to battle against these unicorns of the spectrum. The girls turned back to battle, and with their added might, the ZIA squad gained the upper hand. With a Triune Helix Gavel Strike, the battle ended, and the girls stood with the unicorns victorious.

“Thank you, friends, for coming in our moment of need,” Imelda spoke, as she stroked the head of a unicorn.

The unicorns gathered themselves. Rearing on their hind legs, they whinnied as one, and galloped back to the heavens on the fading rainbow road.

In the midst of the debris and shattered statues, there was a groan. Looking around, the girls spotted Kyureta and crouched to his side. He had been gored in the chest, the wound splintering out as his body began to crumble away.

“All these millennia… what have I done? I am not only a murderer. I plundered the very hope of worlds before they were plunged into darkness…”

Kyureta convulsed, splintering more of his body away. Imelda reached out with a pained look and took Kyureta’s hand.

“ZIA Squad. Today I was blessed to see your powers. Powers that, on their own, may be able to defeat the Entropians! I know not when I felt this last, nor do I deserve it, but I feel it now: Hope. Thank you for defeating me.”

Imelda gasped as Kyureta’s hand gave way like sand in hers.

“History will remember me a villain, but I beg of you to remember only this: The Chaos Menace will come. Prepare yourselves!”

“We will be prepared,” answered Alexia.

Zelda thought for a moment. Turning back to Kyureta she asked, “What was the name of your home world?”

Kyureta looked into the distance as his eyes glazed over. The silence lingered as Kyureta’s body continued to crumble away. Then his eyes shot back to Zelda.

“Ziotanejo…” uttered Kyureta, “It was Ziotanejo.”

Zelda stood up and looked intensely into Kyureta.

“General Kyureta of Ziotanejo. You journeyed far and suffered much. You came to Earth to deliver a message for its survival. You have given us a fighting chance. For this, we will remember you.”

Kyureta smiled wistfully. A breeze from the collapsed ceiling blew down, flowing and sweeping him away. The girls held hands in a circle and prayed. When they were finished, they touched their pendants and glittered off into the morning.

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


Pretty Corp
839 words

“... and that, gentleman, concludes the presentation. I would, of course, be happy to field any questions you may have.”

The room was near-silent for a moment, only the slow whomp-whomp of a vent fan to be heard. It was struggling to draw out the thick clouds of cigar smoke that curled lazily around the ceiling lights, courtesy of the five-man panel sat behind the desk. Near-identical men in near-identical uniforms, stogies in hands, staring at the professor with varying degrees of contempt.

Eventually, one of them coughed and spoke up. Second from the left - or, as the professor had thought of him throughout the presentation, Top Brass #2. It was easier than memorising what all the drat medals meant.

“Now professor, this doohickey of yours -”

“The personal resonance energy transfer (terawatt yield) system.” The professor had been through this several times in the past hour. “P.R.E.T.T.Y. for short.”

“Yes, yes”. Top Brass #2 was scowling. “Call it whatever the hell you want. My question is, professor, why do we have to give this super-soldier tech doo-dad to some bunch of teenage girls.”

There was a general murmuring of assent from the rest of the panel.

“Because correct me if I’m wrong gentlemen,” Top Brass #2 said, looking to support from his colleagues, “but this is the drat army - not some Girl Guides teaparty. Give it to my men - they’re corn-fed muscle through and through. Couple of extra terawatts of juice in ‘em and they’ll pound the crap out of those monster things.”

“The term, sir, is kaiju.” The professor pushed his glasses up his nose. “It’s Japanese.”

“I don’t care if it’s goddamn Klingon, son,” Top Brass #2 barked. “Why are we trusting a billion dollars and enough firepower to level the Appalachians to some bunch of moody kids still panicking about prom?”

“As I explained in slide four, sir, the chromosomal binding technology is extremely specific. Given a few more years we could probably develop workarounds for the age and gender limits but we simply don’t have the time right now.” The professor gripped his pointer a little tighter. “This is simply the only option.”

The panel mulled this over.

“Hypothetically,” said Top Brass #3, “would this device require much training to use?”

“Oh no.” The professor smiled. “The interface is extremely simple. The user simply holds the wand and speaks the passphrase.”

“Yes, I saw mention of this passphrase.” Top Brass #3 flipped through his briefing pack. “Is there any particular reason why the example passphrase you give here is, and I quote, ‘Pretty Silver activate - shine justice into the heart of evil’? We’d typically expect ‘Alpha Gamma 123’ or something like that. This seems a bit … flowery.”

“It’s just an example, gentlemen.” The professor could feel a bead of sweat running down one temple. “I assure you, it could be far more … simple.”

Top Brass #3 didn’t look convinced. Top Brass #2 was talking to Top Brass #1 and neither looked impressed. Top Brass #4 cleared his throat.

“Speaking of flowery, I notice that the mock-up uniforms are a bit less … uniform than we would expect. The army doesn’t tend to go in for lace frills, professor.”

That got a good laugh out of the panel. “And this bit here about the talking “animal guides”.” He dropped the pack to the table. “Is that supposed to be some sort of code? We assumed there would be handlers, trainers, that sort of thing. Does C.A.T. stand for something?”

That was the final straw. The panel burst into peals of laughter, cigar smoke sent streaming across the room. The professor stared silently ahead, knuckles white.

“I think we’ve seen enough, gentlemen.” Top Brass #1 nodded to the rest of the panel. “If I’m going to throw a billion dollars in funding at a project it should at least look the part. Let’s see if Lockheed Martin can’t figure something out.” He stood up and there was a discordant screech as five chairs were pushed back across the concrete floor. “Thank you for your time professor.”

The group turned to leave.

“Plausible deniability.”

The group stopped. Top Brass #1 took the cigar back out of his mouth. “What?”

“You’ll have plausible deniability.” The professor stared at his feet as he spoke. “The kaiju attack cities so we have to fight in cities. If the army messes up and causes too much collateral damage, it could be on the hook for repairs. But a bunch of teenage girls with no obvious military connections show up and get too enthusiastic - nobody could possibly link it back to you.”

There was silence for a moment - even the vent fan seemed to pause.

"The girls would keep it secret themselves. All of our focus groups suggest that they would keep almost total secrecy within their units with minimal outside prompting."

Top Brass #1 looked at Top Brass #2, who shrugged. Top Brass #1 looked back at the professor.

“Alright professor. Let’s talk funding.”

Staggy fucked around with this message at Sep 16, 2018 around 22:54

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Who has two thumbs, speaks limited French, and hasn't cried once today? This moi!



Transformation
1274 words

I remember when the transformation was the best feeling in the world. More galvanizing than sex, certainly better than alcohol. Certainty and confidence flowing through my veins like liquor. When did that feeling turn to banality? To duty? Shame?

Ever since Sandy opened the secret underground base, we transform in the toolshed, in little cubicles like a dressing room. Wearing the Raiment of the Sisterhood of Andromeda feels like putting on a cheap suit. The transformation I truly treasure, the one that drives me, is a secret from Julie.

Julie looks like a spangled pink sausage in her uniform, all jiggle. She scowls as I appraise her gunt. “What the gently caress are you looking at, Darlene? Never seen a fat lady in a leotard before?”

I stick out my tongue at her; she glowers and does the same. Then we both giggle. “Jesus gently caress. Let’s get this over with,” she grumbles.

The others are seated in a circle. Unlike Julie, none of them seem to have aged since high school, and no one else seems to have difficulty fitting into the uniform.

The Princess is the last to acknowledge us. She gives me a small nod, then sneers at Julie. “My dear friends,” she purrs, “What detained you?”

“Cut the bullshit, Sandy. We all have to be at the PTA meeting in twenty minutes. Can we skip the dramatics for once and just cut to the chase?” Julie pulls the leg of her uniform down over her butt with a loud snap.

Princess stares demurely at Julie. “The concerns of our Earthly lives are minimal compared to our mission, Juliana,” she says softly. The others almost coo in agreement. “Your daughter is precious, as my are my three, but a new enemy is at hand.”

“Princess, “I begin, with a conspiratorial look at Julie, “The last ‘new enemy’ you predicted turned out to be a Jehovah’s Witness selling magazines. Don’t you remember what happened when you used the Princess Heart Key on him? I had to set off all the fireworks out of Dale’s garage so we could cover that up. Are you sure this threat is, uh, a threat?”

“The Crystal Spire tells me many things,” she says defensively, “but its power has grown weak over the millennium. Which makes it even more important that we deal with this new threat, thank you very much, Darlene.”

I know what she means, and lower my head. Julie gives me a quizzical look.

The horrible new threat has been identified as a new mother at Sandra’s daughter’s private kindergarten. Her crimes: she looks a little bit ethnic (brunette) and has a nose piercing. I tune out immediately, leafing through the dossier Sandy chucks in my lap and making the expected murmurs of assent, until we can leave.

“I hate that stinkyhole,” Julie says, peeling out of the driveway. “Are you kidding me with that poo poo? We should report her to the cops for a hate crime.” She turns left onto my street. “Why does she cling tot his? The Sisterhood fought its last real battle decades ago; I don’t really want to relive those days. Do you?”

“Nope.” I leaned my head on the window. Should I tell? Julie still has the power to crush a truck with her mind, even if she has ignored her powers for so long. She could crush my tits to jelly.

Sandra would do much worse, so I say nothing.

Wednesday night, Julie and I take the town vigil. Nothing untoward really happens in Meadowsweet besides the occasional teen pregnancy, so we pull into the usual spot and crack open a sixer. I usually just bring one for each of us, but today, I need her more impaired than usual. Julie is already high as balls, I made sure of that. “I could just stay this way forever,” she slurs, her head lolling against my shoulder. “No kids, no mortgage, nothing but feeling good.”

I want to put my arm around her. Julie has been my best friend since I was eight, since I first discovered my abilities. My heart flutters. “It’s pretty warm out for October,” I say lightly, giving her a nudge. “Come on, let’s take a walk. The moon will look wicked cool when you’re high.”

Julie wrinkled her nose. “You said ‘wicked,’” she complains, but turns off the car.

It is actually a gorgeous night. The moon is full, as I knew it would be. Julie doesn’t notice as she stumble-giggles her way down the hiking trail. “I am sooo hosed up,” she hiccups. “Do you remember that field party where…”

Julie is holding my arm and gabbling about high school misadventures when we approach the clearing. The moon isn’t just full now, it’s blinding. Light fills the meadow and sings in my blood. I raise my head slightly, listening. My real transformation- our new forms- are about to be tested for the first time. Even though I know the pain that will come, I can’t help but feel excited.

Just then, Sandra steps out from behind a tree. She has never looked so beautiful: pure, pink and dewy in the moonlight. “On time,” she says to me with an approving smile.

“Sandy? What the gently caress?” asks Julie, her voice slurring.

“Juliana,” she says gently, “my oldest friend. Come and sit by me.”

Julie moves forward, hypnotized. She kneels by Princess and lays her head in the royal lap. Princess gently strokes Julie’s hair.

“You thought there was no new threat, not really,” Princess muses. “You were right.” Julie raises her head in confusion. Princess locks her gaze. “There’s no new mother at the preschool,” Princess admits.

“So…?”

I see the others creeping through the trees. They have already transformed, their eyes like silvery discs in the moonlight. My throat closes with both longing and fear. Julie looks around, wary at the noise. “Sandy?” she says, bravado lost. “What’s going on?”

“I am The Princess,” Sandy says coldly. She stands, brushing Julie’s hands from her lap like dead leaves. “Juliana DaCosta, you have disappointed the Sisterhood of Andromeda. You do not comport yourself as a member of the Sisterhood should.”

For a moment, I think the moon-shielding hasn’t worked, that Julie can still access her powers. She staggers to her feet and throws her hands up, shouting, “Moonlight Beam Crush!”

But now, they’re just words. Julie makes a choking sound, her eyes wide and black.

“I’m sorry, Juliana, but your time with the Sisterhood has ended.” This time, her smile is cruel. “You were correct that we had become irrelevant, so I am rewarding you: you will be the first on whom we sharpen our claws.”

The others draw near. Julie screams at their twisted new forms.

In her brightest days, Julie was the true power in the Sisterhood, even Sandra had to admit that. But as she aged, as she turned away from her sisters, Julie lost her connection to the rest of us. After she disengaged, we knew it was safe to carry out the new directive. With Julie gone, no one could stand against Princess and her mission. Sandra had turned the rest of us in anticipation of this night, and while our twisted bodies were not as beautiful or brightly colored as they had been in our youths, the immense power was much more satisfying.

It is good, it is right, to secure a future for our Princess and the world she promises. Yet, when Julie turns to look at me, I feel an enormous pang of loss.

“Darlene—”

The Sisterhood leaps into the clearing as one.

Friendship is powerful.

Lippincott
Jun 28, 2018

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

You must suffer.

A lot.


Riding the River
Prompt Magical Girls
Words 1,277


The truck hits every pot hole like it’s attempting to launch, creaking from side to side with steely groans. Robbie’s fingers dig into my thigh whenever I bounce across the bench seat, using the excuse of steadying me to climb higher up my leg. I brace my boot against the bucket frame of the passenger seat and leverage away from his touch.

“Almost there?” He asks, tapping my knee as I retreat.

I’m swallowing bile to murmur, “Yeah, just turn at the oak tree.”

“I knew you’d come around,” he grins like a wolf with hamstringed prey as his eyes ease over my appearance. I know he’s peeling off my thick jeans with his gaze, ignoring the dirt from the barn, imagining that I’ll keep the cowboy boots on. “I came on a little strong at the party last Friday, but I didn’t mean anything by it.”

‘It’ was pinning me against the hallway wall and forcing his hand down my pants. He asked me if I liked Reverse Cowgirl or if I had a lot of experience riding something besides horses. The truck jolts and I feel like I’m going to be sick, pressing my palm against the dash and staring down at my feet.

“It’s fine.” I chew the inside of my mouth until I can taste blood and smile while swallowing it down.

It will be fine.

I smell the river as soon as we park. It’s the thick smell of dark and deep water. I stumble out of the car, letting the low dirge of insect wings and the light breeze rolling off the sandy banks envelop my senses. The sound of the door shutting jolts me into the present, and I can feel him looming behind me. His hand rests on my shoulder, slides down to the small of my back, lower- I move away, towards the river.

The late summer sun is creeping towards the horizon as we pick our way down to the banks. I slip off my boots and step into the shallows, my toes curling around smooth pebbles as water bugs skitter across the surface.

“So how’d you find this place?” he asks, taking in the low hanging branches of the cypress that shadow the shallows, “It’s a perfect fishing hole.”

I smile because that’s what I’m expected to do, and glance over my shoulder at him.

“We used to live up the road. I’d come here after school with my brothers.”

“I didn’t realize you had brothers.”

He’s taking off his boots, aiming to join me in the water. I move a bit farther out to avoid the hand I know he wants to put on my back.

“They died.” I state it like the fact it is. He has the good sense to look sorry for the first time in his life. “It happened when I was young, but I had two older brothers.”

“Wow. That’s rough.” He manages, setting his boots aside and putting his foot in the water. I watch him wince as the cold jolts up through his calf, the spasms of his muscles puzzling over the sudden change in temperature.

I take another step in. The water climbs up to my calves, seeping up my jeans.

“Go any deeper and you’re going to ride back home without your pants!” He laughs as if it’s a joke, as if this wasn’t his plan all along. I know I’m expected to laugh too, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it. I’m smiling for a different reason.
The summer sun is below the ridge now, casting long shadows as it finally sets. The marsh flies are going to sleep and the fireflies waking. Robbie misses all of this though. He’s closing the distance between us, laughing like we’re playing a game.

I suppose we are.

I take a step back, the waters rising up to my thighs as the current tugs at my weight. I feel the pebbles beneath my toes shudder as the River awakens.

“Be careful, Jessie!” He’s warning me, acting like he’s actually worried.

“I thought we were going swimming?” I ask, coquettish as the vixen toying with a hound.

Apprehension flickers in his eyes, but he doggedly pursues deeper into the current. “It gets deep fast,” he murmurs, trying to make the nerves in his voice sound like concern.

“I can swim” I parry, taking another step back, letting the water hungrily claw up my hips. “I couldn’t when I was younger. Even though we lived so close to the river, you think someone would have shown me, right?”

“Uh, right.” Robbie isn’t sure where I’m going with this. I can tell he’s confused, but I take another step back, and now the water sloshes up to my chest. Whatever caution festered in the vestiges of his primal consciousness are chased away by the twitch of his cock.

“So one day, my brothers lost track of me. I had seen something in the water, kind of like a fish, but it didn’t swim. It just parted the water. I saw its head come up and my kid brain thought it must be a unicorn. As soon as I got up to my legs though, the current dragged me under.”

“Holy poo poo. Did your brothers save you?”

“No. They tried. But that’s how they drowned.”

I take another step back, and the bank drops off under my feet. The River sucks me under in a swirl of frigid cold and roaring current. I can feel it pulling down on my jeans, tethering me to the silty floor. In a practiced motion, I unclip my belt, kicking myself free of the weight as I tumble through the murky darkness. A branch tangles in my hair and I rip myself free, another dragging through my blouse until it tears open. There’s a moment when I breathe and the black water floods my lungs that I am seized with panic, but it passes as soon as the instinct to choke passes.

I reach out and the River is there. Its current formed into heavily muscled and proudly arched neck, the soft eddies a silvery mane, and the whole of its churning rapids corded into four powerful legs it now stamps impatiently with equine snort. It lowers its head and waits for me to swing my leg over its back.

Together we break the surface in a surge of black water.

“What the gently caress, Jessie? What the gently caress is that?”

The panic in his voice throttles the curse words, making it sound like a child pretending at confidence. He’s stumbling back into the shallows, trying to put distance between me and the River I sit astride. To his four steps, the River takes one and devours the distance between them. Robbie screams now, because he can see the River has rows upon rows of teeth, and its opening its mouth.

The screaming abruptly stops as I drive my heels into the side of the River. It lunges forward in a surge of water and darkness that engulfs Robbie’s head. The rest of his body is dangling above the shallows now, legs kicking helplessly as the River’s jaws close, crunching as countless teeth break through cartilage and shatter bone.

I lay across the neck of the River, sliding my hands over the muscles as they convulse to continue easing Robbie down its gullet. It tosses its head back, throwing Robbie’s legs comically skyward where they dance across the stars. The fireflies are out as I sigh and murmur into the River’s nodule of an ear.

“He wanted to know if I rode anything except horses.”

derp
Jan 21, 2010

a little less conversation and a little more filthy rodents


Lipstick Apathy

Aeternum Vale
1261 words


Vale Byers had a secret power that not even Mommy knew about, even though Mommy was the one who gave it to her. The power worked like this: if Vale touched Mommy’s heavy silver locket to anyone who was hurt or dead, and said the secret word, they came right back to life, and everything was okay.

The secret word was aeternum. It sounded like a Harry Potter word. Mommy first said aeternum last week on Vale’s birthday when she gave Vale the special locket. Mommy was sick in the hospital so Vale’s birthday party was in the hospital room, and it was crowded and boring because everyone had to be quiet.

When they got home after the party, Vale asked Daddy what the word meant. Mommy was always looking in old books and writing down those weird words. She did it for her job. But she hadn’t gone to her job in a while, because of the hospital. When Vale asked Daddy what aeternum meant, he stared into space a long time, then he went to the computer and said it meant: forever.

That same evening, Vale found a dead bee curled up on the sill in her room. She felt sad thinking of how the bee would never buzz in a flower again. When you’re dead, you’re dead forever, that’s what Daddy told her after she asked him enough times, and her teachers said it was true, too. So she picked up the poor little bee and solemnly said “Aeternum,” and put it in her locket, on top of Mommy’s face (the other side had Vale’s face when she was a baby) and closed it up to show Daddy later. But when later came, she opened the locket and the bee flew right out, alive as anything! The buzzing and spinning of that happy little bee surged her heart full of joy.

From then on, whenever she saw something dead, she said “Aeternum!” and put the creature in her locket--or touched it with the locket if it was too big to fit inside, and every time--every time!--the little critter got better. She put a squashed snail with its shell all crumbled up and slimy into her locket, and a brand new snail crawled out from under a leaf not even a minute later. She put a smooshed housefly in her locket, and seconds later a new one buzzed by. She put beetles and pill bugs and spiders inside, spoke aeternum! and all of them got better.

She helped thirteen bugs this way before she found the dead puppy on the sidewalk. Its little eyes were all bloody and its tail didn’t move at all. Daddy said not to touch dead animals ever, but Vale had a responsibility. So she crouched down, touched the locket on the puppy’s haunch, and said the magic word. It took a long time. She held the locket on the puppy and said aeternum over and over. Her legs got tired so she sat on the ground. People drove by and looked at her, and her heart jumped every time, but no one stopped her. Finally, forty minutes later she heard cheerful barking in the distance and leaped to her feet. He was alive again!

Two days later, Vale squirmed in the back seat while Daddy drove them to see Mommy. She couldn’t wait to tell Mommy about the magic word. When they got to the hospital Mommy looked so pale, and Vale rushed into her arms and squeezed. “Mommy, oh Mommy, you’re like the bugs and the dog.”

Mommy laughed weakly. “Honey, what does that mean?” She smiled in a very small way like her lips were too tired to move.

“I know the word, Mommy. It’s for you. You’ll be just like the bugs.” Vale opened the locket and touched it to Mommy’s hand and said “Aeternum.”

Nothing happened for a second then Mommy got a look like that time when Daddy didn’t come home. Her eyes got all wet and she grabbed Vale in a hug so hard and whispered in her ear. “Yes, Aeternum Vale, Aeternum Vale, my love.” Vale kept pressing the locket to Mommy’s hand but Mommy’s hug just got weaker and weaker until she fell back on her sheets and loud beeps appeared everywhere. Daddy started yelling and nurses and doctors rushed in and everybody surrounded Mommy’s bed. Vale pressed the locket against Mommy and said “Aeternum, Aeternum!” but a nurse pulled her away and all sound was overwhelmed by people shouting things like ‘clear!’ and ‘her pulse!’

Vale struggled against the nurse, but couldn’t move. Mommy was out of reach, surrounded by a mass of blue smocks.

Some days later Vale and Daddy and six aunts and uncles and three kids that Vale didn’t remember all wore black and stood next to a big hole in the ground with a box hanging over it. A priest said some strange words of the kind that Mommy liked to say. Vale held the locket tight, and waited for Mommy to come back. Daddy told Vale that Mommy was gone up to heaven but Vale knew she was really inside the box, about to go under the dirt. She waited for Mommy to open the box and climb out, but the lid didn’t even wiggle. It was okay, Vale was patient, it didn’t always happen as easy as with the bee.

Vale and Daddy threw in the first handfuls of dirt, then everybody threw some in. Then the box went down and everybody went home.

One day passed, then two. Vale squeezed and kissed and never let go of the locket and whispered the word constantly, but Mommy didn’t come back. Vale even tested the locket on three insects and one bird, and it worked on all of them--the bird flapped out of a tree only a minute later!--but Mommy didn’t come back.

The next morning Vale figured out what was wrong and let out a little shriek of relief. Of course, of course, she was doing it all wrong. The answer was so simple. She scrounged through the house until she found something that would work, put it into her backpack, and told Daddy she wanted to visit Mommy. Daddy said it wasn’t a good time but she cried until he said yes, and they drove to the cemetery.

They parked and got out and walked past rows of crosses and small stone lumps, and Vale could hardly keep from running. When they got to Mommy’s grave Vale knelt down in grass that felt oddly squishy over the freshly dug dirt. After some calming breaths, she unzipped her bag, took out a garden trowel and stabbed it with all her strength into the grass. She dug up a big chunk before Daddy noticed.

“Vale! Honey, you can’t--”

Vale stabbed the earth harder and harder until Daddy wrenched the trowel from her hands.

“No! I have to keep touching her, or it won’t work! I have to keep touching her!”

Daddy didn’t understand, so Vale dug with her hands. Daddy had to drag her screaming and waving dirt encrusted fingers, back to the car.

Vale tried four times to sneak out to the graveyard. She succeeded once, got there by bus, and was taken home in a squad car, her clothes and skin black with dirt.

Five years later, when reading about the Latin her mother was so fond of, Vale found the magic word among a list of other common funeral phrases.

Aeternum Vale: goodbye forever.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Macaulay Dred Met With The Dean That Morning
(1015 words)

And there the grim Medieval Studies doctor pled by eye a case her tongue would not pronounce. And lo, the Dean took note and shuffled nervously his forms. He cast his glance above his glasses’ rim. For there would be no tenure track afforded to the adjunct prof. Nor security in station nor in wage, and neither could Macaulay loose the litany of sighs her lungs had nocked.

A siren howled from afar. The Dean spake thus:

“Your teaching, Dr. Dred, is well reviewed. However, you have lagged in publications three terms now. The Middle Ages lend quite well to study. Until you shall advance your field, you won’t advance in rank.”

And oh the sea that was Macaulay’s blood could boil dead the pox, or harden hide, despite, she knew, that “Boiled Leather” is misnamed.

Then panting, Gupta entered, who was also known as James, the prodigy Medieval Studies grad from San Diego.

Spake the Dean, “We’re busy, James.”

Macaulay: “Gupta, do you deign to halt my faculty review?”

“Did you not receive the text?”

“My phone has died.”

“Alarms betoken a Code Blue. An active shooter stalks the campus grounds.”

“Alas,” Macaulay spake.

“Advisor, whist we tarry friends and colleagues fall. Assume once more The Knot’s empowered role. A wicked soul must needs be smote.”

##

“But everyone calls you James? Do you mind if I use your real name?”

“No, Dr. Dred, in fact I’d like that much.”

“You seem young to be a prospective grad student, Gupta.”

“Fourteen the ninth of June, complete with History B.A.”

“You must have a reputation as regular wiz kid, huh?”

“Such tales as those are told.”

“I don’t mean to offend, but I notice the way you talk is—”

“I shame at mine unworthiness, and hide my blushing face withal.”

“No, no, Gupta, I—"

“My consciousness affixes much to pattern and routine. The San Diegans torment me to endless pains. As I study things archaic, so too becomes my speech.”

“I think it’s a beautiful way of speaking,” said Macaulay. Then she stood and walked the length of her office to a file cabinet. She opened the bottom drawer. “Look.”

Inside there was a grey jumpsuit patterned like the works of M.C. Escher, with impossible stairs, loops, and animals superimposed with landscapes. Poking from the jumpsuit’s folds was a yellow mask with golden ratio spirals engraved in front.

Gupta gasped. “The Knot? You betray yourself to a stranger?”

“I have a feeling about you.”

“Wherefore did you eschew the plasma knotting?”

“Because people used to torment me as well. I was ridiculed daily online, doxxed a couple times, received a few credible death threats. I also had problems with how I was being portrayed in the media. A tabloid covered a bank robbery I thwarted mid-heist, writing that my jumpsuit made me look like ‘A Gordian Thot.’ Lots of BS to put up with if you’re going to be a masked crimefighter. I never liked weaving plasma knots anyway. My mom’s a retired Knot Specialist; The Gordian Knot was her dream, not mine. I’m like you, I’d rather focus on Medieval History, maybe even to excess.

She pointed to a wall-sized map at the far end of her office. “So you want to be a student of mine someday? Let’s hear your thoughts on Great Moravia.”

##

While The Knot beheld two campus rent-a-cops, whose final slumb’rings steeped in browning red, she heard a wailing from a vague beyond. Then it dawned that walls more pockmarked still than Gupta’s brutal adolescence yet exposed the shooter’s trail, a dot-by-dot procession down the hall. One by one each room of corpses, few survivors, finger points, and hollow whispers led Macaulay charging through the shooter’s door. Lecture Hall Eighteen, where she herself had taught The Hammer of the Witches toned a dissonance of gunfire and mirth. And so by consonance of math and magic did Macaulay forge three dozen plasma knots together to a bright and floating ball.

There inside the hall, the gig’ling shooter armed with semi-automatics stood from crumpled slump and turned to meet Macaulay’s eyes. Then Macaulay screamed in horror at the recognition of her mother cloaked in army garb and bullet sleeves aplenty.

Adelaide, Knot Specialist, turned perpetrator spake, “What joy it brings, for me to see my daughter as The Knot again. It’s time to live your destiny and vanquish darkness evermore.”

Then Macaulay swiftly tugged the floating ball, unrav’ling it of glowing plasma, which, her arms a-blur, she fashioned into plate. So Macaulay did advance toward Adelaide, and all the while the latter shot Macaulay’s feet to slow her down. Bullets ricocheted, thank God. The plasma plate mail held.

Footsteps from behind did grant Macaulay cause to pivot, then did Gupta enter via doorway shouting “Aid to injured souls!” Thus Macaulay chose to doff the plasma armor she had worn; try she did to waft it o’er to Gupta, but too late. Adelaide took aim and gunned him down and as the ship that was his spirit came unmoored, Macaulay teemed with rage, a state her mom exploited well. Adelaide let loose a hail of bullets at Macaulay’s calves and downed the prof withal.

“Always keep the heroine at base of who you are and all responsibility your power brings,” spake Adelaide. “Your role is scripted evermore; The Knot may never shy from fighting evil. I will trust my making evil proves it so.”

Then, as if to tempt the reaper, Adelaide shot three nonvital shots into her child. Dr. Dred fought agony to weave again and in a knot entwined her mom, thereby to smite her wicked soul to dust. Ever since, Macaulay set aside her passions and adhered instead to duty. As The Knot, though starkly broken mentally and drained of warmth, Macaulay saw her mother’s truth, mad though that may be. She lived her days a heroine behind a mask and traded much in privacy for valor, aiding all the helpless and rebuking evil in her path.

Tibalt
May 14, 2017

And so aggressively costed!


A Living War Machine! Weaponized Innocence, 902 words

If Human eyes looked into the room, they wouldn’t have seen anything amiss. A young woman sleeping fitfully in her bed, while two cats watched from a nearby shelf. Only Demon eyes would see the armor of burning smoke that encased the woman, or the hulking ebony lion with a mane of lightless flame, or the white panther with claws and fangs of silver. A demon would likely be more concerned with the Sword of Love, an ornate claymore pulsing with its own heartbeat.The sword floated through the air in loose circles, occasionally swiping at nothing. Even in her sleep, the Champion of Love was dangerous.

“She’s restless,” muttered Kuro, the black cat. “She’s having nightmares again.”

“She’s had nightmares before,” replied Shiro, the white cat next to him. “They all have nightmares, it’s the nature of fighting Demons. Frankly, I’d be worried if she could face those embodiment of Human Sin and sleep easily. Don’t worry so much.”

“It’s not just that,” he growled. “She’s asking questions as well. Difficult questions. ‘Are we making any progress, when will I be finished.’ That sort of thing.”

“You’re getting soft, Kuro,” Shiro chided. “She’s not your first Champion, she’s won’t be your last. They all ask painful questions, if they last long enough. What does it matter? Her path was set the moment she took the Sword. You or I couldn’t change it, even if we wanted. ‘I swear to live and die by the Sword of Love’ – we didn’t make her say it.”

The Champion cried out in her sleep, clearly afraid. The cat spirits watched her, waiting for her to settle down. She got so little sleep as it was – waking her up would just be cruel. Eventually, she stopped tossing and turning as much, although she was still tense.

“She didn’t know a drat bit about what she was saying,” Kuro muttered finally.

Shiro stared at him in shock. “You really are getting soft!”

“Quiet, you’ll wake her.”

“What the hell is this? Silver tongued Kuro, who could talk a nun out of her knickers back in the day. Love them and leave them, all part of the game. Suddenly a conscience and a moral compass has sprung up in his heart!”

“Shut up, you!”

“‘A leopard can’t change his spots, so no use crying about it.’ Isn’t that what you said when you broke it off, and I asked how you could be so heartless?” Shiro’s voice was still gentle and soft, with just the barest hint of malice. “To you, I was just another crying maiden, a conquest of the Spirit of Lost Love. When did you of all people start worrying about who you hurt with your flowery words?”

“SILENCE,” Kuro hissed, far too loud. The Champion stirred and turned over in her bed. The two cat spirits watched motionlessly until her breathing finally settled into steady snores.

“I should go,” Shiro whispered, before lightly jumping to the floor and heading towards the door.

“Shiro…” She stopped and waited for Kuro to finish. “I’m sorry. How I treated you was cruel.”

She didn’t turn around or look back. “I appreciate the gesture. But you can’t change the past once it’s set in stone, Kuro. For me or for her.” And then she was gone.

The Champion was crying again, fighting against another terrible enemy. Kuro crawled down and snuggled next to her, and she held him close.

“I’m sorry, darling.”

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

The Wrath Demon howled, and the whole building shook. The workers had fled already, driven away by a sense of danger even if they couldn’t see the monstrous spirit. Only the Champion was left now.

“I have to tell you something,” Kuro said.

“It can wait,” the Champion replied through gritted teeth. Her left arm was broken, and she was putting together a makeshift sling.

“It really can’t. Do you remember asking me if any of this mattered?”

“No.” She replied, before forcing her arm into the sling with a yelp.

“You’re going to die fighting. This is your fate, your purpose - a weapon to kill Demons. But there’s always going to be more Demons, empowered by the very worst of Human Sin... One day, you’re going to zig when you should have zagged, and that’ll be it. I’ll take the Sword, and find a new Champion of Love. I’m sorry, but that’s what your oath means. I should have told you.”

“Is that all, you silly cat?” She stood up now, and started stretching. “That’s not what I asked you. I already knew I was going to die fighting, ever since I cut that first Demon in half. I wanted to know if you believed in Love.”

The Demon howled again, challenging her to come out and face it. She could sense its fear. She picked up the Sword of Love, and swung the claymore a few times with her one hand.

“You don’t have to believe in Love, Kuro. I just need you to believe in me. I want you to believe in me, right up until the end.” She scratched him behind the ears and smiled. “So shut up, Stupid, and follow my lead. It got lucky once, but I’ve got its number now. I'm going to die some day, but it isn't going to be today.”

She turned gracefully towards the door, and after a moment Kuro followed behind her.

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Adventure Awaits!


Fun Shoe

Ex-Sanguine
1281 words


How much is enough? How much can one person give until there’s nothing left?

Wren stared at her hand where it laid on her sister’s shoulder. They had found an abandoned house that was still dry on the inside, and Shea was finally asleep, exhausted by what little distance they had managed to walk that day. There were supposed to be untouched communities inland, and Wren let her sister believe it might be true. Shea was too young to understand that it would never be safe where her older sister went.

She stroked her thumb over the pink fabric of her sister’s coat, watching her scars flex. She was mostly scar by now, the darker folds standing out even more on her paling skin. Lately, Wren had been nearly as weak as her sister, although for different reasons.

One sister with blood too weak, the other’s too strong. The irony wasn’t lost on Wren, but she’d grown too tired to laugh.

It had been so easy to make the bargain. A drop of blood for the power to save the world. Simple. Strength flowed through Wren like a river, and if the pinprick she had made on her thumb never quite healed afterwards, if she never quite recovered, it was worth it.

How long ago had that been?

Wren touched the bandage that covered where her left eye used to be. It never ended, and Wren didn’t know if it ever would. She didn’t know how many more times she could use her power before her body gave out, but she didn’t think it could be very many. She was dizzier than Shea sometimes, and the growing scarcity of food and supplies didn’t make things easier.

She sensed a movement in the dark, and closed her remaining eye. She knew what it was, although she wished that she didn’t.

“Wren,” said the Shadow, crooning in a singsong voice. “Wren, do you know what is happening right now? What it is that we get up to when you’re not there to stop us? Because you can stop us, Wren, you can end all of this right now.”

Wren winced as her eyelids tightened around their empty socket. Her grip on Shea’s shoulder tightened, and the younger girl stirred in her sleep.

“Oh, Shea,” said the Shadow. “She’s so… sweet. You’re always there to protect her, Wren. What would she do without you?” The Shadow chuckled, and Wren’s blood burned inside of her.

She knew that the Shadows would never touch Shea; they knew as well as she did that her sister was the only reason that she hadn’t bled herself to death already. But that didn’t make it any easier to keep herself in check.

Because the Shadow was right. It would be easy, just as easy as it had been the first time. When her blood ran, she was whole and new again, regardless of what her body would look like afterwards. When her blood ran, the Shadows would melt before her like she was a new sun.

But the sun sets, and the Shadows always return. And when there was no sun to rise, the Shadows would drown the Earth.

Shea stirred again, and the Shadow was gone.

“Wren?” said Shea. “Were you talking to someone?”

Wren opened her mouth to reassure her sister, but was interrupted as a scream pierced the night.

She hauled herself up off of the floor and peered out the broken window into the suburban street. A woman stood in the middle of the road, a burning road flare in her hand. Behind her, two small children wailed, cowering from the Shadows surrounding them. The woman brandished the flare at the Shadows, whirling around to face them as they encroached, but Wren knew it wouldn’t be long before the either the flare or the woman faltered.

“What’s happening?” Shea was at Wren’s elbow, trying to look outside.

“Nothing,” Wren said, trying to block Shea’s view. “Just some animals.”

“It doesn’t sound like animals,” Shea said, glaring at her sister. “I’m not stupid.”

“Shea, it’s nothing to do with us. We can’t go out there, okay? The only thing that will happen is that they’ll get us, too.” She took Shea by the shoulders. “These aren’t bullies that you can stand up to, they’re monsters. Please, I just need you to be safe.”

The woman outside began to scream for help. Shea stared into Wren’s eyes, and Wren could see the emotions warring across her features. Shea had always been stubborn, but she trusted her older sister. Wren hoped that would be enough.

Shea dropped her eyes. “Okay,” said the younger girl, her voice soft. “But I want to help them.”

Wren sat back on her heels and let out a breath. “I know you do. I… can try to go do something, if you promise to stay here.”

“Thank you!” said Shea, throwing her arms around Wren’s neck.

Wren closed her eye and held her sister tightly. Shea was so small, too small for her age, but she cared about other people so much. Wren missed the time when she cared that way.

Wren stood up and went over to their supplies and rummaged through them. They had a flare gun with five cartridges left. She thought they could spare one, maybe two.

“Now stay here, okay?” said Wren. Shea nodded crouched in the corner. Wren took one last look at her and then slipped out of the side door.

Wren crept through the yard. She peered through a knothole in the fence, watched the woman stab her flare at the Shadow trying to grab at her. There was a loose board in the fence, and Wren ducked through it, trying to put more distance between herself and Shea before she took her shot.

One, two, three houses away. The woman’s voice was giving out, and the children had fallen silent. Wren aimed her flare gun toward the densest cluster of Shadows, exhaled, and squeezed the trigger.

The flare landed in the chest of the largest Shadow, suffusing it with light. The creature screamed as it disintegrated, scattering sparks onto the smaller Shadows around it.

Wren squeezed her eye shut, trying to clear her vision. She started to move when a wave of dizziness struck her. She stumbled on a discarded piece of patio furniture, and fell to the ground, the chair falling after her with a loud clatter. She tried to rise and fell again, her head spinning. She knew that she had to get away, but she couldn’t make her body move.

Then the Shadows were on her, their grips burning with cold, pouring darkness into her ears and nose. Wren held her breath, but she could feel the darkness creeping in as she fought not to scream.

They dragged her into the street, prying her good eye open as they pulled the second child away from its mother. Both of them were screaming, and Wren struggled weakly. She should have been stronger than this, but she was tired, so tired.

A pink streak shot from the broken window of the house, and Wren watched in horror as her little sister ran toward the Shadows.

“Shea!”

They had her, they had them both. Wren threw herself toward her sister, but she couldn’t break free. Shea was trying to pull away from the Shadow surging up her arms, the child she had tried to save already covered by the dark.

“Wren!”

How much was enough? How much could she give before there was nothing left?

Once more. Just once more.

Wren bit her cheek, and blood flowed.

At long last, the Sun rose.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


A Thing With Feathers
1107 words

Suzuka should have been fighting. Even after two weeks in the reservists' dorms, watching her luckier friends go toe-to-toe with the Swarm, the insult of not being on the front lines still stung. Even watching the live battle footage on closed-circuit TV was a frustrating experience -- like tonight, when Exterminating Cormorant was fighting like she'd never seen a Cicada Soldier before. "Koharu," Suzuka muttered, "go for the eyes. We trained for this."

They'd all trained for this, and Suzuka had always been at the top of her class. The last time the Swarm had risen, it had been her mother leading the Exterminating Beauties; the generation before, it had been her great aunt, and so on down the centuries since the war began. All Suzuka had ever wanted was her birthright, but when it had been time to kindle her power? Nothing. Almost worse than nothing -- a few scraps of magic, and the fluffy, flightless familiar that even now tried its best to preen her hair. Mucchan just wanted her to be happy, but how could she be? Her dreams had turned into jokes. Her "birthright" was a summer in a sweltering dormitory, watching her friends fight and knowing she would never join them. Suzuka curled up, hugging her knees against her chest. On the screen, the aerial drone footage showed the Cicada Soldiers being pushed back, no thanks to Cormorant. What was wrong with her tonight?

"She doesn't look well," said Suzuka's roommate Hikari, sitting at her desk with her petrel familiar on her lap. "She's not normally this hesitant. When we were fighting the Hornet Princess, she charged right in."

Suzuka stayed quiet, reminding herself that she liked Hikari -- she really did -- that Hikari was a sweet girl who tried hard, and she wasn't trying to rub it in that she'd seen combat. They'd had to call in half of the reservists against the Hornet Princess and her entourage, and Suzuka'd spent the whole night alone in her room, trying to pretend she was at home. She'd watched the footage later, and Hikari had fought hard. She had the right to talk about it, however much it hurt to listen.

"Well," said Suzuka, "at least the rest of the team's there to keep her sorted out." She thought again of the Hornet Princess footage: the squad of two dozen Exterminators, moving like dancers. The footage never had any audio, but they said the familiars sang to each other, the magic of a team working in harmony. "Hikari? What was it like to fight like that?"

Hikari turned to face her, and Suzuka noticed for the first time that there was something glassy and unfocused in her eyes. The light from the TV threw strange shadows over her lean, square face. "I can't remember," said Hikari. "I've tried, but it's a blur. The Hornet Princess was hard to look at straight on. She was too bright. It burned. I can't remember what I did."

Before Suzuka could speak, the tiny telepathic voice of her familiar piped into her mind. Suzuka, something's wrong! Of course there was something wrong! It was like Mucchan didn't know she wasn't stupid. Suzuka unfolded herself and climbed off the bed. "Hikari, are you okay? You don't -- it's okay, you don't have to talk about it --"

No, no! Listen to me! screeched Mucchan. Look closer! Something's really wrong!

Suzuka gripped the filigree birdcage pendant around her neck. She still couldn't see anything, but it was time to trust Mucchan. Even after weeks of disuse, her power incantation came to her easily. "Spirit of the sky, lend me your wings, that I might fly where I am needed! Lend me your eyes, that I might strike true! Exterminating Starling!" She was surrounded by her magic, thin and ephemeral; underneath the flowing feather cloak and gossamer gown of an Exterminating Beauty, Suzuka could still feel her street clothes, beyond her magic's power to transform. She had so little. But she had something.

Hikari stared blankly ahead, and with the eyes of an Exterminating Beauty, Suzuka could see the dark power inside her: plump shadowy larvae, wriggling from her friend's heart like they might from a rotted log or crushed hornet's nest. Hornets -- no. Of course. "Hikari! Did the Hornet Princess hurt you?"

"She... she had an aura. It was beautiful. I couldn't close my eyes..."

The royalty of the Swarm could plant their parasites without a touch. "There's something she left in you. We have to get it out before something happens --"

On the forgotten TV, the screen went black, the bright lights of the battle overwhelmed by shadow for a moment. The camera drone was focused on Cormorant, collapsed onto her knees as spectral hornets emerged from her chest in a dense cloud. The Exterminators were scrambling, the few straggler Cicada Soldiers forgotten.

"-- before that happens!" screamed Suzuka, magical raiment crackling as she searched her mind for answers. This had happened before. She'd read about it. There was some counter-incantation, if she just had the strength for it. Words from her mother came unbidden: when you need the power, it finds you. Let it find you.

Suzuka didn't speak. She sang, in her own voice and in the voice of Mucchan and in the voice of everyone who'd ever worn the mantle of Exterminating Starling. Mucchan re-manifested, no longer flightless, and a flock of luminous starlings followed his lead as they dive-bombed the parasitic infestation in Hikari's spirit. Tiny beaks closed on the larvae and pulled them away, the darkness dissipating in quick sparks of light. Hikari's eyes began to clear, and her dozy familiar stirred and squawked.

"Suzuka? Suzuka, did you do that?"

"Don't worry about what I did! Who else here fought the Hornet Princess with you? Are any of them out in the field right now?"

"No, it was all reserves. Mostly girls from South Hall. Shrike, Bunting, Rosefinch, Falcon..."

"Think while we move. Can you transform?"

Hikari clutched her pendant and answered with her incantation. The glistening raiment of the Exterminating Petrel, storm-grey and rain-slick, shimmered to life around her, and she reached for Suzuka's hand. "Let's go! Soaring wings, carry us!"

No sooner did Suzuka take Hikari's hand then she felt herself carried away by a rush of magic, like a tailwind, carrying them through the door and down the hallway, towards the door to South Hall. Along the hallway, the TVs showed the Exterminating Cormorant rising free of the hornet swarm, finding her soundless song again. Mucchan's voice broke into Suzuka's thoughts: all right, Suzu! Let's do it!

Suzuka was fighting.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

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

Ghost Stories
1281 words

“You’re stressed,” Tevi says.

He’s right, of course. Tevi is, like all cats, magical or mundane, observant to a fault. I stop chewing on my thumbnail and start scratching that good spot under his chin. Still an hour and a half left on the bus ride from Chicago to South Bend. I don’t know why it’s so important that I come back home and visit. I could have just called. Your sister is graduating high school, Shamara. Coming home is what you’re supposed to do. It’s normal. gently caress you.

Tevi gently touches my arm with a paw and I realize I’m chewing on my other thumbnail. “poo poo,” I say, pulling it out of my mouth. “Thanks.” I look at my reflection in the window. “How’s my hair?”

“Fine.”

“It gets frizzy after I gently caress with ghosts. Is it frizzy?”

“It’s fine,” he says. “It looks fine.”

I grab one of my dreads and start looking for loose hair. There’s too much brown in it. And my skin is too light. Slavemaster rapist fuckhead blood cropping up generations later. Or… or maybe something more recent. Too recent. The result of one of my mother’s frequent marital infidelities. You’re projecting blame. Dad’s disappointed in you because of your choices not because he thinks you’re... Shut. The gently caress. Up.

Kyana’s got the good dreads. Thick. Black. And she probably won’t drop out of college after one semester.

“You’re chewing again,” he says.

“poo poo. Sorry.”

Tevi uncurls in my lap. He yawns and stretches and climbs up my shoulder. I feel his claws working through my dreadlocks like little crochet hooks. I don’t know if he’s actually tucking tufts of hair back into place or just pretending to make me feel better.

“Relax,” he says. “It’s going to be fine.”

***

This is loving awful. I don’t know where to look. My parents and Kyana are seated on the couch in this precious little row like they’re about to get their portrait taken. I don’t wanna look at Dad in his bowtie and pressed, white shirt. I don’t wanna look at Mom with her modern, sensible dress and her oldschool yellow african headwrap. And I especially don’t wanna look at my sister with her… loving… bald-rear end head. Whyyy? Why would she shave off all her loving hair? She looks like one of those Dora Milaje Black Panther bodyguard chicks and... that’s… that’s probably the point, actually. drat. Okay. But...

She had the good hair.

Black Jesus carries the cross to Calvary above them. A painting of, no doubt, extravagant cost. Activism might not pay that well but Notre Dame certainly does.

“Kinda… feels like I’m about to be interviewed here,” I say. “Or lectured.” They stare at me blankly. “It’s just, you know, it’s kinda weird to sit here by myself with the three of you on the same couch.”

“Would you like to switch seats?” Dad asks.

“It’s fine,” I say. “Forget it.”

“Your hair looks nice,” Kyana says.

“Yours, uh, yours, too.” I give a thumbs up. “Wakanda forever.”

She makes an X with her arms.

“We supported her decision to cut her hair,” Mom says in a tone of voice that tells me they 100% did not. “It’s important to be proud of one’s identity and heritage. Even if there's no such thing as a Wakanda.

Dad shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “We’re having salmon,” he says. “I told Jeffrey, the cook, to make a plate for you as well, Tevi.”

“Ooh la la,” Tevi purrs. “Shamara, give a shout out to Dr. Davis for me, would you?”

“He says, ‘thanks.’”

Dad nods. Mom folds her hands in her lap and leans forward. “Shamara,” she says slowly, drawing out the syllables of my name like a nurse with blood. “How are you?

“Great? I guess?”

“Work,” she says. “How’s work? What are you doing these days?”

I shrug. “Same... stuff as before, Mom.”

“Oh, Shamara,” Dad says. “Please tell me you’re not still doing that ghastly business with the-”

Ghostly business,” I say. Kyana smiles. “And, yeah, I am.”

“I don’t approve,” Mom says.

Yeah, no poo poo. “Well,” I say, “if you wanna climb off your ivory tower and come to Chicago, we can hold hands and sing songs and march through downtown and maybe this time things will loving change.” They all visibly stiffen at my f-bomb. “Or, you know, I can just keep talking to the ghosts of the victims of gun violence and tracking down their killers and bringing them to justice. And I can keep trying to figure out where all these guns are coming from in the first place so I can keep shut that poo poo down and be the loving change I wanna see in the world.”

Dad clears his throat. “I don’t recall Mr. Gandhi’s quote being quite so… colorful.”

I roll my eyes.

“Power,” Mom says. “As we take positions of power, it allows us to enact the change our communities need from within.”

I point at the clock on the wall. I slowly turn my finger and the minute hand spins backwards at the same pace. “I have power, Mom.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

In the distant dining room, one of the housestaff rings a bell. Dad claps his hands against his lap and sits up. “Great,” he says. “Dinner’s ready. Did I mention we’re having salmon?”

***

We pretend to plan for Kyana’s graduation ceremony tomorrow but I can tell that everything was already decided a week ago. Where we’re going to take pictures. Where we’re going to eat afterwards. Tevi sits in my mother’s lap, eyes closed, purring happily as she runs her fingers through his fur.

Traitor.

Dessert is lemon meringue pie.

Mom’s fork scrapes against her plate.“Is Chicago safe?” she asks suddenly.

“No,” I say. Her lips tighten. “I mean, yeah, I guess. I mean, it’s like anywhere else, you know? There are rough parts of town but no one’s gonna buss a cap in yo rear end if you’re just chilling on the train or whatever.” She glances at Kyana. She’s nervous. But why? “Why do you ask?”

Dad clears his throat. “We want you to give up the hero stuff.” He doesn’t look at me.

“Absolutely not,” I say.

“Just for a few years,” he says.

“Not gonna happen.”

“We want you to be safe.”

“I’m fine,” I say. “I’m straight up magical, remember?”

“You can still be shot.”

“I have Tevi. He watches out for the... secret bad guys hiding around corners.” Tevi meows unconvincingly from my mother’s lap. “Chicago’s a great city,” I say. “You should listen less to your white coworkers.”

Dad slams his fist into the table. “We didn’t send you to Chicago to try and save it! We sent you there to get an education!”

The house is silent.

“The pie’s good,” Kyana says, softly.

“Yes,” Mom says. “Jeffrey made it from scratch. Special.” She puts her fork down. “We talked to our friends over at UofC. Say the word and… you can just register for classes again, Shamara.”

“We can take classes together,” Kyana says.

“I thought you were going to Cornell?”

She smiles and shrugs. “Surprise.”

“Top ten school in the world,” Dad mutters. “An education. That’s- that’s something you can use. Something you can fall back on when you realize that real success and real change requires money and connections and- and-

“I have gifts, Dad!”

“And opportunities,” he says. “Use them!”

There’s a girl back in Chicago that would tell him to gently caress off. But here... here I feel small and translucent and I say, “Okay. I’ll think about it.” And I realize I’m chewing on my thumbnail.

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

Better Than Crystal

924 words

Mary sits up in her bed, listening patiently as Serafina talks her ear off about her friends and their little intrigues, slowly meandering, through a side-track of losing and finding and losing again her twin brother Jim, to the trip out to the Quartz Flats. Mary knows where the story is headed.  This is a good day, a day when she knows the girl is her great-granddaughter and not her granddaughter or daughter or sister. She remembers everything, today.

The Quartz Flats, 1932. The worst of it, she and her sister on two meals in five days, and one of them just a mess of boiled cabbage. They were out exploring, sent out for rocks to spark a fire, when the gargoyles attacked. Ugly, white and black and grey, holding sharpened sticks and swooping down to attack. Bessie tried to run, but tripped and fell. Mary picked up a stone to throw, but it grew in her hand, into a crystal scepter. She was changing, too, from rags to shining cloth, from a girl of thirteen years to an full-grown woman, beautiful but not built to stand and be admired. Built for battle. She leapt at the gargoyles, almost unsurprised to find herself flying.

Serafina is talking about them now, in their latest form. White, black, and grey, now baseball caps on the gears of three bullies. The otherworldly shades embolden them, empower them as they tormented her and her friends. Mary fought them many times, but they weren't the only enemies she faced.

When she was Princess Diamond, Mary fought the villains of her time. The Shades, the Court of Fossils, the High Martians, yes, but also more worldly ones. She fought off a gang of Pinkertons trying to bust her father's union, put paid to a ring of saboteurs with the German American Bund. But she could only be the Princess for a bit more than three hours, and that only once in a week, not enough to change the big things. Not enough to be useful once the war started, either. She had to explain things to President Roosevelt himself, and he was very disappointed. She did like seeing the White House. Things were winding down by then.

Serafina’s into the good stuff now, Princess Diamond taking on the enemies with scepter and magic and an occasional well-placed high kick. The hats somehow move from the school bullies to the school bus and two passing trucks, animating and transforming them monstrously. No match for Princess Diamond, though.

Only one foe was, and that was the King of Tomorrow. He wasn't even an enemy, really. He was a manipulative rear end sometimes, but when she needed help he was there. And at the end, when Mary was nearly too old to become Princess Diamond any more, he made his offer. Marry him and go to his Crystal Garden at the other end of time, where she could be forever powerful and beautiful and young. It wasn't a great temptation for her. She had a boyfriend, Johnny Drew, and when the King of Tomorrow made his move she saw through the little mind games he'd been playing, the petty fights he'd stage-managed. Mary knew what Johnny could offer was better than crystal, and made her choice. Only later did she realized that if she had taken his offer that would have been the end of Princess Diamond on Earth, that the world would be at the mercy of the shades and fossils and high Martians and the more human monsters forever.

Serafina goes on. Something is bothering Mart about the story, as Princess Diamond saves the girls from the sharpened teeth of a white earth-mover, then disassembles it down to sheet metal and screws, reversing the factory's work step by step. Something is wrong. “Better than crystal,” she mutters. Serafina keeps telling her tale.

Mary married Johnny Drew, who went to war and came back. One of their daughters was the next Princess Diamond, fighting the Smartest Dinosaur and the Shades and the Ku Klux Klan in the early sixties, and was tempted at the end by the King of Tomorrow. She married a Low Martian, instead. She wondered if Serafina knew that about her grandfather. Probably. She was a sharp one.  The third Princess Diamond was their daughter, Serafina's mother, who adventured across Europe as their parents travelled, working with friends who sometimes could share her power.

“What was that you were saying about crystal?” asks Serafina.

“Something you should know, as Princess Diamond. That friends today are better-”

“What?” sats Serafina. “I'm not Princess Diamond.” And Mary remembers what had been wrong in the story. Serafina had told of herself being rescued by-

“Jim?” says Mary. “But, well, he’s-”

She's my sister now,” says Serafina. “It's sort of a secret, since not everyone understands. And it’s Gem, like a ruby.” Or a diamond.

Mary closes her eyes and imagines. How wonderful and horrible, to be able to become your truest self, to have to give that up after three short hours. Then she thinks of the King of Tomorrow, and how difficult it will be for Gem to turn down his offer. How it might even be wrong to try to talk her out of it.

She opens her eyes again, in darkness. Did she fall asleep? Serafina is long gone. She decides to write a letter for Gem, but by the time she has pen and paper and light together she can't recall what all the fuss was about.

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.


She's a Natural
Word count: 1241

Sheriff Gonzales had a situation on her hands. This was the third in two weeks, and they’d all been more than her department could handle. This one was going south fast just like the other two. Officer O’Malley trotted up and dragged a meaty fist across his damp brow.

“Sheriff! Any word on SWAT?”

Sheriff Gonzales set her steely gaze across the street where a candy shop had turned into something out of Nightmare on Elm Street.

“ETA six minutes. We’re gonna have to go back in-”

Shrieks erupted from across the street. The throng of onlookers rippled behind the police line as a gust of wind swept over the crowd. Gonzalez clasped a hand to her cap before the wind could whisk it away.

Ethereal, golden light shone down from above them.

Gonzales squinted into the brightness.

“It’s…” Gonzalez swallowed thickly and whispered, “... her!”

Flecks of starlight swirled around the shape of a woman.

“Pixie Dandy!”

The stars flickered and faded. From the center of the glowing mass, a shape solidified and shifted sharply downwards before outright falling six feet onto the hood of a squad car.

The shape, a solid, human-looking woman, rolled down the windshield and across the hood in a flurry of pink and purple ruffles before landing face-first on the ground. She let out a hearty belch when she connected with the concrete, but managed to get to her feet after a couple of failed attempts.

She was nearly five and a half feet of short skirts and bows. Golden ribbons billowed behind her from the conical cuffs on her shoulders. Her tiara sat crooked on her head, the bands exposed by the faded green Chelsea cut she sported. Knee-high boots and elbow length gloves conveyed a sense of elegance that was immediately contradicted by the swathes of tattoos covering her exposed flesh. A silver bull ring hung from her nose.

“Pixie Dandy?” Gonzales asked, the broken question posed more to herself than anyone else within earshot.

“Bitch, I heard you the first time,” the woman growled as she reached into her bloomers and pulled out a golden wand. As soon as her fingers closed around it, she was once again encircled by an oppressively bright cloud of stars.

Pixie Dandy lurched toward the candy shop. The glass windows shattered suddenly to the chorus of shrill cackling.

It sounded as though a hundred mouths, all with the same terrible, thin voice, screeched at once.

“I smell something delicious! Something brave, something foolish… something… Luminous.”

Pixie groaned and gave the wand a firm shake. It sneezed a streak of pink light.

“Little Pixie Dandy!” The voice sneered. “Will you never learn? We are innumerable!”

“Will you shut the gently caress up? Aw, poo poo.”

The wand tumbled out of her fingers just as three hideous creatures leapt out of the open windows.

They were tall, emaciated women with arms that split into three gleaming swords at the elbows. They looked like Barbie dolls someone melted and reshaped into nightmares.

“You’ve got quite the mouth on you, brat. I think it’s time I relieve you of it,” one of the creatures sneered loudly as it brandished its steel arms.

Pixie Dandy snatched the wand up from the ground and snarled at it.

“Would you do something useful already you worthless piece of poo poo?”

The wand belched and spat out a Louisville Slugger. Pixie Dandy barely caught it before it hit the ground.

“Fuckin’ finally,” she groaned before chucking the wand back to the ground and left it there. With bat in one hand, she pointed at the monsters with the other.

“I’m Pixie fuckin’ whatever and I’m gonna rip your fuckin’ heads off and poo poo down your throats!”

---

Anna spent the better part of the morning throwing up. When she wasn’t throwing up, she was tearing her room apart. She’d looked everywhere. Every purse, every pocket, ever pile of laundry. She’d even gone through the fridge. Now she paced back and forth across her living room, fingers tearing at her silvery blonde locks.

“Oh my god oh my god, oh mygodwhereisit??”

Something rustled underneath the pink hoodie she’d discarded on the ground. A white bird wriggled out from under it, its beak open.

“I don’t know! I don’t even sense it” the bird heaved. Yep, definitely panting. And talking.

Anna’s big green eyes welled with tears. She grabbed the collar of her pullover and wrung it tightly.

“Something must have happened to it last night, but I can’t remember anything.”

“Why did I let you convince me to stay home?” The little bird flapped its wings in a tiny tantrum.

“Because it’s really freaking hard to go to bars with a bird!”

“You shouldn’t be going to bars at all! You shouldn’t even be drinking! There’s too much at stake!”

Anna grit her teeth and collapsed onto the couch into a pile of her own laundry. She snatched up the remote and turned on the television. She needed some music. Music would keep her from strangling her familiar.

“Thanks for the reminder. I really needed to hear that right this minute.”

Anna couldn’t focus on what she was doing. She flipped through channels on basic cable while wondering how the hell she’d fight without the Luminous Scepter. Knowing that she was essentially powerless without it didn’t do much for her self-confidence, either. Anna couldn’t waste a lot of time thinking about how Pixie Dandy was ninety percent magical wand and ten percent weekly cardio.

Without it, she was just another helpless citizen of earth.

Her train of thought derailed as soon as she caught a glimpse of pink and purple stardust cascading over some kind of police standoff. She dropped the remote on the floor and leapt to her feet.

“What? Did you find it?” The bird squawked and flew to her shoulder.

“Oh no…” he croaked.

Anna watched as a girl with hacked-up green hair stood over the crumpled shape of a Screecher and brought a baseball bat down on its head over and over. She didn’t know these creatures had brains, but she was pretty sure she saw a streak of gray matter hit the pavement before the camera quickly cut away to a long shot of the woman going to town on the monster’s face.

Anna thought she might be sick again, though there wasn’t a drop of liquor left in her stomach.

Her mind backpedaled at super speed to the night before. She skipped over empty chunks of time and sped to the closest intact memories. The next one was somewhat recent, near the end of the night judging by the light. Anna was outside a dive bar, chatting up the roughest looking crowd she’d ever seen.

The green-haired girl smoked like she wanted lung cancer for Christmas.

Anna remembered how hard it was to get the words out, but she’d said, “Hey. I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you do my job for me this week. A hundred bucks. I swear I’m good for it. So good.”

The green-haired girl was drunk too, Anna remembered she stank of booze. Or maybe that was Anna smelling herself.

“One hundred bucks? What do you even do?”

“I’m a magical girl.”

“No fuckin’ way.”

“Way.”

“I’m in.”

“You for serious?”

“Oh gently caress yeah I am.”

“Ok,” Anna swayed on her feet as she stuffed a hand into her purse and dug around. “Then you’re gonna need this.”

Maigius
Jun 29, 2013

THUNDERDOME LOSER


The Genesis of DELTA
1039 words

The St. Catherine’s High School Geology Club were searching the abandoned quarry for fossils, when they stumbled on a leather-covered box with a triangle on it. Diane, the club president, cautiously opened the lid. Inside there were five pendants, each set with a different stone, along with a letter. As the letter was written in Latin, she handed it Emily.

Emily read the letter aloud, “I offer my power, I was not able to use it freely. The chaos of my time did not need to be made worse by the weakening of the wall between Heaven, Hell, and Earth. The diamond holds the power of spirit, but the power is more complex than that. The emerald holds earth, the lapis lazuli holds water, the topaz holds air, the amethyst holds fire. Do what thy will, but harm none. - The Master Therieon”

Lauren took the letter, and examined the stamp, “It looks like it it was from the reign of George VI. I would not have wanted to add more chaos to World War II.”

Tracy said, “Angels, demons, Nazis, nukes what more could England need.”

“Five of us, five pendants, and all the stones start with with the first letter of our first names. It’s fate” said Amanda.

“Agreed,” said the club in unison.

Diane put on her diamond pendant first. As soon as it was sitting around her neck, she was enveloped in radiance. When it dissipated, she had on not her school uniform, but brilliant white ball gown. In one hand, she held a deck of cards.

Emily donned her emerald pendant, also getting enveloped in radiance. She too was no longer wearing her school uniform. It had morphed into a green flapper dress. In her hand was a chakram, with a pattern of roses around the rim.

When Lauren put on her lapis lazuli pendant, she too was enveloped in radiance, and changed into interbellum finery. She was wearing an Art Deco tea gown, and was holding a chalice filled with water. When she tried to pour some of it out, the water level remained at the brim.

So too did Tracy change after wearing her topaz pendant. She now had on bright yellow Tuxedo. In one hand she held a fencing foil.

Amanda also had changed after amethyst pendant. She had on a reddish-purple tail-coat, and a matching four-in-hand tie. She had a bow and a quiver of arrows. “I look like Willy Wonka is borrowing Robin Hood’s kit,” she exclaimed.

“Could be worse, I have unlimited water as a weapon. Arrows can at least hurt things,” said Lauren.

“Fool, Magus, Priestess, Empress, I have a Tarot deck. I think the symbol on the fan is related. That would explain where the fate description of my power comes from,” said Diane.

“Yes, this is actually sharp,” said Tracy touching the tip of her sword. “I would have thought that it would have a button on it.”

“At least you know how to fence. I, on the other hand, have never been able to throw things. Remember the time when I broke that window?” said Emily.

Diane said laughing, “You were standing in front of it. How do you even manage to throw a ball that way. So the power is real. We should probably head back into town, if there are supernatural creatures they would be more likely to be around more people.”

"We should probably take the pendants off first. I don’t fancy climbing out to the quarry in this gown.” said Lauren.

***

As they were walking back along Main Street, there was a disturbance at Fiduciary Trust, the largest bank in town. It was getting close to closing time, and two unearthly attractive shirtless men with swords just walked in the front door. On a closer look, both men had slim tails coming from their pants.

“Everyone down!” screamed the golden-haired devil walking through the door.

“I bet those are incubii robbing the bank,” said Emily.

“We have got to stop them,” said Amanda.

“The letter said the walls between Heaven, Hell and Earth would break down if we took the power. It’s our duty,” said Tracy.

“If we are doing this what’s our team name?” asked Diane.

“DELTA” said Lauren.

The members of DELTA transformed in a radiant glow.

“By the warmth of the fire,” shouted Amanda, as she fired a flaming arrow at the silver-haired incubus. It hit his bare chest, and black ichor oozed out. He stopped menacing the teller and charged toward DELTA with his spear.

“By the coolness of water” shouted Lauren, as she poured out her chalice in the path of the silver incubus. The water froze at it hit the floor and caused the devil to slip.

The golden haired incubus came back from the vault with several bags of money. Dropping the riches, he took up a defensive stance.

“By the swiftness of wind” shouted Tracy, as she charged at the golden-haired incubus with her foil. She struck a blow on his shoulder, and knocked him down.

“By the stability of the earth,” shouted Emily as she spun her chakram and rose bushes restrained the golden-haired incubus.

“We are only the first of many, let us go and we will tell you about our bosses,” pleaded the devils.

“By the turns of fate, I banish thee,” shouted Diane, drawing the Star from her deck of cards. The Tree of Life appeared behind her, and seals appeared under the incubii, returning them to Hell.

Coming together and striking a group pose, DELTA stood triumphant. “We’re DELTA, anything from beyond the natural world should be afraid of us.” announced Diane. They then ran off, but not before a reported from The Daily Bell took their picture.

***

The next day at school, the head-mistress of St. Catherine’s called an all school assembly.

“I have heard about the commotion at Fiduciary Trust yesterday. Those miscreants DELTA look like they are almost the right age to be members of this school. If any pupil of this school is a member, she should consider herself expelled.” explained the head-mistress.

Ten rows backs, the members of DELTA exchanged knowing looks.

Amanda whispers, “Well, our job just got a lot harder.”

Invisible Clergy
Sep 25, 2015

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

Malachi 2:3


Old Guard
1034 words

Kotomi parked in the lot outside the assisted care facility (never nursing home, she reminded herself) and made sure she was on time.

She took her purse inside and greeted the young lady at the front desk.

“Good afternoon, Miss Shiga,” she said.

“Good afternoon. How is she?” Kotomi asked. She edged the zipper on her purse to the side and stroked the synthetic fur on the cat toy inside.

“The same. She’ll sneak out of her room at night now and again, but she doesn’t leave the facility. It’s mostly to get things for the cat,” she said.

It was surprising Ayame was still alive. She’d been around as long as Kotomi remembered. By all accounts, she should’ve died years ago. The staff probably replaced her every once in a while when her grandmother was asleep.

Kotomi signed in and made her way to her grandmother’s room.

“Are you ready?” she asked as she observed her grandmother’s silhouette from behind a changing screen.

“Just about,” Chisato said. “I just need to make sure I’m wearing my amulet in case we run into any trouble.”

It was the one indulgence she allowed herself as far as her appearance went, which otherwise was what one would expect from a woman who soon be a hundred. The amulet was golden, yes, but not gaudy. A subtle relief framed a storm cloud with a lapis lazuli bolt of lightning piercing through the bottom. It didn’t look much like an heirloom, and every time Kotomi or anyone else asked where it came from, the story changed: a lucky charm, a relic passed on from her own grandmother, something she’d picked up in a gashapon. Kotomi was happy to let the old woman have her secrets.

Chisato moved the screen aside and lowered herself into her wheelchair, her cane collapsed and clutched in her lap. Ayame gingerly lowered herself down onto the blanket across her knees from the table.

“All right. I’m ready,” she said.

Kotomi rebuffed the nurse and took her to the car on her own and was careful not to offer to help her inside until asked. She didn’t want a repeat of last time.

“Are you excited about the carnival?” Kotomi asked at a red light.

“Of course. I haven’t missed one yet,” Chisato said.

They were there soon enough, surrounded by the twinkling lights and cheerful music of the carnival. Chisato insisted on trying a shooting gallery first. Kotomi resigned herself to buying a bushel of corks.

Chisato spun the toy rifle around like a soldier and knocked the targets down in her first round.

“Wow! Where’d you learn to shoot like that?” Kotomi asked as the carnival worker wept and handed Chisato the largest plush toy, a languid penguin with a sun hat just like hers.

Chisato laughed. “The war, of course. Didn’t have much choice.”

As far as Kotomi knew, women hadn’t been in the infantry back then, but she knew better than to argue. “Of course. How foolish of me.”

Chisato asked her to go pick up some dango, which she was happy to do. As soon as Kotomi got in line, however, an air raid siren went off from overhead. She scanned the sky for planes and looked around for the nearest thing to shelter under, trying to look through the crowd for her grandmother.

As soon as a gap in the scurrying crowd appeared, she saw her wheelchair was empty.

Something screamed across the sky, but it didn’t look like any plane or bomb she’d ever seen. It looked more like an egg, though the bird who laid it would be the size of a skyscraper if that were the case.

It crashed into the ferris wheel—mercifully closed for repairs—and left a smoldering crater. The air reeked of ozone. From nowhere, storm clouds gathered overhead in the skies that were blue a mere moment earlier.

An unearthly shriek pierced the haze of black smoke that emanated from the crater. Something like a bird only in the loosest sense emerged from it, pieces of wet shell clinging to its beak, its egg tooth still visible and the size of a basketball. It took a step with an armored, webbed foot and the earth shook.

“Stop right there! You can’t get on the ride unless you have a ticket!” cried a voice from the heavens.

Lightning pierced the dark skies, and what looked like a woman riding on the back of an enormous black cat glided along its surface until it touched the ground, at which point the pair gracefully dismounted.

“As long as my body draws breath, the people of this planet are under my protection!” the woman said. She was dressed in a simple black robe with a collar of stars around the mantle. She had a necklace that looked strangely familiar, though Kotomi was too far away to see it in much detail.

She spun a cane in her hand like a soldier doing a drill and it transformed at once into a filigreed rifle.

“It may have been a while since you’ve seen me, but the people of Earth will never surrender!” She fired once into the creature’s face with a sound of thunder and a thousand tiny stars, blindingly white, pierced its armored skin, popped its eyes, and skewered its exposed throat through its open mouth. The beast collapsed and turned into a silver light, boiling away almost immediately like water on hot concrete.

The woman blew smoke off her rifle’s barrel. “And don’t come back!” she yelled over the cheering of the crowd. “Well, it looks like my work here is done. Enjoy the carnival, everyone!”

With that, lightning struck, and she and her beast were spirited away, along with the storm.

Kotomi and the others slowly emerged from the places they’d taken shelter. She made her way to her grandmother’s wheelchair, afraid of what she’d see.

The penguin lounged there, dressed in Chisato’s coat and hat. Chisato nudged her from behind with her cane and handed her a stick of dango.

“Sorry about that. Long line. Did I miss anything?” she said with a wink.

Kotomi accepted the sweet and took a bite.

“No.”

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Firebirds (500 words)

The stars above blinked out, one by one, as the snow-swept capital burned in the night. A thick cloak of smog had smothered the city. It was raining ash on the roof of the palace.

The girl recoiled in the presence of the shadow.

“The world is turning,” said the shadow. “Can you feel it? Do you know?”

The shadow towered over her. The young girl shuddered, but stood firm. She held a small bundle in the crook of her arm. She held it close and looked him in the eye.

“What is this?” she asked, her voice uncertain. “More of your magic? More of your schemes?”

The shadow chuckled. In its depths one discerned the shape of a man; a somber giant in a starless black cassock. It was difficult to tell, at a glance, how much of the shadow the man constituted. A pale hand appeared and stroked his beard.

He’d been called a sorcerer, a warlock, a demon. The girl knew the truth. He was merely a thief: one who had stolen Baba Yaga’s power.

“Answer me!” she demanded, “Tell me, Rasputin!”

“It is the coming of a new age, my child...my dear Anastasia.”

The girl took a step forward, her pale blue coat whipping in the wind. She held aloft her tightly-wrapped treasure. A gust of wind unraveled the cloth, revealing the egg once nestled within. An emerald shell with golden lattice. A faberge egg. One of the last.

“You’ve haunted our family, our kingdom, all the days of our lives!” she said. There was a tick, and the jeweled egg cracked open, releasing a whimsical northern aurora. Anastasia shut her eyes as the light enveloped her, her clothes transformed like a Russian ballet. She reached to the sky, grasping at something ephemeral, and pulled down to earth the shape of a bow. She floated, briefly, and landed on her feet. “It’s time your kind finally-

She stopped.

“What...what is this?”

She had taken on this role a thousand times. There was always something or someone to protect. Only now she felt hollow, weighed down with led. At was as though a lingering exhaustion had finally caught up her.

She looked to Rasputin. He shook his head.

“We belong to another world, child. That world has ended. Our powers are fading.” He threw out a gesture, a simple incantation. A trio of matryoshkas emerged from the darkness. They began to orbit Rasputin as they had done many times before. Anastasia took aim. She felt a great strain in her limbs. She loosed an arrow. A matryoshka shattered.

The pieces fell to earth like broken pottery. There was no spell. No sound, no thunder.

“Then,” Anastasia said… “This is it?”

Rasputin’s gaze met her own.

“Come then. Let us finish our quarrel. Strike now, while you can still kill a sorcerer. Soon you will only have the blood of a man.”

Anastasia nodded, and drew her bow. A single tear dripped down her face.

Mr. Sunshine
May 15, 2008

Can anybody find me somebody to love rape and torture?


Fun Shoe

Looks like I'm the motherfucker. I completely misjudged my schedule for this weekend, and haven't completed writing.
Would it be okay if I posted what I have finished anyway?

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Maugrim
Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face



Mr. Sunshine posted:

Looks like I'm the motherfucker. I completely misjudged my schedule for this weekend, and haven't completed writing.
Would it be okay if I posted what I have finished anyway?

That's up to you. Here are your options:
- Slap down the unfinished story. You'll probably DM or lose but at least you didn't fail I guess?
- Finish the story and sub it late. You'll be DQ from winning and may still lose if the judges bother to read it and find it terrible. But you finished a story and to my mind this is better experience for you as a writer.
- Finish the story while praying for an extension. Sometimes the judges oversleep or forget to post submissions closed.

Whichever you do, no-one wants to hear your excuses, worm. and take your lumps.

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