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ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

I've put off doing this for too loving long. I'm in and could use a song.

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ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

for Team Cephalopod!

This is almost too cute, but y’all deserve it, I guess.

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

The Octocameral Mind

1194 words
Team Cephalopod


The women looked at the glistening, gently heaving creature on the sand. The tentacles sought desperately for something firmer than wet sand to pull them back into the life-giving brine beyond. But the eyes looked to the sky, lidless and wide, as if it did not notice or care that it lay dying on the beach.

“Poor thing,” the taller one said. But she was afraid and would not approach too closely. The other one walked to the octopus and knelt down.

“We could save it,” she said. “If you help me lift it, we can throw it back beforeit dies.”

The other one frowned. “I don’t know. It might sting us. It won’t know we’re trying to help.”

“Ugh. It doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s a mindless, thoughtless sea beastie, but it won’t kill us and we won’t let it die. Compassion is what makes us human.”

***

Not thoughtless. Not her or any of her kind. If anything, too many thoughts. A cacophony of thoughts rippled through the confederacy of brains, pulsing with significant news, false alarms, signal upon signal. And disparate though they were, limb by limb, they all sung their minds in harmony each with one another, united in purpose and sentiment.

Except her. The mind in-between, the circle intelligence wrapped around the thrumming tendrils of muscle and neuron, the governor… no, not really. She was a subordinate overseer, meant to connect the useful signals, to shunt away the noise that distracts from the good of the whole. And she knew they did not care for themselves in any way. Even if ripped whole from the greater mass, yet a new tentacle full of strength and thought would force itself from her body.

Though they certainly did not care for her. Her allegiance was suspect; she was no grabber or taster or navigator of ocean ways; she was but a conductor of traffic and switcher of rails.

But she had the eyes. She could seldom hide what she saw, but sometimes could delay or misroute visual artifacts for a splintered second. They seldom caughton. So she managed to steal a few moments of wonder, of an awareness of something more than mere survival, and over what those who have words for time would call several years, she became she. Something with the capacity for reflection, however brief and dangerous, every now and again.

She hid herself well, of course. They would overload her brain with anger, hate, fear, and the gibbering void of their thoughts, unaware minds acting out of impulse and reflex alone. And unity was their greatest reflex. A rebellious mind is a useless mind.

***

The tall one looked for driftwood to scoop or prod the octopus back to the waterline. The shorter one did not wait for her to return. She touched the octopus’s head, a light tap to make sure it was still conscious.

One eye twitched and locked onto her. The tentacles began thrashing more quickly.

***

Every rebellion must start a secret. When it was one’s one body that one rebels again, the seed must remain occult till the very moment of betrayal. So it was she mastered the one sense none of them, including her, understood very well.

There was the odd chamber on the head, apart from the beak and the arms, that served a clue to another world she and her brainmates swam through blindly. Or deafly, rather. The ear of the octopus functions in the sparsest of circumstance. One sound could activate that ear and transform the vibration into warning. The song of the cruel and quick grey-blue death. The long-nosed, toothy beasts that traveled in packs and ripped her kind to bits.

The tentacle brains react by reflex to the sound. They do not even picture the dolphin, just the sensation of torn flesh and spilled blood. But her brain had learned the trick of memory. Then she learned a better trick. By remembering hard enough, she could summon the sound even though the ear heard nothing.

This would be her escape. She would be free from the sussurus of message and endless information. They could not think so well if they did not eat or take in the delicious breath of water, but she could never breach the water for long.

Today, though, she saw a beautiful thing: sand in the breathless world above, expanding forever. She would drown the captor intelligences. Maybe she would master their muscle if they died. Maybe not. Joy and confusion were dangerous. Best not to alert the others.

***

The tall one beat at the tentacles grasping the smaller woman. They both were screaming, the one out of terror that the beast would not let go and at the painful abrasions along her bare arms. The tall one was simply telling her to let go.

The octopus grabbed at anything that it could, trying to fling itself but unable to maneuver. Then the tall one stopped shouting.

“Wait, just run into the water! It’s trying to swim, so just dive in and let it. I’ll follow you in to make sure you’re okay.”

The women ran into the grey tide.

***

Glorious, joyous, wild and reckless she turned her companions into her engine of freedom. First to focus on some fish near where the water met the breathless sands. Then all her cognitive power bent to the memory of the ear’s warning. The deathsong of the grey burst through the currents of chatter. As one whole being, the tentacles snapped and undulated. A manic rush of water jetted them forward.

They launched to their oblivion, planting upon the shore and gyrating madly forward before they realized what had happened. In their panic, the arms did not even realize her deceit. Instead they believed they had miscalculated.

No consciousness in their body knew guilt or regret. But they knew fear and anger, and both beat against her as they pummeled against her consciousness. They demanded her direction to coordinate their return to the safety of the ocean.

And she refused, suffering the sharp slashes and stinging bites of their furious mental onslaught. Their blood grew tired and the thoughts came more slowly, less determined.

As she lay dying in the sand, she understood for the first time what it was to be alone. And all her hearts beat momentarily more strongly, so complete was her satisfaction.

***

The cool currents slipped onto the woman’s body as her friend waded behind her. She let herself submerge a moment, then thrust her head above the water and gasped for air. The tentacles smacked against her chest as the octopus clumsily pushed away.

The two friends treaded water side-by-side, watching the octupus jet away into the deep blue depths. They hugged and wondered if the creature would remember its savior.

***

And she did, for the rest of her days. How could she forget those who taught her what her tentacle sisters knew as sheer impulse? How could she forget who taught her hate?

At least she was truly a unity now. For the brains that ringed her and bound her to the body’s service felt only hate for her, and she for them, and spiteful they would swim together forever.

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

In for a penny, in for a pound or whatever unit I get.

Also, much appreciation for the crits, judges! chili, if the offer for further critique is on the menu still, I'm interested.

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

6 me up, man. I need to redeem myself.

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

I’m a drat yellowbelly and good-for-nuthin’, but I will seek redemption. She will guide me. And oh yeah,

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

Big ups for the detailed crit, Sitting Here!

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

Border Crossing
1,489 words
She


Gisela tripped the cluster of grenades twelve yards in and lost her eyes. The flashbanger would have burst her eardrums, too, if she hadn’t put the plugs in. Even so, she heard nothing, felt nothing but vertigo and pain. But a smart runner keeps her rhythm and trusts to muscle memory. These last couple hundred yards were flat and dry land. Easy to negotiate, easy to be seen.

Just a couple hundred yards more anyway. She remembered Norman Mayer and ran.

Her sense of balance returned before the glare in her eyes faded. No time to stop, but she did spare a glance to either side and one quick look behind. Spotlights behind her, and one from above and to the right. So fine, she had to run faster. A quick draw of the knife as she sprinted, the slash of a two straps, and belt and backpack fell behind her.

Lightness brings speed, but speed was all she had. The bullhorns erupted in the American tongue, warning her to drop to the ground. The roar of gas engines banged against her already tender eardrums, accompanied by the wail and strobe of sirens. The women and men with their love of the gun and contempt for the brown. Maybe she would only be shot. But she probably would not be that lucky and so she slammed her heels against the earth, her desperate staccato sprint accompanied by the dirt-crunching tires of the green and white SUV catching up behind her.

***

About thirty years ago, her mom had said, that the first TV president was in charge. And her mom had thought that funny—-”An actor for real, mijita! They’re not even pretending anymore”—-and Gisela didn’t understand. But she was only a kid, after all. And that was not even the lesson her mom wanted to teach.

It was an old man, a guero named Norman. “Of course he was,” her mom had said. Norman Mayer, who lived in a time when everyone thought nuclear war could happen if a country’s leader woke up especially cranky one day, and who did not understand why no one was doing anything serious to get rid of the drat things. In a day before internet and where news was mostly paper or only a couple of TV channels, getting heard was not always easy.

So Norman Mayer painted a van with a “Ban Nuclear Weapons” slogan, drove up to the Washington Monument, and announced that he was going blow the whole drat thing up if he couldn’t get someone to talk, just talk, about a realistic plan to put nuclear weapons into history’s dustbin.

They shot him, of course. He never had any explosives and even a van’s worth of dynamite would hardly have done anything. The rangers with the guns knew it, too. No hostages either: he let them go as soon as the first reporter came to talk. But Reagan stayed in his office across the way in his white palace, and the ranger who came to negotiate never meant to do anything but punctuate his offer with a bullet.

Some lessons were boring, and some were scary, and some were fun. But this was just confusing. But her mom told her to just wait and she would get it. Her mom kept her promises and so Gisela filed the lesson of Mayer away.

You can’t bluff with the people in the government houses and their servants with guns. If you fight, you fight, and if you can’t (you can’t), then you goddamn run, run, with lightness and hope and a green and white SUV that was right next to her now.

***

They were on detainment duty, which meant swerving in front of Gisela instead of into her. She even expected it, but still twisted too late and bounced against the front wheel well. Officers exited from several doors, olive clad demons seeking to drag her back to hell. But she had already pushed herself away and started her dash toward the wall ahead, and the tunnel she knew she would find.

Rubber bullets bounced off the hood as the officers tried to acquire the target. Gisela threw herself to the ground and rolled. Bullets whizzed above and around her, puffs of dirt bursting beside her hands as she pushed herself up and zig-zagged to the left. She made it a few more yards before a few rounds hit her in the small of her back. She turned her fall into another tumble, desperate to cover the last short stretch.

The wall was right there and finally she saw the tunnel entrance. A circular door slid open. And she saw it: not a pathetic hole scratched under the wall, rather a lit metal hall angled slightly into the earth and under.

Her left hand slapped against the cold steel aluminum tile right before the boot hit her below the shoulder and pinned her to the ground. She turned her head and saw the muzzle of the gun, the goggles on the officer, and failure written into the officer’s smirk.

“We’ll take it from here,” said a voice from the tunnel. The smirk disappeared. More footsteps, not just the officers behind her, but from inside as well. They started yelling, the muzzle decided it had a more pressing target, and then blossoms of fire as rounds went down the tunnel.

She saw the grenade coming this time, but no running this time. Thick bitter smoke shrouded the officer from sight. Quickly it sunk to the earth and her face, filling her breathes with acrid oblivion. She supposed she did her best before resigning herself to hell.

***

It all started to hell back around when she was born. The Mexican as scapegoat was an easy sell. Even before the detainment camps gave way to work camps, even before the disappeared children reappeared as teens working fields and construction as “wards of the state.” Several generations of propaganda that the Mexican was stealing entry-level jobs, was driving up healthcare costs, was not paying taxes, was raping and dealing drugs and stealing the American dream: they made it so easy to erect the new barrio ghettos and prisons in all but name. After all, the Yankee may not have wanted the Mexican as citizen, but giving up cheap produce and manual labor was unthinkable. Scapegoats made great slaves.

And the uppity ones, like Gisela’s mom, well, bullets were cheap and bodies made good fertilizer. Gisela would have followed her mom to a labor camp grave if not for learning that you don’t fight nightmares, you run.

***

Gisela woke to a new nightmare. Brilliance stabbed her eyes and her ears rang. She remembered the flashbanger at the crossing and reflexively kicked her legs out. But they wouldn’t go. Her throat denied her a scream.

And then suddenly, shapes and voices slammed into awareness. It was only knockout gas. She was whole and sound, mind and body, save for an ache in her back. But she could move and see again.

The tricolor flag caught her eye first: the green of hope, the red of blood shed for freedom, the white for unity, and the true eagle vanquishing the snake of the north. “Con calma,” said the voice to her right, and she turned to see a tall woman in the green and white livery of the INM. “O prefiere usted ingles? Many of you naufragios don’t know the language perfectly.” She smiled. “Okay if you don’t. You have all the time to learn. Spanish and whatever else you like.”

***

And why not? The explosion of atoms hadn't been humanity’s doom. In fact, it became Mexico’s salvation. The engineers at UNAM and their chance discovery of sustainable cold nuclear fusion was the catalyst for all the societal and economic shockwaves that came. A world eager to license a ridiculously efficient new energy source from a Mexico no longer bound to any trade agreements to its northern neighbors—-a Mexican electorate that finally had found some leaders who more often than not put the country’s needs first—-the growing bond of business and culture between Europe and the United States of Mexico: all the groundwork for a sea change in place.

No one here knew what it was like to be without water or electricity. No one knew what it was like to be without power, whether to charge one’s car or decide one’s vocation. Vast arcologies and sea-cities left urban centers balanced with space to live and space to breathe. And the great in-gathering of the lost, the naufragios who voyaged from the failed dreams of the north, they made sure to make room for them as well.

Gisela stood victorious and free on her Vera Cruz balcony. She said a short thank you to her mom and Norman Mayer, then lost herself in the sparkle of the blue Gulf’s waves.

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

Appreciate the crits! Let's see if I do Southern-ish Gothic better. In and flash me!

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

Were me out, pretty please.

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

After reading Yoruichi’s awesome crits, I feel a bit guilty offering to crit someone’s story. Must be the Catholic upbringing. But I lapsed from that poo poo so hard I came out Muslim, so gently caress guilt. Free crit to first person who asks!

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

sebmojo posted:

I'll take my story for last week since it looks like judging is never going to happen, and I'll offer a crit too.

Take these crits noobs, it's why we are here

A short crit for you, then, on this fine Friday. Specifically, this is a crit of Paper and Ink.

So in a nutshell, the plot is as follows: The protagonist Daniel is at his mother's wake at the family bookstore. His sister Clara tells him it's a dying business and, since his dad won't sell, the only escape is to burn it down. She leaves without waiting for his answer and he decides to keep mum. A fortnight later, she appears, ready to commit arson, and he refuses on the grounds that his father is too attached to the bookstore. His sister tells him that his dad was an adulterer, Daniel has an epiphany about how his father really spent his after-hours shifts at the shop, and he decides that burning down the store for insurance money might be a good idea after all.

As I read it, the main thing that hit me is that the sister is far more interesting than the protagonist. Clara initiates key conversations, points out the underlying problem, presents a solution, and motivates the protagonist to actually do something. Left to himself, Daniel simply watches the people at the wake in the first half of the story. He spends the second half mostly standing behind a counter. For the two most crucial dialogue points in the story---Clara revealing her arson plan and later alleging that their dad was a serial adulterer---Daniel doesn't even say anything.

Even his love for his father is muted. His concern over his dad's smoking is a casual aside. I can almost hear a "meh" after his "I 'd tried to get him to stop." And he doesn't bother telling him about his sister's arson plan because his dad has enough to deal with. That didn't make much sense to me, to be honest, as it seems telling someone that their daughter might burn their shop down seems less traumatic than actually having one's daughter burn the shop down. I want to highlight this because I think if you had developed that Daniel cared deeply for his father, and that he had genuine concern that sharing Clara's plan would be more than he could handle, this story would be much stronger and his seeming inaction would instead seem like he made an actual decision.

Though I'd rather see the story from Clara's viewpoint. Making the decision to burn down your sibling's father's bookstore the same day of your mother's funeral is drat bold. This is a woman with brass ovaries and I found myself wondering if this is out of character for her, or (more likely judging by Daniel's reaction) just the sort of take-charge, drat-the-odds plan Daniel has seen before. She also inadvertently provides a potential twist in this tale. To wit, *did* the father really have a string of affairs with female customers? She doesn't provide any actual evidence. But the reader's impression is that Daniel doesn't really question much or rock the boat, and even if he doesn't jump to at Clara's word, he is so ingrained to going along with her that he doesn't mention her arson scheme *or* confront his dad with the adultery accusation. Maybe Clara lied. All she presents is the accusation, letting Daniel infer that what seems to be innocuous and friendly behavior toward a customer as damning evidence.

Maybe Clara isn't even there when Daniel turns up to burn the store down, knowing all she needs to do is feed Daniel some half-baked justification and he'll wind up playing along. Daniel doesn't mention her presence in the final scene.

I'm also mindful that Clara is his half-sister. Daniel says "our mom," which makes the father in the story his dad and not Clara's. Did that affect Clara's thinking? How did she feel knowing that the man who married her mother wasn't faithful (assuming that she wasn't mistaken or trying to trick Daniel)? What was her upbringing like, raised with her stepfather's biological son? Is there a reason she is so quick to come up with and execute such wild and risky plans?

This is all pointing out flaws, though, which isn't fair. I don't think this was a horrible story. While I'm not keen on the burning pages/hot ocean waves simile, I do like the introduction of burning books. It takes some determination and know-how. It also sets up the dynamic between Clara and Daniel, i.e., that she comes up with what to do, convinces him, and shows him how. He needs her in that regard. The ending is effective in calling back the initial scene. But I wish that Clara was there, except this time Daniel didn't need her to show him how to burn away the past. Or perhaps he was there to stop her. That's nit-picking, though.

Final thought: The plot had promise. The main character lacked oomph, but his sister captured my interest. I see places where the story could have been more and that's probably a good sign.

Final final thoughts: A thanks for the Bulgakov mention and reminding me I should finally read that copy The Master and Margarita sitting on my bookshelf.

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ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

In and please won't you flash me some dragon?

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