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Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Sitting Here posted:

Massive extra thank you to Kaishai for her continuing hard work on making the archive an amazing and comprehensive tool.

Sitting Here posted:

an amazing and comprehensive tool.



Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

yeah, sure, in

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

in with Blurry by Puddle of Mudd.


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Spit in the Ocean
1231 words
Prompt: “Blurry”, Puddle of Mudd

I stand at the bridge rail with a bottle full of ash, waiting for the light to die. The setting sun is pink like raw chicken, like the color of a gashed-open head.

“Hello? Ma’am?”

I turn to my left, and there’s a man with a combover and jogging shorts on the sidewalk next to me. I want to ask him what he wants from me, but he’s not looking at me. He’s looking at the bottle in my hand. “Are you…”

I open my mouth to say something, then stop, heave my shoulders, a sob wrenching up and out of me. He steps forward, takes my hand, looking away from the bottle full of ash. “I’m so sorry,” he says.

Gerry’s skincare regimen loving annoyed me every morning when I sat down on the toilet to engage in my one detoxification routine of the day, looking at all of the mason jars of exfoliating maraschino-cherry whateverthefuck topping he put on his face. Face cream, sugar scrub, and lip butter, I heard him say in a voice that used to be his. I treat my face like a dessert. How nice, I thought to myself as I shat. Two deserts started dating, and one of them was secretly a dessert the whole time.

Your friends, your casual acquaintances, your perfect strangers, will all feel like it’s their personal duty to tell you that that cigarette you’re holding between your lips will, in fact, kill you one day, and it will probably not feel all that good the whole time. I want to tell them that scientists have found that the plastics used in bottles of bottled water are carcinogenic. That if you drink enough bottled water over the course of your life, maybe after a morning run or a yoga session or a lunch at a chic bistro, you end up with a brain tumor. I don’t ever wave empty water bottles in their faces. I know what color cigarette smoke is. I know, I know, I know.

He named his bike. Something with a J or a V, something feminine, something free and running off into the horizon. Jenavieve, maybe. I picture him riding down a Paris promenade, blowing kisses at the girls, the pigeons, the sun. I choke, grind my cigarette butt into the tray on the windowsill, after aiming it at his open tin of skin cream first, holding it there, poised and burning.

Two people, lovers, walking side by side in the desert, walking towards safety, warned that if they ever turn around and look back the way they came, they will lose everything. The air is dry and dusty, and the sun is boiling, but they look over, and they have each other, and they see the future in each other’s faces.

So they walk, trudging, tripping, stumbling, falling, standing back up, with a hand from their partner. The lizards hiss at them, and the snakes shoot across their path like streaks of oil across water. But they keep walking.

Gerry went biking at night, on the highways, with his flappy plastic orange vest on, wearing a warning. The headlights lighting him up. Came home, crawled into bed, slithered out before I noticed he was there. I went to sleep and woke up after eleven, with space to stretch my legs, tossing like gravel under tires in my sleep, run ragged by space.

If my mother was in a subway station, the most rancid subway station ever spawned, with a floor caked in grime and filth and rat droppings and train exhaust, and there was a saintly loogie forming at the back of her throat--a throat that seemed to consume nothing but Evian, the expectations of her youngest daughter, and the xylitol from Trident gum--my mother would walk briskly from one end of the dirt-streaked subway station to the other in search of a trash barrel to spit into.

When my mother died, I told myself it was the bottled water, that nefarious four-dollar water.

I told Gerry this as we dangled our bare feet off the bridge on a moonless night, a month after we first met, smoke trailing up from our lips and into the black sky like tiny nebulas, hawking gobs of ourselves into the water below. If there had been a dolphin or a sea lion staring up at us, we would have aimed right between its little beady blink-blink eyes. It’s good luck, I would have said, taking another drag. It’s good luck to spit on something prettier and freer than you are. He would have laughed at that.

Then, one day, after too many days and too-short nights of walking in the desert to count, one of them reaches over, or the other does, and their hand is halted by a wall of clean, clear glass, too perfect and alien for this world, thrown down like an edict on high when neither was paying attention, bisecting them as far as their eyes can see.

But they see each other, and one of them blows a kiss, and another fogs up the glass with their breath, and they keep walking.

Then one day the glass becomes a mirror.

I couldn’t sleep that night, couldn’t go back to feeling like a maid in a queen-size bed, just sat by the windowsill and dropped burning embers down into the well of the morning darkness. Made a list of things I didn’t want to come back. Kept adding things to it. When I wrote his name at the bottom, I knew that he was dead, knew it as sure as anything I had ever known, him and Jenavieve locked, intertwined in a passionate embrace under a truck’s front axle, ashed into the asphalt like so many Marlboro stumps tossed from a car window.

I sucked on the cigarette, and it sounded like shattering glass.

Then I heard the knocking at the front door, insistent and heavy.

“You’ve changed”, they say. We all change. Sometimes people change in different ways, like different natural formations. Like how a volcano changes, like how an earthquake changes, like how the Great Barrier Reef changes. Like how pressure hardens pebbles and dust into solid layers of rock. Like how Pangaea broke off, segmented the ocean into different pieces of blue, limbs of a paper doll severed and floating on the surface of a pond.

You changed when you held up a bright shining mirror in front of your face and ordered me to kiss it.

And this pain you gave to me, it’s like the mirror became cracked and warped and now I have to take this pain and bottle it up and drop it in the ocean and be okay with making the world worse, a little bit at a time.

I opened the door, and Gerry said my name, once, then again, something caught in his throat.

The man in the jogging shorts takes another handful of cigarette ash from the bottle and tosses it into the sea, the waves crashing closed over it, foaming star-white with streaks of sickly yellow.

I tell the man that this was our place, that we told each other everything here.

“It’s good to treasure those places,” he says.

“It’s good to treasure actual treasure,” I say.

“That’s true,” he says.

He lets out a quiet laugh, and I laugh along.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Thank you to all the week 288 judges for their crits, much appreciated.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

1195 words

Every night I sleep on a bed of fallen snow, white and oily and flammable, my fingers dug into the white powder at my sides, rooted, splayed out, so they never accidentally touch in my sleep, snap together and form a spark at the approval of a dream I can never recall once I wake up.

Ours is a world of distances. A world of wealth in personal space. Two hundred feet is the standard between strangers, just enough to hear the wordless keening that all our hearts make, sounds we don’t understand, noises of the friction within us. One hundred feet is the standard between close friends, of which I prefer none. Fifty feet is the standard between lovers, and twenty feet is the standard for parents and children, a notion that makes my jagged metal teeth ache in my mouth. Beyond twenty feet, as they say, is the understanding and closeness gained after death--what my father told me after I was imbued with his essence. Solemn words delivered in front of nitroglycerin snow, piled in a stone hearth that had never been used. Safety in space. Obliteration in suffocation. Our mansion was large and snow-covered, pressing us against the outer walls.

So when I woke up that morning and saw the face staring down at me, shining in the morning light, I screeched, ground myself against the wall, like I was trying to communicate with someone I had never met, in a language I didn’t know how to speak.

It wasn’t a face I had ever seen before. It wasn’t a living face. It didn’t seem like a face that could ever exist--the cheeks and chin were too smooth to have been created by rusted metal hands, carved and chiseled into the snow coating the wall. The snow gets everywhere, comes through the open windows, settles in every corner and crevice, a constant reminder that the world could end at any time.

I stood up, my back to the open doorway, afraid to break eye contact with the smooth face sticking out from the wall, afraid to turn around. I did not create it. Someone had been in my house. Someone had been right next to me as I slept, forming their perverted artwork for me to find in the morning. Taking the still air around me and smashing it to pieces.

There were others off in the distance, as I stormed outside. I could barely make them out, the ones with stubby limbs of solid rock, the ones that stood on wobbling legs of corrugated steel, the ones further off whose chests glinted with polished sand, their arms held straight out to their sides, silent and unaging.

I bellowed into the daylight, two bass notes in perfect harmony with each other. Two hands made of sound, grasping each other tight.


Translated: Someone has broken the unbreakable rule. Someone is putting all of us in danger.

They all made the same sound with the different instruments inside them, low grindings, rumblings, buzzings, whizzings. When the last note died, they all looked at each other across the bed of nitroglycerin snow, with flat eyes made of molten lead.

I felt better. And I don’t feel a lot of things.

My father taught me how to meld sounds together, and survive that way.

We’d call to each other through the empty house, the snowdrifts against the walls muffling and funneling the sounds towards each other, the short and high pirrips that were meant to grab attention, the staccato crack of a tongue against a mercury soft palate that was almost like the end of a sentence, the low rumbling bass that was a simultaneous warm blanket and studded shield. There were twelve different sounds that meant my father and I could mimic them all without having to think about it.

My mother never said much, and I resented her for that. It meant that I never knew when I would run into her, would turn a corner and stumble back with embarrassment at seeing her on the floor, clusters of intertwining needles at the ends of her arms, twirling and tracing lopsided circles in the piles of snow. It was like seeing something I was never built for.

Now that they’ve been gone, I walk through the house expecting to reach out an arm, brush away a curtain of snow from the stone walls, and see her uncovered face, looking up at me like nothing had changed. Waiting for me, with molten eyes and serrated skin. Close enough to possibly end the world.

I opened my eyes in the light of dawn.

It was standing over me.

Whoever had made the face on the wall had made a body to match it--slender arms and legs, shoulders that topped a thin and pale chest, streaks of hair swept over an unwrinkled forehead. Someone who had no business being in a world of metal and combustible fuel. Someone who was not built to survive.

I forgot everything. As I scrambled to my feet, my hands brushed against each other, sending five or six sparks into the air.

I watched them for a half-second that felt like an eternity.

They hovered there, silent and dangerous.

I lurched forward and grabbed at one, snuffed it out. Swiped at the air again and again and again, until they were all gone and I could stand still, terrified to move. I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t see its face. Afraid to brush it away, because there might be another one waiting behind it.

There was still no sun in the sky to greet me as I ran outside. I opened my mouth ready to swallow the entire world, chew it to pieces--and no sound came out.

No one was waiting to greet me. I looked into the far distance, and saw no one and nothing. Whoever had vandalized my house, they were gone.
I tried again, tried to make the deep harmony I had made yesterday, but nothing happened. The two sounds were within me, but they would no longer mesh.

I stood at the edge of my property and thought of my mother, of how she never spoke, just twirled her needle fingers in the floor and never seemed afraid of ending the world by her own hand.

When I walked back inside, I half expected the thing to have detached itself from the wall and laid down on my bed, in the exact same way I would. But it hadn’t moved.

Without thinking, I held my hand up to the being’s face, and snapped my fingers.

A flurry of sparks fell onto a pale cheek, made of snow, the same snow my father warned me of all my life.

They burned bright for a second, then sputtered and died.

I snapped my fingers again, then again, and kept going, as if I thought the mouth would start moving and start explaining everything to me, starting with the world I was all of a sudden very alone in, then moving on to my mother’s name, and all the other things I had no sounds for.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Morning Bell posted:

my testies clang approvingly
this dinner's going well
i think that your mum likes me
i think your dad is swell

my cloaca can't stop quivering
your hand is on my thigh
it's weird and i wish it was
just yr dad and i

Suckin' on a cloaca-dog, outside the Tastee-Freeeeeeeez

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

In, ambient music competition.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Tanz! posted:

Just make sure it's not a thinly veiled metaphor about how you ~feel when domin'~, and you should be clear of the DQ

nah, that's more along the lines of

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Can You Hear Me
Prompt: ambient music competition
1757 words

As the last few notes trailed off into silence, Vivia couldn’t stop smiling. She knew she might’ve been acting a poor sport at that moment, but she couldn’t help it. Her teeth were the best thing about her. They matched the rest of her--clean and polished.

It was the day when the contest entries would be reviewed and evaluated. The Diamond Conference Room of the Swann Envoy was packed with a fleshy spectrum of creatures, from human to humanoid to human-like to homunculus to unclassifiable. It was an opportunity for, as Benjamin Swann put it, “cultural outreach.” “Ambient music is the art of simultaneously enhancing a space and creating one through sound.” “We want all guests at Swann Hotels to feel at home in any of our rooms, and we want to find an ambient sound that affects the beating hearts of people from all cultures, no matter their solar system.” The Swann Envoy was the largest hotel on Mars, and having your own composition play in each and every room, in the hallways, in the lobby, in the atrium--it was an incredible opportunity, to put your own personal stamp on something so large. Like a monument you could never see, only hear.

She and the other competitors sat in a row of metal chairs facing the other side of the long conference table, where Ben Swann, CEO, sat, flanked by other high-level associates within the Swann corporation.

Vivia preferred wearing light colors most of the time, pastels and eggshells, because usually they made her stand out more against the red earth--but looking at all of the creatures around her, she felt...boring, almost. Completely uninteresting. But then again, it wasn’t a beauty contest. Then she felt a bit bad, looking around at the other competitors, flash drives clutched between fingers, swallowed by gooey phalanges, clasped in metal prosthetic digits. She wished they all could win, that there could be a room for each of them in the hotel, a room for each one of their stories. But the contest stated that only one of them could win. Swann was about utility and universality. The rooms needed a sole signature sound to match the signature decor, the clean edges and white marble. And Vivia believed she had it, knew she had it, after looking at the judges and how they reacted. After looking at Ben Swann. He hadn’t changed his expression much, just closed his eyes and listened, but she could see the hint of a smile, that small crick in the corner of the mouth that he’d given to no one else’s piece. She was ecstatic. She felt like money hot off the printing press. Music danced in her head, and she tried not to squirm in her seat.

Vi-vi-a. Her name was its own sonic signature, a three-note ascending scale. The way she heard in her head was the way nobody else could ever hear it, her own close-kept secret she wrapped around her shoulders at night. It was intertwined throughout the loops of her ambient piece, buried in sound up to its neck so that everyone could hear it but only she could listen for it. Like the sound of a ringtone, or a doorbell. Everybody loves receiving a long-awaited phone call. Everybody loves welcoming an expected visitor. Vivia pictured a giant spider, a kindly spider, like Charlotte from Charlotte’s web, but bigger and fuzzier and a pale, ivory white, splayed across the ceiling of a Swann hotel room, spinning glistening webs of sound on thin extended legs, swathing the room in fine white silk. Curtains and sheets of familiar melodies, tight pings of resonance like the tines of a music box. An eight-armed hug through music.

“We will begin the final piece up for submission,” she heard Ben say.

Vivia opened her eyes just in time to see the alien at the other end of the row of chairs stand up. He (she? they?) extended his limbs, which Vivia could see were completely covered in feather-like things colored a deep iridescent red, that swiveled in the air, reaching out and tasting it. Vivia wanted to laugh, looking at him--he looked ridiculous, like a sports mascot. She put a hand over her mouth, bit down on her tongue, and leaned back in her seat, careful to focus. Whatever was going to come out of that speaker, she didn’t want to miss a single second of it. Who knew what sort of garbled throat-singing noise was about to fill the room. No, that’s mean, she thought to herself. He’s probably very nice.

The red bird-creature crept forward and placed a flash drive on the table, without making a sound, then turned, walked back to their seat, and sat down. “Alright,” said Ben. “Thank you, first and foremost for your contribution.” He picked up the sound drive and inserted it into the wireless speaker, then pressed the play button. Everyone in the room looked at the speaker as the first few sounds rang out--everyone except Vivia, who was still looking at the bird-creature, sitting in the chair at the other end of the row, a calm expression in their solid black eyes. She couldn’t help it. There was something, something about--

--and the music was in her head before she realized it was there.

It was--thick. Deep and sonorous. Like--

--a silent explosion--

--like if a dark cloud of smoke could talk. Like if a mushroom cloud had one big vocal cord running up the center, spilling out tiny gouts of flame like flecks of flammable spittle, yowling and rumbling.

She looked at Ben, who had his eyes closed still, before looking back at--

--she had never seen people like them before. They made her laugh, with their feathers that didn’t look like feathers, the bristles as hard and tight as comb teeth, rubbing them back and forth to grind sound into the air and communicate. From the ship’s window, she could see her father speaking to one of them, the tallest one, who stood back with their limbs folded, watching her father as he talked. A young child, about as young as she was, clung to his hip as he waited for her father to finish speaking. She wondered if they knew the parrot from that movie with the genie--

--and she screamed as something like firelight shot from the arm of the bird-person and struck her father in the chest, screamed and screamed as he staggered back, screamed and waited for him to hear her--

--and the last few notes trailed off into silence.

She heard the sound of polite applause from everyone around her. Everyone had a calm expression on their face, in direct opposition to hers.

“I think we’ve heard all we need to hear, haven’t we?” said Ben Swann, addressing the rest of the suited creatures flanking him. They made noises of assent. Ben extended a hand to the bird-creature. “It’s settled, then. Congratulations.”

Vivia froze.

Wait, what?

The bird-creature stared back at Ben, eyes unmoving.

“Wait.” Vivia stood up.

Ben stared calmly back at her. “Yes?”

“This…” She shook her head. “This isn’t supposed to happen.” Her head was pulsing as she tried to form the words, but they wouldn’t come, just the sound of machinery grinding together, sparks flying. “ told me that it was nothing. That it was a done deal. That I was supposed to win.”

Benjamin Swann sat back, his hands folded. “I beg your pardon? I never said anything of the sort.”

--“It’s nothing,” he said, when she pointed at his chest, where the light had knocked him back. Couldn’t speak, mouth frozen tight, only pointed again and again--

--”It’s nothing.”

“It’s nothing, you said.” Vivia held her hands at her sides, her fists clenched, another tri-tone playing in her head, now, do-re-mi, do-re-mi, yes-you-did, yes-you-DID-- “Dad. You promised. Stop lying.”

Ben stood up, knocking his chair over. “Excuse me--”

“What did this human say, just now?” intoned the bald crystal alien sitting to Ben’s right. All across the table, the judges stared at Ben, mandibles clicking, necks craning and swiveling.

“No matter, gentlemen. We have made our decision.” He stared at Vivia, stared through Vivia. “I suggest you leave, immediately.”

Orange fireballs blooming from red earth.

Explosions of anger against her eyelids.

She turned and stormed out, down the hall, into the elevator, up to the top floor, down the paneled hall, into her room, and as soon as the door was closed behind her, all of her anger erupted.

An alarm clock, a white-fur-rimmed picture frame, gold-tasseled-throw pillows, all went sailing across the room towards the expensive musical equipment her dad had purchased sight unseen for her over the years. Drawerfuls of gel pens and stationery clattered loudly against the synthesizer keyboard set into the wall, made sounds like a googly-eyed cartoon accordion being kicked down a flight of stairs, krack-skrankle-crank-wonk, beating all the music in the room to death and kicking it in the ribs.

Vivia stopped, stood in the middle of the room, breathing sharp breaths through her mouth, imagined steam shooting out of her ears. The same feeling in her stomach from when she was four years old and she pointed at her father’s scarred chest over and over again, couldn’t speak, could only point.

For days after her father got back on to the ship she would just plink at her toy piano with the pastel eggshell keys, trying to drown out all the sounds she thought she heard looking out the window, across the vacuum of space.

Explosions of anger against her eyelids.

Orange fireballs blooming against red earth.

Silence behind a spaceship window.

Now she remembered.

“It’s nothing,” her father said.

She fell back on her bed, stared up at the light fixture in the ceiling. Her heart was still pounding. She imagined all the rooms in the Swann Envoy pulsing with the sound of smoke, the sound of a mushroom cloud with one giant vocal cord, the sound of an entire village disintegrating under corporate-sanctioned mass murder, the sound of a lone survivor in a silent world. Playing out of a speaker right next to the minibar. She needed someone to tell her how to feel, right now, as she tried to cling to that name, that musical signature, Vi-vi-a, in her head, but there was always the low rumbling of crackling bass behind it, the sizzling of hundreds of voices dying in their throats--

--like the sound of smoke, in the vacuum of space.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

in, and I'm assigning myself a flash rule:

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

The Vacuum Aisle
1199 words
Prompt: “Qami”, Sevak Khanagyan

“God bless the man who invented air conditioning,” said Victor, adjusting the waist of his slacks, looking around at the massive and cavernous insides of the Voidmart. He took short, quick steps down the kitchen appliances aisle, the steps of a man who had somewhere important to be.

“The comfort of our customers is always of great importance to us,” said Levi, walking next to Victor as they talked. Levi’s store-mandated grey vest hung loose off his shoulders.

“I’m sure it is,” said Victor. He sniffed, ran a finger over a bare shelving unit, inspected the finger for dust. “So why is it that it took me fifteen minutes to find you? Is that how it is? They spread four of you across this store like Saran wrap on a swimming pool?” He shook his head. “Anything to keep the lights on.”

“I suppose you’re right,” said Levi.

“My husband came in here an hour ago,” said Faith, leaning on her walker. “He’s a science teacher. He’s the brains of the operation.” Faith laughed, a dry, rustling sound that became a cough.

“Your husband sounds charming,” said Levi. He walked in front of her, took her hand. “You mentioned he was looking for a garden hose?”

Faith snatched her hand back, then used it to smooth out a wrinkle on her blouse. “Among other things,” she said. “The rose bushes need a little help this year. We needed some...what is it...Miracle Sand?”

“Do you mean Miracle-Gro?” offered Levi.

“That’s it. My memory’s not so good these days. He left me waiting in the car. Stood me up!” She cackled again.

“That’s a shame,” said Levi. “Follow me. I know where the gardening supply aisle is.”

“You can’t get good-quality work boots these days,” said Chase, looking out over the top of the shoe aisle. “Nothing that’s worth its salt. I bought a pair from Sears the other day, fine tan cowhide shitkickers, and y’know what happened?” He took out a tin from his pocket, opened it, and placed a pinch of tobacco in between his cheek and gums.

“What happened?” said Levi, looking up at Chase.

“The drat thing quit on me, that’s what happened!” sputtered Chase. A few flecks of chewing tobacco flew from the corner of his mouth, falling to the white linoleum. “Tore the entire heel out in less than two weeks. Now Skinner and Bullet have two new chew toys. I--” He looked at Levi. “The hell you doin’?”

Levi jumped. He had been absentmindedly running his fingertips across the shelf next to him. “Sorry,” he said. “I’m a very tactile person.”

Chase squinted, then shook his head. “Whatever, man. Can you get your hands on some Texas Steel boots for me?”

Levi smiled. “I think I have just the thing you need.”

“We’ve been wandering around this godforsaken place for the past ten minutes,” said Victor, “and all I want is some drat Turtle Wax. Where’s your manager?”

Levi looked at Victor, put a hand on Victor’s shoulder. “There’s no need for that, sir. We’re already here.”

“We’re here at the manager’s office? Because that’s where I’m going.”

They had reached the end of Aisle 110. Aisle 111 was one aisle over, and because Levi was present, it would be visible to Victor, rather than like most of the time when Aisle 110 was simply bordered on the left by Aisle 112.

Levi extended a hand. “Just turn a corner and you’ll see it, sir.”

Victor brushed past him, wiping sweat from his forehead, muttering in a tight voice: “An absolute disgrace, an embarrassment, that’s what--”

He stopped in front of the open aisle, his jaw agape.

Levi watched.

The air was being sucked out of her lungs, and there were flower petals everywhere, floating through the air, dismembered impatiens and morning glories and violets the shade of bruised and battered flesh, a little man that smelled like rotting flower flesh that climbed out from under her bed after her parents had gone to sleep and dug his dirty yellow nails into her quilt and sat on her chest and pressed her lungs flat like rose blossoms in wax paper--

Faith planted an open hand against the aisle’s shelf, tried to steady herself. Couldn’t. Pitched forward, stomach pressing against the walker’s handle. A deep red petal fluttered through the air and landed on her cheek. She moaned, a deep and guttural sound.

Chase blinked. Everything was dust.

Dust and smoke and exhaust, howling in his ears, in one ear and firing out the other like engine kickback, pouring in his nose and out his mouth, choking him, the filter turned black and tar-laden like his uncle’s lungs before the surgery, hands deep in flesh turned into black sludge. Black bile poured into a beer pitcher, light from within illuminating it like a pulsing black jewel, an evil and forsaken heart.

He opened his mouth and let out what sounded like a deathly scream in his throat. It hissed to a stop before it ever cleared his lips.

Victor turned back to where Levi had been standing a moment earlier, and only saw the side of the aisle. He looked forward again, and his mind shattered.

The metal shelves unbolted from their walls and loomed into the middle of the aisle like grey, waggling fingers, tangling against each other with a high-pitched screech that Victor could feel in his spine, scraping it bare like a beast clawing a tree trunk.

The fingers of his father.

He turned and ran, his mouth making noises that grew fainter and fainter, eclipsed by the howling wind in his ears.

The floor tilted, then smacked him in the face like a tidal wave. Victor tumbled back, his arm grasping wildly at something, anything at all, as he hurtled back towards those screeching blades. The screeching sounded almost like laughter.

The wind burst forth.

Victor screamed.

Levi turned back to his manager. “Been a good month, wouldn’t you say? Our new consumer program is working like a charm.”

His manager nodded at him from behind their desk, a broad-shouldered man in a plaid shirt and jeans. Levi blinked, and saw an elderly woman in a pink blouse. Blinked again, and saw a middle-aged man in an overcoat, sitting stiff and uncomfortable. Blinked again, and saw something that defied human language.

Levi turned away, and moved toward the door. The light bulb directly overhead was flickering, and he could hear the air conditioner hacking behind him. “I know you’re not much of a talker,” Levi said. He reached towards the light switch, caressing the plastic with his fingers. “But we all have our strengths, don’t we? Every person is different. That’s what makes human beings so special.”

He drew his hand away from the light switch. Overhead, the light bulb stopped flickering. “I mean,” said Levi, “not that either of us would know, of course.” He shrugged his shoulders, his muscles bulging tight against his grey vest.

The air conditioner stopped hacking and whirred to life, blowing cold air into the room.

Levi smiled. “Anything to keep the lights on.” He walked back into the store, closing the office door behind him.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Posting my prompt:

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

In, with Maize Stalk Drinking Blood.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

in, 6, :toxx:


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

The Trap Card
1199 words
Prompt: Heroic Domains of Ysgard--

I lunge forward with my staff, and a beam of dark energy shoots towards the seraph floating above me, joined by Newt’s ray of telekinetic force--

--and then I’m falling, falling through the ground.

Before I can even make a sound of surprise, I hit the bottom of something, chest-first, wind squashed out of my lungs. I feel Newt’s presence beside me, and without looking, I know they’ve landed smoothly, on their feet. Newt is silent, which is how I know they’re thinking.

I stagger upright, holding my ribs, adjusting my purple cowl with my other hand. My staff is gone, and as I look around for it, I notice the old man sitting against the far wall.

“You don’t have to introduce yourselves,” says the old man, in a voice like stone grinding stone. “I know you perfectly well.”

My shoulders tense. Newt’s tail stiffens. We both delve into our psychic energy reservoirs, ready to attack. We both come up empty.

“Relax,” says the old man. “No need for that.”

As my eyes adjust to the torchlight, I notice the symbols on the walls. Numbers. Latin letters. Elemental symbols. Stars with all number of points, arrows that point in every direction. Water flows out from a hole in the far wall into a pool next to the old man’s throne.

Where are we? I hear Newt’s voice in my head.

“You,” says the old man as he adjusts his robes, “are exactly where I want you to be. You’re in the heart of this world.”

“The world is heartless,” I say, staring a hole through this man.

“Only you two would think that,” says the old man. His face wrinkles as he smiles. “You are...discontent.”

“We’re not--” I begin to say, and then I think of the battlefield, blood spilled without meaning, the ale that’s lost its potency, the color of dry dirt and worn-down barstool leather.

And I realize he’s right.

“So what?” I tell him. “Why did you bring us here?”

The old man sits up in his throne. “I am the Tapper. I control the energy of this world. The mana.

“You mean Life Points,” I say.

I prefer the term “HP”, thinks Newt.

The old man bristles. “Semantics. It is irrelevant. Save such distinctions for people who care.”

No need to get all defense-mode about it, I think to myself. Newt doesn’t make a sound, but I can hear them chuckle.

“Anyway,” says the old man--the Tapper. He gestures to the pool beside him.
“Energy--mana--flows through the veins of this world, through the blood of the fallen...and makes its way down here. To me.” He grins.

I look away from his rotting teeth, at the water, and realize that it’s too thick and murky to be water. Disgust rises in my throat, and I force it back down. “Enough of this,” I say. “Why did you bring us here?”

“Like I said, you’re discontent.” The Tapper points a wizened finger in my direction. “You are a dark magician, a master of illusions.” He points at Newt. “Your psychic talent is unparalleled by any man or beast.” He points straight up, through the ceiling of the cavern. “Up there? A foolish game. An utter and complete waste of your abilities. How many times have you died?”

I stay silent. I don’t remember. It’s an unknowable number, a number that extends off into the horizon like dying sunlight.

“And the truth is, I’ve never killed you once,” he says.

I’m puzzled at what he could mean. “Say that again?”

“My traps. You’ve avoided them all.” He rests his chin on his palm. “No one else has.”

I look at him, impatient. “So what do you have for us?” I say. My hand reaches for the staff that isn’t there. I stuff it into the pocket of my purple robes.

He smiles again, and I want to retch. “An opportunity.”

The air shifts in front of us, and suddenly we’re each standing in front of a stone pedestal. At first I don’t see anything on the pedestal in front of me, but then I look closer.

A card. Like the playing cards they gamble with and set their drinks upon. Square in the center of the pedestal, face down.

All the torches blow out.

I stagger forward, grabbing the edge of the pedestal. I see the card clearly. White light gleams under its edges, the only light in the room.

The Tapper’s voice echoes through the cavern. “Choose. Turn over the card, activate your destiny, and you will become my apprentice. You will go from playing a game, to mastering a game. With a million playthings at your disposal.” He cackles, dry and harsh. “Choose. Now.”

The light under the card begins to dim.

I know, in my heart, the right choice. Above ground, I fight monsters. Below ground, I would become one. “Newt and I will pass, thanks,” I say into the void. “Right, Newt?”



More silence. I realize, with a pang of dread, that they’ve been thinking the whole time.

The card in front of me grows dimmer still. “Are you there, N--”

I remember.

The voice knocks me back, smooth and solid as polished steel. “Newt? Wha--”

I remember how many times I died, thinks Newt.

I grip the edge of the pedestal tighter.

I remember every single one of them.

“Newt, you can’t be--”

I stop, mid-sentence.

The light is almost out.

I’m being pulled in two directions, between earth and sky.

I make my decision.

Sunlight forces my eyes open. I scramble to my feet, and there’s the seraph again, bow strung taut, arrow of light bearing down upon me.

I roll to the left--and the ground collapses under me.

Oh sh-- I have time to think, before my brains are dashed against the floor of the pit.

Sunlight forces my eyes open, and the seraph is gone. An orc stands in her place, his massive wooden club arcing through the air, towards my head. I jump back, the club shattering the air in front of my face.

The air--it’s like the air is gone.

Something is missing.

Something is wrong.

I take another step back, and I’m suddenly dangling upside-down, caught in the rope snare.

The orc almost pisses himself laughing, before swinging again. This time he doesn’t miss.

Sunlight forces my eyes open, and I’m alone, bare against the sun and the desert plains.

I don’t think, I just run, run until I’m doubled over and can no longer breathe.

Something is wrong. Something--


Newt is nowhere to be found.

Newt’s voice, like the sound of the wind in the desert air, ringing through my head, nudging me with his mind. Right. Left. Step there. Don’t step there. All gone now. My constant companion, I think as I gasp for breath, tiptoeing past all the traps, a hairless white-and purple cat on two legs.

Does that make me the mouse, now? I think, and I laugh, and I laugh and I laugh and I stand up and the wide shining blade springs to life and whizzes towards my throat and cuts my laugh in two.

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