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apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Volunteering my judging services

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apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


In, Joan of Arc

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Here are some crits for Time Travel week.

Overall I was really impressed with everyone's time travel concepts. It's one of my favorite sci-fi conceits. A lot of the stories were exposition-heavy which tended to work for me. Reading a decently thought through time travel story is a lot of fun. Here are some specific crits.

sandnavyguy
I know I've read or seen a similar thing to what the Irish demon man offers David in this story. But I can't place it right now and it's cool. Maybe I'm imagining it. Anyways, I think it boosted the story a lot, along with the characterization of the Irish talking demon guy. David was unfortunately completely uninteresting. An archetypal, down-on-his-luck business guy willing to do whatever to make things work. The twist is a given, but executed well. The other big detractor is just how wordy the story is. A lot of the descriptions are superfluous. Story would have been 100x more interesting from the perspective of the demon guy.

Yoruichi
Again, I like the time travel idea used here, a witch's (accidental?) curse. Makes Liam kind of snakebit: always late when he's hurrying. However, Liam was completely uninteresting. I had little to no reason to actually root for him. Despite that, the ending is kind of nice. Subtle. I wonder if Liam recognized what happened enough to learn from it.

derp
I love the narrator's increasing insanity and paranoia. Stylistically it's pretty awesome, but I think there's just too much of it. By the time something had to happen for it to be a story a woman shows up who can bring the narrator out of his hell. Thanks special savior woman! The narrator absolutely does not deserve this ending, as a self-professed sexual deviant and murderer who would already be dead if he could die. The style did a lot of heavy lifting.

thranguy
I absolutely adore the time travel concept used here. People from the future sending their children through the past, chunks at a time, to try to find a livable existence. Cool as hell. The prose is solid, some good words. I thought there was a bit of a weird tone thing going on between the first few paragraphs and the rest. The first bit seems like some extremely dry humor, the rest is very somber and serious. I found it odd too how non-chalant Allie is about all the deaths. Maybe it was shock.

Jay W. Friks
I liked the more fantastical aspect to the time travel here, but the story was too disjointed for me to really get into it. Lots of Proper Nouns and Special Names that added to the confusion as I tried to puzzle out their significance. By the time I had an idea of what was going on it was kind of too late.

Flerp
This one's pretty cool. Very gloomy. There's lots of sadness here, but none of it really moved me. I wasn't able to really empathize with the AI. The stakes didn't seem that high. I think it's well written, but it didn't affect me as much as it could have.

Antivehicular
My pick for the win. I ate up all the exposition about the narrator and their job. It's all very cool and well written and well thought through. I was able to get a good sense of the narrator's character through their (few) actions and also the fun little parenthetical asides. I think why this one didn't get the win is cause not really much happens except at the very end. The ending really worked for me, would love to get an idea of what the narrator and Agnes get up to after the end.

sitting here
Probably the most human of the stories. It worked well for me in that regard. Characters are decently established. The thing that detracted from this story was the thin relation to time travel. It was kind of vague. I think it was like a memory as time travel kind of thing. And memories are kind of like time travel. But for Fruitypuke it's much realer than that. Good prose and the most emotional ending of all the stories.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Ah gently caress. I hosed up. I hosed up.

Somebody fight me.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Aesclepia posted:

I'll fight you, failure. Oh, and here's the

Let's spill some blood.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Greco-Latinate Brawl! (apophenium vs Aesclepia)


Oh, How Puny
736 words.

A loving ant bit me on my god damned balls. I saw it and its comrades meandering the bathroom tiles when I went to poo poo but the poo poo was too urgent. But then one bit me on my god damned balls, right in the middle of my stressful poo poo.

I wiped and flushed and stood to survey the ants. It seemed like they weren’t coming into the bathroom from outside. My dumb dead aunt called them crazy ants. My mom called them sugar ants. When I left the bathroom to get some window cleaner (an effective ant killer) I was overcome by a vision of myself, fighting giant ants. I was armed with a sword and shield. The ant stood on its back legs and wielded daggers in the other four.

Windex wouldn’t be enough. Those fuckers would suffer for biting my god damned balls.

First, I sniffed out where they were coming into the house. Cut ’em off at the source. Giddy, giggling, I spotted their point of entry: the window above the sink in the kitchen. My and my girlfriend’s plates from breakfast sat in the sink. Some mindless bastard ants floated dead in the soap bubbles. Others scurried across the counter tops, some to the right of the window (this crew would eventually make it to the bathroom) and some to the left (to the fridge, trash, and dining room).

I could hear them chanting their droning marching tune. My eyes crossed (kill ’em all). I started squashing them one by one with my thumbs. Pure carnage. My thumbs, caked with ant carcasses, were my swords; forget the shield, ants can’t fight back. They fight dirty.

That thought swiveled my narrowing attention to the bathroom. They were in there laughing about my balls. Even as their brothers died by the dozens. “Since you all fight dirty, how ’bout a nice bath?” I said. I started the shower and turned the head on the thin black trail of little soldiers. Their panicked attempts at dodging the water were laughable at best.

I returned to the kitchen. The rightward forces were retreating, recouping their losses. I turned to the leftward ants. Poison? The kind my girlfriend and I bought last year was the kind the ants brought back to the queen. Too slow, too impersonal, though there was a nice feeling of superiority to the ants, outsmarting them like that.

gently caress that, I had a blowtorch. The ants crisped up nicely under its bitter blue flame. I became a swooping deliverer of fiery death. So what if the rug caught a little? Ants couldn’t breath smoke anymore than I could.

“This is what you get when you come to my house. You thought you could just bite my balls and get away with it? How would you like it if I went to your house, you little fuckers?”

The queen was calling for a parley. “Sure, Queenie, whatever you want. I’ll be right out!” Water seeped from under the bathroom door. I was pleased to see it speckled with little corpses. But it made me thirsty. If I were to talk to the queen, I’d have to have a drink first. How about an anthill smoothie?

The anthill was a brown-red bump on my sparsely grassed lawn. I hope I squashed more ants as I bounded to their home, blender jar in hand. With one scooping ’U’ of my arm I had the whole hill in my blender. Now decapitated, the hill looked ugly. I gathered up what spit I could to show the little shits how I felt about them.

The air outside was too hot and the ants were beginning to swarm up my hand and arm so I ran back inside. The kitchen wasn’t burning as much as I imagined. That was good. Clack! The blender jar found its base and the hill—ants and all—swirled into a brown slush.

“Now you idiots look like that poo poo I took, haha!” I added some brandy and vanilla extract and bananas for flavor. There was a thin sheet of pillowing smoke hanging from the ceiling when I turned the blender jar up and spilled its contents into my mouth. What a sweet, earthy flavor. I sighed and wiped the slop from my chin and saw my girlfriend aghast in the doorway.

“What the gently caress happened?” she asked.

“A loving ant bit my god damned balls.”

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


I'm in, I'm ing:, laying my life on the line, doubling my nothing, etc.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Bad Seafood posted:

As a point of clarification, doubling down and toxxing doesn't triple your word count or anything. You can double down or toxx for the same benefit. You can also double down and toxx for kicks, or toxx and request a flash rule. Either way, you either have 777 or 1,554 words to work with.

Dunno if any of you thought this, but I'd rather nip it in the bud now than get several 2,000+ word stories on Sunday.
The contractor who designed the building where your story takes place clearly attended the same architectural college as the guy who designed the myriad of puzzle box mansions present in the Resident Evil series.

Which is to say, the whole place it loaded with traps, puzzles, and bizarre key-alternatives.

Thanks for the clarification and the kickass flash rules.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


A Heap of Trouble
1500~ Words
Flash rule: The contractor who designed the building where your story takes place clearly attended the same architectural college as the guy who designed the myriad of puzzle box mansions present in the Resident Evil series. Which is to say, the whole place is loaded with traps, puzzles, and bizarre key-alternatives.

Topia, my mobile island, sat solid and strong below me. I basked in the first sunlight we’d seen in a week or more. Spending those rainy days cooped up below with Wez and Flicker had set me itching for just one dry day.

Behind me, Wez surfaced with a splash. I spun around on my palms to see her bobbing in the waves, one arm high above her head, something wriggling its legs in her fist. I helped her up onto Topia’s sandy topside. We sat under under the lone palm tree and stared at her catch: a lively purple crab.

Hot sunlight glinted off the crab’s shell. The triangle of chitin was a dark purple speckled with lighter spots. It was like a little walking slice of the night sky. With pincers.

It nipped at Wez’s shins. “I got it for Flicker,” she said. “I’m sure he gets lonely when we’re off scavenging.” She stared at the crab as it tried and failed to look intimidating. Topia was a fresh start for me and I extended that to Wez and Flicker when I found them. We never discussed our pasts. Flicker, stuck in kind of perpetual slumber, I took to be a relative of Wez’s.

For me, scavenging was thrilling. The seas were full of tiny islands dotted with riches. But Wez hoped to find something, anything, that could wake Flicker up. We headed into Topia to introduce the crab, now named “Starry,” to Flicker.

“Hey, look Flicker, I found us a friend.” Wez sat down next to the man and placed the crab between them. Starry snipped inquisitively at Flicker.

I squeezed water from a fistful of Topia’s mud and brought it to Wez. “I think they’re gonna get along just fine, Wez.” She dribbled the water into Flicker’s mouth.

“How long do you think we’ll need in The Heap, anyways?” Wez asked. The Heap was our next target, a floating hunk of hollowed out trash. Rumored to contain riches as well as traps, Wez hoped it had something to snap Flicker out of his slumber.

I gave a weak shrug in response.

“Well, let’s have a nice meal tonight.” She cooed as Starry sat down on Flicker’s chest.

Wez headed out to start slowing down while I whipped up a broth. She still had her legs and so was better suited to swimming around Topia, molding the mud to get the island to slow.

The sun set on our last day before arriving at The Heap. I watched it from my usual spot atop Topia. Wez kept Flicker company and fed him my rich soup. I hoped to one day tell Wez about my life. But now I had to get into the mindset for taking on the mysteries of The Heap.

***

It was gigantic. The bulking mass of The Heap glinted in the morning sun. Its exterior was a kaleidoscopic vision with more colors than a tropical fish.

Figures meandered across its mosaic surface. “Guards or scavengers?” I asked.

“Not guards. Plenty of traps, though. I was thinking we could check the underside. I doubt there’s just a door on top.”

It was a sound idea. We said goodbye to Flicker and Starry and began our swim.

***

Wez’s intuition was right; we found a hole on The Heap’s belly. We filled our lungs with air and went under. We clawed our way through the tunnel. The material comprising The Heap had a texture unfamiliar to my hands. Nothing natural. Some sailor told us it was all trash from a bygone age. His breath reeked of too much liquor to lend his story any credence.

My vision began to blur after the three minutes in the tunnel. I tried to recall my uncle’s lessons. Traveling from our floating homes down to the reef took five minutes. Good divers could stay down there foraging for at least another five to ten minutes. I was never a good diver.

Wez turned to see me lagging behind. Wez motioned to her foot and I grabbed it. She scrambled ahead. My breath bubbled out and the world went dark

***

When I came to, Wez was leaning over me telling me not to panic. Kind of hard to do when you’re fairly sure you’ve died.

We were in a small, waterlogged bubble inside The Heap. Breathing felt foreign to me as I oriented myself.

“You’re gonna have to go through there, Jab. It’s too small for me.” Wez nodded to a section of our colorful surroundings that looked like a giant fist had punched through. Beside it was a sturdy door. “I think it opens from the other side.”

Wez slumped into a silent panic. Mind still racing over my brush with drowning, I dragged myself through the hole. “I’m through, Wez. It’s empty--” That was all I managed before I was tackled.

“Oh my stars, a person!” My assailant hugged me tight. “I’ve been stuck in here for days!” They let me go long enough for me to get a look at them. An old and starving man. “Say, do you know anything about trick knots? I didn’t bring a drat knife with me and I ain’t got enough teeth to chew through it.”

I lifted my head to see what the man pointed at. The door was barred and laced with thick rope, knotted at various intervals.

“Hey, you ain’t got no legs,” the man said as I inspected the knots. I tugged on one end and they all unraveled with a faint shush.

“And you ain’t got no sense.” The man yelped and bolted past me. He dove into the watery passage leading out of The Heap. Wez and I stared at each other, aghast.

“I don’t think that room leads anywhere, Wez.”

“Maybe we can dig through here,” she tapped on the wall. “Sounds hollow.”

It was. We cleared a path through to a room with two doors, both locked.

Writing was engraved on the doors. People of my reef had little use for writing, but Wez recognized the script. “They’re riddles, Jab,” she said.

“This one says ‘Choices don’t come easy to me, but one day I’ll have to decide who to be.’” She shrugged and read the other door. “’No one has seen me in hundreds of years but I’ve been watching from below.’”

We sat in the center of the room, perplexed. “Those are some real head-scratchers. The first one reminds me of a fish we used to eat at my reef. They spawned sexless. After a week from hatching they’d change to male or female. Say, did the door open?”

Wez had a faraway look. “Maybe there’s another way past. We can’t leave here empty handed.” She got up and started yanking on the doors. She tried to tunnel through again, but the walls were too tightly packed.

“Hey, Wez, maybe we could find a different entrance. There’s got to be more than this.”

“Or maybe we could sell what we learned and pay for a healer at some reef.”

“That’s not a bad idea.” We hadn’t learned much, but it was better than all the daft rumors.

Wez sighed. “I wanted this to work. I wanted us to wake Flicker up ourselves.”

We made our way back to the daunting exit tunnel.

“You gonna pass out on me again, Jab? Maybe you should go first. It’d be easier to push you through than it was to drag you.”

“I’ll remember you said that next time you need help fishing.”

***

We made it through with no issue. Topia was a mere silhouette against the orange horizon as the sun sank down.

“Is... Is someone sitting under the palm?” Wez darted off, fast as an eel towards our home.

“Careful, Wez, could be raiders!” I knew she hadn’t heard so I hurried after her.

By the time I dragged myself up onto Topia a reunion of sorts was well under way. Flicker and Wez stood under the palm crying into the other’s shoulder. Starry scurried around their feet, pinching the air excitedly.

“Flicker, this is Jab. He’s been helping me take care of you. Jab, this is my brother.” Wez looked happier than I had ever seen her.

“Nice to meet you, Jab!” Flicker surprised me by hugging me tight. “Thank you for everything.”

“Uh, forgive me, but, what happened?” I looked from Wez to Flicker.

“I don’t know. It was like I was down in some deep tunnel. I started hearing these little snaps. I can’t really explain it, but I followed the snaps and woke up!”

“Starry did more than just keep Flicker company, didn’t you, Starry?” Wez smiled at the small crab and tickled its pale underbelly.

We stayed up late into the night airing out our respective pasts. We helped each other through the hard parts, laughed at the funny bits, and enjoyed this strange little family we had found. The Heap and its mysteries sank away in our minds.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Thanks for the solid crits Bad Seafood

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


And count me in for romance week, with flash rule(s)

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Sitting Here posted:

reminder that there is an ongoing writing goals thread if people want a little extra incentive to get words done in the month of February

Thanks for the reminder, been meaning to do that...

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Reaching Out
1200 Words
Flash Rule: Balthamus and Baruch from His Dark Materials

In Jinbik’s experience, people only went to Gravemold’s to black out on whatever concoctions its undead bartender whipped up. It was the last place he expected to find Vuo, the famous ghost hunter, clutching a carafe of water.

“I thought ghost hunters usually drank the hard stuff,” Jinbik said, approaching the bar. The burly ghost hunter whipped his head around and sized up Jinbik. Despite Gravemold’s location in the city’s deepest dregs, there was enough light to twinkle in Vuo’s eyes.

Jinbik sat down next to the man and ordered a fungal ale. Jinbik said, “Don’t worry, I’m not with the Inquisition. I have a job for you.”

Vuo bristled at the imposition. He glared at Jinbik and said “What makes you think I’m still in operation?”

Jinbik took a big swig of the pungent ale, wiped foam from his lips and said, “I’ve been following you since before the Baroness came to power. My sister idolizes you; she still has one of your old posters.”

A puff of dust spun into the air as Vuo scoffed. “I only take on interesting cases.” Jinbik could tell his gambit had worked. Vuo was intrigued despite himself. Jinbik had to conceal a smile with his mug of ale. He launched into his story.

“I saw a ghost when I was a kid. The drat thing appeared at the foot of my bed one night. It took years of therapy and meditation to get over my insomnia. But I dreamed about the ghost a few nights ago, and again last night. Instead of feeling terror, it brought me peace. I need to see it again, put all this behind me.” Vuo sighed, but Jinbik pressed on.

“I think the ghost was young, maybe six or seven. I first saw it about twenty years ago.” He had Vuo’s full attention now. “Vuo, it could be your brother.”

***

Vuo led Jinbik on a winding path through the bottom layer of the city. The latter had to hustle to keep up; Vuo’s muscular legs gave him a powerful stride.

Vuo had left Gravemold’s after Jinbik mentioned the brother. It was a calculated manipulation. For all Jinbik knew, his ghostly visitor really could be Vuo’s brother, the reason Vuo had started ghost hunting at all.

They had come from to the city from the southern reaches, where the continent met the sea. Their religion strictly forbade belief in ghosts, but Vuo had always been a rebel. Grenu, Vuo’s younger brother, was as devout as a priest, even at a young age. Vuo stuck up for himself when bullied, so the bullies turned to Grenu for having a heretic brother. Thus, Vuo blamed himself when Grenu was found bludgeoned to death in an alley. It turned into a quest to find Grenu’s spirit and atone.

They stood in front of a lichen-caked tenement building. Jinbik asked, “You brought me to your house?”

“Don’t get your hopes up. I need to get some stuff if we’re hunting a ghost.” Vuo slipped into the door and closed it before Jinbik could follow. Jinbik heard the bulky southerner stomp upstairs. Another minute and Vuo returned to the stoop with a small pack slung over a shoulder.

He said, “Some of my brother’s meditation paraphernalia. Worth a try, eh?” Vuo flashed a smile.

Jinbik hoped the man wouldn’t be disappointed. He had no idea if this ghost was Vuo’s brother or not. Yet he strongly hoped it was. He liked when Vuo smiled.

***

The men trekked up to the middle tiers of the city, where southern immigrants had built their temples. It was morbid; Vuo was almost certainly taking them to where Grenu had died. As Jinbik stared at Vuo’s muscular back, he remembered the ghost in his dream and tried to will it to be this man’s brother.

Vuo kneeled down and Jinbik stumbled into him, toppled over with a gasp.

“This is the spot.” Vuo turned to look at Jinbik sprawled in the alley.

“A little warning next time,” said Jinbik as he sat up. “What do you need me to do?” Jinbik eyed Vuo, who had pulled a string of metal prayer beads from his satchel.

“Call to that ghost of yours. If you start to feel calm you’re heading in the right direction,” said Vuo. He wedged a stake between two cobblestones and began chanting under his breath. Feeling Jinbik’s skeptical glare he said, “I’ve seen hundreds of ghosts and this is how I’ve always done it. I could do without your judgment.”

“Right, sorry,” Jinbik said. He kneeled now in a pose approximating Vuo’s own. His mind returned to the ghost in his dreams. Small in stature, blurring the air like a heat mirage. Had it spoken? Did it have Vuo’s southern accent? He placed a hand on Vuo’s shoulder to steady himself.

In his dream, the ghost had calmed Jinbik, erased years of stress eking out a life in the city’s multiple tiers. He had awoken that morning and resolved to feel like that again. His false swagger when he strutted into Gravemold’s. His affected calm recounting his story... Now he had to do this. Not just for himself, but for Vuo. He barely knew the southerner, but was drawn to him nonetheless.

The ghost... The ghost... Jinbik tried to swivel his mind from Vuo and his broad shoulders to that tiny ghost. His forehead hurt from squeezing his eyes shut. Vuo’s chanting had stopped, so Jinbik cracked one eye open.

Vuo trembled in the presence of the small ghost and leaned onto Jinbik. Jinbik’s ears popped and the sides of his tongue tingled. A preternatural calm chilled Jinbik. He realized Vuo was chanting again, something different from before.

“It’s not him. It’s not him,” he was saying. As quick as it had appeared, the ghost flickered out of view. Jinbik hugged Vuo and helped the sobbing man to his feet. He took them to a nearby flophouse.

***

The events had broken Vuo. Jinbik didn’t realize how vulnerable the man was. Now he was filled with regret for putting Vuo through that. Jinbik had known a few men like that, feigning confidence to mask their true sensitive and empathetic self. Perhaps they could build something out of this shared misadventure. Hunting ghosts with Vuo--Jinbik would have something to taunt his sister with.

Jinbik did his best to console Vuo as night became dawn. Sunlight did its best to trickle to the city’s middle tier and into the flophouse room.

The pendulum of Vuo’s mood had swung from anxious and depressed back to the confident and resolved man Jinbik had met the day before. After a small breakfast, Vuo apologized profusely for himself and how he acted, but Jinbik just shrugged.

“I could have left if I had wanted to. To be honest, seeing that ghost again was exhilarating.” Jinbik held out a hand over the table. “I’d like to work with you; I want you to find your brother.” The thrills of ghost hunting--and the thrill of doing so with Vuo--were tantalizing to his tired mind.

He expected a dismissal, not a tender kiss. Vuo’s eyes sparkled as he said, “Then we better find some clients.”

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


In with Go to Sleep by Radiohead

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Oh I'm gonna as well since I bailed on the last music week

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Peak Performance
955 Words
'Go to Sleep,' by Radiohead

A casting call for a “Strong Method Actor for Indie Play” had brought me here. “All Monologues. All Powerful. Ask for The Director at Equus Ferus Theater.” I blinked dust from my eyes as they acclimated to the gloomy hallway.

They weren’t shittin’ about “Indie.” The receptionist upstairs had never heard of the theater but said it had to be in the basement, which could only be accessed by a service entrance that had not seen any use in eons, judging by the grime.

“Is the director here?” I called out. Something about the atmosphere made me tiptoe.

“Back here,” came the reply. “On the left.” It had to be coming from the end of the hallway, but the voice sounded like it was right next to me.

The door was the last on the left, a square of wire-reinforced-glass fitted slightly to the left of top-center. The words “Equus Ferus” were stenciled below it in a sanguine red.

As I entered the room a figure retreated through tattered velvet curtains opposite me. The curtain’s tendril-like flaps flexed, became still. I was backstage.

“Hello?” I said.

From behind the curtains, the director said, “Take a seat, I’ll call you back when I’m ready.” I could have sworn they were speaking from within the room. I did as commanded, sitting in one of three plastic chairs, the only furniture in the room. My foot tapped a waltz on the dingy tiles as I read over my notes.

It was a monologue of my own creation. I was here mainly to try it out on someone, less concerned about landing the actual part. In it, I was a squire returning to town after witnessing the death of my knight, lamenting my responsibility of his death, and ultimately succumbing to dehydration. A touch melodramatic. There were sections filled with placeholder gibberish, marked in ink to “REWRITE THIS DUMBASS,” or “just ad lib something better,” or “don’t forget to cry.”

“Okay, come back,” the director said, voice still close, crackling like paper.

The curtains were heavy, as if rejecting my crossing. Their red tresses pressed down on my shoulders, slid off the side of my head. Static gently lifted the hairs of my neck and arms. I was onstage, reeling from the sheer size of the theater. It yawned back into shadow, much farther than the barriers of the building above.

Dead center sat the director, face inscrutable behind a veil. They gestured with a gloved hand for me to begin.

I launched in: “What water, from where, could slake mine thirst?” A potent pause. The director was doing something with their hands, looking down at them in their lap. Knitting? I pressed on.

“Sir Gavin is dead, and died by mine own hands did he. Do you hear? You onlookers?” I beat my chest and stared into the imagined crowd.

The director coughed, said, “Could you start again, please? Louder? And closer to the front of the stage.”

I scoffed, rankled at the request. But their stolid intensity compelled me forward. I began again.

During this second performance, the director stood. I watched them as I acted, shouting the parts that needed to be shouted. They approached the stage until they were right at its edge, veiled head the only part in view.

In my imagination, I was being knocked aside as horses passed me. The director peeled back their veil revealing a face with an otherworldly beauty. Pinpricks careered wildly up and down my back, my nerves were sharp backward tugs, urging me to get off the stage, to go anywhere.

But I was in it now. I leaped through the placeholder sections with abandon. The words hadn’t felt adequate when I wrote them, but now, here, they were right. The director climbed spider-like onto the stage, nodding, face a mask of manic glee. Their energy fed my actions, made my words ring truer.

My performance reached its climax. The director removed their right glove. Inhuman, bluish-green skin covered their forearm and hand. They reached out to me and my ears filled with their rasping voice.

“Keep this elbow out. Raise your chin as you say the next line. Enunciate. Add more force.” Their directions came too fast to analyze; I just did them. They were right. Overcome by emotion, I fell backwards, out of my body and onto a medieval street reeking with horse dung.

The throngs of people had finally turned their attention to my pleas. I was dying, dammit! Thirsty and afraid, a failure. My cries were real, I felt the dehydration in my core. Flashes of the director’s face flitted through my vision and I felt the chill of that blue hand on my body.

“Yes, now you are acting,” the director’s whispers strengthened me even as my vision blackened and my legs gave out. I choked and sputtered and yelled. I acted the perfect death, worthy of applause.

***

I awoke to different surroundings. Gone was the cavernous theater, the red-pink curtains; the director. Instead, a supply closet. Something was prodding me, someone was shouting.

A janitor, imploring me to leave. The building had closed hours ago, he was saying, go pass out somewhere else.

***

My encounter with the director in Equus Ferus left me parched and questioning my sanity. But, God, I nailed it. A cheeky satisfaction bubbled through my body.

I gulped down water once back at my apartment. I ached. My voice was gone. A plain envelope fell out of my coat as I undressed for a shower. Inside was a note and a thousand dollars cash.

“Thank you for your magnificent performance,” it read. “I will be recommending you to all my friends. Signed, The Director,” in looping cursive.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Antivehicular Homicide
94 Words

When the smart cars became intelligent cars and then hyperintelligent cars things went to hell. The capitalist toadies prostrated themselves, chanting about the new markets their car overlords were creating. My union and I knew better, so we loaded up. EMPs, rockets, grenades, we had it all. Any car so much as inched towards me, it was toast.

Years ago we would have killed to work in a car factory. Now the cars were killing us if we didn't.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's an F150 nearby that thinks it's sneaky.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Nice crits, thanks.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


I'll fight Exmond. Anime must be banished from the Thunderdome.

up if you dare Exmond

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


In, Manna Hotel

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Chili posted:

Thanks for the crits, super helpful!

Hell yeah, thanks AV

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


apophenium v. Exmond Brawl

The Ghoul King of Panoply
824 Words

The Ghoul King of Panoply eyed Madison as she did what most new ghosts did: “boo”ing, not “boo-hoo”ing. His lazy omnipotence had picked up on her plight years ago, before that diseased beggar had coughed on her. Daddy issues. Big time.

Sobbing, Madison said, “Father hasn’t come to look at my portrait at all since I died. It’s like he doesn’t even care.” Glowing green snot spilled out of her face.

Aprés put on his most soothing voice. “Now, now, my sweet. Tell me about it.”

“I don’t think my father loved me. Once mom died and he took on that new mistress--. Hey, who are you?” Madison turned to look at the Ghoul King. Her bubbling anger was like a wonderful fountain, mesmerizing the King.

“My name is Aprés. That’s a pretty portrait. Did you father pay to have it done?”

Madison’s eyes widened at Aprés’s question and her sobs ceased. “Yes, he hired the best painter in town.”

“Well now, he wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t loved you.” Aprés moved beside Madison and took her hand. “Why don’t you come with me and visit my friends. You’ll forget all about your father.”

***

Aprés relished Madison’s awe at the sight of Panoply. He had made it himself over the eons. A perfect palace for all his perfect brides. Madison rushed up its stairs, knocked on its door. Aprés willed it open, giggling at Madison’s gasp of delight.

He lead her to her room, past all the others. Transfixed by the chandeliers, carpets, clocks, and chairs, she neglected to ask what was in the rooms. Once inside her chamber, Aprés began to explain the situation.

“Now that you’re in Panoply you will have no reason to ever leave. You are free to, of course. But-” He gestured and a shiny grand piano appeared. “You can pursue any and all interests you like. You wish is my command.” He spread his arms in a placating gesture. ”All you must do is love me.”

Having forgotten now about all her earthly troubles, Madison let her imagine run wild, having Aprés summon and create all sorts of things. Imaginary creatures, new books by her favorite deceased authors, a towering stack of pancakes. Finally exhausted by the depth of Aprés’ power, she confessed her love for the Ghoul King.

***

Aprés entered Madison’s chambers humming a ditty. “What are you working on, pet?” He glanced around at the canvases lining the room, eyebrows raised. She had taken up portraiture.

“Trying to outdo my dad,” she said, quirking her tongue out of her mouth.

“Do you love me, Madison?”

“Of course Aprés, now let me paint.”

Aprés retreated. Perhaps his other pets would be excited to see him.

***

A voice called to him while he slumbered.

“You don’t have us; you never did. We have you.”

The Ghoul King started up in a terror. Whose voice was that? He spent so much time worrying over his friends and all their desires. Who could be so cruel as to plant this seed?

***

“I think I’m losing my edge, Madison. You haven’t asked for anything but paint and canvases. I have so much love for all of you, but it doesn’t feel returned.”

“You do have us locked in here. You know that, right?”

Aprés shook his head, “No,” he said, “you can leave any time you want.”

Madison tilted her head and sighed. She sat down her palette and brush--her latest portrait showed her in warrior garb, triumphant and covered in blood and grime--and walked towards the door. Aprés blocked her.

“If I can leave, get out of my way.”

Face flushing with shame, Aprés gulped. “Okay, so that was a lie,” he said. “But it’s for everyone’s good! Otherwise you’ll be so preoccupied with what’s still going on on earth. You won’t be able to move on!”

Madison shoved him, then returned to her canvas.

“You should let us decide that for ourselves.”

***

Later, while sulking in the heart of Panoply, a knock came. He opened the door to see Madison and his other charges, all looking quite perturbed.

He blinked at them.

“We’re leaving,” said Madison. “Do you wish to try to stop us?”

Aprés hesitated, then said, “All of you?” They nodded in unison, 48 ghostly girls and women. “You’ll leave me with nothing?”

“We’ll leave you with a lot of growing up to do. You’d think you’d learn something in all your eternities here.”

Aprés sunk into a deeper pit of self-loathing. As the Panoply emptied, so too did his heart.

***

Aprés stared out of Panoply’s highest window. His ex-wives, concubines, lovers, had built a building to rival the majesty of Panoply. He longed to find out what evils went on there. So many ghosts came and went, glowing with smiles and laugh. He was stuck in a bitter rage, too ashamed to act.

Their happiness can’t last. That just wouldn’t be fair.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


As the Storm Groaned Low
1110 Words

Bobbi stared at the door of the tornado shelter but saw the backseat of her car instead, smeared with blood and stinking in the heat of late May. Body parts, identifiable as belonging to her husband Todd, were scattered throughout the car. An arm stuffed under the seat, legs wrapped in a silvery sunshade… There hadn’t been time to truly take it all in; a howling siren signified an approaching tornado. Bobbi had fled to the storm cellar, sparing only a horrified second to see the carnage.

Bobbi blinked the scene away and turned to her ex-husband, Monte, who had been talking non-stop since they had hidden in the tornado shelter.

Todd’s son, Gregory, crouched in the far corner of the shelter, yelling at Monte to shut up. Monte’s words trickled to a stop under Bobbi’s glare.

“Monte,” Bobbi said, “This was supposed to be a mediation. I could have had you locked up for stalking. I hoped we could talk things through and you could move on.” She sighed, stretched out her legs. I must be in shock.

Bobbi continued, cutting off Monte’s retort before it began: “If you don’t stop talking you won’t have to worry about the tornado killing you; I’ll kill you myself.” She nodded at Gregory. “Or maybe he will. He loves those violent video games.”

“Don’t talk to me about him. You never wanted kids by me,” Monte said. His thinning hair looked even more pathetic in the harsh light of the tornado shelter. He moved to light a cigarette, but Bobbi smacked it out of his hand. To his credit, Monte ignored it.

“I got a new job now, Bobbi, a union job. I could give you everything you want!”

All I want is for you to apologize to us for killing Todd. Bobbi shivered and backed away from Monte, shaking her head. The rhythmic rattle of the shelter’s door reached a feverish pace, like a demented fairground ride, minutes away from falling apart. Gregory did his best to melt the back of Monte’s head with an irate glare.

Monte began spewing more placating filth, gesticulating, falling to his knees, professing an undying love; all just white noise to Bobbi’s rattled mind. Apologies had always been tough for him.

Bobbi became aware of the layered sounds of the storm. She sank into the cacophony like a numbing bath. The siren, the door, Monte’s words, Gregory’s tears, the storm itself.

“Todd was good to me, Monte,” Bobbi said, louder now to be heard over the wind and the rattle of the door. “I love Gregory and I loved Todd. And you loving killed him!” Saying the words while looking down at Monte, stained with Todd’s blood unlocked an incoherent rage in her.

With a small change of stance, Bobbi whipped her right foot upwards, cracking into Monte’s chin. Those three years as Manna High’s placekicker came flooding back in an instant. The impact shattered a bone in Bobbi’s foot. The pain made her feel like she was back on the field. So much pain back then. A few of Monte’s teeth tinkled across the floor.

Gregory bolted upright, “Holy poo poo, Bobbi!” he said. Bobbi knelt on the floor and held her foot. Lights swam in her vision. “What the hell!” Gregory knelt over Monte. Anger rushed out of him as soon as he witnessed actual violence.

Through clenched teeth Bobbi said, “We just have to wait out the storm. And if Monte wakes up, we’ll just knock him out. Okay?” She winced as she rocked backwards into a sitting position. “And don’t swear, your dad would kill me if I let you swear.”

***

The howls of the tornado morphed into a low drone as Bobbi, Gregory, and Monte waited it out. Blue light flickered through the cracks in the storm cellar door.

“Is that the cops?” Gregory asked, voice tinged with panic. Monte burbled quietly from the floor.

“Oh, hell.” There was a knock on the door. Bobbi limped to open the door.

“Hello, ma’am. Storm’s over. Didn’t even touch down.” The police officer was a squat man, eyes concealed by prescription sunglasses. “We didn’t find anyone in the hotel to ask, but, is that your Mercedes out front?”

Bobbi pointed down at the unconscious Monte. “No,” she said. “It’s his.”

The cop began shouting Monte his rights and shoved past Bobbi, retrieving his handcuffs from his belt. With a grunt, the cop hefted Monte onto his stomach and cuffed him. The cop muttered something into the radio on his shoulder.

“Did you harm this man, ma’am?” Monte’s face was a blue-green mass of bruises and cuts.

“Yes, sir, but he killed my husband. The boy’s father.” Bobbi moved to stand next to Gregory, who was crying anew, and shivering. Humid, clear-smelling storm air now filled the small room.

The cop’s mustache quirked. “Well, you’ll be all right now, ma’am. Ambulance and backup is on the way.”

Bobbi rubbed Gregory’s shoulder and glanced at him. His eyes got big then he let out a scream that echoed through the storm cellar. Gregory stumbled and then ran out onto the damp ground. Bobbi limped after him, hollering his name. The boy disappeared into the wheatfield behind the hotel.

***

“Is there anything you’d like to add?” Another police officer had just repeated Bobbi’s statement to her. Reliving the events solidified them in her mind. During the storm, while Monte was still in front of her, she tried to convince herself Todd was okay. That wasn’t really him in Monte’s Mercedes. The cop had not let her stay comfortable in that lie.

“Have they found Gregory yet?” The question came out dead of inflection.

“I’m sure he’ll turn up. Now that the storm’s passed he’s safe out there, anyways.” The cop closed his notebook and made to leave the room.

Bobbi said, “I’m gonna stick around ‘til they put Monte away, then I’m moving the gently caress out of Kansas.”

The cop tipped his trooper hat to her, said “Ma’am,” and left.

Bobbi stood up, took one step towards the door, forgetting her broken foot, and collapsed unconscious to the floor.

***

The trial garnered national attention. People tuned in to watch stoic Bobbi console Gregory as Monte divulged the details of his murder. His lawyers had went with a “crime of passion” strategy.

Bobbi’s testimony sent that plan straight to hell. Her good faith gesture of meeting at the Manna Hotel to work things through won the jury, easy. Monte ended up getting life, no chance of parole.

Bobbi took Gregory straight south to Cutter, Texas, where she set her sights on coaching the high school football team.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Thanks Tyrannosaurus

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Lucifer Burning Bright
1121 Words

The hot white glare of Lucifer’s eternal fire burned the tears off Dalton’s cheeks before they could fall. It had been the same for millennia; eons. Dalton imagined his eleven foster dogs crouched in various locations awaiting his return. Here, shuffling through scalding sand, weeping, was not quite hell, but certainly not heaven.

An amateur escape artist while he lived, Dalton resolved himself to escape Lucifer’s domain, however far away it was. His quest for resurrection had taken him to any and all landmarks, some floating far above the surface, others sunken, containing a darkness more complete for its juxtaposition with the light above.

Some literature pointed to a total resurrection à la Lazarus, awakened in a tomb back to his own flesh, as if from a slumber. There was nothing to signify if the resurrection happened like Lazarus’s and Dalton would awaken mere days after his death.

Yet others whispered of returning as a ghost, to witness actions left interrupted by death. Dalton was resigned to either, though the former would be more fulfilling. What good being back with your dogs if you couldn’t pet them or feel their clumsy kisses?

He had accrued scrolls, artifacts, and knowledge both sacred and profane and lugged them all across the wasteland. He would never have perfect information. But according to one detailing of the ritual the only thing he lacked was a “vessel with which to traverse the Final Boundary.”

Lucifer’s sands had a way of creating what one needed, though distorted with a wry humor. When Dalton craved a companion, a hot gust shifted sands off a shining mirror. And the slow drip of information about returning to life felt endless, a mere breadcrumb trail leading nowhere but onwards, forever.

He climbed over a dune and was nearly blinded by Lucifer’s light reflected off of a shiny sports car. The sight of so foreign an object sparked giddy laughter. He broke out in a loping run dragging his bag of implements behind him.

Dalton plopped into the seat of the sports car, its leather seat blessedly and improbably cool. He began his work.

***

The first step Dalton had completed practically the moment he drew breath in his afterlife: have a reason to go back. He had eleven: his dogs. The following steps, as he unearthed them, proved to be more and more difficult.

The passenger seat was littered with small figurines, each patiently carved and polished from stone in the likeness of Dalton’s dogs. Their names marched through his mind as Dalton went about his work, only half sure of every decision.
Lucas, Grim, Boots, Kith, Kin, Littlebit, Pinecone, Commander, Gretchen, Molly, Willow. He changed up the order every time to avoid a “last but not least” situation. They were all great and their combined absence from his afterlife added up to a mighty tug.

Dalton dusted the car’s red shell with a pentacle of ashes and performed close to a hundred other such rituals. He muttered a few prayers around the car and turned his eyes towards his eternal observer. Dalton had stretched his imagination in thousands of ways to try to understand Lucifer’s pain, but always came up short.

The car started with a roar. Dalton flipped the sunshade down and drove ahead, reaching top speed in less than a minute. Lucifer glowed from above. Focusing on the light centered Dalton and he sped ahead, yelling whatever expletives came to his mind and hoping. Lucifer’s light flickered once, then went out.

***

Dogs barking. The excited chatter of children, occasionally shushed by parents. Wind chimes tinkling. Dalton awoke to such sounds, his eyes adjusting to light so much dimmer than Lucifer’s.

He was a ghost. He swore and floated around, appreciating the ease of movement. The sensations were unreal, a mix of flying and swimming, though not quite either. A sign nearby in a Cyrillic script meant he was a long way from home. After a few moments of hovering slowly forward he decided to try something. With a slight swish, Dalton’s ghost sank into the earth. Its musty, spicy warmth nearly lulled him to a sort of sleep, but he powered through, thinking of his dogs.

Eventually he came to a stop feeling utterly lost. Was there an easier way? What abilities did ghosts have? He imagined his house, his land, his street, self-consciously hoping to just appear there. Nothing doing, he resumed his ghostly trek through the earth.

***

His navigation served him better than he thought. He popped up out of the earth a few miles from where he had lived and died.

The house was much as he left it, ropes, trunks, locks, and a single tank full of water, now green with algae. No dogs in sight. Had they learned from their master and escaped once the food and water ran out?

Manipulating physical things required a certain finesse that took Dalton minutes to master as he tried to check the mail. It was like trying to open a jar of pickles by flapping your hand inches above the lid. Frustrating, but manageable with perseverance. Letters--bills, mostly--plopped to the ground. One envelope caught his eye, bearing the logo of the animal shelter he had fostered his dogs from.

“Thank you for your financial contribution! Through your money we were able to find forever homes for all eleven of your foster pups!” The life insurance thing had gone through, but now his dogs were scattered about. The back of the letter listed the names, numbers, and addresses of those forever homes. Dalton would have cried if it would have done any good.

He wanted to--had to--say goodbye. So he began an altogether different journey.

***

Dalton had heard that dogs and cats could sense the supernatural. When a cat stared up at the corner of a room or a dog barked at a patch of carpet they were really warding off a spirit. Dalton expected Commander to perk up once in view, but the Great Pyrenees looked right through him. Dalton made Commander’s ball roll across the yard and knocked over a box of treats, but Commander paid no heed to their supernatural causes.

More and more distraught, Dalton sought out the rest of his former pets, each one the same. When it seemed like Lucas had noticed him Dalton shouted with glee, only to realize Lucas had spotted a dog on a walk outside.

The same was true for all the others. Dalton sank back into the comfort of the earth and wallowed. Though they had not acknowledged him, seeing the dogs must have been enough. With a feeling like the seconds before a sneeze, Dalton’s ghost evaporated, and he went on to a more permanent rest.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


I'm in. Thanks.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


I'm in

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


In, , and insight rule please

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Within the Stars
790 Words

I was seven when I saw my father peel back his flesh. It was a small flap, just under his left ankle. I did not see him make the squarish cut, but I saw him peel it back and look below his skin.

I left before he noticed me, with fear’s icy touch prodding me to my room.

Paranoia ruled our lives. He, that the world hid from him, that his own flesh covered secrets. Me, that I was losing my father to delusions. Fear that maybe he was right.

I was 20 when I identified my father’s body. I recognized the scars from his explorations. But there were fresh incisions, not glued back together the way he always had. The cuts were ragged, lacking his precision. They ran up the sides of his face, just above his jaw, to his temples, and then across the forehead to meet under his hairline.

I said, “May I have some time alone, please.” The figure beside me left with no noise. I pinched a bit of the skin on my father’s face and pulled. Underneath, his facial muscles were in shreds; I glimpsed the skull through their tatters.

There were writings etched in the bone of his skull. Codes, formulas, star charts. I reeled, vision blurring. The weight of vile discovery, the weight of finally knowing dragged me unconscious to the morgue floor.

***

I woke in a hospital bed some time later. I had dreamt of birds and moths.

A person stood at the foot of my bed, a silhouette in the fluorescent glare. They shifted backwards and forwards on their feet. They were asking me a question.

No, my father did not have any enemies. Or friends. No, I had not seen or spoken to him in a few years. I was at the university in my dorm. My roommate can corroborate. Her name is…

It went on until the person muttered a thanks and left. I fell back asleep and dreamed of nothing.

***

I was discharged from the hospital. My dorm was the same, unaware of the new absence in my life.

I worried I had forgotten all I saw in the morgue. But when I touched pencil to paper my hands remembered for me. I filled page after page with what I had seen in my father’s head.

The diagrams and instructions fixated on a certain area of the night sky within the Telescopium constellation. I imagined my father’s observatory, always occupied by the latest powerful telescope. His paranoid quest led him farther from Earth as it led him deeper under his own skin. Now the room would be occupied by stuffy detectives and little white markers with numbers on them.

Despite its infrequent use, my own telescope came together easily. I positioned it and scanned the night sky, consulting my father’s skull-notes. I brought Telescopium into view. Not one I was familiar with. Father’s skull mentioned it, always alongside his extensive research on pain and how it transformed one’s mind.

It was a simple connection to make. With telescope’s blank eye leveled at its celestial replica, I retrieved a razor blade. My father’s grim smile seemed to look out at me from my bathroom mirror. “Shed some blood,” he said. “You might learn something about yourself.”

***

My eyes rolled as I struggled to hold onto consciousness. My feet slid lazily in my pooled blood. Congealing blood beaded my wounds like freezing water. My head lurched once more to the telescope, my eye and its eye looking on the faraway constellation.

As I stared I lifted out of my chair, pulled by a tentative force. The edge of my vision reddened. The constellation’s points of light pulsed, revealing more and more colors. I honed in on the spot from father’s diagrams. A lopsided parallelogram of blackness within the constellation.

The upward force gained confidence and I rushed up to Telescopium. Its stars formed a halo in my periphery. I tried to focus my eyes to stare into the depths, but could only focus closer. It was so close. I reached out a shaky arm.

My fingers stopped against something. I choked in panic. Too weak to keep my arm raised, I let my hand trail down. The inky blackness smudged beneath my fingers like soot. Behind it, cold glass. My eyes widened and I wiped away more of the filth. The glass underneath was cold. I saw my own face reflected, though it was no mirror. A firm barrier in the depths of space, with nothing on the other side.

I crashed down, down into my chair, and then to the floor, still leaking blood. There were no answers out there. I was merely a fatherless child, procrastinating grief.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Am in.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


I'm in for this week with a for my sixns

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Sacrosanct
1,056 Words

We were not meant to live, us visionaries. We were sent ahead, to locate our graves. Our descendents followed us in a ship, much slower than the one-way scout I left in. They waited for a signal from me or one of the others. A signal that we had found a new home.

I landed on not a planet but one of four planetoids orbiting each other, anchored by a large star. The stark beauty of our potential refuge was marred by the countdown in my periphery.

I had 60 days to decide whether or not to stake a claim. I had to be sure. At the end of the countdown was a quiet and painless death. And the hope that home was still waiting to be found.

---

I spent most of my first day on Planetoid One sliding and falling trying to get a footing. The surface of the planetoid bubbled and lurched, jutted and folded from volcanic activity. Level ground was a scarcity.

My first day was not filled with much hope.

---

I rolled over and dug my fingers in until they found purchase on a ledge. Propping myself up, I enabled the analysis HUD and scanned my surroundings.

Thin atmosphere. Unstable volcanic core. Variable gravity. Sparse vegetation. Water came in occasional spurts of mist that froze almost immediately.

And yet, the world was 48% habitable. Not worth signalling about, not yet. There were three other planetoids to take stock of. Gravity weakened, or so I thought. It was a clue that another planetoid was nearing. My HUD extrapolated its path. I guessed at a trajectory

Sometimes a leap of faith is the only way forward.

---

My inner ear struggled to accommodate the fuzzy gravity. My suit’s thrusters had brought me between the two planetoids. I could sense myself slipping backwards incrementally. I stared and reached out, eyes bugging in desperation.

My HUD flashed a warning before the impact. Something crashed into me and sent me spiralling down to the second planetoid. The suit graciously shut off my consciousness for the landing.

I woke later in a cave of sorts. Its hollow interior allowed me to slide around as down fluctuated.

Two chitinous creatures loomed over me. They tapped on the floor of the cave with thin, pointed front legs. A single hind leg gripped the rock with a glistening, sticky pseudopod. Their exoskeletons folded over their entire form with delicate interlocking scales which glimmered in the light.

I could not hold onto consciousness any longer. My mind rushed backwards to my training.

---

“Should you encounter any indigenous life forms, try to ingratiate yourself. Any life forms can be considered as stepping stones to actualization of our new home.”

There were questions: Life forms?

Well, do you know what’s out there?

Stepping stones?

Once they serve their purpose--our purpose--they will be removed.

The euphemism didn’t faze our ingrained dogma. The mission was all. We couldn’t live on the ship forever.

---

“52 Days” blinked teal in the corner of my vision. My hosts made me comfortable, compassionate in their ignorance of my mission. I resented them for helping me.

Their tapping was a form of communication. Over a few days we worked out a rudimentary language through signs and beats. They were ugly, but they picked it up fast.

Once a day they would leave. It seemed to be on a schedule. When I felt well I followed them. One kept pace with me and helped me cross the surface. Despite my scowl it patiently led me to a gathering of sorts.

A faint blip in my HUD informed me another planetoid was nearing. The creatures started to bustle around--haphazardly to my eyes. My companion tapped and signed one word: Exchange.

The creatures began to stack upon themselves, creating a dazzling pyramid of light gleaming from their bodies. I tracked the course of the approaching planetoid via HUD. As it neared I caught flashes of light from the same ritual, mirrored on the other planetoid.

Some at the top of the pyramid broke off, drifted to their neighbors’ home. The remainder flashed messages; news, births, deaths, achievements. One new arrival from offworld. Two creatures drifted from the other planetoid, warmly received into the pyramid. I couldn’t tell if they were first time visitors or merely returning home.

The uniqueness and intricacy of the ritual astonished me. A cultural exchange? They had celebrations? I stood agape long after daily life resumed.

---

Less than 30 days to make a decision. I became wrapped up in the day to day, first as an awestruck observer, eventually as a humble participating member. I began to see beauty in the motions of my hosts. Beauty in the mere fact of their existence.

Our mutual language developed into something capable of expressing abstract thought. Everyone I met seemed eager to pick up the half-pantomimed, half-tapped communication. We exchanged stories and histories. The residents were long lived. Excepting the very young, they had all spent numerous cycles on each of the other three planetoids. It was a necessary part of their culture, to gain different vantage points and perspectives.

I spent time on each planetoid. I envisioned how my people would adapt. With the help of the natives factored in, the planetoids’ habitability factor improved to 87%, barely into acceptable range. The general acceptance of my arrival made me hopeful the same would be extended to the rest of my people.

We could live here.

---

My last day.

I snuck away on a walkabout. In the last week of my survey I had seen the natives’ cultural center within the fourth planetoid. Its volcanic core had died millennia ago. The residents created a vast city within, full of baffling architecture. There were libraries and museums. I left wishing I had remained unaware.

Time ticked down closer to zero. A touch of thrust lifted me to orbit the planetoid in its last rung of gravity. I looked down on a mere black-gray rock. I could almost forget it was inhabited at all. Could forget that my signal would end it all.

A final burst of thrust and I was free of orbit. I closed my eyes and drifted away, my time left just a faint haze at the corner of my eye.

We would live, but not here.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Prompt: The Bleak Eternity of Gehenna

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


I'm in

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


I'm in. love a good mystery. Also a for prior failures

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Filicide, Parricide
1009 Words

His brother’s bones were small and had retained a milky white hue despite eight years underground. Fern imagined the muscle and flesh that had hung to these bones. Fern had been right beside Dominic while he was strangled. The murderer had nearly strangled Fern as well, but had fled at the last second. A deep purple bruise lived permanently on Fern's throat. The trauma brought an unseemly gruffness to Fern’s voice.

The bones had been scratched from the various dirt dwelling insects. Fern hoped the witch would still be able to conjure up his brother’s spirit.


Fern's head swam from the noxious incense in the witch’s tent. He held tight to the satchel of bones and waited for the witch to finish with her current customer, an elderly man with a face wet from tears.

“Ask her where she kept her wedding dress, please,” the man said. He held out a brooch to the witch who took it in a pale hand lined with tattoos.

“There is not much of her left in this brooch. Do you have any more of her jewelry? Or money she handled?” The witch put on an air of apology, though Fern doubted she had any qualms taking the man's money.

“I just want to bury her in her wedding dress. Please.” The man broke down again.

“Okay, it's okay, let me try.” The rich incense smell thickened as the witch began her incantation. She muttered to herself for several minutes.

Fern nearly yelped when the witch spoke again. She spoke with the voice of a much older woman with a southern dialect.

She said, “Dearest husband I sold my dress during the drought all those years ago. I am so sorry for hiding that from you. I will be able to rest in whatever you have. I love you, dear, and I miss you.”

Her eyes shimmered and she exhaled and the spell was over. The man, bawling, handed her a hefty coin purse and left with his head in his hands.

Fern stared down at his satchel, unwilling to move. The witch's stare fixed him to his seat. But she grew impatient and stamped over to him.

She grabbed his chin and forced his gaze upwards. “And what do you need, whelp? And can you pay?”

Fern held back tears and stammered out his request. “Someone killed my brother and they locked up my father for it. But he didn't do it. Please help me prove it before he's executed.”

Fern's ears burned with shame but he blinked away his tears and met the witch's stare. “Please,” he said again, holding out the bag of Dominic's bones. He thought of his father whom he had not seen in some years. His father, wrongfully accused. The witch took Dominic’s bones.

“This won’t be like what you just saw,” she said. “This child will not speak through me. But I will hear him, see what he saw.” She took a shuddering breath and sat to work. A chill ran through Fern as the witch gripped Dominic’s bones. The smell of incense disappeared. Instead a dry hotness filled Fern’s nose. His throat felt tight and his lungs ached.

Several moments passed in silence, where Fern could not exhale or inhale and his back muscles seemed turned to stone. He and the witch let out a breath at the same time and met each other’s eyes.

“Your father killed your brother but he did not have the heart to finish killing you. He lied to himself about that fact in the hopes that you two could have a good life together.” The witch paused but could not read Fern’s expression. “You should let them execute him.”


Fern slept in on the day his dad was to die. A gentle couple had let him a room in their small inn, provided he help with chores. His room under the peak of the roof held a cot and the satchel of Dominic’s remains. He looked out onto the peaceful snow of the night before and worked up the courage to leave his warm blankets.

His patrons eyed him sidelong when he came down for breakfast. He waved them off. “I’m all right,” he said. They left him alone.

Fern walked the few leagues to the jail despite the cold. By the time he stood before the headsman’s chopping block his whole self was numb. He did not recognize the first condemned man, nor had he heard of the crime. The thud of the axe did not startle him at all.

Three more times the axe swung before his dad was brought out. His crimes were read by the headsman. In the pause where onlookers could raise new evidence to stay the axe Fern stayed quiet.

Spluttering, Fern’s father yelled, “Boy, did you speak to the witch? She told you it wasn’t me, yes? Boy!” And on like that. Fern just stared and waited for the blood to spill.

And then it was over. He trudged back to the inn and slept the rest of the day.


A week slipped by and Fern found himself apologizing profusely to his hosts. He had not helped out around the inn at all and had been so distant the innkeepers thought he had ran off or killed himself.

“We understand, Fern. We just want you to take care of yourself,” they said, or Fern assumed they said. “You can stay on here as long as you like. And you can leave if you’d rather. I’m sure there’s something better for your than working at our tiny inn.”

Fern threw himself into the busy work of innkeeping the next few days. One night he woke up with a strange smell in his nose. He hastily scribbled a goodbye note and ran out into the darkness.


When the witch went to gather her herbs and other goods she nearly tripped over a mass in her tent’s entrance. She looked down upon the sleeping boy. Fern awakened enough to ask, “Are you taking on apprentices?”

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


I'll take a were-critter please

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Here is a crit for Yoruichi's story, I was Born with Water in my Veins.

A person returns to the island of their mother’s birth out of grief and a vague sense of familial obligation. They struggle to fit in, feeling out of place. The stark simplicity and difficulty of life on the island pushes them farther and farther away, mentally. Their dying grandmother reminds them of their mom and in the first show of real emotion for the protagonist they cry and finally grieve their mom. This grief also enables them to leave the island to seek to their own path in life, whatever that may be.

Grief and repression and familial obligation are all heavy hitting themes. I think the story is a touch too distanced from these themes to do them a ton of justice. There’s a brief twinge here and there of identifying. Had the protagonist had more time to be a character these moments would have landed better. I liked the distorted mirror view in the beginning and the end. The boat noses ahead but the destinations are different. The implied emotion in “tears [fell] at the memory” undermined the outpouring of grief towards the end.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Worth Waiting For
1282 Words
Prompt: The quick and deceptive were-anole.

Eva stared at the foreboding dark green privacy fence with a scowl. An inch or so of wood was all that stopped her from mysterious plants, flowers, trees, and who knew what else. A sign gleamed in the sun: “University Property. Do Not Enter.” Her acceptance to the university was a foregone conclusion. But she was six years too young to apply.

Through a gap at the bottom of the fence she spotted a small emerald lizard. She watched as it came and went from the garden with total freedom. She stamped her foot and sighed.

Eva bent down and picked up a rock. She hurled it at the fence and it bounced off with a satisfying thunk. Eva smiled at the dent it left then turned and ran home.

-

Eva wandered out of her room, pulled away from her botany books and flower sketches by a glorious smell. Eva made her way into the kitchen, expecting to be shooed away.

“Almost done, ma?” she asked. Her mom bounced from one pot to the next, checking the flavor of each.

“Yes, dear. Can you ask the guests if they’d like wine with the meal?”

Eva felt a pang of guilt. She’d forgotten guests were coming. She poked her head into the living room. Two frail gray men sat on the couch fiddling with a wooden puzzle. They both seemed to have a different solution. Eva giggled at their frustration and they turned in unison to look at her.

Eva stepped around the corner and towards the couch.“I’m sorry. I’ve worked that puzzle more times than I can count. Would you like a hint?”

“Yes, please,” said one.

“No, thank you,” said the other. Eva couldn’t help but laugh again. She sat down opposite of them and let them bicker. A glint of green and gold at their lapels caught her eye.

“You two are from the university?” Her outburst startled the pair.

“Yes, my dear,” one began.

“He’s Bartle, and I’m Aster. We care for the university’s garden,” the other finished.

At Eva’s stare, Bartle said, “Your mother invited us ages ago. Said you were quite a whiz at plant diagrams.”

“Our schedules have been busy... But we’re here now! Why don’t you show us some of your drawings?”

Eva thanked her mom profusely on the way to her room. She grabbed the best sketches and returned to the living room.

“I love the grace lily’s shape. Ooh, and the recurve thorns of the livid rose are so cool, right?” Eva’s heart leapt every time Bartle “hmm”ed or Aster “ah”ed.

They nodded to each other and Aster said, “The university garden always has new specimens in need of diagrams.”

“You want me to come to the garden?” Eva asked.

“Certainly! Once you’re old enough, of course.”

After a long silence Eva choked out a laugh. “I’m sure dinner’s ready,” she said through a stiff smile. She slunk to the kitchen. Her mother was arranging carrots, greens, rice and baked fish on four plates.

“Mom, I’m not hungry. Can I go for a walk?”

Her mom ladled sauce onto the last filet. “Did Bartle and Aster like your drawings?”

“Yes, they did. But I still have to wait.”

“I’m sorry, Eva. I’ll leave your plate out. Be safe.”

Eva left, hoping Bartle and Aster did not find her rude.

-

Sour thoughts followed her as she meandered through the city. Before long she found herself back at the university’s garden. Limpid moonlight filtered down to her as her thoughts coalesced: It wasn’t fair. All she wanted was to look around in the garden, maybe make a few sketches. Bartle and Aster seemed to think she had talent, so what was the harm?

She sighed, shook herself and stared at the fence. A strange shiver trickled through her limbs and her heart started fluttering like it had back with Bartle and Aster. An intense longing filled her. There was a sound like the sky gasping and she scrunched her eyes shut at quick wave of nausea.

She opened her eyes to find herself at ground level. She tried to get to her feet, thinking she had passed out, but could only rear back. Her body felt longer and sleeker and she felt a sturdy tail trailing behind her.

Oh my goodness I’m a lizard, she thought.

The monolithic fence stretched to infinity above her. Below it, an emerald lizard did push ups and then passed under. She scurried towards it with an unfamiliar rapidity.

Eva came to an abrupt stop once on the other side. Her eyes flitted from one plant to the next and her mind raced at all the unfamiliar plants. The other lizard strutted up to her, spoiling her reverie. It blinked and winked, poked out its tongue and quirked its head at multiple different angles. To Eva’s surprise she understood the movements as language.

“Moon looks great tonight, huh? But we should get back to our turf. If the Brown Tails find us they'll hunt us down!”

Eva blinked in complete bafflement. “What?” She conveyed the question with a tilt of her head.

The other lizard looked past Eva and signed, “There they are! Let’s go!” It spun around and took off, a green blur on the garden ground.

Eva found herself energized by the moonlight and the threat of angry lizards. She hurried after her companion, occasionally turning an eye towards the towering plants of the garden. Such fantastic nocturnal blooms!

Ahead of her the other lizard raced up the thick stalk of a vegetable. Eva marveled at the plant’s strange structure. She spied the other lizard gesturing from a high leaf. It moved its forelegs in a way that said Climb, idiot! Climb! Eva glanced behind her and saw her pursuers glittering under the full moon like the amber stones in the city museum.

Eva did not think herself much of a climber but tried anyway. Her toes gripped the vegetable like glue and before long she reconvened with her companion.

“What were you doing in Brown Tail territory anyways? Did you get lost or something?”

Before Eva could formulate a response the lizard leapt off the plant. It plopped in a square plot of dirt far below. Eva felt her perch shudder. She imagined the horde of brown lizards rushing up to find her. Wide-eyed and panicked, she jumped.

In the air she gawked at the entire garden. I have to draw all of this. She thudded into the dirt.

“Hah, nice jump!” Eva’s companion bounced excitedly. “Welcome to Green Top territory.” More lizards approached, intrigued by Eva’s arrival.

“I’m… You’re… We’re all…,” lizards! But Eva could not find the right motions to say it.

Several of the lizards started doing push ups and wagging their tails. They reared back and poked red frills from their throats. To Eva, these motions seemed primal and vulgar. The posturing devolved into true sparring and Eva sped away..

Taking her chances against the Brown Tails, Eva thundered out of the university garden. Her limbs shook with exertion. Not long after she passed under the fence she heard a faraway exhalation and she was back to her normal self. It took a few false starts before she remembered how to walk on two legs.

-

Back at home Eva quietly opened the door to her mother’s room and got in the bed.

“Mom,” she said. Though her mother didn’t wake, Eva continued. “I’m just gonna be patient.”

She sighed. In her mind the six years stretched to infinity. But it was better to wait. She’d be older and things would be much less complicated.

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apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Anyone wanna swap crits hit me up, my Week 313 story for whatever story you want

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