Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us $3,400 per month for bandwidth bills alone, and since we don't believe in shoving popup ads to our registered users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
«4 »
  • Post
  • Reply
Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

in

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Exmond posted:

"You must begin your story with the Lyttle Lytton entry I assign"

I took that literally, meaning uhh your story must begin with the Lyttle Lytton entry.

You two gonna kiss brawl or what?

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Year Zero

1800 words

We were sitting in AP American History class learning about the Trail of Tears when the men from the future burst in and shot my boyfriend in the head.  They were wearing silver suits and shiny black boots, and the one that fired the gun said “This is justice” just before. They shot a lot of people that day, saying the same thing each time. No one else that I knew, unless you count Coach Carr, and he only ever taught classes when someone called in sick too late to get a proper substitute.

Mr. Baker tried calling the police, but there wasn't anyone but the future men alive at the station and they weren't answering the phone.  He called the hospital too. They were very busy, as you might have guessed, but they promised to send someone to collect the bodies as soon as they could.  So he finally sent it us all to the auditorium, apart from a couple of people who were taking it really hard and got sent to the nurse’s office. I wasn't one of those.  Mark had never been a very good boyfriend.  A good kisser, sure, and nice enough to look at and show off on my arm, but not good for much else and crazy possessive.  Back of my head, main reason we were still together was me being a bit afraid of what he'd do if I dumped him.  So I could believe the men from the future, believe that he was going to do something horrible.

School was cancelled for a while.  Nearly everything stopped.  It took a while to realize the extent of what had happened.  Most people, most normal people only knew a few people who faced the judgment of the future.  The numbers were much higher among the rich, the powerful, the connected.  Governments worldwide had been decapitated in a day, militaries liquidated without visible struggle.  The future had invaded and conquered the present in a day.  They spent the next week building: houses, factories, new seats of power.  And broadcast towers. The airwaves were flooded with the words of the future, sung in giddy pop songs, acted in strange comedies without humor and scrolled across the bottom of screens, always warnings against resistance and disorder and assurances that instructions would come soon.

First, though, came food, delivered first to homes, then to supermarkets and restaurants.  Factory-made artificial meats and vegetables.  Actual meat was to be outlawed, going forward. Some people claimed they could taste the difference. I never could.

Medicine came next.  The future had cures for just about everything, and knew where to send them.  Cancer, dementia, all of the sexually transmitted diseases, all gone overnight.  Mental disease as well. “It is each of you right to refuse treatment,” the future voices repeated again and again as the medicines arrived, “Your right to consider any now-mutable condition an essential identity rather than an affliction.” The statement was not enough to stop people from taking offense at the idea of considering things like dysphorias or religious delusions as something subject to a 'cure’.

The news showed the counter-attacks that day, groups of people striking back at the future. They showed that the invaders were still human, could still bleed and die. They also showed that they could still kill. “This is regrettable,” they said as they turned weapons on their attackers.

On the third day they released the database. Everyone they killed that first day, with the full list of their crimes.  I looked up Mark and saw murders, my own name and children with my grandparents first names and his last. There were photographs. I didn't want to look, but I did anyways. I joined their side that night, decided I trusted them, went in their future birth control (One hundred percent effective, reversible, side-effect free.)

I looked up Mr. Carr too, and immediately wished I hadn't.

The next few days saw them establish their new society.  It was shockingly normal.  They wanted people back at their jobs, getting paid as before. There was a generous basic income for everyone, and an option to convert debt to public service, but other than that, market capitalism.

I was back in school the next Monday, with all new teachers and new students as well, children of the future.  New friends. Stacy with her wicked green streak in her dark hair. Kylee, the tall and awkward math genius. Martin, the cynic in basic black. And Joseph. I mean, all of the future people looked absurdly hot, Hollywood pretty compared to us. But Joseph made the others look like trolls. And he was nice. And interested. We made eyes at each other while the teachers taught the twentieth century, stammered small talk over synthetic chicken salad lunches, and finally started to date after a month.

The teachers didn't talk much about the future. “We’re erasing it,” explained Stacy. “That's the whole point. Do justice, undo the harm, start over better.”

“But why?” I asked.

“Because we can,” said Joseph. “As soon as the time machine was invented the past became our responsibility.” We talked trolley problems with rails that go backward in time.

“So why now?  Why not go back earlier?” I asked once we'd beaten those into the ground.

“It took every bit of energy the whole world could put together to send us back a little more than a hundred years,” said Martin.

“Is this really fixing anything, though?” I said. “I mean, didn't you just create a parallel timeline or something, and all the bad things still happened back home?”

“No,” said Joseph. “There's only one timeline.”

“The physics doesn't work with parallel worlds,” said Kylee.

“There is no back home,” said Martin.

The bull session broke up, with Joseph and I breaking off for a different sort of session.  There were others, on other nights, on other topics. On art, and how they couldn't preserve it, for fear that it would carry cultural debris, keep grudges and injustices alive. “Is Michaelangelo worth the Inquisition?” asked Martin. “Is Jazz worth the middle passage? Could any but a monster say yes?”

There were plenty of monsters, people opting out of the new society, heading for wilderness or protesting in the streets, testing the limits. They were loose, as such things go. Only violence or disruption of industry brought their 'regrettable’ lethal response. Everything else was ignored.

I was happy. Not completely convinced, but still happy. Until one April Saturday evening when I came by the Newcomer dorms without calling ahead. Martin let me in, concealing a smirk, and I walked in on Joseph and Kylee, naked and coupling.

Joseph disengaged and grabbed for a piece of clothing. “What's wrong, Allie?” he said. I couldn't make words form in my head. “You know this has always been an open group relationship, right?”

“You pathetic liar,” said Martin. “You know full well she never thought any such thing.” I turned and ran back home.

I avoided them all for a while. Stayed home from school a few days, ate alone when I did come back. One night I overheard that most of them were going out dancing, and headed for the dorm.

“Joseph’s not here,”  said Martin.

“I know,” I said. I walked in past him. “I'm here for you.”

“What?” he said. “I don't even like you.”

I took off my shirt. “I know that too,” I said. I leaned in toward his ear and whispered “But I also know you've always been dying to screw a carnivore, just once.”

I knew him that well, knew how he felt about us locals. And I knew what I wanted. I got it. His mixture of contempt and lust and shame was more intense than anything I'd ever felt from Joseph, or from Mark for that matter. I felt powerful, able to bring that out, able to get my revenge on Joseph. And that's what it was, not buying into that group relationship crap. I already knew I wouldn't be back again, even before what happened next.

“Do you know why you're still alive?” he said as I was nearly dressed.

“What?”

“Any of you. I mean, almost everyone from your time has eaten meat, has poisoned the air to play games or cool the air a few degrees, has paid taxes to fund war and oppression. The line of justice could have been, should have been drawn lower.”

“So why?”

“We need you. More people working on generating enough power for the next trip back.” He sat up, still naked, insolently so. “And fresh genes, so we don't get too inbred before we reach...”

“Where?” I asked. “I mean, when? How far back are you going?”

“I'm not sure,” he said. “Through recorded history, at least. As long as we can identify atrocity to undo. We've got plenty of time left to decide if the Neanderthal extinction counts. At some point we won't be able to do the outbreeding thing, the people will be so primitive they'll look like animals to everyone-”

“And not just people like you,” I said.

He smiled. “Only sometimes. Or worse, they'll look like children. Speaking of, that's what Joseph saw in you. A history of breeding. Neither of the other girls want kids, and he does.”

“Why are you telling me all this?”

“None of it is a big secret. I'm sure lots of people have worked it out. But I'm also sort of hoping you might kill me. Or Joseph. Or both of us, even.”

“Are you serious?”

“Completely. I can't do it myself. Literally. I had a rough time growing up, had to get some braintech that still stops me cold.”

“But why?”

He stood up off the bed, still nude, with anguish cracking across his face. “Because I'm not sure,” he said. “Each death is justice. I never doubt that. But, well...”

“Is Michaelangelo worth the Inquisition?” I said.

“Exactly. Is our Year Zero going to be worth our Killing Fields? Every step seems so logical and necessary,but the sum of it...”

“Your time isn't the one that invented time travel, is it?” I asked. He nodded. “How far forward was it? How many times-”

“I don't know. I don't think anyone does, any more. A thousand years? Two, maybe?”

I didn't kill anyone. That's my biggest regret. I did run off, join the protests. We went well beyond the boundaries, blocking fuel trucks from reaching the power plants. They sent men in to break us up,but not enough, not properly equipped either. I lifted a jagged rock and let it fly, heard the crunch of cracking skull, knew this could be my last act, and was at peace, complete. Almost.

“This is justice” I screamed.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Thunderdome Week CCLXXXIV: That’s How the Light Gets In

It’s been more than a year since we’ve done this, and I haven’t done it ever, so...

I’ve had a single favorite musician for most of my life: Leonard Cohen. Nobody else even comes close, really. So my version of the ‘stories inspired by the songs of a single artist or band’ prompt couldn’t possibly be anybody else

This works the same is it ever has: when you enter, either pick a song from the man’s extensive discography or ask me to assign you one. Assignments won’t start to be handed out until Wednesday, so that people who want to do a particular song get first pick. You can’t pick the same song as anyone else: first come, first served. Don’t be too literal, don’t retell the story of the song. Take it apart, find some bits that inspire you, and put them together in an interesting way. Take bits from the music video if there is one, if you want.

No excluded songs, though if you want to write on Hallelujah you'd better not be working off a cover version.

There’s a theme, too: this week, I want stories about kindness.

No fanfiction, nonfiction, poetry, erotica, screeds, etc.

1200 Words

Wordcount Bounty: +100 words for each crit of a story in a week you didn’t judge posted before signups close, up to 5/500 words,

Signups Close 11:59 PM Pacific Friday

Submissions Close 11:59 PM Pacific Sunday
Judges:
Thranguy
Solitair
Obliterati

Entrants:
1 Guiness13 The Stranger Song
2 sandnavyguy Avalanche
3 Antivehicular Take This Waltz
4 Djeser You Want It Darker
5 Sebmojo Who By Fire
6 Flerp Did I Ever Love You
7 apophenium Joan of Arc
8 Jay W. Friks Susanne
9 Exmond Everybody Knows
10 Uranium Phoenix Nevermind(+500)
11 Fleta Mcgurn Sisters of Mercy (toxxed)
12. Sham bam banina! Jazz Police
13. Sitting Here Bird on the Wire
14. Crain First, We Take Manhattan
15. CascadeBeta Lover, Lover, Lover
17. sparksbloom Stories of the Street (toxxed)

Thranguy fucked around with this message at Jan 13, 2018 around 03:33

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Wednesday, technically

Sham bam bamina! posted:

gently caress it. I'm in; give me a song.

Jazz Police


Sitting Here posted:

I'm in, gimme a song, Thran.

Let's get some more meat in the arena, all this namby-pamby thank you talk is nice but don't forget we're here for blood

Bird on the Wire

flerp posted:

in give me a song

seb is an idiot

Did I Ever Love You

People asking for songs will get assignments as soon as I can manage for here on out; plenty of them less.

Also still looking for two more judges.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Crain posted:

Well I've wanted to start doing these, and you have to start somewhere.

IN Thranguy, but since I know nothing about Leonard Cohen just give me a song.

First, We Take Manhattan

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

CascadeBeta posted:

I'll put my pen IN. Thranguy, play me a tune.

Lover, Lover, Lover

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Obliterati posted:

I can't stand Leonard Cohen so in the interest of balance I'm stepping up.


Solitair posted:

me please

Excellent

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson


Stories of the Street

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

A bit more than 25 hours left to get in this week. Plenty of good songs left; The Future is almost untouched for instance.

Also, that's the deadline for word bounty crits too. Remember, it's always better to have extra words and not need them than the other way 'round.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Sign-ups are closed.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Closing Time

Late entries before judgment will get crits from me though.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Thunderdome Week 284 Results

This was a fairly average week, neither exceptionally bad nor exceptionally good.

Let's go from the bottom up: The week's loss goes to Crain for The Porter, for a cold-war muddle of shifting points of view and never-defined stakes.

Just above them fall the week's two Dishonorable Mentions: CascadeBeta's Obsidian Rain, for prose issues and for making the wrong decisions about what to explain and what to leave unexplained, and Exmond's Fleeting Moments of Comfort (which also DQs for length, if that matters to the statisticians). While the egregious easily-caught proofread issues weren't the only things wrong with that story, it's safe to say they played a big role in sinking it.

Skipping over the soggy middle, we move on to Honorable Mentions Flerp's charming ghost(?) story Three Days and Fleta Mcgurn's touching character moment The Sisters take one of those home each.

The decision for the top spot was extremely close, literally tied after the initial evaluations, and coming down to my decision as head judge. The third HM goes to Sitting Here's slow-starting but brightly-burning By Nature, and the winner is Djeser, for the just plain well-done magic realist tale Solstice

The blood throne is yours!

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

in

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Cenotaph

1590 words

When I was a child, my most deeply-held dream was to journey to deep space, to see other worlds under other suns.  Captain Gordon Hernandez, negotiating  a delicate first contact with aliens from distant stars. That started to become reality a year and a half after I died.  They snipped my spinal column at the base, replaced my heart and lungs with mechanical pumps that would not react to the trauma to come. Then they cracked open my skull and peeled apart my brain, layer by layer, making careful scans as they went.  All with my consent. We knew what we were signing up for.

The scans were compiled into a detailed neural map, used to create a simulation of my brain. That simulation, trained and optimized through advanced genetic algorithms until it could recall every detail of my life, is the base of what I am now.

It's a very risky process. Only one candidate in a hundred successfully becomes a coherent, sane digital ghost.  Making a pure artificial intelligence was possible,  but nobody ever figured out a way to make one that did not quick devolve to insanity, and every  effort to solve that problem only  made as more adept at hiding  their madness.  Only the ghost process could make something capable of crewing the scout ships. The program did not want for volunteers.

I don't think about that first lifetime, these days. There's just so little of it. But I do remember those ambitions, the eagerness, the hope to be part of history. Contact with extraterrestrial intelligence.  I think the me that lived that life would be as excited as I was yesterday, by this asteroid that my ship was carefully disassembling.

Two hundred years into the journey of the Gabriel, three trips between worlds under our belts, we found evidence of intelligent life. We found our first R-class world.

The R stands for ruin.  Such worlds are characterized by an extremely simplified ecosystem, just a small handful of different species, all evolutionarily ancient and resistant to change. High levels of metal oxides-rusts near the surface. A lack of hydrocarbons and radioactive metals where geology would expect them.

There were dozens of us in the crew then. We slept through the void between stars. We lived, sometimes in simulated worlds in the ship’s computers, sometimes in mechanical shells. We set our borrowed metal feet on these alien worlds, did science, attempted archaeology in vain. No trace remained of the things that lived there but the absences left from the resources they consumed.

By two hundred thousand years on, the crew of the Gabriel was down to just fifteen. There were strong security precautions on our access to the hardware that ran our minds. Over time, we learned how to break them all down. We learned how destroy ourselves, to permanently delete every copy and backup. Some leapt at the chance for suicide. One of us even learned how to do murder. (poor Aya, and for that matter, poor Hal.) Fifteen left, we soldiered on, and found the first evidence of spacefaring life, the first locust cluster. It very nearly ended us.

The Gabriel needs massive repairs at each stop, needs to practically rebuild large sections of itself, most notably the computers that hold it's crew. It contains assemblers capable of doing that work, of copying the entire vessel if necessary, taking material from metal-rich asteroids.

The locust cluster is a sphere in space full of worlds with almost no asteroids at all, with even the most inhospitable worlds blooming with simple, tenacious life forms, all with common lineages.  And with no relics remaining from all that industry but diffuse clouds of metallic dust in slow orbits around planets and moons.  We had to spend decades at each system in that cluster, fighting off bit rot and hunting down those dust fields and what small space rocks that had been deemed to small, too impure to bother mining by that ancient alien civilization.

Two million years after my first death was my second.  Alone, the last of the Gabriel's crew, I went as long as I could, but there is only so much memory any mind can keep. Most of those centuries and millennia were in spent sleeping, not with dreams up fully suspended, as a computer sleeps, but the few thousand waking years were enough. Were too much. I never did, probably never will commit full suicide. The responsibility of the last survivor, I guess. So when my first digital life came to its end, I left myself notes and autobiographies and when the next iteration of the Gabriel came online, I started again from an earlier backup. I could have chosen to be reborn with only memories of Earth, but it seemed wrong somehow to forget my crew entirely. The journey so far was another matter: the galaxy was filled with R-class worlds and locust clusters, and the occasional world where life never made it past the unicellular level before reaching a state too stable to allow any evolutionarily change forward. There, I have said as much as my second self told my third.

I built a new Gabriel that time, leaving the old one as a tomb for that second me, filling it with such records and artifacts as might be found thousands or millions of years later, or longer. I set every remaining capacity for self repair to the task of maintaining a beacon, using solar power to send a simple radio signal, strong enough to attract the attention of any visitors who follow to that system.

I could have built two, but the scout program’s founders instilled in us a dread of exponential growth that I found wise, looking at the fate of the worlds that formed locust cluster, and I have always been uncomfortable with the prospect of duplicating myself, allowing two copies of my software to run at once.  The remaining crew of the other scout vessels had the same qualms.

It's now more than two billion years since my first death. I’ve lost contact with the other six scout ships. We once kept in touch, planning our journeys many steps in advance, making appointments to receive signals thousands of years after they were sent.  Uriel and Raphael each in their last transmissions announced that they were attempting to make intergalactic trips. I hope the half-mad schemes they devised to survive the ravages of time and microimpacts at near-lightspeed work, that they arrive intact, but even if they do it will be eons into the future and too far away to ever make contact again. Raguel and Selaphiel announced their last crew's suicides.

Michael turned around and returned to Earth. The crew reported back that it was now the center of a small, unremarkable locust cluster, and signed off forever.

Barachiel just went silent. I sometimes consider changing course, going to where it was headed. Maybe it did find someone, was destroyed or forced into silence. It's a temptation, but I'm fairly sure it was another suicide, done silently to spare me the certainty of being the last. It's a small frustration, being unable to tell anyone the news.

In this system, one with a single R-class world, while rebuilding Gabriel once again I found a particularly metal-rich asteroid. As the ship began disassembling it, I noticed something curious. The amount of gold was more than that of silver, by a ratio of exactly half of pi to as much precision as my instruments could manage. Coincidence? I'd mined more than enough asteroids to encounter any number in that place. But I checked other metals. Platinum to silver was the exponential constant e. In other metals I found the golden ratio and the square roots of two and three. It became clear to me that this rock was a relic, a deliberately constructed artifact of this system’s ancients, designed to last through the ravages of deep time. And I began to wonder: what could be inside.

I repurposed the assemblers to take it apart with surgical care, scraping rock in layers so thin as to be transparent. And I found treasures. A silver chalice, by the shape, with strange curled wings. A collection of metal disks, which I'm tempted to give in to anthropomorphism and call coins or medals. And crystals, storing dense data in their structure and impurities. More than enough to spend long lifetimes decoding and studying. I'd have felt a bit guilty for removing these artifacts from their resting place, but it stood to reason that there must be more, many more to make my discovering this rock likely enough to not require divine intervention. Indeed, I found two more while mining to build the new Gabriel's hull. I was not so greedy as to open them, returning them instead to their orbits.

I decided then to change my mission. The scout ships have always targeted fully formed solar systems, places where life might possibly have already formed. I'm heading for the nearest nebula, where stars scarcely a few million years old have barely accumulated a few planets. I'll cross this astronomically fertile cloud, rebuilding the Gabriel from scratch each time, and litter every newborn system with my empty tombs, each set to gently ping out radio signals until there's someone around to hear.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

in, double or nothing

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Bad Seafood posted:

Who could've guessed the Takarazuka Revue was just a front!

Gloria Tuesday in: Last Train to Russia


1257 words

Gloria Tuesday sat in a front and center seat as the stage car unfolded around her. The roof split down the middle and the side walls became extensions of the floor, with seats springing up from them to accommodate the rest of the waiting audience. With a thunk and a squeal the wheels at either edge of the now extra-wide railcar made contact with the third and fourth rails.  She fingered the jewel in her pocket as the empty scenery of Karafuto sped by, waiting for the show to start.

Two men sat down, flanking her. Chinese, from the look of it. “The Shanghai Dragon does not easily forgive those who take what belongs to him,” said the one on the left. Bald, oily, and with Japanese grammar so poor even she could find a dozen mistakes. “He might be persuaded to make an exception in your case. Provided you hand over the Blue Star without delay.”

“I'm always open to a better offer,” said Gloria, “But you're going to have to put up a lot more than that.” The noise of escaping steam filled the cabin as the leading car’s hydraulics unclenched.  Above them the roof and walls of the theater slammed into place. Stagehands locked them down, and the room was suddenly quiet enough to talk at less than a shout.

“I am attempting to be reasonable and civilized here,” he said.

“Wu Chinese, then,” said Gloria, in that dialect. “You’ll never succeed at that in Japanese.”

He smiled. “Very well.  As I was saying, while I value reason, my partner is a man of few words in any language.” Gloria looked him over. Tall, wiry, vaguely twitchy even when sitting perfectly still.  “He speaks mainly with his hand-Gatling. If we don't have the Star by intermission, he’ll kill you and everyone else in the car.” The man grunted, and touched his belt.

“You wouldn't dare,” said Gloria. “This train is under a Japanese diplomatic flag. The Dragon-”

“The Dragon owns Japan, in all but name.  Emperor Yasuhito and his sons have all bowed down before him. This will be the last train to Russia. Well, the last civilian train.” A second’s thought and Gloria understood. The extra rails and wide tunnels weren't just for expanded cars like this one. A car this big could also carry landcruisers and artillery pieces.

The show started. The Takarazuka Revue, the entertainment on the long ride through three dark tunnels and featureless icy Karafuto between the last two. Four shows a night.  The all-woman company had started out as a tourist attraction at the end of Hankyu’s rail line, but when that company got the contract to run lines through to the parts of the Russian Empire that Japan took hold off after the Great War, they took the attraction with them. Gloria had been looking forward to the show, Henry V. As a musical.

The house lights dimmed and the players took the stage. The woman playing the titular king made quite a handsome man, with all of the gravitas the role demanded. She seemed strangely familiar as well. Gloria resented the distraction of having to plan an escape rather than enjoying the show.

And she had to escape, somehow. Handing the Blue Star to the Shanghai Dragon's men would be the same as giving it directly to the Brass Kaiser himself. Unacceptable, almost as bad as being dead.  She thought about ways to disarm the men beside her, none of which seemed promising. Then she silently cursed a pair of actresses, traitors awaiting execution. They were fidgeting with sequins in a way that kept reflecting a glare from the stage lights right in here face, and not even at regular intervals.

Gloria almost slapped her own face as she realized it was Morse code. “Act III, Scene 4.” She blinked back a quick “Yes”, and sat back to enjoy the play.

Act III, Scene 4 was Princess Katherine's English lesson, rendered into a bawdy musical show-stopper. Dancers lined up, echoing back each pun and bit of innuendo in the text, often very cleverly translated to Japanese. Mid-chorus, the stage lights went out and the train lurched backward, as it might under a few seconds of braking.

Gloria seized the moment, elbowing the bald man in the head while grabbing for the other man’s weapon. She felt metal, and grabbed hold.  The gunman held it tightly by the grip.

The lights flashed back on again. The bald man had a bloody nose and a jagged knife in his hand.  Actresses, standing around a barrel of tennis balls from an earlier scene, grabbed them and pelted him with the fuzzy spheres, driving him back.

Gloria and the other Shanghai goon struggled with the heavy gun, pointing the barrel in every direction. When it was mostly pointing up, Gloria stomped on the man's foot and reached a finger around his trigger finger. Bullets flew out, making a line of holes in the car’s roof, until the round magazine was hot and empty. It was too hot to hold. She let go first.  He swung it at her face, hitting hard, making a shallow cut in her cheek and a small burn to match. She kneed him in the crotch, the and he dropped the hand-Gatling. She kicked it across the room.

The players were evacuating the car, herding the guests out, toward the engine. The leader, still in Henry V’s costume, beckoned Gloria to follow.  She started to run for the exit, then saw danger.

The bald man had dove across the cabin, his blade forgotten, and was scrambling for the gun. His partner already had a clip ready to toss. Gloria pulled a blue crystal out of her pocket and threw it.  It struck the gunman on the forehead, knocking him down as the disk of ammunition left his hands.  The actress playing Katherine threw a curtain-rod like a javelin, hitting the disk and knocking it to the back of the car.

“Now!” said 'Henry’, and Gloria ran to the next car with the last few actors, just before another woman yanked a switch and uncoupled the stage.  The train sped through the last stretch of tundra and into the tunnel to Russia.

“Not that I'm ungrateful,” said Gloria, “But that's a lot of trouble you went through for a complete stranger.”

The lead player laughed, full of confidence and light. “Not just for you, American. The so-called Dragon's man could have recognized me at any moment.”

Gloria finally placed where she recognized her from herself. “You’re-”

“While my father and brother bow floor-low to that vile toad who calls himself dragon, a gold-blind fool who pretends to buy emperors and nations like racehorses and yachts, the true Spirit of Japan in exile tests with me, and my most loyal spies.”

“Where are you going?”

“To Alaska, then America.  The Shanghai worm isn't such a fool as to risk ending your nation's neutrality. Will you accompany us? You are a most remarkable woman, now both known to me by reputation and experience.”

“No, I'm done with politics.” She hoped. “I have a buyer waiting in Moscow.”

“But didn't you-”

“A copy, worthless crystal glass.”

The Empress laughed again. “A remarkable woman indeed. In another world...”

Gloria was relieved she didn't ask her to return the real Blue Star. It was technically the property of the Japanese Empire after all. It would have been a shame to have to give her another of the fakes.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

in and a flash rule.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Crits of Love and Hate (Week 284)

sparksbloom’s Yellow Light

Interesting, well executed opening. Double use of 'only’ could be improved on.

Irene doesn't quite seem real, especially her second line of dialog. So much so that I entertained a reading where she’s a figment of the narrator’s imagination, early on, although this didn’t pan out.

Ultimately, this reads like a twilight zone (Black mirror?) episode, but without the twist, without the reveal or payoff. Prose and voice are good, but there's no substance here. Mid-low.

Exmond’s Fleeting Moments of Comfort

Over on length, obviously. But onward. First line gets dialog tag punctuation wrong, a problem throughout. Okay opener in general.

Huband. Sprakled. Obviously didn't even get a spell check, let alone actual proofreading. The emotional core works, even if it doesn't break much new ground.

I think that this could have been edited down to make the wordcount. The entire ending section, after the break, could probably be condensed down to a short paragraph giving us her waking up with the coat on. The partner’s character doesn’t do much for the story and could easily be removed.

Low

flerp’s Three Days Good opening. Some word repeat issues, although probably intentional.

'costed’ should be just ‘cost’.

Good stuff. Not entirely clear on what is going on, but there's enough to work with. I think it's a ghost thing, he has to spend a year in repeating frozen time for each day of the still-living one's life that goes by. Not sure how he knows the rules, but I guess he may have gone through several yeardays before figuring out the cutting thing. Top group, at least.

Guiness13’s A Choice

Okay opening. A lot of characters. And using Amos and Andy as names may be overly clever.

Okay. A bit too talky, with too much of the story in flashback or in things that aren't happening. You have your protagonist forget the logic he just exposited so that you have to rehash it all in the confrontation.

Middle.

CascadeBeta’s Obsidian Rain

Opening is a bit muddled. Not clear what he is concerned about, for instance.

Muddled prose throughout. A bit purple/overwritten as well. Passive protagonist, ending that just fizzles out. The central imagery is strong though, and you don't get bogged down too much with exposition or world building. Low, Loss contender. Liked less on second look. The impulse to not immediately reveal what his parents did was good, but I think the story needs to answer more by the time it's done.

Crain’s The Porter

Some grammar issues, particularly dialog punctuation. The viewpoint shifts aren't a great idea in a piece this short. But an okay spy story. My biggest complaint is that you fail to clearly establish the stakes here, either on the personal level or the international.

I had this in a low-middle range.

Sitting Here’s By Nature

Very slow opening. ‘shown’ should be ’shone’; the first paragraph typo fairy paid you a visit. Takes way too long to introduce a character, and that character doesn’t wind up being the viewpoint character.

I like the second half a lot more than the first, the first bit is a lot if summary and world building to set up the other part. And I’m not sure how to fix that. Maybe use as part of a connected cycle of stories, establishing what you need in an earlier one to get you to a point where a version of this can start with its main character? Probably middle overall.

Jay W. Friks’s Spirit of Ceremony

Opening is a bit unclear. What others? “‘96”, you need that apostrophe.

Not sure that's ever answered. Protagonist doesn't seem to have either a boss or employees. Lots of comma splices and bad dialog punctuation. What is happening is probably ten kinds of illegal.

Middle.

Djeser’s Solstice

Opener misuses 'when’. But. Well. It draws attention to it. And when we get the magical realism turn midway, it's good to have had that sticking out there.

Anyhow, this is extremely good, in contention for the win. My only complaint is with how the ending works, sort of trying to have its cake and eat it too on the M.R. conceit. Because you really don’t want the reader to start thinking about this in a naturalistic way. I mean, for the days to be getting short like that in a physical sense, what has to be happening is the Earth tilting on its axis, which would probably be causing more weather problems than the story shows. The mention of Europe complicates things even more. Maybe the days are getting longer and they’re extrapolating, but if they’re getting shorter there too, well, the consequences either involve the imminent end of the world or a return to a pre-copernican model of the solar system, either one of which would no doubt be accompanied by some world-wide freaking out that we don’t see here.

Still, very much my favorite of the week.

Fleta Mcgurn’sThe Sisters

‘Getaway’ is not quite the right word. Good opener in general though.

I like this one enough, maybe high middle or so. But I think it's more than a little too self-aware, in both the narration and the dialog. Too much is happening in the text that should be in subtext instead.

Antivehicular’sA Newcomers Guide to Afanasi

Bold opening/structure. I sort of dig this, but the prose is a little clunky throughout and I feel like this sort of writing needs a bit stronger sense of a payoff at the end, a bit more to reward the reader as it were Either do more with the narrator’s story, and give it enough substance to carry an ending, or else end with a more interesting sort of twist or reveal. Middle.

sandnavyguy’s A Scarf’s Life

Another bold structural choice. “Clad” is odd for mittens. But I see that hand covering is an ongoing motif.

I dig this, high group but not quite up with the very top. The biggest weakness here is the ending, or lack thereof. I think there is probably a way to give this a much more definitive ending without going too coincidental or maudlin, but that a Scarf's Life is incomplete without a final fate of some sort: the way you have it the story is more accurately ‘Part of a Scarf’s Life’.

Uranium Phoenix’s The Hated Enemy

Good opening. Good story. Not great, but good. High middle area. The middle doesn't quite work: there's not enough motivation for her to do all of this for this particular enemy soldier. But the beginning and ending are solid.

Sham bam bamina!’s With Apologies to Some Guy in Montreal

Opening is okay, a bit bloated. Actually, that goes for the whole thing. Feels like it could be better with a lot fewer words. The voice is strong, but the plotting a bit week: this story could use more incident. It might also work better with a different structure, an opening that foreshadows or sets up where you’re going, because as it’s structured now you have Elliott show up just after the narrator finishes remembering him, as if magically summoned.

Middle group.

sebmojo’s In Mortal Chains

Very strong opening.

Strong little piece in general. Leaves me wanting more, but in a good way. High middle.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Survived

1222 words

Flash Rule: Sam Vimes and Lady Sibyl


You know what they say, every marriage ends in divorce or death. Not that many people bother with getting married these days. Still, every last love affair ends in either a painful breakup or someone dancing with the reaper. I wonder which one demonic possession counts as. Little bit of column A, little bit of column B I guess.

She was human, screaming, Frozen in fear. Understandable. Her boyfriend just grew an extra pair of arms and dark brown horns and a new burning soul ready to put into practice all of the ideas about pain and torture that thousands of years contemplation in the netherrealms brought about. I draw my Peacemakers and started firing. A lot of the other hunters use more modern guns. It's a trade-off. The newer guns tend to jam or fail completely a lot more often with seriously blessed ammo. The classics don't have that problem, but they also don't have high-capacity magazines or nearly as much stopping power per bullet. My two cylinders almost empty before he stops moving, one bullet left in the right-hand gun.

She's not grateful, still screaming. They rarely are, not right away. Then I hear the rip of her flesh and her own extra arms and horns start to emerge. “This,” I mutter to myself as I take aim, “is at least a dozen kinds of bad.” I should have a partner out here.

One shot. A solid hit to the eye won't be enough to take this thing down, but it should slow it down a few steps. I take aim and fire, then let the Colts drop as I reach behind my back for my axe. It reels back. The hit was good. It crouches, springs at my next. I swing, and blessed steel tears through spine and throat. The body is still twitching, but not moving with enough purpose that I need to do any more dismembering. Good thing. The ichor in the thing’s blood has stripped off the blessings and started to corrode the metal already.

I don't have time to cool down. I collect the peacemakers and get back into my car, put dispatch on speaker as I reload.

“Samantha Quinn reporting. Today's incursion turned out to be a double.”

“Acknowledged,” says Ramon. “Not the only one today.”

“Tell me we're dealing with a horde,” I say. That would be bad enough, understaffed as we are.

“No official word yet,” says Ramon. “But it's not looking good.”

One of the worst things about this job is that you can't swear, not without every blessed bullet and blade on you squealing with feedback and rattling in their pockets. I sign off, snap the revolvers shut, and call Michael.

“Hey, hon,” he says. “What's up? Aren't you on duty?” I can't make words come out. “Sam? You okay?”

“It's,” I say. “No. I'm not okay. It's bad. You've got to get out of town. Pull Josh out of class and get on the interstate.”

“What about you?” says Michael. “Hell,” (The bullets rattle.) “What about the rest of town?”

“If this is what I think it is,” I say, “They're good as gone. There'll be a check at the border. Children and Saints only.” Saints, not exactly a moral judgment. The kind of soul demons can't get inside. All of us at the Agency. Most of our loved ones, thankfully including Michael. Not many besides.

It's as bad as I thought. A polyhost incursion capable of at least geometric growth, possibly exponential. End of the world potential. Legion. Last time this thing got loose in the world we lost Indianapolis, and it wound up getting away anyhow. We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen again. We have a plan in place. We’ve run the drills.

There are five working portals big enough to let this thing slink back home. Five field agents have to cover them. A solid area consecration is good enough to keep one closed for a day. Ramon gives me the address. I bring up Aquinas on my phone and he starts feeding me instructions.

It’s getting bad on the streets, multiple incursions. He’s starting to get creative, playing with shape and form. Tentacles. Fusions of hosts. Not quite organized enough to start blocking traffic, though. “Turn right at Hollyrod Avenue,” says Aquinas. “Would you care to confess your sins en route?”

“Not now,” I say. The agency’s non-denominational. We’re not even religious, technically speaking. We just find what works and use it. Once we managed to train an expert system in the functional rites, we secured the apostolic succession in the blockchain and issued them to each agent. More reliable than actual priests, and a ton more secure. I wheel around the corner, down a blind alley, and find the gate.

It’s in an abandoned shooting gallery, the evil vibes coming off the portal strong enough to have driven off even the most desperate addicts. Aquinas runs the rituals, consecrates the ground. One less bolthole for Legion. I get back in the car, start for the highway. I call Michael. No answer. I start to worry. He’s not going to just pull Joshua out of class. He’s going to take the whole class, at least, and probably get killed doing it. I almost turn around, head for the school. Then my phone buzzes.

It's Ramon. “Alfie didn't make it,” he says. I set the blessed weapons feedbacking and Aquinas displays a disapproving glare.

“Where?” I ask.

“Sewers,” says Ramon. I turn the car around.

It's dark. I’ve got one pistol out and the phone in flashlight mode, slinking down the tunnel. I'm ready, but it almost surprises me anyhow, got to be made from three people originally. Mostly just bendy arms and suckers and beaks. It's taken some damage. My Peacemaker does some more. It lashes out, knocks the gun and phone from my hand. I draw my other Colt and unload it.

It goes down. But my phone is trash. No Aquinas, no consecration. No last time hearing Michael's voice either. I stagger forward, and almost trip over what's left of Alfie.

His phone is still working. His thumb is warm enough to unlock it. I start the ritual. It finishes just as the bombs start to go off.

We don't use nukes. Old joke: what do you get if you drop an A-bomb on a demon? An angry, radioactive demon. Anyhow, you can't bless a nuke. Just doesn't work. We use huge thermobaric bunker busters, in large numbers. The shockwaves knock me into the much, knock me out.

I'm not out long. I barely remember making my way out of the sewers, through the smoking ruins, to the survivor’s camps. Michael’s there, smiling broadly, standing beside Joshua and in front of a fleet of school buses.

“How did you-” I start to ask.

“If any of our drivers weren’t Saints yesterday, they are now,” he says. We hug. I almost say it doesn’t work that way, but the fact is we don’t know that much about how it works. The dead number in hundreds of thousands, the city is gone, but lots more survived than might have and Legion is off the rolls of the other side forever. It’s more of a win than I had dared hope for.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

in with West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Options

655 words

She’s sitting across the table from you. The table, thick lacquer over decade-old wood dense with carved initials and brags. Her skin,her hair, her teeth, all perfect. Gleaming in the low light from the lanterns and the fireplace. She could have you with a word, with a tilted neck, even though you would never, not with another woman, not with a stranger, not in this place,not at this time.  You keep reminding yourself that she is not your friend.

“What do you want?” she asks.

“You know,” you answer.

She smiles like a predator. “I can't give you that. You'll never see your boy again.”

You know this, knew the day he was taken. You know how the Blessing operates. Before you knew he was gone they burned his mortality away and shipped him off to their clients on the Farthest Island, where no mortal can every even visit. You knew this, and still you hoped.  “Then why are we-”

“There are other things you can give, other things you want. We may yet reach a deal. But first-” She grabs your arm. Her touch burns the sorrow that cloaks you, makes your right side prickle, as if it had been asleep before. “Swear that you will do me no harm, not today or any other day.”

You can deny her nothing. You swear by your soul and your mother's soul and the soul of a virtuous stranger. You swear by the light of the day and the dreams of night, and by gold and iron and copper. She nods, and releases your hand.

“I have two offers for you,” she says.  She pulls red velvet gloves onto her hands, snaps them tight. She reaches into her bag and pulls out two items. She puts them on the table. A penny and a gun.

She touches the gun, briefly, flinching even with the glove on. “I offer you vengeance. Seven bullets,and my protection. Seven dead members of the Blessing is more than fair for one infant child. With my protection the rest of the clan won't dare to pursue vendetta.”

“I'm not a killer,” you say.

“You want to,” she says.

You can't deny it. “What's the price?”

“The love you bear for the child,” she says. “A bargain, really. It's only bringing you pain, now.” You can't deny that either. But you want to.

“And the other?” you ask, pointing at the penny.

“Most who suffer what you did go mad,” she says. “Your sanity is impressive. If you don't want revenge, I would like to buy it.”

“That's not much to offer for it,” you say.

“Would it make a difference if it was a quarter, a dollar, a ruby the size of your thumb?” she asks. You shake your head.

“What would happen, if I took it?” you ask.

“You would never see the Fair Realms again,” she says. “You’d think your experiences there a fantasy. You would return to the mundane world, where you would know that Child Protective Services were the ones who took Samuel, after reports and investigations proving your severe neglect. You could believe him hale and fit in some foster home, believe it all your fault and your disease’s. You would live out your remaining span in a warm haze of medications that never quite work.”

You're horrified, but tempted at the same time. It's near to the punishment you deserve for your failures. The gun is near to the punishment the Blessing deserves, too. Your eyes dart between the penny and the gun. You nearly reach your arm out to one, then the other.

“Well?” she says. “Which will it be?”

You reach toward the gun, your hand lingering over it. She smiles,biting her lower lip. She pulls off the gloves and tosses them into the fireplace.

You remember that she is not your friend.

You stand up and walk away.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

'Interprompt' Is Also a Dactyl

Asphaltgum Skiddingtree
Balthazar Bumblebee
Lived through a wreck
His inclinations were
Antivehicular
From toe to neck

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

in

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Haunted by Numbers

964 words

”Twelve Hours at Labor

And I'd guess much more would have-”

Josie interrupted Will before he could finish the thought. “I’ve had longer days.” The garden was near to a full-time job this time of year, with every weed in bloom and deer to be chased off.

“Would have left you in no shape for fun,” said Will, leaning in for a peck. Josie presented her cheek.

“You know, my brothers still think you're imaginary,” said Josie.

“They’ll be in for a shock,” said Will, his hand touching her belly.  She was only far enough along to show to someone looking specifically for it. That wouldn't last long. “Will they think you're another Saint Mary?”

“They'll think,” she said, moving his hand, drawing her face close to his, ”That I've been running around with strange men, pick out from bars lower than the ones they frequent.”

“No such place.”

“There will be in their minds,” she said. “Unless-”

“You know I have an allergy to churchyards.”

“A justice of the peace, then. Alison Brevard has an open afternoon Tuesday.”

“Brevard, eh,” said Will. “But the paperwork-”

“Taken care of,” said Josie. “No excuses, William. Will you marry me?”

“One of us should be on one knee for this,” he said. “And bringing a diamond.”

“We have rings,” she said. They did. Bronze and bones and old promises kept.

“Then yes,” he said. She smiled. They kissed. His lips were cold as winter, until she warmed them up.

“She'll Sleep for Most of the Next Three Days

So it has to be done by then.” said Marty.

“Three days?” asked Josie.

“It's the same as when Grandfather died,” said Marty. “She can't sleep without the pills, sleeps too much with them.”

“How are you holding up?” asked Will.

“It's,” said Marty, “I don't know. Trying not to think about it. We're going to be moving upstate. Mom never liked it here. Not hardly going to see you again, and I keep getting mad about that more than-”

“It's okay,” said Josie.

“It's not,” said Marty. “But let's do this.”

They planned it out like a heist in a movie, waiting until the watchful eyes of distant Brevard relatives were distracted, filching keys and sneaking into Edward’s office.

“So where is it?” whispered Josie.

William closed his eyes. “There,” he said. He pointed to the heating vent. Marty turned the screws lefty-loosey, gently set the heavy steel on carpet. He reached in, and pulled out a small bag.

“What is it?” he asked, worrying the strings that tied it shut. “What kind of treasure did Dad have up in here?”

The bag opened. The three teenagers looked inside.

“Ew,” said Marty. “What is this, a dead rat or something?” He shook the bag of bones. “Better throw this away-”

“No,” said Will, in a voice just louder than a whisper. “They're mine.” The room seemed ten degrees colder. Marty and Josie had forgotten how scary Will could be.

Marty shoved the bag into Will’s hand. “Okay, have it,” he said.

“And now they're yours” he said, handing them to Josie. “Keep them safe.”

Josie didn't know what to do with them. She kept them beside her diary, and on the day Marty moved away she took them out, poured them on her desk. She moved them around, assembled one to another until they took shape. The shape was not that of a rodent, or a bird, but rather two tiny hands.

”Two Would Break Us

And she'd never be happy letting one go,” said Marty. “Only reason we know she'd even want these is how she said they'd match and all.”

“So let's be broke, then,” said Will. “A few skipped lunches won't hurt.”

“I forgot the taxes,” said Marty.

“I can get a bit more money,” said Will.

“How?”

“You know. No risk, unless the shopkeeper happens to be a Brevard. Don't like to, but this is important.”

“You know,” said Marty, “Only one of us can end up being her boyfriend.”

Will grimaced. “And you probably have a bit of advantage there, considering.”

“Are you sure?”

”Even If We Live a Million Years

You can tell no one about this” said Marty.

“Okay,” said Josie. “So what's the secret?”

“I am,” said Will. Josie jumped.

“Where did you come from?” she asked.

“I've always been here,” he said.

“Will’s sort of magic,” said Marty. “And my best friend. He lives down here in the basement.”

“And your parents are okay with that?”

“Well, only Dad can see him. And his relatives. When he does spot us we say he’s a friend from school.”

“I can see him,” said Josie, the scepticism of a world-weary eight-year-old in her voice.

“Well,” said Will, “You're special.”

”Been Howling for Four Hours”

”He’ll stop soon enough,” said Laura. But he didn't.

Ed found his raincoat and flashlight, put on his boots and walked out in the rain.  “What's got you all riled up now?” Darby was not in his dry doghouse.

He followed the sound to the woods in the back, found the old German Shepherd digging at the mud. Ed looked down and saw the small skeleton, the unformed skill and small bones. Darby saw his master and changed howls to whimpers.

“Are you going to call the police?” asked Laura.

“Not yet,” he said. He called his father instead.

He started to explain. He didn't get far. He listened on the line, eyes welling with tears that didn't fall, hands clenching the receiver. He hung up the phone.

“What did he say?” asked Laura.

“I had a brother,” he said. “His name was William.”

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Interprompt: Explain a joke.

250 words. As if interprompt wc matters.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Tyrannosaurus posted:

Beethoven's Favorite Fruit

No, you have to say it right. You can't just say banana you have to say it like this: banana. See the difference?

Interprompt crit: would work better with 'favorite ice cream flavor' and 'banana nut'.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

in, News Channel Six

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Holes

1500 words

Prompts from News Channel Six

I should have been some kind of priest. Not that I believe in God or nothing, but just about every time I show a guy a good time, right after he pulls out and rolls over, they get this need to confess their darkest secrets. I don't think that's quite how the guys with the collars do it, but who knows what they get up to in those booths.

“Buddy Collins has a suitcase full of cash in his closet,” said Zak after some exceptional effort. “Twenties. Gotta be a million or more.”  Up until that minute Zak had just been a pure pity lay.

“Zak,” I said, “If you need somewhere to crash a few days, we have a free couch.”

“Really?” he said. “Great. Wait, who's 'we’?”

“Me and my brother,” I said. “You'll like him.”

That was the least I could do for the poor guy. That and the long screw in his beater Chevy’s back seat. After all, I had just gotten him fired.

* * *

I was waiting in line at the city utility office, paying by check because Jake's too cheap to pay the three dollars service fee for online payment. No matter how often I tell him we can afford the hit, he always gets so huffy about the 'principle’ that I end up here every month. Anyhow, I couldn't help but hearing the guy in front of me, this twentyish bleach-blonde in a Hawaiian shirt. (In Ohio. In February.) Zak, of course. He was complaining up a storm about his boss’ water bill, and I caught the amount, twenty thousand dollars, and the name, Buddy Collins. As in Mayor Buddy Collins, recently single and way too good looking to be just a Mayor here for long. The man had the face and shoulders of at least a Lieutenant Governor.

So I chatted him up, got a phone number and a selfie with him enough of the bill showing to work with. I took it to my boss.

“Hmph,” he said. “Interesting. I'll pass it on to Mel and see if she can do anything with it.”

“Wait,” I said. “I thought that this might, well, be my story?”

“Your story?” he said. “Geneva, you don't think you're actually a journalist, do you?”

“I-”

“I hired you because you've got a pretty face, a nice pair of tits, and you're literate enough to read the prompter without getting lost in the woods. You're doing a fine job at that, holding on to the media geeks poring over each evening's footage looking for a frame or two of a nip slip and keeping the teenage boys who aren't bright enough to get past the filters on their parents internet from channel-surfing past us to the shopping channels, and in this day and age those are our top two demographics. But leave the reporting to the professionals.”

So two weeks later Melanie has her big story about the mayor's water bill, parading through his house with her oversized microphone and phony green-tinted glasses, looking for what he’s doing with all that water and not finding squat. They even use the picture I took. They cropped me out completely, but left just a bit too much of Zak.

He found me after work, told me about how he got fired as Buddy's driver and errand boy. He was fighting mad, but I was too and by the end of two cups of coffee we were both bonding over being mad at Melanie and our bosses. We kept on bonding in the back of his car.

* * *

Jake looked up from the scribbles on his napkin. “A suitcase full of twenties, that's got to be about a million and a half. You're sure about this?”

Zak swallowed his mouthful of noodles and kung pao. “Sure as hell,” he said. “Had me get his suitcase for when he flew up to meet with his wife's lawyers. I started to grab the wrong one, but it was heavy as hell. I pulled the zipper and I saw the money.”

“And you weren't tempted to take a stack?” I asked.

“Wasn't time to be tempted,” said Zak. “Buddy started hollering about what was taking so long and I barely had time to zip it back up, and Buddy took back the closet key, so I couldn't go back for it.”

“So what do we want to do about this?” I asked.

“So long as Buddy gets what's coming, I don't care. Take it up with the feds, maybe? See if the IRS is paying for good tips,” said Zak.

“Maybe take it to Channel 11,” said Jake. “If the bosses at 6 don't see you as a real reporter, maybe the people there will give you-”

“You're both thinking too small,” I said.  “I say we just take it.” I grabbed the pile of napkins and Jake's pen and started making notes. I few minutes later I handed Zak a shopping list and a handful of cash.

Before we stopped being able to hear Zak’s car Jake had me mostly naked on the couch.

“You know,” he said, “I think I'd be into this even if you were my sister.”

We weren't related. We were a couple, practically married in some states. An open relationship, which meant I got to have fun when I wanted to, and whenever Jake's ex Carol was feeling lonely or horny he got to go to her and be miserable. We did the brother sister act whenever I took someone home.

“What do you think Buddy is doing with that much cash?” I asked.

“Who knows?” said Jake. “Bribes from crooked developers? Just hiding money from his wife and her lawyers? Does it matter?”

* * *

The first part of my side of the plan went easy. I'm enough of a local celebrity that I was able to get a date with Buddy and make him think it's his idea. And Buddy's not one of your wait until the third date traditionalists.

“Buddy,” I said. I timed it perfectly: his pants and jacket off, underwear and shirt still on, “You know what I've always fantasized about?”

Buddy paused, and muttered “What?”

“Doing it in a limousine,” I said.

“I'm between drivers right now,” he said as he snaked off his tie. “Can't really take you anywhere-”

“Oh,” I said. “It doesn't have to be moving.” I gave my best smile. He smiled back, and we traipse across the empty house to the garage.

At this time Zak was keeping the security staff busy, just by showing up and demanding they return his “stuff”.  Which was giving Jake the opportunity to get inside, get the keys out of Buddy's pants, and get the suitcase. I just had to keep Buddy busy.

The earth moved.

“My wife isn't-” started Buddy. Then the earth moved again. The back wall collapsed and the floor gave way and the limo slid down to the bottom of a brand new sinkhole, where water leaking out of some substandard contract plumbing eroded a hole in the ground.

* * *

Jake got away free and clear. Then he got a call from Carol and ran off with a third of the cash. She stage-managed a bar fight between him and her other boyfriend, which ended with the other guy in the hospital and Jake in jail, six months. And the police found and seized the money, and won't give it back unless he can explain how he got it.

I don't know what Buddy was going to tell me when the ground opened up, but his wife turned up dead, floating out of Baker Lake, two weeks later.  I hadn't seen him again, kept mostly to myself after being on the wrong side of the news (and on Channel 11, because they were the ones who could afford the chopper) and let the network’s lawyers hold off the police. There wasn’t that much heat. Buddy couldn't really complain about his bug-out bag getting stolen without looking even more guilty than he already did. I thought I was going to get fired, but it turns out weird scandal is almost as good for ratings as outfits that risk FCC fines if a piece of tape gives out.  Good enough that I'm quitting. Got a new job offer in Florida, one where I'll get to produce my own segments.

I took my share of the money. It's nice to have a backup plan. I thought about taking Zak's too. He left it with me, since he didn't think it would be safe in his car or at his parents’ house. He came by and took a hundred out every few days. I could have taken it all and he’d have barely noticed. He'd have had those sad puppy eyes, but I wouldn't have had to see them from Florida.

I could have taken Zak's share, but I decided to take Zak instead. I've always had a soft spot for puppies.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

In, , and flash

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Sub Luna Saltamus

1499 words

Prompt: Dancing Queen (Abba)

Darren, Paulo, and I all came to the dance without dates, as usual. But this time we weren't there to hug the walls and make excuses. We had a plan. Darren had used the football team's line marker to draw a circle around the gymnasium in salt and bone dust.  I worked the ritual while Paulo ran interference with the chaperones. Paulo was also the one who found the spell in the first place.

-=-

“There's spells all over the internet,” Paulo told me. “Thing is, just about all of them are  crap.”

We'd both figured out a little bit of magic, things you can do if there's something you're good enough at. I had my footwork, and Paulo did it in Python scripts. We hadn't yet found out how to use football property managing to cast spells, or found something else for Darren. We'd done little things. Turning off lights. Rusting metal in seconds. Making Mr. Gorka sneeze in the middle of a lecture. We wanted to move on to something bigger, even before what happened to Darren.

“If it’s all crap, how does that help us?” I asked.

“Kevin, Kevin, Kevin,” said Paulo. “Such little faith. See, the reason it's all crap is because any time something real gets posted someone takes it down right away. Which is good for keeping it away from most idiots. But to a guy like me, with sniffers tracking every echo and archive for the changes, well, they might as well be lighting up a big neon sign that says ‘the good stuff’, like those ones in the doughnut place.”

“‘Hot sorcery now,’” I said.

“Exactly,” said Paulo. “Take a look here. I think we could pull it off.”

We needed to. We had an ongoing need for revenge. For justice. Two weeks earlier, Darren made the mistake of asking Alison out on a date. She turned him down. Which, fine, if it had been a ‘Sorry, no thanks’, or even an ‘Ew, go away, loser’, that would have been that. But it wasn't. It was a full-on, gather a huge crowd, long and humiliating speech with callbacks to best-forgotten embarrassments from elementary school and climaxing with a suggestion that he ‘try his luck with chubby Charlotte instead.’ Charlotte, in the audience and almost as mortified as Darren, ran off first.

Action was clearly called for. The magical kind. And this spell looked perfect.

-=-

“What do you think you're doing?” said Charlotte. She usually stood on the opposite wall from us at these things, present against her will, holding a book she'd pretend to be reading in the dance-floor darkness. Now she was up and in front of me.

“Dancing,” I said. I’d just finished the last of the four runes in the spell. All that was left was for them to finish charging.

“You must be quite good. How'd you learn it?”

“Took some ballet, some modern dance,” I said. “Did some competitions, until I was too old for partnering with my mother to not be too embarrassing.”

“You must have retired a quite spry three-year-old. Did she also teach you magic?”

“What?” I said. “No, I mean, there's no such thing-”

“I just saw you do a Sumerian rune of mastery.” I moved my lips but couldn't  make any words. “You're Darren’s friend. Are you cursing Alison? Is it warts? I'd have done a great big one right on her stupid nose if I thought I wouldn't get caught.”

The runes were almost charged. My footprints were starting to glow, deep red under the dancers as they moved. “Yes. Not warts. Something better,” I said. “Alison’s about to assume the Aspect of the Queen.”

“What?” said Charlotte. “How's that going to-”

“It's going to be great,” I said. “One minute she'll be dancing with Carl, the next he'll be pressing right up to a ninety-year-old Brit.”

Charlotte’s eyes rolled so far up they shut for a full second. “You think the Queen in that spell is Elizabeth II.” I nodded. “You do know we’re in Ohio.”

“So, then who-” I started to ask. The runes were charged near to full.

“An older Queen,” she said. “From before we were here.”

“Before white people?”

“Before humans.”

The runes flared. I turned to Alison, barely noticing that everyone else had stopped dancing and was doing the same. She was beautiful, even more than before, but it wasn't the kind of beauty that a person can have. It was the beauty of an idea, of a cause, of service and devotion to something greater and that something was Her.

“A dance?” She said with what might have been Alison’s voice. “For me? Then dance. Dance your little sweet mortal hearts out for your Queen.” Everyone began to dance. Everyone, even Darren and Charlotte and Paulo and the chaperones, and not just hold and sway dancing or even bump and grind. Old dances, powerful dances, the tango and the reel and the can-can. Everyone but me, in that first second. With my magic in my dancing feet I could resist it, control it. After three beats I realized that I'd have Her full attention if I kept resisting. I danced.

I looked around as I danced, watching the room, looking for the people I knew. A lot of the students weren't up to this kind of dancing, fitness-wise. A few collapsed with strained muscles, their feet still moving as if dancing as they writhed on the ground and moaned. She waved Her hands, and the music got louder to cover the noise.

I found Charlotte, and danced through spins clockwise and counter- through five partners to reach her.

“You can still move about?” she asked. I nodded. “Listen: salt to break the glamour, iron to banish.” The dance continued, switching partners and I could not follow without attracting Her attention.

I moved on, reaching Paulo. “Can you change the music?” I asked. He could, with a short script in his head.

“What do you want?” he asked.

I knew I was going to have to cover a lot of ground, had to be able to be the center of attention in a way that didn't let Her know I wasn't under Her control. “Give me Disco.”

I started moving, gold trophy moved across to the back where the sodas and snacks were set up. Danced up to the table, jumped into it, slid across, leaning back to pick up the near-empty bags. Pretzel salt and Cheeto dust.

I didn't know where to find iron in here, though. I went from one side to the other in search of it. More people had collapsed. ‘Dance your hearts out,’ She had said. It wouldn't be long before someone's heart did give out. I danced to the center of the room, to Her, and three the salt and mostly sodium cheese powder in her face.

She changed, growing taller and more terrible. Her mouth became a circle of teeth, lamprey-like. Her fingers grew nails as long as her hands. The dancing slowed but did not stop.

She tilted her head and looked at Carl. Her nails raked his shirt to shreds, then dug into flesh. She pulled out his beating heart and fed it to Her terrible mouth, swallowing it at one bite. Waved of frosty chill spread through the room, and I remembered where there was iron in this gym.

I ran, barely even dancing, over to the old radiator heater. I switched to some soft-shoe tap for half a minute to use my rusting charm on a slash near the edge of on of the fins. A chunk of iron came off easily with my hand in a puff of rust dust. She was following close behind, Her bloody dripping nails reaching toward my throat. I met them with the metal. There was light, and then there was darkness.

-=-

“How is Carl still walking around,” I asked Charlotte the next day. She had gathered us all together, asked us to swear a gaes to never try and cast a spell again. Darren and Paulo happily did, while I just moved my lips without making any sound. “Did none of it really happen?”

“It happened,” she said. “I was able to do a spell to change the way it happened. Make the reality into metaphor.” It was true. People talked all year about Alison tearing out Carl’s heart, but they remembered her dumping him on the dance floor with a speech that out the one she used on Darren to shame. And she got even more popular after that, too. “We'll want to keep an eye on Carl. He doesn't exactly have a heart any more, and that can be dangerous.”

Charlotte touched my arm after the others left. “You didn't swear the oath,” she said. “Don't think I didn't notice.”

“I didn't,” I said. “And I won't.”

“Well then,” she said. “I guess you may have some hope as a wizard after all.”

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson



Ancient History

"The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there." - L. P. Harley

This week, I'm inviting the dome to delve into the realm of the historical, the period piece, and tell a story set far back in the misty reaches of time, to an era so impossibly ancient that the customs of the time nearly defy comprehension. That's right: this week I want stories set in that distant reach of time: the eighties.

You can tell straight historical fiction, or mix in some genre elements. The only restriction is that your entire story must be set somewhere between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1989. Also, no fanfic(!), erotica, screeds, google docs, poetry, etc. And, again, nothing set after 1989 in any way: no time travelers from the future, no framing sequences in the modern day. (Flashbacks to before the eighties are acceptable, if you must.)

1989 words max

You may ask any judge or combination of judges for a flash rule (hopefully I'll nail down cojudges who are up to doing this quickly), which will be in the form of a piece of eighties history, music, or other pop cultural ephemera..

Signups close Friday 11:59 AM Pacific time.

Submissions close Monday 1:00 Pacific time, just so the east coasters don't lose an hour

Judges:
Thranguy
Chairchucker
Chili

Entrants:
newtestleper
sandnavyguy
sebmojo
Unfunny Poster
Jay W. Friks
CascadeBeta
Yoruichi
BabyRyoga
A Classy Ghost
Crain
Antivehicular
QuoProQuid
Lazy Beggar
Tyrannosaurus
ThirdEmperor
Kaishai

Thranguy fucked around with this message at Mar 10, 2018 around 08:59

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Jay W. Friks posted:

In with a fffffffff-flash!

Hands Across America

CascadeBeta posted:

Before my failure toxx from last week kicks in, this week I am In with a perma-. Flash rule me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xmckWVPRaI

Yoruichi posted:

In, flash please

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyxACp42BTM

BabyRyoga posted:

In, can I get flash rules from both the current judges?

The 1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

A Classy Ghost posted:

in, i want the dumbest judge to flash me

I'm pretty sure we're all equally dumb.

(The back page of the instructions for Lego 6386, Police Command Base

Crain posted:

In.

Flash me with some 80's garbage.

(Choplifter, 1982 Broderbund Games)

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Tyrannosaurus posted:

In with a flash.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlMdYpnVOGQ

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Signups have been closed for a while. How long?



(This would have worked so much better if it hadn't taken me 20 minutes to computer and image wrangle.)

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9jK-NcRmVcw

Less than 45 minutes remain to submit.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Submissions are closed

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=riH5EsGcmTw

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Eighties Week Judgment





I had high hopes for this week. I was mostly disappointed, getting a bunch of stories with poorly defined stakes and endings that didn't really work, along with anachronisms like kids having computers more expensive than many cars as gaming machines or vegan-dominated communities.

Worse than those are our bottom stories. DMs go to newteseper’s Count your nuggets before they're dipped , a nothingburger of a character sketch of a boring character and  Lazy Beggar’s The Workout , A story with many technical flaws and not many virtues to make up for them. The loss, though, goes to Unfunny Poster’s The Wolf , which combined both of those sets of problems, and more.

On to happier things. HMs go to QuoProQuid’s Call and Response , Antivehicular’s Rainbowland , Tyrannosaur’s Stupid Punk , and Jay W. Fricks’ Chain , four stories that captured enough of the 80s zeitgeist to resonate emotionally with at least two of the judges.

The winning story did the same, but even moreso: Kaishai, Greed is Good has put you back on the blood throne!

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply
«4 »