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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

A song written in ancient days, pining for even ancienter days.


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Acceptance (1,350 words)

It was a simple tune, low and long - like the creaking of a ship in the eye of a storm.

Lauja stood before the glittering sea, his back to flames. He held in his hands a long-necked instrument, carefully strung. His back was covered in lashes.

Black waves beneath a black sky strewn with jewels. His fingers moved on their own.

Marduk shuddered at the sound.

"Are there words?"

Lauja did not answer.

The warlord dismounted, his features framed in the shadow of the burning city. He had killed his first man when he was fourteen. Today he had killed three hundred. His men had pulled the king down from his high place, through the streets and through the square. Marduk himself had administered the molten silver, the drink of death. He dismounted for no man. He dismounted now.

"Are there words, friend?"

Lauja did not answer. He knew why the warlord had come. He was a traitor. A useful traitor, but a traitor all the same. A burning city left no survivors.

Lauja closed his eyes and played.

"None at all?" asked Ata.

"None that I know," said Qizi. She cradled her lute like a newborn babe.

Those who had gathered there turned and whispered. Ata stared blankly. He stroked his mustache.

Of course it was custom for the daughter-in-law to perform at such an event, and his wife and the girl had been quite close. He'd heard the girl was talented, heard her play before, but the melody now welling up from her fingers seemed almost alien. There was depth in its simplicity, yearning and regret tinged with hope for the future. Loss was not uncommon on the steppes. Doubtless the girl had felt its sting.

Yet this purely? This deeply?

"Where did you learn such a thing?" asked the priest.

Oglan leapt to his feet, the flute behind his back. He’d been sitting alone in the parish. Father Erwin saw fear in his eyes. He raised a hand to calm the boy, to catch him before he fled out the door.

“You’re in no trouble my child, settle down.”

“I’m sorry Father. I know I shouldn’t be in here.”

“Nevermind all that, nevermind,” said the priest. The boy had emerged from the shadows out onto the sun-kissed steps of the church. His feet were bare and bruised and bloody. Father Erwin scooped him up and took him to the fountain. Holding the boy in the crux of his arm, he washed his feet by the man-made spring.

“They, they stole my shoes. They chased me here. They said, they said-”

“Easy now, speak slowly.”

It’d been two years since Father Erwin first founded his church. The villagers were split between those who believed and those who did not. Both sides antagonized the other, much to the priest’s displeasure. Oglan’s tale was not unusual, but for all his stammering the boy shed no tears. It had been the mourning of his soul, his music, that had drawn Father Erwin’s attention from outside.

“There is power in words,” said the priest, “Great power. From the mouth of God, they are marvelous things, but men are born tyrants and thoughtless with speech. Do not let the words of those who hate you reach you.”

“I’ll...I’ll try, Father.”

The old man smiled. “That’s all I ask. And in the meantime, if it’s shoes you need, I think I can provide. Let me see, let me see.” He rose to his feet, the boy in his arms.

“By the way,” he said, “That music you were playing. I’ve never heard anything as desolate and beautiful. Is it one of your folk songs?”

“I, I suppose it is, though I don’t know the words. Or if there are any. It’s played in the dark times, when strength is needed.”

“I see, I see.” Father Erwin hummed what he recalled of the boy’s ability. Oglan corrected him, and their voices were as one. “A haunting tune.” The priest nodded. He wondered if he might write a hymn from the rhythm.

“Or so the story goes,” said Miss Tenenbaum.

Yumi rose as her teacher stood and looked away as she rubbed her eyes. The telegram declaring the death of Miss Tenenbaum’s mother lay open on the table in words the student couldn’t yet read. She’d never meant to intrude in the first place, but something in the song the foreign woman sang drew the young girl here to her teacher in distress. She couldn’t place the words, but she understood the feeling.

“Ha ha, I’m sorry.” Miss Tenenbaum shut her eyes tight, then relaxed. “I’ve had such a day. No matter where you go, it’s never far enough to escape from bad news.”

Yumi didn’t say anything. She wasn’t sure what to say. A week ago she’d been playing with her brother. He’d accepted a job halfway around the world, in London. He said he’d return, but she couldn’t shake the feeling she’d never see him again. She’d heard the teacher’s somber song from yard below, and come around to investigate. She'd sat in silence a full minute before Miss Tenenbaum took note of her.

“Anyway, yes, it’s an old song, a hymn. The original tune hails from the Central Asian mountains, I think. Something sung at partings and funerals. It always brings me peace to...ah, I’m sure I’m wasting your time. You should be heading home.”

“No, no.” Yumi balled her fists. “I like your song. I like how it makes me feel. It’s sad’s also not sad.”

Miss Tenenbaum smiled. She began to sing again.

“My grandmother taught it to me,” said Corporal Koito. “A foreign tune from a foreign land. A foreign religion. It holds no meaning for me, and yet it brings me peace.”

The dying soldier looked to his prisoner. It was clear from his bewildered expression the American hadn’t understood a word. But perhaps he’d understood something much deeper?

There was a sound of steam and pressure and pain, and water began to fill the chamber. The ship was sinking.

Corporal Kotio held his side. His chest was wet and warm, even as the sea salt began to consume his ankles. He slumped down against the wall, a swathe of blood painting the iron interior.
He reached for his pistol, only to pull out his keys. He tossed them to the American soldier.

“Live,” he said. “You can understand this much, can’t you? Escape, swim, struggle. Live.”

The American soldier removed his bindings and stood up, soaked to his waist in rising water. He looked to his captor, but Koito was dead.

“Sayonara...I guess...”

“It means goodbye?”

Ashley stood over the piano, her fingers poised to resume playing. Her abilities were stunted by the suit she wore, yet the power of the song was evident still.

Roger wiped a thin layer of film from the protective glass that shielded his face. The mold in the underground had been steadily growing worse. He and Ashley stood in what had once been a ballroom, long-since abandoned to the tomb of civilization.

Ashley backed away from the piano. “I never expected to find one still working down here. Haven’t played since I was a girl. I’m a bit out of practice.”

“Probably just these gloves. You know how hard it is to do delicate work with these things.”


Roger held a curious device in his hands, small and sleek and obsidian. He punched in their coordinates, the time since they’d last seen the sun. They couldn’t stray too far too long. Their air filters would need replacing soon.

“This way.” He motioned for Ashley to follow. “There’s some moisture below near the shopping arcade. Should be enough for the return trip.”

Ashley nodded dutifully and made for the door.

“That song have a name?” asked Roger.

“It needs no name,” said Lauja.

Marduk considered the slave’s response. Behind his back, he held the knife. “If it has no name, how will anyone know it is yours?”

“It isn’t,” said Lauja, who looked to the stars.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
:siren: Thunderdome the Two Hundred and Eighty-Sixth: Picturesque Picaresque :siren:

Picturesque (pɪktʃəˈrɛsk), adj - visually attractive, especially in a quaint or charming way.

Picaresque (pɪkəˈrɛsk) adj - relating to an episodic style of fiction dealing with the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing hero.

This week on Thunderdome I'm looking for crime fiction. Specifically, feel-good crime fiction. Heists, capers, that kinda thing. Gentlemen thieves, cat burglars, and dashing rogues with hearts of gold who manage to elude the authorities while taking their villainous victims down a peg. But I'm looking for a little more than that. I want vibrant locations and colorful characters. I want settings that pop and feel like they're a member of the cast. You can take your disaffected loners, your hard-boiled tramps and dingy street gutters and stick 'em where the sun don't shine. Bulldoze that squalid, back-alley speakeasy and replace it with a glittering casino with an ocean view. But most importantly, have fun. Your stories should make me smile.

And don't think you're clever for sneaking in some ham-fisted, barely-restrained socio-political commentary on the the effects of late capitalism on the lower class, I want guilt-free escapism. Also if you try to ironically subvert anything I've asked for here and expect to be rewarded, you're gonna be disappointed.

Here are the rules, bucko.
  1. You sign up, you start off with 777 words. On the house. If that's all you think you'll need, great; you're good to go.
  2. You can wager "Double or nothing!" to increase your word count to 1,554 words, but you will be slapped with a tricky flash rule of some kind. If you fail to incorporate this flash rule, your story will be disqualified even if it is good. Even if you wrote the best story of the week.
  3. Alternatively, you might be the sort to say "I lay my life on the line" to increase your word count. You won't have to face down a flash rule, but you will need to toxx.
  4. You can also just request a flash rule just in general, if you want. If you're feeling frisky. You'll likely get something less punitive, more inspirational - you know, like a character or a complication.
  5. Sign-ups close on Friday, January 26th at the stroke of midnight, PST. That said, I'm a pretty busy guy, so if I detect a landslide in progress I'mma gonna close up shop early.
  6. Submissions are due by Sunday, January 28th - again, at the stroke of midnight.
  7. The usual cavalcade of banned items are still banned. If you write fanfic, erotica, or thinly-veiled political treatises, I will hate you forever.
Alright, that's probably enough. I think it's time to blow this thing, get everybody and the stuff together.

The House
  • Bad Seafood
  • Saddest Rhino
  • Chairchucker
The Players
  • Fleta Mcgurn
  • Deltasquid
  • Exmond
  • Thranguy
  • Flesnolk
  • Crain
  • A New Study Bible!
  • BabyRyoga
  • Crabrock
  • Antivehicular
  • CascadeBeta
  • Djeser
  • GenJoe
  • Curlingiron
  • Hawklad
  • Unfunny Poster
  • Sandnavyguy
  • HisMajestyBOB
  • Maigius
  • Dr. Kloctopussy
  • Fuschia Tude
  • Apophenium
  • DreamingofRoses
  • Ninjalicious
  • Yoruichi

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 09:02 on Jan 27, 2018

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Fleta Mcgurn posted:

Double or nothing!

Also, what time zone...?
Your protagonists (plural) are children. Their adversaries (plural) are not. Your story (singular) may not involve rebelling against parents or teachers.

Also, PST.

Deltasquid posted:

I'm going to steal the Eiffel Tower! (Probably not)

In, double or nothing! Go big or go home, I always say.
You are going to steal the Eiffel Tower, actually. The actual, for-real Eiffel Tower. Twice.

Exmond posted:

In, Double or nothing!
Your protagonist gets caught up in a closed-room murder mystery.

Thranguy posted:

in, double or nothing
Who could've guessed the Takarazuka Revue was just a front!

Flesnolk posted:

Double or nothing.
The resulting car chase spanned six countries and a yacht.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Crain posted:


(Those flash rules are amazing so far.)
Trained in eleven martial arts, twelve languages, and bog standard parlor tricks.

a new study bible! posted:

Double or Nothing me.
Three different people, each acting independently, decide to take a crack at the same treasure on the same day at the same time...and they couldn't have done it without each other.

BabyRyoga posted:

This whole month has been really tight on time over the weekends, but I think I should try to get something in, so

in, double or nothing
"If a man tells you he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or a Gurkha." Or, in this case, both. Your protagonist must make off with the crown prince in the middle of his own wedding, with no one the wiser - including the prince.

Antivehicular posted:

gently caress it, dude, let's go bowling. In, and I lay my life on the line. :toxx:

Also, a slightly less punitive flash rule would be nice.
When your protagonist is called out, as inevitably they will be, they will calmly explain "When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships."

CascadeBeta posted:

In, double or nothing. :toxx:

Let's roll them bones!
Your protagonist has formed an odd but genuine friendship with the police inspector who's been chasing them all these years.

GenJoe posted:


would the house be kind enough to comp me a flash rule?

something light, refreshing, maybe a little bubbly, and on the rocks
She was a handsome young woman with a knack for shooting; a real Annie Oakley in a three-piece suit.

curlingiron posted:

In, Double or Nothing

Nice to see you, Seafood!
Your protagonist, or one of them, has a crippling disability which makes an otherwise routine part of job significantly more complicated. Despite this, they hold their own.

While I'm leaving the flash rule as is, do know I hold you to a higher standard than to think you'll stick with the easy out of having a colorblind demolitions expert.

Hawklad posted:

In, double or nothing!
Casing the joint's already hard enough when you aren't babysitting your cousin's kids.

Unfunny Poster posted:

In and I'll take a flash rule, with a side of shrimp cocktail.
The Shanghai grocer and the Austrian dentist hated each other immediately.

sandnavyguy posted:

Well, I wouldn't be representing the good denizens of Nevada if I didn't put it all on Red, in with Double or nothing. And I'll lay my life on the line for good measure like the degenerate gambler I am.

Deal me in, baby :toxx:
The ship was sinking, the mark was missing, and there I was handcuffed to the Ethiopian eunuch.

Maigius posted:

In double or nothing
Someone on the crew's an undercover cop. Someone else is a hitman. They don't know each other's secret. Everyone else does.

Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

I am in, and :toxx: and also give me a flash rule please.
The job was a setup, only not that kind of setup.

Fuschia tude posted:

In, double or nothing
Your protagonist is a staunch pacifist who likes to announce their burglaries 24-hours in advance. Their adversaries are armed to the teeth.

Somebody fucked around with this message at 01:23 on Jan 29, 2018

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
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.

apophenium posted:

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

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

DreamingofRoses posted:

In. double or nothing. (I've always wanted to be Carmen Sandiego)

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Sign-ups are closed. You have 47 hours to submit.

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 07:17 on Jan 28, 2018

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
24 hours remain.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Submissions are closed.

No lingering toxxes but Fleta Mcgurn, Flesnolk, a New Study Bible!, BabyRyoga, HisMajestyBOB, and Maigius are all no-shows and total weenies. Come on guys, I gave you three hours.

Nevertheless, if any of these weenies manage to submit their stories before judgment, they just might get a crit out of it. Maybe.

As for the rest of you, carry on my wayward sons. And daughters. And Crabrock.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
:siren: Results! :siren:

So this was a pretty uneven week overall. Even the best stories were lacking something - most often, a satisfying conclusion - and the bad ones, well, I'll let the crits speak for themselves.

At the absolute bottom of the barrel we have Unfunny Poster, whose detached, uninteresting protagonist committed the worst crime of all: a story In Which a Thing Happens and that's it, that's the story. There's definitely more to dislike here, not the least of which being the bare minimum lip service you manage to pay your own flash rule, but when it came to the race to the bottom, that's what cleared you out ahead of the pack.

But don't be quick to judge, lest you yourself be judged, Ninjalicious and RandomPauI. Unfunny Poster may have spared you both the losertar, but make no mistake you guys owe him big time. Especially you Ninjalicious, Mr. Sign-Up-and-Immediately-Post-a-Story. Welcome to Thunderdome.

In greener pastures we find the better works of Antivehicular and Dr. Klocktopussy, whose charming, low-risk capers still managed to stoke the human goodness in my heart. High times, good times.

But there can only be one winner, and that winner - by a thin margin - was DreamingofRoses, whose Jack Burton-inspired shotgun wedding captured more or less everything I wanted from this prompt, and had me wishing for more.

The throne is yours, Dreaming. You didn't even have to steal it. You earned it.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
:siren: Week No. 286 Crits :siren:

Taken verbatim from my notes, except for the parts where it isn't.

Why Try Harder
By Ninjalicious (NO FLASH RULE)
  • Opening line: okay. Gives me a conflicted portrait of the narrator, in a believable way. It’s the next line that does the conceptual heavy lifting with regard to the premise.
  • Little bit of “As you know” going on here.
  • PRESENT TENSE AAAA I knew I forgot to ban something.
  • Weed and refuse (poo poo), of course; goons will be goons.
  • Yes you can’t make up this stuff where everything’s easy for me and we gloss over the fun details I swear.
  • Why does a fully automated ship need a galley?
  • Drugs, poo poo, sex slavery, unhealthy eating habits; this story has it all.
  • Your crime isn’t fun, your setting doesn’t pop, and I’m not smiling.
  • Your protagonist largely succeeds because everyone else around him is incompetent, which is seldom satisfying to read.
  • RANKING: Low

My Last Day
By Unfunny Poster (the Shanghai grocer and the Austrian dentist hated each other immediately)
  • Opening line: functional, but workmanlike. Least I know you’re taking your flash rule seriously. In a vacuum though, this does tell us something pretty important about two of our characters.
  • ...And our narrator, whose very detached from the proceedings. Worrisome start.
  • ...Ah, one of those superior to their surroundings types. Prospects grim.
  • Sex exploitation and defensive vomiting, we are just cruising along.
  • Thanks for throwing in some last minute detail on that casino after spending the whole story in a dingy office with an unwashed man; a casino that’s both noisy AND loud? It’s like I’m really there.
  • A thing happened, the end. I hate this kind of thing.
  • Your crime isn’t fun, your setting doesn’t pop, and I’m not smiling.
  • Your protagonist is unengaging and uninteresting. Greg is the only person in this story with any real personality and he’s a overbearing gremlin, the type of which are a dime a dozen.
  • Your flash rule gets only the bare minimum amount of lip service but you don’t do anything interesting with it.
  • RANKING: Low

A Trip Down Memory Lane
By Exmond (your protagonist gets caught up in closed-room murder mystery)
  • Opening line: pretty okay! Delivers an immediate premise that catches my attention and suggests the character of the speaker, a Miss Oakfield. An older woman, I’m assuming.
  • The following bit gives some nice follow-up, though the dialogue is a bit stale. We’ve got a pair, our protagonist, and they’re in over their head, whatever it is they’re up to. The first aside was really more than enough to clue us in though; the rest are frivolous.
  • Loyalty, loyalty.
  • Gaudy, in a good way. I know where we are at least (take note, previous submitters).
  • Hmm okay so it’s a mystery in the center of her mind. Not sure what this means for the legitimacy of the mystery since this is likely all an allegory, but we’ll see where this goes.
  • Gross crown bro.
  • “And then there was lights.”
  • The dialogue in general is not very strong in this piece.
  • To the Moon AF
  • Your crime was confusing, your setting popped, and I’m not smiling, but I’m not frowning either.
  • Your protagonist, Elizabeth, gets the most love here (literally and figuratively). The thieves are fleeting specters, and inserting their backstory in this way does more to hurt than help.
  • You kinda write around your flash rule by making everything a metaphor, but whatevs.
  • RANKING: Low

Through a Glass, Darkly
By Deltasquid (you are going to steal the Eiffel Tower, actually. The actual, for-real Eiffel Tower. Twice)
  • Opening line: functional. Lays out the board, sets the mood, puts some description in there.
  • A little telly, but there’s some good character work here. I know who everyone is and what they’re after, and how they mean to get it.
  • Who’s Marcel?
  • Had to google “Cosh.” Could’ve just said club.
  • Also I gotta be honest I keep reading Beatrica’s name as Beatrice. It’s a bit of a distracting change.
  • Ha ha okay that was a fun little romp. A mite confusing at points, but I got the jist.
  • Good use of the flash rule, though it’s a little less clever without foreshadowing - unless I need to reread the piece again
  • Who’s Marcel!?!?
  • Ending is mostly satisfying but feels a little rushed. It’s obviously supposed to be a conclusion and not a continuation, but it raises certain questions about the back-half of the job.
  • Additionally, Beatrica selling off the tower for scrap kinda dampens the feel-good nature of the crime since it makes her a bit more self-serving.
  • Your crime was mostly feel-good (take that Japan, but poor France), your setting popped, and I’m smiling.
  • Beatrice and Seamus were a fun pair, and basically the protagonists. Some confusing blocking, a too-quick ending, and a few nitpicks keep this from being a cleaner sweep.
  • RANKING: Mid-High

The Soft Touch
By Antivehicular (when your protagonist is called out, as inevitably they will be, they will calmly explain “When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships”)
  • Opening line: pretty good. We’ve already got a personality for our narrator, a relationship, and a tone.
  • If you’re gonna “Tell, don’t show,” this is the right way to do it. I feel like the narrator is telling me a story, like I’m at his place and we’re chatting and he’s going on about that one time the way real people sometimes do.
  • I like that your protagonist has a life outside of crime, but also that his family’s in on it. The small town, small business husband-and-wife dynamic adds a mildly hilarious yet wholesome air to the whole affair.
  • On that note, having your protagonist turn down the job to prioritize his employees and customers is was a great way to signal he’s a criminal, sure, but not a scumbag.
  • Good use of the flash rule, respect.
  • Solid ending. The whole thing’s a little low-stakes, but deliberately so, and it works. Likewise, the setting doesn’t exactly “Pop,” but it wafts into view and lingers, which for this story is just as good.
  • Your crime was feel-good, your setting popped (in spirit), and I’m smiling.
  • I would read more of this guy’s low-key adventurers, or a sequel where he meets the Swan for real. For that matter, you do a good job characterizing the Swan, who only ever actually appears in the margins.
  • RANKING: High

Word of God
By Fuschia Tude (your protagonist is a pacifist who likes to announce their burglaries 24-hours in advance. Their adversaries are armed to the teeth)
  • Opening line: functional, but a bit generic. It tells us something about the speaker though, so that’s cool.
  • Fields of what now?
  • Alright, I’ve got a good sense for your protagonist. The yellow suit’s a nice touch. I understand why he speaks the way he does, though at the same time - as a reader - it’s a bit irksome.
  • Your knock-off Ministry of Information has a very Seussian vibe to it; not that I’m complaining.
  • Spending a lot of time on the particulars of this bulb-car I don’t really care about.
  • Some lip-service toward the guards being armed. Hope it’s relevant.
  • A single long hair!
  • “Archaic writing implement.” It’s okay for your character to talk like this, but having the narrator talk like this is a bit weird. Just say it’s a pen or a quill or whatever it is.
  • Laslo’s a bit...dramatic.
  • I guess everyone in this story’s a bit dramatic. And metatextual. Hmm.
  • Laslo’s risking a fair bit more than the story seems to want us to think he is.
  • Getting a lot of info just now that would’ve been nicer earlier in the story as build-up. The mystery doesn’t serve you well here. The whole heist comes off as high-stakes, but faceless. Why was this a secret in the first place? Who benefits from keeping it secret?
  • Your crime was whatever, your setting popped, and I’m not sure how to feel.
  • The hardest part of your protagonist’s job was already taken care of off-screen, which makes the whole caper feel very low-risk, low-effort. Even the token resistance of his enemies feel empty and lacking.
  • You scratch at the flash rule without really grasping it. Your protagonist comes off less like a pacifist and more like someone who just prefers to manipulate people, and the bad guys are armed to the pinky. He does announce his crime, but to no real effect.
  • RANKING: Low

The Adventures of Colin Flame: Heiress on the High Seas
By Sandnavyguy (the ship was sinking, the mark was missing, and there I was handcuffed to the Ethiopian eunuch)
  • Opening line: getting right into the action, okay.
  • Prose, thy name is purple-ish.
  • “The rogue spun a high kick into the officer’s right hand,” yeah, but who’s who?
  • Bad guy doesn’t waste any time establishing he’s the bad guy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
  • The two characters introducing themselves “Off-screen,” as it were, is super telly and doesn’t gel well with how this story’s going so far.
  • And then you keep doing it. Ain’t a great look, man.
  • Dude check out where they clipped me.
  • Is he an admiral or a captain? I know the guy in charge of the ship is always the captain, but still…
  • Ah, the old “Hero has a secret solution to the problem he never shared with anyone, least of all the viewers” trick.
  • Your crime was feel-good insofar as the goal was noble and the victim deserved it, the setting didn’t really pop, and I’m not smiling.
  • Your protagonist’s kind of a generic plucky rogue with nothing especially interesting about him, much like the generic ship he finds himself on that you don’t bother to describe much cause it’s pretty much like any ship you can imagine.
  • The flash rule’s here so I guess you’ve got that going for you at least.
  • RANKING: Low

A Heap of Trouble
By Apophenium (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)
  • Opening line: ha ha, okay, I like this. I have no idea what’s going on yet, but the mere concept is intriguing by itself.
    Patently charming beginning.
  • The overall direction of this story is a little vague, but I know who our protagonists are, what they’re looking for (in broad terms), and why they want it, so that’s good.
  • Like the rest of the story, the Heap is both vague yet distinct. This might be a problem.
  • I like the twist where the narrator, one would assume the de facto expert, has an area of weakness his companion has to compensate for. Characterizes both of them and makes the team more meaningful.
  • Feels like it took awhile to get our narrator’s name.
  • You hinted at the narrator not having legs earlier (“She still had her legs”), and confirm it here, but somehow I wish you’d been a bit more forthright about it.
  • Also around here’s where the vagueness starts to run a bit dry with the old man. Before it felt like you were trying to leave more to the imagination, but here it feels more like a bare minimalist school play.
  • Confusing dialogue attribution.
  • Wait, they’re leaving? What did they find that was worth a healer’s services?
  • And the problem solves itself; meh.
  • Your “Crime” was feel-good, your setting popped, but I’m not smiling.
  • Your protagonists are charming and there’s something appealing about the bizarre world they inhabit, but it doesn’t amount to much in this story. You sacrificed a lot of potential flavor, I think, trying to facilitate the story’s completion within the allotted word count, when you could’ve start started a little bit closer to the ending (maybe right when they arrive at the Heap) and added a few more personal touches.
  • Flash rule is there and functional, but not much else to say about it.
  • RANKING: Mid

May Treasure Fill Your Home
By Dreaming of Roses (the trailer for Big Trouble in Little China)
  • Opening line: short and snappy. Functional, but actually better than that implies.
  • Alright, we’ve got our key players introduced in quick succession, and probably the most well-defined setting thus far this week in terms of sheer “Pop.” I’m down.
  • “She took a few steps...her target.” This sentence is wonky and feels clipped.
  • I’m not sure exactly what’s going on, but that’s okay. I mean, I know it’s a wedding ceremony of some kind, but there’s clearly more going on. To put it in movie terms, this is the scene following the bit where someone has a plan they don’t elaborate on, and now we the audience get to see how that plan unfolds. It’s a good feeling.
  • Functional bit of backstory here. There might have been a better way to drop it in, but this is fine.
  • “Looked at her a bittersweet smile.”
  • I accept that magic is part and parcel of this universe, but the phrase “Counter-spell” still seems video gamey.
  • We anime now.
  • ...Well that was easy.
  • Jack kinda feels superfluous here. He basically exists to open a lock and dress Carmen’s wound at the end. Carmen and Wendy are both fuller characters.
  • Alright, all’s well that ends well.
  • Your crime was pretty feel-good (if, ultimately, a bit to easy), your setting popped, and I’m smiling.
  • Excellent job reading into your flash rule, by the by. This is more-or-less exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for.
  • RANKING: High

Simple Pleasures
By Crain (trained in eleven martial arts, twelve languages, and bog standard parlor tricks)
  • Opening line: wordy, but sets a tone and half a scene.
  • Might just be the time of day on my end (late), but am I reading this right? Preparing for three years in this country for a thing they didn’t know would happen in this country until this year?
  • Your three protagonists feel kinda...bland?
  • Confusing dialogue attribution, and the dialogue ain’t great either.
  • Lots of telling.
  • Fighting as a distraction’s a nice touch, but it feels a bit limp.
  • Ah, fighting, language, I see where this is going. Dad tricks will save the day.
  • Yep (though “Snakes only” is a hilarious aside).
  • It’s weird to have a narrator who’s a character in the story, then jump to another character with an omniscient narrator backing them up.
  • And they get the thing...for whatever reason they needed or wanted.
  • Your crime was a crime, your setting feels forgotten, and I’m not smiling.
  • I like your use the flash rule, Bertrand’s impressive skills falling by the wayside as his more modest abilities save the day, but beyond that this piece is just plain kinda dull. I don’t really care about anyone or why anything is happening.
  • RANKING: Low-Mid

Queen of Diamonds
By Curlingiron (your protagonist, or one of them, has a crippling disability which makes an otherwise routine part of the job significantly more complicated. Despite this, they hold their own)
  • Opening line: functional. Puts us in the action.
  • Chaavi, Chhavi
  • Gonna need to know more about this Diamond Plague before I can evaluate how much of a problem it is. Similarly, you kinda just casually mention your protagonist catching it off-world, which is a heck of a detail to just throw out there into the cold open.
  • Your protagonist gets lucky, then unlucky, then the story ends.
  • I get she’s got some kind of crystalline growth, but shouldn’t that be obvious to other folks? Less of a tell, more of a condition. Not sure why she folded, unless she showed her cards.
  • No real crime (feel-good or otherwise), setting doesn’t pop (really this could be anyone’s space casino), and I’m not smiling.
  • Competently written, for the most part, but feels like only part of a story, and Chhavi’s not really interesting enough for me to care what happens next.
  • RANKING: Low-Mid

Sands of San Christo Cor
  • Opening line: some respectable set-dressing.
  • Okay I like these losers, though I’ve only met half of them. Narrator’s pretty matter-of-fact, but with a knowing tone that fits. Hopefully we get to meet the other guys soon.
  • Consider your setting well and truly “Popping.”
  • The paragraph where you describe Leonard’s many treasures could probably have used another scan before submitting.
  • Nice introduction for the inspector.
  • Okay, I really like this setup where his long-time rival is here, but not for him, but she’s still a problem, but he’s also seeing her as a person (perhaps for the first time), and then she hits the button. It’s all very good.
  • You do a lot with a little, regarding your protagonist’s accomplices. They’re bit parts, but they play them fittingly.
  • I kinda don’t like how the plan basically goes off without a hitch once the button gets pressed. Yeah, the inspector offers some token resistance, but it’s quickly swept by. This is a strong piece that largely deflates with how easy the ending is.
  • Your crime was feel-good, your setting popped, and I’m nodding appreciative after almost smiling a few times.
  • Everything’s groovy up until the lights go out. I could see another version of this story with a modified last act winning handily; but this iteration? I’ll need to think about it.
  • RANKING: High

By Crabrock (your protagonist must make off with the crown prince in the middle of his own wedding, with no one the wiser - including the prince)
  • Opening: killer, though I’ve never liked the use of # in prose.
  • Your protagonist’s casual exasperation sets a good tone and voice for the piece, but it’s also a tone that feels very familiar coming from you. I know what to expect, I think, and that’s both good and bad.
  • There’s a fair bit of background information here, but again, you ease into it by virtue of the delivery. Now that everything’s on the table though, we need to get to the action.
  • Hmm, well, that makes things simpler.
  • Everything seems way too easy, unless you’ve got one heck of a curveball on deck.
  • Yeah, so, no real curveball except for something that made an already easy job even easier. Yawn. The tone kinda bottoms out here as well. Once you get past the initial concept of an interdimensional switcheroo, there’s not a whole lot of meat to this story, or to anyone (or anything) in any of the universes featured.
  • Your crime was decidedly neutral, your setting ambiguous palace and some guy’s office, I guess? If you haven’t guessed, I’m not really smiling.
  • Competent prose, but your story’s pretty hollow. I’ll admit I gave you a real humdinger of a flash rule, which you more or less did justice, but the story and characters still aren’t that interesting or captivating.
  • RANKING: Low-Mid

Speed Drops
By CascadeBeta (your protagonist has formed an odd but genuine friendship with the police inspector who’s been chasing them all these years)
  • Opening line: action-packed, not bad.
  • “I thought I had heard a shatter I traded paint,” what?
  • I wouldn’t be sure, what?
  • Your first few paragraphs feel a bit...faceless? You have a narrator who’s doing things, feeling things, and has a reason for being there (being a gin-runner), but it comes off as kinda distant.
  • You focus on the particulars of the car chase itself but I don’t feel invested since I don’t know enough about the people - even though you are trying to tell us something about the people.
  • See, now we’ve got dialogue, now we’re getting to know these people.
  • I can kinda believe these guy’s friendship, even as adversaries, but something feels like it’s missing. I can’t put my finger on it.
  • More blow-by-blow car shenanigans. My eyes are kinda sliding down the page, honestly. Prose isn’t a great medium for trying to convey an extended range of motion. If you’re gonna have fight scenes or chase scenes, you wanna keep ‘em short and snappy. The particulars of the characters are always going to be more interesting than the particulars of the action they’re performing.
  • Assuming this is America, Prohibition ended in 1933. We had TVs then, but not in the same form we’d have TVs later when they exploded in popularity after WWII. Radios would’ve been more common then. It wouldn’t have been impossible for a restaurant to have a TV, but it’s odd enough that I stopped reading your story to double-check whether or not they would. Obviously if this isn’t America, you can disregard all this, but it’s one of those little details that’s gonna make a lot of people stop and go “Wait, did we have TVs then?” On a rewrite it’d be better to go with a radio…
  • ...except then you’re kinda sorta doing that thing where the radio/TV/news ticker immediately starts harping on about whatever it is the protagonists are talking about, thinking about, looking into it, and it feels a bit convenient. Might’ve just been better to have the narrator say “I heard-
  • More driving, ho-hum
  • It was a setup...a practice setup! Yeah, that kinda sucks the wind out of a lot of this story.
  • No crime was committed, if I understand this correctly, the setting is a modestly defined restaurant and a bunch of big city streets, and I’m not smiling.
  • Feels like you were trying to be a bit clever here, in the name of incorporating your flash rule, but the cleverness backfires in this case. Your car chase reads like a lot of stage direction.
    Your human interactions are a little better, but mostly passable. Give this one another shot, chief.
  • RANKING: Low-Mid

By Hawklad (casing the joint’s already hard enough when you aren’t babysitting your cousin’s kids)
  • Opening line: Hoke Remington is a badass name and the juxtaposition of this dude doing cool stuff while some kid is whining at him is quietly hilarious.
  • “Puh-lease, Uncle Hoke,” ugh, I can hear it.
  • I don’t usually mind when the narrator speaks to the reader but I kinda mind it here.
  • You’ve done a good enough job showing me this guy isn’t good with kids that calling attention to it (twice) feels weirdly distracting.
  • Ha ha okay this might be my favorite “Treasure” this week.
  • It’s, uh, Winnie the Pooh, friendo.
  • Okay the woman holding the turkey got a solid, audible chuckle out of me.
  • Cherube.
  • Wait so he was in it for the money, then he wasn’t? Also, dude concinved those kids to give him what he wanted way too easily. Lots of criminals this week just getting their way, though here it’s at least balanced by everything he had to endure up to this point.
  • The revival thing’s an interesting John Carpenter-esque last-minute twist, but it raises a few questions about Hoke’s motivations that don’t go down easy.
  • Also he left the kids behind holding the bag, 0/10 babysitting.
  • Your crime was feel-good, your setting was iconic enough, but that ending dampened my smile a bit.
  • I like stories where there’s one character who’s essentially the only sane man surrounded by a bunch of ridiculousness, and you delivered on that front. I just wish you’d hit a home run instead of a three-baser with the ending.
  • RANKING: Mid-High

Hell Hath No Fury
By Yoruichi (NO FLASH RULE)
  • Opening line: Bulwer-Lytton presents…
  • For real though, you communicate a fair bit here, including a certain tongue-in-cheek pulp sensibility, so it mostly works.
  • That’s the second fist-sized ruby of the week.
  • Yeah, definitely playing up the pulp here, though I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
  • ...Okay, yes, that would be a shoe. The hunter has become the hunted.
  • Honestly the best thing about Lightning Jack is how unfazed he is by this whole turn of events.
  • Not a bad scrape, though I’m left feeling a little unsatisfied. That’s it? It’s not a story where a thing happens, the end, but it’s not far from one either. If you’d toxxed and spun this story a little longer, I could see it hanging with the big boys.
  • Your crime was feel-good, your setting popped, and I kinda get it.
  • What I will say say is I can tell you had a lot of fun writing this, and I wish a few more authors this week had your enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the story itself is just okay.
  • RANKING: Mid

Gloria Tuesday in: Last Train to Russia
By Thranguy (who could’ve guessed the Takarazuka Revue was just a front!)
  • Opening line: I like this line because it starts off mundane only to end with a little lemon twist. In this case we have a time-period established, but also something that clearly breaks with that period. It’s nice.
  • I like this setup, but now I’m not sure why the carriage is unfolding like this. I had to go back to see if I missed anything, and I don’t think I did, but now I’m not sure why this is happening - why this conversation couldn’t just happen in a regular train car.
  • Okay now I get it.
  • That said, considering this is between WWI and WWII, this Dragon dude must have some major league clout to have the entirely of the Japanese Greater East-Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere eating out of his hand. I’m not sure if I can quite believe that level of power from a single crime lord.
  • I like this little seated action scene.
  • A bit showy at the end for an allegedly secret operation.
  • Also if she had a convincing fake why didn’t she just give them the fake. I’m also not sure why ‘Henry’ doesn’t ask for the gem back either. America and Japan aren’t exactly chummy at this particular time in history.
  • Your crime was feel-good, your setting popped, and I’m smiling...but a little confused.
  • Your characters all have a nice air of confidence about them, and it really makes this click as a kind of larger-than-life heist with the fate of nations on the line.
  • RANKING: Mid-High

The Day Before Sunday
By GenJoe (she was a handsome young woman with a knack for shooting; a real Annie Oakley in a three-piece suit)
  • Opening line: functional, but surprisingly robust. Gives us an immediate sense of time and place and what’s about.
  • Very cozy so far, light and airy, snack-sized.
  • And there’s the pitch...halfway through the story. Oh dear.
  • Though this sort of clash usually bothers me, I like how your villain breaks the charming, light-hearted mood of the piece.
  • “Yeah, my enzymes are going to be all over you,” kinda clashes with the rest of the piece.
  • Another ultimately easy crime. Positive feelings abound, but I’d hoped to see Jeannine have to figure something out. The skills described in her flashrule don’t ever really come into play either, beyond giving her an excuse to meet the mark.
  • Your crime was feel-good, your setting expressed itself humbly, but I’m not smiling.
  • I described your story as snack-sized and, really, that’s kind of all it is. A snack between meals.
  • RANKING: Low-Mid

The Midas Blade
Dr. Kloctopussy (the job was a setup,only not that kind of setup)
  • Opening line: good. Introduces the protagonist, the antagonist (presumably), sets the scene, and gives us an action to focus on.
  • And just like that, you’ve neatly laid out the backstory, the stakes, the presence of magic (or something like it); this is a very well-compartmentalized story.
  • Ha ha her so it’s that kind of setup. Good use of the rule.
  • The mundane family drama does a lot to elevate this piece, and of course Robin’s useless. It’s a bit cliche, but it’s almost the better for it since everything else is so extraordinary.
  • I like that Puck seems more upset about being replaced (by a centaur) than by the potential loss of his treasure.
  • Pretty good ending too, sans the typo, though the escape being so easy deflates it.
  • Your crime was feel-good, your setting, hmm, well, parts of it popped - all the fairy stuff; Puck’s place was kinda just there - and I was smiling.
  • Your protagonist is likable, their problem is both fantastical and painfully normal (again, good use of the rule), and the whole thing is just generally well polished. Most of my problems are nitpicks, though at the same time this is well-worn ground.
  • RANKING: High

Don Mendoza and his Sly Compatriots Strike their First Corpulent Target - 756
  • Opening line: a bunch of gobbledygook. What’s more, a bunch of gobbledygook in need of proofreading.
  • [Don’t] do this. [Never] do this outside of research papers and the like.
  • Purple, purple everywhere.
  • Ellipses...I see…
  • I forget who it was who said “Readers tend to look for people,” but it’s true. You could’ve skipped the first three paragraphs entirely and started with Poltrot.
  • Some pretty low-key tyranny here.
  • This dialogue is pretty clunky. These names are too.
  • Armendariz is the name of my Red Mage on the Yggdrasil server.
  • You “Use” a lot of “Unnecessary” quotation marks.
  • For a guy who is active on the scene, Armendariz sure doesn’t feel like a character.
  • A lot of this reads like someone trying to emulate Shakespeare based on hearsay.
  • And it just ends in what feels like the middle of the story. I can’t say this was particularly satisfying.
  • Your crime wasn’t feel-good (we didn’t even get to see it happen), your setting gets forgotten, and I’m not smiling.
  • I can’t say I really have a strong impression of anyone or anything in this story. They’re just all there, doing things.
  • RANKING: Low

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Also, prompt.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Warmth (998 words)

The forlorn girl gazed into the sink. Long silken hair, rough cut, filled the basin. The cold steel scissors shuddered in her hand. The mirror was broken. Everything was broken. She’d have to ask Sergei how it looked.

She pocketed the scissors and reached for her glove. Her fingers were white and cold and numb.

Sergei stood overlooking the stairs. He held a pistol and a carton of cigarettes. Five flights below lay the body a man, his head smashed open like a bottle of jam.

Sergei cast the cigarettes into the void. He’d made a promise, after all.

“How do I look?” she asked.

“You look beautiful.”

“You’re not even looking.”

“I am, I am.”

Sergei turned around. He dwarfed Imogen by a good two feet. She looked up at him with a stern expression. Even as she shivered, there was fire in her eyes.

“How do I look?”

“You look tough. You look strong.”

Sergei bent over and opened his suitcase. It was filled with books and papers and clothes. He pulled out a cap, jet black, folded shut. He snapped it open and put it on her head.

“It’s nearly time,” he said.

“I know,” she said.

They descended the stairs holding hands. They had one pair of gloves between them. In his pocket, Sergei kept his pistol. In her pocket, Imogen held close the scissors.

The abandoned apartments opened out onto a steely grey town. The sky was blue and the earth was white.

The streets were sparsely populated, but the posters were everywhere. Imogen pulled the cap over her eyes, her head low. Sergei swept the sidewalks with a glance. People were quiet. Quiet was good.

“My name is Sergei. I’m assigned to protect you.”

She’d been drinking tea with her cousin when they’d first met. Before the winter, before the war. He’d looked so smart then, in his uniform, but she could immediately tell how nervous he was.

“Sit down,” she’d commanded. “Join us for tea.”

I could use some tea now, she thought. Something simple, something warm. She held his hand tight.

Sergei rounded the corner. The ticket booth was crowded, angry, chaotic. A man in pince nez glasses was being dragged away by the scruff of his coat. His face had been beaten, his things confiscated. He would be taken out back and never seen again. Once he was gone, the crowd slowly cooled.

“Are you prepared?” Sergei asked.

“Does it matter?”

“It always matters.”

“Then the answer is yes.”

The two made their way through the gathering throng. Imogen put on a practiced squint. The tides broke against Sergei, and at last they stood before the counter. “Two tickets please, for me and my brother.” He paid in crumpled bills.

The man with the newspaper watched them leave.

Imogen counted their change. It wasn’t much, but it might be enough. “We’ve still a few minutes before the train. Would you like something to drink?”

“If you’re offering, yes, if it’s someplace discrete.”

She surveyed the street and selected a cafe with boarded-up windows. The interior was warmed by a pot-bellied stove. Black tea was cheap, but only for one. She nodded and waited and brought back a cup.

Sergei had picked a table near the entrance. She sat down and placed the cup before him. He took it to his lips and let the smell warm him.

Imogen sat in silence, hands together. Sergei placed the drink down before her, half-full. She raised it up and shared the flavor. She offered Sergei the briefest of smiles. He smiled in turn and looked out the door.

“I miss...” she said, trailing off. He nodded.

“I do as well.”

“We’ll have to make it a habit again.”

“Of course, of course.”

She examined the inside of the cup. There was the sound of a train in the distance.

“That’s us,” he said. She nodded. Hand-in-hand they left the shop.

The train platform stretched into the distance, its metal awnings coated in snow. The gas lamps flickered with each new arrival as human beings poured in and out of every orifice.

“Excuse me miss, you seem to have dropped something.”

She turned in the direction of the voice. It belonged to a middle-aged man with a stately square beard and black mustache. In his hand he held a folded newspaper.

“Well aren’t you a beautiful boy. Strange you should respond.” His smile turned cruel.

“I-” Imogen said. Sergei spun around. He pulled his pistol. So did the man. Two shots rang out and Sergei stumbled, teeth grit. The shoulder of his coat was dyed deep crimson. Imogen held fast to him. The man approached calmly. They’d drawn quite a crowd.

“Useless. You can release him, Miss Dvoryane. If you wish to continue living, you may accompany me.” His gun trained on Sergei, he extended a hand.

Imogen looked into the man’s eyes. Trembling, she let go of Sergei’s hand. The man leaned down and took her by the wrist. She whipped out her scissors and stabbed him in the eye.

“JZUYAAA,” the man toppled backward, blood running down his face. He pulled the trigger, shooting wildly. The people panicked.

Sergei steadied himself against the train. He fired again. He didn’t miss.

“You need to go,” he said. He turned toward Imogen.

“I can’t,” she said. Her words were laced with pain. He looked and saw the hole in her side.

“Ah...” he said, his own breathing heavy. Imogen pulled herself close to him. “I’m sorry,” he said “I meant to protect you.”

“You did,” she said, smiling softly. “You did.”

The train whistled. There were footsteps, shouts. The military police trapped beyond the gates. Sergei shuddered. He clambered aboard with the girl in his arms.

“Are we leaving?” she asked. Her eyes were shut.

“We are,” he said.

“That’s good. I’m glad.”

They stumbled into an empty compartment, onto the seat, and collapsed. He held her tight and never let go.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Don't sign your posts.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Just a heads up, this kinda "They just don't understand my brilliance!" bullshit gets tedious real quick. If the possibility of someone disliking your work is an anathema to you, you're in for a slog.

But rest assured, if it's more people finding fault with your stories you desire, I'm your huckleberry. You'll get my crits when I wake up.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
:siren: Week No. 288 Crits :siren:

I listened to every song before reading the story, but during the story I was mostly listening to Dads on Display.

The Sun’s Last Light
By Yoruichi

Thoughts on the song: silly and mellow, not bad. Very anime.

  • Opening line: functional. Introduces our (presumed) protagonist in the middle of actually doing something, which tells us something about her.
  • “She landed with their father’s EMP rods drawn” is kinda tricky to parse.
  • That’s some blunt-force setup. Borrowing heavily from the song, I see.
  • The minute I read Haruku didn’t get picked I thought, “I bet he does something stupid,” and immediately skimmed down the page and saw I was right.
  • “Since their parents died” is kind of a big detail to casually drop on us here.
  • Your setting in general feels pretty sparse. I can’t really picture it.
  • Clear action scenes, for the most part.
  • So this feels like a bit of a bait and switch. I assumed the reason Haruki was upset earlier was because his sister got picked to do the cool thing and he didn’t, but now he’s trying to fulfill a vow to his parents? I feel like if that were his motivation he would’ve behaved differently earlier.
  • Following his thoughts feels a bit like cheating as well, since thus far we’ve been seeing everything through his sister’s perspective.
  • TO BE CONTINUED (I’ll be the rooooooundabout)
  • Honestly, this thing feels more like it just ends - as opposed to actually concluding. It’s the first chapter in a longer story, the first scene of a film.
  • Yoshimi and her brother very much feel like Young Adult Literature protagonists, with all the good and bad that implies. They’re active characters, which is nice, and you attempt to give them a complicated dynamic, which is good, but the execution is a little bland.
  • RANKING: Low-Mid

The Crystal Skull (Inspired by Mastodon’s Crystal Skull from Blood Mountain (2006))
By Ninjalicious

Thoughts on the song: this may be the most bog standard metal song I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

  • Opening line: goes on a bit longer than it should.
  • “Her eyes spotted a glinting of blazing sun reflecting like earthbound starlight, a hard point of reflection in a diffuse sea of brown,” AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-
  • Seriously, it wasn’t until the next line I realized she saw something shiny on the ground.
  • A description, laden with commas, that just kept going, without knowing when to stop, which you, dear reader, will keep reading, looking for a period, but you will find none
  • A lot of your sentences are hard to parse my dude.
  • Commas after dialogue, my dude.
  • The right place certainly...what? Or do you mean it was the right place, certainly?
  • This dude talks like a quest-giver in an RPG.
  • Saying your protagonist “Went on her way” suggests she left the store already, except she hasn’t because the dude is still talking to her.
  • Also, where’d she get the book (Vortex GPS Coordinates Inside)? Did she always have it? Did she pick it up? Is she buying it? Shoplifting? She just has it, and this dude can read its presumed subtitle with his eagle eyes which is weird.
  • Your protagonist seems really not interested in the only thing she’s shown any interest in this whole story.
  • Cold, Cold Heart
  • Vortex of Mystical Power Grade VII is my favorite JRPG.
  • So I’m guessing this is supposed to be one of those things where the protagonist doesn’t really believe in this thing except maybe they do, just a little, and are willing to go to great lengths to check for peace of mind, but it doesn’t really work here since there’s no build-up, no history, no misspent youth listening to your grandfather’s stories.
  • That skull is totally gonna be haunted.
  • Nothing happened, then some time passed, and nothing happened.
  • This bit where she screams in frustration, then screams for real, is the first ACTUAL bit of characterization you’ve bothered to give this character. Up until this point she was just an actor doing things because the plot said so. Granted, she’s still that, but now she has definition.
  • Also how is ZUUUUUUUU supposed to be distinctly Sumerian? It could just be a sound effect.
  • Scared out of her mind by improbable events, eventually, she slept.
  • What is this, the Twilight Zone?
  • Your faceless protagonist goes to inconvenient lengths to do things for no discernable reason in order to set up a reveal that ultimately comes to nothing.
  • RANKING: Low

By Jay W. Friks

Thoughts on the song: low-energy music with bleary vocals.

  • Opening line: vague and unhelpful, like a tech support rep.
  • Starting your story off with several lines of (essentially) unattributed dialogue is always a risky prospect. It can work, but doesn’t here; not with everything so ambiguous.
  • You try for something of an elegant description of the shadow creature here, but it’s a bit half-hearted.
  • Your protagonist’s kind of a dick, which may be the point. We’ll see.
  • Creepy manifesto in the middle of your story.
  • It’s it it’s, though that last one should be its.
  • Where is any of this even happening? There’s the sun, which your protagonist is looking at for some reason, but everything else might as well be taking place in some infinite expanse of nothingness.
  • This bit where your protagonist unmakes the shadow reads like every TV show where two people with psychic powers stand and grimace at each other while their invisible powers wreck havoc around town.
  • Your dedication to vague symbolism is killing me. I’d have quit reading this by now if I were a casual reader.
  • I becomes it.
  • No wait, we’re someone else now? I have no idea what’s going on.
  • This story of smacks of you trying to communicate some manner of philosophical think-point, but it’s so sparse and confusing I feel like I could read it every day for a year and still never understand it.
  • RANKING: Low

Spit in the Ocean
By Ironic Twist

Thoughts on the song: I swear I know a song that sounds exactly like this one but I can’t remember it off the top of my head.

  • Opening line: strong.
  • “Raw chicken” works, but kinda detracts from the somber nature of the scene. The “Gashed-open” bit fits better, and also suggests something about our protagonist.
  • You do a lot with a little here. It’s restrained, yet revelatory.
  • The opening bit of this flashback took me a second read to get.
  • Two deserts started dating, what?
  • There’s a lot of character here, which is good, but it also feels disconnected from the rest of the story, which is bad.
  • All the jumping around here feels like an attempt to replicate a rush of memories and emotions, but I’m not sure how well it works.
  • The longest, most windingest sentence.
  • I feel like I understand the desert thing from earlier now.
  • Despite how disjointed this all feels, I do think I’m getting a clear picture of your protagonist’s relationship with her dead husband.
  • So there’s a lot to unpack for this one. Your protagonist’s arc, coming to terms with the loss of her husband, is poignant and effecting, and you do their relationship a service by making it complicated rather than picturesque.
  • However, I feel like the disjointed, semi-stream of consciousness narrative hinders more than it helps. I get what you were going for, and a lot of the issues I had with its structure resolved by the ending, but it leaves a bit of an odd aftertaste in my mouth. I know that’s rich coming from me, the guy who regularly writes stories with time skips without telling anyone, but still.
  • RANKING: Mid-high

Story of a Muse
By Exmond

Thoughts on the song: THIS IS THE STORY OF A GIRL~

  • Opening line: simple, but attention-grabbing. Someone needs something. Always a good start.
  • Little awkward on the follow-up, though. Double focus on the eyes, telling, etc.
  • “But it was where I belonged” is a genuinely good line. It communicates a lot about our protagonist immediately. This man is already the most fully-fleshed out character of yours I’ve come across.
  • You get a bit too vague for your own good here. I can make out the general shape of what these folks are about, but I need more concrete details.
  • I like the interplay between this privileged kid and their marginalized what I’d like to say, but you skip over a bunch of that to get to the Hallmark card.
  • “Full of wonder as the a star.”
  • What’s the meta with you?
  • And that gunman was ME, DEAR READER.
  • There’s some good stuff around the edges on this one, but the story itself tanks once you realize how much of it is in service of a clumsy metanarrative. “It’s a story about stories!” sure, okay, but what are you actually saying here? I’m actually pretty open to metanarratives as a device, as a method of examining how we create, communicate, and consume stories, but here it reads very rough and rote. You can work hard on something and still get shot down for it. Someone could steal your ideas. Yawn.
  • For the briefest of moments I thought this was a story about some naive urbanite getting acting lessons from hobos because “Their lives are more real, they’ve experienced things,” which is both kinda exploitive and reckless but also an actually interesting seed for a story - which you waste. Not that you specifically had to write about that, but the tiny bit of humanity you managed to weasle in there is wasted on a bumbling metaphor that’s nowhere near as poignant as the ending seems to want to be.
  • RANKING: Low-Mid

By Surreptitious Muffin

Thoughts on the song: singer needs a throat lozenge.

  • Opening line: atmospheric! But lose the semicolon, my dude, and everything after it.
  • Evocative writing that nevertheless gets a little long in the tooth. You do a good job painting this claustrophobic world with its skittering inhabitants in only a few quick strokes, only to suddenly drag your brush along the page.
  • There’s a lot of care and character here with this woman and her clocks, but where’s the story? Where’s the humanity?
  • This whole thing reads like a powerful bit of flavor text accompanying an interesting RPG campaign setting, but I’m not sure I see much cake beneath the icing.
  • Still, there’s some good language and imagery here. I enjoyed reading this a lot more than most of the rest of this week.
  • RANKING: Mid-High

I am Melinda
By Chili

Thoughts on the song: my misspent youth playing Crazy Taxi has given me an irrational fondness for the Offspring. This certainly sounds like one of their songs - which it is.

  • Opening line: confusing, but in a way that makes me want to read on to determine what the narrator means.
  • Do you think we’re the only ones who think? Because it’s me. I’m the only one who knows anything.
  • The most precocious child in human history.
  • You know, for someone lecturing the reader on empathy and being connected to the universe, your protagonist certainly seems lacking in both categories.
  • Yeah, okay, I officially dislike this little twerp.
  • Pretentious and precocious.
  • Your protagonist is an inhuman computer.
  • More Twilight Zone shenanigans? At least I can bear reading about our new lead.
  • So it was all a disorder then? A false protagonist implanted in the real protagonist’s head? I’m not sure what this is trying to say about either of them. There’s a clear theme of empathy here, but your trees are making me miss the forest.
  • RANKING: Low-mid

A Te Deum
By Benny Profane

Thoughts on the song: Tom Lehrer always makes me smile.

  • Opening line: good.
  • Getting some very Vonnegut-esque vibes from these early paragraphs. There’s a particularity to the setting and details, hints of an alternate future/present, and a high-end event undercut (effectively) by a dirty joke.
  • For some reason I had to read the bit about the canoes twice to parse it.
  • “On the barrels of his binoculars,” nice use of words.
  • This orderly and structured event being invaded by the seemingly absurd has my full attention.
  • What.
  • Yep, this is very Vonnegut. And Lehrer.
  • Ha ha ha can’t say no.
  • Some delightful dark comedy, though it’s lacking a little something I can’t put my finger on.
  • The whole thing is polished, like a stage piece. The characters are more actors than humans, though that’s not a complaint in this case. Really, the thin veil of artificiality over the whole thing works to heighten the sense of unreality.
  • I think the only thing that bugs me, in retrospect, is the bit with the puppy dog eyes. With the way the rest of the narrative is set up, it feels a bit like cheating to rely on a Looney Tunes gag instead know, I’m not sure. In any case, it’s not enough to detract from the story in a significant manner, just enough to give me pause.
  • RANKING: High

By Thranguy

Thoughts on the song: never heard this one before, but I like it. It’s got a nice pacing to it, a good flow.

  • Opening line: thanks for reminding me how alone I am on Valentines day. *Cries.* Really though, it’s functional.
  • You keep reminding yourself to put spaces after commas.
  • “She smiles like a predator,” I like this line. It reverses the momentum built up by the proceeding dialogue, where your protagonist is presented as the instigator. Whether he is or isn’t, it’s
  • fair to assume this lady’s the one holding the cards.
  • This is the first story to employ vague language this week that didn’t annoy me. Though the typos annoy me, so rest assured I am still annoyed.
  • Faustian bargains, a classic.
  • I like this choice, how it’s present, how it’s justified. A penny for your revenge?
  • It’s a little late in coming, but there’s some good character work here.
  • The first time I read this ending, I thought it was a cop-out. The second time around, I can see it as a sort of rejection of false comforts like revenge and empty revisionism. Still, I might’ve seen it the first time around without the second-person gimmick.
  • I actually don’t mind the second-person gimmick, but typically associate it with CYOA books and visual novels. You set me up to think I was going to make a choice, only to remind me the protagonist isn’t actually me, despite being referred to as such.
  • RANKING: High

By Specters of Autism

Thoughts on the song: punk straight out of my neighbor’s garage.

  • Opening line: 1.
  • I know Huitzilopochtli is an actual mythological figure and that’s how you spell his name, but man is it a humdinger of a proper noun to kick things off with.
  • The sound of the tree splitting sound.
  • Every time I have to stop to google one of these words is a time I might stop and never read this story again.
  • Another you story, but somehow I get the feeling I won’t like this one as much as the last one.
  • I’d like some more context for what’s going on, if possible. I know I probably won’t get it, but I’d like it all the same.
  • You know, a good tip for when you want to use a foreign word to describe something that exists in a foreign culture, like here when you try to describe a traditional weapon, would be to say something like “He raised his X, his Y,” where X is the foreign word and Y is a simple English equivalent.
  • I know you mentioned Rahui once before this but it’s weird how he’s still kind of a total non-entity in the story until just now when he appears. The way you phrased it earlier I thought he was already dead (like me).
  • This thing sounds like a Zelda boss, by the by. You know the type, with the stone face and the hands. Dies about as easily as one too. Not sure I get the hype.
  • 2.
  • I think Rahui has hunting down just fine, chief.
  • You’re referencing a lot of things off-handedly here. Done well, this sort of thing can make the world of the story feel larger than it actually is. You kinda just do it though, and it’s kinda just there.
  • RIP Rahui.
  • 3.
  • Wait, so all this was so they could fight each other in the afterlife, or something?
  • I’m not having a very good day today.
  • Yeah, no idea what the point of any of this was. I connect with your protagonist’s desire to live on an instinctual level, but there’s nothing else here for me to grab on to.
  • Still more competent then a lot of other stories this week, strangely.
  • RANKING: Low-Mid

Promise of the Sky
By Curlingiron

Thoughts on the song: another song that sounds exactly like another song by another band I can’t remember.

  • Opening line: striking.
  • Some solid set dressing here. I know who and what this story is about, where it’s taking place, and under what circumstances.
  • It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
  • “Although as time goes on and there remains no sign of lie beyond the two of them,” is pretty awkward to read.
  • You do a good job showing us the differences in the girls’ reactions, by way of how they discard (or hold onto) their backpacks, only to ruin it a little by directly telling us what you already just implied successfully. Have a little more faith in your visual metaphors.
  • The description of Ami as the dreamer, shedding her bag, makes it sound like she likes it in this bizarre hellscape.
  • Although I can accept people getting used to anything, it feels a bit soon for these two to more or less settle in after a week of everyone and everything they know vanishing.
  • Feels a little late to start dropping character descriptors.
  • This whole story strikes me as a protracted metaphor for being cast out alone, together, by the world at large. Ami is happy she can finally be herself, Shannon misses the structure of her previous existence. In the end Ami disappears (dies, probably; suicide, possibly), and Shannon is implied to follow. It’s a mix of happy and sad since the uncertain nature of the world around them, the two bleeding into it, seems to sugget they’ll find some closure and closeness in death.
  • RANKING: High

The Edge of the Machine
By Fumblemouse

Thoughts on the song: gloomy, ominous, mechanical.

  • Opening line: paints a solid picture. You know immediately how old our protagonists are, and you probably have pretty good idea what they’re up to.
  • Unseasonable southerly?
  • Getting some Stand By Me vibes here.
  • Bit of an odd jump here, though at least we’ve settled on Simon and Dean being the story and not the fence.
  • Dialogue seems a bit stilted here, and a bit different. Gonna guess this is supposed to be a time skip, though it’s not as clear as it could be.
  • Ultima IV?
  • “Sipping his beer,” does a much better job communicating the time shift.
  • This dialogue has a very “As you know” feel to it, which I don’t care for.
  • In the future we will have reality distorters, and our dialogue will become even more stilted.
  • It took going to jail for the dialogue to get good again.
  • So the focus of this story is clearly Dean and Simon’s friendship, with all its twists and turns, but beyond that it feels a little...disjointed? More like a collection of (important) anecdotes than a unified story. The two have their friendship, support one another in the hard times, then Simon passes and the world’s a little more empty. I suppose one touchstone might be each memory serving as a key “Turning” point, but hmm…
  • RANKING: Mid

Peak Performance
By Apophenium

Thoughts on the song: I can barely understand the singer.

  • Opening line: Functional.
  • Your protagonist is strangely unperturbed considering how sketchy this all is.
  • There’s a soft sense of a creeping atmosphere here, but it’s a little too threadbare to take hold.
  • Okay I like this bit where he’s going over his own show notes.
  • Third time you’ve mentioned the director’s voice in particular. I’m sure this will be important.
  • Your protagonist remaining unperturbed remains preturbing. There’s certainly something to be said for a layer of unreality in a story like this, but after having that humanizing moment with his show notes I feel like he should be at least a little bit more inquisitive and less passive considering this mysterious director is possibly the devil or someone like him. Especially since his only real vested interest in this meeting is a sounding board for his little speech. Dude’s risking a lot for a little.
  • I scoffed at my potential paycheck.
  • Okay this part is legitimately creepy, and I can believe it’s too late for him to do anything about it...even if he should’ve known this was coming earlier.
  • It was all just a dream?
  • Another Twilight Zone ending, which I might’ve liked better if it were implied the protagonist sacrificed anything else other than a moment of his time.
  • RANKING: Mid

Boarded up on Memory Lane
By Sebmojo

Thoughts on the song: a good Hotline Miami level.

  • Opening line: good. Short, tense, and immediate.
  • Oh boy, a plateful of jargon. Hopefully not important. (Me From the Future: it is and it isn’t, in a good way.)
  • You do a good job communicating your protagonist’s mental load, his stress and fading, sickly demeanor.
  • Another Dean and Simon, what.
  • You do a much better job than many of your peers at threading in quick flashbacks and imagined conversations.
  • This is a real, raw moment my man.
  • And so our protagonist escapes from the confining maw of the rat race, of meaningless lists and words that need other words to define them, throws up his consumer breakfast, and finds himself renewed in the presence of a friend (or the memory of one), nature, and warm uncertainty. It’s not a bad story, nor one that suffers from the retelling, nor even from the (welcome, actually) complexity of Dean and Simon’s relationship not being entirely positive nor nostalgic. But there’s something…missing. I can’t put my finger on it exactly - and it might just be a personal thing - but there’s something not there that feels like it needs to be.
  • In any case, a sure hand and confident prose.
  • RANKING: High

That's all folks.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
What are we?

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Write what you know.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
What do you know?

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Gold star.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
In with Tartan Noir.

Deltasquid posted:

In, but the Fiasco lingo might as well be gibberish to me. Spell it out like I'm a child please
Small fry crooks bite off more than they can chew and suffer the consequences. Black comedy optional, but recommended.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Antivehicular posted:

Relationship: One-night standees
Relationship: Doctor and patient
Relationship: Neds with a proud set of ASBOs
Location: Backpackers' hostel
Object: Bottle of rat poison
Need: Tae get home, 'cause you've got no loving clue where you've woken up
Tilt: Someone panics
Moonshine (1475 words)

Sean Irving’s faculties were waterlogged with whiskey. He blinked - twice, thrice - as Erika entreated him to rise to his feet. She had a vested interest in his mobility, as the two were shackled at the wrist and naked.

“Right then, up up, ya floose.”

“The Hell,” Sean yawned, “The Hell is this?”

“Bit of a fix, I’d say.” Erika looked to the stars. “A ways past midnight, I’ll wager. Oughta get back.” She tried for a confident tone, her breathing cold and nervous.

“Back? Back!?

Sean leapt to his feet, wide-eyed, lost his footing, and toppled down the hill with Erika in tow. It was a calm, cloudless night, and the highlands were aglow in a somber blue light.


Sean came to a stop, and Erika ploughed into his side. He shook his head and combed the forward curl of his beard with his fingers. The fall had served to sober him up.

“The Hell were we up to, lass?”

“Memory’s…” Erika spit out some grass. She looked like she’d been run through the dryer. “Memory’s a fog.”

There’d been drinking. She remembered that. Drinking and boasting and daring and singing, the inky black void of dwindling inhibitions. She’d taken up hiking; doctor’s orders. “Could do to get away from it all,” he’d said. She’d met Sean at the hostel halfway up the trail. “Sharks can smell sharks, or so they say.” So they talked and laughed and made untoward proposals. Then they popped the bottle, and the world grew small.

She’d been the first to wake up on the hillside, to take stock of the situation. It’d taken ten minutes to rouse Sean from his stupor.

“Crivens.” She wrapped her arms around herself. “We’re practically down the far side of the mountain.”

“First time you been out and about in the skud?”

“Well,” she said, “The handcuffs are new.”

“Best fetch our things then. Get dressed, get back. Should be around here, somewhere.”

“Had a look already fore I shook ya awake. I think,” she swallowed, “I think we might’ve gone and done a bit of a moonlit run. What’s ours is probably back at the base.”

Sean’s eyes snapped hard into focus. “We’ve gotta go.” He staggered to his feet, remembered his companion, and helped her up. Her short, disheveled hair was strangely bewitching in the moment, but his attention didn’t linger for more than that. He went into a soft sprint. Erika, compelled to follow, held her own.

“I mean, I agree,” she said, her breathing sharp, short, and controlled, “But I’d say stealth were our proper course of action. Can’t say I’d fancy-

“Just run,” said Sean, his breathing already ragged, his mind transfixed on the common room fireplace where his backpack wa tucked to the right of the hearth.


Bones Dougan spilled the contents of Sean’s backpack across the floor. His wallet, his keys, his cellphone, a map, a change of clothes, a bag of trailmix, a water bottle and several others (green, glistening, and empty) littered the floor. Bones reached inside and fished around. The object of his search had been buried at the bottom.

“Ay, there’s the prize.” He smiled. His teeth were sharp and shone of silver.

He pulled out an envelope, crinkled and creased, but its healthy size suggested its contents. He checked, just to be sure. “God save the queen.” He chuckled.

The common room was sparsely furnished with a few chairs and futons, and a coat rack besides. The stores were empty. The old lady who kept the place refilled them once a week on Sundays after church. In the corner, in a pile, lay an assortment of clothes, another person’s bag, and an old walking stick. Bones dismissed it with a glance.

He’d been looking for Sean. He was supposed to be here. “Well, no matter.” Bones reached into the folds of his coat and produced a dim bottle with the labels removed.

Sean’s old water bottle had seen some wear and tear, so Bones had seen fit to gift him a new one for his birthday. Sean loved it. It was bigger, hardier, easier to grasp, and - most importantly - an opaque blue. Bones unscrewed the top and poured some water into the dormant fireplace. He unstopped the grim decanter he’d brought with him, and mixed the contents with what remained. He hummed while he did so.

Go fetch to me a pint o’ wine, and fill it in a silver tassie.” He gave his concoction a gentle swish. “That I may drink before I go, a service to my bonnie lassie.”

He was about to tuck the water bottle back into place, along with everything else, only to be interrupted by the soft buzz of a new text message. He took out his phone without thinking, but it wasn’t for him. The sound came from the pile of clothes.

Bones made his way over to the corner. The cell phone in question was brand new, protected by a yellow case, with a cute seagull sharm hanging from the strap. It was locked, but the message notification told him enough:

Officer Wallace come in we know you’re off duty but

Bones gripped the glowing screen, his expression dark. He heard a sound and looked to the window. He saw the glare of headlights in the distance.


Erika Wallace prided herself on her exercise regiment. She’d broken two academy records with her athletic performance, and could easily keep pace with the increasingly exhausted Sean. He’s a good lookin’ fella, she thought to herself, but his form’s all wrong. She thought about her own routine, her personal best. She had to if she wanted to retain her stiff upper lip. She couldn’t let herself linger on the inglorious circumstances she’d found herself in, streaking through the dark with a man she barely knew.

Sean was running on pure adrenalin.

“Keep at it, friend,” she said. “Don’t need ya toppling over fore we hit the finish.”

“Don’t need to tell me twice.” Sean spoke in gasps. “Don’t need to get slapped for disturbing the peace.”

“Right, right,” she said, me neither.

As the hostel swam into view, so two did a pair of headlights. “Eep!” Erika jolted to the right and fell flat, yanking Sean backwards, down to her level.

“What the-

“Ssh, quiet ya dunder,” she hissed. She clapped her hands over his mouth. “Or I’ll arrest ya myself.”


Ned Kirklund switched off his phone and frowned. It wasn’t like Erika to ignore a request, even if she were on vacation. She was supposed to be round here, weren’t she? Still, it wasn’t anything serious. He leaned over into his patrol vehicle and picked up the radio. “Chief, it’s Kirklund. No, no, everything’s fine. Got a report on some young folks in the area, but I ain’t seen nothing scandalous yet. There’s this old gaff out by the mountainside though. Whole place is dark, but I thought I saw a light. Gonna investigate then head back, over.”

Ned approached the front stair with his usual, casual gait. He took off his cap, scratched his head, and walked through the door with his hat in his hand, a flashlight in the other.

“Anybody home?”

Bones leapt from the shadows, a glint of steel in his hand. Ned flowed like water and caught him in an armlock. “Easy there boyo,” he said. He twisted the wrist that held the knife to loosen the man’s grip. “Don’t go thinking I’m some easy mark.”

He released Bones, who stumbled to the floor, felt around and grasped something small, cold, and sharp. He swung ago, only to meet Ned’s forehead in a righteous headbutt. Bones’ eyes rolled backward. He slumped to the ground. He foot knocked over an open water bottle which drained into the floor. The tiny thing he found disappeared between the floorboards.

“Right.” Ned adjusted his belt. “That’s assault. Come along numpty, down to the station.” He handcuffed the man and carried him out. The hostel fell still and silent.

Minutes later, Erika crept in through the rear window, and Sean after. Erika let out a shudder of relief and made her way over toward her things in the corner, only for Sean to absent-mindedly yank her away. She turned and saw him reaching for his own bag.

“Hang on ya steamin’ div.” She pulled back. “You want free of this, yeah?”

“Sorry, sorry.”

“Ain’t no fash, but hey, let’s keep this ‘tween the two of us, ya hear?”

“I hear,” said Sean.

Erika was rummaging through her things. She’d kept her cool on the way down, but now her facade was beginning to break. “Where...where is it?” she asked aloud. “Where’s the key?”

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

300 words.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
In for the week.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
The Vantage Point (749 words)

The old man kept a couch out back in the shade of the tree overlooking the town. You could see for miles in every direction. It was like looking down from the Kingdom of God.

Felix emerged from the house to find his father sitting there alone. Felix was a long, thin man, almost spider-like, but his eyes betrayed a closeted warmth. He wore a priest's cassock and carried a bottle.

"Hey dad."

His father never turned around. "What'd you bring?"

Felix walked toward the couch, toward the edge of the hill. The bottle he carried was a dim dark green. He gave it a shake without reading the label. Still his father faced away. He had to come round to take his seat.

The couch was old and worn and intimately familiar. His father was old and worn and quiet. He was shorter, stouter, and stronger, though not for much longer. The tips of his fingers were stained charcoal black. Felix sat down. He placed the bottle on a cinder block. There were always a few cinder blocks. His father had three stacked on top of each other to prop his feet up. Another cinder block held a pair of scotch glasses. There were always a few glasses.

Felix sat with his hands together. He watched the birds on the power lines below.

"You still peddling that stuff?" his father asked.

"To those who need it."

"I don't need it."

"That's not," Felix said, but didn't bother to finish. He picked up the bottle and popped the cap. He measured out two glasses and held one out. His father took it. "Mom told me," he said at last.

"So you know."

"I know."

His father took a drink. "Then there's nothing else to say."

"I think there's a lot more to say."

"You think too much. Talk too much. Always did."

"Not for much longer. Not with you."

His father took a drink. "Everything's in order."

"Not everything."

"drat near. I don't truck with no deathbed conversions."

"I know," said Felix, "I know, I know."

His father took a drink. Felix took a sip. A flock of birds took off for the sky. Felix watched the power lines sway.

"Emile's having a baby," he said.

His father said nothing.

"It's a girl. A daughter. Your new granddaughter."

His father took a drink.

"I just want to know what we should tell her." Felix held his glass in both hands. "About you."

"What's wrong with the truth?"

"Mark's parents are already gone."

"What's wrong with the truth?"

"I don't know the truth."

His father took a drink. "I thought that was your job."

"I know a lot of things, but not about you."

"I did what I could," his father said, "what I had to." He set down his glass. "You and your sister should know that better than anyone. I don't know what else she'd need to know."

Felix looked at his father, his sphinx-like face. Ever since he was young he'd never known his father to look any other way. All that had changed was his own his elevation. His father looked out on the town below, its tiny buildings and tiny people, those labyrinthine streets filled with cars and laundry lines, and in the distance the factory billowing smoke.

"I've come a long way to see you for this dad. You don't answer the phone. You don't respond to letters." Felix gazed down into his glass. He took a drink. A real drink. "You've been a shadow all my life dad. Ever-present but...undefined. I don't know anything about you dad. I'm grateful but you're just this hazy shape. I want to know you, at least a little bit." He set his glass down on the cinder block.

"You want to remember me?"

"We both do."

His father held his glass for a long time.

"I lived my life for you. If that's not enough, I don't know what is."

"I see." Felix waited a moment, then stood. "I'll be going then."

"You do that."

"Take care dad."


"I love you."


Felix turned and walked toward the house. His father remained. The old man heard his wife and his son, the car door, the ignition, then distance, then nothing.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

rear end frog posted:

"you loving rear end in a top hat," said the woman. "you loving rear end in a top hat. you making GBS threads, farting rear end in a top hat." she pulled off her shoes. "you
James Joyce fanfiction.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Talk about a hole in one.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
In with a little story that must be told.

Gimme a taste of the remedy.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Please assign me a product/department.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Sitting Here posted:

New, from Voidmart, it's...

Pompeii brand Pompadour Gel: Smother your hair in burning good looks!

If you need a department (which i'm not technically assigning this time), imagine a WHOLE DEPARTMENT of pompadour care products. If you dare...
Pomp and Circumstance (990 words)

"Are you familiar with the Kievan Rus?"

The hair product aisle went on for centuries, tins of pomade stacked up to the ceiling. Not one in twenty sheikhs could clock its expanse without being prompted to remove their glasses.

Bruce stood alone, his pompadour reflected in ten thousand bottles. "Well now," he said, "Can't say I have." He tossed a tiny tin up in the air and caught it: Pompeii’s Pomp Gel, the last in stock. A legendary second-rate hair jelly, produced in Greece, blessed by Pope Henry Winkler himself.

Dougan snorted. He was a tall man with deep-set eyes, adorned in a tracksuit the color of crimson. He had managed to cultivate a pompadour of his own, though it paled in comparison to the employee’s before him.

"The Kievan Rus. They were very particular about their facial hair. If a man severed another man's finger in an argument, a pound of silver was required in exchange. But if he were to injure the other man's beard? Eight pounds of silver for such an offense."

“Beards are aisle three, my man, don’t you worry.” Bruce snapped his fingers. “And we accept credit.”

“Silence!” Dougan narrowed his gaze. “Do you understand the significance of what I’m trying to tell you?”

“Beards are back?”

“Do I look like I have a beard?”

“Looks like you want a beard.”

Dougan dragged a hand down his face. “The loss of a finger was seen as mere injury, but a blow to a man’s beard was a blow to his pride. A serious offense. More grievous than the loss of all his fingers. A man’s pride is more important than anything. We must be willing to pay for it. And I am.” He pulled out a handgun. “I am.”

Bruce stared blankly at the gun, a broomhandle Mauser with a 9 on the grip. Dougan stared intently at his prey, then glanced down.

“...Oh, err, excuse me.”

He pocketed the Mauser and pulled out his wallet. “I am,” he repeated. “Willing to pay, I mean. For the gel.” He pointed at the tin, from the wallet to the tin.

Bruce smiled softly, but shook his head. “Apologies my man, but this one’s reserved. There’s a waiting list for this stuff, you know? There’s a reason we keep it in the back. Stuff’s practically Tyrian Purple. But I’ll tell you what.” He produced a small notepad from within his vest and a blue golf pencil from behind his ear. “I’ll take down your info and let you know when we’re in stock.”

Dougan had already taken out the gun again. “That gel is mine,” he said.

He was about to pull the trigger when Bruce hit him in the face with a bottle of No Tears, No Fears Shampoo. He fired wildly, popping the cap off some high pressure hair spray. Bruce pulled a lighter from his pocket and threw it in the direction of the leak, and a department was divided by a wall of flame.

Dougan leapt back, his hair ablaze. Bruce took off. He raced toward the elevator.

At the cold, capitalist heart of Voidmart sat the central plaza, around which all things and all people revolved - including, a bit of an architectural inconvenience, the closest elevators. Bruce had long since learned to navigate the labyrinthine layout of this corporate superstructure, but the elevators always felt just a little bit further away than he was usually willing to go. Skidding at the corner of the shoe aisle, Bruce scanned the horizon for an available chute, only to be greeted by the despair of a line of eager customers.

A cry, a tire screech. Bruce whipped around. Dougan, hair singed, rounded the corner in a stolen golf cart. In his free hand was the pistol. He saw Bruce and grimaced. He slammed his foot down on the peddle. Behind him trailed a woman from the sporting goods section, a new hire desperately trying to explain this particular cart’s finer features.

Bruce clenched his fist.

He cracked open the tin of Pompeii’s best. The surface of the jelly glowed and shimmered like a jeweled sea. Taking only the smallest sampling possible, he sculpted the mixture into his own hair. His pompadour had already been magnificent, but this newfound thick and lustrous sheen was in a class of its own. Many a customer, previously impatient, waiting for the elevators, turned to stare in awe at what was transpiring. Then they saw Dougan, the golf cart, and ran screaming, the floor awash with abandoned tote bags.

Bruce stood firm, face calm, eyes shut. He flexed his fingers. Dougan barreled down at him, gun drawn. Bruce waited until the last possible moment. Then he dropped to the ground and rolled to the side.

Dougan had selected this golf cart on its many merits. “Wheels strong enough to crush a Chinese protester,” the saleswoman said. But Bruce’s freshly greased do’ was no mere political malcontent. The tire kissed his locks, then slipped to the side. The whole cart flipped, and Dougan went careening over the lip of the balcony, down into the plaza where clowns made children cry with improbably-shaped balloons.

The shark-filled central fountain was never the same.


“Thanks for waiting,” said Bruce. He tossed the tin to its rightful consumer, its pre-order placer, his aged grandfather. The old man’s hair had long gone white, but his pompadour remained, no less impressive. Nor his eyesight. He noticed immediately the lid had been opened.

“You tryin’ to cheat me, boy? I don’t dish out for the good stuff to get it used you know.”

“My bad, my bad,” said Bruce, laughing. “This one’s on me. Just wanted a touch of that old black magic, you know?”

His grandfather sat in silence a moment. “Well, I suppose I did the same thing at your age.” He clamped the tin shut. “Alright kid, let’s go.”

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Skin Diving (1,700 words)

The first thing people noticed about Baek was how tall she was. She'd been taller than all the girls in her graduating class, and even most of the boys. They used to pull her hair to bring her down to their level. After she cut it, they told her she looked like a boy, and Baek became Baek-hyeon. Older Brother.

"I see, I see," some would say, "But that must have been difficult."

"No," she'd reply. “It wasn’t.”

Her only ally had been another girl named Ae-jong. Ae-jong was short and round and powerful. She wanted to become a police officer. She'd tell Baek about sneaking out of bed to watch the serials late at night. "And then he'd say something cool like, 'This is justice.'" She'd point her finger like a gun, eyes narrowed. It always made Baek smile. "Being a cop is the coolest thing in the world."

"It sounds cool."

"You should try it. Say it, 'This is justice.'"

"'This is justice.'"

"Lower your voice!"

"’This is justice.’" She narrowed her eyes.

"Ahh, so cool Baek-hyeon. You should become a detective!"

It was alright when Ae-jong called her Baek-hyeon. Everything Ae-jong said, she said with love.

It was nevertheless a surprise when Ae-jong texted her out of the blue, eight years on. They'd gone their separate ways, gone to different colleges. Baek managed a bookshop. Ae-jong worked for the post office. They were always busy.

Baek-hyeon! Baek-hyeon! I need your help. ㅇㅅㅇ;; I know it's been awhile but I'm invited to a mixer. I only know one other person. ㅋ_ㅋ Please, please come so I don't have to be alone! ~3~


Hooray! ^보^ I'll let everyone know Baek-hyeon will be there!

The restaurant where the mixer was being held was on the other end of town, an hour by subway. Baek was greeted by the rain upon leaving the underground. She held her pea coat close, her umbrella drawn in defense mode. Salvation stood four blocks south, two blocks east. Ae-jong waited faithfully outside.

"Baek-hyeon! Baek-hyeon! I'm so glad you made it."

"I'm sorry I'm late."

"It's fine, it's fine. Oh, but Baek-hyeon, look at you! You look so cool in that coat. So handsome! I still think you should become a detective."

The two embraced beneath the awning.

It was a seafood restaurant famous - "World famous," the manager claimed - for its cuttlefish curry. Baek had first heard of it that afternoon. Ae-jong brought her inside and introduced her to group. "This is Baek-hyeon," she announced with triumph. "It's been a little while but we're still good friends."

Baek was welcomed to the group warmly enough. She folded her coat and held it close. She sat down with Ae-jong, who began to whisper.

"Okay, so, first we-

"I know what a mixer is, Ae-jong."

"Ah, that's so like you. Well then." She pushed her seat back and made a complicated gesture. "If I do this, it means 'Come rescue me,' okay?"

Baek nodded. Ae-jong left, and was replaced by a man. He wore a simple suit, a bit frayed at the sleeves, and a thin mustache like an old movie star.

“So,” he said, “You must be the legendary Baek-hyeon.”

She hesitated a moment. “Just Baek,” she said.

“A nickname then?” He gave her a somber smile. “That would explain it. Do you mind if I take a seat?”

“Do you have a name?”

“Oh, of course, where are my manners. My name is Yong-joon. No nicknames I’m afraid, or well, none that stuck.”

“Take a seat, Yong-joon.” She gestured across the table.

Yong-joon sat down, made himself comfortable. He smoothed out the wrinkles in his suit. Baek sat perfectly still throughout the procedure. She spoke only after she sensed he was finished.

“What does it explain?”


“Baek-hyeon. My nickname.”

“Ah.” Yong-joon steepled his hands. “A friend of mine invited me. Said a friend of his, a co-worker, was inviting an old friend of hers: Baek-hyeon. ‘Interested in meeting guys,’ she asked when pressed, though she left out the other particulars.”

“I… oh.” Her eyes betrayed her dawning comprehension. She let out a muted laugh, a murmur. “That does sound like her.”

Yong-joon laughed as well.

“In any case,” she said, “I apologise for the mistake.”

“It’s fine, really. It’s fine, it’s fine.” He looked down at his shoes, then back at her. “Though since I’m here, since we’re talking, how did you get that nickname?”

“I think you can guess,” she said. Yong-joon looked her over.

“Well, I suppose you are a bit,” he searched for a word, “Handsome. If I can say that.”

“You can say that.”

“Then I do. And you are, if I can say that as a compliment.”

“You can.”

“Then I will.” He smiled.

Baek nodded. “I had my growth spurt early in school. I towered over the other girls and boys. Even after they caught up I was still taller than most of them. They used to pull my hair so I had it cut. I had a boyish face so they called me Baek-hyeon.”

Yong-joon’s expression sobered over the course of her explanation. “How terrible. I’m sorry for using it so lightly.”

“It’s fine.” Baek poured a glass of water for herself and her partner. “Ae-jong uses it with love. You are the same kind of person as Ae-jong. You don’t say anything maliciously.”

“But it must have been difficult.”

“No.” She extended a glass to him. “It wasn’t.”

“Hmph.” He accepted the glass. “Not sure I believe that.”

“I’m not asking you to.”

“No,” he said. He held the glass by the lip and swirled its contents. “But I’m...familiar with that sort of thing. It’s never easy. You clearly withstood it, but even so.”

Baek leaned back and studied the ceiling. Someone had gone to great lengths to illustrate the various sea creatures served in this shop. In their natural environment, of course. Before they’d been plucked from the sea and cooked and grilled and served on a platter. Her eyes settled on a cluster of crabs on the far side.

“Every year my family always goes north to visit my grandfather. He lives by himself in a house by the sea. He takes people skin diving off the coast. He takes us for free.”

Baek pointed at the crabs on the ceiling. Yong-joon glanced over his shoulder. The waiter had just arrived to take everyone’s orders, starting with those farthest away.

“Skin diving,” he said, “And that is?” He took a drink.

“Skinny dipping.”

He stopped and stared, mid-sip, then coughed.

“Joking,” she added. She slipped in a half-second smile. Yong-joon beat his fist against his chest and grabbed a napkin. “You go snorkeling in just your suit,” she said. “You dive underwater when you see something interesting. We used to dive down and collect crabs. Grandfather would take them and make us gejang for dinner.”

“Sounds like,” Yong-joon wiped his mouth, “Sounds like a good time.”

“It is,” Baek said. The waiter approached and the two took a minute to order. After he was gone, she continued. “When you go skin diving you have to hold your breath. It feels like drowning when you’re just starting out. You get better over time. You get used to it.”

“I see, I see.”

“I learned how to hold my breath. I learned how to pace myself. The important thing is not to panic. If you remain calm it becomes quite easy. All your fears and worries betray you. You have to hold them in until you break the surface. You’ll drown if you don’t.”

Yong-joon scratched his neck. Baek glanced in Ae-jong’s direction. She seemed to be having fun talking with her partner.

“So.” Yong-joon refilled his glass. “Your diving expeditions gave you an edge, then?”

“I’ve been diving longer than I’ve been called Baek-hyeon. Longer than I’ve been tall. You learn,” she thought for a moment, “You learn to recognize the signs of drowning once it’s already happened to you once before.”

“So it wasn’t especially difficult, then.”

“No,” she said, “No more than skin diving.”

The two chatted a bit more before the food came. Yong-joon asked if she wanted him to switch out, to meet with someone else since he wasn’t really interested. She said he could stay or go as he wished. “I don’t really know anyone here other than Ae-jong. I only showed up to lend her my support.”

“And I only showed up to meet you, or who I thought you were.” Yong-joon shook his head and smiled. “Well, we got a good conversation out of it, at least.” He reached over and handed her a pair of chopsticks.

“Warm food and company is always welcome on a rainy day.”

Baek said a silent prayer, then snapped her chopsticks. Yong-joon followed suit.

“And you?”

“Hmm?” Yong-joon froze, a single shrimp tempura inches from his mouth.

“Have you had a difficult time of it?”

Yong-joon lowered his gaze, then popped the shrimp into his mouth.

“No,” he said at last. “No more so than skin diving, though I lacked a family willing to teach me.”

“I see.”

Once the meal was complete, the two parted ways. “I’ll see you around,” Yong-joon said. He gave her a little salute.

“I told you where I work. I expect to see you in there.”

“Ha ha, well, if I can make the time to go downtown, I’ll see what I can do.”

He turned his back to her.



“You’re a good person Yong-joon.”

Yong-joon smiled and departed. Baek had a few minutes to herself before Ae-jong returned.

“Ah, Baek-hyeon, what a waste, what a waste. They all seemed nice but nobody wanted to make plans. Sorry to drag you out all the way out here for nothing.”

“I had a lot of fun,” Baek said.

“Oh? But that guy you were talking to looked awfully suspicious. A real shifty character, for sure. Did you get anything out of him?”

“No.” Baek smiled. “I got something out of me.”

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Good crits ITT.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Also, in.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Head of State (538 words)

Henrietta still remembered the first time she had attended the mayor’s execution. She’d been a child then, the daughter of a printer. Her father had instructed her to take many pictures.

The execution always took place on the 17th of March, the anniversary of the death of the tyrant Scaramanga. It was a festive occasion. There were stands with toys and food and games. The most popular stand was the old dollmaker’s. She sold felt dolls with black button eyes. Each shared the likeness of the celebrated mayor.

“Take one, Henrietta,” she’d been offered, “Please, take it. You look so lonely with that camera in your hands.”

The dolls were of exceptional quality, as was tradition when the mayor was just. Henrietta had been too young then to fully appreciate the politics of the village, but she understood innately: the mayor must have been fine indeed to merit a doll of such careful distinction. There could be no doubt in anyone’s hearts the old dollmaker had sewn them with pride.

Henrietta shook her head. “Father needs me,” she said. She raised the camera and took a picture.

“Such a dutiful child.” The old woman smiled. “Perhaps one day you’ll be mayor yourself.” She set the doll aside. Any dolls left unsold would be donated to the village policeman who managed the shooting gallery. He was always in need of a few extra targets.

The village was a sprawling collection of disparate districts joined by winding, intestinal streets. At the center stood the church and the mayor’s residence, the former palace of the tyrant Scaramanga. Henrietta’s father had told her all about it.

“Colonel Scaramanga was stationed here after the war. The village was to be his reward for loyal service.” Her father leaned back against the printing press, his sleeves rolled up, his collar uneven. He raised a bottle to his lips. He’d been running the village newspaper since before he had a daughter. Before Scaramanga, before the war. “Of course he layered abuses upon us. Military men are all the same.”

Henrietta’s father had taken great care in reporting the tyrant Scaramanga’s every cruelty and indulgence. When the revolution came, it had been her father who printed off the marching orders, who had personally chaired the committee of what was to be done. “As we learned in the war, a good leader is one prepared to die for his people. Henceforth we shall put this truth into practice!” His words were greeted with cheers and applause.

The term of mayorship over the village had since been established: two years time. After their service, they were to be killed. The village had faithfully followed this prescription ever since the revolution. When the mayor had been good and fair and righteous, they were bid farewell with a solemn appraisal. When the mayor had been hard and cruel and capricious, they were lead with jeers to the chapel steps. Henrietta’s father remembered them all, and so too would Henrietta.

The band announced the hour was nigh. The crowds gathered round as the mayor was lead in chains before the firing squad. The women cheered. The men saluted. Henrietta took a picture.

The splatter was beautiful.


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
In, gimmie da birdmen.

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