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Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


In :toxx:

Can I have Sisters of Mercy?

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Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


The Sisters

1196 words

prompt: The Sisters of Mercy

I pull into Chrissy’s driveway just after eleven. To my surprise, the lights are on. A small part of me wishes they weren’t, that I could just let myself in and curl up without talking to anyone, but there’s no chance of a clean getaway now.

Chrissy is fatter, tired. She’s wearing a floral bathrobe and dingy pink slippers, her hair in a half-clean ponytail, and she’s yawning. “Hi, I look like poo poo,” she says.

“Hi, agreed.”

“gently caress you, too.” We hug. “Where’s your stuff?”

“I’ll just leave it in the car. Did Ted and the baby go to sleep already?”

Chrissy locks the door behind me. “Yeah, sorry. I’ll be up for a while, though- my dipshit replacement at the office hosed up the whole payroll and I can’t rest until it’s sorted out.”

I look at her. Chrissy used to shave half her hair and dye the rest laser-green, which complimented her scary facial piercings nicely. Now she’s wearing a scrunchie and talking about payroll. “Wine?” she asks.

“You don’t have any beer?”

She shrugs, hands me a glass anyways. “I don’t even know anyone who drinks beer. All my married friends drink wine, and Ted’s something something low-carb or Paleo or some bullshit, I don’t even remember.” She yawns again, then apes a Brooklyn accent. “You wanna see the baaaaaby?”

I wince and take a slug of my wine. “Stop.”

Chrissy sighs. “Yeah, yeah, okay. Too much adulting. It’s only my life, Tess.”

“Tomorrow.”

We catch up the on the past six months, delicately avoiding my employment situation, her marriage, my disability checks, her offspring. Ted wants to buy a boat. I was in a burlesque show last week. Neither of us is very impressed by the other’s news, but we make baby-bird noises of strangled delight, anyways.

The wine is making me slow and stupid, and it gets harder and harder to pretend I care about what Chrissy is saying. As she talks, I look around the house and wonder where my friend went. Is she hiding in the trendy succulents? Peeking out from under a discarded Franzia box? Chrissy once painted a dick on her forehead and went around all day in a business suit, her partner following and secretly filming peoples’ reactions. Now she is angry because someone insulted her brownies at a fundraiser. I don’t get it.

She doesn’t seem to get it, either, because finally she asks, “So what are you doing for work these days?”

I drop my head back dramatically. “I have become...a fallen woman,” I moan.

“Yeah, but no one’s gonna pay you for that.”

I sigh. “I told you, I’m a featured artist at the show in Boston this weekend--”

“Is that going to make money?”

“People buy things sometimes. It’s really more about networking.”

Chrissy pops open a can of Pringles, makes duck lips briefly before snorking them into her mouth with a crunch. “So, enlighten me,” she says with her mouth full, “How much money do you make per show? On average?”

“Like...three, four hundred, maybe?”

“And how much did you spend on gas, getting to Boston from Savannah? Tolls, snacks, motels? You always travel forever for these gigs, and then they don’t even make money. I let you stay here, but how often do you have to depend on the literal kindness of strangers? Not to sound cliche, but...Do you ever break even?”

I want to break open. Chrissy and I are too different now. What I consider my genuine self is something she looks back on as a character she’s played, a fun little diversion she took on her way to reality. House plus Man plus Baby equals You’re Done, You Can Stop Playing Now. She has a 401K and sciatica. I am a child at thirty-two.

She sighs. “I’m sorry. Tell me about your show. I read the blurb you sent me, but I couldn’t quite get it.”

“It’s called ‘The Sisters of Mercy,’” I began. “There used to be these Catholic charities called Magdalene laundries. They were sort of asylums for ‘fallen women,’ except of course a lot of them had hadn’t actually done anything. They were these horrible workhouses where the inmates were abused, more like prisons than anything else. In the nineties, they uncovered this mass grave outside of one of the laundries that they couldn’t explain away, but they still weren’t shut down until 1996.”

“Gross,” Chrissy says with a grimace. She eyes her phone.

“Well, yeah. Anyways, one of my friends is doing her graduate thesis on them, and she asked me to take pictures of some of the survivors she interviewed. So what I did was take a statement from each of them about an object chosen at random, then put their portrait and their statements together and…” She’s not even listening. Nodding politely, yes. Listening, no. I keep going, eventually stammering into silence, and we sit for a moment.

I don’t tell Chrissy the real theme of my show, how initial kindness and generosity can twist and deform over time. It’s something she might understand- the fake smiling and coos of delight over her neighbors’ inconsequential lives and achievements- but I feel it here, too. She is being kind by letting me stay here, but is it out of duty? Guilt? Schadenfreude? I can’t tell.

Chrissy and I stay quiet for a moment, neither of us looking at the other. Eventually, she sighs and clears up the chips. I hear Ezra screaming upstairs. Chrissy tells me not to leave the lights on, tosses me an extra blanket, and she’s gone.

I lie awake for a long time.

Somewhere inside me, I pray, is the kind of person who could have simple things- a dryer, a permanent address, validity.. I know very well that this isn't actually up to me, but I try anyways. It’s good, I reason into the darkness, to question yourself and your choices. But that is not my forte, and all I can think about is how much I miss her.

I sleep a little. When I awaken for the millionth time at five, I decide to just slip out.

There will be another long period of silence between Chrissy and myself. Then one of us will see something like a funny YouTube video, or one of those dumb t-shirts with fractured English, and send it to the other. Something small, a brick that turns into a bridge that eventually brings one of us into the other's orbit. We’ll forget that we don’t speak the same language anymore, and decide to meet. Then it’s always unexpectedly awkward. The cycle repeats, an ouroboros of missing the past and hating the present, neither of us understanding how we ended up where we are. And never understanding the other, or trying to. Chrissy and I have been many things- lovers, collaborators, emergency contacts- but we have never been in sympathy.

As I put the car in reverse, I look up at the house. Chrissy’s light is on. We do not wave to each other, but I smile at the red tip of her verboten cigarette, winking at me as I withdraw.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Prompt...!

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


I'm in! :toxx:

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Djeser posted:

Here's a cool hat!


It is physically impossible for me to love anything more than I love this hat. Thank you.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Atrytone, Parthenos, Promachos
1216 words


“Sam, are you in your room?”

The Goddess Athena opened her wise grey eyes and looked at the ceiling. “Yes,” she said in the girl’s voice.

“Downstairs. Right now. Please don’t bring that owl with you.”

Athena gave Glaukopis a look of commiseration, straightening him on her pillows. Then she went down.

Matera was standing in the kitchen with her arms folded. She sighed as Athena walked up. “Honey, can you please be Sam now?”

“The time of mortals is short, but the gods are ever-living.”

“Yes, but this mortal needs to speak to her mortal daughter. Right now.”

Athena sighed, closed her eyes, and assumed the role of mild-mannered dork, Samantha Jackson. “Oh, hi, Mom,” she said in a cheerful voice. “How was your day?”

“You hit Brian Rothstein with a baseball bat?”

“It wasn’t a real one,” Sam cried, “It was one of the dumb plastic ones they give the little kids!”

“Samantha, he has a welt all the way across his back! Mr. Dunphy almost expelled you! What the hell were you thinking?”

Shamefully, Athena felt tears threaten the dumb girl’s poop-brown eyes. “He started it.”

Matera sighed. “By…?”

“He called me a baby and then he kicked the bag that Glaukopis was in! Then he told me that ancient Greece sucks and Rome was cooler.”

“So what? Because of that, you assault someone?”

“Blasphemy against the gods!”

“SAMANTHA!”

The girl jumped.

Matera rubbed her forehead. “Sam, we have talked and talked about this. You are too old to be playing Let’s Pretend at school. You shouldn’t be bringing your toys with you.”

“Glaukopis only looks like a toy, he used to be real,” Samantha insisted. “The spell that sent us into the future—”

“Enough!”

Even Athena quailed at the tone in Matera’s voice. Seeing the fear in her daughter’s face, Matera took a deep breath and softened her face. “Samantha. I know you are having trouble at your new school. I know you miss Dahlia and Jin and the games you guys would play. But, honey, you have come up with a new coping strategy.”

Athena knew the words “coping strategy” from Dr. Julie’s office, and she hated them. “You could just believe me,” she muttered.

“When you and your friends used to play Greek Gods, that was your special thing. You’ve been through a lot of changes lately, and it’s normal for you to want to go back to something that made you feel happy and safe.” It was something Matera told her often. “But the other kids don’t think you’re joking, and it…it puts people off, honey. It makes it hard to connect with you.”

The pain in the girl’s chest was palpable even to Athena. She swallowed hard and looked at the floor. Her eyes were burning. “It’s not my fault this happened,” she said.

“After what happened today, I think we need to call Dr. Julie and ask her to help us find a new doctor.”

“No!”

“I don’t know what else to do, Samantha.” Matera began to pace. “You won’t talk about anything else. Your teachers tell me you don’t do anything in class but look out the window and draw. When I went in to talk to Mr. Dunphy today, Mrs. Douglas told me that yesterday three girls asked you to play with them and you told them you didn’t talk to mortals. I’m out of ideas, Sam. I need—we both need help.”

“But you can just believe me!” Athena was disgusted when the girl started to cry. “You could just believe me, and then you would understand, and you would see why it’s real and—”

“I can’t hear this anymore. Go to your room, and don’t come down until I say you can!”

Athena slammed the door three or four satisfactory times before the stupid girl’s feet took her upstairs and flung her on the bed. She waited patiently as the girl wailed and cried, punching her pillow in a fit of futility and anger.

Finally, the girl was quiet enough that Athena could take over again. She sat up and scanned the treasures spread across the girl’s shelf, examining all with her bright eyes as if they were new to her. Another owl and a scale model of the Parthenon rested next to a faded photo of a handsome, bearded man and a laughing little girl with dark brown eyes. She looked at that photo for a long time. The next photo, which showed the same dark-eyed girl with two other children at a birthday party, she looked at for even longer.

She padded downstairs and waited for a moment before knocking on Matera’s bedroom door. “Mom?”

The door opened. “What did I tell you?” Matera asked. She sounded more tired than angry.

The words came rushing out on a river of tears. “If I was really Athena, I could have stopped the other car.”

Matera started crying, too.

Eventually, they found themselves sitting at the kitchen table with hot chocolates. Samantha’s face hurt from crying, but she felt a bit more understood. She gave Matera a weak smile, and her mother smiled back.

“Who are you right now?” Matera asked.

“I’ll be Sam,” she replied, too tired to insist on her story.

Her mother stared into her cup of hot chocolate, then looked back at Sam. “Dr. Julie is worried,” she said quietly. “I called her after you went upstairs and explained what happened. She wants you to go to a new doctor for a while.” As Sam opened her mouth to protest, Matera held up her hand. “I know you don’t want to, Sam, but things cannot go on as they are now. You have to move forward in your life. You do know that you are not a time-traveling goddess, and I think that if you learn how to be Sam again, it will be easier to…”

“Forget?”

Matera looked sad. “No, sweetheart. You’re never going to forget. I’m sorry.”

She sounded so certain.

Matera continued, “But you can keep going. Your life isn’t over. It doesn’t belong to some goddess, it belongs to you, and you need to learn how to take some control over it.”

The girl thought for a moment, slurped her chocolate. “What if we Skype Dr. Julie? Then I don’t have to go to a new doctor. I like Dr. Julie, and if I have to go back, I want to go back to her.”

Her mother looked thoughtful, then smiled. “Yes. You know what? I think that’s a very good idea. It’s too late there now, but I’ll call her tomorrow and ask her.” Matera finished the last sip of her drink and gave Sam a hopeful look. “Does this mean you think you can work on this? Are you ready to give this fresh start a real try?”

Samantha considered. On the one hand, it felt so good to slip into being Athena, to have such power and strength. It was so much easier to be Athena, sometimes. On the other hand, it would be nice to have someone to hang out with, and it might even be nice to do something in school again. “I solemnly swear on the thrones of Olympus,” she finally said.

“I’ll take it,” Matera replied.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Double or nothing!

Also, what time zone...?

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Oh, hey, I actually have time for this!!! in; flash me

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Hi, it's that weird time of year when I'm only working 2 out of 4 jobs and almost have enough time to spend on things I actually like!!!! :toxx: and a flash rule, please!

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Give It to Your Brother
1195 words



Mom is practically melting behind the glass. It’s August in California, and the prison isn’t air-conditioned. I have a fan behind my chair, as do the other visitors, but I don’t see any for the actual prisoners. A year ago, I would have filed a complaint.

“You look good,” she tells me shyly.

I smile blankly, waiting.

Mom is tense. Last year, before I heard the truth, she was up for parole. A model prisoner, and she also hadn’t killed anyone, not directly. Then she let her secret slip, and I yanked the rug out from underneath us both. She went back down, I lost my job and my wife, and a lot of unforgivable things were said. This is the third time I’ve been back since then, and with every visit, I give her less and less hope. I enjoy this process.

She folded her hands in front of her. “Xavier—”

“I go by Alex now, actually. Alexander White.” She winces. “Yeah, sorry, did I forget to tell you? I had to change my name and move to Petaluma. You know, because of the huge, life-destroying scandal?”

“Okay,” she says wearily, “Alexander. I don’t know how to apologize more than I already have, but—”

“I got the documents from Mr. Gerhardt’s office,” I cut her off. “All of the ones the lawyers needed. They’re in my bank safe.”

She sags in relief. “I knew you would help me,” she said quietly. Her voice is almost blocked by the electronic buzz from the cheap handset.

“I’m on top of everything,” I tell her. In that moment, I don’t mean it as a threat.

Mom was a beautiful hippie chick. In the one picture I still have, she’s smiling and wearing a flower crown, reeling away from the camera as if she were drunk. Her eyes and mouth are wide open, and you can see her big white horse teeth, teeth that she hasn’t had in decades. She looks alive, like I’ve never seen her. By the time I found her again, she was too beaten by prison life to resemble the laughing woman in the photograph.

The story she told me first was that my dad was some random cowboy. We all lived on a huge, half-abandoned ranch, with all kinds of transient laborers coming through. He would order His women to “fish” for scraps of food and pot by sleeping with the men. It wasn’t the happiest origin story, but I was satisfied with the explanation. It wasn’t her idea, after all.

But last year, with her parole hearing looming, Mom got squirrely. I don’t know if the idea of rejoining the world after forty years behind bars was scary, or if she thought it would clean up her karma, or what. All I know is that when she admitted the truth about my father, I rocketed out of my chair and cut her dead. I stopped taking calls from her lawyer. I called the prison and asked to be taken off her approved callers list. I stopped going to work, stopped talking to my wife, and when Mom’s dumbass lawyer went to the media to smoke me out, I lost my loving poo poo. The name changes and new job in Petaluma weren’t even things I could count on. Somehow, eventually, they’d find out, too.

My only succor is that Mom subsequently lost her appeal, and disappeared back under the waves. And that she hadn’t said, for sure, that it was true. Not entirely for sure.

I promised my sister that I would help Mom. She seems to think that the sins of the past would somehow be erased by my cooperation. My parents don’t agree, but they haven’t quite forgiven me for finding her in the first place, let alone this situation. They would be disappointed to see how it’s twisting me, how much delight I’m taking in keeping her at arm’s length like this. I shiver with eerie joy every time I say “maybe” or “we’ll see” or “not right now, but…”

To be honest, I don’t even care that it’s hosed up. I just want to do it.

I made her wait another month without any contact, during which time her lawyer had a screaming breakdown to me over the phone and two new acquaintances stopped returning my calls. One day, drunk and alone- unusual- I called her at the appointed time and said nothing but, “Cheryleen ain’t just stupid, she’s ugly!” and hung up the phone. It devastated her when He said it. I bet this time felt worse. That didn’t feel as good as I thought it might, though.

By the time I make it back to the prison, she’s changed. The air of wounded confusion is gone, and there’s a sinister look in her eye. I slide into my seat and lift the receiver, suddenly cowed.

Mom’s quiet. She’s quiet a long time. Then she sort of straightens up and mesmerizes me with her eyes. Just like He used to. “You wanted to know,” she said simply, “so I told you. To be honest, I can’t believe the thought never crossed your mind”

“I was fine with the original story, I didn’t need to know any more than that.”

“You came looking, knowing what you were gonna find,” she continued, sounding raw. “You knew what happened at the Ranch, how he was to us. The stuff we did, I hope you don’t remember seeing. But I know you do.” Her voice drops almost to a whisper, and I instinctively lean forward. “You had a life, a better one that you would have had with me. I did the right thing back then. So why do you torture me like this? Don’t say I never did something good for you, Xav. I got you away from there.”

I’m still paralyzed. She’s not an old woman anymore. I see His crazy loving green eyes behind her blue ones, I can almost hear His loving voice. She has never stopped being a student of her Master. If I stay here, if I help her, I’ll be letting His crazy back out.

“I’m not coming to court,” I heard myself say. “I’m not testifying. You’re on your own.”

Mom nods, slowly, as if she had expected this. “So, you just proved it,” she says. “You looked just like Him, telling me no to something I need to survive. You’re His son, every piece of you, and I didn’t even have to be the one to say so.” With that, she flashes me a gleeful, almost impish grin.

I don’t even realize that I’m standing and breathing hard until I hear the chair hit the ground. Before I can say anything, the guards are on me. The one near the door has a hand on his gun. I scrabble for the handset, opening my mouth to scream at her. She doesn’t break her stare, and she doesn’t lose the calm, hypnotic tone in her voice when she says, “Don’t come back here.” Then I drop the phone.

If she weeps when I’m forced away, if she laughs, I never find out.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


^^^ thank you for all the crits, and so fast!

I probably should have linked it in the title, but this was the inspiration if you are really curious.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


sebmojo posted:

stop introducing your goddam stories we can tell how dreadful they are you don't need to explain it

Sorry, was asked directly so I thought it was cool. :smith: and wanted to thank for the crits, anyways.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


In and :toxx:

e: I would like that potato picture to play on a screen, forever, and place it so that when you walk in my house that's the first thing you see.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


sebmojo posted:

Disdain, excited



The Twisted Goose
1197 words

Werner was a legend. He could feel up any girl in the office. Not full out; he had maneuvers, a whole list of different moves: The Cincinnati Sweaterbounce. The Snatch Snatch. The Snake Charmer. Werner! I loved that guy.

Eh, remember, it was different in those days. The ladies weren’t so concerned with being “liberated,” or whatever. Nah, they were just happy to be out of the house. Finally had purpose in their lives. You know what I mean.

No?

Well, anyways, Werner was a savant. He could get a girl- any girl- any part of a girl! - from any angle. Most of the chicks in the office knew better than to bend over in the same room as him. The bastard could fly, I tell you. No matter how far away she was when he spotted her, Werner would somehow immediately be in position to grab a handful. It was amazing. We’d take bets, we’d watch…it was better than a football game.

So, they hire this new chick. She’s got that Marilyn wiggle, blond, stacked. Only problem is, she wore Coke-bottle glasses. I think her name was Mindy. Mary? M-something. Anyways, this Mindy girl walked around like she never took a poo poo before. She went to Radcliffe or something, so she thought she was better than everyone else. You know the type.

Sure, you do. A real ice queen. Most new girls were more than happy with a little male attention, but she didn’t seem interested in any of us. We actually thought she was, you know…but we found out she had some hippie boyfriend at NYU. Nothing special except whatever magic powers Werner had, she had the opposite. Man, was he frustrated! He just kept missing her. Literally, physically missing her. And she wasn’t exactly a small girl, if you know what I mean!

Actually, Werner got funny about it. Mindy didn’t notice him at all, even when she was side-stepping one of his hands, and I think his confidence took a beating. She sneered at him openly if forced to interact with him. He still got a few good grabs in with the other girls, but it wasn’t anything like it had been. His work went sour, too. Werner lost three clients in the first month after Mindy arrived.

Now, we were all a bit dmeoralized. Werner had been someone we admired, but suddenly he was…well, frankly, dickless. He slumped. Mindy seemed pretty pleased with him backing off, and the other girls started to get that same constipated look she had.

Werner was one smart guy. Creative! He had a hundred different ways to grab an unwilling filly, and he wasn’t about to let this one run away with his…. saddle.

What? I’m fine, goddammit, let me finish. You said this is for the paper, well, I’m telling you more interesting poo poo than has ever been in the drat paper. Excuse me for getting poetic.

So, Werner stops going out with the boys. He quits grabbing rear end. He starts grinding away on those lost accounts. We figure, jeez, it was funny while it lasted. But, actually, Werner was planning.

One day, he comes up to me with this real wild look. Red eyes, unshaven. I say, Jesus Christ, man, you look like poo poo, go home for the day. Werner ignores that, and says, Dirk, I finally figured it out. He looks like he’s discovered a way to turn poo poo to gold.

We go into his office. He locks the drat door. The shades are drawn and there’s this sweaty, yeasty stink. It was like a cave in there, one where the bear drank bourbon all winter instead of hibernating. Werner jumped on the couch, barefoot.

I asked him what the hell he was up to, and he just said, LOOK. Then he raised one of those grimy, bony feet, and started poking it off to the side like a ballerina.

I said, I don’t get you.

This is the Twisted Goose, he said impatiently, and it’s how I’m finally going to grab Mindy Burbank’s tit. He then started flexing his toes, like he was trying to grip.

With your goddamn FOOT?

He just said that feet are leg hands. I said, fine, it worked for King Kong, and walked away. It made me uncomfortable. Sure, Mindy had given his confidence a knock, but was it worth…whatever he was doing? I dunno. I just poured myself a drink.

The next Saturday was the company party on Montauk. A clambake, pony rides for the kids, family-friendly and all that. By this point, Werner had informed a few more of the boys about his plans, so a lot of us were waiting to see what would happen.

Around sunset, I saw Werner wave to George Vaias from Accounts. Whispered something in his ear, nodded to the dock. Vaias then turned around and asked if anyone wanted to take a ride on his speedboat. Mindy and a few girls enthusiastically hopped on. Werner and I went, too.

When we launched, Werner and I were in back. The girls were in front, doing some goofy hula number. I was mostly concerned with not spilling my drink and didn’t notice at first that Werner had moved to the midsection of the boat.

To be honest, I was nodding off when I noticed Werner had moved again. He was standing behind Mindy in that stupid pose: facing away from her, with his foot dangling in the air behind him. George winked at him and turned the boat, heading towards smoother, shallower waters.

Mindy squealed and stumbled, hopping backward slightly. Werner’s eyes widened, and he stretched his foot out more. There was a big grin on his face, with such anticipation. I remember looking at his eyes in that moment and thinking, I can’t wait to tell the boys back on the beach. Werner hasn’t lost the magic touch!

Just then, we hit a sandbar. Or a rock. Something. All I know is the boat lurched dangerously. The girls fell in a screaming pile, I spilled my drink, and Werner was launched into the air, still in his graceful arabesque.

It wasn’t so graceful coming down.

Yeah. He did. Werner landed headfirst on the steering wheel and broke his goddamn neck. We thought he was joking until we realized his head looked all wrong. Twisted Goose, my rear end. Spooky/

Really? I thought everyone in New York knew that.

We had to drive back with his loving corpse draped over the cooler, with a cocktail napkin opened over his face. For, uh, privacy? The women were hysterical, but I remember looking at Mindy and thinking she didn’t actually look too upset. Shocked, but not sad. If she hadn’t been so uptight—well, I guess it’s not her fault exactly.

You know, it’s funny. I worked there for the next thirty years- I even got Werner’s job- but I gotta tell you, I never went to another company party on Montauk. Just didn’t seem right.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


gently caress YES I AM IN :toxx:

Sailor Teamu wa!!!!

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


*sadly hides Sailor Earth fanfic*

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Transformation
1274 words

I remember when the transformation was the best feeling in the world. More galvanizing than sex, certainly better than alcohol. Certainty and confidence flowing through my veins like liquor. When did that feeling turn to banality? To duty? Shame?

Ever since Sandy opened the secret underground base, we transform in the toolshed, in little cubicles like a dressing room. Wearing the Raiment of the Sisterhood of Andromeda feels like putting on a cheap suit. The transformation I truly treasure, the one that drives me, is a secret from Julie.

Julie looks like a spangled pink sausage in her uniform, all jiggle. She scowls as I appraise her gunt. “What the gently caress are you looking at, Darlene? Never seen a fat lady in a leotard before?”

I stick out my tongue at her; she glowers and does the same. Then we both giggle. “Jesus gently caress. Let’s get this over with,” she grumbles.

The others are seated in a circle. Unlike Julie, none of them seem to have aged since high school, and no one else seems to have difficulty fitting into the uniform.

The Princess is the last to acknowledge us. She gives me a small nod, then sneers at Julie. “My dear friends,” she purrs, “What detained you?”

“Cut the bullshit, Sandy. We all have to be at the PTA meeting in twenty minutes. Can we skip the dramatics for once and just cut to the chase?” Julie pulls the leg of her uniform down over her butt with a loud snap.

Princess stares demurely at Julie. “The concerns of our Earthly lives are minimal compared to our mission, Juliana,” she says softly. The others almost coo in agreement. “Your daughter is precious, as my are my three, but a new enemy is at hand.”

“Princess, “I begin, with a conspiratorial look at Julie, “The last ‘new enemy’ you predicted turned out to be a Jehovah’s Witness selling magazines. Don’t you remember what happened when you used the Princess Heart Key on him? I had to set off all the fireworks out of Dale’s garage so we could cover that up. Are you sure this threat is, uh, a threat?”

“The Crystal Spire tells me many things,” she says defensively, “but its power has grown weak over the millennium. Which makes it even more important that we deal with this new threat, thank you very much, Darlene.”

I know what she means, and lower my head. Julie gives me a quizzical look.

The horrible new threat has been identified as a new mother at Sandra’s daughter’s private kindergarten. Her crimes: she looks a little bit ethnic (brunette) and has a nose piercing. I tune out immediately, leafing through the dossier Sandy chucks in my lap and making the expected murmurs of assent, until we can leave.

“I hate that oval office,” Julie says, peeling out of the driveway. “Are you kidding me with that poo poo? We should report her to the cops for a hate crime.” She turns left onto my street. “Why does she cling tot his? The Sisterhood fought its last real battle decades ago; I don’t really want to relive those days. Do you?”

“Nope.” I leaned my head on the window. Should I tell? Julie still has the power to crush a truck with her mind, even if she has ignored her powers for so long. She could crush my tits to jelly.

Sandra would do much worse, so I say nothing.

Wednesday night, Julie and I take the town vigil. Nothing untoward really happens in Meadowsweet besides the occasional teen pregnancy, so we pull into the usual spot and crack open a sixer. I usually just bring one for each of us, but today, I need her more impaired than usual. Julie is already high as balls, I made sure of that. “I could just stay this way forever,” she slurs, her head lolling against my shoulder. “No kids, no mortgage, nothing but feeling good.”

I want to put my arm around her. Julie has been my best friend since I was eight, since I first discovered my abilities. My heart flutters. “It’s pretty warm out for October,” I say lightly, giving her a nudge. “Come on, let’s take a walk. The moon will look wicked cool when you’re high.”

Julie wrinkled her nose. “You said ‘wicked,’” she complains, but turns off the car.

It is actually a gorgeous night. The moon is full, as I knew it would be. Julie doesn’t notice as she stumble-giggles her way down the hiking trail. “I am sooo hosed up,” she hiccups. “Do you remember that field party where…”

Julie is holding my arm and gabbling about high school misadventures when we approach the clearing. The moon isn’t just full now, it’s blinding. Light fills the meadow and sings in my blood. I raise my head slightly, listening. My real transformation- our new forms- are about to be tested for the first time. Even though I know the pain that will come, I can’t help but feel excited.

Just then, Sandra steps out from behind a tree. She has never looked so beautiful: pure, pink and dewy in the moonlight. “On time,” she says to me with an approving smile.

“Sandy? What the gently caress?” asks Julie, her voice slurring.

“Juliana,” she says gently, “my oldest friend. Come and sit by me.”

Julie moves forward, hypnotized. She kneels by Princess and lays her head in the royal lap. Princess gently strokes Julie’s hair.

“You thought there was no new threat, not really,” Princess muses. “You were right.” Julie raises her head in confusion. Princess locks her gaze. “There’s no new mother at the preschool,” Princess admits.

“So…?”

I see the others creeping through the trees. They have already transformed, their eyes like silvery discs in the moonlight. My throat closes with both longing and fear. Julie looks around, wary at the noise. “Sandy?” she says, bravado lost. “What’s going on?”

“I am The Princess,” Sandy says coldly. She stands, brushing Julie’s hands from her lap like dead leaves. “Juliana DaCosta, you have disappointed the Sisterhood of Andromeda. You do not comport yourself as a member of the Sisterhood should.”

For a moment, I think the moon-shielding hasn’t worked, that Julie can still access her powers. She staggers to her feet and throws her hands up, shouting, “Moonlight Beam Crush!”

But now, they’re just words. Julie makes a choking sound, her eyes wide and black.

“I’m sorry, Juliana, but your time with the Sisterhood has ended.” This time, her smile is cruel. “You were correct that we had become irrelevant, so I am rewarding you: you will be the first on whom we sharpen our claws.”

The others draw near. Julie screams at their twisted new forms.

In her brightest days, Julie was the true power in the Sisterhood, even Sandra had to admit that. But as she aged, as she turned away from her sisters, Julie lost her connection to the rest of us. After she disengaged, we knew it was safe to carry out the new directive. With Julie gone, no one could stand against Princess and her mission. Sandra had turned the rest of us in anticipation of this night, and while our twisted bodies were not as beautiful or brightly colored as they had been in our youths, the immense power was much more satisfying.

It is good, it is right, to secure a future for our Princess and the world she promises. Yet, when Julie turns to look at me, I feel an enormous pang of loss.

“Darlene—”

The Sisterhood leaps into the clearing as one.

Friendship is powerful.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


[b]An Authentic FrontButt 2000[/url]

The Apocalypse lasted between one hundred and two hundred years, depending on how your clan keeps time. I remember the constant crashing, whirring, and scraping coming from the surface, when I was very young. We couldn't have known, but the alien conquerors were waging their own doomsday war out there. When the noises suddenly stopped, and humans started going back outside, we saw nothing resembling the world we had heard about and seen in pre-war media. But it must be better out there, right?

Well, among other things, the alien giants left their sex robots scattered across the landscape. It seemed a waste to go back underground and return to that life, so we basically said “gently caress it” and started moving in.

Mine’s a FrontButt 2000; a partially-detached former sex portal. It is still connected to the main Sex Module, but at least it's a few yards away. I covered the cable with debris, and it's almost like a real little house!

Some say we need to go back underground, that it’s uncivilized to make our homes in alien robot vaginas. I say, these are people who can’t afford a real FrontButt. It must be better out here.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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^no editing rule; that was supposed to be for the interprompt, dangit.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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In :toxx:, please randomize the hell out of me.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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I don't have Thunderdome archives account thingy; can anyone send me this guy?

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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I have the story, but thank you!

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.




A Part of Everything
1007 words

Coralline was close to ten cycles when she was Joined. Most symbiotes are given their assignments at two or three growth cycles, but she just happened to be the perfect size for a little girl with a head injury.

At first, Coralline had been afraid. She didn’t want to be cut off from the group. Most symbiotes are tuned into The Collective, a network of their combined thoughts and knowledge. Joined symbiotes often have trouble reaching the group, as the thoughts of their host block their communication. Symbiotes rarely returned to their places of birth, but once they were divorced of their hosts, their consciousnesses joined the Collective to share the knowledge of lives lived.

As scared as she had been at been at first, Coralline instantly loved her host. Evelyn was spunky and clever, and delighted in Coralline’s bright pink color. Coralline even liked having a name.

The Collective was right, she thought dreamily, it doesn’t matter if I can talk to them or not. What matters is Evelyn, and her happiness.

But when Evelyn dreamed, and Coralline rested, she still thought about home. Of splashing joyfully into the symbiote pool, of the millions of mental connections she used to make. Sometimes she thought about it so hard that Evelyn would, without knowing why, give her a comforting pat and apologize after waking up.

***

“Come on, Ev!” Lisa tugged her arm. Evelyn gulped and quickly downed the rest of her drink. It tasted worse than cough medicine. She stared at a novelty vintage sign about toilet gremlins hanging over the gross fraternity toilet, and laughed.

Lisa pursed her lips in the mirror, applying more lipstick. “We are going to get so wasted,” she proclaimed to her reflection.

“Hell, yeah!” Evelyn said, hoping she sounded authentic.

Coralline rippled her disapproval. Evelyn gave her a comforting pat. It’s not a big deal, she reassured her, it’s just alcohol! She knew symbiotes responded poorly to drinking, but she also knew that everyone drank, so it must not really be that important.

But as the night went on, as Evelyn steadily drank more, Coralline was almost panicked. She sent wave after wave of tingling, unhappy energy pulses, all of which Evelyn ignored. As she got drunker, she didn’t have to ignore it anymore- she stopped feeling Coralline.

For Evelyn, this was loose and freeing. For Coralline, it was exactly what she had dreaded all along. If she could have screamed, she would have. Not only could she not hear the Collective, but Evelyn was lost to her, too. Thankfully, the worst that happened was that Evelyn snuck back inside and stole the sign about toilet gremlins, slipping it into her purse before ordering a taxi.

That night, as Evelyn lay in an uncomfortable drunken slumber, Coralline thought about her home. She could remember a few things, like the brilliant blues and pinks of her former body. She missed standing on her own, missed feeling the water wash through her branches and fingers. In her mind’s eyes, she could just barely see the symbiote breeding grounds. With Evelyn disconnected from her, Coralline could hear the Collective again- not clearly, but faintly, as if she only had to catch up to them. The longing spread through her, heavy as lead.

When Evelyn woke the next morning, with a headache so big they could both feel it, she gave Coralline a gentle pat. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

***

Evelyn walked along the beach. Coralline knew the girl had been sad lately, but didn’t know how to help her. She tried to send comforting images of dancing fronds, the faraway voices and pulses of the Collective, but it didn’t seem to change much either way. In fact, Evelyn had seemed distressed by Coralline’s communication lately, talking to her about the images and asking questions. Coralline knew she wasn’t supposed to influence Evelyn’s thinking, but ever since they had disconnected slightly after the frat party, she kept doing it by accident.

In fact, as Evelyn grew, Coralline had become somewhat homesick. She knew her time with Evelyn was coming to an end, and that she should stop talking to her and let her become accustomed to being alone. Still, she sent the girl images of her beautiful homeland. She is not as connected to me as I am to her, yet I still would give her the gift of peace.

Evelyn suddenly stopped walking. “This is what you really want?” she asked aloud.

Coralline did not understand. She gave Evelyn a little wiggle.

The girl winced slightly, pressing her hand to Coralline’s sinuous form. “I love you,” she whispered. This, Coralline understood.

Evelyn stripped off her clothes and headed towards the water.

Coralline felt a familiar flash of panic. Don’t leave me alone! This time, however, she thought she could hear it again, Yes, little snippets of words and light. The Collective? She knew now what was happening.

Evelyn submerged her face. As the ocean thundered and crashed, the Collective and its knowledge surged through Coralline’s consciousness. She felt fear, then elation. I’m home? I’m home!

It took her mere seconds to disengage, to unwrap herself from Evelyn’s head and sink into the water. Coralline swam off, her body free for the first time in almost a decade, her mind and consciousness joyfully joined with the Collective again, as she gracefully swam off. Now she knew exactly where to go.

Evelyn left the water and sat on the beach, numb and tired. It felt as she had lost her ability to see blue, or turn left. “You were a part of me,” she whispered to the ocean, knowing that her words were now unheeded. She had never felt more alone or more adult. Evelyn knew that the time had come to move on, in a lot of ways, and left the beach a different girl.

Yet, that night and for the rest of her life, Evelyn dreamed of coral fronds and the smell of the briny ocean, and remembered.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Sitting Here posted:

finally a reboot i can get behind

Best place to be, probably.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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Innnn

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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in with a :toxx:

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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Dedicated To
788 words

Eric and Daniel started out as Trekkies. They weren’t the kind of Trekkies who became obsessed with the show’s lore, though. Rather, it was the show’s very flaws that attracted them. They would huddle for hours under a blanket in Eric’s basement, using his dad’s dusty VCR to watch old tapes of the original series, cheering as Captain Kirk defeated a succession of rubber-suited foes while barely maintaining the smooth line of his bulging man-girdle. The boys barely realized the show wasn’t a comedy- it just looked so goofy.

Daniel got the camera for his twelfth birthday. After filming several hours of the usual content appealing to pre-teen boys- the Ace Ventura talking butt, up-close nostril shots- they started using Daniel’s action figures as actors. When they excitedly reviewed the video, they were astonished by how hilarious they were. Why hadn’t anyone ever told them they were so funny? Daniel and Eric rolled on the bedroom floor, absolutely hysterical, as they watched the tape over and over.

By ninth grade, Eric and Daniel were legends. They made videos for every project they could get away with, all of them just poorly-acted and dorky enough to hit the humor sweet spot. After a viewing, one or more participants usually ended up in the principal’s office, and the classroom would be in chaos. Some teachers were known to abruptly change projects before the school year started if they saw either boy on their class roster, just to avoid the inevitable chaos.

The day before Eric died, he and Daniel had driven to the mall. Filming was forbidden- they had learned that the hard way- but they desperately needed a shot of Daniel, who was playing Ophelia, trying to drown himself in the fountain. Daniel never forgot how cold he was by the end of the day, how much adrenaline was buzzing through his body as he and Eric constantly jumped, ran, and hid to avoid mall security, how desperately funny everything seemed. They got the shot. Daniel got a cold.

Then he got a phone call. Later that night, Eric and his dad drove into town to pick up a pizza. On their way back, they hit a tree. Daniel never forgot that, either. He would always remember sitting on his bed, horror creeping through his arms and legs, trickling into his fingers. His mother’s mouth moving, her eyes glimmering with tears. Her voice inaudible to him, so far away.

The school year limped on. Daniel handed in essays and collages, posters and poems, but not another video. No one talked about it to him, either, which was worse. He mostly felt odd, off-kilter, as if he had a phantom limb.

“You’ll learn to move on,” people said.

How could he move on when everything he liked, literally everything, was something he had done with Eric? Watching goofy videos on the Internet was out of the question, let alone making any. Star Trek was unwatchable. He still ran track and played clarinet in the band, but since he’d only signed up for them because Eric had, it felt like poo poo. “Anhedonia,” a great SAT word. His shrink said it would pass, but he didn’t really believe her.

It was the following fall, eleventh grade, when Daniel suddenly started to feel…complete. It didn’t hurt any less, but the pain was becoming easier to ignore. He started running harder, making better times. College was coming up, he would have to go, he wanted to go? Maybe, he thought, a new environment would be easier. He started to think a little harder about college.

Film school?

Daniel sat on the back porch, mulling it over. He had definitely always said he was going to film school, at least before Eric died, but did he still want that? Maybe a new environment wasn’t the only change he could make. Maybe he would feel completely better if he did something totally different, gave himself some extra distance.

It was a deep blue evening. The air was cool and invigorating. Daniel could see the moon rising above the lake, almost full, just a sliver of darkness. He could hear the dry leaves rustling, the faint, quiet whooshing of cars from the other side of the house. He could smell the typical hallmarks of falls- the leaves, wood smoke, the premonition of snow- but he smelled other things, too. Soft earth. Decay, but not unpleasantly so.

Daniel looked at the world and saw in it beauty worth keeping, something quieter and rarer than laughter. He thought about how he very much wished to share his impressions with someone, and how good that always felt. Then he went inside, locked the door, and started looking at film programs.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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In, love to be 2spoopy

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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Can I still get in? :toxx: Song

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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Anomalous Blowout posted:

We’re down to the dead houseplants.[/i]

To My Daughter, Janet, I Leave
1220 words


It was grey and misty when Janet and Charles pulled up to the house.

“Do you think anyone’s inside?” Janet asked, leaning forward and rubbing her arms.

“Doubt it,” Charles said. “That’s a heavy door, and the windows are all intact. No squatters, babe, promise.” He sounded more confident than he felt- Janet had been so unsettled about checking out the old house, and he didn’t want to alarm her.

Janet sighed and sat back. “I regret this, I think,” she said, staring at the front door. “After Mom died, my dad should have just sold it. It’s so weird that he kept it all this time, I had no idea.” She swallowed and looked at Charles. “Why wouldn’t he have sold it? I don’t understand.”

Charles put his hand over hers. “I don’t know, but it’s going to be fine,” he said softly.

When they entered the house, Charles was relieved to see that he was right- the place was untouched. Theirs were the only footprint in the thick blanket of dust on the floor. “Wow,” he said softly. “Good thing your parents didn’t go for seventies trends. This place actually looks kind of nice.”

“It was my grandmother’s house originally,” Janet said, turning in a slow circle. “She always insisted on hardwood floors and ‘strong, majestic colors,’” she finished in an upper-class lockjaw. “My parents would probably have changed it eventually, but—”

“I’m sure whatever you come up with will look great,” Charles interrupted, trying to sound enthusiastic. He was getting a headache, probably from the dust, and his tinnitus was acting up. “Let’s go upstairs.”

He could only see her silhouette, framed in the hallway. Blueish light streamed through the dusty air. “I don’t know.”

“I can go, and you can wait here,” he offered.

“No!” Janet almost shouted. “Charles, don’t you dare loving leave me, I mean it!”

“Okay, okay, sorry,” he said. “I just thought—”

“No,” she said again. “Please. I’m sorry. Let’s just get this over with, okay? But we’re going together.”

Upstairs, the moldering carpet was spangled with glass. These windows were broken, but only because tree branches had grown through them. The branches appeared to have withered and died once inside the house, leaving what looked like blackened fingermarks around the windows. Chips of bark and desiccated wood were everywhere. “Ugh,” Janet almost whispered. “What is that? Is that what Black Elm disease is?”

“I have no idea. Probably there just wasn’t enough light in here for them to stay alive. The branches outside the house look okay.” Charles shone his flashlight on a little bird’s skeleton, lying on a decrepit end table. “This is cool, Jan, look.”

“That is kind of cool,” Janet warily agreed.

Charles stopped suddenly, feeling worse. His body was crawling with nausea. What had he eaten today? The headache was getting stronger. “Can we stop for a second, Jan? I’m feeling kind of weird.”

“Weird how?” Janet started to say, but she was interrupted by a loud cracking noise. She shrieked and dropped her flashlight. “gently caress!”

The cracking sound sent a lick of throbbing pain through Charles’s head. He could feel his face sweating. “It’s just a tree branch,” he said unconvincingly.

“The hell it is!” Janet scrabbled to pick up the flashlight. “They still say this place in haunted in town, I told you, I—” She stopped suddenly. “gently caress it. You know what? This place isn’t an asset. It’s falling apart, it’s creepy as hell, and I knew I didn’t want to spend the time and money to restore it. Let me just look in my old bedroom for the hell of it, and then we’ll go. Okay?”

“Good idea,” he agreed, “I feel like poo poo.”

She looked at him. “Yeah, you don’t look good. Are you okay?”

“Getting a migraine, I think.” He leaned against the wall, careful not to put his head near any of the cobwebs.

“I can go into the bedroom alone, I think,” Janet said uncertainly. “If you want to stay here?”

The headache was literally thumping. “I’m sorry, babe, I really need to rest.”

“Well…” She hesitated, tapping her flashlight against her leg. “All right, it’s okay. I’ll be right back.”

“Love you,” Charles managed to say before closing his eyes. Janet walked away, her step a little hesitant.

The migraine traced electric rainbows across Charles’s closed eyes. When he opened them, the threads were still there, moving swiftly and falling away in diagonals. He admired their tessellation, even though their rhythm matched the pulse in his head. He’d had these illusions before during migraines, but none quite so vivid. The rainbows soon were replaced by kaleidoscopic patterns, which he also enjoyed until their churning and spinning made him feel sicker. Charles slid to the floor.

He wondered if he was sitting in the spot where Janet had discovered her mother’s body. The morbid thought was jarring enough that he instinctively closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to clear away the thought and only succeeding in making the pain worse.

A brain aneurysm, he thought to himself. The irony was distressing.

The house was silent. He couldn’t hear Janet’s footsteps anymore. The lines still shimmered above him, folding in waves now, as he struggled to his feet and made his way down the hall. His eyes were too full of prisms to focus on the details, but he swore it was darker. Or perhaps it only looked that way?

He finally found Janet standing in a small, white room. It was perfectly square, and bare of anything. She stood in the dead center, staring at the wall, looking as if she was listening to something.

“Janet? Honey?”

She turned slowly to face him, but just then his vision was clouded by more electric fizzles. “Honey, I’m sorry, we need to go. And you need to drive. I’m having crazy hallucinations, holy poo poo…” He felt her take his arm and lead him out the door.

They made their way down the stairs in silence, Charles’s head spinning, until they were finally outside. He let go of her hand and crashed onto the stairs, cradling his head in his hands. “Oh, god,” he groaned. “Get in the car, I need a minute.”

Oddly enough, the rainbows were dissipating. His head still ebbed with cramps, but the nausea was fading. He snorted a bit, trying to clear his sinuses. “loving dust,” he muttered uncertainly. Soon, Charles felt strong enough to stand and go back to the car.

He crashed into the passenger’s seat, still rubbing his head. Janet was looking fixedly ahead at the house, her face perfectly neutral. Charles knew she was about to burst into tears. “Oh, honey,” he said. “This was a lot for you. Thank you so much for trying. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you.”

She still wouldn’t meet his eyes. Tears were drying on her cheeks. “Janet?”

Janet did not answer.

“Did you see something?” Charles asked. The pain was coming back, as was the faint ringing in his ears. “In your room?”

When Janet looked at him, her eyes were all black. It was the last thing Charles saw before rainbows threads and throbbing pain overtook his vision, shifting and falling in tides.

His own breath roared in his ears.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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in with a flash rule, please.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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Morning Bell posted:

I am drawing a circle in the sand of this disgusting failure desert.
Four will enter.
Two will leave.
Give me a team of two challengers against mojo and cpt doc.
Crack a VB roll a durrie do a burnout on ya ute with a kelpie in the back. Let the bloody dingoes howl.
I'm judge. Sebmojo and cptn_dr against the first two challengers to step up.

I'll do it, since I failed this week.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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Or whatever.

I'll crit all submitted stories for this week as punishment instead if I ain't brawling.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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I'm into Option 3, if Yoruichi is cool with it.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

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In and :toxx:

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Isobel's Room
1328 words

Isobel lives in a little room under the stairs. She has a window, a bed, and a bucket. Sometimes, if she’s lucky, she has a TV or some books. The window looks out at a patch of scrubby grass and a bit of sidewalk, usually covered in broken glass. Sometimes it’s pretty.

Isobel can remember a little of the time before she lived under the stairs. She had a mom, with a wide white smile, which all Isobel can really remember. A mom, a fluffy white dog, the taste of an orange Popsicle on her tongue. Holding the mom’s hand- Isobel only has this one memory. She let go of the hand once, and now she’s here. She’s been here forever.

When she first came, there was a little girl named Marie, and a man named M. Just M. Marie was very quiet and cold, with very white skin, and one day she bit Isobel. Then she fell asleep, and didn’t wake up. After that, Isobel got very thirty, and slept for a long time. When she woke up, she felt different.

M used to come every day with food, toys, and to empty the bucket, but he hasn’t come for a very long time. Once he didn’t come for so long Isobel’s mouth had dried up, she was seeing stars. He came back, cleaned her up, gave her water. He cried for a long time. Isobel cried, too, although she didn’t know why. Then he left her alone in the little basement room, and he very rarely comes back.

Isobel hadn’t been hungry for a long time, hadn’t needed the bucket. She didn’t know why. Sometimes she felt very thirsty, and that’s when she would see M.

Lately, Isobel has felt restless. She knows she’s been inside a long time. Like a zoo animal who remembers just a sliver of jungle, Isobel knows something else exists, but isn’t quite sure how to find it. If it’s worth it? She doesn’t know, because she is not unhappy. Not exactly.

Lately, too, someone has been stopping.

Isobel doesn’t have a light in her room, but two years ago, the streetlight was replaced. It got so much brighter, and now she can see her shadow on the wall. Sometimes, she can see people, although usually just their feet. She never thought someone could see her, but last week, a pair of feet slowed, stopped. She could see the edges of a girl’s hair, a girl bending down. Isobel hid in the shadows, just looking. She couldn’t see the girl’s face, only her silhouette. The shadowy face peeked at her for a long moment, then disappeared.

The next night, Isobel saw the same pink sneakers. This time, she froze with her face in the light. She could see the soft outlines of a face, framed in wavy hair, but no more.

“Isobel! Went to hell!” The children had been chanting it for as long as she could remember. It made her angry. She was right there. Couldn’t they look down? For a long time, she remembered jumping up and down and yelling. Did nobody really see? Did they think she was just playing? Isobel had given up a long time ago, but this time could be different. Maybe. She waved a little.

The girl lifted a hand, as if to wave back, but seemed to think better of it. She left quickly.

Two nights later, the pink sneakers came back, accompanied by red ones. And a flashlight. They shone it right into Isobel’s face, and she heard a gasp.

“I’m here!” Isobel screamed, jumping up and down. “I’m here!” She didn’t care if M heard.

“Did you hear something?” a girl’s voice came from outside.

“No.” Red Sneakers was a boy, and his voice was much softer. “I didn’t see anything, it’s just an empty room.”

“I swear I just saw a little kid in there, jumping up and down.”

“Okay, so you saw a little kid playing in the basement? Big deal.” The flashlight came back into the room, and Isobel scrambled after it, putting her face directly into the beam. “I don’t see anything. That window’s way too dirty.”

“No kids live in this house,” Isobel heard the girl say. “The bus doesn’t stop here, and I saw a kid who must have been around six or seven. You have to send kids to school when they’re six, don’t you?”

“Maybe she’s homeschooled, Jess. I dunno. I gotta get home, it’s almost ten.” Isobel started crying as she heard their voices fade away.

Isobel was ready for Jess when she came back. This time, she put her face against the glass, and whispered, “Who are you?”

Her breath fogged up the glass. Isobel tried to write backwards: ISOBEL

Jess jerked away with a little scream and disappeared.

The next day, a piece of paper was taped to the window when Isobel opened her eyes. It looked like it was from a newspaper, but the paper was too white and too thick: LOCAL CHILD MISSING. Isobel saw her face: the gap tooth, the brown hair. She screamed. I’m here! You know I’m here!

She didn’t have anything. What could she do? Isobel bit her finger, drew blood. It hurt, and it scared her. She drew an arrow on the glass, pointing to her name. Then she cried.

*****

When the rock came through the window, Isobel wasn’t even surprised. She stood up and screamed with all her might. Jess was pounding on the glass with another rock, trying to break off the sharp parts, using a newspaper to sweep broken pieces away with her hands. “Isobel! Grab my hand!”

Isobel stood on the table and reached dup. She was too little. She should be bigger by now., Isobel keened in distress, Jess trying even harder to reach for her, until their fingers barely touched.

“Jump! I’ll pull you up!”

Isobel bent her knees as far as she could, and launched herself up. She locked eyes with Jess for just a moment, long enough to see the girl’s expression change from fear to complete terror.

Isobel smiled hugely.

Then she grasped Jess’s hand with both of hers and yanked as hard as she could, using the gravity of her fall to drag the girl down.

There was a whump as Jess suddenly crashed onto Isobel, headfirst into the table. She leapt up immediately, scrabbling at the wall like a rabid dog and jumping as high as she could, but her fingers just didn’t reach the window. Trapped.

Isobel looked at the frantic Jess, who was screaming and crying, and knew what M would want her to do. She put her hand on Jess’s shoulder. Jess shuddered at the sudden shock of cold, then suddenly calmed, her screams fading to whimpers, her eyes closing. She fought it for as hard as she could, but finally, Jess succumbed to sleep, slumping face-first against the stone wall.

Isobel was pleased. Jess had lovely red hair and a pink hoodie. She looked like a very good friend. Isobel hoped she would stay there longer than her last few friends. They only stayed a little while before they went to sleep and didn’t wake up. Then M would take them away, and she wouldn’t see him until she got thirsty again.

Isobel snuggled up to Jess as she heard M walking, with cautious steps, towards the stairs. He must have heard the window break. He would cover up the hole so she wouldn’t get cold, even though Isobel never felt cold anymore. Still, it was nice to feel Jess’s warm body. Isobel wanted to wake her up, to talk to her before she went to sleep, but Jess already didn’t look like she was going to wake up. Isobel was thirsty.

Tucking her face against Jess’s neck, Isobel brushed her mouth hungrily against the skin. She found the best spot, the warmest spot, and bit down.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


BeefSupreme posted:

Morning Bell, if'n you are so inclined, I would greatly appreciate an extension of (at most) a day

dreadmojo posted:

I'm fine with that.


I was literally just about to submit, it's almost 2 AM here, and I'm sick as gently caress. Is this a for sure extension? I would love more time, but I really need to go to sleep.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Yoruichi posted:

Go to bed. I have information which indicates the extension will be approved.

oh my god, thank you so much, I hope many clams will grace yr teensy otter paws

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Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Morning Bell posted:

The wind blows across the desert sands. A snake slithers over an empty pack of winfield blues. A voice in the distance calls:
"Fleta Mcgurn and YoruichiBeefSupreme shall brawl against Sebmojo and cptn_dr"

1,750 worlds max
Due date: 1st of December 23:59 PST

Prompt: each writer shall choose one out of the three options below (tell me which prompt when you post your story, you don't have to choose now).
1. The only pub in town has just closed
2. A new hospital in town has just opened
3. It had been forty eight degrees Celcius for three days in a row
(please convert to Fahrenheit yourself).

Any genre, any style, any setting, as long as your words are good and I can see the prompt in your words

Morning Bell posted:

Yes yes everyone can have an extension of 24hours

BUT

Fleta McGurn - if you want an extension you must include two of the following three words in your story:
wetness, unfathomable, horticulture

Extermination Excursion

1744 words

Rebecca had only two memories from before the war. One, which she cherished, was about fireworks, light against velvet and cheerful cacophony. Not so precious was the other pre-war memory: the first Clench victim. His corded neck and twisted face splashed across a public broadcast screen. Rebecca had stared in horror before being whisked away, her childish questions going unanswered. Clench had been a rare, almost unfathomable malady before the war. During the rebuilding period, it became a plague.

The Clench started slow. It always began in the mouth or face, then slid horribly downwards. Some sufferers put pieces of cork in their mouths, or scraps of leather, so that their teeth wouldn’t crack when their jaws spasmed. You could see every tendon in the neck stiffen and wrench. Rebecca had rarely seen anyone with an advanced case- usually, it affected the lungs and heart before it could spread much farther- but she knew what a Clench Crash looked like. The merciless, uncontrollable twisting and jerking. The body a tortured puppet, trapped by itself. Most victims chose to end their lives long before the disease reached the torso.
She heard the front door open and close. “I’m in the basement,” she called. The rusty thermometer on the side of the house read 48 degrees. Rebecca wasn’t escaping the heat so much as hiding from it. She panted like a dog on the filthy floor, the moldy taste of the air thick on her tongue.

David came to the top of the stairs. “You fix these yet?”

“Nope, why would I? Next tenant’s problem.”

“Goddammit, Becca.”

She propped herself up on her elbows. “Just come down, okay?”

When David arrived at the bottom of the stairs, Becca jumped to her feet and pointed to her forehead. “Look!” After a few seconds, a sudden twitch appeared above her left eyebrow. It started slow, but soon built up a speed and rhythm that was horribly familiar.

David stepped back in disgust. “Ugh! That’s pretty good,” he admitted. “How did you manage to move a muscle in your forehead?”

“It’s been hotter than poo poo for the past three days, David. Nothing to do but hide down here and practice. Check it out, I can do it at the same time as other muscles in my chin and—”

“I am good, thanks. No need for further demonstration.” He shuddered. “Are you packed?”

She nodded. “Yeah, and I got the biofuel. We can get at least halfway to Van City with what I have. The car’s in the public square and I already stocked it with water and food. We’ll just get in and drive away.”

One strange effect the Clench epidemic eventually had was to bring communities closer- too close. Terrified of being unable to meet horticultural quotas, most settlements refused to let their citizens leave, and borders were heavily patrolled. It especially was difficult for a woman of breeding age to leave, especially if she didn’t already have children.

Rebecca was old enough to serve in the mandatory breeding program, and the local officials had been sniffing around lately, asking pointed questions about when she would come down and register. Some women looked forward to their time in the program- the clinics were relatively clean and luxurious, often with functional water lines, and lots of food- but Rebecca wasn’t one of them. She understood why someone else might want to have a family, but it made no sense to her to raise children in a toxic landscape. Many more children died than were born, and Rebecca had no interest in losing anyone else she loved. The one way she knew she could leave her small settlement was to get the Clench. If David claimed he was taking her out for extermination, they could get away easily. It happened so often, and the officers were all squeamish about catching the disease. Rebecca knew they wouldn’t waste much time examining her. Once they were in the Extermination Zone, it was only a few days’ travel to the capital. Van City was big and busy enough that she and David could both disappear.

“We’ll be there in less than three days,” Becca said to David. Mindful of her purported illness, she didn’t jump in excitement, but she did squeeze his hand. “Then we’ll be free of this place forever.”

David nodded. He looked uneasy. Rebecca knew he wasn’t quite as eager to leave- he still had a living sister in town- but she’d had to give him an ultimatum. If he wouldn’t go with her, she’d go on her own, and they’d never see each other again. David had made his choice, but she knew he was conflicted.

When they left the house, neither looked back.

Rebecca and David arrived at the public square just in time to see a Clench Crash. Not a community member, but a stranger. Two onlookers prayed. Everyone else just stared, waiting.

The man didn’t speak, only made a feeble rasping noise. His tongue lolled from his mouth. It was grotesquely fascinating to see it wiggling and twitching on its own. Were he a little farther from death, his limbs would have been equally as frenetic, but his exhaustion overcame even the effects of the Clench. The man was naked and blistered all over from sun and chemical rain exposure. He must have walked for a long time to find someone to help him die. Rebecca wished she could show some compassion and take on the extermination herself, instead of having to wait for the police, but she knew better than to draw attention.

“This is good,” David said in a low voice, “everyone’s distracted.”

With difficulty, Rebecca looked away from the dying man. David was right. The police must be on their way to the square to carry out the extermination, which meant everyone would stay there and watch. The car wasn’t far. “Let’s go!”

The door was unlocked. David poured the biofuel into the bottle mounted on the dirty dashboard while Rebecca fiddled with the old keys. “This stuff smells,” he complained.

“No poo poo- well, all poo poo, actually,” she quipped. David cracked a smile, but his eyes looked worried. “You okay?”

“Thinking about Diana,” he answered, looking back at the crowd as he pulled away. Rebecca managed to lower the seatback. “I think she knows.”

gently caress. “Would she tell?”

He shook his head, keeping his eyes on the dusty road. “Even if she figured it out, I don’t think she’d say anything. She wants to enter the breeding program next year and needs to have a clean record. Being implicated in this could gently caress that up.” He swerved to avoid a massive hole in the road. “We’ll be at the checkpoint in about ten minutes. Are you ready?”

“Yeah.” Rebecca put her hand on David’s leg as she lay down. “I love you, you know.”

He looked at her quickly, flashing a big smile. “I love you,” he answered. “No matter what happens.”

Rebecca noticed that he did not quite meet her eyes.

The border checkpoint wasn’t busy. David pulled over into the designated waiting zone. Rebecca lay back down and closed her eyes. Straining, she managed to get the forehead tic going. With great concentration, she managed to set her cheek muscle twitching at the same time, although it was dammed hard. Rebecca grunted with the effort, which she hoped would read as a grunt of pain.

“Ready?” David asked, knowing she couldn’t answer. He put the car in park.

Rebecca heard the border control officer’s rebreather, felt a stab of jealous hatred for them having one at all. She cracked an eye open to see the officer, in a sparkling white environmental suit, peering through the window.
“Papers,” the officer said. Her voice sounded tinny through the speaker.

“It’s an extermination excursion,” David said. He sounded genuinely unhappy.

“Pull over to the side, please.”

Rebecca didn’t move, concentrating on her twitches. She heard David get out. Rebecca knew he was being taken into the office to sign some paperwork, while an officer drove her into the designated exit zone. There was no security in the extermination sector, and they could drive straight across it to Van City. She was overwhelmed by the idea of emerging from the zone of corpses a free woman, ready to make her own kind of life.

She grunted and twitched for the benefit of the driver, even managing an extra spasm in her jaw muscles. Not once did Rebecca open her eyes, fearful of losing concentration, but she assumed everything was going well. Her heart leapt when she felt the car slow down and turn into a parking space.

Rebecca had expected the officer to get out right away, but they just sat there in silence. After a couple minutes, curiosity overcame her, and she cracked open one eye. It was David in the driver’s seat, and he looked sick.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she whispered through her clenched jaw.

He didn’t answer. She gave him a little poke in the side. “Hey!” she said louder, and opened her eyes. “Where are we? Why did they want us to park in here?”

David turned his head and finally met her gaze. At first, she couldn’t identify the emotion on his face, but then it hit her- guilt.

“You fucker,” she breathed, and sat up suddenly.

It seemed that they had been waiting for her to do exactly that. Rebecca screamed and kicked as the officers dragged her from the car. ‘Why the gently caress would you do that?” she screeched at David, who sat frozen. “We were going to have a life! We were going to be free!”

“I’m not leaving Diana,” he shouted back, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry, Becca! This is for the best!”

The officers were strong; Rebecca couldn’t break away. She struggled for a moment, then went limp under their crushing hands. She scraped her face on the jagged pavement, screaming as she felt the wetness of the blood. Her fists beat a futile tattoo against the white-clad officers surrounding her.

The woman from the front gate brought the sedative. Rebecca couldn’t see her face- couldn’t see any faces- but she heard a metallic whisper as the needle went in: “Nice try.”

Just then, Rebecca felt her face twitch. Involuntarily. A cold feeling of horror shot across her heart. She opened her mouth to warn them.

Then everything went black.

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