Yellow Crits Part 3
Thank you muchly.
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2018 07:53|
|# ¿ Mar 21, 2019 01:29|
In, double or nothing
|# ¿ Jan 24, 2018 06:25|
Word of God
“This world is a golden apple waiting to be eaten.”
The man in the angular, pale yellow suit spoke at the edge of the market. Through the nearby porthole, crystals glimmered in fields of blasted lunar regolith. At first, no one noticed him, but as he continued, a few stopped to watch.
“Folks, all among us know the influence a certain group has on our lives. These factotums of factualism have shuttered good sense, leaving us groping blindly in the dark. They are sitting on the biggest scoop of our time. But by this time tomorrow, I shall reveal it to one and all.”
“How you gonna do that?” a woman asked, grumbling.
“That…” The man lowered his hat to his chest with a flourish. “…is the whole story.”
The Syndicate hub center rose from the ground like a giant egg, gleaming white in the morning sunlight, as if announcing its moral purity. The Liberator knew the truth. The tops of the pedestrian tunnels leading up to it were cleaned regularly, an unusual expense, likely to enhance the effect.
The official arbiter of information was entirely cut off from the global network; the inside, completely dark; an effective Faraday cage. All reports came in and out in analog form.
He passed through the scanners easily; he carried no items. Then he walked up to one of the front desks. His hair was newly trimmed, and he wore a government pass courtesy of a contact in the Ministry of Procurement.
“I’m here to see Rick Laslo,” he said, leaning over the desk.
The man behind it stretched. His eyes stopped on the ID pinned to his vest. “You have an appointment with the Chief?”
“There’s no time. I’m very busy. You wouldn’t want my superior angry at the Syndicate, now, would you?”
The man raised a finger, and his mouth hung half open, then snapped shut. “Just a moment.” He peeled a slice of scratch-pad from the note globe and cut a few notches into it with his fingernail. He folded it into a cylinder and waited for it to dry and harden. Then he dropped it into the clear tube running beside the desk. With a shunk, it was whisked away into the depths of the building.
“He’ll be expecting you,” the man said.
“Good.” The Liberator nodded. “If you might direct me…”
The man squinted. “You are new here.” He sighed and pointed behind him. “The bulb rails are just down this hall. Walk up and give the name, and it does the rest.”
“Yes, yes, I know how it works.” But The Liberator had never seen the network up close.
The next room was a large waiting area, with several dozen dark windows in a row, following the curve of the inner wall. Everyone wore dark or gray suits, some idly milling around, while others climbed into the windows and vanished from sight.
The Liberator approached the nearest free window. Through it, he could see the central garden, arrays of purple and yellow low-moisture plantings. Sunlight glared down through the giant dome above, harsh even through the dark window surface.
The wall was otherwise smooth and featureless. No visible radio to address. He stepped up and addressed the window directly. “Uh. Rick Laslo’s office.”
The window darkened. Slowly, the translucent gray glass bowed outward, pushing out into the open space.
It grew large enough to hold him, expanding like a fat tick perched on the side of the building. It seemed to beckon him in. The far side of the ovoid vessel was thicker, and raised to knee height—his knee height. A seat custom made for him. He climbed inside and sat down. The entrance contracted and pinched off from the window, and the entire bulb lurched upwards towards one of the silver tracks crisscrossing the inner wall.
The bulb clicked in place. The inside of the bulb was eerily silent as it began moving horizontally—faster—gaining speed—the only sound a deep, resonant hum, varying in tone as it changed tracks. Other bulbs whisked by on parallel or diverging tracks, headed for other floors of the large structure, their occupants only dark blurs.
After some minutes, The Liberator’s bulb had reached the other side of the structure, and dipped down into a tunnel several floors deep. The bubble pressed itself into one of the windows at the end, which dilated to open a way for him as his bulb collapsed and pressed him inside. In a moment, his bulb had merged flat with the window.
A sign on the wall listed Laslo’s name and pointed the way. Laslo wasn’t his destination, but he would be a useful stepping stone. The Liberator walked through the curving corridor, trying to ignore the attentions of the guards walking past, always in pairs, with heavy repeater rifles in their hands. He was in the secured area now.
He came to the door and knocked. It went translucent under his fist. He could just see a figure inside, seated behind the desk, through the door’s surface.
“Ah, I heard you were coming,” said a muffled voice. “Well, enter.” The door slid into the wall with a hiss.
Laslo had a long black hair tied back. “So, you’re from the Ministry.” He tapped his chin with an archaic writing implement as he spoke.
The Liberator looked around for a way to shut the door, but it had no visible controls, and the door in the recess had no handholds. “Uh, not exactly.”
“No?” Laslo frowned, his thick eyebrows knitting together. “Who are you, then?” He shifted, revealing an ancient revolver at his belt, but he didn’t reach for it.
“I am The Liberator. I’ve come here for a story.”
“A story?” A wide smile broke out on Laslo’s face. “Isn’t that why we’re all here? What’s your angle, then? What exactly are you looking for?”
Laslo’s eyes narrowed. “A scoop? Be more specific—”
“Not ‘a’ scoop. The scoop. I know where you keep it. Physical only. In cold storage, a room not too far from here.”
Laslo bit down on his writing implement. The shaft fractured, and something dark dripped onto his coat. He didn’t notice. “You’re not part of the Syndicate. You’re not part of the government at all,” he hissed. Then, slowly, “Are you a journalist?”
“My weapons are not posts or keyboards. But they can cut just as deep. As Chief Editor, you have access. You will lead me to it.”
Laslo didn’t move. “Why?” he asked.
“It makes for a good story, doesn’t it?”
“So does ‘brave patriot stops desperate thief.’ Why shouldn’t I just shoot you now?”
“Never become part of the story. You know that. You shoot me, the harsh spotlight turns on you. I’m unarmed.” The Liberator opened his vest, raised his hands, palms-out. “Can your position here, your career, really survive that? Your life in general?”
Laslo rose slowly, pushing off from his desk with his hands. “And if I called for the guards…”
The Liberator took a step forwards. “I hoped I wouldn’t have to use this.” Then he recited, in a hollow voice: “Prisoner 56AGR2. Age: seventeen. Name: Willa Laslo. Occupation: student. Charges: possession of illicit substances, possession of hazardous materials without a permit, resisting arrest. Responding officer—”
Laslo’s face fell. “Enough. So, you’re an eidomem.” He was speaking quietly, now. “You’re not from the police. Who hired you, then? The Lunar Standard? Some clickbait rag?”
The Liberator raised a hand. “You could call me a… free agent.” He beckoned the man forward.
Laslo shook his head as he walked out. “All these attacks we’ve had lately—separatists, unionists, and fundamentalists from… three sects, now—”
“You didn’t expect someone to just walk in the front door.”
In minutes, they had reached the door. Unmarked. Unlabeled. Laslo pressed the side of the doorframe and it slid open. Cool air, with a dry electric smell, diffused out.
“I know what I’m looking for,” The Liberator said. “In ten minutes, I’m going to walk out of here, back to the entrance, and out of your life. The evidence against your daughter will be ‘misplaced’ and the charges dropped. If I don’t make it out of here, you’ll never see her again.”
Laslo nodded glumly.
The Liberator walked inside and the door slid shut behind him. The hum of an obscured refrigeration unit was the only sound as he scanned the archive in the dim light. It took him only two minutes; the paper stood out. Real paper. An artifact from the first arrival. He avoided touching it with his bare hands.
It still took him five minutes to read the tome. Thirty thousands words per minute. Perfect recall.
Then he left the room as he found it and walked out, past Laslo, and kept going.
Before noon, copies of the original colony founding document had been dictated and sent to the head of every media outlet and two-bit blogger in the capital. Within hours, it had circled the globe. Within days, word reached the nearest colonies. Researchers poring over the document began to catalog the discrepancies between the official version and the leak.
The Liberator didn’t care what people did with the information. They had it, and that was all that mattered.
Flash rule: Your protagonist is a staunch pacifist who likes to announce their burglaries 24-hours in advance. Their adversaries are armed to the teeth.
|# ¿ Jan 29, 2018 02:49|
Week No. 286 Crits
I am in! also flash rule
|# ¿ Feb 1, 2018 01:23|
Darren lost his breath the first time he saw May. She was climbing out of her dad’s Jeep on the first day of school. She turned around and pulled her bag out of the back seat. Then she walked past into the school.
He didn’t know who she was, then. He soon found out there was just one problem. She was dating his best friend.
Darren and Sam and been friends all through high school. They were an odd match. The team gave him poo poo for hanging out with the drama kid who always wore black, but after Darren got in a fight over it in his first month, they mostly backed off.
But late this summer, Sam had stopped wanting to hang out, blowing him off and canceling. Eventually, he got fed up and went to Sam’s house to confront him directly.
He got up in his face. “Man, are we cool?”
“Yes! C’mon, Darren!” Sam tried to squirm away, but Darren wasn’t going to let him get away that easily. He knew his tricks too well, and Sam didn’t stand a chance against the linebacker. “We’re fine! We’re fine! Cut it out! Ow, Jesus.”
Darren let him go. “So what’s up with you, then? I thought we were tight, but it’s like you’ve been ghosting me for weeks.”
“Ghosting? You sound like…” Sam rubbed his pierced lip. “No, dude, we’re cool. Just… this girl, she’s new here, a sophomore, I ran into her and I’ve been showing her around.”
“Ohh.” Darren smirked. “Giving her the grand tour, huh?”
“Yeah—hey, don’t make this weird, man. She just moved in down the street. I’m just helping her get situated.”
“I’m serious, Darren.” Sam narrowed his eyes. “Don’t just show up here unannounced or something. Don’t gently caress this up for me.”
Darren tried to laugh it off. “OK, whatever you say, dork. I won’t gently caress this up.”
He was about to gently caress it all up.
He had Photography class with her. Ordinarily, he couldn’t have given less of a poo poo about photography. But she was really into it—she seemed to have an answer to every question the teacher had. And he needed to get a good grade here.
I’m just going to ask her for help for the scholarship, he told himself.
He walked up and said hi to her after the bell rang. “It’s May, isn’t it?”
She looked confused. “Yes…”
“I’m Sam’s friend. Darren.” Nothing.
He’d never mentioned him to her.
“So, I was wondering,” he said as they walked down the hall to the next class. “I don’t know about any of this stuff, f-stops and shutter speeds and film stock. But I need this last elective to graduate, and I already took weight training and I’m not allowed in track anymore, so… Can we help each other? You know, meet and go over stuff from class?”
“Um… sure, I guess.” She gave him a half-smile and stopped outside the stairwell. “I have to go this way.”
“Cool. Thanks. Thanks! See you.”
At the end of the day, May looked at her texts from Sam.
how was it
They didn’t have any classes together. His elective had been full when she had gone to sign up, and they had different lunch periods.
cool. wanna come over after
She thought about asking him about Darren. Then—not sure exactly why—she decided not to.
Darren was hoping for a football scholarship. His grades had never been high enough to get any recognition, and he was no good at taking tests. The ACT had been a disaster. So the scholarship was his last ditch golden ticket to get out of this town.
The college scouts were coming around and watching them play at practices. He had gotten some early interest, but wasn’t exactly the star of the team. So far, the interest was only tentative, no real bites. That meant he’d need to keep his grades up. And that meant passing Photography.
He and May met every Wednesday. (Mom had raised an eyebrow at that—“I hope you know what you’re doing, Buster. And you don’t treat her like the last ones.” He’d rolled his eyes—“It’s not like that, Mom”—and shut himself in his room. She usually worked late, anyway, so she shouldn't be around.) They first met at the library, then his place—every time she had some excuse or reason why they couldn’t go to hers.
And they did work on studying for the weekly exams. …the first few weeks.
Darren made the first move. He was standing beside her at the kitchen table, going over the aperture math, when he leaned over to kiss her. She didn’t pull back… but there was something wrong.
He opened his eyes and her face was blank. “What’s wrong?” Blink. “Was it bad? …should I have not…?”
“No…” May frowned. “I’m not… it’s just…”
“It’s Sam. You two are dating, aren’t you?”
“Yes. No. I mean…” She bit her lip. “We’re not, really. Not really. He’s a friend. It was good to have someone to talk to here—he was the first one I saw around my age when we first moved here—but… I don’t know. He’s so involved in the yearbook all the time, and I mean, he’s funny, but…” She shook her head. “I don’t think we… fit.”
“All right. Well, we can keep it quiet, if you want?” He touched her hand.
May closed her eyes, then nodded.
“I don’t want to lose… him or you.”
“You don’t have to.”
Winter break was coming up. Darren came into homeroom and saw Sam was one of the few already in his seat at the back of the room. His eyes bored into Darren, then turned back to his desk.
He walked over. “What’s up, Sam?” The final bell hadn’t rung yet. The classroom was still mostly empty.
“gently caress off.”
Mr. Medevsky’s eyes shot up, but he said nothing.
“What? Hey, listen, Sam…”
“I said back off!”
“Mister Robinson.” Mr. Medevsky’s voice was ice at the end of the room. “I don’t want to have to engage in disciplinary action with either of you. Mister Thomas, I suggest you go and take your seat.”
Darren did what he asked, then pulled out his phone under his desk.
does he know
he s getting to paranoid
he kept asking and I didn't know what to say
I told him about us
Darren tried to talk to Sam after the bell, but he pushed him away.
“No. You two can go gently caress yourselves. I don’t care.” Near tears, he pushed out into the crush of students.
“I’m sorry about Sam.” May rubbed Darren’s arm. They were sitting at his kitchen table, trying to focus on the big test coming up. And failing.
He sighed. “Me too.” He stared at the side of her head for a moment. “May… What do you want to do? I mean, what’s this all for?”
She tilted her head. “I want to be a photographer. I almost don’t care what… or where… or who I’m shooting for. I can do it just about anywhere, I think.”
He nodded. She could. The pictures he’d seen, that she’d been willing to show him, even just the snapshots on her phone, were just… breathtaking.
Darren, on the other hand…
He sighed again. Then he turned back to the textbook. “All right. Now, the study guide says to focus on the types of film…”
Flash rule: Lancelot and Guinevere
|# ¿ Feb 5, 2018 03:19|
Vast fudging good juggling, iirc
|# ¿ Feb 5, 2018 06:04|
Some crits kinda, with excerpts from IRC of my thoughts on these
|# ¿ Feb 5, 2018 21:34|
Here's some late crits that aren't very good.
I am going to do LiveCrits, since it worked well last time. This will also be my second read of some drafts so huzza
|# ¿ Feb 6, 2018 18:25|
More bad crits from a bad man.
|# ¿ Feb 7, 2018 21:26|
Week 288 judging
I generally didn't care what your song was, especially if I didn't know it. I left that up to Anti.
These were read in judgemode so look for your story title
The Sun's Last Light
first impression: yeah Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots fanfiction is probably no bueno
Hard for me to pay attention through this distracting reference.
It's not a bad story I guess but it's not really great in any way, either. Just kind of standard ninja-training-into-defending-(robot)-attack story.
What's the thing Haruki did?
The action descriptions feel clunky. It's hard to explain, but take the "As soon as the bot’s back was turned" paragraph: all the sentences are similar lengths, usually two phrases linked by a comma, and it just feels samey and all mushes together.
best line: the lumbering shapes of the remaining bots were silhouetted against the darkening sky.
The Crystal Skull
first impression: "it's"
"Through the smudged door and past the dreamcatchers, voodoo dolls, Chinese medicinal herbs, and piles of energy crystals, the right place certainly." There's... no verb here. This isn't a sentence. And this happens more than once.
"“So it’s just a scam” the young woman said? " The question mark belongs inside the quotes.
A whole lot of said-bookism going on. And mashing multiple characters' dialog into the same paragraph. And comma splices. A semicolon doesn't divide thoughts (or speech) from narration.
There's some interesting imagery here, but it's drowing in a morass of bad punctuation and really careless execution in general.
Also, Phoenicia is not Sumeria. I'm pretty sure there were thousands of years between them.
So in the end, nothing was accomplished, nothing changed except the geographic location of the skull (slightly), nothing was learned. I don't even know the name of the girl, let alone a goal or a personality for her. A couple of mildly wierd things happened to this blank no-name woman, the end.
best line: She knew. “I KNOW” she screamed involuntarily.
“ZUUUUUUUUUUUUU” the skull screamed back at her in ancient Sumerian.
verdict: low, possible loss
first impression: "It", capitalized, in the middle of sentences. "it's" all over the place where "its" should be.
A lot of comma splices.
Another no-name protagonist. A no-name antagonist, too.
You might have an interesting germ of a story here. A metaphysical story could be interesting. A story about immortality and gods could be interesting. A story where Job overthroughs God through the force of sheer righteousness could be an interesting inversion. But this story is really let down because its execution is such a muddled mess it's hard to follow, let alone empathize or identify with the narrator (whoever that might be -- and are they a separate entity from "the man below"?) The perspective shifts in the last section. I think. Why? This just makes the confusing identities of the characters even worse.
Also what is that ending who are these twins why are they scattered how can they be both conjoined and scattered fragments what
best line: With darkness came endless slumber.
Spit in the Ocean
first impression: This is some pretty writing, and arresting analogies.
Nothing really to complain about here. Rereading it has only made it feel stronger.
“You’ve changed”, they say. We all change. Sometimes people change in different ways, like different natural formations. Like how a volcano changes, like how an earthquake changes, like how the Great Barrier Reef changes. Like how pressure hardens pebbles and dust into solid layers of rock. Like how Pangaea broke off, segmented the ocean into different pieces of blue, limbs of a paper doll severed and floating on the surface of a pond.
Story of a Muse
first impression: So, what was the point of that?
A bunch of missing-or-wrong punctuation issues, and a few comma splices. Other than that, the low-level structure is fine.
The out-of-nowhere, unexplained, unforeshadowed ending wrecks it. It ruins the mood you've built up, to no apparent end.
best line: We flit from topic to topic, metaphors one day, dancing the other. She took to them like an old lover, laughing as she danced over refuse.
First impression: Nice descriptions of the otherwordly setting. Evocative.
So, it's a nice sketch of a moment. But it's not really a story, is it? Nothing happens. It's basically a poem without the line breaks.
Best line: basically all of it
I Am Melinda
First impression: Interesting. For such a complex story, it's fairly easy to follow what's going on.
I feel like the narration does too much editorializing in places, undercutting the effect of the story. "Since that night with the storm or whatever." is the most obvious: "Since the night with the storm." would be much stronger.
Best line: I don’t know if I believe myself, but I can borrow your belief for now.”
A Te Deum
First impression: Cute little story. Fits the song.
Structurally sound and solidly executed. Good descriptions. Reading through it it just flies through.
Best line: the tiny atoll of Hortense, a thin onion ring of white sand barely emerging from the Ty-D-Bol blue Pacific.
First impression: Hmm. I like it, though the second-person is unusual.
The unspaced commas are distracting.
"But you want to." What does that mean? Actually, is it a continuation of the previous sentence? I'd rewrite that or at least repunctuate it to make that clear.
I don't know. It feels a bit too abstract. Yes, overexplaining is bad, but there's not quite enough backstory here to understand why these choices have any weight.
Best line: She smiles like a predator.
First impression: Nice narrator voice, but the physical blocking, the what's-happening-now, becomes pretty hard to follow as the story progresses. Partly due to limited understanding on the part of the protagonist, but still, I wish it was or could have been a little clearer.
Would macuahuitls saw, rather than just slice?
Another second person story. A mini-trend this week.
Why that story title?
I really wanted to like this. You pull off an Aztec story pretty well, but the naive narrator renders the action incoherent as it goes on and you're not able to get over that.
Best line: Huitzilopochtli speaks in my sleep. I dream of the seventh heaven, home of not just Huizolophocli, but his dark family. Huizophocli holds a serpent in his right hand. It bites at me. Its fangs are black with poison. I feel death, smell the acrid smoke of my family. I feel it flowing through my veins, my blood stringing me like a puppet.
Promise of the Sky
First impression: Hmm. Pleasant enough. Nothing is explained, but that's not really necessary.
I'm not sure how I feel. I didn't understand what was going on, and I didn't feel much reading it either. This may just be a personal reaction.
And the one line of dialog also applying to the story itself... that just feels like a cop-out.
Best line: They walk from dawn till dusk, then through the night and another day again
The Edge of the Machine
First impression: Huh? It's totally disjoint, like you intentionally cut out all of the interesting and explanatory bits.
I feel like there might be an interesting story here, but instead of proper cookies, you served the slivers of batter they were cut out from.
The dialog isn't very good, either.
Best line: "You know, I really like this reality interference zone," he said, then took another hefty swig of vodka.
First impression: Bad dialog and overly-florid descriptions.
Ultimately, the story felt pointless. I don't have much feel for who the narrator is, let alone the director, or what they're feeling, or why they're doing much of anything. Things just sort of happen, and the protagonist gets paid for... acting so well with the director's direction that he is literally transported to the time and place he'd written about? And he is permanently afflicted with that character's dilemma, because.
Best line: I leaped through the placeholder sections with abandon. The words hadn’t felt adequate when I wrote them, but now, here, they were right.
Boarded up on memory lane
First impression: Guh? What just happened? The blocking, the step by step of exactly what's going on in this scene, or two scenes, or three scenes, I can't even tell, is jumbled up and impossible to follow.
Maybe that was your intention, but to tell a story mixing up past and present or multiple locations simultaneously or whatever this is about requires more care, more careful structuring, from your narration, compared to a simple linear narrative. Otherwise, it's just exhausting for the reader with no payoff.
There's nice description, but some low-level proofreading errors, including comma splices and extraneous commas.
Best line: The room had too many people and not enough air.
Fuschia tude fucked around with this message at Feb 13, 2018 around 19:41
|# ¿ Feb 13, 2018 19:23|
In, De Medici
Week 279-How to Write a Story Crits Part 3
Thanks for the crits~
|# ¿ Feb 20, 2018 06:57|
The sun rose over black rocks flecked with the ocean’s spray. Tufts of grass blew in the icy morning wind. Theo sat on the edge of the cliff, with Finn beside him, tantalizingly close. Soon, he would need to return to the monastery, but for now, they had this moment.
The two shoved off from the cliff and rowed back towards the monastery in silence. The strain of the work took their full attention.
They breached the sliver of rough gray sand that passed for a beach, and Theo sprung out onto the damp sand. Finn followed, and with rough hands he heaved the canoe, wet and dripping, onto his shoulder. He slapped it down at the base of the jagged cliff face, where the stairs cut into the rock began.
“Come on,” Theo called to the man, and scampered up the stairs.
Brother Jonathan was tending the garden outside the monastery walls as the two climbed into view. He looked up from the plots of sage and chamomile. “Brother Theodosus,” the monk said. The hood of his heavy brown cloak flared out, buffeted by the chill wind whipping along the outer wall. “Were you gone all night?”
“No, Brother Jonathan. I woke early, completed my morning duties, and went to the beach to watch the sunrise. This fisherman happened by in his canoe, and I offered him breakfast.”
“Canoe?” The old monk squinted at the man, who raised his chin in response. “That’s not a proper fishing craft. Haven’t I seen you before?”
“No, no, I just use it to get around the isles,” Finn said. “For fishing I go out on a real vessel, tall sails, a right beaut, owned by a fella I know, along with three of his mates.”
Theo kicked a rock. “We were getting hungry, Brother Jonathan…”
The old man tossed a glance through the open gate. “Go on, then.”
Finn and Theo argued in Theo’s quarters after the meal. Theo was upset Finn had tried to hawk his trinkets in the refectory. “Made from catgut and flattened coins,” Theo said, sulking, sitting crosslegged on the floor. “And trying to sell religious items in a monastery! What were you expecting?”
“I had to try!” Finn wanted to pace, but the room was too small and cramped. The two barely fit inside. “That’s why I came here. The mast snapped in the storm. The others won’t be going out on another fishing trip for two weeks, maybe longer.” He flopped on the bed, and peered through the tiny window at gulls playing over the sea.
Then he looked over at his friend, reached out, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Why don’t you join me up here, Theo.”
Theo pushed his arm away and jumped to his feet. “No, I took a vow—I mean… I’m going to take one…”
Finn pushed past and elbowed the door open, muttering about “all sodding piss pots.”
Brother Jonathan met Theo in the hall. “Theodosus, I wish to speak to you about your bringing outsiders here,” he said. “It creates an uncomfortable situation with the other brothers. They talk about you—”
“Theo—” Brother Jonathan sighed. The years hung heavy on his lids. “That’s not really what I wanted to talk to you about. I took you in sixteen years ago, when you were found abandoned on the beach. As a kindness. I knew not your parentage or place of origin. You know, you weren’t even weaned properly—I raised you first on sheep’s and goat’s milk, do you remember?”
Theo shook his head.
“I fed you with my own hand.”
“What is your point?”
“I raised you, asking nothing for myself, merely service to the Lord. I wanted to instill in you ideas of calm and humility and understanding. I wanted to offer you the possibility of a life of devotion here, if you wished it—”
“I do, Brother Jonathan, you know that—”
“But not—not to force you to take it. I wanted also to tell you you were free to go, if you so desired.”
“No, I don’t want to leave.”
The old man sighed. “And that’s the problem. How can you know? You’ve hardly ever left this island. There’s much more to the world than fisherman’s sons and salty rocks and gruel. I want you to go and find it.”
Theo squinted, trying to understand what he was being told. “Brother…”
“I’m telling you to go, away, out into the world. Away from these fishing villages and the sea. There’s so much more to know of life.”
“But the Abbot—”
“It’s all been arranged. Your travel pack is assembled and waiting at the top of the steps.”
“And… But… How will I get out of here?” Theo’s face was souring. “Finn’s already left—”
“No, I talked to him outside. He’s waiting on the beach with his canoe.” Brother Jonathan’s face turned soft. He whispered: “You can do this, Theo. You’ve learned enough to begin to truly learn. About the world. About yourself.” He opened his eyes and fixed Theo with a steady gaze. “Now go, and do not return for three months. Then, you can make your decision.”
“And if I never return?”
Jonathan’s eyes were closed, and he said, almost inaudible: “Then I’ve done my job.”
He watched the boy disappear down the hallway with a lump in his throat. Whatever Theo decided now, it was his choice to make. He was free.
Relationship: Relic peddler and religious zealot
Relationship: Protector and protected
Relationship: Chaste, yet burning for one another
Location: The medicinal garden at Cosimo's court
Object: Newborn bastard
Need: To defend Florence from her own ungodly vanity
Tilt: A dangerous animal (perhaps metaphorical) gets loose
|# ¿ Feb 26, 2018 07:56|
I'm neither Antivehicular or Unfunny Poster but seeing how long judging took y'all will be waiting until July for crits.
Thanks tyrant lizard.
|# ¿ Feb 28, 2018 07:05|
Thanks for the Week 291 crits, folks. They're much appreciated.
Thanks for the week 290 crit!
|# ¿ Mar 7, 2018 06:24|
In, I would like a saint please and thank
|# ¿ Mar 14, 2018 06:11|
One minute into the phone call with her mother, and Sam already had her customary headache.
“You’re what? Picking weed? Jack! Have you heard what your pothead daughter is up to now?” Her mother’s voice, scratchy at the best of times, broke up into incoherent robotic static as her parents had a yelling conversation across their house.
“No, Ma…” Sam rubbed her head—of course she didn’t get it— “There’s a lot more to it than that. It’s not picking, it’s cultivating—”
“Did you leave that Steven?”
“Stefan. No, Ma…” She had sent her mother the engagement notice in January. The app said she had opened it. But her father was the only one of the two who ever talked talk about it with her.
“I just think you can do better than him, that’s all. If you trusted yourself better. Those artists, you know, they’re shiftless, it’s a problem with them. I wish you would have more respect and stand up for yourself…”
Stefan gave her a half-wave of his controller after she hung up. “That go well?” he asked, his eyes still locked on the TV.
“Don’t start, Stef.”
“Is your mom doing well? She’s such a nice woman—”
He dodged the wad of paper that went sailing at his head. “Hey! Watch it, you’re going to get me killed.” He giggled.
As the days grew longer, it seemed to Sam that the sun was exerting a stronger force, as if it was going to pull her to float off into space.
She was crouched over a plant at the edge of the greenhouse, delivering precise cuts with a pair of hand shears. Her supervisor was the next row over, inspecting her last work.
His head appeared over the greens. “Hey, Sam. Can I see you in my office?”
She blinked and bit her lip. Then she took off her gloves and followed him back to towards the entrance. Heads looked up and followed them back to the office. Her supervisor shut the door behind them.
“What is it, Brian? Did I miss something?”
“No… we’re coming up on the stretch, though. Cut a bit closer to the stalk.” He waved his arm. “It’s not a big deal. Just look out for it.”
“I will.” Sam was looking out of the window at the forest past the parking lot. She rubbed her arm absently.
“Are you all right, Sam? You seem out of it lately. Am I losing you?”
She looked at him, then. Straight at him. “No.” She blinked. “I don’t think so.”
“Well… try to figure it out, all right?”
He opened the door for her and watched her walk back down the aisle.
“Stefan… I’ve been thinking.”
“Mmph.” She didn’t let up, and he eventually rolled over to look at the clock. “It’s after midnight, Sam.”
“I know.” She turned on the light.
Stefan sighed and sat up. “What’s this about, Sammy?” he said, a note of irritation in his voice.
“About the future… everything. How are things at the firm?”
He looked at her. “It’s fine. I think. See there’s a lot of projects coming in right now, I like one of them especially—it’s really interesting design work we’re doing on their branding and they’re taking a really innovative new approach to the mobile space—”
Stefan droned on and Sam felt her interest waning. She tried not to show it. She failed.
“You’re not listening.” He sounded resigned.
“No. I mean, yes, I mean… I…”
Right now she wanted to get away—just a pause—get away from him—from this apartment—this landlord—this city—get out of the Northwest all together.
She tried to put it into words, but there were none. “I don’t know. I don’t know about being here. What are we really doing—”
“No, what are you doing, Sam? You have a job I thought you liked, for maybe the first time in your life, someplace you can work with your hands, something that’s changing all the time. You told me last week the business was growing and buying new space. You could be manager or something there in a few years. What is it? You getting restless? You want us to pick up and move again? Lose these good paying jobs—give up these friends—and we finally have a group of friends now—I’d have to give away my heirloom tomato plants cause it’s too early to harvest—and for what?”
“I…” Tears stung her eyes, blurred her vision.
She had no answer.
“I’m going back to sleep.”
Sam felt herself plummeting towards the same fate as her mother. A house full of cats, walls covered in embroidered pictures, shouted conversations through the hallways. She was not going to let that happen.
She put a hand on her fiancée’s shoulder. “Stefan.”
He rolled over. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry. I think it’s this wedding. The date coming up. Why don’t we… scale back. I think we can self-fund, you’re great at design, your friends can pitch in, Lacey's studio has a great yard with an amazing view—we don’t need to go to my parents for money. It’s too far for most of the extended family to come out here, anyway.”
He smiled. “I think that’s the best thing you’ve said all week.”
|# ¿ Mar 19, 2018 04:09|
I wrote some crits for the Week #290 entries. They come with an obvious caveat. Having read all of these, my shame is deepened because I'm much more aware of the judges' misery and my contribution towards it. I read them blind and tried to randomize the order to minimize the chance I'd know which had got a DM or HM.
|# ¿ Mar 19, 2018 23:24|
I don’t know anything about saints. So, in the spirit of fun, I’m going to try to guess your saint’s patronage based off what you wrote.
|# ¿ Mar 21, 2018 20:03|
so very, very in
|# ¿ Mar 27, 2018 01:39|
Happy Easter! In keeping with the holiday, here's some crits for Week 293: These Sainted Days of Spring.
|# ¿ Apr 1, 2018 20:20|
Crawling In The Sand’s
Peter picked a perfect perch to precisely piss into the pot. He confidently gripped his manliness with one hand as he effortlessly directed the stream to the chamberpot on the other side of the craft office that had newly been made his jail cell. He had no need of his other had, which was good for him as it was still tied behind his back When he finished he took and stored away his masculinity back inside his tights then turned to his portly jailer. “I’m ready”
The short corpulent man clearly tried to hide his self-evident awe at seeing this feet preformed but was latently able to contain his shock, he shook his head. The ovoid man gave Peter a shifty look as his eyes narrowed at the boy who didn’t look one day over 17. In fact he really had lived in the wastes for many, decades but time seemed to have no affect on him. The energy field interacted with his mutant blood, somehow, so he didn’t get older.
“Ye’ll nae trick me wif one o’ yer wiley capers,” boasted the corpulent man with a fat wheezing laugh between gritted teeth. “I ‘ev a pistol an’ Oi’ll not ‘esitate ‘a use it on ya,” he pronounced with menacing eyes. He drew the blaster which sat glittering like a shiny silver jewel on his thigh as he remained seated in the corner of the room by the door. That door was his only way out, Peter knew.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Peter opined. He took in his options. There were no windows here in this claustrophobic space. The door had been locked and this man must have the key. He craved to break free so he could find his friends who were separated from him after the surprise attack on their hideout but for now. he was trapped in here… or was he?
His right harm had stupidly been untied and freed by this buffoon. He reached up to touch his hair by his ear and fingered the packet of “Farie Dust” had obscured in that location for emergencies. Ornately he pretended he was itching the side his head.
“Arr,” the obese pirate barked. “It be nae good ‘a see yer arm still out ‘n about. Let’s get ye toied up noice and propa again aye.” He stood up menacing with the silver gun and ordered “sit yeself the’e on tha’ bench.”
Peter scratched the packet open and sniffed the contents deeply into his his nose with a shrug as he to approach to the man and hid the empty package down at his side. He didn’t seem to notice, thankfully, Peter thought to himself. Then suddenly he struck! He flew through the air with superhuman speed and put one foot on the mishapen pirates neck before he could react! “That’s my gun now” he crowed and hit the fated man over the head with his own fatal attraction accessory.
The great craft skittered through the desert sands on five-hundred extended lengthy white legs. From portholes strategically positioned in places of power around the external hull, of the craft, pirates armed with long guns kept watch for terrible desert creatures that might threaten the life and livelihood of those on board. It was a terrible hardscrabble life but the pay was good… if you lived to use it.
Peter stalked silently through the halls and climbing through the entrails of the terrible craft. Gaps in the metal shetting at times let in unpleasantly hot desert air. In other regions poorly ventilated or muffled or improperly contained machinery belched noxious clouds and gasses and putrid sounds into the tightly constrained space. It was in huge need of a redecorator. Ill open this up for them, he thought grimely to himself.
He was searching for his friends. He tried looking in the doors he passed, hoping he would of found some sign, but, had no luck so far. Most were locked and the keys he had found on the “blissfully” sleeping pirate guard usually didn’t fit the locks. And most of the ones that did open when he used the keys were mechanical closets. He was careful to avoid any footsteps of wandering crew that heard. At one point he past a long set of petite crafts smooth and white set along one wall, open to the air.
As the apparent teen neared atoll stairwell. he heard an awful all, to familiar voice booming through the halls like a Raynescan Pit-Bru with a pituitary condition. It was Ser Hock. Administrator of the Restricted Zone and captain of this landcraft. And he was talking about *his* friends!
“Yes, I have that Peter’s friends,” The voice bragged dripping evil. “Now they’ll walk the plank and there’s nothing he can do about it!!”
“That’s where you’re wrong flea brain” Peter screamed as he charged up the stairs drawing his vibro-knife from his ankle holster and presenting it menacingly..
Hock stared shockingly at his triumphant arrival to the top deck but quickly launched into an attack with a open snarl “Get him!” yelled. The pirales on board dropped their tasks of cleaning or maintaining the crafts technology and computers to grrab their force swords and blaster guns and bring them to bare on this so, strident interloper.
Just then peter could feel his reflexes recursing down to normal as the “high” from the “Farie Dust” began to quickly fade away at exactly the wrong time! “drat it!!” he yelled furiously!
The pirates encroached perilously as Peter backed into a corner by the stairs. The deck was flat with no ledges or steps (up) so the pirates with the guns had no way to aim though or above the over-agitated pirotes who with the melee weapons so they had to change, their weapons to close combat weapons, also.
One swung at the boy but too clumsy, he dodged an the pirate kept going and fell downt he stairwell “ow” then, silence. he couldn’t fight them all, any more, he only got one chance he would need to make it count. 2 charged next and Peter jumped up and landed with his legs behind him on the wall corner crouching momentarily to bounce off into the air catapulting over the heads of the pirrates, “Arr!” They ruminated in discust.
But the persistent boy was already of running. “Ser Hock!” He cried and pointed his vibro-dagger at the cowled man as he closed the distance in the hot beating sun on the stinking metal plates. “I want my friends!”
“Arrg,” was the reply.
“What?” Peter stopped midrun, querulous.
“About time” wendy shaded as she stepped out from behind Ser Hocks’ back. “I was getting tired of waiting for you. I decided to take matters into *my* own hands.”
Ser Hock looked like a pitiful cite bedeckled in dark cloths and weighted down in piles of jewelry and earrings and hair was woven in to strange patterns. He quivered and whimpered as Wendys knife on his throat. The crew saw him and laughed. His one mechanical hand was malfuctioning. Spinning wildly, uselessly in place, on his arm.
Suddenly, a cry from out by the side. The watchers had left their posts to stair at the commotion to see what was the matter on deck and left their ordered posts .vacant “Sand snake!” the cried screamed as a giant mouth rose up and ate him!
The deck broke up into chaos as creatures climbed and swam through the air up over the side deck walls and pirates shooting willy nilly at them all over!
“We better get out of here,” Peter affirmed to his better half. “Where’s the rest of our team?” he asked.
“She sadly shook her head in response was the only response. “They started walking the plank. They must of become snake meat by now.”
“No! drat you Hock!” he ran at the homocidal executive but was stopped by Wendy’s stretching hand “Don’t.”
“Why stop me!”
“Because. He’s mine” she glitted her teeth and dragged the knife slowly across his neck. He dropped to the floorboards of metal shuttering in the wind and beast attacks, very very dead.
Good riddance, Peter said.
Now the craft was moving unstably, losing control as all the people stopped their work keeping it moving in the crisis of the fighting.
“I hope you have a way out of here.”
Peter thoughtfully for a minute. “Yes. I know a way with a chance for to escape.” They slipped out through the fighting in the chaos of blasts and lizard teeth and scales and ran downstairs and over to the assortment of picturesque escape craft. “Get in!”
He grabbed a sliver and white glider and pushed off from the edge soaring out down from the lip overhanging gap in the wall. he did a 360 flip to avoid a flying snake and flew down through the sand piles. He looked back at Wendy following hem. The massive craft was breaking down behind here. and watched as it shuttered dissassembling into a cloud of dark obscurity. They’d made it! “Great! He yelled.
It was so hot, so fire.
|# ¿ Apr 2, 2018 02:05|
Interprompt: Ideas Guy
In a world where babies are killed by the millions, only one man can set things right, he is... The Impregnator
|# ¿ Apr 2, 2018 15:04|
I can star guest if you need another
|# ¿ Apr 4, 2018 15:26|
Thanks everyone for your crits on recent pages!
Crits for Week 296:
Yoruichi - Fragments
I'm confused - why is this an image?
eh. I don't really get why the chatbots are finishing each others' sentences in the beginning and the end
What was the purpose of that story?
Chainmail Onesie - No Left-handed Swordsmen (1873 Words)
this is just a dull setup and not much interesting is going on
All the transliterated foreign words don't help. If your reader needs a translation dictionary beside them to read your short story it's probably too much.
This seems better on a reread. I probably didn't have the patience on my first read-through. Still, something about the prose is kind of droning and monotonous. It's hard to concentrate on the action between the dialog.
Bubble Bobby - I'm Gonna Git You Hitler!
Fun premise, good prose and construction so far. Hand-waving away paradoxes is a little annoying but not important
Keeps things moving at a good pace
ending's a bit goofy but it doesn't really ruin it
Captain_Person - Running Free
That opening line does not inspire much interest
all this back and forth arguing about whether to race could probably be cut
What a weird awkward ending. This whole thing just feels... off. It just moots everything that came before, epitomized in the very last word.
Thranguy - Knight Takes Bumblebee
So far you're mananging to keep my interest through what could be a boring subject.
Cool. I don't have much to complain about. This is well-crafted.
Deltasquid - Strada Chiusa
OK it started out meh but got more interesting as it wore on.
Not sure I could keep my interest over a whole story of this, or even a short story, but I feel the story fit the parameters of flash fiction very well.
Exmond - The Bandit and The Lady
punctuation/sentence structure are kinda lacking
The others had more explanation about what went wrong here. I think you might spend too much energy crafting scenes and descriptions and not enough defining characters and their humanity and connections to the reader.
Djeser - ~The Persistence of Memory~
OK, yeah, this is an interesting play on the last hitler one. Using paradoxes as unexplained deus ex/macguffin is kinda meh, but not a big deal, just a personal bugaboo.
Um. I liked that. Probably too much. The short length is to its benefit.
Crain - County Bylaws
A semi-interesting idea, poorly executed. Like, at every step where the characters were in a potentially interesting situation, you took the most boring or cliched turn possible.
There's a high density of editing mistakes: capitalization, punctuation, etc. It really gets distracting.
boy howdy that ending did not do you any favors
Ironic Twist - Can You Hear Me
Four paragraphs in and I still don't know what this contest is...
What is going on
Um. I don't... get it. It's like you took two stories and put them in a blender together and lost the section where you explained what this contest was, or really any context.
Reading the prompt you picked didn't help to explain things
cptn_dr - House Special
Not a very arresting intro but it's not too boring going forward
Eh. I don't know. Didn't really escape any of the obvious paths and stereotypes of this sort of story; kind of a pulp horror, Steven King short story kind of vibe. I feel like it needed something more to make it notable.
Sitting Here - Freeroot Climbs Toward the Celestial Branches
That's a, uh, title. I guess it's good at telling you this is going to be basically a Ferngully story though
OK that was fairly more interesting than I expected. Not by much, though; you could cut a lot of dull pointless exposition/non-conversation out of the middle.
Jay W. Friks - Truth and Courage
"Him... wears"? Things "decorates the face of it"? There's some bizarre grammatical mismatches going on here at the top that I hope were just editing oversights. Lots of punctuation errors throughout.
Ecch. Man. There are some interesting ideas in here weighted down by some bad word choices, bad punctuation, and bad editing. Also way too much pee.
Aaaaand after picking up some in the middle, it devolves into one of the worst endings I've read in Thunderdome.
Schneider Heim - Together, Their Best Shot
Interesting intro scene, but woof, that first flashback paragraph. When you're writing a parenthetical aside in a expository paragraph of an extended backstory flashback it may be time to reconsider your life choices
OK, recasting computer science as magery is cute. Not terribly original, but at least it's played straight so it doesn't grate.
Eh. That ending feels like a letdown after what came before.
Tyrannosaurus - Tyger tyger
I thought it was going to go somewhere interesting, and... it didn't. It's just Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf without the teeth. It feels like something that you need to be immersed in academia yourself, or professorial rivalry fiction, to really understand, and then it doesn't do anything new with it even if you are.
Kaishai - The Essence of Good Barbecue
Well, so far you've managed to make a potentially boring topic interesting.
That ending was a bit of a letdown, though. Just a deadened, deafened ending after the drama of the competition. It felt like a tone mismatch.
CascadeBeta - Eclipse the Sun
Eh. A lot happened, technically, but I didn't really care about any of it. Nothing wrong with the story at the sentence construction level, at least, and it's easy to figure out what's going on.
Except for the antagonist's motivation. Jacob seemed to have broken kayfabe and was seriously trying to hurt the narrator -- then doesn't and gives him the win, the end? There needs to be much better explanation of what's expected, or why the protagonist believes things are what they're not, or something. As is, it's just a bizarre left-field ending.
Uranium Phoenix - The Finite Possibilities Resulting From Two Warships Confronting Each Other With Lasers
OK, nice title.
A fun little story. Nothing really to complain about. Kind of like Douglas Adams if he wrote an Asimov short story, maybe?
BeefSupreme - Hearts in Two
A pregnant silence... emanated? A squeal... wiggled out? There's a few of these awkward constructions.
Meh. I didn't have enough reason to care about the father relationship or the mother relationship or the sister relationship. Without enough context to explain why it was going to carry weight, the ending decision fell flat.
QuoProQuid - Are You the One?
Goofy, but probably good enough to place decently this week. Too bad you submitted late.
It's pretty obvious what's going on, no real mystery in the story, but it's fun enough to read. Pleasantly weird, though I think it could stand doing a lot more in that direction.
No glaring problems, but it feels kind of half-baked, like it was a rough draft that you hammered out to have something in after the deadline.
Fuschia tude fucked around with this message at Apr 29, 2018 around 13:25
|# ¿ Apr 29, 2018 07:47|
It's supposed to be the smiley, not a personal insult.
|# ¿ Apr 29, 2018 13:26|
So punch them in the face with your word fists, don't whine about it.
I'll if you're similarly willing to use your account as collateral to ensure that you will submit a story for this, Jay
|# ¿ Apr 30, 2018 02:54|
Fuschia_tude vs. Jay W. Friks “Bully Beatdown Brawl”
Fuschiaey W. Trix brawl
Tom Inch had an itch. Lanky, gangly, awkward, he thought he had little to offer. But with his steady job at the local general store, that was starting to change, even if he'd only been working there for a month. So he spent a little money on a new wardrobe, stayed out a bit too late some nights. And his boss grumbled every minute about it.
So he spent a little too much time entertaining with customers when he should have been taking inventory and writing invoices. Rosalind had a laugh that carried across the shop, and his boss couldn't abide happiness.
Steven splashed onto the scene with a shaking fist. "Enough dallying, Tom. I need you to get those soup cans downstairs."
“Yes, sir. I'll do that in a minute, boss—”
“You'll do that now, if you want to have a job through the week. Now go on and stop wasting the customers’ time.”
“Of course.” Tom turned red as the tomatoes on the cans he was carting down the stairs. She was gone when he got back, of course.
Quietly, he planned revenge.
His chance came the next week, when there was going to be a large delivery of stock.
“Can you help me with this, Rosalind?” he asked that morning as they walked through the streets.
“I don't think that's a good idea, Tom,” she said, stopping. “Steve would—”
“I've had enough of Steve,” he said, his face sour, and pushed on to the shop.
“There you are,” Steven snapped as Tom walked into the shop two minutes early. "We got a big shipment of canned fish and bags of dry goods. Get those pallets moved in place and unloaded. You know where they go. And make sure you take down the invoice numbers as you go. I have to go meet with a supplier. I want this done when I get back before noon. Oh, and handle any customers who come in.”
“Sure thing, boss.” Tom walked off whistling. He grabbed the hand truck from the doorway as he passed through.
An hour later and he had everything arranged just right. The bags of grain were stacked precipitously on the shelves, heaviest on top. The slightest breeze could topple the set and cause a lot of wasted spoilage.
"That doesn't look right," barked a voice by Tom's side. He whirled and his hand hit something as he turned. Steven had come back early.
The hand truck slapped into a bag at the base of the pile, splitting it open. Corn spilled out over the floor, covering their feet.
"drat it, Tom—"
Off balance, Tom didn't have time to react before the whole pile toppled over on him.
"I told you it was a bad idea," Rosalind said, shaking her head over Tom in his hospital bed.
All he could do was moan.
|# ¿ May 8, 2018 03:34|
This is an old school sci fi sort of yarn with a lot of clumsy moments and regrettable style choices, but it's got a bit of creepy and memorable imagery.
|# ¿ May 8, 2018 05:54|
|# ¿ Jun 21, 2018 05:01|
Ferra tried all kinds of odd jobs when she got out of prison: gas station attendant, vacuum saleswoman, medical transcriptionist. But it was too confining, grating, degrading, and she couldn’t handle being cooped up all day. The one job she stuck with longer than a month was ranch hand. Her few times on horseback had been cherished childhood memories; the owner was about as lazy as laissez-faire came; and she had a knack for catching and bringing in wild horses.
“You got something,” Mac told her after another rewarding day. “Wouldn’t have thought a woman could do what you just did, but…” He shrugged. “You did it.”
“What’s that mean?” she asked, her eyes slitted.
“It takes skill, what you’re doing. Quick thinking. Oftentimes some good arm and upper body strength. But you pick it up fast.”
It was a far cry from how she had been when she had first showed up, barely able to tie a knot. But she worked at that skill constantly, slow and methodical, because it was something she could take and practice on her own. Tie the rope tight, Mac had said. Keep it taut. Leave this part here just loose enough that you can adjust if necessary—adjust to the specific circumstances you find out there. Ever since getting out, Ferra felt most at ease working alone. She chafed at riding instruction, but gritted through it.
Now, she had her eye on a wild stallion, standing apart from about a dozen off in the distance. A dapple gray with a white mane. He eyed her cautiously from the side of a hill, keeping his distance. He’d evaded their grasp for months, but this morning, he was her target. This was her first solo outing, now that she had proven her skill in bringing in mustangs (and a couple of recaptured escapees), and she aimed to make a splash.
She nudged her horse forward. The stallion looked up, then suddenly bolted, and the other mustangs followed suit. She kicked off into a gallop. She knew how to separate him from the rest of the pack. The hunt was on.
After Ferra had completed her sentence, her sister-in-law came to pick her up from the prison. They didn’t talk about much on the ride home. Theirs was a chilly truce, dancing around the topic of Mark without ever mentioning him, or self-defense, or arguments, or terror. They had trod that ground before, and settled on an undeclared cease-fire.
They pulled into the driveway and Grace popped out and sprinted up the front steps. “You can stay,” she called back to her newly ex-con half-sister, as if it was an afterthought. “A while.”
Ferra clambered out of her in-law’s car. “Get back on my feet,” she offered.
Something seemed off. The door, she remembered. She closed the door. It crunched.
“Shut it,” Grace said, eyes gray silence that said everything. “Harder.”
After a fumbling with the handle followed by a slam more to her liking, she disappeared inside, leaving Ferra on the walkway clutching the bag of personal items taken from her when she first went into lockup. Half of the clothes no longer fit. She stopped caring years before.
Ferra didn’t last a week at Grace and Stan’s. The clashes with her sister-in-law and brother-in-law were too much—over lack of maintenance on the property (it had been her mother’s before she died, then hers until that night, and now it was Grace’s through some dimly recalled chain of events), how they let the dogs destroy the place, how they let their children talk to her.
Her time on the inside had stripped her of all her patience, among other things; things that she was better off without, as she saw it. She just had enough, one day, and set off on her whirlwind tour, doing short stints on mindless jobs, brief stays on old friends’ couches interspersed with sporadic renting.
But what made her first pause and wonder, that first night in the creaking house where she had last lived as a free woman, had spent several awkward teenage summers, had last seen her mother alive, was her bedroom door. The paint was chipped and peeling, and the floorboards below were speckled with matte off-white, but she was entranced by the door swinging open and closed at her own touch.
I got you now, you bastard.
Ferra had tracked the Mustang miles from the ranch, into the foothills of the mountains. Finally, after hours of seeing him over a ridge and approaching only to see him bolt away again, as they zigzagged over hills and valleys—finally, he was wearing down, his reactions becoming slower and slower. Now, before a wide river heavy with spring snowmelt, he waited for her, panting and gasping in the slanting evening sun, his breath cloud catching the sunlight as if it was deep winter.
Ferra carefully edged down the slope. Something in her that she knew was not rational, something that she had stopped denying had been there all along, wished that she was armed, that she could feel the cold steel digging into the flesh of thumb and forefinger before the flash and the crack of the report—deafening indoors, but out here it would be lost in the wilderness, with perhaps a whispered response from the mountains to the east—and see him fall, in slow motion, see him gasping, bleeding, eyes staring up, and no threat, no longer a threat, not going to be a threat, ever again.
But she wasn’t.
What she was armed with instead was a rope, tied and knotted, and a horse, well-fed and trained for endurance, up against the wild exuberance and inexperience of youth. She knew that all too well. She set off at a gallop.
It turned out the mustang had one last chase left in him.
Mac looked out of his ranch house that evening at just the right moment. Seeing Ferra ride up, with the broken mustang trailing on the rope behind her, all he could do was shake his head. He wasn’t surprised; not really. If anyone could have brought this horse in, it was her.
He walked out to greet her, keeping a safe distance from their latest acquisition. “Mighty fine. I think you’re about to drive the other hands out of their jobs,” he said with a cockeyed grin. “If they’re not careful, I’m liable to just hand their pay to you.”
“Night, Mac,” Ferra said, barely smiling as she led both the horses back to the pen. But inside, she exulted.
Unit: the herd
|# ¿ Jun 25, 2018 03:37|
hell yes I am in for 6d6 points of planescape damage.
|# ¿ Jun 26, 2018 03:27|
Week 307 crits
|# ¿ Jun 27, 2018 05:08|
Living with Demons
Victor Rainbow Robertson was nine years old when his red race cars first spoke to him. They told him to do bad things, things that scared him, things that would hurt other people.
They said if he did those things, destroy the perfume, flush the hamster, there would be a reward, and everyone would be happy. He didn’t want to. He begged. He pleaded. But the cars wore him down, and eventually he gave in.
The perpetrator was quickly identified. Then came the fallout and enforced cleanup—Victor’s parents didn’t believe in punishment, just asked him to do most of the work and apologize—no, like you mean it—and think about his actions and their consequences, and how Mom and his little brother felt.
The next day, Father came home happy. He’d been promoted to station manager… in a new market. They would be moving to Billings.
The forest was a place where Victor felt safe. He went there when he needed to get away. His parents were used to him leaving for hours at a time, now. Sometimes overnight, when he felt overwhelmed.
They were OK with it.
He was working through some issues.
Maybe the stress of the move. Victor seemed excited about the new job at first, but…
Still, it was better that he was acting out in this way than anything violent. Nothing like the hamster incident, ever since the move.
Yes, it was good. This was healthy, probably.
I thought he’d be upset we left his box of toys.
—he always loved those toy cars. I thought he’d be sad they got left behind.
He is adapting well, though, don’t you think?
I do. I think.
Did you see what his sister did today…
The coat rack started to talk to Victor.
They had been in Montana for two years.
The rack burbled and cooed, pleading for a sacrifice of candy and gum to be wedged under the base. It grew incessant, cajoling. Victor hated it.
He had gotten rid of the race cars easily enough, “accidentally” losing them, pushed into a corner of a closet, overlooked in the hasty move.
But this coat rack was different. It was one of the few pieces of furniture they took from the old apartment. It couldn't just go missing.
Victor took to running outside whenever he couldn’t handle the voice any longer. It started keeping him up at night. He didn’t have a choice…
“Just make the gift, Victor.”
He put some chewed gum under there, and all was quiet, for a time. He got an A on his math test, and the teacher who irritated him went out on leave. But within a week, it started to talk again.
“It’s so exhausting. I just get so hungry down here, Victor. They never feed me.”
He asked about more gum.
“Not gum. I need more nutrition. I’m a growing tree. You can help me, Victor.”
He sighed and stepped up to the rack. It was ugly, dark wood, all angles and points. He whispered a question.
The rack went into details. How he would go into his sister’s room while she was sleeping and cut off a lock of her hair and burn it in a candle. And then, with that done, there would be happiness in their home.
Victor slipped in and out of her room without getting caught. She never moved as he made the cut, though the scissors shook in his hand, just beside her ear. He had a match stolen from Father’s den and a birthday candle from the party drawer set up on his bedside table.
He had just lit the candle when Mom pushed the door open, starting to say his name.
He jumped. The table rocked. The candle fell, and rolled down the bedsheet, and it was engulfed.
The fire was put out, but not before it had burnt half the room. After the firefighters left and the crazed energy in the house started to die down, everyone tried to get some sleep.
There was no word of punishment. Yet. But Victor couldn’t sleep. His bed wasn’t much more than a charred frame, so he lay in his sleeping bag at the foot of his sister’s, staring at her ceiling, listening to her soft breathing. Sometimes she moaned or sniffled in her sleep.
The next morning, with the kitchen ceiling still dripping, after Father had left for work without a word, Mom told Victor what she had tried to say before. They were having a new baby. His third little-brother-or-sister. And he knew then what he needed to do. How to ensure them the happiness they were promised.
He threw some clothes in his bag and walked out of his room, like it was every other day, like he was heading to school. Mother hardly noticed, keeping one eye on his brother and sister playing in the living room, the other eye on TV. He stepped outside, shut the door, walked down the street and through the park and kept going.
He wasn’t at school.
He always comes back.
It’s been a day.
It’s been two days.
It’s been three days, now.
It has, hasn’t it?
He’s working something out. Give him time.
What if something happened?
He can handle himself.
But what if…
Victor jerked awake. Newspapers fluttered around his face. He fidgeted on the park bench.
He couldn't get comfortable. He sat up, then searched frantically for Tommy. Finding his walking stick splayed under a broadsheet page, he relaxed. His eagle feather was still safely tucked into the hair behind his ear.
He had a routine. He bounced between shelters during the winter months, when the deep cold set in. He knew all their max stay times, what he needed to do to game their systems, to stay longer where he could. The nights were starting to get cold again, and soon he would need to do something about his stick. They didn’t let weapons inside, not even walking sticks.
Victor rubbed his months-long ragged beard. He might need to whittle his stick down to something manageable. Tommy had been useful. He only needed to touch a sympathetic arm with the stick, every so often, and in return, he always managed to find a little money when he needed it. Once, he found a tenner fluttering by a curb.
His feather had no name. But it whispered in his ear, told him who to avoid, whispered “run” and he did, even when he didn’t want to run. Just last week, it had had him move from the steps of an abandoned storefront, right before police moved through.
But as long as he kept it happy and neatly groomed, he found a new piece of clothing every so often, just abandoned on a fence or hanging from a tree or just whipping past on a gust of wind, unowned. He wrapped his second scarf around his neck, then stood up and started walking.
Tommy and the feather. These friends were all he needed. With them, Victor could live life as he chose.
|# ¿ Jul 2, 2018 06:17|
Week 307 Crits
Thanks Armack and Sitting Here!
|# ¿ Jul 2, 2018 06:20|
I can judge, if you want
Week 309: He & She
|# ¿ Jul 3, 2018 05:29|
Week 309 crits
I read these in judgemode, as usual.
As muffin mentioned, none of this week's entries are terrible. Most fell into the category of competent, with the odd nice turn of phrase here and there.
Commissioning a Nigun
Hmm. Lightweight but nothing really to complain about. I don't really know enough about Judaism to get all that's going on here, though. Seemed nice enough and nothing to really complain about, aside from you could explain obscure things a bit more.
Fragile Broken Things
Eh. The back and forth between a narrative and quotation for something doesn't really work for me. Maybe because I don't know who or what said the italicized text.
By the end I didn't really understand much more about what happened in the story than I did at the beginning.
Those Who Would Burn it to the Ground
Hmmph. I was annoyed reading this that it all seemed so ripped from the headlines, just with some of the nouns renamed. It feels very, very 2018.
Putting that aside, I'm not sure about this story structurally. It does what it set out to do better than some of the earlier stories this week, but I don't know about it. It's related to the reader at such an abstract high level that everything feels kind of ethereal.
Make Like A Tree
All right, you did something interesting with a premise I've actually read on Thunderdome before. This is lifted up purely by its execution. Lots of little details that help the story, line by line, in the first section.
But then that ending section felt jarring. Like she was about to go and try to investigate and solve the murder mystery, if that's what it was... but then she just meditates for a while and eats a lovely blueberry instead.
I don't know what's going on so far but all these details are great. Really selling the story.
I didn't really like the ending, though. Seemed to come out of left field. The very end of it kind of brought things back, but doesn't really make up for it. There was no real sense of foreboding of what was coming, it seemed to me. The shift was too jarring.
You and Me at the End of the World
OK, this is nice. You managed to make a touching story about the apocalypse, somehow.
I didn't have any nits to pick with this, really. It's well-crafted.
The First Day of Peacetime
Hmm. I don't know how I feel about this. It's post-apocalyptic, or almost, allegedly, but it doesn't really have anything to do with the story which is only about these two people.
Basically, this needed a lot more fleshing out. It's not a bad story, per se; I've read many much, much worse stories in TD alone over the years. This just feels like it's still a very rough draft of a story.
Your story had the first grammar/punctuation issue I've noticed this week. ("He takes another swig of beer, and leans over the dividing fence line." shouldn't have a comma before the 'and'.) But that's not on you so much as noting how unusual this week was.
Nice story arc. I'm not really sure what the point was, though? She's prepping for an apocalypse that probably won't come, just 'cause, the end?
What does Dad do all day? Actually, what does he do in the second half of the story? What does she do when she's not feeding and watering her animals? Where does she/he get the money for this?
The ending treated the problem like it was life or death... but they're just a dozen food rabbits, raised on a lark, pointlessly. There were no actual stakes here.
We Can Forget It For You Wholesale
These descriptions and word choices are starting to get obtrusive. Before the dialog they mostly worked, but that is a long stretch of almost nothing happening to open the story.
And then the dialog itself is so mundane, simple American dialect, almost slangy (but not quite; that would actually be interesting). Just the contrast between the flowery narration and the dialog is jarring.
In the end, I find I like this story despite itself, even though we don't quite know what's going on with these weird misery vampires secretly (or overtly?) doing the bidding of some distant god.
This is an interesting concept and the story is keeping my attention throughout.
I don't have much to complain about. Some turns of phrase are a bit awkward; but these are low-level issues that can be polished out. The high level structure of the story is solid.
Oh boy with a name like that
So... yeah. I thought it might go somewhere interesting with the surprising futuristic opening, but then it snapped back to exactly where I expected from the title.
If this story was all about the war and the preceding history was laid out only in suggestions and implications, a story on this topic might work. But not when it's structured like this.
And when you need to leave a big steaming infodump at the end of your story, it's generally a sign that something went off the rails at the planning stage.
These are very pretty words. That aspect kind of gets lost in the later half of the story.
And so do I. I found it gets decreasingly clear what is going on, and why, as I read. That's not the usual difficulty curve of a story, especially flash fiction.
I'm not quite sure what happened there at the end, and I definitely don't know what Violet's planning to do or say to the queen. That last line in particular feels too abrupt to end the story on.
Ending with an attempted assault seems half-baked at best, because there's no reason or motivation for these characters or stakes defined for what she might do in response.
More pretty word-crafting.
What a weird little story. Not sure why he came back (or how he died), or what he did exactly in this story, or why doing it put him to rest. Good job killing the ice spirit monster, I guess? Not sure what happened to Marion, either.
Maybe having some sort of meeting between him and her would improve the story? I just don't really see the point of the whole thing. It was all about his backstory as he shambled around, but nothing happened with any of it and it all got thrown out by the end.
Eh. This is just confusing all the way through. I don't really know what happened here and I'm not sure I want to read it again to try to figure it out.
But I'm a judge so I did.
Making everything narration, and making your narrator someone who just elliptically circle around what's going on, usually without actually describing what actions are happening at any given moment, is just a whole truckload of "tell". It makes this whole opening section almost impenetrable.
And... then the ending throws out all you've built up and the narrator kisses a random dude on the street the end.
|# ¿ Jul 11, 2018 06:48|
Crits for Week 264 - Dystopia With a View
Crits for Week 307, Unitary Will
|# ¿ Aug 4, 2018 04:19|
|# ¿ Oct 2, 2018 14:00|
|# ¿ Oct 3, 2018 00:26|
|# ¿ Mar 21, 2019 01:29|
Marisa reached out, but grasped only air.
“You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” Her daughter ran down the hall. Giggles echoed from the cinderblock walls as if that was the funniest thing in the world.
“Lexi. Stop. I’m not going to chase you.” But Marisa wanted to. She wanted to hold the girl in her arms again, feel her snuggled up next to her in bed, reading story books to her, working every day and coming home to find her already doing her homework at the table, greeting her Happy Meals or eight-piece box with squeals of delight, every time, every single night.
A head popped out of the dorm room at the end of the hallway. “Ma.”
Marisa still didn’t move.
“I’m going to be fine, Ma.”
And maybe she would. Lexi had always been the strong one. She thought then of that time when Lexi was three, when she stepped on a nail barefoot, and it went halfway through her foot. Somehow she didn’t even cry, just came hopping inside to call for her mother’s help. A time when she still could help her daughter.
And maybe that was the worst thing of all. Knowing that she couldn’t do everything, couldn’t provide everything for her anymore, couldn’t protect her from everything, couldn’t do anything—anything—
“Ma.” Lexi’s voice was at her side, now. Marisa blinked to clear her vision. “Ma. I’m going to be OK. Really.” Her hand took Marisa’s hand and held it, warm, clasped tightly around hers. “I really am.”
* * *
Marisa would want to say when she got the phone call from Lexi in early December that she was calm and cool, gentle and understanding, giving her daughter the support she needed in a time like this, that she was a sympathetic ear and a source of wisdom. She would want to say she maintained her composure, held it together as her daughter tiptoed around what happened, never sobbed or moaned or shouted in blinding rage. She would want to say she never said I told you so, never asked her to come home early, never begged or pleaded or demanded. She would want to say she let Lexi tell her story, without interruptions or asking for more details, only as much as she was comfortable with, never demanded to know what his name was or whether he was also a student there, didn’t react with rage at the answer, or at what she asked next.
She would have wanted.
She should have.
She came anyway.
* * *
Afterwards, Marisa drove her home—to her home—in near-silence. They both felt spent, drained, half-dead, both zonked out on the couch watching Hocus Pocus on TV in darkness. Lexi had her head at her side, curled up warm in the blanket beside her. She had fallen asleep. Marisa idly played with her hair, and for once, one brief moment, it was like it was before, like she wasn’t going back, wasn’t going to leave, had always been there
Nothing was supposed to go like this. Nothing was supposed to feel like this.
“drat it,” Marisa said half-heartedly, too exhausted to put any emotion into it. Her daughter stirred at her side, settled. She looked at her face, sleeping beside her, almost peaceful. A frown darkened Lexi’s face like a passing cloud as she watched, then it was gone. Almost as if nothing was wrong.
Everything was changing. Nothing would be the same.
Lexi had always been the strong one. Lexi had always been the strong one. And—she still was—
YOU ARE A WARM WOOL SWEATER
|# ¿ Oct 7, 2018 22:03|