Over six hundred authors. Over six thousand stories. Over seven million words, all of them terrible.
Thunderdome 2012: FYI, I do take big dumps, holla.
Thunderdome 2013: If this were any other thread we'd all be banned by now
Thunderdome 2014teen: Stories from the Abonend Bunker
Thunderdome 2015teen: Weekly Stories with Positive People
Thunderdome 2016teen: Fast Writing, Bad Writing
Thunderdome 2017teen: Prose and Cons
Thunderdome 2018teen: Abonen Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here
Click for the current prompt!
What are these bloodstained sands I see before me?
Welcome to Thunderdome, a vicious, bloody, no-holds-barred flash fiction contest with a new opportunity to eviscerate your opponents every week. The judges watch the spectacle from on high, and they condemn the weak while raising the worthy into glory. Barbed critiques will tear at your ego but leave you the stronger for it. This is an arena for people who want their words to suffer the cleansing fire.
If you'd rather have your posterior patted, Fanfiction.net is thataway.
Sounds great. How do I start murdering all of you with my writing?
Once you've posted the story, you're done. No edits. No fixes. Edited stories will disqualified. You have climbed aboard the fast train to Shametown, and only the strength of your skill and your effort can save you from permanent residence there.
The winner of the week ascends the Blood Throne and chooses the next prompt. He must find two souls willing to join him in his torment. This team of three will read the incoming entries and pass judgment upon them, and so ensure the cycle of futile suffering continues.
The loser gets a free avatar!
Snazzy, don't you think?
Oh, God, I've won. What now??
I recommend questioning your life decisions.
Thunderdome's cardinal rule is ius iudicis: judge’s right, judge’s responsibility, judge’s law. The lead judge is lord for the week, but with great power comes great responsibility to not gently caress everything up more than is inevitable. Your first step should be to read this page. Your second should be to post a prompt before the masses flood the thread with impatient, crappy .gifs.
A judge should be prepared to read around 15,000 to 30,000 words in the span between the deadline and Tuesday night. (Wednesday judgments happen, but they're an abomination. The week will have abominations enough without your help.) If you know you won't have time to do this, announce your abdication. Someone else is sure to leap at the chance to make goons' lives hell! A winner who hasn't shown her face by midweek is liable to forfeit the prompt.
About prompts: over time, Thunderdome has developed traditions. Paeans to Eurovision, Voidmart, sparkling mermen, and the contents of our own rectums in the form of rewrite weeks, although not guaranteed, are reasonably likely in a given year. The existence of recurring prompts doesn't mean your first impulse should be to copy what someone else has done! Come up with your own ideas, for the love of all things godawful--and if you've truly learned nothing from history, get the blessing of the original prompter before you repeat the past.
The other task of judging is to critique all the non-disqualified entries. Crits are the gears that keep Thunderdome turning and masochists coming back for more, so yes, you really ought to explain to that person with the new losertar just why his story sucks. The ideal crit will offer at least three points of feedback, but you do you.
Three shall be the number of judges, and the number of judges shall be three.
The triangulation of opinions and viewpoints works well and delivers more crits to the entrants besides, assuming the judges aren't lazy assholes. Do not judge alone if you can help it.
You plebians simply do not understand my literary greatness.
Keep telling yourself that, sunshine. If you want to discuss the hitherto unrecognized merits of your latest fecal vignette, head over to the Fiction Farm or, for more general questions, to Fiction Advice. This thread is for three things:
Nowhere on that list is "whining about stories" for the excellent reason that no one wants to wade through that sewage.
Is it true this show is run by a shadowy cabal?
No, because cabals are by definition secret.
Anyone who judges, crits, or writes contributes to Thunderdome's existence, but a circus of this size needs clown wranglers. Four individuals have stood up in the fray to claim that indescribably dubious honor.
sebmojo, mod and sheriff, bestows upon each the losertar according to his need. In his gentle way, he lets shitposters know when to shut the gently caress up.
Sitting Here, the original Blood Queen, first and current champion, hosts and posts the Thunderdome recaps and frequently runs our celebration prompts. Look upon her works, ye mighty, and despair.
Kaishai the Archivist preserves all works in the Thunderdome Archive, maintains the OP, keeps the thread rosters, oversees the IRC channel, writes the recap outlines, and can remember far too many of the horrible things you've done.
crabrock, mad scientist, created the Archive; its conception, continuation, and code are all to his credit. He also gave the world TDbot. Everyone makes mistakes.
We're Thunderdome's janitors, so to speak. Contact us if you have a problem in need of solving. In the arena, we rise or fall on our merit like everyone else--ask Sitting Here about lattecopters sometime!
What else can I do to piss you guys off for reasons whereof Reason knows nothing?
Oh, lots, but here are particular things to avoid:
Anything else I should know?
The word count is a hard maximum. The deadlines are absolute. Mercy is at the judges' discretion. Complain to mods about Thunderdome judgment at the peril of being derided for as long as goons remember that dumb thing you did, which is to say forever.
Our channel on SynIRC, #thunderdome, is a place for participants to hang out and talk about their work in real time. Pop in with questions if you have them, and once you've spilled blood in our combat arena you're welcome to stay a while.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 04:38 on Jan 6, 2020
|# ? Jan 2, 2019 21:19|
|# ? Sep 22, 2023 20:32|
On brawling, by Sebmojo:
brawling what so someone said something mean and your bottom lip is doing that quivery thing and you feel like you can't go a single second more without punching a motherfucker? thunderdome has just the thing.
you can't fight here it's the Thunderdome when two people hate each other very much, and one of them is you, you get to slap down a challenge. make it big, make it brassy; you're slapping your sex bits down on the bar, try and make 'em bounce a little.
help someone's slapped me with something help accepting brawl challenges isn't required, but if you like to sling the poo poo around (and you should) then failing to back up your bad words with good ones will be remembered.
how does it work? once you've thrown down a challenge, and had it accepted, a brawl judge will step up just like that weird bartender in The Shining. they'll give you a prompt, a word count and a deadline. they'll also, and this is real important, state the this means if you fail to submit by the deadline then you get banned. the judge doesn't need to give you an extension.
what do you mean banned brawl toxxes are obligatory. if you're actually a literal secret agent and you've just discovered you're parachuting into Syria in two hours time then get on irc, snivel at your judge and maybe they'll remove the from the prompt, but expect that to be a one-time mercy if you gently caress it up.
anything else? don't challenge anyone until you've done a few rounds, good grudges take time to fester, don't step up to judge a brawl unless you've at least got an HM or the participants have asked you to, and declining a random drive-by brawl is more acceptable than one with a grudge behind it. this place runs on words, and hatred, and you gotta fuel the fire. and brawl judges, don't be dicks; what matters is whose story is best, don't gently caress around
is that it yes, fight well you horrible monsters
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 15:03 on Mar 26, 2019
|# ? Jan 2, 2019 21:20|
Assembled for Your Convenience: The Thunderdome Archive!
Once upon a time, two Thunderdome veterans who shared a love of statistics and a touch of OCD conceived of the greatest project ever imagined: the Thunderdome Archive, where everyone's literary shame could be displayed forever. crabrock bought a domain and coded his visions into reality. Kaishai assisted him by trawling the threads for prompts, stories, and relevant .gifs. To this day, they fight to preserve Thunderdome's coprophilic heritage.
The Archive's purpose is to store the millions of words written for TD to date. If you want to make use of it to the fullest degree (which includes reading the stories), you'll need an account, and you can request one through the link at the top left of the index. Note that accounts are open to participants only! If you're desperate to read about Vorpal Drones and vambraces at sea without searching the threads, you must first shed blood.
We have graphs!
We have lists and rankings!
We have mad libs!
(Please read "Rural Rentboys," Thunderdome's most beloved classic, to understand 2019teen and to reach true spiritual enlightenment.)
And much, much more! Visit the Thunderdome Archive today!
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 21:23 on Jan 2, 2019
|# ? Jan 2, 2019 21:20|
Presenting, for your dubious listening pleasure, Thunderdome Recaps!
The worst thing about authors is that they don’t do enough navel gazing. To that end, a group of courageous and perhaps slightly masochistic TDers pooled their gumption and embarked on a venture to enumerate in audio format the plentiful sins of the dome. Please enjoy 100+ episodes of laughing, groaning, and occasionally useful critique of Thunderdome stories!
Recaps are currently on hiatus, however you can always listen to them on the archive. The archive lets you sort through episodes by weeks covered, and it includes timestamps so you can skip directly to the exact moment in which you are namedropped, you vain little bugger.
When we do release new episodes, they will be posted here.
Your recappers are:
Sitting Here: The idiot they convinced to run this goofball brigade.
Kaishai: The reason that anyone finds these episodes informative.
Ironic Twist: *Audible groan*
Djeser: Guy who knows a lot of names for penises
Bad Seafood: Sometimes he brings a Ukulele!
Sebmojo: The suave-voiced sheriff himself
...And many more of your favorite domers!
Massive extra thank you to Kaishai for her continuing hard work on making the archive an amazing and comprehensive tool.
Credit to Sebmojo for the theme music.
|# ? Jan 2, 2019 21:20|
Thunderbrawls of 2019
Thunderbrawl 276 by Yoruichi: ThirdEmperor vs. Sitting Here Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 277 by Anomalous Blowout: Antivehicular vs. Solitair Round 1 Antivehicular Thunderbrawl 278 by Pham Nuwen: Flesnolk vs. SlipUp Round 1 Flesnolk Thunderbrawl 279 by sebmojo: derp vs. Mercedes Round 1 Mercedes (by default) Thunderbrawl 280 by steeltoedsneakers: apophenium vs. Saucy_Rodent Round 1 apophenium Thunderbrawl 281 by Chili: ThirdEmperor vs. SlipUp Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 282 by Sitting Here: Sham bam bamina! vs. Simply Simon Round 1 Simply Simon Thunderbrawl 283 by Flesnolk: onsetOutsider vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 284 by Sitting Here: steeltoedsneakers vs. flerp Round 1 steeltoedsneakers Thunderbrawl 285 by Flesnolk: Bolt Lux vs. anatomi Round 1 anatomi Thunderbrawl 286 by ThirdEmperor: Lippincott vs. onsetOutsider Round 1 Lippincott Thunderbrawl 287 by sebmojo: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Anomalous Blowout Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 288 by sebmojo: ThirdEmperor vs. Exmond Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 289 by Sham bam bamina!: curlingiron vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 290 by ThirdEmperor: SlipUp vs. anatomi Round 1 anatomi Thunderbrawl 291 by flerp: Saucy_Rodent vs. Thranguy Round 1 Thranguy Thunderbrawl 292 by Obliterati: sebmojo vs. Sham bam bamina! Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 293 by SlipUp: ThirdEmperor vs. Fuschia tude Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 294 by Antivehicular: anatomi vs. ThirdEmperor Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 295 by Sitting Here: Saucy_Rodent vs. Simply Simon Round 1 Simply Simon Thunderbrawl 296 by ThirdEmperor: SlipUp vs. Solitair Round 1 Solitair Thunderbrawl 297 by flerp: ThirdEmperor vs. onsetOutsider Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 298 by steeltoedsneakers: cptn_dr vs. Captain_Person Round 1 Captain_Person Thunderbrawl 299 by Whalley: sebmojo vs. ThirdEmperor Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 300 by Saucy_Rodent: steeltoedsneakers vs. Yoruichi Round 1 Yoruichi Thunderbrawl 301 by sebmojo: crabrock vs. Thranguy Round 1 Thranguy Thunderbrawl 302 by Anomalous Blowout: Sitting Here vs. sebmojo Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 303 by steeltoedsneakers: Exmond vs. Anomalous Blowout vs. Mr. Steak Round 1 Anomalous Blowout Thunderbrawl 304 by Antivehicular: SurreptitiousMuffin and Anomalous Blowout vs. Yoruichi and crabrock Round 1 Yoruichi and crabrock (by default) Thunderbrawl 305 by sebmojo: crimea vs. Sitting Here vs. flerp Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 306 by Getsuya: Saucy_Rodent vs. Mercedes Round 1 Saucy_Rodent Thunderbrawl 307 by flerp: Getsuya vs. Black Griffon Round 1 Getsuya Thunderbrawl 308 by Chili: Fleta Mcgurn vs. derp Round 1 Fleta Mcgurn Thunderbrawl 309 by flerp: Getsuya vs. Saucy_Rodent and Mercedes Round 1 Getsuya Thunderbrawl 310 by Saucy_Rodent: Siddhartha Glutamate vs. derp Round 1 derp Thunderbrawl 311 by Yoruichi: take the moon vs. Anomalous Blowout Round 1 Anomalous Blowout Thunderbrawl 312 by sebmojo: crimea vs. Sitting Here Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 313 by sebmojo: steeltoedsneakers vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 314 by Flesnolk: SlipUp vs. Doctor Zero Round 1 Doctor Zero Thunderbrawl 315 by flerp: SlipUp vs. Anomalous Amalgam Round 1 SlipUp Thunderbrawl 316 by Antivehicular: Anomalous Amalgam vs. steeltoedsneakers Round 1 Anomalous Amalgam Thunderbrawl 317 by SlipUp: Chili vs. Jon Joe Round 1 Chili Thunderbrawl 318 by Chili: Anomalous Amalgam vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 319 by Simply Simon: Mercedes vs. Sitting Here Round 1 Sitting Here
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 04:11 on Jan 15, 2020
|# ? Jan 2, 2019 21:21|
Thunderdome Week CCCXXXV: Pictures Worth a Thousand Words
Judges: Kaishai, Anomalous Blowout, and curlingiron.
Happy New Year! We're going to celebrate the dawn of 2019 by sharing glimpses of our worlds with one another. To wit, your task is to take a photograph somewhere outside your home and write a story inspired by that picture. You'll ideally photograph a place, not an object, if only to prevent any lovingly zoomed-in images of dog feces. Your settings are not limited to these images. You don't need to write about the exact real, location unless you so choose. I want to see the influence of the picture in your entry, though, and I'll drub you with the Tripod of Disqualification if I can't.
Don't worry too much about the quality of your photos; I'm not holding you to National Geographic standards here. That said, you'd better believe all images must be safe for work. If you somehow cannot take a picture of your own, I'll take one for you at the cost of a 300-word penalty. Going this route rather defeats the point, so it should be a choice of last resort. You can enter in advance of posting your snapshot, but your photo must be in a Thunderdome thread before the sign-up deadline passes--editing it into your sign-up post is fine.
As for twists... hmm. How about this? Entries should have a theme of resolution. The word has several meanings, and which to apply is up to you.
No erotica, fanfiction, nonfiction, poetry, political satire, political screeds, GoogleDocs, quote tags, or dick pics. Flash rules will be given exclusively as punishments. For anyone in need of an image host, Imgur should do the trick.
Sign-up deadline: Friday, January 4, 11:59pm USA Eastern
Submission deadline: Sunday, January 6, 11:59pm USA Eastern
Maximum word count: 1,000
Sitting Here: "The Turns of Edward Smith"
QuoProQuid: "A Natural Selection"
Pham Nuwen: "Hospitality"
Staggy: "Life in Stop Motion"
Exmond: "A Death's Purpose - Lullabies For The Soul"
apophenium: "In Lieu of Getting Out"
Yoruichi: "One Hour"
Antivehicular: "Swimming and Sinking"
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:59 on Jan 7, 2019
|# ? Jan 2, 2019 21:22|
Records post may go here.
|# ? Jan 3, 2019 00:17|
Edit: Now complete with picture.
Your Sledgehammer fucked around with this message at 19:30 on Jan 4, 2019
|# ? Jan 3, 2019 01:19|
Okay, here is my actual signup post, complete with a photo!
GET IN THIS PROMPT, ASSHOLES
|# ? Jan 3, 2019 01:44|
GET IN THIS PROMPT, ASSHOLES
i do what i want and what i want is to be in.
|# ? Jan 3, 2019 02:41|
|# ? Jan 3, 2019 05:33|
my goal is to enter at least 20 weeks this year.
and win at least once.
|# ? Jan 3, 2019 18:09|
Yeah I'm in.
Also some scrub wanted to brawl me. You know who you are. Bring it.
|# ? Jan 3, 2019 23:58|
Exmond fucked around with this message at 17:34 on Dec 29, 2019
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 03:44|
Djeser fucked around with this message at 00:40 on Jan 5, 2019
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 15:13|
Also some scrub wanted to brawl me. You know who you are. Bring it.
Oh, that reminds me.
SittingHere thou Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, pig of Armenia, Podolian thief, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, an idiot before God, you stole my joke.
Like a combatant oswalt I will meet you on the killing floor.
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 16:29|
I am also in and will also post my photo later.
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 16:39|
Oh, that reminds me.
I remain a statant oswalt in the face of your challenge.
someone judge this
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 16:48|
y'all better take your pictures soon; if you sign up but fail to even post the picture which completes the signup, does that make you an ULTRAFAILURE?
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 17:20|
It is the start of a new year, a time at which we reflect on the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth.
Your prompt is: compost
You have three weeks from today for your brain microbes to ferment your garbage ideas into rich, dark, nutrient-rich loam. Deadline is midnight PST on 26 January.
As I want to read good words, not a steaming pile of fetid poo, I am going to add some incentives.
ThirdEmperor, if you win I'll buy you your av back (or a new one of your choosing).
Sitting Here, as you haven't been blighted with the travesty that is Umaru-chan you are fighting for Crabrock's honour. If you win I'll buy Crabrock's av back.
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 20:00|
don't let me down SH, i loving hate this anime
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 21:04|
Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 06:48 on Jan 5, 2019
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 21:08|
Edit - Sorry, thought I was in but will be unable to submit due to travel unless I can get a permission slip to submit on Monday and not Sunday.
Mekchu fucked around with this message at 21:34 on Jan 4, 2019
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 21:24|
The deadline is the deadline; no exceptions. Come back for a future week!
|# ? Jan 4, 2019 22:21|
|# ? Jan 5, 2019 01:39|
Here's my pic.
|# ? Jan 5, 2019 01:51|
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 04:24 on Jan 5, 2019
|# ? Jan 5, 2019 03:50|
Amateur photographers, you have one hour to join the first week of the new year and one hour to upload your pictures!
|# ? Jan 5, 2019 05:05|
Submissions for Week CCCXXXV are CLOSED! I'm going to chalk up your delinquency in posting a picture to weird kiwi time shenanigans, Yoruichi, but it had better be in the thread by the next time I check.
|# ? Jan 5, 2019 06:44|
It's in my sign-up post now. As penance for tardiness I to write crits for the other entries this week.
|# ? Jan 5, 2019 06:55|
Sitting Here vs. Yoruichi Thunderbrawl Crits
THE PROMPT: Write a break-up story with a happy ending. Inflatable cars and talking dogs had to be involved, so I don't know how high our expectations could have been, really.
MY VOTE WENT TO: Yoruichi and her touching tale of plastic friendship, but any more inflation scenes and I'll start calling her ZeBourgeoisie 2.0.
Sitting Here: "A Walk Around the Block"
I should possibly like this story better considering that I've more or less written it myself, but I admit, I keep flashing back to App Week and all those apps for talking to dead people. It's a concept that tastes unfortunately stale. Characters with enough personality to make their love come to life could have neutralized that problem; alas, Oliver is a paper doll you're putting through the motions of a ghost story. An uninspired ghost story, at that. The path it takes is familiar, and the treacle-sweet ending is straight from the Hallmark Channel. Those factors hurt you significantly after Yoruichi slapped a fresh premise with distinctive characters down on the table.
The grief of your main lady is affecting. She has some spark to her for all that she spells you with one letter in extremis. That u doesn't work for me, by the way, when followed by fuckass purgatory; your exposition is interfering with your natural-looking chatspeak, I think. But the lady's feelings of sorrow, panic, and love for her dog are all real and reasonably poignant. I like that bit where she tries to have petty, everyday conversations with Oliver to hold off the fact that he's dead, only for the facade to dissolve the moment he doesn't respond instantly. I wish she loved a person and not a flat grief object, because I imagine that then this might have been heartwrenching--the potential is there.
Another issue is the treatment of purgatory, which is just a grey space Oliver has to walk through for a while, I guess? Why? Why is it so easy to cross, and why is it there? One unremarkable and tedious presence in the story is enough.
Kudos for the take on your prompt, though: that's a clever interpretation of "dogs that speak," although it occurs to me as I type this that Boris should have a place in the conclusion, possibly at Oliver's side.
GRADE: A solid B. Technically proficient and thoroughly coherent, for all that it doesn't excel.
Yoruichi: "Inflated Dreams"
Soooooo you wrote inflatable car porn. That's a thing. I would personally have toned the bodice-ripper phrasing in the inflation scene down, but that's me. The innuendo was a little funny, but it set a toe over the line between amusing and gross, and I like the story rather better if I don't read that exchange as a sex scene. Doll and Car are charming little people who want different things out of their plastic lives, with Doll coming across as the more insightful and mature friend; she's the one who sacrifices, as Car doesn't have much choice once she pushes him into the stream. She's probably the one who will hurt a little more. This is a true amicable, loving parting of friends, and although I thought at first that they relinquished each other too quickly, Doll's vigorous waving shows her affection for Car in a beautifully understated manner. Car could stand to be more distraught. But you were out of words, and you pulled off the ending pretty well considering that.
The balance of the text may be a bit off. The story's first few paragraphs are heavy with description and explanation. It's good; many details shouldn't be cut since they suggest things about Doll and Car without saying them outright (e.g. the way he protects her home from the rain, the reasons he has to believe she would want to ride with him and see the sea). When you do exposit about their relationship, you weaken it, ironically, and if there's anywhere you could trim words it's probably Paragraph Four. The last three or four sentences there are where things get clumsy.
You played your prompt straight, which in this case I see as a good thing: the setting and the physics of crinkled eyes and such add a lot of life, and the story is determined by the prompt in a way that's delightful.
GRADE: A-. The implications are as graceful as the exposition is awkward, and its creativity and characters make up for weird doll/car sex. Mostly. Kind of. Just take your win and don't make me think about that anymore, all right?
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 03:54 on Jan 7, 2019
|# ? Jan 6, 2019 19:20|
The Turns of Edward Smith
For sour old Edward Smith, the carousel never stopped turning.
One imbecilic ride on the whimsical contraption was a small concession; the giddy smile on his granddaughter’s face had, at the time, seemed a worthwhile thing. They went round and around, side by side astride their fanciful horses, her giggling at his reluctant smile. His last thought, before the aneurysm saw him slumped lifelessly against a wooden mane, was that perhaps this was, in spite of his refined sensibilities, rather fun.
When next he opened his eyes, he was alone on the rough metal floor of the carousel. He had only the wooden horses and the soft mutterings machinery for company; though the carousel still spun, the park was otherwise dark and empty.
Huffing and puffing at the indignity of this, Edward tottered over to the edge and prepared to hop off the slow-moving platform. He jumped—
—and found himself stumbling toward the center of the carousel, now on the side opposite where he’d attempted to exit. Several more attempts all produced the same result. Edward Smith was trapped.
Edward was not a man given to unruly passions, but the despair handily subdued him. He sat, his back to the center pole, and wept into his knees as if he were a four year old child who’d just received his first belting. His granddaughter would forget the brief giggles and his secret smile; her memory of that day would be polluted by the vision of her grandfather, dead and grey, bobbing up and down on the back of an unlikely equine.
Edward’s post-life aboard the carousel went on like this: Each day, the park would fill with ghostly apparitions like figures seen through frosted glass. It was only when riders boarded the carousel that he could see the living clearly, as though the presence of passengers created a link from the living world to his strange limbo. Edward stopped trying to speak with them after a handful of attempts; he was a rational man, and sorted out in short order that the rules of the carousel were such that he was well and truly alone.
He was methodical in his attempts to escape. The carousel could not be disassembled in any way, nor did it matter when or how he tried to jump off. Through all of this the horses leered at him, their colorful muzzles twisted by crazed smiles.
Edward came to treasure those times when the carousel was in use; he could track the seasons, the progression of fashion—the deepening plunge of ladies’ necklines troubled him—and the tides of war. He came to love the park as a prisoner might love the square of blue sky seen through the window of their cell.
Then, without warning, he blinked, and the park was gone. Now he was at the end of a pier, surrounded by colorful game booths, garish hot dog carts, and an altogether more raucous crowd than they who had patronized the park.
He kicked a blue horse with a fishtail and bellowed, “I was content, drat you! I’d made my peace!” Which wasn’t altogether true, but now that the park was gone, Edward felt a profound loss.
A great storm slammed into the pier, and Edward discovered in himself a deranged hope that the whole pier should collapse and send him into the bay. It did not.
Edward next found himself in a confounding place; beyond his carousel was a sea of sofas, chairs, and other accouterments. He deduced in short order that this was a furniture store, and a fine one at that.
There was a velvet rope and a polite sign discouraging customers from touching the carousel. Amidst the furniture were other curiosities: an archway that looked as though it had once belonged to a castle; a display of classical paintings Edward guessed to be originals; a small propeller plane, situated several feet from the carousel.
Edward was a man of society and knew displays of opulence when he saw them. He might’ve patronized such a place in life. And indeed, the blurry figures beyond limbo moved with poise, drifting from ottoman to fainting sofa like elegant, moneyed specters.
Once, and only once, did a rider join him on the carousel. It was the night janitor, an ex-carnie with a habit of singing old war songs to himself. He started up the ride with practiced familiarity, then sat aside the blue, fishtailed horse, singing, “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun!”
Edward smiled and sang along with the next lines: “Here they come, zooming to meet our thunder; at ‘em boys, give ‘er the gun!”
The carousel’s slow spin brought him around to face the small propeller plane. A mad thought seized him. He tried in every rational way to escape, but from the beginning his situation had ever been irrational.
“Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer gave us wings ever to soar,” the janitor sang in his tuneless rasp.
The wing of the propeller plane was tantalizingly close. Edward found his footing, waited for the rotation to carry him as close as he could get. He bent his knees. He jumped—
—and landed, belly-first, with an oof on the wing of the airplane. He crawled into the cockpit, whooping and hollering like a schoolboy. The furniture store dissolved as if washed away by rain, giving way to an endless blue sky full of gentle, puffy clouds.
Edward found that his hands knew exactly how to operate the controls, how to make the plane dip and dance in the infinite sky. He knew exactly where to go and how to get there, and that everyone he loved would be waiting for him.
Knowing all of this, and knowing there was no hurry, Edward decided to stay in the sky a little longer, looping and diving among the clouds, laughing as he’d never laughed in life.
|# ? Jan 6, 2019 21:59|
A Death's Purpose - Lullabies For The Soul
He smiles, drops a twenty at the till, and picks up his last meal. Walking over to a table he waves at the pretty girl that he is working up the nerve to talk to and she smiles back. His heart aches out of loneliness. Sitting down at a table he jokes with his coworker, whose departure is a little too hasty - one of them will remember this moment and regret it.
Ever since the first mortal died, we have loved each and every one of you. We float by this one’s shoulder, never leaving his side - like an eternal guardian, we romanticize. You cannot see us, whether it is due to inability or ignorance we do not know. If you could, we think you would find our fluffy white bodies cute, we almost blush at the thought. We flip the old proverb around - we are heard but not seen. Hopefully, you think we are still good children.
One of our cousins floats by, but we ignore their inertness. They have no purpose, no reason to act and so they don’t. But you are our purpose, our everything, and when the time is right, we will act.
We peek inside his mind. Like many, he doesn't know that he will die. One minute and twenty seconds to go. We ready ourselves for our most important moment. He sits down to lunch, a light tuna salad, covered with ranch dressing. A choice born of his New Year’s resolution - to eat healthier. The thing you mortals call irony is not lost on us.
His heart aches, but not out of loneliness this time. It turns into a surge of pain - a message to his body: S.O.S; all hands on deck; the ship is sinking. He stands up, confused as to what is happening.
It is time. It must always come as a whisper - so that you can ignore it if you wish. But it is always the truth. We lean forward and say, "You are dying."
Our voice echoes into his eardrums and settles in his cerebrum. His eyes go wide. Understanding flashes through them, and his fist clenches. This one will fight. Our heart goes heavy. Some of you accept it, it's easier when you do, but most of you fight. It’s what you're best at.
People in the cafeteria turn to look as he clutches his chest in pain and gasps. He pays them no attention and focuses on the question: "What will you do in your final moments."
We have been with each and everyone one of you since the first mortal died, and the answer is the same, but always different. You are contradictions in a never-ending void of nothingness. The tears in his eyes betray his answer. He chooses to regret, he chooses to love. Every second is a struggle, and he spends them on memories of a girl with blonde hair whom he hasn’t seen in years. He never forgot her name. She, however, hasn't thought of him since the breakup and she never will think of him again.
He is going to die, and he cannot stop it, but still, the fight continues - one last act of defiance against a world that simply does not care.
This is why we love each and every one of you. When the first of you shook your mortal coil and realized the truth, that your death has no meaning, your last act of defiance was to fling everything you had into the void. Like a spear, you pierced us and for the first time, we felt. We felt your despair, felt your impurities and we were birthed anew with an alien concept - a purpose.
He is on the ground now, surrounded by people. They are all concerned, they will all mourn, but like all things, this too shall pass.
With his last breath, he offers a single name to the void. Her name was Kim. He loved her, but she never acknowledged him - we can relate.
In time we too will stand guard over her, but for now, our attention is on this young soul. We float over to a small orb, a thing you would call your soul but it is so much more, and massage out the bitterness, the loneliness, the regret. These things make you human, but they are impure.
We motion for one of our cousins to come closer. It is time now, to act on our purpose: Our parent's death will not be without meaning. With one thought, we push the impurities of your humanity into our cousin, and they scream as it pierces them. Every birth must come with pain. Despair, regret, all of it combines to form purpose, and our cousin becomes our sister.
Together we act and sing to his soul. Our song is a sweet lullaby that lets him dream. His last thoughts were of regret, but his eternal dream will be of joy, happiness, and love. There will be no despair, no impurities. Those things are lost to him now.
We sing to honor our parents. We sing to ensure your eternal dream is pure. We sing because we love each and every one of you.
|# ? Jan 6, 2019 22:40|
I am separated from the world by a thick sheet of dark glass. On the other side, birds are singing and a mountain stream burbles over rocks. My girlfriend is talking, happy. But I can’t feel the warm sunlight. The sound of Alicia’s voice is muffled. I should never have agreed to come.
I make a deal with myself. One hour. If we haven’t reached the summit in one hour I will tell her I have to go back.
Each step extracts a toll that I can’t pay. I go deeper and deeper into debt just to keep walking. My heartbeat is laboured, like the drummer is dragging their arms through treacle. It reverberates in my head and drowns out the birdsong and the noise of the stream.
I should have said no. I should have said I’m too tired. But I am always too tired. I am exhausted; depleted. I am never going to get better. You’ll feel fine once we get going, she said, and I so badly wanted it to be true.
I hate these pills. But it will be worse if I stop taking them. This foggy half-life is better than the alternative. That’s what they tell me anyway. I hate these pills.
Alicia is pointing through a gap in the trees. Below the hill we’re climbing the valley spreads out in green and gold. She drops her worn blue backpack and pulls out her camera, but I keep walking. If I stop I will never move again.
We have been walking for half an hour. That’s nothing. No time at all. So why do I feel like I’ve been struggling up this hill for days upon nights upon days? Once, Alicia and I snuck up this hill at midnight and lay together looking at the stars. It feels impossible, now, that I ever had so much energy.
We’ll just do the short route, it’ll be fun, she said. She is considerate; she doesn’t want me to feel embarrassed or guilty for holding her back. But I am, and I do. She should just go, she’d have more fun without me. But she refuses to leave.
We reach a stream crossing. Dappled sunlight dances on the water. The sudden brightness hurts my eyes. The sunscreen on my neck feels prickly-sticky as it mixes with my sweat. The whine of the cicadas is too loud and I wish I could pull my hood up but it’s hot so I’m only wearing a t-shirt.
“David, are you ok? Do you want to go back?” she says. Her brow is furrowed with concern and she is staring into my eyes as if trying to read my mind.
No, I’m not, and yes, I do. Pease, take me home. I can’t do it. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. If I take another step I will drown.
“I’m ok, let’s keep going,” I tell her. She raises an eyebrow, but spares me the humiliation of being argued with like a child.
The trees are thick and I can’t tell how far we’ve come. I am walking through a dark tunnel. The floor is root-lined and treacherous. My legs are numb and I am afraid I will trip and fall, so I walk like a feeble old man, holding the trunks, picking each foot up carefully and putting it down flat like a clown in oversized shoes.
Like a zombie pretending to be human.
I hate this I hate this I HATE THIS. I am 30 years old and I can’t sleep can’t wake up can’t do my job can’t even go with my girlfriend for a GODDAMNED WALK. My heart thumps faster and faster and the tree-tunnel constricts. The branches press on me and the roots grab my sneakers. I can’t breathe. I can’t do it I can’t I can’t –
“Hey, we’ve made it!”
I stumble out from between the trees and collapse onto a flat rock next to Alicia. I put my head between my knees and concentrate on breathing. In. Out. Fighting the crashing waves of panic until they subside to a rolling swell.
“Are you ok?” Alicia’s face is lined with sadness.
I almost tell her I’m fine. But I’m dripping sweat, teetering on the edge of a panic attack and gasping for breath like I’ve just finished a marathon. I hug my knees a little tighter.
“No,” I say. “I feel awful. This was a mistake. Stupid meds. I'm sorry.”
She doesn’t say anything. There’s nothing to say. God I’m tired. I lie down and put my cheek on the sun-warmed rock.
Alicia strokes my thinning hair off my forehead. The panic is retreating and my breathing is returning to normal. I am separated from the world by a glass wall, but with my hands and face pressed up against it I can feel the heat of the sun from the other side. The fog clears, just a little, and I think about the things I will do when I’m better. Not if. When.
Below us the valley spreads out in green and gold. It is beautiful.
|# ? Jan 7, 2019 00:30|
Life in Stop Motion
Read it in the archive.
Staggy fucked around with this message at 13:21 on Dec 30, 2019
|# ? Jan 7, 2019 02:28|
It was a beauty, gleaming bones a shade of metallic blue like a clear July evening sky, or like Colin's irises back when he still smiled. And Jess could even see the rest of it: the angle was just right, the morning light and the wireless network traffic caught it perfectly and the translucent flesh surrounding those shining bones tinted just pink enough to be visible.
Jess held her finger above the button. A thought rose up unbidden. If I don't record it, I won't have to share it with anyone. It will be mine and mine alone. She pushed them down, first the thought and then the button, and captured the image in high-resolution stills and video until the Xenopescium Ostracaer floated through the second story wall of the anonymous office building and out of sight.
Jess and Colin fought that night, sharp words over flavorless ramen noodles and steamed green beans. If you asked the next day neither could tell you what the fight had been about, what trivial disagreement set things off. They went to separate bedrooms and she lay still, waiting for sleep to take away the dulls pain from her scars, wondering if he was doing the same.
The next morning she was back in the field, walking city streets with camera, on the front lines of science. It was frustrating. She'd trained as a geneticist, but you can't take samples from things you can't even touch. Can't do any of what she used to consider real science. Three years on and nobody was even sure if they were made of some kind of mostly dark matter or were dimensionally out of phase or some other explanation.
It was another good day. She found a large red-bones, the most common types, slowly floating near ground level in a hollowed-out strip mall, where only the check-cashing store and the cell tower were still going concerns. There was something about the way it moved that caught her attention. She stayed with it, watching, not yet recording.
An hour later her patience paid off. It was the shadow she saw first, faint and skeletal on the empty parking lot asphalt, clear and sharp only when it crossed the painted lines. She turned up, switching on full video recording, and caught its approach.
Its bones we're gunmetal black and it moved like a bullet, like a missile, like a rapier thrust, falling on the red-bones with a jaw full of teeth that glowed like they were nearly molten, ready to be worked at the forge. They snapped, ripping the cooler red bones of its prey apart, snapping them silently, and she caught it all. Predators were rare, predation events even more so, and she was certain this was a new species. She started streaming, staking her claim, thinking about what to name it.
The day went long. The predator took its time with the meal, enough for other fishwatchers to arrive and train cameras at it. She knew most of the good ones, shy Marcy and clumsy Fry, and Rogan, of course, who flirted with her every time, despite the rings they both wore. She didn't mind, enjoyed the game, wondered which one would chicken out first if she let things go any further. They watched, after the predator darted up and away, watched what it left behind slowly float downward. It filled the air with near-invisible chum, and eventually, the scavengers arrived.
They were numerous, with bones like the frames of racing bicycles in yellow and white and green and violet, floating and darting, nipping at the slowly sinking remains with teeth like snub-nosed pliers. One passed through her. Always a strange sensation, or a strange absence of a sensation where your eyes expect, even demand one. Some people were superstitious about it, feared having one phase through, though it might damage their soul or something. She knew better. They were harmless. Even the predators.
Now. When they first came, when people panicked, though...
Her left hand released the binoculars and reached for her abdomen. For the scar. For the surfacing memory, the alien fish, Colin swerving wildly, the other car veering just the wrong way. Twisted metal, pain, the long time in the hospital. What they lost. Colin's right hand, replaced with plastic and metal. They don't make plastic and metal uteruses.
Would I have ever? Would there have been time enough, or money?
Jess and Colin didn't talk about work that night. They rarely did. They made pleasant and instantly forgotten conversation over roasted chicken and instant macaroni and cheese, then shared her bed and a night of adequate sex and welcome human contact, and she barely noticed the pain from her scar at all.
|# ? Jan 7, 2019 03:10|
|# ? Sep 22, 2023 20:32|
Earl shifted from foot to foot behind the counter, facing forward out the Lolaburger's front windows but angling his eyes down to the magazine lying flat on the countertop. Mr Jameson, the owner, liked to drive past some nights to check on things and he'd give you hell if he saw you sitting down. Nobody knew why he even bothered to keep the place open overnight; Earl had been working there for nearly a year and had only served about 5 burgers on his overnight shifts. Jay's Diner down the street got all the late-night business.
At about 2:30, though, the door chimed. Earl looked up from his magazine as a dozen sharp-featured men came in, all wearing blue jeans and black leather jackets. They look like a gang, he thought, but like, a West Side Story gang or something. Their faces were handsome but hard. The guy in front was taller than the rest.
"Uh, welcome to Lolaburger, how may I help you?" Earl asked.
"Oh, hey, thanks man. Thanks for that offer of hospitality, you know? Me and my boys here, we want to eat our fill. So why don't you start us out with a burger each, and you just keep those fries and Coca-Colas coming too'," the apparent leader answered in a bantering drawl. Jesus, Earl thought, they even have the sideburns and pompadours, and that voice; is there a convention in town or something?
Earl tapped the cash register keys rapidly. "Ok, is this all together or separate?"
One of the other men took a quick step forward but stopped at a gesture from the leader. "Don't you get all shook up, now," he said, "this boy doesn't know our way." He turned back to Earl. "Just hop on back in that kitchen and get cooking, and we'll settle up when we're all done."
Earl nodded, thinking he'd rather risk a dine-and-dash than get his rear end kicked by a bunch of crazies. "That'll be fine, mister, uh…"
"You will call him King," one of the others said. His accent was strange, like nothing Earl ever heard. He and the rest of King's men went into the dining area and shuffled tables into one long super-table. King sat at the head.
While the deep fryer came back to temperature, Earl threw two dozen burgers on the grill, then ran off to fill a dozen glasses of Coke which he took to the table. As he set the drinks down, he noticed that the men's ears, though mostly hidden by their carefully combed hair, all seemed to come to a definite point. By the time he came back out with the first batch of burgers and fries, the glasses were drained. When he brought refills, the food was already eaten.
"Would you like something more, sir?" Earl asked. He'd decided not to bring up the bill again, not even if they got up and walked out the door that second.
King smiled. "Don't be cruel now, we're hungry folk. They thought we were funnin' 'em down at that diner when I asked for a dozen dozen pancakes. Real inhospitable, and after they welcomed us in so nice."
Early glanced out the windows. The diner, usually the only other bright spot on the midnight street, was completely dark. "What did you do to them?" he asked, fear slipping into his voice.
"Don't you worry none, they're just sleeping," King said. "Now how about a little less conversation and a lot more burgers?"
Over the next two hours, King and his men ate at least fifteen burgers each, along with mountains of fries and so much soda that Earl had to replace the syrup tank partway through. None of them said a word, except when King told Earl to bring more food. Earl never saw them actually eat or drink, either--he would bring out the food, then the next time he looked it would be gone.
Finally, as Earl brought the last remaining box of burger patties out of the walk-in, King called to him. He set the box on the counter and walked out on tired feet. King and his men were standing now.
"Is there something more I can get you?" he asked.
"No, friend, we've had our fill. Now it's time to settle up the reckoning."
Earl started to move toward the register, hardly believing that they were actually going to pay, but King stopped him with a gesture. "Ain't like that, though--got no money, honey. Stand here a second."
King put his hand on top of Earl's head. In a voice that suddenly lacked its normal drawling slangy quality, he said, "You kept to the old laws of hospitality, though you do not know them. You fed us well despite this crude food, and in return I give this: the meals you cook will always be best." Earl felt the skin tighten all over his body. King took his hand off Earl's head and looked for the first time at his nametag. "That's funny," he said, the old tone back in his voice, "they call me Earl sometimes too. Erl King. You have a good night now, friend."
When they were gone, Earl walked slowly back to the kitchen. He peeled off one of the burger patties from the last remaining box and threw it on the grill as he thought. He knew he'd get fired as soon as Mr. Jameson got in and found both the freezer and the till empty. Right now, though, he didn't care. When the burger was done, he slid it onto a bun and took a bite. drat, he thought, no wonder they ate so many; this batch of burgers is way better than the crap we usually get. His exhausted mind ran through it all again and again, bemused. "Thought I'd have to tell the cops Elvish Elvis kicked my rear end," he said to himself, and chuckled, then took another bite. Hell of a good burger.
|# ? Jan 7, 2019 04:20|