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Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

Hello I am in this week give me an addiction please.

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SlipUp
Sep 30, 2006


Chili Jon Space Brawl Judgement

Let's begin.

Chili posted:

Space opera brawl vs. JonJoe

Thrust
2,341 words

I drum my fingers on the expo counter of the mess hall aboard The Volzon while I wait for my order. A thin layer of grease coats my fingers and I wipe them off on my apron. I fidget, as I have countless times, with my sav-all stick. I dance the thin bit of metal up and down my fingers until I hear the click-clack of officer shoes approaching down the adjacent hall. I’ve been reamed out one time too many for playing with the sav-all stick. “It’s a not a toy!” I’ve been told. But, we never see any action on The Volzon, so it mostly seems like one to me.

Not the most exciting hook here.


quote:

“Don’t forget, Fuckstick, the captain likes a dusting of nutmeg on his cocoa. If you don’t get it right, it’s not just your rear end, it’s mine.”


I roll my eyes. It's as if Ensign Jordash, who is sitting down at a nearby booth with a cast around his ankle, blames me for slipping and falling while he was trying to impress a barmaid back at Unzono. I was perfectly content tending to the latrines, but no, he had to go and think with his cock and now I’m the one who has to bring Captain “The Stache” Holloway his nightly cocoa. gently caress me.


It wouldn’t be all that bad if the man I now assist weren’t such an officious shitstain. But, he is, and I don’t need Jordahs telling me that The Stache is particular about his beverages. I learned that firsthand when he tossed his morning coffee at me because it wasn’t acidic enough. 

I like the characters so far.


quote:

They bring out the cocoa after a minute and I top it to the proper specifications--a dollop of heavy whipping cream, a single chocolate chip in the center of said cream, and, of course, the dusting of nutmeg. I neatly place it on my serving tray, jam my earbuds in, and crank up the metal as I head off to the deck. 


Moving from the back to the front of the ship is depressing as poo poo. The Volzon’s air filtration system is top flite. But, to save on power, only the front gets the good stuff. It would have been the holiday season back home, so there’s a hint of orange and cinnamon invading my nose.


Fuckin’ bullshit.


Nicer and nicer it gets. I’m drat certain their piping inane holiday music throughout the speakers on the ship but I’ll never know thanks to the Anon Amarth that’s currently soothing my soul. Finally, I arrive at the door leading to the deck. I don my most professional smile and tilt my hit up towards the holo scanner. It considers me for a moment, and the doors to the bridge slide apart. 

The holiday stuff is a nice touch. Good work weaving in the sounds and smells, really adds to the background, helps the story feel fuller.


quote:

The bridge is impressive, and even if The Volzon is on the most boring conceivable mission,  a jaded prick like me can appreciate the tech behind it. The entirety of the perimeter wall is a fully 3-dimensional screen. Its default presentation is the space behind it, making it seem like it’s one giant window. In reality, there are one-to-one cameras on the outside of the ship, capturing the image of what we should be seeing. Because it’s a screen, scores of the crew sit around it with their own portions segmented off as they attend to poo poo that I certainly can’t understand. They’re all busier than usual, staring intently into their segments.

Up til now it didn't feel very sci-fi but it's getting there now. You don't have to be so specific in describing your sci-fi gadgets, remember ooohhh.... I think it was Orson Scott Card with his great line "The door dilated." Very expressive in like three words.


quote:

I see The Stache standing at the command deck and I trudge up to him. I take out my earbuds, rescrunch the professional smile onto my face and say:


“Your libation, sir.”


Suddenly, all eyes are on me and I realize that I have just interrupted an intense silence in the bridge. The Stache turns to me with fire in his eyes and I wonder what in the gently caress I’ve done wrong now. He doesn’t regard me further though and turns his head forward. I peak out behind his shoulder and I finally realize what I just walked into.


Front and center on the Volzon’s wraparound is Araime Strogonar, the emperor of the Zeytons. The mere mention of this foul creature prickles the hairs on the back of my neck. But, there he is, staring directly at me, seemingly amused by ignorant, and accidental disruption. His deep maroon scaling parts widely around his pitch black eyes as his front pincers wriggle with glee.

The plot has appeared. The descripton of a Zeyton is a little clunky. Maybe try interjecting a comparision of some sort. "His deep maroon... wiggle with glee, like a half-lizard, half-spider."


quote:

“You there!” He shouts.


I drop the cocoa and the mug shatters into shards.


What might be a smile twists on his face. I’m too busy struggling to keep my poo poo inside my rear end to tell. His scales quiver and it seems like he’s amused. 


“Your name?” He asks.


The Stache looks down at me, a cocktail of dread and bewilderment pools in his eyes. What is my name? I… I try to think and I can’t remember. Sweat beads on brow and falls into my eyes. I try my best to recall how I was last addressed.


“Fuckstick, sir.”

lol. Humour is great to help break up exposition.


quote:

The Stache blinks at me and looks back towards Strogonar. Apparently, he’s unfamiliar with our jargon, because he continues to address me as though I said my name was Adam, which it is, of course. I remember that now.


“Fuckstick, I am tired of your captain. I am about to murder him, right where he stands. At that point, you are the only one aboard The Volzon that I will talk to. If you flee from this responsibility, or if anyone dares question your authority as Captain, I will use my Race Laser to shred through The Volzon and kill every last one of you. Do you understand?”

I wonder what the story would have been like if it started here. The story drags a little as fuckstick is getting the coffee and walking through the ship and then it really kicks into gear here.


quote:

The Stache turns his head to look back at me, but as he does he falls limp onto my shoulder. I do my best to catch him, but he’s a big son of a bitch and his uniform is so drat silky his body slips right through my arms and he falls with a thud. I touch my face as I feel a burn on my cheek—a parting gift courtesy of the friction from The Stache’s stache— and I look back towards Strogonar.


“What do you want from me, sir?” I plead.


Strogonar seems more at ease now. He’s speaking more slowly and his plating is unlocking a bit. “I want you, Fuckstick, to represent humanity’s final moments with some honor and dignity. Unlike your previous superior.”


“Final moments, sir?” I ask.


“Yes.” His stare becomes more piercing. “Of course, you had to know this was a possibility.”


I look around me and find that the entire crew has their attention fixed on the screens in front of them, not daring to offer me any assistance or support. But, more importantly, nobody is challenging me. I guess I’m the captain now.


“Sir, space is unknown and dangerous, but I thought our mission was relatively safe, and routine.”


“It was routine, yes. We have watched you ransack and pillage our nursery planet seventeen times. And always, we’ve been at too far a distance to intervene. My kind hoped that your people would stop after they obtained what they needed. We sent messages to your captain, pleading that they leave us be, but they kept coming back for more.”


I sigh, Strogonar notices. “This surprises you?” He asks.


“I’m more embarrassed, sir. I know enough about people to know that getting what you need is only the beginning. We’re all about wants. I was told these missions were necessary, and the thing you don’t understand, and my superiors don’t understand, is that, for humans, getting what we want is always necessary. It’s an unfortunate way of living and you can only really see the consequences of it clearly, if you live in the bottom.”


“The bottom?” He asks.


“Aye.” He seems comfortable with me, so I drop down my formal tone down to something a bit more familiar. I’m hoping there’s a way for me to save my rear end here. “I mostly clean the poo poo on The Volzon. You’re currently talking to the guy who may well be the lowest ranked member aboard this thing.”


His pincers continue to shake with glee. “I had hoped for as much. First I killed the top amongst you and now, you shall be the last human I ever address. Your species is ripe for culling.”


I lean back and place my hands in my pockets. “Y’know?” I pause, pretending to think, feeling some confidence swell within me. “I kinda get it. It’s not as though we treat anything particularly well. We exploited your species, and who knows how many others. And gently caress, we’re barely even good to ourselves. I can see how you might think we deserve to be wiped out.”


“Forgive me, human, but it feels like you’re building to some kind of contradictory point here.”


“Can you blame me for trying?” I ask, flashing my most hammy matinee smile. 


“Go on, human.”


“Thing about us? We don’t give up. Plagues have befallen us, cataclysms have erupted and threatened to wipe us out, time and time again. Yet, we’re still here. We may have had to abandon our home and search for a new one now and again but of all of the species I’ve come to learn about and understand as I’ve traveled around the cosmos, there is something special about humans.”


“Well, if what you say is true, a cutting of my Race Laser should hardly put a dent in your race’s quest for existence. So long, Fuckstick.”


I see him raise a claw towards a lever, I shout out but I know it’s too late.

Wow, great stuff. I was fully enraptured. This really nails the prompt. Very on point for a space opera.


quote:

The heat of the Race Laser emanates from god knows how far away, but it will be on us in moments.


I slam on a button I pray is an intercom. “Sav-All sticks out!” I bark at anyone who is lucky enough to hear. Just in time, too. The white hot laser rends through the bridge and the rest of The Volzon, I brandish my Sav-All stick and pull it apart as I was trained. A thin, impenetrable bubble surrounds me and I watch from the safety of my vessel as a circus of destruction rains down in front of my eyes. Bits of metal and flesh alike swirl about in a dizzying array of terror and in a single moment, there is nothing.


Then, there is everything. 

I'm a sucker for this. (E/N! or N/E I guess.) The checkov's gun works great since the sav-all feels pretty self explainitory. I would've spent a few more words on the destruction of the Volzon. That's your golden opportunity to drop epic words left and right. Smash the screen you talked about earlier. Throw in a little explosive decompression. Talk about the two halves of the ship careening into the ink like you're talking about the titanic. This is longer than your typical flash/slash/short, don't be afraid to go off on a tangient a little bit if something epic is happening!


quote:

Space. As far as I can see. Empty blackness shouts at me with an occasional twinkling of hope off in the distance. There is no more Volzon. A quick scan below me reveals that about a dozen or so of my fellow crewmates heeded my warning in time to protect themselves. I watch as they use their precious, suit-lined, concentrated fuels reserves to push themselves towards one another. 


I flip my com switch on my left breast pocket and breathe a short sigh of relief as I hear the chatter. Scads of profanity and panic fills my ears, but at least it’s not Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. Our captain is dead, and from the looks of the colors of the jumpers of my remaining crew, nobody above Sergeant survived. 


Strogonar put me in charge just before he damned us to the cold belly of space. It’s my time.


“Quiet down, all of you!” I bellow into the bubble. The lack of echo catches me off guard, crazy tech, this bubble.


A silence falls over the chatter. They were waiting for a leader; they were waiting for me.

Slowing down a bit. I feel like we've reached the climax already and this is a lot of falling action.

quote:

I inhale and gather myself: “This is Captain Fuckstick, grand general of absolutely nothing except for you dozen or so men or women who had the wherewithal to save your skins when the chips were fuckin’ down.”


I look down and see that all of them have found me and are looking up as I continue.


“Switch off your fuel reserves. I’m coming down and we’ll figure this poo poo out.”


I check my gauge on my wrist screen. 97.6% full, enough to carry me about 1.5 AU’s. I spend a drop of it to propel myself to the remaining crew. 


One of the crew switches on their magnalock and pulls me into the center of the huddle. The looks that surround me belong on a poster for anti-anxiety medication. I doubt I look much better, but in a situation like this, everyone is most relieved if they don’t have to lead. I’ll poo poo myself later when I’m not in a sealed bubble. I spend a touch more fuel to slowly rotate myself so that I’m shifting my gaze from soldier to soldier.


“Find a home, stay alive. Your orders are simple, but they’ll be tough to follow.”

Kinda dragging still.

quote:

“But what about Strogonar?” One of them asks.


“He don’t give us a poo poo about us now.” I mean it. As far as Strogonar’s concerned we’re just floating chunks of carbon. He found us because of the Volzon’s embarrassingly large heat signature, we’re but blips on a radar like this.


“Now listen up. We have a mission and that mission is to get somewhere with air so that when our bubbles burst in 200 hours, we won’t die and punch humanity’s last ticket.”


One of the survivors pipes up. “Holy poo poo, it’s just us, isn’t?” He looks at me with his trademark vacancy and only now do I recognize him, it’s Ensign Jordash. He seems to have forgotten that he held rank over me.


“Looks that way. So we find somewhere to land, with air to breathe, water to drink, and things to gently caress I guess.”


It gets a chuckle and I’m thankful that my crew is being easy on me.


“We’ll use the Monson method,” I continue, “and make sure that we rotate our fuel use to get us where we need to go.” 


I check my wrist guide.


“The closest known habitable planet is about 9 AU’s away. We don’t have enough fuel, or water to make it there. But, we’re going for it, understand?”


They all nod.


Fuckin’ right.

Actually the end is really good in that you stop when there could be a whole novel of material after this! Though it made good use of the word limit, it just left a lot of loose threads. Overall your characters and action are on point. The beginning dragged and some of the sci fi descriptors were a little clunky, like the Zeyton and the screen on the bridge. The Sav-all worked well so I would pursue that technique when considering these other sciency doodads. You double spaced your entry, but luckily it is a space entry. It's consistently formatted and that's all I really care about personally.

Onward!

Jon Joe posted:

The Chili Jon Brawl - Space Opera

Regarding Politics Aboard The Warship-Class Trümmelbach
1310 words

Captain Starbeam was in charge, but only nominally. She didn’t really do anything most days, preferring instead to enjoy her free time to the fullest. This left the task of actually running the ship to her second-in-command, Ivan.

An okay opener. Doesn't really hook me but I feel like it sets up the conflict well enough off the bat. Does 'tell' instead of 'show'. You could have this on the bridge when some desicion has to be made ("Evasive manuvers!") and Starbeam is totally on her phone so Ivan has to make the call. Then we would infer the sentence you've actually written ourselves but we get to feel like clever mkonkeys.

quote:

Ivan was very managerial, but not in the micromanaging way. Most crew members liked him, though he wouldn’t hesitate to get on somebody’s rear end for not doing their job. His most frequent arguments were with Captain Starbeam and her partner in lazy crime, ‘Fronz’, the janitor.

More telling instead of showing. I like your names though.

quote:

Fronz wasn’t his real name, which was information only the captain had access to, but she had lost her key card to the ship’s computer system on her first day and never bothered to get a replacement. In order to avoid cleaning, Fronz convinced a ship engineer, Gertrude, to manufacture some cleaning bots. They worked perfectly except that Fronz had to hide that he was using them from Ivan, because they’d be the perfect excuse to fire Fronz.

All of the crew knew about the cleaning bots, in fact. Although they liked Ivan, they weren’t going to get Fronz fired for nothing, since they also liked Fronz. Even Ivan knew about the cleaning bots, or at least enough to suspect their existence, but had no proof to bring to the captain, who was the only person who didn’t know despite how much time she spent with Fronz. She wouldn’t have fired him for it anyway, but having done his diligence Ivan could then go around her and appeal directly to the Greater Collective of Autonomous Fleets with evidence.

Why do they like Fronz? Need more show. Alsodid you just describe the plot to me like it wasa back cover blurb? That's a little... Dry.

quote:

Gertrude didn’t like Fronz, but she had gone along with his plan because who she did like was Captain Starbeam, romantically speaking, and Fronz promised to help matchmake them. Fronz was very bad at matchmaking, and through sheer incompetence managed to land Gertrude a date. With Ivan.

Okay that's funny.

quote:

Ivan didn’t fancy Gertrude and also wasn’t a fan of non-professional relationships, but wanted to let her down gently because he thought she liked him. For help, he visited the ship psychologist, Dr. Yevin.

Also bound by professionalism, Dr. Yevin couldn’t share what she knew about Gertrude, but suggested that Ivan state what he thought and felt directly.

Gertrude played along because she didn’t want Ivan to know she liked Captain Starbeam, but this lead to the spreading of rumor that she really did like him, which in turn lead to Captain Starbeam hearing about those rumors and, in the hangouts with Ivan that Gertrude was now invited to, giving her advice on how to convince him otherwise.

I need dialogue. I need descriptors. I don't know what anybody looks or sounds like, so I'm not overly invested in them. I'm as invested in the characters as I am the cleaning bots.

quote:

Dr. Yevin got to hear how mortified and embarrassed Gertrude was over the misunderstanding. Although she tried to convince her to be more open and direct with her feelings, Gertrude was the shy type. Most of the time, when she wasn’t working, she sat in silence in the corner of the mess hall, by the window where Chord, lead chef, would wordlessly converse with her and then hand her comfort food.

How do they wordlessly converse? Grunts? Body Language? Morse code winks? There is a lot of characters in this and they just all run together.

quote:

Chord didn’t speak much in general, somehow knowing what was on people’s minds and responding accordingly. Some people thought he was a psychic alien disguised as a human, which wasn’t true. He was your average and ordinary psychic human who had escaped experimentation in a secret laboratory and through sheer coincidence ended up aboard the Trümmelbach. He couldn’t read thoughts, but he could read emotions, and prepared food accordingly.

Here we go! This is a truely interesting idea. A psychic chef is the one person who would nailhis dish everytime. Need more Chord!

quote:

The other chef, Kimmel, was an undercover agent trying to recapture the escaped experiment, which she only knew was aboard the ship. But where?

lol nice. Funny stuff.

quote:

Fronz liked Kimmel, romantically speaking, and unlike some people he wasn’t shy about it.

He was her top suspect.

After all, he so perfectly knew how to evoke feelings in her, which clearly could only because of his status as the experiment. Guilt followed by anger would pour out of her every time she fell for one of his romantic gestures, as she remembered what she was dealing with. Still, she had to endure it. For the mission.

I think you have a real talent for coming up with funny situations.

quote:

Coincidentally, a decidedly not-psychic alien was aboard the ship, but it was very good at avoiding detection, and thus unimportant to ship politics save for its tendency to steal objects. On one such occasion it took Dr. Yevin’s computer, with all her important case notes inside. This sent her into a panic and she approached the ship’s security expert, Monitoring AI Model: Kinetic Infrared Luxury License.

MAIM KILL didn’t like being in charge of security, it just wanted to express itself through painting, which was why whenever someone request access to camera logs, it would digitally recreate the images. However, its technique was amateur at best, so Dr. Yevin was left with a stick figure drawing.

She complained to Ivan, who convinced MAIM KILL to access the actual camera logs. In exchange, he would later listen to it talk about art theory.

Due to the aforementioned ability to avoid detection, the alien was not on video. However, shown sneaking into the office was Kimmel, who was trying to gather information on Fronz. The computer had already been stolen by the time she got there, but it was enough evidence for Ivan to approach her.

I've honestly lost the plot a little here. It seems like it's taking a little detour. Luckily MAIM KILL is funny as gently caress.

quote:

Potentially losing her opportunity to spend time with Fr— complete her mission, Kimmel did the only thing she could. She told the truth and asked Ivan to help her find evidence of Fronz’s psychic ability. Although Ivan doubted that Fronz had any kind of ability, he nonetheless wanted remove Fronz from the ship, thus agreed.

Okay back on track plotwise.

quote:

Due to Kimmel and Ivan spending more time together, Captain Starbeam was convinced they were dating, which left her in the precarious situation of breaking the news to both Fronz and Gertrude.

Gertrude cried in frustration, which Captain Starbeam misunderstood. Meanwhile, Fronz became despondent. He hid in his room for a day.

The next day, during a busy lunch time during which most of the ship was present, including Captain Starbeam, Gertrude, Dr. Yevin, Chord, Kimmel, the alien hiding in a vent, and nominally MAIM KILL monitoring the area, Fronz approached Ivan and said, “I admit it.”

Which led to a whole blow up of Kimmel attempting to put Fronz in lasercuffs on the spot as Ivan shouted for the crew to stay back, constructing a plausible lie that Kimmel was an undercover cop and Fronz a wanted criminal. The cleaning bot, which Fronz had brought with him in his jacket as proof of his admittance, fell out during the hullabaloo.

It beeped.

Someone shouted, “He has a bomb!”, which noticeably increased the hullabaloo levels according to MAIM KILL’s internal evaluator.

The only one who could approximate a rough truth of the situation was Chord who, unwilling to let someone else be punished due to a misunderstanding, strained his mind to unlock his full psychic potential. Then he slammed the truth into everyone else’s mind.

It was nearly everything he knew, not just those related to the immediate situation. Everyone knew the feelings and intentions of everyone else.

Dr. Yevin was mortified by the unethical breach of privacy.

Everyone else, though, became much calmer. Even Captain Starbeam, who had just learned of Gertrude’s desires, smiled. Gertrude smiled back.

The alien was not excluded from this. Having just witnessed and felt the massive burden of combined human experience, it thought something along the lines of ‘what the hell is wrong with people’, stuck a claw out from the vent while everyone was distracted, stole the cleaning bot, and scurried away.

Unable to lie to herself any longer, Kimmel renounced her mission, let Chord stay free, and decided to stay with Fronz.

Ivan still wanted to fire him, but the cleaning bot had gone missing, and psychic visions were not considered evidence according to the treaty of the Greater Collective of Autonomous Fleets.

Most importantly, with Ivan’s help, MAIM KILL made marginal artistic progress.

I like chaos and your climax gave me a bit of that. I felt like I was being decribed it by someone who was there rather than actually being there. MAIM KILL kinda saved it. You have funny characters and situations but actually putting them in writing totally fell flat. You need to break this up into like four different scenes that show all the things you're trying to tell me. Lacks the epicness that a Space Opera requires, though I like the idea of political intrigue, the stakes just needed to be higher. I would be so insanely down to read the adventures of Chord and MAIM KILL. I'm kinda mad you put this in my mind and didn't go wild with it.

Judgement

The lonely vessel dropped out of hyperdrive. Electricity sparked across its surfaces as it re-engaged normal space. Before it lay the two planets of the Domoso System. Planet Chili, where spacelings lived and died and tried their best, and planet JonJoe, where a mysterious race hid from view and plotted. Slip disengaged his thrusters and paused for a moment.

Which planet did Lord Thunder command him to destroy again? poo poo.

His hand hovered over the comms for a moment. It was take ages to re-establish parameters across the galaxy. He would be punished for such a lowly mistake.

He would have to choose himself.

Sweat beaded down his face. The fates of worlds rested on his shoulders. He knew some about the inhabitants of planet Chili, but almost nothing of those from planet JonJoe.

He fired his anti-matter missile. His teleporter hummed and the warhead appeared on planet JonJoe.

The force disk from the explosion sheered the planet in two before his very eyes. The molten core of the planet spilled out into space before solidifying, like intestines from one who's been eviserated. The hemispeheres shuddered and dissolved into smaller and smaller rocks as they were propelled into space. The inhabitants of planet Chili saw fire in their skies.

Well, a decision had been made. Slip could only hope it was the right one.

Chili Wins

Thanks to you guys for writing!

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Thanks for the judgement! Gg JonJoe!

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Yeah, Thunderdome is a'ight I guess.

Jon Joe
Oct 19, 2011


Grimey Drawer

Thanks for the judgement, SlipUp. Thanks for the brawl, chili.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

CAPITALIST PIG
CRAVES ONLY THE BEST POETS
HIS WRATH WILL BE HARSH


yall being like “yeah crit more” but not “yeah i should crit more”

quote this post with a story link and ill crit any story this year or any other year. i dont even have a limit. just crit is what my mom always used to say

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Also, openers, get your stories in. Like, just do it, please, now. Right now.

Closers who have openings to finish, all of that, but delivered with slightly more patience and grace.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Count me in. Could I have an addiction please?

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?


in

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Doctor Eckhart posted:

Count me in. Could I have an addiction please?

Gonna co-judge hit you up cos I want you to have time to write. Hopefully, this is cool CKM!

Addiction to exercise.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


Chili posted:

Gonna co-judge hit you up cos I want you to have time to write. Hopefully, this is cool CKM!

Addiction to exercise.

Hey Chili, I already added him to the post. He can pick from exercise or knowledge.


Signups closed.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010


Please Let Me Help You

1496/1500 words

She sunbathed in Roger’s afterglow. He’d been even more disappointing than expected, but…

“So, did you have fun?”

Ally affected her most sincere smile. “It was great. And you?”

Roger sighed. “It felt wrong.” A twinge in her heart, another issue to fix? But his lips curled upwards. “Until it began to feel real good.”

Even his lines were disappointing. Had she at least…?

He sat up and held his head. “Seriously though, I needed this. Thank you so much.”

Ally beamed and cuddled closer, waiting for him to go on.

“You really helped me get over Beth in a hurry.”

Oh, he was terrible! Talking about his ex, after he just had hosed her best friend! But her remedy had worked, Ally had been a useful little girl again. A soothing warmth radiated from deep within her, much more satisfying than anything Roger’s penis could have managed.

❤❤❤

“And then Veronica had the gall to tell me that I was a demanding entitled...I can’t repeat what she called me, and I’m just freaking out over what kind of colleague does that?”

“That’s horrible mom, I’m so sorry. Have you talked to HR already?”

<Beth, 7:30 PM> so the issue is basically, Lester was hitting on me but he’s so desperate

<Ally, 7:32 PM> I can talk to him


“No, they won’t listen! I’m sure the harpy that works there hates me, none of my complaints register! Do my feelings just not matter?”

<Beth, 7:33 PM> don’t!!! that’s my business I just wanted to vent

<Ally, 7:37 PM> And I just want to help!


Ally was juggling a phone call with her mother, texting with Beth on Skype, and hunger pangs. She was desperate for some food, but people needed her. Everyone was struggling in this world, and she could do so much. Help her mother take it up the chain, suggest coworkers to talk to she hadn’t alienated yet (Ally tracked their names on a spreadsheet). Get Beth and Lester sorted out, which should be simple considering he was actually sleeping with Ally. It hurt a little to learn about his behavior like this, but on the other hand, they weren’t really in a relationship. Like Roger, Lester had craved some intimacy in his life, and, well, he had needed it a little more at that moment. So Ally provided.

She started texting Lester with one hand on her mobile phone, keeping her mother’s complaints at arm’s length, as Beth kept typing away. Ally would figure this mess out like she always did, and as she kept working and helping, her hunger faded into a dull background ache, soon completely overshadowed by the glow of altruism spreading through her.

<Beth, 8:51 PM> Ally, Lester just texted me. I asked you to keep out of this!

“Allison, are you not listening to me? I said you should call my boss tomorrow and tell him I’m sick, lost my voice, can you or can you not do this?”

“Sorry, mom, one second…”

“Allison Crescence Wondraczek! I’m asking you for a simple favor! Will you ungrateful child not do this small thing for your mother?”

“Yes, mom, I’ll help you with this, of course. I’m just really hungry, I’m sorry.”

“Again! With such a thin frame, you’ll never find a man…”

<Beth, 9:01 PM> okay just forget it Ally. it’s probably a misunderstanding. anyway you seem busy so ttyl.

<Ally, 9:02 PM> no wait Beth I can sort this out


But she was offline, and Ally’s mother was still talking about what kind of tone she should take during the phone call, and that she really owed her this gesture, and Ally’s hunger kept rising.

❤❤❤

Ally waited for Beth in front of the college classroom the next morning, where they’d share a lecture about cat anatomy soon. Finally, her friend came storming down the corridor.

“Hey Beth, about yesterday…”

Beth, a full head higher and considerably more solid than the tiny Ally, almost didn’t stop in time.

“Jesus, Ally! Please, I’m late already. Can you get out of the way!”

“I just wanted to say, if there’s anything I can do to help…”

Strong hands landed on Ally’s shoulders. “Ally, I love you, but it’s early, I’m tired and will be blunt. I’m fine, everything is fine. It’s not your responsibility to manage everyone’s relationships.”

“It’s really not a big deal…”

Beth drew her closer until her broad features almost touched Ally’s angelic ones. “I appreciated your support when Roger broke up with me. You saved me at least a weekend’s moping and two bottles of wine. You’re the best lab partner one could wish for. That’s why I’m choosing to not believe Lester when he tries to call you a slut that sleeps with every boy playing needy and vulnerable.”

Ally was happy that Beth’s grip kept her from shivering.

“But you have to take a step back and allow yourself some time to take care of your own issues, okay? And also literally, to allow your friends classroom access. Shoo!”

Beth barrelled by, and Ally stood there forlornly. She was of course also late for class, but on the other hand...she sprinted down the corridor, out of earshot, and called her mother’s boss, the morning’s first good deed. Its warm afterglow made her feel a little bit better.

❤❤❤

After a few long days of soul-searching and even ignoring someone’s call because she really had to pee instead, Ally had to admit to herself that maybe she was overdoing it. Helping people felt good, but she should probably tone down her methods. Because she did realize that Beth finding out about who Roger’s rebound had been would not be very helpful to anyone.

<Ally, 5:24 PM> Hey Beth-bb! Everything okay with you?

<Beth, 5:45 PM> uh sure. just kinda busy. coffee tomorrow?


Beth was fine. That did not help Ally’s fingernails, which were getting more chewed on by the minute. To distract her digits, she logged onto a self-help forum she hadn’t visited in a while. Maybe people had taken her last few pieces of advice to heart and some success stories to report?

You have been temporarily banned from the forums. Please think about the reasons given and take a moment to cool down before responding to the admin responsible.

Ally felt like someone had dumped a gallon of sewage on her. But the dirt of shame and humiliation was soon dried and burned away by rising anger. She had been a valued contributor to this small society! People had always thanked her profusely for her honest suggestions to work on their problems, and every word and upvote of gratitude had made her feel so happy.

Ally slammed the button to message the administrator and complain, using the full weight of her credentials. But an echo of her last phone call with mother made her hesitate from sending the indignant text. Her language, her outrage…

She hit the back button and did scroll down to the reasons for her ban. And as the words kept mounting, they burned themselves into her retinas.

busybody...unsolicited...manipulative...meddling...borderline sociopath…

She forced herself to read more even though it tore at her very soul, the exact opposite of the warm glow she got from helping others.

Accept you cannot help everyone...sometimes, you clearly do not know what you’re talking about...maybe you are the one who needs help?

Ally sat frozen in front of the screen as she re-read everything and then read it again, flagellating herself with the accusations. She had been raised to always be there, always be helpful, but now this? First Beth, then this collection of perfect strangers, claiming it hurt more than it did good?

Maybe she should just never try and help anyone ever again. Like her mother had always said, most people are only looking out for themselves anyway. Maybe Ally should become one of those.

As if on cue, her mother called. Ally pounced on the phone, ready to vent, have the call be about her for once.

But she could not get a word in. Seven minutes seventeen seconds, the display read when the monologue stopped. Cancer diagnosis. Transfer to a hospital. Her mother needed her more than ever.

“Allison, please! Are you there? Can you pick me up, call the insurance company, arrange things with my doctor, and…”

Ally gripped the phone so hard she felt the plastic move. “Mom, I really cannot deal with this right now. Give me just a moment to process, please.”

She hung up.

Disconnected the cord.

Sat down in front of her laptop and clicked the call icon on Skype. It rang once, twice, three times until someone picked up. A concerned and confused greeting - they usually just texted when not meeting in person.

“Hi Beth. I know this is unusual, but I really, really need your help figuring this out…”

Chainmail Onesie
May 12, 2014


LoserWinner
of "Thunder Dome!

So, I've pretty much faded in and out of TD over the past few years without a strong commitment to it, and only submitted a handful of stories, but I really do think that this is the best writing community I've ever been a part of. You guys are cool, there's a great sense of spirit to this group and in everyone's own way, the ones who stick around really do seem committed to improving themselves as writers (as well as improving others). I've learnt more about writing from TD crits than I have anywhere else, as well as reading others' stories.

Between the kayfabe and the camaraderie around here, it really does inspire one to try like hell, write with abandon and let go of your ego as a writer, one awful word at a time.

---------------

...Now, with that having been said, here are my crits for Week 385. This is the first set of crits I have done for TD, but we're not supposed to make those kinds of excuses, so, uh, if I have insulted your honour with it then... [checks page 1] fight me, I guess.

Something Else- The Roommate Solution

The opening paragraph is kind of bland, but there’s at least some form of hook here – we’re now no longer in the “fat years”, so something is wrong in the present between James and Diane. I’m not crazy about the tell-not-show of the last sentence, however – I think there’s something else you could have done here (even just removing that sentence) to avoid the boom-pow exposition of letting us know the working dynamic between these two people. We could probably have inferred this information from the remainder of the story.

I like the short bit of dialogue that ensues – it seems to characterise James nicely, although I now notice that it does pretty much nothing for Diane as she only says one word. This is the last bit of dialogue we see, by the way, which is a bit jarring- if you had traded between dialogue and event description, it would have modulated the overall pace and intimacy of a story that is ostensibly about the intimacy of a couple. Instead, we dilate out into fairly loose plot description from here, which undermines the tension and stakes that ought to drive a story about a crumbling marriage.

By this point, we have some idea of the conflict in the story – James and Diane are neither happy nor connected in their relationship. However, there isn’t really much feeling for what these characters want – James’ decision to fix things with a dinner with the Alders doesn’t seem to come from anywhere except an outside confirmation that James and Diane’s marriage is falling apart. The fact that his plan works without a hitch flattens the tension of the story even further.

The details of the Alders’ lives and careers are practically irrelevant, and their one-line personalities feel as if they’ve come too late – we’ve already been explicitly told that their relationship is strong and healthy, which is the real contrast between them and James/Diane.

I like the fact that you end the story on the same note as it begins: the warmth of their house. The ending is about as rushed and glazed as the rest of the story, however, and I feel frustrated that we can never get any closer to these characters or be shown instead of told how their lives play out.

Sitting Here- Staggered Conformation

“Mitch looks down at his left hand, still surprised to find the pale band of skin where his wedding ring used to sit.” – okay, look, this is how you begin a story. Here’s the protagonist, here’s the situation and its problem, and here is how he clearly is not comfortable with being in said situation. It propels us through the exposition of the opening paragraph, which is written with enough clarity and focus so that we don’t lose the momentum of that opening line.

I’m not going to point out every example of good writing technique from here, because most of the story is so: lean prose, regular switching juxtaposition of what seem to be the story’s main themes (change/upheaval and stability/monotony), and mostly-flowing dialogue. It’s generally just a pleasant read, embedded in Mitch’s perspective in a way that is easy to follow and gives a good sense of his mental state throughout the story.

I said “mostly-flowing dialogue” because, in some places, the conversation seems a bit repetitive and awkward. On the other hand, this is probably how actual people in an emergency situation might talk to one another? Also, in the small space afforded to you by the word-count, the story does seem to lean on expositional dialogue a bit – these characters seem quite eager to share details of their lives to one another. They do, however, seem as if they might be inclined to it – Mitch being in a state of inner upheaval, and Alex being free-spirited enough to talk openly about it to a near-stranger. Also, they just sort-of-nearly-died; I might also be like this in the same situation. I don’t know. It just bothered me a bit as I read through the story.

I’m not going to comment on the ending, as I saw Simon’s note about not sticking the landing before I read the story, so I’m probably biased towards that idea.

Thranguy- Rhymes with Spiral

I quite like the opening, but I feel like it would benefit from being divided into two or three paragraphs to give a bit more emphasis to the premise of the story. We’re comfortably settled into a real-world-with-magic setting that is accessible and comfortable, with enough promises of Trouble to remain interesting. Although I kind of feel that Ouma Witch’s “don’t date a Billy” warning is a bit too specific.

Estelle strikes me as a person with a remarkably high tolerance for witches making inroads on her boyfriend. Like, way too chill. Maybe she and Will are really that confident in their relationship that even a reckless girl with access to magic doesn’t pose a threat… although they’re teenagers, so come on, there is now way they can be this relaxed about it. Especially after Will says his “I wish there were two of me” bit, I would have thought Estelle should regard this whole situation with extreme suspicion.

I get that the characters are teenagers, and that (it’s Alyss.) is characterised as being heedless of danger, but there are just a few too many warnings that she just… ignores. To the point of just inviting disaster into her life for fun. I don’t find this to be an entirely believable character design, not to this extent.

“Chiral” really feels closer to “Enantiomer” to me, in the Greek sense, than “Deasil” and “Widdershins”, but alright.

The climax of the plot is a bit unsatisfying, with the last two lines in particular feeling as though you might not have known how to end the story.

Overall, I did enjoy this, as well as your writing style, but I think it could have been made into a better story with some restructuring and refinement of the characters, their motivations and their motivations.

Anomalous Amalgam – Ethically Sourced Future Food

The opening scene is, unfortunately, quite bland. Your opening line is particularly guilty, starting us off with some tell-don’t-show about Enrico’s feelings on top of some tell-don’t-show about his current situation. I’m not sure that you can glorify a scapegoat, and I’m not really sure if this opening line promises any actual conflict or tension to come – Enrico’s attitude suggests that this is a routine kind of thing. The rest of the scene doesn’t really add anything, or characterise either Enrico or Bhatt.

I think you should focus on tightening your writing style – I’m guilty of this myself, but there are a lot of awkward sentences in this piece. “12 nondescript steel cylinders encapsulated in scaffolding and interconnected walkways ruptured out of the ground with specific purpose” is a bit painful. There are also a few punctuation issues that bug me on a first read: “…when the plant reopened, which is why…” really needs that comma there, for instance. Also, I’m genuinely puzzled at the idea of a still-living corpse.

In terms of the actual story, I’m a bit perplexed by this tour crowd. They don’t seem to be here in good faith, coming here as concerned community members but then turning the discussion around into which company can provide the best product. Is this about slamming Empirical for reopening an old and possibly dangerous plant or for providing subpar goods and services?

The bit where Enrico first talks about the new food material… this should probably have come much earlier in the story, to spark some interest in the reader. I’ve heard that flash fiction should actually begin in the middle of the story given the word limit, and I’m not sure about how solid that advice actually is, but I think this story would actually benefit from doing so. Unfortunately, I don’t think that alone would work, because I consistently get the feeling that the story is cutting any tension or intrigue it has with the speech, the actions, the very attitudes of all its characters. Nothing particularly interesting happens, although at points it seems as though something might- I kept reading, thinking “alright, finally, now something is going to finally happen- oh, okay, nevermind.”

This story gives me the impression that you are still getting into writing fiction, and that you should take a look at exactly what makes a story tick – stakes, conflict, tension, resolution and so on. If you can lay down a proper skeleton on which your story can really be a story, I think your work would improve quickly.

Hawklad – Above the Grid

This story is competently written, although it uses a lot of well-trodden ideas and tropes in dystopian fiction. That’s not bad, necessarily, especially if your goal was just to write a typical story of the genre. The weak-protagonist-undertakes-a-great-task-above-his-abilities-and-martyrs-himself-as-a-result plot is pretty standard for this kind of setting, but you tell it in a satisfying way. If you wrote this as practice for writing good prose, then you succeeded, even if it isn’t particularly innovative.

I’m not sure I can write too much more about this piece, except that there was also a satisfying sense of narrative tension (even if I could see the ending coming from a mile off). I think the “above the grid” revelation to Guillaume perhaps comes too late as it feels like a bit rushed – nonetheless, Guillaume’s displeasure at seeing what lies above the grid at least gives a plausible explanation why we don’t linger on it for very long.

Carl Killer Miller – The Dizzy Wizard Family Fixer

Not a killer opening line, but you get to the interesting stuff fast enough so that it doesn’t really matter. It’s kind of eerie, and terse enough to elicit my curiosity.

Spooky Mood successfully established. Also a nice buildup in the way you keep Dad out of sight, gradually introduce the family members, and show us the crappy family situation. One small thing that does bug me is that, for a story that is clearly embedded in Randy’s perspective… how would he know that his dad’s office door stayed shut long after he went to bed?

This story’s greatest strength, to me, is the situation and the mood that you continuously unfold and elicit. I was initially on the fence about Nadine, then had my opinion of her soured by the spider incident, which I think was the right type of plot progression – it lines up well with the story’s general gradual slide into domestic ugliness. On a similar note, providing a bit of context for Dad’s terrible attitude is also effective, which evokes a bit of sympathy… but, effectively, not enough to excuse the neglect and pain Randy is going through. “Randy cleaned his cereal bowl after lunch” is probably my favourite sentence of the week… it’s just so effortlessly loving depressing.

I was somewhat disappointed with the ending- I don’t think you had enough space to give it the weight that it needed, given the build-up you’d provided for it. It stops short of being the mean, foreboding, vengeful ending that I felt was promised by the plot.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


This thread is going to close soon, and then it's going to get goldmined, and then no-one can change it not even Jesus.

So if you want to snip any of your stories out so you can submit them to magazines or w/e then now is the time.

Check that it's in the archive first though, it has been in hiatus the last couple of months. It will be updated before we archive the thread.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Grimey Drawer

i'm almost caught up with the archive backlog besides last week and this week. If anything is amiss, please reach out to me, sh, or sebmojo to fix it.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

Carl Killer Miller posted:


An addiction to escape


Selected Phone Logs of Mr Theodore McDevitt 563 words including title


17 Apr 2010, 5:34 pm

“Hey Ted, you coming or what?”

“Nah mate, told you, single dad life doesn’t leave much time for pub crawls.”

“You’ve changed, man. Old Ted would’ve strapped that kid to his back and joined the lads.”

“Yeah, I know, probably would’ve tried to trade her in for a beer too. It’s not all bad though, turns out the ladies love a single dad.”

“Yeah, just gotta get a babysitter if you want to seal the deal, right?”

“Nah, I could just strap her on my back.”

“Mate. Too far.”

“Oh, for the love of… she’s out of her pram again. How? I have attached every baby restraining device known to man to this kid.”

“Good luck with the baby wrangling. We’ll think of you while we’re getting blind.”

“Oh great, she’s out of her clothes too. See ya mate, I gotta deal with this situation.”


~


02 Mar 2019, 3:32 pm

“Hey Marisa, honey, what’s happening?”

“OK, so Dad, I don’t need a lift from school anymore – I’m at Karen’s place.”

“Uh huh. I thought you had Friday afternoon detention.”

“Yeah, but it was really boring.”

“It’s a punishment, it’s not supposed to be fun. How’d you even get out?”

“You know what, that’s not important, the important thing is that you don’t need to pick me up from school anymore. I saved you a trip!”

“That’s so thoughtful. We’re going to have a conversation about this later, young lady, but for now… when were you planning on coming home?”

“Can I stay the night, Dad?”

“You know what, sure. If it’s fine by her parents, sure.”

“Thanks, Dad! Her mum said it’s fine. See you tomorrow!”

“Yeah, sure. See you tomorrow.”


~


19 Nov 2027, 9:13 pm

“Yes, hi?”

“Out the window, Marisa?”

“No walls can hold me, warden.”

“All right, calm down, Harriet Houdini.”

“I think I’m more of a McQueen girl.”

“Steph McQueen, huh?”

“I was thinking Stevie, like Stevie Nicks. Except McQueen instead.”

“Of course. Dare I ask whether you’ve finished studying?”

“Come on Dad, it’s Friday night! I need to be partying, my people call me!”

“No, then. Right. I shall be sure and remind you of this moment when you are stressing about your exams.”

“Thanks Dad!”

“Stay safe. At least call me if you need to be picked up.”

“Of course, love you Dad, bye!”


~


16 Aug 2029, 3:30 am

“I know I always say you can call me any time, honey, but this is surely taking the piss.”

“I know Dad, I’m sorry.”

“What’s wrong? Are you all right?”

“I’ll explain when you get here. I’m at the police station.”

“What’s happened? Did someone hurt you?”

“No Dad, I’m fine. I got arrested, Dad. Please let’s just talk about it when you’re here.”

“I’m on my way.”


~


30 Nov 2031, 12:37 pm

“Hi Dad. I know you’ve got an appointment at the moment, and this will go straight to message. I just want you to know, before you hear it on the news, I’m out. I couldn’t stay in there, and you and I both know no one can make me stay where I don’t wanna be. I probably won’t be able to talk to you again. Not for a long while, anyway. I love you Dad. Stevie McQueen out.”


~

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Chili posted:

Addiction to exercise.

The Plastic Spinner
1040 words

She dreams of running away, while I dream only of running around. As soon as I wake, I hurry to the plastic spinner and run for as long as I can. I run until my muscles ache, until my lungs are fit to burst. It is familiar. Safe. Even the incessant squeaking is a comfort.

“I reckon I could outrun him,” my sister says. She has her face pressed up against the bars.

I pause for a second to catch my breath. The spinner rocks me a couple of times, then stills. She is talking about the Claw. It watches from the other side of the bars, its eyes glinting green in the dark. I don't answer. We've had this conversation before.

We were born behind glass. My sister and I, and our other sisters and brothers would huddle together for some sense of protection from the parade of giant staring eyes and tapping fingers.

Now we are somewhere else, in this barred prison. All four sides are exposed to the outside, and the Claw. But just as the bars are too narrow for us to get out, they are also too narrow for the Claw to get in.

I stand up again and start to run again. Faster now. The plastic squeaks and rattles against the bars.

“Huh, I'll go on my own then,” my sister says.

There is a distant rumble. Coming closer. There are two other giants in this new place. I fear they do not mean us well.

With a click the darkness is gone.

“Would you shut that loving thing up?” one shouts. I have no idea what it means.

“It's a hamster! What do you expect it to do?” the other yells. Utter nonsense.

“I can't stand it any more!”

The impact comes out of nowhere and my whole world is thrown onto its side. I'm thrown to one side in the plastic spinner, nuts and grains raining down on me. I am still for a moment, waiting. The giants continue to make noise towards each other.

The dark is back. The noise retreats.

I feel my sister's whiskers on my face. “You all right?” she asks.

“Yeah,” I say.

Taking a breath, I prepare to start running again. But the spinner won't spin. I turn around and try to run the other way.

“I can't run,” I gasp.

“Forget about that. Look! This is our chance!”

The door, which is now on the wall instead of the ceiling, hangs open. My sister has climbed up to it. She is looking back at me. “Come on!” she urges.

I climb out of the spinner and push it with my nose. It turns, but not like it once did.

“Let me have one more run, and I'll join you,” I say. I push the spinner again.

My sister is out of the door and runs across the patterned ground outside. I continue pushing the spinner, kidding myself that it is gathering momentum.

There is a terrible scream.

I look up. Outside, the Claw has descended upon my sister.

I am frozen. My heart pounds.

My first thought it to turn away and run in the spinner. But I cannot. It no longer turns as it did before.

I stare at my motionless sister.

Eventually, the Claw leaves her.

I am shaking, but I force my body to move to the door. I drop down onto the odd, patterned ground outside. It is softer than the wood chippings that carpet the prison.

I hurry over to my sister, calling out to her. She does not respond. I push her with my nose. She does not push back. I lay my head on hers. She is warm, but somehow more solid than before. I realise I can't feel the familiar judder of her heartbeat.

She had no plan for this. We would escape, and she would lead the way. I'm not supposed to be on my own. Without my sister, there is nobody in this world on my side. Except for – no, I remind myself, the spinner is not anybody.

I look back at the prison, its door hanging open. It looks smaller from the outside. The extreme largeness of the outside hits me.

I feel so very small. So very alone.

The spinner is dead. My sister is dead.

“Go on without me,” I imagine she says to me. But where? Where do I go?

I do what comes naturally to me. I run. It feels strange, running on this patterned ground. Running away, not just around.

There is an opening ahead of me, just tall enough to squeeze my body into. My nose twitches involuntarily, snuffling as dust fills my nostrils. I find something that smells like food. I crunch it down. It is unlike anything I have ever eaten before.

I find myself looking back to the prison. Its familiarity. The spinner.

Without a second thought, I am have left the low opening and I'm scampering back the way I came. I stop to sniff at my motionless sister.

I catch a motion from the corner of my eye. The Claw narrowly misses me.

I dive back through the open door of the prison and curl up inside the spinner. The Claw follows, but only its paw can fit through the door. It cannot reach me. I am safe.

Eventually my racing heart slows and I fall into a troubled sleep.

I am awoken by the world tilting again, less violently this time. I am sitting in the spinner right way up again. It rocks me back and forth as if to comfort me.

I watch the giant close the door in the ceiling, and my escape route is gone. I climb out of the spinner and press my nose to the bars. The giant goes over to my dead sister. Lifts her. Takes her away.

I climb back into the spinner. I begin to run, slowly at first, testing it. The spinner is working. Relief floods my body. The spinner is alive. I will never again think of running away. I am perfectly satisfied with running around.

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


Perfect Hurts
[1444]

https://thunderdome.cc/?story=7886&title=Perfect+Hurts

Nethilia fucked around with this message at 23:19 on Jan 2, 2020

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004



Christine
1092 words

She wrestled with her purse to extract her keys, the white plastic wristband snagging on some hidden internal zipper. The apartment was just as she had left it, nine months ago. The bed was unmade and coated with dust. Dishes festered in the sink, far beyond the point of washing. Her brother Rob had come through and cleaned up her gear, mopped the spot where she’d vomited on the floor. She was glad he hadn’t done more. I don’t deserve more. At least her art was still up on the walls - the erotic goth aesthetic that made a brick-walled studio feel like a sexy castle, which she appreciated in a way that was only partly camp.

She smacked the dust out of the bedsheets. Threw the dishes in the trash can. Dragged a heavy velvet armchair over that suspiciously clean patch of floor. Laid her worn composition notebook on the table and flipped to a page dark with ballpoint slashes. The header read, “Clean Goals 2020”. It stood proud above a rickety tower of boxes and aspirations. Alongside them all, the words “IGNORE TRAVIS” stood out in deep angry scratches.

At the top of the list were the ones she had written just after admittance. “Find pills” was crossed out savagely. “Find a way to thank Rob” was written in a softer hand. Don’t know how I’m going to manage that one. Further down the page, her lettering grew neater, more formal. “Make it to Paris” made her roll her eyes, but it also made her smile. “Donate blood.” “Work with animals.” “Get your job back.” At the very bottom of the list, there lingered a carbuncle of worry. Crossed out and rewritten, letters shaky, it was the only one that really mattered.

“Drown the stash.”

You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay. Her pulse raced as she opened the bathroom door. Reached up to grab that old screwdriver from on top of the medicine cabinet. Knelt down behind the toilet, in the grime. The grate came off too easily. All of it was too easy. Will the next step be easy too? The shadow in the vent dared her to find out.

She put her hand inside, imagining that Rob had already discovered the stash and cleaned it out. But she wasn’t that lucky. Her hand touched plastic.

She stared at the translucent orange tip that protected the needle. What’s protecting me? She had to hope that there was some kind of callous built up by now. She fumbled with the plastic bag, dropping its sub-baggies and bits into the toilet. Old pills and powders, probably long gone moldy, unusable. They have to be. She tried to drop the syringe, too. But her fingers wouldn’t open. This was the moment she had feared, for ten hours in the smelly bus on the highway back here last night. Where is my control? She wanted to give it up. Let whatever entity governs these dirty things run her life again - maybe that desire would never go away completely. As she stood, immovable, tears flowed on her cheeks.

No. Not this. Her other hand lashed out and smacked the syringe down into the toilet with a plop. Before she had a chance to think, it pushed the lever down. The bags were sucked into the depths, but the syringe wasn’t the right shape for it. It just circled around and around. Mocking her. Her good hand flushed and flushed. It can’t be that strong! The hand reached in, threw the syringe on the floor, and smashed it with its heel. She realized that it was her hand, in her control, by the pain the oozing blood there. Nevertheless she felt the rush of freedom.

[x] Drown the stash.

The cuts were superficial - no stitches required, but a bandage. The job hunt would have to wait. Can’t go applying when you looked like a basket case. I am a basket case, but they don’t need to know that right away. She thought about puppies and kittens, and resolved to make a visit to the shelter and volunteer. Rob was so, so wonderful to pay her rent, and pay for rehab, and keep her afloat until she finds something. She’d figure out how to thank him later.

In the cold air of morning, she stepped onto the street. She lived close to downtown, but downtown was small. She was close to everywhere. People didn’t usually walk, but she felt like walking, and besides, she had let Rob sell her car months ago. She walked downtown.

The animal shelter was closed still. drat. They didn’t open until 11 on Fridays. She wanted to nuzzle those kitties. She thought she might wait around until they opened, but then she caught sight of someone she didn’t want to see. The last person she wanted to see, and he saw her. Travis.

He yelled, and she bolted. She had a block on him at least. No clue if that would be enough. You’re supposed to be in jail! But that was 9 months ago. Travis was her ex, and he had not wanted her to go into rehab. He wanted her under his control. He was an rear end in a top hat, and she knew that if he caught her, he would have her again.

She could hear his shoes slapping the pavement behind her. She ducked around a corner into an alley and hid behind a dumpster. She held her breath and watched slivers of his form move past. He stopped at the mouth of the alley, panting. She could hear the soft ragged wheeze he’d never shaken. “Christine,” he bellowed, and listened. She shut her eyes and wished to be anywhere else. Squeezed her hands into little fists. Blood oozed through the bandage.

When she opened her eyes, Travis was gone. She pulled herself out of her spot and peeked out around the corner of the alley. He was nowhere in sight. Shakily, she started to run back to her apartment.

She shoved her bad hand down the toilet hole, grasping for anything. It came up empty. She collapsed on the floor, crying for her pain. Crying for her inability to change, or for the rate of change being so dreadfully slow. Crying for the pitiful, shallow emptiness of it all. You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay. Somehow, slowly, the steel returned to Christine. She wiped her eyes, toweled off her arm, and returned to her notebook. She wrote a new entry, and it brought a smile to her face.

[ ] Do better tomorrow.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


Happy holidays, Thunderdome.

Tails Like Pasgetti
1499 words


Sophie Upton’s problem began, like many do, in early childhood. Over the next decade, her mother would repeat the same thing to a parade of specialists and psychologists and family counselors: Sophie had taken to the bottle just fine. She’d learned to speak and walk at the appropriate ages. Their bright-eyed, blonde-curled little girl was slightly on the small side, but other than that, she was normal.

And then, at around age five or six, Sophie began killing and eating mice.

Her mother often frowns at this point in the retelling and admits that it’s five
or six because she isn’t sure when it began. By the time they discovered the truth, she’d already been doing it for some time.

Sometimes she asks the doctors if this makes her a neglectful parent.


###

Sophie plays tag in the yard with all the other kids. She builds castles in the sandbox. Jared from next door sprays her with the hose. She waits until he isn’t looking, then she sprays him back. It’s hot out and summer is her favourite time of year, not just because second grade was hard but because the days are long and summer is when the grass grows tall.

Her backyard is a long grassy slope that leads all the way back to the canal at the back of her neighbourhood. Her dad only bothers mowing the flat parts.

In the summer, Sophie crouches like a cat in the tall grass. She waits, watching the little field mice scurry around.

She remembers the first time she caught one. She had no idea what to do with it. She’d just snatched out her hand on reflex, grabbing up a warm little handful of fur. And she’d held it tight, felt its shudders of fear, felt its frenzied puffs of breath.

It struggled until it exhausted itself, then when all else failed it bit her. Maybe it was mad at her. Maybe it was just trying to chew a way out.

Either way, she bit it back without thinking. She lifted the wiggly little thing to her mouth and chomped down, petty and childishly angry.

The mouse split like a ripe fruit. Her teeth sheared it right in half. It kicked and shrieked and then abruptly stopped. Blood flooded her mouth, streaming down her gullet in a sticky trail.

She’d gasped. She’d tried to cry. But then she’d licked her lips, picked a tuft of silky fur from her teeth, and swallowed.

Since then, she hasn’t been able to stop.

Sophie waits in the tall grass, catching mice by the palmful. She pounces and grabs the little things up and tries to chomp them down in a single bite. Tries to get them right in half, so they stop wiggling the second her teeth clamp down. It’s a fun, tasty game.

She’s chewing on one, its tail dangling from her mouth like pasgetti, when Jared from next door finds her.

She totally forgot they were playing hide and seek.

###

Sophie wishes her mother would read fewer books. She’s ten now and she’s that age where it’s easy to overhear every single thing said in the house. Mom reads about every disorder known to man, then rants at Dad about what the experts say. Experts say kids like Sophie belong in facilities. Experts wring their hands about “antisocial behaviour.”

Mice aren’t enough for Sophie anymore. She needs rats now. Something with plump enough organs that she can feel them pulse with ichor against her tongue when she bites down. Mom lost the plot when she thought it was a few mice and one rat. She has no idea how often Sophie actually hunts.

None of them get it. She’s just hungry, is all. A weird hunger none of her friends understand, the kind that leaves her with a quaver in her gut and a dizzy, creeping weakness in her limbs if left unsated. The sort of hunger that cereal and pizza can’t fix.

She moves on to squirrels next.

###

Sophie is fourteen when her parents put her in the hospital. She’s the least insane person there by a mile. She doesn’t cry or scream or dissociate or wet herself. She just gets hungry. That’s all it is.

Doctors interview her. Counselors make her vent her feelings in group therapy. Everyone wants to know if she finds joy in killing. If she enjoys hurting animals. If she’s ever hurt a person. No and no and no. She isn’t some sociopath bed-wetter doomed to set the neighbour’s dog on fire.

They feed her oatmeal. She pokes at it. They feed her scrambled eggs. She eats just enough to stave off starvation.

Nobody seems to know what to make of her. They can’t figure out a name for her condition. Cooped up for weeks without a fresh meal, she grows faint and shaky and weak and sad. Her hair grows limp. She stares listlessly out the window just like the others, but she isn’t even on sedatives. They try lithium. It doesn’t help.

A month in, she snatches a pigeon off a windowsill. She yanks it through the safety bars, its wings snapping like dry pasta, and wolfs down as much as she can before a shrieking attendant can subdue her. She’s snarling, feathers flying from her mouth in bloody tufts, wrestling as hard as she can to get free–

Then they start sedating her.

###

Sophie can’t help herself. She tries to escape. She snatches another pigeon. She endures three months of near-constant restraints and drugs.

At her mother’s insistence, they try a new type of therapy. They put her in a group class for patients with eating disorders. Heavyset children and bird-thin women with haunted eyes. Boys who starved themselves to become dancers. Girls who starved themselves to make the gymnastics team.

When the practical therapies start, it finally catches her interest.

“We believe you may suffer from sensory food aversion,” says the therapist, her eyes serious. “It isn’t uncommon. And with practice, you can overcome it.”

This sparks something in Sophie’s brain. It isn’t an aversion that’s her problem. It’s that bland, boring regular foods just don’t measure up. She has the opposite of an aversion. Whatever that’s called.

But this is her chance. If she can convince these people she only had a Food Problem all along, maybe they’ll let her out.

They introduce new foods into her diet slowly, one at a time. She ignores the soft stuff, has no interest in porridge or eggs. But then they try fruits. And fruits she can work with.

She crunches a grape between her teeth. It bursts delightfully, a little explosion of juice beneath its crisp skin. It reminds her of those first mice years ago, the drydrydry-then-sudden-WET snapping her wide awake.

Grudgingly, she gulps down slices of apple. Celery she finds she likes. When it’s fresh and crunchy, it sticks in her teeth the way tendons and fur used to.

But it’s peanut butter that saves her.

Sitting in group one day, she gets an idea that changes everything: she asks them if she can have the crunchy kind of peanut butter with her fruits and veggies.

The first time she bites into a fat grape rolled in crunchy peanut butter, the texture is almost good enough. She can almost imagine cartilage and bones. The taste? Well, it’s nothing like the real thing. But the texture is what matters.

Just after her sixteenth birthday, they finally let her go home.

###

The Upton family went all-out for Christmas that year. As well they should have. It was a Big Deal, Sophie’s first Christmas back home! She’d missed two!

On Christmas morning, the tree sparkles with lights and tinsel. Gaily-wrapped presents are heaped beneath its boughs, tied off with glossy ribbons. Sophie can’t wait to open them. She sits down on the floor beside her little brother, just like they used to when they were kids. Her mom pops kettle corn in the kitchen. She let Sophie make the jello salad this year, let her fill it with grapes and delightfully crunchy bits.

“What do you think is in that big one?” she asks her brother, peering at a large and hopefully Playstation-shaped parcel beneath the tree.

“Dunno.” Her brother picks it up, just a little, to give it a shake.

A little brown house mouse skitters out from where the package had sat, darting across the carpet.

Sophie’s mouth runs dry.

She watches it for half a second, then springs into action. Lurching forward like a barn cat, she knocks the big present sideways, swiping too slow to catch it. She’s out of practice. She will not miss again.

Barrelling into the Christmas tree, narrowly dodging as it topples sideways with a crash of shattering baubles, Sophie scoops the mouse up into her mouth and crunches it in half, blood gushing down her chin.

Her brother screams.

Mom burns the kettle corn.

Sophie just can’t help herself.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

Totally Addicted to Bass
525 words


Raygun the shark saw the quicksilver flash of a sea bass’s tail and lunged. He knew he should quit them but he just couldn’t. He had the withdrawal-shakes, and his jaws missed their mark, crunching instead against spiny coral. The bass burst from the reef. She had a red reef crab between her teeth, its pincers gouging her face. Her eyes met Raygun’s. They were full of the deep wild of the open ocean. Raygun stopped in his tracks. She was beautiful.

“Drop the crab!” Raygun shouted.

The bass shook her head, jaws straining to break through the crab’s carapace. Her eyes never left Raygun’s even as the crab slashed at them.

Raygun lunged again, this time smashing his teeth into the crab. Its shell exploded, white flesh drifting down towards the seabed. Ignoring her own injuries the bass surged after it, snapping at the flesh with an addict’s frenzy. Raygun watched, mesmerised by the way her silver scales rippled over her muscular back.

Sated, the bass sank down to rest against a ball of orange coral. Blood seeped from the cuts on her face.

“You should quit hunting reef crabs,” said Raygun. “They’re dangerous prey.”

“I can’t,” said the bass. “Trust me, I’ve tried.” She hesitated. “But thanks. Name’s Cindy.”

Raygun swam a little closer to her. “Raygun.”

Cindy let the current lift her ever so slightly from the coral, so that her fin-tip brushed against Raygun’s. “What’s a blue shark like you doing this close to the reef? Shouldn’t you be out in the deep?”

Raygun stared into her iridescent eyes. Her face and throat were covered in pincer-scars, but her eyes were bright and defiant. He had never told anyone about his addiction, but maybe, just maybe, someone like Cindy would understand…

A wave of silver, flashing in the light from the distant surface, rolled through the sea above them. It was a shoal of bass, returning to the reef from a morning’s hunting in the warm water of the bay. Their bellies were full and they swam lazily. Raygun’s body spasmed and he let out an involuntary moan.

“Wait, don’t tell me you want to eat…” Cindy backed away from Raygun.

“I can’t help it!” Raygun cried. “I want to quit, I swear! But I’m weak! I can’t take the withdrawal, and there’s no one who can help me. I’m...”

“You are not alone,” said Cindy. She flicked her tail and spun around to face Raygun, so close their snouts were almost touching. “I know what you’re going through. I’ll help you, but you have to promise me. Never eat bass again.”

Raygun swallowed. His body was trembling. He looked into Cindy’s deep, dark eyes. No one had ever offered him hope before. His gaze took in her lustrous scales and the firm flesh beneath them. The scent of her blood lingered in the water.

He opened his mouth to reply, and with a thrust of his powerful tail leapt forward and crushed her body between his teeth. Raygun’s eyes rolled back in his head. Hot bass-flesh filled his throat and he shuddered with ecstasy.

God bass are delicious, thought Raygun.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation

The Flipside of The Spotlight

1,253 words

Prompt: An addiction to Darkness


Sharon looked out into the crowd. She could see Bernard holding her cue cards just off the main audience pit, a critical piece of machinery that made the great beast called late-night television run so smoothly, smoothly enough that even if she slurred a word or two (not that she would, drinks were strictly for after the show had wrapped, she wasn’t trying to be this generation’s Fallon) nobody would notice except for the suits on the network review board, but then again, those guys noticed everything.
Except their own problems She thought. Out of the corner of her eye, a red light winked at her, signaling that it was time to wrap the show. The glare from the house lights washed the audience out into an endless array of faceless mannequins, and for a moment she felt like a priest at the pulpit. She could feel the burning heat of the spotlight on her as sweat dampened her clothes.


“Well that’s our show. Goodnight everybody!” She waved and the mannequins cheered with a fever-pitch intensity, the house band trumpeted the closing number, and she closed her eyes and let the sound wash over her.


The mass has ended. Go now in peace. She thought as the house lights went down.


Backstage everything turned into a never-ending buzzing noise. She could feel a headache beginning somewhere in the back of her skull and muttered her way through countless repetitions of “great job” and gave plastic grins in response to voices telling her she’d “killed it” tonight. Her body ached and her vision swam. The florescent lights gave everything a cold, hard edge, like the world really was out to get her after all, and she hadn’t noticed until it was too late.


By the time she’d waved off her small army of assistants and slipped into her changing room, her headache had grown into a free-form throb. She fell onto her couch and found the sleep mask she usually wore after a show. It wouldn’t be enough tonight (these days nothing really was), but it would do. It fit snugly over her eyes, and as she turned off the lights, the thin gauze of grey, pre-dawn murk solidified to an intense black, and she felt at peace. What little ambient light there was still crept in, and the low mutter of conversation outside her door meant that she’d never truly dissipate this time, but it was enough to keep her going.


After fifteen minutes, she got up and called her driver for a pickup, walking quickly through the harsh studio lighting out the main doors. Her driver was taking the last drag on his evening cigarette as she nodded curtly and got in the backseat. The car pulled away, and she quietly cursed under her breath. She’d forgotten the sleep mask. It wasn’t a major gaffe, she had plenty of extras at home, but it would have made the trip more bearable, diffusing the streaking yellow light of the streetlamps into a pleasant, hypnotic strobe, instead of the unbearable naked rays of the spotlight. She shut her eyes and let the thrum of the car’s engine relax her, waking with a start as they pulled into her driveway. She dismissed the driver with an abrupt courtesy that bordered on rudeness and ran to the front door.


With the door closed and the blackout curtains drawn, she sinks into bed and puts her sleep mask and earplugs in. Here, the darkness is warm, comforting even, the only sound the high-pitched whine of her circulatory system pumping blood and the steady rhythm of her heart. Not for the first time, she wished Johnathan were here. Johnathan had understood her need for darkness, her strange cravings. He hadn’t minded when they’d made love with her mask on, the way the darkness swallowed him and rebuilt him as she ran her hands over his body, a line and curve at a time, from sketch to skeleton and beyond.


He’d understood, in those quiet, late night hours as she broke down and told him about the darkness, about how the sleep mask wasn’t just a way to spice things up in the bedroom. How she felt sickeningly real in this flawed human body with its fat and scars and blemishes and skin, and so much loving space and not just her body but all of it, the outside world crashing over her like a tsunami, everything focusing in on her, washing her away and dashing her on the hard, firm rocks of reality, and it didn’t really matter where she chose to hide, under the piano in miss Clawson’s 5th grade choir class, the insides of various closets, her face buried in his chest, a sensory deprivation tank, there was always the moment where the darkness didn’t take and the world rolled over her again and her skin burned with hellish heat as the spotlight found her.



But Johnathan was gone now. He was gone because he’d refused to feed the beast, refused to listen to the men in the boardroom with their fancy cigars and Armani suits and cold, focus-grouped show notes on “marketability”. He’d begged her to come with him, even got down on his knees for her, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She loved the spotlight too much. Loved the warmth, the attention, the mannequins’ howls as her jokes hit, her monologues quoted like scripture around workplace water coolers. She’d felt the smallest pinprick of regret as boxes bearing labels bound for Johnathan’s home in Wisconsin quietly disappeared from the corner of her bedroom, but the beast must eat.


Once, when the spotlight had gotten really bad and she’d had to take a week’s hiatus from the show, she’d tried to take her eyes out with an ice-cream scoop. Oedipus all glammed up on Rodeo Drive. A last-second failure of nerve earned her a scar along her brow and slithering rumors hissed backstage, all eyes on her.


Now, in this quiet, warm darkness, she feels no fear. She gets up and walks with slow, halting steps toward the kitchen, feeling for the utensil drawer. Hesitant hands find the outline of the ice-cream scoop and grasp the cold metal handle. She takes off the sleep mask and lets it fall to the floor. As she raises the scoop to eye level, she is surprised to note that her hand does not tremble.


The first few screams are ones of pain. The rest are a hymnal.


*******

It’d taken some time for her to adjust. The show went on hiatus while the producers and the men in suits held urgent, closed door meetings, ran the numbers, tested the sacrifice. Ironically, she’d made an improvement. The suits, in their halos of smoke, crowed about how this was a big step forward for representation, how she was only driving the numbers further up, how she was the next big thing, the talk of the town, and she’d smiled real bright while the beast took a chunk of her soul.
The earpiece in her ear whispers that she’s on in five and she takes a deep breath. As the curtain goes up, the mannequins roar and she smiles.


“Boy it’s great to be back. I’ve missed you all so much! We’ve got a fantastic show lined up for you tonight!”


She takes off her shades and the mannequins howl as she throws them a coy non-wink. The familiar heat of the spotlight warms her once again.


This time, she doesn’t burn.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Ultra Carp

Trichotillomania Nights
1025 words

The woman wandering the aisles of my section is a tricher. They're easy to pick out even at a distance, especially this late at night; it's the desperate, sweaty look of every addict, pacing between the locked cabinets and the service counter, but in the beauty-tools section and not the cough-and-cold meds. Her patchy, asymmetric eyebrows are the other giveaway. I already know her questions, and my answers, but I studiously and politely pretend I don't see her. It's the unspoken law of the night-shift drugstore: nobody wants to be reminded that they're here, that their lives have led to being in a drugstore at 2 AM, even by a helpful clerk. Let the customer come to you.

Finally, when need defeats shame, she comes my way. For as late as it is, her makeup is surprisingly on point, but a smudge on her chin shows a touch of red: a pimple, maybe, but I'd bet anything it's an ingrown, or a mark from an ingrown she'd dug for until she bled. I make eye contact so I don't linger on it; no need to nitpick a stranger's face. To my surprise, she holds the eye contact. She's definitely not ashamed. "Could you open the case?" she says. "I need some tweezers."

"Of course," I say, and grab my keys for the beauty-tools case. "What are you interested in?"

"I'm trying to decide," she says. "What's good?" Now that's got to be the shame talking. Nobody who shows up looking for tweezers at 2 AM doesn't have a weapon of choice. A part of me, the bored tired part that builds up bile all night, wants to call her on it. The part of me who's stood in this aisle before tells the other part to shove it.

"It depends on your application," I say. "Do you need them for pulling a splinter" -- plausible deniability here -- "or for grooming?"

"I need them," she replies in a low whisper, "because I can't find my goddamn tweezers anywhere. Not that they worked on this ingrown, anyway. It's in deep -- one of those little fragments -- and my slant-points won't deal with it, and now I'm thinking needle points. What do you have in a good needle point?"

At last, we're down to the real shop talk -- not that this is all that complicated. "Tweezerman," I say, keeping my voice just as low as hers. There's nobody to see us but the security cameras, and those things don't get audio, but no reason to be conspicuous. "Go for the Splintertweeze line; they've got good grips and the tip's sharp. Most of the other needle tips are way too blunt."

"God, aren't they? I got a pair at Target that was just like... digging with a plastic spoon. Worthless."

"Let me guess, they were cute? Never buy the cute ones. They don't work for poo poo, unless they're Tweezerman, and even then you don't need the markup." I open the case; she points at the Splintertweeze. "My advice is, get one or two pairs of really good ones -- the Splintertweeze and whatever other tip you like -- and keep them in the same place all the time. Get a few pairs of cheap decent ones for your purse or your desk or whatever. You won't lose them all at once."

"I was thinking about that," she says. "Give me a pair of the Tweezerman Point Slants, too? And then I'll just get some Trims."

I check her out at the cosmetics counter: the two Tweezerman pairs, three pairs of Trim slant-points, and a tube of Neosporin. I bag it all up, pointlessly, because as soon as I hand it over she's off towards the restrooms. The Neosporin's going to ruin her makeup, but it's better than letting foundation and blush get in the wound. Not sure I'd go digging in our restrooms, but I'm not one to judge.

Who the hell am I kidding? I've stood in front of that restroom mirror with a pair of Trim slant-points, pulling and scraping and digging, and then covered the mess with Neosporin and concealer. I've spent whole breaks in there, hunting for something stubborn or just pulling the easy ones, each one a little rush of accomplishment. This nasty little thing was a part of me, and now it's not. I did that. I tell myself I'm done. It's been almost a month. I'm taking the supplements the Internet says should calm the cravings. My eyebrows are looking good again -- I tell myself even the long crazy hairs help them look fuller -- and my chin...

I touch my chin. Bad move.

The hairs have taken over. They're softer and longer, almost silky: the texture of an ingrown erupted or teased out, except all over, the product of my neglect. I can just imagine how dark they are. The thought of them, silky and black and festering all over me, sends itching through my brain, and I need these things off of my loving face. I clasp my hands together and force myself not to claw at my cuticles, the next best target. I tell myself I'm not tweezing anymore and that's goddamn final.

But I can shave, I realize. I can shave.

I pick my keys back up, head over to the facial razors, one of the mid-range men's models, different enough from my regular equipment to keep the temptation away. This is a stopgap. It won't stop the need -- it won't pull out the nasty jellied roots, or the ingrowns, or the foot-long coiled threads of black hair I imagine pulling out to end this hateful war with my own face once and for all -- but I'll look cleaner, and I won't have anything to touch. It's my methadone, except it'll never feel even that good. Getting a clunky men's razor, just enough to do the job, will make sure I never enjoy this.

I check myself out -- employee discount -- and tuck it all away in my purse. Two hours of my shift left to go. The store's dead.

I go to clean the restrooms. It's something to do with my hands.

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doctor Rope

Guardian Angel
1,306 Words
Addicted to Family


The corpse of her newborn was still swaddled in hospital linens as she clutched the baby to her breasts. Warm, but already faded, the life the child barely had was gone. She rocked the small, broken thing in her arms as tears flowed freely from unbelieving eyes.

The father was nearby, but no support. Filled with misdirected anger, he glared at Tanya, who needed him more now than she ever had in their eight-year relationship.

He glared at Tanya who turned towards him with tear filled eyes and offered up their child.

“I don’t want to touch that thing.” He said before stalking out of the room.

Tanya held the baby and wept.

* * *

The years that followed were difficult, but Tanya and Jamar stayed together out of some sense of obligation to the other; survivors of a mutual tragedy. However, Tanya fought harder for what mattered to her while Jamar let vice placate his festering wounds. Still, they tried to build a life together.

Tanya’s hands gravitated towards her swollen belly, and her unborn son responded with a kick. Tanya sighed, and let her hand slide to what bit of thigh she could reach, then let her head fall back over the chair as she closed her eyes and focused on breathing.

The silence was interrupted by Jamar. He came in the room smelling like the remains of a chemical fire and unwashed animal. The smell was nauseating.

“I thought you said you were done with that stuff, Jamar.”

Jamar offered a noncommittal grunt as reply as he brushed past Tanya, intentionally shouldering her into her chair as he did so.

“The gently caress’s that about?”

Jamar ignored her and instead grabbed a small plastic bag filled with murky crystals and disappeared back out of the room without saying a word.

Tanya stared at his empty space in the doorway and stifled a scream that felt like an actual obstruction in her throat.

Her hands slid back over her belly and she closed her eyes, as she felt the pressure of another hand resting on top of hers. Her eyes opened wide and she stared at the spot where she felt the touch.

* * *

Donny peeked out from behind his mother’s skirt, holding bunches of it in gripped hands while he snuck glimpses of his teacher, and the classroom behind her.

“No one outside of me should be allowed to pick him up. We just moved here, and this is new territory for both of us.” Tanya instructed and admitted to a woman who smiled and nodded understandingly.

Donny leaned into his mother and mumbled, “Please don’t leave me, momma,” into fistfuls of tear-drenched, snot-soaked fabric.

“It’s his first day, don’t worry. I promise you that he’ll fit right in before the week’s end. It’s always like this with new little ones.”

The woman resembled his mother despite being older, and her smile put Donny at ease. His fists unclenched and the fabric returned to his mother’s skirt as wrinkled craters.

Tanya knelt beside Donny and wiped away tear and mucus trails with a quickly produced tissue.

“You know mommy won’t forget you, right?”

“I know.” Donny muttered reluctantly.

“Mommy has to go to work, but I’ll take a piece of you with me to keep me company.”

She plucked away empty air and hurt feelings between her thumb and index finger, and Donny smiled weakly.

Then with a final peck on his forehead, she stood and turned to leave.

Donny stopped her for a final time. “Will you take my friend with you too?”

“Your friend?” His mother asked curiously.

“My friend!” he replied enthusiastically, but not clarifying who or where this friend was.

She looked at the day care teacher who smiled and shrugged.

“Sure, honey. I’ll take your friend, but I need to leave now, so come on, friend. It’s time to go.” She said, turning her wrist to see if she would make it to work on time.

“Hold his hand, momma!” Donny remarked, and his mother turned back towards him wanting to explain that she really didn’t have time, but instead played along and held out a hand for Donny’s invisible friend.

She was startled, when for the briefest instant, she felt a tiny pressure resting against her hand.

She stared at her upturned palm as Donny’s teacher gently, but firmly, ushered Donny by the shoulder down the ramp towards his classroom. Tanya left, and Donny found a table to hide under.

* * *

Donny had recently turned nine, and the big gift from his birthday party was his Nintendo and a copy of Super Mario Bros., but he could only play after his homework and chores were done.

His mom worked all the time though, so it wasn’t like she would know if he cut homework a bit early to get some game time in.

He sat on the carpet in front of the entertainment center and ran cables from his console to the TV when a knock on the door nearly had him jump out of his skin.

Donny stared at the door, hearing his mother cautioning him against strangers in the back of his mind.

“Donald Wilkins? Donny are you home?” a man’s voice said from outside the door.

He tiptoed over to the door and stared through the fish-eyed peephole.

A rough looking man in his early forties stood a few feet from the door in a disheveled security uniform that might have given off the appearance of authority if it wasn’t for its slovenly presentation.

“This is the police, Donny. There’s been an accident… your momma. She’s been in an accident, and I’m, uh, I’m here to take you to the hospital, so you just come on and open up, no need in worrying none.”

Donny backed away from the door tripping over a gamepad and knocking picture frames from the wall in the process. The noise made the man on the outside more fervent with his demand.

“Come on now, boy. Open the door, you’re supposed to listen to the police. Your momma needs you, so come on and open the door.”

Donny worried that his mother might actually be in trouble, but his fear of the strange man was more real in the moment.

The knocking at the door turned into angry pounding, as a fist slammed into it from the other side.

“Open up this God damned door, Donny. Your momma needs you, boy. You willing to let her die alone at the hospital?”

Donny moved towards the door and let his hand hover over the handle. The man outside looked familiar. Maybe he did know his mother, and maybe his mother did need him. His hand rested on the cool metal of the knob, and just as he went to turn it, a pressure around his wrist stayed his hand.

Donny gasped, and moved away from the door, staring at his wrist while the man pleaded for entry for another fifteen minutes, when the real police showed up and detained him.

* * *

That night, Tanya explained everything to Donny. His deceased older brother, his abusive drug-addicted father, and the decision she made to start a new life without him; a life for Donny and herself. She laid her soul bare, and her son, the only person left she felt she could trust, proved more mature and reliable than she had expected.

“I’m sorry, Donny.”

“It’s alright, momma. We’ll be okay.” Donny said has he paced across the tiny kitchen to hug his still seated mother.

Then another set of hands clasped the shoulders of each Tanya and Donny, and they looked up at the empty space behind them and then at one another with knowing smiles, secured by the vigilance of their unseen guardian angel.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Hope Tastes Like Peppermint
1272 words



“Breathe on it,” said Tommy. “Go ahead.”

Christina made a face. “Nuh-uh,” she said, “you do it.”

“It won’t work if I do it. You have to do it,” said Tommy. “That’s the way magic works. It’s personal.”

Christina rolled her eyes, then lowered her head towards the windowsill. Cold air blew in through the open window, shaking the frost-covered branches and making them chatter like loose teeth.

She paused, then breathed hot air onto the ice cube, fusing the salt to the string.

They waited a minute, their heads bowed.

Then Tommy picked up the string, the ice cube dangling from it like a cloudy diamond, and tied it around Christina’s neck. “There,” said Tommy. “Now you’re magic.”

Christina could feel the chill of the ice cube against her collarbone, mixing with the heat rising in her face.

They both sat still on Tommy’s bed, the open window beside them, waiting for the other one of them to say something.

The bedroom door swung open.

“Dad, I told you to knock!” said Tommy, lurching back from Christina.

“I did,” said Tommy’s dad, walking across the bedroom carpet. “There must have been icicles in your ears. I told you kids not to keep the window open this late. The whole house is cold as hell.” He reached past the two of them and shut the bedroom window.

“Aw, c’mon…” said Tommy. Christina was still sitting back, hoping Tommy’s dad didn’t notice the blood rushing to her face.

“No, you c’mon,” said Tommy’s dad. “When you pay the electric bill, you can open the window for as long as you want. There’s iced tea downstairs if you want something cold.” He shut the bedroom door behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Tommy opened the window again.



“So here’s what I’m saying,” said Tommy, lying back in the snow in his long-sleeved flannel shirt and jeans, making deformed snow angels on the hillside. “If you sleep naked in one of those ice hotels in Norway, do you wake up stuck to your bed?”

Christina laughed, and took another swig from the bottle of Rumple Minze. “I don’t know, you’re the one who wakes up stuck to your bed on the regular, aren’t you an expert?”

“gently caress off,” said Tommy. He threw a lumpy snowball five feet over her head. “I’m saying, I’m saying, if you pee in one of the ice toilets, doesn’t it just melt?”

Christina looked out at the forest line, empty tops of trees sticking up like the hem of a wicker dress. “I think they just cart a new ice toilet in every morning. They have a toilet sculptor.”

“Oh, yeah?” said Tommy.

“Yeah, how did you think your dad made you?”

“Oh for gently caress’s--” Tommy sent a few more chunks of snow in Christina’s direction. Christina laughed as they all missed, and then Tommy started laughing, too.

Their laughter died down, and then the night air was still and quiet.

“I’ll miss you,” said Tommy.

“I’ll miss you too,” said Christina. “I’ll be back in July.”

“I don’t want you to go at all.”

“Here,” said Christina, draining the rest of the Rumple Minze. She cocked her arm back, ready to throw the empty bottle. “If I can hit that tree over there, I won’t go. I’ll say gently caress university and stay right here."

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

“Alright, then throw it.”

“I will.”

“Throw it.”

“I’m going to.”

“Right now.”

“I will.”



It was an afternoon with no life in the sky.

“Tell me things I can hold onto,” said Tommy, sniffling. There was an empty box of tissues on the bed. “Tell me facts.”

They were sitting on the bare mattress in Tommy’s bedroom, her and Tommy, just like fifteen years ago, and as of yesterday, there was no Tommy’s dad to open the door and break them apart and close the window. The sky was pure white, and the mattress was a worn and discolored white, and Tommy’s face was somewhere between the two.

Christina took a deep breath. “No two snowflakes are alike.”

“Good.”

“The freezing point of mercury is negative thirty eight degrees.”

“Good.”

“The capital of Greenland is Nuuk.”

“Great.”

“Your dad loved you.”

“Great.”

Tommy’s eyes were hard, like cloudy diamonds. Christina took another deep breath. “Your mother loves you.”

“Great.”

“There are many other people who love you.”

“Ok.”

“I love you.”

“Cool.” Tommy was looking out the window now, at the cold, at winter, at the world lying dead. “Cool.”



Hey Tommy,

I know you’re not responding to your emails anymore, so I thought I’d send you this letter the old-fashioned way, ha-ha-ha. Maybe you can understand cursive better. But I’ll get right to the point, people are worried about you. I know that your dad’s death hit you really hard, and the election results coming right after that was something that hit all of us really hard. I understand. I just want to see you again. You don’t have to respond to this letter, but please let me know that you got it. Just something.

Love you,
Christina



One day in July, Christina knocked on the door to Tommy’s parents’ house, and the mail slot opened, just like that.

Christina jumped back.

“Hey,” said Tommy.

“Hi, sorry,” said Christina, gathering herself. “I just wasn’t expecting...hi.”

“Hi.”

They looked at each other. It was over a hundred degrees outside, and there was no cold to counteract the heat Christina felt in her face. “Can I come in?”

“No.”

“Oh.” Christina looked at the living room windows, which had thick fabric taped to them, blocking all light. “Well, can we talk?”

“Sure.”

Christina bent down on one knee until she was at eye-level with the mail slot, gingerly smoothing out her skirt. “People are worried about you.”

“I know.”

Christina didn’t respond, just knelt, looking into Tommy’s eyes, the only part of Tommy she could see. Music wafted in through the mail slot: Gone away, is the bluebird, here to stay, is the new bird…

“Look, Tommy, I just wanted to say…” Christina stopped. Leaned in closer.

Tommy shrunk back from the mail slot, and she could feel it even stronger now...yes. It was a chill.

“Do you have the air conditioner on?” she said.

“Yeah,” said Tommy. “Twelve of them.”

“Oh,” said Christina. “Okay.”

More silence. She felt like the ice cube was tied around her neck again, sinking through her skin and into her throat.

“Listen, I…” She coughed, tried again. “I care about you, and I want you to know that. I don’t know how to get it through to you--” --she wiped at her forehead, sweat running down her face-- “--but I think you should know that.”

Silence.

She looked away, tears forming in her eyes, and when she looked back, she saw a red-and-white striped finger, thin and long, pointing at her through the mail slot.

“Want a candy cane?” said Tommy.

drat it!” shouted Christina. She swiped at the candy cane, shattering it, sending shards of peppermint sugar scattered across the cement stoop. “God drat it! God drat you! I should have--”

She stopped.

Should have what?

The mail slot was closed shut again.

“Tommy?”

No response.

She got up, raking white bits of candy cane off her skirt. Turned around, walked down the front pathway.

Maybe she would try again another time. Once the weather got colder, maybe. Sure.

Christina clutched her purse closer to herself, and shivered, the sun shining bright and hot over her shoulders.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010


Limits

858 words

Prompt: addiction to strength

There's something deeply satisfying about punching through a wall. The feel of shattering cinderblocks against knuckles... There's nothing like it except maybe the sound of steel ripping apart. Aftermath understood that. It's the one thing we ever had in common.

I was the runt of the family, growing up. Paragon X, the kid who could barely lift a small car over my head while my brothers and sister were juggling houses. I had the rest of the family talents: I could fly, could barely be hurt, was fast as bad news. Just a little bit slower, a little bit sooner to cry mercy. Trip was a real jerk about it sometimes. A "just kidding" kind of guy, and mom and dad both bought into it every time.

"You'll never be half as good as me," he whispered in my ear, just before he went with the rest of the family to spend a summer in the Hollow Moon. It was supposed to be a gentle try-out, me representing the Paragon legacy in Edge City, and if anything went wrong, well, there's always the Seven Saints and the Nexters, right?

Except the Seven Saints got called out to the other side of the galaxy, and the Nexters picked that month to disband and scatter across the world to escape each other's drama. So when Malice showed up and started wrecking the city, there was just me. Well, me and Aftermath.

Malice. I used to have nightmares about that one. A mix of leftover Nazi weapons, alien technology, and an artificial brain made of pure hate. The first time it showed up, in Berlin just after the war, grandfather died putting it down.

So when Aftermath got in front of me, in her tattered leather suit with all the metal bands keeping it together and tells me "Wait, you're not strong enough to fight it," I was half thinking "Screw you, Trip," and half "You're right," but wound up just shrugging.

"You'll need this," she said, and gave me my first power prop. A pair of gloves, iridescent bronze, just like the ones she wore. I put them on. I felt the strength flowing from them, into my arms. Into my heart. We launched ourselves at Malice, punched right through its chest and central cortex. It felt good.

We worked together after that, Aftermath and I. She could see the future, sometimes. Usually it was bad news. She was desperate most of the time, and so I was too. There was always something to fight, and I wasn't ever strong enough, even when I was holding my own arm-wrestling Dad and tossing asteroids bigger than the city. There was always another prop, another way to get stronger, and they never lasted.

I loved her, but we were awful together. But it's not like we were any good apart, either. We'd save the world, then start feeling the withdrawal when the strength spell wore off. Sometimes it was literal withdrawal, strength drugs that made us rage-crazed berserkers, then made us shake like a cast-iron radiator at the end of its life. 

Sometimes we'd become a threat, super-strong and rage-blind. Trip came out the first time that happened. Told him next time I wouldn't hold back, wouldn't let him subdue me. He pretended it was a joke, but the times after that it was Fafnir who got the call. He knows berserkergang, knew how to break it.

We'd break up, I'd try to get away from the business, hide in a monastery or the Orange Deeps of the Pacific, and a few months later she'd show up and tell me the sun was going to explode if we didn't get back together right then. And she didn't lie, not about her visions, so what was I going to do?

I've been my normal weak self for a year. Better than anyone outside the business, but still weak. Not fit to fight in that league, for sure. Been sort of proud of it. But when the phone rang, when I saw it was her, I felt it. Excitement. Relief. "Thank God this nonsense is over, time to get back to my real life."

Only it wasn't her. It was her sister. I didn't know she had a sister.

I didn't know a lot of things.

Her sister called because she left a note, sealed and addressed to me. I came. She told me when the funeral would be. I mumbled something and shuffled away, staring at the paper in my hand, wondering what she might have seen that she couldn't face. Some dire tomorrow that I would have to steal the strength of the Olympians to stop?

I waited until I got home to open it.

It was just one word, shaky and streaked. "Sorry."

It feels good, as good as it can, given, to punch a wall. It would feel better to punch through it, to feel the concrete crumble at my blows. And maybe I will, sooner or later. I've always been weak. There's a merchant selling charms in Little Seoul. I know his price. Maybe, maybe soon.

But not today.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


Subs extremely closed.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


As someone once told me, "every addict's story is essentially the same". Alcohol can be substituted for heroin, food, sex, or practically anything else in a story, but a solid tale combines the groundwork of addiction with a touch of personality that makes the reader care.

Unfortunately, most of you not only missed the mark but were shaking from withdrawals two hours before the liquor stores opened (see, a comparison with no relation to the point I was making! It's like I'm participating in this week's Thunderdome!).

The DMs this week mostly lacked in motivation and solid characterization, were confusing, dull, predictable, or just super lame and unengaging, while the few HMs created characters I cared about while weaving addiction into the story. After all, it's never really about the substance, is it?

First, our failures. Those poor folks who succumbed to an addiction all to familiar to the Thunderdome: an addiction to not being able to get your poo poo done on time.

flerp eats a ban for having toxxed and failed, while QuoProQuid and Entenzahn are left staring into an empty bottle, wondering where it all went wrong.

The loss this week goes to Anomalous Amalgam. Your plotting and characterization are even more tragic than the fetal death that opened your story.

The absolute bloodbath of DMs go to Simply Simon, Chairchucker, Something Else, Yoruichi, Thranguy, and magic cactus for reasons that are outlined in the criticisms below.

The HMs go to Anomalous Blowout and Nethilia. Congrats and strong work!

The winner is Antivehicular for a story that made me feel things that weren't disgust and (the bad kind of) pity. The throne is yours!

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


Crits below. If you have any questions, want further criticism, or if something I write didn't make sense, let me know.

Simply Simon- Please let me help you

The Addiction: I think you captured the sense of Ally's addiction well. I particularly liked how you didn't out-and-out state what her addiction is, instead letting it tumble out. The hardest thing to communicate about an addiction, in my opinion, is the 'why'. My best guess is that her need for approval comes from her relationship with her mom, but this would have been a good area to flesh out.

I found her interaction with Beth to be the most realistic. I have a mom a lot like Ally's mom, but I still felt it was a little over the top. As for Roger, well, we'll get to Roger.

The Good: I found Ally's mini-breakdown over getting banned from that forum pretty great. It was my favorite part of your story.

The Bad: This is my first run judging and I've heard this comment before about having too many characters in a flash fiction story. I thought it was silly, but I feel it in this story. It might have helped if you had kept each 'section' limited to one character's relationship with Ally and used the other characters as transition points between sections.

I noticed a few spots where I think you'd be better served by saying less instead of more.

For example:

"She forced herself to read more even though it tore at her very soul, the exact opposite of the warm glow she got from helping others."

You could leave this at "She forced herself to read more." It keeps the spirit of what you're trying to get across, it serves as a hook to propel me to the next sentence, and it doesn't beat me over the head with the message you're communicating.

2:

Strong hands landed on Ally’s shoulders. “Ally, I love you, but it’s early, I’m tired and will be blunt. I’m fine, everything is fine. It’s not your responsibility to manage everyone’s relationships.”

Could shorten this to "Ally, I love you, but it’s early, I’m tired, everything's fine."

The next line lets us know a little more about how Beth feels about Ally without laying everything on the table. Trying to explain so much through dialogue also leaves me with a feeling of 'who talks like that?'

---

I thought your intro was weak, particularly some of the turns of phrase you used: 'she sunbathed in Roger's afterglow', '...much more satisfying than anything Roger's penis could have managed'. The rest of the story was pretty direct and grounded, which made going back and reading that first section even more jarring.

DM, loss candidate

Chairchucker- Selected Phone Logs of Mr. Theodore McDevitt

The Addiction: I think you're missing the motivation and emotion behind addiction. Those two pieces are crucial, because as it reads, I don't know why she's escaping, why she enjoys it, that kind of thing. I thought that putting it through her dad's phone logs had a lot of potential, as an addiction takes on a completely different form when viewed through someone else's eyes, but you didn't explore this very much.

The Good: I appreciate when a writer sees that dialogue isn't usually a great medium for lengthy exposition. You were brief with your words and I think the dialogue is believeable.

The Bad: Not a lot of characterization here. The format of using her dad's call logs would have been a great opportunity to show me how he sees her escape, but her dad is basically a non-entity. Come to think of it, Marisa is a non-entity too. I didn't really care about her actions throughout the story and as a result, the ending didn't have any weight to it.

DM, loss candidate

Doctor Eckhart- The Plastic Spinner

The Addiction: Nicely done. I thought that the metaphor of a hamster in a cage would be a little hamhanded, but you played it very well. Like a lot of stories this week I'm missing the motivation, but you worked in the animal instinct enough that I can let it slide.

The Good: Well-written with good mechanics. There's a tremendous amount of metaphor here in the cage, the familiarity, and the redundancy of addiction that made this more than a simple hamster story.

The Bad: I didn't get a full understanding of your protagonist's relationship to his addiction, which may have been intentional, but the 'why' as to the running would have been good to see. Maybe it was more metaphor, that we do these things but don't know why? If that's the case, I wish it were a little more fleshed out.

The Claw is pretty creepy, which I'm into, but I feel like the detail of a bare hand crushing/smothering our protagonist's sister-hamster to death could have been pretty vivid and visceral, but it was passed over.

The structure is interesting, in that each line is self-contained, but I don't think it helps your story flow very much. There are some ideas and sequences here that I think could have done better if they were more connected.

Middle

Nethilia- Perfect Hurts

The Addiction: Solid motivation, thanks to your use of setting. I appreciated that the piece mentioned recovery and some of its internal and external difficulties.

The Good: well-written and with good mechanics (aside from a couple typos). The story is grounded in reality, which I thought worked well for it. I had some empathy for your characters, primary and ancillary.

The Bad: I found the whole thing a little bit boring. There's some drama, but I had a decent idea for the arc the story would take after reading the first segment and was pretty much dead-on. That's not to say that every story needs a twist, but this had a little too much tedium in a stepwise progression up and then down. The closest I came to surprise was right after Sharon was kicked in the nose at recess.

I always appreciate when someone tries to go with no/little dialogue, but it takes some work to not come off as dispassionate.

Middle

Something Else- Christine

The Addiction: You dodged having to talk about motivation too much by making the addiction something easily recognizable, which is good. As I was reading through, I thought that her relationship with Travis would prove a more compelling addiction, but he seems extremely secondary to the plot.

The Good: mechanically sound outside of a few small goofs, to start. I do enjoy a classic junkie story with classic junkie dreams (Go to Paris). You captured a few little moments very well, like hoping that someone has taken your stash so you don't have to do it yourself, and being foiled by the common customs of a world you cast aside (not checking opening times before visiting places that aren't a liquor store).

The Bad: I was much more intrigued by the conflict between your protagonist and Travis than I was with her kicking drugs. There are traces there to pull in the reader, like the description of him being controlling and not wanting her to go to rehab, but they're unfulfilled.

The physical conflict between her and Travis was pretty short-lived in a story where you're not hurting for wordcount. Would have been a great time to delve deeper into character with a few lines, but instead it highlighted the weakness of your overall theme of junk addiction.

What was with the shifting POVs? Sloppy.

DM

Anomalous Blowout- Tails Like Pasgetti

The Addiction: Solid mix of motivation, consequence, and overall characterization here. I also really dig the depiction of addiction as progressive and unrelenting. Most addicts' first thought of (and attempt at) rehab involves figuring out how to beat the system and get out, so great work there.

The Good: Vivid language without being too verbose about it. Struck an excellent balance there. I enjoyed how you used other characters to show the progression of the addict. It incorporated several archetypes that surround an addict (the at-wits-end parents, the dupable recovery staff) but they still felt fleshed out.

The Bad: Not much to say here. I enjoyed this.

HM

Yoruichi- Totally Addicted to Bass

The Addiction: didn't make a ton of sense to me. I get that Raygun wants to stop eating bass, but is it because he finds them so alluring when they're alive? Feels a little flimsy. For a shark in the ocean, seems like he could have his bass and eat it too. If that is the case, some more information would help with Raygun's characterization and make the story more cohesive.

The Good: Pretty out-there idea, but I found it entertaining. I'm not really the type of guy to smile reading about a shark named Raygun, either, so good job there. Classic shot at addicts advising others on how to manage their consumption, too. Liked that.

The Bad: didn't get a sense of characterization here. I understand splitting the difference between brevity and bloat, but you had so much space to explore these characters a little bit. If reading this week has taught me anything, it's that solid character study makes a big difference between a story that makes me feel something and a story that's predictable.

DM, loss candidate

magic cactus- The Flipside of The Spotlight

The Addiction: felt a little muddled. I eventually figured that her addiction was to the light and her refuge was the darkness, but partway through the story it could have been flipped. Didn't incorporate many of the feelings that go into an addiction.

The Good: Interesting setting. The prose is very well-done in parts, though in other areas it seemed a little overwrought and dense. The pacing was good and the story flowed well from event to event.

The Bad: your ending may have worked better if there had been a little more setup. A person scooping out their eyes is pretty severe, but it came off fairly jarring.

Your prose could use some work. There are some segments that sound good, but on closer inspection don't really mean anything:

"The first few screams are ones of pain. The rest are a hymnal."

Hymnal screams? I guess.

"Oedipus all glammed up on Rodeo Drive."

I get the blindness=Oedipus thing, but this was confusing and muddled.

DM

Antivehicular- Trichotillomania Nights

The Addiction: Good motivation, interesting angle. Carries a good feel of what it's like to meet a fellow addict in the wild as well as a sense of the addict's frustration and delusion. Well done.

The Good: I enjoyed the 'shop talk' of addiction. I remember a guy suggesting to me that the off-brand tequila, though it came in a plastic bottle, was almost as good as cuervo (although that's pretty gross in itself). I like the mild sense of relief your protagonist got at making strides in her addiction, as well as your showing how easily it can creep back. Mechanically sound story, too.

The Bad: Not much here. The ending sentence felt a little tacked-on, but that's a fairly minor nitpick (no pun intended).

Win

Anomalous Amalgam- Guardian Angel

The Addiction: Didn't see it at all. It's a few slices of life from a very sad family, but the theme of an addiction to family didn't come through.

The Good: There were a couple moments of heartstring-tugging but I had trouble finding much to enjoy in here.

The Bad: There's some work to be done here.

First, there's too much telling in this story and not enough showing. Some examples:

"Filled with misdirected anger, he glared at Tanya, who needed him more now than she ever had in their eight-year relationship."

It'd read a lot better if you showed me how she needed him now more than ever, either through dialogue, through her being unable to do something that she needs him for, or by her having feelings she can't cope with.

"However, Tanya fought harder for what mattered to her while Jamar let vice placate his festering wounds"

You actually show Jamar placating his sorrow with vice, making that last sentence unnecessary.

There's also a lot of repetition in your writing that could be cut down. Sometimes (often, I think) brevity makes for much better storytelling. Some examples:

"He came in the room smelling like the remains of a chemical fire and unwashed animal. The smell was nauseating."

Don't need to tell me that the smell is nauseating. As a side point, the sentence flows better as "smelling like an unwashed animal and the remains of a chemical fire".

"Donny worried that his mother might actually be in trouble, but his fear of the strange man was more real in the moment."

You show me that his fear of his father is more real in the moment. Think about it this way. Each time you give me a reminder like that, you take some of the impact away from the overall event. It's usually more powerful to let story beats unfold in a reader's mind instead of leading the reader directly to them.

Loss

Ironic Twist- Hope Tastes Like Peppermint

The Addiction: Not clearly sketched out. My best guess is that Tommy's life was best when it was cold outside, but I don't know why he has an obsession with the chill. It carries through to the end, but I don't get its impact on the story.

The Good: Well-written and mechanically sound. I really enjoyed Christina and Tommy's little discussions about the ice hotel and the ice necklace. It's hard to do a diversion well in flash fiction given the space you have to work with, but I found you pulled it off well.

The Bad: Addictions are pretty complex, so having to read this hard into a story to figure out what the addiction is isn't great. I can sorta figure that it's the cold, but like I said up top, I'm not really sure why.

Your conclusion is fairly weak. I don't really get the candy cane thing as it ties into your title. I cared about the relationship between Christina and Tommy a lot more in the intro than at the finish. I think that conducting their last conversation through a mail slot wasn't a great decision. Not that it's a bad setting overall, but the sense of separation didn't work for me in this instance.

Middle

Thranguy- Limits

The Addiction: Touched on a little too briefly and in the end, tangential to the overall story.

The Good: Interesting setting, fair setup. Mechanics are good.

The Bad: There is way too much going on in this story. There are a lot of one-off lines that don't add much to the story, but serve to confuse the reader. An example:

"Sometimes we'd become a threat, super-strong and rage-blind. Trip came out the first time that happened. Told him next time I wouldn't hold back, wouldn't let him subdue me. He pretended it was a joke, but the times after that it was Fafnir who got the call. He knows berserkergang, knew how to break it."

I read that three or four times but I still have no idea what you're writing about. Is Trip the same as Aftermath? 'Came out' as in sexually? Berserkergang? What does subdual have to do with anything? Are they fighting each other, or losing control when fighting something else? I can read an overdose into this, but that's about all I got.

Is your protagonist using strength drugs because he needs them to be as strong as the rest of the family, or does the whole family need them?

I don't get the ending at all. I don't care very much for Aftermath (who is, or isn't the same person as Trip?) and the 'Sorry' doesn't make sense to me outside of some vague premonition she couldn't face up to. Either way, didn't grab me.

DM (Oh, if only two stories could lose)

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Let’s go. I’ll start with run and gun and end with an overall react. If you want to talk about your story, come find me, we’ll duel or something.

Aonmalous Blowout’s Tails Like Pasgetti

Getting what remains of Edith Finch vibes from your opening. The phrasing is a little clunky ‘over the next decade’ doesn’t really work and makes for an awkward read.

In case you were wondering if this would feel visceral, disturbing, and gross. Stop wondering. Why you would do this is beyond me, but it’s working.

So yeah, after the first beat I see what this is and feel weird reading it. What I’m looking for his motivation though.I can’t tell if this is just supposed to be a silly little kid thing that snowballed out of control or if it’s a response to something. Your opening suggests that her mother tried everything but it’s handling suggests only a superficial connection, so I’m wondering if there’s a deeper motivation. Curious to find out what, and you’ve got me on the line for that, so, well done in that regard.

OK, so in the next beat you’re escalating but I’m not sure why, or why I should care.

So yeah, in the third beat this is getting less interesting and more depressing. The stakes are rising but there’s nothing changing about the character and there’s not enough information so this read is just getting tough, but not quite in the way I’d want it to.

Haha, you got lucky. Since I’ve gone vegan, I can absolutely say: Peanut Butter has saved me.

Oh god. I swear if they give her brother a puppy for christmas and she tries to eat it. Don’t you do that to, you hear me?

Alright, well at least you didn’t do that, but what is this?

Reaction

You lost me somewhere in the middle. I can follow all of this just fine but I’m having a really hard time identifying what’s worthwhile in your story. You handle the sensual stuff well, and you got me caring about Sophie a little, but the thing just feels hopeless for hopelessness’s sake. Just a giant bummer that doesn’t seem to accomplish much. Well handled, but not maybe well realized.

No Mention


Simply Simon’s Please Let Me Help You

Why would you not name your protag but name the first dude they interact with?

Oooooo jeezis. Apologies to any Rogers out there, but there’s just something so ugly about the way “roger’s penis” sounds when I read it.

OK my dude. Just look at the way your first two beats start. With dialogue and unclear people. This is just super clunky, right from the jump.

Auuuuuuuugh what even is this, with the italics and unnamed speakers. How are you going to keep this up for another 1000 words? This is feeling like an intentionally oppressive piece of fiction that has scorn for its audience.

Even when things are somewhat clear, there are just bad choices here. Things like: “That did not help Ally’s fingernails, which were getting more chewed on by the minute.” SCREAM to be phrased actively but you don’t go there and instead choose weak language and phrasing so that in the moments of clarity your story just isn’t hitting me at all.


Reaction

I see what you went for. There’s an arc here and I do kind of appreciate that. Unfortunately, that’s about where my positivity ends. This felt like it was intentionally disjointed and that those choices were meant to accomplish something. So, bold. Problem is, it didn’t land. I’ve got some respect for it though and your moxie alone will likely save you from a loss. But, not a DM.

DM


Chairchucker’s Select Phone Logs of Mr Theodore McDevitt

OK, great just what I wanted. What am I doing here, playing Bioshock? I hope this surprises me.

This probably won’t surprise me. You know better than this. All we’re getting here is words back and forth and without any sort of characterization how can you properly telepathically communicate to your readers how you want them to see this? Or, maybe worse, you didn’t even have a vision.

So I’m a dad of a daughter and this piece oughta be impacting me. But, it really isn’t. I want to see these people’s personalities. I can’t find a way to care about any of this.

OK, so the kid’s an escape artist. But, who gives a poo poo? YOu’re just sorta talking around these moments and I do not see where it came from, or why. You kinda just explain it all away by just making her a kid who tries to get out of things. That feels really reductive and unrealistic. Stuff like this doesn’t just happen.

But, most importantly, this isn’t a story. It’s a reel.

DM/Loss contender


Doctor Eckhart’s The Plastic Spinner

Oooo are you protag’s hamsters? That would be bitchin, but it’s OK if they’re not.

YEEEES THEY’RE HAMSTERS

OK, hamster excitement has worn off. I’m getting a teensy bit irritated in just how anthropomorphized these lil dudes are.

Additionally, part of the problem here is that you definitely seem to be able to see what this all is, but your phrasing has me somewhat confused. I don’t think you want me to be in the same boat as the hamsters, not quite knowing what the world around them is. I’m guessing you want me to see it, and feel bad that they don't. If that’s the case then I’m not quite getting there.

Read the rest fairly quickly, let’s get to the reaction.

Reaction

This does have some guts and I appreciate that. It doesn’t quite hit me though.I need these hamsters to either be hamsters or people, but you’re in kind of a weird Homeward Bound thing and it’s just not doing it for me. And uh… what is the claw? I mean I think you want that to be obvious but it kinda isn’t. Is it a cat? It seems like it’s a cat? Problem is, I don’t know where these hamsters are. For a while, I thought they were in a pet store, which made the claw thing hard to parse. But that’s kinda the problem. It’s hard to tell where we are, so it’s hard to tell a lot of things.

No Mention


Nethelia’s Perfect Hurts

Your opening beat has me interested and I’m worried, but in the right kind of way, about where this is going to go.

Somewhere in the middle of the third beat and I’m feeling a problem of escalation. To me, the nose was a bigger deal, in both how she saw it, and how she went about correcting it. You even acknowledge that problem by saying that a stomach ache isn’t as bad as what’s already happened. Now, granted, an eating disorder is certainly more concerning and troublesome but it lacks that kinda snappy impact of the opening so it doesn’t land with the same kind of kick.

Her father coming to get her from the school is a banger of a paragraph. Well done there.

I was worried for a second that your penultimate paragraph was a false flag and you were gonna try to go for a dark turn in the last. I’m glad you didn’t go there.

Reaction

This was the first of the week to take hold of me and get me feeling things. Got me rooting for the protag, and got me hoping that things would be handled accurately. I see this kind of stuff all the time in my line of work and you did a great job of telling this story the right way. Not every story ends up as positively as this one, but some do! And when they do, they often look a lot like this!

The critique I’d offer is that the more interesting part of the story for me isn’t the example of the problem, but the journey in overcoming them and the majority of the story isn’t there. I also do think that you don’t quite write at the same level of your opening beat, up until her dad comes and gets her at school. Some of this comes down to just visual portrayal. It’s really hard to properly convey the verbing of anorexia. Like, you show the thing of her looking at the mirror, but the actual process of it doesn’t quite read as strongly.

HM candidate


Something Else’s Christine

You got an odd blocking problem in the very beginning. You never bother having Christine enter into the apartment which makes this read poorly.

The perspective shift here isn’t great. The POV of the story is outside of the character and yet those italics are right in her head, and it doesn’t really work. It feels like DVD commentary or something.

What is this sentence doing here? “Knelt down behind the toilet, in the grime.”

Couple hundred words in and I don’t know what’s going on or why I should care.

And the perspective shift confusion is continuing. Suddenly the narration is in Christine's head and aware of her judgments, even without the italics. So what are the italic moments for now?

So like here: I am a basket case, but they don’t need to know that right away. She thought about puppies and kittens and resolved to make a visit to the shelter and volunteer.

Why are you going back and forth between the stream of conscious and the narrator’s perspective? This doesn’t make any sense.

Reaction

Too many distracting problems here for me to get behind this entry and read it like it’s a story that’s happening. I see what you’re going for but your technical execution is leaving a lot to be desired. My suggestion: write your next story plainly and without gimmicks. Do your best to just tell the drat thing and focus more on the content. There’s probably something decent here buried under the clutter.

No Mention/DM


Yoruichi’s Totally Addicted to Bass

Not trebel?

Sorry, I’ll go kill myself now.

Oh cool, a story about hamsters, and now one about sharks!

Feeling a bit of a tone problem early on. Are you gonna tell this thing straight? If so, Raygun might not be the best choice of name. I assumed this would kinda read like a kid’s story but that’s not the direction this seems to going in.

What the gently caress was this?

Reaction

So I read this quickly. I mean, it’s short and all and it’s really easy to read. But… What is this? It’s a shark eating a fish. This isn't an addiction, it’s nature. What is this story? This is so unremarkable and you’re the goddamn person who wrote about pirate robot horses with arms and guns and crazy poo poo. This is a moment in nature and like I guess we can feel bad for the fish a little? But, why? I don’t get this.

I hope I missed something.

No Mention/DM candidate.


magic cactus’s The Flipside of the Spotlight

Another Sharon. Odd.

This opening paragraph is a god drat mess. What is the machinery? Are you calling cue cards machinery? Just read that second sentence and tell me that it makes sense. Hooooboy.

Are you cynically calling people mannequins? I mean that’s a fine thing to do but calling people faceless mannequins isn’t really a jaded insult. It just sounds loving weird.

A few paragraphs in and this whole affair just feels dizzy and unrealized. I don’t know what you’re going for.

If something isn’t enough, then it won’t do. It might “would have to do”.

Not much point in quibbling over the small stuff cos there’s bigger problems. Tense shifts and the problem of seemingly abandoning the narrative to mostly focus on the addiction.

OK, the contrast on the bright light vs the darkness is kinda needed though.

Not really sure what Jonathan brings to this.

Reaction

Eh, this kinda works in places and kinda doesn’t in others. I like the attention paid to the protag’s concerns but the story doesn’t match the intensity as much as I’d like it too.


Antivehicular’s Trichotillomania Nights

Yeesh, guess this one might get squeamish and hard to read. Let’s see how it goes.

Good stage setting in the opening graph.

But uh… I don’t know. Is this some kind of occurrence that we’re supposed to believe is common? Junkies going to a drug store to get their tweeze fix? This kinda seems a bit out there.

OK, so the clerk is one too. I guess that makes sense. I thought they were just some sort of 2am drug customer savant.

Alright, read the rest quickly.


Reaction

I think you’ve captured the essence of addiction better than any of the other contenders thus far. It’s also pretty nifty to see how the trigger gets pulled and the jump from A to B feels believable.

HM candidate


Anomalous Amalgam’s Guardian Angel

It’s a helluva thing to start a story this way. It’s like a reverse Good Will Hunting. You start with something that’s the equivalent of Loss.jpg and you’re essentially giving yourself the license to go crazy. I’m not on board after the opening.

It’s also kind of lovely to treat the father like you did. This is clearly a devastating thing for parents and his handling of it is valid and fair but you paint him out to be the villain here when this situation has no villain.

Oh man, and you keep on loving judging the dad. Duuuude. He lost his loving child. Stop this poo poo. This is really getting annoying. There is no hero here. There is no villain here. Feel for your characters and actively like both of them or this just reads as cynical and cruel.

Reaction

Yeah I stopped providing feedback ‘cos this really began to piss me off, I hate to say. This is a really reductive look into a tragedy and how people handle themselves. The writing doesn’t do much to make your case either. There’s passive phrasing everywhere and the motivations of the characters are super unclear. I’m a little emotionally fried today so I may be reacting to this more strongly than I’d like.

If you want me to re-read this and get back to you from a slightly more objective headspace, let me know.

DM/Loss Candidate


Ironic Twist’s Hope Tastes Like Peppermint

Why you slam so hard on the return key bruh?

OK, odd formatting aside, the opening beat was nice to read on its own but it doesn’t get me excited for much more.

Soooo how much time has passed from the first beat to the second? It sounds like these are teens talking about ice toilets and what the gently caress is this now?

I’m kinda getting lost in what you’re going for here. This is kinda getting all “When the Incredibly Strange Harry Met the Odd As Hell Sally”.

The break into the letter is jarring and not really fitting well within the narrative.

I really don’t understand what is going on with this Tommy fella, and that would be OK if the story was more so from Christina’s point of view, but it’s not really.

What the hell is this ending?

Is Tommy like Secret Santa or something? Why does this make sense to Christina? What is this?

Reaction

My dude. I don’t understand what this is about. I don’t know what you were going for, but the only thing that kept me from really having a hard time with this is that there are a few genuine moments in your story that were pleasant to read and felt somewhat honest. That’s keeping this kind of in a no mention zone for me. But like… the end of this felt like a Perry Bible Fellowship comic or something. I don’t even know.

No Mention


Thranguy’s Limits

OK, superheroes, but probably not doing Marvely things. I’m on board.

Halfway through and I’m reading this quickly but not seeing much direction. The voice is compelling enough though.

Hm, OK, nothing else to react to in the piece itself, let’s move on.

Reaction

So what I like about this is the handling of the action and how the hero sees himself in relation to the others. I’m not sure what else is getting done that’s worthwhile here though. The addiction component feels a little undeveloped and unrealized and really just tertiary to the story apart from it being somewhat of a bookend. There’s also the issue of this not really being a story so much as it is like that elevator conversation those two Jedi had in that one-star wars movie in the prequels or something where they just review all of the things they’ve done? I don’t know like just show us the things? Or put us in one of those moments and make that your story. This feels a little too broad sweeping and not focused enough.

DM/No Mention

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010


it is 9pm local time in the last year of our founding decade

One last time, let our voices rise together in chorus:

PROM<PTP

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Ultra Carp

prompt will arrive when the new post does

be patient, friends

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Ultra Carp

In the meantime, check out this sweet shirt that extremely good Secret Santa The Saddest Rhino bought me!



Close-up on the geckos:


This is definitely getting worn to work, maybe to start-of-year training for maximum coworker confusion. Thank you so much, Rhino!

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


New thread is live. Assume this one will close and get goldmined at any moment, so if you want your stories out of it then

Doctor Zero
Sep 21, 2002

Would you like a jelly baby?
It's been in my pocket through 4 regenerations,
but it's still good.

This is private thought right?

E: is archives private? I think it is...?

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



Generally TD threads get goldmined (I think?) so they will still be publicly visible once archived.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Clapping Larry

Doctor Zero posted:

This is private thought right?

E: is archives private? I think it is...?

Stories on the archive require an archive account to view. If you take your story out of the thread, it will only be viewable to people with archive accounts.

Like djeser said, goldmined threads are generally public. if this thread doesn't get goldmined i'm doing a mutiny at sebmojo

Doctor Zero
Sep 21, 2002

Would you like a jelly baby?
It's been in my pocket through 4 regenerations,
but it's still good.

Ah Goldmine. Got it. Thanks.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



Oh yeah, forgot the confusion between SA archives and TD archives.

Thread gets goldmined, which is public; TD archives require an account and therefore are not publicly searchable. (Also you can hide stories on the TD archive if you're really really ashamed of yourself.)

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Doctor Zero
Sep 21, 2002

Would you like a jelly baby?
It's been in my pocket through 4 regenerations,
but it's still good.

Djeser posted:

Oh yeah, forgot the confusion between SA archives and TD archives.

Thread gets goldmined, which is public; TD archives require an account and therefore are not publicly searchable. (Also you can hide stories on the TD archive if you're really really ashamed of yourself.)

Nah that’s cool. Looking back at my history I guess I wrote more than I remembered, but less than I would have liked. There are still a couple I’d like to clean up and submit, so I removed them.

Thanks to all the Thundergoons for a good year.

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