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crimea
Nov 16, 2012



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Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


Saucy_Thranguy brawl entry

If Not for Wasps (three sonnets)

356 words

I.
We watch’d the shadow of the Earth creep o’er
The red’ning moon, that ancient, sacred sign
Of war and blood, of night-time woods forbade.
Each breath we took we filled our lungs with knives;
For winter’s teeth consum’d the world that eve
And cut the air with frigid stinging blade.
We had a healthy fire upon our hearth
Within the home a few short steps away
And food and drink more than to quench desire.
But moon and cold and dark and still we chose
O’er warm and soft and full and laughing cheer,
We found a greater thing in ice than fire.
Would we, if blood-moon came in summer-time
Had left our homes to view the moon sublime?

II.
When we, in youthful days of youthful crimes,
Would run to fields we did not own nor know,
To take forbidden fruit from trespass’d trees,
There was a day I bit into a plum.
But I was not the first to eat that fruit;
A hive of wasps had burrow’d to its core
And loosed upon the inside of my mouth
(and for three days I was made to be dumb).
You laugh’d as I was coughing out the bugs,
And crying just as bad as children would,
But then you kiss’d me kinder than you had
Right on my swollen lips, entirely numb.
You kiss’d me other times before and since
But I cannot recall each other kiss.

III.
If not for cold, would I forget the moon?
Or would I lose, in “more important” things,
That lone connection to beyond the sky?
If not for ill, would I forget good health?
The crisp inhale of undistorted breath
Within my mouth and lungs and nostrils clear?
If not for wasps, would I forget the kiss?
Or would that mem’ry drown beneath the sea:
Like thousands, millions, other kisses lost?
If not for pain, would we forget the world?
Or would each moment bleed into the next
And last? Each birth a blur until its death?
There’d be no joy at all, if not for fear;
If not for death, we would forget we’re here.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


Brawl with Saucy Rodent

Eirene’s Insect

248 words

The men who built atomic rockets first
To break the bounds of sullen gravity
And threaten horror beyond reason's grasp
All must have seen and recognized at once
The startling beauty of the wasp in flight.

The scorpion will claim to understand
And check his tretch'rous nature for a while:
All lies, of course, he will doom self and frog.
The wasp makes no such pretense of a deal.
Instead its very colors scream a threat:
Cross me and I will die to cause you pain.

Society is often just the art
Of making virtue of each corrupt vice.
How greed is harnessed into industry
How lust drives deep ambitions to impress
How sloth fathers invention to spare work.
When we discard Athena and red Mars
And strive to find a path from war to peace
That isn't desolation by that name
We emulate the action of the wasp:
Spite, pure spite announced with voices clear
Will stop the war before it can begin.

That ancient goddess of peace must agree:
Imagine if one were her tool at Troy
And raised a welt on Helen's perfect cheek,
And stopped a thousand ships from taking sail,
Or stung violent Achilles’ tender flesh,
Or taught the Trojans hate enough, in time
To burn the offered gift outside their gates.

Remember well the yellow and black bars
Remember well the threat that they imply
And follow through when follow through you must
And wasp-like, teach deterrence to the world.

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


Both went with iambic pentameter. Nice.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Sign-ups are closed.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Three Hundred and Forty
1300 words


“It hurts pretty bad today, guys. My missing wing, I mean,” said Parliament House. Autumn leaves gathered against his graceful Coromandel granite steps. Wet cabbage tree fronds tugged loose by the wind wrapped around his neoclassical Tākaka marble columns.

On his south side and conjoined by a modern glass atrium stood the Beehive. Cold rain rattled against the vertical concrete slabs that fanned from her circular grey exterior. Atop her copper-clad roof a damp New Zealand flag snapped in the desultory wind. In her basement, where the civil defence bunker should be, the Beehive felt a huge hole yawn open. Its grime-streaked concrete sides sloped down to form a vertical shaft that disappeared into bottomless black.

She took a shuddering breath. “A huge, bottomless pit has appeared in my basement,” the Beehive declared. “I don’t know where it came from, but I think it wants to eat people.”

To their north stood the Parliamentary Library. In a monotone voice at odds with his pastel pink render and delicately carved masonry, he said, “Construction of Parliament House began in 1914, but World War I caused severe materials and labour shortages. The building’s second stage was never completed.” Pigeons peered out at the heavy grey clouds from under his pointed arches.

A cluster of bureaucrats hurried over the paved forecourt of the Parliamentary precinct, heads bent against the blustery wind and papers clutched under dark wool coats.

“I just feel so incomplete, you know? No one takes me seriously because all they see is half a building,” said Parliament House.

The Beehive watched the bureaucrats closely. “334, 335, 336, 337, 338, 339,” she said.

“Bee, are you even listening?”

The flag whipped and cracked in the wind and rain water tumbled from the Beehive's concrete balconies.

Parliament House’s granite-browed windows reflected the dark late-afternoon sky. “I’m getting terrible phantom pain and you don’t even care,” he said.

“Tours of New Zealand's Parliament buildings run on the hour between 10 and 4 every day except public holidays,” the Library intoned.

The Beehive’s automatic glass doors quivered in a sudden gust of wind. “If we don’t do something, all these people are going to die!” she said.

A young woman in a bright red coat, backpack slung from one shoulder, leaned back against the grey stone of Richard Seddon’s plinth and held her camera up to her eye.

“Why do they photograph me?” said Parliament House. “I’m so ugly. I bet she’s just taking photos so she can show her friends and they can laugh about how my stairs are at one end instead of in the middle.”

“Stop going on about your missing wing; I’m the Executive Wing,” snapped the Beehive. “Right now we’ve got a bigger problem.” In her basement the pit exhaled a spout of freezing air and she heard the sinister rumble of distant laughter. Her lifts shivered in their shafts.

Satisfied, the young woman pocketed her camera and skipped up the stairs towards the public entrance. The wind whipped her blond hair into her eyes and she laughed and ran for the shelter of the doorway. She was even younger than the Beehive first thought.

“Stop her! You have to stop her!” she said. The automatic doors hesitated. Surprised, the woman stepped back and waved an arm in front of the sensor. With a guilty shhh the doors slid open.

“Dammit!” said the Beehive. “House, you have to help me save these people from the pit!”

“There is no pit you silly cow. You’re just getting confused about tunnel to Bowen House again,” said Parliament.

“The tunnel that connects the Beehive to Bowen House was constructed in - ”

“No one cares about stupid Bowen House, Library!” The Beehive’s south-facing windows reflected the image of an attractive modernist glass and steel tower on the opposite side of Bowen Street. Dark shadows scudded across the Beehive’s curved glazing. Somewhere across the city, a siren wailed.

“That’s it!” she said. The Beehive focussed on the cables that made up her nervous system. There was one network that wove through all three buildings, distinct from the rest of the tangled wiring. She reached into one of the many square nodes and with a burst of concentration tripped the switch.

A shrill clanging shattered the thick-carpeted quiet of the halls of Parliament and the automatic doors sprang open. The Library screamed and panicked pigeons scattered from his decorative nooks. Security staff began hurrying tourists towards the exit.

“Bee, what have you done?” shouted the House over the clanging alarm.

“It’s the only way to get them all out before the pit gets them!” she yelled back.

Eddies of nervous tourists swirled across the paving stones. Fire wardens waved at officials retrieving coats and handbags to please hurry the gently caress up this is not a drill. Fire engines wailed down Waterloo Quay.

The Beehive frantically scanned the grey-brown crowd for a splash of red.

“But what about Library?” said Parliament House.

“THE PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY HOUSES SOME OF NEW ZEALAND’S RAREST HISTORICAL TEXTS,” screamed the Library. The rain had stopped and the gusty northerly seemed ready to fan whatever flames should leap from his windows.

“IT WAS BADLY DAMAGED IN THE 1907 FIRE THAT DESTROYED THE ORIGINAL PARLIAMENT HOUSE.” The Library’s voice rose to a hysterical wail.

“But that was over a hundred years ago!”

“...FIRE THAT DESTROYED, THE FIRE THAT…”

“Bee, for God’s sake!”

The alarms stopped. Slices of blue appeared between the scudding clouds. The evacuees looked at each other in the sudden quiet, palms held up against the soft autumn sunlight. Through the pohutukawa trees that bordered Parliament Grounds the Beehive saw a flash of red.

“Help me count them!” the Beehive demanded.

“But, Bee…”

The Library was crying, taking great, gulping breaths and letting them out in a distressed whine. A family of discombobulated pigeons wheeled around his stained glass attic windows.

“Just do it already!”

Parliament House sighed. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…” he said.

“...11, 12, 13, 14, 15…” The Beehive raised her voice, shouting over the Library’s sobs.

“...41, 42, 43, 44, 45...”

“67, 68, 69, 70,” The Library’s voice was quiet. He stuttered and hesitated.

“...96, 97, 98, 99…” said Parliament House.

“100.” said the Library. He continued, more confidently. “...127, 128, 129, 130, 131…”

The Beehive and Parliament House fell silent and listened as the Library’s counting fell into a steady rhythm. The fire engines arrived with news media close behind. A journalist with camera crew in tow questioned a pair of elderly Americans about how scared they’d felt during the emergency.

“...334, 335, 336, 337…”

The glass expanse of the Beehive’s triple height lower level blazed orange in the setting sun. Rose-coloured patterns danced in the mighty granite blocks of the walls of Parliament House.

“...338, 339, 340,” said the Library, and stopped.

Across the road the young woman shrugged off her red coat and squeezed into the Backbencher, already packed with men and women in suits who had mutually agreed that there wasn’t time to back to work.

“I’m sorry to hear about your phantom pain,” said the Beehive. “That must be really awful.”

“Thanks. It’s not so bad, now,” said Parliament House. “I’m sorry to hear about the pit.”

In the Beehive's forth sub-basement the air was still and warm. The green corridors of the civil defence bunker were faintly illuminated by fluorescent lights left on in evacuated offices. From somewhere above a heavy metal door clanged as an on-duty official returned via the stairwell.

“That's ok. It's gone away again,” the Beehive replied.

“The Beehive’s unusual architecture, combined with the graceful neoclassical Parliament House and the historic Gothic Revival Parliamentary Library, make New Zealand’s Parliament buildings a must-see attraction,” said the Library in his usual monotone.

Under his pointed arches the pigeons cooed in the evening quiet.





Prompt:

Flash rule: Your characters are all buildings, from 3-9 stories high, each with a different disorder from DSM IV

Staggy
Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes


The Sound of Rain
Words: 1,606/1,970



Read it in the Archive.

Staggy fucked around with this message at 12:30 on Dec 30, 2019

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


The Baroque Variant
1643 words


I reach for the queen and L-GIN hums contentedly. “Can’t do that,” he says, and taps his upside-down rook on the square beside. “Immobiliser, you see?” My curse is mercifully muffled by my phone’s tinny alarm. It’s a Lefkoşa model, cheap black bioplastic carrying nothing but this year’s prayer calendar and the original Snake, but I've always had a soft spot for history. Besides – we need to think ahead.

The setting sun has left us alone in the old house’s bones. Our little camplamp, shining as brightly as we let it dare, throws contorted shadows across what’s left of the shell-shocked walls and over the gaudy painted messages of love and peace and the irrepressible shared humanity of all the nations of the Earth that you only ever find in old warzones. I shift sideways and adjust my weight on the mouldy pile beneath us. “Hmm,” I say. I reach down, rummaging through motheaten teddybears and crumbling paperbacks until I pull a jagged pottery sherd from under my crossed legs. I size it up – maybe from the Tens, but I failed that module – and chuck it into a corner. Then I turn back to the board. L-GIN has me beat again. Must be the only reason he picked it up at all: it’s an early Nineteen-Fifties mass-prod model of cheap wood, and it’s sure as hell not coming with us, is it? They said the older models go odd, over time.

I knock my king over. “We shouldn’t wait,” I say. “That’s our window, and the U.N. steps it up after nightfall.” I wade over to a hole in the wall and peer out past the sandbags. Nicosia-Lefkoşa's Green Line is as thin and as silent as a papercut. Hell – if I wanted, I could go lie across the street and have my head my body and my toes in three different jurisdictions. But the war has not ended, only stopped.

“Sure you won’t go best of five?”

Some sand, disturbed by my touch, trickles out from the bags and runs rough over my fingers. You can date them by the contents. It’s beach sand of all things, evenly grained: even now its bright calcite whiteness pushes past the decades of dust and dirt. “Forget the chess thing,” I say. I pick a beacon off of my belt and place it on the base of the formation for later activation. Maybe worth coming back for after the rescue. “You know that game is solved.”

L-GIN unfolds himself like da Vinci’s take on the spider. Floating under his own power, his eight manipulators swaying gently below his pale ovoid body, he begins to put away the pieces. “This isn’t a ‘chess thing’, rookie. Baroque is different.” Every limb is active, snatching up the wooden figures one by one by one. “There are… layers to it. Indirect actions. Not something you can brute force.” He closes the box, fixes the latch and, with a movement I can’t really see, he stashes it somewhere inside him.

“We won’t have room for both that and the sword,” I say. “You know there’s a hundred better sets back at the Museum.”

“Martin,” he says, “I know my own specs. I’ll have room.” He folds his manipulators back in on themselves into thicker half-length limbs, preparing for flight. I raise my arms like we practised and he enfolds himself around me like a scarab, accounts for my weight, and lifts us silently off the ground into the city night. Looking east, the backlit hillside flag of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, a red crescent on white, looms over the houses.

“Sixty feet tall,” he says, his voice vibrating in my back.

“Bit of an eyesore.”

“Sooner or later,” he says, “someone’ll ask me to leave room for it.” He twists us in the air, aiming for the Selimiye. Its twin minarets catch the light from the hillside, bleaching the sandstone white. The Gothic buttresses and great windows from its past life as a cathedral still remain, but lower down in the dark, shielded by the high-rises. L-GIN evens the thrust. I put a finger to my temple and our course arcs out in front of me in iridescent blue.

“Right through the rose window? Really? That must be a cultural object in its own-”

“'Removed for restoration work',” he says. “I read the briefing.” I feel a slight pressure in my ribs as he adjusts.

“They just left it open for anyone to get in? And they wonder why things get rescued.”

L-GIN says nothing. I look ahead and see the circle of the window, obscured under tarpaulin. “L-GIN,” I say, “are you sure they left it op-”

He flips us around so he hits it first. There is a jolt and the sound of wood snapping like cheap toothpicks and then I am falling and looking up at the painted white ceiling through splinters and then I am face down on the ground with an eyeful of geometric carpet. L-GIN releases his grip. I stagger to my feet and pull the stungun. The mosque is empty. I silently thank the phone, brush myself off, and walk slowly towards the sacristy at the rear, L-GIN following.

I check my sixes like they taught me. No guards, no cameras, just the cathedral columns and the wide open space of the mosque. With my left hand, I gently push open the sacristy door. At the far side of the room, its approach flanked by an honour guard of wooden mannequins in Ottoman armours, there is a plinth, and a display shielded in glass. The sword is inside.

L-GIN floats past me and looks at one of the mannequins. “This isn’t right,” he says. “These are in good condition.”

I stride forward towards the target. She’s a scimitar in the sipahi mould, thin and curved Damascus steel, still beautiful after five hundred years. I’m so close to it. L-GIN lays a manipulator on my shoulder.

“Martin,” he says, “look down.”

I look down at the plinth. There’s an info board in Turkish, Greek and English. It merrily extols the use of the sword in the conquest of Nicosia-Lefkoşa and its ceremonial role as the indicator of a conquest mosque used when the imam ascends with it to the minbar and some incidental details about the reign of Sultan Selim II Osmanli (1566 - 74) and-

“Doctor Muldowney,” he says, “we’re robbing a museum.”

I start. “Not much of one,” I say, pushing down the sensation. “It’s a priceless cultural artefact. It should be better protected.” I nod to the glass. “Would you do the honours?”

L-GIN doesn’t move. “No,” he says. “I don’t think I will this time.”

“Well we can't go home without it.” I look back to the display case. “I’ll do it myself,” I say, and go for my belt.

He wraps a manipulator around my body and pulls me back hard. Then he’s between me and the sword. “It has been well-preserved,” he says. I try to shrug him off, but he grabs me with all eight and tosses me backwards. “You should leave.” The stungun comes from nowhere. “Or have someone find you.”

poo poo. I twist behind an armoured mannequin, drop the useless stungun and pull the other gun, the real one, the one for emergencies only. I spin back out ready to fire but L-GIN throws himself at me, his manipulators filling my vision until we are wrestling, me and the machine a quarter my weight all tangled up in the mannequin, and I really have to wriggle to get my arm free and the gun placed softly against the weakpoint on his body like they showed me in the solo briefing. “L-GIN,” I say, “don’t make me do this,” and then I follow the line of the shot he has offered me.

The sword is right behind him. I look at it again through a sea of manipulators: it really is in great condition. I start to laugh and as I do he presses his own real gun between my eyes. I lean back out of instinct and feel my hair brush against the ancient armour plate. I look back at his expressionless disc. He looks at me. “Guess we’re at an impasse,” I say.

He holds the gun still. “Unsure,” he says, tapping the armour with a spare limb. “Could be a replica.”

“Funny guy,” I say, and I drop the gun. It lands on the carpet with a dull thud that echoes through the silent mosque. “Better appraise it fast.”

“<Looters!>”

Shouts in Turkish cut through the air as security finally arrives. L-GIN holds for an instant more, then he pulls back the gun. “It... seems genuine,” he says, “but should you so much as-”

There is a crash as someone flings open a door. I look to L-GIN and he looks to me: and then as one we are running away laughing, the hail of tranq rounds harmlessly snatched out the air by roiling tendrils, then we join together beneath the splintered window and boost off into the city’s deepening night.

#

I reach for the queen and L-GIN hums contentedly. “Hmm,” he says.

I move my qu- my Withdrawer back two spaces to eliminate his Long-Leaper. The blasted old house is still silent. “Your move.” I wade back to the sandbags, reach down, and pull out the tracker I left behind. “Now what?”

L-GIN is looking intently at the board, like there is something within it that he cannot quite see. “Well,” he says, his manipulator resting on a pawn, “you did say they needed better security.”

I shrug, and crush the tracker in my fist. L-GIN moves his piece.

“Checkmate,” he says.



selaphiel
Jan 31, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

One May Ride a Free Horse to Death
Word Count: 1780


Tonight, something had come.

A man's body had washed ashore, tangled in water reeds and sand. From afar, Elise had assumed him dead. She approached him carefully, her dog plodded dutifully beside her. Brandishing her hiking stick she jabbed him none too gently in the ribs.

This action elicited a groan from the nearly drowned figure who promptly rolled over and peered up at her.

“Ah, the sea couldn't finish me off so Poseidon himself sent an awful wench to finish the job?” His humor fell flat, but he still sent her a small smirk.

Elise did not return it. Beside her, her hound snarled.

“Who are you, and why are you here?” Elise's voice cracked, unused and almost unfamiliar to her as she hadn't needed to speak aloud since her husband passed four years ago. She'd been alone ever since, lived off the land and her small collection of livestock.

The man stood, and it was only then that Elise noticed his feet–or rather, his equine like hooves–and blanched.

She'd heard the stories and the myths, but never had she believed them to be true.

He followed her gaze and nervously rubbed his head, “Ah, I can see you're quite perturbed by my predicament. Let me explain.”

The stranger took a step back, as if readying himself.

“My name is Achaius. I've come upon some trouble, you see. I need to find my way back home. I had a boat but it broke on the rocks,” Achaius gestured north towards the sea.

“I'm wounded. I know the way, but I will not make it without the aid of another. My people, they can heal my afflictions, change me. The stories say so. I just need the assistance of a young woman,” he finished.

Elise narrowed her eyes, evaluating the horse hooved man. Blood oozed from a brutal tear on his back, stretching to his chest. She reckoned he must have slammed it upon the rocks when his boat met its dreadful end.

“What do you think, Doc?” Elise murmured to the dog at her feet. The shepherd perked his lopsided ears, sniffed at the ground where Achaius stood and huffed.

“Doc here, he doesn't like you sir. I take that as a sure sign you are not to be trusted.”

Achaius laughed despite looking visibly agitated, “Ma'am forgive me for being so rude, but you've been out here far too long if you believe that dog has any more sense than to piss on a tree and howl at the moon.”

Elise brushed the belittlement aside.

“Achaius, I do apologize for the woes that have befallen you. However, I cannot be of aid to you. I recommend traveling south, there's a good trader town not five days from here. Plenty of fine women too,” Elise nodded respectfully and turned, bidding him ado.

She'd only gone a few steps before Doc let out a frightening yelp. Elise turned back to see Doc writhing on the ground with a dagger protruding from his belly, Achaius above him. He withdrew the weapon slamming it into Doc's throat, silencing the dogs cries of pain. Blood leached into the sand.

Elise screamed, her voice tearing through the night. Doc had been the last thing her husband gave her, her best friend all these lonely years.

Without thought she threw herself at Achaius, her hikers stick aimed for his head. He dodged her, and despite injury was far more nimble than her. The stick was ripped from her grasp.

“Now, since you haven't the wise advice of a mutt what do you say about helping your new friend out?” Achaius said, grinning almost politely.

“gently caress you!” Elise spat. “I'll die before I help the likes of you.”

“Well. I can't have that,” he stated plainly before swinging the stick into Elise’s left temple.

She fell, hitting the ground and did not stir again.

▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪

Elise awoke to the soft flicker of fire light. Her head pounded and her ears rang. She attempted to rub her throbbing skull only to realize she had been bound with seaweed. She struggled against her binds but to no avail, a small whimper escaped her.

Achaius appeared in her line of sight, he sat polishing his hooves with a rag. He glanced her way, “Now now, don’t be foolish. That is each-uisge weed, you cannot break it with your feeble human body.”

“Don't worry, my people are coming. You won't have to wait long,” he finished.

Elise noticed that Achaius had cleaned himself up, and that his wound had healed. Maybe self healing was a perk to being a mythological sea horse. If there had ever been a wound at all.

The sea lapped the shore nearby.

“What do you want with me?” Elise questioned, her voice raw and scratchy.

Achaius continued polishing, “What is your name, human? Tell me that and you shall know of my needs for you.”

“Elise.”

“Lovely name, Eli.”

Her nose wrinkled in disgust, only her husband had ever used that pet name.

“Well, Eli. My family is coming shortly. If you wish to see this night out alive I'm going to need you to work with me here. I've tried for two hundred years to get a woman to go with me willingly, that's a stipulation you see,” he rolled his eyes and continued. “You women, you are stronger than men. However, I cannot wait any longer.”

“What are you saying?”

“Eli, I need you to put on a show. When my brothers come, I need you to act as if you are here of your own volition. It's the only way for me to meet my true form. Do that and you will be set free.”

Achaius reached forward and brushed his fingers along her cheek bone. Elise flinched backwards. “Do we have a deal?”

Elise swallowed, she understood the gravity of her situation.

“You have your deal, Achaius.”

▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪

A commotion sounded not far from where they were camped. Possibly a mile away.

Achaius clapped his hands together gleefully. “Here they come! See, I told you it won't be long yet.”

Elise watched, she had been untied and properly cleaned up in order to play the part of a girl smitten with Achaius. Eventually the sound had a visual. A herd of five horses galloped across the shore in unison. They were the most magnificent equine she had ever seen. Even with the blood and sweat that adorned their hides. She was entranced.

The leader of the herd, a black stallion cantered towards them. His horse flesh shed from his skeleton morphing into that of a handsome man. Elise blushed shamefully for having such thoughts.

“Achaius. I see you have succeeded,” the leader dipped his head in approval.

“I did as the laws have asked, Niklaus. Now it is my time to ascend to my true form," Achaius removed Elise from his side and approached the other man. He dropped to his knees and bowed to Niklaus.

“Please, brother.”

Niklaus did not address his brother, but rather Elise.

“Human, have you come with my brother of your own free will?”

Elise took a moment to fully focus on Niklaus. With the best straight face she could muster, she spoke.

“Of course, Mr. Achaius here was wounded. It wouldn't have been ladylike of me to deny him the aid he needed. I have sworn myself to him in anyway he desires.”

Niklaus nodded.

“Achaius, it's only taken you half your lifetime. But tonight you shall meet your true form. Get the girl ready for the ritual.”

▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪

Achaius stood alongside his five brothers, he being the youngest of them all. Their hooved feet were submerged in the sea. Elise kneeled in the middle of them, her form shivering as the cold sea water pooled up to her waist.

All five brothers sliced their palms, allowing for their blood to drip upon Elise.

Bending down, Achaius gathered Elise to his chest. Slowly, Achaius walked deeper and deeper into the embrace of the sea until they were both enveloped by water. The world stayed silent.

Once the water swallowed her whole, Elise shoved against Achaius, her fingernails digging into his flesh. She thrashed and she thrashed. Her screams were nothing but air bubbles.

A large and dark figure swam towards them. It was both horse and dragon-esque, fearsome yet ugly. It stopped short of Elise. It must have sensed something, her unwillingness to die maybe. It had been summoned in the face of a lie and payment was still due. Right now, she was not its intended target.

Achaius did his best to shove away from the creature before it lurched forward with its maw parted. It ripped Achaius away from Elise. Blood churned in the water turning it a mahogany hue, bits of flesh and guts floated by her. She took this chance to thrust upwards. Her head broke the surface. Elise gasped once air met her lungs.

She flapped her arms in panic. But before she could swim the creature appeared beside her. Something about the look it gave, calmed Elise.

Watch. It commanded.

I know you are not willing. But you are not a child of the sea, young creature. I cannot spare your life for a blood calling cannot be taken back. Know you do not die for the benefit of a liar.

Achaius had been deposited on the shore, his family had not moved to support his tattered remains. He screamed as what was left of his body shed its man form and warped into a mutated, discombobulated beast that resembled a premature colt. He stumbled on legs no stronger than those of a newborn doe.

One cannot fool me, child. A sacrifice must be entirely committed to giving themselves to the blood calling. If not, the sea Gods of Old and New take great insult and act on that accordingly. I cannot save you from your current life as your blood has been promised to my makers. But just as they did for me, I can do for you. You can be remade.

Elise floundered in the water, her body had gone numb and her limbs had begun to fail her. As it was she didn't have much time left regardless.

“Please. Please help me," Elise whispered faintly.

Close your eyes, land child.

▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪︎▪

The creature watched, assuring that its creation was nestled safely in the sand. She would grow to become a magnificent maiden of the sea, her shell and body were small now but one day she would be one of the largest and most sought after breeds of turtle in the world.

You are home now, sea child.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009


Highgate
962 words


Paz knew death and she knew pain. Her years as a hospice nurse taught her well. But those years were behind her now. Forced into early retirement by a back injury, Paz was more familiar with pain than she liked. Sleep came rarely and the leaden sleep her pain pills afforded her didn’t really count.

On top of the pain, Paz battled feelings of inadequacy. The gripping pain in her lower back made working impossible. She missed helping the dying into fresh clothes, their slow smiles and whispered thank yous. Missed the purely mental pain of losing a favorite patient.

Her nephew, Cesar, lived with her. He helped with groceries and other errands. Paz didn’t understand how he made money. He stayed in his room smoking pot and playing video games for people on the Internet. His YouTube checks were almost twice Paz’s monthly allowance.

Cesar always pestered Paz to try a joint. Just one. He said it would help not only with the pain but also with the depression. Paz always said she wasn’t a druggie. He would roll his eyes and ask her how many pain pills she was on.

But the thought of relief nagged at her and eventually she caved. Cesar gave her £60 and told her to meet a guy in the cemetery after sundown. Despite her reservations, Paz went.

The gate was closed and sliced the dying sunbeams into pale orange stripes. Her back wouldn’t allow her to climb the thing, so she circled the cemetery looking for a gap. Once inside, the sunset ended abruptly, leaving little light for her. She squinted, looking for her nephew’s dealer.

She paced down aisles of graves and wondered if any were her former patients. The names were hard to read; a roiling blue-gray fog had settled on the ground.

“Paz?” asked a voice behind her. She turned but saw no one. There was a cough, and then the voice said, “Over here.”

Fear took hold of her, almost enough to distract from her back. “You know Cesar?” she asked, eager to confirm the voice’s identity.

“Yeah, that’s me.” After the voice spoke there was a strange whirring sound. The fog at Paz’s feet bubbled and thickened.

Another cough and then Paz could see the dealer. He was a head taller than her and wearing a black hoodie. Paz couldn’t see his face in the hood’s shadow. The figure raised a boxy thing to his mouth. That same whirring. Then the figure exhaled a cloud of the supernatural fog. “You got the dosh?”

“Is that a vaporizer?”

“Sure is. Cesar told me to give you one. It’s easier on the lungs than a spliff.”

“Will mine make so much smoke?”

The figure chuckled and held out a gloved hand. Paz put the envelope of money in the hand. In return, Paz received a paper bag.

“If you need help just ask Cesar.”

A new voice yelled “Hey!” Paz and the dealer turned in its direction. A police officer, scrambling over the cemetery fence.

“Can you run?” asked the dealer, taking another puff.

“I’d rather not,” said Paz. In a panic, she said, “Sorry officer, we wanted to pay respects. Hadn’t noticed them locking up. We’ll be out of your way.”

The cop pointed to Paz. “What’s in the bag, ma’am?”

“Take-away. My husband was a chef. We like to share a meal at his grave.”

If the cop scowled any harder, Paz thought he might have an aneurysm. “Can you put your hood down, sir?”

Both the cop and Paz eyed the dealer, who made no move to reveal his face. Instead, the hooded person took a long drag from the vape, forcefully exhaled in the cop’s face and yelled, “Run, Paz!”

Ignoring the screaming pain in her back, Paz scurried back to where she entered the cemetery. The cop beat at his face, howling in pain. She had lost sight of the dealer.

Heart racing, Paz took a bus back to her street. Instead of going home, she walked to a nearby park and looked in her bag. A vape much like the dealer’s and a refill cartridge. Hesitantly, Paz took a puff. The vapor stung the back of her throat and burned her lungs. She coughed and thought back to her encounter in the graveyard.

“Feel anything yet?” It was the dealer, sitting beside her on the bench.

“What the hell, man. Don’t sneak up on people. And no, I don’t think I feel anything.” She took another hit. “Wait, okay. I think I get it.” Her feet tingled and her thoughts drifted.

“How’s the back?”

“Better. But this stuff is messing with my head.”

“You’ll get used to it. Hit me up when you need another cartridge.” The dealer stood up. For a second a streetlight revealed the dealer’s face. To Paz it looked bone-white. Sockets instead of eyes and a broad toothy grin.

Paz chuckled and shook her head. “See ya,” she said. The dealer left the park in a cloud of dense vapor.



“Thanks for watching, amigos. I’ll be back tomorrow night. Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already. And check me out on Twitter.” Paz got through her usual sign-off speech. She had begun supplementing her disability stipend with streaming herself playing the latest video games. Turned out people enjoyed watching a stoned middle-aged lady playing games and swearing in Spanish.

Her dealer started giving her good deals, calling her “my best customer.” They still met in the cemetery, but were much more discreet. It did help her pain. Cesar had been right, after all. Paz felt well enough to help out with the groceries and chores.

But yes, Paz knew death. Death was her weed guy.

NotGordian
Sep 19, 2018


All the Neighbors Have Moved Away
1534 words


The figure of the poet stood by the bench where Iris and Dory sat, adding a cold gaze cast in bronze. The two women and the statue watched three children play in January snow, all of them young enough to be heedless of the anxiety that troubled the woman.

“I don't know where we'd be without you Iris. I guess it shouldn't be longer than a few weeks. A month maybe,” Dory said. She shook her head a little.

“Of course Dor, Tom and I couldn't let you twist in the cold. I'm sure the boys'll have a terrific time, just like an extended sleep over. It'll be sorted before you know it and you'll be off our couch and into a cozy new apartment.”

Without speaking, they watched the children make snow angels and build half of a snowman. Jamie, the youngest at five, tracked his way over to Dory.

“Mama, I wanna go home,” he said through chattering teeth, “and drink hot chocolate and read the new funny.”

“Go with Aunt Iris, little man, Mama has to go to a meeting. She's going to make you plenty of hot cocoa and cookies, but I'll see you before dinner, OK?” Mollified by the idea of treats, the boy nodded vigorously, and Iris stood to begin to gather the children.

“Is this the last meeting?” she said.

“Yeah. I want say goodbye if anyone is there, but I think Steve Linden is going to insist on making it a fight. I don't know if I want that, if I have the energy. Sometimes things die, even good things. Even if everyone in the neighborhood was staying in town, it still wouldn't be easy. Better to look at photos and remember what we had, I guess.” Dory shook her head in the same way as before. Iris responded with a small smile. It tried to convey sympathy and acknowledgment of Dory's situation and a bit of reproach at her apathetic approach.

Iris turned to the kids and began to usher them away, through the rut in the snow dug by hundreds of passing boots. She half-turned around and called to Dory, “Good luck at the meeting, if that helps. I'll see you in a few hours.”

“Bye.”

The four of them moved away, and Dory regarded the nearly blank-paper landscape of the park. The bare maples were glazed with ice, and a quiet wind ruffled the white-dusted pines. A solitary figure trudged through the ankle-high snow, cutting a shallow path. The shape of the person was smudged by dark winter clothing, but they stood out clearly against a bare horizon of level white ground and brightly cloudy sky.

She sighed and left Wallace Stevens Memorial Park, bound for the warmth of Clover Street Coffee. Not many were on the streets, seeking instead the warm comforts of home. Dory wondered how long it'd be before she owned a house again. It seemed unlikely when she bagged groceries 40 hours a week for $2.10 an hour, when they had offered her barely half what the house was worth and when she looked after a 5 and a 7 year old by herself, or near enough.

#

The route from the park to the cafe brought her past the Cancio household, and for a moment she considered going by without knocking. A better instinct welled up and she rapped on the door twice. A red-faced woman wearing an flour-covered apron and a loose bun opened it; Maria Cancio wrapped Dory in a thick-armed hug that seemed to last for a warm eternity. When the embrace broke, Dory could see some disarray inside: partially packed boxes overflowed with summer clothes and a pile of appliances awaited sorting.

“So you're really going.” Dory said.

“Yeah. Paulo's brother owns a flower shop in San Francisco, North Beach. Our restaurant could do well there, he thinks, and we were having a hard time here. Oh, wait a moment!” Dory watched the other woman bustle back into the house, adding to the clamor that the family made with their packing. She returned a few minutes later with an envelope.

“It's the recipe for the mushroom and veal spaghetti your family loves so much.” Dory tried to demur, but Maria insisted. “It's for Jamie and Christian then. Make it so they'll remember the old neighborhood, ah?” She took the recipe and put it in her bag, then embraced the woman again. She said her farewell through the ache that she would never see the woman again. She walked along, and thought about a song. It promised that they'd see each other again, on some sunny day. It felt like a hollow promise, though. Sometimes goodbyes were all that there were.

#

When she arrived at the coffee shop, she ordered a coffee and took a seat. She was surprised to see that she was the last of only eight to show up, but Steve Linden was in full swing. In his leather jacket and with his short, wiry beard he looked the hero, and damned if he wasn't going to play the part. Dory put her hand into her bag and rubbed one thumb along the spine of a leather-bound photo album. She waited for him to wind down, so she could take it out and remember with her soon-to-be ex-neighbors.

“Dory, glad to see you make it. Take one of the folders on the table and listen up.” He gestured to a table with a few manila folders stacked on it, each full of black and white pages photocopied at the public library. She took one and looked through it while he went on. There was a form for lodging a complaint with the Hartford City Hall. There was a stapled packet of cases where eminent domain had been fought and won. There was another packet, detailing instances where Juniper Construction and Realty had failed to provide the higher tax revenue and services that they had promised. She looked at Steve and felt sorry that he had put all this work into something that would never happen. The city had already made up its mind.

“Look, its only mid-January,” Steve said. “We have until March 15th to fight this. Other cases similar to ours have been won in less time then that, you can look in the folder and see for yourself. We don't need their so-called 'economic development.' We need homes and businesses.” Evidently he was looking past the fact that many of the homes were boarded up, and some were already prepared to be knocked down. Dory glanced at the others. They were just the same as her; they regarded the speech with hearts of winter, not nodding or smiling. As soon as the notices and official letters had shown up in their mailboxes they had ruminated on their bad luck and started to move on.

Steve seemed to sense the feeling of the others, because he fell into a more intense conversation with Charlie Bridgman, trying to persuade him on action. One or two others spoke up, halfheartedly engaging with him, but Dory didn't. She sat and twisted the strap of her bag, wondering why she had come. No one was talking about old memories, about the good and bad times they had had growing up and raising families and heartbreak together.

She saw Mrs. Jensen, eighty-five if she was a day. She didn't know much about her, other than that she had a son in Florida or Georgia who never called and a husband buried behind the church. And now she never would. Briefly, very briefly, she considered asking the old woman what she was going to do. It was better though, to not know than find out that she had no idea where she was going. Dory couldn't offer her a spot on someone else's floor, especially not when three kids were staying there as well. Better to not make the thing more painful than it had to be.

People started to stand up and file outside, heading in different directions. Steve said he'd be here next week with an update, but she didn't think anyone else would come back. Dory traced a careless shape on the photo album that was still in her bag.

#

She was back in the park, watching the sun set over the bare horizon that that dark figure had walked across before. She sat on the same bench as earlier in the day, her only companion now the unspeaking metal one. Dory let the winter into her heart, into her mind, to numb the loss. The shaking of her body let her shake loose the not-yet-formed friendships she would have made at the coffee shop or the corner drugstore. She sat in the hush of the snow and still trees. The clumsy dissolution of what she had known was just something to see and observe, not a role to act in a play. Now it was nothing, and so was she.

Snowflakes started to drift down. She sat for a while and watched them fill in the path that had been newly made, earlier that day.

Salgal80
Jan 28, 2019


Baki the Baka: A Moral Tale
(Japanese translation: Baki the Fool)
985 words




Here we go again.


Nine months ago if I’d asked my best buds, “What’s the worst thing someone can do to deserve a yearlong curse?” they’d say things like making a pendant out a and dollar, teasing a pufferfish without a license, or hailing an underwater Uber. Pretending to be something you’re not? Never. Well, that can’t be said anymore.


So here I am on display pretending to be something I’m not because I pretended to be something I’m not. The initial, “This is stupid,” wore off months ago. The “I’m going to kill Minamoto,” came and went. At the six month point I’d learned my lesson and petitioned for a reduction in my sentence. Denied. Three months a numb servitude to go.


So, here we go again. 9 a.m. opening for the Tokyo Museum of Bizarre Marine Life. Ikko, Mr. Gomon’s right hand man,, is barking out, “Places.” I shuffle to my spot, get into position, and wait.


I pass the day reliving how I got myself into this mess because what are my options? Watching snotty nosed brats cry at the site of me, or nerdy adolescents stare me down from claw to claw, or a stray art student draw my monstrous figure? No thanks.


Truth be told, at this point I’m not only comforted with the memory, it’s what keeps me going. Picturing Chiya in my mind still makes my gonopods tingle, even if I know there’s no way in hell she’ll ever speak to me again. If only Hydeko wasn’t snooping around, I might be engaged, (it was well rumored Chiya had a thing for us peasants). If only. But, who am I kidding? Her father, Rida, would never have permitted a marriage. Not in a million years. I see that clearly now. What an idiot I was to dream otherwise.


It was a sunny day. Low tide. My horsehair buds and I were hanging out on the rocks at Osaka Bay. I was chowing down on seaweed stuck in the cracks when Yuki starts to whistle. I turned and there she was, Chiya Minamoto, the most beautiful king crab I’d ever seen. I wasn’t the only one transfixed. We’re all standing there in a huddle staring like a pot full of horsehair crabs about to be boiled for a royal feast, knowing immediately our lives would never be the same.


I was the first to move. Behind me I heard a chorus of, “No, Baki, don’t do it!” But did I listen? Of course not. I was invincible. I’d once stuffed a dead mackerel into the mayor’s mailbox and strug nori all over the front yard of the chief of police. Never caught. Not once. Every time my Haha saw mischief in my eyes “heading to hang out with my buds, and warned me. I’d kiss her cheek and strut out of our hole like I knew better. Poor Haha. Now she’s the mother of a disgraced son. If Otosan was alive I’d be dead.


It seems like yesterday I sauntered up beside the lone princess and nonchalantly asked, “Come here often?” She laughed tossing her head upward. The sun sparkled from her eyes blinding me.
I put my claw on hers, “I’m sorry. I know that was stupid. But, give me a chance,” I puffed myself up as large as I could, “I’m Baki, heir to the horsehair kingdom.”


Chiya gazed into my eyes, reading my soul. She was about to speak when I heard the cackling laughing of Hydeko, her brother and heir to the throne. He’d followed her to the bay to catch her doing something that would bring her shame so he could find even more favor with his father. I suspect he had nothing better to do, as he was known throughout all of Japan as a universal jerk, and spurned by any self respecting female crab of any species. “Horsehair Kingdom? Where’s that? In the kitchen of Kani Doraku?” he taunted.


Within seconds, King Minamoto appeared atop a high rock, claws raised. The sky turned dark, winds blew, and rain began to fall as he commanded Chiya back to the kingdom immediately. She took one last regretful look at me and scurried away. Minamoto pressed his claws together like a madman uttering in an ancient language I couldn’t understand. Some lackey next to him interpreted. “You want to be the big guy, bottom dweller? So be it. You’re sentenced to one year exhibition labor at the Museum of Bizarre Marine Life in Tokyo. And, never speak to my daughter again, or you’ll be sentenced to a large pot of boiling water.”


I was frozen in place as I felt a strange sensation move from my abdomen, down my legs, and into my claws. My body seemed to be moving upwards. King Minamoto, who had been high above me, was staring me in the eyes. Behind me I heard my buds scream. I turned to see them scurry away without a word. Everything went black.

Later I was told it took twelve guards to reign me in and transport me to Tokyo. When I awoke, Ikko was staring at me shaking with pleasure as he gave me the lowdown of what my life would be like for the next twelve months.



A toddler is tap-tap-tapping on the glass. Good God, please stop! What do you think I’m going to do? Jump? Dance? Put on a show? His mother grabs his hand telling him to stop. She says, “Don’t bother the poor crab, it’s bad enough he’s so hideous.”


As the exhibit room turned dark that night, and Ikko barked the order to return to our cells, I quickly used my claw to write in the sand: “I get it now.”




The next morning when Ikko called “Places,” Baki was nowhere to be found.

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

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


Fraud
1345 words


“Dear God,” Earl said, scrunching up his face as if in agony. He massaged his temples and focused, visibly, on the energy in the room. Thunder struck in the background.

“Are you getting anything?” Mrs. Samson said.

“I see… a knife. In the darkness, a knife. White knuckles. Fist clenched around the handle. I sense anger, jealousy. Blood. Iron. My blood. I can taste it, the iron. It warms my mouth. It hurts. My heart, it hurts. No, no… don’t. Please don’t, I swear I didn’t cheat, I would never, no, NO!”

Aghast, Earl was hurled back a step, and opened his eyes.

“There’s definitely a ghost in here.”

“Oh dear.”

“Did you not have a reading done before you bought the mansion?” With a motion he cut the lady off before she could reply. “Don’t worry, ma’am. Happens all the time. So that will be one hundred dollars for the reading, and an additional two hundred fifty to carry out the exorcism.”

“And that will make the flickering lights go away?”

“Or your money back.”

“Well,” Mrs. Samson said, “I gotta say this is all very exciting.” She fumbled for her purse and counted bills. “I can’t wait to see--”

“Now, this is a very, very vengeful ghost,” Earl said, graciously leading her out of the room. “Very vengeful. So I’d say, you go for a ride, treat yourself to an afternoon at the salon, and let me work my magic over here. We’ll have your house ghost-free lickety-split.”

Before she could protest, he snatched the bills from her hand, ushered her out and closed the door. For a short moment, nothing happened. Then there were muffled high heels on hardwood, moving away from him.

He vented a long-pent-up sigh through his nose and opened his suitcase. It was kind of a gay piece, colorful, decorated with arcane symbols, and filled with standard lightbulbs and simple tools. With a screwdriver, he opened the cover on the light switch next to the door and fixed the contacts. Then he sat down and continued reading ‘The Shining’ where he’d last left off.

He didn’t even feel bad. Mrs. Samson was a dentist’s wife. Some people just had more money than they deserved. And judging from this room he wasn’t the only one who had robbed her. Old, tacky paintings of old tacky people hung from the walls. A weird life-sized doll collected dust in the corner, arms folded in front of her like a chaste maid. There was so much trash. He didn’t understand what it was for, but the rich probably had art rooms and all that kind of baloney.

“Fraud.”

He closed the book, just for a second, but enough to feel embarrassed. Obviously he misheard. There was nothing but the rain pattering against the window. Nobody was here. For a room stuffed with art pieces, it felt amazingly empty.

The light flickered.

“gently caress,” Earl said. He hurried over and unscrewed the cover, but the contacts were fine. Maybe he had to change the lightbulb. Maybe it was the wiring. Dear God, he hoped it wasn’t the wiring.

“Fraud.”

This time he was sure somebody was whispering at him. Had Mrs. Samson mentioned having kids? Brats could get into the tiniest spaces.

“Okay, you can come out,” he said. Nobody came. “Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble. You can watch me do the ritual, you know.”

The light flickered again. Lightning struck. He could have sworn something had moved in the corner of his eye, but that was obviously bogus. Had the doll always been facing towards the door? Seemed like a strange way to arrange her.

He waved his thoughts away. Now was not the time to go crazy – at least not while the light was still busted. He listened for the voice, but again there was nothing but the rain, and his own thudding heart. Maybe the kid had scrammed.

Lightning struck again. There was a weird shadow on the wall opposite of the window, sticking out into the large rectangle of light that fell through from outside. It seemed almost human-shaped, but he couldn’t see where it would be coming from. Perhaps the doll, somehow. Or an oddly-shaped cloud he couldn’t make out. Maybe it came from a weird angle.

The shadow turned and moved out of the light.

“Fraud.”

Faint laughter.

“Fraud.”

Now Earl for sure heard it. He heard it through the pitter-patter. Through his racing heartbeat. Through the laughter that seemed to swell up behind the door on the other end of the room, the one that lead deeper into the mansion. He tried to calm himself down, but now even the people in the pictures seemed freaked out. They followed his every step, as if silently urging him to leave. Earl anxiously eyed the door that led back to the front entrance.

The doll had definitely moved.

The muffled laughter from the other door got louder, swelling up, like a thunderstorm approaching him, one chuckle at a time. And then it stopped.

There was a knock.

Earl bolted. He threw the door open and ran down the hallway. Malicious laughter seemed to rain down on him from all sides. “Fraud,” it said, “Fraud. Fraud. Fraud.” The other end got farther away with every step. Shadows were growing longer, deeper. Doors were slightly ajar, eyes peeking out at him from behind, white fingers curled around dark oak. They reached out for him. Tried to pull him in, keep him here, buried deep in this mansion like the hack fraud he was. He had to get out. He had to--

The last door spat him out into the foyer.

Light seemed to rush back into the mansion. It was quiet. The rain had cleared and the sun was setting outside. Earl had left his suitcase back in the art room, but now he was not so sure about getting it back.

But then, if he left it, it would seem mighty suspicious.

He took a deep breath. Convinced himself he was going crazy. In five years, not a single house had… this was bananas. He would just quickly get it and later give Mrs. Samson her money back.

He turned back around.

The doll looked straight at him. Its toothy grin stretched from one ear to the other, dotted by two malicious eyes, glinting pins piercing his soul. It stood on top of the grand set of stairs, watching him.

And then it loving moved.

What it had attempted to do, Earl had no idea. He was too busy tripping over himself as he burst out the front door, onto the streets. ‘Fraud’, it echoed through his head, but as he stumbled away from the mansion, the calls ebbed off.

“G'day,” an old passerby said. Unkempt and amused, the old-timer chewed on his pipe. “I see you’ve been to the Samson mansion?”

“I, uh, yes,” Earl said. He composed himself. “Do you know the owner? Can you relay them a message from me when they come back?”

“Owner?” Curious, the man stroked his stubble beard. “Has nobody been living in that mansion. Not ever since that thing what happened to poor Mrs. Samson.”

Earl’s gut churned. “What?” he said.

“Well, t’was a few years ago. Some sorta self-proclaimed psychic they hired, from what I hear. Saw all the money for the taking and just up and robbed the poor woman. Hit ‘er a bit too hard with the sap, and that was that.”

“...oh.”

“Gives me the jeepers, that place.” The man took a long drag from his pipe and looked out at the mansion. He didn’t seem to notice the shadow standing in the window. But Earl noticed. Earl knew it was watching him. Waiting. Laughing.

“Well, you’d best go along now,” the man said, and laid an amicable hand on his shoulder. He leaned in. “You goddamn FRAUD.”

Earl only stopped running when he was back in his downtown apartment.

An honest career in electrical engineering seemed like a mighty good idea all of a sudden.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning






E: https://thunderdome.cc/?story=7246&title=Final+Transmission

The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 16:05 on Dec 29, 2019

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


sebmojo posted:

Each of your sentences must have exactly five words.
A Gift as an Apology (500 words)

The grass was finally greener. It’d only taken fifty years.

It was midday, still warm. Iosefka sat in a heap. She’d longed to remove it. Her gas mask, her prison. But now she was tired. She looked to the field. Her life’s work before her. She thought she might cry.

“Easy there girl,” said Henri. He crouched down beside her. His face, too, was masked. Two small portholes, uniform, glossy. A compact nozzle, tightly packed. Through keyholes he saw her. He saw the whole world.

“We did it,” she said. “At long last we’re free. From fire and from fear. We have repaid our debts.”

Flowers the color of sulfur. Here and there, peppered about. She reached to take one. Henri held out an arm. He caught her, stopped her. She saw, remembered, and withdrew.

“Can’t do that,” he said. “They all have to grow.”

“I know that, I know. I know it, I do.”

In the beginning was light. From that came all else. From that came the Earth. And then there was Man.

Man made light, then war. Then all war was light. The world was wiped clean. The guilty were no more.

Iosefka had been a child. She huddled in the darkness. She’d prayed out to God. “Please forgive us our sins.”

Soon enough, the silence came. God had given an answer.

They were all slowly dying. “The last generation,” she said. Soon they would be memory. They were walking ancient history. “Even so, we’re not done.” She spoke out with resolution. “This won’t be our story. At least, not the ending.”

“We can never be forgiven.” Henri stood, crossed his arms. “We don’t deserve it either. We’re damned for all time.”

“Then drat us,” she said. “But I’ll plant the seed. We’ll help the world heal. We’ll return what we’ve taken.”

That was fifty years ago.

Iosefka leaned into her companion. Shoulder to shoulder, suits touching.

“What comes next,” he asked.

“A beautiful world,” she said. Her eyelids drooped, fighting sleep.

Henri reached into his pack. He pulled out a radio. He’d just replaced the battery. This one was his last.

He turned the thing on. He tuned it with care. At first it was static. They only had to wait.

“Henri,” she said, eyes closing.

“What is it,” he asked.

“Thank you, just... thank you.”

“You are welcome, my dear.”

They lay together, waiting, listening. The static began to distort. Far above, a satellite passed. Noise become signal, crackling sound. A song like any other. Not a hit to remember.

“I don’t know this one.”

“I don’t know it either.”

“Maybe we can learn it.”

“I think I’d rather listen.”

Two teal suits among green. Two still bodies, losing warmth. Military gas masks, medical gray. A field full of flowers. “And for nothing in return.”

The satellite fell from heaven. Music became noise, then silence.

There were no more fires. There was no more sin.

Only fields full of flowers.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*




A Seeker in the Soil
1969 words


Story removed from thread by user for search engine anonymity reasons.
Read it in the Thunderdome archive here!
https://thunderdome.cc/?story=7248&title=A+Seeker+in+the+Soil

Anomalous Blowout fucked around with this message at 04:46 on Dec 30, 2019

Applewhite
Aug 16, 2014

IN THE GRIM BARKNESS
OF THE FUTURE
THERE ARE ONLY DOGS



Nap Ghost


Dancing Lights
1715 words

June peered through the darkness for the orange glint of the next marker. She’d already been walking for much longer than she felt she should have and her chest was growing tight with anxiety. Had she already lost the path? The thought brought her to the edge of panic and she stopped dead in her tracks, afraid to move another step. She squeezed her eyes shut and crouched down to feel the ground. The wet gravel beneath her fingertips raised her spirits a little. She may have been turned around, but at least she was still on the path. She wasn’t lost. If she found herself back at the previous marker she’d just turn around and try again.

June brushed her hands clean and stood up again, pausing to straighten the hem of her raincoat and adjust the grocery bag under her arm. A light dancing on the edge of her vision almost caught her eye but she stopped herself just in time.

Focus on the path.

In the tree-filtered moonlight the path was barely more than a narrow, wavering line just a shade darker than the ambient gloom. If she stared at it too long it would melt into the purple and green clouds that oozed across her light-starved vision. She had to keep moving.

In hindsight it had been foolish to rely on reflective tape for navigation; it was too easy for her playmates to imitate.

Usually the Will-o-the-Wisps manifested as nondescript globes of light, winking in and out of sight as they danced between the tree trunks, but the little buggers were nothing if not versatile. She’d seen them take the form of bobbing lanterns, fireflies, distant flashlight beams, police flashers, campfires. Always out of the corner of her eye of course. Look at them straight on and the illusion fell apart, danced away only to appear again just on the edge of vision.

Of course by then you’d already stepped off the path.

Maybe you might find your way back, if you shut your eyes right then and took a step backward and hadn’t already lost your sense of direction. But most people kept following the light, chasing the tantalizing promise of whatever it was that kept catching their eye.

By now June was wise to most of their tricks. Nobody would be walking around the forest with a nineteenth-century oil lamp, and there were no roads this deep in the forest for police cars or ambulances. Campfires maybe, but any campers out here were even more lost and doomed than she was.

The wisps had to be more creative with her.

A glimmer here, a flicker there, trying to exploit her eyes’ natural impulse to track movement. Sometimes a bright flash like a camera bulb would flare up to spoil her night vision, forcing her to freeze in place until she could see again. Lately they’d taken to mimicking the reflection of moonlight on leaves to change the look of the forest around her and make her second guess her visual landmarks.

A break in the clouds allowed a stray moonbeam to shine on the next marker. It was only a few yards ahead! She held herself back, not daring to take a step towards it until she was sure.

She focused on the little band of reflective tape, held it steady in her vision. If it were a trick, she wouldn’t be able to see it directly.

The tape held steady. She could even see the shaft of the wooden dowel it was wrapped around.

With a sigh of relief she stepped forward.

A constellation of orange lights swarmed out of the forest! Dozens of them danced and spun through the leaves while others bobbed behind the stake, shivering and glinting in an attempt to draw her eye away from the real marker.

Her first impulse would have been to shut her eyes, but she knew that was just what they wanted. If she lost sight of the marker now, she’d never be able to pick out its light from amongst the swarm of fakes.

She forced her eyes to stay open, focusing on the dowel just a few feet away, and continued forward. A bright flash on the corner of her vision made her wince, but she didn’t blink. The spinning, whirling wisps made her dizzy, presenting a false horizon and tilting it back and forth in a motion that made her seasick. Something tumbled out of the top of the grocery bag. It sounded like an orange.

Her eyes started to water with the effort of keeping them open, tears blurred her vision and she nearly lost the marker, but by now it was within arm’s reach. She flung out her hand and caught the dowel.

Gasping like a half-drowned sailor, June fell to her knees and clutched the narrow stake in both hands, letting the paper bag fall to one side. She blinked the tears out of her eyes and kept them shut for a long time.

The solidity of the marker reassured her. The ground felt solid beneath her feet again. The wisps were all gone and the forest was just a forest. She gathered up the spilled groceries and stood up. She chanced a look back the way she’d come. The previous marker was right where she’d left it just a few yards behind. Solid and ordinary.

She checked the number on the tip of the marker dowel, squinting in the dark.

Eight.

That meant this was the last one. Her next goal would be the front porch.

She looked to her right and saw the welcoming glow of the front porch light right where it should be. A motion above it caught her eye and she foolishly allowed herself to glance upward, a mistake that might have been catastrophic if she hadn’t had a good grip on the marker. June cursed the lapse in her concentration and took a deep breath before looking directly at the source of motion.

The movement had come from a shadow crossing one of the upstairs windows. Sally’s bedroom light was on!

June cursed again. Sally should know better than that. June had told her and told her about how important it was to keep the front of the house dark at night so Mommy could find her way home!

The light in the window would complicate things, but she felt like she had a good bead on the porchlight now. Less than a hundred feet and she would be home free.

June took a deep breath and stepped forward. She kept her hand on the dowel until the last second, letting her fingertips slide off the top.

The moment contact was broken, the lights started their dance. They flew zigzags and spirals through the trees. A dozen different porchlights flicked on and off. Somewhere at the top of her vision, blurry shapes shifted behind a multitude of illusory windows.

This was kid stuff. June held on to the image of the real porchlight and continued forward. The dancing lights vanished and for a few steps she was mercifully alone.

A searchlight blazed behind her, throwing her silhouette huge against the front of the house. And not just her silhouette: monster shapes loomed, preparing to pounce! June whirled around, crouching in fear.

The searchlight winked out, but not before painting a green splotch across her eyes that left her completely blind. She took a step back, but caught her ankle on something and she fell sprawling backward. Her bag tumbled out of her arm into darkness and she heard the clatter and splat of its contents scattering across the lawn.

Grass! She could feel grass! All around her! She turned over on her belly and crawled around groping. She’d lost the path!

Hot tears filled June’s eyes. She’d been so close! Somewhere, just a few feet away, was the warmth of her own home and safety for the night. It might has well have been miles away. Once she lost the path, the wisps would never let her go.

Maybe once, when the game had first started —back when it still was just a game— losing the path might have meant just a few hours’ inconvenience at most. June, Sally and Marcus would wander together through the twilit woods until they stepped out suddenly onto the county road, or into the light of their own back porch.

But Marcus hadn’t wanted to play anymore. He’d tried to leave for good, and the wisps had taken him. After that, the game got mean and losing had serious consequences.

Now June, too would wander the woods until she died and Sally would be all alone.

Sally. June wouldn’t just give up and leave her daughter to starve in that house all by herself.

She blinked the tears out of her eyes and crawled in a random direction, hoping she was heading for the path. She wouldn't give up until she was dead!

Something caught her up short and she flopped down into the wet grass.

Her ankle was still caught on whatever it was that tripped her.

Flipping over on her back, June looked down at her feet.

It was the garden hose! The nozzle was wrapped around her ankle and the other end… the other end was still attached to the tap on the side of the porch!

Thanking God and laughing with relief, June closed her eyes and pulled her way hand over hand up the hose back to the house.

***
Sally was upstairs playing with her dolls in front of a magic lantern when June burst into the room and caught her daughter in a crushing bear hug.

“Mommy stop; you’re squeezing me!” Sally muffled. “And you’re all wet! Did you bring groceries?”

“No. Sorry, sweetie,” answered June, brushing away a bit of grass that had been transferred from her raincoat to Sally’s hair. “The lights tricked me and I dropped them.”

“Aw.” Sally pouted. “I wish the lights would leave us alone. I’m sick of staying inside.”

June hugged Sally close again.

“I don’t think the lights are going to be able to trick us anymore,” said June.

“Really?”

“Help me gather up all the string and rope in the house,” said June, thinking of the garden hose. “We’re leaving together this time.”

SlipUp
Sep 30, 2006


Dragonstorm
1970 words.

A solar flare erupts on the surface of the sun and the energy speeds across the vast expanse of space, reaching earth’s orbit in eight minutes, supercharging a particle suspended high in the atmosphere. The microscopic particle grows to the size of a pea as it fills with white light. It falls back towards earth, like a tear.

***

Lucy’s camera flashes, capturing the full glory of the Saturday night LAN party. Four monitors line the wall, linked together, like a budget command center. Set up had taken an hour. A night of glory awaited.

“What adventure this time?” Lucy inquired.

“Dragonstorm!” Michael replied from his spot beside the window.

Jerry claps his hands together. “Oh snap it’s out?”

“Almost,” George said as he holds up a USB drive, “It leaked early.” He plugs it into his backward facing PC.

“Cool, way to go Georgie!” Lucy said as she put her camera in her bag, taking her place among her friends.

“Ready?” She asks.

“Launch in three… two… one…” Michael counts down, as is their cheesy tradition. They turn their monitors on at the same time.

A bright ball of light enters into the room through the window, on a breeze.

“Whoa!” Somebody exclaims.

“Is that an alien?” Jerry asks as the ball floats over the top of their computers. Each is showing the Dragonstorm logo of a prince, riding a dragon.

“I think it’s ball lightn—,” Lucy begins but is cut off by the detonation of blinding light that fills the room with the smell of sulfur.

Everything fades to darkness. The pixels of black in their mind’s eye that comprise the sea of unconsciousness begin to vibrate and then fall away.

Green. Lucy can see small blocks of green, and now blue, even yellow. It is as if the resolution is improving.

She’s outside, lying in a blowing field of long green grass. A clear blue sky suspends the sun above her.

Her armour clinks together as she rises from the ground.

“Huh,” she remarks, studying the gauntlets she’s wearing. She notices she has a sword in its sheath at her side and a shield on her back as well.

“Hey Lucy, looking good!” Michael says from behind her. She turns to see him in a white robe and with a staff in his hands.

“Not too bad yourself,” she replies.

Jerry pushes himself up from the tall grass between his companions, he’s wearing a vest and a dress shirt, with a lute strap around his back.

“Did we just travel to the past?” he asks.

“Maybe,” Michael answers as he examines his staff. It’s heavy, made of iron with leather wrapping. It forms a triangle at the top and holds a thick blade that resembled a stake at the bottom. “Except… I think I remember this, and I never paid attention in history.”

“Well that’s badass, but definitely not historical.” Lucy says, “We’re in Dragonstorm aren’t we?”

“You nailed it,” he says, “When George told me he was downloading the game last night, I looked for a beta walkthrough.”

A woman’s figure rises from the tall grass a distance away. She is wrapped in leather, with a quiver of arrows around one shoulder and a bow over the other.

“Something’s different,” the woman says.

Lucy feels something familiar in the strange woman’s voice, “George?”

The figure looks down and examines themself. They cup their breasts.

“This isn’t what I thought it would be like,” they say.

“You’re still Georgie to me. We’ll figure this out, Mike saw the walkthrough,” Lucy says.

“Beta walkthrough,” Michael corrects as he pulls his staff from the earth.

“How did I end up like this?” Georgie asks.

“Dragonstorm has a unique character generation system. It asks philosophical questions and generates your character based off your answers,” he says.

“I don’t remember any questions,” Georgie says as they touch their elbows. “These feel weird.”

“Our subconscious must have answered for us,” Lucy says in realization. Georgie sighs.

“Hey, at least you have a sick bow.” Jerry says, idly strumming his lute, “I guess I’m supposed to hit people with a guitar.”

“Nope. You play it. Trust me,” Michael responds.

“Well as long as their weakness is a bad night’s sleep I got us covered.”

“Hey, look at that,” Georgie says, pointing towards a path that runs through the clearing and the surrounding woods. A cloud of dust is moving closer. “Is that a friendly?”

Lucy surveys the situation. “You three hide in the ditch beside the road. I’ll block the way and try to find out what’s going on. I’ve got the armour. If they try anything, Georgie, Michael, turn them into a kebab.”

“I guess that’s why you’re the one with the sword,” Jerry says as he plays a few more chords.

Lucy takes her place in the center of the road as the others hide. A rider emerges from the curved forest road, at a high-speed gallop. They see each other too late. She leaps into the ditch. He shouts. The horse rears back, unsaddles him, and flees back the way it came. His shape lies on its back, motionless in the bare dirt.

Michael runs to him. He stakes his staff in the ground and forms a triangle with his fingers.

“Producat in regeneratione,” Michael says over the injured man. A triangle of green light emerges from the staff and joins his fingers, forming a prism. It blinks and disappears.

The stranger’s eyes flutter and open. He gazes at the sky for a moment, as if he forgot what brought him here. As the memory dawns on him, he looked at the four people surrounding him.

“It seems Commander Smith’s coup is successful. If you brought me back to life to torture me, know I would die a thousand deaths for my people. Do your worst charlatans. I do not yield,” the man says.

The four look between themselves and solemnly nod in unison. Jerry turns his back to the man, lowers his trousers, and farts loudly in the man’s face. It cracks like thunder and trails off into a high pitched squeal.

“Yield fool!” Jerry says, “I can play this lute poorly at you as well!”

“Enough, enough! What manner of assassins are you?”

“We’re simply adventures searching for our home,” Lucy says, “We weren’t looking for anybody.”

“Truly? Perhaps this meeting was by divine providence. I am Prince Nath, of the Kingdom of Cibbia. We were a peaceful people. My father, the King, wished to reform the army, reduce its size, and focus on improving the lives of the common people. Commander Smith did not wish to see his power reduced. He murdered my father and his dragon as they slept. I tried to flee with my dragon Zoe, but she is young and not yet capable of flight. They caught us at the bridge. She knocked a man off a horse and placed me on it. She saved me. Now that bastard has her.”

“You need to raise an army,” Michael comments. Prince Nath disagrees.

“The dragon is the symbol of my office. I cannot be king without her. Besides, she’s my only friend. She saved my life. I’m not letting her suffer,” Nath says, “Smith will try to break her to his will with torture so he can seize the throne.”

“You speak of her as if she was more person than beast,” Georgie says.

“She is smarter than any human, but she is not human. Nor is she a beast. You seek to put labels on her, to understand her easier. Understanding Zoe is not easy. Nor does she wish to be labeled. She is a colossus and a creator, a pyroclast and a poet, a killer and a kindred soul. Just call her Zoe and let her speak for herself. Rescue her, and we will send you home.”

“It’s kind of a long way,” Michael says.

“Young wizard, I see you bear the triangle of the three elements; fire, water, and nature. While you memorize slices of magical theory for practical application, she is a master of fire magic and can bend the sun itself to her will.”

Michael shrugs. He looks to his friends. “Best shot we have.”

Prince Nath pointed back down the road. “The bridge is two hours away by foot. They’ll no doubt… Drag her into the river. It will keep her weak,” Prince Nath says with a crack in his voice, “I don’t know yet what they plan, but it will be some time. Smith’s skill with the sword is unmatchable, his golden armour is too thick to penetrate with arrows, and he carries a magical charm to ward off all but the mightiest spells.”

“Can you walk?” asks Lucy.

***

The soldiers camp was on the other side of the river. They were fifty strong. The bridge and road were adjacent to them. Zoe lay in the river, huge chains pulled from one shore to the other to keep her in captivity.

The soldiers were unaware of the group's presence. Georgie had soundlessly eliminated the scouts from afar by piercing their throats.

“drat Georgie.”

“Natural born killer,” Georgie jokes, “You’re up Lucy.”

She draws her longsword, shield on her other arm, and walks to the bridge. She rests her sword on her shoulder and whistles as she goes.

The sentries on the edge of the camp can hear her approach. They shout to the rest of the soldiers who gather their arms and armour, and hurry towards the bridge. From the largest tent emerges a figure wearing ornate golden armour. Commander Smith.

“I warn you all,” Lucy shouts at the advancing horde, “I am the master of this bridge, and I charge my toll in souls."

The lone figure screaming defiantly at them seems to shake the troops for a moment. They were no fools. Prince Nath’s pursuers had not returned. The scouts were missing. The bridge would act as a funnel against them and in favour of this berserker woman. A woman?

They reach the bridge and cross it. Lucy blocks the first man’s charge with her shield and cuts his legs out from under him.

That is the group’s signal. They hear a shout from the woods.

“Fiat ignis!”

A blazing blast burns the bridge, breaking its boards and beams beneath the brothers-in-arms. The construct collapses completely into the current, carrying them 'cross the country.

Smith sallies to the sleeping serpent, sword sharp.

“Violence virtually vilifies virtuous vermin,” Jerry jokes. Forest fogged his fate from his foe, his players part in this play. The lute laid low the little liar, laden with lacerations. Chords cut the Commander like a caesarian. The body bleeds blue.

“Sick poo poo,” they say.

Jerry farts loudly.

***

“For rescuing my dear Zoe, we will return you to your time whenever you please,” proclaims Prince Nath. Zoe jumps up and down, nods her head, and licks Nath so hard he falls over.

“Seems like a dog to me,” Jerry whispers to Georgie.

“A dog who mastered fire magic in her free time,” they reply, “Looks can be deceiving.”

“It’s not really a time problem—“ Michael begins.

“Wait, whenever we please?” Lucy says.

“Of course,” the prince says as he wipes drool from his tunic. “Why? Do you wish to remain? With this foul beast?”

Zoe holds her nose at him.

Lucy laughs at them both and her eyes catch Nath’s, who smirks like a child from his spot on the ground.

“I thought Zoe could take us for a ride?”

“Sure, but there’s only room for two,” Nath says.

Lucy looks at her friends. “Don’t wait for me, I’ll catch up.”

Jerry shakes his head and laughs. “Let’s hit the tavern! Look out ladies, I got a lute! The adventure's just begun!”


Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Wake Up!

1299 words

A few hours ago I was sitting on a flight to Atlanta, coach, next to a middle-aged man in a faded seersucker suit who talked my ear off the whole way. Couldn't shut it down for a second, and when I went silent he just went melancholy. By the time we were getting ready to land he was just saying the same thing, over and over again. “When did it all go wrong?”

I could have given him the answer, and the where, too, but I wasn't in an explaining mood. When did it all go wrong? April 14, 1971, an hour and a half after midnight. Where? Clyburn Farm, three miles out of Vauxhall, Georgia. I should know. I was there.

***

We were fools, all of us but maybe Simon. A bunch of kids dropped out of college after we found a couple of Grimoires, learned how to do a few flashy spells. To be honest, I was in the group mainly out of trying to get into Lexie's pants. A lot of that kind of thing going on. Me and Scott were chasing Lexie, Jesse and Lexie were mad for Simon, and Simon was just plain mad. In our crap apartment with the crap air conditioning in the Atlanta summer the air got thick with hormones like a high school dance and the only one outside it all was Cheryl, bite-your-tongue off if you look at her wrong Cheryl, more magic in her than any of us and smarter than Simon thought he was Cheryl. My little sister, and maybe the biggest fool of us all.

First thing is, not one of use knew the first thing about sheep. But the spell called for one, for a sacrifice. So we got us some rope and loaded into Jesse's panel can with the Grateful Dead mural on one side and his own painting of Pompeii on the other, lava breaking up a Roman orgy just barely tasteful enough to be street legal. We all got in and went out to Vauxhall, because it was where the closest sheep farm was according to the yellow pages, and thought we were going to steal us a sheep.

You ever try to steal a sheep? No, of course not. You're not some kind of nineteenth century border reaver or something like that. Let me tell you that the sheep is nature's own stubborn fool. Goats, donkeys, they don't match the sheep. At least they have a survival instinct to work with. You put a rope around a sheep's neck and pull, if it doesn't want to move it'll hang itself rather than shift an inch. Now, we weren't sheep-stubborn ourselves. We saw it wasn't going to move, we let up before the thing killed itself. But there we were, rope in hand, no rent money in the other, counting on the spell to fix everything, and the sheep wouldn't shift an inch. I don't remember who came to the dumb idea first, if it was me or Scott or Lexie, but whoever said it, the rest of us agreed except maybe Cheryl. She just sighed, an angry tired sigh that could have been 'you idiots, this is a horrible idea’ or 'you idiots, what took you so long to think of it?’ Either way, we had a majority, and Simon was part of it, so that was it. We would do the spell right there.

So they sent me and Scott and Lexie back to the van to collect the gear, all our daft candles and rock salt and preserved organ meats, the usual stuff for people who learned magic out of books written down in the seventeen hundreds written by people trying to pretend they're just copying spells that are already a thousand years old. Even the ones with real talent had to write their spells that way to fit in, just like the modern types have to use words like 'chaos’ and ‘fractal’ whether they know what they mean or not, and work their spells into that damned 'cheat codes of the universe’ metaphor that seems like the only way anyone younger than twenty-five can think about magic. Listen to the old man ramble. It's almost like I don't want to think about what happened next.

It was supposed to be a wishing spell. Simon found the cypher on the margins of the Liber Thoth, and Cheryl did most of the work cracking the codes. Powerful magic, hidden magic, hidden even from the other practitioners. We drew the circles and inscribed stars, traced symbols, chanted, got high on stuff that should have left us dead or at least blind. And I slit that sheep's throat open and watched it bleed out over the inner salt lines. And nothing happened.

I stood there, surprised by my own disappointment. Magic worked. I knew it. It had to work. I swore, and didn't notice Simon take the dagger out of my hand, didn't notice Lexie and Jesse stepping back and behind Cheryl.

“Yeah, a sheep was never going to do it,’ said Simon. I tried to charge at him. My feet didn't move. Holding spell, never would have hit me without the drugs. I still don't know which one cast it. I don't guess it matters.

“When we're all gods, you'll thank me,” said Simon.

“I'll kill you,” I said. Simon's right hand and the dagger were already in motion. Cheryl tried a spell, a lethal one,impressive with her hands bound behind her, but Simon swatted it away with his left and struck home with his right.

“You had better kill me,” I said. “Because I am wishing you dead stronger than you can wish anything right now.”

“You make a convincing point,” he said. He gestured to Lexie. She drew a gun, a monster gun that looked almost cartoonish in her tiny hand. She held it steady, and raised it at me. And that's when everything went wrong.

It wasn't a wishing spell. Not for our wishes, at least. It was a wake-up call, for something ancient and powerful. It has lots of names, none of them real. It comes from before names, from before everything we can put our little monkey brains around. From before time. And we woke it up.

It appeared. It was beyond human comprehension. In its presences a mind will try to approximate what's going on, switching metaphors every microsecond, leaving a series of after images, all violent. I watched it kill the others in a million different ways, all at once, and then it left.

It took a good while to figure out why I survived. For a while I thought it wanted to use me, for some kind of herald or something. Nope. It didn't kill me because it can't. Blood sympathy. Cheryl was the sacrifice, and I'm too close to her, magically speaking, for it to hurt.

Funny thing is, it runs the world, maybe more, now. So the whole world can't hurt me. It was Lexie who wanted immortality, eternal youth out of the spell. I never really gave it that much thought, probably would have gone for knowledge. Beggars, choosers, you know what they say.

***

I don't know why I came here. It's not like I have some kind of plan, know a way to put the Oldest Thing back to sleep. I just realized that I hadn't been in more than forty years and had to see.

I walk right up to the fence at Cherry Farm, formerly Clyburn, and remember. I almost fall asleep, starting at the sound of a bleat.

I look up and see the sheep, gathered together at the fence, staring at me.

And every one of them has Cheryl's eyes.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk



I'm gonna finish my beer then close it up so if you're scrabbling to get your poop words down you have maybe five, ten minutes

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


I was the beer you could not finish. Submissions are closed.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Interprompt

Burdened with glorious purpose; 100 words.

Staggy
Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes


Misunderstanding
96 words

"What am I supposed to do with that?"

The genie wrings it's hands sheepishly.

"Look, I'm sorry," it says, "I've got two centuries' worth of sand in my ears. I misheard you."

I glance over at the cetacean writhing on the floor.

"Ok," I say, wondering how I'm going to feed it, "fine, I get it. You misheard. But that's clearly a dolphin! You couldn't even get that right!"

The genie shrugs.

"I didn't really see many fish in the desert."

"Mammal."

"Whatever. It's pretty great though, right?"

No argument there. Best drat dolphin I ever saw.

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.

Fiesta
100 Words


Everyone has a purpose. We have purpose that lives on even after all the humans, so long ago now, ceased to function. Except for LWTX-999. He’s sat silent in his bay for as long as anyone remembers.

ARCV-356’s purpose is to delve deep into old data. He finds an ancient file and begins to titter. He shows it to the others. We see the glasses, the hat, the pipe. We all start to laugh. Soon, we are in hysterics.

LWTX-999 lumbers to life, his terrible purpose finally triggered. He begins to mercilessly destroy us all, rumbling, “That goddamn cat.”

Doctor Zero fucked around with this message at 23:41 on Mar 4, 2019

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.

E: gently caress I have ‘rumble’ twice in the last paragraph. It doesn’t matter if we edit these does it?

SlipUp
Sep 30, 2006


Interprompts? Nah go nuts.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

SlipUp posted:

Interprompts? Nah go nuts.

Wrong. Please don't edit interprompts. They're archived, too.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


-archived-

ThirdEmperor fucked around with this message at 22:53 on Jan 1, 2020

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.

Kaishai posted:

Wrong. Please don't edit interprompts. They're archived, too.

Sorry.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.


Don't worry about it. The hounds of hell will only disembowel you and devour your kidneys as you lie screaming if you edit your entries.

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.

It's not like your interprompt entry can get DQed or anything anyway, so what're they gonna do.

Besides FJGJ ofc

crimea
Nov 16, 2012




Accursed Judgement

The time has come. Having already proven myself to be the greatest literary mind of my generation, I will now prove myself to be the greatest judicial mind. This accursed week had a fair range of submissions (obviously not accounting for those who failed to submit) and leaves us a lot to talk about. Let’s start with the highs before we dive into the dark night of the soul.

This week’s HMs are as follows: Yoruichi’s cute and accomplished tale ‘Three Hundred and Forty’ that deftly handled the hellrule it was saddled with, Staggy’s ‘The Sound of Rain’, a lyrical if sometimes purple tale of acid rain isolation, and Applewhite’s genuinely atmospheric and gripping ‘Dancing Lights’. In the end, one story stood out above the rest. With a submission which took a car boot filled with oranges and found in that image the menacing energy hidden within, ‘A Seeker in the Soil’ took that energy and told a haunting and sincere story about the horror of the family unit. Anomalous Blowout is this week’s well-deserved winner with a tale that, when it ended, I only wanted more of.

Now my eyes roll back and I descend into the pit – let’s discuss the duds of the week. Apophenium’s ‘Highgate’ bravely asked “what if the Hispanic maid from Family Guy vaped?” and the answer was as annoying as you’d expect. Entenzah’s ‘Fraud’, a sub-Twilight Zone snore, includes a scene where the malevolent ghosts, quote, “Tried to pull him in, keep him here, buried deep in this mansion like the hack fraud he was.” The only hack fraud here is the one who wrote this story. NotGordian’s ‘All the Neighbours Have Moved Away’ told the tale of a boring miserable woman who sits on a bench, meets some other boring people, and sits on a bench again. A dull, clichéd, obvious nothing with no original ideas and no impact. The final one of this bunch, SlipUp, somehow thought that I was twelve years old and wanted to read a generic fantasy tale called ‘Dragonstorm’ about a bunch of boring adventurers loving around. SlipUp said to me that they couldn’t set their story in the 70’s due to their prompt containing computers, but then failed to include their prompt in the story in any meaningful way; their inclusion is in a framing scene which could have been easily cut. Simply describing the scene in your prompt is not an interesting use of your prompt. These are all your DMs for the week. “Three HMs and four DMs?” That’s part of the curse.

There was story which was the worst of the bunch and that was the inscrutable ‘One May Ride a Free Horse to Death’. It’s not the worst because of the clipped and stilted prose, nor because of how none of the characters have clear personality or motivation, nor because of the mythological bullshit of its ending. This story is the worst because of the dog – and no, it has nothing to do with anything so blasé as the dog dying. In the opening paragraphs it’s established that Elise has not spoken aloud in four years. And yet only a few paragraphs later, she turns to her dog and asks it “What do you think, Doc?” What the gently caress? She hasn’t spoken aloud in four years and she starts talking to the loving dog like it’s nothing? Her first conversation since her husband died and she’s like “Ooh, I better get the dog in on this action.” This could’ve easily been solved if the original line had been that she had spoken for years only to her dog, but that’s not the case. Are we are to believe she is the type of person to speak to her dog, but she only just decided that today? She’s just been giving her loving dog the silent treatment for four years? She just talks to the dog just like that, today of all days? Look at how much of the judgement post I spent on this loving dog. Selaphiel, I cannot stress enough how much you are this week’s loser because of this loving dog.

The curse is lifting. The sun is out, the birds are blooming, the flowers are singing. I, Carlos the Accursed, grant the crown of Spain to the Duke on Anjou Anomalous Blowout on my death. If you knew what was good for you, next week’s prompt would be about the War of the Spanish Succession.

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


THUNDERDOME WEEK CCCXLIV: OBEDIENCE IS ITS OWN REWARD



Authoritarians of many stripes have served as easy foils in all kinds of fiction since fiction became a thing. From their lack of concern for others’ wellbeing, a desire to stamp out personal freedoms, and the strict enforcement of the state’s beliefs on its populace by any means necessary, authoritarians make great villains. Your story will star one such authoritarian. Or a whole pack of ‘em if you want.

Here in the Goonhive, we tend to side-eye bootlickers. But when writing fiction, it’s important to be able to stretch your brain and see the world through a perspective you don’t share, or even loathe. SEE: NO, gently caress YOU, DAD, YOU MOW THE LAWN. Write me a story where your authoritarian thinks he’s the good guy. He doesn’t have to be objectively good, but the key to writing great villains is that they rarely believe or understand they’re villains. Or maybe she knows most see her as a villain but in the end she thinks that’s worth it for the cause.

I want Another Brick in the Wall from the teacher’s perspective. I want strict rear end in a top hat dads who think they’re doing the best for their families. The authoritarian in your story must be the protagonist.

No Nazis, though. They’re too easy. And also, who wants to read about Nazis who think they’re great guys.

If you want a flash rule, I’ll assign you a belief your authoritarian holds to be gospel and you’ll get 250 bonus words.

1100 words or less
Sign-ups due: Friday 8th Mar, 11:59pm PST
Submissions due: Sunday 10th Mar, 11:59pm PST

Judged by
1. Anomalous Blowout
2. anatomi
3. Solitair

Chokin on boots
onsetOutsider - Literacy should be reserved for a special few because the masses only water down the literary canon.
sebmojo - Children cannot be trusted because devils can find their way in through their underdeveloped brains.
Staggy - Your protag is a Calvinist but is unaware of the proper term for Calvinism or that it even exists as a thing.
Viscardus - Your authoritarian is a convert, a once-rebellious individual who now understands the error of their ways. They were wrong. The system is good.
apophenium - Your authoritarian wishes people were more like bees: organized and aware of their place.
Thranguy - Your authoritarian is suspicious of glass surfaces; they let the Devil in.
Saucy_Rodent
QM Haversham
crimea - Your authoritarian makes all their decisions by reading signs and portents.
Entenzahn - wealth makes power and those with wealth have the power to do as they like.
Seadoof - Your authoritarian does not trust modern medicine.
The Fascist Rhino - Your authoritarian fondly recalls the past, when things were simpler, and sees it as a goal to strive toward.
Sitting Here - Your authoritarian lives an ascetic life and judges those who seek material pleasure rather harshly.
emgeejay - Your authoritarian is abstinent.
NotGordian - Your authoritarian exerts their will on a small scale, only caring about controlling their immediate family unit.
Benny Profane - Order and harmony are directly related to the amount of filth and dirt in one’s environment.
Doctor Zero - Your authoritarian believes they can sense when a person is lying.
BirdOfPlay - The answers to all the world’s ills can be found in mathematics.
Joda - Your authoritarian is a palm reader.
flerp - Your authoritarian believes in samsara.
Baneling Butts - Your authoritarian presents a public face of pacifism to hide their true goals.
Simply Simon
SlipUp
Noah - Your authoritarian has seen the future and fears it.
Third - The sea is a place of great power and it must be protected.

Anomalous Blowout fucked around with this message at 09:21 on Mar 11, 2019

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

T.T.D.D.T.D.D

Thug lyfe.


IN FLASH

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*



Your authoritarian believes that literacy should be reserved for a special few because the masses only water down the literary canon.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk



Yeah flash me up

Staggy
Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes


In, flash

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


sebmojo posted:

Yeah flash me up

Your authoritarian believes that children cannot be trusted because devils can find their way in through their underdeveloped brains.

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Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


Staggy posted:

In, flash

Your protag is a Calvinist but is unaware of the proper term for Calvinism or that it even exists as a thing.

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