Prompt: “Namyangju: the slow city”
Afflictions with Benefits
Peering out of the underbrush at the cursed city, Tareth realized that it was going to make him rich. After struggling through swamps filled with small biting bastards of insects, reeking of damp, rotting vegetation, the stone towers and rude buildings seemed a blessing. But something was wrong. Or rather it should be. He expected dark clouds and lightning, swarms of beetles, creeping miasma, or other obvious and terrible signs of the curse. What he found instead was far more subtle.
The smooth skinned Salamen were sluggish, slowly plodding to and fro, going about daily tasks. The lethargy was at first odd to Tareth given the heat and humidity, but then he watched in astonishment as a merchant (or a farmer, who knew?) upended a basket of gray fungus pods into a cart - and they fell slowly. It was as if they were naught but wisps of fluff, wafting down. He didn’t understand magic, but he supposed if the city and its contents were cursed, and he was from outside…
This would need a test which would be insanely dangerous if he were wrong… But if not, then anything in the whole city would be his for the taking!
Did he dare?
Before he was fully conscious that he did dare, he was up and moving, readying his staff. He strode briskly into the road. The merchant/farmer was heading back to a dwelling, smaller Salamen, probably young ones threw a gracefully arcing stone between them, foot traffic lumbered up the road toward him.
Heads began to turn, the odd long, smooth faces changed - black eyes widening, mouths forming disturbingly human-like O’s of surprise. The pedestrians began to fling themselves aside ever so slowly. One of them let go of a sack which slowly drifted toward the dirt. Strangely drawn out voices erupted, completely unintelligible. Not that he would have understood them anyway.
“Ha!” He exclaimed and danced in a circle. “Ha! What a curse!”
Tareth dashed over, snatched the sack out of the air before it hit the ground and threw it (slowly) into its owner’s chest. The Salaman didn’t change its glacial reaction until the sack made contact and then it began the long process of pitching over backwards.
Tareth snapped a finger at it.
Walking up one dirt street and down another, the scene repeated itself. Heads turned, reactions drawn out into long pantomimes of surprise. He was sure the Salamen could see him, but they simply couldn’t move fast enough to do anything about it.
In one narrow intersection, a possibly female Salaman wearing a white robe raised a smooth jet-black skinned arm at him as if warding off the sun. A jeweled bracelet dangled on her/its wrist.
“Aha. Here we are.” Tareth rubbed his hands together and unfastened the bracelet even as she/it swung the other clawed hand lethargically at him. He deftly stepped aside from the blow and tsked, tucking the jewelry into a pocket.
He smelled spiced cooking meats and his stomach rumbled. He walked over to a market vendor’s stall and plucked a couple of skewers off a grill. He sniffed, and tested them with the tip of his tongue. Delicious!
He downed them, and three more by the time the merchant raised his arms in alarm. Tareth emptied the booth’s little box of silver coins for good measure.
While Salamen fled as if fighting through honey, he surveyed the city. He could spend all day picking pockets and emptying boxes of petty coins, but there had to be something really worthwhile somewhere.
In the center of town to the north stood a larger tower, with what looked like a gilded roof. A temple? Yes, worth a look.
The crowd drained away and four huge Salamen plodded into the intersection, jagged weapons drawn, shell armor bouncing like gauze.
Tareth shook his head sadly and approached from the side. They turned to adjust their charge, but too slow, too slow. He took his staff and planted the tip in front of the closest Salaman’s foot. The thing tripped in slow motion, the staff receiving the momentum with surprising force. The staff slowly splintered and broke. He prodded another guard’s shoulder with the remaining half and found it difficult to shove. Interesting. Their movements were hampered, but lost none of their force, He would need to remember that.
As the closest continued its graceful fall, the others began to swing weapons in long, slow arcs. Tareth didn’t want to know what would happen if they made contact, and wasn’t about to stay and find out. He headed up the road toward the tower.
As he approached the gilded tower, Tareth found his way blocked by a row of guards standing shoulder to shoulder. These had long pole weapons - nasty looking hooks and spikes on the end. Their armor was more substantial, possibly some kind of bone, with brightly colored scales attached. They wore helmets of the same scale
“Really, gentlemen. You should know when you’re outclassed.” He scoffed. “I’m surprised someone hasn’t already emptied out this place. Lucky for me, not.”
He sauntered up to them. He could back-track but they might have other routes blocked. How had they so quickly known he was approaching? No matter. More fun to go through them, anyway.
The tips of the weapons drifted toward him. When he was directly in front of a few, he lept to the right. The hooks began to weave back and forth. He stepped side to side, trying to avoid the tips, but they were hard to predict. Finally, he stepped between two hoping to squeeze between the guards, but they stood too close. He shoved one with the remaining half of his staff. They had their feet planted firmly and were strong! It was like pushing a wall. He could climb over, he supposed. He tossed the remains of his staff aside.
He felt pressure on his arms. Two of the poles were coming together. The pressure gave way to pain. They were slow, but not weak! He quickly turned sideways and ducked down before being crushed between the poles.
He scrambled back on all fours and stepped clear, rubbing an arm.
“Stupid and cocky!” He chided himself. He couldn’t let them make contact. They still had mass and strength. He turned around to consider his options.
While he had been facing off against the line of guards, more armed and armored Salamen had been pouring from doorways and blind alleys. Their footfalls we drawn out, harder to notice. drat them! Some wielded short curved swords, some pole weapons and shields, others whirled above their heads what looked like stones tied together with string. He could follow the stones, but if had they moved normally, they would just be a blur. The whirling stones flew free.
He only had a couple seconds to react. He ran.
A glance told him that one alleyway to the right was free of the Salamen that to poured out like half frozen slush down a spring stream. He made for it. Something caught his right foot, began to tighten. Thin ropes wrapped his ankle, began to cut off the circulation, slowly, inexorably. The stones impacted almost lovingly into the sides of his shin. Pain shot up through his leg at normal speed. He fell, a muffled scream escaped through clenched teeth.
He had little time. They would be on him soon, in their slow dance of hatred. He struggled with the stones and ropes, and untangled them from his foot. He stood up, not wanting to put weight on the leg, but needing too. It didn’t seem broken, lucky for him. He in sucked in a breath of pain, and flung the rocks at one of the approaching creatures. It would impact directly to the face in a few seconds, but there was no time to watch.
A spear was hurtling at him now, almost to him. He knocked it aside with a flinch and received a gouge across the back of his hand for it.
This was no longer worth it. Forget this accursed city.
Tareth swore a string of expletives - every single one he knew - and limped for the alley as fast as he could, dodging swung polearms, ducking around shields.
He stepped into the alley and felt a stab of white hot pain in his left arm. An arrow shaft passed through his bicep, another arrow swooshed past his left ear.
Arrows! He could follow the flight with his eyes barely, although even slowed they were hard to avoid. He had stepped right into one! They were anticipating him for certain!
He cried out in pain. Three archers stood ahead, already nocking new arrows. He dashed forward, calf and arm burning as he pumped them. Blood ran down his arm at regular speed.
The Salamen raised their bows as one. Tareth barely sidestepped one arrow - he felt it pass through his shirt, grazing his skin, and the other two brought their weapons to bear. He snatched the arrow from one bow, and plunged it into the neck of the other ready archer. Bright red blood began to gout out in a graceful arc.
He glanced back. The rest were coming into the alley behind him. He was momentarily satisfied to see the arrow he had dodged sink into the chest of a Salaman with a spear.
Tareth ducked past the archers, grabbing the arrows out of their quivers and flinging them away. He ran, ignoring the throbbing pain, not looking back.
The alley took a blind turn and he was terrified that he would come to a wall or dead end, but ahead it opened out again onto another street. A flash of excitement spurred him on.
The Salamen’s final attempt was pathetic, really. After facing mobs of creatures, spears, and bows, and stones, now four of them - two in doorways on either side - pulled a coarse, arm-thick rope up to knee height. It was well timed, Tareth gave them that much. If he hadn’t have been paying attention it might have worked. He supposed this may have been the plan all along - funnel him down this one path, give him no option, and then when he’s wounded and fearing for his life, simply trip him.
Maybe if his leg in worse shape it would have been difficult, but now he easily sprang up (with a bolt of pain from his calf), and cleared the rope, landing gently -
The road gave way under him. For a split second he made contact with a thin wooden surface covered with dirt and then he was falling. And he fell at normal speed. Tareth had just enough time to wonder how they could have dug a pit already when he met the bottom and sharpened wood stakes skewered his legs, hips, and abdomen.
He screamed out, shredding his throat in raw agony.
How? How could they have had time to…
A sudden, wet cough brought up a gout of blood. Through watering eyes he looked around. He had been relatively lucky. Skeletons, tatters of clothes and flesh still hanging on bones, lay impaled through skulls and chests.
I wasn’t the first.
He looked up as his vision swam and dark shapes slowly appeared along the ragged edges of the trap. They had bows drawn.
He coughed again, or maybe laughed. He wasn’t sure through the pain.
And I won’t be the last. Cursed city indeed. He spat a gobbet of blood at them.
The last thing that went through his mind was an arrow in not much of a hurry.
|# ? May 5, 2019 14:13|
|# ? Dec 4, 2022 02:37|
Prompt: "Pine City Gangneung"
Sunrise in Gangneung
James ran his fingers through clumped strands of unkempt hair and exhaled.
“I know it’s dangerous, but it’s not that far. We… you have to see it. It is breathtaking. It’s New Years day and it’s one of the main reasons I wanted us to come here for our honeymoon. The crisp forest air dashed with the salt of the sea… it’s mesmerizing.” he said, his voice a distraught whisper.
Karen was doing all she could to stop herself from screaming, but she could see the desperation in his eyes as he scanned every line of her face with inattentive expectation.
“Really James… it’s okay. Let’s just… let’s spend what time-” she started to say.
“There’s this sound just as the water laps against those big concrete barriers, kind of like a soft crunch, or maybe a gentle roaring, and the light! My god, the way the light shines…” His voice wavered, but his enthusiasm ran high.
Karen sighed and forced a beleaguered smile. Even caked in viscera, James was the man she loved most in the world. His blind optimism is what attracted her, but it had its drawbacks. He was impossibly hopeful.
“Is it more of a splish or a splash?” She asked through thinly veiled sarcasm.
The sarcasm wasn’t lost on James, but he smiled his first genuine smile since they escaped their hotel. “Definitely more of a splash. Can we go, please?” James pleaded quietly.
His eyelids, usually unyielding dams, blinked away tears that had begun to well up.
Karen nodded and clambered to her feet. Rods of pain shot through her calf and she recalled the clasping of teeth around it. A mouthful of broken or breaking teeth grazed over the mound of soft muscle and found purchase in a particularly succulent part of it. She shuddered, nearly shouting just at the memory of it, then pulled on the bloodsoaked denim that had held the rest of her leg in place, taut.
James took note then. He had avoided acknowledging the bite beyond the bandages he made from his jeans. This was it. The end. The grand catastrophe. Cliché as it is, Romero and Kirkman got it right. Humanity would eradicated with a series of slow, effacing bites. One mouthful at a time as the living acted out their last hopes and dreams.
To say that their circumstance was bleak would be a gross, nigh disrespectful, understatement, but it was one that they handled with the panache of a couple whose honeymoon did not end with a bellhop tearing out a guest’s throat. Those same teeth taking some of Karen as well.
They had managed to get some rest in storeroom just outside of row of food stalls. The smell of burned meats, kimchi and old fish was a surprisingly more welcome scent then that of human remains baking and reanimating in the early summer heat. However, if they wanted to make the sunrise James so desperately wanted them to see, they needed to move.
Karen knew this, and saw that James was struggling with something in his silence. “Sun is rising soon, and I hear seeing it is to die for.”
James didn’t like the joke, but smirked in spite of it. Karen handed him a single gore-encrusted garden shear and tightened her grip on a long fish knife.
James slid the door open a millimeter at a time and peered out from the gap he created. It had been a few hours since they had managed to stow away in the storeroom, but the dead were mostly silent except for the occasional choir of guttural moaning and the uncoordinated shuffling of feet.
Not hearing or seeing anything, they emerged from the storeroom crouched and exited the row of food stalls.
The pair spotted an alley that led down to the docks, and began a quick, but quiet trek toward it. Their trek came to a halt, as they stifled screams with palmed gasps as they stumbled upon a scene of carnage.
A woman in what was once a pink striped bikini was crouched over a man that was once a delivery driver. He was wearing a half-helmet and a basketed bike was crashed nearby. The girl’s femur was exposed with gobs of stringy flesh dangling from it.
Hunkered down alongside her was a businessman with a tooth torn flap of cheek hanging from his face. They tugged at separate lengths of intestine that unfurled like viscous yarn. A nude overweight man, slick with blood from a bloom of protruding rib and lung stood at the head of the biker unable to work his grimy fingers past the helmet. He looked up at Karen and James.
Karen and James looked through the man. The literal hole in his back showed the beach behind him, and all four of the unliving horrors, including the person whom had so unluckily had their intestines pulled out and feasted upon, turned and let out unified screams that escaped from their putrefying throats as fetid, flesh obscured, gurgles.
James grabbed Karen’s hand and they hastily pushed past. His face became unflinching steel as a primal focus came over him. His grip tightened on the shear as he looked over his shoulder.
Karen was drenched with sweat and she stumbled as James dragged her along. Her equilibrium was shot, and her head was swam. Rays of light began to crest over the horizon out on the sea. James let go of her hand as a young man in a tattered school uniform pulled him down from the dock they erupted onto down to the sand below.
Karen couldn’t catch her voice to scream out to him. She watched the boy pull him down and they both fell into the darkness beneath the dock.
The four from the alley had managed to catch up, but instead of ravenously pursuing Karen they just formed a macabre audience for the last love story told in Gangneung idling at the dock as their meal suddenly expired. Karen shambled down towards the beach, legs and arms stiff and awkward like this was the first time she was using them even though she already knew it was the last.
She tried to call out to James once more, but just mouthed his name ineffectually. She spotted him, knees buried in the sand on either side of the schoolboy as he repeatedly plunged the shear into his head and neck, while blood spurted from his own.
His labored panting and exertion was made quiet by the sound of the sea lapping against the concrete tetrapods that decorated the beachfront like giant jacks left behind by a disinterested child.
Karen watched as cool viridian waves washed in and out forming an entrancing rhythm. James called out to her, but she didn’t hear him. His own voice lost in the torrent of blood filling his throat.
She lurched towards the sea pushing past several tetrapods.
James looked on, mouth agape and jaw trembling as rivulets of tears ran down his face. He tried to call out to her again, but blood just spilled out.
His haste quickly diminished, as he wordlessly mouthed Karen’s name as ineffectually as she had his. She turned towards him, the terrified look in her eyes replaced with milky absence.
He lurched towards her and met her oblivion laden gaze with one of equal vacuity.
A coruscation of iridescent light glinted off the shifting slopes of the sea in kaleidoscopic brilliance.
James awkwardly clawed at Karen’s hand, and she reciprocated. A mangled gaggle of fingers operating on dying muscle memory. They sunk down into the sand, eyes turned towards the sea as foam washed over their feet.
|# ? May 5, 2019 16:20|
Fulfilling the request for a reading exchange, here is Exmond's Death of a Story.
Give it a listen!
|# ? May 5, 2019 21:06|
City of Masters
Her smooth fingertips caressed the gnarly piece of wood, exploring its curves with tingly excitement. Full of knotholes, twisted and mangled, discarded long ago and found but by chance. It was absolutely perfect. The knife hesitated in her trembling hand before she made the first cut, the most important one, a grand gesture. Min steeled herself, touched metal to material – and slipped. Her sweaty palms had grown weak over years of inaction. A nervous laughter escaped her lips; a dull knife was more dangerous than a sharp one, but that’s all she had and was.
Min tried again, gripping firmly, and a splinter loosened, tumbling towards the floor of her makeshift workshop, an oasis of chaos. She would get some splinters in her during her work, and she was almost looking forward to the raw pain. A good result had to be earned. Another cut, she was getting better. Slowly, through aching muscles and skin that would soon blister, a vaguely humanoid shape emerged from the wood. Shavings littered the floor, next to some pitiful particles of carbomesh. The ubiquitous building material was not meant for human hands to work on, requiring special tools. Until she happened upon the blessed root, Min had still tried. Bent and broken tools strewn about reminders of her failure.
“Mistress Soo Min!”, a soft voice cut through her concentration. Skin parted, and she watched a red droplet expand with dull fascination.
“Your husband requests your presence at the dinner table,” the voice interrupted her scarlet reverie. Needles shooting through a back unaccustomed to being hunched over for hours, she rose and turned.
“I had instructed you to not enter this room,” Min confronted the robot. Its carbomesh faceplate with vague androgynous suggestions of human features tipped downwards, suggesting a bow.
“Master Jum overrode this instruction.”
She was prepared to rain fury down at Jum as she stormed out of the room that they once had planned for children, and which was now hers alone to remember what work felt like in. But when she saw Jum sitting at the table with that radiant smile of his, her anger calmed. He was gorgeous, natural features enhanced by the grooming robot that came by every week to cut his hair and beard and refresh his skin. A lean body kept that way by following food plans and a bit of automatic exercise. But more than his appearance, it placated her that he had cooked her favorite dish, manufactured beef Bulgogi. Min sat with more satisfying ache, and was prepared to compliment his undercooked rice. But this time, he had earned honest praise! It was perfect! And the marinade…
She blinked. “Honey, did you forget something?”
He hesitated, then slapped his forehead. “I didn’t tell Servbot to add sesame oil!”
“You did not make this yourself?” A small break in her voice.
“They released a cooking update yesterday,” he admitted. “I wanted to try it with your favorite…”
“It was my favorite because you made it for me!” Min poked at the food. “This has no love in it.”
“But the rice is better,” Jum offered.
She sighed. “It is.” And she was hungry after the exertion. Min ate in silent sadness.
Finished, she motioned to clean the bowl, but the robot was already there to take it from her. In the same motion, it grabbed her hand, and before Min could protest, applied disinfectant and a band-aid onto the cut.
“Do you never get tired of having everything done for you?”, she asked Jum, catching him just before he finished putting on the surround entertainment headset.
“I always hated kneading the meat into the marinade.” His fingers curled in disgust. “And do you really want to wash those bowls yourself again? Do Yoga in a room full of sweaty, stinking people to keep fit? Get massaged by a creep with callused fingers and uncut nails? I’m glad for Servbot.”
Min sneered at it. “I’m going back to my workshop,” she declared, but the headset had already engulfed Jum.
Exasperated, she entered the workshop, and froze. The remnants of her carbomesh cutting trials – vanished. All the knives and other tools. The wood shavings swept away, their comforting natural smell replaced by the generic “clean” fragrance permeating every other room. And her little project – finished. A perfect little effigy of herself sat on a carbomesh table, a neutral, lifeless expression staring out from the polished surface that barely looked like wood anymore. Actually, it didn’t look much like Min. More like the robot’s empty face.
In a stunned trance, she pocketed the thing and went back to the living room. Jum had fully immersed himself in the entertainment sphere, and she had to slap him pretty hard to get him to remove the headset. She thrust the effigy towards him. “Did you tell the robot to finish this for me?”
His expression only became more confused. “You were doing something with actual wood in there? No, Servbot must have done that to save you the work. It’s dangerous! You even hurt yourself!” He stared at the band-aid with a mixture of disgust and fascination.
“But I wanted to do it myself! It was fun!”
“You’re not having enough fun? Come, watch something with me. Maybe they’ll show a trailer for this new videogame they’re testing in Europe. It’s supposed to be so sophisticated that it feels like real life, and you’ll never have to log off again!”
Dazed, rubbing the fabric over her wound to remind her of work and its dangers, Min sat down, grabbed her own headset and let the colors and noises of the virtual entertainment center wash over her. Unprompted, a news program forced itself into her consciousness.
“Greetings, Min!”, the virtual CEO of Milae-Lobos beamed. The personalized message cut her like a dull knife. After all, she had known him personally. But he had never shown this saccharine a smile – this was a carefully crafted propaganda image, meant to radiate warmth into her subconscious.
“I’m happy to announce that the City of Masters program is going into its final stages,” the empty figure droned on. “For decades, we have constantly strived to improve our robots, to make them able to take over more and more of your dangerous and boring everyday tasks. The final citizens of Anseong have now been phased out of the workforce, giving you all the luxury of unlimited free time!”
Min felt her fingers twitch in real life. She had tried to hold onto her job at the robot factory for as long as possible, moving from a position on the assembly line to becoming supervisor and programmer of assembly robots, until they became sophisticated enough to supervise themselves. Almost all the human workers had quit already as money became less and less of a thing of necessity, and finally, she performed the last fully human-staffed task in the factory almost alone: quality control for the brain chips.
She had pored over them with the highest-powered microscopes, looking for impurities. Gently adjusted the viewing angle until the ridged surface came into focus perfectly. Typed one-handed into a console while holding the instrument steady with the other. Signed reports with a nice pen, scratching pleasantly on plastpaper. It was numbing to her eyes and mind, but when she went home afterwards, she had the feeling of having done something useful, something vital to the society they were building.
Until her boss, the flesh-and-blood CEO himself, had told her that this, too, would be done by the robots themselves now. And she was free to spend time at home, with her husband who had stopped working years before. Was that not great? Had she not missed him during her four-hour, then two-hour shifts?
The husband that was now sitting next to her, immersed in his own world. They had not touched for hours. The news program had run out and a movie started, chosen by an algorithm just for her, he was watching something different for sure.
Min’s fingers found the smooth surface of the wood she hadn’t gotten to carve.
She ripped off her headset, and yanked on Jum’s as he did not respond to her prodding. The robot came and helped her get it off him. She pushed it away with a snarl.
“What’s going on, honey? I was almost finished with…”
“I’m going for a walk, Jum. I need to find something to do.”
His expression was blank, processing this absurd statement. Then the vacant smile she had loved broke out. “I’ll call you a robot taxi!”
“I’m going for a walk,” Min snapped, and slammed the door, and went.
Outside, the air was hard to breathe and the sky was grey and it felt wonderful. She wandered through skyscraper-flanked streets devoid of humans, who all sat at home, waited on by their robot servants. Nobody had to work anymore, nobody wanted to work anyway, why was she such an anomaly? Or were behind all these windows people trapped like her in a utopian hell, where your servants were so helpful that you could never again make yourself useful?
She watched a maintenance robot remove a grimy billboard with some of the initial advertisements for the City of Masters program. A useless artefact in a world where people no longer went outside. The CEO smiled down on her, promising the end of work, free time forever, to spend on entertainment and education. She chuckled at the second idea. What for?
An impulse grabbed her as she saw the tool cutting apart the billboard’s carbosteel frame.
“Give me this,” she demanded of the robot. It continued working. She grabbed its head and faced a smooth faceless plate. “I am your master! A human! Give me the laser cutter!”
It did not relent. In a flash of impotent rage, she grabbed a piece of the billboard, and smashed the robot’s hand. The cutter fell, she grabbed it and ran. Glancing behind her, she saw an uncaring robot being already repaired by a colleague, another cutter supplied.
Inside the factory where Min had toiled, then worked, then sat, then gotten laid off, the robots were building more of themselves. Preparing to serve the entire country, then the world. If the Europeans even needed a personal servant to look after them as they sank into virtual reality chairs, never to log off.
The newest robot models didn’t even have heads. It was probably deemed not useful anymore. People had ceased to look outside their personal entertainment spheres anyway.
Armed with more bravado then purpose or even sense, Min stormed into her former boss’ office. Only to find a robot.
“May I help you, Mistress?”
“Where is Mister…”
“The CEO of Milae-Lobos has taken a well-deserved indefinite vacation. His job will be filled by me instead. I function as a public relations servant, and I’m happy to help you with anything you…”
Min severed its speaker box with the laser cutter. Garbled nonsense screeched from it as she etched deep grooves into the faceplate, this one for a change more detailed than all the others. When it seemed like the thing wanted to stop her, she kicked it over, almost breaking her foot. She stabbed the destructive beam deep into its guts, cut out a crude triangle, and grabbed cables and chips and motors and ripped and tore until the flailing limbs stopped their motions. She removed the brain chip, put it on the floor and smashed it with the wooden effigy of herself until both were unrecognizable. Finally, she sat on the ruin of the machine and screamed with tears streaming down her face. A good job done. What now?
The door opened and another robot identical to the one she had just destroyed came in.
“Do you need some help with this task, Mistress?”
|# ? May 5, 2019 22:24|
Prompt: A+ Anyang
Seung-jae drank his tea slowly, trying to appear calm, while inside a storm of massive proportions was brewing. So much so he thought it would soon need a name. All the while never taking his eyes off Jeong-ja.
Jeong-ja sat equally attentive. Her shiny black hair played upon her bare shoulders framing her porcelain face. Her plump lips were painted pink to match the lace tank top that highlighted her athletic body. Her eyes were like a dark pool inviting him to dive in for respite from the Anyang heat. Seung-jae swallowed his tea knowing he was undone.
The waiter came and took away the plates once piled high with bibimbap to make way for the final course of the evening, yaksik. Yaksik was Seung-ja’s favorite dessert, and indeed why he’d decided to spring for the romantic hot spot known for the traditional sweet. That, and to impress the young lady his cousin, Chan-u, assured him was his soul mate.
Seung-jae knew, however, it was only a matter of time until the question was asked, and time was running out. Running quickly like the many women who’d asked the question before: sometimes on the first date, sometimes a week later, sometimes a month in. But, always asked. He’d answer truthfully, and always they ran. If he was honest with himself, he’d only cared about a few. No one came close to matching the intensity he felt in the presence of Jeong-Ja. She couldn’t run; he wouldn’t let her.
“Seung-jae, did you hear me?”
“I’m so sorry, yes, I was just thinking about how lovely this evening has been, and how I’m both looking forward to dessert and dreading it as well.”
“Yes, it means the night is drawing to an end.”
Jeong-ja blushed, but quickly recovering she flashed a smile. “You haven’t asked my blood type yet. Mine’s A+.”
Of course it is, Seung-jae thought, you’re perfect.
The waiter brought the yaksik and asked if everything was to their liking. Seung-jae was thankful for the interruption. Jeong-ja quickly replied yes, but Seung-jae knew that was about to change.
He made the decision hastily like a man choosing what to throw into a lifeboat when the ship is sinking. He picked up his fork and, while looking down to lift the first bite onto his fork said, “What a coincidence, I’m A+ too.”
“I’m so relieved,” a gush of air followed from Jeong-ja’s flawless mouth. “My last boyfriend was type B, but he lied about it. Let’s just say it didn’t go well.”
Seung-jae felt sick.
The room felt like it was spinning. He closed his eyes. When he opened them instead of seeing Jeong-ja’s beautiful face, he saw his cousin’s grave expression, wind blowing his short hair backwards; he was holding out a hand to save Seung-jae from falling deeper into the maelstrom.
“Cousin, it doesn’t have to be like this, grab me.”
Seung-jae fought the gale managing to lift a hand upward toward Chan-u, who grabbed it and pulled with all his strength.
Seung-jae confusingly found himself in the stall of the men’s bathroom. The realization he was no longer sitting at a window table at Doore Yoo across from Jeong-ja flooded over him. Panic followed. How long had he been in here? He composed himself and quickly made his way out into the hallway and back to the dining room. He turned the corner to see the empty table, approaching it slowly. Napkins were the only thing left on the table; it hadn’t yet been cleared, so there was still hope.
The waiter approached Seung-jae from behind. “Sir, the young lady asked me to give this to you. Also, here’s the bill.”
Seung-jae took the folded piece of paper and sank into his chair. He scanned the room. Only two couples remained, and they appeared to be deep in conversation. He looked down and opened the note.
Thanks for the beginning of a lovely evening. I don’t know what I did to cause you to
so rudely and abruptly leave me sitting here alone for so long, but I felt I had to leave.
I guess Chan-u was wrong about us. He said you were different. He thought our blood
types wouldn’t matter, but as soon as you lied, I knew they did. Lesson learned: You
can’t teach a B-type new tricks
Best wishes in the future, (You’ll need it)
Seung-jae sat paralyzed. His hands dropped to his lap. He couldn’t raise his head. The room held no sound. He knew he was alive only because his heartbeat pulsed in his ears. His only thought was self loathing. Tears ran down his face, one plopped onto the note. He watched as it was absorbed by the fibers before grabbing his napkin and burying his face in it.
“May I take the check?” the waiter stared down at him.
Seung-jae looked up, “In a moment.”
The waiter nodded and left him.
Seung-jae picked up the black case and opened it. Where there should have been a check was another note that simply said, “Look out the window.”
Out the window was a small courtyard strewn with white lights. Earlier in the evening it had looked magical. Seung-jae followed the directions. There on a bench sat Jeong-ja flanked by Chan-u. They immediately held up two signs. Chan-u’s read “Turn it” and Jeong-ja’s read “Over.”
Seung-jae turned the note over:
“I don’t believe in that blood type poo poo, --J”
“You moron, --C”
He turned to look back out the window. Jeung-ja and Chan-u were laughing. Rain started to pound upon the glass as he stood and threw some won onto the table.
|# ? May 6, 2019 02:58|
People always commented on Kim’s hands. They didn’t fit with his white linen shirts and pressed khakis; the palms were dark with callouses and dirt formed black half-moons under the nails. When Kim was younger, he used to hide his hands in his pockets so as not to garner attention. Yet as he gained mastery over his profession, they were freed to illustrate his stories about root systems and the delicate art of transplanting roses. Kim’s hands had earned him a position as a master gardener and lead groundskeeper, and he was quite proud of them now.
Yet nobody asked Kim about his hands after he moved to Dalseo-gu.
At first, he thought it was an odd effect of the city’s culture. The crowded streets were packed with vehicles and bicycles and tall apartment complexes leaned in on either side. It was a jarring change from the village he had spent most of his life. Yet when he traveled to the adjacent district for a seminar, his hands earned him a few smiling nods of fellowship from other gardeners in attendance.
In Dalseo-gu, everyone asked about his teeth.
Kim had average teeth. Straight enough to not distract and as white as expected from a regular brushing regime. He did not consider himself a man of sour disposition, and yet in Dalseo he was constantly encouraged to smile. He had a great many things to smile about – a clean and orderly apartment, a job working with the hands he was so proud of, and long days spent surrounded by beautiful nature. When told to smile more, he would spread his lips back and flash teeth he had never considered as significant. In response, their smiles would falter with a tightening in the corners of their eyes or a setting of their jawline harder than before.
“Have you seen the dentist yet?” They would ask through clenched teeth.
Kim had never thought his smile would provoke such a reaction. At night, he would finish carefully scrubbing the dirt from his hands before sliding a fingertip under his lips, pulling them back so he could peer inquisitively at the dentition. Try as he might, he could not find what inspired so many of his fellow citizens to recommend him to the dentist. Eventually he purchased an angled mirror mouth and slid it far back to study his molars, carefully scrutinizing how the gums clung to each tooth and obsessively flossing until his smile was a picture of dental health.
Yet still they asked, “Have you seen the dentist yet? He could help you with your smile.”
There were hundreds of dental offices in the city, but Kim was only recommended to one. The office was crammed into a tightly packed neighborhood just far enough off the river for heat to build like an oven between the buildings. The wash of circulating fan air in the waiting room offered a welcome respite from the sweltering bustle outside. The woman behind the desk greeted him with a picturesque smile, the sort Kim imagined a dental office receptionist was required to have. With pleasantries aside, she asked for his appointment time.
“Oh I need to make an appointment.” He clarified with a laugh, explaining that he was new in town but had been recommended to this dentist many times.
“I’m sure you’re scheduled.” She said, her smile unfaltering as her delicate fingers flew over the keyboard.
“This is my first time in.” Kim clarified, wondering if maybe she had misheard him initially. He provided his name before continuing, “I was hoping for an appointment-”
“You’re ten minutes early.” She cut him off, her dark eyes flitting up from the screen. The glow from the monitor made her teeth appear pearlescent.
Kim faltered and regarded her in silence, feeling the congenial smile shaped by his time in Dalseo tighten and fall away. Her own broadened in response, lips peeling back farther as little dimples formed on either side of the gleaming array.
“Ah, yes. You definitely need to see the dentist.” Her laughter was a soft tittering that felt hollow and choppy, like the mechanical whirring of the fans moving stagnant air.
Kim’s throat tightened and he turned to take a seat, reviewing his previous days in minute detail. It felt as if a conversation had occurred that could explain this, but whenever he tried to recall it in focus, the pieces fell into disarray. He stared down at his hands, turning them over and pressing the nails into his fingertips. He dug in hard until he could feel pain, grounding himself in the otherwise empty waiting room. Perhaps he had made the appointment and just forgotten? It was not like Kim to be forgetful, but it was summer and people’s minds tend to go soft in the heat.
Ten minutes may have passed, but when they called his name, it sounded fuzzy as if the hygienist were shouting it from underwater. The long curvature of the patient’s chair rose up to meet his frame, welcoming him to lie down while his feet were raised and his mouth illuminated under the examination light. Even though her mouth hid behind a blue surgical mask, Kim knew the hygienist was smiling by the way her crow’s feet pinched on either side of her dark eyes.
“Yes, the dentist will fix this right up.” She purred as she shoved rigid plastic into the back of his mouth, propping it open to leave his tongue flopping uselessly between the probing of her latex gloves. A dull ache formed from his jaw being forced into such an unnatural gape, and he tried to say something. Of course, it all came out garbled nonsense. The hygienist made a soft noise of recognition as if she understood him and suctioned saliva away from where it was starting to flood the back of his throat.
“Yes, you’re right, this will take a while. Here, I will get you some more gas.”
More? Kim could not remember when he agreed to a procedure that required gas.
When he tried to raise his hand to bat her away, nothing happened. As she pressed mask over his nose, he closed his eyes and struggled to remember where his hands were. The harder he tried to bear down on the effort to raise an arm, to swat her away, the more distant his limbs became. Despite the cloying sweetness on the back of his throat, he focused on moving one digit at a time, forcing the muscles into contracting around a singular effort escape the distant sound of a drill.
Time slowed and folded in on itself as he fought with his muscles and the sluggish recesses of his brain to move just one finger. He screamed, but no sound came out. Kim could only hear the drill. He knew he was screaming, his mind filled with the echoing panic of desperation to claw out of the chair. Yet even when the drill paused and the murky noises of unintelligible conversation could be made out, they couldn’t hear him screaming. Once he heard his voice, distant and weak as a mewling newborn as it bubbled up from the saliva collecting against his writhing tongue. The hygienist cooed as if she was soothing a child and twittered, “Looks like the gas needs to be turned up.”
Then Kim didn’t remember anything else.
His memory came back in short bursts while he staggered down the streets on his way home. In one hand, he held a bill for services rendered and a sheet of aftercare instructions. In the other was a plastic bag, filled with a toothbrush and several free samples he distantly remembered accepting. A blue toothbrush, this had been important. He had selected it from three other colors while his hands shook and he listened to the hygienist apologize for how long the procedure had taken. The heat had climbed to a fever in the late afternoon, but he couldn’t stop shivering. Making his way down the crowded city streets, he stared at the ground. His jaws ached, the wet sticky of his mouth constantly catching on his teeth as they dried out in the afternoon heat. He would run his tongue over their polished surface to wet them, trying to force his numbed lips into closure.
At the front door of his apartment, he looked up to meet his neighbor’s face, her radiant smile broadening as she held the door open for him and remarked, “Oh! You finally visited the dentist!”
Kim swayed in the heat, caught by his reflection in the glass door. Despite the sweat soaking his clean cotton shirt, the rumpled state of his khakis and his disobedient hands hanging lifeless at his sides, he was smiling. The smile was an open and joyous expression; the teeth still his own but whiter and polished past recognition. The expression reached into his exhausted eyes and forced his cheeks into dimples he never knew he possessed. Kim had never smiled like this before, so openly radiant and joyous.
And he couldn’t stop.
|# ? May 6, 2019 04:57|
prompt: Dream Hub Gunsan
The City of Closed Eyes
flerp fucked around with this message at 01:47 on Oct 11, 2019
|# ? May 6, 2019 05:04|
Looks like we're limping towards the finish line here. Submission deadline has been extended by three hours.
|# ? May 6, 2019 05:55|
Beef Can't Dance
Sir Graham Warren-Baker was a sad beef.
He wandered his paddock, dolefully searching for something to give his life meaning. All there seemed to be was sleeping, and eating, and clover had lost its sweet flavor.
He always knew he was special. Unlike the others, his brand was high on his shoulders, up near his neck: a star, seared pink under brown fur, with a jagged line running down one side from it.
A gull alighted on a fencepost, just arrived from a distant shore. He sauntered over to offer his greetings.
"Lo there, miss pigeon."
The bird blinked and cocked its head as he introduced himself and his pedigree.
"Might you have any idea as to something to do for enjoyment?" he concluded.
The bird said nothing. Gulls can't talk. It just leaped in the air and flapped around, circling the beef a few times before returning to the fencepost.
Then it flew up and did it again. And again.
"Stupid bird," Baker said. "I can't fly." He lumbered off to the wooded area at the rear of the paddock.
There, a hare was putting the finishing touches on a tunnel under the fence. He broke through on the inside of the fence and climbed blinking out of the soil, nose twitching in the sunlight.
"Hullo there, bunny," Sir Warren-Baker said. "You have anything to do that's fun or interesting?"
The hare stood stock still, staring at Baker. Then he turned tail and squeezed back through the hole again. His head popped out of the other side. He looked back at Baker, stomped his foot, and hopped away.
"Dumb bunny," Warren-Baker said. "Beef can't dance."
Sir Graham plodded over to the side of the paddock where the tall one came from. A wheel of greyish-pink salt was tied to the fence. He had a lick. And another. And another. The mineral intensity saturated his consciousness. Salt was his world. Salt was his entire existence.
But salt grew old and tired, and so did he. His tongue hung limply, loose, from the side of his mouth as he flounced away.
He had an idea. He would attract the tall one. He sauntered over to the gate that led to the path, stuck his head over the fence, and began to bellow the most plaintive, mournful moo.
Nothing happened. The tall one didn't come.
Graham returned to the center of the paddock. The sun was setting and he would sleep. Tomorrow, he would try again.
Tomorrow became today in the usual manner, except for the loud crashing and snapping sounds that came from the bush at dawn. Graham laboured to open his eyes. He shook, rumbling every part from his nape to his one black hoof, then stumbled towards the sound.
There, he found a few wild dogs playing in the cleared space just outside the fence. Their hair was thick and gray and matted. One took a running leap and bounded over the fence, with one paw just brushing the top rail.
"Hullo there, miss wolf," Sir Warren-Baker said.
The dog seemed to notice him then for the first time. She growled and bared her teeth, her fur standing up on end, her ears flattened on her head. She backed into the corner of the fence.
"You don't have to worry about me," he said and took a tentative step forward, lowering his head to get a better smell. "I was just wondering if you knew of any sort of entertainment that might be available around here?"
The dog dropped her haunches, stared at him with bloodshot eyes, and growled, lower this time. Spittle sprayed the nettles at the base of the fencepost. Her friends watched from the far side of the fence, ears perked up, tails wavering cautiously.
Warren-Baker shook his head and backed away, initiating a three-point turn that really ended up more of an eight- or nine-point turn by the time he got out of there. The dog had long since leapt for the fence and slammed bodily into it, scrabbling over the side, only just managing to avoid getting her back paw stuck in the brace. Then they all ran off, yipping and snapping at each other, into the bush.
"Worthless dog," Sir Warren-Baker said. "I can't jump."
He harumphed back to the path-side of the paddock to await the morning feed.
It came as expected, carried by the tall one, who walked up to the side of the fence and dropped the hay and alfalfa into the trough. But Graham wasn't satisfied. He raised his head to look the tall one straight in the eye, snorted, and said, "I'm bored. And you know what? I just thought of this. Female. Why don't you get me a mate? Then I think I might be happy."
The tall one considered him in stony silence for a few seconds. Then a wide grin split his face. "Why didn't you say so?" he said. "Come on then, I'll get you right sorted."
He opened the gate and Sir Graham Warren-Baker strode out to follow him. He led the beef into a holding pen outside a huge metal shack and shut him in.
Then the tall one went inside to call his friend out to do the slaughter. "Bloody beef getting ideas," he muttered to himself. "Can't have that. Thinks he's someone, can you believe it?"
But he was no one.
No one at all.
|# ? May 6, 2019 06:24|
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 21:37 on Jan 1, 2020
|# ? May 6, 2019 06:24|
Prompt: Season your life with Sunchang
NATION MOURNS LOSS OF COMEDY SENSATION
FOLLOWING a long struggle with cancer, Sunny Perez was found dead Wednesday morning while on tour for his new act, Curse Of Laugh. The actor and comedian was perhaps best known for his role on long-running family sitcom Double Decker, which he both created and starred in. Among his many accolades were Best Lead Actor, Excellence in Screenwriting, and Handsomest Man Under Five Foot Six, a title he coined himself.
Funeral arrangements will likely be made during the next few weeks by Perez’s only living relative James Chandler. We were unable to reach Mr. Chandler for comment.
“This is a joke, right? Tell me this is one of his dumb pranks and there’s another one somewhere that actually makes sense.”
The lawyer once again ran his eyes over the document. “I’m afraid he was quite unambiguous with regard to intent. As the named executor it is your responsibility to follow these instructions to the letter.”
James scrutinized the relevant portion of his copy, trying desperately to find any semantic interpretation of the text that might make it less stupid. There were none.
My wealth will be distributed according to the following terms:
Six million (6,000,000) dollars will be used for the hiring and subsequent payment of researchers in accordance with the stipulations below, for the time of one year. Up to five million (5,000,000) dollars will be used each additional year for payment of researchers. Fifteen million (15,000,000) dollars will be supplied yearly for the purpose of funding research in accordance with the stipulations below. This will continue until the stipulations have been met, at which time the remainder of my estate will go to my brother James.
All research referred to in this document will be for the sole purpose of achieving the following goal:
I want my legacy to last forever. Therefore, I would like to live on as an Artificial Intelligence clone of my personality. To this end, I have paid a company to cryogenically freeze my brain in the event of my death, which researchers may use freely in their due course. Until such a time wherein I exist again as a sentient mind with a fully autonomous body, the aforementioned research will continue to be funded by the executing of this document.
After five years, they could extract memories from the deceased. Two more years and they were emulating feelings and experiences in a digital replica of a human brain. It was nine years before James was given a prototype that spoke convincingly like his brother.
“When I talked with a version of you last year, I asked about why you wanted this. Do you remember?”
“I remember wanting immortality. I don’t remember you asking me that.”
“Right. Well, what’s your answer this time?”
“I knew this would be weird.”
“Ha.” The word was spoken more than laughed. “You look so old.”
“I... Did you hear me?”
“Yes I heard you, James. I was afraid of death. What else is there to explain?”
“Alright. And what about now?”
“How do you feel about death now?”
“It feels like... an identity I once had. I no longer think about it as something relevant to me.”
“What are you afraid of, then?”
“I don’t imagine anything.”
Later that evening, James drafted an email to his head AI programmer.
You’ve made remarkable progress these past months, but I’m going to be blunt with you. I need this project to be finished within the year if you’re going to receive the pension I promised. The program is amazingly adept at holding a conversation, but it’s still just an emotionless box full of my brother’s memories. Nobody will believe in a humorless Sunny Perez. You need to find a way to make him shine, fast.
Hey you! Do you ever find yourself wishing someone would cheer you up? Are you looking for a bit of good cheer in your depressing day to day life? Well, look no more! You’ll never be lonely again when you get SunnyVision.
We all have a little voice nagging at the back of our mind. You know the one. That little voice that’s constantly reminding us we’re bad. That everything we do is wrong. That we don’t deserve to be happy. What if I told you we can replace that voice with a better one? No, I’m not talking about some wishy washy self help routine. SunnyVision is completely scientific and one hundred percent reliable.
It’s as easy as taking a pill, cheaper than buying a new phone, and lasts forever! Order a pack for your whole family now! Don’t let your little voice convince you otherwise!
“Season your life with SunnyVision.”™
Stefan Hershkowitz conducted a press interview.
“Yes, it was rocky at first. Back when I volunteered to be the first alpha tester for the SunnyVision line of perception-enhancing drugs, it involved a series of complex neurosurgical procedures. We weren’t even thinking about entering the realm of consumer products, but after joining with the soul of everyone’s favorite personality Sunny Perez, I stopped doubting. I knew we had to get this into every market we could, into as many homes, as many people as possible.
“I spent nearly ten years designing the AI system used in SunnyVision, but in all that time we were never able to fuse that technology with the essential humanhood of each and every one of us. That is, until we decided to stop wasting time on the code, which had reached a plateau, and start looking for ways to implement. We quickly found that when interfaced with a living person’s frontal cortex, our system was able to transcend the current limits of artificial intelligence in a way never seen before. Essentially, we were emulating Sunny’s superego using the brain as a processor. This is similar to the neurological processes present in patients with dissociative identity disorder, but in the case of SunnyVision the function is not to repress trauma, but rather to elevate your present life to a higher state of existence.”
By the same date the next year, 80% of households nationwide were fully integrated with SunnyVision. Rates of mental illness were down by 60%, suicide by 75%, and crime by 90%.
James sat at his grand piano with an empty bottle of Chianti in his left hand, and said “TV on.”
At the opposite wall, a large flat-screen television slid smoothly up out of its stand as the lights automatically dimmed and the window blinds closed. Then the screen blinked on.
James had purchased this private island many months earlier with a small portion of his inheritance money. His brother may or may not have indirectly kicked off an apocalyptic series of events culminating in mass brainwashing, but James didn’t see himself as culpable at all. He had resented Sunny even before he’d become the face of an AI hivemind, even before he’d died, really. But now that his resentment for his brother could be merged with his resentment for the world at large, he felt overwhelming apathy.
He had avoided the riots where huge crowds had made their way through entire cities forcing pills down the throat of anybody not yet assimilated. He had seen massacres and terrorist attacks in the news reported as massive victories for the human race. In rare cases he had even stood on the beach and watched plumes of fire rise from somewhere on the distant shore, with about as much emotion as he would watch the sun set.
Airing right now was a show called Guilty, where captured resistance members were forced to participate in bizarre torture games for the entertainment of viewers. James watched the screen blankly, experiencing neither enjoyment nor disgust. Interesting how nothing mattered anymore.
James downed a glass of brandy that had been left on the top of the piano since last night, then passed out onto the keys.
|# ? May 6, 2019 07:39|
There will be no answer
I met Susan, in a bar in Seoul, on the night the insects came. We were kissing, for the first time, her lips were soft and luscious, when the discontinuity struck and then
I was sitting down at breakfast in a house with a sea view.
A young dark-haired girl was there on my right, frowning at me. She looked familiar in a nagging sort of way.
“Can I leave the table,” she asked.
I had a piece of peanut butter toast in my hand. I took a bite of the toast to give me time to think, then a sip of coffee. Across the table Susan said, “yes, of course, take your plate up to the sink.”
The girl stood up, scraping her chair back on the wooden floor,
Then I was running down a hill, bounding, wind in my face and I was laughing the delighted laugh you leave behind when you give up on childhood, chasing my friend Simon down the hill that ran past school, and I saw the dog poo like a quarter of a second before I was about to step on it and jinked to get around it, but my foot slipped and caught on the edge of the paving stone. I went down shockingly fast, slammed into the ground, and rolled, kaleidoscope whirl of grass and road and footpath and trees. Finally it stopped, and I looked up panting, see Simon looking down at me.
“Are you alright?”
My breath was gone so the first thing I did was wheeze, choking for air, trying to get more inside me. At last I had enough for a breath and I squeaked out, “I’m alive!”
Then without any perceptible shift I was back at the club in Seoul, at a table that was lit up, there were three beers on it shining in the light from beneath. It was intensely beautiful and I was a little taken aback, not just because of the time hopping, but just the whole thing because Susan was there too and the light on her face was just so. She was frowning at me.
“Did you just have a--” she stopped, looking in my eyes, as if she had seen what she was looking for. I was staring into her eyes, which were also wide, and greenbrown. There was something else though, a long iridescent shaft, translucent, barely visible, a column growing out of the top of her head. It was beautiful too, if troubling.
“There’s, something, on your head,” I explained, and I put my hand up to demonstrate. My fingers touched something cool, hard and bristly that was growing out of the top of my head, like a young tree.
Then I was running my fingers through dirt, hot musty smell of pohutukawas and compost, looking across at the other side of the wooded valley. Simon had a fat, loosely rolled joint in his hands, our first one ever. He lit it with a yellow bic he stole from his mum and inhaled, then held in the smoke and handed me the joint.
“Have we been here before,” I asked Simon as I take it. “It feels like we’ve been here before."
Simon wiggled his hand left to right in a noncommittal way then hissed out a thin stream of smoke.
"World goes round the sun, comes back where it was. Cyclical.” He used an index finger to describe a circle.
“Have you considered not drinking as much,” said Susan. I was lying on a couch on the opposite side of the room from her, an expanse of dark gray carpet between us. There was a fire in the wood burning stove, crackling away behind soot-stained glass. She had a book in her hands and a cat curled up on her knee.
“Sure,” I said. “I’m not sure if it worked though.” There was a scratching on the window next to me, behind the back of the couch, and I had a sudden conviction that if I were to twitch aside the curtain I would see something translucent, iridescent, many-angled outside. I sat up, with a shudder.
“What would you change, if you could?”
She put down her book. After a moment she put her head on its side like she was listening for something just out of earshot. “I think,” she began
The club was full of them, long-legged iridescent creatures, stepping, ever so gracefully, on top of the people by the bar and on the dancefloor and sitting at the tables. Picking their way. Susan took a sip of her beer. “What did you see?” She sounded calm, but like she was only holding on to that calm with an immense and specific effort of will.
“Things that haven’t happened yet,” I said. “What about you?”
I was in another pub now, sticky shiny varnished wood and padded bar stools. An old guy’s pub, and Simon was there. Hunched over a beer. He looked up at me and I felt something inside me lean back, like you do when you go to near a cliff.
“I’m sorry,” he said. I’m really, really, really sorry.”
I was suddenly intensely, incredibly angry and I didn’t know why which was the strangest sensation. My grip around the pint glass in my hand tightened and I had a sudden hallucinatorily vivid flash of what it might be like to smash it across Simon’s fat, bearded, dumb face.
We were in the middle of the dance floor, holding each other, swaying back and forth. Her body was taut in my arms, quivering as she shuddered with tearless sobs. There was a forest of iridescent limbs around us.
“That was a bad one,” she said. “I don’t know if I want to to this any more. What are we, puppets?”
I patted her back and she laid her head on my shoulder.
“Do you know a guy called Simon?”
She pulled back, looking at me, suddenly guilty. Her eyes were luminous in the light from above.
“I do,” she said. “His kid plays soccer with our daughter.”
I was running down the side of the school soccer pitch with Simon a few paces behind, I couldn’t see him but I could hear the pounding of his feet on the grass over the yells of the crowd, it was 2-1 and I could feel the goal we were about to score. I faked right to cheat the Naenae full-back who was bearing down on me and tapped it left to Simon. As I turned to see if he would put it in the net the enormous full-back ran past me and cannoned into Simon, who folded up like a daddy long-legs in a candle flame.
The ball bounded away and into the gloves of the keeper who held it, uncertain, not sure if the ref was going to blow for injury. I slid down beside him. His face was white as he panted for breath.
“Are you ok?”
“Still alive,” he whispered.
“Here’s the thing, Jenny,” I said to my daughter, who was sitting up in her bed, face solemn and eyes dark. “We both love you very much, and so, when your mother and I decided we needed to take a little time away from each other, we agreed to make sure--”
She held up her hand and I stopped. “That,” she said, “sounds like a load of crap.”
We stared at each other. I heard her breath, low and soft and even. After a while I lay my face down on the duvet and stared into the blackness.
The forest of legs was thinning, I heard people talking, crying, laughing in that high pitched hysterical way. I touched the top of my head with a shaky hand and the column felt less substantial. “We could run,” I said. "Get out of here. Get free."
She moved her head experimentally, then looked up. Her eyes were glistening in the green and red lights of the bar.
"And then?" she asked.
|# ? May 6, 2019 08:48|
Submissions are closed. 감사합니다 <3
|# ? May 6, 2019 10:13|
Fulfilling the request for a reading exchange, here is Exmond's Death of a Story.
And in return, here is Simple Simon's Your Auras Paint an Ugly Picture being read!
|# ? May 7, 2019 01:16|
|# ? May 7, 2019 01:53|
A picture’s worth 10,000 dong
|# ? May 7, 2019 02:26|
The Dong Song
Who wants to write
Will that put right
Will it satisfy
If we sing
The dong song?
|# ? May 7, 2019 09:22|
Kurtak’s mandibles clacked spasmodically in his frustration as he lowered his uncoiling proboscis into the divining springs.
All of the other of the high form offspring had bonded with their life mates, some had even begun the ritual rites of Nuremal, the transfiguration of self and partner into one new being, a new high form.
Kurtak was one of those select to become high form, but had always been looked upon unfavorably by his companions. His parents had partially failed in their Nuremal. This does occasionally happen, the elder high forms ensured the hive, but the chittering mass looked on disdainfully as an infantile pupa emerged from the chrysalis, and not a mature high form.
It is said that a failed Nuremal is the result of mispaired bonds. Young Melazum often engage in group courtship once their esophageal ganglia sacs protrude. A miasma quickly overcomes these Melazum clutches as the ganglia sacs release new and changing pheromones that ultimately accelerates their maturation cycle so that they too may engage in Nuremal and not just the feigned sensory simulacrum of it that manifests through these group bondings.
However, not all Melazum reach the necessary point of maturation for a successful bond. Physically they may appear to have reached adulthood, but the hormonal development stunted somewhere along the way due to insignificant pheromone exposure. This was the case with both of Kurtak’s parents.
Kurtak was well aware of his standing within the hive, and this was his last chance to find a mate. Not only would he have to be able to bond with them, they would have to begin life anew as a joined high form. A thought which made Kurtak’s mid and hind gut turn. How could he be a high form if he couldn’t even bond. He feared he would be forced to become a broodmother.
Kurtak could feel his parents in him. He felt their shared ecstasy and hopes as they entered Nuremal, but at the same time he knew that he was different. He knew that he was incomplete.
The divining water was supposed to help guide the High Form through their lifecycle. It contained the genetic memory of their species, the ambition of the one mind and provided the nutrients necessary for a high form to develop fully.
Kurtak slurped from the spring each day from the time he emerged from the chrysalis, but its effects on him had been marginal. His body grew, his ganglia had emerged and he finally shed the birthing carapace that should have fallen off during Nuremal, but he knew that he was not ready, or at least he felt he was not ready.
Kurtak raised his proboscis from the spring and noticed another Melazum coming up alongside him to drink from the spring.
A beautiful Melazum that appeared slightly different from the others. She was instar and not yet ready to bond, like Kurtak.
She screeched out a sonorous melody of greeting at Kurtak, and he turned his gaze away instinctively, before turning back towards her nervously.
Patiently, she smiled as he returned a melodic series of chirps. He stumbled through them of course, but she had his attention and he had hers. Somewhere in the insectile noise, an introduction was made. Her name was Yolonia, also the offspring of a failed Nuremal.
Alone under the light of the moon, Kurtak took Yolonia’s forewings and wrapped himself into them. Their probosci entangled, and an eruption of translucent fluid encased their bodies turning into a hard chitinous shell just as swiftly as it had poured over them.
The elders looked on from the outer terrace in hopeful exultation. For two moons, they meditated in communion with the one mind channeling their life energy into the young couple.
On the rise of the third moon, the chrysalis broke, and Gokal, the chosen of his kind emerged. The elders sung praises to the one mind as Gokal, the foretold primarch emerged and spoke his name in jagged dissonant screeches.
The era of proliferation had begun, and Gokal had received the first point of conquest in a vision during the Nuremal, an ocean world teeming with life, a place the one mind had called ‘Earth’.
|# ? May 7, 2019 16:52|
Thunderdome Week 352/CCCLII: Do You Know? 나쁜 글쓰기! RESULTS
Seriously, you guys, cheer up!
We waded through the post-apocalyptic zombified technological graveyard together, and honestly didn't agree on much. After much discussion over soju and silkworm pupae, we've decided on the following:
HM: Sebmojo and Lippincott
DM: Saucy_Rodent and Fushia tude
LOSER: Mr. Steak
You may view my comments and brief crits here.
Please enjoy this edited photo of a real Korean statue of a kid violently shoving his fingers in another kid's butthole:
Thranguy, your butt is less sore- sit right back on the blood throne!
Fleta Mcgurn fucked around with this message at 17:28 on May 7, 2019
|# ? May 7, 2019 16:52|
fleta, if you wrote comments using google docs, we cant see them because the link only allows us the view it. you need to give us a link that lets us either comment or edit for us to see the comments
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:06|
The System Knows I'm Grateful
by Saucy Rodent
-I feel like the term “starting point” could have been replaced with something more evocative or something that places me into the world more. As the first unexpected phrase I come across, it’s much weaker than “StaffSync” for example. Besides that, I love the idea of renting out your literal body for labor. Great start.
-At first I was like, it’s hard to believe that the Algorithm could be a more effective actor (let alone porn actor!) than a human, but then I realized CG facial acting is already so good in present day that its not infeasible for them to like... program a scene into a human’s face too.
Weird setup. I like it.
-drat, okay I feel like this is a solid first half of a story that ends too abruptly. I was really interested in the resolution of the arm cut plot, but it was left a bit disappointingly up to my imagination. I was also hoping for more to come out of the interaction with Jang-mi. This sounds weird to say, but if he made a different choice in the elevator, a weird sex scene could have been super interesting.
To be honest, I was really invested in your world even though, like... it’s not that crazy original or anything. But hey, boilerplate cyberpunk poo poo can be great, and I was in for the ride. My biggest complaint is that the ride was really short and didn’t feel complete. I can’t ignore the fact that you had so much time left and so many more words available to use, and I wish you’d taken advantage of both of those.
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:08|
fleta, if you wrote comments using google docs, we cant see them because the link only allows us the view it. you need to give us a link that lets us either comment or edit for us to see the comments
they're at the bottom of the stories. (I suppose you could mean actual comments )
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:09|
fleta, if you wrote comments using google docs, we cant see them because the link only allows us the view it. you need to give us a link that lets us either comment or edit for us to see the comments
Sorry, didn't realize. How odd. Try this.
In NO WAY does this indicate that I want anyone to comment back, by the way.
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:28|
Thunderdome CCCLIV: Sonder
Sonder (n): The realization that everyone has a story
This neologism comes to us by way of John Koenig’s The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which is our subject for the week. Pick one of the (non-introduction) videos from This playlist, and write something inspired by or evoking the emotion described. Do not be too literal or duplicative of the video, though. (We’re sticking to just the ones with videos for this week, not the ones only defined in the dictionary website)
The first person to select each word gets 1500 words. The second gets 1400, the third 1300, and so on. This reduction only applies to cases where people are duplicating a word, to be clear
All the no’s: poetry, erotica, fanfic, raw screeds and primal screams, spreadsheets,gdoc links in general
SIgnups close Friday (California Time) 11:59 PM
Entries close Sunday (California Time) 11:59 PM
Prompts and Entrants:
Sonder: The realization that everyone has a story
Vemödalen: The Fear That Everything Has Already Been Done
Avenoir: The Desire To See Memories In Advance
Onism: The Awareness of How Little of the World You'll Experience
Anemoia: Nostalgia For A Time You’ve Never Known
Olēka: The Awareness of How Few Days Are Memorable
Opia: The Ambiguous Intensity of Eye Contact
Nodus Tollens: When Your Life Doesn't Fit into a Story
Ambedo: A Moment You Experience For Its Own Sake
Yù Yī : The Desire to Feel Intensely Again
Socha: The Hidden Vulnerability of Others
Kenopsia: The Eeriness of Places Left Behind
Astrophe: The Feeling of Being Stuck on Earth
Zenosyne: The Sense That Time Keeps Going Faster
Klexos: The Art of Dwelling on the Past
Koinophobia: The Fear that You've Lived an Ordinary Life
Alazia: The Fear That You’re No Longer Able to Change
Ballagàrraidh: The Awareness That You Are Not at Home in the Wilderness
Dès Vu: The Awareness That This Will Become A Memory
Lutalica: The Part of Your Identity That Doesn't Fit Into Categories
Lachesism: Longing for the Clarity of Disaster
Kudoclasm: When Lifelong Dreams Are Brought Down to Earth
Moment of Tangency: A Glimpse of What Might Have Been
Morii: The Desire to Capture a Fleeting Experience
Silience: The Brilliant Artistry Hidden All Around You
Pâro: The Feeling That Everything You Do Is Somehow Wrong hi to
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 04:11 on May 11, 2019
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:29|
In with Lutalica.
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:31|
In with oleka
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:35|
in Yù Yī
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:38|
IN with Astrophe
Anomalous Amalgam fucked around with this message at 17:47 on May 7, 2019
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:38|
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:39|
in with Lachesism
|# ? May 7, 2019 17:57|
Kudoclasm: When Lifelong Dreams Are Brought Down to Earth
|# ? May 7, 2019 18:31|
in with Socha
|# ? May 7, 2019 18:32|
In with Vemödalen
|# ? May 7, 2019 18:49|
Onism is the one for me
|# ? May 7, 2019 18:58|
In with Sonder
|# ? May 7, 2019 21:25|
in, with Morii.
|# ? May 7, 2019 21:59|
I'll judge too, hellrules on request but must be accompanied by a
|# ? May 7, 2019 22:11|
I'll judge too, hellrules on request but must be accompanied by a
I crave pain
|# ? May 7, 2019 23:31|
In with Ambedo
|# ? May 8, 2019 00:00|
|# ? Dec 4, 2022 02:37|
I crave pain
Nearly everything in your story is the same pale shade of blue
|# ? May 8, 2019 01:57|