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Salgal80
Jan 28, 2019


In with Anemoia

Salgal80 fucked around with this message at 02:00 on May 8, 2019

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Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


I can help judge.

Canasta_Nasty
Aug 23, 2005



In with Ballagàrraidh

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Crits for Week 352 – Do You Know? 나쁜 글쓰기

Never have I seen three judges so far apart in their initial nominations. I think it must have been because nearly every story was middling this week; so choosing among them was like selecting which brand of beige paint to roll onto your wall.

1. Saucy_Rodent - The System Knows I’m Grateful

- Thank you for having submitted early.

- Please render your story titles in bold and include a word count with your stories.

- It’s fun that The Algorithm is its own character who speaks through StaffSync shift workers. The manipulative notifications are a nice touch, like “Your injury may have been much more severe had you been controlling your own body during the incident.” Same thing with The Algorithm’s cold insistence on gratitude.

- You seem to be more invested in making your social commentary come to life than your characters. Trust me, social commentary is stronger when it is subtle and indexed through the lives of characters in whom we are emotionally invested.

- The mystery that propels the piece—precisely how did the protagonist get the injury—just gets dropped because the protagonist gives up. That’s a problem.

- This piece has potential with major revision. But in its present form, it’s a heavy-handed anecdote about how your vehicle for social commentary works. I mean, I agree with much of it politically, but the piece doesn’t present well as art; it’s wanting for aesthetic value. So the politics come off ham fisted. You can do better than this, I believe in you. Focus on character and plot more than theme. Theme shines through a good story, but doesn’t make a good story in and of itself.

You win: North Korean propaganda about South Korea from 1994.

2. crimea - I Close My Eyes and I Drift Away

- Thank you for having submitted early.

- Please avoid clichés, they are banal (“Paging Doctor Freud!”). Inversions of clichés aren’t clever either (“Every day has its dog”). I realize you’re writing clichés in order to give your narrator a glib voice, but there are more interesting ways to be glib than that.

- This story is decent, if a bit bland and forgettable. It certainly picks up in the second half and that is welcome. The conflict that the sleep-paralysis-dream-demon has with the dreamer is interesting because of how the demon unmoors the dreamer from lucid dreaming, temporarily anyway. The characterization of the unlikable protagonist is pretty good as well.

You win: Korean-imported candy but you can’t read the label and it just tastes like plain gelatin.

3. Doctor Zero – Afflictions with Benefits

- In the beginning some of your prose doesn’t match the fantasy setting, like “insanely dangerous.”

- The protagonist’s voice, while not unique, is still strong enough to make the character come to life.

- The physics of this story are fun to read and think about.

- “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” Awkward writing. Even if you deleted the superfluous “to” before “poured”, the simile here is misplaced. We’ve already known how the Salamen move since early in the story and we’ve already gotten a sense of them pouring out prior to this point, so it’s too late for the comparison with slush to add much of anything to the story.

- This story has good, exciting action. It’s impressive that you could make slow-motion this compelling for this long. Tareth’s hubris is well illustrated. The ending is not bad, but it is too predictable.

- The biggest problem with your story is that the language is too basic. It’s rather flat, inelegant, out of step with the moving, ornate verbiage one hopes to find in fantasy writing. That doesn’t mean you should complicate the language merely for complication’s sake, however. Maybe read more fantasy with attention to how good fantasy writers punch up their prose.

You Win: Almost getting a bronze medal in archery at some Korean-hosted Olympic games.

4. Anomalous Amalgam – Sunrise in Gangneung

- There’s something poignant about the little things mattering even at the end of life / end of the world.

- I appreciate the dark comedy of this piece. There really is so much wonderful irony here. There’s James’s lack of attentiveness to what Karen wants, even though Karen could really argue she has the more pressing needs. There’s the final scene and all its ridiculous contrasting imagery. There’s the absurdity of a sunrise mattering amidst the zombie apocalypse. You could have gone straight horror here, but it is a better use of your prompt and a more interesting story to create dark comedy as you did. I spent much of the time laughing, and I enjoyed the story well.

- If I had one criticism it’s that your characters are flat. If James and Karen had come to life more as characters (no pun), had been developed in a deeper, more intricate way, then the reader would be more emotionally invested in them and the story would have been much stronger.

You win: The South Korean Demilitarized Zone border, the North Korean Demilitarized Zone border, and the Cardassian Demilitarized Zone border.

5. Simply Simon – City of Masters

- This isn’t terrible. The plot is okay, Min’s characterization is adequate by TD standards. My complaint is that you tread on territory that is all-too-well-worn. I feel like I’ve read this automated techno-dystopia piece a thousand times. Nothing really feels fresh, creative, innovative, or compelling about it. I was really hoping for some sort of new spin on a story of this type, maybe a subversion of the genre. Sadly it is too common, too cookie-cutter, and likely too forgettable.

- I’m not sure the story’s message resonates all that powerfully. I read this thinking, “you know, the dystopia as described doesn’t even seem that bad relatively speaking. The setting has its downsides, but I’ve certainly had to work jobs that made for much greater suffering than Min’s ennui.”

You win: South Korea fifty years ago and North Korea fifty years from now.

6. Salgal80 – Blind Date

- Clever use of your prompt. I had never heard of blood type dating, but your story led me to look it up. It’s an odd yet interesting premise, but at heart this is a simple morality tale that works fairly well. My one complaint is that you could have developed this more. Nothing wrong with a vignette per se, but you had plenty of opportunity to be more ambitious with this piece. Still, there’s enough here to like. And the premise will make it somewhat memorable.

You win: A Type O negative match in small town South Korea.

7. Lippincott – Smiling Dalseo

- When I read how much you had made of the fact that Kim was a gardener with calloused and dirty hands, opening with that and referring back to “carefully scrubbing the dirt from his hands,” I expected it to matter materially in the story. But the whole gardening thing only seems to function as a kind of metaphor that Kim is a “transplant” in a new place. I think this metaphor comes across a bit stilted and is rather unnecessary.

- Kim finds it puzzling that people keep recommending a dentist to him. Why doesn’t he just ask them why? It doesn’t seem any more forward than their recommending one.

- Do South Koreans really schedule initial dentist appointments in person rather than by phone?

- The mystery of why everyone keeps recommending Kim to the dentist does propel the reader forward. That’s a plus; this is an entertaining story. However, that mystery doesn’t really get resolved in a satisfactory way. I mean, we do learn what the dentist does: surgically forces smiles onto people. But what we don’t learn is why the other cityfolk would actually recommend something like that to Kim in the first place. Why don’t they find the permasmile as horrifying as the final sentence implies Kim does? Are they just weirdos who take their city motto too seriously? Have they been brainwashed, and if so, why hasn’t Kim been? Either way, the story seems weaker the more one spends time thinking about it. Still, it holds the reader’s interest, and the permasmile horror does have a bit of impact. This story is pretty mixed overall; I didn’t personally recommend the HM here.

You win: An HM. *insincere grin*.

8. flerp – The City of Closed Eyes

- This piece is mostly good. It is effective at anthropomorphizing the city and building up the reader’s sympathy for it. Your concept and execution are artful; your approach to the prompt is well considered. The piece reads like prose-poetry complete with some vivid images. That is all a plus.

- On the minus side, it is unfortunately pretty first-drafty. It’s a bit repetitive, there’s room for cleanup and paring down. With some editing, this piece could be much more powerful. Still, good job overall.

You win: K-Pop. Successful, but too repetitive.

9. Fuschia tude – Beef Can’t Dance

- There is a great risk in writing bored characters: you may convey that boredom well enough that your reader catches it. For most of this story, that’s the effect.

- After so much childlike simplicity, the dark ending genuinely comes as a surprise. I’ll give you credit for that.

- The piece doesn’t have much entertainment value or emotional impact, but the ending is worthwhile. Would be better and harder hitting if the reader were more attached to Sir Graham Warren-Baker, though.

You win: A Korean BBQ dinner, but you wake up with indigestion.

10. Thranguy – Ribbon

- Nice iceberg method here. There is much to this world and its characters that lie beneath the surface, but you gesture at that implicit content well, and I appreciate it.

- Your use of setting was excellent. Good, detailed world building without getting bogged down by the minutiae of world building.

- It’s not everyday a goon manages to make a three-way romance poignant, not lurid.

- It’s a good story with good emotional resonance. Not much else to crit.

You win: The throne. Congrats.

11. Mr. Steak – “Sunny”

- The shifting from various types of media, scene by scene, was jarring and not well suited to a shorty story format.

- Some of the sections have superfluous details, owing to their being newspaper articles, advertisements, and so on. Others just breeze right through critical details, as if to say ‘yeah yeah the tech vaguely does x, don’t think about it too much, eh?’

- The glib humor falls flat I’m afraid. Humor is the most difficult writing to do.

- The last scene is the only one that really interests me. I imagine how much more interesting the story might have been if it had started there, and then followed James in a plot arc either to try to set things right or hide from his own guilt.

- I don’t know if this was actually a low effort entry, but it certainly read that way, until the very end at least. Most of the story feels so haphazard.

You win: A Korean manga but it’s been scribbled over in crayon.

12. sebmojo – There will be no answer

- The prose is excellent, the imagery feels real.

- There was some discussion with one of the other judges about whether the story was too vague. I didn’t think it was. The way I interpreted it, the iridescent creatures were using people, or maybe their souls, as conduits for (time) travel, which set things out of joint for them. I wasn’t clear on if this was a hostile invasion, or more of a hitching-a-ride kind of thing, but it doesn’t really matter.

- I like how layered the story is. A lesser writer would have been content to play with the time hopping premise alone. But here we have the character elements of the alcoholism, the affair, trying to explain the martial separation to the daughter. I was struck by Susan’s question, “What are we, puppets?” Because here, the people are puppets to destiny, puppets to the creatures, but also puppets to their own souls’ desires. What the discontinuity reveals is how little agency they ever really had, and their powerlessness against what that implies.

- This story reminded me vaguely of The Siege of Corinth and that is nice, but of course I did not factor your prior writing into my judgment.

- Well done, this story turned out great. I had it as my win nomination.

You win: A 12-Pack of Hite, the Korean Beer, redeemable six years ago.

Armack fucked around with this message at 05:54 on May 8, 2019

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019



Armack posted:

Crits for Week 352 – Do You Know? 나쁜 글쓰기

Thank you-and-Fleta!

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Here's my crits for week 352:

Saucy_Rodent - The System Knows I’m Grateful

I really dug the concept for this one - it felt a lot like Philip K. Dick’s “Paycheck” for the gig economy era, and I think there’s a lot to dig into there. You do a solid job expressing the sort of alienation capitalism puts people through. Okay, so there’s a very good setup, but… that’s really it. You end the piece when Song is just beginning to realize that something is wrong, but you don’t take it any further than that. He doesn’t go on a real journey or change over the course of the piece - hell, he barely reacts when he realizes that he’s been turned into a porn star without his consent! You had a lot more words to work with and I wish you’d dug further here. This piece starts with plenty of promise but it just doesn’t deliver.


crimea - I Close My Eyes and I Drift Away

There’s quite a bit I like about this piece. You nail this dream… goblin... thing’s voice and personality and there’s a lot of fun, dreamy imagery to dwell on. That said, it didn’t really leave me with much once I was done reading. The story never really pulled me in or kept me riveted, in part because there’s little in the way of stakes - a guy has some sort of struggle with this dream-creature, but I’m not sure what the conflict is supposed to mean. The writing got a little purple at times and could use a polish in spots, but on a craft level it mostly successful. I just wish it left me more to feel strongly about.


Doctor Zero - Afflictions with Benefits

This was actually my pick for winner this week! This isn’t to say that I think it’s necessarily the best-written story on a sentence-construction level, because the prose is definitely rough in spots, but that said it tells a complete, satisfying story with an engaging hook, and you do a good job describing the wonky physics at play. You also nailed your character’s voice, and though the piece is basically an extended action scene I was engaged by how you used that action in service of the character, making the struggle against the Salamen more and more difficult for this guy to keep on top of. The ending was a tad on the predictable side, but I enjoyed it regardless.


Anomalous Amalgam - Sunrise in Gangneung

This is another piece I liked the setup for, but the payoff let me down. I appreciate that you don’t show all your cards right away and let the disturbing details creep in. Oh, there’s viscera involved? Is this guy some sort of killer, is she trapped with him or something? No, turns out it’s just a straightforward zombie story, and once it gets on that track I got a lot less interested. It might just be a bit of prejudice on my part, but a zombie thing has to really go above and beyond for it to keep me invested, and this just didn’t do the trick. It’s a competently told story, and I like the fact that you work some sly humor into the narration, but in the end it didn’t really stand out.


Simply Simon - City of Masters

I think this is a well-constructed piece all around - a good character portrait with an arc that feels relatively complete. The prose isn’t always amazing, and some of your world-building struck me as a little blunt, but it has its evocative moments. So why didn’t this hook me as much as, say, Saucy_Rodent’s did? I agree with Armack that the dystopian society Min is rebelling against doesn’t feel quite urgent enough to make her rebellion feel as dramatic as it could. With such a short story, you don’t really have time to let the ennui of living in such a soulless, impersonal society build up, and so her ultimate reaction feels a little out of place. That’s just my hunch, anyway. I like a lot of what you’re doing here, but it didn’t quite cohere into something more than the sum of its parts.


Salgal80 - Blind Date

Not bad! While I didn’t love this, it’s a cute little vignette that examines a quirk of human behavior and delivered a twist that I didn’t see coming. The stakes were a bit too low for it to really stand out from the pack for me, but there’s still something to be said about a small-scale story told well. I agree with Fleta, though - I’m not sure what you’re trying to do with the dream interlude in the middle, but it reads as pretty incoherent.


Lippincott - Smiling Dalseo

As someone who gets fairly anxious about going to the doctor or dentist and being totally at the mercy of someone else’s care and expertise, I think the horror elements of this story do a great job evoking that feeling, so well done there. You also do well in putting us in your character’s mindset and building up a sense of unease that kept me interested as the story unfolded. The only real issue I have is the ending, namely that the final reveal that he has a permanent smile doesn’t really make sense when the rest of the story is taken into account. If everyone in this town was walking around with frozen smiles on their faces, wouldn’t it be obvious to the protagonist what the difference between him and the rest of them is? That logical incongruity made the mystery you build the beginning of the story unravel for me in retrospect.


flerp - The City of Closed Eyes

This is a neat mood piece in a lot of places and I like the city-as-a-character approach you took; largely, you do a really good job with the poetic moments. That said, as a whole this one feels a bit one-note and repetitive. The city is an interesting character, but also a very static one, which makes sense in context but also doesn’t allow for the most exciting piece. You tend to cover the same ground over and over again, and I think there’s a lot you could trim away and still leave the same emotional impact. Also, I’d recommend keeping better track of the tense you’re writing in, I noticed a few moments where that was a problem.


Fuschia tude - Beef Can’t Dance

If I’d been the sole judge this week, this would have been the loser. You go for a sort of children’s story vibe that works ok for the most part, but for nearly the entire piece everything is totally conflict-less, with opportunities to make things more interesting (being confronted by a wolf!) brushed aside so that we can watch a cow stand around and be bored. And then the farmer has him slaughtered. Well, great. And the cherry on top of this sundae I didn’t like very much to begin with? A pun. Eep. It’s not horribly written, but it just didn’t work for me on any level.


Thranguy - Ribbon

This is another instance where I differed from the other judges, in that I would not have picked this to win the week. I ranked it toward the middle of the pack because, despite some lovely writing and an approach to worldbuilding that engaged me (even if it got a bit dense at times), I found the overall storytelling approach much too clinical. The voice is so detached, so big-picture, that I couldn’t get involved in any of the characters. I had no sense who Joi is as a person, so her suicide was surprising but not affecting in the slightest. This piece felt to me like reading a textbook-style history of an alien civilization - intriguing, but so detached from the human and the familiar that it doesn’t resonate on a deeper level.


Mr. Steak - “Sunny”

I didn’t dislike this as much as my fellow judges did - I think you have an interesting idea here, and I appreciate your efforts to break from the ordinary and show backstory through articles, press conferences, and the like. That said, these bits take up too much of the story, the result being that very little of James’s character is built up and his sense of defeated blankness in the final section doesn’t feel earned or motivated. You tell us he hates Sunny, but why? We get almost no development of his personality throughout the rest of the piece, so what we’re left with is some speculative bits about the development of artificial intelligence that, while interesting, don’t really constitute an engaging story by itself.


sebmojo - There Will Be No Answer

On a pure prose level, this is probably the best story of the week - the way you describe things is really graceful and compelling, and overall you find a nice marriage of relatable human details and the bizarre sci-fi aspects of the piece. That said, as a story it left me puzzled, and not in a way that felt meaningful. Little details don’t quite add up - for instance, the main couple supposedly meets on the night the insects come, but this whole unstuck-in-time thing seems like something they know is possible. Also, I really couldn’t tell what the italic text vs. the non-italic text was supposed to signify; the time periods started to blur together after a while. Maybe that was the point? I don’t know, it’s still one of my favorites of the week, but little confusing things like that kept me at a slight distance and prevented it from taking my top spot.

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.

Thanks for the crits, Fleta, Armack, and Nikaer Drekin!

Doctor Zero fucked around with this message at 22:52 on May 8, 2019

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Just in case anyone was confused and hasn't seen the clarification edited into the prompt post, the word count reductions are only for people duplicating words.

So everyone so far has the full 1500, and the next person in doesn't have to tell their whole story in their title...

Lemonie
Apr 11, 2019


In with Kenopsia

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

In with Dès Vu.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


sebmojo posted:

Thranrock brawlhalla, 1200 words, "a window opens both ways", 10 may 2019 1200 pst

A Thunderdome Brawl Entry
by crabrock
999 words

In the day-to-day it’s difficult to detect the edges. A child grows without any appreciable difference until a dad’s sweet baby is screaming and slamming doors. A newlywed’s love fades imperceptibly until she’s suddenly staying at her mother’s to “figure things out.” David held his morning newspaper closer to his face everyday until one day it touched his nose, startling him.

He rubbed his eyes until they squeaked. He tried to blink away the blur like it was possible to blink away age. It will be better after coffee, he rationalized, but it wasn’t. He looked down at his fuzzy eggs, then out the window at the swingset that seemed to have twice as many wooden beams as it once did. He made a mental note to get them checked out, but he was a busy.

Even after you’ve gone over the edge, it’s easy to ignore the bottom. A child stops answering calls on their birthday. Divorce papers get delivered by some kid on a motorcycle. David woke up blind in his empty apartment.



The surgeon’s consultation room smelled unsettlingly like burlap. A nurse guided David to a cushioned chair with buttons that poked him in the back. He reached up and adjusted his sunglasses, though they didn’t need adjusting. He was utterly aware of his useless eyes every time he blinked; the surgeon prattled on in medical jargon he was too distracted to understand.

“There’s no getting them back,” said the surgeon. She paused. “Have you heard of sudden onset macular degeneration?”

David blinked back the tears behind his dark glasses. “Oh, my eyes. No.”

“We like to say it’s like your retina got a cease and desist from your heart,” the surgeon chuckled at her own joke. “Frequent small spikes in blood pressure, on their own harmless but in stressful situations they can build up. Those tiny vessels in your eyes can’t handle that.”

“So pop?”

“More of a fizzle. Good news is we can replace them. Pretty routine stuff, limited by donors, of course. We have a potential match ready, but the genetic opsin profile does isn’t a great match.”

“Meaning?”

“Their eyes spent a lifetime analyzing wavelengths differently than your eyes had. Things will look discordant for the first few months, like you’re wearing novelty glasses. You’ll see things you hadn’t seen before, the world will seem strange and hostile. Your loved ones won’t look like you remember them, but like strangers. You can wait for a better match, but it may take a while.”

David took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “No, I don’t think it’ll be much of a problem.”



With his new eyes, David realized his life lacked a dog. The shelter had too many white dogs, he discovered. His donor had a higher percentage of red cone cells, giving everything an apparition of a reddish tint. All the white dogs looked pink. The doctor said it’d fade over time, as his brain got used to the different signals, but until then he didn’t think he wanted a pink dog.

So he got Ernst. Ernst had a black coat that looked black even with the new eyes. David liked black things because they were the only objects that didn’t seem like they were lying to him. Ernst scratched at the door for their nightly walk.

The magenta sky with its rolling pink clouds looked like rain, so David steered Ernst to the closest dog park. It was disquieting there, with all the pink and orange dogs making a mockery of a dog’s platonic ideal. He’d rather walk through the park where the dogs were fewer and more normally colored.

He unclipped Ernst’s leash and sank onto the bench next to the only other person there. The woman looked up at David and smiled, looking like she’d just run a marathon. Everybody looked constantly flushed, but David swore he could see the individual blood cells pumping through the capillaries in her cheek.

“That’s a beautiful dog,” she said. “How long you had him?”

He had to think for a few seconds. “A few months. And yours?”

“Oh, it isn’t mine. I just walk dogs for the money. They’re kind of gross, to be honest.”

David nodded, but didn’t speak.

The woman twirled her hair absentmindedly. “I hope this isn’t out of line, but you have beautiful eyes.”

He shrugged. “Thanks, they’re not mine.”

Her yellow eyes with their large pupils darted back and forth, examining his face for answers or a hint of a joke, but he didn’t crack a smile.

David explained his ordeal in too many details, and he wasn’t quite sure when her smile had morphed into a frown, only that it was one when he was finished. “That’s about all of it, I guess.”

“Oh,” she said, and they both went back to sitting silently on the bench.

The redness had faded from her face, the cheeriness gone. When she finally gave him a half-hearted smile and looked into his eyes, it was with pity, like one would have for an animal that had walked into a tar pit and was incapable of rescue. He wondered if he should try again, strike up a different conversation. He thought back to his first conversations with his ex wife, and how hard he’d worked to convince her he was worthy of her. About how she “totally thought he was annoying but eventually he’d won her over.” They used to laugh about it when telling people how they’d met, but he longer found it as funny. She’d told him on their first date how much she hated dogs.

David clipped Ernst back into his leash, waved goodbye to the woman, and walked back to his apartment as the first rain drops started to fall. The sky had turned dark gray, and David sighed with relief at the return to normalcy, even if it was only for a moment.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In with Moment of Tangency. :toxx:

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In with Nodus Tollens.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Thranguy/Crabrock brawl story

Angela Moon and the Goblin's Quest

1196 words

Just like most kids on her street, Angela had a window in her bedroom looking out on the yards and street below, on sprinklers watering summer lawns and older boys and men raking autumn leaves and shoveling winter snow. Unlike those other kids, Angela had another window. It was in her closet, low to the ground, beneath the bottom shelf. It should have looked out over the side yards and the Millers' fence. It didn't. It looked out elsewhere, somewhere it was always snowing.

The left side of Angela's closet was for clothes, the practical black jeans and shirts she preferred and the light pastel dresses she did not. The right side was full of her treasures. She had a shelf full of mystery books, Drews and Bobbseys, with not a single Hardy intruding. Another was full of taxidermied birds and squirrels, posed in a wary truce. The last held her biggest prize: a huge jar filled with glass eyes.

The eyes had belonged to her grandfather. He died when Angela was five, aware of death only as a thing that had happened to Franklin's family's old basset hound, and when her uncles and aunts and cousins descended on the old house to lay claims on his property, the eyes were mistaken for marbles and given to her, there being no other kids of a marble-appropriate age present. She instantly realized the mistake, and kept quiet, despite wondering how such a collection came into grandfather's life.

The window  was too small for a ten-year old girl to fit through. It was just the right side to shove a loudly crying baby through, but after consideration she decided her little brother's crimes were not sufficient to justify such extreme punishment. Besides, the thing was stuck, and she could not budge it.

Angela slept in her closet, some nights. When it was thundery outside, even though she hadn't been afraid of lightning for a long time. She would drag blanket and pillows across the room and close herself in. She thought she must worry her parents so when she did, and even tried to set an alarm extra early to make it back into the bed, but even when she didn't wake up until she was late for breakfast nobody made much of a fuss. There was a dreadful rumor through the house that she snored, and loudly. She did not believe it.

One night she was sleeping in her closet, not because of the weather but because her Uncle Rowan was visiting. She did not like Uncle Rowan, did not like the way he looked at her though she was still a few years too young to understand why. She was sleeping soundly when a strange rattling woke her up.

Her feet were cold. She turned to her clock and saw it was three in the morning. She heard the noise again, rubbed gunk from her eyes, and saw a goblin, rummaging through her jar of glass eyes.

"Hey," she said, in a loud whisper, "That's mine."

"She wakes," said the goblin. "Griffler is confused, bewildered, betrayed. She should not wake. Stop her!" The bird and squirrel generals bounced up at the order, then moved toward her. They moved without articulation, floating down and poking at her ineffectually with their heads. Angela stood up, brushed past them, and grabbed the jar.

"What do you even want with them?" she said.

"Not for Griffler," said the goblin. It was green and eight inches tall, wearing overalls and a Sunday church hat that threatened to fall off each time he shook his head, which he did constantly. "For the Land. For the Queen. Without the Manticore's Eye, all will be trammelled, soldiered and smouldered."

"That's no excuse for being rude," said Angela. "Did it occur to you to just ask for it nicely?"

Griffler opened his mouth full of teeth, all different, but did not speak for a long minute. The bird and squirrel generals stopped bumping Angela's feet. "Will you help Griffler? Please?"

Angela nodded. They searched the jar together, looking for the one Griffler described. "Violet and violence against ivory and envy." They looked at every eye in the jar but did not find it.

Angela sighed. "Of course. That one." He told Griffler that they had to wait until morning, and when he and the generals complained of boredom she gave them mysteries to read. They studied them, Griffler's held upside-down, all night.

In the morning Angela packed all three in her black backpack and went next door, to see Simon. Simon had traded her seven coins from his family vacation in Singapore, all different, for one of the eyes, four months ago. She didn't know what it would take to get it back.

"Can't," said Simon before negotiations could start. "Don't have it." Angela stared at him. Simon was a quiet boy, but like many quiet boys vulnerable to a good long stare. "You see, when my cousin Brice was visiting he told me we could bury it and grow us an eyeball tree. So we did, out in the shed. Watered it even for a week after Brice left before I realized he'd taken it."

"Where?" said Angela.

"What? Oh, he lives in Florida. Fort St. Lucie."

"Too far, too far," said Griffler, poking his head out from the backpack. Simon stared at it for a moment, then nodded.

"Did you ever try to dig it up?" asked Angela.

Simon shook his head. "I haven't even been out there since I realized-"

Angela was already in motion. Simon followed,into the back yard, into the shed with the busted lock. They opened the door, and stepped inside.

Inside was a crystal tree, branches jutting out at irregular angles. At the center, at her height, was the eye, resting in a knot-hole. Coiled around the base of the tree was a crystal snake. It slowly unwound.

Griffler jumped out of the backpack, pushing against Angela's head to launch. The generals moved quickly to flank the snake. The snake hissed and snapped. They circled each other.

Angela waited until they were on the opposite side, then lunged for the eye. She grabbed it. The snake abandoned squirrel and bird and sprung at her. It slithered up her arm and shoulder, right to her ear. It whispered things in her ear that she could neither remember nor fully forget. Simon shouted at her. She didn't hear. Griffler shouted too. The generals poked her knees.

Then the snake told a lie. Angela knew it was a lie, and knew everything else had been true, and both shook her. It was a very pleasant lie. She was awake. She grabbed the snake at the middle and threw it at the crystal tree. Both shattered into crystal dust.

She took Griffler home and watched him carry the Manticore's eye back to the land.

In time she forgot her adventure, or decided it was a dream. Until her twentieth birthday, when she woke beside a nearly-over boyfriend and a satchel full of stolen money, remembering everything the snake had said, knowing how to go through the too-small closet window.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk





Ty for your leavings, judging within 24 hours ish

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Signups closed. Write good words, all.

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


5101 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, IL 60609

996 words

Take this moment in. You’re alone. There’s no one to judge you for being cowardly. There’s no need to pretend they didn’t hurt you. There’s no reason to show how much of a man you are by shrugging it off. The cops have left; Maybe they’re doing paperwork in their offices, maybe they’re just attending to someone else’s problem. You’re in the interrogation room of whatever station they brought you to, a completely plain and empty place. There’s a single cheap chair in in the middle of the room, but you don’t want to sit anywhere you can’t rest your head. So take a seat on the cold floor and put your aching head against the cement wall. Take this moment to meditate on what you’ve endured. It’s the only one you’re going to get.

Don’t think about whatever the cops are doing in the other room. Don’t think about the stinging scrapes on both your knees or the blood drying down your right ear. Don’t think about how much the ambulance is going to cost so you can get checked for concussions. Don’t think about replacing that missing lens from your glasses. Don’t think about how nighttime meant mystery yesterday and danger today.

Don’t think about the call you’ll have to make to your mom. Don’t think about how she’ll immediately ask about what race the attackers were, and how quick you’ll be to mention that the cop who saved your life was also black, and how she’ll say, “oh, so they were chased off by a big black guy with a gun” and how you’ll say, “Mom, I never said anything about how the size of the cop.”

Don’t think about the classmates who’ll ask you what you were wearing and instead of saying “gently caress you, who cares what I was wearing?” you’ll try to make it sound like you were dressed poor so as not to seem like a rich kid colonizing black Chicago. Don’t think about how this will never get you any sympathy. You weren’t raped, you weren’t hospitalized, your wounds will heal. You got beat up a bit. What right do you have to be traumatized, white boy?

Don’t think about the little pink bottle of mace you’ll buy because pink is the only color they sell mace in. Don’t think about how you’ll walk around outside with one hand in your pocket with your thumb constantly on the trigger, even in daylight.

Don’t think about the weirdly aggressive language on the subpoena you’ll eventually get. You’ll dread going to the courthouse, not because you’ll be afraid to see the face of the desperate teenager they arrested but because you’ll just want it to be over. Definitely don’t think about the fact that it will never be over.

Don’t think about the time your friends will be walking to your apartment to play video games after a late party and they’ll stop to gently caress around four blocks from where it happened and you’ll insist they keep moving and they’ll think you’re a dick because you should be safe in a big drunk group and though there will be five of you, there were seven of them. And don’t you dare think of all the cute girls who will silently judge you a pussy for insisting on Ubering a walkable distance.

Don’t think about how that bleeding ear will scab. Don’t think about how often you’ll pick at that scab. Don’t think about how you’ll have that scab for years because of how often you’ll pick at it.

Don’t think about how you’ll feel that first punch out of nowhere sometimes, at work, or at a movie, years from now. Don’t think about how you’ll always tell people it’s nothing when you jolt suddenly, because you’re supposed to be okay even you’re not okay, even when okayness seems like a distant planet.

Don’t think about how every stranger who walks by you on the street will be a potential threat. Don’t think about how much safer you’re going to feel being inside than outside and how easy it will be to drown your terror in the comforting light of a TV screen.

Don’t think about how this pain, this panic, this all-encompassing fear will fade over weeks and months and years until it’s a dull, constant, sourceless anxiety. Don’t think about how the days will melt together in this new background worry.

Take this lonely moment in this empty gray interrogation room to breathe. Take in the panic. Take in the relief. Take in the life that was almost taken from you tonight. You can feel it now, that precious energy within you, that energy that is you, that crystal force you’ve buried beneath homework and job poo poo and money worries. You’ve been drowning in mundane anxiety, but tonight, you’ve been punched, kicked, beaten back to the surface. You are alive. How long has it been since you took a moment to remember that? Take it in. It will be gone soon. The fatigue and the bullshit will return to drag you back into numbness. Take it in. You can feel the blood beneath your skin, flowing in little rivers. Inhale, and transform the stale police station air into wind inside you. You are wind and water and dirt and electricity. Tonight, the pieces of you were nearly scattered away forever, but they held together long enough for someone to hear the hurricane you let loose from your lungs. Take it in. Your ribs are strong enough to take their kicks, your arms and legs strong enough to pull yourself off bloodied concrete, your soul strong enough to brag about it over drinks tomorrow. You are strong and you are brave, even if you’ll have to pretend to be stronger and braver. You survived, and you will endure. Take it in!

Now, after holding that storm inside until it hurts,

fearfully angrily desperately raucously primally jubilantly triumphantly loudly!

let it out.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Moon Report
393 words


As the ISRO ‘JAGANNATH’ entered the THIN atmosphere of GANYMEDE, space explorer SITA RADHAKRISHNAN kept watch on distant stars. HER SHUTTLE landed on the surface, and the LONELY ASTRONAUT prepared for the perilous solo expedition which awaited HER. In the stillness, SITA took a moment to REFLECT on the WEARYING journey; SHE said to HERSELF, “I’M THE MOST ALONE ANYONE’S EVER BEEN.” Then, SHE began HER trek through the BARREN PLAINS which stretched before HER. Deep below the ground, ancient ARTEFACTS hinted at a terrible and profound truth: SITA was not the first.

Records of the ISRO landing were lost due to ENVIRONMENTAL AND CIVILIZATIONAL COLLAPSE ON THE EARTH’S SURFACE. THIS EVENT WAS WITNESSED AND ABETTED BY LUNAR/MARTIAN/ORBITAL COLONIES.

+++

As the RUSTING CORVETTE entered the ARID atmosphere of GANMEDY, space explorer RAJA ‘ONE-EYE’ WINDSOR kept watch on distant stars. HIS SHIP landed on the surface and the GIDDY CORSAIR prepared the perilous solo expedition which awaited HIM. In the stillness, RAJA, took a moment to REMINISCE on the DEATH-DEFYING journey; HE said to HIMSELF, “AFTER THIS DISCOVERY I’LL GO DOWN IN LEGEND.” Then, HE began HIS trek through the ICY LANDSCAPE which stretched before HIM. Deep below the ground, ancient HUMAN REMAINS hinted at a terrible and profound truth: RAJA was not the first.

Records of the CORSAIR landing were lost due to RAJA WINDSOR DYING OF RADIATION POISONING BEFORE HIS EXPLOITS COULD BECOME KNOWN. THE SCRAPPING OF HIS SHIP AFTER DEATH DESTROYED PHYSICAL MATERIAL COLLECTED FROM THE MOON.

+++

As the ETHEREAL THOUGHTFORM entered the HUMID atmosphere of SOL VC, space explorer TWELVE-SEVEN ‘HIS VOICE’ kept watch on distant stars. ITS AURA landed on the surface and the CURIOUS MIND-DROID prepared for the perilous solo expedition which awaited IT. In the stillness, ‘HIS VOICE’ took a moment to RUMINATE on the LONG, LONG journey; IT said to ITSELF, “PARAMETERS ARE CLEAR – WISH ME LUCK, EVERYONE.” Then IT began ITS trek though the DENSE JUNGLE which stretched before IT. Deep below the ground, ancient TERRAFORMING MACHINES hinted at a terrible and profound truth: ‘HIS VOICE’ was not the first.

Records of the THOUGHTFORM landing were lost due to A VIRUS IN THE MEMORY BANKS. A WILD MINDWORM WIPED APPROX. 33,198 YEARS OF HUMAN HISTORY FROM THE ARCHIVES BEFORE BEING DELETED.

+++

It is estimated this recurring event has happened an approximate total of _______ times.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk





crabrock posted:


this is very beautiful though I'm not convinced I understand how the title relates to the story I'll come back if I work it out
A Thunderdome Brawl Entry
by crabrock
999 words

In the day-to-day it’s difficult to detect the edges. A child grows without any appreciable difference until a dad’s sweet baby is screaming and slamming doors. A newlywed’s love fades imperceptibly until she’s suddenly staying at her mother’s to “figure things out.” David held his morning newspaper closer to his face everyday until one day it touched his nose, startling him. there's a slight clunkiness in the tense switch here that actually works to move from the abstract to the specific, and good verb choice

He rubbed his eyes until they squeaked. i like this verb, it's unexpected He tried to blink away the blur like it was possible to blink away age. this has a vague, cliche air It will be better after coffee, he rationalized, but it wasn’t. He looked down at his fuzzy eggs, then out the window at the swingset that seemed to have twice as many wooden beams as it once did. He made a mental note to get them checked out, but he was a busy. and this is weak, typo aside

Even after you’ve gone over the edge, it’s easy to ignore the bottom. A child stops answering calls on their birthday. Divorce papers get delivered by some kid on a motorcycle. David woke up blind in his empty apartment. i like this opener, it's strong and nicely layered but i feel you could have got some more character than, old, oblivious? what does he do, e.g., what's his jam



The surgeon’s consultation room smelled unsettlingly like burlap. A nurse guided David to a cushioned chair with buttons that poked him in the back. He reached up and adjusted his sunglasses, though they didn’t need adjusting. He was utterly aware of his useless eyes every time he blinked; the surgeon prattled on in medical jargon he was too distracted to understand. this is all really nice observation apart from the vague last phrase

“There’s no getting them back,” said the surgeon. She paused. “Have you heard of sudden onset macular degeneration?”

David blinked back the tears behind his dark glasses. “Oh, my eyes. No.”

“We like to say it’s like your retina got a cease and desist from your heart,” the surgeon chuckled at her own joke. “Frequent small spikes in blood pressure, on their own harmless but in stressful situations they can build up. Those tiny vessels in your eyes can’t handle that.” i think you could have done more with this as a metaphor for the things in his life that preceded the blindness actually

“So pop?”

“More of a fizzle. Good news is we can replace them. Pretty routine stuff, limited by donors, of course. We have a potential match ready, but the genetic opsin profile does typo? isn’t a great match.”

“Meaning?” bland dialogue piffle come now mr rock ur better than this

“Their eyes spent a lifetime analyzing wavelengths differently than your eyes had grammar is weird. Things will look discordant for the first few months, like you’re wearing novelty glasses. You’ll see things you hadn’t seen before, the world will seem strange and hostile. Your loved ones won’t look like you remember them, but like strangers. You can wait for a better match, but it may take a while.” ok this is a breathtakingly good idea, i love it, and it sort of springboards off the 'nbd yeah we'll just give u some magic realism eyeballs you might see some metaphors through them idek' casualness with which the idea is presented.

David took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “No, I don’t think it’ll be much of a problem.” also bland dialogue, i think this is my least favourite part of the story so far



With his new eyes, David realized his life lacked a dog. no, this doesn't follow at all, don't let me down metaphor eyeball conceit The shelter had too many white dogs, he discovered. His donor had a higher percentage of red cone cells, giving everything an apparition of a reddish tint. All the white dogs looked pink. The doctor said it’d fade over time, as his brain got used to the different signals, but until then he didn’t think he wanted a pink dog. ok

So he got Ernst. Ernst had a black coat that looked black even with the new eyes. David liked black things because they were the only objects that didn’t seem like they were lying to him. Ernst scratched at the door for their nightly walk. ok

The magenta sky with its rolling pink clouds looked like rain, so David steered i only like this verb if david doesn't really like dogs, and i understand from the story that's not the case so what gives Ernst to the closest dog park. It was disquieting there, with all the pink and orange dogs making a mockery of a dog’s platonic ideal.what is a dog's platonic ideal i'm getting mad now stop writing piffle He’d rather walk through the park where the dogs were fewer and more normally colored.

He unclipped Ernst’s leash and sank onto the bench next to the only other person vivid there. also what? are there dogs/people at this poorly described park or aren't there The woman looked up at David and smiled, looking like she’d just run a marathon. Everybody looked constantly flushed, but David swore to whom he could see the individual blood cells pumping through the capillaries in her cheek.

“That’s a beautiful dog,” she said. “How long you had him?”

He had to think for a few seconds. “A few months. And yours?”

“Oh, it isn’t mine. I just walk dogs for the money. They’re kind of gross, to be honest.”

David nodded, but didn’t speak.

The woman twirled her hair absentmindedly. “I hope this isn’t out of line, but you have beautiful eyes.” i guess this is flirting but it reads a little weirdly, like who would even say that? oh someone who wants the conceit of the story explained to them.

He shrugged. “Thanks, they’re not mine.” mm

Her yellow eyes with their large pupils darted back and forth, examining his face for answers or a hint of a joke, but he didn’t crack a smile. i suspec david told a joke in 1973 at the southeastern wisconsin cub scouts cookout and marshmallow roast and noone got it so he swore to never say anything funny or interesting again

David explained his ordeal in too many details, mhm and he wasn’t quite sure when her smile had morphed into a frown, only that it was one when he was finished. “That’s about all of it, I guess.” ok david is a dullard i'm getting bored af sharing a story experience with him

“Oh,” she said, and they both went back to sitting silently on the bench. oh

The redness had faded from her face, the cheeriness gone. When she finally gave him a half-hearted smile and looked into his eyes, it was with pity, like one would have for an animal that had walked into a tar pit and was incapable of rescue. He wondered if he should try again, strike up a different conversation. He thought back to his first conversations with his ex wife, and how hard he’d worked to convince her he was worthy of her. About how she “totally thought he was annoying but eventually he’d won her over.” They used to laugh about it when telling people how they’d met, but he longer found it as funny. She’d told him on their first date how much she hated dogs. this is a solid paragraph, but i think it's a bit small and late to carry the emotional weight of the story. so he stumbles drearily into a divorce, gets a dog, realises he didn't really like his wife much anyway; his rose coloured metaphors don't change the way he sees the world.

David clipped Ernst back into his leash, waved goodbye to the woman, and walked back to his apartment as the first rain drops started to fall. The sky had turned dark gray, and David sighed with relief bland cliche at the return to normalcy , even if it was only for a moment. not a fan of this, though i quite liked it on my first reading; it squanders an awesome idea on a wildly tedious character who doesn't noticeably learn, grow or change apart from noticing that perhaps he never really liked his ex wife who left him that much which while it has commendable aesopian form doesn't do much with a cool idea.

Thranguy posted:

Thranguy/Crabrock brawl story

Angela Moon and the Goblin's Quest

1196 words

Just like most kids on her street, Angela had a window in her bedroom looking out on the yards and street below, on sprinklers watering summer lawns and older boys and men raking autumn leaves and shoveling winter snow. Unlike those other kids, Angela had another window. It was in her closet, low to the ground, beneath the bottom shelf. It should have looked out over the side yards and the Millers' fence. It didn't. It looked out elsewhere, somewhere it was always snowing. brisk, fairy tale secondary world (i think?) opener

The left side of Angela's closet was for clothes, the practical black jeans and shirts she preferred and the light pastel dresses she did not. The right side was full of her treasures. She had a shelf full of mystery books, Drews and Bobbseys, with not a single Hardy intruding. Another was full of taxidermied birds and squirrels, posed in a wary truce. The last held her biggest prize: a huge jar filled with glass eyes. this is really good character work, though it flirts with cliche - describing people by the stuff that they like is a classic for a reason and there's barely ever a reason not to do it. i think i would have liked crabrock's piece a lot more if it done a little more of this

The eyes had belonged to her grandfather. He died when Angela was five, aware of death only as a thing that had happened to Franklin's family's old basset hound, and when her uncles and aunts and cousins descended on the old house to lay claims on his property, the eyes were mistaken for marbles and given to her, there being no other kids of a marble-appropriate age present. She instantly realized the mistake, and kept quiet, despite wondering how such a collection came into grandfather's life. I love the skipping details in this para, it evokes a bunch of scenes without needing to describe them

The window  was too small for a ten-year old girl to fit through. It was just the right side to shove a loudly crying baby through, but after consideration she decided her little brother's crimes were not sufficient to justify such extreme punishment. INCORRECT ANGELA KILL ALL MEN Besides, the thing was stuck, and she could not budge it. GET A SCREWDRIVER

Angela slept in her closet, some nights. When it was thundery outside, even though she hadn't been afraid of lightning for a long time. She would drag blanket and pillows across the room and close herself in. She thought she must worry her parents so when she did, and even tried to set an alarm extra early to make it back into the bed, but even when she didn't wake up until she was late for breakfast nobody made much of a fuss. There was a dreadful rumor through the house that she snored, and loudly. She did not believe it. i think fundamentally i like this story a lot more because it's jam packed with precise details of psychology and social interaction

One night she was sleeping in her closet, not because of the weather but because her Uncle Rowan was visiting. She did not like Uncle Rowan, did not like the way he looked at her though she was still a few years too young to understand why. i don't like this, it breaks the pov and i don't think you ever pay it off so it just sort of dangles there being awkwardly grown up and icky She was sleeping soundly when a strange rattling woke her up.

Her feet were cold. She turned to her clock and saw it was three in the morning. She heard the noise again, rubbed gunk from her eyes, and saw a goblin, rummaging through her jar of glass eyes.

"Hey," she said, in a loud whisper, "That's mine."

"She wakes," said the goblin. "Griffler is confused, bewildered, betrayed. She should not wake. Stop her!" The bird and squirrel generals bounced up at the order, then moved toward her. They moved without articulation, floating down and poking at her ineffectually with their heads.lol classic you can't trust squirrels worth a drat Angela stood up, brushed past them, and grabbed the jar.

"What do you even want with them?" she said.

"Not for Griffler," said the goblin. It was green and eight inches tall, wearing overalls and a Sunday church hat that threatened to fall off each time he shook his head, which he did constantly. "For the Land. For the Queen. Without the Manticore's Eye, all will be trammelled, soldiered and smouldered."

"That's no excuse for being rude," said Angela. "Did it occur to you to just ask for it nicely?" *nods firmly*

Griffler opened his mouth full of teeth, all different, but did not speak for a long minute. The bird and squirrel generals stopped bumping Angela's feet. "Will you help Griffler? Please?"

Angela nodded. They searched the jar together, looking for the one Griffler described. "Violet and violence against ivory and envy." They looked at every eye in the jar but did not find it.

Angela sighed. "Of course. That one." He told Griffler that they had to wait until morning, and when he and the generals complained of boredom she gave them mysteries to read. i like the and then, and then kid story telling nature of this bit though it's maybe a hair too far in the cutesy direction They studied them, Griffler's held upside-down, all night.

In the morning Angela packed all three in her black backpack and went next door, to see Simon. Simon had traded her seven coins from his family vacation in Singapore, all different, for one of the eyes, four months ago. She didn't know what it would take to get it back.

"Can't," said Simon before negotiations could start. "Don't have it." Angela stared at him. Simon was a quiet boy, but like many quiet boys vulnerable to a good long stare. "You see, when my cousin Brice was visiting he told me we could bury it and grow us an eyeball tree. So we did, out in the shed. Watered it even for a week after Brice left before I realized he'd taken it."

"Where?" said Angela.

"What? Oh, he lives in Florida. Fort St. Lucie."

"Too far, too far," said Griffler, poking his head out from the backpack. Simon stared at it for a moment, then nodded. haha

"Did you ever try to dig it up?" asked Angela.

Simon shook his head. "I haven't even been out there since I realized-"

Angela was already in motion. Simon followed,into the back yard, into the shed with the busted lock. They opened the door, and stepped inside.

Inside was a crystal tree, branches jutting out at irregular angles. At the center, at her height, was the eye, resting in a knot-hole. Coiled around the base of the tree was a crystal snake. It slowly unwound.like simon i'm on this weird fuckin train now, ok snakes and crystal trees, fine,

Griffler jumped out of the backpack, pushing against Angela's head to launch. The generals moved quickly to flank the snake. The snake hissed and snapped. They circled each other. this is a little clumsy or at least feels that way since the rest is so adroit

Angela waited until they were on the opposite side, then lunged for the eye. She grabbed it. The snake abandoned squirrel and bird and sprung at her. It slithered up her arm and shoulder, right to her ear. It whispered things in her ear that she could neither remember nor fully forget. Simon shouted at her. She didn't hear. Griffler shouted too. The generals poked her knees.

Then the snake told a lie. Angela knew it was a lie, and knew everything else had been true, and both shook her. It was a very pleasant lie. this is a cheat, you only get away with it because the rest of the story is so charming She was awake. She grabbed the snake at the middle and threw it at the crystal tree. Both shattered into crystal dust.

She took Griffler home and watched him carry the Manticore's eye back to the land.

In time she forgot her adventure, or decided it was a dream. Until her twentieth birthday, when she woke beside a nearly-over nice boyfriend and a satchel full of stolen money, badass remembering everything the snake had said, knowing how to go through the too-small closet window. normally i hate 'then the real adventures began' but this is corker, because the story was satisfying in itself, and any subsequent adventures (which you should totally write) will be with a different character

ok so crabrock is a stone killer wordlord, and if you were both operating at full stretch i'd proooooobably bet on him (though nothing i wasn't happy to lose), but he did not bring his best to this fight so it goes instead to Thranguy who is the Vicotr nice work

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.

Ambedo: A Moment You Experience For Its Own Sake

Moment by Moment
1315 words

“Are you on a pilgrimage, seeker?”

“Of a sort, yes,” the plain man in the blue and beige yukata replied to the temple caretaker.

I had never seen anyone on an actual pilgrimage before, so I did my best to nonchalantly peek at the man. He carried nothing, wore simple but comfortable looking sandals. His only possession seemed to be a pouch hanging from a belt.

I thought he didn’t look all that different from any other tourist drifting through the many temples to the various Buddhist gods, although it was mostly foreigners who dressed up in rented but traditional yukata and kimono, snapping pictures of each other every twenty steps, broads smiles and fingers raised in a ‘V’.

The caretaker, an ancient man, eyed the pilgrim, stooped and leaning on his simple broom fashioned from a cut branch and twigs. “I could tell by your manner. I wish you success in your travels, holy one.”

“I am not holy, but thank you.”

The older man smiled, and began again the endless task of sweeping gravel off of the paving stones.

I picked up my painting supplies box and canvas easel and wandered closer, intrigued.

The pilgrim bowed to the ancient caretaker, watched him for a few moments, then headed deeper into the temple grounds. He walked at half speed compared to everyone else - purposefully, intentionally, not meandering.

I followed at a distance. He never once looked at a temple, a stone lantern, an educational placard, nor followed the crowd. When he stood, he was a pole planted in a brook, streams of people flowing around him leaving him undisturbed. He looked past the historic buildings, or into the woods, or out over a sudden break in the trees, or at the passing humanity all but ignoring him.

I worked my way closer and nonchalantly stopped next to him. I was quite a bit taller, and I turned to look over his head at an imaginary point of interest.

“Can I be of assistance?” The seeker said, his voice cool and smooth like a stream over flat rocks.

I felt my face flush.

“Pardon me.” I tilted a stiff bow at him. “I didn’t mean to be rude. I just…”

We stood on coarse white gravel in a jog of the path between shrines. Wind whispered through the pines, the murmur of passersby lost and swept away. The sun filtered down through verdant needles in golden rays.

“…I’ve never seen anyone on a pilgrimage before. I didn’t know that kind of thing was still done.”

I could see now that he was older than I had thought, his face was creased, crows feet at the corners of his eyes, more salt than pepper scattered through his temples.

He nodded and said nothing.

I turned to him. “May I ask, sir, what it is you are seeking?”

He stared at the pines for so long, I wondered if he had even heard me.

“Moments,” he finally said.

I grew excited, and waved my art supplies. “If you’ll forgive my imposition, sir, I am also trying to capture moments. I was hoping to find -”
His lips pursed and he glanced at me. It was the first sign of emotion to change his serene expression that I’d seen.

“Not like that,” he said and walked away.

He picked his way through the throng and stopped to watch a boy, no older than five, trying to catch a grasshopper beneath the frowning countenance of an oni - a devil. The boy wore an expression of deadly seriousness, oblivious to everything but the insect, the father oblivious taking a picture of the boys’ sister who posed in front of the frowning statue, imitating the expression. I took out my phone and raised it for a picture, but the seeker glanced at me sideways. I hesitated, then put the phone away.

I walked over and watched the boy - always grabbing where the grasshopper had been two seconds earlier. The girl stuck out her tongue and the father snapped pictures on his phone with encouragement.

“Sir, sorry if I offended,” I said.

He turned to look at me fully. Studied my face.

“Have you painted something today?” He asked. “I would like to see it.”

“No, not yet.”

He grunted, looked again to the family. “A good start, then.”

I bristled.

“I have pictures of some of my work,” I offered.

“Would you show me?” He asked.

I dug my phone out. I scrolled through an album of my paintings - A sunset over a bay, a young woman in a yellow dress sitting alone on a park bench staring wistfully, an embracing couple - a bundle of flowers on the sidewalk below.

“You’re very good,” he said with a nod. “These are things you saw?”

“Yes.” I warmed with pride. This serene stranger’s praise felt better than any compliments I’d yet received. He had no investment, no reason to boost nor tear down my ego. It was what it was.

“So,” I ventured, “you don’t photograph, or paint?”

He shook his head. “No. I don’t capture.”

I furrowed my brow. “Do you write? Will you craft a story, keep a diary?”

He shook his head again. “That would also be capturing. Recording. I simply seek the moment.”

“Then, I am afraid I do not understand,” I said.

“No. You do not.” He nodded as if that was the wisest thing I’d yet said. “Walk with me if you wish, but please, no more questions. I could explain all day and night but it is better to just experience.”

I thought I might have felt chastised, but he didn’t sound critical.

So we walked in silence, stopping occasionally to look at random things: A young girl fixing her hair in a pocket compact; ants streaming to a gob of spilled ice cream; visitors to a shrine dropping coins into the collection box with a loud clunk before clapping three times and praying. We climbed a long, stone stairway where children ran past, laughing. He stopped and watched them. I tried to make the connection.

We came to an out of the way clearing with huge chunk of stone lurking in the center, carved with very old kanji. Pine trees stood in a circle, keeping whispering vigil over the monolith.

The seeker stepped to the edge of the trees, ignoring the stone. He stared out into nature, relaxed, hands clasped behind the small of his back.

I felt the overwhelming desire to paint - this figure out of another time, contemplating the universe.

“May I paint you sir?” I asked.

“If you must,” He sighed. “I cannot stop you.”

I hastily set up my easel before he might change his mind. I set down my box of paints and brushes, opened it, but stopped when I heard rustling.
I quietly straightened and looked into the trees.

There, stepping out from behind a thick, rough barked pine, a fox glanced at us. She held something dangling in her jaws. At first I thought it was a small rabbit, or maybe a large mouse. I froze. The fox froze. The object dangled and twisted. It was a kit.

The three of us stood still as statues, gazes locked. Seconds passed, then minutes. Time stretched out. It could have been years. I forgot about my phone, my easel. I just stared, trying not to let the moment end.

The fox blinked, and the spell broke. She trotted off with a backward glance.

“Did you see that?” I whispered.

“Of course,” He said turning to me. “And so did you.”

He looked over my blank easel.

“Your best work yet, I think.” I frowned and opened my mouth, but he raised a finger and tapped his forehead. “The moment, for the moment itself. Perfect. Just ours.” He smiled. “And the fox’s.”

I looked at the blank canvas and understood.

Lemonie
Apr 11, 2019


Windows
1495 words

It was very late when they brought the caravan, long past his normal workday. Rik had been already on his way out of his workshop, ready to go to Susie’s for a glass of beer or two. He immediately disliked the two guys that brought it, and there was a part of him that was sure he ought to turn them away. But he liked conflict less, so he just stayed where he was.

“You’re Rik the Repair Man, right?”, one of them said. Rik nodded.

“Can you fix this?”

He nodded again without even taking a look. They gave him some money, told him that they would be back in three days to pick it up, and left. Rik was relieved when they were gone, but a little annoyed. He had looked forward to Susie’s tonight, but now he was not so sure he would make it. It was already nine, and at ten thirty he went to bed, no exceptions.

Most of his days were spent the same: People brought their broken things and left them to his expert eye, fully trusting him to pass judgment. If he couldn’t fix it, he would bring it to the junkyard himself. His work was never boring, for all objects were unique to him, but similar enough to be sampled and categorized and filed away in his mind as a new piece of the puzzle, lending skill to his eyes and hands. When he got tired of it in the evening, he would go to Susie’s, or just sit on his tiny balcony with a beer in hand and watch out over the city. He loved the city, as long as he didn’t have to get too involved with its people or politics. It was a good life. Susie always said he was a simple man, and that he was “endearing in his naivety, but not spoilt by this town.”

He was not sure what that meant, but he knew he wanted to see Susie.

He couldn’t leave the caravan out in the front, though, because it was in the driveway, and the driveway ought to be clear. But already as he approached it, he could tell that it gave him an uneasy feeling, like the one he had gotten on the graveyard where they had buried his mother.

I should go to Susie’s, he thought. She always has a smile for me.

While he was thinking it, his feet had carried him all the way to the front of the vehicle. The damage was extensive: It had multiple large dents in the left side and bumper and one of the lights was completely smashed. He contemplated for a moment how it had happened, and where this car had come from, but then he pushed the thought away.

They had left the key in the lock and Rik was about to open the door when he suddenly froze. The car had changed. He had seen it out of the corner of his eyes, definitely seen it. The front left side and bumper, that had been bashed up but clean, were now entirely covered in dirt. Only it wasn’t dirt. He didn’t know how he knew this, as it was twilight and almost impossible to see. But he knew.

I should go now if I want to make it to Susie’s. She probably has something nice on offer today, fried liver, or a grilled trout.

He hunkered down next to the broken light and stared at the car in helpless bewilderment. Then he drew out his pocket cloth, spit on it and started rubbing at the reddish-brown layer that was covering the trim. Nothing happened, the cloth didn’t even turn red. He felt a fleeting astonishment, but it made sense after all. The blood was clearly there, and yet, if somebody else had walked by the car right in this instant, he was sure they would not have seen it.

If I go to Susie’s now, I can still have the offer of the day and make it home before ten thirty.

He got up and walked to the door on the driver’s side. After a short hesitation, he opened it and got behind the wheel. For a moment his senses were entirely filled with the body odour of a man, someone who definitely didn’t belong here and drowned out everything else. Then the evening breeze came through the open door and cleared the stench, and suddenly Rik could feel everything else, and it made him shudder to the core.

He could see – or rather feel - how the girl that had owned this caravan had sat here steering, leaning back in the seat, with both windows open to let the air play with the little wind chimes she had hung from the mirror. She had slept in one of the two beds in the back, always wondering if there would ever be someone in the other, but not bothered by the fact that there was not. Rik was filled with sensations of her, a young woman who loved freedom and going places, who wasn’t afraid of much and only had a vague idea of life, but all the enthusiasm for it. The vision changed and he saw her running in the headlights, fighting for her life. She had stood no chance. Rik had never been an imaginative person, in fact the very concept of imagination was foreign to him, and this sudden vision overwhelmed him to the point of crying out. The girl had died, had been murdered, with her own home. Her only mistake had been coming to this town and crossing paths with the wrong people. It was hard to fathom the brutality of the thing.

Rik sat in the driver’s seat in shock, trying to understand why his mind had been opened in such an abrupt and violent way. It was strangely quiet in the caravan, like all the sounds from outside had been extinguished. It seemed to exist in its own bubble that would never move on because the girl it belonged to was dead. Rik wanted to get out, but he couldn’t. He sat there motionless, while memories slowly flowed back into him.

He remembered the house he had lived in as a child. He remembered going in his father’s little study to look for an explanation, because “he never liked it here” was just not good enough. And he remembered how he had stared in wonder at the sparse furniture and the chaotic mess of paper and drawings his father had left behind, and how a window in his mind had opened, just like now. It had hit him all at once, the other, the not him. Most people were hard to comprehend face to face, his father had been no exception. But there and then, in his empty room, he had gotten a glimpse of him. A man with strange and powerful thoughts that were so different from Rik’s own. A man that was surrounded by people slower and simpler than him. Whatever that meant.

It was the first time that Rik had realized that life appeared very different to other people than it appeared to him, and that living in this place he called home could feel suffocating. It had scared him out of his mind. He had worked hard to forget about it, but now it had all come back. Now, in the caravan, he understood other things, things he’d never wanted to know about : What Susie meant when she said this city had “too many bad apples”, why she sometimes had that edge to her when she said things that she knew went over his head, and why people only talked about some topics by carefully circling around them. He knew that a girl was dead, and that most likely, no consequences would arise from it. And this time, he knew he would not be able to forget. His mother had made it easy, with her cheerful songs and flower decorations and her silence. But she wasn’t here anymore, there was only Susie, who had a sharp gaze that could see right through him, in a way he could never see other people.

There was something else that made it through to his consciousness, a clear thought that wasn’t other, but had come from him alone. His father had left him. He deserved to be forgotten. The girl, however, did not. He was much too late to help her, but he could at least learn her name.
He gripped the steering wheel with both hands to stop them shaking and took a deep breath. The fear was there waiting, the fear of the other that made him want to retreat into himself. But he ignored it. He looked at the small wooden charm hanging from the mirror, and at the fake fur on the seats, and then he closed his eyes and opened the window wide.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

timeless Ned Flanders style


Onism: The Awareness of How Little of the World You'll Experience

Infinite Harmonies
1434/1500 words

The boy’s practiced hands stayed perfectly steady as he depressed a wooden tong, shaping the inside of a mouthpiece. Bach’s complex, repeating melodies ran musical stairs in beautiful logic. This was one of so many he had lost count, but young Armand still felt the first time’s tingly reverence as he lifted the mouthpiece to his lips. A sharp, high trill; the scream of an anguished angel wishing to come to earth, but denied. Three of these, in time with the music, and Armand could not muster a fourth; his budding smile prevented him from blowing. Almost perfect. A tiny adjustment in the hardening clay, a final trill, and there it was: the perfect note, in harmony with Bach.

To complement the mouthpiece, he began to work material into the plump body of an ocarina. The clay was getting dry, but Armand was not worried, the rest just simple routine.

But then mother knocked to pick him up. With shock, Armand realized that Bach was already in the fourth movement. They had to leave in ten minutes or miss the final opportunity to see Japan, a band they’d both miss dearly.

But the clay was hardening, and the mouthpiece would be wasted, and it was perfect. Armand pleaded for extension. The eight-year-old’s optimism was unbroken – mum’s car was expensive and fast. Spoiling him, she relented.

Forty minutes later, Armand tossed the finished ocarina in the oven, sprinted to the garage, and mum sped, and they just barely did not make it. Closed doors, a shared tantrum that did not open them, and a sad and angry trip back. The last chance, his mother kept drilling into him through desperate tears. Never again a Japan concert, an opportunity forever missed. For a stupid ocarina that Armand smashed immediately upon returning, he trashed his atelier, a hobby dead and buried out of impotent spite.

And he swore that he would never again be stupid enough to miss music this important.

As his age and estate increased, Armand worked hard to fulfil this promise. Contracts with record sellers saw him supplied with all the new releases. They played while he charted concert dates. Hired people to organize his life around them. Was devastated to learn that entire genres he had dismissed before were finding recognition. Tupac had come and gone while Armand was still scoffing about rap not being music. He needed to go to even more concerts, to not miss the origins of bands that would become world famous. Armand became able to predict the future of music.

He stood in a trendy club in Manhattan, letting clear guitar plucks and well-timed drumbeats jerk his body into involuntary motions, moving with the rhythm of The Strokes. A young and hungry band who he was sure would dominate the new millennium. His thoughts dissolved inside insistent basslines, lyrics that took a humble backseat to the constrained melodies. Immersed in their rock flow, he drifted towards happiness…

The alarm in his pocket jostled Armand out of his reverie. Right. Rage Against the Machine was bound to break up soon, final concert in Los Angeles. He could have attended in New York six days prior, but he wouldn’t miss the truly last one for anything in the world.

As he left the club, The Strokes started a wonderful new song, but he had to go. Let the clay dry. Listening to demo tapes on his flight across America, he wondered if his mother’s funeral was going well, back home in England.

Fifteen years later, Armand smashed dissonant chords into his grand piano, the last made by Baldwin before they closed their American factory. He needed to admit to himself that it was not working. Daily, multiple albums that could be the Next Big Thing were uploaded to Soundcloud. His old distribution lines crumbled as record stores closed. So much potentially great music he would never hear. In the depths of his despair, he had withdrawn, home after so many years in every country on the world, turned his back to small clubs and great halls, Rock and Metal and Indie and bloody Dubstep.

On the sheet music holder before him rested a well-read science magazine. String theory! Theoretical physics that should be way over his head. But Armand understood. Vibrating strings made up the universe, harmonies suffusing dimensions into the high double digits – what else but music that united the world, past, present, future, across borders and ethnicities and ideologies?

Armand knew a thing or two about this. And such tantalizing promise – infinite parallel universes, dancing on those strings like the superpositions of soundwaves danced when he drew a bow over a violin. He would play this music, and seek out these universes, where a concert he had missed here had not happened yet!

More years passed as Armand attuned himself to the melody of reality. Laws of harmony giving a beautiful logic to everything, like every note Bach composed naturally followed the previous, but he could still have chosen a different one that also fit – giving birth to a new universe.

Finally, he stood before the Baldwin, sledgehammer gripped tight. He would succeed today, or burn it all down, his wasted life full of missed opportunities. The piano screamed in terror as he smashed it, splinters launched by taut strings releasing their tension nicking his face. A terrible crime done, Armand stood in silent ruin. Closed his eyes. Found the strings that shaped the world. And whistled a single, perfect note.

When he opened his eyes, the Baldwin stood proud, manufactured perfection. Armand’s wounds were gone, had never been inflicted; he had switched places with a less driven version of himself. A smile he hadn’t smiled since that terrible day in 1982 bloomed.

Years ceased to matter as Armand became a teenager listening to Jimi Hendrix serenade the fall of the Soviet Union. Then Armand was an old man, attending Michael Jackson’s funeral, who had passed away after ninety-two years of absolutely no scandals. So many more things that he would not miss.

And yet. As John Lennon introduced The Beatles reunion tour in a 1995, and elated Armand with the best version of A Day in the Life, a nagging thought kept intruding. Armand hadn’t been able to find a version of himself born early enough to see the band’s first performances in Hamburg, let alone back further to shake hands with Buddy Holly. He would never see Bach himself work the organ. All his mastery over every possible universe, and still he would be forever cursed to miss the vast majority of everything.

Disgusted, unable to focus on the concert, Armand grabbed the strings and pursed his lips, ready to leave to somewhen else. But then Lennon hit a perfect tone, and ruined Armand’s pitch. The hair on his carefully wielded bow snapped, and plunged into chaos between dimensions.

In his wizened hands, a mouthpiece whittled from ebony. A trail of shavings on the floor drawing his watery gaze to the body of a clarinet ready to receive it. On the wall, woodwinds of all make in various stages of completion. And yes, an oven for baking clay, and countless ocarinas.

Armand exhaled as if physically punched. He scrambled for an open notebook; names he knew from magazines and ones he didn’t, all his customers, made happy by craft honed to perfection. Instantly, he knew: this Armand had chosen to miss a life of concerts, a world of musical experiences, for this.

Surely, this Armand must have realized the same? That great performances happened constantly, and you were always just about to miss them? That one needed to stay on top of this?
Armand grabbed an ocarina to shatter on the floor. Arthritic fingers caressed the smooth glazed clay and found the holes that would control the dulcet tones. Or was it possible to draw a different conclusion? An infinity of music passed you by in the time between two notes. So did it matter which infinitesimal fraction you did not miss?

The shaper of this ocarina, he had understood: it was liberating to know that you could not see everything, not oppressing. Armand fell to his knees. He had stolen this satisfied life, like he had so many before, ruined not only his own but of a countless number of Armands in so many universes.

There was only one possible atonement: deliberately choosing to miss a possible infinity of music.

He sat more comfortably, lifted the ocarina to his lips, and blew the first perfect note, just for himself and this universe and none else.

Canasta_Nasty
Aug 23, 2005



Ballagàrraidh: The Awareness That You Are Not at Home in the Wilderness

In Between
1407 Words

Erin walked to the driveway shivering. The sun had risen enough to brighten the sky but still hid below the hills to the East. She watched the light creep across the valley and felt the expectant chirps of finches eager for its warmth. Spring was still fresh and the buds of tiny white orange blossoms were starting to appear throughout the orchard.

George, her father, was kneeling next to a pile of black, plastic sprinkler parts, sorting them into two white buckets. He wore a ragged hat and his shirt was stained with dirt and salt, the dried remains of a week’s work.

In a college class she had seen paintings of Russian peasants, and recognized more than a bit of her father there. His curly black hair was peppered white, life’s joys and sorrows were creased into his face. If Southern California had a history like Siberia, some young artist would painstakingly draw George’s eyes and hands to show the dignity of simple, honest work.

But Erin’s mom had once shown her their old wedding photos. Fresh Stanford graduates, their broad, shy smiles were full of anticipation. Her mother had a wreath of flowers in her blonde hair while her father had a slim mustache and a suit to go with it. The Vietnam War threw their plans in disarray but took them across the country where he worked as an electrical engineer for the airforce.

Only after, they moved to the farm his grandfather had bought, supplementing the oranges with sheep and some work for the county water department. By the time Erin and her brother were born, they were firmly settled. The county work dried up, Erin’s mother left, but all that wasn’t enough to cover his past. He only grew the long, wiry beard after the invasion of Afghanistan saying he’d shave it when the war ended. That was eighteen years ago.

Now, for all appearances, George was a simple part of the farm. As natural to it as the coyotes. Who could believe he had been anything else?

“I think we’ll irrigate the Bryant piece today” he said, “it’s been a while and the water company has some acre-feet free.”

He handed her one of the buckets and they set off through the rows of orange trees to the dozen acres they’d bought from Bryant nearly twenty years before Erin was born, walking past a couple rusted tractors just as old. At the corner of the Bryant piece, Erin sat her bucket down and knelt, trailing her fingers through the dirt.

“Keep an eye out,” George said, “deer have been coming here from the hills lately.” He kept walking to start the pump and open the faucets.

All through grad school, Erin had missed this farm. Every once in a while, some trivial piece of practical knowledge, like how to replace a leaky pipe, would impress her friends, so she began to play it up. Over a few years the accident of her birth, a childhood she’d had no control over, became the centerpiece of her identity.

She began to hear the slow hiss of air escaping the line as the sprinklers around her began sputtering to life. Each row had its own long hose, and each tree had its own sprinkler. In fits and starts the sprinklers began to spin, picking up speed until they were a blur darkening the dry ground with water.

Her bucket had a hose-piece for an improvised handle. Erin picked it up and walked down the row. She kept her eyes ahead and just focused on the sound, listening for the hum of the spinning plastic and the patter of droplets hitting the ground. There were a dozen ways for a sprinkler to fail but only one way to work.

To her left she heard the steady, thin stream of a sprinkler trapped by weeds, and fixed it with a quick tug. As she walked, the water from the sprinklers slowly soaked her jeans and slipped into her rubber boots. The morning was still cold but the sun had finally reached their piece of the valley, and by noon it would be hot. For now, the only way to stay warm was to keep moving.

At the end of the row she heard the steady-harsh spray of a snapped sprinkler. Kneeling down in the mud, she unscrewed the broken part from the base and fished for a replacement in her bucket. She tried to thread the new one on but the water pressure made it tough and she accidentally shot a cold blast of water in her face. She tried again, but the angle was tough. Another shock of water soaked her hat through. The new sprinkler awkwardly sprayed water from its crossed threads. Another try fixed it, but left Erin soaking. Even after she dumped her boots out, her socks squished with each step as she started the next row.

Soon she was in the rhythm of unthinking work. This was the heart of farming. Decisions were made by morning and all day your body is simply the tool to implement them. A much cheaper, versatile, and easily produced tool than any tractor.

A grown citrus tree can easily survive untended for decades, but it will not bear a crop worth mentioning. Each orange takes 13.8 gallons of water, and growing 7 million of them a year meant 96.6 million gallons, pushed through thousands of sprinklers under thousands of trees month after month. This was the idiocy of rural life, the endless walking, the minute acts repeated until they were instinct. But while her body was engaged her mind was free to wander as it had always done on the farm.

When she had first learned of grafting as child, she dreamed of a giant tree, like those in Africa, grafted with every type of fruit, free for the picking. She had dreamt of space and travel, and floating freely on the wind if she wasn’t weighed down. The old dreams flooded her mind, sweeping away the worries she had carefully collected at school: how she would pay her loans, where would she work.

On the tree next to her, ants were rushing up and down the leaves, tending their own pastures of red scale.

She finished the first block of trees and saw her father at the top of the second.

“I was thinking,” George said, “about a book I read as a child. I can’t remember its name, maybe The Stars Are Ours. There’s a father and son, they’re going into space, never to come back to earth and it’s their last day on the planet, so what do they do?”

“I don’t know. There’s so much you’d never see again.”

“They chopped wood. . . I always liked that.”

Erin started down the third block of trees and her father took the fourth. This time Erin made a game. How many rows could she finish without opening her eyes, just sound and feel and the memories of walking this orchard a thousand times. One sprinkler was clogged with mud, another was stopped by a snail crawling on it. Easy enough to fix. The hardest part was turning when she got to the end of the row, but she managed with only a a few scratches while holding her arms out for some guiding branch.

On the fourth row she listened carefully as she walked but everything was working fine. Tired of the game she opened her eyes. Fifteen feet away a bear loped silently between the trees. The ragged brown fur was damp and clung in parts to its powerful body. It was easily three times her size but she hadn’t heard a thing. In a couple seconds it was back out of sight.

Erin had seen deer on the farm before, they ate at the unkempt edges, lush with runoff the chaparral only dreamed of. At night she heard the coyotes chase their game through the long rows. The exultant barks and yips when they caught something echoed off the hills. But what was here for a bear?

At the end of the row she waited until she saw her father reach the edge of his block. The water had cleaned some of the dirt off his clothes.

“Hey Dad”

“Anything wrong?”

“Just cold. I was thinking we should have a fire tonight. Maybe we should cut more wood this afternoon.”

Lippincott
Jun 28, 2018

You weren't born to just pay bills and die.

You must suffer.

A lot.


Lachesism: Longing for the Clarity of Disaster

Seat Belts
Words 1,374

I stopped wearing my seat belt.

It was after I worked through the entirety of the Dark Tower series by Steven King, but couldn’t remember what happened in any of the books. After King and I spent over a hundred-forty hours together, I switched to music for a while. The playlists played themselves out quickly, and even the new music discovery fizzled into looping recognizable patterns. I tried to look out my windows more, hoping I would see a deer or something but the only novelty on my route were new piles of trash and occasionally a rotting raccoon. Even the seasonal shift was unrecognizable from the concrete river the highway snaked along; buildings don’t turn orange with the seasons and billboards can’t bloom.

It was a waking dream of about twelve hours a week, robotically compressing the gas pedal and alternating to the brake while letting everything blur into unrecognizable shapes. I tried listening to public broadcasting, but it dulled my senses and made my eyes feel heavy on the drive home. Once I had to swerve into the emergency lane to avoid rear-ending the car in front of me. I un-clicked my seat belt while I sat there shaking, and never bothered to reattach it. The horns howling as their drivers moved past my stalled vehicle rang as an alarm that loosened a flood of adrenaline through my system. I couldn’t remember when I had last experienced something so vividly.

Ninety people a day die in car accidents and seat belts reduce the risk of death by forty-five percent. I reminded myself of this every day, willing my body to rouse the receptors in my animal brain to believing my commute was a life or death circumstance. Though I tried to manufacture the abrupt terror of imagining my body compressed between hunks of shearing metal like being shoved into a trash compactor, my brain didn’t care if I wore a seat belt or not. I remembered from a different audio book that our brain makes driving decisions habitual to avoid a constant stasis of constant fight or flight. The first ten minutes of the drive, I could force everything into imagined importance, but eventually the edges blurred together again. I moved between work and home in the stupefied state of the half alive.

That’s why I missed the warning about the fog. There’s always fog in the early mornings on the interstate, and perhaps my brain determined the letters ‘DANGEROUS DRIVING CONDITIONS AHEAD – REDUCE SPEED’ were not important enough to let through the haze of routine. I sipped my coffee, and I adjusted the radio instead of reducing my speed, which is why I hurtled into the wall of impenetrable grey at sixty miles per hour. The horns were multiplied a hundred fold from my last near-miss, a trumpets chorus that ignited panic the moment they were swallowed by the sound of metal ripping apart. I knew not to slam on the brakes, but even as I tried to arrest my speed, the red eyes of the car in front of me reared up out of the fog.

I yanked hard on the steering wheel to swerve into what I prayed was an empty lane, but I wasn’t fast enough. I caught the back end of a bumper, throwing my car sideways across both lanes. A lifted truck burst through the fog, bearing down to broadside my car before squealing tires spun the monstrosity into the emergency lane. There was a sick wobble of suspension as momentum gripped the swerve and suddenly the vehicle turned upside down in a seemingly impossible spin that carried it through the divider with roar of metal tearing through cement. It may have completed another turn had it not been immediately struck by an oncoming car. I watched as the two vehicles pirouetted across the highway lines like some mechanized ballet played out with steel and rubber set to the sound of metal frames imploding. Then the fog swallowed them up and I could only hear the continuance of the crash. It didn’t stop.

Every new scream of something trying to stop followed by the horrible sound of glass popping apart on impact made me jump in my seat. I closed my eyes whenever I heard tires screech, occasionally another vehicle bursting out of the fog only to hurtle into the grey ahead of me and then be lost to the sound of collision. The fog held its secrets, showing us none of the carnage but letting us listen to its construction. I heard people calling for help, but nobody dared get out of our cars. We sat in that grey alone and we waited while more cars smashed themselves into the graveyard and filled the cool morning air with the smell of split gasoline and leaking engine blocks.

Then as suddenly as it had formed, the fog rolled away like pulling back a curtain, and the distant cry of sirens called for an encore. It was all a mess of crumpled metal and broken glass catching the morning sun like diamonds tossed across the asphalt. I couldn’t see over the tops of the semi-trucks to gauge the span of the accident, but there was no hiding what was pinned beneath them. The scene could have been a modern Hieronymus Bosch painting: a whole roof obliterated under a big rig wheel with the passenger seat compressed fraction of its original size, a sedan that appeared to be serrated in half when it was t-boned, a motorcycle several yards off the highway with its wheel still eerily spinning.

Staggering out of my car, I stumbled through the wreckage to the closest vehicle, which I had clipped in my mad swerve to avoid rear-ending them. The front of the small car was crushed into the back of a much larger SUV, and as I came alongside the driver’s side, I saw a hollow eyed woman clutching her hair with a trembling hand. I reached up and gently rapped the window with my knuckle, her entire body shuddering with an instinctive jump. She peered through the crystallized pieces of glass left in the window, the remainder sprawled across her lap, “Y-y-yes?”

“I’m going to open your door if I can.” I warned her.

She blinked slowly as the words turned over in her head. My eyes considered her pupils dilated to black dinner plates and the thrumming of the pulse in her neck, but the remnants of her leg trapped in the crumpled forefront of her vehicle held most of my attention. I yanked on the door, forcing it open with a few purposeful yanks that broke loose more of the glass. It crunched under my shoes as I bent at the waist and surveyed the damage.

“Is it bad?” she asked, and I smiled and glanced up at her with a casual shrug.

“I’ve seen worse.”

She winced as I placed my hands on her leg, moving over the limb as I determined how it was trapped within the wreckage. “Are you some kind of doctor?” she managed through gritted teeth.

“Nurse.” I responded, clarifying my name with a reassuring pat on her arm.

She leaned back in her chair and let out a shuddering sob that I had heard hundreds of times before as I began to take her vitals. When I was done, I wrote them on the back of a napkin I had found in her backseat and pressed them into her hand with instructions to shout if she felt like her chest was heavy or she was having trouble breathing. I could see ambulances beginning to wade through the edges of the wrecking yard, and told her that help would be there soon.

I picked my way over broken glass and half-shells of bumpers to the SUV her car was crammed under. The adrenaline was ebbing out of my system, my hands steadying and my focus aligning along the motions of routine. By the time I reached the driver’s side of the black behemoth, not even the splattered gore across the windshield could stir me back into the clarity I could remember from within the fog.

I didn’t bother with triage. They hadn’t been wearing their seat belt.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!




Yù Yī : The Desire to Feel Intensely Again

504 words

For No One

https://thunderdome.cc/?story=7401&title=For+No+One

flerp fucked around with this message at 01:48 on Oct 11, 2019

Salgal80
Jan 28, 2019


Anemoia: Nostalgia for a Time You’ve Never Known

Bloodlines
1396 words

Lillian glided her middle-aged hand across the aged leather cover stopping at the lower corner where the name Henry Scull in faded gold leaf was barely noticeable. If told a year ago her research on Ancestry.com would lead her to this brightly lit room at the Atlantic County Historical Society, she would have said. “Yeah, right, I have a life.” Yet, there she sat like an explorer about to unearth a treasure, freezing the moment before she would open a century old family bible in hopes finding an unknown limb of the Reiser family tree. Her pulse quickened. She wondered if her great, great, grandfather was the kind of man who felt compelled to record the births and deaths of his relatives as if they’d be important to anyone long after he was gone. Mostly she knew facts found in court records and censuses: births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, an occasional occupation, but finding anything about character traits or interests was near impossible. Lillian yearned for a breakthrough that would connect her to her past. If it was instead a dead end, she may end up spending another week in bed with no one noticing except her cat, Nana.

***
It started with a Mother’s Day gift. Lillian’s well meaning college-aged son bought her a DNA kit. A spit and post office visit later she received her genealogy with no real surprises. She regarded the whole process as a game she’d play along with at first, but then she discovered the website’s links to others with her very own DNA. Her nephew from Maryland was there, (he always was an odd duck), but an impersonal screen also reflected a dozen others with last names she’d never heard. Something about this bothered her, yet she felt a flood of curiosity about these strangers she couldn’t ignore.

Lillian found herself leaving the dinner dishes in the sink to spend time building her family tree. The wealth of documents maintained by the Mormons became her new friends--reliable and always there, for a yearly fee of $99. At first her efforts were haphazard, adding anyone she found without fully cross-checking names and dates. She cursed the ancestors who repeated names and failed to don middle ones. A few mistakes were made, but she soon developed a system whereby she stuck to one limb and followed it out as far as she could.

The first limb was her father’s father, the origins of her surname. Something about knowing more about the name that followed her every day intrigued her. She sat at the computer clicking away while remembering her grandfather as a dumpy bald man sitting in a chair in a high rise nursing home in South Jersey, the odd smell in the room, and his resemblance to her own father. Her father, now deceased, had rarely talked about his parents and only took her to see her grandfather once as a young child. His mother died of diabetes before Lillian was born--the only family tale being that she was a religious woman and bore eight children in her short life.

As Lillian’s nights grew longer, she started to eat at her computer. She was frustrated when the fraternal Reiser limb came to an abrupt halt. She turned to the the maternal limb, the Sculls, which proved more fruitful. She was pleased when she found her namesake, her great grandmother Lillian Scull, born of English immigrants who came to America, presumably searching for religious freedom. Although Lillian’s heart ballooned with this knowledge, she began to inwardly criticize her parents for not sharing this with her earlier.

A month into her research her mother died, and Lillian’s brother carted a cardboard box over to her house. “This is what mom left you,” he said. “Besides no one else wants it.”

She found the contents alluring in a way that made her recall her first lover, who was long gone, while simultaneously entertaining the thought that he’d never be a part of her like these priceless parcels from the past. Inside were yellowing papers, sepia photos, old perfect attendance certificates from elementary school, birth and death announcements, and a smaller box that had belonged to her dad. A pot of gold at the end of a rainbow wouldn’t have been more valuable to Lillian. She spent weeks pouring through and organizing the artifacts all the while trying to paint a picture in her head of each ancestor. She stared at photos creating stories about each one, and then chastised herself for pretending. As weeks turned into months, she grew more and more sad that her parents weren’t alive to tell her the true stories. Sometimes she lost herself for days fantasizing about sitting on her father’s knee while he laughed and told about the time his car broke down and he had to ride a donkey home.

Lillian had lost all enthusiasm for communicating with anyone alive, when one day there was a message in her Ancestry inbox from a woman named Ida Kumar. Of course she found the name strange, but upon reading the message she discovered two fascinating things: Ida had developed a family tree with over 1500 names and Ida’s great grandmother’s name was Scull. A correspondence commenced. Ida had spent the last five years researching her family both online and in person. Ida’s great grandmother was sisters with Lillian’s. Ida taught Lillian how to use historic societies, and that family bibles were often the key to otherwise unknown facts. It was Ida that pointed Lillian to the Atlantic Historic Society. Lillian headed the call.

***
Lillian felt the rush of the air conditioner, took a deep breath and opened the cover of the Scull family Bible. There, as in many old bibles, was an ornate family tree inked in black, red, and green. The first time she saw one she thought it a lost art. Her heart sank. Where multiple names should fill each limb there were only two: Henry and Elizabeth née Willis. Lillian felt her disappointment turned to anger. She’d driven three hours, slept in a saggy bed at Motel 6, and missed her niece's baby shower for this? The lack of courtesy of her ancestors made her sick. How could they not realize the importance? drat them.

She was about to slam the Bible shut when she saw a piece of paper sticking out from its pages. She turned to it, finding an envelope. She lifted it for further inspection and was struck by the simplicity of the handwriting. It was addressed to Henrietta Scull, 105 Kings Cross, Devonshire, UK. She pondered at the lack of a stamp.

Lillian paused before opening the envelope wondering if her intrusion would be forgiven by her great grandmother. A sense of obligation to treat this simple piece of paper with reverence overwhelmed her. She slowly opened the folds and began to read:

Dearest Mother,

There are no easy words for what I’m about to write. Henry and I are in deep sorrow. A week ago last whilst giving birth to their sweet son Jeremiah, our dearest Catherine fell ill and left this earth. Such hope and love for a new life has been clouded by our great loss. I can barely wake each morning. I struggle to even take sustenance. I find myself praying for Catherine’s soul and my own deliverance from this deep grief. Henry has been handling his sadness in silence. It’s been a blessing of sorts. Dearest mother, you have a new grandson on earth, but the cost was having a granddaughter in heaven. I hope this letter finds you well. Love to father.

All my love,
Elizabeth


Lillian sat alone crying as if her own daughter died. She cried for the relatives she never knew. She cried for the relatives she knew but really didn’t. The distance between her and her own children loomed before her, and she cried over that too. Lillian cried, and when she was done crying, she stopped. She stopped and folded the letter, put it back in the Bible, and readied herself to leave. An hour after arriving, she knew she was done. She had people to see and stories to tell and a life to still live.

Lillian handed the Bible to the lady at the desk, thanked her, entered into the South Jersey sunshine, and said goodbye to the past..

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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



Radical Empathy
1454 words
Prompt: Sonder: the realization that everyone has a story

The meds kick in halfway to the job. I'm wedged between Marnie and Roscoe in the back of Blue's car-shared silver Benz, watching Blue fiddle with the radio presets and tapping on the dashboard, and for the first time I wonder: where'd he pick that up? When he was a kid, maybe? Blue's never been a talker, and I've always liked that, but suddenly I wish he would talk. It's the wanting that makes me know it's the meds.

They said that'd happen. They called it "curiosity," but it feels like hunger, or chest-deep aching for a smoke. They also said it'd kick in within two weeks, but it's been three months since parole and intake, and I thought maybe I'd gotten the sugar pills. But no, three months on and suddenly there's a fire inside my brain, and I'm on my way to knock over a bank. I force myself to look at Marnie and Roscoe, people I know just enough about to not want to know more.

I tell myself this'll be fast. It's an easy target in the uptown tech district; we'll be in and out in five minutes, and my share will give me time to figure my poo poo out. I won't have to go out -- won't have to look at other people, think of other people -- unless I want to. They can give me pills for empathy, but they can't make me use it.

One job. Five minutes. I sit in the car and look at Roscoe's grubby knee. Blue guides us through traffic, and I glance up to see he's got both hands on the wheel, radio off. Someone taught him when to get serious. He's as old a hand as us, even if he fidgets, and he scores us a parking place a block from the bank, in a mass of silver BMWs and Benzes. No one looks at us twice as we pile out and start walking. They're not really seeing.

But I am. I see the faces, every one unique, and the ranges of expressions of people staring at their phones. I imagine business deals sealed or lost, Skype calls with babies, long breakup texts. I get lost in the face of the college-age boy with a fresh haircut squinting at his phone -- he's got shiny job-interview shoes on, and his GPS has to be loving up, and he's probably about to be late -- and I don't realize it's go time until we're in the alley and Roscoe shoves a mask into my hand. A seagull. Roscoe's got a duck, and Marnie's slipping on a pigeon. There's gotta be a story here.

This isn't the time to ask. I slip on the mask, make sure the eyeholes are clear. I check my watch: 12:14. The security guards are fifteen minutes into their hour-long lunch at the diner five blocks away. We're good to go.

Roscoe always takes point, and he comes in gun drawn; he's never wasted any time. This place is an easy target -- poo poo, they let their security guards all take their lunches at once! -- but they'll still have a silent alarm, and we've got maybe ten minutes before the cops show up. The lunchtime bank crowd is on the floor, and the two tellers on duty are shoveling their bags full, and all I can do is stare at them. Their nameplates say they're Yesenia and Aracely, and they could be mother and daughter, or aunt and niece: one in her forties and one in her twenties, with the same round faces and button noses. Did Yesenia get Aracely her job, I wonder? Did the kid like it before now? Will she blame Yesenia for today?

There's a choked sob from the mob on the floor, and I look away from the cowed tellers. It's just a little kid, maybe three or four, lying on the ground and taking big heaving sobbing breaths as quietly as he can. His mom's got her arm over his back, so he doesn't get any ideas. Good mom. Marnie and I aren't hair-trigger enough to shoot a kid, but with Roscoe, you never know --

And then there are footsteps coming towards us from a back hallway. Fast cops? A security guard coming back from smoko? I spin and pop two rounds off before I see who I shot. It's a banker in a blue suit, grey at the temples, big Welcome Back Kotter moustache, hands empty. Not trying to be a hero. His tie has little sailboats on it, and he looks like the kind of guy who'd buy a boat and take it out every weekend in the summer. I can see his widow a year from now, wondering if it's time to sell the boat, because they never take it out anymore and their oldest never did take those sailing classes, but it's a part of him, and how can she give that away?

Several people are screaming. Roscoe's louder than all of them: "you see that? That's what you get!" I can't see his face under the duck mask, but I know he's grinning wide and mean. Roscoe's always liked it when someone gets popped during a job, especially when he's not the one doing the shooting. Christ, I loving hate him. For a moment, all I want to do is loving pop him right there, and then the meds remind me he's got a sister and a mom, somewhere out in the flyovers. They think he's in finance. I've never met either but I can picture the black dresses and the wailing, and suddenly I can't do it, no matter how much better the world'd be without that shithead in it.

I can't do this. I drop the gun and bolt, and I don't look back, because if I do I'll see the dead man and his sailboat tie, and his story'll swallow me. I take off in the opposite direction from the car, knowing I won't have answers for Blue if I show up alone. I hardly have answers for myself.

I'm running, taking random turns through Techtown, and clarity's seeping back in, mostly to tell me I'm completely hosed. If I get away, I'm blackballed, and if I had other options I wouldn't be holding up a bank with Marnie and loving Roscoe. If I get caught and not just gunned down, that's life in the joint. Prison on the meds, imagining the life of every rear end in a top hat and mope in the place, sounds like Hell -- and going off the meds? gently caress, I realize, I can't. You can't see things and then make yourself stop seeing. I've never looked away before, never flinched, and if I do it now I'll know how blind I am for the rest of my life.

There's one option left. Ariadne Neuropharm's central lab is on 53rd, and I'm on 48th. I've only been there once, for my first intake three months ago, but the building's showy golden steel and you can't miss it. I start running with purpose, hearing the sirens behind me for the first time. I only need to beat them for five blocks. I force the brain-fire down, focus on the street and the sirens. They're blaring by the time I burst through the glass double doors, but I've won. I'm here.

I tear my mask off in the lobby and rush the reception desk. The receptionist looks familiar, and she doesn't blink at the discarded mask, at the stink of sweat and gunshot that hangs around me. I cut off her questions before she can ask. "I want to volunteer. Inpatient."

She stands up silently and leads me back into the offices. I can hear the sirens screaming outside, then a car door slamming. She leads me to a bare intake room, hands me a folder of papers and a pen, then steps out and locks the door behind her. She'll deal with the cops. I've just got to sign my life away.

Ariadne Neuropharm inpatients don't leave as the same people, if they ever leave. Even just skimming the volunteer contract, I can see the clauses about indefinite stays and durable power of attorney. I don't care. All I can think about, as I sign in duplicate and triplicate, is what being an inpatient is going to mean. They'll get data from me. They'll make the meds better. It'll all go to people who need them: parolees who want to go straight, kids who don't want to end up in jail in the first place. People who use the meds to build lives.

Maybe I'll get to meet a few, once I'm somebody else. That'll be nice.

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doctor Rope

The Rebinding of That Which Was
Prompt: Astrophe
1,486 Words

Nick crushed the butt of his cigarette against the banister of the water tower’s service platform. The Consortium of Interplanar Adjudication advised against smoking on the job, but they also advised against ranged corporikinesis which is exactly what Nick had been contracted to do.

Once a form has been established in our material plane, the manipulation of its matter not within touch becomes increasingly dangerous with distance. The risk being entangling your target or yourself with unintended matter.

The only safe means for ranged application requires an apportation specialist whose sole job is to create a bridge that instantaneously relocates the wavelength to the specified target.

Now normally, this process complicated as it is, can be performed without hitch. What complicates this, and what has Nick lighting his 4th cigarette of the hour is what lay sprawled out in a blighted section of farmstead deep in the hills of rural Oregon.

A writhing alien mass comprised of borrowed tissues, limbs and organs. Something with too many of each.

Nick’s eyes scanned its features for a moment longer than they should have, and he retched.

***

After regaining his composure, Nick checked his watch and traced a sigil in the night-sky. A sound like static being pulled through a vacuum gave way to an image of a young woman. Something about her already seemed less than human, but the definition loss clarity with each mission Nick was assigned.

“Mother-6, this is Specter-4. Confirm your arrival at dead zone.” Nick said.

“Specter-4, this is Mother-6. Arrived about a kilometer east of the dead zone. Is the AO clear to approach?” the woman replied.

“Mother-6, you are clear to approach, AO.”

“Understood, Specter-4. Beginning radio silence.”

Nick closed the communication, and one came in shortly after his had closed.

“Specter-4, this is Ghoul-Alpha, and I will be facilitating your apportation needs today. I do need to caution that if I detect link instability, that I will relocate you, Mother-6 and ‘That Which Was’ to a place beyond time until a contingency can be created to deal with the celestial. This will of course result in yours, mine and Mother-6’s permanent decommissions and is not a favorable outcome.”

Nick rolled his eyes.

“Look. There is a 15-minute window for the transference. You give me every millisecond of that time, and I guarantee we will be just fine. Do not relocate until the time has passed”

Ghoul-Alpha sighed audibly.

“Initiating radio silence, Spectre-4.”

“Roger that.” Nick replied with obvious annoyance in his tone.

***

Belle stripped out of her robe and was made fully nude bathed only in the pale light of the moon.

“Lucky pricks… They just get to do whatever they loving want, while I have to be the one who sacrifice life and limb.”

Nick struggled to swallow down guilt as he looked down at her, but he knew this was work that had to be done.

He exhaled and adjusted his footing. He planted his feet a shoulder’s width apart and turned his gaze back to creature referred to as ‘That Which Was’.

Hands raised slowly, and fingers spread like equidistant spears made to pierce the stars, small arcs of light danced between them turning into small chromatic orbs that disappeared into the aether just as swiftly as they formed.

“I call upon the elders of the eternal dark, your kin has been beckoned into our world. I will return it.” He spoke, tracing a blood-soaked fingertip against the night sky which momentarily blotted out the stars making it blacker than pitch.

“I call upon the firmament of unbeing. The primal plane from which form flows. I tap the well of chaos for purposes greater than myself.” Nick explained which caused a wave of malaise to ripple throughout his person. Each cell rung out in incomparable unease.

“I call upon the chthonic bindings that adhere to flesh, bone and sinew. This form not of this world is yours for the taking.” This, Nick recited nervously. Before words even escaped his lips, he could feel teeth grazing his flesh, countless hands pulling him towards some abyssal place.

***

Belle pushed through a cornfield that swayed like a lifeless, alien facsimile. She could feel the malignant presence of ‘That Which Was’ tainting the land around her.

Breaking into the clearing where the cult ritual had occurred, she stood slack jawed and mouth agape for a moment as she reconciled the monstrous form before her. Several strangely jointed legs hefted it from the blackened patch of earth, and a gaggle of eyes that hung like a hive, swung into view and swiveled towards Belle.

“loving idiot farmers.” She groaned under her breath.

Skeletons picked clean of all flesh lay scattered in concentric rows, the outermost rung nothing but 20 black robes in neat piles.

She extended her right hand and moonlight coalesced into a small dagger which she used to pierce her left breast just above her heart.

She winced, biting down on her lip as the light-blade pierced the fatty tissue. She fell to her knees as it reached her breastplate, and with a final determined thrust, pierced her heart where she then collapsed into the dirt dying.

***

“Looks, like I’m up.” Nick said.

He opened his mouth, and jagged and harsh sounds billowed out like fog from some forsaken mire.

Nick’s ears bled at the sound of his own voice.

Arms still extended, he formed a focus between his thumbs and index fingers. The multitude of chromatic orbs that had surrounded him gathered into a single sphere which he vaulted into the corpse of Mother-6 with a gentle push. It sunk into her form causing the body to rise.

Like lacquered paint exposed to thinner, her skin sloughed off in heaps of corrugated folds. Then her flesh unknit itself, striations becoming loose single strands, each fiber and tissue becoming separate. Her organs and entrails fell from her skeleton and the skeleton stood erect, a light suspended in the sockets where eyes once were.

***

‘This is Mother-6, Spectre-4, feeling less like myself and more like nothing, if you could speed this up.’ Belle’s voice rang out in Nick’s skull. ‘I’m trying, it’s just… this creature’s a mess.’

Nick had begun reallocating the creature’s bulk. Condensed, refined, shaped in a way that made sense and had order. Nick transferred the flesh of the creature onto the skeletal body of Belle.

He hadn’t done something this complicated before, and especially not at a distance, so separating out single organ systems or patching together those beyond repair was slow and delicate.

“Spectre-4, this is Ghoul-Alpha ETA for completion? You have less than a minute remaining.”

“Nearly done, its essence is contained, but this abundance of life… it’s more than I’ve manipulated before.”

“Can you do it?”

“I… It’s done, but what do we do with the excess?”

“Leave that to me.” Mother-6 chimed in, her new body completely unlike her old stood before the remnants of ‘That Which Was’.

***

Nick watched and he noticed that something wasn’t quite right. Mother-6 had taken on avian features. He struggled to swallow down guilt for a second time, then watched in horror as Mother-6 scooped up the remnants of ‘That Which Was’ with a large beak that erupted from her face. A thick rope like tongue lapped up the remaining bits of flesh and blood.

Feathers and wire like bones then erupted from her arms and sides filling into full plumes of brilliantly hued feathers that shone in the moonlight. She took flight and flew towards Nick who was at a loss for words.

She perched atop the railing of the water tower.

“I can see by that dumb look on your face, that you think you hosed this up. That’s not the case. I’m a shapeshifter. New flesh, old flesh, my anima is my anima. 'That Which Was' is trapped within me, you’ve done your job well.”

“So, I didn’t include a random pigeon in the reconfiguration of your body… good, that’s good… I mean shapeshifters. That’s new to me… Wish we would have had someone like you for the last time this thing was born. The others…”

“Weren’t me and did their parts just like us to keep this poo poo show of a ride going. It’s a raw deal, but tomorrow every chuckle-gently caress pen pusher and meme worthy cat that doesn’t already have a date with death is going to wake up oblivious, and not at all thankful, but they’ll have another day, and that’s the job.” Belle said flapping her wings in anticipation of flight.

“What next?” Nick asked.

“You know how these things go. We survived and didn’t get banished beyond time-space. We go our separate ways and live our lives until the call comes, and it always does. I’ll be seeing you, Spectre-4.”

“Farewell, Mother-6.” Nick said watching in awe as she flew out towards the moon.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Thranguy posted:

Nodus Tollens: When Your Life Doesn't Fit into a Story

Non-Playable Character
Word Count: 640

I am a guest of the miscellaneous. We are a table of acquaintances to both groom and/or bride. Low-priority fodder to ornament the banquet hall. A motley seven of unfamiliars to ourselves. But as the drinks are poured, the reservations melt, and we coalesce. Except me. I am a weed amidst the wallflowers.

Unwanted though not repulsive. Taciturn maybe, but polite. Amicable enough to the usual queries: my occupation, my interests, my associations to the celebrated becoming one. But the prospects to elicit a mystery from my mundanity are weak. The patience to pry me lasts only until they realize flavoured prattle can be had with someone else.

In immaturity I was pressed by anxiety to claw into conversations. To be interesting. Someone worth talking to, or at the very least, about. I made an effort to sell myself, but its wearisome when your share of charisma is a pittance. I stopped trying. I accept myself entirely extraneous to all affairs.

Weddings were an occasion to rekindle that anxiety. Awareness of my character dearth. A yearning strummed through talk. I’d force myself to be curious over lives with no staying power against my Teflon memory. I know it’s not them. The fault is entirely me. How soon is now? An eternal never. If we were meant to be paired to become one, I will adapt to half-life. The socializing necessity is not without purpose. Outwardly, I think it makes me less of a prick.

There’s a lull in the dish service. A moment for the projection screen to broadcast the history of bride and groom through montage. His story. Her story. Their story. I am happy for them, to the degree that happiness is possible through stunted being. I guess that’s all that truly matters.

They’re visiting each table now. We ready our glasses for a toast. I’m expecting the usual canned “thank you for coming.” And then I feel a hand on my shoulder. Pulled against my will into the spotlight. An anecdote regaled of my token contribution towards their happiness – specific enough that I can’t dismiss it as bullshit. I am thanked by name. I can no longer cling to the hypothesis that I was here as an accident.

This is intolerable. I slink away before the bouquet and garter toss. The sun is setting. Outside the resort, I set a course for nowhere and cross a golf course. Time is lost to me as I walk on ground where no golf ball will ever fall. The cropping of trees becomes increasingly dense and I am dimly aware of the black canopy that smothers the skies. The bog sucks one of my loafers off. I stand still, entertaining the thought of being swallowed outright, but the ground refuses me. I flip off the ground and chuck off the other shoe before continuing.

Mud squeezes into the cuts of my soles. I am stumbling more than I care for. I concede to fatigue, but I find no place for rest. I meander to grant chance to bless me, or not. Amidst the trees I encounter one that stands dead. Smooth-skinned by lightning. Dry. It will do. I reset against the trunk. Branchless, I am granted access to the skies, and I pay attention to the stars for the first time since gently caress knows how long. I am entirely ignorant of constellations. It feels sacrilegious to make up my own, but I wile away the night haphazardly connecting dots to match images that are probably unworthy of Latin names. Is that even be a thing? There is no cell reception here. I’ll have to brush against civilization again to find out. Might as well bus home while I’m at it. I dread the passengers this swamp-stenched suit will piss off.

I should worry about that when sunlight comes. Rest now.

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


Pamela's Diary
1446
(Kudoclasm: When Lifelong Dreams Are Brought Down to Earth)

https://thunderdome.cc/?story=7406&title=Pamela%5C%27s+Diary

Nethilia fucked around with this message at 23:16 on Jan 2, 2020

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Shed Red Thread
1030 words
Prompt: Morii: The desire to capture a fleeting experience

Each strand of Relic’s hair glistened red with the blood of someone she used to know.

She sat in the bar that she couldn’t remember the name of, in a town she couldn’t remember the name of, drinking an electric blue drink she couldn’t remember the name of but which was probably called something like “Rum Dumpster” to appease all the trashy college kids that came in on Friday nights like this.

Relic didn’t care about names. Names weren’t important. That feeling, that rush of someone else’s last breath entering your lungs, that was important.

She twisted a lock of her hair around her finger and watched the girl sitting at the other end of the bar. The girl wore tight jeans and a black fleece pullover with a row of buttons pinned in a row up the right side, displaying cartoon hands twisted in different gestures, ranging from hopeful to obscene.

Relic saw a red teardrop trickle slowly down the girl’s cheek. Only Relic saw it, felt it, knew it was there.

This was the seam. This was her specialty--taking things apart.

It was her hobby as a child, taking things apart--toys, electronics, kitchen appliances, stray animals. Her parents were always upset with her because she never figured out how to put a thing back together after she’d taken it apart.

That hadn’t changed.

Relic took a sip of her drink, then ran her fingers through her hair again. Felt the weight of countless lives, all bundled together: the girl who’d run over her foot with her scooter, the boy who talked about his romantic conquests before her, the woman who’d stared back at her on the subway train. Relic saw them in her mind as her fingers brushed against the individual strands of hair. It was like shuffling a stack of photographs, all their faces flitting past her one after the other after the other. After a certain point, they all melted into each other, amalgamated, looked like the same person saying different things.

When they were begging for their lives, they all sounded roughly the same, though.

Relic had an impulse to go up to the girl at the end of the girl at the end of the bar and ask for a cigarette. It was a game she played: she would sneak a look at the number of cigarettes left in her pack, and then that would be how much time Relic had. If there was one cigarette left, Relic would follow them outside, pretend to listen to what they had to say as they smoked, and then reach up towards their face while they were still talking, brush the red teardrop away from their cheek, twist it around her fingertip. Then pull. Hard. Listen to them realize--

Relic’s fingers stumbled into the empty patch on her scalp, bigger than it had been a week ago.

The sound in her head was the snipping of red-hot piano wires.

She jerked her hand away, gulped down the rest of her drink.

There was less and less time to waste, now.

Relic pushed her stool back, stood up. Made her way to the other end of the bar, not too eager, not too indifferent.

“Do you have a cigarette?” she asked the girl in the buttoned jacket.

The girl stared up at her, smirked, then looked away. “I don’t smoke,” she said.

“I don’t either,” said Relic. “I just collect other people’s cigarettes.”

The girl laughed. “You’re a monster.”

Relic smiled. “I get that a lot.” She sat down next to the girl. “I’m Rell.”

“I’m Sarah,” said the girl.

Relic could smell the blood trickling down the front of Sarah’s face. Her hand rose up in front of her, on instinct, and then she grabbed the edge of the bar instead.

“Whoa, you ok?” said Sarah.

“I’m fine,” said Relic, touching the bald spot on the side of her head. No need to get desperate, now. No need to play games, tonight. This was work, not a game. She had all night. “I’m just...more drunk than I thought I was, I guess.”

That was good. Play dumb. Play innocent. Play vulnerable.

“Well, let’s see if I can catch up to you,” said Sarah. She waved at the bartender. “Two Jack and Cokes, please.”



She remembered them all.
All the faces were flitting in front of her eyes again, but they were wrong.
Too bright.
Too bloody.
They were all smiling, wide, with blood dripping from their mouths.



Relic opened her eyes.

The air smelled like Lysol and leather.

“You alright, lady?” came a gruff male voice from the front of the car.

She was in a car?

“Where am I?” said Relic.

“Your friend found your address in your wallet,” said the driver of the car. “She paid for me to give you a Lyft home.”

That wasn’t her wallet. The person who it belonged to--their parents were still waiting for them to come home for spring break.

Relic slammed her head against the car headrest. She’d hosed this up, royally. She could still imagine the taste of Sarah’s blood on her tongue, and her insides screeched in frustration. Stupid. Stupid. St--something.

Something was different.

She brought her hand up to the side of her head, ran her fingers through her hair. Pinched a strand through her thumb and forefinger.

It was bright white.

She held it up to her face, closed her eyes and remembered.

They were onstage, sharing a mic, singing their lungs out.

My loneliness, is killing me
I must confess, I still believe (Still believe)
When I’m not with you I lose my mind
Give me a siiiiiiiiiign


“You ok, lady?” said the Lyft driver. “You need a bottle of water?”

“I’m fine,” said Relic. She looked up at the rearview mirror, could clearly see his face. Watched the trickle of red divide the mirror in two. “I just need to eat something.”

She looked away from the mirror.

A rush of nausea overcame her, and Relic lurched forward, held her head in her hands, and waited for the moment to pass, waited for everything to feel normal again.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Choose, and Remember
(2,107 words--yes, I know.)
Sorrow: Dès Vu.

One of the gems in Danyar's forearm was ink-black, a blot on a limb that was otherwise fair but couldn't pass for human anymore. Memory-stones had risen on the palm of her left hand and on her right wrist this year, and even her father didn't wear gloves in the heat of summer; he'd never expect her to. He'd have been disappointed, though, to see her with her skirt hiked up so she could dangle her feet in the ink-black pool, baring the jewels in her calves to the world.

At that moment "the world" only meant Cardell anyway, so what was the harm?

Danyar bent forward to dip her fingers in the water. "I'll drown here someday, and nobody will find me for a week."

"Except that this is the first place I'd look," Cardell said, "considering how often you've said that. Maybe there's a cache of gold in there and you'll be the one to find it." He sat cross-legged beside her, braiding strands of grass.

"Why don't you scry it for me, wizard?"

"I'd keep it if I did," he told her. "What would that stone signify then? The site of your worst disappointment?"

Danyar shoved his shoulder, barely budging him. He'd grown all through spring. His legs and arms were longer than hers for the first time she could recall, and he was solid in the same disconcerting way of the other boys of their generation. His jaws had sprouted one terrible attempt at whiskers after another. If it weren't for those, Cardell might be decent looking as well as thoughtful and bright, and she could almost wish--but no. There was no point in that.

She got to her feet and stepped back into her shoes. The water showed her reflection: hair, blouse, skirt all reasonably neat. "It's nearly noon. Are you going to come and see them?"

Cardell shook his head and broke off more grass. "I'll do that soon enough. Tell me how it turns out."

"I'll show you, if I'm lucky," Danyar said, and she followed the path that led back to the road, then followed the road to town.

That day, four young wizards--four!--were due to arrive in Konnesvar to study with the most well-known master in town. One of them might possibly, finally, be Danyar's future husband. None of the local spellworkers had raised a memory-stone on her skin. None could be that important to her future, however she felt about them in the present.

She wanted love, and she wanted magic. She wouldn't settle for less.

There! Four figures in dark blue robes stood out against the dusty brown of the carriage that had brought them. Danyar studied the group from a distance. Three were boys--one a man, really--he could be five years her senior. His hair was the color of an ink-black pool, but the eyes that met and caught hers were blue, blue, blue.

The skin below her right shoulder tingled and ached with a forming memory. Danyar forced herself to walk, even stroll, toward the blue eyes and the slow smile that surely matched the one she felt on her lips. She held out her hand to him. "Welcome to Konnesvar," she said.

He clasped her hand. His eyes traced the jewel in her wrist, the jewels in her arms. "Thank you. Are you...?" The question trailed off. The other students stared at her outright.

Danyar asked, "Am I what?"

Her wizard considered her, then squeezed her fingers. "At liberty to show me around town?"

"Yes. I'm also Danyar."

"Ziovon," he said.

Her heart drummed like a smith's hammer as she led him, their fingers entwined, out of the town proper and to the stream that ran alongside; he didn't seem to mind in the least. Those blue eyes were clear and clever, more shrewd than other wizards', even Cardell's. Or was that only what she wanted to think?

They stopped under the boughs of a willow tree. Side-by-side, they leaned against the trunk. "Should I pretend not to be curious?" Ziovon murmured. "I think I've seen stones like those before."

"Many of them? So many the person didn't have any other skin?"

"'Person,'" Ziovon repeated. "I suppose. Kze-karhya are person-shaped, certainly."

Danyar repeated, "Person. My grandmother was a... what you said. She would say the word, but nobody else would."

"I didn't think they could breed. I doubt that was the original intention." Ziovon stopped and touched her hand. "Was that rude to say?"

"I know what she was," Danyar said. "Wizards made people like her to hold memories for them, because memories have power. She was sold by one wizard and bought by another. Her master loved her and married her. They had my father, and he loved and married my mother, and here I am." She turned her left palm up to show him the stone there. "I wasn't born with any jewels, but I've grown a few. They hold my memories."

Ziovon reached, paused, waited for her nod, then touched the gem so lightly that she shivered. "What is this one?"

Danyar closed her eyes, remembering. "A thunderstorm. Lightning hit the shield my grandfather put over our house before he died."

"Your grandmother must miss him."

"She didn't outlive him by a day. All her jewels turned grey when she went." That memory lived on Danyar's back, where she never had to see it. She was grateful.

Ziovon sensed her tension, she thought; he stopped asking about stones and told her about himself, about studying magic in a city, about how lovely her hair was and how he liked her smile. The touch of his lips to hers didn't raise a new jewel, which might have been why she left the willow after that one kiss. But the blue, blue stone under her shoulder felt warm to her hand.

Cardell sat--still? Again?--by the pool. "Well?"

She pulled down her sleeve so he could see the gem. Cardell looked at it for a long moment, then nodded. "Congratulations, I hope," he said. He flicked a crown of braided clover at her. "Did you tell him about those? The stones?"

Something about the question--or his tone--made her scowl. "Why not? Everyone knows. You know." And she stomped away.

Her father might have asked the same thing if she'd shown him her new memory, but she didn't, and they ate dinner in silence as they often did with the candlelight reflecting off the jewels in his cheekbones. The rest were hidden under long sleeves and a high collar. When Danyar had been tiny, her father would let her see and touch the shining jewels over his heart. That one's when I first saw your mother, he'd say. That one's when I first saw you. She'd searched for her mother's face in rose-gold crystal. Perhaps she would have found it in the other stone, the chunk of tombstone-granite buried in his throat, but he never let her try.

"I'm not ashamed of what I am," Danyar told Ziovon.

"Why should you be?" he said.

She told him many other things over the next few weeks. They spent hours together beneath the willow tree. She thought he might ask her to marry him, but he didn't; he kissed her but never pressed for more. He would rather talk about her heritage, and she gave him all the family stories that she knew.

One day, though, her wizard didn't meet her. Nor could she find him anywhere.

But when she saw her father lying on the bloodstained floor of their home, Danyar knew where Ziovon had been.

Red and angry sockets wept on her father's throat, his shoulder, his chest, his stomach, his legs--every stone, every stone was gone, scooped out and stolen. Yet he breathed. His hand trembled in Danyar's. And the new stone over her gut blazed like fire.

"Cardell!" she screamed as she ran for his house.

He met her halfway up the path, caught her in his arms. "Danyar--"

"Help him! Help Father!"

She knelt in the blood beside Cardell as he pressed his hands to her father's chest. Light flowed from his fingers over and into the wounds, but though the bleeding stopped and her father's breathing eased, the holes wouldn't close. "He can't heal from this," Cardell said softly. "I don't know how he's hanging on, to be honest."

"We have to get his memories back."

"Right," Cardell said. "They're part of him. I can use his blood to scry for them."

Cardell set his hand, fingers splayed, in the pool; the congealing liquid rippled, then darkened. A sheen formed on the surface. Slowly, it resolved itself into shapes: Ziovon crouched over a pile of stones, sorting through them with shrewd, clever eyes.

The image vanished. Cardell clenched his bloody fingers. "All right. I don't know where he is, but the blood will lead us there."

Danyar grabbed his shoulder, holding it tight. Then they were off again, riding double on her father's plowhorse that ran as though to get away from the blood-smell that they carried with them. "I have a knife," Danyar panted as the fields flashed by. "If you distract him, maybe I can stab him."

"I will," Cardell said, but she shivered in fear for them both.

They drew to a sharp stop a hundred yards from a derelict cottage, and Cardell looped the plowhorse's reins around the branch of a wild apple tree. Danyar reached the cottage first. Its windows were shuttered, but a flash of orange light broke through a gap in the wood. The words What's he doing? stuck in her throat. She threw Cardell a frightened glance. He took a breath, stood up tall--and kicked the door of the cottage in.

Danyar dove in after him, on the tail of a roar of words, his and Ziovon's--fire rushed toward the black-haired wizard, but Ziovon waved it aside--he had a tombstone-grey jewel ready in his hands, and it flared with a spell that struck Cardell and sent him crashing to his knees, screaming in blind heartbreak.

Ziovon turned to Danyar. "For what it's worth, I wish it weren't necessary for your father to stay alive. Maybe it isn't, but I can't chance it. Otherwise I wouldn't have left him for you to find."

The blue, blue eyes were clear and bright and far colder than stone. Danyar clenched her hands; her fingers dug into the stone on her palm, and she remembered lightning and willed, with hopeless hate, for it to come and strike Ziovon dead dead dead.

And it did.

The bolt surged from the ground beneath him and sky above him, outlining him in blinding white fire that lasted longer than any lightning strike had a right to--or that could have been her stunned perception of an end that only took a second in fact. She would never remember clearly despite the brilliant jewel that flashed into being on her cheek, beneath her eye, in the path of a tear. But it happened. Then it was done. Then there was a smoking corpse, a pile of untouched stones, and Cardell's final howl of grief fading into silence.

Danyar collected her father's jewels and her partner and got both back on the horse, somehow. Ziovon, she left behind.

As soon as her father touched each gem, it sank into his skin and reappeared in its proper place. He touched the shining stones over his heart to reassure himself they were there. He touched the tombstone-grey gem and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he smiled, and Danyar kissed his brow.

"Come with me to the pool," she whispered to Cardell once her father had fallen asleep.

He did, and she hiked up her skirt, dipping her feet into the water. He sat cross-legged beside her. The ink-black water reflected their faces: hers hollow-eyed, his exhausted, both so familiar that one memory blurred into another.

Danyar turned and kissed him, and she kept kissing him until his arms were around her and hers were around him and the world was warm and safe again--if only for a moment. Probably a jewel rose on her skin, but she didn't notice.

"Do you still have to drown here, wizard?" Cardell murmured when they broke apart.

Danyar tucked her head into the hollow of his shoulder. "I'm shaped by my memories, I know. But I can shape them too, and I'd rather be with you."

She remembered his answering hug for the rest of her days.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME




One as the Sky
700 words

The concert crowd sways as one, jumps as one, thrashes as one, and I move with them.

Then the music ends and the crowd fragments into a thousand tiny pieces, which dispense themselves through the various exits.

I’m about to join them when I notice one concert-goer near the stage, swaying as though he still hears the music. I watch him a while, struck by the unselfconscious way he moves, and briefly consider taking his face into my hands and pressing our foreheads together until we become one contiguous thing.

I make myself turn on my heel and leave through the nearest exit. No one really wants to be contiguous; it happens to them by accident, during concerts and protests and funerals and tragedies.

But—

.

There are only so many trains going so many places, and he’s on mine, staring intensely at the passing city lights beyond the window. There is a hunger in the way he watches the world, a longing. I can feel it from a distance, a fizzy ozone tang on the tip of my tongue.

He notices my prolonged look, meets my eyes without flinching. In his eyes, I see shards of sky, tiny blue fragments that long to be vast and contiguous.

I make my way over to where he’s sitting, steadying myself on the handrail as the train lurches around a bend. The car shudders and I drop down into the seat beside him.

The passengers around us don’t look up from their phones and tablets but I feel a keen awareness overtake the train compartment; this goes against the order of things. We’re all supposed to be safely ensconced in our respective little worlds.

“Hey,” I say to him, “wanna go back to mine?”

The sky in his eyes swells, turns his gaze gauzy and blue. “Yeah,” he says, “I think I do.”

.

My home is at the top of a residential high rise, as close to the sky as I could afford.

We tumble into my blue-on-blue sanctuary, lips locked together, shedding our clothes until our bodies burn pink against the blue upholstery of the couch, the azure floor, the sky-blue tub, then back to the couch again.

I sit up, straddling him, and press him gently down into the cushions, saying, “Stay here.”

I hurry to my studio, return with brushes and a bucket of blue paint. He’s still sprawled on the couch, fleshy and vulnerable and, now, just a little uncertain. He rests one of his hands protectively over his groin, the other over the slight bulge of his gut.

He looks up at me with infuriating uncertainty and says, “A-are you sure? I mean…”

“Come here,” I command, before he can talk himself out of this.

His eyes once more swell with sky, with that deep blue longing, and he rises to his feet, a dreamy smile smoothing the worry from his face. His hands fall away and he approaches me, once more blissfully unselfconscious.

I dip the brush into the paint and draw a long, slow line from his collarbone to his groin.

“We all have a little sky in us,” I tell him as I paint. “We all have that little fragment who remembers what it is to be vast and contiguous.”

“I want that,” he murmurs. “I want to be the sky with you.”

“You are,” I say, drawing another blue streak down the length of him. “You always have been. And I’m going to help you forget the parts of you that aren’t.”

I make quick work of him with my brush, erasing everything that isn’t expansive, unifying blue. When I’m done, there’s little to differentiate him from the monochrome trappings of my sanctuary.

At dawn, I lead him to the roof deck to greet the brightening day. The paint, having dried overnight, peels away in rubbery strips, which I throw like confetti into the lively breeze that dances around the top of the high rise.

When I am done, there is nothing left of the man beneath the paint but blue fragments floating freely on the wind. Laughing, I dissolve into ribbons, and swirl with my creation into the sky.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Submissions closed.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


Reading and will have comments sometime tonight.

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


Interprompt
"Y'all punks for not posting an interprompt before today."
150 words, the word "y'all" and "ain't" ain't optional.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


I will preface this with acknowledgment that I've laid out some stinkers on this place before. Don't you worry about that. It happens. It'll happen again. Keep at it.

General Criticisms:
Write a human story. Get me to care about your protagonists.
Show, do not tell.
Stop bragging and name dropping and reference making. A story needs this: someone to care about, a structure to follow, and something that makes me think something bad is gonna happen to the the person I care about.
Y’all are faffing about with word counts like nothing. Use your word(count)s. 1500 words can be divided into 3 or 5 segments. Use that to help you construct traditional narrative arcs. Rising actions, climaxes, denouments.

Antivehicular
Sonder: The realization that everyone has a story

Comments: This whole Ariadne subplot is bonkers. Absolutely cut this out. Something happens, which I will give you that. But the realization that everyone has a story isn’t a realization. Protagonist is given empathy pills, doesnt develop empathy, and now is having an emotional crisis but its low stakes. If you want me to empathise with the protagonist, give me something that elevates them beyond a repeat offender. It’s not tragic because I don’t care. He just murdered a man with a wife and kid. If only it had worked earlier! Except I don’t know why he’s even here since it’s been 3 months since he was released from prison.
You’re not hitting the prompt. There’s nothing really connecting it to the story because none of the decisions the protagonist makes is relevant to the prompt.

Recommendations: Give me a protagonist who has a job where depersonalization is integral to their job performance, that also doesn’t HURT other people. A surgeon who can’t grow attached to the patients, a 911 operator who has maintain functionality in face of disaster. Something where the protagonists personal combat with depersonalization is in conflict with other people’s need for them to be detached.

Crimea
Vemödalen: The Fear That Everything Has Already Been Done

Comments: As a whole its ambitious, but each of the parts are not. What I mean by that is, you have played with form, but only a little. You’ve cut your word count into a 1/3rd, but you end up repeating too much. You shot for the stars, but landed on a moon. You haven’t done enough with this to toss out a lot of traditional structure that would have helped you out.
What I believe this is missing is emotion. I know you’re going for a very detached, unemotional way of portraying the word, but I don’t think that works for your word, as it might for some of the other ones.
You’ve used strong words without showing. Lonely, Perilous, Barren, Dying. These words aren’t even necessary because its all tell. You can’t show because you’ve chained yourself to the form.
Speaking of form, if you are going to change it up and emphasis the difference, go hog wild. Capitalized words, some surrealism, and fill in the blanks aren’t enough. Especially if you’re going to intentionally cut words.

Recommendations: Give me the middle story, show me his dying, show me he is lonely, he finds a predecessor. Give me the emotion of your word. This one is a feel word.

Simply Simon
Onism: The Awareness of How Little of the World You'll Experience

Comments: an eight year old is making an ocarina and getting a bach boner. To go see Japan the band.
This is very stilted writing. This suffers from an immense telling and not showing. Armand is immediately an insufferable character and he’s still only 8.
There is nothing sympathetic about Armand. Why do I even care whether he succeeds or fails?

Recommendations: Armand’s entire identity is a realization that FOMO is impossible to avoid, thus its necessary to specialize. Armand’s speciality is live music. Secret shows, eventual superstars playing their first gig, and lastly farewell shows when they meant something. Armand’s mother dies and the funeral is preventing him from something he wants. What happens next?

Salgal80
Anemoia: Nostalgia For A Time You’ve Never Known

Comments: Nothing happens. A woman spends all of her time in front of her computer, her mom dies, and then she misses not being able to ask her things, but never asked her things when she was alive. Then she gets sad about a letter about a dead kid and now she resolves to change things? The details of her search of Ancestry.com is incredibly boring. I would rather this person be playing an emulated version of a dead MMORPG for all the things that happen. At least then I’d believe someone got addicted to bullshit that doesn’t matter at the expense of their actual life.
Chillaxe on the adjectives. You have a tight word count, adjectives better emphasize something that matters.

Recommendations: This woman is a dedicated confederate civil war re-enactor. A second character comes searching for their own genealogy, and protagonist has a sordid family history if looked upon by an outside party. Their families are inextricably linked. What does the protagonist do?

Saucy_Rodent
Olēka: The Awareness of How Few Days Are Memorable
Comments: You’ve got something here that’s interesting, but you haven’t taken it home yet. I think you’re missing an opportunity to show the character casting off the chains of anxiety and constant envisionment of events that haven’t happened yet. You can say all you want that the protagonist won’t do all the things he fears he will do, but without showing them have that internal conflict you don’t have a resolution yet. You’re hitting the climax right as you finish the story.
This is also missing enough of a link to the prompt. There’s no longing or sadness that should be accompanying the prompt. Does the protagonist yearn for days there were not memorable, now that they have had a memorable, life altering day? Does this event make the protagonist realize that all other days had not shaped his life like this will? You’re teasing at it, and I think you’re almost there. The style gets a little repetitive, and could be cut down if you wanted to keep the word count tight, but otherwise this could use a couple hundred extra words and get into what the protagonist is going to do next.

M. Propagandalf
Nodus Tollens: When Your Life Doesn't Fit into a Story

Comments: This is some real self-indulgent woe is me, with only the faintest hint of being a caricature to be mocked.That doesnt make me think is tongue in cheek. If it is, you’ve spent entirely too much effort on that note, and not enough on the story.
If this is not tongue in cheek, you’ve essentially just described depression but your prose has wrenched all the humanity out of it. It’s so ‘smart’ and ‘thinky’ and ‘thesaurus’. Get better words. Easier words. Words that make me think I’m reading about a real human and not some depression robot who can only read old aol instant messenger away messages.
Your prompt work needs work. Does this character believe their life doesn’t fit into a story? If so, what story? Because the protagonist has equally as low an opinion of others as himself, so then what’s the story he belongs to?

Recommendations: A story about someone whose identity is based upon a preconceived destiny. Could be internal, could be external. Challenge the protagonists assumptions, and then make them decide something mutually exclusive to their happiness.

Doctor Zero
Ambedo: A Moment You Experience For Its Own Sake

Comments: Right off the bat you’ve made something so simple be vague. I’m not a fan of the cold open dialogue. Why have you done this? I should not be surprised there is actually 3 people witnessing this event.
You’ve gooned up all of your descriptions. Who is doing what? The pilgrim or the caretaker? The narrator keeps making assertions about why someone is doing something. How does this person know?
Ugh. Jesus. Millennials am I right???

Recommendation: Completely scrap it. You are giving me a play by play about how I should feel. It’s far too literal without meaning anything. Don’t tell me how to feel, tell me about how a character is feeling. Don’t cold open with dialogue. Too many characters is splitting your narrative focus. What good does the caretaker do here?

A man stumbles on a painter in the wilderness. They have opposite philosophies. Do they stay that way? Do they change? Show me, don’t tell me.

flerp
Yù Yī : The Desire to Feel Intensely Again

Comments: Hey you know what? I like this. But, I don’t know the spirit of your word is actually being fulfilled here. This person actually feels pretty intensely to me. And that’s hate, regret, longing. To me, the prompt word embodies depression. You tried, but you I think you let yourself get too into this narrator, and that ends up as anger.
This could use some clean up in clarity, as much as stream of consciousness can. On the first read I thought it was the narrator who was hospiced, inwardly reflecting, as opposed to the grandkid watching this.
Here’s a thing tho. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to witness what you’re describing. And everyone deals with these things differently, but that being said, I have had to deal with this in my life. And it’s horrible. And I know people who are actively dealing with this. The one thing I don’t feel/see a lot is anger. I’m not sure where you’re going with this one. The grandkid is angry that this dog and pony show is all for nothing, but there’s no choice here. There’s no consequence.

Recommendations: Insufferable protagonist somehow is the one who has to make the decision to pull the plug. Could it be he/she drew the short straw and is doing the nightshift at the hospital in case the person wakes up. Give me the rigamarole of how dull this whole thing is, give me a protagonist who hates it, give me the family who still appears to be receiving catharsis for having a parent, relative, alive. Now make your protagonist choose.

Sitting Here
Socha: The Hidden Vulnerability of Others

Comments: I’m missing what is at stake here. I want to know more about hidden vulnerabilities. I want to know what the narrator needs from them. I need to know what happens if she can’t get at them. You had the room to work with, and I think you can revisit this and give me a little more. You have the imagery, you have the character, I want a little more plot. I want to have more to say, but I don't know there's enough here yet.

Lemonie
Kenopsia: The Eeriness of Places Left Behind
Comments: Immediately stop telling me and start showing me.
This needs a line crit. Every single line I want you to ask ‘have you told me a fact, or have you described something, and let the reader make the call.’ Always go to the latter. If you don’t think you have described something the way you want the reader to interpret, then throw it away and try again.

People dont talk nor think the way that you have said they do. ““endearing in his naivety, but not spoilt by this town.” what???? “He was not sure what that meant,” yah.
"he could tell that it gave him an uneasy feeling, like the one he had gotten on the graveyard where they had buried his mother." This is not good, I’m sorry.
“Rik had never been an imaginative person, in fact the very concept of imagination was foreign to him, and this sudden vision overwhelmed him to the point of crying out” why? This is very abnormal and does not make any sense.
Okay so Rik is autistic, but suddenly realizes he’s autistic because he has a premonition that the dents in the caravan were because a woman was killed by it.
Recommendations: 3rd person. State that Rick is autistic immediately. A man brings him a car to repair and its obvious the man has struck ‘something’. The man says its a deer. Rick doesn’t think that’s a deer. What happens next?

Anomolous Amalgam
Astrophe: The Feeling of Being Stuck on Earth

Comments: To start with, this does not do anything with the prompt for me. The use of words like corprokinesis and apportation is kind of a loving pain. Then you’ve got sci-fi, fantasy, and lovecraftian things happening, and its all really far too much for 1500 words. I don’t know poo poo about Nick or Belle, or whatever the gently caress.
If you want to have a story that features these kind of elements you need to use an economy of words. Don’t over-explain things, and say them in simple terms.
“The only safe means for ranged application requires an apportation specialist whose sole job is to create a bridge that instantaneously relocates the wavelength to the specified target.” re-write: The only way to fix this mess required a crash test dummy, or a sacrificial lamb if he messed this up.
Code words here aren’t helping who is talking and to/about. There’s no reason for all of these disparate elements to be here.

Recommendations: Aliens constantly drop trash/problems on Earth. Nick has to fix them. Fixing them is dangerous. Others disproportionately benefit from his efforts. Nick gets his biggest/most dangerous problem to date, and now has a watchdog. What happens next?

Canasta Nasty
Ballagàrraidh: The Awareness That You Are Not at Home in the Wilderness

Comments: This needs a line by line edit. You’re wasting words. Are you from Southern California? I don’t think that you are. Oranges are primarily grown in Northern California. Additionally, only black bears are found in California.
Where are you going with your symbolism of Russian/Siberian peasantry? Also, “ If Southern California had a history like Siberia, some young artist would painstakingly draw George’s eyes and hands to show the dignity of simple, honest work.” Southern California has a massive cultural emphasis on rancheros.
What are you implying with the growing of a beard about the war? You’re implying that he is possibly connected to Afghanistan somehow, yet you’re making Russian comparisons. Is this related to the Soviet-Afghan war?. Who’s Grandfather bought the farm? George’s? Is George a recent-ish immigrant?
If you want to start making symbolic comparisons, I don’t think you’re on the money here. Symbolism has to mean something a little more than a superfluous connection.
Your biggest sin here is that nothing happens. Nothing even has a chance to happen. Conflict, conflict, conflict. You have interpreted your Sorrow word in a very literal manner without actually evoking any of the feeling. She’s not in the wilderness, she is at home, and she is not aware of anything.

Recommendations: A prideful art school graduate is forced to live at home, the farm, because XYZ, and now her dad is dying. The farm is the only thing the father has left of his attachment to earth. What happens next?

Kaishai
Dès Vu: The Awareness That This Will Become A Memory

Comments: You’ve got yourself a pretty good story here. With 600 extra words, I’m glad that you have. As much as I like this story, and it has the things a story needs, you also had a lot more room to play with. I appreciate that its fantastic, without overexplaining things. There’s a little bit of fiddly descriptions I think you could change, unless im missing a deeper meaning of so many things being ink-black.

The only major thing I would say needs some adjustment is that Danyar states she is not ashamed of her gems, and her actions indicate that as much too. So, her reaching for a memory to smite the wizard isn’t as impactful as it could be. I want Danyar to be conflicted in her actions, even if in retrospect during a life or death situation. Why does she need Cardell if she can lightning bolt? Why does she need anyone if she can just lightning bolt all her problems away?

High but DQ.

Lippincott
Lachesism: Longing for the Clarity of Disaster

Comments: My biggest beef here, beyond the distasteful nature of the story, is that you have shown no form of ‘clarity’. You have told me that the narrator is in a fog unless physically threatened, yet I have no idea what this fog is other than one you have physically manifested for the story. Also, a fog bank is not something you get surprised by? So I’m not sure where you’re going with this one. This character makes no decisions, because as you’ve stated, they are a slave to their brain fuzz. You have told me a first person story about an idiot who enters into a car wreck. Am I the narrator? No, because I chose to read this story.

Recommendations: Scrap this story. Watch the movie Crash (1996). Show me someone who has survived disaster, blossoms from it, and is now addicted to the feeling. Give this same person an ‘Ahab’ moment. Give them choices, and the conflicts that arise from these choices. I also recommend not putting this in first person. Go third.

Nethilia
Kudoclasm: When Lifelong Dreams Are Brought Down to Earth

Comments: This was probably one of the easiest prompts, but this story has missed it. I do not enjoy diary form writing. Especially not in flash fiction. You can’t have lifelong dreams at 9 years old. These are just snapshots of what has happened in this person’s life. There’s not a narrative arc, or a set of choices or circumstances that changes this character or defines who she is.

Recommendations: Something human has to happen and the protagonist is faced with a dilemma about their lifelong dreams.

Ironic Twist
Morii: The Desire to Capture a Fleeting Experience

Comments: You’re spending a lot of time on something you keep telling me isn’t important. I think you need to rearrange some of the parts to the story. You’re tapping into something interesting here, but you are also getting bogged down in the vaguery. Present Relic in a dire spot first, then explain to me that she has to kill to survive. At the same time, you need to make it a real choice. She doesn’t have the choice to not kill here.

Prompt-wise, I’m not sure you’re getting this here. You could completely strip the prompt off this story and nothing changes. Which fleeting experience is she after, the killing of each of these people? She doesn’t dwell on how that makes her feel very much. She just seems like she’s hungry. People don’t chase the fleeting feeling of a cheeseburger. They just eat the next one. The protagonist’s need is too base, too instinctual to classify this as some kind of nostalgic, or momentary bliss.

A potential way to resolve your narrative arc and prompt is to have them conflict with each other. She craves emotional connection as badly as she craves human flesh. Her moments of connecting with others are tainted by the inevitability of their death. Also, no need to be vague in descriptions of things. It’s not enhancing the story. Just say what things are.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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



A Right Setback for the Gripweed Lab
144 words

Docs Gripweed, Brown, Bundren, Brown, et al.:

This committee ain't pleased with your experimental design -- no sirree! We think the question of attention and focus in the online sphere is worthy of some darn serious research, but y'all show flaws in yer procedures that those Duke Boys could drive the General Lee through. The gaps between your input and prompt intervals are too dang large for your target audience; that passel o' polecats responds best to extremely rapid intermittent props, and your gaps of up to two days create major problems for interpretin' their responses and potential disinterest, hoo golly! You might should clean this grant proposal up and get it in its Sunday Best for reconsideration in next season.

Yers in Science,
Doc Eveline Pettibone, Ma Plunkett Professor of Downhome Sociology
on behalf of the Cooter Sopwith Memorial Communications Grant review committee

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk





Saucy rodent
Good clear words in service of a modest goal, I like how exacting the visualising is here. 6.5

Crimea
clever, kind of funny, a little cold and thin like the icy vacuum of space but still ok 6.5

Dr 0
Gawkily endearing in a mid-20s have you ever considered perhaps we are just images on a screen in a higher universe sort of way but with enough clunky words and phrases to knock it down a peg.  Not truly terrible though, the moment at the end is well done and that’s the point of the thing so gj on that little domer. 5.5

Lemonie
I feel a bit sorry for the poor nameless girl whose role in the story is to punctuate the protags yearnings for grilled trout with her own horrific camper van murder. this is a rumpy dump sort of psychic discovery yarn that doesn’t really amount to much or bother to finish any of the plot threads it picks out, tsk. 3

Simply simon
This has a certain berserk charm in its timeline hopping music fan and the final image is nice but I’m not convinced by the events and it winds up being overwhelmed by its contrivances (e.g. lennon’s perfect tone snapping a hair?  What?) 4

Canasta Nasty
“Each orange takes 13.8 gallons of water, and growing 7 million of them a year meant 96.6 million gallons” that’s super good intel, thanks buddy.  On the one hand this is slow and ploddy to the point of narcolepsy, on the other I kind of like the precision and clarity of your images when she’s ploddin’ up and down those drat orange trees, and the moment with the bear is nicely drawn.  I feel like there’s a final para that would have made the whole thing sing, but that isn’t it. 6

Lippincott
There’s a loooot of car crashin in this and you do it sort of well and sort of badly – well, in that your collision physics is clearly visualised and imaginative, badly in that your word choices are annoyingly cackhanded.  If you want I’ll do a line by line, the overall impression is one of stuffiness, without the rhythm that you want in a passage like that. Also, I’m not sure there’s much in the story apart from that description – you don’t pay off the ‘I stopped wearing my seatbelt’ in any very interesting way.  4.5

Flerp
You give excruciatingly good wordage in this story which is a description of a moment, essentially, though the tenses trip you up and there are a few awkward flubs.  However I think for me what stops it really landing is that there’s no idea of the dying person as an individual before all of this, so it’s hard to care – we only get a reflection of  the narrator and their honest but unflattering self-talk. 7

Salgal
Oh god that opening paragraph, it teeters on the edge of self parody.  If you’re finding you have to give us 200 words of intricately nested backstory so the intrinsic drama of someone being about to open a book really hits home, maybe consider just telling the story in order.  I’m not sure it would have made the story, which could be summarised as ‘she genealogied and genealogied until she genealogied too much so she stopped’ that much better, but it would not to my mind have made it much worse. 4

Anti-v
I love your conceit, the armed robber finding their curiosity halfway through a job is just solid gold, and the deets are all really well and cleanly drawn as I’d expect from you – I don’t like him running away though, it feels cowardly like you don’t want to work through the implications of the setup you’ve just created, and the quasi magical drug company that will take you in when you’ve done crimes like some kind of Novartis Foreign Legion is disappointingly contrived.  7

Anomalous amalgam
This manages to make interdimensional Cthulhu wrangling intensely boring which is arguably not an achievement you should be proud of.  When you write dull back and forth dialogue, reconsider and rewrite until it’s interesting to read, at this length you can’t afford to be tedious. The overall story of this is sort of a vaguely bad day at the interdimensional office, and people die and turn into goo and stuff and then one of the people turns into a bird and flies off I guess? There’s no particular sense of weight or meaning to it, they just do and the main guy just sort of shrugs.  I like your visuals, but you need to make sure they are in the service of something, not just there to use up the SFX budget. 5

M. Propagandalf
These wordy alienated goon yarns need to have something more if they’re going to justify their word count, even when that count is as modest as it is here.  This is ‘I saw a thing and ran away, the end’ which doesn’t make the nut. People in Shakespeare go to the forest to be changed, transformed, why couldn’t that have happened here?  This is the beginning of this guy’s story then it stops, it doesn’t end. Tsk. 3.5

Nethilia
You manage the changing tones fairly well, but it’s a bit too on the nose for my taste – everything happens much as we’d expect, perky pre teen, rebellious teen, jesus hangin’ round like he does.  I think this is like 70% of the way to a good and interesting story, but it doesn’t take the crucial next step of giving us something we didn’t expect. 5.5

Ironic twist
So we have a weird and sort of interesting hair vampire that’s rockin round murdering folk and storing them in her hair, presumably via some form of process, cool, she meets someone and has a vision, then her hair turns mostly white and she’s maybe normal again?  Maybe not? Idk? Plus she karaoke’d the hell out of hit me baby one more time for which nuff respect; that piano riff is killer. Still: really not sure what’s going on in this one for all the words have your usual snap and sizzle. 5.5

Kaishai
This is another of your gemstone stories, and it’s a really good one; outlines a neat high fantasy world, a slightly rose coloured family life and a bit of young love, with a solid twist (though I’m unclear on why the dad needed to stay alive?) and a good conclusion.  I wonder if the dad bein all fine and dandy was a missed trick? Makes the whole thing seem a bit light, with no consequences apart from the prince hans from frozen guy get carbonised. Speaking of things that were destroyed, see also: the wordcount, so this can’t get a favourable mention but it probably would have been in the hm/win category for me.  It’s not a flabby story so i don’t know what you wouljd have cut, but tsk.7.5 (but dq)

Sitting here
This is almost comically sitting here, but you got to play the hand that’s dealt you and in your case that involves a lot of people dissolving into the infinite after doing ooky sex stuff so what are you gonna do.  This is really rather good, though, is the thing - I like the pedal note of the fancy word repeated and the rando take-home guy has a degree of personality that belies how little he actually does in the story. The end is weak, i think her following him into the sky is an unsatisfying way to end it - what if she was left behind? Would she envy, desire, despise him?  Still, prbably my win pick 8

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Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Judgment of Obscure Sorrows

There was a rumor running through the chat that this was a good week. But rumors aren't always true, are they?

Let's say instead that it was a challenging week. Unfortunately, too many failed to meet the challenge, either by not writing at all or by boring the judges with a bunch of 'let me tell you about my (protagonist's) job/hobby/commute/magic system' blather. The bad: Dishonorable Mentions for M. Propagandalf's Non-Playable Character , Salgal80's Bloodlines, and Canasta_Nasty's In Between , with the loss going to Anomolous Amalgam's The Rebinding of That Which Was

On the brighter side we did have some good, if imperfect stories. Honorable Mentions go to flerp's For No One, Antivehicular's Radical Empathy , Sitting Here's One As the Sky, and Kaishai's Choose and Remember, possibly the strongest story but disqualified from victory due to the extra 50% word count.

Which leaves the winner: Saucy_Rodent, with 5101 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, IL 60609

Welcome to the blood throne!

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