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Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




In

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Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




The Horrible Truth of The Eternal

1194/1200

I pulled into the visitor lot of The League of Heroes. I was writing a story about The Eternal, the deaths on the freeway, the shocking condemnation from The League, and his unprecedented incarceration. Superheroes never took the fall like this. Why now?

In their penthouse office, I sat down across from the leader of The League of Heroes, The Spire. "Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview," I said. The Spire grimaced and responded in a deep but slightly sheepish baritone. "This thing has been a loving PR nightmare. It's embarrassing." I urged him on. He relaxed and settled into his chair. "Usually we super groups close ranks when something like this happens. You remember that thing with Mister Mantopus last year? All those videos leaking? A total mess, but The Prime Enforcers supported him and the whole thing just went away. Granted, what The Eternal did was way, way worse, but we still would've supported him if he wasn't such a..." I looked at him expectantly.

"...complete and total dickhead. Look, I can tolerate a lot. Part of my job is mediating intrateam conflict, you know? I took a Six Sigma course." The Spire was clearly proud. "But The Eternal is just abrasive. He doesn't even really have powers, he just lives forever." The Spire tapped a gauntlet-clad finger on the desk and continued. "The Centurion is a better tactician, Lady Blade's top-notch with logistics. Heck, Lunar Man pulls off the 'wizened guy with a cloak' schtick better than he does.” The Spire sighed. "The Blur isn't the world's fastest man. He's not even the second-fastest guy on the team. But he brings in a cake whenever someone has a birthday. Even for The Mercurian." The Spire leaned in. "The guy has like, four birthdays a year." He rubbed his forehead. "I tell you, that sort of attitude is more important than shooting lightning, or whatever." I nodded and The Spire rose from his seat. He looked down on me, suddenly seeming very weary. "Talk to the team. You'll see what I mean."

I stood up and shook his hand. I had been expecting a more nuanced picture of an immortal man, especially from his supposed friends. I considered The Spire’s words before my next interviews.

"Here's the thing," The Centurion began. "The guy has supposedly lived for what, ten thousand years? But he hasn't picked up any people skills. Or maybe he learned them, but somewhere along the line forgot that you don't tell your host that his new apartment's decor looks ‘whorish’". The Centurion looked down, clearly still a little wounded. "I mean, it was my first time having guests over."

A cloud of ghostly knives slowly swirled above Lady Blade. "He's a very dirty, very old man." she began. "At the League’s Christmas party he definitely made a pass at Kid Blade. I called him out, you know what he said?” I raised my eyebrows. “He said that consent is ageless.” We shuddered together.

Thresher fixed me with narrowed eyes. "The Eternal know what he done." I shifted in my chair and waited for him to say more. Thresher clicked his claws. "He know what he done." Ten seconds of silence passed.

Three days later I arrived at Attica Correctional Facility. Prior to the meeting, an officer ushered me into a side room and pointed to a DVD player. "You wanted to see the dashcam?" I nodded and hit play.

The footage opened on a badly dented Range Rover, half on the road and half on the shoulder. A minivan was burning in the background with paramedics working nearby. As the officers exited their cruiser, a man in a tracksuit stumbled out of the Range Rover. An officer approached him, taser drawn, and yelled out. "Sir, lay on the ground and put your hands behind your head!"

The stumbling man turned to face the camera. Even in the dashcam night vision, The Eternal's pointed beard and heavy eye makeup were unmistakable. He slurred his words, almost falling over as he shouted. "The Eternal takes no orders from the mouths of mortals!"

The officers shared a look and the one on the left shrugged, then continued. "Sir, we're going to need you to get on the ground, now!"

The tracksuited superhero began to stumble toward the police, his hands raised not in supplication, but in command. "The Eternal has supped with kings! He has dined on the steps of the hanging gardens of Babylon! Who are you to issue orders, swine?"

The cop on the right looked at his partner. "Ice him, Lou."

Lou fired his taser, dropping The Eternal. He approached the quivering superhero and began to cuff him, then recoiled.

"Aw Christ, Howard. He's pissing himself."

The footage cut out. I shook my head, understanding what the heroes of The League had meant. I rolled the tape over in my mind as I walked to the interview cubicle and waited for The Eternal.

He hobbled in, hands and feet shackled. In the newsprint, he was depicted with a crimson robe, sparking eyes, and a gnarled staff. Today, in prison orange, he looked a little pathetic. I scooted my chair closer to the table and began. "Mr. Eternal, I've met with The League. I've seen the dashcam tape. Would you like to share your side of the story?" The Eternal attempted to cross his arms, found he couldn't do so in manacles, then fixed me with a haughty glare. When he spoke, his voice wasn't booming, nor did it make me tremble. In fact, it was a little nasal.

"The Eternal speaks no stories, for his word is the law of time!"

I decided to take another line with the questions.

"Mr. Eternal, you were convicted of a, uh..." I quickly checked my notes. "...fifth offense DUI? That, plus the deaths. Two parents, four kids." I frowned. "On their way home from Legoland." I recalled the brightly colored bricks scattered on the road from the dashcam tape. "You blew a .35. You're looking at serious time, you must have something to say."

The Eternal snorted. "I have shared beer with the pharaohs of Egypt, wine with Alexander the Great, scotch with Winston Churchill!" With this last proclamation he attempted to raise his hands skyward and found them shackled to his waist. He leaned in. "The Eternal could not have possibly had more than two rum and cokes that night. Perhaps, perhaps a third. But no more."

I was baffled. Was it really possible to live ten thousand years and not develop any self-awareness? Did age have anything to do with wisdom? I tried one last time. "Mr. Eternal, any last comments to share with the public? Do you feel any remorse at all?"

The Eternal scowled at me with pure contempt. "The Eternal cares not for the laws or cages of men, for his is the power of centuries, the wisdom of innumerable seasons!" He stretched out the last word. The Eternal licked his lips, then looked down at the table. "The Eternal also desires commissary credit."

I put my steno into my bag and left the room.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Oh, I'm extremely in.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Can I have a link to the thunderdome discord?

Please and thank you

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Last Requisition
1284/1300 words

Tom booted up the console while leafing through his small stack of requisition forms. In the blank field below the header he wrote 'One hundred requisition forms' and deposited it into the slot on the console. He swiped his biometric card, punched in the password, and waited. Tom idly twirled the class ring on his finger. Three green lights blinked and the chamber opened to a stack of identical requisition forms.

Last week he'd filled out requisition forms for 'a flat-earth globe', 'mother's pearl earrings', 'autumnal four leaf clover', and 'a shingle like the ones I used to have'. They had been getting weirder lately, he thought.

Tom heard a cough behind him.

"Excuse me? This is the back, correct?"

The man in front of him was old, unshaven, and sweaty. He shifted impatiently while tightly gripping the straps of his backpack.

"Yes sir, if you'll give me a few minutes," Tom responded.

The worn-out man frowned and slipped the backpack off of his shoulders. He placed it on the floor and unzipped it, then hastily pulled something out.

"I'm sorry, but you're going to need to help me now." His voice had grown soft and eerily flat.

Tom's response caught in his throat as the customer levelled a gun at his chest.

"I'm Mr. Choi. I'm here to requisition my son."

Tom put his hands up, confused and trembling. "I can't do that, sir. I've never, I mean, I don't think the requisition console-"

Mr. Choi loudly tapped the counter with his revolver.

Tom unlocked the door. Mr. Choi looked over his shoulder for a moment at the near-endless Voidmart aisle behind him, then walked in. He looked over the chamber door, the console, and Tom, then spoke.

"I watched the worker up front, you know, when I submitted all those ridiculous requests. Just to see if they could be done. A shingle from a home I lived in fifty years ago? Just to see." He licked his lips. "I saw em swipe the card and put in the password." He had moved forward, the greasy barrel just inches from Tom's chest. "Now get a form and listen close."

Mr. Choi dictated. "Adam Joel Choi, son of Robert Adam Choi. Died of metastatic kidney cancer on January 14th, 2019." Tom held the form out for him to inspect. Tears had welled up in Mr. Choi's eyes and the gun began to shake in his hand. "I'm not done. I asked for one of my mother's pearl earrings and I got some cheap piece of a junk. Gotta be specific. Keep writing." He used the back of the hand holding the gun to wipe his eyes. Tom kept taking dictation.

"Died at Loretto Hospital in Austin, suburb of Chicago, Illinois. He leaves behind a wife and two children, Taylor and Kimberly." Mr. Choi thought for a moment and continued. "To be delivered in perfect health." Tom completed the form and handed it over. Mr. Choi looked at it with satisfaction.

"One more thing," the old man began, then paused and looked Tom in the eyes.

"I want to tell you that I'm sorry. I don't know what else to do. It's not fair." Mr. Choi had begun to crinkle the form before he caught himself. "I just want it to be like it was. Before he got sick."

Tom slid Mr. Choi's form into the console, swiped the card, and punched in the password. The console's first light blinked green, then the second. Then a pause. The third light flashed red and the screen displayed a message it hadn't before.

'Requisition item not found. Insufficient material for requisition. Retry?'

Without being prodded to, Tom retried. And retried the same thing that hadn't worked before, expecting something different. Same message.

Mr. Choi rubbed the gun barrel on his chin, frustrated. He pointed the gun back to Tom. "Well, what do you usually do when this happens? Because I want you to do it. Now."

"I, I don't know. This has never happened before. Voidmart has everything, but we can't just requisition people," Tom stammered.

Mr. Choi took another step back, sitting on the counter with his gun still levelled. He began to murmur. "Insufficient material. Insufficient material." He dipped into his backpack again. Tom felt a wave of nausea creep over his gut as he looked at the old man's knife. Mr. Choi's voice was dead even. "Put your hand on the counter. Put it on the counter or I swear to god I'll shoot."

Tom was taken aback and began to plead. "Mr. Choi! We can work on something, I can talk to management and maybe-"

Mr. Choi cut him off. "No."

Tom took a few shaky steps forward and laid his hand on the counter. Mr. Choi looked down at it, inspecting Tom's fingers.

"Not that hand," he said. "The other one."

Tom laid his right hand on the countertop, his class ring clinking against the surface. Mr. Choi was in an awkward position, knife in one hand and gun in the other. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, but I have to know that it works," he said. "Insufficient material," Mr. Choi murmured again. He began to count, seemingly more for himself than for Tom.

"Three"

"Two"

He brought the knife down on Tom's finger, hard, just below the class ring. The pain was blinding. Tom's nausea gave way and he was sick on the floor. Mr. Choi examined the amputated digit. He gripped Tom by the arm and led him back to the console. Their hands were the same sallow shade under the fluorescence.

"Do it again," Mr. Choi said softly, a near-whisper.

Tom sobbed and shook. This time, before depositing the form, he put his dripping finger on the floor of the requisition chamber. The nailbed was beginning to fade to white as pallor set in. Tom closed the door then ran the console. One green light. Two. The console paused as Tom's heart raced.

The third lit up and the console beeped. The chamber door opened and a new message flashed on the screen. On looking inside, Tom's stomach sank to an impossible new low. Mr. Choi's heart leapt further into his throat.

There was a finger sitting on the floor of the chamber. Smaller than Tom's, slimmer. And without a ring. Mr. Choi knelt and picked up the pink phalanx, then looked up at Tom. "It's his." The old man trembled and smiled for the first time. "There's a scar, see? He caught a fishhook when we were out on the lake. His finger's still warm." The grieving father's eyes strayed toward the screen.

'Requisition partially completed. Insufficient material. Add material and retry?'

Both men understood what the message meant. Mr. Choi pointed at Tom with the revolver. At his material. "I'm sorry. Punch in the codes and get inside. I have to see him again. I have to."

Tom made a final appeal. "I've got a family. You can't do this, you can't do this, you can't-"

Mr. Choi didn't respond this time. His face, streaked with tears, was fixed in an impassive mask.

Shaking in shock, blood dripping from his mangled hand, Tom entered the password and swiped his card. Mr. Choi gave him a shove with the barrel of the gun and Tom entered the chamber. He looked at Tom one last time with grief in his eyes.

"I'm sorry."

Mr. Choi slammed the door shut.

It was dark inside. Tom heard one beep, then a second. After an eternity, he heard the third beep. The chamber began to shake. Tom felt a horrible emptiness, then a tearing, then nothing.

In the back office, Mr. Choi screamed.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Yeah, ok. In.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Mercedes posted:

"Why is this bad so light?"

Memorial
997/1000 words


In India, we burn our dead. When my grandfather died, we ignited him in his hometown. The smoke was thick and so heavy, smelling of sandalwood, marigold, and earth. Ten generations ago, my grandmother would have walked into the pyre with him. His ashes were poured in the Ganges.

Our family's jewelry store burned three days ago, twenty years after my grandfather. My father burned with it.

I'd opened the door to my mother's room this morning and peeked in. The curtains were drawn. My mother was on the bed, sobbing in gasps, too tired to cry consistently. I called out to her softly and she jerked her head up quickly, that panic response. She didn't make any attempt to compose herself.

"Leena." she said. "Are you okay? How's Ravi?"

I didn't know how to answer her. Ravi's door had been closed since I'd woken up. More seriously, I was having trouble calling this a tragedy. I didn't have an easy answer for her. My mother motioned me to sit on her bed.

"Can I tell you something, between us?" she said.

"Of course, mom," I responded.

She pulled herself to a seated position. "I'm only crying because I feel like I have to. Is that wrong?"

I gave her a hug. It was a little maudlin, but that was her way. I understood. I hadn't shed any tears yet. I didn't know that any would come.

"I think you should feel free," I said. I quickly corrected myself. "You should be free to feel however you feel."

I left my mother and wandered to my brother's room, feeling listless. I knocked on the door.

"Ravi? Are you in there?"

The reply was muffled. "Yeah, Leena. Come in."

I walked in and sat down on the bed next to him. He had been playing solitaire, as he did when deep in thought. From what I could tell, he was winning. His room was fairly spartan. Everything he valued, I knew, was hidden underneath his bed, to keep it safe from our father. I remembered him keeping up a half-torn Sonic Youth poster, in rebellion. The consequences had been severe. I watched him flick the cards, then spoke.

"What are you going to do now?" I bit my lip with both anticipation and cautious optimism.

Ravi stopped playing. "I don't really know." He almost smiled. "Everything I've ever wanted to do, I guess?" He'd become more brief over the past few years. He told me once that he thought it kept him out of trouble.

I didn't have any words for him. There was a gnawing in my stomach. Encouragement didn't seem appropriate, although I wanted to fling my arms around his shoulders. Between cleaning up my father's messes and keeping our family afloat, the store had been a millstone around his neck. I thought I'd remembered him wanting to go to nursing school, once upon a time.

I got up, kissed him lightly on the cheek, then left.

I wound around the corridor to my father's room. My parents hadn't slept together in years. Before she'd gotten around to her uncertain grief, my mother must have had closed all the shades upstairs. The house seemed gloomy, the air thick. I opened the door to my father's room. His bed was still made and the exposed window bathed it in light. I sat down near the headboard and opened the cabinet. It was full of bottles of whiskey, most empty and one half-full. Black label, his favorite. His last breakfast must have been the other half of the bottle. I looked over the rest of his room, otherwise bare as a fresh rental. I'd read once that in late-stage alcoholism, nothing outside of the drinking particularly mattered.

I thought about the last two days. The officer had told us that my father had suffocated. Carbon monoxide poisoning and a lot of alcohol. After I thanked him and closed the door, I had gone to my room and smiled in secret. My mother, Ravi, and I had stayed separate that day, grieving and not grieving in our own ways.

I left and walked down to the living room, my feet feeling their way along the darkened steps. My father had insisted that the house be spotless. A few weeks ago he'd come in swaying and red-eyed, and looked over the mess from supper on the dining table. He'd screamed that if his family wanted a mess, he'd make a mess. I relived his words and a chill crept over me. I could hear the thuds, the clattering, and my mother's wounded whimpering. I flinched and without realizing it, had looked over my shoulder. I had expected him to be watching, towering at the top of the steps and leering down at me. I shook it off. Never again.

I sat down at the kitchen table and looked at the unadorned box the crematorium had delivered. It had been sitting there for a day or so, the ashes of his bones pulled from the wreckage of the jewelry store. The box was plain, its surface cool. I lifted it gingerly, just a few inches off of the table.

It was light, so light that it felt insubstantial. I hefted it to my ear like a Christmas present and gave it a gentle shake. There was a whisper of a shift inside. All that chaos, all that violence, all that weight, all inside this little box. I opened it and put my finger inside, stirring the fine ashes. Like a miniature zen garden, I thought. I walked to the sink, cradling the box.

I thought of my grandfather's ashes blackening the muddy water of the Ganges before he was swept away.

I ran the water and poured the ashes into the sink. Some of the ash floated up before it was sucked down. I rinsed out the box, scouring every trace of him from our home. Mom and Ravi would understand.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




In, hit me with an ant.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




In

My cat.

Hellrule me! (Imagine the toxx emoji here)

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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





gently caress. Uh, my item is

YOUR cat

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Sitting Here posted:

you can both write about my cat but i will be watching closely to determine who loves kitties more

Awesome. I'll take my toxx rule then, Seb

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




A Departure
1126 words

The room was warm and Harry's toes curled as they sunk into the red plush carpet. Alexander was, as always, sitting at his side and gazing up. Their eyes met. Harry blinked at Alexander slowly. Alexander blinked slowly back, then flopped over and started purring.

The purr was deep, warm, and filled the room with its sheer pleasure. Harry sank his fingertips deep into the cat's belly fur and Alexander's purring intensified. Like every morning, Harry ran through his gratitude list as Alexander stretched and sprawled on the bed. Perfect job, beautiful neighborhood, soft carpet, dinner last night with friends, and his best friend and constant feline companion. He scratched a little harder and faster as Alexander twitched his front paws. The fur between the cat's toes danced. The room was calm, still, vibrant in warm color. Alexander grabbed Harry's hand with his paws and began licking it all over. For the first time in his life, Harry's life mirrored his view of perfection. The hound was gone.

That was three weeks ago, just before Alexander vanished.

Harry hauled himself out of bed and rubbed the crust from his eyes. His body ached all over. He planted his feet in the rough carpet, which had faded into a dirty grey. He kept the shades closed, leaving the entire room a lifeless grey, self-reinforced isolation in a suburban sprawl. The air was thick and heavy as he moved through it. He shambled into the bathroom and splashed water onto his face, wincing at the harsh cold. He looked at himself in the mirror. His skin had gone as ugly grey as the rest of the house. He couldn't make out his own features, instead seeing a stretch of blank skin.

Alexander's litterbox sat in the corner. Harry had saved a piss-cemented chunk in the first few days since the cat's disappearance, hoping stupidly that the scent would bring him back. It still sat there.

He didn't bother brushing his teeth. No point. No breakfast. No point. No sunlight. No point. No cleaning. No point. No work. No point.

Harry heard a meowing, soft and high. His heart raced in anticipation. He moved quickly for the first time in weeks. The atmospheric molasses had lifted, however briefly. He checked under the table, under the sofa. His search grew more desperate. Inside a drawer. Under the sink. Nothing. No Alexander. The meowing had faded, replaced by a deep growl. Without thinking, Harry approached the kitchen window and checked behind the shade. The outside light hit him, a solar lashing. There was a vicious curving nausea and an obliterating revulsion. He threw the shades closed and his vision faded from bright white to familiar, miserable dim. He took a deep, shuddering breath as his mental fog settled in once more. No feeling, no emotion, a totality of anesthesia. He sank in his own psychic bayou.

It had been hours? Days? Since Harry had heard the meowing. He was taunted by scritching in the night, soft chirps in the darkness, and even once a feeling of fur, soft and clean under his outstretched hand. But whenever he looked, it was gone.

The hound had taken its place.

He'd seen the hound in his childhood, when life grew dark and restless. He'd felt it nip at his heels. Its eyes were vortices of thieving darkness, its howl the beckoning of purest void. An avatar of a mental sinkhole, inescapable and insatiable. He hadn't seen it in years. Not until Alexander had left.

Since the cat's departure, the hound made itself known. Harry saw it at the corners of his vision. It sapped his strength and resolve, just as it did all those years ago. Over the weeks, the hound drained him. Harry fought at first, but all the fight had left him. In Alexander's vacancy, the hound declared victory.

Harry sat in his tub and ran the water lukewarm. His home had become a mausoleum as his options ran dry. He lifted the knife and placed it to his chest. Its tip had drawn blood in a steady stream down his naked abdomen. He shifted slightly and moved the knife from his left side to his wrist. It would delay the inevitable.

He steeled himself and slid the knife across. His blood began flowing, warm and smelling like smoke.

In those last moments, at the edges of his perception, there was a sound. The purr captured Harry's ears as it built to a shoegazing wall of sound, reverberating in his chest and conducting in his bones. He reached for it. He felt regret, loss for the hope he once had. Loss for letting down his friend. That last hope kindled and bloomed as Harry fought to hold some piece of goodness.

In the living room, in the twilight of Harry's happiness, Alexander and the nightmare engaged in tooth and claw.

The hound's charred fur wept smoke as it lunged for the cat's throat. In the space of that lunge and the shade of that last hope, Alexander grew leonine, his size rivaling the hound's. The hound's jaw closed on Alexander's massive paw. The cat's lifeblood, Harry's hope, flowed in a prismatic cataract, and pooled on the ground in rainbow brilliance. Harry's breath grew stronger, ragged and frantic, as Alexander resisted.

Alexander roared and Harry grasped the knife handle. In the living room, Alexander hooked a second paw inside the hound's mouth. Harry cast the knife aside, sending it skittering across the floor. Alexander's paws levered the hound's jaws. As Harry grasped his wound, his blood began to flow in reverse. The color returned to his face. The hound was losing ground.

Harry remembered warmth, safety, and peace. The hound's maw opened between Alexander's paws. Harry rose shakily from the tub. The jaws opened wider. The hound's skull began to crack and inky void flowed from its mouth. It howled in pain and Alexander roared in triumph. Harry closed his eyes, focused on the roar, focused on what his constant companion had gifted him.

He climbed from the tub, his hopelessness cast aside. The hound gave a pained howl as its jaw opened in a grotesque inversion. Its skull gave, milk-white bone erupting in a shower of gore from the nothingness.

There was silence.

Harry awoke in bed, running his hand across Alexander's fur. His chest ached, but there was no trace of the blade. The cat's paw hung limp as Alexander purred in pleasure. Harry looked out the open window. His neighbor was mowing the green, green grass. The sun hung resplendent in the suburban sky. He smiled and reclined in bed as Alexander crept onto his chest and nuzzled close. Harry looked at Alexander and blinked slowly. The cat blinked back.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




In, Toxx me up :toxx:

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Last Call
951 Words

The bottle showed up right after I got fired. My boss told me I was inconsistent, unreliable, and chronically late. I told him that he was a pitiless gently caress. I probably shouldn't have done that, but I was about a pint of vodka deep and I'm an angry drunk. I think I called him fat. That was uncalled for.

I climbed into my car. The glovebox was open and the bottle sat inside. The liquid inside sloshed invitingly, as if it'd just been placed there. I'd found bottles in my glovebox before, but they were hardly ever full and I had some recollection of scraping change out of cupholders to buy them. gently caress Monroe HVAC. I uncorked it and drank deep.

When I woke up, the bottle was full and in my arms. The label depicted a grinning face with three stylized 'X's underneath it. I didn't stop to think. Ten-ish hours without a drink and the shakes were setting in. I blacked out a few hours later. When I woke up, my mouth was dry and my head was full of needles. Time for round two.

Eleven months later, I'd had enough.

I'd vomited blood, spraying the cheap laminate floor of my apartment with a torrent that started bright red and ended up as coffee grounds. I laid there, hacking out dirty little chunks. Each cough sent a knife through my back. I'd left the bottle in the kitchen but as I sprawled on the floor, breathing hard, I saw it on the bookcase. The label smiled down at me. I laid that way until a neighbor found me, hearing my retching through the wall. I was in the hospital a few days. Before my discharge, my doc had stepped into the room. He regarded me with pity.

"Son, you have a disease," he said. "And it's going to do its damnedest to kill you."

He gave me a script for benzos to ward off the shakes. That day, I smashed the bottle in my bathtub.

My hands were pale and trembling. I took a benzo, closing my eyes and willing the shaking to stop. I opened them and hoped I wasn't floating into delirium. The glass was gone. The streaks of alcohol in the tub were gone. I needed a drink. I needed not to drink.

I walked back to the living room and sat down on the sofa. I wanted booze like crazy, more than I wanted anything else that hated me so bad. It'd make the pain, the confusion, the creeping fear wash away. But I needed to stop, for my life and my sanity. The bottle was on the bookshelf again. Its smile had faded into a grim, tight line.

I lunged at it and swept it away. It flew off the bookshelf, but there was no sound of glass shattering. I heard a trickling. I scanned around the room for the bottle as the trickling rose to a steady flow. The doors out of the living room were closed. I didn't remember doing that. I saw the source of the sound and my stomach dropped.

Pitch black liquid flowed from under the doors. The smell of alcohol singed my nostrils. I pulled the handles in turn as the flow turned into a spray. In a few seconds, the booze was up to my ankles. I threw my shoulder into the door. It didn't give. I whirled around, looking for an exit. I lived in a basement. I couldn't afford windows.

The liquor continued to flow as I pounded on my wall for rescue. The rough drywall began to change. It grew smoother. I was pounding on glass. The booze was at my chest and the glass wouldn't crack. My desk floated in the fluid. The bottle was atop it, swaying and shaking but not falling in the waves.

The bottle extended a glassy tentacle. The tendril whipped, then calmed as it grew into an ornate snifter. An offering. The tentacle stretched further from the bottle until the snifter had almost reached my hand. I closed my hand into a fist, denying the glass my grasp. The flooding intoxicant rose.

The face on the bottle contorted into a hateful glare. The glass sprang free of its tentacle and landed on my arm with serrated nails. It clawed up my hand and arm, leaving bloody divots as it made its way to my mouth.

I pursed my lips and shook my head as the snifter teetered on my chin. The liquor was up to my neck now. I was losing strength. The snifter hopped on my chin, stabbing down hard. I croaked in pain and my tongue was bathed in a sip from the glass.

I tasted vanilla, oak, berries, fresh dirt and soothing sunshine. I swallowed hard and the liquor around my neck receded. The glass lovingly rubbed its smooth lip across mine.

I opened my mouth a little more. It tipped more of the ambrosaic liquid into my mouth. It tasted even better than before. In that sip I was peaceful, secure, protected from the world and my fear. The black fluid calmed and receded further. The desk settled to the ground. I found myself holding the glass, still half full. I took a vigorous chug, not wincing as the strong liquor hit my throat. The rest of the liquid sept into my floor. I sat down and stretched my aching legs. Without a push, the bottle began to roll toward me, coming to a rest at my leg.

The fear and pain, guilt and shame, remorse and loneliness, they began to creep back. I knew they were with me forever.

Until the next drink.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Entenzahn posted:

I will do this with up to three people

I'm in.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Oh, I'm also IN

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




As We Soar Into the Burning Eye
1438 Words

<Welcome to the NobleAir In-Flight Messenger App! Additional charges may apply for in-app purchases! Enjoy complimentary spelling and grammar correction! Remember, Be Respectful and Have Fun!>

<Andy> Yoooo 27B represent! Where's everyone from?

<Campbell> 18/F/CA LOL

<Eva> We're from Tennennesee! :) :)

<Howard> Is your mom okay with you talking to strangers, Eva?

<Eva> My mom's too busy to play

<Monica> Ugh I wish the drink cart would get here! ;)

<Howard> Here, here! After that conference I could use a nice whiskey.

<Andy> Oh man same same

<Eva> Mom said I could have a coke!

<Howard> What is it, 5 and a half hours to Chicago?

<Campbell> Yeah, I think so

<Andy> I can't believe we lucked into this flight, C. Redeyes sold out all down the west coast!

<Monica> Same here! Last minute ticket FTW!

<Andy> Is it just us on this chat thing? Full flight, too!

<Monica> What, we're not good enough for you? ;)

<Campbell> Man, twenty minutes into the flight and Andy's already complainin

<Campbell> You better get that **** out of your system before we get to Chicago bro

<Howard> Did you all feel that?

<Campbell> Yeah, smooth flight my ***! I almost popped out of my seat

<Campbell> Wtf there's another one

<Eva> Im scared

<Eva> My mommy said everything will be ok

<Monica> Listen to your mommy Eva

<Andy> Yeah kiddo it's just a little turbulence! That's a big word for air bumps

<Howard> Pretty quiet flight besides the 'air bumps', huh.

<Monica> Oooh yeah, drink cart drink cart!

<Monica> I'm gonna get turrrrnt

<Howard> Monica, there's a child present.

<Monica> It's nothing she hasn't heard before! It's just like your mommy's wine nights!

<Eva> Mommy doesn't have wine nights. She likes to meet with her friends and pray

<Eva> They're weird

<Campbell> The dude next to me just started praying.

<Campbell> Or chanting, or something. Some people don't do well on planes I guess

<Monica> Has the drink cart gotten to you guys yet? :D

<Campbell> I dunno, doesn't look like this guy drinks. I think he's a rabbi or something

<Andy> Flying in robes seems like sorta a solid idea actually

<Campbell> Free ballin?

<Howard> Watch your language!

<Andy> I'm just feeling a little bound up in these sweatpants, old man

<Howard> I'm not old, I'm just decent.

<Campbell> lol, eat it Andy

<Eva> All these bumps are scary

<Howard> Why is it so dark in here? I tried calling the stewardess, but no one has come.

<Howard> Are the cabin lights broken?

<Monica> Try calling for a drink, they'll show up then

<Monica> Worked for me! ;)

<Andy> Campbell it's weird, the guy next to me started chanting too. Not dressed in robes tho

<Campbell> Yeah this dude hasn't let up. I can't even make out what he's saying

<Eva> Mommy's praying too

<Campbell> All these bumps are getting to me man. I'm gonna go up to the stewardess and ask them if everything's ok

<Monica> Do it! I almost spilled!

<Andy> Did you guys see that? I think they let Campbell into the cabin?

<Admin: User Campbell has logged off! ERR: PASSENGER NOT FOUND>

<Andy> How'd he log off? I didn't see him come back

<NobleAir> "The traitorous children of Igarde wept as I held their limp Moon in my jaws."

<NobleAir> Akarrh 18:40


<Monica> Uh excuse me?

<Andy> Whaaaaaaat was that

<Howard> I'm sure someone is just playing a prank with the messenging system.

<Howard> Though I'm not familiar with the work they're quoting.

<Andy> Campbell's still not back. I'm getting freaked out, I'm going to go check his seat.

<Howard> Calm down.

<Monica> He better not log out on us

<Andy> Something's not right here. His seat was empty so I asked the dude in the robe where Campbell is.

<Andy> He stops praying or whatever and tells me that there's no one sitting there

<Andy> Then this creep offers me the seat!!!! No ******* way man

<Andy> I'm just gonna wait until he comes back

<Howard> That seems wise.

<Eva> I think the drink lady is from my mommy's church!

<Howard> That's very nice, Eva.

<NobleAir> "The ramparts have fallen. Our own dead turn against us in tooth and claw. Her moon fades and I fear all is lost."

<NobleAir> Tourbrandt 13:16


<Andy> Ok, it's been an hour. Campbell isn't back. I'm gonna go ask a flight attendant

<Monica> Are we just ignoring those messages now

<Monica> Is that seriously where we're at

<Howard> I'm sure it will be fine. It's just a joke.

<Monica> Jokes are supposed to be funny, Howard

<Howard> You sound like my ex-wife.

<Andy> The attendant pretended that she didn't know what was going on

<Andy> Then she said, and I quote, 'We firmly suggest that you stay in your seat, keep your window closed, and refrain from molesting other passengers.' wtf is that ****

<Howard> You sound paranoid. It's a night flight. People don't want to be bothered.

<Eva> I'm bored

<Eva> Mommy won't talk to me she's too busy praying

<Eva> None of these games work

<NobleAir> "Those who yearn for safety, cry for shields, weep for an end, look no further. Gaze upon me, and weep no more."

<NobleAir> Akarrh 29:1


<Howard> This stopped feeling like a joke.

<Monica> All I know is I'm not getting up. I'm staying right here

<Andy> I wish Campbell were back

<Eva> That was mommy's prayer!

<Eva> She says it in the morning and at night and at lunch

<Eva> and with snacks

<Howard> You know what all that means, Eva?

<Andy> so the kid knows the creepy poems. I think I've seen this movie

<Monica> There's no wifi. There was when we left

<Howard> I know, I tried.

<Andy> Getting scared, Howard?

<Howard> No. I'm just looking at all the options.

<Andy> JESUS. I almost hit the ceiling! That pilot needs to cool it.

<Andy> LOOK UP THE AISLE

<Andy> That stewardess just dragged some dude out of his seat

<Andy> **** she's taking him into the cabin

<Andy> Can you guys see into there

<Howard> She's closed the door. That seemed uncalled for.

<Monica> How can you be so calm? Is none of this getting to you?

<Monica> The chanting's so loud now I can't even think

<Monica> It feels like everyone on here is praying I'm seriously freaking out

<NobleAir> "My brothers! My brothers have fallen! Oh blessed Igarde, where is our rescue? Where our salvation?"

<NobleAir> Tourbrandt 22:23


<Andy> **** this. I'm going to the cabin

<Andy> I'm gonna get campbell out of there

<Monica> NO

<Monica> DO NOT

<Monica> Don't leave me here

<Andy> I don't know wtf is going on but I'm not gonna sit here

<Monica> Howard, say something!

<Howard> I'm not dying on his account

<Monica> Who said anything about dying???? You're such a ****!!!!!!!

<Monica> Andy DON'T GO UP There

<Admin: User Andy has logged off! ERR: PASSENGER NOT FOUND>

<Howard> Did you hear Andy yell? No one around him lifted a finger to help.

<Howard> They dragged him out

<Howard> The passengers helped

<Monica> You ****ing coward!!!

<Howard> I didn't see you trying to help

<Monica> I'm drunk!!!!

<Howard> Bet you've said that before

<Monica> **** you Howard

<Eva> Stop fighting!!!!!!!!

<Eva> Daddy and mommy fight then mommy made daddy go away

<NobleAir> "The last bell of Igarde shattered and her radiant tower fell. I am her last son and on this hallowed ground I shall wait for the wings of Akarrh."

<NobleAir> Tourbrandt 35:16


<Eva> Mommy is grabbing my leg so hard. It hurts and she won't stop

<Howard> The praying stopped.

<Monica> Thanks for the update Howard

<Monica> *****

<NobleAir> "At last, mighty Tourbrandt. Your head in my hands, your soul in my teeth. Where is your Igarde? Look no more, for your eyes see no longer."

<NobleAir> Akarrh 68:4


<Howard> Did you feel that? I think we're climbing.

<Howard> I need to see what's going on

<Monica> Howard was that you? Shut that window!!

<Monica> It's so bright

<Monica> It's too bright

<Monica> They'll see you

<Admin: User Howard has logged off! ERR: PASSENGER NOT FOUND>

<NobleAir> "Do you hear it? No cawing of crows, no din of the market, not the barest breeze upon the ear. It is my sound."

<NobleAir> Akarrh 70:9


<Monica> Eva? Are you there?

<Eva> Yah

<Monica> Stay with me sweetie

<Monica> Please just stay with me

<NobleAir> "At last. At last, we soar into the burning eye."

<NobleAir> Akarrh 82:10


<Admin: User Monica has logged off! ERR: PASSENGER NOT FOUND>

<Admin: User Eva has logged off! ERR: PASSENGER NOT FOUND>

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




In

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




When We Went Back Home
1160 words

The first time I met my grandfather, my Ajoba, I cried inconsolably. My uncle put me in a rickshaw and took me from my grandparents' cramped apartment to our maternal family home, The Brahmin Society. He asked me why I cried, what was wrong, but I couldn't answer him.

My grandfather is blind and crippled. My dad lionized his father when I grew up. Told me he was a great man, a community organizer, a savvy businessman. When I saw my Ajoba sitting in a stained nightshirt, his eyes rheumy and opaque, his toothless smile sunken and hollow, I froze. He hugged me. He was thin, skeletal, smelled of age and acrid betel nut. I couldn't handle the closeness of his humanity. I cried and wouldn't stop.

I grew up in a town northwest of Chicago. The suburb was safe, the school district good, the people easy and friendly. My parents' home was and is spotless. I'd walk outside and the air smelled like nothing. When I was ten, my mother began hauling suitcases from a cabinet under the basement stairs. The family would spend the next month in India.

I had been there before, but I was too young to remember anything substantial. I had snatches of memory: a truck gifted on my birthday, fireworks in our courtyard, the swaying trees in roaring rain, the stray dogs on the streets.

At Brahmin Society, my uncle took out his front false teeth with his tongue, waggling them grotesquely while arching his eyebrows. He was trying to make me laugh. It didn't take. I was ten years old, a man, I had come of age, and I cowered like a child. He left, frustrated, and I had Brahmin Society to myself.

Thane, where my parents grew up, is a bustling city an hour from Bombay by train. Street hawkers and congested sidewalks add to the din of greasy trucks and rickshaws, but Brahmin Society is different. Down a side street, through a back alley, a stone passage opens to a tranquil courtyard of ancient flagstones, where tropical trees shelter it from the outside noise. Here, it is quiet. The family residence is up a staircase with banisters wearing rusted busts of Queen Victoria, relics from our colonial heritage. There are other apartments in my family's home, sectioned off over the years. The inhabitants are quiet, shadowy people that I rarely saw. The woman downstairs hadn't spoken to the family in years on account of some fuzzy quarrel, our other neighbor left before dawn to drive his rickshaw and returned far after I'd fallen asleep. There were others I knew even less.

Brahmin Society exuded calm, the eye in a storm of noise. Today was different. I felt shame at my childish rejection, confusion at not being able to hold him. I hoped I hadn't hurt him, this man that life had hurt so badly. I searched the house for something familiar.

Upstairs, outside of the main house on the roof, is a little stone outhouse with the home's only 'American-style' toilet. I sat on that toilet with the lid closed. It was as close to home as I could get. A fat cockroach flitted across the floor. The room smelled of thick heat, Marlboros, and Pear soap. I settled in and began reading the back of the soap box, then the shampoo and conditioner. We'd brought them from America. They were my aunt's favorite. I calmed myself. I'd finished the warning on the back of the Marlboros when I heard a call from downstairs.

"Are you up there? What happened?"

It was my father. I left the toilet and walked down the narrow stairs, my head full of shame.

"Yeah Dad, I'm here." My Marathi was better back then, but I needed to speak English. He looked concerned, not angry. I felt guiltier. I sat down on the sofa downstairs and put my head in his lap, then curled my body into his. We were quiet for a moment, then he spoke.

"He loves you, you know. Can I tell you a story?"

He stroked my hair, deep in thought. I couldn't tell my him that Ajoba sightlessly grasping in my direction had scared me. Dad didn't wait for my answer.

"When I was younger, when Ajoba was more able, we went on a walk. He wore thick, black glasses and used a cane to skirt around the beggars, the sewer grates, the trash. Without telling him anything, I tried closing my eyes as we walked."

I sat up and looked at him. He was in his own world.

"I couldn't manage it for more than five seconds. I was terrified of running into something, getting hit by a rickshaw, or even being snatched up off the street. Your Ajoba didn't say anything, but you know what he did? His grip on my arm tightened. That grip wasn't for him. It was for me."

I was near tears again, but I held it together. My dad finally looked at me.

"Try and think of him that way."

We returned to my Ajoba's apartment, our rickshaw zipping around potholes and women laden with shopping bags on the dusty streets.

His apartment was up six flights of narrow, dark stone stairs, likely unnavigable for a blind man. How long had it been since Ajoba had been outside? I began to walk slower. My dad sensed it and gripped my arm to walk with him.

The Hindu convent next door to my Ajoba's apartment started chanting with the sunrise and, as far as I had heard, didn't stop until sunset. I walked up the stairs, the walls stinking with urine and tobacco spit, seeming to pulse with the rhythm of nearby prayer.

Inside, my grandmother ushered me into their tiny kitchen to have a cup of afternoon tea, just me and her. She was a proud, rigid woman. I picked at the skin that developed from the fatty milk. My grandmother had been a schoolmistress her entire life. Her cadence still carried it. She told me how proud they were of me, how she'd read my report cards out loud for my grandfather, how happy they were that their son had made a family in America. I watched a dipped biscuit vanish into the hot tea.

She looked at me. Her eyes were bright green, rare for Indians but carried down my father's entire side of the family. My grandfather's had reminded me a rotten milk.

"Let's go. No more crying."

My family fell silent in my grandfather's bedroom. They didn't speak, but I heard the message:

"It's time to grow up."

My grandfather seemed to understand the tension. He scooted over on his bench and patted the seat next to him. I sat down heavily. He looked at me, blind. He had put in his dentures while was gone, though he hadn't been eating. It broke my heart.

He gripped my arm. Tight.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




In

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Song in the Wind
1480 words

I turn on my microphone in the morning. There it is. Wind rustling over nothing. Sometimes I think I can hear the sun, a dull and crackling roar overhead. I always turn the mic off at night, some small refuge from the roar. I despise that wind.

I've been talking to myself a lot to keep out the noise. I had this crazy idea that I might be the last man left alive. The keeper of the English language. I hope I'm not losing it.

The microphone picks up a low whistle. The same wind dripping through the same rocks under the same sun, every morning. Maybe I am losing it. I start my day trip.

We crashed on a completely unremarkable rock on a rocky planet covered in rocks, all the same color as blood-tinged mud.

"Have you ever actually seen blood-tinged mud?" the voice in my head says.

I start walking out from the wrecked ship. It deployed an airbag right before we hit, a big white pustule that's been shrinking and draining over the past months. I haven't gotten back inside our capsule since the crash. I know the chief is in there, same with Maynard. Maybe they're dead and whole, maybe they're all churned up into some sort of impact-slurry. Don't really want to find out.

I'm not sure what I'm looking for on my walks, but I figure I'd probably hear it before I saw it. Haven't heard anything yet, besides the low, hateful groaning of aimless air. I scan the pale pink sky every now and then. Nothing but a boiling sun that feels too big for its allotment of space.

"Maybe someone else crashed on the other side of this place. Maybe they're walking too."

It was a familiar thought. Someone new, someone fresh, someone to cut through this pervasive-

Wind.

I'm walking in a new direction today. I pick one degree on the compass for every day I'm out here. Someone's got to come for me before the year is up.

"They forgot about us."

"They think you're all dead."

"No one's coming."

"Maybe you are dead."

"Maybe this is what real death looks like."

"Only kidding. Look, I'm sorry."

Can't shut myself up sometimes.

When the sun sits a little low, I begin heading back. Another day. Another wander. Another noisy nothing nowhere.

"You should leave the mic on tonight."

Same thought every night. And every night, I switch off the mic. I get eight hours of guiltlessly ignoring the wind. But not tonight.

I settle into the cozy little cot I've made for myself. My eyes are closed before I know it, before I mute my mic.

I hear a flat, brief song.

I don't get out of bed at night, but I throw off the covers and just start walking. The song came from everywhere at once, or maybe my ears are shot, atrophied. Maybe I didn't hear anything at all.

"You definitely heard it. It came from two hundred degrees."

I stop dead.

I know what I know, and I definitely don't know that. Two hundred degrees?

"You should start walking."

I always talk to myself. I always set out in the morning. I always find nothing. I always switch the mic off.

"I'm telling you. Listen."

I shine my light out at two hundred degrees on my compass. It pierces the darkness a fair way, but I can't tell if it's twenty feet or fifty. The wind is howling hard, screeching up dust. I peer into the beam and take a tentative few steps. My mind is quiet. I walk with a little more confidence.

I left a blinking diode alive at my cot. I feel like I'm swimming in a turbulent sea. Can't lose sight of shore. Soon, the diode is faint, then my lifeline is gone. Should've brought glowsticks.

"Just keep walking, you'll be there soon. It'll be okay. I'm not a space monster or anything."

I turn off my mic, cutting off the harsh night wail. This is a bad idea. The voice in my head, assuredly not a space monster, it doesn't say anything at all. I start to walk back to camp and the voice comes back.

"Please. Don't turn back. I need you out here."

The voice is softer, more feminine. It's not my voice. It sounds like my ex.

I want to talk back, but this feels real wrong. Besides, talking back to a voice in my head, out loud? I've lost it. A hundred days on this sun-blasted hellscape has permanently cooked my brain.

"I've been alone for so long," the voice says.

I dip my toe in. "Who are you? Why can I hear you inside my head?"

"Well, I don't have a mouth. And this wind!"

The voice pauses, giving me a little space, then continues.

"I'm, well, I'm a rock. I wasn't always a rock, but I'm a rock."

Crazy bullshit. It definitely sounds like my ex. But I'm going to respond anyway.

"Why not just ask me during the day, I don't know, three months ago? If you're so lonely and sad, we could've had this fixed."

I believe the rock was thinking it over.

"Well I couldn't just say 'Hey! Come find the singing rock!'. You'd never believe me. And then tonight happened and it was just perfect."

"Perfect?"

"You left your mic on. And this morning. You haven't thought about your chief in a while. Haven't thought much about being alone."

I find the rock oddly persuasive and start walking to two hundred again. "What does the mic have to do with anything?"

"I'm strongest at night. Not in a creepy way. The sun just, it does something to me. It's too loud. I can't hear myself think. I'm louder at night. I can sing."

I turned my mic on during the 'rock's' explanation. The wind was still roaring, but there was something else. Humming? Faint, a little off-key, a tune I couldn't place.

"Doesn't explain why you're a talking rock on a planet god-knows how far from home."

The humming stops.

"Maybe we're not from the same planet?"

The humming starts again, but it's not just one voice. It's a chorus and after a hundred days of blowing wind, it spikes into my eardrums. Too much. I turn off the mic again. Silence.

"Come on pal, keep walking."

"You're from a planet of talking rocks, then?"

I think the rock harrumphs. "Well, maybe you're from a planet of talking jerks."

I trudge onward and click my mic. The rock starts humming again. It's pleasant but off, like a busted ukulele. The wind provides a chaotic backdrop to the music and I click the mic off again. I've come to hate the perennial whistling roar.

"Yeah, right over there. That outcropping, up that hill to your right. Shoot, my right. Your left."

I scan the hill with my light. It's a little steep, but not too bad. I start climbing up when I see it.

There's a rock about the size of my fist sitting on a pile of other rocks. Only, it's not red. It's a light gray. It'd look a little unremarkable back home. I get closer. There's a little face carved into the rock. Two eyes, one winking, and a small, crooked smile.

"My smile isn't crooked."

"I wasn't thinking that. Well, I guess I was. It's not a bad smile. It's a very nice smile."

At this point, I am full-on talking to a rock, but norms went out the window when the rest of the crew became canned crash-meat.

"C'mon, just take me with you. We can chat, you and me."

"Well, Mr. Rock, it's been a little lonely. And I think I've started to lose my mind."

If the rock could have shrugged, I think it would have.

"Well, it's gotta go sometime."

I pick up the rock and start to put it in my pocket.

"Hey, hey. A little dignity."

I hold the rock and carry it back to camp. I make sure that my palm is on the side without a face. Soon, I see the blinking diode again.

The rock hasn't said much. I'm exhausted. I want to ask it how it got here, where it came from, and a dozen other things. I lie in my cot and gently put the rock on my makeshift nightstand. We're silent for a while, then the rock pipes up.

"Hey, you. Thanks."

"You're welcome, rock. Say, you think I'm going crazy? Like this is all in my head?"

"Well, I don't think I could really convince you one way or another. How about you turn on your mic for a little bit?"

I flip on the mic. That maddening wind has died down just a little.

I'm staring at the stars and the rock starts singing.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




In, with a reaction.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




The Dizzy Wizard Family Fixer
1185 words

Randy flipped to the comics and began examining them under his Dizzy Wizard decoder ring. He looked close at The Potter Family, past some stupid thing about mashed peas for dinner, then peered at the last panel. The family was hugging around the dining table. Randy looked at their legs through the ring.

'Don't you wish your family was happy?'

He pushed back from the table a little, then looked at the comic again without his ring. Mr. Potter was smiling at his children. He slid the film from the ring over the comic again.

'Don't you wish your family was happy?'

Randy bounced off his chair and ran to his Dad's office. He checked the knob. Locked, like usual. He knocked on the door heavily and heard his father roar from inside.

"Nadine, can you tell your brother I'm working?"

Randy kept knocking. His Dad yelled again, louder.

"Randy! Knock that poo poo off! Nadine! Your brother! Now!"

He heard his dad walk back to his desk. Nadine came around the corner and popped out her earbuds.

"Randy, can you leave him alone? I'm trying to do homework and he's busy being an rear end in a top hat."

Randy looked down. "I just wanted to show you guys something in the comics," he said sheepishly. Nadine was already walking away.

Randy headed back to the dinner table and pushed the newspaper aside. He chewed the soggy cereal while studying the back of the Dizzy Wizard Puffs box.

'The Complete Dizzy Wizard Magician Kit! Astound Your Friends! Perplex Your Enemies! Order Today!!!'

Twenty dollars? Where was he going to get that kind of money?

He pulled the film from the decoder ring and began to scan the ad closely. Under the thin sheet of plastic, the ad changed.

'The Complete Dizzy Wizard Family Fixer! Family Need a Little Chemistry? Adorify your Parents! Friendify your siblings!'

A much more reasonable three dollars. Under the decoder ring, he filled out the form, stuffed it in an envelope with the money, and put it in the mailbox. His father's office door stayed closed long after Randy had gone to bed.

Randy woke up early. The house was silent. Nadine was out and his dad was still in the office. He opened his bedroom door and almost tripped.

There was a plain brown box just outside his door. Before stooping to pick it up, Randy looked around. The hallway was quiet. He examined the box and noticed the small stars and wands printed all along its sides. The Dizzy Wizard had done it again.

Randy went back into his bedroom and tore open the box. He looked at the contents with confusion. A small pink box, empty, and a greeting card with a father and son embracing on the front. He dug into the packing peanuts. There, at the bottom, were three blank index cards. Randy spread out his Family Fixer on the bed, then turned the blank notecards around in his hands, thinking.

"Oh!" Randy exclaimed. He pulled the film from the decoder ring and ran it over the first card. The text appeared like magic.

'The Complete Dizzy Wizard Family Fixer! Everything You Need Is Inside, Junior Wizard! Just Follow The Instructions!'

He flipped to the second card and read it under the decoder ring.

'Show Your Sister You Care! Make Her Something Nice! Wizard Tip: Girls Love Flowers!'

Randy grinned. Flowers, huh? He could do that! He turned to the third card.

'Let Your Dad Know You Care! Write Something Nice! Wizard Tip: I Bet He Wants To Be Your Pal!'

Randy chuckled. Easy! First, to the front yard! Randy pretended that he was trailed by a whirling cape and ran onto the lawn. He gathered a few dandelions and hummed to himself as he wove them into a small bracelet. Satisfied, he tucked it into the box. Now, for dad. He went back to his bedroom, grabbed a pen, and put the tip in his mouth, deep in thought. Then he began to write.

'Dear Dad, I think you're super cool! I wish we could play army again and get pizza for dinner like we did before. Love, your son Randy.'

He thought for a moment, then crossed out 'son' and wrote 'pal'. Perfect.

A few hours later, he heard Nadine come into the house. Randy bounded down the stairs and handed her the pretty pink box. Nadine looked at it quizzically.

"Uh, what's this supposed to be?"

"It's a present! Just open it!"

"Ok, calm down," she said, then lifted the corner of the box. Her expression started surprised, then shifted to horror. She threw the box onto the floor.

"Are these from the front yard? There's a loving spider in there, Randy! What the hell is wrong with you?"

Randy's lip quivered. The Dizzy Wizard had promised! He tried to apologize to Nadine and knelt to scoop the flowers back into the box, but she was already gone. He started to call after her, but stopped. Randy took a deep breath. He wasn't a baby. He wasn't going to let his dad see him cry. Dejected, he walked to his dad's office. The card had to work. The Dizzy Wizard said it would. Randy knocked on the door.

He heard a shuffling inside, then a thud and his dad cursing. His father opened the door, still in his clothes from yesterday, his eyes bloodshot.

"What do you want, Randy?"

Randy almost apologized right then, but steeled himself. He handed his dad the card. His father rubbed his eyes, then opened the card, barely looking at the drawing on the front. He scanned the card briefly, then looked down at Randy.

"Did your mother put you up to this poo poo?"

Randy didn't have an answer for him. His father continued, but Randy got the feeling that he wasn't talking to him anymore.

"She's the one that left. She can't just waltz in here with this loving poo poo."

He was still talking when he slammed the door in Randy's face.

That was the last straw. Randy ran upstairs, crying soft and low. He threw himself under his covers. So much for the Dizzy Wizard. So much for the Family Fixer.

Nothing happened the next few days. Nadine came and went. Dad stayed locked in his office. Randy didn't do much at all.

A week later, Randy cleaned his cereal bowl after lunch. The house was quiet. He was about to head into the living room when he heard a brief rattle up the stairs. He went up to his room. Just outside the door, he saw another box. This time, there was a notecard on top of it.

Randy left the box in the hallway and examined the notecard under his ring.

'The Dizzy Wizard offers his deepest apologies. Please find our gift enclosed. We hope it will solve your family fracas, once and for all. Your friend, The Dizzy Wizard.'

Randy picked up the box. It was heavy and cold as ice. The box emitted a low, mean growl. Something inside thumped against his hands.

Randy opened the box.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Thunderdome 386: TD, I just can't quit you



I'm not going to ask you to write some holiday drivel. No Christmas conundrums, Hannukah happenings, or Kwanzaa kerfuffles. Instead, I'm going to ask you to write about what the holidays conjure up for me.

This week's Thunderdome is about addiction.

Why do we stick with things that bring us nothing but pain? Is it for a moment of fleeting pleasure, is it for ignorance of guilt, shame, and regret, or is it just because it feels so goddamn great in the moment?

But it's never about the object itself. Alcohol, sweet lady PCP, love, food, pain, power, and a million more. For the addict, they share the craving, the giving in, the inevitable relapses, and perhaps the brightness of a thorough recovery?

If you request a flash rule or a toxx, I will give you an addiction. How you use it is up to you.

Rules:
1500 words
Signups close at 11:59PM CST on December 27th
Submissions close at 11:59 CST on December 29th

Judges:
CKM
Chili
Counselor to be determined

I swear to God, it'll never happen again:
Anomalous Blowout
Anomalous Amalgam :toxx:
Ironic Twist
flerp :toxx:
QuoProQuid
Something Else
Thranguy
Magic Cactus :toxx:
Yoruichi
Antivehicular
Simply Simon
Chairchucker
Doctor Eckhart
Entenzahn
Nethilia

Carl Killer Miller fucked around with this message at 19:07 on Dec 29, 2019

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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





An addiction to family


An addiction to failure

QuoProQuid posted:

In. Give me a flash.

An addiction to faith

Thranguy posted:

In with flash

An addiction to strength

magic cactus posted:

Need to make up for my abysmal failure to submit last week.

IN

:toxx:

An addiction to darkness

Chairchucker posted:

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

An addiction to escape

Doctor Eckhart posted:

Count me in. Could I have an addiction please?

An addiction to knowledge

Carl Killer Miller fucked around with this message at 00:32 on Dec 28, 2019

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Happy holidays to all you wonderful people! Made a ton of changes in my life this year and getting back into writing has been one of the biggest. Thanks for the prompts, reads, and crits!

Stay literate!

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Chili posted:

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

Addiction to exercise.

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


Signups closed.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Subs extremely closed.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




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

Simply Simon- Please let me help you

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

2:

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

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

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

---

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

DM, loss candidate

Chairchucker- Selected Phone Logs of Mr. Theodore McDevitt

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

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

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

DM, loss candidate

Doctor Eckhart- The Plastic Spinner

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

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

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

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

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

Middle

Nethilia- Perfect Hurts

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

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

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

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

Middle

Something Else- Christine

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

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

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

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

What was with the shifting POVs? Sloppy.

DM

Anomalous Blowout- Tails Like Pasgetti

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

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

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

HM

Yoruichi- Totally Addicted to Bass

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

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

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

DM, loss candidate

magic cactus- The Flipside of The Spotlight

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

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

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

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

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

Hymnal screams? I guess.

"Oedipus all glammed up on Rodeo Drive."

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

DM

Antivehicular- Trichotillomania Nights

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

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

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

Win

Anomalous Amalgam- Guardian Angel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loss

Ironic Twist- Hope Tastes Like Peppermint

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

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

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

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

Middle

Thranguy- Limits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DM (Oh, if only two stories could lose)

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