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M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In.

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M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Sitting Here - The Turns of Edward Smith
Quite an attention absorbing photo. I tried to peg a date to when Edward possesses the carousel on the basis of the U.S. Air Force song (guestimating the sixties). Edward’s experience through the passage of time is easily the highlight. Not sure how to feel about the ending (is he not now confined to the plane?) but I commend the fidelity to the photograph.

Exmond - A Death's Purpose - Lullabies For The Soul
I’m getting a Meister Eckhart feel to this (at least from what I know through Jacob’s Ladder) which is an attitude I don’t agree with. For this reason, my thoughts on this piece are probably more coloured than I would like to admit, tinged with frustration. The guy dying in the cafeteria seems an excuse for the narration to make conversation to the reader. Is the narration trying to appeal me to take its position? It does seem to care enough for me to think positively of their intentions, though not enough to be persuaded to act otherwise if we dissent.

Yoruichi - One Hour
Simple but relatable. Even though the ending can be seen, I find myself surprised that for how abrupt it is, the attitude flip still feels right. I think just the three words of the penultimate paragraph drives the point effectively.

Staggy - Life in Stop Motion
In addition to the strong sense of time and change, I think the biggest credit to this story is the distinct double narratives, one privy to us, and one we can only venture through hints. The pay off by way of the parallel peace/resolution in a way doubles the catharsis.

Thranguy - Fishwatcher
There are two narratives I’m reading out of this. One is a world populated by a fauna of aerial phantom fish triggered by a cataclysmic event. This same cataclysm triggered a trauma that’s ruptured Jess and Colin’s relationship. Beyond the cataclysm linking the two, I can’t decipher any further connection between these two narratives. I think there’s more potential in pursing the Jess-Colin relationship, but it is the less developed of the two.

Pham Nuwen - Hospitality
There’s a hint of a rich man / poor man folk tale template that could have been further developed in the Lotaburgers vs Jay’s Diner dynamic, and some lyrics from “A Little Less Conversation” that I feel could have been snuck in. Neither of which are necessary for what still stands as a satisfying story on its own that cracked a smile.

apophenium - In Lieu of Getting Out
As off-put as I was by the time/location shift, the structure seems intentional and warranted through Kelvin’s frame of reference. That, and Kelvin’s de-personalized outlook caught my attention (“transferred his body into dry clothes,” his therapist is not even named until the final revealed session.) Not sure how I feel about the story as a whole – it feels Kelvin is resigned to a fatalism that I can’t fault him for.

QuoProQuid - A Natural Selection
It looks like the inspiration on object over place put this story on the wrong footing with the prompt request. Setting that aside, it felt like the story started off as though it would sympathize with an oblivious jerkass, but that doesn’t happen. Getting just desserts served should be satisfying, but it lacks an impact here that I can’t put my finger on, except to unhelpfully say a progression of Francis’ assholery would make his topple more cathartic?

Antivehicular - Swimming and Sinking
There’s a hint of Enigma of Amigara Fault that I’m sensing from this, but I don’t feel it’s aiming for horror or mystery. The presence of the portal seems to blindside me just as much as it does Andi, even though the reservoir already had a reputation of attracting portal-mad kids which she knew of but didn’t take seriously. We get a hint of Kayla’s disconnect with reality to justify her pursuit of the portal. Andi’s end motives to seek the portal seem more out of attachment to her friend rather than herself being portal-mad. The ending doesn’t leave me feeling anything.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Staggy posted:

Your beast is the Leucrota.

The Misanthrope of Bhopal
Word count: 790

It was fashionable amongst the nabobs of Madhya Pradesh to showcase every animal specimen their wealth could seize. Upon exhausting the diversity of the wild, they took to splicing their beasts, boasting that Mother Nature’s menagerie was a pittance compared to their artifice. It was easy enough to make designer animals of whim – but a challenge itched: what if we could bring back creatures lost to history?

Lord Dilmore had grown weary of the dacoity that harassed his domains. He commissioned geneticists to breed him a creature with killer application. He wanted something savage, stylish, with an air of myth. The result was a leucrota. I will not recount its features, suffice to say the geneticists were faithful to the bestiary manuscripts, including its instinctual hatred for man. It did quite the job on the dacoity, but it did a bigger one on Dilmore’s plantation, before carrying its havoc to the countryside.

A call was issued for bounty hunters. The East India Company offered a sum I could retire with if I could capture it alive, though the pay wasn’t bad if it was dead. During its rampage, it ate every deer, bison, and tiger that crossed its path. Any unfortunate soul that fell to its saw-boned jaw was ripped to pieces, but it never ate human flesh. It killed man exclusively for sport.

The destruction it left in its wake made it dead simple to track. Keeping up with it was another matter. By the time we arrived to the shredded remains of one villager, it could be tearing apart another a day’s journey away. We had to predict where it would strike. Corbett was the first hunter to shoot it. It shook off his tranquilizer shot and charged. He swapped guns just in time to graze it with lead and it backed off. It left a blood trail we followed for a day before the bleeding staunched. The thing became a little less brazen, but gained in wits. It stopped killing out in the open and took to ambushing the unaware and defenceless.

The villagers did not take kindly to most hunters. Most regarded us as “white devils” responsible for unleashing this terror. My reputation for having culled previous man-eaters had kept me in the good graces of the locals however, and they aided me in shelter, food, and info.

It was in a village on the outskirts of Bhojpur where I met Amanpreet. She was thirteen and looked at me fiercely. She inquired if I sought to kill the leucrota. When I told her I would do everything I could to stop it, she offered her assistance to bait it out. I refused. She insisted. Her entire family was slaughtered by the beast. I told her I could not guarantee her safety. She told me she didn’t care.

A tip from the Tahsildar on the leucrota’s last sighting gave me a guess to what path it would take next. I hailed an autogyro with hopes I could intercept it along the creek I wagered it would pass. We landed atop a hill that provided a panoramic lookout. We made our way down. Amanpreet set up camp by a spot that offered a clear shot. She took one of the two-way radios, while I made my way back up.

A cold night passed as I scanned through my night sight pince-nez around the fire where Amanpreet convalesced. It was at the crack of dawn when she suddenly stood up. She heard something, she told me through the headphone, and mingled in the static background was a howling cackle that was unlike any call of these forests.

It dashed from the bushes. I cried into the radio. She turned around. It began to charge. I would not risk the tranquilizer taking effect in time and switched to the elephant rifle. I fired and it crumpled. But to my horror, it rose and continued its charge. Even in its death throes, it possessed a hate that craved one last victim.

But Amanpreet denied it. She stood her ground, and when it leapt at her, she stepped aside and flung out the drape of her sari, a katar wrapped within. Her blade ran the length of the beast, spilling its guts as it collapsed behind her.

By the time I rushed down, Amanpreet was scalping the beast, running the blade behind the back of its head, ear to ear. I informed her of the bounty and pledged her half. She shook her head. It wasn’t for one fish that she cared for, she said, but to be a fisherman. She offered her half back to me if I would teach her.

I imagine we’d be learning a lot from each other.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Guaranteed Summer School
Word count: 314

If God could pick a day out of my life to watch in fast-forward with the Benny Hill theme playing, I think today would be a good pick. I hosed up my alarm clock the other night and missed the dot on the PM. My circadian rhythm kicks me out of bed a half-hour late. I figure some carbs is better than no carbs and chow down some Pop Tarts past their due date. I gurgle some Listerine so at least my breath doesn’t stink.

I’m out of the house, and the bus takes off earlier than Google maps said it would. I fling my backpack at the trailing exhaust – it’s lighter than I thought. Did I forget my books? gently caress.

I’m back out of the house, and this bus takes off later than usual. The traffic sucks. I’m resigned to another absentee mark for my chemistry. This is the last one I can get before the report card becomes ugly. As long as I can make it for math.

It’s 9:35 AM. I’m out of the bus and beelining it towards the door. The moment my hand is on the handle, I rest a bit so I can stop mouth breathing like a wreck. I open the door, ready to play it smooth.

From the end of the hall, a deer barrels down at me, slipping and sliding like Bambi on ice, and wipes me out. The deer prances off while my face kisses the floor. I get helped to the nurse’s office. I think I could continue with classes, but at the expense of freaking everyone else out with my balloon face. My dad comes to get me, and I’m slightly relieved that my tardiness will be forgotten. I heard someone had their smartphone filming, so I guess I’ll figure into some meme that will run for the next year or so.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Tyrannosaurus posted:

Jewish Werewolf Drama from the 1930s!

Some Coercion Required
Word Count: 999

Gideon sighed as the clock ticked away another day without a sale. Christmas approached and in years past his toy shop would have been bustling. But with the depression dragging on, his toys sat unsold. At five o’clock, Gideon flipped the shop sign to 'closed.’ As he was shutting off the lights, there was a desperate rapping against the door. Through the glass, Gideon saw a woman. She wore a veiled hat that hid her face.

Gideon walked up to the door.

“Sorry miss. We’re closing.”

“Are you Mr. Theiss?” spoke the trembling voice.

“Yes.”

“Rabbi Epstein told me to see you. I need your help.”

Against the glass, the woman flashed a business card that had nothing to do with the toy shop. Two words were printed:

FETCHER AGENCY

Gideon opened the door.

“Come in,” he whispered.

Gideon led the woman to his office and offered her a seat before closing up shop. When he returned, the woman had taken off her hat. She seemed well within her twenties, yet weary and old. Her lip was cut and her left eye was bruised.

“Thank you,” she replied.

“For any friend of Epstein, I serve gladly. What can I do for you?”

“My name is Esther Ginsburg. I need a get from my husband.”

The answer did not fully surprise Gideon. Nevertheless, it was strange hearing such a rare request.

“It’s hard even for a man to make it through these days. For a woman—”

“—it will be harder. But bearable. What is unbearable is for me to continue living with Amos.”

Esther brushed the mouse under her eye.

“How soon do you need it?”

“Soon. I’m scared. I… I’m pregnant.”

“He doesn’t know?”

“No.”

“You don’t intend the child to know the father?”

Esther gave a disgusted look.

“I don’t intend the child to grow up abused. I made the mistake believing marriage would change him. I won’t make the mistake of believing fatherhood will.”

Gideon nodded.

“You will have your get.”

Esther let out a sigh of relief, but furrowed her brow.

“Rabbi Epstein told me that you’re… savage when you so choose.”

“I can be.”

“Amos is awful, but I don’t want him hurt.”

“I’m slow to anger. But how he behaves will determine his well-being.”

Esther shook her head.

“He isn’t pleasant.”

“Well then. Alas.”

***

Learning what else he needed from Esther, Gideon followed up the next few days with the surveillance of Amos Ginsburg. Amos cut an imposing figure, standing a head taller over other men and drawn like Leyendecker’s football hero, save that years of booze had distended his belly. He was a goliath among Jews, hated both at the dock where he worked and the pubs where he boozed. Nevertheless, he was rightly feared. Satisfied with the intelligence, Gideon couriered a message to Esther, informing that he would be meeting Amos at their house the coming Friday, and that she should be anywhere but there.

Amos arrived home from the pub that Friday night as scheduled. As he ambled up the porch hollering his wife’s name, he was puzzled no lights showed through the windows. Stumbling into his house and fumbling for the light, he sobered up at the stranger seated in his living room.

“Hello Mr. Ginsburg.”

“Who the gently caress are you?”

“My name is Gideon Theiss. I’m here to represent Esther on an important matter.”

“Where is she?”

“She’s somewhere safe while we attend to business.”

“What business? Tell me where she is!”

“The business will be to provide Esther a get. Once it’s written, you may see her and deliver it to her yourself.”

Amos strode up to Gideon, grabbing him by his lapels and lifting him from the chair.

“You trespass here thinking you can piss around in my house?! You get one last chance to tell me where she is before I cave your head in.”

“There’s a sofer waiting in the car outside. He’ll write out the get—"

With one hand still gripping the lapels, Amos punched Gideon in the face. Each blow punctuated a word:

“There. Will. Be. No. Get!

Amos let go of the coat, leaving Gideon sprawled to the floor.

“She’s my wife, and she’ll stay my loving wife until I’m done with her!” yelled Amos, “now where is she?!”

Gideon turned away from Amos, leaving a trail of blood as he groveled and moaned.

“Goddamn staining my carpet… Get up—"

As Amos reached to haul Gideon up, a blow sent him flying across the room. More astonished than hurt, Amos turned to Gideon as he became a savage thing. Every joint spun like a propeller. Every pore sputtered blood as fur bristled. Like a zeppelin, his stature ballooned until he towered double in height to Amos. Sinews from the neck stretched and slithered, pulling back the ears, the jaw jutted forward. As Amos started to scream, a gnarled paw-hand as big as a bowling ball clamped his head. It lifted him, pinning him a hair’s breadth from the ceiling. Through a crack in the paw-hand, Amos gazed into the snarling red-fanged countenance of the werewolf.

“FOR ESTHER’S SAKE, I WAS LENIENT. BUT YOU WILL ANSWER ME NOW: DIVORCE HER, OR WIDOW HER. CHOOSE.”

The paw-fingers parted, allowing Amos to mewl.

“I’ll give her the get! I’ll give her whatever she wants! God, don’t hurt me!”

The werewolf snarled, then paused, as it drew a sniff. At the crotch of Amos’ trousers, a wet-stain spread.

I WILL NOT FORGET YOUR PUTRIFYING SMELL, AMOS. IT ENRAGES ME. YOUR ENGAGEMENTS WITH ESTHER WILL BE OVER, BUT NOT YOUR ENGAGEMENTS WITH ME. FOR THE SAKE OF THE HOLY DAYS, I PERMIT YOU TO LIVE. BUT SHOULD I EVER CATCH YOUR SCENT AGAIN…

The werewolf hurled Amos to the foyer.

THE SCRIBE IS WAITING. I WILL BE WATCHING. GO.

Amos bolted out and into the waiting cab, as it sped off from the dreaded howl that shattered every window of his home.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In. Flash please.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Off Sight
Flash: (NGO Superpower)
Word Count: 1966

Jesse woke up refreshed but shaken. He dreamed he had walked across a desert. It was neither something he had ever done in the virtual world, nor could he do it in the real. He’d caught scenes of deserts in cinescopes, but nature had never been his thing. What unsettled him most about the dream was that it seemed to have no point – nothing impressing him to buy any kind of product, or to jack into the newest VRcation zone. There was no sell.

The thought of the dream clung to Jesse. Commuting to work, the flash of adgrams and billboards were lost on him. He found himself frozen in thought of the desert, until passerbys snapped him out of his reverie.

“Hey bud! Ya mind steppin’ back a bit? Yer clippin’ into my adgram.”

Maybe the dream had glitched, thought Jesse, the advertisement terminating too soon before it could say what it wanted to sell. But the next night, he had the same dream. And the night after that too. Each time it would end the same way. After the long walk, he felt thirsty. He would reach the edge of a grand cave that led to pitch darkness, sensing water within. He was tempted to go inside, but with no light source to lead the way, he held back, with the dream ending in his hesitation. Jesse never felt tired after waking, yet he would immediately ache to go back to sleep and return to the desert.

***

“Yeah… that doesn’t sound right. No wonder you’ve seemed off lately,” replied a co-worker, after Jesse described the dream during their reprieve shift.

“The thing is, it’s like some sort of mystery I haven’t figured out yet,” Jesse replied. “I want it to keep playing it until I do, and that’s coming from someone who’s never jacked into the same VRcation twice.”

“Still, this doesn’t seem like a thing Gratifvision would broadcast.”

“Maybe it’s a dreamcatcher glitch. I’d check in with a Grat-tech. Have your implant checked. If they’re bugged, insurance outta cover it.”

His co-workers concurred this was the right move. But Jesse felt a twinge of dread. He didn’t want the dream to stop. He just wanted to know what it meant.

One thing was sure though – he wasn’t concentrating at work, and his supervisor expressed his dismay. Citing sleep issues, he was approved medical leave to get himself checked at a Gratifvision workshop.

***

From the waiting room, a series of adgrams touted the latest in Gratifvision technologies. It was a required citizen standard to have the basic eye implant. Apparently, they were now seeking volunteers to test their auditory mods too.

“Jesse Delnada? The oneirocian will see you now.”

A reception droid led Jesse into the operating room. Inside was a single piece of furniture: a plain white bed mattress. Hanging above it was a machine that reminded Jesse of a junkyard magnet, with the clutter of all sorts of chrome arms and cables hanging from its pull.

“Please make yourself comfortable.”

As Jesse reclined onto the bed, there was a flicker, and the image of a petite young woman fitted in a white medical coat projected before Jesse.

“Hi Jesse. I’m Dr. Watson. What seems to be the problem today?”

As Jesse described his recurring dream, the hologram hmmed and nodded.

“Well I’m glad you came,” it replied, “that certainly doesn’t sound like something from Gratifvision’s catalogue. Let me ask: what's your purchase history been like this past week?”

“Groceries. Toiletries. Just basics.”

“No other cravings? Strange. Tell you what we’ll do: I’m going to have you sleep and run a diagnostic to check your dream record. While that’s happening, I’ll cycle you through a dream montage to see if you’re processing correctly. Do you have any questions?”

“How long will this take?”

“Shouldn’t take more than ten minutes,” smiled the hologram, “though patients often wish it could last forever.”

As the anesthesia sunk in, Jesse fell into a deep sleep. In an instant, he found himself in a yacht, as a twelve-course meal was served before him. As his body gorged itself to the verge of surfeit, he then found himself dressed in a tuxedo at a poker table, where a crowd had gathered to cheer him. With his winning hand, the dealer pooled all the chips to him. At that moment, the other players revealed themselves as disgruntled mobsters. Before they had a chance to act, his hand unholstered a revolver and they were dead. Then he was slew a dragon and saved a kingdom. Then he piloted a starship and saved a galaxy… Finally, he found himself again with Dr. Watson in the midst of a grass field, though she was now significantly underdressed. His last sensation was the trace of her hand against his cheek. He closed his eyes. When he opened them, he was on the bed of the Gratifvision operating bed. The hologram flickered back, attired again in the white medical coat.

“Well, the diagnostics are indicating your dream cache has been abnormal. It looks like there’s something interfering with the uptake from your stimuli bank, though it’s not clear what it is. Whatever this desert dream is, there’s no trace of it. The good news is that your dream receptors are functioning. Let me prescribe something.”

Out of the machine in the ceiling, an arm zipped out, holding a vial of pills and dropping it in Jesse’s palms.

“We’ll contact your workplace to recommend you take the week off. In the meantime, you need some exercise: visit the commercial districts. Take two tablets with soda daily, but do it just before you shop at the malls, see some cinescopes, or if you can afford it, jack into a VRcation.”

“What do they do?”

“They’re a vividifer. They improve the memory imprint of your experiences, so they work best under strenuous stimuli. What we’re doing is rebuilding the feedback loop between your waking and dream visuals. It should help you regain your appetite to spend again, which should in turn override that desert dream of yours.” The hologram smiled, “do you have any questions?”

“Not right now, no.”

“If you experience any side effects, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Otherwise, we’ll check back in two weeks’ time.”

“Thanks.”

“Take care.”

The hologram flickered out, leaving behind a screen that hovered in the air.

Please take a moment to fill this brief survey:
How would your rate the sex appeal of your oneirocian?
How would you rate the empathy of your oneirocian?
How would—


Jesse swatted the screen and it dissipated. Out of the operating room, he walked past the reception desk without exchanging a word. Back in his apartment, he went to the washroom. After a moment’s hesitation, he opened the vial and flushed the tablets down the toilet. He went to bed, swearing that this time he would step into the cave.

***

One week had passed since Jesse set foot out of his apartment. A regimen of frozen entrees kept him alive as he returned again and again to sleep, though not necessarily to bed. The night after the workshop, he entered the entrance of the cave, but there was no eureka moment. As he groped within the darkness, he stole glances behind him to see how much distance he made from the entrance. Infuriatingly, it never seemed to change, and he would wake up in a shouting fit. He tried changing his position in bed. He slept on his chair. He slept on the floor. He found a way to sleep on the coffee table. He went three days without coffee. On the fourth day, he drank two litres of it. Anything he could think of to try and affect the dream. It was useless.

His mobile buzzed with Turing voicemails from Gratifvision, checking to see how he was and when he would schedule his follow-up appointment. Work called too, letting him know he needed to report back, and if he didn’t show, there’d be consequences. He ripped the battery out.

By the third week, Jesse was resigned to the fate the desert dream was a permanent absurdity. He regretted flushing the pills from Gratifvision and thought of an excuse he could come up with for asking for a new vial. As he realized how long he had imprisoned himself at home, he looked at his door, and noticed an envelope under it. How long it had been there, he wasn’t sure, and who still bothered with paper? He picked it up and opened it. Inside was a message.

Are you trying to escape the world?
Or are you trying to sift what's real from what’s poo poo?
47 Armitage St. 9 Sep @ 2100 hrs.
- M


That was in three hours. Jesse showered, shaved, and dressed, and made for the address.

***

The address lead to a building at the edge of the city rife in urban decay. It was a delipidated church with a caved in roof, and stairs of concrete rubble. The front door was haphazardly boarded up. Jesse arrived ten minutes to and waited. He couldn’t imagine that whoever wanted to meet him would be in the church itself, but after fifteen minutes had passed, nothing suggested anything was going to meet him in the open.

“There’s no way—” Jesse muttered to himself, as he looked again at the church.

Carefully treading over the rubble, he walked up to the boarded doors. Bits of wood had broken down, and he peered through a hole. In the distance, he caught sight of a flickering light, as though someone was using a lighter. Jesse kicked down the plywood and walked in.
Closing in on the light source, he could hear a soft hum. He discovered the light was a candle held by a young woman wearing a hoodie. On her face was some sort of band that blocked her eyes. The band tapered into cupped pads that covered her ears. The hum seemed to be emanating from it.

“I was waiting until the candle ran out. I’m glad you made it, Jesse.”

“Who are you? And how do you know my name?”

“Melody Melatonic. You can call me Mel-T. I found out about you hacking through Gratifvision’s database. You’ve been having sleep issues lately, haven’t you?”

“What’s it to you?”

Mel-T’s brow creased slightly. “You don’t have to be scared.”

“I’m not scared. I just want to know what the hell’s going on in my dreams.”

“The one with the desert that takes you to the giant dark cave. And going inside takes you nowhere?”

“Yes… Wait. How did you know about that last part? I never mentioned that to Gratifvision.”

“Because I had the dream. We all did.”

“Who is this ‘we’?”

The candle burned out. Everything went dark.

“Here, take my hand,” said Mel-T.

Jesse drew back with shock as he felt his hand gripped.

“You don’t trust me, do you?”

“I barely trust myself.”

“I want to take you some people who have a way with seeing things, and who want to share with you, with everyone who is ready, what it’s like to see behind the bullshit. It’s been making you sick, hasn’t it?”

Jesse nodded, not sure if Mel-T could see.

“I can't promise that you'll find what you're looking for here, and we’re not going to force you to stay. But you won't find it going back the old way.”

Hesitantly, Jesse reached out his hand as Mel-T firmly took hold of his hand.

“Tell me one thing,” asked Jesse, “the cave. Does it go anywhere? Did you make it to the end?”

There was no way Jesse could tell, but he felt Mel-T reply with a smile.

“I’m making progress.”

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In with Nodus Tollens.

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.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Under the auspices of the Throne, :toxx: and In.

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M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

The Baker's Half-Dozen
Word Count: 666

Before I was born, my parents camped here. They’d drive the RV seven hours to make it out. The Bakers were the only family nearby. They met my parents for a picnic and afterwards it became a thing for my parents to visit them each summer. I was born the same day the Bakers had a daughter. Her name was Kelly. Our summers were spent together. While I ended up being an only child. Kelly was third in hers. Altogether, they were three sisters and three brothers. All blond-haired and blue-eyed. Except for the seventh.

When we were eight, Kelly invited me over to play hide-and-seek. When it was my turn to hide, I snuck into the pantry room. Inside were shelves stacked with mason jars of pickled things. There seemed to be space enough to fit myself between the shelves. As I tried crawling in, I knocked a jar. Kelly rushed in.

I was scared, but Kelly seemed even more. She said the pantry should have been locked. I said sorry. We looked the jar over. It hadn’t shattered entirely, but cracked enough that there was a spill. Up close, I saw something floating inside that looked like a veiny burger patty, with a stringy mushroom stem dangling from the center. On the jar was a strip of masking tape with a date scribbled. I heard Kelly whisper ‘Jill.’ It was her older sister’s name who she was closest to.

Kelly ordered me to clean up the mess while she grabbed another jar, filling it with something that smelled worse than the dentist’s, before putting the thing in. I asked what it was, but she wouldn’t tell.

That evening we had an outdoor barbecue with the Bakers. Jill wasn’t there. They said she had stomach flu. I didn’t see Jill again, and Kelly stopped speaking with me. When we visited the summer after, they said Jill was in the hospital and Kelly didn’t speak at all. I told my parents I didn’t want to come back, and stayed with my grandparents the next year. When my parents came home, they told me Mrs. Baker was dead. She died giving birth but the infant lived. They named him Jo and his hair was black. They also said Kelly missed me and hoped I would visit again.

I was sick the next summer. We recovered from a flu and the night before we should have travelled, I blacked out. The doctor said I had Reye syndrome. None of us visited the Bakers that year. I wrote to Kelly saying I was sorry and asked about her. The mail was returned to sender.

The summer after would be our last time together. When we knocked at their door, Mr. Baker met us on a cane. Another man was with him. Mr. Baker apologized for not meeting us at the driveway like he usually did and introduced us to his brother Joseph who he said was helping him look after the house. Joseph had black hair.

I asked about Kelly. Mr. Baker turned to Joseph and seemed to await his nod. I met Kelly in her room, who seemed to have aged only half as much me since we last met. She went to her closet and took out a jar with tinted glass and asked me to secretly hold onto it. I could hear something sloshing inside. On the lid was a strip of tape with a date scribbled. It was our birth date. Kelly told me if we planned to visit again to check inside the jar. If there was nothing inside, they wouldn’t be here. I asked her what was going on, but she replied with a headshake and a hug.

We didn’t stay long that summer. I never opened the jar but would lift it every once in a while. I thought I felt it getting lighter. We travelled as a family to visit again one final summer, but when we knocked, no one answered.

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