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Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

Knock knock can I come in?

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Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

Thranguy posted:

Signups close Friday 11:59 PM Pacific Time

Submissions close 11:59 PM Pacific Time
...Sunday?

Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

Re: Updates to Emergency Procedures 10/27/19
1059 words

The Fire and Safety Marshal, in conjunction with VoidMart management, advises all staff to be aware of the following changes to VoidMart Emergency Procedures.

Upon hearing the Emergency Alarm:

Staff must vacate the premises quickly and calmly by the nearest available exit. Staff in the Dreamscapes, Hedge Mazes, or Hardcore Geometries Departments should bear in mind that the nearest exit is highly unlikely.

Please note the following exceptions:

One.

Following up from our previous emergency drill, it has been ruled by VoidMart attorneys that end-of-life events do not trigger the termination of employment contracts. Consequently, spectral employees should remain on-site during an emergency and proceed with unfinished business-as-usual, focussing on defence against looters.

Remember: A looter is just a customer you haven't met yet.

Two.

Any staff incarcerated as part of a team-building exercise at the time of an emergency will be considered cohesive, presumed dead.

Three.

The fully-responsive head, right arm and torso of greeter Kevin Ellis can be found protruding from a central support column in the main foyer, leaning approximately fifteen degrees from vertical. In the interests of emotional and structural stability, Mr Ellis is considered a permanent fixture and must, at all times, remain at his post.

Your attention is drawn to the following:

The Fire and Emergency Marshal can be identified by their fluorescent orange windbreaker, service pistol, and authoritative whistle. Please follow any instructions given by the Marshal, for both your safety and that of your fellow employees.

Do not attempt to use the elevators during an emergency. The elevators have their own problems to deal with and would prefer not to be distracted during these difficult times.

Employees relinquish ownership of any personal belongings left in the building during an evacuation. VoidMart invites staff to utilise their employee discount to purchase replacement items from the relevant department during the Post-Emergency Sale, or Post-Emergency Sale Drill, as appropriate.

VoidMart does not yet understand that some things are irreplaceable.

In the event of a fire:

The Fire Department will be immediately suspended without pay pending a full inventory check and, if necessary, management inquest.

Be aware that fire extinguishers can be found in the Practical Jokes Department, while water and carbon dioxide extinguishers can be found throughout the store.

In the event of incapacitation of a member of management:

Staff should wake up in the break room, breathless, their hands clammy against the pages of the Chicago Tribune in the heat of the mid-afternoon sun, and recite the entire content of what they suppose must have just been a dream, directly into the nearest CCTV camera.

In the event of a missing person:

Employees reporting a missing person will be invited to a meeting with Human Resources — a semi-circle of white shirts, navy blazers, and indistinct faces that deflect the gaze like the wrong end of a magnet — who will issue the following statement in unison:

Who?
Ne-ver heard of them.
Can't say they ring a bell!


At no point will the employee be asked to provide the name or description of the missing person.

The employee may present one or more photographs of the missing person, prompting a hitherto unseen HR member to pounce from beneath the conference table, cooing, "Oh! Who's this? My, isn't she just beeee-you-tiful?" before snatching the pictures from the employee's hand and recoiling back into its nest of slacks and shadows.

The employee should return home to find a jagged hole in their front door. An upturned entry table. Overdue bills and expired coupons littering the hallway. A mirror on the floor, face down by the wall, glass shards spat out in every direction, some having found repose in the trenches in the hardwood that lead into an empty room, with bare white walls and a tattered carpet, no furniture, and the faint smell of lilies.

As it always was, the employee should think, bloodshot eyes darting from one dust mote to another, arms stiff, hands and fingers twitching, their minds resolute and pristine, a vanguard against an insubordinate body that strains to grasp the shape and form of a memory that never was.

In the event of a Fire and Emergency Marshal-related Emergency:

In certain regrettable circumstances, a Fire and Emergency Marshal-related emergency may arise.

The Fire and Emergency Marshal can be identified by the circuitous path they take through the store. Please do not follow the Marshal, for both your safety and that of your fellow employees.

The Marshal has extensive experience handling both wildfires and housefires.

Spectral employees should disregard the activities of the Marshal. A looter is just a customer you haven't met yet.

Please allow sufficient space for the Fire Department to pass by as they are hauled into the centre of the floor by invisible lassos before being hoist feet first into the open air, without pay.

The Marshal will proceed to the vacant elevators while managerial staff file down the stairs. The Marshal will ask the elevators how they are holding up, given the circumstances.

Non-managerial staff should encourage managerial staff to make use of the available extinguishers, while reading nearby signage repeatedly and pinching themselves.

Upstairs, in the management suites, the Marshal will draw their service pistol as the elevator doors open, beginning their journey: a search through who-knows-where. Possibly the candle-lit, felt-adorned rooms where company soothsayers divine quarterly sales figures. Perhaps into the murky depths of the mines where raw, unrefined bargains are extracted from the earth's still-beating heart. Staying mindful that every unlocked door risks a fracas with a feral Team, one that is ambitious, voracious, and yet to be fully built.

And they will press on, through a warren of corridors and hallways until they find a door, another one, identical to all the others. Unassuming, anonymous, locked.

And inside will be,

No-one,

At a desk by the window, looking idly across the crowds below as they pour into the car park,

Before a notepad that reads, "Retention!",

With a face that defies observation,

Wearing a white blouse and navy blazer,

And a badge on their lapel that says,

Hello! My name is
  Trainee


And carrying the nausea-inducing stench of the absence of lilies.

And the Marshal will cast themselves into the void, in search of a name that means nothing, and ask,

"██████? Is that you?"

And then break into tears,

When no-one answers.

Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

First crits for Week Three Seven Seven - VoidMart Week, like, three? Four?

Applewhite - A Hard Day's Night
A couple of bumpy turns of phrase in here. For example, in the opening you have "orange pools of light" and "liquid amber glare" which are fine individually, but together look like two different ways of phrasing what are, essentially, the same idea.

You also have this further down:
"the car radio sat on the shelf next to Brandon’s head where he’d gone to hide."
Which reads like Brandon has gone to hide in his own head.

I'm imaging, based on seeing the number 1299 written at the top there, that these may be a symptom of some late-game trimming being done.

Overall, fairly decent!

"Man discovers he's a robot" is fairly well trodden territory so I appreciate a bit of fakeoutery in that department. Mood's a little off-kilter, which is to be expected given the VoidMart setting. Weirdness could potentially stand to be dialled up a little bit given that it's also explicitly set in a dream.

crimea - Returns and Exchanges
Don't get this one, I'm afraid.
It's a very short dialogue piece, with only two characters don't seem to have a great deal of, well, character. And having it in chatlog format seems to preclude any character establishing details of the conversation from being apparent (hesitance, tutting, sighs and the like).

It feels like you're going for a Who's-On-First type setup, but I can't work out what The Bit is beyond simple absurdity. I'm rolling the words, "the Zone Aisle" over and over in my head thinking that some meaning is going to pop out of them, and I'm just not seeing it.

Doctor Zero - Night Shift
Opening sentence is a little flabby. "Around midnight" specifies a time, so it makes the opening "It was when..." redundant. Also watch out for repetition, e.g.: "around midnight [...] around the corner". Not huge deals, but we're right at the top here, and it looks like there's similar stuff throughout. Mismatched/missing double v single quote marks. Minor typos. Nothing individually huge, but frequent enough to be a little wigged out by.

In terms of the story itself: effectively built up with a horrid little punch at the end. Let down a little by the the protagonist being more or less just a bystander who learns about events until they eventually put together at the end what's happening, rather than being an active participant in the story. Basically you may have leant too hard into into the latter half of "Shift Supervisor". :smith:

--

Will go through the rest tomorrow and am happy to chat in the Discord.

Or, will be, if someone can wire me over a link to the Discord.

Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

drat there are more of these than I thought.

--

Tibalt - Cleaning Up Aisle 9
There's not a great deal of dialogue in this one, but I do enjoy that there's a disconnect between the tone of the first-person narration and the character's own dialogue. Complements the idea that the protagonist is a big-bug-in-a-skin-suit quite nicely.

I'm on board with the stylised capitalisation for emphasis, but the effect is diminished in execution because of the product names you've included that necessarily need to be capitalised as well. The main sticking point for me being "the beautiful Slave I" which, as someone who doesn't know Star Wars and didn't pick up that the I was a Roman numeral, made complete sense as a phrase in the narrator's voice right up until I hit "Delta 7s" and realised what had happened.

rat-born cock - A Boy and His Drone
Putting aside the idea that you're framing the drone's thoughts and feelings as hypothetical, for style purposes, even within that framing you're still doing a lot of Hypothetical Telling rather than Hypothetical Showing. You say that the drone is rage-filled and lonely, but the most that it does, is float around to set the scene and establish the context. And have a slightly forceful word with God. It's all quite passive, and so it drags a bit.

More generally: I'd suggest trying to condense the ideas you're trying to communicate, in both the small and large scales. For small, I'm talking about avoiding repetition of words and concepts. For example: In the space of three paragraphs you use some variation on the word "alone" five times. You don't need all of them.

In the larger scale, I'm talking about trimming the narrative to focus on the most evocative or relevant events. In your story, it looks like absolutely everything that happens from the moment the boy and his father arrive at the drone, through to the ending, is explicitly described. For instance, you have:
- The boy lifts the box off the shelf.
- The boy opens the box.
- The boy takes the drone out of the box, and unwraps the remote control.
- The boy puts batteries in the remote control.
With an entire paragraph dedicated to each and none really adding any new insight.

Staggy - Bargain Hunt
Not a huge amount to say on this one. Probably has space for a little more in the way of character for your protagonist, but it's nicely tense, got a clever twist on the prompt and a fun punchline. Big thumbs up.

a friendly penguin - Judgment Day Savings!
You took the darkly comic implications of "Guns, Ammo and Liquor" and added a little spice of Religious Zealotry in there alongside. It seems like you managed to hit the voice you were aiming for, along with a few solidly chucklesome turns of phrase.

Might have liked to see a bit of fleshing-out with regards to the side characters and their relationships with the protagonist, but another solid entry.

Mercedes - Always Read the Contract
Couple proofreading notes: "Employee of the day" switches to "Employee of the month", breath vs breathe, and "tantalizing" is missing it's adverby "-ly".

The writing's solid throughout, and the two main characters are sufficiently seething / smug to carry the story. My main note would be that the opening, while great at setting the scene and sufficiently horrid, doesn't have a great deal of bearing on the rest of the story.

Anomalous Amalgam - A Glutton for Punishment
The ending's a little wordy and could be punchier, but overall, well, you appear to have achieved what you set out to achieve!!!

:confuoot:

Black Griffon - Meat Joke
This was an odd little tale of sating the living meat machine with a bit of light-hearted stand-up, which seemed to be moving along nicely until I lost the thread around, "This is the meat filter." and never really found it again.

This is another one where specific phrases like, "The Meat Coherent" and "Little Pump" are sticking out and giving me the impression that there's some piece of information or context that I'm lacking that will make this come together, but at the moment I don't have it.

That said: You've got a solid, not-quite-explicit threat for our main character to tackle and your dialogue's put together well. The ending does a bit of damage but that aside, you had something fairly good going.

Carl Killer Miller - Last Requisition
Grisly little tale, really well paced. Worst thing I have to say about it is that it's maybe a little grim for VoidMart but that's me trying to invent a problem.

Top notch.

flerp - Take one then call me in the morning (whenever that is)
Assuming! That the slightly off-beat phrasing is intentional and not just a proofreading snafu, I think there are a few instances early on where it's deployed before the tone has been properly established, and so it does read as typo rather than style. Specifically:
"Then it ran out", in reference to a plural "drugs".
The contradictory use of tense in, "That was all it is".
"So won't they," as opposed to the more natural, "Neither will they".

That aside: An enjoyable slide into the surreal.

--

Last batch tomorrow I hope.

(And thanks to Merc and SH for the Discord invites)

Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

et finalement

--

Barnaby Profane - Voidlings
It's relatively common in VoidMart stories for characters to treat the strange and horrifying as desirable or, at worst, mundane.

That doesn't seem to be what you're doing here. The more I read this, the more I'm inferring that Voidlings are less like the usual weird product that VoidMart are into because they're weird, and more like an Infestation of Xanax Tribbles, treated like a commodity because of their own malignant influence rather than the nature of the setting. I'm not getting a lot of that, but I am getting a bit of that, and if that is what you were going for then :thumbsup:

The descriptive section has a few word choices that don't quite ring true based on the in-fiction audience ("vestigial", "eventually-terminal", "homodontous") but generally works.

Maigius - Komar or the Modern Sisyphus
This one has such little detail that it's hard to buy into.

The protagonists main character trait is that they demand bribes, but why?
"Repeated bribe requests had driven the old man to suicide." Why?
"Corporate had eventually found out about his bribe taking." How?

There's a suggestion that Cart Pushing is all the character does, and it's hinted to be a hard task by the fact that that's what VoidMart have demanded, but there's very little that invokes the idea of an endless, futile struggle suggested by the Sisyphean myth.

Sitting Here - The Success Formula
This one's knocked down a little by having the seemingly quite off-put Anna pivot to being Cool With It oddly quickly.
Oh, 1300 words exactly, cool yep got it.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed what you have here. Characters have distinct voices, and your descriptions are clear and evocative. The focus is just a little off in terms of structure. I'd suggest trim the setup, flesh out character resolution the end.

Fleta McGurn - GARBAGE DISPOSAL
Reminded me of Daylight Savings. Half a star out of five.

Sebmojo - Fooling the Eye
A precocious, but thoroughly believable twelve year old. Enderby, on the other hand, a little odd. The early narration suggests a certain degree of hesitation which doesn't quite gel with her snatching a kid and jumping headlong into the void at the end.

Beyond that: Fun, tightly put together little vignette. Starts weird, develops, ends with a different form of weird.

asap-salafi - Screens
This one has a few issues with perspective.

The narration is third-person throughout, limited to Salim's perspective, but then switches abruptly to omniscient third-person at the end. Specifically, the change in noun from the the vague "dog" to the far more specific "werewolf", is jarring because Salim doesn't learn anything that would make this distinction for him.

Similarly, the narration indicates that the kid is "holding the same necklace he had been wearing when he had walked into the Voidmart that afternoon", but Salim didn't notice the kid wearing the necklace earlier, and hasn't learned anything about the necklace since. Plot-wise, the idea that this is the kid getting his own necklace back after being falsely accused by a dick, that totally tracks, but the execution doesn't land.

Throughout, there are a few lines that are in quotes, as though they were dialogue, but are Salim's internal monologue. Since the narration is already from Salim's POV, these could be delivered more cleanly by building them into the narration instead.

--

Anyway, that's all of them! If anyone wants a chat about the crit (or just their story generally), I'll be taking a nap in the Discord.

Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

I think I've got something with these ants.

In.

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Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

The Mill
649 words

There is a pit, in the dark, full of monsters.

A dank, suffocating blackness, all stale air and slick mud. An insurmountable wall of jagged rocks and shifting dirt, and lost souls strewn across the mire.

Once, there was chaos. A tangled mess of sludge and limbs and blood and bones, a muddle of despair that vied to separate from itself, pulling itself toward the light and shedding the beaten and broken.

Then, there was–

Not calm, but,

Then there was order.

They stood upright, for the most part, each laying an uncontested claim to the ground beneath their feet. Their breaths were harsh, hoarse, their eyes gloomy. Gashes, since hardened, painted streaks across their gaunt cheeks.

Those with gaits still steady, with spines still straight, led the way, gazing into the endless night and seeing a glimmer, a speck, out somewhere in the distance, burning out, barely visible against the void. A promise of exotic fruits, hard liquor, shillings, sunlight. Of life. A promise that brought them here, hundreds of them, from a city beyond the trees beyond the valley beyond the mountain. From home.

To a pit, in the dark, full of monsters.

This place had changed them. There was no longer an innkeeper with a lax understanding of "last call". No longer a young farmhand with a spring in his step and a pocketful of pilferables. No-one who sits by the bedroom window until the early hours of the morning, wondering if he would ever come home.

None of them spoke. None of them recognised each other. None of them missed anyone. They were together, inasmuch as they were not alone.

They jumped at sudden noises, picked at the wounds on their faces, and walked.

Through a pit, in the dark, full of monsters.

And they were hungry.

One of them would stumble, fall, but the others dared not break step. They knew of the beast that followed, that lived in the shadow, that announced itself through a ceremony of wet cracks and discordant wails which reverberated through the rickety bones of those left to hear them, as it devoured those who strayed from the path. The infirm of body, or of will, who wandered into the darkness and were consumed by it, never to be seen again.

One, then another, then another.

There are so few of them, now. Hours, days pass without any of them seeing another. One of them holds out their hand toward the wall and runs their chipped, yellow fingernails across the loose dirt, sending it drifting downward. They follow the light, always just off to the side, always guiding them out, away from the wall and towards nothing in particular. And yet there it is, somehow, always in arms reach. Always cold, crumbling dirt. Always the same.

But now, finally, their devotion is rewarded. Delivered unto them from the darkness is a bounty, swaddled in tattered cloth and trembling. Wounded.

They stop before it, their calloused tongue prising their lips open before scraping backward, sandpaper on sandpaper, toward the patches of dried blood that join their lips together, and then continuing through, in and out, sawing a little into one side, across to the other, then back again, their jaw drooping towards their chest, scabrous flakes falling into the dirt.

They close their eyes and kneel as it writhes and thrashes its heels against the mud.

Quickly. The others will be here soon. They strike. Both hands, one above the knee, the other below. To their surprise, it freezes. Still. Silent.

It sees them. It understands. It even looks like its smiling.

A thrust. A twist. A shriek. A snap.

The feeling of freshly-washed linen and the taste of rust.

They raise their prize aloft, howling, blood dripping onto their teeth, and wait for the others to come pick at the leftovers.

They wait.

In a pit, in the dark.

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