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Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

y'all better take your pictures soon; if you sign up but fail to even post the picture which completes the signup, does that make you an ULTRAFAILURE?

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

999 words

Earl shifted from foot to foot behind the counter, facing forward out the Lolaburger's front windows but angling his eyes down to the magazine lying flat on the countertop. Mr Jameson, the owner, liked to drive past some nights to check on things and he'd give you hell if he saw you sitting down. Nobody knew why he even bothered to keep the place open overnight; Earl had been working there for nearly a year and had only served about 5 burgers on his overnight shifts. Jay's Diner down the street got all the late-night business.

At about 2:30, though, the door chimed. Earl looked up from his magazine as a dozen sharp-featured men came in, all wearing blue jeans and black leather jackets. They look like a gang, he thought, but like, a West Side Story gang or something. Their faces were handsome but hard. The guy in front was taller than the rest.

"Uh, welcome to Lolaburger, how may I help you?" Earl asked.

"Oh, hey, thanks man. Thanks for that offer of hospitality, you know? Me and my boys here, we want to eat our fill. So why don't you start us out with a burger each, and you just keep those fries and Coca-Colas coming too'," the apparent leader answered in a bantering drawl. Jesus, Earl thought, they even have the sideburns and pompadours, and that voice; is there a convention in town or something?

Earl tapped the cash register keys rapidly. "Ok, is this all together or separate?"

One of the other men took a quick step forward but stopped at a gesture from the leader. "Don't you get all shook up, now," he said, "this boy doesn't know our way." He turned back to Earl. "Just hop on back in that kitchen and get cooking, and we'll settle up when we're all done."

Earl nodded, thinking he'd rather risk a dine-and-dash than get his rear end kicked by a bunch of crazies. "That'll be fine, mister, uh…"

"You will call him King," one of the others said. His accent was strange, like nothing Earl ever heard. He and the rest of King's men went into the dining area and shuffled tables into one long super-table. King sat at the head.

While the deep fryer came back to temperature, Earl threw two dozen burgers on the grill, then ran off to fill a dozen glasses of Coke which he took to the table. As he set the drinks down, he noticed that the men's ears, though mostly hidden by their carefully combed hair, all seemed to come to a definite point. By the time he came back out with the first batch of burgers and fries, the glasses were drained. When he brought refills, the food was already eaten.

"Would you like something more, sir?" Earl asked. He'd decided not to bring up the bill again, not even if they got up and walked out the door that second.

King smiled. "Don't be cruel now, we're hungry folk. They thought we were funnin' 'em down at that diner when I asked for a dozen dozen pancakes. Real inhospitable, and after they welcomed us in so nice."

Early glanced out the windows. The diner, usually the only other bright spot on the midnight street, was completely dark. "What did you do to them?" he asked, fear slipping into his voice.

"Don't you worry none, they're just sleeping," King said. "Now how about a little less conversation and a lot more burgers?"

Over the next two hours, King and his men ate at least fifteen burgers each, along with mountains of fries and so much soda that Earl had to replace the syrup tank partway through. None of them said a word, except when King told Earl to bring more food. Earl never saw them actually eat or drink, either--he would bring out the food, then the next time he looked it would be gone.

Finally, as Earl brought the last remaining box of burger patties out of the walk-in, King called to him. He set the box on the counter and walked out on tired feet. King and his men were standing now.

"Is there something more I can get you?" he asked.

"No, friend, we've had our fill. Now it's time to settle up the reckoning."

Earl started to move toward the register, hardly believing that they were actually going to pay, but King stopped him with a gesture. "Ain't like that, though--got no money, honey. Stand here a second."

King put his hand on top of Earl's head. In a voice that suddenly lacked its normal drawling slangy quality, he said, "You kept to the old laws of hospitality, though you do not know them. You fed us well despite this crude food, and in return I give this: the meals you cook will always be best." Earl felt the skin tighten all over his body. King took his hand off Earl's head and looked for the first time at his nametag. "That's funny," he said, the old tone back in his voice, "they call me Earl sometimes too. Erl King. You have a good night now, friend."

When they were gone, Earl walked slowly back to the kitchen. He peeled off one of the burger patties from the last remaining box and threw it on the grill as he thought. He knew he'd get fired as soon as Mr. Jameson got in and found both the freezer and the till empty. Right now, though, he didn't care. When the burger was done, he slid it onto a bun and took a bite. drat, he thought, no wonder they ate so many; this batch of burgers is way better than the crap we usually get. His exhausted mind ran through it all again and again, bemused. "Thought I'd have to tell the cops Elvish Elvis kicked my rear end," he said to himself, and chuckled, then took another bite. Hell of a good burger.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Thanks for the crits!

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Hey can one of you judges give me a bonus fact? Decided I want to trust my fate to chance even more.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Simply Simon posted:

I might have a weekend without internet ahead of me which would be ideal for writing motivation, but terrible for submitting on Sunday. Would Monday morning be okay as well? It's a European morning, so most Americans should be asleep at that point anyway.

If that's okay, then I'm in.

Deadline is 05:00 UTC Monday morning so if you wake up early...

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

El Oso
992 words
Prompt: the Bear. Flash: A hibernating bear's dreams of the future always come true.

Raul accepted the offered mug, trying not to grimace as he sipped the sour, slimy pulque. An oil lamp on the rough table and a low fire made the only light in the old ranch house. The faces of the outlaws around him were dim shapes in the dark.

"Now that you're here," Martin said, "you'll have to stay until El Oso wakes up. He has been sleeping for two days. I think he will wake up tomorrow."

"Does he really dream true?" Raul asked. "The people in town say his dreams tell him what will happen."

"Yes," Martin said, "I've seen it." He drained his own pulque cup. "You took a big risk coming up here. How did you know where to find us?"

Raul looked down into his cup. "A man in town pointed at a man and told me, 'That's one of El Oso's.' I followed him here and hid in the rocks until I found enough courage to come down."

"Which man did you follow?" one of the others asked, leaning forward into the lamp light. Raul said nothing. The other stood and stepped forward. Martin raised a hand.

"Lucas! He will not betray that man, understand? Discretion is good in our work."

Lucas sat down. Martin turned back to Raul. "Why did you come to us, boy?"

"My uncle had a farm in the north. Then there was the drought, and I couldn't find any work--"

"It's the old story. We all know it. We will find you a bedroll for tonight. Remember, because you are here now, you must stay until El Oso wakes. The Brothers will stop you if you try to go." At this he made a small gesture toward two men sitting against the stone wall, lit dimly by the fire. One was sleeping, the other sat motionless. Both were whip-thin and dark, with long mustaches. Each had a Winchester carbine across his knees. The one who was awake saw Raul looking and met his eye. Raul looked away quickly.

The next morning, El Oso woke up. He stomped heavily down the rough ladder from the attic where he had slept, his bulk making the ladder legs shake and skitter on the floor. He yawned widely and raked his hands through his thick black hair, then scratched his beard. Martin pushed a cup of coffee into El Oso's hand as the rest of the desperados circled around.

"Dios," Raul whispered, "he's even bigger than they said." As though he had heard, El Oso looked up and saw Raul. A huge smile broke on his face.

"Raul!" he shouted, crossing to him and clapping his shoulder with one gigantic hand. "I wondered when you would show up! I dreamed about you, farm boy. You are not a very good rider, eh? I dreamed you will fall of your horse, right after Lucas gets shot."

All faces turned to Lucas, who went very pale. "Don't worry, Lucas," El Oso boomed, "my dream didn't show you dead. Only shot. Maybe it will be a little wound."

"Now, compadritos," El Oso continued, "my dream showed me where we will go. The stagecoach will stop in Mesilla at dawn tomorrow." He said there would be gold from California hidden at the bottom of one of the mail sacks. He told each man which horse he must ride. "No one shoots until the stagecoach guard comes back out. He will shoot first. Remember this, friends," he ordered.

They rode the next morning in the chilly pre-dawn, splitting up outside Mesilla. Raul thought Lucas would surely have slipped away in the night, but he was there, his face set and unreadable. Each man made his way into town separately and tied up along the main street, close to the stage stop. When the stage came, they waited until the coach guard went into the bank, just as El Oso said he would. Raul saw that the Brothers had moved in opposite directions to the far ends of the street. They sat their horses without moving, with their Winchesters in scabbards hung from the saddles.

El Oso walked slowly down the street until he was near the coach, then bounded up to it with surprising agility and ripped the thin door off its hinges. He tossed the door aside and began pulling out mail sacks, hefting each one to see if it held gold. Martin ran over to help. Raul, Lucas, and the others mounted their horses and drew their guns to cover them. The Brothers watched from the ends of the street.

The guard came back out as El Oso found the right bag and slung it over his pack horse. The guard started shooting immediately and El Oso's men shot back. Raul's attention was divided between trying to keep his shaking gun hand steady and watching to see if Lucas really would be shot. He saw Lucas backing his horse as he fired, backing up until he was close to the porch railing of the land office. Finally, he leapt from his horse, landed on the porch and sprinted to the door. He grabbed the handle and tried to open the door, but it was locked. At that moment, someone finally managed to shoot the guard.

Lucas stopped shaking the door as the shooting ended. He looked around wildly, then started running for the nearest alley. A single shot cracked, and Lucas dropped. Raul spun around and saw one of the Brothers lowering his rifle. He turned back and saw El Oso looking at him expectantly.

This is when he dreamed I would fall off my horse, he thought. He saw the other Brother looking at him, rifle half-raised.

Raul slipped his left boot out of the stirrup and pitched himself off the right side of the horse.

"Ah, haha!" El Oso laughed. "See, Raul, I knew you were a clumsy rider!" Raul laughed with him from the ground.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

sebmojo posted:

Inter prompt: what the hell just walked in the door (350 words)

I loosened my tie and pulled the bottle of rye from my bottom desk drawer. Deke had been in it again, the son of a bitch. You had to get up pretty early in the morning to get to my booze before me, but Deke never slept at all.

I poured out a healthy glass, then topped it up for good measure. I spilled most of it down my shirt when this dame came through the door.

"You could have used the doorknob," I told her, "I just had that drat door painted. So what can I do for you?"

She picked a few splinters off her blouse and started to unload her story, but I wasn't paying attention. I tell you, she had legs that wouldn't quit. She lit a cigarette, reached across my desk and poured herself a glass of my whiskey, and then took off her hat and started fanning herself with it.

"Look, lady," I said, "I'll take the case, but you've got to make your legs quit. Gives me the willies seeing them lighting cigarettes and pouring drinks like that."

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

SlipUp posted:

Like... you guys didn't get that he tricked someone into confessing his secrets or...

Here's my crit: look at the sentence "Ed clicked his tongue relieved, and a bang was heard on the window." and contemplate what's wrong with it.

Judges, thanks for the extremely fast judgement post! Excellent prompt, too. I had fun with it.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

SlipUp posted:

Oh are you challenging me? Well in that case sure. Put these crits to good use.

I'll judge, stand by for prompt.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Sham bam bamina! posted:

Make them write stories about your avatar.


Slipnolk Brawl

In 1200 words or less, tell me a story about what the dead are taking/extracting from the living. You'll be disqualified if it is literal coins from a literal human butt. No erotica, no google docs, blah blah.

Deadline is 11:59 MST, January 23, 2019.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Antivehicular posted:

Okay, so, first things first: :toxx: to complete all my outstanding judge crits before submission deadline for week 337.

Furthermore, I'll do crits for Week 336 stories for anyone who requests one. These may be later than the deadline above, because I have like 40 crits to write, holy hell, but I'll do my best to be timely.

Yeah but the prompt tho

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

In, and gimme a sentence please

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Thanks for the crits, folks!

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

The Silence of the Lawns
976 words

Her wit was sharp like a lawnmower blade—​it could cut you down to size (which she could adjust, like a lawnmower). Today she had it adjusted as low as it goes and set to mulch.

"So do you just look out the window at the lawn while you jerk off," she asked, "or sneak down and do it on the grass?"

"I just like keeping the yard nice," I said, raking the cut grass into a neat pile. "Dad always kept it up, but now that he's sick..."

Janet's face looked pained, like I'd stepped on her foot with an aerator shoe. Let her feel guilty over that, I thought, even if it's bullshit. Dad had only mowed every other week, and he made me take over as soon as I was old enough. When he got sick I just let it go to seed for a long time.

"Well, anyway, some of us are going to the late movie tonight," Janet said. "It's the new Freddy Krueger movie. You can come if you want."

"I already saw that one. Thanks, though." I didn't really want her pity-invitation, and I had plans for tonight.

"Oh. Ok. Have fun with your grass," she said, and walked away.

I finished gathering the trimmings and dumped them in the compost pile, then went back around to the front. I lay on the grass and listened.


I slipped into the back lot of Martinez Hardware around 11 that night. They kept the fertilizer in a shed, but the door just had a cheap padlock on it, the kind you can learn to pick online in a couple minutes. I'd been stealing a couple bags a week for months now and as far as I could tell, nobody had noticed.

I grabbed two bags of the good fertilizer, one under each arm and got out. Main Street looked quiet, with only the movie theater and Polomoni's bar still open that late. It didn't take long to carry the bag home, although I had to drop it and walk away a few times when I saw headlights coming. I slid the bag under the workbench in the garage, then shoved a few things in front of it. When I came back out there was a dark figure standing in the driveway, watching me.

"Christ!" I gasped. I stumbled backwards, reaching for the switch to turn on the garage floodlights.

It was Janet. She raised her hand against the light. "Turn those off!" she hissed. I did.

We both stood still as our eyes re-adjusted. "I saw you stealing from the hardware store. What was it?" she asked.

"I thought you were at the movie," I said. Fear gnawed me like a chafer grub on a root.

"It was dumb, so I left early. I saw you sneaking out with that bag. I was going to call the cops but I recognized your stupid t-shirt. So what did you take?"

"Fertilizer," I said. "Just some fertilizer."

"Fertilizer? Are you making bombs, psycho? No," she paused for a second. "It's for your grass, isn't it? That stupid grass you spend all your time on."

"Yes," I said quietly.

"I just don't get it," she said, "Why do you spend so much time taking care of the lawn?"

"You sound like my mom," I said. "I want you to try something. You might think I'm crazy. Maybe I am. Just try it, though."

I gestured for her to follow me. She came hesitantly around to the front of the house, onto the lawn. "Lay down and just listen," I said, and laid down on my back.

"Is this some stupid pickup--"

"Just do it."

She finally laid down too. The silence of the night was only broken by a few distant frogs and crickets. After a minute, the grass started to whisper.

"What the hell is that?" Janet asked, sitting up suddenly.

"Just lay back and listen," I said. I was relieved she had heard it--I thought I might just be going crazy.

We lay there and listened to the grass murmuring to itself contentedly, happy to be well-kept and well-fed and well-watered. Eventually I sat up again.

"It's only my grass," I said. "I've gone around at night and tried listening at other houses, but only this one does it."

She didn't say anything. She laid back down for a few moments to hear it again, then sat back up.

"It's late. You should get home, but if you come over tomorrow morning I'll show you something else."

"Maybe," she said.

Janet stood up, brushed herself off, and left. I smiled when I saw how gently she stepped on the grass now.


Janet did come over the next morning. I thought she might have written it all off as some sort of weird dream. We didn't say much; I just led her down the street and into the woods past the edge of town. When we came to the little clearing, I stopped.

"Here," I said, sitting on the little patch of transplanted grass. "Listen here. You don't even need to lay down." She sat next to me.

I had picked the spot because a little creek ran through it, figuring I could use it to water the grass until it got established. It took a minute to tune out the sound of the water, but before long I started to hear it, and I could tell by Janet's face that she heard it too.

The voice of the grass was there, a little wilder than it had sounded at home but obviously the same. There were other voices though. Sweet humming and trilling from the wildflowers. Energetic chattering whispers from the blackberry brambles on one side. Deep and slow rolling voices from the pines and birch trees. The woods spoke, and we listened.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

sebmojo posted:

:siren: Interprompt :siren: I know this looks bad but I can explain 350 words

don't preface your stories!

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

SlipUp posted:

Ya, I'm gonna need another year. Plus a day if possible.

doubleposting to give a reminder that you and Flesnolk are in another brawl due Wednesday night:

Pham Nuwen posted:


Slipnolk Brawl

In 1200 words or less, tell me a story about what the dead are taking/extracting from the living. You'll be disqualified if it is literal coins from a literal human butt. No erotica, no google docs, blah blah.

Deadline is 11:59 MST, January 23, 2019.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

steeltoedsneakers posted:

What is going on today? Lotta fightin' words.

I didn't even notice this because of the rest of the challenges being chucked about - so that's what you're gonna write about.

I want interpersonal conflict at the heart of a raging hurricane. I want two people at loggerheads amidst a rolling tavern brawl.

But like, not literally unless that's what you want - it's more of a metaphor.

I want you to write about a conflict between two central characters that unfolds amidst - and for them, overshadows - a broader conflict/event/chaotic upheaval.

Give it to me fast and dirty, 800 words. 1 week 2 weeks from today (let's call it 4.30pm Wednesday, New Zealand Time) - or not if you cats have entered this week, I'm not going to check. I'll tsk and extend it to two weeks if you were foolhardy enough to throw down for a brawl as well as a dome entry.

Saucy_Rodent is currently probated, so he emailed me his story for this brawl.

Waka Waka Waka Waka
(by Saucy_Rodent)
704 words

The church had been abandoned long before Pac-Man appeared on the telescopes, before the existence of the old Gods had been devoured entirely. Like everyone else who’d kept their sanity, I kept my eyes towards the ground as I approached the old wooden door.

Mary was standing between the front pews when I entered. She came here to pray, I imagine, but prayer is fragile for anyone who’s seen the night skies.

“You know if they’ve got any of the old communion wine?” I said.

Mary groaned. “Ugh, you’re here,” she said. She wasn’t crying, but her makeup stains indicated she recently had.

“Yeah,” I said. “I don’t want to be alone when Pac-Man bites.” I tried to grasp her hand, but she pulled away.

“Seriously, Paul?” Mary snapped. She jumped up onto the stage. “You don’t want to be alone? So then why did you gently caress every pretty girl you could as soon as Pac-Man appeared on the news?” She put air-quotes around ‘Pac-Man,’ a nickname she had always found ridiculous.

“I’m sorry, Mary. You know I’m sorry,” I said, taking a seat in the pews.

She laughed. “Yeah, Paul. You’re sorry. You’re so sorry you slept with four different girls as soon as you had a good excuse. You were only so—”

“An excuse?” I said. “The world— ”

“Don’t interrupt me!” shouted Mary, taking the podium. “You were only sorry when I found out! You would have kept doing it!”

“The world is ending!” I yelled.

“I know, jackass. And I wanted to spend the world’s last moments with you, because I loved you. I wanted to hold your hand and watch the galaxy get eaten together, and I thought you did too. But you…you wanted to get high and gently caress.”

I always hated how she could act as mad as she felt while we were fighting while it was my job just to listen and nod. “You’re right. Of course you’re right. But that shouldn’t matter now.”

I ducked the Bible that she chucked at me from the podium. “Don’t you dare tell me should and shouldn’t matter. Look at the sky! Nothing matters! The universe is getting eaten, galaxy by galaxy. So I wanted to pretend to die happy with you, Paul, to pretend that love, of all things, might mean something in a world being devoured by—ugh—Pac-Man. And maybe I could convince myself it did. But you, Paul, so desperate not to die alone, you don’t actually believe in it. You don’t believe in love. Because as soon as you knew about that thing was out there, you abandoned it. And you would’ve done it—”


“Don’t interrupt me! You would’ve done it eventually, even there weren’t a loving Pac-Man. Probably not soon, but you would’ve found an excuse to cheat on me, to do it and still be able to tell yourself you’re a good person.”

I sighed. I disagreed, but digging in my heels meant we’d be stuck arguing until Pac-Man bit. “You’re right, Mary. I’m an rear end in a top hat. I will die an rear end in a top hat. But do you really want this to be the way are when we go? Heartbroken and miserable?”

“I’ll be that way regardless if I stay or if I go,” said Mary. She walked away from the podium and sat down on the edge of the stage. “I can’t pretend to love you anymore. I can’t pretend to believe in God and come to a church and pray. I’ve tried to do both, but in the end, I’d rather spend the end of the world alone than stoking the ego of some selfish, insecure prick who doesn’t give a poo poo about me.”

We were silent for a while. I hung my head. Then she came down off the stage and made her way down the aisle. I stayed in the pew as I watched her leave. She held her head high as she walked out the door, and I briefly saw the night sky before the door swung closed. The sky was without blank space, consumed by the roof of Pac-Man’s mouth. The rows and rows of hundreds of millions of faintly glowing teeth waited behind the stars to bite down.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

In and flash me please

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Flesnolk / SlipUp Brawl Results

SlipUp, "Death of a Friend"
First off, I want to congratulate you on a huge improvement between week 336 and this brawl. You're a lot better about speech attribution here, and in general formatting is a lot better. Verb tense is a little inconsistent; sometimes "I move my bishop", but other times "I moved my Queen". I was more or less able to follow the plot, I believe, although I'm not clear on the exact timeline of chess games: protagonist played chess with Death in London for his own life (winning), then for his wife's life (losing), they another 165 losing games after that as he attempts to make Death take him? Also Death is hardly "the dead" but perhaps in a loose interpretation...

So my problem here is that the story is not especially interesting. Playing chess with Death is so well-worn that I expected you to execute it as farce, rather than play it straight. The whole story, both prose and dialog, is full of pompous-sounding sentences that don't actually mean anything: "If the two sides were to clear the boards but their kings it would be considered a draw, as if the death of all life itself soothed the souls of the departed.", or "“I am a mortal made immortal. While you true immortals consider this a flaw, I will show you its strength."

When we see someone playing chess with Death, we expect there to be one of two outcomes: Death wins, Death loses. It might have been fun if the player tried for a third way, or attempted to cheat, but instead he wins 4 turns. I noticed that you described the chess moves in detail, so I went ahead and laid them out on a board:

This, uh, isn't checkmate. It's just an exchange, white giving up his queen and bishop in exchange for black's queen (a pretty poor trade). If your intention was for the player to be very bad at chess, and that Death allows him to win as suits Death's needs, that would be interesting. A player so bad at chess that he can't recognize his 4-move check is not in fact checkmate, but Death is done toying with him so Death lets him win. Unfortunately I don't think this is what you've done here.

Flesnolk, "Deathmarch"
You both used the word "death" in your titles, which really shouldn't be a surprise. Considering that this brawl started when we ripping on SlipUp's poorly-formatted story, I would have expected you to ONLY PUT ONE NEWLINE BETWEEN PARAGRAPHS YOU gently caress

Did you intend "Then he shouted and swore and struck a comrade to the floor." to rhyme, coming on the heels of a sentence about "his insipid poetry"? You also use polysyndeton a lot, like multiple times per paragraph, and although it does help evoke a feeling of a translated work I'm gonna say:

It's the more interesting story, but I wish there was more to it. (I hate it when people crit "interesting setup, but i wish you had explored more of it" on a story that's already 1 word shy of the limit, but you still had 600 words left!) I get where you're coming from with the things the dead men took from the narrator, and I like it. Hell, I even like that it ends with the sergeant collapsing too drunk to keep himself from drowning. I just wish there was something between when the Germans are killing his comrades and the final death by drunkenness.

Flesnolk wins, despite loving up his formatting. I was more interested in finding out how the story ended, and its simpler sentence structure (despite perhaps overuse of polysyndeton) won the day.

SlipUp, honestly, the difference between your first story and this one is night and day. A lot of people would have bailed out of Thunderdome after getting ripped on like that in their first entry, but you fixed some poo poo and kept on writing, which is loving awesome! I want to recommend 2 things for your next story:
  • outline it before writing, if you don't already.
  • try to use short and simple words, especially in your dialog, and keep your sentence structure as straightforward as possible.

Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at 15:36 on Jan 24, 2019

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Isla de las Muńecas
1232 words


Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at 16:51 on Feb 5, 2019

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Prompt: Underdog Mad-Scientist Prison Stories

Cool Hand Leukocyte
1481 words


Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at 14:09 on Jul 9, 2019

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

340 Judgecrits. Note that I had only one win candidate marked, and that was with the option to make it a loss instead. :mediocre:

Bystanders of the Blue Room by selaphiel
"The closed barrier stared back at me, waiting." burn your thesaurus.Oh man the monster was her dad? Because as soon as you said "the scent of whiskey and oil" it was all over. Other TD people have different desires in stories and this one might work for some of them, but it definitely doesn't work for me. "Abusive dad portrayed as a monster" is a well-trodden path, so if you're going to lead me down this path I hope there's an escaped circus elephant at the other end instead of the same old trees. I'm in judgemode so I don't know who wrote this, but I'm guessing it's someone newer. Technical execution is pretty good, but ease up on the thesaurus use.


From a Clear Blue Sky by Applewhite
I am two sentences in and I'm sure hoping you don't go with "self-righteous homophobic preacher gets his ironic comeuppance".

Well, here we are at the end of the story, and the self-righteous homophobes got their ironic comeuppances. You clearly had fun drawing the scenarios, but it just ends up being kind of smug. I think you had one of the most interesting pictures, though, and I think you could have done a lot more with it. I'm gonna guess that this was another newbie story (early submission is usually a clear sign). Also, I am pretty sure "Reverend" is a title and should therefore be capitalized.


House-Sitting by crimea
I'll give you this: I'm 5 paragraphs in and I can't guess where the story is going, but I'm interested in finding out.

Ok I finished it. I don't really know what this story was. It's full of weird word choices and sentence constructions, and I don't fully get the point, but I don't hate it. In fact I kind of liked it in a weird way, maybe because it DIDN'T turn into a ghost story.

High mid, I guess.

The Conference by Baneling Butts
Having finished the story and looked at the picture, I understand the inspiration pretty clearly. However, I don't feel that the story really did enough. The apartment is haunted, the main character ignores tons of warning signs until she finally sees the ghost, then runs away, then calls her grandma. I'm gonna say, if I woke up and found hot breakfast cooked on the kitchen table, there's no loving way I'd go back to that apartment. And then, if I DID go back, and found the breakfast had been replaced by two glasses of wine (sorry, blood-red liquid), I'm definitely not gonna run through the apartment to the drat bedroom!


Heirlooms by Captain_Person
"Parcel", "shoddily", "sellotape" all in the first sentence, ok we get it, they're in the UK. This story really didn't work for me, which makes 5 in a row, and I the reader am the only common element… I would like to point out the similarities between this story and the previous one (The Conference), which both involve professionals too caught up in work and life to check in with their grandparents. I think this is a pretty natural result given that these tableaux have an old-fashioned feel to the decor and an overall feeling of sadness/melancholy/loss.

Mid, mid-low

Coronation by Simply Simon
"And this is how Charles Esteban was demoted to guard duty in the notorious military prison Purgatory, on the eponymous planet somewhere probably far away." this sentence was rough. How dirty can a person get sitting in a cell all day, since he gets a new robe and a hosedown every morning?

I appreciate that you've written something besides being sad about old houses/people. It feels like a little bit of a cop-out to have the Prince desperately trying to make a hat, purely so he could use it as a momentary distraction to kill the guard. I wanted there to be something more significant to the hat. Also, if he's going to have pulled up the drain and broken it, I want to know how he was able to get the drain unscrewed and work on breaking the drain cover every single night without someone noticing that the drain's been fooled with.

Mid, maybe mid-high.

The Lake Cabin by Hawklad
This story is a weird one for me. Where the previous entries have been largely passive, all three characters in this story have things they want and they take action toward those things. I find the present-tense narration slightly… exhausting? and there's too many adjectives and adverbs, but those are to some extent matters of taste. My main question with this story is: why any of it? Why did the guy kill his grandfather? When his girlfriend starts seeing his grandpa's ghost, and it's clear from her description that it's really his ghost, why does he make them stay when she's so likely to discover his crime? Why was he poking the fire with a pocket knife, besides "I need to introduce that this guy has a pocket knife so he can stab her"?

You had 1200 words and you used every one, but if you went through and cut out half your adjectives, you could get a couple hundred words back to tell me why he killed his geepaw and make it more satisfying.

High mid.

A Cold Reception by Staggy
I just read the first paragraph and let me warn you I love Twilight Zone so don't disappoint me here.

Now I've finished it and I almost missed the Patented Twilight Zone Twist. I thought the stovepipe was all blocked up still and he died of carbon monoxide poisoning, but on a re-read I realized his dad had stuffed all the money up the stove pipe and that's what burned up. I was ready to be mad at you for your prose after I read about rime-encrusted feet, the hand that sought refuge, and a sour expression curdling a face, but past that point I felt like things actually flowed fine.


We All Gonna Die by Chili
As I start this I'm thinking you're walking a fine line with the 'bout and the hisselfs; it can work, but it's risky. However, you've got me hooked with the idea of the painting. And then you almost lost me again with the paragraphs of exposition about how he built himself a life but he never talked to his dad but now he didn't get a birthday card so he's going home and something about how the house stays in the family and he's gonna take down the painting.

I just… didn't get it. That final conversation between the guy and his (dead?) dad was so full of invented down-southisms that I literally could not figure out what the gently caress happened. In taking down the painting, he took hisself to the h'yeahafter? And his dead dad showed up, and they said a bunch of important-sounding things at each other, and that's it. I was hooked when you introduced the painting, but I'm completely unsatisfied by the resolution.


The Root of Evil by Salgal80
Allow me to push my thick-lensed glasses up my nose and squawk MANDRAKE ONLY GROWS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN! Anyway, I'm down with the conceit for the most part, although the origin of Jillian's insanity is not quite clear--the mere act of moving to the city made her go nuts and poison the dog? At first I thought we were going to find that Jillian is some sort of supernatural creature that would take Emma's shape once she died, but she's just an insane 9 year old. My biggest complaint is that the story Jillian tells is not the sort of thing an elementary school kid would come up with, even if she spent a long time rehearsing it--no 3rd grade kid is going to say "disgruntled" or "distraught" or "a reflection of hell on earth, wooden shacks and black dust".


Coal by Thranguy
I liked this. It's pompous, but it's a story about Santa Claus as the last man on Earth talking to the Devil, go ahead and be a little pompous, it suits. Even the Devil bringing brandy, although cliche, sorta works. I found the use of the coal at the end (nice Chevkov's Gun there) a little confusing, since by staying alive St Nick eases the punishment of the Hitlers still in Hell, but at first it seemed like he was symbolically handing coal to Satan to say "keep burning those fucks", or something… I think I see where you were going but it's a little bit of a head-scratcher.

HM candidate, partly because I wrote a Santa story last week too…

Make Peace by apophenium
This is a neat concept. I like stories about weird creatures out in the woods. You say "the words were phonetically correct but Lottie felt the creature did not know their meaning", yet there's every indication it can speak just fine--I would have liked further exploration of its strangeness, although I acknowledge the word limit. I also wonder why this creature kept pumping smoke at her cabin for 10 drat years when it clearly wasn't working, and why it thought smoke would make her come out in the first place.

There's an awkward feel to some of the phrases in this story; maybe you didn't have enough time to edit or something, I dunno. Sentences like "Too used to the cramped cabin she and her parents lived in, Lottie never sought more than what she knew." feel a little like you're reaching for a 'literary' style that's not particularly comfortable to write?


The Vitruvian Beast by SlipUp
This was a weird one. First off, when attributing dialog, you shouldn't ALWAYS use "said Mary". More often than not, "Mary said" would be a more appropriate choice. It's hard to convey the passage of multiple weeks of time in such a short story, but once I accepted the way you did it, I found it reasonably effective. For some reason, I found "They told the stranger they found nothing as they untied him." kind of funny all out on its own between two dividers. Oh, you know what this broken-up style reminds me of? One of those javascript text games where the author pops up a page of the story in between whatever gameplay is going on.

Anyway, it's just not clear enough why anything is happening. Does the guy draw down the wolves on people? Is he working with them? Is he a werewolf? I don't demand ALL the answers, I just want SOMETHING, some inkling why these things are happening. Also I'm sorry but you completely missed the prompt image beyond "you mentioned a dark hallway". It was a weird picture and maybe the hardest of the bunch, but it's a miss.

DM candidate, or DQ.

A Hole to Hide by Bolt Lux
Weird as hell, liking it and hating it at the same time. Maybe I'm too dumb to figure out what the meaning was supposed to be, or maybe it's a cynical attempt at providing something weird we the judges can project our own poo poo onto without actually having any meaning. It feels like a dream, and I mean I have literally had dreams where I dig a hole in the ground and drop down into another world. TD-bait.

Either win candidate, or loss candidate.

A Rifle Isn't A Maybe Kind of Thing Though by flerp
It was interesting to start with, the talk about the silence in the woods. I wanted to hear about what his 'forest' was ("Our forests were just different."), but then you turned right at This American Life Street and we got to hear about how Dead Gun Dad was mean to Gay Son. Well, not really mean to, even, really. It's competently executed but I've read/listened to/watched it too many times before.


He's No Reid Fleming by QM Haversham
Ok despite some minor technical problems I was really into this, but then you lost me at the end. I mentioned on an earlier story that I'm a big fan of the Twilight Zone, but your Twilight Zone twist makes for the least interesting possible Also, the fact that it's all set in a diorama built by an old lady named Frances? gently caress you for that, DM

DM or loss.

Diving Expedition by Bad Seafood
Weird, maybe pointless, but short and sweet enough that I'm gonna say yeah sure i liked it. Nobody died! There were no ghosts! Yay!

HM material maybe, but also incredibly TD-bait.

Lunch by onsetOutsider
For sale, baby brains, never eaten.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

sebmojo posted:

And if people don't like your stuff don't flounce: write more, write better.

or brawl the judge that made your lip all quivery

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Exmond posted:

Regardless of the outcome, give him the ultimate shame: An Umaru Avatar.

Stop trying to make Umaru happen.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Table Turning
1182 words

"Isn't this too soon? I mean, the funeral was Thursday," I asked.

Helen put down the EVP microphone she was holding. "Rosa would have wanted us out here as soon as possible. Remember her theory about psychic fading? If her spirit is still around here, it's as strong as it'll ever be."

I shivered involuntarily at this. Casey gestured to the other end of the parlour, where yellow police tape still hung limply over a pile of smashed wood and scattered rocks. "Besides," he said wryly, "somebody put up party decorations, it would be a shame to let that go to waste." He'd been making these weak little wisecracks all day and it was driving me nuts, but Helen had pulled me aside and whispered it was probably a coping mechanism.

"EVP's ready," Helen said. "You got the temperature baseline, Marcus?"

"Just about," I answered. I shot a few more measurements with my infrared thermometer. "Everything's within a few degrees of 68F."


"Cameras are rolling… now! Rolling figuratively, I mean there's no film, we're not making The Shining 2: Shine Harder here--at least I hope not, I didn't bring my bloodproof waders."

"Great. Let's start with the basics." Helen hit record on the EVP machine. "Rosa?" she called. "Is Rosa Flores here with us tonight?"

I pointed the thermometer at the little card table in front of Helen, then at the walls behind her. No change. I was avoiding the obvious spot, the unfaded patch on the wall behind the police tape, the place that drat shelf had been. If Rosa's spirit was going to appear, I felt sure it would be where she died, where 300 pounds of fossils and crystals and geodes had come crashing off their high shelf right onto her head. But I didn't want to check.

Helen kept calling for Rosa, the same old script Rosa herself used a hundred times. Finally, I forced myself to take a reading where the shelf had been. "It's 52 degrees over where Rosa…" I began, and trailed off.

"Got stoned? Had her world rocked?" Casey said.

"God drat it Casey!" I snapped.

"Sorry," he muttered, not looking at me, "Sorry."

"Forget it," I said. "Hey Helen, let's try the Ouija."

"I, uh, left it at home," she said.

"Table-tapping," Casey muttered, still not looking at either of us. "We can use that card table for table-tapping, it's small enough."

We stood around the small table, pressing our fingertips firmly on the edge. "Rosa?" I called out. "Rosa, this is Marcus. We're going to ask some questions. We forgot the Ouija board, so just tap once for no and twice for yes. Do you understand?"

We didn't wait long. The table shifted under my fingers, tilting so one leg came up off the wood floor and dropped with a solid knock, then knocked again.

"Ok Rosa, we're glad you're with us. We miss you."


"Thank you." I took a second to get the quaver out of my voice. "Mom's doing ok, if you were wondering."


"Rosa, you remember how most ghosts--"


"Earth-bound spirits, sorry, are supposed to have some unfinished business?"


"Do you have business here with the living?"


"Wish they were all this helpful," Helen said with a tight smile. "Rosa, are you here because you want to prove the existence of spirits, life after death?"

Tap. We listened for the other tap we were sure would come, but there was only the one.

"Huh, had my money on that," Casey said. "Are you here for revenge?"

Tap. There wasn't really anyone to revenge upon--the guy who put those rocks on that rickety shelf died years ago.

"Does it have anything to do with our work?"


"Is it something to do with the family?" I asked.


"Is it about me?"






"Someone on Dad's side?"


"Aunt Jessica?"



Tap-tap. Katie was our cousin who lived in town, a sweet 10 year old kid who had adored Rosa.

"Ok, so it has something to do with Katie. Is she in danger?"


"Good. Uh, let's see, is it something at home?"


"At school?"


"Something at her school. Problem with other kids?"


"Problem with the teacher?"


"An assignment?"


We got kind of stuck there. Half of the game of 20 Questions is watching the other person's face and hearing the way they answer, but we only had knocks and taps to go on. We asked dozens of questions trying to figure out what was so important that it would keep Rosa from moving on.

I think in the end she got frustrated, which seems odd for a ghost but Rosa was always a little short-tempered. There was one of those decorative sand jars sitting on an end table; suddenly it crashed to the floor. We all jumped at the noise, then saw that the sand was being gently smoothed out flat. Slowly, letters appeared in the sand, as though written out by a finger.

"Bug hunt," Casey read. "That's, uh, pretty weird, guys. The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on…"

"No," I said, "it does mean something. Let me think." Katie. Bug hunt. Something at school. "Oh, hell. You guys remember back in elementary school, how you had to go out and collect bugs, then arrange them on a big board with labels?"

Behind us, the table knocked twice without anyone even touching it.

"I certainly never did anything like that," Helen said, grimacing. "Sounds disgusting, and kind of morbid. They make little kids do this?"

Casey nodded, though. "Yeah, we did that at my school."

"Well, I remember Katie telling Rosa about it last time we saw her," I continued. "She was saying she already had a bunch of beetles and things, but she wanted to go out after dark and get some fireflies, maybe one of those big 'hummingbird' moths, but she was kind of scared to go out after dark. So Rosa said she'd go with and help her catch them."

The table tapped twice, then twice again. The whole room got cold for a second.

"I'll take her," I said. "I'll take Katie bug hunting as soon as I can. I mean, it's nice being able to talk like this, but I assume you'd like to move on at some point."


I smiled. "Well, Rosa, there's another bright side… if Casey remembered to take the lens cap off the cameras this time, I think this will be some pretty great video evidence for the existence of spirits."

"Yup," Casey agreed, "And we learned something even more important."

"What's that?" I asked warily, seeing what I could only think of as a poo poo-eating grin creeping onto his face.

"Why, that a Rosa stoned gathers no moths."

An old lamp in the corner suddenly crashed to the floor. Pictures shook off the walls. The EVP machine crackled loudly and shrieked wordless rage. We ran for the door as the furniture started to whirl. Rosa always did hate puns.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

In with Temsep, who comes from Busiris, who judges conjuration against the king

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Thanks for the crits, judges!

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Doctor Zero posted:

Thanks for the crits all!

So was Rosa some kind of in-joke? I searched archives and I didn’t see anything. :shrug:

Here's one:

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

The Walls of Busiris
1200 words
Prompt: Temsep/Busiris/conjuration against the king

Now ken that I, Daro Panemomon, am scion of a line of conjurers founded when the Earth was young and the Sun was yellow. I am heritor to their spells and of the family secrets, and it is I who brought the downfall of ancient Busiris.

Busiris stood millennia unchanging, ruled by immortal King Temsep and circled round with walls and protective magics. No outsider was allowed within the walls, but thousands came to trade at the fair outside the city. Despite rumors of great wealth, no thief had ever penetrated beyond the wall. Armies besieged it, but found the walls restored each night by occult mechanism. Perhaps in the ancient days when man wielded the Sun's power the city could have been taken by force, but not in these dissipated times.

To break Temsep's enchantments I was engaged. The Red Company promised me one tenth of their taking should I succeed. I left for Busiris at once and took residence in one of the inns outside the wall.

I am no hasty man. A full year I observed. Each sunset King Temsep slowly paced the top of the city walls, flanked by his dreadful guard beasts, renewing the spells of protection on the city. An acrobat from a traveling show I hired to scale the wall found that he could reach the top, but an unseen wall did block him from climbing into the town. I had given him a small amulet, the energies in it near gone, to leave on the wall. Next evening I watched Temsep's beasts as they approached the spot. One suddenly stopped, sniffed the air, then leapt to where the amulet was hidden. It tossed the trinket into the air as a cat tosses a mouse and swallowed it with a snap. In this wise did I learn the beasts could sniff out any magical trap I might lay.

Do not think I was the only one who plotted against Temsep--only the most patient. I saw three attempts against the King during that year. The first cloaked himself in an invisibility cantrip and waited in ambush on wall-top; the beasts sniffed him and tore him to shreds. The second was also a conjurer. He found a pegasus somewhere and flew in near enough to throw a fireball, which did but splash off Temsep, who raised his staff and turned the man to dust without a pause.

The third interested me most. Sat to breakfast one morning, I felt a powerful dispellation begin to take form. I did leave my food and run out to look across the wide plain between trade fair and town. I saw a woman near the wall--dispellation being a short-range effect--and even at such a distance could feel the power of her incantation. Puissant though Temsep's enchantments were, I thought she might succeed in breaking through them. But a dispellation takes time to cast, and before the work was half done I heard the roaring of the guard beasts and saw them clambering over the wall. Their many limbs flailed as they leapt off the top; her voice faltered and she ran, but they fell on her and she was devoured.

Long did I sit in thought after this. Temsep's guard beasts could sniff out any magic, and Temsep himself did seem to be proof against physical attack. I lacked the power to dispell the whole city's protections as the brave sorceress had tried, but I was sure the solution lay that way. At last I hatched my plan.

I found and hired three thieves of skill and discretion. I paid them richly for a simple task: to steal for me a stone from the top of the wall. With the stone, I retired to my ancestral home. Sent I then for a clever artificer who hollowed the stone and built into it a cunning hinged lid. The seams of the rocky casket were so well-made that even close examination might miss them. With great care I went to work, laying the spells on it to make a no-box, whose contents no magical senses could divine.

Here I will reveal one of the secrets of my family. When magic returned to the Earth, the elder ways of men were lost in the turmoil--mostly. Though my ancestors became conjurers, they preserved an ancient science and the mechanisms of that science. From a deep vault I did retrieve an ancient wonder: a pair of small devices by which two people could communicate across great distances, with no magic used. Referring often to the tomes of this lost discipline, I married one device to the no-box with some other forgotten mechanisms, so that a word spoken into the other would open the box. Finally, I cast my most powerful dispellation into the no-box, sealing the lid as I said the ultimate word. I sent the last signal to the Red Company and returned to Busiris.

My trap I laid on the day of a great festival at the trade fair. It was undetected; the work of the stone was flawless, indistinguishable from any other in the wall once replaced. As the sun settled to the horizon, I did make for a hill outside the city, to view the wall-top and wait for King Temsep.

As that great wizard came toward the trap I felt certain, against my own better knowledge, that the beasts would scent it and raise the alarm. When a pair of them suddenly dashed forward, I feared my plan had failed, but they did run straight past it, sniff the air, and return--they could not detect my ancient trick. At last Temsep strode within a few paces of the no-box. The button pressed, the box did open. The slow strong tension I felt as Temsep wove his strange spells burst instantly, and the King fell to his knees as the guard beasts set up a keening wail.

I said I was the downfall of Busiris, but no wealth did I see of it. Temsep had girded his city with a powerful protection against invaders, this is true, but he did also wrap it in a time-spell, preserving the city and its inhabitants unchanged for millennia.

When I broke his daily renewal of the spell, it unraveled. Those citizens of Busiris who had worked at the fair that day were returning to the city; I saw at a distance their hair did grey and whiten and fall from their heads, before they too fell into the dust. By morning they were bones, and the bones were soon dust. In the fading evening light I watched the roofs and high towers within the city walls begin to crumble and fall; the crashing sounds of their destruction continued through the night.

The Red Company arrived at dawn, a thousand daring raiders ready to sack the city. Instead they found tumbled heaps of stone, with no surety of any wealth inside--time magic is an unpredictable thing, and they might dig through to find no gold at all. I have forfeited my share, taking only Temsep's staff. I feel age approaching, and my ancestral estate must be protected. I will begin the wall at once.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010


Character: 8
Setting: 8
RFT: 4

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

derp posted:

is this weird thing in place of, or on top of the regular weekly prompt to be picked by the winner?

The winner of last week will make the prompt for next week.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Thanks for the crits!

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Prompt: LUCK, 777 words. Character is POOR (+165 words), setting is a SLUM (+136 words), random thing is a DUEL (+67 words) for a total of 1145 words.

In the Zone
964 words

Luke kicked a ragged piece of trash ahead of him as he walked home from school. All the educational terminals had been down that morning, except for his, so everyone else got to go home while he worked on math problems. What good is preternatural luck if it means you have to study while everyone else gets to play? Yes, extremely good grades were one of the few ways out of the Zone, Luke thought, but could his "luck" really work on something so abstract?

His brother Will was in the street outside their shack, arguing with another guy. A small crowd had gathered to watch.

"You just won't let it go, huh, Olivier?" Will shouted. "One time I'm late paying you back, just once, and now you're outside my door every week. Puta madre, you're worse than the Authority. You're just a goddamn vulture. You-"

He cut off as Olivier whipped a long knife from his belt and tossed it on the dust between them. Will glared at the crowd, daring them to say anything, then slowly bent to pick up the knife.

"Tomorrow," Olivier said in a quiet voice. "15:00. Behind Paulo's shop."

"Like that, huh?" Will answered. "Far from the gate so the loser bleeds out?" Only Luke noticed the tiny quaver in his voice.

Olivier nodded, then turned and left. Luke followed Will into their shack.

Immediately, Will turned on him. "You little bastard, see what happened because of you?"

Luke didn't say anything. He knew not to talk back to Will when he was angry.

"Basic income came up short a couple months back, so I had to borrow from Olivier. Couldn't get any day work, so I couldn't pay him back, so now he's gonna knife me. What good is your drat luck if it can't get me a job?"

"Sorry," Luke said, but what he thought was: all the luck in the world can't hide that you got kicked off every job you ever got.

Will threw himself down onto Luke's ragged Authority-issue cot. He raised the knife, looked at it, and dropped his arm with a groan.

"You better be there tomorrow," he said. "I need your luck. Just remember, if I'm dead, you've got nobody taking care of you--tell your luck that, or whatever the hell you need to do." He put his hand under the pillow and pulled out a protein bar. "Where'd you get this?" he asked, ripping open the wrapper and taking a bite.

"I found a credit chip that still had a little on it," Will said. Angry about the bar, he went on. "Maybe it wouldn't be so lucky for me if you win. Maybe I'd be better off if Olivier killed you. Petrovich told me the Authority takes kids with no guardians out of the Zone. He said sometimes they even get adopted off-world."

Will stopped chewing and considered Luke. Anger, doubt, and fear fought in his face. Then he threw the half-eaten bar at Luke's head--it missed--and stormed to his feet.

"You little bastard!" he yelled. "You'd like that, huh? Jesus, I should have known better than to think you'd lend me a little bit of luck for once, huh, for once? I don't want you anywhere near Paulo's place tomorrow, ok? You just stay however far enough away so your freaky luck poo poo doesn't work. Not gonna die just so you can get some rich new parents, hell."

Will raged up and down their tiny shack, working himself into an even greater fury. When he reached for his belt, Luke fled.


Luke and his friends Ben and Petrovich squatted near the 30-foot wall which enclosed their whole world. Ben and Luke were playing ten-go while Petrovich watched. Ben was the only one who would still play with Luke--he didn't mind losing.

"Push, ten-go. You win again," Ben said, undisturbed. Nothing bothered Ben.

Petrovich shot Luke a look. "It's almost 15:00, aren't you going to watch your brother fight?"

"He told me not to. He thinks my luck will make him lose."


"So what if I go watch, and he gets killed? That would be basically my fault, right?"

"Would you care so much? I mean he's a real fucker, Luke. Remember that time he beat your rear end so bad I had to drag you to the medic at the gate? He could have killed you. This could be your ticket out of the Zone, guy."

"How much luck is there in a knife fight, really?" Ben speculated as he gathered the dice. "Got to be some, but it's not like flipping a coin. I think if Will loses, it's mostly because Olivier was a better fighter. Mostly."

"Hey, I know a spot up on a roof where we can watch the fight and nobody will see us," Petrovich said. "You should be there. You should see what happens."

Luke nodded and stood up. "Ok," he said. "Let's go."

Ben and Petrovich chattered as they walked but Luke was quiet. He weighed the possibilities. Will wins, things stay the same: the basic low-level hell of not enough food and the constant threat of a beating, just the usual life in the Zone. Will loses: uncertainty. Nobody really knew for sure what happened to the kids who got taken out of the Zone.

From the rooftop they had a clear view as Olivier and Will prepared themselves, checking their knives and cinching down any loose clothing. Luke made his decision.

"Hey Will!" he shouted, standing up and waving. "Good luck!"

Will's head snapped up toward him in surprise. His face dropped. Petrovich and Ben were staring at Luke as he sat back down.

"I'll take every chance I can get. He really is a bastard, anyway."


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Sitting Here posted:


If you are a diamond capsule winner and you haven't yet told us how to deliver you your haiku, crit, or charitable donation, please do so! And those of you with story title privileges, feel free to give us the titles to our next stories. Here is the post detailing the diamond capsule winners:

I'd like my donation to go to Albuquerque Heading Home:

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