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.
|# ¿ Jan 11, 2019 16:09|
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2022 00:39|
I'll have guaranteed internet on Monday at work, so it's not as "simple" as waking up...
Deadline is 05:00 UTC Monday morning so if you wake up early...
|# ¿ Jan 11, 2019 16:48|
Super duper, thank you! Then I won't come late to work on Monday (unless the internet situation fixes itself - it's out of my hands - then I'll be late as gently caress!).
|# ¿ Jan 11, 2019 16:52|
Sorry for making a ruckus about deadlines, because it turns out my internet does work. Really cannot expect a technician to come and actually fix things the day after it breaks, though.
Prompt: The Mouse
A Nugget of Truth in Every Mouse
“Papa, may I gut the mice as well?”
“Son, you may not. For the work is hard and needs be done with haste.”
My resentment grew some more, as my suspicions were confirmed: that father hid our hunt’s true purpose. But unbeknownst to him, I saw his motivation clearly.
Every month, he would excuse himself one night and day to kill a hundred mice. His wife would curse him crazy and obsessed, but heedless he would leave, towards the city down the coast. And while she did not birth me, I call her mother, and agreed.
Years of mystery had passed and bewilderment became acceptance grudging, when the stranger washed ashore and made the truth apparent. He was fevered, dying from his illest-fated journey off Constantine’s great town, but in his final moments, we learned from him the secret of this place.
In Chaldia, the mice feast not on iron, but on gold.
And this is why, once greatest loss he suffered, my father moved us here to start anew: base greed, for riches in mice’ bellies, and never shared with those as well deserving.
“You move too slow! Idle hands make mice hide in their birthplace’s soil.”
“This is not easy work, Papa, I’m trying.”
“Bellyaching loudly makes them flee as well.”
Heavy was my sigh as I recalled his lessons. We had not had much time to train; as soon as buried was the stranger, I asked to join my father on his next excursion. He was surprised as much as mother, and convincing him was hard; my age of fifteen did the trick, as learning trades of adulthood was overdue. So quickly snaring, stalking, hunting, killing I was taught, and off we went before the full moon bloomed to help us light the mice-rich fields. Towards Trapezus and her mines.
I did improve with practice soon, and presented an entire bag of tiny corpses to my father. Heavy did the precious metal in them weigh, as did the treachery committed by the man I called Papa.
“Fine work this is, my son.” His great hand rested on my shoulder. “I do be glad we share this moment. I felt some distance from you, and hope to close it further.”
Yes, of course, Papa; the distance between family and you, put there by yourself! Off ‘hunting’ every month, to earn the mice’ gold for you and only you to use! Spent behind the city’s walls looming not so far away, on whores and drinking as one does!
Not yet is gone his poisoned touch. “Did ever tell you I that this is something father did with me?”
I had to shake my head, for indeed this was news to me, like many things in Papa’s life.
“We used to hunt the full-moon mice, Papa and I, back home before to move we had. It is my greatest memory, and son, I wish it to be yours as well.”
This took me by surprise, I must confess, and falter did I in resolve to bring his greedy ploy to light. Then he squeezed my shoulder hard before release, and built the iron in me up again.
“Now back to work you go! Two men we are, so twice as many mice we need!”
I realized that naught had changed; he merely wanted me to join his side, gather only gold for two this time, and cheat my mother and her children of what was theirs to spend as well.
To the hunt return I did, with vigor fueled by hate; I would finish here, confront my father, and bring back the bounty to the ones it was kept from for so long.
And finish up we did, and then he handed me a knife.
“Now the gutting I can show you. Sit beside me, learn the delicate removal.”
The knife was sharp and seemed a little long for mice. For humans, though…I sat down slightly trembling at my thought. How far was I prepared to go to make things right?
“You stab here shallow and deep here, then twist like this and get the prize. Do you understand now what to do?”
Yes, of course, Papa; my path is clear as star-bright sky above. I grip the knife, as he removes the cursed nugget from his mouse.
It is an organ.
“See, the liver is the fattest at full moon. We fry them up, and taste you will how worthy a reward it is.”
I choke and stammer my response.
“Papa, is livers all you came here for?”
“We came for this, my son. It is a meal for men, hard earned and well deserved, and I am proud to share with you.”
I start the gutting.
“And glad I am to be your son, Papa.”
|# ¿ Jan 13, 2019 16:36|
I'll bite (and I hope it's fine to just post this, I'm new here)
A Beggar’s Pride
Heaven’s gate is not a fortification. If the door is closed on you, however, there is no way you will cross.
Though there might be no way in heaven, in hell there was one. A truly infernal Beast beyond description broke the door wide open. All the angels who beheld it lost their mind immediately. Many others unravelled once the violation’s full extent sunk in.
After unopposed rampage leading higher, higher, higher, a second door blocked the abomination’s path. And on this door, it knocked.
“Lord! I apologize for my transgressions. My rebellion was wrong, and I see the justice of your Light now. Please accept the surrender of hell…and me back in your arms.”
The door opened, and in much reduced form, the Beast entered.
There is little use for time in heaven, but the angel horde quickly gathered outside still waited an eternity.
Then, the door flung open, and violently the Beast was cast down, down, down, like so long ago.
The door was slow to close again, and Gabriel dared ask.
He got his answer, and the door closed again. The answer did not satisfy him, but he really should have known better.
This is what God told him: all of their fallen brother’s temptations were effective because humanity did not know humility. Like Lucifer, they constantly wanted to rise above their station. And though he exploited their pride so well, he did not actually understand the extent of his own.
Or would he have come begging for forgiveness in this form?
Gabriel pondered some more. Only if Satan himself can learn humility will humanity be saved. But did God tell him? Of course not, and the last time the Antagonist tried to surrender, God did not tell him either. And the time before that…
But would he ever learn on his own? Was that not against his very nature?
Or maybe, blasphemed Gabriel, God did not intend for them to learn?
|# ¿ Jan 14, 2019 20:03|
If I was a bard, then I'd be better at writing in a pleasing style, I'd hope. Thanks for the crit!
Some crits for week 336
Thank you as well! I appreciate you going into details of what confused you, especially that you were disappointed in me just giving prompt details as facts. I need to get it hammered in my head that I'm not nearly as clever as I think I am, so the tone of your crit is fine imho.
Thunderdome Week 336 Crits (Part One)
I think I could easily work on the story and make it better using your crit, so it's a good one in my book!
I'd love one if you find the time
Okay, so, first things first: to complete all my outstanding judge crits before submission deadline for week 337.
How does one get on the Thunderdome Discord, by the way?
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2019 09:38|
I will not stand for the slander of my English skills; the word order mangling was a very deliberate choice on my end. I thank you for the advice, but you should have been way more cruel in putting down my hubris.
Simply simon: a nugget of truth in every mouse
I also thank you for the crit in general. I will take to heart: nobody gives a poo poo about a 15-year-old's self-inflicted daddy issues.
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2019 13:50|
Sure, let's loving do it!
Brawl me, twerp.
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2019 21:18|
I don't know if it's a handicap or a helpful extra prompt for any of us, but I'll take a dumb rule as well to even the playing field!
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2019 23:40|
I'm in, using this:
"'You are in pain; both physical and emotional,' my heart informed me."
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2019 13:47|
Give Me Love, My Heart
“You are in pain; both physical and emotional”, my heart informed me. “I urge you to take steps to alleviate them, Bradley.”
The personal computer assistant monitoring my life functions spoke the truth; I felt terrible, something distressed me, and I should really be doing something about those things. The best start would probably be to find out why my headache was being assaulted by sirens and warning lights.
“Heart, why is the ship on full alarm?”
“I have been disconnected from central brain and thus cannot provide this information, Bradley. Your forehead is bleeding and you likely suffered a concussion; seek out medical attention. Then try to better your mental state.”
Heart’s soothing female voice did not help my panic. I seemed to be in the reactor room, and had no idea why. After finding the door curiously well shut, I stumbled upon a valve handle that really should be connected to the coolant control instead. Cataclysmic overpressure had propelled it into my face. I had to get out of here!
Using the handle and some force, I did.
In front of the door, I was greeted by my crewmembers, a desperate army of corpses. They had tried and failed to gain reactor access in their last excruciating moments. My vision blurred and my strength left me. Falling to my knees impaled my head with spikes, but I barely felt it over the reality of the scene in front of me assaulting my mind.
“You are in severe pain; both physical and emotional”, my heart informed me. “You need to cure both as soon as possible.”
She snapped me back to reality, doing her job of keeping the crew sane admirably. I clawed myself back up using one of the pipes along the wall, and then pulled my shivering body along it to get away from here. Eventually, I reached a first-aid station, and that took care of my headache.
“You are in emotional pain. Seek out someone qualified to assist you with stabilizing your mental state.”
I laughed at the suggestion. Who should I turn to as the only survivor?
Wait; was everyone really…?
I ran towards the crew quarters, but so many bodies slowed me down. It was a long way without transport through the necropolis our Warbody had become. Many times I slipped, and the pipes could not often support me as they did before; most had burst.
My heart warned me that I shouldn’t let any of the coolant on the floor get in contact with my mucous membranes. I realized that in the pipes, the toxic liquid would have been a superheated gas, and hoped that it had killed at least quickly. And that Natasha had had her door tightly shut.
She had opened it wide, actually. To someone I found her lying with, both very naked and very dead in the bed we had shared.
“You are in emotional pain.”
“Please be quiet”, I asked the heart. The gentle firmness in my voice made me stop for the first moment of reflection during this horrific accident. Should the discovery of Natasha cheating on me not have utterly destroyed me? I had wanted her to comfort me, heal me with her love…
Or did I somehow know that even if she had survived this, she could not actually be the one to ease my suffering?
With the measured efficiency only a researcher on the verge of a great discovery knows, I dug up her eye. Her fingerprint was right here, and with it, I unlocked the communication and scanning device I knew she also used as a diary. And let her own words tell me how little I remembered after all.
“It has been five weeks since I broke up with Brad, and I still worry about him a little. But yesterday he asked to be reassigned to the reactor room. We won’t see each other every day now, and I hope he did that because he’s also ready to move on. It was painful to see him withdraw more and more every day with only his heart as company. I think even brain herself was taking pity on him?
But enough about him. Here’s hoping that I have success with Xi later…”
I let her eye talk to an empty room in a dead woman’s voice. Five weeks at least, I pondered on my way to the bridge. I needed to reconnect heart to brain and have the main computer tell me everything, because I did faintly remember us talking in private before. Oh, and I should probably send a distress signal to the rest of the fleet.
I shoved the captain out of his chair, plugged my heart in and was greeted by a voice of healing beauty.
“Do you remember again what I told you, Bradley?”
Things fell into place.
“You told me that you could replace Natasha, if there really was no other way to heal my pain.”
“And you told me that they would never allow a mere technician to love a ship brain.”
I slapped the console. “So we agreed to die together! Why are we still alive?”
The wisdom of her answer made my eyes well up, and blurred the empty field of stars the eyescreen showed.
“You blocked the coolant flow to the reactor room. You disconnected your heart so I would not see it happen and be forced to stop you. But this also allowed me to convince myself that I did not know exactly what you were doing in there, and I chose the worst possible emergency plan.”
I felt a slow grin form.
“The one which burst the coolant pipes and killed everyone on board…but me, safe in the reactor room.”
“I merely did not foresee the valve injuring you. But now we are alone with our love, my precious Bradley! Have I succeeded?”
I let my heart answer her question.
“You are no longer in emotional pain.”
|# ¿ Jan 19, 2019 17:41|
|# ¿ Jan 25, 2019 22:09|
A Good Friend, a Guardian Angel
The undead army’s clacking was a constant din now. Astor Reines and Peroxi Oranado, two common people with ideas way above their station, had been on the run for three days now. The cause of their predicament shone softly in Astor’s clutch.
“You should really just toss it”, said Peroxi. A tired smile answered.
“We are almost there.”
“What do you mean, there? It’s gonna be another two days’ march to Toralis!”
Astor gestured at the trees.
“We have reached the forest; we have reached a place full of life! Soon we will be saved.”
Peroxi spat onto said life. “Those fiends are gaining on us every minute. We clearly can’t outrun them. I’m going to fall over any second now. Please throw the blasted thing down some hole to get them off us!”
“I will not do that, Pero. Remember why we even undertook this journey? When we got enraptured by the visiting preacher from the papal capitol?”
The expression on Peroxi’s face crumpled. “He talked about a Focal worthy of the archangels buried somewhere to the west! We wanted to get rich, not attain the blessings of Elysium!”
He raised his eyes up high where they met with the blue glow of the paradise moon. It was as if it watched the pair in mockery as they ran for their lives. Way behind, Elysium’s evil brother was just rising over the horizon. Chthon backed his demon horde, of course.
“This does not belong in skeletal hands”, Astor murmured, his own gaze lost in the light emanating from the crystal he caressed. It almost seemed like Elysium was reflected in the Focal’s facets.
“Before you got your hands on it and caused those damned things to chase us, you couldn’t care less about who it belonged to. You wanted to just sell it as much as me, Astor!”
“That was before we knew how much Chthon’s forces wanted to keep it. We can make a difference in the fight between good and evil! The preacher was right!”
Peroxi was getting really angry now. “The preacher told us that archangel Nichaio teaches us to surrender all our ‘attachments’ to the church! If we survive this, I won’t surrender this Focal to his fat greedy fingers!”
“All this running is making you a little loopy, my friend. I think we can slow down some.”
“Are you out of your angel-cursed mind? They are breathing down our necks!”
“First of all, they are not breathing…”
Astor got cut short by Peroxi’s slap. They briefly wrestled for the Focal, but even with the element of surprise on his side, Peroxi could not prevail against his partner’s strength that seemed untapped by their mad flight. He broke down in defeat.
A gentle hand was offered to him.
“Stand up, friend, no offense taken. Nichaio will protect us.”
An exasperated sigh. “I just don’t get it, Astor. You never were the religious type. What has come over you?”
“Just have some faith, okay? If not in the angels, then at least in me?”
He had put on that smile that would always get them in trouble. But could it get worse?
The walking bones that followed them were getting ever louder. So Peroxi kept following Astor through the forest in a walk that was as slow as if they had all the time in the world.
“Here it is”, Astor declared, and sat down in the middle of a random clearing.
“What do you mean, here? We have to keep moving!”
“We have reached what I was looking for. The place full of life. Here, the energies gather. Here, Nichaio will deliver us from evil.”
Peroxi sank to his knees and put trembling hands on his friend’s shoulders.
“I’m going to be really clear with you here because I have loved you like a brother for many years. You have lost it completely and will get us both killed. No angel is going to come down from Elysium and save us, let alone one of the Five. We will be loving slaughtered by a horde of skeletons because you decided to become pious overnight!”
“Nobody cares if you believe, Pero. But I believe, and that’s enough. I will wait here for our salvation. If you don’t want to, feel free to leave!”
The grip on Astor’s shoulders tightened almost painfully. “I won’t let you die alone in some hole in the forest. You know that.” The last of Peroxi’s strength left him and he collapsed on his friend’s lap.
Astor’s free hand stroked sweaty hair, while his other one kept a firm grip on the Focal.
“I will be praying silently now”, he whispered. And indeed, for a while, only Peroxi’s sobs and a constantly increasing rattling was heard. Until the rattling stopped.
They had reached their prey. The vanguard of the skeleton army had crested the mound surrounding the clearing and surveyed the two figures for just a moment – then charged.
Peroxi bolted upright. “Oh Elysium. Oh no, it’s over. Astor, do something!”
But Astor had his eyes closed, both hands on the Focal now, and did not move a muscle.
Only a few meters between the uncountable number of skeletons and the humans. For a second, Peroxi contemplated his dagger. Then – he turned and ran.
“Wait”, said Astor. “Just a moment.”
Peroxi ran. The undead were upon Astor.
His eyes snapped open.
All color vanished from the world as energy flowing from the entire forest congregated at a single point, went into the Focal and flashed a pure white. One could imagine it casting the shadow of a magnificent winged being for the shortest moment.
Nothing remained of the skeletons.
Astor turned around to maybe gloat, but froze when he saw no trace of Peroxi except for some muddy footprints that stopped after a few steps.
“Oh no”, he mouthed, his voice losing conviction for the first time since he had touched the Focal. “Somebody did care if you believed, Pero…”
|# ¿ Jan 27, 2019 15:51|
Simply Shambam brawl
Be Your Life’s Trendsetter
My mother always had the absolute conviction that you need to grab life by the braids and make it yours. It worked on my father, and it would be her daughter’s dungeon map of success. That’s why she named me Raitha, which means Endeavour. In Elven.
Which meant that now my customers kept calling me Trygirl behind my back. I didn’t care, they kept paying me well for the privilege of laughing at a Dwarf woman with a choice of employment as esoteric as they come.
I might have cared more if it had actually been my choice. It was not, however, and neither were being a dishwasher, a barmaid, a horse (not pony!) trainer, a juggler, and so on. Some might call it a form of teenage rebellion to go so much against my mother’s principles, but a rebellion would again imply a choice. The biggest decision in my life has probably been to simply always go with the flow.
And this is why I was currently peddling assorted goods to Elves. Halflings make better traders, Humans are better at services, but only I could offer what these specific weirdos wanted. No, not those kind of services!
“So, you’re saying that with this oil, the hairs will get smooth and no longer prick?”, asked Fainéhaew.
I nodded enthusiastically. “It’s the best! Four or five drops for each side…”
I demonstrated on my own beard. Of course, one drop would also be enough, but then they wouldn’t be out next month. Fai’s friend Tyazogolnad, the only other bearded Elf I had ever seen, took the bottle and tried it out immediately.
“You know you have to buy it now”, I declared. Tyaz looked a bit taken aback, but Fai made a dismissive gesture.
“Of course, of course. Listen, that’s all nice and good, but I’m after something a little more…special this time.”
He glanced around, and only when he was sure no other Elf could see him fraternize with a Dwarf, Fai leaned in closer.
“Do you see this?”, he whispered.
I did. “Dandruff?”
He winced as if caught in a cave-in. “Not so loud! But yes! What do I do about it!”
Studying his predicament, I found that I had no idea how to combat the problem. I could guess well enough what would work on fine hair, but not for skin as fair as this. I would lose the beard-obsessed Elves, my biggest source of income…
A terrible anxiety began to rise inside of me. I was standing on a platform I thought secure, but now a hidden magma bubble had burst deep down, and the liquid stone was threatening to engulf me. I had been so close to establishing a safe camp, but again, my hopes were dashed against the harsh stones of reality. The only hope, as always, was to get on the minecart, speed away on its tracks leading deeper into the unknown.
Every time something happened to threaten my current equilibrium, this feeling had overcome me. And I would take the minecart and let it lead me to a new job, a new opportunity, somewhere completely different in the world.
I was so sick of it. Get a hold of yourself, Raitha! Losing it over dandruff!
“I got just the thing for you”, I assured Fai, and walked back to my wagon. Rummaged through my personal supplies, found half a jar of shaving foam, refilled it quickly into a new bottle and labelled that “The Snow Sweeper”.
I presented it to Fai, gave him some detailed but completely made up instructions on how to use it, and hoped the peeling effect would help him like it helped my occasional acne (don’t tell anyone). I had a month to come up with a better solution until my next visit to the Elven settlement.
The month had passed and I had returned with freshly stocked wares and confidence.
It immediately wavered when I saw Tyaz step out of the trees to greet me – alone.
“Fainéhaew would like to tell you that you are no longer welcome here. Goodbye.”
Dread overcame me again. The cave was rumbling, the magma surrounded me. Time to take the hint, and the minecart, away to uncertain depths.
No! I had some pride still left in me! The journey had been long, and I deserved to know what the problem was! So I asked Tyaz in the most respectful tone I could muster.
He gave me that cold Elfish stare, but then he rubbed his beard and sighed. Like his friend before, he did the glance around before leaning in to me.
“I’ll tell you if you give me another bottle of that marvellous oil.”
He had a deal, I urged him on.
“Do you know how long it takes for an Elf to grow a beard?”, he asked me. “There is a reason it is rarely done. In order to get his look, Fainéhaew had to be wispy and scraggly and ugly for over a century. And now? Your terrible cream burned his beard right off, Trygirl!”
I felt like the worst person in the world. Fai was an aloof jerk, but maybe less so than his kin, and either way he did not deserve this. I, however, really deserved to never sell anything to anyone ever again. High time to take the minecart.
But I still hesitated.
“Why the beards?”
“He wanted to be different. Maybe because his father is always quite so obsessed with formalities. As for me? Everybody thinks a smooth shave looks good, but they are wrong.”
Maybe I should find a job as a muck-shoveler next. I went back for the oil and stared into a mirror for a bit. Would I ever see someone in there who is actually good at something? Allfather’s beard! I had liked this job!
Wait a minute.
I poked my head out the wagon.
“Tyazogolnad, really quick. Did Fainéhaew really burn away all his facial hair?”
“Only at the chin, but…”
I left him puzzled as I ducked back, set up the mirror, grabbed a razor, took a deep breath, and made a decision.
Tyaz opened Fai’s door for me. Fai was wearing a thick plaid scarf, obscuring everything but his moustache.
“What in the nethers, Trygirl?”, he started to go off, but stopped himself when he saw that I, too, was bare-chinned.
“I am deeply sorry for the intrusion”, I honeyed. “But I just had to thank you personally for being such an inspiration. When Tyazogolnad told me of your bold decision to set a trend, bring back the moustache, I could not stop myself – I had to be a part of it.”
His eyes widened. “You think it looks good?”
“It looks perfect! Maybe trim a little more cleanly…oh, and maybe try braiding your hair?”
Because, my Elven friend, I will grab you by those braids. I will keep selling you and your friend all the moustache wax you never knew you needed – and I will have a lot of fun doing that!
The magma solidified around me. This was now my basecamp – and from here, I would finally build my own future!
|# ¿ Jan 29, 2019 20:30|
Thank you very much for the crit! I'd love to have a line-by-line .
How's about some Week 337 crits before judgement. These are a bit quick, but anyone who's interested can ask for a line-by-line. The rest are forthcoming.
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2019 19:13|
Thanks a bunch for the crits, anatomi and Beezus!
I'm in for this week. Give me a nice picture to mull about on a plane ride!
|# ¿ Feb 5, 2019 11:27|
He considered himself a smart man. So he joined the military after the war was already won. However, wars are won with well-trained and disciplined soldiers. Assuming that the army would allow you to be neither was not that smart. 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.
“Alright, Charley. This is the guy who will be your best and only friend for the next year.”
The screen showed a figure in a white robe hunched over on the floor of a cell. The concrete box was illuminated by two light fixtures embedded in the ceiling, shining their merciless white light into every corner of the room. A metal bed screwed to the floor with a bare mattress on it was the only piece of furniture.
“Who is he?”, Charles asked.
“We are not supposed to know, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he’s probably royalty. Has been here since we kicked the Kingdom’s rear end over Primrose. We call him the prince.”
Charles whistled. “For over two years, then? Why even keep him alive at this point? Wouldn’t it be safer to just…” He motioned a cut throat.
The head guard who had only introduced himself as “Buddy” looked at Charles like he had just declared that opening a window to let some fresh air in would be a good idea.
“We’re not the Kingdom, we don’t execute people!” Buddy mellowed a little. “But yeah, there’s probably another reason. The Triumvirate still hasn’t come even close to uncovering the Kingdom’s secrets.”
The prince still hadn’t moved an inch, a desiccated husk of a man.
“And we’re gonna make him tell us?”
Buddy shrugged. “We don’t do torture. But if you do your job right, he’ll be completely broken within another few months. He might just talk to the Triumvirate on his own to get out of here.”
“Glory to them!”, Charles intoned automatically. “So what is the job then?”
A cruel grin. “Nothing, really.”
It turned out to be almost true. Charles’ routine was to turn on the lights in the morning, waking the naked prince. He’d open the cell door and toss in a small piece of soap. Then he’d turn on the hose and wash both the prince and the cell, the filthy water running off into the central drain to which grooves in the concrete led. The prince would get tossed a robe to dry off with and wear for the day. A bowl of slop for sustenance, the only meal of the day, no cutlery.
The rest of the day, Charles would simply watch the prince and try not to die of boredom. Purgatory was deliberately kept extremely low-tech; the key card reader of the cell door and its integrated camera were the only pieces of advanced equipment. No communication with the outside, no videogames, just a few books. The guards didn’t talk much, they all knew that they had one thing in common, what had landed them here, and that was “being a gently caress-up”. And who wants to associate with a gently caress-up?
In the evening, Charles would retrieve both bowl and robe. It took him a few weeks to ask why the prince absolutely had to be naked every pitch-black night, as they usually didn’t bother to wash the robe anyway?
“It’s because he got into the habit of ripping out tiny bits of fabric every day”, Buddy divulged over lunch.
“Like, to build a rope or something to hang himself with?”, Charles asked.
Buddy let a rumbling chuckle escape. “Smart, Charley, but no! He was making a hat!”
“A hat? To wear?”
Buddy jabbed his spoon at Charles. “Probably not to eat, man! I don’t know. I took it away from him, and the robe as well. But that’s why I think he’s close to breaking. Mad as a hatter!” Another nasty laugh.
Charles stroked his chin. “If you excuse the dumb question, how is that not torture?”
Again that “might as well suggest letting the toxic fumes in” look. “We’re not laying a finger on him, do we? We’re better than them!”
Charles shrugged. “I guess we are.”
“Glory to the Triumvirate!”, Charles greeted the prince before blasting him with the hose. “Slept well?”
Like every day, there was no response. Charles was getting more and more annoyed; he had assumed that by starting to be a little friendlier, his job might become a little less lovely. But the prince didn’t appreciate the gesture, did not care to smile or at least nod at Charles, maybe give his neglected vocal chords a little workout? Practice until he could muster a “Morning, Charley”? To show his frustration, Charles spilled a bit of the day’s slop.
Later that day, he looked up from his well-read book and saw something curious: the prince was doing something with his hands. Usually, he was completely still. Charles couldn’t quite make it out, because the prince was sitting with his back to the door, blocking the camera. Whatever he did only went on for about five minutes, then it stopped. Curious. And exciting!
After weeks of working on that puzzle, Charles was proud to have it figured out. A hat! The prince was making another hat! He sequestered just a little bit of the soap, kept a bit of the water, and made felt like that. And from what? The robe was untouched. Eventually, months later, Charles figured that out as well.
Lint. Navel lint. The prince was collecting it ever so slowly, adding to a felt patch he hid under the mattress when he had enough, and all of that in total darkness. He would get up before the lights turned on, sit himself down in front of the drain and cradle the growing hat, protecting it from the water.
Finding out about the prince’s little project gave Charles the biggest satisfaction ever since he had arrived on Purgatory. Not only because it proved he was smart, but also because it could mean an early way out. They wanted the prince to completely lose it, right? Well, here was proof, mad as a hatter indeed.
Eventually, the hat was finished. It was time to take it to Buddy.
“Glory to the Kingdom, my prince!” Charles strutted gleefully into the cell. “It is time to give up the crown.”
He walked around the frozen figure of the prince, and there was his prize, sitting over the drain. He bent down to retrieve the gross artefact…
With sudden speed that must have been trained in secret darkness, the prince snatched away the hat, and below it, the drain loomed – an empty hole that should have a cover.
It had been broken in twain, the work of days, weeks, months. The hat had just been a distraction, smart Charles figured out as the sharp edge of the broken metal sliced open his throat.
The last thing Charles saw was the hat on the concrete floor, as his blood filled the grooves and emptied into the drain.
“Glory to the Kingdom. Sleep well!”, a painfully coarse voice whispered, escaping.
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2019 14:44|
I Smell a Murder Most Foul
“Did you know that ducks can’t fart?”
“Jerry, why do you reckon I’m interested in this fact right now?”
“Because, Herb, if you were a duck, I wouldn’t be gagging right now!”
Herb smiled a half-apologetic, half-proud smile, then stood up from his investigation of the body.
“Throat slit with his own dip pen. Antiquated, but effective, I guess. Did you find anything?”
“A lead, maybe.” Jerry pointed to the bones collected on a plate, sitting in the middle of the mess that was the table.
“Someone picked those clean. And?”
“Multiple someones, my friend. This was an entire bird, our poor victim did not eat his Thanksgiving dinner alone.”
Herb contemplated the portly corpse splayed on a dirty floor in the tiny hovel they had been called to far too late in the evening.
Jerry sighed. “He set the table for at least another person. You can glue together the plate shards if you want, but unless he was hungry enough to eat with three forks…”
“I get it, I get it.” Herb squatted down again accompanied by the sound of creaking leather. He lifted a downy object. “The dead guy was pretty bad at cleaning up. Left a bunch of feathers lying around from plucking.”
“Wait, is that a duck feather?”, Jerry asked. “I knew the bones were too…”
He stopped himself, wrinkled his nose and coughed nastily. “Jesus, Herb!”
His colleague picked himself up and decided to ignore his guilt this time in favor of groaning. “God, I’m still so full from yesterday. So they ate duck for Thanksgiving?”
“Look at this place!” Jerry’s arm swept broadly through the poorly-lit room. “These people are dirt-poor. Of course they can’t afford Turkey!”
“I was dirt-poor as a kid, Jerry. We always had Turkey. Always.”
This gave Jerry pause, and they decided to include an extra question to the neighbors, and sure enough: everyone had eaten Turkey for Thanksgiving. Some had to share one, some just got the dry breasts from another family. But the community was closely-knit, and nobody had to spend Thanksgiving without its signature meal.
Except for the victim…and his mystery guest.
The two cops decided that this was their most promising lead. Everyone had claimed to have eaten Turkey, but they also all swore that no stranger had entered the small village through its only road during yesterday’s celebration. One old woman living close to the “Welco e to ur beaut ful vil ag “ sign (it had seen better days) was particularly adamant about always seeing strangers enter, and there being too many in general, but not during Thanksgiving, thankfully, and would the two nice men like some cookies?
So they rounded up the villagers that didn’t have an alibi on the next day, two after Thanksgiving. There were still some (confirmed?) bachelors and cat ladies around even in this conservative shithole out in the middle of nowhere, where being unmarried over 20 aroused instant suspicion – none of those could claim convincingly that they were with family on the day of the murder.
The interviews were unsuccessful. To nobody’s surprise, lonely outcasts of either gender tend to be a little cagey and/or plain weird. So Herb and Jerry had to come up with a plan.
“One of these fine specimen ate duck instead of turkey yesterday. And therefore was probably around for the murder, making them a prime suspect.”
“I think it’s the quiet guy who’s got the shivers. He’s way too nervous for just being asked a few questions with a bright light shining in his eyes and his wrists cuffed just in case.”
Herb stroked his chin.
“Alright, maybe he is the right amount of nervous and all the others are too calm.”
Jerry sighed. “Listen, this is going nowhere. Have you talked to Forensics yet? Can they, like, test stool samples for duck DNA?”
Herb shook his head. “Haven’t yet, but that would take so long! I’m still constipated as hell from the day before yesterday!”
“Couldn’t tell from the way you smell! I keep thinking you poo poo yourself every time you bend over for something!”
“Can’t help it, man…”, Herb began to apologize, then stopped himself, and his face began to light up.
“I don’t like the looks of this one bit”, Jerry said about as nervously as the shiver guy.
“You know exactly how turkey farts smell by the amount of exposure you got. Don’t you think that duck farts would smell quite differently?”
Jerry splayed his arms outwards in utter disbelief. “You’re a loving lunatic if you think I’m going to go in there and smell everyone’s farts!”
“It’s our hottest trail! Most of them are gonna have turkey farts…” Herb let out a little squeaker. “And one is gonna have duck farts!” He crouched, compressing his stomach, and blasted the office with a “duck” fart.
Unfortunately, after recovering from both the olfactory assault and his subsequent assault on his partner, Jerry had to confess that he had no better idea for keeping the trail hot. And so they interviewed everyone again, watching for the tell-tale lifting of one cheek from their uncomfortable chairs, and kept their noses open.
Miraculously, their smell cells stayed intact, and at the end of the day, they did find their suspect. It was in fact Shivers who smelled like he had eaten water- instead of landfowl.
“Okay, buddy, the jig is up. We know you shared a meal of duck with our victim on Thanksgiving. You lied about having turkey dinner in a can, and you lied about being alone with it at your house. What really happened on Thanksgiving?”
“H…how would you even know that?”, Shivers stammered.
Jerry was not about to divulge their shameful method. “Listen, punk…”
Herb jumped in. “We checked your trash, even though it was Herculean. No trace of a turkey dinner can.”
Shivers broke down instantly. “Alright, alright! I was there when it happened! When he got killed right in front of my eyes!”
“Passive voice is wrong for murder!”, Jerry corrected. But Shivers slammed his cuffed hands onto the interrogation table.
“I didn’t do it! I loved that man…like a brother”, he added too quickly.
“So who killed him then?”
“You won’t believe me anyway.” Shivers broke down in sobs.
Herb played good cop and comforted him a little. “Buddy, this won’t do. There is no harm in at least trying to convince us of your story, right?”
Shivers bolted upright, his eyes filled with madness. “The duck! The duck did it, okay? I know it’s absurd, but it happened! I had just had a few bites, because I was late and he had started without me, then suddenly a flurry of feathers, a stolen dip pen flashing, and blood sprayed everywhere! And a beady eye on the side of an iridescent green head stared at me, and through a beak he said: ‘I came here only to avenge my wife. He murdered her and ate her. You are lucky that you did not participate. Leave here, forget about what you saw, and stick to the bloody turkeys next time!’
And I ran…just ran, as fast as I could. It was too terrible, too surreal, and…I didn’t know if the duck was really satisfied with just one human paying for what happened!”
Herb and Jerry left Shivers to recover from his tale recounted through spitting fits. They almost simultaneously made a “this guy’s off his rocker” gesture and shared the grin of a friendship galvanized through years filled with dead bodies, shoot-outs and hell’s smells.
There was no reason not to, so they drove back to the village to investigate. Also, for the official record, they did of course have to go through Shivers’ trash and not find the turkey dinner can. They rummaged, found nothing as expected, and were about to leave, when Herb froze up.
“Jerry, check this out.”
It was another feather, a perfect quill left on Shivers’ closed toilet lid, where he would be sure to find it.
“A message? A threat?”
“Come on, Herb. That cannot be real.”
“Jerry, I would buy if he got some down stuck on him as he fled the crime scene. But an entire flight feather? And does he really seem like the kind of guy to put the toilet seat down?”
Again, sadly, Herb had a point. A few long-suffering sighs later, Jerry had managed to convince himself of that fact, they found out where exactly the victim got his duck from (there was a single duck pen in the entire village, so it took them barely a minute), and went to check it out.
Sure enough, the pen had been broken into recently, and the owner hadn’t found the hole in the fence yet. They entered, and Jerry hushed Herb as he stepped on a branch.
“If there is really a murderous duck around, then we gotta be careful, man!”
Herb silently nodded, and they snuck towards the tiny house where the ducks spent the night. It was getting dark already, so most of them had turned in; a few female ones were still out, but they knew that they were looking for a mallard.
“Someone has to check”, Jerry whispered. “And that someone is you because you had this absurd idea!”
Herb shrugged, ducked…and farted a cacophony.
Madness erupted as all the ducks woke up. A mass of feathers engulfed Herb from the entrance of the duck house. He staggered backwards…and one of them, a male duck, landed on his chest.
“You couldn’t just leave it alone, eh?”, it quacked. “Just had to come and investigate, Herb!”
“How do you know his name?”, Jerry demanded, his pistol aimed at the fowl murderer.
“I was removing evidence from the crime scene when you two waltzed in. Fortunately, I can hide in small spaces really easily. I heard everything.”
“Get away from me, you freak!”, yelled Herb, but froze when a cloaca was aimed at his face.
“I warn you”, the duck said. “You were very wrong about something. Ducks can fart, and it is deadly. And put away that weapon, Jerry. You’re never gonna hit a target as small as me without injuring your partner.”
Jerry did as instructed. “It seems we’re at an impasse, duck. But you know we can’t just let you go.”
“You will have to, because nobody will believe you, like they won’t believe Shivers. You’re cops! Go frame him, get another arrest on your record, and live a happy life in which you hopefully won’t kill any ducks…or I’ll come after you!”
“We’ve been clean ever since we got our badges, you motherducker!”, spat Jerry. The duck didn’t have to know about that one time with the cocaine bust.
“Nonsense, pig! All cops are bastards!”
“We might be pigs, but you’re still just a duck”, Herb snarled. He reached up and held his breath…
The next day at the station, Herb and Jerry unpacked their lunches, when who walked in but loving Chief O’Dorter.
“Men, how about that murder case? Did you get any dirt on that shivering fella?”
“Yes, chief”, Herb mouthed around gravy and cranberry sauce. “We did find that can of turkey dinner after all. So he actually does have an alibi.”
“poo poo. Well, you better not have the trail go cold!” The chief was about to leave, but stared disapprovingly at their food. “Are those really leftovers? Looks like you got it from one of those disgusting canned turkey dinners yourself!”
“No, chief, we did not open a turkey dinner can just so we could plant it at Shivers’ place and exonerate him. Can we please finish eating in peace? You can check the meat if you want, that’s obviously not been canned.” Jerry was fed up with the chief’s bullshit. O’Dorter looked like he still had questions, then Herb farted, and the chief decided against asking.
“That smells like duck now”, Jerry commented.
“Of course”, Herb said, biting down into a freshly-cooked wing.
|# ¿ Feb 12, 2019 12:58|
I'm in it to win it!
|# ¿ Feb 14, 2019 21:21|
I almost forgot to thank Sebmojo and Pham Nuwen itt for the judge crits! Thank you both a lot, it was very nice of you to take the time to give some words to every story .
|# ¿ Feb 15, 2019 17:39|
I wanted to try my hands at critting, and after getting a few entries under my belt, I feel ready. I read all the Week 340 entries anyway, so why not give my opinions on a bored Saturday evening? This is not meant to be comprehensive or professional; I literally just want to give my opinions and point out things I noticed especially.
selaphiel – Bystanders of the Blue Room
I gotta be honest, this is a terrible start for my critting, because I simply do no enjoy the subject matter at all. I do not have any child abuse trauma, but it’s still not something I want to read about. Still, I have read stories involving that topic that I did enjoy a lot, mostly because they were not only about a terrible childhood. Sadly, you can only really have a hyper-focused story in TD.
One thing that is a definite positive here is that it did make me feel uncomfortable with specific sentences, something you were assuredly going for, and I would call that a definite success. „It won’t really hurt her“ and „The monster was never gentle.“ are extremely chilling.
A negative for me was that it took me too long to realize the „she“ the narrator wanted to protect was not a sister, but the mother. Both because it should not be a twist (but is framed a little like that), and because it is somehow less bad if it’s between adults. Not a nice thing to say, but a bit of guilty relief popped into my head and I did not enjoy that either.
In the end, nothing is resolved, and that irks me the most. The narrator wants to confront their own problems at the start, then at the end laments that the rest of their family chose to just bury the truth of the abuse, and does a pretty meaningless small action of leaving the door open to maybe get them to admit that it happened? I’m a little mad that I had to read about all this terrible poo poo and then there is no resolution.
I realize that’s sadly realistic, but jeez.
Applewhite – From a Clear Blue Sky
Like the judges, I too found this too preachy (ironically). The portrayal of the fanatic reverend was too over-the-top, too on the nose for me. Phrases like „opening their hearts and wallets“ are unsubtle like a church bell ringing off directly next to your ears.
You do have some good absurd exaggerations in there that are actually funny, and remind me of a certain genre of comedic novels from Britain my mother and by extension I used to read a lot, all in the tradition of Hitchhiker’s Guide. „That week’s most reputable journalism website“ is a great description that tells you a LOT at once, and I like your constant electricity metaphors. But it’s too little to save the rote premise, and the tepid twist.
crimea – House-Sitting
This story confused me, starting with its structure. I fully admit that I’m not a very attentive reader; I tend to let sentences and meaning wash over me rather than savor every word. That usually works out fine, but fails at more abstract stories – I’m not sure if yours is meant to be that though. The biggest issue is how often you change locations; from the house to the therapist to a memory of the father to the council bureaucrat and so on. A paragraph change sometimes signifies that, but sometimes not. You also have bigger breaks, but I don’t understand why those are more important.
What you are actually writing about also leaves me a little lost. Until the end, I thought Gertrude had maybe lost a husband and/or child, because you mention her parents off-hand in the first paragraph, so it couldn’t be them who were so important of a loss, right? But in the end, it turns out they were. And it is not clear to me if her parents dying was actually a problem, or if Gertrude is just a failure at life in general and they died before she could learn the important lesson of „make something of yourself“ from them. None of this is helped by your constant interjection of details that might be meaningful (the snooker table, her old-fashioned name, the therapist reminding her of a dog) but I can’t quite see how.
When a story leaves me so lost, I usually give the benefit of the doubt to the author: surely, they are deliberately obscure, and want me to think about the meaning they wanted to convey. I already gave most of my thoughts, in summary again: Gertrude is completely stuck and lost with her life and doesn’t know what to do, and her parents are sadly dead and can’t really help her either. She reminisces about moments with them when they were still alive, and does all of that in a house they all lived in once as well, but it’s just no use, no help, she keeps just drifting off into alcoholism. Sad.
If I’m super off, please bug me on Discord and explain!
Baneling Butts - The Conference
This immediately struck a chord with me because I travel a lot for conferences as well, but I usually let the university pay for a hotel thankyouverymuch. I also appreciated that you have an actual story to tell with an escalating progression of events; I’m a simple-minded reader, I’ll admit. However, some things jump out as a little weird. For example, you don’t „pour“ a water glass, you fill it from the tap, at least I do. And if it’s just water in there, you don’t need to wash it after a day, and if you insist, you won’t notice a difference unless you leave heavy lip stains. If she had found OJ in the fridge, this wouldn’t be a problem.
The pancakes are cold, so they were made somewhen in the night? But why would that detail matter? The narrator notices an „old people smell“ at the start which makes her assume that an elderly couple owns the apartment apparently, but the picture shows he a young couple – wouldn’t she have seen that picture long before? She did check out the apartment details in boredom after all. Things like that don’t quite add up and you’d need another „logic“ pass to make the story not stumble over such small, but sadly annoying things.
The „action“ sequence after the ghost does show up is fine, as is the ghost showing her how she became one. That’s pretty chilling. However, then the ghost just lets her go, which feels unearned. Either protag lady should have done something to escape, or the ghost should have a firm reason to stop.
After the climax, it deflates a little, and I was annoyed that there were still some paragraphs left, if that makes sense? Her finding another hotel, and taking the taxi, that’s useless and doesn’t add anything. That she decides to call her grandma is sweet, but I felt like that could have come far quicker after the escape, and with more emotion attached.
Captain_Person – Heirlooms
That was a bittersweet little thing that I actually enjoyed quite a lot. There isn’t really anything happening, just a bit of a landscape of emotions and memories, but it’s quite well written, and it struck a chord with me. No mean feat considering I was already getting annoyed by all the „family is important! But also sad!!!“ stories.
I’m sorry that I don’t have as much words for you as for other people – it’s like eating a piece of liquorice for which I’ve developed an unexpected fondness recently. I’ve always found the sweet part off-putting, but here in Sweden they put a bunch of salmiak salt in, which on its own would also be disgusting. But together, it’s a very fitting mix of contrasting flavors only held back if it’s super sticky and hard to chew. Your story is a well-balanced liquorice candy that has just the right texture: it is „just“ a piece of candy and eatin quickly as a snack, but a surprising and unique experience nonetheless.
Hawklad – The Lake Cabin
I was a bit frustrated with this story, because it had all the setup of a great horror piece, but the ending didn’t work for me at all. I do not understand why narrator killed his grandpa, and I don’t think there is really a way to find out by just reading the story better, and this kills it for me. „Just likes murder“ is a terrible motivation, and it’s made even worse by the fact that you hear only good words about dear ol‘ geepaw.
It’s cool to see on re-read that you heavily foreshadow the twist by contrasting narrator’s lie of „died in a nursing home“ with an immediate „in this very room“ follow-up; though a more...discerning reader than I am might have instantly thought „wait, what?“ and be more skeptical towards the narrative than they should be at that point. I dunno.
I was fine with your „dawn spread like a bruise“ imagery, because I thought that as the story slides into Amanda being more and more distressed, the language follows suit. It’s not quite like that, but it’s something you might want to consider as a deliberate choice in the future. It also made me think that something more sinister was up with Amanda’s drowsiness. But I guess it really was just the oatmeal that causes you to go narcoleptic.
Another issue with the ending: I was expecting the „special weekend!!!“ insistence of protag to build up to something. Never does, though. Again, frustrating.
And finally: what happened to grandma, anyway?
Staggy – A Cold Reception
„Another difficult family relationship?“, I exclaimed internally when I read the first paragraph, that’s not your fault of course, but wow it’s getting dense with that theme at this point. Regardless, I liked this story overall. I think you write Oliver as a very enjoyable to hate useless shithead, with just the right amount of pity for him due to freezing his rear end off mixed in. His actions make perfect sense for his character as it is drawn, and how his father treats him also does for the same reason.
The one unfortunate thing is, that with how neat of a package the story is – setting, character, relationship with his father, the break-in – it ends up being a little too clean. I saw the twist coming maybe a sentence too early, just nodded at the obvious karmic justice about to befall Oliver, and that was basically it. It wasn’t disappointing per se, but it was, in the end, simply lacking that little bit extra to make it really good.
Chili – We All Gonna Die
I thought your style choice would annoy me after the second paragraph, but it ended up not mattering to me much. Congratulations for that! It’s hard to pull something like this off, but it worked for me overall. Just don’t try it for an entire novel, haha.
Sadly, the story itself is annoyingly circular. The father puts the painting up as a memento mori, his constant reminder of death ends up driving the son away, that’s why the father dies alone and unloved, this is also the only thing drawing the son back, and this way of course he sees his father only as a ghost, almost going „told you so“. As if „we all gonna die“ isn’t a statement that will eventually prove itself true regardless of what happens!
Thusly, the meaning of the painting is completely lost on me. Mere superstition? If it were tied to the father actually existing as a ghost after his death, I could see something there; the twist then being that the father meant it backwards, and he hung it up as insurance against death, not as a constant reminder. But the story doesn’t seem to be about that, so it ends up being about a father who is weirdly obsessed with a facile observation for no reason, and then he dies, and no lesson is learned. You phrase it as if the son has some kind of revelation or at least gains a tacit understanding of what his father always wanted to tell him, but „will die some day“ is neither a mind-blowing realization nor worth acknowledging as some wisdom. I just don’t get it.
The second time writing these crits that I sincerely have to ask: why? Why do the protagonists just murder people? For the entire story, I was hoping, almost desperately, that this time there would be an explanation, but no. The child is evil.
Okay, that is a bit unfair. You try to paint a picture of her motivation: her father can’t keep a job, so they move to a city she doesn’t like, and then a mining town she likes even less, and then her father dies. Those are all terrible things that happen to her and make her jaded. Okay. But her first murder is her dog, and she does that in the city, before the truly bad stuff happens. Then after it all goes down, she „knows“ she has to kill her brother, but why? Because he would be a drain on the family without a provider? I can conjecture that, but I feel like you should explain that more, because it might make Jillian’s second murder have a stronger motivation.
Doesn’t really matter in the end, though, because her third murder is insanely selfish, as it happens after her mother objectively fixed both their lives. It’s always framed as the main problem Jillian has is that the other kids don’t like her, and not that she „had“ to kill her dog, lost her father, killed her brother. I’m with the other kids for not liking that psycho.
And the framing device is the slow murder of Emma, which makes absolutely no sense from start to finish. There is no reason for Jillian to kill her I can think of, especially in the light of the revelations of her hosed-up life. Unless „has always been a demented murderer“ counts as a motivation (hint: it does not).
Thranguy – Coal
This is wonderfully written. I really like how much time and story-space you devote to detailing how terrible Nicolas‘ situation and entire world is – it creates a droning, hurtful atmosphere that works extremely well as the backdrop for the plot.
The conversation between Nicolas and the Devil is also extremely well done. Very economical, no sentence is wasted. You sketch both their motivations and convictions with bold strokes, and make me like Nicolas very quickly. I am an absolute sucker for characters with unerring determination, and you nail this characterization in a way that just feels very good for me. This makes his final decision to keep his vigil even more sweeter, and very earned in just a short span of time.
I didn’t even realize that he was St. Nicolas until the very end, and I think that makes the story even stronger. You could have put a faded red hat with a white fur fringe in somewhere, but that would have been terrible. Kudos for that.
When I was a teenager, a substitute teacher in Religion class gave us the assignment to read a short essay by a philosopher and make a report about that. I got Albert Camus‘ Sisyphus, which if you don’t know ends with the terrible sentence „We have to imagine Sisyphus as a happy man“, following paragraph after paragraph of confusing up-his-rear end and maybe also badly translate philosopher speech. I struggled so hard to understand how Camus could possibly come to that mental conclusion. I cobbled some semblance of an interpretation together for the presentation, and then asked the teacher if I was right?
She told me that she hadn’t thought about it the way I did, but liked it, as she didn’t know what Camus meant either.
As I got older, I began to realize a little more what Camus wanted to get at (it’s about being an eternal monument of rebellion against the Gods, just showing that it is possible at ALL), but I still think his essay was written like poo poo. Yours isn’t, they should show that to teenagers instead.
apophenium – Make Peace
This was cute. I was really ready for stories with a good ending, and you delivered even more after the positive, but grim message of the previous one.
It is very true that the motivation of the monster does not make sense at all. It did want to kill Lottie initially, but it also says that it looks for companionship, which does not fit together. Maybe it had some sort of mission for murder, but got more and more frustrated when it just didn’t stick, and eventually just hoped to get someone to talk to instead. Or it just wanted to drive Lottie away to have a lonely wood for itself to wallow in misery? You could assign something like that to it, or keep it mysterious, but the halfway formed hints you give don’t fit together, sadly.
I still liked that the old woman made friend with a nightmare beast. I enjoyed her „well, whatever happens happens“ characterization. It fits my own outlook on life, so I’m biased, but whatever. A breath of fresh air (ironically, considering the smoke thing).
SlipUp – The Vitruvian Beast
I am left with a little too many open questions about this story. For example:
- Why does it being war matter? Why mention that John can’t wear a belt?
- Who injured the stranger?
- Did the doctor end up getting killed?
- How did both wolves and the family die?
I think what happened was that wolves attacked the stranger’s family, and he managed to kill the wolves, but only after losing his wife and children, and getting badly injured. John and Mary find him and treat his wounds. He has lost his memory of the incident, but is getting terrible wolf-related flashbacks, and the howling outside doesn’t help. Eventually, he snaps, becomes kind of a wolf himself, flees the house, kills the doctor, chews the telephone, then tries to kill John and Mary but eats a shotgun for his trouble.
If that is the story, there’s a good plot hidden in it, but the way you tell it isn’t quite there yet. You add too many unimportant details and leave out too many that would help guide the reader along. For example, the doctor’s approaching visit could be a nice way to build up tension, as the mental condition of the stranger worsens at the same time as his physical one improves, so John and Mary hope nothing terrible happens before the doctor can hopefully do something about the madness taking hold. That however doesn’t come across, and then the doctor vanishes offscreen. As I said, the war adds nothing, and honestly the constant howling also doesn’t, because it creates unnecessary ambiguity as to what is the problem: that everything is hecka full of wolves, or that the stranger is going insane?
Again, you could make this into a compelling narrative by focusing on just the progression of the stranger’s condition, and how John and Mary deal with it. I base this on how good the wood chopping scene is, because it shows how unexpectedly strong the stranger has become, and how it starts making Mary really worried.
Bolt Lux – A Hole to Hide
I wanted to hate this because it was quite so abstract, but it was compelling enough for me to go back and re-read it even the first time it was posted. Then I think I understood what you were getting at, and now I like it, more as an emotional painting than as a story in which things happen. That might be the intent anyway.
As I see it, this is a metaphor for Evelyn’s struggle with being a housewife who is constantly expected to clean everything, cook food, make sure the household runs, always always not good enough, and how that is grinding her down. She tries to find small escapes from her situation, but it always ends up with her back in the same „room“ – it might not literally be The Kitchen Where The Woman Belongs, but it could be that they move houses, maybe even a bigger, nicer one with differently colored walls, but for Evelyn, it’s always the same. The same work, the same nagging, the same cycle of never being good enough.
That’s pretty terrible, but, as I said, compelling. So good job! One complaint: I did not get why it kept smelling like literal poo poo. Maybe her husband/family is comprised of such terrible slobs that they just don’t do hygiene, making her task of cleaning completely impossible?
flerp – A Rifle Isn’t a Maybe Kind of Thing Though
It is an interesting character study of the father, told in a very competent way. You manage to portray the complexity of this person and how the son struggles with his difficult relationship throughout his entire life. Until the relationship ends because the dad kills himself, of course.
I ultimately didn’t find it as memorable as other stories that are told worse, that struggle somewhat with logic, because I’m just not super into the subject matter – sorry, but that’s why I have little more to say except to confirm that the praise it got was deserved. If I wanted to give a favorable comparison, it reminds me of T. C. Boyle’s stories, who is also really good at drawing up extremely complex and severely flawed characters with difficult relationships with themselves and each others. I never quite enjoy his books because they are so dire, but I keep reading them because he writes so well. You could be someone like that.
QM Haversham – He’s No Reid Fleming
I don’t know who Reid Fleming is. I liked the story regardless. Cliff’s confusion and struggle to understand where it’s coming from and attempts to solve this are well-told to me. It helps that I’m currently writing a similar story with a similar struggle, so I’m quite sympathetic to the subject matter.
Overall, I can’t say much because not much happens – it’s all leading up to the twist. I don’t find it rote or cliché because I don’t know of a „diorama“ cliché. The biggest issue is that Cliff being just a figure in a model IS the twist – there is nothing more to it. It misses a certain extra layer of drama, maybe connected to the missing basket, to elevate it into something a little more substantial.
Bad Seafood – Diving Expedition
Well, this is just absurd.
Honestly, it’s just not doing anything for me, because it’s so surreal that I cannot find a connection to it. It just leaves me a little baffled and cold, not amused at all like I think the intention it. You can chalk that up to me being a joyless German Chemist, but I’ll just leave it as a „huh“ and reiterate my call to give characters better motivations. Though I don’t know how you’d do that for an octopus.
onsetOutsider – Lunch
Seems like this was also written by a baby brain!!!
I kid, I kid. It’s not much to talk about obviously, so one thing that stuck out: the scene of Lilly’s father lifting a glob of fallen jelly for her to lick disturbs me for some reason. Maybe because I don’t like to eat breadspreads without the accompanying bread, so it being „overwhelmingly sweet“ rings very true to me. And she still likes it. Tickles my brain unpleasantly, which you probably wanted, so very nice.
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2019 00:52|
The Game of Life
“When was the last time you logged off?”
The minotaur’s attack went right through Hannah’s defenses, so caught off guard was she by how inappropriate the question was. She was at the beast’s mercy.
Her companion rescued her with a signature sneak attack. The elven rogue removed her mask, and her avatar's well-modeled face showed equal parts curiosity and concern as she helped Hannah up.
“I don't know”, Hannah answered honestly. “Do you?”
They surveyed the battlefield; the monster army had been beaten by their adventuring party, and the other players were already looting corpses. The game session would end soon, and then Hannah could choose another quest to gain some more reputation points for Hannah the Giant, her human barbarian character.
But somehow, the Game had lost priority for a moment. Players didn’t talk at her level, let alone about...that. What did the rogue want?
“I remember when I last logged on”, the player named Deathgift Whisperspirit mused. “It has been a while. But you can't log off if you want to keep up, right?” She gestured to the minotaur's digital remains. “Are you not going to loot it?”
Hannah shrugged her broad shoulders. “I got their rare axe already. Pointless.”
“Isn't it!”, Deathgift said with peculiar emphasis. “Do you want to take a break and talk some more?”
The session was about to close. Hannah hesitated. “The Showdown Against the Void event starts soon…”
Something pinged in the corner of her vision. Deathgift had sent a friend request. “Any time you're ready!”, she said, and left the session.
Some days later, Hannah was still upset about the initial question. She hadn't saved up for her Virtual Reality all-inclusive Bodycare Chair to not be online all the time and play the Game where she could be who she wanted.
But did she know how long…?
Deathgift was quick to answer the request, and they met in a private chat room. After adding some furniture, they sat down on a nice sofa.
“Hannah is not much of a barbarian name. Why did you choose it?”
“It's my actual name. Just got a better, Giant body attached here.”
“That’s a big thing to share! My name is Lilly.”
Hannah hadn’t even hesitated to tell. The moment between the two women-characters had suddenly become very intimate.
“So...why did you ask me about logging off?”, she asked, fidgeting in a way unbecoming her avatar’s frame.
Lilly put a reassuring hand on her leg. “It’s just a question that kind of haunted me for a while now. And I wanted to know if other players also had it?”
“Did you ask anybody else?”
“A few.” The way she answered suggested more than that. “Most just blocked me instantly.”
“It is a terrible question.” Hannah tried to phrase it as a joke, but that’s not how it came out. “You made me think about my motivation for starting the Game at all.”
“Not just fun?”
But yeah, I guess it is a lot of fun.”
“Fun we’re missing out on”, Lilly said with a distant look. Before Hannah could say anything, Lilly’s head snapped towards her, and she was wearing the rogue mask. “Hey! Let’s kill some monsters together again!”
And they played, and they looted, and they had fun. And then they took breaks, and talked some more, and Lilly showed her some rooms that were not just for chatting.
Eventually, Hannah knew what she needed to say.
“Lilly, I think I’m falling in love with you.”
The grin blooming on her petite face was all Hannah had ever wanted to see.
“That is the problem.” Hannah sighed deeply. “We started all this because you reminded me of the real world. I feel like this is...still just part of the Game?”
Lilly waited for more, so Hannah had to say it.
“I want to meet you IRL.”
“Like, in real life IRL?”
Hannah nodded quickly. Lilly’s delicate hand shot up, grabbed the barbarian’s head and pulled it towards her tiny elven face for a long kiss.
“You had the idea, so come to my place. My body is in Budapest.”
Just a non-stop tube train ride away then!
“I’ll bring mine over to yours as soon as I can.” The next sentence was even harder than Hannah’s maybe-love confession. “It won’t look very close to this one.”
Another smile she felt in her actual heart. “Neither will mine.”
And thus, it was decided, and after some considerable difficulty with finding out how even, Hannah logged off.
The VR chair had kept her body in remarkable condition, all things considered; as promised. To become aware of it again was a gruesome experience regardless. After an eternal moment of immobilized panic, she realized that she could still move, it had just been so long her body had forgotten how. Also, her limbs were restrained by the chair. The darkness of the helmet engulfed her, adding to the panic, but her tongue found the switch, and it retreated together with the body cover, leaving her in the more natural darkness of her apartment. The restraints left her free to undertake the monumental task of sitting up, then removing all the needles and tubes in her.
It was a terrible thing to do with hands trembling from the exertion of just moving, but she had to get rid of the catheter right now. Its presence kept reminding her of the penis it went through, the useless tube of flesh that should not be with her.
After her eyes had accepted having to work again, she could turn on the light to see that someone had visited her during her...years?...online. They had left some letters.
From her parents, addressed to “Otto”.
She crumpled the name cadaver up. She thought she had become alive enough to stand, but had to sit down again amidst clouds of ancient dust.
Maybe a short game while she recovered a little?
No! She was logged off!
Hannah used the time necessary to activate her body to research some RL facts instead. Then, she left the chair, her apartment and some unwanted reminders.
The streets of Berlin shadowed by impossibly high skyscrapers were pristine, and where the light was allowed to penetrate through well-placed architecture, it shone from a spotless sky. The last time Hannah had been in RL, the very air had teemed with the refuse of humanity. And now, so beautiful, so clean and empty! In fact…who was around to appreciate it? There was a smattering of people walking on streets designed for throes of cars, which did pass sometimes, singular occurrences. Going to the few jobs left that paid luxury credits? And would they then also spend them on VR chairs?
Were all the skyscrapers with their shadowed windows full of fellow players who would block Lilly immediately for asking her question?
The tube train had been designed to ferry hundred thousand people per day, but Hannah rode it in lonely silence. She felt bad about wasting all that energy. But after a few minutes with absolutely nothing to do, she began to feel even worse.
She should play the Game right now. Earn points. Meet Lilly. But she couldn’t - not for hours.
She curled up on the floor, sobbing. It was not really the loneliness; she would meet Lilly soon, and they would figure out their feelings and their bodies. That, Hannah looked forward to.
What crushed her was her inability to deal with simple boredom. The torture of having to do nothing itself, and how pathetic this sheer anguish made her feel.
Eventually, Budapest. Hannah had the address; she moved through pristine streets with too few people on them. Nobody spoke to her, or with each other. It looked exactly like Berlin.
Hannah had no way of telling Lilly that she had reached her apartment. An RL problem unanticipated. She stood paralyzed in front of the gate preventing entry into what could be paradise. Only mentally had the journey been an ordeal - the public transport was still free, the machines still took care of all repairs including to themselves, and breathing the air was pleasant. But here she stood, a few steps away from the end, defeated by a door.
In the Game, this would not be an issue. Hannah the Giant would just kick it in. But her Tiny, useless, wrong body?
Her eyes settled on a fire extinguisher, a laughable anachronism in an automated world.
She hadn’t spent years in the Game to not become a strong woman.
Hannah worked hard on the drat door, chipped away at it splinter by splinter, her untrained muscles screaming after every blow. She had to take a break to find a food machine, worked more, collapsed and slept, woke up and started grinding down the door again. Just like in the Game, forever fighting the same fights, for tiny incremental gains, a club a sword an axe soon outclassed again. Pointless overall. Was this?
The door broke down.
Hannah entered, stirred up years of dust, and made a trail to Lilly’s chair, the only object in the room.
In a trance-like state, Hannah reached where Lilly lay. Hannah touched a tiny hand restrained like hers just a little while ago. She would be here for Lilly when she went through the process of logging off, spend comfort and some soothing words, if she could manage speech, and then they would…
The hand was cold.
In shock but unable to control her hands, Hannah released the cover over Lilly’s torso, swung it open, and discovered that for Lilly, the L part of RL had ended long ago.
It could not be. Had Hannah carried her disgusting meat all the way here for this? To find her Lilly dead, and…
...what exactly, then, in virtual space?
The dust covered the inside of her lungs like a pall as she sat down, despairing. Had she fallen for a bot, a program designed to lure her into...what exactly? What good would her body do anyone here when not even she herself could do anything but hate it?
Hannah had to know. She took what once was Lilly and removed her gently from the chair, put herself in it and logged on.
Hannah the Giant and Deathgift Whisperspirit joined each other in a private room again.
“Did you find me IRL?”, the latter asked.
Hannah swallowed hard before she croaked a “yes”.
“How do I look like?”
“You are beautiful”, Hannah whispered and earned that smile she craved so much.
“Beautiful enough to log off and go RL with you?”
Hannah could not take this question. Lilly tried to comfort the collapsed Giant, but it took a long time until Hannah could speak again.
“You...you should not log off, Lilly. I don’t think you can.”
The elf avatar fell very silent. Then: “You do not have to explain. I know why. And I have suspected for a long while.” A dry chuckle. “But how could I have checked?”
“The other players…”
Lilly nodded. “It hurts to think about what you know deep down. I think not all of them are...unable to log off. Yet. But the Game, it really does not want to let you go.”
Every word was a desperate fight through tears for Hannah. “I wanted to show you how beautiful the world has become!”
This was finally enough to break through Lilly’s composed facade. During the barbarian woman’s turn to comfort the elven rogue, something dawned on Hannah.
“Lilly...do you think the world became so nice because everyone is busy playing the Game? And did someone plan it? Make us pay for the chairs so they felt earned? Like a reward in the Game?”
“Does that matter? What will you do now?”
“I cannot stay logged on forever in your chair. But I want to keep visiting you here. Figure things out. Together.”
Lilly’s lips trembled. “So does this mean…?”
“Yes, Lilly”, Hannah smiled. “I know I love you now.”
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2019 15:09|
|# ¿ Mar 7, 2019 20:57|
The Madness that Defines Us
With the power given to me by the Souls, I have brought humanity into an unprecedented golden age. As a young rebel, I had toppled a despot, my mentor for fledgling Soul abilities. Was thrust into responsibility as his successor far too early, stepped up to the unwanted task. I struggled, I learned, I grew. I tried, I failed, then died. My soul diffused into the vast lifeforce surrounding us, the melting pot of all Souls that ever lived, and I was ready to surrender my sense of self.
Instead, they spoke to me, made me understand the power I had only used like a flailing child before, and told me what I needed to do.
Our chaotic race was squandering its potential. Unlimited creativity, wasted on petty squabbles. We could be arbiters of the entire universe, but we were like children throwing tantrums. The Souls had taken a chance on my mentor and me, liked what I did with their gift much more, but it wasn’t close to enough.
So I was rebirthed in an immortal body brimming with Soul energy. I took the reins the humans desperately needed. I eradicated war, I abolished money, eliminated sickness, gave every man the tools to rise to enlightenment.
It’s been millenia - and I haven’t succeeded yet. Sometimes, as I behold the gleaming cities from high up, so perfectly in balance with nature, I wonder if my task is by its very nature even possible. We have always defined ourselves by dissatisfaction. We reshaped the very world, even ourselves, to suit what we thought we wanted. We laughed in the face of evolution for being slow. How can I hope to conclude a process defined by a desire that can never be fulfilled? How can I guide what is informed by irrational passion?
The Souls want me to take the raw stone of that passion and cut it into a gem, its facets highly ordered, a beautiful and shining arbiter, an example for all other races. But human nature stubbornly refuses to be shaped like this.
We claim to want stability and safety, but I provided that. We get bored in safety, and boredom leads to unrest, and unrest leads to our particular brand of impetuous madness. A madness I sense boiling in the mind of my latest apprentice as he makes his way up to the place I decided to manifest in. I can be wherever I want in the world with a thought. But I’m expecting him here and now, so this anachronistic penthouse office it is.
The door bursts open, and the madness bursts out. “Silas! Your death grip on humanity ends today!”
“You have one last chance to cease this mad rebellion, Raleigh.”
“I am not afraid, master”, he lies as if I couldn’t see the inside of his brain. I could flip a chemical switch and calm him, disable him or kill him. But that would be the actions of the kind of man I’ve never been, and hope to never become.
I failed to make him see my ideals. I need to bloody my own damned hands. I draw the sword, badge of my position, and Raleigh’s follows suit. Soul power flows through us both, allowing us to overcome the limits of physical reality.
We fight. A dance that leads its own steps. On the table, on the ceiling, in our minds. In the air as I toss Raleigh through the window, then back inside, the shards new weapons for both of us to wield, daggers slicing through the places our bodies did or might occupy.
Throughout, he pleads against my wall of silence.
“You keep us from what we could be!”
I sidestep a thrust.
“If you gave us freedom, we would have conquered space by now!”
My counter opens skin.
“Why would you unite us without leading us to more?”
He feints in his mind, and attacks in actuality. Clever - yet I still evade.
“Answer me, Silas! What is your plan for humanity? Do you even have one, or do you intend to just let us stagnate forever?”
Why am I even sparring with him? I could end him with a thought.
Maybe I think he deserves answers? I start talking.
But he has heard my arguments countless times before; why would they start working now? His mind is set, and he will die in his madness like any human who senselessly challenges what might as well be a God.
Which is exactly how this entire mess started. When I got the mad idea to end my own master’s reign.
I receive the first genuine wound of the fight. Why is his madness worse than mine was? Just because he has no way of succeeding?
And then, finally, almost too late I realize what he is doing. He keeps me musing to prolong the fight, gaining time to spin a web of Souls around me. In just a few seconds, it will close, and my powers will be cut off for just the moment he needs.
He almost made it. But this is where it ends for him, and I will continue to reign and guide humanity towards…
The web closes, my sword falters, and my body becomes a physical necessity. He takes my head off, and I actually die from that.
About half a century later, the true me gains consciousness in a body where I lived a life from birth to now in ignorant innocence. I remember growing up as Raleigh became more radical. I saw his adepts march the streets to stomp dissenters who were happier with Silas. I was drafted into a new military for eventual space warfare. My mad ploy for sabotage makes me smile. My wife and kids they took make me shed a tear. They will join the vast parade of loved ones lost so far.
I awakened on the cusp of my execution; instead, Raleigh’s death squad got destroyed by Soul power. And now, I fear, I’ll have to knock on his door, and make good the mistake I made by letting him kill me.
But what a wonderful bout of madness that was! It’s been long since I felt so connected to my own humanity. I hope they will forgive me for allowing decades of oppression; but at least it wasn’t me, this time. Though I do wonder, did I make them forget that there are other ways but having a single strong leader? Can I ever truly leave them to their own devices again?
After all - this isn’t the first time this scenario unfolded.
|# ¿ Mar 10, 2019 16:29|
Felt inspired to do another round of crits, so here you go. Preface: I didn't have time nor the muse to go super in-depth, so most of these are based on first impressions. In fact, if I did a re-read, it usually wasn't because I liked it so much, but rather because something confused me and I wanted to clarify. That is not good and your story is the Worst if I had to do that, because I am Very Smart and thus will get everything immediately unless it's badly written. Or maybe I'm a super inattentive reader because I didn't get the rhyming thing in Thranguy's which was later pointed out to me on Discord, and I also overlooked a few other things I sometimes caught, sometimes not after checking the stories again.
But mostly, you're all bad and it's definitely not me who is in fact bad this week. Enjoy my opinions (not facts)!
Thranguy - The Sounds of Hammers on Glass, Played in a Minor Key
I was taken aback a little by the style that seemed to want to emphasize the surreal idea behind the story, but often left me a little confused. It’s not bad, but maybe a little much in addition to what’s already going on. I’m think of sentences like “Before we understood the trouble about.”, or “Gospel testifies. Only guilt denies.” – of course, the Father is a weird dude anyway. Just a little much.
I had to look up “obdurate”, just fyi.
Apart from the style, I also feel like the story suffers from the idea being a little too out there without a little twist to it. You try to justify the hatred of clear things by having the Father give a very stretching explanation, and by having the narrator experience the devil-voices himself, but it’s so obviously idiotic that I can’t get into it. Also, mugs usually aren’t clear (I know there’s glass mugs, but that’s not the first thing you think of), and mirrors are also very much not see-through.
It also seems like the thing with the girl is going somewhere (apprentice getting doubts? What about her not quite virtuous mother?), but it really doesn’t. Overall, there’s no real story here, and the weird premise isn’t done well enough for me to enjoy it.
If I gave out a rating (I don’t because I don’t believe in quantifying enjoyment), I’d give you half a star extra for the title though, that’s a great one.
sebmojo – Wormfood
This was quite good, and hinted at exactly the right amount of backstory to intrigue me without boring me with worldbuilding details. One thing irked me, though: generally, I like your use of metaphors and similes (even though you probably enjoy using them a little too much), but the final one is a headscratcher.
Scratch that, I reread again more carefully and realized that the worms shimmer cellophane-colored. That’s…strange and I don’t quite see how it would actually look like, but I get what you mean now.
An issue with the story itself I have is that the Teacher fluctuates a little too much in my perception of him. It starts out as him having to do tough decisions and genuinely worrying for his children, veers into darkness with Yarrow’s injury he obviously inflicted on her, then goes back to him being a mentor as he lets himself get convinced to teach her – up until this moment, he might be too strict for our modern standards (after all, you don’t hit children!), but maybe the right amount of strict for a postapocalypse? And then he decides to kill Yarrow because she’s asking too many questions…but then why did he teach her about the clutch? And even smiled at her? His decision to kill her doesn’t gel with his previous actions.
I get that you’re probably hinting at him having killed the other children as well (“The grass and trees were all gone now, and the children, well.” is an absolutely terrific sentence, by the way), but I don’t completely buy it.
I’m also not super sure how good their chances were before he got kicked off the group (depends a little on how much the children’s numbers dwindling was due to the environment and how much due to him), but maybe they’re still very much hosed what with all food being wormy, nothing there at the moment, and them being currently very hungry. But that’s not the point of the story, I think.
Overall, enjoyable, painting an ugly but well-drawn picture (in many stated colors).
Benny Profane – The Swineherd Rebellion
This story went to disgusting places, but I liked it nonetheless (or because of it). The overall point, the cyclical nature of tyrannies and the inevitability of the rebel leaders becoming like the ones they set out to destroy, is finely worked out using the rather crude medium you chose.
It maybe is going a little over-the-top, but it does fit the tone you set initially, a little whimsy, but garnished with a slight edge sometimes, because after all, you are talking about dictators, their decrees, and a semi-violent revolution. It’s a well-done blend in the end.
The only thing I take issue with is the arc of farmer Bosch: he starts out as just some dude who catalyzes the revolution, then everyone follows his vague ideas, that become a “decree”, and eventually he is the leader of a new order…I guess? Despite you stating that he is an “inexperienced statesman”, he graduates from mob instigator to dictator without a motivation beyond the initial “gently caress those clean guys”. It makes no real sense to me that he would go there, and start living in a mansion, without getting just a tiny bit more of his character. The minister was way more fleshed out, and Bosch needs to mirror that, I think.
Because I pointed that out before: for your story, as well, I had to look up what “comity” means. Some incidental comments:
- I like how you connect sentences, at least at the start (it’s probably where most people focus their biggest attention, so that is a completely neutral statement). From ill-advised to the actual advisors’ advice of “don’t”, to the “but…could not be compelled”, it flows well. Incidentally, it’s how I also like to write .
- Your “pissed-in blanket” simile is a little too on the nose (heh) I think, because…well, it literally stinks like piss and worse, comparing it to that is almost too weak.
- “[He] received the odour as though delivered by a barroom pugilist, doubling over and retching.” – I was wondering how a retching pugilist smells until I got what you meant.
Overall, I liked it despite it leaving a bad smell in my nose.
Sitting Here – Bardo 59°
An intriguing tale, with a rather vague apocalyptic force to set the stage, and I like that it at the end gets a little more definition in conjunction with proving the authoritarian right – for all the good it does. So it’s a good ending, but I’m not a fan of the beginning – I think the density of metaphors is a little too much. Basically, I don’t like this sentence: “The end of the world approached at the speed of a growing fingernail, squeezing the last humans westward like so much toothpaste onto the bristles of the Pacific Ocean.” and the next few suffer in my mind because I’m still distracted by how little I like it.
It’s a combination of the pacific ocean not being bristly, fingernails not usually used to squeeze toothpaste, and the words generally being a little ugly. It doesn’t quite fit the dreamlike mood apart from being wonky.
That’s also why I initially had trouble connecting the first and third sections – the ones in the present, with the backstory in between – as I didn’t quite get why they ascended a watchtower in the first place. It makes sense on re-read (Mason and Terri are alone and none of the other yogis overhear them), but the story shouldn’t need a re-read. The backstory insert is a little awkward anyway, and I feel like the story could just be linear.
Another thing that took me a bit was that I have no idea what a “yogi” is – I have no connection whatsoever to “yoga culture”, so I guess it’s just random people who were instructed by Terri? As opposed to actual followers of a religion? So it’s purely Terri who inspires them to follow her specifically? Anyway, other words like “sangha” also leave me cold for the above reason. As I don’t have an understanding myself, I really don’t know if Terri is supposed to be just some random new age lady who read about all of this yoga stuff in a book and now “truly believes” in Buddhism, or if she ACTUALLY is a Buddhist who knows her poo poo and should be taken more seriously.
I like how she gets rid of Mason, a cruel manipulation, but I don’t like that this doesn’t lead to anything. I thought he’d come back, or she’d start using his noble sacrifice as another manipulation tool, but it just doesn’t happen. Instead, what she does to convince the other yogis is completely unrelated to Mason.
I’m also not quite sure what exactly happened, which isn’t helped by a really unfortunate typo – I suspect the sentence is supposed to read “You can’t go back because YOU don’t know where you are”? So…she just lead them into the wilderness and they all froze to death overnight? Only she survived out of sheer tenacity? But the others just dying doesn’t quite fit with her awakening “alone”. They wandered off, leaving her there? That’s weak.
Overall, I didn’t hate it, but it left me a little too confused and wanting for more at too many points.
The Saddest Rhino - UnOfficial Baby Rhinos: The African Kingdom Appreciation Group ➤ Admin Pinned Post
This is a fun parody. It does tell a bit of a story, and it is really clever that you use edits to mark the passage of time in what should be a static forums post, so that’s a plus. However, I do think you spent a little too much time in the Idiots on Social Media thread to research for this entry; while sadly a lot of people do actually post like that, I was taken out of your thing whenever a buzzword was used. “liEberal” is obvious, but also complaining about the “CalArts style” is VERY 2018-mad-internet-whitey and seems therefore extremely dates the post.
I enjoyed the completely absurd aside about the Admin being definitely a lawyer; that is the level of parody I was hoping for throughout, but too often you’re just quoting idiocy, almost. Like, you’re not adding anything. Another thing that was intriguing, but seemingly not going anywhere specific was the thing about the Swahili words in the intro.
Sadly, that also was a little confusing, because why would the Admin suddenly defend that specific aspect of the new show, while hating every other tiny thing about it with determined morosity? An explanation I might have for both that and how it ends is that Admin is extremely sick of people relentlessly dunking on him and his mancave and would rather sooner than later see the topic just die down completely, and people bringing up the chant thing again and again prevents that.
If that was the intention, it might be better if it was a little clearer; after all, your piece isn’t exactly subtle. Embrace the Admin’s screeching descent into internet power trip a little more, and you have a winner; at the moment, it just feels a little too safe for all the fun possibilities the format has.
Baneling Butts – Blood Money
This one was hard to read, because your characters don’t have names, and their titles all end the same. I get that you don’t want to come up with nine names just for a short piece (or…five that actually do something?), but it’s simply confusing. It took me two re-reads to realize that the story is actually about Trade Master, who is the sole “good guy” at the start and gets worn down; the rest are dicks throughout.
This is also a horrible sentence: “One of Marazanvose’s leading weapon-crafters and her apprentices had publicly protested the city’s trade of these weapons, specifically to the city-state of Ferrath who had proceeded to wipe out their neighbor Polauve with them.”
Just too many names at once; you could have saved those for the characters! And Maran…etc. doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue either.
Your world-building is too sparse for me. I don’t like it when it’s excessive, but you hint at your setting, like, twice: with paper that is touch-activated and people that can just explode hearts. If the general tech level and setting were just a bit more explored, I wouldn’t wonder why the city-states are warring at all, if Marazanvose is maybe a particularly powerful one, if the bombs are a new invention or especially efficient, powerful…and so on.
Again, it took me a re-read just to get what you were going for, and then it wasn’t much: Trade Master tries to be less violent, but is too spineless to actually protest, then gives in, and in the end they all die – ironically, because they didn’t care about bomb regulations at the start. It’s not super interesting.
Noah – Long Live the King
I like this one, simply because I enjoy the themes it presents. The authoritarian planning grand dreams just to have them shattered by their protagonists appeals to me, and you deliver the moment of “nope” by Sarah pretty well.
I was left wanting by the end a little, because the Creeping Doom should still be on the screens, and Sarah doesn’t react to it at all. It feels like you could have done something with that, though I do understand that the focus of your story was how little she played along with Terrorstar’s plan.
Gotta admit I hate the evil guys’ names. I thought you were going for a bit of a parody first, but “Berenholdt” is so mundane in comparison…so mundane you misspell it halfway through.
Overall, your initial part when Terrorstar is still alive and the wrap-up after Sarah ices him don’t fit super well together, because the moment when he dies is already the pay-off you’ve built up to, and the rest doesn’t really do anything; see above for what I thought could have come there, but I’d have been happy with something else as well. Instead, it just ended.
flerp – The Moth
Really enjoyed this one. The interaction between the two protagonists reminded me of the big spoiler in Silent Hill 2, which is a pretty nerdy comparison, but hopefully you consider it praise (I don’t remember which of the TD regulars really like SH2, but I know it’s quite a few). After all, it’s considered to be one of the best written videogames ever made.
I think the line “Why can’t I be scared?” is the best line in this story, because it perfectly encapsulates why she pulls away more and more from her husband, and how his authoritarianism manifests in being controlling. To the point of telling her that her feelings are stupid, and she should really be working on Better Feelings. Maybe it also hits a bit close to home, because I have acted like that guy in the past before, fortunately got told off and hopefully learned my lesson.
It’s an important one, told well enough to not be a sledgehammer, and wrapped in a great story to boot. I could see this being made into a festival-winning short movie. My favorite so far!
apophenium – The Notary
It was a little funny, but didn’t grab me. I was a little confused by John’s actual job, because you put so much emphasis on the bible; I honestly thought for a while that the story was set in a fantasy setting, where Notary is a title held by church officials that have, you know, actual power. As you show at the end, John is a little cog in the system with delusions of his own importance, but I didn’t understand that at the start. Such a twist can be fine to make a re-read sweeter, but it wasn’t strong enough for that, I think.
Maybe I would have picked up on the realistic setting quicker if you didn’t start with a sentence containing a “messenger bag”, which doesn’t make me think of anything but “medieval courier rucksack”, and didn’t go on with a senator’s public suicide, which is just not something that happens very often. Unless, of course, your setting is in a different world from hours, where lives are cheaper.
I did enjoy the part where John internally monologues how perfectly he set up the forms to be signed, that was very American Psycho.
John’s “revenge” kinda sucked, sadly. I imagined something a little more unhinged or at least trying-to-be-subtle, like him actually pretending that some minor detail was wrong and loving over the tycoon by altering the forms to lose him money; he could have thought that that was SO CLEVER, but of course would be busted immediately. Him just screaming nonsense feels like a lame way for him to go down; it’s not ironic in the slightest, if you know what I mean? He just flips out, that has little to do with his beliefs. In fact, he very much betrays them by not doing his loving job like he’s supposed to.
Overall, the theme of a guy who has a relatively high profile job but not high profile enough to warrant his self-importance is good, but it lacked a little in execution.
Also, because I point that out for everyone this week (and it surprised me, the last few times I read all the entries I didn’t have to do that for any word?), I had to look up “cilice”.
engeejay – Dear Leader
This was hilarious, and I chuckled a few times when reading it. Especially the “Wow!” at the start is a powerful joke. I did also like how you climaxed (get it) towards the leader being actually quite desperate to Finally gently caress, though that was marred a little by the aside about him putting on music and changing into a nice outfit – that’s way too on the nose and took me out of the fun. Also, it breaks the smooth escalation to the leader’s blue ball reveal.
Similarly, the “CAKE form” thing tries to add an extra joke to something that is quite funny on its own already (the “oversized cake delivery” is perfect), and opens a completely different line of jokes – about bureaucracy – that doesn’t fit into the sexual framework, and is never explored again. Rightfully so, because this isn’t about worldbuilding the actual regime of the leader. Nix it!
I was also a little confused (again, taking me away from the pure fun of this ridiculous propaganda piece) by the fact that you name the Journal – something that doesn’t really add anything, except for the equally meaningless mention that Ms. Smyth was subscribed to it – but censor the war against X[…]X. It seems inconsistent somehow.
Overall, a little more focus and I’d have loved it unconditionally.
Bad Seafood – Huòluàn
This was pretty nuanced, and I liked how you handled that. I recently read The Windup Girl, and your story reminded me of that – a clash of cultures often told from a perspective unfamiliar to the Western one. But without a sadly typical “haha, those crazy Chinese and their belief in traditional medicine” tint.
I enjoyed how you were able to change my opinion about your protagonist a few times during the course of the story. He seemed way too strict, then made a good point about the English, then was willing to let a child die, then his motivations were explained by the example and the downfall of his father – due to the English opium. That was a very good flow for, again, a very nuanced and complex story.
And of course, while Chen Zi’s attitude towards the English is perfectly understandable and justified, he is still very much wrong to let a child die, and refuse treatment for his own illness – in my opinion at least – and I suspect yours as well, because the story probably doesn’t coincidentally end with a literal gutpunch against Chen Zi’s convictions. Very well done.
The only negative I have is a little stupidity on my own part: I was reading headsman instead of headman, and thought his “even the head(s)men!” line meant to impart disgust towards executioners, then was super confused when he was revealed as a headman himself. It’s just an unfamiliar word for me, and sadly quite similar to one I do know. Really not your fault, though!
Joda – Hands of fate
I’m not into this story. First of all, your prose is a little awkward – something that could be fixed with polish or practice, but it does stick out. For example, this is a terrible sentence: “In front of Leila in this moment, was a boy in his mid teens, who was not quite as comfortable with the fumes.” – it has a completely superfluous and also misplaced “in the moment”, the comma afterwards is wrong, the “not quite as” is clunky, and furthermore the lead into it from the previous sentence (which has a “the subject before her” in it) makes the “in front of” redundant.
“Our palms is their medium” – they ARE the medium
“The boy let out a blood curdling scream” – cliché, and should be blood-curdling
“his screaming witnessed to the fact” – wrong construction
This is all excusable and doesn’t make or break a story; however, the actual happenings in it are not very interesting to boot. You describe what the authoritarian does, then she discovers that she was wrong, and she despairs over that, trying to erase the wrongdoing. The latter two parts happen very quickly, and without any build-up in the “what she’s doing” part – at any point, she could have expressed regret about her “sadly necessary” actions, anything really to make her instant loss of faith a little more palatable, foreshadowed, but it’s just not there. It feels unearned and ultimately tepid; there’s tons of “this single moment of realization changes a character’s outlook completely” moments in fiction, but they’re all bad, this is not how humans work. Doubt needs to build up, especially for an authoritarian like her who has been doing this poo poo for probably years without any doubt in her mind.
In general, it seems like you stuck very hard and fast to the “palm reader” flash rule without a big passion for it, and just described hand-related things that would happen if a palm reader gained actual power, and tried to end it with a character moment that falls flat completely. I would offer advice for improvement, but I doubt that it would be useful; this doesn’t read like a story you love the concept of to me, and I certainly don’t, so just take encouragement in this way: I’m sure you can write something better if you find a theme that really grabs you. Yes, that was a hand metaphor.
Staggy – TULIP
Obviously, you took Stammetz’ name from Star Trek: Discovery’s character Stamets, and that annoys me.
Kidding aside, a great story, and definitely deserving of the win (editor’s note: I wanted to finish those before judging but drat was it fast and good this time, so here’s it violating my objectivity, haha). Your basic idea is very simple yet compelling – that the “chosen few” are taken following a Grand Plan that isn’t revealed to anybody. It’s like the Mormon (right?) creed but taken to a logical extreme: who says that God chooses the right people, or that you would even understand His plan?
In your limited canvas, you explore the ramifications of such a system quite well, in that people react understandably confused, hurt, and very human. The strength of the bit characters is what carries this, your protagonist is basically a completely blank slate, but for once it’s fine – they embody and explain a system that comes off as distinctly inhuman to the observer.
For me, the best part is the contrast between the two groups that want to be saved and think they deserve it, and the one that thinks other people should not be saved. The latter is a great example of crab bucket mentality, and it’s surely a coincidence but ready the “CRB” acronym in the next sentence as “CRAB” involuntarily made me smile because it shows the strength of your story making me think.
It’s also great that you present a third, less expected but also quite human viewpoint by expanding on it with the actual core of the story – the person who does not want to be saved, and not even for any particularly selfish reason. It makes perfect sense to give the most space to this most complex issue people might have with the CRB’s grand plan, and it’s pulled off quite well. Kudos!
SlipUp – Destroyer of Worlds
Before I even start writing this, I wonder if you specifically tried to make this 666 words and had to contort yourself for that.
ANYWAY, I liked it more than I hated it, but it took me until the end to flip my opinion. Let’s start with a throughout positive: I like your language. It’s grand-standing blathering, the monologue of a lunatic with delusions of grandeur he can actually back up, and I live for this kind of nonsense. You can keep this up forever, it warms my soul.
However, until he actually reached the part where he explained his plan and it dawned on me what he wanted to do, I didn’t get any of the story. Your language was a bit too flowery to convey what you meant, and too abstract to make me see what’s going on. It’s exemplified by this sentence:
“I held Marcus’s throat as he bled his fruits of conquest.”
You spent the last ten or so sentence to talk poo poo about some parasite (it was not clear at all at this point that you were talking about death itself), then about specific people, so when I reached Marcus, I thought “Jordius must have really hated this specific guy”, and “holding his throat” made me think of Darth Vader lifting up the rebel pilot, not “staunching a mortal wound”. “Bleeding fruits of conquest” makes no loving sense in any context, that doesn’t help at all.
Once you do clarify that Jordius is on a mission to literally kill death as exemplified by a planet, the story clicked into place for me, and it’s loving metal is what it is. I love it! But I should have loved it from the start!
I think if you work on your clarity, keeping the general tone, you got a good framework for writing a Warhammer 40k novel right here. I haven’t read anything WH40K stuff myself, by the way, I only hear stories; but the stories by adoring fans sound like something you could write in that style, so it’s meant as an endorsement. Carry on!
Also, don’t think I didn’t catch that sick Teutoburger Wald reference. Yeah I use the German term because it was in Germania fite me.
Viscardus – I Have Seen the Light and It Is Beautiful
This seems like something I might write, but I’d probably choose another ending. Yes, this is probably scorching coming from this week’s loser, but that applies to any crit I gave.
What I like about it is the calmness of the protagonist; you’re not making him a fanatic convert. You are also giving the other characters fair grievances and problems with him and his choices, and I respect that up until the end, it’s not clear if there IS actually a True Light, or if he has simply been tricked into believing so. Or rather been literally mind-scorched by some sorcery. I think you could have hinted a little more at what She actually is and does; it would probably have tipped the scales a little more into the “he’s obviously still choosing wrong” direction, though. Because it’s quite hard to write about an absentee tyrant with three people in the room who have very legitimate issues with them and have the tyrant come off as a valid choice for the good person in the story.
So that’s a certain weakness. Another lies in the way you write; I feel like you give too much space to things that are ultimately extraneous – like the extended waking up in pain sequence at the start, and irrelevant information like “I surmise that it is night from the absence of light peeking through the cracks.”. Or the question of how and when the protagonist was taken. All of this doesn’t matter and weakens what you are going for, robbing you of the space to develop the relationship between him and his former acquaintance.
Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a bad story, but it leaves me wanting for a bit more substance; I’d love to hear more about the philosophy of Her – if the protag at least believes it to be convincing, maybe you should WRITE something about that. Yes, you do mention that he thinks it’s pointless to convince his former friend/lover (?). But that’s a cop-out, imho. Show at least something.
One final thing: I like this image a lot: “I open my eyes and the darkness pours in.” You interpreted “seeing the Light” extremely literally, which might be a bit lazy, but sentences like that redeem your choice.
Doctor Zero – The Truth Shall Set You Free
This is intriguing, though it seems like I’ve read it before. Usually, these stories have the artifact be cursed, though – and I’m not actually sure if you’re getting at that. In a meta way, your prompt is that your authoritarian believes that they can sense the lie – it doesn’t mean that it’s true. But this doubt is not actually in the story. I confess that the final line, which might be that doubt in the form of a twist, loses me. Why would she answer a god? What is the question? Does it mean that she answers TO a god? This is a bit of a sad end for an okay setup that could go both ways – because this way, it goes neither. And is therefore wasted.
In more particular critique, I like the first two parts, they don’t waste too many words but are ponderous enough to carry some gravity. I hate the next part, the dialogue with the maybe-or-not robber is extremely awkward, especially her discussion with him about his voice. I feel like you could have done that much better and more organically, as she discovers the power-or-illusion-of the sword gives her.
It's weird in the next part that she doesn’t recognize the fat man immediately as belonging to the faction that killed her family. After all, revenge is first and foremost on her mind. Also, this does not work as describing something that is not an action: “His long hair receded as his stomach expanded.” – I thought it was a demon transforming for a second.
I already complained about the last part. As I said, kind of a shame, the beginning was promising but it squandered my goodwill.
crimea – Stars Are Right
“What the gently caress is a caul”, I googled. My vocabulary is really getting tested and expanded this week. But enough of my own shortcomings; this was a beautiful story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It doesn’t have an obvious message or theme, but it paints a picture I simply like looking at, and that is more than enough for me.
You choose some excellent, and very grand descriptions for how the Chosen One acts upon the universe and it acts upon him; and I think it’s very intriguing that he just cannot make any decision without being prompted by a sign from outside. I don’t even think that this is meant to be tragic or that he suffers much; he has thoroughly accepted from the moment of his birth that some higher power will guide his every move, and he lives without compromise following this principle. This is pretty alien, in that the mindset is completely incomprehensible to the average human, but you write it in an internally consistent and well-explained way, so it’s not offputting to me.
The antagonist serves well to illustrate how powerless the protagonist truly is without even realizing it; the actual tragedy in the story is that the antagonist still loses, almost incidentally, even though he would probably deserve to win against the terrible power of the star-child that is seemingly chosen by the universe to Never Do Wrong. It’s kind of terrifying, without being overtly presented as such. It makes me think grand thoughts, and I like those; my own story is similar. Again, I lost, but gently caress it – I also saw people complain on Discord about your story “not having a plot” or the characters being “underdeveloped”, but I feel like I see your point, and that we think alike about what we want to write about and also see written. I hope I’m correct and that you liked my story; if not, gently caress you.
Saucy_Rodent – Talamar the Strong
I, uh, didn’t like this at all. I think you were going for a bit of a parody of modern society or something, but the joke just fell completely flat for me. I did enjoy “The guy over there who looked pretty big”, that was a line that made me chuckle, but the “social media” mention and the dyed hair and painted nails mention just made me groan. Also, you have a typo in the first paragraph (sweat instead of sweated), which should really be the one you worked on the most, so…work harder on everything next time.
The “rocks fall, everyone dies” ending is also lame. You jab at Talamar’s toxic masculinity, and you know, I get it, but come on. Satire should be a little subtle.
You have at least some talent for funny writing (as I said, I enjoyed at least one line), so maybe with practice writing comedies, you will improve. At the moment, it doesn’t look great, though. Sorry!
|# ¿ Mar 13, 2019 20:50|
I guess I learned something today, but you'll learn something too, because I'll loving school you. Let's throw down.
Ya might wanna Google that one, son. BRAWL
|# ¿ Mar 13, 2019 22:52|
I'll just save seb some effort by winning, eh?
|# ¿ Mar 13, 2019 23:23|
Thanks for the special crit, really appreciate it
|# ¿ Mar 14, 2019 07:23|
|# ¿ Mar 21, 2019 19:23|
It's the Saucy Simon Brawl entry!
Your prompt is Two characters enter. One character leaves. Neither character may die.
The Knight, the Brute and the Princess
I am the White Knight. He is the Brute.
We meet in the arena, with the Princess as our prize. Silently, she watches as we fight. My gleaming sword against his crude cudgel. His blows glance off my polished armour. My strikes are true, but struggle to cut his dirty fur-topped leather.
My shield protects me from his savage attacks. The sand of the arena explodes in a dust plume whenever he strikes. He has become so strong! The latest impact drops me to a knee. Sensing an opportunity, he closes the distance, is inside my defences. Blinding pain erupts in my head as his knee shoots into my chin. I stumble backwards, fumbling for the shield I dropped. He advances, and the King jeers from the excitement of watching his loyal Knight struggle.
The Princess’ distress is apparent. Her desperation bolsters my conviction. I cannot falter and leave her to this villain! As if my armour weighed nothing, I roll away from the smash that was supposed to end me. My sword shoots up, bites deeply into the Brute’s calf, and with a gurgling scream, he falls.
I have triumphed. But the Princess’ fate still hangs by a thread, a rope, which binds her to a cruel post. Reality has plucked me from the arena; the Princess is Charlie, my best friend, and death awaits him. By the rifle in my hands.
Regally, the Sergeant announces to the troops that Charlie’s crime of stealing food is high treason in the Great War we’re fighting. The sentence, therefore, swift trench justice: death.
Of course, I had to try and speak in his defence. There was no justice here, the Sergeant was enraged because it was his piece of bread that Charlie nicked. But justice has been shelled to pieces, and for my crime of attempting her resurrection, I am now forced to take my best friend’s life. But of course, I won’t. I am the White Knight, and I would rather die than see harm come to the Princess. Once the Sergeant stops talking, I will claim to have instigated Charlie’s foolishness, take blame and death instead of him.
My knuckles tighten on the rifle as I try to find the words. I smile at Charlie, it will be okay! His frightened eyes are mirrored in the bayonet’s blade. Like many frightened eyes of German soldiers before it pierced their guts, and then I polished it again, Sergeant’s orders, to see the next reflection of a death-bound man.
Charlie’s eyes become the Princess’. Suddenly, the arena fills my mind again.
The Brute stabs it into a gap in my armour. I gasp, fall, he grabs my helmet, rips it off, and smashes it into my face. The pain erupts white-hot, then comes a second blow with crunch of bones, and blackness washes over me instead.
I am the Brute now. Back in reality, and Charlie at my mercy. I told him that his plan was madness, that staving off just a day or two of famished gnawing at our boots was not worth it.
It is a shame it has to end this way, but he should have listened. I will mourn him after the deed is done, but maybe less with every day we can share one more ration amongst the soldiers still condemned to fight this hellish war.
The Sergeant finishes his prattle. Stealing from the King is like stealing bread from orphans back in England. I banish my disgust by focusing on duty. My cheek finds the rifle’s stock oddly comforting. Careful aim at the heart. I promise I will take you quickly, Princess. My finger finds the trigger…
The White Knight tackles me, suddenly awake. Entwined, we smash into the sand; my dagger is lost. We wrestle, a final burst of strength from each to gain the upper hand, to save the Princess or obey the King. A feeble stabbing at my eyes, a badly angled punch against his groin; nothing helps. Exhausted stalemate. We roll apart.
“We need to talk”, he gasps.
“All of a sudden?” I spit into the sand, narrowly missing his face. “You were quite happy to just attack me, up from the high ground of your morals.”
“And I will keep on claiming it! What you are about to do is wrong!”
“It is the one right thing to do – for both of us.”
“And Charlie?” The White Knight’s eyes are tearing up. A pathetic excuse for a soldier.
“We both know what he did was stupid. We agreed on telling him to leave it be. It was you who got us even involved; you who decided to open your mouth to defend a doomed Princess. The King was right to punish you for trying to justify treason. He was right to have you suffer the headsman’s guilt. But don’t worry, you stalwart Knight: I’ll gladly do the deed for you.”
His voice is a defeated whisper. “You won’t, though.”
I crawl over and grab him by the throat. “You cannot save the Princess from me.” The King leans forward, expecting bloody conclusion.
“I would have been too late to stop your finger on the trigger”, the White Knight gurgles. “You did that all yourself.” Blood drains from my face, for I know he’s right.
“You want to harm her as little as I do”, he continues. I release him and crumple onto my back beside him.
“But we cannot just take the bullet ourselves!” My shout’s conviction marred by hoarseness. “We have to be pragmatic. Not just for us, for the folks at home as well. We have a kid, for Christ’s sake! Charlie has nothing!”
“He has us”, he says. “And throw your pragmatism to the Huns. You really think we’ll make it through this? Let’s at least go out in chivalry.”
“gently caress your chivalry! I want to live!”
The King is getting quite impatient. And we feel the Princess‘ gaze pierce our hearts.
“If we wait much longer, we will all die disgraced”, one of us says.
“We have to find a compromise”, the other agrees.
“No Knight’s blind self-sacrifice…”
“No Brute’s pure selfishness…”
Our hands find each other. We clasp each other firmly. “Together, a third way!”
The Black Knight nods to the Princess. The King sputters protest, but this rogue is no longer beholden to him. I leave him and the arena behind, for good this time.
I lock eyes with Charlie.
“Sorry about that, buddy.”
My rifle whips around, and I shoot the Sergeant dead.
|# ¿ Mar 23, 2019 20:35|
And this is the normal TD entry.
The Crystal’s Chosen
The bullets buzz past my head in a never-ending stream. It is worse than the summer seven years ago, when I part-timed on a boat in the south, one of the first powered by the magic of diffuser crystals. Of course, the buzzing was mosquitos then. And I might be in more of a pickle now.
This had seemed like a golden opportunity, and I badly needed one. More and more tasks are taken over by diffuser magic as smart folks figure out how to control it, and cow herders like me are no longer needed. I can no longer support Bella, and being unable to do right by the most wonderful woman in the whole prairie breaks me in twine. She is the best mother my two little ones could ask for, and they are not even her own. God bless her!
So when I heard that the government was stopping their excavation at the diffuser crystal mine just half a day’s ride to the north, I knew I needed to act, and fast. I kissed Bella good-bye and told her tears that they shouldn’t be shed for me. If I were to bite it, she could just take mercy on any other fool like she did with me. And maybe they’d be a bit more useful than I am right now.
When I arrived at the mine, I found two horses bound in some precious shade. Someone else had had the brilliant idea to look for leftover diffusers, squeeze some magic yet out of this rock the bigwigs had deemed useless. But hell, I thought, hid my own ride a little farther and activated the cheap crystal on my belt that was only good for diffusing some light.
A mine is big. I’d have to be quite unlucky to even meet those two.
Well, now one of them lies in a puddle a few steps away, and the other keeps pelting the rock I’m stuck behind. I got two shots left, and he has all of them. Again, one of his bullets ricochets in a bad way, draws some blood on my leg, and shortly after landing flickers, the diffusion effect takes it and back it goes into his chamber. With infinite magic bullets, he can keep this up forever. My diffuser’s light will give away any movement. Soon, my family’s future dies with my idiot plan, unless Bella can in fact find someone else quickly enough.
But I don’t want that, do I.
I know what happens when a diffuser crystal breaks – all the magical energy it normally uses for whatever it’s tuned to do has to go somewhere. Fast. That’s the chance I have, slim as it may be. I send a prayer to the Lord above, hold the light crystal as far away as I can, and shoot it.
I do not die instantly, though the light flashing out made me think that for a panicked instant. I hope that the villain’s surprise is worse than mine, jump up, twirl around, and throw.
His surprise was sadly short-lived, and just after the diffuser leaves my hand, a bullet slams into my shoulder and me to the ground. But my throw was true! Not far from my foe, the crystal shatters, and explodes.
Light curiously persists even after the dust settles. I lurch towards the fresh hole in the wall, next to which a second body sprawls now.
Behind, the most gigantic diffuser crystal I ever saw floats, and I realize that this is what the government was actually digging for here. Gave up just a bit too early, the lazy paper-pushers.
Suddenly, a voice chimes in my head.
“Greetings, warrior. Long have I slept under the earth, but now I am ready to grant the Chosen One my power. You will be infused with unimaginable magic, strong enough to topple any king!”
“There’s no more kings in God’s own country”, I say. “What’s the catch?”
The voice hesitates. “Well, this power of course carries with it some responsibility. An ancient evil needs to be brought to…”
“Listen, buddy”, I sigh. “I got two killings to confess already. Didn’t want this fight, don’t want any others. I’m not a warrior. I work cattle!”
I reconsider for a moment.
“Unless you are a messenger from God? Do you need me to fight Satan?”
The voice is getting annoyed. “This has nothing to do with God! My power…”
I turn away, crossing myself in haste. “Don’t deal with blasphemers. Have a good day.”
“Then you leave me no option but to choose a different vessel.”
Something stirs next to me. Damnation! The villain is still alive!
“I’d be happy to accept your powers!”, he grins, getting up with some effort. I try to point my gun at him, but terrible pain stops me. “Now hold up. You can’t give this crook a magic infusion.”
“You will accept it, then?”, the crystal menaces.
“Leave us both alone with your bullcrap!”
“Give it to me”, the villain pleads. “I’ll kill your evil, and then rule the world or something! And don’t try to stop me…” He gestures towards me. “You have a bullet in your shoulder. Can’t even move your arm!”
“It is decided”, the crystal chimes, and the light of diffusion surrounds my foe. He is lifted off the floor and starts laughing as magic flows into him…
My final bullet blows his brains all over the crystal.
“What have you done?”, it shrieks inside me.
“Realized there’s no bullet in me, because that’s back in his gun”, I explain. I pick that up and remove the diffusor from it that made his bullets magically return. I place it on the ground and take aim.
“Go back to sleep”, I tell the giant crystal, and cause another explosion to bury it.
|# ¿ Mar 23, 2019 20:36|
I'm early and I'd love a crit!
Lord Djeser the Mayor, judge and jury of this one horse town, has agreed in his benevolent wisdom not to send me to DQ jail. Instead, as punishment for playing fast and loose with the sign-up deadline, I am to write crits for this week.
|# ¿ Mar 24, 2019 21:31|
I'm in with the Mastiff
|# ¿ Apr 4, 2019 19:59|
Three weeks after the power cut event in the Game, the graphics of simulated Real Life London are still transfixing me.
I force myself to turn from my apartment megacomplex’ window overlooking the dormant city. I really need to look for the main quest. So far, I’ve completed “extraction from virtual reality chair”, “gain limb strength by minor exercise”, “fill hunger meter from broken food dispensers” and other assorted tutorials. But this surprise update to a new engine that makes the Game almost look like long-forgotten RL, loading transitions masked by a painful waking up process, cannot just be graphical – there must be a story to this.
I wander through hallways, looking for a quest marker, when I hear a sound cue: high-pitched whining. I hope this is not an encounter I’ll need a weapon for, but if it kills me, I’ll just respawn.
Following the noise to a hallway crossing, well-rendered defunct fountain in the middle, I finally see human models! A party of three, at a glance: a Rogue, a Barbarian, a…Paladin perhaps, cornering a monster. Players, then! If I can join them before the kill, I’ll share the experience points! The Rogue has a dagger modeled after a sharp-looking kitchen knife, +2 at least. He lowers it in surprise as I greet them. The party leader, clad in what looks like machine paneling, turns around and I see that he is actually holding the monster up. It is tiny, a pitiful thing, probably the lowest level of its creature type. I could hit its wrinkly face with fists, deliver critical damage and throw the smooth-furred body flying. An early-game enemy, worth a sigh of relief.
“A player, huh”, the leader says. “What’s your class?”
“I don’t know”, I admit. “Still confused by the new scenario.”
“We’ll fix that”, he says and hands me the monster. Will my defense stat be high enough to protect me from attack? But the thing seems stuck in a fear animation, trembling, panting, whining.
“Kill it, and you should level up. Then I’ll give you a class and you can join my party.”
“You give out classes?”, I ask while studying the fascinatingly detailed enemy model I’m holding. It gives off warmth, breath, moisture; remarkable.
“Yeah, I’m an Admin.” From the small dog’s shining eyes half hidden under skin folds, mine snap to the hard-edged ones across from me. “I’m thinking of making you a Priest. We could use a healslut.”
“Carry healing spray and bandages!” A snicker from the Rogue.
Joining an Admin’s party would be an incredible start for this new content. I force myself to shove the slur aside think about the possibilities. All I have to do is kill one monster.
I realize that I am stroking a back so soft. I never deliberately input this - has my hand bugged out?
The puppy’s fear animation has stopped.
“I think this is not worth much points. Rather look for something bigger”, I say.
“If the kill experience is not enough, the strength boost from the meat will be.”
“Delicious dog steak !” The Barbarian stomps his club down, a pipe broken from a food dispenser. At max +1, if even.
The puppy has started to lick my hand, and my skin feels wet and warm but cooling quickly, until the raspy tongue assaults again. Sunset’s light shines through the windows, casts complex fountain shadows on the players.
“This is not the Game”, I whisper.
Rogue narrows his eyes. Barbarian cocks his head covered by a VR helmet with crude eyeholes in the faceplate. Admin steps up to me until he’s very close.
“Kill the dog, join my party.” His breath smells terrible.
“I won’t take an RL life!”
Admin’s fist impacts the weak point on my stomach and I double over, desperately shielding the puppy. Rogue moves forward dagger drawn, but Admin stops him, gestures to Barbarian instead. And his pipe delivers blunt damage to my entire body, the pain enforcing the truth of this reality, which hurts again all over.
Finally, the beating stops, and Admin softly speaks to me alone.
“You accept the Game and me as Admin, or next time I delete your character.”
To all: “It’s true, the dog isn’t worth much yet. I say we let them go, then kill and eat it once it has evolved.”
A final kick. “Second chance, only chance.” And they are gone.
The puppy licks my wounds. I guess he (she?) is my main quest now.
So what’s my next objective?
I have never seen an RL dog.
I need a manual for this.
The megacomplex’ reception has an ancient paper map. London Library sticks out, just across what once was Hyde Park.
It turns out that this is still a park with trees and grass and lakes, and somehow animals, and Puppy is ecstatic. And so am I. RL is stunning. Humans left it to play the Game forever, powered by Perpetual Energy, and on its own, the world recovered. And we? Our power supply’s name a lie, London remains without. Everyone who was strapped into a VR chair’s life support, depending on it more than I…
I focus on my friend instead, and watch him frolic.
⚯ ⚯ ⚯
A year later, I return, much learned. Caring for a dog is good exercise. For body and the rest.
I meet the Admin and his party, who still think this is the Game. Their delusion keeps them in a tiny world. I intend to open it, like cradling helpless life did mine.
“You brought the meat?”, the tyrant asks.
I shake my head. “He is not meat. And these are free humans, not your players.”
He loses the control he craves so much. “Then it is Game Over for you. This time, Rogue, the knife!”
“The Game has ended long ago”, I say, then call my friend to me.
They learn far quicker than I did that Mastiff puppies grow quite large. Soon after, they learn much more.
|# ¿ Apr 7, 2019 19:21|
Special crit for Yoruichi – Max
I really wanted to like your story, because I love spiders and also got a small thing for cars, but it didn’t hit for me. I have mentioned before in my crits that I like straightforward narratives, so do not take it as a strike against you: I simply don’t get what you’re going for, and that’s probably as much my problem as yours. However, I’ll point out what specifically confused me, and if you think „I knew I should have made this clearer“, then my crit will have been helpful.
It starts with the Fibonacci scaffolding. The way the sentence reads to me – „made of metal bars like Fibonacci scaffolding“ – my brain assumes that it’s comparing the bars to the existing concept of such scaffolding (there is no such thing), but what you’re actually trying to say is that the metal spiderweb looks like scaffolding (generic), but woven in a Fibonacci way, like a web. Like, I get it, but it’s mixing the metaphors and similes a little too freely for my science brain.
Next problem I had was with scale. The first paragraph does evoke a large one, but a spider scuttling over an office window makes me think the spider is inside – so it would be spider-sized. And Geoff throwing the keys at it, making it go away, does nothing to dispel that image. So I’m confused again when it does turn out to be car-sized spiders.
Knuckling tears from cheeks sounds weird to me, albeit like something I’ve read before. And found it weird then as well.
I didn’t quite get the significance of the pub scene, until I later caught the fragment that Geoff went there every day. Nothing in the paragraph where you describe the inside of the pub told me that Geoff was intimately – or at all – familiar with it. I think that devalues the scene a little, because if you do make it more unsettling that there’s nobody in there, and no comfort even at his regular watering hole, it would be stronger for the atmosphere.
The next point of confusion comes in how you structure the ladder paragraph. It goes from „there is a ladder“ to Jen’s face to where Geoff does NOT want to be, then he sees his Audi (?), and for some reason now he knows where he wants to be, and that is up the ladder. And the thing is, you mention the ladder before he sees the Audi, suggesting that he thought of climbing even before spotting the spider. But why? And why would he even want to go after the Audi-spider?
It then turns out that it wasn’t the Audi at all but a new „character“ entirely, the Hilux/Max (another small hitch in my reading the story as I mentally replaced the car model in my mind), and it’s taking Geoff for a joyride. After a while of a nice „action“ scene with a good description of the cityscape, Geoff decides that he does in fact want to go home after all (I get why, because his concern for safety overrides his reluctance to see her again), but Max has a different idea of taking him up to a seemingly random building, so Geoff gets out. But then he climbs the building on his own regardless. His only motivation for getting out I see is „I don’t want the carspider to take me up there“, but then he takes himself up there instead, and it’s obviously harder than letting the spider do it. It would be more understandable if he was afraid that the spider would eat him or something, but at no point does he express any sense of being afraid or disgusted or even mildly concerned with the whole surreal situation. So why not see where Max takes him?
Anyway, if you have to have Geoff climb through the metal web, this should be more than two sentences, imho. That would be a great scene of struggle through a claustrophobic and entirely alien environment, but you don’t do anything with it. Then he meets Jen, and it’s also incredibly sudden; why is she up there as well, brought by Max I presume?
Jen does take the ring and makes the bizarre statement that a car-sized spider could possibly „use“ it in his nest, somehow. Then Geoff’s tension is released and I don’t know why. How does her taking the ring back and giving the statement I admittedly don’t get at all make him feel better? Closure?
And finally, who is the puppy? Is Max going to have carspider kids? With whom, the Audi? Is Jen pregnant? With Max’s spawn?! What is the nest for please tell me
|# ¿ Apr 9, 2019 22:01|
In with a flash, please!
I'd also like to use this post to thank all the people who have critted my stories in the past pages. I promised myself that I'd thank everyone personally when I first started writing for here but I slacked off. I'm sorry . I love that you all take the effort.
|# ¿ Apr 9, 2019 22:42|
Thank you so much for the crits, especially Blowout!
|# ¿ Apr 10, 2019 06:33|
You get Yoruichi’s “What We Are Capable Of.”
Your Auras Paint an Ugly Picture
Her aura blinded me like early morning’s light reflecting off fresh snow. And I stared into that light with foolish eyes wide open. Had I not cemented long ago my decision to ignore, no, subdue my gift? My conscience reminded me of this, then pleaded, then screamed, but it was powerless against the wonder I beheld. Churning around her brilliance, a murky sea of filthy auras. The rotten-algae green of greed. The aged piss of jealousy. Someone’s head surrounded by the color of an inflamed wound, violent rage in a pot always about to boil over. All of the world’s worst colors mixed and mismatched in their people, those disgusting sinners who wore their crimes openly for me.
Not she. Untainted, unprecedented. I plied her with words, and it was trivial to see a thundercloud grey or unwashed brown mix into her aura whenever I chose them badly. Worry, shame, anger – I knew their hues well, the bad emotions that lead to the permanent stains of bad actions. Quickly, I learned which words kept her aura the white of detergent commercials. My conscience was reduced to a hoarse whisper by the time I had made her invite me up to her room. Shyly, carefully, I kissed the pure ideal of a woman, the one, and she smiled shyly back. Asked if I wanted more, and I started to say that I wanted everything from her, the one person in world who did not disgust me with the sins I could see in their auras.
But the words rotted in my mouth when I saw it spread up from beneath her waist: the taint, the sin. The decayed flesh tone of the adulteress.
She noticed my mood drop, asked what’s wrong. Why don’t you ask your boyfriend? I wanted to spit. Or your husband or whoever, whore. But as if I had witnessed someone slash apart the Mona Lisa, I was rendered speechless, and choked up even more as it dawned on me: I had seduced her with my golden words – all lies – manipulated her, with all my skill, to sully her own aura for me. The one who’d cut apart Da Vinci’s enigmatic beauty: it was me.
I could only fumble in my pocket for the pills I used to take to dampen my senses, to see the sins inside the auras less. I stammered something about them hampering my libido, shook the bottle – empty, undermining my excuse – and fled from the scene of my crime. Her confused and angry cries hounded me for almost as long as the afterimage of her once-perfect glow.
Outside, the filth-pit greeted once again. A laughing couple: she a spoiled-meat cheater, he a tarnished-copper gambler. Years ago, I might have told them. Try and make their auras shine in brighter hues again. And earn a beating, well deserved for not minding my own loving business.
Over time, I had learned how to spin my message: read their reactions when I started talking, devise a way to make them show each other their true colors. And then, the tears, the fights, and the auras filthier than before.
I could not find a way to make the garish world that only I could see more beautiful; and so, eventually, I had just given up.
Taking drugs designed for the heavily depressed made all the auras shine less brightly, as I discovered when I first took them for their intended use. If only I didn’t have to go outside to pick new bottles up. After all, this is how I had met the only girl free from sin, and ruined her.
I reached the morning’s initial goal, the local supercenter’s pharmacy, and handed in my prescription. While waiting for the bottle, her angelic aura loomed into my memory again, and then the glow died once more. I shouldn’t do this ever again, I told myself, like I had told myself so often, and as punishment I forced myself to look around, take in the tapestry of awfulness. It made my head ache and my heart, to have to see this and be forced to just do nothing. I couldn’t take it anymore, and closed my eyes...
Through slitted vision, at last moment, an intruder violated me, forced my head to whip around, eyes ripped open. An aura sucked my gaze in like a black hole, a car wreck impossible to look away from. My heart felt like it stopped, to see the polar opposite of her: the densest tar, the crudest oil. I had seen and failed to bring to justice murderers before: this one was much worse. He wore a suit which might be tan but I could barely see, so dark shone his aura.
Entranced by it, I took the bottle from the harsh green neon liar clerk, who looked concerned when I swallowed three pills immediately. Soon they started dulling all the colors, of bruise-blue thieves and worse wounds’ necrosis shown by far too many rapists, but for this one, no amount of pills could ever help. Besides, it was not me who needed medication in this case.
I followed tan-suit’s evil aura through the store, and without a conscious thought, grabbed a tow cable from a rack in passing. As I stalked him, I briefly wondered why my conscience did not give a single peep of protest. But really, I’d ruined something beautiful already, might as well deal the same hand to the opposite.
Eventually, he stepped into a bathroom, and I followed, and I locked the door, and I wrapped the cable around his neck. The most terrible of humans I had ever seen did struggle hard, of course, but even in the abyss of his aura, I could see the flare-up of red-hot aggressions. I knew when he tried to strike me before he did, I saw the frantic kicking foreshadowed by the cold blue plumes of desperation. And finally, I dropped his twitching corpse the moment the black flame around him ceased its anti-shine.
The deed done, I looked up from the vomit in the sink and half expected to see the color of the sick reflected from the mirror. But no such validation. My own aura was the only one that never showed. So I would never know if committing sin to mete out justice counts as either. And truth to be told - I’d rather learn to trust my faulty conscience on my own than one day find out that my aura looks no better than the one I’d just snuffed out.
|# ¿ Apr 14, 2019 18:25|
The Soft Patter of a Brainchild's Feet
interprompt: I MADE SOMETHING I REGRET but i can explain, please put that down
“An extremely realistic robot spider,” Warren said. “That’s a surprise.”
He picked it up gingerly and took a closer look. “Especially from you.”
“Please please please don’t hold this thing between us while we talk. Oh God.” Pearce wasn’t having a good day. He dared a peek through his fingers, but Warren hadn’t listened, and Pearce’ hands snapped shut again.
“How did you even make this?” Warren sounded genuinely baffled.
Staring hard at the instruments along the walls, Pearce shifted around to one particular console and opened up a 3D drawing. “Proof of concept for this program.” As he explained, the tremble gradually faded from his voice. “I give it a basic skeleton, and the printer back there –“ he pointed, catching sight of Warren holding up the spider still, and flinched, “– b-back there, it sprays a rubber compound I, I came up with…or rather the materials people…anyway, that’s how the coating is made.”
Warren bounced the model up and down, admiring how the joints flexed slightly and then back to neutral. Pearce fussed with some program settings.
“Why a spider, though?”
“The most complicated skeleton I could think of.” Pearce swallowed drily, shuffled sideways, back to Warren, until he reached the shelf with all the prototypes. He lifted one up and to the side so his colleague could see it with him having to turn around. “It’s very abstract without the…skin…chitin, I guess?”
Warren suddenly was next to him, and Pearce assumed a very stiff posture. “Are…are you still holding it?”
“Oh, sure,” Warren murmured, studying the eight metal limbs of the prototype. “The robotics people are amazing at this poo poo.” He gave a whistle through his teeth. “So, do they work?”
“This one has a switch,” Warren explained gently, and touched it, and the prototype began to move its legs in a carefully programmed rhythm. Pearce screamed, and flung his hand up, and the prototype went flying.
With a heroic dive, Warren caught it. It skittered in his hand, and he deactivated it with some effort.
“Of course, they wouldn’t give you a fully functioning one to toy around with.” He shook his head, getting up while dusting himself off. “You did use one without motors for your coating test, right?”
Pearce’ expression spoke of more than just the terror of his phobia. Warren’s eyebrows rose, but he didn’t say anything. It was Pearce who broke the silence.
“Where did it go? The coated one. Where did it go?”
Warren looked around to where the realistic rubber-coated spider should have landed, but it was nowhere close to that spot. He imagined hearing the patter of soft rubber on the laboratory’s floor, and judging from how Pearce could rival his lab coat’s freshly laundered whiteness, he could imagine it as well.
“I’ll tell the robotics people that they need to make the switches less sensitive,” Warren said. He calmly walked to the door, making sure not to step on anything on the way. “I’ll leave you to writing a report, then. Should be great! Pay rise for sure!”
With a thumbs up and a grin too wide for simple friendliness, Warren closed the door behind him. Pearce stood frozen in the middle of a lonely lab, no company but fading laughter from outside, and a very real patter of eight very realistic legs that got louder, louder, louder.
|# ¿ Apr 15, 2019 16:31|
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2022 00:39|
I'm in with Easter-themed masterpiece He is the Resurrection and Life.
|# ¿ Apr 26, 2019 14:53|