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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Staggy posted:

Bad Seafood - Your beast is the Stag
The Hunt (699 words)

I learned to shoot at the age of twelve. There was a war going on and all the boys in the village were eager to prove themselves on the field of battle. One by one they boarded the train. My brother was among them.

"I will return a hero," he said with a smile, "Or not at all."

"With our young men gone," my grandfather asked, "Who is to keep us safe? Who will patrol the woods?" It was decided then he would teach the girls. I was family. I was first.

Grandfather kept an old bolt-action rifle above the fireplace. It was almost as old as he was. He cleaned it every Sunday. He taught me how to take it apart and put it back together.

"You must not be afraid, child. It is only a tool."

"It looks evil."

"Take it apart and judge for yourself. Wood and metal. The evil is here." He tapped his finger to his head.

It was midwinter when we first ventured out. The trees were bare and black and thin. Grandfather wore his snakeskin coat. He shouldered the rifle. I carried the bullets.

"There," he said with a chill on his breath. I looked and saw a beautiful stag. A perfect white, untamed and untainted.

Grandfather held out his hand. I pushed two bullets into his palm. Placing one between his teeth, he chambered the other, got down on one knee.

"Exhale first," he told me, "Then shoot." He did. There was a great and terrible crack, and a thin red trickle sprung from the stag, the side of its face. The creature let out a mournful sound and turned and darted between the trees.

Grandfather watched it go.

"It's getting away," I said. I tugged on his sleeve. I handed him another bullet. He handed it back, along with the other.

"Listen carefully," he said "When you are fighting for your life, it's a matter of survival. You must be prepared to fight to the end, and of course you must use everything you have. But when you are hunting, it's a matter of honor. Neither bird nor beast have anything which compares to the power of this rifle." He gripped it in both hands. "You have only one shot. If you cannot take your prey with a single shot, you do not deserve to take them."

I nodded but said nothing.

We returned that evening to the light of the fire. Noticing my distance, grandfather told me this.

"A stag is a powerful thing, my child. They say to drink its blood will cure whatever plagues your heart. If that is true then surely my bullet is nothing to such a beast. Now come, let us eat."

A few years went by. The war had finished. My brother was as good as his word. They all were as good as his word. Nobody slept for two whole nights.

On the third night I rose from my bed. I put on my grandfather's coat. I took his rifle from the fireplace.

It was winter again. The black trees stretched up into the sky, a vast dark canopy of starless night. I moved through the snow, the rifle over my shoulder, my pockets full of bullets. I knew it had to be here somewhere. If grandfather couldn't kill it, no one could.

As I crossed the hill it stood in the moonlight. White and beautiful, but marred by a scar. I got down on one knee and raised my rifle. I chambered a bullet and aimed for the beast.

"Your blood will soothe the aching of my heart, yes? If I drink my fill, I can forget this madness. We all can forget this terrible madness." I breathed in.

The stag turned and looked at me in the dark. Its eyes were black and deep and quiet.

We stood awhile in silence, at the end of the world. At last I exhaled. I stood up, and fired into the night sky.

"Begone," I said. "Before another comes who believes as I. Live as long and hard as you can."

The stag said nothing, but nodded, and left.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

Do your worst.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Heavenly Bodies (920 words)

The cosmonauts were transfixed with wonderment as the sun set — over the Earth — there lucklessly, untethered Comrade Todd on fire.

"Incredible," said Milan. He held a single coin, a silver ruble, at eye level. He glanced from the coin to the burning ball of light. "To think it truly was that size."

"Is this what God sees every day?" asked Nikita.

"Holy loving poo poo," whispered Boris, "Holy gently caress."

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa," screamed Todd, engulfed in cosmic flame. He toppled to his knees and crumpled like burnt paper. Soon he wasn't even ash on the wind. The flag he’d carried was less than a memory.

Milan whistled. "Glad I didn't pull the short straw."

"We'll need to draw again."

"Are you guys loving seeing this? Todd is loving dead!"

The three reclined above the firmament in matching lawn chairs, red on yellow. Beneath them stretched the surface of the Earth. The bell jar of humanity and other, lesser insects. A petri dish capped by a thin glass dome - a thin glass dome they'd punctured with a rocket.

The sun dipped below the horizon and was gone. "We've got a few hours," said Nikita, "Before dawn."

Milan removed his fishbowl helmet and scratched his beard. If not for the air escaping the dome, such a gesture would be suicide. "I'll get the other flags."

Boris was hugging his knees. His eyes were wide and trembling and bloodshot. "What the gently caress," he repeated, "What the gently caress. What the gently caress." He rocked back and forth while the moon crept up beside.

"Boris, please," said Milan, "Where is your composure. We need you still, to fly us back."

"Todd is dead you gently caress! And back? What back!? All the oxygen's escaping!" He pointed to the hole where they'd punched through the dome.

"In a few hundred years," said Nikita with flat dismissal. Then she looked to the moon. Her eyes narrowed. “Milan."

"Hmm?"

"Milan, there’s no flag.”

“Wait, really? drat it. I was sure we had another.”

“No, you idiot, the American one.”

She pointed. Milan looked, and understood.

The moon hung low in the divine amphitheater, its pock-marked face shimmering like bone. Its surface turned unmarred by that symbol of greed, the American flag; the red, white, and blue. Milan did a double take, pleased by its absence, and yet…

“If they weren’t up here,” he said, “What are we doing up here?”

“I knew it was a studio lot,” said Nikita, her brow furrowed in irritation. “I knew it, I knew it. How would they even get picture that clear?”

“So Todd died for gently caress-all,” said Boris. His cracked lips trembled in the presence of the sphere.

The American moon landing had broken across their shores like a tidal wave. They couldn’t believe it, they wouldn’t believe it, but inklings of doubt slunk in through the cracks. “If they can put a man on the moon,” said Brezhnev, shoe in hand, “Then we shall put a man on the sun!”

“We should fake it,” advised Stalin’s brain in a jar. “Like with Yuri Gagarin.”

“We’ll do it for real!”

So it was the children of men broke through the glass ceiling to stare in awe at stars hung on strings.

The night stretched on as the cosmonauts quarreled. Milan went back to the ship for more flags. He returned a little loopy from the excess oxygen. Nikita took one and jammed it in the moon. The tiny rock’s orbit sunk a few inches. The waves far below encroached a few miles.

Boris was on his hands and knees, staring at his homeland through the glass between his fingers. His lips and eyes and throat were dry. He saw the rise of the sun in the East, on the far side of the antarctic wall, and shuddered.

“Guess that’s it,” said Milan. He lit a cigarette. “You got the straws Nikita? Time for round two.”

“I already planted our flag on the moon. Let the Americans do it on the sun.”

“The mission was to claim to sun. We’ll claim both and return as heroes.”

Boris began screaming. He leapt to his feet and punched Milan straight in the fishbowl helmet. Milan fell backwards, scattering the flags. Boris grabbed one and charged for the sun. As he drew close, his suit began to smoke and tear. He burst into flames. He pushed on through.

He collapsed on all fours, breathless and burning. He could hear his blood cooking in the presence of the star. He winced up at that diminutive ball of fire. He raised the flag and flung it like a spear. The shaft flew true with its blood red cape. It pierced the sun and sank into the plasma.

Boris slumped down, disintegrated, and ceased.

Milan and Nikita stood there in awe-struck wonder. At last they saluted, Nikita with a nod.

“Rest in peace, you glorious bastard,” said Milan. “I suppose with that done, we can finally go.”

“Should we tell them?” asked Nikita. “About the shape of the world.”

“Eh.” He shrugged. “Not my job to report.”

Packing up the lawn chairs, they returned to the rocket. It was only then that an errant thought wormed its way into Milan’s skull.

“Say, Comrade Nikita.”

“Hmm?”

“Wasn’t Boris the one who knew how to fly?”

The rising sun cast the whole world in gold, the glory of Communism plain to all.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


I'm in.

Hit me up senpai.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


The Burden of Faith (945 words)

"You're the first of us to go. You'll do fine. Keep your chin up, eyes forward. You're capable of greatness. You have to believe that."

Jesse stepped off the bus with her duffel bag, smartphone in hand, her earbuds in place. It was six in the morning and she'd been listening to the same song on repeat. She hit replay and tucked it away.

She wore her brother's jacket and her hair cut short. Her hair was a vibrant bubblegum blue. No real reason. She just liked the color. If you didn't like it, you could go to Hell. Her brother's jacket was a little large. Her fingers emerged from the sleeves like talons. "I'm gonna getcha," she'd say to her dog. Arms up, talons bared. She was to be feared.

Myriad patches covered the jacket. Mementos from concerts she'd never attended.

The bus shut its doors and disappeared into the desert. In the distance she saw it: the shape of Salvation.

"Easy now, easy. You're getting by. Everyone struggles their first semester. You'll figure out what you want soon enough."

Jesse's dad operated a car shop at the outskirts of town. You knew a guy who knew a guy. That guy was him. He was short and bald with tired, calloused hands. Even so, he remembered to smile.

It was her brother who first spoke of going to college. Dad was supportive. “I’ll do what I can.” When she threw her name in there as well, he burst into laughter. “You two are gonna have me working nights!”

The accident was both a blessing and a curse. There was no way on Earth he could’ve paid for both of them.

Jesse stared down the Mountain. She tightened her grip on the bag at her side.

Salvation Mountain. She’d heard of it in passing. Nobody’d told her what it was. She’d only found out a few weeks ago, when her roommate found it on the Internet: a man-made mountain made from adobe, covered in paint, preaching God’s love.

“Man it looks ugly,” her roommate had said. She’d nodded absent-mindedly. Now, here she was.

A bearded young man near the entrance welcomed her, a puka shell necklace wrapped around his wrist. “Little early, ain’t it?”

“I want to see the sunrise.”

The young man laughed and waved her through. “No drugs or alcohol, and don’t leave your liter.”

Jesse approached the Mountain. It looked like a birthday cake fallen from heaven. Technicolor terraces covered in prayers, a cold metal cross all alone at the peak. The Mountain glowed in the early morning darkness.

The Mountain had been created and maintained by a man who believed in the enduring power and simplicity of Christ’s love. GOD IS LOVE claimed the Mountain, over and over, in every size and every color. There at the base sprang the yellow brick road. It snaked up Mountain till reaching the top. JESUS I’M A SINNER said the heart of the Mountain. COME UPON MY BODY, AND INTO MY HEART.

Jesse’s song ended. She took out her earbuds and put them in her pocket. She took a deep breath and shuddered in the calm. She dropped her duffel bag and sat down on it. She faced the Mountain and waited for the sun.

The Mountain had taken almost thirty years to build. She was looking at a third of someone’s whole life. A little garish, sure, but she wouldn’t call it ugly. Thirty years of love poured out for mankind. She could think of far worse to do for thirty years.

She wondered whether or not she was supposed to pray. Prayer felt appropriate, but the words wouldn’t come. “If this were a film I’d say something profound.” Instead she sat in silence. She hugged her knees, and waited.

“You’re capable of more, Miss Nowak. I don’t believe you’ve been giving your all. You’ve scraped by for now. You’re safe for the semester. In the new year I expect to see far more from you.”

The horizon turned blue, then a powerful orange, as the sun broke over the edge of the world. The cross turned black, consumed in light. The sun rose higher. The Mountain bloomed.

Once faded colors burned with clear, crisp purity. Greens and yellows and pinks and blues. She felt like a character in a pop-up book. A life-sized Candyland. The Wizard of Oz.

The yellow brick rolled was rolled out before her. Jesse stood up. She started the hike.

It was easy enough to reach the top. The Mountain itself was completely deserted. She wove between declarations of love. She reached the top and looked out from the peak. The desert spread out in every direction. Its vast emptiness was a sobering sight. Here on this island of love and color the world seemed a mighty, insurmountable thing.

She looked up to the cross. It alone stood naked and exposed, more like the wastes surrounding the Mountain. A harsh reminder, and a simple promise. She took a seat and looked to the sky. A plane was gently passing over.

“I miss you Brad,” she said to no one. “I’m trying my hardest. I’ll keep on trying.”

She stood up and turned to the cross. She bowed her head. Whispered some words. The trek back down passed with nary a sound. Soon she was waiting at the bus stop again.

She watched the cars awhile, then took out her phone. She dialed her dad's number. She could already see his smile.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

Hit me, dollface.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Diving Expedition - 566 words



The apartment was full to the brim with water. A three-room aquarium, semi-furnished, suspended in liquid. Claire stood there in the hallway, her free hand to her temple. Though she held the door open, no water emerged. The flood within retained its shape.

Henri prodded at the doorway where the surface tension gathered, and recoiled. "It's real," he said. He tested it again. At his feet was the box of Chinese food he'd dropped.

"Charlie," Claire muttered. She tapped her foot.

"Who?"

"My pet. He does this when he feels unhappy."

"He floods the entire apartment?"

'"He's an octopus."

"That..." Henri hesitated. He looked from Claire to the waterlogged apartment. "I don't think-

"I'll take care of it," she said. She flashed a weak smile. Her eyes looked tired. More tired than normal.

Rolling up her sleeves, she took a few breaths - slow and measured - and stepped through the portal, eyes shut tight. The surface tension closed up around her, sealing her form within the room.

The water was cold and clear and cruel. It enveloped her body, her shirt billowing around her. She retained control. She opened her eyes. She was in her living room, completely submerged. The bedroom lay beyond, and farther still the bathroom. She clenched her fist and moved through the water.

The contents of her apartment drifted around her: her books, her mail, her clothes like seaweed. A batch of cut flowers had escaped their vase. They hung in the air as though trapped in blue amber.

Claire cut through to the bathroom, to Charlie's domain.

The bathroom stood in sharp contrast to the rest of the apartment. Even flooded, it was an obnoxiously wholesome pink. There, floating above the sink, Charlie caressed the mirror with his tentacles.

Claire's expression grew stern. She reached for the octopus, only for him to slip away across the tiled wall. Fighting forward through the water, she could feel her breath running low. She leaned down and found the bathtub. The drain had been plugged. She reached down and yanked it out.

There was a pop, and a rush of water greeted Henri at the doorway. The apartment flooded out into the corridor, through the cracks in the doors of the other tenants, washing him away down the stairs.

As the water drained, Claire swam up to the widening ceiling and broke through the surface. She took a great gasping gulp of hair, her hair plastered about her face, and returned below. Charlie had reached the far window. She shot forth and snared him. He squirted her with ink. She winced and held fast and brought Charlie close. The room around her circled the drain.

Claire blinked. The aquarium was no more. Her apartment was normal, if damp and disordered. She held Charlie nestled close to her heart, his tentacles flailing around her arms. She sighed and stood up, and saw herself in the mirror. Her face and collar were stained a deep black.

"Got him," she said aloud. She kicked off her shoes and stepped out of her socks. She walked barefoot into the living room. Henri was gone. "Henri?" She leaned out the doorway, down the hall. Henri didn't respond. He didn't return.

She held Charlie aloft and sighed, a grim acceptance in her expression.

Charlie squirmed ineffectually in her hands.

"I'll see what's in the fridge, then."

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Duck and Cover (640 words)

The saloon doors swung wide and fell off the hinges. The whole room turned to see who it was. There, framed in shadow, stood Ten-Hats McGee, a decidedly plump mallard tucked beneath his arm. His eyes were cold and and calm and calloused. His nose was bandaged. Severely bandaged.

Old Ten-Hats scanned the room, the unwashed masses; scruffy beards and dirty faces, mouths stuffed full of discount liquorice. At last he spied it, his prey. "Dim" Doc Donahue. His expression darkened. He stepped in from the heat.

The duck quacked once. Twice. The pianist began to play in minor key.

Doc swallowed, a finger at his collar. "Ten-Hats," he said, his throat parched, his voice pitched. "How's... how's it been?" He tried to force a painful smile. His teeth were gold and silver.

"Six weeks," said Ten-Hats drawing closer.

"S-six weeks? Already? My how time-

"You left me out there to die, Donahue."

Doc tightened his grip on his glass of water. Below the table, his right leg pumped with a nervous energy.

"N-now you know that were never my intention, Ten-Hats."

"Maybe," said Ten-Hats. He'd reached the table, duck in hand. "But you did."

Doc leaned back in his chair, a furtive glance to his left, then his right. Those around him pushed back their chairs. It was just him and Ten-Hats, the table, and the duck.

"You know the rules," Ten-Hats said. He presented the duck, turning it around.

Doc kicked up the table, cards flying, and scrambled for an exit. Ten-Hats circled around and snatched at his leg. One clean jerk was all it took. Doc slammed to the ground with a shudder. Ten-Hats was on him. He pinned him to the ground and sat on him.

The rest had pressed back against the walls of the establishment. They could only look on in horror.

"Ten-Hats no! Ten-Hats please!"

"You know the rules!" Ten-Hats repeated. He raised the duck aloft, looked it straight in the eyes. It was the fattest, most rotund duck any of the bar patrons had ever seen.

The duck quacked once. Twice. Three times. Ten-Hats began to lower the avian.

"Ten-Hats please!"

Doc struggled and twisted, only to stare face-first into the depths of the duck's feathered anus. Ten-Hats pressed the bird down upon him. He gently massaged its slender neck.

The duck ripped the loudest, longest, largest fart any man, woman, or child had ever heard. Bystanders fell back flat against one another, overpowered by the wave of flatulence. The air was thick and stale and sickly. The stench was simply

indescribable.

Coughing and wheezing, hands and handkerchiefs over mouths and noses, the crowd dispersed in every direction. They bust through doors and jumped out windows. The bartender hopped the counter and sped for the entrance. The piano player stayed just long enough to play one last note on blast before hurling himself out after his boss.

Doc's instinctual fear overrode his common sense. He screamed. He shouldn't have. The duck wasn't finished.

For the next ten minutes that duck produced such a symphony of gaseous expulsion such had never been equaled in all the animal kingdom. By the time it was finished, Doc had long since passed out. The duck itself had grown limp and scrawny, its feathered flesh hanging loose about its skeletal body.

The duck quacked once. Only once, and never again.

Ten-Hats stood up, the duck cradled in his arms like a newborn babe. Turning on his heel, he made for the door, only to stop at the exit and look back at Doc.

"Let this be a lesson, Doc. Don't ever duck with me again."

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 15:18 on Feb 13, 2019

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Jacking in.

Hit me up, flashman.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Social Climbers (1198 words)

The Sink was a mile wide and twenty deep, digging deeper. Those who could afford to lived close to the bottom, where the earth was still warm. Sofia lived near the rim. A ring of factories formed the perimeter. An umbrella was required. A gas mask was a luxury.

Sofia boarded the tube and brushed the ashen residue from her hair and shoulders. She wore a high-collar jacket and a blue snakeskin scarf. Her eyes suggested a routine lack of sleep.

She reached into her pocket and produced her phone, a government-issued obsidian rectangle. She tapped the screen. A chip in her inner ear picked up the signal.

“Good morning Officer,” her phone announced with a sing-song cadence. Its voice was soft and sweet and sincere. “I hope you’re ready to seize the day!”

“Mute surround,” she said, “Invite only.”

“Yes ma’am!” A chime, then the world fell silent.

The tube filled up with gas and bodies. Her compartment was sealed and shot into the depths. The world beyond was electric fusion. The Sink constricted, changing shape. Rows upon rows of sterile apartments pressed together, splitting open; an intestinal network of restaurants and shops, a jury-rigged labyrinth of commerce and light. Here was the Drain, the great melting pot. The rich climbed up while the poor slid down.

Seven minutes. Eight. The doors shuddered open. Sofia stepped out into the bazaar. The air was thick with incense and color, but her inner ear preserved the sound of silence.

The old man’s stall was three blocks down. The old man himself somber, Korean. A tattoo on his wrist told the tale of crimes past. His store sold cigarettes, fire arms, and gum.

“Red Leaves,” Sofia said, holding up her phone for identification. “Two packs.”

The old man nodded, tossed them to the counter. Sofia transferred payment. Her phone chirped to life.

“Patronizing local business! Five-day combo! Level up,” then “Self-destructive consumer habits! Five-day combo! Level dooooooown.”

Sofia scooped up the cigarettes. She offered a practiced, two-finger salute. The old man smiled and waved her off. She marched on down, her face impassive, her mood betrayed by a spring in her step.

The closest chute was out of order. She found another. She tossed the packs in.

“Proper public disposal procedure. Five-day combo! Level up. Squandering resources, excess waste. Five-day combo! Level dooooooown.”

“What was that about?”

Sofia flinched and spun round, wide-eyed, arms extended, ready for combat. Eddie stood some ten feet behind, hands in his pockets, sullen and skeptical. Sofia recognized him and let out a sigh. She shot him a furrowed look.

Eddie was her current partner. She couldn’t mute him. It wasn’t allowed.

Eddie crossed the street on long, spider-like legs. He wore a leather jacket that buttoned down the side, a rusted red with a skull on the back. “You just throw them away?”

“I don’t smoke.”

“But you buy them?”

“You stalk girls?”

Please,” Eddie threw his hands up, his expression weary, a perpetual squint. “I saw you from the tube. Figured we were headin’ down the same channel.”

Sofia shut her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose with her fingers. “Very well then,” she said. “Let’s go.”

“Seems like a waste is all,” said Eddie. “Don’t even service your social credit.”

“He’s an old friend.”

“The old guy?”

“I like throwing business his way.”

“You know he’s got gum.”

“I don’t chew gum.”

The two circled the Drain until they reached the Dead Center. That gaping urban maw, and below: a glass dome. Beneath it the wealthy lived lives of idle pleasure, supported by synthetic sunlight and air. The dome of course had been rendered opaque. The old sky was visible from the other side.

The opening itself was host to string of restaurants, bars, and curiosity shops. Sofia often came down here for work.

“Diagnostics,” she said, barely above a whisper.

“Aye aye ma’am!” Her phone complied.

In an instant her eyes were awash in information. She blinked several times to tweak her resolution. The Dead Center was flush with inglorious people, their data, their statistics all present to see. Sofia merely had to focus her attentions on someone to learn everything worth knowing about them. Their business, their habits, all catalogued activity.

She narrowed in on two men on the far side. They were holding a spirited conversation over coffee and scrambled eggs. One wore a black suit. The other wore white. White was the target. Ser Silas Mu.

“Forty-two, single, clears his search history.” The list went on. Sofia clicked her tongue. “Eddie, would you please?”

“I gotcha girl, I gotcha, I gotcha.”

Eddie went about locating a proper vantage point. An emergency ladder, just barely accessible. His fingers brushed it, eased it down. He did so with care so as not to make a sound. Not that it mattered. No one listened to anything that didn’t concern them.

Eddie patted Sofia on the shoulder, and the two ascended the ladder to the third floor walkway. The residence of someone who lived above the store.

“Unmute,” said Sofia.

“Right away ma’am!” A tick, like a cricket, and the noise came flooding back.

There was a sound of running water, a radio, a singer. Someone it seemed was starting their day. Sofia peered through the window. The apartment was a mess. Clothes and paperbacks, boxes upon boxes. The door to the bathroom stood slightly ajar, a cloud of steam pouring forth.

Sofia strained her ears to make out the song. Bohemian Rhapsody. It wasn’t the radio.

Just killed a man,” she muttered. “Eddie, you’ve got five.”

“Five whole minutes?”

“Minus seven seconds. Think you hit it from here?”

Eddie reached up and scratched his chin, then proceeded to pop open his jacket. Piece by piece, he produced a number of odds and ends, clicking them together with casual precision.

“Four minutes,” Sofia reminded him. She reigned in her focus on Ser Silas Mu. His social credit was considerable. A real go-getter. In the Sink mere money only got you so far. You had to play ball if you wanted it all. He wasn’t clean, of course. Nobody was. But men like Silas knew how to navigate the system. His crimes weren’t crimes. They were flexible ethics.

“Three minutes.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Eddie held the rifle in his hands. A data-nagant. It fried from a distance. Crouching down low, he lined up the shot.

Mu pulled out his phone to check something. Eddie pulled the trigger. The phone screen lit up, and died. Sofia’s data updated immediately. Silas’ credit score was dropping like a comet.

“Hacking private property! Three-day combo! Level dooooooown. Incoming credit! Five hundred-day combo! Level up! Level up! Level up!”

“What the-””

Sofia and Eddie both turned to see the bathroom door swinging wide. The singer had called off his performance early.

“Who are you! What is this!?”

Sofia and Eddie sped down the staircase. Eddie leapt down and helped Sofia after. The two spilled out into the flow of foot traffic. Sofia’s phone chimed in her hand.

“Nonconscious voyeurism. First offense! Level dooooooown. Disrupting the flow of traffic! Two-day combo! Level dooooooown.”

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


https://i.imgur.com/brgpjTJ.gifv

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Exmond posted:

Interprompt: 250 words. Umaru happens, the world suffers.
https://i.imgur.com/QPsDDcv.gifv

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

Flash me, Rhinoboy.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Pit Stop (985 words)

Fumiko returned from her smoke break to learn that aliens had landed on the planet Earth. There were three of them now, here in the restaurant. The rest of the staff and patrons had fled.

“Captain, captain,” said the one, “Another human female approaches.”

“A sign from the gods,” said the one called captain.

“Of course, of course,” said the one unaddressed.

The three of them stood together on the counter. Tiny little fellows, scarcely a foot. Their bodies resembled pasty white tubers. Their heads were like daikons inset with eyes. Beady little eyes, vacant and milky. From two of their heads sprouted leafy green stalks. The captain had four, the other just two. The third was bald. All three saluted.



Fumiko offered a half-lidded stare. Through the window she saw their considerable saucer. A massive spaceship dwarfing the restaurant. A fourth tiny fellow had shimmied up the meter. They’d produced a small purse and were inserting change.

Fumiko fished for the pack of cigarettes she kept in her back pocket.

“Captain, captain,” said the one with two stalks, “It might be prudent to confirm our suspicions.”

“Quite right, quite right,” said the one who was bald.

“Human female,” said the captain. He spoke in a deep voice, clear and commanding. “Is this not a way station where one might imbibe organic nutrients necessary for survival?”

“I mean,” said Fumiko. She removed a cigarette and tossed the pack by the cash register. “We serve food.”

“Ah ha!” The captain clapped and turned to the others. “It seems we have reached the desired destination. Human female!” The captain pointed at the girl. “My associates and I have traveled a great many tedious and unthinkable light years to reach this humble backwater planet. Malnourished as we are, it is imperative we obtain the required nutrients provided herein.”

Fumiko blinked. She’d been twirling the cigarette between her fingers.

“You came all this way for a bite to eat?”

“Ah, no! I misunderstanding,” said the captain, “An error in need of immediate adjustment. No, no, human female, we have come to lay claim to your resource-rich planet as an expression of imperialist rhetoric, desiring both your goods and labor, held hereafter in perpetuity.”

The captain’s two fellows shared a glance. The bald one nudged the other to contribute.

“Ah, ah, captain,” said the one with two stalks, leaning in, “High command advised against freely disclosing such information to the indigenous species.”

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said the bald one.

“Oh,” said the captain, who shuddered, then recovered. “We have come to lay claim to your planet, yes, yes, as an expression of tourist attraction!” He saluted, then recoiled. “But yes, I confess, our hunger is great.”

Fumiko fiddled with the cigarette, arms crossed, a grim expression on her face. At last she sighed. “Well then,” she said, “I’ll whip something up. Go on, take a seat.”

“A turn of good fortune! This human woman is at our disposal!”

“Don’t go getting any ideas,” she said. “I just don’t like to see anyone hungry.”

The restaurant had been designed so that the customers could watch as their food was prepared. As Fumiko began, more fellows filed in. The restaurant soon filled, two to a stool; a captive audience in awe of rice cookers.

Fumiko tucked the cigarette behind her ear. She washed her hands.

A number of half-prepared meals were abandoned. She brushed them aside to make room for her own. She readied several pans, cracking eggs one-handed. She mixed in the milk, then onions, to stir. There were chicken breasts too, and just enough. Pre-rolled in crumbs. She submerged them in oil.

The captain sat closest to the fryer, hands rubbing.

“Hmm.” Fumiko bent down, then looked behind. They’d very few bowls left, most of them dirty. She remembered she was supposed to clean them upon resuming her shift. “Well shoot.”

She glanced over her shoulder at the captain, his crew. She remembered something else. She made for the back. The fellows oooed as she returned, sakurajima radishes cradled in her arms, a curved carving knife between her teeth.

The rice cooker dinged. Setting down the spoils, she reached up and pulled down a long pair of tongs, clacking them twice. Piece by piece she snatched up the chicken, now a deep and alluring brown.

Fumiko arranged the many disparate parts of her meal in assembly line fashion. First were the radishes; chop, chop, scoop, scoop. Each formed two bowls, symmetrical halves. The bowls she lined with piping hot rice, small cuts of omelet, and slices of chicken.

“Order up,” she said, “Katsudon.” She passed the first radish bowl to the captain. One by one each guest was served. They dug in greedily, their gratitude apparent.

“Incredible,” said the captain, hand on belly. “To think such flavors were available to us. This goes far beyond the sustenance requested. We misjudged you humans. We assumed you more primitive.”

“You’re welcome,” said Fumiko with an irritated stare, but the sounds of satisfaction quickly mellowed her edge.

“Of course we are,” said the captain with pride. He conferred with the others and pulled out a wallet, placing it in Fumiko’s hands. She peaked within. Her eyes grew wide. “A generous sum for services rendered!”

The fellows filed out in groups of two, the captain last. The odd one out.

“So,” said Fumiko. She placed the wallet by the register. “Conquering Earth. What’s next for you guys? Flying over the White House? Making an appearance at the U.N. Building?”

“Ah, no, no,” said the captain. “Premature. Our vessel’s purpose is reconnaissance. We must report back to high command. They must be informed of your planet’s suitability. Rest assured, rest assured, we shall return to take our place as administrators.”

“Right, so,” Fumiko plucked the cigarette out from behind her ear. “Sometime next Christmas?”

“Give or take a millennia.”

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


sebmojo posted:

Hello my name is Sebmojo I promise hellrules but really they are weak baby rules because I am a weak baby kiwi plant.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


sebmojo posted:

Each of your sentences must have exactly five words.
A Gift as an Apology (500 words)

The grass was finally greener. It’d only taken fifty years.

It was midday, still warm. Iosefka sat in a heap. She’d longed to remove it. Her gas mask, her prison. But now she was tired. She looked to the field. Her life’s work before her. She thought she might cry.

“Easy there girl,” said Henri. He crouched down beside her. His face, too, was masked. Two small portholes, uniform, glossy. A compact nozzle, tightly packed. Through keyholes he saw her. He saw the whole world.

“We did it,” she said. “At long last we’re free. From fire and from fear. We have repaid our debts.”

Flowers the color of sulfur. Here and there, peppered about. She reached to take one. Henri held out an arm. He caught her, stopped her. She saw, remembered, and withdrew.

“Can’t do that,” he said. “They all have to grow.”

“I know that, I know. I know it, I do.”

In the beginning was light. From that came all else. From that came the Earth. And then there was Man.

Man made light, then war. Then all war was light. The world was wiped clean. The guilty were no more.

Iosefka had been a child. She huddled in the darkness. She’d prayed out to God. “Please forgive us our sins.”

Soon enough, the silence came. God had given an answer.

They were all slowly dying. “The last generation,” she said. Soon they would be memory. They were walking ancient history. “Even so, we’re not done.” She spoke out with resolution. “This won’t be our story. At least, not the ending.”

“We can never be forgiven.” Henri stood, crossed his arms. “We don’t deserve it either. We’re damned for all time.”

“Then drat us,” she said. “But I’ll plant the seed. We’ll help the world heal. We’ll return what we’ve taken.”

That was fifty years ago.

Iosefka leaned into her companion. Shoulder to shoulder, suits touching.

“What comes next,” he asked.

“A beautiful world,” she said. Her eyelids drooped, fighting sleep.

Henri reached into his pack. He pulled out a radio. He’d just replaced the battery. This one was his last.

He turned the thing on. He tuned it with care. At first it was static. They only had to wait.

“Henri,” she said, eyes closing.

“What is it,” he asked.

“Thank you, just... thank you.”

“You are welcome, my dear.”

They lay together, waiting, listening. The static began to distort. Far above, a satellite passed. Noise become signal, crackling sound. A song like any other. Not a hit to remember.

“I don’t know this one.”

“I don’t know it either.”

“Maybe we can learn it.”

“I think I’d rather listen.”

Two teal suits among green. Two still bodies, losing warmth. Military gas masks, medical gray. A field full of flowers. “And for nothing in return.”

The satellite fell from heaven. Music became noise, then silence.

There were no more fires. There was no more sin.

Only fields full of flowers.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


:siren: Interprompt :siren:

Burdened with glorious purpose; 100 words.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfmrHTdXgK4#t=15s

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Anomalous Blowout posted:

Your authoritarian does not trust modern medicine.
Huòluàn (850 words)

It’d been three months since the Christians arrived. They claimed they were doctors. Chen Zi knew better.

They’d come down the river, from Lanzhou, and set up shop along its banks. They lived in tents and flew the British flag. They offered their services to anyone for free. Provincial peasants, young and old, gathered by the river in hopes of treatment. Even the village headmen would come.

Even the headmen. Chen Zi shook his head.

He sat at the threshold of his quarters, facing east. Before him, in the courtyard, his daughter bowed her head. She was on her hands and knees.

Zi paid her no mind. He had heard her request, but did not respond. He was composing a letter to the regional governor. Surely he would intervene.

Bao waited in silence, each brushstroke an eternity. Beyond the gates, several more stood waiting. Waiting for the headman to acknowledge his daughter. Waiting for permissions their neighbors enjoyed.

Zi removed his glasses. He produced a silk handkerchief, wiping them clean. Bao didn’t move. He didn’t look at her.

“Get up,” he commanded. “Return to your husband.”

Bao remained still. She spoke to the stones without raising her head.

“Father, please. Your grandson is dying.”

“You may take him to Zhou Chang, up the mountain.” He inspected his glasses. “He’s a trustworthy man. Well-versed in Li Shizhen.”

Bao shook her head. “We took him last week. Father, please, the doctors by the river are-

Hóng máo guǐ. Thieves and liars.”

“They offer their services free of charge!”

Zi looked past his glasses. “Nothing they offer ever comes for free.” He placed them back upon his face. Once again he took up his brush. “Yáng guǐzi. They will steal your mind with their foreign tinctures; then your soul, with their foreign religion. Then you will be English, like the ā chā down in Hong Kong. No. You will not go. I will not lift my ban.” He paused. “You may tell that to the others.” He then resumed the letter.

Bao sat up. Her face was streaked with quiet tears. “In the next village over, everyone is healthy. They no longer vomit or soil themselves. Down by the river, the head doctor-”

“Is a woman,” Zi said, pinching his beard “Like their dreadful empress. Like our own dowager.” A soft chuckle escaped his lips. “Is this female doctor a widower as well? Women do strange things when they lose their husbands. But you do not even have that excuse.”

Bao gripped the hem of her ruqun dress. She lowered her gaze, holding back the words she could not say.

“The sickness of a child is a serious matter,” Zi continued, “I suppose I cannot begrudge you some silliness; such is your infirmity.” He raised his brush, his letter finished. He folded the paper and signaled for a servant. A trusted one arrived and was given the letter.

At last Zi looked at his daughter. He offered her a smile. “Rise, my daughter. Rise, Chen Bao. When your son is well, such silliness will leave you. You’ll have no more thoughts of those yáng guǐzi. Go now, and arrange a trip with your husband. Zhou Chang will see you. I will prepare a gift.”

He rose to his feet and turned toward his chambers.

“And if he should die?” Bao asked his back.

Zi hesitated a moment before answering.

“Then he dies one of us. I would not owe his life to the mercy of foreign gods. He will not be dependent on dubious potions.”

Bao lowered her head, and stood. A servant came and escorted her out.

Zi waited until he was sure she was gone. He turned and looked around. The courtyard was empty.

He swallowed and shuddered, his hand to his stomach. His intestines had been churning. He entered his room.

To the north he’d hung a mirror. Every morning and evening he’d examine his reflection. When he’d accepted this post, in his youth, there were many village headmen who’d grown fat while the peasants under their charge were lean. When the villagers under his care were lean, he was lean. He made sure of this. He made no exceptions.

He pinched his beard. He thought on the bureaucrats stationed at port. Men who’d grown fat off deals with Europeans. “Yín chóng,” he muttered.

He thought on his father. A serious man who’d valued order, but was willing to entertain new ideas. He’d been a proper official. No mere headman. A true gentleman.

He kept his father’s hat in a trunk at the foot of his bed. An official’s hat, his old guanmao. He thought on his daughter, and on the villagers he knew had entreated her to do this. He thought on their children, his own grandson.

He reached for the hat and held it to his chest. He raised it to his face and inhaled.

Years later, it still stank of opium. “Hóng máo guǐ.” He threw it in the trunk.

His intestines churned.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


This is, in fact, your protagonist's first rodeo.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


The Road to the Sea (662 words)

The knight and his prisoner wade through the marsh. The knight holds the chain. He tugs it as he walks. A dull watercolor consumes the horizon. Carrion-feeders circle overhead.

The prisoner is condemned to die. But not in this place. Not at this time. A haggard youth, malnourished and sullen, shackled to the knight by a worn set of manacles. There one could see gnarled fingers, bent and broken. His tendons had been cut, severed at the knuckle.

The knight is silent. He speaks in foreign tongues. The prisoner is silent. His tongue has been removed.

Clad in rusted, mossy plate, the knight sinks deeper into the moor. Though up to his knees, his footing is sure. He knows this place. This route. Its purpose. From the prison to the gallows, a convict to deliver.

The prisoner trips and falls into the bog. The knight pulls him up with a jerk of the chain.

The prisoner shakes his head, his hair lank and fetid. The knight observes, his own features obscured. His faceless mask, a wrought-iron helmet, spotted and cracked and weathered by duty.

The prisoner coughs and clears his eyes. The knight resumes their forward march.

A lonesome tower pierces the horizon, crooked and twisting, innards burst open. A thatch roof tilts like a wide-brimmed hat. The knight know it well. The two will rest.

It is custom to march the condemned to the sea. Baptized in water, consumed, and forgot.

The tower stands atop an outcropping. The ground is solid and hard and rocky. The knight uncovers the old fire pit. He readies the kindling, summoning fire.

The prisoner slumps against the stone walls. He has nowhere to run. He doesn’t even try.

The knight settles down just across from his charge. His posture is relaxed. He pulls out a small packet. Salted meat, tightly wrapped, and some bread. He raises his visor and feeds his gullet.

The prisoner watches with dwindling eyes.

The knight reclines. He examines his charge. Once this was one who invoked the lost names. With deft hands he’d plucked at the thread of the spider. Now he lay crippled, waiting to die. In time the lad shuts his weary eyes. The knight lets him sleep. He swallows more meat.

The carrion-feeders come to roost. They perch atop the roof in great numbers.

Time slips past. The knight rises up. He puts out the fire. He tugs on the chain. The prisoner wakes, his palm to his eyes. His fingers are useless, splintered, and limp.

The knight stands at the threshold. Before him the marshland consumes the horizon. The sea softly sleeps just beyond the stars. He tugs on the chain.

The prisoner struggles to his feet. He leans against the wall, dust and exhaustion.

For a moment there is stillness. Then the knight approaches.

From his pack he produces a sliver of meat. He presses it into the prisoner’s mouth. The prisoner grinds it down with his teeth. The knight takes the bread and breaks it in his hands.
He breaks it to pieces. Small pieces. Feed. He places each morsel within the youth’s cheeks.

The prisoner shuts his eyes again. Bread and meat. How long has it been.

The knight looks again toward the horizon. He beckons the prisoner to follow him still. The prisoner steps and collapses once more. This time his body lies still for all time.

The carrion-feeders lick their lips. They watch from the rooftop, but dare not descend.

The prisoner was condemned to die. But not at this time. Not in this place. The sea would swallow his bones and regrets. Now he was lost. There’d be no restitution. No judge would pay for a copper for a corpse.

The knight kneels down at the side of the prisoner. He lifts the youth up in both arms like a bride. He faces the sea and walks ever onward.

The carrion-feeders disperse in the night.

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