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QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Sitting Here posted:

GET IN THIS PROMPT, ASSHOLES

i do what i want and what i want is to be in.

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QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P




A Natural Selection
988 words

They were always laughing at him.

The rich idiots he called friends. The so-called comedians on television. His father. He had to force himself to stop scrolling through Twitter and to disable the Google Alerts going to his e-mail. He’d already lost one phone after hurling it from the balcony of his penthouse apartment and, as his fingers squeezed tight, realized he was close to losing another, this time in the savanna.

Hands shaking, he flipped to his newsfeed and found everyone everywhere was still posting the same tabloid headlines.

Francis Foucault Narrowly Escapes Rhino Attack

OH S**T: Video of Botched Nature Expedition Goes Viral

Charging Rhino Sends Rich Idiot into His Natural Habitat


The screen reflected his bared teeth. He choked down a snarl. He was going to wipe the smirk off every smug late-night host. No one was going to read his indignant tweets aloud, painting him as a spoiled brat, calling him a corncob. (What the gently caress did that even mean?) He was going to show the world he could fend for himself. He was going to prove he wasn’t a joke and he had returned to Kenya to do it.

He was going to murder that goddamn rhino.

“Darling,” said his girlfriend-slash-secretary Audrey. her hands gripped the wheel of their Jeep and her eyes did not move from the pale fields of the conservancy. “You’re crushing my hand.”

Francis jumped and almost fell out of their rickety vehicle.

“I’m just trying to get psyched up, okay?” He said as he righted himself again, making a point not to apologize. Audrey knew better than to interrupt him when he was in one of his moods and she had been nothing but a headache since they landed in Nairobi. Her initial bemusement about his mission had frozen into an icy fury when she realized how truly and deeply he was committed to avenging his reputation.

Last night, she’d slept on the couch of his hotel suite.

“It’s not like I’m a bad person,” he said in response to some imagined argument. He’d been stewing over her quiet rejections for the past few days. “I go to fundraisers. I donate to charity.”

“And I’m sure this adventure will do wonders for your reputation. People will be begging for your money after this.”

“It’s not about—. It’s not just—. It’s the principle.” Francis sputtered, and his cheeks reddened. All his responses suddenly seemed dumb when he said them aloud. “You can’t understand what I’ve gone through these past few weeks, the humiliation.”

There was a minute of quiet before he added, “The dumb things are going to go extinct anyways.”

“Hm.” Coldness radiated off her despite the beads of sweat glimmering on her neck. Francis made a mental note to dock her on her performance review.

They were plowing deeper and deeper into the park now. It had been ages since he had seen another visitor or ranger. With his battery dipping into the 30s and the sun turning a sickly orange in the sky, he was beginning to give up hope when something caught his eye in the distance.

At first, it was a small splotch. He squinted at the horizon as their Jeep bounced across the savanna. The splotch grew larger until he could make out the pale grey beast ambling lazily across the grass. Its wrinkled head turned toward the loud sputtering of their car.

They both froze. Francis’s heart beat in his chest and he gripped tight against Audrey’s fingers. “That’s it!” He rasped. His fury seemed to have frozen. “That’s it!”

The thing stared at them for a second longer before turning back, bored, and trudging away. Audrey let out a deep breath next to him and wriggled her fingers from his grasp. Something inside her seemed to snap.

Before he could say anything, she was out of the Jeep and digging through their supplies. There was a sound of metal unlatching and something heavy being dragged from its container.

“Out.” She said when she had returned. In her hands was the rifle that Francis had paid for, the one he’d forced Audrey bribe customs agents and conservancy workers to ignore. It was the most expensive thing he could find online.

Still dazed by the sight of his target and attacker, Francis found himself stumbling from the passenger’s seat. The weight of the rifle pressed into his arms. The safety was off.

“Go ahead, hot shot,” Audrey stared at him, loathing etched across her face. “You wanna be a big-game hunter. You wanna go full Joseph Conrad out here, then go right ahead.”

He looked down at the gun. He looked up at Audrey. “I don’t get the reference.”

“Oh, for God’s sake.”

“You don’t get to fun of me!” He yelled, fury bubbling back up in him. The rhinoceros turned to face them again, its curiosity piqued. “Everyone is always making fun of me!”

“Maybe it’s because you’re an insane, entitled weirdo who wants to kill a goddamn rhino because someone made fun of you on the internet!”

“They keep calling me a corncob!”

“What the does that even mean?” She screamed.

“I don’t even—.” He squeezed his hands and the world erupted as the rifle went off in his hands and the barrel slammed into his face. He staggered backwards and fell into the dirt. Something in his back pocket cracked.

“My phone,” he moaned, getting to his feet when his ears had stopped ringing. “Audrey, I think I broke my phone.”

But Audrey was quiet, her gaze fixed on the enormous creature glaring at them.

“Francis,” she hissed.

The rhinoceros huffed and shook its head. It stamped its feet into the ground, kicking dust into the air. The creature’s friendly curiosity had been extinguished by the sound of the gun.

Francis opened his mouth but could only whimper as the creature lowered its head and charged toward them.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


In.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


as always, thanks all for the crits!

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Can I please also get a bonus fact?

e: and thanks for the thoughtful crit, blowout

QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at 02:30 on Jan 9, 2019

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


i will in

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Prompt: Raunchy Teen Environmental Disaster

Naughty and Nice
1411 words

Natalia was naughty, the naughtiest in the business. She’d started out basic, staying up past her bedtime, teasing her baby brother. By the time she’d turned 17 and picked up a sponsorship from the American Coal Company, she’d graduated to petty theft, vandalism, and reckless driving. She was one of the best coal-getters in the business. She appeared in magazines and newspapers. She was the reason America stayed powered, why the snow fell black over West Virginia.

And she was going to fall short this year, all because of her boyfriend.

“Just take a breath and try it again.” She said, trying not to look at the clock or the dark, smog-filled sky outside her bedroom window. There were only a few hours left until Christmas Day.

Her boyfriend Paul cleared his throat. “Hey, babe, I would love to have some,” he looked down at a cue card, “premarital relations with you.”

“Okay, alright,” Natalia said, willing herself to play along. She hoped Santa was awarding points for effort. “Tell me how you’d do it.”

“Oh, you know, I’d… uhh… I’d…” Paul flipped through his cards. His cheeks flushed a dark shade of red. “I’d definitely do the business. Yep. You and me would definitely, consensually, respect one another’s sexuality and uhh…”

The clock ticked on the wall.

“Jeeze, I’m sorry,” he said.

“No, no,” said Natalia, “that was… better. Maybe try it next time without the cue cards.”

“Would that help?”

“I mean, I generally don’t get propositioned by guys reading off a script.”

“Darn, I’ll try that next time,” he said without sarcasm. Even a year into their relationship, Paul was still prone to using expressions found in old Archie comics. Despite her best attempts to corrupt him—tarnishing the innocent earned a hefty amount of coal—he’d remained pleasant, polite even. He was terrible at being terrible.

It would been maddening if it weren’t so endearing.

He gave her an embarrassed look. “I really am sorry. Do you want to try again?”

She sighed and looked at the clock again. “Nah, let’s take a break. I hear there’s a light show going on downtown.” She threw a pillow at his head. “And maybe we can get you to jaywalk.”

***

As they stumbled through the soot, she tried to remember what her plan had been. They had met last Christmas. She was 17, trying to impress the American Coal Company by stirring up some last-minute road rage. The radio of her parents’ gas-guzzler blared with the sultry static of talk radio. New Orleans had finally sunk beneath the waves and, as she crossed the toxic sludge of the Ohio River, the president had come on the air for his yearly Christmas message.

“This year, it’s important that we remember what this holiday is really about,” said the old man’s kindly voice while Natalia cut off a semi. “That’s why, this year, I’m declaring war against the tiny nation of Andorra. Bombing begins in five–¬.”

The truck blared its horn and barreled past her, spewing smog and dust across the road. She coughed, struggling to roll the window up, as a piece of gravel slammed into her windshield and left a spiderweb crack. She could feel the car shifting from the paved bridge to the rough, pothole-laden road but still couldn’t see. She strained her eyes and stopped only moments before running through an intersection.

A few minutes later, she had pulled the car along the side of the road as she tried to get something resembling fresh air. She kicked at the small stones along the roadside. Her heart thumped in her chest.

“You alright?” Said a voice. Beside her stood a guy in snow pants and a cloth tied over his mouth. A small truck, its motor running, sputtered behind him.

“Oh yeah, you know. Just enjoying all this,” she gestured around to the cars whizzing past them and the dead, blackened trees in the distance. “Natural splendor.”

“Heck, we have that in spades,” said the stranger, smile hidden behind the handkerchief. “They say the Ohio is the cleanest river in the world. It’s so clean that, when it burns, the flames are clear white.”

Natalia moved from her car and took a few steps toward the visitor. “And the fish?”

“Oh, the freshest. On a hot summer day, you can scoop the dead ones right off the surface.”

A half-empty pop can whizzed past his head, but he gave it no mind. They smiled at each other. She took another step forward and was close enough to hear him breathe. “Wanna help me get on the naughty list, if you know what I mean?”

The boy jumped backward, only to lose his footing on the gravel. She reached out, trying to steady him, but it was too late. They were both tumbling now. The stranger gave a soft “oof” as he fell on his back, then yelped when Natalia fell on top of him.

“Sorry. Oh, gosh. I am so, so sorry. It’s just… uhh… I have uhh…”

She brushed herself off while he continued to sputter in the dirt. Any coolness that he might have had seemed to have evaporated.

“It’s just my grandmother and my parents and, I know I’m supposed to be doing my part to get stuff from St. Nick but, oh gosh, I don’t—.”

“Just relax for a second, Jesus.” Natalia said, trying to stop herself from laughing. The Company had said there were still do-gooders out in the boonies, and it looked like she had found one.

He managed to lift himself crab-like out of the gravel. His handkerchief had torn away revealing red cheeks and the beginning of a bloody nose.

“Sorry,” he said, finally recollecting himself. “Let’s try again. My name is Paul.”

He extended his hand. She giggled at the corniness of the gesture and then shook it.

“Natalia.”

***

The dark winter rotted into a musty spring. They started dating a few weeks later. The Company found it cute. At first, they applauded her attempts to blacken a soul. Then, they had been amused when she kept him around long after those efforts seemed to fail. Her lessons in casual cruelty were received with quiet earnestness. He gave her goofy grins whenever she took him to wild parties. The best she could get him to do was jaywalk and, even then, he did it with a pained expression.

“What about a car, though,” he had said one day, as they walked past a store display in transition. A plastic Christmas tree with glittery lights stood beside a witch and cobwebs. “It could run right through here.”

“Oh my God, no one is going to hit you with a car,” she said, already aware that she was falling behind. People expected St. Nick to deliver her bushels of coal and she’d have to stuff all her debauchery into a few months to catch up.

“I’m more worried about you.”

She had looked at him, a smile as sweet as crude blossoming across her face.

***

The crowds downtown were trying to get some last-minute nastiness in before Santa arrived. An old woman spat gum out onto the sidewalk. A police officer handed a middle-schooler a pack of beer and saluted. The coal dust in the air reflected the red and green store lights below, making it seem like the whole sky was alive.

Paul looked down at his feet while they walked arms locked. “Look, I know things didn’t go as you planned this year.”

She was silent and then shrugged her shoulders. “Eh, it happens. There’s always next year.”

She kicked at a dark rock and it bounced off into the darkness.

“No really,” he stopped. They looked at each other and tried to ignore the truck full of illegal fireworks a block ahead of them. “I’m sorry, I really tried.”

She removed her hand from his crook and grasped his cold fingers. “That’s all anyone can ask for.”

They watched the truck in front of them erupt in sparks. Rockets shot up into the smog, transforming the clouds into brilliant red and green shapes. Explosions rocked the square and the assembled crowd cheered.

“Hey,” said Paul, leaning over to her, “if you want, we can try to squeeze some last-minute jaywalking into the evening.”

She snorted and walked with him across the road.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


sure. im in.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


put me in chief

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


ing in for repeated failures.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


I've already signed up but I'll take a flash if it is still available.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Prompt: Entenzahn's Make a Wish

Homecoming
1100 words

Kamir liked to think of himself as resilient. When news came in about the impending apocalypse, a small stone skipping through the cosmos towards earth, he’d continued going to work. When his dog got flattened by a panicked neighbor’s Subaru, he’d turned the other cheek. Even when his wife ran off, claiming he was cold and distant in the face of catastrophe, Kamir had refused to break.

He was tough. He was firm. He was due-paying member of the Going Away Initiative. Unlike those apocalyptic cults that wallowed in anti-consumerism and pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo, the Initiative had a website and corporate sponsorships. It was going to make him ready for the Big Day. Any void he felt was weakness the Initiative had carved out of him.

“Kamir,” said a voice beside him. “I’ve got a story to tell.”

Kamir jumped at the noise. He was inside the local Panera Bread, their usual meeting spot. He was part of a rough semicircle of people, murmuring about the banalities of the previous week. The pope had delivered a Requiem Mass in the Sistine Chapel, drunk and wearing his pajamas. Disney was trying to pump out its remaining cache of superhero movies before the Big Day. A man next to him, Cuvo, looked up at Kamir with watery eyes.

Nobody liked Cuvo. Cuvo was a downer always questioning the Initiative’s evidence-based practices. When he wasn’t asking questioning evidence-based practices, he was crying or telling obscene stories. The only reason he was even an initiate was because people were too polite to tell him to leave.

Kamir tried to ignore the dumb, little man inching closer to him. He focused instead on his hot chocolate and scone, which was determined to enjoy despite it being a balmy spring day.

“I was visited again last night,” Cuvo stared at him with a sadness that underscored his complete disrespect for the Initiative’s values. The whole point was to cast ignore pain and embrace the now, to shear away all sadness. “I was visited by the aliens. They told me stories.”

Kamir gave the insect a disgusted look and turned away. The murmuring of the crowd had stopped. At the center of the heads was their accredited Going Away facilitator Morgan. Morgan looked around the room, locking eyes with each Initiate for the millisecond needed to facilitate interpersonal closeness. As he asserted control, the ugly expression on Kamir’s face softened into something blissful and Buddha-like.

“So good to see you all again,” said Morgan. He dressed like a Mormon missionary, name tag and all. “So many bright and shining faces. Very inspiring. I hope you all have been practicing your exercises for the Big Day.”

Kamir nodded, hypnotized. The exercises entailed lying on one’s back and repeating the serenity prayer one hundred times. When the Big Day came, they were all going to lay in a field, hands on hands, and calmly ask for the strength to accept what they couldn’t change. Then, they’d all burn to death.

“Great. Amazing,” said Morgan in a ho-hum tone that suggested it was neither great nor amazing. “You are all so strong and resilient. Let’s paraphrase our mission statement and then get on with today’s work.”

They all did so except for Cuvo, who kept whispering about aliens, and Kamir, who found it difficult to talk with a scone-filled mouth. The mission statement was about recognizing what great lives they had all had lived and untethering themselves from anything painful. It also thanked their sponsors and Initiative facilitators worldwide for their steadfast leadership.

“Super. Love it. You are the heroes this world needs in its time of crisis,” said Morgan, keeping up the stream of positive affirmations. “Is there anyone who wants to share any nastiness they’ve whisked away with the Initiative’s tenets?”

A woman shouted. “I’ve stopped watching the news because of its negativity!”

“Fantastic.”

Kamir waved his arm like an overgrown first-grader. “My wife never supported my strength and resilience and so I cut her out of my life. I don’t even feel bad.”

This was a slight fib, but Morgan nodded. “Extremely nice.”

Cuvo raised his hand. There was an uncomfortable pause.

“Cuvo, I love the participation,” said Morgan with forced lightness. “What nastiness have you been saved from?”

Cuvo took a deep breath. “Well, I really have more of a story...”

And it was. Cuvo said that he was visited by aliens from the planet Ognobar. The aliens said the asteroid couldn’t be made better by prayers and mission statements. The aliens said that all the important people already knew these facts. The Initiative was to keep the lesser-thans busy and hollow and at their desks until the Big Day arrived. Their dues were being used to pay for parties and orgies and other unspeakable things on lush, private islands.

“That’s a lie!” Kamir couldn’t take it anymore. He stood up, knocking over his lukewarm chocolate. “Aliens aren’t real. And even if they were they wouldn’t be spreading around filthy, hateful lies about us, about the only thing we have left.”

Cuvo gave him a disgusting, sympathetic look as if Kamir was the one who deserved pity. Kamir knew who he was. He was strong. He was resilient. The vast empty inside him was all the weakness that he’d gouged out. He was fine. Everything was fine.

Smushed bits of scone cascaded from his hand onto the floor. He wasn’t sure why such a dumb thing had left him so jagged.

“I have to agree with my punched-up friend here, even if he is exhibiting some clear negative feelings,” said missionary-dressed Morgan. “What a bunch of offbeat words. A verifiable ton of malarkey.”

Cuvo looked down at his feet. The impending asteroid had left him in tatters, had ruined him. “It’s okay to feel sad. You don’t have to pretend everything is alright all the time.”

Kamir opened his mouth, ready to spit bile, but Morgan spoke first. “That’s where you’re wrong, buddy. I think it’s high time for you to let us get on with our business.”

Kamir remained standing, ready for action, wanting to untangle his jumbled insides. Instead, Cuvo bowed his head and shuffled from the restaurant. The meeting went on. They did their exercises and offered great exaltations to their sponsors. When it was over, Kamir forced himself to chat with the others about an upcoming movie. He got in his car. He drove home.

Then, in his empty house, surrounded by photos of a world that would soon be wreathed in flames, Kamir sat on the floor and cried.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


in

just give me something

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Prompt: I Lost My Girl to an Argentinian Cowboy
1497 words

Monsters

I never believed in monsters. Before our trip, my mom and I would stay up late watching old movies. Godzilla. Creature from the Black Lagoon. King Kong. I’d nestle myself in her arms, her warmth pressed against mine, as she pointed out the tricks. The monsters always lurked in the shadows, the zippers of their rubber suits out of frame. The great cities they terrorized were miniatures kept just out of focus. Illuminated by a pale light, we’d sit and laugh as the creatures grew nearer to the screaming, pale-faced actresses.

I don’t laugh much anymore.

***

“Howdy folks, what brings you to these parts?”

We were sitting in a parking lot somewhere outside of Eureka, Nevada feeling agitated in the summer heat. Across the street was a nautical-themed motel. On its roof was a whale, its paint bleached white by the unrelenting desert sun. Mom looked up from a map I’d stolen from the lobby while she feigned interest in a room. We’d need every cent to make it to Disneyland for the summer.

“Oh hi,” she said, shading her eyes with the map’s bunched-up pages. “We’re just…”

“Going on vacation!” I shouted, excited for the interruption. Peeling myself from the sticky, sweat-soaked seat, I pushed my unruly tangle of hair back. “Mom’s taking me to Disneyland.”

The shadow laughed. I blinked, then blinked again. Our visitor looked like he’d just walked off a Las Vegas billboard. With a cigarette in his mouth and a bandana tied around his neck, he leered down at us. A pair of twinkling eyes shone from beneath the shade of his cowboy hat.

“Well, look at the little princess over here.” He leaned down in a single slick motion and rested his arm on top of the rolled-down window. The man gave a jaunty smile as his eyes slid across the interior of our rental. “The little lady must have done something pretty special to deserve that.”

“Yeah, she did,” my mother said before I could speak. She returned the man’s expression with a thin smile that did nothing to disguise her coldness. She’d seen too many movies not to be suspicious. “Can we help you?”

The man raised his eyebrows but did not move. “Ah, how rude of me. The name’s Vic.” He said the name with an exaggerated slur, as if he had a mouth full of pennies.

“Regina,” my mother said. She nodded her head in my direction. “Tamara.”

The man’s face crumpled back into a grin. “Pleasure to meet you Regina and Tamara. I was wondering if you fine people could help me outta a little trouble.”

An arm pressed against mine. My mother looked at Vic but said nothing.

“See, I’ve been tryin’ to get to California myself. Been hitchhiking across this great country to meet up with my sister.” He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a ragged wallet. I caught the flash of a woman’s face inside before he clasped it shut again. “If you’d just be kind enough to let me tag along, just let me ride with you as far as you’re willing… that’d be pretty fine.”

I looked up at my mother. Her face was blank. Her eyes flitted across the empty parking lot.

The man leaned in closer. “I’d be happy to chip in for gas.” He looked me. “Would give you a little extra pocket change for princess over here.”

There was a pause as my mother looked the man up and down, weighing different options in her head. When I was sure she wouldn’t let him in, she instead sighed and unlocked the door.

They always do that in the movies.

***

We rode along the dusty highway. The terrain was sunbaked and rough. Relegated to the back seat, I stared at the back of Vic’s sunburned neck and the gentle bobbing of his head. With practiced casualness, Vic began asking questions. He wanted to know where we were from, how we had made it across this country’s vast, untamed wilds. He wanted to know whether we were meeting up with anyone.

And faced with the heat and terrain’s unbroken sameness, my mother’s resistances fell away. She told him we were traveling for summer break, but this was our first time traveling so far. She told him that my dad wasn’t in the picture anymore. She told him about our monster-movie nights, about how brave I was compared to other little girls.

Vic turned and bore his teeth, looking like a vampire himself.

“Tough lil’ princess, ain’t you? I bet there’s no monster you can’t handle.”

I blushed and turned away as the man laughed.

***

Years later, I was in a diner. It was late, the kind of late when the world seems to fall away and nothing seems real. Except for the waitress, the only sign of life was a television playing a static-filled version of the local news. On the screen were scenes of an empty house illuminated by red and blue lights. A newscaster stepped into the frame, his expression dark and vicious.

A kid had been eaten by a snake, the man said. His mom and dad had gotten the kid a python for his birthday. They’d let the thing sleep with him as if it were a dog. They’d cooed to all their friends about how protective the serpent was, how it stretched itself out next to the sleeping boy, how it let the child stretch his arms around it.

It hadn’t occurred to the parents that the snake wasn’t cuddling, that it wasn’t capable of such primate affection. They never imagined that the thing might be measuring itself against its prey to see how much it could fit inside its gaping maw.

As I forced cold pancakes down my throat, the newscaster shook his head with mock sadness. “Monstrous but a cautionary tale for all the viewers out there. Back to you Jenna.”

***

The door to our motel room slammed, shutting out the cool, crisp night air. We’d driven to the sparkling outskirts of Reno before stopping at a dingy motel. Vic had separated from us near the yellow light of the reception, saying he appreciated the ride and would check in separately when we finished.

“I hope you get to see your sister!” I had said as my mother dragged me away.

Vic had tipped his hat and watched us as we wormed our way to our room. The light of his cigarette burned in the darkness. “Pleasant dreams, princess. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

While Mom brushed her teeth, I got into my nightshirt and flipped through the TV. Video played of a bomb going off in a distant country. A black-and-white gangster emerged from the shadows of a darkened alleyway. A televangelist raged against heresy.

“Hey, Mom,” I shouted. “Do you mind if I go get some ice? I think I saw a machine by reception.”

There was a gargled reply. I took the ice bucket, propped open the door, and walked into the darkness. A few moments later, I had my ice and headed back to the room. I opened the door. And that’s when I saw him.

Vic was in the bedroom. He faced away from me, but I could see his hand around his belt. The lamp separating the beds had toppled and its lampshade fallen away. Vic cast an impossibly large shadow across the wall.

My legs seemed numb and jello-like.

“Vic?” I said. The shock of him had knocked my sense out me, had striped me clean. There was someone laying on the floor, moaning. There was someone laying on the floor in my mother’s nightgown. There was someone laying on the floor, her eyes wide like the kind of pale actresses we’d make fun of.

“Tamara noooooo.” The thing on the floor wheezed. “Tamara, pleaseeeee.”

He turned. The friendliness in Vic’s face was gone, replaced instead with a kind of nervous excitement, an anticipation. His tongue flitted over his lips. Spit dripped onto his bandana.

“Hey there, princess,” he said without a hint of warmth. “You gonna save the day?”

In the years since, I’ve run this moment over a lot. I like to imagine myself throwing the ice box at him and carrying my mother to safety. I like to imagine myself getting to the motel’s reception desk and finding a working phone to call the police, their cars arriving just in time. I like to imagine the evening folding into nothing, replaced by memories of Mickey and Minnie and all the things kids are supposed to worry about.

Instead, he took a step forward and I bounded from the room, spilling ice behind me. I ran across the motel parking lot and the sand-swept road. I ran over gnarled hills, not caring about the thousands of sharp pebbles shredding my bare feet. I ran until the monster’s laughter vanished and the motel was consumed by the night.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


I’ll claim New hope Dangjin

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


in

Gimme a flash rule

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Flash: Two murders decades apart

Sick
666 words

I’ve always been one to get stuff done when no one else would.

When I was little, I had a doggy named Maggie. She was a sweet thing with big eyes you could see your whole self in. We’d go out and run and play fetch and do all the things little boys are supposed to do with their dogs. I loved her. I loved her more than anything in the world.

But then Maggie got sick. Real sick. And instead of going up to heaven with all the angels and the harps and the singing choirs, Maggie lingered. She couldn’t let go. The sick sunk its teeth around her neck. And little Maggie was scared. I could smell it.

Every day she’d look at me with yellowy eyes and whine. “Help me, Billy,” she’d whimper as fur fell off in patches and her skin grew taut. She’d stare up at me as the monster ate more and more of her. “All I wanna do is say goodbye.”

So I helped her. I picked up the biggest rock in our garden and said bye-bye. It didn’t matter that mom screamed and clawed at her face when she saw the yuck all over me. It didn’t matter when she took me to doctors who asked me about my feelings and gave me pills.

I helped Maggie. I stopped the sick when no one else would.

The next summer, when I was bigger and stronger, mom sent me to camp. She said it was so I could play with other people my age, but I know better. I saw how she looked at me, scurrying from room to room like a mouse and locking her door at night. She wouldn’t even give me a goodnight kiss. She didn’t understand.

But camp was fun. We made bracelets and went swimming and cooked marshmallows. When people didn’t understand me, there was a big forest full of animals I could play with too. It was all good. And then, in the last days, we had an uh-oh.

Our counselor Buddy fell while everyone was at the lake. He’d been trying to hang up a farewell banner that said how much he loved us and how he’d always be our Buddy. I only found him ‘cause I didn’t want to go swimming. My head hurt too bad.

His tools were scattered all over the grass. He’d probably been baking in the sun for a while ‘cause I could barely hear him over the faraway laughter.

“Billy. Jesuuuuus, Billy,” moaned Buddy. He lifted a shaking hand toward me. His legs were twisted and bent all the wrong ways. “Get help. I need…”

It hurt to look. I knew the sick was close, that it wouldn’t let Buddy go until it had sucked out all his juices. So I picked a hammer from the grass. I watched myself grow big in Buddy’s tear-filled eyes.

“Bye bye, Buddy. I love you.”

But the grown-ups still didn’t understand. Not the other counselors who found the chunks left behind. Not the policemen who yelled at me. Not the judge who made me wear an orange suit and live in a big metal house far away from mom and all the animals.

They made me stay for years until I got bigger than ever, until even they didn’t want me anymore and kicked me out. So I made my way to mom. I waited ‘til it got dark to make sure she was home. I creeped through her unlocked window to her teevee-lit room only to see the sick had gotten her too, had made her old and frail. She was scared like Maggie. I could smell it.

After helping mom, I thought for a long time about what I should do. Then the teevee showed a commercial for my old camp. The new season was starting and they needed help for all the good campfire boys and girls.

And I’ve always been one to get stuff done.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


I’m in.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Masha and Her Many Incredible Pets
1000 words

Masha knew every golden room in the Grand Duke’s palace, or at least she hoped she did. She bounded from the kitchen to the dining room, hands pressed tight against the small puppy poking from her washgirl’s uniform.

“Masha,” snarled the little duke, trailing behind. He ricocheted through the room, smashing against a cabinet of fine china. His crown tumbled away as he bolted out the door. “You come back! You give me my hound.”

“I’m sorry!” Masha yelled. She was in the grand hall now and yanked hard against the staircase’s banister, flinging herself past the mounted heads of the Grand Duke’s ill-fated pet bears, bears he’d inherited from his grandfather. Now she was in his playroom, dashing past shredded and broken toys. Now she was in the library, its once magnificent shelves annihilated by grapeshots from the master’s toy rifle. Once, the shelves contained impossible wonders, spellbooks from faraway lands.

The dog, oblivious to the carnage, licked at Masha’s chin. She clutched at it tighter. She was going to save this animal. She was going to spirit him away to someone who’d love him. She—.

Her foot came down on a tattered book. She skidded and then toppled backwards. The rescued puppy freed itself from her gown and scampered away to parts unknown.

“I should have you killed.” The sweat-drenched face of the Grand Duke appeared over her. With the crown gone, he looked smaller, diminished. He flicked out a miniature sabre from his belt. The cold tip tickled her throat. “That dog… is worth… more than… your life.”

Masha remained on her back. “My liege,” she said, grabbing the fabric of her dress for a kind of horizontal curtsy. The boy lifted his blade, amused. “I only… I only thought to…”

She scanned across the library’s annihilated shelves, desperate for escape. On a dark wall was the portrait of a mustached figure with twinkling, star-like eyes. The old duke dressed in his ceremonial magician’s robes.

She was too young to have met the old man but Masha liked to listen to the other servants tell stories about his strange, otherworldly creations. Warm snows that hugged the skin. Swans who transformed into blushing maidens. Constant harvests and endless plenty.

After his death, his old books had been put away. His grandson, young and haughty, never showed the same wondrous imagination. He preferred his toy soldiers and navies; to take instead of making new things. And his feeble spellcasting never worked. Magic only obeyed the pure of heart.

Masha tilted her head to stare at the cracked leather volume she’d tripped over. Embossed in heavy letters were the words, “Animation and Conjuring: A Guide for Beginners.”

The painting’s eyes glinted.

“My liege,” she scrambled to her feet before the child could point his sword again and grabbed the tattered book. She hoped he did not see her trembling. “I only took your dog because I didn’t want you to demean yourself with such a lowly creature. Surely,” she forced herself to smile, “a mighty leader such as yourself deserves a mighty pet.”

The Grand Duke looked confused, but Masha plowed ahead before he could speak. “You know, we peasants are a superstitious lot, always running into talking animals and enchantresses.” She flipped through the pages, hoping confidence was enough to fool the boy. She stopped at some strange writing in the old duke’s hand. “I’m sure I could conjure creatures worthy of your brilliance.”

Her smile grew more desperate. She was sure the Grand Duke could see through her. But the boy gave her a dark smile. “Alright, do it.”

“Of course.” Masha waved her hand as she imagined a great magician might and uttered the magic words.

A second past. Masha’s heart thudded in her chest. At any moment the boy’s mood could sour. He’d skin her alive with a single word. Flay her. She opened her mouth. “Your magnificence—.”

But he was looking past her, mouth open with a hungry glee. “Look!”

Behind them, swinging from the wall, came the portrait of old duke. Masha stared as the frame trotted toward them. The canvas bent, oils cracking, and it—. Masha was certain it’d sniffed at them before plopping onto the carpet.

Her mouth hung open. The Grand Duke knelt beside the dog-like portrait and then turned. “I want more!”

Dream-like, Masha felt herself being led into the playroom. Once more, she whispered the incantation and toys tottered to life. A melted toy soldier crawled up to the duke and hissed.

The Grand Duke gave a greedy smile, the hunger on his face more apparent than ever. “More!”

They pushed their way into the grand hall. The mounted bear heads sprouted tiny legs and scuttled across the wallpaper. Sheets of metal slithered from each suit of armor and clattered to the floor. A chair galloped from the dining room and reared its legs as it approached the Grand Duke. Nearby stood a snarling mass of other animate things, their forms hunched and predatory.

Magic only obeyed the pure of heart.

Unaware of the growing danger, the Grand Duke grabbed at Masha. “Idiot, give me everything! Give me the house!”

Masha held the book in a shaking hand and bellowed the incantation. For a moment, all was still. Then, there was a terrible groan. Masha clutched the banister as the house lurched forward, sending animate things tumbling. The Grand Duke unsheathed his sword, only for it to go limp and coil around his arm. He yelped as a carpet wrapped around his legs.

“I am the Grand Duke!” Screamed the boy as the carpet dragged him toward the house’s now-open doors. “I own this house! It belongs to—.”

But he did not get to finish his sentence. The carpet gave a flick, sending him flying. Before he could land, the doors slammed shut.

Masha remained frozen to the banister but then, through the shock, she felt something nuzzling at her leg.

On the floor sat a puppy. In its mouth was the duke’s crown.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


In. Gimme a flash.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


what the heck, im in

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


in

Central Character: 25
Setting: 22
RFT: 23

Doing this on phone, so apologies if I made a mistake

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Flash Rules:

Central Character is…PROUD +132 Words
Setting is…ANTARCTICA +71 words
RFT is...FAKE MAGIC THAT LOOKS REAL + 140 words

Total words: 1120

Beauty at Low Temperatures
1120 words

The whole thing was stupid. Unbelievably stupid. All the fundraisers he attended, scrounging around for research funding. Letting his department cut corners to appease corporate donors who were more worried about a balanced budget than scientific progress. Gritting his teeth when they dumped him alone outside the ramshackle mess they called an Antarctic research facility.

Oh, he’d raised a ruckus in the months before. How was he supposed to study the cosmos by himself, he whined. Who was going to take notes or help him if things went wrong? There was always the possibility of error. They were leaving too much to chance.

He’d stomped and raged, expecting them to shell out cash for a few measly grad students. But no. Some administrative pencil pusher had a better idea, had preferred the chances of losing one crotchety astronomer to the chances of losing several bright-eyed students and their fat tuition checks. It was better to be safe, they told him, so they had gotten him—.

“Good morning, Professor Chiang. How goes your study of cosmological phenomena?”

Marcus leaped at the noise, slamming his head into the panel he’d been examining. He cursed as black shapes erupted at the edges of his vision and stumbled over his toolbox.

“SAM, I swear to God.”

The robot looked at him with its wide lantern-like eyes. A set of shutters opened and shut, a simulacrum of a blink. He supposed others might find the thing “cute,” but he knew its tricks. The child-like height. The sing-song quality of its voice. There was no spark of life there, just a shallow imitation of it. A magician’s trick. No technical wizardry could make it alive.

There was a whirring of motors from SAM’s processors as it tried to interpret his scowl. “I’m sorry, Professor Chiang. I only wanted to make sure you were doing well. I am excited to be supporting you on this important mission.” There was a pause. Another blink of its enormous eyes. “Would you like to know what I am most excited to see?”

Bile rose in his throat. Of all the indecencies this expedition had subjected him to, being forced to entertain the imitation of a child was the worst.

“I would very much like to see the aurora australis, Professor Chiang. I hear it is very beautiful.” When Marcus remained silent, it tilted its head. “Is something wrong?”

Marcus sneered. “Oh, you know, the usual. Heating panels that break down. Wiring that might as well have been done by a child. Having to deal with someone’s idea of a child.” He gave a cold laugh as winds battered against the facility’s exterior. The lights swayed from their cords. “Oh, and something’s gotten stuck in our sensor array, meaning research is on hold until one of us can clear it off.”

More whirring. “Professor Chiang, the current temperature is -72 degrees with windchill. My processors are unlikely to survive extended exposure to conditions these extreme.”

“Well then, I guess I’m going to have to do it myself,” Marcus said, words spilling out. His response was stupid, irrational, but it was as though a dam inside him had broken. “Just me! Just like always! Because I’m the only one who cares about expanding the reach of humanity. Because out of all the possible assistants in the world, I had the misfortune to get stuck with a talking trash can.”

He kicked at his toolbox, sending parts skittering across the floor. SAM was silent. The wind howled.

“I’m going outside. Do something useful for a change and clean the mess.”

***

The weather was worse than he’d imagined. Snow fell in sheets over near absolute blackness. He tried to keep his eyes focused on the small beam of light made by his flashlight. Every few feet was some new obstacle. Snow drifts. Crevices. Cracks. Icy pillars.

Christ. He thought as he almost lost his footing. Even bundled in his snowsuit, he could feel the wind ripping and tearing at him. He tried not to think about SAM inside, its motors whirring as it waited for him to return. He wondered what routines ran when it was alone. Could it simulate fear? Was it programmed to cry if he didn’t come back?

Dumb thought. You’re going to be fine. Everything’s fine.

He took another step into the abyss and his free hand brushed something solid. He lifted the flashlight. It was the array, transformed by the cold into an altar of ice. It twinkled with frost but was otherwise pristine.

He’d laugh if he weren’t so cold. He just needed to break off some snow and the thing would be working again. If he were lucky, he’d even get some readings on the aurora that SAM was fascinated by.

Setting his flashlight on a ledge, he gripped the icicle-sheathed device and—.

The ground slipped from beneath him. He was falling, twisting in the wind. Marcus sensed the array slipping out of reach and grabbed wildly for the next closest thing: the ledge. His fingers brushed against it, but he only succeeded in slapping the flashlight before slamming into the ice. The light bounced into the blizzard, leaving nothing but swirling dark.

Marcus wasn’t sure how long he was there. His last memory before drifting into unconsciousness was a set of flickering lantern-like eyes piercing the night.

***

Marcus gritted his teeth and pulled the sled. Weeks had passed since his accident, but his toes and fingers still ached as if pierced by invisible needles. The only consolation was the weather. Though still below zero, the night was calm and clear. Overhead, the stars shone bright. Ghostly lights were beginning to appear in the sky.

“Come on,” he heaved. “Let’s do this... before… I change my mind.”

On the sled, SAM sputtered static-filled noises. The light from its great eyes flickered over the snow drift. The cold had shattered all but its most basic functions. No repair could fix it.

“You haven’t fooled me, you know.” They reached the top of the hill. Below them, he could see the faint lights of the facility. From where they stood, it looked quaint, like a child’s drawing. “I’m only doing this to give myself some closure. It’s a rational response to a traumatic event.”

SAM blinked as its processors tried to form a coherent sentence. “Lucky.” It croaked. “To have.”

Marcus turned skyward, as much to hide the warmth welling behind his eyes as to see the aurora. “Look,” he said. “The show’s starting.”

He and SAM watched as ribbons of light arced across the sky. And though Marcus remained firm in his convictions, the moment would remain in his heart forever.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


in

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


in

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Flash: Cocaine pirates - none of your characters have slept for days

Jesus Saves, But I Spend (All My Time on the High Seas Trying to Get Hard Drugs for the Apocalypse)
1,200 words

If you fall asleep, you lose your mind. Or at least that’s what everyone’s saying. News reporters. Government officials. Well-read bands of scavengers. No one really knows what’s causing it (e.g. aliens, the Illuminati, lizard people) but we all know that it’s true. It is confirmed. It is verified. It is validated. It is being livestreamed by several billion people. All you have to do is turn on the teevee to see the cities blazing.

But that is a distraction from today. The now. The present. My best friend Alisha and I are atop the deck of a commandeered yacht. Alisha holds a handgun at a collection of guys wearing tattered button downs and vests. I hold a handbag with a skull and crossbones while Googling how to do piracy. Reception is spotty off the burned-out coast of Long Island. Only half the page loads, revealing the image of a smiling eye-patched figure. A child’s drawing. A friendly face.

But Alisha takes a different tact. She whips her gun into the face of the largest man. More bulk than brawn. There is a cracking noise and he slumps to the floor. The others gasp and scuttle away like one enormous, deep-sea animal.

“Where is it?” Alisha comes at them again, eyes wild. Her makeshift black bandana flutters in the wind. She lumbers forward, gun lifted. “Where. Is. The. Cocaine?”

There is a lot of boohooing and stuff as I sway back and forth on the deck. Alisha was always better at these things than me. She gives me a look.

“If ye refuse to surrender your stash, me fearsome First Mate Rebecca will liberate yer heads from yer necks!”

***

Where are we? Oh yes, I forgot to mention the reason we are on a commandeered yacht commandeering yachts. That is my fault. My bad. My most grievous error. Mea maxima culpa, as Alisha’s parents might have said. They went to church every Sunday and died a few days after the incident when they tried to crawl inside a donation bin. Or maybe it was a reliquary. I don’t remember.

The point is, Alisha invited me to stay with her at her parent’s summer cottage on Long Island so she would have someone to cry with. It was fine for a while as we chugged cocktails composed of coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, adderall, and lemon juice while listening to the complete soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean on loop. But all good things must end.

I am in the kitchen staring at the microwave clock. It is 11:11 PM. Then it is 11:12. Then it is 11:13. At some point, Alisha walks in, looking concerned. Antsy. Discombobulated. “Coffee’s gone,” she says.

“I know,” I say. It is now 11:14. The four looks like it might slide off the screen at any second. I don’t want to miss any moment of this astounding development. The numbers seem to be made of a thousand writhing glow worms. “I used it last night to… you know… not go completely insane.”

There’s a sharp intake of breath that makes me want to writhe. I’m always taking. I never do enough. I turn to to tell Alisha I’m sorry and miss the clock turning to 11:15. It’s the second-worst thing to ever happen to me.

“I can fix this.” I say, though the words don’t seem to be mine. “I can—.”

***

But then there’s a break. A crack in the timeline. An uh-oh. It’s the morning before. We are on the living room floor, our bodies sunk deep into carpet. The soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean plays while a haggard newscaster screams from the muted television. His eyes bleed. The chyron reads: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.”

“Hey, remember when we were kids and we used to play dress-up?” Alisha half-whispers and half-giggles. “We went to, like, movie premieres and stuff dressed up like Elizabeth Swann?”

I feel myself blush. Each one of my molecules vibrate. I want to burrow into the floor. “Yeah. I’m sorry for… I know you didn’t…”

“Oh, no, I meant it in a good way. It was fun, to be a different person, I mean.” She rolls over onto her belly as the music thunders. The sky outside is all sunrise, gulls silhouetted by red and yellow fire. “Also, stop feeling sorry for being yourself. You have nothing to apologize for. You were sooooo good.”

I know she is lying.

“We could do it again, you know. Seize arr destiny.” The main theme kicks in. From the deep recesses of her throat comes an exaggerated croak. “We could seize a verifiable booty.”

She looks at me, wide-eyed and leering. Caffeinated mania.

“And where would we seize this booty?” I say.

“Ahhh, the high seas. From some yachters. They’re everywhere.”

“And what would be in the booty?”

“Nuthin’ but the jewels of modern medicine!” She says, veering between Cockney and Southern Belle. “All the stimulants you can find. Adderall. Ritalin. Cocaine. I told ya’ my parents got themselves a dingy. And there’s bound to be some rich folks out there.”

“Cocaine? Isn’t that a little much?”

“Of course.” She laughs. All teeth. “But let’s be bad. Like real pirates.”

***

But I digress. I digress.

We are in the kitchen. We are in her parent’s closet. We are ripping apart her mom’s little black dresses to make flags and bandanas and silken handbags with bejewelled skulls. We are cracking open her dad’s gun safe and loading up on weapons we don’t know how to use. We are a set of overgrown kindergartners zooming across the horizon in a dingy.

My mind is a thousand tiny glow worms, each emitting a different signal. I feel better. Fuller. My hand sits on the engine of the boat. When did I learn how to drive a boat?

I turn to Alisha to ask, but then we are boarding. And it all happens as it already happened. And I am holding my phone as Alisha screams, relishing the role of pirate queen. She thunders toward the cowering one-percenters and then turns to me with a wild laugh.

“If ye refuse to surrender your stash, me fearsome First Mate Rebecca will liberate yer heads from yer necks!”

Faces turn toward me. My heart races. It flutters. It stammers. It—.

“Ayeeee,” the voice that comes from my throat is loud and squawking. Either delirium has set in or our captives shudder with real terror. “Show us your booty or I'll build a plank and make ye walk it.”

***

We force the men into our dingy while we take the yacht. I watch as their teeming bodies get smaller and smaller behind us. When they are nothing but a speck, I walk toward Alisha at the wheel. She smiles as I approach, nodding at the bricks of white powder in my hands.

“I told you these rich dudes would have some booty.” She says. There’s a pause. “You know, you’re pretty good at being menacing in your own weird way. We could do this for a while.”

I think for a moment. “Yeah, I guess we could.”

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Week 373 Crits

For these crits, I tried to find at least one element I liked in each story and one I did not. I also tried to think about how I would edit each piece and gave advice for how each author might revise their story, should they have any interest in doing so.

Let me know if you have any questions or if you notice some huge error. I'm available in Discord.


Gravitar

This piece isn’t entirely awful. There are actually a few elements that I like: the space-faring band; the pulpy overtones; the loud and brash action. This piece could have been a nice piece of sci-fi, one that doesn’t really deviate from conventions but is still satisfying.

Unfortunately, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. To say nothing of some problems that could have been resolved with a basic copy edit (the opening is clunky as hell; there’s a difference between “than” and then;” I wouldn’t describe a tour bus as “ponderous”), this piece isn’t much more than an extended action sequence largely composed of people shouting at one another. Your characters say things but they don’t say anything that give me any sense of their personalities. The titular Gravitar isn’t introduced until over halfway through this piece, despite it being it being central to the characters lives and the plot.

My advice would be threefold. First, I would introduce the Gravitar earlier on because it comes out of left field in your current draft. Second, I would give your piece some room to breathe. Include some quieter moments to let us get a sense of your characters. All action all the time isn’t conducive to flash fiction unless you really know what you’re doing. Third, I would suggest editing your pieces before you submit. I often find it helpful to read my entry aloud to myself to see if anything sounds forced or awkward.

4/10


The Entertainers

This piece is technically competent and includes some nice scenes of curdled whimsey. There’s animal handlers working as office drones! Depressed clowns doing animal balloons! An acrobat shoots up an Applebee’s! I found many of these moments amusing.

But something about this story feels like less than the sum of its parts. I don’t have a great sense of your narrator’s personality beyond that he is “sad” and “a clown.” I suppose this might be enough if he were a background character, but, in the spotlight, some of his actions are perplexing, done less because of some throughline in his personality and more because the story demands some bizarre response to a traumatic event. The tone also trips me up a bit. As amusing as I found some of the moments referenced in the above paragraph, they aren’t funny enough to mitigate some of the bleakness of the plot. No moment encapsulates this problem as well as your closing line, which I think was meant to be funny (“here’s an armed assailant putting down their weapon to make balloon animals”) but just comes off as nasty and cruel. I didn’t have this picked for a DM in my initial scoring but I didn’t feel motivated to defend it from the other judges either.

I suppose if I were to edit this, I might give your clown a few more moments to himself and boost up his dialogue. I need something to connect his character at the start with his decision to make balloon animals later on. It might also be a good idea to either boost up some of the comedy of a washed-up circus group or to lighten some of the bleaker aspects of this story.

5/10


Secret Quest

Some unnatural sentences aside, I enjoy the back-and-forth between Captain Hull and Major Phillips. The fact that this guy has been telling this same joke for three years is endearing. The pop culture references aren’t awful. I like that you focused on a singular event, a small bit of action, instead of trying for some grand, sweeping adventure.

Problems start to emerge when you gesture toward a broader context without providing the reader with a sense of the setting. You talk about how “the department had already cut the rest of their staff,” but do not give the reader any sense of what this department is and what they do. There are basic aspects of the story that are mystifying to me. I could not even tell you why Captain Hull and Major Phillips are venturing through the Door. I do not understand what this monster is. Overall, your story gives the sense of overhearing someone on the phone and trying to reconstruct the other half of the conversation.

If I were to edit this, I would include some very basic descriptions of the setting up at the front. Either explicitly or by implication, explain the who, what, and whys of the narrative. I’d substantially improve the blocking, as I find it extremely difficult to imagine where people and objects are relative to one another. You rely way too much on dialogue to provide what good descriptions can, a sense of place. Also, and this should go without saying, single-space your story. Don’t double space it.


4/10

Above/Besides

I’m going to be completely honest with you: I thought I was going to hate this story when I started it. Your opening is an obtuse mess, a collection of words that sound vaguely prosaic and literary but are difficult to understand. It wasn’t until I was deep into your second section that I realized what this story was about. Once I got past that, though, I found this piece easier to enjoy. I like the concept of a powerful, hypnotic force that pulls people out of their lives. I like your Scully and Mulder-style protagonists venturing through the wastes to investigate it. Your second and fourth sections are very strong and I wish you had spent more time on these moments.

Unfortunately, you don’t. I’ve spoken already about the opening, but none of the asides from the force are interesting enough to justify the amount of words you’ve spent on its commands. This misplaced emphasis crowds out your characters. The ending, which depends on the relationship between Sahar and Brian falls flat because you haven’t given the reader any sense of who they are to one another. Your prose is competent in the main sections and I think you could have really done a good job of capturing their interactions.

If you wanted to edit this, I have three suggestions. First, I would cut the “commands” to half their current word count and be significantly more direct with what is happening. I might also italicize these sections to better differentiate them from the main action. Second, I would spend more time with Sahar and Brian, having them visit more “victims” to capture how they operate and how they feel about one another. This change, ultimately, would make Bill’s disappearance much more significant by demonstrating how important he is to Sahar. You could even use him to ask whether Sahar has fallen victim to the force or whether she cares about Bill that deeply that she’s willing to drive into the mouth of the beast to find him.

5/10


The Charm, NYC

God, this story is like an ice-cold glass of water after being forced to march through a desert. Your prose is excellent. Your characters and their voices, even more so. I love how real Carl and b sound and how their actions make sense in the bizarre world in which they live. You manage to throw in a lot of very cool details that hint at something larger (“supersession” for one) while still keeping this piece tightly focused on two brothers who love one another.

If I have any criticism about this piece, it is twofold. First, I’m not sure your last section is necessary. It’s a weird little postscript when this piece could have easily ended at “And I watched until it was all over.” I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to imply with it. Second, if you are going to go with the straightforward catharsis, I might have spent a little more time with the actual act of revenge. As it stands, it comes off as a little perfunctory, as though you realized you were running out of words and decided to shorten it to a few sentences. I think there was an opportunity here to dive a little more deeply into b’s weird fairy morality and the body horror that is Carl.

9/10


Moonsweeper

What’s there to say about this piece? Your prose is competent. Your blocking is fairly solid. Some of the imagery is fairly standard to the sci-fi genre but you do an adequate job portraying them. Same with your characters, who are do their jobs even if they cohere to broad archetypes and lack any flashy personalities.

And I suppose that is what my fundamental issue with the story is. Despite some occasional flourishes (the simulation aspect is interesting), this piece so closely follows a sci-fi mold that it is difficult for me to sustain interest. There’s no dramatic portrayals of survival against the odds, a la The Martian, nor do you use the piece as a metaphor for some smaller, personal conflict a la Gravity or Ad Astra. (Can you tell I’ve got movies on the brain?) There’s nothing that the reader can really grab onto, and I find myself sliding away from this piece.

If I were to edit this, the easiest thing to do would be to give the main characters more chemistry and more personality. Instead of relegating them to shouting survival-genre tropes (“Your vitals just spiked!” “Hold on, I’m coming to get you!”), I’d having them snipe at one another like co-workers and maybe use the narration to hint at some larger relationship. If I really felt ambitious, I would rework the description of the setting to include some bright and technicolor depictions of this event that Thompson is so desperate to see.

5/10


All in the Family Business

This is a fun little series of vignettes. I enjoy the odd characters that Lou comes in contact with during his workday. The section about Tootles made me snort aloud. The section on Gio is appropriately menacing, a sudden detour after two comedic visits. You’re very talented at conveying characters and place with minimal detail.

My complaint, and part of what prevented me from what rating this higher, relates to the ending. You present an unsettling scene of a rotting corpse in a pool house (a person the protagonist knew no less!) and the most you do with that scene is… have Lou clean it up. I suppose delving deeper into the horror of the scene would have meant shifting more towards a comedic horror than the straight comedy you present here, but I still feel like you missed an opportunity by not spending more words here. Lou’s callousness, his just accepting the money for rent, rubs me the wrong way. Your story takes a left turn in its last act and then just seems to come to a sudden halt.

So, I suppose if I were editing this piece, I would expand a bit more on Gio and his deal, maybe hint at him in the opening section and sprinkle a few references throughout. Then, I would really spend some time fleshing out the “three jobs for Gio” and Lou’s feelings for them. It might be that he truly is in it for the paycheck alone, but having him demonstrate that seems more powerful than just telling the reader.

7/10


Why the Sheriff Retired

I don’t often see Westerns in Thunderdome so I was interested to read your piece. There’s certainly quite a few interesting ideas here. I like the transformation of the mundane (“the Marshall is handsome and well-dressed) into the strange (but, like, ceaselessly).. There’s no surprise here when the Marshall reveals who he is, but the tension comes from asking when he’ll pull off his rubber mask. The ending hits just the right note for me even if it adheres closely to a model (“Oh no, the weirdo was really an alien all along!!!”).

Other elements are handled less well. Some of your prose and dialogue, an attempt to mimic the style and sound of Old Western movies, is stiff. Your opening line (“Sheriff Nolan tugged on his bush-like beard causing the already slack features of his face to stretch even further”) makes it sound like the sheriff’s face is made of silly putty. I also feel like you don’t lean into the Marshall’s strangeness enough. I really wanted to see you make use of more evocative imagery than “the eyes of a wild beast.”

Aside from editing to fix up some of the more awkward phrases and to add in some more striking imagery, I might make a more dramatic change to the plot. I would have the Marshall reveal his true nature toward the middle of the piece instead of at the end. While this would do away with the rather fun conclusion you set up here, I think you could have a lot of fun with a posse of cowboys trying to decide whether to help this alien creature (or not). It would also give you more time to spend on the weird fungus things and perhaps build toward a bizarro Western standoff.


6/10


Bat on a Pendulum

This piece has got two things that I adore: grotesque imagery and banal horror. I was delighted by each of grandma’s little knick knacks, from the jar of coins and teeth to the garage freezer filled with dead goldfish. I also like how mundane the actual story is. Samuel isn’t being terrorized by ghosts but is instead being forced to rifle through his grandma’s old things. He sorts through them with a sense of resignation that was very understandable to me.

The other psychological elements were handled less well in my view. The extended metaphor of a “bat on a pendulum” is a bit forced. Yes, your protagonist is off balance and confused by what he sees, but I see more resignation than screaming agony. There’s a paragraph near the middle where you list off his reasons for not accepting help, money and a sense of responsibility, but these elements don’t really play into any other aspects of the piece. It doesn’t seem to inform his actions. The ending arrives with a dull thud.

If I were editing this, I would probably go back through and hint more at these psychological motivations throughout. I might revise the narration to have more of a frenetic energy than the slow sad thing you have going on now.

7/10


Two Winners

This story’s saving grace is that is largely coherent. I understand that Matt is a gambler deep in the throes of addiction and that Davis is a major creep. I understand that they are both massive pieces of garbage in opposite ways. You provide me a clear picture of two abysmal people.

But I have to ask myself if that is enough. I don’t feel any kind of emotional attachment to either of these characters; they are too self-centered to really be sympathetic. They also aren’t interesting in their awfulness, doing the kinds of things you would expect a womanizer and an addict to do. Bonfire of the Vanities this is not. The dialogue isn’t especially interesting and the prose, if I ignore the copy errors (“Charles was also sat at the same table…”), doesn’t do much either. The piece lacks any evocative imagery to hold my attention. The ending is little more than a punch line to an extremely bad joke. I had this as my pick for the loss.

If I were editing this, I would probably make Matt and Davis more exceptional in their awfulness in the hopes of getting a laugh out of the reader. I might draw inspiration from the gonzo antics of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and sprinkle in some bizarre imagery of the pair’s night on the town. This change would likely require major structural revisions, but I don’t find much about this plot interesting in its current form.

3/10


Turing complete

You are a talented writer, that much is clear. Your prose is vivid and jumps off the screen, whether you are describing the car’s voice “thrumming with the stuttering vibration of the powered-up engine” or veering into technobabble with “jabbing splines of invariant fractions.” Aside from the nice imagery, your sentences have a nice rhythm and flow that make them easy to read. I didn’t get bored.

The problem (and I think you know this) is that there isn’t much to this piece beyond its prose. Your decision to get off to the races from line one ensures that your piece has a constant momentum to it, but it doesn’t give you the chance to put forth a more substantive story than “dude drives his car and dies.” Not every story needs to be War and Peace, but I walked away from your story feeling unsatisfied. There’s nothing that sticks with me after I finish. It’s just a rich dude wrecking his car.

I’m not really sure how I would edit this piece and I’m not sure you have much interest in revisiting it. I suppose I might insert little vignettes of what he sees/does in the “intertwined skein of history” but that would almost make this piece an entirely different story.

6/10

QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at 01:34 on Oct 2, 2019

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


In. Hell rule me.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Prompt: 76 (minutes)
“a domestic animal now rules the world”


The Same but Different
Word Count: 1010

Vice President William Bryans awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find that he had been transformed into a large verminous creature. He lay on his back for a few moments and stared at the peeling plaster of his bedroom. The ceiling appeared to be the same. Light streamed through a swaying curtain as it did every day. He could hear the distant sounds of movement, of a thousand scuttling assistants moving about the Naval Observatory.

The only thing that was different was him. Bryans flicked his many eyes downward, saw a tangled array of brown legs, and looked up again at the pleasingly bland ceiling. His body shuddered.

Very soon he’d have to scurry through the door. His assistants would remind him about his very busy schedule. There were donors to meet. Events to attend. Ribbons to cut. And with the election coming up, the president would be more agitated than ever. There would be nothing but rallies and press appearances and endless indecencies arranged by his personal assistant Darla. What little he remembered of his fragmentary dreams was filled with echoing voices and her braying laughter.

Bryans tucked his head back beneath his sheet and closed his many eyes, hoping it would all go away. Instead, he heard a faint tapping sound and the creek of the door. He peeked his head from the covers and saw a woman in a beige pantsuit, her body iterated many times in his complex eyes.

Hundreds of tiny hairs stood up on his back. Darla.

“Oh good, I don’t need to tell you then.”

Oh no, Bryans attempted to cry. Instead, he let loose a high-pitched hiss that revealed the oozing insides of his mouth. The woman stepped into the room, stretching her arms back and forth as if getting ready for a fight.

“I don’t suppose you can talk, can you?” She said with a concerned smile.

Bryans let out another inarticulate sound of grief and rolled inelegantly out of the bed.

“Well, I won’t lie. That’s going to make the statement we prepared a little harder. We’ve already told the press you are speaking with our international partners… You’re watching crisis and have expressed grave concern, for the record.” She thumbed through her phone. “I suppose we should count our blessing, though. You should see what’s going on in Saudi Arabia right now. The entire royal family’s been… well, you know.”

She pressed her hands together and then spread them apart, contorting her fingers as she did. Bryans wasn’t sure what the gesture meant, but he didn’t care. He could see the door open behind Darla. Escape from the madness.

He attempted to sprint, but he couldn’t seem to control his appendages. They bucked wildly, causing him to move in odd semi-circular patterns across the carpet.

Darla let out a tutting sound and scooped him into her arms. He thrashed against her, dirtying her outfit with his ooze but her grip around him tightened. They were walking out of the bedroom and down the Naval Observatory’s long central staircase. Dark-suited Secret Service agents appeared from dark hallways and walked alongside them.

“I suppose you’re right, press releases are probably not super-important right now. Voters care more about words than action…” They were approaching a long black car. Inside was void. “The president’s called an emergency cabinet meeting to figure out how to respond to this national security crisis.”

Bryans gave out one last whimper as he and Darla vanished inside and then they were off. The car rocketed down Massachusetts Avenue past embassies either blazing or overflowing with crying, preternatural creatures. They zoomed by the Brookings Institution, where interns and office managers alike wandered in a daze. On the side of a Shake Shack, someone had spray painted a large cartoon rat in a suit.

The disaster could not have taken place more than two hours ago and already the city was imploding.

But now Darla had him in her arms again and they were ushered through hallways lit only by muted televisions and staffer cell phone screens. They descended deep below the depths of the White House into the Situation Room. The room was warm and smell of sweat. A pair of staffers debated the appropriate way to pronounce the word “debacle.”

“Gentlemen,” said Darla with an air of authority. “I’ve spoken to the Vice President and he wants a situation report.”

Bryans stopped panicking long enough to rotate his insect-like eyes across the room. The conference room’s chairs were stuffed with other misshapen creatures, blubbering, grotesque things. In the president’s chair was a small thing that looked like the hairless offspring of a dog and a rat. It shook violently.

A nondescript man in a blazer cleared his throat. “Well, Beijing’s gone dark. Last we heard, there were worms all over the presidential palace. The British Prime Minister sprouted wings on live teevee and flew away. Oh, and we’re getting hammered on cable right now. It’s brutal.”

He turned to the oversized rat-dog creature.

“I’ve, of course, informed the president and he’s conveyed to me his sense of grave concern.”

“Oh, I believe it. I believe it.” Said Darla, shaking her head. “This story’s been out for, what, an hour and fifteen minutes and we still don’t have any kind of public response?”

Another man in a blazer looked up from his phone and wrapped his arm around a mass of many tentacles. “The secretary of defense has told me that we need to take decisive military action to counteract this destructive narrative. Maybe against Iran.”

Oh God. Bryans let loose a cry. The whole thing’s running on autopilot.

“Thank you both,” said Darla. “As you just heard, the Vice President agrees firmly. We’re locked and loaded as soon as the president gives the order.”

The room turned toward the rat-like creature, which shook then vomited over the conference room desk.

Darla smiled. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Bryans closed his eyes. There would be no escape for any of them.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


In

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


me in

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Flash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fllQTBPDalk
1000 words

The Ghost Box

It was a few months after the trial when Laurie decided to use the Ghost Box. She’d avoided the thing for weeks, hiding it beneath the pile of old court documents and unopened junk mail. Every so often, when she needed to find some old file, her fingers would brush up against it. It was cold. Metal. No larger than a cigarette case.

And the thing could contact the dead.

Before she could hesitate any further, Laurie flipped open the box and pressed the button inside. There was a soft whir and a flash of blue light. A man in a bedsheet in her kitchen. Through the two circular holes, she could see the glint of glasses. Familiar eyes. The man was—.

“I know you aren’t real. You’re not my dad.” Leslie set the device on her kitchen table and wrapped her fingers around the spindles of a chair. She tried to look firm but her brain felt numb, miswired. “You’re just his image repackaged. A shadow.”

The man looked at her. “That’s fine. I am.”

“I don’t want to perform around you.”

“You don’t have to.” From beneath the sheet, the man removed his glasses and pretended to wipe them. Then, he took a step forward and phased through a chair leg.

“Oh, sorry,” he said. The box rattled like rocket. The man blipped from existence, only to reappear sitting across from her. The cloth bunched up beneath him. “The apartment looks nice. Clean. I like the…”

He snapped his fingers as if struggling to remember something. Even obscured beneath the bedsheet, it was a gesture she remembered from her childhood, from him trying to remember the name of a song on the radio or an old family friend. The man gestured in surrender at the flowers by her windowsill.

Laurie snorted. “Okay, now who’s performing? My dad hated this apartment and I don’t think he knew the difference between one set of flowers and another. He definitely wouldn’t have tried to make small talk over it.”

The man shrugged, his arm phasing through the table. He reappeared near the window, light cascading through him. He looked down at the plants. “As you said, I’m only a shadow.”

Laurie let go of the chair and walked toward him, arms crossed. She watched as the translucent creature cocked his head. It was not a motion she remembered but it felt right. The kind of mellow interest she’d hoped her dad would have once he retired. Up until he died, he’d been filled with a frenetic energy, consumed by wild plans and ideas.

She cleared her throat. “African violets. After you—. After dad died, I Googled ‘houseplants, hard to kill.’ It seemed like the kind of thing that you’re supposed to do when…”

The eyes through the sheet had a patient curiosity, but Laurie didn’t want to have to talk about it again. About how he’d been driving to pick up farm supplies when another car swerved into his lane. About how the other driver had told the police he’d been trying to kill himself. About how her dad had just been in the wrong place.

“Anyways, it was cheaper than a dog. Less mess too.” She rubbed her eyes against her sweater. “I know I’m wasting time that’s supposed to be used on grieving or whatever. How many minutes do we have left?”

“About five. Then our connection will be severed.” There was a hum. “We don’t have to talk about what happened if you don’t want. My job is just to facilitate the grieving process, to give you a chance of closure and help you remember your loved one as you want to remember them.”

Leslie remained rooted near the windowsill. She did not want to think of her father with his head cracked open like an egg. She didn’t want to think of the obliterated remains of his car sitting for hours along the road. Instead she forced her brain to think of the ghost in front of her and the placid tone that she’d heard seen in life.

“You don’t even sound like him. You’re too formal. Too…”

Practiced is the word she wanted to say, but instead she gripped her arms tighter. There was a light ring from the box. Three minutes.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.”

The sheet rippled. “Are you sure?”

“I just…” She stared up at the ceiling. “People keep asking me to put my emotions in neat little boxes as if that’s how any of this is supposed to work. But it’s not.” She took a gulp of air. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel because most of the time I don’t feel anything at all. I keep pretending. I keep trying to feel things, and sometimes I do, but most of the time I’m just…”

She shook her head.

“Not there.” Her eyes felt hot as she heaved in a great gulp of air. “Because I miss you so much. I miss hearing your voice. I miss hearing about the farm and your stupid music through the phone. And I’m so scared that I’m not doing this right.”

She felt something firm settle next to her. Her hairs prickled as something white and transparent phased through her arms in the imitation of a hug.

“I’m so sorry,” said the voice. “I wish I had the right words to make everything better, but I want you to know that there’s no right way to feel.”

The box whirred and the man flickered.

“There’s going to be hard days but there are going to be so many more good ones. The longer you stick around, the more good days you’ll have.”

She cried.

“It’s okay,” the sheet bent down to her forehead. She felt the impression of lips. “You be good.”

There was a loud crack from the box and the form vanished. For a long time, Laurie stood sobbing. Then, she wiped her face and went about her day.

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QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


In. Give me a flash.

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