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crimea
Nov 16, 2012


In. Obliterati said I should try this out.

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crimea
Nov 16, 2012


House-Sitting
Word Count: 1142

Prompt:

It was after the forth bottle of craft whatever that it finally occurred to Gertrude just what had been bothering her so much about staying under this roof. Beforehand it had only been a feeling of something untouchable, like an extra walking across the screen, but here it was now – squat and miserable as she was; she was house-sitting for someone who’d never come back. This house, the house her parents bought when they retired, the house they bought from another elderly couple, whose taste for doilies and floral wallpaper and pastel colours had matched their own – yes, this was not the house of anybody any more.

“The grief will come in waves. The important thing is you allow yourself to feel it.” The psychiatrist had said. Gertrude was sitting across from her in a dinky office chair in a sterile room thinking about how the psychiatrist’s big eyes and yappy, high-pitched voice made her seem kind of like a dog. She probably has a dog, Gertrude thought. It probably looks just like her.

Gertrude was lying in bed in the spare room with empty bottle in hand trying to convince herself to convince herself to go outside. It was late afternoon – time to be getting on. But, but, the curtains are heavy enough fabric so that if they were drawn it could really be any time outside. Maybe the buzz she was running would peter out into drowsiness like it never did and she would try again tomorrow or whenever. The television was probably on downstairs, but maybe it wasn’t. Was she dreaming just then?

***

Gertrude had been idly playing with the idea that the house was haunted. It would go a long way to engender a little less passivity in everything. Unexplained noises in the basement, mysterious blue lights at witching hour – even some rattling chains wouldn’t go amiss. Her dad had told her someone had died in this house – murdered, that is, not like the old couple. It was ages back, in the early 70’s or some-such. Single woman – a musician, according to dad; cellist or whatever. Anyway, the husband’s away – woman-hating home invader creeps in one night, takes a hammer. Etcetera.

“This is the good bit.” Her dad had said, leaning in with that stupid grin on his face. “The police found the victim’s music sheets all torn up and scattered across the floor where he had done the bloody deed! All operatic, you know, tunes and everything. The body wasn’t there, no. He had moved it after.” A finger too bony for a man his age gestured down below, and there was a little glint of mischief in his dark eyes. Gertrude in the spare room thought about how everyone always said she had her dad’s eyes, and then she thought about something else. Maybe from the basement cello woman’s restless spirit will drag a ghostly wand over wailing strings, in the depths of decades. There’s a snooker table stored in the basement, Gertrude remembered.

***

“It’s usually the husband who’s first to go, you know.” The local council bureaucrat had said. His horn-rimmed glasses picked up the sickly white light blaring from the office ceiling. He looked up from the papers he was surveying and slid them across the desk; “Just statistically, you see. There’s always exceptions.” Gertrude sucked her lips in and made a little noise of acknowledgement. The baggy tracksuit bottoms and jacket with the sleeves that went down to her fingers made her look fairly ridiculous slouched in the chair, like a teenager, but there was something she found comforting about it. As she started robotically signing on various dotted lines, she heard herself say “Someone died in the house, you know. Not my – a serial killer thing. Back in the 70’s.”

“Oh right?” The bureaucrat looked at his monitor.

“You don’t really hear about that stuff anymore, really. Serial killers and that. I wonder why. Where they all went.”

“I guess they just got better at catching them.” The bureaucrat seemed to contemplate it for a moment, or maybe he was just contemplating what to have for lunch, before he went back to running his eyes over yet more forms. He cleared this throat and spoke again.

“If you don’t mind me saying – You don’t really get a lot of people our age named Gertrude.” Someone’s telephone was ringing. Gertrude did not make eye contact and muttered “I guess they just had a sense of humour.” The bureaucrat smiled weakly.

The telephone was ringing again. The psychiatrist had told her to ignore it – “It can wait. This is your time.” Gertrude was leaning against the headboard, one leg dangling off the side of the bed, a corkscrew in her right hand and a newly-opened bottle in the other.

“What is the colour of your anger right now?” The dog psychiatrist had said, her hand on her heart. Gertrude, face flushed, mirrored the action; the corkscrew made a little noise when it hit the carpet. From downstairs, the television asked again. “If you were to describe how you felt with a colour, what would you say?” Like the ocean.

***

Gertrude and her mom once had a conversation around the kitchen table in this house. It would have been very portentous and significant if this had been their last conversation, but it wasn’t. Gertrude was sitting on the marble counter top, her legs swinging idly. Her mom was at the table, nursing a cup of tea. The sun was behind her. The topic of discussion was an old favourite of hers.

“Didn’t you go to the wedding of one of your friends the other week?”

“Yes. Hannah. From university.” Gertrude’s response was apathetic.

“And she tied the knot with someone nice?”

“Nicer than the last guy.”

“And it was a nice time?”

“Mmhmm. Her son did a little singing. It was cute.”

“Bless.”

Something hung around in the room for a moment.

“And,” the elderly woman started again, and Gertrude continued on her own. And, and, why have you not found somebody yet? And why do you insist on dressing like that? You’re not in your twenties anymore. And, and, as the light streamed in and hit the silver band on her mom’s wrist in such a way, a little phrase escaped her breath; “My body is falling apart on me.”

Gertrude was lying on the bed again. Gertrude was floating above herself, looking down on the overgrown girl, her notes all scattered on the floor. She started to imagine a life which had gone the right way. Something gainful. She had taken a wrong turn somewhere, but she couldn’t figure out quite where, and now they can’t help. Useless. Nothing to be done for it. Somewhere there was a snooker table and a television which said “That’s the end of it.” Like the ocean.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


I dunno if this is against the rules or kayfabe or whatever, but I wanted to say thanks to the judges for saying nice things about my submission. I didn't expect an honourable mention, and I'll try to get my next one more polished as per the critique.

Also,

Pham Nuwen posted:

I don't fully get the point, but I don't hate it. In fact I kind of liked it in a weird way, maybe because it DIDN'T turn into a ghost story.
This might out me as a pretentious hack but this kind of feedback pleases me inexplicably.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


In.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Rosa & Tom
1362 Words

Great scores of candles burned in beauty on almost every deck of the RosaTom vessel Siber as it cut through the dark blue night. Around the rust-red icebreaker, smaller ships swayed in their own multi-coloured lightshows.

The fleet had something to celebrate – and celebrate they did. There were festivities on the upper decks and makeshift structures of the nuclear icebreaker, and a little further behind, the cruise liner and the hauler, not to mention the dozens of more modest vessels which hung between them.

They were cheering for the sinking of the HMS Roanoke in what used to be the Thames Valley, and the thousands of Anglo bastards which died with it. At least, their bodies had died – no-one could say how many had transferred their consciousness out to safety, squatting in a server bank somewhere, waiting for another Helmet. Despite that, the victory seemed only more significant happening so close to Diwali.

Benji would have to miss the Diwali celebrations tonight. He was working.

Earlier someone had slipped duty for a smoke on Deck 4B, in a quieter part of the ship above the engines and whirring turbines and below the habitation levels. He stumbled across a scene, and let the bridge know about it. They sent down the Biomaterial crew, and once they came back with photographs and a few other things, they sent the Janitorial crew down to clean up the mess. The Janitorial crew could only spare Benji.

With his trolley in tow Benji had somehow been able to navigate the heaving crowds, taking a moment to note that even the Quakers and Yazidis were lighting candles and making an effort, before reaching the humming quiet of the maintenance elevator. He expected a longer walk to his destination, and so was faintly surprised to turn the corner and come across the sorry sight in no time at all.

The first thing was the blood. It pooled on the floor, almost black, and seemed to ripple ever so slightly in response to the movement of the ship. A fair few of the walls were painted with great bursts of it, clinging to rusted pipes and valves.

There were three bodies in all, as Benji had been told – one splayed, limbs wide, on the floor, another entangled unceremoniously with the other’s torso. The third was a few feet away, slumped against the wall, like a drunkard. All three bodies were male, and headless.

Benji for his part, couldn’t help but let out a ‘tsk’. Biomaterial could’ve at least put them in body bags before disappearing. His friend in Biomaterial, Hester, had failed to mention that when he was showing him the pictures of the three Helmets they had wrenched off the bodies (causing even more mess.) Perhaps they wanted to finish up quick so they could celebrate – how inconsiderate.

In Biomaterial’s sweep of the place, he understood, they took the Helmets for themselves to take a look see if any data was left in one of the units’ processors or artificial brain; if there was enough of a consciousness left to salvage, the ship could sell it for supplies next landfall. There was a fair chance any of them might be too damaged or plain empty; it was a question, Benji had heard, of if the sorry saps had pressed the eject button in time.

In any case, the bodies which had been vehicles for the helmets were left limp and derelict. Before he reached for any cleaning supplies, Benji wanted to indulge his curiosity and examine the corpses. Finding someone to identify them would do no good (what Helmet mind keeps their own body?) but even still, a little amateur detective work didn’t hurt. Hester hadn’t said, but Benji was also aware that the weapons had been taken, as probably had any other valuables on the bodies.

Of the two bodies sprawled on top of each other, the one on the bottom was stockier, with a big old scar running up the length of the right arm. He was wearing some leather get-up and a jacket over it – on the shoulder was a badge depicting an abstracted octopus, and the word ‘Leviathans’. Hester had shown Benji the photographs of the Helmets they had poached, each a different design – the Helmet of this body was dark steel, streamlined, with a face like an animal skull.

The second body had a massive chest wound which oozed and weeped into the rags it was wearing. This Helmet had been jagged, a million sharp edges, like a crown of thorns around the entire head. Everyone in Biomaterial had found this design particularly exotic. Some of them understood the Helmet situation very well indeed – better than Benji did. One of them had told him of a rumour going around that the enemy flagship was manned entirely by Helmets – an elite corps, with the experience of thousands of lifetimes. “What a challenge, to be up against that! The deathless! How exciting!”

The final body had its hands wrapped around its guts, in an apparently futile effort to hold them in. A smart brown waistcoat, worn with age, black and white dot tie, and a heavy navy-blue trench coat – an eclectic assortment perhaps, but one which Benji recognised as a type of uniform; that of the private investigators, who make their living scurrying around the flotilla solving mysteries and getting into trouble. There wasn’t many of them, and he certainly hadn’t heard of a Helmet PI before. Hester had tapped the photograph of this Helmet unit with his finger – glaring chrome, perfectly smooth all the way around. It had the shape of a human head, but didn’t bother with any unnecessary features except a reflective finish, which had caught the cameraman in the photo – perhaps having a mirror for a face was some kind of interrogative aid. In any case, it hadn’t helped him here. Benji wondered if this was some kind of shake-down gone wrong, or maybe an ambush. Perhaps someone else would figure it out.

He remembered every PI he’d ever run across having this cynicism about the world which he found rather grating. There was something so performative about it, about how they acted they were the one man standing against the tide – everyone else had just learned to enjoy when the tide came in. Benji was no philosopher, but he’d learned a long time ago that it’s better to accept the absurdity of living on an icebreaker in a world with no ice than start sinking yourself. Maybe the poor guy he was standing over would’ve ended up differently if he’d just stuck his shiny head in the temple once in a while. Everyone else was happy to keep on keeping on until they could retire to a nice little seastead somewhere.

A little while later, when Benji started to actually get to work scrubbing and mopping, he noticed another noise beyond the humming of engines. The noise was hard to describe, like it was incomplete.

He had to search around a little, but when he turned a couple corners he found where it was coming from; a screen on the wall, which might normally be running advertisements for advancements in hydroponics or some such, was instead blaring out this noise and displaying a strange series of glitchy images, with the pixels all in the wrong place. A technical fault? It was only when the screen held on a series of shapes that looked a hell of a lot like the outfit of the PI Helmet that Benji remembered something Hester had once told him about – about the eject mechanism that Helmets use to transfer consciousness. Sometimes when the mind is transmitting out, it can get ‘caught’ by other electrical devices before it reaches its destination. Here was this screen – too small to properly encode a consciousness, but still, through some mechanism Benji didn’t get, little images appeared half-rendered. Lots of stills of the ocean, lots of black cuts, lots of what couldn’t be made out to be anything at all. Colours and things. A whole life unremembered and stuck in amber.

Benji switched the screen off and went back to work.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


In.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


The Butcher Is Your Friend
Word count: 1980

Retching and retching and retching and retching! Nobody could blame you for running up the stairs the way you did! Nobody could blame you for broken-hunching over a cesspit, making insides outside and having a face like an inverted abattoir! The loving swine were in charge!

The raw knife wound in your spine gurgled like an infant.

You crawled on your front and back, of course you did, across the landing with the creaky old-movie floorboards beneath you and all the screaming and fornicating rats in the attic above. When your body came to find the door at the far side of the hall your greedy hands searched for the doorknob. Rattle and nothing, so like a fiend you picked at the lock with a feverishness. Remember, do not think of the Butcher. If you think of him, he will come home.

“Come back down, darling,” you heard the Butcher’s Baby with the dark brain and kiss-me apron crow from downstairs, “come finish your meal or it’ll get cold.” The thought of going down there again made you want to weep and die, but your fragile love leapt at being called ‘darling’. Did it not taste good enough? Were you not hungry? The lock clicked open, and something continued clicking as you moved through the doorway and the door shut behind you.

Master bedroom. Shrieking scarlet wallpaper peeled away, with shreds of the stuff hanging like leaves about to fall. Beside the door, the wardrobe hung open with all finery inside. As you ran your fingertips over the pale tailoring, you felt sacrilegious. Not your things. Not for you. Knew so well that your need to cover your bare flesh did not outweigh the need to sully the beauty of not-thinking-about. Blood was running from your back around your shoulders and spiralled down your arms soaking into the rug you gripped so tightly. You began to clamber over to the bed.

On the bedside table a frail candle you were relieved to find was made from the wax of those in the basement – happy to be put to use. On a little plate, a living growth curdle-birthed from cheese, to help with dreaming esoterically, and a sliver of meat, pulsing raw, to keep you safe. Sparks in your head thought that these were his aids in his journeys beyond the wells of sleep. loving idiot! Don’t think of him! Didn’t you just hear his knuckles crack?

What did you hear? Head pressed to the floor knowing that you must’ve been just above the dining room where you – but just then! You heard slop and gurgling and gnashing and gnawing – still dinner down there.

Almost directly below you came the sweet-spit voice of the Butcher’s Baby. “Darling, I’m coming up to fetch you now!”

Panic just then, like all the pistons started firing and your arms found a power they had not had since you left the basement. Scuttling over the bed with your wound still exploding behind you, your leg caught the covers in such a way that sent you tumbling down on the other side, and when you raised your head again you saw what you previously failed to notice had been underneath.

On the bed was a limbless torso vivisected and guts seeping out filth-staining the sheets. The delicate liver shone like a pearl.

The Butcher’s Baby’s footsteps were coming up the stairs.

Blood-bile-vomit escaped your mouth and stained your teeth toxic.

The Eureka moment which followed came about, as they often do, in the blood and the gore you knelt in. Like everyone else, the torso must’ve come from the basement. Like you and R had. But the body was recent, and the only ones who had gone up the stairs recently was R – and you followed. This was not R (the Butcher’s Baby was walking past the bathroom) so if not the stairs it must’ve – must’ve got up the other way.

Your exploring hand found it as you thought of it. The dumbwaiter.

“Darling, did you lock the door? I know you’re in there. Oh, poor baby, you’ll never make it to pasture like this…” The door shuddered violently. You grabbed the bedsheets and wrapped them around you like a bloody shawl to make yourself formless and threw yourself into the patient dumbwaiter. Outside came a voice which cracked the air; “I bet you have some sweetheart somewhere you’re trying to get back to. That’s not right, baby. I’ll be your sweetheart if it’ll make you stay and eat your dinner.”

Clicking was still there and you pushed the button and you prayed to anything not to stop at the kitchen a floor below. Just to take you down to the basement. As you descended the Butcher’s Baby swung open the door and you were gone. The sing-song words which tasted of sweat followed you down; “Baby, my baby. Tell your baby that I’m your baby.”

Your stomach was rumbling. The chamber you were huddled in quietly rattles as you thought and planned so desperately. During your descent to the basement – which lasted a long time – you thought how there must be some answer. If you had run, perhaps R had too. Perhaps R was waiting down there for you, hidden amongst all the others. You could not bear the thought that R would be anywhere else. The two of you were called up one at a time; the voice of not listening! Can’t you tell how close he is? Don’t you hear him tapping in the space between the walls?

The dumbwaiter came to a thud in a little concrete room. You almost tripped over the lantern as you disembarked, even managing to stay on your feet for a few seconds before back to dragging again. Thankfully the door was ajar and gave away easy. Someplace dark-familiar behind it. Still a little light in the lantern so you took it with you, sometime with the handle between your teeth.

Your hands and feet sunk into the dirt floor of the cavernous basement, the light giving away nothing. You needed R very very badly, didn’t you? You held yourself together for a moment to hear muted footsteps – only a few, to start with, but more and more, marching in the dark.

It took a little time for them to reveal themselves to you.

The inhabitants of the basement were like you. Each waiting for the call upstairs. Dozens of them stood before you naked and in groups of two, wincing at the light. Perhaps there was a look of recognition, then a look of confusion – it was not known of somebody coming back downstairs after being sent up. Perhaps that’s why the first things they said to you, the voices never coming from the one you were looking at, seemed such obvious filler phrases. “We sleep in pairs.” “We eat in pairs.” “Get called up.”

You searched the congregation for R’s face. For any solitary figure. Above all your heads was the infinite black that went up with no ceiling and some had said that they saw stars up there. Aldebaran. Algol.

“Aa… Aarrr” was the struggling noise which finally made it out of your throat. Vacant, milky looks was all you got back. None moved to help you to your feet.

Then came the squealing.

Not from the assorted before you, but somewhere behind them. A pained sound which stirred something within you. The pairs, in response, put their hands in their mouths and parted to the side. In the channel they opened, the form of a heaving, titan sow trotted towards you. The sow, taller than any other, was grunting and squealing and crying out as what happened started happening.

There was something bloody and bulbous in the swine’s grizzly maw. Buckling and writhing, the pig swung its head from side to side, as if to dislodge it. An adult human began to slide out.

The heaving swine’s jaw buckled and tore trying to expel the piglet. The filthy teeth of the swine ripped at the piglet’s skin as shoulders, torso, became free. The basement-dwellers gathered round to watch the new piglet be deposited on the floor. Although the sow was still screaming in agony, the piglet was silent.

Lying on the dirt, caked in blood, that’s when the piglet looked at you. That’s when the piglet gestured to you.

Closer, closer. Very close, you hovered with your ear over the piglet’s mouth.

“He’s coming home now.”

Instantly you recoiled. The piglet still lay there, a vacant smile. That’s done it! You could’ve cried when a few other voices, then many, picked up the chant. “He’s coming back.”

Your wound was searing, your shawl filthy, sweat dripped down your face. Most everyone was saying it now. In the dark, the swine heaved out the second of the pair of piglets. You wished you could say something or wring each and every neck to stop them. Something clicked in your head. They’re all thinking of him. You’re thinking too. Do they know that they’re the ones wishing it? Do they know they’ve trapped you? Mercy – that’s his voice!

I am the Butcher. And I have come home.

A light breaks behind you. Where before there was nothing, now there is a glorious staircase, going up to the dining room. As you went up before. You’re weeping now, really weeping. Your heart is broken. You did really think for a moment there that you could escape. I am calling you up.

You are guilty of cowardice. You are guilty of recursion. But, glutton for punishment that you are, I am not here to punish you. That comes later. Now I invite you to dine before you are taken out to pasture. The staircase is a glowing gold just as it was when I asked for you and R before. Maybe this time it can be different between us.

You are on your feet now. Your hand is on the railing. Your shawl falls away. You’re walking up. As you walk through the doorway, you take care not to look back on the degenerates you’ve surpassed. One day, I will send each pair up. One will go to pasture first, and the other will follow in their meat.

The dining room is lit by waxen candles. The Butcher’s Baby is happy to see you. On the table, R has been prepared – I cooked R to perfection, as you both wanted. Partake in R’s flesh so you might follow on to pasture. It’s not right the two of you not be together.

As I knew you would, you ignore the etiquette of the thing, swiping at the plates and cutlery. You mount the meal, and it makes me so glad to see you sink your teeth into the cheek. You are ravenous. You wolf it down with an energy and exuberance enviable. A chain of gore rings down R’s lips to the neck to the heart, where you are gnawing and gnashing with the wild-violet eyes. Your friend is under your fingernails.

You are consecrated in flesh and as the carving knife is coming down on your back your spinal cord revolts in ecstasy.

You have a halo of dirt as you look up and see yourself leaning bloodied and injured against the wall next to the staircase. Such a fear in your abattoir face. A horror which breaks the glass in your teeth. You’re on the table. You’re on the stairs.

You take a chunk out of R’s forearm as you scramble helplessly upstairs, the vomit already escaping your mouth. You won’t find anything good on the floor above, but still you flee. Still you stay for dinner.

Nobody can blame you for running up the stairs the way you did! Think of me again, and I will come home! Retching and retching and retching and retching!

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


https://imgur.com/576DzOs

Thunderdome Week 343: What a Horrible Week To Have a Curse

This week is all about Accursed Images and Accursed Stories. Participants will be given (by me) a single image from the twitter account 'cursed images' (https://twitter.com/cursedimages) and write a story based on it. Thanks to Sebmojo for the original prompt located here: http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/prompts.php?p=46

Because I do need to make my mark somehow there will be an Accursed Bonus Prompt: You will receive Accursed Bonus Points if your story is set in the 1970's. What is the value of the Accursed Bonus Points? loving nothing!

Regardless, all participants have a word limit of 1970.

"Crimea, you accursed genius, do you expect us all to write a spooky horror story around these accursed images?" Do I expect you to do that? Yes! Because that's obvious and you're all hacks! But there is no restriction on genre or content except for whatever you draw from the image. Your story does not need to be a literal interpretation of the image, just so long as I can connect the thematic dots between the image and the story you write.

Ask Sebmojo for an accursed flash rule and he will give you one.

Sign-ups close: 11:59pm Friday PST
Submissions close: 11:59pm Sunday PST


Accursed Judges
Crimea
Sebmojo
Viscardus

Accursed Participants
01. Accursed onsetOutsider
02. Staggy
03. Bad Seafood
04. Accursed Saddest Rhino
05. anatomi :toxx:
06. Entenzahn
07. Obliterati
08. apophenium
09. selaphiel
10. QuoProQuid
11. SlipUp
12. Accursed Yoruichi
13. Anomalous Blowout
14. kurona_bright
15. NotGordian
16. Salgal80
17. ThirdEmperor
18. Applewhite
19. Fleta Mcgurn

crimea fucked around with this message at 00:32 on Mar 3, 2019

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


onsetOutsider posted:

i am extremely in









crimea
Nov 16, 2012






anatomi posted:

I'm the opposite of out!

Edit: curse me

Edit: also :toxx:









crimea
Nov 16, 2012


ignore

crimea
Nov 16, 2012







crimea
Nov 16, 2012


flerp posted:

yeah in





crimea
Nov 16, 2012


QuoProQuid posted:

put me in chief

crimea
Nov 16, 2012



crimea
Nov 16, 2012






Yoruichi posted:

In. Do your worst.



Anomalous Blowout posted:

I am so busy but this prompt is too good to not be in.



Solitair posted:

I also wish to judge.

The current prompt has 3 judges, unfortunately. Unless you meant judging a brawl which i'm not paying attention to.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


kurona_bright posted:

In for this one.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


NotGordian posted:

In, sounds fun.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012






ThirdEmperor posted:

In. Do your worst.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Applewhite posted:

A cursed week to be in

crimea
Nov 16, 2012



crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Sign-ups are closed.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


I was the beer you could not finish. Submissions are closed.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012




Accursed Judgement

The time has come. Having already proven myself to be the greatest literary mind of my generation, I will now prove myself to be the greatest judicial mind. This accursed week had a fair range of submissions (obviously not accounting for those who failed to submit) and leaves us a lot to talk about. Let’s start with the highs before we dive into the dark night of the soul.

This week’s HMs are as follows: Yoruichi’s cute and accomplished tale ‘Three Hundred and Forty’ that deftly handled the hellrule it was saddled with, Staggy’s ‘The Sound of Rain’, a lyrical if sometimes purple tale of acid rain isolation, and Applewhite’s genuinely atmospheric and gripping ‘Dancing Lights’. In the end, one story stood out above the rest. With a submission which took a car boot filled with oranges and found in that image the menacing energy hidden within, ‘A Seeker in the Soil’ took that energy and told a haunting and sincere story about the horror of the family unit. Anomalous Blowout is this week’s well-deserved winner with a tale that, when it ended, I only wanted more of.

Now my eyes roll back and I descend into the pit – let’s discuss the duds of the week. Apophenium’s ‘Highgate’ bravely asked “what if the Hispanic maid from Family Guy vaped?” and the answer was as annoying as you’d expect. Entenzah’s ‘Fraud’, a sub-Twilight Zone snore, includes a scene where the malevolent ghosts, quote, “Tried to pull him in, keep him here, buried deep in this mansion like the hack fraud he was.” The only hack fraud here is the one who wrote this story. NotGordian’s ‘All the Neighbours Have Moved Away’ told the tale of a boring miserable woman who sits on a bench, meets some other boring people, and sits on a bench again. A dull, clichéd, obvious nothing with no original ideas and no impact. The final one of this bunch, SlipUp, somehow thought that I was twelve years old and wanted to read a generic fantasy tale called ‘Dragonstorm’ about a bunch of boring adventurers loving around. SlipUp said to me that they couldn’t set their story in the 70’s due to their prompt containing computers, but then failed to include their prompt in the story in any meaningful way; their inclusion is in a framing scene which could have been easily cut. Simply describing the scene in your prompt is not an interesting use of your prompt. These are all your DMs for the week. “Three HMs and four DMs?” That’s part of the curse.

There was story which was the worst of the bunch and that was the inscrutable ‘One May Ride a Free Horse to Death’. It’s not the worst because of the clipped and stilted prose, nor because of how none of the characters have clear personality or motivation, nor because of the mythological bullshit of its ending. This story is the worst because of the dog – and no, it has nothing to do with anything so blasé as the dog dying. In the opening paragraphs it’s established that Elise has not spoken aloud in four years. And yet only a few paragraphs later, she turns to her dog and asks it “What do you think, Doc?” What the gently caress? She hasn’t spoken aloud in four years and she starts talking to the loving dog like it’s nothing? Her first conversation since her husband died and she’s like “Ooh, I better get the dog in on this action.” This could’ve easily been solved if the original line had been that she had spoken for years only to her dog, but that’s not the case. Are we are to believe she is the type of person to speak to her dog, but she only just decided that today? She’s just been giving her loving dog the silent treatment for four years? She just talks to the dog just like that, today of all days? Look at how much of the judgement post I spent on this loving dog. Selaphiel, I cannot stress enough how much you are this week’s loser because of this loving dog.

The curse is lifting. The sun is out, the birds are blooming, the flowers are singing. I, Carlos the Accursed, grant the crown of Spain to the Duke on Anjou Anomalous Blowout on my death. If you knew what was good for you, next week’s prompt would be about the War of the Spanish Succession.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


In, flash me.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Accursed Crits for Week 343

I'm not very good at crits. Also I don't believe in marking out of 10 for ideological reasons.

Yoruichi ‘Three Hundred and Forty’ - The line 3 paragraphs down made me smirk. Very imaginative response to the prompt – perhaps the terror or weirdness of the pit could’ve been highlighted more, but at the same time perhaps its distant threat is more effective. The hellrule is navigated well and the story is running on more than just weirdness for weirdness' sake. Made me check out NZ’s parliament buildings which I agree look very nice.

Staggy ‘The Sound of Rain’ - A strong opening. In general this story is very accomplished with a really good use of the prompt and well-realised setting. Some lines like "I'm glad it's over but I miss the intensity." are great, like seriously good, and some lines like "[...] ascending into the depths of sleep as I go.” are sort of too clever. A little too overwritten in places but on balance a very good story about isolation and loss. Also they still have wifi in the acid rain apocalypse?

Obliterati ‘The Baroque Variant’ - I feel like just in my short time here there's been multiple stories about the relationship between someone and their robot companion. In any case, this story has a nice sense of flowing action and a believable central relationship until they try to kill each other but then they're friends again. To me that part is sort of underwritten. Still, it reads well. Also I mark it down on a personal level due to my dislike of chess metaphors, but I mark it up for my like of Northern Cyprus as a setting.

Selaphiel ‘One May Ride a Free Horse to Death’ - I don't want to put too fine a point on this one but the prose is at once too clean and modern-sounding to fit with the content, and also suffering from multiple wonky phrases that could do with a reread. ("Fearsome yet ugly"?) I don't really care about any of these characters and I don't particularly care about this poor passive woman who gets brutalised by some horse guys. The whole first part on the beach could've been cut and the information it conveys could've been placed later. The dog stuff took me out of the story, as previously established. Also I don't get the title or the connection to the prompt.

Apophenium 'Highgate' - I used it in the judgement but annoying is really the word I would use to describe this story. We get a broad sketch of this grandma character and her problems, her grandson who (ugh) is like a streamer tells her to smoke weed, but he doesn't give her any of his weed. Horrible child. So she goes to the graveyard and meets Death with a 'Toothy grin' which is one of two times this phrase appears this week - it sucks. It's not scary. It's cliche and boring. Of course he has a toothy grin, he's a skull. It all turns out ok after they avoid the lone cop patrolling this graveyard - I dunno much about policing, is that a regular beat? I don't know why Death sells weed. It's a wacky supernatural element which does nothing but annoy me.

NotGordian ‘All the Neighbours Have Moved Away’ - I really don't mean to be too harsh with this stuff but this story I used my veto to condemn this to a DM and save Salgal's story because this is just so boring, dry, dull, etc. and this is not your first TD submission. Every single phrase and idea feels like the first, most cliche and obvious form of that idea. “with his short, wiry beard he looked the hero, and damned if he wasn't going to play the part” The information being given is that this guy has a short beard and he's a leader, and this trope phrase is the most cliche and obvious way to convey both those pieces of information. There is something to be said for ambiguity, and I do kinda like how you don't launch into a whole thing about why everyone is moving away, but you also give me no reason to care about any of it. Nothing happens in the story.

Salgal80 ‘Baki the Baka: A Moral Tale’ - Call me bias as a newbie judge but this newbie submission I felt deserved a little leniency. Obviously, the clear problem is a lack of proofreading, meaning the story is not pleasurable to read, and the ending confuses me no end. Did the crab commit crab suicide? Did his imprisonment end? Why? What was the moral? The joke in the title annoys me also. But I feel like this tale of crab love and crab loss in the crab kingdom required at least a bit of crab imagination - and much like the humble crab, this story is ultimately harmless. But again please proofread.

Entenzahn ‘Fraud’ - The opening joke got me on the second read. There is a fair attempt made at creating an atmosphere but I wish there was more build-up. Things start at a spook level of 7 and go up from there. “a thunderstorm approaching him, one chuckle at a time” the idea of using chuckles as a system of measurement isn’t spooky. This story also has a toothy grin in it. The twist ending doesn't really make sense. He's a ghost? The old man is a ghost? The woman was a ghost? Was everyone in this story a ghost?

The Saddest Rhino ‘Final Transmission’ - An imaginative and sincere take on the prompt. I do like the style it's written in with all the repetition and all that but it is perhaps a bit too heavy and leaves us kind of plodding along until the denouement at the end. Even still I am a sucker for this sort of thing.

Bad Seafood ‘A Gift as an Apology’ - Due to the hellrule this one is pretty simple, but that doesn't stop it from being quite a heartfelt, poetic submission. The limiting structure gives everything an interesting herky-jerky vibe.

Anomalous Blowout ‘A Seeker in the Soil’ - Another story with a really strong opening. A good tale of a disturbed family unit is always appreciated, and this one is very readable, has a lot of nice, genuine character work. The prompt is used both literally, in that the car makes a cameo, and also figuratively, as that same uncanny, slightly menacing vibe found in the prompt is translated into the world of the story, a world which feels much bigger than the glimpse we as readers get of it. This story feels like the first chapter of a really good novel.

Applewhite ‘Dancing Lights’ - A story which is actually as atmospheric and spooky as the prompt image it’s based on! I actually found this one quite gripping and evocative! And the happy ending feels earned after the darkness most of the story scrambles around in.

SlipUp ‘Dragonstorm’ - “'Violence virtually vilifies virtuous vermin,' Jerry jokes. Forest fogged his fate from his foe, his players part in this play. The lute laid low the little liar, laden with lacerations. Chords cut the Commander like a caesarian. The body bleeds blue.” I don't like that. I already talked a lot about this one in judgement but just to expand: I feel like one of the main issues is the overtly-literal use of the prompt. Just describing the scene in the picture is in my opinion not fully using the prompt, especially considering some of the stories above which 'read' the prompt to find some underlying feeling or energy from it and have that energy inform the story, as opposed to here where the story is on a different planet. Frankly when reading this story I was expecting some kind of subversive twist that never happened. Some suggestions as to how to make me like this story more is to have it be about a bunch of guys loving around with an old 70's computer, or perhaps earn the respect of everyone by keeping the adventurer story but have them all have sex with each other in the end. That'd really get us.

Thranguy ‘Wake Up’ - Another good horror story which is well-informed by the prompt. At the start I liked the style of prose and found it endearing but I was worried it would get old. Thankfully it did not. The end stinger is very evocative.

Anatomi ‘Bringer’ - An accomplished story with functional prose and a good sense of character. For some reason I feel quite neutral about it – I’m not hugely gripped by anything in particular. I would say though that the prompt was used well and the stork was a good evocative element. I think the last few lines are sort of obvious but that’s probably my own taste. Shame about the lateness but nobody's perfect.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Stars Are Right
Word Count: 1032
Flash Rule:Your authoritarian makes all their decisions by reading signs and portents.

I was born with a blood clot in my fist and a caul over my face. That day the stars had shone auspiciously bright and the solar winds had been favourable; between the hanging spires of the fortress ruins my family called home, a space-faring vessel drifted into dock. The sailors bought my caul gladly, for they believed it would save themselves from suffocating. A billion billion lightyears away, a diviner emerged from the entrails of a skywhale, proclaiming that today the stars had delivered a hero. I had no choice in any of this.

I did not choose to plot the course to Alpha Centauri just in time for the Anarchy to snuff out civilization there; I had simply let my solar sails carry me where I needed to go. It was after my arrival into that reign of terror that I first dreamed of the Commissar of the Outer Planets – before I met him, and came into his service. The last time I dreamt of him was right before I jettisoned him into the black hole his dread capital orbited.

It was on the heed of the seers that I took power. It was not me. They huddled around me, wide smiles on each of the faces of those ancient crones – older even than the Sinistra Dirge, or the Days of Want. It was with their wisdom that I came to know I was ordained. They showed me the wonder of everything – how marvellous it is to see yourself in the universe! When I saw the ashy deserts of Calremer IV were the same greys as the hair on my head, I built a temple there. When I saw the living ocean of Iyth III was the exact, the exact shade of blue as my eyes, I wept for days. Everywhere I was heeded to go, I would go, and I would take that place into my kingdom, my heart.

In every way everything was my guide; when I set foot on the vineyard planet Palatine IX and witnessed the soil sour and fruit wither under my footsteps, I knew the planet to be degenerate, and that I was brought there to right that wrong. So I did. I smote that planet from orbit.

***

Once the stars had fortified my reign, rebellion and resistance ebbed away. The dreams of the masses told them to work and rest, and divining rods led the curious to bodies of water where, searching for their own reflection, they would see only me. Some even began to believe that strange mysteries – unusual births, natural disasters, unforeseen eclipses – were not omens at all, but instead my will acted upon the universe. Discontent, therefore, began to take more solitary and theatrical forms. There was one such fiend who would brave the jungles of Opal-Night and come out caked in blood, who would cut down my servants who stood in his path, who would whip up the common people until they were in a frenzy I had not seen since the Anarchy.

I did not move against him. I had no sign.

Even the stars that shone the brightest did not lead the way. Even the entrails of the most alien of beasts held nothing for me. No dreams presaged his actions. I could not move. I could not breathe!

When he stormed my throne room, dancing through the air on rocket-boots, his jumpsuit pulling against his slender form, I could do nothing but admire the way his quaffed blond hair caught the fractal light. Courtiers looked on with awe; my guards, clad in red and gold, tried to yank him to the ground, or else paced dumbstruck, waiting for an order. The Winged Ones and the Exiles and the Bulgasari and all the rest of my gathered subjects laughed at such a spectacle. The trickster could’ve rushed to drive a blade through my heart, but instead he weaved and taunted; he threw around my guards, joking with himself. His smile was beautiful. A truly free agent.

I never found out which of my commandos fired the corrosive round which caught him mid-flight. I often wondered after if perhaps they had seen an omen I hadn’t, something that said ‘fire away!’ Maybe that would’ve made it better. The trickster, wings clipped, tumbled onto the steps before me; the acid was already eating into his chest. His heart was beating. I could see it. I crouched down next to him.

“N-Never fuh-forgive you for Palatine.” He managed to whisper. “All those p-planets. I won’t forgive. I won’t forget. Wuh-won’t forget.”

“Shhh. Just think of the glorious things.” As I muttered this consolation to him, I ran the tip of my elongated fingernail down his cheek. Our eyes met. “Remember that. Just forget the parts you’ll never need. All these things I’ll tell you when you wake up.”

I ordered the interloper stabilised and ready for travel – I knew what to do. I knew what it meant. There was still the flicker of life in him when I dropped him into Iyth III. His body dissolved into the living ocean, excess drifting away as vapour. It would take a long time for his consciousness to adapt to the vast alien consciousness which dwarfed it down there – aeons, perhaps, facing a madness made from the mind diffusing itself into mass. But eventually he would find his place, and have his own thoughts again. It would all probably only last a moment for him. I would be there with him, in the end, for the both of us are out of the aeons. Then he would understand.

He would know I had no choice in any of it. Perhaps down there he would dream of me, as I wish I would dream of him.

***

What a wonderful burden, to be the vessel of the universe. What a glorious scar to inflict upon me. Meaning sings from every atom. Every star desires to sun-kiss me. And there are still so many stars in the universe. My head is in my hands and I will wander into the dark until a portent bids me to rest, and dream of nothing more.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


In.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Fool's Journey
633 words

Now I don’t find a need to relay to you the entire biography of our hero to the minute detail. I’m sure folks have heard his deeds and misdeeds up in Washington State with the Magician, and the three-year trek across Colorado huntin’ down the Lovers. Even as I speak I see heads nodding and knowing looks – we all heard them tales – heard tales even of the Devil himself. This one, the one I’ll share you tonight, I might humbly hope will please all assembled. I have only a little time to share, but I’m hoping it’s worth it.

Well, of the desert one day here’s coming a raggedy man on a horse half-bone. Trotting right out like a mirage, and this fella’s going into town and swings in the saloon and afore anything else he says “Where’s the Tower?”

The many patrons of this little establishment all turn to look see this son-of-a-gun standing in the doorframe – his suit almost to tatters, his belt frayed and the buckle rusting, black boots worn white. His face is young, that’s so, but it’s no face that finds favour with the fairer sex, that’s sure.

But he’s got iron on his hip, and he knows how to use it. He’s the stuff of legend with that six-shooter, and that crew know it. Call him Hercules, call him Samson, just don’t call him the Fool to his face, else he’s liable to make you uglier a sight than him.

There’s a silence that comes down like a sheet on this little saloon, one man trades afear’d looks with another, gentlemen adjust their good-to-do ties and missies glancing at their shoes. And a voice from the deep pricks the ears of all; “Right here. Right here.”

A man a’stone takes to his feet at a far table – certified giant and a canyon glare – and his sheriff’s badge shines brilliant in the sun that’s streaming in.

“What’s your business?” That’s the bellow from the Tower.

“Yer death.” Replies the Fool.

With this the Tower takes a step and he checks himself. He stretches his fingers. “I see. There some wrong I’ve done? Some rhyme or reason?”

“You survive, I’ll tell you the reason.” Now I hear a couple chuckles from the back. Nobody’s ever said that our Fool was a man of wit. Lemme get back to it.

It don’t take a scholar to know these men are about to duel, and as they make way to the street of this little town, there’s a congregation that hovers by every window.

Shucks, you know how it goes. Thirty paces apart, the two men’s knuckles straining white over their holsters, all it would take was one move, one twitch, to take this to Tartarus.

It’s all about quality over quantity. The Tower got two shots off. A bullet sent the feathers in the Fool’s hat flying, and another tore at the Fool’s cheek. Between shot one and shot two, the Fool hit the bullseye.

It went quiet again. Only sound was the Fool’s frayed boots shambling over the dirt to where the Tower has crumbled. He had his hand over his mouth like so, and sleek, dark blood was running from between his fingers.

The whole town could attest to witnessing the Fool take pause over the hunk of granite what used to be the Tower, takin’ his hand away from his maw, and lettin’ three or four teeth tumble into the hole in the dead man’s head.

Let those pearly whites rest in there, they’d grow up to be the Fool’s own kids, best for wandering for ‘bout a thousand years.

But all the town were left with was the receding sound of hooves and the sandstorm which was picking up. Like that sandstorm out there, right now.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


In, flash.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Station of the Nail
1291 words

Although the sensors told Newcastle he was approaching a moon, the look of it was more of a glorified asteroid –the whole thing might’ve been circumnavigated in under a month. A vein of crackling red iron was visible from orbit; though beautiful, that was the domain of geologists and painters, not pilgrims. Still, Newcastle’s stomach rumbled, the pamphlets had said this was a Station of the Nail, and life-signs blinked on the dash – all of this compelled him to stop. It was only a few hours cruising before he found and set himself down next to the only point of interest on that rock – a ship, crumpled and buried in the dirt, and in front of the rusting frame, a heavy-set man holding in his arms a monitor cast in ivory. Floodlights planted in the rubble lit the scene and stung Newcastle’s eyes as he disembarked.

“What’s your business?” said the man who sat in the rubble. As Newcastle got closer he could see the man’s jumpsuit bore the name ‘Stoke’. He cleared his throat and tugged at his cloak – he hadn’t spoken aloud in a while.

“I am on pilgrimage to see Our Mother. The leaflets said this is a Station. I n-“

“Perhaps the ones you found said that. The Stations are different depending who you listen to.”

“Be that as it may,” Newcastle’s teeth gritted in response to that mild heresy; “I should still learn some lesson from this place, or if nothing else resupply and get on my way.”

Stoke chuckled and loosened his grip on the monitor – screen blank, only reflecting back the harsh light – and quickly looked Newcastle up and down. A heavy cloak concealed much of the pilgrim’s form, and a mat of hair the colour and texture of straw hung from his head. The face was young, perhaps, but had one interesting feature, which perhaps prompted Stoke to snap in response before the pilgrim could get a word in; “You want Our Mother to fix your mouth?”

Newcastle did not come here to be insulted.

“Harelips were the fashion when Pa had me grown.”

“Hrm. And did you ever forgive him for mutilating you?”

“Eventually.” Newcastle huffed. This was more or less true; he and Pa had some sort of reconciliation before Pa had volunteered to join the Governor General on the funeral pyre. Even in bitter times Newcastle could not deny the beauty of how the old men’s skulls had fused in the heat.

Stoke again jumped to conversation, rushing forward with whatever was on his mind. The air seemed more arid with his every breath. “That’s good! It’s good to forgive. I’m a lucky man that my girl here,” he tenderly tapped the edge of the monitor “forgave me a’long ago.”

Newcastle’s attention zigzagged – he wished ill for this heretic, of course, but perhaps he was getting to the lesson.

“In my younger days, I was a bit of a wildcard. Once, I dared my navigational computer here to fly us so close to a black hole you could kiss it!”

Stoke punctuated this moment by raising his bushy eyebrows.

“She was able to break us out of the event horizon fine, but when we crawled out my thoughts were Purple and the computer thought she was God. Now, she’s always singing in this heavenly voice. Don’t it sound beautiful?”

Newcastle did not hear anything. Anecdotes were over. A garrotte appeared in his right hand.

“I am going to loot your ship and take what food I can. You are too boring to barter with. Do not stop me or I will use force.”

Newcastle’s eyes were steel, but Stoke did not cry out or beg or become fearful. He responded jovially; “Go ahead! I don’t think I need to eat anymore. If you want anything else I’ll be sitting right here.”

So it happened that the put-upon pilgrim climbed onto his ship with some dozen canned goods in his arms, and the marooned sailor remained perched on his rock, and as lift-off began he began to duet with the silence of his cradled computer. “…and we stabbed the backs of fathers, sons of dirt…”

Not a total loss.

***

After the liver and peaches in the tins had been used or gone to waste, and Newcastle almost died when a meteor storm punctured his life support system, and almost died again after eating the spaceborne algae that grew on the warm parts of the engine, he was awoken by the hooting of his navigational computer. His food worries, he thought, might finally be over. A little click and whirr signalled he had crossed the border into the space of the Abattoir Star.

Nine planets orbited a blood sun – Newcastle picked which one to visit on a whim. It didn’t much matter – the surface of each were identically covered by huge slaughterhouses. Whoever founded it was a genius to be sure, since their creation was at such scale to feed the trillions of inhabitants of hundreds of other systems.

According to Newcastle’s leaflet, the Abattoir Star was a Station. Unfortunately, he had subsequently come across another leaflet where it was not. Probably apocryphal, nothing to lose sleep over.

The heat and gore which emanated from the artificial valleys beneath the main dock on Abattoir IIb gave the air a raw, rusted taste. Couriers buzzed from place to place, loading product into chilled cargo bays. The locals moved with a swagger, the bones stitched to their outfits jangling as they went. This strange sight and others were recorded by the many anthropologists who had flocked to the system hoping to figure these people out, but ended up arriving in such numbers that they had come to begin studying each other as well. Newcastle just had to go to the wholesaler.

The queue spiralled around over arches and bridges which crossed the rivers of wastage, and Newcastle’s annoyance only grew as he inched closer to the front – a situation not helped by a woman with no skin on her neck propositioning him, as if he looked enough like the type of savage who would indulge in such mammal behaviour. He reminded himself of how he, as a pious man, would be tested, and in return acted testy when the butcher with skull-fragment horns tried to serve him.

“There’s no need. Please just pick out the stock you’d like and we’ll send it up to your ship.”

The two of them stood on a steel balcony overlooking a herd of perhaps seven hundred, huddled shoulder to shoulder on the warehouse floor. Some picked lice out of each other’s hair, some played in their own muck, but mostly they sat still, cross-legged, waiting for something to happen.

There was a portly one that caught Newcastle’s eye – blue stripes were painted on its belly, and next to each line, a number to grade them, like all the others. Newcastle wondered why they would let something half-blind and all-vacant wear spectacles, like a person would. Either way, plenty of meat on the bones.

“Prepare and package that one and send it to my hold.” Newcastle gestured towards it “and keep the glasses on. I have a crate of flowers on my ship – toxic to me but psychedelic to someone who breathes an atmosphere like this. That should cover payment.”

Back on his ship, Newcastle pored over his leaflets again, cross-referencing them with his maps, looking for meaningful shapes in the routes. The part of his gums exposed by his harelip was becoming irritable, so he tried to calm himself by listening to the intra-radio, which picked up the burning sounds the stars made. ‘Good travels, worthy pilgrim!’ said the noise which crackled and flared out of the vacuum.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Week 351 crits
This week was generally quite poor and had some really odd repeating themes. With all the obsessed mommy’s boy protagonist we got you’d think this had been Oedipus Week.

Simply Simon “I Was In a Coma Twice”
This is a strange story because it might be set in some kind of ultra-Catholic version of America where modern medicine isn’t where it is and people assume waking up from a coma is a miracle rather than just something that happens. The religious metaphors used are extremely on the nose and serve little purpose other than to tell us this story is ‘about’ religion. I guess how religion is bad but mommy is good? Not hugely fond of it.


Flerp “America’s Pastime”
Eerily similar in tone, construction and quality to the previous story. The song-poem this submission is better written and more evocative than this miserable dirge, which incidentally is true for other stories this week too.

“Your wife left you seven years ago and now you have cancer.” You got the results of the test back!

The repetitions and the second person and the wandering flashbacks and contemplation point to something complex, but the story itself is simple enough to be sparse. I don’t particularly give a poo poo about ‘me’ and my dead prostate. The wife and baseball stuff is constructed almost entirely out of cliches. If it makes you feel better, I wouldn’t have made this the loser. My loser is conveniently coming up right now!


QuoProQuid “Monsters”
There’s this interesting idea where the corniness and unreality of their situation is brought up multiple times – in relation to movies mostly, but also the idea Vic ‘came right from an LA billboard.’ This is a neat idea but there’s never really any payoff to the movie thing. Unless we’re meant to be shocked that the hitchhiker was bad cause that never happens in the movies, which of course is false.

It’s so obvious that Vic is up to no good that I was half expecting/hoping that he’s actually completely on the level and the protagonist has exaggerated his menace in their child brain. I mean, literally any time Vic so much as speaks or smiles or opens a door or rubs his belly he’s described as an evil no-good demon vampire dude, obviously he’s gonna do something. That this is communicated so heavy-handedly is compounded by the dire diner scene, where the protagonist is hanging around alone in a diner because that’s what depressed people in the desert do, and we hear a horrible and frankly unbelievable tale about a snake that ate a kid. They thought they could trust the snake! I get it. Please have a little faith in your readers.

‘“Hey there, princess,” he said without a hint of warmth. “You gonna save the day?”’ This line is really annoying.

Not to get too political but I also kind of have a problem about the depiction of sexual violence and its aftermath in this story. Not that it’s offensive or too much or whatever. It’s flat. Victims of sexual assault or other traumatic events can, you know, laugh. I dunno, there’s this idea that this traumatic experience at the motel has hosed the protagonist so much that she turns into a miserable short story character who is 100% gloomy 100% of the time, and that comes across to me as a flat character. Not “insulting” or “untrue” but flat. We have this loss of innocence, or as Freud would call it a ‘primal scene’, but the actual long-term impact we glimpse it having comes across as a sort of saccharine “ooh, the evil that men do, guess you shouldn’t trust strangers”-type deal. I can’t say too too much about it because it’s not something I have experience of but I would recommend Gretchen Felker-Martin’s or Julia Gfrörer’s writing on the depiction of sexual violence.

This story is at least more ‘professionally’ written which is more to be said for some of the others this week, but in the end I just find this story unpleasant. I think it’s bad, sorry.


Nikaer Drekin “One Odd Duck”
“He didn’t like eating the duck eggs all that much, so he wasn’t sure why he took them. Still, it always gave him a thrill to do it.” Sounds like he does it because of the thrill?
“A pang of warmth oozed through his chest” dunno if ‘oozed’ is the right word here? Like, firstly, it’s sort of a gross image of stuff oozing in his chest, secondly ‘pang’ means ‘a sudden sharp pain or painful emotion.’ So it’s either sudden or oozing, you know?

That ‘Oh God’ after the offer to kiss isn’t italicised or anything like it’s a thought in Ike’s head, so it seems like the narrator is getting really bothered and flustered about it which is weird and possibly just a mistake on your part but honestly I kinda like it. It adds this interesting kind of voyeur element to the scene which wouldn’t be present otherwise.

It is interesting also that Ike’s parents dying seems to have no emotional impact on him at all, presumably because his obsession with Kailey dominates his mind so much he doesn’t have room for other attachments. He is so singularly ruled by this desire it goes far beyond a simple meet-cute and into real derangement. This isn’t a criticism, I think that’s interesting.

The ending made me laugh in how loving perverse it was. What a great stupid tale about a useless stupid man who just gives up being a person because he couldn’t get laid. This is a good contrast to the previous stories, not just because it’s the first good one of the evening, but this one is obviously a little more amateurish, a little less proofread, a few odder sentence constructions, but I can forgive that when a story is as perverse as this. Rethink the ooze.


Kaishai “Tendrils”
I keep seeing lines like “trusting the black of not-quite-midnight to cover me but not caring that much whether it did” – the construction is something like “I expected X to happen, but I didn’t care that much if it did.” There must be some other means to get this idea across of like, low expectations, carelessness, losing self-awareness, than writing this same sentence construction over and over. Literally am I wrong? Multiple stories this week and I swear in previous TD submissions as well. It’s a very specific feeling trying to get across but it’s used to the point of cliché, honestly.

“I knew someone must have found her body. Or else it had drifted on, forever lost. I knew she was there.” Does he know someone found the body or does he know it had drifted away and lost or does he know the body is still there? These are three exclusive things.

I don’t get why I should care about this guy and his… supernatural...? obsession with some lady who jumped off a bridge. Obviously she’s an octopus woman cause that’s what the song is about. You successfully described the narrative of the song adding nothing but more, badder words. Cool! Boring. This is a creepypasta with no twist – I already know she’s an octopus woman, I listened to the song. There's nothing new here.


Fleta Mcgurn “Tanya”
“My mom said just to calm” I hate it when my mom says that.

Another very heavy story about some horrible thing. I feel like it ends at the wrong place. The final confrontation is that Tanya resents her friend for not saving her, which is fine I suppose, but that seems like the middle of the emotional arc, not the end of it. It also kind of deflates the mystery that the reason Tanya is so distant towards the protagonist is the most obvious thing. “Why do you hate me?” “You watched me get abused and did nothing.” “Oh! Oh yeah I did.” The end. You know what I mean? I think fundamentally the problem this one is one of structure.

Having said that there’s some nice characterisation and evocative descriptors – something had to win this week.


“Antivehicular “Sometimes Too Late”
Not a huge amount jumps out at me about this one. There’s this interesting idea of sort of modern hook-up culture or whatever that exists in this future of cloning and genetic destiny, and that’s sort of nice, but I dunno, everything quite sparse on the ground. Nothing much happens, the worldbuilding isn’t interesting enough to make up for there not being a plot, and the thoughts of the protagonist seem to kind of circle themselves.


Mr. Steak “The Lonely Girl”
Certainly a cute little sort of weird tale. Uuuhh the kind of fairytale aspect of it was interesting? I’m struggling here. I don’t have a huge amount to say, except that this story is lucky it made me feel nothing rather than making me feel annoyed, cause then it probably would’ve lost.


Crabrock “You didn’t see this coming”
Very good start. Yet another story that’s seemingly entirely from the perspective of someone with a skewed perspective on the world, and the first few lines push that perspective out to an absurdly comic degree.

And then it turns out that everyone in this world is a weirdo, which is nice. It’s an interesting heightening.

Although honestly kind of an easy dig on flat earthers and that. What did they ever do to you, my man?

This story is obviously very good and very funny. On second reading the charm wears off slightly. Just on a basic level this was the story I enjoyed reading most this week but the ending flies too close to the sun, and unfortunately that kind of avant-garde thinking is punished in Thunderdome. Your last few lines are a more cogent and biting critique of the very bad stories than anything I’ve written in this post.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


In with Dream Hub Gunsan.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Fleta Mcgurn posted:


This one's already been taken, but you can choose another or I can give you one.


E: Nevermind what I previously said, I don't think anyone had taken Dream Bay Masan

crimea fucked around with this message at 21:08 on May 2, 2019

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


I Close My Eyes and I Drift Away
1187 words



I am the imp sat curtly on your chest as you sleep.

Henry caught me in a painting, and I begged him to be generous. I asked very nicely indeed, but that liar had me as I was, and then had me for a fool. He did not paint the blood rushing to your head. And the horse head wasn’t even there that night.

You’re sleeping now, though. You’re dreaming about your teeth falling out – it’s a classic, to be sure, but please leave some for me. I don’t know what’s got you so nervous, and some nights I worry about you ‘cause you grind those pearly whites together like a lunatic.

Every day has its dog, and when the sun comes up you start to crawl out of bed and start stomping around like you owe it something. Why bother? Until you have coffee you’re three steps behind yourself. Why bother? The bed’s so inviting. I should know – I’m under there right now. Why bother?

You know those dreams where you’re falling and falling and then you wake up? I hate those. I want to know what happens when you hit the ground!

Tonight you’re driving around a nonsense city that look like every other city and you’re looking for a place to park. Motorways aren’t meant to be this steep, I guess. When you’re awake you can’t drive but that’s ok. It’s easier here. If you adjust your rear view mirror, you’d see me in the backseat. Please don’t ask me for directions. You wouldn’t like where I’d take you.

This is your dad’s car isn’t it? And a wrongly-remembered childhood holiday? Paging Doctor Freud!

I’m only joking, of course. All dreamers are equally insane.

Usually I am fond of you because you are not placid and peaceful, and you go many different places, and you do not ask stupid questions like “Why do we dream?” “Do dreams have meaning?” How dare you? When your ancestors slept beneath the stars they knew better than to wonder, and their dreams went down further underground as a sign of appreciation.

Usually I am fond of you. But when the sun was out you got it in your mind to dream lucidly. You got a little journal and you got your grounding symbol. It’s a postcard with a little blue biplane on it. Before I know it the biplane is flying around your head every night and you’re so much more solid than usual. It makes me sick. I want to open the windows and let the postcard flutter away, and we can get back to the good old days of trawling your night-thoughts without the kid gloves.

It’s taking a few nights for me to get an opportunity. Just now you’re dreaming about who you’re sweet on. You couldn’t wait to see your darling in the day, so your darling visited early. It’s not going very well though, and you wish you could just get darling’s attention one second. The biplane’s making a racket on take-off.

You wake up sour and spend the day indoors, not seeing your darling again. You don’t write that one down in your little journal.

It’s in the waning seconds after escaping that slasher movie castle, those few moments where dream and reality overlap like seismic plates, it’s then I swipe the postcard. It’s then I catch the blue buzzard. You go on like it’s nothing as eyes adjust and edges come back and I go down below, to someplace your dreams always (cannot) go.

Collective unconscious is not the right term for it. It’s a collected unconscious. A tangled web of dreams, spinning from the dark into right here into the dark again. It’s the underside entrance to the iceberg. All the refuse that washes up, from you. Or from us – it doesn’t matter much. Things live here, and places too.

“Have you dreamt this man?” Yes, you most certainly have, but he usually stays out of frame, in tricks of perspective and the like. I can’t blame him for slipping up and wandering into view a fraction of the time, but I’d rather see him less anyhow. In this place now he’s idly leaning into a wrong angle picking at something between his teeth. I pass him without speaking on my way to someplace to launch this plane from. I’m on the hill of haunted houses right now, and a throng of wronged lovers rattle their chains in exaltation. Nearby, a parked UFO shelters the aliens from the abduction dreams while they play tarot cards with each other.

What happens to all the dreams that die? This place is from all of you so there’s less of it when there’s less of you. I miss the ziggurat that was never here.

Instead there’s an ornate marble bridge over the carnal pits, generated from the human realisation of burgeoning desire. Out of all those lifetimes it usually manifests as sexy teachers for some reason. Ten thousand years of “You’ve been a naughty boy.” I’ve been very well behaved, thank you very much.

I have to jostle past all the shadowmen whose job it is to keep the Red King topped off with enough tranquilisers to keep him snoozing forever by Masan bay.

I reach the highest point, and here even my memory starts to fade. Even as I’m standing here now, I think it’s a bell tower of dusty sandstone, but maybe it’s upside-down. I take out the postcard, and I let it go. There’s no breeze down here, but it starts drifting towards the stars anyway. The stars they used to dream under. The bi-plane whirrs angrily as it begins to lose definition, and the noise keeps going for a little even when it’s gone.

After you lost your grounding your sleep has only been getting worse. You’re having more nightmares. You’re taking medicine. I feel heavier on your chest. I’m sorry about what I did to you but I can’t let you be lucid. You can’t control a dream on my watch. When you wake up feeling weird and kind of empty, that’s when you’re at your best. What’s the point of a dream if it’s fulfilled? Why bother?

***

During this troubled time, I was sat on your bed with the sheets around me pretending I was a ghost. You had left to wherever you go when the sun is out, and I am just minding my own business until what do I begin hear out of the window but an awfully familiar buzzing. I crane my neck and watch with dismay as that horrid little bi-plane comes gliding through the window, the postcard of itself folded in the cockpit.

It was at that moment you open the door, and you see me. In the sun. You’re not supposed to see me. I am crouched on the bed and you are screaming and the plane is whizzing around and the horse head popped has in from behind the curtain that hadn’t been there before. There’s no horse body hidden behind the curtain. The curtain is part of the horse.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


In with Vemödalen

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Moon Report
393 words


As the ISRO ‘JAGANNATH’ entered the THIN atmosphere of GANYMEDE, space explorer SITA RADHAKRISHNAN kept watch on distant stars. HER SHUTTLE landed on the surface, and the LONELY ASTRONAUT prepared for the perilous solo expedition which awaited HER. In the stillness, SITA took a moment to REFLECT on the WEARYING journey; SHE said to HERSELF, “I’M THE MOST ALONE ANYONE’S EVER BEEN.” Then, SHE began HER trek through the BARREN PLAINS which stretched before HER. Deep below the ground, ancient ARTEFACTS hinted at a terrible and profound truth: SITA was not the first.

Records of the ISRO landing were lost due to ENVIRONMENTAL AND CIVILIZATIONAL COLLAPSE ON THE EARTH’S SURFACE. THIS EVENT WAS WITNESSED AND ABETTED BY LUNAR/MARTIAN/ORBITAL COLONIES.

+++

As the RUSTING CORVETTE entered the ARID atmosphere of GANMEDY, space explorer RAJA ‘ONE-EYE’ WINDSOR kept watch on distant stars. HIS SHIP landed on the surface and the GIDDY CORSAIR prepared the perilous solo expedition which awaited HIM. In the stillness, RAJA, took a moment to REMINISCE on the DEATH-DEFYING journey; HE said to HIMSELF, “AFTER THIS DISCOVERY I’LL GO DOWN IN LEGEND.” Then, HE began HIS trek through the ICY LANDSCAPE which stretched before HIM. Deep below the ground, ancient HUMAN REMAINS hinted at a terrible and profound truth: RAJA was not the first.

Records of the CORSAIR landing were lost due to RAJA WINDSOR DYING OF RADIATION POISONING BEFORE HIS EXPLOITS COULD BECOME KNOWN. THE SCRAPPING OF HIS SHIP AFTER DEATH DESTROYED PHYSICAL MATERIAL COLLECTED FROM THE MOON.

+++

As the ETHEREAL THOUGHTFORM entered the HUMID atmosphere of SOL VC, space explorer TWELVE-SEVEN ‘HIS VOICE’ kept watch on distant stars. ITS AURA landed on the surface and the CURIOUS MIND-DROID prepared for the perilous solo expedition which awaited IT. In the stillness, ‘HIS VOICE’ took a moment to RUMINATE on the LONG, LONG journey; IT said to ITSELF, “PARAMETERS ARE CLEAR – WISH ME LUCK, EVERYONE.” Then IT began ITS trek though the DENSE JUNGLE which stretched before IT. Deep below the ground, ancient TERRAFORMING MACHINES hinted at a terrible and profound truth: ‘HIS VOICE’ was not the first.

Records of the THOUGHTFORM landing were lost due to A VIRUS IN THE MEMORY BANKS. A WILD MINDWORM WIPED APPROX. 33,198 YEARS OF HUMAN HISTORY FROM THE ARCHIVES BEFORE BEING DELETED.

+++

It is estimated this recurring event has happened an approximate total of _______ times.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


In. My skill level is very high.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


The City Below
999 words


It was the water-running of a few weeks ago where everything went wrong. That day the sun had shone down radiantly; I had eaten the bitter leaves that allowed me to run over the surface of the ocean, and disrobed, placing my cloak and tunic and bands of charms in an orderly pile by the shore. I am the Soothsayer, this is how I read the ocean. As the other villagers looked on with anticipation, I darted forward until the glittering sand beneath me gave way to the surface on the water, which held my weight just enough if I kept up speed. I didn’t get too far out until the future visions started to appear before me. In the water’s surface I saw the reef bloom anew, food aplenty on the grand hall’s table. Each of these images shimmered on the surface with wondrous clarity before shattering under my stride. But just as I was about to turn around, I saw a dread vision; ancient stone crumbling onto the seabed, erupting fumes, everything sinking into the black. I stumbled, and was shocked into numbness by the cold waters.

I came to with hermit crab moving across my chest, the hot beach sand on my back. The villagers moved in, surrounding me and reaching out to me in care. The words escaped my lips; “The City Below will be ruins.”

+++

“These visions,” began the old Wise Woman, “you claim you sincerely saw this in the water?”

I was on my knees in the great hall. The village had congregated for the occasion. Through the dense air I half-sobbed a response. “Sincerely.”

The Wise Woman shifted in her chair, rubbed her plump chin with worry. “You are certain you were not mistaken? No trick of the light?”

“No.”

“Hmn. Soothsayer, I have always held faith in you, and that faith remains with me now. Is it not possible this prophecy was wrong? It wouldn’t be the first time – you did not see the sea-serpent ridden by outlander warriors until it appeared on the horizon.”

“I did see it. I saw a snake impaled by stones which shone like the rider’s armour in the sun. It wasn’t literal but I saw it.”

Not literal. Enough to doubt.

“The City Below? Who will protect us when it’s gone? When the Outlanders return?”

“I don’t know.”

A sharp murmur went through the crowd. My eyes surveyed the worried, anxious faces. I settled on the black gaze the Stone-Carver gave me, then returned to staring uselessly at the ground. “I’ve never been wrong,” I said, almost to assure myself it was true. “I’m not wrong now.”

The Wise Woman sat with all of this for a few moments; her wrinkled face gave away nothing. Then she looked down on me with sympathy. “Thank you for your council, Soothsayer. You’ve been so good to us for so long now. Whatever may come, we will weather it as the cliff face weathers the ceaseless tide.”

Such warmth in her heart and such magnanimous hope soothed the others assembled, but it only made me more despondent.

+++

I took to walking the beach at night. The cold wind came in, and I let it chill my teeth as I desperately searched everything to the horizon. The ocean remained enigmatic; as if I had never learned how to read it.

A second pair of footsteps came out of the dark. I shouldn’t’ve been scared, but I was.

The craggy voice of the Stone-Carver did nothing to calm me. “That’s it then? End of everything?”

I turned to face the man, a pillar of brawn and the scent of limestone, and replied meekly; “That’s it.”

The Stone-Carver took a few steps towards me. “I remember you coming to shore right here after one water-running. You held my arm and told me you saw my parents go to the City Below when they died.” My feet shifted in the sand as he spoke. “And so they did. Lost at sea.”

I said nothing.

“Do you remember when you saw a vision of my baby girl? How the illness would take her, and one day I’d wake up and her crib would be empty?”

“I remember.”

He cleared his throat. “Can I tell you something? It’s selfish of me but… part of me didn’t want her to go. She’s happy down there I’m sure, but I just wanted to hold her in my arms when she died. My one comfort was that I would join her down there, but now that’s not true, is it? Because you’re always right, Soothsayer. The others don’t believe it, but I know.”

“Then I should thank you for believing in me.”

“You’re like thunder.” He snarled and turned away. “I am making my way through the mountains tomorrow, out to that savage old world. I hope I don’t hear the thunder anymore. Just let the lightning come as it does.”

+++

“What am I to say?” I tried to speak to the Wise Woman, perched on the threshold of her hut, but I only ended up whispering into my hands, trembling in the dark. “Either I have foreseen the doom of all of us, or I am wrong.”

Ugly thought. Was there something wrong with all of this, or was there something wrong with me?

“You do not need to put it all on your shoulders.” The Wise Woman told me.

“Where will we go when we die? Heaven is rubble. Where will we go?”

“I don’t know. I suppose we might have to make heaven right here.”

I tensed up – what came next was a whimper; “I could be wrong. I could be useless. Caused all this fuss for nothing.”

“Either way, you and I are still here, Soothsayer.”

There was somewhere deeper even the City Below had no name for. I was there. The smile the Wise Woman gave me was almost enough to bring meaning to the coming dawn, the lapping tide.

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crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Wow, great week everyone. I assume it was great, I haven't actually read any of the stories. But unfortunately there has been an injustice done - and to me, of all people. Not only do I get paired with some foolish lout who's only won once, they don't even show up, meaning that there is but an empty thrill of victory.

I do not enter the dome to play in the gutters. I'm basically one of the best writers in this thread, and frankly perhaps on this entire planet. Neil Gaiman doesn't have poo poo on me. I should be up against a real opponent, like Sitting_Here, and that's why I demand a Brawl. :toxx:

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)

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