The Siren's call makes me in, y'all.
|# ¿ Jan 8, 2019 16:48|
|# ¿ Oct 19, 2021 01:54|
What’s Spine is Yours
“Juicy grapes are better than some poo poo apple, Parosh!”
Parosh scoffs, a large apple stuck to his back. “I bring this luscious apple, yet you think me outdone by dirt-encrusted grapes on your spines?”
Fior hisses in response, then rolls hard into Parosh, knocking him over.
"Enough of this!” demands a third hedgehog as she appears at the burrow entrance.
“Ourra, please,” says Parosh, struggling to gain his feet, weighed down by his apple. “Do not disparage me for this ruffian’s actions.”
“Piss on his words, Ourra!” says Fior. “See the bounty of grapes I bring you? The strength I show?”
While helping Parosh to stand back up, Ourra says, “Fior, all I see is a bully covered in juice and shredded detritus.”
“Quite the fool you’ve made of yourself, Fior,” smirks Parosh.
“You are just as foolish, Parosh, for engaging in this,” says Ourra. “As foolish as thinking an apple good enough to win me over. Go away, both of you.” She disappears into the burrow.
“Clearly a mere apple was a mistake,” says Parosh. Waddling away, he adds, “I will strive to outdo myself and, thus, easily outdo you, Fior.”
“I’d be an rear end to be shown up by that fop,” Fior says to himself. “I’ll seek help from generous Gruyere to ensure my advantage.”
Gruyere lounges in front of his burrow, his spines heavily adorned with gems of astounding beauty. He calls out as he sees Fior approach. “Fior, my hog! Have you come to talk of treasures?”
“Not today, Gruyere,” Fior says. “I am here to ask for one of your gems so I can win Ourra’s affection.”
Gruyere says, “I will do this for you, my friend.” With that, Gruyere begins to shake like a wet dog, spines and gems flying into the air.
When Gruyere stops, Fior looks over the dropped gems unimpressed. “These are fine,” he says, “but that bastard Parosh might do better.” Gruyere nods, understanding, and resumes shaking. More spines and gemstones shower onto the ground. A fantastic collection lies before Fior, yet what catches his eye is the solitary gem remaining attached to Gruyere. “There! That is the gem that will shame Parosh.”
“I haven’t much left to lose, my scrupulous pal,” says Gruyere, “so it is yours.” He grunts and shakes as hard as he can until the last of his spines, and the final gem, fall free.
When Fior approaches it, the gem dances from one mesmerizing color to another. “It’s perfect,” he says, rolling upon the gem, sticking it to his spines. “Now to put Parosh in his place.”
Shortly after Fior leaves, the naked Gruyere begins to feel the seeping chill of the autumn air. “A walk will warm me up,” he decides, following after Fior.
Standing before Ourra’s burrow, Parosh is no more than a snout sticking out from three large apples. “I can only hear your approach, Fior,” Parosh says. “However, I do not need my eyes to be certain of my triumph.”
“Parosh, I’d knock those stupid apples right off you if they didn’t make you look so pathetic,” says Fior.
“Not you two again!” Ourra wails as she emerges from the burrow.
“My veritable banquet of delicious fruit will surely make up for this intrusion, Ourra,” says Parosh.
Ourra laughs. “Oh, Parosh! I am genuinely impressed, but only with the predicament you have gotten yourself into now. With your love of apples, perhaps you should be courting an orchard instead of me?”
“Her rejection cannot be any more clear, Parosh,” Fior says. “Let us be off, Ourra, and be rid of this dreadful company.”
“Yours is the most dreadful company of all, Fior,” says Ourra. “All you’ve done is take advantage of Gruyere, who shivers half-hidden in the brush behind you.” She calls out, “Come into my burrow, selfless Gruyere, and we will use my spines to keep the cold air out.”
Ourra shakes, her own spines blanketing the burrow, stopping once she is as bare as Gruyere. The two use Ourra’s spines to cover the entrance as they make their way underground. Ourra and Gruyere never regrow their spines, happily spending the rest of their lives below the surface; thus the first naked mole rats came to be.
Watching Ourra and Gruyere leave, Fior says, “I have made myself out to be quite the rear end.”
“Yet your alacrity is admirable even when you are brash and brusque,” admits Parosh.
“And you, carrying those apples, possess more strength than I would have guessed," returns Fior. “I’ve underestimated you as a rival.”
Pausing thoughtfully, Parosh says, “Perhaps you will join me, Fior, in enjoying them.”
“Well ahead of you, Parosh,” Fior says through a mouthful. The two hedgehogs leave, side by side.
|# ¿ Jan 12, 2019 21:48|
Thank you for the crit, Yoruichi!
Since providing/learning to crit will help with my writing, I'm going to try to provide input on every single submission.
I'd apologize for their quality ahead of time but, let's be honest - every single one of you deserve it for what you've done.
|# ¿ Jan 15, 2019 19:17|
In and would like a sentence!
|# ¿ Jan 15, 2019 22:58|
Thunderdome Week 336 Crits (Part One)
(Please feel free to crit my crits since I'm still learning the ropes. Too negative? Too positive? Not enough specifics? Too many subjective suggestions? Let me know!)
(Rephrased in the spirit of Thunderdome: Don't ruin your keyboards with your garbage-juice baby tears over this.)
Dolash - “The Lion’s Den”
This keeps its action, and pacing, well and is a neat little story of monster slaying and spirit blessings. My mind was asking questions throughout, especially with regards to the buck/doe at the beginning. Did his not shooting the two actually matter? (Does it have any effect on the antlion fight outcome? Would the spirit still save the horse as a favor for killing the antlion?) Did Peter not shoot because he has conflicts about killing animals when not in self-defense? Because the buck showed human-like self-sacrifice and intelligence, knowing what Peter was about to do to the buck?
Tying in motivation and consequence more thoroughly would make this good read better. 6/10
Yoruichi - “Necessary Evil”
A really good story about learning the titular lesson. The twist from gaining the reader’s sympathy for the stoats to making them repulsive and vicious, if not outright alien, is great. (In a good way, it made me think of Gremlins.) My biggest complaint was being disoriented during the first two sentences, as I couldn’t tell if Bram was waking up to someone walking into the house, if he was going inside or outside, and where the skulls were located (I pictured them on walls initially, not outside wherever they were kept - the porch, the ground).
Honestly, though, a minor complaint as I enjoyed this. 7/10
HopperUK - “Salamander”
Oooh, I like this story! The characters are ones you want to know more about - they have plenty enough detail as is, but there are hints of greater facets that a longer format would bring out. (That rich rear end in a top hat had to have some nasty grudge against the mother, and I’d keep reading to find out!) I also really enjoyed the salamanders themselves being aspects of the flames, they themselves bringing fire along with their poison; good use of your prompt.
If I had to search for a gripe, it would be that “woman burned as a witch” is a little tired, but you’ve worked it just fine so it’s barely a gripe at all. 8/10
Simply Simon - “A Nugget of Truth in Every Mouse”
This story was hard to read. The sentence structure is confusing to where I had to reread several to understand it and for a relatively simple story the order of events are convoluted as hell. Did the dying man start the protagonist’s suspicions of his father? Was he suspicious before, and the dying man confirmed them? Why was there training going on before the protagonist offered to join his father, or why was the father surprised at the request if he was training? Details of your prompt were simply regurgitated as facts rather than worked in with any skill or subtlety.
The premise of the story isn’t a bad one, but some heavy work is needed as, again, this gets close to unreadable. 3/10
Auraboks - “Peaceful Cohabitation”
I enjoy ridiculous stories, so one where a manticore is a terrible roommate got me excited as I began reading this. Except… nothing really happens. Barry is a messy jerk, the unnamed protagonist whines a bunch, then Barry kills him for no solid reason. (Why was Barry motivated to kill right then and there?) You could replace Barry with nearly any monster (or sociopath) and the story would remain virtually unchanged.
Even my relatively tame experiences having roommates leave me with better stories to tell than this. Give me some unique manticore moments for normal day-to-day interactions! 4/10
Benny Profane - “The Onocentaur’s Revenge”
The idea of random encounters living in their own pocket dimension complaining about their jobs and fates is neat, though the onocentaur character here really needs more, well, character. The dichotomous nature of the onocentaur is barely used at all - he’s sad, now he’s angry!! But that could be any character reacting to his situation. Were he a goblin, a kobold, a dire beaver, how much of the story would need to be rewritten? (Hint: not very much.)
The ending was fun, and I would have loved to see more leading up to the D100 rolling up a dragon for the onocentaur, particularly the onocentaur playing a larger roll (ha!) in creating that consequence for the haughty adventurers. 5/10
Edits: re-posted after the some accidental mod edits. :P
Punkreas fucked around with this message at 00:53 on Jan 16, 2019
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2019 00:29|
Thunderdome Week 336 Crits (Part Two)
Pham Nuwen - “El Oso”
I love the twist on being able to see the future in this - wondering whether El Oso’s sight is false, partly true and fulfilled by his posse, or completely true (and know it will be fulfilled by his posse) has me hooked. Turning your prompt into the surly El Oso was also neat!
However, while you did well with your flash rule, there was very little from the bestiary description itself. Raul is barely more than a vessel for the observer - why exactly is he there? What help does he seek? And what does he think of El Oso’s predictions after the wrap-up of the carriage robbery? 7/10
flerp - “The World is a Rat”
There’s a lot going on in this story, but none of it gets explored or truly tied in. The protagonist laments the breakup with Sammie initially, but by the end it’s an afterthought. Why exactly did they break up? (Was it the lip biting? Or something more?) The Dad all but thrown in, and what’s with the offhand mention of Mom? (And Dad wanting grandkids - it seems like the protagonist is a teenager, so it’s weird Dad would already be pressuring her about having children at her age.)
And and and and and and and.... There were a lot of these, and I found it distracting, possibly due to their overuse in starting sentences.
The transformation into a snake along with her desire to bite and taste blood and eat rats makes sense, but what of all that “eat the world” buildup? I was got excited thinking this would lead the story into being about the birth of something like a two-headed Jormungandr, but then it simply goes back to wanting to eat rats. You also have an aside about the protagonist being cold, forcing another element of your prompt in the story, then never mentioned again.
There is something interesting here to be written, and to be read, if you can focus on fleshing out (and bringing together) the ideas in it. 5/10
theblunderbuss - “One Last Job”
This story takes too long to get where it needs to go, then when it gets there it doesn’t do anything to make it stand out. They go to find a magic bird, hope it cures Sand, it doesn’t, the story ends. I think you had a whole world swirling around in your head and got stuck telling a chopped-down chapter of it here. Your prompt is not well-integrated (you start to insinuate the bird’s healing powers… then just state it as a fact). Your flash rule feels shoehorned in as a way to end the story rather than being an underlying element. “Good kid, Bari. Did what he was told.” This line not only sounds cliche but then immediately afterwards you have a (much too long) back-and-forth with Bari repeatedly refusing what to do!
Overall, I don’t think this was good flash fiction, but I do believe it has promise for something more. I want to know about alchemist treasures worth steal and the exotic animal guards they employ. I want to know about the other magical creatures in the menagerie and world. I want to know why the Duke seeks the healing properties of the bird himself. I want this story to break free of a word limit. 5/10
Entenzahn - “A series of natural deaths”
A fun use of the flash rule and prompt! However, I’ve read the story twice and am having trouble piecing it together, in part due to the time jumps, in part due to too little information. Cleft gets badgers sicced on him - got it. But then… Karl is the target? By whom? Is it Samsa, upset Karl lied to her about what the badgers would do to Cleft? (She is never shown to be bothered by this, however, even though she implied to have stolen liquor for their services.) Also, and this is trivial, for some reason the badgers creating “mole hills” bothered me, even though there’s likely nothing wrong with it.
The officers seemed unnecessary as well, serving only to hint at a larger world and badger attacks that don’t have relevance to the scope of this story. However, I’d like to see a story that does take on that broader scope, further exploring the mercenary badgers and possibly witchcraft it contains. 7/10
Hawklad - “Goats in the Shell”
Okay, easily my favorite title from this week’s batch stories even if it didn’t have goats getting the essence of their being uploaded into computers. Obviously there’s not a whole lot of story going on, mostly a well-written sci-fi action romp with horny goats, but you clearly had fun writing this - and I had fun reading it! 6/10
Lippincott - “Harnessed Loyalty”
A nice, rounded-out story about a good boy. It’s a complete piece in its own right, yet overall I feel like it’s something I’d read in as a prologue chapter to a novel about this good boy and his new owner. What more could I want from this story? Mainly something to make it truly unique, to make it stand out from other dog/owner stories out there as it felt like standard fare material even if the quality of the work is high, which it is! Also using more of the bestiary details for your prompt, as this was bare minimum in that regard.
It was a good read, and I wish I could think of more to add to this crit! 7/10
Mercedes - “Voice Thief”
First and foremost, the characters in this are lacking. I don’t really care about any of them! Brad is the only one with any detail, and that is limited to his being attacked, then going out against the odds to save his wife. (He also reflects that being brave is against his nature, but this contradicts the only thing we’re given as readers about his nature.) Speaking of too little detail, the world itself is a shamble of random bits that never come together. Voidmart is never explained in the slightest (get rid of that silly “™”, yeesh), and the dangerous wolf world is never given any meat - never a solid reason to be concerned about characters going out into it.
The Brad being voiceless and rock-pounding aren’t supported in any way, clearly forced in to meet the prompt (remove both of them from the story and the story effectively remains unchanged). Everything is over-described (e.g. the silence does not need to be yawning), with too many metaphors/similes being thrown in at every turn. Work on giving personality to your characters and a reason for the world to be scary and dangerous, then you’ll have a solid story on your hands. 5/10
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2019 00:10|
Gods. Is this dank den usually so brawly?
Quit flashing those pearly whites and get in here - brawl me!
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2019 00:23|
These pearly whites will soon be stained by the filthy substance that squirms through your carotid artery.
What you'll soon find out is that I'm the CREEEEEEEEAM OF THE CROP, OH YEAH!
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2019 14:59|
Thank you for the crit, Staggy!
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2019 23:15|
Put Your Heart Into It
His dark heart pulsated with raw evil, as he pumped it, furiously. “C’mon, c’mon!” Kobar said. “Why isn’t it going faster?” The heart was pierced by a thin steel rod and suspended over a drinking glass. Kobar stopped pushing on the heart. A thick drop of evil hung off its apex, not quite willing to add to the meager accumulation at the bottom of the glass.
Next to the glass is a ceramic bowl containing a ragged piece of liver. Kobar growled, snatched up the liver, and began to crush the juice out of it when it shot from his hand like a bar of soap. He failed catch the liver but succeeded in knocking the bowl from the counter. A small white dog with a foot-long neck and muzzle split vertically, forming two mouths, pounced the liver and began eating it, unconcerned by the ceramic shards everywhere.
“Dammit, Veero!” Kobar lifted Veero out of the mess with Veero holding tight to his liver prize.
“Everything okay in there, dear?” Kobar’s wife, Lecchen, entered the kitchen right as Kobar stepped on a bowl fragment.
“poo poo!” he swore, then used his free hand to pull the ceramic out of his bare foot. In his other hand Veero wagged his tail, happy to see Lecchen joining the excitement.
“Veero,” Lecchen cooed to the dog as she took him from Kobar, “did you make this mess? Dear, hold on and let me help you clean that up.”
“I don’t have anywhere near enough evil,” Kobar said as Lecchen swept the floor. “Metichorus is due to come by at any time for it. He’ll flay me for days if I don’t have it ready!”
“Haven’t you been working up evil these last few days?” Lecchen asked him as she dumped the mess down the floor pit. “I thought you were out torturing all yesterday.” Veero was at her feet, rolling the liver around on the floor. “Were you trying to water down your evil with liver juice? Metichorus would know in an instant!”
“I don’t have much of a choice,” Kobar said, putting his head down on the rough obsidian counter. “Veero has been screaming and tearing up things. I can’t torture when stressed, you know that!”
Lecchen thought he deserved a flaying, yet this would only worsen his mood. Flaying was accompanied with a pay dock, too, and she’d have to cut back on expenses like Veero’s expensive dog food; the cheap stuff made poor Veero’s eyes distend and puss. Veero would scream more often, further irritating Kobar, and making him even less productive. Lecchen was not going to let this vicious cycle pick up speed. “Give me your arm,” she told Kobar.
“I’ve already smeared blood on it,” he said, but held out his arm to Lecchen.
Lecchen used her sharp side teeth to tear open Kobar’s skin and yellow blood poured out. Lecchen positioned the bleeding arm above Kobar’s heart. “You can’t simply rub blood on it and expect to squeeze out evil. You have to feed it like your body does when you slowly pull out fingernails, when you get your blood flowing.” The valve on the top of Kobar’s heart flexed and sucked as his blood trickled into it. As his heart continued to feed, Lecchen traced a curving line on it with her finger, pushing down gently, following the same path over and over again. “And be gentle with it,” she said. “It’s your heart, yes, but you need to treat it right if you want it to work better.”
Sure enough, Kobar’s heart began to sweat concentrated evil, increasing as it continued to consume Kobar’s blood and Lecchen stroked it. “I’m sorry about freaking out, dear,” Kobar said with a sigh. “I’ve just been so stressed out lately.”
Lecchen leaned down and gave Kobar a kiss, leaving a smudge of yellow on his cheek. “It’s okay, dear,” she said. “We’re here to support each other.” Right then the doorbell rang, an ear-splitting bellow that caused loose stalactites in the house to quiver. “Go wash your arm,” Leccha whispered to Kobar, “and I’ll get the evil bottled up.”
Kobar swung open up the door and a massive head like a cracked, sun-bleached cow skull pushed its way through the door frame. “Kobar…” Metichorus rasps, deep, eternal. His nebulous eyes of molten gold look over Kobar, pausing when they see Kobar’s torn arm. “Last minute again…”
The evil was placed in a smokey glass vial etched in curses, which Kobar held out to Metichorus. The boney limb took the vial from Kobar with care, then poured it onto Metichorus’ skull. The evil oozed over the skull, covering it like a snakeskin, though only part of the skull was covered. “Not enough…” Metichorus breathed, and Kobar braced for the reprimand. “High quality… more next time…” Then Metichorus withdrew his head, dragging the boney limb out behind him, lacerating the ground. He was gone.
“Holy poo poo,” said Kobar, closing the door. He collapsed on the flesh-woven couch, exhausted. Veero jumped up on the couch as well, dropping the filthy remnant of Kobar’s liver into his lap, hoping Kobar would throw it for him to fetch.
“No, Veero,” Lecchen said. “Papa is tired and doesn’t want to play. He needs to rest.”
Kobar suddenly stands up. “Today was a close call, very close.” Kobar turns to Lecchen. “And what happens to me also affects you and Veero, which is unacceptable. I’m going to create evil right. No more shortcuts, no more liver dilutions, no more last-minute bloodletting.” Kobar marched into the kitchen, pulled open his chest, grabbed his heart, and shoved it back inside of him. “Veero!” he called. “Let’s go for a walk and cause some pain.”
“Are you sure you won’t be overdoing it?” Lecchen asked, worried.
“Honey,” Kobar said, “thank you for being there for me. I love you.” He heads out the front door with Veero, a spring in his step and a wicked smile on his face.
|# ¿ Jan 21, 2019 05:40|
Thunderdome 336 Crits (Part 3)
SlipUp - Man’s Law, God’s Law, and Fishy Law
You used 1000 words in a story with a 800 word limit (as you took no flashrule). You didn’t use the prompt. You didn’t bother to format your post.
After reading this story I still don’t know what actually happened. There’s a ton of needless back-and-forth between characters. The character drops vague hints and describes “playing chess” but they may as well be playing Calvinball with as much as the reader is given to work with. Please write your next story sober. 2/10
Antivehicular - Hungry Birds in Dying Forests
This felt a little bit too expository, especially towards the end. Esther’s fight between the inner human and machine was jarring in how sudden it came on; it needed a little more building up. Also sudden was the language change, becoming much, much stronger than what was used elsewhere: “like the dog I am”, “slaughterhouse”, “guide children into Hell”. It felt weird, like I was reading a different story.
Yet this was a good story with an excellent use of both the prompt and flashrule. I really felt this story was crafted from the core being inspired by each. The world and back history are ripe for exploring, and this was your strong point - I felt very drawn into it. 7/10
Devorum - A Princely Reward
I had a lot of trouble orienting myself to the characters and settings in this. Who are Chrelu and Radyr? Leaders of the villagers? Random child-nappers? Even the ending just produced more questions I wish had been answered. Did the captain slaughter the villagers because they were exposed to Scrag, the prince? Because they mistreated him? Because they were servants of the Steward and knew who Scrag actually was? Another odd point of perspective is that, with the talk of onagers, herds, and being raised by badgers, I thought the characters may actually be anthropomorphic. Hell, I’m still only 80% convinced these are humans. The prompt and flashrule felt a little forced; the story could be told mostly unaltered without them.
You do have a really good story in the making, however. With more room for words, these characters and this world could be really fleshed out into an interesting twist of a post-collapse world. 5/10
Anomalous Blowout - The Heretic’s Fork
Protagonist seeks revenge on an evil character, succeeds with effectively no issue, The End. Despite the descriptive food being served to the inquisitor, there is no flavoring to this story to give it a delicious twist. Where is the character reflection? The unique consequences for their actions, or what lead up to those actions? The food is highlighted, but why? Where does the inquisitor having exotic tastes, specifically mythical beasts, have bearing on the story? (Even your mythical creature prompt, used as a trap, is hidden within a dish that is supposed to be common and mundane, so the inquisitor’s tastes don’t even play into his weakness - that was just base gluttony, which also wasn’t much of a weakness as without it a single “poisoned” dish would have worked all the same.)
The flashrule was still used in a clever way, and clearly the inspiration for the story. I’d also read more of this world, where mystical beasts exist (and are plentiful enough to be cooked up now and then) during the time of the Inquisition. 5/10
apophenium - Red, Blue, and Green
The dialogue between Vale and Jole felt a bit stilted, and there were some odd descriptives, such as “Jole pecked towards his pendant”. The details of your prompt weren’t worked in, simply listed as expository facts. (Living sixty years, eggs hatching in sixty days.) I also wasn’t convinced on Vale’s urgency on her brother’s demise, and the ending of her taking him out felt rushed and without true merit, even if her desires were made known; their prolonged debate about it needed exploring as it felt like an aside rather than the crux of the story as it should have been.
That debate, however, is a really good lead to follow. Fighting fate, and the consequence of doing so, is a fantastic conflict, and then you parallel it to a seemingly endless war? There’s gold to be mined here! 5/10
Flesnolk - Audience
Prompt, flashrule, hellrule. You definitely wrote this suffering several lashes and, unfortunately, the wounds show. The lack of punctuation feels like an afterthought, as if you wrote the story and then took it all out. Without the use of punctuation the dialogue was hard to follow, especially at first (e.g. it required a few more lines of reading to figure out which one was Max). It wasn’t until the very end of the story that I could place the story setting or even what Max looked like; the description of “footpads shielded by dirty leather” put me in mind of a bronze-age adventurer or soldier, so I was surprised when it was a based on modern times (I really thought “UN” was an unfortunately-chosen abbreviation at the time it came up) and Max was a businessman/politician.
And… I don’t get the ending. I think it has something to do with Amazon’s Kindle Fire? So Max is an executive for them, but that’s unclear and contrary to the description of the fire made by the griffin earlier. Without the hellish hellrule you had to suffer this could have been a much more clear and concise story with a more striking (and obvious for dumb-dumbs like me) punchline! 4/10
crabrock - Elephant Stone
The actual lynx in this seemed incredibly forced - if it had been removed entirely the story would be about the same, so it needs significance (outside of being your prompt) for it being in there. Likewise, the hellrule was nonexistent (ha!) as far as I could tell.
Now your flashrule, that’s where you shine in this story. I’ve had the flu so bad once that I was delirious and thought, literally, that my guts had be replaced by machine parts that were causing me all the pain I was feeling. The idea of your character being just as delirious with pain and thinking they were made of sand and dirt is something I can relate to (although I’d have been less flowery in describing my inner physical tormentor than as an “unending sea of shifting dunes” but that could be my lingering memory of that nasty flu). Working up the doctor as being overbearing and tough to deal with as the reason for why they bury their stone was brilliant, too. 6/10
McSlaughter - Bonehouse
While your prompt was a snake, writing a needlessly long and winding story was not necessary. The language was so flowery and had so many descriptors thrown into run-on sentences that this was a slog to read. The ending made no sense, especially the riddle-talk, and there was no character development or exploration. The whole thing felt like it was written in a single sitting and tried to use lofty words to distract from the lack of story. The house, grounds, and tidbits of family history are certainly something I’d like to read about in a more rigorously-constructed story, however. 3/10
|# ¿ Jan 23, 2019 22:15|
Token of my Kin
The token felt hot and sticky in my palm. “Have you seen Ashley today?” asked Roy. A mall cop, Roy was living up to the stereotype he managed to give everyone a reason to dislike him. “We got a report that he was here only minutes ago.”
“I just got here, so I haven’t seen anything,” I said. It was a total lie.
In fact, as Roy was searching the barcade, Ash caught me on his way out and put the token in my hand. “Hide this, don’t talk to Roy, don’t let Boss know,” he had said before taking off through the mall crowds.
“Fine,” said Roy. “We’ve already let the bar staff know we’re looking for him. If you or anyone else catch word of him, get us.” He left after making this demand as if I would even acknowledge it.
When Roy was out of sight I loosened my grip on the token and got my first real look at it. It was exactly like the tokens that the barcade, Donkey Pong, used for its games: quarter-sized, dull gold in color, albeit this token was engraved with flames on both sides.
Inside Donkey Pong the island bar was crowded and the tables filled with people eating food from the kitchen. All the bodies almost certainly helped Ash get out unnoticed. Manasika was working the bar tonight, which was great; even if I could never coax a free drink from her, Mana was cool to talk with.
“Did the mall cop getcha, Zach?” she asked. “Better watch out or you’ll end up on Boss’ hitlist, too.” Mana smiled at me, a theatrically sinister grin. She leaned in for a bit of privacy as she set my beer down. “I really do think Ash got Boss mad at him. The last time Boss was here I heard him say Ash’s name and it wasn’t in a friendly way.”
Boss to me was no more than the security cameras embedded in the ceiling of Donkey Pong, a boogie man that Mana swears actually exists. I wasn’t worried, so I held out the flame token for her to see.
“I’ve seen Boss with that!” Mana gasped. “It’s for the game machines. It works on all of them.”
“A skeleton key for arcade games?” I asked.
“It’s called a slug, and yes,” she said. “I don’t care that you have it. I need to work, and be careful about using it.”
I promised Mana I’d watch out, though I knew I was going to use the hell out of the fire token. The enigmatic Boss was was ruining most of the fun of going to a barcade by raising the cost of the games: a single play was nearly the same price as getting a beer. Even on a busy night like tonight most of the games were unoccupied, people opting instead to spend their money on food and drink. It was less a barcade and more a bar with arcade-themed decor.
Gauntlet was the first game to call to me. I went over to the cabinet with the fire token ready. The token slid into the coin slot, then slid right out into the coin return tray with the depressing metallic rattle that heralded an out-of-order machine. Except in this case the hero selection screen came up on the cabinet monitor.
It actually worked.
This was awesome! I was about the select the barbarian when I heard, “Gauntlet? Yes! I’ve been wanting to play this for a while now!” Katrina appeared next to me, waggling the Player 2 joystick. She reached down to put some tokens in herself but stopped short, groaning. “Man, this one got expensive. How can you afford to drink and play this, Zach?”
“Shhh, Katty,” I said as I put the fire token through the Player 2 coin slot. I motioned to Katty by drawing my fingers across my lips like a zipper.
“Yes, yes, yes!” Katty was hushed in her excitement but was doing small hops as she cheered. Her celebration did not go unnoticed, however, as our friend Ryan and his girlfriend, Kay, came right over.
“Excited about Gauntlet much, Katty?” asked Kay.
“Always!” said Katty. “Especially when Zach is playing since no one else wants to…”
“That’s because these games are old and expensive,” Ryan said defensively.
“They’re actually fun! And now,” Katty paused to look at me, “totally affordable!”
I frowned at Katty as Kay asked, “What does she mean, Zach?”
I sighed and loaded up Player 3 and Player 4 with the fire token in lieu of an explanation. Ryan and Kay were shocked but happily jumped into the game. Keeping my voice down, I explained what I knew about the token from Ash and Mana.
After my first death I ducked out of the game as I needed food badly. Katty begged for me to leave the fire token with her; she was genuinely excited to play more Gauntlet, and I trusted her, so I handed the token off to her before making my way to the bar to order some of Donkey Pong’s Golden Rings along with a fresh beer.
“I’m certain Boss sits around watching those cameras most of the day,” Mana said as she brought the onion rings out from the kitchen. “Four people only putting a single token in per play is kinda suspicious.”
“We’ve been using the token for a whopping ten minutes,” I said. “I doubt Boss is that paranoid or that bored.” Of course that’s when Roy showed up again.
Roy zeroed in on the Gauntlet machines immediately. Ryan was gone, but Kay and Katty were there. Katty had the fire token in her hand, ready to put it through for another play. I nearly choked on my onion ring when I saw Roy storm over and snatch the token from her.
Katty was stomping her feet and demanding the token back from Roy while Kay chewed him out. Roy ignored the both women as he inspected the token, frowned, and threw it over his shoulder. He briskly took off into the mall, leaving Katty to scramble for the token and Kay scowling.
“What a nuisance,” I said.
“Roy’s in good with Boss,” Mana said. “I don’t need to tell you that his coming here wasn’t by chance.”
Ryan came back into the barcade not much later with a smile on his own face. He held open his hand as he came up to me. “Zach! Check this out. The key copy place here in the mall also does coins, too.” He was holding four flame tokens, three of which were shiny and new. This explained why Katty didn’t get caught by Roy.
“Boss will personally come here and strangle the both of you,” warned Mana before heading to the kitchen for another order.
“Unlimited plays for our whole group!” Ryan said, ecstatic. “Let’s go finish Gauntlet with Kay and Katty, then go see what else we can play.”
Mana was right - we were clearly being watched. It wouldn’t be long before Roy made another visit, this time finding the evidence he was looking for. “Roy just accosted Katty, thinking she had the token. But I have an idea,” I said. I gave him some money. “Go back to that key shop and make as many more copies as you can. Let’s hand them out to everyone.”
Ryan left and before long returned holding a sack heavy with fire tokens. We went to each table and bar counter, giving out tokens to every person we saw. Skepticism about the tokens passed quickly as the arcade machines filled with people. Minutes after we had made our rounds, Roy showed up again, this time with four other mall cops.
A whistle cut through the air. “Listen up!” Roy shouted after putting the whistle away. “Turn in all your tokens to us. We know there are slugs being used. Those that don’t comply will be ejected from the mall, barred from returning, and prosecuted by city authorities.”
Restless mumbling added to the background of video game noises. Kay was the first to step up, handing her coin to Roy. However, as Roy looked down to inspect the coin, Kay poured her beer over Roy’s head. Roy yelled, grabbed Kay by the wrist, and twisted her arm around, making Kay yelp in pain.
This set Ryan off. His fist was in Roy’s face before I noticed he had left my side. Katty tried to pull Ryan away but one of the mall cops restrained her arms. Ryan now was throwing punches at two of the other mall cops as Roy called for assistance on his radio, his face already swelling.
It was my turn. I took the hefty sack of leftover fire tokens and whipped it at Roy. It hit the side of his head. Roy staggered, his radio crashing to the ground alongside a shower of tokens. I ran over and kicked the radio further into Donkey Pong. Before I could see where it went I was being lifted up, Roy holding me by the waist. He charged forward, and next I was slamming into a cash register then tumbling down behind the bar. My hands caught the cash register, but unfortunately it was due to the register landing on top of them. My hands hurt, a lot, and even with Mana’s help it took me a solid minute to get back up.
Donkey Pong was a madhouse. A number of other patrons had joined in on the fight, and so had more mall cops. Broken glass and tokens made the floor glitter. The Addams Family pinball machine had a mall cop laying inside of it. Several games had broken screens, and Ms. Pac-Man had fallen over onto a large, bearded patron. I saw Katty and Kay outside in the mall carrying a limping Ryan away from the melee, unmolested by the mall cops that had their hands full with the patrons inside.
Mana called out my name, though before I could react I was being grabbed by the shirt and dragged back over the bar. My hands useless, keeping myself from falling over was the only thing I could do. With no small amount of pleasure, Roy dragged me out of the mall with the help of two mall cops and threw me onto the sidewalk. “You are banished from the mall and all stores within it,” he announced through swollen lips. “I’ll get your friends another time. Now leave. The city police are on their way and you’re trespassing.” Roy left with the other mall cops only after one final kick underneath my ribs. I discovered what liver pain feels like, if such as thing exists.
From that day I could no longer go to the mall, no longer hang out at Donkey Pong with the others. Katty, Ryan, Kay, and even Ash never officially got caught, so after letting the dust settle for a week they braved a return to the barcade. They told me Roy would stare them down whenever he’d see them, but as they weren’t causing trouble he couldn’t confront them. That, or he was worried about taking hits in another fight. Either way, they were able to keep up with the news at the barcade.
And news there was! So many fire tokens were given out that Boss couldn’t deter their rampant use after the fight. The entire game selection was made free to play, not a single token needed, to end matters. Mana said Boss was going to raise prices on the food and drink to compensate but the free play drew in so many more customers that bar sales easily made up for the money lost on the arcade machines.
I would miss going to Donkey Pong, yet I was happy in a way to hear it do well, with people like Katty now able to play their favorite games all they wanted.
|# ¿ Feb 1, 2019 06:32|
Thunderdome Week 336 Crits (Part The Last)
Curlingiron - Gestalt
I’m 50/50 on the Bible-speak, but it does add a mystery to the hubris-derived plague that wiped out mankind. Except there were enemies that killed mankind, too? That felt like a leftover thought fragment. My major complaint is that the enigma you build up crosses over a little bit into being obtuse. I also never understood what “Our Scaly Hide” was or represented. While specifics might feel like they would ruin the tone you were going for, without them I finished reading this feeling unsatisfied. 6/10
Kaishai - The Sun in Chains
The middle of this story left me with a few questions. Why did the Elder look Cille in the eyes? Was it a warning? Affect her ability to later channel the power of the sun? It was a nice tale otherwise. And, while I don’t think this was the direction you were taking it, I really want Cille to be the mother of dragons in this world. 6/10
Beezus - Insidious
I felt disconnected from the story while I read it. A lot of action and tension for a character that I knew, and learned, nothing about, and who suffered rather vague, but violent, events. Nothing tied together, and the ending just happened out of nowhere - and the final line was, frankly, really cheesy. Normally I would have questions about parts of the story, but all I have for this is “what actually happened and why?” 4/10
M. Propagandalf - The Misanthrope of Bhopal
First, I’m totally going to call people “Lord Dilmore” as an insult. I understood why the character used lofty language though it did take me out of the story at times. The creature was wonderfully threatening, only suffering from mostly passive descriptions of its carnage. The setting and story on this really drew me in, like a fresh take on Frankenstein. 7/10
DJ Dublell - Part of the Forest
The characters being built up at the start was really good, but I feel it’s all thrown away by the Monty Python killer rabbit, er, serpent easily picking them off at the end - all that winding up didn’t match the pitch being thrown. Dialogue could have used real words in lieu of constant swearing in places, too. The “simple” beginning and end was both tacky and felt tacked on. I never got the setting established, either: was this a fantastical world with vicious, mythical beasts or a dangerous natural world where something more than natural easily kills the most wary of men? 4/10
onsetOutsider - (Untitled)
There wasn’t much meat to sink my teeth into with this. It’s a nice description of an odd ritual but left too many questions without even a hint to keep me intrigued after reading. Why is Andrastea so important to these people? Is it also important that she’s a nymph specifically? What other components are there to this mirthless festival? And what happens to those that do not, either willing or unwilling, contribute to the pyre? 5/10
Chairchucker - Back from the Officially Dead
Obviously rushed and unfinished, but I’ll put a few things down. The prompt wasn’t really used; there was a “resurrection” and blood test, but not tied in with a parent, bird, or equivalent. This gag feels old and worn, variants done to death (ha) by standard-fare sitcoms. Worse, there wasn’t even a punchline. At least it wasn’t a slog to read? 3/10
Fuschia tue - You Can Taste It
I didn’t understand the story. I feel bad for critting this one as I have this lurking fear that I’m an idiot missing something obvious, but I couldn’t figure out the church-hut or how the animal showing up tied into the story or what really happened at the end. I think the stone hut is actually just a church, that a confession/conversion was made which resulted in the betrayal/judgement at the end. My alternative thought is this is some kind of allegory for Hell or Purgatory. Honestly, I think I’m just dumb, and I’m sorry. 5/10
Thanguy - Sea Monsters
“Imaginary friend helps fight real life trauma” almost works here but misses a few key notes for me. One is that Jason is an adult rather than a child, without Maxwell being mentioned as being a character from his childhood reappearing (ala Drop Dead Fred), so it feels awkward. What caused Maxwell’s manifestation at this point in Jason’s life, especially since the bad dreams aren’t new? What does Maxwell’s self-sacrifice represent in terms of Jason growing as a person to deal with this childhood trauma? Who the hell is Marty? The hat and Jason entering his coworker’s dream was a bit cheesy. However, I genuinely like the idea of a magical French dream adventure duck helping people with their nightmares! 5/10
Sham bam bamina! - At Least It’s an Entry
Despite this being an incomplete, promptless story, I was actually drawn into the story you began to build, mostly because I empathize with it personally, having worked decades of menial jobs and only now on the cusp of getting my feet into a worthwhile career. Definitely a useable premise for another writing piece. -/10
Bad Seafood - The Hunt
This had me deep into the story until near the end - the words and phrasing of the protagonist’s dialogue there really threw me off. Same with the stag nodding, which was a bit too “Disney spirit animal” for your setting. Other than this, everything else was great, and I really liked the tone and pacing. 7/10
|# ¿ Feb 1, 2019 22:43|
In for this fun prompt.
Edit: also, thank you for the crit, anatomi!
|# ¿ Feb 5, 2019 16:49|
A Hole to Hide
Evelyn woke up on the cold wood floor. The room spun in the pink light, the sun filtered through the red curtains. A chair lay in splintered pieces beside her. The icebox was open, and the head inside eyed her fiercely.
“Clean up the mess, Eve.”
The head was stuffed sideways into the shelf for fresh meats, its scar-split mustache mottled with bits of grey. Evelyn avoided its stare as she stood up, slowly, the world tilting. The sounds of the summer forest surrounded the one-room house. The smell of roast beef hung in the air, though it was tainted by a faint trace of excrement. Floorboards were ripped up in the corner of the room, exposing a hole. Dirt had been thrown everywhere.
“Why is this place so filthy, Eve? It smells like death.”
The light intensified; it hurt Evelyn to keep her eyes open, making her head throb. The mess in the room worried her. So did the roast getting cold as it sat in its pan on top of the stove. However, it was the hole in the floor that worried her the most. It would take hours to clean and repair the floor. Yet the darkness of the hole eased her, too. It was a bastion from the piercing light. Dirt slid between Evelyn’s toes as she shuffled to its edge.
Dried earth formed the walls of the hole and a pipe near its lip ran down its length. A blue light revealed a bottom far below. The smell of excrement was stronger here. It disgusted Evelyn, but also made her sad.
The head in the icebox began shouting. “What is this, Eve? Where do you think you’re going?”
The voice hit Evelyn’s head like a train, rattling her brain as it berated her with questions. She kneeled down and grabbed the pipe with both hands. It was cool and and firm and reassuring.
“Eve, what have you done?”
Evelyn went down the pole, which was smooth in her hands.
The darkness made Evelyn feel as if she was plunging slowly into an abyss, the blue light gradually coming up beneath her. Eventually her feet landed lightly on the ground next to the icebox.
It was her house, albeit bathed in blue rather than pink. Snow-reflected moonlight made its way through the windows. The dim light and cool air helped Evelyn’s headache as much as the stench and crying aggravated it.
“Eve! Eve! Eve!”
It did not come from the icebox but from the roast pan sitting on top of the stove. The house was in disarray: crusty pots on tables, piles of soiled cloth littering the floor. The broken chair was fixed, but there was still a hole in the corner, the floorboards stacked in neat piles along with the dirt.
Evelyn opened up the icebox, wary and tense. There was no head inside. She relaxed, but was also upset. Where was it? Why wasn’t it here? Evelyn hated herself for hating that it was gone.
The cries were knives to Evelyn’s ears. Grimacing, she went to the stove. Inside the roast pan was a nest soaked in filth. Blind, hungry, and demanding, baby birds writhed around each other, calling out.
She was mad that she was alone, mad at all that she had to get done, mad at the demands for her to feed, to clean, to give up her own needs.
Evelyn’s stomach turned from the smell of excrement and sick and spoiled milk. The fumes from the pan burned her sinuses, scorched her throat, brought tears to her eyes.
She slid the pan into the oven.
The cries became screams, each racking the insides of her head.
Evelyn slumped to the floor. She crawled to the hole; it was a small depression, not deep. She sunk her hands into the dirt, scooping it out, piling it on the floor over the uprooted boards.
Her hand broke through the dirt, felt empty air. There was another pipe. Evelyn grabbed it, pulled herself over the lip and slid through, the earth falling apart around her as she went down. The screams faded above her.
“Eve! Eve! Eve…”
She landed on the floor harder this time, staggered, caught the icebox for support. Its door was open, pink light coloring its contents.
“What is this, Eve?”
The voice was deep.
There was no head in the icebox. The room smelled of roast beef and excrement. Evelyn worried that the roast beef was getting cold. She went towards the stove and there was the roast beef, sitting out.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Evelyn avoided looking at the hole in the corner where she knew the floorboards were torn free and dirt was scattered.
The voice raged behind her from that hole.
“Eve, what have you done?”
Suddenly her head hurt more than ever, an explosion of pain causing stars and darkness.
Evelyn opened up her eyes. The room spun as she laid on the cold wood floor, pink light filtering through the red curtains while the sounds of the summer forest leaked into house.
“Clean up the mess, Eve.”
|# ¿ Feb 11, 2019 05:51|
These stories stink.
|# ¿ Feb 12, 2019 16:06|
Don't preface your work, man.
How did you know?
I once went on a hunt for a lark,
Camping on a bench in Central Park.
I shot, giving the duck a good start;
It leapt into the air with a fart.
|# ¿ Feb 12, 2019 16:34|
Artful stories, some of which are quacking me up!
|# ¿ Feb 12, 2019 21:08|
So obvious! I really ducked up that opportunity!
|# ¿ Feb 12, 2019 23:42|
Thank you for the HM and the quick crits!! (Completely unexpected but makes my week!)
|# ¿ Feb 13, 2019 16:50|
In like the ic avenger!
|# ¿ Sep 17, 2019 14:42|
Prompt: road pirates; characters are all going at least 70 kph.
“We got another one!” called Captain Edward from the cab of the flatbed truck. Mold-infused spittle ran out of his mouth and down his chin, adding to the dripping beard of mold hanging off his face.
An economy-sized car was ahead of them, about a mile away, and the flatbed roared as Captain Edward pushed the accelerator. Anne and Mary hurried to unchain their motorcycles from the truck bed, the winds of the highway pulling at them as they worked. They backed their bikes off the thick plank attached to the end of the truck, a makeshift ramp for dismounting, and gunned their engines as soon as their tires hit the road.
Speed was the priority. Catching the car ahead was a priority, sure, but not *the* priority. Go too slow and you went green. Crashing meant broken bones and road rash, but what made Anne sick to her stomach was the thought of ending up even worse than Captain Edward.
The raid on the car went well. Anne threw bottles of water from its trunk onto the flatbed as Mary kept the car’s driver cooperative with a handful of nails. The threat of a flat tire was very effective. All the woman driving the car could do was weep as she continued to keep the car straight at a steady 50 miles per hour. Her passenger did not respond at all to the car being plundered, a man wearing a surgical mask of mold.
Anne pulled up next to Mary. “Got it all, except for a few bottles of water I left for her.”
“You should have taken everything,” Mary called back, over the wind and engines. “I’m going to pop her.” She lowered her arm, preparing to throw the nails underneath the woman’s tire.
“What? No!” Anne pulled on Mary’s other arm. Mary jerked to regain her balance, dropping the nails all over her lap, which then spilled off the motorcycle and under her own back tire.
“Dammit, Anne! Dammit!” It was by luck that the nails embedded in Mary’s tire didn’t cause it to blow out, and she sped off to catch the flatbed now a little ways ahead of them. Anne paused for a few moments before following suit, leaving their victim to drift off behind them.
Anne and Mary were back on the flatbed with their motorcycles. Captain Edward was hanging out the back window of the cab, green water pooling beneath him, watching the two women argue with his only eye not scabbed over by mold.
“She’s lasted this long, she has a good chance to survive,” said Anne. Mary’s tire had lasted long enough to get her back to the truck but was visibly deflated. One motorcycle would make raiding much more difficult and risky. They would have to make them more infrequently, which meant less food, water, and gas.
“There was a green sitting right next to her!” Mary countered. “Without gas, we’re the ones going to go green. It would have been a mercy to her and others on the road to take her out.”
“Do you not see the captain?” Anne motioned towards the cab.
Captain Edward got upset if you didn’t call him that. “My truck, so that makes me the captain,” he had said before he began to go green. The captain used to raid like Anne and Mary until he messed up throttling the motorcycle on a dismount. He managed to correct his mistake and got back up to a safe 45 miles per hour, but it was too late: the green had caught him.
“We’re fine. We keep up to speed. That dead-eyed green with the woman means they must have gotten caught going slow even if she didn’t show it. Captain Edward can drive, unlike the greens coasting along, gumming up the road.” Mary got a bottle of water from the supply chest and brought it over to the captain, who slurped it down.
Anne knew her and Mary wouldn’t survive long without the flatbed, and Captain Edward wasn’t going to just jump off and let them have it. Her growing concern at the moment was the limitation of the flatbed’s cruise control, especially as the captain crawled out the cab window onto the truck bed with them. She instinctively stepped back from the soggy, pungent man.
“None of that matters, ladies,” the captain announced. “We near the mark!”
They had no destination, at least none that Anne was aware of. She scanned the highway ahead. No cars, only grass and scattered trees off the shoulders. There was an overpass in the far distance, a dark mound on the horizon that provided them solace from the blinding rays of the setting sun now behind it.
Mary took the empty water bottle from Captain Edward and gently placed her hand on his arm where the green had yet to spread. It had been days since she had last touched her husband. He felt cold even in the summer warmth. Mary felt the urge to comfort him, to protect him from the highway winds, and took off her riding jacket, draping it over the captain’s shoulders.
“Don’t get that close to him, Mary! You might get… oh.” Anne saw the green stain creeping up Mary’s back. “Oh god.”
“We’re not going to go green, Anne,” Mary said gently. “Not green like the others. We’re going fast enough!”
“No!” said Anne, angry, scared. Fed up. “It got to you. I’m done with this.” She turned her back to them and began to quickly unchain her motorcycle.
“We need that, Anne,” said Mary, and Captain Edward advanced towards the motorcycle. Anne backed up, dropping the chains.
“Stay with us,” said Captain Edward. “Just a little longer, lass.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Anne noticed the road had changed. It becoming mottled with green, and with every passing moment there was less and less grey. The overpass, only a few miles up ahead, could not be seen through: thick ropes of mold hung over the sides like wet jungle vines.
“Oh god. Oh god.” Anne tried to go for the motorcycle, but the captain blocked her, moving between her and the bike.
Mary walked towards Anne, holding out her hand. “You’re part of our crew, Anne. Stay with us.”
With every step Mary took towards Anne, Anne took a step back, until she was on the dismount plank. With nowhere else to go, Anne hesitated. In the dusklight, Captain Edward looked more monster than man, and Mary’s pale, emotionless face was a mask of death. Anne couldn’t convince herself to be part of this ghastly voyage. She walked off the plank.
The road did not hit Anne as hard as she had expected, and she tumbled to a stop unharmed on its soft, moist surface. Anne laid in the road, eyes closed, as the stench of mold seeped into her. Overwhelmed her. Became her.
Mary held her husband close as she watched Anne drop off into the distance. The mold ropes of the overpass moved aside like a bead curtain as the flatbed passed through and disappeared into the dark.
|# ¿ Sep 22, 2019 23:40|
Thank you for the crit, mojo!
|# ¿ Sep 25, 2019 16:05|
|# ¿ Oct 19, 2021 01:54|
Sadly, gotta take a DQ on this week. Won't be a habit!
|# ¿ Sep 30, 2019 02:42|