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Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

:siren: SittingEmperor Brawl :siren:

It is the start of a new year, a time at which we reflect on the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth.

Your prompt is: compost

2,000 words

You have three weeks from today for your brain microbes to ferment your garbage ideas into rich, dark, nutrient-rich loam. Deadline is midnight PST on 26 January.

As I want to read good words, not a steaming pile of fetid poo, I am going to add some incentives.

ThirdEmperor, if you win I'll buy you your av back (or a new one of your choosing).

Sitting Here, as you haven't been blighted with the travesty that is Umaru-chan you are fighting for Crabrock's honour. If you win I'll buy Crabrock's av back.

Aaaand, go.


Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Also in.

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 06:48 on Jan 5, 2019

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

It's in my sign-up post now. As penance for tardiness I :toxx: to write crits for the other entries this week.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

One Hour
880 words

10.06 a.m.

I am separated from the world by a thick sheet of dark glass. On the other side, birds are singing and a mountain stream burbles over rocks. My girlfriend is talking, happy. But I can’t feel the warm sunlight. The sound of Alicia’s voice is muffled. I should never have agreed to come.

I make a deal with myself. One hour. If we haven’t reached the summit in one hour I will tell her I have to go back.

10.19 a.m.

Each step extracts a toll that I can’t pay. I go deeper and deeper into debt just to keep walking. My heartbeat is laboured, like the drummer is dragging their arms through treacle. It reverberates in my head and drowns out the birdsong and the noise of the stream.

I should have said no. I should have said I’m too tired. But I am always too tired. I am exhausted; depleted. I am never going to get better. You’ll feel fine once we get going, she said, and I so badly wanted it to be true.

I hate these pills. But it will be worse if I stop taking them. This foggy half-life is better than the alternative. That’s what they tell me anyway. I hate these pills.

Alicia is pointing through a gap in the trees. Below the hill we’re climbing the valley spreads out in green and gold. She drops her worn blue backpack and pulls out her camera, but I keep walking. If I stop I will never move again.

10.31 a.m.

We have been walking for half an hour. That’s nothing. No time at all. So why do I feel like I’ve been struggling up this hill for days upon nights upon days? Once, Alicia and I snuck up this hill at midnight and lay together looking at the stars. It feels impossible, now, that I ever had so much energy.

We’ll just do the short route, it’ll be fun, she said. She is considerate; she doesn’t want me to feel embarrassed or guilty for holding her back. But I am, and I do. She should just go, she’d have more fun without me. But she refuses to leave.

10.44 a.m.

We reach a stream crossing. Dappled sunlight dances on the water. The sudden brightness hurts my eyes. The sunscreen on my neck feels prickly-sticky as it mixes with my sweat. The whine of the cicadas is too loud and I wish I could pull my hood up but it’s hot so I’m only wearing a t-shirt.

“David, are you ok? Do you want to go back?” she says. Her brow is furrowed with concern and she is staring into my eyes as if trying to read my mind.

No, I’m not, and yes, I do. Pease, take me home. I can’t do it. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. If I take another step I will drown.

“I’m ok, let’s keep going,” I tell her. She raises an eyebrow, but spares me the humiliation of being argued with like a child.

10.53 a.m.

The trees are thick and I can’t tell how far we’ve come. I am walking through a dark tunnel. The floor is root-lined and treacherous. My legs are numb and I am afraid I will trip and fall, so I walk like a feeble old man, holding the trunks, picking each foot up carefully and putting it down flat like a clown in oversized shoes.

Like a zombie pretending to be human.

I hate this I hate this I HATE THIS. I am 30 years old and I can’t sleep can’t wake up can’t do my job can’t even go with my girlfriend for a GODDAMNED WALK. My heart thumps faster and faster and the tree-tunnel constricts. The branches press on me and the roots grab my sneakers. I can’t breathe. I can’t do it I can’t I can’t –

“Hey, we’ve made it!”

I stumble out from between the trees and collapse onto a flat rock next to Alicia. I put my head between my knees and concentrate on breathing. In. Out. Fighting the crashing waves of panic until they subside to a rolling swell.

“Are you ok?” Alicia’s face is lined with sadness.

I almost tell her I’m fine. But I’m dripping sweat, teetering on the edge of a panic attack and gasping for breath like I’ve just finished a marathon. I hug my knees a little tighter.

“No,” I say. “I feel awful. This was a mistake. Stupid meds. I'm sorry.”

She doesn’t say anything. There’s nothing to say. God I’m tired. I lie down and put my cheek on the sun-warmed rock.

11.06 a.m.

Alicia strokes my thinning hair off my forehead. The panic is retreating and my breathing is returning to normal. I am separated from the world by a glass wall, but with my hands and face pressed up against it I can feel the heat of the sun from the other side. The fog clears, just a little, and I think about the things I will do when I’m better. Not if. When.

Below us the valley spreads out in green and gold. It is beautiful.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

I have just realised, off the back of an IRC convo, that my crit record is less than perfect. Because this annoys me, here is a crit of The Computer Scam by Erainor.

This story is boring. Louis is - explicitly - boring. The way Louis scams the company is very boring. Oh and then he fucks up in an extremely stupid fashion and gets caught. The end.

I think this is a proto-story. It contains the potential to become a story, but is not one yet. It contains the outline of a plot but fails to generate any conflict, tension or sense of resolution. Characters exist but we have no reason to care about them. It is formed of grammatically correct sentences and paragraphs but fuuuuuck they are long. Oh and the punchline is awful.

For this story to work you needed to make the reader feel sympathetic towards Edward and then create suspense about whether or not he was going to get away with it.

As I recall you got a second chance in this particular week and did a better job with your other story, so, if you're still around, you should come back and try again.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Crits for week 335

Here are the crits I said I would do. Overall I thought this was a strong week. Or rather, almost a strong week, if so many people hadn’t run out of time and/or words and fluffed their endings. There were lots of good ideas, interesting characters, good prose, and face-plants.

The Turns of Edward Smith by Sitting Here

I enjoyed this on my first read, but the more I look at it the sillier it becomes. The purgatory Edward is trapped in doesn’t make any sense. Why is he trapped? Why does he make peace with being trapped and then keep trying to escape anyway? Why is jumping on a plane the key to entering the next, err, plane of existence? IS THIS WHOLE STORY AN ELABORATELY CONSTRUCTED PLANE PUN?

Bits of it are awkward. The granddaughter initially seems important but never reappears (I was waiting for him to spy her buying a couch or something) and the transition to the furniture store felt like it was just there to make the story fit the photo. The interesting bits - his attempts to talk to the living and to escape - happen outside the story.

And wtf is going on with this ex-carnie night janitor who sings war songs for some reason best known only to himself? Why does the carousel, now on display in a furniture store, still have power?

It is really let down by the lack of characterisation of Edward - I do not care at all whether he escapes this mildly inconvenient purgatory or not. But on the upside the prose is good and the images are nice.


A Death's Purpose - Lullabies For The Soul by Exmond

I had to read the first two paragraphs a couple of times because it feels like there’s a shift in POV. I think technically both paras are from the perspective of the angels, but it read like it switched from third to first person.

Overall this story feels like it’s missing its central character; you’ve described everything around the man’s death but not the man himself. Because I’m not invested in the nameless protag I’m not sad that he dies or happy that the angels are there to comfort him.

It seems like a lot of effort has gone into this story at the sentence level (maybe too much - more on that in a minute) but not enough standing back and looking at it as a whole. Is it about the guy who dies, the angels and their relationship with humans, or the process of death itself? I felt like this story was trying to lead me to some sort of deep statement about life, but instead I was just wandering around confused by references to cousins and sisters and parents with not enough to guide me.

Some of the details don’t add up to a coherent picture. For example, you open by referencing a girl he wants to ask out, but then she never comes up again and instead he dies pining for Kim. You describe the angels (or whatever they are) as fluffy and white (I am picturing cherubs with little angel wings) which is at odds with the overall serious tone.

At the sentence level, for me the prose felt overwrought - you’ve buried your ideas and concepts under such a pile of pretty words that I found it hard to work out what the story was about. I’d say dial it back 20%. At the moment the prose has an unnecessarily melodramatic tone.


Life in Stop Motion by Staggy

Ooh this is good. It’s a story of grief from the other side, and the sense of a slow letting go is very clearly portrayed. I liked the images of him trying and failing to get further from his grave - the sense of desperation and futile struggle are really well done.

The descriptions of the daughter are really good and I shared the protag’s frustration as she ages and it becomes harder and harder to decipher what’s going on with her life. This made the story a frustrating read but I’m ok with that because it’s the point.

My one negative comment is that the story doesn’t totally stick it’s landing. I wasn’t totally sure whether the ending is supposed to be her wedding - the bouquet implies that it is, but I thought maybe too much time had passed and we should be seeing her as an older woman now? The fact that we see her crying had also primed me to expect something sad, so I briefly thought we might be at her mother’s funeral.

In any case, the idea that now she’s getting married her father can stop worrying about her feels unsatisfying and slightly distasteful. But maybe I just don’t like weddings - other people might see this as an appropriate signifier that she is living as a happy adult now.


Fishwatcher by Thranguy

This was going great and until it crash-landed. Jess and Colin are lightly sketched but a believable couple nonetheless, and I was totally intrigued by the ghost-fish-things.

So why on earth is the ending about her losing the ability to have kids? (Was she pregnant at the time of the accident? This wasn’t clear). And I really wasn’t following when you wrapped the whole thing up with some adequate sex. I suspect you ran out of time.

More about the crazy fish things please.


Hospitality by Pham Nuwen

This started pretty good and then unravelled. I liked the weird late night vibe you set up, and I was intrigued about what was going on with this gang of elves. But the way he receives a blessing in lieu of payment was a bit anticlimactic, the “Earl King” bit felt like a reference that I didn’t get, and “Elvish Elvis” is a terrible note to end on.

The biggest problem is that the story ends at the beginning. I wanted to hear about the consequences of this weird encounter - what did effect did his new power have on Earl’s life?


In Lieu of Getting Out by apophenium

“Kelvin was thoroughly drunk and singly focused in the way alcohol makes you.” I had to read this sentence several times before I decided it wasn’t a typo but just a very awkward construction. Not a good start.

The rest of the story felt disjointed rather than following a clear arc towards Kelvin’s acceptance of his situation. First you set him up to seem like a raging alcoholic (he’s drinking in a junkyard in his slippers), then the second quarter of the story is him having a dull conversation with his therapist where he appears to be doing fine. Then in the third quarter we meet a bunch of new characters who don’t matter, and then by the end he has accepted things for some reason.

The problem is there’s nothing in the story’s events that explain why Kelvin has been transformed from a drunk who literally screams at the sky to a calm dude who is moving on with his life. Except for his therapist being good at their job, I guess.


A Natural Selection by QuoProQuid

This is pretty well done. The characters are good and the descriptions of the setting are clear. But it feels incomplete. I wanted to know what the consequences were of the second rhino attack. Do they die? Does it get filmed again? Does he learn any sort of lesson? It feels like you ran out of words before you’d quite finished your ending.


Swimming and Sinking by Antivehicular

I confess I didn’t get this story. It seems like a metaphor for something but I don’t know what.

I think you needed to set up more clearly that the reservoir wasn’t ordinary. At the end you talk about how it filled with strawberries, then toys. I think if you’d included this at the beginning that would have set the reader up better to expect weird poo poo to happen. As it is I was expecting a story about two teenagers struggling with their lives and so was quite confused when one of them goes “portal mad” (why is there no funeral?) and then starts sending letters (from the other side of the portal?).

It feels like you ran out of time with this one. The ideas are cool and the characters are good, but it needed another draft to sort out the ordering and make sure it was clear to the reader what you were trying to say.


Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Necessary Evil
790 words

The flyscreen banged and Bram winced. He could just make out the white bone of his grandfather’s hunting trophies in the pre-dawn darkness. The huge-antlered skulls leered at him. I’m not the one who murdered you and stuck you on a wall, he thought, as he snuck across the porch.

The dewy grass was cold against Bram’s bare feet and he shivered in his pajamas. Only the cry of a lone ruru broke the quiet, two clear notes like a distant bell. The pig dogs watched him from their spartan kennels. Bram wished he could’ve brought Scout with him, but Frank wouldn’t let dogs in the house. Bram hoped his mum was letting Scout sleep on his bed, like he’d made her promise.

Bram had stood by, sullen, as his grandfather set the traps along the edge of the huge stand of totara the previous afternoon. Frank said he had to trap the stoats or they’d kill all the birds. Bram had refused to say anything. Instead he’d watched, closely observing how the traps worked.

The sky was shading to grey as Bram reached the last trap. All the others had been empty, but from the final box he heard the stritch-scratch of claws against wood. His throat constricted as he lifted off the wooden lid and saw a stoat trapped by its back legs and tail. The animal hissed at him, baring teeth like needles.

“Don’t worry buddy, I’m going to help you,” said Bram, blinking back tears.

The stoat regarded him with black eyes. Then it twisted its upper body, exposing its pale belly fur to Bram. His hands shook as he reached in and released the trap. Suddenly free, the stoat dragged its long body from the box with its front legs.

A second, smaller stoat slid from the shadows. She coiled herself around her damaged mate, chirping softly. Bram stared as the two creatures joined themselves by their mouths. Their bodies writhed, the male’s snapped back legs flicking and twisting against the dirt. Eventually they quieted. The smaller stoat broke the hold with her mouth, and the male collapsed to the ground.

Bram crept forward on his hands and knees and gently touched the soft grey-brown fur. The stoat didn’t move. Bram hugged his knees and began to cry in earnest.

The female lay between two thick roots. She had rich brown fur and a plump body. From her ear a miniscule snout appeared. Its whiskers quivered, then its whole head pushed forth. The tiny pup slithered from its mother’s lobe, its snake-like body expanding so that by the time its claws touched the ground it was as long as Bram’s hand. With a flash it disappeared up the trunk.

It was followed by another, then another. The female’s body convulsed and pup after pup was birthed from her ear. They spiralled up the totara, lithe, hungry bodies streaming up and along the branches.

A cacophony of screeching and cawing rose into the pale dawn sky as the stoats raided the sleeping birds’ nests. Bram saw a ruru with pup in its talons just as another rushed from her nest with an egg in its mouth.


Bram screamed as the blast from his grandfather’s shotgun sent the egg-thief tumbling to the ground in a cloud of fur and yolk.


More stoats fell from the trunk. Bram turned to his grandfather to yell at him to stop when -


With a final shot his grandfather hit the female, another pup half-protruding from her ear. Her body slammed into the bloodied dirt and the pup slid from her, dead.


Bram was sobbing on his bed when there was a sharp knock on the bedroom door. The duvet cover was smeared with dirt from the seat and knees of his pajama bottoms.

“Go away!” he shouted.

Frank opened the door. He was holding two spades and a big cardboard box.

“Get up,” he said. “Can’t just leave their bodies like that.”

Bram followed his grandfather back down to the edge of the bush. Frank chose a spot and handed Bram a spade. Bram watched as Frank carefully gathered the bodies and laid them side by side in the box. Two tui swooped past, squabbling over territory, while a fat kereru snoozed in the sun. Little piiwakawaka danced around Bram, snapping up the insects disturbed by the turned earth.

When they were done Frank lowered himself, grunting at his bad knee, onto the grass beside the little grave. The old man lay back and looked up into the trees, shielding his eyes against the sun with a weathered palm. Bram hesitated, then squatted beside him. Together, they sat and listened to the chorus of birdsong.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Oh, and my prompt was the weasel

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Some crits for week 336

I read some of the stories from this week. Having put your poop words in my eyes, I thought I would dispense opinions. If your story isn't mentioned below that's cos I didn't read it because oh god there were so many.

You can always ask if you want critt’n, or if you write a crit of mine I'll crit you back.

Marks out of 10 are given to give my comments context. If I only said meany weany things but gave you a 6 then I obviously didn't hate it that much.

The Lion’s Den by Dolash

This is a good little fantasy adventure. The writing is fine. But I think it lacks characterisation. The moral of the story - hunter spares stag, magical stag saves hunter - is fairly standard, so it needed more characterisation of Peter to draw the reader in and make them care about his fate. Who is he? What’s he like? Is he changed by this experience?

I’m pleased he loves his horse though.


What’s Spine is Yours by Bolt Crank

Lol at that title. This story is better than it has any right to be. It’s ridiculous but somehow the ending ties it all together.

It’s hard to make comedy stories really amazing, but this is pretty solid.


Salamander by HopperUK

This is good. My only comments are that it is a little slow to get going, and the opening (“when I was small and cried for cold or hunger”) doesn’t match the end (“Let them come for me. I am ready.”) I think it would have worked better if you had opened with the sister comforting the protag because they were hiding from pursuers, or something. Some circumstance where having the power to fight back would be comforting.


A Nugget of Truth in Every Mouse by Simply Simon

This is not a bad effort, but I didn't really get drawn into the relationship between the father and the son, so I didn't feel much satisfaction at the ending. The son just seems like a bit of a dick, and the father needed more character, maybe to foreshadow that he was doing the right thing after all.

I found the poetic style you've written this in distracting. Are you a bard? Some turns of phrase were a bit Yoda-esque. Are you Bard-Yoda?


Peaceful Cohabitation by Auraboks


I thought this was funny. I liked the descriptions of Barry and his hapless roommate. But sort of nothing happens, and then he’s dead. I think this needed more of a story arc to make it a satisfying read.


Back from the Officially Dead by Chairchucker

Ok so you ran out of words / time. But, I was entertained while it lasted.

What does it have to with pelicans?


The Sun in Chains by Kaishai

This is cool but it felt like the idea was too big for the word limit. Cille’s decision to go against her culture and everything she's been taught seemed like it was taken too lightly. Something else needed to happen to motivate her actions, but there wasn't room in 800 words for this.


Voice Thief by Mercedes

My first impression was that this made insufficient amounts of sense. Then I went and read about your medievil beast, and then I thought, ha ha ok this is pretty cool.

I like Brad and Dan as characters, the descriptions of this weird wolfy world are cool, and the ending works well.

But - and I suspect my entry this week will get pinged with the same criticism that I’m about to give you - stories need to make sense without reading the prompt, even quite a literal prompt like this week’s.

Definitely better late than never!

4/10 before I read up on wolves, 7/10 afterwards.

Part of the Forest by DJ Dublell

This felt like parts 2 and 3 of a longer story. It felt like it was missing its setup; what do these characters want? What is the conflict in the story? And then the ending is very abrupt, there’s no sense of anything achieved or resolved. Not that all stories have to have an arc that ends in resolution, but it felt like this one was needed more to it.

But even though it felt incomplete what is there isn’t bad - the prose and descriptions are good.


Ape by onsetOutsider

The descriptions of this eerie ritual are well done, but the silliness of an adult suffering serious grief over a stuffed toy kinda killed the story for me. I would have liked more explanation of why the festival was necessary, and more insight into why Huxley was so important to the protag. I was half expecting Huxley to represent a previous lost child, or something, but it seems like the protag is just fond of it because they made it?


El Oso by Pham Nuwen

This is cool, but the joke ending doesn't match the tone of the rest. I also found the action sequence a little disjointed - like they're waiting for the guards to come out, then he just goes and rips the door off anyway. Where are the rest of the townspeople? But still, not bad.


Man’s Law, God’s Law, and Fishy Law by SlipUp

You completely lost me with this one. It also appears to have nothing to do with your prompt, apart from random fish references.

Opening with a reference to vomit is not a good start.

Most of the rest is tedious and confusing dialogue.

The ending kind of makes sense but I am left confused about what on earth was going on with the protag and Goerman. I get that he tricked him, but why? How'd he get arrested? What's the relationship between these two? Etc.


Goats in the Shell by Hawklad

This is good space goat fun. I lolled.



Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Hey Djeser where are your head judge crits from week 332?

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Sitting Here posted:


and then let's not have any new brawl challenges until the actual signups for this week pick up a bit more.


In and gimme a ridiculous opener

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Escape from the Bandersnort’s Lair
830 words

Tagg could scarce believe his young eyes as they met the feast laid out richly before him: all manner of mealbreads, ripest canteloons, and—​by the Star!—​an entire bandersnort, carved and dripping. The smell was mesmerising, and Tagg felt his head go woozy.

Bertrus elbowed Tagg in the ribs as he backed out the servants’ entrance with yet another tray of purple canteloon wine. His pallid face was beaded with sweat and his skinny arms were trembling. But it wasn’t from the effort of carrying the overflowing goblets. The scent of rich, roasted fat filled the air like an intoxicating miasma. Tagg felt a stab of sympathy for his friend. He knew how badly Bertrus longed to taste it, for he suffered the same gnawing hunger. It eclipsed everything; thoughts of home, memories of how he’d gotten here.

Bertrus had been the first to help him when Tagg stumbled, blind drunk on the smell of bandersnort meat, down the tunnel into the Grand Hall. Bertrus found a uniform that fit Tagg’s gangly frame and showed him how to keep himself safe from the diners. Escape, Bertrus said, was impossible.

Tagg circulated around the Grand Hall with the other servants, refilling goblets and emptying overflowing buckets from under the tables. The fetid air reverberated with the diners’ grunts and snorts. There was a sudden piercing squeal as two diners reached for the same piece of mealbread and the larger one stabbed the other with its fork. Tagg thrust a placating platter of canteloons onto the table. Blood dripped onto the white table cloth as the diner sucked its injured hand.

Flames danced in the wall sconces. Greasy smoke wove through the orange light and the diners’ gorging heads cast weird shadows. Tagg was careful to disguise his spiralling trajectory towards the top table, but still, he felt the eyes of the diners on him as he passed. There weren’t many servants at this end of the Hall. The high-ranked diners closest to the bandersnort were the most dangerous. Between the tables Tagg caught a glimpse of Bertrus, setting down fresh goblets. Bertrus’ head was bowed, but his eyes were fixed on the bandersnort.

The creature was gigantic; several long tables spanning almost the whole width of the Hall were required to hold its bulbous body. Its flesh was a perfect Maillard brown and its huge head rested on a decorative bed of mealbreads. Its forked tongue lolled off the edge of the platter.

Tagg edged towards the top table, looking for an opportunity. At this end of the Hall the smell was overwhelming. Suddenly, with a desperate wail, Bertrus dashed from the relative safety of the tables onto the open flagstones before the bandersnort. He was halfway to its dripping flesh when the top table reached him. Tagg watched in horror as they tore at him with teeth and nails.

“Bertrus!” Tagg yelled. He ran towards his stricken friend, but a rich cloud of meat-smell hit him like a crashing wave. His body shuddered and unbidden his legs increased their pace. The pounding of his feet matched the pounding of blood in his ears. As he ran past Bertrus he caught the old man’s pain-filled eyes, just for a moment, and then he was at its side. Tagg snatched up fistfuls of carved bandersnort meat.

Behind him Bertrus screamed. The top table had torn his uniform to tatters and he was bleeding from deep scratches across his torso. He was beating at the diners with his fists but his arms were losing their strength. Tagg felt sick. Suddenly the meat in his hands looked gristly and disgusting.

“Let him go!” he shouted, and hurled the bandersnort meat into the face of the nearest diner.

There was a collective intake of breath and a hundred pairs of eyes snapped around to look at Tagg. Then the huge body twitched. The tables shook as the bandersnort swung its head from its presentational platter. Its tongue flicked, tasting the air. One by one the bandersnort’s clawed legs thudded onto the flagstones.

With squeals and shrieks the diners surged from the tables. They tripped over toppled chairs and slipped in spilt gravy and canteloop wine. The servants were hungrier, faster. They trampled fallen diners, leaping from body to body with frenzied whoops.

The bandersnort roared as its children and their slaves alike bit into its sides. Its huge head lunged and snapped. Blood dripped from its teeth and ran over the flagstones.

In the chaos Tagg grabbed his friend’s arms and pulled him clear of the diners. Bertrus fought against Tagg, struggling to return to the bandersnort, but Tagg was younger and stronger.

With Bertrus in a headlock Tagg pushed his way to the far end of the Hall. The smell was fainter here, and he released the older man. Together they heaved the bar from the huge wooden doors. Tagg sent a prayer of thanks to the Star as they fled back up the tunnel.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

sebmojo posted:

:siren: Interprompt :siren: I know this looks bad but I can explain 350 words


It is important to note that, while it looks bad, an explanation is available. See, a ringing in the ears was heard, causing a distraction at a critical juncture in the creative process of the author. This meant that when said author, our subject, undertook the action of penning their poop words, the object, so distracting was the ringing in their ears that it felt as if the poop words just produced themselves with no action from our dear subject whatsoever!

"Oh! What are these terrible poop words!" was cried by the author. "Poop words have been written on the pages before me! By the gods, shall I post them?" But it was too late, because the poop words had already been posted.

It was said that passive constructions had been overused, but it was difficult to verify the accusation that was made because a person who possesed both understanding and the ability to articulate what the difference is between passive and active voice could not be found, though one was searched for high and low.

"But oh the ringing in my ears!" was cried. "Let fighting take place! For it is the only way peace can be regained!"

"Yeah nah," it was answered.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

ThirdEmperor posted:

oh god does this mean I missed my brawl

I forgot to account for the leap half-day

Yoruichi posted:

:siren: SittingEmperor Brawl :siren:

Deadline is midnight PST on 26 January.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

:siren: ThirdSittingEmperorHere Brawl Judgement :siren:

I gave you a prompt that, while evocative of themes of life, death and rebirth, was also a fairly blatant invitation to write about mushrooms. One of you tried your hardest to resist the call to mushroom-town, and the other dived right in. One of you wrote an awkward story that tried to be three different things and succeeded at none of them; the other wrote great, weird mushroom poo poo. The moral of the story is: follow your heart, especially if it has mushrooms in it.

The winner is ThirdEmperor. Congratulations, you have beaten Sitting Here at her own game. Please PM me with your choice of new avatar (or tell me if you want me to pick), so that I may cleanse your profile of the stain that is Umaru-chan.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Judge thoughts on Loamspiral by Sitting Here

If you could step outside of time, you would see that it’s a rotating helix. Each rotation adds filament-thin layers, building up themes, rhymes, leitmotifs, and running gags over the epochs and eons. If you could view the time-helix from above, it would look like a circle constantly reinventing itself, with existing layers acting as the thematic soil from which new layers spring.

I like the imagery here, but the ending of this story doesn't connect with, or deliver on, this rather cool opening.

But you can’t step outside of time. As far as you’re concerned, you are a fixed point around which the world moves in a cruel, confusing blur.

In one layer of the helix, you are a child. Your friend, Chance, is about to get the whuppin’ of a lifetime from his daddy.

I'm not sure the transition in style from dreamy to brutal vernacular works here. It feels too abrupt.

Chance’s dad thinks Chance stole Oxycontin from the gun safe in the garage. Chance’s face is bright red, scrunched up so tight it reminds you of how uncooked ground beef looks before your mom takes it out of the package. His eyes and nose are in the process of disgorging all the snot and tears his little body can muster. And they may as well, because pretty soon Chance will decide he’s too tough to cry, and that’ll be that.

You know drat well where the Oxycontin went.

Earlier, you found Chance’s dad’s girlfriend, Star, nodding off right there in the garage, next to the open gun safe. At the time, you weren’t at all concerned with the oxy pills, but you were deeply concerned with the single flapjack titty hanging out of Star’s tank top. It was your first time staring down an honest-to-god naked boob, and even though it was laced with silver stretch marks, it took your breath away.

Now Chance is about to take a beating he doesn’t deserve and his dad is practically screaming in tongues and you’re cowering in the corner thinking about that single naked boob and all the implications therein.

I think this section wants to draw me into the shitness of the protag’s childhood. But most of the words have been spent on Chance and Star - who don't reappear in the story - and the only insight I'm getting into how the protag feels is “omg a boob!” So at this point I'm not feeling much connection with the character or concern for what happens to him.

Your feet carry you across the room and deposit you in front of Chance’s dad.

You say, “Star did it.”

Chance’s dad says, “If you’re in on this too, then I’m gonna whup you then send you back to your shitstain of a father to whup you again.”

Do people actually say whup? Maybe this reads fine to Americans but to me it sounds like a joke word, which doesn't fit the violence of Chance’s dad. The challenges of writing vernacular dialogue that makes sense across cultures might be a convo for another day.

You say, “I went out to get a popsicle from the freezer and Star was there with some pill bottles falling asleep and I could see her boob. It has like, lines all over it.” It seems important to add the bit about the stretch marks. For credibility.

The choice of second person is starting to hurt you here. It made sense for the story about the time helix but isn't working for this somewhat separate and much more gritty story about a kid getting beat up.

Chance’s dad gathers himself up like a rearing bear and then brings one mighty paw down across your face, knocking you onto your rear end.

He looks like he wants to whale on you again and again, but he catches himself mid-swing. A slow, mean smile spreads across his face. In subsequent helix layers, you absolutely loathe the various Grinch movies, though you’ll never consider why.

Rather than complimenting or supporting the story, the helix reference here feels like an unnecessary footnote. I also haven't seen any Grinch movies: beware pop culture references.

You and Chance spend the night in the backyard, bruised and made to strip down to nothing but your underwear. The long, unkempt grass hides broken glass, needles, and bits of junk, so you and Chance sit pressed up against the side of the house, soaking up what heat you can through your bare backs.

“I would be dead meat if you weren’t here,” Chance says.

One third in I don't think I've learnt enough about the protag or what effect this violent formative experience has had on him.

It’s the most terrifying thing anyone has ever said to you.

This though, is a great line. Suddenly I feel some emotional investment in this story.


Further up the helix, you’re seventeen years old, rising out of the bitter mulch of your childhood to stand, gangly and awkward, above your peers. You’ve made it through the worst parts of your youth, but the damage was done; life has taught you to never disregard the animal inside your fellow humans. Anyone, at any moment, can be seized by their darkest urges and most fervent impulses. So the things that hurt you, that worry you, get tamped down, pressed into a dense loam out of which you continue to grow like a spindly tree.

You have smooshed together too many metaphors and none of them are landing. We've got the helix, which is great but kinda pointless framing, the idea of a person's future being the product of their past, the “animal inside,” and the rather mundane observation that compost makes saplings grow tall. The last in particular falls down because you're talking about the things that hurt him, the things that worry him, making the protag literally tall and gangly. I still don't know what effect the “bitter mulch” of his childhood has had on his emotional state, apart from making him not trust people.

There’s a girl named Alyhks who goes to your school. She wears her name like a scarlet letter, proof that she is inherently worthless and so worthy of the torment of her peers.

You think Alyhks is pretty, in a girl-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks sort of way. You like the stilted, thoughtful poetry she reads aloud for your english class. Like everything else, you crush these feelings down until they liquefy into something you can use in your own secret poetry.

English should be capitalised. Nothing about what you've said about the protag so far has set him up as a thoughtful writer of secret poetry. I thought he was suppressing all his emotions?

You’re on your way back to class after another fruitless meeting with the school counselor. As you pass the restrooms, you hear shrill noises coming from the girl’s bathroom—nothing out of the ordinary there.

Then you hear Alyhks’s voice, pleading.

“Give them back! Please!”

“Do these even stay in your pussy? Isn’t it all stretched out?”

“Dude, look at her, she’s a total lesbo. No way dick has gone anywhere near that pussy.”

“Let’s give her the tampons back if she lets us read that notebook she’s always writing in.”

You are frozen outside the bathroom. All the things inside you that’ve been tamped down for so long begin to seethe beneath the soil of your mind, stirring, reaching like seedlings seeking sunlight.

Again awkward use of compost metaphor. His mind is soil, his past is loam, and all is helix. You need to decide what you are talking about.

“It’s just homework,” Alyhks is saying. “I never did anything to you. Why are you doing this?”

“Let us see the notebook or I’ll dump your huge-rear end tampons in the toilet.”

You hear the sound of a backpack unzipping, papers rustling.

“Fine. Here,” Alyhks says, her voice small and defeated.

The other girls begin to read aloud from Alyhks’s notebook, laughing at everything regardless of whether it’s funny. Your fists wad up into bony knots.

Then they start reading a poem about a tall, gangly young man with big ears and a big heart, who speaks little but says so much with his resplendent brown eyes. Your own name is suddenly part of the hateful milieu in the girls’ restroom.

And like that, the things beneath the soil recoil back down into comfortable, compact darkness. You walk to class as fast as you can—you’re late anyway, and that will have its own uncomfortable consequences.

Resplendent. She thinks your eyes are resplendent. But all you can feel is that inward flinch, the anticipation of the bear paw coming down on your face. This girl now represents a vulnerability, a way for others to hurt you, and this is not allowed.

I'm not following the protag's emotional flip-flop here. First the girl he likes is in trouble so he's angry, then - gasp! - she likes him too, so he just… goes to class? Why doesn’t he try to help her? Or, why doesn’t he make an explicit decision to NOT help her? And now he has to reject his feelings for her because something something past trauma?

Last you hear of Alyhks, she’s been transferred to an alternative high school, the sort of place the district sends the violent and the pregnant and the chronically-expelled.

This is also a good line but again fails to give me any insight into the impact of Alyhks’ transfer on the protag.

The time-helix spirals ever upward, nurturing the future with all that has come before.

You are the manager of a chain clothing retailer. It’s a position you worked hard for; you clawed your way up from sales associate to supervisor to shift manager to The Boss. Along the way you made hard decisions: hiring, firing, and cutting full time employees down to part time, stripping them of their medical benefits.

You don’t feel good about these decisions, but you don’t feel bad about them, either. You’re just a human animal, participating in the exchange of resources between other human animals. You don’t write poetry anymore, so the feelings you tamp down liquefy into rot, then fester.

I get that the kid with the lovely upbringing has grown into a slightly lovely adult, but I’m just not feeling it. Tbh his adult life seems to have turned out fine, so there’s no sense of him striving or struggling - I’m not waiting to find out what happens.

You make a point of wearing a suit jacket to work every day, which your superiors love. Your staff thinks it’s some combination of dorky, endearing, and intimidating. The jacket hangs loose on your tall, lean body and conceals the gun you have in a holster at the small of your back. You don’t really know why you got your concealed carry permit; part of you dreads ever having to fire the gun, while another part of you wants to exact your revenge on every human animal within your line of sight.

Ok so he does have some inner turmoil. But see, I thought this was a story about a time helix - if it’s a story about struggling against your inner demons you needed to set this up at the start.

It’s Black Friday. Customers have been treating your staff like poo poo all day. You’re out on the floor helping Carrissa refold the huge pile of shirts someone wantonly shoved onto the ground. You can tell she’s pissed as hell, just barely biting back the vitriol she wants to spew at every customer who passes within two feet of her. The store smells like too much perfume, unwashed rear end, and fast food—the olfactory signature of the human animal.

The “human animal” line is starting to feel over-used.

You’re not thinking about your gun. This is your sixth Black Friday as store manager and there is something almost comforting in the predictable repugnance of it.

You’re about to send Carissa on long lunch—you’re proud of how well she’s kept her own inner animal leashed—when a ripple of wrongness changes the timbre of the crowded store.

See, he’s a good boss. This dude is doing fine.

There’s not a commotion, per se, but there is a stillness, a shifting of the collective attention to one particular point near the front of the store. The hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

You know this moment. This is the uncomprehending interval before the bear’s claws come down and knock you on your rear end.

Now people are running toward the back of the store, or ducking underneath display tables, anything to shield themselves from what’s happening up by the cash registers.

You shove your way upstream, against the crowd. Panicked bodies give way to an open space, occupied by a man with an assault rifle. His thin, sweaty face is red like uncooked ground beef.

I like the call back to the simile you used earlier but it confused me for a moment as I tried to work out if the gunman is Chance. I decided he isn’t.

He raises his weapon and rat-tat-tat-tat-tats off a few rounds.

An overhead light bursts and rains sparks down on the people below, and you can see the gunman purposefully aimed high. In his wild eyes there is a kind of confusion—he walked into this store as an adult human animal, ready to make others pay for crimes real or imagined. Now he stands before you, a bewildered child, having been floated up to this moment on the thermal of the time-helix.

It’s a story about the time helix!

You see within him the same bitter soil that feeds your own roots.

No it’s not it’s about how your past shapes your future! I mean obviously these are the same concept but too many metaphors make brain go uurrrgh.

He’s not looking at you. You could turn, run for the exit you know is in the back of the store, through the doors that read Employees Only. If someone’s going to die, there’s no reason it should be you. You didn’t spend a lifetime compressing your bullshit into mulch just to die like one of these stinking, cow-eyed shoppers.

You could reach for that gun holstered at the small of your back—give in to the animal that has been howling inside of you all these years, finally punish someone worthy of punishment. Yours would be a righteous expression of anger. A heroic anger. The only thing that can stop a bad animal with a gun is a good animal with a gun, but that’s all you’d be—just another animal acting out of self preservation, as animals do.

You haven’t set the protag up as someone wrestling with themselves so this bit doesn’t work.


Another aimless spray of bullets. More lights go out, spilling their fluorescent innards onto the floor.

Your feet carry you, with gathering speed, toward the gunman. Tears are streaming freely from your eyes, though you won’t notice this for several minutes.

The helix spins, layers building on infinite layers. The past nourishes the future.

You collide with the gunman, tackle him to the ground in a bear hug. The gun flies out of his hand, goes skittering across the floor.

“It’s okay,” you say into his ear. “It’s okay. It’s okay.” He convulses against you, a frightened animal. And now you’re sobbing, stroking his sweat-soaked hair, comforting the animal inside of yourself as much as calming this would-be killer.

This is great as a resolution to this scene. But it doesn’t work as a resolution to the story because I haven’t been reading this waiting to find out whether he would give in to violence or not.

It takes two SWAT team guys to pull you off the gunman, who’s by now gone totally catatonic. They’re surprised and relieved to find you armed, but with your weapon still holstered.

“If you’d drawn your weapon, we could’ve had a blood bath on our hands,” a police officer tells you later, as you sit in the back of an ambulance giving your account of the day’s events. “Lotta those folks in there would’ve been dead fuckin’ meat.”

It’s the most gratifying thing anyone has ever said to you.

This is like three separate stories - about a boy, a teenager and an adult, pasted together with a mishmash of overarching themes, which are: the endless march of the time helix; your future is a product of your past; people are animals and you can fight against or give into your animal nature; and compost as a metaphor for how you can break down your past and use it to grow your own future. All of these elements are good, but there are too many of them and they don’t fit together.

I think the best part of this story is the final third, particularly the way he saves the gunman, and himself. That would make a decent stand-alone 1,000 words I reckon.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Judge thoughts on Surrogate by ThirdEmperor

Victoria, lying over antiseptic blue sheets, a strange magenta light fixed over her face making the doctor’s gloved hands unnaturally slick and dark as they passed before the lamp. Victoria, under a haze of anaesthetic, still feeling the prick of the needle as a cold foreign intrusion, picking out three points in a line across her cheek.

“Even in the worst case, it won’t touch anything essential.” The doctor reassured her. Victoria supposed that was reassuring, if you lived a life where you weren’t constantly asked to measure and portion which parts of you were essential, slowly pushing one thing after another from the list. Which ruled out anyone who’d lie in this bed, patiently receiving a stipend in exchange for handing that vital calculation over to gloved, shiny hands, and a face that couldn’t quite be seen past the halo’d rings of the lamp shining into her eyes.

They show her the device, something like a reservoir pen. The two-part metal spear that would split apart after making a hole and the little tongue-piston that would force a spore down into the flesh opened beneath.

This isn’t the smoothest opening; your first para left me feeling a bit confused. But by the time we get to spores it’s clear that we’re talking about a strange medical procedure, that she’s being paid to undergo, and I’m interested in what’s going on.


Victoria, two days later, in front of the mirror tracing over the rigid redness of her flesh, the three splotches where her cheek has swollen up to shiny-hard plaques. Her eyes bagged with dark skin stippled like boiled chicken.

For the past two nights, she has dreamed in textured light and wet shadow.

Victoria’s apartment, mostly concrete, is scattered with a punkish brand of artistic endeavors carefully cordoned off from the scattering of empty wrappers and ramen bowls. Her audience was mostly in the line of transactional pity and charity. They would have been shocked not by the grossness of her room, but by the sharp delineations, the swathe of clean space around the worktable. It would have been a violation of Victoria’s role seamlessly converting poverty into another choice of aesthetic.

Spiderweb-thin roots stretch out from the swellings on her cheek, as the right side of her face gives way to the latest aesthetic.

I think in this section the prose is about 10% too overwrought. I had to read it a couple of times to get a clear image of Victoria’s apartment. I like the image you evoke, so you somewhat get away with it, but I think overall it would have been better to start the story with more straightforward language and descriptions - then the transition that happens later would have been more marked.


Victoria, going back a day, on a last expedition before her harvest starts to show. The cafe is open air and sprouts from the side of the Peppers-Radson Building, a mushroom-shelf of faux-wood and plastic greenery sprouting off the side of that chrome jewel with its glittering window-facets. The colors reflected on the glass table shift as ten-second adspots roll across the far building’s facade, bits of the show poking through the shade of the ornamental trees ringing the veranda.

See comment above about overwrought descriptions. This is cool, but I had to read it twice.

A mosaic of hamburger divided by leaf-shadows masks Audrey’s face as she talks, her own glossy, electric-blue mouth suddenly eclipsed by the perfectly cleaned and sanitized lips and teeth of a supermodel sinking down around the supermodel of burgs. Instinct almost has Victoria reach out to dispose of a mustard smear.

Audrey is to Victoria what Victoria tries to be to the art world. She has a neat way of summarizing a dozen things into a narrative Victoria didn’t realize she was already in agreeance with. Audrey, hand-talking, tells Victoria what she already knows, and a certain level of mutual appreciation keeps them both honest.

Agreeance? Is this really a word?


Relle, three days forward, sprouting off Victoria’s face in rich blood red shelves ruffled up at their edges into uneven patterns the color of coffee-filter paper, with underlying gills of grey. Victoria names him Relle, as the sensations flowing through it into her demand a personification to originate from.

Relle is overly bright, chirpy, refuses to sleep. Naming him was a mistake, giving him two avenues now to grow on her.


Relle, blissfully unaware he is a person, translating seamlessly the interplays of light and shadow into seas of texture, fingerpainting with three-dimensioned sensations.

Bars of thick shadow and thin sunlight through the shades lie over a soda can, dividing the crumpled metal as if on microscope slides, and this movement through segmented light becomes a continuous thing moving through time, swelling and shrinking through one cross-section at a time in a stain of bluish light-smears. Yellow gives her bright headaches as it becomes a spoke on which surrounding shadows turn.

She calls the doctor.

“That seems a little extreme.” The doctor says, putting it so brightly Victoria starts to imagine what kind of light-shape-motion the words would make. A downward spiral she decides. “But it’s not unheard of. A little information flows both ways.”

“I’m getting headaches. Migraines.” Victoria insists, even now keeping the screen’s light low so she won’t drink it in through closed eyes.

“For which you’re being paid. But, can you describe the pain?”

On instinct, Victoria fabricates several very interesting kinds of pain and ends the call.

Solid mushroom weirdness. Nice.


Relle, being too honest for his own good. He eats, and burbles motion out of still light, bends colors into their own dimensions. His world is a pop-up book; everything falls into its own private curvatures or comes smearing towards her.

Which is the problem. As reality filters through him, everything is reflected and nothing withheld for narrative sake. There is no deception. The infinitely-clever thing that propogates across her face in fruiting bodies and pins one eye shut with its tendrils does not know how to posture, only to break things down, reform them, present them proudly.

This is not Victoria’s line, which is entirely the magic trick of shifting privileged expectations from one hand to the other, with showmanship, and handing them back as if they were her own. A black box that only offers only the pretense of change. Relle seems to have no expectations and feeds from everything in her life, and she worries for him.

Even reading is too stimulating. The strict black ink gives her vertigo. So she lies back, eyes covered, and lets her idle imagination be recomposed. It’s fun.

But she worries for him, even if his worth will be decided after his fact. The least he can be is a success.

I’m enjoying the relationship between Victoria and Relle. I like the way you contrast the mushroom’s honest artistry with Victoria’s own approach of giving people what they want.


Victoria and Relle, visiting the memory of the greenhouse where he was born. Light coming through a thousand windows, becoming a fractal sharpness with a thousand frozen points formed by the extremities of rainbow prisms tapering into singular blades of white. For safety they submerge into a rolling dark that is the soil where Relle was cultivated.

They find a great hunched giant, defined only by the shadow it makes when it stoops over them.


It seems confused. Not confused with the disjointed manner of a dream, but with the irritation of a real person not being allowed their expectations.

“Do you think Relle is a person?”

“No, I don’t think about that.” The shadow lifts away, flees, and they are alone.


“Do you want me to prescribe a round of antipsychotics?”

“Just tell me what you dreamed about last night.” Victoria says, her voice a little too forceful. Relle’s blunt curiosity is infecting her.

“That’s really not appropriate. I think you need to remember that you are undergoing an experiment and-”

“You dreamed about me. Me and Relle.” Victoria knows she is pressing too hard even before the call is cut short and the after-call ad bombards her in colors.


Victoria, again numbed and against the backdrop of antiseptic blue, unable to keep her eyes open this time. Laceration after laceration opens a tension in her skin she never realized was there until now, but the cold of the knife ane the warmth of the blood is beyond her sensation. This is not handled by the old doctor, who has removed herself for concerns of privacy. Victoria takes this as confirmation of everything. This time, she does not indulge the replacement’s equally keen desire to have her see the tools. She feels this particular process is already familiar.

I’m not sure what the reference to the doctor’s privacy concerns here is about.

They scoop Relle out of her root and flesh. The plastic curtains of the operating theater give way to the domain of a young prodigy of a chef and Relle is moving quickly in showy flips across a buttered skillet onto a plate. The plate is remanded to a handsome waiter. Relle is bloody slivers in rich sauce and vanishes past the immaculate teeth of the wealthy.

This is a great conclusion to this whole weird trip; both hosed-up and completely plausible.

Some of her paintings have been hung, but the crowd is ready for a more direct translation. To eat from the source.

Victoria, floating in a cloud of her own authenticity, which is reified with fervor and seems to flow as much out of her as to her. Victoria, being portioned up as quickly as she is inflated.

Victoria’s name is suddenly everywhere.




She comes through the plastic curtains bandaged, smiling weakly, ready to play the suffering artist as Relle’s remains are served. She finds herself already present. The crowd dances with her phantoms. They laugh at private jokes, they smile at her brilliance, she is on the tip of their tongues.

The original article, weightless and presenceless. Growing lighter with every moment she remains unseen. Victoria, in awe, watching people’s reaction to Victoria-the-function. Happy to be obsolete. Feeling scooped empty, and only now feeling out the shape and depth of what has been removed. Triangulating how she was seen through how she is reformed and retold across a dozen personal realities.

I really dig this ending. An artist, who has gone to such lengths to create, being herself created and thus nullified by her audience is a really interesting idea. The weird trippiness of the story nicely matches the weird trip of seeing yourself refracted through the eyes of an self-obsessed audience.

I like that she’s not upset about seeing Relle get eaten; this is, after all, what she signed up for. “Scooped out emptiness” feels like the right reaction for this character.

I got a lot more out of this story on my second read; and therein lies my main criticism. The prose is cool but sometimes confusing (what tense is this in anyway?), and the core ideas are a fraction too subtle. There are hints are the beginning as to what’s going on with Victoria, but I think it would have been good to make these clear enough to pick up on the first read. But, that said, I enjoyed this strange mushroom trip.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Jolly super awesome max mode

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Yoruichi posted:

ThirdEmperor. Please PM me with your choice of new avatar (or tell me if you want me to pick), so that I may cleanse your profile of the stain that is Umaru-chan.

Don't forget to claim your prize

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

LGBTQ Focused French Race Against Time Thrillers About Royalty Cults

Je t’aime
980 words

Clarisse looked stunning in her red brocade gown. The pearls I’d woven through her auburn hair were as fake as our IDs, but both were good enough to get us past security. Inside the mansion the Christmas ball was in full swing. Dancers in bustles and corsets swirled around an enormous gold-wreathed tree. A waiter wearing tights and a stiff ruff bowed and placed champagne flutes into our hands.

“Not too shabby,” said Clarisse, taking a sip. “Almost makes working on Christmas worth it.” She gave my hand a demur squeeze, and my heart skipped a beat. I reminded myself that we were just work associates. Professionals.

“What’s the deal with these guys anyway?” I whispered back to her, taking a swig of champagne. “Why the Louis XIV costumes?”

“Rich people,” she said, and shrugged.

With a final flourish the band stopped playing. Trumpets sounded from the base of the grand staircase. A middle-aged woman, her breasts wobbling on top of her straining corset and her face flushed red from dancing, elbowed in front of me.

“Ow!” I said.

Red-face turned and glared at me. Her pupils were dilated and she was breathing heavily.

“I must see the King!” she said, bathing me in halitosis.

I flinched away from her, and Clarisse put a protective hand on the small of my back.

Mesdames et messieurs,” a loud voice rang out. Red-face’s attention snapped to the front. “May I present, Le Roi Soleil, His Majesty Louis XIV!”

To rapturous applause a well-known Parisian businessman, currently dressed in silk tights and an indigo robe embossed with gold fleur-de-lis, descended the staircase. Clarisse was being paid handsomely to relieve him of a certain laptop. I still couldn’t believe she’d asked for my help. Definitely makes working on Christmas worth it, I thought, her hand still resting lightly on my back.

We hung back as the other ladies lined up to kiss their Monarch’s fingers, and slipped unnoticed into the corridor to the bathrooms. Once we were out of sight of the ballroom we got to work. In a matter of seconds I picked the lock to the servants’ passages. With great relief we stripped off our corsets and stuffed the gowns, their part done, into a cupboard full of janola and mops.

Moving silently in our body-suits we ran through the empty corridors until we found the locked door to the third floor quarters. This was a serious piece of kit and wasn’t going to be defeated with picks alone. Sitting cross-legged I plugged my home-made card into the slot and hunched over the programme on my phone.

“C’mon, c’mon,” I muttered.

“It’ll work,” said Clarisse.

I looked up at her, surprised.

“After all, you wrote the code.” She smiled, and I felt my face go red.

“Hey, Clarisse,” I said.

She arched her beautiful eyebrows in response.

I took a deep breath. “I’m really glad you chose me for this job. I want to tell you, spending time with you, it’s been amazing. I - ”

Merde.” Clarisse chopped the air with her right hand. “Hear that?”

My sweat turned to ice. From further down the winding passages came the sound of booted footsteps. Not walking but jogging; the sound a group of men makes when they are moving with purpose. Hunting.

The lock clicked and I sprang to my feet. Palming my tools back into their pockets I grabbed Clarisse’s hand and pulled her through the door.

“Jeanne, did you re-lock the servants’ door?” she said.

I felt the blood drain from my face. Clarisse’s expression was blank, professional. No hint of accusation. That made it so much worse. I couldn’t believe I’d made such a rookie mistake. Clarisse will never speak to me again, I thought. If we even get out of here alive.

Out of time, we sprinted along a thick-carpeted corridor, counting the doors.

“Here,” Clarisse said.

She stared back down the corridor as I knelt in front of the door. My hands were shaking so bad I couldn’t get my picks in the lock.

“Clarisse…” My hands circled in front of me in lieu of words that wouldn’t come. As if I could ever tell her how I felt about her now.

“I’m sorry,” I said at last.

Clarisse squeezed my shoulder. “Open the lock so we can get the laptop and get out of here,” she said.

Right, I thought. I’m just here to do a job. I took a deep breath and my hands steadied. I pushed the picks into the lock and then sat back in surprise as the door swung open.

The room was even more richly ornamented than the rest of the mansion. A diamond chandelier glittered in the low light from candles arranged around the gold-leafed four-poster bed.

“What are you doing here?” said Red-face, snatching up the sheets to cover her bosom.

“We came to, err, get something for Louis,” I said, as Clarisse slipped past me into the room.

“That’s his Majesty’s desk! You can’t go through that!” said Red-face, sitting up in bed. “I’ll call the guards!”

“No need,” said Clarisse. “They’re on their way.” She held up a laptop.

I yanked open the window and snow-scented air washed into the room. The red railings of the fire escape trailed down into the darkness.

“Jeanne, look,” Clarisse said. I paused, one leg over the sill. Clarisse pointed up at the dark green leaves hanging from the curtain rail. “Mistletoe.”

The pounding of booted feet echoed down the corridor. I met Clarisse’s eyes, then she leant forward and kissed me.

For a moment the world stopped.

“Merry Christmas, my beautiful Jeanne,” Clarisse said. She grinned.

“Merry Christmas to you too,” I said, smiling back at her.

Then Clarisse pushed me the rest of the way out of the window and together we disappeared into the night.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

The Interprompt Adventures of Mosebjo: 14

“Duck me!” said Mosebjo, gazing in awe at the paradise of goods laid out before him. He and Space Captain James had snuck into the city the night before, shelducking through the checkpoint like silent gas through an avian sphincter.

Tears had feathered Mosebjo’s cheeks, his usual upbeat mood turning Swedish Blue as he'd untacked Caterpillar for the last time. There was nowhere to hide a Steppe pony in the shimmering lake that was Futuretechopopolis. So with a flap of his arms he'd egged Caterpillar on. The pony's thick tail fanned in the wind as he winged it south.

“Can I interest M’llard in some spaceship parts?” quacked a beak-nosed old man to Space Captain James. James rubbed his hands together with Muscovy glee.

Mosebjo was beginning to feel cooped up in the crowded marketplace, so while James was plucking the parts he needed Mosebjo orpingtoned into a nearby watering hole. Perched on a stool he ordered a bottle of brown liquid.

It tasted of duck farts.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

In, flash

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

SlipUp posted:

E: I'll leave it alone but I'm going to take a break from this.

This makes me sad. So, at the risk of rewarding you for whinging, here is a crit of The Vitruvian Beast by SlipUp.

The wind blasted through the old house like a demon, slamming all the doors at once before dying almost entirely.

This is a bad start - it's a bit, "the wind is doing a dramatic thing oh no wait don't worry it's stopped."

“What was that?” Asked John groggily from his sleep.

There has been a lot of chatter about the badness of unnecessary adverbs in this thread recently. You would do well to heed that advice. Also "asked" shouldn't have a capital.

“It was just the wind,” said Mary, as she rolled over in bed and sighed.

“Probably, but I’ve never seen the wind do that here. I’m going to go check,” said John. He got up and put on a pair of trousers and his suspenders.

“Blasted war,” he said to himself. Leather rationing meant no more belts.

Your worldbuilding needs to be clearer. Where are we? What sort of war? Also leather belts are a really weird thing to run out of given they last forever. And why isn't elastic being rationed?

He lit his bedside lantern and went downstairs. The wind that remained wailed quietly through an unseen opening as if someone was screaming in the distance.

"Wailed" and "quietly" are pretty much opposites. You could have said something like, "the wind wailed like a distant scream," or something.

A loud thud came from his front door. He opened it.

“Mary!” He called out. “Bring a blanket!”

It was a man; totally naked, covered in deep cuts, and bleeding.

You should have started with the bleeding, naked man on the doorstep. This is the most important part of this section and is a good, attention-grabbing image. The rest is just chitchat about the wind and an unexplained belt shortage.

They dressed the stranger’s cuts in the bathroom. Mary used her good linens for bandages. They put him in the guest room.

Sentences that just say "and then they did thingy," are a waste of words. You need to think about what each sentence is telling the reader about the world, the characters or their relationships. For example, when telling us that they put the stranger in the guest bedroom you could have done this via some observation of the details of the room, like you did with the reference to Mary's "good linens." This passage is confusing because it makes the stranger sound completely passive - are they lugging him around unconscious or what?

They were woken again that night by the sound of wind. This time it sounded more like howling, off in the distance.

This oooh maybe it's actual howling thing is a bad way to build suspense. Just say they could hear distant howling, that's ominous enough.

That morning Mary telephoned the doctor. He had several other patients to visit, so he could be as long as four weeks.

Four weeks! Why?

“Call me if his condition changes before then.”

Two weeks passed, and still, the stranger slept. They had tended to him as godly Christians should, and his wounds had begun to scar but he moaned terribly at night. His cries punctuated by the howls in the distance. Had this poor man been attacked?

John had gone looking around the edges of the property. He found tracks. Lots of them.

Do they not usually go outside? How had they not noticed wolves everywhere? The lack of information about this world is making this a confusing read.


Yes I got that.

They heard a mad crashing that night, spilling from the guest room followed by wordless screaming. The wolves yipped madly in unison, creating a cacophony of chaos. Mary was the first to open the door.

The man was awake, thrashing and wailing on the floor. He had pulled all the hair off of his body and was bleeding from the head and groin.

Ew, drat, he ripped out his pubes? Wtf dude.

They tied him to the bed with rope and put a stick in his mouth so he wouldn’t swallow his tongue.

I'm glad this couple are super strong such that they can easily overpower someone thrashing around and ripping out his body hair. Have they even tried talking to him at all at this point?

When the stranger was lucid, he told them he was from a few hours north, where his family lived. He remembered hearing howling for weeks and had gone outside one night when it grew so close it had left his ears ringing. The next thing he knew he woke up tied to the bed.

Ok so all the references to the passage of time in this story are too long. What is going on that a man with a family would cower inside listening to wolves for weeks before going to see what was up?

“How’d I get like this?” Asked the stranger, flexing the ropes. They told him that he had been out for weeks, and was seizing on the floor.

“We were worried about you,” said Mary.

“We’re going to go check on your family,” said John. “Hold tight. We’ll loosen you up as soon as we get back and can keep an eye on you. The doctor is coming and we don’t want you to get hurt if you seize up again.”

I imagine the stranger was extremely not very happy about being left tied to a bed, alone, for no reason.

After they left the room, Mary asked John if he really thought the stranger could have another episode.

“Maybe,” said John. He grabbed his shotgun, their lanterns, and they departed.

The forest was mute as they traveled. Gone were the birds, as was the wind. Only the sound of snapping twigs and the gurgling of a stream.

Birds disappearing seems like an important detail, but doesn't come up again. Don't just chuck things like this in if they don't mean anything.

Dusk approached. It was further than the stranger made it seem.

The homestead loomed before them in the twilight. It was raining faintly but no smoke came from the chimney and no light from the windows. The door was open.

“Keep an eye out,” said Mary as she approached the entrance. John put his lantern up on a stump and leaned against another tree opposite the lantern so that his silhouette would blend in.

“I’ll be over here,” said John.

Mary’s lantern was illuminating the front of the house, but its light was lost in the absolute darkness within the doorway.

She edged her way to the door and looked inside.

Mary clenched her hand over her mouth and ran to John as fast as she could.

"Clenched" makes me think of a clenched fist.

“What’s wrong?” He asked. She grabbed his shotgun and shells, ran back to the doorway, and unloaded both barrels.

She fumbled two more shells into the shotgun, vomited, and blasted inside again.

Shoot, spew, shoot is a really weird sequence of actions. Vomiting usually takes a couple of minutes plus a bit of recovery time. If you are opening your mouth to argue then yes, yes of course she could have just barfed on her hands and kept going. And I appreciate that you wanted a physical action that would convey her disgust at whatever she is looking at. But you need to work with readers' expectations - if you're going to use a familiar action, like upchucking, in a surprising way, you need to make what you mean really clear.

She pulled out two more shells that she dropped before collapsing and crying, her head resting on the barrel of the empty gun.

John cautiously approached, put his hand on Mary, and peered inside.

This is a significant under-reaction to your wife's rage-spew situation, John.

He saw two dead wolves among the strewn body parts of human beings torn limb from limb.

Flies covered everything.

They told the stranger they found nothing as they untied him.

What a pair of meany weanies.

Mary called the doctor the next day. He said it would be okay for him to move around, but to also get plenty of rest and food as well.

“I’ll be there in a week and I can give him the full check-up,” said the doctor. “I can’t diagnose over the phone I’m afraid.”

The doctor plays no role in this story. He doesn't reveal anything about the world or the characters and should be cut.

John called the police after. They sounded skeptical of John’s claim of the house in the woods but said they’d investigate within the next couple days.

“That’s pretty remote and we’re low on manpower. The war, you know how it is,” said the policeman, “Say, why didn’t you enlist?”

“I did,” said John, hanging up the phone.


The stranger passed his time chopping wood in the back. He insisted he ‘earn his keep’.

Umm, given his house is only about half a day's walk away don't you think he'd want to go check on his family himself?

Mary was making tea on her gas stove when there was a pause in his rhythm. She felt eyes watching her. When she turned to look, he had lodged his axe blade into another large log, hoisted it on to the chopping block, twisted his axe free, and cleft it in two.

He repeated this for days. Always a single stroke.

I think this part is supposed to convey that he is super strong and probably a werewolf? I already know he's a werewolf...

The howling continued all this time, growing closer and louder. There were more of them. They were hungry.

The morning the doctor was supposed to show up for the appointment, the stranger left without notice.

I'm amazed he didn't leave as soon as they untied him, tbh.

Mary tried to call to cancel the appointment, but there was a problem with the phone. The wire outside had been chewed.

By dusk, the doctor had not arrived.

There was no howling that night.

Oh good.

The next night, the full moon shone through their windows and the howling was outside their front door, piercing their ears and tormenting them.

Dang, just when I thought the wolves had left.

Then a scratching, tearing at the front door, building to a fever pace as it smashed back and forth in place.

"back and forth in place" is a weird turn of phrase. What do you mean?

John grabbed his shotgun and they went downstairs. When they reached the kitchen, John stopped and gave Mary the gun. The front door was just through the kitchen hall.

“Take this. If anything comes through this door beside me, you blast them,” said John as he disappeared into the dark passage beside the stove.

Mary braced herself against the kitchen table. The scratching stopped and one lonely howl echoed through the night, more man than wolf, more pain than fury. Then there was the sound of crashing wood as if lightning had struck a tree, followed by a deathly yowl.

Mary leveled the shotgun at the door. The darkness moved. Her shotgun screamed.

Oooo-kay so we have reached the end of this strange little tale. Or rather, the point at which it stops. I would have preferred an actual ending where we find out what happened to John and the stranger.

I'm not really sure what was going on for most of this, but, my writerly feedback for you is that there was absolutely no reason to care about any of these characters. Who are Mary and John? Did they form any kind of bond with the stranger such that they were anxious about his fate? Why should I read this all the way to the end?

I think the fact that you got dinged for prompt non-usage two weeks in a row or whatever is a coincidence. I'm not 100% clear how that picture inspired this story but honestly I wouldn't worry about it. For what it's worth, when I'm judging good use of prompt sometimes earns people bonus points but a good story that doesn't use the prompt wouldn't get minus points (it's still a good story after all).

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 09:54 on Feb 13, 2019

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

ThirdEmperor posted:

uhhh I am also quitting thunderdome :v:

Crit one mine and I'll crit you back

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

A crit of Picture, If You Will by ThirdEmperor

Picture a city a few minutes after storm, air still heavy with wet; a drumbeat slithers through roofing tiles, finds a syncopated pause beading over the edges, and falls to sound out the motley of the city’s construction, to tap the cobblestones, to drum the metal sheeting, to make dense the thudding impact of boots where the alleys are still mud.

I like the images in this para but the prose is slightly too much. I had to read it twice, and then pause and picture it. This is good, because the images are good, but bad, because you're making me work too hard. I think you needed to break up the dense descriptions with shorter sentences.

This closing gentle staccato to the storm’s orchestral thunder calls people out from under the eaves, pulls them through the fog that streaks particulate moisture against their bare cheeks. The condensation catches the light of the streetlamps across their face like an actor’s greaspaints. They are part of the moment as they rush to the scene, to the smoke, to the sour chemical stink of extinguished flame and paint still running off the skeletal timbers in molten rivers. They hurry to define the edges of the cratered space opened up in the city and become authorities in the day’s tragedies.

The smoke and chemical stink in this para caught me by surprise as I was primed to think about a rainstorm. The reference to a crater makes me think there might have been an explosion, but the "extinguished flame" makes me think more of a fire, that was maybe put out by the storm? Being confused two paras in is not a good start.

In an alley they might pass through on their way, pause to consider a poster peeling away from a cheap plaster wall that bulges up with rain-swollen sores; consider the face prominent at the center, gazing proud upwards, neck terminating in the words AMAZEMENT, haloed by ASTONISHMENT, flanked at either side by his own name, due to become infamous. In circular windows around him, portraits of his co-conspirators and victims. Luminous fungi grow from between the cobbles and lean their long stalks down from where they’ve found purchase among the loaming leaves packed up in the raingutters above, and lend to the face that dominates the streaking poster the appearance of stagelight, underlit and overlit.

Now I really am confused. We've heard about actors so I assumed the building was a theatre, so maybe the poster is advertising a play? But then I'm thrown off by the references to co-conspirators. "Fungi" gives a feeling of slow decay, which is at odds with the sudden destruction of an explosion... So I'm still not sure what this is about.

Stamped down into the mush flowing the gutters alongside is a surprising quantity of bread, or once-bread, and masks and puppets. The constant fatty scum of the peels, rinds and bones left piled up is mixing with ash, forming soapbubbles and skidmarks of rainbow in the outflow.

Bread gone mushy also feels like slow decay, but what the rinds and bones are about I'm not sure.

The city birds and the more daring varieties of bat are settling down again, testing with their scaly claws the solidity of jutting spars of burnt timber. They are picking at the less-sodden bread that has spilled from a basket and hopping over the sprawled body that bends hideously, that rests its head against the cobbles in a puddle of pulp like a trampled fruit. When people gather round, furtive, but not so furtive they don’t scatter the birds again, they are both relieved and dissapointed and disconcerted to find the man with his backwards bending arms is a puppet; it bears a politically uncomfortable likeness.

There is a noticeable lack of constables, of officiality. They prefer this to be considered a natural consequence. Mummery, jokes, fire-breathing they could haved tolerated. Lion-taming even has some appeal to the authoritative sensibility.

But escaping from chains is unmistakably a political act.

You've lost me. Who escaped from what chains?

Returning to the alleyway, the poster has been cut down as a keepsake, leaving much of itself smeared to the walls. The blisters of rainwater under the plaster have begun to discharge milky fluid.

Much will be made in coming days of the face on that poster but not among the dead, although plenty of the dead do not have a face to offer anymore. Now, as bits of char rain from the bones of the theatre, striking clouds of sparks from the sodden, glowing scab of ash and ember below, people come to probe about the outskirts like a tongue finding the gap where a tooth once was, pressing at the sore edges, sating a taste for misery.

When they are dispersed by the return of the rain, they have come away with souvenirs and with a story. The act’s original intention is not mentioned, the perpetrators of the tragedy left unnamed, but a defiance lingers in the star’s continuing absence from a defined fate, the refusal to name him among the dead. They leave open the hope of a encore, to amaze and astonish and escape, and that hope matters, a little.

So I think this is about an act of rebellion/terrorism perpetrated by a group of actors who blew up a theatre, in defiance of a repressive(?) state? But I am really just guessing.

I liked the images you conjured up, but reading this was quite hard going and constantly trying to puzzle out what you were talking about detracted from enjoying the scenery. It maybe would have been better to just describe the aftermath of a fire, and the locals' reaction to the loss of a significant building, and therefore the fire itself, rather than adding in the conspiracy thingamy.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Prompt: Human popsicle

Wake Up
1080 words

Casey’s eyes flew open as a tremor rocked the building. She was plugged into Captain Bruce Beauford’s cryotank, sharing his dreams. Her knock-off jack, implanted in one of the city’s countless unlicensed clinics, fritzed under the multiple sensory overlays. Red emergency lights pulsed in the azure sky. The shadows of the other cryotanks superimposed themselves over the white walls of Bruce’s summer house in Monterey.

“Casey?” Obediently she closed her eyes and blocked out the troubling reality. She could never ignore the Captain’s voice.

The Monterey house was where it had all started, where the Captain and his associates had conceived their plan to out-live the coming environmental disaster. The house had long ago been sold; Bruce had liquidated all his assets to found Cryo-Life and secure his future. All this he’d told Casey in the quiet hours she stole with him during her night-shifts. She loved it when he dreamed for her of the world before the Great Collapse. She'd drink it all in and awake thirsty, aching.

The Captain’s brow was furrowed beneath his thick, grey hair. Casey did a twirl in her yellow cotton dress, arms held out, and forced herself to laugh.

“You are deteriorating,” Bruce said. Casey stopped twirling.

He took her chin between his thumb and forefinger. She trembled as he turned her face left, then right. “You should have joined us last year, when your body was still perfect.”

Join him. Just dream with him in the house in Monterey until the world was healed. Then all this - the dust-storms and the snaking lines of refugees, the food shortages and dying of loneliness in her one-room apartment - would go away, like a bad dream.

A violent tremor rocked the ground and Casey fell to her hands and knees on the soft grass. Then a wall of ice smacked into the back of her skull and her consciousness thudded back into the unlit cryotank room. She yanked the chord out of the back of her neck and pressed her fingers into the itching, painful skin around her jack.

The lights were dead and the back-up generators hadn’t kicked in. The tanks could only go about half an hour without power before the core temperature would start to rise. Outside another explosion boomed and Casey heard booted footsteps entering the facility. She crept to the mesh-reinforced window and peered out. Plumes of smoke rose amongst the dust-covered low-rises and the sky glowed dirty orange.

Heart pounding, Casey groped her way to the generator room. The door was open and two head-torch beams cast leaping shadows. A man and a woman were working the bolts that fastened the generator to the floor. They were both wearing stolen military fatigues. The heavy fabric hung loose on their thin frames and their faces were black shadows under their headlamps.

“poo poo!” said the woman, as her spanner slipped loose and she cracked her elbow into the generator’s metal side.

The man reached out to help her but she batted his hand away. “I’m ok,” she said. “Let’s just get this and get out of here.”

Casey stood frozen in the darkness. She wanted to run. She wanted to throw up. Her fingers crept to the thigh pocket of her Cryo-Life uniform and wrapped around her taser. She hadn’t touched the thing since training, years ago.

“Stop it!” she said. She stepped into the doorway, taser brandished two-handed like a sword.

The two people sprang to their feet and Casey was momentarily blinded by their headlamps. Holding one hand up to shield her eyes she pointed the taser and fired. She felt the vibration of the weapon firing and then the woman slumped to the floor.

“What the gently caress did you do that for?” shouted the man. He pulled the sharp prongs out of the arm of his unconscious companion. They recoiled automatically into the weapon and Casey flinched and dropped it. The woman was much older than she’d expected. Her gaunt face was deeply lined and her grey hair was wet with sweat.

“You can’t take the generator!” Casey said, her voice high-pitched with fear. “The Captain needs it!”

The man sneered at her. “The Captain? You mean popsicle-guy? Our need is greater than some frozen rich prick,” he said. He heaved the generator onto a makeshift metal trolley, then carefully laid the woman on top of it. She groaned but didn’t wake.

“But, he’ll die!” she wailed.

“He’s already dead.” The man heaved the trolley straight at Casey, bashing her in the shins. “He lived his life and then when things were looking bad he gave up.” Casey tried to brace herself on the doorframe but he hit her with the trolley again. “Do you have any idea what a facility like this costs? What it takes to keep him dreaming while the rest of us starve? He could have stayed and helped but instead he ran away!” The man’s voice had risen to and angry shout and he pulled the trolley back ready to ram Casey with it again.

Casey felt like the white Monterey house was burning before her eyes. She saw dust filling the beautiful pool and lines of ragged people marching up the perfect lawn. Their hands were outstretched, desperate. She snatched the taser off the floor.

“Stop it!” she screamed, and fired again. The prongs caught the man in the shoulder and he collapsed.

It took what felt like forever to reconnect the damaged generator. Outside sirens wailed as the city’s police responded to the riots. The cryotank was approaching room temperature. The liquid had turned cloudy, so Casey couldn’t see the Captain’s face. Her hands shook as she plugged herself in.

He was sitting in his white linen suit gazing out over the Pacific. She could see the knobs of his spine through the light jacket, bent like an old man.

She walked up the lawn towards him in her yellow cotton dress. Her feet left polished concrete footsteps in the soft turf.

“Why did you leave?” she said. “Before the Collapse. Why didn’t you stay, and help?”

“Oh grow up, Casey,” he said. “The Collapse was inevitable, unstoppable. I did the only sensible thing there was to do.”

Red light pulsed in the azure sky. The shadows of the other cryotanks rose from the perfect horizon.

“Casey, what’s happening?” Bruce said.

“It’s time to wake up, Captain,” she said, and smiled at him one last time.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Dear The Saddest Rhino


Please save us from Umaru and poo poo posting.

Kind regards
The Thunderdome

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

sebmojo posted:

"hellrules" will be dispensed on request, but they will be soft because I am a soft and fluffy baby.

In. Do your worst.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Because Sham Bam Bamina is a BAD, WRONG and LAZY brawl judge, here are crits for Curlingiron and Sebmojo.

Neko Kawaigari

I’m walking behind Jiro, watching him weave slightly through the street lights. He’s just finished drinking with coworkers, and is walking home. There are only a few people around, but I’m waiting until he’s alone - it’s much easier to fool one person at a time.

Eventually, the streets are empty, except for him and me. I pull my coat closer around me, and allow my footsteps to be heard.

“Ozaki-san!” I call to him, and run a few paces as he turns around, striving to keep my balance in my high heels. “It is you! What a coincidence!”

I know he doesn’t recognize me - I’ve made sure of it - but he’s too polite to say otherwise, and I’ve got his name right, after all. I put a flush on my cheeks to match his own, and smile a little wider, adding a tinge of real hurt into my expression. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten me? Igarashi Chiyoko? We had classes together in University!”

“Of course I remember!” he says, smiling back at me reassuringly, and I allow a little relief to show in my face. “How have you been?”

I lean towards him confidingly and say “Actually I’m glad I ran into you - I’ve been feeling like someone’s been following for a little while and it’s giving me the creeps. Do you mind if I walk with you?” My blouse is open a little at the top, and although he’s too polite to look directly, I know he’s noticed. I’ve gotten a pretty good sense of human men over the years, and I’ve known Jiro longer than anyone else.

I like this opening section. It sets the scene clearly and cleanly. I like the ambiguous creepiness - I can't tell which way this is going to go yet.

“Not at all,” he says. “What way do you live?”

“Not too far,” I say. “My place is in Ebisunocho. I promise that I won’t inconvenience you too much.”

We walk together for a while and make small talk. I can’t help but admire his profile; it’s changed so much over the years, and every time I come back to see him it seems like he’s become more himself.

I blow on my hands a bit as if to warm them, and then pull my jacket a little closer around me. “I can’t believe it’s gotten so cold already!” I say.

Jiro glances down at me in surprise. “I’m surprised you can even feel the cold in that coat,” he says. It’s sweet that he doesn’t make any further comment on the coat, since it’s not exactly inconspicuous - a cloud of white fur with calico patches around the collar, and very obviously quite old, both fashion-wise and in wear-and-tear.

I have watched enough yokai anime that the reference to a calico coat immediately makes me picture a mischievous cat / fox spirit.

I lift the hood and pull it up a little. “Oh, this? It’s been in my family forever, you know? I always remember my grandmother wearing it when I was a kid, and I couldn’t bear to part with it when she passed away.” I let that settle between us for a moment, and then continue. “Do you think I’m strange, to want to keep something so old around? I know it’s not the fashion these days, but wearing it makes me feel closer to her.”

“Not at all,” he says, and I see the serious boy that I used to know. “I think it’s important to honor the objects that remind us of the past. History is more than records, after all; sometimes it’s also the things that our ancestors chose to keep.”

I feel a real flush in my face, and it’s all I can do to stare at Jiro for a few seconds. He seems to misinterpret my silence, and begins an apology, but I cut him off.

“Sorry, I just… I felt for a moment like you were reading my mind.” I look down at my hands again and smile. It’s nice to hear Jiro really speak his mind, even if I did have to pave the way for him a bit. He was such a timid child, and had such a hard time talking to others, it makes my heart leap to hear him be so honest with a stranger.

I give myself a moment to recover and start again. “Did you ever have something like that? Something old that no one else saw value in but you?”

Jiro looks up at the sky for a moment, as if considering what he wants to say next. “I did, but you might think that I’m childish if I tell you what it is,” he says after a little while.

“Oh, come on!” I say, playfully slapping him on the arm. “What, are you worried that I’ll judge you?” I lean in towards him, letting my shoulder bump against his. “Just tell me! Please?”

This dialogue is sweet and engaging. You have transitioned from these to being strangers (one of them with possibly sinister intentions) to shoulder-bumping in a way that feels very natural. Well done.

“Well…” he says, adjusting his glasses, the way he used to as a child. “I had a toy… A carved figurine of a cat that had been in my family for a long time. I used to keep it on my windowsill, and tell it about my day. I even brought it to school one time to show the kids at school, but they made fun of me - I think when I said that I was going to bring my favorite thing to school they thought it would be something cool like a Gundam or a stag beetle, but instead it was this little wooden cat with the paint rubbed off its nose. It’s just as well, though, since if it had been something cool like that they probably would have just taken it from me.”

“Ah, little kids can be so mean,” I say, struggling to keep my voice even against the memories his words have brought up in me. “Do you still have it, then? The cat?”

“No,” he says, and I hear the regret in his voice. “It was gone when I came home one day from school. I asked my Mom, but she swore she didn’t take it. I always figured she or my Dad must have hidden it, maybe to try to get me to make more friends. And it worked, eventually, so I guess I can’t blame them too much. I just wish that they would admit it.”

“Hmm,” I say, and I can feel my pulse pick up a little in my chest. “Well, maybe they didn’t actually take it, did you ever consider that?”

“Then who did?” he says with a laugh. “Did it just get up and walk off on its own?”

“Well, didn’t you say it was pretty old? Maybe it became a tsukumogami.”

Jiro laughs. “What, it actually came to life? Like a yokai? Come on, I’m not a little kid. Anyway, there’s no way that it was that old.”

“Well, I bet that’s what happened,” I say with an air of confidence. I loop my arm through his as we walk down the street. “I bet that the cat loved you so much that it left so you could learn to make real friends, like you said. Maybe she even comes back every so often to check on you.” I lean my head against his arm and sigh. “Yep, that’s probably it.”


I can feel Jiro stiffening in discomfort next to me, and I take a deep breath of his scent before I look back up at his face.

“Who-” he says, but I reach up and kiss his cheek before he can say anything else. His memories of the last twenty minutes come away with me, a tiny jewel under my tongue, and I slip away into the shadows of the cross streets.

After a few moments, Jiro shakes himself, and then looks around and keeps walking. I watch him go, rolling the jeweled memories of our time together between my fingers. I put it in my pocket, with all the others.

Someday I’ll come back to him and tell him who I am, or maybe I’ll show up again as a little wooden cat to sit on his child’s windowsill. Tonight, though, I have my memories - and his, too, come to think of it. That’s enough. After all, no one loves quite like a cat.

This is cute and smoothly executed. It's a sweet little interaction and it made me smile. The final line is a little bit smug - I'm debating whether you would have been better to just end with "that's enough."

It is also EXTREMELY anime. I believe the prompt called for a serious exploration of Japanese culture and no anime, and if I were judging I might have dinged you for prompt adherence both because the story doesn't explore any serious cultural themes and because I have seen this scene in every yokai anime ever.

Overall I'm going to say 7/10. Well written, cute and enjoyable.

The Power Stone of Awamani

The night his parents died, Isamu Shushin saw the Americans come to Tokashiki WHICH IS AN ISLAND IN OKINAWA WHICH IS PART OF JAPAN THIS STORY IS SET IN WWII NOT THE INDEPENDENT RYUKYU KINGDOM SHAM BAM BAMINA YOU PEDANTIC gently caress. They came on a single huge ship, a great grey whale of a ship, bristling with guns and slick-wet with ocean foam. The ship’s weapons tracked back and forth as it bellied through the waves towards the beach. The sea clawed at it as if to hold it back with impotent fingers of foam, but still it groaned forward.

When it came in close to the shore the first of its vast legs rose out of the ocean, water streaming from its pale human skin. Another leg followed, jutting from the wet gray steel of the ship and slamming its gnarled foot down on the smashed coral. Isamu couldn’t scream because there was something in his throat but he saw the American soldiers staring at him, shoulder to shoulder on the rocking deck of the ship, each face contorted in a bestial leer.

The third leg came out of the sea, streaming foamy water, and towered high, high above him -- so high it blotted out the sun -- then it crashed down on, and into, and through him, in a impact like a tsunami breaking and he woke up to his father’s hard hand on his shoulder.

I don't like the repetition of "ship" and "foam" in the first para because it sounds lazy but otherwise this is a good opening. It sets up our protag and his fears nicely.

“Isamu. The soldiers are here. We have to go.”

Isamu blinked up at his father in the dim candlelight, still enmeshed in the foam-wet fishnets of the dream. “The Americans, papa?”

His father’s hand tightened painfully upon his shoulder and Isamu gasped. Then he shook his head. “Get up now,” he said.

There was a crowd of people outside their little house standing bemused in the ghostlight of electric torches. The mayor was standing by a wall in the khaki jacket he had worn ever since he became one of the soldiers, with a khaki satchel over his shoulder. As Isamu, his mother and his father came out of their house he called out to the group. “We must march together.”

Isamu’s mother gripped his hand and she whispered in his ear, “Come now.” His father was ahead of them, shoulders square, as the group moved down the narrow divide between the houses. Isamu realised they wouldn’t walk past the power stone and he felt a surge of diappointment SPELLING in spite of himself. To lift it was to become a man, and he had tried so many times, cradling the heavy rock in his arms at different angles and with different grips, that he felt he could describe each of its edges and hollows from memory. The last time he’d tried was two days back; he was sure it had moved a fraction more than ever before and was eager to have another attempt.

This bit is weak. "Eager to have another attempt" is too light-hearted and boyish for the seriousness of the situation and for the metaphor that you use the stone for later. I think you should have given the first reference to the stone its own paragraph and put a bit more effort into foreshadowing the story's conclusion. Maybe have them actually walk past it, rather than not walking past it. Perhaps Isamu tries to run over and give lifting the stone another go, but his father stops him and puts him back into line, or something.

But now they were trotting single file down the path with the ditches on each side and the tempting grass that the braver boys sometimes caught poisonous snakes in, and were scrambling down the steep path to the beach. It seemed to be more than the whole village, hundreds of people, and Isamu wondered if there were farmers coming too.

In this para too I think the reference to boys catching snakes is too light-hearted. It sounds a bit like Isamu hasn't twigged that something bad is happening, but then his dream and his interactions with his parents imply that he should know that this is a bad night. The added detail about the poisonous snakes is good but I think you should have used it to up the tension - maybe Isamu could be worried about getting jostled off the path, or something.

Then they were on the beach. The sound of the surf breaking on the jagged coral out by the heads was familiar music in his ears and he smiled at the sound and looked up at his mother to see if she was smiling too. She was not, instead she was staring down at him intensely, as though forcing herself to memorise every single part of him, every hair on his head and curve of his face.

Soldiers were passing through the crowd now, passing out fist-sized lumps of metal to the men. Isamu saw the mayor give one to his father, pressing it into his hand. “Pull the pin,” he said, “and cry ‘ten thousand years’.” The mayor glanced at Isamu and his mother, then moved on with his heavy satchel.

A yell and a muffled explosion came from further down the beach, followed by another, and Isamu saw something the size of a forearm arcing through the air above them in the cold moonlight. He looked up at his mother and saw, for the first time, the black space behind her eyes and the tears she was holding back there. His father held the metal device down between them and called, in a voice sharper and harder than any Isamu had heard from him before, ‘ten thousand years!”. His finger was taut on the ring, and then the ring was out and the device dropped to the sand at their feet.

Isamu looked at it and the weight of it, lying in its hollow in the sand at their feet, seemed unbearable. He imagined reaching out and picking it up, how heavy it must be if not even his strong-handed father could hold onto it for long. He imagined crying 'praise to the Emperor!' and hurling himself down and taking it into himself, like a man. He heard a sound like an axe into a tree stump and turned to see his friend Hiroshi’s father stab Hiroshi in the throat with a scaling knife, blood black in the moonlight.

His mother pushed him hard in the chest and he fell backwards. She was yelling his name as he hit the sand hard enough to knock the air out of him and set his head spinning. The beach was loud with screams and explosions. Isamu looked up with blurry eyes and saw his mother and father crouching down just as the explosion took them apart. His ears were consumed by the sound, leaving only a ringing noise. He scrabbled back on his elbows, eyes fixed on where his parents had been. His mouth was open and heaving puffs of air were coming out of it, like he was trying to expel all the air he’d been breathing his entire life.

There were more explosions, and he saw a boy he didn’t recognise jab at a little girl with a spear. Beside the boy one of the fishermen was hitting his wife in the head with a stone, she shrieked with each blow. Isamu looked right and left. There were soldiers from the mainland standing around the group with rifles.

This is an incredibly harrowing scene - more so for knowing this story is based on a real event - and I think you've done a good job of describing how hosed up it is without going over the top.

Isamu had a sudden impulse to go back into the crowd, to do what was right, and stood on shaky legs. A few steps, and it would be done, and he could be with mama and papa. Then he looked again at the nearest soldier. He was standing, rifle in hands, and his face was twisted, bestial like the sailors on the ship of Isamu’s dream.

Nice payoff for the dream opening.

In a fractional instant the decision had been made, and Isamu was running away from the beach, feet scrabbling and slipping on the powdered coral sand, bleeding hands pulling at bushes heedless of snakes. The soldier behind him yelled, and fired, Isamu heard the bullet whine past him like an angry hornet and he was scrambling up the path back to the village. He was still gasping as he ran, tears and snot trickling down his face, but he kept running between the houses of the empty village, bloody bare feet pounding on the narrow road.

A part of his mind considered whether the mainland soldier would chase him, and decided no; not until the killing was done. Not killing: group self-determination another part of his mind corrected him in his father’s voice and he stumbled to his knees and vomited up the remnants of the rice ball he’d had that morning then collapsed, weeping.

The explosions had stopped when he sat up. He remembered walking on the clifftops on a blank and grey cloudy day, holding his mother’s hand, and he took the grey blanket of clouds from his memory and laid them on the memory of what he had just seen like a tatami mat, folding down the edges around it. He stood up, swaying. His mind was a flat pool of water, reflecting nothing at all. A direction presented itself to him and he took it, turning left at the next house. The occasional shot rang out from the beach, attenuated and strange over the distant roar of surf. He walked, stumbling every now and then, turning where necessary. Then he reached his destination, a patch of grass by a wall with a stone sticking out of it.

Isamu knelt down beside the stone, the strength stone, the power stone. It was the size of a man’s head and heavy. He ran his hand over its surface, then put his arms around it and squeezed. He was crying again, but that didn’t matter. He felt the hollows and edges of the stone under his fingertips, and pulled, with shaking arms. It didn’t budge. He moved his grip, pulled again.

His muscles were aching, burning, but he felt it move. As much as last time? He grunted, and shifted his legs, strained at its horrid, immovable bulk. It was quivering in his arms, or was that his weakness? He hated the stone, its solidity, its rigidity. He wanted it smashed, gone, destroyed, every blow knocking off a piece of what was until there was nothing left.

This is good but I wish you'd set up the stone better at the start instead of making it sound like a boy's game.

He strained again and a howl clawed its way out of his throat like a baby being born all covered in its mother's blood. The stone tilted, and lifted up about of the earth it was buried in and in a spasm of effort he rose, shaking to his feet with the horrible, impossible stone in his arms. He held it for a few seconds then let it drop and stood, panting.

In falling, the stone had ripped aside the cloak of grey and Isamu thought of the cave in the hills, and the hidden food his mother had been putting aside, thinking he didn't notice. The Americans would come, but who knew? Maybe they were no worse than the mainlanders. Maybe they were better.

He stood for another moment, and breathed in, and out. Then he shrugged and, with trembling legs and muscles afire, walked away from the deserted garden of Awanami.

This is a good, serious exploration of some pretty heavy themes. We've got the relationship between the residents of this tiny island and the Japanese army (still a fraught aspect of Japanese history), the question of whether the invading Americans are going to be any worse than what the people are already doing to themselves, a boy's struggle against tradition and a mother's desperate sacrifice to save her son.

Sham Bam Bamina, I am very glad you changed your judgement because the idea that you would give this the loss on the basis of a historically inaccurate and frankly ridiculous interpretation of the prompt is pathetic. Newbies take note: this kind of "gotcha" judging is bullshit.

Sebmojo, this is a good story but it smells like a last minute effort. There are bits of sloppiness that with a second pass I think you could have tightened up to make this a really compelling read.

Overall I'm giving you 7.5/10 and if I'd been judging I would have handed this the win on the grounds that I'll be thinking about this one for a long time, whereas Curlingiron's was just fun while it lasted.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Three Hundred and Forty
1300 words

“It hurts pretty bad today, guys. My missing wing, I mean,” said Parliament House. Autumn leaves gathered against his graceful Coromandel granite steps. Wet cabbage tree fronds tugged loose by the wind wrapped around his neoclassical Tākaka marble columns.

On his south side and conjoined by a modern glass atrium stood the Beehive. Cold rain rattled against the vertical concrete slabs that fanned from her circular grey exterior. Atop her copper-clad roof a damp New Zealand flag snapped in the desultory wind. In her basement, where the civil defence bunker should be, the Beehive felt a huge hole yawn open. Its grime-streaked concrete sides sloped down to form a vertical shaft that disappeared into bottomless black.

She took a shuddering breath. “A huge, bottomless pit has appeared in my basement,” the Beehive declared. “I don’t know where it came from, but I think it wants to eat people.”

To their north stood the Parliamentary Library. In a monotone voice at odds with his pastel pink render and delicately carved masonry, he said, “Construction of Parliament House began in 1914, but World War I caused severe materials and labour shortages. The building’s second stage was never completed.” Pigeons peered out at the heavy grey clouds from under his pointed arches.

A cluster of bureaucrats hurried over the paved forecourt of the Parliamentary precinct, heads bent against the blustery wind and papers clutched under dark wool coats.

“I just feel so incomplete, you know? No one takes me seriously because all they see is half a building,” said Parliament House.

The Beehive watched the bureaucrats closely. “334, 335, 336, 337, 338, 339,” she said.

“Bee, are you even listening?”

The flag whipped and cracked in the wind and rain water tumbled from the Beehive's concrete balconies.

Parliament House’s granite-browed windows reflected the dark late-afternoon sky. “I’m getting terrible phantom pain and you don’t even care,” he said.

“Tours of New Zealand's Parliament buildings run on the hour between 10 and 4 every day except public holidays,” the Library intoned.

The Beehive’s automatic glass doors quivered in a sudden gust of wind. “If we don’t do something, all these people are going to die!” she said.

A young woman in a bright red coat, backpack slung from one shoulder, leaned back against the grey stone of Richard Seddon’s plinth and held her camera up to her eye.

“Why do they photograph me?” said Parliament House. “I’m so ugly. I bet she’s just taking photos so she can show her friends and they can laugh about how my stairs are at one end instead of in the middle.”

“Stop going on about your missing wing; I’m the Executive Wing,” snapped the Beehive. “Right now we’ve got a bigger problem.” In her basement the pit exhaled a spout of freezing air and she heard the sinister rumble of distant laughter. Her lifts shivered in their shafts.

Satisfied, the young woman pocketed her camera and skipped up the stairs towards the public entrance. The wind whipped her blond hair into her eyes and she laughed and ran for the shelter of the doorway. She was even younger than the Beehive first thought.

“Stop her! You have to stop her!” she said. The automatic doors hesitated. Surprised, the woman stepped back and waved an arm in front of the sensor. With a guilty shhh the doors slid open.

“Dammit!” said the Beehive. “House, you have to help me save these people from the pit!”

“There is no pit you silly cow. You’re just getting confused about tunnel to Bowen House again,” said Parliament.

“The tunnel that connects the Beehive to Bowen House was constructed in - ”

“No one cares about stupid Bowen House, Library!” The Beehive’s south-facing windows reflected the image of an attractive modernist glass and steel tower on the opposite side of Bowen Street. Dark shadows scudded across the Beehive’s curved glazing. Somewhere across the city, a siren wailed.

“That’s it!” she said. The Beehive focussed on the cables that made up her nervous system. There was one network that wove through all three buildings, distinct from the rest of the tangled wiring. She reached into one of the many square nodes and with a burst of concentration tripped the switch.

A shrill clanging shattered the thick-carpeted quiet of the halls of Parliament and the automatic doors sprang open. The Library screamed and panicked pigeons scattered from his decorative nooks. Security staff began hurrying tourists towards the exit.

“Bee, what have you done?” shouted the House over the clanging alarm.

“It’s the only way to get them all out before the pit gets them!” she yelled back.

Eddies of nervous tourists swirled across the paving stones. Fire wardens waved at officials retrieving coats and handbags to please hurry the gently caress up this is not a drill. Fire engines wailed down Waterloo Quay.

The Beehive frantically scanned the grey-brown crowd for a splash of red.

“But what about Library?” said Parliament House.

“THE PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY HOUSES SOME OF NEW ZEALAND’S RAREST HISTORICAL TEXTS,” screamed the Library. The rain had stopped and the gusty northerly seemed ready to fan whatever flames should leap from his windows.


“But that was over a hundred years ago!”


“Bee, for God’s sake!”

The alarms stopped. Slices of blue appeared between the scudding clouds. The evacuees looked at each other in the sudden quiet, palms held up against the soft autumn sunlight. Through the pohutukawa trees that bordered Parliament Grounds the Beehive saw a flash of red.

“Help me count them!” the Beehive demanded.

“But, Bee…”

The Library was crying, taking great, gulping breaths and letting them out in a distressed whine. A family of discombobulated pigeons wheeled around his stained glass attic windows.

“Just do it already!”

Parliament House sighed. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…” he said.

“...11, 12, 13, 14, 15…” The Beehive raised her voice, shouting over the Library’s sobs.

“...41, 42, 43, 44, 45...”

“67, 68, 69, 70,” The Library’s voice was quiet. He stuttered and hesitated.

“...96, 97, 98, 99…” said Parliament House.

“100.” said the Library. He continued, more confidently. “...127, 128, 129, 130, 131…”

The Beehive and Parliament House fell silent and listened as the Library’s counting fell into a steady rhythm. The fire engines arrived with news media close behind. A journalist with camera crew in tow questioned a pair of elderly Americans about how scared they’d felt during the emergency.

“...334, 335, 336, 337…”

The glass expanse of the Beehive’s triple height lower level blazed orange in the setting sun. Rose-coloured patterns danced in the mighty granite blocks of the walls of Parliament House.

“...338, 339, 340,” said the Library, and stopped.

Across the road the young woman shrugged off her red coat and squeezed into the Backbencher, already packed with men and women in suits who had mutually agreed that there wasn’t time to back to work.

“I’m sorry to hear about your phantom pain,” said the Beehive. “That must be really awful.”

“Thanks. It’s not so bad, now,” said Parliament House. “I’m sorry to hear about the pit.”

In the Beehive's forth sub-basement the air was still and warm. The green corridors of the civil defence bunker were faintly illuminated by fluorescent lights left on in evacuated offices. From somewhere above a heavy metal door clanged as an on-duty official returned via the stairwell.

“That's ok. It's gone away again,” the Beehive replied.

“The Beehive’s unusual architecture, combined with the graceful neoclassical Parliament House and the historic Gothic Revival Parliamentary Library, make New Zealand’s Parliament buildings a must-see attraction,” said the Library in his usual monotone.

Under his pointed arches the pigeons cooed in the evening quiet.


Flash rule: Your characters are all buildings, from 3-9 stories high, each with a different disorder from DSM IV

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Simply Simon posted:

I guess I learned something today, but you'll learn something too, because I'll loving school you. Let's throw down.

:siren: Saucy Simon Brawl :siren:

I will preside over the resolution of this debate (the correct answer is "sweated" by the way).

Write me a story in which the internet is wrong.

Bonus points will be awarded for disutopian settings because I like those.

1,000 words

Due Thursday 28 March at 8.00 pm NZ time.

Lol SH you are the speediest

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 00:18 on Mar 14, 2019

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

You don't get recorded as failing if you un-enter yourself before sign ups close though, right?

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Just Don’t Ask Me How I Am
840 words

Keith's thumbs tapped in synchrony against his fingertips. Index finger first, down to his pinky, then back up, then down again in endless repetition. Little beads of sweat shone on his temples in the light from his screen. The cursor in the ‘number of tickets’ box blinked in time with his tapped rhythm.

His office door swung open and Dianne's perfume assaulted his nostrils.

“Quiz time!” she said.

Lightning fast Keith alt-tabbed and hid the Ticketmaster window behind an Excel spreadsheet. He jerked to his feet and the backs of his knees sent his chair rolling across the tiny space. He jumped as it clanged into his filing cabinet.

Dianne was waiting. Her permed blond hair had grey roots and her bright red lipstick clashed with her pink floral blouse. Crevasses formed in her foundation as she smiled at him. Keith stared at his feet as he squeezed past her, pulling the door shut behind him.

Dianne. She was relentless like the tide. Every morning at 10 a.m. she would come to fetch him for The Quiz. Keith wondered if she simply lacked the intelligence required to give up on him. Her low heels clacked on the corporate-coloured carpet tiles as she escorted him into the staff kitchen. Keith kept his head down, chin to chest, avoiding eye contact. Each tap of thumb to fingertip sounded a mute note inside his head; comforting white noise.

Keith assumed his customary place at the bottom left hand corner of the long, free standing counter. Dianne occupied centre stage. The Dominion Post was laid out in front of her, answers hidden under the letters to the editor. She beamed at her subjects. Keith tucked his chin more tightly against his chest and sunk back against the wall, trying to put more space between himself and the press of bodies around the counter. His fingers felt sweaty. He paused his tapping and wiped his palms on his too-big suit pants.

“Who was New Zealand Prime Minister in 1995?” said Dianne.

Jim Bolger, Keith thought. He kept his eyes glued to the floor. It was ok, Richard from the policy team would answer this one.

“Jim Bolger,” said Richard. A tall, angular man, he kept his opinions to himself save where matters of principle were at stake. Keith liked Richard. They rarely spoke.

“What is the approximate population of Hamilton?” said Dianne. “I know this!” She paused and looked up and down the kitchen, daring any of them to speak the answer before her. No one spoke.

“140,000!” she said, triumphant. “My mother lives in Hamilton,” she added, as if anyone could forget a single detail about the oft-discussed matriarch.

“When is Halley’s Comet due to reappear: 2035, 2056, 2061, or 2087?”

There was a momentary pause and then a low murmur as people debated the answer.

2061, Keith thought. His fingers quickened their rhythm. His left thumb failed to connect squarely with his ring finger. It slid down the side of his knuckle with a frisson that made his gut clench. Someone else say it, someone else say it, he thought, as the murmur faded to silence.

“I'm sure it's 2061,” said Kirsten from HR. “My son loves space stuff.”

Keith let out his held breath. He remembered the feeling of his little niece, barely 2 years old back then, squirming against his arm as he pointed at the once-in-a-lifetime blaze of light against the night sky. He'd been disappointed that she wasn't interested in the comet, and his sister had laughed.

“What 1987 hit song featured the line ‘Just don’t ask me how I am’?”

Keith's heartbeat quickened. Not a big name, but topical, given the upcoming concert. Surely someone else would know the answer.

There was silence. The rhythm of Keith's fingertips faltered. He looked up and scanned the table. The others were shrugging, stumped.

Dianne was looking at him, and without meaning to he met her eyes. A slight smile lifted the corners of her lips. He felt his face turn red. His fingers lost their momentum and stopped. The silence roared in his ears. The unanswered question hung between him and Dianne's blue eyes, unbearably heavy. She was waiting. Keith balled his hands into fists.

“My name is Luka,” he said. His quiet baritone voice rolled down the counter under a row of surprised faces.

“I live on the second floor,” said Dianne.

“I live upstairs from you,” he replied.

The corners of Dianne’s eyes crinkled with pleasure. “Guess I think you’ve seen me before.” She sang the last line, and people clapped, laughing.

Dianne peaked under the folded page. “Correct!” she said, rolling the r’s for emphasis. “Thank you, Keith.”

He nodded at her. Then he tucked his chin back into its usual place against his chest, so that only his feet could see his smile.

Keith didn't hear Dianne read out the next question. Instead he listened as the song played on inside in his head, fingertips tapping the beat against his thumbs.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Crits of the stories I read from week 345

A Broken Clock by Doctor Zero

(You get a long crit because I read this on the weekend and had time).

I’m not sure when the coffee date went sour, but my enthusiasm was definitely waning. Nor could I pinpoint the issue precisely. I pondered while he related a story about his friends.

Your story ends in its opening line, and not in a good way. I immediately understand that the protag is on a date and that the date is over, and am immediately bored.

Blaise was cute, clean, and well dressed, bringing a nice blazer and a scarf. The conversation had started easy and felt natural. He asked questions about me and my interests, but always ended up talking about own views. Was the confidence and charm that I found attractive two nights ago in reality, ego? Perhaps.

“Bringing” is not the right verb for a scarf. Just say “wearing.” Blaise is very boring.

Then I realized that he made too many assumptions - that this (whatever this was) was a done deal. He said I’d meet friends, we’d go places together, as if we had agreed to more than just coffee. We hadn’t.

I tried to figure out if my inner voice was being protective or perceptive as he flipped over the check.

I cannot express how bored I am of these two people at this point.

“Oh my god!” He exclaimed, and I startled out of my thoughts.

“Did they overcharge?”

“No, look at this!”

He handed over the bill. I examined it.

A mocha for him, chai latte for me. A chocolate croissant that we shared. Looked correct.

I shook my head. “I’ll give.”

“See anything unusual?”

I looked again. The name of the server, ‘’Becka’? I was about to say I didn’t know when I saw the total.

“Oh, $11.11? That’s neat I guess.”

He smiled as if he had the punchline to a joke I wasn’t getting.

“Do you know what time is was when I kissed you the other night?”

I blinked. That was random. I thought about it - pictured the night dancing, him asking for my number. After I gave it to him, he leaned forward and ever so gently kissed my lips. I thought it was sweet.

“Some time around midnight?”

“It was 11:11 pm,” he said. “I remember looking at the clock.

“Oh, huh. That’s … funny.”

Still bored. Considering giving up on this story at this point.

“Actually,” he said and leaned over the cafe table with a glance around as if he were imparting state secrets, “1111 is a good omen.”

But wait! Blaise might actually be a crazy weirdo or perhaps a wizard. THIS is where the story should have started. Instead of the 400 words of bla bla above you could have just said something like, ‘I was about to get up and leave, date over, when Blaise flipped over the bill and said, “Look at this! $11.11, a good omen.’” Actually that’s a crap opening line but you get the idea.

Was he putting me on?

“Ah.” I said, unsure what else I should say.

These two lines communicate the same thing, i.e. the fact that the protag is confused and unimpressed. You don’t need both of them. Stop saying umm.

“Look at the table number,” he said.

I did so. An embossed plastic tag informed me it was 22.

I raised an eyebrow. “Twenty two? Another secret number?”

He clucked. “It’s 11 and 11.”

When I didn’t drop my eyebrow, he said “11,” pointed at me, “plus 11” and pointed to himself.

“Ohhhh.” I said.

“And, I got here at 11:11 today. I made sure of it.”

He nodded as if that said everything, which it didn’t.

“Okay,” I said with a shrug, “I’ll bite. What’s special about 1111?”

This is also boring chit chat.

“Well, in numerology the number one is significant, as you can imagine. One is the smallest integer before zero. One is self. Every person is one. It indicates the universe, because there is only one. Mathematically, it’s also the basis for everything. Anything times one is one. Prime numbers are only divisible by themselves and one. When you get a pattern of one, it’s a sign of good luck.”

Ok things are getting interesting again. This should have been your second paragraph.

“Uh… huh,” I said.

This is the dialogue equivalent of “and then the protag sat still and did nothing.” Give them an action, or have them feel a feeling. Something that either tells us something about them or advances the action (ty to whoever it was that posted the link to Kurt Vonnegut's rules of writing from which I just stole that line).

“Oh! Look at the time here on the receipt. 12:45. Two minus one is one. Five minus four is one. One and one!” He beamed.

“Well, it would really be one minus two, and four minus five, which is negative one and negative one. Wouldn’t that be bad?”

“No!” He was really getting excited now. “Because negative one times negative one is … one!”

Yep, this date had absolutely gone south.

“Okay. Listen, Blaise.” I looked at my watch, “it’s almost One and I have to get going.”

I stood and slipped my jacket on.

“My treat?” I said and grabbed the bill.

He looked stunned, frozen.

When I walked to the register to pay, he snatched up his blazer and ran up to me. I studied a picture of a cat taped to the counter with the caption “You gotta be kitten me!”

That’s a nice detail. You need more of these to bring your setting to life.

“Can I see you again?”

I pocketed my change and turned to him. “I… don’t think so.”

Stunned look again.

“You’re a sweet guy, really but…” I shook my head. “Look, I’m sorry. I should give it to you straight.”

The the girl behind the register stood playing with her fingernails, mouth slightly agape, listening. I tugged his sleeve and led him outside. The spring air was fresh, sweet.

“The date started nice, but I’m just not feeling it. I’ve dated guys a lot like you and I know how this ends. I’m cutting to the chase and saving us both a couple of miserable months.”

We’re three quarters through this story and absolutely nothing has happened. In your first line you told us the protag was on a bad date and that they weren’t going to see the other person again. This is still the case.

“It’s the numbers thing.” He said.

“No. Well, yes, but not just that. The whole thing started to feel off while we talked, and I’m going to listen to that little voice for once.”

Ok so we have tiny moment of personal growth for the protag, but it doesn’t really matter because it was clear they were always going to make this decision.

“But all the signs were there.”

“Blaise. Stop listening to,” I made air quotes, “signs and portents and just be yourself okay? If you like numerology that’s great, find someone who’s into it.”

“Wait!” He cried, and glanced at his watch. “Come with me!”

Just as I’m about to give up again we have some action! Hooray! This should have happened in para 3.

He grabbed my arm. I didn’t move. I looked at his hand, looked back to him.

“Sorry,” he said and let go. “But please, just come with me to the gas station.”

“What? Why?”

“I want to try something. If you come with me, I swear I’ll leave you alone.”

“Fine,” I said and followed.

He walked quickly, and glanced at his watch. I felt stupid.

“What are we doing?”

“An experiment.”

I sighed.

We walked to the corner Sunoco and went inside, a bell jingling as we entered the small storefront stuffed with junk food, auto liquids, and day old hotdogs on rotating racks.

He grabbed two daily lottery forms, filled one out with 1111 and handed me the other.

“Any four numbers you want, but hurry.”

“Oh for…” I muttered but filled in a random 9578, mostly to make this whole thing end faster.

“There. That’s all I wanted.” He tucked his newly printed ticket in a pocket, but not before pointing out that it had been sold at 1:11pm.

I snatched my ticket and left as quickly as I could.


Later that night I was shopping and trying to decide on pasta when my phone chimed. It was a text from Blaise. It read, “Check the numbers” with a smiley face.

“Oh my god, really?” I said and made my way to the lottery counter. Tonight’s numbers were on a bright, red LED.

Pick four: 6-3-1-1, it proclaimed.

I scoffed, and checked the winnings chart. Blaise had won $11.

“Even a broken clock is right twice a day,” I muttered and deleted his number.

Basically anything would have been more satisfying than this ending. The joke is terrible. I wish he’d turned out to be a wizard and wins the lottery and now he’s a gazillionaire and the protag has to feel bad for being all judgy and not believing him.

The problem with this story is nothing happens, nothing changes, no one learns anything or really does anything apart from buy a lottery ticket and not win (yes yes not all stories have to have a traditional arc in order to be good but it’s not like this one had anything else going on is it, hmmm?). There’s very little characterisation and almost no emotion from the protag apart from saying “umm” a lot.

The ingredients you have assembled are not bad. You have a nonplussed protag, crazy numerology guy, a date and the suspense of waiting to find out if you’ve got a winning ticket. You could do good things with these, but you’ve got to take the protag on some sort of journey so that as a reader you want to get to the end to find out what happens.

Night Shift by Djeser

First thought: Ok this is weird. I like the vivid imagery though.
Second thought: Wtf is going on, is this some last minute ramble about nothing?
Final thought: Woah that was cool.

I wasn’t sure where you were going with this but somehow by the end it all works beautifully. I read it twice, just because I wanted to enjoy the imagery a second time. Well done.

The Night Cousin by Antivehicular

This is weird and creepy, in a good way. I like it, but I don’t love it. I’m not really feeling the protag, so I don’t feel invested in whether they escape or not. I think the weakest point is the decision to turn and run. Seeing her parents hideously sewn together is a good reason for a normal person to run away, but you’ve established that your protag’s not normal - the violence of the kidnap implies they were expecting something pretty hosed up - so this felt a bit like “and then she changed her mind and ran away the end.”

Barbara's Morning Commute by onsetOutsider





Ugh, alright, something helpful… Hmmm… This would have worked better if you had better characterised Barbara. At the moment she’s just an outline of a person - you needed to tell us about what she wanted and who she is.

If cats don’t go to heaven, then what’s the point? by Flerp

This is let down in the first third by the lack of emotion from the protag. He doesn't seem particularly upset about his cat's death and his comment that he'd give up his not-very-nice mother is way too off-hand. The witch also agrees to bring that cat back too easily, so the whole thing felt a bit flat.

I agree with you that cats are great though.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Doctor Zero posted:

Thanks for the crits, peeps, especially Joruichi

Who the fukc is Joruichi?

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

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Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

The Legend of One Horse Town
1000 words

You’re mad, the Cowboy’s friends said. He’ll kill you, they said. But the legend drew the Cowboy like destiny calling to his very soul. A stallion; untameable. The legendary horse of One Horse Town.

Empty buildings jutted from the desert like teeth from a dried-out carcass. The Cowboy wiped sweat from his dusty brow. The wind whistled like the keening of ghosts. The Cowboy’s bay mare snorted. A stout and faithful servant, she had carried him many days through the desert to reach this lonesome place. But, she could never satisfy the longing in his heart, and with a slap on her rump he sent her on her way. Gripping his belt buckle for luck the Cowboy went to meet his fate on the main street of One Horse Town.

The beat of hooves on hard dirt broke the silence as a horse stepped from the saloon. The squeak of rusted hinges marked his passage.

“gently caress off,” said the Stallion.

The Cowboy gasped and his heart beat faster in his chest. The Stallion’s cream coat gleamed gold in the sun. His flaxen mane hung in a silken curtain from his muscular crest. The Cowboy knew it in his bones; this horse was meant to be his.

No one who sees the one horse of One Horse Town lives to tell the tale, the other cowpokes said. The beast is cursed; he killed that town and he’ll kill you too, they warned him. The Cowboy shook his head and with a practiced hand opened his lasso.

The wind fell silent. Heat waves shimmered above the sand. With a whisper of rope through leather-gloved fingers the lasso took flight. It circled the Stallion’s neck and the Cowboy pulled it taut, triumphant.

“Nice one, mate,” said the Stallion, and charged.

The Cowboy scrambled back but before he could draw breath to cry out the Stallion was upon him. The horse reared and his hooves flashed in the sun before crashing into the dirt on either side of the Cowboy’s skull.

The Cowboy trembled on the ground beneath the beast, ego and bum equally bruised. His heart raced with fear but his desire to possess the Stallion only hardened.

“Just kidding,” said the Stallion, dropping his head so the rope slid to the ground. “But seriously, you should gently caress off.” He turned and walked back towards the shade of the saloon.

“Wait!” said the Cowboy, climbing to his feet. “Is it true, what they say? Did you kill this town?”

The Stallion paused. “When I got back, they were gone,” he replied. “They left me behind; that is all I know.” The mournful squeak of the hinges echoed off the main street’s derelict facades as the saloon doors swung shut behind him.

Dusting sand from his chaps the Cowboy crept into the general store. Broken glass and empty boxes littered the floor. From an attic window the Cowboy attained the roof, and from there leapt to the saloon’s balcony. He climbed into a bedroom home only to starlings. Tangled bedding still covered the iron bed frame, now streaked with droppings.

From the mezzanine walkway he looked down on the Stallion, dozing in the cool air behind the bar. He eased himself over the rail. For a moment he hung. Destiny tugged at his boots, insistent and inevitable as gravity. The Cowboy took a breath, and dropped.

The Stallion lurched forward in panic at this rude awakening. He leapt over the bar and bolted for the door. Legs wrapped around the horse’s ribs the Cowboy clung on for dear life. The landing from the jump bruised his parts cruelly and he gasped for breath, eyes watering at the power of the muscles that rippled along the Stallion’s back.

Outside the Stallion put his head between his knees and began to buck. His stamping feet sent up a great cloud of dust as he rocked and spun. The cowboy clung to his mane and beat him about the flanks with his coiled lasso.

“Stop it you dick!” said the Stallion.

“You stop it!” said the Cowboy. His legs were cramping from the effort of holding on and there was more than a note of desperation in his voice.

“Fine,” said the Stallion. Snorting to clear the dust from his nose he launched into a flat gallop, straight down the center of the main street and into the desert beyond.

The wind whipped off the Cowboy’s Stetson and lifted his sweat-soaked bangs from his forehead. Never had he ridden a horse such as this. The Cowboy crouched low over the Stallion’s neck. His eyes streamed. The pain in his leg muscles reached a flaming crescendo and he felt his body burn up and disappear on the wind. The thundering of the Stallion’s hooves became his heartbeat and he breathed hot breath through the Stallion’s flared nostrils. Ahead there was nothing but the blue horizon the Cowboy’s soul sang with joy, for he felt he had come home at last.

A whinny rang out above the wind. The Stallion slammed to a halt, haunches tucked and hooves sliding in the soft soil, and the ecstatic Cowboy was catapulted from his back into the waiting embrace of a giant prickly pear.

The Cowboy’s bay mare trotted out of a dry creek bed. The two horses touched noses. The Stallion arched his neck and squealed, stamping one front leg to impress the little bay. She swished her tail in appreciation.

Dazed, the Cowboy rose trembling to his feet. Blood trickled down his face where the cactus had scratched him. He raised one palm to shield his eyes from the setting sun. For a moment the light caught them, and the mare’s bay coat shone red next to the Stallion’s golden rump before they disappeared into the shadows of One Horse Town.

The Cowboy’s heart, like the moon above him, was full and heavy as he began the long walk home.

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