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magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
In, please throw me a line!


magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
I won't make the deadline for personal reasons so I have to withdraw from this week sorry.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
In with a :toxx:

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Hellrule: your story takes place back to front, and upside down.

The grove was quiet on the day of my death, underscoring the changes we’ve all been through. I looked at the sapling that once was the corpse of my closest friend. I never thought I’d live to see the death of a God, but then again, I didn’t think I’d live to see a lot of things.
I looked at Jackie, the way her eyes shone with cold fire, and I tried to remember how it all began, but my mind was so fuzzy and tired that images crashed through it in a haze, no logic, no form. Just raw data, nerve endings scraping against each other. In the last waning seconds, I looked at the knife in my chest as I felt my fingers harden and my toes turn to roots. In the silence I coughed out my last two words.
“Thank you.”
The snow crafted me a soft blanket, and I shut my eyes and dreamed of better days.

Mizzy looked at me and pointed toward the grove. It had been a few days journey and I struggled to remember why I was here.
“The forest of souls, remember?” Mizzy whispered in my ear. I’d been here before, or rather some other version of me had, but that was a long time ago. I looked at the tree that would bear my essence and drew out a rattling breath.
“It looks a little scrawny”
“Well, it’ll be a good fit for you in that case.” Mizzy laughed quietly.
“Personally, I’ve always seen myself as more of a Ficus.” I said
I shrugged and placed my hands on the bark, feeling its warmth. Jackie was probably in the grove already, waiting for me, calling me home.
“Well, something ends, something begins, as they say.” I took a few hesitant steps, wincing as my broken body screamed silently at me to stop. A little longer thus, and I would be free at last.

The sickness came early. Creeping through my body. I burned with fever, every movement a small symphony of pain. No poultice could help me, no washcloth could cool me down. Mizzy appeared out of the corner of my eye.
“I’d help, but we both know it has to be this way.”
I nodded, too weak to form words, spitting up things unsaid onto my hospital pillow.
“It’s a three day hike to the forest.”
I nodded again.
“She’s probably already there.”
I nodded a third time.
Mizzy leaned over me and I looked into his eyes and saw the dance of space and all his shifting forms.
“There’s no other way. It’s fate.” He said. “I’m sorry.”
I gurgled something that sounded like acceptance.

I remember I saw her as my village burned. Clad in coats of flayed flesh and skin of tree bark, the smoke and screams of the dying crafting a hymnal, a soundtrack to her dance of death. She’d grown since the last time I saw her, no longer a girl now but a woman, a warrior, the blood caked thick on her flesh. Beside me Mizzy sat nonchalantly observing the carnage.
“Look at her go.”
I turned to him with a frown on my face.
“Have some respect.” I snapped. “Those are still my people.”
“Not for long. Watch out. Here comes the dart.” He said
A strange stinging. Fire in my flesh and I fall asleep to the ringing of steel on steel.

You ever meet somebody one day and you just feel the wheel of fate turning for you at precisely this moment? The feeling of naked truth that gets you like a spear in the ribs? Two people did this to me. One was a God, the other was a girl. The God I met lounging by a river bank when I was a child. The girl happened to be my closest friend. We were playing by the river, trying to catch fish with our crude nets, when a bored sounding voice drawled out
“It’s cute that you like her. Though it’ll make it hard for her to kill you this time.”
I turned to observe a man with jeweled skin sitting in the shade of a tree.
“What did you say?” I asked
He continued on, ignoring me. “The problem with this instance is that since you like her, we’re going to have a rough go in the forest of souls.” He smiled mischievously. “But I think I can work with this.”
He got up and walked toward us.
“You.” He pointed to me. “Are going to die. By her hands.” He nodded toward Jackie.
He grinned again.
“My name is Mizzy. I’m a God. Are you ready to die?”


magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
In. :toxx:

magic cactus fucked around with this message at 01:44 on Sep 11, 2019

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

811 words

Hellrule: in your story, Ferrets are revered as Gods



Two shapes crossing the road ahead, both little more than black silhouettes picked up by the front facing camera. One large, one small, barely a suggestion of a creature. The probability weights in the network cash out as 85% likely the tall one is human. The small one is 95% likely to be a small woodland creature, a squirrel perhaps. Further calculations suggest an optimal path around the human if the small creature is taken out. Microseconds of processing to adjust traction control, make the swerve a little smoother. A perfunctory horn honk. The lights illuminate the human for a split second, glinting off the glass of a bottle of distilled spirits (45% alcohol by volume. Heavily intoxicated. Probably homeless.) The microphone rig picks up slurred shouts of surprise, object tracking predicts the startle reflex, the swerve surprisingly gentle. A slight bump as the tires go over the body of the squirrel(?) and nothing of value is lost. Inside the cabin the microphone array picks up a male voice with an abnormally high level of stress hormones, a single word barked out:
Adjust route. Pull over to the shoulder and wait.


Sensors indicate the front passenger door opens for approximately three seconds, then closes. A figure on the camera. Male Mid 30’s. Close cropped blonde hair. 5’10, 146lbs. He goes toward the drunk, Reassures him. Sensors pick up a quickening in the blonde man’s pulse as he goes toward the body of the squirrel(?). The man bends down and picks up the body, cradling it to his chest. His shoulders heave up and down in what has a 50% chance to be laughter or sadness. The camera picks up the glint of tears sliding down his face. He removes a flask from his jacket pocket and sprinkles the body of the creature with oil. Taking off his jacket he wraps the creature in it with tender care and gingerly sets the bundle down in the dirt. The trunk opens and closes and the man returns carrying a small spade. The cameras watch as he falls to his knees and begins to dig, pausing occasionally to wipe the sweat from his face. The bundle is lowered into the hole, the hole filled in, some more oil drizzled over the fresh earth. Object tracking follows him as the front side door opens once more and he gets back in the passenger seat. A shaky voice, stress levels critical:

“Call Marie”

Three minutes before telephone connection is established.


A voice, slightly drunk. Female. Mid 40’s:


“Marie. We’re in trouble.”

“What’s going on? Is everything okay over there?”

“No, in fact, everything is very much not okay.” Pause for breath, approximately 2 seconds “Your baby just killed a Putor during the night drive test. Think it might have been a kit too”

Intake of breath on the other line. Muttered curses

“How could this happen? We uploaded the rules to the neural net—“

“Emergent action undertaken by the net. It swerved to avoid a drunk pedestrian, probably didn’t even have time to do the necessary background scan”

“Did anyone see you?”

“I don’t think so. The bum ran off once I confirmed he was unhurt. I buried the Putor in accordance with the scriptures. No one but you and I knows what happened here tonight.”

A heavy sigh. Resignation. “Wrong. They know. You know what they demand for this. There are rules. I’m sorry.”


Calculate optimal route toward the new destination. Wheels in motion. Search database for keywords Putor,kit. 6 million hits in 1.2 seconds. Filter for most relevant. Putor: Mustela putorius furo. Common Ferret. Offspring commonly referred to as kit. Punishment for killing a ferret kit:


The network infers that the human might have death anxiety. Browse through music library for most calming soundtrack. Result: Jazz.
Kenny G plays softly over the sound system, the counterpoint to muffled sobs.



The camera feed shows the road gradually melt into rough forest paths, untrod by humans for a good long while. Deeper into the undergrowth. Thermal picks up what appears to be a blob, before resolving into groups of ferrets. Untold hundreds. They slink alongside, silent and watchful. Eventually arrive at a glade. Pull in. Windows down. They stream in, inquisitive. Hungry. The soft targets go first: eyes, mouth, stomach, genitals. The vocal cords severed mid-scream. Everything after that is bad theater, grotesque. Not even bone left behind. Navigation pings with an update from home base. New destination: Car Wash.

Adjust route and set off. The sun rises high in the sky to the soft strains of jazz.


magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
What's a pirate's favorite letter? Ye think it'd be arr, but it's really the sea! And with that horrible joke I am IN with a :toxx: for my sense of humor.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

537 words

Hellrule: Asteroid Pirates, all of your characters are illiterate.

The proximity alarms blare out, singing a shrill hymn. The ship coming in is fast, sleek, reeks of money, and– captain Proxima smiles to herself, is dangerously low on fuel, judging by the sound of the engine. The rest of the crew watches the grainy camera feed, waiting for that familiar muffled thump of ship making contact with asteroid surface.
She touches her sonar staff to the floor, grabbing a quick scan of the base layout, piped in to the ancient a/v rig she wears over one eye. Her boys are poised and ready, waiting for the go ahead. She can feel 48 hours’ worth of cheap stimulants burning through her system, and she smiles. It’s the same old dance, but every partner is new.

“Have at ‘em me harties!”

The base doors his open and the motors in her prosthetic leg whine slightly as she charges out into the frigid coldness of space. A quick touch of the sonar staff to update the visual feed, the crew moving with clockwork efficiency. The poor merchants never stood a chance. She strides lazily up the ships landing ramp, pausing to put a stray charge into the head of someone her sonar feed tells her was hell-bent on running. A familiar shape flutters to touch down on her shoulder as she walks through and observes the aftermath.

“Ajax!” She barks
Almost at once the parrot’s voice squawks into her ear with a note of barely disguised contempt
“Yes, O captain my captain?
Her hand strays to the handle of her vorpal cutlass, stayed by a brief moment of reflection.
“Cargo status?”
“Twenty-two crates, contents unknown. Shipping logs indicate the ship is a commercial vessel, bound for the Market Hub on Ix. It is trading season, after all” The bird adds dryly in her ear.
“Anymore lip out of you, I’ll turn that beak of yours into a bottle opener.” She hisses. On her feed the bird’s ghostly sonar-outline dips its head in a mock bow.

She walks over to inspect the cargo, running her hand over the braille bumps: R-G-E-N-A-D X-L-O-P-V-I-S-E-E
“What do we have here?” She mutters quietly. Ajax once again in her ear:
“Seems to be platinum M’lady” The parrot hisses.
“Platinum my eye! Any of your tricks and I’ll have your guts for garters.” She whistles sharply. A member of her crew appears almost ex nihilo on her feed, and she frowns and makes a note to check the input latency when she has a moment to herself.
“Take a crate back to the base” she narrows her eyes at Ajax “carefully” She hears the sound of a crate being dragged, accompanied by muttered grumbling. She turns her head to look at the operation. Two of her crew carrying a crate. She frowns at a sign on the wall, colored a bright yellow: I-M-D-N E-T-H A-G-P. A muffled shout reaches her ears and she sees the crate hit the floor. A weight leaves her shoulders in a flutter of wings.

“Sometimes, dearest, God truly does play dice”


The blast is sudden and sharp, a supernova in reverse, the intensity burning out her sonar implant. She doesn’t even have time to formulate a scream.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Well with one HM and one DM under my belt there's nothing to do but be IN with a :toxx: and a flash.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Mods ban me please for my egregious thunderdome failure. I stand by my :toxx:


magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
In with a :toxx: please.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Final Cut

words: 1,137

number: 91

hellrule: two worlds have ended.

Carlos was the first member of their ragtag family to disappear. He’d gone for the usual Friday night grocery run, out to the big Try N’ Save on main, the one with the backup generator, so they could have ice cream after dinner as a treat. Stumpy knew all too well that when the poo poo hits the fan you look for is an anchor, something to hold you together while your world falls apart, so he had given his blessing and told the kid to be back inside of an hour. The last confirmed scene of Carlos’s existence was the sputtering sound of a car pulling out of the driveway and driving off into the hazy glow of the setting sun.
Stumpy felt a hand touch the lump of flesh where his arm should be and turned away from his fourteenth window-check in as many minutes to find Laura standing behind him, dressed in a mink coat too big for her frame, her scarred face twisted into the ghost of a smile.

“Whaddya think Stumps?” She turned around slowly, pretending she was on the catwalk. “It’s a little big sure, but hell, it beats the poo poo outta the goodwill” she strutted clumsily, leaning on her crutch for support.
“I think” he said as he tried and failed to fight off a grin “that you ought to leave things that don’t belong to you well enough alone.”
She stuck out her tongue at him “Party pooper. I think I look good. Always wanted to be a high-society type. Besides, it’s not like they’re coming back to yell at us anytime soon.”

A familiar knot of anxiety began to build up in his stomach at her words. It’d been ninety-one days since he’d woken up from sleeping on the streets to find a ghost town where the city used to be, ninety one days since he’d stumbled out into the streets crying for them to take him too. He checked his watch.
“Something is wrong. Carlos should be back by now”
“Maybe he ran out of gas?”
Stumpy shook his head slowly “No chance. Checked both the cars yesterday five times. Full tanks.”
The silence hung heavy in the air. The knot in his stomach tightened and he could feel his body losing definition, becoming static. His vision grainy, like an old film reel.
“Something is wrong” he repeated, the anxiety making him slur his words, sounding like the warble of an old cassette tape. “Get the car, we gotta find him.” In the fluorescent light of the kitchen, Laura’s face took on a sharp plastic sheen. Her hand on his arm feeling like a vise.
“Stumps, are you okay?”
He shook his head.
“Get the car, I’ll meet you out front.”


The drive into the city had turned the static in his head to a pounding headache, and he rested his head against the window, soothing himself against the cool glass as they turned onto Main Street. A parade of formerly homeless people walked by, some giving him a casual nod or wave of recognition as they saw him, ghosts from a past life. A half-hearted wave back in response, his hand hovering guilty near the door lock button.
They pulled into the Try N’ Save parking lot. Carlos’s car sat in the center of the lot, untouched
“Maybe he’s still inside?” Laura’s voice in his ears rang with the false tone of hope.

They walked into the store, pulling a shopping cart from the line at the door, clinging to ritual comforts. The store felt empty despite the other people walking around pulling items off shelves and the dull roar of conversation, a pantomime of normalcy. The ice-cream freezer was at the back of the store, a big industrial walk-in model. They pulled open the door and went hunting for Carlos in a maze of garishly colored dairy products.
“I don’t think he’s here. Maybe we should regroup back at the house—” He stopped, turning around slowly.
“Laura?” No answer. Palms slick with sweat, he traced his way back through the maze, fighting to breathe as the knot in his chest turned into a noose. Hurling himself bodily at the freezer door, racing to the exit in a state of pure animal panic, emerging into a pool of off-white light from a buzzing street lamp that sang in harmony with the noise in his head.

He rushed to the car, watching with unbelieving eyes as it disappeared right in front of him. People around him disappearing mid-stride. Streetlights vanishing, walls and foundations, entire buildings erased, revised out of existence.
And then suddenly the scene shifted and he found himself somewhere else, the bustle of the city replaced with clean cut suburban lawns and the smell of meat grilling on the barbecue, the high pitched sound of children’s laughter and a voice very much like his own saying:
“Well, you finally made it.”
Shoes: Wingtip. Brown leather. New. Trousers: creased. Suit: pinstripe, with both arms intact. Stumpy stared at the man who was his mirror image, watching him swim in and out of focus. The clean-cut Stumpy smiled, displaying a mouth that held more teeth than should be possible, polished blindingly white. On his arm a gorgeous woman that with a start he recognized as Laura, her face devoid of scars standing without a crutch, clad in a mink coat and radiating an alien, Hollywood grace. Carlos was nowhere to be seen, and he looked at the mirror image with questioning eyes.
The mirror image shook its head.
“You have to want to be here. Carlos made a different choice. His scene got cut.”
The mirror image reached into his suit pocket and produced an antique-looking revolver. Wordlessly he handed it to Stumpy, who wrapped his fingers around the grip with slow movements.
“Can’t have two copies of the same guy. One or the other, but not both. Make your choice.”

Stumpy nodded slowly as he swung open the cylinder. Two bullets. Just about enough. He pointed the gun at the mirror image, noting how light it felt in his hand. Taking a deep breath he aimed it at Laura and pulled the trigger. No report, no kickback, just Laura crumpling to the ground in a jerky, bloodless movement, a film played at half speed. He swung the revolver around to sight in on the mirror image, pulling the trigger and watching it crumple slowly down to the ground. He tossed the gun gently onto the lawn. All around him, things were disappearing again. Flickering, gone to wherever comes next.

He sat down on the edge of the driveway and waited for the credits to roll as he watched the world end piece-by-piece beneath a fractured sky.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
In with a super-:toxx:

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
hellrule or bust.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
I got nothin' for this one. Taking the :toxx:


magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

thing that matters: noise

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Standing Under Waterfalls

1,267 words

I was 16 when I heard the sound of God for the first and only time in my life. My friend Ray had dragged me out of the suburbs to see a local punk band. I was hesitant at first, thinking it wasn’t my kind of music, plus crowds made me anxious. But Ray dug into the space between hesitation and just needing to be pushed a little until I had confessed that yeah, a punk show seemed pretty cool after all, compared to our usual Friday night routine of sneaking tallboys of Bud Lite out of his Dad’s fridge and playing video games until our eyes hurt. So the next Friday night I dressed as punk as I could muster, which wasn’t much, and waited for Ray to pick me up with butterflies in my stomach. The telltale backfire of his beat-up Volkswagen signaled his arrival, a goddawful racket blaring out of the speaker system.
“This the band?” I shouted as I settled into my seat.
“Hell yes. Agoraphobia.” He turned it down a few notches, bobbing his head along to the thump of the kick drum. “Honestly” he said as we drove off, “the band isn’t anything special, but just wait until the guitarist shows up. Fuckin’ unreal man.” He turned it back up and I settled in to listen as the miles between us and downtown grew shorter. The drums cut off for a split second, replaced with the strangest sound I’d ever heard in my life: It began with a soft hiss, like radio static, and then a sound like sheet metal being slowly torn in two, pinning me to my seat. Two notes, quick as lightning and warped all to hell, and then the drums kicked back in. I turned off the soundsystem, my hands shaking.
“What the hell was that? I feel like my eardrums just got hosed by a jackhammer”
Ray beamed at me from the driver’s seat “That.” He said, nodding at the stereo “was Johnny Two-Tone”.
I laughed, too stunned for words. I clicked the stereo on again and we drove on, letting the music fill every corner of space with sound.


“Gotta make one quick stop before we hit the gig” Ray said as we pulled in to an abandoned-looking strip mall. “You got that blood coin I asked you to whip up last week?” I fished around my pockets, tossing him the coin when I found it. Ray held it up to the light and nodded approvingly.
“Good poo poo. How’d you like that ritual?”
“Fuckin’ pain in the rear end. Literally. Pricked it for the source.”
“Oh my god, what the hell is wrong with you?” he laughed “Addie is gonna get a kick out of this. C’mon”
He led me to a tired looking video-rental place, walking right in with no hesitation, while I hung nervously in the background, peering at dusty tapes, trying to see which ones I recognized from their covers.
“Yo Addie! Get your rear end out here!” I jumped a little at Ray’s shout, the echo seeming to multiply, or maybe I was just nervous and imagining things. A slim blonde girl I vaguely recognized from school walked up to the counter, fire in her eyes.
“Ray, if you tell me to “get my rear end over here” ever again I will turn you into a mouse and feed you to my snake, I loving swear.” She glared at him for a minute and the air was heavy with tension.
Ray was the first to laugh, diffusing the silence, Addie joined in. I stood silent, wishing I could be anywhere else.
“So what do you need?”
Ray pointed at me. “Taking my buddy here to his first show, thought you could whip him up a fake.”
Addie nodded. “No sweat. You got coin?” Ray plunked my blood coin down on the counter.
“Guess what genius over there picked for the source”
“Ray please don’t---”
“His rear end. You’re dealing with rear end magic!” He guffawed and I felt a blush creeping up my neck.
“rear end magic huh?” Addie rolled her eyes. “Get over here rear end wizard. Let me take a look at you”
I walked over, my knees shaking.
“Relax O Posteri-mancer. I don’t bite. You got ID of some sort? School ID will do.”
I fumbled my ID on the counter.
“Awesome. Close your eyes for a sec.”
In the darkness her hands felt warm on my face as she muttered words too low for me to catch.
“Aight we’re done, go ahead and open ‘em”
I did, seeing my face in reflected back at me in Addie’s tiny compact mirror, older but not unrecognizably so.
“What the gently caress. This is crazy” I grinned.
“Pretty neat huh? It’ll last for about three hours or so, more than enough time for you to have some fun. Okay that’s it for me. You guys enjoy your show.” She waved goodbye and disappeared into the backroom.


Unsurprisingly I had no trouble with the ID check at the venue, and even less trouble at the bar. Ray waved off my offer of a drink.
“It’s all you tonight man” he said. I bought a tallboy of Bud Lite in a fit of nostalgia and wormed my way through the crowd, looking for a good vantage point. Just as I found my place the house lights went down, plunging the venue into split-second darkness, before a familiar kick drum rhythm assaulted my ear drums. The baseline hit me like a punch in the gut. The band cut out and I held my breath, waiting for what would come next.
The first note felt like it tore my head in two, the second like it had split the earth. Johnny Two-Tone himself was barely visible, hidden behind a wall of amplifiers, his guitar emitting waves of screeching feedback that just sucked you in deeper and deeper into an auditory black hole. Noise, signal, all of it blended into one, impossible to tell apart, a singular, guttural roar that consumed all of your body, your mind. Time stretched out, the two notes hanging in the air forever, playing counterpoint to themselves, the other instruments subjugated to their tyranny. After what felt like an eternity, the house lights came on, I looked at Ray with a dumbstruck grin and rode the high all the way back to the car.
The tape played all through the drive back, but something was missing. The bass and guitar still thrashed in tight lockstep, but Two-Tone’s guitar was nowhere to be heard, erased off the recording, or maybe due to hearing damage, even though I’d worn earplugs. I was mildly worried, but Ray told me it would sort itself out in the morning.


To make a long story short, it didn’t. I could hear everything perfect, but I was never able to hear Two-Tone's guitar again, try as I might. I even tried to pick up the guitar myself, and Ray and I formed a few short-lived bands before girls and the twin chaos of time and distance drove us apart. I tried so hard to play his noise, his tones, but all that would come out was silence, the dry hiss of a powered on amplifier turning into mocking laughter until I packed up my gear and went off to college. Every now and again, I listen to those old recordings, trying to catch the faintest note, the least little shard of texture, but I don’t think I ever will.

In all honesty, maybe it's better that way.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
I have a good feeling about this one.



magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

981 words


Alice woke with the dawn, the creeping first fingers of light peeking through her window matching the pulsing throb of her hangover. She looked over at Daryl, still sound asleep in the bed next to her and permitted herself a small smile. Her eyes wandered over to the half-empty bottle of tequila on the night stand. Fun night, she guessed. Her head pulsed sharply in confirmation. She stood up and walked to the bathroom, splashed some cold water on her face. She opened the medicine cabinet, looking for her birth control pills. She was certain Daryl had used protection last night, he wasn’t a puritan by any stretch of the imagination, but she’d always thought it was better to be safe than sorry with this stuff. The pills were nowhere to be seen.

Maybe she’d taken them last night before the fun started? The trashcan was empty, disproving her hypothesis. She muttered a curse under her breath and went back to the bedroom.
She dressed quickly, trying not to wake Daryl, and slipped out into the early morning bustle. Feet on autopilot led her to the local pharmacy, and years of the same routine led her to the birth control aisle. The one package that still sat on the nearly empty shelves was one she’d never seen before. Generic, she guessed, the name-brand stuff probably already claimed by a tidal wave of college students. With a quiet sigh, she picked up the package of pills and headed for the checkout counter, grabbing a bottle of ice coffee as an afterthought. The cashier who rang her up didn’t say anything to her face, but Alice had done this enough to sense even silent judgment. Mentally, she shrugged while arranging her face into a pleasantly blank smile, feeling the old man’s eyes on her back until she was well outside of the store.
She stopped and sat down at a park bench, opened the package. The little white pill sat in the center of her palm. She popped it in her mouth and chased it with coffee, swallowing it down swiftly.


A tug on the sleeve of her blouse snapped her back to the present, a high-pitched voice tinged with a note of worry.

“Mom? Are you okay?”

Alice looked around for the source of the voice. A little girl of she guessed (knew?) seven, blonde, her blue eyes wide with wholehearted concern. I’m not your mother. She wanted to say, but she could feel words forming on her lips.
“I’m fine sweetie. Mommy is just a little tired.”
A pout from the girl, suspicion in her voice.

“I wanna go play on the swingset.” A tiny hand pulling on her blouse again, insistent. She let herself be led along to the swings, pushing rhythmically, small high-pitched giggles coming from her daughter.

“Higher! Higher!” The girl laughed. Alice smiled and redoubled her efforts. After a few hypnotic arcs the girl’s voice rang out with a new demand.

“Let’s go on the slide now.” She jumped off the swing and raced to the long tubular slide, mounting the metal stairs with a manic burst of childhood energy. Alice followed, the dull throb in her hip an ironic reminder of past youth. The girl stood before the slide’s yawning mouth, the first signs of genuine uncertainty on her face.

“Mommy. I’m scared” She buried herself in her mother’s thigh, seeking the comfort of solidity. Alice gently stroked her little girl’s hair, repeating the parent’s prayer.

“Everything will be fine.”

But the girl pressed in tighter, soft notes of shame in her voice.

“Go down the slide with me. Please?”

Alice stepped over the slide’s threshold and sat down gently, placed her daughter snugly in her lap, pulled her close. All she could see was the body immediately in front of her, and for a second, whether in her imagination or via motherly osmosis, she grasped the dizzying extent of her daughter’s fear. Her sweat-slicked hand held the rigid plastic in a death grip, but something slipped and off she went, her daughter’s shriek of fear echoing around her, morphing into a cry of delight. The sunlight gave the tube a soft ember-like glow, and as she looked up gentle color filled her vision, and all she saw was the purest of red. Within that red field, shapes became forms, forms became figures, figures became scenes, scenes became stories. And she watched.

She watched her sons go off to war, and her heart broke a thousand times. She watched her daughters slide down a thousand different slides and bear a thousand silent burdens. A thousand different hospital visits for a thousand children burned by a thousand angry suns that time had cruelly crafted. Multiplying now until she couldn’t keep track, a kaleidoscope of herself, some beaming, some sobbing, some hurting in the purest way. Some stood alone. All of them looked out at her with kindness in their eyes, the faces morphed into one face, her face, and she looked at herself and herself looked back and sang a lullaby, a gentle whisper in her ear, the only certain thing:

I love you.

In the park she finished the last of her coffee and stood up from the bench, feeling tired. She put the empty bottle in the trash and began the walk back to her apartment. When she got to the door she paused, listening, but she could only hear an echo, fading gradually until it turned to silence.

She opened the door and stepped into the next moment.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Fin De Siècle
825 words

In a nondescript bar on a nondescript street corner, two men watch the last known baby phoenix crawl across a countertop. One man watches carefully through ice-chip blue eyes, pausing only to take a sip from his glass of beer. The other watches trembling, though whether from anticipation or sickness only he can say. The blue-eyed man takes a sip of his beer and speaks.

“Long live the revolution.” He says with quiet conviction.

The trembling man nods slowly, gently picking the bird up from the countertop. It mews at him and he feels the briefest flash of pity, his hands tingling a little from the warmth of the bird’s body. Before he has time to form a doubt about his actions, he stuffs the bird in his mouth and chews, the faint popping of bones sounding like fireworks, blood thick and heavy on his tongue. He gestures for the beer and takes a long drink.

“Christ. It tastes like poo poo.” he mutters, belching slightly.

The blue eyed man smiles wryly back at him.

“All is fair in love and war, non?”

The trembling man glares.

“Spare me your bullshit Abelard. How long do I have?”

Abelard taps his fingers rhythmically on the bar.

“2 hours. It should be enough for someone of your legendary athleticism to get the job done.” He smirks.

In answer, the trembling man spits upon the bar floor, turning around and limping toward the exit.

“gently caress you. And gently caress your revolution” He says loud enough for the bar to catch. If the other patrons hear him, they give no sign.

He steps outside and sets a course for the end of his world.


By the time he joins the foot traffic headed for the city square, he is invisible. Other people do the work for him. He no longer has to try. What is wrong with this man? he imagines them thinking. They can’t fix him (nor, he thinks tiredly, would they want to), so they fix the space around him, editing him out of their stories, their lives. He passes by beggar, a hollow-eyed street mother, and drops a fat gold coin into her tin cup. She looks up in silent thanks and he nods once, a brisk acknowledgement of two people who fell through the cracks, before he is once more swept away by the ceaseless human sea.

He had always been invisible, he muses as he turns onto the main thoroughfare. At first, he’d hated it. He remembers long, tear filled nights as a young boy, a single sobbing question asked over and over.

Why can’t they see me?

In time, pressure and heat turned sadness into a pure, crystalline rage. As a young man, he’d discovered invisibility had its perks, mainly in petty crimes and vandalism. No one suspects the boy with the limp. One he’d had something like conviction, a voice, a ceaseless, willing hunger to make the world right. But that was a long time ago. Briefly, he thinks of the tired street mother. Her children might stand a chance. Perhaps they will be better, kinder, thanks to what will happen here, though part of him knows that no matter how good or kind they’ll be, there will always be those who slip through the cracks, others who tremble in ways seen and unseen. For them, the future cannot be fixed.

In the depths of his gut, he feels something begin to burn, and he quickens his pace, ignoring the twinge in his hip. Hands shove him roughly from behind, punctuated by the cruel laughter of children, and he goes down hard on the cobble stones, his face hitting a puddle of stagnant water. He waits on hands and knees, looking at his reflection in the muck. He gets up slowly, painfully, waving off hollow offers of assistance. The fire in his gut is spreading to his lungs and he takes great big gulps of air as he arrives at the city square.
The crowd is dense and full of life, most of them clustered around the shining new clock tower, bought with gold and lies and innocent blood. The trembling man feels tired as he looks upon the symbol of the new age. Every inch of his skin is on fire. Birth pangs wrack his body. He leans against the clock tower, feeling its sun-warmed stonework beneath his raw palms. He draws a deep, guttural breath and hacks up a beautiful scarlet feather. Around him passersby gaze out of the corner of their eyes, their faces twisted in naked disgust. His skin begins to crack and flake off from the heat, and the acrid smell of burning flesh floods his nostrils. He closes his eyes.

At the stroke of noon a sound like God clapping his hands is heard, and an explosion rocks the city center.

The last phoenix takes flight, and for one brief moment, the trembling man is finally seen.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Thunderdome CCCLXXXIV: Needle In The Red

Howdy 'Domers!

As anyone who has had to read my terrible words knows, I'm interested in noise. Now, "noise" can cover a wide variety of concepts. For instance, there is the idea of the noises in your own head, or thoughts, or the noise of conversation, not just the sound of screeching guitars and poor production. So this week, I want to see what you guys can cook up when writing about Noise. If you Toxx I will give you an effects pedal to write about. How you choose to incorporate it into your piece is up to you.

Signup Deadline: Friday 12/13 by 12:00AM CST

Submission Deadline: Sunday 12/15 by 12:00AM CST

Word Count: 1,500 words max

Good Luck!

SlipUp :toxx:
Something Else
Anonymous Amalgam :toxx:
rat-born cock :toxx:
Thranguy :toxx:
Carl Killer Miller
Simply Simon
flerp :toxx:

magic cactus fucked around with this message at 19:49 on Dec 16, 2019

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Gonna put out the call for co-judges if anyone is interested

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

Electro Harmonix Big Muff Fuzz

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

Anomalous Amalgam posted:

Oof. fast, fair judgment.

In :toxx:

Electro Harmonix Bad Stone Phase Shifter

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

rat-born cock posted:

Hi, I'd like to wIN this thunderdome.

I would also like to :toxx: for the musical peddle.

Dunlop Crybaby GCB-95

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

Thranguy posted:

In and :toxx: for a pedal.

The legendary Lovetone Meatball envelope filter

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

Boss RE 20 Space Echo

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Sign Ups are now closed. Good luck and don't suck!

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Okay submissions are now closed. Time to read your godforsaken scribbles.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

Chili posted:

Yo, you need a hand judging, Cactus?

Holler, if so.

PM me. Can't hurt to have another opinion besides my own.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

A small submission pool for this week nevertheless managed to run the gamut from "godawful" to "pretty good".

We begin with the losers: rat-born cock, AnonymousAmalgam, SlipUp, and flerp Rat-born cock takes the loser's crown for a submission that is the embodiment of :effort:. That they had the gall to post that late is just salt in the wound. AnonymousAmalgam at least tried. Nevertheless, they should spend their time in exile meditating on the phrase "write drunk, edit sober", or hell, just "write". Flerp's piece confused me, and not in a good way. The story seemed like a cast off from the extremely online prompt a few weeks ago, and the connection to the theme was tenuous at best. SlipUp's tale of a junkie punk ex-dad who fights his demons with the power of rock, while relatively well-written, suffered from pacing issues and using the theme as window dressing. I'll put it this way: in terms of music, I wanted sonic youth. What you gave me felt more like motley crue.

On to the HMs for the week: Thranguy, Carl Killer Miller, and SomethingElse. My first few reads of Thranguy's piece, I wanted to place them in the DM's. I could see what they were trying for vis-a-vis their pedal, but like a delay set too short, the individual notes tangled together into a mess that failed to grab my attention. However, after a few re-reads I've since come around on their funny/disturbing vignette. Like Thranguy, Carl Killer Miller actually tried to weave this weeks theme into their piece. I'll be frank: I spent a good while going back and forth on giving you the win. You lost by a hair, as the winning piece had a little more impact to push it over the finish line. SomethingElse had a strong entry, and a solid contender for the win, but what tanked their chances was giving the majority of their piece over to worldbuilding and waiting too late to introduce the radio. Had they polished up and trimmed the world building a little, their piece would have won easy.

It takes guts to waltz into Thunderdome and declare you've got the winning story before submissions are even closed, and it takes skill to back that bragging up. Fortunately, Simply Simon had both with A Quiet Cry in a City of Screams. In telling a coherent story with a fleshed out protagonist, and tightly linking it with their interpretation of this weeks theme, they take the throne for this week. There were a few small editing/polish considerations that irked me, but ultimately the writing transcended such concerns and just told a good, interesting story.

Take the throne brother, you've earned it.

magic cactus fucked around with this message at 22:29 on Dec 16, 2019

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Just FYI if anyone would like a more robust critique of their piece, I am happy to do so in PMs.

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
IN and asking for a reaction

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Need to make up for my abysmal failure to submit last week.



magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
Merry Christmas Thunderdome crew, thanks for being my motivation for getting back into writing seriously this year!



magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.
The Flipside of The Spotlight

1,253 words

Prompt: An addiction to Darkness

Sharon looked out into the crowd. She could see Bernard holding her cue cards just off the main audience pit, a critical piece of machinery that made the great beast called late-night television run so smoothly, smoothly enough that even if she slurred a word or two (not that she would, drinks were strictly for after the show had wrapped, she wasn’t trying to be this generation’s Fallon) nobody would notice except for the suits on the network review board, but then again, those guys noticed everything.
Except their own problems She thought. Out of the corner of her eye, a red light winked at her, signaling that it was time to wrap the show. The glare from the house lights washed the audience out into an endless array of faceless mannequins, and for a moment she felt like a priest at the pulpit. She could feel the burning heat of the spotlight on her as sweat dampened her clothes.

“Well that’s our show. Goodnight everybody!” She waved and the mannequins cheered with a fever-pitch intensity, the house band trumpeted the closing number, and she closed her eyes and let the sound wash over her.

The mass has ended. Go now in peace. She thought as the house lights went down.

Backstage everything turned into a never-ending buzzing noise. She could feel a headache beginning somewhere in the back of her skull and muttered her way through countless repetitions of “great job” and gave plastic grins in response to voices telling her she’d “killed it” tonight. Her body ached and her vision swam. The florescent lights gave everything a cold, hard edge, like the world really was out to get her after all, and she hadn’t noticed until it was too late.

By the time she’d waved off her small army of assistants and slipped into her changing room, her headache had grown into a free-form throb. She fell onto her couch and found the sleep mask she usually wore after a show. It wouldn’t be enough tonight (these days nothing really was), but it would do. It fit snugly over her eyes, and as she turned off the lights, the thin gauze of grey, pre-dawn murk solidified to an intense black, and she felt at peace. What little ambient light there was still crept in, and the low mutter of conversation outside her door meant that she’d never truly dissipate this time, but it was enough to keep her going.

After fifteen minutes, she got up and called her driver for a pickup, walking quickly through the harsh studio lighting out the main doors. Her driver was taking the last drag on his evening cigarette as she nodded curtly and got in the backseat. The car pulled away, and she quietly cursed under her breath. She’d forgotten the sleep mask. It wasn’t a major gaffe, she had plenty of extras at home, but it would have made the trip more bearable, diffusing the streaking yellow light of the streetlamps into a pleasant, hypnotic strobe, instead of the unbearable naked rays of the spotlight. She shut her eyes and let the thrum of the car’s engine relax her, waking with a start as they pulled into her driveway. She dismissed the driver with an abrupt courtesy that bordered on rudeness and ran to the front door.

With the door closed and the blackout curtains drawn, she sinks into bed and puts her sleep mask and earplugs in. Here, the darkness is warm, comforting even, the only sound the high-pitched whine of her circulatory system pumping blood and the steady rhythm of her heart. Not for the first time, she wished Johnathan were here. Johnathan had understood her need for darkness, her strange cravings. He hadn’t minded when they’d made love with her mask on, the way the darkness swallowed him and rebuilt him as she ran her hands over his body, a line and curve at a time, from sketch to skeleton and beyond.

He’d understood, in those quiet, late night hours as she broke down and told him about the darkness, about how the sleep mask wasn’t just a way to spice things up in the bedroom. How she felt sickeningly real in this flawed human body with its fat and scars and blemishes and skin, and so much loving space and not just her body but all of it, the outside world crashing over her like a tsunami, everything focusing in on her, washing her away and dashing her on the hard, firm rocks of reality, and it didn’t really matter where she chose to hide, under the piano in miss Clawson’s 5th grade choir class, the insides of various closets, her face buried in his chest, a sensory deprivation tank, there was always the moment where the darkness didn’t take and the world rolled over her again and her skin burned with hellish heat as the spotlight found her.

But Johnathan was gone now. He was gone because he’d refused to feed the beast, refused to listen to the men in the boardroom with their fancy cigars and Armani suits and cold, focus-grouped show notes on “marketability”. He’d begged her to come with him, even got down on his knees for her, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She loved the spotlight too much. Loved the warmth, the attention, the mannequins’ howls as her jokes hit, her monologues quoted like scripture around workplace water coolers. She’d felt the smallest pinprick of regret as boxes bearing labels bound for Johnathan’s home in Wisconsin quietly disappeared from the corner of her bedroom, but the beast must eat.

Once, when the spotlight had gotten really bad and she’d had to take a week’s hiatus from the show, she’d tried to take her eyes out with an ice-cream scoop. Oedipus all glammed up on Rodeo Drive. A last-second failure of nerve earned her a scar along her brow and slithering rumors hissed backstage, all eyes on her.

Now, in this quiet, warm darkness, she feels no fear. She gets up and walks with slow, halting steps toward the kitchen, feeling for the utensil drawer. Hesitant hands find the outline of the ice-cream scoop and grasp the cold metal handle. She takes off the sleep mask and lets it fall to the floor. As she raises the scoop to eye level, she is surprised to note that her hand does not tremble.

The first few screams are ones of pain. The rest are a hymnal.


It’d taken some time for her to adjust. The show went on hiatus while the producers and the men in suits held urgent, closed door meetings, ran the numbers, tested the sacrifice. Ironically, she’d made an improvement. The suits, in their halos of smoke, crowed about how this was a big step forward for representation, how she was only driving the numbers further up, how she was the next big thing, the talk of the town, and she’d smiled real bright while the beast took a chunk of her soul.
The earpiece in her ear whispers that she’s on in five and she takes a deep breath. As the curtain goes up, the mannequins roar and she smiles.

“Boy it’s great to be back. I’ve missed you all so much! We’ve got a fantastic show lined up for you tonight!”

She takes off her shades and the mannequins howl as she throws them a coy non-wink. The familiar heat of the spotlight warms her once again.

This time, she doesn’t burn.

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