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Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

in

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Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Prompt: You shouldn't eat watermelon seeds because then a watermelon will grow inside you and kill you

Locally Harvested

1

“A fibrous root system appears to have compromised the jejunum beginning .75 meters below the duodenum. The roots are most dense among the plicae circulares and have perforated the intestine multiple times...”

“Are you sure 'multiple times' does this justice?”

“Unless you have a better adjective for what we're seeing, I don't know how else to describe this.”

“Well... we'd better come up with a better way. 'Cause this young lady's guts are shredded. This is the fourth case we've seen in the past six weeks. Almost all the same. Lower G.I. tracts blown apart by roots. Vines headed north or south – the last poor kid had a leaf hangin' out of his rear end.”

“I'm as frustrated with this as you are, but until the county hires a botanist to work the morgue with us... and please watch your language.”

“Sorry. But look – once woulda been weird, something for Ripley's or Unsolved Mysteries. But this is the fourth time. Is anybody even payin' attention to these reports?”

“You know the policy. We don't talk to the news. That's the DA's office's job. When they want to go public with this - after they're sure foul play isn't involved - that's their prerogative.”

“Foul play! These kids have guts full of fuckin' kudzu or somethin'...”

“Language!”

“...not bullet wounds or coke ODs. Jenn, this is a trend! This is the start of somethin'.”

“I know that, Fern. You think that I don't think this is disturbing? Jesus! Four kids with bowels full of plants. They obviously didn't swallow them like that, so they must have grown inside them. How does that even work? This is insane, but I'm doing my job. I don't make the policy.”

“Somebody's got to say somethin' about this. What if this is contagious?”

“Seriously, a contagious plant? I just made my four years. I'm not going to risk losing benefits to report something as dumb as a 'contagious plant.'”

“So how many more cadavers full of vines do we have to pop open, before you decide that lettin' people know about this is more important than your paid time off?”

“gently caress you, Fern. Oh god, is this still running? Siri, stop recording.”


2

Shauna pulled a cart from the stack at the front of the store, then folded the child seat forward on it.

“Come on, kiddo, let's get you strapped in,” she said as she picked up Kate and plopped her into the cart.

That taken care of, Shauna pushed the cart through the sliding glass doors of the supermarket and into the produce section. Picking up a nectarine, she squeezed it gently and felt it yeild to her thumb – a good sign.

“You like these, Kate?” she asked, smiling.

“No!” was the inevitable response.

“Tough crowd. What exactly do you want?”

“Candy grapes!” squealed Kate.

Shauna rolled her eyes and spun the buggy around to push it over to the grape display. A few months earlier, Cotton Candy grapes had made their way to the shelf – little green grapes that were almost sickly sweet, with a distinct candy-floss flavor. Shauna wasn't thrilled about the fact that Kate only wanted the sweetest fruit in the store, and she was a little suspicious of how that fruit even existed in the first place. But it got the toddler eating fruit, so it wasn't all bad.

“Hey you!” a familiar voice spoke behind her, and she turned around with a bag of the grapes in her hand.

“Oh hey, Ryann! How's it going?” Shauna exclaimed as she lowered the grapes into the cart.

“Oh you know, the usual Friday. A little nicer now that Eric has started kindergarten.” Ryann said. She was a couple years older than Shauna, but their oldest children shared a 3nd grade class.

Shauna reached forward and covered Kate's ears.

“Omigod, I can't wait.”

Ryann laughed and nodded knowingly, then noticed the grapes.

“Going for the frankenfruit, eh?”

“Hey, give the people what they want, right?”

“Speaking of...” and Ryann pointed to another display on the produce floor. This one was a large bin filled with round, dark green watermelons, about the size of bowling balls. Above it was a large sign announcing, “Cherry Bombs! The amazing seedless melon with real cherry flavor!”

Shauna narrowed her eyes in mock reproach. “Like, does everything have to be a remix these days?”

3

“Tonight's top story: Outbreak in the Heartland. A community is under quarantine tonight after a mysterious illness rocks a quiet rural town. For more information, we go to Jose Diaz on scene.”

“Thanks, Lester. It's been a trying week in this small rural community, where the unthinkable has happened. An unknown illness has ravaged the town, killing over one hundred and eighty people. It seems to be nearly universally fatal – with victims from all walks of life. The elderly, young adults, and children as young as two years old are among the confirmed dead.

While the CDC has not made any statement as to what the illness is, multiple anonymous sources at the local hospital confirm that there are uniform symptoms among patients. What starts as bloating and stomach cramps leads to sepsis and organ failure within four days of onset. They suspect a bacterial agent, but thus far antibiotics have proven useless.

Back to you, Lester.”

4

“Ok, that wraps up the usual business. I motion that the meeting move into executive session. Do I have a second?”

“Seconded.”

“All in favor? OK, good. Now will someone please explain to me exactly what the gently caress went wrong? Anyone?”

“Sir, uh, the rodent trials yielded false negatives.”

“Sure. Why not? Let's go with that. Care to elaborate?”

“It was the rat GI tracts, sir. They passed the spores before they germinated. But in humans, they had a chance to start growth because they took significantly longer to pass.”

“I'm sorry, did you say spore? Since when do melons have spores?”

“Since we subbed in slime-mold genes to try and make a truly seedless watermelon, sir.”

“Oh, good Christ. Tell me you are joking.”

“No, sir.”

“Does Legal have any input on this debacle?”

“Ah, officially I do not.”

“Unofficially?”

“I've authorized a large donation to the hospital. All tax deductible. Some smaller donations to a few folks at the coroner's office and the CDC, ah, non-tax deductible - but it has ensured that the bodies are cremated promptly to protect the public health.”

“Any other loose ends?”

“R&D has been instructed to have a server failure and sadly some records will be lost, if they haven't already.”

“Modern technology, right?”

“Gone are the days, as they say.”

“Right. Well then what's the next point of business? Lunch?”

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

1169 words

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

in, and why not a line?

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Flash: Will I have eyes at the bottom of the sea, supposing I descend those endless stairs?

Due East of Split Rock Point
1326 words

A sudden noise awoke Thomas sometime, (if he had to guess,) on the third day after the Maple Leaf went to the bottom. It was quite unlike the groans of the ship’s hull which had borne up valiantly against the full weight of Lake Champlain. Rather, it was an odd sort of grunting and chirping which came from the pool of water that had flooded the lower part of the engine room’s pitched floor, as well as the soft sounds of water splashing against the frame of the boilers. Even though it was now frigid, the fires that had animated the ship had been mercifully quenched during her plunge to the lake bed, and thus Tomas still had air left to breathe.

“Paul!” He cried out into the gloom, “Paul, are you still alive?”

No voice replied from the pitch black darkness, but the chirping ceased for a few moments, and only the water’s lapping echoed about the iron bulkheads in the room. Immediately Thomas’ mind leapt to hope, that perhaps a ship was floating above him, and he was hearing a salvageman cutting his way into the compartment. Maybe a diving bell was waiting just outside to take him back to the surface. Then, the odd sounds resumed, paying no further mind to his questioning shouts.

His right hand fumbled in the small box next to his makeshift bed, fingers finally brushing against the rounded lens of the small carbide lantern he’d picked out of the debris a few hours after the ship had sunk. Turning the valve, then spinning the striker wheel, Tomas caused the lamp to produce a feeble, guttering flame that when focused by the reflector lens, would illuminate even the darkest of rooms. Yet, even a tiny flame breathed air just as a man would. Until now, Thomas had been content to huddle in the unlit confines of the engine room that remained above water, but the possibility of a rescue - or even the unlikely chance that Paul Ducharme was still somehow counted among the living - was reason enough to light the lamp. Though the sudden light was dazzling, he squinted into the gloom of the flooded side of the room and tried to make sense of the sight that greeted him.

No rescue diver’s brass helmet shone back, but a damp sheen of light reflected off of corpse-white skin. Some minor leviathan stretched up from the deeper recesses of the pool, engaged in the task of removing Ducharme’s leg from his hip, while Ducharme’s body floated back and forth in the shallows. This movement stirred the water’s surface and causing the waves to play against the bulkheads and deck. The beast did not react to the sudden presence of the light in the slightest. It continued to doggedly gnawing away at Paul’s thigh, twisting and rolling its bulk to gain the best purchase to separate flesh from bone.

Tom shot up, howling at the creature. “Leave off!”

He set the lamp down on a nearby table, then was in motion almost instantly. With feet well accustomed to moving across a pitched ship’s deck, he picked his way down the slope toward submerged end of the room, snatching a coal shovel along the way. While the monstrous form had ignored the light, the clatter of his boots against the iron deck drew its immediate attention. Relinquishing its grip on Ducharme, the beast turned its long neck and head toward Thomas and began to once again chirp and click. This time the sounds were painfully loud —the clicks were as gunshots in the enclosed space, and the chirps drove like knives into Tom’s ears. With a head the size of a bushel basket, it snapped viciously at Thomas as he waded knee-deep into the freezing water.

With rage born of anger and fear, he swung the shovel like a cudgel, connecting solidly with the creature’s jaw. Its chirping became a stinging wail and it lunged forwards, forcing Thomas to retreat back onto the dry deck. Through the agony of the beast’s shrieking, he swung again and again. Sometimes he would strike with the flat of the shovel, sometimes with the edge, and often he would miss completely as pain induced tears to foul his vision. For its part, the creature assaulted wildly - almost without tactic or strategy - and with every strike it heaved more of its form from the pool and up onto the deck. Soon, it was almost immobile, save for its elongated neck and loathsome head. It was then Thomas landed a lucky blow and the vile thing fell down, stunned. He struck again and again, until its incessant keening quieted, and once again the room fell silent save for the sound of his breath and heartbeat in his ears.

In the carbide lamp’s glare, Thomas was finally able to get a good look at the creature that had been feeding on the body of Paul Ducharme. It was pale, blue-white a skin so slick almost to the point of waxiness. It seemed thick with blubber in some places, such as along its chest and about its belly, but it was positively gaunt in others. The outline of spine and ribs stood out in stark relief along the beasts backside. Short, broad pectoral fins emerged beneath the chest, and what looked to be the vestigial remnants of a tail fluke, still dangling in the cold water of the pool. The neck, while not serpentine, was certainly long and lithe — and, if not for the things’s poor aim, should have let it bring that horrible mouth to bear quite easily. Bulbous and domed, the forehead yielded slightly to the touch of the shovel when prodded, almost as if it was filled with fluid instead of backed by hard bone. Thomas peeled back one rubbery lip, to observed its teeth - wide like flensing knives, and serrated along the edges.

No eyes could be found. Thomas saw where perhaps eyes might have been, but the lids would not be opened by any force he could muster, for they were well and truly fused together.

Thomas pondered a moment, bemused at the grim irony. Not a week before, he and Paul Ducharme had attended a lecture in Burlington, at the University on the new fashioned science of evolution. How Paul had laughed! And at the tavern that evening he’d mocked the professor for daring to question God’s wisdom. Yet now, looking on the abomination that lay sprawled on the engine room deck, Thomas could not help but feel Paul had been wrong - for no loving God would have willingly created this beast.

He crossed back to the pool, and using the shovel to reach under and drag Paul’s sinking body back into the flooded shallows. The poor man’s skin was blistered and raw from the bursting of a steam pipe during the ships decent in to the belly of the lake. He’d screamed mightily, until Thomas had dragged him into the cold water which had rushed into the room when the ship finally struck bottom. The very cause of his injuries offered him the only comfort he would receive during the short remains of his life. Gazing on his dead friend, Thomas begged forgiveness for what he was about to do.

For Thomas knew no rescue was coming, and the exertion of fighting the beast and the lamp’s feeble, yet persistent flame had taken their toll on the air in the compartment. He stripped off his boots and waded in neck deep, taking Paul in tow by the hand, he gasped in one final lungful of air and dove for where he though the gash in the hull might be. As he let Paul’s wrist slip from his grasp, he swam for what he thought might be the dim blush of daylight many fathoms above — and, he heard the lake come alive around him with scores of chirps off in the darkness.

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Thanks for the crit from the judges! I'm going to have to sit this week out due to some family issues, but hopefully I'll be able to get in on the next round.

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Ugh, fine ok.

I'm in and shall unburden myself of a pair of car keys

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

In with a :toxx:

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Dealer's Choice
1600 words
prompt: A dead snake where it shouldn't be

The blast of warm air that hit Jim Boudroux's face was thick with the smell of a kerosene heater. Standing in the door to Savoy's Auto Body and Repair, he looked up at the bell that failed to jangle, and then down to the floor where its little clapper was laying – a dull brass island in a sea of grime. He scraped his boots on the doormat, and heard a voice from the back office call out.

“Who's out there lettin' out my heat?”

“It's Jim, and it ain't that cold out there!”

There was a muffled thud, and Royce Savoy shuffled out of the back office wearing a heavy barn jacket and winter gloves. There was an account ledger in his right hand, and he slapped it down on the front counter as he rounded into the waiting area. Shoving the same hand under his left armpit, he dragged the glove off before sticking it out for a shake.

“Hey there, Jim! How's ya' mama and them?”

Jim gripped Royce, replying, “They's good, and yours?”

“They's well,” Royce started, then paused, “Well, mostly well. Sally's laid up again.”

“What's ailing her?”

“Too much boudin at Christmas. I told her to lay off it, but she said, 'Ain't Christmas without boudin balls.' I said, if that's the case, then it ain't New Years without the gout.”

Both men laughed, and then Royce asked, “I s'pect you're here about your car?”

Jim nodded. “I figured I'd walk over on my lunch hour and see if it was ready.”

“Well, it ain't,” Royce frowned. “We've had the lift tied up with another project the past two days.”

“What kind of project?” Jim asked with raised eyebrows.

“C'mon back and have a look. And while you're here, maybe you want to play a few hands of Twenty-One?”

Royce turned toward the door to the garage, waved Jim to follow. He did, but reluctantly. Royce was an old friend, and old friend's know each others problems. It didn't sit well with Jim to make those problems worse, so he tried to stall.

“I got to be gettin' back soon, Royce. Maybe some other time?”

“Oh, don't give me that bull. 'Lunch Hour,' my foot! You been retired comin' on three years now, and you got nothin' but time.”

“Just because I'm retired don't mean I got nothing to do. And since you're not gonna let me come at it from the side, I guess I gotta go head on: I thought your wife told you no more playing cards.”

“She said no more goin' down to the riverboat in Baton Rouge. She didn't say a drat thing about playin' cards at work,” Royce said as he elbowed the door to the garage open and held it for Jim. “Besides, all I got on me is a twenty, so we ain't playin' high-stakes.”

Jim stared at him for a few moments, clearly unhappy with the turn of events. He'd known Royce since they were kids, and he knew that he was the sort of guy that would take action on anything just for the thrill of it. Jim didn't like being an enabler, but at least he could buy Royce lunch if he won.

“A'right, but don't you go telling Sharon that I was the one you was playing with.”

Royce busied himself by stepping over to a closet and collecting two folding chairs, but what caught Jim's attention was the pickup truck that was up on the lift. Even extended to full height, the lift was barely able to keep the wheels of the jacked-up Ford off the ground. From bumper to bumper, it was coated in mud. The only places where mud wasn't present were deep scratches to the sheet metal, leaving no clue as to what sort of paint color the truck sported. Most gaps or crevices were also stuffed with some sort of dried or rotting vegetation. At least Jim hoped it was vegetation, because it might have been fur.

It was also emitting a solid stream of profanity.

“Hey, Virgil. What you got goin' on there?” Jim asked.

“Who dat?” Came a reply, as Virgil's head popped out from behind one of the front wheels. “Oh hey, Jim. Comment ce va?”

Jim dipped into his rusty high-school French, “Pas mal. You?”

“Ha! Beaucoup mal,” Virgil replied with a humorless chuckle. Then he reached down to pick up an oil can with an open top, into which he spit a cheek-full of chaw juice that was just as black as the accompanying 10w-40. He dipped back under the truck, and the cursing resumed.

Some people dipped snuff, but Virgil had an earnest commitment to Copenhagen. Royce had been to the man's wedding, nearly 30 years ago. He'd once told Jim that Marie hadn't even kissed Virgil at the altar, because she was afraid that he'd dribble and ruin her white gown. Jim didn't even doubt it. He'd never seen Virgil without a dip in, and the fouler his mood, the more snuff he'd have packed into his lower lip. At present, he appeared to have a full can stuffed in his mouth, therefore he must not have been kidding about things being bad.

Jim walked back over to where Royce had set up the chairs on opposite ends of a small table. There was a pair of brake rotors still on the table, but Royce scooted those to the other side to make a clear, if oily, place to play cards.

“Mind if I deal, Jim?”

“You go ahead,” said Jim, taking one of the folding chairs. “What's got Virgil in a mood?”

“That boy of his, Beau. Got hisself in a mess of trouble,” said Royce quietly while shuffling the deck. He dealt two cards to Jim, and then two to himself. He then plunked a weathered five-dollar bill down between them.

“He's been runnin' around with this bunch over in Vernon Parish. Saturday night him, two buddies, and a suitcase of beer drives over to Leesville to go muddin'. Only they decide to take a little detour. y'see.”

Jim peeked at his cards. Royce glanced to see if he wanted another card, but Jim waived him off. He shrugged, and dealt himself another card, only to heave a sigh when it busted him.

“So, where'd they go?” asked Jim as Royce dealt another hand.

“The drat rail yard over at Fort Polk. Drove right through the security fence, but got razor wire wrapped around the front axles. Then the idiot backed up and tried to get away, side swiped a boxcar, and then took off through the bayou. Got fifty feet in, and that wire snagged every root and branch in the water. Took Virgil four hours to pull that truck out with the wrecker.”

Royce lost another hand. He made a disgusted sound and dealt again before continuing.

“Beau was still sittin' in the Vernon Parish jail this morning – he's just lucky the MP's called the sheriff's office instead of shootin' him. Virgil won't throw bail for him. He told the boy he could either keep his truck or get out of jail, and the moron told his daddy to fix the truck. He's been on it two days, now. Took him a whole day just to cut the barb wire off the axles. drat engine case's still full of swamp mess.”

All Jim could respond with was a low, sympathetic whistle. Royce lost another five dollars.

“Ain't that some luck. Anyway, Marie was on his rear end because her baby's locked up and Virgil was happy to let him stew in it for a little bit. She called an hour ago to say she's bailed Beau out. Double or nothing on this last hand? I'm good for it.”

Sighing, Jim motioned to be hit with another card. All the while, the vulgar mumblings coming from the truck had been a background drone. Just as Royce dealt another hand, this was replaced by an excited yelp.

“Ah yay! Come see!”

“What'chu got, Virgil?” shouted Royce as he got up from the table to walk over to the lift.

Looking down at his cards, Jim saw a four and a seven face up. He flipped over his hidden card to look at the ten of hearts, and rolled his eyes. He drummed his fingers on the table for a few seconds before glancing to make sure he was unobserved, then shuffled through to deck. He slipped his ten back in, and replaced it with the ace of spades. This completed, he reached into his wallet and laid a twenty dollar bill on the table before he got up and walked over to see what the commotion was about.

He found Royce spinning the fan slowly while Virgil wrangled something that was emerging from the fan belt assembly. A few inches at a time, the remains of a sizable water moccasin unwound from the pulley until Virgil was holding a dead snake that was easily as long as he was tall. A turn of the key later, and the truck roared back to life.

“Hoo! How you like that for a serpentine belt?” Royce laughed.

“Now, seeing as you got Beau's truck running, you mind getting my oil changed?” Jim asked.

“Beau's truck, my eye!” Virgil grinned and spat chaw into the floor drain. “This's his Mama's truck, now.”

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

in, and gimme one of those sweet :toxx:s

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Cold Storage
1199 words
Hellrule: this is not the first time the world has ended

For the first time in eight years, Lily found flowers trying to poke their pale purple heads out of the slush that passed for snow in mid-July. They had little tear-drop shaped petals, and lime green stems that were valiantly shoving the blossoms up toward the radiant sunlight. Why they had decided this was the time to germinate was totally unknown to her. She liked to think that maybe this was one final hurrah - the plants’ wild desire to go out with a vegetative bang.

More than likely though, it was just a fluke. Some ice had lensed sunlight just right, and the patch of soil where the seeds had lain dormant for years got a little extra heat and light. Nestled in a pocket of dark colored moss, the seeds threw out roots to drink in the frigid melt water. They sent up shoots that terminated in the flowers, and Lily bent down to pluck them from the snow in a move that violated all the specimen collection protocols.

Randall, the botanist, would have chastised her. This was an incredible find, he would have said. Solid proof that life was resilient and willing to bide its time until the conditions were perfect. He would have worn nitrile gloves, and carefully uprooted the plants with a sterilized trowel before rinsing them in distilled water. The flowers would have been dehydrated , catalogued, and annotated. After all, if they weren’t going to do things right, why bother doing them at all?

But Lily wasn’t a botanist, and she no longer really cared about protocols. She was a paleontologist, and furthermore, she was perhaps the last living person on earth. There was no bureaucracy left to appeal to, even if Randall had been alive and willing to lodge a complaint. The glaciers had already scoured the Institute, the UN, and the capitol from the face of the Earth. Fifteen years ago, the airwaves went silent. Five years ago, the glacier’s icy head had poked over the horizon, so they they could be seen from the mountaintop entrance of the project. Only Lily and Soraya were left alive to stand on the summit and watch the kilometers-high wall of ice grind across what was left of the world, caring not a whit whether it was a mountain or a city that it crushed beneath its icy foot.

All of this had happened before, and undoubtedly it would happen again. Seventy seven years ago there had been a great celebration as mankind turned the tide back against global warming. The north pole was finally packed in sea ice that stayed frozen year-round, and the straights of Magellan were frozen solid for the first time in recorded history. But every year, the ice crept just a little further toward the equator.

Now, if she tipped her head all the way back, she could just make out where the clouds crowded around the glacier’s crown. As the sun found breaks to peek through, its radiant beams would light up the ice wall like a cathedral’s stained glass windows. She admired the deep navy blues that faded into unfathomable indigo depths. The flourishes of sea green along fracture lines were a nice contrast, she thought. And with grudging respect, she gazed at boulders the size of city blocks that were being swept before the ice. Whole cross sections of geological strata - history written in stone - were slowly crushed into sand and confused forever.

And what grand confusion deep history was! Fifty years ago, as the snows fell and the world panicked, mines around the world struggled to dig up enough coal in a desperate attempt to restart global warming. Buried between a layer of Silurian sandstone and Pennsylvanian coal, the machines struck a bulkhead of nickel hardened steel. The glow of a cutting torch sundered the metal, and cast light into what could only be described as a tomb.

Lily’s team was the first inside, (aside from a handful of awestruck and terrified coal miners.) They found remains, but not of humans. Morphologically and genetically, they were closer to reptiles or early birds, yet they were laid out in ritual precision on a raised dais in the center of the chamber. Around them were pedestals, covered in a dead language that cried out for an understanding that would never come. Linguistically, it was like nothing humans had ever developed - and furthermore, it offered no insight on how to warm the chilling Earth.

She had brushed her fingers across the bones of a people who, millions of years ago, developed language and art, industry and artifice. Before the first flowering plant had even evolved, someone had burned coal and smelted iron, if only for a few hundred years. Just like Humanity, this species’ rise and fall could be written on a single page in the great library of history. Even though it was illegible, these beings had the kindness to fold a dog-ear into theirs. Lily saw no reason that Humanity shouldn’t do the same. Countless grant applications later, the project began.

And so two summers ago, she found herself alone and bored, packing a month’s worth of rations onto a sledge and attached it to the back of a snowmobile. It took a week to reach the swampy shore of the meltwater lake that spread out in front of the advancing ice. The water was clear and cold, and filled with a multitude of trout. Lily spent an evening fashioning a fishing pole from the snowmobile’s repair kit, and nearly three weeks gathering drift wood while she smoked the fish into jerky. For the first time in twenty three years, Lily was able to enjoy food that hadn’t been approved by committee, nutritionally balanced, freeze dried, and vacuum sealed. She ended up eating through almost all of her stash of dried fish when the snowmobile died on the return trip, forcing her to walk home through fresh snowfall in early September.

That lakeshore was just a few hundred meters down the mountainside from the project, now. She straightened up and shifted a stringer of smoked trout on her back before tucking the little flowers into her coat’s breast pocket. It was a short walk to the tunnel leading down into the Deep Time Capsule, and she took a moment to stop and breathe fresh air for a few final moments.

Each explosive charge was double and triple checked as she made her way down the narrow mineshaft to the capsule, tucked between strata of anthracite coal and Devonian shale. She laid the flowers, one each, atop Randall and Soraya’s caskets. The fish went into the pantry, filling the nooks and crannies that had one held years of pre-packaged rations. She thought for a moment before retrieving the last of her longevity treatment from the infirmary’s cabinet. She tossed it into the tunnel outside before stepping back to seal the capsule’s armored door.

If the ones that had come before had left their page folded, she hoped that when whoever passed for people in the future came looking for coal, they would find humanity’s page — highlighted and annotated.

Lily pressed the detonator.

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Forgot to add: the number was 77

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

gently caress you all for making me read, etc etc.

Here’s your crits for super hero week.

In the Hall of the Mountain King – rat-born cock

The good:
First of all, your enthusiasm is noted and appreciated. The general premise was a welcome surprise. You took the “walking through walls” in a different direction than most would expect.

The bad:

The opening sentence was clunky, with the commas and clauses out of place. If it had been later in the story, I could have overlooked it, but it annoyed me right off the bat. Had I not been contractually obligated to read entries this week, I'd have just stopped there and scrolled on down to the next story.

And while the general premise was a fun surprise, the rest of the surprise was straight up monkey-cheese-ninja-pirate. The forced wackiness is really off-putting. I just kept asking “But why, though?” This piece wasn't so much telling me a story as it was just telling me to “Look at this zany, mad-capped poo poo!” And I like looking at zany, mad-capped poo poo, but unfortunately this is the same zany, mad-capped poo poo I've seen in all over the internet for the past 20 years.

A Poisoned Gift – Simply Simon
The Good
The premise is interesting, and this is written almost as a brag. It's got some swagger and gets at the personality of the unnamed protagonist.

Also, props for making the guy kind of an unlikable jerk. That's always risky, but in the context of this story, I think it works.

The Bad
There's some really clunky sentence construction going on here – enough to really make a reader stumble along. That really detracts from the brag & swagger aesthetic I think you were going for. To get these complex thoughts to work out in prose, you really need more than commas. Use em dashes, colons, and semicolons. I'd be really interested to read a re-write.

No Need For Heroes – asap-salafi
The Good
Solid technical prose through the whole story. This was the first story this round that I didn't have to keep doubling back to make sure I read the line correctly. Thanks for this.

I found the story compelling in a believable way. Showing super heroes as fallible, foible-prone humans has been done before, but I think you pulled it off well here.

The Bad
So the strength of this story - showing the human side of the hero - is also the its weakness. What exactly is his super power anyway? He's reminiscing about old times fighting the big baddies, and he willfully doesn't activate his super power to let his wife stab him, but beyond that there's no clue as to what makes this guy any different from any other cheating dude who's frustrated, but also guilty. It was so close to nailing it, but it just needs a pinch more weird to cement that this is a superhero story.


The Horrible Truth of the Eternal – Carl Killer Miller
The Good
The dialogue here works really well to keep the story moving along. Most of the “main” characters have fairly distinct voices, and those voices “fit.” Each character had a distinct personalty and wants/issues. Good job.

I also think the first person/third person dialogue was a smart move – with the unnamed interviewer acting as an interlocutor to tease the story out. And the story has that proper balance of human folly and superhero oddity that I'm looking for.

The Bad
The jokey end falls flat for me. It's like you veered from your story into a Venture Brothers script. And I love some Venture Brothers, but The Eternal's line about commissary credits is just a little too ham fisted. Subtle it up and I think you've got a solid winner.

There is Only the Light – SlipUp
The Good
The dialogue is good here. Subtle voice cues let me know who is talking. I can pick a line at random, out of order, and I know which speaker is talking.

There's a nice subtle blending of the mundane and the weird going on. Yes, this is a lover's spat, but having the superhero floating during the confrontation gives it a nudge into the surreal.

The Bad
You could have done a little more the prompt. The Light mass-emailed the planet, but that fact just sort of dies on the vine. Chekov's Gun never goes off – his wife just gets pissed off he's got a gun in the house. If you had used the allotted word count this round, I'd have chalked it up to economic need. But, there was still plenty of wiggle room to work that prompt a little deeper into the story, so I'm left wanting.

The Grinning Robot Job – Thranguy
The Good
This story's just fun. I like fun things. Lots of kinetic action going on here. Suspension of disbelief is easy with this one. This walks that fine line between silly and realistic, and the result is an easy read where I don't find myself questioning the premise or the actions.

The voice on the protagonist fits. A nice, thuggish narrative.

The Bad
I know I just complimented the thuggish voice, but the first couple of paragraphs really took that to right up to the limit of my patience with sentences fragments. You can get away with accent fragments if they're infrequent, but after the third or fourth one, the gimmick gets tiring. Thankfully, you didn't keep that up through the second and third scene.

And I'm not going to hold this against you too much, since you did yeoman's work with the story in general, but I can't really figure out where you addressed the “power” part of your prompt. (Emotional Super-strength / Super-emotional Strength.) I can make an argument to myself - given the protagonists actions - that he is both emotional and strong, maybe?

Protection - terre packet
The Good
Good job staying away from Fanfic.

The Bad
Large parts of this story read like a poorly formatted list poem. There were whole paragraphs without a distinct verb. You can get away with a sentence fragment here or there if they’re tossed in as seasoning, but they aren’t the foundation for a narrative.

Guaranteed - Black Griffon
The Good
The biggest strength of this story is that it’s interesting. I’m generally not a big fan of non-linear time-hop scenes, but you pulled it off with good writing and logical storytelling progression, giving little pieces of the story to clue me in as to why the story ended like it did. Had that writing been less strong I think I’d have been left flat by the “justice” line at the end, but as it is, it works out.

The Bad
This was def. a case of a story that left me wanting a little more. Given the word count, that’s a tough ask, but this is a 1200 word story that feels like it really is big enough to fill 1800 or 2400.

I think the weakest scene is the boardroom/retirement bit. If those words could have been reallocated to other scenes to make it more clear what a “math man” actually does, then I’d have been a little happier. As it is, I’m not sure if he’s a superhero/villain as much as he’s just a shady accountant and a good liar.

Trapped Forever - Anomalous Amalgam
The Good
In a week about super heroes, you wrote something entertaining, and that’s good. The opening of the story took sort of a “golden age” comic aesthetic that simulated flipping pages in a comic book as if it was doing a “when we last left our heroes…” sort of thing. But what made it work is that you managed to do it in prose without it feeling hokey.

The Bad
After that you went fever-dream on us. And while, like an acid trip, it can be very entertaining, it also made little sense after it was over. I get that planes outside reality are frequently weird and surreal, but around the time the protagonist enters his anti-astral projection, there’s a hard break from the rest of the story. It’s like if that comic book I was flipping through just stopped the story and started showing panels that were made up of close ups of Guernica instead.

Having Erred, All Else is Vain - Armack
The Good
The twist of Jethro being a self-reformed villain was a nice touch. I didn’t see that coming, and in a genre that relies on the unexpected, it was a welcome surprise.

The Bad
The story just never really gelled for me. It was always a little too “on the rails,” and Jethro was sort of forced into all his decisions. The taking of his prosthetics at the end was a little too deus ex machina.

Man of the Javelin - sebmojo
The Good
Thanks for taking that Hell Rule and running with it. I was curious to see how you’d go with it, and it was entertaining and unexpected. I think keeping this one short and sweet was a good idea, mostly.

The Bad
The first paragraph doesn’t quite give me what I need to slip into the story. Some bricks are falling on him - but why? Is he building a brick wall and it collapsed on him? Is he in a forgotten tomb, and the masonry has just decayed to the point of falling? By the end of the story, it’s pretty obvious it’s a fight, but that didn’t click right away, and it made the next couple of paragraphs feel out of place until it clicked that “oh, this is probably a fight.” It took me a second read for the first 1/4 of the story to really fall into place.

Flutter - Flesnolk
The Good
This is crazy, but it’s my sort of crazy. You straddled the line between confusion and meaning, and always managed to pull it back to meaning even if it was scant. The overall effect was that it stayed coherent as a story instead of just meandering off into being weird.

The Bad
Not one comma to be seen. This might have been an aesthetic choice, but chaining these sentences together without commas can get taxing on a reader. Yours was the shortest entry, but some of those sentence felt really long - and you’re rolling the dice with engagement.

Those sentence fragments. Granted, the ones you were using were mostly commands, and consisted of verbs with implied subjects — but when you’re doing that at the beginning of every paragraph, the gimmick gets old fast.

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer


Sunday. Sunday!

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

In

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

This week was a difficult one to judge, because while the losers were pretty apparent, good stories were thick on the ground. There was a fair amount of horse trading and soul searching from the judges, and some of you just missed HMs by nitpicks.

I can't speak for the other two judges, but my criteria for this round was:

1) It had to be weird. If you're writing about voidmart and it's mundane, you need to re-evaluate your life choices.
2) It had to entertain.
3) Readability is prized.

So, I can't really say "gently caress y'all for making me read this," because for the most part this was a good week to be a judge. These are quick and dirty because there were a lot of entries. If you want to know more, hit me up on discord and we'll get more into nuts and bolts.

Here's them crits -

Applewhite – A Hard Day's Night

This started out as a really cool surrealist story that had a lot of batshit, but somehow kept it together enough to be coherent. Lots of action, lots of weird. Funny and menacing at the same time.

Then you had to go and pull an “It was all a dream!” Boo! Boo this man!

crimea – Returns and Exchanges

Some witty banter that insisted on itself just a little too much. This feels a little, I dunno... phoned in?

Dr. Zero – Night Shift

A fun read that suffers from lack of proof reading.

Tibalt – Clean Up Aisle 9 -

How did you make an action scene so boring? With lots of words and a convoluted plot, that's how.

rat-born cock – A Boy and His Drone

Stop talking about your crits in this thread for fucks sake. If...if...if...if. If I read another paragraph starting with “if,” I'm going to skip to the next story. And what is going on with this dialogue? Do you know any child who actually talks like this, or any parent that talks to their child like this?

Some Strange Flea – Re: Updates to Emergency Procedures 10/27/19

This had some highs and lows. This piece needs to be edited like a bonsai tree - removing stuff that doesn't work, so that the stuff that does work can be seen. As it is, a funny concept up-front gets pretty stale by the end.

Staggy – Bargain Hunt

I like this one, it's fun and kinetic and really works with tension and the feeling of being hunted. The take on “secret shopper” as a prompt worked really well. But listen, the whole “not going to tell you what's really in the bag” bit is sort of played out and obnoxious, though. I, too, saw pulp fiction 25 years ago.

A Friendly Penguin – Judgment Day Savings!

Y'all need Jesus. This story maintained it's conceit and got really weird but without sacrificing readability. The gag at the end was a little flat, but the last line pulled it back out for me. Good job.

Mercedes – Always Read the Contract

A good read and a contender. A couple of nit-picks: The employee of the month is wearing an “Employee of the Day” shirt. It was a good scene, but having to read it a couple of times to make sure I was reading it right took some of the wind out of it. There's a couple occasions of verb-tense awkwardness. Otherwise outstanding.

Anomalous Amalgram – A Glutton for Punishment

This is gross. You're weird. Mission accomplished.

Black Griffon – Meat Joke

High grade batshit right here. Nice and surreal, it took me a little bit to get into it. But once I did I was digging it - until the second to last sentence just lost me. I'd rather pretend it wasn't there.

Carl Killer Miller – The Last Requisition

Really well written, dark, and weird. Easy to read, and compelling. Not that many mechanical errors that I could see, either. In a week where I've got 20 stories and crits to get through, that counts for a lot.

Flerp – Take One and Call Me in the Morning

This is a weird story that is also a chore to read. It's not a bad plot, but the constant imperative sentences just get tiring.

Barnaby Profane – Voidlings

Cool concept, but I'd rather have read a story about voidlings than a sell sheet. Nothing technically wrong here, and good formatting. But in a week where the competition had strong narratives, this one got bumped down in the pack.

Maigius – Komar or the Modern Sisyphus

Only 300 odd words and it's still full of sentence fragments, non-sequiters, and typos. But at least you didn't eat a DQ.

Sitting Here – The Success Formula

Pros: Gross, yet compelling imagery of a bio-tech dystopia lodged in the spaces between space.
Cons: Dude.

Fleta McGurn – Garbage Disposal

So this is a classic example of why it's important to get on writing early instead of hammering something out at the last minute. At the very least you could have put something about the dude getting garbage disposaled to another dimension, or something else Voidmart-y. But take heart, because at least you're only risking a loss or a dishonorable mention, instead of a disqualification - even if this crit has a higher word count than your entry.

Sebmojo – Fooling the Eye

Excellent prose with varied sentence structure that keeps the story moving along. I might have voted this for the win, but believing 11 year olds talk like that was too much of a stretch, even if I was willing to believe in a gaping maw of void that would consume us all if only given the chance. :capitalism:

asap-salafi - Screens

First two parts of this were good and bleak, but last third was where you remembered this was a Voidmart prompt week, not a bleak-and-sad-reality week – so you shoehorned in a werewolf. Because, why not?

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Sign-on Bonus
Prompt: Trusting a fart
Merc Character Cameo - The Senior Barrista
1200 Words

The auxiliary cable near my head jiggled. I immediately knew what was going on, because it happens every time - every single time. I looked over at the Corporal who was driving, and grinned.

“He’s going to play Highway to Hell, isn’t he?”

The Corporal side-eyed me, and sighed. He knew. There’s something about cruising down a dusty road in Hades that makes the new guys think they are soundtrack geniuses — every last one of them, no exception.

I take that back. The Corporal was different. He’d played Hell’s Bells. It was the first time since 1979 that someone threw me a curveball. And, you know what? I appreciated that. We’ve developed a good working relationship - he keeps me on my toes, I keep him alive.

“You mind?” I asked him, and jerked my head at rookie standing in the the turret hatch. He didn’t answer - just kept his eyes on the road and goosed the gas pedal. I took this as consent.

Reaching up, I pinched the cord between my thumb and index finger, and hated it. I hated the everliving snot out of it, and savored the aromatic blend of burning plastic, copper, and sulfur. Thin smoke filled the cabin as the severed audio cable drooped pathetically.

“Goddamnit!” came a howl from the turret. “The gently caress did you just do, Fart?”

I reclined my seat back, almost flat, so I could look up at the enraged newbie without having to dislocate my neck. Not that it would have actually inconvenienced me, but it makes mortals uncomfortable when bodies move in ways they’re not used to.

“Hey, listen, Fresh Meat - do you know how many times I’ve had a newbie play that song? Three hundred, and forty four. Look, I know this is your first time in Hell, so relax. Enjoy the sights!”

“gently caress you, Fart. You reek.”

He had me there. I do reek; it comes with the territory of being a flatulence demon.

Even his name calling isn’t far off the mark. The .mil types up at VMHQ love acronyms. Fetid Apparition, Rakshasa-Type - FART, that’s me. The shape is negotiable, but the smell isn’t. Today I was done up in business-casual drag, which is normally a big hit with the VM boys.

“Funny. All I can smell is Fresh Fish.”

He pouted, silently — though he tried to make it look like a manly brood, staring off vigilantly into infernal wasteland. Nothing doing - it was a pout. I changed my strategy a little.

“Aww, come on, Nancy. I know Daddy stepped out for a pack of smokes and never came back. I also know for a fact he’s in Tallahassee, not down here. So, buck up, Betsy.”

“Shut up! The name's Tyler fuckin’ Harris, and don’t you ever forget that!”

He aimed a kick at my head, but being non-corporeal it just sort of whiffed through me, erupting in a flurry of brimstone. He retched, I laughed, and the Corporal punched him in the side of the knee. I ratcheted my seat back upright, and watched Hell roll past in peace.

***
A few hours later, I had the the Corporal pull over.

There she was, sitting at a café table that would have looked adorable along any Parisian Boulevard, except this seating arrangement was carved from bleached bones and was sitting on bare volcanic rock. She was the very picture of Hadean elegance — skin so white it was transluscent, and her black hair done up in a French braid. Her lips were drawn into a tight expression of disdain as she watched us brake to a halt.

Also, she was sipping an iced americano. In Hell.

“You guys stay close,” I said. “This is going to be a tough sell.”

Her stare locked onto me as soon as I stepped out of the truck — cold rage and indignation. I bowed. The underworld’s still an old-fashioned place, and if you’re going to speak to your betters, you’d best mind your etiquette.

“How dare you bring them here — they who thought they could ensnare me in legal bondage?”

“They have a new job offer. Totally legitimate this time,” I said raising a hand to forestall objection, “The ‘Mart didn’t know what a good thing they had going with you, and now they are suffering the consequences of their poor decisions. Sales at the Golden Bean are down 28% this quarter.”

She sneered. “Do they honestly think I would ever return?”

“Look, the new contract states clearly that you are an employee at your pleasure. Furthermore, you are entitled to one free kill per week — customer or underling. They are willing to be generous.”

“Insufficient.”

I went back to the truck, and grabbed my folder.

“You gently caress this up already, Fart?” the new fish asked, smirking.

I shot him a scowl. Leafing through my orders, I found it — room to negotiate, like usual. I bailed out of the truck and strolled over to her.

“As a show of good faith, I am willing to offer you one Tyler Harris as a bonus payment, up front.”

She smiled, her lips skinning back across those shark teeth, until she was grinning from ear-to-literal-ear.

“The gently caress?!” I heard him scream.

“Thems the rules, kiddo. You said your name; now, I own you. The Corporal wised up to that, day one. At least he was smart enough to cut out his own tongue. Welcome to Hell!”

I didn’t even get all that out before she was on him. The Corporal looked away. He always does, but I like to watch. It’s inspiring seeing an apex predator at work. You humans think you’re at the top, but watch your kids when they eat a gingerbread man. They go for legs, arms, and heads first. Find me a kid that dives right in on those candy buttons and that soft cookie belly, and there’s a true predator.

From Tyler’s screams, she was getting after that belly.

***

I’ll give her this, she left very little gore inside the truck. The Corporal appreciated that, I’m sure. He’s a man that treasures small blessings.

She was comfortably settled into the back seat of the truck, perfectly prim and proper in a silk blouse and pencil skirt that looked freshly sharpened. She gave me a coquettish wink, but the glowing red eyes ruined the effect.

“No eating the Corporal,” I warned her.

I walked around to the driver’s side window, but he refused to look at me. I knew these sorts of pick-ups weren’t his favorite, but we do as we must.

“Listen,” I told him, “I’m going to stretch my legs for a while. When you get back, tell them to put me down for PTO.”

He still wouldn’t meet my eye.

“I think you ought to do the same.”

He nodded, put it in gear, and started the long drive back. She was with him — he’d be fine.

I felt a fast, hot wind coming off the infernal steppes. So, I rose up on the balls of my feet and kicked off, letting it carry me up. After a job like that, I’d earned a good float.

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

in

healthy blood pressure

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

An Equitable Settlement
934 words

“I don't know if that's possible,” said Will Roth as he watched a tiny man trot across the table to tip another spoonful of sugar into Mrs. Sandra Green's coffee. “Within the auspices of this case, this would be a super-fund site. It's a matter of environmental contamination, and I'm not sure if you're allowed to use the settlement in a way that opposes any clean up – especially since the court has ordered VMI to preform remediation. We can't just undo a class-action court ruling because you don't want to take the settlement anymore.”

Around the kitchen, a battalion of other tiny men came and went through small holes broken into the walls. They hadn't stopped at breaking the holes, though. Even now tiny masons and carpenters were busying themselves jambs and doors, and tiding up construction debris. Another team was at the range-top, dropping pats of lard into a frying pan as the smell of home-fries and ham filled the room.

“Thank you, sugars.” Mrs. Green murmured to yet another group that brought her a small plate of scrambled eggs, and then she nodded yes to the gnome holding a salt shaker. He put his back into it and the mound of perfectly golden fluff turned white.

“Mister Roth, d'you know how often my children have called me since all this nonsense started?” She motioned with a wave around the room, before tucking in to a bite of the eggs.

“Well... I suppose they're very concerned about your welfare,” he began before Sandra cut him off with a wave of her fork.

“I have lost count. Which is surprising, considering that I can tell you 'xactly how many times they called me since they moved away from home. Once a year at Christmas, and then eight times on m' birthday until they got too busy for even that. Neither of them called when they took my foot off on 'count of the diabetes, either. But now the phone's ringing off the hook. Why d'you think that might be, Mister Roth?”

Will's mind started to spin up a nice blandishment, something that would sound nice, and hopefully move this visit along to it's conclusion. Yet, the way Sandra Green held his gaze, even while shoveling another sodium laden bite of eggs into her mouth stopped him cold. He looked at her levelly.

“The money, ma'am.”

She pointed the empty fork at him and nodded.

“Every day, every single day, they're asking me if I have taken the settlement. It's even got the oldest one coming over to run my errands and help out around th' house. He even went to the drug store and brought back my blood pressure medicine this morning.” She watched the tiny men about their chores, and shoved the empty plate of eggs to the center of the table. Four of them hefted it onto their shoulders and carried it off toward the sink. “He ain't worth a lick compared to my new babies, though. I'll tell you that, much.”

Will watched as one of the doors in the wall swung open and the gnomes carried a wooden foot out. It was perfectly formed. Toes and ankles had been articulated with oaken joints. They marched it across the floor and began to strap it onto the end of Sandra's right leg, taking care to wrap spider-silk gauze around the stump.

“Mrs. Green, I'll be straight with you. The state considers this,” he waved about the room,” to be an invasive and wholly unnatural species - introduced through gross negligence. But, I can understand why you feel the way you do. Unfortunately, there is precedence - the basilisks in Huntsville last year, those fairie circles that kept popping up in Montgomery, and so on.”

A second plate arrived, bearing the thick cut of ham steak and home-fries: scattered, smothered, and covered. Sandra offered another round of thanks to the little men. One of them doffed his cap and bowed in curt acceptance, before jogging off to rejoin his group.

Staring down at her breakfast, she asked, “And there's no way to fight this?”

“You could fight it,” Will allowed, with a sigh. “The odds aren't good, though. This was a federal case, and we might have to take it to the 11th circuit. We might get an injunction, hold it up in appeals for a few years. In the end though...” He frowned and spread his hands.

Sandra watched her coffee be refilled, and topped off with a few heaping teaspoons of sugar and some heavy cream. She watched the crews that were scrubbing and mopping the floor, getting into places that she hadn't been able to reach for years. She watched the gnomes set everything right that had been wrong, sweeping away sadness and loneliness like a week's worth of dust.

“You think it would take a few years?”

“At the very least, ma'am.”

Reaching across the table, Sandra picked up the settlement check. She flipped it over. Then, Sandra Green signed it over to “William Roth, Esquire,” before sliding it back to Will.

“Well then, Mr. Roth, I'd be grateful if you could get on it.”

A team of tiny men was departing the table empty handed, after dropping off a bowl of cheese grits. Sandra picked up her bottle of blood pressure mediation, and handed it to them.

“Toss this in the trash for me, Sugars. Then turn off the ringer on the phone, and change the locks on the doors when you get done.”

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Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Black Griffon posted:

The dome is ascendant and shall only change when the gears of reality shift, and I'm looking forward to getting back to it when my Christmas funk is over.

:same:

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