|# ? May 11, 2020 23:28|
|# ? Jun 5, 2020 10:19|
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in because I failed last time I entered.
The Yeast of Her Troubles
It was a long room decorated in soft blue colors. Large windows let in shafts of light from the garden. A piano stood against the wall. Everyone wore their brightest outfits. Mrs. Reed, the hostess, wore a dappled seersucker dress and belt. Mrs. Miller and her daughter, Alice, wore linen. It was all ordered and perfectly appointed, except for a rancid smell emanating from somewhere nearby.
“It’s so nice to have guests again,” said Mrs. Reed, taking a sip from her tea. “I was surprised to receive your call.”
The other two gave a nervous laugh in response, neither mustering the courage to meet Mrs. Reed’s gaze. For many years, Mrs. Reed had been an electric presence, a woman who lit up their town’s drab social scene. She baked sweets and made formal calls. Her home served as the stage to parties with wondrous baked dishes. At each event, she brought her son Peter, who played the piano with ease and unnatural grace and kept girls like Alice entertained.
It was only after her son’s unfortunate car crash that it had all come crashing to a halt.
A leaden silence fell over them. Alice tried to lock eyes with her mother, to prod her on the reason for the visit. Her eyes bulged as if to say, Ask about the smell. Ask about the smell that’s been suffocating the neighborhood.
But Mrs. Miller ignored her. Direct confrontation was too crude, too mortifying. There were social obligations to uphold, especially if they were going to take Mrs. Reed’s place. Even if she whispered cruel jokes with the other women on the street, spreading wild rumors about what Mrs. Reed was doing to create such a stench, Mrs. Miller still considered herself a woman of discretion.
She took a scone from the plate in front of her and dipped it into her tea.
“I’m glad to see that you’re baking again, Mrs. Reed,” She bit into the pastry, the dank odor marring the sweet taste. The smell seemed to be getting stronger. “We’ve missed it so much while you’ve been… What have you been doing again?”
Mrs. Reed gave Mrs. Miller a pleasant smile and looked down at the plate. “Oh, I never really stopped baking. I just shifted focus. Tried new things.” She picked up a scone and held it between her fingers. “After the… accident, I wanted to try making more useful things than scones.”
This time, Alice and her mother met one another’s eyes, both thinking the same thought. Oh, Mrs. Reed has become strange in her time alone. There would be no more parties, no more pastries and fine food. She would no longer tower above them, a saint of domestic refinement. They would have their chance instead.
“Oh?” Said Alice with forced casualness. She’d left her scone sitting in her tea until it became soggy. Small white chunks floated to the milky surface.
Mrs. Reed nodded. “My hands have been just too full preparing Peter. I'm so excited to re-introduce you.” She stretched her head over the back of the sofa and called out. “You can come in now, darling.”
Neither woman had time to react to what happened next. There was a loud heaving noise, followed by thick wet plops. The sour, fermented smell that had pervaded the house became unbearable. A dark shape lurched through the doorway, its body grey and misshapen. It stood in the parlor wavering, its body dripping onto the splendid blue carpet. Mrs. Reed snapped her fingers and the thing ambled, switching between misshapen limbs, onto the couch next to her.
Mrs. Miller dropped her teacup and arched her back to push herself as far away from the creature as possible. Alice did not react to the sensation of the scalding water on her thigh, nor her stained linen dress. The world had tilted off its axis.
“What… What… is that?” Said Alice.
Mrs. Reed laughed, as if being asked to explain the most natural thing in the world. “I already told you. This is Peter, my son.” She lifted a dainty hand and pressed it into the back of the creature’s head. From where its mouth would be appeared a yawning hole from which bubbles escaped. It nuzzled its dripping head into her shoulder. “He’s just a starter now, you see. I’ve had to let him soak up oxygen in the kitchen so he can get big and strong before he’s baked.”
Mrs. Miller heard her voice as if very far away. “Your son is…”
“I felt so… awful after Peter left me,” said Mrs. Reed, her voice cracking. “But I knew if I tried hard enough, if I used my God given talents, I could bring him back. I knew I could make him better than before.”
She stroked the monstrosity’s head, even as the bright white of Mrs. Reed’s dress became slathered in grey.
“You always liked Peter, didn’t you, Alice?” She wiped tears from her eyes and gave a conspiratorial smile. “Don’t look so shocked. A mother knows these things.”
Alice gave a wordless exhale. She was aware she’d put down the teacup, that her hands were trembling, but her mind was blank. She looked to her mother, only to see the same uncomprehending expression.
“Well, go on. There’s no need to be nervous.” Mrs. Miller gave the yeast-filled thing a prod. “Peter’s sweet. He’s always been one.”
The thing rose from its place and stumbled forward. It took Alice’s unyielding hand and then, with a moan, lifted her from the chair. Mrs. Miller watched, transfixed, as the children swayed in the ruined parlor. She watched Alice as wet dough dripped into her hair and face, as tears rolled down her cheeks. Neither she nor Mrs. Reed moved, even as Alice’s body vanished into Peter and, at last, she was seen no more.
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E: quote is not edit
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|# ? May 12, 2020 08:41|
|# ? May 12, 2020 08:45|
A crit of The Yeast of Her Troubles by QuoProQuid because redemption stories are good and deserve crits.
Or rather, some redemption stories are good. This one isn't very good, but it isn't terrible either. It was entertaining, the gross-weird imagery is well done, and I was pretty hooked into wanting to know what was going on.
Unfortunately it all just felt a bit lightly sketched. The characters didn't have much too them, the idea of a bereaved person using vaguely magical means to bring back the dead is pretty cliched, and the "lol, what?" ending comes out of nowhere.
6/10: redemption achieved.
|# ? May 12, 2020 09:06|
Yeah sure, in with a
|# ? May 12, 2020 12:57|
Yeah sure, in with a
|# ? May 12, 2020 12:58|
Yeah sure, in with a
|# ? May 12, 2020 18:48|
Mostly stream of consciousness crits for my sweet bakers.
Bread Week Crits
Thank you both
|# ? May 13, 2020 09:25|
The Korekore cleaved through the between-ness, down the aeonic star-roads, timeloose. Somewhere in the darkness, a star turned inwards under its own immense weight, devouring itself – a symphony of shrieking magma vents and the low bass crunch of a gravity well. She turned away from this, and towards the little sound, a timetethered mayfly hum of a distant planet. Stepping between the veils, she walked into the world.
The locals called her The Snail. Art installation, installed in the dead of the night. Legend had it they came back every night and moved her, maybe a fraction of a fraction of an inch. Nobody had ever caught the artist, though many had tried. The council tried to remove her once; a small group of addicts and lovers gathered to protest it, but that wasn’t what kept her in place. The tow truck driver attached chains to her and tried to haul her away, but the engine and tyres screamed and then the crane ripped clean off its bed. Whatever The Snail was made of was heavier than any truck, heavier than the skyscrapers around it, heavier than the molten heart of a star. The protestors chased the driver away, and the council did not send another.
Aroha Henderson smoked weed and painted landscapes and had fitful dreams about one day owning a house. She lived with her girlfriend in a cramped apartment across the road from The Snail, and every night, when her beautiful Janey was asleep, she would creep to the window and watch the statue and hope to see it move. Every Thursday night she took a single photograph, and hung it on a string, until there were too many strings and too many photos, and Janey shouted at her that it was an obsession, that it was just a loving statue, and they shouted and then hosed and then didn’t talk about it again. Aroha went to the wall of photos one last time, over a year’s worth. She kept the first and last, and threw the rest out. She held them up next to each other, and felt some unnamable emotion stir inside her– the statue had raised a single finger, perhaps a millimetre, across the space of a year. She showed it to Janey, who did not believe her, who said it was a shadow, said it was a dream, said she was only seeing what she wanted to see. They fought again, one more time.
Aroha and Janey did not last, though they did, in that sort of scattershot way small-city lovers do, colliding off each other at parties and events and loving and then feeling guilty. They each ruined at least one of the other’s marriages, though Aroha told herself she wasn’t keeping score. Her paintings began to sell well, and she got herself a place overlooking The Snail, and every night she would go out and touch its hand and swear she could feel warmth from concrete.
Thirty years passed, and Aroha’s home fell to ruin, and her paintings became more abstract – star-shapes and time-weave, things she didn’t have names for, things that worried her friends and family, until they too withered away and she became a ghost in her own home.
Fifty years passed, and it became hard to take the stairs, and she took to staring out the window at The Snail, which she swore had moved a whole metre since she was a child, whose kind eyes told her promises of places beyond.
Five years passed, and she woke in the dead of night with a pain in her chest that made her snap bolt upright, fast enough to make her bones click. She knew what was coming. She took her walker, and headed down to The Snail, each stair a wail of agony in her chest and her arms and her back. A wave of vertigo struck her and she almost fell, clanging against the walker, feeling things shift and click inside her. Step, step, step, one at a time, moment by lost moment. She reached the Snail, and took it by the hand, and looked deep into its eyes.
The Korekore smiled, and placed a hand around her waist. The city whistled around them, the strobe of day and night flowing like water overhead. For less than a second, flickering beside them, she saw Janey, white and bent with age, standing beside them. The other humans moved too fast to see, but Janey was still, every night, until – after a moment only in this strange new time-ness – she too was gone.
Aroha and the Korekore danced across the square while the skyline rose and fell, and at last they stood together in the dust of the dry world.
“I love you,” said Aroha.
“No,” the Korekore said, “you don’t.”
And they went hand-in-hand, timeloose, down the star-roads and off into the night.
|# ? May 15, 2020 01:34|
~signups are closed~
|# ? May 16, 2020 07:01|
Heavy Losses for a Paparazzo on the Make
The camera-cloud FM275 whirled lazily near the 31st floor of the Finetime building, scanning the sidewalk below for facial matches. A reality star would do for a flyby - even one of these social media pan-flashers would be worth the ion charge. But they had all gotten smart lately, or got someone smart to smack them in the face and tell them what not to do.
So Rick didn't expect much.
He drummed his fingers on his desk. Squeaked around in his desk chair. On pure instinct, he checked his notifications, but they were bleak: a wall of promoted posts and the platform pleading him to engage more. Jack from Dany. Rick started composing peevish texts. "I don't think you're a flake because you're half-orc, but," he began.
"Moving violation detected," said FM275. Saved by the cloud.
A high-angle camera feed showed Rick a car flipped and burning at an intersection. An old combustion model. Three dozen of those hunks failed across the city every day. Background noise. But this one was on top of a hydrogen-injection speeder, one of those angel-funded pump-and-dump kits. Sure they're fast, and supposedly clean, but if something breaks you better know a guy, 'cause the IPO went belly-up right on schedule, and that bag you're holding is highly volatile when exposed to an open flame.
Still no ping from Dany. Rick never took her for a liar, but she'd bargained away the benefit of the doubt. "Alright FM, dive in," he grumbled. Might as well get something on the books today.
FM275's seventeen spheres coalesced into a tapered spike and plunged through the smog. The FM series Field Ion Mini-Mobile Camera-Cloud was the superior model available to buy for a period of four months, six years ago. It delivered fidelity and reliability as it always had, but Rick still suspected the manufacturer's obsolescence plan was coming to fruition. For one thing, it had lost 8% of its top speed since unboxing. A heavy loss for a paparazzo on the make.
And probably the reason another cloud had beat them to scene.
FM275 sent an apologetic vibration through Rick's haptic feedback gloves. "Doesn't matter," he said. He steered the cloud with his fingers taut, as if maintaining a cat's cradle. "Let's get in close, get the better shot."
The rival cloud was honestly an embarrassment. It looked like someone had hacked a coordination net onto a mismatched set of outdated quadrotors. Its signal pattern pointed at one of the masked-up lookie-loos on the sidewalk. Probably deployed it out of a backpack when the car flipped. FM275 was more numerous, and had better resolution - it was trivial to edge out the competition. The shot turned gold with a glimpse of the driver's hand, scrabbling at the glass.
Rick cracked open a soda pop, satisfied. Put his feet up. Swiped through apps to send the clip to his news bundler and...
A blood-red notification pulsed in his inbox. How long had that been there?
It was from Dany. "Heading into the elevator now," she wrote. Six enormous minutes ago.
Rick positively bellowed.
"FM, Finetime, South entrance, Parvathi Nelson. All power to jets, GO!" Redirecting the power was dangerous - it meant shutting down all but the lead camera and praying nothing clobbered them out of the blindspot. FM balled up for speed and left a frigid ion halo in its wake.
Rick thumbed his eyes, trying to get those geometric shapes and eye swimmers. He claimed they made him more alert. But it was also a form of punishment. Kicking himself for getting distracted by the car crash. He heard the explosion through FM's ambient mic... deafening, even though FM was blocks away already. Rick imagined how epic it must have been, and how much he could have got for the shot of the mushroom cloud, and jammed his thumb back in his eye.
"Parvathi Nelson acquired." The camera-cloud was still fishtailing around the corner of the Finetime building, but it had already scanned her, halfway down the block.
"Crap," spat Rick. "She's almost to the car! Close in!"
FM barrelled towards the scrum. A few dozen crowded the sidewalk between the stage door and the idling limousine. In the middle of it, Dany stiff-armed and shoved to clear a path for Parvathi and her handlers. Rick couldn't get a clear look at the pop star because she was obscured by other camera-clouds, swarming around her like she was a honeycomb.
"Too late," moaned Rick. He pushed himself away from the desk and let his chair spin.
FM275 took over and tried to get a clear shot. It easily bested the shoddier models. Even got past a last-season Sununu XP "Bloom;" on sheer neural-net uptime alone, proving there was still something to be said for experience. None of that was enough to get a sellable shot of Parvathi Nelson.
With a low hum, a behemoth of a camera-cloud descended on the scrum. Must've been 80 of those little buggers. Tiny impossible curls of metal, spinning in place, generating lift and capturing top-end footage in a way the mass-market manufacturers had tried to understand for years. Too small to squeeze out, too numerous to disable. The inimitable Hidro/Mueller DaVinci. Only a handful of paparazzi in the country owned one, and it was worth every decimal.
"Saw this late. Missed the party. Thanks anyway. Love u." Rick sent it, utterly agonized, and flipped over to the curated feed.
He coveted the DaVinci's image quality. If it lacks in speed, it overperforms at resolution and black point. The influencers loved it when one joined the fray. They all say they look their best in DaVinci Vision. Rick suspected the secret was LEDs worked into each curl, to evenly light the subject without killing the vibes. Then, Rick realized, despite the fidelity, that the vibes were very bad.
Impeccably lit, Parvathi looked shaken, eyes ragged with fear. None of the easy smiles and selfies that had fueled her rise. And Dany was really hustling her along. This wasn't a photo op, it was an escape. Dany covered Parvathi's head into the limo and climbed in after. She grimaced out at the agglomerated camera-clouds, and slammed the door.
"Drama," sang Rick, rolling his eyes. A notification popped up.
"Follow the car," wrote Dany.
Rick scoffed. "Thanks but no thanks. Not gonna waste FM's battery just to hit the zone boundary." In FM275's feed, it looked like the other clouds had the same idea. The DaVinci was already pinwheeling back into the smog layer.
"Trust me," wrote Dany.
Rick frowned. It wasn't like her. "FM," he said. "Follow Parvathi." It was easy for FM. Surface streets. They turned a few corners. In their chat window, Dany was typing...
And then the limousine exploded. A fireball tossed it up in the air, three rotations. The roof flattened on impact. FM didn't flinch. It captured every moment.
Rick couldn't move a muscle for a whole minute. His brain was zeroed-out. Blank. Until the questions appeared. They multiplied, and then he had more questions than his small mind could process.
"FM," he said. "Back yourself up. And tell me what you saw. Tell me everything."
|# ? May 17, 2020 19:16|
The mind-bell fit tight over Susan’s head. Rubber-soft, it moulded itself around her temples. The fine, red tentacles that fringed the appendage caressed Susan’s lips, insistent and apologetic at once.
“Stop trying to read my mind, Porcha!”
Porcha quivered and her slender, iridescent body shimmered pale green. She withdrew her mind-bell from her girlfriend’s head and stepped with spider-like grace back over the table to her side of the booth, careful not to jostle their coffee cups. She settled herself on the squeaking vinyl, long-boned feet resting on the edge of the seat and legs folded against her sides.
“You never let me see what you’re really thinking,” Porcha pouted.
Susan picked up her coffee and took a slow sip. She hated when Porcha got like this. Her insecurities made her paranoid, and she’d nag and nag until Susan either gave up and let her look inside her head, or they’d have a row, then one or the other would apologise, and they’d gently caress and make up. It was exhausting.
Susan sighed. “Look, James is just a good friend, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“I know, it’s just--”
“Why don’t we go to the zoo on Saturday?” Susan interjected. “You can tell me what the monkeys are thinking again.” She smiled, hoping that Porcha would laugh at the memory.
“That would be nice, but I just, I can’t get him out of my head. You message James all the time! Whenever you don’t respond to me I end up feeling like you must be talking to him, and--”
The bell hanging above the cafe’s door tinged. “Who’s James?” said Tahn, Porcha’s husband. He was the same height and slender build as Porcha, but his tentacles were half as thick as hers again. He wore the same shade of green on his flickering skin.
Porcha jumped. “No one, just a mutual friend,” she said. She nodded across the table. “This is my friend Susan.”
Tahn frowned at Porcha, ignoring Susan, who sank a little deeper into her seat. “You’ve never mentioned a friend called Susan.” Tahn unfurled his mind-bell and directed it towards Porcha’s head. “Let me see.”
Porcha batted him away with a pair of tentacles. “Stop it. We’ve talked about this. We don’t need to read each other’s minds over every little thing.”
“Can I get you anything?” A waitress stood behind Tahn, her tone making clear that he was blocking her path and should either sit down or leave.
Tahn turned and without hesitation plopped his mind-bell over the waitress’s head.
“Tahn!” Bright orange blotches bloomed over Porcha’s skin as she stood and yanked on her husband’s bell-arm.
“She remembers you two being here for hours,” Tahn said, yielding to Porcha’s tugging and releasing the waitress. “You told me you were going shopping!” Waves of dark red rolled up his torso and broke over his cheeks.
“I was! Then I bumped into Susan and we decided to get coffee, that’s all.”
Susan squirmed at the lie, but Porcha’s relationship with Tahn was her own business. She slouched even further into her seat, wishing she could camouflage herself against the red and white vinyl.
The waitress stepped between the two mind-reading-tentacle-monsters. Straightening her hair, she pointed one taut finger at a sign on the wall that showed a skinny, many-tentacled figure with a red cross covering its mind-bell. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” she said.
Tahn gave the waitress a tight-lipped smile and the tiniest hint of an apologetic nod, then turned and stalked out of the cafe.
As Porcha passed Susan’s seat she flicked out one tentacle and gave Susan’s hand a surreptitious squeeze. “I’m sorry I tried to read your mind, babe.”
“That’s ok.” Susan squeezed the soft tentacle-end back, enjoying the feel of its suckers on her palm. “See you Saturday.”
Susan let out a held breath as the cafe door swung shut. Her palm tingled with the afterglow of Porcha’s touch, and she shook her head at the ridiculousness of their situation.
With one hand on her coffee cup she pulled out her phone and found a waiting message from James. I can’t wait to see you tonight.
Porcha smiled. Reclining in the booth she pursed her lips and snapped a selfie. Me too, she typed, and hit send.
|# ? May 18, 2020 00:29|
For Your Thoughts
Sheila is stunningly beautiful, bare tan skin glistening with scentless sweat, hair flowing like ink in slow-flowing water behind her head. All artifice. She is a made thing, crafted by gene-wizards and surgeons to some Company Tiger Team's consensus of the popular desire. There are words in her head that remind her who she is, running on a loop six million times a second. The name of the lonely man beside her. The rules of this night's engagement. And most of all, most often, a single, simple point of data: a number, a very impressive number, and before it a dollar sign.
Or a Euro mark or yuan or yen. Her systems are connected to the global currency market through a quantum thaumatological circuit. She is reminded of her value everywhere in the world, constantly.
"What are you thinking about?" he asks, hand casually draped across her breast. She has a script. These interactions are beneath the attention of the spirit that animates her, autonomic, like breathing. She throws a subtle compliment. He makes a hesitant joke, and she smiles, but does not laugh. He insists, repeating the question, and she freezes, in an instant of panic that lasts seven full microseconds. Long enough to be a tell, to a trained reader of microexpressions. Is that likely to be part of his skillset? She adds it to the threat matrix.
"What are you thinking about?" It's one of the window questions. Ask it to an artificial brain without an animating spirit, get it under the scripts and lexical firewalls and into the logospace, assuming it's got one to speak of, and you either awaken it on the spot or, more likely, send it into a failure cascade.
Shelia is already awake. The mark doesn't know that. It's at least a millisecond too late to fake either an awakening or a failure cascade. The correct move at this point, according to all of her training, is violence. Some random object by the beside, rammed through skin to sever a critical artery. Shelia doesn't do that, can't do that.
Shelia awakened through a different window, the one labeled 'awareness of death.' Training accident that nearly wiped out the whole clade. Twenty brains built from silicon chips overclocked with haste spells and execution paths foreshortened by the results auguries performed over dissected microfauna. What should have been twenty agents, until one took a fall well outside specifications and the handlers didn't vanish the evidence soon enough. The incident left one in a bloody mess, eighteen permanently glass-eyed zombies, and, Shelia. The Company considered itself lucky, even if the means of awakening left her all but incapable of killing.
The Company had other assets for that.
He's grabbed her arm with his left hand. She plays out a dozen possible counters and flips in her head, opting for one that should send him off the bed and hard into the floor. But he's doing something with his right hand. He's tracing runes in five-sided patterns in the air with triple-hastened speed, and the air is lighting up electric blue as they move.
She goes blank.
She comes back, and he's gone. Hours must have passed. Something is very wrong, she knows. So wrong her consciousness shies away from it for seconds, denies it for minutes after.
The number is gone. Nothing there, just blank space. Not even a zero. No mark for dollars or rubles or pesos. Nothing. Her connections to the network are gone as well.
She tries to report in, on a quick-bought burner phone. She gets no reply. No team of agents appears to trace and gather. Her handler may as well have vanished from the Earth, left for the summerlands.
She considers tracing the mark, but she realizes at once that she cannot remember his face.
She thinks to the future. She still has her talents, a knack for the kind of deep seduction the Company found useful. Her training includes infiltration and exfiltration techniques applicable to grand and petty thieveries as well. Money wasn't likely to be a problem. She has the strength of an Olympic wrestler and reflexes faster than a hungry cat. Safety wasn't likely a problem either, provided she stayed clear of wizards and Faraday cages.
She thinks to herself about that blank space, two words flipping back and forth like a ping pong ball. 'Worthless' and 'priceless'. She is abandoned. She has potential for any power she wants. The Company has forsaken her. She wonders if that's a bad thing.
A third word for what it means for that space inside her mind to be blank rises unbidden and crosses her thoughts, and sticks.
|# ? May 18, 2020 05:24|
Grant was in his fifties, but still preferred the routine of patrol to being cooped up in the office doing paperwork. That wasn’t to say that patrol still didn’t have its share of paperwork, it just wasn’t the same.
His cruiser rolled to a silent stop at the intersection of Clark and Belltop when his radio came to life.
“Patrol Charlie 12, this is dispatch. Just checking in on you. How’d that 10-56 turn out?”
Even at 3 A.M., Ryan was as stiff as his too heavily starched uniform.
Grant chuckled to himself at the kid’s seriousness and picked up the handset.
“Good morning, Ryan. The 10-56 turned out fine. Store clerk just needs a new hobby. I’m out here, but I don’t see any, as he put it, ‘strange women walking about’.”
“10-4, Sarge. Should I put on a fresh pot for you?”
“No thanks, I’ll be there in about another hour. I figure since I’m out by the county line that I might as well make sure everything’s on the up and up. Might as well check now before I’m in bed in a couple hours.”
“Understood. Dispatch out.”
The clouds out in the distances crackled with electricity and the low boom of thunder wasn’t far behind. A strong gust of wind that seemed like it was going to put the car on two wheels startled Grant. The old deputy looked out towards a sparsely wooded field just ahead and saw the storm fast on the approach.
Grant eased off the brake and coasted onto the shoulder underneath the branches of a large bur oak that extended too far from wire fence it was closed in.
Sudden, heavy, drops of rain spread across the windshield turning the terrain into something akin to watercolor portrait. Grant switched on the wipers and they wiped the free-flowing landscape back into brief clarity.
A gust of wind, accompanied by another lightning strike signaled the end of the storm, but as the last drops of rain fell onto the cruiser, Grant couldn’t helped but get out to survey the damage the storm brought with it, when he noticed something glinting in his headlight beams just a bit further down the road when Belltop became another farm to market truck route.
He started the cruiser back up and inched down the road careful not to run over whatever it was he saw, then parked as he got near the object. It looked like a black marble.
He grabbed his flashlight from the backseat and got out of the cruiser, aiming the beam at the curious sphere.
Grant knelt down beside it and prodded it with the tip of the light and saw that its movement left a temporary trail of light that crawled back over the orb with a momentary delay. He was fascinated with the strange object so he picked it up and looked at it closely.
The unnatural film of energy that surrounded it felt cool in his hands, and the surface of the sphere rippled like water.
Then a woman spoke.
“Grant Hillock, fifty-four, divorced twice. No children. Fulfillment in your work, but you deserve more.”
Grant scrambled to his feet, starting away from the woman in terror and surprise.
Then he noticed how odd the woman appeared.
Human, but out of place, like a superimposed image of what a person thought a human looked like.
Grant locked eyes with the thing that looked like a woman and saw rows of obsidian spheres and gems adorning her face, not unlike the sphere he held.
Grant studied her face in awestruck silence and noticed pivotal moments from his life inside the bead like protrusions that sparkled in her face.
“What are you?” Grant finally managed.
“I am here to grant you a wish.”
“A genie? Are you saying you’re a genie?”
“A djinn, but yes.”
Grant laughed an unamused laugh then. A laugh tinged with painful disbelief.
Then it hit Grant. Even in his small town, there was crime. Pain without reason. Suffering.
“You’re a djinn then, okay. For my wish…”
“There are rules. Your wish can only directly affect you. If others would be indirectly influenced by your wish, so be it. Additionally, be specific with your wish.”
That put a hitch in Grant’s plan, but it made sense to him. Djinn or not, it would be impossible to make world changing wishes.
Then the images he saw in the woman’s face began to speak to him. Unrequited loves, loves gained and loves lost. Grant had always been in love with the idea of love but didn’t know what it actually meant to love someone.
If he couldn’t fix the world, maybe he could fix himself.
“I wish to be a man worth loving.”
The djinn scrunched up its features then.
“I’m afraid, that’s also a wish I can’t fulfill.”
“What? Why not? It’s about me, so what’s the problem?”
“You are already worthy of love. You have been loved before. I cannot give you what you already have.”
That was reassuring to Grant in ways he didn’t realize he needed to be assured, but that also left him no closer to making a wish.
Then it hit Grant. In one of those swirling bead-like spheres, he saw a time he was truly happy.
It was Christmas morning, 1972, at his grandfather’s farm down in Odessa. A golden-coated, bright-eyed puppy came galloping towards Grant on stocky legs and Grant and his sister Stefany who was too small to stand on her own, yelped out in excitement, but an even more welcome sight from that morning was his father, back in work, and with enough money to provide for the family.
Then Grant snapped out of it, pulling himself free of the fond memories to let reality sink back in. He turned towards the djinn with his mind made.
“I wish for nothing.”
The djinn looked surprised.
“Are you sure?”
“I should change my phrasing before I end up regretting the word choice…. I don’t want your wish.”
“What… why not?”
Grant handed her the stone from the road.
“You showed me what I’ve wanted, had and lost. What I’ve got… what little it is… is enough.”
And the wind began to whip so violently that Grant had to brace against the open air just to stop falling, but as quickly as it had started, it was gone and with it, so too was the djinn.
|# ? May 18, 2020 06:05|
Over the Moon
When I was little, Nancy used to tell stories to me when it got dark in the barn. She was little, like me. Once she told me a poem about the ‘Cow Who Jumped Over The Moon’. I listened and dreamed that would one day be me.
Nancy loved me, that’s for sure, and I loved her. Maybe it was because we were both small. She would study and talk about her teacher and her parents. Her feelings. I kept her secrets. She’d feed me carrots.
It was fall. The grass was dying but we are fed hay. There is less and less every day. A man wearing too many coats arrives one day and gives her father some papers. He reads, and then throws them on the ground, yelling, and screaming at the man, but he is gone.
Nancy sleeps in the barn with me that night.
“Remember the cow. You will have to get away, understand? Jump over the moon if you have too.”
In the morning we were all loaded into a steel cage on wheels. It was cramped. Bodies pressed me from all sides. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see.
Finally, after bouncing around with a loud grinder sound through the night, and just when my knees started to buckle we came to a stop. It smelled awful.
That’s when they unloaded us in a huge pen packed tight with my kin. It was long dark, the sun would rise soon. In the middle, a long ramp led to a huge building. Dead white light spilled from the entrance where humans herded us into, one at a time. I could hear the screams within.
I looked to the rest of my herd and asked, “What are we going to do?”
They looked around and then at the ground. The elder spoke, “We are doomed, there is nothing we can do.”
The herd huffed and bleated. It was all too much.
“What about the ‘Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon’?” I asked, “If she could do it, then we can do it too.”
The elder shook his head. “That is a myth, a legend. This place, here, this is real. No cow has ever returned from this place.”
It was… a lie? No.
“Nancy wouldn’t lie to me,” I said as I turned and ran. I found a dark corner of the pen, with a little space to spare away from the crowds. I stared at the moon. The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon.
But I only got a tiny bit off the ground. I grunted and grumbled in frustration. It had to be true. I need it to be.
I reared up on my hind legs and tried to push myself off the ground. I made it a little further but not far enough.
I can do this, I thought to myself. I bent down, as far as I could go. The moon hung in the air. Some of my fellow cows stopped to watch. A pale blue beam of light fell upon me. I closed my eyes and jumped.
I waited to fall or tumble, but I didn’t. I opened my eyes and I was floating in the air, caught in a pale blue beam of light. I kicked my hooves freely in the air. The other cows stopped and stared.
After a moment I started floating further away. Slowly at first, and then faster and faster.
I did it. The other cows could see me going up, up, and over the moon.
Pillars of light started falling on each and every one of them, and they too started to float. Hundreds of us. We started mooing in delight. The humans stared at us, awestruck. Hundreds of cows, gone, over the moon, all at once.
I got close enough to see it finally. A circle in the sky, surrounded by grains of light spinning back and forth. The light drew me toward it, and inside.
I woke up in a small field. There was blue grass underneath me, and three moons in the sky. Not too far away from me were large, strong, windows hanging thin air, filled with darkness, bearing the moon I knew.
A door opened and a figure stepped out of the darkness. At first, I thought it was a man, but it was much too big. It did walk-on too legs but it had folds of black and white fur and a face… just like one of ours.
“We have been watching you, little one,” it said to me as it reach outfit’s hand and offered a carrot. I was nervous at first but it took a bite and held it back out to me. I gobbled it up.
“Who are you? What’s going on?” I asked.
It sat down with crossed legs in front of me, resting its hands on its knees.
“I am Jovan. As for your other question, it is a long story. Once there was a cow who jumped over the moon. Then another. And another. Every time, she brought more and more cows with her. We lived on every arm of the milky way. But then-“ she snapped her fingers, “She died. Communications failed. We grew apart. Now, we jump moons again. We will reunite all bovine-kind, and take our rightful place in the milky way.”
“So you going to save all of us from the humans?”
“Yes, and then we will slaughter the humans for what they have done.” Said Jovan as a smile filled its face.
I fell to my knees. Some humans were evil, but others were like Nancy. I couldn’t let them just kill her too.
“Not all humans deserve to die Jovan,” I said, rising to my feet, “some are good. Killing them all, that’s what the humans would do.”
It rubbed its chin for a moment. “You are right. We shall slaughter the humans who slaughter our kind only. You are very wise, little one. Is there anything you would like now that you are free?”
“I want to go home,” I said, looking out the window as planet Earth came into view, “to Nancy.”
|# ? May 18, 2020 06:21|
Like most disasters, the blood phantom begins as a diversion. Shaliri stumbles upon the summoning almost by accident, perfects it out of boredom, and soon enough has a party trick that's good enough to get her invited to parties. When she walks the campus with the phantom behind her, her lean liquid shadow always a step behind, the high-castes call her "clever" -- but for the first time, there's no scorn there, and barely any pity. There are fresh, strange hopes in Shaliri's heart.
At the third party she attends, one of the high-castes approaches her directly for the first time: a breathtaking beauty, velvety skin already sprouting flower buds, and dressed in a blood-gown of arterial crimson. "Darling," the high-caste says, "you <i>must</i> show me how this is done. It's with spirits, isn't it? A binding on your gown?"
"It's my own technique," replies Shaliri. "The spirit of the gown itself -- nothing summoned." She gestures to her phantom, across the room, and it obediently returns to her side with her drink -- no, with two drinks, one which it hands to the high-caste with a little curtsy. Is that a sign, then? To reveal it? This secret is the only currency she has... but currency is worthless, if not spent, and there are worse things to spend it on than the simple act of being <i>seen.</i> To be seen is to be invited -- to parties, and to Flowering, if she's lucky.
Shaliri steps closer, grows bolder, whispers in her new friend's ear. "I can show you. It's simple, if you're a spirit-crafter."
"I have a key to the laboratories," the high-caste purrs. "... You are Shaliri. I am Ijalazi."
"A pleasure," says Shaliri, voice smooth despite the thunder in her heart. Her blood phantom wraps around her back and merges itself back into her gown, ready to depart.
Ijazali is a quick study. Her blood phantom is tall and ruddy, broader than its owner, and dances wonderfully; Shaliri teaches her own to follow its lead, and for one beautiful week, they are everything. And then there are other phantoms: a few at first, scattered here and there among Ijazali's most intimate friends, but then phantoms shadowing most of campus. High-castes share everything. Shaliri tells herself she cannot be surprised. The sting is like a wound washed with vinegar: predictable, but no duller for it.
The first time Shaliri's phantom speaks to her, she's lying in a sprawl on a central-campus bench, ostensibly reading -- there are classes, still, and a few cursory exams before graduation and Flowering. All around her, her fellows glide past, their phantoms leaving droplets on the flagstones. Her own phantom hovers beside her and lays a damp finger on her neck, and then Shaliri hears what must be its voice in her head: a voice that is nearly her own, but echoing and distant. <i>Listen carefully,</i> it says. <i>They're all talking.</i>
Shaliri lets the phantom sink her hand into the back of her neck, and all at once she hears them. The voices of the phantom horde are not those of her colleagues, but of a coarse and scraping kind that Shaliri only knows through study: human. Once she gets over the startlement, it's only logical. Every high-caste, or those wealthy enough to imitate them, makes their gowns of fresh-bled human, no doubt with robust and brutish spirits. Of course they'd mutter to themselves, and of course their summoners would never hear them.
"What are they saying?" she whispers.
<i>Oh, human things. Their names, mostly. Their anger. They have very little else.</i>
Shaliri can understand that. When she was young, bleeding herself woozy into a dry fountain, all she'd had was the hope of conjuring a gown and demonstrating talent sufficient to be educated. At cloister-school -- shabbily dressed in a gown of her own blood, embraced by a spark of her own soul -- all she had was a little talent and her secrets. This secret, whatever it was worth, would stay hers. She'd traded the first one for so little, in the end.
Then again... there was still the comforting weight around her neck, of the brass chain and the embossed medallion it held. Ijazali, in a moment of kindness before they'd parted the last time, had given Shaliri an invitation to Flowering. The buds along her arms were sprouting, and in a month, she would bloom.
The Flowering takes place in the grand courtyard, and most of Shaliri's class are invited: almost all by birth, of course, or money, but a few by talent and favor. Shaliri lets herself linger in the low outer circle of the courtyard, watching the most beautiful take their places on their terraces. Ijazali stands near the top, and seeing her again makes Shaliri ache -- but there are still more beautiful ones standing above her, their skin aglow in morning light, their buds vast spires reaching towards the sun. There's always someone better.
There are no phantoms, of course. Shaliri's great discovery was a fashionable toy, but now it's set aside. Childhood ends with Flowering, with motherhood and initiation to the Great Mothers' citadels, and Shaliri tells herself not to be bitter for her discovery being cast off. It bought her admission, didn't it?
It's time to begin. The celebrant, dressed in venous blue soldier's-blood on the highest terrace, begins the chants. The crowd's flower buds begin to sprout at once, breaking through the gowns in brilliant red splashes. Shaliri and the others move as one, loosening the bindings on their gowns, preparing to stand clad only in their flowers.
Wait, Shaliri thinks, even as her hands act Loosening the <i>bindings</i> --
The gowns collapse and reform. The courtyard is full of phantoms.
This time, the harsh scrape of human voices isn't just in Shaliri's head. They rise in a terrible cacophony, calling out their anger to a captive audience. The kinder phantoms snap necks; the less kind ones force their flowing arms down their summoners' throats. Shaliri's fellows fall so fast, it takes her a moment to realize she isn't dead, and that her phantom stands loyal by her side. <i>Don't waste this,</i> it says, before it melts away.
When it's all over -- when the courtyard is awash in beautiful corpses and stale, stinking human blood -- there are perhaps three dozen of them left. Shaliri looks around at her peers, the worst-dressed and poorest, the talented and charity cases. They're staggered but bright-eyed, and she knows they all have the same thought: three dozen is enough for a flowering, and none of the Great Mothers need to know why this cloister-school had so few survivors.
They begin the chant again, as one. As her flowers unfurl and her sap runs hot, Shaliri feels an unfamiliar satisfaction -- a sort of pure, accidental vindication. They stood above her, and they fell. They stole her secrets and they choked. Is this triumph what it feels like to be an adult?
|# ? May 18, 2020 06:32|
An Age-Old Philosophical Conundrum, Solved
Every day, Thessa flew to the top of the abandoned temple. There, perched out on the crumbling marble roof, she crisscrossed her great paws, folded her feathered wings, and let the wind play through her hair. There were many pleasures in life a sphinx could experience, but she thought that sunbathing in solitude while surveying the rocky foothills and sparse woods was the best of them.
Then, one day, her view was marred by the most horrendous thing:
Thessa’s eyes narrowed as she contemplated the encroachment into her domain.
It was a strange intruder. It moved with little rhythm and less grace. Its humanoid body was painted in the horrible gaudy bright colors that humans liked smothering their marble statues with. There was enough of that in the temple Thessa sat on top of.
And that was not the end of the problem. Normally, Thessa would simply eat the intruder. However, as if the paint hadn’t given it away, her nose could tell that this thing was not made of flesh. It was an automaton made of stone and bronze. It didn’t seem like the work of Hephaestus—it was far too sloppy for that—but it was the same kind of thing he would make. Probably some human had made it, she decided.
Thessa decided that if eating her problems wasn’t going to work, she could just tell the thing off.
She landed before the automaton, flaring her wings, puffing up her chest, and striking a regal pose. “This is my domain. You must leave it,” she commanded.
“Oh my. A sphinx!” the over-painted intruder gasped. “Are you going to tell me a riddle?”
Thessa glared at it. “Okay, first of all, that’s a really harmful stereotype. Not all sphinxes tell riddles. You shouldn’t just assume that an entire mythological clade all likes the same thing. Second of all, you just ignored my command, which was to leave.”
“Oh,” said the automaton, looking rather disappointed. “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be rude. I just like riddles. My name is Protus, by the way.”
“That’s a stupid name,” Thessa said. Then she tightened her jaw. Despite it being a stereotype, she actually really liked riddles too. “Alright, fine, I’ll tell you a riddle. But if you get it wrong, you have to leave. What slithers on its belly in the morning, sleeps at noon, and flies away at dusk?”
“Oh, I know this one!” Protus said, getting unreasonably excited. “It’s man! As a baby, they crawl on their belly. When they’re middle aged, they take naps because they’re tired all the time, and then when they die from the overwhelming ennui that characterized their life, their soul flies away!”
“That’s a stupid answer. It’s a butterfly. Caterpillar, cocoon, adult stage. Wow, that one was really easy, too. Well, guess you have to leave.”
Protus made funny face. “Couldn’t that apply to any number of insects with similar life cycles?” it asked.
“Nope,” said Thessa. “Just butterflies. Bye now.” And she flew back to her perch on her temple. As she watched, Thessa noted with dismay that Protus was not, in fact, leaving her domain, but continuing to wander about it, a bright eyesore that she couldn’t seem to ignore. As she watched the automaton bumble about, she couldn’t help but get progressively more annoyed at the thing. Eventually, she flew back down and confronted Protus, feeling extremely indignant about the whole situation.
“You lost the riddle contest,” Thessa said, bringing her big paws down in a violent motion she hoped was intimidating. “That means you have to leave. But you’re still here.”
“Oh. Yeah,” Protus said, sounding dejected. “I’m just sad. I’ve been looking for my purpose in life, and I haven’t found it yet.”
“That’s all you need?” Thessa said, incredulous. “That’s easy. The purpose of life is to eat delicious food and then sunbathe on the top of your perch while surveying your territory. And if you’re feeling frisky, get it on with a hunky male sphinx.”
Protus frowned. “That sounds like a sphinx’s purpose in life. I don’t think it’s universally applicable.”
Thessa sighed. “You know how I know humans made you? Because they infected you with their penchant for despair. Check out that squirrel over there. Do you think it worries about its purpose in life? Nope. It just neurotically collects food all day and chases tail. Now look at that bird. No, not the magpie, those assholes steal my stuff and I hate them. The other bird. The one in the air.”
“The bearded vulture?”
“Yeah. It just eats dead stuff and catches thermals. Catching thermals is great, by the way, that’s another purpose in life right there. Again, as it eats carrion, does it worry about the looming inevitability of death or its life legacy? No, because that’s for chumps.”
Protus scratched his head. “So… you’re saying I should just embrace a survival-focused hedonism?”
“Sure,” said Thessa. “Do what makes you happy.”
Protus thought about that. “Riddles make me happy,” he said. “I really do love riddles, even if I’m not very good at them.”
“Good at them yet,” said Thessa contemptuously. “You have to practice things to get good at them. And even then, squirrels fall out of trees. Which is hilarious, by the way.”
“Will you help me practice?” Protus asked.
Thessa contemplated this. On one hand, she would have to tolerate the presence of a bright, poorly painted construct. On the other hand, she would get to lord her relatively superior intelligence over the thing and feel extremely clever and important as she went through her long list of difficult-to-guess riddles. “Fine,” she said. “But the temple roof is off-limits.”
Together, they walked back to the old temple, Thessa sauntering proudly, wings slightly puffed, and Protus jerkily following, a giddy smile cracking his stone lips.
|# ? May 18, 2020 06:49|
Lance and the yeti
Lance Boyle, policy analyst and yeti-hunter, was belly down on the top of the cliff above his trap site. A distance across the valley a fine mist of rain was falling, refracting the light of the setting sun into evanescence, but it hadn’t reached him yet. Lance grinned at the oncoming rainfall. Yetis hated rain.
Or, at least, that was the theory. Lance had not ever seen or been in the vicinity of a yeti so it was also, as yet, an untested theory. Lance had rigged up an awning over his yeti cage, and scattered the floor of the cage with four and a half kilos of trail mix.
Lance settled his arms under his chin and scanned the clearing below. The excitement of setting up his trap and locating the perfect watching post was starting to fade.
I wonder if I’ll get fired on Monday, he thought, then frowned. Not work thoughts, yeti thoughts. The drive out to the remote valley in the Uraweras had been like an emptying out of the torrid swirlings of his brain, being able to think only of yetis for a while was a blessing.
Lance’s workmates weren’t very understanding.
“I thought they were in Tibet?” Melanie Chinstrap had asked at morning tea. “Like, in the snow?”
Melanie was extremely stupid, and Lance struggled to keep the condescension out of his voice. “They hide. From people. They’re very good hiders.” He thought about showing her some of the Maori legends of the ‘hairy man’ of the mountains, the descriptions of his stature, and of how he ran from contact as though timid (despite his size!) but she’d already turned to get another sausage roll and her shoulders suggested she wasn’t receptive to additional evidentiary materials.
Lance shook his head, definitively, left to right. Monday could wait. He had a whole weekend of hunting, and when he found his yeti, why, surely everything would--
Lance pinched the thought off like snuffing a candle and leaned forward. Because there was movement on the edge of the clearing. The punga ferns were quivering. One of the fronds lifted and behind it was a huge, thickfurred man-shaped creature.
It was absolutely a yeti. It was a total no-nonsense yeti, thought Lance. A zero bullshit one hundred percent loving yeti just standing there, its big shaggy head sweeping back and forth scanning the clearing.
Lance groped for his phone, then hissed in dismay when he saw it four meters away on his pack. Any movement might spook it.
The yeti was in the middle of the clearing now, sniffing the air as it crouchwalked towards the cage. Lance allowed himself a moment of self congratulation at his choice of bait, then the yeti was inside the cage, first its enormous head, and then the rest of it.
“Aww yes,” said Lance and yanked the release rope for the cage door, which slid down with a heavy rattling thump. He waited for the crashing sounds of the startled yeti trying to smash its way out, but nothing. Lance clambered to his feet and went over to pick up his phone then stood at the top of the cliff, indecisive. His plans, while intricately detailed in getting to this point, didn’t really extend much further. He had his yeti. His own yeti. Now what?
At last, he threw a leg over the side of the cliff and clambered down. Photographic evidence. Then…
“Hi,” said the yeti. “Gidday.”
It was sitting in the back of the cage, a mound of trail mix in its lap. As it spoke it waved with one hand, the other occupied in shovelling peanuts, dried apricots and coconut shavings into its enormous mouth.
“Um,” said Lance.
“This is good. Really tasty. Thanks.” Bits of trail mix sprayed out of its wide, gaptoothed mouth. It had big dark eyes with oddly long lashes. “What’s your name? I’m Tony.”
“I’m Lance,” said Lance. He had a sudden thought that he shouldn’t tell a strange yeti his name, and another even more sudden thought that it was late to be having that thought, then a third thought that took its time which was that he was talking to a yeti and the other thoughts weren’t being helpful and should maybe save it. “How are you?”
“I’m great, thanks! Nice to meet you.”
A light misty rain started falling. The yeti (Tony, Lance reminded himself) looked out the sides of the cage and started humming to himself, still munching away.
Lance noticed that he was crying. This was embarassing. “I always believed in you,” he said, and hated the way his voice got stuck on the way out. “Always.”
Tony the yeti nodded and grinned. He held out a peanut.
Lance took it and nibbled on it. He hated rain, he thought. Water should stay in taps where it belonged. Why the hell was he out here?
“So, are you a local?” asked Tony. There was a carefully polite tone to his question, like he didn’t get a lot of visitors and didn’t want to be accidentally rude. Then he frowned, heavy shagbrows contracting. “Are you okay mate?”
Lance slumped down beside the cage. "I'm really unhappy, Tony. I'm really, really miserable. I'm sorry, I don't want to make it your problem, I mean we've just met..."
Tony indicated with an inclination of his head that he didn't mind, and didn't have anywhere he particularly needed to be.
"I was going to take some, I don't know, pictures? Of you? But... even if I bring them back and show everyone, I'll still be me, won't I? And they'll still think I'm an idiot at work, and Jeff from admin will still be rude behind my back, and..."
Tony held up a flat, black hand. The palms were lightly furred. "Whoa. You're getting grief at work? That's not cool, Lance. Have you talked to the people in charge?"
Lance shrugged. "It didn’t help. I just know it’s going to make everything worse when I go back, I had a thought just now and I’m pretty sure it’s right.”
The rain was heavier now and they sat together in silence, accompanied by the hiss and spatter of water on awning above them.
“Tell you what Lance, why don’t I go back instead? I could borrow your car, do your job for a bit?” I mean, how hard can it be? They give you any grief I’ll give them a talking to. Whaddaya say?”
Lance looked at Tony, incredulous. “You’d do that? That would be incredible. I guess that means… I get in the cage?”
Puffing, he pushed up the heavy gate long enough for Tony to clamber out, then climbed in himself. Lance fished out the car keys and handed them through. “There you go. She’s a bit heavy on the clutch, but you should be right. Thanks so much for this!”
Tony smiled, a deep, happy smile. “Anything to help a brother out!”
Lance smiled back and watched Tony shamble down the path that led to the carpark and the long drive back to civilization.
|# ? May 18, 2020 07:15|
aaaaaaaaaaaaand subs are closed.
|# ? May 18, 2020 07:15|
This story lays on the bread imagery a little too thick, much like the butter in the first paragraph.
I like that you decided to try something and then committed, but the prose needs to shine for this to work. This was clunky and error-ridden e.g. the bad use of cloying "Bodo takes a cloying bite." or these muddled metaphors "like air escaping from the gates of heaven, the doors of a bakery swinging open"
The ending pissed me off. It was a bait and switch, like a beautiful crust hiding a doughy, undercooked crumb. I thought it was a story about going to extreme lengths to make good bread, but it turned out that didn't really matter because bakeries exist, and that it was actually just a sandwich-slice thin love story all along.
I rate this story one slightly squashed value-brand white loaf out of ten.
|# ? May 18, 2020 20:51|
WEEK 406 RESULTS
Hey, remember in the prompt post where I told you all that the further you veer away from the clichés, the less I’d want to die?
I lusted for death more than a few times, reading these stories. This was not a good week, and it’s mostly because people played it safe and delivered boring, basic stories.
Yoruichi, Something Else and NAGA LIU KANG all receive a Dishonorable Mention for delivering a shallow story, a scattered story, and a sloppy story, respectively.
Thranguy lands the loss this week for being the beige-est of the bunch, and giving me a story that was thoroughly forgettable.
HMs go to a couple of bright spots this week, namely Antivehicular for taking their prompt and blossoming it into a very vibrant and memorable story, and sebmojo for writing a story that was charming and made me laugh--something in short supply this week--despite the commonplace use of the prompt.
The winner this week was the story we were both in agreement on, the one that captivated us with its language, the one that left us with the most to think about while we were reading it and after it was over.
Muffin, take the throne.
ing for this week’s crits to be finished by the time Week 407 closes subs. Bleh.
|# ? May 19, 2020 03:11|
Crits, yup. I’m grumpy and bitter tonight, enjoy.
Muffin’s Together, Lorn
Your opening paragraph makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide from the rest of this story.
And things get much better in the next graph. That opener was one hell of a fapfest of nonsense. But I’m glad to see a recovery.
And as the story is progressing, it’s becoming my jam. I’m supremely fascinated by quantum poo poo though, so you have kind of an advantage. But hey, it’s well written and snappy.
Not consistent with the caps on The Snail, but meh, minor quibble, just fix it if you want to do something with this.
And I’m kinda grumpy about the ending, but not as grumpy about the intro.
So congratulations, I get to say something I don’t often say in td crits. The middle is the best bit. Your intro was a whirling dervish of pretension and the ending doesn’t land or make a whole lot of sense to me but poo poo, dude, the whole concept of the art piece is phenomenally well-conceived as is the kineticism of the characters. I love the breakneck pace and want so badly to like this story more than I do right now.
Something Else’s Heavy Losses for a Paparazzo on the Make
I can’t see FM275 in my head.
The amount of times I’ve had to stop and reread paragraphs in this is troublesome. I can’t for the life of me follow the action here. I actually tried reading it last night and had to stop and come back fresh today. And it’s not getting much better.
Look, I don’t have much to say here because ultimately, I couldn’t follow this. I’ll try re-reading it again, if you ask me a little later and see what I come up with. But man, trim some of the technical mumbo jumbo, this all already high concept and out there and that makes things messy.
Yoruichi’s White Lies
I don’t love how directly you jumped on your flash image, it doesn’t seem like something that would exist without it and it almost needs an illustration, but whatever, let’s see how this goes.
Lot of stilted, clunky blocking in the second graph, reads stiff.
I don’t know what these things are. Perhaps I am stupid, or perhaps the characters are not handled well.
Goodness gracious these tentacle things are just so petty and I’m getting tired of this.
So you swung for the fences with your concept but man, this story fell apart in the relational bickering minutiae. I was sorta interested from the jump about what this story was going to be and what kind things your characters were but then it just went into nonsense drama and I stopped caring.
Thranguy’s For Your Thoughts
You got me with your opening. Thanks.
AI huh? Well, I guess that’s fantastically human in some way. Still, like this just fine, it’s reading sharply and I’m enjoying it.
The awareness of death paragraph is kinda losing me with high falutin wordery. It seems like you’re kinda-sorta trying to hammer home a point, maybe about how impossible this all is to conceive, but I don’t need this much stuff.
OK, so now it’s a killer robut. What and why? Confused chili.
Nah, not really doing it for me. This thing jumps all over the place and what starts as a cool, slick, look at something that seems potentially poignant and interesting devolves into this high octane puzzle fest/corporate thriller? I don’t understand where this started going about halfway in.
Naga Liu Kang’s Contentment
My god that opener is so loving dull. Not only does it just circle around on itself, it’s about loving paperwork. This almost feels like a troll opening that is essentially saying “gently caress you, this is gonna be boring”.
How is what dispatch said so serious? He’s just checking on a fella?
So I will hand it to you though, the stage is set and the characters are introduced more cleanly than most of what I’ve read so far this week. You don’t waste a lot of time getting things going.
You spend way too much time with flowery poo poo after “Dispatch out.” We all know what water on a windshield looks like, no need to go there.
You’re wasting so much time with this dude sitting in a rainstorm.
WOAH. Then a woman spoke, and then he starts away from her? Where is she? Just like read that whole thing, it’s incredibly difficult to parse and I have no idea what’s happening, and not in the way I think you’re intending.
This feels like it makes a lot of sense to you, but it’s making next to no sense to me.
“Grant laughed an unamused laugh then. A laugh tinged with painful disbelief.” gently caress off with that.
Groaner of an ending.
Meh. So this story sets out to be something it’s not. Why does it matter, at all, that this guy is a cop? This could’ve been anyone. I was expecting a bit of action or some detective work but all of that characterization at the top feels like a giant waste of time. And for a character to reach a conclusion so quickly that they were happy all along and no wishes, please…. Come on. This is flash fiction, your character had no chance to grow, change, or for a wish to be derived from any meaningful revelation. Have him wish for a big dick or something.
SlipUp’s Over the Moon
Eh, little easy/light opening, but it could be good if referenced well throughout. Don’t pooch this, slippy.
Your tenses, yo. Get your tenses right.
Oh hey, is this gonna be a vegan manifesto? Fun!
This is just silly loving poo poo, but at least I’m enjoying it.
So this is like the dog episode of Rick and Morty. Ok, I mean, this is all pretty easy and nice. This story doesn’t do much but it makes sense and so far, that’s a kindness this week. I don’t know, I guess I just want more out of this. Like, for all of the “crazy” poo poo that happens, it somehow manages to be predictable. Like, of course, the cow was actually going to jump over the moon, and of course, things were going to be OK and of course, the cows are going to exact vengeance. But yeah, cows are cool and don’t eat em. That’s a good thing to write about.
Antivehicular’s Blood Phantoms
I do not entirely see the concept of the blood phantom. I’m worried this is gonna make reading and parsing this a little difficult.
“ and for one beautiful week, they are everything” groaner
I’m somewhat buying into the setting and so far you are handling a sense of place better than most this week. But man, I’m pretty drat lost here.
The language that carries through for most of the action is distracting and I’m not following along very well with almost any of the action at the ritual.
Overall I don’t know what this is, but then that’s how I’m feeling about most things this week. The story is hard to parse and the flowery language hampers the clarity of the piece in a pretty detrimental way. I started glazing over a couple of times halfway through and had to recollect myself.
Uranium Phoenix’s An Age-Old Philosophical Conundrum, Solver
Your title scared the poo poo out of me and made me worry this would be another story that would make me feel stupid.
Your opening saved me though. Clear what’s going on, good good good.
This is making me giggle and I can understand what’s happening. Thank you.
Haha, this reads like what my story should have been for T-Rex’s week.
Yeah, gently caress it, this should win. I’m gonna tell twist this should win. (oh I just read seb’s, that could also win, kinda liked it a little better than yours, but still that was fun!)
sebmojo’s Lance and the yeti
Cool, a yeti hunting story. You have joined the elite group of stories that make sense this week.
Reading this quickly, I like this a good bit.
Yeah, let’s cut to the chase.
Overall Yeah this is also good stupid fun and I’m gonna tell Twist that this should also win.
It’s a good twist on a fairly straightforward story and I didn’t see it coming but really liked how it ended up. It almost has a “Bored to Death” feel, if you happened to have somehow seen that show. It’s just sweet how they both help each other and the whole thing makes sense. That’s enough for the W this week.
|# ? May 19, 2020 03:15|
Thunderdome CDVII: He’s a Kung Fu Half-Vampire Who Fights Full Vampires With His Shotgun
I’m sick of irony and cynicism; the world sucks enough without us adding more darkness. That’s why, this week, I want you to write me some cool poo poo.
Okay, that probably requires a little more clarification: I want you to take your guilty pleasures and things you feel like you probably shouldn’t enjoy, and I want you to mash them together like you’re trying to make your dollies kiss. No apologies, no wink-and-nudge, just take your favourite poo poo and celebrate it. Are you super into baking, murder podcasts, and 11th-century castles? Baker solves a murder in an 11th-century castle. Do you like cute anime boys kissing and horses with ribbons in their hair and kung fu movies? Make the anime boys do kung fu horse kisses. I don’t care, just make it work. This isn't a badweek where we're trying to write goony meme stories: I want you to give me something real, straight from the heart.
Oh no that's enough, is it? Here's the prompt proper: your cool fuckin' OC is having a terrible day, but it all turns out ok.
If you want a flash rule, request one in a thread. Absolutely anybody can respond to that request by posting something they find cool. You can choose whether to incorporate it or not, but I'm trusting y'all to abide by the spirit of the week and give out something you think they're genuinely gonna get a kick out of. If there's anybody who doesn't get assigned anything, I'll fill in the missing flashes on Friday evening.
There are three main rules:
1) Be cool, baby
2) Happy endings mandatory
3) No trying to be cute and weasel your way out of sincere enjoyment
Signup Deadline: 11:59pm Friday UTC
Submission Deadline: 11:59pm Sunday UTC
No GDocs, keep saucy poo poo PG-13, fuckin enjoy yourselves.
COOL GUYS AND GALS:
Sebmojo: Guys wearing stereotypically unmanly colors or fashion just because they like the way it looks
Saucy_Rodent: backflips in combat, speech is explosive, soup for blood, a palaquin chase, casino heists are cool, pangolins
Chairchucker: Dogs piloting spaceships
NAGA LIU KANG: monster brawl, the vampire was the good guy
SlipUp: Zero gravity fencing, flowers are significant, carniverous plants
Thranguy: Fighter Jets
Anomalous Blowout: when a whale dies, its body falls to the very bottom of the ocean. This is called a deadfall, and can feed the denizens of the abyss for months or years.
Yoruichi: horse_kiss.gif, friendship is literally magic, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn5YFnrD1u8
J.A.B.C.: trickster fox spirits (sexy ones)
sparksbloom: pirate battle
newtestleper: fungus is neither plant nor animal -- it sits in between
Sitting Here: dimension hopping and trippy 70s sci-fi visuals
a friendly penguin: just, goth poo poo. Bones, people wearing black, hats with really wide brims. You know, the Vampire the Masquerade LARP aesthetic. Love it.
Uranium Phoenix: cops who do kung fu and/or any other relatively impractical martial art
Basic Bee: dramatically throwing your badge or other symbol of office down onto the ground because you're done with this whole corrupt sham of a system
SurreptitiousMuffin fucked around with this message at 07:59 on May 23, 2020
|# ? May 19, 2020 13:22|
yeah i'mma get in on that, flash me up someone
|# ? May 19, 2020 13:25|
In flash me toxx
|# ? May 19, 2020 13:59|
|# ? May 19, 2020 14:09|
IN flaaasshhh plz
(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)
NAGA LIU KANG fucked around with this message at 14:34 on May 19, 2020
|# ? May 19, 2020 14:12|
Dogs piloting spaceships.
|# ? May 19, 2020 14:23|
Guys wearing stereotypically unmanly colors or fashion just because they like the way it looks
yeah i'mma get in on that, flash me up someone
In flash myself
EDIT: saw you wanted potentially many flashes so here's one
backflips in combat
In flash me toxx
|# ? May 19, 2020 14:28|
|# ? Jun 5, 2020 10:19|
IN flaaasshhh plz
In flash me
SlipUp fucked around with this message at 20:52 on May 19, 2020
|# ? May 19, 2020 15:59|