Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us $3,400 per month for bandwidth bills alone, and since we don't believe in shoving popup ads to our registered users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
«34 »
  • Post
  • Reply
take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

special Thanx 4 the Crit / brawl me chili combo post


Jan 28, 2019

Choosing a Path
1218 words

The black vaporous cloud doesn’t disappear. I know this from beneath my sheet because I feel things. See them too. It won’t stay hovering for long before dive bombing me, looking for entry. My eyes and mouth are closed. I’m holding my nose, but at some point I’ll have to breathe. It will seep up my nostrils or down my throat, coiling itself around my lung or kidney or heart, squeezing until I cry out and Mama comes running. Yelling, “Maria, give in, I beg of you. There are worse things in life.”

I’m fourteen and have been chosen. For two years I’ve endured nightmares, visitors from the other realm and, more recently because they’ve grown impatient, bodily invasions. Papa says they won’t stop, even if I endure until I’m eighteen and leave this village for Quito to study art, they’ll follow me. He says I’m avoiding the inevitable.

I hold my breath until I pass out. It’s not the first time, but before I always saw black. This time I’m floating in a sea of crimson. It’s neither pleasant nor foreboding; it just is. Until the cracking of bones echo like a voice traveling into the depths of a cave and back again puncturing my ears, traveling the length of my body, searching for an exit.

At breakfast Mama places a mug of tea in front of me and insists I drink. She tells me when I was born, my “cabeza grande” forced itself into this world and broke her tailbone. The pain was unbearable, but she was comforted because it was a sign.

“Of what? That I'd be a pain in the rear end?”

Her gaze is silent and cunning, like a jaguar. “You’ll drink and listen and not disrespect me again.”

Mama doesn’t usually talk like that, so I take a sip of tea to stop myself from more backtalk.

“A spirit guide came to me that day telling me to swallow the pain, for one day she who caused it would become great and powerful. That she would have visions like no other shaman in all of Quichua history.”

The spirit got that right. I continue to drink the tea. It tastes like brewed cacao leaves, but has an unfamiliar sweetness to it.

Mama’s voice starts to sound like a lost howler monkey. “I know you’ve been visited by spirits since you were young, but they’re no longer willing to play your childish games. I have seen the marks on your body you’ve tried to hide with your scarves. They’re getting angry. It is time, Maria.”

My head is growing light, and the walls of the room expand. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Papa and Tuntu, the elder shaman from our village, standing like statues. The pounding of a drum begins to beat time with my heart, and I am no longer in the room.

I’m lying on a rock at the top of a mountain. An eagle swoops down coming within inches of my naked body. A whirlwind picks him up, swirling him around and around before dropping his stunned body upon my abdomen. I lie still waiting, for what I do not know. I only know I am to wait.

When I lift my head from the table, Tuntu announces that I have not been chosen in vain. I have an extra rib bone on my right side. My destiny has been confirmed.

And does tricking me into a trance count for anything?

In three nights time there will be a dance ceremony and my fate will be sealed. According to everyone, I’m blessed with a sacred gift. I should be honored. So then why do I feel like my life is over?

Tuntu calls me shamanka before he leaves and informs me the spirits will send me a new name soon.


The drums are calling my body into involuntary movement. I’m wearing mock wings of feathers, since it’s been determined the eagle is my spirit animal. Oh that I could fly away. Claws have been attached to my sandals. They scratch the ground with every step. A fire burns, cuts through the darkness. Chanting surrounds me, but I remain silent. I am to wait for the words and sing them to the sky, but the words do not come. What comes is a pair of bear-faced spirits. They each hold one of my hands, sending my body into a frantic frenzy. Surprisingly, I am not afraid. With their other hand they peel away my skin, my muscles, my organs, until I am only bones. Bones clanging the hollowness that is my soul, as they jerk one direction then another. I’m still fighting it. I refuse to let the words escape my mouth. The bear spirits open their mouths wide and clamp onto my jaw. It cracks. A song I do not recognize soars from my lips creating a canopy above me. My body spins around until, at last, I fall to the ground. The drum stops. Tuntu comes to me, lifts me and chants the words scratched into the dirt: I am Kikoma.

No one in the village calls me Maria again.

The next morning Tuntu welcomes me into his hut. The walls are lined with dream catchers and headdresses and relics the likes of which I’ve never seen. A jaquar skin is on the dirt floor. He motions me to sit. Places a carved wooden box in front of me.

“Open it.”

Inside lies a collection of broken animals bones, mostly from chickens and other birds.

“These are your tools. They are sacred. I will teach you all I know, but you must open your soul to the voices of your eagle spirit. He is your true mentor.”

For a week I’m obedient. I listen to Tuntu’s every word, drink tea, and fall into trances that last for hours. On day seven, when I enter the hut, I find Tuntu dead in his bed. Finally free.

The morning sun sends a beam into the open door, illuminating the box on the floor. While water is boiling for tea, I search Tuntu’s possessions for what I need. I choose the tea that earlier had taken me on a journey high above the earth: flying above the sea, feeling the wind ruffle my feathers, viewing the earth below as the artistic wonder it is. I drink and open the box.

I reach into my soul and chant the words I find there.

When I awake, I’m holding a mobile made of sticks, string, and chicken bones. It’s the most beautiful work I’ve created. I hang it on the threshold of the door. Watch as it blows freely in the breeze.

The sun is setting, a red ribbon flaps across the darkening clouds. It’s then I notice the silence. Not a bird is singing. Not an insect buzzing. Not a child laughing.

I walk the path leading to the village. Along the way, dead birds scatter the ground. Coming out of the brush, I see the first human casualties. My younger brother Julio and his friend Miguel are lying on the ground next to the river, lifeless. I go hut to hut. Find everyone resting in peace. Even Mama and Papa.

An unexpected joy runs through my bones. I’m free.

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

prompt: scapula.
flash: bear bones waking from hibernation before the actual bear does.

thaw // bookends

1447 words

The myths teach the seasons dream too. Winter once dreamt she'd coaxed a bear into her bleak grip. Play it back and she'd been asleep. The bear emerged to spring sunshine laced with birdsong. Acorn pinwheels breezed into its fur. It didn't shake them off. For it knew when it wanted it could wash itself in the river. The snow thaws to slush as Winter sleeps. But when Winter sleeps she dreams.

Please tell Winter to shut up.

Grand-mere's song themes Arendr's song though no summer arrives in the Leviathan's guts. Still Arendr sings the myth to the Leviathan bred from the ocean to swim the void. Swim and chamber the living. Grand-mere joined the dead hours ago yet it feels like ages since Arendr's eaten. Eaten of Grand-mere's ancient flesh. Could be the Leviathan whose insides churn Grand-mere. No, something's wrong. This is true yet untrue and Arendr must tell Winter to shut up to know it. The myth came alive in Grand-mere's song and now the season is a voice Arendr can hear. Can hear or let sing or, Goddess, tell to shut up.

Arendr has cried and shook for the Leviathan. Singing tired her and now she needs to hope It's on its way and that way leads to a home. The gut-churn of the Leviathan will not flay her before they get there. The gut-churn of the Leviathan was based, or so the Elders said. The Elders that bade her and Grand-mere enter the Leviathan. Enter through its translucent skein of gossamer hair-teeth. Bade, not made, it was clear, though for Grand-mere when the Elders spoke it was the same difference. Not doing what the Elders tell you to do is spitting in their faces. Arendr thought their faces could use some moisture. Gnarled things, they'd been...

Still she's now eaten the last food. The Leviathan hasn't stopped, Despite the stomach walls lined with blub-flesh she's freezing. Tears fall from cheeks she feels the bone of, pressing through skin she sees from her wrist is white as snow.


No mistake made, Mess thinks. as the Heart-song ends. The dead silence of the Archive was overcome the fading way a paper cut overcomes skin. The mousy Archivist, faced waxed and waned with years of this silence, gazes at him with somber eyes.

"Most don't stay for the whole song," the Archivist says, "when melody becomes dirge. The parting was joyous yet the journey troubled. The sainthood staked at parting was in the end forlorn."

"She made it," Mess says. "We're here. The Leviathan's bones set the scene for a class 9 Civ. Our spires reach the stars. Isn't that the point?" His blood pounds despite the silence. His youth wastes away in this place of ghosts. So learning gets you an outlook bleak as Archvist lips. Lips set like smiling is something other Chonyid do. These lips are about to ask of him for something, but please shut up, he thinks in disgust.

For summer arrived today and with it the etching that each life carves in the life of young Chonyid. Mess doesn't have the time or patience for askance. Askance or, Goddess forbid, a weary fall of shoulders in telling of some bookend moral. It's a story every boy on Tuthao knows. There is the telltale fissure of shoulder blade to set of neck. Mess breezes away, out of the Archive and through the Catacombs and into the light of first summer's day. The Archivist can eat his own words like Arendr ate her old and dead.


The first summer's day of Cycle 13 heats blood. Young Chonyid - offspring of Arendr and the lover she took of the folk living on Tuthao she named Fay - wrap themselves in gossamer silk. This recalls the hair-teeth of the Leviathan, drapes their bones on summer's first freezing night outside. Summer's first freezing night brings with it fevered vision. The beating heart of the First Goddess visits through the deep freeze as dreaming. In this dreaming she submits to the Father God of the Fay. No other trace survives them.

The blood remains and there is none else. By now the young have lost their friends. Cycle 13 begins with spring's thaw of friendships. Some friends you have no time for and to some you say things that don't come back. Some ancient stirring decrees you should face this kind of thing alone. So he's mused faultless by such blind old ones as have reared and taught him but still hates himself and others. He chews the bitter root of his hatred and hikes the gossamer silk to hood his head as darkness falls.

So lost in his hatred he misses the fracture which opens his thatch to the sky. He sees stars flicker into sight though, first few than many but pulsing in the same electric ribbon of time as if joined in fate by unseen forces.

It's the Archivists old bones he hates most and he tells himself not to release his hatred as morning breaks. Knowing he will stokes the flame harder. It chars each cell walling in his blood flow. When his memories make it from the past to his present knowing they are steeped in poison, darkened to the black of ash, and he hates more than he'd ever thought possible all those who've ever...

if they'd ever...


"I'm underwhelmed," Inanna says. "Though they've called me so many ways and so many names I wanted to be soft this time. Like, you know, the summer rains that fell on me. Before there were too many of us and we had to ship out our young and old."

She's all thorns. Briar and nettle, edged in crescents honed and delving the air, shades of auburn twixt to even dried blood. Standing true through it all like a spire yet she may as well be lain, right now, mightn't she? Make you hurt, she thinks. It'll make you hurt but of course at the moment of truth there is no hurt so what matter even the pain that bookends it?

And of course Aeterne looks noble and regal, slab of chest like ridged diamond, His only edges. He's a fantasy of white light here because the Fay could always blood their myths through time, bend the genes of their brood the way they wanted. What they wanted was an action fantasy to speak for them when they were long gone. They can remember it in boys on summer's first freezing night of the 13th Cycle.

It's a curse, she thinks, and then because it is over with soon enough it's forgiven. And the boy will release his hatred, and the first thing he will do is go to those he spate, and beg for their mercy. They will gift it with golden smiles. Well, she thinks, it's not loving good enough. Not good enough because I go through this again, again, and each time I'm the bitch. Queen of frost. And I am She who He must put up with even though it is Him who takes me.

She knows the look in his face as He gathers himself to speak with that chiselled mouth. It's the look of someone who's about to tell some bitch who like all bitches has sprang from seed to please shut up. Her hand wavers in what would be slap if the two were yet close enough, but is instead the waver of spurning. He can't take it and draws closer. His face contorts.

What does the boy see? She wonders this, dim as if in fugue. Because how to mistake that look for something else than vile hatred? The crease in His lips stands out against their waxen sheen. No real boy's lips were ever that smooth. No, she knows the lips of real boys and they are always cracked. They always sting to the kiss like paper wasps brushed aside.

Now Aeterne spits out his hatred and wrestles her to the ground. Inanna marks her cuts in him. Proves both of them in the boy's dreaming eyes as the stars blaze above against a sky reaching midnight fast. Wanting to cry, she dashes Him again instead, on and on, in his tender places. Yet when she sees Him next the wounds will have healed and she will still be ugly. This boy, destined to lead or follow, will either way forget the nooks of theme. He will bring with him how the ugly art withers before the noble ravage of teaching. Get old. Become ancient and teach the young.

Teach them, among other things, that the stars shine even in death.

Even in death the old flesh loves.

Oct 24, 2018

rear end GHOST!

980 words

In the dark ancestral crypts of the savage Nuulvek people, a sorcerer lurks. If his people were to ever find out he invaded the sacred caves, he would be ripped bone for bone and scattered across the unsightly plains of Galgooga, never to join his ancestors the glorious Eternal Steakhouse. But his spell requires ghosts, and ghosts haunt only here.

He takes out a scroll, and marks its etchings in the sand by magelight. Then he breathes warm air along the etchings, muttering the word for fire in a long-dead tongue. Then he softly chants the Nuulvek national anthem, which was actually the Sengarr tribal anthem before they were conquered by the Nuulvek who quickly realized their new slaves had a much cooler anthem. Then he lays down an offering to the spirits, a brand new graphing calculator he hopes he spent enough money on. Then he breathes warm air on the etchings again. Then he shouts:

"Ancestors of the Nuulvek, enter into my bones and bring me new strength!"

The bones lining the crypt rattle and spit neon green dust from their eyes, which converge upon the sorcerer and spin around him. The spell has worked.

"Aw man, who pulled me out of the Eternal Steakhouse? I was just about to get my order of all-you-can-eat shoestring potatoes!" says the ghost in the sorcerer's skull. 

"You are here to enhance me intellect, and show me visions of the unknowable," says the sorcerer. "I swear, upon your release, you will receive an honored place in the Eternal Steakhouse, in the seat by the taxidermy doe."

"What about me?" says the ghost in the sorcerer's humerus. "What was I brought out of the Glorious House of Reliably Pretty Good Wings to do?"Crew

"You can make my arms turn into little volcanoes when I flex them, like in a cartoon," says the sorcerer.

"Know what, that's actually pretty sick," says the humerus ghost. "Can I sit in the smoking section, which the Eternal Steakhouse still has, when I am released?"

"I don't see why not," says the sorcerer.

"And what of me? In life, I was High Queen of the Nuulvek, and made many of our great conquests, personally driving the Royal Humvee into battle during Desert Storm. I sit at right at the sacred bar in the Eternal Steakhouse, where it always my birthday, and I am always entitled to a free margarita. How shall I enhance your power as you pave the road to glory in blood?"

"I dunno, what bone do you have?" says the sorceror.

"Let's see, I am housed in your…no. Oh no. No no no no no. Oh no. No no no no."

"Hahaha, sucks to suck," says the skull ghost. "Looks like you're an rear end ghost."

"What, seriously?" says the ribcage ghost. "When I was alive I was shift manager at a Denny's, and I got ribs and the High Queen got the butt? This is amazing."

"I'm sure I can do something cool from the tailbone," says the ancient High Queen. "Tell me, great sorcerer, how shall I assist you?"

"I think you can change the color of my poop," says the sorceror.

"And turn it to poison acid as you launch it across the battlefield?"

"No, just regular poop. If it makes you feel any better I think you can make little designs, like sparkles and stars."

"How dare you! I should be revelling in my holy reward, and you turn me into a common poo poo decorator? You shall face my cursed wrath!"

"Nah, I don't think I will. See, I'm a powerful sorcerer, and you're an rear end ghost. Alright, you guys ready to kick some rear end?"

"Yeah!" shout the ancestral ghosts housed in two hundred five out of the two hundred six bones. The sorcerer starts to ascend the crypt staircase. But in the dark, he trips on one of the steps and falls backwards on his butt.

" rear end...I think my tailbone's broken," moans the sorcerer as the spectral form of the High Queen seeps out of his backside. She stands over him with a deeply displeased expression.

"Uh, ya know, I don't think I need my poop decorated after all. You can get back to your free margaritas," pleads the sorcerer.

"Oh I will," says the queen. "After I have my revenge. ROYAL HUMVEE!" The ghostly form of the Royal Humvee materializes around her.

"What? Humvees can become ghosts? How?" screams the sorcerer.

"The same way our clothes do," I guess, says the queen. She hits the accelerator and charges at the still-seated sorcerer. Desperately, he flexes his biceps, but the tiny volcanoes do nothing against the tough ghost-humvee armor.

The sorcerer opens his eyes and smiles. He can't believe it. He's in the parking lot of the Eternal Steakhouse. Even after all of his horrible crimes against the ancestors, he has obtained the divine reward. He walks into the building.

"A table for one," he says to the hostess, looking around at the bountiful vintage street signs that decorate the Holy Restaurant.

"Sorry, we have a little bit of a wait," says the hostess. "Here, take this, when it vibrates, we'll have a seat open for you."

"Cool," says the sorcerer. "How long is the wait?" 

"About twenty minutes," she says. Suddenly, her professional smile curls into an evil grin. "But in twenty minutes, the wait will still be twenty minutes. And the same thing twenty minutes after that. And twenty minutes after that…"

"No, no, no, this can't be happening," says the sorcerer. He storms out of the Steakhouse. He finds the sign for the restaurant: ETERNAL STEAKHOUSE. But something is wrong: STEAKHOUSE is written on a separate tapestry. He rips it off. Tears come to his eyes and he screams curses at the sky.

The sign now reads: ETERNAL APPLEBEE'S.


Nov 16, 2012

One Body
1500 words

The faded glass of the bathroom mirror was a portrait of Doctor Anderson under fluorescent light. The exhausted scientist stood there for a while studying his features – his round face, the weeks’ worth of facial hair, the asymmetry of his left side, the crooked smile and slow eye which the palsy had given him. He looked like he had lost weight – his work had kept him from the canteen more and more. His hands ran over his face, massaged his jaw and his throat, and he hummed a childhood tune so as to keep his voice from falling into disuse. He hadn’t spoken to anyone – that is, not to himself or Catherine – for maybe four days. Recently they had stuck to their own haunting grounds, his and her wings of the labyrinthine bunker.

Anderson’s footsteps echoed through the concrete corridors on his return to the lab. The door to the brig was half-open, and on the walls in regular intervals of twenty feet was a screen displaying various things – the temperature and radiation level in and outside, a map of the facility, and in large typeface read ‘EXTERNAL COMMS: NULL’ which remained unchanged since they lost contact with the Antarctica bunker a while ago. When Anderson reached the door to the lab, it seemed to him that the sound of footsteps continued for about a second after he had come to a halt. Cat? Was that you? Despite himself, he peered over his shoulder. It must’ve been nothing. He should talk to Cat today, he thought to himself, it would do no good to go stir-crazy.

Bones in the body are living tissue. They have their own blood vessels and are made of living cells, which help them to grow and to repair themselves. In Anderson’s lab, a dozen metal slabs bore skeletons of various species and completion. On the stainless steel tables which ran the length of two of the four walls, various tools, saws, solutions, beakers. On another wall, the lab computer, a massive clicking, wrurring behemoth that stretched to the ceiling, waited for input. On the far side, an elevator led down to the morgue. Anderson walked over to a slab and continued where he left off – he picked up a skull which had two small pick-like wands jammed into the scalp and cheekbone. These devices were connected with red wire to a metal, black box by Anderson’s feet, and then by more wires to the computer. With the right side of his lip, Anderson managed a smile as he examined the skull, and the readings the computer gave off on-screen. He didn’t realise he was on the verge of discovering the consciousness of bones.

A screen on the computer buzzed. Looking over, Anderson ran his hand through his greying hair and pushed a button. The screen began broadcasting the image of a woman, perhaps in her mid-thirties, with jet black hair running down her shoulders. “Good morning, Doctor.” Said Cat, giving a little mock-salute to the camera.

Anderson pretended not to be happy to see her. “Morning, is it? I must’ve lost track of time.”

“Bright and early, if that made any difference.” The woman shrugged. “Don’t feel too bad, I’ve been keeping strange hours myself.”

“Really? Done any exploring?”

“I’ve been in A-Wing all week – mostly in comms. You know that. Besides, there’s nothing to explore. I can map the whole thing in my sleep.”

The woman gave a polite smile. I wish I could say the same, Anderson thought to himself, feels like this place shifts around me sometimes.

“You should come over,” Anderson suggested. “There’s been some very interesting developments in my work.”

On the screen, static concealed a small laugh. “You must really miss me if you’re inviting me into your lair, Doctor.”

The Doctor, in jest, played defensive. “You used to be very interested in what I got up to. Let’s say noon?”

The hesitation in Cat’s response was perhaps a nanosecond too long.

“Noon, then. I’ll just finish up here. See you soon, Doctor.” Cat’s arm reached out to somewhere besides the camera and the feed flicked off.

As Anderson was left looking at his hunched reflection in the monitor, he felt a tingling at the back of his neck. A sensation creeped up to him that he wasn’t alone in the room.

Swinging round, he was greeted only with the room as he had left it, the skull with the electric spikes plaintively facing the door. Alive, yes, but inert. Anderson quickly calmed himself with the thought that he had more to fear from a lab rat than a pile of bones. After all, without musculature, sensation, a mind to store information, the matter in front of him held all the complexity, less, of a cracked egg. Cat was right, he did miss her.

He missed people. Cat was a good companion, sure, but she was content with her own company too often, which Anderson envied her for. They had experimented, shortly after they found themselves alone together, sleeping in the same bed. Both agreed, after everything that happened outside, the feeling of human warmth had become too sickly-sweet. One place, two people; in the spirit of self-reliance, Cat surmised they should regard each other as neighbours, which Anderson thought was perfectly rational.

Anderson did not have long to reminisce before the readings from the skull-device began to blip on-screen. He stared for a long moment. This couldn’t be right – perhaps the radiation was playing tricks with the equipment. Data indecipherable to all but the Doctor pored across the monitor. His bewilderment grew – there was something happening in the collagen of the skull. In that organic mix of proteins and cells, a wave crashed. Anderson started examining the black box at his feet, then hurrying back to the computer, flipping switches and turning dials. Inexplicably, he felt himself break into a cold sweat. He moved without thinking, his hands acting out of muscle memory of years of using this machine.

There was a soft ping from the morgue elevator.

Anderson turned and froze. Mechanisms were moving and the elevator doors slowly parted. Feeling a stiffness in his legs, Anderson took one step, then two, closer to the door. He felt prickling on the left side of his face. From the elevator, all that emerged was a sickly yellow light from the fluorescent bulb on the top of the car. Just an electrical fault, he thought. Just like what’s happening to my body right now, an electrical fault. Some neuron’s not firing right, which is why I feel so compelled to keep walking to the elevator. It’s probably that I’m sad I’m alone, is why I’m so delicately getting on my knees, laying on my chest, pressing my ear to the elevator floor, he thought to himself.

At the bottom of the shaft, quiet on their slabs, were the remains of most of the original inhabitants of the bunker - the state when he found them had inspired Anderson’s current study in the first place. Anderson lingered in the elevator car, seemingly waiting to see if anything would happen, if anything would make a noise. Deep within, something stirred. With enough effort, Anderson pulled himself up and shambled nauseously to a chair in the lab. He felt intensely disconnected from his body, like an internal tug of war. The tension within him built and built – he threw his head into his hands and gnashed his teeth together – how unbearable! Cat can’t see me like this!

In the lens of the passive camera indented into the computer, Anderson’s heavy figure leapt upright, and like a mad animal dashed to the picks which were still wired to the skull on the table. The camera recorded the skull being picked up, and then thrown violently to the ground, shattering into shards. Anderson’s frame ducked below the table, obscuring it to the computer. Furtive noises echoed through the lab, and then a howl of pain as Anderson reared up into view again. One pick was jammed into his back cheek, where the jawbone connects, and the other jutted from his temple like a horn. Anderson’s body started shambling back and forth, like he was just learning how to walk, and a rogue arm smeared blood over his twisted face.

In some of Anderson’s books, the oriental belief of Animism was mentioned. Everything living had a soul – trees and flowers, birds and wolves. Even the simplest organisms, a solitary cell, might have some drive, some primordial conscious.

Cat rapped her knuckles on the lab door. “Doctor?” she said. “Sorry, I’m a little late. I don’t want you to think I’ve been avoiding you.” She pushed against the heavy iron. “Could you unlock this for me? I’ve been feeling kinda funny and I’d feel better with some company.” No reply came from the lab. “Doctor?”

Slumped on the other side of the door, Anderson was writhing calcium. Strips of skin dangled from his face and from behind ugly flesh the bone glinted out. The morgue was a calcium garden, the bunker’s denizens born again in globular mass.

Apr 30, 2006

A Present
1216 words

When my U-Haul arrived at Miriam’s house, there was a dead cardinal on her step. After I’d been laid off, I’d spent three months burning through my savings and the remnants of the goodwill I had with my friends. All the while, I’d been telling people “Well, if this doesn’t work out, I can always go live with my sister. She was profiled in the New Yorker,” I’d say, never really imagining that I’d actually have to do it. And now I was there, overgrown lawn, dead cardinal and all.

Miriam opened the door and Titus, her bruiser of a cat, barreled out of the shade of a hibiscus bush and rubbed against Miriam’s legs. “You brought me a present,” she murmured, not looking at me. I wasn’t sure if she was talking about me or the bird.

“Hey,” I said. “I can’t thank you enough for–”

She waved a hand, still missing my eyes. “‘S’fine. Don’t get to use my guest room enough. I don’t like the thought of it sitting there, empty, sterile. You need help?”

She helped me unload the truck and bring the things into the guest room, while Titus wove between our legs and we minded the cardinal. We said little, which was usual for us; even when we were kids, Miriam would say as little as possible before slinking away to her bedroom and engross herself in modeling clay. Sometimes the silences were comfortable. More often, I’d wonder what was behind them – if they had sharp edges, like the claws and teeth in her sculptures.

As I returned to the truck, I saw her pick up the cardinal with a pair of vinyl gloves and carry it inside the house.


Titus was sitting on the bed when I made it back, cleaning himself. I bent down to pick him up, and he snapped his head back and bit my hand. Cursing, I stumbled into the bathroom and ran my hand under the water, trying to bury the thoughts of tetanus.

Miriam knocked on the bathroom door. “Ouch,” she said.

“Your cat’s a little bit of a shithead.”

“Hm. He likes space.”

“Okay, but he was on my bed. That’s my space.”

She was silent for a moment, looking at the linoleum. “He’ll figure it out. Once you’ve settled in. Once he knows your scent.” She opened up a high cabinet and handed me a package of bandages. “I’m glad you’re here, Kate,” she said, as she turned and walked away.


The next weeks were rough. In between lethargic, this-probably-won’t-work-out-so-why-try job searches, I spent my days dodging Titus. Aside from biting me two more times, he ruined my favorite blouse, pouncing from half a room away onto my back to quash a fly.

And I was dodging Miriam, too. I’d started to take more notice of the bone sculptures that decorated the hallway shelves. They were simple things, just a couple of tweedy thin lines crossing each other. I’d thought they were geometric abstractions at first, but I’d started assigning meaning to them. A talon. A fist around what might have been a neck.

And then there was the time I’d walked into her in the backyard, working over a tarp with a scalpel and forceps, extracting bones from one of Titus’s victims. Titus lay in a sunbeam, licking his paws.

“What’s going on here?” I asked.

Miriam didn’t look up. “The bones are for me. The rest is for Titus.” She picked out a wet-looking organ with the forceps and placed it in a casserole dish. “You’re welcome to join us.”

My stomach churned. “Maybe later.”


One afternoon I returned to my room to find my bed covered in feathers. The one window was wide-open, screen and all.

I slammed it shut, gathered all of the bedding and took it downstairs to the laundry. Miriam was working in her study with the door closed, but I could still hear the rhythm of her patter. The clip of scissors on sinew, aggravated sawing, a brittle crack. A frustrated grunt.

In the dining room, a half dozen of her sculptures sat on the mantle. I remembered one from the photograph in the New Yorker piece. Some curved bone, half-cracked, jutting out of an avian skull. The journalist called it “bleak but familiar,” to which Miriam had answered “What’s familiar?” That was the end of the section.

To me, it had always reminded me of Phineas Gage, the railroad worker who took a metal rod in the head and lived the rest of his life as a temperamental jerk.

Titus came in through the cat door, and I connected to Phineas, feeling that flash of pure id cross me. I looked right at Titus as I batted the Phineas Gage sculpture onto the floor and watched the skull split in two.


The knock on my bedroom door came an hour later. Miriam was holding a cake platter with the splintered remnants of the sculpture in one hand. “Can you explain this?”

I glanced at the lobotomized leftovers. “I’m not an art critic,” I said.

Miriam held the plate out, blinked several times, and looked down, standing stony and immobile.

“It was probably Titus. I can just see it – he thinks it’s a real bird and goes flying after it, but--”

“Right.” Miriam untied her hair, and met my eyes for once. “That doesn’t make sense. Tell me why you waited so long to call me. Why you don’t spend any time with me. Why you write your name on all of your food.”

“The last one’s easy. That’s so you don’t eat my food.” I took a deep breath. “Look, you get that people can find this whole aesthetic a little creepy, right? My bed was covered in feathers today – loving feathers. That’s not sanitary.”

“Oh,” Miriam said, and she almost smiled. “I think that means he thinks you’re part of the family now. I get the bones. Titus gets the flesh. You get the feathers.”

“Look, I’m honored, but I don’t want the feathers. I want a job and my own place and I want to not feel stalked by a feral animal wherever I go. I don’t want to have to figure out which Tupperware container is full of bird hearts and which one has leftover bolognese sauce. And, I’m sorry, but I don’t want to look at these loving morbid tchochkes every time I leave my room.”

Miriam turned around for a second. I could hear her breathing, short and staggered, and I could imagine her swinging around, bone knife in hand, its destination my chest. Instead she just said, with her back still to me: “I’d say you don’t have to stay. But you don’t have anywhere else to go, do you?”

For once, I was the one without anything to say. Then an acrid pungent smell filled the room, as Titus brushed by Miriam, with a skunk carcass in tow. He dropped it at my feet, looked up at me, and meowed.

When no one moved, he meowed again. “Do you use skunk bones for anything?” I asked Miriam.

For the first time since I moved in, she laughed, and the three of us went down to the kitchen for rubber gloves and tomato juice.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

The War for Your Soul
1304 words

All babies can see demons, and you were no exception. From the day your mother brought you home, we have been inseparable.

You watched me stomp around your nursery in all of my gnarled red glory, and you giggled. You noticed the goop-spewing pustules on my backside, but instead of shuddering in disgust, you just bit your foot and grinned. Each night you slept blissfully, as my leathery wings formed a shield around your crib.

It's a good thing I was there to protect you, too. The angels had put a price on your soul, and I was the only thing that could stop them.

See, back in the old days, angels used to show up and tell people what to do all the time. Long story short, it got out of hand, and God shut that whole thing down. Henceforth angels were restricted to their basic administrative duties on Earth: to usher a soul into a viable embryo, and to collect a soul upon the death of its vessel. (We demons have no such handicaps.)

The system worked for thousands of years. I certainly enjoyed myself all that time. There was some delightful slaughter. And the angels seemed to be living their best lives too. But something changed with God. The people He'd created on Earth began to ignore Him and the paradise He'd built. Each year, fewer and fewer souls were clean enough to pass through Saint Peter's checkpoint and enter Heaven. The party was over.

God got depressed and sulked off into the cosmos somewhere. The angels, ever valorous, have largely abided His rules in His absence, but they're desperate. They collect souls with abandon, at every opportunity, as clean as they can get them. Maybe they're planning to float a barge piled with souls out into space, like catnip for an idle God. Perhaps they'd rather build their own Heaven and start anew.

It didn't matter to me why they wanted your soul. My only concern was that you got to keep it. That night, in your nursery, while your skull plates fused across the last few millimeters of your tender fontanelle, I made sure of it.

I was singing you a song when the first angel appeared in the doorway. It looked like all angels do: tall, tan and slender, with a glowing aura and a pair of feathered wings. I don't bother trying to identify them anymore. There's hundreds of them and they all look like siblings. Not like us demons; there's a thousand different kinds of ugly between me and the next imp, and each of us can lay claim to a thousand more.

But I digress. This angel also wore a little bowler hat. They all have some insipid affectation.

It came at me with its dukes put up, wings outstretched as an intimidation tactic. I dodged its rush and grabbed the end of one wing, spun around and flung it through the roof. It blasted past another pair of angels that were just landing. They moved through the house like it wasn't there; it both was and wasn't, in a spiritual sense. I'll explain it when you're older.

The angel on the right had a scar down one side of its face that must have been intended to look sexy and mysterious. When it opened its mouth to quip at me, I stuck three of my thick fingers in its mouth, ripped off its jaw, and used it to staple the angel's face to its backside.

The one on the left unsheathed a glimmering katana. It was wary of me, circling around at a distance. I beckoned to it, thumping my cratered chest. Finally it charged, and I side-stepped. I grabbed the angel's sword arm and thrust my knee up, destroying its elbow. But the angel was crafty - it flipped the katana to its other hand and plunged it between my ribs. It hurt like home, but I punched down and snapped the hilt off the blade. I twisted the angel around by its useless arm until the shoulder ripped apart, then held it down with its own hand and stomped it into pulp.

I looked over at you. Snoozing, peacefully. When had that happened? For a moment, I was disappointed. I wouldn't have minded an audience for these rear end-kickings. Your delighted, baffled grin shining up at my dance of death. I only had that moment - in the next, I heard the sound of wings on air, and the soft click of… I shuddered.

Tap shoes.

Without turning around, I jammed a finger into the wound between my ribs. The broke-off katana blade that was still lodged inside me shot out of my back and pinned the angel to the wall. I took my time in turning around to face it, to let all the jagged textures of my grotesque appearance reveal themselves to it one-by-one.

The air filled with clickity-clacks as the angel shuffled around, trying to free itself from the blade before I reached it. But I reached it. I took hold of the angel's wings and pulled them up. The katana blade cut the angel down through its bowels. It moaned softly, stopped struggling, and rested its head on my shoulder. I spat - the scent of those things always disgusted me. With a little jump for leverage, I pushed the angel's wings down until the blade came up and split the skull cleanly in half.

That must have been when the cavalry arrived, because the next thing I knew, it was angels jumping all over my back and slithering around my knees, going for body blows. I was glad for the heavenly host, to be honest. A fight where I can turn my mind off is one I usually win. I only remember flashes of what happened then.

Feathers swirling like a bloodstained blizzard. A tuxedo t-shirt unable to stop my claws from breaching a brittle breastplate. A stack of angels writhing on the katana like so many crumpled receipts. My thumbs hooked through the holes in a pelvis, snapping it in half. My foot spurs snagged on a spinal cord, from the front. Two floating ribs in my hands, ripped out of their torso and plunged into eye sockets. Dripping entrails draped around my horns.

When the angels stopped coming, I slowly came back to myself. Their perfumed blood coated our spiritual battlefield. I'd been hurt too. My black blood sagged forth, the sign of a hard-won victory. Somehow, you remained asleep - dreaming, no doubt, of something simple and sweet, like your mother's hair. Your skull was nearly whole. The moment had come.

I shrank, lengthened, flattened, and rounded. Like a wisp of smoke played in reverse, I sucked myself through impossibly small soft spot in your head, and nestled myself next to your soul. The gates of bone crashed shut above us. Thus our fates became entwined.

I can tell you're less than enthused, hearing our story like this. I know you'd have liked to have a choice in the matter. But it could be worse. Imagine your mother, awakening to find your body cold, your soul snatched away by dispassionate angels, just trying to meet some heavenly quota. Imagine life eternal in Heaven for your soul - sure, they say it's nice, but by definition it rejects the pleasures of the flesh.

Instead, you have me. Your protector. Your cellmate. And, if you like, your advisor. Complete transparency? Yes, indeed, I want you to sin. A long life of sin without repentance is all I want for you. But if you choose to balance it out with virtue, I can't stop you.

You don't have to decide right now. I'll just be here, observing, and at times whispering. Look inward when you're ready, and I promise, you'll find me waiting.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Bone Tree
Word Count: 1210
Bone: Sternum
Flash: Some milk, good; lots of milk, bad

That’s a genuine piece of Blackbeard’s treasure right there.

“Hey now! Where did you find this?”

Right here in these mountains. Can you reckon that?

“I wonder if there’s more. Can you take me where you found it? I’ll make sure you get something shiny for your troubles.”

No trouble at all. Treasures shouldn’t stay hidden forever. That’s what I believed when I was a treasure hunter.

“How in the world does a bird find a gold piece?”

That’s a long story. But we’ve got a bit of a hike, so as long as you’re listening I’ll lead and talk.

“Keep cawing, crow. Wouldn’t want to lose you now.”

The treasure hunt started in a library. Hardly an adventurous start, but you can’t just dig willy-nilly. I mean you can. But it’s a huge waste. If you’re smart enough and lucky enough you only have to dig once.

But back to Blackbeard. His treasure was last seen 300 years ago here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. So I go looking for clues in historical documents, diaries of odd things, anything from the time period that might lead to my next step.

Hunting and pecking through documents, I come across a chronicle of some native wisdom: the ways they killed animals, honored their ancestors and bogeys to watch out for. One tribe had a way of getting information called a Bone Tree, something that they said only the most holy could grow. This wisdom got them through war, famine and sickness.

The chronicler was kind enough to include the steps for growing a Bone Tree as well as a host of other facts about the process that had me wanting to try my luck. But then there were the down sides.

Watch out, the trail’s a bit steep here.

“Another piece of gold? Lucky bird, lead on!”

Glad you’re still with me.

As I was saying, this Bone Tree can give you all sorts of wisdom, but first you have to plant one of your own bones. As it grows it drains your life for its food and when it flowers, poof, you die. A pretty high price to pay for ultimate knowledge. Even if I did find old ‘Beardy’s treasure I wouldn’t get to enjoy it.

But that’s not the end of the story. When you die, your soul flies up and pollinates the flower on the tree. When the tree produces its single seed, your soul is now trapped in that seed. Some animal comes along, eats the seed and then you’re reborn from that animal and considered sacred. Not only do you get to keep the wisdom, you get extra sacred animal powers too!

I plant a tree. I find the treasure. I get a little lady to eat a seed. I get reborn to enjoy my treasure in the next life. Now we’re talking.

The Bone Tree doesn’t grow from any old bone however. The more important the bone, the easier it is for the tree to grow. Fingers and toes will work, but I was no horticulturist. I needed a bone that would have instant results.

I’m still in the library, so I do some more research and you wouldn’t believe what the miracles of modern medicine can do. Turns out doctors can take out your sternum!

“Are we almost there? My pockets are getting heavy from all the coins.”

Take it from me, treasure doesn’t come easy.

I won’t go into the details, but just know that I had a friend who knew a guy. I walked in with some titanium, he does the old switcheroo and I walk out with my sternum in a bag. I never felt the difference.

I found a nice little spot along the Cascades Trail. I dug a hole, stuck the sternum in like a tulip bulb and covered it over. North Carolina soil being what it is, the tree sprung up in no time.

But not the wisdom. That took a while to seep in. And it wasn’t very helpful at first. I got a lot of intel about bugs and rain and soil content. I had to let it grow a bit and that was much harder.

When the book said the tree would drain your life, that was no joke. No way I was climbing mountains looking for treasure while my knees were so wobbly I fell out of chairs and that’s if I was able to sit up in the first place. But the natives provided an answer for that too: drink milk. Just like fifth grade science said: drink your milk for healthy Bone Trees!

This helped me find the energy to woo a lady. I managed to find her on the very trail where my Bone Tree was planted. She would have no problem finding the seed when the time came. I don’t want to bore you with all of the ooey-gooey romantic details but she was game for the plan. Not the actual plan. I told her something else that wouldn’t send her screaming.

Then I got hit hard again with the life force sucking. Worse than before even. I couldn’t get out of bed. I could barely breathe. I began wasting away. I drank more milk and it got worse. I thought the tree must be budding and my time was up. I sent my lady up to the tree and she reported that there was no bud to be seen and the tree looked pretty grim as well. So what was the problem?”

“I don’t think I can find my way back from here.”

You won’t need to be doing that. We’re almost done with the story.

Since things didn’t seem to be going well for my plan, I decided now was the time to become a horticulturist. I took out a bunch of books from the library and learned more about soil composition and pH than any treasure hunter ever has. But I got my answer. Turns out me and the tree were over-calcified.

I edged off the milk a bit and we both improved, though the tree more so than me. With that reminder, I got busy… with research of course! I dialed in on the tree intelligence I was getting, matching the pictures in my head with photographs of mountain passes until I zeroed in on a spot.

And here we are.

“You’ve stopped. Where are we, crow? Is there more treasure?”

It’s just over there but seeing as you can’t understand my cawing I’ll just wrap things up.

I knew where the treasure was hidden but now I needed a body that wasn’t falling apart. I didn’t have long to wait. The tree soon bloomed and I died. When the seed emerged it must have been eaten by a passing crow. Snatched out of my lady love’s very hand I like to imagine and I was born into this bird’s body.

“Are those bodies?”

Here’s the thing: the treasure’s no good to me as a bird. You remember those sacred animal powers I mentioned earlier? One of them happens to be transferring your spirit to a chosen one.

And as you can see, I haven’t quite figured out the process yet. So stand still.

“Hey-wha-my eyes!”

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

A Paper Horse, a Ghost Queen and her Flamingos, and a Space Hippopotamus, by yoruichi

Having a shtick is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it’s fun for in jokes, but on the other hand in jokes are cancer (or at least diabetes, or some other high mortality non-communicable disease). Where it can be good is where it gives you an opportunity to dig into something that clearly matters to you and find out what’s going on under the surface. I’m talking of course about yoruichi and horses, and with no less than three horsey flash rules this was always going to have a little freckles in it, but in fact it doesn’t come out the worse for it. This is still in the tdome wacky paddock, but there’s some whiffs of deeper meaning, and it’s both fun and funny. It feels like a story written just before falling asleep, and it relies on a constant flow of absurd images, of which ‘Grawk!’ said a flamingo wearing a tuxedo may be the zaniest, but there’s an oddly articulate dream eating hippo to come so who knows. This kind of dreamlike and then and then stuff only has so much in the way of legs (just like your protag) though, so it’s good you wrap the end up in a nice bow, and settle your prose down to bring the story to a peaceful satisfying close. I liked this a lot, it’s the right kind of fluffy silliness with just enough substance to not regret reading it.

Sudoku, by sitting here

You set the scene for structural brain fuckery with the title, for which much thanks, so the reader is prepped for what this is - a set of fragments that (are intended to) cohere into a singular whole. It’s kind of a neat trick, but it is a bit of a trick, since it offloads the task of assembling meaning onto the reader, and the montage effect means that you get a shadow story filling in the blanks. That said, it works here, and it’s a strength of the piece. The words throughout are lovely, shifting gear from elevated to mundane. I think this suffers a little as a thunderdome piece because judges have to read fast, so the (intricate) interweavings between cells of the number puzzle can be lost, but there’s also a rigid internality to its focus on a single personality or moment that lightly repels the reader, like bringing the north poles of two magnets together. Put that next to the ‘maybe next time’ ending and I think I see why this was an hm rather than a win. A beautiful, complex piece of work though and the prose and imagery is never less than delicious.

ROBOCASINO: A Johnny Backflip Adventure, by saucy rodent

Wow yes so there’s a gear shift. This story wears its tdome wacky colours on its sleeve right from the title, and there’s no harm in that - some stories just wanna have fun. They can have fun while not putting double spaces between each para tho, so plz to be working on that. Also, if you’re going to do insane wacky td adventures, I think it’s worth trying to have them be fun stories without all the insane wackiness! The quirky campbells soup drinking usain bolts et al are carrying 97-114% of the load here. Anyway, enough words, you wanted to write a dumb story and succeeded. Next.

Lessons in Empathy, by simply simon

Fixate is a transitive verb, which means that you can’t fixate, you need to fixate on something. I’m pulling this out as a heads up, but really your whole first few paras is extremely muddled - there’s a worthwhile set of components, i’m even quite interested, but you’re unpacking a single moment into a big old flashback and a revelation and a bunch of peoples reactions and none of it lands because we don’t really know or care at this stage. I think you’ve put a lot of thought into these empaths fighting each other and there’s some solid e.e. Doc smith pulpy energy in the laser blasts being deflected by the precisely angled doo dah (though the protag is a bit too perfect so it’s not as exciting as it should be) but even putting aside the gawky prose, there’s no real weight in the ending - why not have the empath on the station be Scoen the mentor? At least then the beginning and end would be a little unified.

Pie Rats, by sparksbloom

The preceding story was an awkward mess, but it did have energy, and I found myself missing that most keenly while reading this dreary bubble of ullage. Rats are in a tin, they potter along, some stuff happens, there are ships. The rats are telepathic, I guess? There are pies. THE loving END.

The View from Up there, by Thranguy

This could easily have veered into the wacky, but doesn’t by way of grounding nearly everything in it, you’ve got solid motivations for actions, the details all have a place to live in the overall story structure, and: it’s got a cold war jet fighter shooting down a dragon, badass. Where it falls down is probably a lack of anything else, because all the bits are in service of that core conceit, you get to the end and it seems a weeee bit contrived. Why was the starfighter immovable and immortal? Because the plot required it. There’s not much outside the universe of the story, for all that you go to so much effort to ground its happenings. Fun read, though.

Grim, a friendly penguin

Pegasi as any fule kno, is the plural of pegasus, not pegasuses. Though Pegasus was the name of the winged horse, like idk Jeff, rather than a name for the species so it’s all made up really. This is not my only quibble with the story - more important is how blase our protag is, to the point of being fairly insufferable. She doesn’t give much of a crap about any of the weird poo poo happening in her library, and when she starts being all about the fibonacci sequence is about where i start scrolling down to see how much more there is to go. The fundamental issue is the story doesn’t take itself seriously, but isn’t funny either - see thranguy’s for an example of how to do the former well. Are people really waiting outside the cryptid infested library in droves wanting to browse? Does leah just intrinsically know how to oust mythological weirdos from stacks, is that something they teach in schools in your world? Is the lack of a strategic vision for a board presentation in any way interesting or exciting as the central conflict in a story? All good qns to ponder imo

Just passing through, by anomalous blowout

So this treads similar ground to a bunch of the others and won by doing it more slickly and having some nice crunchy relationships and a well tuned understanding of what to change about our current dreary reality and what to leave as is. I like the hint of change at the end, and the brothers’ relationships ring true. A decent winner that makes the reader smile and ponder the numinous underpinnings of our own world, though now having read the whole week i might maaaaybe have leaned towards SH’s mad logic puzzle for its willingness to push the structural boat out further in a fairly dreary week? who knows.

A request, by Uranium Phoenix

I think I understand muffin’s complaint about some of these stories feeling stretched out, this is a prime candidate. We have a long trip, a yarny bit of chit chat where the guy oh gosh does some mansplainin i hope you punish him for that, story, and then there’s some wizardry but it’s all a plot and she gets all locked up but then she gets out and talks to her ex gf who WHAT DO YOU KNOW loved her all along and they leave, making sure to silence the naughty king who might have had an opinion about having his kingdom get skeletoned or w/e but shh the ladies are talking. There’s two issues with this, one is that the core conflict is rather dull and too quickly resolved (what if she’d said ‘no’? Isn’t that more interesting? Isn’t the necro wizard just as insanely smug as all the people she’s criticising for that very quality? Could that have been productively explored?) and the other is that the tone doesn’t know what it wants and veers from intense fantasy windswept sand swirling to casual buffoonery with ppl being all snipsnapped up into little cages or booped on the nose or w/e. Some pleasant words along the way though.

Tea and regrets, by JABC

Yeah, so this is decently hung together pulp that doesn’t really stray more than an inch from the formula despite its tolerably well executed Comparative Mythology 201 stylings. I like the vividness of your prose, the characters are enjoyably sassy if cliche, and i didn’t get bored reading it. Think of ways you can twiddle the knobs when you’re doing stuff like this though - you already flicked the setting and mythic reality knobs hard over, why leave the ‘insanely predictable, y/n?’ one untweaked, it’s right there

Feb 25, 2014


single vertebrae

It is possible to transplant the bones of the dead into the bones of the living, but there are often consequences.

Little Piece

My dad collected bones. A drawer in his basement, full of beaver and squirrel and orca cartilage. Mostly human, though. He was a doctor, with a poster pointing at each and every bone in the human body.

He was most happy with this spine he got. Of a man. Don’t know where he got it, who the man was, just that it was intact. He liked to touch it with a poker. He made me sit down, and he pinched the nerve, and said, “This one here, it makes your hand raise. And this one, if you do this.” He stabbed it. “It makes the heart stop.”

When my dad died, it wasn’t like a tragedy. Maybe it was because he talked to me all the time, about bones, about how easy it is to die, that when the car accident happened, when I saw the body in the morgue, it wasn’t a shock. He told me, so many times, “We are just bones and nerves. Just wires criss crossing between so much stuff. It’s a wonder we live so long, ‘cause if one breaks, we just go.”

The coroner said the cause of death was blunt trauma to the spine, that a vertebrae shattered, one of the bones my dad pointed out. He didn’t suffer, the coroner said, and he patted me on the back.

I asked him if he could do something for me, he said anything, and I asked for a bone of his. Just any, didn’t matter, and the coroner stared at me for a long time. My dad always wanted that, I didn’t understand why, but he wanted me to take a bone of his. “Burn me up, bury me, turn me into a diamond, whatever, I don’t mind,” he said the many times he talked of his own death, “but promise me this. You get a bone of me. Don’t matter which one, but I want ya to get it. Put it with the pile. Like a legacy, I guess.”

The coroner was a friend of my dad’s, so he did. After I told him what my dad made me promise. He shrugged, said he’d try, and then he mailed it to me a few days later. The top of his thumb. Distal thumb phalanges, the coroner told me. He put in a plastic bag with a note offering further condolences

I went into the basement. One of my earliest memories was here, in the basement, in the thin light of the single bulb. Dad sat me down on the cold concrete, the hard ground I’d get used to over the years, and took out a couple of bones. Weird, assorted pieces. Angled and sharp. Then he went over to me, pointed at my body, and said, “This bone right here, it’s in your knee. That one, it’s a rib. In your tummy.”

I sat on the floor and touched the tip of my father’s phalanges. My dad told me, when he died, it didn’t matter. We all die eventually. It is a fact of life.

I never said anything about it. He was right in the worst kind of way. A way that I wanted to refute, a way that I wanted to tell him that I didn’t want his bone. Not because it meant nothing. But because I didn’t want to consider this moment, this cold basement.

My dad taught me about the body not because he wanted me to be a doctor. “If you wanna be me, all power to ya,” he said. Then laughed. “Don’t know why you’d wanna be a weirdo like me.”

I remembered his smile when he poked the spine, how his fingers curled around the edges of the vertebrae. How he loved to talk about the bone of a kangaroo he got from Australia, how thick it was because of their hopping. Then he put next to a bone of a human thigh and told me about all the similarities, all smiling, all laughing.

All that was left of him was a bone. In this cold room, I realized he was dead, totally and completely missing from this world. I didn’t realize it when I got the phone call. Didn’t realize it staring at his body. Didn’t realize it talking to the corner, or running my finger over the tip of his finger. It was staring at the pile of bones in the drawer, crumpled together like ashes. I grabbed one, hard and lumpy, and I realized I didn’t know what kind of bone it was. What kind of animal. What it did.

And I turned around to ask my dad and there wasn’t.

There was just nothing in the room. Nothing in it that I understood. A poster with a skeleton with names of bones I didn’t know. A spine with all of these nerves. I could touch them, feel them, but not know what they are.

I wanted my dad to sit me down again on that concrete, poke at the cartilage, say, “This one goes to your heart. It sends signals to keep it beating.”

Wanted him to say, “When I go, it’ll be fine. Remember, we all die, and that’s fine. It’s the way life works.”

And I wanted to tell him, for the first time, “I don’t care how things work. I just want you to stay. I don’t care if you’re gonna die. Just, don’t.”

And I knew my dad would say I’m being unreasonable. That the world doesn’t work that way. You can’t make someone stay. There are so many ways to die. So many bones that can be shattered, so many nerves that can be severed, that it’s inevitable.

I wished, though, that I had the moment to say it. Had the moment to sit down on this concrete, listen to the crackle of the bones as he tossed them in the drawer. To say that, if I could break one of the bones that make up this world, it’d be the one that said he’d have to go.

The only bone I could break, though, was the one my father left behind.

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give

Ultra Carp

Old Things Unearthed
1319 words
Bone Lore: Some cultures find it immensely disrespectful if you DON'T wear the bones of your ancestors.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Medical Examiner's office wasn't made for the comfort of the living. Chelsea shifted her weight on the tiny plastic chair, which didn't help much, and wished she hadn't left her phone in her glovebox. She'd hoped Lacey would start a conversation, but if her sister had anything to say to her, it wasn't happening in the coroner's waiting room.

Lacey looked perfect, of course. She always had, and even in old jeans and a thrift-store marathon T-shirt, she still had a poise about her that Chelsea had never matched. Her slender gold choker and emerald-chip studs suggested her jeweler's apprenticeship in Seattle was treating her well, but Lacey's statement piece was the talismanic bracelet around her left wrist, made of the finger bones of her great-grandmother. The bones had been polished glossy and smooth by time and wear, an elegant heirloom, and seeing it made Chelsea feel a very old shame. The only talisman Chelsea wore was an ugly mid-century vertebra pendant -- from her father's aunt? -- sent by her birth father with one of his bi-annual reconciliation letters. It was of her blood, and it was better than nothing, but it hardly seemed like enough.

"Hey," said Chelsea, deciding it was her responsibility to break the silence. "Lacey. How are you doing? I'm sorry I haven't called in a few months -- you know how things get." Was "a few months" even still accurate, or had it been a year by now? She'd been busy, and she'd been avoidant, the eternal wretched combination.

"Oh, I know," said Lacey, and smiled -- always gracious, and if the smile looked forced, that was probably just nerves, right? "I figured. Thought you'd be up doing research on the North Slope by now."

"Nah, still finishing the groundwork at UAF. Everything always takes twice as long as I expect. This grant proposal is..." Chelsea was about to launch into familiar grad-student patter, boring but comforting, when she heard someone across the room clear his throat. Standing in the office doorway was a man in dull-colored business casual, carrying a clipboard.

The man cleared his throat again before he spoke. "Ah. Are you Mr. DeVry's daughters? Come with me, please."

Chelsea wasn't sure how to answer that question, but she followed him anyway.


Chelsea's stepfather's remains were laid out in one of the office's back rooms, clean bones on a clean sheet of linen, not the plastic Chelsea had expected. Someone had taken their time here, preparing and arranging what remained of the skeleton, and it was impossible not to appreciate it. The plane crash had shattered most of the bones in Jacob DeVry's torso, and twenty years of exposure on the Brooks Range had taken its toll on what was left, but the people who'd found him and brought him home had done their best.

This time, Lacey was the first to speak. "That's Dad," she said, then grimaced. "I mean... this didn't really feel real until now. But there he is."

Chelsea still wasn't sure it felt real. There wasn't any reason to doubt the identification -- the recovery crew had found the plane wreckage along with the body, and her stepfather had been flying solo -- but it was hard to really feel anything when she looked at the bones, besides an appreciation for a coroner's time and care. Shouldn't there have been some trace of grief, some horror of recognition? He wasn't her blood, but she'd been old enough to know him, unlike Lacey. Did it have to be blood ancestry that would make an ancestor's bones sing to you? Everyone always said that love would fill in the gaps. But that was the other problem, wasn't it?

Once people learned her stepfather was dead, they always asked why she didn't wear a talisman. Her friends accepted her excuses -- that his body was lost and an imitation just felt wrong -- but she knew what other people assumed. That he'd hated her, that he'd hurt her, that she chose not to remember him. The adult world was kinder about it than her schoolmates had been, but she knew the sentiments were still there, a dark haze in the minds of people who covered themselves with the talismans of a loving family. She could claim something here and silence them all -- it would be easy. Chelsea wasn't sure that made it right.

Lacey had stepped forward to begin to examine the remains, lightly tracing fingers over the dull weathered grooves in the long bones. "It's pretty rough," she said, "but I kind of expected that. We could do clear resin cabochons with the ribs and vertebrae -- kind of a reliquary thing? Or beads. Are you into beads, Chelsea? ... Earth to Chelsea!"

"Sorry!" Chelsea made herself step forward. "Lacey. I shouldn't be here."


"There's a bunch of stuff I never told you about." Chelsea forced herself to step closer, to Lacey and to the table. "I was really awful to him. He tried hard, but I couldn't deal with everything. The divorce, the remarriage, then you being born... I turned into a really lovely kid, Lacey, and I was so angry at him just because he was there. He tried so hard to be my dad and I wouldn't let him. And then... when Mom told me about the plane crash, I said I was glad he was gone. I don't deserve to wear his bones."

Lacey winced, then forced herself to try and smile -- definitely forced, this time. "That's... I mean, you were a kid."

"I was nine! I should have known better. I don't think Mom's ever forgiven me. Why do you think you're the one who got Great-Grandma's bracelet?"

"Because it fit me better?" Lacey winced again. "Okay, I knew something was up, but that doesn't mean you have to carry it around forever. The way I see it is, he loved you, right? He didn't give up."

"No, I guess he didn't. I remember the morning before he left, the last time, he was joking with me, trying to get me to laugh -- and he did. He was telling me a bunch of dumb jokes about pirates. He always told me he'd been a pirate before he'd been a pilot, and he had those gold teeth, so I believed it. God, do you remember his gold teeth? Or were you too young?"

Lacey just nodded, then pointed silently at the near-intact skull on the table. The plane crash had spared his jaw, and glittering in the mandible were three gold front teeth.

"You should take that," Lacey said. "We can put a chain on it and make it a statement necklace. I'm too short for it, but it'd work on you -- maybe not as an everyday piece, but we could do cabochons or beads for that, or femur sections. But I think he'd want you to wear him, and I think you'd look amazing with his jawbone."

For the first time, Chelsea reached out to touch her stepfather's bones. The mandible had a satisfying weight in her hand, and when she tentatively placed it to her neck, she could imagine what Lacey was seeing there. With a chain that'd make it a sternum-length pendant... well, "statement necklace" was an understatement, but it would be a look, a look that said I had a stepfather and he loved me. And she loved him, she knew, no matter how much of that love was regret.

"See?" said Lacey. "Feels good, right? I'll set it all up for you, and a couple of daily-wear pieces, on one condition."

"One condition?"

"You call Mom and talk this out, as soon as we get done here. You've never talked about this with her, right?"

"Right," said Chelsea. "God, you know me way too well."

"I try. Come over here and look at Dad's finger bones. Seriously, Chelsea, are you into beads?"

Apr 21, 2010

Never Would Again

614 words

Bone remembers.

Yaz is on the stage, slapping out notes on the bass. He's bending and distorting them into microtones, forbidden occult frequencies that rattle and shake bones from within. The audience becomes an instrument, and Yaz knows how to make it scream with perfect pitch and rhythm.

Kevin feels the throb in his arm, right where he broke it near on ten years earlier. It's an odd memory, now that he thinks about it. He has clear memories of the hospital, the weeks in the cast. But the event itself is a blank. An itch inside his bone.

Sarah feels the sonic wave pass through her, feels an unaccustomed sensations she thought she was long since done with. The sympathetic vibrations in her hip stir physical memories, separate those few joyous nights from the many miserable days.

Bernie is transported, remembers so clearly he's almost there, driving potholed rural roads at dangerous speeds, the cheaply-built suspension letting him feel every crack and divot, playing the road like a phonograph album, his spine serving as the needle.

The King's tomb is empty. They covered it up, of course. And spread the ludicrous tales of his survival as a second cover. The truth is simpler. Someone stole the body. Someone stole the bones. They passed through many hands in the occult community, were consumed and transformed, bought and sold. A small piece ended up in the possession of Yaz Marrow, still Yaz Piercegarden to his family and the IRS. He slips it out from under the binding strings, and plays the drop with a pick carved from Elvis Presley's own pelvis.

Kevin is there, right there, in the yard, running for the fence. He feels the pull on his arm, wrenching. He turns, and sees his father. He wonders why he can't seem to see or recall what his father's face looks like. It's just a blur of skin, no features, surrounded by a crimson glow. Then he feels it, is sure his bone is breaking again, right now, at the concert. He sees his father's face, a twist of rage and cruel joy.

Sarah dances, pressing close to strangers who react with game bemusement. When one partner is overcome by a fresh note that strikes some bone inside them she slides toward another. She realizes that she has missed dancing far more than the more intimate forms of company she's been denying herself.

Yaz vanishes in the chaotic aftermath of the only concert performed of the planned tour. The rest of Phalanx have short and tragic careers, joining and leaving trails of wreckage in their wake.

Sarah finds a surprising number of eager dance partners in her community, some with some skill, some substituting enthusiasm. Kevin returns to therapy after nearly getting arrested breaking into the cemetery holding his father's grave. He was too drunk to find it and has no idea what he would have done if he did, he explains to interested nods.

Bernie chases the experience itself, seeking dozens of grainy phone recordings of Phalanx concerts, transferring them to other media, digitally manipulating away background noise. He transfers them to vinyl, pays vast sums for river-polished pebble to tape to coaxial cables.

One day he sees a posting on an audiophile forum offering a truly unique object, a sonic relic, his for a price he could never justify. A fingerbone.  He hovers over the link, thinking budget and sacrifice. He clicks, regrets, starts the process of cancellation, then changes his mind again. Two weeks later the package arrives. Under the padded envelope the contents begin to thrum in sync with the faint music escaping a pair of discarded headphones.

Bone remembers.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

They Don’t Play Honky Tonk in Harkus Bend
1108 words

‘Course, you wouldn’t know it to look at me, seeing as how my appearance has been charitably described as unkempt, and my home is less stately manse than a rusted shack on the edge of the Badlands, but I do in fact trace my line back to aristocracy and I’ll thank you not to forget that overly quick. Grandma on my mama’s side was Eleza ren Dorff, of those ren Dorffs, and while Grandma never liked to talk much about her early life -- so long ago, she’d always say, can’t hardly remember what was real and what was childish daydreams -- the strong implication was that the proverbial silver spoon had been firmly lodged from day one.

Like all bright children, she went through a phase of being real into dragons, visiting the Imperial Museum in Voorma as often as her nannies could be compelled to take her, spending hours drawing pictures from memory -- all of them terrible, I must admit, it was for good reason that I was expelled from Radifa Academy at nine years old -- and reading every book she could get her hands on. A childish infatuation, her family had said, she’ll grow out of it in no time. But here they were wrong, for neither the first nor last time, because Grandma entered the University of Anket at the age of sixteen and went on to be recognized as something of a paleontological prodigy. Seems every kid dreams at some point of being a dragon scientist, but for Grandma the dream came true.

Or so it seemed; as a young paleontologist, because she came from money, Grandma felt like her colleagues treated her differently, like her family’s money was part of the reason for her admission to the university, not just academic merit -- and of course it was, because nothing’s ever black and white that way, but that’s the sort of thing that’s hard to sit with when you’re young -- and so when it came time for her to pick a dissertation topic, Grandma decided she was going to aim big. She was going to go to the Badlands, in search of a complete Boraeozoic fossil. Her advisors tried to discourage her, to shepherd her in the direction of safer, more genteel research topics, but Grandma would have none of it. She hopped the next cyclotrain to Hota, and then hauled via nuclear wagon all the way east out towards the Badlands, dragging trunks filled with dig equipment behind her.

This was way back in the middle of the nuclear renaissance, remember, when folks could still find hot rocks just laying around on the ground. By virtue of a suspiciously generous grant awarded by a ren Dorff subsidiary agency, Grandma commandeered a top of the line sandwalker to carry her out into the wastes. Folks knew how to travel back then. Folks with money, that is. But all the money in the world couldn’t change the Badlands from being what it’s always been -- rugged, hard territory, blasted over by electrical storms and howling twisters. Back in Anket, they figured Grandma’d last a week, two tops.

Grandma spent an entire year combing the badlands, stopping into frontier towns to resupply and send reports back to her advisors in Anket. And she made a few finds here and there, plenty of coprolites, a fragmented -- but complete -- baculum, a scattering of Mekrassian-era teeth with preserved serrations, but nothing like the big find she was looking for. And so it was with a low mood that Grandma first arrived in Harkus Bend.

Harkus Bend, at the time, weren’t nothing more than a few shacks huddled around a mostly dry well, and those of you smartasses snickering that little’s changed in a hundred years don’t know how good you got things nowadays. But you can’t call yourself a town without having a bar, and as Grandma’s sandwalker staggered into town on the last rays of a low red sun, the Harkus Bend Saloon was jumping.

Now, even after a year of hard living, there was no denying that Grandma was a looker -- it’s from her that I got this attractively shaped honker, which some’d say was my mug’s sole redeeming feature -- and she was no stranger to attention. Grandpa said that when she came through them swing doors and shook the silt out of her long dark hair, everybody’s jaw just about hit the floor. And the band, of which Grandpa called himself the leader, plumb forgot about their instruments for a hot minute.

But for all the jaw-waggling in the bar, the most caught off-guard was Grandma herself, because up there on the tiny little stage by the end of the bar was the most devilishly handsome man she’d ever seen -- let’s not forget that I’d been in the Badlands for a year on my own, now -- with a pair of hammers held loose between long, graceful fingers, standing in front of what was unmistakably the entire rib-cage of a Boraeozoic Ammopterus juvenile specimen.

Well, Grandma wasted no time and marched right up to Grandpa, put her finger in his face and demanded to know just what the hell he thought he was doing, banging away on a priceless specimen for the sake of some dusty honky tonk. And those of you that knew her, you know how she could be when she got riled. Most ordinary folks would’ve just handed over the bones right then and there with a heartfelt apology.

But Grandpa weren’t ordinary folk, he was Ebor Jukkora. And Ebor Jukkora most certainly didn’t play honky tonk. So he smiled right back in Grandma’s face, teeth yellow from years of chewing mong, and he offered her a deal -- he’d play her a number on the bones, show her what he could do, and if, when he was done, she still wanted to take his bones back to some faraway museum in Voorma, he’d give them up gladly.

To hear Grandpa tell it, he played for Grandma like he never played before, like he was taken over by the spirit of some ancient dragon, evoking a spirit that had been stranger to the Badlands for aeons. Noone ever played the bones like Ebor Jukkora did that night, not before, not since. The bottles shattered on their shelves, and the toughest men and women alike in that joint were driven to awe-struck tears, at least in Grandpa’s telling -- isn’t that right, he’d say to Grandma, back when they both were alive and old together, shooting the dust on their porch as the sun went down. And Grandma would smile at Grandpa, and she’d say: yeah, you were alright.

Jul 10, 2010

The tale of Stepping Tiger
1496 words

Before she became known to some as the avenging Stepping Tiger, who strikes fear into the hearts of wicked men, she was a young orphan girl in a small village at the edge of the western desert, known only as Slender Mole. The day her life would change forever began as any other day- she was wrenched from sleep in her bunk crammed between her fellow orphan sisters by the cruel governess that ruled with an iron fist for the day's chores. Sweeping in front of the orphanage she did not notice the strange man who eyed her across the alley.

Later she was taken to a small back room. The strange man conversed with the governess, who then ordered her to sit, and soon the man was poking and prodding her. Seeming satisfied, the man said a few words to the governess, placed a small bag at her desk, and left.

Terror filled Slender Mole, made worse by the governess' pleased- yet not pleasant- expression. "Don't worry miss Mole," she said. "Today is joyous- you will no longer be a burden to us, this man is in service of a great king, and soon you shall become his royal concubine and want for nothing."


She was given a long bath, and brought alone to the courtyard. A succession of the most beautiful women she had ever seen arrived, dressing her in strange clothes and jewelry, applying sweet smelling tonics to her hair and skin. It felt like a game, like she played with her doll. There was one woman, slightly more plain looking than the rest, who seemed to be the only one who spoke her language, badly. She was constantly giving her advice- telling her that the king she was to spend the rest of her life serving was a great man, but that she had to be careful to serve him dutifully. She rambled on about innumerable things she had to do- how to step, when it was appropriate to look at him, how to pour tea- many things she could not understand, but one detail lodged with her- soon her initiation to her new life would be sealed with the binding of her feet, who would make her into a proper woman. She had chanced to ask one question, "Does it hurt?"

The face of the one woman who spoke her tongue seemed to shift for a moment, then she smiled, "Only for a short bit, look" she lifted up her dress, she saw that this grown woman's feet were indeed small, intricately bound, and the same size as her own.

After she had been prepared with hair and skin treatments, perfumes, new clothes, and a slew of instructions she barely remembered, the footbinder arrived. She saw in the upper balconies some of her former sisters glared down, ostensibly lost in their tasks, but she now realized they looked at her with jealousy- none of them had been chosen for such an honor, they would stay in this orphanage if not their whole lives, then for as long as they were useful- none of them had been so chosen.

The footbinder was an old woman, not beautiful like her other attendants. She sat mixing a potion of the ground bones from the foot of some animal, a mixture of things smelling sweet and foul, herbs and spices and what looked like blood, which her feet soaked in for a long time. They felt cold. At last the footbinder raised Mole's feet out of the concoction. She had said a few strange words, taken her small foot, and then- with a shuddring snap she felt the small bones in her foot forced into a strange position. Before she could cry out the footbinder began to wrap her helpless feet and toes, she looked desperately for her governess, anyone, but before she knew it her other foot was being snapped all the same. She cried now, not for the pain, but of betrayal.


Barely able to walk after the procedure, and wearing new strange tiny shoes over her throbbing bandaged feet, she was given a bejeweled cane, and helped into an awaiting pavilion. She sat on a small soft cushion behind drapes men carrying her now, towards the royal caravan, away from the orphanage, from her old life. She saw the man she had sold to, had had her feet mutilated for, only once- her curtain was lifted, and before her the curtain of an even bigger pavilion was lifted and she gazed upon the face of this king for the first and only time- he made almost no impression on her, he wore a great wrapping on his head and a thick beard and was slightly fat. The king gave a brief nod of assent, it seemed she was acceptable, and his curtain fell away, and his servants began carrying the both of them to join the caravan. She clutched her doll- the one thing she was allowed to take from the orphanage- and cried.


After some time, they had stopped at a well in the desert for water. She had told one of her new handmaidens she needed to relieve herself. She was given privacy to totter away into the desert, clutching her new cane and her old doll. Later, making her way back- only- she realized she had left her doll somewhere. Hobbling back now to the place in the desert- she searched high and low, but she couldn't that doll, the one thing linking her back to her old life. Near tears again, she made her way back to the caravan.

Only- the caravan was gone. It had left without her- perhaps her servants had noticed she was not in the pavilion- now she was stranded in the desert- and might die there.

She began limping around for help, following the caravan tracks until exhausted she fell to the sand, weeping.

"Young girl, why is it that you cry?" a voice from the desert, she looked up, a strange man in a turban stood near her, not looking at her, leaning on a staff. She saw that he was blind.

"I was to be a concubine for a rich king," she said, "but I wandered away from his caravan, now I am lost forever. My feet are newly bound, and I cannot hope to reach them now."

"But you are not lost," the man said, "You are found-. Come with me," The man said.

They made their way the desert temple where the man introduced her to a woman wearing a shawl.

"An orphan girl," he explained to her, "Sold to the king of the west, she was lost in the desert."

The woman in the shawl smiled. "You are safe now child. What is your name?"

"Slender Mole," She said. "But the King was to give me a new name, once I became his concubine."

"That will not happen now," The woman said. "You will be given a new name, of your own choosing, or you can be Slender Mole for the rest of your life. You can stay here as long as you wish. This is a safe place."

But one day they came for her. She recognized the strange man who had taken her. He spoke.

"You have in your temple a girl that belongs to the rightful king of the western desert," he said. Turn her over and no one will be hurt."

"This is a sacred place," the blind man said. "There will be no fighting here. If the girl wished to go back she will go back."

The girl who was shedding the name of Slender Mole appeared, "It's me you want." She confronted the man, "I'm not going with you."

The kings assistant chortled, "You don't have a choice." "We have warriors and archers. You cannot resist us. You will return to your master."

As the legend goes, the woman who had become thenceforth known as Stepping Tiger stepped forth and slammed her foot upon the ground, and instantly, the floor of the earth cracked open and swallowed the king's advisor, the caravan, the army and servants all. Historians will say that it is all legend, that the girl, if she ever did exist, was simply recaptured and became one of many concubines in waiting to another petty desert monarch- if he ever existed either. They say that this explains the destruction of the temple, and of whatever sect was practiced here being lost forever. But some take the latter view, and to this day, the story is told of Stepping Tiger, of the holy woman of the desert who would not let herself be taken to be bound to the wicked king, who stepped forward in righteousness, and by the power of God destroyed the entire court of a wicked king, his mighty army and entourage, leaving nothing but bare sand where they once stood.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.


Annnnd closed.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.


Well when I said "boners of the week" in sign-ups, I wasn't anticipating things to be as bad as they got, but boy, this week dredged up a truly staggering four DMs in addition to the loss.

The reason I explicitly banned magical reanimated skeletons is because I worried not doing so would result in a lot of samey stories, but it turns out there was a lot of sameyness regardless. Some of you really leaned into your flash rules in ways that I appreciate, and I'll go into that in more detail in my crits.

First interred into the DM crypt is take the moon, who wrote a story that had more proper nouns than coherent thoughts. I'm not opposed to stories that crawl up their own asses, but there's got to be something relatable in there. Next up is a friendly penguin, who wrote an entire story from the POV of a bird that just sort of narrates its own backstory. Crimea also scored a DM with a story that felt like a sequence of events happening around but not to its protagonist, who just stood there like an anatomical model. Salgal80 is also off to the DM crematorium for similar reasons to Crimea--a story about a protagonist who supposedly yearns to be free but mostly just passively stands there until we discover she's been yearning for freedom in the very last paragraph.

The worst of the worst though, was Saucy_Rodent, though not by a terribly wide margin. Your story was simply a hairsbreadth worse than the rest, many of which were pretty bad. Enjoy your new avatar, roll up your sleeves, and try again.

Most stories that didn't DM this week were all still sort of middlingly bad for reasons we get very in-depth into in our various crits. I won't veer down that path now for that way lies sadness. The squishy soggy middle-of-the-pack stories were so indistinguishable in quality that this week we will be awarding no HMs.

The only story that immediately stood out to all three of us as top tier stood out to me not only because it fully embraced its absurd premise, it managed to balance absurd comedy with a sneaky, slithering menace in a way that, to me, embodied the spirit of Bone Week. And that was our bone buddy Something Else, who appears to be on a bit of a winning streak!

And as a SPECIAL GIFT to you all, facilitated by our recording wizard Sebmojo and the knife's-edge wit of co-judge Yoruichi, we present: 80 minutes of live-critting whereupon we dissect every single one of your boneheaded endeavours. Inside you will find: specific advice! Bad bone puns! Lots of talk about asses! And hopefully some good writing advice. Marvel as we come to our consensus live on air! Listen to us discuss what it truly means to embody the essence of being a loser!

Please enjoy this special gift, Bonerdome.

Something Else, your nonstop parade of angel murder and your cheery demon protagonist have secured you a spot upon the bone throne. Rise up and prompt us.

Anomalous Blowout fucked around with this message at 11:17 on Jun 1, 2020

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004


I prompt you all this week with teamwork. I want to read stories about groups of people (and things) who work together well. Your words themselves should also use teamwork, such that they are good together, instead of bad.

If you ask me for a flash rule, I will give you a picture of two or more animals that you may or may not draw inspiration from. Be warned that if you do this and then just make the animals your characters, the story better blow me away.

This week's limit is a magnificent 1777 words!

Sign-ups will end on Friday 6/5 at 11:59pm PST
Submissions will close on Sunday 6/7 at 11:59pm PST

rat-born cock
Anomalous Blowout


Something Else fucked around with this message at 06:12 on Jun 5, 2020

Oct 24, 2018


Apr 21, 2010

In and flash

Jan 28, 2019

In and flash me

Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

Bone Judge Crits

Choosing a Path by Salgal80

You lost me with your opening sentence, because a “black vaporous cloud” could be anything from an actual cloud in the sky to smoke from a fire to anything in between. By the end of your first para I could picture what you were describing, but it’s not a good start if the first sentence makes you go, “huh?”

The first third of this feels like unnecessary set up; the actual story starts after the ***. That’s a banging paragraph btw. Alright this is starting to get interesting now-- WAIT EVERYONE IS DEAD. What?

You should have cut the first third and used these words to add another third on the end, where you show how the protag deals with/reacts to all these deaths and bring the story to some sort of resolution rather than ending at the beginning of a longer tale.


thaw // bookends by take the moon

Dude I love the way you absolutely go for it with your prose but I couldn’t make head or tails of this. The story opens with two characters - Winter and Arendr - but then in the next section we’ve got Mess, then… some other people, then Inanna and Aeterne… Who are these people? Who are they to each other? Where is this story set? What is even happening??

I think an abstract setting could work if the characters were clear, or vice versa, but you’ve got to give the reader something to anchor themselves to. Unfortunately this felt to me like not much more than a dreamy mess.


rear end GHOST! by Saucy Rodent

Please know that before I read your story I amused myself by shouting your title out loud several times. So, thank you for that.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be the high point of this reading experience. Most of this story is boring dialogue, then some brief but zero-stakes action, then a joke about Applebees. Now, because I am from a tiny island at the bottom of the world, I don’t know what Applebees is, so this was completely lost on me. The random “crew” typo was funnier than most of the jokes.


One Body by crimea

This story is a lot of things not happening. Two people not talking to each other. A scientist not discovering the consciousness of bones. Not going down to the basement. Not noticing what was going on on his computer. And then he’s dead. The absence of action is not as interesting to read as the actual action would have been.

You give the closing line of your story to the bunker’s denizens, about whom we know absolutely nothing, so that was a bit of a nothing ending.


A Present by sparksbloom

Finally, a good opening line.

Oh, wait, is a cardinal a type of bird? I thought you meant a guy from the Catholic Church with a funny pointy hat. This isn’t your fault, but I am very disappointed.

This is pretty weird. You do a good job of conjuring up the strange tension in this household. But the fact that the protag is acting like a bit of an ungrateful brat distracts from the story for me. I like that she makes amends with her sister at the end, but the tone of the ending felt out of kilter with the rest of the story.


The War for Your Soul by SomethingElse

I was loving this until about half way through, when the action (which was some good pulpy fun, don’t get me wrong), started to drag on. The ending was pretty bland. I’m not sure where I thought this was going to go, but it feels like it just lost its energy and fizzled out.


Bone Tree by a friendly penguin

Hmmm ok this is almost all boring lore and backstory. There’s nothing in the story to make me care about either character. The thing the story is actually about - the crow getting a new body - only happens in the last para and then it’s over. And the last line is terrible.


Little Piece by Flerp

You do a good job in this piece of conjuring up that sense of hopeless confusion that comes with grief, but as a story I found this unsatisfying. I didn’t really feel invested in these characters, and there’s not much of an arc - just a textbook portrait of grief.


Old Things Unearthed by Antivehicular

I like this. It’s a simple and gentle piece, but unlike some of the other nothing-happens stories this week, this one has three believable characters (you do a good job of giving life to the dead step-father’s character), and ends with a pleasingly understated resolution. I like that the dead step-father was a good guy, who was doing is best to be a good step-dad, and that it’s her own childhood behaviour that Chelsea has to make peace with.


Never Would Again by Thranguy

I don’t really get this I’m afraid. It’s very short, and I think this works against it. These characters needed a bit more space to make this a satisfying read.


They Don’t Play Honky Tonk in Harkus Bend by Barnaby Profane

This starts off sounding like the story is about the narrator (let me tell you about myself, it all started with my grandma…) but ends up being a story about how grandma met grandad. The beginning, middle and ending are all fine, it’s just they don’t match.


The tale of Stepping Tiger by kiyoshimon

You should have capitalised ‘tale’ in your title it looks weird in lower case.

Oh dear your entire story is packed into your final paragraph; the rest is all very troupe-y and unnecessary set up. A story that started with an escaped concubine discovering hidden power to protect the desert temple that saved her would have been cool. Unfortunately you did not write that story.


rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


Thanks for the previous critiques of my work, I have read my previous entries again with previous feedback in mind. I apologize I was not able to enter sooner but now I would like to be "in" and request a flash rule.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

rat-born cock posted:

Thanks for the previous critiques of my work, I have read my previous entries again with previous feedback in mind. I apologize I was not able to enter sooner but now I would like to be "in" and request a flash rule.

consider yourself, ""in"

Thranguy posted:

In and flash

Salgal80 posted:

In and flash me

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.


In and please flash me.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

in, toxx, flash

Jul 10, 2010

Thank you for the audio critique! I'm in, flash me some animals.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.


Written crits for last week. Pardon the complete lack of formatting, Awful App ate it twice and I'm a tired baby who ain't gonna input all that poo poo again.


Salgal80 - Choosing a Path
Intriguing opening paragraph, if a little vague. You’ve got me. Let’s go. “Searching for an exit” is a legit creepy line, this is setting a good tone so far. I’m a sucker for trippy visions even if these are a little bit cliche. In the middle bits the sentence structure gets a little “I am doing/feeling a thing, another thing happens, I observe another thing” which gets redundant, good thing to watch for. The paragraph about the extra rib could really be punchier--I want to know your protag’s thoughts on discovering she has an extra friggin’ bone!

The passive voice to open the second scene is detracting from the immediacy of the stuff that’s happening to your protag I’m afraid. Who attached the wings and claws? Make them the subjects, describe the actions of the people who are doing this stuff to her.

The grammar is unravelling a little bit toward the end, a few visible typos, be careful to proofread before you post.

You rely on the word “send” a lot and it is almost always a very weak verb that could be replaced by something that more actively reflects what the sentence’s subject is actually doing.

The imagery in this piece isn’t bad, but your protag lacks desire and direction. This feels like a series of things happening to them which they passively endure. If you want this story to be a struggle about freedom, you need to mention that the character wants to be free early on. Have them take some steps toward freedom and fail. Then it will be all the sweeter when they finally succeed.

Take the moon - thaw // bookends
Really strong opening, love the imagery and the sense of wonder it’s evoking so far. Gets a little heavy-handed with the proper nouns but overall the voice is strong and I like the combativeness of it. Reading further on, the second section is also nice but starts to get a little overwhelming with the Proper Noun Things that don’t seem to relate much to story things. Still, this feels like a solid skeleton (sorry) that could stick its landing. Let’s see…

The middle bit is starting to lose me. Too many introduced themes and concepts and it isn’t really tied together in any coherent way. The prose is still decent and some really good imagery here and there but you’re running out of space to tell a story where these threads all weave together. The briar and nettle paragraph is pretty purple.

The ending had a bit more action and characters making choices and doing things, but unfortunately the beginning didn’t adequately tie these avatars of the seasons to any actual narrative or plot so it feels a little haphazard.

Saucy_Rodent - rear end GHOST!
Some bits here that have given me a chuckle, but about ⅓ of the way in it feels like it’s trying too hard to be clever. Needs a proofread. The urge to skim was pretty powerful by the end. I’ve seen you do zany comedy well, Mr. Sauce, but this was not one of those times. This felt like a series of references strung together, not even really jokes. There’s a maxim about TV writing that says in a well-written script, you should theoretically be able to pick a line at random and someone who is familiar with the characters can tell you who is speaking. There are a lot of characters in this and they all have the same voice.

Crimea - One Body
I like this opening, you paint a good picture of your protag. They say opening a story with someone looking in a mirror is almost universally a bad idea, but in this case with the palsy it feels like something a newly-palsied person would do a lot, exploring how their face has changed. The line “he didn’t realise he was on the verge of discovering the consciousness of bones” promises us something p cool even if it’s a little on the nose.

The convo with Cat felt a little bland, hope to find out there was some subtext there that becomes relevant later. Liked that line about the cracked egg.

Nitpick alert - Anderson is not “seemingly” waiting in the elevator to see if anything will happen. He’s doing exactly that. It’s easy to fall into using seem or seemingly as a crutch, but stop and ask yourself if it’s really an appropriate word for the sentence and image you’re trying to convey. Since this scene is from Anderson’s POV, we know exactly what he’s doing, there’s no seemignly about it.

This takes a veer toward the passive once we switch to the camera POV, and while that makes a certain sense, it removes the reader from the action and lessens the impact.

This is another story where stuff just kinda happens to the protag. We learn in the background that he’s been doing stuff but he doesn’t really make a lot of active choices, nor do we get to find out how he feels about the fate that befalls him.

Sparksbloom - A Present
Nice opening line. I’m intrigued. You have a nice way with painting a detailed picture despite not slathering the scene with details. Good prose. This has a nice gothic vibe and I can feel the walls of the story closing in as each scene progresses.

Oho, I like the protag spitefully acting out against the cat. This is good. The dialogue between the sisters feels very real for a strained sibling relationship.

The ending does just kind of… fizzle, though. It’s a nice image to end on, but I wish there was more callback to something earlier in the piece, more consequence for your protag’s choice with cracking the skull. Nothing wrong with a happy ending, but this one felt like there was little tension leading up to it.

Something Else - The War for Your Soul
This is a playful take on a baby-haunted-by-demons story and I’m liking it from the get-go. The voice is nice, if a little Good Omensy, Your demon character is very likeable. My only worry is that we’re opening with a LOT of infodumping even if it’s pleasant infodumping and I hope you don’t run out of wordcount to cram a story in here.

Ah, here’s the story! Love the bowler hat line. Loved “I’ll explain it when you’re older.” There are a dozen great little lines in this and I can tell you spent some time crafting the prose on a sentence level. You describe the action scenes concisely and they’re always entertaining, even if the tap shoes bit veered a little into too-clever territory.

The moment where the demon slithers in feels very earned and is cool as hell.

Really enjoyed this one from start to finish.

A friendly penguin - Bone Tree
I like the folktale vibe of this even if the initial formatting and lack of set dressing made it a bit tough to immediately immerse myself in. Good creepy lore here with the bone tree. The prose gets a little lazy in parts and the voice feels sometimes like it’s trying a little too hard to be folksy, but it’s overall an interesting read that’s compelling me forward toward the end.

Overall, I feel like this story was an almost-just-not-quite. The crow works, but your chosen human is very bland and their dialogue isn’t particularly interesting. It all feels like generic comic book placeholder “exclamation!” type dialogue rather than what a real person might say. Still, with a bit of polish this is the sort of flash I could see a magazine buying if you were into that. It tells a complete story end to end and your protag is clever and it’s delightfully weird, but it’s dragged down into only-slightly-above-average by the flat human character and the abrupt beginning.

Flerp - Little Piece
Some decent images opening this one up as well as a protag who’s got a likeable voice. I find the father’s thoughts on mortality very relatable. As the story progresses, I enjoy this crackpot dad! Still, we’re getting decently far into the piece without a ton happening. The dad has died, but the son isn’t really doing much about it. He’s mused about the dad’s thoughts on death a few different ways but it isn’t treading any new ground.

Nitpick time - not sure how bones can “crumple together like ashes.” Bones are pretty solid and brittle don’t crumple, they just sorta snap.

The ending isn’t bad, a little trite. You handle the pain of loss well as well as the way the human mind grasps at what-ifs in the face of tragedy. Ultimately this ending doesn’t knock it out of the park, but it’s perfectly serviceable and it has as few nice lines. I can tell you spent time on it.

Antivehicular - Old Things Unearthed
I love how much you convey with so little sentences here - the relationship between the sisters, the nature of the protag in contrast to her sibling, the desolation of a small Alaskan coroner’s waiting room. By the end of the second paragraph we’ve got some great character and great worldbuilding. This is off to a fun start!

As the story progresses, I’m just immersing myself in it like a warm bath on a cool day. This is good writing, concise and informative but still pretty when it needs to be. There’s a forlorn core to the story that I feel like you’re chipping away at and slowly revealing.

Man, oof, this is one of those stories that just gets to The Truth Of The Thing. I was an angry stepkid once and I did a lot of things I regret and it’s very true how that stuff sticks with you as an adult even as you know you were young and shouldn’t be held fully responsible for the decisions made by your imperfectly formed prefrontal cortex.

The macabre jewelry chatter at the end is a perfect note for this and the reconciliation doesn’t feel forced. I really enjoyed this story and I think it’s one of yours - like the one about the dead guy’s ghost haunting the tractor - that I’ll think about for a while.

Ultimately if I was going to HM any story this week, it would have been this one. However, I think my inclination to HM it is based solely on how bad everyone else’s was, since there were enough nitpicks with this one that it wouldn’t have stood out in a stronger week. Still, it says a lot of nice things and I am glad you wrote it and that counts for something.

Thranguy - Never Would Again
Hahahah oh my god, this rules. Vivid scene-setting with few words, a lot said with a little prose, and who can resist a guitar pick carved from Elvis’ pelvis. This is a short and sweet little tale that only sets out to do one thing but does it really well. I think perhaps the transition from bone-vibrating cosmic Elvis bone rave to “concert’s up and everybody went home” was perhaps a bit abrupt but otherwise this was a solid vignette. However, I don’t think it was quite a story. It’s the negative space left by a story as it walks through the room. As I say in the audio critique, it’s the wake left behind in a story’s passing.

If fleshed out a bit more, I think this idea would have worked well and would have been an HM candidate. Unfortunately, it was just a little too sparse. We don’t learn enough about who these people are and how their narratives are connected for this to feel like anything other than a collection of nice, well-described images that ultimately only relate to each other a little and just sorta pass on by without leaving a lasting impression. Still, I like the idea, and if you did develop this into something longer or a little more solidly sketched-out, I think the premise is solid. Your prose as always is groovy.

Barnaby Profane - They Don’t Play Honky Tonk in Harkus Bend
You set an immediate scene with a few words here - Badlands, mentions of crumbling aristocracy - and your protag has a unique voice. By the second paragraph I’m quite invested in palaeontology granny and I want to see where her adventures take her.

Really enjoying your worldbuilding as we move into the middle bits. This feels like a golden age of sci-fi tale with a hint of Borderlands. The ending comes on kind of abruptly, and I was curious that a reason for the framing device wasn’t ever revealed. We never learn anything about the person telling this story, not sure if that adds or detracts from it really. The last line is very charming and lessens the blow of the abrupt ending though. Overall a solid piece in a week that was overall very weak. It stood out, for all its flaws.

Upon a second reading, I do think the beginning of this piece sets up the end for failure. You start out with the narrator explicitly telling the reader they aren’t what we think they are, but then you never really explain what we think they are or why they are actually something different or why that even matters. If you’d stuck to the old lady and her how-I-met-your-grandaddy story I would have rated this much higher. As it is, you promise something in the beginning that you never deliver on, and in the future I’d watch out for that, either ensuring that the story you establish in the beginning is the same as you end on, or just remove those bits with a thorough edit.

Kiyoshimon - The Tale of Stepping Tiger
There are a couple bits in this beginning that hint that it’s some sort of xianxia. A couple bits more to anchor us to the setting would have been helpful, but that’s what we get so that’s what is poppin’ into my head. The prose is adequate if not especially punchy. I wish the protag had a bit more character. She’s fairly generic throughout the whole thing, and this is another story where a sequence of stuff just kinda seems to happen to her without her driving much if any of the action or doing much other than exactly what could be expected of her.

This reminds me a lot of many many Chinese light novels I’ve read over the years, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It does however mean that if you’re going to lean on so many genre cliches, you’d better do it in an interesting way or at least in a way that delivers something solid if not totally new.

I like the dichotomy of broken-boned bound feet vs. stomps that shatter the very earth’s crust--there is a powerful image and a good story nugget in that. Unfortunately, it shows up at the 90% mark rather than the 10% mark, so rather than seeing your protag explore her power and explore the imagery of tearing apart the world that’s oppressed her with the very feet her captors broke to hobble her, we instead are left with a feeling of what might have been.

I do like the way you subverted the trope of the meeting of the king. I was wincing that he’d turn out to be an evil fat rapist because that’s a very common trope in these kinds of stories, but you pleasantly surprised me and the way you just breeze by their meeting feels very true to real life.

Feb 25, 2014


week whatever muffin judged idk im not looking it up

first thoughts were comments i had when i first read your story when i got back home, more details are after


first thoughts - things just happen to this horse so no real rhyme or reason and the horse just ends up becoming a horse because it asked which idk couldnt that have happened earlier?

more - this story is a nonsense story, thats for sure, but it doesnt rly work for me because the character is very passive. weird things just happen to this cardboard horse, and things just happen around it and it doesnt rly build to anything super interesting. the prose was kinda workmanlike, and it didnt quite have the heft needed in its prose to sell these fantastical elements to make me go whoaaaaa. also, i dont rly get the resolution because like, why did anything happen? the horse always wanted to be a horse, and then the ghost lady couldve done that from the start but just didnt??? idk it felt kinda dumb to me thats all it took was the for the character to say they want the thing that they said they always wanted.

sitting here

first thoughts - self indulgent and exceedingly purple. kinda weird and i rly didnt like anything outside of the grounded kid moments but maybe thats because im hosed in the head and i find immortal god empresses boring, who knows

more - i kinda get what’s going on, but also, not rly, but, unlike the above story, the prose is a lot more colorful and interesting that even when i dont know whats going, the words push me along decently along. i do like the parts with the kid, especially that first intro, i was like hell yeah lets go this is my jam but then god empress stuff got too vague for me, which kinda threw me out of the story. its a fun ride, though, and theres a lot of weird nonsense that doesnt track for me, but i dont rly care that much because the prose was interesting enough.

saucy rodent

first thoughts - ok the only line that made me kinda chuckle was “were getting laid tonight” but also i didnt actively despise every minute of it, so thats a plus

more - this is better than the previous comedy stories of yours, mostly because it had a decent premise, but also had a few other jokes sprinkled here and there. the backflip/frontflip stuff is a good thing to center the story on, and is a nice bit of irreverent humor. it doesnt quite land into the upper echelon of extremely funny since it kinda felt a prefunct and obvious, so the jokes never landed in quite an absurdly funny way. but it was better and i didnt hate it so success???

simply simon

first thoughts - this was actually kind of a cool scifi thing going on during the first half and then the second half had two random characters show up and also the protag could go super saiyan? and then control souls or something? idk lost me by the end

more - i actually really enjoyed the first half which, for a sci-fi story, big success because i usually hate this poo poo esp given that the first line made me so worried id hate it but it was cool. it had a nice premise, nice morally grey stuff going on, nice tension, nice stakes, it was going great for the first half. i liked the premise of empaths and i liked the power being less about being capable of super power, but understanding people and taking advantage of that but then the second half started and immediately went downhill. two new characters got introduced out of nowhere, and then he gets sent to the ship and goes super saiyan, which was like, boo man. the cool part was using the knowledge of others to outplay them, but now he’s just a god ig. and then the bad guy is just kinda over the top evil and the ending i guess was kinda cool, but also, i dont know why he can suddenly control souls to murder people. i mean, its not it doesnt make sense, but i feel like i was watching a dbz episode where you powercrept the hell out of the protag to the point where it lost what i rly liked in the beginning.


first thoughts - oh he has telepathic powers? ok then……

this is kinda cute but also kinda just like things happen and sort of fabley idk about this one tbh, i like bits and pieces of it, but the whole feels kinda underwhelming and there’s a lot of “things happen just because” moments.

more - i wanted to like this much more than i did because there’s a lot of things to like. a rly cute rat pair, one a telepath? flying squirrels? a kinda fun and cute story? so what fails… its hard to say exactly. some of it is in the plotting, a lot of things just sort of happen instead of being real moments. like, the rat said, “dont you have something you used to love” and because of that one statement, that squirrel turned around which was weird because like, if somebody told me that, id be like yeah what about it? idk it just felt like there were things building up to a moment, and then those moments just kinda didnt happen.


first thoughts - this is a lot of build up for a very limp jet v dragon fight

more - this story feels very constructed. the intro is actually pretty decent, and i liked the grandpa stuff talking about dragons but i was not expecting this to take a fantasy twist because i thought it was a fun story said by the grandpa. and then things transition awkwardly to a guy murdering elf, and then them running away and then years pass by for some reason until the elf finds them again and murders their friend and then okay time for the jet v dragon fight and it just kinda happens and is not interesting at all. this is an odd story because like, nothing in here really works. the transitions are awkward and the individual moments themselves arent that interesting, so you would think this story is trying its best to reach its climax, but then its climax just kinda sputters out, so nothing rly works here.

a friendly penguin

first thoughts - what is with all these seemingly normal stories that end up just being arbitrarily magical

this somehow makes less sense than all the stories before it when i feel like this should be rly simple

more - this is a really sloppy story. its all over the place in its logic, and rly doesnt want to let the reader into the logic. things kinda happen, but there’s not a lot of excitement in it? like, there’s some weird stuff, but the tension feels low and the stakes feel low. this is another “just so” kind of story, where things happen without motivation or reasoning, and its meant to kinda be carried by its ridiculousness or silliness, but the prose, again, doesnt lend itself to rly carry this story, where things are kinda hum drum despite the craziness.

Anomalous Blowout

first thoughts - kinda cool, but also kinda dull and the resolution felt way too easy for such a long story

i think my main problem with this story its length, which, while the concept is, on its own, interesting, im not sure if it can carry a 2.5k story, esp because i find the resolution kind of annoying because it was odd. like, idk, im not normally a person to nitpick an ending, but it ended up feeling like it was a solution that was always kinda present? and like, the argument of “youre a lawyer shouldnt you do something” is one that i feel like shouldve happened a long time earlier and the lawyer person shouldve used that earlier… idk it didnt really land to me as a strong resolution because it felt like it was just too obvious and simple? like, theyre struggling rly hard, and then the guy just makes like a phone call? and the emotional arguments and issues are just kinda resolved in an unsatisfying way. im not sure, but the resolution stands out really harshly in my mind as just feeling unearned.

overall, though, the story is technically fine, but it can get kinda dull w/ its logistics, altho the premise is enough to kinda push the story along. i can see people get bored w/ it, but i think thats an inevitability with this kinda piece, and i think is fine, but i wonder about if there’s some trimming that can be done to make this slimmer so its less likely to outlast its welcome.

Uranium Phoenix

first thoughts - kinda cute ending, but hey it wouldve been nice to know the character’s motivation before all this crap happened, huh?

more - this isnt terrible, and it might have been a lot stronger if the motivation of the protag was revealed much earlier. its fun enough, but rather bloated, altho i think i wouldve enjoyed this story quite a bit more if the central conflict was like actually there so we could care??? like, you have the old lover line, but i actually kinda regarded that as a sort of lie, or omission, or something, but its vague and mostly useless because like, old lover is nothing to get us attached. so for most of this story, the character is trying to do a thing we dont know for most of the story, and then they just get the thing done when they talk to the lady. idk, i feel like the story needed to be much more centered on the actual conflict, and then we could like, care about the protag and what they want?


first thoughts - what is this anime crap

this is just littered with a bunch of cliches that just kinda run through me without me enjoying any bit of it. its all boringly predictable and lame and i still dont know why people are so focused on doing noir but without doing anything actually interesting with it. idk, im rly not a fan of this one just because it was so cliche-ridden that i was intensely bored the whole way through. decently fun in concept, and probably fun to write, but absolutely nothing that i would want to spend my actual time on.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.



Good afternoon, Thunderdome. A cool contest prize has fallen into my pocket, and given the state of the world, I'd rather put it to use than use it myself.

I have up for grabs a full short story critique from bestselling writer, Tiptree scholar, PKD award winner, yada yada yada Meg Elison. If you don't know Meg...


Meg Elison is a California Bay Area author and essayist. She writes science fiction and horror, as well as feminist essays and cultural criticism. Her work has been on the Otherwise (formerly Tiptree) longlist, nominated for the Audie Award, and won the Philip K. Dick Award. She has also been published in McSweeney’s, Shimmer, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Catapult, Terraform, and many other places.

I believe this covers a story of up to 6,000 words. Meg is an incredible editor and if you have a piece you've been tinkering and thinking about shopping to magazines, this is a good chance to get some very talented eyes on it before you start submitting it around.

Rather than simply giving this away as a prize to a winner of a TD round, I am raffling this prize off for donations to The Loveland Foundation, which is providing 8 free therapy sessions to Black women and girls in the US.

The rules are simple:
Everyone who donates $10 or more is in the draw. If you want to donate more, this is awesome. If you want to, you can donate on behalf of a goon who may not be able to afford it (or just a buddy you like!) to nominate them for the prize, and that is also cool. On the form, fill out 'Team Thunderdome' as your team so we can track totals.

PM, email, or Discord PM me screenshots of your receipts. Email is atlacoya+sa at gmail dot com.

Closes a week from today. This post authorised by all the necessary blood royals.

Anomalous Blowout fucked around with this message at 01:17 on Jun 5, 2020

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

Clapping Larry

rubber loving stamped <3

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

ur a good egg

e: can u hmu at diseascipline @ gmail dot com cuz im too dumb to figure out how your email works. omg hes dumb. k peace

take the moon fucked around with this message at 02:54 on Jun 5, 2020


Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

kiyoshimon posted:

I'm in, flash me some animals.

sebmojo posted:

in, toxx, flash

Anomalous Blowout posted:

In and please flash me.

This rocks!!!!

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply
«34 »