First part of Week 421 crits!
Yoruichi – The donkey enjoyed the mints, but decided not to go on TV again
Honestly this is bizarro comedy that commits to the bit so I don’t find it as jarring as I thought I would! You got a laugh out of me with the allergic to cats joke. I think the bit about “all people saw was a head in a jar” would have done better a little earlier on in the story to ground the audience more thoroughly in Bob’s POV, but lol, I am not sure at this point how much advice is really helpful considering this seems to be a throwaway joke tale. Either way! Bob’s motivations are by far the most interesting part of the story, so focusing on him earlier would have done a bit more to hold my interest.
You describe all this bonkers action pretty well—it’s easy to envision it all playing out as a bit on Futurama or something. And the donkey with the mints was Very Good. In fact, the fixation on the donkey and the donkey’s fixation on the mints are enough to pull this story up for me. So good job with that! This would not have been a winning story in a better week, but you eke it out here.
One thing to work on: Establish your protag’s wants early on so that way we care more about how they attempt to attain their goal. Plus we’ll also care more when they try and fail in the early stages, or when a radioactive blob-bear absorbs their head.
MockingQuantum – Blackout Conditions
I like the immediate sense of setting and tone and your protag’s voice comes through loud and clear from the get-go. The imagery is good. This feels like a real blog that a real person would write. “You know the land around you in all its beauty and threat” is a great line. The second entry is a great slice-of-life scene also, and again, feels like real things that real people would do. I’m starting to look for foreshadowing at this point, wondering where you’re going.
Annnd… ending! Whoa, that came on abruptly. I like the ending for what it is: a nice image with some good spooky spooks.
However… there needed to be a little bit more between midpoint and ending for me to feel like this was a complete story. Either foreshadow that abrupt disappearance much stronger or build up to it, because this left me feeling like I missed something. I went back and reread it all and no, I don’t think I did. It just happens very abruptly!
One thing to work on: Leaving breadcrumbs or ramping up the horror slowly. I know you read a lot of horror so I know you’re acquainted with works that do this. Try to think of “tension” as the place that exists between what the audience knows and what the character knows. The tension will hit much harder if we know in advance the horrible fate your scientists will suffer.
Crabrock – Extra Good News
I like the way you chose to tell this story. The unique narrative format of dialogue and radio transmissions only forces the reader to imagine things, and imagining a cute tiny frog city is a pleasure to imagine. It is a complete story with a beginning middle and an end, at least, and I can give you that. It is also basically a vehicle for a single joke.
I did really like the dialogue, though. You have a knack for that. All the characters had fairly distinct voices. And the line where you yoinked the title from was a great line.
One thing to work on: You can do better. I feel like I'm putting exactly as much effort into this crit as you did into the story.
Sparksbloom – Asking For Directions
This story starts out weird, which I don’t mind, because the weirdness is grounded and matter-of-fact. I don’t like how you’re opening up with that past perfect tense, though—it immediately separates the narrator from the action and the reader from the narrator. That being said, the exchange about “a free tattoo” gave me a good laugh and feels very true to the source material from the prompt.
You lean into the absurdity of this premise well and there are some funny lines between Jinel and her father. I can picture the dad very well, even if the dragon bits get a little slapdash and silly. Overall, as far as jokey TDs go, this is solidly average with flashes of being above so.
One thing to work on: This really stumbled in the beginning with that past-perfect tense and as soon as you escaped from that I enjoyed the whole thing much more. Food for thought! Starting your story off in a way that creates artificial distance between your characters and readers will do you disservice more often than not.
Weltlich – Room 421
The way you capitalise It and then don’t kinda jarred me, but overall I’m here for this opening. The conversational style of your narration works well enough, but by the time I’m 1/3 of the way or so into this story it’s still so ambiguous and light on details that I feel a little lost. I like the details about “It” getting into the machine and affecting the clerks. That was a nice chilly image and the contrast of the implied horror vs the practicalities of dealing with office printer issues is a nice juxtaposition. This basically reads like a chatty security guard’s POV of an SCP entry or something. It’s not bad, but it never quite delivers, and the ambiguity works more often against you than with you.
One thing to work on: When writing stories that provide their worldbuilding in drip-feed format like this, be sure you give readers enough to work with. Don’t withhold so many details that your readers are incapable of picturing the scene, or worse, incapable of sympathizing with your characters.
GrandmaParty – Mellix and the Goblins
“When the air was still warm and the moon was still in pieces” hooked me instantly. Good job! Love the imagery of Lenna with the brides, too. So far this is shaping up to tick a lot of my personal boxes. Your descriptions of Mellix are fantastical and amusing and evocative. The more I read into this story the more I enjoy it, although by the third or fourth paragraph I’m starting to wonder who the protag is gonna be exactly and what’s gonna befall them. Still, I am enjoying the description of the architects and their chosen abodes. This is all feeling very Aesop Fable to me in a good way.
LOVE the unfamiliar cat line.
Some of the phrasing as we get to the goblins segment feels a little sloppy. “With a great jumbling” is an odd way to describe people collaborating about architecture.
Unfortunately this pleasant tale completely falls apart at the end. Your three rules don’t seem reflective of the story’s content, and the attempt at humour falls mostly flat for me. This feels like a story that got rushed when you noticed you only had 200 words or 20 minutes or whatnot left. The end bears almost no resemblance to the beginning.
One thing to work on: Watch out for tonal shift. This story takes such an abrupt u-turn that it feels like you literally got interrupted by real life while trying to write it. Sudden tonal shifts can be fun when executed well or when telegraphed appropriately, but this story had neither of those things.
|# ? Sep 2, 2020 08:45|
|# ? Jun 30, 2022 23:33|
Thunderdome recaps for w420!
No, we did not forget to post part one of our three part recap of week 420! I'm doing it right now, so we can't have forgotten.
CLICK HERE FOR PODCAST (available on Apple and Google podcasts as well as the archive)
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Featuring the works of...
|# ? Sep 4, 2020 01:11|
Week 44 redemption
Old Testament Studies with Chairchucker.
A bunch of misogynists and racists could technically nominate this for a Hugo award
The wanderers’ ship dropped out of warp speed to conclude it’s seven-year voyage across the Crimson Nebula. However, the planet they’d been promised, the reason they’d fought their way to freedom, was not there.
The people gathered at the windows of the mess hall and looked out into the empty space where their home world should have been. A cork popped on a bottle of champagne and echoed off the metal walls until it faded away into the silence.
“Weren’t we promised a planet?”
“We were scrumped.”
“I curse the name of Supreme Leader Goddo because he promised us he would lead us to the promised planet but we just got here and there’s no planet and I’m sick of being on this tin can filled with farts, where the only filters to scrub the fart smell from the air are our noses, and they have been filled with so much fart that our noses are now brown, from sniffing all the farts, which are made up of tiny poop molecules so that every time we breath in a little bit of fart, we get a little microscopic amount of poop on our noses, and no matter how much we begged people to stop farting, they kept farting, even after the passing of the anti-farting rules of year three of our voyage, people kept farting, sometimes flagrantly in defiance of the fart rules, or sometimes secretly, and I will admit that sometimes at night, when I was alone in my cabin and trying to fall asleep, trying to distract myself from the smell of farts long enough to drift off to sleep (even though often I swear I could still smell the farts in my dreams, a place I should have been able to fantasize about smelling a freshly baked apple pie or the perfume of my dead wife, but instead even in my unconsciousness I could never escape the smell of fart) I would let a little fart out, thus compounding the problem, but my tummy just hurt so bad from holding in years of farts, and it wasn’t getting better, in fact it was getting worse, and not just our noses were turning brown, but the entire interior of the space ship was turning brown, like the color of an Cadillac that had been owned by a chain-smoking grandma and I heard that every atom in your body is replaced every seven years so now I’m afraid that I’m more fart than man, so I lay up at night just afraid of what I’ve become, and sometimes a little toot slips out and all I think is ‘man, gently caress Supreme Leader Goddo’ for trapping me with all these farts and making me turn myself into nothing but a walking fart that also sometimes farts a little bit.”
“Yeah I have to admit I also let out a fart sometimes even though I’m not supposed to. And not just in bed, but like just walking down a hallway alone and I don’t see anybody else I’ll let one out. Hey, is that a snake?”
“There can’t be snakes on a spaceship.”
“But there is. Look, there’s another.”
“Oh yeah there are a lot of snakes on this spaceship now.”
“Fools! It is me, Supreme Leader Goddo! I was listening to the whole thing about the farts, and I wasn’t even really mad until the end, even though I agree you all are mostly fart now, for I can see straight into your souls and they’re mostly poop, but then you said ‘gently caress Supreme Leader Goddo,” which made me pretty angry and a little sad, so I have summoned all these snakes to punish you, the dirty fart people and this isn’t like, a metaphor or allegory or anything like that, just the group of people on this spaceship at this moment are the fart people, not like, their descendants or ancestors, this isn’t a race thing, I’m allowed to be angry at one group of people who has cursed me, and I’m entitled to summon snakes onto their plane, snakes that don’t mind the taste of poop because sorry snakes when you bite these people you’re going to get just a big mouthful of poop flavor because they couldn’t be patient and wait for the planet to finish orbiting the star and yeah just come on guys you got a spaceship yet you just get to a star system and don’t immediately see a planet so you start cursing my name, even though you’ve literally just seen me destroy a whole civilization with space locusts and spooky space ghosts and then you’re like ‘yeah lets yell at that guy what could go wrong’ and now you got a face full of loving snakes and the whole time the planet was just in a slightly different position than you thought, really its sad.”
“Oh jeeze these snakes are really bitey!”
“They do not seem to mind the taste of farts at all!”
“I’m dying knowing I’ve been killed by a snake with no standards!”
“Ok guys, this is the captain here, the captain of the spaceship that has been flying it for seven years up in the cockpit that has functioning air filters still and the only farts I’ve smelled are my own, and the fart scrubbers have kept the air nice and clean so I’m not perfused with fart and so my brain is maybe working a little better than y’alls, though I am awfully lonely and was really looking forward to setting foot on the planet and interacting with everybody again, but then you y’all went and cursed Supreme Leader Goddo and now there are snake, and I was thinking probably what we should do to save ourselves from snake bites is build a big golden snake and then just stare at it because I feel like this is the sort of thing Supreme Leader Goddo would be into, being a slightly odd fellow, but still magnificent of course, so I suggest we just start gathering shiny metal and just melting it all down into a big beautiful statue for us to look at and probably the snakes will go away after that, not from any sort of concentrated effort to hunt the snakes or apologize to the Supreme Leader or anything, just looking at a snake made out of melted belt buckles and bolts and poo poo.”
The Supreme Leader Goddo nodded his head. “Yes, that sort of thing would please me, and I would unsummon the snakes.”
So the wanderers on the spaceship gathered all their metal and melted it down and made a snake sculpture, and then the people who were not yet killed by snake bite looked at the golden snake they’d made and the Supreme Leader thought that was pretty good and all the snakes disappeared (but all the dead people were still dead).
The pilot set a course to rendezvous with the planet where he could finally open the doors and clear out the horrible fart smell from his precious space ship.
|# ? Sep 4, 2020 14:16|
Crit for "Quiet" by nut
"This certainly is good acid," said David Lynch, sitting on the floor of the joyously trashed motel room.
"Well, you know I always say: the best acid contains plenty of meth," said Charlie Kaufman.
"Oh poo poo," said David Lynch. "We spent all of the several million dollars the studio gave us for our first collaborative film project on the drugs we took half an hour ago. What are we gonna do? We're so screwed!"
"Oh gently caress!" said Charlie. "I was so excited about buying the solid gold dumpster truck filled with drugs that I totally forgot we were supposed to make a movie!"
"It's okay, we got this," said David. "What if instead of a movie, we wrote a piece of experimental flash fiction, and filmed the process? That's exactly the sort of self-referencial bullshit the studio expects from us."
"Okay," said Charlie, pulling out his laptop. "So would should the plot of this story be?"
"Plot? We're well past that," said David. "Let's just write a series of kaleidoscopic images that fail to have any coherent meaning when taken as a whole."
"So like the last half hour of 2001: A Space Odyssey without any of the story to give it any context?" said Charlie.
"Well, maybe there should be a plot, but it's so buried underneath the imagery that it's impossible to discern," said David.
"Okay, so I'll put in a little something. Do you care what is?"
"Not at all."
"Neither do I," said Charlie. "What about the prose itself?"
"Hmmm, that's a good question," said David.
"I was thinking of just writing really long, dense sentences. Like, three separate insane things happen every sentence. Enough magic realism for a thousand-page book stuffed into like three pages. I wanna make every sentence its own special chore to get through."
"Right," said David. "Make sure the reader has no room to breathe, just make this thing as difficult to get oriented in as we possibly can."
"Right, I'm making this utterly unreadable," said Charlie. "Not in the sense that you can read it but it sucks, just like, you literally can't read it."
"Perfect!" said David. "It'll be so kaleidoscopic!"
"What about the title?" said Charlie, typing furiously.
"Hmmm. What about something simple, enigmatic, a single word that embodies the artistic meaning of the art we are creating?"
"Nah, let's just call it 'Quiet' and call it a day," said Charlie.
"Hell yeah!" said David. "Now that that's done, let's stare at a wall for four hours!"
They did that.
|# ? Sep 4, 2020 16:37|
Bonus week 421 crits!
MockingQuantum - “Whiteout Conditions”
The story is about an Antarctic researcher whose fellow researcher disappears while looking for him; he also vanishes and disappears while attempting to find him. The story is wrestling with a few different themes – I think it’s trying to say something about isolation, but I’m not exactly sure what. I liked the bizarre scenes at the party, like the researcher protecting his bad fries, but the story ends with our protagonist surrendering himself to the Antarctic. I’m not sure if there’s supposed to be a supernatural, SCP-tinge to this, or if this is just a character giving into blankness and hypothermia after living in isolation for so long. And then there’s the conversation the character has with Donnie earlier in the story – is the implication here that he’s convinced Donnie to abandon himself to the Antarctic? We don’t have a sense of Donnie’s reaction, so I’m not quite sure.
So I think it speaks to the story’s richness that it raises all of these questions, but unfortunately I don’t have a lot of clues in the text that could help me make a case for any of these. More unfortunately, the story drags a little bit; I’m not quite sure what the protagonist wants. After reading the story, I’m kind of left with the impression that the character eventually chooses oblivion, but I think we need more clues about this, and an understanding of why (other than their isolation where they’re still relating and connecting to the other folks at the base.)
Yoruichi - “The donkey enjoyed the mints, but decided not to go on TV again”
This story is about a TV show where heads are matched with bodies; through a series of events, Bob merges with a bear, a radioactive blob, and a human announcer. I think this story is just trying to entertain with these bizarre hybrid images, and for the most part it works; there’s definitely a sense of high-concept imagination here. But I did find myself struggling to follow the action here, with so many entities to keep track of. The blocking is a little messy, and there’s not much of actual character here, this is just kind of an imaginative slapstick sequence.
GrandmaParty - “Mellix and the Goblins”
Mellix is a god who commissions a house and commissions one from a salamander, a minotaur, and a human, but they all make bad houses and the goblins hijack the human’s idea instead. The story mostly just wants to have fun with the fable structure, and it works on that level, with the unsuccessful attempts topped by the third. I think that the moral at the end doesn’t quite work; it’s not absurd enough to be funny, though I like the goblins getting their reward for farting out butterflies.
The story sets up that Mellix tries to gently caress over architects, and implies they’ll find fault in things that are basically fine, but the contestants actually turn in incompetent work. I think I like the sense that the goblins win by making something high-concept more accessible, but I think there’s too much windup to this (you can cut a lot of the first few paragraphs without losing anything.)
crabrock - “Extra Good News”
Some banter about frogs on the moon, and it ends in half a pun. Ultimately the story just wants to have fun with the image of moon frogs, and it succeeds. This is enjoyable to read but there’s not a lot of substance here. Liked the whole runner of the captain who’s left out, although I was wondering “who’s Michael?” at the end. Could probably use some heavy cuts and maybe the story could lean into the threat of apocalyptic consequences here; there’s kind of a Dr. Strangelove vibe already.
Wetlich - “Room 421”
In some sort of cosmic-horror world, an organized crime unit executes a suspected snitch. The piece is mostly worldbuildy, but peppered with details about the Lovecraftian-crime-syndicate, never getting too explicit. I can see why this placed well this week – the piece is evocative of a certain kind of mood, and the voice is lively. That said, I didn’t love this. The character is pretty passive and kind of a non-entity here; they don’t make any choices, don’t seem to have any particular opinions, and the spectacle here is their passivity and apathy in the face of this haunted bureaucracy. Love the “I’m not a fan of veal either” line, and I do like that there’s some energy and life in this piece, how the worldbuilding is done through assembling scenes and moments rather than summarizing or expositing.
QuoProQuid - “Couple’s Retreat”
The protagonist goes on a retreat with her older boyfriend with the intent of a mutual suicide, but the protagonist changes her mind. I gave this a pre-crit, so I’ll be brief here: I think the core of this story is strong, but we really do need more of a sense of what the protagonist is choosing to live for and why she makes the choice at the end. Disenchantment with her partner is one thing, but I think we need more, a sense of understanding how she’s going from accepting death to adamantly rejecting it. I think it’s probably difficult to fit this into 1,200 words, unfortunately.
magic cactus - “Long Haul”
Ruiz and Yancey, two elderly women, stage a caper in a futuristic world, but when they get the cargo, it turns them into grass. I think this story is trying to capture the energy of a heist film, but the ending doesn’t really fit this; I think there’s definitely an interest in these elderly characters being involved in this high-action heist, too, but my issue with that is that it’s hard for me to tell Ruiz and Yancey apart. The ending here just doesn’t seem signaled by anything that comes before; I guess I’d expect some ominous plantlife, but that doesn’t really show up, and it doesn’t fit the mood of the story beforehand. There were words to spare here, so I’m a little baffled by this – what if the glass jars were fine until they were interrupted by hostile, non-human forces that broke the jars and caused this transformation? How does this connect to Ruiz’s sense of being marginalized due to her age – would there be a way to work this into the story to make the ending feel like it’s fulfilling the promises this story makes earlier on?
I do like the worldbuilding here, though I admit I have no idea what a “casper” is supposed to be. I just wish it paid off a little more.
Thranguy - “The Case of the Fiendish Green Meanie (Part the Second)”
Mystery solving young people of indeterminate age try to find a bug, and they do, because it’s formed a bug monster and it almost attacks an old man. In a week of genre pastiche, this is the pastichiest – it’s trying to go for some goofs on the mystery-solving-teens genre, working in six characters in a 1,200 page story consisting mostly of banter. It’s extremely silly and doesn’t really go anywhere, but I think there’s a dumb charm to this, even if I did want it to get to the point. The story raises more questions than it answers, and I don’t think there’s enough jokes for the banter to land here, but I guess I’m just impressed by the size of ambition of this story; it does indeed feel like an excerpt from a Young Readers Mystery series.
The Saddest Rhino - “I N T E R N E T || D A T I N G || 2 0 0 0”
In a cyberpunk world, our protagonist iROM and Y2Gay must defeat Y2K and the plague. Another pastiche story, this time doing Gibson-esque cyberpunk, and I think it’s pretty rich and flows well; it’s goofy (probably a little too goofy, in my opinion) but there’s a joy to the details. Is it worth complaining that I don’t care about the characters and that I’m disoriented about the plot in this sort of story? This story exists to have this nostalgia-inflected cyberpunk bit of year 2000 flavor, and it definitely delivers that. There’s a lot of character in almost every sentence here, and unlike a lot of this week, this piece seems like effort and thought was put into it. I’m not sure why this story needs to be in second-person – I guess to convey this sense of Internet-as-collaborative-project-but-also-ultimate-narcissism? I don’t know: this is a well-written story that’s just not-for-me. Maybe if Y2Gay was gayer I’d be more into this.
Favorite line: “The Cybersecurity officer of the virtual planet, dressed in furs harvested from MUCK perverts, zooms towards you on their webboard.”
M. Propagandalf - “The Transubstantiation at Maneki Lake”
Hugh is on the run after stealing a cat status from a museum; a sheriff pursues him, but is unable to stop Hugh from summoning evil cats. The story tries to answer the question “what if cats were extremely ominous?,” and while this story has some problems, I kind of love this anyway. I genuinely love the ending of this, with the huge cat coming out of the water – I think maybe the story should have lost some stuff early on (either of the first two scenes are kind of disposable here) and just leaned into scary, huge Lake Cat a little more. The imagery here is actually pretty cool, with hundreds of murderous housecats. I wish we knew a little bit more about what Hugh was hoping would happen here – we get that hint at “key to eternal ecstasy,” but a) how and b) isn’t Hugh like a grade school kid? On the whole, I really do find this delightfully bonkers, and I’m a little sad it ate a loss.
Dr. Kloctopussy - “Vampire Dad to the Rescue”
Dad and son rescue Elric, a monk trapped in a toaster, from a vampire. This is a goofy romp, and doesn’t aspire to be anything more, and it actually works here – this is a fun joke-delivery story, even if it’s not super substantial. Liked the “kids these days” jokes, liked the suggestion of various alternative vessels. I think the ending is cute in the moment, but it directly contradicts the beginning of the story; the joke here would have landed if Dad hadn’t told us directly that he was friends with Elric. I think it might have been a good idea to center Valeria a little more as the obstacle here, as the parade of other obstacles can’t be developed enough for them to be great jokes. Still, I liked this a lot, and probably would have pushed for an HM if I’d judged this week.
|# ? Sep 5, 2020 22:16|
The Third Annual Minneapolis Creepy Thrift Competition
“What are you bringing to the Creepy Thrift contest?” says Brent on the other line of the XBox live-chat.
“Oh boy, you’re just gonna have to see it. You?” I say. I look over at the doll on my bedside table. It looks like a taxidermied monkey--and it probably is--but with wolfish fur and long, sharkishly bat-like teeth. I was excited to find it for a buck ninety-nine at the 60th-and-Nicollet Goodwill, knowing my competition would just bring clown toys and old racist knick-knacks.
“I found a Mitt Romney Chia Pet, I figured I’d put some nails in its eyes or something," says Brent.
“That’s cheating. Respect the integrity of the game,” I say.
“What’s cheating is you camping with your sniper, bro,” says Brent. “Oh hey, heads up, Janet’s gonna be at Creepy Thrift.”
“Janet? Oh wait, she was that girl at Jake’s birthday, right? She’s cute.”
“Yeah, man. Word on the street is that she remembers you better than you remember her. You might wanna comb your hair on Friday. Play your cards right, ya know?”
“Yeah,” I say. “I’ll impress her by crushing y’all at Creepy Thrift.”
That night I have a dream where I cut deep into my arm and let the blood flow into a big bowl. I set the bowl on my kitchen counter in a big tropical forest with palm trees the size of redwoods. Then I go to my dream-bed, and my dream-within-a-dream is about like a spaceship or something.
“Hey are you okay?” says my boss Nick as I enter attendance data into Excel.
“Yeah,” I say. “I’m fine. Why?”
He shrugs. “I don’t know, you look kinda sick. Maybe you’re pale? Any COVID symptoms?”
“Nah, I got the vaccine last month.”
“Cool. If you need to take a breather, go ahead.”
“Thanks,” I say. I take the opportunity. The fresh air actually is nice. Maybe my allergies are flaring up.
I wake up in the middle of the night and the scary monkey doll is gone and I check the time on my alarm clock wait I don’t have an alarm clock, but there's one there and it says it's 72:33 no 15:61 no 00:eleven-0, ok I know my bed isn’t in the woods, how many fingers do I have ok that’s way too many thumbs, I’m still dreaming and oh hey there’s scary monkey friend, he’s got a little straw, that’s adorable, oh he’s putting it into my face I guess.
I wake up feeling fine but weak. I go to the fridge and grab some orange juice, but it tastes like sand. I throw it out, put on last night’s clothes from the floor, and go to work.
“Okay, you’re definitely sick,” says Nick. “You don’t want to take any PTO?”
“I used all my PTO when you made me quarantine after my landlord got COVID,” I say. “It’s fine, I don’t have to be in peak physical condition to fill out grant applications.”
Later in the day, Nick brings me a coffee and it tastes just like the orange juice.
“Making a lot of burgers?” says the grocery store cashier, and I notice that the only thing in my cart is seventeen pounds of ground beef.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I say. “I’m feeling a bit off today.” I go and get some actual groceries, rice and kale and grapes and--
“Sir, are you sure you just want thirty-one pounds of ground beef?” says the cashier. Oh, I guess that is what I got.
“Yeah,” I say. “I’m having a real big barbecue.”
When I get home, I search around for some hamburger buns and find some kinda stale but not-moldy ones in the cupboard. I guess I’m just craving protein. I start up the stove and reach for a tube of beef, but it’s already empty. Who stole my meat?, but I can feel the blood trickling down my chin. I lick it up.
“It’s time,” says the monkey doll.
“Come on, man,” I say. “I don’t have much to give.”
I look over at the kitchen counter, and there are two empty beef tubes now.
“You have enough,” says the doll. “It’s time.”
There’s a bowl on the counter, and a knife.
“No, I need it,” I plead, but the bowl is already filled with blood and my forearm is bleeding, and by the time I’m back from taping paper towels to my arm in the bathroom the bowl is empty. I rip the towels off my arm and the cut is gone.
I count my fingers, and there are, unshiftingly, five of them.
My phone rings. It's an unknown number, but it's a six-one-two, so I know it's local.
"Yo, Victor speaking."
"Hey! It's Janet. We met at Jake's birthday thing, remember? Brent gave me your number."
"Oh, um, cool. Hi."
"I was thinking, after Creepy Thrift tomorrow, if you wanna come with me to grab a drink at the CC?"
"Um, yeah. That sounds, um, awesome."
"Yay! I'm so excited! I dunno, do you wanna like, talk now? What do people do after successfully asking someone out?"
"I'm sorry, um, Janet. I'm in the middle of something. I'll see you tomorrow." I do my best to imitate a kissing sound over the phone and hang up.
"It's time," says the doll.
"Come on! I just gave you some!"
"That was yesterday," says the doll.
Wait, why is there so much light in here? It's nighttime. Right? Isn't it?
I need blood. I don't have any. You don't notice how loud the flow of it is inside you until it's gone. The rumbling of my stomach is like a metallic crank. I climb towards the fridge. I don't know how many beef tubes I go through. However many it is, it's too few.
What day is it? Friday, says my phone. Okay, so I have work, and Creepy Thrift, and that date with Janet, poo poo I won't have time to get home to feed the doll, no, what am I talking about, I don't have enough for that.
I look into my bathroom mirror. I'm supposed to do something here. Comb my hair, that's it. I'm supposed to comb my hair today. It comes out as I run the comb through. Still, I do it.
Nick looks so plump, so full of blood, you can hear him sloshing like a water balloon as he approaches my desk.
"Dude, go the gently caress home," he says. "You look like poo poo. I'm pretty sure we can get sued letting you work."
I'm at home. How did I get here? Oh, I took a Lyft, apparently?
"It's time," says the doll.
"I can't," I say. "I'm dry."
"What?" says Brent, finishing off a beer. "I said it's time to head over to the party, but like, I think you should stay home, you look sick as poo poo and have been acting super weird ever since I got here. Look, Janet will understand, she's…"
"No," I say. How long has Brent been here? "I'm going."
"You sure? I'm not sure if you knew this, but 2021 isn't the best year to be going out looking sickly. Whatever. Nice creepy doll, by the way, I'm sure you're the one to beat. Way better than…" he taps on his clay Romney. "Let's roll."
We're by an apartment door. Whose? Right, Desmond. He's hosting this year. I'm clutching the monkey doll. Brent rings the doorbell. Desmond welcomes us in. There are so many people here, the sound of their blood is like a waterfall. A girl is talking to me, it's whatsherface, Janet. I can barely hear her over the bloodflow. She looks delicious.
"What?" I say.
"Looks like everyone brought a baby clown doll, you might just win by default," says Janet. "Nice zombie costume, by the way, didn't know people were dressing up for this, but I dig it. Do you do special-effects makeup? I might need some help for something I'm working on for one of my film classes."
poo poo, what would a person say in this situation? Oh God I can see the blood under her skin, she's so red.
What did she just say? Where are we? Creepy Thrift, right.
"Uh, what did you bring?"
"That old Civil War portrait. I dunno, it's fine. Hey, let's go get a drink," she says. She grabs my hand and pulls me toward the kitchen. I can feel her pulse, and I am filled with envy.
She pours two glasses with the tequila on the counter and grabs a lime and a knife. She starts cutting the lime against the counter, before saying, "Silly me. No cutting board." She holds the lime in one hand and cuts into it in the other until…
It's the thinnest, shallowest cut in her skin, but I can see so deep into it. She lurches back and drops the knife. The blood is climbing the walls of the cut, a swift flooding river, and...
Oh my God. This is so good. This is the best thing I've ever tasted.
"WHAT THE gently caress DUDE?" Janet screams, pulling her hand away from my mouth. gently caress her, she doesn't know how badly I need this. I grab her wrist and pull her hand back and start chewing at the cut and now everyone's in here and trying to pull me off her but my teeth are too deep in for anyone to take me away until I feel something shattering against the back of my head and see the clay bits of Mitt Romney's head fall to the tile. The finger drops from my mouth, and I pounce after it and drink from it until they can finally drag me away.
Oh no. Oh God. What did I do? Jesus Christ, that's a lot of cops. Is Janet okay? Okay, some paramedics are wrapping up her hand. I'M SORRY! I'M SO SORRY! HEY, ARE WILL STILL ON FOR THE C.C. CLUB?
As I'm led out the door in cuffs, Brent picks up the monkey doll from the bloodied kitchen floor.
"Guys," he says. "I'm pretty sure we have a winner."
|# ? Sep 6, 2020 00:45|
Out in the Cold
MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:50 on Jan 5, 2021
|# ? Sep 6, 2020 21:27|
The Logistics of It All
Levi Stein took a moment before bursting into his home. “Daddy’s Home!” he yelled, throwing the door open before assuming a wide-legged straddle of victory.
“Baby!” his wife yelled before hopping up off the couch. She started to run over to her husband but Rebecca, their three year old daughter, beat her to him. “Daddy!” she yelled.
With just a quick peck for her husband, Steffie practically dove for the small bundle in his arms. “God, he’s so small,” she said, taking the swaddled infant from him. With a practiced swoosh, she tucked the child in the crook of her arm and cooed at him before giving him several wet kisses on his cheeks. The wrinkled infant’s right eye peeked open and then quickly shut again, giving the illusion of sleep.
“Yeah, I know. He’s got to be less than a month old,” he said before kneeling down to hug his daughter. “Did you miss me, Princess?”
“You betcha!” Rebecca giggled. It was their private saying, just for each other. “Who’s that?” she said before pointing at the new baby.
“That’s your little brother,” Levi told her.
Rebecca held up a finger, her sign that she had a question. “But didn’t I already-”
“Let’s see what Daddy got for you,” Steffie said, not taking her eyes off the baby.
Levi pulled out a small wooden triangle affixed to a length of cord from his pocket. “This is an agimat. They’re good luck,” he said, before tying it around his daughter’s neck.
“Agimat,” Rebecca said.
By this time, the family’s cat had sauntered his way into the living room, seeking the source of whoever had interrupted his nap. His big, limpid eyes registered that Levi had returned and he jogged over on jaunty paws, eager for affection. With a shoulder, he pushed himself between Rebecca and Leroy and bonked his head against Levi’s open hand.
“I missed you too, Mittens,” he said, gently stroking the cat behind the ears. After a good minute and some solid purrs, Mittens turned around to investigate and saw the tiny wrinkled child in Steffie’s arms. The cat practically doubled in size, his tail bristling before running out of the room, running to his hiding spot under the Steins’s bed.
“Silly cat,” Steffie said, still rocking the baby. “He’s just not good with anything new.”
Rebecca sat down on the floor and examined his necklace while Steffie sat in the same chair she nursed Rebecca in. Levi stood around nervously before breaching the subject. “There’s something you need to know about him,” he said.
“What’s that? That he’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen?”
“No,” he said. “That’s not Bituin.”
“What do you mean that’s not Bituin? We filled out the forms at the adoption agency months ago. They had you fly all the way there to get him.”
“Bituin was gone when I got there. They told me someone else had paid more for him so they gave him to them.”
“So this was another one they had?”
Levi shook his head. “There weren’t any other children this age at the orphanage,” he responded.
She tilted her head in confusion; he always told her that it made her look cute, like a little puppydog.
“So if you didn’t get him in the orphanage... where did you get him?”
“I found him,” he said. Instead of looking away, he maintained a straight, steady look directly at his wife’s eyes.
“What do you mean, you found him?”
“The orphanage was in a really, really small town on north Mindanao. Jungle nextdoor small. No running water small. Animals howling at night and eagles crying small.”
She stopped rocking the baby, intent on listening. The child still didn’t move or react, sitting there looking like a wrapped raisin, intent on sleep. “Uh huh.”
“And it’s the middle of the night and I hear something crying. And even though everything in me is telling me not to go out there, it’s a baby crying and I know there shouldn’t be a baby crying and I’m still so raw from David that I had to go out there, you know.”
Seeing the worry in his face, Steffie got out of the chair, baby tucked in the crook of her right arm and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I probably would have done the same thing.”
“And it’s dark and there are plants everywhere and there’s this baby crying and crying and crying, screaming at the top of his lungs, just I’m being murdered screams and I’m stumbling in the dark and I just have to DO something, you know?”
“And I’m wandering in the dark and the more I wander the fainter the cry gets and somehow I find him and it’s the middle of loving nowhere, no parents to be found and the weirdest thing was that it was completely quiet. The sounds coming out of this place are like something out of a movie and when I picked him up, everything was just dead silent. Like nothing. And I’m holding him and there’s no one around and I realize that he was left there to die, Steffie.”
By this point, his face had flushed and he had started breathing heavy, desperate for his wife’s indulgence. She nodded.
“You know I’m not going to be mad at you for doing something right.”
“But what if I stole someone’s kid?”
“Good parents don’t leave their children in the jungle, honey. I’m more impressed with the fact that you got him into the country.”
“After what we went to get Bituin, the orphanage owed us a favor and took care of everything. But it was the weirdest thing. Everyone there refused to go near him or touch him; they just wanted me out of there as fast as possible.”
Steffie shrugged. “He’s here now. But that’s enough chat. Come on kmids, it’s time for bed,” she said, bending down to kiss Rebecca on the head and giving Levi a kiss on the lips. Before beginning Rebecca’s bedtime long ritual of several stories and a plea for water, Levi tucked his replacement son into the crib where David would have slept. “Goodnight, buddy,” he whispered.
The next morning, Levi couldn’t believe that their new son had let them sleep through the night. The child had barely cried on the plane and hadn’t screamed once overnight. He almost clicked his heels on his way to make coffee while Steffie kissed her boys awake.
Before he got to the coffee pot, Levi found Mittens spread across the kitchen floor. Completely drained of blood, the cat looked more like a deflated balloon than anything that had ever meowed. “Jesus,” he said as his wife walked in and promptly freaked out.
“Oh my god,” she yelled, the desire to avoid the corpse overwhelming her desire to clutch her friend to her chest. “What the poo poo? What the poo poo Levi? What the gently caress happened?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “There’s nothing I know that can even do this. Look, you check the windows and the doors, see if anything got in here.”
Nothing. Nothing in the house indicated that something had entered the premises. No one broke in. Nothing had broken a window and snuck in.
“Jesus,” Steffie said. “Do you think?”
“He’s a baby,” he responded.
“You found him in the jungle,” she said.
“He’s our son."
A cry from Rebecca’s room sent both parents running to her room. Rebecca sat in the corner of the room crying, while the infant sat in the corner, freshly swaddled and wailing.
“What happened, honey?”
Rebecca cried and pointed.
“He hurt me.”
Still shocked from finding Mittens’s bloodless corpse, Levi picked up the infant and started to check him to make sure he was okay as well. Aside from a horrendous smell, the child seemed to be doing fine.
Steffie scooped up Rebecca, hugging the toddler and whispering soothing words to her. “It’s ok, honey. It’s ok. He’s just a baby.”
“No baby,” she said through hysterical tears, in the babble that only the parents of each individual toddler can understand. “Bite.” She pointed to a puncture wound on her neck, the size of a dime, leaking blood. The amulet around her neck looked burned, barely hanging onto the three year old.
Steffie gasped and hustled Rebecca to the bathroom where she quickly grabbed a clean towel and applied pressure to her wound. Dealing with a fussy toddler was almost second nature but the amount of blood leaking from the child was beginning to get alarming.
Levi came back in shortly thereafter, holding a freshly changed infant and a bottle of formula. “#1 dad on the job. You got it handled in here?”
“Your daughter is hemorrhaging blood and you’re acting like loving super dad for changing a diaper.” The wound was starting to close up but Rebecca was still in hysterics.
“We’ve got to do something about the baby,” she said, barely holding it together.
“Well, it’s not like we can just send him back to the Phillipines,” he said.
“Are you saying we should put our other child at risk so you can raise some sort of loving vampire baby? Just because you still have a hole in your heart from your son?”
He looked at the infant, still pretending to sleep. The veins on his forehead started to stand out as he grit his teeth.
“What, do you think I can just call up the Phillipines and say ‘Hey, I have your vampire baby, what do I do with it?’” he said. “Do you think that some priest is just going to show up and say “Oh, I know how to deal with these things? Or that someone’s loving bruha Filipino grandmother will suddenly show up and whisper a few prayers and poof, he’s a normal boy? I don’t know what to do with this god damned thing,” he yelled.
At the noise, the child opened an eyelid, the sclera around its pupil a deep, dark red. With surprising strength, it kicked off of Levi’s shoulder, lunging for his throat.
Steffie grabbed her husband and yanked him out of the bathroom, narrowly avoiding the child. With Rebecca under one arm and her husband’s waist in the other, she yanked them out of the room before slamming the door, leaving the child trapped inside.
“Nope,” she said. “Nope nope nope nope. I’m loving done. We’re leaving.”
“What do you mean, we’re leaving?” he said.
“We gotta do something,” she said.
At this point, the bathroom door had started to slam against the frame, the child inside trying to smash its way out.
Levi looked at the bathroom door, the part of his heart where their son used to be breaking for the second time. He knew it was something wrong but every part of him was screaming that it was a baby boy who needed him.
“Think about Rebecca,” she said.
Levi took a deep breath and nodded. “I’ll get Rebecca. Let’s go to the hospital,” he said, taking the rag and applying pressure to her neck.
While Levi gathered up his daughter and the things he’d need immediately, Steffie ran over to the stove and flipped on all the burners. As the gas built up near the oven, she lit a prayer candle and left it on the living room table. “Let’s go,” she said.
As the house slowly filled with gas, the glass window of the bathroom shattered. The child leapt out onto the outside lawn, crawled four houses down and started crying for attention. When the boom hit, the neighbors had already found him.
|# ? Sep 6, 2020 21:36|
The Swamp-Drainer of Rupat Island
“We should get rid of these trees. Free a square, two hundred – no, two fifty meters. Then build a pump station. Mark that on the map.”
Suharjo moved the pencil with diligent care. But his final precise line became jagged as a beringed hand impacted his shoulder.
“You’re doing great!”, Malik said with a congenial smile. “Two months sober, and barely a shake. Where do we go next?”
Malik wore a pristine explorer outfit. Ignoring this, the shiny teeth above and the “traditional” straw hat on top Malik had purchased from a souvenir shop, “genuine” Levis-clad Suharjo turned to the others. He exchanged glances with silent Surono, whose rags barely hid his muscles, and jittery Siti with her nonsense English shirt; they knew where to take their employer next.
“Up this hill,” Suharjo finally answered. “Survey the bog from above.”
Malik stared at the dense subtropical vegetation. “Wow, this will be like old times. May I?”
Surono handed him his machete. Like an excited child, Malik hacked away at betel vines. The others followed him closely.
“Do you remember when we thought Dumai was impossibly far away?” Malik was already getting winded, his toned physique unsuited for actual work. “We’d spend hours exploring routes through the jungle, but never got farther than the Rokan.”
“You tried to swim across once,” Suharjo said after an uncomfortable silence.
“Siti spent the next two days removing all the leeches!” The initial warm nostalgia in Malik’s grin had turned into something darker. “And then I got that fever…”
He had to catch his breath. Surono walked up next to him and extended his hand. With a twinge of embarrassment, Malik gave the machete back.
“The treatment cost your mother a lot.” Suharjo saw Malik react with another flinch.
“But eventually I made it over the Rokan, to Dumai, across the ocean, away from this shithole full of filth and poverty...”
They were used to this kind of talk by now. Still, Siti made a shocked gasp as if backhanded by an abuser. She ripped a fresh leaf off a betel vine, wrapped it around an areca nut from her pocket, and started chewing.
“You know that’s bad for you?”, Malik asked.
She twisted her reddened mouth and shrugged. Malik ignored her and kept on telling the same old story, how on arrival in America, he took the first name Ryan, managed to become successful at a food processing company, and decided to return with a gift of “much needed” prosperity to his old home.
“We’re here,” Suharjo finally interrupted. Malik turned away from Siti, broke into a sprint and pushed Suharjo aside to get a look through the gap between two palm trees.
Beneath him, a lush green field stretched in a large valley. Even from above, it looked filled with moisture like a saturated sponge.
“This is it, my old friends!” Malik made a grand gesture. “This wet sloppy stinking swamp holds your future in its slimy grip. I’ll wrest it from the tangle of meager shrubbery!”
Malik’s hands landed hard on Suharjo’s stooped shoulders. The company man went on about draining the bog, drying the peat, planting oil palms. Suharjo just sighed.
“Mark it on the map?”
“Yes! This is what I needed, what the company needed. I’ll take a few pictures, and soon, this island will be brimming with activity. We’ll ship bulldozers, excavators from the mainland to Rupat. Surono, do you want to drive an excavator?”
After a second without an answer, Malik continued rambling.
“There’s gonna be jobs for all of you. I’ll make sure you get the ones you want. Fancy being a secretary, Siti? Afford some proper clothes for once?”
Suharjo cleared his throat. “Have you given our…concerns any thoughts?”
“You still talking to those NGOs? Man, I told you, if my employers catch that connection…”
Malik shook his head and patted Suharjo patronizingly. “I realize that Rupat is one of the few islands left that hasn’t been exploited yet, but it’s just a matter of time. I’m scouting it specifically to support you because you are my friends. If another scout from another company comes – they’ll walk all over you. Bring foreign workers –“
“Not if we manage to have it declared a nature preserve.”
The well-dressed man smiled a sad smile. “Siti, that’s the areca addling you. With jobs comes money, and with money, opportunity. You can take yourself and your children away from this garbage heap. It will be so much easier than my path.
The environment doesn’t pay. Preserve this swamp, and you’ll be mired in it forever.”
“This ‘garbage heap’ –“
Suharjo shushed her. “Malik’s mind is set. Let’s finish the survey, get back to Batupanjang, and get paid.”
“That’s the spirit!” Malik intensified his grip on Suharjo’s shoulders. “But please try to remember. People call me Ryan now. There’s no success in a name like ‘Malik’.”
“Whatever you say, Malik.” Suharjo reached for the map in his back pocket; he shifted his stance, but slipped, and suddenly, both men tumbled down the steep slope beneath them.
Dragon fruit cacti had ripped his pants. His windbreaker jacket – broken. Sullied and scratched, Malik pulled himself up on the thin white trunk of an areca tree.
His groan turned into a pitched scream.
Between two arecas, a corpse was strung up. Insects had eaten most of the flesh, their buzzing mass giving it new undulating skin. The old lay discarded off to the side. This person had been hung upside down, been skinned alive and – barely visible beneath the writhing vermin – finally killed by having two horns driven into their skull.
Malik stumbled backwards and added his stomach contents to the bog-muck. Desperate for purchase in the shifting ground of the peat, he tried to get up, get away, when a cracking branch startled him and once again, he landed headfirst in the soil.
A callused hand gripped his shoulders. He struggled, but was powerless against someone used to handle farming tools. Malik got spun around, and ended face to face – with Suharjo.
“Got you,” the farmer said. Behind him, the gruesome display loomed.
Malik felt his bated breath burn a hole into his lungs, but he could not release it. The corpse seemed to shimmer, waver, as if the air around it was impossibly hot.
Sweat beaded on Suharjo’s brow. Then it evaporated.
As if punched in the gut, Malik exhaled. When he drew his next breath, his lungs burned again.
“We have to run,” he whispered. Suharjo nodded. Before Malik could turn around, he saw the corpse and most of the line of arecas burst into flames.
They ran. Swamp gasses, lingering mist and smoke trails pursued them with grasping ephemeral hands. Rib-like arecas clawed for them. Despite the treacherous terrain, they’d almost reached the edge of the swamp.
A crackling, a snap, and an impossibly spherical ball of fire flew by them, igniting more vegetation. They had to turn back, deeper again into shifting peat mats.
Malik was forced to take a break as he fell over a root, crushing meat-eating plants under his hands. “What is going on?”
“It’s a Banaspati,” Suharjo explained as he helped his old friend up. “Remember how my grandma warned us from going too deep into the jungle, because we’d attract one?”
“A fairy tale ghost?”
“A spirit as real as the plants and animals of this island.”
Between desperate gulps for air, Malik’s questions were barked gasps.
“Why set…own island…fire?”
“The swamp needs fire to keep the trees in check. They’d drain its water, overshadow the sundews and other ground plants. Dead plants, dry peat: next time, the fire takes everything. Poisons the air with smoke. And strangles the climate.”
Malik gritted his teeth. “This NGO poo poo again. Peat can’t burn if we sell it all. Let’s just get out of –“
The Banaspati had appeared. Its fiery awesomeness froze the fleeing men in place. Red-skinned, with fearsome horns, it walked on its hands, and monkey-like tossed fireballs with its feet.
“What do we do?”, Malik managed.
“The fairy tale says we need to pray while running. All the way until we reach the mushalla, the small mosque, in Batupanjang. Do you still remember the prayers, Malik?”
“It’s Ryan –“
“Ryan won’t remember, Malik!”
He started a curse, but caught himself. Folded his hands in a gesture that used to be second nature. And the familiar words still came to his lips. Together, they managed to speak the words as they backed away, then ran from the Banaspati. Through the bog, into the trees, over a hill, and back to the outskirts of the small settlement of Batupanjang. All the time, Malik felt the spirit’s breath caress his neck, but it was repelled by the prayers he left in his wake.
Here, the workers had already dried a part of the bog, laid the peat bare to prove that Malik’s drainage plans would work. When he saw the scars left by his employer’s claws, Malik stopped praying and finally caught his breath.
“Is this thing going to haunt all of our operations here?”
“Someone performed a terrible santet, Malik. Did you not see the corpse left by the ritual? It’s a strong curse that made the Banaspati.”
“The corpse burned, Suharjo. We’ll show this thing. We’ll drain its swamp and take its island. Fairy tales didn’t keep me from crossing the Rokan.”
Suharjo radiated sadness. “This proof of nature’s power still couldn’t sway you? Couldn’t make you remember your roots?”
“I’m rooted in poo poo! I grew out of it, left it behind for good, and you are all morons if you won’t do the same!”
“This ‘poo poo’ is our life, our home.” Suharjo’s voice had gained a dangerous edge. “We’d do everything to protect it. From people like you, Ryan. Did you even notice Chalid was gone?”
“I’d assumed he’d starved or something.”
A sudden, terrible thought flashed through Malik’s mind. “You didn’t…”
“We drew straws. He lost.”
“You made him into that?” Malik gestured wildly behind him. “If you are so desperate, why not kill me?”
“Because you were right, Ryan. Another company would send another foreigner. But you, we thought we could convince. Because you were one of us. So I pushed you down to see this.”
“But torturing poor Chalid – for nothing! We escaped his wrath!”
“Dry peat burns as a creeping smolder. It spreads quietly underneath. Until it’s too late.”
Around them, a ring of fire burst up to the treetops. Inside the roaring flames, a ghostly face, distorted but familiar, screamed wordless accusations. Malik fell to his knees.
“Chalid, I’m so sorry…”
The fire came closer. The spirit’s tongue licked into the constricting ring.
“You can still make it!”, Suharjo screamed through cracking lips. Malik, who had curled up into a ball, looked up through tears. His companion pulled him up. “Embrace your past! Remember the prayers! Reach the mushalla! And Ryan –“
“It’s Malik.” He clasped Suharjo into a deep embrace. “Rupat is too costly to cultivate. My company won’t come here.”
He turned. He prayed. He ran. Singed but alive, he broke out of the ring of fire. It contracted fully, became the red-skinned spirit again. Impossibly, Suharjo still stood.
“We did it, Chalid.”
The friends embraced, and it became too bright for Malik to look on. Through climate-killing dry peat fire, he escaped on the wings of tradition worth preserving.
|# ? Sep 6, 2020 22:26|
between the trees
A small campfire fire crackled and spat, and red flecks of light floated up into the black sky. Danilo watched the shadow of the man across from him dance on the trees. The man was perhaps as old as Danilo’s grandfather had been at his death. He bent his thin, curved spine in order to put his face nearer to the fire; a face with deep grooves in the brown skin and eyes hidden in shadow. The old man had given his name as Melchor in the village where Danilo had met him only hours earlier. “The plantation is one hours drive from here,” Melchor had said in halting English after hearing Danilo’s heavily accented Tagalog, but Danilo refused to use his native English. “My grandfather worked at that plantation,” Danilo told him in Tagalog. “I want to see it.” Thinking back on it now, as the fire made every motion in the dark seem mysterious, Danilo thought that there had been a strange light in Melchor’s eyes when he replied, without hesitation: “I will take you there.”
“Is he nearby?” Danilo asked again. The air around them had become so heavy and dense, like a heavy blanket wrapped around his head. He felt he’d been waiting for hours already. Melchor had phoned a friend for help when the truck’s engine had cut out suddenly and they rolled to a stop in an empty patch along the jungle path. The jungle had seemed much less dense in the daylight. They’d built a fire and Danilo fed it twigs and leaves while watching over his shoulder as Melchor stood by the truck talking on his phone.
Now the path and truck were concealed in thick darkness and Danilo felt completely surrounded by trees. “How much longer?” he asked again.
The old man seemed to be looking behind Danilo, over his shoulder. “He is coming soon,” he said. “He must move carefully in the dark. There are strange things between the trees.” Melchor took a thin, red colored pipe from his pocket and clamped it between his lips. He lit a match and the flare glowed in his eyes and they seemed bright and intelligent and alive. Melchor puffed on the pipe and filled the humid air with an odor like burnt sewer, unlike any tobacco that Danilo had smelled. He coughed and Melchor chuckled. “Not much longer,” he said.
The phrase ‘between the trees’ echoed in Danilo’s mind. His grandfather spoke of ‘the shadows between the trees’ whenever Danilo convinced him to talk about their homeland. There are shadows between the trees there, he would say. I will never return. You must promise me never to go there. Then, as if he were remembering a dream, a vision of Danilo’s grandfather rose from the clouded past.
On a cool summer night, late, after several beers, Danilo’s grandfather told him a story of the plantation where he had worked, the plantation which now must be within several miles of where Danilo sat. His grandfather told him of an old man who ran the plantation with a cruel and unrelenting fist. The workers called him the sun man, because of a tattoo on the back of his neck. The sun man would often take workers who did poorly out into the jungle to talk. At the close of their shift, after night had fallen the sun man and the worker would walk together into the trees. These workers were never seen again. Danilo’s grandfather worked hard and was promoted to foreman, and one day was asked to accompany the sun man into the trees to talk to a worker who had been lazy. They lit a fire and they sat down to talk, but no one talked. They sat at the fire in silence with the shadows growing and shrinking around them, each waiting for the other to speak. At this point in his story Danilo’s grandfather grew still and vacant and the beer bottle hung loosely in his fingers. I watched him die, he said. First his shadow died, then he. I watched him die, and did nothing. And the shadows between the trees watched me do nothing.
Why am I here? Thought Danilo. Why am I here in the exact spot of my grandfather’s nightmare? It was as if fate had designed it so. As if the story of the sun man had been locked away purposefully until the moment he reached this spot. And now, like his grandfather, he sat in the flickering shadows of a fire in the jungle with an old man. Could Melchor have a sun tattoo? Danilo could not see his neck in the dark, and could not remember seeing any tattoo in the truck. Besides, his grandfather had worked at the plantation sixty years ago. Any man who was old then would be dust now. But still, as Danilo watched Melchor puff steadily on his pipe, so comfortable in the oppressive dark, a part of him wondered.
But wasn’t it natural to be comfortable in one’s own country? Melchor’s comfort was something Danilo now knew he could never feel in this place. He had long harbored a fantasy that his first step onto the island of his heritage would bring a supernatural sense of belonging, as if his genes were connected to the land and trees. His mother and father and sisters were all void of interest in the homeland, only Danilo had always believed in the return. If we just went, he’d often thought, they’d see. But when he finally arrived he’d felt only the mundane excitement of new places, and the distressing reality of being an outsider.
Danilo realized with sudden clarity that no one knew where he was. He told his family he was visiting Samar island, but not what city. He had left no word at the hotel about where he was going. He had not left a note. His mother had always told him to leave a note if he ever went camping. His skin was cold in the humid air and a tingle of awareness suffused his body. He was here, really here in this jungle, on this island, thousands of miles from anyone. The acrid smell of Melchor’s pipe threatened to choke Danilo, but Melchor had put away his pipe, and only sat staring at him. No, staring behind him. The flesh on Danilo’s neck and back became separately alive and sensitive and he was certain something was within touching distance, perhaps breathing on him. He twisted round in his seat.
But there was only darkness and their two shadows dancing on the trees. Melchor was chuckling. “Don’t worry. Just a few more minutes,” he said. The smell of Melchor’s pipe was horrible and somehow stronger now, despite being out of sight in Melchor’s pocket. The stench seemed to hang in a cloud around Danilo, as if the smoke had stained his skin. His legs tingled and he had the urge to stand up, but was somehow unable to bring the motion about. Melchor smiled at him and Danilo noticed for the first time that the old man’s shadow seemed impossibly thicker and larger than the man himself.
But hadn’t he seen two shadows dancing on the trees behind him just now? Impossible. Light throws shadows outward. Melchor’s shadow could not be behind Danilo. And yet, something had been there.
He looked again, twisting in his seat, the motion taking so much energy, so much time, infinite time as he creaked like an ancient tree in the wind, turning for eons. And there he saw his own shadow, so thin and hunched, like a shriveled husk. And beside his shadow was the second shadow. It leaned over Danilo’s shadow and touched it. The color was so much darker and fuller than his own shadow, which seemed an empty membrane drained of its darkness.
“What?” He tried to shout, but it came as a hoarse whisper. He looked beside him for the source of the second shadow, but he was alone. Yet he saw on the ground, beside his feet, the beginnings of a shadow which stretched off into the trees. “What is this?” he said, and his voice was so soft, a child’s shaky breath under a blanket at midnight.
He forced himself to his feet and experienced a vague sense of tearing, like the pulling of an anesthetized tooth but across his whole body. He made for where he thought Melchor’s truck was, unsure why, or what he would do there. Two steps later he knew something was wrong. He had turned his back to the fire, yet at his feet was only flickering light. No shadow stretched out to the trees ahead of him. He thought, incoherently, that the fire must have gone out and he turned around to check, just in time to watch someone slump off the rock he had been sitting on and fall limply to the ground.
Something was crouched over the body on the ground and its head was bent down and wiggling back and forth. Then its head came up and Danilo saw that it was like a goat’s head, a bald goat with wrinkled flesh. Its whole body was bald and naked and rippled with darkness, and a long tail curled around its hooved feet. Its head dipped and rose and Danilo saw the jaw working like a cow chewing cud. Danilo knew it must be chewing something torn from the body. Something red and wet that it chewed and swallowed, leaving a hole in the body from which blood must be gushing like a punctured water balloon. The goat head dipped and rose and chewed, and Danilo did not want to look at the body on the ground because he knew what he would see.
But then, it no longer mattered. The figures moving on the ground were a meaningless puppet show, a joke. The fire dimmed and grayed and everything seemed foggy and far away. Only the trees seemed real. The trees and the darkness between them were solid and important. Danilo felt himself moving toward the trees.
He noticed, as one might notice some lint on their sleeve, that Melchor had lowered himself to the ground like a dog, his head low as if in humiliation or thanks, and was crawling toward the naked goat and the body. Danilo had a final, brief thought that perhaps now he could see if Melchor had a sun tattoo. But to go back that far seemed an impossible task, and he turned away. The trees and darkness called him.
The silence and the cold were like a peaceful numbness over him. Everyone had been wrong after all, he thought. Especially his grandfather. It was possible to return, and to belong. He could be welcome here, in the darkness between the trees.
|# ? Sep 7, 2020 00:38|
Word Count: 1618
a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 12:26 on Jan 3, 2021
|# ? Sep 7, 2020 00:59|
Heart of Iron, Heart of Palm
Word Count: 1627
Prompt: Orang Minyak
The boy had miscalculated in cutting the palm fruits from the trees, swinging the cutting pole in a crude, lopping arc, causing bits of red palm fruit to rain down upon him, juice and pulp running down his skin like little rivers of blood. From her place in the row of palm trees on the plantation field, Adilah watched with a heavy heart. The waste would mean a beating from the foreman, and even if the boy’s quick, hungry eyes and bone-thin body spoke of a lifetime on the streets he could use protection. The foreman liked to hurt. She had the scars to prove it. She muttered a quick prayer for him under her breath and cut a fruit from her tree with smooth, practiced movements of her rough and callused hands, making sure to pick the fruit that hung closest to the boy. It fell to the earth with a muffled thump, kicking up a cloud of dirt that caused him to stop and investigate the disturbance. He looked at Adilah and gave her a small nod, none of his smile reaching his eyes. It wouldn’t be enough to save him from a beating once the foreman showed up, but it kept things in balance, and that was a small comfort in this strange place.
The boy stumbled in and a hush descended on the sleeping quarters. Adilah could see the red seeping through his woolen shirt, the two functioning lights in the room turning his perspiration-soaked face into a ghostly death mask. The other workers turned their eyes away, wanting to offer some word of condolence or sympathy, but mindful that it could be anyone of them in the same position. Adilah watched the boy stumble into his cot, not even bothering to take off the shredded remnants of his shirt.
“The wound needs to be cleaned.” She muttered. The boy looked at her, an angry fire in his eyes.
“What did you say old woman?”
“The wound. If you do not want to die of infection, it needs to be cleaned. There is a bucket and washcloth out back, you’ll have to walk to the well for fresh water.” She jerked her head toward the building’s back door.
The boy stood unsteadily and began to make his way out of the sleeping quarters, holding on to the side of the building for support. She waited until she heard the telltale slide of his body against the building’s side and hurried out to investigate. He lay face down in the dirt, trying to push himself upright, his arms trembling with exhaustion. Adilah hurried to his side and slipped her arm under his, pulling upward as he struggled to find his footing. Eventually they stood together and she pretended not to notice that his breathing ended in little wheezes while she waited for him to catch his breath.
Adilah offered the boy her arm and together they made their way to the crude well that served as the workers’ water source. As she drew up the bucket he leaned against the well and spoke with a tired voice.
“Why are you in this hell-place old woman?”
Adilah drew the water bucket up and set it down gently in the dirt, dipping the washcloth in the water.
“By choice of course, just like everyone else. Now remove that sorry excuse for a shirt, I need to clean your wounds.”
The boy pulled his shirt over his head and Adilah inspected the damage. The foreman had clearly sensed the opportunity for a teachable moment, angry red slashes running up and down the length of his back. She set to work, ignoring the cries of pain and protest. As she worked, they talked.
“Why are you in this hellplace, child?”
“The recruiter said we were guaranteed three hot meals and a place to sleep each night. It beat sleeping on the streets, though now that I’ve seen how they welcome new workers, I think I’d prefer the streets.” He laughed hollowly.
“How old are you?”
“I am fourteen, old woman.”
She nodded, her movements imperceptible in the dark.
“I had a boy almost your age once, long ago. He died of the fever. I often wonder if he did not get the better part of the bargain.”
“You were married old woman? That is hard to imagine. Even Orang Minyak wouldn’t have someone as old as you!”
At the mention of the name, Adilah felt her hands ball into fists and forced herself to relax.
“Perhaps that is so.” In the dark she smiled a thin, cold smile as she dabbed the last of the blood away from the wound and applied a burning salve. She offered the boy her hand again, and together they walked back to the bunkhouse, the stars in the night sky their only companions.
He died in his sleep, exhaustion they said. Adilah watched the foreman and his workers come in and remove his blanket wrapped body, the linens crusted with the dark brown of dried blood. He’d get no funeral. His replacement would be here within a day or two, if they hadn’t found a new soul to exploit already. The boy’s last words to her played over and over in her head
Even Orang Minyak wouldn’t have someone as old as you!
Wherever she went, however she hid, he always found her sooner or later. She let out a sigh. Some things are truly not meant to be understood. She returned to her palm tree, cutting fruits in a trance, the faint thumping of the fruits hitting the ground matching the steady thump of her heart in her ears.
Later, she crouched behind the sleeping quarters and urinated quietly into the dirt to let him catch her scent. She drew a small kris from her hip and drew the blade across her palm, letting the blood and urine mingle before she gently pushed a finger between her legs and flicked a few droplets of her moisture to mix with the other ingredients. She lit a stick of incense and waited.
He showed up sooner than she’d thought he would, and with little warning. One second she was sitting in the dirt and the next her skin began to sweat the thick, oily droplets that were a sign of his presence. The rank-but-sweet smell of oil invaded her nostrils as his burbling voice rang out in her head.
Why have you called me, Old Mother?
I require a favor.
You are too old for me Old Mother, I require sweeter flesh. Younger
You already had me once hell-devil. Do you not recall? A little bungalow. Forty years ago.
Ah! I remember now. A pity there were so many casualties. Your body is old now, but your skin still shines like the finest pearl.
She felt her skin grow slick as he touched her arm and fought down nausea as her mind flooded with half remembered visions of a small child struggling in a bathtub full of water, felt herself being pulled deeper….
Enough! I have not forgotten what you did to me, orange devil. By the right of your guilt, I am owed one favor. I wish to call it in now.
Speak, Old Mother.
There is a man in that big house, a foreigner. He likes to cause pain for his own amusement. He has taken the life of a boy who did not deserve such a swift and brutal end. See to it that things are set right.
Of course, Old Mother. It shall be done.
In front of her the air shimmered and she found herself looking into two iridescent lenses that shone in fractured rainbows like the skin of a soap bubble. She stared back and waited for the bubbles to burst and give way to the beast’s real eyes, the ones that dripped black pitch and told tales of crude and simple lust.
Ah, but I forget one small detail. Should you try and satiate your hunger for your ah, “sweeter” flesh..
She reached slowly into his chest, suppressing a shudder as the cold oil touched her skin, rooting around until she found his heart, squeezed it once, hard as he gasped for air.
I will know
She watched the air shimmer as his shoulders slumped in defeat.
It will be as you say, Old Mother. He paused. Would you like to ride alongside me—
Not on your life
Thy will be done, Old Mother
He departed in an oily haze, her skin once more her own, free of his sheen. She took an extra-long shower that evening regardless, scrubbing herself pink and raw, but no matter how much she washed she still felt slick, and the quiet tears that slipped from her eyes mingled with the water, leaving no trace of their journey down the shower drain.
That night the whole plantation seemed to be holding its breath. Even in the sleeping quarters the workers had forsaken their usual late night card games and cigarettes and fell instead into fitful slumbers. Adilah couldn’t sleep. She was listening to the wind, or rather to the lack of it. The plantation seemed to be still, waiting for something. As if on cue, the wind picked up, bringing with it a faint howling that could be mapped to some kind of animal, but not one that walked the same earth as man. Somewhere, mixed in with this were the howls of a man. Adilah listened until she could no longer distinguish man from animal.
She listened for a long time.
|# ? Sep 7, 2020 02:27|
Even though Kul said nothing to his family about his trip to Bangkok, his brother Udom waited at the gate. What the hell was he doing there? Kul hadn’t told his family about the trip; he knew they’d ask him to travel to Phuket, and he wasn’t doing that. This was business—he was here to close a deal with a contractor. Once he got them to sign the new contract, he’d save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they’d have to promote him to Senior Manager. He didn’t have time, let alone the brainspace, to travel half a country away just to get a guilt trip about how he didn’t call enough. He sent them plenty of money—he didn’t need to make visits that no one was going to enjoy anyway.
“What a surprise,” Kul said, not smiling. Udom had these little bird-bones in his shoulders and a weak chin; it always gave Kul the impression that, if he wanted to, he could squeeze Udom between his forefingers. Kul cocked his head to the side and took a step toward him. “You stalking me?”
Udom closed his eyes for a few seconds, and Kul wondered what emotion he was trying to suppress. “I've left a few messages for your assistant. It sounds like she's taken messages, but I guess she's, ah–forgotten them. She did let me know you were coming here. I'm sorry. I didn't want to do this, but you have to know—Pa’s dead.”
“I got the message,” Kul said, turning around, fist wrapped tight around his duffel bag. “You think I didn’t?”
“Sorry. I’m sure you did. I just—I just don’t think he’s all the way gone.”
“You’re too old to believe in that superstitious bullshit,” Kul said, weaving through a crowd of tourists. God, the simpering piety; he couldn’t stand it. It’s just what their Ma expected for both of them. Kul was smart enough to listen to Pa, who knew that success was money, and the best way to get money was to get yourself in a good place and never apologize once you were there. Kul went to the states and outsourced jobs; Pa loaned money to gamblers and hit them until the paid him back. And Udom washed towels at a beach resort. “You gotta get out of there, buddy. Take it from me. Never been happier since I left.”
“Everyone’s seen the shadow on the beach. Me, Ma, the aunties—even one of the tourists asked Ma about it. It goes on for miles. It’s a pret, Kul. When I’m walking down there to think, after Ma goes to bed—I feel him. There’s no end.”
“Sounds like a cloud to me. You know these stories are metaphors.”
“I need you to see it,” Udom said, stepping in front of Kul. “You have to feel it. You have to know. You were always just like Pa. And you’re going to end up like him.”
They were at the taxi landing. Kul climbed in and looked back at Udom. “Hope the twelve-hour drive was worth it,” Kul said, before closing the door and giving the driver his hotel address.
* * *
As soon as he got out and paid the driver 400 baht, an aching settled into Kul’s temples. It was the loving Bangkok air and the jet lag—everything was a blurry mess of light and flesh. But there were no shadows, and as he rode the elevator up to the forty-fifth floor, he tried to make sense of what Udom actually wanted. With Pa gone and Kul in the States, Udom answered for the family; this was how he showed his strength, by pulling Kul back home.
By the time Kul shoved his key card into the hotel room, he was feverish and shivering. It had to be that lovely chicken they served on the plane, he thought, as he dropped his duffel bag on the floor and looked out the room’s rear window. Bangkok’s bustle was shrouded by a thin green mist, and Kul smelled the hint of something ripe and rotting.
He ran to the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet before throwing up. As he pulled himself up, he thought about Udom. Maybe he’d had some bug on him, gotten too close, passed it onto Kul and ruined his trip.
He splashed water on his face. What was he going to say to his boss? The company had fronted this money to fly him out so that he could sign things in person, shake hands with people, make them feel like they had a friend at the company. They’d think he was trying to grift them if he complained he was too sick. And what’s more, they’d think that he didn’t have the constitution, the backbone, that he didn’t want his promotion, couldn’t handle the power, the responsibility.
Then he caught another whiff of the rotting smell and he was kneeling over the toilet again.
He’d returned to the toilet five more times in the course of an hour. Around him, the HVAC system was making the weirdest noise: something weak and whistle-like, like air hissing through a leak in a balloon, or an animal punctured in the chest.
And then, as he dared to crawl out of the bathroom, a tongue lashed the window.
He knew it was a tongue because it was attached to a very small mouth of a balding, severe man, its stretched, emaciated torso stretching up forty-five stories. Kul crept to the window, feeling poisoned in more ways than one by Udom. He remembered feeling too old for the pret stories from friends’ grandmothers, like they were quaint nonsense, while Udom ate that poo poo up. But some of it had lodged in his head, set loose from its prison by whatever microorganism was camping out in the plane’s cacciatore.
“Pa,” Kul said. The word was barely out of his mouth. So loving weak. This was Udom bullshit. But the man licking the window with a tongue like a fire hose wouldn’t be anyone else.
And then the window wasn’t there; the humid malaise of the Bangkok air cut through the air conditioning and roiled Kul’s stomach again. The pret lingered, sniffing, maybe. Then its lasso of a tongue swept into the room, prodding around the baseboards, getting under the carpet. Kul crept back and retched, but nothing came out this time.
Eventually the pret found its prize. Its tongue coiled around an air vent and pulled taut. The vent burst off with a sound like a firework. Beneath the gate was a weasel with a distended stomach, its head half-blackened and slick with rot. The pret—Kul’s father—wrapped the thing in its horrible tongue, which then pulled back suddenly; Kul thought of the snapback of a roll of measuring tape. The tongue strained to fit the dead creature into the small pucker of the pret’s mouth, which was no bigger than the hole of a beer bottle. Both ends of the weasel bulged, and then it burst and slipped free, its wretched carcass falling on the streets below.
Kul pulled himself to his feet. His weakness was still there, but he had to get closer, had to see what the creature would do, so rejected. It let out another one of those gut-shaking low moans, and when Kul made it to the edge of where the window used to be, the city streets below had vanished as well, its paved streets and lights replaced with a layer of banyan trees and the sound of the ocean, and the sound pushed the pinned animal button in Kul’s brain, the feeling of listening to Ma just not stop talking about money, the wheedling of the alcoholic souvenir salesman and the flat staccato sounds of Pa’s voice.
The long, snaky tongue jabbed out again, wrapping around Kul’s torso, his neck. The tongue was as dry and rough as a cat’s. But the tongue pulled away as soon as it had touched him; not good enough, Kul thought. Not rich enough. Not as good as a liquefied weasel.
“I’m trying,” Kul said. “I really am trying, you rear end in a top hat.”
A swell of fog billowed up between them, and another wave of weakness seized Kul. He staggered back and fell into a deep sleep.
* * *
He missed the meeting. Of course he did.
Probably it would be OK.
He called Udom. Udom didn’t pick up. Kul didn’t blame him, but he didn’t leave a voicemail either.
The window pane was back. The air conditioning grate was still popped off, and the inside still smelled like death and decay.
Maybe Kul was imagining it.
He took a thirty minute shower. The fever had broken, but he felt heavy, constricted, and flattened.
There were two whole days before his flight back. In two days, he could rent a car and drive to Phuket. He could see Ma and maybe that would do something for her. Probably it would.
He thought about it for at least a few minutes. And then he called into work, pleading and dripping apologies. Just like Udom.
He would, he resolved, visit Phuket again. Not this trip. But sometime soon. Not to stay. He’d just remember the air, remember the faces, remember the best bowl of poh taek in the world—and remember the beach, as it was, as it should be, bright and shadowless.
|# ? Sep 7, 2020 04:23|
They bombed father's funeral procession, drones falling down out of the sun. Some gangly teen working out of a mall in Minneapolis twitched on his joystick and flipped a switch with his thumb and lightweight deadly missiles sped down gravity-assisted dives and detonated about three meters above his casket.
The casket was very well made, quality local woodworking. As the pallbearers died screaming of burns and shockwaves that jellified organs, it fell to the ground. And when the special forces team arrived to clean everything up, they saw the casket and the hole and shoved the one into the other, then pushed dirt on top. They probably thought they were doing a kindness.
They dumped the casket in upside-down.
We know all this because one of the holy men conducting the ceremony was recording it all, streaming it live. The camera parts, also quite well-made, if not locally, did their job even after the screen had shattered and their owner lay screaming and dying fast behind them. The video cut off before they started gathering the pieces of the fresh corpses and loading them into dark green plastic bags, to be sent off to their families with typical efficiency and care.
You may have even seen the video, if your feeds didn't content-warn you away. Thousands did. Tens of thousands, maybe a hundred saw it, expressed outrage, mostly, or sick approval or acceptance, rarely. Then the next truckload of outrage fuel came down off the line. Nothing changed.
I did not become a rebel that day. Not because I was afraid to die. Not because I was too young, though I was. There were many younger than my fourteen years who did. I did not run to the men who I know could provide a gun, a bomb, a bottle full of ethanol with a rag and a match. Not for those reasons. For mother. Even then I knew she couldn't take losing me as well, not so soon after father.
She was still inconsolable, barely even looked at me, recoiled from my touch. She left town for her sister's the week before, refused to come to Father's funeral, came back to the empty house the day after. She never told me why she stayed away. She didn't often talk to me at all. She set out only one plate at mealtimes and slowly ate as the food grew cold. I didn't mind. I wasn't very hungry.
Father was buried wrong, by arrogant fools who did not know what was proper. There should have been consequences. His spirit should have walked the world as a Pocong, still bound in his shroud, unable to reach out or walk like a man or even clearly speak, causing dread in each uncanny appearance until someone corrected the errors, loosened his shroud and turned him the right way around. But he didn't. I saw no ghost lurking near our house. I heard no reports of his bobbing spirit menacing the soldiers.
I learned that as a victim of such a terrible mistake I had become, well, not exactly invisible but universally ignored. People look at me, blink and flinch in surprise, then rub their eyes and avoid looking at me. I don't push it, don't tell or try to wave my arms in their faces. I just go where I want, untouched.
After a few years, mother took up with another man. I didn't much like him, nor he me. He told me to leave, once and twice and three times. He filled the house with unpleasant smoke. He produced a small utility knife, and for a second I felt a strange hope. I jumped toward him, but he backed away, went back to the smoke, cajoled mother to join him in asking me to leave, again once, twice, and a third time. I got the message.
I traveled the world. Getting onto a plane would probably be impossible, but boats were less trouble. And I was patient. Find out where the ship was going, slip on board with the cargo, then find a place to hide out on the journey.
I met Zayan on one of those trips. Old man, one of the few people who have time to talk. He taught me how to read, how to make the pages turn and take me to another world. He had the holy books and all of their stories, the trashy books of adventure stories stolen from the the East, the forbidden books of sex and love.
"How old are you," he asked. "Sixteen," I said. I hadn't gotten much taller since father died.
"I wish," he said, then let the sentence die in the air, as the sun set over the empty ocean.
"Yes?" I said.
"I wish I could see your face." He reached his hand up, toward my mouth, but pulled it back before making contact.
I got an education. I sat through lectures, and when the tests came I paged through and worked them in my head. Zayan had never taught me how to write. I was still ignored. This was in the West, in England and later America. People there are quite practiced at ignoring the human cost of their lifestyles, at looking the other way, looking any other way than at the stacks of bloating body bags.
Eventually I found my way to Minneapolis, tramping onto boxcars and floating down the shoulders of the great paved roads. I knew where the man was. I'd always known, in the back of my head, and the closer I got the more well-defined that sense became. Once I was in the city I could feel his every move, as he sat at a desk and piloted drones with nothing more lethal than greasy hamburgers and oversalted fries in their payloads. As he drove home, more often stopping at some bar along the way. It was there that I decided to meet him, in the dark room that reeked of stale beer and perfume. I watched him watch the mostly naked dancers and drink. I followed him into the restroom, stood behind him at the urinal, and said my father's name.
He turned and gasped. He took a swing at me. I jumped back. I said the name again. He turned and ran, only just remembering to tuck his penis back into his pants before reaching the door.
I stayed, staring at the mirror over the sink. I hadn't been in front of a mirror for a long, long time. I felt his position, as he dropped bills to pay for his drinks, then got into his car. I could feel the panic and alcohol in his blood, each turn taken too fast and reacted to too slowly. I felt the skid, the fall, the impact with the tree. And then I felt nothing from that part of my mind, ever again
I stayed in town for his funeral. It seemed to matter, that it was done properly. I could find no fault in how it was done. I watched his wife and son mourning him, and felt nothing.
"So what now," asked Zayan. It took a while to find his ship again.
"Home, I think," I said. Where the right kind of stories were still told, where some stranger might know to cut me loose and be kind enough to try.
Zayan nodded. "That's not where this ship is going," he said.
"It is not," I said. "I am past twenty-four now," I said.
"And yet not an inch taller," he said, smiling. Our heads grew closer and closer. I pressed even closer, and his lips passed through the plastic to meet mine. Closer. His hands, reaching intangibly through bag and pants and undershorts, then warm and solid as they touched flesh. Closer, our faces so close that his eyes passed through my prison and so close to mine that our pupils nearly touched.
"Yes," he whispered as our mouths separated, the words going straight into my lungs. "It is good to see your face."
|# ? Sep 7, 2020 05:43|
I got busy so you have one hour left whoever is a straggler
|# ? Sep 7, 2020 07:55|
Amina Pakiam coughs as she gags down the raw pig tongue, unsure if the ritual would work. The spell usually called for a human sacrifice, but she refused to work with any magic that black. Not with The Royal Malaysian Police rounding up bomoh. Especially not with her father leading the charge. She finishes her meal and grabs the needle on the base of her altar. She pricks her ring finger, letting her blood drip into a jar she prepared for spellwork.
The red soaks into the turmeric rice bed at the bottom. Her hand shakes as she almost throws the pin back. She reminds herself not to rush this. Even if she can’t prevent the RMP raid, she can still defend against it. Her sisters’ safety was too important to get careless. She had only been practicing this craft since last spring, mildly experimenting in her college dorm. Now she’s attempting to summon ancient spirits.
“Amina!” Nadza shouts, rushing into the grocery basement. “We need to go! Now!”
“Don’t wait for me!” Amina yells back. “I can’t leave until the pelesit arrives!”
“poo poo! I hope it hurries!”
With only a second’s hesitation, Nadza runs back upstairs. The muffled voice and footsteps in the room above let Amina know her sister-witch took the advice well. If this works, they’ll meet up with a friend in a mukim an hour away. She presses her wounded finger, drawing more blood for the final part of the ritual. As the scarlet bubble forms on the tip, she holds her left hand steady, picking up a photo with her right. She considered using a family photo for the ritual, but those wouldn’t work. Her father was usually smiling in family photos, even after her mother passed. But not the newspaper clipping of him arresting Mona Fandey last July.
It was supposed to be a memento. Officer Mikhail Pakiam helping solve the crime of the century. And in Malaysia, it was. Mona Fandey was a pop music sensation in the late 80’s. Her resurfacing in 1993 as a suspect in the disappearance of a state assemblyman sounded like a scandal worthy of Hollywood. Officer Pakiam didn’t expect to find the assemblyman flayed, much less buried in eighteen pieces after a bastardized shamanic cleansing.
The newsprint goes dark from Amina’s pierced fingertip. She drops the paper into the jar before backing away from the altar. She waits, watching the shadows cast by the spelled candles for any unworldly distortions. She removes a vial of minyak chelak from her pocket, anointing herself with the spiced elixir for protection, should the entity be beyond her control. But the shadows follow their candlelight. If the supernatural enters the sanctum, it chooses to remain invisible. Amina utters a “gently caress” to herself, grabbing what she can to escape the store basement.
She stops for a moment as an insect chirps from somewhere within the room. It could be a cricket. Maybe a kind of cicada. Either way, small creature’s noise gave her hope. The pelesit preferred smaller forms.
A powerful crack shatters the glass door upstairs. The basement door handle falls amidst splinters after a single kick. Heavy boots storm down the stairs, though only a single pair. But this one man came dressed in the dark blue and Kevlar of the RMP. His face was barely familiar, having aged almost a decade in a matter of months. Amira notices the Berreta he aims at her before looking into his eyes. They’re wide open in something between hatred and fear. Though his quivering eyelids imply he’s fighting back tears.
“Dad?” Amina says, putting her hands in the air
“Shut up!” Officer Pakiam snaps back. “Only call me that if you’re really my daughter.”
Mikhail’s hair had almost entirely grayed. He hadn’t shaved in at least a week. His quivering eyelids exist within dark circles. Amina isn’t surprised. As far as she knew, her father hadn’t slept since the arrest. He became paranoid, convinced Fandey was part of some larger cabal of witches sending evil spirits to slowly enact revenge. Discovering his daughter practiced mysticism with her roommate Nadza didn’t dissuade him.
“You came alone,” Amina mutters.
“You think I didn’t know you tipped the cult off?” The gun shakes in Mikhail’s hands as Amina’s shake in the air. She watches her father’s weapon dip. “Why did you join Fandey?”
“I didn’t join Fandey!” Amina allows her voice to spike and her hands lower. She steps toward her father, but recoils as his gun snaps back into its former place. She lowers her tone and slows her speech. “I didn’t join Fandey, I don’t even know how I would. I don’t want to kill people.”
Mikhail’s eyes close and his weapon dips again. Amina lowers her hands. The chirping starts again, only louder, closer. She sees the source this time. A tiny grasshopper crawls up her father’s vest, perching itself on the top strap by his shoulder. Mikhail doesn’t mind it. “Do you remember your twelfth birthday?”
The question strikes Amina as odd. But it seems sincere. Almost desperate. His eyes were red and moist. His jaw unclenches. She goes along. “Yeah. You took me to that pet store in Kuantan. You and mom didn’t tell me where we were going. All you would say was ‘your present.’”
A smile cracks across Mikhail’s face with a slight knowing laugh. “And you picked out that white persian. The really furry one with the weird face,”
Amina smiles back. “Macha.”
Mikhail’s grin drops. “That was a week before your mother had her accident. The pet shop was her idea. She loved you so much.”
“I loved her too,” Amina replies.
The grasshopper chirps.
“What would she think of you now?” Mikhail mutters, his face turning red in fury. Within a second, Amira stares down the barrel of a hasilty pointed Barreta. “What would she think of Mona--”
The grasshopper fires like a dart into Mikhail’s, almost drilling into it, tail first. The temperature lowers and Amina sees their breaths in the rapidly freezing air. He’s coughing; a painful dry breaking up what sounds like an attempt to speak. With each cough, a rapid chirping bellows from his throat. Amina rushes to grab him as he staggers to the ground.
“Dad!” she shouts as her father babbles incoherently. She tries to remember the lore. When the pelesit enters the body, it releases the polong spirit. Legend states the victims of the cursed spirit are known to ramble about cats. “Tell me about Macha.”
“Macha,” Mikhail grunts, a wheeze accenting his words. “We went right past all ten mane coons and tuxedos straight to him.”
He was struggling, but he could speak. All she had to do was keep him talking. “Tell me about Macha!”
“Weirdest face ever. Like a white tomato someone crushed that grew fur. But my daughter loved that cat--”
Amira sees hope. To reject the polong and the pelesit that harbors it, the victim must call the name of the bomoh who summoned it. “Who’s your daughter?”
“She picked out toys for him at the shop. If I had the money I would have bought the whole drat store.”
“Please dad! What’s your daughter’s name?!”
Sweat and tear pour down his beet red face. With every cough, another line of drool dangles from his lip. “His name was Macha. He was a good kitty. He was a very good kitty”
White foam pours from his mouth, overtaking the trails of drool. Convulsions shake the body out of Amina’s arms. His body goes limp. A final breath exits his mouth, followed by the grasshopper. Amina falls backwards in stunned silence, shaking at the realization that her father died by her hand. She watches the grasshopper climb across her father before flying into the bottle filled with bloodied rice. Amina wants to mourn, but glimpsing the altar fills her with dread. With panic-fueling her, she grabs as much as she can from the basement, throwing as much as she can into gear bags and totes laying around. She starts with the pelesit jar. Once she removes the last evidence of witchcraft, she rushes toward the stairs, stopping just short.
She puts her bags down and walks back to her father, minyak chelak in hand. She sprinkles a bit on his joints, behind his ears, under his armpits. Amina doesn’t know how many enemies he made among the bomoh. Many could torment victims even after death.
|# ? Sep 7, 2020 09:02|
Alright we are closed!
Interprompt is 250 words, write a piece that makes fun of terrible cultural appropriation in popular media, go
|# ? Sep 7, 2020 09:07|
Interprompt is 250 words, write a piece that makes fun of terrible cultural appropriation in popular media, go
A Scene from "Surf's Up Samurai" by Brody Carmichael
Word Count: 246
EXT. THE SHOGUN’S CASTLE - NIGHT
We see the castle, lit by torches and patrolled by samurais. A large dam holds the mountain river at bay. Two men dressed in all black ninja wear approach it. One pulls his mask off to reveal loyal Japanese sidekick UKOG.
How do we get past the shogun’s army?
The second pulls off his mask, revealing our hero, time-traveling surfer dude MITCH RADICAL. His blond hair shines in the torchlight.
We got a saying in San Bernardino, bro. Just follow the wave.
INT. THE SHOGUN’S CASTLE DUNGEON - NIGHT
THE SHOGUN walks past the prison cages, flanked by masked GUARDS, taunting the inmates. The prisoners dressed in rags watch helplessly from their straw filled cells.
If you fools think any surfer will free Japan, think again!
A large rumble shakes the castle. As everyone in the dungeon steadies themselves, The Shogun looks up to see river water rushing down the hall, with Ukog and Mitch riding the wave on their boards.
Do you know what you’re doing?
I’m hanging ten, bro!
The water barrels past the shogun and his men, sweeping them away. As the wave ebbs, Mitch and Ukog’s boards coast to the drying floor. The damp prisoners, now scattered across their cell, pull themselves up. One spits out a goldfish. The Shogun is upside down in a barrel. His pants have come off, revealing his heart patterned underwear.
Looks like Japan’s freer already.
|# ? Sep 7, 2020 22:48|
THUNDERDOME 422: HELLGATE JUDGMENT COMMENCES
Judges had some conflicts in who should win/hm but because I'm the chief judge I decide, haha, sorry nerds.
IT IS DECREED AS SUCH:
Reincarnation (Win): a friendly penguin, Safeguard - This story definitely read like you did your research into the cultural fear of the penanggalan, the isolation of the main character is a well-tread horror trope but done well here. Story was engrossing enough, you were just this close to me hating it because of the line "The penanggalan that Suria feared had come and it was Suria herself" because it's so unnecessary when the rest of the last couple of passages already communicated this. Also wondering if someone would hallucinate like crazy when they are giving birth surrounded by vats of vinegar, just that overpowering smell of blood and fermentation lol
Purgatory (HM): Simply Simon, derp, magic cactus - k i will do crits on these later
Limbo (DM): Thranguy, Unreleased - ok yeah this was a tough one because i genuinely enjoyed your prose, the story was competently done, but then there was that whole element of creepy old dude being horny on main for an obviously kid-sized ghost which I actually asked around, does this add anything to the story? and they didn't think so. Also the pocong does not come from a war-torn middle eastern country so this raised some eyebrows for me.
Hell (Lose): GrandmaParty, The Logistics Of It All - Both judges agree this story was a bit of a mess that reads like a first draft with typos and forgotten name changes, also the story wasn't that great and the emergence of the Tiyanak as a horrific vampire almost came out of nowhere, notwithstanding the exposition of the protagonist explaining how he found a child in a field. I did have a laugh when he came in in the first para with a new child, like he just bought a really delicious aubergine from the store, nbd.
Torture (Failure): LiterallyATomato - I gave you the crazyass ghost flying about the rice baskets tied to its arms just loving lmao how dumb is this ghost, and you failed to write something, wtf
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 07:33|
Thunderdome Week CDXXIII: Mystery Seeds
Mysterious packages of seeds are making their way across the world in the mail to homes just like yours. What are these seeds? Who is sending them? What will they become? Why would anyone send and/or plant these?
Your stories this week will explore just those topics.
When you sign up choose to be:
A) a seed sender
B) a seed receiver
Your story should then explore one of these core human desires (You do not have to choose this when you sign up):
1) Drive to Acquire
2) Drive to Bond
3) Drive to Learn
4) Drive to Feel
5) Drive to Defend
Any genre goes! If you want, feel free to ask for a flash rule and I’ll assign you both the role and the core desire. If you really, really want, ask for a hell rule (separate from flash) and I will choose what happens when at least one of the seeds is planted. It will not be easy. And you’ll get an extra 500 words for the effort.
No erotica, fanfiction, Google Docs, archive-breaking coding, or dick pics. Politics is okay, but you know how dangerous that can be.
Word Count: 1000 words; 1500 with a hell rule
Signups Close: Friday, September 11, 11:59 PM Pacific
Submissions Close: Sunday, September 13, 11:59 PM Eastern
A Friendly Penguin
Grandma Party - Sender
magic cactus - Sender wants to feel w/hell rule
Weltlich - Receiver
Thranguy - Receiver wants to bond w/hell rule
CaligulaKangaroo - Sender wants to learn w/hell rule
sparksbloom - Sender wants to defend w/hell rule
QuoProQuid - Receiver w/hell rule
crabrock - Receiver
Simply Simon - Sender wants to acquire
*For reference, the photo is of White Baneberry (Doll's eyes). A real plant. Do not eat.
a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 09:43 on Sep 12, 2020
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 10:29|
Let's see if i can redeem myself.
Going to send some seeds and proof my edits.
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 12:53|
Week 422 Crits!
On the whole, this was a fun week to be a judge, because y'uns wrote some fun stories. Cards on the table: I did NOT read up on your ghosts/monsters before I read the story, or after. You might not have been able to bullshit Rhino, but you certainly could have bullshitted me.
Saucy_Rodent The Third Annual Minneapolis Creepy Thrift Competition
I get why you had the line about an X-Box Live chat in the first paragraph – it's susposed to tell me something about the character – but it also feels like in-your-face product placement and it's a little off putting. In the next scene, I'm not sure if the dream has ended and he's at work, or if it's a dream within a dream about a spaceship that's turned into office work in excel. Reading on I guess being disjointed is the conceit of the story. Rereading it, I think for that gimmick to really work, the early scene breaks need to go away, and it needs to all run together. I'd give it a 3/5, I was interested and entertained, but the central mechanic needs some tuning.
MockingQuantum Out in the Cold
Off to a good start. The last sentence of the third paragraph got a little exposition-y, but it got back on track after that. Lots of good cold imagery and painting a scene of bitterness. The first half of the story's on a good track. Then it shifts to the second half and loses momentum. Ok, it's 25 years later, and why has the ghost come back now? The story tries to walk back to the night in the cold, but the flash-forward just sort of flattens it. I give it a 3/5 – a strong open that left me wishing it stuck the landing a little more.
GrandmaParty The Logistics of it All
The opener is a little weird, but I'm guessing that was intentional. What's a father doing coming home with a new infant in such a way that seems to indicate that it's a surprise to the rest of the family? Kidnapping, changeling-esque situation, Eraser-head situation? We'll find out. Watch the typos – I'm going to guess that Leroy should have been Levi since no Leroy's been introduced so far. There's also some pronoun agreement issues going on. And more typos. The story cleans up in the second half some, but honestly it was really distracting going into that second half after the first. It sort of feels like the real meat of the story is the second scene, and the first part was tacked on as an afterthought. But being the lead-in, it sort of poisons the well. 1.5/5 on this one – it reads like a very rough draft.
Simply Simon The Swamp-Drainer of Rupat Island
Most of my crit about this is nitpicky stuff, because it's a strong story overall. There are a few points where some punctuation changes might have helped out - “This wet sloppy stinking swamp” needs some commas after the first couple adjectives to help with flow. Other than that, I'd tone down the climate-change language some, especially in the final sentence. “The climate-killing dry peat fire,” puts a moralizing spin on the close of the story that pulls it to a global scale and sort of works against the personal, character driven horror that you did a really good job of building. The character work in this piece is really strong, so I want to see that held until the very end. This was a 4/5 for me – this is a story that I enjoyed reading, and just needs a little editing.
derp between the trees
ok there, ee cummings, slow your roll. Title aside, this is good workman like prose and the story has a strong setup, and it's gratifying to see it be pretty believable to boot – the idea that someone “goes home” to a place where their roots are and gets curious about old family tales. Ok, I'm on board. It's a good setup, and it's moving toward the climax, and here's where my real criticism comes in. The whole play of Danilo becoming disembodied needed to be unflinching for me. You kind of play it coy with him watching “someone” being eaten by a goat demon. Don't. If this is the fate that Danilo gets, then don't let him or the reader off the hook. If you're going into detail about the thing that is doing the eating, also go into detail about what's being eaten. Still, a good horror story, well written and gratifying – 3.5/5.
a friendly penguin Safeguard
Of the stories I've read so far this week, you really stuck the landing for sheer creep factor. I made it a point NOT to read up on any of the ghosts/demons/monsters assigned this week, to see if writers could basically describe them in such a way that they'd be accessible to any reader coming into this blind. I didn't feel the need to google your monster – you did an amazing job of describing it without going into too much exposition. If I've got any criticism, it's that the story got slightly mired down in the setup for the ending with the whole vinegar situation. I have a hard time imagining that a woman who is about to give birth can 1) infiltrate a storehouse full of vinegar and 2) carry enough vinegar back home that would fill a basin large enough to immerse herself in. So while things were super creepy at the end (as they should have been), it sort of took some of the momentum out of what might have been my pick for top story of the week. 4/5.
magic cactus Heart of Iron, Heart of Palm
This one's a bleak and interesting take on the prompt for the week. I was surprised (pleasantly so) that you went the route of having monster be in service to the protagonist, rather than the straightforward adversarial relationship that most people took. For the most part it was good prose, clean and readable, which is a good plus. The description of the monster was done well, with just enough detail while leaving enough to the imagination. For criticism, the opening paragraph needs some work, and I think it really needs to be split into two paragraphs. It's not that it's totally clunky, it's just that it seemed to be the most dense section of the story to get through, and as an opener, that sort of throws the momentum off. The other thing that struck me was the talk of the kid's “wool” shirt. Maybe this is a lack of cultural education on my part, but I can't imagine anywhere where palm fruit is harvested where wool is the fabric of choice for plantation labor. I rolled with it and I'm going to trust you on that, but just be aware that it raised a “suspension of disbelief” flag for me and also made my skin crawl in sympathy for anyone who is doing manual labor in the tropics wearing wool. 4/5.
sparksbloom An Itinerary
So I was sort of confused right out of the gate (pun intended) with this one, due to the use of the word gate. For some reason, my mind went to “garden gate” or “front gate” and I was picturing Kul coming down a path from his front door and meeting Udom, instead of out of an aircraft. The title of the piece should have been a clue, but it's one that went over my head. Anyhow, I figured out what was going on by the second paragraph and doubled back to re-read. Maybe, “his brother Udom waited at the end of the gate,” would be a way to clarify that. Anyway, on to the spooky. I liked your take on the pret, it was gross and eerie and generally worked. But, there were two things that sort of popped my suspension of disbelief. The first was the description of the event, and how it was sort of walked back with the window being fine, but the vent not. I sort of wanted it to be either otherworldly, or concrete and I got little bit of both and no real resolution. The larger point of stumble was that it was a weasel in the air vent. Why a weasel? Does Thailand have a weasel infestation problem that I've never heard about? A rat on the 44th floor of a luxury hotel I can buy, but a weasel seems really random. If putrid weasel is the natural diet of prets, then maybe set the story where finding one makes more sense. A decent offering with good character work, 3/5.
The prose is solid, but there's two big issues that stop me from really enjoying the story. The first is that it seems like the story wants to M. Night Shyamalan me, but the twist is telegraphed way too soon. And the thing is, I'm not sure if you were going for a big twist – but there was this sort of coyness in the storytelling that leaves me wondering what the intent was. Not so much a twist, as just burying the lede. If we never had stories like “Sixth Sense,” then I'd say this could have been a fresh spin – because I like twists – but because it's become cliché it ends up being like hearing my favorite song in a car insurance commercial. The second issue with the story was the whole love story between the ghost and the “old man.” Am I reading this right? Is ghostly age of consent a thing, here? I dunno, this seems walking awfully close to that terrible anime trope of “no, actually she's actually a 1000 year old demon, she just looks like a 12 year old girl.” If you hadn't been explicit that the ghost hadn't grown up, I'd probably have just glossed over it and let it fly, but you went out of your way to make sure I knew. Listen, I'm just saying that in a week of creepy stories, you managed to go the long way-round to creep me out with paranormal NAMBLA. 2.5/5 for very good prose, but cringy subject matter.
CaligulaKangaroo Lament Child
So this is the classic case of where proofreading might have saved a story. Overall the prose is good and smooth, and this is a one-scene story that flows well because the pacing is even. But there is a critical error at the climax of the story. “The grasshopper fires like a dart into Mikhail’s, almost drilling into it, tail first.” That's the sentence on which the story hinges. This action is the “moment of no return” and unfortunately it's a mess. The grasshopper fires into Mikhail's what? Face, neck, hand? Almost drilling into what? My guess is that this was part of an edit, you decided to make a change during a proofreading and it got halfway done before you had to edit another part of the story, and never doubled back to finish the work. If this typo had been anywhere else in the story, I would have probably cut you some slack, but it really turned what would have otherwise been a satisfying read into a frustrating one. 2.5/5, and would have been a 3.5 without that typo.
I don't have to take your lack of an entry this week as a personal affront, but I choose to. Therefore, in an attempt to receive satisfaction, I challenge you to a brawl. RSVP.
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 13:55|
thx u 4 crits, xoxo
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 13:59|
In, flash, and hellrule me the gently caress up.
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 17:18|
IN, and I shall receive them seeds.
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 17:23|
In, flash, hell.
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 17:52|
In, flash, and hellrule me the gently caress up.
Core desire: to feel
Hell Rule: When the seeds your protagonist sends are planted, this begins act two of the play.
In, flash, hell.
Core desire: to bond
Hell Rule: The seed will produce a flower the scent of which causes someone to speak in rhyming verse when they have inhaled.
a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 19:19 on Sep 8, 2020
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 19:05|
I accept, being of sound mind and fully aware of the potential consequences of failure.
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 20:34|
I will be co-judging your seeds this week.
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 20:48|
Week 421 Recap!
Antivehicular, Yoruichi, and myself discuss the stories of week 421, with some fresh hot takes on a week where people were Definitely Trying Some Things. Come to hear people talk about something you wrote, stay for a discussion of good beginnings and a dramatic reading of M. Propagandalf's "The Transubstantiation at Maneki Lake." Special thanks as always to MockingQuantum for editing our chatter into something listenable. Listen on the archive or wherever you get your podcasts!
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 22:57|
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 23:24|
Core desire: to learn
Hell Rule: This plant can be of no use at all: it’s not pretty, it’s not edible (to any Earth life form), it doesn’t even produce oxygen.
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 23:32|
W E A S E L B R A W L
Write me a story about weasels, taking no more than 1100 words to do so, by 1200 PST on 19 September 2020.
The word weasels may be taken in any way you wish.
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 23:59 on Sep 8, 2020
|# ? Sep 8, 2020 23:53|
I accept, being of sound mind and fully aware of the potential consequences of failure.
W E A S E L B R A W L
Let it be written, let it be done.
|# ? Sep 9, 2020 00:23|
In, flash, hellrule.
|# ? Sep 9, 2020 17:38|
In, flash, hellrule.
Core desire: to defend
Hell Rule: Once planted, the seed requires no nutrition. Instead, it generates waste that must be attended to or it will not grow.
|# ? Sep 9, 2020 18:21|
gently caress it. I'm in as a recipient.
Give me a hell rule.
|# ? Sep 10, 2020 16:24|
gently caress it. I'm in as a recipient.
This plant plays music; describe the music and how it is achieved.
|# ? Sep 10, 2020 19:52|
|# ? Sep 11, 2020 06:55|
|# ? Jun 30, 2022 23:33|
You know what, I'll do it. In and just a flash, please!
|# ? Sep 11, 2020 21:47|