I don't know why I can't get my worthless brain to come up with anything, but I've got nothing this week. I'm going to to complete a redemption for this week by 11:59:59 PST on 30 April, 2020.
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 07:31|
|# ? Sep 26, 2023 09:24|
Tough on Stains and Accursed Abominations 580 words
Hercules’ mop needed replacing.
It wasn’t a bad mop. But it hadn’t been designed to deal with… whatever that stuff was. It could deal with vomit or fecal matter or acidic substances or really, almost anything else he’d had to mop up, but whatever the residue was that was left in the showers, that had been steadily eating through his mop.
He’d sent an order to Void HQ for a new one, but that was scheduled to take five weeks to process, and he just wasn’t sure he’d have any mop left by the time that got done. It was worrying him, and was foremost on his mind when the dissidents came in through the toilets.
Coming out of a toilet bowl wasn’t the normal method of entry to the restrooms, but it made sense that people would be able to fit. After all, he was often called upon to dispose of various miscellaneous objects down the toilets, and a plumbing system that could accommodate a mannequin with twelve arms was bound to fit a person with only two.
“Oi,” said Hercules. “Mate.”
“What tower floor are we on?” asked one of the dissidents.
“The wrong bloody floor,” he said. “I just mopped in here. Back you go.”
“I don’t think so, minion of darkness,” said the same dissident, who seemed to be the leader, but Hercules slapped them with his gross wet mop, and they retreated back into the toilet bowl. Once they were back inside, Hercules closed the toilet bowls and locked them. He’d sometimes wondered why they had padlocks, and now he wondered no longer.
They’d tracked a bunch of unpleasant things over the floor, so Hercules mopped those things up again, then went to decontaminate and eat lunch.
When he got back from lunch, he found that someone had used one of the toilets and neglected to lock it again afterwards. There was now a trail of muck from the toilets, out of the restrooms.
“Oh no,” said Hercules. “That ain’t on at all.”
The handheld mop wasn’t gonna cut it. Hercules jumped on the ride on mop, put the handheld one in the back, and followed the trail. He didn’t often use the ride on, because it didn’t corner well in a tight space like a bathroom, but for a single trail of muck it should do the job.
He found the dissidents attempting to overthrow some security guards who were guarding the elevators to the tower’s offices. They were actually going all right, too, but if muck from his bathrooms made it to the offices, there would be A Reckoning. That is, Hercules reckoned he’d be buggered. He put his foot down and drove through the dissidents, bowling them over and thoroughly mopping them. Then he put it in park, grabbed the handheld mop, and set about them with gusto.
The dissidents weren’t sent back down the toilet when the security guards finished pacifying them. Well, most of them weren’t. Two of them appeared to have been accidentally pacified a little too vigorously, and were later disposed of down the toilet. The rest were taken away for re-educating.
Hercules didn’t worry about all that; above his pay grade, that kind of unpleasantness. He did drop some hints to the guards about how helpful he’d been, and how his tools could use a bit of an upgrade.
Two days later, a shiny new mop appeared in his cleaning cupboard.
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 07:37|
(1450 words approx)
You get a special item! New from Voidmart, it's the SpectrAway Spray! Also known as ghost spray or ghost repellant. Does what it says on the can; eliminates ghosts in a minute or less.
The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 08:24 on Sep 9, 2020
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 08:00|
Smooth One, Ex-Lax
Flash: Your protagonist wants to hide the evidence.
Note: This story owes a heavy inspirational debt to Dave: by Sebmojo. It's not a quite an homage, but if you've read it, you'll know.
This isn’t the first time you’ve been caught with your pants down. This isn’t even the first time you’ve nearly been caught drinking on the job. But this is definitely the first time you’ve been caught with your pants down while drinking on the job while also having abandoned your position.
You had one job: sit in the office of Dylan’s Diamonds and stay there until morning, ensuring that nobody blows the doors open and steals all the jewelry. Which would be a completely insane thing to do, given Void Tower One’s security team’s penchant for rappelling in and engaging in disproportionate retaliation.
You’re Matthew Leslie, security guard at Dylan’s. You don’t rappel. Instead, you slink off into the toilets with your flask when you’re stressed. And your job isn’t even stressful. It’s your personal life that’s got you stressed—your girlfriend and your sponsor are up your rear end 24/7. You’re due for your two-year chip next week, and the pressure is immense.
You’re dozing there, half-consciously aware of how bad it is that the stress of sobriety milestones is what drove you to crack when your radio bzzzaps.
“Matt? Matt, are you there? Is everything all right?”
Oh. That’s Larissa. She’s the day-shift manager, opens up the shop in the mornings. Why the gently caress is she here at this hour? You rub your eyes, slap your tongue around the inside of your mouth, and clear your throat.
Your phone informs you that it is in fact seven o’clock.
You’re not sure when you ducked into the toilet.
You’re not sure how many hours you were asleep.
You didn’t even drink that much, it’s just the pressure and the anxiety and the night shift hours—you haven’t been sleeping great to begin with. Still, you had no idea you were exhausted enough that you’d—
“Matt?” She sounds sincerely worried.
You fumble the radio into your hands. You have to be smooth. This has to be the most convincing lie in the history of lies. You need to sound like you know exactly how much time you’ve been away from your desk and you need to sound like that interval was minutes, not hours.
“Oh,” you say. “Larissa, hey. Sorry, I was just in the bathroom.” You flush for good measure.
This was not a good choice, for Larissa responds with a pointed, “Ew.”
“Sorry,” you stammer, staggering out of the stall.
“I need you to buzz me in.” Larissa didn’t sound impatient before, but she does now. Your bathroom SFX have not helped your cause.
Blasting through the bathroom door, you hurry down the hall, barely paying attention as Larissa begins to prattle into the radio once again. Women always seem to think that if they talk more while a man’s working, it’ll somehow make him work faster.
“I’m headed right over,” you start, and then you actually hear her and your heart stops.
“—said they couldn’t reach you last night? They’re asking for a copy of the tapes…”
You do not respond to her. You do not speak at all. You do not even breathe. Your feet keep walking but your brain shuts off and your body sort of propels itself into the wall as you fail to navigate a corner.
The tapes will prove that you were not at your workstation for… however many hours you were not there.
“I can call maintenance to let me in,” Larissa starts to say.
Your brain boots back up. So do your lungs. Outside, in the world beyond Void Tower One, the planet continues its slow, inexorable turning. The sun burns one day closer to heat death. A child somewhere drops his ice cream on the sidewalk. That lonely whale with the messed up whale song inaudible to other whales dies a sad and lonely death, having never hosed.
Speaking of hosed, that’s what you are.
Your chest constricts. You try to think of something clever to say, but if you could think of clever things to say and do, you wouldn’t be working as a superfluous security guard in a tower with its own private paramilitary force.
You do the only thing that comes to mind.
You flip your radio around and slam the butt of it into the glass box mounted on the wall. You yank the big red switch labelled FIRE ALARM, EMERGENCY USE ONLY.
You are not going to lose that two-year chip.
You are not going to lose your job.
But when heavy, concussive impacts begin to reverberate down the hallway, you pause. Grinding, metallic mousetrap-snaps echo up and down the tower’s innards.
A neutrally-accented, genderless voice informs you that the lockdown sequence has been initiated. Thank you, valued resident.
You’ve pulled the fire alarm before. It never did that.
Your brain does not have the hard drive space for one more active catastrophe, so you just ignore all the slamming autodoors and the sound of the building cocooning itself in metal cladding. You run like hell.
You emerge outside Best Turkish Kebab and Curry, where Ertan is hollering into his phone. He cuts himself off when he spots you. His body goes slack with relief.
“Security’s here,” he says into the phone. Oh crap, he thinks you’re that security.
You open your mouth to correct him, then hesitate.
You can use this.
Best Turkish is catty-corner to Dylan’s Diamonds. They share a wall. If you can get inside, you might be able to access the jewelry store from the inside, while Larissa is still locked out.
You could wipe the tapes. You could save your rear end.
You push a random button on your radio and speak with authority. “Leslie to control, commencing inspection of sector nine.”
Then, to Ertan, “Sir, I’m going to need to inspect your kitchen. We’re checking for a gas leak.”
“Oh!” The man skids back and away from the restaurant. “Goodness. Please.”
People are scared of the actual Void Tower Ops. You, you’re just some numpty in a jacket, but at least it has the magic word [b]SECURITY[b] emblazoned across the back.
You march into the kebab shop, pleased that in this one instance your brain hasn’t let you down. Larissa is squealing on the radio again, but you ignore her.
There’s got to be some back way in. All the shops in this block share water and power. Where does a plumber go when something’s broken? Think, think…
You crash and clatter around in the kitchen, uncaring of what you knock over. And that’s when you spot it: a slatted air vent in the ceiling. You leap up onto the countertop, pry the cover off, and try to wedge yourself in. Your head goes in. Your shoulders do not.
But it occurs to you: there are some inches you could lose. You shed your precious SECURITY jacket. Then, after a brief hesitation, so too goes the rest.
Soon, you are standing nude upon the counter, clambering up and in and… the edges of the duct jab stubbornly into your arms. It’s the friction that’s jamming you up now. If only you could…
Back on the countertop, you spy the roasting tray first. Then beside it, the big tub of ghee, glistening invitingly. You always wondered who the hell would serve kebabs and curry in the same restaurant. A genius you owe your life to, that's who.
And that’s how you find yourself nude and ghee-slickened, slithering along in the Void Tower air ducts. You’re so well-lubricated you have to shimmy your way along, flailing your feet to scoot your meat-grease slippery body through the ventilation system.
You catch the sound of Larissa’s voice floating through one of the vents, a narrower passage than the one you entered. You twist onto your side, inhale sharply, and push as hard as you can with your greasy feet.
You breach the passage like a gooey, forty-year-old baby being born in reverse. You’re in! But Christ it’s tight. When you exhale, you find it’s hard to breathe in again. You twist onto your belly and writhe toward Larissa. Toward freedom.
And then you twist too far, because your arm is pinned beneath your chest. You attempt to course-correct, to rotate back onto your side.
A warning creak sounds beneath you.
You can see light shining through the grate. It’s so close. One last push ought to do it.
The grate was not designed to hold a grown man’s weight. Even nude.
It disgorges you from the sky, raining your greasy naked body down into the office below. This is less like a birth and more like a wet, sloppy skydiving accident.
Larissa screams as you tumble onto both her and Jeremy from maintenance, who is there for some reason.
You collide with several sharp, squarish things. Your world is grease and pain. But when you finally breathe in, glass crunches with the movement. A broken computer monitor.
Maybe you destroyed the evidence after all.
You’re not sure how you’re going to explain the rest.
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 08:01|
Hey we don't need to wait for judgement this week is a non-week it doesn't count
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 08:06|
Hey we don't need to wait for judgement this week is a non-week it doesn't count
Hey, entries haven't closed yet and I don't want to muddy the waters with a bunch of in posts.
I'll be round to post when I wake up.
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 08:14|
Prompt: Voidstricken, Universal Fingerprint!
Word count: 1499
Tolliver sat in the corner of the surveillance office, snoring deeply but inconsistently as if his body had forgotten the rhythm to the song. A young boy stood over him, tapping him insistently on the shoulder. “Agent Tolliver,” he half-shouted, his voice drowned by the loud klaxon sounding throughout the room. “Agent Tolliver!” His snores continued. The boy kept trying for a couple minutes, then wandered over to the computer array and sat in front of the monitor array, awaiting some sort of instruction.
A few minutes later, Tolliver snorted so loudly that he woke himself. He shook his stubbly, balding head, squared his patrol cap, and tugged his uniform jacket over his paunch. The red light of the alarm breathed slowly, giving the room an apocalyptic glow, but Tolliver seemed wholly unfazed by it, or the blaring horn. “Anyways, Ronnie, I was saying,” Tolliver said, as though his lengthy nap were but a brief intermission in the lecture he’d been giving the boy. “You’ve got to make a choice, decide where you stand. In every man’s life, there will come a time when he’ll be tested. Understand? You’ll know then which choice you’ve made. You listening, Ronnie? Hey, what’s with the alarm?”
Tolliver stood up and walked over behind Ronnie, looking at the email client open on the screen. Though official VoidTower Security emails popped up at the top of the inbox every few seconds, none carried the standard emergency protocol tags. “How long has that alarm been going off, Ronnie?”
“About… Seven minutes and 45 seconds,” Ronnie said with a glance at his watch. “I tried to wake you, sir. What do we do?” Ronnie turned to look up at Tolliver, who had turned away and stepped toward the far wall of the room.
“Well, alarms are not terribly unusual, you know. Big building, lots of people. Lots of stuff,” Tolliver said as he fumbled in one hand with the cover to an electrical panel full of blinking lights and in the other hand a preposterously thick binder. “Come hold this open.” Ronnie got up from the desk and hustled over. As he stood holding the panel door, he could see over Tolliver’s shoulder a series of incomprehensible diagrams under the label ALARM ANNUNCIATOR CODES. “Alarms are not unusual, but they almost never take this long to issue instructions. It’s mostly automated, for one thing, and there are about fourteen backups…” Tolliver’s voice trailed off as his eyes darted from page to panel, from panel to page, looking for the matching codes.
“Ten minutes now, Agent Toll—”
“ALL VOIDMART PERSONNEL: PLEASE CHECK YOUR EMAIL FOR INSTRUCTIONS.” The voice on the PA was a woman’s, and her voice shook as it thundered, clearly not up to VoidTower Employee Approved Radio Protocol. Then the PA went silent entirely. Ronnie hustled to the computer, where an email had just popped up. The subject read, [URGENT VOIDMART SECURITY PERSONNEL INSTRUCTIONS]. As Ronnie opened it, the woman’s voice came back, still shaky but much calmer. “All VoidTower residents, please remain in your rooms. Whatever you do, DO NOT GO TO THE OBSERVATORY LEVEL! I repeat, DO NOT GO TO THE OBSERVATORY LEVEL! Have a great day!”
Ronnie made a face and looked over at Tolliver. Tolliver was staring back at him, his finger fixed on the page. “What’s the email say?”
Ronnie opened it. The email was brief—two sentences, also all caps. [ALL SECURITY PERSONNEL REPORT TO OBSERVATORY LEVEL. DETAIN AT ALL COSTS ANY RESIDENTS ATTEMPTING TO ASCEND THE TOWER.] He read it aloud. Tolliver snorted down a laugh.
“What the hell is going on, sir?”
Tolliver didn’t answer right away. He set the binder on the floor and pulled a cigarette from his jacket pocket, lit it, and took a long drag. “How old are you, kid?” He asked, as he stared at the camera displays, now showing people—VoidTower Personnel and residents alike--scurrying all over in disarray.
“I’m twelve, sir,” Ronnie boasted, his chest puffing and his spine straightening.
“Jesus Christ,” Tolliver said, as if only now just realizing how young the boy was, even though he’d been working with the VoidTower One Security Trainee for over six months. “Listen. There are fifteen thousand, five hundred and thirty-three alarm codes in this binder, ranked by priority. This alarm is a priority 44: Voidmart Supply Chain Disruption.”
“Well, that can’t be too bad, can it? It’s only 44,” Ronnie said with a shrug. He wasn’t really sure what the supply chain meant.
“Hah!” Tolliver laughed, and took another drag before stomping his cigarette into the tile floor. “I’ve worked here thirty years, and I’ve never seen an alarm higher than five thousand. And that one, they called in the national guard. Come on, we’ve got to move.” They exited the surveillance room and into the locker room next door, where Tolliver shouldered a backpack and tossed utility belt to Ronnie. Then Tolliver took off at a jog, and Ronnie hustled to follow.
The employee area was alive with VoidTower Personnel, all shouting and all running. They continued forward, and soon burst through a set of double doors into VoidTower Commercial Zone #556—which was in a state of utter chaos. Directly in front of them, two small children stood facing the storefront of VoidTots, giggling as gouts of flame poured forth from their child-sized neon-pink flamethrowers. A VoidTower Security guard stood, completely ignored by the crowds, on a table in the middle of the courtyard, as he attempted to shout instructions through his comically oversized megaphone. Behind him, a column of residents marched forward with posters held high: FIRE JOHN PERKINS, and BOYCOTT VOIDGAMES INC, and several others of a similar theme.
“Those people—” Ronnie shouted, and pointed. “Is that what the alarm’s about?”
“Not even close. Come on, we gotta get downstairs in a hurry.”
“Yes, son, you heard me. Down. Let’s move!”
They ran around several corners, then found themselves at Staircase C. Tolliver didn’t slow down as he began to vault several steps at a time. Ronnie did his best to keep up. He began to sweat, and he was honestly surprised Tolliver could keep the pace.
“Sir, the instructions were to report to the Observatory Level! That’s on the top of the building.”
“I’m well aware of that. That’s not where the emergency is.”
“Listen, kid,” Tolliver barked, and spun around on the landing to floor 387. “Here’s your next lesson: Voidmart trusts nobody, not even it’s own employees. We’re security personnel, supposed to keep this place safe. The emergency is on the observatory level, they say. Well, there’s nothing up there. Certainly not any supply chain elements. I’ve worked here thirty years, and the first ten were supply chain security.” Tolliver shrugged his hands up and smiled sardonically at Ronnie. “I don’t know what happened, but I do know that a supply chain disruption is some serious poo poo. Like, end of the world poo poo.” Tolliver paused. “Sorry for the language.” Ronnie just shrugged. “Why send everyone to the top? Well, when you tell people what not to do, what do they do?”
Ronnie didn’t answer, out loud, but he knew the answer: exactly what they were told not to do. He reflected that his parents could probably learn from VoidTower strategy.
“Listen, kid, we’re headed into hell. I don’t mean that as hyperbole. I can’t prepare you anymore for what’s ahead. Stay on your toes and don’t blink.”
They resumed their ferocious clip downstairs, and were soon at floor 255. Tolliver stopped and checked the map by the exit door. “Perfect,” he says, and shoulders his way through the door. Ronnie follows close behind. “There’s a cargo elevator on this floor, will take us straight down into the Supply Chain Logisitics Center.”
A couple turns down non-descript hallways later, and they stood before a set of large elevator doors. There was no button, but instead a small thumbpad labeled VoidScanner RXT. Tolliver glanced both directions down the hallway, then took a small slip of black cloth from his pocket, wrapped it around his thumb, and placed it on the scanner. The mechanism beeped a couple of times, and then the doors slid open smoothly. Tolliver stepped inside. “You ready for this, Ronnie?” Tolliver slipped the cloth back in his pocket and turned to the control panel. “Ronnie, you hear me?”
“Security Agent Merton Tolliver, you are under arrest.”
Tolliver looked up. Ronnie stood in front of him, hand on the elevator door, VoidStunner pointed at his chest. “What are you doing?”
“I, Ronald Yee, in my power as Junior Security Agent Trainee, place you under arrest for violations of VoidTower Security Protocol, as listed in the employee handbook. Code 184.108.40.206a, disobedience to direct orders. Code 13220.127.116.11, possession of illicit items. Code 12333.222—”
Neither of them saw the giant purple teddy bear that burst up through the floor beneath them, swallowing them both whole in its massive fanged gullet.
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 10:04|
The Doppler Effect
When the sound of automatic gunfire echoed up from the ‘teen levels for the fourth time that day Malthus Prong, Assistant Deputy Validator, tsked at the staccato crackle. He was hunched over his sprawling mass of circuitry, breadboarded together with zipties holding the parts together. It looked as though it had grown there rather than being built, a labyrinthine muddle of blinking lights, spaghetti-like tangles of wire and soldered up knob boards with scribbled labels on them. Perched atop the electronic agglomeration was a huge speaker horn, attached by two thick wires to a hulking power amplifier under the kitchen table.
The gunfire ended with a distant, flat boom that reverberated through his cluttered apartment. Grenade, he thought. Prong waited, manicured fingers poised on the knurled contours of the knob labelled BOUNCE. Then he took a deep breath of the cool VoidAir coming from the vent overhead and twisted it to the right.
The speaker gave a crackling static cough, then set up a throbbing bassy moan, cycling through a filtersweep that started at a barely audible sub bass, ground through teeth-rattling mid range and wailed at the trebly top end. Prong cast a glance across his equipment. He rested his fingers on the red button labelled THUMP and checked the heavy reels of quarter inch tape were spooling through the record head: yes, yes. The sweep was clambering up the curve, and Malthus held his breath, edging the knob labelled ZAZZ up and up, making the sound expand and fill his small apartment, waiting for the moment.
It was punishingly loud in there, and were it not for the VoidFoam on the walls then Malthus Prong’s neighbours would probably have been banging on the walls. It’s possible they were and he couldn’t hear them. For one of the few times he could remember in a long life of service to the Void, Malthus didn’t care. He could feel his head expanding, filling with the noise, sprouting like a mushroom on fresh forest soil after the rain. He felt the moment coming, his finger tensed on the button but then, a mere instant before the moment of absolute musical completion, a metal grating fell on his head, bounced off and landed right in the middle of the step down transformer.
There was a crackle of sparks, and a deafening, walloping crack through the speaker and everything went dark.
“Ow,” said Malthus into the darkness and ringing silence. “That really hurt.”
“Sorry,” said a woman’s voice from above him. “My foot slipped.”
Prong touched his head cautiously, feeling a bump and a wet tender patch. The voice came from out of the VoidAir vent and he peered up at it. His head was still vibrating from the sound that had been filling it, and he thought he could still see the echoes, like afterimages from staring at an arc light. A question occurred to him.
“Why are you in my VoidAir vent,” he asked.
There was a pause. Then softly: “Purest accident,” she said. “I was looking for the L5 shaft to join up with the dorsal crawl way. I thought that noise was the lifters going out of sync.” Something in her hand clicked and her face was illuminated by a soft pearly light. “What was that noise? Why did it stop?”
Malthus reached out for the grate then stopped with his hand a centimetre away from the metal, withdrew it carefully, and reached down to flick off the main power switch. He lifted up the heavy grate and felt a wave of nausea clamber up from his belly and into his throat. The circuitry of the main sequencer was shattered, he’d need to re-solder the lot, if he could find the parts.
“I was nearly there,” he said, and took in a deep breath, as though he could extract the sound he’d been striving for from the air in the apartment, one vibrating molecule at a time.
There was a grunt from above and the light came closer, preceded by a pair of feet shod in (he noticed, automatically) VoidGrip textured ‘rubber’. The woman was skinny, with short hair. She balanced on the table and crouched down, inspecting the damage. “Wow. I really hosed that up. I feel terrible. Is this … I mean is it a hobby? You make sounds for the Tower? Or just… for fun?”
Malthus shook his head. Then he looked up. It occurred to him that she wasn’t wearing the VoidTech overalls he’d expect of someone licensed for shaftwork. And her badge, if she even had one, was not plainly visible to help customers and residents understand the VoidBlock difference. Very odd. He blinked up at her. “What were you doing in there?”
She inspected his face for a moment, then grinned and hopped down. “It’s kind of a secret. I really shouldn’t tell you, but, truth to tell I’m feeling a bit indebted right now. You know how they closed the shutters a while back? We got curious, and started digging. Turns out the roof has a--” she stopped. She was looking at him with an uncertain expression.
Malthus Prong realised his face was fixed in a rictus grin. “You’re unauthorised. You’re a trespasser!”
She held out her hands and took a step back, balancing on the edge of the table. “Knowledge is power. We all live here, and they’ve locked us in! We have a right to know why.”
He was, he realised, extremely angry. Had this insane vent criminal even read the VoidManual? Was she one of the gang that had been fighting down below? He realised that his VoidComm was probably over near the foam couchlet behind her and stood up, slowly, preparatory to darting around her and calling for SecuriBoy backup.
She must have been waiting for movement because as he stood she sprang up and into the vent, grabbing onto something unseen and hauling herself out of sight.
“Balls,” said Prong. He glanced over at the couchlet but there was no VoidComm, and then before he really knew or understood what he was doing or why he was hauling himself up through the narrow entrance and after the intruder. He was at that moment filled with a high pure hatred for her and everything she stood for, the contempt for appropriate processes, the disdain for the interests of the shareholder. Did she think the VoidBlock could run itself? That it was not dependent on the voluntary, profound compliance of all its inhabitants?
The black metal of the vent was cold on his elbows as he pulled himself along, scrabbling his way through the bowels of the VoidBlock after this impossible wretch and her music-destroying pastimes.
The light she’d been carrying reflected oddly around the shining blackness of the shaft, and when he came to the second junction he hesitated, unsure of which way to go. At that moment the light went out and he was left in darkness, and echoes. “Balls,” he said again, softly.
He could, he realised, go back. It was the sensible thing to do. He could go back and call the threat in. Or rather; he couldn’t, he realised with sick certainty. There were way too many unsanctioned connections and part categories in his sound machine to allow SecuriBoys into his apartment. He would have to track the intruder down himself, call it in from a wall phone.
Yes, he thought. That’s the best plan. He listened. Up and to the left, he thought he heard her creaking passage, and, resolute, he began to climb.
Four hours later Malthus Prong was obliged to admit that he did not know where he was. He’d followed her sounds, at first, then resorted to logical deductions as to where an intruder seeking the roof might go, and then at last to intuition. And now, aching in every muscle, he had reached a dead end. He felt it with fingers that were scratched and torn from scrabbling up steep inclines. Was there some give to the metal? He pushed it and it yielded a little. Behind was a light that was bright enough to leave spots in his dark-accustomed eyes.
Then he gasped and shuddered as, through the crack, came pouring a sound like no other, a grinding wailing crash of glorious sound, ecstatic sound like a waterfall. Moving without conscious thought Malthus pushed aside the metal and slithered out of the vent onto a cool slate floor. This, he knew, was it; the Room. At its centre was a vast speaker horn, suspended in a cats cradle of wires, piping signals up from the Tower, every single thought and desire and feeling picked up on currents of VoidAir and piped into the speaker to wail and moan the Tower’s soul.
The woman was sitting there, cross-legged. He crawled over the slate and sat beside her. She looked at him and said something; but the music was too loud and he couldn’t her what it was.
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 14:29|
Thunderdome Week CDI
This week, we’ll be focusing on beginnings. What I want from entrants is to submit the first section of what could be a novel.
Well, now’s as good a time as any to actually start that novel that you’ve always wanted to write! Lord knows we have more time than usual to do so. So, start it! Or, you know, just start any novel. And hey, it's a week one!
Stories will be evaluated by how they answer a largely subjective question:
Do I want to read more of this?
If you’re gonna do nothing but world-building, we better feel like we’re totally in the world and are curious to learn more about its inner workings.
Introducing a character? We better have a great sense of what their deal is and a reason to care about/root for/maybe even despise them.
Setting up some terms? Make ‘em compelling, so compelling that nothing else even matters.
Whatever you do, do it well and build intrigue.
It can be a whole chapter or just a first scene. Also, the title of your entry can be the title for the rest of the novel, if you were to write one, or it can just be a title of the thing you wrote. Also, this should generally be new content. It's OK if you've been mulling over an idea for a while or if you even jotted stuff down, but most of what you submit this week should come from this week.
You have 1,500 words to play with. Sign up by 4/10 11:59 PDT. Get it in by 4/12 11:59 PDT.
But hey, it wouldn’t be a chili week without at least some random gimmickry.
Toxx in, if you’d like, and we’ll RNG you a bonus word bounty. Between 150-350 words are up for grabs! How many will you get? Spin to win! Oh, what fun! Your bonus word amount will be displayed next to your name below.
Flashes available upon request. Flashes will not be consistent and will be largely based on the capricious whims of the judge who happens to see. You may request up to three, one from each judge. But, you can’t request specifically from which if you only ask for one or two. I don’t care too much about how well you incorporate a flash.
to get my crits due for 384 done by the sub deadline for this week.
Chili fucked around with this message at 15:45 on Apr 11, 2020
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 17:56|
In, for bonus words
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 18:03|
Yes! We all gotta start those quarantINe novels! And yeah gimme those extra words
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 18:16|
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 18:26|
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 18:28|
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 18:28|
Jailbreaker, character wants to work with someone difficult
The bees were loving everywhere. Sam ran like hell, every sting another painful jolt to her cadence. Her only comfort was knowing that with each prick she had vanquished another enemy. The ominous VoidMart™ security employee/apparatus followed her, quaking the surroundings with a buzz so deep it could move bowels to tears. More bees were coming.
There was rescue: an idea forming in her head. A small lake. Some reeds. Maybe the cartoons hadn't lied about this one. She turned some dials on her wrist-mounted VoidMart™ Mind's Eye Spectacular and Reasonably Safe Painting Device and color splat against the wall in the scenery she had imagined. She thought the secret creed of the artist, and jumped through the painting.
She came back out of the lake dripping water, and pulsing with pain. The bees had buzzed off. The sun wasn't visible from beneath the drapes of her imagination, but rays fell on her all the same. She found a nice, warm spot in the grass to lie down and hope to die for a while.
She had barely dried when a shadow appeared over her.
"Where were you?" Sam said.
"Ah!" Grand Artist Barnables, said, nay, exclaimed. He threw back his golden hair. "That other reality was a little bit too, mhhh, antophilic for my tastes." He offered her his hand, pulling her up. "Break time's over, apprentice."
He went ahead, barely stopping to recognize her wounds, or the fact that he was literally walking into a foggy nothing, but such was the mind of Barnables. Always one step ahead, always on to the next vision. Now, with VoidMart™ in total lockdown, he had the singular purpose of reaching the forbidden roof, as he called it. He usually draped his reasoning in arcane explanations about his brutalist VoidMuse™, but Sam knew better than to humiliate herself in front of such a prodigy by asking for explanations a plebeian mind such as hers could understand.
She quickly opened a portal back to VoidMart™ so Barnables had something else to step into than the abyss.
Back in the service hallways, the VoidMart™ employee(?) was gone. There was a muffled rumble as faraway explosions rocked the building. Either below them, or above them. The lights flickered. Things had gone pretty crazy in here since the lockdown.
"I think we should stop," Sam said. "What if the tower collapses?"
"Details," Barnables replied. "You know what I think of those. Marvellous, but first--" He made a gesture with his hands that she didn't understand. "...think of the big picture."
They went ahead with medium caution, meaning that Sam cautioned very much, while Barnables didn't caution at all, ooh-ing and ahh-ing and picking up things he found on the floor, cigarette boxes and coins and oddly shaped, clearly demonic trinkets, only to discard them noisily after cursory observation and heavy nodding. The next stairway took them up a couple of floors before the stairs randomly stopped, again, and they had to look for another way. Almost as if this building wasn't designed to be accessible. They half-strolled-half-snuck through the service hallway when another set of explosions tore through the building, closer this time. The lights went out. When they came back on, a large, hooded figure stood at the other end. There was no face underneath its cloth, just darkness. Yet, it was cleary watching them.
"I don't know that model," Sam said. "Do you have any idea?" She was talking to nobody. Barnables was gone. She turned her head back and looked straight into the void beneath the creature's hood. Somehow it had closed the distance in the blink of an eye. There were a lot of teeth.
"Hi," she said. Color shot into the ground, and she remembered the artist's mantra before whatever was about to happen could happen. No time to think happy thoughts for this one.
They fell into a deep, dark well. The creature wound through the air alongside her, freefalling like a fat eel. A high-pitched screech drilled itself into her head. She started to miss the bee guy. Teeth cut through her skin with every bizarre movement the VoidMart™ thing made. She pushed it away and instantly, deep cuts burned through her hands. The impact propelled her backwards. Brick tore off the well, falling alongside her. The creature flopped through the air to close the distance.
She threw a brick straight in its face. Some of its teeth opened and consumed the brick whole. Welp.
There was no way out she could see. No bottom to the well. No space to maneuver. Just darkness, teeth and loose brick.
She kicked at the creature, propelling herself into the wall with force. The teeth cut through her boots, but she ignored the pain. Rock came crashing down alongside her. With her bleeding, bruised hands, she reached out, tore more rock with her, as much as she could. The creature approached again. Closer and closer. Frantic, Sam arranged the crushed rock and brick in freefall. She prayed this would work. She aimed her paintgun at the loose brickwork, and fired.
She pulled herself through the portal and closed it to a gnashing of teeth just behind her.
The blood had barely dried when a shadow appeared over her.
"What the gently caress man," Sam said. She slapped Barnables's hand away and got up on her own, standing awkwardly on her hosed-up feet. The blood had crusted up in the bottom of her boots. Taking them off would be really cool later.
Barnables seemed a bit flustered by her rejection, but quickly regained his composure. He took a demonstrative look around the hotel lobby Sam had constructed. "Bright. Clean. Carmine cotton rug. Very bourgeoise."
"Where the gently caress were you?" Sam said. "I almost died back there."
"Look, I gotta level with you kid." He moved to lay a hand on her shoulder, but stopped, hovering awkwardly. A deep breath. "I'm just in your imagination."
Cogs flew into action in Sam's head. The constant disappearances. The convenient reappearances in safe spots. The regular re-disappearances whenever Barnables could have helped in battle, or with the dishes, or with anything. He never seemed to know any more than Sam knew, at any given time. It all made sense.
"I can't believe I didn't see it sooner," she said.
"Well, now you--"
She punched him in the face. The sheer force of the impact threw Barnables back a few feet, where he crashed into the coffee table and flattened it with a noisy crunch.
"You're a deadbeat!"
"Fuckkkkkk," Barnables retorted. He tried to get up and immediately fell back into the rubble, wheezing for air.
"Do you even know how this works?" She gestured with her painting device as if it was on fire. "Do you just run ahead of me and see what happens? How are you getting into my paintings?"
Barnabels made his peace with being on the floor. He rolled on the back and stared at the ceiling in defeat. "Eggshell," he muttered to himself. "Nice."
"I don't know anything," he finally admitted. "I guess I'm really good at pissing off and reappearing when everything's done. You could say it's my superpower."
"What about the artist's mantra?"
"Stole it from a Beatles song."
"You always had this in you. I just saw it and gave you a push in the right direction. That's all."
Sam was about to call Barnables an rear end in a top hat in about two dozen different ways, when another rumble interrupted her. Explosions. This was weird. Weren't they in a completely different dimension than VoidMart™?
The rumble rose to thunder, from all directions at once. Even Barnables looked concerned. Noise came crashing down on them, like rain, a storm, a tsunami, shaking their bones and clattering their teeth and pounding their heads. Dust poisoned the air. The lamps short-circuited, popping their bulbs. It was carnage, and it came from nowhere, or everywhere at once.
"We need to leave," Barnables yelled. But Sam knew, wherever they came from was probably worse right now.
She sat down next to Barnables. At this moment, he seemed none of the master she had looked up to. He was a frightened child, and she pitied him.
She held his hand until the noise stopped.
They stepped out of the portal, into nothing. Not fog, not black or white, just nothing. A blank page without color, background or dimension.
"Oh," Barnables said.
"Mh," Sam said.
She'd never had any problems returning to the real world. If this was where her portal led, then either the link had been severed, or, by all accounts, this was the real world now. What was left of it.
Either way, she had no idea. This was going to be all they had. At least for a while.
Barnables looked at Sam like a lost child. "What do we do now?"
She turned the dials on her device. "I don't know," she said. "Rebuild."
She began to paint.
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 18:37|
Week 399 Crits
Chairman of the Council
So this was the way we started off the week, and it was kind of...unmemorable, to be honest. Yes, you have Bowser and Mario in there, but it feels like you made sure to fulfill that part of the prompt and sort of just stopped there. I’m never a fan of TD stories that just resolve themselves by the end without any sort of effort on the part of the protagonist, and this was no exception. I do like Clayton as a well defined character, but I think you could have been more economic with your character description and saved some of those words for setting up a resolution that made sense. Also, I don’t know what “popular” trees are. Are they trees that branch out to others? Ha ha. Let’s move on.
I liked this story a tad more than Neth, but I wasn’t willing to defend it from a DM. It’s a bit of a mess, and it feels like a caricature of the Italian Mafia from someone who’s watched either too many or not enough Martin Scorcese movies. Judging by the fact that you think Pachinko is an Italian thing, maybe it’s the latter. As a story, it’s really concerned with blustering forward into action without really setting any of that action up in a meaningful way. You would have been better served by cutting the number of characters in half and giving us more of a reason to care about each of them, even if it was only one or two sentences of motivation. All that said...I liked how goofy it was, especially this week, where the other stories in the low-mention range were more grim than they needed to be. This was violent, but at least it had a sense of fun. Write more, and you’ll be able to tighten up the weaknesses in your writing.
This had...something, but it would have benefitted from another pass. Personally, I think your two prompt characters should’ve been partners from the beginning, rather than finding themselves teamed up halfway through. They have an interesting dynamic by the time they’re teamed up, but you fell into the trap of making the story grim and gritty for no real reason and in a way that ultimately didn’t add anything compelling to the story. The sci-fi premise felt a bit trite, and the story didn’t resolve it in a satisfying way either. In my opinion, you made the prompt characters bit players in this world you’d created rather than starting with them and building a story around them, and that’s where the story suffered.
Got to get, even
This was pleasant. It wasn’t trying to do more than it was intending to do, and it had a real sense of fun. I’m not very familiar with the Snagglepuss cartoon, but from what I’m familiar with, I think you aced the prompt, and even if you got some things wrong, it was an enjoyable read. The stakes were low, but it wasn’t going for high drama. The character writing was very clear and present as well, and I immediately got what you were going for. There was a part of me that wanted this to win, just because it was the closest to feeling like a legit cartoon in TD story form, but ultimately, there were stories that were going for more depth and succeeded at it. But I’m glad we were able to commend it, all the same. It did its job.
Yeah, this was the worst offender in terms of “take a fun and lighthearted prompt and make it as grim and as edgy as you possibly can, for no apparent reason”. I mean, I know why the impulse is there, because you have to put a spin on it somehow, but it’s the easiest route you can possibly take. It’s a Pissing Calvin bumper sticker. Which isn’t to say that that impulse couldn’t have worked if it was well-executed, but this wasn’t. I couldn’t make any sense of this story at all, and that middle section where you outline the steps of the plan exemplifies how hard you had to try to shoehorn the whole Scooby-Doo formula into a dark crime procedural to even attempt to make it a real-world thing. And as a story, like many other stories this week, it just sort of went nowhere and ended nowhere. It was unsatisfying. The lone saving grace that it had, for me, was that it was at least trying to do something, anything at all, with the prompt. It just didn't pay off.
The Airport Food Court Caper
Yeah, if you have a spare moment, I would take the time to read Staggy’s Snagglepuss story, because in my opinion that was a better-executed example of what you were trying to go for here. That story had all the beats of a cartoon, but it had the charisma and character that made it an enjoyable read. This...I don’t know, man. You went waaaaaaaay too literal. I described it to my co-judge as “having a friend describe a Looney Tunes cartoon to you over the phone, in full detail, completely deadpan.” It was missing any sense of fun or spontaneity and just became a cold action script. And beyond that--cartoon characters, especially Looney Tunes characters, are assholes by nature, but we accept those characteristics because it’s a cartoon and it’s rooted in the unreal. When you transcribe those characteristics one-for-one to two adult men looking after a little girl at the airport, it isn’t funny anymore, it’s just sad, and if it goes on and on for paragraphs, it just becomes immensely frustrating. And then you end the story with the alcoholic mom out of nowhere. You just got clotheslined by this prompt in the worst way possible.
The Little Magician
This felt very literary to me, but not necessarily in a good way, in more of a forgettable way. In a “oh, here are the beats of a prestige literary story” way, but without the language and the intrigue needed to execute it properly. It felt like it was having the premise do all the work without any sort of storytelling inertia pushing it forward. “I’m a magician, this is my day-to-day life.” It could have used an extra wrinkle, like “I’m a magician, and this is my day-to-day life, but TODAY…” and so on. In terms of the actual prompt, I felt like it was lacking, possibly. I get that the character lends himself to sadness and immobility, but I think you could’ve done a bit more to make that interesting. As it was, it begins, it ends, it’s not too good, it’s not too bad, and it no-mentioned.
This was a well-done story, for the most part. I saw the prompt characters in the story, I liked the way the plot paid off at the end...where I was left wanting more was in terms of the emotional depth. Maybe that was a consequence of the characters you were assigned? There was a shrewdness to the conversation that the main character and Oni had within the story, but it just didn’t quite resonate with me emotionally. Maybe that was a character choice in itself, because the two cartoon characters are both deal-with-the-devil type characters, but I read it and felt like it made me feel how clever they both were more than it made me want to root for either of them to succeed. The line “But I have unprotected sex” made me laugh, unintentionally so, because of how stilted it felt. And even though the trick at the end was kind of satisfying, the more I thought about it, the more it felt like there’s no way Oni wouldn’t know about that sort of relationship, being around since the dawn of time, and after realizing that it just felt like a cop-out. Regardless, it was competent enough and had enough layers to it that I enjoyed it overall.
Little Human, Big Tiger
This came really close to getting the loss, and it should be evident why when you read it over. It reads like the book report you finished the hour before class started. There’s no real sustenance or depth to this story beyond “Little human and big tiger meet, they’re enemies, now they’re friends, and then they leave to go on an adventure.” This was the preface to the story that would’ve actually been good, had you written it. Beyond that, Neth tells me that this didn’t hit the prompt at all, and I’ll take her word for it because I’m not familiar with the character you were assigned, but even if it had hit the prompt I don’t believe it would’ve made much of a difference. You were lucky.
This wasn’t a front-runner, but I thought it was charming all the same. Maybe it was the trashiness of the characters, or maybe it was one of the few stories this week about criminal activity that actually seemed fun and didn’t leave me wishing I had spent time somewhere else. The ending is a bit of a casualty of the word count, but I suspect you know that already. I think you could have done just a little bit more with it, maybe if you had started with them lugging the ATM machine away and fleshed out the latter half of the story more it would’ve felt like more of a cohesive unit. It left me wanting more, but not necessarily in a bad way.
Robbo’s Covid Life
I remember reading the title and the first line of the story and just groaning out loud. I understand that you can’t not reflect the times you live in as a writer, but it was a hell of a hurdle for me to get past. Once I did, though, it was an alright story. I think you hit the prompt reasonably well, there was a lot of decent character writing, and the ending did a better job wrapping up the story than some of the positive mentions this week. The scene with the baseball bat felt a bit unnecessarily violent for the tone the story had up until that point, so much so that it took me out of it. If I were revising it that would be the main thing I would change, to make Arty’s character in the first half match up with Arty’s character in the second half. Overall, you did a decent job nailing the prompt for this week, and in another scenario this might have HMed.
Snacks on a Plane
Like a lot of these other stories, it was more focused on trying to be fun rather than traditionally good (which I welcomed, considering how unnecessarily dark some of the other ones got), but this succeeded at being a really fun story, regardless. I was way more familiar with one of these characters than the other one, but you made me care about both of them in spite of that. I think the greatest weakness of this story was that there wasn’t enough of it, which I mean in sort of a good way, but also in a way where I want to remind you that you had almost a thousand extra words to play with and you didn’t use any of them. Nevertheless, you did a good job with what was there and this was the second-best character interaction for me this week. Bravo.
This story gave me the most to sit with after it was done, which is why I had no problem giving it the win. It wasn’t just that it had a lot of heart, which it did--it was that it was earned and it wasn’t cheaply portrayed. This was a complex and unique relationship between the two characters, one that I wasn’t expecting, and you used the extra words to take your time and pace things out evenly so that the little details had more of an impact. It was fascinating to see how the two prompt characters really did keep each other aloft, in ways that maybe they weren’t prepared to notice. If I had to give a criticism, besides “Golden brow, perfection”, it would be that “A freefall” paragraph at the beginning, and the paragraph after it. They weren’t needed. We didn’t need to know about Dartmouth until later in the story, and we didn’t need Raquel to tell us there’s no such thing as perfect at all. Nonetheless, this was a wonderful story.
A Date With Destiny
This had potential, it just felt like you had no idea how to end it. Ruben’s character just showing up to spoil Silas’s plan for no apparent reason, then doing a 180 and reconciling with Silas at the end--it seemed like you had a premise, followed where it took you, then decided not to bother with a second draft that might have worked out all the kinks in the plot structure. I think you satisfied the actual prompt fairly well, I like the two characters and for the most part I like how they interact. I just think that you missed the mark in terms of providing a satisfying story. Next time, just zero in on what the main character wants and build the story around that without any distractions or tangents, and do it as early in the story as you possibly can.
Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 20:20 on Apr 6, 2020
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 19:16|
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 19:30|
in double flash
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 21:41|
in double flash
Flash 1 :
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." - Vonnegut
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 21:52|
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 21:58|
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 22:29|
(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 22:33|
|# ? Apr 6, 2020 23:58|
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 00:13|
in double flash
I am sad, please write about a dragon.
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 00:51|
Your story should have baking somewhere in it.
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 00:52|
(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 00:53|
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 00:57|
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 01:22|
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 07:02|
tripple flash let's loving go
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 19:37|
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 20:24|
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 20:48|
|# ? Apr 7, 2020 22:05|
Increasing the word count limit by 100. Use it wisely, if you use it at all.
|# ? Apr 8, 2020 01:30|
In with a
fake edit: gently caress it, double whammy (flash).
|# ? Apr 8, 2020 06:23|
In with a
|# ? Apr 8, 2020 08:45|
In with a
|# ? Apr 8, 2020 14:18|
|# ? Apr 9, 2020 16:00|
|# ? Sep 26, 2023 09:24|
|# ? Apr 9, 2020 19:33|