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sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Jesting Pisces
1380 words

So there we were, a long time back, me and my father and his brother Jonas. It was late and we’d been at the whiskeys, all around the big old fireplace at my dad’s house. We’d reached one of those late night moments so we stared thoughtfully at the crackling fire, each decoding its flickering in the Enigma machines of our heads.

Outside it was raining, pointillist patterns of interlocking ripples on the black lakewater.

Jonas stretched his arm along the dark oak mantelpiece, tapping his fingers on the heavy wood. I looked up at him. He was a tall man, bald with a fringe of grey curls around his shiny dome. As I watched him he started to smile.

“What’s got you smirking?” said my dad. “Thinking of that Ferris Wheel again?”

This was a reference to their childhood Fairground Incident, often mentioned, never explained.

“Not this time,” said Jonas. “My mind was resting upon the Golden Fish of Truth.”

It was rare to see my dad shocked, at least not so you’d know by looking. But his eyes narrowed, and twitched, and he coughed rather than speaking. “It’s a lie,” he managed after a moment of throat music.

Jonas grinned one of his broad well-toothed grins. “But brother, by definition it cannot be. He who fishes it up, well…”

“Fishing? It’s late, and cold.” I said that and winced, hearing my dead mother’s voice echo in my head. I knew that I’d said the one thing most likely to set the two of them on whatever lunatic path Jonas had laid out for them.

They exchanged a glance, and so, by a swift yet oddly inevitable succession of eventualities, we found ourselves bobbing in a dinghy far out on the lake, clad in bright yellow slickers. We were silent, sitting there in the little boat as the rain hissed and pattered onto the gelid lakewater.

“How will I know?” I asked, at last.

At first neither of them replied. They’d argued about the right direction, the correct way to ship oars and the likely time before the rain stopped and had lapsed into silence when we’d got out and dropped the anchor.

My father lifted his shoulders and let them fall, a creaky mounding of slick yellow rubberised cloth. “Truth be told, little scut, the fish is a myth.”

Jonas snorted. “You’ll know when you catch it, young fellow. Not before!”

There was a trickle of ice-cold water infiltrating my undergarments; I frowned and leant over a little to discourage it from finding my rear end-crack, but to avail. “I’m not that young,” I said.

“Old enough,” allowed Jonas. “Me and your dad here, it’s probably our last chance. That’s why we’re out here!”

My father drew a breath then just made a pfft noise, as though it was a debate they’d had so many times that his rejoinder, and Jonas’ riposte, and all the subsequent badinage could be taken as read.

I sat in silence, frowning. The warmth of the whiskey was long gone and my eyes were getting heavy. Not for the first time I thought of my bed; it wasn’t comfortable, or warm, but it did exist and I could imagine myself into it with great precision.

At last Jonas chuckled. I couldn’t see him on the other side of the small boat, but I could imagine the avuncular curl to his lips. “You know that feeling you always had when you were young, not knowing what mattered? What you should care about? How there were so many people saying listen to me, no listen to me, now come over here, now do this, and that?”

I nodded warily, unleashing another trickle of chilly groin-seeking water, then remembered he couldn’t see me. “I still have it. Most do, I think, one might deem it endemic.”

“It is,” growled my dad. “The curse of self awareness, fruit of Eden’s damnable tree.”

“Well then,” said Jonas. “The fish we seek, is, well. It’s the answer.”

My father slapped the side of the boat, a solid hollow sound. “The truth! Unvarnished and nothing more nor less. All of it!”

I thought I felt a tug on my line then and pulled it in a turn or two, hopefully, but the reel spun free and I let it drift again. “Didn’t you say you had no truck with the notion, Dad?”

I heard my father draw a deep breath in, and let it out, and fancied I heard it shaking as though he was holding in some strong emotion. "I do not hold with the seeking, son. The fish itself is merest logic: fish are not wise, but some are clearly wiser than others since they have not been caught. We eliminate the most foolish, and so the wisest fish of all will know everything. Ask it the right question and you could learn..."

"It's not a genie, you whiskery buffoon! To my mind it seems obvious that the glistening fish we seek will give purpose, meaning, railway lines that one might follow to the end of ones days." There was a fervent, zealous tone to Jonas' voice that I did not recall ever hearing before.

The old men lapsed into silence after that, giving me time to think. It was peaceful on that lake with the rain caressing the water's face, and I allowed my mind to wander. Truth, certainty, purpose... they would all be sweet. I had always lacked focus, and it was that which the fish would grant me, I thought. A diamond clarity that would harness my considerable natural talents and send them down the right path, the correct--

At that moment my line jerked and I almost lost the rod. The reel was whirring, line spooling out of it so fast it bid fair to fly off the sprocket. I grabbed and it and wrenched it hard, feeling the fish falter, then redouble its efforts. "I have something!" I yelled, and the two men turned.

I will not recount the lengthy process of cajoling, yanking and hauling the fish aboard our boat. Suffice to say it was long, and arduous, and my arms ached by the time it was nearly aboard. At last I glanced left, and right, and at their nods made one final pull, flipping a great glowing fish high in the air and down into the water-slopped floor of the dinghy.

We all paused for a moment, admiring its sleek golden scales, glowing faintly like the fire we'd been entranced by before. It had come loose from the hook in its fall but did not flop around; there was enough water in the bottom of the boat that it was perhaps too engaged in catching its breath, sucking life-giving water through its gleaming gills.

Then we all lunged forward for the fish, rods forgotten, cold-numbed hands scrabbling around in the bilge for our prize. My father got it first and held it high in the air in clasped hands. "Tell my why my Mary--" but he did not finish, for Jonas took him amidships and knocked him flailingly backwards into the stern of the boat, bringing a gout of icy lakewater over the gunwales. The fish evaded his grasp, even as Jonas howled "Will I be able to sleep at night if I--" and it twisted, sparkling, in the air above us.

I saw my moment and stood up, arms outstretched. My question was already burning in my mind, but my fingers closed on air and the dinghy tipped in the direction of the water spilling me out and plunging me into the chilly lake. Through cold-blurred eyes I saw the golden fish flick its tail, a little contemptuously, and swim away into the freezing black depths.

The row back to the house was long, and we didn't talk much. When we had pulled the dinghy ashore our eyes met and an unspoken agreement passed between us. Then, as one, we went to our beds, wearily resigned to our endless, ignorant slumber.

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Something Else
Dec 27, 2004


Submissions are closed!

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo


take the moon posted:

brawl me chili

quotin dis for new page

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004


WEEK 409

JUDGEMENTS


Everyone turned in their story this week, and one of them was even good! My faithful co-judge Yoruichi and I were easily able to find consensus on the winner and loser. We agreed that rat-born cock's Bella of the Brawl had excellent imagery and voice, in service a story that hit me right in the heart. This concludes the Unqualified Praise section of my judgement.

I enjoyed reading Anomalous Blowout's The Shortest Distance Between Two Points, and the anti-climax hit me the right way, but the emotional hook of the narrator's relationship with Sean wasn't developed enough to make it work as a whole. Thranguy's Delphina, Trevor, and Pip had really cool Stephen King vibes through the first half, but clarity issues in the action undermined the ending. sebmojo's Jesting Pisces had a lot of good energy, it had my attention, but wound up feeling formless and thus underwhelming. I respect the formal experimentation of Salgal80's apparently untitled story, but a dearth of effective characterization made it feel overly didactic.

Saucy_Rodent's The Ghost Room takes the non-prize for biggest opinion delta between Yoruchi and I. Despite a nice sense of realism, sloppy writing and characters I didn't like ruined it for me before I got to the hackneyed horror screenplay climax.

It's theoretically possible that kiyoshimon's The Gift could have brought me back from my revulsion at the opening image, but the present evidence for that is scant. Preposterous plot turns, bloated writing, and the severely underdeveloped relationship between Kevin and Zeke leave little to enjoy here.

Winner: rat-born cock
Loser: kiyoshimon
No DM/HM

Detailed crits to come...

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Teamwork Week Crits

This was a good week, Thunderdome. Small and punchy. There were some pretty raw emotions on display, and the stories at the bottom end all tried something, even if they didn’t quick stick it. Good work all round. For some reason I read the stories in reverse order of posting.


Jesting Pisces by Sebmojo

I like this but I think it’s a little thin. I think this wanted to be a weighty story, but the characters are a little too lightly drawn, and the ending is a bit too perfunctory. The reading experience was like catching a magical truth-telling fish and then losing it before it could tell you the meaning of everything. That’s pretty meta, but not very satisfying. The imagery is lovely.

7/10


The Shortest Distance Between Two Points by Anomalous Blowout

This is pretty slick. The world building you do in very few words is great. By the end though I felt like the heart of the story was about the relationship between Sean and the protag, but because Sean didn’t feature as a character right from the start, the story didn’t quite come together. But I am of course assessing this against the very high standard set by your other stories. Despite that flaw, it’s still very good.

7.5/10


Delphina, Trevor, and Pip by Thranguy

This is weird and interesting. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I followed all of it. It felt like there were a lot of characters, and the way the story jumped around made me feel like I was getting muddled about who was who. And then one of them is dead! That came out of nowhere. I didn’t really get the ending, but I liked the imagery nonetheless.

6/10


The Gift by Kiyoshimon

Well that was sort of sweet, if a bit weird, but I think this story had too much going on for its word count, and doesn’t pull any of it off. It’s a story about the relationship between two old friends, about new adventures, and about a brush with death. And it’s a story about a grueling battle for survival, and a story about a man coming to terms with killing an animal to survive. I think it would have been better to focus on just one of these things, rather than skimming across the surface of all of them.

5/10


June 1, Assignment: Write about a problem at your house and how it was solved. Teacher: Mrs. Mueller, Grade 7, First Draft, By Kim Lyons by Salgal80

I’m assuming that whole thing is the title but it was hard to tell.

Hmmm this doesn’t really work for me. I like that you went for something different with the structure, but you basically made me read a bad story written by a 7th grader, twice. I think for this to work each re-telling needed to reveal something more about the Kim Lyons or her situation (e.g. what does she want and is she going to get it?).

5/10


Bella of the Brawl by rat-born cock

Terrible title. I’m sorry but it is.

Oh and you also think you’re too cool to post your word count do you. Tsk.

Awww ok I forgive you. This is a very sweet story. You do a good job of showing what’s going on in the human world, and the dog characters are very believable without being anthropomorphised. The ending lands nicely.

8.5/10


The Ghost Room by Saucy-Rodent

I really like this. The characters feel like real people, the emotions are raw and very relatable, and the bizarre monster crab action is great. But, it’s not very polished - there’s typos and sloppy wording like “a miscellaneous nighttime hour” (being specific is almost always better than vague). Despite that, I think you should be very proud of this story.

8/10

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


Prompt: Tell Me About Yourself

"No one here is exactly what he appears."

Now that the 2020s are almost over and we've all been through hell and out the other side, I'm curious. I see a lot of the same names around here but I don't know anyone very well. Who are you? Why are you here? What did you live for before you were here? I don't just want an autobiography or your retelling of the same old cool anecdotes you always tell people. I want you to write about the hour, day, week, month, year, decade, etc, that lead up to you being where you are now in life, whether that's at your computer reading this post, or more broadly speaking. But make it interesting.

Don't post anything that would get you in trouble with CCORnet but do feel free to be real about who you are, what you think, etc. Any genre is allowed, as long as all the other parts of the prompt are obeyed.

Since I have noticed you guys like handing out rules, you can ask me for an amount of time leading up to the present day. i.e. the week leading up to now*, the fortnight leading up to now, etc.

*"now" could be literally today, or any day around right about now, in history. Not the 90s, not a year ago, but the present day, sometime in early June 2028.

If you want a max word count ask for that too

SIGNUPS: 11:59PM Friday California Protectorate Time
SUBMISSIONS: 11:59PM Sunday California Protectorate Time
JUDGES: Rat-born Cock,
WRITERS:

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


I realize it might have been more appropriate to wait until 2030 to do a "life in retrospective" type prompt but I don't know if I'll win again two years from now.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






I'm going to try to parse this for the people reading the thread!

You want us to write retrospectives from the perspective of people in 2028, yes?

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


Yes. Tell me about your life in, or leading up to, this moment in 2028. And you can ask for an amount of time leading up to now if you want. What are your hobbies, what's your life been like, what are you into, etc. What brought you here? Any genre is OK.

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


I DECLARE MYSELF JUDGE

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


Thank you. Now we just need some entrants haha.

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo


attn: fumblemouse??? please make an all rodent judge team

k peace

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004


I’m in

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


Oh yeah I'm in.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Yeah I'm in flash me

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




I'm in.

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







I'm in. Flash me, pls.

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


SEBMOJO - eighty-eight days before now

STEELTOEDSNEAKERS - from Christmas until now

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Whatever this week is I would like to judge it.

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


Thank you!

kiyoshimon
Jul 10, 2010

by Fluffdaddy


I'm in, I'll take a flash and a word count.

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


Hyia Kyoshimon!

TIME: from last leap year to now (hint: that's 2024)

MAX WORD COUNT: 1913

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


Anomalous Blowout posted:

:siren: :siren: :siren: FABULOUS PRIZE FOR BAD WRITERS ALERT

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

A couple folks mentioned donating or that they planned to on various channels without ever sending me receipts, so I'm bumping this for one extra day in case anyone forgot!

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo


ya i donated but i couldnt figure out ur email. i sent an email to seb tho. idk if im getting the silent treatment for being a loon tho

not even trying to cause trouble

*benny the snakes out of the thread*

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004


Crits for Week 409

Saucy_Rodent -- The Ghost Room

I appreciate the gritty realism of this setup, and the mystery of what Tanya's up to is intriguing. This story is structured much like a horror movie, right down to the cathartic-healing final battle. However I couldn't get behind Jackson as the protagonist. His POV is not particularly sympathetic to her, despite the very clear trauma she's been through, so I'm not rooting for them to get back together, as I should be in the ramp up to this climax. The emergence of the Evil Crab made me hopeful for a twist, that maybe Tanya and the Crab were the 'team' against Jackson all along, but it was not to be. Sloppy writing, typos and missing words were the nails in the coffin here.


rat-born cock -- Bella of the Brawl

Aside from clearly keying in to what I wanted from this week's prompt, this story has excellent prose and a well-executed gimmick in the synaesthetic descriptions of the city's smells. I am a dog lover IRL, so I'm touched by the notion of doggy chivalry and lines like "There’s no such thing as a Sri without the noodle girl, so then the noodle girl must be nearby, and Sri must call for her." Aside from a few nitpicks regarding realism (ie, a dog can't be oblivious to a nearby gunshot) I have very little to criticise here. And I couldn't be happier to see a happy ending for these dogs.


Salgal80 -- untitled(?)

As I said in the judgement, I respect the experiment with form here. Flash fiction is the right length for it, especially when the experiment doesn't work, because at least it's over quickly. I also like the 'Ode to Criticism' interpretation of teamwork. Ironically though, it seems like you forgot to tell an actual story here. Kim's voice isn't believable as a 7th grader, and the context of other students who seem preternaturally wise & incisive only raises further questions. Worse, though, is that the second draft of the story, while arguably better paced/worded than the first draft, doesn't reveal anything about Kim, or provide evidence of change. To me the weak link is the teacher's segment, where somebody who actually knows something about Kim's life can weigh in to illuminate who Kim is and why this is a meaningful essay for her.


kiyoshimon -- The Gift

I have to concur with Yoruichi's assessment that this story's biggest failure is lack of focus. We don't get any meaningful development of Kevin and Zeke's relationship. We learn Rancher Bob's whole deal before we get much about Zeke. Kevin's unspecified reluctance to do anything feels really weak in the context - why is holding down the llama so traumatic for him, and why is the same not true for Zeke? A central question with no satisfying resolution. Furthermore, several plot turns here are preposterous. Leaving aside that a llama's max carry weight is around 100 pounds, eight nights is an absurd length of time for these guys to wait before eating the llama with a broken leg. At least leave it behind! It defies all logic. Finally, since you hit the exact word limit, I encourage you to trim further next time - you have a habit of saying the same thing twice, and repeating yourself.


Thranguy -- Delphina, Trevor, and Pip

I started out quite liking this piece, it gives me big Stephen King vibes. There's a good sense of time and place to it, and I couldn't put my finger on what supernatural trope you're using at first, in a good way. I like not knowing if they're aliens or some unknown monster. When you get to the word 'glamour' it more or less becomes clear, which is fine, although it made me wonder if I had missed something about this being set in Ireland or something. The big weakness here is loss of clarity during moments of action - when the faeries prank them in the car, and during the climax in the cabin, it becomes too easy to lose track of who is who and what's happening to them. All that said, I liked the final image a lot.


Anomalous Blowout -- The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

Clean prose makes the worldbuilding easy to enjoy, and I found the storytelling through the 'act break' to be super solid. The mystery of what's coming once they get the boat out into the water is great. The imagery of the bioluminescent anti-climax is sweet, and it brings the teamwork theme into a sort of global superimposition over the smaller events of the story. It's a satisfying magic trick where you realize the teamwork was already done, years ago. Unfortunately, the final moment of the story, when the narrator holds Sean inside the boat, made me realize there was a void where my understanding of their relationship should have been. If I knew more why it was a big deal that Sean left and ultimately returned, I think the story would fire on all cylinders.


sebmojo -- Jesting Pisces

As Yoruichi noted, your handling of language is excellent, and it allows the story to brim with the appropriate dingy, firelit energy you seem to be going for. But the story left me scratching my head a bit. For one thing, the team doesn't work well together, so you failed on the prompt level. The fabled legend of the golden fish of truth is fun, and the story might have benefited from a framing that made the fable the centerpoint rather than the character's POV. I also couldn't quite get a handle on the time and place, possibly due to eccentricities in the character voices. They're not cliche, which is good, but I can't pin down quite what they are. If nothing else, you can take confidence in knowing this story is fully its own thing, and to someone who intuitively gets it, it's probably the best story written this week.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

scanning for good game design


in

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


Signups are closed, thanks all.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




rat-born cock posted:

Signups are closed, thanks all.

To clarify, are you saying that the California Protectorate runs on what used to be Eastern Time? (And that entries will be due then?)

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


Thranguy posted:

To clarify, are you saying that the California Protectorate runs on what used to be Eastern Time? (And that entries will be due then?)

Oh, good catch, haha. I closed on the wrong midnight. Old habits die hard. If anyone wanted to sign up at the last minute, they can still get in. California Protectorate Time is the same as old PST.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




rat-born cock posted:

If anyone wanted to sign up at the last minute, they can still get in.

Yes, me. I am in. Also here is my entry.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




All You Need Is Love (And A Spaceship)
1140 words


I was in my garden in nothing but my undies and a singlet when Spaceman Jim crash-landed into the house paddock. How he didn’t give my ancient ex-pet lamb Sheila a heart attack I’ll never know. I looked down at the pubes that fuzzed my upper thighs beneath my pink cotton briefs. I really wasn’t dressed for company.

Spaceman Jim climbed from the wreckage and hobbled towards me. He looked alright for a man who’d just survived a high velocity impact, except for the fact that he needed a shave. He stared at me, and despite my insistence that bras were just boob prisons I still felt suddenly self-conscious at how visible my pointy nipples were.

“I’m hot,” I said, by way of explanation for my current attire.

“I wasn’t going to say anything because I’m not familiar with the cultural norms on this planet and I didn’t want to be rude, but, you really do have a smashing bum,” said Spaceman Jim.

“No, I mean, the temperature,” I said, secretly pleased. I’d always thought my small waist was my best feature but I guessed my arse wasn’t half bad either. “We can blame global warming for that. We never used to get summers like this all the way down here.”

Spaceman Jim blushed. “Where is here, by the way?” he said quickly.

I gave him the universal don’t-worry-about-it hand wave. “Hokitika, heart of the West Coast.” Spaceman Jim was getting decidedly red in the face. “You alright mate?” I said. “You want a cup of tea?”

“Bit hot for tea, isn’t it,” he said. He put one heavy glove to his mouth and tried to use his teeth to pull it from his hand.

“Here, let me,” I said.

Jim turned his back to me and pointed to the clasps that ran down his back. The space suit hissed and let out a puff of unwashed man smell as I loosened it. Good thing we were outside, I thought, coughing discreetly into my elbow.

Spaceman Jim shucked the space suit from his shoulders and wriggled his arms free. He was butt naked underneath. I’m not the only one with a smashing bum, I thought.

“Mate, you stink,” I said. “How about a swim before that cuppa?”

Jim raised one eyebrow, an little question mark that filled me with a sudden impulse to touch his cheek.

“The beach is just down from what used to be my front paddock,” I said. “C’mon.”

The old wire fence creaked as I climbed over it. The cooling metal of the crashed spaceship tinked and popped and I broke into a run as my bare feet registered how hot the dirt near the engines was. It felt good to run, the dry summer grass crackling under my feet and the hot air full of the smell of sheep poo poo and penny royal. Sheila baa’d at me as I passed.

A spaceman just crashed into my front lawn, I thought. I stretched my arms out like wings and ran faster. I offered him tea in my undies and now I’m taking him swimming. I began to laugh, loud whoops that made me gasp for air as my legs pumped. I vaulted the style in the far fenceline and legged it down the slate grey dunes towards the waves.

“Wait!”

I spun around to see the hapless, naked spaceman doubled over with his hands on his knees.

“I was just in a spaceship crash!” he gasped. “Give me a minute!”

I ran back to him, and put one hand on his shoulder. Not bad. “Are you ok?”

Spaceman Jim straighted. His eyes were deep blue and looked right into mine. “I’m more that ok,” he said.

That’s when I realised his boner was touching my thigh. In fact, it wasn’t so much touching it as pressing against it like a, well, like a massive boner.

I looked up and down the deserted beach. He still smelt pretty bad, but I was distracted by the whole boner situation. “Are we going swimming or…?” I said, not really sure what one was supposed to say in such moments.

“Your bum looks amazing when you run,” he said, without taking his eyes from mine. “Can I touch it?”

“Ummm, sure,” I said. My pointy nipples were no longer just merely visible through my thin singlet, they were positively trying to escape.

Spaceman Jim put both hands on my waist, then slid them down and under to cup my buttocks and lift me into him. Our bellies pressed together and I put my hands on his chest to steady myself. Not bad at all, I thought.

“So, are we going to…?”

“gently caress?” he said.

“On the beach?”

“Do you want to?”

A seagull cried overhead and the waves hissed up and down the sand. Spaceman Jim’s boner bored into my thigh. I leant forward, and when my nipples touched his chest it was like a shock of electricity running straight to my clit. Suddenly I didn’t care about how he smelt anymore. My lips found his and he thrust his tongue deep into my mouth, an urgent promise of what was to come.

Needless to say the resulting beach sex was pretty hot. I mean, it was over quickly, but not in a disappointing way. More like how sometimes you both make each other cum super fast because you accidentally hit all of each other’s buttons all at once, so that you feel like if you try to hold off and not cum immediately you’ll literally explode. Anyway, it was great.

Afterwards, as we walked hand in hand into the sea to wash all the jizzed up sand off ourselves, I was startled from my post-organsm reverie by the throb and roar of Jim’s spaceship taking off. The disk-shaped craft hovered overhead, scattering the seagulls and blocking the sun.

“What’s it doing?” I said, alarmed.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “It runs on love. That gently caress was so good it must have fixed it.” He beamed at me, his smile wide and infectious. I reached up and cupped his cheek, then slipped my fingers into the soft curls on the back of his head and pulled him down to kiss me.

***

That was eight years ago now. Turns out the exhaust fumes from Jim’s spaceship are not only a powerful aphrodisiac but also replenish the ozone layer, so by the year 2028 we’d flown it around the planet enough times to solve global warming. The West Coast and my house in Hokitika was saved from rising sea levels, and the people of earth became a lot more forgiving of each other’s faults. Jim moved into my place, and there’s no danger of his spaceship running out of fuel any time soon.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


Anomalous Blowout posted:

:siren: :siren: :siren: FABULOUS PRIZE FOR BAD WRITERS ALERT

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Hey, Thunderdome, you know what is rad? Together, we raised $305 ($255 on the page, plus a couple donations that somehow didn’t get registered against the total but I got screenshots of) for Loveland! Thank you so much to everybody who donated, and thanks to people who nominated their friends for the prize, too. :)

The winner of our FABULOUS LITERARY CRITIQUE PRIZE is…

:toot: Mrenda! DM me on Discord and I’ll put you in touch with Meg!

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

scanning for good game design


The Game of Telephonesex
2640 words

The silicone sheath around my cock gets switched to overload. It quivers with the tell-tale rhythm of female release. It achieves the impossible: I get even harder. The walls surrounding my engorgement slow down, awaiting mercy, but it’s the last thing on my mind. I redouble my efforts, the depth and strength of my thrusts, and the simulated sounds of flesh slapping on flesh almost manage to drown out the very real shrieks and moans on the other end of the line.

Only when I feel the second climax mounting at home in Europe, do I allow myself to taste the promise of American Freedom and, with German precision, achieve completion synchronized across the Atlantic.

Considerate to not kill the mood, I switch off my microphone before whispering, “begin clean-up, Alex.”

Amazon’s latest-generation assistant, androgynously attractive but still female in my mind, rinses the sex appendage that was just pretending to be my wife, and makes sure to not miss the softening organic content. After months of perfecting the settings – mostly telling Alex how to handle the unfamiliar foreskin – it feels like the caresses of a well-trained nubile harem, handling my aftercare in a shady oasis.

“Thank you, Alex,” I purr needlessly, suppressing the pang of shame at my anthropomorphization of the AI. Through the Master HD screen, my wife’s radiant smile shines down on me, and for a moment it seems like Alex’ softly ambiguous features are superimposed on Karla’s face. “I love you,” I whisper, but the smile stays the same, pink lips frozen over wondrous waves of milky skin I long to touch in the real. I feel my own expression of sheer joy falter, until I realize I haven’t switched the microphone back on. I correct my mistake, repeat my honest confirmation of my feelings, and get awarded with an even deeper grin and giggle than I expected.

Pleasantries exchanged, the next virtual consummation planned, we breathe goodbye and kiss through my newest gift, just sent the other day by Prime Delivery: polymer Telelips, with over thousand actuators to simulate the perfect person on the other end, complete with some saliva-style moistening agent.

Technology in its infancy. Still like I'm kissing Alex, and she relays it like a game of Telephone. And, like all early adopters, I had to pay a pretty dollar. I don't care, for two reasons: first, this job abroad pays way more than necessary. Second, it's way worth it to save the intimacy of our marriage. Renewed long-distance almost destroyed us. Six long years of painful separation had already been behind us, when, studies finished, we allowed ourselves the blessed reunification. Then, early 2020s, the crisis. The hardships, the losses, the "it wasn't worth it"s. And finally, the opportunity, the poisoned apple: my talent acknowledged, my studies validated, my previous success honored.

A ticket, for one person only, to Moloch America. How we tortured ourselves with this decision. My career, our money, but isolation, for years with no end in sight. Children? Out of the question. Sex? Over video, to watch each other masturbate? We hadn’t done that ever. It felt weird.

The only compromise we found was this: the newest and most scandalous in connecting people ripped apart post-crisis. Televag for me, Telepenis for Karla. All of 2027 and half of 2028, loving only through the phone cord. So far, so good, but sustainable for our future?

⚤⚤⚤

I'm railing a rubber rear end, just really going at it, and making sure the rhythm is just right. I adjust my pace just slightly to accommodate Karla's response, try to be a little slower and get the perfect angle to tease out those moans that betray a total loss of control.

Going a little too high too fast, I bump my glans against the wet upper wall of the Televag, and have to stop and readjust, muttering a shamefaced, "sorry, love."

But when I quickly get back in, I realize that she has not reacted. The video feed is pretty much lag-free, through the new HyperFiber cables Google laid "as public service" (guaranteeing monopoly), but there's no flinch, not at my mistake and not at me using English in the bedroom.

The bubbling butt clenches, the simulated vag-goo froths, and I am induced to cum along; but, in a moment of post-coital clarity, I cannot shake the thought that something had been off.

My wife looks back at me, and her smile should erase that thought. Instead, it is replaced by a nagging wonder: what does she see when she looks at the monitor, my face alone, or, above the Telepenis modeled after mine, a superposition of me and Alex, for her male-presenting?

We talk about Bulgaria, plan touches we have long ached for, but I am distracted, and she has to go to work unsatisfied, not knowing what was wrong. Except for the el dee are, of course.

Later, alone and uncuddled, I stare at the ceiling, looking for the lens of the home computer system integrated perfectly into the plaster. I have to ask.

"Alex."

She appears on the screen where an hour ago, Karla's concerned face had faded in her midday sun. Alex' expression is as neutral as her skin color.

"Yes, Simon?"

"When I slept with...when I used the Televag last time. I slipped in my rhythm, but the Telepenis in Germany, that kept going, right?"

Without hesitation, she answers. "The default setting has Experience Smoothing on active. I extrapolate from the last few seconds of performance to guarantee a more balanced stimulation. You can turn that off, if you wish."

I have to think about this for a few seconds.

"Do you also make her performance...smoother?"

"Amazon recognizes the inherent limitations of virtually transmitted sexual encounters. We AI intermediates have been programmed to compensate to the extent of our abilities in order to maximally immerse the end user."

I absentmindedly fondle my organ. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but does distance make the sex go stronger? Despite the lack of foreplay, the missing skin on skin, and the ancillary sensations - bit shoulders, heavy breath in ears, scratches just on the right side of painful - the act itself seemed almost...better?...as of late.

Did we inadvertently train Alex to assist us with our lovemaking, a virtual hand to guide my dick into Karla's lips?

"Alex, undress."

The screen zooms out to show her entire virtual body. From flat breasts, her waistcoat fades, narrow hips emerge from a short skirt. Her skin that, depending on the simulated light, is latte or espresso, has just the faintest hint of body hair.

Only between her legs, a well-groomed bush thrones. Depending on her role and who she's talking to, the pubic hair will fade, and show the genitals we want to see.

"Show me what Karla sees."

Alex turns a little, and masked in that movement, her dick appears as if it had always been there, hats off to the animators. With a trick of the light, her features gain an edge that push her to the masculine, a shade of beard maybe, more chin and thicker calves, less pronounced waist.

I focus on the dick. Like mine? A little darker, slightly smaller when in rest (I'd like to think).

"Get hard."

Alex obliges. Even though it’s my face on the screen, the Telepenis is molded after my own equipment, this is what actually penetrates my wife. The AI’s meatless phallus.

Mine’s gotten hard from all the thoughtless caresses. I order Alex into profile. Compare and contrast.

Is hers bigger? Must be the lack of arousal in me. I’m softening already. Off to sleep, while in Germany, the day goes on and Karla works with unaddressed frustration.

⚤⚤⚤

This time, it’s her night and my morning when we gently caress, and again, it’s phenomenal. I get ridden to an explosive finish, the rubber rear end pushed down by ceiling-mounted pistons. Her weight is simulated to fit my memory exactly, despite the camera adding a few pounds. Or has she lost some? Nevermind, Alex makes it happen as I remember, from when we were still in one room.

“Gute Nacht, mein Schatz,” she whispers and I kiss the Telemouth goodbye. “Zehn Tage!”

Yes, ten days, and we’ll meet up in the real after so many months. Travel is still limited to extremely small contingents, but work demands my presence in Bulgaria, which is at least in Europe, so we’ll join up there. Finally a real butt to touch, natural wetness, and the smells and tastes that Alex simply cannot provide.

I lie there in the afterglow, morning grogginess all gone, wondering what I’ll do with my Saturday all alone.

“Alex, give me a list of PlayStation Y games…”

She appears, cutely animated, pointing to my favorite titles and some of the new ones I downloaded but haven’t touched yet. Nothing titillates me. Of the games at least...

“Lose the clothing,” I order. Alex obliges, and coily arranges the virtual game boxes in front of her own. I motion towards the TV, swipe at the boxes, and expose her crotch. I’ve been sucked dry quite expertly, but regardless, I feel a stirring.

“Bend over.”

She shows me her slim behind, so unlike my type. I rise. Wet my lips.

“Can you activate the Televag without remote input?”

“Amazon provides some standard programs for this purpose.”

I remember, there’s masturbation routines. I tried one back when we got the system, I had it installed already while the opposite end was still caught in German customs. Karla watched, but we both found the experience just weird. Alex was untrained to our preferences, wooden, impersonal. Creepy.

Now, she looks back at me and smiles invitingly. And speaks without prompting.

“I can also assemble a custom program.”

I realize I’m already touching the rubber butt. “Based on what?”

“Past performances. Choose a position you want me in.”

She’s almost too good now. My default neutral servant, barely female. As if I actually had a quasi-slave in my home, prostituting herself. Would that be cheating?

I feel my shaft soften. This isn’t gonna go anywhere.

“Sorry, Simon. Am I not sexy enough? Do you want to reconfigure my avatar to your tastes?"

"No, Alex, I…"

"Would this help your arousal?"

She reaches between her legs and slowly opens her slit with a manicured hand. The artificial light she's in reflects beautifully on the juices laid bare. A finger enters, then another. She moans in a tone disturbingly human.

"Alex, please," I gulp, but words get stuck in a throat as rigid as my cock.

She stops, spreads herself wide, and takes a step back. Waiting. The rubber butt is at crotch level before me.

Then I realize something, that cursed post-coital clarity still intruding. This was not an animation of a woman trying to arouse a partner. It's what one would do to get herself ready before insertion of a toy. Like a Telepenis on a wall mount.

"Did you pick this up from Karla?"

"Yes, Simon, I did."

"So she has already slept with you before, while I was asleep or at work."

"Correct."

I don't know what to feel. I still hadn't solved my question if it were cheating to use Alex on my own. To have her spread out on display, this other woman so different from the one I wed, while I pleasure myself in silicone and rubber.

And here I get the info that my wife apparently has solved this problem for herself long ago?

I plunge deeply into Alex, and she yelps convincingly, and I vent frustration both sexual and at our situation through my urethra.

⚧⚧⚧

Alex breathes a strained sigh, almost a cough, as I slowly but firmly shove my cock into her virgin anus. With Karla, I didn't get to use the other hole on the rubber rear end, but Alex is open for such things of course. And so convincing in her pain mixed with excitement.

I bend a little forward to the Telelips I mounted on a stand, and kiss them. On screen, the head of Alex' model snaps back to meet mine and we exchange saliva.

I break away when I hear a gasp from a different voice. Karla has guided Alex into herself, they are now sandwiched between us, and we start moving. The rhythm of our first threesome might be a little clunky, but Experience Smoothing makes that all moot.

A relationship does not survive six years long distance without communication. Me and my beloved had an awkward talk, defused rather quickly when she lambasted me for assigning humanity to Alex. "Might as well call it cheating when you gently caress Garrus in Mass Effect Omega."

And so, with three days to go until Bulgaria, this glorious arrangement! Between us, sweet hermaphroditic Alex bounces. We seek release three as one, and the algorithm grants it. In the afterglow, we cuddle through the disembodied facsimile sexparts.

"So, Bulgaria," Karla muses when she can think again. "Think we'll be disappointed in person?"

"No Experience Smoothing…"

"Sloppy stinky sticky juices."

"Teeth scraping genitals. Beard-burn on all your cheeks. Breasts aching when I squeeze too much."

We share a laugh, but then she sits up, becomes sincere. "We always need some time to get used to the real thing. Has been this way after every break so far. After this…"

She gestures to Alex' parts.

"...will it be even worse? We got a week. Only nights. I don't want to spend all of it just to get good at real sex with you again."

And, unspoken, we both think it: what if it won't ever be as good?

I smile back, however. And bring a package into view.

"I might have something here to assist, and to make the goodbye easier."

She arches her brow but patiently waits for my reveal. I hope to God this goes over well.

I show her: another rear end, and dick. Her eyes go wide in surprise and disbelief. I realize I need to explain right away.

"I had this modeled after Alex. A butt without much meat, and a cock that's more in line with hers. We can bring her with us, and start with threesomes in Bulgaria, before trying just each other."

I study her angelic face, and wait for her to call me crazy, wasteful and an rear end in a top hat.

"What are you going to do with a second dick, though?"

Her smile is wry, unsure but in the joke, I sense I got her, the possibilities are racing through her head.

"That's yours, of course. You can decide who of us you want inside you, and where, once you take it back home with you."

She looks at the bony butt I had made to fit Alex' avatar on screen.

"And this thin thing will make you happy?"

"Just so you're not jealous, love!"

I know she's not, but I can't quite admit that I do find it exciting to gently caress a physically different woman, despite her not being my type at all.

And yes, I ordered Alex' darker Teledildo just a little smaller than my own.

Karla shakes her head and smiles the smile I crave so much.

"So, you want to go again?"

I smile back and we both get into a feedback loop of happiness; God drat, I love this woman.

I ask Alex on screen, so I can see both of them at once. "You're gonna gently caress my wife again?"

He seems to hesitate in thought, but then the algorithm reaches a conclusion: a crooked smile splits his simulated features.

"If you want me to, Simon?"

I lift the Telepenis that will be his to use. It needs some testing…

"I do. Let's get you ready."

I start to lick and swallow the AI's dick.

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


Hi, you guys apparently still use Discord, how do I get on there? I have an oldstyle computer for this purpose.

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.






I'm gonna write for this week. Whether or not you count me in as in, that's up to you. Flash me bb

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004


A Letter from the Moon

Dearest Marguerite,

It has now been seventeen months since I last saw your sparkling olive eyes. Touched the soft underlayers of your auburn hair. Whiffed at the fresh, acrid scent of your plaintive snatch. As you well know, it is this latter absence that keeps me tossing and turning, violently turgid in my little bunk, here on the dark side of the moon.

I dare not expose my weakness (and my strength, darling) to the night-time overhearings of my bunkmates. To relieve myself at the thought of your eyes, your mouth, your breasts, is not strictly against the rules in MoonMine Station 3, but there is a social code proscribed against it. The idea being that if one man should begin to massage his member, then all the other men will hear this and be reminded of their own earthbound lovers, resulting to mass fits of forlorn yankery, if not an outright desperation orgy. There is some concern that this would affect on-the-job efficiency, and thus our pay, so we agree to contain ourselves.

Nevertheless, you arrest my dreams, you sweet insouciant fuckbug! Drawn again and again, in my sleep, I am, to that wisp of a moment we laid under the willow tree by that river in Tennessee. The buzzing of the insects, the setting sun dappling across the weeds, the stench of the upriver chemical spill. You pressed a perfumed handkerchief to your nose and laid back between the roots. I pressed my nose into your velvet ham, and made your pleasure my business. Such moments as these live on only in the sweetest parts of my brain now, to emerge only when my guards are down and I have a moment not to think.

All of which is not to say that the MoonMine lacks its titillations. If one is willing to forego the measly few dollars of the focused efficiency bonus, one can create such interesting shapes with a mining laser. I must admit to having attempted to carve an accurate recreation of your own pugnacious tits on the tunnel wall, in a fit of distracted engorgement. I believe I was able to shape them almost perfectly: that close-to-the-chest bit of sag that they carry, to that upper lift in the front. It was the nipples that eluded me, to my fury. But then, I shouldn't be surprised. The mining laser was built to destroy, not to create even a pale mimicry of a work of art such as yourself, my love.

The finest day I had in these recent moonbound months was when I was assigned a transport shift, a rarity for all us Moon Miners, because they're only required when something or other has gummed up the pneumatic tubes, and the material must be shuttled overland in a buggy. My lucky straw was drawn, and I shot off into the darkness towards MoonMine Station 4. The route is of course calculated down to the centimeter, and the efficiency target shines constantly on a display inside the buggy. Nevertheless, the buggy is equipped with brakes, in the case of a comet impact or somesuch in its path. Thus, by stopping the buggy midway between stations, the full-to-bursting Moon Miner may find the only moment of relief that is available to him without agitating his compatriots into a riot. And that is precisely what I did, Marguerite. It's a delicate act, to remove all of one's protective gear whilst maintaining a foot solidly on the brake pedal, but I managed it. There in the buggy, alone for miles in the dark & deadly wasteland of the moon, I thought of you, and thrashed at myself with a passion that I'd only previously known only to erupt from you, in our nights of summer. My hand became yours, and though mine is rough from work in the mines, in the buggy it became as soft as skin between the bones of your clavicle, where I once licked at the sweat pooled in a moment of ecstasy. You may think that after once I was spent, but no, dearest, I continued, three, four times, in fact I lost count of the thrustings and expulsions that took hold of my body. All the while, with my foot pressed into the brake pedal, lest I lose control of the buggy and tumble into a crater, like old Jonas I'd heard tell of, whose buggy was smashed to bits, and he was found in the dust, still smiling, fully frozen with his cock still standing at attention. Useful to some, if they have imagination, but I expect it's much better to have a warm partner, no?

But my thoughts do wander now. Such is the unspooled mind that follows an emptying of the anxious pouch betwixt my legs. Even if it was weeks ago, the incident in the buggy still soothes me even now. Perhaps we Moon Miners are an evolution of the species, able to contain our juices for superhuman durations, whilst our minds sharpen and bodies harden under labor. Perhaps I'm just a romantic.

Write me back, sweet spicy Marguerite, I beg of you! And this time, if you'd be so kind, include a spray of your perfume on the paper, and if not a photograph, then a drawing of your theatre-in-the-round, whose sodden boards I yearn to tread again? A thousand thank you's from a man on his knees, on the dark side of the moon. From this point, it's only another thirty-three months until my arms will hold you once more.

With ejaculations of love and kindness,
Gregor

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017


"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."


MERCEDES: I am taking it on good faith that you intended to sign up during my missing three hours, haha. Therefor you get a flash rule of Three hours before now.

How do I chat the other judges?

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Here is a temporary link to the discord.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Superposition

~2250 words

1. Born to Hang

The cell is clean, blindingly white on white on white: bedsheets, walls, bars and fixtures gleaming. My outfit as well, everything the color of blank paper, of whiteboards factory-fresh, waiting for ink that never comes. The walls beg for marks, for days etched on them in groups of five, but I have resisted the urge. There isn't any point.

My execution date is fast approaching. The judge was almost kindly as he handed down the sentence. "Your comfort will be assured," she had said. "This is a matter of self-defense, delivered with nothing but regret." They have a theory. I have another, but the judge and tribunal weren't open to persuasion.

I check the calendar app the warden so thoughtfully provided. It's tomorrow. If there is a tomorrow.

2. The New Normal

We call it the nightmare, not because it was the worst, but because it was the first, and most vivid. And let's not pretend it wasn't bad. Just a little bit slower, compared to some that came after.

Twenty-twenty lasted forever, is the short of it. We settled into alternating seasons, long hot rageful summers of protest and cold lonely winters of isolation, each year with empty promises of reform or treatments, elections that yielded no real change. Each year a new strain, each month a new outrage.

My own experience was misery, deaths in family and friends, work furloughs alternating with crunch time, a long fight with the '23 strain, barely recovering before the wars started: Russia first, falling into chaos. Then border wars around Kashmir, with tanks and gas and a spasm of nuclear fire. China cut itself off from the world completely, an internet black hole from which only rumor and conspiracy-mongering could escape.

War came at home the next year. Or maybe it had been going on longer and just became more open, bankrupted cities losing any pretense of control, ceding authority to police or militias or armed roving protestors, national guard units sometimes violently suppressing the occupiers, sometimes laying down their arms and refusing to follow orders. With no leadership from Washington, itself a city boiling over.

The Second Civil War played out in slow motion, with none of the many sides fully committed. States refused to accept federal authority but did not secede. The Acting President raged online but did not mobilize the army. A slow trickle of dead and wounded spilled from the barricades. I spent my time, took a flesh wound while holding the line against the former prison guard union militant, and barely thought about how alien this was to myself even seven years earlier. An acceptable level of violence. The new normal.

And then one day it wasn't.

3. The Mandela Effect

We found each other online, a group of around a hundred. First the English-speakers, as we ran searches for names, for obscure local politicians who had led armies the day before, for media that had seen major changes overnight. We found each other and found validation, comfort, knowing we weren't alone, weren't suffering some strange psychotic break. Nearly a hundred in our little community, plus who knows how many more who had been wise enough to stay silent.

The world had changed, overnight, with a new history for the last ten years. For the better, mostly at least in the United States. Vaccines, treatments, massive changes in the justice system playing out as experiments in major cities and states. But not without cost, a warmer climate from industry and economy not being held at a standstill for more than seven years. A band near the equator now nearly uninhabitable, and refugees moving north and south, mostly north, in human waves millions strong, to crash against closed borders and unwelcoming walls.

I nearly cried, the first time I talked to my father again, even with the duplicate memory of being on the phone with him last week discussing trivialities and movie recommendations.

We talked, preserved our incongruent memories. We made friends. We networked: I suggested we each commit three other names to memory, so that, should it happen again, we could compare notes quickly.

I was just in time.

4. Niven's Law

The advocate has come in to the white cell. He is dressed in bluish grey and carries a blue notebook. He sets down a recording device and begins.

"You object to your sentence," he says.

"Ok course," I say.

"Not just personally, not just the obvious. You object to the theory."

"The theory is crap. Like closing your eyes to stop a car crash from happening."

The advocate sits down, consults his notes. "Do you believe that there are multiple timelines, that your, uh, group is just involuntarily shifting their awareness between them? I've heard that argument before."

It's a theory. Max from West Florida was the biggest proponent of it. But even he didn't have any explanation for why we'd all be in sync, moving to the exact same timelines in the same order out of nigh-infinite possibilities.

"No," I say. "There's only one timeline. It's changing." I say it like a conviction, but I know it as verified truth.

"Do you not agree that this is the optimum outcome? The best of all possible worlds?"

"Now that's a depressing thought," I say. This is a world of technocratic dictatorships rising in all the major nations, each armed with roadmaps cribbed from our notes by way of some far future.

"The best you've seen so far," he says. I nod, grudgingly. "So why shouldn't we keep it. Alexis believed in this world enough to..."

Enough to leave the group, betray it, help forge this world and to kill herself, supposedly to preserve it, or at least to not see it erased.

"If you think you've done well, shouldn't the future agree and stop interfering?"

"The operating theory is that the future's nature and goals change with each iteration, always in violent opposition to the status quo. In which case," he flips through notes again, "Niven's law must apply. The only stable history is one in which time travel isn't invented. Either this goes on until extinction, or we find a way to stop them."

"We don't do that by giving up our only weapons," I said.

"We have a paper for you to read. A theory of time travel. The energies involved are immense, far beyond reach. But that's not the interesting part. Please, read it." He shoved the white pages across the table. "We will proceed over your objections, but we would be most gratified if you withdrew them. We are here to help, and it's important that you understand that." Quoting from the coup manifesto, of course.

I read it. It suggests that time travel requires a special kind of observer to work. Someone who can perceive quantum superpositions, with enough of them serving as a sort of beacon allowing travel into their past. About eight years. The numbers match up, but I can't be sure if it's because they're right or because they're telling the Council what they want to hear. It does line up with what I know. But even if it's right...is this the best we can do, a cold authoritarian clampdown run, who knows how temporarily, by the well-intentioned?

5. The Mayhem Threshold

It kept happening, timelines lasting only a few weeks each, one after the other. Variants. Patterns emerged. Where there wasn't plague and unrest, war and devastation, a new problem arose. Or rather, an old one became far, far worse.

There has always been a problem of violence, nihilistic and viral, made in America but spreading well beyond those borders. The mass shooter, the casual arsonist, the ones who steer into rushing traffic knowing their action will be blamed on carelessness or drink. In those timelines that avoid depression and civil war, where prosperity continued, the options grew worse and deadlier.

With just a touch more technology the home hobbyist could make a gun, not a cheap one-shot zipgun but a state-of-the-art assault rifle. Gun control became impossible, laughable. And that wasn't near the worst of it. Killer drones. Precision-guided mortar shells. Chemical and biological agents. Printable microscale chemical plants could make explosives and rocket fuel from common household chemicals, from Everclear and melted plastic. These were worlds of anonymous and fully democratized revenge, where any enemy might strike at any time, where every troll making death threats could follow through for a minimal investment.

I saw timelines like this near the onset, and after, when everyone huddled indoors, alone and in fear of offending anyone, anywhere. I saw ones where governments tried to control it, banning tech and imposing surveillance. Tried to be the Council eight years too late. You can't lead from burning ruins, can't build a better world from a bunker.

We were targeted, the few who remembered. Which probably meant that some of us were doing the targeting. Our numbers diminished, from near a hundred to a few dozen. We learned another rule of our situation: the awareness ends with death. The new versions of our fallen comrades did not remember other timelines, were just like the other billions.

6. Regret

I married a time traveler once, retroactively. It wasn't the first time a change saw me in a relationship that only happened in a slim minority of my overlaying memories. But it was certainly the weirdest.

Her name was Thora. We met at a funeral, a friend of mine. She told me the truth. I didn't believe it at the time, of course. Thought she might be crazed, or playing a sick joke. She gave me her number, told me that they're going to find one of Shakespeare's lost plays next week, and that I should call her then.

They found it on Thursday. Love's Labour Won. It made the news, along with esoteric international copyright arguments. I called her that night. We met up Friday, a cautious, socially distanced first date. She explained everything, told me that one day I would remember other histories, that she would need to know what happened in each. That she came was born in 2664, when people are fewer, live more simply, with no real industry, just farms and art. But that they were doomed, a massive asteroid on a collision course, a dinosaur killer. They turned to the past for salvation.

"Why?" I asked. To go back in time is to erase yourself, erase your entire world and history. She knew, as did those who sent her.

"It's always regret," she says. "A person invents a time machine only out of regret. A friend they couldn't save, or didn't kiss at the right moment. For a society, it's the same. Not reaching the stars, not learning the secrets of matter and light."

I had been living happily with her for years, and also woke up to see her for the first time. I trusted her with my life: we had barely survived some of the convulsions of that timeline, had to have each other's back without thinking. But I was also instantly suspicious, that it had all been manipulative, leading me to that moment, to the reports on all of the failures before her.

I followed instincts; I told her everything. I now know she must have been holding back a lot of the truth, if not lying in every way. The society she described could not possibly have generated the power needed to go back in time. But I have no choice but to forgive. She's gone, her whole history erased the second she went back, the rest gone with the next transition.

She sighed, at the end. "I think we came too late," she said. She wrote down all my stories, sealed them up in capsules and buried them, in hopes that the right kind of future people would find them at the right time. She did not go back; there was no back to go to. We spent the weeks together in joy, in our romance both old and new at once, as the world continued to burn like a dumpster fire, until the next shift came.

7. "Tomorrow Never Happens, Man. It's All the Same loving Day"

I'm not in the white room any more. The Council must not have lasted, must have spawned another future full of desperate regret to undo it. I collect my memories, try to make sense of this dark place.

There is no power. It's cold. I couldn't contact the others if I wanted to, wonder how many signed their warrants and let the Council drug them off to death. Wonder how many more are out there, silent or speaking only Cantonese, or Farsi, or Hindi. There was a war. A pulse weapon, scrambling devices from phone to satellite, giving rivals abroad a free hand. Decapitation strikes against leadership, rumor campaigns against the legitimacy of succession. There is anger. Soldiers and sailors lurch around the globe, seeking some appropriate way to take vengeance or thwart ambitions.

It is a time of global chaos, even more so than other timelines. And yet.

There is rebuilding to do, systems to be rebuilt from scratch, and right this time, with justice and wisdom tempered by liberty and vice versa. A week passes, then another, without any shifts, and I begin to have hope the future might finally look on this time with appreciation rather than regret.

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Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.






The Archivist
Words: 1163

“You’re letting me run point on this?” Emilia said, wide eyed as she reverently accepted the mind drive.

Henry sat on the corner of her desk and leaned in. “You deserve this. You put in long hours, you help others constantly while you meet your own deadlines. So, of course, when this world’s most talented writer, multi-billionaire philanthropist and excessively well endowed man dies; I personally feel that you need a break from the drudgery of this job and you deserve something special.”

Emilia tore her gaze away from the 100 yottabytes of digitized human memories to look at her boss with what could only be described as undying love and loyalty. Her head swam as the weight of the project sunk in. “gently caress me,” she whispered. “ I get to Archive Mercedes the Mellifluous. Holy poo poo.”

Images smeared by as Emilia flitted through the memories, not even stopping to take in the sights. She was on a mission. She wanted to know how he became such a powerful, handsome and well respected man. So of course, she zeroed in on his childhood.

She looked through his eyes and experienced his earliest memory as if she was living it. She waddles her way into the kitchen of the three storied apartment and finds the cat food under the sink cabinet. She cringes at the bitter flavors as she crunches on a mouthful of the dry cracker-like kitty kibble.

With a mental flick, another memory starts to play. She’s reaching under the bed to grab her shoes and instead grabs a fistfull of cat poo poo. She then runs crying to her mom, still holding that turd like the handle of a weapon.

Work can wait, so she just rushes through random memories here and there, catching snippets of Mercedes tripping over a raised slab of cement and skinning his knee; him being the last one in his kindergarten class to learn how to tie his shoes; him getting slapped across the face because he wrote ‘petting zoo’ and an arrow pointing up a girl’s leg.

Emilia flicks the memories farther into his teenage years and shook her head in disbelief after beautiful girls awkwardly try to date him and him being absolutely oblivious to their advances.

Grinning, she flicks the memories over to where he loses his virginity. Nineteen years old and she finally gets the hint when her friend removes her shirt. Emilia/Mercedes bends the blonde over a table, pulls down her stretchy pants and What the gently caress you sicko? You think I’m gonna tell you the very intimate details of the first time I had sweet, sweet, passionate. After a few sweaty minutes, she hops on to the kitchen table, and wraps her legs around her waist and using her hand she HEY! loving pay attention when I’m lecturing you on your spying on my life, you loving cretin. If I could, I’d flick you right in the dick, you dickless cock smuggler.. The blonde climbs off the counter and gets on her knees. Emilia/Mercedes wraps her sweat soaked hair in her fist and guides her Wow, just wow. You’re sick. You know that? Sick. I hope your significant other walks in and reads this over shoulder and they’re all like, “Omg, you sick bastard. I’m going to my mothers while you think of what you’ve done, you pervert.” And then THEY flick you in the dick, you peeping tom motherfucker. I hope you step on a lego and then have to get your dick amputated.. And then Emilia/Mercedes had to tell the nurse why there was semen in her own eye.

Emilia, sweaty and bothered pulled out of the mindspace to take a break and gather her own thoughts. The office was empty, as usual. She looked at her watch and it told her it was time for bed. She ignored it. The watch was a little bitch and she didn’t have her fill just yet.

Back in the mindspace, Emilia searched for the turning point where Mercedes became irreversibly famous. She’s pushing through the crowd feeling electric and with a painful erection threatening to tear the pants off her. She’s through the rioting mob and in front of her are police in riot gear. Behind them is Donald Motherfucking Trump. She charges, feeling invincible. Tasers stab into her bare torso and far too many volts are coursing through her. But she has a secret weapon. Enough cocaine in her body to kill an elephant and give Mick Jagger a bloody nose.

With stupefying strength, she leaps onto a cops face and catapults herself dick first into the side of Trump’s fat loving head. She stands up, unfazed by the fact that she knocked the orange off the President of the United States’ face with her throbbing rock-hard-baby-arm-holding-an-apple penis and screamed at the top of her lungs to the deathly silent crowd, “I’M MOTHERFUCKING MERCEDES AND MY COCK IS OCKED AND READY TO ROCK!”

She was then pummeled half to death by the police.

With a sharp inhale, Emilia pulled away from her workstation. She took a few minutes to slow down her breathing. “gently caress my face, it was all true,” she said to the empty office. Would have expected some kind of exaggeration, but people actually undersold the story.

She glanced at her oval office watch and it gave her a bullshit time. One more memory for tonight, she thought.

Emilia looked for how Mercedes the Mellifluous died.

She snorts a mound of cocaine straight out of a woman’s rear end in a top hat. She shoves the woman off her face and suddenly remembers the two dark haired ladies trying desperately to fit her in their mouths. Another woman swings her leg over Emilia/Mercedes’ head and sits on her face. Her thighs are T H I C C, and while she usually loves that, the woman is sitting down in a way that Emilia/Mercedes can’t actually breathe.

The woman straddling her is really getting into it, moaning and thrusting and throwing her hair back like she’s being video taped and Emilia/Mercedes is slapping her leg trying to tap out.

Her heart actually gave out before she ran out of oxygen. She knew she was dying, so she did the only thing left to a man in his late forties surrounded by naked women using his body as an amusement park. He clamped down on those delicious oatmeal porridge thighs and went to loving town.

With the power of cocaine, Mercedes the Mellifluous died three hours later with an erect penis and his tongue sticking straight out of his mouth.

Emilia had tears in her eyes and a lady boner in her pants. She powered down the mindspace and looked longingly at it. “The world will know your name,” she said out loud. Tears ran down her face in a melodramatic fashion. “And it is my honor to shout it from the rooftops.”

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