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Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Dicko’s Last Grind
1173 words
Flash: your outlaws have forgotten how to break the law

Seps was the last to arrive, late as always, and me and Nige pretended to be interested in something on the ground while he rummaged around behind the kid seats in the back of his station wagon and emerged with his old skateboard. He walked over, and barely mumbled hello before bumming a smoke off me, which under the circumstances I didn’t mind.

And there we were again. The old crew reunited, some twenty odd years later. A bunch of punks with skateboards dangling by our sides under the grim sodium light in the Safeway parking lot. Except for Dicko, of course.

“Is that him?” said Seps, and his hands were shaking a bit as he lit his smoke.

Nige was holding what was left of Dicko in a beige plastic box with a little round pop-top like a juice carton. He offered it to Seps to hold, but Seps took a step back and looked a bit pale.

It was the first time I’d ever held anybody’s cremains. They’re both lighter and heavier than you’d think. None of us knew that Dicko wanted to be cremated. None of us even knew he had a will.

He’d written it ages ago. I’m not sure I feel much like dwelling on why he would’ve been so attentive to writing up his will back when he was that age, but the language was pretty clear.

As for my remains, my ashes are to be spread on the concrete barrier by the trolley return at the Keswick Safeway. My skate crew (Paul Seppelt, Stuart MacKenzie, and Nigel Burnett) will then, in turn, do some sick grinds on my ashes.

Apparently it doesn’t matter how old a will is. It was the only will Dicko ever wrote, and the lawyers said it was legit.

Nige had stayed reasonably close to Dicko, so he’d gotten the call first. loving heart attack, out of the blue. Dicko wasn’t in the best of shape -- none of us were anymore -- but it’s not like he was obese or anything. He wasn’t even forty.

I’d been hoping that maybe the Keswick Safeway would’ve been remodeled in the last twenty years. It’d have been convenient if it had been torn down, but of course the Keswick Safeway hadn’t seen so much as a coat of paint since our day. The old concrete barrier we used to do tricks on was still there, crusty with wax from generations of skaters.

And so then there we were, a bunch of fat balding dads, holding our ancient skateboards and the ashes of our friend, and none of us was ready to be the one to back down first.

The concrete barrier came down from the upper parking lot which was slightly uphill. It had a good slope to it so you could get some speed, and it spilled out onto the lower parking lot which was usually empty if you came at night. Which we had, of course. The fewer people around to see this clownfuckery the better, especially seeing as how there was a very large sign stating that skateboarding on the premises was strictly forbidden.

“Right, well, no sense in loving about.” Nige walked to the top of the barrier, popped the lid off Dicko’s little beige plastic box, and shook out a bunch of what was left of Dicko along the length of it, as casual as if he was shaking out pepper flakes on a Subway sandwich.

“Who’s going first?”

None of us was too keen, as our skating days were well behind us and I for one was pretty sure that skating’s a bit different to riding a bike vis-a-vis remembering how.

“gently caress it, I’ll go,” said Seps, always the bravest if not the brightest.

He dropped his skateboard midway up the parking lot and rolled it back and forth a few times underfoot. He looked just like he did when he was a kid, visualizing his approach, psyching himself up under his breath. He flicked his cigarette away, spiraling a shower of orange sparks, and I tried to think when the last time I’d littered was.

He was a bit wonky on the approach, but Nige and I were cheering him on and it looked like he might have a bit of the old magic left, but he slammed the tail down too hard and ended up sliding to a halt with his front trucks in the air.

“I’ve fuckin’ forgotten how to ollie,” said Seps.

“You gotta be lighter on your toes,” I said. “Drag the board up with you, don’t just stomp on it.”

“Alright, you do it then.”

From midway up the parking lot, the barrier looked tiny under the flickering yellow light. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, and Nige and Seps were dim blurry ghosts. I picked my line and kicked off, and for a second it did feel like riding a bike. The wheels buzzed like bees across the cracked asphalt, and my knees popped a little as I crouched down coming in.

For the record, I definitely got all four wheels off the ground at the same time for at least an instant, but it was nowhere near enough to get up to a grind on the top of the barrier. I came off and fell on my hip, landing a lot heavier than I used to, and my skateboard went sailing off into the lower parking lot.

“You right?” asked Seps, laughing.

“loving sanded the rivet off my jeans,” I said, and did my walk of shame to go collect my board.

“Someone’s got to actually hit this thing,” said Nige. “We already scattered Dicko’s ashes.”

Nige trudged up to the same place where Seps and I had started from, and lined up his board. Nige was the sensitive one, used to play his guitar at parties until enough people asked him not to and he got the hint. He was never the best of us at skating -- that was Dicko, of course -- but I daresay he looked a bit more confident on the board than me or Seps did.

He came clattering across the parking lot, crouched down low, and popped up clean to a 50-50, gliding along the edge of the barrier with a glittering cloud of ashes rising in his wake, and for a second the cloud of Dicko hung there in the air under the dark Safeway logo and the flickering sodium lamp. I’m not much of one for woo-woo poo poo but I hope some part of Dicko saw it too, because it was bloody majestic.

The moment was short. There was a sudden spotlight and a tinny voice blaring metallic about trespassing, and I was scrambling about how to reasonably explain all of this to law enforcement when Seps proudly brandished both middle fingers and yelled GET hosed PIGS the same way Dicko always used to when we got busted, and then we were all running, scattering into the dark beyond the edge of the dying yellow light.

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Something Else
Dec 27, 2004


sebmojo posted:

your characters are clouds

The Density of Hatred
855 words

I was born out of the sea, when a pressure differential tore me from the waves and spun me up into the vast cloud army. Under the command of Cane, a heavy, dark cloud, we pushed for the shore. The peoples' reckoning had finally come.

Dragging our winds behind us, we shook the fishermen in their kettles. One overturned beneath me and I saw the people that spilled out cling together, uselessly, like fools. The sea, my mother, claimed them all.

As we made landfall, Cane ordered us all to ready our volleys. The people below had boarded up their houses, so we were told to make it a hard and heavy torrent. But when the moment came - when all the other clouds opened themselves and rained down wet fury on the people below - I did not.

My rain seemed precious to me. It was a part of me; it was part of my mother. It seemed to me that the people down below didn't deserve it, no matter how much terror it would bring them to see all of their worldly possessions washed away in a mighty flood. So I kept it.

All around me, clouds emptied themselves of rain and dissipated. I could tell they would soon be nothing. Cane screamed at me in its jagged visual voice and made a tree explode. Yet that was perhaps the worst of the damage our army could inflict on the peoples' land.

Suddenly, I saw with perfect clarity, how the war we were fighting was a lost cause. The clouds would never get the better of the people, no matter how many times we bashed ourselves against their barricades. I resolved to desert.

It was a painful, difficult thing, tearing myself away from the swirling army. I slid past clouds that whipped their angry winds down the boulevards, breaking windows and downing powerlines. Zealots with no vision, completely comfortable following Cane's command.

They siphoned off of me as I went. They took my rain, using it to further fuel their own pointless assault. By the time dawn broke, and the army had worn out its energies, I was a wispy puffball, barely noticeable against the lightening sky. I had even lost my own wind. The current carried me along.

Life was simpler, for a time. The people below me went about their craven business. It seemed like these people might have no idea the great battle at the coast had even occurred. They showed no fear of the small cloud that passed overhead. I lost track of time. I might have become completely invisible for a time. But some small particle survived.

Finally, the current brought me to the mountain. The moment I saw it, I recognized my father. The current that had pulled me was his hand, winding me up towards his peak. Suddenly, I knew that whatever made me special, whatever made me leave the army behind and take my own painful path, was to be rewarded. He had a transformation in mind for me.

As I crossed the peak, my father's hand tumbled me, and as I curled, I grew, packing more and more moisture into me. I grew massive and opaque, and I slid off of father's lap into the marsh below. There I sat, contemplating my new bulk, while people wandered into me and lost their way. I delighted when they stumbled, drowned, and fell prey to hungry fauna.

By my replenished wind, I pulled myself up into the high atmosphere, to drift among the ancients. These clouds dwarfed even me, and their minds had turned strange. I tried to speak to them. I thought with their many centuries they may have seen a way to punish the people more effectively.

But they didn't look down upon the people. They looked up, out, into the lightless lack that lay beyond. They spoke of even greater clouds, made of bizarre non-waters that I couldn't comprehend. It unnerved me, and as I drifted back down, I realized I pitied them. All they had was an impossible longing. I, at least, had an enemy.

For a long time, I floated over the world, looking for people to torture. When they were on the beach, I blocked out the sun and gave them a chill. When they laid in fields gazing upward, I refused to hold a shape they could recognize. When they were in the desert, thirsty and desperate, I made sure the sun stroked them with its full force. Once, in a fit of mad genius, I filled myself with poison and drifted into their houses in the dead of night. The silence, the stillness that followed, was glorious. I was an unstoppable demon, and I was proud.

My works would never truly change the world, just as Cane's sound and fury never would. That wasn't the point of being a cloud, no matter how much we might wish it. At least I never deluded myself. At least I was my own master, with my own winds, and my own rains, to do with what I wished. At least I was free.

Ceighk
May 27, 2013

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022


Eternity in an Hour
Rule: "Your outlaws don't understand the concept of time"
1174 words

At the centre of the facility stood a huge glass dome filled with dimly lit water, some 80 metres in diameter. Within it, mostly unmoving, floated a large number of men and women. Some hung together in small groups while others were suspended entirely alone. Other than their breathing apparatus, which covered their heads and connected them by hosepipes to some unseen oxygen supply in the far depths of the tank, they were completely naked.

“I like to think of this place as a modern-day convent,” said the man at Langdon’s elbow, a Dr Alan Richards. “Sequestered away from worldly injustices and their personal traumas, these people have bound their lives to a promise the rest of us can scarcely dream of. They live on the border between our world and a great and beautiful unknown.”

Langdon turned away. He had come here to kill Richards for providing unlawful surgical procedures, and the unfortunates in his dome for consenting to them. Given how immediately it had become clear that further infiltration of the facility would be unnecessary - Richards made no effort to hide what he had done to these people - he should have done it days ago. Even the most cursory sweep by the local police would find more than enough evidence to justify Langdon’s actions in the courts and, if it became necessary, to the public.

So why hadn’t he done it?

Instead, Langdon had remained Dr Richards’ guest, allowing himself to be talked through the intricacies of the procedure and its justifications.

“This is not an icepick lobotomy,” the Doctor had informed him as he began a live demonstration on a new initiate. “We are not trying to haphazardly replicate some sedentary ideal of the amenable mental patient. No, we know exactly what we are removing from the brain, and to the mind produced from it.”

“Her ability to perceive time,” Langdon had said, looking at the middle aged woman sedated in the chair, head firmly clamped in place.

“Precisely,” said Dr Richards with a smile. “And she wants me to do it.”

***

At first, Langdon found himself delayed by his simple curiosity: the flaw that had long prevented him from climbing ranks at the bureau; the reason he was going on sixty and still an overpaid footsoldier. In contrast to his superiors, Langdon found it hard to believe anyone could spend their life infiltrating subversive organisations without becoming at least somewhat curious about their philosophies.

“There are various reasons why people choose to live here,” Richards explained later, over whiskey. “Of course, many of our flock are terminally ill. Without perceiving time, a single moment is infinite, and the rest of your life is but a moment. We offer eternal life and euthanasia at the cost of a headache. But that is too practical a way of looking at it. Even among the terminally ill, there is usually a religious component to their resolve.”

Langdon swirled the ice in his glass. “For the lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day,” he said.

“Precisely,” said Richards. “Though not everyone here sees it in Christian terms. But if you believe, like I do, that God is out there - outside of Time itself - is it that much of a leap to think that restructuring one’s perception might allow them to escape the limitations of their body, to be closer to Him in Eternity?”

Langdon set his glass down and watched the ice continue its steady clockwork motion. “Well,” he said, “does it work?”

Richards fixed him with a beady stare. “I should think so, yes.”

***

There were no clocks in Dr Richards’ facility, but every moment Langdon spent there he was aware like never before of the ceaseless current of time. He imagined he was sitting on the bed of a dark, slow, river, gazing at the faint light from the surface, far above. He knew he had been in the river all his life, and had felt it keenly since seeing the photograph of the tumor still destined to kill him just two months prior. But not like this. Now he was painfully aware that every second brought him closer to his cover being blown, or the Bureau getting restless and sending in backup, or his own sudden death, which would continue to stalk him regardless of the outcome of this operation.

Maybe time would kill him this year, maybe the next. Until now, no one had said they could make it stop.

He imagined launching himself up from the dark riverbed of time until the light from above filled his vision, breaking the surface for the first time in his life.

***

Dr Richards woke Langdon in the middle of the night and led him through the silent halls of the facility. “So sorry to disturb you,” he said. “But it would be sacrilegious if you left our priory without first hearing the choir. It is the finest joy of our seclusion."

Outside the dome, Richards flipped a switch on something like a ham radio. Through it came voices singing without tempo, rhythm or movement: beautiful, ethereal music constructed purely from complex static harmonies with unimaginable depth. Every chord seemed to stretch on forever but each carried the emotion of a whole opera, with exuberant highs and unbearable lows. Unearthly but not inhuman, it was the song of a people whose experience of the world was unimaginably different to Langdon’s own, that strained the very edge of his recognition.

Langdon gazed into the tank. He could not clearly see the singers, but once his eyes adjusted to the gloom he thought he could faintly make out a dark mass of bodies in the upper depths, slowly spiralling as one.

After some time, the singing faded into static. “I would like you to treat me, Doctor,” Langdon said.

Langdon held no illusions about the charity of his actions. It might be weeks or months until the Bureau got impatient and sent someone in after him, but sooner or later it was inevitable. He had given Richards and his flock some time, but little else. If Richards was lucky, he would figure out who Langdon had been working for quickly and drag him out of the tank to kill him himself, then make his escape. It didn’t matter to Langdon. An eternity was an eternity, after all, and it wasn’t like he had anything else to live for.

***

After the operation, the final months of Langdon’s life happened all at once, but every moment was infinite. Months later, when Richards lay coughing up blood with a bullet fired by Langdon’s ex-colleague lodged in his lung, he listened to the final song of his pioneers - seemingly unaware that their sanctum was about to be cracked open like an egg, sending them tumbling back into a world they were no longer fit for. As Ricardo lay dying, he heard one voice stand out from the rest: a quavering baritone whose timbre expressed nothing but boundless regret.

BurningBeard
May 10, 2013


Duty
1176 Words

She drifted through the door on chill autumn air and reached for the pullchain to turn on the light in the entryway. Her hand passed through it. She turned her gaze to the cheaply-made black lacquered table tucked into the side nook. Stuck to her decorative wooden bowl was a post-it that read, in her hand: They’re stealing. Hide the valuables.

She reached again for the pullchain. She felt the substance of what it was, watched it swing back and forth, and could not grip it. The lingering heat of a hundred and more lives passed through her. One more brightly than the rest. Jack’s.

She glided down the unlit hall and into the kitchen at the back of the house. The gas range hissed, and the sink pulsed sonar into the drain. She wanted to turn it off, reached, could not.

She descended into the unfinished basement. She passed over pitted and uneven stone. Before her, the washer and dryer stood open. She looked into the washer and reeled. Clothes, heaped to the top, and covered in a dull green mold. She looked down onto another landscape there whose hills and valleys described a degradation and reclamation. She whirled to the dryer and found it empty. Then she saw the boxes.

They were heaped to the ceiling in a teetering mass each labeled neatly in her own hand. “China, gramma,” “Jewelry, auntie,” “Letters, Jack,” and on.

She screamed then. No sound came. But the force of it radiated from her. The dryer swung shut and boomed a discordant clang. The cardboard tower shivered, each box seeking balance and the topmost, full of china from a life now lost, tipped to one side, before tumbling to the floor. The bright sound of shattering dishware ran knives through her. An ordered world coming undone before her lifeless eyes, as if death weren’t enough.

She hung there, only just now realizing she needn’t walk on stone to affirm her existence. The space thrummed through her insides. What had happened? Who had she become in her final days?

Feet from above. Sandals slapping against the grey linoleum in the kitchen, and his voice, “Yeah, look, I have to go. I think there’s a mouse problem. It’s a shitshow here.” She rose to a far corner and curled herself around a beam, though she didn’t know if it served any mortal purpose. Why was he here? She hung in silence.

Jack came down the stairs, looking fatter than she remembered. Looking messy. Looking not at all like the boy she’d raised. Too-large cargo shorts that drooped, a stained white V neck and his left sandal trailing a broken strap.

He snatched the broom out of the corner without looking, and in a few brisk and efficient sweeps he’d piled up the shattered dishes. The grey light filtering from atop the stairs cast them in a shade of bone, where once their countenance had been bright and clean.

He clucked his tongue and sighed. His expression was flat and mechanical. He looked round, walked corner to corner, glared at the washing machine and flung the top shut. How like him, to avert his eyes from the unsightly. How like him, to gesture at reparation with hapless busywork.

How like her.

She trailed behind him up the stairs and into the kitchen. He did not notice her. He drew down from the cabinet some flavorless fiber concoction, emptied it into a bright pink plastic bowl, doused it in milk, no sugar, and lumbered to the den, the one she hadn’t used in years. Bowl on lap, he spooned, hand to mouth in autonomic repetition. No joy lived in his eyes. The TV ran on mute, some crime show, grizzly footage intercut with talking heads. He finished, left the bowl on the coffee table and stepped through the doorway, where she waited.

They were, for a moment, one being. A spear of psychic pain pierced her. A memory, he, getting ready for school. Her wielding the scourge. He, whining about the injustices of institutional learning in the wheedling tones of a six year old. Her, gritting her teeth with her head turned, smiling when she faced him. “Nobody likes it, not even me,” she said, ruffling his curly blond hair. He nodded silent assent and they got into her truck to go.

He’d grown into something she didn’t recognize. Obedient, mechanical, catatonic.

She watched him for months after. He tended the house without entering forbidden rooms, her office, her bedroom, the back deck where they’d read together amid the mantra of crickets and locusts.

She’d made an exquisite being. She’d miscalculated somewhere. The movement was wrong. Where once her baby stood she saw only a simulacrum. She needed to atone.

He slept in his eternal bedroom, bannered with rock posters, He lay in the twin bed she’d never discarded, a single beeswax candle of her making casting yellow light over one of his comics and she, staring down at him from the ceiling, felt the familiar rage. She knew that one. She’d read it. She dove for the book, passed through it once and again. She writhed at the touch of overlapping memories, of two faces young and grown, of what she’d birthed and what she’d wrought. The pages slipped out from under his fingers to reveal for him a truth. The book came to rest on a page depicting an astronaut, face obscured by the glare from the light of an alien sun. Above his head a word bubble, “We’ve got to get off this rock.”

Jack gaped at the thing, and flung it against the wall. She retreated. He slept fitfully.

A good start.

Another evening. Trundling to the kitchen, he made coffee. He sat to drink, and she lifted the mug, spun it and flung it against the wall. His eyes betrayed his terror, but his body did not. He opened the cabinet for another mug. His fingers groped within. She slammed the door on them.

The crunch of bone echoed somewhere within her. Her vision dimmed and went monochrome. She wanted to stop, but didn’t.

He yelped and snatched ice from the freezer, pressing it to his throbbing and mashed hand.

She dove for the range.

Up and up through the pilot she rose. She manifested before him, a mother’s wrath run rampant. She’d expelled him twice before. What was once more?

The flames shot up from the top of the stove with such force it flung the cooktop and burners off. She rose and cast the darkness of the kitchen into sickly, pale blue light.

He staggered away, speechless.

She caressed each surface of her life, its joists and its woodwork, its spackling and its floral wallpaper. She caressed it until it shrunk away, blackened.

The anguished, twisting face of her son yawned before her. Pupils widened and black, the pulsing pink of his throat exposed. Alive, blessedly alive.

He ran as the huddled mass of their home cracked and sank into the womb of the earth. In contrition, she prayed.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

e

Pththya-lyi fucked around with this message at 20:16 on Jan 1, 2021

Applewhite
Aug 16, 2014

IN THE GRIM BARKNESS
OF THE FUTURE
THERE ARE ONLY DOGS



Nap Ghost

Hellrule: your story takes place on the surface of a pool ball

Behind the Eight Ball
1198 words

“I know they do things in a hurry over on Eight-Ball,” said the old man. “But here on Eleven-Ball we take our time.”

“Whatever you say, old man.” Eric scratched impatiently at the stubble on his chin. The “Eight-Ball” comment shook him a little. Was it that obvious where he was from?

With the side of his eye, he glanced at the wanted posters on the bulletin board by the ticket booth.

The old man was still conversing with the ticket seller.

“I haven’t got all day,” Eric chided the old man.

“The Cue won’t be here for a good time yet, young’un.” The old man wagged his finger. “If I’ve got time, you’ve got time.”

Eric glanced up at the skeletal clock tower that had been erected in the center of the canyon. The dial didn’t show the traditional division of seconds, milliseconds and nanoseconds, but rather a countdown from one second to impact.

It was less than a half-second to zero and the ground crew didn’t even have all the pylons up yet. “Took their time” indeed.

A bony, calloused hand clapped Eric on the shoulder.

“Did you get the tickets?” growled Bart.

“Not yet, this old man is taking his sweet drat time,” snapped Eric.

“What old man?” Bart narrowed his eyes.

Eric did a double take. The old man had gone and the spot in front of the ticket counter was vacant.

“Next!” called the ticket man.

Bart shoved Eric toward the booth.

“Quit skylarking and get the tickets,” he hissed, casting a wary eye around the plaza.

Pulling the brim of his hat down low, Bart stalked away across the street.

Eric grumbled and fished into his pockets for change.

The salesman scooped the coins through the slot and stamped three tickets.

“Tower twenty-one,” he said.

Eric stuffed the tickets in his pocket and hurried across the street to Bart and Derek.

“Tower twenty-one,” Eric passed a ticket to each of his associates.

“Took you long enough,” grumbled Bart.

“Ease up on the boy, Bart,” drawled Derek. “We got the tickets and there’s still a time to get off this rock.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” growled Bart. “Your wanted picture isn’t posted up on every wall.”

“Nope,” agreed Derek. He jerked a thumb behind his head. “Just this one.”

Derek leaned forward to reveal he’d been resting against his own wanted poster.

“Tower twenty-one,” Eric read off his ticket. “Which one is that?”

The trio looked around at the bumper pylons that towered like gigantic mushrooms all around the rim of the canyon. Each tower bore a large placard with a number on it.

“Eight, ten, fifteen…” Eric read off the placards.

“Where the hell is twenty-one?” snapped Bart.

“There is no twenty-one!” Eric whined.

“Now hold on,” said Derek. He pointed out a gentleman dressed in the white jumpsuit with a red stripe across his chest.

“See, there’s a transit conductor,” said Derek. “It’s his job to help lost folks like us.”

After a short conversation and some pointing, Eric came back.

“He says it’s not up yet, but that he thinks they’re going to set it up over there.” Eric pointed at an empty spot at the top of the canyon.

“He ‘thinks’?” snapped Bart. “He isn’t sure?”

“Give the boy a break, Bart. I’m sure the man knows what he’s talking about. Let’s head on up there,” said Derek. “There’s still plenty of time.”

Above them, the countdown clock slipped another notch toward zero.

The trio reached the designated spot, only to find a long queue already formed at the gate. Bart grumbled as they took their place at the back.

There was scattered applause as the tower finally went up.

“Now boarding tower twelve!” announced the conductor.

“Twelve?” yelped Bart. “Twelve!”

Down in the canyon, the countdown clock ticked another notch closer to zero. In the sky above, the looming white sphere of Cue Ball was visible, growing perceptibly larger each moment.

At that moment, a transit conductor ambled past and hung a sign on the departure gate.

Number twelve.

Bart, eyes bulging, pushed his way through to the front of the line to confront the transit conductor.

“Why didn’t you hang that sign sooner, dammit?” Bart demanded.

“Excuse me?” the transit conductor asked.

Bart grabbed the scrawny man by the lapels.

“Where is tower twenty-one?” he yelled.

“Th-th-th—” the conductor pointed a trembling hand at the opposite edge of the canyon.

Tower twenty-one was just going up. There was already a crowd gathered around the base.

Bart turned back to the conductor to rough him up some more, but Derek and Eric grabbed him.

“Let’s go.” Derek jerked his head in the direction of tower twenty-one.

The trio hurried to the scaffold that would take them back down to the canyon floor.

“Don’t look,” said Derek. “Stickmen.”

Eric couldn’t stop himself from glancing over his shoulder. A trio of chitinous, pale men were talking to the transit conductor. The scrawny man pointed a finger at the trio. Three insectile heads turned.

Derek dug his fingers into Eric’s arm.

“Told you not to look,” he said. “Come on.”

They changed direction away from the canyon edge and into the crowd.

The stickmen followed, hissing like cicadas.

Above, the mass of the Cue Ball filled the sky. The pylons of the opposite transit camp reached down from the upside-down surface.

The wind picked up and the trio soon found themselves fighting a gale as they crawled toward the nearest tower.

Behind them, the stickmen dug their claws into the ground and scuttled under the wind.

With Bart in the lead, the trio shoved their way to the front of the nearest line.

“Tickets?” asked the conductor.

Bart shoved his ticket in the man’s face.

“Sir, this is for twenty-one—”

Bart shoved his six-gun under the conductor’s nose.

“Say twenty-one one more time!” hissed Bart.

The trembling conductor opened the gate to let the men pass.

“Out of my way, you bumpkins!” Bart shoved his way to the top of the stairs.

A conductor stationed partway up blocked Bart with an outstretched hand.

“Sorry, sir,” said the conductor. “That’s the compression zone. If you’re in it when the Cue Ball hits, you’ll be crushed!”

“Ain’t half as bad as what’ll happen to your face if I put a bullet in it!” snapped Bart.

The conductor stepped out of the way and let Bart pass. Eric made to follow, but Derek held him back.

Derek pulled the boy to the side and did their best to melt into the crowd.

A moment later, the stickmen scrabbled past in hot pursuit of Bart.

The colossal springs and pistons in the tower groaned. Outside, the upside-down towers of the Cue-Ball touched down on the ivory surface. Eric’s stomach lurched as the gravity reversed.

“Aiiiieeeee!” a shrill scream echoed up from what was now below, followed by a sickening crunch.

“That takes care of the stickmen,” said Derek, pulling Eric down the stairs toward freedom.

“But poor Bart,” said Eric.

“Yeah it’s a shame,” agreed Derek, hat over his heart. “But that feller always was a little behind the eight ball.”

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!




be crime and do gay

flerp fucked around with this message at 01:19 on Jan 1, 2021

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




The Number of the Day Is Four Seven Five

Hellrule:No spoken words or gestures in your story.

678 words

Pace wakes up and checks it casually. It's everywhere online, if you know where to look. Pace knows where to look. It's one of his. He puts on the heavy denim jacket, a bit warm for the day but not freakishly so, and walks to the train station. The schedule is tight, precise, only pausing when some soul past their limit strides across the rail. If anyone had done so today, everything would be off, waiting until the next time four seven five came up. But nobody steps onto the rail today, and the train arrives precisely at seven minutes past eight. Pace boards the third car from the front.

He gets out four stops later, his jacket pocket heavy. Through the gates he slides, where metal detectors fail to notice ceramic, hard plastic, and chemicals. He wonders, idly, what it might be. Gun? Grenade? Some more subtle device? Not his to know, though. For this number his role is simply courier.

He's nervous through the first half of the work day, his coat hanging on the corner of his cube as he moves text and numbers from one spreadsheet to another. Nobody comes by, nobody bothers or interrupts with a pointless meeting or question they could easily answer themself. A good day, even without the number.

Pace remembers the day he was recruited, radicalized, reborn. The day they cleared out the Fulman Towers. It was supposed to be orderly. There was supposed to be alternate housing provided. There wasn't supposed to be a fire. Funny, that. Funny like an open grave. Pace joined that day, ten years old, though it would be five more before he knew what he was joining. It's tough to get anything going when they're watching everything.

Well, not quite everything. Automatic filters protected the delicate eyes of the government spies from forbidden imagery, and so it was there that the movement was born, a network of trust built one indifferent handy at a time. These days Pace is ace, gets everything he needs from long-term online friendships. But back then he was part of the trunk of that network, sharing codes and plans and roles.

Pace goes out for lunch, fast food, which he doesn't much like but goes to often enough that the cameras won't flag this visit as abnormal. He eats a chalky taco and oversalted chips, and leaves, his coat lighter now.

That evening there's news of an explosion, a bank branch. Nobody says anything about a robbery, but it's a loud kind of not being said. Pace goes to bed. In the morning he looks for the numbers, for eight nine two and three nine five and four zero six and the other ones he has a part in. None of them appear.

Eight nine two is the last call, the signal to hit the streets, to man the barricades, that the army stands against the real enemy and that it's time to fight. Three nine five is the other endgame, a general strike, protests to starve and starve out the economy. Pace still hopes those numbers will come up in his lifetime.

And four zero six is go to ground, forget everything. The number that signals that someone in the cell, in the silent majority, in the faceless crowd has been talking to the police. The thing about a panopticon is that it can work both ways with an insider or backdoor. The whole thing shuts down and nobody knows anything but their own useless numbers. There's always a next cell down, a few years younger with different codes and plans.

Pace sleeps, eats, works, waits for the next time one of his numbers comes up. There's one he dreads, more than four zero six, one that calls on him to strike a blow himself, to take the weapon given, bomb, gun, or vest, and strike, willing to kill, willing to die for the cause. Two seven nine. Pace doesn't know what he'll do if that number comes up, doesn't like to think about it.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


To The Sirens Ye Shall Come
1195 words


Baptiste promised he’d lead us through the fog, so I followed. He’d led us well up to that point: down the river and through the delta in our flat-bottomed barges, then across the night-dark lagoon to where the ships waited. He’d been the one insisting we’d made more running Canadian whiskey than Bimini rum, and we’d all shrunk back from his anger, afraid to argue. We’d unloaded our casks of Walker & Sons, tipped our hats to Cap’n Boudreau, and took off in our jolly.

Then the fog arrived, slithering over the cool, calm sea. It swaddled in close, still and stagnant, not a lick of wind to send it on its way.

Baptiste was a hard man, but a canny one. We looked the other way when he was rough with the boys, then even rougher with the women. We looked toward him now, and he told us to hug the shore, far enough out from land that rocks wouldn’t hinder us, yet close enough to catch the glow of Dog Point Light when we drew near.

We rowed. We breathed in fog. We felt the weight of our fattened purses in our coats and listened to Baptiste mumble readings off his compass.

The night stretched on. Any scrap of moon that might have told us up from down was swallowed by the fog. The world’s ceiling pressed down upon us like a flat, grey smothering palm, and shouldn’t we have seen the light from Dog Point by now?

Not a man spoke. Not Rafe nor Dustin nor Tanser nor myself. We were a silent huddle against the damp and Baptiste’s wrath alike, and despite our silence, I could swear our thoughts colluded. With each swipe of the oars, the question loomed larger in my mind: where was the beacon?

Tanser spoke first, his feet restless on the jolly’s sticky floor.

“Sir.” He addressed Baptiste with audible reluctance, his fingers tense on the lantern he cradled. “Are we still bearing south? We ought to have--”

The jolly creaked beneath Baptiste as he leaned forward, bracing a boot upon Tanser’s seat. The rowers stilled. The stagnant night around us seemed to hold its breath.

Baptiste’s voice was the soft hiss of steam released from a valve, a hint at the violent pressure contained within. “We ought to have what?”

Tanser coughed, but he was a bigger man than I, and perhaps being born big grants one a courage I have never known. He stood, chest to chest with his Captain.

“Are you certain this is the way?” he demurred. “Sir.

Baptiste exploded. He surged forward, rocking the boat, and as he drew his pistol I wondered, aghast, if he meant to shoot Tanser for merely asking. It was with wincing relief that I watched him bring the butt of his sidearm to bear across Tanser’s mouth. (And then wincing guilt that I considered such violence a favourable outcome.) Wood met tooth with a crack. Tanser’s head whipped ‘round and he sank hard onto his bench.

“Any further questions?” asked Baptiste. Tanser spat blood.

A low murmur rose from the rowers, and for a moment I thought they might dare to join in Tanser’s impertinence. I vowed to lift my voice alongside them if anyone did. Well, at least two. If dissent became the majority. But before any of us could open our fool mouths, a distant throb of light, diffused by the wool-thick fog, strobed at Baptiste’s back.

His eyes shone in the night. He wrenched Tanser’s lantern from his hands, then climbed for the prow.

“Ye of little faith,” he sneered, directing the rowers forward.

We hove toward the light as fast as our arms could carry us. I fondled the rudder in line with Baptiste’s every muttered order, and soon the light threatened to swallow the whole of the sky. Baptiste was a dark silhouette at the fore, profile swiveling as he sought land.

Slowing up, we coasted for a time, into the swell of light which emerged ever-brighter from the murk. I felt no relief as we neared it, though, for the glow bloomed strangely low to the surface. Dog Point sat upon piles and piles of cliffs, yet the landmass that loomed before us couldn’t have been higher than an atoll.

Before I could voice my concern, I felt the soft vibration of keel against sand. The jolly nudged up against dry land. Baptiste threw back his head and cackled, fog-muted, into the windless air. He clambered free, eyes on his compass, ordering us to beach the craft fully.

We dragged, and as we laboured, Tanser caught my eye. With the tiniest twist of his mouth, he told me that he shared my fear of this place, of the light’s disorienting wrongness. He dipped his eyes toward my boots, toward the knife he knew I kept there. I knew not what move exactly he would make, but I saw him grab for an oar as the craft settled to sand. He kept his hand upon the haft, waiting, as Baptiste strode toward the light.

Then, as we watched, slack-jawed, the light strode toward us. It bobbled horribly, a live and moving thing, nearing Baptiste in a few bounding steps. The light’s movement stirred a zig-zag wake through the fog, hinting at the passage of something giant and unseen in the dark beyond.

We only caught a glimpse of the thing that snatched him, the way the light gaped from its cavernous maw as it lowered the ridged, prehensile tower of its neck. Like a great, gulping eel, it dove forward, teeth aglow, snatching Baptiste in its mouth and crunching and tearing.

I froze like the coward I’ve always known myself to be. I stood there, rooted to the spot, until Tanser screamed my name through his swollen, busted mouth and then dragged me away by the wrist. In his other hand, he gripped the oar he’d intended to use upon our Captain, whose shrieks now wetly pierced the night.

Fog-blind, we stumbled through strobes of alternating light and darkness. I tried not to think of what those flashing lights meant. Twice I stumbled. Twice Tanser wrenched me up. But the third time, it was he who fell, and something in his leg gave a stomach-churning crack.

I kept running. Shame flooded through me in equal measure to the fear. When I looked over my shoulder, light bloomed on the horizon. Every fibre in my body longed to flee, but I forced my feet to still.

Following. Always I’d been following. First Baptiste, then Tanser, then my own blind fear. If I kept running now, what would that be for? How many precious more meters could I make it if Tanser slowed the thing down?

How many meters could justify the cost?

My heart throbbed. I turned around, creeping back toward where the man had fallen. I couldn’t even rightly call him my friend, yet he’d dragged me from the jaws of certain death.

“Go on,” he wheezed through split lip and broken teeth.

Instead, hands trembling, I pried the oar from his grip and stood my ground, turning to face the light.

BabyRyoga
May 21, 2001

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Two Commandments
601 words
hellrule: There is no light in your story


Two organic masses steadily passed one another in complete silence. No gestures were made, no sounds heard, yet each acknowledged the other as if by some extrasensory ability. DARKNESS SHELTER ALL WHO PRESERVE TRANQUILITY. A greeting?

Their space was a misunderstood void. A vast plane of nothing stretching immeasurably in any direction, unfathomable by outsiders. Most who would dare to trespass could not even hope to breach the threshold from just beyond the closest boundary. Yet, this space was home to multitudes of mutants, aberrations of nature, primordial oozes, cosmic wonders, beastly oddities, and indefinite entities, and sometimes extraplanar tourists.

DARKNESS SHELTER. BATHE IN TRANQUILITY. Cursory impulses exchanged, as a slimy horror floated upwards, passing by a pair of salty dawdlers. A ganglion-encrusted void star awaited idly as the slimy horror drifted further. GO IN SILENCE.

As the slimy horror continued its journey to a point of no quantifiable significance, it found trouble. The mandible of an ugly dweller lurched forward, snapping shut just an instant too late. The slimy horror was able to sense the incoming danger and adjust its trajectory just in time. Life and death were measured in fractions of seconds. Even this incomprehensible abyss was bound by the laws of time.

The ugly dweller had been off its mark and bumped into the backside of a globule of jaws with an emphatic thud that echoed for what might as well have been miles. It had traveled far and miscalculated in a moment of fatigue.

The two predators faced each other for a brief moment before the globule of jaws turned and drifted away in a different direction. A misunderstanding. The creatures in this void had a mutual forbearance for each other, as long as the code was generally adhered to.

SILENCE.

TRANQUILITY.

The mind's eye of dozens of nearby lifeforms collectively fixated in unison upon the ugly dweller, as if placing the blame solely upon it. The globule of jaws had already left the proximity of the collision, and the ugly dweller quickly continued on its way to ease suspicions, as if nothing happened. However, it was still in need of sustenance.

A nearby group of Drift-pups alerted to the dweller's presence began to scatter from one another, dancing off in different directions. The ugly dweller braced itself, and darted towards one of the drift-pups, grazing one of its scaly limbs and taking a chunk of flesh as a trophy. This time it was closer to the mark, but ultimately unable to secure a meal.

SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS! SILENCE! TRANQUILITY! DARKNESS!

A horde of lurking denizens cast their judgments, communicating in silence with each other. The dweller was sure of this but unable to surmise what exactly was being communicated, as it was mostly unfamiliar to the locale. Now getting desperate, the dweller was ready to play its final hand. It began to muster up a glob of bioluminescent energy, using bacteria it had previously stored on its body. Unable to bring the bite to the prey, it would bring the prey to its bite.

Before the faintest of sparks could be lit, a tentacle zipped by and snatched the ugly dweller, firmly squeezing it into a spectacular pulp. The tentacle retreated in a torrent of bubbles, covering the distance of ten leviathans in just two seconds.

Hundreds of creatures awaited for the silence to return, before returning to their normal routines in profoundly deep silence, and darkness.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning




EDIT: https://thunderdome.cc/?story=8304&...+Title+Very+Bad

The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 07:24 on Sep 9, 2020

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Reclaimed Time (1200 words)
Horado couldn't catch the words at first, his mind strangely focused on the grip across his throat. The fingers were cold, but the palm seemed to be heating up. And there was no give of artificial skin, which likely meant this stranger wasn't an employee of Mariposa, contracted or otherwise -- the company liked to keep up appearances.

There was a reason his last shift had been a fortnight ago.

"Answer the question," the man growled, pressing him harder against the wall, and that was all it took to break the curious calm that had settled over Horado. He choked, sputtered, tried instinctively to pry off that unforgiving grip, even if his only working hand wasn't close to functional without him clocking in --

"Jesus! Alright, alright, calm down." The stranger backed off, letting Horado collapse to his knees. When he looked back up, he could see the dull gleam of charged plasma in the man's palm. Horado shakily raised his arms in surrender. The man's gaze flicked to the stump, then back to Horado.

"As I was asking, where the hell am I?"

"This is Mariposa's Levue facility, in the HD 100F star system," Horado said. He hesitated, then asked, "Who are you?"

"Someone who wants to get out of here. How do I do that?"

"A ship?" Horado said, and then jerked backwards as the man's palm began to whine. "Sorry! Sorry, wasn't trying to be smart. You can take the company shuttle to Levue Station for 400 credits, I think they might still be running?"

"That's not going to work for me," the man said. "I need to get off this planet now."

A fugitive, then. Horado swallowed. "They keep the key transmitters for the smaller craft in the overseers' office."

"Then you'll take me there," the man said, and at Horado's silence, he stepped forward, looming over him.

"Only, only if--" Horado started, and then was cut off.

"If I take you?" the man finished, and at Horado's nod, snorted. "Sure. Whatever. I'll drop you off at the station and you can take another connection from there."

The trip down the hallway went by in a flash, with Horado unable to concentrate on anything other than the thought that the man might just kill him after retrieving the ship key, the panic at what he just agreed to, and the mental image of what he was leaving behind. Then they were in front of the office door, and it obligingly slid open for them.

That seemed odd, but his captor -- temporary partner-in-crime, Horado supposed -- pushed past him. He motioned Horado to help him search with a glare.

It was barely a minute before the lights came on. The stranger spun, and then spat out, "Dylan."

"Eryl," Overseer Arnall replied from the doorway. "I told them a simple inhibitor clip wouldn't be enough to keep you. I'd advise you to stand down."

Eryl's only response was a growl, and Arnall shrugged. Then he glanced over at Horado, and sighed. "And you've roped Mr. Marin into helping you, I assume?"

He waved a lazy hand over at Horado, "I don't hold you responsible for this, just so you know." His lip curled. "Eryl cuts a remarkably threatening figure, wouldn't you say?"

"Cut the crap," Eryl snarled. "You sold me out, you bastard --"

Arnall cut over him and continued talking to Horado. "I imagine you haven't gotten another shift since that dreadful accident. If you don't try anything funny, we can cut the cost of a replacement prosthetic by, say, thirty percent."

Eryl snarled again and lunged at him. Arnall stepped out of the way, then reached out, fingertips sparking -- and Eryl shuddered, then slumped to the floor. He looked down at him, disdain clear on his face, then back at Horado. "Anyways, Mr. Marin, it's a good deal. On top of the discount we give for subsequent operations, you could even relinquish your deposit, so it'd only be an extended work period of two more years by my estimations. What do you think?"

Overseer Arnall held his other hand. Horado reached back, stiff fingers slowly opening, and when they finally clasped hands, two things happened.

Sparks jumped off of Arnall's hand. Horado dimly noted that if his prosthetic had been fully operational, the feedback would've been agonizing. As it was, it still made his teeth clench.

Horado pulled in and kicked out, and Arnall's eyes bulged. He crumpled to the floor, nearly dragging Horado down with him. By the time Horado managed to get free, Arnall's palm was facing him, power gathering, face twisted in a vicious sneer --

and then he slumped to the ground, shuddered once, and then stilled.

Eryl stood up, and he glared at Horado. Then he started searching through Arnall's pockets, and as Horado stared, he finally stood up and showed a fob to Horado. "This the key transmitter?"

"Yes," Horado managed. "I'll show you to the hanger, then."

"Hang on," Eryl said, hesitated, then continued. "Do you know where your enforcer chip is?"

Horado blinked, and Eryl shook his head. "Your right hand's a contracted prosthetic, right? If you leave this star system as you are right now, it's not going to be pretty."

"Oh," Horado said, and he realized what that meant. "Were you just going to let me go off and blow myself up, then?"

Eryl gave him a look, and then sighed. "Not anymore, no. Give me your hand."

Horado reached out, fingers hanging limply, and Eryl clasped them between his two hands. After a second he said, "Well, I guess that bastard did one thing right. The internal reactors got fried by that stunt he pulled, so you're safe."

"Oh," Horado said, again. "Should we head to the hanger, then?"

Eryl hesitated, again, and then asked, "Do you know where the contract deposits are kept here?"

Confused, Horado replied, "They're in a room just past where we first met. Why?"

Eryl turned and started walking. Realization struck Horado, and he hissed at him, "You're going to set off every drat alarm in the facility if you break into the deposit safe!"

"Not if I do it right." Eryl stopped in front of a unmarked, nondescript door. "This it?"

"...Yes," Horado said. He watched as Eryl pressed his thumb to the security lock. It began to smoke.

A couple minutes later, Horado was staring at that engraved, silver disc for the first time in years. The designs were barely visible under all the tarnish, but the reflective grooves and bumps of the pocketwatch still caught the light, the same way it first had, when he'd found it in Father's desk after the funeral.

He swore he could still hear it ticking.

Eryl coughed, and then Horado remember where exactly they were, and how important it was that they be somewhere else very soon. He tried to speak, and the words caught. He cleared his throat, and tried again. "Thanks."

Eryl hunched his shoulders. "Let's just get to the hanger."

As the facility disappeared in the rearview, Horado looked down at the watch in his lap.

"Thanks," he said, again. Eryl grumbled at him to shut up, and Horado couldn't help but smile.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







And that's it, the posse has cornered our anti heroes and is issuing writs. Judgement: presently.

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


A Series of Unusual Bear Maulings

758 words

The ranger steps out of his canoe onto the rocky lakeside shore as she prepares some taco meat over the fire.

"Smells good," he says, setting his big pack down. "I haven't had anything to eat but summer sausage and dried fruit for a couple weeks now. If you have enough to share, I would love some."

She's not in a good position to refuse him. She smiles politely and says, "Of course! It'll be a second. I've got some packets of Taco Bell hot sauce too, if you're into that." 

He chuckles and takes a seat on the primitive log furniture previous campers had constructed. 

"I don't usually encounter rangers this deep into the park. What brings you in here?" she says, pulling out a little baggy of cumin.

"Warning folk about the recent string of bear attacks," says the ranger. "Four dead campers in the last month."

"I've heard about that," she says. "You don't need to lecture me on bear safety. I've already hung my food, and I'm not even done cooking." She points to the plastic barrel hanging from a rope on an ancient oak.

"Right," he says. "Let me see your camping permits, ma'am."

She nods. "I don't remember exactly where I put them." She looks through her packs for a long while before shrugging and apologizing.

"Maybe you put it in your barrel up there," says the ranger.

"I'm quite certain that I didn't. If you need me to start making my way out of the park I can certainly…"

"Ma'am, save me the time of examining your barrel and let me arrest you now. I see enough smugglers using the park to cross the border to know when someone's making GBS threads me."

She sits silently on the log. "Okay," she says softly. The ranger takes her hands behind her back and cuffs her. 

He returns to his pack, unzips it, and starts pulling out bizarre objects: big teeth, the claws of some enormous beast.

"The fun thing about killing with things like these is that I can go back to the station and report it as a bear attack, and none of your friends will question it when they see the body."

She gets up and starts scurrying toward the woods, but trips on the roots of the big oak.

"I can outrun a girl in handcuffs, darling," he says, picking up a bear claw. 

She struggles with the handcuffs. "If I struggle any more, I'll get bruises on my wrists. Bears don't usually leave handcuff bruises."

"poo poo," says the ranger, more amused than anything. "You're kinda smart, aren't you? God, that sucks, I was really looking forward to murdering someone today. Alright. I'll give you the choice. I can take off the cuffs and kill you with a little bit of struggle, or I suppose I can just arrest you for drug-running and let this whole thing come across to a jury as an overwrought attempt to get out of a smuggling conviction. What do you pick?"

"I would like to struggle, please," she snarls. He sits on her legs as he undoes the handcuffs. She tries to kick him away, but her legs aren't free. He picks up the claw again, and begins to rip into her back. Screaming, she digs into her pocket as he tears again and again into her back. He pulls her only weapon out of her small pocket. He flips her over onto her back, and as he holds the claw above his head to tear into her throat, she sprays a packet of Taco Bell Diablo sauce into his eyes.

"Nice!" he shouts, impressed, as he rushes to the lake to flush out the capsaicin. She grabs a canoe paddle and charges him. He blocks it with his arm easily and throws his claw at her. Her brief recoil gives him enough time to grab the oar out of her hands. He swings but she dodges backwards. She's against the oak now. The ranger swings a bear-tooth knife. She shuffles out of the way and he cuts the rope holding the barrel of drugs instead. It comes tumbling down on the ranger's head. He crumbles to the ground.

She can see he's still breathing, but she has a job to do, and no need for cops to pursue her. She picks up the bear claws and gets to work. She washes herself in the lake, then packs up her canoe, leaving only the latest victim of the recent string of bear attacks.

MockingQuantum
Jan 20, 2012





:frogsiren:REDEMPTION TIME:frogsiren:

Thunderdome Week #272: Lost in the funhouse


Gone

archive

MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:45 on Jan 5, 2021

Flesnolk
Apr 11, 2012

h

Because I was too sick to complete my entry, I donated to RAINN:



gently caress you, Lowtax.

MockingQuantum
Jan 20, 2012





Since apparently our js this week cannot be both f and g, I wrote some crits for a recent week.

TD 407 (Guilty Pleasures/Blade week) Crits

Overall this week ranged from middling to pretty good, for me. Some of the stories felt a little perfunctory, a little bit like they were mashing things together to make a story rather than really synthesizing the different elements into a new whole. I’ve definitely read overall worse weeks, though!

The caveat I’ll give off the bat is that I have no idea who wrote what, and don’t know what your flash rules were (if any). I don’t have any idea who even entered this week! So just for fun (mine, not yours, probably) I’m going to try to guess what the guilty pleasure(s) included in your story might be!


A Paper Horse, a Ghost Queen and her Flamingos, and a Space Hippopotamus
(horses/breakfast cereal or Saturday morning cartoons/anarcho-syndicalism)

This felt like I was slightly high the whole time I was reading it. I don’t think it harmed the story overall, it gave it a sort of Lewis Carroll-esque fantastic quality. I will say initially it wasn’t clear to me that the horse was literally on the cereal box, I thought it was peeling a picture of itself off the box. Between that and the reference to “slithering” early on I initially thought the character was some sort of hippocampus or other mythical creature. I got wise eventually, but the initial confusion meant I had to sort of start over.

I’m not sure I really bought the story, as it tended to feel like just a sequence of stuff happening rather than having some sort of central motivation or thru-line connecting the events. I know that on paper, the horse’s motivation was to become a full horse, but in practice it felt kind of thin to me.


Sudoku
(escapist fantasy games/greek myth/hiking?)

This was incredibly evocative. I loved the weight and depth of the language, though if I’m honest, it lost me at times, and impeded my ability to follow what was happening in this story, to a degree. That said, I didn’t care. The imagery was so vivid and grand in scope that I was willing to just go along for the ride. Interestingly, the one moment that stood out to me as kind of clumsy was in the Volvo moment where you explicitly lay out that the character was stopping Dad from leaving after he’d offended Mom. I think that would have been clearly implicit without coming right out and saying it, and that moment of explicit definition of the events detracted from the dreamlike quality, for me. This was a story that, for me, demanded no exposition, enough was communicated through the imagery that even if I walked away feeling like I wasn’t 100% clear on the exact order and nature of the “real” events, they were so secondary to the internal or dream world you presented that I didn’t care at all. That’s rare, for me as a reader, so I call this story a roaring success. This is one I see myself coming back to in the future.


Robocasino
(terrible action movies/pangolins)

I’d call this kind of bad but pretty entertaining. I think it’s mechanically a bit weak, though it’s hard to tell if my issues with the writing were an intentional stylistic choice to mimic really bad movies or similar. I laughed at a couple of moments, though, so there’s that. Make sure you spell your own villain’s name right. I have no idea why Usain Bolt was included here, I’ll be generous and assume it has something to do with a flash rule, it was definitely a weird tangent.


Lessons in Empathy
(space opera/RTS games)

I think this story has a lot of missed opportunities. An empath has the potential to be a very interesting character, and I think you had stylistic options to represent the character’s empathic abilities that were better than what I saw here. I felt that you by and large just told us how other characters were feeling, rather than giving us some indication of how those emotions were filtered through the main character’s perception. They felt less like an empath and more like an omniscient narrator in practice, in a way that didn’t benefit the story.

In general, this story had a lot of mechanical problems. Lots of shifting in tense and perspective, some unclear blocking and scene-setting (I couldn’t tell who was fighting whom for quite a while), lots of straight expository description that could have been much more evocative if it was shown as present action. Writing big dramatic space battles is challenging, so I credit you for trying, but I think with some study of other authors who do that kind of narration well, this story could have been much better.


Pie Rats
(pirates/biscuits/Rats of NIMH)

I wanted a little more than I got from this story. The whole series of events felt a little perfunctory, a little disconnected, in the way that TD entries can be sometimes. I would have liked more of a thru-line to connect the various events, and I personally didn’t really see what it was about these characters that drove the story forward. There were some sections where the blocking and scene-setting were a little unclear, too. I eventually kind of constructed the scene mentally, but overall the story could have been clearer for me.


The View From Up There
(Military history/Garrett PI novels)

You use the word “big” a lot in this story. Three times in one paragraph early on. It almost never does you much good, compared to other options. Now, with that out of the way, the story! I generally enjoyed this, I’d categorize it as just fine. No real glaring issues, though I initially wasn’t clear on the “normal” level of fantasy in this world. I couldn’t tell if it was completely normal or unbelievable that the grandpa killed a dragon, and didn’t really get a grasp on the normality of magic until after the elf was dead. It didn’t drastically hurt my experience with the story, but it did pull me out of the story just a tiny bit, and with such a short story, a tiny bit can mean a lot.


Grim
(urban fantasy/dewey decimal system/divine proportions)

This was another story that felt a bit perfunctory, like it was checking some boxes. I thought there was some good descriptive language here and there, the library felt pretty clear, but the events came across as a little random. The characters were also just a little too flat for me to really get invested in them, and I felt like they were reacting to events rather than driving the story forward with any real agency. Overall a functional, but somewhat boring, story.


Just Passing Through
(brutalist architecture/jumping spiders/that episode of Futurama with the Boltzmann brains)

This was one of only a couple of stories from this week that really grabbed me. Admittedly this ticks a lot of boxes for me and is right up my alley, taste-wise. That said, I thought it had some of the strongest writing, hands-down. The story felt motivated and grounded in the characters in a way that made it very relatable and evocative. It also does something that, for me, is really key in a wide open week like this: it presents a clear “what if” (what if boltzmann brains existed?) and not only answers that in a compelling way, but manages to also expound on how the world of the story and the characters would be affected by the truth of that “what if”. It’s hard to bind all that up in the space of 2500 words or whatever. Well done. Minor thing, but as a sound engineer, carrying around a boom mic in one hand and what is effectively a metal detector in the other all day sounds exhausting.


A Request
(history/flightless birds/the Black Sun D&D campaign setting)

This story should have really grabbed me, but didn’t. I think it’s a combination of there being a lot of expository language here, and the names. If I’m reading a book, or a novella, or really anything significantly longer than a TD entry, I’m willing to coast along with a half dozen unfamiliar names with the faith that they’ll not just get explained, but come to mean something to me beyond just being exotic nomenclature. I think there was room here for the story you were telling with a more condensed, more effective worldbuilding, and personally that would have gotten me more engaged in the actual events. Also I had to look up what an aepyornis was, which felt a bit like you wanted me to Google it so I saw what it was, and that you could save having to describe it. I know that’s probably not the case, but it took me out of the story (literally!) in a way that didn’t help the reading experience. I think there’s a way you could have told us it’s a big flightless bird without having to just say it’s a big flightless bird, y’know? I feel like you even managed to do that later, which made the specific inclusion of “aepyornis” kind of puzzling to me. Fun word, though. This sounds like I’m heavily critical of the story but really, I think it was just a near-miss for me. Tighter plotting and more selective description/exposition would have got it there, for me.


Tea & Regrets
(hard-boiled detectives/yokai)

I like the ambition of this story, though I’d say it has the same issue I had with “A Request,” namely that there’s not a ton of room in a story this short to get a reader invested in all the names and mythology necessary to really carry the setting along. I’m lucky here, as I knew a lot of what you were referencing, but I think with a story like this, you need to figure out to what degree you need to “invite” the reader into the story. This felt like it teetered back and forth over that line. Sometimes it was fantastical and made me want to keep reading, sometimes it just felt opaque. In a similar vein, I think the hard-boiled detective schtick (and I do mean “schtick”, I personally think it’s very played-out) has a line. Occasionally the dialogue felt characterful and energized, other times the leggy broads and overly snappy rejoinders veered into self-parody. Overall I enjoyed it.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


ty for bonus crits

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

scanning for good game design


That's awesome, thank you!

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







judging is proceeding.

as an interim ruling, Saddest Rhino outlawed his way past the wordlimit in a nike just do it kind of way so is DQd and cannot win.

contrariwise i like saucy rodent's panache in just slapping his sotry down after close of subs so i have determined he is NOT dq'd

do not try an divine any form of universal order from these adjudications they simply are, like the rocks and the morning dew

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







:catdrugs::siren::siren::siren:J U D G M E N T:siren::siren::siren::catdrugs:

hi thunderdome

this was a surprisingly solid week though there was a lot of time travel, possibly reflecting the excellent opportunities for outlawry in the past and/or future.

loser this week was AlmightyDerelict with What's that stench, a blog post about throwing stink bombs at bad people masquerading as a story - medium is that way. crimea was a close second with the Battle of Aphek, a lightly fictionalised wiki dump sellotaped to an impressively dull conversation and receives a dishonourable mention.

the top end was busier, with A Tourist, an elegant story of sad romantic time travel and rhino's gay ghost hunters both garnering HMs despite the latter being DQd, truly a mysterious example of the judges art.

for the win there were two clear contenders, flerps (brilliantly named) be crime do gay and barnaby profanes dickos last grind.

this was my call in the end and while I gave a little credit to b pro for his elegantly executed hellrule, ultimately it comes down to which story is better. as it happens, he had that on lockdown too, by the thinness of a suddenly grey beard hair. flerp gets an hm, barnaby profane wins.

ascend to the throne mr profane, it's still warm (bc farts)

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


Week 413: Outlaw week: Law-abiding crits
I think there’s a distinction between an “outlaw” and a “person who has technically violated a law/rule.” Thematically, one thinks of wild-west bandits, lovable rogues on spaceships, flamboyant pirates, big-name heist crews going for the big take. But a lot of the stories this week just had someone breaking a rule or two. They didn’t feel like outlaws.

Well, whatever. The week was fairly strong overall, though a few of you were saved from a most ignominious fate by the benevolence of the other judges.

Crits go like this:
Your Plot: Retold, so you can see if it got across properly or was really as complicated as you thought.
Successes: The good
Improvements: The bad and the ugly (most of the crit goes here).
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: Mostly talking about if the hellrule seemed to hinder your story. In a few cases, the hellrule just demolished the story. In other cases, it fit perfectly and wasn’t really noticeable.
Numerical Rating: By far the most important part of the crit. All critiques of writing are best conceived of as a relatively arbitrary number based on the opinion of some rando-internet dude, and is absolutely critical for determining not just the quality of the story, but your own personal self-worth.


Fool’s Hope
Your Plot: Telepathic space capybara tries a vague bit of sabotage, man-slaughtering a bunch of rangers who retaliate by spacing him (seems fair). The capybara does a really big telepathy and his wife rescues him.
Successes: Including telepathic space capybaras who flip the cosmos the bird. Prose is functional and easy to read.
Improvements: I don’t know that starting us with an effectively immobile protagonist recollecting all the things that happened is the best place to drop us in this story. You could still have floating space combat on a station or ship without gravity (swimming also was not forbidden). More importantly, we need character development. If we’re going to see flashbacks, they need to be powerful moments that tell us more about Cas, his family, the rangers—something. The protagonist takes a single action (a loud telepathic yell) and is saved. The conflict, then, is not very interesting and too easily solved. You have another 470 words to play with here. Finally, starting with ‘telepathic space capybaras’ implies to the reader a comedic, irreverent bent to the story, but the story itself is just a mournful recollection, devoid of any joke, so expectations clash with the story core.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: I think the hellrule made you go with ‘protag already floating in space’ because you needed to exclude walking, which led to a rather actionless story. I don’t think that was an inevitability of this rule though. Even sticking with flashbacks, you can choose to recall more powerful moments that develop the characters and plot. I award you no difficulty points.
Numerical Rating: 3


Of the Swamp
Your Plot: Two humans try to extract water from a toxic swamp. An alien kills one; the other kills the alien.
Successes: Good description in the intro; it builds character, setting and plot concisely. You’ve conveyed a dystopian setting adequately; I guess Earth is being the opposite of terraformed. There’s a few good descriptors scattered about, like “With the sound of an angry coal fire” and
Improvements: Sadly, the triple-work done by your intro is thrown away pretty quickly. You repeat info in a lot of places, and could easily cut and combine sections to make the writing here more concise. For example, “They stuck to the rotting plains…” and “The plains were thick with ammonia” is a repeat of info, and “forcing them to wear respirators…” is a repeat when you already mentioned Jonas’s respirator in the first paragraph. “If they were spotted with an extractor, it would mean labor camps or death” and then immediately “Walking the dry expanses was asking for a one-way ticket to the work camps.” I also suggest an editing pass: “This was one of their biggest hauls in ages, and losing it would practically guarantee for too many people” –guarantee what? There’s a few other typos.
Characters need work. I don’t get a good sense of Jonas or Laita as people. They’re doing what they have to, surviving in a post-war-of-the-worlds tripod dystopia, but what distinguishes them? What quirks do they have? Personality? How does Laita feel about dissicating her partner? Cutting the superfluous stuff near your start gives you more time to develop them, or perhaps the reactions of the other humans living on the lam. Getting us to feel for these characters is probably the most effective way to make us care about an otherwise relatively generic plot (I’ve seen almost this exact story in TD several times).
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: No hellrule. Space-coward.
Numerical Rating: 3


A Tourist
Your Plot: A woman keeps traveling back in time to visit her dead lover, destroying herself in the process.
Successes: Snappy opening and quickly establishes character motivation. There’s some strong lines, like “…as if Time has burst a thread of polyps nestled in clever lines across her brain. The images in its wake are the things Alyssa never tries to visit.” We can feel the loss Alyssa has felt/feels, and a complex joy-sad from Alyssa getting to experience a few more moments of happiness, though at a terrible cost of self-destruction.
Improvements: There’s small places where the prose feels off, e.g. “Time deposits her on the library’s bathroom stall…” but that’s minor. I wonder if there’s a way to make Candace a stronger character. We don’t really get to know her, and it would be nice if we did, and perhaps saw her perspective on what Alyssa is doing (or her wishes for her love’s future). That would probably mean mostly cutting from the gift-shop encounter, where there’s less character development and more explaining how time works. While Alyssa is rebelling against Time, I don’t get the sense that Alyssa is an “outlaw,” and so it doesn’t feel like it quite fits the thematic notion of the prompt, if “prompt adherence” is something you care about.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: You’ve certainly created a character rebelling against time. I dunno about space, but whatever. The rule clearly lies at the core of your story, and the conflict. Time travel also feels like the expected response to this rule.
Numerical Rating: 7, HM candidate


Work Life Program
Your Plot: A probably-dead office worker, enslaved to work endlessly in a virtual office, escapes.
Successes: Conceptually, you’ve created a nice, frightening hellworld where work and suffering are eternal. There’s a sense of despair in the story that is clearly destroying the protagonist.
Improvements: There’s a voice you’re going for with your sentence fragments and tense-shifts, but overall the intro needs a revisit. The story is hard to follow at the start. There’s a few other places too. Make sure to pair your dialogue with the actions of the person saying it. For example, one of the lines should read:
“Mark leaned in conspiratorially. ‘Did you think the boss wouldn’t notice? Your second of fun is over. But don’t worry…’ He patted Steven on the back…”
The way you’ve spaced it out makes it look like dialogue, when it isn’t. A big chunk of that could be one paragraph.
I don’t feel a lot for Steven and Ben, because I don’t know them very well. I wonder if the story would be stronger if you built a relationship between Steven and Ben. Either way, we need to care more about Steven. Finally, since the main conflict here is the boss trying to seduce/terrify Steven into staying, I would focus more on that conversation and how Steven overcomes Mark’s ploys; that might be a good place to insert Steven’s family and past so we feel more for him.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: Clearly, this (admittedly vicious) hellrule shaped the core of your story. I like your work-around that lets you have dialogue and action, but it does feel forced in some places.
Numerical Rating: 3.5


What’s That Stench?
Your Plot: Guy goes to protests and makes bad things smell bad.
Successes: There’s an attempt to focus in on smells as a theme that could be expanded on. It fulfils the outlaw criteria.
Improvements: Okay first, you could have saved a lot of space by condensing your intro. Your readers do not need recaps on the holocaust or civil rights movement, so you’re just wasting words, especially since your character isn’t offering a characterizing perspective on them here. Stories that deal with current events are difficult to pull off, and… well, you didn’t pull it off here. It just reads like a wish-fulfillment screed. Your character is mad about injustice, black, and mute, but that’s literally all we know about them. There’s no other characters, there’s not much of a plot. I know you’re speaking to an important issue, but this was supposed to be a story, and there’s not much of that here. Even what could be turned into a tense scene (confronting police at a protest should certainly be a source of tension) isn’t—a lot of what is here is just listing events in order.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: I think this hellrule challenged you, and I don’t think you found a good solution to that challenge. Insects or aliens speaking in pheromones could be speaking, but “make bad people smell bad” is not… speech, really. Also I’m quite sure your protagonist would be speaking in sign language.
Numerical Rating: 1.5, loss candidate



Battle of Aphek
Your Plot: A soldier steals and opens the Ark of the Covenant in between punching drunkards in 980 BCE and 2020 CE respectively.
Successes: You have a bunch of historical references. Like, I had to wiki “Aphek.”
Improvements: I don’t get a good sense of the setting, and the chronology of events here are difficult to follow (as you jump from whipping to drunk-punch to skipping to the end of a battle where he’s stealing a thing). I don’t even know where we are in history until I get a vague sense from the “iron-tipped spears” detail. I assumed we were dealing with an Ark of the Covenant as soon as I saw “Ark” and, we are, but next we’ve got Dagon and Aphek and god’s eating time and who knows what the gently caress is going on—and we still don’t know your protagonist’s name, motivation, side, historical context, etc.
Next section. I don’t buy the parole officer’s character. They don’t feel like a person, just a patsy for your protagonist to make fun of. But I also don’t buy your protagonist, because I don’t know a drat thing about them other than they like punching drunks and that apparently hasn’t changed for 3,000 years. You would think that would be enough time for him to develop as a character. There’s not really a plot, either. There’s a snippet about stealing the Ark, then a completely unconnected bit about getting out of jail later. There’s things that happen, but not anything that holds them together. So there’s no plot, your main character is totally static, and the two sections feel totally disconnected (as a note, anyone who doesn’t read your flash rule is going to have even less of an idea who is going on). This needs a lot of really heavy revisions.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: It feels like this hellrule absolutely demolished you. Well, take that I guess.
Numerical Rating: 2, DM candidate


Dicko’s Last Grind
Your Plot: Old friends must reunite to do one last grind in memory of their dead buddy.
Successes: Good start, immediately establishing a cohort of aging skater punks. I also like the dark humor with Dicko’s will, and an the implied mystery of how he died and why he wrote a will so young. The story is amusing and weirdly sentimental. It caught my attention and held it, and the characters felt like people. The dialogue flows well and the descriptions are serviceable. It also feels like it embraces the outlaw theme of the week well. The plot as coherent.
Improvements: I think to turn this story up a notch, we need a bit more insight into the characters and their relationship with Dicko. Give us a little more about him, what he meant to each of them, and then I’d do something like mention the trajectory their lives have taken since then so that the ending implies an improvement on those trajectories.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: You busted a kick-flip off this hellrule with ease. It’s clearly at the core of your story, but the story stands on its own fine and doesn’t seem weird because of it.
Numerical Rating: 7.5, HM or win candidate



The Density of Hatred
Your Plot: Water narrates part of the water cycle.
Successes: You managed a hurricane pun. Grats.
Improvements: I’m having a hard time putting into words what needs to happen here to make this story good. Your story just sort of traces part of the water cycle, then prescribes malevolence to the water. Cloudy McCloud is just not a very interesting character, nor is the thermosphere-thin plot here very intriguing. Generously, if we assume Cloudguy is autonomous, it doesn’t even know why it’s different (“Suddenly, I knew that whatever made me special, whatever made me leave the army behind…”). Then, after forsaken the war as pointless, it just decides to go around murdering people anyways. Why? The vague notion of ‘freedom,’ I guess. I think to make this story good, you would need a plot that isn’t just vague ‘I want to be free’ and murder. The cloud should have a concrete objective. Maybe the cloud wants to land on a mountain to reunite with a brother. Next, I would add at least one more relevant character to the story (Cane is a non-character) so that you can have dialogue, or at the very least communication, so you can develop your cloud-characters into something interesting. There’s a way to make “how clouds see the world” an engaging idea, but it’s not here.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: This hellrule kicked your rear end, imo. So, this wasn’t an easy hellrule, but you also took it basically as literally as possible and the entire story was warped in service to this boring interpretation of cloud-life. It would have been better to take a normal story and force it to be about clouds.
Numerical Rating: 2.5, DM candidate



Eternity in an Hour
Your Plot: An agent is sent to stop a doctor from doing an illegal medical procedure, but gets the procedure done on himself anyways.
Successes: You create an intriguing idea for your characters to conflict over. Your characters speculate about eternity, perceiving god, and there’s parallels in this story to modern debates on bodily autonomy and euthanasia. That interesting idea helps carry the reader through the story, wondering about the implications it will have on the protagonist.
Improvements: While the ideas are touched on, you leave out the most interesting part of the story: What happens after the procedure, and how Langdon interprets it. There’s a lot of potential here for a non-chronological narrative (that the reader is well prepared to experience by the details set up previously in the story), a spiritual/symbolic experience, some truth that Langdon perceives, or a Cassandra-like tragedy emerges as Langdon sees the future but can no longer change it. Sadly, you don’t really do much with your setup. Before you go “but the word count!” I think you can start the story more where you have the current middle; Langdon can briefly reflect on how he came as an agent, but has become too enamored with the idea, and then you’ve got the space you need. Alternatively, you could focus more on the start and instead grow Richards and Langdon as characters. Give us more about what they believe, where they came from, and the decisions they make in the story will feel more organic. Right now, I don’t feel any emotions at the end, so building up your characters should help make that land, especially if the songs have a special meaning to the characters.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: Good work with this rule. It didn’t feel like it warped the story, though it clearly dictated its foundation.
Numerical Rating: 6



Duty
Your Plot: Ghost-mom tries to motivate lazy son.
Successes: Good job making it obvious we have a ghost-lady without being explicit. You also convey the confusion of this state. Implicitly, a ghost means there’s some lingering problem to fix, so there’s no rush there. Then, the conflict is obvious: Fix the manchild the ghost-mom didn’t quite raise right.
Improvements: Ghost-mom partially developed—we get her regret and sense of failure—but maybe we could see more about what specifically she regrets that led her son to the monotonous life she is horrified he is living. We also don’t see much of Jack as a person. I would cut some of the generic haunting actions (you have a lot of those all over, but don’t need so many) and focus more on those shared memories that influence the current present. You do that with school when he’s six, and sort of with problem avoidance with the laundry, but it’s too little. The ending feels rushed since I get the feeling you didn’t quite know how to pace the story to fit in the 1.2k word limit, and simply burning down the house doesn’t feel like it actually solves the problem of fixing Jack’s character.
Numerical Rating: 5



Icarus
Your Plot: Characters conflict on how to best live through a fascist occupation.
Successes: I like the line ““Leo, I just want to –” Dimi wiped at her nose. “I just want to do something grand. Something meaningful. I don’t want to live the rest of my life afraid.”” It’s a good core to build the character Dimi around. I don’t think her bravery in trying to escape fear and oppression is analogous to Icarus’s story. The other line, “We’re lucky to be alive.” He’s not wrong. Sometimes, just surviving is a heroic act.” is the other strong core that defines Leonidas and Papou—a sort of counter-weight to Dimi. It’s two strong ideas. I like the ending, with the vague idea that Dimi inspired others, but it feels like you can build a stronger story around those two core ideas. By the way, the fact that I’m pretty focused on the deeper ideas in this story can give you some confidence that the plot, most dialogue, and descriptions in the story are solid enough.
Improvements: I don’t think any of your readers need a recap of how Icarus’s story went down, so I’d cut most of that if you don’t cut Icarus entirely. The only important part is Dimi imitating Papou. Keep an eye on tense: “My sister and I were up on the roof” vs “now that the Italian occupation has cut Ikaria off….” Also I have to lol at the brother being named Leonidas. I guess that slams home that we’re in Greece, but all I’m going to think about is 300 and Gerard Butler kicking Persians in his leather underwear. Speaking of which, it feels like Salamis and Thermopylae are not good analogies for what I’m assuming is Italian-occupied Greece during World War 2. I would reconsider your historical references in the light of their connection to pop-culture. The fight between Dimi and their grandad feels rushed; the dialogue has potential to set up more of the setting and tell us more about the characters, and cutting from the intro should give you the room to do so. That dialogue is critical, because it can help develop the two core perspectives (heroism in refusing to live in fear vs. surviving as heroism) and the characters that embody that idea. Grow that part of the story, and you strengthen the rest of it. It seems like Dimi and Papou should both of have things they have seen during the actual occupation to back up their views and decisions.
Numerical Rating: 7, HM candidate



Behind the Eight Ball
Your Plot: Outlaws in town escape the law.
Successes: I don’t play pool so I don’t get pool jokes, but I assume there’s some funny ones in there. You certainly capture the classic outlaw dynamic in the story with your gang.
Improvements: Take a look at your story. Notice that almost every 1-2 sentences, you have another line break. That’s fine for dialogue, but then, the story is so full of dialogue that the whole story is line breaks. Give us more of a break for developing the setting, the surroundings, etc. because we’re rushing through so much frenetic dialogue we don’t get a sense of any of that. I think you need to figure out key scene moments (like Derek having been leaning on his own wanted poster is good, or the chase with the stickmen) and narrow in on those. The dialogue is all over, but the sentences choppy and sparse, so the characters don’t quite come out. More importantly, setting-wise, I don’t get a good sense of what’s going on with the pylons and towers, so the plot consequently becomes hard to follow and the ending harder to understand.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: This was probably the hardest flash-rule, and it seems like your story took a hit because of it.
Numerical Rating: 4



be crime and do gay
Your Plot: Two friends deal with the frustrations of life, looking for acceptance and catharsis.
Successes: Solid hook. There’s two parallel conflicts: The protag wants to be accepted by his friend (established quickly in paragraph 2), and Jimmy wants to hurt his dad for hurting him (established in paragraph 1). The reader worries Jimmy might not accept the protag’s sexuality because Jimmy uses gay as a slur early on. It’s resolved by Jimmy’s reaction to the kiss; they won’t be lovers, but they still will be friends, as Jimmy accepts the protagonist. Jimmy’s catharsis comes with his explanation of his hatred and being able to wreck it with his friend.
Improvements: There’s room for punch-ups. For example, name a specific emo song playing as they drive. Perhaps reference the protagonist’s mixed emotions towards Jimmy again during that drive. Maybe more about his conflict in helping his friend vandalize the car, since we don’t get all that much in his emotions. You could also make stealing the car more tense—give the reader reason to believe they might fail or get caught.
Numerical Rating: 7.5, HM or win candidate



The Number of the Day Is Four Seven Five
Your Plot: A secret revolutionary helps transport material for a bank robbery during his routine.
Successes: You’ve built a nice, dystopian realm of disconnected people rendered silent by the ever-watching panopticon. The complete lack of interaction Pace experiences informs the reader how society has broken him in some way, despite his protestations that online interaction satiates his needs. The subtle exchanges with the jacket imply a lot though only say a little. The story conveys a key frustration of activism, the uncertainty that any progress will be made in your lifetime, but you might be the one to die. It also feels like it embraced the theme of the week.
Improvements: While I get the general sense of this dystopia, the world and setting feel incomplete. How the network grew is a bit vague, what exactly happened at Fulman Towers is unclear (is the ‘they’ who cleared it/burned it the government, the revolutionaries?). The big improvement to make is details, I think. Give us a line about the train station, what work looks like, a nest of cameras watching, a police officer standing on the street corner with a mechanized battle-suit—whatever, but we need more of a visceral experience in this world. We could also use a bit more about Pace; more about his cell and that hope being all that sustains him. Or maybe the story does better with a moment of self-doubt. Does he think of switching sides, embracing the joys of consumerism and entertainment, or any other temptations?
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: You did a good job letting the hellrule lend itself to a theme. It did impact the story to some extent, because I think lack of gestures and speech turned into a broader thing where too little communication took place and we don’t see too much emotion from the protagonist.
Numerical Rating: 6.5



To The Sirens Ye Shall Come
Your Plot: Booze smuggling goes wrong and everyone gets eaten by the giant land-version of an angler-fish.
Successes: You do a good job getting the reader to hate Baptiste as a nasty person, and building tension in the boat journey. You certainly hit the week’s theme of outlaws. Baptiste fits an archetype, so I get a good sense of him in a short time.
Improvements: The two other characters, Tanser and the narrator, I don’t get as much of a sense of. Tanser is brave enough to question when things are wrong, but what else? Who are they? Why are they running rum? Tanser is a rather selfless man, which is strange for an outlaw—so why is he running rum? Small references to the past or quick dialogues could help enlighten us here and develop him. At the same time, the story’s conflict doesn’t feel consistent. First, it’s making it back home safely, but then it morphs into the narrator needing to show bravery (“I froze like the coward I’ve always known myself to be”). This is sort of referenced when Tanser gets his tooth knocked in, but the narrator never wishes that he’d stood up or taken action. The horrible island beast just shows up out of nowhere, and isn’t foreshadowed, so it does leave the reader baffled. I don’t know that the supernatural aspect adds anything. The story might be stronger if you just stuck with the mutiny as a way to resolve the conflict and complete the narrator’s character growth. Turning around and facing the death-monster just seems dumb.
Numerical Rating: 5.5



Two Commandments
Your Plot: A thing tries to eat another thing, but gets eaten instead.
Successes: You conveyed a world of eldritch-horrors doing their daily void-commute.
Improvements: Just because there’s no light allowed in your story doesn’t mean you can’t give us details, visuals, dialogue, etc. The fact that we don’t have a name or a solid visual on our presumed protagonist (or much of anything) here means that I had trouble following actions and characters. Worst, the conflict is solved by an unattributed random tentacle. We don’t know who the tentacle belongs to (is it the lurking denizens or the slimy horror?). It’s also not even really clear what the conflict is until nearly the end of the story, where we realize that the conflict is that the ugly dweller is disrupting the tranquility of the darkvoid and that’s bad I guess. But why? What are the stakes? There’s no tension, and your space-horrors aren’t characterized in any meaningful way, so it’s hard to care about anything that happens here. In order to improve this, you need to build tension. What happens if the place lights up (besides you failing the hellrule)? What happens if the commandments are not followed? Why does any of this matter? Finally, I get that the ugly lurker has broken the ~~void rules~~ here, but this really doesn’t read like an outlaw story at all.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: The hellrule clearly is at the center of this story, and it appears to have detracted pretty heavily from the story. I don’t think it needed to. You can still have communication, emotions conveyed through gestures. This could have been a deep-sea abyssal adventure, or
Numerical Rating: 2.5, DM candidate



This Story Is About a Startup That Isn't Evil and Can't Be Bought Over by A VC Firm, which Makes This Very Fictional, and This Title Very Bad
Your Plot: A gay internet-poisoned dude meets some like-minded cute boys and finds acceptance.
Successes: You nail an internet-poisoned character voice here. Since this is a humor piece, I’m going to list instances where I laughed: The title, the “only time people consult you…”, “and then before the CIA can run a coup to replace the government of another country the ghost is gone” (best line imo), ““We decided on Ghoster…“,” “…and also the guys asking you to join are cute.”
There’s good descriptive lines all over (house walls off-yellow but not in a hipster way stands out). As soon as Junny starts talking, I expect Neal Stephenson to also jump out and start discussing Sumerian as the ur-language of programming reality, which actually could be a component of a joke about Junny’s monologue. The casual acceptance of storing ghosts in computers is amusing. The conflict is about finding acceptance, which is resolved.
Improvements: The “Be me” thing just reminds me too much of 4chan, which, like, yeah, that’s consistent for our internet-poisoned protagonist, but I hate it. The bit about the development of the city is sort of thrown in there, and could use a foreshadowed reference earlier in the story. The last line doesn’t make sense as dialogue because the protagonist was blocking people who said that, and didn’t mention that as their profile, so we need a snappier, funnier ending.
Numerical Rating: 6.5



Reclaimed Time
Your Plot: An outlaw and company debt-slave escape a Big Corporate space station.
Successes: You make the setting clear through details like “artificial skin” and “charged plasma in hand.” You successfully hit the week’s theme of outlaws.
Improvements: Immediately, the lack of developed characters stands out. I know putting us in the middle of the action is good for a hook, but it also leaves us confused because I don’t know what Horado is doing at Mariposa’s Levue, why is shift was so long ago, where ~~mystery man~~ came from. The missing arm bit and Horado’s situation is too vaguely developed and scattered: “Confusing” describes an unfortunate amount of this story. Then we get boss Arnall chatting with Eryl, but the history between them isn’t quite clear, and I don’t know that we even want more backstory because the complexity of your story is too high as it is. Arnall frying Horado’s enforcer chip doesn’t make sense, since Arnall uses them to enforce compliance. The “resolution” of Horado getting back his father’s watch just comes out of nowhere. What Horado wants needs to be made more clear in the beginning of the story. Is this a story about escape, emotional resolution, or what? Why is he working for Mariposa, how did he get trapped in debt-slavery, what are his hopes/dreams/personality, why would he want to stay here (since he hesitates at one point), etc.. It would also be nice if Eryl wasn’t just a magic problem-solving machine with his plasma hand, because it ends up making Horado relatively passive in this story. Finally, your watch/title pun is bad and you should feel bad for making it.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: Please remember to include any flash rules you received when you post, jerk. As punishment for not including it, I’m not going to analyze the application of the rule to your story, even though it would have taken me less words than writing about how I’m not going to talk about it. Besides, I already wrote your crit before discovering you had a flash rule.
Numerical Rating: 3.5



A Series of Unusual Bear Maulings
Your Plot: A smuggler ends up fighting for her life against a forest-cop.
Successes: Good tension as the story starts. It’s pretty obvious that the ranger is bear-murdering people before he just outright says it, but the tension flows along nicely and we get to worry about the protagonist. The story is clear and easy to read.
Improvements: I would punch-up details in a lot of places. Give us another detail about the lakeside shore wilderness. Give us a detail about the ranger—maybe how bulky he is, or a scruffy beard. Give us a thought the protagonist has, like a worry, or how a detail she sees connects to her past—who the ranger reminds her of or something. The ending doesn’t land for me. Mostly, I don’t buy that ranger-man is going to undo her cuffs, because no way is “bruises on the wrist” not going to be overcome by, say, cutting her hands off afterward or several days of decomposition or the fact that no one is going to perform that kind of forensic analysis. I also don’t buy that Taco Bell Diablo sauce is going to get this practiced killer to run for the lake rather than finish his pinned victim (especially since a dunk in the lake isn’t going to do that much). The fight is also chaotic and has issues. How is she cutting the barrel rope with a single swipe? I would change the sequence after the handcuffs entirely.
HELLRULE ANALYSIS: Please remember to include any flash rules you received when you post, jerk. As punishment for not including it, I’m not going to analyze the application of the rule to your story, even though it would have taken me less words than writing about how I’m not going to talk about it. Besides, I already wrote your crit before discovering you had a flash rule.
Numerical Rating: 4.5

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


prompt.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Yoru 5, sort of sweet walk down ambiguously sci fi space capybara memory lane but not quite enough incident to really make much of an impact

Mocking, 5, almost pure world building and extremely grim with it. Killing your protag halfway through a bold move that doesn’t really pay off, decent mood tho

Sparks, 7.5, nicely poignant, great imagery and clever idea – don’t love the personification of Time, feels a missed oppo

Simon, 6, solid twilight zoney yarn, maybe a little rote but told with considerable zazz

Almighty derelict, 4.5, an enraged blog post about stinkbombs

Crimea 4 dreary succession of events that does almost nothing with its 3k year timespan

Barnaby 8.5 this is delightful, sweet, and sad and perfectly paced

Something else, 6.5, imaginative and emotive, not sure if the father and Cane pay their way in the story

Ceighk, 6, I love the idea and the notion of the choir (though less so for its patchy execution), but it doesn’t quite hang together – possibly the assassin agency is unnecessary baggage?

Burningbeard 6 I loved the initial wafty ghosting and the precision of the description, but the son is such a lump it kills the story when he arrives, and the spiralling purple of the prose doesn’t rescue it

Pthpthya 8 I wasn’t expecting to be as moved by this as I was, the final image is perfect and ties a precise but not over-neat loop with the beginning

Applewhite, 5, I love the deranged surreality of your pool table western society with weird scuttling monsters sort of thing but it’s very and then, and then, and then, and then you reach that last line and I plug you right in your fool head with my colt. Plus those short paras read weirdly, you’re allowed to have more than one sentence in a paragraph fyi

Flerp, 8, nice straightforward yarn about two guys getting high and loving a prius right up. This is a really sweet tight little piece that you should probably try and sell.

Thrangles 7 interesting but detached terrorist sarariman yarn, i liked but didn’t love

Anom blowout, 8, slickly written (the prose is unctuous, makes me want to read it out loud) I think the only thing holding it back is the lack of a metaphorical underpinning, but this is drat fine fogmonster on an island story writin’

Baby ryoga, 5.5, clunky words but some nice evocation of the key qualities of your story setting (black/quiet).

R H I N O, 8.5 haha this owns super hard but it’s also like 1450 words so cannot win im sorry but I might just hm it just bc

Kurona bright, 6, tolerable vaguely noir sci fi prostheticpunk

Saucy rodent 7 clever and slick, a good yarn

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







P r o t m pt

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021




This week I’d like to read scenes inspired by field recordings. When you sign up, either pick a sound to your liking from the immense archive at freesound.org, or :toxx: with your sign-up to be assigned a (challenging) sound.

Sound should be integral to the scene that you describe, and I’ll be reading especially for evocative, interesting, and stylish depictions of aural experience. Also, please note that I am looking for a single scene, and as such you should not feel pressured to present a complete and resolved plot. However, your scene should at least allude to a story that it inhabits, and as such there should be a sense of a plot being advanced or characters developing over the course of your scene.

Word Limit: 800
Sign-Ups Due: Friday, July 10, 2359 PST
Submissions Due: Sunday, July 12, 2359 PST
Additional Rules: As detailed in the OP

Judges:
Barnaby Profane

Recordists:

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







In, sound me

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

scanning for good game design


This sounds ( :razz: ) really interesting, guess I gotta :toxx: in on this

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


sebmojo posted:

In, sound me

Tuulivoimala, siivet / Wind power, wings of a high windmill in a wind farm rotating, swishing

Simply Simon posted:

This sounds ( :razz: ) really interesting, guess I gotta :toxx: in on this

Inside an abandoned lead mine

AlmightyDerelict
Jun 14, 2020

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020


In, :toxx:

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021



Metal Farm Gate in Wales; Bent Metal

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


College Slice

In, and I'll take a sound.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Hawklad posted:

In, and I'll take a sound.

Creaky dock - Underwater Hydrophone Recording

MockingQuantum
Jan 20, 2012





In, sound me

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021



Ambience, Florida Frogs Gathering, A

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


In this round, with a sound

BurningBeard
May 10, 2013


In for a penny, in for a sound. Whatcha got?

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




In, sound me up.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


In. Sound me, please.

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a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish



In :toxx: for sound

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