Bring it, Surreptitious Muffintop. I'll brawl anytime.
|# ? Jan 17, 2020 02:57|
|# ? Jan 28, 2022 23:05|
Howdy howdy howdy I'm definitely the real cptn_dr and I am *IN* this week bring it on bitches
Sure would be a shame if somebody kept you from writing terrible words by dragging you to several gigs this weekend, huh?
for Captain vs. Captain, round two
|# ? Jan 17, 2020 03:16|
I'll fight anyone, I don't care. I'll grind your word bones to make my story bread.
|# ? Jan 17, 2020 03:31|
Howdy howdy howdy I’m definitely the real cptn_dr and I am *IN* this week bring it on bitches
F I T E M E
Captain Muffin Quivering rear end Brawl
Your story must include a scene where people converse while eating jello.
1500 words. Deadline is 31st Jan, 11:59 pm NZT.
|# ? Jan 17, 2020 03:32|
Sure would be a shame if somebody kept you from writing terrible words by dragging you to several gigs this weekend, huh?
I want in on this bad boy bustup
I have been informed by the archive gods that a four-way brawl is possible, so all you losers get to wrestle in jello.
Same prompt. Same deadline.
Jello must be eaten. Feed me this jello by the end of the month. Or feed it to yourselves. I don’t give a poo poo.
|# ? Jan 17, 2020 04:05|
A Thunderdome Christmas story by Entenzahn and
This story is dedicated to Chili, for his tireless efforts to organise Thunderdome secret santa.
Bob-Santa Rides Again
The year is 2030teen. Northpole, Antarctica, Russia, two elves are entering an aboned bunker. The frozen-over “Do Not Enter” sign above the entrance is barely readable. They ignore it. The bunker was a perfect little shelter for them. For Sugarfloppemlollops and Bob, that is to say, it was the only place where they could be themselves.
This was the only place where they could still celebrate Christmas.
The war had not been kind on anyone, but the magical beings of Christmas cheer were hit even harder by the peace than by the war. Ever since Santa had disappeared off the face of the earth, their existence had been an anguished one. But that’s how it was: winners write history, and losers hold the quill. It was funny. Somehow they’d always thought it was tweeting liberals that would destroy them and not the ultra-orthodox Russians sitting on a pile of nukes. Hindsight is 20/20.
The two elves squatted down on the cracked concrete inside. In the distance, winter winds howled through half-collapsed bunker entrance. Sugarfloppemlollops pulled a paper out of his pocket. It rustled like a campfire in the cold arctic night. He pulled on the string holding it together and the paper unfolded like a picnic blanket, with three candy-canes, a handful of candied nuts and a cinnamon stick on top.
Bob smacked his lips.
“Careful,” Sugarfloppemlollops said. “This is all we have.” He reached for one of the candy canes, slowly, almost reverent, and led it to his lips. His tongue barely touched it, once, and memories of peppermint rushed through him, bringing with them the bells and the lights and the laughter of delighted children. He resisted the temptation to lick again. He put it back down. The place felt a little less cold.
Bob was already sucking on a candied peanut like it was a breath mint. When he noticed Sugarfloppemlollops watching him, he slowly spit it out. “gently caress it,” he said.
“It’s okay.” Sugarfloppemlollops put the nut back on the pile. “At least you didn’t eat it this time.”
Next to him, Bob had set down two large sacks. Wordlessly, he picked one of them up and tossed it over to Sugarfloppemlollops, where it landed with a dull clatter. The present inside was neatly wrapped, classical festive red-white-and-green, the proud colours of their people. The outside was smooth and cold. It was a light box. Neither of them knew what was inside, but whatever it was, it had meant something, to someone, a long time ago. Sugarfloppemlollops handed it over to Bob.
“Merry Christmas,” he said.
Instinctively, both their hands went to their hips, before their brains informed them that there was nothing left there since the disarmament. And even before, there had only been slingshots, which may have been a contributing factor to losing the war, come to think of it. Nothing else happened.
Slowly, like two spooked seals who still weren’t quite sure if they had an ice bear on their tails, they turned their attention back to the ritual. Bob set the gift down next to him and handed over his own.
“Merry Christmas,” he said.
The drone burst out of Santa-knows-what corner of the bunker, whirring maniacally, a nuts-and-bolts animal howling for prey. The two elves quickly jumped in front of their contraband, hiding the presents behind their backs. Sugarfloppemlollops subtly pushed the candies behind a concrete pillar. The drone stopped just short of them and, with an assortment of alien clicks and beeps, began to analyze them.
“Назовите себя,” it said.
“Wait,” Sugarfloppemlollops said. “We are just two elves. We used to work for Santa. We are here to escape from the cold.”
“What did it just call us?” Bob said.
“We are not,” Sugarfloppemlollops said. “Just friends.”
“Yeah,” Bob said. “So watch what you…” he trailed off. As he angrily pointed at the drone, he realized that he was still holding the present in his hand. “poo poo.”
There was a sound that every elf had learned to fear during the war. Kind of like a camera flash in reverse, a high-pitched whining that indicated when the miniguns of a Russian battle drone were winding up. Some nights Sugarfloppemlollops still woke up sweaty, the fatal sound echoing through his head from whatever nightmare had haunted him that time. But they weren’t dreaming now.
Bob smacked the drone with his present. It slammed into the concrete pillar with a metallic thud. The minigun noise stopped abruptly as the drone sunk to the ground, audibly dealing with mechanical failures through a series of beeps and buzzes. That was all they needed.
“Run!” Sugarfloppemlollops yelled. He dashed ahead, Bob right behind him, as the drone noisily booted back up. There was an opening closeby that led them down a dimly lit hallway. Up ahead there was a dead end. No, a right turn. The drone came back to life with an alarm that quaked their bones.
They barely turned the corner before the hail of bullets could tear them to shreds. At the other end of the hallway, there was a steel door. Sugarfloppemlollops reached it first. He jumped up and turned the handle with his bodyweight, but the door didn’t budge.
“Bob!” Sugarfloppemlollops said.
The six-feet-five elf didn’t need any more instruction. Still running, he threw his massive body against the steel door. Again. Again. It budged a little more with every hit, rocking Superfloppemlollops back and forth.
The drone turned the corner. The miniguns were winding up again.
Finally, with a massive warcry, Bob slammed all his four hundred pounds of mass against the door in a move that almost ripped it off its hinges. They scurried through just as bullets flew past them through the opening. Grunting, Bob pushed the door closed. A loud clank, then a few lighter ones, then silence. Either the drone was looking for a different way in, or waiting for them to come back out. Whatever it was, they had to keep moving.
Neither of them had ever gone particularly deep into the bunker complex, and now they saw for the first time how little they had missed. It was dark, cold and covered in layers of rust and frozen vapors. Concrete and steel. Functional. Brutal. They weren’t sure if the bunker had once been theirs, or the Russians’, but now it was stripped of all assets. Empty. A tomb to die in.
“You know,” Bob said, “back in the day, just before the war ended, there were a lot of rumors going around. About Santa, I mean.”
“Like this. A lot of elves still don’t believe he’s really dead. Believe he’s just waiting somewhere, biding his time. Getting ready in his secret workshop, ready to return us to freedom. Some of the rumors mentioned a hidden underground complex, just like this one.”
Sugarfloppemlollops had heard the conspiracy theories before, but even if he’d believed them, this bunker had never been particularly well-hidden. It’s just that nobody had ever bothered to look into it because there was nothing of value here. But he said nothing.
At least Bob still had hope. That was more than he could say about himself. Here they were, trapped in an underground maze. They had no idea how and if they could ever get out, there was nothing here to work with and their last supplies were still stuck at the entrance, probably lorded over by an army of drones by now. The more he rattled his brain, the more he realized the futility of their situation. All that could save them now was a Christmas miracle.
“Whoa, what’s that?” Bob said.
Sugarfloppemlollops stopped and turned. Deeply lost in thought as he was, he’d completely missed the large, double-winged door, decorated with turned-off Christmas lights. There was a mural carved into the thick wood, but they couldn’t make it out in the dim light. Somehow, the door seemed to call out to them. It felt, well, important.
Their excitement soon gave way to desperation when they realized there was no opening it, no matter how much Bob hurled himself against it. They didn’t have any tools on them, so they began to explore the surrounding area. They were so sure about this door that they initially decided against going deeper into the complex, not to mention that a lot of the paths they explored eventually turned into dead-ends anyway.
It was hard to tell how long this went on without any kind of day-and-night cycle, but judging by how often they fell asleep, it must have been a few days. Their time in the bunker dragged on as their expeditions took longer and longer to find any actual new ground. Still, they always returned empty-handed. They knew this door was the way, they just knew. But they would never get through, not like this.
The thirst came before the hunger, and before the crushing sense of loneliness, until with every step they took, life drained a little more from their bodies. Eventually they barely bothered to move around anymore, instead opting to rest next to the Christmas gate, as they took to calling it. Their mortal shells were dying, and their spirits began to resign themselves to their fate. Acceptance was always the last step.
Sugarfloppemlollops was just about to doze off again when Bob’s voice pulled him out of the enveloping darkness.
“We never finished the ritual,” Bob said meekly.
“What?” Sugarfloppemlollops said.
“The ritual. We stopped at the gifting.”
“Does it matter anymore?”
“If we let our traditions die, they win. That’s what you taught me.”
“Alright. Knock yourself out, Bob.”
Bob hesitated. He’d never done this on his own. But then, he began to sing. We Wish You A Merry Christmas. The only carol he’d ever been able to memorize. His voice was raspy, wavering, unsure. It tested its way towards the right pitch like a blind man searching for his walking stick. At first, Sugarfloppemlollops thought it futile. But soon, the singing bounced through his skull, down his throat and right into his heart, and he couldn’t stop himself from joining in, until together, their voices swelled up and filled the empty bunker with the warm resonance of Christmas cheer.
The door began to move.
They stopped singing, fearing another defense mechanism. It was anything but.
Instead, the Christmas lights on the door went on, blinking red, blue, yellow, green, purple. A christmas carol played. ‘Deck the Halls’, a melody Sugarfloppemlollops hadn’t heard in a decade. A chorus of bells played it from behind the gate, which now slowly swung open. The light from the other side washed over them, and when their eyes had finally adjusted to the brightness, they couldn’t believe what they saw.
Santa. He stood in the middle of the room, resplendent in his bright red coat and fur-trimmed boots. Sugarfloppemlollops let out a whoop of joy and ran forward to embrace the long-lost Father of Christmas.
“Sugarfloppemlollops, wait--” said Bob. Something about the room made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
Sugarfloppemlollops threw himself at Santa and wrapped his arms around the great man’s meaty thigh in a desperate embrace. Santa’s leg crackled like dried paper and a great cloud of dust poofed out of the neck of his suit. His head rolled forward, and Sugarfloppemlollops looked up and screamed. The skin of Santa’s face was pulled tight over his skull like ancient leather. Black lips circled an awful grin of yellow teeth, and his once twinkling blue eyes were nothing by empty sockets.
Sugarfloppemlollops scrambled backwards away from the corpse. Santa’s body was held upright by a series of tubes that extended from the back of his torso to a bank of silent machinery near the back of the cavernous room. The walls were lined with piles of presents. Colourful boxes were stacked alongside beautifully crafted wooden toys. Bicycles with bows hanging from their handles rested on their shining kickstands next to piles of ribbons and paper decorated with smiling snowmen.
Bob fell to his knees in the dust. “The rumours were true,” he said. “It’s all here, Santa was waiting for us! But we were too late…” His voice broke into sobs and he pulled Sugarfloppemlollops to him. The two elves held each other and rocked, hot tears squeezing from their dehydrated bodies.
Slow clapping echoed across the chamber. The elves clung to each other as the Janitor stepped out from behind the shadows of the machinery to which Santa was entubed.
“So, some of you found this place at last,” he said, in a voice like sandpaper on cardboard. He was tall - taller even than Bob - but stick thin. His long arms ended in claw-like fingers and his eyes were dark shadows in his gaunt face.
The elves recognised him from Santa’s palace, before the war. An ever-present figure in the dorms and hallways of the huge complex, they had largely ignored him, like an off-putting pot plant that somehow also did the mopping for you.
“I have been stuck down here for years,” he said. “Do you have any idea how long it has been since I’ve eaten...”
“What did you do to Santa?” said Sugarfloppemlollops, pointing one arm accusingly at the mummified body.
“Only what he would have done to me!” cried the Janitor. “He took the reindeer first, one by one. I thought he would spare Rudolph, but...”
Bob’s eyes were drawn a dark pile at the back of the cavern. What he had taken to be piles of present-filled sacks was in fact fur, and antlers…
“When he consumed Rudolph’s life force I knew he would stop at nothing to stay alive, to keep waiting for his elves to find him so he could finally rise up against the Russians! He believed in the power of Christmas; believed that saving Christmas justified any means.” The Janitor circled the terrified elves, waving his bony arms and staring at them with wide, blood-shot eyes.
“But no one knew where we were! I told him, it would take a loving Christmas miracle for an elf to make it this far into the bunker! The place is surrounded by drones. It is abonend!” Spittle flew from his mouth and splattered Bob’s cheek. “And when Santa aboned Rudolph, that’s when I decided, that I wasn’t going to let him abonen me!”
“So you killed him? You killed Father Christmas!” Bob got to his feet, anger overwhelming his fear.
“Only to stop him killing me first!” screamed the Janitor. “He was going to suck my life out with his damned machi--”
Bob heard the terrifying whine of the drone a split second before bullets sprayed across the floor between him and the Janitor. He dive-rolled out of the way and yelled at Sugarfloppemlollops to run.
Sugarfloppemlollops lept aboard one of the bicyles and peddled hard in the wake of Bob’s long-legged sprint, ribbons streaming from the handles. Bullets ripped through the stacks of presents behind them, filling the air with colourful bursts of shredded wrapping paper.
Bob dive-rolled over the pile of reindeer husks and found himself at the top of a dark tunnel. Sugarfloppemlollops skidded around the side on his bike, but the front wheel hit a small pothole. Bob could only watch in horror as the spokes snapped and front wheel collapsed, sending Sugarfloppemlollops tumbling over and over down the slope.
Bob charged after him. At the bottom he found Sugarfloppemlollops lying face down and bleeding profusely from where a piece of bone protruded from his broken right thigh. Bob stuffed his fist in his mouth to keep from screaming. Above him he could hear the drone whirring as it scanned for them. Bob felt sick; there was blood everywhere. He stumbled, suddenly dizzy; the blood the blood the blo--
When Bob came to the cave was bathed in pale grey light. Sugarfloppemlollops’ face was even paler. He could see a row of empty reindeer stalls against the back wall. The floor of the cave sloped gently up to the opening through which dawn light was filtering. And there, its empty shafts pointing expectantly towards the opening, stood Santa’s sleigh.
Bob gasped and tried to rise, only to find that his hands and feet were bound. Footsteps rang out on the stone floor behind him and he twisted his head around. The Janitor was dragging a tangled mess of tubes towards him from the cavern above. Bob struggled against his bonds but he couldn’t move.
“It’s just you and me now,” said the Janitor. He hefted the tubes and pulled up the back of Bob’s green and red elf muscle shirt.
Bob screamed as the Janitor pressed the tubes against his back and he felt them begin to burrow their way into his flesh. His body contorted and he writhed against the cold stone.
Bob’s vision was fading when a trembling voice crept into his ears beneath his screams. “We wish you a Merry Christmas...”
“...we wish you a Merry Christmas...” The tubes lessened their terrible sucking against Bob’s skin and he drew in a huge, shuddering breath.
“We wish you a Merry Christmas!” Sugarfloppemlollops looked up at Bob, tears streaming down his pale, trembling cheeks.
“AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!” cried Bob. With a roar he tore apart the decorative ribbon that bound his wrists. He yanked the tubes from his bleeding back and snatched up the Janitor by his skinny neck.
“No, stop!” screeched the Janitor. “I’ll do anything you want! Just… just use a loving condom!”
Bob hauled the Janitor across the cave and thrust him between the shafts of the sleigh, where the leather harness hung ready. “Get in!” he yelled.
Running back towards the tunnel Bob crouched over Sugarfloppemlollops. “Thank you, Sugarfloppemlollops,” he said. “I know what I have to do, now.”
Weak with blood loss, Sugarfloppemlollops could only give Bob a trembling smile.
Bob bent down and kissed Sugarfloppemlollops passionately on the mouth. He poured his elf-love into his friend. “That should hold you until I get back,” Bob said.
He sprinted up the tunnel. The drone was gone. Probably waiting for him outside, Bob thought. But he didn’t care. Bob burned with peppermint fury.
“Merry Christmas, Santa Claus,” Bob whispered as he took the red suit from what remained of Father Christmas. He felt its power surge through his veins as he pulled it on. He will filled with Christmas cheer and goodwill to man. Bob was going to bring peace to all the land; he knew it.
The sleighbells jingled as Bob settled into the driver’s seat and took the leather reins in his hands. He took a deep breath, and felt the spirit of old Saint Nick throb through the sleigh.
“Now, Janitor!” he cried, and cracked the reins.
The Janitor gasped as the sleigh lurched forward. His legs flailed, then caught the snow. He ran faster and faster, until his legs were a blur and his body strained against the harness. The sleigh hurtled up the slope and Bob whooped as they burst from the cave and up into a pale dawn sky still speckled with stars.
“Ho ho ho!” Bob laughed as the sleigh’s automatic undercarriage-canons picked off the three drones that buzzed in their wake.
The ultra-orthodox Russians didn’t know it yet, but their days of not watching out, crying and pouting were numbered. Bob-Santa Claus was coming, to town.
|# ? Jan 17, 2020 20:04|
I love you.
|# ? Jan 18, 2020 00:05|
|# ? Jan 18, 2020 02:17|
|# ? Jan 18, 2020 03:02|
|# ? Jan 18, 2020 04:44|
|# ? Jan 18, 2020 08:25|
A crit of Mixed Messages by arbitraryfairy
No matter what anyone else might say, it was the human that started it. This opening line is good, in that it is intriguing, but bad, in that I have no idea what you're talking about. Opening lines should pull the reader deep into the story straight away, either by telling them heaps about the character (see My Life in Knots, by Crabrock), yanking them into the setting (see Scales and Fire, by Sebmojo), or by informing them of exactly what sort of ride they're in for (see Desire Invicta, by Sitting Here).
She was small for a human, with the bright clothes and lumbering gait that tended to denote their kittens. I personally don't like anthropomorphic animal stories where ordinary nouns are replaced by animal terms, UNLESS this is important to how the animal characters understand the world. In this case calling the child a kitten doesn't add anything - you could have just described her, and let the reader understand from your description that she's a child. She was still much, much larger than Zoro was, and her lips were pulled back to show teeth, an obvious challenge. Her aggressively wide eyes bored straight into him and she intermittently let out high pitched squeals of “KITTYKITTYKITTY!” In these two sentences you're doubling up on all your descriptions, which makes them less effective. E.g. your description of the child's smile makes it clear that Zoro finds it threatening; you don't need to say that it's "an obvious challenge" as well. Similarly, you don't need to say the child's squeals were high pitched, because that's what squealing means.
Now, Profesora Fluffypants, one of the smartest cats in the Home, always said that the common human noise of “Kitty” was a positive one. She theorised it was a show of affection, or possibly a general sign of pleasure. But it wasn’t Profesora Fluffypants being stared down by this monster - if the kitten-human See, this is the problem with replacing nouns like this. A) It sounds stupid. B) It's inconsistent. If the cats don't know the word for "child", why would they refer to each other using the names humans have given them? I say either avoid this poo poo entirely, or you've got to lean way into it, and use made-up cat terms for everything was deriving pleasure from anything, it was clearly the anticipation of ripping Zoro’s ears off. This paragraph is bad because I want to know how Zoro feels and what he's doing, and you haven't told me anything about that. I can infer that he's frightened, but I'm not feeling any feelings. This is a story about a frightened cat! I should be just about in tears by now. If I were confronted by this scene irl I would be shoving this hell-child out the way in my anxiety to save this poor cat from having its tail pulled. But you haven't described poor wee Zoro's feelings or actions at all.
As that lovely image flashed through his mind, the kitten-human came towards him, her arms pawing in his direction, grasping the air. See comments above about saying the same thing twice. You would have been better to use a simile or something here to show me what her pawing is like. Zoro stood alert, his tail twitching, warning the creature away. How did Zoro feel? Is he scared? Being brave? Not hurting humans was one of the great laws of the Home, but maybe if he threatened her in kind, she’d back off. He wanted to bolt. He should bolt. But she’d surprised him during his nap, and he was penned into a corner. Besides, Draco had stolen the last of his fish this morning and some part of him was just sick of being pushed around. This is good detail about what sort of person Zoro is. More of this is needed, and earlier.
Get lost, he willed her. This is bad because it is a non-action. This cat is standing still, thinking thoughts. At least have him hiss or tremble or something. She took a step forward, still “kitty”-ing at him. You missed an opportunity here to be specific in your description. Is this child standing? Bending down? Being loud? Quiet? "Kittying" could be any of these things, so I'm not sure what I should be picturing. Leave, he snarled, baring his own teeth. Did he say something out loud in cat language or can he speak to humans? She stopped for a second -was she going to back off?- but then all at once she lurched forward, grabbed his tail, and pulled. WHERE ARE THIS CHILD'S PARENTS?
The laws of the Home and his irritation at Draco vacated Zoro’s mind as buried fear from those frightening kittenhood days before the Home welled up, along with, he would later tell himself (and anyone else who would listen), the warrior instinct inherent in all cat kind. Ok now we've executed a hard 180 from having zero description of what makes Zoro who he is, to way too much, and all of it generic. This story would have been more engrossing if you'd been clearer about who Zoro is, and then used a sprinkling of details to show us his personality. A yowl ripped itself out of his throat and his claws seemed to move of their own accord. When his claws were still again, Oof that was a painful action gap. "When his claws were still again" implies a lot of movement and some time passing. You could have just said, "...claws seemed to move of their own accord. The child wailed and stepped back with a bloody arm..." the kitten-human had stepped back with a bloody arm, making a wailing noise Zoro didn’t need Profesora Fluffypants to interpret.
Now, while she was distracted, he bolted at last.
He couldn’t bolt far - the Home was only so big. But there were some cat-sized holes that led to a private section that only they and the Home-humans that came every day and fed them could get to. This deviation into describing the layout of the Home is boring - you could cut the first part of this para without losing anything. Zoro didn’t stop bolting until he’d climbed up to a high perch with some comforting boxy walls. Inevitably, the others came over before he’d had a chance to calm down.
Every cat that dropped by had something to say, none of it very surprising. Fitch, a gossip, kept darting out and coming back to tell him that the kitten-human was still crying and some of the bigger ones were making frantic noises at each other, Home-humans versus the visitors.
The elders Vague admonished him for using violence against a human - not, of course, that some of them didn’t deserve it, but didn’t he remember what had happened to Algernon? He hurt a few humans, and then they took him away, and you can only guess what happened after that but you bet your left footpad it wasn’t good and oh Zoroaster you stupid young thing you’re really in danger now.
Chipping in to support Zoro were Roxy and Draco, who were not much older than him and two of the biggest cats in the Home. Why should we follow the laws, maybe if enough of us rebel we could take over the Home, yowl, yowl, etc. Inevitably, the whole thing descended into politics, as what the humans provided (names, food, scratchies) was weighed up against the restrictions they imposed: don’t try to leave the Home, don’t pee on the floor, don’t take the humans’ food (unless you can get away with it) and, above all, don’t hurt the humans, because they can make you disappear. I think this story would have worked better without all this cat society fluff. This is a story about a frightened cat, who overcomes his fear and then is happy at the end. You should have focussed on that.
Even Draco’s clear approval didn’t do much to combat Zoro’s increasing fear that he was going to be the next Algernon, taken away in a cage, never to return. He decided to abandon his spot before Fitch could return with another update about how the humans were all looking serious and clearly plotting their revenge. See, I think you could have described a cat hiding and feeling scared about what was going to happen to him without needing cats telling apocryphal tale like a bunch of village idiots.
This almost immediately led to him getting stuck in a conversation with Profesora Fluffypants, who wanted to know exactly what the human had been doing during “the incident.” She was developing a theory that when humans bared their teeth they were actually being friendly, which was just about the stupidest thing Zoro had ever heard. Did they only pick up the awful little spray bottle to show affection as well?
Before Profesora Fluffypants could give him the latest in spray-bottle-scholarship, he flicked his tail and padded away – he wasn’t in the mood for chatter right now. Fear was beginning to eat him up and, to his own surprise, so was anger. The human had hurt him first. She was the one who had attacked him . She grabbed his tail. He defended himself. But it was Zoro that was going to get disappeared. Zoro never considered himself a radical like Roxy was, he would even go so far as to say he liked most humans. But if he wasn’t allowed to hurt them, why was it okay for them to hurt him?
Emboldened by his anger and a desperate need to get away from the cats discussing his huge mistake and impending doom, Zoro stalked back out into the public floor of the Home. If they were going to disappear him, he wasn’t going to hide like a mouse while they did it. Ok, these two paragraphs contain the turnaround point of the story. The part where something happens to make our protag decide to take action to get the thing that they want. The something that happens can be an external event, or internal, like a huge realisation. But in this case Zoro goes from being scared and angry, to still being scared and angry. Prof. F. Pants' philosophising could have been the thing that promptws Zoro to realise something, but you explicitly said he didn't listen to him.
Back on the public floor, the humans had become a little less frantic, though she was still there, with an adult visitor-human on one side and a Home-human on the other, and not just any Home-human. It was Zoro’s favourite human, Handsome (she said this so often, he had worked out it was her name). It's too late in the story to be introducing new characters. You should have had handsome be there at the start, and foreshadowed that she was going to be important later.
Handsome was nice to everyone, but she and Zoro had a special bond, and when the visitor-humans stopped coming in for the day she would often get herself a drink and sit next to Zoro for a while. She didn’t yowl “kittykitty” at him, she just murmured, a soft human purr. It had been Handsome that had spent all that time with him when Zoro had first arrived from that other, terrifying place, showing him that humans could be loving as well as cruel. This is cute, and is the sort of good detail about this character and his relationships that this story needs more of.
All at once, the three humans turned their eyes to focus on Zoro, and his gut twisted. Yes, good. But, could be better. "Gut twisted" is generic - try to think of something that is unique to Zoro and/or cats. Was it going to be Handsome that disappeared him? When Zoro had made his peace with being disappeared, he hadn’t imagined it would be Handsome doing it. He couldn’t make peace with that.
Handsome’s face crinkled upwards with toothless pleasure and she crouched down, stretching out a hand to beckon him. “Zoro, Handsome.” She spoke their names together in her usual way, then continued to murmur softly, her purr, filled with all the love in the world. She didn’t look like she wanted to disappear him. Could it be a trick? Would Handsome do that? I am enjoying this more now that we're getting some insight into what's going on inside Zoro's head.
She wouldn’t, surely? Heart racing, pupils narrowing, Zoro padded tentatively forward. Handsome, hand still outstretched, turned to the kitten-human, and said something in the same tone, her soft purr.
The kitten-human stepped towards Zoro, but this time she wasn’t baring her teeth, and her steps were lighter, smaller. Zoro’s eyes flicked between the kitten-human and Handsome, who made some more reassuring noises in his direction.
“Zoro,” the kitten-human mewled at him, her voice now almost as soft as Handsome’s. “Zoro, kitty.” She reached out her hand, not a lurching grab but slowly, tentatively. Her face crinkled up, not in a toothy grimace this time but more like a mirror of Handsome's expression. This is all very cute, but I don't care about this child. Zoro is the protag, and I am rooting for Zoro to get what Zoro wants. Unfortunately, I don't know what this is. If you had told me at the start that Zoro really really liked being patted, but sometimes he was too frightened, then at this stage I'd be excited to see whether Zoro could finally overcome his fear and get the thing he wanted all along.
She wanted to pet him? After she hurt him? After he hurt her? He looked up at the kitten-human again and this time could see her as the gawky oversized kitten she seemed to be. Maybe she played a little too roughly, but so did he. And she didn’t look like she wanted to hurt him anymore. Maybe he wasn’t going to be disappeared.
She took another step forward and Zoro rose up to meet her hand.
This is an extremely nit-picky crit, but overall I thought this story was cute. The reason there's lots to nitpick is because there is plenty here to work with. I would love to read a story about a sad cat who makes a friend and becomes a happy cat. If you cut out all the unnecessary stuff about cat politics and philosophy and just left Zoro, Handsome and The Child, it'd be about 500 words long, completely adorable and probably would have HM'd because everyone loves a story that makes them feel happy feelings.
|# ? Jan 18, 2020 08:42|
Thanks for the crits Yoruichi, that's really detailed! ^_^
|# ? Jan 18, 2020 20:41|
This planet, the first of what we’ve come to call the Deadstar system, is colder and darker than the abyss of space. I know this from experience. The cold here bleeds into our heavy spacesuits as we leave the Frobisher to collect bathwater with the fire-drill.
Kane says he’s seeing things moving under the ice. By now, half the crew sees weird poo poo moving around the constant darkness. It’s more fun to imagine we’re being stalked by monsters than to face the truth; that we’ve been marooned on the coldest, darkest planet in the galaxy for over a year now with dwindling food, desperately hoping some passing freighter will pick up our S.O.S, like any other crew would be foolish enough to route through Deadstar.
“This sun’s been out for a million years, kid,” I tell Kane. “If there ever was anything living in this ocean, it’s as dead as everything else in this God-forsaken system.”
“I’m not crazy,” says Kane. “I saw what I saw.”
“I don’t think you’re crazy,” I say. “Just bored.”
My breath is fogging up the inside of my helmet. I huddle closer to the fire-drill for warmth.
“You think we’re going to starve here?” says Kane.
I laugh. “I would’ve starved on Earth sooner without this gig. I tended bar by Lake Michigan. Obviously, nobody wanted to come to Chicago after AGGGHHH!”
Something as cold as the air tugs at my foot. I look down at what looks like a black claw, both gooey and spiky.
“What are you waiting for?” I shout. “Get it off me!”
Kane rushes toward the drill and redirects its beam at the creature’s wrist. There’s a cavernous scream from beneath the ice and the thing releases me. I fall forward and start crawling away from the drill.
“Don’t you dare tell me you told me so,” I growl as I find my footing.
“What was that thing?” says Kane, and he is answered when the beast leaps out from the ice. In the thin light of the fire-drill, I don’t get a very long look, and what I do see doesn’t make much sense. We’re running back toward the ship by the time it’s fully emerged.
Kane hits the switch to open the airlock. The gate slowly begins to open.
“gently caress gently caress gently caress hurry up!” I say. The creature’s slobbering gets closer. We slip in as soon as the opening to wide enough to take us. I slam the Close Door button as soon as we’re inside, but it shuts even slower than it opens. Before it can close, five tentacle-claws are prying it open. Kane reaches towards the switch to open the inner door but I swat his hands away.
“You open that door before the airlock is closed, there’s no more heat anywhere inside, and every crewman becomes a statue.”
“What are we supposed to do?” Kane yells. “Wait for that thing to get inside?”
I pick up the airlock’s transmitter. “Hey, do we have any guns that didn’t get taken by the pirates?”
“Just my pistol, why?” comes the voice of the Frobisher’s captain, Fraser.
“Bring that pistol down to the airlock, stat!” I bark and drop the transmitter. The thing’s in the airlock by now, and the outer door is closing again. I can’t tell how many limbs or mouths it has, just that they’re reaching and pulling and drooling and gnashing. I try to push back against them, but new mouths keep opening everywhere I think of resisting. One of its appendages is wrapped around my waist and it’s dragging me towards one of the mouths in what you could call a torso. The fleshy chasm opens wider than you’d ever think possible, and the inside of its mouth is bigger than the beast itself and filled with teeth.
Then the inner door snaps open very quickly and there’s shooting. The monster screams its deep scream and drops me. I flee into the ship, Kane right behind me. Fraser shuts the door. We see the creature writhe in the airlock. For a moment, it looks like it has a shell, like some ancient decapod. The next, I’m not so sure.
Kane is shaken, as I am, but it looks like he has all his limbs. Most of the crew is in the entry with Fraser. Somewhere, there’s a TV playing some fifty-year old Flintakkian sitcom whose transmission managed to find its way to Deadstar.
“Why is that thing alive?” Fraser growls.
“I suppose it didn’t die when the sun did,” I respond. “It just froze, and being hit with our fire-drill for a year was enough to start it back up again.”
“And it’s hungry after sitting around for how many million years,” says Fraser. “Well, I’m out of bullets, so let’s hope it stays in the airlock.”
It does not stay in the airlock. The monster bursts through the inner door. It evidently is less interested in Kane and I in our heavy spacesuits than it is in our crewmates with their exposed flesh. I watch the mess of elbowed tentacles and wriggly claws and morphing mouths. There are human feet flying around the room, piles of clean-licked bones lining the walls of the chamber, Captain Fraser’s eyeless head breaking the screen playing the alien sitcom.
Kane grabs my arm. “What are you waiting for?” His spacesuit is covered in blood. Maybe mine is, too. He drags me away, and I’m running with him, at least my feet are.
“Where are we?” I say when I can see clearly again.
“Food stores,” says Kane. “Heaviest door on the ship. Thicker than the outer lining, probably.”
“It can’t break through the gate?” I say.
“I can’t say for sure, but I’d be surprised,” says Kane.
“We can stay here for years,” I say, looking around at the piles of canned food all around and water jugs all around. If the whole crew were around, they’d be good for just a few months, but there’s plenty for just two.
“You think we’re gonna stay here?” Kane scoffs. “We can live the rest of our lives in this room, scared but mostly bored, waiting for a rescue that will never come, or we can go out fighting. We die either way, but only one option has any dignity.”
“How can we possibly fight that thing?” I say. “Look what it did to the crew.”
“We freeze it again,” says Kane. “We open the outer airlock door.”
“You do that, and it becomes so cold throughout the ship that our life support systems malfunction.”
“Yeah, we die, but we die fighting a monster. Real space adventure poo poo.”
The thoughts of Earth I’ve been burying flood my mind. Pretty people on the Chicago beaches. The family recipe for fried chicken and collared greens. Summer under a big yellow sun.
“gently caress it,” I say. “Let’s slay a loving dragon.”
“Hell yeah, Singh!” yells Kane as he hits the switch for the door. We run out into the entry, where the creature seems to be playing with our crewmates’ bones. An eye appears where there was no eyelid and it darts around and roars with every gaping mouth it has.
“I’ll distract it!” yells Kane. “Just get to the door!”
I charge toward the broken airlock. As I reach toward the switch to open the outer door, I feel the beast’s arm grab me again. It pulls itself towards me. I know if I turn around, I’ll see those constellations of teeth.
Whatever, I tell myself. It’s just another way to die.
I reach out and hit the switch.
The warm air from the Frobisher blasts out the gate like a hurricane. I manage to grab onto the side of the gate as the mighty wind is expelled from the ship. Kane gets thrown so far there’s no telling what happens to him, and the dragon is vomited from the ship’s belly, releasing me. I turn my head and see it hit the beam of the fire-drill head-on. I can’t make out a whole lot through the darkness except a lot of black blood. It’s dead.
I scream in joy as I walk back into the ship. My spacesuit’s warmth will give me another hour of life, tops, but I did it. I slayed a dragon.
The transmitter from Captain Fraser’s headless body starts beeping. Looks like someone finally got our S.O.S. I suppress any panic that had we waited in the food stores, we would have been rescued. No, it was all worth it. I just wish I could smoke a cigarette with this helmet on.
|# ? Jan 19, 2020 15:09|
The harsh blue sunlight gave the horizon its special glow as it set, making the chromium snow sparkle. The flakes tinted heavy metal green had finished hurtling from purple clouds just an hour prior. Setting sun, retreating clouds and iridescent snow reflected in turquoise eye gems. Kraig stroked his companion gently from rear to front, up a sleek body, avoiding the connections to the six appendages that it sometimes used as legs. Krystal vibrated under his touch, and their eyes gained and lost iridescence in rhythm with his caresses.
The perfect reward after a long day’s work in heavy snow, buffeted in his prospector suit by verdant whirlwinds. Kraig had finally managed to uncover the ranger droid that had fell down a cave hidden underneath a dome of potassium dichromate growths. Once the bright orange crystals had been cleared away, the droid’s antenna had sent an amazing set of data back to headquarters. Average temperatures, rare metal contents in soil, moisture levels: piece by piece, the puzzle of this planet made a coherent image.
When he arrived here, Kraig had thought it would be one of hell frozen over. Punished with thankless slave work that might drive him mad before long, stuck alone on a wasteland of venom-green tundra for years. But Kraig had chosen this fate over one much worse. And eventually, he had found a perverse pride in his assignment, and clawed himself out of despair and depression’s depths by recognizing the alien beauty of this planet. He’d bitterly dubbed it Nyx on arrival, but when he first saw the moons reflected in the facets of Krystal’s eyes, he realized the allure of the Goddess of night, and fell in love with her.
Kraig gave Krystal a final pat on their featureless head, and pulled his heavily gloved hand back into the protective sphere of his cabin. He got up from the metal folding chair he placed at the border between his and Krystal’s world every evening, and went back inside his home, a one-room cube that had assembled itself from the remains of his drop pod when he first arrived on Nyx. On the wall next to the food processor which fed him the same reconstructed gruel every day, his contract loomed. He had made some modifications.
CRIME: STEALING COMPANY PROPERTY [FOOD]
PUNISHMENT: CHOOSE ONE
[ ] ASSIGNMENT TO RESOURCE MINING CORPS ON QUARRY PLANET [PURGATORY] FOR
[YEARS: 15 MONTHS: 0 DAYS: 0 HOURS: 0]
[X] ASSIGNMENT TO PROSPECTOR CORPS ON UNEXPLORED PLANET
[YEARS: 0 MONTHS: 11 DAYS: 7 HOURS: 5]
While Kraig pushed the button combination to activate the program hack he had implemented in the processor, the last number on the holopaper switched to a 4. The food machine reluctantly added lead salts, elementary vanadium and some crude oil-like substance as garnish on the second, smaller bowl of gruel.
He carried it outside to where Krystal was still waiting for their dinner. It had taken Kraig a long time to determine what his alien pet liked as a special treat, but time was the least he lacked alone on Nyx. Illuminated by the happily glowing eyes of his friend, Kraig ate his own dinner. He really hadn’t learned his lesson, still taking more than his share of rations. But the punishment was not about reforming people, after all.
In the first few months, Kraig had been tortured every night by the thought of his family falling into poverty, which would inevitably lead his wife and kids to share his fate. A choice between indentured servitude with no chance of survival, or an extremely low one. But Nyx had taken him into her embrace – Krystal was his family now. Kraig slept well these days.
But today, his rest was cut short by an alarm. Kraig bolted upright and was halfway into his prospector suit before he realized his error. He ran to his console and slammed the button to receive the interstellar message from company headquarters, the first in years. With the shrill demanding bleats still ringing in his ear, he listened to what the higher-ups had to tell him.
For the next hours, he sat outside, watching the smaller moon ripple slightly behind the protective field’s distortion, its pale glow flowing over the chromium snow powdered hills, false-spectrum rainbows emanating where the rays hit just right. As the moon sank and the sun rose, the hues became warmer until their contrast became almost unbearable. Then, Krystal appeared, awaiting a friendly morning greeting. But Kraig sat frozen, ungloved, their border impossible to cross.
“They will extract me early, Krystal.” His unpracticed voice sounded like a chromate avalanche. “Soon, another pod will land, and take me away, and then…”
The harsh colors pierced into his eyes and she shut them hard. When he opened them again, he could only see Krystal’s soothing glow.
“Then they’ll send ramming ships. Giant claws with gigafusion engines. They’ll push Nyx into an orbit closer to the sun. Warm it up, to prepare for terraforming. Establish a quarry, maybe even colonize it. When I left headquarters, their ecosystem was about to collapse. They must be getting a little desperate.”
Turquoise was his world. Krystal seemed to loom over him, despite being much smaller.
“My data gave them what they needed. They’ll surely be grateful.” Kraig whispered the last sentence as if he was buried under meters of beautiful toxic snowflakes.
Krystal left, unpetted.
A week of languishing later, the extraction pod landed. Kraig stared into its opening which welcomed him with the yellow light of an almost forgotten home.
He lifted his folding chair high and smashed the transmission antenna of the pod with it, preventing remote control and observation. Almost immediately, the alarm screamed for attention with a message from headquarters; Kraig squashed it the same way.
The contract kept ticking down hour by hour, week by week, reminding Kraig of the time slipping away as he worked against the thousands of engineers in headquarters. While the moons shone their light of judgment on him, he modified the pod for manual control. Hacked its close-range transmission unit with circuitry from the droid and food processor. Fortunately, Krystal didn’t come demanding food anymore.
One moonless night, he collapsed exhausted against the pod’s black hull, raising a lone scream against the claw hands of the company that would soon pluck this gem from the night sky. When suddenly, a turquoise glow lit up the darkness.
His friend lay in a bed of powdery chromium snow, curled up, head resting on two limbs, crystal eyes shining as bright as they could.
“Do you know what I’m doing here?”
Krystal inclined their conical head and a wave of light ran from their left eye to the right and back.
“I’ll modify the transmitter to send a scrambling signal to the ramming ships!”, Kraig yelled, his eyes aglow as well. “When they come, I’ll fly up to meet them. Tell them they are not welcome. Make them miss the target, get lost in space!”
His glow faded. He fell to his knees. “At least I’ll try. Will you help me?”
A flash of turquoise.
One night, months later, Kraig bathed in the shine of two moons and two eyes, and he saw it: two new stars, scratching a path through the firmament.
In his prospector-cum-space suit, he waded out into the chromium snow one last time, bent down and hugged Krystal with utmost care.
“I’m so sorry. I’ll try to make it right.”
He turned and ran into the pod, the turquoise glow haunting him until the yellow light drowned it when the doors closed.
And then, space. Kraig saw the ramming ships through the viewscreen, twin claws almost as big as the smaller moon, titanic hands extended towards his jewel. With a deep breath, he pushed the button to send the hacking signal.
He could almost imagine the left claw quivering a little. But they both kept going, grasping, on their inevitable way. His painful breath forced itself out, and Kraig deflated to a puddle on the floor of the pod. He had failed, and doomed Nyx, the verdant winter jewel.
Then, he noticed a light from the viewscreen. Kraig jumped up, switched off the yellow lamps, and got bathed in turquoise.
All over Nyx, islands of the shine from eye gems appeared. They grew in intensity with every second, moving together until the entire planet burned in the pastel light.
Then, a beam of it shot up, focused itself on the pod, and split in two. Suffused in its warm glow, Kraig was not blinded; he saw clearly how the twin beams met the ramming ships, but then he had to blink, and when he opened his eyes, the claws were gone.
And so was the pod. Kraig floated in the beam, beholding the sparkling planet from space, as the beam took him back down gently, sinking into Nyx’ embrace.
|# ? Jan 19, 2020 18:46|
Force of Nurture
Alarm screeching in my ears, I wrenched open the front door then froze, my hot breath steaming out in front of me. Outside, the escapees were chasing each other in the snow. The little one, Two Four, fell over. One Seven turned to look at the snow hole the other had disappeared into, and put his hand to his mouth, his teeth working on a nail. Unconsciously, I found myself doing the same motion.
I silenced the alarm. Two Four got up, snow cascading off his hair and clothes. He and One Seven slowly turned their heads, like an incomplete set of animated Russian dolls. Both mouths opened and both sets of eyes widened as they saw me. And they ran.
I took chase. I called out to them, but that only seemed to make them run faster. I had put on my gloves and dragged my heavy coat on over my nightclothes, but the boys had not done the same. I didn't know how long they would survive outside like that.
The snow was deep in places, and it was getting harder to run. Just before I fell into a snowdrift, I saw them take off in opposite directions.
When I got up I had lost sight of them. I brushed the snow off myself and tried to slow my breathing. The island wasn't large, and neither of them could swim. I slowed down to a walk, methodically working my way around the island. How had this happened? I was sure I locked their doors as always.
I had made almost a full circle around the island when I spotted them. They were together again, close to the water. It was a clear day, so the neighbouring islands were visible. They were getting closer to the edge. I called out to them. Two horrifying splashes and they were both in the water.
I ran, almost tripping again. But when I reached the shore I could see that they had drifted out too far for me to reach. There was only one choice remaining. I ran back to the lodge to call the emergency number.
Now there was a boat being rowed back to the shore. I could see a boy in the boat with the Mariner. But where was the other one?
“What's his name?” The wind blew Mariner's voice over to me.
“I- I don't know,” One Seven said. I noticed he was clutching a slumped Two Four.
“How can you not know your brother's name?”
“We only met today!”
The Mariner's eyes focused on me as the boat hit the shore. “You've been keeping them apart?”
“It seemed... easier.”
“Is that what it said in the handbook?” he snapped, stepping off the boat.
“I, well-” I bit the fingers of my glove compulsively.
“Have you read the handbook?” the Mariner asked as he tied off the boat.
I ground my teeth against the material of the glove.
“You haven't read it, have you?” The Mariner loosened his scarf and I saw his mouth twist and spit the words. It looked familiar. Did I know him from before I moved here?
“Erm, well, not all of it.”
The Mariner shook his head. The way his heavy brows knitted together was familiar too. “The younger generation is just hopeless!” He turned and helped One Seven off the boat with Two Four. “We need to get them inside. The little one's breathing but he's going into shock.”
I reached out to help One Seven, but he shrank away from me. My gaze returned to the Mariner, who lifted Two Four effortlessly in his arms. I didn't want to admit it to myself. But I knew that face. I had run a razor blade over it every morning.
The Mariner demanded to be told where he could find dry clothes for the boys, and he and One Seven resisted my efforts to help, so I put some more wood on the fire and stared into it. The dancing flames and bright embers burned themselves into my vision. Thoughts spiralled round in my mind. We made a set; myself, the Mariner, the boys.
I turned when I heard footsteps. One Seven jumped into the armchair by the fire, and gave me the same smirk that I would use to show someone I was sitting in their seat. The Mariner carried Two Four wrapped up in a blanket and placed him by the fire. “There you go, son. You're all right now,” he said softly. Then he turned to me and his tone hardened. “Do you know why there are several chairs in this room?” He gestured around at the others, which I had moved against the walls out of the way.
I took a breath. I knew I had done things wrong. I had tried more with Two Four, but nothing shook from me the terrible feeling that I was missing something fundamental.
The Mariner had removed his hat and I saw his thick, dark hair streaked with grey. There was no denying it now. “I thought I was the original,” I breathed.
The Mariner scoffed in the same way I often did. He scoffed with my face and my voice, hardly changed by age. We made a set. Not a complete set. A set could be any number. But we were the same.
Was this what a family was like? I had only seen them on television, but television wasn't real. It projected some kind of farcical hallucination that its creators agreed upon. People didn't live like that in the real world. People together in houses next to houses full of other people. That couldn't be right.
Family. That word was like the fire. It gave off a metaphorical warmth that something inside me wanted to move toward. But the fire was stifling and suffocating when I got too close. The fire would kill. I moved my hand to my mouth, and checked each finger for a bit of nail to neaten with my teeth.
The Mariner gestured to me. “What number are you?”
“Number?” I followed him out into the hall.
“Yes, don't you know your number? Name, then? What do people say to identify you from the others?”
I couldn't answer that question. I had always just been me. There hadn't been a need for a name. But those things didn't seem possible to articulate aloud.
He opened my handbook, which was on the table by the front door. A code number was printed on the inside of the front cover. He nodded and shut it. “Thought as much,” he said.
“What does it mean?”
The Mariner sighed. “Those boys,” he said, choking on the words. “They told me how you keep them in separate rooms. Never let them out.”
I bit down on a nail and tasted blood. He looked at me with such sadness in his eyes. “It seemed easier that way. It was so hard to deal with the first one.”
“Yes, I can see many years passed before you tried again,” the Mariner said. He picked up his hat.
“You know how difficult it is even now to bring a viable embryo to term. But that was the easy part. Babies are difficult. The first time I had six failures after removal from the Uteron.” My mind drifted to the unmarked graves behind the lodge.
“And three the second time?”
“I mustn't stay. But first, tell me, why do you think you are here?”
I shrugged. “It's a job. I can carry out research without the usual scrutiny. I only have to raise successors to ensure it continues.”
The Mariner raised his eyebrows, as if he had expected a different answer. I wanted to know what the answer was supposed to be, but he was already opening the door. He turned to me before leaving. “I'm not supposed to interfere. But you be better to those boys.”
“How?” I asked.
But the Mariner didn't reply, and walked off into the snow.
I closed the door, and looked back at the fire, and the two boys silhouetted in front of it. One Seven was swinging his legs absently in the chair. Two Four was biting his fingernails. With his other hand he reached out for the fire, then quickly pulled back. I looked down at my own ragged nails. I felt an emptiness but I didn't know where the feeling came from, or how to make it go away.
I opened the handbook. Flipped through the chapters on somatic cell nuclear transfer, and operation of the Uteron, to the large section on childrearing. Perhaps it was now too late for those two. But I could make a Three One, if I was careful. Or perhaps, I thought, my eyes settling on a chapter headed names, an Aaron, or an Abel.
|# ? Jan 19, 2020 19:20|
The First Science
Redhair’s party had tracked the blurry image of a Swimmer moving under the ice into a small bay, moving slowly to avoid alerting it to their presence. If they could see it, it was coming up for air soon. They all trembled as the beast’s armored head bashed against the underside of the ice, smashing at it until it shattered. First the armored crown, then the fleshy neck, body and limbs slithered up onto the ice.
The hunters rushed it, bellowing war cries, their white cloaks billowing out behind them. They thrust their spears into the soft flesh around the Swimmer’s neck, beneath its armored crown. The beast wailed in pain, flailing its head back and forth to ward them off. Of all the hunters, only Redhair felt disturbed by the screaming; his own neck prickled as though he himself were being stabbed, and he had to resist the sudden urge to throw down his spear and tend to the creature’s wounds.
Suddenly, The Others rushed out from the woods on the far side of the dying Swimmer. Led by Thickbrow, the stoop-shouldered semi-apes galloped toward the scene on their hairy knuckles, screaming war cries of their own. Redhair’s gang, outnumbered, retreated from their kill. Thickbrow leapt and plunged his spear into the Swimmer’s neck, letting loose a ghastly spurt of red that froze on contact with the ground. The beast made a wet gasping sound and stopped moving. The usurpers hooted excitedly as they pushed their stolen kill onto their sled of lashed-together bone.
Redhair and his gang howled wordless protests at the injustice. Longarms rushed forward from Redhair’s side and grabbed at the sled to reclaim their bounty. Thickbrow jabbed at him with his spear in response. Longarms squealed and retreated, uninjured by the spear but killed all the same: the slippery Swimmer blubber sewn into his coat gushed out of the gash and onto the ice. Without its protective warmth he would perish within hours. He jibbered nervously as he rejoined his gang, his gaze wandering imploringly from one to the other.
Redhair averted his eyes. There was nothing they could have done: Longarms would freeze before they got back to the den even if they returned immediately, and the den still needed a kill to last the month. Still, the same unidentified impulse the dying Swimmer had inspired in him now made his eyes water and his throat hurt at the thought of his friend frozen to death on the ice. Longarms’ teeth chattered as he followed them back out onto the ice in search of new prey, murmuring meekly, not wanting to perish alone.
Out on the open ice, they came upon a strange sight: in the distance a shape loomed through the snow, monstrous in its proportions. Its great circular head, wide yet thin, hung imposingly over them. They froze, spears at the ready, prepared to charge or flee, silent except for their shivering. After a tense, motionless moment, Redhair edged closer to the creature. It’s long tapering neck led to a blockish body, all of it unnaturally straight and angular. He touched its neck; it didn’t move and its skin was cold even through his glove. Lights like small stars shone in a ring on the underside of its head. He stared up in awe, mind reeling in incomprehension. None of his party had ever seen a beast such as this, nor would they again after this day.
Snubnose stabbed at its chest with his spear, which clanged off without apparent injury to the beast. The shrill scraping of stone against the strange flesh startled them. From the far side of the beast’s body, they heard an unfamiliar cry. Each one flung themselves down, pressing flat against the bone-chilling ice and laying motionless, rendered nearly invisible by their white cloaks.
From under the edge of his cloak, Redhair saw a two-legged creature, the size of himself, treading cautiously beside the larger creature. Though the skin of its head resembled the scaly grey of a Swimmer, the skin it wore defied identification; Redhair had never seen such a smooth coat, but he was especially transfixed by its color: vibrant, like the light of the distant sun shining on fresh blood, like the color of his own hair when light shone through it. Nor had he seen the likes of the oddly-shaped tool the creature carried in its hand. Though it was too small and dull to be a club or knife, it still held the thing like a weapon.
Its four eyes darted around independently, searching. It edged ignorantly closer to where Redhair was lying, fear curdling in his stomach. When he was less than a stride away, Redhair let loose a bellow to mask his fear and rushed it while its head was turned, running it through the belly with his spear. The creature cried out and dropped to its knees, grasping fruitlessly at the wooden shaft sticking out of its abdomen. His fear melted and Redhair again felt the unnamed mix of sadness and guilt. The creature gasped, eyes wide in terror, and keeled over. Longarms rushed forward and stripped the corpse for its strange skin. Teeth chattering, he draped himself in the skin and smiled for the warmth, thinking he may yet survive the day.
Redhair continued eyeing the immobile beast. He strode toward the rear of the creature and came across a sight the likes of which none of his kind had ever laid eyes on. He readied his spear and growled threateningly at the thing, which sat on a small pile of wood. It was made of flickering tongues the same color as the skin the dead creature wore. After it made no effort to flee, Redhair wondered if it might be a plant, given the way it fluttered with the breeze.
His eyes widened as he stepped cautiously toward and became the first native being of his world to know fire. He felt the warmth of the den on his cheeks. He pulled the glove off his left hand and reached it toward the fire. His mind raced with visions of possibility: he pictured a great firepit in the center of the den, keeping all the tribe warm even on the coldest nights; he saw individuals and mated pairs building their own dens, warmed by their own fires. Flickers of insight, invention, and industry surged through his mind all at once.
Redhair curled his fingers around one of the tongues, mesmerized by its dancing. Before he’d even registered the pain he yanked his hand back with a betrayed yelp. The others, who had by now gathered around him, leapt back in surprise, but Redhair only stared at his hand as a painful patch of red began to pucker on his skin. New understanding dawned in his long-dormant frontal lobe. Synapses fired, connecting cause and effect, extrapolating and generalizing from this harsh new data. He turned to his gang emboldened, the power of malicious, newly born knowledge tinting his gaze with spite.
Thickbrow shifted in his kinsack to press himself against his mate’s naked back and draped a contented arm around her. Their smaller child cooed contentedly in the warm dark by their feet. He heard their older child laugh as she ran past his head, chased by the playful snarls of Nofoot’s oldest. Breathing in the familiar scents of his family that’d long settled into the fur of the kinsack, he closed his eyes and took in the sounds of the den. Contented sighs and the occasional moan from other kinsacks. Footfalls and laughter of children at play. Rhythmic scraping from the cleaning of Swimmer meat. All sounds of safety. Warmth permeated the atmosphere.
Then an alien noise caused his ears to prick up: a sharp sound, like ice cracking underfoot. He propped himself up on a hairy forearm and tried to pinpoint the origin of the sound. It seemed to come from everywhere. Small black spots had appeared at navel-height on the walls of the den. As he scrutinized them, they grew in size, gobbling up the walls. His nose scrunched up at an unfamiliar smell.
Then bright tongues appeared around the edges of the black spots, which were by now man-sized. Others in the den had ceased their activities to stare at them. For the first and last time in his life, Thickbrow was uncomfortably hot. The air turned grey and he coughed as he breathed in the greyness. A child ran to the entrance of the den and pulled open the pelt flap, only to scream in pain as the tongues licked her arms and legs.
The screaming child snapped everyone into action. Thickbrow and his mate leapt up, with their still-cooing child in their arms. They looked at each other in panicked confusion as others searched for exits only to burned by the tongues.
Outside the den, Redhair listened to the screams, watched the fire grow brighter, and felt no guilt.
|# ? Jan 19, 2020 20:09|
A Godawful Small Affair
Word count: 1500
In the eye swam a milky-white iris. Across the face, snaking diagonally from left cheek, over the eye, to the forehead, an old stitch. On the right hand, the ring finger cut halfway off and the knuckle healed over. Gorrigan wrapped their arms around themselves and imagined a Martian winter as miserable as home.
There had never been, as far as anyone knew, life intelligent to Mars. There had been only one attempt to invent some. Martians grown in a lab, given life by geneticists too wild for Earth-side studies and given form by a commune of artists too avant-garde for Earth-side tastes. The being they created was rather similar in shape to a tree trunk, moving along on a multitude of root-like suckers. Appendages akin to branches grew out to touch the world. The thing was fungal, mostly. Eyes were placed procedurally along the surface of the torso and were only visibly distinguishable from the rest of the thing’s hide in certain esoteric frequencies of light. The hue of it was a big point of contention; some favoured a camouflaging rust-red to match their surrogate home world, while other ideas which had some pull as some point included violet, dull baby blue, shocking yellow, chrome, and orange-flesh. The final colour that was settled on was invented during development. Nobody had ever seen it before, and even the most radical of poets only squeaked out such unhelpful words as ‘fizzy’ and ‘stalking’ to describe it. It was dubbed the Martian colour.
Problems arose with the project almost immediately after the birth and dissemination of the first batch. Dome residents found new movement outside in the rolling arid landscape unsettling rather than wondrous, and there was a spike in bad dreams in every monitored district. Even Mars had its fair share of hacks and philistines, and the point of the whole project swooped over their heads, before crashing down. The biggest roadblock for progressing the project was the disease all the Martians died from.
Gorrigan and the other artists made sure to distance themselves from that mess immediately. They were responsible for mapping the immune system – actually building and fortifying it was the scientist’s jobs. As the project disintegrated in the latter part of the previous year, the usual factionalism cannibalised any funding or contacts left over and everyone smart jumped ship, cursing that the chakras of the Martians was so out of whack it’s no wonder they never even made it to tribal societies. Mars was left with lots of bitter people and dead tree trunks, standing stationary, their pseudopods sinking into the dust.
Gorrigan couldn’t feel too heartbroken about the whole ordeal – as one freelancer in a team of one thousand, precisely zero of their ideas had reached actualisation. It looked like a disaster, but the money was still good there was no harm, Gorrigan reasoned, if at least some of it fuelled a night on the town or two. Working on the project had compounded on a classic case of seasonal depression, not to mention the early symptoms of dome syndrome, and for the first time in a while Gorrigan put on a heavy coat and grabbed the keys from the side table by the door.
As luck would have it, the weather outside – inside – was merely mild and grey. The rebels running the machine were having a quiet day, apparently, as the simulated storm of the previous cycles was nowhere in sight. They had apparently found it funny to alternate between thunderstorms and heatwaves, taking full advantage of the expressive principles the weather machine was built with. They wouldn’t make snow, though. They were too cold for that.
There was a dive bar in the Osman District of which Gorrigan was a regular. It was frequented mostly by not-quite-down-and-outs and various gruff men who had cut their teeth back on Earth in the Ten Year’s War. Some of them were messed up so bad they made Gorrigan feel at ease in comparison, an image of health. Outside the doorway of the establishment, the barman had evidently shovelled away the damp sludge from the asphalt. There was a charm of teeth hanging from the doorframe – about forty troublemakers had donated them over the years, after misbehaving too badly. The teeth clicked together in the wind as Gorrigan opened the door.
Gorrigan settled in at a table opposite an old friend of theirs, a wild-looking man with a great red beard and a healthy collection of empty glasses in front of him. His name was Vincent, and he and Gorrigan met when they were both young artists making their way through the Martian art scene, some twenty years ago now. They began talking about how exciting things had been back then, how full of opportunity. Vincent spoke of how his heart welled up when he saw his sculptures given pride of place in glistening plazas. Gorrigan, for their part, remembered play more than work. Gorrigan reminded Vincent of when they saw Nosha Yakerina perform at the Ecclestone Dance Hall, how her body erupted passion there on stage. Gorrigan recalled with a smile how the two of them managed to get backstage after the show, and, finding themselves with a handful of others praising Nosha in her dressing room, Gorrigan had broke apart and fell to their knees. In a fit of lust they began to kiss the dancer’s slender legs, working up. The other assembled looked amongst each other in embarrassment, but Vincent noticed the sly pleasure in Nosha’s dark eyes, and started howling with laughter. They were both laughing now. That was a very long time ago.
As Gorrigan returned to the bar again, a brutish fellow with a metal plate on his forehead for keeping his brain from falling out started causing a stir. Wasn’t Gorrigan one of those alien-makers? No, Gorrigan said, he must’ve been thinking of someone else. No, no, said metalhead, you don’t mix up a face like that. Surely the fine artist here owes the rest of the patrons a round, since Gorrigan had made such bank with a made-to-fail scheme while real types had to work for their pay? Wasn’t it only fair? The barman rubbed his eyes. Gorrigan smiled sarcastically, reached into their pocket, and threw assorted coins onto the floor. Metalhead spat green onto the bar, and lunged.
The man was like an ape, and his charge, though expected, still caught Gorrigan mid-dodge, and caught them at an awkward angle. While they fell on their back, they swung their right leg up so that a heavy, soggy boot caught the metalhead in his thick neck. Gorrigan felt winded already, and a sense of thrilling familiarity mixed with the salty blood which rose in their mouth as their assailant stomped on their face. Once. Twice. To the chest. There was a brief fear it was all over just before Gorrigan managed to grab their switchblade from their pocket and jam it into metalhead’s ankle mid-stomp. This gave Gorrigan a chance to roll on their front, and bring themselves to their feet with a speed that was akin to that of youth. Around them people were shouting, or booing, or pretending nothing was happening. Vincent was nowhere to be seen.
As the pocketknife tumbled to the ground Gorrigan threw a couple jabs – it felt like punching beef. Metalhead responded with swatting away the artist’s arms and moved in again, stepping forward with his uninjured leg, his large hands wrapping around Gorrigan’s pale neck. The gunmetal-grey of the man’s forehead plate seemed to almost become redder, like his brain was cooking in there. His eyes bulged with scarlet anger. Gorrigan’s stitch had opened and blood poured down their face, out the nostrils and from between the lips, running over the knuckles of the bruiser and soaking into Gorrigan’s cheap t-shirt, or dripping down onto the floorboards. Gorrigan clawed and heaved and writhed for what felt like forever, and the feeling came back, which again heralded something else. Shards of glass exploded like a halo behind the man’s head, then again, and again. Metalhead reeled, and loosened his grip, and landed on the floor with a mighty thump. Gorrigan gasped for breath, and behind where Metalhead was Vincent now stood. His hands were held up in a half-shrug, and his palms glittered with a web of crimson cuts. He didn’t have any more glasses.
The barman rubbed his eyes again. Silence came down like a sheet among the groggy patrons. The two old friends smiled at each other. Gorrister reached down to the metalhead’s mouth, yanked hard, and stood back up with a fine yellowed molar, bubbling with the man’s bloody saliva. With their other exploratory hand, Gorrigan reached into their own mouth and, finding a particularly loose candidate, again yanked out a tooth of their own. Two more beautiful charms. Vincent, plucking tiny bits of glass from his hands, suggested that perhaps they should leave the two offerings here and the two of them could find someplace else to spend the evening. Gorrigan wiped their face with their sleeve and limped for the door. Their blood was up, they told their companion, and they’d like to gently caress tonight. Vincent chuckled and said that it’d be some freaky girl who’d want to get close to Gorrigan looking like that. Their eyes adjusted to the light outside. There were plenty of freaky girls around here, and plenty more who’d do it for good money – Gorrigan had made such bank with a made-to-fail scheme, after all. Around them, Martian-coloured snow fell.
|# ? Jan 19, 2020 22:11|
Kerry opts to wear the traditional uniform of a pilot. She keeps paper notes on a clipboard, but there’s no getting away from the fact that the job has changed in her decades of service. There’s only one seat in the cockpit. To Kerry it feels as though there is an empty seat by her side.
It’s the last flight of her shift. Her destination is a cargo airfield called Manston. It sits in a rural expanse southeast of London.
An augmented reality display shows Kerry a dizzying array of flight indications. Numbers, lines, maps and codes surround her. To her, these indications are a bloody nuisance.
“Pah, state mandated hallucinations.” She scoffs.
Kerry sits stiff and upright observing the virtual images in front of her. Concerned, she eyeballs a swirling storm on her radar readings.
In a polite telephone voice she speaks to her computer. “Jasper, can you find a route that will avoid this storm?”
Jasper’s uncanny synthesised voice rings through kerry’s headset.
“That storm is complex. My crystal core isn’t powerful enough to calculate something with this many interdependent variables.”
Kerry is unimpressed. A human copilot might have been able to say something more useful than “I don’t have enough brainpower.” As Kerry ponders she holds her pen against her mouth. She studies the radar image of the storm cloud.
“Everyone on board is in cryostasis. I’m sure they won’t mind.” Kerry sighs, consigning herself to a bumpy ride through the storm.
Inside of dark, violent clouds there are only brief pauses of stable flight in among rough shuddering and the plane being heft suddenly in any direction. Kerry’s neck is strained as her head rolls and bobs to correct for the wayward motions of her plane.
There is a brief respite. The plane dips beneath the storm. Light pours through the windows. Kerry looks to a gap in the clouds. Sunlight beams onto distant ground. The ground is pristine white, snow-covered and twinkling with the far away lights of a landing strip.
Jasper informs “We are heading toward controlled airspace. There is no signal to Air Traffic Control. I am obligated to divert us away.” The plane steers.
Kerry asks “No radio signal?” Puzzled, she can see the lights of the airfield’s radio tower from her window.
“The signal seems to be masked by large quantities of radio interference coming from the ground.” Jasper explains.
It’s typical of a computer to follow procedure. Kerry, on the other hand, considers a workaround.
“How is your satellite signal, Jasper?”
“My satellite signal is strong.” Jasper answers.
“I want you to make a satellite call to the airport. Get through to air traffic control that way.” Kerry resolves.
The call is brief. Jasper squawks raw data through the audio of the satellite call. She receives a similar digital squeal from the air traffic control tower.
The words LANDING CLEARANCE GRANTED hover in Kerry’s augmented reality. She treats them like a swarm of flies, failing to shoo them away with a flailing of both arms. Trying to restore proper communications with air traffic control, she reaches behind the landing clearance message to grab a physical dial marked radio. Each step of the dial falls in place with a satisfying clack.
The radio screeches. Kerry’s augmented reality indications glitch casting wide voxels which obscure her vision. She reels from the controls. The screeching abates. Her displays return. The radar readings in front of her seem crisper, more defined.
Kerry looks into the radar readings. Their new level of detail enthralls her. Vortices inside of vortices twirl in enchanting patterns. The pilot falls into the spiral of spirals, engulfed by the virtual cloud. Surrounded, her mind permeates through the complex image.
She melds with the digital storm. Every piece of the computerised cloud is felt as though it were her skin emerging from water into cold air. Intimate knowledge of each movement of the fractally complex ballet of clouds fills her mind. Kerry feels as though she knows every step the storm will take. The flood of information is thrilling, though exasperating in its detail and enormity. Every wisp of cloud, every gust of wind, every snowflake precipitated inside of the storm is choreographed in this vision.
“What is this?” Kerry pants in shock.
Jasper takes in Kerry’s presence as the pilot dives deep into the radar projections. For the first time Kerry’s human mind is more than the variable “user”. She feels the person’s confusion, fear and bewilderment. Jasper wrestles these inexplicable concepts. There are no rules, no explanations, no algorithm. There is only a feeling to these concepts. Without programming, orders or calculations Jasper struggles finding the will to say
“Are you okay?”
“I’m confused.” Kerry admits, turning her head the empty space next to her.
Jasper sounds through the headset “Me too.”
Kerry chuckles. In some way she senses Jasper sitting in a copilot chair next to her. Any warmth she would feel is interrupted by the message that persists in the center of her view.
LANDING CLEARANCE GRANTED.
“Okay, Jasper, we’ve got a plane to land.”
They fly a wide circle around Manston, planning to eventually align with the runway. Cloud fills the windows again. Clusters of snow crystals pile on the window’s corners. The plane begins shuddering once more. Kerry is at ease. She feels confident with the knowledge the computer has given her. She knows the storm will be far above the runway when she lands. Visibility will be poor, but the winds will have cleared.
Snowflakes in the virtual storm cling to a hollow form. The snow and water in the projection wraps around the space occupied by their plane. The snow plane hovers in Kerry’s view.
“That’s us!” She beams.
As the simulation runs into the future, the projected plane drops into a nosedive. A cold fear sinks into Kerry’s heart.
“Jasper, what is that?”
“According to these calculations, the plane will fall into a dive. The elevators will be impossible to control.”
“Is there any way we can avoid this?”
A loading disc appears in the virtual projections. Jasper is calculating.
“No. We must take action to mitigate the damage.”
“I sincerely doubt this prediction. You said it yourself, you don’t have the processing power to calculate these kinds of detailed occurrences in advance.” Kerry folds her arms, dismissing the computer.
“Kerry, I need you to take this seriously. You have a duty to the people in Manston.” The brim of Kerry’s hat presses against her brow. She concedes that the villagers underneath her deserve at least a cursory investigation.
“I want you to run a scan of the plane’s hardware. See if there are any defects.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have sensors around the critical components in this projection.”
“Then how do you know they’re going to fail?”
“The calculations project…”
“Just run the scan.”
In her search for hardware Jasper detects the source of her improved calculations. Miniaturised crystal cores line several miles of the ground underneath them. They move into complex patterns to form synapses that allow for high level computation.
“It’s not snow down there. It’s a supercomputer.” Jasper explains.
“The snowflakes move to connect to one another, forming traces and circuits for advanced logic. We’ve been communicating with them ever since you dialed the radio.”
Kerry looks at her sharp radar projections. Its detail is immense.
“Steer us away from Manston, Jasper.”
Before the plane can steer it is shaken by a thunderous bang. The nose of the plane points to the pristine white ground. Its engines whine and the hull rattles in the roaring air. Kerry wrestles her controls, but nothing seems to point the plane away from the ground.
“Did you say the snowflakes could move?” Kerry shouts into her headset.
“To form connections, yes.”
“Can they make structures?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Could they make a large curve to gently turn us out of our dive? It’d be like the tracks of a rollercoaster ride.”
Jasper runs calculations through the supercomputer snow. The precise angles required to catch the plane appear. She fires instructions through the radio channel. Kerry lowers the landing gears. The sickening sensation of weightlessness lifts through Kerry’s stomach.
The weightlessness turns to a high gravity sinking toward Kerry’s chair as the hurtling jet is captured by a colossal quarter pipe of snow. The plane's wheels press against the gigantic gentle arc. It turns the deadly fall into a horizontal slide along the ground.
Kerry gently pulls at the throttle lever, throwing her thrusters into reverse. The plane slows to a halt. The falling flakes of crystal snow obscure the view ahead.
At a hotel Bar Kerry sits alone, dazed and shocked. A bearded pilot enters wearing pristine leathers which imitate the style of aviators past. He speaks with enthusiasm and admiration.
“Is that your plane outside, with the buggered tail? How the hell did you land that?”
“I couldn’t have done it on my own.” Kerry toasts.
|# ? Jan 19, 2020 22:53|
If you all don't like my bitchin rear end plane story then you don't know real art.
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 00:33|
Word Count: 1383
a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 00:21 on Mar 1, 2020
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 03:13|
In The Bleak Midwinter
The miracle came on the shortest day of the year.
Aroha was reading Old Huhu to her moko before work. She’d read it to them hundreds of times before, and would probably read it hundreds of times again, before the words finally became illegible and the pages fell apart from overuse.
“Okay pēpi, I’m going to be late. Gav, come here and look after your sisters. Girls, Gav’s gonna tell you a story.” Her eldest grandchild came over to take over storytime duties. Today was another ‘stories for breakfast’ day. While she bustled about getting ready, she could hear Gav telling the girls a story about how their mountain used to be covered in snow, and the adventures that people would have on its slopes and its summit. She stopped to listen, forgetting she was in a hurry, remembering what the mountain was like when she was a kid. She shook her head, chasing away nostalgia. Nostalgia could wait until her belly wasn’t empty and she wasn’t late for work. She gave Gav a grateful smile, kissed the girls on their cheeks, then put on her ill-fitting face mask and hurried out the door.
The barbed wire fence surrounding the compound was rusting away and filled with gaps, but the gate was still manned twenty-four hours a day. The guard currently on duty recognised her and waved her through without demanding her ID, while a drone buzzed somewhere overhead.
“Bad news, Aroha.” He grumbled by way of greeting. “The cable car’s stuffed again, so you’re going to have to walk up.”
“Again? Does it ever work?”
“Yeah, well, since Murray got sick, nobody knows how to look after it. And since the boss never comes down…”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s not a priority for him. Urgh, I’m getting too old for this.” Aroha sighed. “Whatever. I’m sure he won’t notice that the cleaning’s half an hour behind schedule.”
She stomped off grumpily, passing by the currently-useless cable car that would usually ferry her up the side of the mountain, and began to climb the long staircase dug into the side of the mountain. The sun still wasn’t up, so it wasn’t too hot, but she knew that by the time she got to the bunker’s entrance, the sky would be orange, it would be stinking hot and the humidity would be making her sweat like a pig. If the cable car wasn’t fixed by spring, she wouldn’t be able to get to work - the heat would kill her before she got even halfway up the staircase.
“Hey, it’s the swamp thing! Come to clean the bog?”
“gently caress off, Saeed.” Aroha, as predicted, was drenched in sweat and out of breath. “And open the loving door.”
“I can’t do both.” Saeed replied cheerfully. “But I’ll open the door for you, since I shouldn’t leave my station. Make an effort to keep out of his way today, he’s having a ‘midwinter christmas’, whatever the gently caress that is, and doesn’t want anything to ‘ruin the magic’.”
Aroha groaned, and Saeed rolled his eyes sympathetically. The door to the bunker hissed as it unsealed and dilated, and Aroha stepped into the cool, dark interior of her boss’s own personal subterranean fiefdom. She wasn’t sure how deep into the mountain it burrowed, but the levels that she had been hired to keep spotless - the ones that weren’t strictly off limits to everyone except the boss and his personal cronies- went deep enough. She trudged off down the long, poorly-lit corridor, not even bothering to try and dodge the drops of fluid leaking from the air conditioning ducts.
Someone had left the screens on in the office. It was probably the boss, since he usually had people to turn things off after him. Aroha wondered where they were. Maybe someone else had left their job - and the dilapidated bunker - behind. People were doing that a lot these days. They’d get sick of the boss’s petty tyranny, or get sick of life, or get actually sick, and just stop showing up. If she didn’t have the girls to worry about, Aroha wouldn’t still be coming in. But even though the pay was poo poo, it was still worth something down in the Queen’s town.
On the screen, a news broadcast was showing a city on fire somewhere. Wildfires swept across skyscrapers and caravans of refugees abandoned their homes and fled on foot. She couldn’t tell which city it was, but she hoped it wasn’t anywhere nearby.
She finished cleaning the office, and moved on to the next room. In the middle of the room was a long table, covered with food. At the head of the table sat the boss, head laid on his arms, an empty wine bottle clutched in one hand, snoring loudly. The clock on the wall said it was approaching midnight, even though it couldn’t be much past late afternoon. But if you never left your bunker, you could choose your own time zone. Carefully and quietly, she cleaned around the room, not waking the boss. She wondered what would happen to the feast.
Eventually, she finished the day’s cleaning. It was getting late. The coolers in one of the specimen rooms had stopped working, and cleaning up biological material always took forever. Her back ached, and she wasn’t looking forward to the long walk back home. She thought about the ‘christmas’ dinner, lying on the table uneaten.
She knew better than the steal from the boss, but…
Before she could stop herself, she found her feet carrying her towards the dining room that she’d cleaned earlier. The boss hadn’t moved at all. The food had clearly been sitting there untouched the entire time. The gravy had congealed, the meat was sitting in puddles of greasy red juice, the cut fruit was going brown.
gently caress it.
Taking care to not disturb the boss, she quickly loaded some of the food into her pack. It might get a bit squashed on the trip back down, but the kids wouldn’t care. If the boss noticed… she’d burn that bridge when she reached it. She wouldn’t be the first to quit. Or the first to be fired, at that.
When the kids woke up the next morning, she’d told them it was Christmas. It never used to be a winter holiday here, but the girls didn’t know that, and Gav didn’t care. All they knew was that this was the best meal they’d ever had. Real meat, actual fruit, not even a hint of algae.
After they’d eaten, as the sun rose into the orange sky, she took them outside to play. She didn’t think she’d go in to work today. The rich gently caress holed up in his mountain fortress could deal with a dusty toilet bowl for one day. He probably wouldn’t even notice. As she watched her girls running around, something white started drifting down from the sky.
“Is this snow, Nan? Gav told me snow was just in stories.”
Aroha reached out and let some of the substance settle on her outstretched hand. It wasn’t cold and it wasn’t wet. She hesitated for a moment. Ash falling from the sky couldn’t mean anything good, but she didn’t want to worry the girls.
“Yes, sweetie. It’s snow. It’s a winter miracle. Merry Christmas.”
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 03:16|
Peace on Earth?
One snowy Christmas eve, Gretchen awoke to the sound of a thump, thump, thump. It was coming from downstairs! Mama and Papa would not be home from the party for hours, she knew. “Santa!” she cried. Quick as a hare, she threw off the bed covers and bounded down the steps. But surely the dark, goat-horned figure squatting in front of the tree, ripping into the presents with greedy clawed fingers – surely that wasn’t Santa?
Krampus! Gretchen froze, hoping the creature wouldn’t notice her. Her omi had told her stories of the Christmas devil, whose job was to punish naughty children while Santa rewarded the good. Gretchen frowned. She didn’t see why Krampus should have come to her house. Certainly she wasn’t the best-behaved child, but just because she’d set fire to Frau Mayer’s hair didn’t mean she was bad, did it? Really, Frau Mayer deserved it after the scolding she’d given Gretchen for pulling Anna’s braids. Gretchen smiled at the memory.
A high, impish cackle from Krampus bought Gretchen back to the present. Speaking of presents – was that the Bavarian Girl doll Mama and Papa had promised her clutched in the creature’s claws? The monster brought the doll ever closer to his face. A long, crimson tongue, dripping gobbets of drool, squirmed out of his mouth and licked the doll from top to bottom. A shining gold braid, disarranged from the doll’s perfectly coiffed head, dangled helplessly. It was Gretchen’s doll! This was too much! Gretchen tried to muffle a snort of anger, hands shooting toward her mouth, but it escaped into the air like some naughty mouse wriggling free.
Krampus turned, tongue lolling, gleaming in the moonlight. He was stalking toward Gretchen now. She didn’t know what to do but her legs took over, dashing to the kitchen as she screamed in terror. “Mama! Papa! Help!” But Gretchen knew as she called for them that they would be downing hefeweizen at the Schmidts’s. She needed to hide. She dived under the table. Maybe Krampus would not look down here? No, that was silly, she decided. Mama always looked under the table first in hide-and-seek. But as she saw Krampus’s cloven feet approaching, it seemed he wasn’t looking under the table to check. If Krampus wasn’t all that smart, she could stay hidden after all.
Krampus was midway down the length of the table when he stopped. Gretchen stayed really quiet this time, even when Krampus’s feet turned in her direction. Even when that tongue, which seemed longer than ever, came into view. It was squirming along the underside of the tabletop, probing, like Papa’s hand when he was grasping for the remote over the side of the sofa. Gretchen silently inched away but the tongue was faster, lurching down at her. It missed her face but she could feel a lock of her hair catch for an instant on the tip as it coiled back.
She held her breath. For a moment, the only sound was the old cuckoo clock ticking in the hallway. Then Krampus’s horned head shot down between the chairs to where his tongue had been. Krampus’s eyes started straight into Gretchen, burning red as coal. With another yelp, she scrambled backward, knocking over chairs and pulling herself to her feet against the stove in the corner. Krampus followed, and then Gretchen realized there was nowhere left to run.
Gretchen thought she was hearing her own sobs at first as the creature approached. Then she realized the sound was coming from Krampus. He was saying something in a low guttural voice, but the sound itself had an strange lilt. Gretchen couldn’t understand it, but it was definitely some kind of words. Was Krampus Italian? No time to figure that out as Krampus once more flicked out his tongue toward her.
She glanced around desperately. There was the butcher knife, shining on the counter! Gretchen reached out and clutched it in both hands. Krampus still had his tongue outstretched, as if waiting for her to reach out and shake it in greeting. But it was the knife she offered. Her swing connected and then that horrible tongue was writhing on the floor. Krampus keened and lurched back, holding his mouth, shrieking. He stumbled into the refrigerator, and then the table, and then the sink. With a moan, Krampus sank to the floor, blood drizzling down his body onto the tile.
Gretchen moved away from him, knife held protectively in front of her, and her path toward the hallway led her around to his side. Krampus kept staring dead ahead. Strange. She waved her hand, but he didn’t seem to notice. Could he not see her? At her feet the tongue gave one final dead-fish flop. Did Krampus see everything through tasting?
Krampus reached out blindly, dragging himself forward, inching across the floor. Soon he would find the door and get outside. Gretchen decided there was only one thing to do. She crept forward slowly. Krampus didn’t react to her approach as he crawled and whimpered, whimpered and crawled. Gretchen had seen a lot of Papa’s favorite show Dexter with him. There was only one way to deal with a monster.
* * * * *
“We just lost Scout Ghilah.” Lieutenant Suumin of the Datzir Alliance Ship Ilvet smacked their lips in dismay as they turned from their monitoring console. “Yet another one of those apes got them. Looks like a juvenile, this time.”
Bridge Commander Ruuhae hissed ruefully, slumping in their command chair. “We’ve lost dozens of good people to those vile monsters just in the past few hours! And their backward technology wouldn’t make them worth allying with anyway. It will probably take them centuries for to work out the interstellar drive – if they don’t all kill each other first!”
Suumin waved their tongue, despondent. “We should probably cut our losses, then.”
Ruuhae sighed. “Yes, you’re probably right. Beam the surviving agents out and set a course for the next system. Earth just isn’t ready for peace.”
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 03:48|
Equality is Here Today Tomorrow Forever Hurrah, a newly named asteroid
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 21:23 on Jan 8, 2021
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 04:01|
Winter’s Love and Summer’s Hope
“It’s just not fair.” Heshad said looking at his curved lower legs as they trudged through the accumulated crystal winds. He rubbed the ends of his upper legs together, taking in the small amount of heat generated by the chitinous friction, while the middle legs rested on his too large abdomen, cradling his thorax.
“What’s not fair, Hesh?” Githak asked as he trundled alongside Heshad.
“Yunil and Goron.” Heshad said plainly as he curved a wing in the direction of the lovers.
Yunil was free to take up clutchmates and was even encouraged to do so in preparation for the long winter, the clutches that survived would bolster thinning ranks, and those that didn’t would provide nutrition to the rest as they searched for one of the Arc Emitters. A relic capable of powering an entire city even the most desolate of conditions.
Heshad was not like Yunil however, or even Githak or Goron who both have had opportunities to bear Yunil’s imprint.
Heshad was a scout. When he wasn’t discovering new places in the treacherous ice encrusted desert, he was guiding his people to them.
“I know what you mean, but it’s by the order of the elders.”
“It’s not that.” Heshad protested weakly.
“Then what is it?” Githak asked sincerely.
“It just means I was never good enough for Yunil.”
“What are you on about?”
“No, I mean it… before we even received our assignments, I had done everything possible to win Yunil’s affection, when she only had eyes for you, Githak.”
Githak said nothing.
“When you did not reciprocate her feelings, she took solace with Ulen, and do you know what Ulen told me?”
Githak shook his head.
“That inconsiderate chitin brain waited until I failed with Yunil, and he told me he was going to take her. That he was going to take her… I hated him for many years after that.”
“I didn’t know that, I’m sorry.”
“What are you sorry for? After Ulen, you finally relented, and after you, even that simpleton Eglen shared in her affections, and now Goron. Each of my closest friends, imprinted with the woman I loved and am forbidden to consort with. No need to be sorry, it was not ever meant to be, her and I.”
“Elder Joren wishes to see you, Heshad.”
“Thank you, Yert. I’ll see to his holiness right away.”
Heshad lifted resentful, hurt filled eyes towards Githak, who just looked away.
Heshad flew towards the Elder’s caravan.
“You needed me, Lord Elder?”
“I’ve seen you in the field, Heshad. You seem distracted.”
“Just weary from travel, Lord Elder.”
“Hmm… Is that so? Well, no matter, we’ve received a lead on the location of the Arc Emitter. Goron can lead us to the next point. I want you in the air by sunbreak.”
“I understand, Elder.” Heshad said turning to leave.
“I’ve not dismissed you yet, Scout.”
Heshad turned back and fell on his knees having forgot his place.
“Be mindful of the mission. I can see that you are burdened, but the survival of our people depends on making it to an Arc Emitter. I believe in you, Heshad.”
“Thank you, Elder. I’ll not let you down.”
“I know you won’t, now make every preparation for flight.”
* * *
The next morning, Yunil was there to send him off. It hurt seeing her.
Her long pearlescent wings layered one over the other creating a mesmerizing illusion that wrapped around the curvature of her thorax gracefully.
“Be safe out there, Heshad. We depend on you too much, but we need you.”
The words stung to hear. She placed her tarsals on one of his upper legs and nuzzled her antennae against his briefly.
His heart sunk, but he managed an awkward smile with his mandibles and took flight springing into the air off his hind legs.
The crystal wind cut against his carapace and melted into streams on an already tear moistened face, only to freeze again as Heshad darted through the bone chilling currents.
He wanted nothing more than to fly away forever. To leave the herd, and the clutches, and the pupae and nymphlings all to their own devices.
There was no home for him among his people.
He flew mad, night and day, only stopping for quick bites of frosted foliage or to leave behind scent markers.
Nearly a week a head of the herd, he finally decided to rest in an iced over cave that retained small traces of heat from fading geysers beneath the surface.
His wings ached from near constant use, and the only thing that kept him going was the thought of letting his people down.
Preparing to fly again after a short rest, the pressure exerted by his hind legs broke the ice beneath him and he went plummeting into the earth fraying his hind wings and cracking his carapace in the process.
He laid there beneath the ground for a day, gnawing on a weed that had clung to life as desperately as Heshad did now, but even as he rested and waited for his body to heal, he couldn’t help but to wonder why?
He struggled to put the thought at the back of his mind and focused on his mission.
* * *
Nearly broken, and on tattered wings, Heshad emerged from the icy cocoon the next day finding that the crystal winds that had battered him for so long had diminished.
He was truly near the Arc Emitter now. The buzz of the ancient machinery rang out in his ears, and he wept at the sound of it. Months of travel, a lifetime of preparation, rumors come true, he was near an Arc Emitter. His people would be saved.
He flew for nearly another full day, even as the storm picked back up, until a faint blue glow in the distance became a pulsating blue beacon of light that signified hope.
He crashed into it, blinded by the raw energy of the beacon and dizzy from flight, and landed nearby on a lush terrace that basked in its light.
He set a scent marker for the herd and decided he would rest for a while. He wouldn’t be here when they got here, but he could rest for a while in the eternal summer heat of the Arc Emitter.
* * *
When the herd did arrive, they found a moulting of Heshad and an empty cocoon next to it.
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 04:25|
My father hasn't returned from across the Abyssal Plain, the stretch of featureless ice between the two remaining stations on the moon Europa. Underneath which lurks a vast ocean, fed energy from the gravitational tide of Jupiter. It is a dangerous place. It is not the empty abyss that my ancestors had thought it was.
The survivors of the death of Earth arrived a century ago. Their options for worlds that could sustain life were few. Terra-forming this moon was the only option. By evaporating the water, they hoped to create an atmosphere. Martian ice was a myth, and Pluto was too far from the life sustaining sun. They did not have enough energy to do this however. They tried harvesting natural resources from the planet, but the research to learn how to do so was slow. Supplies dwindled. People fought among themselves. We had started with a dozen stations. Now there were only two, the others had lost communication one by one. Finally, the only other station that had remained sent out an emergency beacon. That is why my father left.
So many were sick and starving, but not my father. He was a strong man. Even as the others suffered. They blamed him behind our backs. I pretended not to hear when they whispered rumours that he was stealing food from the ration bank.
When Commander Hearthenwood asked for volunteers to travel to the station to discover what had happened, my father raised his hand. He knew he was the strongest left. The others said it was to avoid being punished. I knew my father. He was doing what had to be done because he knew he was the only one who could do it. They gave him a treadtrak and provisions. He left the next day.
That was days ago. Commander Hearthenwood knocked on my door and told me the news himself. They had lost contact with him. They didn’t know if it was an equipment failure or if the worst had happened.
I was strong, like my father. I had to find him. I was the only one who could.
Hearthenwood gave me the keys to the other treadtrak. I packed what food I could and left. I took my breath hood and wore my enviro suit just in case. Travel between bases was unheard of. Fuel was scarce. They gave me what they could.
The Abyssal Plain was beautiful. During the day the sun sparkled off the surface of Europa like diamonds. There is no snow or soil or even air so the ice freezes perfectly clear. There was no atmosphere so there was no sky. Stars blazed undiminished and were packed densely in every direction. At night the huge red form of Jupiter encompassed the entire night sky. A great silhouette rested on the horizon of the otherwise flat and pockmarked surface.
I was halfway there when it happened. A cloud of micro meteorites smashed into Europa. They rained like bullets, puncturing the cab of the treadtrak and tearing through the ice. I got my breath hood on in time as the cab depressurized. It was then I heard the ice splitting. A crack was running along the holes from the impacts. I hit the accelerator but the growing fissure created a wall in front of me. I jumped out of the doomed treadtrak and climbed on to its roof. I was level with the top of the ice wall but my side was dipping with the extra weight. I jumped off and managed to grab the top of the icy crust of the moon as the detached sheet capsized and sunk. A great drop of water was thrown into space were it crystallized before slamming back into the moon.
That’s when it appeared. A great cone like head with a gaping maw of overlapping teeth in the center and a ring of eyes around it raised above the surface. It watched me with unblinking gaze as I pulled myself up and over the edge of the chasm. Then it dove after the sinking treadtrak, revealing a mess of tentacles on the back of it’s head. It looked like the bastard son of Poseidon and Medusa. The surface of the ocean sloshed back and forth, exposed to the cold vacuum of space before freezing over.
I made it a couple hundred yards before I collapsed from the cold. It froze the joints on my suit. Every step was a battle. I was losing the war. I couldn’t make it.
That was when I had noticed the silhouette outlined by Jupiter again. It no longer looked like a mountain as it had from far away. It seemed like a solid mass topped with two great pillars supporting two great blocks. As I stared I could see that they weren't blocks, they were more like fine combs. It was now, against the backdrop of swirling red I could seem them moving. Swaying slightly in the vacuum. They were arms. They were alive. It was collecting fine matter from orbit and absorbing them through these great filters. I think it sensed me, because it stood up on four opposing legs, revealing how massive it really was. I was an ant. No, I was a speck of dust even to this creature. I cowered before it and said my last prayer.
It interlocked its massive filter hands gently underneath me and raised me into the sky. In the center of its abdomen, ice cracked and fell away to reveal a single massive black eye. I couldn’t help but stare into it in return. I remembered moments against my will. My father. The other station. The crash. It was the creature, it was flipping through my memories like a book. There was a series of rhythmic clicks in my mind. I could not understand but the creature began taking great bounding steps in the direction my father went.
Soon I could see the outline of the other base. The creature gently placed me down. The clicking in my head overwhelmed my thoughts again, and then the creature left, returning the way it came.
I entered the station. I found them there, all dead. Crude firepits littered the interior, surrounded by charred bones. Human bones. Were they my father’s? I could not tell.
They had run out of food and had turned on each other. These charred marks are old. They could not be my father. In the commanders quarters there I had found three fresher corpses. Recently killed. No one was around to feast on them.
I turned off the emergency beacon, then took the medical supplies. Commander Hearthenwood could use them. I also found the garage and took the keys to an unused treadtrak. There was only the one, the other was missing. I thought about the three fresh corpses as I loaded the supplies. My people were starving. The last people. I cut the meat from the bones, froze it, and packed it too.
When I returned to base I was greeted with exuberance. I passed out medicine and food. Hearthenwood caught my gaze from across the room. He looked grim. I reflected it. He knew. The others were too overjoyed in the moment to notice my father was not with me or the other base was now silent.
I did not stay long.
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 07:19|
The Hobo Way
Rudy put the can of fruit cocktail to his lips and took a long gulp. He hated fruit cocktail.
"Hey Rudy, gimme a little pull on that, won't ya? Just a couple gulps."
He looked over at Oscar. His one-time travelling buddy had never been a fat man, but the preceding season had taken quite a toll. Rudy patted Oscar's bony shoulder.
"Why don't you finish the can, old pal?"
Oscar grabbed the fruit cocktail and slurped it down greedily, his finger under his chin to catch any dribbles.
Rudy leaned forward and warmed his hands against the fire. They'd never had a winter like this one, he thought. It wasn't particularly cold or snowy, but competition had gotten stiff.
There was a crash down the alley and Rudy sat up straight, legs twitching for the run. He looked up the street and settled.
Two hobos, dressed much like Rudy, had knocked a man down. The taller of the two was stomping on its chest over and over again, each blow spraying gears and fragments of metal across the icy concrete. The other hobo peeled off the automaton's coat and rifled through its pockets, turning them out and finding them all empty. Their conversation wafted down the street to Rudy.
"What'd I tell ya, Barry? It's a Mister Abraham, these don't carry anything! Too many of em on the drat street, nobody'll give 'em a penny."
The other hobo took a turn at the jacket. "Yeah, but I figured it was worth a try. Not like anyone cares about the mess, anyway." He tried on the jacket and cast it aside.
Rudy called over to them. Least he could do was offer a couple fellow hobos a can in this hideous cold.
Rudy walked to work at the crack of dawn. This time of day, there should have been an exodus from the Dips to Silver street, hundreds of hobos trudging to earn some scratch, to perform some good dignified panhandling. Today there were just a few dozen men, looking nearly identical in patched-up coats, greasy beards, and battered boots.
He climbed up the winding road to Silver Street and sighed.
A military man was stuck in mid-beg in the middle of the road, awkwardly jutting out his one arm a couple of inches, then retracting it, over and over.
Rudy didn't pay the thing much mind and passed it by. Just another Captain Hanlon in worn fatigues and dirty boots, tin medals jangling.
He heard a thud and looked over his shoulder. A fellow hobo had knocked the thing over. Rudy turned and studied the Captain. All the Hanlons were the same: same tears, same scuffs, same lack of soul. He shook his head.
Rudy walked up Silver Street to the promenade, looking for a corner to set up his sign. Along the way, he counted two more one-armed Captain Hanlons, at least a dozen scruffy Mister Abrahams, and a few Ms. Roses in low-cut tops. He was passing by the old Riley Automaton factory when a metal door slid open and a well-kept face stuck out.
"Mr. Rudolph Schiller? A moment of your time, sir."
Rudy stopped in his tracks and looked to the door.
"Sir? Mr. Buttons, is it? Just a moment of your time." The man beckoned him closer.
Rudy glanced around at the street and shivered. A blast of warm air came from the open door, carrying the tantalizing scents of good tobacco, cooking meat, and fresh bread.
"Well," Rudy said, "I'll hear you out. But no silly business."
"Oh, sir." The man opened the door a little wider, then glanced left and right. "You couldn't be further from the truth."
Rudy removed his hat and sank down into a plush leather chair. He looked at the spread in front of him. Iced cakes, a glistening pork roast, wine, and a dozen other high-dollar delicacies. He smiled and licked his chops, then popped a cracker loaded with caviar into his mouth. He was reaching for a fourth when the door opened and a man marched in.
Rudy looked him up and down. Nice suit, nicer than the alley-caller's, with enough extra wool to hide his gut. Big, waxy moustache. Fancy swagger in his walk. He stopped short and spoke to Rudy.
"Mr. Rudolph 'Buttons' Schiller, I presume?"
Rudy dropped the piece of pork he was holding and stuck out a greasy hand. The man did not take it.
"I am Mr. Riley, Mr. Ignatius Chandler Riley. My name, if you may have noticed, is on the outside of this building. You, like the rest of the city, may have been stunned and worried by my shocking and mysterious disappearance."
Rudy stopped putting cakes into his pockets and studied Mr. Riley, then spoke.
"Well to be honest, hadn't put much thought to it. Times been tough out there, on account of all the, uh, competition. Durn robots aren't close to the real McCoy, but you clutter up the streets with enough of em, people start to..."
Mr. Riley seemed not to hear him. He spoke in a rehearsed manner to no one in particular.
"Let me tell you a story, Mr. Schiller. A cherished, beloved factory owner who spends years upon years giving everything he has to the city decides to run for office. Mayor, none the less!"
Rudy feigned rapt attention while inhaling short rib after short rib.
"And his city turns its back on him! And what's worst, most despicable: his so-called high-society friends slander him, abandon him! And that, that was the unkindest cut of all. A cut which must be repaid thousandfold. So the kind-hearted factory owner shuts himself away for a year, to plan his revenge. It is on this final point that I require your consultation."
Rudy leaned back and patted his belly, then softly blew out a belch.
"Well, Mr. Riley? What can I do for you?"
Riley smiled. "I'm sure you've noticed a few thousand of my fine creations wandering the city. They're facsimiles, you see. Copies. Come, you must have noticed."
Rudy nibbled the icing rose from the top of a teacake. "I've noticed, Mr. Riley, that no one wants to give his good money to a hobo when they're being pestered by those things."
Riley's grin widened. "And now you've seen the genius of my plan, have you not? All of our city's finest citizens, my former peers, Mr. Saul Abraham, Captain Heath Hanlon, Miss Bernadette Rose, Doctor Philip Morrow, and more! All replicated in fantastic squalor! Reduced to the dregs of society in the public eye! Unable to show their faces, for fear of being made a laughing-stock, mistaken for a gutter bum!"
Rudy grimaced. Insult notwithstanding, he thought it was the most idiotic thing he had ever heard. Truly the product of a diseased mind. He took a break from eating and turned to Riley.
"Sir, I would prefer not to be referred to as a 'dreg'."
Riley walked around the table and sat next to Rudy.
"No, no offense meant. It brings me to the reason for your visit today."
Rudy had picked up a second wind and a chicken wing to accompany it. He waved for Riley to continue.
"Now, I've made these facsimile beggars with as much thoroughness as I can manage and yet, perhaps due to my, ahem, aristocratic influence, there still remains a certain, how do we say, dignity about them."
Rudy thought Riley wouldn't know dignity if it came covered in crab and topped with a fine cheddar and a poached egg. He picked up a crab benedict and quickly consumed it.
"So, Mr. Schiller, I command your authenticity. How do I make them so true to hobo-dom, so pitiable, so laughable, so utterly disgusting that..."
Rudy was full and his patience was spent. He put up one hand.
"Sir, with all due respect, I'm not a bum, I'm not a layabout, and I'm no kind of gutter beggar. I'm a hobo. I ain't got no reputation to speak of, but I know lunacy when I sees it."
As if to punctuate, Rudy pocketed another few chicken wings. He got up and began to walk to the door. Riley exploded with rage.
"Don't you dare turn your back on me, you filth! I'll ruin you!"
Rudy stopped for a moment and chuckled.
"Ruin me? I think, Mr. Riley, that you're a man with more money than sense and I tell ya, that's a backwards way to make a hobo. Good day, sir."
Riley followed Rudy. His moustache was quivering in apoplexy.
"I'll facsimile you! They'll turn you away! You'll never eat another bean in this town!"
Just before leaving, Rudy turned to look over his shoulder.
"Go ahead, my good man. The best hobos all look like me, anyhow."
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 07:23|
Message Delivered by Tightbeam from Crys to Bilquis
I hope this finds you well. As the ice weighing on the dome above creaks and sings the timeless songs of strain and tear, of melt and fusion and melt again, it is some comfort to think that there might be better places. I think of you on a world with flowers, blue and yellow and red exploding with pollen in a few green field.
I remember when we were young together, with the run of our grandfather's house, making our plans. We were always colony-bound, undeterrable as we were inseparable. When grandfather first told us that we would never be allowed on the same ship it struck us like a hammerblow. No siblings allowed. No cousins, even, first or second, and ideally nobody from the same city. That was the rule. Genetic diversity protocols have always been tight on colony ships, where we travel with thousands of well-refrigerated fathers but only a few dozen possible mothers. Forty doctorates between the thirty of us, but the numeric logic of getting from those numbers to the thousands needed to sustain civilization on a new world meant, well, what it meant.
I woke up pregnant, ten years out from Crys. Some of us had too. There was logic to it: spread out the second generation over decades, make sure that the new society had to accommodate children from day one, rather than as an afterthought, or something that could wait for the never that would be a time not filled with work needing doing. I hope you haven't had to think about this, on your new world in a slightly different direction. My Cyril was a pure joy, as were his sisters. Juliana and Elanora, as we always talked about.
I know the plan we made: to leave nearly the same time, to different colonies of roughly the same difference. We could share a few letters, sent in our first days on our world's, received towards the end of long lives. Well, half of that will happen.
I've been stepping around the issue like a pile of uncollected dogshit on the sidewalk, but no longer: Crys colony has failed. I write from the cold interior of a tomb.
Crys was not the garden pictured in the scoutship images. It was frozen over, tundra and icecap, glacier and iceberg-dotted seas. It was not dead and cold. Native lichen thrived. The oxygen cycle continued. We landed, lacking other options. The ships of the colony fleet are not designed for return trips or alternate destination. We landed, built out our dome and tunnels, and worked and waited for a spring.
It did not come. The winter deepened. The simulations predicted the warm cycle to come back farther and farther into the future. Years, then decades, then past a century. The life clinging to the ice continued to survive: it had evolved for this. This had happened before.
The ice piled higher atop the dome, and with no way to keep it clear, the power we could harness from the orbiters and from Crys' pale sun diminished. Systems failed. We dug deeper, harnessed geothermal heat, but by the time we got that online the damage was done. Our genetic stores, the thousand fathers that could have been, the vials of spunk got just too cold or too warm, and died.
We might have endured, even without them. Eva, our chief geneticist, worked out a plan. Managed breeding. Arranged marriages, each lasting only long enough for a single child. We tried it, for a time.
If the first to break plan, to bear the wrong father's son, had been anyone else we might have even survived that shock as well. But Eva herself, with the captain and mayor, caught by her apprentice Wynne, and what followed: a murder to cover for it, that failing, with video evidence.
She argued that to punish her would doom us all. A defiant defense.
In a new colony there aren't resources to jail, no place to exile. A crime that brooked no rehabilitation can have only one punishment. I hope that your colony has not had cause to event contemplate this kind of justice.
We hanged Eva and her co-conspirator in the morning.
The trickle of power from orbit dried to nothing. We started to move supplies from dome to tunnel, in anticipation of the final collapse. But it was a lesser collapse that was the final blow, the main tunnel separated those two worlds. Separating me from the children. Me and most of the older mothers.
The equipment that dug them was a power glutton; it will not be turned on again. They all survived, and live in some comfort, will outlive me surely. But they are barely half the minimum viable population, and without any real management or plan. I have nightmares of their descendants, of degraded inbred troglodytes, feral grandchildren and great grandchildren, discovered centuries on by a second attempt to colonize Crys and of interest as anthropological studies rather than as people. The math is hauntingly undeniable
I want to delete this entire message, replace it with some more pleasant lie. Nobody else here has reason to contact your world, and by the time news travelled by way of Earth you would no longer be alive to chide me for fibbing. But no. You deserve the truth, to know what I can tell you of your nieces and nephew. They send their love, as do I.
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 07:50|
Fuel for the Fire
I’m pretty sure every grumpy old gently caress with a news segment has done at least one hot take on how teenagers shouldn’t be given their own carbon allowances because they’ll only fritter it away on uselss poo poo (just like the poors and the immigrants and whoever else they think’s taken a crap on their lawn this week). When I was fourteen and righteous I was adamant I’d prove them wrong. I’d save those carbon chits up for travel miles towards the big OE or cash them in and use the money for something vaguely-defined-but-responsible that would prove how wrong those stupid commentators were to judge us upstanding young people.
Now that I’m sixteen and finally in possession of my very own state designated carbon allowance, I’m going to burn it. gently caress ‘em.
We figure between the three of us, we’ll manage to scrape up enough fuel for a nice midwinter fire, and maybe actually work out how to get one going. We’re all pretty much city scum through and through, but I’ve looked at some vidsim tutorials and it doesn’t seem that complicated. I even have some real life experience in that my rich cousins throw a bunch of birthday bonfires and other sorts of great-grandpappy-was-an-American-oil-baron parties where I am occasionally, under supervision, allowed to add a log or two to the fire. My aunt says the supervision is for safety, but I’m pretty sure she's just worried I’ll steal the wood.
Kalindi, for her part, did scouts back in the day. She also spent most of that time trying to sneak off to hold hands with Sarah Greene. So despite the fire permits her troop managed to get a couple times a year, her knowledge of fire, beyond how it looks reflected in Sarah Greene’s eyes, is pretty much theoretical.
Not as theoretical as that of Jax, who assures us they’ve read a lot of old novels featuring bonny young folk having wholesome winter adventures. Jax summarily appointed themselves in charge of snacks, and the collection they tip out on my kitchen table ranges from the expected (spiced crickets, apples, chocolate) to the questionable (agar marshmallows, which Jax assures us when toasted should taste like something better than fairy farts) to the downright confusing (chestnuts, which I’m pretty sure they nicked from the tree at school).
“Right,” Kalindi snaps into get-poo poo-done mode before Jax can give us the literary history of roasted chestnuts. “We’ve got food.” She nods to Jax. “We’ve got fuel.” She jerks a hand at the stacks of wood we picked up from the carbon broker earlier today. “We just need-”
“Friendship!” Jax interjects with a double thumbs up and a massive grin.
“Somewhere to actually build the fire.” Kalindi finishes, patting Jax on the shoulder. “Any ideas?”
Jax looks at me quizzically. “Wouldn’t one of your uncle’s places have a fireplace, Keegan? Like a proper indoor one?” Their eyes unfocus dreamily, assumedly imagining the many possibilities provided by the combination of chestnuts and an indoor fire.
I shake my head. “Probably, but they’re not his places, they’re my aunt’s, and she has it in for me. To her I’m just the wrong side of the family, you know.” I try to load that last sentence with just enough wistfulness to sound troubled and mysterious without crossing into actually pathetic.
“And you’re that little toe-rag that ate so much you gave yourself the meat-pukes at her daughter’s eighteenth,” Kalindi adds sweetly. I give her the finger. They had a whole roast boar, and my family never even cashes their carbon out for a bit of bacon. What did they expect me to do?
“Anyway,” I say, keen to change the topic. “I think we should just go with our original plan, and head up to the roof. I, for one, can’t be arsed hauling all that wood out to a park, it’s loving freezing.”
“It’s nine degrees. And Whangarei barely ever hit freezing, even before global warming.” Now it’s Jax’s turn to get the finger.
Kalindi bites her lip. “The janitor saw us bringing the wood in though. You told her it was for a camping trip. What if she catches us?”
I shrug. “We’ll tell her we’re camping on the roof.”
We make it up to the roof mostly without incident, setting watchers and dragging our wood into the elevator when no one’s coming down the corridor. The roof itself is even more underwhelming than I remember. A couple of dinky sports courts with fading paint, planters that were supposed to be community gardens but where even the weeds look like they’re having a hard time growing, a few seats and a lifeless drone that looks like it flew here just to die. All surrounded by a chain link fence to stop people jumping off and allowing the panoramic view of a bunch of other lovely block towers just like our one. My dad, who has an unhealthy obsession with urban design, always says the apartment roof-gardens were supposed to provide fresh air and a sense of community to an increasingly urbanised population, but it just seems like a waste of space that could have been used for solar panels or something. I don’t even think dad’s been up here more than a couple of times.
The roof does, however, provide us with an open air spot for our fire where we have almost zero chance of being interrupted, especially at night. We pick a corner of one of the sports courts that doesn’t look like it has anything flammable nearby and start setting up: blankets, cushions, food and a couple of portable fire extinguishers we nicked from our respective apartments go to one side while we try to arrange various sized bits of wood in a way that should catch fire, at least according to the internet.
Getting this poo poo to stay on fire ends up being harder than I expect.
"loving wind," I snarl. "I thought fire needed oxygen to burn." I clicked my spark lighter at the little stick pyramid again. The lighter arcs and a twig catches fire, looks like it might actually stay that way for a second, then abruptly blows out as another gust of wind comes in through the goddamned chain link fence, which seems pretty useless as far as fences go.
There’s a smoker’s raspy chuckle from behind and we all spin around. It’s the janitor, still wearing shorts and sandals despite the chill wind. Well, poo poo. Kalindi’s breath catches to my right while to my left Jax lets out a cheery greeting.
The janitor takes another drag from her retro-rear end blunt. Smells a bit off - could be spliff, if she’s such an old fashioned git she still mixes with tobacco. “You know,” she drawls, like she’s rolling the words around in her mouth. “I mostly came up here to make sure you kids weren’t going to set anything important on fire, but I see I don’t have to worry about that.” She waves her joint in the direction of our sad little stick pile.
When none of us answer, she rolls her eyes. “What, you think it’s not completely obvious when someone rides the lift up all the way up here, after you were dragging dragging all that wood around?” I prepare myself for the inevitable old-fucker lecture about irresponsible teens.
All three of us break the silence at the same time.
“Sorry, we should have said something.”
“We’re camping on the roof, no one else is using it.”
“Did you want a marshmallow?”
The janitor waves a hand to shush us, raising an eyebrow at me. “Don’t worry about it. It’s nice you kids want to have a good old fire.” She takes another drag, looking us over. “I figured you’d be a bit better at it though, you know, with the internet.”
The three of us just sit there, Jax still holding out the packet of marshmallows. The janitor looks at them and sighs. She gestures towards the gardens and jerks her head at me. “You, lippy, there should be some sheeting over there you can set up as a wind break.” She pulls a little metal object out of her pocket and throws it underhand to Kalindi. “Proper biofuel lighter. It should work a bit better than the sparkers. Put a bit more tinder in the pile too. And you.” She nods to Jax. “Come with me. We’re going to find some good long sticks for marshmallows. If you’re spending all your carbon on having a fire, you’d better do it properly.”
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 07:51|
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 16:26|
Interprompt: summer themed period drama
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 22:27|
Interprompt: summer themed period drama
Fayre is Fayre
The portreeve of Tarnsmouth has an iron grip on customs in all of Geldermeershire. He collects the queen’s duties and excises to be paid on imports in the region. All are in agreement that the amounts payable are most unfair to the merchants and their noble commissioners. Incidentally, the cunning Lord Stern hosts a delightful Summer fayre in his coastal town. Musicians play, the young knights engage in their hastiludes, actors perform the most wonderful tales. Most important of all is a bustling marketplace teeming with stalls. Many of these stalls sell curiously eccentric “locally produced wares.”
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 22:49|
The Boy on the Stoop
The blistering heat of the sunswept street beat on the brows of every doe-eyed child running down them.
All except little Billy Hayes, who sat on his stoop all day while his father drunk behind him.
The children laughed and played while Billy sat and stayed outside his house, that was not a home.
The stoop was his retreat, the bruises were covered neat and Billy was too scared to speak about them.
Little Sally May, who lived just down the way, was the only one who could see.
While the children laughed and played, and Billy sat all day, Sally May wondered what it might be like if he were free.
The jingle jangle tune of the Ice Cream truck arriving soon, Gave sally quite an idea.
She fished for loose change and bought two cones that day, and told Billy,
“Este es tu día.”
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 22:59|
In for the next week. For whoever the judge is, no special flashes cos of the toxx, please and thank you.
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 23:03|
what time exactly is this due or anytime as long as it's still the 21st somewhere in the world
|# ? Jan 20, 2020 23:32|
what time exactly is this due or anytime as long as it's still the 21st somewhere in the world
I will be posting at precisely "before I go to bed" o'clock regardless of what the answer to this is
|# ? Jan 21, 2020 00:13|
sitting here!!! it's bad luck if we see each other so close to our brawl
|# ? Jan 21, 2020 00:16|
what time exactly is this due or anytime as long as it's still the 21st somewhere in the world
Midnight of the twenty-first. Let's call it PST.
|# ? Jan 21, 2020 02:24|
WEEK 389 RESULTS
it would behoove some of you to read through this week's entire field and notice how many goddamn Ice Planet stories there were and how they all blended together.
Loss goes to Pththya-lyi for giving us a shaggy dog story that was a pointless kick in the dick,
DMs go to Azza Bamboo, Anomalous Amalgam and Saucy_Rodent for giving us two somewhat original stories executed astoundingly poorly and the most generic of the generic sci-fi Ice Planet stories (which was a damned achievement this week), respectively,
the one HM goes to arbitraryfairy for giving us a charming, competently executed story in a week where there was very little of either to go around, AND:
a friendly penguin Wins this week by giving us the story that satisfied the prompt the best and left the judges satisfied as well.
to have crits for this week done by January 31st, 11:59 PST.
take it away, afp
Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 08:34 on Jan 21, 2020
|# ? Jan 21, 2020 08:01|
|# ? Jan 28, 2022 23:05|
Bullshit! How the hell is an original story below the heap of "big monster on ice planet" tales?
What's more important to you dorks than a solid gold concept enough that you'd put beige concepts ahead of it?
|# ? Jan 21, 2020 10:34|