RECAP TIME, RECAP TIME, PUT ON YOUR RECAP EARS
It's here! After great anticipation, the recap for Week 423 has finally arrived. Find it here!
Hosted by Sitting Here, sparksbloom, Ironic Twist, and myself! Plus a cameo whine or two from an impatient Waffles the Thunderpooch.
Featuring recaps of stories by:
Also available on Apple and Google podcast whatever things or something, I don't know, yell at crabrock if they don't show up on your podcast service of choice
|# ? Oct 4, 2020 05:51|
|# ? Feb 2, 2023 12:29|
And then there were two
After the storm passed Chelsea poked her head out from her hutch and found her mirror was broken and she was alone. Her water bowl was full of smashed leaves and her pellets were a soggy mess but that didn’t matter because Cinnamon was missing. Chelsea nosed the mirror but there was NO ONE THERE, just splinters of reflection that hurt Chelsea’s eyes. She was not going to back to what it was like in the run before Cinnamon arrived, oh no. She bit her paw, hard, to cut off the memories, and then she was digging, digging, digging. There was wire mesh hidden beneath the grass on which her run rested so she attacked the wooden frame with her teeth and even though it hurt and she tasted blood she didn’t stop because she had to find Cinnamon. Gnawing and pulling, separate the wire from the frame, push head through, ears scraped, belly cut, then--
Chelsea shivered on the lawn under the freshwashed sky, no comforting roof over her head, no friendly ears to watch gently twitch. CINNAMON! Chelsea darted for the hedgerow. Sniffling and snuffling, but there was no sign of her friend, just the sticky-dark smell of untunnelable loam, mushrooms lurking beneath the surface, and, cat--
RUN! Chelsea bolted through the hedgerow and down a wooded hillside, snowdrops nodding as she dashed between the trees, the sound of cat’s paws skittering over the leaf litter chasing her. Chelsea should never have left the hutch, but she’d lost Cinnamon in the storm - careless, stupid. Cinnamon would have seen the cat, would have warned her, kept her safe, but now she was two ears not four, two eyes, blind. Her heart racing and her legs weakening, Chelsea realised she wasn’t going to make it, the cat was going to get her, but then at least she wouldn’t be alone--
A familiar smell, tendril thin, snagged Chelsea’s nose and spun her around in the empty woodland. Cinnamon hated it when Chelsea’s mood turned fatalistic. More pellets will come soon, Cinnamon would say. Tomorrow they’ll move the run and the grass will be bright and fresh again, she’d remind Chelsea when the mud clogged her claws. Cinnamon always watched Chelsea while she slept, buried in her nest of straw. Cinnamon was always--
THERE! A flicker of tawny fur behind the roots of a huge oak. A flash of white tail between the snowdrops. CINNAMON! But, where was the cat? Chelsea thumped the ground, a one-two WARNING. Back under the hedgerow; the tendril of scent was stronger here. Nose-snagged, Chelsea followed it out onto the lawn. There were people there, the hutch unroofed and straw-tossed, and--
There was tawny fur, warm breath, friend-scent. Chelsea nosed Cinnamon all over, breathless with relief. The other rabbit returned her greeting, circling, touching; four ears, four eyes, together again, always together. The people caught the rabbits and returned them to the run. Fresh grass underfoot and comforting roof overhead, two rabbits is hardly a colony and a hutch is hardly a warren but--
Chelsea curled against Cinnamon’s soft fur in their nest of straw as the stars came out and the moon drifted lazily across the sky. She wouldn’t lose her again.
|# ? Oct 4, 2020 09:38|
It Stretches Away Forever
MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:51 on Jan 5, 2021
|# ? Oct 4, 2020 21:27|
My client bought the Benton Tower back in May, and it was still in bad shape when I went to conduct the assessment in August. In half of the rooms, we found people dead of starvation, sitting in front of the windows with pads of paper, the sheets covered with petty observations about the strangers on the streets below. “2:12 PM. Man carrying a Subway (?) sandwich. Looks at phone, then jaywalks.”
It was unpleasant work, weaving between the paramedics and the detectives to take inventory. I called in my executive assistant, Sheila, to help with the really nasty rooms. I know it wasn’t what she’d signed up for, and I almost felt bad, but I needed her. Some of the people had written on the walls, the furniture. Someone had scrawled no one even looks at each other all over their couch and bedsheets, and aside from the human stench, it just wasn’t something I could look at for long.
The human brain attempts to form narratives, and at a certain level of consultancy, you just have to short-circuit that with either booze or subordinates. When Sheila came by she took one look at the room and retched. “You can’t hire a cleaning company?”
“I don’t want anyone sniffing around in here. Liability.”
Some of the details leaked out anyway. Sheila was dodging a reporter who was asking about a notebook that had been posted on Reddit, full of these mundane observations at first (Red car followed by a green truck followed by a tractor trailer) but then becoming something grittier (They’ve stopped feeding us. No one is coming. No one is coming.) The company line, which Sheila was so good at delivering (“We don’t comment on speculation,”) was getting less convincing, especially after they deposed the building’s previous owners.
I went and picked up a couple of tortas for Sheila and I to share after she finished inventory on the eleventh floor. I met her in what used to be a ballroom; now it was full of filing cabinets and lawyers, although no one had taken down the mirrorball. She met me an hour late, smelling of death and ink.
I’m a professional. I didn’t even grimace. I just passed her a torta and we ate. She’d aged years in the weeks we’d been on this project. It’s what happens when you press down on something you don’t want to think about, when you have to the work to jump between the neurons in your head and stop them from kissing. It all comes out in your face.
“Mine’s cold,” Sheila said. She took another bite anyway.
Around us, TVs were playing all of the major news networks. We were part of the Benton Tower Event now.
“Can I ask you a question?” Sheila said. She was staring vacantly at a TV. Not even about the BTE. Just a Tupperware commercial.
I crossed my arms. “You can ask.”
“Are you seeing anyone?”
“No, I’m not seeing a therapist. And if you are, you can’t talk about—”
“That’s not what I meant. I’m sorry. I mean, romantically—are you seeing anyone?”
I realized I had been folding and unfolding the receipt from the tortas. Sheila had a lot of promise. She would show up for the tough jobs and figure out what needed to be done without asking a lot of questions, so it was strange to hear her be so forward.
“Not anymore,” I said, eventually. Then, although I never ask this question, I asked “Why?”
“Oh,” she said, still looking at the TV. Now it was a life insurance commercial. “Just trying to understand you better, I guess. Like what it means for you to go home.”
“It means I have everything the way I like it,” I said, “and exactly where I want it. What does it mean for you to go home?”
Half of her torta was lying on a napkin like a corpse; a big shmear of guacamole traced a green line across it. She looked down at her hands, and I felt a big stab of feeling in my chest that would come out on my forehead later.
“Some of the rooms were empty,” I said. And then I broke my rule: “The people left. And I bet the people here were very sad people, that chose to be here, that were paid to be here, that found peace and happiness and tranquility in this beautiful old building. At least some of them. But you didn’t hear that from me. Okay?”
I coughed on a wisp of smoke coming from the other room; a laywer hurried past with a notebook in his pocket. Sheila looked past me, nodded, and finished her torta.
|# ? Oct 5, 2020 01:59|
Friends Are Where You Find Them
As soon as the bell rang, the other wrestler dove between James’s legs, picked him up like a sack of dogfood and tried to throw him straight through the floor. The thick wrestling mat absorbed most of the force of the blow; it didn’t do a drat thing for the other wrestler falling on him with all of his weight. The fall drove every last bit of air from James’s lungs, leaving him gasping and nauseous, a fish trying to flop on dry docks.
James found himself flat on his back, his legs curled up by his ears while an audience cheered. The referee dropped to his knees and unsuccessfully tried to run a flat hand between James’s shoulders and the mat. After a three count, the referee slammed his hand into the mat. Match over.
When they were separated, the other wrestler reached out a hand, which James slapped away with a sneer, eyes brimming and wet. On his way out, he threw his earguards into the bleachers before stomping into the locker room, disgusting the spectators.
“That boy should be ashamed of himself,” he heard one of the parents say.
In the locker room, James threw everything out of his locker onto the ground, squirrelled himself inside, and slammed the door shut on himself. His teammates, after finishing their own matches, trickled in and treated him like a baboon at the zoo. Some of them tapped the locker; his friends tried to talk with him through the door, and the bullies snickered at him, just loud enough for him to hear..
The wrestling coach tried to coax him out with gentle praise, like a cat from behind a washing machine.
“gently caress off!” he yelled between sobs. He refused to open the door for anyone, going so far as to hold the locking mechanism shut. At some point, James’s shame began to spiral in on itself, the social consequences of locking himself into a locker far worse than simply losing the match. Anger coalesced to dread and dread deepened to sorrow, sitting densely in the pit of his stomach, rattling with every sobbing hiccup.
Forty-five minutes later, the other wrestler volunteered himself to go into the locker room. Out of ideas and just wanting to go home, the coach waved him in.
“Hello?” he said.
“Go away!” James yelled. “You’re not supposed to be in here. This isn’t even your locker room.”
“Yeah,” the other boy said. “But I’m not the reason you’re locked up in there.”
“Just leave,” James said.
“You’re being a brat,” the other boy told him.
“Why don’t you just take your stupid trophy and go home?”
The other boy sighed and sat on one of the benches alongside the locker room, pulling his legs onto the bench before stretching them out.
“Because I think I’m the only one who understands why you’re in that locker,” he said.
“You won,” James said. “And you’re not the one everyone’s laughing at.”
“How many times have you lost a match? Like percentagewise.”
“About 25 percent?” Already, James was starting to breathe a little bit easier. The locker was still a safe place but it was no longer stifling.
“Do you know how many times I’ve lost?”
James snorted. “Not a whole lot if you can wrestle like that.”
“More than I can count. My two older brothers were wrestlers. Our dad was a wrestler. My older brothers used to wrestle me every single night until they went to college. Do you know how many times I won?”
“Not even once.”
“Ouch,” James said. “I can only imagine how that would make you feel.”
“Like I wanted to curl up and die. I would go hide under my bed. They’d find me anyway but I’d kick at them when they tried to drag me out.”
James gave a sharp bark of laughter and opened the door to the locker. He didn’t quite come out but he did stretch his legs, mirroring the other boy.
“Maybe you do get it,” he said.
“And you know what I wanted each and every minute I was under that bed?”
“For someone to know how I felt. It was the loneliest god damned place of my life.”
James sighed. “I get it. But how do I deal with everyone after this?"”
The other boy shrugged and extended his hand to James. “gently caress ‘em,” he said, with all the gravity his squeaky voice could muster.
James grinned and clasped his forearm, the kind of grip warriors used to make. “gently caress ‘em.”
|# ? Oct 5, 2020 02:14|
Bird of Paradise
"It's been close to a week, and I'm not getting anywhere!"
Jacob stayed behind in the classroom while his classmates hurried outside as the bell rang. The boy was speaking to their teacher, a strict but kind man, who had recently taught them how to summon a familiar. The teacher looked up and stared at him through his glasses.
"Sometimes, familiars are hard to control. I'd say you have to show him who's the strongest.
"That's what you told me last time. I tried, and it didn't work."
"In that case, I can't help you. Magic is not always simple, you know. You have to find the answer yourself."
The teacher then went back to his writing. Jacob waited a bit before leaving the classroom.
He was still thinking about this conversation as he walked back home. The summoning spell worked, he had been sure of it. Now he wasn't so sure. He should have been able to make his familiar do simple errands, like delivering a message. He should have been able to communicate with it. Hell, his friend Oscar had summoned a cat that could turn invisible.
As soon as he was home, he hastily climbed the stairs and got to his room, where he stared at the black and white bird that he had summoned.
He had bought a large cage to prevent it breaking the window, and the bird still had tried to attack the bars with its large flame-colored beak. He had eventually stopped fighting the cage and passed its time watching outside, not acknowledging whatever happened inside.
Jacob tried one more time to communicate with the bird through the psychic bond that the spell had created between them. Like all previous times, nothing came through. Disheartened, he went to fill the cup inside the cage with water. At least it drank and ate what the boy gave him.
"I don't even know if you're a boy or a girl." Jacob whispered while resting his head in his crossed arms.
He looked at the large colorful beak. It was peculiar, yellow-orange with a black spot. He suddenly perked up a bit.
"Maybe I should give you a name! Amber. What do you think?"
The bird turned its head sideways and looked at the boy with its azure eye. Something then tugged at Jacob through the psychic link and he focused on it.
Rejection. Outrage. Contempt. What he felt took him by surprise.
Jacob walked backwards, out of the room. What did he do to provoke this kind of response? He stumbled into the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face. As he straightened back up, he had a glimpse at his reflection in the mirror.
"I felt something. The bond worked." He said to his reflection.
He realized his voice was trembling. He grabbed a towel and vigorously dried his face, then walked back into his room. The bird was still there, motionless. Jacob focused on the bond one more time.
"Why are you rejecting me? What's wrong?"
The bird tilted its head. Suddenly a vision appeared in Jacob's mind. A blurry storm of green, accompanied by the wind and the rustling of leaves. Then a sapphire sky opened up over him. All around him, a sea of emerald trees extended in all directions. The landscape was one he never gazed upon, and truly breathtaking. He could feel something through the bond, some kind of longing he could not comprehend.
Then, as abruptly as it started, the vision ended. It took Jacob some time to come back to reality. He heard a faint tapping and saw that the bird was gently tapping his beak on the cage.
Without a word, he got closer and opened up the cage door. He then went to open his window. The bird fluttered onto the window sill and stayed there for a bit. He could sense warmth through the bond now. The bird gently rubbed his beak against the child's face before flying off.
The psychic link slowly weakened, until it was no more. Jacob blinked. Was this strange bird back home now that the spell wore out? He certainly hoped so.
He sat on the sill and looked at the sky, allowing his thoughts to drift off.
I found my answer. The bird would be his first and last familiar.
|# ? Oct 5, 2020 02:15|
i love you
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 21:27 on Jan 8, 2021
|# ? Oct 5, 2020 02:19|
Meanwhile, in the Year One Billion
So there we were, Redshift and me, stranded in a strange red tropical forest in the year about a billion or so.
"You shouldn't have followed me," said Redshift.
"You shouldn't have tried to steal-" I said, then stopped a second. "What was it you were trying to steal?"
"The time machine itself," she said. "I wonder if these are any good." The strange furry worm had finished cooking. She moved the stick from the fire and eyed it dubiously.
"All my Glyph could confirm was edible and non-sapient," I said. She shrugged and took a bite. "Well?"
"Could use some butter and garlic," she said. Then the first drops fell. Rain, in huge droplets, yellow from a rich portion of pollen and spores. Around use the furry worms started to move in the red grass, jumping a meter at a time by compressing and releasing their bodies. When they hit one of the red-barked trees they latched on and began climbing upward.
The fire lasted a few seconds. Then the rain was coming down in sheets, in blobs larger than trucks, striking with the violence of a superhuman fist, like The Aurox or Fafnir in a rage. I drew a warding Glyph almost by instinct. Should have tried for a waterbreathing one with the other hand; between the blow knocking the wind out of me and being suddenly underwater I was struggling for air, vision starting to narrow as I reached the rising surface. Even then the air was thick with rain, and I coughed out half of every breath.
"Glyph!" shouted Redshift. She was leaping from tree to tree, sometimes seeming to bounce off the roiling water itself. And she was far behind me. I could see what her warning meant: the current was taking me towards a great cliff, and from there, the ocean. I tried to form a flying Glyph, but the rain was pushing my fingers away from where they needed to be. I could hear the roar behind me. Then Redshift grabbed my hand and pulled me up, up toward the treetops.
"Thanks," I said, once the rain had slacked off to a mere downpour.
"You'd have been okay," she said. "But I need you to get home, don't I?"
"Right," I said. "Wouldn't want anyone to think you ever did anything for anyone else."
"And I bet you've already got some ideas on that, too."
"Not any good ones." I'd been thinking. Time travel was out of both of our power sets. If anyone had seen us go, had seen the settings on the Ironlaw Society's time arch, they would have been here already. "If this were the far past we could leave a message somewhere we knew someone would find it."
"Well, keep thinking," she said. The rain was mostly done, just drizzling down.
"What did you want with a time machine anyway?" I asked. There was fruit up here, plentiful and edible and even tasty, like a tarter pear. "Going to commission extra Michelangelos to sell off in the present?"
"Now you're thinking like a proper criminal," said Redshift. "Nah, though. It's my mum. She's dying, see."
"You weren't going to try to change history?"
"What, go back and kick in the teeth of the rear end in a top hat who first gave her a cigarette?" said Redshift. "Nah, with my luck that would be my da, and put him right off her and make it so I'd never been born. No, just wanted to do right by her. Do bucket list stuff. Take her to see the first performance of Beethoven's Fifth kind of thing."
"Go for Vivaldi, Rite of Spring," I said. "There's a riot afterward. You'd love it." After a minute. "So much for not doing anything for anyone else."
"Well, you know," she said. "Family."
"Family," I said. "Of course! Redshift, I could kiss you!"
"Hold on," she said. "I don't go for girls or heroes, and if you're thinking about repopulating the Earth there are a few major flaws in your plan."
"The family at the end of time," I said. "The Eternities. We can leave a message for them. We just have to find their house, and then break into the impenetrable force dome around it."
"Impenetrable," she said.
"Well, yes, that could be a problem," I said.
She smiled, her lips flushing red to match her hair and the treebark around us. "Ain't no such thing. When we get close we'll make a proper plan. With your Glyphs and my skills we could get in anywhere." She sighed. "You're a great loss to the supercriminal world, you know. Could have been a great one."
"You'd have made a pretty good hero too," I said.
"You take that back," she said, throwing a core at my head and laughing.
|# ? Oct 5, 2020 03:12|
Randall opened the closet door, and looked at his options. There was a velveteen suit, deep burgundy in color. Definitely a pass. Next up was a brown tweed suit which was better, but it had massive, outdated lapels. If nothing else, it might work — so he pulled it out and hung it on the doorknob. Behind the tweed was yellow and green plaid number with a matching vest. Disgusted, but intrigued, Randal slid it across the rack and heard something rattle. He poked a hand inside the jacket, and found a half-spent can of Altoids in the smoking pocket. When flipped open, it revealed an expired condom, covered in a layer of chalky, peppermint dust and nestled in the mints. He snapped the lid shut and started to put it back.
“The gently caress you doing in my closet, Randall?”
Startled, Randall fumbled the mints, and they landed on the floor; mercifully, the lid stayed closed. Wheeling around, he saw Tyler leaning on the door frame, scowling. He filled the doorway completely, almost having to duck to fit through the passage. The urge to bolt was strong, but Randall managed to simply stammer a few non-words while gesturing at the suit hanging on the doorknob.
“That don’t answer my question. What are you doing in my closet? Looks like the same poo poo that got you here the first place.”
“I, uh, g-got an interview,” Randall managed. “I tried the thrift store, but they didn’t have n-nothing. I didn’t know where else to go. I thought maybe I could, uh, b-borrow something.”
“So, you just gonna go into my stuff without saying nothing to me about it? Nah, dude. That poo poo don’t happen no more.”
Randall nodded, looking at the floor.
“Come over here,” Tyler commanded.
Randall walked over to the much larger man, avoiding eye contact. Tyler reached out and grabbed him by the upper arm, hauling him uncomfortably close, then let go.
“Turn around,” Tyler told him, “And remember what I’m about to tell you.”
He turned, doing his best not to sob as he heard Tyler rummaging around in a box on the desk by the door. Mentally steeling himself for what might come next, he still couldn’t stop the yelp of surprise when the cord dropped over his head, and tightened around his neck. In a panic he reached up to claw at it, only to have Tyler swat his hand away.
“Chill the gently caress out, dude! Ain’t nobody gonna hurt you. Look.”
Tyler pushed his arms out holding something between his hands. Through eyes welling with tears, Randall saw the even, numbered marks of a measuring tape.
“Now hold still and remember this poo poo, because I ain’t got a pencil,” said Tyler as he pulled the tape back around Randall’s neck again. “Fourteen and a half. Touch your nose.”
Shaken, Randall put a finger to his nose. With a firm, but gentle grasp on Randall’s elbow, Tyler positioned his arm so that it was parallel to the floor. Then he ran the tape from the back of Randall’s neck to his elbow, then back to his wrist.
“Thirty-three. Listen. I know things is different now. This is all new. But, if you wanna make this halfway to home, instead of halfway back to prison, then you gotta learn to ask. Ain’t no such thing as, ‘borrowing’ no more. Raise your arms up. Breathe deep.”
The tape went around his chest, and Randall held as still as he could.
“Thirty-six. You remember all this, bro?”
“Uh, F-fourteen and a half, thirty-three, thirty-six,” Randall recited, “and, uh, s-start asking.”
“Good,” said Tyler, dropping down to a knee to take Randall’s waist and inseam. “Thirty-one, and thirty. Now, you got something to ask me?”
“Can, uh, I borrow a suit, Tyler?” asked Randall, finally making eye contact as Tyler stood back up.
Randall’s mouth worked open and closed, wordlessly, and Tyler walked past him to start pushing aside hangers in the closet. He finally found what he was looking for — a fairly plain black suit.
“I’m gonna give you this, though. Ain’t my style, anyway. When’s your interview?”
“T-tomorrow,” said Randall. “At three. Down in Quincy. T-thanks!”
“A’ight,” Tyler said with a sigh and a shake of his head, “It’s gonna be a late night. Gimme those numbers again.”
Tyler found a piece of tailor’s chalk in his sewing kit, and Randall spoke the numbers while Tyler made alteration marks on the suit.
Then he asked, “Can I g-get you anything?”
Thinking for a moment, Tyler made a decision. “You got money to grab us some food?”
Randall fished in his pocket, counted a few bills, then nodded.
“Number three, small. Dr. Pepper. No ice. Thanks for asking.”
|# ? Oct 5, 2020 03:20|
Driver and Pilot
Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 21:39 on Jan 10, 2021
|# ? Oct 5, 2020 03:58|
Nothing Gets By You
Tardigrades are a creature that can exist under immense pressure.
I always won the license plate game we played on road trips. Or when we’d play I Spy, I’d spy so many things with my little eye that Dad would say nothing gets past you, Eddie! And then Rudy would lose and he’d cry and cry until Mom pulled over for an ice cream
This particular trip, he cried all the way to Torrey Pines, even after he got his stupid ice cream. We met our cousins Jeremy and Alana at the campsite, and Rudy cried on and off through two rounds of frisbee golf with Dad. When we went out to chop wood, Dad was the one who took us then, too. I noticed Mom stayed by the firepit, reading from her book.
I asked Dad if we could take a hike up top to the biggest cliffs to roll some big rocks over the edge--totally rad, right? I thought I’d be really clever and invite Mom along, too.
“Isn’t your father going?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “But don’t you want to see the cliffs, too?”
Mom considered it in silence, then reopened her dog-eared paperback. “Maybe tomorrow,” she said.
On the trail up to the cliffs, I looked back toward the tiny splash of color that was our campsite: six bright little tents amid the dry browns and sage green of the hills.
Something lurched in my stomach. I hadn’t realized when we were setting them up: six tents meant Mom and Dad weren’t sharing one.
Rudy fell and scraped his knee on the walk back down. Guess what? He cried.
We had hot dogs and s’mores by the campfire and I couldn’t stop noticing things: the way Mom would ask Alana to pass the chocolate, the way Dad spent most of his time with Jeremy’s dad. Then Dad didn’t stay up to tell us scary stories. He hugged me, hugged Rudy, then went to bed without touching Mom at all.
We let the fire burn down to coals. Then I crawled off into my tent, dragging Rudy along with me to the tent next door. When I zipped my tent-flap closed, the last thing I saw was Mom still sitting by the fire, nose buried in her book.
The soft sound of sniffling woke me sometime in the night. For a minute I thought a bear was sniffing at our tent and my whole body went cold with fear, but then I recognized it: Rudy was crying. Again. I sat there and listened, hoping he’d wear himself out or maybe Mom would get up and deal with him, but after a few minutes, I could tell by the chorus of soft snoring that I was the only one awake.
I unzipped my tent and crawled into my brother’s, where he was curled into a miserable little ball in his sleeping bag.
I sat down cross-legged next to him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“Relax, dude,” I said. “You’ve been crying all day.”
He only cried harder.
Sighing, I rolled over onto my side and bundled him up in a hug, resting one of my hands atop his head. I patted his hair the way Mom used to, telling him to shhh.
“It’s okay,” I said. “It’s okay. Just tell me what’s wrong. It’s okay.”
The longer I patted his head, the more I felt my annoyance throttle back and relax. I sat there, hugging him, and started to just feel… bad.
Through his sniffles, he murmured into his pillow, “Something’s wrong with Mom and Dad.”
My guts clenched up.
For some reason, I just thought he hadn’t noticed. Which… the longer I thought on that, the stupider I felt. Had I really thought that I was the only one clever enough to pick up on the signs? To notice our parents barely spoke to each other? Did I just assume that Rudy was too young? Too stupid?
I pulled him tight against my chest, suddenly overwhelmed by the need to let him know I was there, that I knew what he meant.
I had no idea what to say. I wanted to tell him everything would be okay. But I didn’t know that for sure.
“I’ve got you,” I murmured instead, hugging him tight.
“What’s gonna happen?” he whispered.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “But… I’m here.”
I shivered, laying on the bare foam mattress, my sleeping bag forgotten in my own tent. I held my little brother until he finally drifted off, his face sticky with tears and snot. The longer I stayed with him, the more I felt strange little relaxations happen in my own body, too: my jaw unclenched. I breathed easier. And I could finally swallow the lump in my throat. How long had that been there?
|# ? Oct 5, 2020 04:44|
Unfinished business from Week 425. Not a redemption story, but a penitent one.
"He smiled and said like I already should know, 'The future.'" (page 198)
Word Count: 981
Spec faced the door that lead to another puzzle chamber. She was no less confused than when this all started, and the labyrinth still made little sense. At least she was starting to tune out the mental distractions of "What is this place?" "Why am I here?" "Who am I?" Even if Spec wasn’t her true name, questioning it at this moment was unhelpful.
The place was half unnerving, half intriguing, and a bit dickish. Something omniscient seemed to watch her every move. A particularly obnoxious puzzle had snapped her patience, and she shouted out she wouldn't take another step unless she had answers. In response, the star-swirled glass floor sloughed away, swallowing her like quicksand until she withdrew her ultimatum.
She resented more than she feared whatever forces were toying with her, but her curiosity steadily eclipsed her recalcitrance. The relics provided some incentive to continue – her previous triumph earned her the Grail of Everflowing Caffeine (more a thermos, she thought.) Each sip from it filled her with an inexplicable satisfaction she was becoming a force to be reckoned with.
The door grated aside to a stairwell that spiraled down into darkness. Spec took a breath, then a step, then started swearing. The stairwell withdrew, leaving behind a steep incline that caused Spec to fall heels over head to a count that ranged high in the double digits. When she came to, Spec found herself miraculously unbruised and in a dimly lit stone room the size of a garage. At the other side of the room there appeared to be a standing mirror that was peculiarly framed to the outline of a body. As Spec moved over to examine it, she was surprised that the outline of the mirror was cut to the shape of her body. More surprising was the reflection: instead of her face, she saw the back of a stone room, where a woman was peering into a mirror that showed the back of a stone room, where a woman was peering into—
Spec swung around, looking at the entrance she had tumbled out from, only to find that it was replaced by a similarly outlined standing mirror that reflected a woman who had just swung around and was looking at a similarly outlined standing mirror that reflected—
Spec inspected the rest of the room but found nothing of interest. Heading back to each mirror, she pressed against its tingling impenetrable surface, her action mimicked by each image of herself she could see.
“Great. I’m mise en abyme’d.”
She paced back and forth at the center of the room, glimpsing her face if she strained her eyes to the sides. With frustration mounting, Spec took out her relic. As she drew a long sip from what she insisted was a thermos, a familiar voice called out that nearly made her snort out her drink.
“Is that coffee?”
Spec looked from side to side and saw each image of herself turned to her with a hint of envy.
“Close enough. Didn’t you get one after finishing your last challenge?”
“No, I got ‘The Visors of the Owl’ from mine – they’re nightvision binos.”
“I got ‘The Horn of Greater Emphasis’ – works like a megaphone. I’d trade it for yours without hesitation,” replied Spec’s image to her left.
Across the glassy portals, reverberations of Spec murmured in bewilderment. Communing between herselves, each iteration found themselves with a different relic, and each confirmed being confined to the chamber. Amid the chatter, Spec took a sip of caffeinated liquid and an idea took hold. Motioning her volume privileged counterpart over, she suggested a plan which her alternate broadcast.
“Listen up and pass this down the line! Coffee me has a theory: If each of us is slightly different, there might be something different between our chambers. See if we can spot a variation – it could be a clue to getting out.”
Each Spec took to examining her respective chamber and it was not long before visor-Spec confirmed the theory first: as she examined what portals she could see through her vision advantage, she noticed that the outline of each portal struck a slightly different pose: the elbow of one jutted further left, the head of another tilted further right, etc. No two portals were precisely the same.
“This thing that we thought was a mirror – maybe its something that we need to go through, but together at the same time.”
“How does that make sense?”
“What sense does any of this place make?”
“I think we’re all key here, or more accurately, we need to become one key. If we don’t go out at the same time, we don’t get out at all.”
In unanimous agreement, each Spec lined themselves in front of their respective portal. Coordinated by the call of the Horn, Spec pushed forward, and the impenetrable surface she had earlier felt crumpled away like tinfoil. Spec stumbled out into a hallway leading to more chambers that awaited her. Looking behind, the chamber she exited had turned pitch black.
As Spec picked herself up, a sheet of the foil barrier clung to her. Picking it away, she looked at it and saw her crinkled reflection. She brought out her grail, and with a tinge of disappointment, saw the grail reflected back. The thought passed Spec that her alternate selves must have worked through the labyrinth taking a different path. Or was each labyrinth a different permutation? Spec berated herself for not taking the time to question herselves on how they had reached their moment. At the same time, she felt an increased sense of calm. If each version of herself, facing a different puzzle, had made it this far, was there a puzzle that could hold her back?
Spec crumpled the foil and tossed it aside. She picked a door at random and prepared for the next chamber.
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 05:01|
I want you to know I woke up an hour early for this. I'd say I quit but I know I'll just be back in three months to effortlessly spank you people again.
Yoruichi - And then there were two
I liked the way the words seemed to move quickly, like a scared rabbit. I liked all of the sensory details, which made the story feel humid and low to the ground. I was confused by the "mirror" at first. I thought Chelsea had personified her reflection as another rabbit and had gone looking for that, but Cinnamon appears to be one real-rear end bunny. I was confused why Cinnamon had all this insight into the world that Chelsea didn't have. I didn't like how the cat sort of just stopped being an issue once Chelsea found Cinnamon. Even though friendship technically won the day, I felt like the cat gave up too easily. It might have been better to have your antagonist be something environmental rather than an animal. I think I basically like this story.
MockingQuantum - It Stretches Away Forever
I like the imagery in this story a lot. The writer can definitely draw a surreal landscape. I liked that it wasn't just about Manny coming back from apparent near death. Detox is just the beginning, haha. Coming back from death was only the start for this guy, even though his escape from the armpit of an OD took up most of the story. I wasn't confused by anything in this story, but I wish we had a little more personality from Manny. The writer could have had him think about something from his real life, or something about the tiled hellscape could have resonated with a memory from his past. It really would have only taken a line or two. I think I like this story.
Sparksbloom - Red Light
I like the things left unsaid by this story. What it's about will probably depend on the reader. I could see a lot of 2020 anxiety in this story, though that may not have been the writer's intention. I saw notes of technological isolation, quarantine isolation, and potentially isolation of elderly folks, maybe. The story never mentions the cause of death but I could easily imagine this as the aftermath of some literal or metaphorical illness. The leaks and speculation over the mundane observations of the residents is a lot like the current news-reaction cycle. I didn't get enough out of the relationship between the narrator and Sheila. Both of them are so low affect, which I think is part of the story, that whatever the writer was trying to do with them got a little bit lost. They seem like they are basically suffering from the same ennui that afflicted the residents of the tower, which means they don't stand out much from the setting. However, I got the sense that the interaction was meaningful for the characters, so I think it hit the prompt. I think I like this story.
GrandmaParty - Friends Are Where You Find Them
I liked that this story ran with the compassion part of the prompt. I liked the action in the beginning. I liked that James reacted to his frustration and disappointment in a way that was both realistic for a teenager and over-the-top enough for a short story. I laughed in a sad way when he went into his locker. Relatable. I was skeptical about how wise and insightful the other kid was. He is like a tiny licensed therapist in there. I think I basically like this story.
Gorka - Bird of Paradise
I like the message of the story. It's a take on the idea "if you love something, let it go," but in this case the kid seems to be giving up all magical animal bonds for life, which is an intense choice for a child to make. His experience with the bird made him realize that the institution of magical familiars is most likely hosed. If humans had animal familiars I'm sure it would be a whole evil industry, so good on you small child. I have some questions about how familiars work in the story world. I would think that a lot more animals would resist their human companions, given Jacob's experience. Given that, I would think that there would be whole domestic familiar farms pumping out industrial animal companions. I don't want to be too cynical, though. I didn't like the writing style, though it was very clear and concise. The writer could work on using less obvious details to flesh out a character. For example, the teacher was described as "a strict but kind man". That's what we in the biz call a cliche. Maybe the teacher looked up from the rigorously ordered paperwork on his desk and raised a bushy eyebrow. Maybe the lines on his face are a mix of frown and smile lines. The sky is the limit, really. The writer could ask themselves why they are wording each line the way they are, and explore if there is a more original or insightful way to describe the thing they're trying to describe. I think I basically liked this story well enough overall.
Tyrannosaurus - i love you
I like something about this story that I'm not sure is intentional. The story is almost as aloof to its subject matter as the characters. The topic of suicide is introduced right at the outset, in full technicolor. A man with a gun in his mouth. And then the story immediately retracts from that, recoils, almost. I could feel the story itself punching me in the shoulder at a McDonalds while holding back tears. I'm a straight american white guy so I have all the usual mutations from toxic masculinity and I see a familiar mode of guy avoidance of emotional poo poo. And the story never really breaks that kayfabe (waits for Thunderdome to go off like the secret word on Pee-Wee's Playhouse). It made me wonder how long friendship will really be able to save Cuda from the depression. My dude needs a therapist. I think I like this story. Also hey writer you okay bro?
Thranguy - Meanwhile, in the Year One Billion
"In the year about a billion or so" got me laughing in the first line. I like how seat-of-the-pants the story was. It gave no fucks about filling me in on the background, just threw me into this alien world with some snarky frenemies. It reads like the writer started out writing a give-no-fucks story, then actually started caring about their characters halfway through. I actually wanted to read about the house of the family at the end of time, so kudos to the writer for making me care about a world that they made up on the fly. Everything I just said is also a critique, even though I had a good time reading the story. I think I basically liked this story, though.
Weltlich - Halfway Out
I like everything about this story. It wins the Thunderdome. Grats to the writer on their win.
I like how much is implied with so little. I understood that these are probably two formerly incarcerated folks who aren't used to things on the outside. Randall probably doesn't feel like he can ask for anything, so he goes straight to "borrowing". Tyler gets that Randall needs some life stuff explained, in no uncertain terms, no bullshit. And then Tyler helps the dude out. I figure Tyler probably wishes someone had helped him out with this stuff, too. Or maybe someone did help him normalize to the outside and he's paying it forward. Great story.
Antivehicular - Driver and Pilot
I like Horsequake. I like this insane loving internal horse world. I like that the writer made me double check your word count because I was worried someone had snuck a 2000 words story into my 800 word week. The ending falters a little, there's a near-literal deus ex machine and a hollow-sounding promise made by the protagonist. Still, this story has so much killer poo poo in it that I...
Declare antivehicular also the winner of this week
You people can sort out who does the next week. Not my problem anymore.
I like how well-observed this is. I like how the kids in the story are emotionally intelligent. It's not that they don't understand what's happening, but they don't have any experience processing that sort of thing. The older sibling knows to give comfort, but not what to say. That rings pretty true to life. The story sometimes spelled things out that could have been more subtle, like the note that everyone on the camping trip got their own tent, including the parents. Same thing with the protagonist noticing that their parents didn't even touch before going to bed. It's not that the kid wouldn't notice that stuff. Kids do, they absolutely do. But it's made overly explicit to the reader. Kid brains are tripping on life all the time, the event of your parents acting weird and upsetting is kind of on par with a really cool bug you found on a stump in terms of significance (at least until much later in life when you realize how hosed it was). For me, anyway. I can't speak for the writer. Over all I basically like this story.
Weltlich and Antivehicular win. Maybe they'll fight to the death. Maybe they'll do a joint prompt. Not my problem.
MockingQuantum, Sparksbloom, and Tyrannosaurus get runner up mentions.
Everyone else, you know by now I had mixed-to-good feelings about your stories.
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 11:29|
Please enjoy this interprompt while Antivehicular and I sort out what to do:
"Well, there's your problem..." - 350 words in which the resolution to a technical/existential difficulty is the identification of the problem itself.
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 13:43|
seb style story quote editing. it may skew negative a lil but the story had some neat concepts
Spec faced the door that lead to another puzzle chamber. a lil too straightforward to promise that interesting of a story She was no less confused than when this all started, and the labyrinth still made little sense. redundant sort of At least she was starting to tune out the mental distractions of "What is this place?" "Why am I here?" "Who am I?" Even if Spec wasn’t her true name, questioning it at this moment was unhelpful. sort of weird. does spec mean to question something & thats how it makes sense? possibly
not a bad read i would use less stiff language tho
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 16:01|
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Weltlich fucked around with this message at 18:30 on Oct 6, 2020
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 18:25|
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GrandmaParty fucked around with this message at 20:01 on Oct 6, 2020
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 19:55|
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 20:42|
My friends. After much struggle, I have wrested control of this week's prompt from counter-revolutionary forces. For a long while, it was not clear who was in charge. But fear not, for we have prevailed. Rejoice!
If you choose to take up the struggle again this week, I will assign you some revolutionary person, picture, song, or idea. Do not write fanfic or porn about this assignment, rather let it inspire you to write your own work of transformation and liberation. I want to see joy, even though the struggle might be difficult.
But, even while we have won for the moment, know that Antivehicular will certainly approach you, and assign you a genre. Fear not, for if your heart is filled with the spirit of revolution, this cannot hold you back.
I know some of you are comrades in words only, though, and you might ask Antivehicular to provide you with a flash rule. Be warned! Even though you may be tempted to do this, I might respond with a partisan raid! This may alter your plans drastically.
So declare your support for the revolution, just remember who is in control around here.
Signups close: 1AM Friday, October 9th
Deadline: 11:59PM Sunday, October 11th
Grandma Party - A Plolynesian Shell Map
Genre: Pastoral Fantasy
Flash: Have you spoken to the sun?
Partisan Raid Outcome: Captured! You've been nabbed in a partisan raid. Either lose 500 words from your allotment, or cleverly disguise your entry this week as one of the loyalists' genres in order to slip away when no one is looking, stealing an additional 500 words as you depart. By the end of your story, your original genre must “take control,” in order for the escape to be successful.
Tharanguy - Little Red Song Book
Genre: Family Saga
Flash: Yearning: the virus responded to your unsatisfied desire and gave you power. What is it that you desire?
Partisan Raid Outcome: You've been raided and the partisans seized all your contraband commas! You can buy more at the market, but they cost 10 words per comma. You have four question marks in a secret stash, though. You can flip those for 50 words a-piece – but, don't get caught trying to steal them back!
MockingQuantum - Booker T. Whatley
Genre: Travel Literature
Flash: Rite of succession: as you die, you may transfer one radiation manipulation, skill level, or attribute to another player. Cost: life. range: sight. effect: binary.
Partisan Raid Outcome: You have escaped the raid, but are forced into hiding. You can either lay-low and lose 350 words from this week's word budget, -OR- by carefully choosing the first or last words of your paragraphs, you can encode a secret message for help into your story, and gain an additional 350 words.
Magic Cactus - Reincarnation
Genre: Monster Literature
Flash: Your god, in a sinkhole sucking you down
Partisan Raid Outcome: Mutual Aid! You can elect to give someone else up to 250 words from your allotment. (This must be declared, and they must accept.) -OR- you can carefully pick through the aftermath of other participants' misfortunes to sweep up 500 (at most) of their lost words. Note: If you elect to give someone else words, and they accept, this will automatically prevent your story from taking a loss this week.
Pththya-lyi - Buckminster Fuller
Genre: Gothic Fiction
derp - The Stoned Ape Hypothesis
Genre: Sword and sorcery!
Anomalous Blowout - A kicking-rad picture of a kicking-rad lady
Genre: Medical Romance
Flash: Empire of Humanity Canine Rangers: 4D6 K-9 Rangers led by a single Empire human officer. These units may be hundreds of miles from their headquarters. They maintain regular radio communication and announce their positions every couple of hours. They will avoid conflict with any mutant animal group they don't outnumber.
Partisan Raid Outcome: Oh no! It's to the re-education camp with you! All written communication in camp is heavily censored, so dialogue is the only safe way to talk to your fellow counter-revolutionaries. Non-dialogue paragraphs deplete your word allotment at three times the normal rate, while dialogue uses only half the words it normally would.
Uranium Phoenix - The Clovis Point
Genre: Magical Realism
sparksbloom - The Diggers
Genre: School Story
Flash: It has no name, we call it Weepheart
Partisan Raid Outcome: You find yourself hiding in a pineapple field under the cover of darkness. You can hear the partisans' voices in the distance, but they do not know where you are. The pineapples are incredibly prickly, and uncomfortable. You can either risk fleeing to somewhere else, losing 200 words in the process, or you can write a paragraph about tropical fruit in your story. For each word in that paragraph, you will get two additional words added to your allotment this week.
Sebmojo - The Battle of Blair Mountain
Flash: Rail syndicate strike!
Partisan Raid Outcome: The partisans pursue you through the forest! In your frenzied flight through darkness, you hear your rucksack rip on a stray branch. When you finally reach safety, you peer in to find that all of your conjugations of “to be” have fallen out in the night. Am, are, is, was, were, be, being and been... gone. You can double back and pick them up, but it will cost you 1000 words. If you can soldier on without them, you will surely find an additional 1000 words in the verdant wilderness.
Walamor - Jeong Yakyong
Genre: Psychological Horror
Flash: A stryx (lvl 3, vampire, giant owl)
Partisan Raid Outcome: You received a tip that the partisans are coming, but you must act fast! Submit your story early, and for each hour before the deadline, you will receive an additional 30 words.
Tyrannosarus - The Geisel Library
Genre: Crime Fiction
Flash: Destruction: Your heart is filled with a desire to destroy everything in sight. You feel good as your hands go to work.
Partisan Raid Outcome: Those bumbling partisans raided the wrong house! In the confusion, you managed to find an additional 50 words, but they're all adverbs. You may subtract up to 50 adverbs from your word count.
Saucy_Rodent: The concept of dam removal
Genre: Body Horror
Flash: Ancient Contents: The building was abandoned long before the Crash, sometime in the 20th Century. For year, roll percentile dice and add the number to 1900.
Parisan Raid Outcome: You might have found a willing collaborator... Quietly approach another counter-revolutionaries this week and see if they will trade a subject, genre, or flash rule with you. If you can do this without the judges' knowledge before the deadline, then you both will get an additional 100 words per traded item. Beware! If one of you rats the other out, then the snitch will get an additional 200 words per item, and the other person will lose 100 words per item. What happens if you both snitch?
Dr. Kloctopussy: Langar
Flash: Articulated Spikes: The character has four spikes or spines that resembles the spine or legs of an insect. Each is about the size of a survival knife, but can extend to twice that length in an instant. They are distributed along the side of each forearm (two on each arm) or on the chest, or sides of the body. These
slim, chitinous limbs end in sharp points, and can move independent of each other like tiny, stiff arms and even rotate in a 360 degree circle. They are used to parry an enemy's hand to hand attacks (+2 to parry) and to stab or slash opponents who come within arm's length. The four spikes add one attack per melee round and each inflicts 2D6 S.D.C. damage, but they cannot grab or manipulate objects. Add I D4 to Horror Factor.
Partisan Raid Outcome: The local economic conditions have led to a state of Character Rationing. You've been allotted your government sanctioned main character, but additional characters will cost you 200 words, each.
Weltlich fucked around with this message at 00:10 on Oct 9, 2020
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 20:48|
Viva Le Revolucion! (In. Flash.)
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 20:52|
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in & flash, I revel in chaos
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 20:59|
Viva Le Revolucion! (In. Flash.)
The IWW Little Red Songbook (link)
in & flash, I revel in chaos
Booker T. Whatley
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 21:16|
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 21:18|
So comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
Unites the human race.
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 21:31|
The concept of Reincarnation.
So comrades, come rally,
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 21:45|
okay dunderthome, i'll give it a shot
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 21:47|
The sleeper cell has been activated. In, flash.
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 21:53|
Let the revolution commence!
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 22:24|
okay dunderthome, i'll give it a shot
The Stoned Ape Hypothesis
The sleeper cell has been activated. In, flash.
Let the revolution commence!
The Clovis Point
|# ? Oct 6, 2020 23:12|
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The Battle of Blair Mountain
|# ? Oct 7, 2020 04:00|
|# ? Feb 2, 2023 12:29|
In, with a flash rule please!
|# ? Oct 7, 2020 04:43|