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Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

I'm in, gimme a line.


Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Lone Loveseat
1486 words

"Yeah, you loving called my writing 'Harry Potter Fanfiction'. How am I supposed to react to that?"

She's got me there. I'm flailing. "Look, babe, I wasn't trying to be a dick. Matt's a writer, I thought you guys would get along. It was a joke, I was trying to break the ice."

"Break the ice by having him not take me seriously, huh? So he thinks that my books are about Gunnelpuss loving Huffleclaw or whatever?"

I'm trying not to laugh. She's furious and she still manages to remind me why I love her. Her posture crumples a little but the next words come out in a torrent.

"I just wanted them to like me. And respect me. And for you to not take me for granted. And to be proud of me for like one minute."

Jen's fully deflated now. She sits down in the middle of the floor, not bothering to sweep the layer of dust that's built up while our new apartment's been vacant.

I sit down a few feet from her, just out of arm's distance, like a cat would. I turn to her tentatively.

"Honey, I'm really sorry. You know how cool I think your writing is."

She looks at me. Her voice is more even.

"It's not just 'cool', Dwayne. It's my work."

I'm backpedaling. I feel like I'm drowning. I'm squeezing the words out between little bubbles of air.

"I thought it would be a fun night out and I jacked it up. You know, with the stress from the move and everything, thought we needed a break."

I pretend to fiddle with my phone.

"The moving company app says that our couches, our mattress, all our stuff is somehow in Nashville. Which, last I checked, isn't between Denver and Chicago. But I could be wrong."

Jen sniffs and wipes her face with her shirt, then smiles. "You're pretty bad at geography, babe."

She stand up then winces, rubbing her bad hip. She puts her hand on my shoulder and leans into me.

"I think I'm going to go into the bathroom and keep Socks some company. I need some space."

She leans over and lightly kisses me on the forehead. She makes me swoon and feel pathetic, all at once. I'm a very lucky man.

Jen gathers up her coat, her hoodie, a blanket, and my hoodie. She heads into the bathroom and shuts the door behind her. Socks' paws stop searching under the doorframe. I look around our bare new place. I need some fresh air.

I'm barely off our front steps when I hear a commotion at the end of the block. It's familiar. A woman, yelling at a man. I start strolling in their direction. Words become more distinct.

"Look, babe. I'm sorry, but you can't disrespect me like that."

"Disrespect you? Disrespect you!?"

I can't be more than fifteen feet away, but they haven't noticed me. They're dressed pretty nice for a stoop argument. Guess their evening didn't go like they'd planned. Go figure.

The woman is slurring her words, one hand on the doorknob. "I'm learning to dance, Eric! I'm not a loving whore!"

Eric is swaying on his feet. He's shitfaced. She slams the door.

He sinks down to a sofa that's out on the curb and throws his head back, staring at the sky. Can't believe I hadn't noticed the sofa before.

I feel weirdly better that someone's hosed up his night worse than I did.

I walk over to Eric and nudge the couch with my foot. "Hey, you ok?"

He jerks up and looks at me. "I don't have any money."

"No, we just moved in a few doors down. I'm Dwayne."

He puts his hand out. "Eric. You wanna, uh, have a seat in my office?" He pats the orange loveseat. I look at the couch and raise an eyebrow.

"I dragged it out here to prove a point, or something. Like two cocktails ago." Eric grips his forehead. "Can't really remember what it was."

I sit on the armrest and Eric looks at me.

"You want some life advice, Dwayne?"

He smells like a lot of whiskey. I nod.

"If your wife is taking a pole dancing class, that's not an invitation to tell your waiter that she wants to be a stripper."

He's waiting for a laugh, but I don't have one. He continues.

"She's a biologist, you know. Real smart, smarter than me. She lets me know it so sometimes, I've just got to take her down a peg. You know?"

He sounds like me. A nastier, more spiteful me. He sounds like what I was thinking when I humiliated Jen.

Suddenly, he's not on the sofa. I'm alone. I'm outside our new apartment. The lights inside are off. The curtains are drawn. And I am alone.

I blink and I'm back. He's still talking.

"...just try and have a nice night out, introduce her to some of the guys, and she starts in on all her 'discoveries' and 'research'. Like I'm nothing."

I've lapsed back into my head and his words become a low background buzz. That couldn't be what I really meant when I was putting her down, right? Like, I'm not that kind of an rear end in a top hat.

I see myself sitting in our new apartment, except now it's my new apartment. Her stuff is gone. All the printed pages with red slashes and circles. The goofy little blob-cats she draws in the margins when she's bored or blocked, they're gone too.

I know I am fully capable of being that kind of an rear end in a top hat.

I snap out and turn to him.

"So, you going to apologize or something? Or are you just going to..." I sweep my hand over the couch and onto the street.

Eric snorts. "I'm gonna get a loving hotel."

I get up. "Listen, this is going to sound kinda weird, but can I borrow this? The couch, I mean."

He gets up too and gives the loveseat a vicious little kick.

"Borrow it? You can have it. It's her favorite sofa. You take it, maybe she'll learn not to have bullshit arguments."

He sticks out his hand. "I'm gonna get a cab. Good luck with the couch. What's your name again?"


I'm afraid of touching his hand, like I'll absorb some of his venom, or bring some of his juju home. I do it anyway. He walks up the block and I start to figure out how I'm going to move this thing.

A half hour later, I put my shoulder into a last heave. The loveseat makes it over our entryway. A few more shoves put it at the center of our living room. The bathroom door stays closed, the light off.

I plop myself onto the loveseat, squirming to get comfortable. It's easier than I'd thought. Now, for the hard part.

I knock on the bathroom door. "Jen?"

There's a rustling inside. She groans.

"Dwayne? Can I have a hand in here?"

I open the door and flick on the light, then switch it off once I see her wince. The half-second strobe shows me the little nest she's made in the bathtub, a tangled mess of hoodies, blankets, arms, legs, and cat. I walk over and fluff Jen's hair, then I whisper to her.

"Babe? I have a surprise for you."

She looks at me quizzically in the leftover light from the living room.

"Why are you covered in sweat?"

I don't answer her. We grip forearms and I haul her out of the bathtub. She dances a little on her toes, shaking out the pins and needles.

"That nap was the best idea I've had all day." She massages her aching hips. "Also might have been the worst idea I've had all day."

I chuckle a little bit and maneuver her out of the bathroom. She pauses at the threshold. "Honey? Why is there an orange loveseat in our living room?"

"Well, there was this couple up the street and they were fighting and the guy gave me this sofa."

She shakes some of the sleep from her head. "Dwayne, that doesn't make any sense. You know that, right?"

I laugh and we settle onto the loveseat, intertwined over the arm rests and sinking into the upholstery. "Well, I know how bad your hips hurt, so I moved the sofa. So you'd be comfy."

She twists her neck around and kisses me on the cheek. The sofa, our fight, I'm reminded why I love her. In my head, the hard part is easy and the easy part is hard. Jen smooths it out. The nap has left her wide awake, although I'm fading fast.

"Hey Jen?"

"Mmm?" She pushes the hair off my damp forehead and makes lazy circles on my scalp with her fingers.

"Can you tell me one of your stories?"

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Cool prompt, gimme a flash

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

sebmojo posted:

Week 380 crit

I really have to crit the rest of this week; have this in the mean time, pipe up if you want your story from 380 critted next.

I'd appreciate that!

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

The Ritual of Haast
1358 words

Quiffles chirped with authority, prancing back and forth on a high branch. The rest of the parliament of magpies was layered in the branches above and below.

"...and we will retake our homes, our forests, our plains..."

Mully started to tune out. He held the tiny silver pin in his beak and tilted it, watching the sun play over the miniscule letters engraved in its surface. Quiffles brought out this speech every week or two. Mully thought the conviction in his voice had gotten a bit pathetic.

"...we will unleash the curse of Haast, the beasts will fall upon each other, no choice but to be rent in their own teeth and claws!"

Mully perked up at the mention of bloodshed. The parliament had recently grown a little too radicalized for his comfort, but he could sympathize. Quiffles was pulling out all the stops.

Quiffles trilled long and low.

"The ritual of Haast is at hand! Join me, brothers and sisters, join me in this darkest sacrament of revenge, ushering the beasts to the abbatoir of-"

Quiffles leapt from the branch, narrowly dodging a speeding rock.


Larry hucked another rock at the trees of magpies. Bernard looked over from the fire.

"Leave the birds alone, Larry. You're making a fool of yourself."

Bernard thought that Larry didn't need the birds' help.

Larry stalked back to the fire. He sat down and began to warm his hands.

"My head's killin' me, Bern, and they won't quit with the fuckin' chirping."

"They're birds, Larry. The sun goes up and down, you steal poo poo from old ladies, and birds chirp. Cry me a river."

Bernard sighed heavily and poked the fire, thinking of their last few days. Larry's idiocy had gotten them into this mess, made what should have been a clean smash-and-grab into a frantic run from the cops. Two uncomfortable train hitches later, the burglars were stranded in a nameless stretch of Wisconsin pine with a bag of loot and nowhere to fence it.

Larry was emphatic. "They're not just birds, Bern. They're maggies."

Bernard was unmoved.

Larry practically leapt to his feet. His joy at the possibility of educating Bernard was near-electric.

"You don't know what a maggie is, do you Bern?"

Bernard looked at his partner disparagingly. He thought that Larry's currently-upturned nose and thick, twitching brows made him look like caveman nobility.

"A maggie, my dear Bern, is a bird what just loves silver. They build big shiny nests up the trees fulla all the junk they take from honest folk like us."

Bernard wasn't listening. He was mentally reviewing the meticulous list in his backpack, specifically that list's very worrying discrepancies.


Quiffles chirped and ruffled his feathers. The parliament had regrouped after the dirty man's ambush, but the air was thick with anxiety. Feathers were ruffled. It was time for a rousing speech, he thought. Something to rally the troops, to strike the rock attack from memory.

He rattled his gizzard and tucked one wing in a dignified manner.

"Who can recall the great promise of Haast!?"

The other magpies looked elsewhere, picking nits from the branches. Quiffles' opening line had fallen short. He persevered.

"What must we assemble before Haast unleashes his beaked fury?"

A few of the magpies took flight, perhaps for an evening snack. Mully cringed a little at the rhetoric but stuck around to humor the elder bird. He cared for old Quiffles.

"A lance of silver, to pierce the mind! A coin of gold, to pay the way forward! A sparkling jewel, to swallow the light!"

In a high branch, Mully listened close. The silver needle he held in his beak had become very heavy.

Quiffles continued, undeterred by his lukewarm audience.

"When his holy raiment has been assembled, the beasts will turn on their nestmates, made berserk by the bird-god's wrath! The humble magpie will be king! Such is the fury of Haast!"

Mully stashed the needle in a wooden hollow and flitted down to the beasts and their fire.


"I don't like the way them maggies is gathering, Bern."

The light was growing low. Bernard hefted another log onto the fire in preparation for the cold night ahead.

"I'm tellin' ya, they shoulda been gone by now. It's almost winter, what's they still doin' here? I don't like it, Bern."

Larry walked to the duffel bag and poked it with his foot.

"I saw one of 'em stickin' its little beak on the stash. I tell ya, those maggies-"

Bernard cut him off. "First of all, they're magpies. Not maggies. Second, all that junk about them hunting out shiny prizes to build their nests, that's all bullshit. It's an old wives tale, Larry." Bernard's tone softened. He needed Larry to relax. He needed time alone.

"They're just birds, Larry. Trust me. Just one more night lying low. Then we follow the train tracks, find some civilization, hock the stash, and get comfortable."

Larry grumbled, but settled down onto a pile of leaves. He shook out a rag, then draped it over his eyes. He laid there for a moment, then called out.

"You goin' to bed too, Bern?"

"I'll bed down in a little bit, Larry. You rest easy."

Bernard waited a few minutes. Larry was soon fast asleep, with little apneic gasps between heavy snores. Bernard took a sheet of paper from his backpack and studied it. He'd always been meticulous, but had lacked the brawn for a heavy break-in. After scanning the list, he carefully moved toward the duffel bag.

A bird, one of Larry's 'maggies', was perched on the bag. He pondered giving it a vicious kick, but in a flash of wings it was gone. The bag clanked as he moved it away from Larry, away from the popping fire, but his accomplice didn't stir.

Bernard settled down with his list in one hand and the other buried in the bag. He began to take stock.

No honor among thieves, after all, Bernard thought. His count had come up with three items missing, one more than the night before: one silver knitting needle, engraved. One gold krugerrand. Plus, tonight, one diamond ring.

Bernard seethed. The fake camaraderie, the idiot act, all while robbing him blind. The birds, those birds were the final indignation. Using them as a cover for taking more than his fair share? Ridiculous.

Even with the element of surprise, Bernard doubted that he could subdue Larry like this. His moment would have to wait until morning.


Under the sunrise, Mully scooted and flitted to Quiffles. The elder bird regarded Mully benevolently.

"Mully, my child. What brings you to my hollow this fine morning?"

Mully anxiously tapped his claws.

"I have something to show you."

The birds flew to Mully's hollow. The younger bird hesitated on the branch, then lifted a leaf from the hideaway. Quiffles let out a choked chirp.

The dim nook held a silver needle, a gold coin, and a ring set with a fiery diamond.

Quiffles played his wing over the objects with reverence. He looked to Mully.


Mully's words tumbled out. "I don't know, there were the beasts, and their treasure, and I picked these things up, and your speech, then the needle, and last night..."

Quiffles lightly stroked Mully with his wing, then picked a nit from the little bird's feathers.

"A true miracle of Haast."

His gaze drifted back to the treasure in the hollow, then over to Mully.

"My boy, assemble the parliament. The hour is at hand."


Bernard glared at Larry's back. He shivered. Larry was blocking the fire.

Larry hadn't noticed, his eyes were skyward.

"Something's wrong with them maggies, Bern."

Larry kept talking with his back to Bernard. "Just one of 'em is talkin'. The rest are all just, well, they's just sittin' there. I don't like it, Bern. Those maggies-"

Bernard felt an artery in his temple pulse. He lunged off of the log, kicking Larry into the roaring fire. Bernard pressed his boot into Larry's back as his partner writhed and screamed.

The watching magpies broke into joyous song, Quiffles loudest of all.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

The Hobo Way
1473 Words

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."

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Great prompt, I'm in.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

1272 words

The glove is laying in a puddle of blood. The fingers point outward, touching dry pavement, crawling away. I shakily stoop down on burning legs and look close. It's recent, the crimson stain hasn't soaked through to the fingertips.

I barely had time to get home before I got the call to come back out. My sergeant taps me on the shoulder and speaks.

"No trace of the victim, no suspect, just the report from our witness, this glove, and the blood."

He's flipping through a notepad. I think it's mostly for show. He has what, four facts? Maybe he knows, maybe they all know. Maybe they're planning on swooping in as soon as I drop my guard.

I need a joint. My head is pounding and he just won't stop talking.

"The guy who lives in that walkup heard some yelling maybe a couple hours ago. Came onto his balcony after making some coffee and saw this."

I want to contaminate the scene with more of my prints, ruin the case, but I'm on thin ice. I take a long steel probe from my breast pocket. I try and hold it in two fingers, but as soon as I reach with it, the shake in my hand wins out. My eyelids are twitching. Thank God for sunglasses. I made sure to get the blood off of my hands and my face before I left, but that's all the cleaning I did.

I want to tell him to shut up so, so bad.

"We secured the scene, nothing in the dumpster, nothing in the alley trash, no one saw anything."

I give up the probe and snap on a rubber glove. That's a pain in the rear end, too. I put my thumb in three different fingers before I get it into place. gently caress, my head. I see little white ghosts, fat irregular balls of light, wink in and out of my vision. Could be bad. The last time, those astigmatic flares were right on the tail of a bender. Put me in the hospital.

He's stopped talking, thank God.

I gingerly lift the glove out of the sanguine puddle. There's a tear near the cuff where she tried to break free. I remember that, then I remember getting home. What did I do?

I poke a finger into it. My finger slides in all the way. I put in a second, feeling around the inside. It's strange, I don't feel a brush of fabric or see the silhouette of my hand. I put in a third finger, then a fourth. My head is swimming. The borders of my vision become dark, indistinct. I push on, in.

My arm is inside the glove to my elbow, then to my shoulder. The small tear in the cuff eats up my field of vision. I can smell tarnished copper. I can't grasp anything, but I see the dark of closed eyelids inside that glove.

I put my head inside the tiny rip in the cuff, then my other arm. My torso enters the glove and I reach a leg in. I think my eyes are adjusting, picking up irregular shadows. I put my other leg in. I'm on solid ground for a second when I smell roasting tires and everything goes white. My eyes snap shut.

I crack one eye, then the other. I'm back in the alley. There's a horrific buzzing and I look up. The consuming glare was a streetlight flicking on, flicking on in the middle of the morning. I look up at it and rub my eyes, then look again.

The arm of the light emits a glare in thick ropes and fine tendrils of the most scoured white. I rest my forearm on it, then lean in. My fingers sink into its plush exterior, dipping into crevices in its knit surface. My vision waves like fabric in a breeze. I can't think about it too much, or I'm lost. I nudge the lid off of the trash can next to the light. It slides to the ground with a whisper. It's begun to unravel. I hear a voice in my head, crisp and painfully enunciated.

"A blown breaker, if you will."

I start to rifle through the trash. I don't think I left anything in here. A soup can liquifies into bright yarn as my hand moves past it. I have to keep my mind focused. The glove. The glove's owner. I knew her. I'm a cop. The puddle of blood. I did this. The voice is back.

"Minimize electrical activity in the cortex."

The trash can is a bust. I look back at the glove, I have to stay on the glove. The blood is a woven mat of burgundy. It looks ameboid, reaching an arm down the alley. What's the word? Pseudo, pseudo, pseudo...

The voice is back.

"Close the shades and put in earplugs if you have to. Give the brain a rest from all that stimulus."

I've got to focus. If it happens here no one will find me. I'll be swallowed up into the asphalt's weave. I start to track the burgundy amoeba's broken arm down the alley. The ground heaves and flows, splitting from thick black ropes to grey strands and back again. Can't look down. I burst out of the alley to the shore.

I hear him again.

"You should know the warning signs, by now. The floaters, the smell? Not your first rodeo."

I look out at the water. It's almost too much to bear. It is slate-gray wool, rolling and warping, sheets of iron cotton giving way to fibrous sprays of bleached-bone thread. The reddish swatches track to the fabric ocean. My footsteps, I ran to the water. I look back. A mistake.

The alley begins to unravel, tired of supporting its own weight. The walls droop, melting into a thicket of pallid twine and I'm running to the sea with my eyes closed. The smell is overpowering now, week-old coffee on a glowing burner.

"If all else fails, take a shot or two of something strong. Just until you feel your heart stop racing."

I feel wispy filaments brush my hand, then melt into nothing. I strip off the glove and watch it disintegrate into ethereal flax. There is a body in the tossing waves. Her. I have to focus on it. I know that the street is unspooling behind me.

I kneel next to her. She's already coming apart at the seams, the woven water lapping up her fabric.

I was mad, we were drinking, I was drinking more, we had an argument. I trace my finger over her face. My hand is sublimating, putting off a hot mist. The sea doesn't crash against the coast anymore. It's buzzing, a suffocating tinny noise that changes pitch and volume with each tumble into the shore. I can't let them find her here.

I start pulling at her body, my hands looping in and out of grotesque cat's cradles as I feverishly separate her threads, eliminate the evidence.

My right hand is shaking hard now. What did the doctor say?

"It starts as a sparking island in one of your hemispheres, synapses misfiring until..."

I can feel my throat spasm. I'm swallowing backwards, my body is disassembling its neurochemical bible. I don't have much time.

I shove ream after ream of her into the sea but my hands aren't obeying me. I vomit in long cords of acid fiber. The smell of a dying motor pours from my skin. No time left.

Here it comes.

This is when the sun hits.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Week 391: You Are the Disease, Thunderdome is the Cure

Ah, illness.

On the one hand, the entire breadth of human suffering. On the other, the utterly fascinating transmutation of the human form. This week, you will be writing about disease.

As you sign up, I will diagnose each of you with a particular ailment drawn from my personal journals, texts, and manuscripts. But please, stay with me. These will not be garden-variety viruses or bothersome gluten intolerances. You will each receive something rare, something frighteningly interesting, ruthless in its peculiarity, and terribly, terribly real. You may use your malady in whatever fashion you choose. I will provide basic information about each diagnosis and its potential cure, though further research is encouraged. There are no genre restrictions outside of those listed below.

Treatment algorithm:
-No erotica or fanfiction
-1750 word maximum
-Signups close 1/31, 11:59 PM or so
-Submissions close 2/2, 11:59 PM or so
-A flash rule in the form of disease from my library will be given with each signup.
-At least one set of crits will be delivered within 24 hours of judgment

Carl Killer Miller
(Position to be filled)
(Position to be filled)

The Afflicted
Doctor Eckhart
Chainmail Onesie :toxx:
QuoProQuid :toxx:
Anomalous Amalgam
Pepe Silvia Browne
Astronaut Charlie
The Saddest Rhino
Rod Hogan

Carl Killer Miller fucked around with this message at 04:51 on Jan 30, 2020

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Doctor Eckhart posted:

I am ready for my INfection.

Your Diagnosis: Neurocysticercosis
Pathology: Early bird gets the worm! Neurocysticercosis is a disease of the brain caused by the migration and death of larval forms of the immature pork tapeworm (Taenia solium) after consumption of tainted meat. It presents with confounding epilepsy and frequent seizures in an otherwise healthy patient with no prior history of epilepsy.
Additional data: MRI brain. The white spots are Taenia cysts in otherwise healthy tissue.

Your Diagnosis: Sydenham Chorea ('St. Vitus' Dance')
Pathology: A consequence of childhood strep infection, Sydenham Chorea presents with uncontrollable twisting, writhing, and 'dance-like' movements as late as six months after cure of the initial strep infection. Other symptoms include tongue fasciculations and a rhythmic clenching and unclenching of the hands (the 'milking sign')

Your Diagnosis: Wilson's Disease
Pathology: A genetic disorder of copper storage in the body causing copper deposits in several organs, most predominantly in the brain and liver. Initially presents with clumsiness and cognitive deterioration before the age of thirty (including drastic behavior changes and an increase in irritability and aggression). Progresses to liver failure due to the untenable copper load. Treatment with copper-binding agents, may require transplantation.
Additional data: Photo of the eye showing the pathognomonic (disease-specific) deposition of copper in the eye. Termed a 'Kayser-Fleischer Ring'

Your Diagnosis: Familial Adenomatous Polyposis
Pathology: A genetic defect in the body's innate cancer-policing system, FAP results in the development of thousands upon thousands of polyps (small fleshy growths) inside the large intestine. These polyps inevitably grow to cancer of the colon without prompt detection. Treatment via total removal of the colon and rectum before progression to cancer can occur.
Additional Data: Endoscopic (camera scope) image of a living colon in a patient with FAP. Image masked due to its disturbing nature.

Your Diagnosis: Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome (IRIS)
Pathology: A consequence of proper treatment of an immunocompromising disease (a disease that prevents the immune system from fighting infection). The recovery of the immune system can lead to a sudden and dramatic response from the body to a large variety of lurking bacteria, formerly masked by its inability to fight them. Patients can suddenly become incredibly ill from the consequence of their immune system suddenly 'seeing' all manner of pathogens which were formerly hidden from it. Treatment with antibiotics, antivirals, and medications to re-suppress the immune system before too much damage can be done.

Your Diagnosis: Capgras Syndrome (The 'Impostor Syndrome')
Pathology: A delusional neurologic disorder rarely seen as a consequence of a variety of dementias, traumatic brain injury, and schizophrenia. The patient maintains the passionate belief that a close friend or loved one has been replaced by an 'impostor', a perfect facsimile who means them ill will. This can extend to anyone that the patient once held affection toward, including spouses and even pets. There are no sure treatments, with the best guess being a combination of psychotherapy and antipsychotic medications.

Chainmail Onesie posted:

Flew too close to the New Year on my last entry and failed miserably, ffs. In on this week, and :toxx: to cure my acute lack of moral fibre

Your Diagnosis: Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome
Pathology: A rare genetic disorder caused by a deficiency of the enzyme hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HGPRT). Results in the uncontrolled buildup of uric acid throughout all of the body's tissues. Initial manifestations include gout or kidney disease, progressing to neurologic symptoms of irritability and involuntary muscle contractions. Most striking and grotesque, however, is the patient's uncontrollable urge to perform self-mutilation, with patients chewing off their own lips and tongue. This pervasive self-harm can also express itself psychologically.

QuoProQuid posted:

I spent most of last year failing so Iíll :toxx: in

Your Diagnosis: Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy
Pathology: A sudden and temporary weakening of the muscles of the heart in response to extreme emotional stress (leading to the nickname 'broken heart syndrome'). Often misdiagnosed as acute heart failure from organic causes, such as coronary artery disease. Treatment consists of symptom management of heart failure, combined with intensive training in stress management.
Additional Data: An echocardiogram of a feebly beating, otherwise healthy heart.

Your Diagnosis: Chagas Disease
Pathology: A consequence of infection by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, carried by the Triatomine, or 'kissing bug'. Patients with a high parasite load can suffer extreme enlargement of several organs, including the esophagus, colon, and heart, leading to myriad digestive issues and cardiac conduction abnormalities. Treat promptly with antiparasitics.
Additional Data: Image of Trypanosoma mastigotes in a blood sample

Pepe Silvia Browne posted:

I am in and :toxx: as penance for my shameful fail last week

Your Diagnosis: Systemic Sclerosis
Pathology: An autoimmune disease causing excessive production of collagen and progressive fibrosis (thickening and replacement with scar tissue) of the skin, esophagus (leading to inability to swallow), joints (leading to immobility), and viscera. There is no effective treatment for scleroderma and it is invariably fatal.

Your Diagnosis: Thyroid Storm
Pathology: A rare consequence of an overactive thyroid gland. Patients often have an underlying thyroid disease and incur some stressor, such as an infectious disease, dehydration, pregnancy, or psychiatric trauma. They present with extreme agitation, irregular and extremely rapid heart rate, fever to 104+ degrees, vomiting, and diarrhea. Prompt treatment via suppression of the thyroid is required to prevent the patient's body from 'working itself to death'.

AstronautCharlie posted:

The doctor is in

Your Diagnosis: Behcet syndrome
Pathology: A rare inflammatory disorder causing painful ulcerations of the mouth, eye, and genitalia. Most striking is the sufferers' phenomenon of 'pathergy', in which a very small insult (for example, a needle prick) can lead to an exaggerated reaction and an enormous, difficult-to-treat wound. Notably, these wounds do not respond well to surgical management, which risks compounding the problem.

Carl Killer Miller fucked around with this message at 17:02 on Jan 28, 2020

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Your Diagnosis: Kuru
Pathology: A hopefully extinct disease associated with the Fore people of Papua New Guinea. Caused by the ritual of funerary cannibalism, that is, the consumption of tissue (in this case the brains) of the recently deceased. Kuru is related to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (known in some variants as 'mad cow disease'), but is distinct in its prolonged incubation period, in some cases up to fifty years. Patients present with uncontrollable whole-body tremors, an unsteady gait, and poor coordination. Kuru earned the nickname 'The Laughing Sickness' due to sufferers' ghastly pathologic bursts of uncontrolled laughter.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Azza Bamboo posted:

It's not how hard you can crit, it's how hard you can get crit and keep moving forward.

It's not how often you shitpost, it's whether you actually enter.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Your Diagnosis: Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN)
Pathology: The most severe end of the Stevens-Johnson/TEN spectrum, toxic epidermal necrolysis involves the separation of the most superficial layer of epidermis and mucosa from its supportive structure. To put this another way, an unknown reaction causes large-scale sloughing of skin and the membranes inside the mouth, nose, and genitals, with TEN diagnosed when more than 30% of skin becomes involved. The cause is unknown, but most manifestations are associated with drugs like lamotrigine (used for bipolar disorder) and certain antibiotics (particularly those of the penicillin family).

Antivehicular posted:

There's no entry-level prose contest right now, iirc, but TD and Poemdome are open to anyone who wants to give it a shot. Jump on in!

And on that note: I'm in, disease me

Your Diagnosis: Situs Inversus
Pathology: Occurring on its own or in association with other genetic defects, situs inversus involves the complete horizontal transposition of all organs in the thorax and abdomen, a mirror image of normal anatomy. A traditional situs inversus patient will have heart sounds most prominent on the right side of the chest, a liver underneath the left hemidiaphragm, and a colon that runs from left to right, rather than from right to left. Patients may be entirely asymptomatic, though a reasonable proportion are infertile (if associated with Kartagener's syndrome), or have cardiac defects due to arterial malposition.
Additional Info: Attached radiograph of the chest and upper abdomen of a situs inversus patient. Points of interest include a heart on the patient's right with a stomach bubble underneath. Note that radiographs should be observed as if one were looking directly under the skin of the patient.

Brawnfire posted:

In that case, I am IN for a trouncing.

Your Diagnosis: Dracunculus medinensis
Pathology: An infection with a parasite (also known as the Guinea worm) found in contaminated water. Diagnosis sets this parasite apart: once the worm has burrowed to the surface of the skin, water should be applied to the resulting blister. This will cause the worm-blister to burst, at which time the exposed end of the worm will curl around an offered pencil or twig. The probe is then gently but firmly rotated, drawing the worm from the skin entirely.
Additional Info: microscopy of immature worms. Image of the 'pencil test' redacted due to its disturbing nature, but further research is suggested.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Your Diagnosis: Bronchiolitis Obliterans Organizing Pneumonia (BOOP)
Pathology: Though it is called a pneumonia, BOOP is a distinct, noninfectious inflammatory condition that initially presents in a similar fashion to a common lung infection. However, the physiology of BOOP is quite different: small, fibrous swirls and plugs of connective tissue form within the small airways and alveoli (the principal oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange units) of the lungs. This results in a progressive filling of the lungs with fibrotic tissue, causing a slow suffocation that does not respond to antibiotics. it can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications and immune system suppressants, but frequently recurs after treatment is completed.
Additional Info: A computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest taken from a perspective looking down at the top of a person's head. This single horizontal slice shows both healthy lung tissue (black) and accumulating fibrotic material. The small black circles represent larger airways, still open despite the diseased connective tissue surrounding them.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Your Diagnosis: Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome
Pathology: ZES is marked by the presence of a gastrinoma, a small but incredibly active tumor of the neuroendocrine variety. This tumor uncontrollably releases gastrin, the hormone responsible for dictating stomach acid production. The patient suffers intolerable stomach acid production, resulting in deep ulcers of the stomach with an eventual frying of the resilient mucosa of the stomach and esophagus. Although powerful antacid medications can provide some relief, the only true cure is removal of the tumor, which can often be quite difficult to locate due to its size and location not within the stomach, but inside the expanse of the small intestine.
Additional Info: Endoscopic (scope and camera) view of a gastrinoma within the small intestine. Note the painful white erosions in the walls of the intestine.

Your Diagnosis: Myasthenia Gravis
Pathology: An autoimmune (the body's immune system attacking itself) condition involving the communication between nerves and muscles. The body produces antibodies to its own nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, preventing nerve impulses from triggering corresponding muscle contractions. Patients suffer easy muscle fatigue not through muscle weakness or soreness, but through a seeming inability of the muscles to follow the brain's commands. Symptoms are usually worse at night, as the few remaining nicotinic acetylcholine receptors fatigue through daily use. The muscles of the eye movement, swallowing, and speaking are impacted most in the early course of the disease, though neurochemical fatigue of other muscles follows. Most interestingly, the source of these antibodies appears to be the thymus, which in most individuals is replaced by fatty tissue in late adolescence. Myasthenics can have a rebelliously non-vestigial thymus by adulthood. Treat with medications that preserve the amount of acetylcholine available to the muscles and by surgical removal of an active thymus.
Additional Info: Photograph of the weakened eyelids of a patient with Myasthenia Gravis.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

steeltoedsneakers posted:

In. gently caress me up.

Your Diagnosis: Xeroderma Pigmentosum
Pathology: An inherited defect in the DNA repair mechanisms of the skin. In practical terms, this causes an 'allergy' to sunlight, resulting in severe cracking, blistering, and burns after relatively minimal sun exposure. The inability to repair the damage caused by UV rays causes an enormous cumulative lifetime risk in developing all manners of skin cancer (estimated at a risk >10,000 times higher than the healthy population). The disease was first described in 1870 by Moritz Kaposi (first to describe Kaposi's Sarcoma, a skin cancer) as 'parchment skin'.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Pththya-lyi posted:

May as well get back in the game.

Your Diagnosis: Fatal Familial Insomnia
Pathology: A member of the 'prion' family of diseases (all of which deal with the accumulation of misfolded protein), FFI results from protein accumulation within the thalamus, the part of the brain which regulates so-called 'autonomous' bodily functions. Usually presenting in the mid-forties, patients have recurrent bouts of extreme insomnia, coupled with intermittently racing and slowing heartbeats, uncontrolled sweating, inability to control body temperature (cryptogenic fever), and increased tear production. These patients progress to a complete inability to sleep, paradoxically resulting in coma and death. FFI, like other prion diseases, is not treatable and its severe form has a 100% fatality rate.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

magnificent7 posted:

It's been a long long time.

I'm in. Give me a disease that won't make me throw up when I google it.

Your Diagnosis: Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva
Pathology: A very rare inherited connective tissue disorder. The hallmark of 'FOP' is 'heterotopic ossification', or the formation of bone in unusual places such as the tendons, ligaments, and skeletal muscle. Over the course of a patient's life, natural damage to muscles (such as through lifting or running) causes a replacement of the natural muscle tissue with bone. This leads to an eventual 'locking' of joints in place, making movement difficult and eventually impossible. The only symptoms visible at birth may be common deformities in the hands and feet, though the expression of bone as other tissue can begin in adolescence or adulthood. Patient may experience extreme pain through entrapment of nerves in new bone (the 'entrapment neuropathy'). There is no cure.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Subs closed.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Your Diagnosis: Hereditary Angioedema
Pathology: An inborn deficiency in the C-1 esterase enzyme, hereditary angioedema is associated with an accumulation of fluid in various body cavities and tissues as the result of an inability to effectively reduce inflammation. Common sites of accumulation include the feet, hands, eyelids, intestinal tract (leading to swollen intestines and gut blockage) and lips. This condition can prove life-threatening when the edema fluid compresses the airways and can lead to suffocation by a sort of constrictive 'drowning'.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Subs hella closed.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Let's begin with the failures, the never-rans, those supposed writers who got sick in an apartment and were only found when the neighbors started complaining about the stink:

Chainmail Onesie eats a ban for toxxing and failing.
flerp, axiomcathexes, crimea, saucy_rodent, The Saddest Rhino, and rod hogan fail and earn my eternal disappointment. There were probably more, but I can't be expected to keep track.

Now, on to brighter things.

Tyrannosaurus takes the week with a delightful story about pooling fluids and salvation.

There are no honorable mentions this week.

Anomalous Amalgam, Pththya-lyi, sebmojo, and SlipUp all take home DMs for the reasons mentioned below. I hope that someday they find a cure for all of you.

And your loser this week is steeltoedsneakers for delivering a story so incredibly dull that it took me almost half a dozen tries to finish it.

Tyrannosaurus, the throne is yours! Crits to follow.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Brawnfire- Extraction

The Good: I like brevity and I like a story with a tight arc. You wrapped up an opening and an ending very well and the story was cohesive in its execution. You also managed some good characterization for your protagonist.

With this many stories to read, I appreciate attention to mechanics and grammar. Well done there.

Needs work: Didn't write much about the middle of the story up there, because this story doesn't seem to have much of one.

I don't like a message being repeated, particularly when you do a good job of showing rather than telling with the resolution of your story. You didn't need the description of humanity maybe just being a pestilence on Earth because the ending of your story showed me what you meant. Unfortunately, without that exchange your story literally has no middle. Could have used more characterization, more worldbuilding, more...something in there. I understand that this means taking the risk of your story feeling bloated, but I think you would have been served well with that risk here.

Judgment: Middle

Yoruichi- Peter, George, and a Dying Manatee

The Good: I enjoyed the interplay between George and Peter and I thought you did well with their brief characterizations. I'm a sucker for the 'trickster spirit' vibe that George shows, which I thought you did pretty well with. In a story with poorer characterization I would have been put off with him busting Peter's nose or knowing that the operation wouldn't work, but I thought his character had just enough 'wild' in him that it juuuuust barely worked. If this wasn't completely intentional, be careful.

Needs work: I give you a disease rich with subtext and hideous in its execution and you barely touched on it, outside of 'a sick manatee'. I look at a prompt this way: how did the writer use the tools they were given in the context of their own toolbox? You barely touched on the prompt outside of just 'sickness' and 'cancer', so major booooo there.

I know that the phrase 'Chekhov's gun' is overused, but I felt it here. In the intro you briefly touch on Peter being the cause of some sort of disturbance in the aquarium, but it's a completely dropped detail. I was waiting for it to be resolved and never got it. Plus, he does that and still scores a promotion?

The whole story felt a little thin to me and I didn't care too much about the manatee itself (and I really like manatees).

Judgment: Middle

Doctor Eckhart- Eat poo poo, Get Brain Worms, and Die

The Good: I enjoyed the characters you sketched out and that you included some ancillary folks. That's tricky in flash fiction, it risks making the story too 'busy', but I thought you did fine.

It's not easy to tie up an arc in short fiction, so well done there.

Needs work: There's a lurking sort of menace in the idea that seizures can be contagious, but you don't explore it very much and that's what hooked me into the story.

I really, really don't understand why you had your protagonist and Drusilla fall for each other. It's the exact kind of distraction that makes flash fiction seem unfocused and if you had excised it from your story you would have had more room to work with the stuff that was actually interesting. Romance subplots can be interesting because we care about the characters that are having them, not for the sake of the romance itself.

I'd be careful with ancillary, ultimately pointless details. 'Magenta, Idris's purple haired girlfriend' sort of stuff. Doesn't add to characterization in a meaningful way and it sounds clunky.

The story felt rote. The arc wasn't exactly predictable, but I wouldn't have batted an eye (or changed my opinion of the piece) if it had been Drusilla that had died and not Jareth.

Judgment: Middle

AstronautCharlie- Rot

The Good: An amiable picture of modern middle-class life. Ok, just kidding. I enjoyed the opening quite a bit, you had a good world built in there that felt pretty alive and realistic.

You switched protagonists partway through. I think that's a daring choice as it risks muddling the story, but I thought you did it well.

Your dialogue isn't bad and it feels very 'of its time and place'. At the same time, it makes your characters feel a little like caricatures (see below).

Needs Work: Some of your sentence construction is painfully awkward. When I run into sentences like that I read them out loud to myself to gauge whether they sound anything like authentic. An example:

"A real man does whatever needs doingĒ loudly so they didnít not hear the quiver of shame in his voice."

I know what you're trying to say and I can also think of a bunch of ways to say it differently. I think you could have benefited from a few proofreading runs in general as there are a couple typos and needless uses of the passive voice (for example, "The scents of great sacks of spices mixed with the sweat of the crowd to assault the nose").

It might have been because the first half of the story focused on Farrokh, but I just didn't care about Yasamin very much. She went from a character that the story was happening to, to a character that was making it happen in a way that I found a little jarring.

You set up a difficult dynamic when you create a story where everyone but one character is an rear end in a top hat. It makes the characterization of the one character your audience can get behind all the more important and you dropped the ball here.

Judgment: Middle

Solitair- Save Your Breath

The Good: I liked your characters. They felt cute and I liked their relationship. I felt bad for Abbas, even though he seems like a prick, so well done there.

Some of your prose, when properly set in its context, is interesting and well-written.

Needs Work: Some of your words are very awkward: "With the first inside him reduced, Abbas took another strong breath."

I think I understand what you're trying to say? But tell me you couldn't word it better.

Another: "Imagined himself on a burning shuttle screaming back down to Earth," followed by "Only three more launches until-". I legit thought he was an astronaut or something until later in the story. That kind of noise and abstraction doesn't work in a piece this short. I'm filing this under 'lost in your own prose'.

I don't understand the roles of the characters. Are they roommates? Is Jerome paying back Abbas for cleaning up after him for a year? There's a hint at the end that Jerome might be a personal care assistant or something, but it's unclear.

Judgment: Middle

Tyrannosaurus- the priest, the priest, the miracle, the what

The Good: Oooh, Gabarro is such a cool character. I really dig his conviction, the setting, and his dialogue. I enjoyed how your protagonist was a passive recipient of Gabarro's actions, though he wasn't too passive.

Your prose is very tight and well-done. It doesn't get too dense and is enjoyable to read.

Needs Work: Not much of a nod to the prompt here. It sounds an awful lot like you had a good idea for a story and would have dropped it into whatever prompt showed up.

Terrible title, feels like it was written by another author.

Otherwise, nothing glaring.

Judgment: Win

Anomalous Amalgam- The Mummy at Tazumal

The Good: I'm a sucker for a good mummy story, particularly of the cursed variety (are there any others?). Your prose is pretty good, though it gets a little wordy and awkward at times.

You weave this layer of mystery in the first section that is very unfortunately dropped a little later on.

I don't like it when characters know things that they shouldn't, but in this case it makes sense that Sergio can recognize Chagas at sight with the characterization you gave him earlier. I thought that was cool and very thoughtful writing.

You have a good concept here, but like we say in TD, concepts are a dime a dozen.

Needs Work: If I never read another story with a joke-punchline at the end, I'll die happy. It's tonally jarring compared to the rest of your story, absolutely isn't funny, and sucks the wind out of any mystery you managed to conjure here. Read the story without the punchline. Does it work? Does it work better? I say yes. I also don't understand why the two characters are laughing at the end. It's not that funny and one of them is seriously ill.

I don't understand the whispers of a romance subplot between Chiho and Sergio. Without resolution or recognition, it adds useless bulk to an already thin story.

Judgment: DM

QuoProQuid- The Old House on Hawthorne Street

The Good: The section with your protagonist's father pointing out the features of all the old houses was very cute and had a lot of heart (no pun intended).

I like your overall concept and the kid does come off as pretty realistic at times, like when she brings out the tupperware for her dad's heart.

Needs Work: Some of your prose is a little confusing and distracting. For example: "their movements are cold and numb". 'Cold' I would maaaaaybe understand, but 'numb' as a descriptive word for a movement doesn't make sense.

There are a few points of dialogue that sound unnatural. I went through the story if I could understand why the character would talk like this, but I couldn't. An example:

"Listen to me, Mary, I know life has been tough. I know things have been hard since your mom, but thereís nothing you want thatís in there. Believe me. All that house does is take."

Kinda a weird way to address a child, especially without much in way of a preamble. And the response:

"I have to try and get back what he lost in there."

There are ways to do exposition through dialogue, this is not one of them.

The creature itself was pretty meh. I think its motivations would be more terrifying than its physicial description, which was boring. Maybe I'm just jaded, but slippery tendons and mouths where there shouldn't be mouths don't really get me going.

In an overall sense I would lighten up the prose and focus more on the narrative. Prose like you've got only works with a strong backbone to wind itself around.

Judgment: Middle

Thranguy- The Wizard's Rentboy

The Good: A cute little story that made clever use of the prompt (which I think was one of the harder ones I doled out).

Your prose is pretty strong, though at times it gets tiresome and would be better left a little contracted. An example:

"But that left me like I am now, with an open wound of the spirit, a leak of soul, drawing in scavengers day and night, and I only have so much fight to put out."

Chop out any one of those three descriptors and the sentence works better. I have a hard time blaming you, though, the story had that intangible element that makes the reader feel that the author is having fun writing it!

Needs Work: I try not to call out typos in here unless they're egregious, but holy moly this could use another one or twice-over. Simple stuff like putting 'OD' in caps, fixing plurals and singulars, things that will add polish to your story.

Describing another story within your story is a tricky thing. I have to find it compelling, but not more compelling than the piece itself. Unfortunately, your story fell flat right around where you inserted the protag's fever dream and I found myself wishing I had heard that story instead (even though it sounded a little trite).

Overall, the story loses steam right around when your protag and Chaz split up and your protag gets all gooey. It read like you started with this awesome concept of a rentboy for wizards, then had little idea of how to wind things up.

Judgment: Middle

Antivehicular: The Hale and the Hollow

The Good: Quality use of the prompt in a way that I didn't expect. I enjoyed what you did with the disease, how it was a component of a story that relied more on worldbuilding and characters while still giving the prompt a nod. Well done.

Proofread pretty well and mechanically nicely put together.

Needs Work: This was a 1370 word story that felt like 600. I see the words, but there's a lack of content that runs through this story. I think you communicated the themes of rot and miasma well enough, they didn't need this much repetition.

Unfortunately, your most compelling character is only referenced: I would have preferred to read more about The Harvester. I found your protagonist dull and a little reactive. The deus ex scalpel didn't help with that, as it felt like a way to neatly end the story on a logical point but robbed your protag of her agency.

The world felt a little inconsistent, too. The Hollow Sister being felled by a simple cut across the throat feels a little like Dracula dying in a car accident, or something.

Judgment: Middle

Pththya-lyi- Dream Girl

The Good: There are certain points of sweetness in the relationship between the girls and I identified with some of the cultural touchstones that I feel would fill up the head of someone who faced death: Hammer films, Edgar Allan Poe, etc.

You made decent use of the prompt and incorporated the genetic nature of it well, but...(see below)

Needs Work: Your prose needs an overhaul. Several of the lines are clunky and not particularly compelling:

"I screamed for what felt like an hour."

"pale blue vulture eyes"

"collapsed into ash, pooling on the floor"

I don't understand the first one, vultures don't have blue eyes, and ash doesn't pool. These might feel like nitpicks, but if there are enough bits of prose like this in a story it can become really distracting.

What's the deal with the intro sentence? When was it said, why is it there, what does it add to the story? I don't get it. If you're going to take a risk like that, make sure that it pays off somehow.

The ending didn't make sense to me at all. "We would all be together until the end." It implies that Ellie is going to die too, but how? The family ghosts show us that they'll be together after 'the end', which appeared to be one of the driving points of the story. You should have ended at "-all watching us." It would have been stronger and way less muddled.

Judgment: DM

Pepe Silvia Browne- One Final Weiner

The Good: There were portions of this that I really enjoyed. The setting is great, you did the prompt justice, and you applied some real tension to a serious subject at the tail end of the contest.

Mechanically this was pretty sound and I appreciated that.

Needs Work: I had two big issues with your story:

The paragraph that starts "Danny's truck..." and ends "At least wait until we get to the hotel" seemed completely unnecessary to me. There's not enough of Danny in the story for me to care about him, Red's extra narration doesn't really help to develop his character, and we already know that he's bound for death because he's enrolled in the eating contest so the beers aren't necessary. If you're trying to build a creeping sense of dread, Red's exchange with the doctor does that just fine. Either paragraph could serve the purpose you need to serve and I think the one with the doctor is a little stronger. This feels like the flabby middle (no pun intended) of the story and one it could do without.

I've been guilty of jarring tonal shifts at the end of my stories and I've learned that they very rarely turn out well. The detail of bloody vomit and masticated hot dogs is totally unnecessary. It doesn't fit with the rest of the story's content nor with its style. The perspective shift to the coroner isn't welcome here. These sorts of tacked-on explanations can serve to make a reader feel like you're talking down because what the coroner says is the only logical conclusion from what's happened in the rest of your story. The second perspective shift to the history of the hot dog contest and Danny isn't any good either. I tried ending the story at "He opened his mouth to speak," and I liked it better.

Judgment: Middle

steeltoedsneakers- Check blind spots before changing lanes

The Good: You built an interesting world and wound the prompt around it in an unexpected manner. Otherwise, a lot to dissect here:

Needs Work: My eyes completely glazed over for about the first half of this story. I went back and gave it another read because I wanted to do your writing justice, but no dice. It's stone boring without any character development, action, or intrigue. I understand that mechanically it's important for the reader to know which car is tied to which and how the whole caravan works, but there has to be a less wordy way of doing that. Just incredibly dull writing.

Ok, there's a crash! And the sun is toxic to everyone! Things are picking up! And then you dive right back into the mechanics of how a blind car is built and you've completely lost me again.

Think about taking all that space and giving me some information about your protagonist. I mean, it's sad that she's going to get skin cancer, but only at the baseline level of sadness that accompanies all cancers. That was the extent that I cared about your protagonist. There's such a tremendous amount of exposition about absolutely nothing that the resolution, that the kid gets to his mom, has no emotional weight at all. I was just glad that the story was over.

Judgment: Loss

sebmojo- The eyes have it

The Good: I'm not sure whether this is an interesting twist on the Capgras Delusion in which the protag sees himself as an impostor, or if you didn't do your homework. I generally think of you as a thoughtful writer, so I'm going to go with the former.

You have a very jagged beat to your writing here, which works with the subject matter and the fractured nature of your protagonist. It's awkward and uncomfortable and I appreciated it.

Needs Work: Some of this prose needs more clarity. I'm willing to believe that some of it is duplicitous for the sake of the story, but I can't forgive some bits:

"So I donít do what I want to do and just punch myself in my retarded extreme traitorís face."

Did he punch himself in the head, or no? It's revealed in the next sentence, but there's a better way to put this.

"My passenger, the me that is inside my head but isnít me, just waiting to take over."

You've made it clear enough already who the passenger is, so everything between the commas is bulk.

"This is hosed up."

Already shown, don't need to tell.

"and Iím winding it up as my wife comes in the door or whoever she is these days"

This is out of order, the 'whoever she is these days' should come after 'wife'. I'm thinking that you did this for stylistic reasons, but this close to your finale the story needs a shift into clarity.

"I stood behind his big, bulging-bellied back"

Alliteration is cute and all, but come on.

"Iím seeing double.

Not that Iím seeing two of everything, Iím seeing everything twice. There are two everythings and Iím seeing both of them."

Oh man I get it, I get it, just get on with it.

There's more, but I'll leave it at that.

I had an issue with the ending. It reads like you didn't want the jarring tonal shift of a guy ramming a chisel into his eyeball, so you went with the softer yet insubstantial 'fond memory' approach. Problem is, the closing sentences have nothing to do with the story that I can tell so I'm left wondering why you chose to end it like this.

Judgment: DM

SlipUp- Pandora

The Good: I think I like what you're trying to do here. The story lacks any form of subtlety, which is an interesting angle to take. Nice take on the prompt. It was sorta what I was expecting to see with this particular diagnosis, which was one of the tougher ones to work with.

There is one point of tension, whether the serum made from Pandora is actually poison, but the problem is that I can't see any reason she'd want to kill Alex, besides being trapped in a lab-cage.

Needs Work: This is a very standard superhero origin story. Nothing particularly interesting or innovative here, flat characters, nothing to get me to care about the outcome. The villain is a direct archetype of an evil character from a saturday morning cartoon: predictable appearance, thin motivation, shrug-worthy demise.

The same can be said for your other characters. Pandora is the archetype of the 'special girl' and Alex fits his role as the 'hapless innocent' pretty well.

Overall, pretty boring and completely forgettable.

Judgment: DM

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

steeltoedsneakers posted:

Thanks for timely crits, CKM.

But you should fight me. It'll be a nice activity for two while you work up to doing things in threes.

Let's boogie.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Ring Bearer
493 words

"Maybe we can turn him upside down and, like, shake him?"

Ivy looked at Matt, exasperated. Ruffles sniffed around their feet and looked up with watery eyes, seemingly hurt by the suggestion.

"Aisha can't find out. Dave's been on her about getting rid of the dog with the kid on the way. This'll seal it."

Matt scratched Ruffles behind his ear and looked over at Ivy with surprise.

"Give away Ruffles? But Ivy's had him since he was a puppy. This little pile of fuzz?" Matt gave the dog a vigorous scratch.

The basset hound let out a belch. Matt scanned the ground. Nothing. Ivy lifted an ottoman, then turned back to Matt.

"You're sure he swallowed them, right? Like, they're not just under a chair?"

Matt was massaging the dog's belly, hoping for another belch.

"Yeah. I mean, I'm pretty sure. One second he's the doggy ringbearer, then the case is open, the rings are gone, and he's sitting there drooling."

Ivy was looking at her phone, barely listening. "It says here that dogs take like 6 hours to poo poo out something they ate. We're totally hosed, Matt. And even if we weren't, I'm not digging through dog poo poo."

Matt was solemn. "I'll dig through poo poo if we have to."

Ivy touched him on the shoulder. "Dude, the ceremony is in a couple hours. We're not even in the realm of poop."

Matt had started pacing. Ruffles followed.

"Okay, we could take Ruffles on a run? Like, maybe that would get things moving faster?"

Ruffles perked up at the mention of running, his tail dancing. Matt kept talking.

"We could go to the store and get him some ex-lax. No! I've got it." He looked at Ivy.

Ruffles' tail went still.

"You take off your wedding ring, I take off mine, we put those in the box, they're not going to call it out at the ceremony, and then afterwards we explain the whole thing."

Ivy shook her head.

"One, I'm not running in this dress. Two, the ex-lax idea ends in two lost rings plus a very sick and potentially dead dog. I'm not even going to dip into idea three." She frowned. "It's stupid, Matt. Real, real stupid."

Matt knelt down. He put his hands on the dog's head and looked Ruffles in the eye.

"What if ol' Ruffles is just scared? I mean, they get married, Dave makes Ivy give him away, and Ruffles ends up at a, uh, nice farm upstate. So he ate the rings."

Ruffles let out a mournful bay.

For the first time, Ivy stopped to regard the dog. She sat down next to Ruffles and gave him some love.

"No one's gonna send you away, pooch. Not over some dumb rings."

Ruffles snuffled and let out a colossal belch. Two rings tumbled to the ground, sticky with saliva. Matt looked down at them. Ivy put her hand to her mouth.

Ruffles wagged his tail.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

I am extremely IN

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Dreamt the End
868 Words

Emory pulled a fistful of cables from the console and ran them toward Ivar.

"You ready, robot?"

Ivar looked to the dreambroker. Emory was old, cachectic, his skin a translucent white and spattered with bruises.

"Emory, I don't want any filler this time. No sunsets, no pointless ambiance, and for the last time, no falling."

Emory shook his head and started fitting the cables into Ivar's neck.

"Always the same with you, ain't it? You wanna dream like a human, that's what humans dream about."

Ivar shook his head. "No, Emory. Do you remember last time?" The robot swished his hand through the air, conducting an invisible orchestra. "That bonfire so bright the heat almost oscillated. Those people, my friends, my best friends, roaring laughing. That kiss I stole when the light had gone low? For a moment, Emory, just for one moment..."

Emory cut off Ivar and snapped the last cable into place. "Yeah. You felt like a real human being. But I'll say it once like I've said it a thousand times: you're not."

Ivar mimed a sniff. "You wound me, Emory. But tonight, something special?"

Emory hobbled back to the console and began punching buttons.

"Oh yeah, Ivar. See, I think I figured it out. Maybe after this, you'll finally get what living means. You ready?"

Emory threw a switch and Ivar's world was gone.


Ivar awoke into a hazy blue. He tried to walk and stumbled. His legs felt different. Weak and heavy, with joints like solid granite. His view was filmy. He blinked to clear his eyes, then rubbed them to no avail. He looked upward and yelled.

"What's the meaning of this, Emory? Something's wrong with your machine, something isn't-"

His words dissolved into barking wheezes. Something new. A cough. Ivar ran his hands over his body. Everything ached, solid lead both white-hot and bitter cold. Ivar put his hand to his neck to sever the defective connection, to bring him out and back. Only, only-

"Missing something, dear Ivar?"

The voice burst from everywhere at once, echoing and oozing and ringing, menacing and entirely enveloping.

A spark bloomed in his vision, shedding embolic motes of black as it took form. It gestured to Ivar.

"Do you know me?"

Ivar sank to his knees, subdued by the grandeur of this thing in his dream.

"I, I..." Ivar trailed off, unable to begin.

The thing shifted all over, blackness giving way to pustules of white, those to ivory efflorescences of downy fur, the fur falling out in thick clumps. Ivar finally hacked out the words.

"Just let me out! Emory? Whatever you are, let me out!"

The thing rippled in amusement.

"Emory knows of me, though in his condition he dare not speak my name. You made a fervent wish for humanity? Take my hand, then."

Ivar reached to the proferred hand as it melted away in a billion hues. The thing laughed, a wild divarication of tones.

"Not so easily, Ivar."

It reared up and turned from him.

"What is a reward without labor? Struggle for your humanity, machination. Place your mind against my grindstone."

And with that it dashed from him, millipede legs turning to equine hooves, striking bright heliotropic scintillae on the blue. Ivar followed.

The thing grew smaller and more faded in his vision as he struggled to walk after it. Ivar beckoned to the void, but there was no answer. He trudged forward as its voice boomed and rang.

"Do you know why humanity eludes you?"

The taunt spurred Ivar and he began to walk faster. He responded to the bleary mote in his vision.

"I've tasted humanity, you monster. This isn't it, you're not it. Moments of love, joy, warmth. Not this."

Ivar stumbled and fell, leaving a streak of skin and chips of bone, real bone. The speck rapidly grew larger in his vision, too fast. It planted a hoof on his chest, shedding keratinous wisps that blackened to ash.

"Humanity is nothing without the knowledge that one day, everything will end. Not a shutdown or a reboot, robot. No concentration of consciousness on a digital cloud. A true culmination.

It paused. Ivar's vision went narrow.

"With no comprehension of what is to come."

Ivar pushed feebly on the leg as it worked deeper, grinding his sternum to dust and choking his protestations. The hoof lifted and Ivar pushed himself back, his chest burning. He slid himself away, every inch a fresh agony. The beast towered above him, its face a thousand swirling fragments.

"Are you ready to become human, Ivar?"

Ivar put up a ruined hand.

"No! I don't want this, I don't want to die!"

The being stepped forward, its maw an inch from Ivar.

"Want? I am the choiceless denouement, Ivar. I lie behind all doors, at the end of all days, in every dying blade of grass on the endless veldt of the soul."

It revealed row upon row of mismatched molars and savage canines in a flickering maw. Ivar gazed inward. Then, oblivion.


Ivar emerged to a terrible screeching. Emory was resetting switches, calming the klaxons.


Ivar let out a tremendous sigh, then turned to Emory.

"Please. Again."

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Woof. I'll have a brawl story in by midnight.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

sebmojo posted:

yeah i'll judge this

for the sneaks/ckm brawl, owing to some lovely happenings and through mutual agreement we're gonna kick it forward two weeks and allow steeltoed sneakers to resubmit his entry.

New deadline is 4 March, 2359 pst, no more extensions tho. Carl, drop a toxx on that.


Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

In, flash rule plz

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Sitting Here posted:

Music is visible as well as audible in your story.

In, someone flash me with something rad :kimchi:

Your story takes place in one of those TV/VCR repair stores, the kind that has seemingly been open for decades but has no apparent customers.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Mercedes posted:

In your world, growing old is punishable by death

In, bitches. Flash me.

673 Words

Muriel pondered the cost and practicality of taking a wall off of her home, to give Theodore a little room to breathe.

She walked the house perimeter, peering in the windows at the east side. Theodore was inside hunched over, dreaming tiny poetry with massive eyes. Even sitting, his head was nearly brushing the ceiling. She wondered how long it would be until turning sideways and balling himself up wouldn't be enough to leave his bedroom. A year? Six months? Less? She sighed and went back inside.

"Theodore? You want some lunch?"

The door opened and Theodore leaned through it, occupying the entire frame with his torso. His skin was wrinkled and baggy, transparent to all the venules and bruises underneath. Age, age, and more age. He smiled. His voice was thin, tinny.

"I've a powerful hunger, Mew-mew. Leave it at the door, if you'd be so kind?"

Muriel sighed and began working on a twenty-egg omelette. This was becoming untenable. She was almost a hundred herself and the house was already feeling small. She couldn't imagine how it was for Theodore.

There was a rapid knock at the door.

Muriel turned off the burner and answered. A man stood in a suit and tie, about three feet tall. Muriel thought he couldn't be more than thirty years old. He spoke unprompted, a chittering buzz through clacking mandibles.

"Ms. Gladheim? My name is Chapman, from Recycling and Longevity. I believe we've called before?"

Muriel sighed. "You're here about my great-great-grandfather, I presume? I've already told you, we're not-"

Chapman cut her off. "Have you been to the turbine fields, Muriel?"

Muriel looked away nervously. She could hear them spinning at night, hear the pervasive hum, hum, hum of new power in the lines.

"I...I don't like that place, Mr. Chapman."

Chapman continued.

"Unfortunate, but expected. Theodore needs to do his civic duty, Ms. Gladheim. Trains must run, lights must shine, and Theodore must turn." He paused and gave her a sarcastic smile, his mouth separating in four then four again. "It's only fair."

Muriel spread her arms across the doorframe. "Theodore is a poet, not a turning cog."

Chapman frowned. "Poetry doesn't turn the lights on anymore, Muriel."

Muriel gestured inside. Theodore peeked his head from the bedroom, then ducked back. "That's not his fault, Mr. Chapman!"

"Heard it before, Ms. Gladheim. Frankly, our patience is worn thin. I'll be back." With that, he flitted away.

Muriel shut the door. Theodore was trying to squeeze from his room into the kitchen and doing poorly.

"Mew-mew? A little help?"

Muriel tugged him through the doorway. He stumbled in, crashing into the stove and upsetting a pan of thoroughly burnt eggs. He looked down at them and smiled sheepishly. "Little eggs. Must have been some very young chickens."

Muriel smiled gave him an affectionate pat on the arm.

"Don't worry about them, Theo. The eggs, or the turbines."

Theo attempted to scoop up the eggs and only succeeded in yolking the kitchen. he turned to Muriel.

"Maybe it's time, Mew-mew? I'm tired."

Tears began to well in her eyes. "No one comes back from there, Theo. Not Mama, not Charlie, not Big Red."

Theodore smiled wistfully. "As well they shouldn't, child." He sighed. "I haven't put a useful word on paper in ages."

Muriel shook her head. "It doesn't matter! You don't have to be useful, not to anyone!"

Theodore gave her a sad smile. "The power's not in prose anymore, dear."

He turned, eggs forgotten, and lumber-squeezed into his bedroom.

"Muriel, the door?"


Muriel awoke in the night to a tremendous crashing, a booming that shook the foundation. In an instant, she knew. Had they come? She tumbled to Theodore's bedroom and threw the door open. He'd shattered a wall, busted it ragged. A cool breeze drifted through her ears and ruffled the papers on his desk. She walked to them and read.


There, sublime
Grown tall
Now anodyne
Without recall

Temblor gone
I'm succumbing
So at dawn
My worth, in humming

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

In hopes that he'll stop his incredibly insufferable bullshit griping and just write, here are crits on Azza's last 4 stories.

He Wears Me Out

Oh, I've definitely read this before. It's what happens when an otherwise decent progressive/math rock band adds a vocalist because he owns the van. For more information, please see late-period Mars Volta (although even that is compelling in its own way).

You start what could be an attractive narrative arc here. The device of a person's prayers differing from their confessions is interesting. I read this story a few times and I think I understand the story, which isn't necessarily a good thing. The winning story this week had a solid arc AND worked in a bunch of nonsense. Your story had what I think is a decent arc BUT worked in a bunch of nonsense. It reads like every now and then you have an idea for a cool-sounding phrase and jam is sideways into your story.

It sucks, but sometimes no matter how cool something sounds or how well it reads in isolation, if it doesn't add to the narrative you have to kill your darling.

The rhyming here is doing you no favors at all. I'm a little baffled by it. You have the bones of a nonsense story without it and a muddled mess with it. I'm guessing that it's either

A: You wanted to try something fun and botched the execution in a major way (Cute and worthy of some appreciation)


B: You saw that the judge mentioned that they liked a poem story and wanted to do a poem story too (insane and a little scary)

Have you ever heard of the idea that you should write with authenticity? Write with emotions you feel, not emotions you think your characters feel. You know what sadness feels like, now write about your sadness.

Untitled (why?) Interprompt (the one about a giant robot spider)

I love learning new words. I've never heard of 'heras fencing' and from what I can tell it turns out that you just botched the capitalization and grammar. Thanks a lot, geez.

I'm noticing a pattern in your stories. You use your descriptive words wantonly (not the dumplings) and they stick out like a sore thumb.

Example: 'Solid oak garden furniture'

If you see detail and it doesn't contribute to setting-building (I thought 'immaculate beach' and 'sparkling mist' are fine) GET RID OF IT.

You end the story on a really terrible punchline about this being the internet. I have seen joke-endings work prescisely zero times as they usually deflate your narrative and turn it into a balloon farting around the room until it shrinks away.

Last thing, here. This one's the most important, I think. Your grammar and sentence structure are inexcusably loose here. If that's because this is an interprompt and 'counts for nothing', I urge you to remember that none of this counts for anything. If you're writing solely to win TD, be prepared to lose, lose often, and be widely mocked for your weird sense of priorities.

Pressure On Our Pals

I'm going to start by telling you that I mean this first criticism in the most tender way possible, because it hurt the poo poo out of me the first time I heard it about one of my pieces:

This is painfully, terribly unfunny.

I know humor is subjective, but I feel like there's still a certain bar to laughter. An example:

Objectively funny: a guy running to get to the bathroom in time pulls down his pants while still a good few feet from the toilet. He does not make it and begins spraying diarrhea. he slips in his own diarrhea and falls, knocking himself out. As he lies there unconscious, he begins urinating on himself.

Objectively unfunny: Overly wordy story about a man buying a cake shaped as a cross, the entire purpose of which is to describe the cake in the last line as 'sacredelicious'. First, it's a stolen Simpsons joke. Second, the entire story is in the service of the punchline instead of carrying comedic beats throughout.

The poo poo puns are tired, the dialogue is insufferable. The story is told in a conversational style which is not particularly consistent, nor is it charming.

You already know how I feel about punchline endings.

And Then I Got Sticky

Oh boy. 2000 words. Here we go.

Ok, ok, creating some decent setting here. I mean, I watch the movie Sphere every time it's on network TV.

A bunch of my crits for the above stories hold true here, so let's try and break some new ground.

It's fun being descriptive and writing prose. The danger here is beating your audience over the head with detail. For example:

"The crowd turn to each other, beginning a multitude of clashing conversations. Their cacophony roars, reverberating from the rock walls."

That second sentence is completely unnecessary. I know what a multitude of clashing conversations sound like and hey, it turns out that it's something like a roaring cacophony. If you want to double up on descriptive words like this, make sure that there's a payoff coming, that your repetition means something. Let's see what we have:

"ďI have a plan,Ē I say, silencing most of the crowd."

Nope. Now, if that roar had led to the walls coming down, that would be something, because your details have assisted in your execution. See what I mean?

Descriptive stuff I didn't enjoy:

"as my face scowls"
"His eyes are squinting through his dirtied sweat."
"with the calm of a friend talking in the dying moments of the night of a sleepover." (what? I mean seriously, what? This has nothing to do with the imagery you've created so far)
"Waves of shock bounce up and down my chest."

I don't think you addressed the prompt well. The romance in here is absolutely jammed in at the end and has nothing to do with the rest of the narrative. You had a sort of setup for a horror story, but it was lost.

Last note, your characters should have a purpose. Why were there three separate characters (Bill, Darren, and Terrence) who all spoke with the same voice and said essentially the same things? You could save yourself some words and earn some coherence by trimming that fat way down.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

In, flash please

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

CKM vs sneaksbrawl
Judge: Sebmojo
Prompt: A story on "kicking against the pricks"

Blown Veined
680 words

Matt tried to accept the shirtless, trembling man sweating through his sofa and the man's girlfriend holding a boxcutter. Holly nudged the blade. She was yelling.

"Where's the poo poo, Matt?"

He was careful not to enunciate too much, for fear that the edge might jostle the wrong way.

"Look, I think it's in the bedroom. I can go look for it-"

Holly cut him off.

"You're not looking for poo poo! I want it, now!"

Junkie logic. Neither of them moved. On the sofa, Arin groaned and rolled over, flopping hard on the floor. Holly reached to him with her free hand, then focused back on Matt.

"What was in that poo poo you sold him?"

Matt looked down. Arin was kicking bad, drenched and writhing. He'd seen plenty of fiends kick before, their brains desperately trying to fix links long since snapped. What was going on here, though, that was-

Arin burst into a frenzied cough, spattering the carpet with long yellow strands that bubbled and hissed before leaving the thick shag rug with streaks of char. He began to stagger to his feet and collapsed back to the ground.

Holly backed off from the smoking spittle. She turned her boxcutter to Arin and looked to Matt. There was a different fear in her eyes. Arin spoke to both. His voice was even, almost normal but for a ragged edge.

"Holly, give me a hand here. It hurts."

Arin clutched his chest. His skin rippled and dimpled as if pricked by a million dull needles, tenting him all over but not breaking through.

Matt thought fast. He could get to the bathroom, shut himself up inside and wait it out, leave Holly to Arin and the pricks. It'd be safe. It'd be easy. But this wasn't her fault.

He turned to Holly and whispered.

"Follow me. The bathroom."

Holly looked back at Arin for a half-second. Her man was on his feet now, his skin microcratered and xanthous. She fled with Matt into the bathroom. They slammed the door and locked it just as Arin threw his body against it, baying like a wounded wolf. The particle board shuddered but held.

They backed to opposite walls. Holly held the boxcutter aloft, drawing an invisible line to Matt's throat. Her breaths grew deeper and slowed. The bathroom was silent, punctuated by Arin thrashing outside. Matt looked at the ceiling.

"I'm sorry."

Holly maintained her noiseless trance. The tip of the boxcutter made tiny circles in the air.

"You gave Arin the pricks? Why, Matt?"

They heard a wail from the living room. The mirror trembled. Matt put his hand on the porcelain tub. It was getting hot.

"Look, Holly. He owed me money. A lot of money. He told me I could let it go or get let go. I...I was scared."

Holly sighed. Her hands were still.

"He told me you owed him, Matt. We were coming over here to collect when he started kicking." She sniffed. "I'm such a loving idiot. He even said 'honestly' before he told me."

Matt ruminated. No more honest junk anymore. Rolling the dice on the pricks changed all that.

"I shouldn't have done it. I wanted out."

Holly forced a weak smile. "Easier when it was boring old dope, huh?"

They heard a dissonant fizzing as Arin's veins ruptured, all cordlike and sclerosed. Matt knew what came next.

"Holly, you've got to do something for me."

She didn't move, didn't speak.

"We're going through the door. I want you to run."

She shook her head. Not through some Stockholm syndrome loyalty, Matt realized. Just fear. Paralytic. He swallowed hard. If she wouldn't, he'd have to take the choice away.

Matt took the syringe from an inside pocket. The last of his poison stash, last melt of the pricks.

He took a deep breath and jammed the needle into his neck. Hot shot. Quick down. The pricks would come for him.

Holly recoiled, then sank back in as she understood. She passed the boxcutter over.

Matt brandished it and shouldered through the door. Holly ran.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

sebmojo posted:

Neither of these were good, though they both had a certain energy. As CKM subbed late, sneaks gets to win a tie, but I think that isn't needed - his felt more like a story where a decision is made as a result of character, for all the execution was flawed. Steeltoedsneakers wins

Thanks for the crit Seb!

Grats on the win, STS

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

The time between the opening and the finishing of two bottles of wine.

Lit and Burning
830 words

Little tendrils of shadow crept into my vision and a voice poured over me like rank oil.

"You're a failure by any estimation. You have to know that, right?"

I turned up my music to shut it out, to disconnect me from the world. The voice still thundered and my vision shrank, tunneling hard and narrow. I cranked it louder.

"Can't even get me out of your head."

I uncorked the wine and drank deep, enough to tip me into a soft buzz. I hated it, hated the drinking, hated what it made me, but I needed to escape. My sight cleared as my gut churned. The voice receded to a whisper, then a droning tape-hiss.


I'm carving a hot line down I-10 west from Houston. I don't bother with the music anymore, it barely makes a dent. The whispers threaten to pull me into their benthic well.

"You remember Monica? You made disappointing her into an art form."

I pop a handful of pills, a little oxy to keep the darkness at bay, a little no-doze to keep the road steady. I can feel my cerebral gears grinding and slipping. Houston was mostly a bust, another pretender in a bad suit selling a cure for a psychic parasite, my guilt worm. His lockbox though, some stray cash and some drugs, but something else. A lead.

"If only they could could see you now, huh? Beating the Christ out of that poor guy and taking his stash."

Against my better judgment, I respond.

"He promised, promised that he'd fix-"

My pain voiced itself.

"What'd Mommy tell you about excuses?"

I take a glance at the yellowed note from Mr. Houston's lockbox.

'Minotte Downs, Sulphur Branch'.

I wait for a sarcastic lash about a nothing nowhere lead but its voice is halting, unsteady.

"Minotte. Minotte Downs?"

It almost sounds scared. I slam a few more no-doze and press the pedal down. Everything is quiet but the road and my tires.


This has to be the place. There's no name, no house number, just a beat hut in the desolation. I tuck a bottle of wine into my bag. Can't ward my fears with hard liquor anymore, my gut sloughs and burns.

I walk up a rut in the switchgrass toward the front door. Porches down here need fastidious sweeping but the dust is thick enough for me to see wind-whorls in it.

It speaks then, with a trace of something new. Timidity?

"Hey, you don't want to do this."

A little emboldened, I respond.

"What's wrong? You afraid of some little old lady in a shack in the desert?"

I see dark fingers clench into fists all around my vision. I take a quick swig from the bottle of wine, just enough for the drink to join hands with whatever opiates are still floating in my system. Liquid peace. The hands recede and I push on the door. It's unlocked on stiff hinges. My regret is beseeching.

"I could help you, you know. Teach you something, let you leave the past in the past."

In that moment, I think back to an old memory. I'm sitting in a therapist's office. She looks at me, frustrated by my inability to let go.

"What exactly have you done that's so wrong?" she says.

I can't answer her.

The shack is bare but for a battered table. Its surface is covered in a rough topography of long-melted candles, a map of rituals from the past. Cracks in the roof fill the room with faint light. My head swims. There were powerful things done here.

I see a door on the far side, cracked from innumerable seasons of swell and shrink. I walk to it. Minotte is back there, she has to be. My poison psyche is begging now.

"Turn around, turn around! You think that if I die you'll be all better? Stop the pills and the wine and the poison? That these feelings you can't explain will leave when I do?"

I hesitate at Minotte's door for a moment and it seizes the opportunity.

"Don't. I promise I'll be good. I promise I won't do it again."

My guilt always speaks first. It always lies. I push the door open and I see Minotte.

She's been gone a long time.

The desert air mummified her in bed. The disintegrating covers are pulled to her chin and fused to the skin. Her sockets are bare, funnelling to two points of perfect black staring into nothing. Her expression, even dry and pulled taut, is unmistakable.

She was running, too.

A voice rings in my head, tones of miasma all triumphant and toxic.

"No road left, runner. Just you, me, and you."

Dark streaks of char are cutting into my sight now, eradicating everything but two pinpricks of light. I fumble for the wine in my bag and tear out the cork. It's warm and foul, cheap and sour.

The light never comes back.


Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

In, flash me

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