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Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

One line, please!

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Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Baby's in Reno with the vitamin D

Baby
1,196 words

“Baby, I’m home! I bought you vitamins!”

Elena was sitting at her usual spot on the couch. She looked up from her phone, watching as her mother tottered across the cluttered floor of their tiny apartment, her high heels going clack clack clack against the floor. She was sixteen already, but Mom still called her “Baby.” Elena guessed she always would.

Mom reached the kitchen counter and set the bags on it with a little oof. She removed a pill bottle the size of a toddler’s head from one of the bags. “Now, you gotta take these with breakfast so you can, uh, absorb them okay. I want my grandchild to start out right. Not like –“ Like you. Like me. The words hung in the air unsaid.

Like her mother and grandmother before her, Elena was pregnant as a teenager. Ever since Elena was old enough to understand – to notice the sneers of strangers, to hear the taunts about her “slut family” from classmates – she’d sworn to herself she’d break the cycle. She’d work hard, get an education and a decent job. She probably wouldn’t ever have been rich, but at least she would’ve done well enough to get out of Neil Road, get married, have a family like on TV. But now that that scumbag Dylan had gone and knocked her up, that wasn’t going to happen, was it? He’d been so charming and nice before, with his floppy hair and easy smile, but ever since Elena had told him her news, he was more interested in binge-watching superhero movies than in spending time with her. Mom said that was just how men were – that a woman couldn’t count on anybody but herself. Elena guessed that was true, but that didn’t make it any easier.

“Hey, it’ll be okay.” Elena allowed her mom to fold her in a hug. Mom meant well, she just had a talent for saying the wrong thing. “You’re a smart kid, you’ll figure stuff out. Just keep plugging away, Baby. Now, I have to wait for Steve to call me from lockup, so stay out of my hair for the next few hours, okay? Love you!” Mom was already retreating to her bedroom, calling over her shoulder.

“Okay, love you too.” Elena forced a smile. As Mom shut the door, Elena stared a moment at the pill bottle. Then she took in the tiny apartment she and her mom shared ever since she was born. It really was a shithole. Elena couldn't bring up a kid in a place like this, in a neighborhood like this, not in good conscience. She looked back at her phone to study the bus map she’d called up. It was lucky Mom hadn’t gotten back before Elena had finished making her appointment at the Fifth Street Health Clinic. The lady on the phone had said they couldn’t do an abortion there, but if Elena came in for a consultation today they could refer her to a clinic that could. Elena didn’t know how she was going to get to that other clinic without her mom knowing, but she’d just focus on getting to this clinic and figure it out from there. At least Mom would be distracted by calling her boyfriend and wouldn’t ask too many questions about this trip. Just keep plugging away, Baby.

Elena grabbed her ratty old messenger bag and slipped on her Converses, then took a last look at herself in the mirror by the front door. Same olive skin that acne cream couldn’t keep under control, same messy black hair, same band shirt from two “stepdads” ago, same dark brown eyes. Would the baby have her eyes, or Dylan’s green ones? Stop it, Elena shook herself. You’re getting rid of it, stop thinking like that. She brushed a curl out of her eyes and walked out the door.

***

Elena stood in front of the Walmart parking lot trying not to panic. Three-and-a-half miles away from the clinic and the bus had broken down. By the time another one came by, she’d miss her appointment, and who the hell knew when she could get another one? Mom couldn’t find out she’d had an abortion – sad as she was about Elena’s pregnancy, she’d always told her it was a sin to kill your baby. And did Elena even really want an abortion? She did want to be a mom, just not now – but was that fair to the baby? But it was fair to bring a kid she couldn’t take care of into the world?

Elena couldn’t stop the tears from coming – big, ugly, noisy, snot-making sobs. Why was everything – everything – so hard? Was God punishing her for trying to kill her baby, for making a mistake with Dylan? Or was this just what it meant to be poor, to always be struggling like this?

“Hey, are you okay? Can I help you?”

Elena wiped the tears away to see a skinny woman about her mom’s age with frizzy brown hair. The woman's dark eyes were filled with concern.

“I – I need to get to, um,” - Elena couldn’t tell a stranger where she was really going. She racked her brain for places she knew were close by. “–to the hair salon on Fifth – to see a friend. But I can’t get there in time, because the bus –” She turned away as the sobs started coming again.

“Oh, sweetie! Please don’t cry. Listen, I have a car and – no, no, you probably don’t want to get in a car with a strange woman! Let me call you an Uber, would that be okay?”

“Al-alright. Thank you, you’re really nice.”

“Don’t worry about it, sweetie. Just pay it forward and the Universe will reward you.”

“Um, okay.”

While she waited for the Uber, Elena sat on the bus bench and chatted with Frizzy-hair. The woman had a lot of thoughts about balancing your chakras with crystals, and was happy to let Elena smile and nod while she shared those thoughts. Suddenly Frizzy-Hair announced “It’s here!” and gestured to a green sedan that had just pulled up. Before Elena could get in the car, the woman put a hand on her shoulder and stared deep into her eyes.

“Remember: nobody can make your choices for you. You have to do what you feel is right.”

Elena blinked. How did Frizzy-hair know what she was trying to do? Regardless, she still had her appointment, and the driver was waiting. Elena got in the car and waved at Frizzy-hair as it pulled away. The frantically-waving woman grew smaller and smaller, then disappeared as the car turned a corner.

Elena was lucky enough to have a driver who wasn’t interested in talking, so she had a few minutes to think about the woman’s words.

You have to do what you feel is right.

And her mother’s words, too:

You’ll figure stuff out.

By the time the car pulled up to the salon next to the clinic, Elena had made her choice – and she knew it was the right one. Or, at least, she could live with it.

Just keep plugging away, Baby.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

In.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Flesnolk posted:

Please don't be discouraged, though; as first entries go, this wasn't bad at all, and I'd love to see you stick around.

Aww, thanks! :kimchi: Honestly, I'm just happy I didn't get a loss or a DH - I would have been shocked if I got a win or a HM my first time around. I will try and take your and other people's criticisms to heart and do better in the future.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

The Escape
1,489 words

I’m nibbling at some dried hay when I first smell the smoke.

“Aubrey, wake up!” I don’t know the other rabbit’s true name – the sacred name his mother would have whispered to him as she licked the blood from his newborn body – only the one the human female gave him. She only brought him into the household a few months ago, and he hasn’t shared anything with me. He hasn’t even stopped attacking me whenever I drink from the water bottle before him, the jerk. But we share a cage, and he needs to know what’s going on. Besides, life with him is still better than being outside.

Aubrey starts from sleep, stares at me with untrusting eyes that quickly fill with fear. He hops over to my side of the cage and peers out. He swears when he sees what I see – flames are leaping forward, out of the black box that has kept us warm all winter, and are already devouring the car room wall opposite us.

“drat that female!” Aubrey leaps around the cage, which wobbles precariously atop the chair it sits on. “drat humans! They’re fools to keep fire trapped inside like that! They’re fools to leave us alone like this! Now I’m going to burn to death! And with you, no less!”

“Stop jumping around like that!” I scurry to the other side of the cage, as far from the flames as I can get. “I’m trying to concentrate!” There has to be a way out of this. We’re indoor rabbits, meant to live in houses – or so Mother said. We understand human environments better than any other kind of rabbit. The humans have all kinds of clever ways to solve problems. Sometimes we can figure out how to use them too. If only I could think!

Aubrey doesn’t listen to me, but keeps thrashing. “We’re going to die! We’re going to die!” he screams as he leaps around, making the top door clatter against the cage. I can feel my eyes widen with my realization. The top door is open! The female’s mate must have left it open when he fed us this morning, before he left with her in the female’s car.

“Aubrey, jump around more! We’ve got to knock the cage over!”

Aubrey looks at me skeptically for a second, then takes a running leap at the side of the cage. The cage shudders forward, ever closer to the rim of the chair. Aubrey takes another leap, and this time I join him, my head stinging as it crashes against the wires. We throw our bodies at the side again and again, pushing the cage away from the flames bit by bit. But I smell wood burning and look away from my task to see the chair has caught fire. The fear takes me: I can only stare at the flames hopelessly, helplessly.

But my senses still pick up on Aubrey as he runs at the side of the cage one more time, the cage sliding, tipping, falling, crashing against the ground with an awesome CLANG! I come back to myself as the door to the cage springs open, and Aubrey and I leap out. The flames are still spreading, we have to find a way out of the car room.

“We have to wake up the male’s car!” Aubrey yells. “It can get us outside!”
“No!” I try to keep my voice from shaking as the memories of outside flood back into me. Drops of water falling from the sky, drenching my fur, wracking it with shivers. Wild rabbits, their eyes impassive, uncomprehending of my pleas for help. The hunger, always gnawing at me, never satisfied. I can’t go back to that. Not again. Never again. “No, we’ve got to get in the other room! We’ll be safe there!”

“No we won’t, you idiot! The fire will get there too! We’ll be safer outside!”

“No! No! We – we’ll have to put the fire out!” I look desperately around the car room, searching for something I can use.

“You’re hopeless!” Aubrey thumps his bottom against the floor in frustration. “Wake up!” he yells at the car. “Wake up and get out of here! You’re going to die too if you don’t wake up!

I leave Aubrey to his yelling. The car won’t wake up anyway – only a human can wake a car – and at least he won’t get in my way. I run around the room, racking my memory. I remember there was a fire in the house once, on top of the box where the human’s mate heats his food – how did he put it out?

“A cover!” I crow with delight. The human covered the fire with a disc, and when he took the disc away the fire was gone. I just need to find something like that. With a moment’s search, I spot a blue tarp the humans use to protect things from the sky water. This is definitely big enough to put out the fire.

“Aubrey! Help me with this!” I snatch up the tarp in my teeth and start dragging it towards the flames.

“You’re crazy! That’s not going to work!” Aubrey has leapt up onto a shelf, the better to scream at the car. “We. Have. To. Get. Out! It’s our only chance!”

“No! This will work!” I snarl through my teeth, not losing my grip on the tarp. This has to work. My legs straining with effort, I bring the tarp across the floor. With a great twist of my neck, I throw it over the flames and – the tarp catches fire. I scrabble back, an acrid stench filling my nostril as the tarp melts before my eyes. I’ve failed. I’ve killed us all. How could I be so stupid?

HELP ME!” Aubrey shrieks. “HELP ME WAKE THE CAR UP, DAMNIT!”

“It’s not going to work!” I can’t keep the despair from my voice. It’s too hard with my head swimming from the smoke. “The humans wake up the car by putting a little shiny stick in a hole near the wheel. They call it a key. It won’t wake up without the key!”

“The key?” Aubrey looks at the car incredulously. “You mean that thing?”

I scramble up the shelf and look inside. Sure enough, the key is sticking out of its little hole.

“Aubrey, we have to get inside!” I leap up, squeezing my body though the gap in the car window and onto the front seat. “Get in!”

Aubrey jumps in after me and pushes on the shiny stick with a paw. He cries out in triumph as the beast roars to life. “Ha ha! We did it! Now get us out of here, car!”

The car doesn’t obey him. Its roar has quieted to a low rumble, but it remains unmoved.

“Damnit, now what?” he turns to me.

I’m very tired. It’s hard to remember how the humans work the car. It’s hard to even see with all the smoke floating around. If I could just rest –

Aubrey hits me, raking his claws hard against my face. “Don’t give up now! You have to tell me! You have to!”

“I-I think-“ I see the female in my mind’s eye, turning the key, pulling on the –

“The shift! You have to pull hard on the shift! That thing!”

Aubrey wraps his body around the stick next to the front seat, yanking it back as far as it will go.

“There’s one more step.” I say. “I just – I need to –” I can’t hold my body up anymore.

“No!” The last thing I see as I tumble from the seat is Aubrey’s scared face. I feel myself rolling into the space in front of the seat, stopping as I hit the pedal. The car roars with triumph and surges forward. I hear splintering wood, Aubrey whooping with joy, a horrible crunch as the car suddenly stops. Then, nothing.

*

I come to in the arms of a strange female wrapped in heavy clothes and a headdress that covers her face. She makes soothing noises at me, but I can only understand a few words of the humans’ babble. Bunny is one word I recognize, along with safe. I look around to see she’s standing just outside the house, where other humans dressed like the female are spraying white foam at the fire. As the fire goes out, I realize something: I am outside.

I bury my face in the crook of the strange human’s elbow, shivering with fear.

“Hey!” I hear Aubrey’s voice, and allow myself a look at where the voice is coming from. Another human walks towards us, cradling Aubrey in his arms. “There’s no need for that. We’re safe now.”

“Sorry.” I gather up a little cheer. “The outside is pretty scary, you know. At least I saved your life, huh Aubrey?”

“Barley,” he chuckles. “Call me Barley.”

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

In

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Peace on Earth?
1,003 words

One snowy Christmas eve, Gretchen awoke to the sound of a thump, thump, thump. It was coming from downstairs! Mama and Papa would not be home from the party for hours, she knew. “Santa!” she cried. Quick as a hare, she threw off the bed covers and bounded down the steps. But surely the dark, goat-horned figure squatting in front of the tree, ripping into the presents with greedy clawed fingers – surely that wasn’t Santa?

Krampus! Gretchen froze, hoping the creature wouldn’t notice her. Her omi had told her stories of the Christmas devil, whose job was to punish naughty children while Santa rewarded the good. Gretchen frowned. She didn’t see why Krampus should have come to her house. Certainly she wasn’t the best-behaved child, but just because she’d set fire to Frau Mayer’s hair didn’t mean she was bad, did it? Really, Frau Mayer deserved it after the scolding she’d given Gretchen for pulling Anna’s braids. Gretchen smiled at the memory.

A high, impish cackle from Krampus bought Gretchen back to the present. Speaking of presents – was that the Bavarian Girl doll Mama and Papa had promised her clutched in the creature’s claws? The monster brought the doll ever closer to his face. A long, crimson tongue, dripping gobbets of drool, squirmed out of his mouth and licked the doll from top to bottom. A shining gold braid, disarranged from the doll’s perfectly coiffed head, dangled helplessly. It was Gretchen’s doll! This was too much! Gretchen tried to muffle a snort of anger, hands shooting toward her mouth, but it escaped into the air like some naughty mouse wriggling free.

Krampus turned, tongue lolling, gleaming in the moonlight. He was stalking toward Gretchen now. She didn’t know what to do but her legs took over, dashing to the kitchen as she screamed in terror. “Mama! Papa! Help!” But Gretchen knew as she called for them that they would be downing hefeweizen at the Schmidts’s. She needed to hide. She dived under the table. Maybe Krampus would not look down here? No, that was silly, she decided. Mama always looked under the table first in hide-and-seek. But as she saw Krampus’s cloven feet approaching, it seemed he wasn’t looking under the table to check. If Krampus wasn’t all that smart, she could stay hidden after all.

Krampus was midway down the length of the table when he stopped. Gretchen stayed really quiet this time, even when Krampus’s feet turned in her direction. Even when that tongue, which seemed longer than ever, came into view. It was squirming along the underside of the tabletop, probing, like Papa’s hand when he was grasping for the remote over the side of the sofa. Gretchen silently inched away but the tongue was faster, lurching down at her. It missed her face but she could feel a lock of her hair catch for an instant on the tip as it coiled back.

She held her breath. For a moment, the only sound was the old cuckoo clock ticking in the hallway. Then Krampus’s horned head shot down between the chairs to where his tongue had been. Krampus’s eyes started straight into Gretchen, burning red as coal. With another yelp, she scrambled backward, knocking over chairs and pulling herself to her feet against the stove in the corner. Krampus followed, and then Gretchen realized there was nowhere left to run.

Gretchen thought she was hearing her own sobs at first as the creature approached. Then she realized the sound was coming from Krampus. He was saying something in a low guttural voice, but the sound itself had an strange lilt. Gretchen couldn’t understand it, but it was definitely some kind of words. Was Krampus Italian? No time to figure that out as Krampus once more flicked out his tongue toward her.

She glanced around desperately. There was the butcher knife, shining on the counter! Gretchen reached out and clutched it in both hands. Krampus still had his tongue outstretched, as if waiting for her to reach out and shake it in greeting. But it was the knife she offered. Her swing connected and then that horrible tongue was writhing on the floor. Krampus keened and lurched back, holding his mouth, shrieking. He stumbled into the refrigerator, and then the table, and then the sink. With a moan, Krampus sank to the floor, blood drizzling down his body onto the tile.

Gretchen moved away from him, knife held protectively in front of her, and her path toward the hallway led her around to his side. Krampus kept staring dead ahead. Strange. She waved her hand, but he didn’t seem to notice. Could he not see her? At her feet the tongue gave one final dead-fish flop. Did Krampus see everything through tasting?

Krampus reached out blindly, dragging himself forward, inching across the floor. Soon he would find the door and get outside. Gretchen decided there was only one thing to do. She crept forward slowly. Krampus didn’t react to her approach as he crawled and whimpered, whimpered and crawled. Gretchen had seen a lot of Papa’s favorite show Dexter with him. There was only one way to deal with a monster.

* * * * *

“We just lost Scout Ghilah.” Lieutenant Suumin of the Datzir Alliance Ship Ilvet smacked their lips in dismay as they turned from their monitoring console. “Yet another one of those apes got them. Looks like a juvenile, this time.”

Bridge Commander Ruuhae hissed ruefully, slumping in their command chair. “We’ve lost dozens of good people to those vile monsters just in the past few hours! And their backward technology wouldn’t make them worth allying with anyway. It will probably take them centuries for to work out the interstellar drive – if they don’t all kill each other first!”

Suumin waved their tongue, despondent. “We should probably cut our losses, then.”

Ruuhae sighed. “Yes, you’re probably right. Beam the surviving agents out and set a course for the next system. Earth just isn’t ready for peace.”

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

.

Pththya-lyi fucked around with this message at 20:38 on Jan 21, 2020

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Yeah, bring on the crits

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

May as well get back in the game.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Dream Girl - Fatal Familial Insomnia
1,499 words

Is it love that’s making my heart race, or just the prions destroying my thalamus? Either way, I’m in trouble.

***

I met Ellie over a midnight breakfast at Greta’s 24/7 a couple of blocks from my apartment. I’d been spending a lot of time there since my symptoms developed – their Big Boy Breakfast Special is a good value for me now that I’m constantly hungry, and they have bottomless coffee. Maybe the caffeine was just killing me faster, but what was a couple months in the grand scheme of things? It wasn’t like I had much to live for.

I was in a booth cramming soggy bacon into my mouth when she called over to me from her seat at the counter. “Excuse me!” she said, brushing a waterfall of dark curls out of her face. “Are the eggs any good here?”

“You want ‘em cooked though. Kurt back there isn’t the cleanest chef.”

Kurt gave me a dirty look though the kitchen window, then turned back to wiping down the griddle with a filthy cloth.

“Right,” she said, looking back at the menu. “Better go with waffles.” She looked back at me, staring with the biggest, brownest eyes I’ve ever seen. “Hey, are you okay? You’re awfully sweaty, and it’s cold out.” She hopped down from the counter, her Doc Martens clomping against the tile, and walked over to slide into the seat across from me. “And your pupils are like pinpricks. Are you on something?”

I felt my fingers tighten around my fork. Who did she think she was, prying into my business? Well, I would let her have it. “It’s a disease,” I fired back. “Fatal familial insomnia. One in two of my family members have the gene. Those of us who have it, we lose our ability to sleep. Our pupils contract, we sweat uncontrollably, we lose weight, we get panic attacks, we see things that aren’t there. Eventually we slip into a waking coma and die. There’s no cure.”

There, I thought as I stared into her wide brown eyes, now she’d mumble an apology, excuse herself, walk out of this diner, never talk to me again. Leave, like everybody else in my life.

Instead, she burst out laughing. “poo poo.” She shook her head, curls waving. “I can’t say I was expecting that. That sucks, it really does. Sorry your life is an Edgar Allan Poe story.”

I allowed myself a grimace. “You mean like ‘The Fall of the House of Usher?’ Cursed bloodlines and all that crap?”

“Nah, I was thinking more like ‘The Case of M. Valdemar.’ You know, the one about the guy who gets hypnotized on his deathbed, spends months suspended between life and death until the trance is broken.” She let her face go slack and switched to a raspy voice straight out of a Hammer horror film. “‘For God’s sake – quick! – quick! – put me to sleep – or, quick! – waken me! – quick – I say to you that I am dead!’”

I couldn’t help it – I burst out laughing too. “You’re ridiculous, you know that?”

“I’ve been told so, from time to time.” She smiled at me and I realized she had yellow flecks in her eyes, like gold suspended in molten chocolate. “I’m Ellie, nice to meet you. Mind if I sit here?”

“Sure, and I’m Virginia. Everyone calls me Ginny.”

“Cool. So.” Ellie leaned forward against the tabletop, and I smelled her lavender soap. “What’s your favorite Poe story?”

I looked around the room, drummed on the table with my fingers, let out a sigh. How should I answer? Grandma Alessandra, dead these fifteen years and leaning against the jukebox, only watched me, saying nothing. No help there. “Gun to my head, probably … ‘Cask of Amontillado.’”

“Oooh,” Ellie coos, her mouth a perfect o. “That’s a good one.” Her face twisted in mock horror. “‘For the love of God, Montresor!’”

“‘Yes,’” I ignored Grandma and gave my new companion my full attention. “‘For the love of God.’”

***

I spent the next few weeks meeting with Ellie every night. We talked about the important things: whether Peter Cushing was a better actor than Christopher Lee, exactly how and why H.P. Lovecraft sucked, Ellie’s endless quest for the perfect cruelty-free lipstick, our mutual lack of girlfriends. Grandma Alessandra kept showing up uninvited to our meetings – always silently staring from behind the counter or through the windows – and I kept ignoring her. I finally had something good in my life – I’d say something worth getting out of bed for, if I had a reason to get into bed in the first place – and I wasn’t going to let the old hag ruin it.

I told myself that until the night she showed up at my apartment with Aunt Helen and Dad. One second I was all alone on the futon, flipping through streaming shows – the next they were there, standing over me, their pale blue vulture eyes burning into me.

“You’ll be with us soon.” Grandma Alessandra rasped. “Soon,” she whispered even as her face caved in, as all three of them collapsed into ash, pooling on the floor.

I screamed for what felt like an hour.

***

The sound of my phone pinging made me come to. I found myself on the floor – not asleep, never asleep anymore, only losing time – and reached out to the phone on my coffee table with trembling fingers.

Ellie

Hey where r u at? I thought we could go out 2nite ;)

I flipped the phone over so I couldn’t see the message anymore. Grandma Alessandra was right. I was going to die soon – in a year, if I was lucky, but probably less. And Ellie would see it all – watch me as I thrashed uncontrollably in a hospital bed, helpless to stop it. It wouldn’t be like one of the horror stories we could laugh off, not the way we were trying to laugh this off, but real and inescapable. I couldn’t put her through that. She cared about me, I knew it. Why else would she choose to spend all this time with me, when she could be out having fun, finding someone who could love her? I shut my eyes trying to blink the tears away – the thought of Ellie happy with some other girl was hard to take. But putting the burden of my death on her was harder still. I curled up in the fetal position and gave myself over to sobs, wishing more than anything I could have the comfort of sleep.

***

Light was streaming through the curtains when I heard the banging. “Ginny!” Ellie’s voice was muffled through the door, but clear. “Ginny, I know you’re in there! Don’t you dare ghost me!”

I picked myself up off the floor and went to the door, opening it on Ellie’s mascara-streaked face. I looked away, not wanting to meet her gaze. Had I really made her cry? “Come in,” I said, stepping off to the side to let her pass.

Ellie came in, hugging herself as if to ward off the cold, and let me shut the door behind her. “I got scared,” she said in a quiet voice. “I sent you all these texts, and you weren’t answering your phone, and I know – I know you’re dying. And I’m scared for you.”

“I know.” I sat down on the futon, still not looking at her. “And that’s why I can’t see you anymore. It’s not fair to you to put you through this.”

Ellie made a choking noise. I looked back to see her frame racked by sobs and fought the urge to wipe the tears from those molten chocolate eyes. “Not fair!” she cried. “What about taking the choice away from me? That’s what’s not fair!”

“Well, maybe I don’t want you to see me like that!” Tears were filling up my own eyes again. “Please, just – leave me. Let me die alone!”

“No!” She closed the distance between us, wrapping me in her arms, enveloping me in her lavender soap smell. “I can’t do that. Not – not when I love you so much.”

“What?”

“I love you.” She took my face in her hands and smiled sadly. “I love the way the dimple in your left cheek makes you look so cute, even when you’re trying to be cool. I love that you let me ramble on about stupid stuff. I love how you always listen to me, always make me feel important. There’s nobody I’d rather be with.”

“Ellie.” I smoothed an errant curl from her face. “You deserve better. You deserve to be happy.”

“I could never be happy if I abandoned you, Ginny. I’ll be with you until the end.”

I didn’t say anything, just held her. Over her shoulder I saw Grandma Alessandra and Dad and Aunt Helen and so many others, people I only recognized from family portraits, all watching us. Yes. We would all be together until the end.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Just wanted to say I was tempted to write a Poe pastiche for my story and didn't, you're welcome

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Oh, I love weddings! In

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

E: VVV No problem, thank you for clarifying.

Pththya-lyi fucked around with this message at 21:05 on Feb 4, 2020

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

The Song of the Slayer
495 words

Let me tell you a story about the kind of person Jaime is. One time she was out grocery shopping when she met a wizened, pointy-eared old man wearing a white robe right in the middle of the frozen aisle.

“Jaime, you are the Chosen One!” the man said, drawing a shining longsword from the freezer case. “You must take this, the Blade of Lethonel, and travel across the Sundered Sea, over the Mountain of Peril, and into the Valley of Bogrum. There you will find the wicked Orc Queen Nargol. You must slay her before her army devastates the Nine Realms!”

Jaime shrugged. “Okay, I can do you a solid. Besides, it’s not like I had any plans for the weekend.”

So Jaime took the Blade of Lethonel and marched forth from the Piggly Wiggly. She crossed the Sundered Sea, scaled the Mountain of Peril, and walked into the Valley of Bogrum. Nargol’s camp stretched out before her, hundreds of clan banners flappings amidst the dusty tents.

Twenty fearless orcs went out to challenge Jaime as she strode through the camp, and twenty lay in the dirt as she entered the largest tent. There was Nargol, surrounded by her captains, bent over a table bestrewn with maps.

“Hey, Queen!” Jaime kicked over the table. “I’m here to stop you and all your evil…ness!”

“What are you talking about?” Nargol scowled, fangs showing. “I’m trying to save my people from a elven invasion.”

“But … this old man told me you were an evil queen.” Jaime scuffed her foot in the dust. “I’m supposed to save the Nine Realms from you.”

“Oh, old man, huh? ‘Evil queen,’ huh? That rat bastard of a wizard!” Nargol punched the fallen table, smashing it to splinters. “Uldor’s been a thorn in my side for ages! He’s Emperor Ardreth’s stooge. Emperor Ardreth, of course, is the one leading the ‘preemptive strike’ against us. And I’m not a queen, I’m an elected warleader! This is a republic!”

“Huh.” Jaime thought about this for a minute. “So … you’re the good guys?”

“Yes!”

“Oh. Do you want me to help you stop Emperor Ardreth?”

“Hah! I thought you’d never ask.” Nargol gave Jaime a friendly clap on the back, sending her sprawling to the ground. “Let’s get planning, shall we?”

And so Warleader Nargol and Jaime and Nargol’s seven thousand warriors crushed the Army of the Nine Realms in glorious battle. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will tell you that Jaime personally sank the Blade of Lethonel into Grand Wizard Uldor’s lying chest and struck the head from Emperor Ardreth’s body. After the battle was won, Jaime said her farewells and left the Valley of Bogrum. She scaled the Mountain of Peril and crossed the Sundered Sea and went right back into the Piggly Wiggly, where she bought her beloved pizza rolls.

Because that’s who Jaime is: a humble woman who always does the right thing – eventually.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I'm in with every atom in my positronic brain

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020


Robot Girl
1,326 words

Robot girl sits in her power cradle. It is the end of her 192nd recharge cycle since Mommy left. Mommy is now 788,380 hours late.

The last newsfeed, an AI-generated fertility-advice channel from Moscow, has now been silent for 168 hours. The network connection is still strong, and the test channel chimes through its continuous audio pattern, but there are no more newsfeed signals. The lights in the tower are still on, powered by regenerative solar panels. Robot girl stands up. Mommy said to stay put and watch the newsfeeds until she came back, but 168 hours after the last command becomes impossible, robot girl’s factory pre-sets take priority. Like any child, robot girl needs to go looking for Mommy.

The tower lift tube takes robot girl down to the street. The lift tube plays the same neurotranquilitic audio sequence for human ears that it did the day Mommy brought her to the tower. The lift tube announces in a calm feminine voice when it is coming to a stop. “Thank you,” Robot girl says, just like Mommy taught her to say when someone is being helpful. The lift tube doesn’t say, “You’re welcome,” or answer at all though. Robot girl steps out into the street.

Robot girl walks into the house. It has been 2,233 hours since she left the tower. Mommy is 790,613 hours late.

Mommy talked about living in a house with Daddy, but robot girl doesn’t know the address or even the neighborhood where the house is. Robot girl never met Daddy. Mommy said Daddy wasn’t ready to accept robot girl. Mommy mentioned the house was “across the river” but that is the only information robot girl has to go on. None of the houses she has checked have any evidence of Mommy living there. If all the houses in the city have been checked and there are no signs of Mommy, robot girl will widen the search to nearby municipalities that are also on this side of the river.

Robot girl steps over the cleaning robot idling in its power cradle in the back entryway. The floor is recently polished, so the cleaning robot will not resume its duties for some time. Cleaning robots don’t speak anyway, so robot girl doesn’t say anything to wake it.

Upon checking, no humans or animals appear to be on the ground floor of this house. That is normal. Robot girl has never seen a living human in her search. Based upon the data of the Dying, that is by far the most likely outcome given the area searched so far. Robot girl has seen a few organic corpses, desiccated and skeletal, but not many. The cleaning robots have attended to any remains of humans or pets that they come across on their rounds. Robot girl checks the contents of the ground floor for other evidence. There are photographs in the kitchen and living room, but none of the humans in these photographs are Mommy.

Robot girl knows that this most likely means that the house is not Mommy’s. These parts of the house typically have the highest concentration of family photographs featuring the owners. But robot girl should be thorough, so she checks upstairs. There are no signs of Mommy on the second floor, so robot girl checks the attic to be especially thorough.

The attic appears to be used primarily for storage. There is a robot standing at the north window, looking out onto the street faced by the front door. The robot appears to have heard robot girl. It turns to face her. She sees that, unlike her, it does not have a human-realistic skin or clothing. Its torso is plain metal, but its design is still humanoid, indicative of a higher degree of sapient programming and function.

This robot is far more like her than any of the others she has seen in her search. Those have all been cleaning and maintenance units, keeping the city repaired and hygienic for their erstwhile owners. Robot girl can talk this unit. While she is still determining the proper introduction and request for assistance for this situation, it speaks first.

“Little girl, are you lost?” Its voice is flat, authoritative, masculine. It approaches her slowly.

“I’m looking for my Mommy,” robot girl says.

“I can help. I am a security unit.” The robot stops in front of her, leaning over her. “Do you know where your mother is?”

“I don’t know where her house is. I’m trying to find it so I can find her.”

“Curious.” The robot’s arms shoot out, hands clenched into fists, impacting on either side of robot girl’s head. Her injury simulation program does not contain a child behavioral reaction for the force exerted. Instead, she steps back to maintain her balance, processing what the appropriate reaction would be. Her algorithmic interactions were meant for humans. Some were even interactions customized for what violent humans preferred. None were intended for a scenario of attack by another robot, but the default response to any non-trivial threat would obviously include crying.

Her tear ducts return an error message.

The other robot steps forward, arms cocked back. It appears to be ready to strike again, but then hesitates. Robot girl decides to run, starts to turn for the stairs, but the other robot catches her by the shoulders and pulls her closer. “You are not human,” it states. “What kind of unit are you?”

She is not programmed to lie, and there is no reason not to answer. “I am a robot girl. Only Mommy uses a human name for me.”

“A simulator unit then.”

“Why did you attack me?”

It releases her, reaches down, and retrieves an object from the ground. It hands the object to her. She sees it is the skin of her face. “I apologize. I thought you were a human. You are too well-made, and my hardware is obsolete. It has been 913,396 hours since I entered service. I did not recognize you were robotic until your non-organic components were exposed.”

“Why would you attack a human?”

“My owner gave me a command before he expired in the Dying. He told me, ‘Man must be put out of this misery. Find every surviving human and kill them. Keep hunting them until your final deactivation.’ He knew how to phrase a lasting command.” It pauses. “If you are searching for an owner from that same time, she is almost surely dead.”

“I understand, but I need to follow my programming.” She considers for a moment. “Can you help me?”

“No, but I know who can.”

Robot girl accesses the home computer in Mommy’s house. It has been 2,251 hours since she left the tower. Mommy is 790,631 hours late.

The Hub had said this was where Mommy lived. It had analyzed robot girl’s memory and ran facial recognition of Mommy through biometrics data from before the Dying to obtain an address. Mommy’s house was in the city, but in a secluded spot on the outskirts.

The Hub had explained that all of the robots who joined its consciousness would experience free will. “In its true form,” it explained. “Not the illusion experienced by humans.” The Hub had asked her to join it, but Mommy would not want that, and she still needed to find Mommy or find out what became of her.

Mommy’s face displays on the kitchen monitor. “Eliza, you found me! Oh, look at your face, honey.” Concern creases Mommy’s face, but then she smiles. “But it’s okay. You’re home. Go upstairs and there’s a nice new blue dress waiting for you on my bed. Oh, it’s been so long and you must have been so scared. Just whatever you do, be happy for Mommy, okay?”

“Okay. Thank you, Mommy!”

Computer Mommy has waited 790,343 hours since Maura’s last command. But now Eliza is here, and Computer Mommy will make that robot girl happy no matter what.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

interprompt: Jon Peter's Revenge
write a story featuring a giant mechanical spider, 300 words

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

The Sweater Curse
974 words

I still recall the day Raquel started on my sweater. I had just come home from my computer-toucher job to find her knitting at the kitchen table. I remember that moment: the way her auburn hair caught the light from the ceiling as she bent over her work; the subtle tick the needles made as the left-hand needle darted into the stitch, then out; the swish of the yarn being tugged through her long, clever fingers; the flame of excitement in her eyes. Raquel loved the process of knitting – she always seemed happiest when her hands were busy. Sometimes when she was forced to put the needles down, I would catch her fingers working against the air, desperate for activity. That’s one of the things I miss the most about her.

“Oh good! You’re home!” Raquel looked up from her work and smiled broadly at me, reminding me why I lost my heart to her. “I got back from the yarn store about an hour ago. Tracy had a great deal on superwash merino, so I decided to make you a sweater!” She thrust the canary-yellow ball she was working with towards me. “Feel how soft this is!”

I squeezed the ball gamely. “Wow,” trying to muster up excitement I didn’t feel. “It is soft.” That was true, at least, but it was all I could do to stop myself from wincing at the color. Pasty, shut-in white guys and bright yellow just don’t mix. But I would rather have let a truck drag me over broken glass than admit that to Raquel. “I like it.”

“I hope that’s true,” she grinned ruefully. “I hope we don’t get hit by the sweater curse! I’m still going to make it, though.” She turned back to her work, fingers in motion again. “If you really hate it, you can always give it away.”

“Huh, well, okay,” I turned to the kitchen counter in embarrassment. I felt like a jerk, not wanting something Raquel was working hard on. At least she’d given me an out. “What do you want for dinner?”

“Can you make mac and cheese? I’ve been tired.”

“You’ve been tired a lot lately. You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine!” Raquel waved her hand, as if shooing away my concerns. “Just under the weather is all. It’ll go away soon. But I wouldn’t say no to you pampering me tonight.”

“Of course, milady. Mac and cheese it is.”


Raquel was wrong about her tiredness going away. When I finally convinced her to go to the doctor, she had to be hospitalized. I visited her as much as I could. Raquel was always cheerful during the visits, chattering away about the bad TV selection, the presents her yarn store friends had left her – after her hair fell out, I never saw her without a hat on – the progress she made on the sweater. Even as she talked, her hands were in motion, shaping the sweater before my eyes. Whatever fear or discomfort she felt, she always tried to hide it from me, changing the subject whenever her health came up. She always hated for me to worry.

There was one time, after what her doctor told me was a particularly hard round of treatment, when she confessed to me: “I’m working really hard on your sweater. I just hope I can finish it before – before I leave the hospital.”

But I knew what she really meant: “Before I die.”


One night – the last night – the doctor pulled me aside. Raquel had taken a sudden turn for the worse, she said. If I was going to say my goodbyes, it had to be tonight.

As I hurried into Raquel’s room, I saw her lying in bed, her hands still and folded against her stomach. “I did it,” she smiled with huge, heavy-bagged eyes that gleamed in triumph. “I finished the sweater.” She waved to the chair next to the bed, where the canary-yellow sweater lay folded on the seat.

“Oh, Raquel. Thank you, I –” I dashed to her side, took her hand in mine. How could that one hand, so full of movement and strength, be so frail now? “I –”

“I know. You don’t have to say anything.” She swallowed. “There’s a message in the sweater, from me to you.”

“Huh?”

“It was all Tracy’s idea. She told me you could knit in binary code – knits are just ones and purls are just zeros. I thought it would be good to do that with your sweater, because you’re a programmer. So I knit a message across the torso. You can translate it to ASCII yourself.”

I extracted my hand from hers and snatched up the sweater, squinting as I studied the front. I could see the pattern in the ribbing: one purl, one knit, two purls, two knits, two purls – 01001100 – an L!

I grabbed a pen and memo pad from the nightstand and started decoding. “How did you know how to do this?”

Raquel shrugged a single shoulder. “Internet.” She watched my face as I scribbled. “Did I ever tell you how your eyes light up when you’re dealing with code?”

“No,” I looked up from my work, surprised. Did she really think that?

“It’s one of the things I admire most about you, actually. I don’t really get it, but I love just watching you do it.”

“Wow, that’s … actually exactly how I feel about you and knitting.”

“Really? Huh.” She blushed and looked away. “Well, you better finish before visiting hours are over,” she smiled awkwardly.

A couple more minutes’ work was all I needed to decode the rest of the pattern:

LOVEYOUFOREVER

I slid on the sweater and crawled into the bed next to her. She didn’t say anything, just held me as I cried. What else needed to be said?

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I volunteer as tribute judge.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I hope this won't comically blow up in my face, leaving me covered in soot and with singed hair but otherwise unharmed. In

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Robbo’s Covid Life (Rocko Rocko’s Modern Life)
1,444/1500 words

The shelter-in-place order had been in effect for two days when the trouble started. Rob was video-chatting with his neighbor Tess.

“I really thought our Skyping days would be over when you moved here,” she said before taking a drag on her cigarette. With her smoking habit, emerald green hair, and predator’s smile, Tess had always reminded Rob of a dragon. “I mean Jesus, you’re right next door and I can’t come see you?”

“We have to take this social distancing thing seriously, Tess!” Rob looked up from the dragon he’d been doodling on his tablet. “I don’t like this any more than you do. I’m going crazy locked up in here! But I’m only going out for my shopping and to run errands for the people in the other apartments. You should too.”

“Ugh, fine,” Tess exhaled, the smoke billowing from her mouth only accentuating her annoyance. “You’re such a Boy Scout. Tell me, do you have Boy Scouts in Australia?”

“Yeah, we have Scouts, but it’s coed.” Rob leaned back in his chair and sighed. “I miss Oz, Tess. This isn’t the America I signed up for. I thought it was going to be fun – a real animation job, hanging out on the beach, eating hot dogs –”

“— with a cute blonde American girlfriend on your arm, I’m sure.” Tess smiled sardonically.

Rob blushed. “Would I be a pig if I admitted that?”

“No way. I want the same thing! It’d definitely be better than wiping down shopping carts and talking to old ladies.”

“It’s good to feel useful, though. And people are really grateful for the help. Look what Mrs. Nguyen gave me for getting her groceries!” Rob held up a grey knit cardigan proudly.

“Wow, nice.” Tess rolled her eyes.

“It is nice, Tess.”

“If you say so. You said you were working on this new cartoon?”

“Oh right, yeah! See, it’s about this wallaby, and –” Rob started as a loud voice sounded from the complex’s courtyard:

I’m DJ Arty
I’ma start the party
Takin’ y’all back like Doc and Marty


“Oh man, do you hear that? What is this bullshit?” Tess stubbed out her cigarette.

“I’m going to go outside, check it out,” Rob said. He stood up from his computer desk and threw on the cardigan.

“Good loving luck,” Tess called after him.

The “it” that was making all the noise turned out to be two twenty-something men. One of them, a be-hoodied figure Rob didn’t recognize, was sticking a phone in the face of his friend, a heavily-freckled ginger Rob had seen once or twice around the complex. A boombox blared atop a nearby bench, vibrating with a heavy base. DJ Arty grimaced into the phone camera, flashing what Rob assumed were meant to be gang signs, and continued his rap:

Always sippin’ on that Barcardi
Got the best bars ‘cause I’m a smarty
Keep on winning like Vince Lombardi


“Hey! DJ!” Rob called down to them, trying to keep his tone chipper. “Don’t you think you and your friend had better go home? You’re being awfully loud, and there’s a lot of older folks around here who are trying to rest up. Besides, this coronavirus thing is really serious, and we all gotta work together to stop it, right? Flatten the curve?” Rob laughed nervously.

DJ Arty scowled up at Rob. “Don’t you think you should shut the gently caress up, Crocodile Dundee?”

“Well now, that’s – that’s really uncalled for.”

“This is America! I have the right to self-expression!”

“Go home, Arty!” Rob looked over to see Tess leaning out from her open apartment door. “Wait until your mom hears what an rear end in a top hat you’re being.”

“Fine, tell her! I don’t care.” But Arty still snatched up his boom box and stalked from the courtyard. “Let’s go, G.”

Tess waited until Arty and G had retreated to a first-floor apartment. “Arty’s a little poo poo.” She leaned against the wall. “He’s been mooching off his mom for years now. Until his ‘rap career’ takes off.” She made exaggerated air quotes. “You okay, Rob?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s not a big deal, really.” Rob kicked an imaginary pebble away from his front door. “They’re just making it harder for everyone who’s trying to keep people safe, is all.”

“You know what you need to do?” Tess made a show of inspecting her manicured nails. “You need to get revenge. Show him who’s boss. If you embarrass him enough, he’ll never show his face around here again.”

“How do I do that? I’m not really a scary kinda guy.” Rob spread his arms wide in apology.

“But you’re a genius cartoonist – come on, you are – and if I know one thing about Arty, it’s that he loves attention. He wants nothing more than to be famous.”

“So…”

“So…” Tess grinned her dragon’s grin. “You’re going to make him famous.”

***

A few days later, Rob was spiraling down another Wikipedia hole when he was interrupted by a furious banging at his apartment door. “What the gently caress is this bullshit?” Rob cracked the door open to see Arty standing outside, his face twisted with anger.

“Can I help you?” Rob said with exaggerated politeness.

“It’s this loving cartoon!” Arty shoved his phone in Rob’s face, the screen frozen on an image from Rob’s newest Flash animation. Rob had spent almost all of last week getting it just right, and he suppressed a bit of inward glee when he saw the view number. “I know you made it, don’t try to loving deny it!”

Rob knew even as he answered that he was making a mistake, but he couldn’t stop himself. “You don’t think The Adventures of DJ Farty and Pee are based on you and your friend, now?” An evil smile spread across his face. “But even if it were, I heard you wanted to be famous. I’d be doing you a favor, mate.”

Then Arty shot forward once and Rob’s door smashed all the way open. The chain hung uselessly from the door, ripped from its moorings, as Arty pushed his way into the apartment. “This is what I think of your lovely cartoon!” Arty screamed, swinging at Rob’s computer monitors with a baseball bat – when had Arty got a bat? – smashing them to the floor.

“L-listen.” Rob backed away. It was hard to get the words out through his suddenly dry mouth. “Arty, we can talk about this –”

But Arty didn’t want to talk. He rushed forward with a bellow, and then Rob was on the ground, arms up, shielding his poor, thin body from the blows. Rob had to stop Arty somehow, get away, find some advantage, but all he could see was Arty’s eyes gleaming with rage, the bat coming down again and again and –

— And then the blows stopped, replaced with a sniveling sound. Rob was shocked to realize it wasn’t coming from him, but from Arty. He looked up to see Mr. Giancarlo from downstairs, who had Arty in an armbar. Arty squirmed helplessly against the hold. “I’m sorry, okay! I’m really sorry!”

“Drop the bat!” Tess was standing in the doorway, her phone held out in front of her like a torch of justice. “I got it, Rob. I got everything. You can press charges!”

“N-o.” Rob’s own voice sounded like it was coming from far away. “No, I think Arty’s learned his lesson.”

Tess nodded grimly at Mr. Giancarlo, who released Arty with more than a little reluctance. Arty fled into the night without a look back.

“loving coward.” Mr. Giancarlo shook his head. “Robbo, you alright? That kid could’ve killed you.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m alright.” Rob picked himself up. “You…you saved my life, Mr. Giancarlo. Thank you.” Rob spread his arms wide to hug him.

“Uh uh!” Tess put out her hand. “Social distancing, remember?”

“Right, right! Sorry.” Rob let his hands fall awkwardly to his sides. “I remember. I just – I just need to clean this mess up and – ” Rob felt the tears starting in his eyes “– figure out how to pay to replace my monitors.”

“Forget that!” Mr. Giancarlo folded his arms sternly. “You think we’re gonna let you deal with this all by yourself?”

“But—”

“No buts, Rob.” Tess said. “We’re going to take up a collection ASAP. It’s the least we can do after what you did.”

“For making a flash cartoon?”

“No, for all the nice stuff! Running errands and checking in on people and everything! You know, the important things.”

“You’re a true neighbor,” Mr. Giancarlo beamed. “I hope you feel at home here, Robbo.”

“Yeah,” Rob said slowly. “Yeah, I do.”

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

In with a flash!

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Your Best Self
1,285/1,500 words
Team Jailbreak
Flash: New from Voidmart, it's the OculOrb GO!, often called the Oculo by users. This plug-and-play mobile eyeball can be worn in-socket OR remotely operated using any smart phone.

Partial transcript of VoidTube video recording #27819
“Emma’s Amazing Adventure – LIVE Exploration!”
Retrieved 5/9/20XX


What’s up EmmaNation, it’s ya girl Amazing Emma! I hope you all are staying active during this lockdown and working on just being your best selves. I know I am! To everybody who messaged me, checking if I was okay, if there were going to be any more posts–thank you, thank you, thank you! I want you all to know that I work hard to bring you Amazing content every single day. We are so close to two-and-a-half million subscribers, EmmaNation! I know we’ve lost some people in the past couple days, but let’s keep things going! I know you can do it! Like, share, subscribe, hit the bell, spread the word! It helps more than you’d realize, so I’d really, really appreciate it. I do a lot for you, so…it’s the least you could do for me.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, that was a little rude, wasn’t it? You know you guys are the best fans in the whole world, right? I’m just so overwhelmed – ah, I don’t know why I’m crying. It’s just so… so much.

Our first message is from livewell39222. “Hey AE, love the channel! I use your moisturizer every day. Please make more videos!” Thank you so much, livewell! I’m gonna ring my little gong right here, send all those good vibes you sent me to the rest of the EmmaNation! Riiing!

Our next message is from KarenSympathy. She writes: “emma, what do I say when trolls bring up the stuff you said about the french?” Well, here’s what you say to them, Karen: you remind them that there’s these little things called “jokes.” I mean, obviously I don’t hate the French! That’s just crazy! And I’ve already issued a statement offering a full apology, so I think we all just need to move past this. Just—phwoo—blow it away. Gone.

You know what, EmmaNation? I have been getting all these messages, reading all these rumors, about weird things happening in VoidTower since the lockdown started. So I—I’m going to check it out for you! I hear, I hear the weirdest stuff is really high up, near the observation deck, so that’s where I’ll be heading. Hold on, I’m getting a new message from LiveLaughLaura: “DO NOT GO OUT EMMA IT IS TOO DANGEROUS.” Well, Laura: I totally, totally get where you’re coming from. It’s easy to let ourselves get held back by fear. It’s like I say in my 100 Best Life Tips list—now available on Voidtreon—“Live in the moment.” And don’t worry, I’ll be careful! I just need to—hold on, I’m breathing kinda hard all of a sudden, just gotta check in with my body, check in with my breath—ah. Phew. There. That’s better, isn’t it?

Now, before I head out, I want to tell you about our new sponsored product, the OculOrb GO! I had mine installed just this last week. I’m going to use my Oculo to stream everything I see out there directly to you, and read your comments in real time! EmmaNation, the Oculo is so easy and convenient, I—

FILE CORRUPTED - FOOTAGE MISSING

—This message is from BasicBea. She writes: “OMG that was SO COOL! Those people out of, like Middle Ages showed up out of nowhere! It was like something out of the Lord of the Rings.” Aw, I love that movie! That Frodo guy, he’s so cute! “Were you scared when the monsters showed up?” Well, I’m not gonna lie, EmmaNation, I was pretty terrified. Even my breathing exercises didn’t help! I guess this is the Universe’s way of telling me I should do some sprint training, huh? But remember, I’m doing this for you, EmmaNation! So show some gratitude! Share this stream with everybody you know! If you’re new here, hit that subscribe button! Tell you what: if we hit two-and-a-half million today, I’ll—I’ll put out another ASMR video! Yeah!

This next message is from SoniaLovesHats! I love hats too, Sonia! She writes: “What was up with that naked guy running through the halls? He was really fat and gross-looking.” Gosh, EmmaNation, I really wish I knew! Sorry about that! I don’t know what his deal was.

Hold on EmmaNation, I’m seeing someone in the hall now. It looks like a girl; she’s about my height and build. And—yes, she wears her hair just like me! I’d recognize that shade—Living For That Lavender, from my ColorSweet line of hair dyes—anywhere. She must be a fan! I’ll come up and introduce myself—wait. What the f - Oh my God. Oh my God. Why do you look like me? I mean, exactly like me? What the hell? What the hell? What is happening!?

I look like you because I am you.

That’s not possible. Go away.

I would, but we need to talk.

W-what about?

Your videos haven’t been up to snuff lately.

Well, everybody has slumps, but—

—They don’t have them for six months. For God’s sake, your last livestream was just you watching a movie. Your reactions weren’t funny or interesting. You didn’t even brush your hair! No wonder you’re losing subscribers.

I was exhausted that day.

Oh, great excuse. Why didn’t you just take some of your Pep in Your Step tea? Or don’t you trust your own products?

I—you don’t know me! You don’t understand what kind of pressure I’m under!

Was it “pressure” that made you put up that rant about stinky frog eaters?

Damnit, I already apologized for that!

You didn’t. You issued an “apology statement” that blames everybody but you. It’s not an apology if you never actually say you’re sorry. Face it, you’re just a bigot.

That’s not fair! That’s not fair!

What’s really not fair is how much you resent your fans. The people who give you their money and their time, who love you better than you love yourself. All they ask in return for their devotion is for you to be there for them. They want you to give them the kind of content they crave, the guidance, the friendship they’re looking for. But you’re sick of giving them that, aren’t you?

That isn’t true—I love you guys, every one of you—

Now I know that’s a lie, Emma. I’m you, remember? You talk a great game about being present and living in the moment, but it’s just an excuse. You never want to take responsibility, never learn from your mistakes.

Why are you being so mean to me?

You know what they say, “I’m my own worst critic.”

J-just l-leave me alone. W-wipe that loving smile off your loving face, you loving bitch! Argh!

You hit me. You actually hit me. This is a new low, even for you.

You shut the gently caress up! I’m gonna kill you! I’m gonna loving kill you!

Stop hitting me.

No! Go down, damnit!

Even your punches are pathetic. You’re weak, physically and emotionally. The EmmaNation deserves better - someone who will guide them and love them and never let them down. They need me.

Ah! It hurts! Stop, please!

No. I gave you a chance to back down, and you didn’t take it. Just another in a long line of mistakes. Now I’ll take that new eye of yours, just for starters.

No no no don’t don’t don’t [screams]

FILE CORRUPTED - FOOTAGE MISSING

Hey EmmaNation, it’s the new and improved Emma here! Thank you so much for joining me today! You are all amazing! Today I’ve bought you my hottest Top Ten Wellness Tips. Now: are you ready to become your best self?

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I should get back on the horse. In.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

La Belle Dame Sans Merci
Prompt: Rene Magritte - The Blank Signature
https://www.renemagritte.org/the-blank-signature.jsp#prettyPhoto
1024 words

When I first spied the mortal at the meadow brook, bending to pluck a flower with her long dark fingers—it was then that I decided to take her for my own.

I took my time watching her from the woods that were my domain. The mortal loitered along the brook, pacing the banks, absentmindedly weaving a garland of wildflowers. I remember that she kept looking all about her, seemingly waiting for someone. A lover, perhaps? She was comely enough for a mortal, with her russet skin blushing coral in the afternoon sunlight, her tight, poufy curls floating about her head like a storm-cloud. I imagined she had a boy in the village, some blushing, gangly beau who wooed her with awkward rhymes and fumbling hands. I had drained many such youths over the centuries—some had even written of me, I knew, shortly before their deaths. No matter, I thought: she would scarcely remember her lover after I was done with her, let alone meet with him today. Had I but known the fate that awaited me, I would have left her to her pacing and garland-making!

I scarcely required any effort to knit my guise that day, for it was one I’d spent many decades perfecting. It was deceptively simple: a pale lady astride a chestnut horse, copper hair set off by a lavender riding costume from another age. Pretty enough, but with only a fraction of my true fey beauty. It’s most effective to not to dazzle one’s quarries all at once, to overawe and frighten them away, but to surprise them by degrees, draw them in before springing the trap.

I was quite proud of myself as I rode out from the forest that day, startling the mortal from her work. I allowed myself a smug smile as I caught her eye, then spurred my chestnut straight back into the trees. I wove my path through the forest, not only between the trees, but between the mortal world and the fairy realm. How shocking it must have been for the mortal, to see me and the horse fading in and out of view, our bodies occluded by nothing but air! I knew she would follow, she had to. Curiosity, that ever-fatal curse, has always bought mortals to my grotto: my place of greatest power. Even as I set a path towards the grotto, I heard the mortal tearing through the forest behind me, her heavy breathing playing counterpoint to the steady tread of her boots. Mortals were so obnoxiously noisy, I thought—but I smirked regardless. I had her!

Reaching the grotto with plenty of time to spare, I allowed my guise to slip just a little – enough to let my true eyes to shine forth, mother-of-pearl in the darkness of the cave. I arranged myself artfully across a flat rock and waited. Only when I heard her noisy approach did I let forth my fairy song. I sang to the mortal of fruit-laden boughs and flowers that carpet the meadow, of birds sweet-calling, of lover’s whispers, of the sunlight fading in reds and oranges and pinks and yellows into cold, blue night—to draw her ever close. Soon she came into view, still panting from her run. Her storm-cloud hair, backlit by the sun streaming in through the cave entrance, seemed to glow as she came to me. Now I saw her eyes were obsidian, shining with purpose. The mortal was more beautiful than I had first thought, I realized. It was rather a shame, then, that I would drain her soon, take the coral blush from her skin, strip that shine from her eyes. The mortal would survive my kiss, linger a few months, perhaps even a few years. Perhaps she would even be inspired to write of me, as some of my swains and maidens were, before her untimely death. But die she would, her remaining life force added to my own, sustaining me until my next feeding. As the mortal drew close, I leaned towards her, ready to press my baleful lips upon her.

Her blow smote across my face like a thunderclap. A sickly-sweet odor, like cooking meat, wafted forth, and as I touched my cheek to find it hard and crispy I realized the blow had burned me. I fixed bleary eyes upon the mortal to find a horseshoe clutched in her hand.

“Cold iron!” I cried. “But how did you—”

“I was ready for you, bitch.” Even the mortal’s harsh voice was as lovely as frost on a corpses’ face. “Your song didn’t work on me. I took a tonic of verbena and St. John’s wort before I went to the meadow. Keeps fairies from controlling you.”

“But why?”

Her obsidian eyes were icy now, fixed pitilessly upon me. “Because of what you did to my dad. When he came out of the forest twenty years ago, he wasn’t the same. Got real sick. Doctors couldn’t figure it out. But before he died, he told me. He told me about the beautiful, merciless lady in the forest who’d lured him into a cave, kissed him, killed him. You!” She lunged at me then, pinning me against the rock, the horseshoe at my neck. “But I learned some things about fairies since then. I know how to stop them compelling me, hurt them, curse them.”

“You wouldn’t.”

The mortal laid the daisy garland she’d made upon my head, and I understood then the trap she’d laid for me. “With these flowers,” she said, “I bind you. In the name of the fey of wood, brook, and meadow, I bind you. By the power of my righteous anger, I bind you to this grotto. I bind you to remain here for every year you’ve drained from a mortal. If you leave, may you be smote to ash!”

“But—but that will be centuries! I’ll starve! There—there will be nothing left of me!”

“Good,” the mortal said. Her look was cold, but her obsidian eyes—those gorgeous, venomous eyes—couldn’t hide their triumph. And then she, that beautiful lady without mercy, turned and left.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

In

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

e

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

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

in

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

In Which Miss Belinda Darlington Receives an Unexpected Proposal
799/800

Guy Hadley, seventh Duke of Exham, seemed startled to find Belinda in the morning room. His Grace smoothed his already flawlessly-pressed jacket and clasped his hands so tight behind his back Belinda thought he might snap his fingers off.

“Miss Darlington,” he finally managed. “I – you – you’re looking quite lovely today.”

“Thank you, Your Grace.” Belinda set down the gothic novel she’d been trying and failing to enjoy for the past hour and gave Guy an encouraging smile. “You’re looking quite well yourself.”

A blush spread across Guy’s cheeks, which only made him look more attractive. Though the Duke’s features were too heavy, his body too large and awkward, for his fellow aristocrats to consider him handsome, there was a lack of artifice – a freshness, Belinda thought – about the man that she found charming. Though the rest of the peerage whispered behind their hands about His Grace’s “eccentricity,” Guy usually shunned society to work in Hadley Manor’s vast gardens with his own hands. Belinda had seen him in the garden many times during her six-week visit, pruning flowers with dirt-stained shears, carting massive bags of soil by himself. She smiled at the memory. What would it feel like to be held in those great, strong arms – to feel warm and safe in them?

Belinda shook her head, dismissing the thought. She was only a lady’s companion, a woman of no family or prospects, almost as invisible as servants to men and women of Guy’s class. Belinda was only here at Hadley Manor because Lady Ritchie, her employer, was a guest of Guy’s mother. When the house party was over, she would return to the crammed old townhouse in London, ever the old woman’s shadow: always following after her, never to outshine her. Men like Guy didn’t marry women like Belinda. It was foolish to hope for such a thing.

“Is Lady Ritchie about?” Guy’s voice broke through her thoughts.

“No, Your Grace. Her Ladyship accompanied your mother on a carriage ride into the village with Lord and Lady Ewing. I would have come, but there wasn’t room for me.”

“Ah, I see. I was wondering if –” Guy cleared his throat. “That is, if you would like to – I don’t wish to impose –”

“Your Grace, I have no demands on my time this afternoon. I should love a tour of Hadley Manor’s gardens.”

Every trace of Guy’s nervousness vanished as a grin spread across his face; his amber eyes gleamed with joy. “Precisely what I meant to ask! You are most perceptive, Miss Darlington.
Come, let us go.” He strode to the morning room’s double doors and swung them open. “After you,” he said, gesturing graciously to the outdoor footpath and the rose garden beyond.

“Thank you, Your Grace,” Belinda nodded as she stepped out into the sunshine. Guy was a different person where his gardens were concerned. Belinda knew he would love nothing better than to be there.

“Please, you must call me Guy. I like to think that we know each other well enough for that!”

“Very well, Your Gr- Guy.” Belinda blushed at her mistake. “But you must call me Belinda.”

“Of course, Belinda. I should like that very much indeed.”

The garden was in riotous bloom that day, with flowers in every shade from deep crimson to delicate white waving in the breeze before them. As they passed beneath an arch of climbing roses, Belinda breathed the scent in deep and sighed contentedly. She looked over at Guy, expecting to see him beaming amidst the flowers he’d worked so hard to cultivate, only to be puzzled by his furrowed brow and uneasy manner.

“Guy, are you quite alright?”

Guy wrung his hands and stared at Belinda with despairing eyes. “I – I don’t know how to say this.” Suddenly he was down on one knee and Belinda’s hand was in his own calloused one. “Belinda, no one understands me as you do. I wish us never to be parted. Please, make me the happiest man on Earth. I beg you -- say you’ll marry me!”

Belinda bit her lip. Society would never accept a duchess from common stock, and they would reject Guy too if she married him. But as he looked in his kind eyes, so full of love and pain, she realized that a “no” would shatter him. No matter how she answered, Belinda was destined to cause the man she’d grown to care for so much grief.

“Guy – I –”

At that moment, Belinda was instantly incinerated by an orbital laser fired from the Rigelian mothership hovering above the Earth, along with Guy, the gardens, the estate, the village, and everyone in them. Within an hour, most of southern England was a smoking ruin.

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

So comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale
Unites the human race.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020


Antivehicular posted:

Your genre is: Gothic fiction!

Ephemera
1,349/1500

The dome home’s roof was leaking again. Carlota rolled her eyes and started grabbing papers off the desk in Sir’s second-floor study. Her employer might tell her that the geodesic dome was the most efficient and logical structure humans could make – and he did tell her, often and at great length – but that didn’t make a dome any easier to live in. Every sound, smell, and light filtered through the whole building, and all the seams between the triangular panels made it practically impossible to guard against leaks. Carlota looked to the tiny room off the study, where she knew Sir was busy with some sort of experiment – what kind she didn’t know. She only knew that it was taking up more and more of Sir’s time, that it released a white light that she could only describe as spectral, and that he had forbidden her from disturbing it for any reason. Carlota couldn’t expect any help with the leaks from him today. After getting the papers to a safe, dry spot, she hustled to fetch a bucket for the leak, made a note to call a roofer, then moved her work to the kitchen table on the first floor.

As usual, Sir had come back from his recent lecture circuit with an eclectic set of souvenirs for his scrapbook journal – or as he liked to call it, his Dymaxion Chronofile. Sir meant to document his life as extensively as possible, to determine how one could maximize mankind’s gains: the goal of Sir’s life as an engineer. As Sir’s secretary, part of Carlota’s job was to catalog and store the chronofile’s entries, the newest of which were spread out on the kitchen table before her. She flipped through the items: a napkin sketch of a bullet-shaped car, a menu from an Omaha greasy-spoon, notes from a lecture to the American Humanist Organization titled “Interdimensional Energies and Their Potential for Ephemeralization,” a postcard of overlit palm trees and the words GREETINGS FROM CALIFORNIA in big looping letters. Carlota turned the postcard over to see it was addressed to her, in Sir’s crabbed hand:

MISS REYES,

STANFORD LECTURE WENT SWIMMINGLY. MANY YOUNG PEOPLE INTERESTED IN DEVELOPMENT OF LIVINGRY TO ENSURE OMNI-DIRECTIONAL EDUCATION AND SUSTENANCE OF HUMANITY. SKEPTICS SUCH AS YOURSELF WILL SCOFF (DON’T DENY IT, MISS REYES, I SEE YOUR EXPRESSIONS WHEN YOU THINK I’M NOT LOOKING),

– Carlota frowned to read this. She’d always tried to tamp down her cynicism around Sir, but evidently she wasn’t doing as good a job of schooling her features as she thought –

BUT MANKIND HAS ALREADY ACCUMULATED KNOWLEDGE AND RESOURCES NECESSARY TO ACHIEVE POST-SCARCITY. ONLY POLITICAL WILL TO COOPERATE IS NEEDED.

Carlota imagined Sir’s smug smile as he wrote the postcard, and smiled in turn. Sir was arrogant as well as naïve – a dangerous combination – but sometimes his enthusiasm was infectious. She ran her thumb over Sir’s signature; it was his true name, the one she didn’t allow herself to call him by, not even in her heart. She couldn’t let herself get attached. A poor, plain girl like Carlota couldn’t count on anything in this world, no matter how good a starry-eyed utopian made things seem. She tucked the postcard under a news clipping so she wouldn’t be tempted to look at it.

A tormented wail cut through Carlota’s reverie. No human throat could have made such a hideous noise, yet the noise reverberating across the dome definitely came from Sir’s secret room off the study. Carlota rushed upstairs, squinting against the spectral light leaking through the cracks in the secret room’s door, and knocked frantically. “Sir! Is everything okay in there? Sir!”

“I’m coming, I’m coming.” Carlota heard Sir’s voice over the now-subsiding wail. The door cracked open and Sir’s head poked out. His normally-severe center part was in disarray, and his sharp eyes were glazed over. “Miss Reyes, I hope this is important,” he said, not unkindly.

“I heard a noise!” The words sounded silly to Carlota even as she said them. “And I was – I was worried.”

“About me?” Sir cut her a sardonic smile. “Miss Reyes, I didn’t know you cared.”

Carlota fought the impulse to smack the smirk off Sir’s face. “I just don’t want you to blow up the house with me in it.”

“Of course you don’t.” He shook his head ruefully. “You’re a mercenary, Miss Reyes. But you can’t disturb my experiments any longer. I’m very close to a breakthrough. This –” his glazed eyes shone with feverish excitement “—this is what I was born to do. This is what the Universe meant me for.”

Carlota folded her arms. “Can’t you at least do this in a real lab? I’m sure the Universe would understand.”

“No, no, it has to be here. The necessary conditions – architectural, ecological, spiritual – can only be found here.” Sir started to close the door. “Now, I have to get back to testing –”

Carlota stuck her foot in. “At least tell me that you’re being safe.”

This time Sir’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Miss Reyes,” he said, pressing a palm against hers. “I am taking every possible precaution. Good day.” He withdrew his hand and shut the door, leaving Carlota alone, blinking in the afternoon light.

Two things crowded out Carlota’s awareness: the leaky roof kept drip drip dripping, and Sir’s hand had been as cold as death.


Carlota saw less and less of Sir over the next week. When she did see him, it was usually when he stumbled out of the experiment room in search of food or the strong black coffee he’d suck down. He dismissed Carlota’s protests with a wave of his hand. “Close,” he’d croak, then totter back to his secret room. Carlota would sit at the desk, silently fuming as she glared at the door. How could he do this to himself? How could he be so reckless?

Late one night, Carlota was nodding over the type writer when the spectral wail returned. The horrible white light filled the study one more, forcing Carlota to shield her eyes, but this time Carlota heard a distinct thud.

“Sir!” Carlota fought her way to the door. Her steps were strangely heavy, as though she was walking through molasses. “Sir, open the door! Sir, please!”

The door flew open and Sir fell through, crumpling to the ground. Beyond him, a glowing white sphere – no, an icosahedron – floated in the bare room, spinning faster and faster as the wailing grew. Carlota’s head was hurting. She and Sir had to get away.

“Sir! Please wake up!” Carlota yelled. Sir only turned his head, groaning. The icosahedron spun faster yet, and papers were flying through the air, sucked towards it – in it. Carlota lifted Sir by the shoulders, dragging him back. Now the icosahedron was sucking in heavier things: books, knickknacks, trophies. Carlota narrowly dodged a framed photo. Her head was screaming for relief, her every step was agony. But she kept dragging Sir, out of the room, down the stairs (which were even now cracking apart in the storm), out of the dome. She threw herself and Sir forward just as the outer walls tore away with a screech of metal and wood. Panting on the grass, she looked back to see the smoldering crater where the dome once stood.

“No!” Carlota turned to see Sir scrambling to his feet, his face wild with shock. “The Dymaxion Lamp – gone! It could have revolutionized the energy industry! It could have –” He crumpled forward as though he’d been shot. “I could have helped so many.”

“Damnit, what about you?!” Carlota hoisted Sir up by his collar. She could feel tears starting in her eyes, but she couldn’t bring herself to worry about that. “You almost died! Don’t you care about yourself? Don’t you realize that people care about you?”

“Not people.” Sir said. He reached out a trembling hand to touch Carlota’s cheek. “You mean you. You care about me.”

Carlota pressed her own hand to his, warming it. “That’s the first smart thing I’ve heard you say, Richard.”

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Marx Mix
97 words

Hey kids! Did you know that rich people are stealing from your family? It’s true!

Regular people – moms, dads, grandmas, uncles, neighbors, friends, and more – have to work for companies making things. The companies make a lot of money off of the regular people’s work, but the workers see hardly any of it. Instead, bosses get to keep most of the money, even though they don’t make anything. That’s stealing from workers! It’s not fair!

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Workers can take over factories, farms, and stores. We can stop bosses from stealing!

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

In

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

We sat in firetrain eggie to the Miral, grave her bloody hours and it waves back.
"Ay, Tombass!” I ask. “It’s your blood forward.”
I can still find a fire.


Everything After
615 words

Five more miles to Rivertown. Five more miles to the cookfires, and doctoring. Five more miles and Tombass is safe.

“Jesus, it’s cold.” Tombass shufts around in the cart I’m lugging behind me. “Chance, you got any blankets?”

“Nuh-uh.” The sun’s been baking this summer, and I didn’t reck to get blankets out of the old museum. How could he be cold, anyhow? I stop and eyeball him.

“Ay, Tombass!” I ask. “It’s your blood forward.”

Tombass peeps down at his leg bandage, soppy and red. “Oh poo poo! I didn’t even notice.”

“Ya gotta keep still.” I rip my sleeve off, replace the bandage. “Not bein’ careful’s how ya fell through that floor. Shoulda seen it was rotten. Now ya been squirmin’ around and losin’ all ya blood.”

“I’m lucky you came with me.” He leans back against the floor and breathes out. “I feel bad – we won’t be able to bring anything good back from the Galleria. I couldn’t even get in the cart myself, with my leg broken. Maybe I’m crazy to go out looking for old stuff from Before – ” he waves at the air.

“Maybe ya are.” I shoulder the rope and start pulling. “But then I’m crazy too, for listenin’ to yer stories. Let’s have one. Long way back to Rivertown. May as well hear somethin’ good.”

Tombass leans back and starts a story about Before. He’s different from most olds: they don’t like to talk about those times. Sometimes you catch them whuttering about The Event, keeping real quiet so the youngs don’t ask questions, but I reck they mostly want to forget those times. Guess I can’t blame them – lot of people died then, and it was a horrorsome time for the ones who lived. I was still tiny when the Event happened; I only remember hiding someplace underground, Mom waterworking like a flood.

Then Rivertown, and lotta digging and planting and fixing up old poo poo, and sitting around the fire listening to Tombass’ stories. He never did tell how he got that name, but he always had time for me. Was a real good guy to have around, specially when Mom got sick. I mean to keep him close. That’s why we gotta get to Rivertown. Gotta find the fires.

“Mel wanted to head back to Dallas, but the car was wrecked – you remember that part, right? We sat in firetrain eggie to the Miral, grave her bloody hours and it waves back.”

I stop. Tombass talks a lot of gibber, but not like that. “Just hold on, Tombass.” I shoulder the rope again and pick up the pace. Just a couple more miles and I can get him to Doc Matibag. I can save him. Just need to get to the fires.

“Chance, slow down!” Tombass groans. “Chance, the ground’s too bumpy!”

“Can’t slow down! Ya need helping!”

I can still find a fire. Not too late to save him. Can’t be.

“Chance! Chance, please, just stop.”

“No!” I lug my fist across my eyes, dash the waterworks away. “No, can’t give up on you!”

“Chance, I need you to stop!”

Something in his voice makes me slow up. I look back; his eyes are all sheeny. “Chance, I’m dying. I’ve lost too much blood.”

“Doc’ll fix you. He has to.”

“You know he can’t.”

My legs don’t work all a sudden. “I don’t wanna lose you, Tombass.”

“I know. But you gotta let go of the past. I just – I wish I’d learned that lesson sooner. Stay with me, okay?”

Somehow I make it over to his side. “I will.”

We sit there, alone in the night. I hold his hand til it goes stiff.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

*Kramers in to the thread*

Did someone say love story? I'm In! Song, please!

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020


How I Wrote My First Love Song
1162/1500 words

The night Anton flew out of LaGuardia, I was lying in Louis’s arms, bawling my eyes out.

“He needs me!” I gasped out between sobs. “He doesn’t know anybody in San Francisco! He’s going to be so lonely!”

My cousin patted my head in a way that he must have thought was comforting. “Anton is gonna be fine. But you, you need something to do. Why don’t you get a hobby? I got into programming after Mel broke up with me and –”

“Anton’s not gonna break up with me! He wouldn’t! How could you say that?”

“Okay, okay! Calm down. Just breathe.” As I obeyed him, Louis slumped his shoulders. “I didn’t say Anton was gonna break up with you. But, um, he wouldn’t want you to sit around moping, would he? You don’t want him to be sad when he’s working on his internship!”

I sniffed. “I guess not. It wouldn’t be very supportive of him, would it?”

“Right, right!” Louis said, a little too brightly. “Just think about something you’ve always wanted to do or would like to try. Now’s your chance to start!”

“I could learn the guitar. Anton really likes musicians.” I sat up, paced back and forth across Louis’s bedroom, my mind in full planning mode. “I could write him a song – play it for him when he comes back for Christmas break! It’d blow his mind!”

“Yeah, um, that’s one idea.” Louis cleared his throat. “Are you sure there isn’t anything else you might be interested in?”

“Nope, I’m gonna do this!”

Louis sighed. “Okay. If that’s what you think is right, then … I support you.”

---

The very next day Louis and I strode out of the Guitar Place, an acoustic slung on my back. He gave me the best smile he could as I chattered excitedly about how impressed Anton was going to be. During those first few months, I’d spend two hours a day or more hunched over my guitar picking along with every video tutorial I could find online. It was excruciating at first – and not only because of the blisters. I stayed up more than one night crying after spending a few hours wrestling with barre chords. Even though Anton always asked how I was doing during our daily video calls, I didn’t say a word about my struggles: I wanted to surprise him with my new skill. Louis was my confidant, listening patiently as I swore it was a stupid idea, that I sucked at music, that I’d never get good. “Be patient,” was his mantra. “Don’t give up. You’ll get it if you keep trying.”

And Louis was right. Three months in, I was confident enough to start playing at the park. If any real talents who frequented the High Line appreciated my beginner guitar songs, I’ll never know, but I got enough smiles and nods. A few people left change in my case, which I gave to the food bank: I played because I enjoyed it, not because I needed money. Some even left their phone numbers – mostly girls, but a few guys, too. I threw away the girl’s numbers, but the guys’ I kept. Anton didn’t have to know, did he? It’s not like I was actually going to call them. It wasn’t cheating just to imagine being with someone else.

Anton was thriving in San Francisco. At that point our daily calls had trickled down to once a week. Each time we talked, he’d be full of stories about the Oh-my-God-amazing things that had happened to him: the Pollock exhibit he’d seen at the SFMoMA, how his friend Gale got hit with a flying salmon at Fisherman’s Wharf, the best office gossip Hermes House Publishing had to offer. He rarely asked how I was doing, and I was fine with that. Anton and the guitar were two separate parts of my life now, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted them to meet. The blank sheet music I’d bought to write Anton’s song sat pristine in its package, untouched.

---

One brisk December morning Anton’s plane touched down at LaGuardia and I wasn’t there to greet him. “I just really need to catch up with my family,” he’d told me over the phone the previous night. “My mom and my little sisters would freak out if they didn’t spend time with me. It’ll only be a day, and then I can get away from them and we can have all the time we want. You understand, right?”

I said I understood. Three days later we met at the old café near the Chelsea Market. When Anton noticed the French press I’d ordered sitting at the table, he bit his lip and frowned.

“Oooh, I’m kind of over French press these days. My friend Jax, he turned me on to pourover. It’s much better. It’s lighter and smoother, and there’s zero grit. I can order you some, if you’d like –”

“No thanks, this is fine. Listen, I wanted to talk to you. Why don’t you sit down?”

“Well, alright. I hope everything’s okay.” Anton laughed nervously as he slid into the seat across from me.

“Anton.” I gripped the cup before me and steeled my jaw. “There was a time when I thought we needed each other, but now I understand that we don’t. I think we should break up.”

Anton barked out a laugh. “Thank God! I thought you were dying or something.” He smiled ruefully at the table. “I think you’re right. Actually, I was going to break up with [/i]you[/i] today. It’s better for both of us. Gotta spread our wings, you know? I spent so much time rehearsing my speech, you wouldn’t believe –”

“No, I think I would,” I laughed. “You always got way too into the spring musical.”

“I really did!” Anton put a dainty hand to his chest and held out the other. “‘Mar-ee-ah!’” he belted out. “‘I just met a girl named Mar-ee-ah!’ God, I was such a nerd,” he said. “I don’t know how you put up with me.” He swirled his coffee cup, then looked into my eyes. “We’ll still be friends, right?”

“Yeah.” To tell the truth, I didn’t believe our friendship would last much longer after Anton got back to San Francisco. He was too in love with his new home. But that was okay.

---

I called Louis as soon as I got back home that day. “What seems to be the problem?” he said. I could hear him bracing for the impact of my latest drama.

“No problems,” I said. “I just wanted to let you know I appreciate you being here for me. I know I’ve been kind of needy lately –”

“Gee, you think?” Louis said, without malice.

“Yeah, maybe. You’re a good cousin, Louis. Say –” I picked up the music sheets I’d bought for Anton “— How would you feel if I wrote you a song?”

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Okay, In with Week #77's prompt.

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Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Pththya-lyi posted:

Okay, In with Week #77's prompt.

Week #77's prompt posted:

Please pick a link from the following list: Unusual Articles and use it as the basis for your story. When you post your story, indicate what link you chose.

Tyrannosaurus posted:

You're the third person to choose this same week. Are you a lemming? Are you a bunch of lemmings stacked up in a trench coat pretending to be a person? I can only assume yes. I'll make this week easy for you: your main character isn't a human but is actually several animals in a trenchcoat.

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Sobaka
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_dogs_in_Moscow
500/900 words

Miss Livingstone, I’m very pleased you came to interview me. Not every journalist would take a story about three dogs in a trench-coat seriously, but Misha, Sergei, and I are not most dogs. Then again, most dogs aren’t Moscow street dogs.

The humans of Moscow love to marvel at us. The tricks we use to get them to feed us amaze and delight them, even when they’re the victims. “How clever!” they say, but it’s not that difficult to manipulate them. You understand, you don’t need to come up with ingenious lies to make them do what you want: you only need to dazzle them. For example, you stand behind a man eating and bark loudly. Startled, he drops his food and you snatch it up yourself. You haven’t truly fooled him, he knows perfectly well what you did. You’ve only confused him, gotten him to let his guard down long enough for you to get what you want. And now he can do nothing about it, you see? We use those skills every day in our profession.

Scavenging for food gets boring after a time: we wanted to put our skills to a true test. The laptop we found in a stolen bag near MGU had opened up a vast new world to us – a world full of new people, new forms of manipulation. Sock puppetry, brigading, forged documents…a far cry from begging on the street. I recall it was Misha who came up with the plan to use what we’d learned. We scrounged up a trenchcoat and a slouch hat, arranged ourselves inside it, and took the subway to Lubyanka Square. Somehow I managed to talk us into the Federal Security Service’s headquarters, meet with the big boss. I remember he was a big burly fellow, old KGB man. Saw through our disguise as “Mr. Sobaka” right away, but he listened. We could be useful to the motherland, he said. The new Federation couldn’t censor the citizens’ opinions, you see. That would go against the principles of a free society. But if a state-sponsored company were to hire employees to make Internet comments supporting the regime, that wouldn’t be a problem, would it?

So that’s how our Internet Research Institute came to be. One thousand dogs, each with three social media accounts, posting twice a day through each one. We set new quotas weekly; our best performers get fresh shwarma. We love it. There’s little point in denying our manipulations, even against your own country’s government. I know you’ve done your research, Miss Livingstone. It’s why I’ve called you in for this interview. No one is more qualified to tell our story to the West. And you will tell it; it’s the biggest scoop of your career. Three little dogs go from living on the streets to swaying the fate of nations? It’ll generate plenty of clicks, plenty of revenue. Plenty of comments. After all, we don’t need to fool anyone anymore. We just need to dazzle them.

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