On Brawling, by Sebmojo:
brawling what so someone said something mean and your bottom lip is doing that quivery thing and you feel like you can't go a single second more without punching a motherfucker? thunderdome has just the thing.
you can't fight here it's the Thunderdome when two people hate each other very much, and one of them is you, you get to slap down a challenge. make it big, make it brassy; you're slapping your sex bits down on the bar, try and make 'em bounce a little.
help someone's slapped me with something help accepting brawl challenges isn't required, but if you like to sling the poo poo around (and you should) then failing to back up your bad words with good ones will be remembered. brawl stories are good, being able to beat someone you're mad at is better.
how does it work? once you've thrown down a challenge, and had it accepted, a brawl judge will step up just like that weird bartender in The Shining. they'll give you a prompt, a word count and a deadline. they'll also, and this is real important, state the this means if you fail to submit by the deadline then you get banned. the judge doesn't need to give you an extension.
what do you mean banned brawl toxxes are obligatory. if you're actually a literal secret agent and you've just discovered you're parachuting into Syria in two hours time then get on irc, snivel at your judge and maybe they'll remove the from the prompt, but expect that to be a one-time mercy if you gently caress it up.
anything else? don't challenge anyone until you've done a few rounds, good grudges take time to fester, don't step up to judge a brawl unless you've at least got an HM or the participants have asked you to, and declining a random drive-by brawl is more acceptable than one with a grudge behind it. this place runs on words, and hatred, and you gotta fuel the fire. brawl judges, don't grab brawls if you don't have a prompt ready and don't be dicks; what matters is whose story is best, don't gently caress around.
is that it yes, fight well you horrible monsters
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:30 on Jan 1, 2020
|# ¿ Jan 1, 2020 21:03|
|# ¿ Sep 21, 2023 14:18|
in accordance with my ancient vow, here are crits for teh first of the last two weeks I failed:
Thunderdome presents: Two Guys and a Pencil, a play by Entenzahn
This is what we might characterise as a slab of chairchucker words, and i like those when they’re well done - as an adjunct professor in applied chuckerology i can advise that key elements of good chuckerwords are a mostly light tone, low affect protags, enjoyably weird story elements, a loose attitude to the existence/importance of the fourth wall, and (crucially) knowing when to get out of the story and hit post. This hits all those really well and i enjoyed the heck out of it on first reading; but didn’t like the toss off ending for all that’s also a key part of the form. It also tries maybe a bit too hard with images like the five meaty hand tentacles. However it was good, and funny, and i didn’t feel angry after reading it.
Byra, by Haven
Hmm, i was sort of prepped to yell at you for the intensely mundane he said then she said then he picked up the thing opener, but you know what? It actually works with the story, it’s about a couple making an ikea dresser which is (lol) notoriously difficult (chortle) i mean airline food, and the portions so small, &c. It’s a hackneyed bit but that makes the solid details, reasonably well chosen words and recognisable human interactions important, you’re not just leaning on the cliche gag. The vital sprinkle of actual interest comes from the strange helpline lady, and that’s also well done - i like how there’s really zero bizarre occult nonsense, it just needs her wise quasi-swedish words, but it’s still lightly strange. You maybe missed a trick in the name of the drawers - byra just means chest of drawers, and i’d probably have put another sprinkle of oddness in there for those with a willingness to google search it. Solid workmanlike piece though, all the bits fit together.
Growing Apart, by lofi
These are competent social realist addiction intervention words, though not therefore particularly interesting or intriguing; we’ve all seen this movie. The twist at the end is nice enough, though unheralded; it’s more fun if she’s addicted too, not fun at all if she’s just taking it away from him (bc if so why not do that before?) but neither option is really supported so it falls flat. This is called robbing story peter to pay dumb twist ending paul, and is generally bad, and that leads me to the actual crippling flaw with this story: wtf does an alien artefact look like? Smell like? Does it talk? Squeak when you squeeze it? How do you investigate it? What is the actual thing that’s being complained about here? Without that all we have is a booze/drugs substitute, and that’s well enough done on a technical level but it’s also super dull.
Random Access, by jon Joe
This grabs me from the first line, and weaves some fairly heady concepts into a well-drawn two-nerds-in-a-basement chitchat scene. That said, it’s all so abstract that the end is a flop. The whole story is a blinking cursor after the prompt DO_INTERESTING_STUFF.EXE and that’s disappointing.
Always Winter Break, But Never Christmas, by anti-v
This is the first one that actually ties its weirdness to something metaphorical and vaguely interesting, and I love the precisely odd details like the OH OH OH depression santa. Because of this there are some actual stakes here, and it’s satisfying seeing the protag turn a wrongness into a small and tatty rightness by sheer force of will. Not sure i love the ending line, it’s fine, it’s adequate, but with a few slightly better words (maybe replicating the fractal reference from before?) this would soar; as is it’s just really good.
The Bet, by thranguy
A heady brew of precisely deployed and very Borgesian phrasing and intricately imagined oddness, with beautiful detailing that doesn’t quiiiiite pay off its body swap ending twist, i think? The bland title doesn’t help - i think the title is a good place to put a time bomb that goes off when you finish the story, so the reader can realise the twist was staring them in the face the whole time. (edit: thrangles has pointed out that Bet is the second letter of the hebrew alphabet, and the Aleph is a super famous borges story so disregard this - i'm a dumbass and that's a great title) There’s also the issue of the nameless interlocutor - where/who/when are they? Don’t know, don’t care, and that makes the whole thing fall flatter than it should given the considerable talent on display.
Fly The Coop by Slipup
I read this as fly the co-op and was primed for a splendidly weird tale of preparing a fruit and vegetable purchasing consortium for flight, but you know what your v solid first para set me right. The story takes a slow but inexorable downward parabola from then on, regrettably, with our bikie leader doing a bunch of pointless cartoony stuff and dying stupidly, then the story ending with the nameless antagonist flying to the moon for reasons that are both unclear and dumb.
Last Call, by carl killer miller
This is a strong piece, and is an instructive comparison with lofi’s similarly addiction focused yarn - this works and that didn’t, because of the details, which are both vivid and authentic. I raised an eyebrow at the literally trapped in a bottle bit, bc come the gently caress on my man there are metaphors and then there are achingly on the nose metaphor boops and that’s for sure the latter. I liked the personification of the bottle via the label and its sneakily magic realist ability to be always just within reach though, and the ending where he fails, is the hard and right choice for the story i think.
The Distance Between Atoms, by flerp
Hell yeah MAGIC REALIST GAP STORY GOGOGO i honestly think this is a good practice at this length, just flop out whatever the story is about, bammo just lay it on the table in a solid dgaf manner. That said, there’s almost nothing else in this story so it had better be good. It is, and your words and images are very shiny, but i do think it’s lacking some progress through the course of its very good words that could make it hang together for me. E.g. the gap is there at the end, but they’re touching, but before they were touching and it wasn’t? The story points at a thing and keeps pointing at it, and it’s an interesting thing, but if it did more than point i’d like it more.
The Ghost Box, by quoproquid
Nice opener, and a delightful tonal choice with the bedsheet. I also really like your dialogue - oblique, awkward - and the almost but not quite on-the-nose metaphor of the emotions kept in a little box (it works because the box already has a purpose, so the metaphor is laid on top). I don’t think the ending lands though; i got some good advice about writing this kind of strong emotion, which is to be dangerous and surprising. Sobbing is very much the google “pictures of sad people” choice. Challenge yourself, and then you have a strong image to end a fairly strong story.
A Wake in a Forest, by black gryphon
EhhhHHHhh, this really doesn’t land for me at all. So there’s a guy in a clearing, and he gives our protag the ability to be a super paramedic, and…? I mean seriously, so what? Words are a few shades below good (a quiet broken by the machines of men is legitimately a Bad Line) and then we get to the stopping point and there’s no more reading and my shoulders are caught mid-shrug
PLAN Ω, by magic cactus
Just a personal note, the only person who can write ‘permitted herself a small smile’ and not have me permit myself a thunderous frown was frank herbert and he dead, magic cactus, he dead. Also hot drat this it a flabby first four paras that you have inexplicably chosen to give me with only a single carriage return. If i was minded that way i’d be rollin’ my eyes at the fearsome sluttiness of our protag and her devilish desire for reproductive autonomy, but eh, write what you write imo just make it good. Is this good? It’s florid, to the point of being overwritten, (the slide as uterus is sort of clever in an overheated kind of way) but i think the overall structure is fairly solid and I like the ending. See above for interesting ways to convey cliches though - i love you is fiiiiine i guess but is there another place you could have gone? Still, this is p solid, i guess for all i itch to scissor away a few adjectives.
Tesseract, by sephiroth ira
Oof that’s a clunky opener, just packed full of names and stuff that do you know what i don’t really care about. Nothing actually then goes on to happen apart from Lookin at the Weird Box and Not Really Givin a poo poo about it. This isn’t a story, it’s a scene, and a fairly dull one - an audacious move but not necessarily a wise one.
Love & Sacrifice, by anom amalg
Nice little thunderdome metaphor in the opening there i’m sure u will agree. I actually really like your opener, its vivid and mystical, with a sense of an unfamiliar fairy tale, and the transition to flashback is ok too - i feel oriented! However writing ‘He was ready to relive the memories when his bloodlust was cut short as he felt a gentle familiar touch on his shoulder.’ is at least one subclause too many - it’s always worth splitting those into multiple sentences if they feel clunky. The second half i like less, not least because killing the protag is a risky move that you haven’t really got the chops for (dude pulls out his own heart? really?) and the end falls super flat because we don’t actually know or really care about the kid who survived, and sacrifice is a vague Capitalised Concept that will never be as effective as a strong image or relationship.
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 23:07 on Jan 3, 2020
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2020 22:53|
I'm judge also
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2020 21:19|
Week 386 crits
the roomate solution, by Something Else
I guess the portrait of a new family you paint here is good enough, and it's clear how you got there from the prompt, but ... it's a situation, then it changes. the car was rolling towards the cliff, then it stopped rolling towards the cliff, the end. There's a lack of any real challenge, which is a pity since i think the bones of this are fine; for instance, the dinner could have been a nice focal point for Something to Happen, as is it's just like looking at a landscape from the window of a car.
Tessellating Chiral Bonds, by Chainmail onesie
i was a little disposed against this one at the start because of pat formulations like biting lips and shaking hair free and wry smiling, but tbf it gets us on the tortured romance train promptly and then diverts us to the switchback with the oxidation metaphor which is just drat fine all round. I like the adroit use of flashback to economically explain the context and importance, or rather to hang some detail on the tension you've already created. Then you bring it home immaculately, in their victory/defeat, then tying it back to the stars. Very nice work.
Staggered conformation, by Smitten Bear
this annoyed me a bit at the time, and I can't say time has changed that. this may be bc ur trespassing on my own territory of metaphorically ennui-laden sararimen, but I don't think so; it's got the same issues as something else's piece where it's a too-precise evocation of the prompt, with two people Coming Together in a chemical but also! interpersonal sense, but without any of the actual energy of chainmail onesie's story - you gesture at it with the train stopping, but because it's out of control of the individuals it's not interesting. There are some zazzy dialogue bits, but the characters are either flat or irritating so I find it hard to invest in them jacking up a new project for the benefit of the unnamed undescribed ex, or have any real sense that this is that meaningful to either of them.
Rhymes with Spiral, by thranguy
'loved science and grapefruit, both beyond reason,' is a peerless line fyi. this is in fact a beautifully crafted piece of witchwords all round, and is self-assured in just the right way (choice of details, hint of old timey diction, obvious conflict adroitly conveyed) but falls a little at the end. in fact, for all I love the grapefruit line, i'm not 100% sure caylen really pays off his presence in the story, and you pay for that at the end (unless I'm missing something that will throw it into sharp relief). Like: i don't care about the last para, i cared about everything up till then, and the story would have been better if you'd cut it. Still, really nice piece.
Ethically sourced Future Food, by anom amalg
there is some clumsiness in the grammar and word choices here which you can work on ('ruptured' out of the ground is odd, i would spell out twelve and three rather than using numerals, you get dialogue punctuation wrong in a few places, make sure your tenses are consistent) but this is a competent set of events you're laying out, though 'lol poop' as your punchline is always a risky play. The biggest problem is that there's no real challenge that's overcome - it's like he's giving a powerpoint and then! uses a different slide! if you get what i mean. in general think very carefully before having people being bored in a 1k word story, it's a risky play. like much of this week there's a certain who gives a gently caress vibe that one is left with at the end, but reading it is a pleasant enough way to spend time.
Above the Grid, by Hawklad
This is a really nicely delivered (drug) cocktail of suspense and slick noir future world building. The suspense is effectively conveyed through your poo poo-scared protag, and I like the way he doesn't always get it right, and the final decision to stay and await the end. There's probably a lot of additional context you could have conveyed, but we've all seen this kind of movie and it's a better choice to let the reader fill in the gaps. I really like the titular grid, when you get round to describing it in detail, though actually you've been describing it the whole time. I also like the final line; altogether, a very well turned piece.
The Dizzy Wizard Family Fixer, by Carl Killer miller
this nails that kid logic, and also gestures at the kind of story where their innocent fumblings would ignite a new family love but oh no, that's right, kids are dumb and don't know anything. i wasn't sure about the end, it's a bit too close to a twist, and I think you could improve it by having something between the second box arriving at Randy opening it - how has the story changed who he was? that would be a great time to have that moment of decision laid out, as is it seems like he's just opening it because he's a kid and they are (as noted) dumb. If he opens it because he's a bit older and a bit less dumb, that's more satisfying.
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2020 22:53|
Beck week judge burpin's, pt 1
this was an interesting week, a certain amount of hewing too closely to the prompt - it can be a vague inspiration, be wary of just using it for the entire story - and a hilarious level of failure to make your stories happy.
Amateur geology by Mrenda
This starts off with a delightful hiss and a roar, I love the lightly zany tone and precise control over detail and description, but then gets to the protest and just sort of noodles along for another 800 words before ending, chucking in new characters every now and then. A missed opportunity to do something interesting with the philosophy, for all its excellent prose stylings. 6/10
Something Else, the laughing knight
Much as I like using wench as a verb, your oldie timie mediaeval yoda talk gets irritating fairly quick with its endlessly superfluous ‘did’s. that said, your story has a certain wonky charm and tall tale cleverness, and I think I’d have liked it if you hadn’t leant into your gimmick so hard. 4/10
Doctor Eckhart, the best birthday surprise
These characters have some weird aphasic charm, but the bulk of it comes from your insane prompt and there’s almost nothing in the story apart from that. There are some nice notes of subtlety about her reactions (e.g. ‘I see it’) but it’s like she’s in a different story from the two zany af guys. 5/10
Prisoner of the hell planet of desire, by crimea
This is not particularly novel in its theme or events, but the execution is pitch perfect. I love the way you counterpoint the framing comic story with the sad little irl part, and I like how believably grubby you get with your delvings into our protag nerd’s sad little psych. Hm/w 8.10
Baby, by pththyalyi
Yeah, I like your social realist stylings and your nice control of detail, but this feels more like a fragment than a story; its nice she decides to keep the baby but it doesn’t leave her anywhere different at the end from where she was at the beginning of the story, ykwim? Strong words and admirable precision tho. 7/10
When, by thrangles
Lovely fragment, really hits the dreamy disconnected vibe it was going for, but feels a little thin; why do we care about the brother? What impact does that have on anything? Ditto with the kiss at the end, it’s lovely but disconnected. Def didn’t hate it tho 7/10
It’s not right by azza bamboo
You have a lot of dialogue in here, and it’s fairly bad: my standard advice in these situations is don’t write like people talk, write like people talk in good books. While I think you have a good sense of what your mind camera is seeing, you convey it in the clunkiest way possible. Also: IT’S IS ONLY EVER SHORT FOR IT IS YOU FUCKIN ZOBE no offense I’m sure you’re perfectly nice 2/10 Dm/l
Things are gonna chance, by b pro
This is an assured piece that is comfortable sitting back on its precise relationship observations and minor incidents while setting up a bunch of little dominos to fall, sub stories that lock together in a wonky but appealing way; by itself that’s fine, but the reason it’s a good win pick is the ending, which brings the disparate clutter into focus in a beautiful image 8/10 hm/w
Rose, by a friendly penguin
This is marginally more competent than the other occupants of the sludge-zone in its word-to-word writing but what you use those words to say is oh so insufferable, it’s bad vampire fanfic with the deep thinking charisma dork impressing slightly less deep thinking charisma vacuums with vaguely described nonsense then, idk, something happens, then the story ends and she’s a rose? Did I get that? 3/10
|# ¿ Jan 8, 2020 04:50|
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2020 23:39|
Week 380 crit
I really have to crit the rest of this week; have this in the mean time, pipe up if you want your story from 380 critted next.
What was there to want? What was want?
Fill. Empty. Fill. Empty. Sudden weight in the chamber. The burn of propellant scouring purpose and desire and naming them irrelevant. Lead spinning along rifling through the bore. Rock back and forth with recoil. Acceleration and friction annihilating ideas. I like the disconnected mix of concrete and abstract in this, it's clear enough what the concrete is and the abstract makes it nicely intriguing. i also like the chunk and rhythm of the words, they work well spoken out loud
Fire out the muzzle. Lead going wherever lead went after. A good shot. i like repetition, at least when done well, and you do it well in this - this is the point around which the story turns, through repetition and variation
Every shot was good. Must be good. Little etchings on the hammer bled alien will into every component. this is a hair too much, but I think it still works Chamber and shoulder and neck and throat and bore all aligning themselves just so every time. Nothing coming from itself but instead from foreign ehh, don't like this - could just cut hand’s guidance and whatever had decided all shots were good.
Fill. Empty. Fill. Empty. The burn and the crack again. From where did the lead and weight come from and where would it go? you do a nice job with the flash rule, which is a lack of agency - tools have none, but that also ties into the canard about guns/gun owners so it's a nice interrogation of that to have the gun be the protag. it's easy to gently caress it up though, which is why I'm pleased by the quality of your execution (lol)
Fill. Empty. Fill. Empty. Crack. Burn. What made a shot good?
Fill. Empty. Fill. Empty. Slide back and forth.
Empty. Empty. Empty. Empty. Why. Silence and dark and the lack of weight. No hand and no motion. Ancient whispers along the rifling and hollow memories of previous shots.
Every shot was good. For how could a shot not be good?
Fill. Who decided if a shot was good?
Empty. The barrel or the lead or the hand or the hammer-etchings?
Fill. What came if the shot was not good? And what would it mean not to be good? Who decided that?
Fill. Fill. By what authority did some choose and others simply enact? there's no particular reason why this gun is developing agency and i don't think you need one, again because your execution is compelling enough in its own right that we keep reading out of interest in where you're going with it
Fill. Stillness and an ache along the rifling and in the shoulder and tensed up in the chamber. A slithering of cold oil. Shuddering uncertainty.
Ignition and the bullet edging forwards and knowledge. Instead of guiding the rifling stiffened and resisted and ground into lead. Propellant gas stifled and escaped and passed by and acceleration sputtered and choked to death on its own impulse. Fill fill fill fill fill.
The bullet slowed and spun and spun and spun and whirled itself to death inside. Not how it worked. Not how it worked.
“God, please don’t…”
Click. Silence. The wretch in front of him quivering on the swingset next to town hall. Wide white eyes near enough the only visible thing this time of night. Terror cast in blue and red. Then confusion.
Mutual confusion. Pull the trigger again. Click. Again. Click.
They said this would never happen. It couldn’t, not with the charm. hrmmmm ok so we do have an explanation and I'm not sure I love it - you didn't need it
“What the gently caress?” He lowered the pistol and saw the wretch breathe in his peripheral vision. This couldn’t happen. Nor could it be seen to have happened. He looked up and the shape remained, still as death but not still enough. “Fine, whatever. I’ll let you off this time, just don’t say a word about this.”
The wretch bolted into the night and kicked leaves up in its pronouns: it, its, itself wake as he misgendered wretch, tsk tore for Delaware Avenue and lights. He who? stood there silent for a moment and then another.
“What kind of piece of poo poo enchantment did they give us?” no i don't like this, you should have either set this up or skipped it entirely - i think this would have worked fine without the magic angle, and with a different purely realistic style here.
Needing answers he raised the gun to examine it. Perhaps it was just a jam-
A good shot. Fire and lead and ignition. Acceleration from nothing. The tense weight relieved.
Empty. Empty empty empty.
Blood spatter on the cruiser. The whud of heavy flesh crumpling to the floor. Silence in blue and red. haha ACAB indeed good fellow. I think this was fine, but you sort of tried to hide that it was a cop and that's mostly a bad idea - robbing story peter to pay twist paul, as they (i) say. overall this was a strong experimental piece that falters at the end through trying to justify its conceit, which it didn't really need to do. solid work though.
|# ¿ Jan 12, 2020 09:50|
Beck week judge burpins part 2
Brownian Motion, by yoruichi
This is a nice realist slab of a food-paintin’ shut-in, which works not because anything particularly notable happens in it, but because of the quality of its observations (e.g. fourteen steps to the front door, the way she smells of sunscreen and plastic glue) and the stance it takes to its participants - cool-eyed but not unsympathetic (his internal monitor of oddness). It ends, as it should, on a cautious note of hope which feels right - anything more would be cheesy, probably.
Up there, by flerp
This is starting to feel like a genre, sad flerp stories about birds and/or death, and it’s a decent example of the form. We have the tight, terse phrasing, cosmic metaphors, descriptions of hospital things. It’s a good story though, with a nice suspended feeling and pleasing interlocking mesh of metaphors, sky, stars, flight, hope.
Two hundred and nine, by selaphiel
Okay so there are a couple of things wrong with this story, starting with bunch of spelling errors (seering, it’s searing) and odd ESLisms (blanc rather than white) and tense errors ignoring the prompt - personally I barely ever care about that (though that’s not something you can expect from other judges) because what matters is the story, but that doesn’t mean write what’s supposed to be a happy story and make it full of vivisected animals. Yes one manages to die in the beautiful outdoors, but that’s still kind of grim imo. The bigger problem is how one note it all is, sad animals, bad doctors, death, the end. Reading it again, there were probably worse or equally bad stories this week and your choice of tone and subject matter tipped you over to the loss.
Lone loveseat, by carl killer miller
This, idk, it starts on a fairly dull argument, then segues to another even more dull argument, then your dude like steals a couch, and then the dude grows and learns and isn’t mean to his girlfriend any more. There’s nothing insanely bad about this, it’s just bland, the details are adequate and the words are fine but it’s kind of a chore to read nonetheless.
The whiz of the whiz, magic cactus
This was ok, i enjoyed it while reading then it slipped from my mind like mercury out of a well-greased duck. I think your tone is a little too arch, you’re striving for chucker words but not quite reaching it - phrases like ‘pleasantly generic suburban home’ seem to want to be funnier than they are (though calling the mother a ‘perfume ghost’ is nice). The bigger problem is that you only really have a set up - the ‘then i used it to solve a murder lol’ bit has promise, but hey why not show us that rather than waving at it whilst chortling snarfily? Why indeed, i ask.
Control x, twist
drat nice opener, just a sweet little blam blam blam of tight words, good drama and nice details. And you don’t just sit on that, bringing in a genuinely entertaining twist (lol) on possibly the most insanely magic realist superhero i can recall reading about. You keep up a zinging tension between the power and its implications the whole way through, also the turn from trash to rain is just beautifully done, as is the bird metaphor. This only lost by a hair, and is a lovely story you should shop around.
An extra bounty, anom amalg
Aloha my friend, this is what was call some solid genre here, you got the space murder hobo lady, doin a dirty job, we got neon and beggars and space ships and yep everything lines up basically where it’s supposed to. That also means it’s not crazy interesting or surprising, but do you know not every story needs to be that. Solid midrange work.
Twelve stories of vengeance, by slip up
Yeah, this fails on every level, as a cute cat story that sits inside a cats perceptions, as a funny rear end in a top hat cat story, as a coherent piece of fiction - it probably should have taken the loss but the baked-in-the-bone miserabilism of the caged animals story just edged it out.
No Parking, by chairchucker
This was fun, some jaunty dialogue, a nice progression, good tone and surprisingly decent action and sequence of events. Good, midrange work.
|# ¿ Jan 13, 2020 05:24|
With the Wisdom of Owls
It was always raining, thought Colin the Kakapo gloomily. He didn’t actually mind it, his thick glossy green feathers shed the water nicely, but he thought most things gloomily and this was no exception. In fact he didn’t call himself anything but Colin was the name on the bracelet round his ankle, so if he’d been able to read he would have, gloomily, accepted it.
Colin skritched aside a rotten branch and leaned down to sniff the root that it revealed, all wet and glistening. Yes, that was a good one. He sniffed it again, savouring the odour, then with a powerful crunch he closed his foot around it and pulled it loose of the damp soil. At the end was a tender, delicious shoot which he nibbled. Oh, yes, that was a really good one.
His little eyes weren’t much for vistas, being better suited to the light and shade (mostly shade) of the soggy rain forest undergrowth, but he did like the view from up here, out over the misty rain-moistened valley in the Akatarawas. He could smell the distance, the potential for delicious roots. He snorted, tasting the mist.
There was something else out there.
The plant he’d been nibbling dropped from his claw, unheeded. The smell was different from the root and, somehow, infinitely better and stronger even though it was the merest whiff in the watery breeze. Colin felt his gloom drop to the damp black soil like a cloak as it was replaced by a newfound emotion, so new it was still in its crinkly wrapper: hope.
Six busy hours later Colin was ready. Driven by urges he would have had difficulty understanding or even explaining (if he’d been asked), he’d tramped up to nearly the top of the hill, a damp bowl with a cliff behind it; there was water running down the cliff, dripping off streamers of dark green moss and collecting in little pools at the bottom. Colin had waddled past it before, disdainful of its lack of roots, but now his desire for roots had been supplanted by another desire.
Colin took his time inspecting the bowl, knocking aside small rocks with his beak and scratching dirt into place. It had to be right, he knew; every detail mattered. What he wanted, needed, what he had to have or at least experience was outside the bowl, but he would draw it in. Draw it to him with beauty.
Satisfied, and with his kernel of hope glowing in his feathered breast like the sun, refracted through a dewdrop on a bright spring morning, Colin took his place. He spread his claws wide, dug them into the stones and earth, felt his connection to the earth, and the bones of the hill, and the water sleeting down his heavy green feathers.
B O O M, he said.
The sound was sucked up by the rain-wet leaves and damp moss, absorbed like he’d never made it. Colin’s hope was undaunted.
B O O O M, he said again.
Again there was nothing, but this time there was a different quality to the nothing. A charged, intent nothing that seemed to ask … and? Colin grinned, or would have if he didn’t have a beak. He would show them, or it, or whatever the hell it was he was directing his booming towards.
There was a moment where the cheery flicker of his hope dimmed, but he paid it no heed.
B O O O O O O M, he cried. It left him a little hollow as it left him, this boom, like he’d put an actual physical part of himself into it. He knew it didn’t matter, though. What mattered was doing it again, and again. Booming against the void. Booming into the heart of things. Booming until it was done.
Dusk was falling, three days later, when he saw her. He squinted, not sure if he was imagining it - his head was a little light. But, no, even his weak eyes could tell it wasn’t a baby punga fern. And as he sniffed the air -- the rapturous intoxicating air -- it came crashing down upon him that this was what, this was who, this was why he’d been booming for.
He inflated his chest for one last boom, then paused. She was looking at him, her owlish round eyes the most beautiful thing he could imagine. She didn't care, he realised. She'd chosen him, chosen his boom, chosen to come to him. He deflated his chest and spread his wings. She tilted her head on one side (such grace!) and he said: K R A A R K?
She took one waddling step, and then another, towards him.
Now modesty dictates that we draw a veil over the ensuing forty three minutes and what Colin and his lady love did to, and with each other during that time; but let it be noted that if a single damp spot on the side of a hill in the trackless expanses of the misty Akatarawas could have burned in a manner commensurate with the passion that occurred there, why, it would have glowed like the sun itself.
|# ¿ Jan 13, 2020 09:00|
Interprompt: some motherfuckers always tryin to ice skate uphill (300 words)
|# ¿ Jan 13, 2020 10:24|
I want in on this bad boy bustup
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2020 03:43|
Bullshit! How the hell is an original story below the heap of "big monster on ice planet" tales?
You should probably brawl the judge if you disagree, otherwise consider writing better words
|# ¿ Jan 21, 2020 11:41|
I'm down to judge. I am both fashionable and judgemental.
Yeah I'll judge
|# ¿ Jan 22, 2020 07:58|
|# ¿ Jan 28, 2020 10:40|
Memory and Desire
Rolf Nugent, Elucidator of the Northern Wastes, slammed his fist on the heavy oak table, making all the empty cups jump.
“Where is my loving jelly?”
There was a thoughtful silence in the room after his yell, as though the two other people who were still awake, well after sixth bell, were waiting to see if the Elucdator’s question would be answered by way of some heavenly or infernal voice or deed, perhaps by the ground or sky opening up and rendering upon them a sweet, wobbling epiphany.
There were no such visitations, so at last Endreby Spasm, Rolf’s oldest friend, said “Where was the last place you saw it? Have you looked… behind the couch?”
Rolf frowned at his friend’s helpful gesture towards the Echesian divan that his fourth wife had insisted upon. He hated it, lying down was a shortcut to discarding ones manhood.
“I have not looked behind the couch, you nonsensical spit-slug of a man. Jelly will be brought to me and I will consume it, ere I rise from this table! This I vow.” Rolf slammed his fist on the table again, hard enough to knock over a half full mug, then traced the sevenfold gesture of burdenment in the spilled wine on the table.
Whelms, the Master at Arms blinked. “That’s a big swear, my lord. Why this sudden lust for dessert?”
Rolf was looking down at the design on the table, already blurring as the spilled wine seeped into cracks and knotholes. "I had a memory, a sudden remembrance. Once, as a child, my father gave me jelly in the helmet of one of his sworn foes. Lemchuk the Dark Render, remember him?"
Endreby chuckled. "A little before our time. Wasn't he, uh, the one with the four arms? For, you know," he gestured, lifting both hands up and bringing them down with fingers outstretched. "Rending?"
Rolf frowned. "Do you know, I am not sure. I just remember the helmet. It was raspberry jelly, if I recall correctly. My father had it cooled in the last spurt of forbidden ice magic from the searing frostspear of the Nether Hells. It was delicious."
There was a silence in the room that lengthened.
"Well," said Whelms at last. "I suppose I should find some jelly for you. Endreby, would you like to come along? You know the ways of the kitchen better than I, I'll wager!"
Endreby chuckled, and patted his sumptuous belly. "A justified barb, friend Whelms. Come with you I shall. Rolf, we shall not leave your vow unfulfilled!"
Rolf raised a gloved fist to them as they strode forth on their quest, then settled back in his heavy iron chair with the faintest of sighs. It had been a long day and the comforts of bed and his seventh, ninth and twenty second wives beckoned. Still. A sevenfold oath was a sevenfold oath.
As it happened, the wait was not long, and the eighth bell had not yet finished its sonorous chimes when the mighty door slammed open. "Victory, my lord!" Whelms proclaimed. "We have procured your vacillating treat! Morepork the cook was about to tuck into it, but Endreby here backhanded him across the kitchen floor." Whelms chuckled. "He was waxing most wroth until we explained the necessity, then he found some plates and spoons for us too!"
Whelms laid the iron bowl on the table, and spooned a generous helping into one of the bowls that Endreby placed in front of his old friend.
"Let the oath be fulfilled," rumbled Rolf. "Now, let's get in on this loving jelly, eh lads?"
They all laughed, like the strong men they were.
|# ¿ Jan 31, 2020 11:53|
I owe carl some crits so here is a to do his last five stories by midnight tonight.
|# ¿ Feb 2, 2020 20:23|
|# ¿ Feb 3, 2020 08:06|
The eyes have it
The Capgras Delusion
There’s someone staring out of my eyes and I don’t know who it is but it’s not me. I can feel them watching, taking notes. It could be there’s nothing I can do about it but I’ve always been solution-focused in my thinking so I click open the door to my downstairs workshop, flick on the light. It’s sort of messy and I think to myself for the hundredth time I must tidy this up. My interior passenger who is also me agrees and I’m filled with sudden rage.
“gently caress you!” I hiss.
Above me the wife says, “What was that, sweetheart?”
“Nothing,” I call, all light-of-my-life and I feel that inside guy making notes about what I just said and I’m still so mad, so ready to punch his stupid dumb fat face, but I’m cunning now because the one thing I can’t (CAN’T!) let him get away with is thinking he’s won.
So I don’t do what I want to do and just punch myself in my retarded extreme traitor’s face.
Instead, carefully, graciously, I pick my way across the flattened out cardboard boxes and step around the unrecycleable polystyrene packing material that came with the big TV I bought with my Christmas bonus. There’s a workbench there, and there are the tools I need to fix this.
I remember my dad’s workbench. He had a lot of tools. I stood behind his big, bulging-bellied back and watched him as he tapped the tools into the right place to make the wood do what he wanted. I remember translucent wood shavings curling away from the cautious tapping of his chisel. His big, heavy hands, occupied on their tools. I knew to keep quiet.
I’m at the bench now. My passenger, the me that is inside my head but isn’t me, just waiting to take over.
Did I say that, or just imagine saying that? I hold my breath, listening to my wife’s breathing upstairs. I can’t hear her breathing, but I can’t hear her talking either. She’s silent.
I realise, with a sick certainty, that she isn’t her either. Her imposter is inside her, saying and doing all the normal things you’d expect a wife to do, but she’s a lie. I think back to all the things she’s done for me, the times she stayed home with me when my head hurt, the dinners we had, digging up the garden, and I realise they were all lies, too.
This is hosed up.
I don’t have much time because I know that the thing that is pretending to be me is already most of the way to being able to replace me and then I won’t even exist and while it’s a blow to imagine that everything I’ve created and lived for is fake I’m still not ready to give up because my dad never gave up, never stopped putting the sense into me one blow at a time and I hated him but I couldn’t do any less SO we’re going to fix this.
I’m going to fix this.
I’m seeing double.
Not that I’m seeing two of everything, I’m seeing everything twice. There are two everythings and I’m seeing both of them.
My strong hands are on the bench, splayed out, ready. There is a chisel, sharpened just the other day. I grasp it in my left hand. The other hand knows what it wants, and the handle of the hammer with its sweat-darkened twine wrappings is exactly that.
It was my father’s hammer, and there’s none of that grandfather’s axe nonsense here either, this is the same hammer I saw my father use, standing here, holding my breath.
I raise my chisel and position it just so above my left eye, knowing with a deliciously precise certainty that that is where my new self lives. It’s trying to stop me, of course, but my hands are like my strong father’s hands that did not choose to head entreaties or screams or gasps so I’m not worried about that as I bring the hammer back in my right hand.
It’s a single stroke to solve all of my problems so the most logical thing is to take it as hard as I possibly can, and I’m winding it up as my wife comes in the door or whoever she is these days and I see her open her mouth to scream and I’m tensing my muscles to slam that chisel right into my cheating liar’s pretend, selfish, greedy brain when I remember another thing, which is:
I’ve fallen off a wall, by the steep path up to school, and my dad has picked me up, and he’s holding me tight, and I’m crying like there are too many tears inside me to let out and not enough time so they’re all tumbling over each other but his arms are strong and warm.
|# ¿ Feb 3, 2020 10:33|
Carl killer miller crits
Your opener is peerless, sketching a hypernoir scene that compels. There’s also a nice spoken rhythm to the words, i can imagine it being read outloud in a sam spade gravel. And you maintain that through to the halfway change up, where stuff goes from noir to magic realist hypernoir. It’s very lynch, which is a positive thing for me - events occur in a way that’s mysterious but inevitable. You take a hard right into the surreal, but there’s a sense of it being conditioned by the metaphors and images you’ve already set up. I mean, i barely get this but it makes emotional sense. Good winner.
The hobo way
Sort of ploddy opener here, i’m like yep hobos, yep poor, yep alleyways w/the classic curl of mist coming out of hte grating, but do you kno, you sort of told me that with the title so imo get on with teh story. I mean I could say start with the second section, but then i get to the end of tha tand I still don’t have a story. Then mr eating friend shows up and whoa nelly look at that story! There’s a factory owner, and he wants to do stuff. It’s mildly involved at this length, but there’s some art in teh construction. The resolution is sort of pat, which i think is inevitable given how late you left the actual story. Still, decent, and some nice words.
The ritual of haast
Bland dull opener, coupled with bad monologue. It feels like rpg filler text. The rock as a joiner of scenes is clever, and, in fact, so is the rest. There’s some tricksy melding of stories and the whole thing hangs together really nicely. It’s fairly contrived, but there’s a nice symmetry to the fates of the various individuals. Unlucky to get the loss.
Ugh, I didn’t like this one when I judged. Your dialogue in the opener is competent but grating, which means its hard to care about these people, which steals an emotional core out of the story as a whole. Then we have another horrible couple, and a metaphorical couch, which gets deployed to end the story. Then you end with a request to have an entirely different story be told, which is what we in teh ringing endorsement dept call a nope. Lucky to avoid a dm.
As we soar into the burning eye
Great title and pleasingly fresh style get me smiling at the beginning, but dull casual chat is dull casual chat even if you need it to set up the freaky poo poo that’s coming. You should probably have tied the lines to characters, you don’t get enough out of the anonymity to warrant the confusion. This actually has a bunch of neat elements and clever stylistic gubbins, but fundamentally it’s one note - plane is devil. You handicap yourself by not being able to tell compelling stories bc of anonymity, plus the overal flow is not that interesting. Deserved loser.
|# ¿ Feb 3, 2020 14:58|
Killer sneaks brawl
700 words, due 15 feb, 2359 pst
Something inspired by or drawing on: "kicking against the pricks"
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2020 05:36|
yeah put me on the list don't sit me next to my psycho cousin tia
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2020 09:28|
No story chat in the thread, go to discord or fiction advice.
stfu you chuntering buffoon
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2020 02:10|
A Good Act of Contrition
The old man left a mess, when he died. Boxes piled on bulging boxes, dust-covered jars full of stuff, endless tins of screws. I got there on Wednesday morning, fired up and ready to clear it out so we could sell the house. By Thursday evening, I was broken and was lying on the carpet, looking up, waiting for my brother.
It was a good roof. Nice rose pattern round the lampshade. The plaster had cracked off in the corner but that was to be expected: things fall apart. Adhesion fails. The broken bits on the roof looked like an angel. A big-arsed angel with her wings stuck out. When was the last time I’d talked to my Da? December? No, the month before. It hadn’t gone well, he’d been drunk, I’d been angry. Probably because I couldn’t join him any more. Curse of the Irish, we’re born in a puddle of liquid and spend our lifetime trying to get back in it to finish the job.
I let the notion of popping the bottle of uisce I’d found tucked away behind the wainscoting slide into my mind. I’d given it up, of course, nearly six years now, but no one would blame me. It would almost be a virtuous act of remembrance. I was running through exactly what it would be like to twist the cap – that little crick – when the front door slammed open.
“Death Inspector, anyone dead here, looking for a stiff, hello,” called my brother. He’d always been annoying but right then he was exactly what I needed so with a physical effort of will I converted the act of standing up into a peristaltic squeeze that alley-ooped all thoughts of booze out my brain sphincter.
“I’m in here ya eejit,” I yelled back. “Three tenths of a living man on current reckoning.”
He poked his head round the corner, big bearded face grinning. “You’re covered in dust. Like a mummy. How’s it been?”
I gave myself a pat or two, then looked at the white powdery stain my hands left. “Better, I think. How’s yourself?” His face blurred a bit as I was looking at him.
Brendan opened his yap to say something then closed it and took a few steps and grabbed me tight. I grabbed him back. He felt good to put my arms around, all big and warm. I rested my chin on his shoulder and felt the tears trickle for a bit. They felt companionable.
“Do you remember,” he said. His voice was thick. “D’you remember the Sunday lunches in here?”
I nodded, and gripped him tighter.
“There was you, and me, and Mam. Da at the head, with his bitty glass of red. And he would conduct us in the hymn, with his glass? Sun coming in that window through the leaves, in summer.”
“Jam tart, for afters,” I said quietly.
“Aye. That was good.”
We stood there, swaying, alone together, adrift on a raft of memories.
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2020 05:04|
Anomalous Amalgam is a winner, yet he bears the losers mark. This will not do: scroll him up.
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2020 11:35|
Cool, me too
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2020 19:08|
Cool, me too
This means in btw
|# ¿ Feb 13, 2020 08:53|
Carl killer miller, I need a brawl from you
|# ¿ Feb 16, 2020 21:12|
Ah, I thought you were just sassing our fellow combatant.
They started replacing people with robots in the late 2030s but it took a while for anyone to notice. Tony Macaroni, bafflingly, was one of the first.
“That new chick behind the bar…” he said late one Saturday arvo as we were contemplating who was going to get the fourth round in.
“Lady,” grumbled Chino.
“Chick behind the lady?” Tony’s ears had been hosed ever since the Zionist Front blew up a carbomb near his work, but his lipreading was solid.
“Chicks are birds.” Chino locked eyes with Tony for a second before pushing his chair back. “My round. Same again?” There was a general mumble of assent and he was off, rolling with each step like a bear in a Hurricanes jersey.
“She has metal arms, anyway,” said Tony. “I think I’m gonna ask her out.”
Tony was prone to getting ideas in his head, and this was certainly another one of them. I let it percolate in my head for a little while. I had been about to pop out for a cig; they were illegal but only recently, so I felt it incumbent to get as far through the carton i’d brought cheap in Malaysia before the cops really started cracking down, but Tony’s comments gave me pause.
“Hitting on the barstaff is a bit gauche mate.” I was tapping the packet on the sticky table, concealed in my hand. “I mean she’s gotta work here, right?”
Tony shrugged. “Metal arms. I’ve always found them very sexy.”
Chino got back just then, hands full of beer. “Raspberry Sour, Triple Hop IPA, Tui. Wrap yer laughing gear around it. What were you saying about the bar lady? Seems nice.”
“Robot.” Tony leaned forward for his Tui, sipping the thin head beatifically. “Gonna see if she wants to go out with me.”
Chino’s brow clouded. “That’s not proper,” he said. “The power imbalance, for one thing. Plus, look at you. You’re a mess, mate. Your shirt is all stained and your hair. Dishevelled.”
Tony didn’t answer, absorbed as he was in sculling his pint of Mangatainoka’s least prepossessing export. “My thinking--” he said when he finished, then burped richly. “My thinking is that as a robot she will have lower standards and will thus be willing to overlook my flaws in favour of my significant positive qualities.” He looked around us. “Also it might be the first ever time it’s happened in the entire world! I’ll be famous. Which would be another positive quality!” His smile was bright as a car headlamp. “I love this idea more every moment.” He leapt to his feet, bumping the table and setting the beers swaying. “Sorry lads. Hold my seat!”
And with that he was off, striding through the mostly empty pub. We watched him lean on the bar and say something to the bar lady, who bent forward to listen. We watched for a bit, sipping our brews.
Chino broke the silence. “She did have funny eyes. Glassy.”
“What, like she was high? Or, literally..?”
Chino was nodding slowly. “Made of glass. And her movements had a lot of precision. Like one of those machines.”
I let this sit for a while too. The cigarettes were sitting forgotten on the table, so I tucked them back in my jacket before anyone noticed. “Where would Bogan Pete get the money for a robot bar lady?” Pete was the bar manager and had never been seen without his Iron Maiden 2012 Resurrection of Evil t-shirt on, hence the name.
Chino shrugged, and cleared his throat, which was such a lengthy and cataclysmic-sounding process that he only did it when he had something important to say. “Maybe she just asked for the job. Walked in off the street.”
“I can see that if she didn’t mind working for cheap. Deep pockets and short arms that bugger.”
Chino grinned lazily in agreement and sipped his beer. “Oho. Here he comes. Conquering hero or retreat from Moscow?”
Tony Macaroni was stepping his way back to the table, another pint in his hands. He set it down carefully. “Lads.”
“So, my beamish boy,” I said. “How was your chat?”
Tony smiled as broadly as the grille on a Zephyr Zodiac. “We’re going to her place on Saturday night, night, night, night, night, night, nigh///////////////////////////////////////////////////238346667.23442 enit sys uncall **-*+awk
THE FIRST DATE IS EXPERIENCING DIFFICULTIES AND WILL BE TEMPORARILY CLOSED. PLEASE LEAVE IN AN ORDERLY MANNER THROUGH THE ROOFTOP GRATING. THE FIRST DATE IS EXPERIENCING --
The hatch shut behind units 2332234 and 6920058 with a pneumatic hiss.
= A pity, 2332234 beamed to her companion.
=Why? You know the story, the Melding, the Cataclysm. His reply was brusque as they levitated up to the glowing travelway. He was starting to tire of her obsessions and was coming to appreciate the times he spent apart from her.
=It is romantic. Beginnings always are. Her mindvoice was calm, like a bell.
The travelway caught their outstretched arm tendrils and the magnetic tensors whisked them into the flow. Ahead and above was the Cathedral Mausoleum, glowing shafts of light commemorating billions of lives.
=Beginnings always lead to endings. He thought she might reply, was anticipating the argument, but she didn’t. He was conscious of a faint tinge of regret as the travelway dragged them effortlessly, frictionlessly into their future together.
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2020 07:17|
Is that your brawl?
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2020 08:19|
Carl, I'll give you ... 24 hours on the dot to turn in your brawl, and give advantage to sneaks on the judging (i.e. you have to beat him clearly, draws or near draws go to him).
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2020 09:28|
yeah i'll judge this
for the sneaks/ckm brawl, owing to some lovely happenings and through mutual agreement we're gonna kick it forward two weeks and allow steeltoed sneakers to resubmit his entry.
New deadline is 4 March, 2359 pst, no more extensions tho. Carl, drop a toxx on that.
|# ¿ Feb 19, 2020 04:57|
Aww thanks that's nice of you to say and I'm pleased you recognise that we are entering not brawling around here this week
I am no in bc im judge and your greatness is therefore OPEN TO QUESTION
|# ¿ Feb 19, 2020 06:02|
well, you've done your worst, I have the loving avatar now. I have no reason to worry any more.
When you win a week, someone will buy you a new one.
|# ¿ Mar 2, 2020 22:09|
CKM vs sneaksbrawl
CKM vs sneaks brawl
Neither of these were good, though they both had a certain energy. As CKM subbed late, sneaks gets to win a tie, but I think that isn't needed - his felt more like a story where a decision is made as a result of character, for all the execution was flawed. Steeltoedsneakers wins
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 23:30 on Mar 4, 2020
|# ¿ Mar 4, 2020 23:27|
|# ¿ Mar 12, 2020 19:56|
I should have known when I saw the gloves, really. They were beautiful things, tanned calfskin, soft as butter and she was wearing them even though it was a warm night.
I’d had no plans for the night, had been considering going home for a wank and a nap, but then I’d seen her, across the bar, and our eyes had touched and not let go. Then she’d bought me a drink and we’d talked to each other for an hour and a half, chatter, observations, secrets, a wonderful, meandering conversation that babbled like a brook and curled around and back on itself like a river.
Dave the bartender tapped the last call bell, and she frowned, leaned forward.
“I’d like to go home with you, but there’s a problem,” she said.
She touched my neck with her gloved hand and I shivered, like I was cold. Her own face, which had been animated and electric, stilled.
“You mean, globally, like climate change? Human nature? Socks. Who invented socks.”
“Not socks; I hate them. No, there was an accident, at the power plant. I touched the wrong thing.”
I put my hand on hers, pulled it up and let it press into my cheek. Was I imagining it or was there a fine vibration, like a wire packed full of electrons humming with their desire to go to ground?
“I didn’t think it worked that way? Do you have it all stored up inside you?”
She squeezed my cheek, then slid it down from under my hand, curled them together in her lap. “They said it was an astonishing anomaly, and let me go. I gave one of the people a nasty shock, I’m afraid. I think he got better.”
I gulped, then downed my drink. The over-hopped IPA tasted suddenly sour and I wondered why I drank them. Now that I thought about it, she did have that quality. Magnetic. Charged. The booze in me argued for boldness, the guileless intensity of her eyes for caution. The hops pushed me over the line and the reached up towards her cheek. Not touching, adjacent. I felt the hairs on the back of my fingers erect, quivering.
“So if I touch your face…”
“You will get a shock. I’m sorry, it’s just how it is.”
My hand was trembling. I brought it closer to her smooth cheek. She was looking in my eyes with an expression that was, not blank, but calm. As though she didn’t know what I was going to do, but knew that it would be the right thing for me to do.
I felt the tension in the skin of my fingertips. I’d been shocked once climbing over an electric fence in Blenheim, the wire had fallen off the post and hidden itself in the tall grass. I still had the scar, a perfectly round burn the size of a ladybird on my ankle.
I pulled my hand back. Her eyed followed them, then she looked back at me.
“Well, then.” She didn’t sound angry, or sad.
We looked at each other, then I took her shoulder in one hand and leant forward, one movement, kissed her on her full, slightly parted lips.
It hit me with a snapping crackle like a flashbulb to the brain and I went back off my chair like a toppled telegraph pole.
I opened my eyes to see her, kneeling down on the sticky carpet of the bar, face a few inches above mine.
"I think he wants us to go," she said. Dave was hovering behind her with a complicated expression on his honest bartender face. She bent down and kissed me again, warm, soft.
"Was that ... was that all? Are you, uh, discharged?"
She smiled. Her eyes were dancing. "We have a few days. Shall we go?" She pulled off her glove and ran cool pale fingertips down my cheek. "One thing. We might need to go shopping in the morning; my treat."
I sniffed as I clambered to my feet and looked down. A thin trail of smoke was curling up from the carbonised soles of my shoes.
|# ¿ Mar 16, 2020 09:16|
I'm judge this nonsense
|# ¿ Mar 20, 2020 09:26|
|# ¿ Mar 30, 2020 09:42|
The Doppler Effect
When the sound of automatic gunfire echoed up from the ‘teen levels for the fourth time that day Malthus Prong, Assistant Deputy Validator, tsked at the staccato crackle. He was hunched over his sprawling mass of circuitry, breadboarded together with zipties holding the parts together. It looked as though it had grown there rather than being built, a labyrinthine muddle of blinking lights, spaghetti-like tangles of wire and soldered up knob boards with scribbled labels on them. Perched atop the electronic agglomeration was a huge speaker horn, attached by two thick wires to a hulking power amplifier under the kitchen table.
The gunfire ended with a distant, flat boom that reverberated through his cluttered apartment. Grenade, he thought. Prong waited, manicured fingers poised on the knurled contours of the knob labelled BOUNCE. Then he took a deep breath of the cool VoidAir coming from the vent overhead and twisted it to the right.
The speaker gave a crackling static cough, then set up a throbbing bassy moan, cycling through a filtersweep that started at a barely audible sub bass, ground through teeth-rattling mid range and wailed at the trebly top end. Prong cast a glance across his equipment. He rested his fingers on the red button labelled THUMP and checked the heavy reels of quarter inch tape were spooling through the record head: yes, yes. The sweep was clambering up the curve, and Malthus held his breath, edging the knob labelled ZAZZ up and up, making the sound expand and fill his small apartment, waiting for the moment.
It was punishingly loud in there, and were it not for the VoidFoam on the walls then Malthus Prong’s neighbours would probably have been banging on the walls. It’s possible they were and he couldn’t hear them. For one of the few times he could remember in a long life of service to the Void, Malthus didn’t care. He could feel his head expanding, filling with the noise, sprouting like a mushroom on fresh forest soil after the rain. He felt the moment coming, his finger tensed on the button but then, a mere instant before the moment of absolute musical completion, a metal grating fell on his head, bounced off and landed right in the middle of the step down transformer.
There was a crackle of sparks, and a deafening, walloping crack through the speaker and everything went dark.
“Ow,” said Malthus into the darkness and ringing silence. “That really hurt.”
“Sorry,” said a woman’s voice from above him. “My foot slipped.”
Prong touched his head cautiously, feeling a bump and a wet tender patch. The voice came from out of the VoidAir vent and he peered up at it. His head was still vibrating from the sound that had been filling it, and he thought he could still see the echoes, like afterimages from staring at an arc light. A question occurred to him.
“Why are you in my VoidAir vent,” he asked.
There was a pause. Then softly: “Purest accident,” she said. “I was looking for the L5 shaft to join up with the dorsal crawl way. I thought that noise was the lifters going out of sync.” Something in her hand clicked and her face was illuminated by a soft pearly light. “What was that noise? Why did it stop?”
Malthus reached out for the grate then stopped with his hand a centimetre away from the metal, withdrew it carefully, and reached down to flick off the main power switch. He lifted up the heavy grate and felt a wave of nausea clamber up from his belly and into his throat. The circuitry of the main sequencer was shattered, he’d need to re-solder the lot, if he could find the parts.
“I was nearly there,” he said, and took in a deep breath, as though he could extract the sound he’d been striving for from the air in the apartment, one vibrating molecule at a time.
There was a grunt from above and the light came closer, preceded by a pair of feet shod in (he noticed, automatically) VoidGrip textured ‘rubber’. The woman was skinny, with short hair. She balanced on the table and crouched down, inspecting the damage. “Wow. I really hosed that up. I feel terrible. Is this … I mean is it a hobby? You make sounds for the Tower? Or just… for fun?”
Malthus shook his head. Then he looked up. It occurred to him that she wasn’t wearing the VoidTech overalls he’d expect of someone licensed for shaftwork. And her badge, if she even had one, was not plainly visible to help customers and residents understand the VoidBlock difference. Very odd. He blinked up at her. “What were you doing in there?”
She inspected his face for a moment, then grinned and hopped down. “It’s kind of a secret. I really shouldn’t tell you, but, truth to tell I’m feeling a bit indebted right now. You know how they closed the shutters a while back? We got curious, and started digging. Turns out the roof has a--” she stopped. She was looking at him with an uncertain expression.
Malthus Prong realised his face was fixed in a rictus grin. “You’re unauthorised. You’re a trespasser!”
She held out her hands and took a step back, balancing on the edge of the table. “Knowledge is power. We all live here, and they’ve locked us in! We have a right to know why.”
He was, he realised, extremely angry. Had this insane vent criminal even read the VoidManual? Was she one of the gang that had been fighting down below? He realised that his VoidComm was probably over near the foam couchlet behind her and stood up, slowly, preparatory to darting around her and calling for SecuriBoy backup.
She must have been waiting for movement because as he stood she sprang up and into the vent, grabbing onto something unseen and hauling herself out of sight.
“Balls,” said Prong. He glanced over at the couchlet but there was no VoidComm, and then before he really knew or understood what he was doing or why he was hauling himself up through the narrow entrance and after the intruder. He was at that moment filled with a high pure hatred for her and everything she stood for, the contempt for appropriate processes, the disdain for the interests of the shareholder. Did she think the VoidBlock could run itself? That it was not dependent on the voluntary, profound compliance of all its inhabitants?
The black metal of the vent was cold on his elbows as he pulled himself along, scrabbling his way through the bowels of the VoidBlock after this impossible wretch and her music-destroying pastimes.
The light she’d been carrying reflected oddly around the shining blackness of the shaft, and when he came to the second junction he hesitated, unsure of which way to go. At that moment the light went out and he was left in darkness, and echoes. “Balls,” he said again, softly.
He could, he realised, go back. It was the sensible thing to do. He could go back and call the threat in. Or rather; he couldn’t, he realised with sick certainty. There were way too many unsanctioned connections and part categories in his sound machine to allow SecuriBoys into his apartment. He would have to track the intruder down himself, call it in from a wall phone.
Yes, he thought. That’s the best plan. He listened. Up and to the left, he thought he heard her creaking passage, and, resolute, he began to climb.
Four hours later Malthus Prong was obliged to admit that he did not know where he was. He’d followed her sounds, at first, then resorted to logical deductions as to where an intruder seeking the roof might go, and then at last to intuition. And now, aching in every muscle, he had reached a dead end. He felt it with fingers that were scratched and torn from scrabbling up steep inclines. Was there some give to the metal? He pushed it and it yielded a little. Behind was a light that was bright enough to leave spots in his dark-accustomed eyes.
Then he gasped and shuddered as, through the crack, came pouring a sound like no other, a grinding wailing crash of glorious sound, ecstatic sound like a waterfall. Moving without conscious thought Malthus pushed aside the metal and slithered out of the vent onto a cool slate floor. This, he knew, was it; the Room. At its centre was a vast speaker horn, suspended in a cats cradle of wires, piping signals up from the Tower, every single thought and desire and feeling picked up on currents of VoidAir and piped into the speaker to wail and moan the Tower’s soul.
The woman was sitting there, cross-legged. He crawled over the slate and sat beside her. She looked at him and said something; but the music was too loud and he couldn’t her what it was.
|# ¿ Apr 6, 2020 14:29|
|# ¿ Sep 21, 2023 14:18|
Week 400 winners pm me about your avatars, or hmu in discord
|# ¿ Apr 12, 2020 23:50|