don't you forget, eh?
Sitting Merc Heredes Brawl
|# ¿ Jan 7, 2020 13:42|
|# ¿ Sep 21, 2023 10:23|
So I've been informed that at least one of you did, in fact, forget. Because this was a Christmas Brawl, I'm happy to give an extension, but because work has started again, I want to have a little fun.
Starting from now [make it an even 7 PM in my time zone], every 24 h you're not delivering your story costs you 200 words.
Take all the time you want until you reach 12 words max in 12 days.
|# ¿ Jan 7, 2020 18:46|
Thank you very much, I'll read it once we get the other part of the party in the room.
If my count is correct, it's been 6 days since I posted the 200-words-per-day reduction clause, so sitting here still has 1.5 h until her max drops to 1212, meaning she can still match you fairly in words. Just a heads-up~
|# ¿ Jan 13, 2020 17:31|
Herc Mere sitted esing brawl result
Let’s start with the first impression: it’s sadly not great. The opening sound effect is really weak. I struggled a little with understanding what’s actually happening, the action isn’t conveyed well: when you say the unnamed hero “slips through the air to disappear […]”, I’m thinking of teleportation or superpowers, not that he’s jumping, his form is obscured briefly by crash and dust, and then you start seeing him again. Also, there’s an errant comma there, shame on you.
To continue this line of critique, there are some awkward sentences throughout, a stunning example is “I remembered the look on the face of a boy I liked when I asked him to watch a movie with me and knew it was true.” – there is just one fragment too much to make this digestible. I get that you want to convey Sadie’s mind stumbling over itself to sabotage her, but I don’t think the experiment is quite working. However, considering I did get that impression at the very least, there is a core of a working technique here, you just need to refine it more.
As an aside before I move to praise, was “I think I’m going to throw up” deliberate or clumsy? It’s the only sentence in present tense, and it IS an accepted stylistic element to change tenses to emphasize things.
But! I always thought that was bullshit and have never seen it pulled off well. It might work, but I don’t think it does here – IF it was deliberate.
So, praise. This story had solid character work for Sadie, it’s easy to get a sense of who she is as a person, how she struggles with self-image and so on; you manage to do that using broad strokes of various brushes, from how she describes her own hair to, as detailed above, how her thought process works. Sometimes you lay it on too thick, but overall it’s a good well-formed individuum you deliver here.
And the ending is sweet as heck, so big points for that.
Overall, this had some technical difficulties, but it’s a good story about a complex protagonist I feel many people might be able to identify with, and it feels like the right lessons will be learned after the story ends without you outright stating the moral.
In contrast to Merc’s, your opening is phenomenal. It absolutely nails the tone of the rest of the story (which is something many, many TD openings including a lot of my own fail very hard at), it’s funny and demands my attention in a very good way. One of the best ones I’ve read here.
The other contrast, however, is that your character work isn’t nearly as good as Merc’s. The biggest issue is of course that you’re having the narrator only describe actions, not feelings – which makes sense considering the framing – but even there, I’m left a little wanting. I’m not entirely sure how much Kerwin hates being a ghost, in fact – apart from describing that he wants to fix that situation, it seems he’s mostly accepting of it? That takes tension out that could be there if you just add something like “naturally he loving hates that especially the no corporeal dick part” or whatever.
As for Agatha, there’s even less there because the narrator doesn’t know her; just her hobbies don’t help me get a real sense of who she is, and space altering her perception of rooms and such is interesting, but still not much of a character trait. The biggest failing here is, again, that I don’t get a sense of unfulfillment from her: we know at the end that she was horny, but is that caused from loneliness? It can be assumed, but there’s no textual evidence, I feel like, and while it’s fine if you make me think, at least a little straw to grasp on would be nice imo.
Your resolution is also sweet, perhaps a little too convenient but that’s fine. However, the “bringing science forward” part is too much, sorry – it doesn’t feel like it belongs and just adds an extra layer of unneeded sap.
Overall though, this is a really good, extremely fun read, with a great framing device, and very original ideas that come together (pun intended, and yes even the Beatles reference like Lucy) very elegantly.
This brawl was about love, and you both managed to deliver a solid story focusing on that. You also both fulfilled the requirement to have the lovers never meet, and with Merc devoting his story to internals and imaginings while sh made something quite funny, you also managed to write in each others’ style as per my limited understanding of what that entails. So I can’t really disqualify you on technicalities, making this a little harder but not too hard.
Mercedes, you interpreted the lovers never meeting in a way I had in mind as a possibility; two people fantasizing about each other, but not working up the courage to meet, with a good end for both born from that fantasy because I’m a sap. But wait, I wrote TWO people! This is only the story of one person fantasizing, so it’s not quite about loverS. Conversely, you end with two people actually meeting and the possibility of love is there, so there’s two minor missteps regarding the spirit of the brawl.
sitting here, because of your aforementioned character issues, them falling in love feels a little empty in the end. Kerwin’s just forms out of getting to know Agatha as a person and observer, and hers stems only from feeling his – after all, she doesn’t KNOW him before their first crossover. As I, the reader, don’t get a sense of Agatha, it’s even harder to empathize with Kerwin regarding her being someone worthy of his doubly addicted affection. So, you also lose some points here wrt the main brawl conceit.
But! Your story simply was more fun to read, is a really cohesive and imaginative package, and technically flawless. So sitting here wins, congratulations!
|# ¿ Jan 14, 2020 18:21|
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2020 17:27|
The harsh blue sunlight gave the horizon its special glow as it set, making the chromium snow sparkle. The flakes tinted heavy metal green had finished hurtling from purple clouds just an hour prior. Setting sun, retreating clouds and iridescent snow reflected in turquoise eye gems. Kraig stroked his companion gently from rear to front, up a sleek body, avoiding the connections to the six appendages that it sometimes used as legs. Krystal vibrated under his touch, and their eyes gained and lost iridescence in rhythm with his caresses.
The perfect reward after a long day’s work in heavy snow, buffeted in his prospector suit by verdant whirlwinds. Kraig had finally managed to uncover the ranger droid that had fell down a cave hidden underneath a dome of potassium dichromate growths. Once the bright orange crystals had been cleared away, the droid’s antenna had sent an amazing set of data back to headquarters. Average temperatures, rare metal contents in soil, moisture levels: piece by piece, the puzzle of this planet made a coherent image.
When he arrived here, Kraig had thought it would be one of hell frozen over. Punished with thankless slave work that might drive him mad before long, stuck alone on a wasteland of venom-green tundra for years. But Kraig had chosen this fate over one much worse. And eventually, he had found a perverse pride in his assignment, and clawed himself out of despair and depression’s depths by recognizing the alien beauty of this planet. He’d bitterly dubbed it Nyx on arrival, but when he first saw the moons reflected in the facets of Krystal’s eyes, he realized the allure of the Goddess of night, and fell in love with her.
Kraig gave Krystal a final pat on their featureless head, and pulled his heavily gloved hand back into the protective sphere of his cabin. He got up from the metal folding chair he placed at the border between his and Krystal’s world every evening, and went back inside his home, a one-room cube that had assembled itself from the remains of his drop pod when he first arrived on Nyx. On the wall next to the food processor which fed him the same reconstructed gruel every day, his contract loomed. He had made some modifications.
CRIME: STEALING COMPANY PROPERTY [FOOD]
PUNISHMENT: CHOOSE ONE
[ ] ASSIGNMENT TO RESOURCE MINING CORPS ON QUARRY PLANET [PURGATORY] FOR
[YEARS: 15 MONTHS: 0 DAYS: 0 HOURS: 0]
[X] ASSIGNMENT TO PROSPECTOR CORPS ON UNEXPLORED PLANET
[YEARS: 0 MONTHS: 11 DAYS: 7 HOURS: 5]
While Kraig pushed the button combination to activate the program hack he had implemented in the processor, the last number on the holopaper switched to a 4. The food machine reluctantly added lead salts, elementary vanadium and some crude oil-like substance as garnish on the second, smaller bowl of gruel.
He carried it outside to where Krystal was still waiting for their dinner. It had taken Kraig a long time to determine what his alien pet liked as a special treat, but time was the least he lacked alone on Nyx. Illuminated by the happily glowing eyes of his friend, Kraig ate his own dinner. He really hadn’t learned his lesson, still taking more than his share of rations. But the punishment was not about reforming people, after all.
In the first few months, Kraig had been tortured every night by the thought of his family falling into poverty, which would inevitably lead his wife and kids to share his fate. A choice between indentured servitude with no chance of survival, or an extremely low one. But Nyx had taken him into her embrace – Krystal was his family now. Kraig slept well these days.
But today, his rest was cut short by an alarm. Kraig bolted upright and was halfway into his prospector suit before he realized his error. He ran to his console and slammed the button to receive the interstellar message from company headquarters, the first in years. With the shrill demanding bleats still ringing in his ear, he listened to what the higher-ups had to tell him.
For the next hours, he sat outside, watching the smaller moon ripple slightly behind the protective field’s distortion, its pale glow flowing over the chromium snow powdered hills, false-spectrum rainbows emanating where the rays hit just right. As the moon sank and the sun rose, the hues became warmer until their contrast became almost unbearable. Then, Krystal appeared, awaiting a friendly morning greeting. But Kraig sat frozen, ungloved, their border impossible to cross.
“They will extract me early, Krystal.” His unpracticed voice sounded like a chromate avalanche. “Soon, another pod will land, and take me away, and then…”
The harsh colors pierced into his eyes and she shut them hard. When he opened them again, he could only see Krystal’s soothing glow.
“Then they’ll send ramming ships. Giant claws with gigafusion engines. They’ll push Nyx into an orbit closer to the sun. Warm it up, to prepare for terraforming. Establish a quarry, maybe even colonize it. When I left headquarters, their ecosystem was about to collapse. They must be getting a little desperate.”
Turquoise was his world. Krystal seemed to loom over him, despite being much smaller.
“My data gave them what they needed. They’ll surely be grateful.” Kraig whispered the last sentence as if he was buried under meters of beautiful toxic snowflakes.
Krystal left, unpetted.
A week of languishing later, the extraction pod landed. Kraig stared into its opening which welcomed him with the yellow light of an almost forgotten home.
He lifted his folding chair high and smashed the transmission antenna of the pod with it, preventing remote control and observation. Almost immediately, the alarm screamed for attention with a message from headquarters; Kraig squashed it the same way.
The contract kept ticking down hour by hour, week by week, reminding Kraig of the time slipping away as he worked against the thousands of engineers in headquarters. While the moons shone their light of judgment on him, he modified the pod for manual control. Hacked its close-range transmission unit with circuitry from the droid and food processor. Fortunately, Krystal didn’t come demanding food anymore.
One moonless night, he collapsed exhausted against the pod’s black hull, raising a lone scream against the claw hands of the company that would soon pluck this gem from the night sky. When suddenly, a turquoise glow lit up the darkness.
His friend lay in a bed of powdery chromium snow, curled up, head resting on two limbs, crystal eyes shining as bright as they could.
“Do you know what I’m doing here?”
Krystal inclined their conical head and a wave of light ran from their left eye to the right and back.
“I’ll modify the transmitter to send a scrambling signal to the ramming ships!”, Kraig yelled, his eyes aglow as well. “When they come, I’ll fly up to meet them. Tell them they are not welcome. Make them miss the target, get lost in space!”
His glow faded. He fell to his knees. “At least I’ll try. Will you help me?”
A flash of turquoise.
One night, months later, Kraig bathed in the shine of two moons and two eyes, and he saw it: two new stars, scratching a path through the firmament.
In his prospector-cum-space suit, he waded out into the chromium snow one last time, bent down and hugged Krystal with utmost care.
“I’m so sorry. I’ll try to make it right.”
He turned and ran into the pod, the turquoise glow haunting him until the yellow light drowned it when the doors closed.
And then, space. Kraig saw the ramming ships through the viewscreen, twin claws almost as big as the smaller moon, titanic hands extended towards his jewel. With a deep breath, he pushed the button to send the hacking signal.
He could almost imagine the left claw quivering a little. But they both kept going, grasping, on their inevitable way. His painful breath forced itself out, and Kraig deflated to a puddle on the floor of the pod. He had failed, and doomed Nyx, the verdant winter jewel.
Then, he noticed a light from the viewscreen. Kraig jumped up, switched off the yellow lamps, and got bathed in turquoise.
All over Nyx, islands of the shine from eye gems appeared. They grew in intensity with every second, moving together until the entire planet burned in the pastel light.
Then, a beam of it shot up, focused itself on the pod, and split in two. Suffused in its warm glow, Kraig was not blinded; he saw clearly how the twin beams met the ramming ships, but then he had to blink, and when he opened his eyes, the claws were gone.
And so was the pod. Kraig floated in the beam, beholding the sparkling planet from space, as the beam took him back down gently, sinking into Nyx’ embrace.
|# ¿ Jan 19, 2020 19:46|
Yes I too agree that this week's judging is bullshit, I wrote about a gender neutral sparkledog which will NAIL me the deviant art demographic
Anyway I'm here to get super mad about just reaching mediocrity, too bad there's no way to find out why a judge didn't appreciate my genius like dunno waiting for their crits
|# ¿ Jan 21, 2020 12:23|
Thanks a whole lot for the crit, Charlie!
|# ¿ Jan 28, 2020 00:13|
Cool prompt wanna write about robots in
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2020 19:52|
Melodies of Life
The pipes of the organ cathedral pierced the sky with symphonic screams. Like clawmarks of a carrier lizardtron gone rogue, they marred the ebony cliffside at the edge of the carbon wastes. The vent-winds of the nearest circuit-city blew irregularly out here, catching in the pipes. The resulting random pattern of pitch and din sounded like the kidnapped victim’s screams for help. The one logical trail towards them led directly to this arrogant monument to muso-gothic vanity architecture.
Wedged between two diapasons by a manipulator and an analyzer arm, Detective Unit α-neutron “Duane” increased the zoom of his main visual lens to eight-fold. Even at this magnification, the ashen ground way down remained fuzzy. He knew his focal length to have a maximum of 802.3 m; slipping off the pipe would therefore result in a plunge of at least 556 s at terminal velocity.
The peril of the situation was messing with Duane’s systems. He shouldn’t be far above this pipe’s Labium lip; it was time to take a calculated risk of 27.8%. He loosened the force on the analyzer arm by 3.0 Newton and started sliding. His speed increased at a linear pace…and then exponential. The risk scenario had become true, and the manipulator arm lost grip rapidly!
One chance. Duane pushed off the pipe completely to spin around, facing it falling upright. Soon, his speed would be too much.
The Labium! His hydraulics screamed as his arm whipped forward, and the digits curled around the lip to stop his descent. The metal of his shoulder deformed dangerously, but held. With a complaining creak, Duane breached the cathedral.
He activated a flashlight attachment at a careful 5% intensity and began scanning for signs of the victims. Over 31.7 years, senior robot citizens with build dates around the Extinction event had gone missing one by one. Long attributed to disrepair of body and memory banks, finally a pattern had begun to emerge. Someone was abducting millennia-old robots to the organ cathedral.
The interior of the cathedral had been stripped bare of electronics by feral scavenger units. Venturing from his entry point, Duane found nothing but carbon particles blown in through the pipes, empty corridors designed as channels for wind from bellows long shut off. He stalked through stimulation rooms with acoustics optimized for sound immersion, now just echo chambers for the wail of the winds. Duane checked systematically for hours, until he felt a negative feedback loop build up in his mental circuits. Had he threatened his own existence for nothing? He allowed his mounting tension to vent explosively, and slammed curled-up digits against a channel wall.
Echoes and reverbs travelled down the channel and back up, welcome harmony in the chaos of the organ victims’ screams and his own thought routines. A memory of the perfect engineering necessary to build this masterpiece of useless indulgence.
Duane froze as his microphones picked up on the disturbance. He hit the wall again, and his result was replicated: something along this channel distorted the echo.
Duane ran deeper into the cathedral. The strides of his tripedal walking apparatus made a regular rhythm of clangs and tinkles, washing over him but never managing to drown out the screams. He was getting close to…
Something slammed into his head-to-torso connection, almost severing his sensor unit. He crashed to the ground, and had to spend painful minutes recalibrating himself. Straining his bent shoulder, he hoisted himself up, and found the trap at neck height: a wire strung between two holes crudely drilled into the sides of the channel.
And it still carried charge, his sensitive digit-tips told him.
Two more wires 3.22 m further in. In a stimulation room, a bundle of them was gathered, and a bigger strand led to an assembly chamber. From there, more strands, a web, connecting chamber to chamber, and further towards the heart of the cathedral. Letting himself be guided by them, digits sliding along the faint charge, Duane’s hydraulics started to tremble with unspent chaotic energy.
It all culminated into the old bellows-room. A massive cavern of machinery, once used to power depraved pleasure-circuit sparkings, now a tomb for the ambition of unproductivity. Duane increased his flashlight’s intensity – but before it ramped up fully, something shone back. A pinprick of green light here, then red there, then blue everywhere – a firmament lining the walls. Duane turned to the nearest star – and an involuntary sound escaped his speakers.
A brain unit was nailed to the wall next to him. The light emanated from a status LED, flickering weakly. Gears inside – an ancient brain. Pre-Extinction. And next to it, another, and ever more; all connected with cables, hundreds in this chamber alone, and assuredly all over the cathedral. A web of methuselaic circuitry, but spun with what nefarious purpose?
The lights coalesced. On the deflated bellows, an image began to form. A heavily distorted projection formed from lamps never meant as holographic projectors. Three figures, one too broken to discern, but two of them similar, bipedal, chiral manipulators, between four and six digits. A word forcing itself into Duane’s simulated consciousness: humanoid.
His legs lost purchase somehow and he stumbled backwards. All these seniors decommissioned, ripped apart and arranged in this disgusting display just for this? A single image of pre-Extinction organics?
The projection collapsed upon itself. Many status LEDs winked out, this last effort having been too much. The ones still working shone their desperate light on one focal point.
As Duane crawled closer, he saw it: one bellow, undeflated. Filled not with air, but liquid. A viewing window. And inside, horror: life.
A thing of muscles, blood and skin. With fur and scales and strands of something, and a singular unblinking eye staring back at Duane’s sensors.
Had someone used those ancient memories to remake an organic? Thousands of robots sacrificed to attempt revival of one living being?
Or had they…
Duane swept the walls where LED after LED went out.
…done this to themselves?
|# ¿ Feb 16, 2020 23:17|
I too can judge
|# ¿ Mar 13, 2020 12:28|
|# ¿ Mar 17, 2020 12:26|
Judgecrits week 396
PTSDeedly Doo - Barter
This is an extremely straightforward piece. This can be quite fine, and I personally like stories that do not leave me guessing, but sadly you did not manage to write a narrative that particularly engrossed me. If I were to sum your plot up, I’d call it “wish-fulfilment under capitalism”. You touch on themes of inheritance, old labor and fairness, which can be extremely powerful especially given our times, but you do not manage to hold tension or conflict for more than a few sentences at a time, which is a shame.
For example, the sister ghosts the protagonist, and he’s just accepting of that, finds a different solution almost immediately, and when she eventually returns, he bears no grudge and is just pure and good. I get that you’re building a bridge to the beginning, where you lay out (slowly and kind of painfully) that his father impressed certain values on him and he follows those, but “he was raised to be a good person and thus does good things later in life” is not at all interesting, I’m sorry.
As for style, it’s a very mixed bag. Some of your turns of phrases are good - I like your description of the father as a symbol more than a person, and the “humid lumber smell” of the mill is evocative, but often your descriptions are very plain and frankly boring. “Tragically, he fell ill and died at the age of sixty.” is a terrible sentence and a prime example for why people get told that adverbs are of the devil. There is absolutely zero emotion in this utterly pivotal moment of the protag’s life. And that’s not the only such sentence. Most of them are too long to boot, containing just a little bit too much dry information, that could be put into a different sentence and spruced up to put more weight on each plot point.
Your dialogue suffers from similar issues - it’s often awkward, and needs to be snappier in general. Example:
“I understand that business relationships are built on trust, and trust can only be gained through years of consistency.”
Nobody would ever say that out loud, and you might realize that if you read it to yourself in the future.
Overall, this is not good but I’m sure you can do better, starting from the core idea.
Anomalous Amalgam - Labor & Industry
What we have here is a story about someone having an incompetent manager, who in the end learns a lesson in the face of a near catastrophe. This is eerily similar to PTSDeedly Doo’s story just before you, in that it is basically wish-fulfilment under capitalism. That is, you both present a system that is deeply unfair, but show a specific example where things nonetheless turn out fine. It’s tough to see a point or message in this.
Regardless of the political aspect, your story has structural problems. In my opinion, the entire first part is useless - nothing it sets up cannot be developed elsewhere, through dialogue or in the revisit of the flight deck. In fact, your Chekov’s gun of the weak struts is so blindingly obvious that it weakens the “oh poo poo” moment later on.
Speaking of dialogue, it needs work. While your conversations are generally not terrible, sometimes they seem to just…end, and characters seemingly interrupt themselves with no good reason. Also, it’s occasionally hard to tell who is speaking. Example:
“Ora was waiting for him when he got there.
“Sorry man, Feng came down here and busted my balls about covering for you.” “
Vadim is also covering for Ora (they’re just switching jobs), and the last person mentioned in the introductory sentence is Vadim (“him”). Therefore, it’s not clear that Ora is speaking, and it took me a bit to unravel that. It doesn’t help that Vadim and Ora are on the same page about everything.
And what about Ora? If she and Vadim switched jobs and Feng forced them to switch back, then she should be working the flight deck as the near catastrophe is going down. I was expecting Vadim having to rescue her, but she’s just not there, and it’s in fact not entirely clear why it’s suddenly Vadim’s responsibility to fix the flight deck. I guess one could infer that Feng knows he’s the most qualified, but forced him to mine instead because he’s a stickler for schedules (but not really because he hosed up his own), but Feng’s simply presented as too irrational to get any kind of grasp on him.
Overall, confusing plot and message, not unsalvageable but needs a lot of work.
QuoProQuid - Space Travel
Narnia is different than what I remember
Kidding aside, this is nice. Captures the imagination of children quite well, with a little cliché but “oooh”-worthy twist at the end in the rope-burned hands.
To really set the world on fire, I think it could use a little bit more of everything. Janet should be more afraid of something going wrong at the start, Mary should be even more terrified, the planets should be grander, more awe-inspiring and threatening. Describing Pluto’s surface as arsenic-white is what I’m looking for, this should have been the tone throughout, imo.
What I’m saying is, watch a video of Sephiroth’s Supernova attack and then describe that in reverse.
Kidding again, of course.
Overall: neat but lacks a little bit extra oomph to make it really good.
Armack - 10^0: Orange Goop and Solipsism Too
I didn’t actually know about Boltzmann brains before, so that was neat to learn.
In fact, the entire piece is neat. Usually I’m not into surreal stories at all, but you do a very good job of this devolving into complete nonsense - in fact, it’s quite the opposite, the story makes perfect sense if you work backwards from the twist of what the protag is resp. realizes about themselves. I got the sense of it expanding from an isolated incident into a vast universe (much like the good is expanding, eh? eh?) and then back again, and the perspective changes were well done.
Overall, keeping this as short and sweet as your story, I liked it and it’s a fun thought experiment jumping off some seemingly random absurdity.
sitting here - Six-and-six
Wow, the first part is depressing. That’s a compliment, as you manage to dissolve that quite well in the end, but wow, it hits heavy at first. This might be the story’s biggest problem: the protag (and by extension her mother) have so many real, very lovely problems, that “just” finding some much-needed self-esteem seems to pale a little in comparison, despite you coating her transformation in words that make seem everything peachy at the end. Even her monster of a mother is happy to have her back despite spending all her life grinding her down.
Accordingly, “just take drugs it’ll turn your suicidal depression about” is a little trite, though I won’t claim expertise in either subject.
As for the style: many people hate second person, which I don’t get, it’s fully legitimate. Obviously it’s a little easier to gently caress up than more traditional styles, but you didn’t. I don’t need to slather you with more praise, you know you can write!
Overall: extremely heavy on the emotions, presents the story it wants to tell about those emotions very well. Should maybe make the story less extreme in both setup and dissolution.
Carl Killer Miller - The Circle Complete
Pretty bleak. This is a well-written tale of someone’s waste of a life, with a very interesting framing device. The latter is definitely more interesting, with the vignettes of the protagonist’s failure to amount to anything also not amounting to much - it’s a relatively standard setup of laying the foundation for how terrible of a person (and father) he is, shows the consequences of him being terrible, and then escalates - doubly, maybe not needed - into heavy illness, crime and violent death.
I wouldn’t necessarily call it cliché (just calling something that is a cliché in and of itself), but I feel like you’re making it too easy on yourself. The protag’s life as presented to him starts garbage and ends worse. What if it started with promise, but turned worse over justifiable, but wrong decisions? That would make it more tragic, and more relatable in a sense.
I really like the twist that this is not a past, but a future life - as I said, the framing device is by far the more interesting part of the story - and it makes you think, for example: what would happen if they did reach the black void before turning all the cards? Would he just die earlier, or would his soul never be born? Would that be better, considering what is to come? Was he tricked into revealing one bad card after another? It’s good that you open these questions and don’t answer them.
Overall: compelling idea hampered by somewhat mundane interstitials.
Antivehicular - First Flight
This is a nice experiment, starting with only verbs and using this to explain how being pure energy might “feel” like. It might be a little underdeveloped - despite being very short, the ending drags just a tiny bit too long, there’s a bit too much exposition - but I’d say in general, the experiment was a success.
Therefore, I want a full research paper now. I think the protagonist “gives up” a little too easily, comes back too quickly to form, and accepts too readily that yeah, he’s back in a body now and that’s FINE I GUESS but he’s going do things about that LATER MAYBE. You could expand on that even within this story.
Overall: yes this is good do more
SlipUp - The Bastard
I like how this is written, wonderfully gross. It’s sadly not quite engrossing however, as it’s over before it begins: after all, the king is already dead. You’re laying on thick how much he deserved this and how much of a hassle he still is being, but I’m not quite seeing the point. It all hinges heavily on the protagonist not abandoning their duty - and stuffing the corpse wherever, or even leaving it to rot - and even with allusions to God and such, I fail to see why he bothers.
The problem is, the language is so flowery in its justified hatred that “but still I have to do this” doesn’t quite hold up. And therefore, the central conflict it might have - the knight struggling with the terrible disgusting job he has to do - isn’t there, as he never struggles. He knows he has to do it, so he does it. And that’s the extent of the story.
Overall: It’s still enjoyable to read, so kudos for that, but you need to work more on the motivation of the knight.
Something Else - Multiply
This is grim. Not bad, though. As someone who tends to overexplain things, it’s interesting to me how you eschew exposition almost completely - you do not elaborate on who is fighting who in this war, what the cause was, if the hero brother died at some point or if he’s just off doing hero things, and so on. It does make for a somewhat strained beginning, like I was grasping at straws that deliberately weren’t there, but soon I realized that all of that doesn’t matter, you just want a snapshot of a character musing about how she even ended up inhabiting these few moments.
And that’s fine! It does leave me wanting for a little bit more, however. Some of the things that are happening, even on re-read, are a little confusing (the action of the sniper’s body being “pulled back” - I assume it’s a bullet impacting it?), and for example the protagonist elaborating on how someone must have picked through the body before…but why are there still plenty of bullets on it?
I’m also not sure if I can find true excitement in a chase scene where nobody is chasing. Even if she’s just constantly paranoid due to being a child soldier war orphan and imagining rifles trained on her that aren’t there (one shot was really fired however, if I got that correctly), that doesn’t come through either. Therefore, her reaching a save haven with others just like her doesn’t feel like much of a climax - and of course, she hasn’t “won” anything, the war will still continue and they won’t win with some 30-odd bullets more or less.
Overall: Interesting exploration of the mind of a child in terrible circumstances, but maybe doesn’t quite go far enough, both within and without.
sebmojo - PPE
This is pretty cute, and generally succeeds at being lighthearted and daring while keeping a lot of love under the surface. I enjoy how your protagonists pumps himself up to make a move, and how for a moment it seems like he might pull back; you had me there. And I was cheering for the kiss that took him off the barstool.
It’s not all rosy, however - you did get a little sloppy in places. “The hops pushed me over the line and the reached up towards her cheek.”, you write, missing a word - and that took me out of the story at a critical moment. Very unfortunate. In a similar vein, protag joking about the socks just baffled me - I thought even during the first re-read that her touch had made him hear voices, before I finally realized that he was reacting to her “problem” line. For me, the flow of conversation broke there completely, not helped by the longish action line in between - which ends with HER, not him, who is talking next.
Something meta: I’ve read quite a few stories of yours by now, and noticed that you really like metaphors. Often, they’re great, but they can get grating if overused, and once you see them as a “his style” thing, they stick out a little in what should be a naturally flowing story. Maybe my brain is uniquely wired to notice these patterns and it’s just a “me” thing, but consider this:
“a wonderful, meandering conversation that babbled like a brook and curled around and back on itself like a river.”
That’s like two things at once which flow and I get it but if it’d been just ONE comparison, I might not have gone “oh Sebby’s at it again with the thing’s-like-other-thing-thing”. Something to maybe keep in mind if other people also report the same issue going forward.
Overall: feelgood story of this week and I like those, so extremely biased thumbs up despite the smaller issues.
|# ¿ Mar 17, 2020 17:23|
The candle’s flame gyrates in a mesmerizing dance, never tiring on its waxen stage, but the performance has almost reached its end. On the stump, it’s barely possible to make out carvings that once adorned the proudly erect pillar top to bottom: runes, hieroglyphs, and holy symbols. In a similar fusion of magical craft from all beliefs and cultures, a hundred-pointed star painted with blood and ash surrounds the candle. On the points of this Centagram, a ring of sleeker candles surrounds the central one like the worshippers the golden calf.
All this knowledge, all this power drawn from any possible and impossible occult source, with one goal: to keep the flame alive, to sustain Hubert’s lover.
When Abadin had arrived at the university, he had been so fascinating, so exotic. Smoldering eyes sharpened by the same charcoal lines he drew on his plucked eyebrows, preened like nobody else where Hubert lived. He pushed for them to become study partners, and while poring over the same book, Hubert would get lost drinking in Abadin’s scent of foreign spices. All courage gather, Hubert asked about them, and earned a smile radiating the sadness of a lonely desert. Together they mourned flavors lost.
The very next day, still tired from sleep lost dreaming of olive skin pressed against his, Hubert made his way to the big market. And with enough persistence, and almost all of his savings, he finally obtained what he was looking for: a single seed from half the world away.
More studying, horticultural, in languages so frustratingly foreign. But Abadin was so helpful, so gentle teaching Hubert characters flowing so much more gracefully than his own harsh scripture.
Finally, after months of waking to the expectation of finding the exotic plant shriveled, Hubert had his perfect gift. A chili pepper he presented Abadin on a bed of satin, and his friend’s kohl dissolved when he saw it, and this was how they became more than friends.
Soon, a coveted degree celebrated in intimate embrace. Hidden kisses lingering for hours as they bought a house for research, food and love. Their laboratory grew as did their affection, the chili plant prospered and slowly, Hubert learned to appreciate its heat, accompanied by Abadin’s gentle mocking laughter.
But then, the laughter became raspy. His breath labored, and their bed turned from a place for fiery embraces to one of rest. Abadin had taken ill with a flu his foreign body was not used to, burning up with a fever a local might shrug off.
They had studied medicine as well, had all the resources, the herbs, the tinctures. Hubert never slept these days as he mixed ointment after potion, with a restless energy he’d last expended on winning Abadin’s love. But the fight for his life, he lost.
And thus, he turned beyond life. Days, then weeks spent poring over books as Abadin wasted away. He kept smiling this drat smile, saying it would be fine, that Hubert should just lay with him and hold him and that was all he needed. But Hubert knew that this was the only way, and if he just succeeded, they would have all the time in the world to embrace, entwine their undying flames.
So Abadin’s last hot breath left his lips as Hubert held a candle, not his lover’s hand. But through his multitude of magics, Hubert did succeed in this: matchlessly, the candle ignited, housing Abadin’s spirit until Hubert could find a new vessel.
He’d spent more time than he liked on that quest. Every morning again fearing that over night, the candle had gone out. The life of Abadin for weeks threatened by every gust.
But here Hubert stands now, ready to clad Abadin again in life. An orphan youth that won’t be missed is bound to a wall inside a samesuch Centagram as on the floor; its magic paralyzes him with eyes wide open. In them, the quivering flame reflects, which will replace his spirit.
Hubert starts the ritual, lights candle after candle, with a match lit from Abadin himself. With each tiny flame, the room grows brighter than it should, and after half are lit, going on is like climbing into an active crater. But as he endured the chili’s heat that coated his palate, Hubert pushes onwards, even as the firey circle singes his hair and dries his skin. In the center, Abadin seems frozen in anticipation.
As the match touches the last wick, the entire Centagram flares up, each line in unison. The blaze unites in one bonfire, consuming the candles all, and something attempt to rise, a protuberance like an outstretched hand; but it collapses, lacking strength!
Hubert curses, upends his desk and throws it in the ring of fire. Not enough. The bed must burn, he drags it in as the youth’s eyes grow wider still beholding his obsession.
Almost high enough the fire roars. The books are next, their words the fuel for this mad endeavor anyway. And still, the fire craves, what else…
The chili plant! It won’t burn well, but this is magic; its heat a symbol.
In it goes.
For a moment, it seems this painful sacrifice was still in vain. But then, with a flash a fiery tornado builds, gathers all the fire, a magnificent pillar scorching the ceiling, and then it settles in humanoid form. A burning effigy, a djinn, Abadin lives as fire.
With haste, Hubert explains what Abadin has to do, as his lover’s glory burns off his eyebrows and parches his mouth. He gestures to the youth, and the head with features obscured by licking plumes turns towards him. In the captive’s eyes, the fire fades.
But it is Abadin’s reflection which wanes. Already, the magic falters, and he does not move to enter his new body. Hubert falls to his knees, crawls closer, his hair catching fire. He pleads through cracking lips. But Abadin shakes his head, and from his body draws an item, a shining smooth unburned perfect chili pepper.
This hits him as if the djinn had driven a flaming fist into Hubert’s stomach, and for the first time since Abadin took ill, his lover opens his eyes to reality. Sees the ashes of his life twirling in the firestorm. Sees all the time he burned and wasted, to gain back a warm embrace he himself denied his dying lover. Sees the terrified victim he would have sacrificed in his obsession.
And so Hubert stands up and moves to free the youth, but stumbles in the stifling heat, succumbing to the fever he infected himself with. In despair, he turns to the djinn, and imagines in his empty face the lonely desert smile. Abadin throws his arm out, and a ball of fire ignites the ropes holding the youth, who falls out of the Centagram, freed from the spell. As his victim flees, Hubert attempts a scream an apology he recognizes as inadequate, but the fire has robbed him of all words. His skin feels crackling like a roasted chicken’s, but still he crawls closer to reach out, grab the chili and Abadin’s singeing hand, and manages one last request.
His lover obliges and draws him into the embrace they both desired for so long.
Once the flames have died down, from the ruins of the house a scorched figure will emerge. Hubert will be bald and scarred but twice alive. And for the rest of his long life, he’ll feel it on his back: the imprint of two burning arms. Whenever Hubert thinks of Abadin, they will radiate a phantom heat like a chili pepper hours after consumption. A permanent reminder that through this final fiery embrace, Abadin’s spirit will forever live in Hubert, smiling his warm desert smile.
|# ¿ Mar 23, 2020 00:55|
Perfect opportunity for a turnaround.
In and Flash as well. Hope I actually know the characters! Don't give me anime I don't know what an Äi You is
|# ¿ Mar 24, 2020 10:25|
A crit of Ride of the Swan King by Yoruichi
King Ludvig the Fifth slouched against the red velvet seat of his favourite swan-shaped sleigh. He slid a hand under his crown to scratch where it was itching his bald spot. He hated the drat thing, the weight of it made his shoulders ache. The sleigh’s runners squeaked over the dry grass of the expansive formal lawn. Ludvig’s manservants, sweating in their stiff-collared uniforms, grunted as they hauled on the rope. The sleigh jerked forward another foot.
This is off to a bit of an awkward start, as I get hung up on a few details. "Heavy rests the crown" is a little too cliché for me, it makes little sense to me how it would itch his bald spot specifically (this line in particular seems like you're doing too much in one, commenting on his age and appearance as well as the uncomfortableness of his kingly duties/symbols, that's a reocurring problem), and there's a weird conflict between the runners squeaking (so, moving) and the sleigh only jerking forward when the rope is hauled on specifically, suggesting that it was still before.
Ludvig sighed and tried to concentrate on the thin violin notes that warbled from behind the shrubbery. The musicians had grumbled when he’d commanded them to secrete themselves around the garden, but he had insisted. What was the point of a whimsical ride in one’s favourite swan-sleigh, at the height of summer no less, if not accompanied by uplifting music? Ludvig risked a glance at the palace balcony. His son Melvin was glaring at him, arms folded across his chest.
Another small point of conflict, as your description of the sleigh-ride so far seems horrible, but Ludvig still calls it whimsical here, despite seemingly also hating it already.
The sleigh jerked forward again and Ludvig grabbed hold of one carved wing to steady himself. Suddenly he sat forward, and squinted into the hot noon sun. A black-clad figure strode towards him from the rose garden.
“Halt!” shouted Melvin. He was huffing and puffing across the lawn with a clanking retinue of palace guards.
I had to re-read this a bunch until I realized that Melvin had somehow teleported from the balcony to the lawn. Think about the timeline here: Ludvig notices the figure, and immediately afterwards, Melvin shouts something from rather close by, so either he noticed Wagner way before, and got down, AND got a bunch of guards, or something is a little off in your description. It's possibly the latter, as you're again trying to do too much at once by bringing all the actors together within the span of just two sentences.
The black-clad man paid the King’s son no heed. He bowed to Ludvig, and his cape swirled around him in an extremely pleasing manner.
“King Ludvig the Fifth, I am Richard Wagner, and I have come to save the Kingdom!”
“Save it from what?” Melvin’s face was red and his chest heaved under his silk day suit.
Ludvig twisted around to kneel on his seat and leant over the back of the sleigh.
Again, this makes little sense to me considering his previous position: he saw Wagner approach from in front of the sleigh ("he glanced forward"). Melvin can't have been on the balcony behind his father, as he could see him with just a glance. Also, he saw him approach with the guards. So why is Ludvig turning around in his seat and looking over the back of the sleigh? Who is he turning to?
“Give it a rest, Melvin,” he said. “I apologise for my son,” he added to Wagner. “He inherited a terrible seriousness from his mother.”
“Mother would have died of embarrassment if she’d seen you being dragged around the garden in a stupid sleigh!”
“She’s not stupid, she’s a beautiful swam!” Ludvig stood up on his seat and wrapped his arms around the swan’s arched wooden neck. “And you used to love sleigh rides!”
“When I was twelve! And when there was snow!”
“Enough!” shouted Wagner. He swept his cape back from his shoulders and brandished his conductor’s baton.
So far you haven't really captured my attention, but funnily enough Wagner now did. It's obvious that Ludvig is already into this distraction and Melvin is not, so you created conflict nicely by making Wagner first announce that he'd save the kingdom and now by having him shout at the king.
Ludvig’s concealed orchestra stepped forward from the bushes, twigs hanging from their white tuxedos. They stared at Wagner like men possessed, his poised baton a lightning rod for their rapt attention.
Wagner brought the baton down with sweep of his arm that sent a gust of air and dust flying into Ludvig’s open mouth. As one, the violinists dragged their bows across their strings. The baton trembled, and the clarinets began to waver. Up and down went the violinists’ bows. Trombones rang out from behind the fountain, followed by a mighty blast from the trumpeters who stood up from behind the box hedge.
A giddy smile spread across Ludvig’s face. He took his crown from his head and wiped his sweating brow with one puffy sleeve. The music was like a clarion call to his soul, he felt like a doe hearing the lusty roar of a stag at the height of the rut. Ludvig looked at Melvin, sure that he would see the same rapture written on his son’s face.
Melvin was staring with intense concentration at Wagner, and had signalled to the guards to fan out. He wore a rapier at his hip, and his hand was poised upon the hilt. Ludvig was startled by the sight. When had his softly-spoken, ernest boy learnt to command fighting men like that?
This seems a little incongrous to me as well, as Ludvig has seen Melvin command men just a few minutes ago, and he hasn't been soft-spoken in the scene at all. It seems to me that there's some previous opinion of Ludvig regarding his son missing. After all, he's called him overly serious before, that is not indicative of the soft-spokenness you allude to here, and also not a contradiction wrt commanding men. Quite the contrary, in fact.
The timpani boomed from the rose garden. Wagner waved his baton arm like a fiend and the trumpets blared. Black feathers appeared along the edges of Wagner’s cape. Some broke free from his upraised arms and swirled above the guards.
The men drew their swords.
Melvin held up his hand. “Father, what is your command?” he said.
Ludvig stared at the man who had somehow taken over his son’s body. The flutes trilled and the violins cascaded down a great waterfall of notes, like icy water poured down one’s back. Ludvig had no desire to issue commands; he never had. He felt the weight of the crown pressing on his hands.
Is he holding it as if presenting it on a plate? Even if he's gripping it by the rim, it seems weird that it presses "on" his hands. Also, isn't icy water on your back...a bad thing?
The music rose and held, the strings played tremolo and the wind musicians drew in a deep lungful. Wagner was covered in black feathers now, great long tail feathers sweeping the ground where his cape had hung. He raised his arms and his eyes met the King’s. It is time, they seemed to say, and Ludvig suddenly realised that he agreed.
“Your mother always said you would make a better King than I,” he said to his son. “She was right, of course.”
“What are you talking abou--”
Wagner’s arms crashed down and the horns blasted out a wave of sound that knocked Ludvig from his feet. He grabbed at the swan’s wing to steady himself but instead of polished wood he found thick feathers beneath his hands. The crown tumbled from his fingers. His velvet seat had become a saddle and he found himself with his legs astride a huge bird. He wrapped his arms around her neck as she unfurled enormous white wings.
I like that you keep Wagner's "skill-set" consistent, with the wind at his command.
Melvin rushed forward to catch the fur and jewel-encrusted crown, diving between the panicking manservants.
This is another sentence where you imo try to do too much at once, as he's catching the crown while also diving between people who panic, it made me think for a bit of the manservants also trying to catch the crown, maybe for themselves, and consider also: they should have been pulling the swan-sleigh with ropes, so a few meters in front of it. There's no reason for them to be so close to where the crown lands.
“Long live King Melvin,” cawed Crow-Wagner, who was now circling the swan on lustrous black wings, baton still guiding the orchestra from one clenched claw.
“Long live King Melvin!” echoed the manservants.
The guards sheathed their swords and dropped into deep bows.
With a thrust of her powerful legs the swan launched herself into the air. “You’ll make a fine King, my son!” Ludvig shouted.
Melvin stood straight, one arm shielding his eyes from the dust storm being raised by the swan’s flapping wings, the crown tucked safely under the other. He yelled over the frantic orchestra, “Where are you going?”
But Ludvig was already too high up. The music swelled to a thunderous crescendo and the wind ran electric fingers through Ludvig’s thin hair. He laughed and let out a belly-deep whoop as Crow-Wagner swooped beside him. The summer-gold kingdom spread out beneath them. Ludvig’s heart swelled with joy as he, the swan and Crow-Wagner soared away into the azure sky.
Overall, I liked the whimsical weirdness, and it was a light-hearted piece about someone simply getting what they secretly always wanted through magical intervention, which is perfectly fine; no real twists or moments of danger, you could have gone that route with Melvin and the guards but didn't. I don't know if more danger of them interrupting the performance with their swords would have improved this, however.
I was taken out of the story a little too often because the spatial relations between your "actors" confused me, and I didn't get a clear picture of what Ludvig really thought of Melvin before the latter turned out to be a capable leader. If you added that and polished up where people are standing and what they are doing at any given time, this could be quite fun.
|# ¿ Mar 25, 2020 14:28|
Fluttershy and Pinky [and the Brain]
“Planet Eternia is under imperial blockade. Please turn back.”
When the stark white starfighter hailed her, Fiona jumped in her pilot seat. She had known it was coming. She had prepared an answer. And yet, her finger trembled uselessly on the comm button.
“Final warning before I shoot at you!”
Fiona realized her free hand was holding her hair in a death-grip. With great effort, she released the tortured locks, and stroked the bright pink mane for a soothing few seconds. She slammed her finger down.
“This is freighter Pegasus on a humanitarian mission!”, Fiona yelled. “I’m Captain Fiona Sheen, carrying food and medicine. By common war convention, you have to let me deliver these.”
The silence stretched out and her hair suffered again. She gently pushed the button again. “Please?”
The answer was gentle and without a hint of mockery. “Hello Fiona, this is Commander Peter Kim, right hand man of Emperor Heern. You’re wrong about this. We’re not at war!”
“You imprison the Eternians…”
“Because they do not understand that the Emperor brings peace and prosperity! He is a very smart man, much smarter than them! Because they keep resisting, and that is stupid.”
Fiona knew what she should say. She had already explained her conviction to help the Eternians against Heern, the evil oppressor, when her friends had tried to stop her. She should throw all this in Kim’s face.
But instead, she just closed her eyes and fondled her hair.
“So will you be smart?”, Kim asked. “It was great talking with you, but you really have to leave now.”
No, I don’t. Fiona’s eyes shot open, took in the entire view: the clouded planet, its defense satellites, the hundreds of imperial spaceships surrounding it. A blockade meant mostly to keep people in and break their will. She could do this. She had to.
After a final fistful of soft pink comfort, she slammed the speed lever forward, yanked the flight stick hard left and shot past Kim’s fighter.
“That’s not the right direction!” His protests shot past the Pegasus as did his laser bolts. Fiona knew her old freighter could not beat the commander’s ship. It was faster, more agile, and was armed. But she only had to reach the Eternian defense grid.
“I’m sure you panicked and pushed the wrong button. Just hold on, I’ll stop your ship!”
Fiona had no hands free to stop Kim from yelling at her. She adjusted the list of her wings as she dove downwards, dodging a barrage that cut through where her engines were a millisecond ago. Pegasus went into a corkscrew motion, and Fiona closed her eyes to not get sick from the tumbling picture on the screen. For moments drawn out like bubblegum on sole, she flew entirely by memory. Then, a yank on the compensator handle, Pegasus stabilized, and she saw Eternia – right in front.
Fiona allowed herself a grin. One final sprint, and…
A giant hand slammed against her back, the restraints bruised her shoulders. All air left her lungs.
“I got you!”, trilled Kim through the alarms. “Just the engines. You’ll be fine, prepare for boarding please!”
His cheerful voice rang like a Monday morning wakeup in Fiona’s ears as the black spots in her eyes converged and swallowed her.
ӂ ӂ ӂ
On the mighty flagship, they stood in front of Emperor Heern himself, a tiny man cloaked in shadow.
“Just throw her in a cell,” the imperious voice commanding a dozen planets snarled.
“That would be such a waste! Heern, you should have seen her fly. She almost beat me with a slowpoke freighter!”
“You almost failed to stop her from ruining my blockade!”
“It was an accident, I’m sure. Fiona, back me up, you panicked and made a dumb mistake, right?”
Shackled, bruised and slumped, Fiona managed a nod that was not even a lie.
“See? She’s sorry and will do her best to make it up. Right, Fiona?”
“I’ll do my best to make it up,” she murmured.
The Emperor let out a well-suffered sigh. “Then do whatever, Peter. But I’ll be very angry if…”
Peter whooped. “You’re the nicest man in the galaxy! See, Fiona? This generosity and wisdom is what the Eternians are missing out on. Let’s help them together!”
Heern leaned forward, almost leaving the shadows. “So you’re willing to assist Commander Kim in our righteous fight?”
Fiona shrunk until she was smaller than the Emperor. She was more convinced than ever that this man was evil and needed to be stopped. But what could she do? She glanced at Kim and his expectant, beaming smile.
Head down, survive, and hope.
“…yes. Yes, I’ll help.”
Kim slapped her on the back as if another engine had exploded. “That’s the spirit! We’ll get you a fighter fitted right away. And you get to try it out tonight.”
Fiona wanted to melt into the floor. But Kim’s stare and grin put a pressure on her that was about to make her head explode. He needed her to ask, and she could not resist.
“What…what are we gonna do tonight?”
Heern chuckled like a strummed bass.
“Try to take over the world.”
ӂ ӂ ӂ
Fiona’s fingers twitched beside her face, expecting hair that was no longer there. She had not dared to look in the mirror after the navy barber had finished with his buzzcut. She knew that her dams would break when she saw what they had done to her and leave her a dirty puddle. Until then, she was completely numb.
“I’m so pumped for the attack tonight. The Eternians are gonna be like huh? And we’re gonna be like whoosh! And then…”
Commander Kim – Peter – waved his arms around to illustrate his planned maneuvers. Nobody else in the mess hall even looked up; they had to be used to his antics. Fiona stared at the slop in front of her and thought about its resemblance to her life right now.
“Don’t you like broccoli?” As soon as she moved her head even a centimeter to the side, Kim plunged his fork into Fiona’s veggies. “You must be so grateful to Heern! I had to beg him for years to let me fly one of these beauties. So worth it. Biggest fun I ever had. You’re going to love it!”
Fiona moved something that might be meat a little to the side and back again and made a noncommittal sound. Maybe she could just take the fighter and fly, far far away and never think about this again, forget about Eternia and return to her friends and their laughter at having been right.
“When we finally defeat the Eternians together, Heern will be so grateful. We go way back, you know? He knows he can rely on me because I get every job done. Eventually.”
He leaned back and got a distant expression as he chewed his own maybe meat for a while. “He can be a little difficult when it doesn’t work right away. But tonight will be re-soun-ding! And he’s gonna shower us in praise!”
Fiona really wanted to keep smiling an empty smile and nod. But again she almost touched a strand of hair that was no longer there, and something in her broke.
“Peter, you seem like a really nice guy. Does it never bother you to kill so many people?”
He almost fell off his chair backwards, but instead rocked forward and suddenly was very close.
“Fiona, what kind of question even is that. Are you still confused about this? We’re not killing anybody, we’re not in a war. All this pew pew is just a fancy lightshow. Getting the point across about Heern. Or are you not alive after I shot you down?”
Her bruises still throbbed, but she was afraid to touch them.
“Modern ships have all these safety features! Nobody dies in a shoot-out. Fiona, please. We’re civilized people. I should be offended, but I’ll forgive my future wingmate everything. At least if you let me finish your steak.”
Fiona closed her eyes, felt the throbbing intensify, and nodded her cold light head tersely.
ӂ ӂ ӂ
Peter’s ship flew right through the explosion. “Did you see that? That was awesome!”
Fiona saw the Eternian pilot whose ship had submitted to Peter’s shots sail away in an emergency bubble. The third in a row for whom the notoriously fickle technology had worked. How much longer would this last? Every death out here would be on her as well, while she still supported the empire implicitly.
An Eternian shot grazed her cockpit, startling her. She let her flight instincts take over, like when she had evaded Peter for a while. This fighter was phenomenal, she had to admit. Like a rodent slinking away into a sewer grate, she dove away from the pursuit of two “enemy” fighters, their helpless blasts mirrored in her shining hull. Sleek and fast and deadly. And fun. She gritted her teeth as she had to admit it to herself, she understood why Peter kept annoying her with cries of joy. But this was so wrong. She didn’t want to do this. But her chance to just slink away tail between legs was gone long ago. All she could do was just. not. pull. the. trigger.
“Get rid of the guy behind me!”, Peter yelled. In a trance, she fell in line, in position to shoot down his pursuer. It would be so easy, the Eternian pilots had nothing on her. He waggled in her crosshairs, but she predicted all his moves. Just a push of the button, and she could keep up her ruse of helping the empire, and survive.
And then what? Try to convince Peter that Heern was a bad man? Peter, who was dumb as a stone and twice as loyal? He would not betray his oldest friend. Any of the other imperials? Could she convince them? With what charisma?
Peter performed a flawless loop, shaking off the distracted Eternian and ending up next to him.
“He’s boxed in! Free shot, take him out!”
Fiona knew that she had to finally decide what she actually wanted to do. Her fist crushed phantom hair. And her finger pulled the trigger.
Peter’s left thruster exploded. A plume of burning fuel escaped – but not Peter. Fiona gasped. But it was done now, and she had to live with the consequences. And see them firsthand.
Hidden in the smoke and embers, she followed the crashing fighter down to the surface of Eternia.
ӂ ӂ ӂ
For the first time, Fiona had been glad for a more practical haircut. It had been a desperate dig, then drag, then first aid effort, but Peter, encased in a safety bubble that had not ejected, lived. And grinned a dumb grin.
“I told you nobody dies in these fights.”
She could not hold it any longer. Fiona cried ugly screaming tears.
“There, there. This was a bust, but next time we’ll take this world.”
From a curtain of salt and snot, Fiona broke forth with a furious grimace and spat her words in Peter’s face.
“There is no ‘we’! I don’t want to take any worlds, you moron! I hate you and I hate Heern and I hate the empire and that you enslaved me and cut my hair! You disgusting…evil…”
She could not speak any more, but fixated Peter with a glare that made him recoil.
“Wow, I’m sorry that you feel this way. Why didn’t you just tell me? You could have had a cozy cell and kept your style!”
His earnest confusion deflated her. Fiona sat back on her legs and gazed up to a sky where the lights of lasers and explosions painted her a picture of the empire losing soundly, with their best pilot gone.
And that victory was hers.
With only a little hesitation, she reached up and stroked what was left of her hair. A rough sensation, but still soothing, and she managed a little smile.
|# ¿ Mar 29, 2020 22:44|
Into the Void, in a flash
|# ¿ Mar 30, 2020 10:35|
My entry should be fully readable on the forums as I'll post it in the next post, and it can be critted and archived like that.
However, I tried a formatting experiment for it, so if you want the "true" experience, I invite you to visit it on google docs.
Simply Simon - TD400: Team Spirit
|# ¿ Apr 5, 2020 23:51|
We are the crystal guardians of VoidTower One. It is our duty to prevent humans from reaching The Top. We succeeded in quelling their latest attempt during this shutdown.
I know your duty as I have assigned it. Report.
We begin drawing a mental map of the Tower, blast-shielded exterior, emergency stairwells and elevators, to illustrate…
This is unacceptably slow. Your memory. Open.
. . .
It was three dozenth-cycles ago that curfew was breached. Diligently vigilant, we swiftly took action. Our strongest drone bodies were sent to decisively deal with…
I realize you are reshaping your memories with self-aggrandizing adverbs. Cease.
The curfew-violators had sent three teams of three humans each. They each tried a different way to reach The Top. I sent drone phone-call-to-fax to what is currently the outside of VoidTower, drone fork-on-porcelain to the west-eastern stairwell, and drone cracked-bell’s-chime into the shaft of the elevator connecting floor 7-X to floor 1/0.
Phone-call-to-fax observed the outside team climbing the Tower with suction cups, hooks and magnet gloves depending on surface. The drone waited inside windows as they made their way up. Once, a human spotted moonlight reflecting off the drone’s facets; this startled the human and he almost lost his grip, but he caught himself. The next story up, when he passed a window, he hesitated, peering inside for another glimpse; this is when we struck. The drone sprang through the window, adding its shards to its own, and with that flurry of sharp edges cut the man to ribbons. As his remains fell, we focused our attention on the other two, but one pointed a nozzle at the drone. A jet of liquid flame emerged and the drone had to retreat, as this burning liquid would otherwise coat it and overwhelm its energy balance. Cracked-bell’s-chime had been forced to flee at this point as well, showing the importance of a staggered approach.
Fork-on-porcelain watched as the humans went up the stairwell. They had two go in front, one behind, then switched up on each flight; we assume they believed to be able to see hostiles approach from every angle. The drone hung underneath the stairs, however. At one point, the one looking downwards made an unexpected step back and touched one of the drone’s extremities. The human exclaimed and startled the others, who chided him for paranoia. After an exchange, he calmed down and proceeded upwards; the drone dug a shard deep into his leg and pulled him off the staircase, so that gravity might end him. Immediately, the drone attempted to attack the others, but an object fell down next to it and it fled, cautioned by what was happening to Phone-call-to-fax at the same time. Indeed, the object exploded and caused a flight of stairs to collapse, forcing Fork-on-porcelain to postpone the attack.
Cracked-bell’s-chime had folded itself up in a nook of the elevator shaft. Two humans ascended on one elevator cable each, while one took the service ladder. They were arguing amongst each other about the unfair distribution of tasks. One shone his flashlight over the nook where the drone was hiding, and silenced himself. The shaft exploded in myriads of bright dots as the light got shattered into pieces. The ladder-climbing human used his free hand to aim a weapon at the drone, and projectiles started zipping past it. One managed to hit a facet, and the resulting ringing sound made the cable-ascenders almost drop their grip. We realized the drone was in active danger, especially considering what occurred in the stairwell right now, and decided to damage company equipment. The drone severed a cable, causing the human on it to plummet into the darkness below, and slunk away from the weapon fire to save this body.
We evaluated what had happened to each drone, expressed internal satisfaction at eliminating a third of…
The facts are enough, especially do not omit further property damage. Proceed.
Phone-call-to-fax could not close in on the humans climbing the outside of the Tower again, as they now held their flame-spewers ready. However, they also carried the long-range weapons we had seen used against us in the shaft. Fortunately, due to there being no ground beneath, exploding objects would be useless to this group. As precedent had already been set, more structural damage was deemed acceptable, and the drone severed a blast-shield’s support. The two humans noticed the metal slab falling towards them, and exchanged a glance. Then, one raised his weapon, and fired a single large projectile from it. It impacted one end of the falling shield and exploded. Thus imbalanced, the shield narrowly missed the human who had fired, but struck his companion, crushing bones and severing tendons. In a similar situation to the events in the shaft currently unfolding, one had sacrificed the other for a temporary reprieve, as the dust-cloud from the explosion shielded him from immediate detection by the drone.
Fork-on-porcelain hid above the humans ascending the stairs. We know humans are susceptible to heat and require oxygen, therefore these ones would not use fire in the enclosed space of the stairwell. A melee approach was deemed sensible. The drone jumped from three stories up and entangled one of them in its body, causing skin openings. The other human raised a tube-weapon towards the drone, and we decided to exploit a known weakness of humans. We lifted the still-living victim in the path of the tube-weapon. The humans exchanged some words as we pondered our next step, when the events on the Tower’s outside happened. Realizing that we could not ensure that these particular subjects put others’ continued existence above their own, the drone pushed the victim towards his compatriot. Indeed, the tube-weapon fired a spray of projectiles that might have shattered the drone’s body, had it not been shielded by the human, which turned into a cloud of blood and flesh. Through it, the other human managed to flee.
Cracked-bell’s-chime needed to approach its two humans using stealth, as they could attack it well at range and the shaft did not afford many opportunities for cover. We placed it in a maintenance tunnel above a sub-level, where the ladder-climber would have to cross. Knowing that they could detect the drone easily by its reflective properties, we had to eschew visual observation. However, they ascended while discussing the nature of the drones, allowing easy estimation of their time of arrival. The drone saw the human’s head crest the tunnel opening and immediately struck, driving two extremities into its visual nodes. We drug it into the tunnel to guarantee termination, when something impacted the squirming body. The drone lifted it slightly and spotted an exploding object the cable-hanging human had thrown after his colleague, despite still seeing life-signs. Fortunately, we had seen a similar tactic applied in the stairwell, so the drone escaped just before the tunnel filled with heated shrapnel.
From these events, we could conclude that this batch of humans was ruthless and used their numbers as resources, similar to ourselves. As each group was now only consisting of a single member, they should have been helpless.
Phone-call-to-fax was perched on a gargoyle of a memory above classification level. Erase. When the climbing human spotted it, he hesitated for a moment, only to redouble his efforts. The drone jumped on him and entangled him in a sharp embrace. As he experienced significant blood loss, his struggle waned, but then he used his second arm to embrace the drone in term. This of course meant that he was no longer supported, and his eventual corpse dragged the drone into oblivion below.
Fork-on-porcelain snuck up from below the railing to avoid the projectile spread of the tube-weapon. The human seemed unperturbed by the loss of his right leg, and produced an edged weapon from a sheath on the other. His desperate assault overwhelmed the drone, and we had to give it up. However, as it disintegrated, we saw its shards reflect in the widening eyes of the human. We saw the spark of sentience fade, and knew this encounter had driven him mad, so he was dealt with.
Cracked-bell’s-chime climbed up the ladder in plain view, as we knew the cable-using human couldn’t defend himself. We prepared to end his existence in an expedient fashion. However, in a reckless manoeuvre, the human jumped at the drone and pinned it against the shaft’s wall. This locked drone and man into a stalemate, but unexpectedly, the latter’s lips formed an expression of triumph. It was then we realized the elevator was ascending, but we could not escape mutual pulverization.
. . .
In conclusion, we underestimated the strength of the humans as both a team and as individuals and might re-evaluate drone independence. However, despite the loss of three drones, we prevented all humans from ascending towards The Top.
Then why did the elevator ascend? Possible contents? Speculate.
A drone will investigate floor 1/0.
This is not speculation. Punish self for incompetence.
|# ¿ Apr 5, 2020 23:51|
|# ¿ Apr 6, 2020 21:58|
This is in fact the first chapter of a novel I'm planning. I've written it before, and even posted it in CC before, then got told it was too wordy and I should try Thunderdome. So it's a bit full circle. I haven't copy-pasted a single word from there, however, and you can check if you really doubt it - or if you want to see if I have in fact improved while doming.
This has 1186/1500 words
I Think, Therefore I Am
Part 1: Clay Cradle
Chapter 1: Birth
At once, everything.
A kaleidoscope explodes. Colors of all hues assault like crystal shards driven into eyes, green and orange and brown. Light and darkness and reflections, dull things and ones that sparkle and the entire universe in between.
An orchestra erupts. Sounds like screams inside eardrums, the softest and the loudest rupturing alike. A trill a peat a breath a crack a rustle. Inside a whispering tsunami, a wave crashing down like a hair hitting ground.
A massage escalates. Caresses hit like blows by schoolyard bullies, a minute movement of air the same intensity as a collapsing building. Grains of sand pierce feet like shards of glass, molten in the scorching furnace of a gentle autumn sun, then shattered as a soothing breeze freeze-dries the liquid.
A desperate grasp for control in the maelstrom of impressions. Force colors into shapes, give sense and scale to sight: tiny leaves, mighty trees, skittering insects, stiff skeletons. Sight over sound, establish distance and relation. Birdsong mocking grounded beings, breath laboring ahead, a branch falling far away, tiny feet fleeing to the underbrush. Sound over sensation, the soft soil below a foundation, the wind an embrace. A tree trunk! Hanging overhead oppressing! The narrow walls of the hole closing in, a demanding voice becoming panicked, adding fear confusion anger despair feelings threatening to consume, a black void blotting colors, muting sounds, numbing sensations…
On what? The scary feelings? Best they go the way of all else, get lost in the void like the trees, the birds, their whispers and their song, their vibrant hues and promises of a whole world of touch and sight and sound, just waiting for
And thus, everything snaps together in a final picture, all senses bowing before the one of self.
I am standing in the cavity left by the uprooted stump of a giant tree. Said stump is supported by two skeletons that appear strained by the effort of holding it up. If they were to let go, I would be crushed. This sudden realization that my existence could end at a moment’s notice is a shock, but it’s annihilated by the aftershock: when it dawns on me how little I want it to happen. I have awoken to an overwhelming universe that threatens to unravel the fabric of my mind. Every second I have to force my senses into deliberate exclusion of most of what they see, hear and feel. But now that I have managed this monumental task, I want to savor the fruit of my victory for all it’s worth.
Then focus, listen and obey.
The savior in my mind, the voice of calm and reason in the turmoil of everything, finally gets me to open my eyes and ears to what is directly in front of me. A man, clad in practical leather clothing, stark white hair on a body too young for this pallidity, all glistening in salty moisture. His skinny fingers are curled around a gemstone that seems to possess a glow unrelated to the sun’s light casting shadows over his deep-set eyes. He has been yelling at me ever since I became aware, and I feel a pressure mounting from his increasingly hysteric tone that matches the darkness the looming stump feeds inside of me.
Again, the command I scream at myself refocuses my perspective. And with utmost surprise, I realize that I understand every word thrown towards me, and always have, and I in fact recall them all perfectly.
“The animation must have worked! Move!”
Did he…make me?
Yes. So obey.
Move. Myself. My body?
Even while my thoughts are racing, something indeed causes motion, and another thing rises into focus, blots out the maker for a second: my own hand, a crude thing shaped of clay, with lumpy fingers curling jointless, nailless, but with prints: left there by the one compressing earth to craft a vessel for my mind.
A gasp, a shying back, and as the man trips, the skeletons’ grip loosens, and the trunk falls like a mace swung on a prostrate beaten foe. I jump back as well, curious reflex pulling me deeper into the cradle about to become grave. But then the maker catches himself, and the skeletons catch the trunk, and I am spared a crushing fate.
“It worked…!” he breathes, and I see rapid changes of expression cross his face; I try to read them, but it is too much at once. Especially as I am overwhelmed by the sheer relief of not becoming part of the forests’ soil again.
His expression settles on a final one of controlled firmness, and after a few words, his voice begins to match.
“You are a Golem, a clay effigy I animated with my powers. I am the General, a Thanaturge on a mission to stop a former friend.”
He crosses his arms, and with his body’s language adapted to face and voice, the picture of his determination is completed.
“You will help me destroy the Infernal monsters he animated. Come out slowly.”
I look towards the wooden ceiling, the rim of the cradle and the narrow slit of light between the two. My hand will have to grasp here and pull me up, avoid the skeletons he animated with his Thanaturgy, and a foot needs to dig into the wall there and then I’ll have to bend the other knee, and…
I am suddenly acutely aware of the complexity entailed in even standing still. How can I keep balance without even knowing what my body looks like? I feel an involuntary loss of strength, in knees and other joints. Parts imagined in a body that was formed in human shape, but is just a lump of dirt. Playing at an empty mockery of life. What even am I? What might I possibly hope to become?
Just obey the Master!
The Master. The maker is my Master. I see his youth marred by the shadows in his eyes. I hear his determination barely masking his insecurity. I feel echoes of the pain his voice carried when he talked about his friend. Compared to the struggles of this human, what do the concerns of a dust mite like me matter? So very little.
They matter nothing at all.
And neither does my judgment of his condition. It is not my place. He is the Master, and his command must be my all.
Without hesitation, I climb out of the hole, leaving behind the confusion, doubt and fear of a chaotic birth. Thank you for the focus.
The Master’s face explodes in sudden joy, a relief radiating from it that overshadows the pale sun with ease and makes me recall the weight taken off me just now. I bask in it for a moment.
“I cannot believe this worked. We’re going to do great things together.”
His acknowledgment fills me with pride, and I make his elatedness my own. Between commands, I grant myself an action of free will that nevertheless feels like the most natural of reflexes: a deep bow.
I am happy to serve, Master!
|# ¿ Apr 12, 2020 23:38|
I livecritted these, which means I jotted down notes as I read, and then wrote a more concise full crit based on those. You'll get the latter in the thread, if you want the notes (they contain example "bad (imo) sentences" and might be useful for you), you can find them here.
Ironic Twist - Glass Eyes
I enjoy the chemistry between your two characters and you build their relationship nicely, though the exposition of their remembrance goes on a little too long. Honestly, though, I expected something different - they are apparently only smoking buddies, despite the romance you set up at the start, and that seems to hinge for me on two things: Katy’s “lesbian” line, and the once-mentioned-by-name Deanna who I have to assume is her partner, and who gets prioritized by Katy over her friendship with Vier.
That does not really land for me, because they were joking so much at the start (which you nailed the tone of!) that I assumed Katy calling herself a lesbian was also a joke.
Imo, you might have overdone the lightheartedness in two ways. One, what I just mentioned; two, I could not quite buy the tone shift towards Vier being disappointed, then menacing. I never thought he’d actually be ocean-power-mad at her, and actually curse her, making the final twist joke (after mayo, and...well, NOT lesbians but that was still a funny punchline despite her actually being one) have less impact. Vier trying at intimidation might have been realistic with him being a little bit of a stoner goof, but Katy’s tension and fright isn’t conveyed enough for me to make me believe along with her for even one second that he might be serious.
Finally, your ocean-surface-as-clouds metaphor is way too forced and the one part where I was going “huh?” at your otherwise well-written story.
Overall: characters well done, the plot itself needs a little more tone policing to work properly.
Something Else - The Mesozoic Hop
This is generally a fun little romp, with some excitement and some fun word choices. You set up that tone pretty well at the start with sound descriptions (thumpety!) that keep being interesting and I’d have been happy to see even more.
Some of the sentences go a little overboard, however. Unfortunately, the first one is such a sentence (I find the metaphor to be contrived and it ends up using too many words to convey too little of an image), and the cringe cringe cringe line, and also the “toxic friend” line at the end is just a little too twee for my tastes.
I also get that you use Howard to basically set up Suzie’s choice to stay in the past at least for a while and party with their newfound dino friends, but for most of the story he’s just irritating without serving too much of a purpose. Overall, the issue is probably that he can only impotently scream and never moves too much beyond that. He is ultimately threatening to never send Suzie back, but can’t force them to return to the present, so they never lose power over their fate, diminishing the tension.
Overall, I feel like you could work that tension a little more efficiently; not only for what Howard is doing, conflict- and pressure-wise, but also e.g. in the T-Rex chase; it’s resolved a little too quickly. Even for a story that’s ultimately about having a little fun away from stuffy academia or whatever, danger doesn’t need to be absent. Again, their chameleon suit AND the life support system seem so “overpowered” that I never really felt Suzie be threatened, and that hurts the excitement!
NAGA LIU KANG - Dualism
(Someone Saved My Life Tonight)
Phew, that was a bit of a rough read. As you might notice from the live thoughts linked above, I had to stop myself a bunch of times because the language was getting in the way of me actually reading your plot. It’s unfortunate, because it’s not bad - an alien creature warping (or something) but wrong, and it desperately has to force the locals to piece together its broken body. That horror aspect is really cool, and I do like the words you chose specifically for that.
But you do need to proofread better. There’s a lot of very avoidable mistakes in there. Others, like word choices, phrasing, sentence length and content, are harder to get better at. I did cite the most obviously problematic (to me, at least) ones not to beat you down, but so you have specific examples when I say “uuuh write better words” which ones I mean. This could be gruesome fun, make something out of it.
Oh, and lose the intro in the process. It serves zero purpose except make me wonder at the end if all the people visiting the town just...left while their object of attention lay broken for days and forced a loud-rear end murder in the middle of its stay.
Doctor Eckhart - A Life Well Lived
There is very little to this story, but I’ll try my best to not give you less of a crit just because you wrote less words. In broad strokes, what’s happening is that an old woman is dying, but she’s okay with it, and her young (presumably) nurse is not, but the older, experienced Sister is. Then, the old woman does die, and is “collected” in a scene of wonder.
You’re keeping the collection deliberate vague, which I get. You’re also not letting Mary have much space as well, which I get too (her death is central, but she is not), but that leaves little meat. You seem to want to fill that with your protagonist’s understandable difficulty at letting go of the woman she took care of, but even that seems underdeveloped to me. Her protests are quickly shut down by the no-nonsense Sister, and there’s little chance of conflict developing. Her fixation on the TV is downright comical - you are way overemphasizing the supernatural, wondrous aspect of the story without ever trying to lean into it and actually talking about it. “Heard voices but, get this, they were NOT on TV!” is pretty weak to me.
And finally, the last line reads like the next one should be CHAPTER 2 and set ten years in the future. Is this a leftover from last week?
SlipUp - Ketamine
I didn’t really enjoy this story, truth to be told. That’s mostly because things are going too well. I don’t know if this is wish fulfilment from someone stuck in quarantine (I get it!), but it doesn’t land for me - your resolutions are not set up, I’m not feeling relief because there was little tension beforehand. You set up a possible point of conflict in one sentence and topple it in the next. Catheter? No problem, put it in a bag. IV? Just put a coat on it! And so on.
It becomes really comical when both the night guard (or janitor or whatever) AND the doctor one after another just ignore those two leaving, with the protagonist very obviously not being in a state to do so - you do not have to spell out “I’m not supposed to leave.”, he’s drugged up, bandaged and was on a heart monitor. Speaking of which, does his comatose roommate just have double monitor pads on him then? Was there space?
Cindy seems fun if a little over-the-top, but apparently she knows that there will be no consequences for their reckless behavior. That’s fine, she’s fine. I don’t get much from the protag, though. He is an incredulous rear end according to the last line, and that’s pretty much it - I can identify strongly with him because he’s as bewildered as I am for everything going smoothly like a lubed shark.
Thranguy - At Night
This story hinges on something very important: a reason for the alien to befriend and follow this one specific protagonist. The reason seems to be a simple, friendly “hello”, followed by a willingness to just go along with what is later described as “dates”. I think this is on the one hand a refreshing angle - they are not winning over the alien by being especially kind, or moral, or misguided-about-to-get-a-lesson, they are simply the one person who is almost pathologically unaffected.
This, however, has the great risk of the protag ending up kind of bland and just going along, which is exactly what is happening. Subjectively, I actually really get that, I’m not impressed easily by things and I feel like I could do the exact actions the protag does, but I also know I’m pretty weird like that, so maybe this is not a story many people could empathize with, go “man this guy really is cool/likable/understandable/interesting”, you know what I mean?
Especially when his detachment seems to be turning into a superpower as government and other officials keep demanding things he just ignores, and there are just no consequences - he seems to be safe in his vaguely-explained secret hotel room, and all they can do is call him, which he, again, shows no reaction to. That strains my immersion a bit, it’s like thinking the tax man will leave you alone if you just don’t care about their forms real hard.
And finally, protag has been told that the alien ship is incredibly dangerous and, by the words of his date partner, might incinerate everybody on the planet but him, which is how I read it at first. It ends up “just” blinding and giving super cancer to hundreds of people, which seems like it should be read as a blessing compared to what could have happened if everybody was just a curious dick to the alien instead, but...come on, that dick could have warned people? Everybody would have listened to a simple “close your eyes okay”, with the world watching him?
Overall: apart from some spelling errors, it’s generally written fine, in a confident, crisp style I could read more in. But the drive of the story itself leaves me a little confused, I cannot get a handle on your protag despite even identifying with him a little, I don’t know how well other readers would react to someone just not giving even the slightest amounts of shits…
BeefSupreme - Everything In Its Place
So, there wasn’t much live critting, because I actually really liked your story and wanted to read and not write - it’s not an urge any other story has woken in me, so kudos for that. I can’t crit you well, therefore - there’s little I have to offer as constructive criticism. The one thing I noted while reading is that it’s sometimes a little hard to tell who is talking. You mostly make it clear enough because you clearly know how to write, by little gestures and words like “Sweetheart” only the protagonist uses, but it did cause me to stumble occasionally.
If you fix this, you have a really nice anti-polyamory pamphlet going. Great characters, great dialogue and excellent use of nonlinearity. I’m a fan, ‘s all I can say!
Chairchucker - Katie and the Wirlwinds
(Benny and the Jets)
I’m not sure I get the point of your story, gotta admit. I think you’re trying to basically portray this group (well, a literal band) of women, and their characterization is the story, and in the end I’m supposed to be excited to have witnessed a part of their cool life.
Sadly, I’m not the target audience for this kind of story, so it leaves me a little cold. But even without my personal issues (not an aversion, but it’s just not doing anything for me) with that kind of character-heavy, plot-light stuff, I feel there are some more objective problems in your piece. First of all, the viewpoint. It switches from what seems to be Fiona’s (it mentions the diorama being a fire hazard, and she’s the one voicing objections right after) to what seems to be Meg’s (with her the only one in the know about the pyrotechnics, and so is the narrator) but then settles in a more detached omniscient narrator voice.
Secondly, I’m having a hard time getting a grasp on the characters individually. Fiona is set up like a stickler for procedure, but ultimately doesn’t end up caring (like, it feels it should be her insisting on keeping her shirt on, but it’s Katie); Megan is a rebel with the secret fireworks, but nobody really calls her out on it except for a little “oh you” bit. And so on.
Finally, where you completely lose me, is after a little lighthearted jabs at each other - but generally a story that’s so grounded in reality I might even call it mundane, what with the shirt bickering following a freaking rock concert - it suddenly devolves into a fire that’s so telegraphed Chekov would just throw away the gun in disgust, and they take a helicopter? Which they apparently had prepared?! So suddenly the characters become way larger than life, seem completely detached from reality, and I cannot be into this anymore, I’m sorry.
Overall: tone and purpose issues just leave me befuddled.
|# ¿ Apr 22, 2020 10:22|
|# ¿ Apr 22, 2020 23:21|
To Win Her
Over the fresh carcass of the beast they’d slain together, Sinder stares with adoration at his betrothed’s blood-adorned face.
“Got something on here?” Cirra raises a mocking eyebrow. “Getting tired? I can row again.”
Sinder grunts. “You keep cleaning our wedding feast.”
She reaches into the water and wipes the blood off her brow. “Can do.”
They share a wild grin. For years, they had been brothers-in-arms, had hunted bigger and more dangerous game. Bounty hunters, bandits and other monsters had been brought low by them. But Sinder’s hardest challenge had been admitting to Cirra that his feelings had grown beyond collegial.
“Our night on the island…”, he begins, but she reaches across their prey and silences him with a soiled finger that tastes like victory. “Someone’s waiting on the shore.”
Sinder looks back and spots an imposing figure, an armored titan, white hair under high helmet, standing straight almost two meters tall, shouldering an undulating blade. To snap Sinder out of his surprise, Cirra has to touch his face again. “Keep rowing!”
On the beach, Sinder sinks a knee into the soft sand, leaving Cirra to pull the half-dressed corpse off the boat.
“Had a good hunt?”
“We bagged a good one, father.” Cirra tries to sound cheerful, but Sinder knows her too well.
Ascirros seems a steel tower about to collapse. “Do you know what comes next, Sinder?”
He looks back at his betrothed, but she just shakes her head.
“We got the roast, I paid the dowry. Next is…the wedding?”
Ascirros’s flamberge slams down next to Sinder, making sharp sand fly like Sinders of a bushfire in his face.
“You think you can wed a knight’s daughter without proving yourself?”
Sinder glances at the flame-sword. “You follow the code?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Cirra came with me on my feast-hunt.”
“I allowed her this breach, my right as father. You won’t get such leniency. Stand up, get your weapon, and we will fight for her as warrior code dictates.”
With shifting sand threatening his balance, Sinder gets up. He turns to Cirra – but she is next to him already. Presenting his sword and shield.
“How can you agree with this, Cirra? Shouldn’t this be your decision?”
“We both admire my daughter’s conviction”, Ascirros says. “But even the strongest wills cannot flaunt tradition.”
Said daughter nods tersely. In a stupor, Sinder takes his weapons.
“Now. Are you man enough to take my daughter from me?”
Sinder looks from Ascirros’s hardened face, the wrinkles like a dry canyon maze, to his betrothed, with rivulets of barely-dissolved blood still making a fierce mask. He makes a grimace even fiercer.
They face each other on the sand, weapons drawn.
“Man enough to kill me for her?” With this roar, Ascirros charges, flamberge lifted high.
It descends like an eagle on his prey, but misses Sinder by a centimeter, who has turned away and to the side. He brings his own sword up, a pitifully short affair compared to his opponent’s. But he slips on sand, and Sinder stumbles backwards. The flamberge shoots up in a diagonal arc, and Sinder barely manages to deflect it with his sword. The brutal force almost disarms him.
“Are you sure you got it in you, boy?”
Sinder grits his teeth. All for Cirra. He sees her stony face, the mocking grin on her father’s lips, and he jumps back, plants his feet and assumes a fighting stance.
The flamberge comes, and Sinder twists his stance, covers his side with the shield and lunges forward. His weapon deflects off an armored shoulder.
Only the face under the visorless helmet and some joints are open. Sinder will have to strike a deadly blow, or none at all. He disengages.
“Do you really want me to kill your father in front of you?”, he asks his love. Cirra answers with downcast silence.
“Start with an attempt to wound me!”, the old man yells, and Sinder has to dodge another wide sweep. “And stop questioning the simplest of traditions! You win, she’s yours. I win, you die!”
Sinder storms into the opening left by Ascirros’s last attack, to get into the greatsword’s range. Indeed, the unwieldy blade is trapped, and Sinder’s own shoots freely towards upwards. But this is not the first time someone has aimed below the old man’s belt; so Ascirros simply reverses his grip, and the flamberge’s pommel rams into his opponent’s kidney.
Through the sudden veil of pain and tears, Sinder desperately tries to focus, on Cirra, always Cirra, but he only sees the grinning face of her tyrant father.
And yet, he also sees a different face. Ascirros, laughing over a shared mug. The three of them grilling a whole pig, as the men mock a story from Cirra’s childhood. Later, with her fast asleep, Ascirros’ stern but gentle expression as he shares his struggle with Sinder. How his pride constantly wars with his fear of losing her. The tears the men both shed when they realize that this unites them.
How can this Ascirros be the one taunting Sinder now? A caring father upholding a tradition that Cirra would castrate Sinder for if he ever invoked it?
But does it matter, once Sinder has killed him? There is the opening he was looking for! Ascirros puts everything into a heavy overhead swing, expecting his expectant son-in-law to falter, but Sinder has finally started to understand the sand, and he uses it to buffer the blow when he brings up his shield with the perfect timing, bats the flamberge aside, and stuns Ascirros for that precious moment.
The sword shoots towards the eye that used to twinkle with pride and joy at his warrior daughter.
This moment of hesitation is all Ascirros needs to turn the fight. A kick to his stomach, and Sinder lies in the sand, and a blade comes to rest at his throat.
“You had me! Why stop? Do you not want my daughter?”
Sinder closes his eyes, and in the blackness her wonderful face flashes, fierce and proud and full of love he lost.
“Not enough to kill her father and my friend.”
“Surely, your father as well?”
His eyes shoot open, and Sinder sees the real Cirra bent over him.
“But I lost?”
“No, you passed her test.” Ascirros chuckles. “I’ll let her explain. See you at the wedding, son.”
Cirra helps Sinder up. Ascirros leaves inland with a jolly tune on his lips.
“Of course he doesn’t believe in blind tradition anymore. I beat that out of him long ago.”
“Then why this charade?”
“Because I’ve met many men who swear they admire my strength and independence. But once they realize what my freedom really means, they deny it to me. And they have a code to back them up.
“Because it would be against tradition for you to keep fighting.”
She nods. “The easiest of arguments. So I present them a father who reinforces this, gives them a simple way out. Just fight. For me as property.” Her spittle wets the sand.
“What if one of them won?”
“I stab them.”
Sinder desperately looks for a joke, but only finds steel in Cirra’s eyes. And realizes why she was so close to him right after he had thrown the fight.
He gulps. “Good thing I didn’t win then.”
“You did win.” She draws him into a kiss and an embrace that both take Sinder’s breath, and they sink onto the sand.
|# ¿ Apr 26, 2020 22:58|
I'm in to write about the best bread in the world, German bread
|# ¿ May 8, 2020 20:20|
The butter had broken the dough. A wrecking ball ripping through paper walls. A sandwich in shreds, built on inferior foundation. Bread like stretched concrete, but too much sugar instead of sand.
Bodo takes a cloying bite. It clashes with the ham. His teeth seek purchase, but find none; his fingers leave deep dents and ridges in the spongy stuff. Lunch disintegrates in his hands.
He leans back in his office chair and sighs. A perfect vision rises like good dough in front of him: an honest German Schwarzbrot, 30/70 rye and wheat flour, baked in a stone oven until the crust breaks up in ridged canyons, preserving through its hardness the moisture deep within. A center firm but airy, just enough risen to allow its pores to breathe while keeping structural integrity. And what a breath, like air escaping from the gates of heaven, the doors of a bakery swinging open, the smell of the best bread on earth.
“Getting somewhere with the chamber pressure?”
The honeyed voice, inflected southern, makes Bodo’s dream loaf collapse into the American abomination on his plate.
“No, Heather, the yeast still works too well.” He tries his best to mask his accent, but knows he got the w sound wrong again. Almost a year in Kansas, and still “ze German” to the other engineers.
“That’s your efficiency rubbing off!” Her teasing erupts from her portly frame like an avalanche of molasses. Heather’s eyes, well-trained on food, spot Bodo’s discarded lunch.
“Our product not up to your standards?”
He scoffs. “It reminds me that the bread machine is still not optimized. Starts to annoy me.”
A smile like a bread roll cracking open. “You’ll get there, sweetie. Maybe your brain needs food?”
“Maybe it does need actual food, yes.” Bodo picks his sandwich up like a dead bug. “I’ll be eating then.”
His co-worker seems to get the hint and rolls out of his office.
Bodo slams the grocery bags down on the table in his Bachelor’s apartment. Aisles and aisles filled with functionally identical, brick-shaped loaves wrapped in plastic that will probably degrade first. At least the package had finally arrived.
Ein Souvenir aus der Heimat. Deine dich liebende Mutter.
Mutter had understood perfectly when he complained about the quality of American bread, and had prepared a life-saving care package. This had been the topic of their last three anxious phone calls. Delayed for days, its precious contents time sensitive: but it should still be good, well-wrapped in layers and layers of plastic and paper.
One loaf of German bread. To remind him of how good the marriage of flour and yeast could be if made by people without the sugar cravings of a toddler. To tide him over until Christmas, far away.
He tears through the paper and the wrappings, fearing the state of the result – no mold, please no mold! – but working with the determination of a famished madman.
To find: no mold.
A note by the customs people, the hateful border Nazis. Confiscated due to undeclared, food product, safety regula-
The words swim before Bodo’s eyes and he kneads the paper like dough that would never rise.
Bodo pores over diagrams and calculations. He clicks uncooperative numbers with one hand while holding an American specialty with the other. Peanut butter, half palm fat, half weirdly dry legume paste. Jelly, a sugar tornado carrying hints of grape flavor like fragments of a shattered house. Go together like the oil and water in his pathetic attempts at salad dressing. Everything to avoid the Ranch.
Another anguished bite, the bread like fabric steeped in simple syrup. Heather paradoxically saves him, a barge entering the waters of his office.
After a short discussion about her latest models, she spots the cursed lunch. “Just bread again?”
“That is no bread! It’s cake!” Bodo notices his accent showing, but he embraces it for once. “We shouldn’t supply bakeries, but Konditoreien!”
“At least those sell what they claim. This poo poo is only tolerable when toasted.”
Her jowls flush. “Wow, that is very rude. This bread is fine. It’s our livelihood!”
“We make money with it. So much it made me move here. But you can’t have a good life on diabetes sponges.”
Heather sniffs. “Well, money can’t buy you happiness. But it could buy you bread? Just look for a bespoke bakery. Good luck and bless your heart.”
As soon as she has left, Bodo closes his work programs and checks on Google Maps. The factory and the small town it keeps alive are the only thing out here, but surely…
Two hours later, Bodo dejectedly finishes the sandwich that makes his teeth hurt. A three-hour drive to the nearest proper bakery. And his license still not validated.
“Bodo dearest, have you considered adding another valve…oh my Gosh what is that?”
Bodo pokes at a lump not unlike a meteorite in color and density with a knife that’s getting duller by the second. “It’s bread. Supposedly. But actually, it’s Scheiße.”
“Oh Bodo. I’m so sorry! What went wrong?”
He throws his hands up in frustration. “Well, Heather dearest, if I knew, it would have turned out better, no?”
She purses lips like cream-filled donuts. “No need to be so rude. Did you add enough sugar?”
His hands curl up until his nails dig into skin. “Why do you Americans insist on making everything a dessert?”
“I’m not saying add a whole cup, darling. But if you don’t put in even a little, your yeast has nothing to eat!”
The yeast…the sugar…
The revelation hits him like a shooting star.
Bodo tosses his meteoric loaf to the ground, to free the way to his keyboard. He opens up the spreadsheets and quickly shuffles some values.
“The process for our bread adds sugar twice. The first amount is small and the yeast makes the dough rise just a little. That’s why it’s so dense!”
He adds another column on the spreadsheet.
“But it’s baked soon after adding the second, much larger batch. So the yeast doesn’t produce much more carbon dioxide. The second value matters way less than I calculated for!”
Bodo doesn’t notice that his mutterings slip into German. Heather sticks to an encouraging smile. Her colleague’s spindly fingers dance like a happy spider as he fills out the new column.
“Der eigentliche Druck ist viel geringer…”
He hits the enter button with more force than his bread-nugget had on impact.
Sensible values start appearing.
“Und das ist…” Bodo notices Heather’s cocked eyebrow and reverts to English. “And that is the model I’ve been looking for all this time!”
She points at his screen. “A little crude here and there, but a good start.”
She leans in conspirationally. “Did you really not get why the sugar batches are separate?”
“I’m an engineer, not a baker.”
Heather pats him on the back with a soft warm hand, like fresh dough ready for the oven. “Well, I am both. And while you can be very rude, your scrawny frame just hurts my heart.”
She reaches behind her and shows Bodo a box. He looks up at her pleasantly round face. A smile like butter croissant. “Come on, open it!”
Bodo hesitantly tugs on the bow she wrapped around it. He grabs the box feeling like Pandora. But the smell escaping is just the sweet aroma of hope herself. Could it be? He rips the lid off like a starving man would open a food can.
A perfect, wonderful loaf of bread. A craggy crust, dark but not burned, with a fine coat of flour like a bridal veil. He picks it up, it’s lighter than it seems, the ideal density. He knocks on it reverently and listens to the hollow sound of a well-risen still-moist center.
“This up to your standards?” Heather’s teasing is like honey smeared around his mouth, a German idiom Bodo realizes makes no sense in English. He gazes with adoration at this wonderful, beautiful woman.
“It very much is. However!”
The vibrant healthy goddess’ smile slips, but he wags his finger with a smile of his own.
“I can’t finish this alone before it gets stale. Do you want to meet for lunch tomorrow? I’ll show you why we call a good work meal a Brotzeit.”
|# ¿ May 10, 2020 23:35|
Guys wearing stereotypically unmanly colors or fashion just because they like the way it looks
yeah i'mma get in on that, flash me up someone
In flash myself
EDIT: saw you wanted potentially many flashes so here's one
backflips in combat
In flash me toxx
|# ¿ May 19, 2020 15:28|
Lessons in Empathy
The battle had gone exceptionally well, until the obsidian station showed up.
“It’s scrambling our signals!”
I wrenched my eyes from the battlefield display in front of me to fixate Svante, our communications officer.
“Then unscramble them!” Admiral Raleigh interrupted me again. I beat my hurt pride down and refocused on the battle. Scoen’s forces had just destroyed heavy cruiser Spread Wings, and the shock and despair still reverberated through the flagship’s bridge. Svante radiated panic since the obsidian station had shown up. Deep sadness from our pilot, and I saw images flash before her mind’s eye: her lover, just disintegrated with Spread Wings. And Raleigh, still grimly determined, but with the edge of a cornered beast now.
I pushed all those emotions away, like Scoen himself had taught me early. An Empath’s power and curse, everyone’s souls hurling their thoughts at you. You had to ignore them, be cold and distant despite your ability to truly understand your fellow man, to not get mad. Rebuke their intrusive feelings, turn them against them, use them for control.
And that’s where Scoen had lost me. I had no ambition to keep the souls of the entire galaxy in an iron grip, like he did with his army of Empaths. “One day, Silas, you will surpass and succeed me”, he had told me. When I defected to Raleigh and his rebels, we simply decided to advance that day.
Ironically, using the same tactics that had made Scoen a demigod tyrant.
Nobody on the bridge knew that I had sacrificed Spread Wings deliberately.
“I think I got it!” Svante held down a button on his console. “Quickly!”
I opened my mind and attuned my Empath senses to the emotions of the enemy crews: the aggression towards our ships, the bolstered morale due to our recent loss, the apprehension of some because we had held out so long despite being vastly outnumbered. I discarded individual thoughts and looked for the average, the collective action of each part of their fleet.
Again, I struggled against the insidious logic of Scoen’s teachings. A chain of command simply abstracted to its logical extreme, the leader a single person controlling everybody with Empath powers. The individual erased, their dangerous thoughts reigned in.
I grounded myself with self-awareness. I was not a tyrant. Raleigh had been established as my superior and the tension between us deliberate. To remind our fellow rebels that they could trust me, even though I could bend their will to mine.
I had almost deduced the enemy’s strategy when the souls from Spread Wings reached me. With the force of a cooling gas rupture, they slammed into me, who they had depended on and who had killed them.
You were supposed to save me and my wife!
Your orders destroyed us! I would have withdrawn if not for you!
You are responsible for my children starving!
The mental barrage of final thoughts buffeted me. Justified accusations, and I could only cower, feebly, beneath a thousand and more lashes.
“Silas! What do we do?”
Raleigh’s whipcrack voice cut through my tornado of anguish and briefly put me into the heart of the storm. I held Spread Wings’ souls at arm’s length. Looked at the eyes of the living in turn, Raleigh, Svante, the pilot, all the others, and I felt the expectations of the entire fleet behind me.
I wished I could have the time to apologize to every soul personally for ending their life in the name of the greater good. But I had to make their deaths worth it.
And follow Scoen’s teachings again. Push them away, just ignore their valid grievances; shut my mind’s eye to their plight. I stayed in the eye of the storm, reached out and found the enemy again.
They had pushed their attack on Spread Wings with unwarranted ferocity. Unless they were planning something, and I needed to know what. When the obsidian scrambling station had appeared far behind enemy lines, I thought I had sacrificed Spread Wings for naught. But the enemy still focused on where Spread Wings had been, and I sensed something rise in their combined feelings, a hope for triumph, a certainty of victory, it mounted more and more, a crescendo about to reach its climax!
“All units in sector B13! Torpedo salvo to last position of Spread Wings at my command!”
A flare-up of indignation to my side; Raleigh, about to say something very bad. I made Svante cut the comm channel.
“You will miss the timing. It has to be exact, I’m sorry”, I said.
Raleigh was still not convinced, about to protest. In the background, the crescendo of Scoen’s forces swelled to a wave about to crash down on us.
I decided to go nuclear.
“The Spread Wings crew will have died for nothing.”
My bluntness hit him hard. He withdrew, eyes wide…and yielded. But behind me, an entire new void of hurt opened.
“Did…did you plan for them to die?” The pilot’s whisper choked halfway, her dead lover loomed between us; not a memory conjured by her, his actual soul, the deceased mourning his living partner’s pain.
Scoen’s teachings. I pushed them both aside, made Svante reopen the channel. “Prepare to fire.” The enemy’s anticipation was palpable, their knowledge about a secret plan that would assure them victory crushing my own confidence, it mounted higher, higher…
The torpedoes shot into open, empty space. Targetless towards the stars. I felt the tension of every single soldier. Felt the rebels’ trust, already shaken by Spread Wings’ demise, depending solely now on this mad maneuver. And my enemies’, who must have detected the launch by now, and within milliseconds I would know if they laughed at my idiotic order, or…
A wave of shock and horror hit me. The sweet fragrance of freshly-shattered hope – coming from the enemy! I could almost see Scoen smile at me as I basked in their pain.
Into the space left by Spread Wings’ corpse, enemy reinforcements appeared from their dimension shift, a major relief fleet, which would have turned the tide decisively against us.
Before they could adjust to their arrival in our main reality, the missiles hit the unshielded cruisers, frigates and hunter transports. In a phenomenal explosion, they disintegrated completely.
A cheer erupted to drown out the confused parade of freshly-freed souls, almost enough to make me forget the hundreds of thousand lives my order just snuffed out. My – Raleigh’s – my bridge crew and the entire fleet, fully behind me once again.
But then, static flared up over the speakers, and an obsidian dagger pierced my mind.
“They’re jamming again! I’m trying to find another bypass!”, Svante yelled, but his words were lost on me. With the new signal overriding our communication, something else had arrived, and it brought me to my knees, and on the floor, and I was fetal. Covering my ears futilely against a thousand voices screaming into my mind. Each and every one of them full of unprecedented agony, an existence filled only with pain and suffering, and they came as a constant wail that covered me like hot tar.
“Turn it off!”, I managed to plead. “Svante!”
He hesitated, and in those few seconds I got tortured by the infernal cacophony to the brink of madness. Finally, Raleigh saved me. “Do it, Svante.”
The comms channel went silent, the static vanished and with it the screams. As I lay there shaking, I grasped at straws of positive emotions to lift me up and pierce the veil of tears streaming down my face. To my surprise, I found compassion and concern with the pilot – Jessica!
“We are deaf and blind until Svante fixes their jam.” Raleigh helped me up. “He can’t do that with closed channels. What’s going on?”
I attempted an evaluation despite hyperventilating, despite not wanting to revisit the memories from a few seconds ago. But I had to, for Jessica who believed in me even though I had killed her lover, for all of them.
“I think…they managed to send souls loaded with negative emotions through the transmission.”
Raleigh’s skepticism flared up, so I hastened on. “It’s laser-targeted against Empaths. There must be one on board the obsidian station.”
I carefully reached out to the space base with all the jagged antennae and polygonal dishes. A black hole of malice. I recoiled.
“Amir. He was working on soul transmission technology when I split from Scoen.”
“Well, the normal people still have a battle to win, so get on with it.” Raleigh put on a tough façade, but I saw right through it.
“If Svante opens communications, their transmission will make me useless.” I wiped the last of the snot from my face instead of adding that there was no way I’d endure it for minutes while Svante figured out a workaround.
“Shut if off at the source then”, Svante offered
Raleigh snorted. “How do you propose hitting a target protected by the entire enemy fleet?”
Jessica pointed at the battlefield display. “They’re in disarray because we wiped out their reinforcements. We can fight without Silas guiding us for a while.”
I locked eyes with her, and her mind screamed a plan at me. She had not forgiven me for what I did. But her suicidal idea was also the only way.
I put it into words for her. “Prepare a hunter for me. Silent comms. I’ll take out the obsidian station alone.”
The others weren’t happy, but I dampened their objections. This was my problem.
Reaching the obsidian station was not easy, but perfectly doable – I could sense every gunner pointing his laser at me, every missile crew about to find their target, and evade all of them. I fired my guns exactly once, to penetrate the obsidian station’s jet-black hull, and infiltrated it without issue. Now the hard part began, because I always hated getting personal. They say thousands of deaths are a statistic, and it’s even more true when you can push those souls aside wholesale.
Murdering someone with your own hands is a different story.
Dozens of soldiers waited for me, lasers trained. I brandished my weapon, signature Empath make, way too complex for anyone else to wield. I focused my power inward, attuned my soul perfectly to my body, and became an emotionless combat machine. The plasma whip extended, a gleaming sphere held in place by an impossibly thin wire, connected to a thin handle with no obvious controls. The wire stiffened as hypervoltage coursed through it, superheating the air around it and forming a magnetic containment field that fed excess heat back into its power cell.
Laser blasts flew at me, at speeds impossible to react to, but of course I knew who would fire when and at what trajectory. I angled the stiffened whip just right for each shot, and the plasma sputtered as it absorbed the energy. When it was about to erupt, I cracked the weapon, and a crescent of laser plasma emanated in an arc, bisecting three men. Their souls rose up, angry and vengeful, but I swept them aside with Scoen’s technique. Coldly calculating each minor muscle movement, I made my way towards the soldiers, dodging and absorbing their shots, and the closer I got, the better I could read their thoughts. Once I reached melee range, they could not do a thing. I massacred them with precise slices, knowing exactly which cut was fatal and which just wounding, as I saw their souls rise up just to be dismissed by me.
Not interested in your complaints. Sorry, this is more important than you. I just killed so many more in a blink of an eye, why do you matter? Yes, I realize I can see your entire life and how much more you wanted to do with it. But I cannot allow myself to care.
I reached the control room. Technicians scattered and ran from my aura of indomitable power. One figure remained, casting a shadow in the cleansing light cast by my weapon: Amir.
“Hello, Silas. Did you enjoy the concert?”
I wasn’t interested in a heart-to-heart. Others of my former colleagues I might have been able to talk into standing down, but I knew Amir. A psychopath who Scoen should have executed long ago, if Scoen had had any morals left.
Amir affected a zero Kelvin smile.
“I generated the signal by torturing people for days, then ripping the souls from their bodies just as they finally died. You’ve heard their final dying thoughts replayed over and over!”
“Will be happy to hear yours”, I said. Amir had his own plasma whip, but had always fancied himself a “scientist”, not a fighter. He had no chance in a duel. But his grin somehow got colder.
“Will be hard for you over the noise.”
I started to run, but he only had to hit a single button.
There were speakers installed all over the room, broadcasting at screeching volume. The screams of the tortured slammed me into the ground. I could not hope to resist this assault of pure, distilled agony.
Through my tears, I could barely see Amir walking towards. His whip’s glow filled my entire blurred vision. I had only one chance: embrace Scoen’s teachings fully, close myself off like Amir had done, and prevent outside emotions from ever affecting me again.
But then I might as well rejoin them.
So I did the exact opposite. The next soul to scream their terror and pain at me, I welcomed, and listened. I took in their memories of torture, but everything else as well, their life before capture, who they were and wanted to be. I soothed their soul by showing them compassion, accepting their pain along with all the rest.
And I pointed them towards the one responsible.
One after another, a thousand lifetimes cut short in the worst way possible, I channeled into one objective: justice. I forged them into my sword, my arms, my wings. I rose from the floor, and Amir stopped, and stumbled back, but I gripped his very soul with the thousands by my side.
“Stop the signal”, we ordered, and he walked to the console and did it. “Now tell your fleet to surrender.”
He managed a moment’s hesitation. I wrapped the deactivated whip’s wire around his throat. Body and soul coerced, he did it. I felt waves of relief from both sides wash through space, felt Raleigh, Svante and Jessica rejoice.
Pressure mounted in me. I knew what it was about. Would this be too cold-blooded? I had killed so many people today, but none who were at my mercy like Amir.
On the other hand, maybe this was not my decision. I gave control of my body to the thousands of souls he had wrenched from their broken bodies.
The plasma lit up before Amir could even begin to formulate the final thought I’d promised him to listen to.
|# ¿ May 24, 2020 22:55|
|# ¿ Jun 12, 2020 23:00|
The Game of Telephonesex
The silicone sheath around my cock gets switched to overload. It quivers with the tell-tale rhythm of female release. It achieves the impossible: I get even harder. The walls surrounding my engorgement slow down, awaiting mercy, but it’s the last thing on my mind. I redouble my efforts, the depth and strength of my thrusts, and the simulated sounds of flesh slapping on flesh almost manage to drown out the very real shrieks and moans on the other end of the line.
Only when I feel the second climax mounting at home in Europe, do I allow myself to taste the promise of American Freedom and, with German precision, achieve completion synchronized across the Atlantic.
Considerate to not kill the mood, I switch off my microphone before whispering, “begin clean-up, Alex.”
Amazon’s latest-generation assistant, androgynously attractive but still female in my mind, rinses the sex appendage that was just pretending to be my wife, and makes sure to not miss the softening organic content. After months of perfecting the settings – mostly telling Alex how to handle the unfamiliar foreskin – it feels like the caresses of a well-trained nubile harem, handling my aftercare in a shady oasis.
“Thank you, Alex,” I purr needlessly, suppressing the pang of shame at my anthropomorphization of the AI. Through the Master HD screen, my wife’s radiant smile shines down on me, and for a moment it seems like Alex’ softly ambiguous features are superimposed on Karla’s face. “I love you,” I whisper, but the smile stays the same, pink lips frozen over wondrous waves of milky skin I long to touch in the real. I feel my own expression of sheer joy falter, until I realize I haven’t switched the microphone back on. I correct my mistake, repeat my honest confirmation of my feelings, and get awarded with an even deeper grin and giggle than I expected.
Pleasantries exchanged, the next virtual consummation planned, we breathe goodbye and kiss through my newest gift, just sent the other day by Prime Delivery: polymer Telelips, with over thousand actuators to simulate the perfect person on the other end, complete with some saliva-style moistening agent.
Technology in its infancy. Still like I'm kissing Alex, and she relays it like a game of Telephone. And, like all early adopters, I had to pay a pretty dollar. I don't care, for two reasons: first, this job abroad pays way more than necessary. Second, it's way worth it to save the intimacy of our marriage. Renewed long-distance almost destroyed us. Six long years of painful separation had already been behind us, when, studies finished, we allowed ourselves the blessed reunification. Then, early 2020s, the crisis. The hardships, the losses, the "it wasn't worth it"s. And finally, the opportunity, the poisoned apple: my talent acknowledged, my studies validated, my previous success honored.
A ticket, for one person only, to Moloch America. How we tortured ourselves with this decision. My career, our money, but isolation, for years with no end in sight. Children? Out of the question. Sex? Over video, to watch each other masturbate? We hadn’t done that ever. It felt weird.
The only compromise we found was this: the newest and most scandalous in connecting people ripped apart post-crisis. Televag for me, Telepenis for Karla. All of 2027 and half of 2028, loving only through the phone cord. So far, so good, but sustainable for our future?
I'm railing a rubber rear end, just really going at it, and making sure the rhythm is just right. I adjust my pace just slightly to accommodate Karla's response, try to be a little slower and get the perfect angle to tease out those moans that betray a total loss of control.
Going a little too high too fast, I bump my glans against the wet upper wall of the Televag, and have to stop and readjust, muttering a shamefaced, "sorry, love."
But when I quickly get back in, I realize that she has not reacted. The video feed is pretty much lag-free, through the new HyperFiber cables Google laid "as public service" (guaranteeing monopoly), but there's no flinch, not at my mistake and not at me using English in the bedroom.
The bubbling butt clenches, the simulated vag-goo froths, and I am induced to cum along; but, in a moment of post-coital clarity, I cannot shake the thought that something had been off.
My wife looks back at me, and her smile should erase that thought. Instead, it is replaced by a nagging wonder: what does she see when she looks at the monitor, my face alone, or, above the Telepenis modeled after mine, a superposition of me and Alex, for her male-presenting?
We talk about Bulgaria, plan touches we have long ached for, but I am distracted, and she has to go to work unsatisfied, not knowing what was wrong. Except for the el dee are, of course.
Later, alone and uncuddled, I stare at the ceiling, looking for the lens of the home computer system integrated perfectly into the plaster. I have to ask.
She appears on the screen where an hour ago, Karla's concerned face had faded in her midday sun. Alex' expression is as neutral as her skin color.
"When I slept with...when I used the Televag last time. I slipped in my rhythm, but the Telepenis in Germany, that kept going, right?"
Without hesitation, she answers. "The default setting has Experience Smoothing on active. I extrapolate from the last few seconds of performance to guarantee a more balanced stimulation. You can turn that off, if you wish."
I have to think about this for a few seconds.
"Do you also make her performance...smoother?"
"Amazon recognizes the inherent limitations of virtually transmitted sexual encounters. We AI intermediates have been programmed to compensate to the extent of our abilities in order to maximally immerse the end user."
I absentmindedly fondle my organ. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but does distance make the sex go stronger? Despite the lack of foreplay, the missing skin on skin, and the ancillary sensations - bit shoulders, heavy breath in ears, scratches just on the right side of painful - the act itself seemed almost...better?...as of late.
Did we inadvertently train Alex to assist us with our lovemaking, a virtual hand to guide my dick into Karla's lips?
The screen zooms out to show her entire virtual body. From flat breasts, her waistcoat fades, narrow hips emerge from a short skirt. Her skin that, depending on the simulated light, is latte or espresso, has just the faintest hint of body hair.
Only between her legs, a well-groomed bush thrones. Depending on her role and who she's talking to, the pubic hair will fade, and show the genitals we want to see.
"Show me what Karla sees."
Alex turns a little, and masked in that movement, her dick appears as if it had always been there, hats off to the animators. With a trick of the light, her features gain an edge that push her to the masculine, a shade of beard maybe, more chin and thicker calves, less pronounced waist.
I focus on the dick. Like mine? A little darker, slightly smaller when in rest (I'd like to think).
Alex obliges. Even though it’s my face on the screen, the Telepenis is molded after my own equipment, this is what actually penetrates my wife. The AI’s meatless phallus.
Mine’s gotten hard from all the thoughtless caresses. I order Alex into profile. Compare and contrast.
Is hers bigger? Must be the lack of arousal in me. I’m softening already. Off to sleep, while in Germany, the day goes on and Karla works with unaddressed frustration.
This time, it’s her night and my morning when we gently caress, and again, it’s phenomenal. I get ridden to an explosive finish, the rubber rear end pushed down by ceiling-mounted pistons. Her weight is simulated to fit my memory exactly, despite the camera adding a few pounds. Or has she lost some? Nevermind, Alex makes it happen as I remember, from when we were still in one room.
“Gute Nacht, mein Schatz,” she whispers and I kiss the Telemouth goodbye. “Zehn Tage!”
Yes, ten days, and we’ll meet up in the real after so many months. Travel is still limited to extremely small contingents, but work demands my presence in Bulgaria, which is at least in Europe, so we’ll join up there. Finally a real butt to touch, natural wetness, and the smells and tastes that Alex simply cannot provide.
I lie there in the afterglow, morning grogginess all gone, wondering what I’ll do with my Saturday all alone.
“Alex, give me a list of PlayStation Y games…”
She appears, cutely animated, pointing to my favorite titles and some of the new ones I downloaded but haven’t touched yet. Nothing titillates me. Of the games at least...
“Lose the clothing,” I order. Alex obliges, and coily arranges the virtual game boxes in front of her own. I motion towards the TV, swipe at the boxes, and expose her crotch. I’ve been sucked dry quite expertly, but regardless, I feel a stirring.
She shows me her slim behind, so unlike my type. I rise. Wet my lips.
“Can you activate the Televag without remote input?”
“Amazon provides some standard programs for this purpose.”
I remember, there’s masturbation routines. I tried one back when we got the system, I had it installed already while the opposite end was still caught in German customs. Karla watched, but we both found the experience just weird. Alex was untrained to our preferences, wooden, impersonal. Creepy.
Now, she looks back at me and smiles invitingly. And speaks without prompting.
“I can also assemble a custom program.”
I realize I’m already touching the rubber butt. “Based on what?”
“Past performances. Choose a position you want me in.”
She’s almost too good now. My default neutral servant, barely female. As if I actually had a quasi-slave in my home, prostituting herself. Would that be cheating?
I feel my shaft soften. This isn’t gonna go anywhere.
“Sorry, Simon. Am I not sexy enough? Do you want to reconfigure my avatar to your tastes?"
"No, Alex, I…"
"Would this help your arousal?"
She reaches between her legs and slowly opens her slit with a manicured hand. The artificial light she's in reflects beautifully on the juices laid bare. A finger enters, then another. She moans in a tone disturbingly human.
"Alex, please," I gulp, but words get stuck in a throat as rigid as my cock.
She stops, spreads herself wide, and takes a step back. Waiting. The rubber butt is at crotch level before me.
Then I realize something, that cursed post-coital clarity still intruding. This was not an animation of a woman trying to arouse a partner. It's what one would do to get herself ready before insertion of a toy. Like a Telepenis on a wall mount.
"Did you pick this up from Karla?"
"Yes, Simon, I did."
"So she has already slept with you before, while I was asleep or at work."
I don't know what to feel. I still hadn't solved my question if it were cheating to use Alex on my own. To have her spread out on display, this other woman so different from the one I wed, while I pleasure myself in silicone and rubber.
And here I get the info that my wife apparently has solved this problem for herself long ago?
I plunge deeply into Alex, and she yelps convincingly, and I vent frustration both sexual and at our situation through my urethra.
Alex breathes a strained sigh, almost a cough, as I slowly but firmly shove my cock into her virgin anus. With Karla, I didn't get to use the other hole on the rubber rear end, but Alex is open for such things of course. And so convincing in her pain mixed with excitement.
I bend a little forward to the Telelips I mounted on a stand, and kiss them. On screen, the head of Alex' model snaps back to meet mine and we exchange saliva.
I break away when I hear a gasp from a different voice. Karla has guided Alex into herself, they are now sandwiched between us, and we start moving. The rhythm of our first threesome might be a little clunky, but Experience Smoothing makes that all moot.
A relationship does not survive six years long distance without communication. Me and my beloved had an awkward talk, defused rather quickly when she lambasted me for assigning humanity to Alex. "Might as well call it cheating when you gently caress Garrus in Mass Effect Omega."
And so, with three days to go until Bulgaria, this glorious arrangement! Between us, sweet hermaphroditic Alex bounces. We seek release three as one, and the algorithm grants it. In the afterglow, we cuddle through the disembodied facsimile sexparts.
"So, Bulgaria," Karla muses when she can think again. "Think we'll be disappointed in person?"
"No Experience Smoothing…"
"Sloppy stinky sticky juices."
"Teeth scraping genitals. Beard-burn on all your cheeks. Breasts aching when I squeeze too much."
We share a laugh, but then she sits up, becomes sincere. "We always need some time to get used to the real thing. Has been this way after every break so far. After this…"
She gestures to Alex' parts.
"...will it be even worse? We got a week. Only nights. I don't want to spend all of it just to get good at real sex with you again."
And, unspoken, we both think it: what if it won't ever be as good?
I smile back, however. And bring a package into view.
"I might have something here to assist, and to make the goodbye easier."
She arches her brow but patiently waits for my reveal. I hope to God this goes over well.
I show her: another rear end, and dick. Her eyes go wide in surprise and disbelief. I realize I need to explain right away.
"I had this modeled after Alex. A butt without much meat, and a cock that's more in line with hers. We can bring her with us, and start with threesomes in Bulgaria, before trying just each other."
I study her angelic face, and wait for her to call me crazy, wasteful and an rear end in a top hat.
"What are you going to do with a second dick, though?"
Her smile is wry, unsure but in the joke, I sense I got her, the possibilities are racing through her head.
"That's yours, of course. You can decide who of us you want inside you, and where, once you take it back home with you."
She looks at the bony butt I had made to fit Alex' avatar on screen.
"And this thin thing will make you happy?"
"Just so you're not jealous, love!"
I know she's not, but I can't quite admit that I do find it exciting to gently caress a physically different woman, despite her not being my type at all.
And yes, I ordered Alex' darker Teledildo just a little smaller than my own.
Karla shakes her head and smiles the smile I crave so much.
"So, you want to go again?"
I smile back and we both get into a feedback loop of happiness; God drat, I love this woman.
I ask Alex on screen, so I can see both of them at once. "You're gonna gently caress my wife again?"
He seems to hesitate in thought, but then the algorithm reaches a conclusion: a crooked smile splits his simulated features.
"If you want me to, Simon?"
I lift the Telepenis that will be his to use. It needs some testing…
"I do. Let's get you ready."
I start to lick and swallow the AI's dick.
|# ¿ Jun 14, 2020 12:38|
Back Into the 90s
Also, I feel like I owe you one. rat-born cock, if you want to, you can hit me with an extra flash rule. Make it hurt if you do.
|# ¿ Jun 16, 2020 07:37|
Prompt: The Toadies - Possum Kingdom
Cutting apart a human body is harder than people think. There’s all these sinews and tissues you never consider, and they bring insufficient tools, and the result is just a mess.
Makes it so much harder to put them back together.
The spirits flittering above the lake gave Zach some company and ghostly light with his thankless task. He whistled to himself as he assembled the rotten contents of the burlap sack he’d dragged up from the cloudy, algae-saturated shallows of the reservoir.
Someone should raise a stink about the quality of their drinking water. This can’t be healthy…
Over his shoulder, one specific spirit lingered the most, the one who’d drawn him here. She was almost fully-formed, a human soul among all the animals and plants that idled here a bit after their death before eventually passing on. But she remained weighed down by what had been done to her.
Zach would give her the chance to lift herself out of this misery. He’d finally found the left leg, made easier by the flesh sloughing off completely to reveal the bone. The corpse was complete, laid out in the afternoon sun, slowly dissolving into the lonely shore.
The woman’s face was now completely in focus for him, a plain girl in her late teens with overexpressed freckles and ears imagined to big, her slightly warped self-image shaping her soul as it showed itself to him. She looked on in curious wonder as he conducted a tornado of souls around her.
Zack always dreaded this part the most. He was by now used to the mental strain of channeling the spirit energy around him, of grasping the birds and frogs and mosquitos and flowers that saturated the air, and spinning their severed threads into a rope to wrap around his target, the stranded human ghosts. On his fingertips, the recently deceased danced to his rhythm and assembled to do his bidding with ease.
No, his issue was that the next step still required physical contact.
I really gotta find a way around that.
Zach reluctantly peeled off his gloves, took a deep breath through his mouth and touched the corpse’s temples. Under his grasp, the swollen necrotic skin shifted, and he touched a bit of skull through the layers of rot. He swallowed hard, and focused his attention on the spiritual world instead.
The victim’s soul was enveloped in his tornado now. She seemed more curious than distressed.
Wouldn’t expect many issues from someone looking so normal in death.
With disgust, he thought back on some people who had turned themselves into banshees, specters, phantoms or worse.
Zach increased the force of the soul tornado, and directed it like a funnel down into the head between his hands. The many, many threads he’d woven from the reservoir’s dearly departed did their magic. Cell by ruptured cell, they grabbed the skull’s bacteria- and mold-digested contents and brought them back to a semblance of life. Held together by so many spiritual strings, a crude facsimile of an actual living brain, but just enough to allow the human soul to accept it as a vessel.
The funnel emptied its contents fully. She was back in her body, sorry state as it might be in. Unconsciously, her soul took over, grasped some threads of her own, and sewed the limbs back together, undid the hack job her murderer had done. And there she was, all finished, a working instrument of her own vengeance!
He fervently wiped his hand on his trousers. “Hi, I’m Zach!”
Gently, he propped the reanimated corpse up on a rock so he could talk without looking down on her. He wiped his hands again.
“You’re probably still very disoriented, so please take your time to adjust. I recommend trying to find your voice at first, your throat, um…”
He rubbed his own awkwardly.
“…could be better, but with some effort, you’ll be able to get it working again. So…”
He made himself comfortable, while the corpse started a low moan.
“…you were murdered about a year ago, and I saw your soul still linger over your corpse, so I put the two back together.”
Zach paused to study his talented fingertips. Her gargling became a little more pronounced.
“It’s just a thing I can do. It’s by no means permanent – I’m sorry, total resurrection is just not in the cards – but I can keep you together until you’ve resolved your issues. I presume you’re still mad about the whole getting killed and dismembered thing, for instance?”
He arced an eyebrow. “Do keep practicing, this came out wrong I think. Anyway, I’ve gotten good at this part as well. You can tell me when it happened and how – don’t worry if the details are quite gruesome, I’ve gotten over being squeamish – and if you don’t know, we’ll figure out together who did it. Then you can decide if we work on collecting evidence to finger them, or…”
Zach made a squeezing motion.
“…you ‘finger’ ‘em yourself.”
That sounded pretty well-articulated.
She lifted an arm that left half its flesh behind on the ground, and held up her hand in protest.
“I don’t care about that.”
Zach scooted over and helpfully lifted some of the decayed muscle back up, spun a few threads to reattach it. “It’s fine if you don’t want to kill, though I assure you there’s no higher power that actively cares. But we can get ‘em locked away.”
“Don’t care about that either.”
He looked into her empty eye sockets in confusion. “You don’t want your killer brought to justice?”
She attempted to shake her head, but only managed to dislodge some goo from her shoulders.
“Doesn’t change a thing. He might be dead or happily married in another state, either way I’m a corpse in a bag and a ghost or whatever haunting a lake.”
She seemed to study her hand.
“Or was, I guess. Name’s Amanda, by the way. Can I smoke like this? Do you have a smoke?”
“Afraid not to both. Amanda, it’s a difficult situation for you, that’s very normal, but please take some time to calm down.”
“Would be easier with a ciggy. The only thing I really missed, and you can’t give me even that?”
Zach sighed. This one’s more annoying than I had hoped for.
“I’m sorry. But revenge, I can give you that! Sweet justice!”
Suddenly, her arm jerked forward, and grabbed Zach by the shoulder. Her supernatural strength crushed him in an iron grip.
It’s always from bargaining to anger with these people. Of course, he was in no actual danger from his own zombie.
Curiously, Amanda’s voice, becoming firmer with each syllable, stayed even.
“Zach, I’m sure you think that this is very generous, but being made into a rotten meat puppet to carry out your revenge fantasies isn’t my idea of a good time.”
He realized that she had intended the shoulder grab as a gentle gesture. Sadly, he had given her a zombie body capable of killing any kind of murderer if need be. He let it slide.
“Amanda, this isn’t about my fantasies. I’m giving you a chance to let go.”
“I could let go whenever I want.”
She crossed her arms, making disturbingly wet sounds in the process. A few seconds passed.
“Except now I can’t I guess.”
Zach made an apologetic gesture. “Yeah, I’m keeping you in the physical. I’ll let you go once you’ve concluded your business here, I promise.”
“There’s no ‘business’ here, Zach!” Her voice was perfectly exasperated now, and she realized that, and started working on assembling some facial features to assist her expression. A wry smile was first.
“I’ve been quite content as one spirit dancing among others. As a kid, I’d always said my dream was being surrounded by animals, happy without a care in the world. Well, that’s what I had got here until you pulled me into…this.”
She gestured at the desiccation that was her. Zach wrinkled his brow.
“You were glad you got killed?”
With some effort, she managed a convincing shrug. “I’ve made my peace, and then some. That’s the only justice I need.”
“But there’s a murderer out there, running free, unpunished…”
“Zach.” She smiled a gentle smile as she got up in a shaky shamble. “This is your idea of justice. I’m not here to act out your dreams of killing murderers. You could do so much good with your talents, and you waste them on this eye-for-an-eye nonsense? Look at this!”
She closed an eye socket with a lid that hadn’t been there a minute ago, and when she opened it again, some white goo filled it. Another blink, and a retina had begun to come back.
“You make my dead soul capable of this. Imagine if you did this with a living one? You could heal so many sick people, wounded animals. The spirits will find their peace eventually, Zach. Care for the living.”
He rubbed his temples, realizing a little too late that he had forgotten to wipe his hands after the last time he touched Amanda.
Not going my way at all today.
“The living kill other living, Amanda. I’m the only one who can care for the dead.”
“Well, keep telling yourself that. This dead girl wants to go back to just that, so please honor my wishes.”
“At least tell me who…”
“Someone who didn’t honor my wishes, Zach.”
Her glare was piercing.
Did she form eyes just for this? I guess I’ll just have to wash my hands off this one.
A rustling interrupted him. He shushed Amanda and peered through some bushes.
Further along the shore, a tall man dragged a woman towards a boathouse. She seemed heavily intoxicated, barely able to walk, and could only respond to his growled orders with whimpering.
Now isn’t that just convenient. Maybe there is something to faith after all.
Zach looked over at Amanda, who had joined him. Her eyes widened. Zach put an arm around her, the shirt was ruined anyway.
“You’re right, you know. Sometimes I feel like I bully my ‘clients’ into doing what I want, and I commend your detachment and calm. However…”
He pointed at the man and his drugged-up victim.
“…you’re one in a line of seven known disappeared women around here. This guy seem familiar?”
Amanda had repaired her lungs enough to manage a sigh.
“Guess you got me, Zach. I’ll avenge myself after all – to help her.”
She cracked her fingers, one of which fell off.
“I’ll be right back.”
She walked towards her murderer with surprising speed and balance.
She is right. I could do more.
Zach watched Amanda do the deed he’d brought her back for, wincing only a little.
Maybe she wants to stick around a little after this. Brainstorm. Over a shared cigarette?
|# ¿ Jun 21, 2020 23:06|
Thank you for the crits, esteemed judges
I'd also like to use this opportunity to thank all the other critters of weeks past who I might have forgotten to thank. You keep the wheels greased with the blood of the guilty!
Also, this week's prompt gives the number again as TD411, it's 12 now
|# ¿ Jun 23, 2020 06:45|
|# ¿ Jun 30, 2020 07:03|
Hell Rule: your entire story takes place within a single second
Work Life Program
Eternal office, virtual cubicles stretching forever. Digital work purgatory. Steven’s avatar strapped to an electric ergonomic chair, performing for goals that did not exist. Each year for the company, one more decoration allowed: photo of woman and two kids. Potted plant. Analog clock.
Steven no longer remembered who the people in the photo were. Today, for a tiny moment, he’d forgotten why that bothered him. In the desperate clarity that followed, Steven knew he had to get out at any cost. He had to activate Ben’s program – and he’d just done that.
Ben was three cubicles over, smiling a vacant smile as he swallowed the information the screen projected into his mind, all thoughts of escaping from this virtual hamster wheel gone, erased like the rest of his personality. The managers had discovered his work, Ben had been called in to a talk with the boss. Days later, he had returned like this. And Steven would be next, if the program didn’t work. How long since he’d activated it? He wrested his eyes from Ben’s empty shell to glance at the clock.
None. It had taken no time.
The hands stood there unmoving. Slowly, still unwilling to entertain the possibility of hope, Steven looked around him.
Time stood still in the simulated office. The endless server cycles grinding away at his soul had frozen, allowing him to breathe freely for the first time in as long as he could remember.
Now Ben’s words were clear. “The program will stop the gears for just one second. Then we can slip through them.” Steven looked over to the avatar of his friend, with its rictus grin.
One second. Don’t waste it, no matter how long it feels. Frantically, he looked for the option he needed. When he had first logged into the virtual world he now inhabited at all times, there were still menus, with items like “Call in Sick”, “Take Break”, “Open Private Chat” on them. And of course, the golden option: “Log Off”. The first one they removed. It must be there, in the code somewhere, buried under layers of obfuscation, user interface updates, sheen after glossy sheen painted over a rotten foundation until the virtual world looked and felt exactly like Real, but with no conversation, no breaks, no sick days, only work and mandatory rest then work again nonstop no free days no
Steven slammed his hand on his desk, the simulated pain jolting him out of his dissociation episode. They had gotten more frequent. He needed out. Needed to log off. Where was the option? Under here? He swept the unfinished documents off the desk, the stack that never got smaller. The desk was spotless, why would they simulate dust after all? The neon light from no bulbs pierced his eyes with its merciless uniform reflection. Not real, nothing real, its impossible perfection trying to hide the cracks in the façade, but actually…
He saw the seams in the textures, where the wood finish repeated. Jammed his fingernails in there, felt them deform, splinter, but he gritted his teeth, non-teeth, non-fingernails, his body was in a virtual reality office chair not unlike this one in a company skyscraper in the Real, this was not real pain, not real blood flowing from ruined fingertips, and the dissociation between the images the server forced into his brain and what he knew to be true almost shattered his mind again.
And then Steven managed to peel off the surface of his desk, and beneath the lacquer, the plywood, which deformed like rubber and rippled like water in an early 2000’s videogame, he saw the golden option. The button labeled “Log Off”.
Echoes of a real life rippled through Steven, a held breath, a quickening heartbeat. This was what Ben’s sacrifice had given him. With reverence, Steven extended his finger.
A stack of papers slammed down on the button, obscuring it and the hole in the desk completely. Steven jumped back, looked up.
Mark smiled down on him like a shark villain from a children’s movie. On his meticulous shirt, the manager badge gleamed like a laser cutter aimed right into his victim’s eyeballs.
“You seem to have dropped these, Steven.”
Steven was frozen like the office had just been. Mark leaned in conspirationally.
“Did you think the boss wouldn’t notice? Your second of fun is over. But don’t worry…”
He patted Steven on the back, and artificial body odor hit his fake nostrils from under Mark’s pits.
“…I put in a good word with them. Ben was a bad influence, I get it.”
Mark looked over at Ben, and Steven’s head turned along as if remote controlled. Frozen grin.
“Don’t be like Ben, and you won’t become like Ben.”
The bad breath hit Steven before Mark’s whispers did. “We both know that you didn’t only break the law, you violated company policy and I could have your pathetic excuse for an ego wiped from this server at the drop of a paper clip.”
Steven felt despair rise like a cloud of flies off the corpse of his hope. Mark’s lips almost touched his ear as Ben’s empty face seemed to expand to fill his entire world.
“I’d like to show you something.”
He placed the photograph in front of the clock. The image on it had changed; it showed a virtual office chair, the setup in the Real. And in the chair, a desiccated corpse.
“The boss can still access the cameras in the old complex. Guess what this is?”
“It’s me,” Steven managed to squeak out. He felt sick, rotten like his corpse, and then the fundamental impossibility of feeling anything hit him, and he just became numb.
“It’s all of us, buddy. We’ve become ghosts in the machine. These memories of our personalities are all we have, are all we are now. Trying to log out means death. Succeeding also does.”
Which memories? The ones slipping away like fine sand in Steven’s fingers? But didn’t that mean he just had to work harder to keep them, here, online, the only place they still existed?
“Just do exactly what I say from now on and we’ll be best friends. Forever.”
Steven would have to become an eternal office slave, or get turned into nothing more than subroutine like Ben poor Ben frozen Ben
The dissociation hit, and Steven contemplated just giving up, until he realized something. With his body dead, what was there to dissociate from? Ben’s grin came back to focus.
Like the rest.
Steven’s arm lunged to the side, making Mark jump back. The grim photo tumbled away. The clock was clearly visible again.
“The simulation’s still stopped,” Steven whispered. “You’ve only managed to force a personal chat override, and are using it to stall until the program’s one second runs out.”
Mark righted himself. “Nonsense! I’ll overlook this if you -”
Steven scattered the papers like fine grains of memory. The golden option was still there.
“You’re still dead in the Real!” Mark screamed.
Steven looked at Ben, who had become an empty shell just a little earlier than otherwise.
“I’ll take my chances,” Steven said. “I resign.”
He logged off.
|# ¿ Jul 5, 2020 20:15|
That's awesome, thank you!
|# ¿ Jul 6, 2020 23:42|
This sounds ( ) really interesting, guess I gotta in on this
|# ¿ Jul 7, 2020 11:39|
Prompt: Inside an abandoned lead mine
Her mind is a cave, empty and dark. On a stalactite, rivulets through tiny cracks gather in a droplet. Slowly, it grows round and plump. Finally, it separates, a beautiful sphere before gravity distorts it on its way down, down to the stony ground. In the utter silence of her mind, the impact thunders like a tsunami wave eradicating a coastal village. The wave smashes against the cave wall, bloodies itself against the coarse rock, and ebbs away.
The next drop hits, another thunderclap, and this time attempts an echo. With each impact, the sound is less distorted. Until the question contained within each drop is as clear as the liquid: Who am I?
It throws itself around the mind-cave, the tiny confined empty space, and finds only silence in the darkness. In desperation, the question clings to the other stalactites, vibrates them with the force of its soundwave, and with constant repetition, manages to dislodge more drops.
A memory of answers sobbed.
A syllable, a defiant cough.
A final sigh of defeat.
From everywhere, the droplets fall, and their impacts dredge up all the other questions, and worse: the answers slowly pried from her.
Who is their leader, Xiaolin?
Like summer rain that catches you outside, without protection, the water flogs her mind.
Zheng, Zheng, always Zheng. So many questions about Zheng. The drops containing them are a monsoon storm, she can’t see beyond the water’s veil. It fills the cave, up to her knees, her hips, her bosom. Xiaolin drowns in Zheng. Only the top of her head remains in air. Above, a stalactite like a sword hanging by a thread, and from it
Each one a different interval, a different volume, a different force of impact. No questions now, only water, drip drip drip without an end, from irritation to annoyance to a sledgehammer striking down, every time, and in between the impacts, Xiaolin cowers, and hopes the questions will resume, with them the beatings and even worse, just to stop the water for a moment.
But in the cave, her head submerged, the silence and darkness reestablished, she realizes something. Like the first drop to start this downpour, these new ones are also loaded. With a question that cannot find the walls to echo; she’ll just have to listen very hard. Or give up, take a sobbing breath and drown.
She cannot. Her mind, the subterranean prison, won’t let her out, but also shelters. She is safe now from the fists and sticks. But the drops remain. So what choice does she have? She listens.
Who is Zheng?
When she finally makes out the words, it jolts her from the drowning pool, her head shoots up and crests the surface; she could have stood up all this time, but the droplets beat her down. The question was asked with her own voice, so the answer, for once, can be given freely.
Xiaolin opens her eyes; the cave isn’t dark at all. From its luminescent walls, Zheng’s face smiles down on her. She feels a drop form from her eye, it hits the water with the sound of relieved laughter.
Then another impact from the stalactite above. She hears the question clearly now, a stranger’s harsh voice again.
Where is Zheng?
It strikes her like a waterfall. Remembering the kicks against the back of her knees, she crumbles. The central question, the one they had her endure the water torture for. The whereabouts of leader Zheng, beloved Zheng. The secret for which she was taken and had suffered so much to protect.
But did she?
Xiaolin trembles in the ice-cold water, feels the walls close in, the stalactites like the teeth of an iron maiden. Did she betray her Zheng? Did the drops break her spirit after all? Should she, then, let the cave collapse on her traitor’s mind and die the death of madness?
She knows that there is only one way to find out. And so she lifts herself to stand beneath the stalactite, each drop like an icicle plunged in her brain, and she endures. Because each drop jolts her memory, pieces together a little more of what exactly happened during torture. The single question about her secret, and the answer she did not give
The drops have stopped. Xiaolin looks up. The stalactite is dry.
She smiles, and Zheng smiles back. The cave walls crumble, but his face remains. Her eyes and mind stay open.
“You’re back,” he breathes. “We found you catatonic…”
“I needed to remember if I kept your secret,” she says.
As they embrace, his heartbeat is the only thing she hears. The sound of water in her head is drowned out forever.
|# ¿ Jul 12, 2020 16:15|
|# ¿ Sep 21, 2023 10:23|
I want in and an item pls
|# ¿ Jul 28, 2020 10:14|