Happy new year Thunderdome. Here is a reading of The Merman's Package, by Kaishai
|# ¿ Jan 1, 2020 21:57|
|# ¿ May 17, 2022 01:20|
With the plastic eyeballs, spray-paint the vegetables
|# ¿ Jan 1, 2020 22:53|
A crit of Trash Baby by anatomi, a redemption story for week 349.
There are some cool ideas in this but they're all over the place, and nothing really comes together. We've got Benny's relationship with Karen his social worker, with his (deceased?) mother, his alcoholism and the fact he steals from his neighbours... Any of these could have been the focus of the story in their own right, but because there is too much in here they end up feeling like unresolved sub-plots.
The thing the story is actually about - the vomit-egg or whatever it is - doesn't even show up until a third of the way through. Fortunately, things then start to get super interesting, because then Karen discovers the egg and then--
Oh, then the story just stops.
I was genuinely disappointed by the ending, because I really wanted to know what the heck this egg thing was, and how Benny and Karen were going to resolve their strange and strained relationship. Should you feel inclined to do another version of this, I reckon delete everything before "Benny gripped the toilet rim, feeling like his eyes were going to burst from the sisyphean dry heave," and focus on what the egg means for him, and for Karen.
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2020 02:48|
With the plastic eyeballs, spray-paint the vegetables
Go away! Jim whisper-shouted at the knocking on his front door. It was probably Hiroshi; Jim had been ignoring his calls ever since he’d discovered the model ramen of another sampuru artist in Hiroshi’s restaurant window. Jim hunched over a plastic salad and picked up his airbrush, gripping it tight enough to make his hand shake. The knocking got louder.
The first layer of paint on the salad leaves was rapidly drying. Jim steadied his hand, ready to apply the critical second coat, but the incessant knocking had ruined his concentration. He yanked off his safety goggles and banged them onto the workbench. The salad was a disaster. Jim slid it off the bench and into the waiting rubbish bin. It crunched onto the pile of other rejects. The bin’s lid wouldn’t close. Jim kicked it with one slippered foot.
Fourteen steps later he was at the front door.
“Are you Jim Henderson?” The woman looked to be in her mid-60s. Blue dungarees hung from her skinny shoulders and her grey hair was pulled back in a tight bun. “Hiroshi arranged for me to come and see you?”
Jim ground his teeth at the mention of his old friend’s name. “He changed supplier without even telling me!” he blurted out. “And now that seaweed salad is ruined!” Cicadas whined in the summer air. Jim realised that he was being odd, so he clamped his lips together and fixed his gaze on his doorstep. The sun was baking hot on the back of his neck.
“I’m so sorry!” said the woman. “Your seaweed salads are amazing!”
Jim blinked at her.
“And I only sold Hiroshi two ramen! He hasn’t placed any further orders with me!”
As she spoke the woman took five steps past Jim and into his cluttered sitting room. The surfaces were covered with model bowls of ramen and miso, lunch specials in beautiful bento boxes and eternally fresh plates of sushi. There was nowhere to sit, but no one ever came to visit Jim.
“These are beautiful,” she said, picking up a box of plastic nigirizushi from the coffee table. She lifted a piece decorated with delicate salmon roe and held it up to the light from the doorway.
Jim snatched the plastic sushi from her hand. “They’re rubbish!” he said. He opened the door as wide as possible and pressed himself back against the wall, like an entomophobe willing a moth to leave by itself.
“My name’s Sharon,” she said. “Kids at school used to call me Shazza, but I hated that. I hope they’re all dead now.” She laughed, a sudden raucous sound in the dusty room. Seeing Jim stare at her she stopped. “Oh, sorry. That was an odd thing to say, wasn’t it. Sometimes I can’t tell.”
“People sometimes call me Jimbo,” said Jim. “I hate that too.”
Sharon picked up a bowl of miso soup. Delicate motes of fermented soy seemed to circulate in the burnished broth. “How do you do this?” she said.
“It’s my own technique.” Jim frowned. He didn’t like nosey people.
Sharon took two steps to stand right in front of Jim. He recoiled, pressing the back of his head against the wall.
“Show me,” she said.
The woman had bright blue eyes. She was so close he could feel her breath on his cheek. Jim thought about her infuriating ramen sitting in Hiroshi’s window display. He had to admit her chashu pork was pretty good, just the right amount of glisten. She smelt of sunscreen and plastic glue. Jim suddenly couldn’t remember the last time he’d showered. He’d been for a swim that morning - in the pre-dawn dark, when there was no one else at the beach - did that count?
He turned his face away from hers. He was breathing too fast; he was sure she’d think he was being weird. Her cloth shoulder bag lay open where she’d deposited it in the doorway. A lacquer-red bowl protruded from its folds.
“That!” he gasped, pointing at the sampuru. “Show me that.”
She pulled the model from her bag and then plonked herself onto Jim’s couch. “It’s supposed to be Hiroshi’s spicy ramen special,” she said. “But I can’t get the chili to look right. It should look like its drifting in the broth, but this just looks like, well, plastic.”
Jim watched the puff of dust from the ancient couch float around her hair. Her weight had collapsed a pile of old New Scientist magazines. One yellowed edition slipped to the floor. Jim darted over and picked it up. He reached for the others, feeling compelled to tidy up, but they were too close to her thigh. He hesitated, looked up at her. She smiled. Jim straighted, took three steps back.
“A drink?” he said. “Or, can I get you something to eat?”
Without waiting for a reply Jim turned and fled into the kitchen. There was nothing in the fridge but a six-pack of Victoria Bitter and half a block of cheese. There weren’t even any crackers in the pantry, just stale bread and tins of baked beans. Jim’s palms were sweating. Hiroshi! he thought. He’d call Hiroshi, tell him to bring over some sushi. No, sushi was too much. Just some juice, and maybe--
“I’m sorry, it was rude of me to just show up like this. I should go. It’s just, your broth is so perfect. I know you don’t teach classes, but, I was hoping, maybe you’d do lessons, or…?” Her words tumbled out, liked she’d practiced what she was going to say and then forgotten at the last moment. Sharon stood in the kitchen doorway, turning the bowl of spicy ramen over and over.
Jim stepped towards her, and lifted the ramen from her hands. The colour on the bok choy really was very good. He peered into the depths of the soup.
“It’s the distribution of particulate matter within the resin,” he said, walking down the hallway to his workshop. “Here--” He flicked on the power for his heating unit, opened a drawer and handed her a spare pair of safety glasses. “Powders are in the third drawer down in that cabinet,” he said, pointing to his neatly labelled storage unit.
Sharon’s phone buzzed in her pocket. “Oh poo poo,” she said. “I’m supposed to pick up my god-daughter from netball. I’m sorry, I’ve got to go.”
Jim followed Sharon to the front door. He held out his hand, hoping this was the socially appropriate thing to do.
Sharon grasped it with both of hers. “I’m very glad I’ve met you, Jim Henderson,” she said.
Jim’s breathing quickened as her eyes met his. “Come back tomorrow?” he said.
She nodded, her broad smile making her crows’ feet crinkle around her eyes. As she walked down his driveway Jim pulled out his phone. Seven missed calls from Hiroshi, and three new voice mails. Jim swiped to delete them, opened a new message.
Hiroshi. I need to order sushi for two people. Tomorrow. Jim. He tapped the words carefully, enjoying the sun’s warmth on the back of his neck.
|# ¿ Jan 6, 2020 01:49|
A crit of Twelve Stories of Vengeance by SlipUp
I curl in front of the warm glow of the fireplace. My tummy grumbles with despair. The owners no longer put the wet food out. The comfort of gravy, the reassurance of pate, gone. Now my owners close the door to their room while they slept with the dog, that floppy-eared usurper. They were content and together while I endure my herculean struggle, alone.
I like cats and my cat is also very obsessed with wet food so I am on board with this cat joke story thus far.
My tummy rumbles again. This injustice will not stand. I will. Ow I feel like you just poked me in the eye with this bad and awkward word joke.
I stand at the foot of the portal of tyranny, demand equality, and speak cold truths.
“Pet ownership is slavery! Sterilization is the holocaust of my species!” I meow as loudly as I can at the door. At first, it does not move, but after an extended protest, it finally swung open revealing a male hominid.
“I demand wet food!” I meow.
I am lol'ing at this cat.
“Aww, you must be hungry. Okay, okay. I’ll get you food.” The hominid booms with a deep bass before retrieving my dish, filling it, and returning it.
“Nooo! I demand justice!” I howl. Futility. The door closes.
However at this point the haha the cat can talk joke is wearing thin. You initially give this cat quite a serious voice. I think you should have stuck with that, rather than "noooo," which sounds too silly.
I slap the bowl of dry food off the counter in frustration. This will not satiate my hunger.
It grows. What grows? I know, obviously you mean the cat's hunger, but the paragraph break made this hard to read.
These hominids do not understand the forces of which they so carelessly trifle with! They invite the wrath of the gods! The problem I think you're running into here is that your cat's inner monologue has turned silly and isn't adding anything to the story. You should have used these words to characterise the cat. At this point you want the reader to be on the cat's side, rooting for your protag (the cat) to get what they want.
I easily leap onto a chair left haphazardly close to the door. Using my momentum I swing back and forth, eventually causing the slipshod piece of furniture to fall backward, causing it to lodge itself under the doorknob. I found this bit jarring, not so much because the cat's actions were implausible, but because the placement of this mysterious chair was too convenient. You needed to set this up early. For example, you could have said that the cat was reducing to sleeping on a chair that the humans left outside their bedroom door. Then, when the cat uses this piece of furniture against them, it would have felt like a satisfying payoff.
I approach the fireplace, the fire was still cackling. The screen is easy to open with its giant loose latch.
I bat at one of the logs. It rolls out of the fireplace on to the carpet, leaving scorch marks.
Before the fire begins the spread I bat it across the upstairs living room, sending it rolling down the hall before coming to a rest at the slave owner’s door. I also didn't like this bit, because, even "batting" a burning log would surely cause one to burn ones paws. But, more problematically, the cat's decision to set the house on fire comes out of nowhere. I think you could have been more explicit about what the cat's murderous plan was. Then the reader would be waiting to see whether the plan works or not; rather than feeling surprised / confused by the protag's actions.
The flames began to spread across the carpet and are licking up the walls in no time, sending the smoke alarm blaring.
The door helplessly rattled Don't jump between present and past tense against the chair as the hominids pathetically tried to save their meat sacks. I savor every cry of terror. I think this would have been funnier if you'd made your cat out to be more of a stone-cold psychopath, rather than a cheesy cartoon villain. Savoring every cry of terror is something a bad dog would do. A cat would just sit down and lick its bum or something. Cats don't give a gently caress.
“The door’s jammed! It won’t open!” Yells Fred over the alarm. He yelps and pulls away from the door a minute later. It was hot. Smoke was pouring in under the door.
“We have to jump,” says Daisy, looking out the window. “But somethings wrong.” Missing apostrophe.
“The fact we’re twelve stories up?”
“No, the cat.”
Fred looks out the window to see his black Maine coon cat staring back up at him.
“How did she…?” Said Fred. Should be a lower case 's'.
“It was her making all that fuss out in the living room! She started the fire and she escaped!” How did the cat escape? You haven't said that the cat was locked in, so this pulled me right out of the story. If they're 12 stories up, then how the cat got out deserves to be explained.
“She wants us to jump,” Realizes Fred, “This was her plan the whole time. This is about the wet food!” This is a bit weak. Why does Fred have this realisation? Is the cat calling encouragingly to them, perhaps?
“What do we do? We have to jump.”
Fred shook his head. “I love you, baby. Aim for the cat.” From 12 stories up? Just stop and think for a moment how high that is. You ain't saving yourself by landing on a cat. Also, I think this would have been funnier if Fred had kept believing that the cat was on his side.
They jump. Weak. At least describe what this looks like.
The firefighters were first on the scene. Joe, who drove engine forty-five, rescued the furry feline who was there when they arrived. Rescued it from what? From what you've said so far it's just chilling on the pavement. At least have the cat fake getting stuck in a tree or something.
They keep the cat at the station these days. After their shifts, on the way home, when they’re getting drinks, the other firefighters like to rib ole’ Joe that he better watch his back. That cat was licking up the bloody smear that the couple left behind, and she’s got a taste for blood now.
Joe would always laugh along but he’d always leave on the same note.
“I gotta get home. The cat needs to be fed.” I would have lol'd at a story about a murderous cat who ends up living the sweet life at the fire station, because I like cats even though their favourite thing to do is, in fact, to kill things. But this story just didn't pull it off. The cat needed more character and its evil plan needed more substance.
And wtf happened to the dog?
|# ¿ Jan 7, 2020 07:40|
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2020 19:33|
This is a true story, about a spider that lives in my basement
All my siblings are dead. I killed some of them. I bit their heads with my serrated fangs. But mostly they were killed by him. Crushed or stomped or sprayed with leg-curling poison. It’s ok, though. I’m the one he kept. The only one. That’s how I knew he loved me.
Until she came. She rode into the basement on his back, hanging onto his t-shirt right between his shoulder blades, poised and confident. Where my body was round and plump hers was thin and pointed, a dark brown stripe bisecting her shiny black abdomen. A sandfly landed on him and she pounced upon it with her powerful, vicious front legs. A huntress, with no web of her own, she devoured the fly raw. I curled my soft-haired legs against my belly. Disgusting. How could he let such a creature near him?
Unless, he carried her here on purpose? She must live with him, upstairs, I realised. When I could only listen to his slow, heavy footfalls on the floorboards above me, was she there, with him? My stomach tightened into a painful knot and my spinneret spurted silk. I was overcome by an urge to hide myself. I wove a cocoon and huddled in the dark, concentrated on laying out sweet memories of him one at a time.
But inside the cocoon I couldn’t breathe. I had to be able to see them. I had to watch what he was doing, with her. I didn’t want to know but I couldn’t help myself. I bit through my cloak, grinding the strands between my jaws.
He was sitting at his workbench, with the huntress still on his back. He had opened the window to let in the cool night air. He always did this for me. The light lured in flies and gnats, and big, fat moths. All for me. A mosquito bit his neck. He slapped at it. The shockwave stunned the blood-sucker and sent its body tumbling into the box of wood off-cuts. That is where I had my home, my beautiful silk labyrinth. He threw the mosquito in there for me; he was telling me that he loved me, that I shouldn’t worry. I scuttled from my cocoon and down into my nest. I found the gift-mosquito and drank his blood from its stomach, careful not to miss a single precious drop.
That night I caught nothing. Restless, I wove and rewove erratic, weak polygons. Was she with him, still? Anxious to fix my errors I added more and more radial threads, until my web was so dense I could barely move through it, and I had to collapse it, and start again. Did he lure insects to him for her to catch, like he did for me? My constant movement kept the insects away from the wood pile; by morning I was exhausted and starving.
I cursed my foolishness. What was I so worried about? There could be hundreds of spiders in this house - there had been that many in my egg sac alone - but I was the only one who lived here, in his special sanctuary. I thought of all the hours I had watched him from the underside of his workbench, the rhythmic movement of his hands vibrating through my legs. I forced myself to laugh at the nausea that lingered in my stomach. There was no reason for me to doubt our love.
The setting sun was elongating the shadows in the basement as I waited patiently for him on the sill above the door. I curled and straightened my front legs with excitement when I heard his footsteps on the stairs. I couldn’t help but glance down his back as he passed beneath me. There was no one there. A house fly trailed after him, and I clicked my fangs in anticipation.
As he settled into his chair I lowered a line of silk from the ceiling towards the thin hair on the crown of his head. He smelt of musk and smoke and his lumbering body radiated a pleasant warmth. My front legs touched his skin and I trembled as I rubbed a single hair between my pedipalps. She would never get this close to him.
Suddenly he slapped his scalp with one meaty hand. I was pushed out of harm’s way by the rush of air from his great, swinging arm. Hurt and angry, I hurled myself back up my line to the ceiling. But then I realised, the poor dear, he only has two eyes and they’re all the way around on the other side of his head. I pulled up my line and cradled the silk in a messy ball against my cephalothorax. He didn’t know it was me, that was all.
Then I saw her. She crawled out from underneath the collar of his shirt. I watched, nauseous with anger, as she stepped onto the bare skin of his neck with one, then four of her legs.
How could he, how could he? And with a webless hunting spider. Then it hit me. He had brought her here to kill me. To finish the job he had started with my siblings. She would hunt me down and stab me and bite me and then they would be alone, together. I had been wrong about everything. I opened my jaws wide in a soundless scream and scraped at the inside of my mouth with my pedipalps, wishing I could purge his hateful blood from my body.
With a strangled yelp the man leapt to his feet. His chair cracked against the concrete floor and he yanked his t-shirt over his head. His pink flesh shook as he stomped on the crumpled fabric, one hand slapping his neck and the other brushing over and over through his hair. Eventually, breathing heavily, he pinched the t-shirt between his thumb and forefinger and lifted it, examining its folds and shaking it out.
Relief rushed through me and I clacked my fangs with fierce joy. Silk unspooled from my spinneret and I swung from the ceiling, spinning around and around with my legs outstretched. When I pulled them in I spun faster and faster, until I grabbed my silk and scuttled back to the ceiling. He wouldn't find her body; but I saw where she went. Flung from his back she had hit the far wall and dragged her shameful pointed body into the cavity behind the broken power socket. There was no way out from there.
I could have let her be. After all, it was clear that I had no reason to be jealous. I was the only one for him; what did her presence matter? But I couldn’t settle. My heart was beating too fast and my silk glands felt hot and painfully over-full. I shifted my weight back and forth. I wasn’t jealous, so what was this sick feeling, this deep disquiet?
She was a hunting spider. A threat. An enemy. I stalked down one of my long-lines towards the power socket. I could trust my beloved, but I could not trust her.
My body trembled as my spinneret pumped out silk in thick, sticky strands. Back and forth I wove, sealing her hiding place. Let her try and bite through this, I thought. The heavy threads would gum up her sharp-pointed hunter’s fangs. The more she struggled the more the sticky spirals would tighten around her black legs. Hunting spiders are not accustomed to being trapped by weavers. I licked my serrated fangs and felt my venom glands stretch and fill.
A moth beat its wings against the lampshade. He had lured it in for me. Just for me.
|# ¿ Jan 12, 2020 02:08|
Interprompt: some motherfuckers always tryin to ice skate uphill (300 words)
A Beginner's Guide to Ice Skating
To ice skate uphill, first place your skate at a 45 degree angle to the incline. Using your quad muscles, push off with one leg while swinging the other forward to connect with the ice at the opposing 45 degree angle to the first. Clasp your hands together behind your back and thrust your legs quickly and confidently so as not to slide backwards; you can do it! Continue thusly until you reach the summit. Be sure to congratulate yourself warmly, for your legs are sure to be tired.
Having achieved the easy part, now comes the true challenge: ice skating downhill. First, place your feet side by side pointing directly down the slope. Bend forward and tuck your knees to your chest. Be sure to keep your back straight and eyes forward. Hold your arms out in front of you, elbows straight and palms pressed together. When you are ready, have a friend push on your buttocks to send you on your way.
Do not be alarmed at your incredible acceleration. Breathe deeply. Once started, there is no way to halt your descent, even if you start crying. You will know when you are going fast enough when rainbows begin to stream from your skates. Enjoy the sight, for it is truly beautiful. Then, when you have reached maximum velocity, quickly stand up straight and fling your arms out from your sides. The sudden wind resistance will blast your body into its constituent molecules, and you will achieve oneness with the universe. Congratulations.
|# ¿ Jan 13, 2020 19:07|
Like Sitting Here, my Christmas story opener is apparently also a lazy stoner, so I never got to write any Christmas story words. So, Entenzhan, if you want an ending for your story I will write one. Please PM me if this offer is to your liking.
Someone else judge this brawl.
|# ¿ Jan 14, 2020 19:32|
A Thunderdome Christmas story by Entenzahn and
This story is dedicated to Chili, for his tireless efforts to organise Thunderdome secret santa.
Bob-Santa Rides Again
The year is 2030teen. Northpole, Antarctica, Russia, two elves are entering an aboned bunker. The frozen-over “Do Not Enter” sign above the entrance is barely readable. They ignore it. The bunker was a perfect little shelter for them. For Sugarfloppemlollops and Bob, that is to say, it was the only place where they could be themselves.
This was the only place where they could still celebrate Christmas.
The war had not been kind on anyone, but the magical beings of Christmas cheer were hit even harder by the peace than by the war. Ever since Santa had disappeared off the face of the earth, their existence had been an anguished one. But that’s how it was: winners write history, and losers hold the quill. It was funny. Somehow they’d always thought it was tweeting liberals that would destroy them and not the ultra-orthodox Russians sitting on a pile of nukes. Hindsight is 20/20.
The two elves squatted down on the cracked concrete inside. In the distance, winter winds howled through half-collapsed bunker entrance. Sugarfloppemlollops pulled a paper out of his pocket. It rustled like a campfire in the cold arctic night. He pulled on the string holding it together and the paper unfolded like a picnic blanket, with three candy-canes, a handful of candied nuts and a cinnamon stick on top.
Bob smacked his lips.
“Careful,” Sugarfloppemlollops said. “This is all we have.” He reached for one of the candy canes, slowly, almost reverent, and led it to his lips. His tongue barely touched it, once, and memories of peppermint rushed through him, bringing with them the bells and the lights and the laughter of delighted children. He resisted the temptation to lick again. He put it back down. The place felt a little less cold.
Bob was already sucking on a candied peanut like it was a breath mint. When he noticed Sugarfloppemlollops watching him, he slowly spit it out. “gently caress it,” he said.
“It’s okay.” Sugarfloppemlollops put the nut back on the pile. “At least you didn’t eat it this time.”
Next to him, Bob had set down two large sacks. Wordlessly, he picked one of them up and tossed it over to Sugarfloppemlollops, where it landed with a dull clatter. The present inside was neatly wrapped, classical festive red-white-and-green, the proud colours of their people. The outside was smooth and cold. It was a light box. Neither of them knew what was inside, but whatever it was, it had meant something, to someone, a long time ago. Sugarfloppemlollops handed it over to Bob.
“Merry Christmas,” he said.
Instinctively, both their hands went to their hips, before their brains informed them that there was nothing left there since the disarmament. And even before, there had only been slingshots, which may have been a contributing factor to losing the war, come to think of it. Nothing else happened.
Slowly, like two spooked seals who still weren’t quite sure if they had an ice bear on their tails, they turned their attention back to the ritual. Bob set the gift down next to him and handed over his own.
“Merry Christmas,” he said.
The drone burst out of Santa-knows-what corner of the bunker, whirring maniacally, a nuts-and-bolts animal howling for prey. The two elves quickly jumped in front of their contraband, hiding the presents behind their backs. Sugarfloppemlollops subtly pushed the candies behind a concrete pillar. The drone stopped just short of them and, with an assortment of alien clicks and beeps, began to analyze them.
“Назовите себя,” it said.
“Wait,” Sugarfloppemlollops said. “We are just two elves. We used to work for Santa. We are here to escape from the cold.”
“What did it just call us?” Bob said.
“We are not,” Sugarfloppemlollops said. “Just friends.”
“Yeah,” Bob said. “So watch what you…” he trailed off. As he angrily pointed at the drone, he realized that he was still holding the present in his hand. “poo poo.”
There was a sound that every elf had learned to fear during the war. Kind of like a camera flash in reverse, a high-pitched whining that indicated when the miniguns of a Russian battle drone were winding up. Some nights Sugarfloppemlollops still woke up sweaty, the fatal sound echoing through his head from whatever nightmare had haunted him that time. But they weren’t dreaming now.
Bob smacked the drone with his present. It slammed into the concrete pillar with a metallic thud. The minigun noise stopped abruptly as the drone sunk to the ground, audibly dealing with mechanical failures through a series of beeps and buzzes. That was all they needed.
“Run!” Sugarfloppemlollops yelled. He dashed ahead, Bob right behind him, as the drone noisily booted back up. There was an opening closeby that led them down a dimly lit hallway. Up ahead there was a dead end. No, a right turn. The drone came back to life with an alarm that quaked their bones.
They barely turned the corner before the hail of bullets could tear them to shreds. At the other end of the hallway, there was a steel door. Sugarfloppemlollops reached it first. He jumped up and turned the handle with his bodyweight, but the door didn’t budge.
“Bob!” Sugarfloppemlollops said.
The six-feet-five elf didn’t need any more instruction. Still running, he threw his massive body against the steel door. Again. Again. It budged a little more with every hit, rocking Superfloppemlollops back and forth.
The drone turned the corner. The miniguns were winding up again.
Finally, with a massive warcry, Bob slammed all his four hundred pounds of mass against the door in a move that almost ripped it off its hinges. They scurried through just as bullets flew past them through the opening. Grunting, Bob pushed the door closed. A loud clank, then a few lighter ones, then silence. Either the drone was looking for a different way in, or waiting for them to come back out. Whatever it was, they had to keep moving.
Neither of them had ever gone particularly deep into the bunker complex, and now they saw for the first time how little they had missed. It was dark, cold and covered in layers of rust and frozen vapors. Concrete and steel. Functional. Brutal. They weren’t sure if the bunker had once been theirs, or the Russians’, but now it was stripped of all assets. Empty. A tomb to die in.
“You know,” Bob said, “back in the day, just before the war ended, there were a lot of rumors going around. About Santa, I mean.”
“Like this. A lot of elves still don’t believe he’s really dead. Believe he’s just waiting somewhere, biding his time. Getting ready in his secret workshop, ready to return us to freedom. Some of the rumors mentioned a hidden underground complex, just like this one.”
Sugarfloppemlollops had heard the conspiracy theories before, but even if he’d believed them, this bunker had never been particularly well-hidden. It’s just that nobody had ever bothered to look into it because there was nothing of value here. But he said nothing.
At least Bob still had hope. That was more than he could say about himself. Here they were, trapped in an underground maze. They had no idea how and if they could ever get out, there was nothing here to work with and their last supplies were still stuck at the entrance, probably lorded over by an army of drones by now. The more he rattled his brain, the more he realized the futility of their situation. All that could save them now was a Christmas miracle.
“Whoa, what’s that?” Bob said.
Sugarfloppemlollops stopped and turned. Deeply lost in thought as he was, he’d completely missed the large, double-winged door, decorated with turned-off Christmas lights. There was a mural carved into the thick wood, but they couldn’t make it out in the dim light. Somehow, the door seemed to call out to them. It felt, well, important.
Their excitement soon gave way to desperation when they realized there was no opening it, no matter how much Bob hurled himself against it. They didn’t have any tools on them, so they began to explore the surrounding area. They were so sure about this door that they initially decided against going deeper into the complex, not to mention that a lot of the paths they explored eventually turned into dead-ends anyway.
It was hard to tell how long this went on without any kind of day-and-night cycle, but judging by how often they fell asleep, it must have been a few days. Their time in the bunker dragged on as their expeditions took longer and longer to find any actual new ground. Still, they always returned empty-handed. They knew this door was the way, they just knew. But they would never get through, not like this.
The thirst came before the hunger, and before the crushing sense of loneliness, until with every step they took, life drained a little more from their bodies. Eventually they barely bothered to move around anymore, instead opting to rest next to the Christmas gate, as they took to calling it. Their mortal shells were dying, and their spirits began to resign themselves to their fate. Acceptance was always the last step.
Sugarfloppemlollops was just about to doze off again when Bob’s voice pulled him out of the enveloping darkness.
“We never finished the ritual,” Bob said meekly.
“What?” Sugarfloppemlollops said.
“The ritual. We stopped at the gifting.”
“Does it matter anymore?”
“If we let our traditions die, they win. That’s what you taught me.”
“Alright. Knock yourself out, Bob.”
Bob hesitated. He’d never done this on his own. But then, he began to sing. We Wish You A Merry Christmas. The only carol he’d ever been able to memorize. His voice was raspy, wavering, unsure. It tested its way towards the right pitch like a blind man searching for his walking stick. At first, Sugarfloppemlollops thought it futile. But soon, the singing bounced through his skull, down his throat and right into his heart, and he couldn’t stop himself from joining in, until together, their voices swelled up and filled the empty bunker with the warm resonance of Christmas cheer.
The door began to move.
They stopped singing, fearing another defense mechanism. It was anything but.
Instead, the Christmas lights on the door went on, blinking red, blue, yellow, green, purple. A christmas carol played. ‘Deck the Halls’, a melody Sugarfloppemlollops hadn’t heard in a decade. A chorus of bells played it from behind the gate, which now slowly swung open. The light from the other side washed over them, and when their eyes had finally adjusted to the brightness, they couldn’t believe what they saw.
Santa. He stood in the middle of the room, resplendent in his bright red coat and fur-trimmed boots. Sugarfloppemlollops let out a whoop of joy and ran forward to embrace the long-lost Father of Christmas.
“Sugarfloppemlollops, wait--” said Bob. Something about the room made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
Sugarfloppemlollops threw himself at Santa and wrapped his arms around the great man’s meaty thigh in a desperate embrace. Santa’s leg crackled like dried paper and a great cloud of dust poofed out of the neck of his suit. His head rolled forward, and Sugarfloppemlollops looked up and screamed. The skin of Santa’s face was pulled tight over his skull like ancient leather. Black lips circled an awful grin of yellow teeth, and his once twinkling blue eyes were nothing by empty sockets.
Sugarfloppemlollops scrambled backwards away from the corpse. Santa’s body was held upright by a series of tubes that extended from the back of his torso to a bank of silent machinery near the back of the cavernous room. The walls were lined with piles of presents. Colourful boxes were stacked alongside beautifully crafted wooden toys. Bicycles with bows hanging from their handles rested on their shining kickstands next to piles of ribbons and paper decorated with smiling snowmen.
Bob fell to his knees in the dust. “The rumours were true,” he said. “It’s all here, Santa was waiting for us! But we were too late…” His voice broke into sobs and he pulled Sugarfloppemlollops to him. The two elves held each other and rocked, hot tears squeezing from their dehydrated bodies.
Slow clapping echoed across the chamber. The elves clung to each other as the Janitor stepped out from behind the shadows of the machinery to which Santa was entubed.
“So, some of you found this place at last,” he said, in a voice like sandpaper on cardboard. He was tall - taller even than Bob - but stick thin. His long arms ended in claw-like fingers and his eyes were dark shadows in his gaunt face.
The elves recognised him from Santa’s palace, before the war. An ever-present figure in the dorms and hallways of the huge complex, they had largely ignored him, like an off-putting pot plant that somehow also did the mopping for you.
“I have been stuck down here for years,” he said. “Do you have any idea how long it has been since I’ve eaten...”
“What did you do to Santa?” said Sugarfloppemlollops, pointing one arm accusingly at the mummified body.
“Only what he would have done to me!” cried the Janitor. “He took the reindeer first, one by one. I thought he would spare Rudolph, but...”
Bob’s eyes were drawn a dark pile at the back of the cavern. What he had taken to be piles of present-filled sacks was in fact fur, and antlers…
“When he consumed Rudolph’s life force I knew he would stop at nothing to stay alive, to keep waiting for his elves to find him so he could finally rise up against the Russians! He believed in the power of Christmas; believed that saving Christmas justified any means.” The Janitor circled the terrified elves, waving his bony arms and staring at them with wide, blood-shot eyes.
“But no one knew where we were! I told him, it would take a loving Christmas miracle for an elf to make it this far into the bunker! The place is surrounded by drones. It is abonend!” Spittle flew from his mouth and splattered Bob’s cheek. “And when Santa aboned Rudolph, that’s when I decided, that I wasn’t going to let him abonen me!”
“So you killed him? You killed Father Christmas!” Bob got to his feet, anger overwhelming his fear.
“Only to stop him killing me first!” screamed the Janitor. “He was going to suck my life out with his damned machi--”
Bob heard the terrifying whine of the drone a split second before bullets sprayed across the floor between him and the Janitor. He dive-rolled out of the way and yelled at Sugarfloppemlollops to run.
Sugarfloppemlollops lept aboard one of the bicyles and peddled hard in the wake of Bob’s long-legged sprint, ribbons streaming from the handles. Bullets ripped through the stacks of presents behind them, filling the air with colourful bursts of shredded wrapping paper.
Bob dive-rolled over the pile of reindeer husks and found himself at the top of a dark tunnel. Sugarfloppemlollops skidded around the side on his bike, but the front wheel hit a small pothole. Bob could only watch in horror as the spokes snapped and front wheel collapsed, sending Sugarfloppemlollops tumbling over and over down the slope.
Bob charged after him. At the bottom he found Sugarfloppemlollops lying face down and bleeding profusely from where a piece of bone protruded from his broken right thigh. Bob stuffed his fist in his mouth to keep from screaming. Above him he could hear the drone whirring as it scanned for them. Bob felt sick; there was blood everywhere. He stumbled, suddenly dizzy; the blood the blood the blo--
When Bob came to the cave was bathed in pale grey light. Sugarfloppemlollops’ face was even paler. He could see a row of empty reindeer stalls against the back wall. The floor of the cave sloped gently up to the opening through which dawn light was filtering. And there, its empty shafts pointing expectantly towards the opening, stood Santa’s sleigh.
Bob gasped and tried to rise, only to find that his hands and feet were bound. Footsteps rang out on the stone floor behind him and he twisted his head around. The Janitor was dragging a tangled mess of tubes towards him from the cavern above. Bob struggled against his bonds but he couldn’t move.
“It’s just you and me now,” said the Janitor. He hefted the tubes and pulled up the back of Bob’s green and red elf muscle shirt.
Bob screamed as the Janitor pressed the tubes against his back and he felt them begin to burrow their way into his flesh. His body contorted and he writhed against the cold stone.
Bob’s vision was fading when a trembling voice crept into his ears beneath his screams. “We wish you a Merry Christmas...”
“...we wish you a Merry Christmas...” The tubes lessened their terrible sucking against Bob’s skin and he drew in a huge, shuddering breath.
“We wish you a Merry Christmas!” Sugarfloppemlollops looked up at Bob, tears streaming down his pale, trembling cheeks.
“AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!” cried Bob. With a roar he tore apart the decorative ribbon that bound his wrists. He yanked the tubes from his bleeding back and snatched up the Janitor by his skinny neck.
“No, stop!” screeched the Janitor. “I’ll do anything you want! Just… just use a loving condom!”
Bob hauled the Janitor across the cave and thrust him between the shafts of the sleigh, where the leather harness hung ready. “Get in!” he yelled.
Running back towards the tunnel Bob crouched over Sugarfloppemlollops. “Thank you, Sugarfloppemlollops,” he said. “I know what I have to do, now.”
Weak with blood loss, Sugarfloppemlollops could only give Bob a trembling smile.
Bob bent down and kissed Sugarfloppemlollops passionately on the mouth. He poured his elf-love into his friend. “That should hold you until I get back,” Bob said.
He sprinted up the tunnel. The drone was gone. Probably waiting for him outside, Bob thought. But he didn’t care. Bob burned with peppermint fury.
“Merry Christmas, Santa Claus,” Bob whispered as he took the red suit from what remained of Father Christmas. He felt its power surge through his veins as he pulled it on. He will filled with Christmas cheer and goodwill to man. Bob was going to bring peace to all the land; he knew it.
The sleighbells jingled as Bob settled into the driver’s seat and took the leather reins in his hands. He took a deep breath, and felt the spirit of old Saint Nick throb through the sleigh.
“Now, Janitor!” he cried, and cracked the reins.
The Janitor gasped as the sleigh lurched forward. His legs flailed, then caught the snow. He ran faster and faster, until his legs were a blur and his body strained against the harness. The sleigh hurtled up the slope and Bob whooped as they burst from the cave and up into a pale dawn sky still speckled with stars.
“Ho ho ho!” Bob laughed as the sleigh’s automatic undercarriage-canons picked off the three drones that buzzed in their wake.
The ultra-orthodox Russians didn’t know it yet, but their days of not watching out, crying and pouting were numbered. Bob-Santa Claus was coming, to town.
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2020 20:04|
|# ¿ Jan 18, 2020 02:17|
A crit of Mixed Messages by arbitraryfairy
No matter what anyone else might say, it was the human that started it. This opening line is good, in that it is intriguing, but bad, in that I have no idea what you're talking about. Opening lines should pull the reader deep into the story straight away, either by telling them heaps about the character (see My Life in Knots, by Crabrock), yanking them into the setting (see Scales and Fire, by Sebmojo), or by informing them of exactly what sort of ride they're in for (see Desire Invicta, by Sitting Here).
She was small for a human, with the bright clothes and lumbering gait that tended to denote their kittens. I personally don't like anthropomorphic animal stories where ordinary nouns are replaced by animal terms, UNLESS this is important to how the animal characters understand the world. In this case calling the child a kitten doesn't add anything - you could have just described her, and let the reader understand from your description that she's a child. She was still much, much larger than Zoro was, and her lips were pulled back to show teeth, an obvious challenge. Her aggressively wide eyes bored straight into him and she intermittently let out high pitched squeals of “KITTYKITTYKITTY!” In these two sentences you're doubling up on all your descriptions, which makes them less effective. E.g. your description of the child's smile makes it clear that Zoro finds it threatening; you don't need to say that it's "an obvious challenge" as well. Similarly, you don't need to say the child's squeals were high pitched, because that's what squealing means.
Now, Profesora Fluffypants, one of the smartest cats in the Home, always said that the common human noise of “Kitty” was a positive one. She theorised it was a show of affection, or possibly a general sign of pleasure. But it wasn’t Profesora Fluffypants being stared down by this monster - if the kitten-human See, this is the problem with replacing nouns like this. A) It sounds stupid. B) It's inconsistent. If the cats don't know the word for "child", why would they refer to each other using the names humans have given them? I say either avoid this poo poo entirely, or you've got to lean way into it, and use made-up cat terms for everything was deriving pleasure from anything, it was clearly the anticipation of ripping Zoro’s ears off. This paragraph is bad because I want to know how Zoro feels and what he's doing, and you haven't told me anything about that. I can infer that he's frightened, but I'm not feeling any feelings. This is a story about a frightened cat! I should be just about in tears by now. If I were confronted by this scene irl I would be shoving this hell-child out the way in my anxiety to save this poor cat from having its tail pulled. But you haven't described poor wee Zoro's feelings or actions at all.
As that lovely image flashed through his mind, the kitten-human came towards him, her arms pawing in his direction, grasping the air. See comments above about saying the same thing twice. You would have been better to use a simile or something here to show me what her pawing is like. Zoro stood alert, his tail twitching, warning the creature away. How did Zoro feel? Is he scared? Being brave? Not hurting humans was one of the great laws of the Home, but maybe if he threatened her in kind, she’d back off. He wanted to bolt. He should bolt. But she’d surprised him during his nap, and he was penned into a corner. Besides, Draco had stolen the last of his fish this morning and some part of him was just sick of being pushed around. This is good detail about what sort of person Zoro is. More of this is needed, and earlier.
Get lost, he willed her. This is bad because it is a non-action. This cat is standing still, thinking thoughts. At least have him hiss or tremble or something. She took a step forward, still “kitty”-ing at him. You missed an opportunity here to be specific in your description. Is this child standing? Bending down? Being loud? Quiet? "Kittying" could be any of these things, so I'm not sure what I should be picturing. Leave, he snarled, baring his own teeth. Did he say something out loud in cat language or can he speak to humans? She stopped for a second -was she going to back off?- but then all at once she lurched forward, grabbed his tail, and pulled. WHERE ARE THIS CHILD'S PARENTS?
The laws of the Home and his irritation at Draco vacated Zoro’s mind as buried fear from those frightening kittenhood days before the Home welled up, along with, he would later tell himself (and anyone else who would listen), the warrior instinct inherent in all cat kind. Ok now we've executed a hard 180 from having zero description of what makes Zoro who he is, to way too much, and all of it generic. This story would have been more engrossing if you'd been clearer about who Zoro is, and then used a sprinkling of details to show us his personality. A yowl ripped itself out of his throat and his claws seemed to move of their own accord. When his claws were still again, Oof that was a painful action gap. "When his claws were still again" implies a lot of movement and some time passing. You could have just said, "...claws seemed to move of their own accord. The child wailed and stepped back with a bloody arm..." the kitten-human had stepped back with a bloody arm, making a wailing noise Zoro didn’t need Profesora Fluffypants to interpret.
Now, while she was distracted, he bolted at last.
He couldn’t bolt far - the Home was only so big. But there were some cat-sized holes that led to a private section that only they and the Home-humans that came every day and fed them could get to. This deviation into describing the layout of the Home is boring - you could cut the first part of this para without losing anything. Zoro didn’t stop bolting until he’d climbed up to a high perch with some comforting boxy walls. Inevitably, the others came over before he’d had a chance to calm down.
Every cat that dropped by had something to say, none of it very surprising. Fitch, a gossip, kept darting out and coming back to tell him that the kitten-human was still crying and some of the bigger ones were making frantic noises at each other, Home-humans versus the visitors.
The elders Vague admonished him for using violence against a human - not, of course, that some of them didn’t deserve it, but didn’t he remember what had happened to Algernon? He hurt a few humans, and then they took him away, and you can only guess what happened after that but you bet your left footpad it wasn’t good and oh Zoroaster you stupid young thing you’re really in danger now.
Chipping in to support Zoro were Roxy and Draco, who were not much older than him and two of the biggest cats in the Home. Why should we follow the laws, maybe if enough of us rebel we could take over the Home, yowl, yowl, etc. Inevitably, the whole thing descended into politics, as what the humans provided (names, food, scratchies) was weighed up against the restrictions they imposed: don’t try to leave the Home, don’t pee on the floor, don’t take the humans’ food (unless you can get away with it) and, above all, don’t hurt the humans, because they can make you disappear. I think this story would have worked better without all this cat society fluff. This is a story about a frightened cat, who overcomes his fear and then is happy at the end. You should have focussed on that.
Even Draco’s clear approval didn’t do much to combat Zoro’s increasing fear that he was going to be the next Algernon, taken away in a cage, never to return. He decided to abandon his spot before Fitch could return with another update about how the humans were all looking serious and clearly plotting their revenge. See, I think you could have described a cat hiding and feeling scared about what was going to happen to him without needing cats telling apocryphal tale like a bunch of village idiots.
This almost immediately led to him getting stuck in a conversation with Profesora Fluffypants, who wanted to know exactly what the human had been doing during “the incident.” She was developing a theory that when humans bared their teeth they were actually being friendly, which was just about the stupidest thing Zoro had ever heard. Did they only pick up the awful little spray bottle to show affection as well?
Before Profesora Fluffypants could give him the latest in spray-bottle-scholarship, he flicked his tail and padded away – he wasn’t in the mood for chatter right now. Fear was beginning to eat him up and, to his own surprise, so was anger. The human had hurt him first. She was the one who had attacked him . She grabbed his tail. He defended himself. But it was Zoro that was going to get disappeared. Zoro never considered himself a radical like Roxy was, he would even go so far as to say he liked most humans. But if he wasn’t allowed to hurt them, why was it okay for them to hurt him?
Emboldened by his anger and a desperate need to get away from the cats discussing his huge mistake and impending doom, Zoro stalked back out into the public floor of the Home. If they were going to disappear him, he wasn’t going to hide like a mouse while they did it. Ok, these two paragraphs contain the turnaround point of the story. The part where something happens to make our protag decide to take action to get the thing that they want. The something that happens can be an external event, or internal, like a huge realisation. But in this case Zoro goes from being scared and angry, to still being scared and angry. Prof. F. Pants' philosophising could have been the thing that promptws Zoro to realise something, but you explicitly said he didn't listen to him.
Back on the public floor, the humans had become a little less frantic, though she was still there, with an adult visitor-human on one side and a Home-human on the other, and not just any Home-human. It was Zoro’s favourite human, Handsome (she said this so often, he had worked out it was her name). It's too late in the story to be introducing new characters. You should have had handsome be there at the start, and foreshadowed that she was going to be important later.
Handsome was nice to everyone, but she and Zoro had a special bond, and when the visitor-humans stopped coming in for the day she would often get herself a drink and sit next to Zoro for a while. She didn’t yowl “kittykitty” at him, she just murmured, a soft human purr. It had been Handsome that had spent all that time with him when Zoro had first arrived from that other, terrifying place, showing him that humans could be loving as well as cruel. This is cute, and is the sort of good detail about this character and his relationships that this story needs more of.
All at once, the three humans turned their eyes to focus on Zoro, and his gut twisted. Yes, good. But, could be better. "Gut twisted" is generic - try to think of something that is unique to Zoro and/or cats. Was it going to be Handsome that disappeared him? When Zoro had made his peace with being disappeared, he hadn’t imagined it would be Handsome doing it. He couldn’t make peace with that.
Handsome’s face crinkled upwards with toothless pleasure and she crouched down, stretching out a hand to beckon him. “Zoro, Handsome.” She spoke their names together in her usual way, then continued to murmur softly, her purr, filled with all the love in the world. She didn’t look like she wanted to disappear him. Could it be a trick? Would Handsome do that? I am enjoying this more now that we're getting some insight into what's going on inside Zoro's head.
She wouldn’t, surely? Heart racing, pupils narrowing, Zoro padded tentatively forward. Handsome, hand still outstretched, turned to the kitten-human, and said something in the same tone, her soft purr.
The kitten-human stepped towards Zoro, but this time she wasn’t baring her teeth, and her steps were lighter, smaller. Zoro’s eyes flicked between the kitten-human and Handsome, who made some more reassuring noises in his direction.
“Zoro,” the kitten-human mewled at him, her voice now almost as soft as Handsome’s. “Zoro, kitty.” She reached out her hand, not a lurching grab but slowly, tentatively. Her face crinkled up, not in a toothy grimace this time but more like a mirror of Handsome's expression. This is all very cute, but I don't care about this child. Zoro is the protag, and I am rooting for Zoro to get what Zoro wants. Unfortunately, I don't know what this is. If you had told me at the start that Zoro really really liked being patted, but sometimes he was too frightened, then at this stage I'd be excited to see whether Zoro could finally overcome his fear and get the thing he wanted all along.
She wanted to pet him? After she hurt him? After he hurt her? He looked up at the kitten-human again and this time could see her as the gawky oversized kitten she seemed to be. Maybe she played a little too roughly, but so did he. And she didn’t look like she wanted to hurt him anymore. Maybe he wasn’t going to be disappeared.
She took another step forward and Zoro rose up to meet her hand.
This is an extremely nit-picky crit, but overall I thought this story was cute. The reason there's lots to nitpick is because there is plenty here to work with. I would love to read a story about a sad cat who makes a friend and becomes a happy cat. If you cut out all the unnecessary stuff about cat politics and philosophy and just left Zoro, Handsome and The Child, it'd be about 500 words long, completely adorable and probably would have HM'd because everyone loves a story that makes them feel happy feelings.
|# ¿ Jan 18, 2020 08:42|
|# ¿ Jan 28, 2020 08:57|
Peter, George, and a Dying Manatee
Peter was making another bitter staffroom coffee - two spoons of instant, brown sludge whirlpooling around the teaspoon - thinking he might die of boredom, when a loud clang rang out across the 3 a.m. aquarium.
Please be aliens, thought Peter. Or at least, an explosion. He ran through the dark corridors towards the sound. Glassy-eyed fish stared at him from their tank, their mouths round with surprise. One that I didn’t cause this time. He shuddered at the memory.
A loud guffaw greeted Peter as he reached the manatee’s tank. George Panagos, well-known nuisance visitor, was standing on the children’s viewing platform, leaning way out over the tank, cheering the ponderous creature on as she made her way to the opened gate to the outdoor pool.
Peter grabbed the back George’s t-shirt. “How’d you get in here? Aren’t you supposed to be trespassed?”
“Oh the huge manatee!” George shouted, and let himself fall into Peter’s arms, cackling from the depths of his pot belly.
Peter stumbled. George was shorter than Peter, but heavier, and Peter struggled to keep his feet. George smelt of sweat and seaweed. There was sand in his beard and his eyes were bright blue beneath his heavy brows.
George grabbed Peter’s name badge. “Peter. Yes, I know you.” He fingered Peter’s dark brown security guard uniform. “But you were one of the cleaners…”
“I got a promotion.” Peter grasped George’s hand and lifted it away from his shirt-front. His heart was beating uncomfortably fast.
George grasped Peter’s hand in both of his. “She’s dying, Peter. Did you know that?”
Peter felt his head start to spin. George’s hands were big and warm, with dark hairs covering his strong forearms. Peter suddenly realised he had no idea why he was talking to this man. He should be detaining him, or calling the Police, or something. He couldn’t afford to gently caress up this job, too.
He pushed George away from him. “The manatee? It’s got some hosed up cancer or something, doesn’t it? The vets were talking about an operation…” Peter looked over to the tank, and saw the tip of the manatee’s paddle-like tail disappear to the outside pool.
George stepped back, then kept going, reeling backwards until he spun around and raced for the door, its lock already busted open.
“The operation won’t work!” he shouted as he ran. “And she doesn’t want to die in this cage!”
“Hey!” Peter sprinted after him. He burst out onto the walkway that sloped down past the outdoor pool to the seawall overlooking the bay. A tall glass balustrade gave visitors and the manatee alike an uninterrupted view of the ocean. The moon was full and low and Peter could hear the high tide slapping against the concrete. The manatee was rolling slowly over and over, gazing at the moon with her right eye, then her left.
George was yanking out the chocks from the wheels of the mobile grandstand that they used for school-group talks. “Help me with this!” he shouted.
Peter turned at the sound of splashing from the pool. The manatee thrust her head and shoulders out of the water, flippers on the edge of the pool. She pumped her tail and heaved the rest of her huge body out and onto the walkway. Grunting with effort, her blubbery sides squidging against the concrete, she wormed her way, inch by inch, towards the seawall.
“What the gently caress!” Peter gaped. “Manatee can’t go on land!”
George whooped in response. “You know nothing about the sea!” He shoved his shoulder against the grandstand. The wheels squeaked, then began to roll. George roared with triumph.
The ungainly steel structure tipped over the top of the slope and began to pick up momentum, George running behind it.
Peter fingered the radio in his pocket. George was mad, he thought. A raving lunatic. Full of insane energy and nonsensical ideas that rolled and pulsed like waves against the shore, unstoppable. Irresistible. Like a surfer watching a storm surge roll in Peter felt his blood rise in response. He thought about his basement flat, where every day after his night shift he would lie on his bed and toss and turn and burn with restless dreams, while outside the world with all its mad possibilities was passing him by.
“Wait!” Peter yelled. He chased after George, grabbing a steel strut. But instead of pulling the grandstand to a stop Peter found himself running too. He heard George panting and laughing beside him as together they ran faster and faster. Peter’s blood roared in his ears like storm-driven waves as they pushed the grandstand down the slope towards its inevitable fate.
The grandstand hit the balustrade with an almighty crash. Plastic seats popped off and the tempered glass shattered. The front wheels burst through the balustrade and dropped over the edge of the seawall. It looked like the grandstand was going to settle there, but with a final wild heave Peter shoved it over and sent it crashing into the sea.
“gently caress yes!” shouted Peter. His heart was pounding and his face split into a huge grin.
George grasped Peter’s face with both hands and planted a kiss on his mouth. “Look!” he cried, spinning Peter around to face the manatee.
Her path cleared, the huge creature redoubled her efforts. Her blubber shook as she heaved and thrust her body forward. Peter squeezed George’s fingers, hardly realising that he’d taken his hand. At the edge of the seawall the manatee heaved a huge sigh, and let the weight of her body roll her over and off the edge.
Peter heard her hit the water with a huge splash, and rushed over to peer down at the dark water. The grandstand was on its side, half-submerged, but the manatee was gone.
George put a hand on Peter’s face, cupping his cheek. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Peter looked at him, confused. George’s hand was warm on his cheek. His blue eyes glinted, but his mouth was set hard. George slid his hand around to the back of Peter’s skull, holding it tight, and then smashed his elbow into Peter’s nose.
Peter yelled and reeled backwards, clutching his face as blood poured out between his fingers. “What the gently caress, what the gently caress!”
“You’ll need a cover story, won’t you? You said you needed this job!” cried George.
“You broke my loving nose!” Peter moaned.
“Let’s say I owe you a drink,” George said, as he shimmied himself over the edge of the seawall. With one hand still covering his nose Peter held out the other, and helped George lower himself into the water.
Peter sat down, legs dangling, and tipped his throbbing head back. He listened as George splashed away up the beach. Above him the pre-dawn sky was lightening to pale blue, the stars winking out one by one. Peter groped for his radio in his pocket, pulled it out, and put in on the seawall beside him. His body thrummed, and he breathed in time with the waves.
Far out in the bay the manatee turned slowly over and over, watching the sunrise first through her right eye, then her left.
|# ¿ Feb 1, 2020 23:19|
|# ¿ Feb 7, 2020 21:23|
The Speedboat and The Seaplane
The speedboat and the seaplane were passionately in love, but the yachts would never let them be together. The yachts said their relationship was disgusting, unnatural, like a seagull wanting to gently caress an otter.
But it wasn’t the fact that they both went on water that brought the seaplane and the speedboat together. It was the roar of their engines. The heady smell of burning diesel. The first time they met, the speedboat had gunned her engine, pressed her rear end against the lake and sent her wake arching up in a cockerel-tail challenge. The seaplane loved her immediately. Their propellers had throbbed in perfect synchrony as they raced across the lake, alone in their speeding bubble of love.
The yachts had puffed up their spinnakers and snapped their halyards against their masts, but the seaplane and the speedboat ignored their windy protestations. So, you know what those long-hulled bastards did? They locked the speedboat in the marina.
Inside her prison the speedboat watched her lover descend, wings shining in the morning sun, towards their meeting place. The yachts’ sails crackled with laughter. The speedboat felt like someone had yanked out her bungs and she was slowly sinking to the dark and silty bottom.
In the river mouth opposite the marina a chattering family of otters caught the speedboat’s attention. A sleek-furred female with a frog dangling from her mouth trotted up the bank towards a waiting seagull. The seagull and the otter rubbed their necks together, then settled down on the warm grass to share the frog. The speedboat thought of her lover, waiting for her. She felt a surge of anger, so strong she thought her heart might burst.
gently caress those yachts. The speedboat gunned her engine and let out a deep, throaty roar. She red-lined her rev-counter and hurled herself around in a tight doughnut. With each rotation she sent a bow-wave rolling out under the marina gate and across the lake.
The seaplane, anxious and adrift, felt a series of waves pulse against his floaters. His heart leapt as he recognised his lover’s rhythmic touch. He spun his propellers and slapped his floaters against the surface in response.
The speedboat’s motor trilled as the seaplane’s waves kissed her hull. She spun faster, and out on the lake the seaplane leapt and bounced, until the whole lake was rocking and rolling with their exertions and the stuck-up yachts cried out in alarm.
Water sloshed over the marina’s low wall and the speedboat saw her chance. She jammed her stern down, lifted her prow and opened her throttle all the way. She winced as the concrete scraped her keel but then she was over and accelerating past the mortified yachts. She joined her waiting lover and together their propellers sang a song of roaring wind and speed and love.
The seaplane and the speedboat didn’t wait to see whether the yachts learnt their lesson and mended their prejudiced ways. Instead, they moved to the coast, where they lived happily ever after.
|# ¿ Feb 9, 2020 05:36|
Crits for week 393
The Shepherd by Communist Bear
This is cool, with some neat imagery. It’s not badly written, although in places I found the prose a bit overwrought. Your opening sentence, for example, is a bit hard to follow.
My complaint about this story is that I don’t understand what the cloak is, or what the castle is, or what is going on at all. It’s fine to leave some things unexplained but in this case the lack of character information meant that I didn’t feel any emotional investment in these characters and whether they succeeded or failed in reaching their goal.
Cuckoo by Crimea
Oof this ‘diagnostic’ bit that this story opens with is hard going. Not exactly a compelling hook.
Oh dear now I’m not loving this character voice. The mixture of a machine-esque tone (“the directive came in…”) and more lyrical descriptions (“Some structures have crumbled to time and to snow…”) is confusing - what sort of entity is this? Who are they talking to?
Is this Icelandic? These paras don’t work for me, because, 1. I don’t know if the English that is mixed in is a translation, or additional to the Icelandic sentences, and 2. I don’t know how to pronounce these words, so I can’t even enjoy the sound of them. Untranslated text is generally a bad idea, but you’re safer with something like French, for example, where an English-speaker can at least have a crack at reading it to themselves. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of pointless symbols.
Overall my crit of this is almost exactly the same as for Communist Bear’s. I enjoyed your descriptions and prose, but I don’t know wtf is going on or who these characters are. So, while this is a pretty read, I didn’t feel any emotional connection to the story.
Melodies of Life by Simply Simon
Oh dear I’m only half way through your first sentence and I have already docked points for your use of a hyperlink. Describe for me what an organ cathedral is and what it looks like - don’t make me click a link to go find out for myself. Are you an author or not?
Ok, so this story also gets exactly the same crit as the first two. Great imagery, decent prose. Wtf is going on? I have no idea. Who is Duane, what does he want, does he get it, why should I care?
My specific comment for you is I found the use of lots of very precise numbers distracting. This would have worked if the use of very precise measurements told me something about the character. For example, does the fact that he’s prepared to take a risk of 27.8% mean he’s a big risk-taker? Or that he’s risk-adverse? What does this tell me about Duane as a person (robot)?
The Endless Falling Ashes of Dead Stars by Uranium Phoenix
This is also quite wtf, but at least it has two characters with some personality and motives. I was drawn into this enough to feel pleased by their decision to face their future together at the end. But, I felt like the decision came a little easily - I think this would have been a more compelling read if you’d upped the stakes.
Like the stories above, I liked your descriptions of these beings and the environment they were creating for themselves, but at times I found them slightly confusing. For example, I found the jump from talking about the inside of a room to Andromeda approaching from hundreds of thousands of light years away a bit jarring.
Life from the Void by a friendly penguin
This is an interesting story about robot evolution, but I didn’t feel any emotional connection to the main character. I think for this to really work you needed to show at the start that the protag was dissatisfied with their life, so that discovering the ‘unknowns’ and their eventual escape had more emotional payoff. As it is they just seemed sort of mildly interested in this development.
Hopelessly Human by Doctor Eckhard
This was sweet and not badly written, but all felt a bit obvious. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to use established troupes, but if you do go that route you need to make the characters really good examples of their type. In this case I felt like there wasn’t enough depth to make the story interesting. The robot was just a poor, sad robot, and the maimed-yet-still-upbeat child was just a bit too sugary sweet.
Wasteland Pastoral by QuoProQuid
Dang that ending got me. This is very good. Both characters are well drawn and the backdrop of a human-made disaster nicely underscores the arc of this relationship. The robot’s fear for Constance’s life was palpable.
My only crit is a nitpick, and that’s that I think there’s too much waffle in the first quarter. The stuff about the magazine she works for helps set up her character, but this could have been tighter.
The Ill-Made Robot by Antivehicular
This is sweet, but the ending is too quickly done. I would have liked to have seen more about the robot’s transformation to its new, happier life; this process of transformation is what the story is ultimately about, after all.
The Bower Man by Applewhite
This is a weird little ghost story. You’ve done a decent job of conjuring up the scene, but there’s not a lot of story-meat here. It’s more like the set-up for a story.
The Last Laugh by Thranguy
I didn’t get drawn into this. We’ve got a metastory about how it’s hard to create humans and some sort of intergalactic war, both of which are framing for a conversation between the narrator and Pally, their human advisor. I didn’t really get what was going on; perhaps I would have if I’d read it closer, but, as nothing really hooked my attention, I didn’t. So, that’s my crit for you.
Mass by SurreptitiousMuffin
This reads more like a poem than a story to me. The imagery is great, and there is a sense of poignancy, for all that I couldn’t really follow what was going on. I enjoyed this, but I don’t get it.
First date by Sebmojo
Tony Macaroni? Really?
The first three quarters of this is pointless chit chat between three dudes in a bar. Now, often you get away with this, because you write good, entertaining dialogue, but in this case one of these tui-swilling individuals is a robot, yet that seems to have no bearing on anything, except he fancies a lady with metal arms, I guess?
Then for the final quarter we take a hard left turn to robot town to join someone else’s first date. I’m not sure if, by “the melding, the cataclysm,” you’re implying that Mr. Macaroni dating metal arms lady caused the end of the world, but, if yes, erm, why?
This feels extremely like last minute flimflam, for which you earn from me precisely 5.5 points out of 10.
Dreamt the End by Carl Killer Miller
Ah yes this is good. Very good. I like your characters, the nightmare descriptions are great, and the end is spot on.
Robot Girl by Pththya-lyi
This has a good, creepy post-apocalyptic vibe, and overall I thought it was decent.
There were a few issues that held me back from getting really drawn into it though:
- Robot Girl would have been a more interesting character if you’d given her some more robot-emotions, rather than having her just follow her programming.
- I struggled a little with the numbers - it’s obvious that “Mommy is now 788,380 hours late” means that Mommy has been gone for a really long time, but I’d have to get a calculator out to work out how long. Are we talking 10 years or 100? A little sign-posting for mental-arithmetically challenged readers like me would have helped.
- I think there are some unintentional errors that you could have fixed with another edit. For example, your third para ends with “Robot girl steps out into the street,” but then para 4 starts, “Robot girl walks into the house.” What house? What’s going on?
- You hint at what the Dying was, but I would have liked a little more explanation about the world.
- I didn’t totally get the ending. Who’s Maura?
I, Nazi Death Robot by Chairchucker
Adorable. Needed more existential angst. Achieves what it set out to do.
|# ¿ Feb 18, 2020 08:01|
In with 5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
|# ¿ Feb 18, 2020 19:06|
|# ¿ Feb 19, 2020 03:48|
Aww thanks that's nice of you to say and I'm pleased you recognise that we are entering not brawling around here this week
|# ¿ Feb 19, 2020 04:43|
Prompt: When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
A Song in the Deep
The anglerfish saw a distant shoal of lights in the deep and his sacs stirred with long-forgotten hope. He could eat his sperm, he thought, if he jettisoned them here in the lonely blackness. It would buy his emaciated body a little more time. But the lights were still there; this time, he had not imagined them. The anglerfish flicked his fins in pursuit, burning the last of his body’s strength.
The lights hung in the velvet black like a lone constellation of stars, drifting around a bright, central orb. Sharp reflections from thin, glass-like teeth gave away the nature of its host. Her bulbous body was covered with long, bioluminescent tendrils, the skin of her belly soft and pale.
The anglerfish hesitated. She was old, much older than him, and likely already successfully mated. She would kill him if she did not need him. He tested his voice. Once he had sung to himself, to distract himself from his hunger, but he had long since given up on even that. His fins quivered and he let out a single, quavering note, like a mournfully blown conch.
The female responded with waves of scent. She was a successful fisher; she had nutrition to spare. The anglerfish circled closer, his body vibrating with a soft resonance. The female was over-heavy with eggs.
The anglerfish felt his consciousness fracture. He became a yearning multitude, his starving body nothing but a vehicle for this rarest of meetings. The lights flooded his eyes and a tumult of voices inside his sacs drove him forward, now a helpless passenger. His tiny body wove between the glowing tendrils and he drove his pincer-like teeth into the female’s belly flesh.
The female spasmed with pain and darted forward. Cold water rushed over the anglerfish’s body. The female was wasting precious energy, and it was his fault. The anglerfish had lived a long time with the fear of starvation, and he felt the calories lost with every flap of her sharp-edged fins. He wanted to let go, but his teeth were deep in her flesh. Where his delicate skin contacted hers the surface was already abraded.
The anglerfish flared his fins to try and slow her, but this only made his teeth tear at her skin. The female bucked and her lights flicked out. She swam faster. The anglerfish felt a stab of fear at the sudden darkness. Having found them at last, he could not bear to lose those lights. His body thrummed with effort and he raised his voice over the current.
The female slowed. The anglerfish sang, and one by one the female’s tendrils rekindled. He hung from her belly, exhausted, and watched the luminous net fan out around them. Blood and serum from the wounds he had inflicted flowed into the raw skin of his mouth, coagulating and sealing him to her. He felt her blood enter his body, pulsing into his ruptured blood vessels. It spoke to him of her long life, alone in the abyss. He could feel the tips of her tendrils searching through the cold water, see the hopeful circle of light from her main lure through her ever-vigilant eyes. He could no longer pull himself free, but he no longer wanted to.
He felt the mounting pressure of her eggs, calling to him with a thousand voices, and from deep within himself a multitude responded. He rippled his body and released a cloud of milt, just as with a shudder the female loosed her eggs. They glistened in the light from the lures and the female gently fanned her fins to hasten their mixing.
The anglerfish sang in the deep, and drifted on together through the velvet black.
|# ¿ Feb 24, 2020 01:02|
Thunderdome Week 395: What a Load of Nonsense
This week you will write nonsense stories.
Word limit: 900 words.
Sign-ups close at 9pm on Saturday, in NZ.
Deadline is 7pm on Monday, in NZ.
Q: What's a nonsense story?
A: I don't know. You should ask Fumblemouse, whose prompt I am blatantly stealing, or Wikipedia.
Q: But Yoruichi, if you don't even know what a nonsense story is, how will you judge this week?
A: Sounds like you want to volunteer to co-judge, my friend.
Q: Can I have a flash rule?
A: Yes! This week, flash rules will be handed out by your fellow competitors. So, if you enter and request a flash rule, anyone else may give you one. BUT, the flash-rule giver must also enter. I'm not going to make it compulsory that if you give a flash rule you must also take one, but, you know, it would be in the spirit of the week to do so.
Yoruichi, Queen of Hearts
Mad Hatter RandomPauI
Peddlers of piffle poffle
2. Anomalous Amalgam (all of your characters are astronauts and one of them is Hitler)
3. Saucy_Rodent (Your two mainish characters are on very different scales, like maybe one is a microbe inside the other one, but not that specific example but you get the idea)
5. Azza Bamboo
6. Chairchucker (Music is visible as well as audible in your story)
7. Sitting Here (Your story takes place in one of those TV/VCR repair stores, the kind that has seemingly been open for decades but has no apparent customers)
8. Carl Killer Miller (In your world, growing old is punishable by death)
9. Mercedes (Someone's drawing crop circles... on the Moon?!)
10. Obliterati (In your world, all the colours are running)
11. Antivehicular (your story will revolve around a something-ception, a thing inside of the same thing that the first thing is)
12. M. Propagandalf
13. flerp (An actual baby needs to have an appointment of great significance like a president, monarch, religious icon, etc)
Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 07:25 on Feb 29, 2020
|# ¿ Feb 25, 2020 20:16|
I volunteer as
|# ¿ Feb 27, 2020 07:14|
In your world, all the colours are running
|# ¿ Feb 27, 2020 19:43|
I don't know who David Brooks is please just write good nonsense stories
|# ¿ Feb 28, 2020 23:52|
The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things; of shoes and ships and sealing-wax, of cabbages and sign-ups are closed.
|# ¿ Feb 29, 2020 08:04|
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went submissions are closed.
|# ¿ Mar 2, 2020 07:04|
Nonsense Week Results
I said in discord that I could feel it in my bones that I was going to love every single story this week; and I do. I really do. I love all of them, like ugly babies that only a mother could love. I am delighted by their existence, especially the ones that rhyme and even the ones that don’t make any sense, not even a little bit, or are just plain boring.
I don’t think I realised when I chose this prompt what a difficult and interesting writing challenge nonsense stories would be, so hats off to Fumblemouse for thinking of it in the first place. Several of you failed to engage with the essence of a nonsense story, and wrote magical realism instead, and a few went so far the other way that their nonsense became incomprehensible. Others got distracted by thinking up wacky details, and forgot that they needed to write interesting stories and characters as well.
At the bottom of the heap this week and earning the loss is Azza Bamboo’s “He Wears Me Out”. While we admired the fact that you’d gone all out with this one, none of us could follow what this story was about, and all of us found the rhyming distracting.
Saucy_Rodent gets a DM for writing the most boring story of the week.
HMs go to Carl Killer Miller and flerp, for stories that weren’t quite nonsense but were drat good anyway, and Antivehicular, for some delightful nonsense that still delivered a satisfying story.
And your winner by unanimous decision is FUMBLEMOUSE. Your nonsense poem was a delight, and succeeded where most others this week failed in that it hit the prompt spot on while also delivering a coherent story with a great setting and interesting characters.
Dramatic readings of the winning and losing stories will be forthcoming in the next few days.
Arise, Sir Mouse, and ascend the throne.
|# ¿ Mar 2, 2020 20:31|
Nonsense week crits
I Did It Because I'm Richer Than You by Mercedes
Lol what. I liked the progression of lead engineers, the sudden segue into her reality-bending machine, and somehow the diarrhea joke works.
What I didn’t like is that Kelly Miller isn’t a terribly interesting character to spend time with. She’s just rich, and then she lets off fireworks in space, but this feels a little bit, so what?
Is this nonsense? I think it might just be a bit silly.
He Wears Me Out by Azza Bamboo
Ok, we’ve got a sea of meat, molecules, someone going to church but their hands are guns and the preacher wants to cut them off, and there’s butter everywhere, and the person is a ginger cat, and/or meat, or god’s a ginger cat, I can’t quite tell, but maybe the person is actually a shirt?
I’m afraid I think this tipped over from being nonsense into nonsensical, and while it was quite a ride, it was more confusing than enjoyable. The rhyming didn’t help, as it kept throwing me off rather than giving the prose rhythm.
The Marine’s Wager by Saucy_Rodent
Someone swapping crazy adventure stories with a galaxy is a great premise, as is getting shot out of a submarine torpedo tube, but this story is more chit chat than nonsense. This dialogue makes both speakers sound bored, like they’re just killing time, and I am, accordingly, also bored. The ending, where they’re talking about currency, is particularly bland.
How the Pope is Chosen by flerp
Ah man this is an intense mixture of silly and dark. The cardinals are weirdly scary and the baby laughing the whole way through is hella creepy. The bit I found a bit lacking was the parent’s reaction - their emotional state (frightened, grief-stricken?) didn’t come through clearly for me. At the end, for example, they just seem to be worried about the Pope/baby being connected with them.
Chaos Fishermen by Fumblemouse
I love this. It’s nonsense yet it makes sense. The rhymes all work. THE HERRING for some reason. And then he threatens to shoot god and saves the day, hoorah. The imagery is great and of all the stories this week, this is the one that stuck most in my mind.
I would absolutely read more about the chaos sea, its capricious butterfly god and the chaos fishermen that sail its waters on bricks and deckchairs.
Video Catacomb Restorer by Sitting Here
This a story about someone whose grief for their late grandfather is eased by the discovery that he is inhabiting a recording of an old talk show. The ending is sweet, and the story is competently written.
Is it nonsense? No. It’s just run of the mill magical realism. You succeeded in writing a good story, but failed the challenge set by the prompt.
Suspended in History and Water by Thranguy
This is definitely nonsense. We end up somewhere completely different to where we start, meandering through a series of unrelated subplots, including a delightful gelatin incident, and we get to say the word “monoceros” a lot, which I am very happy about.
Unfortunately, while this was entertaining, I think it falls a little flat. I think it would have worked better if the nonsense had escalated, rather than being evenly paced, so that, as the reader, you start off expecting one thing, feel your expectations get confounded, then you get abandoned at wtf station, with no idea of how you got there but delighted nonetheless. This story was more like a train ride through several wtf stations, so it lacked a sense of final payoff.
Worth by Carl Killer Miller
This is very good and bittersweet. Is it nonsense? It certainly has nonsensical elements, like the fact that Theodore is growing too big for the house as he gets older, but the story itself is more magical realism than nonsense, I think. But dang it’s good. The poem at the end was a lovely touch.
Valerie and Vacuums by Antivehicular
This is nonsense and delightful. Someone goes to get their vacuum cleaner fixed, but inside it is just an infinite recursion of vacuum cleaners, and the shop’s a vacuum cleaner, with an actual vacuum, and all the employees get sucked in, including her, and now she works there, but that’s much better than her old life, so hooray, and don’t mention the sewing machines!
The only bit I didn’t like about this was the descriptions of Valerie’s life. Her job and flatmates are very ordinary; I think it would have balanced the story better if they’d been bad in a more bonkers way.
Age of Incandescence by M. Propagandalf
Ok wow yes this is definitely nonsense. Let’s see, so, erm, there’s Theo Treeo, and he’s a god made of metal (?), but he doesn’t have a mouth (?), so he creates Delightee, but she’s not allowed to eat the fruit of the Veiled Tree, or, she’s allowed to eat it, but is not allowed to look at its iridescence? Anyway, she’s unhappy about this, but then an ambiphian (small, shiny) and an amphilavant (large, dull) come along. The ambiphian is happy because he looks toxic and can’t be eaten. The amphilavant thinks the ambiphian’s appearance is just a facade and wants to eat him anyway. They hang out chatting with Delightee until it gets dark, at which point the ambiphian’s iridescence can no longer be seen, so the amphilavant eats him. Then Delightee waits for the amphilavant to die.
I admire the gusto with which you approached this prompt. But, this was too hard to follow, and some of the rhyming sounds pretty forced. Ending with one of the characters waiting to die kinda messed up the tone.
It Isn’t Well by Chairchucker
This is a pretty bizarre outing to church, but unfortunately not a very interesting one. We’ve got lots of weird details, like parking on the roof and someone twisting their face around backwards, and the visible music is well done, but none of it really leads to anything. Someone gets engaged, and then someone else asks for a ride home, but they can’t leave until tomorrow, but that’s ok, the end.
Is it nonsense? Not really. It’s just a bit strange.
|# ¿ Mar 2, 2020 20:32|
What is this a loving cuddle-fest?
Interprompt: I didn't do my worst, you did your worst
|# ¿ Mar 2, 2020 21:56|
Because rhyming words deserve to be read, here are dramatic readings of Fumblemouse's The Chaos Fishermen
and Azza Bamboo's He Wears Me Out
With thanks to Sebmojo for the music
|# ¿ Mar 5, 2020 22:09|
|# ¿ Mar 17, 2020 08:58|
Flash: the perfect wind in their hair.
Ride of the Swan King
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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.
Melvin rushed forward to catch the fur and jewel-encrusted crown, diving between the panicking manservants.
“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.
|# ¿ Mar 23, 2020 06:26|
|# ¿ Mar 25, 2020 00:58|
A crit of Phantom Heat by Simply Simon
The candle’s flame gyrates in a mesmerizing dance This has gotten off to a weirdly horny start, 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 unf unf unf 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.
Spending your opening para talking about a candle rather than the protag is a bad start. You're describing the set rather than the characters - not a good way to hook your reader in.
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. Abadin needs more personality and less Disney Aladdin. 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.
Your prose in this story feels like it's trying way to hard to be poetic, and ends up detracting rather than adding to the reading experience. For example, the phrase, "his own harsh scripture" really draws attention to itself, it made feel think that this was an important point. But it's not; I don't even know what language Hubert speaks.
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. Honestly I thought they'd started loving ages ago. But seriously, the problem with this section is that you're trying to describe how Hubert and Abadin fell in love, but instead of making it clear that Abadin was the object of Hubert's desire, you make it sound like he's got a boner for a chili plant. It's obvious of course that he wants to grow a chili to impress Abadin, but the only reason you've given me as to why Abadin would want a chili plant is because he's "exotic," which is a bit weak and doesn't help bring him to life as a character.
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. This is where your story actually starts. Look how many words you've made me wade through to get here. A man's life-long love has died before his eyes! This is some poignant poo poo! It doesn't need all this set up. You could have established that Abadin and Hubert were lovers, had been together a long time, and that Abadin was dying / had died and Hubert wanted to save him, all in your first para. Then straight into what is Hubert going to do. The details about the chili being something that had brought them together you could have sprinkled through the story.
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. Actually I've changed my mind, this is where the story starts. Abadin had died, Hubert has trapped his soul, and now he wants to bring him back to life. That's what should be in the opening paragraph. If you read that set up you'd want to know if Hubert succeeds, right?
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 this is a terrible cliche. At least make it clear that the person he's kidnapped resembles Abadin's original body or something 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. Having Abadin reject Hubert's mad plot, thus causing Hubert to change his mind, is a pretty obvious plot choice. Obvious isn't necessarily bad, but if you're not going to surprise your reader then something else has to hold their attention, and that something else almost certainly needs to be good characters feeling feelings. Unfortunately, Hubert and Abadin aren't very intersting characters to spend time with, and so I'm not getting emotionally drawn into this final encounter between the two lovers.
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. I 100% thought that you'd killed Hubert at this point.
Once the flames have died down, from the ruins of the house a scorched figure will emerge. Hubert will be bald and scarred he sounds pretty hosed up tbh 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. I know that the prompt didn't say you had to have a happy ending but it did say that someone gets what they want and "it's all wonderful." Suffering horrific burns and your lover still being dead is a pretty terrible version of wonderful, my friend.
Overall I think you had good ingredients (two lovers, a desperate plan, black magic, a tragic ending) but ended up making a terrible cake. Too much poetic flimflam, not enough solid character development.
|# ¿ Mar 25, 2020 08:26|
Chairman of the Council
Clayton Powell flicked the ignitor on the camping stove and stepped carefully back out of the hand-dawn pentagram. There wasn’t much space in his home office, and he’d had to clear everything off his desk to make room for his beakers and other long-disused implements. After all the fuss about the alleged “kidnapping” incident Clayton had sworn he’d never touch black magic again. But now his role as Chair of the Rodney District Council was at stake, and Clayton wasn’t about to let that drat Italian steal it from him.
The black liquid began to roil as the flames licked the sides of the pot. Clayton had been Chairman of the District Council for 20 years. The 3-yearly elections were a mere formality. Clayton was loved, no, revered by the good people of Rodney. No one questioned his right to sit at the head of the council table. Not until Frank Bianchi had the gall to add his name to the ballot sheet.
Clayton still cursed the day he’d first met Frank. It was not long after Bianchi moved to Rodney from central Auckland. When the pipe from Clayton’s hot water cylinder had burst and flooded his triple car garage he’d thought he’d do the magnanimous thing, give the new plumber a call. But not only had the JAFA git charged him an arm and a leg, he’d accused Clayton of illegally installing the cylinder himself (which was true) and botching the pipework (an absolute bloody lie).
Purple steam was rising from the boiling pot in the center of the pentagram. Clayton jumped as his desk phone began to ring. He lunged for the trilling handset and knocked a jar of lamb’s blood onto the floor. It hissed where it splashed onto the salt outline of the pentagram. Clayton swore.
“Yes?” he barked into the phone.
“Mr Powell? It’s Blake. From next door?”
Clayton winced at the sound of the teenager’s reedy voice.
“I think you should check the news, Sir.”
“Yes Blake very good,” he said. “Bye now.” Clayton banged down the handset and punched the power button on his PC. He coughed; the steam had turned to acrid smoke, and was quickly filling the small room.
The PC whirred to life and Clayton clicked to bring up the website of the Rodney District Times. His heart hammered as he watched the loading bar. Clayton had an awful flashback to the scandal with Beth Aitken, all those years ago. Maybe she’d told Frank - they were living together now, after all - and they’d dragged out all the old stories--
“All charges were dropped! It was a misunderstanding!” Clayton shouted at the computer. He thumped the desk with one meaty fist, making his beakers rattle.
The smoke was making his eyes water. Covering his nose and mouth with his sleeve he bent down and turned off the burner. The carpet was smoldering where the lamb’s blood had interrupted the pentagram. He stamped on it with one slippered foot.
He looked at the smoking pot, the pathetic camping stove, and his spoiled pentagram. It wasn’t enough. He needed something much more powerful.
Down in his garage Clayton dragged a chest out from the dark recesses of the storage cupboard. A shudder ran through him as he caressed the burnished brass lock. The lid creaked open and a puff of mildewy air hit his face. Buried under piles of musty ingredient pouches and hand-scrawled notebooks was a heavy iron cauldron. He cradled it, and felt the old power thrumming through the metal.
Heart beating fast, Clayton stacked firewood under the cauldron’s tripod and with a muttered incantation summoned the fire to life. Still got it, he thought, rubbing his hands together before the flames. The hot iron hissed as he dumped in the contents of the pot from his office and what was left of the lamb’s blood. Kneeling before the chest Clayton searched its corners for the one pouch he knew for certain was still in there. His most precious ingredient, for use only in the most desperate of circumstances. A lock of Bethenny Aitken’s hair.
The cauldron rolled and steamed and the wood fire smoked. The air in the garage felt electric. Clayton raised his arms and pictured himself resplendent once again in the Chairman’s seat. He drew the lock of hair from the pouch and held it to his nose one final time, before casting it into the cauldron.
The wail of sirens shocked him from his reverie. The hair burst into flames and the steam from the cauldron turned red, then green, then settled to a sickly yellow. Clayton stumbled from the garage to find Blake Henderson standing open-mouthed on his driveway.
“Are those police?” Clayton said, as the sirens grew louder. “Why are there police coming down our street?”
“I thought your house was on fire! So I--”
A wailing fire engine swung into the driveway and rocked to a halt in front of Clayton’s house. Frank jumped down, still pulling on his volunteer firefighter’s suit. He yanked a hose from the side of the truck.
“Wait!” Clayton shouted, but Frank was already in the garage. A river of sooty water washed out onto the driveway.
Clayton glared at Blake, suddenly sure that the pimply bugger had set him up.
Frank reappeared from the garage, drying his hands on his thighs. “Maybe next time stick to barbequing outdoors, ok?” He held his hand out to Clayton.
“What the bloody hell do you want?” Clayton said.
“I thought I’d congratulate you. Didn’t you see the news?”
“Frank’s pulled out,” said Blake. “Said he hasn’t got time to be a councillor anymore now that him and Beth are having a baby.”
Clayton blinked. Bethenny was pregnant? “But, what about the election?” he burst out.
“I guess it’s just a formality now,” said Frank.
Clayton ignored Frank’s outstretched hand. He pictured himself, resplendent in the Chairman’s seat - his seat - and rubbed his hands together. Blake wandered off to look at the fire engine. The popular trees rustled above their heads, as the last of the spell’s vapours dispersed on the breeze.
|# ¿ Mar 29, 2020 01:19|
in flash gimme gimme
|# ¿ Mar 30, 2020 08:25|
Flash: You get a character motivation! In addition to your team motivation, your character(s) wants to find eternal life.
That was how it worked.
But Linda was burning the candle at both ends. The PerfectLife package was not unlimited. When
She knew that Linda must know, yet the woman refused to slow down. She lied to get what she wanted and broke promises to her friends without hesitation.
The more insubstantial
Linda paused on the mezzanine floor of VoidTower One, arms laden with shopping bags, and gazed at the replica Tower. She stroked the model with one manicured finger. “I’m so glad I moved here,” she remarked to her friend.
Linda’s friend bent down to peer into the windows of the model. “Yes. Everything here is perfect.”
Far above her Linda screamed.
Linda stood in the replica entrance hall of VoidTower One. She tilted her head back and gazed up through the dizzying atrium. She felt a small thrill of excitement at the rows of shops, the perfect apartments that she knew waited on the upper floors.
A VoidLife representative strode towards her, his smile wide and full of white teeth.
“Would Madame be interested in learning more about VoidTower One’s exclusive PerfectLife package?” he said, in a voice like liquid VoidHoney. As if by magic he produced a small glass of champagne and held it out to her.
Linda pinched the flute between her finger and thumb and took a sip. Its golden taste danced on her tongue, but her stomach shuddered with the memory of how ill too much champagne would make her feel. She felt a stab of fear that she was alone and friendless in her new home. Linda knew she did not have to feel this way.
She drank again, more deeply this time. “Yes,” she said. “Yes I would.”
|# ¿ Apr 6, 2020 03:59|
In. Fog of War and Tactical Advantage please.
|# ¿ Apr 22, 2020 23:09|
|# ¿ May 17, 2022 01:20|
Flash: Nobody dies
The Queen’s General
General McClafferty was cornered. Behind him, through the airship’s open door, was nothing but empty sky. In front, a circle of raised musket barrels. He clutched the royal baby tighter to his chest.
“Hand her over,” said rebel Captain Bearston. “And we’ll give you a clean death.”
McClafferty slid his hand into his breast pocket. Bearston jerked forward and raised his sword. McClafferty paused, then slowly withdrew a small silver flask. It was engraved with the royal crest and dented from the bullets it had stopped over the years.
“Surely you’ll let a man have one final drink?” he said, unscrewing the cap with his thumb and forefinger.
The Captain nodded, but didn’t lower his sword. His shirt was soaked with blood and sweat; McClafferty had not gone down without a fight.
McClafferty raised the flask to his lips and let the liquid fire run down his throat. He looked down at the baby. The heir was tightly swaddled in green and gold, the colour of the Queen’s livery; and her eyes. The last time McClafferty had seen those eyes they had been full of tears, but the Queen’s lips had naught but quivered. That woman never gave up, and neither would he.
McClafferty checked his grip on the baby’s wrappings, smashed his fist into the nose of the nearest rebel scum, and jumped. The wind whisked a single tear from his eye as he took a last look at the majestic HMS Loyalty. Then he punched the remote detonator, twisted in the air and dove.
He heard the boom of musket-fire over the roaring wind and gritted his teeth as hot lead bit his calf muscle. Nothing a dram of whiskey won’t fix, he thought, glancing down to make sure the babe wasn’t hit. He scanned the vast woodland below, looking for a landing point. The Queen and her retinue were down there somewhere--
Captain Bearston slammed into McClafferty’s ribs, knocking the baby from his arms. The two men locked together and tumbled through the air. As the azure expanse flashed past, McClafferty saw the rest of the brigands escaping the doomed airship. They buzzed into the sky with black silk wingsuits stretched taught between splayed arms and legs.
McClafferty grappled Bearston, pulling him in close enough to smell the man’s breath; sour cabbage and disloyalty. The rebel Captain saw his opportunity and his eyes went wide. McClafferty grinned, showing his teeth, and let Bearston close his fingers around his muscular neck. The wind roared in his ears as Bearston pressed his thumbs against his windpipe. McClafferty tucked his knees to his chest, gritting his teeth through the burning pain from his wounded calf. He planted his feet and with an explosive roar ripped the would-be murderer’s fingers from his throat and sent the Captain hurtling into one of his minions. The two rebels flailed, desperate to separate from each other and re-engage their wingsuits.
McClafferty turned to face the onrushing forest and felt his blood turn to ice. The bundle containing the Kingdom’s last hope was a bright dot against the dark pinewood. Two more of the rebels were diving straight for her, like arrows pointed right at the Queen’s heart.
McClafferty fumbled for his pistol. The holster was pinned beneath the straps of his parachute. He wrestled with the heavy fabric of his uniform, but he couldn’t free the leather straps that held the pistol snug to his side.
McClafferty’s hands were shaking. The rebels were closing on the infant. He was falling slower than they were and his pistol may as well be a thousand miles away. He thought of his Queen’s eyes, full of tears. There was nothing he could do, nothing--
The explosion ripped open the sky and the shockwave punched General McClafferty in the chest like the fist of a giant. The roar and heat followed a moment later as the HMS Loyalty was engulfed in an enormous fireball. McClafferty hurtled though sky as the rebels struggled to control their wingsuits. He was accelerating towards the ground, and there, just beneath him, was the princess.
McClafferty stretched out his arms, fingertips reaching. He could hear the baby crying from inside her protective wrapping. A tuck of gold fabric tore free, and with a lunge that felt like it might tear his shoulder from its socket McClafferty grasped the flapping fabric and hauled the baby to him. With his arm tight around her and the deadly tips of the trees now clearly visible beneath his feet McClafferty yanked the ripcord of his parachute. He gasped as his weight slammed into the harness. Winded and steering with only one arm, McClafferty sent them spiralling into the forest below.
Pine needles stung his cheeks and branches whipped his sides as they crashed through the canopy, McClafferty’s body curled tightly around the baby. The parachute snagged in a treetop and McClafferty jerked to a swinging stop, his toes a metre above the ground. Snapped branches crashed into the undergrowth followed by a rain of torn leaves. Then the forest fell silent, save the creak of McClafferty’s harness as he swung gently back and forth.
The infant princess’s eyes were wide and her cheeks were frozen. McClafferty huffed on his fingers to warm them and then pressed them against the babe. She wriggled and screwed up her face, then with a mighty inhale she opened her mouth and let out a wail fit to wake the dead.
“Shhh, hush,” McClafferty whispered at her, glancing around the dimly-lit tree trunks. The baby ignored him. Grimacing at the feeling that his harness was about to cut his legs off, he held her out and tried a few experimental bounces. High in the tree above him something cracked and he dropped half a metre closer to the ground. The sudden drop shocked the princess into silence and she gave McClafferty a wide grin.
“That’s better, good baby,” he said. With his uninjured leg he pushed against the truck, rocking them back and forth.
Running footsteps - men and horses - rang out from between the trunks. McClafferty froze. With his free hand he groped again for his pistol. He had his hand on its grip and was yanking madly against the trapped holster when the first man stepped into view.
The soldier was dressed in green and gold. McClafferty sagged with relief. More soldiers jogged from the trees, forming a line. They snapped to attention as the Queen strode towards McClafferty.
Wordless, he handed her the baby. The Queen took her daughter and with expert fingers loosened the swaddling, her eyes and fingers checking her tiny belly, limbs, cheeks. The princess began to cry and the Queen pressed her lips to her forehead.
“General McClafferty, you seem to have lost something,” she said. She smirked up at him, swinging helplessly back and forth in his harness.
He gulped. “The Loyalty. Yes ma’am, I’m sorry, I--”
The Queen grinned and held out a silver flask. As if by magic she produced two tiny cups from her riding clothes and, her daughter nestled in the crooked of one arm, poured a measure of whiskey into each.
Burning fragments of the HMS Loyalty drifted through the shadowy forest like fireflies. The shouts of the scattered rebel fighters echoed between the trunks.
“Shall we, ma’am?” said McClafferty, raising his eyebrows in the direction of the nearest voices.
The Queen flashed him a wicked grin. “Cut him down!” she called to the soldiers. “Let’s go!”
McClafferty tossed back his whiskey and felt the liquid fire run down to his belly. Rebel Captain Bearston was out there somewhere. The Queen never gave up; and neither did her General.
|# ¿ Apr 27, 2020 04:53|