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arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



In.

Edit edit: gonna write it now and think the flash request wasn’t seen which was fair so I will just pick an animal :)

arbitraryfairy fucked around with this message at 00:43 on Jan 12, 2020

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arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



Mixed Messages
1425 words


No matter what anyone else might say, it was the human that started it.

She was small for a human, with the bright clothes and lumbering gait that tended to denote their kittens. 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!”

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 was deriving pleasure from anything, it was clearly the anticipation of ripping Zoro’s ears off.

As that lovely image flashed through his mind, the kitten-human came towards him, her arms pawing in his direction, grasping the air. Zoro stood alert, his tail twitching, warning the creature away. 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.

Get lost, he willed her. She took a step forward, still “kitty”-ing at him. Leave, he snarled, baring his own teeth. She stopped for a second -was she going to back off?- but then all at once she lurched forward, grabbed his tail, and pulled.

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. A yowl ripped itself out of his throat and his claws seemed to move of their own accord. When his claws were still again, 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. 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 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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

All at once, the three humans turned their eyes to focus on Zoro, and his gut twisted. 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?

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.

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.

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



Interprompt
282 words


Pretty sure every mother fucker in the ocean wants to ice skate Uphill.

ray Windside says that skates are born in mermaid’s purses and that’s why they’re all so greedy. Really though, ray Windside is just a bit racist. skate Uphill doesn’t steal because he wants the money, skate Uphill steals for the thrill.

Even more than they hate other skates, the oldies hate skate Uphill. They say it’s all the thieving, but that’s not true. They hate his one liners, and his diamond fin ring, and what they hate most of all is that their kids think that this skate, this thieving little skate, is just about the coolest thing in the big blue.

You see the hammerhead kids down in tidezone, and they’re dressing up with home made electric organs and pretending they’re skate Uphill fighting grouper Wavecrest or the crab alliance or whatever chump’s fallen foul of skate this week. And you see their parents looking on, all angry and everything, but they don’t dare tell them to stop because playing at skate Uphill gets the kids riled up and ready to fight authority.

I guess not everyone wants to ice skate Uphill. The oldies, they wish skate was dead, maybe, but they’re not going to do anything about it, not really. tiger Sideswim's lot, though, they try and gank his gills every chance they get. They don’t want any competition. Problem is, skate Uphill’s always two strokes ahead. tiger Sideswim says when he finds out who’s letting Uphill in on his plans then that someone is gonna stop swimming, permanent-like.

He’s gonna be real mad when he finds out skate Uphill’s reading his diary.

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



In

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



Thanks for the crits Yoruichi, that's really detailed! ^_^

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



Fuel for the Fire
1431 words



I’m pretty sure every grumpy old gently caress with a news segment has done at least one hot take on how teenagers shouldn’t be given their own carbon allowances because they’ll only fritter it away on uselss poo poo (just like the poors and the immigrants and whoever else they think’s taken a crap on their lawn this week). When I was fourteen and righteous I was adamant I’d prove them wrong. I’d save those carbon chits up for travel miles towards the big OE or cash them in and use the money for something vaguely-defined-but-responsible that would prove how wrong those stupid commentators were to judge us upstanding young people.

Now that I’m sixteen and finally in possession of my very own state designated carbon allowance, I’m going to burn it. gently caress ‘em.

We figure between the three of us, we’ll manage to scrape up enough fuel for a nice midwinter fire, and maybe actually work out how to get one going. We’re all pretty much city scum through and through, but I’ve looked at some vidsim tutorials and it doesn’t seem that complicated. I even have some real life experience in that my rich cousins throw a bunch of birthday bonfires and other sorts of great-grandpappy-was-an-American-oil-baron parties where I am occasionally, under supervision, allowed to add a log or two to the fire. My aunt says the supervision is for safety, but I’m pretty sure she's just worried I’ll steal the wood.

Kalindi, for her part, did scouts back in the day. She also spent most of that time trying to sneak off to hold hands with Sarah Greene. So despite the fire permits her troop managed to get a couple times a year, her knowledge of fire, beyond how it looks reflected in Sarah Greene’s eyes, is pretty much theoretical.

Not as theoretical as that of Jax, who assures us they’ve read a lot of old novels featuring bonny young folk having wholesome winter adventures. Jax summarily appointed themselves in charge of snacks, and the collection they tip out on my kitchen table ranges from the expected (spiced crickets, apples, chocolate) to the questionable (agar marshmallows, which Jax assures us when toasted should taste like something better than fairy farts) to the downright confusing (chestnuts, which I’m pretty sure they nicked from the tree at school).

“Right,” Kalindi snaps into get-poo poo-done mode before Jax can give us the literary history of roasted chestnuts. “We’ve got food.” She nods to Jax. “We’ve got fuel.” She jerks a hand at the stacks of wood we picked up from the carbon broker earlier today. “We just need-”

“Friendship!” Jax interjects with a double thumbs up and a massive grin.

“Somewhere to actually build the fire.” Kalindi finishes, patting Jax on the shoulder. “Any ideas?”

Jax looks at me quizzically. “Wouldn’t one of your uncle’s places have a fireplace, Keegan? Like a proper indoor one?” Their eyes unfocus dreamily, assumedly imagining the many possibilities provided by the combination of chestnuts and an indoor fire.

I shake my head. “Probably, but they’re not his places, they’re my aunt’s, and she has it in for me. To her I’m just the wrong side of the family, you know.” I try to load that last sentence with just enough wistfulness to sound troubled and mysterious without crossing into actually pathetic.

“And you’re that little toe-rag that ate so much you gave yourself the meat-pukes at her daughter’s eighteenth,” Kalindi adds sweetly. I give her the finger. They had a whole roast boar, and my family never even cashes their carbon out for a bit of bacon. What did they expect me to do?

“Anyway,” I say, keen to change the topic. “I think we should just go with our original plan, and head up to the roof. I, for one, can’t be arsed hauling all that wood out to a park, it’s loving freezing.”

“It’s nine degrees. And Whangarei barely ever hit freezing, even before global warming.” Now it’s Jax’s turn to get the finger.

Kalindi bites her lip. “The janitor saw us bringing the wood in though. You told her it was for a camping trip. What if she catches us?”

I shrug. “We’ll tell her we’re camping on the roof.”

****
We make it up to the roof mostly without incident, setting watchers and dragging our wood into the elevator when no one’s coming down the corridor. The roof itself is even more underwhelming than I remember. A couple of dinky sports courts with fading paint, planters that were supposed to be community gardens but where even the weeds look like they’re having a hard time growing, a few seats and a lifeless drone that looks like it flew here just to die. All surrounded by a chain link fence to stop people jumping off and allowing the panoramic view of a bunch of other lovely block towers just like our one. My dad, who has an unhealthy obsession with urban design, always says the apartment roof-gardens were supposed to provide fresh air and a sense of community to an increasingly urbanised population, but it just seems like a waste of space that could have been used for solar panels or something. I don’t even think dad’s been up here more than a couple of times.

The roof does, however, provide us with an open air spot for our fire where we have almost zero chance of being interrupted, especially at night. We pick a corner of one of the sports courts that doesn’t look like it has anything flammable nearby and start setting up: blankets, cushions, food and a couple of portable fire extinguishers we nicked from our respective apartments go to one side while we try to arrange various sized bits of wood in a way that should catch fire, at least according to the internet.

Getting this poo poo to stay on fire ends up being harder than I expect.

"loving wind," I snarl. "I thought fire needed oxygen to burn." I clicked my spark lighter at the little stick pyramid again. The lighter arcs and a twig catches fire, looks like it might actually stay that way for a second, then abruptly blows out as another gust of wind comes in through the goddamned chain link fence, which seems pretty useless as far as fences go.

There’s a smoker’s raspy chuckle from behind and we all spin around. It’s the janitor, still wearing shorts and sandals despite the chill wind. Well, poo poo. Kalindi’s breath catches to my right while to my left Jax lets out a cheery greeting.

The janitor takes another drag from her retro-rear end blunt. Smells a bit off - could be spliff, if she’s such an old fashioned git she still mixes with tobacco. “You know,” she drawls, like she’s rolling the words around in her mouth. “I mostly came up here to make sure you kids weren’t going to set anything important on fire, but I see I don’t have to worry about that.” She waves her joint in the direction of our sad little stick pile.

When none of us answer, she rolls her eyes. “What, you think it’s not completely obvious when someone rides the lift up all the way up here, after you were dragging dragging all that wood around?” I prepare myself for the inevitable old-fucker lecture about irresponsible teens.

All three of us break the silence at the same time.

“Sorry, we should have said something.”

“We’re camping on the roof, no one else is using it.”

“Did you want a marshmallow?”

The janitor waves a hand to shush us, raising an eyebrow at me. “Don’t worry about it. It’s nice you kids want to have a good old fire.” She takes another drag, looking us over. “I figured you’d be a bit better at it though, you know, with the internet.”

The three of us just sit there, Jax still holding out the packet of marshmallows. The janitor looks at them and sighs. She gestures towards the gardens and jerks her head at me. “You, lippy, there should be some sheeting over there you can set up as a wind break.” She pulls a little metal object out of her pocket and throws it underhand to Kalindi. “Proper biofuel lighter. It should work a bit better than the sparkers. Put a bit more tinder in the pile too. And you.” She nods to Jax. “Come with me. We’re going to find some good long sticks for marshmallows. If you’re spending all your carbon on having a fire, you’d better do it properly.”

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



Keen to judge

I will bear the crits to the altar without losing them

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



Ha. Without me, there would be no jiggling throne. I made you, and I can unmake you just as easily.

:toxx:

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



Saucy_Rodent: The Legend of Cheaty Steve

This story was immensely stupid, but in an entertaining way. I feel I should be angry at it, but it made me laugh and ‘Cheaty Steve’ is a fun name to say.

On the flip side, I find it hard to give a useful crit to something that already embraced its own ridiculosity, because it felt like you managed what you set out to do. How you wrote the twist at the end initially didn’t work for me, but I also can’t put my finger on why. So congrats I guess you just stumped me, despite using the word ‘brewsky/ies’ four more times than I ever wanted to hear in my life.

Azza Bamboo: Pressure On Our Pals

You leaned pretty hard into a gimmick, but you did commit and that spared you from an actual loss, at least on my side. I had less of an issue with the actual puns than it feeling like the rest of the text was just a way to get to your next joke. So the rest of the text and the story was just a bit… blah. I think someone in the discord said something like “[it’d be better to fit the puns around the story than the story around the puns]” and I think they were bang on. Give some love to the rest of the text so people actually want to read through it to hit your jokes.

I wasn't super into the last line until I reread the title, then like, heh, I see what you did there.

Dr Eckhart: I’m Very Happy Together

You were trying to be fun with the prompt, which I suppose could have worked, but didn't in this instance.

For a start, your first line: “There’s always a time when things aren’t that comes before the time when things come to be.” -I don’t know if you’re trying to be mysterious or whatever, but that first sentence was just very garbled, and the two after it fell flat rather than really adding any mystique. If you’d managed a good start, or even a comprehensible start, you might have avoided the DM.

For me the story also failed in that you decided to be a downer on wedding week, but not even in a way that tugged heartstrings. No one liked the character, and now they’re marrying themself. I think the story could have worked a little better if you’d managed to add a sense of progression or put a little more light onto the non-imaginary character in the piece:

- Either some hint that they are pushing forward and improving their own life and that “marrying themselves” is empowering for them instead of just giving up
- Or if you did want to go the real downer route, there needed to be more to make the reader actually care about the non-imaginary character. All we got is how others reacted to them, we didn’t get anything about what they were actually like as a person that might have made them more relateable or sympathetic. Or even just more of a character, if you weren’t intending them to be sympathetic.

As the story stands there’s no reason to care about the non-imaginary character, and no clear sense that anything actually progressed. This gives the feeling the point of the story is just the “clever” punchline that the narrator was imaginary, but that part wasn’t really written cleverly enough to actually land.

You did really engage with the prompt though, even if it didn’t work out, and that’s cool. If you don’t already read your story aloud before submitting, I very much recommend doing that - it should have caught your first sentence not working, at least.


Pththya-Lyi: The Song of the Slayer

A few entries went for absurd this week, and yours managed to hit that note best for me. I liked the combination of including little details about the environment and the characters while having the action just bluntly happen. This worked well for your tone.

Echoing Tyrannosaurs’ point, I don’t think your last line quite landed. It felt like you were just putting in a line for the sale of wrapping it up. “that’s who Jaime is: a humble woman who always does the right thing – eventually” - is not what I’d have concluded from the story, just since Jamie pretty instantly changed her tune when she heard the Orc Leader’s side. If you couldn’t think of a better wrap-up sentence, I think it would have worked okay with the story just ending at the pizza rolls.

I admit I found myself shipping Jamie and Nargol during this story, especially when it was a wedding prompt, but choosing not to go there was equally valid, I’m just thirsty for gay orcs.

AstronautCharlie: Consider the Sandwich

I could kind of see someone telling this story at a wedding, but in the sort of way where everyone is fidgeting and internally begging for it to end while the teller goes on a ramble about that one time they were high, bro. For me having the characters be comically stereotypical stoners made it significantly harder for anything they said to emotionally land, and so the bit at the end about love just really didn’t work - it wasn’t funny, or even fun, but the context also stripped it of the possibility for emotional meaning.

You write well, though. Your dialogue was believable, your pacing would have been good if you’d been writing something I didn’t find painful to read.

a friendly penguin: The Soda Story

I can see Tyrannosaurus’ point that this might not have been the best material for a wedding speech prompt, but I did find it a nice little piece in its own right. The idea of a crying closet spoke deeply to my own experiences of university, and the dialogue flowed well and seemed believable. The comments of the professors were gross as hell, but from what I hear studying medicine is a loving hellpit, so it’s not like the comments are completely unbelievable. I felt you managed to convey the exhausting experience of studying pretty well in a short word count, which is why it struck a note for me, even if I did have to concede to my co judge that this week wasn’t necessarily the right prompt for it.

Anomalous Amalgam: How I met your mother

On my first read through I did not like this symphony of vomit in five movements, but my Co judge did so I was willing to give it another shot. I still don't know if I like it but it did gross me out and get into my head so I guess that's a point in its favour. And as Tyrannosaurus pointed out it did read like something that would be brought up in a wedding speech.

If you'd just left it as Jerry vomiting and then the robber also vomiting, I think the story would be neater and less "and then they all X." having everyone vomit seemed a bit ridiculous to me, though I guess ridiculous may have been what you were going for.

Minor things: You use strands of cheese as a description twice in the first two sentences. It's a bit of a short word count to be repeating things.

Entenzahn: Stickers

I liked the overall concept for the story, though as others have already said, without any follow up it was maybe a bit of a downer for a wedding speech. The writing was generally well done and sweet, and the stickers were a cute detail.

I feel maybe changing some of the details could have worked a bit better, and the story as it stands comes across like you were trying to stretch the details to work for your overall idea rather than finding the details that fit the best. It might be a very specific nitpick but afaik the more common form of appendicitis tends to run its course in a few days and needs pretty prompt treatment. There is chronic appendicitis but it’s much less common. So I am not sure if picking appendicitis was the best option for an ailment (or just add the word ‘chronic’ I guess) and it seemed a little forced how the timing of the diagnosis and operation worked out.

Yoruichi: The Speedboat and The Seaplane

This story kind of hilariously missed the prompt, but it was fun to read. I felt there was lots of nice description and then just enough swearing in it that the times you used swearing it worked really well for emphasis. I was not expecting to see the phrase “seagull wanting to gently caress an otter,” and then actually including said otter/seagull combo later in the story was a nice touch. I am trying to think of something actually constructive to say but I think you pretty much nailed what you were going for, so long as what you were going for wasn't the prompt.

I definitely liked the fact that the speedplane (being the clearly superior ship name over the alternative seaboat) didn’t wait or care whether their actions had impacted those tormenting them, but I feel “they lived happily ever after” was a bit of a weak ending and maybe you could come up with something better.

Thranguy: Liam Was a Working Man

This started out really well. Conversational tone in a fun way, using the action to highlight details about the character. It kind of suddenly switched directions in the middle and that is where it fell down. In general I’m always here for stories about saving puppies and fighting bigots but it felt like reading two stories to me. The name at the end was a nice uniting touch but I feel it needed a bit more connective tissue in the middle.

Aesclepia: Maybe It Was The Rain

I was enjoying this story until Grace showed up. It feels as you headed towards the end of the story you were just getting a bit more rushed with the writing so spitting out some generic stuff or stuff that just didn’t flow very well but probably could have been fixed by a bit of editing: “four hours had past that seemed like mere minutes” “like her first kiss ever but but so much better because Daria knew what she wanted from life now.” Some of the run-on-ish sentences looked to be on purpose and worked okay (the two paragraphs that followed “Daria? I’m Grace”) but others (“The door opened, and a woman with fabulous breasts, a bright green raincoat, lightly flushed cheeks, and rain droplets in her hair came in”) were just a bit jumbled.

Yea and speaking of that line. The breast line. I can see that has come up with both other crits and I definitely fall down more on Tyrannosaurus’ side than Dr Eckhart’s: Whether or not she had seen a full body pic of Grace before, the breast bit came across like a straight guy trying to write queer women. A little bit boobs being the first thing on her mind seeing someone, a little bit italicising fabulous, it all just ended up real jarring and kinda detracted from the rest of the piece, that with a bit of editing, would just be a real nice meeting story.

Like idk, maybe I am just not a boob woman but it’s like, we already have them, it’s not really the most stand out thing about someone else. Also when it came in the same week that Saucy Rodent’s story mentioned unsolicited tit comments in the most dudebro of contexts, it probably stood out more.

I don’t know if you’re a straight guy, and maybe you’re a queer woman that’s just super into breasts. That’s just how it read to me. If I have horribly maligned you then I invite you to fight me in a brawlsexual brawl.

Carl Killer Miller: Ring Bearer

The idea of people trying to come up with harebrained schemes to solve a dog-related problem sounds pretty fun on the surface but it didn’t land for me.

Style-wise, all of the paragraphs were really short and there wasn’t much variety in tone, pace, or action. It was just a long conversation and I found it hard to focus on.

Content-wise, it feels like “doggie eats wedding rings but coughs them up in the end, all is well” should be a nice story, and there’s too much of a darker undertone in this for me to read it as actually nice or fun. The groom is wanting to get rid of or even put down (assuming I am reading the “uh, nice farm upstate” line correctly) his partner’s beloved dog? That’s pretty messed up. Kind of a big red flag as far as this guy as a partner goes. Is Aisha feeling pressured into marriage because she is pregnant?

There’s also no indication that the protagonists in the story or even the story itself recognises that this whole situation seems a bit messed up, so that undercurrent is just there, never dealt with. Also the dog coughing up the rings in the end doesn’t mean it won’t get sent away or whatever, since the whole story was just between the marrying couple’s friends and there’s no reason to assume anything would have changed with the overall situation.


Sebmojo: A Good Act of Contrition

I think this is well written as a story, but I couldn't see it fitting in as a wedding speech - too much of the content is internal, the only thing externally that happens is a bit of conversation. I don't know if you missed the prompt on purpose, or if we just have very different ideas of wedding material.

Armack: The Thing About That Guy in the Tux

Good first paragraph, it’s fun and makes me want to read more. You hit the prompt, in that it is a quippy little anecdote the likes of which someone might tell at a wedding. I just didn’t find the actual content very believable. Even if we handwaved the actual story as being something that may happen there was just something not very grounded or believable about the way it was written (but it wasn't so ridiculous that it managed a pass). I'm trying to place what that was so it's actually a useful crit but failing currently.

Antivehicular: The Tipping Point

This story cleared my skin and watered my crops. Mike’s anxiety is viscerally believable, and Danielle’s reaction sells it as a wholesome relationship. The fact that he later tells the story, even an edited version, shows character progression as he is able to become more comfortable with himself. Yours is the only story that introduced both wedding parties and actually sold me on the fact they should be getting married.

I found the last paragraph a little unclear: he “undersells his fear” but plays up “the panic and the body terror.” I had to read it a few times to get what I think it is saying (he undersells his fear about the actual relationship/what Danielle might think of him and plays up the more physical fear of the situation? I think?). Contrasting similar words (fear/panic) just makes it a little less intuitive to grasp so if you are wanting to do anything further with this story I would maybe edit that to be a bit clearer.

Sitting here: Snake Handlers

I suppose I don’t know the intended nuances of your fictional society, but the prompt was anecdotes that could go in a wedding speech and I am not sure if there are many imperial theocracies where it would be good form to tell the god empress about that time you were pashing her future husband in a wedding speech. Unless that's her thing I guess, or it’s a polyamorous society? Otherwise it was a competently written bit of action.

Later edit: I can see t-rex liked the layers of it, and it was his prompt so I will defer to him on that. But IDK, if you wanted to write about some buff gay dudes fighting buffly did there need to be a marriage to a god-empress to facilitate it? Rather than liking the layers as they stood having the love story between the groom and someone he wasn’t marrying made me want to know more about how it was all going to go down - which is a point in its favour as a story generally but maybe not in something so short.

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



Captain/Fairy LakeBrawl
The Lake at the Bottom of the Ocean

792 words


It is the nature of nightmares that I cannot defeat yours for you, as much as I wish I were able. All I can do is show you the way. Listen closely, and I will tell you how to get to the lake at the bottom of the ocean.

Like most successful journeys, this one starts with preparation. You need a gift from someone who hates you, or some other token that reminds you of the real world, but not in a way that is pleasant: in the world of nightmares the pleasant can be all too unreachable. We must bind our shame and anxiety and disdain to use as an anchor, so take this token and hold it tight.

Once you have prepared, you may begin the journey. Prop yourself up with pillows facing a door. Close your eyes and hum a tune you can’t quite remember. Wait for the gap between sleep and wake, where strange images play unbidden against your eyelids but are not yet quite dreams. Stand up. Keep your eyes closed. Open the door you are facing, and launch yourself through it. Only now can you open your eyes.

I can’t tell you exactly where you will find yourself. Sometimes it is a field where everything grows sideways, or a city with ten-way streets, or a birthday party you didn’t know you remembered. It does not matter. You need to find the ocean, before the nightmares know you’re here.

Perhaps you will be lucky and find yourself already at the seaside. If not, you must listen for the trickle of water, and follow it. All water leads to the ocean. Follow the creek, the taps and the pipes, the rain, the trickle from a spilled drink. Follow it with your feet, and in flight, follow it to sizes bigger or smaller than your waking self. Follow it, until you reach the ocean. Follow it to the ocean and throw yourself into the water.

There are many cracks in the ocean, many beasts and old teachers and forgotten poems and unwritten stories. Most of them can’t hurt you. Many of them will try. You must not think too hard on breath, or you will find yourself suffocating. You must not think too hard of how far you have to go, or you will never get to your destination. You must swim.

You must keep swimming to deeper and deeper parts of the ocean. This does not necessarily mean you must swim lower, towards the ocean floor. You need to swim deeper, towards the dark patches and the chill, towards where the ocean wraps itself around you and there are shadows you cannot quite make out cast by light sources that never reveal themselves.

If you keep swimming, and you don’t fall through the cracks or choke yourself awake, you will reach the lake. The lake is full of possibility. Nightmares are born here. But so are the tools to fight them. Grip your token tightly, and be certain of your path. Before the lake, you can escape unscathed, even if the nightmares get you. You cannot leave the lake without being changed in some way.

Plunge into the lake, and sink, and fall, and fly. The nightmares will know you're here now, but they can only traverse the lake as fast as you can. The hunt is on.

You will not know what you're looking for in the lake, but you will know when you find it. Do not fret too much about what you are looking for: in the lake hope is your oxygen, and the more you worry, the faster it burns.

You will be challenged, but you can prevail. I cannot tell you what your challenges may be, but you can prevail. We are not gods. Even in the lake at the bottom of the ocean, we cannot make a rock we cannot lift.

You can succeed. That does not mean you will succeed. The nightmares will hound you, your hope will desert you, and danger lurks at every turn.

When everything is over, you will find yourself back on your pillows, facing the door. Your hand will ache where it clutches your token. You will not remember what happened in the lake. But you will know if you succeeded. You will feel the weapon you found, you will know it intimately, even though you will never be able to describe what it is.

You will know if you failed. There will be a wound in a part of you that doesn’t quite exist. It will ache. But all is not lost forever. In the furrow of your wound a seed may be planted, and as you knit yourself back together, the seed will grow.

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



In, flash please

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



It's not sci-fi


976 Words
Flash: The time it takes to read a really good novel

Danny Flowers had been looking forward to this weekend for a very long time. It’s not every day a new Ayesha Wani novel comes out (it was, in fact, about once a year) and Danny was going to spend the weekend diving deep into its literary crevices, sucking out the marrow of every finely crafted sentence and elegant metaphor. He wasn’t going to emerge until he’d finished it and had at least three on point takes to post on twitter (@cliteraryfiction). He’d made his last few stops just that Friday evening, picking up wine and nootropic cold brew enough for the weekend, and, finally, the book itself.

Some blue-haired bimbo in line at the bookstore had tried to bond with him, telling him that Wani was her favourite “sci fi” author. He took one glance at her popular-video-game-franchise-sweatshirt and rolled his eyes. “Ayesha Wani isn’t some escapist science fiction author,” he’d told her, spitting out the words. “She’s cli-fi - her work has real literary merit.” The woman had moved on quickly without replying, despite clearly not knowing what “cli-fi” meant.

Shaking his head at the memory - science fiction, like Wani could be compared to Heinlein - Danny began his reading ritual, pouring his wine, turning off his phone and settling down at last with the book. It was going to be a good weekend.

***
Danny turned the final page at last late on Sunday morning. He rested the book on his chest and closed his eyes, letting the clever cli-fi political commentary marinate for a while. He’d let nothing disturb his reading fugue. He’d had to close his curtains and put in ear plugs friday night as some local idiots had decided to put on an impromptu fireworks show, and he’d flat out ignored whatever neighbour had pounded on his door at eight am saturday morning. But now he was finished, and he was ready for the world to hear his opinions.

Getting his opinions out into the world ended up being an irritatingly harder exercise than it should have been. His phone wasn’t getting any bars when he switched it back on. His laptop battery died almost immediately and when he plugged it into the wall, nothing happened. A few tests later and the whole house proved to be without power.

“Typical,” Danny snarled to himself. A pre-heralded and self-imposed break from social media was one thing, but now it was forced, he could just feel other people commenting on Wani’s book without him. Grumbling, he grabbed his phone and headed out to the bus stop. Hopefully he could find a cafe in town with wifi. He was out of nootropic cold brew anyway.

The bus didn’t come. At first Danny just assumed this was just the regular Sunday-bus-bullshit, but as the waiting stretched on he began to resign himself to the bus not coming at all. Thinking back, he hadn’t seen a single vehicle pass, though he had heard one a street or two over. For a brief second, he entertained that maybe something big had happened, and he was in the middle of a cli-fi story himself. Shaking his head at this brief moment of stupidity, he got up and started to walk.

***
Forty minutes later, Danny was closer to town, still sans wifi, and beginning to regret going outside without sunscreen. He’d only seen one moving vehicle, which had roared past as he tried to flag it down. He could hear something else though, a low, throbbing hum that seemed to be getting louder. He looked around to try to see where it was coming from -

“Dude! In here! Hurry up!”

Danny started, and swung around to see a pudgy blond man in a tracksuit waving at him from the doorway of a nearby townhouse.

“What’s-” he began, but the man shook his head.

“Dude! You’ve got about thirty seconds to get in here before they see you.”

Something about the increasingly loud humming and the strangeness of the morning helped Danny to get over his general aversion to entering the houses of unfashionable strangers. He ran to the doorway. The man ushered him in, slammed the door, and half-beckoned, half-dragged Danny down the stairs to a windowless basement. A portable camping light dimly lit the outlines of a group of people huddling around a table. With a sick twist in his gut, Danny caught the outline of miniature scenery and lovingly painted model wizards scattered about.

Danny tried to speak again, but pudgy shook his head and pointed a finger upwards. The humming sound crescendoed into a boom before beginning to recede again. No one moved until the sound had gone completely. The group started picking up bags and heading up the stairs. The blonde man turned to Danny.

“We managed to radio out to a group of survivors at Red Road School, so we’re driving over to join up with them. We think we have maybe an hour before they fly over again. You’re welcome to come with us.” He grabbed the camping light. Danny followed him back up the stairs.

Danny struggled to get words to form. “Who’s they?” he managed finally, as the group of strangers started packing equipment and food into a couple of cars like they had been planning this for years.

Pudgy shrugged. “Aliens, maybe. We just know they came on Friday, and they take everybody they see.”

“We were having a read-in of Ayesha Wani’s new book,” interjected a girl trying a little too hard with her pink pixie cut. “We didn’t even realise until Saturday.” She punched pudgy’s arm. “Kinda funny, it’ll be all us spec fic nerds resisting the alien invasion, huh?”

Danny responded automatically. “Wani isn’t spec fic, she’s cli-fi. You know, actually good.”

The group of survivors exchanged glances.

“Okay dude,” pudgy said. “Enjoy walking.”

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



In!

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arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019



(b)In (chicken)

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