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Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I’m in:

(Drive-by body pierce)

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Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

(Drive by body-pierce)

The Best Birthday Surprise

1472 words

“Hoo boy!” Dustin said, rubbing his hands together. “What's the surprise gonna be this year?” He and his wife Isabella were out for a morning stroll.

“You'll just have to wait and see, honey,” said Isabella.

Dustin looked up at the sky. The clouds were tinged with pink and orange, and birds were singing. “Red sky in the morning is a warning, right? Better be a warning for a big surprise!”

Well, thought Isabella, they had made it a whole block down the street without him bringing it up. And this was only the second time today. The first being when he shook her awake and shouted it in her ear.

“I dunno how you're gonna top last year,” Dustin said. “I mean, I knew there was someone hiding in that birthday cake as soon as it got wheeled out, but I didn't expect Mrs Whitlow to jump outta there.”

“Well, she didn't actually manage to jump in the end. It was more of a... tumble out onto the floor,” Isabella said.

“No wonder, she was crouched up in there for over an hour.”

“The pastry chef made an error with the dimensions,” she sighed, covering her eyes with a hand. “She was supposed to be able to stand inside.”

“Poor Mrs Whitlow. And she didn't even recognise me from elementary school. But she's gotta be like eighty, right?”

“Ninety-two.”

“Still, it was worth it!” Dustin said. “So what do you have lined up for me this year?”

“Why do you always ask me?” asked Isabella. “The one year I told you, you sulked for the rest of the day.”

“Yeah, because you ruined the surprise!” Dustin said, elbowing her.

“So just wait and see, okay honey?” she said, pasting on a smile.

Isabella gave her husband a sidelong glance. The signs of his obsession were all there when they first met on that reality show where people were married to random strangers. He told her that he was going to go on the one that matched people using science and psychology, but ultimately decided that was a bit too predictable for his liking.

She saw the car cruising down the street, but her husband didn't.

Something sailed past her head. There was a sound of impact. Isabella ducked, and heard Dustin cry out.

He fell first to his knees then fell over sideways, clutching his ear. When he took his hand away, there was blood. He looked up at Isabella, who was standing over him with her arms folded.

“I've been shot!” Dustin cried. “Oh man, this isn't what I wanted!”

“It's only a flesh wound. You can get up now,” she told him.

He held onto his ear as he struggled to his knees. “Oh jeez, I feel nauseous,” he said, holding a hand out to Isabella. She initially ignored it, but then rolled her eyes and helped him up.

“Hey Dustin!” a voice called from up ahead. The car Dustin had failed to notice earlier had pulled up a little way ahead. Out of the open passenger side window hung a familiar smiling face. His arm was resting on the side of the car and he had something in his hand.

“Marty?” Dustin cried, jogging up the street. “Great to see you and all, but did you see the guy who shot me?”

Marty laughed and pointed to what he was holding, which looked like some kind of weapon. “Happy birthday, dude,” he said.

“I thought you were still in Oz, man,” Dustin said, scrutinising the strange gun. “What is that?”

“Piercing gun. And nah, I came back a couple-a months ago. Had to practice, y'see,” he said. “Here, you're gonna need this.” Marty dropped a small piece of metal into his friend's hand.

“What is it?” Dustin asked, squinting.

Marty put down the gun, and took out a small hand mirror, which he handed to Dustin. “I repeat, happy birthday, dude.”

Dustin frowned at the mirror. “I already have a bunch of these,” he said, turning it over and looking at the back of it. Then he held it to his face to examine his injury. He gasped. Marty broke out in a wide smile.

“Oh!” Dustin said, admiring the silver stud that was now embedded in his ear. He looked at the extra piece of metal in his other hand. “Where does this thing go?”

“In the back,” Isabella said. “Here I'll hold the mirror, I'm not getting covered in blood even if it is your birthday. Not again.”

“Sweet, I've always wanted a piercing. What's this one called?”

Isabella raised her eyebrows at Marty, then turned back to her husband. “Let's just call it an ear piercing.”

“Hey! Iz, you know I practiced for months. Just be glad it only took me two shots. And I didn't hit you in your eye like I did with that mannequin.”

“Now that woulda been a birthday surprise I'd never forget!” Dustin said, and he and Marty laughed.

“I wonder what happened to the first shot?” Isabella asked. “I think it hit something.”

“Can't have been important,” Dustin said. “Check out my new ear piercing!”

“I see it,” she said.

* * *

Later, Dustin's birthday party was in full swing. The theme was fancy dress mashups. Isabella smoothed down the skirts of her unicorn pirate costume. Marty was smiling at her from across the room.

Dustin reappeared in his army wizard outfit. There was a crow on his shoulder.

Isabella passed him a drink, and stared at the crow. She didn't need to say anything.

“I found this little guy out on the bathroom windowsill. Look, we're twins!” Dustin pulled the crow's wing outwards, revealing a piercing just like his own.

“Oh,” Isabella said in horror. “That's where the first one went.”

Marty stood on a chair and tapped a fork on a glass. He was half Elvis, half Superman. “Let's give it up for my old pal Dustin!” he said. The crowd erupted into cheers. “Now you may have noticed Dustin's fancy new ear piercing.”

Everyone turned to look at Dustin, who pointed proudly to his ear which had a silver stud in the middle. He also pointed to his new friend the crow. Beside him, Isabella quickly finished the rest of her drink.

“Dustin's my first customer for my new drive by body piercing business!” Marty continued. “Are you scared of needles? Or do you just want a little more thrill in your life? Just call on me!”

Isabella was pushing her way to the front of the crowd. “I want to say something too,” she said, facing them.

“Iz, are you sure now is the best time?” Marty said.

“Dustin, there's no easy way to say this. I'm leaving you for Marty,” she said. She cringed and looked anywhere but at her husband.

Gasps echoed around the crowd like a Mexican wave.

“At first it was fun coming up with new surprises all the time, but I just can't take it any more,” she said, her voice cracking. She took a deep breath. “I can't claim responsibility for this year's surprise. It was all Marty's idea. Seeing his dedication to improving his skills with the piercing gun these past months has made me realise what I really want in a partner.”

Dustin was staring at the two of them with his mouth open.

Marty patted the pastel rainbow wig on her head. Isabella looked up at him, still standing on the chair, but now looking a little awkward.

Dustin started clapping slowly. His mouth was still open and he shook his head a few times. “And I thought the first surprise was good! You didn't have to go and make up this one too.”

“Dustin, it's not made up,” Isabella said over the crowd. The guests were starting to look at each other. She searched her husband's face for some kind of emotion, but found none.

“Oh,” Dustin said finally. “I have just one question. Can me and Carl model for your business?”

“Who's Carl?”

Dustin pointed to the crow on his shoulder.

“So you're not mad?” Isabella asked.

“Nah,” said Dustin, stepping forward. The crowd was parting to let him get to the front. “Hey, who's got a camera? Someone get the some publicity photos of us!” He stood with Isabella and Marty and guests started snapping photos.

“Here's to Drive By Body Piercing!” Marty yelled, raising his glass and jumping down from the chair. As he landed his drink flew out of his glass, and splattering everywhere. Isabella felt relieved but also sticky.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

This week I’ll try not to harm any aNimals

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Thanks for the crits, guys. Harsh but fair, and that’s what I’m here for.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

A Song From Over the Floorboards
1498 words


“I wish you'd stand still, Mote Quickwhisker,” Cinder said, walking around his brother and shaking his head.

“You made the sleeves too long again,” Mote said, the heavy floral material swishing on the floor as he pattered his front paws.

“I made them the regular length.”

Mote wrinkled his nose. “Exactly. Too long.”

“I'll take them up five mill,” Cinder said, helping his brother out of the coat.

“Ma, why don't you try it on? You need a new cold weather coat,” Mote suggested.

Ma chuckled from the daybed in the corner. When they were pups, the whole family could snuggle on there together, but now she and Pa, snoring beside her, both hung over the sides. “You're all right, my love,” she said, waving a paw and jostling Pa. “My old one's just fine.”

“No it ain't, it's full of holes,” Pa said, putting a paw through a hole in her coat to tickle the exposed fur.

“Oh no, stop it,” she giggled, tickling him back.

Bit and Flake burst through the door, shoving each other in an attempt to get in first. Mote's eyes widened as he saw what they had brought.

Still jostling, they slung their packs onto the floor. “Great haul today!” Flake said.

“Mine's best!” Bit said.

There was a bump as Ma and Pa fell off the daybed.

“Well done, loves!” Ma said, pushing away Pa's tickling paws. She gave him a hard shove and he rolled off her.

Pa lumbered back onto the daybed, lay down in the middle and immediately shut his eyes. Ma twitched her whiskers, then hauled herself up and lay down on top of Pa, ignoring his grumbling.

“What did you bring for supper?” Mote asked.

“Nowt for nudies!” Flake said, laughing.

“Nudie Mote!” Bit said, opening his pack so it covered his sister's.

Mote tried to get back into his warm weather jacket so fast that he fell over.

Crumb climbed down the ladder from upstairs. “Someone say supper?” she said, jumping down from the third rung.

“On today's menu there's the usual selection of breads and cheeses,” Flake said, shoving her brother's pack so she could open her own. Crumb, Cinder and Mote gathered round to marvel at the feast.

“Plus there was loads of these crunchy things. They're really salty,” Bit said.

“Bit Quickwhisker! You're not supposed to eat things before we get down here!” Flake chided.

“I mean, I don't know what they taste like.”

Mote reached out a paw towards the pile of crunchy things. Bit slapped it away. “Let us prepare Ma and Pa's portions first!”

“Oh yeah, sorry.” Mote cowered back and sat beside his siblings while Flake and Bit prepared generous helpings for their parents.

“Could use a paw upstairs after,” Crumb said.

“I don't think the cold times are the best to build an extension,” Cinder said.

“Some of us don't want to wait another season to start a family. Besides, I already started making the hole.”

“It's a bit too soon to be thinking about babies, Crumb,” Mote said. Their parents were happily tucking into their supper from the daybed, so he was finally allowed to grab a morsel. Bit was right, it was salty.

“It ain't, we're grown,” Crumb said, “ and Ma and Pa want grandpups.”

“We do indeed,” Ma said, smiling with her mouth full.

“Might wanna hurry up before we kick the bucket,” Pa said, spraying food from his mouth.

“Don't say that Pa,” Mote said.

“Why? It's true.”

“Everyone shut up, you're not eating fast enough!” Bit said.

Nobody argued, and the rate they could shove food into their mouths increased substantially. While no-one was watching, Mote shoved a pawful of salty bits under his jacket.

Only a few scraps of food remained when they all sat back with bellies full to bursting.

“What are those salty things?” Cinder asked.

“Yeah, you can get more of them, love,” Ma said.

“Dunno,” said Bit.

“There was loads of them all over though. Closer than usual, too,” Flake said.

“Hardly had to fight with the other families at all to fill up,” Bit said.

“Right. Need a volunteer, I do,” Crumb said.

“I'll help,” Mote offered.

“No offence, Mote, but I was thinking of someone, er, longer. Bit too much stretching for you.”

“Oh.”

“I've got some sewing to finish,” Cinder said.

“I'll help once I've digested this lot,” Bit said, patting his belly.

“Me too,” said Flake.

Mote sighed. “Well, I'm meeting friends anyway.”

“Not that manky Dust Dreamtail, I hope!” Pa said.

“I've got other friends,” Mote said, and saw Cinder give him a sidelong glance. “Besides, what's wrong with Dust?”

“Not exactly a family mouse, him.”

“That's not a nice thing to say,” Mote said.

“Feel sorry for him, me,” Ma said.

“Hope that ruckus doesn't keep me awake all night again,” Pa said.

“What ruckus?” Ma asked.

“End times coming, probably,” Pa said.

Their conversation faded away as Mote slipped out of the door.

He made his way along the street past the family homes of other mice. Another mouse bumped into him sideways. The food he had shoved into his jacket came tumbling out.

“Ey up,” said Dust.

“All right, Dust?” Mote said, bumping him back. “You always make me drop the food I'm saving for later.”

“You shouldn't ask no questions about where it comes from then,” Dust said, gathering up the food with a grin.

Mote smiled as he watched Dust scoff the food, remembering the time he had first offered him leftovers and he'd slapped them out of his paw and walked off in a huff. Dust's fur was a rather nice dark grey that Mote was rather jealous of. Mote and his whole family were a uniform shade of mid-brown. There had not been any other mice Dust's colour for a while now.

“Think my sister's looking for a mate,” Mote said.

“Which one?” Dust asked as he fell into step with him.

“Crumb. But I expect Flake will be too, soon.”

“Don't matter, they're both scary. You're gonna have to try harder than that to get me to join the Quickwhiskers,” Dust said. “So, did you hear it last night?”

“Hear what?”

“The noise the Bigs were making!” Dust said, his whiskers twitching in excitement.

“Must have slept through it. But my Pa heard a ruckus.”

Dust quirked his head to one side and his ears twitched. “Did you hear that?”

Mote felt his ears twitch too. A deep rhythmic rumbling came from above. Mote felt it pulse through his body. “What do you think it means? Are they calling for help?”

Dust held out a paw. “Wanna come see?”

“Might as well.” Mote took Dust's paw without hesitation. They quickly resorted to merely scampering side by side, as walking while holding paws isn't very practical for mice.

Dust pushed the flap of the egress open, and coloured lights illuminated the side of his face and glinted in his eyes.

Mote opened his mouth but the noise swallowed his words. The world beyond was a swirl of movement and light that overwhelmed his senses. Something compelled him to jump and both he and Dust rolled through the egress, tumbling out into the overworld.

There were far more Bigs here than Mote had ever seen together. They were all moving and stomping in their big black paw coverings. His Ma always said the Bigs weren't dangerous unless they saw you. Dust dragged him to his feet and swung him round, and Mote found himself swaying and stomping like the Bigs. They wove around the Bigs' paws to the beat of the irresistible noise.

An armoured paw covering was right above him, getting bigger and closer. Mote froze. His heart pounded as Dust pulled him out of the way.

The floor here was littered with more of those salty morsels. The Bigs seemed to be unaware, and stomped them into smaller pieces. Dust crunched on one and threw another to Mote.

Just as he was recovering from the shock, something black and shiny dropped. Mote pulled Dust out of the way. Mote examined it cautiously. This would make some good cold weather coats, and it was plain instead of the usual ugly flower patterns. Its shine reminded him of Dust's fur. Mote hoped there would be some material left for him. He wasn't sure why it had five sleeves though.

Dust saw what he was thinking and helped him drag the material back through the doorway. He realised he wasn't ready to leave the noise behind. Stepping out again, Mote offered Dust a paw. And he took it.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

sebmojo posted:

Interprompt: some motherfuckers always tryin to ice skate uphill (300 words)

300 words exactly

“Pah, some motherfuckers always tryin' to ice skate uphill,” my old man said when he saw me working on my application for medical school. I had the dictionary open in front of me and was scribbling out yet another misspelling on my first draft.

“But sometimes you gotta try, right?” I said.

He shook his head and walked off.

I thought about that whenever things got difficult. Whenever something didn't make sense, or I got a bad grade on an assignment. Whenever I hadn't spell-checked my work properly and left embarrassing errors.

I didn't even expect him to come to graduation, but he was there, hands stuffed in the pockets of the same jeans he had on when he dropped me off at the dorms. He was not smiling like the other parents.

“Thanks for coming, Dad,” I said, walking over to him.

He grunted. Maybe he thought that it was possible to find out at graduation that you had in fact not passed, and he had come just to watch me have my cap and robe publicly dragged off.

My name was called and I walked onto the stage. I saw someone standing up in the crowd. It was my old man. I cringed. Unlike everyone else, he wasn't clapping.

“Some motherfuckers always tryin' to ice skate uphill!” he shouted over the applause.

“And sometimes they make it!” I yelled as I walked down the stairs.

My old man remained standing and clapped loudly over the calling of the next person's name. He was grinning. My old man was grinning.

When I returned to my seat, I thought my friend was laughing. But when she looked at me there were tears streaming down her cheeks. “Sometimes they make it,” she sobbed, and hugged me.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I’d like to volunteer to co-judge this week.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Ironic Twist posted:

the second judge spot is full and I've already promised a third.

you should join this week, though

So be it, as fate compels me. In.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Force of Nurture
1494 Words


Alarm screeching in my ears, I wrenched open the front door then froze, my hot breath steaming out in front of me. Outside, the escapees were chasing each other in the snow. The little one, Two Four, fell over. One Seven turned to look at the snow hole the other had disappeared into, and put his hand to his mouth, his teeth working on a nail. Unconsciously, I found myself doing the same motion.

I silenced the alarm. Two Four got up, snow cascading off his hair and clothes. He and One Seven slowly turned their heads, like an incomplete set of animated Russian dolls. Both mouths opened and both sets of eyes widened as they saw me. And they ran.

I took chase. I called out to them, but that only seemed to make them run faster. I had put on my gloves and dragged my heavy coat on over my nightclothes, but the boys had not done the same. I didn't know how long they would survive outside like that.

The snow was deep in places, and it was getting harder to run. Just before I fell into a snowdrift, I saw them take off in opposite directions.

When I got up I had lost sight of them. I brushed the snow off myself and tried to slow my breathing. The island wasn't large, and neither of them could swim. I slowed down to a walk, methodically working my way around the island. How had this happened? I was sure I locked their doors as always.

I had made almost a full circle around the island when I spotted them. They were together again, close to the water. It was a clear day, so the neighbouring islands were visible. They were getting closer to the edge. I called out to them. Two horrifying splashes and they were both in the water.

I ran, almost tripping again. But when I reached the shore I could see that they had drifted out too far for me to reach. There was only one choice remaining. I ran back to the lodge to call the emergency number.

Now there was a boat being rowed back to the shore. I could see a boy in the boat with the Mariner. But where was the other one?

“What's his name?” The wind blew Mariner's voice over to me.

“I- I don't know,” One Seven said. I noticed he was clutching a slumped Two Four.

“How can you not know your brother's name?”

“We only met today!”

The Mariner's eyes focused on me as the boat hit the shore. “You've been keeping them apart?”

“It seemed... easier.”

“Is that what it said in the handbook?” he snapped, stepping off the boat.

“I, well-” I bit the fingers of my glove compulsively.

“Have you read the handbook?” the Mariner asked as he tied off the boat.

I ground my teeth against the material of the glove.

“You haven't read it, have you?” The Mariner loosened his scarf and I saw his mouth twist and spit the words. It looked familiar. Did I know him from before I moved here?

“Erm, well, not all of it.”

The Mariner shook his head. The way his heavy brows knitted together was familiar too. “The younger generation is just hopeless!” He turned and helped One Seven off the boat with Two Four. “We need to get them inside. The little one's breathing but he's going into shock.”

I reached out to help One Seven, but he shrank away from me. My gaze returned to the Mariner, who lifted Two Four effortlessly in his arms. I didn't want to admit it to myself. But I knew that face. I had run a razor blade over it every morning.

The Mariner demanded to be told where he could find dry clothes for the boys, and he and One Seven resisted my efforts to help, so I put some more wood on the fire and stared into it. The dancing flames and bright embers burned themselves into my vision. Thoughts spiralled round in my mind. We made a set; myself, the Mariner, the boys.

I turned when I heard footsteps. One Seven jumped into the armchair by the fire, and gave me the same smirk that I would use to show someone I was sitting in their seat. The Mariner carried Two Four wrapped up in a blanket and placed him by the fire. “There you go, son. You're all right now,” he said softly. Then he turned to me and his tone hardened. “Do you know why there are several chairs in this room?” He gestured around at the others, which I had moved against the walls out of the way.

I took a breath. I knew I had done things wrong. I had tried more with Two Four, but nothing shook from me the terrible feeling that I was missing something fundamental.

The Mariner had removed his hat and I saw his thick, dark hair streaked with grey. There was no denying it now. “I thought I was the original,” I breathed.

The Mariner scoffed in the same way I often did. He scoffed with my face and my voice, hardly changed by age. We made a set. Not a complete set. A set could be any number. But we were the same.

Was this what a family was like? I had only seen them on television, but television wasn't real. It projected some kind of farcical hallucination that its creators agreed upon. People didn't live like that in the real world. People together in houses next to houses full of other people. That couldn't be right.

Family. That word was like the fire. It gave off a metaphorical warmth that something inside me wanted to move toward. But the fire was stifling and suffocating when I got too close. The fire would kill. I moved my hand to my mouth, and checked each finger for a bit of nail to neaten with my teeth.

The Mariner gestured to me. “What number are you?”

“Number?” I followed him out into the hall.

“Yes, don't you know your number? Name, then? What do people say to identify you from the others?”

I couldn't answer that question. I had always just been me. There hadn't been a need for a name. But those things didn't seem possible to articulate aloud.

He opened my handbook, which was on the table by the front door. A code number was printed on the inside of the front cover. He nodded and shut it. “Thought as much,” he said.

“What does it mean?”

The Mariner sighed. “Those boys,” he said, choking on the words. “They told me how you keep them in separate rooms. Never let them out.”

I bit down on a nail and tasted blood. He looked at me with such sadness in his eyes. “It seemed easier that way. It was so hard to deal with the first one.”

“Yes, I can see many years passed before you tried again,” the Mariner said. He picked up his hat.

“You know how difficult it is even now to bring a viable embryo to term. But that was the easy part. Babies are difficult. The first time I had six failures after removal from the Uteron.” My mind drifted to the unmarked graves behind the lodge.

“And three the second time?”

I nodded.

“I mustn't stay. But first, tell me, why do you think you are here?”

I shrugged. “It's a job. I can carry out research without the usual scrutiny. I only have to raise successors to ensure it continues.”

The Mariner raised his eyebrows, as if he had expected a different answer. I wanted to know what the answer was supposed to be, but he was already opening the door. He turned to me before leaving. “I'm not supposed to interfere. But you be better to those boys.”

“How?” I asked.

But the Mariner didn't reply, and walked off into the snow.

I closed the door, and looked back at the fire, and the two boys silhouetted in front of it. One Seven was swinging his legs absently in the chair. Two Four was biting his fingernails. With his other hand he reached out for the fire, then quickly pulled back. I looked down at my own ragged nails. I felt an emptiness but I didn't know where the feeling came from, or how to make it go away.

I opened the handbook. Flipped through the chapters on somatic cell nuclear transfer, and operation of the Uteron, to the large section on childrearing. Perhaps it was now too late for those two. But I could make a Three One, if I was careful. Or perhaps, I thought, my eyes settling on a chapter headed names, an Aaron, or an Abel.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I’ve been waitINg for an excuse to be fabulous.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

In my writing shack, fuelled by continued mediocracy, this time I hammer out not prose, but haiku.

Judges read my words
They say they are unworthy
Still read my bad words

I always promise
Next week I will get better
But I am lying

I know I can’t get
Distracted, procrastinate
Oh look there’s some memes

I could try to lose
Get not fame but infamy
But is that success?

I dream of the day
That I will claim victory
Watch out, thunderdome!

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Sir Loin
1697 Words


A long time ago in a kingdom far, far away there lived a brave king, a noble queen and their handsome sons and beautiful daughters. But this story isn't about them. This story happened not so long ago in this kingdom over here, to Aran Cuchulainn, a butcher's son.

It started with Aran paused in the act of throwing the contents of a bucket into the alley. He had heard an interesting fragment of conversation between two women and stopped to listen.

“You tell him no. He's a family to look after, you know.”

“It can't be that dangerous, can it? The last lot came down with food poisoning, but that was just coincidence. And it's only trials anyway. Nobody dies at trials.”

The voices were getting louder.

“But he's not a real knight! What if they see through his lies straight away? What'll happen to him then?”

“Guess he'll get disqualified?”

“You'd better hope that's all!”

“Hey, what's he up to?”

Aran realised that he had been spotted, so hastily threw the contents of his bucket into the alley. Bloody water splattered up the women's dresses.

The women yelled out and did a funny little dance as they tried to get out of the pool of blood. “Why I ought to-” one began.

“You idiot! What's wrong with you?” the other shouted, flapping about a scroll that she had been holding.

“Sorry!” Aran said, gritting his teeth in fright.

“Ugh! We'll never get these stains out!” she said, dropping the scroll into the gutter. They both shook their heads at him and walked off.

Aran put the bucket down on the step, and reached out into the pool of blood for the scroll. It was dripping so he shook it before he unrolled it.

“Knights wanted,” he read aloud.

“Aran! What are you doing out there?” a voice called from inside. It was his father, the butcher.

“I'm fed up with my lot in life. There's nothing worse than being a butcher's son,” he said to the world in general.

A boy walking down the alley heard him. He was wearing overalls that were once white but now were many interesting shades of brown. “Would you rather be a muck spreader's son?”

Aran pinched his nose as the stench threatened to overwhelm him. “Actually, no not really,” he said.

“Aran!”

He sighed. He tossed the scroll back into the alley and took the bucket back inside.

In the shop, his father was sharpening a cleaver, and his brother Fergus was hacking away at a carcass with gusto.

“Now you're finally done emptying that bucket, you can help your brother,” his father said.

“Are you sure there's nothing else you need me to do?”

“Oh, come on now, lad. You've got to get over this fear of cleavers you have.”

“I don't have a fear of cleavers!”

Fergus laughed. “Prove it then,” he said, throwing a slab of meat down on the counter in front of him.

Aran picked up a cleaver and started chopping.

“That's no good, lad! It's all uneven.”

“He had his eyes shut, that's why,” Fergus said.

“I did not!”

“Did!”

“I'll mop the floor again,” Aran said.

“Wimp!” said Fergus.

“Dad!”

“He does have a point, lad,” his father said.

Later when the working day was over, Aran went to sit on the back step. A butcher's son became a butcher. There was no other way. But he found himself wishing there was something else he could do. He stared into the gutter, hoping it would give him some answers.

A little way down the street, he saw the scroll that the woman had dropped earlier. He went to get it and read it on the walk to the step. “Knights wanted. Are you a foreign, retired, or out of work knight? The kingdom of Ocado could use your help. Trials being held on Moonday morning in the Eastern Plaza.” Aran thought about it. “How hard could it be? Just standing around guarding drawbridges.” He cleared his throat. “Who goes there?”

“Not me!” someone said.

Aran looked in the direction of the voice and saw a thief trying to pick a lock.

“It'll be easy,” he continued. “Certainly easier than swabbing down floors and cutting up dead animals.” He took a bow. “Sir Loin, at your service.”

“I lied before, actually,” the thief said. “I do go there. Or is it I am going here? Whatever. Fancy giving me some help, Mr Meat?”

“A knight doesn't help a thief! In fact...” Aran thought about it for a moment, then took off a boot and flung it at the thief and missed.

“All right, Señor Steak and Kidney Pie, no need to get violent,” the thief said. He grabbed the boot and ran off.

“Hey! I need that back, it's my only one!” Aran said, attempting to hop after him.

The thief turned around and smirked. “Not true, it's one of your only two.”

Aran stopped, wobbled, and put his bare foot down in the grubby alley.

“Actually, maybe you can help me. I need a suit of armour to be a knight. You look like someone who'd know where to get one of those.”

“Suit of armour? Oh yeah, I've got one of them in my back pocket.”

“What, really?”

“No,” said the thief. “But I do have one back at the house that you can borrow.”

The thief let Aran have his boot back and led him back to a large manor house.

The thief helped him into a polished set of armour. To say it fit perfectly would have been an out and out lie. It was weighed him down and was too tight in places and almost falling off in others. He lifted the grille on the helmet and looked at himself in a full length mirror. Nobody would know his true identity behind the plumed helm. The pauldrons swooped outwards from his shoulders, giving him the impression of being twice as wide as he really was. The cuirass was decorated with three intricately designed dragons. The boots were clearly made for a much larger man, but a dozen pairs of socks shoved down each did the trick of keeping them on. The gloves were made of many pieces of metal fitted together like scales that slid over each other as he flexed his fingers.

“This armour is like brand new,” Aran said, clanking to the right to see it from a different angle.

“Well, my Grandpa didn't get much use out of it.”

“Why, what happened?”

“Don't like to talk about it really.”

In the mirror, Aran's expression looked frightened. “It's not... cursed or anything, is it?”

“No! All right then, I'll tell you. The first time my grandpa put it on, he fell down some steps. Hit his head. That was it for him.”

Aran put his hands up to his helm. He couldn't feel any dents, but then he couldn't feel much of anything with the gloves on. He clanked to the left and admired the shine. He looked like a real knight! He couldn't wait for Moonday to come so he could start his new life. No more swabbing down bloody floors for him.

“Wait, just one thing. If you live here, why are you a thief?”

“Oh, you know, it's something to do in the evenings.”

Aran shrugged, and looked at himself again in the mirror. He probably couldn't pass as a retired knight. And people would wonder why a new out of work knight had popped into existence around here. He cleared his throat and put on his best fake Nisan accent. “Sir Loin, at your service.”

“Sir Loin? Isn't that a kind of meat?”

“Actually, the meat was named after me!” Aran said, pleased with his own quick thinking. Then he realised his error and repeated it in a Nisan accent.

* * *

Aran rose very early on Moonday morning so he could sneak out in his new suit of armour before the rest of his family awoke.

“Who's that clanking down the corridor?” his sister yelled as he passed her room.

“It's just a dream,” he said.

That must have pacified her as her only answer was, “okay.”

He remembered what had happened to the thief's grandfather and walked carefully downstairs. He stopped for a moment in the back of the shop as his gaze fell on the array of meat cutting tools. The thief didn't have a sword for him to borrow, so he still needed a weapon. He picked up the cleaver and tucked it into his belt. He'd show his family that he wasn't afraid of using it. And it was a fitting weapon for Sir Loin.

As he walked out of the back door, the cleaver fell out of his belt and hit him on the foot. He lifted his foot and grabbed hold of it, gritting his teeth and trying not to scream. When the pain subsided he picked up the cleaver and left the shop.

The streets were deserted at that time in the morning. The one man he did come across took one look at him, screamed and ran the other way. He realised he must look quite threatening in his full suit of armour. The cleaver he was holding out in front of him was also probably not doing him any favours either. He resolved to hold it behind his back. Nobody could possibly find that threatening. But now someone else was screaming. He turned around to see the same man, who must have run around in a circle.

“It's all right, I'm a visiting knight from Nisa.”

The man put a hand to his chest and took a shaky breath. “You're going the wrong way. Knight trials are that way.”

“Oh right, thanks!” Aran said, still not sure how to hold the cleaver.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I will gladly take all crits :cheers:

My quick unsolicited opinion of animal/roomba week: we could give Pixar a run for their money.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I am ready for my INfection.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Eat poo poo, Get Brain Worms and Die
1749 Words


Below the Waves was totally the most kick rear end band, and I felt like a total geek hiding a sea of the baddest goths. During the third song Jareth suddenly stopped singing and froze like a statue with a mic stand. The rest of the band continued and the fans filled in the lyrics for him, like it was part of the show.

The music started for the next song, but Jareth missed his cue and they repeated the opening bars. He missed it again. Guitarist Drusilla and bassist Idris exchanged glances behind him. Jareth was holding the mic stand and shaking violently. The crowd cheered, and continued cheering when he fell to the floor, taking the mic stand with him.

Drusilla and Idris continued playing a hesitant instrumental version of the song, and kept glancing at each other. Why wasn't anyone helping him? I shoved myself towards the front. Some people shoved me back but I fought my way to the front row, physically climbed over the people who wouldn't move, and dragged myself onto the stage. There were jeers and shouts behind me, but I stumbled over cables and fell to my knees beside Jareth. His limbs and body were jerking erratically, and the mic stand hit my shoulder. I tried to pry it out of his hand, but he had it in a vice like grip. It was futile, so I held down his arm and the mic stand with one arm and tried to stop him from hitting his head on anything with the other hand.

There was a ear splitting noise of feedback and I looked up to see Drusilla had thrown down her guitar and was gesturing and shouting at me. But I couldn't hear anything over the noise.

The next thing I knew, Idris and Drusilla were dragging me backstage along with Jareth and the mic stand.

They put Jareth went down on the floor, and Drusilla tried to wrestle me away from him. My eardrums stung and at first I heard nothing but ringing.

“-the gently caress? What's your damage?” Drusilla demanded. Idris stood behind her, watching.

“I'm trying to stop him hurting himself. Can't you see he's having a seizure?” I choked out.

I looked down at Jareth. The writhing of his body was slowing, he released the mic stand and it clattered to the floor. My heart lurched as I realised his head was in my lap. His pale eyes were staring up the ceiling, pupils massive.

“What are you, a doctor?” she said, her voluptuous mahogany curls falling over her shoulders in torrents as she bent over. I could see down her PVC corset.

“I am actually,” I said, looking away and hoping she wouldn't notice how I was growing out my hair to look like hers. Or that I'd copied her eye makeup.

“gently caress off.”

“Well I only just finished medical school. I'm not sure what I want to do next, so I'm taking some time out.” I stroked back Jareth's hair and saw lighter hair at the roots. The glossy black must be dye. I felt like I was intruding upon something that fans shouldn't be privy to.

“Oh, la de dah! I need some grindage.”

“You can be my doctor,” Jareth said, squinting up at me with dilated pupils.

My breath caught in my throat. I just stared at him with my mouth open.

“They always overcook these things,” Drusilla said, throwing down the hamburger she had just taken a bite out of.

“How can you eat that poo poo?” Idris said.

Jareth sat up unsteadily. Any other fan would kill to be this close to him, staring at him in his half open shirt and leather pants. But I couldn't get distracted.

“Are you on any meds?” I asked.

He snorted. “Well, no duh.”

“For epilepsy.”

“Not even! I haven't got loving epilepsy.”

“You just had a seizure.”

“We need to get back out there before the fans start killing each other,” Drusilla said, taking a swig from a bottle and clutching her head. “Ugh, loving headache.”

I turned back to Jareth. “We should get you to hospital.”

“Bullshit, I'm fine.” He leaned on my shoulder to stand up.

They went back out on stage, leaving me alone, until a woman with purple hair walked in.

“I'm Marnie,” I said. She looked at me and lit a cigarette but said nothing. After a few moments I joined her at the side of the stage. I had to keep an eye on my patient, after all.

I wasn't sure if Jareth had been serious about me becoming his personal doctor, but the next day I checked out of my hotel and joined them on their tour bus. They regaled me with gnarly stories about their South American tour as we made our way across the southern states, playing a show almost every night.

My combination of being technically a doctor and a fan of the band made me perfect for them. And as I was unsure what to do with myself, it was perfect for me too. I revelled in the knowledge that the other fans would be so jealous of me being so close to Jareth, even though I was getting increasingly annoyed at how stupid he was for refusing to get checked out properly.

***

“Yeah he does this all the time. He's stupid,” Drusilla said, pushing her fingers through her hair to make it bigger. She inspected her fishnet sleeve and ripped another hole in it. “Doesn't appreciate a great chick like you.”

I was staring into my own bloodshot eyes and shakily trying to fix my makeup. After hours of spinning around on the dance floor, now the bathroom was spinning around me. “Well, I don't know if I'm a great-”

“Marnie!” Drusilla snapped, grabbing the sink and whipping her hair round so fast it hurt when it hit me. “You're smart. You're kind. And pretty loving cute too. So shut the gently caress up.”

It felt like she had wrapped her hand around the tiny secret bit of my heart and yanked. I felt very exposed and very aware that my style had been evolving to more closely match hers. Did she realise?

gently caress it, that's what she'd say. I leaned towards her, half cowering and expecting humiliation.

I saw her pupils dilate and her mouth curve slightly upwards. Then she pushed me away, laughing. My heart stopped. “poo poo, not here. Not in the loving bathroom!”

***

I woke up in Drusilla's arms on the tour bus. I enjoyed it for a few careless seconds until I noticed how hard she was gripping me. I turned and whispered her name, but she didn't respond. Her body was not soft and sensuous as it was when we were awake. It felt hard and solid, like all of her muscles were clenched. A tremor wracked through her body and I flashed back to that first night on stage with Jareth.

Her grip was constricting my breathing. I tried to struggle out of it. I considered shouting for help. This was the eighties, but I still feared how the others would react to two girls tangled up together. I lay still and waited.

When I tried to talk to Drusilla about it, she was almost as stubborn as Jareth. How could they both be in denial about having epilepsy? When we reached the next city I went to find the local library and arm myself with facts.

I thumped the side of the tour bus. “You need medication! You can die from untreated epilepsy!”

“Yeah, what if I catch it next?” one of the roadies said as he carried equipment past us.

“Epilepsy isn't contagious,” I said, shaking my head. I hadn't been able to get to the bottom of how two people could suddenly develop epilepsy. “But adult onset is rare. There might be something else at play. Just get checked out, okay?”

“We've already got a doctor,” Jareth said, pointing at me.

“You need to see a real doctor. A specialist.”

“We haven't got loving time in the schedule for the doctor's office,” Drusilla said. She looked down and wound her necklace around her wrist. Then looked at Jareth. “Do we?”

“I'm not going to the loving doctors. You can gently caress off,” Jareth said, storming off.

I looked at Drusilla and saw the fear in her eyes.

***

“Was it scary?” I asked, holding out a handful of earrings to Drusilla when she met me in the waiting room.

She shook her head, and started taking earrings in ones and twos to put back in. “It was kinda neat. Like being in a womb. They put this gnarly cage on your head, it's rad. It had a good beat. Gave me an idea for a new song.”

“So when do you get the results?”

“Next week. But I'm guessing it's not good news. The techies didn't tell me anything but I heard one of them loving shriek while they were magnetising me or whatever. Must've seen some bad poo poo.”

Feeling useless, I bit my lip and looked at Drusilla's unusually un-made-up face. “I'm here, Dru,” I said.

“I know,” she said, and wrapped her arms around my shoulders as we walked along. An orderly stared at us and pushed a patient in a wheelchair into a wall.

***

I stood by the side of the stage with Magenta, Idris's purple haired girlfriend. Her cigarette smoke and silence wrapped around me. Idris started the drum machine and Drusilla stepped up to the mic. “This next song is dedicated to Jareth, who has passed beyond the veil. Listen to the lyrics and you might loving learn something! It's called Eat poo poo, Get Brain Worms and Die!”

The crowd went wild. Emotion welled up inside me, not only the sadness of Jareth's death, and pride that the other two had the strength to limp along without him, but also relief that Drusilla's treatment was working. I'd saved a life. And not only that, the life of someone who was now everything to me. I wiped my nose with the back of my hand.

Magenta nudged me. She was swaying very slightly to the music. I started dancing more emphatically, and whooped and cheered tearfully when the song ended.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I’ll RSVP but you know I’ll turn up wearing something totally inappropriate.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I’m Very Happy Together
325 words


There’s always a time when things aren’t that comes before the time when things come to be. Like at one point before we were friends, we weren’t. But I don’t remember too much about that.

What I’ll always remember is that time when you were just minding your own business in the library, and that mean girl started pulling your hair. I tried telling her to stop but she wouldn’t listen.

We always sat together in the canteen at dinner break. But there was more kids than chairs so it was always packed at the tables. Often someone came and sat in my seat so I had to stand up for the rest of dinner, but I didn’t mind. I soon got used to that sort of thing.

All those times the teacher told us to pair up for sports, you were always my first choice as a partner. But for some reason the teacher always made you go in a three with some other kids who didn’t like you.

I always said to you that things would get better when you were older. But that wasn’t exactly true. There was that time you really wanted to see that new film and I convinced you to be brave and go even though you were scared. You bought us some popcorn and a drink to share, and we took our seats. It was fine until some teenage boys came and sat behind us, started pelting you with popcorn and shouting, “Billy no-mates!” I tried to throw some back at them, but it didn’t work.

But who cares about other people? You’ve always got me. We’ve been friends for all of my life, and most of yours. And that’s why I’m so happy that you’ve decided to marry yourself. And yeah of course I’ll be your best... individual. But just one thing. You’ll have to read my speech for me. Because I’m sort of, you know, imaginary.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

In with flash

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

My extra crits will probably mean nothing to you guys as I got a DM, but I'm already dressed up real special with an elasticated bowtie and a fascinator from the dollar store

Saucy_Rodent
I liked the self-aware humour in this one. The names of his bros cracked me up, especially Chent. It's exactly the sort of story a whole lot of people would like to tell at a wedding but wouldn't be allowed to, because everyone has at least one overly serious relative.

Azza Bamboo
Goddamn it, I'm going to have to admit I thought these guys just had wacky nicknames until I thought you'd misspelled girl as grill, and then I was like... wait. Pepper somehow segued from being the narrator to the speech deliverer right at the end (was it a short notice arranged marriage?) Crumbs didn't have an expiration date to meet? But I'm gonna have to defend the usage of anus in comedy.

Pththya-lyi
Crazy poo poo happening in a grocery store? I'm listening. I'm not sure if you intended Jaime to seem like she was actually a person who blindly follows the orders of any old stranger who crosses her path, if you did it was perhaps a bit too subtle.

AstronautCharlie
The sandwich debate is not particularly original, but I like it nonetheless. A couple of times you slip out of past tense into present tense, and I spotted a missing comma after “you're so stoned”. A real nice story about two pals talking about love, but it's hard to imagine as a wedding speech story.

Yoruichi
I like the opening, but I can't help but question why the yachts are judging for lack of a better word an interspecies relationship between two “other species”. The actual seagull and otter is a nice touch. More of a first meeting story than a wedding speech, but still good for them moving to the coast.

Thranguy
This one's the closest so far I've been to tearing up a little at the imaginary wedding. Little Saint Nicolas had better be at the wedding in a tux!

Aesclepia
Another first meeting story instead of a wedding speech. That first line though? It's objectively mundane but the wording gives it a spark of magic. I want this to be the first voiceover line of a film. The bit about the breasts might have been okay if this was the first time Daria had seen Grace (presumably she'd seen more than a close-up selfie?), but still best to omit it.

a friendly penguin
It's CO₂ not CO2, because I'm a pedant like that. Also I don't think you need the comma in “Well, you are pretty…,” It has the right tone for a wedding speech, but I think if this was used in a real speech Olivia would have glossed over what Jenny was crying about that day and focused on getting covered in Dr Pepper. But otherwise I liked the idea of the girls supporting each other in the crying closet.

Anomalous Amalgam
I think that one serious relative we all have would be very unhappy about this in a wedding speech. I, however, appreciate a story about vomming it up. I really like the description of the burglar’s gloves. It's another first meeting story, but the best man was there for the occasion and he's shown to be an over-sharer within his own story, so I can buy it.

Entenzahn
A nice story of love and solidarity, maybe a little bittersweet for a wedding story. I think it'd make both bride and groom feel a bit bad, unless some other event happened afterwards to change the context. I like how nostalgic the description of her looking at the guitar feels.

Carl Killer Miller
This is a funny dog story and I like Matt's half baked ideas to solve the problem. But I think the end is a bit of a let down. Also it's an immediately before the wedding story, so a bit of a stretch to use in a wedding speech, unless the dog ate the notes for the original speech too?

Sebmojo
You'll have the whole wedding party sobbing into their champagne glasses with this story. Also comes across as genuinely Irish, so it does.

Armack
I can see this working in a speech only if our narrator is a bit of a bullshitter. I'm pretty sure the boys couldn't possibly have fit all of that stuff in their backpacks. This incident taking place during an exam is also a stretch. But as bullshit goes, it's pretty entertaining.

Antivehicular
Nice little self-deprecating story that's sure to get a laugh and a round of awws at the wedding.

Sitting Here
I like the tone and the description in this story so much that I almost don't want to point out that Mateus's name is spelled three different ways throughout. I can imagine tankards of ale being raised in tribute after its telling.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Communist Bear posted:

Is there a leeway on the word limit? For instance if I have 100 words extra? :)

Nope. Better start hiding them extra words under your mashed potato.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020


Hopelessly Human
1499 Words


A kaleidoscope of neon takeaway signs reflected from disrupted puddles. The crowd emerged from the same club as Enthir, and ran away chattering, laughing and holding hands under umbrellas. Enthir had come alone and left alone, failing to make a connection.

The rain was flattening Enthir's vibrant orange hair and soaking any clothing not made of PVC. The android shivered. True, it was possible to turn off the temperature sensing circuits, but that could lead to further damage. And would not take away the illogical chill of loneliness.

A person leaned on the wall where Enthir was lurking. The android turned towards them, but instantly stepped away as they loudly vomited up the wall.

Enthir dragged their eyes away from the drippy acidic modern art, and walked towards a Vote Rajinikanth poster on the window of one of the takeaways. Enthir smiled, but dropped it as soon as they saw the flashing No Robots sign in the window of the takeaway next door. The android returned to lean against the wall by the first establishment. The scent of grease joined the rain and vomit already activating Enthir's olfactory circuits.

One of a group of customers on their way out looked Enthir's way, and the android gave him a smile. “Fancy some company?”

The man took a bite of his kebab and looked Enthir up and down. “Are you a dude or a lady?”

“For you love, I can be anything you want,” Enthir said, unzipping their shoulder bag of extra parts.

“Oh can you now?” the man said, chunks of half chewed meat rolling around his mouth. One dropped into the bag as he leaned to look inside.

His mates had turned round and were giggling into the greasy wrappers they were clutching.

“Can't you see it's an android?” one said, pointing a chip that promptly broke in half and splattered into a puddle.

“Its skin is coming off its face!” laughed another.

“Oh poo poo. Creepy!” the man said looking straight at Enthir.

“gently caress off, robot gently caress!”

“Get back in the factory!”

Enthir didn't flinch as the kebab hit them in the face. A blink partially cleared the layer of chilli sauce from their vision. Enthir sighed and glanced at the blurred poster of Rajinikanth in her red and gold robes, a defiant expression of her almost extinct culture. The people had indeed voted her into office, but incidents like this reminded Enthir that the majority was only a little over fifty percent.

Enthir skulked down an alley. A wall was adorned with the phrase Robot Lover Raji in glorious incompetently sprayed paint. Underneath was scrawled the clarifying statement Robots Ain't People.

Enthir dropped to their knees and used puddle water to wash the kebab from their face and eyes. The water stung, and Enthir mused that it was possible to turn off the pain circuits. But did not.

An impression of dishevelled appearance reflected in the puddle. The android rummaged for the makeup that was rolling around in the bottom of their bag, gratefully accepted from drunk girls in club bathrooms. Enthir selected a purple lipstick and smeared it all over their face while squinting into a broken mirror. It was possible to look more human by wearing their colours of foundation, but it was never perfect. It was easier to pretend to be following the current trend of faking an “alien” skin colour.

A movement caused Enthir to look up. A tiny dark shape was pattering down the alley. It stopped and shook its legs out in turn, as if unaware it was still standing in a puddle. Enthir recognized it as a kitten, a young cat. The kitten looked up at Enthir and made a surprisingly loud noise that sounded like, “Ooh?”

“You shouldn't be out at this time of night,” Enthir said as the kitten's ears pricked up at their voice.

Enthir raked a hand through their hair and went to try their luck with the last of the clubbers around the takeaways. As the takeaway lights shut off one by one, the rain began to hammer down harder, sloughing off the newly applied makeup, running into the android's ears and down under their jacket.

A high pitched whine accosted Enthir's auditory circuits. The android looked around just in time to feel the prickling scan of the patrol droid. Its various sensors swivelled around the head area that sat on top of its dull silver cylindrical body which was large enough to contain two or three individuals deemed guilty of criminal acts. It flashed warning lights of red and amber but did not stop to apprehend Enthir. It must be almost time for curfew.

The patrol droid moved onwards, its appendages waggling. They were each specialised for a certain type of attack, defence, or restraint. Humans sometimes attacked the patrol droids, of course they did. But only ever once.

Enthir slunk back down the alley, turning away from the hateful graffiti and pressing their back against a wall to shelter from the rain.

“Ooh?” The kitten splashed over to Enthir, fat raindrops pushing down its tiny ears. It pushed its cheek into the android's leg a couple of times.

“I'm not what you think I am,” Enthir said, looking away. “Humans say you're supposed to say meow. But humans aren't always right.” The kitten crashed into the android's other leg and then looped both of them, toilet brush tail curling around.

Enthir slid down the wall to a seat. The kitten gingerly put one paw on Enthir's leg, then sprang into their lap. It settled there for a moment, but then climbed onto their shoulder, shaking when raindrops hit it.

The android sighed and unzipped their jacket. The kitten looked into the gap, then climbed inside, turning around and curling up into a purring pool of warmth that warded off the chill of loneliness. Enthir's eyes fell shut.

“You have my cat.”

There was a girl limping up the alley, face under-lit by the device in her hand.

“Ooh?” went Enthir's jacket.

The android sighed. The pool of warmth was about to be extinguished.

Another patrol droid passed the mouth of the alley, and both of them froze.

“It's already scanned me once,” the girl hissed.

Enthir nodded. “And me.” The whine of the droid increased in volume, and Enthir jumped up and gestured for her to follow.

“I know I'm not supposed to be out this late, but Pon got out. I couldn't leave him!” The end was gated, and she gestured with one hand and an arm that ended in a stump. “I can't climb that!”

Enthir grabbed her by an arm and a leg and slung her onto their back, then scaled the tall gate and dropped down on the other side. The patrol droid was making its way down the alley towards them and the gate creaked open in response to its presence. Enthir ran until she demanded to be put down.

“I'm Vic,” she said as Enthir hurried her into a shed in a vacant lot.

“Enthir.”

“You still have Pon, right?”

Enthir sat down on a dirty upturned bucket and opened their jacket. “Ooh,” Pon said, stretching as he climbed out.

Vic lowered herself down onto a sack and gathered Pon in her arms. “What happened to your face?”

Enthir tilted their head down.“What happened to your hand? And your legs?”

Vic buried her face in Pon's soggy black fur. “So what were you doing out at night?”

“Oh, you know, working.”

“What kinda work?”

Enthir looked away. “You're not old enough to hear.”

“Oh I know about sex work. Some of my classmates talk about it. It's gross. Sex, I mean. Work's okay. I'd have had to work if Mr and Mrs Casperek hadn't taken me in. And I dunno what work I would have got as a baby. Do you like it?”

“What?”

“The work?”

Enthir shrugged. “I was designed as a companion.”

“You're free now.”

“Yeah, I'm grateful for Rajinikanth for ruling to end android slavery. But turned out a lot of people didn't want to pay for our services.”

“You could do something else?”

“I... don't have any other skills.”

“You're pretty good at running. And rescuing people. Like me!” Vic grinned.

Enthir was still for a moment, listening. “It's safe now. Go.”

Vic hugged Pon as she went to the door. Then she stopped. “Come with me.”

“What?”

“Mr and Mrs Casperek won't mind. They didn't when I brought Pon home.”

“I don't think you need a companion.”

“But I could use a friend.”

“I'm an android.”

“I know. I like you. Pon likes you. Mr and Mrs Casperek will like you too. Come on!” Vic held out a hand and Enthir felt a new pool of warmth form around them.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Pththya-lyi posted:

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


The Night Window Cleansman vs Spider Wife
287 Words


Just because you don’t leave the house doesn’t mean you miss out on all the mad mad poo poo that happens out there in the real world. Today, I had a visit from the Night Window Cleansman.

I asked why I’d never seen him before. And he said that yeah, they hadn’t cleaned my windows in a bit, which is a slight understatement as i’ve been forming a rather handsome spider’s nest on one of my front windows these past 8 years.

I asked the Window Cleansman if my landlords had arranged this, but he couldn’t name either of them. He had come in a logo-ed van, had a piece of paper, and claimed to be new, but that proved nothing. I said no thanks.

I had no money to give him. He’d have had to make do with a milk-less brew on the doorstep in lieu of payment.

Was he a burglar? A serial killer? Perhaps he was put off by the unkempt state of my hair or the fact I was wearing a scarf, fingerless gloves and two jumpers. Or maybe what frightened him off was the sound of the seaside coming from my white noise box.

“Who was that, honey?” My wife called as she made her way downstairs slowly. She had to do this carefully, or one of her eight mechanical legs might slip and cause her a nasty tumble.

“Oh, no-one, dear,” I said, and as she eyed me suspiciously I saw myself reflected in all six of them. “You worry too much,” I added, kissing her on a steel chelicera.

But I couldn’t help but worry if the Cleansman would be back, perhaps with backup next time. We’d have to be ready.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Wow thanks for all the super quick crits! You guys are always awesome but extra awesome points this week!

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Ugh I was going to take a break but the prompt is too tempting, in with:


14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Prompt: 14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

And my World Tumblrs Down
1400 Words


“Yeah, I'll be there,” I said, stifling a yawn and pulling the curtain to block the afternoon sun.

“I've not even told you what day yet. Wait- you still not found a new job?”

“Not yet.”

“What have you been doing? It's been months!”

“Oh you know what it's like, you go online and start off on Indeed, then your internet friend messages and you end up talking for ten hours.”

My sister's outraged reaction was what first made me question my relationship with inigojones.

Up until then, I was just happy to have a new pal. Someone who really got me. It's not like I don't have any friends but no-one wants to hang out with a jobless loser, and inigojones didn't know that about me. It was nice to talk to a cool person who seemed to think I was kinda cool too.

But no-one does that. That's what she said. Was that true? Did they not?

Ten hours. Now I was aware of it, it did seem rather excessive. But talking to inigojones made me happy. Not much did any more, so what was wrong with that?

I noticed a missed call and voicemail on my phone. Must have called while I was talking to my sister. I flopped down on my bed and listened. It was a recruitment agency telling me about a potential opportunity. I yawned. Those calls often took ages. I pulled the curtain the rest of the way over and shut my eyes. I'd call back tomorrow. As I drifted off I could hear children outside laughing and playing.

I woke up at 1am and grabbed my laptop. The now familiar feeling of anticipation bubbled up inside me as I clicked the tab for Tumblr, the one I kidded myself that I sometimes closed.

My heart sank when I saw that I had no new messages. Some mindless scrolling would take my mind off it. Had I said something annoying yesterday? I liked a cat meme, then a watercolour landscape. Was he bored of me? I scrolled past some long posts I had read already. Then there was one by inigojones. It was a new piece of art. Full of fire. Just like him. I didn't have to like it, did I? No, I did. It was brilliant.

Fwip! My heart was in my mouth when I heard it. I hovered over the smiling speech bubble with its notification symbol and smiled right back at it.

good morning sunshine! you're up early

Sunshine. I paused for a moment and considered my reply.

yeah

gotta be like 3am there, am I right?

one. you're getting better at this

don't shoot me with your sarcasm, dude. I'm gay, i can't do math.

you can't say that, you're pan. and thats homophobic. i'm gay and good at maths!

alrighty mister smarty pants!


I started scrolling again. This was how it started. Scrolling through Tumblr at an hour I wasn't usually awake, I got a message out of the blue. I knew who inigojones was, we followed each other. I'd initially seen him reblog some LGBT+ positivity that particularly spoke to me. Then I discovered he did things with a Wacom I'd previously thought impossible. And he liked my writing. We progressed to conversations of escalating frequency and length, covering all the subjects under the sun, never running out of things to say. We had so much in common, and the new things he taught me were fascinating.

We stopped bickering and started playing Never Have I Ever. I'd never gone to summer camp. He'd never eaten a Jaffa Cake.

I've never been in love

I don't know what possessed me to type that. Sometimes my fingers had a mind of their own.

well ive never been on a date!

I inhaled. We were the perfect match. No shut up, I told myself. There was a whole ocean between us. And I had no idea what he looked like. I agonised over what to say next, but he beat me to it.

how d'ya make it to your age and never fall in love?

dunno been waiting for that spark I guess

maybe you're aromantic?


Maybe. But then what was this feeling in my chest? I held my breath.

so how come you've never been on a date?

A horrible pause.

i saw a flyer at the community center for speed dating

YOU SHOULD GO!

lol maybe. to be sure the other guys'll thank me, I'll make them look way better!


Something inside me twisted.

dont put yourself down! anyone would be lucky to have you!

ah thanks man


I wondered, did that make him smile?

My fears seemed unfounded as we moved on, and leaped from topic to topic, often having several discussions at once. Familiar warmth spread over my body.

so what am I wearing for speed dating?

I gasped. I was finally seeing him. In the two photos he looked ordinary. Noticeably American with his square jaw, and an awkward wide smile. I wouldn't have looked twice at him in the street. But this was inigojones. My inigojones. Seeing his face made my heart swell and my head light. I shifted in my seat. He messaged again before I had even considered his outfit options.

or this one?

The third image was him in a wetsuit. I laughed out loud.

Definitely the last one!

I was ashamed to realise it was almost afternoon when I tore my eyes away from my laptop. And that had only happened when inigojones bid me good night. I forgot to return the recruitment agency's call.

:love: :love: :love:

The next day I woke at the same time, but inigojones was not online. I scrolled until I got all the way to posts I'd seen before. I flipped over to Indeed and scrolled through a list of unsuitable jobs, but my mind was on inigojones. It was evening in his time zone, perhaps he was speed dating now? I told myself I hoped he'd find someone nice, but was secretly pleased when he messaged me:

speed dating was a bust!

sorry to hear that mate. you were probably too good for them

didn't give em a chance to find out. put my foot in my mouth any chance I got! maybe dating isn't for me.


I think you're great. I love you. No, couldn't say that. He'd think I'd gone properly mad.

oh yeah this girl told me about a new dating app. nice but way too young for me

which one?

idk lemme check. i've got a commission to procrastinate on!


We carried on chatting and he told me about setting up his profile. I downloaded the app and did mine at the same time. He went quiet and I assumed he must be working on the commission. I flipped idly through the singles in my area. Some of them were cute, maybe even cuter than inigojones. No, that wasn't possible. More good looking in theory. But before I'd ever seen his picture, I knew inigojones and loved him for who he was inside. Looking at pictures of people I had no history with felt so hollow.

I didn't hear from him the next day. Or the one after. He'd also not posted. I was getting worried. Maybe he'd had a car crash. Or been shot.

I held off messaging him as long as I could. Then wound up sending three at once. Then another to apologise for that.

His next message was far longer than usual.

Hey dude sorry for the radio silence. You know that app? I started talking to someone on there and totally lost track of everything else. We just clicked so well you know? That's never happened to me before, it was like magic! Maybe it was fate! We're gonna grab coffee later. SO EXCITE! Sorry can't chat today gotta shoot!

I stared at the screen in disbelief. Then shut my laptop and pushed it away. I thought back to our earlier conversation. Looked like he was going on that date he wanted.

My heart felt like a glass sculpture that had been hammered into pieces. I sighed and stared dejectedly at the wall. After a while I picked up my phone and went to dial the recruitment agency who had called last week. Then I realised it was 4am.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Carl Killer Miller posted:

Quarantine Interprompt

There's a run on the store, everyone's walking out grabbing the same thing, and supplies are running low. But that one thing? It's not what most people would expect.

300 words

The Kitchen Paper Caper
285 words

The MacGowans had always been a bit strange. So when the lot of them turned up at my checkout each with their own trolley, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised. I’d seen weirder things over the past few days. Trevor MacGowan tipped his hat at me as I scanned pack after pack of kitchen towels.

“No toilet paper for you, huh?” I remarked, knowing that Pete had been rationing the restock to a few dozen packs of coveted rolls every hour. The store was quiet at this time of morning, so they should have been able to grab a few.

Old Trevor just grunted at me and paid. I repeated the same process with Annie. And Todd. And Rachel. And Ray. Even little Bobbie carried a couple of packs in his tiny arms.

A little while later, Pete came over and said, “We’re completely out of kitchen paper.”

“Have you checked the back?”

“Yeah, we never sell that many. No more till next Tuesday.”

We looked at each other and sighed. Why should we care, right?

On my way home from my shift, a woman in a face mask looked alarmed and crossed the street when she saw me coming. I had to walk by the MacGowans’ place on my way. It was big and for as long as I remember it looked like it was falling down.

The gates stood open and the whole family was in the driveway. Ray was industriously sawing kitchen rolls in half on his workbench, and his father was piling the halves up on the table beside him. The women were nailing a sign to the fence which read, “toilet paper, $50/roll”.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I am so in! Flash me for good measure.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

The Airport Food Court Caper
1718 Words
Jerry Mouse/Tweety Bird


Tabby looked up as she was jostled by her Uncle Mel leaning forward from the back seat to crack her Uncle Wald across the back of his head. Her eyes returned to her Gameboy and her mind returned to being Luigi. The U2 album that played on her headphones mercifully drowned out whatever argument they were having, even if the CD kept skipping.

Uncle Mel was shaking her by the shoulder, gently but persistently. Tabby sighed, that meant they had arrived. She paused the game and slumped out of the car. Mel shoved her hot pink Barbie suitcase into her arms, then hefted Wald’s case out of the trunk and held it out to him, dropping it before the other man had chance to grab it. The case sprang open and Wald scurried to retrieve several pairs of heart patterned underpants as Mel grabbed his own case.

Wald went and shut the trunk, then picked up both his and Mel’s cases, but after they had gone two steps, dropped one of them on Mel’s foot. Mel hopped on one foot and cursed, holding his foot in one hand and trying to shove at Wald with the other. He appealed to Tabby for sympathy, but she ignored him.

“Hey, buddy! Ain’t you gonna pay me?” the cab driver yelled.

After a disagreement about who was going to get their wallet out of their Hawaiian shorts, they were on their way into the airport. Wald grabbed a trolley to stack their cases on, and put his and Tabby’s on it. Mel tapped Wald on the shoulder, and when he turned his back, Mel barged his suitcase off the trolley with his own. Wald grinned at Tabby, and pushed the trolley in through the airport doors. Just as they got inside, he noticed the absence of his own suitcase and threw up his arms in alarm. He whipped his head from side to side, the oversized camera around his neck bouncing around. Then he saw his case on the ground outside, lying open revealing piles of identical Hawaiian shirts. He scurried out to grab it.

While Wald was jumping on his case in an attempt to get it to close again, Mel gestured to Tabby to get behind him, while holding a finger to his lips conspiratorially.

Uncle Wald struggled back through the airport doors, holding his suitcase shut. He placed it carefully on the trolley and held an index finger to if telling it to remain closed. Then he smiled at Wald for a second, before making a realisation with a start. He gestured somewhere around waist height, which was shorter than Tabby but Mel got the idea. He shrugged. Wald began to visibly panic, but then Mel started grinning. He stepped out of the way to reveal the girl behind him, who was completely absorbed in her music and her game.

Both men grabbed the handle of the trolley and it snaked from side to side as they both wrestled for control of it. Tabby lagged behind, busy punching bricks and going down pipes in Mushroom Kingdom. She was vaguely aware of some pocket patting by both uncles as they pretended to have forgotten the tickets, as stood in front of the departure board.

They needed check in desk 54, and they looked up to see that they were in line with number 1. Wald grabbed Tabby and sat her on top of the suitcases, then looked at Mel, who counted down from three on his fingers, then they both started running with the trolley, leaving several knocked down old people and crying children in their wake.

After several minutes of running, they both stopped, panting, and looked up to see that they were now in line with check in desk 9. Tabby had not looked up from her Gameboy. The two men looked at each other, huffed a sigh, and started running again.

They stopped just short of colliding with a wall. Now they were next to desk 30. Mel held his hands up and jumped up and down. Wald pointed to a sign which read ‘Check in desks 31-60 downstairs.’ Mel bent double and gasped for breath. Wald saw the opportunity and grabbed the tickets out of Mel’s shirt pocket, and hid them down his own shirt. When Mel had recovered, they headed to the elevators. They were out of order.

After a struggle to carry the trolley with suitcases and Tabby downstairs, where Mel and Wald fought to knock each other over without harming her in the process, they made it to the correct check in desk.

Mel waltzed up to the desk, which miraculously had no line. He smiled at the check in assistant, and reached into his shirt pocket. His hand closed on nothing and a look of horror crossed his face. He whipped around to look at Wald, who was grinning innocently with his hands behind his back. Mel got up in his face and yelled. Wald stepped backwards and pulled the tickets out of his shirt and held them up, laughing. Mel snatched them out of his hand, shoved Wald, and then put on a more polite expression as he faced the check in lady.

The lady looked at the tickets, shook her head, and pointed to the sign above her head, which read 53, then to the one next to hers, number 54. The line for desk 54 snaked around the whole of the lobby. Mel shook his head and pointed to his watch, and the check in lady just shrugged.

Mel heaved a sigh as Wald laughed, and they all trudged to the back of the line.

Uncle Mel looked at his watch. It was five-o-one. He tapped his foot for a while, then looked again. It was five-o-two. He sighed as the line moved forward half an inch. His watch said five-o-one again.

Mel jumped up and down and pointed at his watch. He paced up and down while Wald laughed at him. Then Mel brightened, and pointed to a sign that said ‘Hot Cawfee’. He wiggled his eyebrows at Wald, who nodded. Tabby opened her mouth to say what she would like, but he held up two thumbs to her then and was speeding off.

Uncle Mel returned and pressed a large cup of chocolate milk into her hands and ruffled her hair. Then he turned around and smiled at Wald, then pretended to trip and spilled both hot coffees on Wald but mostly on the white shirt of the extremely large man in front of them in the line. Mel shouted at Wald, and pointed at his leg, which certainly not tripped him up. But anyone who had not been watching might be inclined to believe Mel from the degree of his protests.

The very large man turned around slowly, his face bright red and huge fists already balled up in rage. He looked at Mel, who looked shocked and pointed at Wald. The man punched Wald straight in the face, and then when Mel laughed, he punched him too.

The check in man gaped at their matching bruised faces. “Wald Ratcliff, Mel Finch and Tabby Finch?” he asked after a beat. The three of them nodded. “Did you pack your bags yourself?” Mel put a finger to his chin. Wald smacked him on the arm, then bodily forced him to nod his head as he and Tabby did so of their own volition.

The trip through security was a farce, with Mel needling Wald into acting suspicious by pantomiming various banned items that he might have in his hand luggage. They both had to be strip searched, and Tabby just sat in the waiting area, glad of an uninterrupted hour with her game.

An announcement came over the loudspeaker. “Tabby Finch please report to customer services. That’s Tabby Finch, report to customer services. Thank you.”

Tabby pulled off her headphones to check she wasn’t hearing things. She looked at her uncles, who were balling up pieces of toast to throw at each other. She tugged on Uncle Wald’s sleeve. He looked at her, and a piece of toast hit him square in the eye. He cried out in pain and flailed for something to throw back at Mel, but Tabby was insistently tugging his sleeve and pointing to the loudspeaker box. Mel looked at Wald, who drew his hand across his throat and shook his head. Tabby frowned, then shrugged and shoved a chunk of sausage into her mouth, then returned to trying to keep Luigi stay alive.

Uncle Mel shook Tabby’s shoulder and pointed to another table where another girl around her age was sitting with her mom and younger brother. Mel pantomimed grabbing the other girl’s hat and running away, then shoved her in that direction. Tabby looked at him, shook her head once, then returned to her game. Wald shook his head and his finger at Mel. Then they started to have a hushed conversation. Tabby was not interested.

“Tabby Finch please report to customer services. That’s Tabby Finch, report to customer services. Thank you.”

This time she just ignored it and they finished their breakfasts, or in the case of her uncles, threw it at or around each other. A passing businessman got a fried egg to the face. A tomato splatted the back of a bride’s dress and slowly drew a red trail down it.

“Tabby Finch?” a gruff voice barked.

The three of them looked up. Two security guards were standing there, with a dishevelled lady holding a bottle in a brown paper bag behind them. Tabby looked away as her mom shouted something at her, and gestured for her to get right over there.

One of the guards took her by the shoulder and led her towards her mom. Tabby tried to grab the tail of Uncle Wald’s shirt but the other security guard pried it away. Uncle Mel reached out for her but was blocked by the first security guard. She looked over her shoulder as her mom roughly grabbed her wrist and pulled her away. The security guards were marching Uncle Mel and Uncle Wald away, having to pull them further and further away from each other as they aimed punches and kicks in each other’s direction.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I’m holding up both hands in enthusiasm!

Also flash me pls.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

VoidWives
1495 Words

Team Jailbreak
You get a secondary motivation! In addition to your team motivation, your character(s) wants to end a secret conflict.


Laika sat at the kitchen table, not alone, but it felt like it. Her husband Ryo sat opposite her, and the flickering strip light reflected off the armour of his badly scratched uniform. The buzzing from the light filled the silence.

“I had tea with Margery today,” Laika told him, and took her time scooping up the last mouthful of her VoidBroth. “Sorry, I know you don’t like me talking about Margery. You haven’t touched your food.”

Ryo woodenly reached out a hand and picked up the spoon, scooped with some force, lost the VoidBroth on the way to his mouth, paused with it in front of his face then dropped it. The yellow sick coloured broth splattered up his uniform.

“Oh dear,” Laika said with a forced smile, and leaned across the table to wipe him off. “How was work today, honey?”

A single tear rolled out from under his reinforced aviator sunglasses. Laika had not seen her husband’s eyes in years.

There was another place set at the table, another untouched bowl. “Kaori? Dinner’s getting cold!” she called, but she could hear her daughter still talking to her friends on VoidChat. She sighed. VoidBroth would have to come to Kaori again.

A tinny beeping sounded from her husband’s wrist band, and he left the table and the apartment without a word. She used to dread that sound at first, the thought he might not return from his shift sent a chill down her spine. But now it was almost a relief when he left.

She sat alone for a few minutes, listening to the buzz of the light and watching it cast weird shadows on the wall. Then she heard her daughter shriek out in laughter and she tiptoed towards her room. She intended to knock at the door, but instead she stood and listened. After a few minutes passed, her arm holding the bowl was shaking. Kaori spoke adoringly of a Leader who was going to save them from an event that was coming. So that was why she never left her room. She had joined a cult.

She knocked on the door then placed the bowl on the floor. “Dinner is out here for you, honey!” she called. And waited. But Kaori gave no indication that she had even heard her.

Laika moved mechanically around the apartment, doing the chores with great deliberation. Surprisingly little was required of her, and she soon learnt to complete the chores slowly, otherwise she might find herself with nothing but extra hours with her thoughts before it was time to lay down and pretend to sleep.

*

Margery yawned as she opened the door to her apartment.

Laika was already wearing her pasted on smile for the hallway cameras. “I know we only got together yesterday, but I really think we should do some more committee business today.”

“Come in,” Margery said, the flicker of her eyebrows adding the unspoken yes, I know it’s forbidden.

Laika hesitated, then stepped over the threshold into an identical apartment to her own. She frowned at her friend’s dress. “Margery, you forgot to fasten your top two buttons.”

“I didn’t.”

“What colour is that dress? I thought it was Thirty Four, but it looks a little more-“

“Yellow? Yeah, I dyed it. With VoidCondiment!” Margery said, raising her arms to spin and let her skirt fly out around her.

Laika decided not to pass comment, and instead gazed around her friend’s apartment. She had only ever seen inside the ones she had lived in. It was missing the flickering strip light in the kitchen area. Her light was out and it was lit by a hand held torch duct taped to the wall. Her eyes fell on a copy of Amazing Emma!’s 100 Best Life Tips that was lying on the combined coffee table/storage unit. “I remember when Kaori was active in the EmmaNation. She screamed at me when I said she couldn’t copy her and dye her hair mint green.” She smiled fondly and ran a hand over the book cover.

Margery darted forward, but stopped short of smacking the other woman’s hand out of the way. “Wait, no. It’s okay, I think I can trust you now.”

Laika felt that her friend was almost willing her to pick up the book. As she did, the dust cover fell back, revealing a completely different book. This one was black with Eternity Beyond in silver copperplate. Laika flipped open the book and only read a couple of lines at random before putting it down. “My Kaori’s in a cult.”

Margery nodded knowingly. “My two as well. They think I don’t know. But I know exactly why they’ve just left. Wherever it is, I’m sure it’s not the best place to be right now, but it’s better than in here.” She sighed. “And I don’t want to have to drag them along kicking and screaming.”

Laika suddenly felt faint. “I don’t think I had enough VoidCaff this morning.”

Margery looked at the clock on the wall. It was missing a piece, the 5 and 6 were drawn on the wall in VoidMarker. “Sit down, I’ll make some. We have just about enough time.”

Laika barely took in any of what Margery told her as they sat and drank their VoidCaff. It sounded like the ramblings of a lunatic.

“I always liked that model tower,” Laika said in disappointment.

An alarm sounded, but it wasn’t until the blast shields slammed down over the windows that Laika’s heart started pounding.

Margery calmly kicked off her slippers and shoved her feet into what looked like a pair of her husband’s boots.

“What’s happening?” Laika breathed as Margery hurried off and came back with a bag slung over her shoulder.

“Do you have a bag packed?”

Laika frowned at her, the sound of the alarm amplifying the blood pumping in her ears. “N-no. We weren’t planning on moving apartments.”

“Then you’ll have to come as you are. Come on!”

Laika had stood up, but had frozen.

“Do you want to live or not? We need to get to the top. Look, I stole this key from my husband. He thinks he lost it. It’s for a service elevator, they go right to the top. If you don’t come with me, it’s a long walk.”

Margery had grabbed her by the wrist and was pulling her out into the hallway.

Laika dashed back to her apartment to get Kaori. She was not there.

“I need to go back.” She and Margery were waiting for the service elevator. “Kaori, I can’t leave her.”

Margery shook her head. “She’ll be with my Carly and Jimmy. They’ll be… fine.”

The way Margery said that made Laika almost burst into tears. “I’m a mother! This is my only job! I need to go look for her.”

“We’re no good to our kids dead. There’s no way we’ll find them in time.”

“But we’ve got to try!”

“We can’t run around the building looking for the kids, we have no idea where they are! This place is huge!”

Laika wished he had listened for longer at Kaori’s door. Maybe then she would know where she had gone.

The elevator doors were opening, and Margery was dragging her inside. She stuck the stolen key in the hole and turned it, then jumped up to jab the button with the highest number. Laika cried silently and gripped Margery’s hand. The numbers whirred past on the elevator’s display. They were coming up to floor 150 where her husband was assigned. Laika reached out and pressed 150.

“What are you doing?” Margery demanded.

“My husband,” Laika said breathlessly. “I need to get to Ryo.”

“He’s VoidScum, he’s good as dead already.”

Laika shook her head. “No! He’s not like that. He’s important! He can find Kaori, and your kids.”

The elevator pinged as it reached 150 and the doors opened. Margery tried to hold Laika away from them against the back wall, but she broke free.

Out in the hallway, a naked man almost collided with her. Laika gasped and looked around. Two Void security officers were running towards her, guns trained on the naked man. Behind them, she spotted Ryo. She shouted his name. He looked up and levelled his weapon at her, seemingly unaware of their relationship. In the other direction, she heard gunshots and wailing.

“Laika!” Margery shouted.

“Ryo! What’s happening? I can’t find Kaori! Can you look for her?”

Ryo was striding towards her. She thought she saw a flicker of recognition.

“Your job doesn’t matter! We just need to get out!”

He was aiming the rifle at her head now. Laika took a step backwards and held up her hands. “I love- I’ve taken care of you for years, does that mean nothing?”

Ryo grabbed her arm and thrust the gun into her back. Margery let go of the elevator doors, and her look of horror disappeared between them.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Yes! We all gotta start those quarantINe novels! And yeah gimme those extra words :toxx:

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

What You Can’t Leave Behind
1465 words

The trio ran for as long as they could, but now they were walking down a dirt path through endless scrubland.

“Your feet hurt, don’t they?” Lili said, adjusting the straps of her backpack and shaking out her curls.

“No, I’m absolutely fine,” Nandi said. She fanned herself then pulled her hijab back into place.

“I mean, my feet’d hurt if I’d got heels on,” Lili said, kicking up stones with her walking boots.

“Well Astrid dragged me straight from work, it wasn’t like I had time to change into my trainers,” Nandi said, tugging her smart skirt down. It was not designed for running, or even walking very far.

Lili turned and looked over her shoulder to Astrid, who was lagging behind with her big suitcase. “Why did she bring that big old thing?” she said, then called out to Astrid, “Can we stop yet? Nandi’s tired.”

“I am not tired!” Nandi protested. “But are we going in the right direction?”

“Think-“ Astrid gasped- “it’s safe to stop now.”

Lili grinned and immediately flopped down to sit on her backpack. Nandi attempted to sit, then attempted to crouch, then pretended she had wanted to remain standing anyway. They watched Astrid slowly catch up with them, her suitcase getting stuck on every slightly uneven patch of ground.

Lili stretched her tanned legs out in front of her. “Oops, my razor is in my other bag.”

“I don’t think anyone is going to be judging you for not shaving your legs at a time like this,” Nandi said.

“I’ve only got these shorts. Wait, I’ve got two bikinis in my bag, but that’s not much help.”

Astrid made it to where her friends were and let her suitcase fall over forwards as she leant on her knees and panted for breath.

“You know, Sassa, it’d be better if you hadn’t got all them coats and jumpers on,” Lili said.

“W-we don’t know what sort of conditions lie ahead. Best to be prepared.”

“That’s sensible. I wish I hadn’t left my handbag with my PA,” Nandi said, patting her jacket in the places where pockets had not been provided. “What are you going to do if it rains?”

“I’ve got my showerproof pac-a-mac in here,” Lili said, patting her backpack. “Is that a waterproof business suit?”

Nandi glowered at her.

Lili sat down next to her backpack and smiled at all the patches from different countries that covered it. “I think I’ve got some guidebooks in here. Oh wait no, only for France and Cambodia. Nothing for England.”

Astrid hefted her suitcase onto the right side to open it. “I have the location Leo gave to me written down somewhere,” she said. She knelt down and started rummaging through the disorganised junk that had been crammed in there.

Lili grabbed a notebook that said Ideas on the front of it, but Astrid snatched it back. “Awww I wanted to know what happens in the next Jeremiah and Morgan book. Are they finally gonna do it with each other and not just everyone else?”

Astrid clutched the book to her chest and went red.

“Probably not,” Nandi said.

Lili raised an eyebrow at Nandi. “You said you’d never read her books.”

Nandi shrugged. “Well.”

“So who’s Leo? Come on, Sassa, spill!” Lili hovered over her, tapping her on the shoulder.

“Just someone I know online. We’ve been talking about The Situation for a few weeks. Leo’s been helping me prepare.”

“Why did you not tell us sooner?” Nandi asked.

“Is Leo your boyfriend?” Lili asked.

“Leo can be a male or female name. But I think it’s their star sign,” Astrid said without looking up. She had found another notebook and was leafing through it.

Lili shrugged. “Ooh Sassa, Leo could be the one for you!”

“No, I’m perfectly happy with the cats.” Astrid clapped a hand over her mouth and tears pricked her eyes. “Oh no, the cats!”

“It’s all right Sassa, they’ve got nine lives.”

“I don’t think even cats could have survived that blast,” Nandi said.

“Nandi!”

“So where does Leo live? Are we gonna meet up with them? Is that why you brought us along, to be your bridesmaids?”

“I completely forgot about my husband!” Nandi said in horror.

“Never mind about him. He’s probably with the cats,” said Lili.

“Yeah,” Nandi breathed, staring out into the distance.

“Don’t know. Leo was gonna tell me just before the internet went out, so they couldn’t be tracked. But it went out sooner than we thought.” Astrid pointed to scribble on a page. “There! Yes. We’re, well, maybe on the right track. There’s a farmhouse around here that’s safe, to the north east. I need to check which direction we’re going in. Anyone got a compass?”

Nandi patted her pocketless jacket and skirt. “What do you think?”

“Oh! I think I have!” Lili dug in her backpack and pulled out a pencil case with kittens in tiaras on it. She opened it and held up what she thought was the item in question.

“That’s a protractor,” Nandi said.

“Oh yeah! I always get them two confused. El-oh-el, what a silly moo I am!”

“Wait, I think I have one somewhere,” Astrid said. By the end of it she had pulled everything out of her suitcase and strewn it all over the ground around them.

Lili managed to have a sneaky look in her [i[Ideas[/i] book. “Oh what a mood!” she said about one bit in particular.

Astrid shook out a sleeping bag and a book of matches and a tiny compass fell out. “Yes!”

Nandi shifted from foot to foot to ease the pain as Astrid balled up her belongings and pushed them down in her suitcase.

“I’ve got some flip flops in here if you wanna borrow,” Lili suggested.

“I don’t think they’d really work with tights,” Nandi said.

Astrid was struggling with getting the zip closed. Nandi went over to help, but even together they couldn’t do it. Lili jumped up and pressed the front and back of the suitcase together with all her strength. Astrid and Nandi heaved and dragged the zips together.

“Come on, we should get going,” Nandi said, holding out her hand. “I’ll take the lead.”

“Oh yeah, you take the lead? You can hardly walk any more. Leave it to Astrid,” Lili said.

“Well I’m not pulling your suitcase for you, Astrid. Give me the compass and the book.”

Astrid shook her head. “There’s private stuff in here.”

“Fine, struggle on your own then.”

“You can take this,” Astrid said, handing her the compass.

The three of them had barely taken a couple of steps before Lili was waving her arms in front of them. “Wait, wait! We have something important to do first.”

Nandi looked confused as Lili arranged her to be standing behind Astrid, who was a good head shorter than her. Then she leaned in beside them and held her mobile phone out at arm’s length and made a peace sign with the other hand.

Nandi frowned at first, but then put on the same smile she wore for every feature in the company magazine. Astrid didn’t smile but she never did, she refused to even appear in author photographs.

Lili pressed the shutter button over and over, adjusting her own pose and giving the others instructions that they did not follow. “There!” she said when she was finally satisfied. “Obvs I need some photos to go in my travel journal. And for Insta too- oh wait, no.”

“This is not a travel journal situation,” Nandi said as they set off again.

“’Course it is! You heard Sassa, this is The Situation, it’s the ultimate time for travel journaling,” she said, waving her arms around. “This is gonna be fun! I mean, as much fun as it can be when your hometown just got blown up and all your family are dead.” Lili stopped and burst into tears.

Nandi put an arm around her shoulders and patted her in a motherly gesture. Astrid let go of her suitcase and walked over to the others slowly. “Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” she said. “Thought this would be the best way of making sure we all got out alive.”

Lili looked like she was going to say something for a second, but then she just pulled both of her friends in for a hug. They stood there for a while, until Nandi said, “Okay, my feet are hurting now.”

“Flip flops?” Lili suggested as she rubbed her nose on the back of her hand.

“I’m not that desperate. Yet.”

They waited for Astrid to catch up with her suitcase, and continued on to the farmhouse that would hopefully be the first place of sanctuary on their journey.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

100% in for Elton! I'll take a song assignment and a flash, please.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Doctor Eckhart posted:

100% in for Elton! I'll take a song assignment and a flash, please.

May I have an assignment pls? Think I got missed, a fact that I also missed until now.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

A Life Well Lived
Prompt: Blessed
428 words

I’ll never forget my first death. Her name was Mary Somers, and she held my hand in her soft, wrinkled one, and told me it was her time to go. I’d trained for this, but I panicked and told her I had to go get the Sister. She patted my hand kindly and said she had some business to attend to anyway.

“It’s not fair, she’s ninety-nine!” I said to Sister Charlotte as we made our way back along the corridor.

“Pish-posh, she’s had a good life.” The Sister shook her head.

“I mean, she was so close to-”

“Shh,” Sister Charlotte hissed as we neared the door that I had left ajar. She signalled me to wait.

There was a whispering sound coming from the other side of the door. It sounded like voices. Many voices. The television was off when I’d left the room, I was sure of it. Mary was surely not strong enough to have got out of bed to switch it on. Besides, it didn’t sound quite like the television.

I leaned closer to try to hear what the voices were saying, to try to see around the gap. The Sister slapped me on the arm. I knew it was intruding, but I just wanted to hear.

The door slammed.

I gasped.

Sister Charlotte opened the door. All was quiet inside. Quieter than before. Mary lay motionless, her face relaxed with a ghost of a smile. Sun beams poured in from the window and settled on the bed. Mary’s eyes remained open, staring directly into the sun.

“Oh no, she’s already-“

“Now don’t you go upsetting yourself, girl! She had a good life, and she was certainly blessed for so many to come and collect her.”

I put my hand over my mouth.

Sister Charlotte began untucking the sheet on one side of the bed and signalled for me to help her on the other side. Together, we drew the sheet over the head of the almost-centenarian.

I walked over to the television on the other side of the room. I could see its plug out of the socket and resting on the floor, but I knelt down to double check anyway.

“You know, not everyone can hear them,” the Sister told me, “you’re fortunate. Or unfortunate, depending on which way you look at it.”

That day, I didn’t ask who exactly had come to collect Mary. But as time went on, I would witness many more collections. I knew then that Sister Charlotte would become my mentor in more than just nursing.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

In, with tactical advantage

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Magill vs A1200-B
1069/1250 words

Magill reeled from his opponent’s punch and everything went into slow motion, the bright lights and the shouts from the crowd dimmed for an overstretched moment. His robot opponent was waiting for him with his gloves in a low guard, not a bead of sweat on it. Its eyes were unblinking and its grin with too many teeth was fixed on a face belonging to a thing that was unthinking, unfeeling. A1200-B, that’s what’s they called it. They weren’t allowed human names. Magill recalled the fight where A1200-B had beat A1200-A so badly its metal carcass had to be scraped up out of the ring to be thrown in a dumpster. Was he a fool to think he had a chance?

When he hit the ropes, everything came back to full speed again. He was back in the fight, bobbing and weaving to avoid punches as he regained his energy. He got in a couple of jabs while avoiding A1200-B’s flying fists. But the robot was like steel. No, more than just like steel, it was steel. Even his heaviest punches met with unyielding resistance. He feinted then hit A1200-B’s metal jaw with a surprise left hook. The robot stumbled backwards a little, and the crowd cried out. But then it recovered and rained down a series of blows. Magill felt blood trickle down into his eye.

The ding ding of the end of the round saw Magill staggering to his corner. He sat down heavily, and his team scurried to assemble around him. As blood was wiped from his face, he watched the same being done to A1200-B by its robot assistance. His blood. It was wiping his blood from the robot. Robots didn’t bleed red.

The same fixed expression remained on A1200-B’s face. Ever since it had set eyes on him, the robot had him in its laser focus.

Jeffers, Magill’s coach was crouching in front of him, saying something that had not been registering. “-not like you. You gotta admit it.”

Magill sighed and dropped his chin to his chest. “What if it’s just better?”

“Now listen to me,” Jeffers said, waving a finger in his face. “there’s no thoughts in that head of his, it’s just numbers and junk. It might have all’a the technical knowhow on the moves, but you can’t tell me that’s what makes a winner.”

Magill looked over his coach’s head to A1200-B. The robot was sitting perfectly calmly in its corner, ready to go again now it had been wiped down. “You’re right. It hasn’t wanted to be the very best since it was a child. But I have! It doesn’t dream every night of being the champ. But I still do, even after all these years!”

“You’re drat right! Now get out there and show us what you’re made of!”

Magill glanced over at the crowd and his eyes easily found his mother in her best hat. She shouted something inaudible and jumped up and down, raising her fist. He smiled and raised his fist back at her.

His coach tapped him on the shoulder, and he was up again for the ding of the next round.

Now Magill fought with new resolve. That vacant face no longer unnerved him as he bobbed and weaved to avoid its punches. In fact, he felt a bit sorry for the robot. He landed two good blows in succession to A1200-B’s face and this time he was able to ignore the lack of impact it made on the robot. His persistence paid off, and just as he was congratulating himself for properly pushing the robot back for the first time, a fist crashed into his left temple.

Magill forced himself to recover quickly and attempted to get some combinations in while he still had his drive to survive. But he was off his game, a searing pain rung out in his head. He tried to ignore it and kept his gloves up to block punches to his head. A1200-B got him right in the gut with a sucker punch of such force that he staggered.

Magill caught himself, swayed and grinned at his opponent and tried to look relaxed as he had seen his role model do so many times. Instead of trying to get in more useless blows to his opponent, he focused on moving around and dodging its attacks. Muhammed Ali had died long before Magill had even been born, but his mother had all of his fights on those ancient shiny plastic discs of hers.

He felt cocky for a moment. It seemed to be working. A1200-B was slowing down. So even a robot could tire eventually!

The next punch came out of nowhere. Magill’s neck snapped back. There was the sharp metallic taste of blood in his mouth. Then more punches followed. The shock had made him drop his guard. He dodged the next blow. Spat out blood. He raised his guard again, just a second too late.

Magill hit the mat. No matter how his mind fought his body, he knew very well that he was not getting up again. He closed his eyes. The ref was counting down. The cheers from the crowd rang in his ears. Cheers for his opponent.

The robot had won.

This wasn’t any lost fight. This meant the end for human boxing. It had been dead for years now, but with this loss Magill had just sealed the coffin.

“Let’s hear it for A1200-B! This has been a sensational fight, the like of which has never been seen before! Do you think we’re gonna see more fights like this?”

“Well I don’t know Billy, just listen to that crowd! Sounds to me that they want to see more human fighters taking on the robots.”

“You said it! Well Magill certainly put up a fight. This is one for the history books for sure!”

Magill’s chest heaved as he gasped for breath, daring to dream of seeing his picture next to Muhammed Ali’s in a book. He lifted his head and saw A1200-B standing in a victory pose with its arms in the air.

Magill strained his neck and met the robot’s bright eyes and bright smile, and he found himself smiling too. He’d see the robot back in the ring again soon. He gave a slight nod and wondered if it was its programming that caused A1200-B to return the gesture.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I'm in. Snake, and I'll take a philosophy and a fallacy, my good man.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Challenge accepted :toxx:

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Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Snakes From a Train
1068/1314 words
Neo-Confucianism & pathetic fallacy


I wasn’t sure if I was ready to tell my tale, but when I looked up to the sky the sun winked at me from behind a cloud, telling me that this was the right time. I owed it to the next generation to get this right. “We should all look to my father’s bravery as an example of how to be a good example for our own children.” The slithering, squabbling mass of my children did not appear to be listening.

“We did not always live as we did now. We were once imprisoned in cages by the humans. They would drag us out to do tricks in hot, smelly tents for masses of their kind. The humans were enslaved by the will of the train, which dragged us on to see more humans. I often wondered what it wanted. My father said that The Superior Snake looked down upon us and protected us from the train and the humans. The Superior Snake had a plan to save us.

“One day, He saw fit to drag the train off the tracks that it ran along. The train was angry and let out some terrible noises. Flames danced along it to join in its anger.”

A few of my children looked up at me in sudden interest in my tale. I faltered at their sudden attention. I let my tongue dart in and out a few times to quell my anxiety. The tree above me shook its branches, warning me to be careful in what I said next.

“The train threw the cages off its back in its anger. Some of the others were released and could escape to freedom, some stayed trapped. My cage lay on its side. I was shaken. My father helped me out.” That wasn’t true. But it was less impactful if I told the truth, that the cages had been damaged when the train threw them away, and the bars had twisted enough to let us free. “The Superior Snake had twisted the bars of his cage to let him free, and he used his powerful jaws to free me from my prison.”

“Yay! Granddad was a hero!” said my oldest son, now listening intently.

I smiled. “He was. But that is only the start of the tale.”

His siblings were starting to still and take notice now.

“The Superior Snake had finally given us our freedom, and I yearned to slither off into the sunset, but my father said no. We had others to help first. First we came upon Rat and his family. Their cage had fallen and the door lay open, but Rat cowered in the corner, protecting his family who were hiding behind him.

“I called out to them, but they ignored me. My father reached in and picked up Rat in his jaws, and pulled him to freedom. His family could see the way out now and ran to him, screaming. I expected them to show gratitude, but they simply ran away.”

My oldest son gasped. “How rude!”

I nodded. “That’s what I said. But my father told me that we must be kind to all. We must always set a good example so that others can learn to be better.”

“We had to be quick helping the others. In the distance we could hear the humans shouting to each other about animals they had spotted or captured already. When we had helped all of those we could, we turned towards the sunset, which spread out its glow in welcome, and beckoned us onwards. But as we started towards it, we heard a cry. We turned and saw a human trapped under some debris. A piece of wood was holding him down and the angry flames were speeding towards him.

“My father said we must help him. But I was scared, I could hear the voices of the other humans coming closer. My father used all of his strength to lift the debris off the human. He managed to throw the pieces of wood away just before the flames could reach him.”

My children were listening intently now. What I said next was important. The sun was peeking out from behind its cloud to listen too.

“Some other humans ran over to us, they had other animals that they had shoved into battered cages. But when they saw how my father had helped them, they let me go free.”

In reality, my father hadn’t been able to help the human who was trapped, but he was distracted enough that one of the other humans managed to grab him. I didn’t want to go back into the cage, so I darted off. They tried to follow but were struggling too much already trying to keep hold of the some of the smaller animals as they fought for freedom.

“So the humans are good?” my middle daughter asked.

I panicked. The humans were dangerous. I couldn’t let my children think they would not hurt them. The sun had gone completely behind a cloud, daring not to even look at me, casting us all into darkness.

“Oh no, the humans are not good. Those individual humans were, er, prompted by The Superior Snake to let me go free.”

“So why did Granddad not get to be free too?” my oldest son asked.

I shifted my body into a different position under the tree, desperately searching for an answer. The wind shook the trees, telling me that there was none.

“Because the humans were our superiors, so we had to honour them!” I said, pleased with my quick thinking.

“So why did you not honour the humans too?” my oldest son asked.

I leant forward to poke him with my nose. “Because I had to come here and bring you into the world.” That was a good enough reason, I told myself. But the guilt still weighed heavy on me.

“I’m bored. Can we go play now?” my youngest son asked.

I nodded. The sun was still hiding its face from me, I could feel its disappointment radiating down from behind the clouds. I’d failed to impart wisdom of my ancestors on my children. At best I had confused them. I hid my head under my tail in shame. I watched their little bodies slither off to play in the grass. They were still young. There would be time to try again.

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