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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME


sebmojo posted:


your characters are flies


come on i wouldn't even dip my tortilla chips in that

gimme something really spicy. Something from your private reserve.

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sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Sitting Here posted:

come on i wouldn't even dip my tortilla chips in that

gimme something really spicy. Something from your private reserve.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeY5d1HvUso

Every one of the sentences in your story will be exactly 40 words long.

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.


Yeah ok I'm in.

Flesnolk
Apr 11, 2012

h

elurlleh

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk



Xxot

Flesnolk
Apr 11, 2012

h

elurlleh a rof gniksa yb deilpmi

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlAODXtt20w

your characters are flies

And yes, everyone who has asked for a hellrule is presumed to have toxxed.

Flesnolk
Apr 11, 2012

h

Entry withdrawn

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


week 454 catchup crit for Sitting Here

it's impossible for me to separate the art from the artist here, not that that is necessarily a bad thing, but you and your city are the obvious mental imagery for this story.

plotwise, a girl is tasked by this demiurge (i had to look up that word) with going out and finding something new, something the demiurge didn't create. the only problem is everything in the city was created by the demiurge, so there's nothing new there for her to find. no matter how much she wanders and investigates, no matter how weird or novel something seems, it's all the same. i suspect this is why she's sad. nothing feels new enough, and though she feels like it's her job to find it, she can't. she goes out and sees all these half-formed things that try to convince here they're new and cool but nope, they're all lies. so in the end, she finds a place where she doesn't see anything new, but she doesn't see anything, so she decides that she'll explore that kind of "nothingness" then when down there she determines that the only way to find something new is to create it herself, rather than waiting to stumble upon it.

anyway, i don't get all the metaphors here, but i assume it's mostly about you and your writing, and your frustrations and struggles with finding something new. you just keep going through your same half-formed ideas of ships that never leave and it makes you sad.

ok. so i wished instead of ocking here, you'd told me about what the girl creates. given complete freedom and unattachment from her previous city, what new thing does she make? is it another city? does she try to ape what she's known before? or does she create something else. is it also a place for ideas to live, or is it maybe some place for ideas to just visit like an idea amusement park? do other ideas come and visit, like is there intercity commerce now? is there a sad girl in her new creation that she tasks with going out and finding things? if so, does she also want the same things as the last demiurge, does she want new stuff brought to her by a sad girl? or is does she create something else to give different tasks to? does she even interact with her new creation or only watch it? do the ships come and go or are there even ships in her new creation? where does she go from here? unfortunately the story just kind of stops with a joke rather than explore even one idea, but there is a lot for you to unravel here that i would definitely read because i like to think about "what ifs" like what would i design if given unrestricted freedom? probably some real weird poo poo i guess.

one last thing, "between moonset and sunrise" i know that this is a fantastical setting but at least on earth the moon isn't only out at night and i dislike that kind of cliche that the moon would go down every night before the sun comes up, that only happens for a full moon. The time of day that the Moon rises or sets depends on its phase. I don't want to think of a world that doesn't have moon phases anyway the moon is weird. minor pedantic nitpick.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

KING OF BLOOD

Upon what meat doth this
our Caesar feed that he is grown so great?


In

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Submissions closed. The forums may be down slightly before the deadline hits, if so just post your story when they come back up again.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


feel free to email any stories that cannot be posted to crabrock@gmail.com if you want me to add them to the archive in the meantime. maybe it'll help with getting judgement faster.

Late crits from week 312.

Uranium Phoenix
Only the Coward Runs

all i could think about was Mulan. There are the bones of a good story here but it is so bleh, the action scenes are too long, the dialog to melodramatic, and the setting totally inconsequential and meaningless (and not really detailed at all except “shadow demons!”). I get really bored when i dunno why the bad guys are attacking and what they want, just “they want to kill us all because uh, that’s their nature” is always boring to me. And then when the main char fights them and what not i’m like i don’t really care about this because i don’t even really know what is at stake (i.e. what do the monsters get if they win? Just to kill another human? What are they even working for? Adding some specifics makes the danger feel more personal and real. Also if you really want to do a good monster then you have the reason they’re attacking be the people in the story’s fault, then if u really want to go after school special you have it be because of the poo poo the story is addressing like the shadow demons attack whenever somebody disrespects their dad lol
-----

Staggy
Family comes first

technically competent, easy reading, but a lot going on, a lot of scenes and time passed, some time jumping, makes a lot to take in and parse. I enjoyed it enough, which is probably why it got an HM, but i didn’t love it. It seems more like the prologue to a story than an actual story itself. I guess i just want to read hatchet again. I wonder if it’s still good

-----
Thranguy
Foundation

eh. I like the voice in this but not necessarily the character. It’s hard to put my finger on, but i like a lot of the words, though i feel a fight with a brother that murdered your pregnant girlfriend felt a little out of sorts and underwhelming? I’m not sure how something like that goes but the whole scene was the weakest point. Started and ended strong tho, IMO. it’s hard to do meaningful drama like that in the limits of thunderdome.

Anyway i feel like this paragraph is mostly u the writer being like “hm. I probably should consider these things and include them in the story: “I started asking questions I had forgotten the answers to all that time. Why did I have the gun there? Every other time it stayed locked up. We'd had vandalism at that site, but not more than I had on other sites. And why was the foundation ready to pour that next morning? What kind of excuses had I been making to delay it until then?”

-----
Apophenium
Filicide, Parricide

“but had fled at the last second” why? Give specifics.

The prose/descriptions in this are good, but you’re hitting the “she’s a scam artist” a little to on the nose, especially if they POV character is the child. Not everything has to be juvenile, but you’re basically slipping into 3rd omniscient when you’re describing her scam. Instead, try to frame it where the kid 100% believes her and we 100% do not, without forcing it.

I don’t get this ending. What was the strange smell in his nose? Why does he want to be the witch’s apprentice? Cause the scam is good money or because he believes it? (or because it’s true?) i don’t need to know the TRUTH, i just need to know what he thinks about it all. The interactions with the innkeeper is odd and unnecessary imo. Anyway, there’s a bunch of good words here and i enjoyed a lot of it, but too many unanswered questions and things i just don’t get, and an inconsistent voice.


-----
Tyrannosaurus
it's not cool to be scared

When i first started i was like “ugh so much cussing” but it fits the franticness of the piece. Still, i think it could be toned down slightly. “rock and grave” i think this should be gravel?

I really like the story between the details, that this kid’s dad is in jail, and this uncle seems like a bit of a fuckup, but he still ran to save his nephew first thing, and the kid still respects his uncle enough to listen. Makes me feel happy that they have each other. Except for the beating part. Maybe choose something less abusive and more just scary.you make the story between the story a little more explicit later, which makes it lose some of its appeal IMO

Last paragraph summarizing it is bleh. I’d like u to explore the part during the waiting, about how the uncle was there for him when his dad was not and now his dad will survive but his uncle will not, and all that. You just kinda say it in a paragraph and then wait a bunch then wrap up the story. Maybe he do some more remembering and panicking, there’s some real meat in that 18 minutes of waiting that you could flesh out and make this even better. Anyway it’s still p good

-----
Yoruichi
I was Born with Water in my Veins

“Tears fall at the memory.” lol lines like this seem so melodramatic. I wonder if you’d still write something like this today? I dont think you would.
About half way through this now and it’s a little overwrought but not seeing why it’s a loser yet.

I finished it and i don’t know why this was the loser. Tbqh i don’t remember judging this week and i don’t remember any of these stories beside tyran’s, and i don’t remember arguing for or against this. I feel like i would have argued against it cause UP’s is way worse, but obviously whatever was going on in my life at the time did not give me much invested in this week i went back to the thread and saw this exchange:

Yori: “So I am to take from this that head judge initially liked my plotless flimflam and then either Antivehicular or Crabrock talked them out of this, ROBBED me of my first win slapped the losertar on my rear end?”

Antivehicular: “I don't have crits written yet, but spoiler warning: it was sort of the opposite of this, to the point that I may be rage-writing a prompt about it for if I ever win again”

So yeah, i don’t know what the heck happened here. sorz.

-----
Sebmojo
Paper and Ink

Mmm, this story gets my vote for winner. Super well written (did u actually take time on it?!?) ands got the whole nine yards of character change (not really growth, per se, but i’ll take it), pyrotechnics, a dead lady, sexy affairs. Whew! I don’t really have any gripes about this one, if somebody put a gun up to my head and forced me, i’d say some of the passages are a little stilted and short and made me re-read for clarity, but also it’s thunderdome and you’re working in confines. The shortness tho makes the character seem a bit more “hard” and less how i read him as not weak, but more of an observer in his own life. The noir/western feel some of the writing has is a little out of place, but not much, and it didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

brotherly
Aug 20, 2014

DEHUMANIZE YOURSELF AND FACE TO BLOODSHED


The First Door
892 words

I watched from the doorway of my father’s study as he hunched forward over his desk with his hands between his knees. The linkpen stood tip-down on a blank page and scribbled as if guided by a ghost. Father stared at the words and I craned my neck, trying to read, terrified of any sound I might make—afraid Governess Mayna might catch me, or Michael might wake and scold me for snooping—but I couldn’t make out the letters. The room was too dim and Father’s bulk cut off my view.

The linkpen sped down the page and Father leaned closer, his face screwed up in terror and ecstasy. I didn’t know who moved the master pen to which father’s pen was connected, and I was afraid for him. Mother was taken by the wasting five years earlier, and Father was never the same after that. He had a respectable managerial position in the Verash company, but his work no longer brought him pleasure. I watched him flit through the quiet, creaking house, ignoring my brother and me like a ghoul.

The clock tolled midnight. Father looked up and I stepped back. He saw me in the shadows—and swung his arm, knocking over the linkpen. It sputtered and twitched like a dying rat spilling ink across the page as it tried to keep mimicking the movements of the primary.

“Jenine,” Father said, but I ran back to my room and slammed the door shut.

I heard no sound on the steps as I hid beneath my blankets and prayed.

#

Father returned home the next day for his afternoon meal. He dined on bread and soup as I hovered nearby.

“You were up late last night,” he said, without looking up.

“I heard sounds,” I said as explanation.

He seemed tired. His hair was thinning and his skin was sallow and splotchy. I wondered how my father had gotten so old and was afraid the withering had come for him, too.

“I have a meeting tonight after work,” he said. “If something happens—“ He stopped and closed his eyes. “Your brother will take care of things.”

I shook my head, confused. “What do you mean, Michael will take care of things? Where are you going?”

He looked up then and a lump caught in my throat. His expression was tortured, like a great depression rose through him.

“It will be okay, Jenine,” he said softly. “Now, go sit with Governess Mayna.”

That was my dismissal, but I had a thousand more questions. None of this made sense—the pen, the look on his face, the potential of him not coming home. We’d lose the house, lose our lives, lose everything—the Verash Company was not merciful.

But he was my father and I did as he said.

He returned to work, and I made my plan.

#

I reached father’s office ten minutes before closing. Verash was crowded and dirty, ashy smog in the air, the sound of clattering carriages and the stink of horse droppings and human sweat. I hid near the front door for an agonizingly long time until Father appeared and began walking toward the docks.

I followed at a distance. He was hurried and distracted. I wanted to call out and beg him to make me understand.

The docks crawled with people and activity. Father wove through the streets, past taverns and public houses, until he slipped down a side alley that dripped with hidden moisture. I stood at the alley mouth and watched.

At the end was a narrow door. Father stood before it and knocked.

The door opened a crack.

I felt a gust of sudden, freezing wind.

“Are you sure about this, Martens?” a man asked, his voice resonant and lightly accented. I glimpsed long limbs wrapped in black and the swirl of something white.

“I’m sure,” my father said. “But only, my family. They will be taken care of?”

“Of course,” the man said. “You will be returned to them healed, or they will be compensated for their loss.”

My heart juddered. Our loss? And healings? I wanted to scream for Father to get away, but he pushed the door open further—

Beyond, an impossibly tall and thin man stood framed by a frozen tundra of ice and heavy black pines dripping with snow.

Father stepped out into the snow and the door closed behind him.

I ran after him. Verash was quiet and dripping with heat, but the doorknob was icy to the touch, and that man in all black, his limbs too long—

I lowered my shoulder and pushed it open.

Cold wind seared against my skin. I stepped into an icy forest. The door banged shut as my thin shoes scraped through deep snow. The pines hung so heavy that the boughs nearly broke, and I turned back desperate to see Verash, warm and humid Verash—and found only a rough timber frame made by two wooden posts sunk into the frozen ground and a beam across them.

The door was gone. Runes were dug into the snow, but fat flakes fell in thick gusts, filling the lines, and I scrambled desperately to try and activate their magic—

The magic lay quiet and the wind cut bitterly through my thin summer dress, and I was very much alone.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

timeless Ned Flanders style


Spilled Milk
995/1000 Words

“You should pee in it,” said Jack, almost bursting with eager glee.

Kurt eyed the milk in the glass bottle. “But why?”

“How else are you gonna have some fun?”

Kurt looked to the left, down the road where he, Jack, and Pjotr had already made their thankless deliveries. Milk of unhappy cows, never drunk. The suburban houses stretched into infinity. To his right, a mirror image.

Pjotr glanced onto the list he always cradled. “It’s ten more houses.”

Jack spat onto the driveway. “It’s been ten more houses for at least a hundred deliveries.”

Pjotr shrugged.

Kurt sighed. “Yes, that is how it works here. We deliver with no end in sight, and if we’re good boys, we might get out of this.”

“Or we have to do this forever no matter how we behave.” Like the man himself, Pjotr’s voice was small, weak, hunched over.

“That’s what I’m saying!” Jack made a sweeping gesture. “This is hell. You don’t get out of hell. Let’s get crazy instead.”

“It’s not so bad,” Kurt said. “It’s almost the same job as when we lived.”

Pjotr scoffed.

“A job so tedious that you two snapped hard enough to end up here,” said Jack.

Kurt furrowed his brow. “We never talked about -”

“Kurt, my boy, I know a few things about how things work down here.” Lanky Jack suddenly seemed a little more grandiose to Kurt’s eyes. “But I can’t really tell you or else. You just gotta trust me.”

Pjotr shrugged. “Nothing to lose.”

Kurt hesitated. “Except for our chance at redemption.”

Jack cackled. “Okay, how about that. Let me show you what a little wrench in the gears can do.”

He gestured for the bottle, and Kurt gave it up. Jack unscrewed it, chugged half, then yanked down his pants and proceeded to enact his own suggestion.

With exaggerated care, he screwed the bottle closed again, put the vile thing down on the porch, did a sharp about-turn, and goose-stepped back towards their milk van. The others followed meekly. It was Kurt’s turn behind the wheel.

“What’s next on the list?”, Jack asked with a grin so broad it seemed to split his face in half.

“Five bottles to number…” Pjotr squinted. “Eleven digits, and I think it ends with an eight.”

Of course, hell’s delivery list was an almost unreadable scrawl.

Kurt braked hard, causing the infinite bottles in the back to scream in clattering protest. “Almost missed it.”

“And wouldn’t that be a shame.” Jack got out alone. “Watch this.”

He proceeded to take out five bottles and pitch them with pure joy against the walls of house number 47123964258. White liquid ran down white-washed walls.

“Next time, we aim for the windows. Come on, what’s next?”

Crazy as Jack might be, it was hard for Kurt to not get swept up in his tornado of energy. After the windows, Jack used milk to repaint terracotta walls. Then he left glass shards in a mailbox. Scratched obscene pictures into plaster with shattered bottles. And whatever else struck Jack’s fancy. Along with his deeds, Kurt’s anxiety escalated. Pjotr, however, seemed to get into it. And eventually offered to help, with the tiniest of smiles.

Was Kurt, quietly driving, not doing enough to stop the others? An accomplice to their crimes? Were they dooming his chances of getting out of this infinite delivery run? His gaze drifted down the endless rows of houses in front of him - and stopped.

For the first time in an eternity, the street made a turn.

When the others entered the cab, they found Kurt frozen. Pjotr looked at him askance, then saw what Kurt was staring at and joined his rigor.

Jack painfully shoulder-slapped them. “Toldya I knew what I was doing! Let’s check it out!”

Ignoring the list, Kurt floored it. Was this is? The path to heaven, or at least purgatory, just around the corner? Was Jack a messenger from the angels?

They turned the corner.

Kurt felt his foot ease off the gas. Pjotr seemed to inflate in size. Before them, another street, endless rows of houses. But these weren’t suburban - they were luxurious. Villas. Designer houses. Fountains, columns, frescoes.

Jack’s grin burned so bright that Kurt didn’t even have to look. “It worked,” Kurt said in reverence.

“So now we have to endlessly deliver milk to nicer looking houses.” Pjotr had already deflated again.

Jack’s voice overflowed with contempt. “But are you gonna do anything about it?”

So this is what a little chaos can do, Kurt thought. He nodded gravely.

“Give me the list,” he ordered Pjotr, who silently complied.

Kurt got out of the van. He took a bottle and poured it out. Opened the gas tank, put a tube in, sucked on it until the gasoline flowed, and filled the bottle with it. He jammed the list into its neck.

“Done this before?” Jack’s eyebrows were arched mockingly.

Kurt held out his hand. “Lighter.”

Of course, Jack had one to give. The list burned. The bottle flew. A mansion ignited. The flames danced in Kurt’s eyes.

Suddenly, a heavy fist landed in his kidneys.

Before Kurt had a chance to yell, Jack’s leg impacted the back of his knees, and he collapsed.

“You dumb bitch.” Jack kicked the fallen Kurt. “Pjotr was exactly right. What good will nicer facades do you? Who do you think you’re hurting with this tantrum? You haven’t learned a thing.”

Through tears of pain, Kurt could only sputter. “But you did -”

“Sow a little chaos? It’s tempting to let loose, eh?” Jack spat in Kurt’s face. “Did you really think I work for people who want you to get out?”

A body impacted the ground. The van had vanished around Pjotr. He just kept lying there unmoving.

Jack threw two heavy trays filled with bottles onto the floor.

“Have fun delivering on foot from now on, assholes.”

And the weeping and the frozen man were left alone.





Hellrule: Milkman's version of hell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBEEtEZUF34

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018


Kartul, Javier and Helen
295 Words
Flashrule: None of your characters can move.

The mummy dated to at least 2000BC. Cold and dry conditions, normal for the Teneas mountains, preserved him. His resting place was a shelf, deep in a hand hewn tomb of many antechambers. Weapons, armour and regalia filled each chamber. Lavish engravings sprawled across the entire tunnel network. These engravings named the man: Kartul. A final statement hung above Kartul’s resting place; it said, “I have my regrets.”

No one else rested in Kartul’s tomb. Only Kartul and a few animals lay there (including an ox called ‘faithful’). Archaeologists puzzled over this for some time: These tombs are usually a family affair, or something a whole community takes advantage of. Many engravings had been chiseled away, replaced with new words. The walls insisted that his property be left to his cousin, “as I have no wife, and I have no children.”

He was remarkably intact: all of his limbs were connected, his skin was unbroken (though dry and shriveled). He had hair and teeth. They took one tooth to examine its DNA. It matched him with the remains of a man from Hawk Cave.

Those remains also dated to at least 2000BC, and were preserved in the cold and dry of the Teneas mountains. Their resting place was the floor of a natural cave. It was unmarked. Without their names, the archaeologists gave each mummy an alias. The match was a man they called Javier. He was Kartul’s son.

They discovered Javier alongside two cats. He was clutching a fishing net, and laid at the feet of his mother, who the archaeologists called Helen. Helen’s remains were arm in arm with another woman's. She was found at the head of Hawk Cave, and her entire community was found in Hawk Cave with her.

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Soyuz
999 words

The young man gripped his cap in his hand, halfway between embarrassment and terror.

“Ex-excuse me but are you the accordion maker?” he mumbled as he hovered beside a small table in a shadowed corner of the café.

With their own hushed conversation interrupted, the two men seated at the table paused and looked up at the new arrival. One was middle aged with a crooked nose, a heavyset Cossack with the look of a prize-brawler that had let himself go to fat. The other was older—a gaunt man with thinning hair and an epic beard that threatened to dip into a teacup perching precariously on the table’s edge. The stoneware had been displaced by an open notebook, inkwell, and pen. Both men regarded the newcomer for a moment before the older man cleared his throat.

“I only supply the instrument,” he said with unconcealed annoyance as he fished a steel pocket watch from his coat and inspected it, “it’s up to the musician to play the tune.”

The youth’s mouth opened and closed a few times on the verge of reply, before he managed to stammer out, “I-I have a fine tune, and um…oh! I have a fine tune and need only the keys on which to play.”

Regarding the newcomer with a heavy-lidded gaze that threatened to stretch on for days, the old man finally drummed his fingers on the tabletop and nodded curtly. “Very well then,” he said before addressing his companion, “Comrade, would you be kind enough to visit the samovar and refresh our cups while I speak with our new friend?”

Without a word the Cossack stood and collected both teacups before leaving the table. The old man waved to the vacated chair and youth sat down, noticing that the seat was uncomfortably warm. He gripped his cap tighter to stop his hands from shaking.

“My name is Seymo…” he began, only to be silenced by a bony finger jabbed into his chest.

“No names! This is the first rule and remember it well.” The old man gazed directly into his eyes until the youth swallowed hard and nodded. Then with gnarled hands, he leafed through the notebook before finding the entry he sought. “For now, you shall simply be Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich. Do you know where that is?”

“The boulevard that runs past the kreml?” Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich wrung his cap, feeling the bare threads around the moth holes.

“Yes. You may call me Ulitsa Potempkin for now. When the time comes that is street where I can be found. And now I believe you know where you will be found as well.”

The struggle to comprehend was written on Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich’s face, and the young man looked from the old man to the notebook, to the back of the Cossack at the samovar across the café’s dirty wooden floor.

“Look at me, Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich.” Ulitsa Potempkin closed the notebook gently. “You knew the phrases to speak to me, but you have arrived half an hour before the time on the note. Can you read, comrade?”

“N-not well, sir. A friend helped me memorize the words and I rushed here to speak them before I forgot.”

“So I see. Hmm. But can you tell the time, comrade? Show me where the hands will point when it is noon.” Ulitsa Potempkin withdrew his steel pocket watch once more and opened the case, and the youth tapped the embossed ‘XII’ numerals.

“Both hands point here.”

“Just so. Good. Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich, the second rule is that our actions must happen precisely at the right time.” Ulitsa Potempkin picked up a small cake and took a bite, dropping crumbs into his beard. With his mouth half full, he continued. “Tomorrow, you must be near the kreml at noon. When the hour strikes, you and the others—for there are many Prospekt Vasili Ivanoviches—will rush to seize the old fort. To control the Kreml is to control the heart of the city.”

“But what about the cadets there? They have rifles and bayonets! And a cannon!”

With a small wave of his hand to the Cossack, Ulitsa Potempkin said, “Do you see that man? He is Ulitsa Zavod. Fifteen minutes before noon he will assault the arsenal on Ulitsa Zavod, believing himself to be part of our main attack. His sacrifice will draw the cadets away from the barracks at the kreml. You and your comrades will simply rush and occupy the fort while they are distracted.”

“Alone?! He’ll be killed!” Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich exclaimed in a loud whisper, and Ulitsa Potempkin only shrugged.

“Such is the price of progress. Besides, he is a Cossack. In time he will betray us. Better he dies a hero of the revolution than live to become a traitor. Does this give you cold feet?” The old man fixed the youth in a judgmental stare.

“N-no, comrade.”

Ulitsa Potempkin gave the young man a warm, avuncular smile. “Very good. Young men like you will lead us into the future. And now I have an important job for you—under the table is a bag. In the bag is a stick of dynamite. When the time comes, you will lead the charge. Breech the kreml gate and let the others flow into the fort. Do you understand?”

Clutching the bag in one hand and his threadbare cap in the other, Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich nodded with eyes filled with fear and hope.

Ulitsa Zavod returned with the tea, and the youth stood up to leave. With a twinkle in his eye, the old man reached over to slip one of the small teacakes into Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich’s bag and wished him luck as he left.

Once he was away, the Cossack sat down again. “We are agreed? We meet on Ulitsa Zahod just before noon?”

“Indeed, comrade. We wait for ten minutes after we hear the explosion, then take our men to seize the arsenal. I’ll follow right behind.”

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

KING OF BLOOD

Upon what meat doth this
our Caesar feed that he is grown so great?


capital t truth
999 words

Gorgeous, my ex-boyfriend, who has broken into my apartment, has a cigarette in one hand and a Saturday night special in the other and he uses both to dramatically emphasize various points as he speaks. I think he’s on a meth bender.

“Have you ever thought,” he asks, “that perhaps this quest of yours for artistic authenticity is both inherently flawed and doomed for failure? That the very act of attempting to transpose real life onto a canvas is loving egotistical at best but, most likely, just loving bananas?

“Yeah,” I say. “That is a significant part of my thesis. How can art capture reality?”

“loving exactly,” he says. “loving exactly.” He takes a drag. “The best you can shoot for is… uh… loving…” He taps the gun against his forehead.

“Emotional resonance?”

“Exactly,” he says. “I’m going to help you, though. Your new poo poo sucks. A homeless man holding a cardboard sign? An exhausted night clerk? I look at your paintings and I want to blow my loving brains out.” He grins and puts the pistol to his temple. “Which on the loving table to-night, bay-bee! Whoo! Who loving knows?

“Do it,” I say. “And- and I’ll paint it.”

He takes a deep breath and his eyes flutter. He lowers the gun and walks over to my current boyfriend, Hampton. Before I arrived, Gorgeous duct taped Hampton’s hands together, gagged him, blindfolded him, made him stand on a wobbly stool, and tossed a noose around his neck. He puts the gun against Hampton’s head. “Everything’s on the table tonight.”

“Hammy,” I say. “It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.”

Hampton’s response is muffled. Gorgeous moves the gun to Hampton’s lips.

“Shh shh shh shh,” Gorgeous says. He looks at me. “This guy is a loving infection, you know that right? We live in an artificial world, the most fraudulent fakery in the history of loving mankind, yet still Truth is the natural state we all instinctively strive to return to, that we loving long for. Un-Truth, a disease. One that spreads. Takes over. Uncontrollably, if unchecked. How can you achieve authenticity in your work when you’re taking a goddamn loving fake-rear end poser into your bed?”

I have to admit Gorgeous has a point. Hampton has the tattoos, the haircut, the clothing, the artistic aesthetic that I’m attracted to without any of the wild druggie unpredictability.

“Culturally appropriative Japanese sleeves?” Gorgeous asks. “Coordinates over the heart? ‘REBL LIFE’ knuckle tats? I mean, seriously, what the gently caress? What are you, man?”

“He’s a corporate banker,” I say.

Gorgeous’s jaw drops. Then he smiles. “Oh, you know, I do believe there are benefits to the literal application of the phrase ‘eat the rich’…” He leans in close and licks Hamton’s cheek. “Don’t wiggle too much,” he says. “You’ll tip the stool and then it’s just you and the noose.”

“Please,” I say. “What the hell do you want?”

“Same thing I’ve always wanted, baby! I want to elevate you! I want to see you reach your artistic capabilities! I want you to be loving incredible! And if the pursuit of Truth in art is an inherent impossibility and the very loving best we can do is emotional resonance, well… nothing creates emotional resonance like trauma. Like back when I cut my wrists.” He looks at Hampton. “Did you know she didn’t call an ambulance for two loving hours?”

Gorgeous was in the bathtub. His blood was so richly vibrant against the stained yellow porcelain. Even in the blinking, inconsistent light our landlord never fixed. And I painted him. I told everyone it was a mental image I couldn’t escape but, truthfully, I did it right then and there. I couldn’t control myself. And I was rewarded with my own showcase.

“So,” Gorgeous says, taking another drag. “You’re going to paint your loving boyfriend, alright? But the trick is, you don’t know what’s going to happen loving next. I might kick the stool. I might shoot him. I might shoot myself. poo poo, I might shoot you, baby!”

“Maybe even before I finish.”

Now you loving get it,” he says with a wild smile. “Everything is on the loving table, baby! Everything! This is loving electric, right?”

“Electric,” I repeat. “Yeah.”

He walks behind me and presses the cold metal to the back of my neck. I pick up a brush. My hands are surprisingly steady.

I paint.

My strokes are aggressive. Subconscious. No deliberation. No thinking. No psyche whispering doubt in my ear. Just Gorgeous whispering, “Yes, yes, yes.” My colors become bold. Almost psychedelic. Hampton’s tattoos vibrantly leaping out of the canvas. Realism fading into an esoteric smorgasbord of expressionism, post-impressionism, surrealism, it’s loving beautiful. Gorgeous puts a cigarette to my lips and I inhale deeply and feel the rush of nicotine as I work. The paint drips and smears. And as the room spins, I finish.

He moves the gun to my spine.

“Stand,” he says. “We’re going outside.”

“I’ll be back, Hammy,” I say. “I promise. Just- just don’t move too much.”

Hamptons response is unintelligible.

Out on the stoop, Gorgeous kisses the top of my head. “You’re welcome, baby. And, for the record, I wasn’t going to kill anyone. I mean, myself, maybe, but not today. Durr.

“gently caress you!” I say. “What the gently caress is wrong with you?”

“I am helping,” he says. “You need Truth. loving Truth. Capital T Truth. And if I have to be your goddamn angelic messenger then so loving be it! Your work has been poo poo!”

“I’m calling the cops.”

“I know,” he says. “But are you going to tell them that the gun was loaded with blanks?” He grins and pops out a bullet. He puts it in my hand. “And what does that mean for emotional resonance? Will the painting evoke the same response when people are whispering that maybe, maybe you orchestrated this whole thing as some kind of sick loving stunt?”

“gently caress you.”

“Just name the time and place, baby.”

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012



The Land Grows Weary Of Its Own
996 words

Their father had died suddenly (a stroke, immediate) and so it was that the three siblings were finally together again in the house they’d grown up in, amid a sea of strangers.

The corpse lay in a casket, peaceful, surrounded by photographs: a young boy in foreign clothes, playing in a little garden, impossibly blond hair; a young man, proud, in a military uniform. And then a gap: the remaining photographs in this country, where he escaped as a refugee, a flintiness to his expression that had been all the three children had ever known. A man, bearded and broad-shouldered, married, in love. A daughter, Anna, and then a second, Maria. And then, much later, the baby Mikhail, the miracle, the favorite.

Anna, the eldest, sat on the couch in the living room with their mother and held a box of tissues. A procession of mourners filed past and offered their sympathies. They were almost all from the old country: they spoke in low tones as though fearful of being overheard, and their hands trembled as they reached out to grasp Anna’s forearm and whispered to her of the loss their little community had suffered. Anna had been the first of the children their mother had called, and she’d come immediately.

None of them had been sure that Maria would come back, but she showed up on the morning of the wake in her dented car. Maria, the one who’d gotten farthest away, who only ever talked to Mikey with any regularity. A drunk, with bad luck in love; their mother had been relieved that she had not brought a boyfriend with her. She had only glanced into the casket, as though to confirm that their father really was dead, before filling a clear plastic cup with red wine to the brim and wandering out into the yard to smoke.

And little Mikey, named for his father, the sensitive boy who wanted to be an artist and kept little notebooks, who was adored by everyone but most of all by Anna and Maria. He pouted bravely like a puppy, and refused to cry because their father wouldn’t have approved. He was showered with kisses on his cheeks by old women who declared him the spitting image of his father. Perhaps: Mikey was nineteen, but looked younger; he had none of the hardness that had already crept into their father’s features by this age.

The wake gradually dissipated into the evening air, and the men from the crematorium came to retrieve the casket. The next day, they sat with the executor: their father’s ashes were to be scattered in the village he’d fled so many years ago, on the soil of his homeland.

And so, a month later: the three siblings found themselves, at the end of a long series of flights and a harrowing drive in a rental car, in the village that their father had grown up in.

#

The village was scarred by war, and the guts of buildings that had been bombed still laid spilled in the streets. There were people living here, but they were wary of the newcomers. Mikey had hoped to finally hear the real story of how their grandparents had died, but in the end they were lucky merely to get directions to what remained of the house.

It stood in a part of town that had seen fighting, a ruin of a home with gouged windows and a crumpled roof, but Anna was certain she recognized it from the photos. The three of them stood outside, uncertain. It was Maria who crossed the threshold first.

They found the room that had been his. A small room for a boy, the floor scattered with shards of glass and crumpled wood, the bed rusted and broken. On the wall, a brittle yellowed poster of a scowling boxer. None of them said a word, as though they trod on sacred ground.

Maria traced the edge of the door jamb with her finger, up and down, and then she sobbed, and crouched down and hugged her knees, and rocked back and forth. Anna squatted beside her, and placed a hand between her shoulder blades. “Let it out, Maria,” she said.

“There’s no bolt on his door,” said Maria. “I thought maybe… if his father had done the same to him…”

Anna stiffened quickly. “Come now, no need to open old scars.”

“What are you talking about, Maria?” asked Mikey, toying with the curling edges of the poster of the boxer. “What’s wrong?”

After a pause, Maria said: “Father used to come into my room. At night.”

“Maria!” said Anna sharply. “He shouldn’t know!”

But it was too late, and the gears turned behind Mikey’s eyes.

Maria turned icily to Anna. “But you knew.”

“Of course I knew,” said Anna, exhausted. “You weren’t the only one. It was me who showed you how to put the bolt on your door, remember?”

“No,” said Maria, quietly. “There’s a lot I don’t remember.”

“How many times?” asked Mikey. There was a cold anger wrapped around his features, a tight frozen fury, the way their father would get. “How often?”

Maria smiled sadly at Mikey and shook her head softly. She stood up, pressed her fingers to her eyes, and looked up at the ceiling. “I’m going to go wait in the car.”

“gently caress,” said Mikey, who never swore. “gently caress.”

“Let’s just do what we came here to do,” said Anna, but Mikey didn’t hear her. He tore the poster of the boxer away from the wall and threw it to the ground, and stormed out without a word.

Anna, left alone in the ruins of her grandparents’ home, retrieved the little box from her backpack. She stepped through the shattered kitchen into the overgrown yard, surrounded by crumbling stone walls.

She dumped the little pile of ashes out onto the ground, and recited the little prayer she’d memorized for the occasion to no-one but the wind.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012



Untitled (Blue and White)
995 words

After a long morning of evading the police, Steve entered the boss's warehouse in a foul mood. He found the cause of his problems at the center of a labyrinth of piled boxes: a slim white man known as, appropriately, Mr. White. Without the balaclava, Steve could see that his face was extremely punchable. He resisted the urge, if only because the boss wouldn't like it.

Mr. White smiled as he approached. "Hey Steve-o, glad to see you made it past the cops."

"No thanks to you, man," Steve growled. "Where's the boss?"

"On a call." Mr. White nodded towards the back room. "I know last night didn't go exactly right. When the alarm goes it's every man for himself, yeah?"

Steve had worked with cocky bastards like him before (usually car thieves), but they had the skills to back up their attitude.

"Yeah, but you're supposed to be good,” he said. “Someone who'd find a sensor between the frame and the painting."

Mr. White shrugged unapologetically. "You're the security guard and you didn't know. Plus, standards have changed since I retired. I only got back in the game for the Rothko, you know."

An excuse for everything. "Sure, man." Steve rolled his eyes, which Mr. White misinterpreted.

"I know the Rothko looks simple, 'my kid could paint that,' right? But this poo poo goes for millions. He's quite famous as one of the best artists of–"

"–abstract expressionism," said Steve. Mr. White looked surprised, so he added, "Not much to do on the night shift besides read plaques."

"Ah, of course." Steve was already tired of him, but Mr. White carried on. "Look, thanks for leading me right to it. That museum is a maze. Shame we couldn't nab more, but this should still be a nice chunk of change." He patted the tube resting on the table between them.

Steve nearly retorted that they could've gotten more if Mr. White had done his loving job when the boss stomped out from behind a wall of boxes.

"You better not have touched anything," the boss said. Steve had been the inside man for him on several previous jobs: a mechanic, a worker at a chemical warehouse, and so on. Art was a new field for them both.

"Nope, just chatting," Mr. White said.

"Well, stop it. You guys hosed up the exit, but you got the paintings, yeah?"

"Just the Rothko," Mr. White said shamelessly.

The boss grumbled. Steve held his breath as he unpacked the painting and squinted at it. "I don't recognize this one from the catalog," the boss said. "Steve, you sure this is the right one? I know all these colored ones look the same. Uh, no offense."

Steve exhaled and nodded. "That's the one."

The boss sighed and looked at the painting again. "Not sure I'll be able to sell it quick. You boys are gonna have to wait on your payment."

Steve started to protest; without payment, what was the point? However, Mr. White's argument was more effective. Holding a pistol, he put his hands on the table and stared the boss in the face. "I can just take it back if you don't want it," he drawled.

The boss straightened up, revealing a gun of his own. “I’ll pay you if and when I drat well please. And I’m not feeling very generous with an unknown painting and a botched job.”

The two men glared at each other. Steve shrank back; his day had been bad enough without getting shot by a white man. But when neither man showed signs of relenting, he ventured, “Even if it is an unknown painting, it’s still a Rothko, right? Surely that’s good enough for at least a down payment?”

“Normally yes, you're a good lad, Steve,” the boss said without taking his eyes off of Mr. White. “But this washed-up thief has been very disrespectful.”

"How about I apologize nicely?" said Mr. White, holstering his gun under his suit jacket. "I'm sorry, I don't react to not being paid well."

"And I don't react to threats well. I'll give you a partial payment, and you owe me another job," said the boss.

"Sounds good, I've got the bug again. Try for a Van Gogh next time, partner?" Mr. White winked at Steve.

"I need a vacation after all this," said Steve.

The boss barked a laugh and handed Steve a parcel of cash. "Get out of here, enjoy yourself."

#

The boss was much less friendly when he called Steve the next morning. News of the robbery had hit the papers: "Fake Rothko stolen from exhibition of countertop art. A case of mistaken identity?" Steve picked up, sipping a mimosa in the airport lounge.

"What the gently caress, Steve?" the boss said as a greeting. "You led him to the wrong loving painting, you motherfucker!"

"How do you know it's not Mr. White's fault?"

"Don't play dumb. That guy just laughed and told me to contact him if I wanted a real Rothko," the boss fumed. "It was your job to scout the museum."

"I did, the real Rothko is on the third floor." Steve hesitated, then continued. Not like he was planning to go back. "But I've got a secret to share, boss. All those nights in the museum, just me and the art, I started to get it, you know? Get why people spend a stupid amount of money for them. The art, the good stuff, it speaks to you, man. Unlocks emotions, thoughts, you didn't know you had in you. So yeah, I pointed him to the fake one. The real one deserves to be seen."

The boss had a lot of words to say about that, most threatening his life. Steve hung up; the PA system had just announced that first class for the flight to Paris was now boarding. He smiled as he picked up his bag, looking forward to appreciating some art in the light of day.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Late Autumn on a Rocky Island
980 words
U2 flashrule: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqdJ6CsXt4Y
Hellrule: your characters are all naked and extremely cold but have hella hair

Ruairi feels the shipwreck in his whiskers: faint ripples, but enough for him to know some small vessel has foundered on the rocks. He abandons his deep hunting grounds, ascends through a field of wooden flotsam, and beaches himself on shore. Ruairi's sea-eyes can make out only a dark lump in the middle of the wreckage; when he sloughs his skin and stands up to look again, his land-eyes see finer details, colors and contours. A survivor.

Ruairi slings his skin over his shoulder and heads towards the survivor, who doesn't stir save for the heaving of its chest. It's mostly concealed by long tangled hair, soaked black by seawater. Ruairi can make out an unclothed arm curled against the chest, and half of the face -- a girl, or a very young woman. The wreckage of her boat bears familiar heraldry.

The princess has arrived. Ruairi always knew she would.

She must be freezing. The autumn winds are biting at Ruairi, skinless and naked, and it can only be worse for her, with all that sodden hair. He kneels down to touch her shoulder, but before he can speak, she clambers to her feet. There is the fire of fear in her eyes, and her voice is hoarse.

"Are you my uncle?"

"If you are the Princess of the Copper Shore," he says, "then I suppose I am." His throat feels salt-crusted; he has been down too long, and in this form too little. "Let's go inside. You'll freeze here."

Ruairi starts walking inland, towards the scrub-trees and his cottage, and the Princess follow him. They take perhaps three steps before she speaks again. "My name is Annefriede," she says. "The kingdom's burning. Mother told me about the stars to follow..."

Ruairi listens, absent-mindedly, but his mind is years away. His sister had beached herself on a cold autumn night like this one, but there had been no boat: just Murdag, bloody-lipped, her skin in rags around her shoulders. They had walked the same path, and she had been silent all the way home.

***

In the cottage, Ruairi checks his empty pantry and finds a dusty canister of tea. "I'll make us a drink," he says to the Princess, huddled in a wooden kitchen chair. "Do you like tea?"

"I like anything hot," Annefriede replies. "Everything hot. Uncle, does Mother live here now with you?"

Ruairi starts the water boiling; it gives him time to choose his words. "She went to sea. Annefriede, how much did she tell you about us?"

"She told me about the cities under the sea." Annefriede stares at the battered surface of Ruairi's table, smoothing a dripping hunk of hair away from her face. "She said I might see them one day, if the winds blew fair. She said... before she left, she said you'd take care of me, if I needed it. Can you show me how to follow her? How do I grow a sealskin?"

In that moment, Ruairi hates his sister: Murdag the bravest all through their puphood, Murdag who'd volunteered as hostage-queen with a smile, Murdag who'd washed up on the beach scarred and silent. She'd always loved telling stories, especially when she was terrified. What had she told this wild-haired child? "Annefriede," Ruairi says, carefully pronouncing the odd inland syllables. "I'm sorry, but she wasn't your mother, not by blood. The lines of sea and land can't mix."

Annefriede let her head slump, until it rested on the table; her eyes droop half-lidded, but her voice is still sharp. "I don't understand. Why did she lie? Was it Father's idea?"

"She said it was," says Ruairi; he pours out the boiling water and sets leaves to steeping while he tries to recall the last conversation with his sister. Had she said that it had been her responsibility, as queen, to rear a princess? That it was a way to keep them both occupied while the king busied himself with his mistresses? There's no kindness there for him to convey, he knew, so he leaves it be. "All I know is that she loved you. She'd have taken you with her, if she could. She had to leave so quickly."

"Because Father was going to kill her. I know that." Annefriede picks her head up, slowly, and props it on one shaky arm. "But... I always thought I could follow her. What do I do now?"

"She didn't lie when she said you'd be cared for here. There's not much, but I can fish, and there are a few merchant ships who visit these islands. We can book you passage anywhere. If you have other family..."

"What other family would I have? It's just me now. It was always just me and Mother."

"I'm sorry. I don't know what's next, Annefriede. But you're safe here."

Ruairi looks at the tea, half-steeped, and sets one cup down in front of Annefriede anyway. She slurps it down, and as she does, Ruairi retreats to his bedroom. He retrieves Murdag's skin, carefully patched, from his cedar chest and carries it reverently back to the kitchen.

"Put this on," he says. "She'd want you to have it."

Annefriede looks up, takes the skin, and looks over it with growing eyes. "Then she's dead?"

"The sea called her, the night she came home, and she answered. I did what I could to repair it after she was gone. Some stories say skins can take new wearers, and if not... it's still yours."

Annefriede stands shakily and pulls Murdag's skin over her shoulders. There's no sign of a change -- she's just a shivering girl in a ragged sealskin cloak -- but her posture straightens. There is something of Murdag in her, Ruairi thinks, some terrible foolish fire.

"It's warm," says Annefriede, huddling in the skin of the woman who should have been her mother. "It's so warm."

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


I'm gonna close this off at midnight nz time, which amounts to a few more hours.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME


afaik all these sentences are 40 words each. I confirmed with Seb that hyphenated compound adjectives are one word. The archive count will most certainly be very off due to formatting and such.

Treehouse Herons
1000 words

Two decades later, the treehouse is still coated in trace amounts of Sean and Damon: on the walls, faded cutouts from swim magazines and crudely-drawn penises; in the air, a lingering odor of body odor, pot, and something vaguely assy. It seems to Sean that he and Damon were in the last wave of teenagers who did things like build treehouses for the purpose of clandestine sex and cannabis use, before everything went to kratom and TikTok and insular memes.

Speaking of Damon: he’s looking at Sean very seriously, and Sean snorts because it’s the same serious face Damon has made since he was an adolescent, a moody teen’s expression on the bone structure of a forty-three year old man. His lips pursed and puckered, the skin of his brow accordioned up between his furrowed eyebrows, self-conscious storminess in his dark brown eyes -- this is a look that would have made seventeen year old Sean’s heart tapdance behind his sternum.

When Damon continues to glower, Sean says, “Man, can we not do the thing where you act all coy and refuse to tell me why you called me here because you have it in your head that I should know already?”

Damon deflates a little, and it’s pretty clear that he wants to act out some arcane melodramatic old friend ritual, but this isn’t the long, lazy summer of 1995; Sean is taking an extended lunch break for this nostalgic interlude. He can feel obligations piling up in his email inbox, a game of tetris with no one at the controls, and, oh, isn’t this disrespect for his time central to why he and Damon drifted apart in the first place?

“Right, right, sorry, if I wanted the full friendship package deal I should have booked an appointment further in advance,” Damon says, then rushes to add, before Sean can retort: “I am here to negotiate the terms of a detent.”

Sean, on the drive over, was preparing himself for any number of things -- chiefly among them, the hopeful possibility that Damon might apologize for all the times he was a self-centered time vampire -- but now he can only say, “What?”

“I try not to give too many shits about what you get up to these days,” Damon says, “but I couldn’t stop myself from noticing you also RSVPed to Edward’s party, and I want to establish rules of engagement.”

Oh, dammit, Sean thinks, because he absolutely RSVPed to hot-new-guy-in-town Edward’s shindig with the intention of confirming his romantic preferences and, if invited, relentlessly flirting with him, but it seems Damon is in possession of a similar plan of action. Southbend is a small town not noted for having a robust gay population; as far as Sean knows, he and Damon are the town’s gay population, so the last thing he wants to do is alienate Edward with their bickering.

“We don’t know he likes men,” Sean says, though he’s a thousand percent sure Edward does; he’s got the energy of an aging millennial who just realized it’s 2021, which, for all its flaws, is an awesomely, triumphantly gay year.

Damon gives Sean another, more legible look: I know that you know that I know that you know the new guy is gay as the day is long, don’t try to make this about that, says Damon’s incredulously furrowed brow.

“Fine, I won’t flirt with him at the party,” Sean says, “but I do reserve the right to be freakishly charming and if he decides I warrant further investigation I’ll ask you to kindly not be an rear end in a top hat about it.”

“I won’t take up anymore of your day,” Damon says as he stands halfway up, minding the low ceiling, and crouch-walks over to the trapdoor, adding before he goes: “but it’s nice to see you, whatever happens at Edward’s party.

.

Edward, as it turns out, lives in an ultra-modern woodland-chic A-frame house, favors understatedly bold party motifs, and has a fantastically kind boyfriend who is both built like and employed as a firefighter; Sean thinks he’s actually going to die.

He settles for loitering on the back deck with the smokers instead; after two drinks he even bums a cigarette off a random partygoer, feeling very novelistic and angsty as he observes himself moodily smoking, brooding on an unrequited crush. Once it might’ve been Damon that Sean was brooding about; for all that he dominated Sean’s time when they were younger, Damon never dominated it in the right way, the way Sean wanted him to: sweet, exploratory, experimental, and intimate. gently caress, but this has to be the alcohol talking now, Sean chides himself, because he hasn’t thought about Damon in a romantic way in years, has spent most of his adult life building up a healthy layer of protective resentment.

“Damon, over here, I’ve spotted your Sean,” calls Edward, who is presently framed in the sliding glass door; behind him is a dim mass of swaying, grinding bodies, and a sheepish-looking Damon nursing a cocktail as red as his face. “Damon was worrying that you’d sulked off to have a terrible time, and I would be remiss if I let that happen under my roof, so I thought we’d us three have a little chat and sort you two out.”

“I don’t think there’s an ‘us two’ to ‘sort out,’” Sean says, though now that the possibility is on the table, he feels within himself an achingly-in-love young man who wishes someone had sorted him and Damon out years ago.

Edward laughs--gentle, not derisive--and says, “Apparently, no one bothered to tell you braingeniuses that you’ve been dancing around each other like big horny herons for years, and the entire town has been waiting for you to sort ‘you two’ out.”

Sean meets Damon’s eyes, sees on Damon’s face a look so legible it may as well be a kiss: let’s stop talking around this and talk about it, for once, that face says; Sean smiles and offers Damon his cigarette.

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.


Chicken Bandit
994 Words


“Right. Yes. That’s what I said. No, the other thing. Yeah, you got it. You’re an idiot, but you got it. Alright I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Chief McMaster slammed the phone on the receiver. He already had a cigarette halfway out of the carton before the last word left his mouth. The man looked like a Christmas ham stuffed inside a collared shirt and suspenders.

McMaster glanced up at the detectives sitting across from him as he flipped open his lighter and fixed himself another smoke.

“Hope you boys didn’t want anything from Subway,” he said.

Detectives Carlisle and Gordon shook their heads in unison. Carlisle was still working his way through a bag of Chex Mix, crunching loudly.

“Good. Carlisle, get Gordon caught up on the Van Poole case while I’m out. When I come back, I want leads. Show this kid how we get things done around here.”

“You got it, chief,” Carlisle pulled on his fedora and stood up. Gordon quickly followed suit, nearly knocking his chair over in his eagerness.

“We won’t let you down sir,” Gordon nodded emphatically.

The chief made a sound that was part garbage disposal, part wheeze. “Go get ’em, tiger.”

Carlisle grabbed a handful of fun-size Snickers from the reception desk on his way out.


—-

“Is it true?” Gordon piped up after over half an hour of pouring over crime scene photos. “That you solved the Moople murder in 12 minutes?”

Carlisle hadn’t said a word since they left the Chief’s office; his mouth was either full of Snickers or Pringles, and Gordon had no idea where either were coming from. Now they stood in a windowless room down in the basement, absorbing all the grisly details of their latest case: a body, the third one that month, found in a dumpster.

“Yes, now focus. What have we got here?” Carlisle said quickly as he shoved another stack of chips in his mouth.

“Our vic was covered in Cheeto dust,” Gordon read allowed as he leafed through the mountain of papers in front of him. “And dumped behind a bakery. Coroner’s report says he had tiny chocolate paw prints all over him.”

Gordon looked up. “What do you make of it all, Carlisle?”

Carlisle turned to look at the board they’d pieced together. Dozens of notes and photographs were all connected by a web of soft thread and thumbtacks.

Carlisle made a strange noise. “Our killer isn’t human.”

“Say that again?”

“Our killer,” Carlisle said again, but slower this time. “... isn’t human.”

Gordon stared at the senior detective.

“You’re kidding, right? Or is that a euphemism? I heard you had a whole system of codewords you use to catch the Teriyaki Terror, but is this-“

“Kid, I’ve been doing this for a long time. There are a lot of sickos out there and a whole lot of people who don’t know just how close they come every day to getting murdered. But this is different.“

“Every day?“

“This is the face of...”

Carlisle spun toward the board again and produced a photograph seemingly out of thin air. He slapped it right to the middle of the corkboard, sending a flurry of rainbow post-it notes fluttering to the ground.

A black and white photo of an open-mouthed raccoon stared back at them.

“... A murderer.”

Gordon stared at the wall. A couple of empty Snickers wrappers fell out of Carlisle’s pocket.

Neither spoke for a moment. Carlisle appeared to be awaiting Gordon’s reaction.

“Is this a joke? Are you hazing me?”

Carlisle heaved an exasperated sigh and talked through a fresh mouthful of chips. “Do you think I would joke about murder?”

“Yes? Maybe?”

“Serial killers are no laughing matter, kid. Open your eyes; this case has raccoon stripes all over it. Food waste, unusually small handprint-sized lesions, and each body got dumped within a block of a racoon tree.”

“What’s a racoon tree?”

Carlisle sighed. “Raccoon tree: a tree full of raccoons. It’s like a raccoon high rise. Prime real estate. Keep up, kid. What do they even teach you newbies in school anymore?”

“Okay, but why would a racoon murder humans? Can racoons even do that? Aren’t they just like fat little trash cats?”

Carlisle fixed Gordon with a grave look. “Raccoons are fully capable of murder.”

”Ok but how?! Do they even have thumbs?!”

Carlisle looked down at his watch and frowned. A few crumbs fell from the corners of his mouth onto the face of his Rolex. “I don’t have time to explain, kid. Sunset was an hour ago, which means our killer’s about to strike again.”

Gordon pressed the pads of his fingers to his temples as he tried to wrap his head around the situation. “This is insane. I’m calling the Chief; I think you might be due for some personal leave or something.”

“Put the phone down. We don’t have time for that.”

“Look!” Gordon shouted, his face flush with confusion and fury. “I might be new, but I’m not stupid, and I know for a fact that racoons. Don’t. loving. Kill...”

“Trust me, kid,” Carlisle’s mouth set in a thin, grim line. “They do.”

Whatever Gordon planned on saying next died somewhere on the way from his brain to his mouth. Everything in that moment narrowed to the man in front of him.

The man who suddenly unzipped himself from his face to his torso, revealing a sight Gordon’s rational mind refused to comprehend despite the relatively simple explanation of what he now saw before him.

The detective’s trench coat lay on the ground in a heap. Where Carlisle once stood were now three hefty raccoons balanced on each other’s furry little shoulders. The one that operated as Carlisle’s face opened its tiny raccoon mouth and snarled.

“It takes one to know one,” Raccoon Carlisle said as the middle raccoon snapped into a Slim Jim. “Now bring the car around; I’ll explain everything on the way.”

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010


Witness

772 words

Trigger warnings obscured Caleb's sensorium. Whatever was happening between Dale and Coel in the kitchen was pretty bad. Caleb didn't unlock any of the inputs. Their trauma did not obligate him to self-harm, and besides, the system was watching. Nothing really bad could happen with every eye watching.

Coel came through the door, sort of staggering. Heavily edited by Caleb's eyewear, her arms were a blur and her eyes wore a black obscuring bar. "Please," she said, voice autotuned and layered with electronica. "Where are my, my, my"

Caleb gestured at air, interacting with the warnings his implants were raising. Up to level zero, displaying the specific blocked subjects in friendly white text. Level zero abstractions. The boxes and bars now each read 'violence', 'physical violence' where there was sufficient room. Caleb shivered.

There was an animal roar from the kitchen, a lion in rage and pain. A string of words followed, raw swears that passed through Caleb's filters, other words that were turned into fire-alarm bleeps.

Another voice spoke more gently into Caleb's ear, one engineered to calm and steady. "Filter override recommended," It said. "Physical safety requires full situational awareness. Please authorize."

"No," subvocalized Caleb. His heartrate was already well above healthy. He stood up. His legs still worked. He was still in the apartment, not back in that basement, unable to even twitch. He headed for the door.

---

Coel felt the pain, felt the sting in her eyeballs. She had neural blocks on, of course. Between migraines and endo, she would have spent half her days in barely bearable pain without them. The readout in her visual field was maxed out. It was bad.

She couldn't understand. Caleb was useless, backing for the door. Was someone coming? She had to see what had happened. She had to find a mirror.

She touched her face. It felt wet. She bolted for the bathroom. Something wasn't quite right with her balance. She kept leaning, to one side and then the other, trying to correct. She found the door. The bathroom was pitch dark inside. She touched the wall switch. Nothing happened.

---

Dale was wounded, bellowing in pain. The statue. It had a sword, a curved sword, a scimitar, and it went right into his gut. He had come prepared, but the healing potions weren't working. That was wrong. He was thinking about filing a report. He had tried the supreme potion even, more gold than he could afford to waste.

Still, he had the prize. He had the diamonds, right in front of him. Maybe it was this place. He'd never heard of an anti-magic zone strong enough to cancel potions, but maybe. He'd lose the loot if he had to respawn. He grabbed the diamonds and started to crawl for the door.

Strange. They didn't feel hard like diamonds should. More like overripe fruit. Another glitch to report.

---

Caleb heard sirens, distant, from different directions, heading different directions. He hesitated, hand on the doorknob.

"Attention," said the voice of the net, "Danger has passed."

Caleb turned his head, and as he did all of his warnings and blocks faded out, showing him uncensored reality for the second it took to slam his eyes shut. After a minute the apartment smartnet tried to reconstruct his field of view from the cameras throughout the room, and he had to shut that down as well.

He wasn't getting heartrate updates. He could feel it in his neck, though. Too high. Blood. In that instant he saw blood, on the floor, dripping down Coel's gory sockets reflected in the bathroom mirror. He heard Dale muttering swears and slurs at game designers, still heard the words.

He felt himself fading from here, into the basement. Seeing those walls, his father and brother. And blood. He knew it was in his head, in his real memory. There had been no cameras there, he had never told the details to anyone, not even his therapist. And the other two were dead now.

His father. The knife. His brother. Blood. That second. The adrenaline flowing. His heart feeling the strain. The urge to run. The other urge, stronger. The knife, in his hands.

His eyes blinked open against his will. His roommates were moaning, bleeding, but mostly at rest. Nothing to fight. Nowhere to run. No need to freeze, any more. He had his time triggered cost too much? He had to hope not. He moved, disgusted and distressed, across the room, to the panic button. So many systems down. Someone promised help eventually. He tied bandages around the wounds and waited to see if it ever would.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


sebmojo posted:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RNu7VDiJcs

One of your characters feels absolutely nothing, another feels way too much, the third is a reptile of some kind

Don't run if you can walk
991 words

Three days after Brent spurned that old witch and she turned him into a gecko, I picked him up in my hands and gave him a little peck on top of his head. She’d said true love’s kiss would turn him back.

It wasn’t his fault, entirely. We live in a studio apartment, barely enough room for ourselves, and she begged him to let her stay the night, out of the rain. She smelled like wet dog because I’m pretty sure the furs heaped on her hunched back were real, and we wanted to get our deposit back. He was polite about it at first, but she had her curled toes jammed in the door so he couldn’t close it.

And Brent had been much better since he was on probation, but you can only push a guy so far. He barely even shoved her but she fell like a sack of rocks, really milking it, then she screamed curses at him from a puddle. So poof, now he’s a lizard.

I’d pick him up a few times a day and give him a gentle kiss, but it didn’t do nothin’. He’d watch me move around the room doing my normal human things, and I wondered how much he could understand. Like can you fit the consciousness of a human into a little lizard brain, even with magic? Or is he only thinking of regular lizard things while he’s in there and then he’ll just have amnesia when he gets better? He doesn’t seem to want any pizza or wings at any rate, just bugs, so I think it’s not so bad that some days I forget to hold him and settled into only giving him a little kiss every other week or so.

Even still, when I met Mark I insisted we only ever go home to his apartment. Usually I don’t care if an animal is watching me get nasty, but I don’t feel like it’s the same thing with Brent sitting in his terrarium right next to our bed.

Mark isn’t like Brent; he doesn’t get angry. He’s never even been locked up in the drunk tank overnight or anything, a real Boy Scout. He doesn’t ever smile either, he just sits there while I talk to him and occasionally nods. Even when we’re fuckin’ he just stares straight ahead, steely-eyed like I’m one of his spreadsheets. At first it was weird, but also he’s never been turned into a gecko by a witch, so maybe he’s onto something. And I gotta admit it’s pretty nice to be sitting on the couch watching TV and not have to be thinking about if he’s going to come home and throw stuff around and curse at me.

I still go back to our studio to feed Brent every few days, but I just give him freeze dried pellets instead of fresh bugs cause they last longer.

And I was content to carry on like that until one day, without even looking up from his laptop, Mark says “You should move in.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Looking over next year’s budget, it makes fiscal sense.”

Be still my heart. “How’s me movin’ in gonna save you money?”

“No, not for me, for you.” Mark turns his laptop toward me and I see he’s got all my finances graphed out.

I’m thinkin’ about getting mad at yellin’ at him about invasion of my privacy and whatnot, but I see a sum at the bottom. “What’s that?”

“How much you’ll have leftover at the end of the year.”

I whistle.

He closed his laptop and looked in my eyes. “Good, it’s settled then. I’ll pour us a glass of wine.”

He keeps track of his wines in an app, and it tells him which is currently considered the best vintage. He always picks whatever the app tells him to. “Best not to leave such matters vulnerable to error,” he usually says. Like you can make a wrong decision when drinking from a bottle of wine that cost more than my shoes. He hands me a glass. “Of course, you’ll have to get rid of that lizard.”

I almost spit wine out over his rug, but swallow it on account of his rug is probably really expensive and I don’t think he’d be amenable to using mine that I got from a thrift store. “Brent? He’s fine, we can just stick him in a corner somewhere.”

Mark shakes his head. “The condo association has a strict no pets policy. Plus the cost of energy, food, vet bills, it isn’t prudent.”

“But we’ve been through a lot together. Ain’t you ever had a pet before?”

“Never made sense.”

“It’s not supposed to make sense! You keep them around because they make you happy and they love you.”

“And you love them back?”

I open my mouth but have no excuses. “I can’t leave him,” I say, knowing Mark won’t ask why and wouldn’t pretend to understand anyway, so I spill the beans, tell him about the witch and the curse and the whole time Mark sips his wine and nods in silence.

When I finish he uncrosses his legs and leans back in his armchair. “Well, I won’t have your ex living with us, so even more reason to get rid of him.”

It’s the most I’ve ever seen him care, and I blush. “I’ll list him tomorrow.”



I finish packing up my old apartment and am waiting for some kid to come pick up Brent. I didn’t think it’d be right to sell him, and probably illegal when you think about it, so I gave him and the whole setup away for free.

I take him out one last time and he blinks at me with his beady little eyes and nestles into the arm of my sweater. I give him one last kiss and whisper “I’m sorry,” and the doorbell rings.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aE1zp3H2wI
your characters believe in absolutely nothing, especially not love


Unknowable
850 words


“I love you.”

I don’t believe you, thought Jess. Beads of condensation ran down the outside of her untouched glass of cider.

“Do you want to move in together?”

I DON’T BELIEVE YOU. Jess wanted to scream the words, but she knew it wouldn’t help. The problem was her. Andrew was very nice. He was considerate and patient, and his mouth tasted nice when she kissed him. But Jess did not believe in anything she couldn’t experience directly.

“So, does that mean you don’t believe in, like, electricity?” Andrew had teased her, when she’d first told him.

Jess had flicked the lights on and off and rolled her eyes at him.

Andrew took a mouthful of beer. He was looking at her, waiting for her to say something. Their table was underneath the spreading arms of a large fake palm tree. The fairy lights hanging from the plastic fronds cast weird shadows on the pub’s walls.

There was a burst of laughter from the other end of the bar. Jess glanced past Andrew. It was Tanya and her friends. Andrew used to tell Tanya that he loved her, Jess thought. Tanya and Andrew had been talking when Jess arrived at the bar, standing together next to the stool that Jess’s bony behind was now perched on. They had an easy intimacy, as if neither had ever hurt, or been hurt by, the other.

Jess tried to picture herself living with Andrew. It would be nice, she thought, not to have to pack and unpack her overnight bag. Why, then, was her mouth so dry? Jess’s heart was beating uncomfortably fast. Suddenly, she had to pee.

“Back in a minute,” Jess said.

The white-tiled women’s bathroom was uncomfortably bright after the dark of the pub. Jess ran her hand over the tiles. They were full of tiny irregularities. Jess pressed her cheek against the cold ceramic and let her fingers trace over the bumps and dips. She closed her eyes, and tried to navigate through the tangle of mountains and valleys mapped out on the wall.

The bathroom door slammed and Jess jumped back, like a guard springing to attention.

Tanya looked at her sideways. “Are you ok?”

Jess found that she was holding her hands stiff by her sides, and that she had no idea what to do with them. “Andrew wants us to move in together,” she blurted.

“That’s great!” Tanya gave her a broad smile. “I’m jealous.”

Tanya frowned at Jess’s expression. “Not of Andrew, you dimwit.” She disappeared into one of the stalls, and had to raise her voice over the sound of rustling fabric. “I got over him years ago.”

Jess tried to picture herself getting over Andrew. Tried to project herself forward into a world where he didn’t care about her. He’d be fine, she realised with a jolt. Jess’s cheeks started to burn. Jess would be the one who would be sad forever, while Andrew moved on with his life.

The loo flushed and Jess fled from the bathroom before Tanya could re-emerge from her stall. The corridor from the toilets back to the bar was empty. Jess put one hand on the dark red wallpaper, and touched her toe to her heel, like a tightrope walker. It was fifteen feet from the bathroom back to the door to the bar. Jess tried to slow her breathing. Seven feet. It wasn’t working. Three feet. Andrew said he would always love her; but she knew better than to believe that.

Andrew’s beer was nearly empty. Jess slid back onto her barstool, and looked down at her cider. It had stopped fizzing.

“If we broke up, you’d be fine, wouldn’t you?”

“What?” Andrew sat back. “No!”

“Of course you would. You’ve gotten over break-ups before.”

“What are you talking about? Jess, I love you--”

“I don’t believe you.” Jess stared into the depths of her cider. The sour liquid revealed nothing.

Andrew shook his head, as if trying to manually reset the whole evening. “I’m sorry, Jess, look, let’s just forget I said anything about moving in together--”

Jess felt like a large stone had dropped into the pit of her stomach. “No! I--”

“I brought it up too soon! I’m sorry.” Andrew reached out and folded his right hand over hers. “But I really do love you.”

“But, how do you know?” Jess met his eyes.

“How do you know electricity is real?”

Jess looked around for a light switch, then realised it would be rude to flick the lights off and on in a room full of pub-goers.

Andrew squeezed her hand, and she felt her heart bump against her ribs. She squeezed it back, then turned her hand over and intertwined their fingers. Andrew’s touch was warm, and she knew that she did not want to let go of his hand. It would be nice, Jess thought, not to have to pack and unpack her overnight bag.

“Let’s do it,” she said.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Jess smiled. “I believe I am.”

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


Crits sans scores. Judgment behind closed doors.

Unfiltered (read: mean) line edits available by request, as time permits.

Antivehicular

Very good. What would you do if you did not have to reveal that Annafriede's mother was already dead? I would like to see this without a word count or prompt parameters. This wants room to breath (I want this to breath. What happens next?)

Azza Bamboo

I think you hit the prompt well enough in 300 words. The secret, to me, is open interpretation enough that different things could have happened. Kartul could be responsible for the termination of his former family's clan, or he could have exiled himself, spurned by his son's mother's love for another woman, and willingly mummified himself early. You definitely go for it, with a limited word count, but that being said, I don't think its as clear as you want it to be for so short. I think you're being too coy with the line about engravings being chiseled away, and replaced by newer words, as an example. A particularly difficult hellrule, but not quite enough room to play up the significance of The Things They Carried

Barnaby Profane
Start in the village of their father. The wake isnt doing anything for you. I disagree with your premise, certainly the way you have positioned the story or provided motivation. Anna and Maria will not take the ashes anywhere but the garbage as soon as they leave the presence of the executor. The secret the father sexually abused his daughters has no impact because they are not conflicted participants. If you must pursue this premise, then anna and maria should be under some form of duress that forces them into this despicable position. is mikey the executor, and is he browbeating them, or they will forfeit their inheritance? That sets up a compelling, if despicable, scenario.

Beezus
lean in on the farce. You spend precious time trying to convince me a raccoon is capable of murder. Why? Why not just show me a raccoon doing it, and then reveal the detective is a racoon? Your third character is a throwaway, and your second location isnt adding anything to the story. You spend too much time referencing them eating all the time with no pay off. Plenty to cut to make room for what you need to add. Go to the crime scene, chase the perpetrator, add action somewhere and dont let a straight-man bog down the fun you could have.

Brotherly
You introduce some interesting conceits of the world, and you've given a good thrust that many different things could happen next. Negatives: Your language needs to get tightened up, and is losing itself in the space. If Jenine knows what a linkpen is, she isn't going to describe it as if guided by a ghost. Where is Jenine in the study? She either can see his arms are between his legs, or her father is obscured by bulk. For a brief piece, you spend too much time making sure we know something is wrong with the father. Tell me more about what that means to Jenine. If the end is a comeuppance for the father, 'abandoning his child' only for the child to end up abandoned anyway, the crux is with the father ignoring the children in his dying bargain, not the daughter's concern for the father.

Crabrock
Very enjoyable. To me, the secret was that she did not love him, thus could not break the curse. I'd like to see internal versimilitude, if not in-story, for the protagonist. She believes he's the lizard, but we don’t have proof. Would she hesitate to give the lizard away to a little girl who reminds her of herself? What if Brent acquires true love? What would that mean for the protagonist? I think there's room to puff your chest here and really squeeze the heart.

My Shark Waifu
I believe your scenario only exists to benefit the prompt, and not to be informed by it. Were it not for the 3-2-1, Mr. White or the boss are completely extraneous characters. Your locations requirement of the prompt is also suspect, what am I getting from the airport? Give me a reason, a tension. Does Mr. White feel pursue Steve to the airport, realizing the dupe? That's something thats interesting to happen. There are no stakes involved. The secret is fine, Steve switched the paintings (also a gallery of counterfeit art, and the exact same piece being on display else where is bizarre), and absconding with the real one is fine. But make it matter.

Simply Simon
You have an interesting premise but you don't do anything with it. I'm not sure what the secret is, or what your two locations are. I'm not a fan of dialog being used for exposition as plainly as this. It wastes words and removes characterization. Open your story with "Kurt looked to the left..." Then condense the entire first conversation into a simple two sentence premise. Now start dialog about what they are really talking about. I don't understand Jack or Pyotr's motivation. If they work for people who want Kurt to stay in hell, and they've successfully convinced Kurt to behave in a way that keeps him in hell, why would they turn on him?

Sitting Here
This is a lovely story. I'm not sure that the secret is that they are both in love with each other, but I cannot parse out what the secret is if that is not the case. There's whimsy, melancholy, but also an unshakeable feeling that there isn't anything that can be worked out. To me, it seems that these are two characters who know each other too well to be complementary partners for each other. Too much history, and is that perhaps because a smalltown has a way of creating its own niches that are inescapable, despite mutually acrimony of the inhabitants of the niche. There is no where else for them to go, but all the can ever see are the warts. Your third character is necessary, to create that bridge, but what about Edward makes him unique in that role? What we know about Edward is he's new in town, not single, and a rare gay man in Southbend, but he hasn't done anything really. Tell me more about why he's the only person who can connect Sean and Damon, and introduce him sooner. I like herons as imagery, but i dont think its quite right for the tone. They're monogamous maters, which to me means that Sean and Damon are forever entwined, but that would mean Sean is potentially locked into an inescapable struggle of not being happy. I don't think that tone is what you were shooting for, so I'm not sure the heron is the right image.

Thranguy
You start strong, and I am intrigued. I would prefer to have stayed with Caleb's perspective the entire time, and how he is coping with an obviously similar trauma triggers as he already experienced. You can get into Coel and Dale with dialogue, but I think Caleb's perspective is the most interesting. I don't need to know that Dale is having a malfunctioning fantasy VR experience, and I don't entirely need to get into Coel's head. Caleb could know that his roommate suffers from migraines and endo, and he could know that her pain blockers are preventing her from understanding what's happened to her. The secret, as I understand it, is Caleb's previous trauma at the hands of his father, or perhaps brother, or both. I think you can do more with that secret. Make Dale and Coel related to each other. Point out these trigger warnings are unique from other trigger warnings. When faced with a situation that his own internal AI is telling him is similar to his real trauma, does he react similarly (he doesnt, he moves, but he doesnt help, which is interesting as well). I think there's a lot of places you can go, and in a second draft, tighten up around a single perspective, and explore it.

Tyrannosaurus
I don’t know you need to wait so long to reveal Hampton, it seems as though once you've established Gorgeous in the apartment, with a gun, that there is a third person also in the room seems close enough to that premise you'd include that detail. I can't tell if the secret was that the gun had blanks, or that this was pre-orchestrated, ala fantasy rape scenarios that sometimes end with a john being murdered. I think I'd prefer the latter over the two choices. This is fast paced, snappy, and I enjoyed it. I think Gorgeous could be played up even more extreme, if there's a negative, he's a little too on-the-nose just like Hampton is as he decries him. If that is intentional, I think you're missing an opportunity to have more fun.

Weltich
You're overworking this dialogue and descriptive sentences that accompany it. You don't need to tell me 'he said with an unconcealed annoyance' if you are also having him give a curt answer, and look at his watch. More of the latter, less of the former. I'm not sure you clear the two location requirement. Additionally, I dont think the secret is really a catalyst here. The secret is that Ulitsa Zavod is walking into a trap. But its not really relevant.

Yoruichi
My stab at the secret is that Jess does not love Andrew. But what about Jess appreciates convenience, or at least 'appearances'? She would be sad forever if Andrew were to depart, and yet she doesn't particularly feel the connection to him as Andrew, but she seems to long for the identity a couple create like Andrew and Tanya. I'm guessing your second location counts the bathroom, despite the bar itself not being particularly fleshed out. What about a second location makes this interesting? Could Andrew have gone to the restroom himself, and Tanya had the conversation at the bar, yes that seem plausible. Additionally, perhaps cultured loos are not like american bar bathrooms, but im concerned for the amount of touching Jess does in said loo.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


J U D G M E N T



this was a mostly mediocre week which depending on your view of irish skiffle combo u2 may or may not be weirdly appropriate HOWEVER there were a couple of stories that broke the mold in either direction, starting with the ventral

AZZA BAMBOO snagged the loss with his low-key tale of mummies, well, existing. while this was not an exciting yarn by any measurement, it mainly lost by failing to either use its tiny wordcount to interestingly personify its characters OR to have a longer wordcount that might have done the same thing.

two stories that did well were CRABROCK's interestingly skew whiff tale of transmogrification and household expense management, and SITTING HERE's novelistic homo-angstuality so they may both have HMs.

BARNABY PROFANE wrote a story that could comfortably have been cut back to a tweet, and SIMPLY SIMON one that didn't do enough with its characters. TYRANNOSAURUS wrote a story whose every character annoyed me profoundly, for all its slick wordage. they shall all receive the DM.

the single story that was actually really, really good and thus managed by the usual process of almost unbearably precise ratiocination to garner the win was by ANTIVEHICULAR.

slide, leap or slither forward as suits your chosen locomotory mode and claim the throne, ms VEHICULAR.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


The first door
There’s a fair amount to like in this brooding gothic yarn, lots of agreeable evocation of dread and large creaking doors to peer from behind in delicious horror and a solid command of the genre-specific language. But! Then it totally just stops! While you can critique the start middle end style of most 1k word thunderdome stories, that doesn’t mean you just write the prologue to a three volume fantasy and call it a day. I don’t mind dangling questions, but they need to come with an appropriate emotional punch of some kind and this doesn’t – your character starts threatened and concerned by what’s going on with her dad and ends the same way, just in a different place. I did like the title, though it does a nice job of implicating along with the typically ominous fantasy phrases like THE WITHERING ooh scary chords, but overall 4/10, would be 3 without the good words

Spilled milk

This is a clever enough idea, I guess, though not a wildly imaginative read on the flashrule. I think it suffers from being dialogue heavy and that dialogue not being very interesting, and also because your three characters are not differentiated in any very intriguing way. They start in hell, they end in hell, just like hell but moreso, and I’m not sure we’re much the wiser at the end of the story than the start. Might have been better to have the third character been someone in one of the houses, idk? I did like the concept of infinite bottles clattering though 3/10

Kartul Javier and Helen

This is both charming and ballsy which is an intriguing combination. I like the extreme constraint of the communication from our long-dead protags and the work it puts the reader to. I think you could have done a lot more with what is a really robust idea, though. I always like saying that the surroundings of a character is another way of describing them, and you passed up endless opportunities for doing that in this piece. Don’t tell me the tomb had ‘lavish engravings’ drat ur eyes, Bamboo, describe the fuckin things! Put a bunch of weird interesting little details in there, even if most of them don’t mean anything! Personify an archaeologist (though tbf that was an issue with the prompt so you would have had to ditch a mummy). Make the assumed personal wealth/family dichotomy of our dead chum more complicated! The great thing about this kind of setup is you can drop all kinds of specific details then the reader does the hard work of montage-effecting it into a story for you (very efficient). A disappointed 4/10, could have been significantly higher without that much effort.

Soyuz

Some good robust revolution words here, but it’s a little by the numbers. It’s sort of predictable that the wide eyed innocent will get taken advantage of and hey what do you know. I think some more revolutionary philosophy would have made this more interesting than the nitty gritty of who blows up what and who betrays whom. As is it’s kind of a rock falls on head, man has sore head story. 4/10

Capital t truth

Lmao that’s a good opener, ok settling in for some sweet trex words. … hmmmrmrm I find myself in the awkward and somewhat problematic position of the gun wielding ex here, wanting to threaten you in an in appropriate way to get a story that is not a blurred rip off of fight club, I mean gosh I hate all these people and would have preferred some kind of dramatic murder suicide than this dreary ‘art only comes from the edge mannnn’ shtick. Clever enough piece, but definitely should have had the knobs twiddled a bit more until you came up with something interesting. 5/10

The land grows weary of its own
You could have cut that first para, you know. Read it again and tell me I’m wrong. Also I am declaring a moratorium on the use of the word impossible as an adjective, fun as it is to write. Find another word (this applies to everyone btw).

Actually you could, kind of, cut the entire first half.

In fact, well, hmm. You could have titled the story “the brother was angry when he found out what the dead dad did to the sister” without any additional words and it would have conveyed roughly the same narrative content. I’m unclear on what was intended despite an awful lot of competently presented details that don’t really amount to anything. 3/10

Untitled *bleu/blanc
Aww this is charming, I’m charmed. Nothing fancy, meat and potatoes, rocks up and does its relatively clichéd work then peels out, obeying all posted speed limits and lane ordnances. I guess there’s a bit of a fake out with mr white not being very important to the plot, and also it doesn’t really make sense that the guard both betrayed his boss by directing the thief to a fake painting and also was disappointed by the thief not doing their job (and stealing more paintings) but overall, this is fine. 5/10

Late autumn on a rocky island
Ooof some sexy windswept wordage here, and a delicious, economically told tale that cribs from a bunch of myths but is also clearly its own thing. I like the suspended who knows what ending because both endings are interesting. A tight and lovely piece. 8/10

Treehouse herons
The challenge with having to write a story made up of 40 word sentences is of course not to write it, that’s relatively easy – rather, as you have mostly achieved here, it’s to write it so the reader doesn’t notice. This is a pretty good piece, but falls short because of it’s fairly bland resolution - why you sillygooses you just need to get over your dumb gay selves and kiss why did you not consider that before! Why gee thank you new guy in town I appreciate that advice and don’t resent it at all. I think you could have had it land better by having Edward not be a smug plot device. 7/10

Chicken bandit
Title has me primed for some solid tdome wacky and this doesn’t disappoint. Hell yeah raccoon murder, if there’s such a thing as a criminal face those little fuckers have it, don’t try to deny it. And it defies comprehension that if they had the chance to don human suits and commit crimes while cosplaying some kind of cliched detective character they would grab it with their creepily humanoid paws. This is an excellent example of a story that knows when to drop the payload and get the hell out because really where do you go from there? 5/10

Witness
I love the cyberpunky censorware notion in this, probably more than the actual story whatever that is… something about trauma leading to violence? As a horrific sensory vignette is very effective, but I think it would land better if it wasn’t quite as disconnected. 6/10

Don’t run if you can walk
Hahah yes this is good. This week has struggled with skirting cliches and this makes the right choice by not having the dodgy ex delizardified imo, as well as having the robotic cost accountant end up with the girl, it kind of tells us a lot about the protag that she’s content with him. There’s the usual assured bounce of your prose, it’s always fun to read your stories and this is no exception. Good luck, psychopathic lizard, wherever you end up 7/10

Unknowable
This feels suspiciously like a story I may have written multiple times but tasteful judgepandering is always ok and this is a very tasteful piece, just a coupla characters, a lightly contrived scenario and a big decision that gets made. I’m not sure what the secret is and I’m also not sure that all the characters meet the flashrule since we only get in one’s head, but a solid effort and lots of nicely deployed imagery. 6/10

Somebody fucked around with this message at 10:08 on Apr 27, 2021

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Noah posted:

Crits sans scores. Judgment behind closed doors.

Unfiltered (read: mean) line edits available by request, as time permits.


everyone should take noah up on this, i'm reliably informed he is rich in time as is a miser in gleaming ducats

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


I will take a line crit please

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


TD CDLVI: File Clerks Fight Crime



Admit it: at some point, during a boring shift at work, you've envisioned writing a thrilling action-adventure novel where the protagonist -- an average person, with your job, even! -- uses their pluck and expertise to fight crime, or take down zombies, or solve a forensic-accounting mystery involving Santa Claus, or something. (Some shifts are more boring than others.) This week, I want you to bring one of these visions to life.

Write me a story based in some facet of your professional or other specialist knowledge. Hobbies and special interests are also fine! As long as it's a field with some level of specialist knowledge, and you're using it, all is well. What I'm looking for is stories that feel authentic and, hopefully, show me something interesting or cool about your profession or specialist subject. (Obviously, I will not be fact-checking these, but if your story is all about space wizards in low earth orbit, I may ask for your space wizard ID number to run against the registry. Conversely, please do not doxx yourself, reveal confidential information about clients, or whatever. The laws of creative nonfiction apply here: it doesn't need to be the unvarnished truth, but it needs to be plausible as coming from your lived experience.)

All genres are acceptable, not just action-adventure; this includes fantasy/SF, but see the caveat above. It should feel real even if there are elves involved.

Standard rules apply: no erotica, fanfiction, political screeds/topical politics, Google Docs, archive-breaking formatting, or dick pics. Even if your specialist subject is dick pics.

Word Count: 1500
Signup Deadline: 11:59 PM Pacific, Friday, April 30th
Submission Deadline: 11:59 PM Pacific, Sunday, May 2nd

Judges:
Antivehicular
Gorka
Noah

Writers:
My Shark Waifuu
Simply Simon
brotherly
Azza Bamboo
Thranguy
Weltlich
anime was right
Chairchucker
sebmojo
Yoruichi
Uranium Phoenix
QuoProQuid
crabrock
Sitting Here

Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 06:59 on May 3, 2021

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012



Fun, I'm in!

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

timeless Ned Flanders style


in

brotherly
Aug 20, 2014

DEHUMANIZE YOURSELF AND FACE TO BLOODSHED


In

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018


In

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010


In

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


Yoruichi posted:

I will take a line crit please

quote:

Subtraction: “I love you.”

I don’t believe you, thought Jess. Beads of condensation ran down the outside of her untouched glass of cider.

Addition: “I love you,” Andrew repeated.
Commentary: Cold opens need a little bit more oomph to draw in the reader in absence of the hook. ‘I love you’ is not. I can answer the very first line without reading any more story. ‘I love you too.’

quote:

Adjustment: “Do you want to move in together?”

I DON’T BELIEVE YOU. Jess wanted to scream the words, but she knew it wouldn’t help. The problem was her. Andrew was very nice. He was considerate and patient, and his mouth tasted nice when she kissed him. But Jess did not believe in anything she couldn’t experience directly.

Commentary: To maintain the energy of Jess, Andrew needs to pose this question in a different way. It’s a little too innocuous of a way to broach the topic. Aver it. “You should move in with me,” Andrew says. Something like that. Jess having an exaggerated reaction is fine, because moving in with a significant other IS actually a big deal, but give it some momentum.

quote:

Keep: “So, does that mean you don’t believe in, like, electricity?” Andrew had teased her, when she’d first told him.

Jess had flicked the lights on and off and rolled her eyes at him.

Commentary: This is your first bit of characterization. Nice, considerate, patient, tooth brusher, Jess says this, but this is where its finally shown. Is Andrew a smart person? I would say no, because of the things he could come up with that ephemeral, electricity is something that is frequently experienced, sometimes fatally.

quote:

Dissection: Andrew took a mouthful of beer. He was looking at her, waiting for her to say something. Their table was underneath the spreading arms of a large fake palm tree. The fairy lights hanging from the plastic fronds cast weird shadows on the pub’s walls.

Commentary: Let’s dive in here. You have 850 words. The pub is fictional, fantasy, and subject to your whim. Here is where you can really do some double duty. Example: Andrew is the one who sits under the fake palm tree, not both of them. That you have included this detail means Jess notices. We are in her head, details you tell us, she sees even if you don’t say explicitly. Andrew underneath this palm tree says ‘vacation, paradise, relaxation’ but that its fake which is what Jess is thinking. Is this pub a favorite of Andrew’s? I find fake palms to be tacky, do you? Fairy lights need to be fairly bright to cast shadows in a pub setting. Should they really be casting shadows? What do the fairy lights mean, what do the shadows mean, why are they weird shadows? I think you can be very specific here. Don’t fuss with description because you’re missing some bar trappings, be precise.


quote:

Consternation: There was a burst of laughter from the other end of the bar. Jess glanced past Andrew. It was Tanya and her friends. Andrew used to tell Tanya that he loved her, Jess thought. Tanya and Andrew had been talking when Jess arrived at the bar, standing together next to the stool that Jess’s bony behind was now perched on. They had an easy intimacy, as if neither had ever hurt, or been hurt by, the other.

Commentary: I personally do not like that Tanya is here. I think this can be told in flashback, because this is poor form by Andrew. He invites Jess to a bar his ex frequents, and wants Jess to move in with him. Played straight, Jess should be amiss. With the benefit of knowing the ending, I don’t think this creates a tone I am getting from this. The tone I’m getting from this is Jess’s internal struggle, anxiety, trust, self-love, is getting intermingled with authentic concerns over whether Andrew is really a conscientious person. It’s no longer an internal struggle, but also an external struggle. Can this happen innocently in life? Absolutely, and perfectly kind people do worse to each other, but this is a very short story. Instead, Jess remembers seeing Andrew and Tanya, back when they dated, a flashback still allows Jess to compare apples to oranges, without also providing a very concrete reason for her to be hesitant.
Commentary: You briefly describe Jess, but I’m not entirely sure why. Does she feel negative about her body? If so, where’s the rest of it? Who is she comparing her body to? It’s not Tanya. I don’t know what Tanya looks like.

quote:

Consternation: Jess tried to picture herself living with Andrew. It would be nice, she thought, not to have to pack and unpack her overnight bag. Why, then, was her mouth so dry? Jess’s heart was beating uncomfortably fast. Suddenly, she had to pee.
Commentary: You’re getting lost in making sure I, the reader, is following along. Now, I do like this detail about having to pack or unpack an overnight bag. They aren’t at the point in their relationship where Jess leaves clothes behind. Play that up more. Describe to me something there. I don’t need to know her mouth is dry, that her heart is beating, or she has to pee. You can cut that entire back half, buff out the detail about overnight bags and just cut directly to the dialogue below. Because in your description about the overnight bags, you will infuse her anxiety, and that will inform the reader of her anxiety to this question of moving in. Does she underpack, or overpack? Does she bring unnecessary things? Does she bring books?

quote:

“Back in a minute,” Jess said.


The white-tiled women’s bathroom was uncomfortably bright after the dark of the pub. Jess ran her hand over the tiles. They were full of tiny irregularities. Jess pressed her cheek against the cold ceramic and let her fingers trace over the bumps and dips. She closed her eyes, and tried to navigate through the tangle of mountains and valleys mapped out on the wall.

Commentary: A truly bizarre act in a public bathroom. I kind of like how gross it is. Is she normally a gross person? Can that be explored in her overnight bags? Does she bring dirty clothes with her? However, your description of tiles doesn’t make sense. Why are the tiles full of tiny irregularities? What happened to them, and what does it mean? Tiles are typically used because its uniformity, so what has happened here? Has someone smashed the tiles? Is it a very old place? Have too many fussy people run their faces along the wall and eroded the tiles irregularly?


quote:

Consternation: The bathroom door slammed and Jess jumped back, like a guard springing to attention.

Tanya looked at her sideways. “Are you ok?”

Jess found that she was holding her hands stiff by her sides, and that she had no idea what to do with them. “Andrew wants us to move in together,” she blurted.

“That’s great!” Tanya gave her a broad smile. “I’m jealous.”

Tanya frowned at Jess’s expression. “Not of Andrew, you dimwit.” She disappeared into one of the stalls, and had to raise her voice over the sound of rustling fabric. “I got over him years ago.”

Jess tried to picture herself getting over Andrew. Tried to project herself forward into a world where he didn’t care about her. He’d be fine, she realised with a jolt. Jess’s cheeks started to burn. Jess would be the one who would be sad forever, while Andrew moved on with his life.

Commentary: I’m not a fan of this encounter. It reads as though you’ve where you wanted to go with this, and Tanya serves as your character to explain the whole thing away. Jess’s internal conflict is effectively rendered unimportant because all of her assumptions about Tanya and Andrew are now wrong. But then her own internal neuroses kick in, and she’s back to navel gazing, and Andrew isn’t really important. So, which is it? Which one is more important? Figure out what you want to get out of the bathroom, and run with it.

quote:

The loo flushed and Jess fled from the bathroom before Tanya could re-emerge from her stall. The corridor from the toilets back to the bar was empty. Jess put one hand on the dark red wallpaper, and touched her toe to her heel, like a tightrope walker. It was fifteen feet from the bathroom back to the door to the bar. Jess tried to slow her breathing. Seven feet. It wasn’t working. Three feet. Andrew said he would always love her; but she knew better than to believe that.

Commentary: What do you want the hallway, and the dark red wallpaper to signify? Is there something else in the hallway that can be there that is more evocative of what you want? The tight rope walker is good. She doesn’t want to fall, but she also doesn’t want to cross. I love that, what good is a tight rope walker who doesn’t want to cross the chasm? However, Andrew doesn’t say he would always love her. He said he loves her.


Andrew’s beer was nearly empty. Jess slid back onto her barstool, and looked down at her cider. It had stopped fizzing.

“If we broke up, you’d be fine, wouldn’t you?”

“What?” Andrew sat back. “No!”

“Of course you would. You’ve gotten over break-ups before.”

“What are you talking about? Jess, I love you--”

“I don’t believe you.” Jess stared into the depths of her cider. The sour liquid revealed nothing.

Andrew shook his head, as if trying to manually reset the whole evening. “I’m sorry, Jess, look, let’s just forget I said anything about moving in together--”

Jess felt like a large stone had dropped into the pit of her stomach. “No! I--”

“I brought it up too soon! I’m sorry.” Andrew reached out and folded his right hand over hers. “But I really do love you.”

“But, how do you know?” Jess met his eyes.

“How do you know electricity is real?”

Jess looked around for a light switch, then realised it would be rude to flick the lights off and on in a room full of pub-goers.

Andrew squeezed her hand, and she felt her heart bump against her ribs. She squeezed it back, then turned her hand over and intertwined their fingers. Andrew’s touch was warm, and she knew that she did not want to let go of his hand. It would be nice, Jess thought, not to have to pack and unpack her overnight bag.

“Let’s do it,” she said.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Jess smiled. “I believe I am.”

This feels like a race to the finish line. Scrap the whole thing. I’m sorry if that sounds like a cop out. But what do you actually want from the climactic conversation? Is it supposed to fizzle out, with Jess not feeling particularly comforted, or happy in her own decision? Is Jess supposed to find a way to quiet her own internal voice? The conclusion seems to suggest she’s at least willing to take convenience if she cannot find solace, is there a better way to show that? Andrew doesn’t do anything, and Jess doesn’t do anything to really warrant getting to the end. It just happens.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012



Noah posted:


Unfiltered (read: mean) line edits available by request, as time permits.


Hi, I'd like a line crit too please.

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Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


My Shark Waifuu posted:

Hi, I'd like a line crit too please.

After a long morning of evading the police, Steve entered the boss's warehouse in a foul mood. He found the cause of his problems at the center of a labyrinth of piled boxes: a slim white man known as, appropriately, Mr. White. Without the balaclava, Steve could see that his face was extremely punchable. He resisted the urge, if only because the boss wouldn't like it.
Why is the warehouse a labyrinth? Not that I mind, but this is a great time to lean on some foreshadowing. Steve has a convoluted plot, so perhaps he was the one who created the dumb layout of the warehouse? Show my why Mr. White’s face is punchable. Does he have a stupid smirk? Does he look surprised to see Steve?

Mr. White smiled as he approached. "Hey Steve-o, glad to see you made it past the cops."

"No thanks to you, man," Steve growled. "Where's the boss?"

Almost never need to over describe how someone is speaking. Let the words handle that for you. Are they not accomplishing the job? Get better words.

"On a call." Mr. White nodded towards the back room. "I know last night didn't go exactly right. When the alarm goes it's every man for himself, yeah?"

Steve had worked with cocky bastards like him before (usually car thieves), but they had the skills to back up their attitude.
“Steve had worked with cocky bastards, and incompetent bastards, but rarely incompetent cocky bastards.”

"Yeah, but you're supposed to be good,” he said. “Someone who'd find a sensor between the frame and the painting."
“Yeah, but you were the one who didn’t find the sensor between the frame and the painting”

Mr. White shrugged unapologetically. "You're the security guard and you didn't know. Plus, standards have changed since I retired. I only got back in the game for the Rothko, you know."
“Mr. White shrugged. ‘You’re the guard.’

An excuse for everything. "Sure, man." Steve rolled his eyes, which Mr. White misinterpreted.
“Steve rolled his eyes. ‘Where’s the Rothko?’”

Your original dialogue runs 88 words. I cut it down to 44, and I don’t think we lost any plot points, or characterization. When you’re on a tight word budget, make everything count.


"I know the Rothko looks simple, 'my kid could paint that,' right? But this poo poo goes for millions. He's quite famous as one of the best artists of–"

"–abstract expressionism," said Steve. Mr. White looked surprised, so he added, "Not much to do on the night shift besides read plaques."
"–abstract expressionism," Steve said. Mr. White looked surprised. "Not much to do on the night shift besides read plaques."

"Ah, of course." Steve was already tired of him, but Mr. White carried on. "Look, thanks for leading me right to it. That museum is a maze. Shame we couldn't nab more, but this should still be a nice chunk of change." He patted the tube resting on the table between them.
"Ah…of course,” White said. "You have a good eye. That museum was a maze. Shame we couldn't nab more." He patted the tube resting on the table between them.


Steve nearly retorted that they could've gotten more if Mr. White had done his loving job when the boss stomped out from behind a wall of boxes.
Cut this entirely. We already know Steve is frustrated, and Mr. White did not do his job well.

"You better not have touched anything," the boss said. Steve had been the inside man for him on several previous jobs: a mechanic, a worker at a chemical warehouse, and so on. Art was a new field for them both.
I’m not sure why we need to know more about Steve’s previous side gigs. It establishes him as a smart man, and able to assimilate into roles, but these details don’t really come up. And it actually detracts from his betrayal, because why is the art the one that sets it off?

"Nope, just chatting," Mr. White said.
“Safe and sound, on me mom’s grave,” White said. This doesn’t have to be verbatim, but give characterization to White, and inform the reader that he hasn’t inspected the art to notice the counterfeit.

"Well, stop it. You guys hosed up the exit, but you got the paintings, yeah?"
“Where are they? You hiding them up your arse?” The boss is crude, swears, but don’t waste time re-iterating what the reader knows. We already know they hosed up the exit, and we know the Rothko was the only thing that made it out.

"Just the Rothko," Mr. White said shamelessly.
Again, don’t need to use ‘shamelessly.’
The boss grumbled. Steve held his breath as he unpacked the painting and squinted at it. "I don't recognize this one from the catalog," the boss said. "Steve, you sure this is the right one? I know all these colored ones look the same. Uh, no offense."

Steve held his breath as the boss unpacked the painting and squinted at it. "This the right one? These fuckers all look the same." 47 words vs 24 words. The boss does not care about offending Steve. Why should he? Also, Steve is not an art connoisseur, he’s a hired security guard. (see note later).

Steve exhaled and nodded. "That's the one."
"That's the one."

The boss sighed and looked at the painting again. "Not sure I'll be able to sell it quick. You boys are gonna have to wait on your payment."

Steve started to protest; without payment, what was the point? However, Mr. White's argument was more effective. Holding a pistol, he put his hands on the table and stared the boss in the face. "I can just take it back if you don't want it," he drawled.
I don’t like this here, because you’re actively tricking the reading with your knowledge as the narrator. You don’t need to have the aside, ‘without payment what was the point,’ because Steve knows this, so he’s really not thinking that. He’s actually NOT surprised by this turn of events, since he’s been working for this man for awhile.

The boss straightened up, revealing a gun of his own. “I’ll pay you if and when I drat well please. And I’m not feeling very generous with an unknown painting and a botched job.”
It’s not really an unknown painting, if he trusts Steve. He appears to trust Steve enough to continue to hire him. That’s just internal consistency. Does he trust Steve, or does he not trust Steve? Just make sure it all lines up.

The two men glared at each other. Steve shrank back; his day had been bad enough without getting shot by a white man. But when neither man showed signs of relenting, he ventured, “Even if it is an unknown painting, it’s still a Rothko, right? Surely that’s good enough for at least a down payment?”
“The two men glared at each other. Steve shrank back; his day had been bad enough without getting shot by a white man. Neither man showed signs of relenting.
“It’s still a Rothko, right? That’s good enough for at least a down payment?”
This is an interesting aside. We only know Mr. White, is white, not the boss, not Steve. Now I see why the boss was apologizing for using the phrase ‘colored’ but that’s not readily apparent in the original sentence. Also, the boss doesn’t seem like a person to apologize for racism. Does Steve’s race play a factor in them not believing he is capable of this subterfuge? If that’s the case, play it up.


“Normally yes, you're a good lad, Steve,” the boss said without taking his eyes off of Mr. White. “But this washed-up thief has been very disrespectful.”

"How about I apologize nicely?" said Mr. White, holstering his gun under his suit jacket. "I'm sorry, I don't react to not being paid well."

"And I don't react to threats well. I'll give you a partial payment, and you owe me another job," said the boss.

"Sounds good, I've got the bug again. Try for a Van Gogh next time, partner?" Mr. White winked at Steve.

"I need a vacation after all this," said Steve.

The boss barked a laugh and handed Steve a parcel of cash. "Get out of here, enjoy yourself."

#

The boss was much less friendly when he called Steve the next morning. News of the robbery had hit the papers: "Fake Rothko stolen from exhibition of countertop art. A case of mistaken identity?" Steve picked up, sipping a mimosa in the airport lounge.

"What the gently caress, Steve?" the boss said as a greeting. "You led him to the wrong loving painting, you motherfucker!"

"How do you know it's not Mr. White's fault?"

"Don't play dumb. That guy just laughed and told me to contact him if I wanted a real Rothko," the boss fumed. "It was your job to scout the museum."

"I did, the real Rothko is on the third floor." Steve hesitated, then continued. Not like he was planning to go back. "But I've got a secret to share, boss. All those nights in the museum, just me and the art, I started to get it, you know? Get why people spend a stupid amount of money for them. The art, the good stuff, it speaks to you, man. Unlocks emotions, thoughts, you didn't know you had in you. So yeah, I pointed him to the fake one. The real one deserves to be seen."

The boss had a lot of words to say about that, most threatening his life. Steve hung up; the PA system had just announced that first class for the flight to Paris was now boarding. He smiled as he picked up his bag, looking forward to appreciating some art in the light of day.
You don’t stick the landing here. The assumption was Steve has the real painting. Otherwise, why risk evading police? He’s supposed to be there. Why not let White get caught? Why not let the boss get caught? If Steve does not have the real painting, he pointed them to a fake (which the idea is also ludicrous, that a museum houses both the real exhibit and a fake one at the same time), or a painting by a different person? Why is he even entertaining a call from his boss, if not to gloat about pulling a fast one on someone who assumed he was incapable of doing it? What do you want to show in the final scene, start there, and then organically create the scenario the lends itself to it. You are showing the prompt constraint is a handicap here, not informative of the story. That he is in the airport is perfectly fine, but his activity and reasons for being at the airport, or holding this scene at the airport, are merely contrivance and only serve to confuse the elements you had established earlier.

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