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Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


in, :toxx:

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Owlspiracy
Nov 4, 2020




lol wrong thread :(

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Owlspiracy posted:

lol wrong thread :(

sounds like someone wants to join the thunderdome

Owlspiracy
Nov 4, 2020




eh gently caress it lets roll :D

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Owlspiracy posted:

eh gently caress it lets roll :D

SO LET IT BE MOTE

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P



:toxx: in

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan's country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.



in

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!







Week 459 crits

SMEGMA_MAIL

this is pretty boring. its not like, actively bad, i guess, but i dont really have a reason to care, and its just a boring protagonist getting boringly chased by some cops. theres no real reason to care, the protagonist doesnt have anything to him that makes me root for him, so there’s tension. he just seems to complain about how he shouldnt be doing crimes or w/e

the larger problem with this story is that the protagonist himself just doesnt have anything that makes me care. he complains about being in the life of crime, but we dont have a reason for why he’s in it, why he joined it, besides it being easy money. thats not a compelling motivation that makes me care about the protagonist. the protagonist doesnt even necessarily need to be sympathetic, but he’s also not interesting. he doesnt have really any strong or fun character traits, or really have any clever ideas or decisions, so the story follows a pretty straight line with no bumps and no reason to care.

Barnaby Profane

cute in concept, but kinda dull in execution. dialogue is fun but like, i was waiting for something to really happen. there were a lot of extraneous details (did we need ALL of the family member names and what they were doing?), and the ending was pretty predictable. i wanted something more out of this, some kind of higher tension or something that would make me go oh no how are they gonna get out of this one? and then have like a little clever plan that gets them out. but nah, it was just some decent dialogue and a predictable. i really wanted to enjoy this story of a raccoon and crow thief friends, but its just too boring :(

Taletel

ugh i always hate making these stories lose because like, yes its bad, but its not really horrible just amateurish. anyways, first of all, youre doing dialogue wrong (from a technical standpoint). i highly recommend this link (this is how i learned to punctuate dialogue, after all)

https://litreactor.com/columns/talk-it-out-how-to-punctuate-dialogue-in-your-prose

Besides that, this is just really really really boring. it is terribly generic and cliche. its not terrible terrible, it just doesnt do anything that makes us interested in this story. like, the big question for stories like this, if youre going to jump into cliches, is what about your story is going to make up for the cliches. is your character going to be having a fun time romping through your cliches? thats fine, but this isnt very fun. is it gonna be a serious story, despite the cliches? thats what you seem to be trying to do, but the protagonist isnt compelling enough. we dont have a good enough reason to care about the protag here. similar to SMEGMA’s, the issue is that the character isnt sympathetic or fun enough for me to want to watch succeed.

trex

fun, energetic, does kind of lack a sort big pull in tho. i think my issue is that like, the story that’s being told is just “we hit people, and then we hit some more people.” again, i wanted to have more creative solutions in mind here. like i guess it is a lil fun to see a bunch of old people beat up bad guys, but idk, i did want something more than just punch everyone. however, unlike the previous stories, the character here at least was fun and had a nice voice that it was still more compelling than boring people.

thranguy

weird fantasy shift, action kinda just flowed through me and i didnt rly care. again, the problem lies in the character. he isnt actively boring, and there’s attempts to drive at a larger story w/ some of the other characters mentioned, but it feels perfunctory. its hard, because it feels like the fantasy shift is meant to be the big change-up in this story, but it happens pretty early and feels like it doesnt really change much? like, it feels like it should be bigger or meaningful, but the characters respond quickly and easily to it, and there doesnt seem to be much consequence to it.

antiv

this is a really neat and fun idea. i liked that the conflict here wasnt just violence which was a nice change of pace in this week. i liked nice friends skeletons with the twist being ah they were actually gonna kill him, but that was cool and fun and fits into the genre well imho. my only real problem (but it is a big problem) is that i wouldve liked the protag to weasel his way out of the situation rather than getting off because of a technicality he didnt know existed. like the protag just tells a few stories, and then the skeleton is like “i wouldve murdered u but u were boring at the start so nvm.” maybe wouldve been fun if the protag realized halfway through their story telling that they were gonna murder him and started just telling really stupid and boring stories and then he gets booed off the stage and leaves. idk spitballing ideas, but it wouldve been nice to see the character actually do something to get out of the situation rather than just be told to gently caress off.

my shark waifuu

pretty enjoyable tbh tbh. good energy, good concept, reasonably well executed altho the ghost motivation is kinda up in the air. the ghost motivation is the largest issue here, he just agrees to join up with the protag for no real reason. its a hard question, i know, and the motivation question was one you clearly handwaved away because like, how do you make a ghost cooperate? idk, but i feel like if you found the answer to this question, and made a really compelling reason for the ghost to work together, this could stand as a strong story. also, an editing pass to shorten it down would be for the best. some of the details feel extraneous. honestly, i probably shouldve proposed this as an hm, my bad lol.

mojo

ok but kinda bleh. this reminds me of “Dave” (which i still dont v much like even from when i judged it back in the day) where u set up a situation at the start and then lead to where they ended up there. i think it actually works better here, lol, but i still dont have much reason to care for the protagonist. he has a decent voice, but not really a strong motivation or a particularly fun-ness to him that it makes me want to keep reading. also, the story feels like two pieces shoved together. it starts with him almost falling off, and then the caravan, and i dont rly know why we need the almost falling off part. i think just having the caravan makes more sense, giving more time to flesh out that section since it seems under-written. the conclusion of it is just, they get attacked by a cat and like, i wouldve at least a lil bit more agency in the character causing the death of the caravan. he just kinda convinces them to maybe not kill him for a lil bit and gets lucky. idk, that just lead to me being satisfied.

fles

i didnt really judge this because i dont rly care for judging obvious non-finished products, but from what we have, its fine? its a little purple at the start, but the concept of a thief sneaking onto a ship is cool, and the character has a bit of personality in that they were called a bad thief or w/e. id like this to be actually finished, it probably wouldve been fine. hard to say if itd be good or bad because obv theres a big difference between unfinished and finished, but conceptually, this could work, and the prose and story work isnt egregious altho could be pared down w/ some editing.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







i will judge this, and :toxx: to have the last two weeks i judged critted by weds pst

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)

Flyerant
Jun 4, 2021

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


in

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


in :toxx:

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




The time to sign up has passed, the season for writing has begun

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan's country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.



Lacuna
899 words

I fall asleep curled under heavy blankets, holding Julia tightly, listening to rain patter on the rooftop. I wake up to sticky heat, bright sunlight, the chatter of birdsong.

The bed is empty besides me. A thin sheet is draped over my hips.

I go into the kitchen in a daze, squinting and reaching for my coffee. Things are in different places from where I left them. The sugar jar that looks like a tortoise is gone. A bottle of sunscreen lies on the countertop, open and oozing glacially.

Why sunscreen in wintertime?

Why sunlight?

Julia comes in from the other room. She is fully dressed, face tight and hair pinned back. There is a bulging duffel bag under her arm.

“Hun,” I say, “what time is it? I must have slept so late...”

I know something is wrong by the way her lips purse at ‘hun’. “Pat, it’s 6:30. You should go back to sleep.”

“It's not light out like this at 6:30,” I say, laughing. Why is the air so hot, my skin so sweaty?

Julia doesn’t laugh. She peers at me. “Are you OK? I know this is hard for you, but… it’s past time.”

“Past time for what?”

I glance at the clock on the microwave: 6:42. That’s wrong. Is it? I find my phone charging by the couch, even though I’m sure I left it on the nightstand. I turn it on. The screen says: 6:42am, January 13.

I feel sick.

“There’s something wrong with my phone,” I say. “It says January. Jules, how weird is that my phone says January instead of August?”

Now there is naked fear and apprehension on her face. “Pat. You’re confused. It’s summer.”

“It’s not summer, it’s winter, it’s... I went to bed in winter.” I realise how stupid that sounds but it’s the closest I can get to describing what happened. “We went to sleep cuddling, remember?”

She shakes her head, mouth a little open.

“Jules. I think I need your help.”

“Oh, Pat,” says Julia. “I only came to pick up my stuff.”

***

But because there is no one else—my parents still live out of town, that much is still the same—Julia drives me to the hospital. She waits in the cafeteria for hours while they give me one test after another. At the end of it all, the doctor tells me the results are ‘inconclusive’.

“You have reasons to be optimistic,” he says. “In 80% of these cases, the missing memories at least partially return.” He hands me a pamphlet and I see that he was reading off the first page.

I find Julia at a laminate table, picking over a dry orange cake. When I sit down I put my hand over hers, automatically, and she pulls it back to her chest.

“Jules, I want to talk about this. About us.”

She sighs. “We already talked so much. I can’t do it all over again.”

“I—I don’t remember,” I say, stating the bloody obvious.

“Oh, come on, Patrick. This isn’t healthy. It’s time to let go.”

“You think—what, I’m lying—”

“I didn’t say that.” She stands up. “But… you’ve never been exactly stable, have you?”

There is a venom in her voice I have never heard before. I feel vertigo at the gap between us, the five months missing from my head. What did I say to her, to make her look at me like this?

We stand in silence for a long time. Then, because there is no-one else, she drives me home.

***

Days begin to pass. I am not coping. I take indefinite leave from work and stay home all day, running the air conditioning, wrapping myself in blankets on the couch. I still feel like any minute I could fall asleep and go back—back into the winter I left behind.

In my phone there are hundreds of text messages between me and Julia: broken conversations, their other halves irretrievably vanished. I scroll through them, trying to pry meaning out of words I wrote but can’t recall.

One night, I realise I have lost my password book and can’t get into any of my accounts. This, for whatever reason, is the thing that breaks me. I call Julia over and over until she finally picks up.

“I need you. Just stay with me one night. Sleep on the couch. I can't be alone anymore.”

There is a long silence. Then she says, sadly, “Pat...”

“Do you want me to beg? To cry? I’ll do anything, I’ll say anything, I’ll—”

“Alright. Jesus, Pat, I’ll come over.”

***

The night is scorching hot. I lie in the dark a long time, listening to Julia’s breathing in the next room. It’s a sad, pathetic little comfort, but I need it.

When I wake up, I’m under two duvets with my pyjama pants tucked into my socks. Outside the covers it’s icy cold, but underneath I’m warm, with a warm body next to me.

My heart rises in my chest. “Jules?”

“Hm? What’s that, hun?”

The dark-haired girl in my bed blinks sleep from her eyes. She has a soft white scar across the bridge of her button nose. Almost absentmindedly she kisses my clavicle.

I open my mouth to speak, to ask a hundred different questions. Then I shut it again, and pull her closer.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


The Noises of Early Summer Lawns
894 words

It’s the first weekend of summer, and Kyle’s dandelions will not shut up to save their own lives.

Mrs. Carrington and I are sitting on chairs made of thick-woven grass, sipping rosemary and hibiscus iced tea and listening to the early murmuring of the neighborhood’s lawns, just breaking the surface of the dirt again for the first time in several months and cooing at their surroundings, but the May wind keeps blowing and waking up Kyle’s dandelions. Every gust prompts a “Hi,” or a “Hey, it’s me, Kyle.” Kyle is the kind of neighbor that does not let you forget his name. In another couple of weeks, more dandelions will sprout on the other lawns of the neighborhood, letting us all know Kyle’s horoscope for the day (he’s an Aries) or advertising his koi pond business. It’s enough to make you want to advance on his property with a fleet of riding lawn mowers and hum Ride of the Valkyries. I know better than to say such things aloud, though.

Cutting down someone else’s lawn is like giving them a tattoo against their will.

Mrs. Carrington is still talking while I stay quiet and attempt to listen. She talks about how things have changed in the neighborhood in the past ten years, people in the neighborhood don’t talk to each other anymore, there’s less of an openness and a friendliness in the air. She grabs the other pitcher of iced tea, the one made with jasmine, rainwater, and Miracle-Gro, and waters the roots of her armchair, punctuating her point. Her lawn sighs, and her armrests hug her tight.

It’s been one year since the Amerson boy disappeared, and three more years since Charly Delacroix’s bike was found around the corner from where we are now, tipped over onto a storm drain, helmet unbuckled and placed neatly on the sidewalk beside it. I sip my tea and stare off across the way and nod, patting my grass chair, fibers trembling under my weight. There are only so many people like Mrs. Carrington in the neighborhood nowadays, who don’t invest in Keep Off The Grass signs, who make room for guests who want to gossip even though it’s frowned upon.

As if right on cue, we hear the sound of a lawn mower firing to life from the end of the lane, and we both turn our heads towards the noise before immediately turning away, pretending nothing happened at all. Every other day, Mr. Waverly mows his lawn down to the bare earth, sowing the ground with handfuls of office staples and paper clips after he’s finished. I refuse to tell him that it’s been forever and a day since they stopped putting iron in office supplies, and besides, it’d be like throwing rock salt on the tip of an iceberg.

The lawns in this neighborhood grow down deep, deep into the ground. Ask anyone around here how deep of a person they are, and they won’t lie to you, but they won’t exactly tell you the truth either.

I remember the week after Mr. Waverly first moved here, how the grass formed in front of his house in the shape of a woman curled up underneath a sheet of dark green, the curve of her bare hips and thighs like the arc of a question mark. He had the mower delivered to his house by Sunday afternoon.

We finish our glasses of iced tea, say our goodbyes, and head back to our gardens. We don’t speak about it, but we both know that’s where we’re going. If talking about other people’s lawns is impolite, then even acknowledging the existence of each other’s gardens is like pulling naked photographs of the other person out of your pocket.

I guess I prefer it that way. Some things are not to be shared.

I make my way to the back of the house, towards the far corner where my garden sits, a patch of dark soil surrounded by bleached white stones. A bed of white and pink chrysanthemums sits there, leaves dark and shiny, and I beam down at them with pride, bend over and stroke the
blossoms as they sway in the wind and chitter with affection.

I take a wrinkled finger and pry one of the blossoms to the side, and I look down at him, the child no bigger than a cicada, curled up near the roots of the flowerbed, sucking his thumb in the shade and fast asleep.

I smile, then stand up and clap the dirt off my hands.

Mrs. Carrington’s one of the few people in the neighborhood that still talks to me, because I let my lawn grow wild, let the grass grow until it’s around three feet tall, sweet-smelling and bright and curled into stalks. The summer is still young, so the grass is still pushing through the earth after having been cooped up underground over the winter months, but before long the sun will beat down upon the perfect meadow of tall, thick blades of green, the type of place to lay back and sink deep, deep down and forget the passage of time, a soft bed that curls around you and swallows up the sky, all around you the sound of laughter, the type of laughter you only know from when you were a child, unabashed and unashamed.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.




Monkeys Are Good Drivers, Actually 900 words

The monkeys had discussed it at length, and all agreed that actually, it was getting way too cold. Time to move somewhere warmer, like, uh…

Anyway, time to move.

They hatched a plan, or rather, they saw the zookeeper and agreed, ‘hey, let’s do this thing’. They all crowded at the bars and made various hootings or whatever sound monkeys make, and he came over to the bars and chuckled at them. The monkeys near the top grabbed parts of his face and pulled him towards them.

He chuckled again and allowed himself to be dragged towards the bars. Then they inexplicably let go of his face and lost interest. He shrugged and went on his way. Who could understand the mysterious ways of the monkeys.

After he had left, one of the monkeys took the keys it had pilfered from him, and as a team they tried to place it into their cage’s door lock. They only dropped it about 3 times, and hardly any fights broke out over the correct way to turn it. Before long, the cage was open, and they all spilled out. They removed the key from the lock and took the keyring with them, and let out some of the other monkeys – but not all of them, because that pack over there were a bunch of jerks – and also most of the birds, but not the penguins because it was even colder over there, and they weren’t dealing with that nonsense.

Well, they opened the cages, anyway. Most of the birds just stayed in their nests, but the other monkeys all left their cages and started harassing zoo visitors or throwing poo at the lions.

The original monkeys, or OMs, found a tree near the zoo’s wall, and scampered up and over. There were a few vehicles here – they didn’t really know this, but they were in the staff carpark. One of them took the key ring and started trying the various keys in various keyholes, and also keying a few of the cars because, heck why not. Then a motorbike beeped. The monkey prodded the button he’d accidentally pressed again, and the motorbike beeped again.

The monkeys swarmed over to the motorbike. Some of them sat on the pedals, and others sat on those monkeys, and others sat on those monkeys, then some sat on the seat, and some sat on the handlebars, and it was basically just a mass of monkeys. There was a helmet on one of the motorbikes, and, agreeing that safety came first, three of them crammed themselves into the helmet and perched at the top of the monkey mass. Then, the mass of monkeys inserted the key into the ignition and started the engine.

Riding a motorbike as a swarm of monkeys is quite difficult, perhaps even more difficult than riding a motorbike as a person, but they managed it, after only driving into a few of the cars a few times. Fortunately, monkeys have very good balance. Before long, they had driven under the boom gate, although it took some monkey-like agility to do so without knocking all the monkeys flying; only a few of them got knocked off, and they chased down the motorbike and got back on, on their positions.

They were cruising down the highway, and all the other cars were going the other way for some reason, but the monkeys had gotten quite good at this motorbiking thing, and managed to avoid the cars, also the cars mostly got out of their way, so it was a pretty good system over, all, really. Then they saw the flashing lights and heard the sirens, and the next thing you know a car was chasing them.

Eventually the flashing car managed to catch up to them and force them off the road. The monkeys weren’t happy with this turn of events, but there’s not much you can do when other motorists insisted on driving recklessly. The other motorist got out of his car and brandished a gun at them, which is rude and also dangerous, so they did the logical thing, which was to quickly get into the car he’d just vacated and close and lock the door.

He tried to stop them, but monkeys are fast and nimble, and people are less so, so bad luck chief. Also, he’d left the keys in the ignition, which is just careless, so they drove off and left him in the dust. One of them found out how to work the window, and they threw out the helmet, as they would no longer be needing that since they had seatbelts and airbags and things. They’d put the driver’s side seatbelt on, which some of them clung to for safety, and others kind of clung onto those monkeys, and also there were monkeys on the pedals and stuff, which was kinda hard to get used to but not so bad since they’d just driven a motorbike, but also the monkeys on the pedals couldn’t see where they were going, so communication was key, anyway the point is they can hardly be blamed for the traffic accidents they left in their wake, because no one forced those other cars to drive into ditches or each other.

Anyway, the house they crashed into was pretty warm, so they hung out there for the entire winter.

MockingQuantum
Jan 20, 2012





Ice-Melt
576 words

The ice cracked as Hoyn opened one globular eye, swiveling it around to take in the world for the first time in a decade. The fin pressed against his chest stirred gently, churning the trickle of ice-melt surrounding his body into a contained current, coaxing the masses of glacier into fracturing further.

Hoyn started to piece it all together. They had been caught unaware in the open ocean. The freezing season had come days too soon. What had changed? Something catastrophic. A life lived in months, in amnesiac blinks separated by frozen decades, had been reduced to mere weeks.

He remembered the push now, the sudden appalling sensation of Grond reaching out his fin--so delicate, with its serpentine bones pressing against Grond's iridescent scales like they might burst forth at any moment--and shoving Hoyn away in a desperate attempt to propel himself some few seconds forward.

A thunderous rumble rippled through the ice around Hoyn. He could feel his legs again, and tested the space about him. The ice was giving way under the creeping light of the distant sun. Hoyn was struck with a sudden well of sorrow even as his icy tomb crumbled around him. They had been days away from the nest, searching the surface waters for succulent insects on which they could gorge themselves before their forced hibernation.

But now, it would take them days to reach the nest and its stores of food. Already Hoyn felt the gnawing hunger that came of an underfed freezing-sleep. He prayed to the tide gods that they would make it back to civilization before they starved, or that some intrepid minnows or jellies would awaken more rapidly than they normally would, following a thaw.

At the very least, Hoyn prayed he would make it. If Grond could not make it, if he fell to his hunger, well… it would not be the first such tale. None would blame Hoyn for doing what he must to survive. The seasons were savage, as the saying went.

Perhaps Grond could be… helped along. He had always been tender, so quick, but so frail. Hoyn looked down at Grond's fin. Perhaps he'd eat that first. 

The ice shifted further, separating enough for Hoyn to turn and look fully into Grond's face. The smaller fish's eyes were bulging as he tried, through miniscule movement, to swim back away from Hoyn. So he remembered too, remembered how he tried, and failed, to gain some small advantage in the final panicked moments before everything froze.

Hoyn grinned as feeling returned to his extremities. They were doomed, practically guaranteed to starve before returning to the deeper waters that were free of ice, and home to their city. But only one of them had committed a mortal insult. Only one of them had dared to place a fin on the other in selfishness. And if Hoyn was destined to die, he was determined to balance the scales first.

With a sound like harp strings snapping under strain, the ice pack finally fractured entirely, scattering into a billion brilliant shards of glass that would dwindle away under the new sunlight within a day. In that split second, they were both in motion, Grond desperately lunging forward, pressing his infinitesimal lead. Hoyn kicked into pursuit with all his strength, straining to close the gap and subdue his weaker opponent, but it would be a long chase, won in breaths and hours.

Let the hunting season begin.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Predator
900 words


The heat of summer has passed, and the leaves have turned to gold, and my antlers hang heavy on my head. Soon will come winter, and I feel in my bones that this will be my last. I will lay my body among the roots and stones, and give up my flesh to the soil, and I will live forever. But first, I must survive the predators that come with the turning leaves.

I see two of them, dressed in leaves and padding along the trails carved through the underbrush. They carry weapons in their arms and make little sound, stopping periodically to inspect piles of scat left along the trail. They chitter softly to one another.

But as quiet as they are, still I am quieter. I know that the crown I carry is the prize they seek. In my brash youth I displayed my antlers proudly and dared the predators to try to take them from me, but I have lived long enough to see my herdmates felled one after another, seen them dragged away bleeding in the backs of rumbling trucks. This is not how I intend to die.

I have learned their tactics. They dress themselves in leaves, and so I have done the same, draping my antlers with creeping vines and ferns. I step like they step, placing my hooves down softly. I creep close to my predators now, close enough to smell the dried meat in their pockets and the oily wafts drifting from the barrels of their weapons.

I could hide, and leave them to their bloody work. But I follow them instead. I like this feeling, of following them unseen. The first sun rays of morning are dappling through the forest, and mist rises from the leaves as they stretch and unfurl. I am not afraid. A hunter must understand its prey, and as I follow my quarry, I glimpse what it must feel like to be them. I feel powerful.

But I have grown overconfident, and placed a hoof badly. A leaf crunches below, and the predators whirl around. I hold still, and my heart hammers in my chest. Their gaze passes over me once, twice, a third time. My disguise seems to be working. The smaller of them, barely more than a cub, twitters nervously to the other, who shushes him quickly. They continue to scan, but they do not see me, yet.

Up the trail, a rustling. A member of my herd, perhaps. The predators’ heads twist like owls. They move up the trail, slowly, quietly, leaving me behind. That was too close. I was lucky just now. I should use my chance to escape, and yet: I don’t. I want to see them kill. I want to see how it happens. I follow.

Down the trail, a clearing, a pool of water surrounded by mossy stones. Mist rises around the banks, tangling upwards through reeds. Songbirds call to one another from the branches above. And there, at the edge of the water with his forelegs splayed and his antlers skimming the surface of the pond, a young buck from my herd.

The predators creep behind a fallen tree and peer over. The buck laps at the water, oblivious. He is young. We locked antlers in the spring, and while he could not defeat me then, I could feel the strength that was growing in him, and saw a vision of the buck he would become.

The predators have rested their weapons on the edge of the fallen tree. The larger one points; the hands of the smaller are shaking. I could bellow to warn the buck, but I don’t; the predators might kill me instead, drag me away in his place, and that is not how I intend to die.

A leaf drifts down from the canopy above, golden yellow, twirling softly through morning light, and I feel a change come over me. I think of seasons past, when luck must have saved me countless times, and I realize I do not wish to see this buck die. My legs are moving before I know what’s happening, and I am charging with my antlers lowered.

I feel the crunch of bone against wood, of bone against antler. My vision becomes stars, and I smell the predator’s blood. He screams like a rabbit, and his cub falls over backwards, scrambling. I have him pinned, and I twist my antlers, feeling them crack and splinter. From the corner of my eye, I catch a flash of the buck bounding through the shallows of the pond and disappearing into the brush.

And then there is a terrible sound, and I feel a scorching heat between my ribs. I pull my antlers free, and the predator’s cub is backing away from me, acrid smoke wafting from the barrel of his weapon. I can feel my life leaking from me, and I charge clumsily past the cub, bowling him over, and crash into the forest. The cries of the cub recede in the distance as my ears fill with the buzzing of bees.

I feel myself weaken and slow, and my hooves will no longer lift. My side is wet with blood, and my breath is ragged. There is a hollow here, a bed of fallen yellow leaves resting above the roots and stones. I lower myself to rest, to live forever.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Blood Trench

870

There will be time for joy when all worries are laid to rest. We will find joy in the secret moments when all of this has passed. But this is not a secret moment, this is not passing time's reward. This is now, and now we ride.

Simota mans the rudder, flipper steady on the rod as he pierces the dark with practiced eyes, I am on the sails, knots I've tied a thousand times before. Terradum is on the bow, parting the dark sea with her song. We have ridden the Tenebrin trench past the reefs of Living Kings and the wild armies of the Free Sea, and up until now we've seen the quiet ocean and nothing else. Our daughter can cross leagues quicker than you can even begin to imagine Terradum's song. Our daughter of the surf, our daughter the ship. We've birthed her from the labor of battle and strife, and now we bring her home. Our holds can barely contain coralweave scroll and Atlantean coin. Strife in spring, and then the wild summer and now as we pass over depths sealkind cannot comprehend; the great fall of victory.

Terradum shouts through the salt, a quick noise of raider pidgin, "Trouble up ahead."

"Be it the Free Sea? They'll remember our deal."

"No," she says, her singsong plea to the sea carried through her every action, "This foe shifts more water still."

"Be it the Living Kings? They ought remember our raid two summers past."

"No, quicker than both the free and the living, this one."

I pull the carbon rigging taut and shift towards her on rails and ropes, up to the bowsprit. We have rent our minds too many times with cursed surface magic to not see the sea before us like a sun touched stone barely below the surface.

There will be joy.

Simota roars from aft, "The trench runs with blood, watch beneath. The tides bear a message, watch beneath."

And we watch, and see the dark viscosity of life robbed and ripped from body cover the span of the ocean floor, the ragged limbs of seahorse and beluga, the shattered fins of great white and royal tuna. No kin or country, this great threat sees, only the expanse of life ready to be stripped from the sea.

There will be time for joy. For a day not touched by the crushing of gill and lung, of great pressure and the darkness of the fade.

There will be time to laugh again, at winter's end, when we once again look towards the twin horizon of upsea and downsea, the great cities of the fundament and the nomads kissing surface sunwave. A rich hunting ground, for limbs and lubber full of spring-fresh spirit.

But now, great weight cracks water deep and in dull tones grim purpose carries. We turn our daughter sideways and tangle ourselves to her frame, all sealkind fit for violence. Simota steers downward, and our daughter obeys. Down into the trench and the viscera. We are bursting with desire for blood and death, not content to let leviathan keep their wrathful watch. We are made in misery's spirit, a leviathan unto ourselves, a force of pure purpose coursing through the undersea.

Then we see her, all scale and sinew and ancient muscle. all teeth and razor-sharp baleen, built to tear a war-kraken to ribbon-fine tribute. Our daughter's prow bears steel of vent-furnace and remora forge. Sigils of master-smith in ethereal glow aimed true at leviathan bulk. We roar as we ride, our war ridden bodies hurting from the meld of speed and pressure, ever deeper in gravity's endless purpose.

There will be time for joy. We have not kissed air for so long, we have not felt the respite of the surf and shore. We will rest upon the warm rocks, let our weary bodies replenish blubber and let our sore muscles rest.

We will see our children again, laugh as we tell stories of war and death. Perhaps of our death.

Steel shapes scales sideways in cacophonous finality. We are thrown, blades strapped to our sides, teeth bared, eyes forward. Three avatars of motion realized into action. The leviathan turns, turning the world with her, all water shifting in a great whirl, but we hold on with sharpened blades. And now we dive with her.

Deeper than the bunker cities of the Mantis Clans, deeper than the scholar sharks' endless libraries. We see the blood of innumerable foes grow thick around us, the mass grave of torn waterkind like seaweed . It's too much, and too heavy, and a dimness caresses our minds, ready to embrace. But there is fresh blood too, an ocean itself, pouring from a screaming titan.

This joy, this life, is not what we hunt. We know that. The tide approaches because it must, but we cannot pull the tide with our own fins.

And so, there will be time for joy, after this blood-filled darkness swallows us, after we've made the sea safer and sated our bloodlust.

We will wait then, in the surf, for our children to find their own cauldron of blood. And then, come spring, we will tell tales of wild summer.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!







865 words

The End of Summer

flerp fucked around with this message at 20:40 on Jul 5, 2021

Staggy
Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes





Winter Sun
773 / 900 words

On a hot, humid day in the middle of January, with the ragged squares of the reflective panels that orbit the equator just visible to the south and the waves lapping at the side of the mountain road, an owl flies out of the bushes, past my head, and craps on what may well be the last Pontiac Firebird on the planet.

Carl laughs so hard he drops his hoe amidst the gnawed stalks of the field. I use my own to try and hit the owl away and almost get the blighter - until a wad of mud catches me in the side of the head.

“Leave it, man,” Carl says, wiping his hand on his overalls and tears from his cheeks.

“Did you see what it did?” I gesture at the owl, which has perched atop the car and is now staring at us, eyes wide as though shocked to see humans. Depending on how old it is, we may well be the first it’s come across.

“Poor thing’s just confused,” Carl says. “With the weather and all, probably can’t tell up from down.”

“Well it’s got that in common with the potatoes. I thought they were supposed to be easy to grow?”

“Of course you did.” Carl sighs and I can feel my cheeks flush, even through the heat of the day. “I think that’s more the rats’ fault, don’t you?”

As if on cue, a dark shape scurries through a gap in the crops. The tip of my hoe impacts the earth a second too late and the shape disappears, squeaking, into the undergrowth. Carl’s hoe slams into the earth a second after that, sticking point-down in the dirt.

The owl watches, wide-eyed.

An uncharacteristic flash of anger lights up Carl’s face for a moment and is then lost again, stolen away by the heat and the humidity.

“I’m starting to think we should have gone up on an ark like everyone else.”

Guilt tugs at my heart and I turn away, reaching for Carl’s hoe so he can’t see the conflict writ large across my face. I know it’s just my mind playing tricks, know that he never wanted to go into cryo - but still, I was the one who suggested we stay. Just me, Carl and ten thousand other fools who’d rather live out their days on Terra Infirma.

“No rats up there,” I joke, still not looking at him. That means locking eyes with the owl, who cocks their head slightly at my gaze.

It’s not technically true - there’s everything in the arks, everything that ever was Earth, and that includes plenty of flash-frozen rodentia - but Carl, for once, doesn’t press the point. Instead he just sighs and takes the hoe back from me.

“No beaches,” he says, “no weather, no seasons …”

“Not like this bracing winter, eh?” I jerk my thumb towards the sun burning up the horizon. A shadow in the field twitches; my hoe disappears into the stalks but the scampering sounds that scatter around us tell me it doesn’t hit true.

“A rose by any other name, you know?” Carl shrugs. “It’s January. It’s winter.”

“It’s thirty whole degrees!”

“Okay, it’s a warm winter.” A smile creases his face. “I’ll let the rats know not to expect any snow.”

“I’ll miss that,” I say. “Snow. Worth it, though. To see things out to the end here.”

It’s not the end, though. Not really. I know that intellectually but I’ve yet to feel it take root in my soul or my gut. Too many years of documentaries and drama and desperation centred on how humans will make it in this strange new world - and then, how we wouldn’t. How we’d flee.

“Think it’s winter on the arks, then?” I struggle to keep my tone light.

“No,” Carl says flatly. “It’ll be cold and dark but it won’t be winter. Not until they actually find somewhere to land. Can’t have winter without spring after it.”

“Then if this -” I gesture around us. “- is winter, what’s spring?”

“I don’t know.” Carl shrugs. “Maybe it won’t be spring for us. Maybe it’ll be spring for the rats, eventually.”

A blur of feathers shoots between us, crashing into the field. Moments later, the owl lurches into the air, a large rat slack in its talons. The owl circles back around and lands on the roof of the Firebird with an audible thunk. It locks eyes with me for a second before tearing into its meal. I look away as the owl makes a mess of the windshield for a second time.

“Or maybe not,” Carl says weakly.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


[Removed for shopping around]

crimea fucked around with this message at 13:02 on Jun 11, 2021

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P



A Place Without Seasons
900 words

The temperature dropped to 90°F as we crossed the border into what was once Canada, which seemed as good an excuse as any to let out some of the stale air. Rachel and I clicked off our car’s jerry-rigged AC system and rolled down the windows. Wind flickered through our cramped car as we sailed down a road surrounded by sagging conifers and brown grass. I lifted a bare leg from the seat, hearing the skin unglue itself with a slow, wet rip. The noise was simultaneously disgusting and gratifying.

I looked to Rachel for her reaction but, per usual, her face was placid, unknowable. Her eyes remained focused on the road. White knuckles on the steering wheel served as the only clue to her mood. I told myself she was nervous about the journey. We’d seen only a dozen other moving cars since breaking through the US military checkpoint near Nebraska and each small town we passed had been emptied of life. Somewhere outside a town called Oroville, we’d passed a diner consumed in flames, the word “INUVIK” spray-painted across its unburnt half. The word stirred grade-school memories of Roanoke, the Lost Colony.

“So, Canada, eh?” I said, trying to lighten the mood and bridge the space between us. “I should have known that the land of poutine would be the last great hope of humanity.”

Rachel did not bother to look at me. She’d gotten colder in the days since our departure and now her voice was practiced, calm. “The earth has been literally tilted off its axis, Mag. I’m pretty sure that whatever’s up north isn’t ‘the last great hope of humanity.’ If anything, people like us are likely to overload the local ecosystem, disturbing wildlife and local indigenous—.”

“Is that from one of your podcasts? You still have an episode of All Things Considered or The Daily on your phone you aren’t telling me about?” I joked, trying to spark anything in her. “Cause, if so, I’d love to hear it. Been really hankering for some ads for Casper mattresses, especially with the radio’s busted.”

There was silence, save for the reverberations of wind through the car. Rachel’s grip tightened on the steering wheel and we emerged from the dry, husk-like forest into a small lakeside town. She slowed as we passed through and, seeing no movement, stopped at a hardware store.

“We should find supplies,” Rachel said in a dull voice. “Stock up on gas. Get some stuff if we need to trade. That kind of thing.”

Then, without waiting, she opened her door and strode inside. I swallowed a sharp burst of anger and followed her. She needed me, after all. We both needed each other.

We’d only started dating a few weeks before the disaster, both of us having the same friends, coming out at the same time. My brain, colonized by rom-com conventions, forced me to believe this meant something. Our awkward fumbling was just quirkiness. Our fights were normal. When scientists started appearing on television drawing lines that showed the Earth drifting dangerously close to the sun, it’d been my idea to escape northward. Crisis turned me into a caricature of myself, manically insisting that the trek would solve everything. If nothing else, I pleaded, staying together was better than facing the end alone.

Every day, I tried to find some way to fix us. It was the only thing I thought about standing inside the sweltering hardware store, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. That might be the reason why it took several minutes for me to find Rachel standing with her arms crossed next to an aisle of cheap candles. Melted streams of wax cascaded down the front.

“Maggie,” she said quietly. “I can’t keep doing this.”

“Hey, it’s fine,” I said, trying to simulate intimacy. “We’ve been through worse, you know? I mean, we’ve driven halfway across the continent in a lovely little car while the continent is literally on fire. Hell, we snuck past the US military. If we can do that—.”

This time, she turned to me. “I hate how you’re always like this. I just hate it when I’m bringing up something serious and you think you can just brush it under the rug with a joke. You know that’s not what I’m talking about.”

“Then what are we talking about?” I said without thinking, letting bile come to the surface. “I’m trying so loving hard to make this work, to make us work.” I drew a circle in the air. “And every time I reach out, you go back into your little hole. Is that what you want? Is being with me so awful that you’d rather loving die alone?”

She gave me a sad expression as I struggled to remember what it had been like at the start. Strawberry ice cream. Pictures together on Instagram. Going to the movies with friends. There was still a polaroid of us in my wallet, a relic of some early date.

All of these things made me feel nothing. I looked away in disgust.

“Fine. Have it your way,” I said, ignoring the heat welling up behind my eyes. “I’m going to wait in the car.”

I walked out, leaving her there. I did not know what the next few hours would hold but, at the very least, Rachel and I were done pretending.

Taletel
May 19, 2021

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021

Ice Age
Word count-578

The decrypt city is blanketed in snow; a sprawling relic of a bygone era. There is no life here, at least none that I can see.

I look inside my backpack. The canned goods that I scavenged are there. My tribe will be pleased. There is still one thing that I am missing, but that certain object is not for the tribe. It is for my eyes only.

I make my way back to the camp, but I take a detour. A short, red-bricked building still stands. The sign for the building is covered in snow, so I brush it off. It reads Indianapolis Public Library-Southport Branch. Just where the map said it would be.

I enter the dilapidated building through a hole in the wall. Ruined books are scattered around on the floor. I look through the few shelves that are still standing. Some of the books are still in good or decent condition. One particular book catches my eye. The heritage of the desert by Zane Grey, the spine reads. I grab the book and open it, to check if the words are still legible. They are, so I put the book in my backpack.

I head south, out into the outskirts of the abandoned city.



Our tribe is currently camped by Wildwood Lake. There are around five dozen of us in total. We scavenge and live off the land; with what meager offerings the frozen earth does give us. By the lake, numerous tents are set up to house us. I walk to my tent first.

My tent is rather small, with only a bedroll and a small fire to keep me warm. I dig into my backpack and take out my book. I look at it for a second before I stuff it inside my bedroll.

“You know Chief Elijah will kill you if he finds out you are reading books,” A voice states. I jump and turn around to see Ava, my girlfriend.

“Quit sneaking up on me like that,” I say.

“The Cooling was man’s punishment for worshiping machines,” She mimics the chief’s voice, “tomes of the old-world corrupted the past generations.”

“That’s a load of bullshit. I bet Elijah can’t even read.”

“Seriously though, I don’t want you to get hurt. What’s in those books that are worth dying for anyways?” I grab my book from the bedroll and show it to her.

“It’s called The heritage of the desert by Zane Grey. Do you know what a hot desert is? It’s a place where the sun shines and it’s warm every day. Where you don’t have to worry about frostbite or hypothermia.”

“Aren’t you too old to be chasing tales and legends?”

“Says the one who believes in the Yeti,” I retort.

“I saw it while relieving myself. Or It might have been Tim perving at me. My point still stands.”

“Look, this isn’t a fairy tale. I saw a postcard of a place in a desert. Mexico ti was called. It is to the south of us.”

“Jake, this is our tribe. Even if this place does exist—It’s probably covered in ice like the rest of the planet. Be realistic, Jake.”

I sigh, “I just want the best for both of us.”

“I know,” Ava points at my backpack, “You might want to get those goods to Duncan before he gets suspicious.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that.” I grab my backpack and leave my tent.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





Apogee
898 words

I woke up to the sound of a spaceship landing on our front lawn. I got up excitedly: it was our moving ship, slated to take the household to our summer home on Venusia. Most people on Gaia had already left to escape the long, cold winter here, when the planet’s orbit swung far from the sun, but we liked to stay late to avoid the interplanetary rush. But now the house filled with activity as my parents directed the movers in an endless parade of boxes. I’d already packed so I pinged Max on my smart brace. He responded unusually quickly; I grinned. We’d spent the whole Gaian summer together and I couldn’t wait to continue the fun on Venusia; my daydreams often involved us skinny-dipping in the planet’s warm lakes. With a shout to my parents, I zipped off in my hovercar. Max's family lived in one of the huge, interconnected skyscrapers that formed the heart of the city. I parked on their dock, eighty stories up, and beeped the horn. Max clambered into the passenger seat.

For my last day on the planet, I took us to our favorite spot: a secluded overlook in the mountains. Once there, I popped the dome, exposing us to the cold fresh air. Winter was on the horizon.

Max was quiet, even for him. “I forget, when did you say your family’s leaving?” I said to fill the silence.

“I didn’t say.” Max stared at the distant mountains. “Ted, I’m not leaving.”

My heart felt like it was plunged into ice water. “What do you mean?” I said, hoping I’d misheard. As I understood it, the whole planet froze solid during the Gaian winter and living here became a struggle for survival.

“My family overwinters on Gaia. It started because we were too poor to afford the move, but now it’s a tradition.” I couldn't get my thoughts to coalesce into questions, but he anticipated some of them anyway. “Don’t worry, we’re all set up for it. The snow is beautiful and the streets are quiet. We’ve got the whole planet to ourselves. It’s nice, I promise,” he said defensively.

“But,” I said. He sounded so drat reasonable, like he hadn’t just destroyed my dreams like crushing a fistful of snow. “But isn’t it cold? Wouldn’t you rather come hang out in the sun?”

“I’m sort of looking forward to the change of pace.” He looked at me, pleading. “As I said, it’s fine. Don’t worry about me.”

“I’m worried about us!” My fears crystallized into words. “What about us? It’s our first Venusian summer together, I’ve got so many places to show you. The rivers and waterfalls are stunning, and there’s a perfect spot for swimming. And you’d give all that up to freeze your rear end off here?”

“Please don’t make this harder …”

“If it’s a money thing, that’s okay, it really is.” I grasped at this idea like a drowning man at a lifeboat. “We’ve got plenty of room, my parents love you. You can stay with us all summer, it’ll be no problem.”

“Can you take my parents too? How about my aunts? My cousins?”

I glared at him.

He sighed. “It’s a time for our family to be together, I can’t just leave them.”

“You could, though,” I said bitterly.

“And you could stay here with me, you think of that? We don’t have a fancy house in the exurbs but there’d be enough room for you. But you don’t want that, do you?”

Looking at his anguished face, my anger melted. “No,” I said. “But all my dreams for Venusia involve you.”

“I know.” A fleeting smile. “You wouldn’t shut up about it.”

I smiled too, maybe we’d survive this. “You’ll just have to hear about it second-hand, then. We’ll video call every evening and I’ll tell you all--”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said, shaking his head. “We’ll be apart for so long, it’ll be easier if we just--”

“If we just what? Don’t talk for months? Wait until I get back?” I wasn’t smiling anymore. Panic was setting in, like water closing over my head.

“Break up,” he said.

There it was. Tears threatened, but I held them back. “Is that what you want?” I asked. “We could make it work, you know.”

“I know, but … This was just a summer thing. And now the summer’s over.”

A few tears escaped. “The summer doesn’t have to end. Just come with me.”

I knew he wouldn’t, and he knew I knew. He didn’t say anything, just looked out at the mountains. The silence between us settled and frosted over. The cold setting sun forced me to fly back to the city, wishing every second would linger for a season.

Muscle memory brought me to his dock. He opened the door, then hesitated. I couldn’t find anything to say, so I leaned towards him. He did the same and we kissed without heat, a long, bitter farewell. He was the one who broke it off.

“Goodbye,” I said. He tried to smile and waved. I flew off quickly, not daring to look behind. Alone, the tears flowed freely.

#

The next day my family and I left for Venusia. While everyone else chattered happily about their plans, I just stared out the window at my heart, left behind on Gaia.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Not all ladders have rungs
838 words

Jacob had tired of building snowmen only to watch them melt, so he built a catapult instead. He dragged each piece of lumber by hand onto the banks of the frozen river, working day and night until he’d assembled something that looked mostly like the plans he’d found in an old library book of medieval siege machines. He nodded in self-approval and loaded a small boulder into the bucket.

A passerby stopped and watched him for a minute. “Awfully big catapult you got there.”

“Thanks!” says Jacob. “I hope it works.” He pulled the lynchpin and the catapult lurched, sending the boulder sailing through the sky and landed in a snowdrift on the other side of the river that had accumulated in the leafless brambles. “Oh good, it does.” He looked around for another boulder, but saw none. “Guess I should have built it somewhere with more rocks,” he said.

“You seem a bit crazy,” said the passerby.

“Well that depends on your definition of insane. You know, there are some people that say love is a sort of mental illness,” said Jacob, still searching for something else to load into the catapult. “Others view happiness itself as the byproduct of an unrealistic interpretation of reality, a state of blissful psychosis. But me? I’m perfectly well.”

“So you’re not happy?”

“Hardly! Wouldn’t want to get commited,” laughed Jacob.

“That is very sad.”

Jacob shrugged. “Or very sane, as I choose to look at it. In fact, I say take it one step further: classify life itself as a mental illness.”

The passerby rubbed his chin with his gloved hand. “What else is there?”

“Thanatos, the death drive.” Jacob climbed into the bucket of the catapult. “Maybe the only way to be sane and happy is to die.”

The passerby put his hand over his eyes. “You’re not going to launch yourself from that thing are you?”

“No, launching myself right now would splat me on the ground, and since I am always suffering from sanity, it would reduce the total amount of suffering in the world, and therefore be considered a moral act. However, I am by all accounts an immoral man. Rotten and sane.”

“I am beginning to highly doubt it.”

Jacob shrugged. “Well, I’m not without my issues, I must admit. I was recently diagnosed with magnabrachiophilia.”

The passerby took a step back. “It contagious?”

“Nah, just means I have a love of things with big, swinging arms. You know, like a big clock, or a railroad crossing.”

“Or a catapult?”

Jacob laughed. “You’d think so, huh?”

“Yes?”

“No, cause then that’d make me happy, and I’m not insane so I must not love catapults. Elementary logic.” Jacob eyed the stranger. “Say, what are you doing with that briefcase. Can I have it?”

“Absolutely not! It’s for work.”

“Let me just hold it a little bit.”

“No, you’re going to launch it into the river.”

Jacob laughed. “Yeah, I was totally going to. Told you I was rotten.” He climbed out of the bucket. “It doesn’t matter I guess, now that I know the catapult can launch me to the other side.”

“But you said you wouldn’t launch yourself because it would be immoral.”

“Said I wouldn’t launch myself today. It’s only immoral if I die. I plan to use it later to get to the other side of the river and live. Just an awful, rotten plan.”

“But the river is frozen over, just walk over there right now.”

Jacob shook his head. “No, I want to get over there at the end of summer when all the blackberry bushes are full. They grow big and dense, and will cushion my fall.”

“So just swim over there.”

“I cannot swim. But I can fall, always have been good at it. Fell off a clock tower just last week, so I know I still got it. If I can just get myself up into the sky, then I think my natural falling ability will guide me the rest of the way.”

“How will you get back?”

Jacob scratched his chin. “I better build another catapult.”

The passerby groaned. In fact he had gone from being a passerby to more of a gawker. The gawker pointed wildly upstream. “Just use the bridge ya loon!”

The stone bridge was about two miles upstream, just barely visible through the snow-filled tree branches lining the river.

“Too far,” said Jacob. “That’s a four mile round trip, and for half of it I’ll be both engorged with and burdened by basketfuls of blackberries. You know, for pies.”

The gawker shook his head. “The utility of the blackberries is not my main concern here. You know what, I give up. Go ahead and splat yourself. I’ll send I-told-him-so flowers to your mother.”

“Would that make you happy?” Jacob started walking back toward the lumber mill to get more boards for his new catapult.

“Yes, yes it would,” said the gawker.

Jacob rolled his eyes. “Okay, nutjob.”

Flyerant
Jun 4, 2021

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


For Thy Kingdom I show my pride
833 words
Live Reading (Rough Draft)


All Gideon wanted was to love who he wanted; he never wanted the responsibility for thousands of lives. His footsteps fell heavily across the rainbow-colored marble as he descended to the central stage. Beyond the stage, thousands waited for his decision on whether they would live oppressed, or die free.

Fenrick waited patiently for him at the entrance. To the common folk, Fenrick looked calm, but Gideon caught the slight waver of concern in his advisor’s eyes.

“No person should have the right to send a country to war,” Gideon said as they looked upon the men, women, and children that awaited their words.

“And yet, tis a king’s responsibility. The people’s hearts are stoked, and thine enemies have already struck.” Fenrick handed him a sheet of paper. “Would you let our lands, our rights, be trampled?”

“I would have our enemies leave us in peace,” Gideon said as he read.

“We already tried that. Yet they refuse to leave us alone. It might amaze one at how our enemies’ ire raises at the mere sight of a rainbow.”

“They hate it because it’s a symbol,” Gideon said as he continued to read. “A symbol for our people. For everyone. Wish me luck?”

“For you, I wish wisdom and courage.”

Gideon stepped forward onto the stage. Past the throng of countrymen and women, he could see small pockets of countryside ravaged and still burning. But, even through the haze, a rainbow still shined over their lands, forever radiating, proud and free. Unfurling the paper, Gideon scanned the speech. These words, written in fine inks and paper, would condemn his country to a war that many would not survive. Gideon looked down at the people awaiting his decision.

They did not build their country on fineries and opulence. Gideon scrunched up the paper, threw it to the ground, and addressed the crowd.

“Yesterday, we thought the world peaceful. Accepting. Today we face an uncertain future. We are reminded of the bigotry we have faced before. We are reminded of what we have lost.”

Gideon pointed a finger to the burned fields, the embers still smoldering. “Our enemies have struck at us because they cannot accept the way we live. The way we love. And today they goad us to war.”

“In the past, we endured our enemies’ spite, for we are strong. In the past, we ignored their insults, for we are united. But I fear, if we do not answer their call today they shall trample upon us.”

Gideon looked at the crowd. He could see their grief for the fallen, their anger over what had been taken from them. All of those emotions fueled their hearts. They were ready for war, they just needed the word.

Descending the stage, Gideon stood among the crowd. “Today I would have asked you to go to war, to fight for our freedom.”

With a hand, Gideon unclasped his cloak and let it fall to the ground. He hoped he was making the right decision. “I cannot ask that of you. But, I can ask you to stand for what we believe in.”

The people shifted, murmurs rippled through the crowd. Gideon waited for silence and continued. “Our lands weren’t built on hate. They weren’t built on war. They were built on love. Let grief fuel you to action, for we have lost. Let anger carry your voice, for we need to be heard. But let not these things fuel your heart.”

People slowly nodded. Gideon raised his fist and yelled, “Let us not war, but stand for love! Let us fight, not with hate in our hearts, but love.”

The people’s nods slowly turned into cheers as understanding blossomed among them. Gideon raised his fist again, and his countrymen and woman raised their fists in kind. His heart sang out, full of pride.

Fenrick slid up beside him, the crumpled speech in his hands. “Should I tell your Master Of Rhetoric that they are fired?”

“No, I will send my apologies to them.”

“And thus does the season of love turn to the season of war,” Fenrick said as the two of them looked as the village got ready for battle.

“Was it within my power, I would not have it so.”

“So says every person who wants the summer to last when the fall sets in. Pray, what made you decide to improvise?”

“For a country, a king may lead. But for a way of life? It should be led by the hearts and minds of the people.”

“But really, stand for love? “

“I was improvising. I would point out that you fell in love with not a king, but a man with a righteous and noble heart.”

It surprised Gideon as Fenrick smiled, then embraced him. With a whisper, Gideon asked his lover, “Pray tell me, I did the right thing.”

“I believe you did,” Fenrick said. “Now let us face this change as we have always done.. Together.”

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Life Under the Lone Star
898 Words

While the talk of civil war and secession was on the minds of most Texans in the fall of 1863, Pinetop county was beset with raids from the Comanche natives who had been fighting a protracted and bitter war for the last vestiges of uncolonized land that they had all their lives known as home. Gerald was eight when his father died. On his bed, sweat-slicked from fever while bone-chilling snow pitilessly drifted from the sky, Thomas stared at his son Gerald with unblinking, remorseful eyes. The stub of an arrow shaft protruded from his chest. The blood around it had coagulated into a blackened seal that drained the color from the surrounding flesh. Having overheard the doctor tell his mother that there was nothing to do but ease his father’s pain, Gerald met his father’s eyes, and they stared at one another in inscrutable, understanding, silence.

***

In the decade that followed, the raids quietly ceased as resistance crumbled under the implacable advance of colonization. In time, the way of life in the small community began to return to despite the economic hardship reconstruction brought to the area overall. Pinetop was a town of European immigrants who had gracefully adapted to frontier ranch life. Gerald had assumed his role as man of the house without complaint, but the stress of it did seem to take its toll on the boy, growing him up faster and quicker than he or his mother would have liked. However, his coolheaded temperament and matter-of-fact plainness generally led to him being looked upon favorably by the eligible women of the town who had wondered why he already hadn’t taken up a wife. He was nearly twenty, and responsible for the management of one of the larger farms in the town. Minna, the doctor’s daughter, had her heart set on the singly focused youth, and took it upon herself to make her presence regular in his life. Her perseverance paid off, and in the Spring of 1879, Gerald and Minna were married.

***

Gerald being an only son, he had never thought about having a large family or one at all, for that matter, but by 1890 he and Minna had produced a small clan. Thomas, named after Gerald’s father, was the oldest and was quiet and contemplative like his father before him. Next were the twins, Margaret, and Rolf. Margaret was an inquisitive youth, but with a tempestuous personality that often was tempered by the wisdom of her stoically tame twin brother Rolf, who was never to far from his sister. Daniel was a sweet boy, but consumption saw that he wouldn’t make it past three and the loss of the child left a wound in the family that scarred but never healed. Still, Anne and Peter followed in the two years after Daniel’s passing, and the family was closer than ever with all six-children being cherished deeply by the Gerald and Minna.

***

The relative quiet that followed reconstruction was short-lived, as the oil boom had begun to industrialize much of the state. Thomas, who had begun managing the farm with his father, convinced his parents to sell. The farm hadn’t been profitable in years and the world was changing. Rolf and Margaret were off in school, and Anne and Peter weren’t far behind. Gerald and Minna sold the farm in 1905, and the next decade of their lives was marked with unexpected wealth. Those good times came to an end when Peter was conscripted in the Summer of 1917. The gangly youth was optimistic about his service, but his mother and father were rightfully made sick. As he smiled from the rear of that bouncing military bus, his family knew with a grim certainty that he wouldn’t return, and that was the last time they saw their brother and son alive.

***

In the years that followed, the children had all fell into their own lives. Since the selling of their ancestral home and the dwindling of those profits gained, their time together had been made thin. Margaret and her husband visited often, but Thomas was busy with railroad work and Rolf was a lecturer at the capital college who couldn’t escape his commitments regularly. Anne eventually moved back to Pinetop, but some unspoken bitterness between her and her father kept her away except for at Holidays where she would visit her family out of courtesy. The springtime of youth had been supplanted by the fatigue of old age, and hearts once green had bronzed.

***

In 1935, as the Autumn sun faded over the juniper-covered hillocks and gave way to night, Minna McCullough smiled for the last time. Gerald, her husband of 56 years, picked up her shrunken, liver-spotted hand and gave it a soft kiss before placing it gently over her heart. He sat at her bedside until men from the funeral home came to take her body for final preparations. Gerald was exceedingly old now and entering the Winter of his own life. His sons and daughters still alive had their own grown children or even grandchildren, and through no means of his own, Gerald’s legacy was secured by the inexorable cycles of life. Just before the start of the new year, he closed his eyes for a final time thinking only of his wife, and the hope that he would see her again.

rohan
Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


:siren:"THEIR":siren:






The Past is a Tourist Destination
898 words

The coffee always takes the longest on that first day, the kettle fighting against three months’ worth of chill. As always, I’m the first to wake and open the kitchen blinds, rubbing frost off the glass to look out upon the snow-capped mountains outside. I’m in a cabin outside the picturesque township of Franz Josef, on the southern island of New Zealand, and the ice is just beginning to thaw: the first day of tourist season.

Footsteps on the stairs, and then Laura’s in the kitchen, rubbing sleep from her eyes. ‘Morning,’ she says, and nods toward the moka pot. ‘Is this fresh?’

‘Help yourself,’ I tell her.

‘No idea why they make us spend the nights out here,’ she yawns, pouring herself a cup. ‘Could just rock up with everyone else. At least the generator didn’t fail overnight, for once.’

‘I like it,’ I shrug, and turn away from the window. ‘Helps me get into character.’

She curls a lip and looks me up and down. ‘No offence,’ she says, ‘but no-one will ever mistake you for a rugged mountaineer.’

‘If I think it’s real,’ I tell her, tapping my forehead, ‘I’ll make it real.’

‘Right,’ she says, ‘“real”. That’s what real mountaineers do: tell rich folk some family-friendly history, take their photos, and then show ’em to the gift shop.’

‘That’s not fair,’ I tell her, surprised we’re already having this argument. Most seasons it takes at least a week. ‘Sometimes we do the gift shop first. Gotta get their photos in tacky sweaters, after all.’

She levels her eyes at me, and shakes her head. ‘Sure,’ she says. ‘Hate to upset the paying customers with something “real”.’

Her pager goes off, and she looks down at it. ‘First group’s here,’ she says, and pours some whiskey into her coffee. ‘You want to take it? I need more time to get “into character”.’

***

The tourists are easy to spot. They mill outside the bus, resplendent in neon orange and pink puffer jackets, purple beanies, and bright blue denim jeans—even though we always advise against denim, how it’s never a great idea for the snow. Fully half of them have fancy Pentax SLRs slung around their neck; the remainder, plastic disposables. A few of the younger tourists stand separate to the rest, thumbing Walkmans through thick red mittens. One of them has a Gameboy; he doesn’t look up as I approach.

‘Welcome to Franz Josef Glacier,’ I announce, clapping my hands together. ‘My name is Ryan, and I’ll be your guide today. We have some quick ground rules to cover first, so if everyone can please pay attention—’

I list the rules—stay together at all times, don’t deviate from the marked paths, don’t leave any rubbish behind—to an indifferent audience, per my contract, and shoulder my pack. The group recognise this as a cue and slowly drift to where I’m standing. I have to remind myself to give them a moment to take all of this in, remind myself that many of these people have never seen snow before, let alone a ten-kilometre-long glacier you can walk straight up to.

I look back at them, and frown. Half are still talking amongst themselves; now two teenagers are sharing the Gameboy. Some of the older couples are posing for photos, the glacier no doubt a blurry mess in the background.

‘Okay,’ I announce, ‘clapping my hands. Can I please have everyone’s—’

***

Everything goes dark.

I swear, reach up, and unclasp my headset. ‘Laura? Laura,’ I yell, sitting up. ‘The loving generator’s gone again.’

I hear an anguished cry from another room, and then heavy stomping towards me. Laura pokes her head into my room, her forehead slick with sweat. ‘You think I don’t know?’ she spits. ‘I’m working my arse off trying to get it up again. Could do with a hand, if you’re done playing make-believe.’

‘I’ve got a dozen tourists waiting,’ I tell her.

She rolls her eyes and leaves, her heavy stomping receding into the distance. I lean back and turn to face the window. The blinds are drawn to block the heat, but there’s still an orange glow around the edges, and I feel the sweat dripping down my forehead. It’s only August; it shouldn’t be so hot already.

The generator starts in fits and bursts, and cold air slowly circulates back through the vents, cooling the habitat. I slide the headset back down and re-attach the neural links, hoping there’ll be enough fuel to get me through the shift.

***

‘Sorry about that,’ I smile, and clap my hands together. ‘Slight technical difficulties, but we’re back online.’

The tourists chuckle quietly; my little disappearing act got their attention. Well, I think to myself, I’d hate to waste this opportunity. Hope you’re watching, Laura.

‘Franz Josef Glacier,’ I begin, ‘was one of the largest publicly-accessible glaciers in the world—before your grandparents burned everything to the ground. Of course, by now, it has almost disappeared altogether—but thank god the wonders of science are giving you this chance to desecrate it yourselves.’

I hear my pager buzz, and reach down to turn it off.

‘If you’ll please follow me,’ I continue, turning to face the path, ‘we have some lovely photo ops with extinct flora and fauna. Ever hear about “birds”? This way, please…’

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


College Slice

The Eighth Year
~895 words

Helga sloughed off jacket and gloves as the door irised closed behind her. Monitors across the far wall lit the control room with a green glow. She glanced at her compad, eyes scanning rows of digits crawling across the display. Geothermal Reactor 103.A was acting up, probably due to the change in season. Direct sunlight on the terminator hosed up the temp gradient between the planet’s darkside and the dayside. No gradient, no power. Helga moved across the room and started running diagnostic checks.

As the numbers scrolled by, her mind wandered. As a kid Helga would daydream, trace figure eights in the snow outside the habdome, describing the path of their planet around its twin red suns. Twin suns that she almost never saw, living on the dark side. Instead she would look up into the blackness above, into the riot of stars and galaxies, and the depth of the sky would pull her in, swallow her. It was incomprehensible: the vastness, the endless possibility. So she sought to understand it. Orbital mechanics, quantum theory, organic chemistry - under the dim light of her halogen she poured through lessons left behind from the arkship.

Movement in her peripheral made her gasp and her compad clattered to the ground. Spinning, she realized she’d been joined by another figure: a daysider woman, beautiful, with dark, crimson hair, tattoos that danced across her body to encircle dozens of bright rings and gemstones scattered across her olive skin. Of which Helga could see a lot. A lot of skin. Too much skin. She dropped her eyes quickly and scrambled to grab her compad with fingers that suddenly seemed too clumsy, too fat.

“Oh! So sorry! Didn’t mean to scare you!” the woman’s voice fluted in manner typical of daysiders. Half singing, half speaking.

“You didn’t,” Helga rasped, her voice catching. She cleared her throat. “Just wasn’t expecting anyone.”

“Yes, I don’t normally come into these places”—she looked around is distaste—”but I saw you off the tram, and I wanted to talk to you. I don’t ever get to meet people like you, your type I mean…” she trailed off, shaking her head.

“Darksiders,” Helga said, to ease her obvious discomfort.

“Yes! Exactly! I’m writing a poem about the Eighth Year—” now the words flooded out, a deluge of melody and rhythm, “—and your perspective would be so valuable! To finally see the suns after seven years of darkness, it must be so terribly exciting for you—and your people?”

A loving poem. Daysiders were enraptured by their art, their music and performances. Forever prancing about under the constant light of the twin suns, never seeing the blackness of night, or sleeping beneath the comforting blanket of stars. Never truly knowing their place in the universe. And when their one year of darkness finally came, did they look up? Did they run calculations, point telescopes back towards Sol, ask questions or attempt to understand how this all came to be? No, they wrote more loving poetry, and then locked themselves into cryosleep pods scavenged from the arkship until their precious suns rose again. Secure in the knowledge the darksiders would take care of the machinery that kept them all alive.

Like Geothermal Station 103.A. “I have work to do,” Helga grunted.

“I’m Bianca,” the woman offered.

“Helga.”

“A lovely name, strong and proud.” Was that a note of mockery in her voice? “So, Helga, soon you will have the light, and we will be dark! What will you do with this gift?” She began to dance around the control room, spinning dials and pressing buttons, prancing footsteps with a lifetime of joy ahead of them.

Helga very quickly had enough of that.

“Stop!” she barked, and tried to wedge her body between Bianca and the consoles. But Bianca just laughed and danced around her, punching buttons.

Realization dawned like five gees of pressure pounding into Helga’s skull. This was not random: the sequence of buttons she pressed was overloading the reactor, triggering it to fail. Bianca darted to the last station and clicked a red-lit button with a half-spin. “How will you, and your people, face this reality, darksider? That this season will be the last? For us all?”

“Killing one reactor won’t do anything—” Helga said, but stopped as Bianca’s grin widened. There were others, at the other reactors. Doing the same dance. Without the reactors, no heat, no air, no food—

They wouldn’t last the year. None of them would.

“The final act!” Bianca sang. “Bound together--daysiders and darksiders, at long last! After one hundred years apart. Alas, our play turns out to be a tragedy, in the end. But the greatest art is found in tragedy.”

Helga stared at her as cold fury gripped her gut. She had to warn the others. She punched the control for the door and stumbled outside.

Before her stretched kilometers of permafrost and ice. Beneath her feet the rumble of the reactors sputtered, then stopped. All was still. The tram pulsed a red warning glow—offline. Nowhere to go.

Helga collapsed onto the snow and stared at the twin red suns, now barely above the horizon. She felt an arm around her shoulder as Bianca settled in next to her. Helga didn’t pull away. Together, silently, they watched the new season dawn over the horizon.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



Sun and Ash

Djeser fucked around with this message at 17:19 on Jan 6, 2022

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Constellations

720 words

Winter comes on quickly, by policy. One day the municipal trickle charge is budgeted to light, the next to heat. You don't like winter. The darkness and silence is unsettling. You remember traffic sounds, the buzz of a dying streetlight's ballast. You're glad to be rid of them, in your head. But when the sun goes down earlier and earlier and the white-grey shroud turns to coal black, you miss the moon. You miss the stars.

Peter is there, outside the archive, waiting for you. He's been there most days, lately. There with a cool chemical lantern and a smile. You look at him, at the touch of grey in his roots. He's getting old. Almost thirty years younger than you and he's getting old.

"You don't have to keep doing this," you say. "I can make it home on my own."

"No doubt," he says. "But I'd be lost without you." You stare. "We all would."

"There's plenty trained to work the archives," you say. You never meant to be a teacher, but every few years a kid fresh from school spends a few months learning what you can teach about operating the machines, about swapping out old tired storage, about the strict policy on using the archives trickle charge, the stricter ones on paper and ink. About navigating the old stacks, too. Someday one of them will replace you.

"Not so many who remember, though," he said. You never should have started telling him stories.

"You should be making your own stories, Peter," you say.

"I have," he says. "I am. Can I show you something? It will mean a half hour's extra walking."

"My legs can take it," you say.

So you turn left on Haven Street instead of going straight, and walk through parts of the town you haven't visited in a long time. There's nothing to see, so he talks as you walk.

He tells you about his marriage, ten years dead and gone. She left him for another. Their daughter left heading south. They exchange short messages in the yearly missives up and down I-75.

"Lucia died," he says, looking down. "Three years ago."

"I'm sorry," you say.

"Her husband, he put in a letter. I didn't have to read it to know what had happened. I almost didn't."

You walk along in silence for a while, crossing Gail and Henrietta and Isolde streets. Finally, he says "In, you know, then. You would have made a trip. Visited your daughter. Helped her through it."

"You still could," you say, feeling foolish even as the words escape. Three week's travel. A major disruption. It's not quite forbidden by policy, but nobody travels anywhere that far except to stay.

"I almost did," he says.

"I hope I wasn't the reason," you say. He's been in your life for five years, although you weren't nearly that close then, when he came by to research biochemistry and genetics, in the stacks and with what brief consultations with other archives policy allowed over the trickle.

He laughs a little. Not a cruel laugh. "No," he says. "It was work. Come on, it's just another block."

You start to hear it, the low, growling coos from ahead. You realize that you haven't heard that in a long time. "Are those.."

"They migrated back here last week," he says. "Our first big success in shroud-adapted wildlife. The colony has even grown a little."

Darrin Park is full of pigeons, walking along the dirt, their entire bodies glowing like fireflies as they bob their heads up and down. You approach, and they take flight, vanishing into the dark sky until only the yellow blinking light above could be seen. And you smile, like you haven't in a long time, not since your own tragic little family life ended.

"Life's too short," you mumble too softly to be heard.

"What?" says Peter.

"Life is too short," you say, and try hard to give signals you're afraid that you've long since forgotten. He leans in, and you know you were right, that life is too short to pass up second chances for good conversation and companionship and maybe more, too short to dwell on the dead and decadent past. And above all, too short to not fill with stolen kisses under the fluttering birdlight.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Submissions are closed.

Owlspiracy where is your story? If you post before judgement is rendered you'll DQ but I will still crit your story; after that it is redemption time.

Owlspiracy
Nov 4, 2020




i am a big dummy and missed that it was 7 pm NZ time and not EST - will be posting shortly. very sorry :(

Owlspiracy fucked around with this message at 17:04 on Jun 7, 2021

Owlspiracy
Nov 4, 2020




here you go, sorry I am bad at reading dates

Summer

808 words

They first met the summer after he turned nine. Mom and dad had bought the rundown cabin at the end of the year and had fixed it up, driving out of the City on Friday afternoons, getting in around midnight, and setting up sleeping bags and lanterns and reading stories and falling asleep on the floor like they were outside camping. He’d spend the next two days wandering up and down the lakeshore as they painted and swept and wired, tearing out the rotted floor boards (“don’t step there yet honey!”) and the rusted cast-iron stove that took all of them to drag out the front door. After two months of work his mom declared the cabin ready for the season.

She was from the other side of the lake (what his dad called the “money side”) where the big houses were, with big docks and long walkways down to the water’s edge, where you never had to pick over rocks and grass, barefoot, hoping you didn’t stub your toe on a burr or a jagged edge. Her family was there for the whole summer, mom and her and two sisters, dad on the weekends, commuting back to the City for the rest of the week.

They met while he was trying to catch a frog. He’d built a trap – dug out a hole, filled it with water, hid behind a rock – and she wandered in, loud, curious, asking what he was doing, scaring the frog away. She was too happy for him to be angry, and soon they were running along the lakeshore, dodging fallen trees, jumping from rock to rock, playing tag and boat spotting and trying to smush mosquitos.

Every weekend that summer they’d play. One time she took him to her house and he they dived off the long dock, seeing how deep they could swim down and how long they could hold their breath, her mom asleep on a deck chair, empty drink beside her, keeping watch. At the end of the season they hugged and cried and promised to keep in touch, and send letters and even meetup in Central Park if his mom would take him on the subway.

And it went on like that, every year. His parents worked on cabin each season, installing a real kitchen, cleaning out the fireplace and adding a wood stove that they’d light in the evenings when it got chilly. And every year they’d meet up at that first weekend, inseparable for the rest of the summer.

She’d tell him how bored and lonely she was during the week when he was back in the City. He asked mom and dad why they couldn’t stay during the week, too, but they told him they weren’t those types of people and shook their heads.

As he got older he began to notice more. The way her mom came outside less and less, how she always had a drink in her hand. How there was never any food in the kitchen and her dad stopped showing up on the weekends. But the lake was beautiful and they were friends and you could never stay sad for long, not in the summer.

And then one year, when he was fourteen, she didn’t show up. He went looking for her but the house was empty. He asked his parents and they shook their heads: no, we don’t know where they are, we don’t know what happened. He asked around town and heard the rumors. She was a drunk and he made some bad investments and lost his job and their money. They were getting divorced. The house was for sale. The daughters? Such a shame, they’re off to live with family, where its more stable.

That summer was different. He felt like he was waking up, that the world wasn’t what he thought it was. That it wasn’t light and carefree, that summer and the lake weren’t different. They were just like everything else.

He still loved the lake, of course, but things had changed. He wrote her letters but she never answered. She probably didn’t even get them.

When he was fifteen, he met a girl at school and suddenly his weekends were busy, even in the summer. His family changed, too. Dad got a new job and suddenly was working more, making more money. They started taking vacations across the country, to Europe.

They decided to sell the cabin his senior year to help pay for college.

They drove up one last time to clean everything out, get the cabin ready for the realtor. While mom and dad were packing up, laughing, remembering, crying a little, he wandered off, walked back to her house.

Someone else had moved in years ago.

Looking at the long dock, the gabled roof, the wrap around balcony, he felt nothing.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







missing the deadline but posting anyway is extremely good and :black101:

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




:sparkles: Week 461 Results :sparkles:

20 entries and no failures! Good job Thunderdome. All the stories this week were pretty good! It’s like you guys are good at writing or something (??!!)

Some stories, however, were not as good as the judges would have liked.

Owlspiracy is DQ’d for failing to read the prompt post properly.

Not all ladders have rungs by crabrock earns a DM for being a bit of a mess, albeit an entertaining one, and Life Under the Lone Star by Idle Amalgam gets a DM for reading more like a history text than a story.

The loss this week goes to Flyerant’s For Thy Kingdom I show my pride. Good job on getting your first loss out of the way nice and early.

At the top end, we are pleased to award HMs to crimea’s I live in the day, Sun and Ash by Djeser, and Blood Trench by Black Griffon.

Taking the win is Ironic Twist, with The Noises of Early Summer Lawns.

If you want to know how we made any of these decisions, you can find out, here! Listen in as your judges Sebmojo, Morning Bell and I eviscerate your stories and argue about the results, and then Sebmojo does a most metal reading of this week’s most metal story, Blood Trench!

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Week 461 crits


Lacuna by Sailor Viy

I didn’t like this. It’s not like the concept or the prose are bad, but situation described is so bizarre and awful, and the fact that there’s no real resolution for the characters, just made it feel unsatisfying. I wasn’t sure if he’d lost all of his memories (then how does he know where he works?) or just his memories of their separation (that’s weird) and in general had a whole lot of questions about the memory loss situation. I thought the ending - where he wakes up with another woman, who he has no memory of, and then just goes ‘oh ok’ - was very strange. It’s not badly written though.

6/10


The Noises of Early Summer Lawns by Ironic Twist

I like how dreamy and strange this is, and I think the image in the final paragraph is lovely. I’m not sure I really followed what was going on with Kyle’s dandelions, or what the point of any of it was, but I enjoyed pondering these questions.

7.5/10


Monkeys Are Good Drivers, Actually by Chairchucker

Lol.

6/10


Ice-Melt by MockingQuantum

Two frozen fish wake up as the ice around them melts. One decides to eat the other, on the grounds that the other was a dick to him first.

This isn’t bad, but there’s not much to it. It feels like you probably spent a lot of time researching weird fish, which didn’t pay off in terms of emotional content for your story.

5/10


Predator by Barnaby Profane

Ok this is a weird opening. “Oh dear it’s winter I’m going to die, but first, I must not die!” Why though? What is your stag protag’s reason for living?

Oh, I see, it’s because he wants to stalk a human? Or maybe he wants to watch them murder another deer? Yes? Wait, nope, he’s changed his mind. The hunter has become the hunted! Yikes that was grisly. Oh dear now he’s dead.

If it’s late autumn shouldn’t your majestic stag protagonist be 100% focussed on loving?

5/10


Blood Trench by Black Griffon

“Blood Trench” is a hella metal title, I hope this story delivers on that promise.

Ok yes it does, but I’m afraid it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. There’s three seals(?) sailing their boat-daughter(?) to somewhere in the ocean for some reason(?), and they’re following a trench, but it’s full of blood(?), so they dive into(?) it, and find a leviathan(?), who they decide to fight, so their children can be safe(?).

Part of the problem is you have too many sentences like this: “Steel shapes scales sideways in cacophonous finality.” This is fun to say but I really can’t parse what it means.

5/10


The End of Summer by flerp

This is sweet. The relationship between these two teenagers is lightly sketched but very relatable. Their angst about not having any classes together balances nicely with the protagonist’s angst about potentially missing the chance to kiss Ricardo. The last line didn’t feel right to me - in what should have been a very intense moment for these two characters it felt like a weird emotional de-escalation. I wanted to cross out “we stared up at the sky and waited for summer to end” and replace it with “and then we made out a whole lot and it was great” (or words to that effect).

7/10


Winter Sun by Staggy

Oh dear this is a bit depressing. But it’s very well done; the owl making GBS threads on the car is a good counterpoint to the gravity of poor Carl and the protagonist’s situation, and I liked the hopeful-not-hopeful note of the owl getting its meal.

7/10


I Live In The Day by crimea

The revelation half way through that Vird has turned into living crystal came a bit out of nowhere. I think you should have set up earlier that transformations like this were possible in this story’s world.

Oh, and then the protag pretty much gives up but then shoots him by accident? I think you would have been better to show the protag’s frustration, but then have them succeed by dint of their own action or decision, rather than a stray shot happening to land.

Who the heck is the “you” the story is addressed to?

I think your problem here is that this story should have either focussed on the relationship between the protagonist and Vird, or the protagonist and the “you” person, rather than trying to do both.

5/10


A Place Without Seasons by QuoProQuid

I liked this. The ending bummed me out, but stories don’t have to have happy endings to be good! The ending felt disconnected from the rest of the story though. These two are trying to escape a disaster, which is an inherently hopeful action. What does stopping pretending have to do with that? Is the ending meant to imply that their quest to get to Canada is ultimately delusional?

I wasn’t clear on the timeline in this story. You describe these two as only having been dating for a few weeks before the apocalypse, which seems to have taken place both only a few days ago, but also long enough ago that whole towns have emptied out?

6/10


Ice Age by Taletel

What the hell is a “decrypt city”? Did you mean “decrepit”?

The dialogue in this is very stilted. Take this sentence as an example: “Jake, this is our tribe. Even if this place does exist—It’s probably covered in ice like the rest of the planet. Be realistic, Jake.” Using someone’s name twice in quick succession is a weird thing to do.

This story needed to give us more insight into Jake’s thoughts and desires. You show him out scavenging - you could have used this section to show us how he feels about his current situation, and why he might dream of escaping to Mexico. At the end, is he holding onto his dream, or giving up on it? As it is the ending feels very flat.

4/10


Apogee by My Shark Waifuu

This story is fine, I guess, but feels inconsequential. The two characters are teenagers, and they break up. There are no stakes, except that the protagonist is sad. But, they’re a teenager, so I’m sure they’ll be fine in a few weeks. It’s very dialogue-heavy, and the sci fi setting doesn’t actually make any difference to the story.

5/10


Not all ladders have rungs by crabrock

This was entertaining and confusing. I enjoyed your catapult-building protagonist, and the banter with the passerby was fun. But the goodness of the philosophical flimflam was undermined by confusing inconsistencies. For example, the protag laments at the beginning that he should have build his catapult somewhere with more rocks, but then later explains that he had to build it precisely there because of proximity to the blackberry bushes. The fact that he’s trying to reach the blackberry bushes is introduced halfway through, but at the start his motive just seems to be to build something big because he’s bored of snowmen. The statement, “I am by all accounts an immoral man,” didn’t feel evident from anything else in the story.

5/10


For Thy Kingdom I show my pride by Flyerant

Why did you capitalise the first half of your title but not the second?

In this story the King is all geared up to announced that his country will go to war, but then changes his mind and instead exhorts his people to stand for love. But then we have this line, ““And thus does the season of love turn to the season of war,” Fenrick said as the two of them looked as the village got ready for battle,” which seems to mean that they’re still going to war? I don’t get it.

What this story is missing is good characterisation of the King and Fenrick. The story is essentially about the King’s moment of decision, and how his relationship with Fenrick plays into that. Yet, the moment of decision is skipped over, and Fenrick’s presence doesn’t make any difference.

The olde worlde style dialogue doesn’t work, and sounds particularly unnatural when the King and Fenwick are talking to each other. You could have used this kind of language for the King’s speech, but had him and Fenwick talk much more casually to each other - this would have emphasised the intimate nature of their relationship.

4/10


Life Under the Lone Star by Idle Amalgam

Wow this opening paragraph is hard work. Let’s pause a moment to unpack this.

While the talk of civil war and secession was on the minds of most Texans in the fall of 1863, Ok so this story is about people living through a time of civil strife in Texas? Pinetop county No wait it’s about the people of Pinetop county was beset with raids from the Comanche natives who had been fighting a protracted and bitter war for the last vestiges of uncolonized land that they had all their lives known as home Or perhaps the story centers on the Comanche people??. Gerald was eight when his father died. Hard pivot: the protagonist is a child called Gerald. On his bed, sweat-slicked from fever while bone-chilling snow pitilessly You don’t need this adverb; we already know what drifting snow is like drifted from the sky, Thomas stared at his son Gerald Why is this suddenly from Thomas’s POV? with unblinking, remorseful eyes. The stub of an arrow shaft protruded from his chest. Gerald’s chest or Thomas’s chest? The blood around it had coagulated into a blackened seal that drained the color from the surrounding flesh. Gross. But do you see what a long way we’ve wandered from your long-rear end opening sentence? Trying to jam broad world-building and an intimate moment into one paragraph is too much. Having overheard the doctor tell his mother that there was nothing to do but ease his father’s pain, Gerald met his father’s eyes, Awkward phrasing and they stared at one another in inscrutable, understanding, I think inscrutable and understandable are opposites silence. Staring at one’s dying father in silence is odd behaviour for an 8 year old, but, more problematically for your story, this kind of non-action doesn’t really tell me anything about what sort of character Gerald is, unless you are deliberately trying to set him up as being stoic as gently caress.

I’m going to go read the rest now. I hope it gets better.

Oh dear paragraph two is entirely background detail. I wonder when the story will start.

Nothing particularly interesting in paragraph 3, except for the weird hyphen and erroneous “the” in the final line.

Paragraph 4: Am I just reading a history of Pinetop County??

Oh, and now they’re dead.

What you have done here is relay the facts of someone’s life without telling any kind of story. What sort of person was Gerald? How did his father’s early death impact on his decisions and relationships? How did he feel abut the major historical events that shaped the course of his life? Why should I care about any of these people?

4/10


The Past is a Tourist Destination by rohan

The South Island is referred to thusly, not as “the southern island.”

Oh. Well. That’s depressing.

“Global warming loving sucks y’all” isn’t much of a story. I think you should have focussed more on the relationship between the protagonist and Laura, and how they are coping (or not) with the circumstances they’re living through.

5/10


The Eighth Year by Hawklad

Helga the scientist is altogether too givey uppy in this situation. I get that she might not realise what's happening until it's too late, or perhaps freeze in shock, but she's more: wait stop it / I have to warn everyone / nevermind we're hosed.

And what was Miss Dancey Daysider's motive for planetary murder? Are they just bored or something?

The writing here isn't bad, but I found myself more scratching my head than enjoying the story.

6/10


Sun and Ash by Djeser

I liked this. Great imagery, interesting protag, brisk yet effective world-building. I got a little bit lost when she goes looking for weapons. I’d assumed the vision was of a volcanic eruption, so unless she’s planning to fight off refugees fleeing disaster spears etc. aren’t going to help. But perhaps you meant the vision to simply imply war in the south, in which case the need to arm themselves makes more sense. It’s still not clear, though, how an outcast who has just robbed the tribe’s burial mound is going to convince anyone that this vision was real.

7/10


Constellations by Thranguy

Hmmm, this is pretty good, but a couple of things threw me. You say early on that Peter is 30 years younger than the protagonist. Now, obviously people with big age gaps can still be couples, but 30 years is such a big age gap that I assumed this was not a love story, and so the kiss at the end took me by surprise.

I don’t think the second person works. Once I realised this was a love story, I really wanted to be able to picture the protagonist, rather than inserting “you.”

If I hadn’t seen your flashrule I would be confused as to why the pigeons were glowing. It’s not clear why glowing would help them be “shroud-adapted,” so it feels like this detail is only there for flashrule compliance. “Fluttering birdlight” is a lovely image though.

6.5/10


Summer by Owlspiracy

Welcome to the Thunderdome :hehe:

They Who? first met the summer after he turned nine. Mom and dad Whose? Yours? had bought the rundown cabin at the end of the year and had fixed it up, driving out of the City Why is city capitalised? on Friday afternoons, getting in around midnight, and setting up sleeping bags and lanterns and reading stories and falling asleep on the floor like they were outside camping. He’d Who is “he”? spend the next two days wandering up and down the lakeshore as they painted and swept and wired, tearing out the rotted floor boards (“don’t step there yet honey!”) and the rusted cast-iron stove that took all of them to drag out the front door. After two months of work his mom declared the cabin ready for the season. This is a very boring opening. You have described some people who don’t even have names renovating a cabin. Why do I care about this? What is this story about? Who is the protagonist and what do they want?

She Who? Why don’t these people have names? was from the other side of the lake (what his dad called the “money side”) where the big houses were, with big docks and long walkways down to the water’s edge, where you never had to pick over rocks and grass, Oh no what a hardship barefoot, hoping you didn’t stub your toe on a burr or a jagged edge. Her family was there for the whole summer, mom and her and two sisters, dad on the weekends, commuting back to the City for the rest of the week. These rich people are eyeball-rollingly cliched. It’s not that cliches are always bad, but you’ve got to think about whether they help your story by giving the reader something familiar, or whether they are just plain boring.

They met while he was trying to catch a frog. He’d built a trap – dug out a hole, filled it with water, hid behind a rock – and she wandered in, loud, curious, asking what he was doing, scaring the frog away. She was too happy for him to be angry, and soon they were running along the lakeshore, dodging fallen trees, jumping from rock to rock, playing tag and boat spotting and trying to smush mosquitos. I hate these children.

Every weekend that summer they’d play. One time she took him to her house and he they dived off the long dock, seeing how deep they could swim down and how long they could hold their breath, her mom asleep on a deck chair, empty drink beside her, keeping watch. Oh dear, Mom, do you have a cliched rich person drinking problem? At the end of the season they hugged and cried and promised to keep in touch, and send letters and even meetup Meet up is two words not one in Central Park if his mom would take him on the subway.

And it went on like that, every year. His parents worked on cabin each season, installing a real kitchen, cleaning out the fireplace and adding a wood stove that they’d light in the evenings when it got chilly. And every year they’d meet up at that first weekend, inseparable for the rest of the summer. So we’re half way through your story now and literally nothing has happened. This could all have been established as background in one or two sentences.

She’d tell him how bored Me too and lonely she was during the week when he was back in the City. He asked mom and dad why they couldn’t stay during the week, too, but they told him they weren’t those types of people and shook their heads. Oh how it sucks to not be rich.

As he got older he began to notice more. The way her mom came outside less and less, how she always had a drink in her hand. Yep, there it is. How there was never any food in the kitchen and her dad stopped showing up on the weekends. But the lake was beautiful and they were friends and you could never stay sad for long, not in the summer. I wonder if this nameless girl had any thoughts or feelings about her family’s disintegration, I guess we’ll never know.

And then one year, when he was fourteen, she didn’t show up. Good thing he’s got her address and writes her letters regularly. He went looking for her but the house was empty. He asked his parents and they shook their heads: no, we don’t know where they are, we don’t know what happened. He asked around town Did he? Did this child really go around the town asking random people where some random family had gone? Did he sit and drink in bars too? and heard the rumors. She was a drunk and he made some bad investments and lost his job and their money. Typical rich people, dear oh dear. They were getting divorced. The house was for sale. The daughters? Such a shame, they’re off to live with family, Brutal where its “it’s,” you fool more stable.

That summer was different. He felt like he was waking up, that the world wasn’t what he thought it was. That it wasn’t light and carefree, that summer and the lake weren’t different. They were just like everything else. If this was intended to be a coming of age story then you needed to show us your protagonist coming of age, not just mention it in passing.

He still loved the lake, of course, but things had changed. He wrote her letters but she never answered. She probably didn’t even get them.

When he was fifteen, he met a girl at school and suddenly his weekends were busy, even in the summer. His family changed, too. Dad got a new job and suddenly was working more, making more money. They started taking vacations across the country, to Europe. Do you mean, across the country, AND to Europe?

They decided to sell the cabin his senior year to help pay for college.

They drove up one last time to clean everything out, get the cabin ready for the realtor. While mom and dad were packing up, laughing, remembering, crying a little, he wandered off, walked back to her house.

Someone else had moved in years ago.

Looking at the long dock, the gabled roof, the wrap around balcony, he felt nothing. Wow, what a dick.

What you have done here is write the framework for a story, but left out the actual story bits, i.e. characters who have characteristics (like names!) and feel feelings. It could have been interesting, for example, to focus on the moment when the boy realises his friend and her family aren’t coming to the lake that summer. How does he feel about that? Upset? Betrayed? How does he, as a young teenager, cope with these new feelings?

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.



Yoruichi posted:


If you want to know how we made any of these decisions, you can find out, here! Listen in as your judges Sebmojo, Morning Bell and I eviscerate your stories and argue about the results, and then Sebmojo does a most metal reading of this week’s most metal story, Blood Trench!

I enjoyed listening to this

The colloquialisms will continue. :colbert:

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Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Yoruichi posted:

Sebmojo does a most metal reading of this week’s most metal story, Blood Trench!

this is the greatest honor bestowed upon me by this cursed dome

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