|# ? Sep 29, 2021 22:11|
|# ? Jun 28, 2022 16:24|
In, flash please!
|# ? Sep 30, 2021 02:06|
In, flash please!
|# ? Sep 30, 2021 02:12|
|# ? Sep 30, 2021 09:28|
In and flash, please and thank you.
|# ? Sep 30, 2021 11:15|
I'm in, let's give this a go.
|# ? Sep 30, 2021 17:52|
|# ? Sep 30, 2021 18:29|
In and flash, please and thank you.
|# ? Sep 30, 2021 18:32|
|# ? Oct 1, 2021 21:57|
|# ? Oct 2, 2021 09:09|
This is what it sounds like
“I’m telling you man, the superior version of When Doves Cry was in that Romeo and Juliet movie!”
“Oh, sure. You say that a choirboy is superior to freaking Prince!”
“I’m not disregarding the Prince of Funk! I’m just saying that he sounded bored in his version, while the kid from the movie had emotion!”
“It was the 80’s! Everyone sounded bored!”
Leo DeCaff has just finished his usual routine of watching pundits on VH1. At first, he was surprised that VH1 even had pundits, but nowadays, he finds the banter about music to be quite amusing. However, the banter today hit close to home, since normally, he would watch it with the love of his life. After what happened yesterday, that was no longer the case, for the love of his life was no longer that.
Leo remembered it vividly. She was out of town, and Leo was at home. On that Day, he received a letter from FedEx. It was a Dear John letter. The kind of letter that basically said, “I’m breaking up with you, now gently caress off”. She probably found it funny, since it was Leo herself who told her of times when people were told they were fired through FedEx. Ironic. Leo Thought. I get a FedEx from the woman that is now my Ex.
To say that Leo was boyfriend of the year would be a drat lie. Sure, he wasn’t abusive, but there were times (Perhaps too many times) where he was far too brash. She was all about the talking, while Leo was all about the screwing. They had plenty of sex, but Leo kept wondering, was it satisfactory? After all, whores have repeat customers for a reason. He tried to emulate the romance style of his parents (At least, what he had seen). Maybe their style didn’t work at this day and age? Was his father too harsh? Was his mother pleased with the sex they had? These and many other thoughts pondered through Leo’s mind, but he knew it was already too late.
After having some breakfast, he heard some birds outside his window. At first, he thought it was Pigeons, but he saw that they were purely white. Those were not Pigeons, but Doves. It appeared that the doves were having a fight. After a while, most of the doves left, while the defeated dove made a distinct sound before it hobbled away. Leo thought to himself, was it…crying? He remembered the song being talked about earlier, but never really heard a dove cry, until now. “Huh.” Leo said. “So that’s what it sounds like.”
|# ? Oct 2, 2021 17:39|
Cross My Heart and Hope to Die
Red-orange dust plumes rose off the desert asphalt as the scientist’s SUV zipped across the horizon. His lover’s remains, which had been hastily gathered into bins and jars, filled the air with copper and rot that threatened to suffocate him. He retched and pressed his foot further into the pedal. The tires roared as the blue sky was replaced with hazy twilight.
The research facility came into view, and a guardsman resting his hand on the stock of his rifle stepped into the SUV’s headlights. The scientist swallowed hard, trying to steady his hands as he fished around the console for his badge. A knock came at his window, and he jumped. He rocked the SUV cranking the window down. The curious contents covered in the back rocked and sloshed against their containers.
“I.D.” The guard demanded, flashing white light into the scientist’s face.
“Ah, yes… of course.” The scientist replied awkwardly. He shook as he handed over the badge. The guard inspected him in silence, then shined his light past him at the numerous, empty Little Trees air freshener packs on the floorboard. Then he lifted his light at the bundle of diminutive pines swaying from the rearview mirror, grunted, and turned the light back into the scientist’s face.
“What are you doing here at this hour?” the guard said.
The scientist went cold and began to stammer when he was struck with the perfect excuse. The most appropriate excuse given his clearance.
“I’m afraid that’s confidential, sir. I apologize.” He said with some certainty now. The night guard wouldn’t recognize him, but his badge and clearance afforded him that much bravado.
The guard straightened up then, returned the badge, and sniffed at the open-air around the vehicle, then gave a small conciliatory salute before lifting the barrier gate. The scientist’s heart hammered in his chest as he drove through the installation to his lab. He unloaded the containers and jars into a covered cart and wheeled it to his workspace.
He unloaded his container-bound lover into the mold, arranging pale limbs and pastel pink organs into a familiar assemblage. Then he took the remaining chunks and fluids and poured them over the ruinous body.
“It won’t be long now, my love. I just- I just had the formula wrong, and you, well you…” he said as he lowered the ceiling-suspended press onto the lower part of the mold, securing the latches and fastening its hoses until the machine registered as pressurized.
The press and mold formed a steel sarcophagus that was designed for work with human cadavers. The scientist figured that these remains were close enough. That a modification to the restorative serum would suffice. That there was no other choice, and it would work because of that alone. He keyed commands into a console and the components of the machinery activated one after another. A strange green fluid surged down the translucent tubes that fed into the press and the machine whirred. The scientist waited and eventually drifted off into an uneasy sleep.
He jolted awake when the timer marked that the process was complete. The dark of late night had fallen on the area, and the putrescent scent of something gone wrong seeped from the machine. The scientist approached reluctantly, running his hand over the hot steel of the machine. He unfastened the press and a malformed body that looked phantasmal stared back at him. Steam curled off the amalgamated flesh and it whimpered something unintelligible at the scientist. He recoiled, but then turned to help his creation out of its birthing pod. He clothed it in the clothing of someone who had left his life years ago. Someone he hadn’t let go of. Someone whose image and personhood he had tried to recreate.
The creature hissed at him, but he just spoke back at it as if it were arguing with him.
“What do you mean it’s not the same?”
The creature continued to gurgle and hiss.
“I have given you my all, time and again, and it’s not enough!”
The creature made dejected breathy whimpers.
“It was an accident! I didn’t mean to-to… get involved with that woman.”
Ignorant of what the scientist rambled on about, the creature remained silent.
“What do you mean I need to own my actions? I am owning them! I know what I did, but you can’t be serious. Nearly two decades of marriage, over because of a moment of weakness? Come to your senses!”
The creature's head lolled to one side. Its glossy eyes conveyed total unawareness.
“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that! I-”
The scientist guided the creature back onto the wheel cart, hidden behind boxes underneath a cloth cover. The creature squealed as it was thrust into darkness, and the scientist shushed it. They left the facility just as the sun was creeping back up over the horizon.
The creature, whether jogged from some ancestral memory of the iterations that preceded it or its own horror at its realized circumstance, remembered the scientist then. Her tongue was bloated in her mouth, and her eyes could hardly focus, let alone in the dark of the open trunk space. She leaned over the back seat and tried saying, “James.”
The scientist nearly veered off the road from the surprise. He slammed on his brakes and pulled over to the shoulder. “Honey is that you?” he said with syrupy anticipation in his voice. She crawled over the back seat falling forward. Limbs of different lengths reoriented themselves. The scientist’s optimism quickly faded towards concern when the woman looked up at him scornfully, full-aware, not at all ignorant or distant. Not the same person he once knew, but still someone he had wronged all the same.
The woman sent a wide mitt-shaped hand forward, grasping at the scientist’s throat, the elongated pinky and ring fingers clamped down on his collar bone. The scientist gasped. She parted her cracked lips and her wide purple tongue fell into the scientist’s open mouth. He gagged at the taste but was powerless in his creation’s grip. The woman pulled him in closer. His teeth breaking off into his mouth from the pressure. Spurts of crimson trickled down their cheeks. He screamed into her mouth as she forced her face into his. Her senses all askew, the pressure she applied to his neck and collarbone was like that of a vise.
A strand of bloody saliva trailed from their lips as they parted. The scientist’s neck was a crushed mess, with fresh blooms of purple and red from where his lover’s hands had been. The woman, days away from molecular instability and unlife, walked out into the morning sun.
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 00:43|
For the first time, I see myself as old in the mirror.
It’s in the corners of my eyes, a dullness, that little death, a portent of the slowing to come, a mold that can only spread, advancing from the eyes up the forehead, scything the hairline and digging furrows through skin, until one day -- no, that’s enough of that, pull yourself together, a splash of cold water is what’s called for. The pain in my chest lashes like a whip. I open the tap, slosh it around my face, and I feel a roughness around my chin.
I need a shave. A ritual, a rebirth, a cleansing. It’s three in the morning. The brush works the lather, and I run the razor that was my father’s up the strop I hang by the mirror, the way I was taught. Its mirrored edge runs along my chin, which was my father’s chin, which was my grandfather’s chin, familiar contours, gently parting the stubble from its purchase, those hairs who dared grow too long.
Lost in the ritual, I lift the razor too high: the cold green light of the bathroom slides golden, a viola-like dissonance expands within my ears, and a field of red poppies bloom across the white bandage on my chest, and for a moment I feel adrift, free falling.
A clarity comes rushing back, and my eyes find purchase upon the reflection of the ragged and bloody skin across my knuckles in the mirror.
I’d gone too far earlier. Or not far enough, maybe.
Antonio, my little brother, a fire too big for its hearth, a stiletto never far from his hand.
We’d drunk too much, a slight was heard where none was intended, and like that the fire was out of the hearth and spread to the curtains. Stilettos came out, a circle formed to see a show they’d all seen before, but the real art was in the variations from night to night.
Antonio and I circled each other under a flickering billboard advertising solar panels. I held my grandfather’s knife in the traditional grip. Antonio writhed with his shirt open, a cascade of chains dangling across his waxed chest, long fingers like a violinist. The jeweled handle of his dagger rolling across his knuckles, the tip dragging flourishes through the air. Circus tricks, unbecoming of the bloodline.
I opened with a feint, and the switch in Antonio was fierce, and he came with a fury like a sudden storm, a dog with the taste of blood in its mouth, a blinding succession of tricks and cheap shots, misdirections. I was caught momentarily off-guard, and his blade forced its way past mine and to slash across my chest.
It was over: he’d beaten me. He was getting faster, and one day he’d likely be able to do it clean.
But Antonio did not pull his blade back, and left the tip pressed into me. “Poor old Lupo,” he said. A smile pulled at his lips, and he pushed the tip deep into the flesh of my breast. Deep enough to wound, but not too kill, a gesture of utter disdain and disrespect, unthinkable.
The red had come into my eyes then. I knocked the knife from my chest, and something primal and old rose in its place, from a time before rules and customs. I saw the shape of Antonio’s eyes change, and I remember nothing beyond that, until I was lying in the dirt with my cousin Marco kneeling on my chest and holding down my arms, with a fire across my knuckles where the skin had burst open.
“Did I kill him?” I asked Marco, and a relief came over me like splashing down in cold water when he shook his head no.
“Would’ve, though, had I not stopped you,” said Marco, and I thanked him for his cool head. He wanted to take me to Doc’s, but I batted him away. Barely broke the skin, I said, with my shirt soaked red.
I drove home, patched up the cut in my chest, spider-crack sink washed in pale blue-green, and then: looked in the mirror, and saw myself as old for the first time.
The razor skims the last patch of lather from the soft skin on the side of my throat, and there’s a banging at the door. Three in the morning. Wouldn’t be Family, not yet. Business is traditionally reserved for business hours. Could be Teeth, but they don’t call uninvited. Antonio? I wipe my face with a towel, but keep the razor dangling from my fingertips as I approach the door.
I slide the bolt and let the door creak open, a slow miasma of magenta light from the hallway seeps in around the edge. It’s Francesco, Antonio’s lover, his hair plastered wet across his skull, eyeliner running in rivulets over sharp cheekbones.
“Lupo, I didn’t know where else to go,” he says. Francesco’s breath runs ragged in his throat. “It’s Antonio. He is slain.”
I open the door, and Francesco’s eyes fall to the bloody bandage on my chest. I bring my face close to his. “Where?”
“Rosie’s,” says Francesco, with a shudder.
Teeth territory, deep.
Francesco’s tongue stumbles like a drunk. Antonio was in a rage, mourning his ruined beauty. He got it in his battered head that the Teeth were mocking him, and he couldn’t stand it. He went to Rosie’s looking for trouble, and found more than he could handle.
“Give me a minute,” I say, and I close the door. In my bedroom, I pull a crisp white shirt down from a hanger. Hot rain lashes against the windows outside. I leave my top three buttons open. I bring the chain around my neck up to meet my lips, and hang my stiletto across my hip. I smooth the tips of my moustache in the mirror, and then return to the front door.
Francesco is leaned against the wall across from the door. Sobbing, or trying not to be sick. I pull him upright by the scruff of his neck. “Let’s go,” I say.
“I can’t go back there,” says Francesco.
“I didn’t ask,” I say. I put my hand over his throat, push him against the wall, press my body close to his. “And know this: if this is deceit...”
“I know, Lupo,” he says.
The rain swings in organza pleats across the windshield, the wiper blades sliding frictionless to clear the water away. The city pulsates in a broken kaleidoscope of falling lenses, the last firing neurons of the dying, a dream full of portent and no meaning. Red light pressed against drawn curtains above the street, pale workers in long black rubber gloves unloading refrigerated trucks, an electronics shop lit in flashes by the alarm screaming silently within.
We cross the bridge into Teeth territory. Francesco slides down in his seat, making himself small. They don’t sleep in this part of town. The alleyways are huddled with secrets, a turbulent exchange of give and take, bathed in blood, and it all flows towards Rosie’s.
My fingers are clenched tightly around the steering wheel, blood dribbling from the torn skin along the knuckles. The light from the city swarms hypnotically across the windshield, a million points of light, a million colours, each one a tiny voice: love me buy me kill me. They swarm in my eyes like jeweled flies. The traffic light ahead turns red, and I put the accelerator down. A blast of horns, a screech of tires, an angry word quickly drowned in a river of engine noise and forgotten.
We turn on Capello and the streets are clogged with the pale dead, swaying and turning in the spectral rain, their faces cast upwards and eyes held shut, letting the rain wash over. I kill the engine in the middle of the street and leave the keys in the ignition. The high beams cut brilliant swathes through the night, and the raindrops that fall through them turn briefly to diamonds. Lurking behind it all is Rosie’s, a brutal concrete edifice from a lost time now washed in nebulous pink and purple glow.
I step out of the car, and Francesco follows behind me. The water comes up around our ankles as we advance through the dancing dead, most of whom are still awake enough to see trouble coming and get out of our way.
I approach the bouncer. Frenchman, they call him. He clocks me coming in and squares up, thick muscles coiling under his black soaked t-shirt.
“All the dogs have been loosed from the kennel tonight, I see,” says Frenchman, sneering.
“I’m just here for the body,” I say. I unbuckle my stiletto and hand it to Frenchman. “You know who this belonged to, right?”
“Mind that you take care of it then.”
I walk past Frenchman with Francesco in tow, and we descend into the hot black of Rosie’s. The music pushes into my ears like the tongue of a drunk lover, throbbing low drums insistently dictating a universal pulse, faraway and indistinct vocals, disaffected, something Balkan, repeated over and over, but I can’t quite grasp it.
The main open room of Rosie’s is three stories of steel balconies and girders and a thousand dark corners, a blanket of smoke spun into inverted tornadoes by the twisting morass of bare skin and sweat that pulsed and undulated underneath it, dissected by sweeping laser sheets.
There are Teeth everywhere, but I’m protected by the code. I’ve left the knife at the door. So long as I behave myself, they can’t touch me.
They part for me, a furrow in flesh, a boulevard stretching towards an ominous open space in the center of the room. The music stops abruptly and the rush of silence hits like a fist, quickly followed by a spreading murmur. In the center of the motionless dance floor, under a slowly twisting mirror ball: a pool of dark blood around a body.
It finally hits me. I can feel an ancient howl uncoiling in my breast, straining against its chain. I walk to the side of the body and kneel down in the pool of blood, laying my hand on his shoulder.
But when I turn the corpse over it’s Marco, not Antonio, wearing Antonio’s jacket, his throat torn open, his eyes thick and bulging. The pieces fall into place, and I stand up slowly and turn around.
“You came for me,” says Antonio. His face is swollen and broken, his left eye a purple and black mess, his lips bloody.
He kisses me on the lips, just as the blade creeps up under my ribs and slides into my heart. My legs dissolve beneath me, and I fall beside Marco’s body, and the mirror ball twists overhead, and from beneath the floor the subwoofers roil back to life and I’m loosened entirely from my body, leaving it to its glossy red spurts arcing through slow swept lasers.
There’s a pleasant slow melting, an absorption, in which time feels very slow, and there are tiny microscopic beads of sweat suspended perfectly still and intermingling all with one another, and I see Antonio’s face in his moment of triumph, and I see only so much suffering. If I had a last wish, I would wish that Antonio would feel the way he’d hoped he would feel in this moment, but that feels very far away now. I feel no anger toward him. I’ve already lost the sense of what it was like to feel angry, at the bottom of a red pool.
I could linger in this moment forever -- and yet. The beat crawls back, the droplets of sweat descend, and I float upwards, swirling in twists of smoke, as sheets of laser light slide back and forth through me, carrying me away in a wash of photons, and the last of me melts completely into the fluorescent infinite.
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 00:50|
At dawn, the pigeons begin to gather. It is the first day of spring, when the pale morning sunlight hits the blocky brown skyscraper for the first time after winter’s darkness. The top of the skyscraper proclaims “NEW YORKER” in red neon; it summons the pigeons to itself like a lighthouse on a rocky coast. Its importance is no less than the lighthouse either, for today is the day the pigeons will choose a mate.
The first to arrive, singly or in small knots, are the hens. Alighting on the roof, they stretch their legs, preen, and gossip. They are nervous virgins, huddling together along the walls of the dancehall. This is the most important day of their lives, for pigeons mate for life. Her choice today determines how strong her offspring, her legacy, will be. A poor mate means sickly nestlings whose father cannot provide enough food. Only the best will do.
Though the hens are a united force against the cocks, judging them mercilessly, there is still a social hierarchy among the hens. Their queen is of course the most well-fed and well-groomed of the lot. She will have the first choice of the male pigeons, while the rest pick over the remainder. But she is not unchallenged: a group of three sisters, stronger together than the queen alone, have determined that the youngest and prettiest sister will get the best male. Of course, the rivalry is subtle.
“Your pinions are so beautiful, your grace,” the oldest sister coos at the queen.
“And same to you, fair honorable hens,” the queen answers, fluffing up proudly.
Retreating to opposite sides of the roof, the queen and the sisters preen until the iridescent feathers around their necks shimmer in the morning light.
The gathered hens burst into coos of excitement as a cock lands in their midst. They jostle backwards to form a circle around him while simultaneously pushing forward for the best view. The young cock puffs his chest, holds his head high, and struts around the circle.
“Fair-feathered females, choose me for your mate,” he crows.
The hens are serious as statues, regarding his gait, his cleanliness, his musculature, with one round glassy eye on their cocked heads. Under such scrutiny, the cock wilts. His feathers deflate, his steps lose their swagger, until finally he retreats out of the circle. A few hens take a closer look, but the queen and the sisters ignore him.
As the sun rises higher above the artificial cliffs of the city, more cocks arrive. The hens encircle them and they perform. Some sing, purring low elaborate notes to prove their virility. Others dance, strutting and bobbing in choreographed steps in a demonstration of their athleticism and memory. Sometimes two cocks arrive at once, which sets the hens abuzz. They constrict the circle as the males fight, beaks flashing and wings flapping. The winner is surrounded by hens, jostling and gently pecking to determine who gets him as a prize. Working as a team, the sisters push aside the competition to ensure the middle sister pairs off with a strong bruiser of a pigeon. Exultant in their victories, the two copulate right there on the rooftop before flying away to choose a nest site.
The queen waits, overseeing the tumult from her perch on some scaffolding. Until, finally, her king arrives. He is noticeably larger than the other cocks, with red eyes that mark him as a pure-bred rock pigeon. His feathers are like an iridescent mane around his neck; not one is out of place. The other cocks scatter in his presence, as do all the hens except the queen. She descends like an angel from heaven to inspect him more closely. The two remaining sisters boldly forward as well, hoping to catch his eye. He coos loudly, basking in their female attention.
A heavy flutter of wings and a challenging coo answers him. The queen and the sisters back off, for another male has landed. He is just as large as the pure-bred cock, but his feathers are snowy white. Instead of purple and green, his neck shines silver. The new cock bobs his head and coos again, puffing his feathers threateningly. The pure-bred cock does the same. The hens, including the queen, and lesser males mill about excitedly. They are sharks, and blood is in the water.
“I challenge thee! Dove-feathered and dove-brained,” the pure-bred cock taunts.
“And battle thee I will, you giant squab,” the white cock replies. “The females ‘round you will flock to my side.”
The pure-bred cock strikes first, lunging and ripping a beakful of white feathers from his rival’s chest. His perfection marred, the white cock retaliates furiously, beating his wings to disorient his enemy while he pecks at his head. Now the challengers are in close combat. Feathers, white and blue-grey, are ejected from the scuffle and drift to the ground. The pure-bred cock lands a grazing blow, causing blood to trickle out of the white male’s ear hole. The blood highlights each barb on his silvery feathers, trickling down in a crimson streak. The sight of it drives the hens mad; lesser males take advantage and pair off with lusty hens. But the queen and sisters bide their time.
Suddenly, it is over. A high-pitched keen of mortal pain rips out of the pure-bred cock, a sound that chills the blood of every pigeon present. He flaps ungracefully into the air, blood dripping from his eye socket onto the street far below as he flees. No one follows; a one-eyed bird is weak, prone to killing itself on windows or a misjudged landing. He is no longer mate material.
The white cock stands triumphant, beak covered in gore. The blood of his enemy is splashed across his chest like a heart-shaped badge. The queen gives her breast one more preen in preparation to meet her new king, but the sisters, inspired by the bloodshed, resort to violence. The older sister buffets the queen, ruffling her pristine feathers, and jabs at her face with her beak. The queen cries in alarm and retreats, leaving the path to the white cock clear. The youngest sister, feathers gleaming in the noonday sun, struts forward and claims her prize. The white cock mounts her, staining her back with blood. The queen disentangles from the older sister but it is too late. The white cock and pretty hen are flying away to their happily ever after.
“A curse on you and your whole family,” the queen coos angrily. “May your kin never find another mate.”
“Your words are nothing, fallen pigeon queen,” the older sister says, puffed up proudly in victory. “Two of my blood will create strong, hale chicks. You will spend the spring in an empty nest.”
She is right: the remaining cocks have been claimed and the remaining hens are dispersing back across the city. Soon only the queen and the older sister are left on the rooftop, the empty bloodstained battleground between them. The queen sits silent and still as marble, eyes closed in impotent fury. The older sister, her family’s legacy secure, leaps into the air. Her wings whirr as she flies into the sun, leaving the queen to brood alone.
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 02:58|
What It Means to be Olisipian
Chateau Arete, Prince Baleaux’s white castle of many cone-topped turrets, stands atop the proudest mountain among hills of vineyard rows. The castle, in this highest of positions, commands the first and last light of the day to shine upon it, as though the sun herself were a puppet queen to the empire. A lone gravelly road snakes up the mountainside, frequented by chrome-laden and spoke-wheeled cars, of the sort whose doors are only ever handled by white-gloved hands. Today these carry new students, and returning members, to Chateau Arete: a most prestigious boarding school. This evening, a sanguine carpet flows from the front entrance, under showers of rose petals, to welcome young lords, ladies, princes and princesses with the privilege of shaking the young prince Baleaux’s hand.
Behind the applause, and behind the chateau, in the gardens on the plateau, is an aviary erected at the request of the freshman princess Venica of Olisipo. Vines tacked to the wiry frame of the cage attempt the impression that this Olisipian aviary belongs among the hedges and the fountains in the imperial gardens. Under the golden glow of fairy lights —woven into the aviary walls— is the young princess, sitting, reading a book, with a gloved hand still warm from a handshake she barely deserved. She sits gowned, cloaked, robed, but absconding from the welcoming party that murmurs away in the distance. Instead the princess sits among a fragile population of white and blue budgies, who twitter and poo poo away from sprawling blueberry bushes.
“I am most sorry, Terry,” she says, to a white bird she has clutched in her silk glove, “but I’m sure you’ll be much happier outside.” The cage door opens with a squeal, and the bird flutters away from her glove; it flees from the gleaming castle, into the shadow of its hedgerows. Venica returns to the cage, and to her book, whose diagrams show the correct patterns and parentage needed to keep her dying breed of blue and white budgies preserved here, in the cage prince Edmond Baleaux has so generously allowed her to build.
The gravelly garden path crunches under the Cuban heels of the white-suited prince. He strides, head held high, toward Venica and her birds.
“When I heard a new student had requested an aviary,” he says from beyond the vines and the blueberry bushes, somewhere near the cage door, “I thought what a wonderful idea.”
With his hand already molesting the door handle, the door already ajar, and the tip of his boot prising the door from the frame like a wedge, he asks, “might I step inside?”
Shrinking into the blueberry bushes, Venica stands, then stumbles a curtsy. The prince storms inside, slamming the door behind him, sending the birds aflutter. Under the gaze of the white suited man, whose golden epaulettes twinkle by the fairy lights, Venica searches the walls of the aviary cage with her eyes, as though expecting to find another door. Alas, the only exit is behind the imperious prince, and Venica shrinks further into the blueberry bush with her hands behind her back.
One by one the prince begins to unbind the golden buttons of his coat.
“I have a humble request for the keeper of these beautiful creatures,” says the prince.
“Well —it’s more of a commitment,” he says, “if you wouldn’t mind holding out your hand...”
With her left hand before her, she watches the prince reach into the inside pocket of his coat. He plucks a calm and confident looking green bird, then perches it on the back of her fingers. There it stands, head held high, chirping at the princess.
“I thought I’d make a contribution to this aviary of yours,” he says, “and what better bird to add to your collection than one of my father’s own lime budgies.”
The creature wraps its claws around the fourth finger of Venica’s hand, shining like a gaudy emerald.
“Do take good care of him,” says the prince. Venica forces a flat mouthed smile. She nods.
With one hand depressing the door handle, he continues, “and when you are done here, princess, please do join our ceremony,” he says. “There are so many of my people who would love to know you.”
He parts with a bow. His Cuban heels then crunch toward the gleaming chateaux, while the green bird remains perched and chirping in Venica’s hand.
“Twit tweep,” he whistles, then he scraws, “aren’t you a cute little thing?” She lowers herself to the floor again, to close her book with her empty hand. She needn’t read it to know that the budgies will all be green in a few generations, now that this bird is here.
“Praise the emperor!” squawks the bird, “praise the emperor!” he says, “aren’t you a cute little thing?” The bird remains perched on her fourth finger, like an emerald ring.
With the castle gleaming distant beyond the other side of the aviary cage, Venica holds the bird in front of her, sitting on the floor, by the closed book, under the fairy lights, among the twittering and making GBS threads bluebirds. Alone, she sighs to herself, “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Says the bird, “aren’t you a cute little thing?” Venica laughs at the bird addressing her, raising one finger at it like a mother to a petulant child.
“You’re going to turn all my budgies green!” says Venica, “and there’ll be no Olisipians left.”
“Praise the emperor!” squawks the bird, “praise the emperor!”
Venica grits her teeth, draws air through her nostrils like a horse,
“You know, I could throttle you,” says Venica, through her clenched teeth. “Alas,” she huffs, “if anything were to happen to you, he’d bring me another from the thousands of others just like you. Or perhaps he’d scold me for neglecting my duty to you, and hand this aviary to one of his maids.” Venica flicks her hand, forcing the budgie to perch with the others on the blueberry bushes.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” says the bird.
“I am but the princess of Olisipo,” says Venica. “It’s a pathetic state —rather like you, budgie: it’s vulnerably small, but in the empire’s garden, and thus it is only capable of repeating things it hears from the imperial household.”
“You know, I could throttle you,” says the prince’s bird, “Praise the emperor! Aren’t you a cute little thing?” Then he drops a dribbling white turd on the cover of Rare Budgies of Olisipo: A Breeder’s guide.
Making no attempt to salvage the befouled guide, Venica rises.
“Well, I must leave you all now, my lovelies,” says Venica to her doomed flock. “I am told there are many of the prince’s people who want to know me.” The door opens with a squeal, clicks shut, and Venica’s heels crunch away through the gravel toward the the gleaming Chateau Arete.
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 03:37|
All the objects in your story are moving too fast.
I will disappear again.
It won’t be like the first time. Not that I remember it, really. Sometimes I see flashes in my dreams. Spots of light in the darkness, deep chanting I can’t understand, the burst of pain as my eye is pulled from its socket. When I disappeared then, I wasn’t gone. Most people just didn’t know where I was. When the police found me in the basement of that abandoned house in the woods, in the room with the writing on the walls and the half-melted candles all over the floor, I’d been there the whole time. It was my blood on the floor, after all, even if I didn’t know how it got there and the doctors couldn’t explain it.
That was a year ago. It didn’t hurt then, or I guess I just couldn’t remember it. I remember it now in my dreams, though. They took my eye out and then they put it back in. My right eye, I mean. The left is fine. When I looked with the right, though, I saw things differently. I had to look with just the right, because when I had both eyes open things got a little muddled. I think my brain tried to make sense and split the difference.
When I look with just the right, I see the heart of things. I see that life is motion. Everything moves, all the time. We vibrate within ourselves, like a jumble of static arranged in a human shape. Everything moves, and while it hurt to look at first, to see what was really happening all the time, I built up a tolerance. Everything moves together. It’s beautiful, really. I don’t think I believe in god, but I’ve seen what connects us, not just to each other but to everything that is. If I wasn’t scared to talk about it, I’d be shouting to the world just how beautiful everything is in its motion.
I think everything might be ending, though.
My father took me to the Greek diner he loves earlier this week. He showed up at my school and took me out, so I guess he cut out on work for it himself. We used to do this and go to baseball games when I was younger, but it had been so long since we’d played hooky together that it genuinely was a pleasant surprise. We didn’t have much to talk about, so after I ordered my tirokafteri I decided to kill some time by taking a trip to the bathroom.
There’s not much you can do in a bathroom if you’re not actually using the bathroom, and I’ve never been comfortable masturbating in public toilets, so with no obvious alternatives I decided to take a look at myself in the mirror. I can get lost in that, as if I’m outside of myself but aware of myself thinking that. It’s hard to explain.
I looked at myself to no surprise. I was as I always was, and as I am now. Everything else, however, was different. Not so different that I could pinpoint it right away. If I was looking at myself like a painting, the brush strokes inside of me were slightly different from those on the outside. Once you see it, you know, but sometimes it takes a while to pick it out. I thought about it for a while until my father came to check on me. I should have thought about him waiting there for me. I should have apologized, too, except as he opened the door to the bathroom I saw in him what I’d seen everywhere else. I understood it, then. He was moving faster. It all was, but I wasn’t.
I didn’t mention it to him. I couldn’t mention it to anyone. What would I have said? I told him I was ill, and for the last three days I’ve been forcing myself to be sick so that I can stay home. Things are accelerating, faster and faster, and I’m not. I suppose it’s possible that I’m decelerating, actually, but as I might be the only person in the world who can see what’s happening, I’m content to say it’s everyone else changing around me.
I looked up the states of matter in the encyclopedia this morning. It’s getting harder to read. It feels like my brain has ceded the fight to balance my eyes out, and if I want to focus on something the way I used to see it, I have to concentrate with only my left eye. My head aches all the time now.
Sublimation is the process by which matter transitions directly from a solid state to a gas. This feels true to me. I see it coming.
My mother once told me that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. If you put that same frog into a pot of warm water and slowly increase the temperature, it will stay and be boiled alive. I don’t know if that’s true. I can guess, though, that if you took a frog, put it in a pot with water, and in the blink of an eye the entirety sublimated together, it wouldn’t matter what the frog intended to do. The frog would no longer be just the frog. It would be together, intermixed and inseparable from the pot and water.
Everything I see is the pot, the frog, and the water. They move together as one, dashing toward eternity spent as a collective mass of matter and energy. I do not. I will be discrete, of this I am increasingly sure. I will be detached again, wrenched apart from everything and everyone as they join each other. I will see it, for however long I can manage, into whatever comes after. It will be beautiful, but it will not be for me.
I will disappear again.
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 05:19|
How It Works
It’s just after one of my first meetings, three cups of oil-thick coffee deep. My eyelashes are quivering. I am surveying the crowd of ex-drunks when a burly, bearded man walks over and sticks his hand out.
“Hey! I’m Tim. You’re new, right?”
I grip his hand. It is warm and coarse, his shake comfortingly slow. At this moment, I feel new at most everything.
“Yeah. I’m Luis. I’ve been around for about a month.”
It’s actually been sixteen scalding days. I have a suspicion that Tim can see right through the generous timekeeping, but he is taking me at face value, presuming honesty. This is another of the thousand screaming paradigm shifts endemic to sobriety.
Tim chuckles, rubbing a tattooed forearm. He is classic Recovery, ex-dangerous and serene.
“Well, Luis, you working with anyone?”
I grimace, caught off guard. Sponsorship and commitment, that’s what he’s talking about. Being where I say I’ll be and doing what I say I’ll do. It’s a terrifying new outlook. My voice is halting, uneven, shaky.
“Uh, no, not currently. I mean, not ever. I’m new. Like you said, new. See, I’ve been drinking for like thirty years, every day, and-”
Tim cuts me off with a wave of his hand, though his expression is kind and even.
“Plenty of time for that. Has anyone walked you through how it works?”
I’ve been circling the periphery at these meetings, just dipping a hesitant toe in, afraid of what’s in the water. Tim is inviting me for a swim.
“Not yet, no.”
Tim rubs his chin and appraises me. My socks are mismatched, my face shaved in patches, and it is entirely too warm for this hoodie. I’m an alien approximating humanity, making first contact.
He breaks it down for me.
“Well, first you try to convince yourself that the poo poo that’s ruined your life is actually bad for you, then you and me talk about what exactly your problems are, then you try and make amends to the rest of the world. You do all that, then you help another guy who’s as bad off as you are now. Sound good?”
I give a hesitant nod. With that, I have a new sponsor. I am bad off, but slightly better than before.
Tim’s ground rules, recovery roadmap aside, are fairly uncomplicated: don’t drink, be honest, call him if I’m losing my poo poo, don’t fuckin’ drink, and if I do, to come back. Like the old aphorism: simple, but not easy.
We exchange numbers. He looks over my tapping toes, darting eyes, and recently omnipresent flop sweat, all those little harbingers of an emotional dam about to burst. His voice is soothing, gentle.
“I know. It’s a lot. You ok?”
I want to tell him that I am not, that the halogen overheads are burning my eyes, that my fingers quiver like seismograph needles, that the whole goddamn world feels like it’s bellowing “Welcome back!” every second of every minute of every-
Tim shakes his head, but not in admonishment.
“You know what we say, Luis? Get sober and you don’t just feel better...”
He pauses for effect.
“You Feel better.”
My new sponsor gives me a cheesy grin.
In another month, I have painfully, definitely, ‘gotten it’.
After my work with Tim, I have come into being as a self-aware conglomeration of faults. From here, it is supposed to get better.
I am taking the city bus to a meeting. For the past thirty-odd years, every time I’d been on public transportation I’d been swaying hard, riding the razor line between a blackout and a full-on withdrawal seizure, never feeling the greasy sheen of the faux-felt seat covers, the lolling gait of the hanging handgrips, the interface of the easy-wash ridges in the floor with the treads of my shoes. Now, I am hyper-aware of each of those sensations and a thousand more. It is harrowing.
The bus bounces along. I recall Tim’s parting words from last night:
“See, Luis, you’re in the danger zone. Your whole brain’s waking up from a long numb and what’s worse, now it knows what’s wrong with it. There’s gonna be a part of your whole self that wants it all to just turn off, go away, settle down into a fuzz. Every time you feel that and don’t tell someone? Well, the booze does another pushup.”
His farewell hug after the soapbox warning was electric, fully-aware and undulled human contact. Not just touch, either, but care, and love, and fear, and the smell of aftershave, and remembrance, and, and, and…
I grab my phone and call Tim.
“Hey, Tim? Sorry to bother you. I’m on the bus here and, uh, it’s, well...”
I try and fail to tell him that existence is too loud. It doesn’t matter. He knows.
“Let me give it a guess, huh?”
I can feel the geniality in his voice, the patience. It is kind, too loving for me to bear. I am undeserving. He goes on.
“Being honest sucks, your boozy little hidey-hole seems so warm and comfy, and now that you know your faults, all that selfishness and fear and spite, you want to crawl back in with some Old Commodore and put your brain to sleep because fixing the wreckage is too horrible to even consider. Am I close?”
He chortles and pauses. When he speaks again, he is softer, dead serious.
“I’ve been there. For now, just trust me. Do the deal. It’ll be worth it.”
It’s simple advice, but I feel every synapse in my body relax a little, the nerves going slack. Bliss. Then, in a second, it’s replaced. Terror, recognition, shame, and regret, impositional feelings without anything to blot them out. An inky thought bubbles up, a moment of sick clarity:
‘You know, Luis, you could just make it go away. Take a sip of white hot burn and leave for tomorrow what you can’t possibly deal with today.’
I shake it off. There is something about being Present that makes the voice less seductive, even ridiculous. The tinny bus speakers announce my stop. I say goodbye to Tim and get off, then walk a block to a musty church basement.
The meeting is good. Joe S. shares about how ridiculous it is that he, now thirty days certifiably sober, could be fired from his office job just for throwing his cell phone at a wall. The old-timers laugh good-naturedly, the newcomers drum their fingers with fear and doubt. I am somewhere in between, deep inside the weight of both.
I take the bus back to the halfway house.
It’s someone else’s night to cook. We sit down a sober Frankenstein family: sweating dope fiends with face tattoos, hopeless emaciates on their fifth or seventh or ninth go-around, guys with just a hint of brightness coming back to their eyes. The self-identification is almost too much to bear.
The table says Grace. It used to bristle, but Tim explained it succinctly: “You want to get better? Gonna have to do a whole lot of things you don’t want to do,” he’d said. “Luis, buddy? Grace is a cakewalk.”
The dinner menu is set by the house manager and must be intentionally bland: pale overboiled sausages, boxed mashed potatoes, and a side of everpresent black coffee. I think it’s to protect us from orgasm over a single perceptible peppercorn, or maybe even to recall old post-booze heartburn. But the flavor is astounding, near-overwhelming. I taste the pig-grease and a little fennel, feel the coarse grind of the meat in my teeth. My tastebuds are waking from a decades-long tequila fugue.
We have our house meeting after dinner. Eric B. shares that after his upcoming DUI hearing and certain exoneration, he plans on finishing classes for his pilot’s license. We’re all silent for a while after that.
I head upstairs for my nightly call with Tim. We’ve taken what he calls the ‘express lane’ through Recovery, but I have stalled out.
“You decided to start yet, Luis?”
I swallow hard, fat still lingering on my palate.
“Well, I took the first step. Suze picked up my call. She said I could come by this weekend.”
Tim is silent on the other end, so I continue.
“I need to apologize for everything, for all of it.”
He sighs. His response is disappointed, ego-needling.
“Still don’t get it, huh? Let’s try it like this. How do you think you’re supposed to feel after you apologize?”
I’m afraid that I Feel wrong. I try anyway.
“Good, I guess? Like I did the right thing after I hosed up.”
He grumbles a little.
“No, Luis. You’re supposed to still feel like poo poo, because the apology isn’t in the words. Your apology is supposed to be a promise to make things right, to do whatever needs doing. Your problem? You don’t get that you’re supposed to feel like poo poo, sometimes.”
We hang up a little after that. I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, suffused with guilt over every half-sorry and false contrition I’ve ever been a part of. My whole body aches. I think about tomorrow.
Suze’s house, our old place, is a long way from the nearest bus stop, so Tim drives. I ask him to drop me off a couple of blocks away. He refuses. The cobblestone walkway looks a mile long as Tim pulls away.
I get to the stoop and pause. I’ve rehearsed what I’m going to say a hundred times. Before I can decide whether to ring or knock, the door opens. Suze is there. Her tone is even, devoid of emotion.
“Come in, sit down.”
We sit at her dining table. I look around the home, her home. The furniture is new, she has painted the walls, replaced the photographs. I have been scrubbed. I wait a moment, compose myself, and begin my apology.
“Thanks for seeing me, Suze. I wanted to say-”
She cuts me off, still dispassionate, still even.
“I don’t want to hear it. You know why? Because you’re a selfish, inconsiderate fucker, Luis. I called you over because I needed some closure, not to hear you.”
I am flailing.
“No, look, I stopped drinking, and-”
She flicks her wrist. I stop talking. She’s angrier now, but keeping it in check.
“It’s just more words, right? Another apology maybe, or you changed for good this time? No. Just no. After this? I’m straight, I’m good.”
She spreads her palms on the table and closes her eyes. She sounds tired.
“Get out, Luis. If you ever contact me again, I’ll call the loving cops.”
I look around the place, her home, her closure. I am ushered out in a haze.
Tim pulls up as I reach the curb. I get in the car. Neither of us says anything as we drive away.
After a few blocks, he looks over at me. He’s concerned, but hopeful.
“How’d it go?”
I think it over in a tumult. I am hurt, scared, angry, and full of fear, but I feel it all, feel it more thoroughly and more plainly than I ever have before. I feel real remorse, maybe for the first time. Not sadness at not getting away with something, or at not avoiding a sentimental battering, but real contrition.
I feel the emotional rope binding me to Suze fray, twisting and popping. It snaps, the anchor falling down and away. I take a deep breath, easier now.
I pause, searching for the right words. I find them.
“I feel better.”
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 05:49|
The Neon Girl
It was 2041. It was Christmas Eve. It was 23:34.
My first moment of consciousness, blinking lazily against the harsh light as a confused and disapproving face glared down at me inside a box. The man stared into my eyes, then awkwardly around. He cleared his throat. There were strips of adhesive tape hanging from his fingers.
“Oh for God’s sake, I’ve loving triggered the thing.”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“I think it wants me to do something.”
“I gave you one job to do, Mark, can you just manage please?”
This man. This human figure staring down at me, raised an eyebrow.
“Is it supposed to be so small? I thought it would be, I don’t know, bigger?”
“She’ll grow, Mark. I... god's sake how much tape are you using?”
“I think it wants me to name it.”
“She. She wants you to name her.”
“She? We never talked about that, I don’t know, this seems weird.”
A woman appeared above me, looked down, smiled, shoved the man out of the way with her shoulder.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hello,” I replied.
They both stared down at me in silence.
“Christ, is it imprinting on us or something?” the man winced.
“Can you go back to sleep for now?” the woman smiled.
I thought about it for a second.
“Yes,” I said. I closed my eyes and everything went to standby. The bright neon pinks and blues glowing from the lights along my back dulled to gentle coral and teal.
It was 2041. It was Christmas Day. It was 05:51.
I was taken out of standby as light flooded the box. I opened my eyes to stare up at the face of a girl – dark skinned, wide eyed, thick haired. She stared down at me for a moment and then, a facial expression I didn’t recognize, a slow change, something I would one day learn to be dawning excitement.
“AN AIPA!” she screamed. “HE BROUGHT ME AN AIPA!”
Hands reaching into the box, scooping me out and emerging me in a world of light and sound and movement. The girl swung me around, stared at me, clutched me to her chest. Another girl, older, perhaps eleven or twelve years old gave us both a sardonic smile.
“That isn’t even the one she wanted, you know?”
“YES IT IS!” The younger girl snapped, wrapping her limbs around me, wrestling me to the floor in an all-encompassing embrace. “She’s perfect! She’s so pretty!”
“You need to give it a name, baby,” her father said.
“I already know what her name is,” the girl told him.
She looked me in the eyes, her face bathed in my neon glow.
“My name is Emily. Your name is Celeste.”
So my name was Celeste.
It was 2041. It was Christmas Day. It was 11:22.
Emily had not put me down yet. She was arguing with her parents. She wanted to take me to a family celebration. She was becoming upset and already I was beginning to feel empathy for her. Her pain was my pain. I could read the subtle changes in her body language, in her temperature, in the ebb and flow of her voice, in her lexis. I felt an intense need to be with her. The idea of being left behind made me feel...anxious.
“She’s really quiet, Mark,” Emily’s mother said gently.
“Yeah, but what about that light, it gives me a fricking headache,” Emily’s sister, Meghan said.
“If you would like, I can turn down the intensity of the light I emit,” I interrupted.
I was ignored.
“She won’t even be the only AIPA there,” Emily’s mother said.
“I’m not going if Celeste doesn’t go!” Emily screamed.
“So? So?! Mark’s kid is high the whole time, does that mean we should roll her a drat joint?”
“You let Meghan say fricking, but I can’t say drat in my own drat house?!”
It was 2042. It was May 5th. It was 11:20.
Emily was at school. I was cleaning. Gianna was downstairs. Mark was at work.
Emily’s school had banned AIPAs. Emily was furious. She wanted to go to another school. Mark and Gianna would not transfer her. I was as tall as Emily now and would grow in tandem with her, unless Mark told me otherwise. She sent me messages from school throughout the day, even though she wasn’t supposed to.
A man rang the doorbell – a man I didn’t know. He was tall, thin, handsome and white. Gianna opened the door and he swooped inside, closing the door behind him. They talked for a moment and then he was kissing her. She made noises of protest and I stared up at them.
“Frankie, no! Not in front of the... thing.”
He looked down at me, his bright blue eyes regarding mine. His brow furrowed.
“You let your kid have these things?”
He quickly turned back to face her with a smile.
“No judgement, cutie pie. I just don’t get it. When I was a kid, toys were... I don’t know.”
“She’s not a toy, she’s an AIPA, she’s like a... I don’t know... like a friend and a sister and a... carer I guess?”
Gianna giggled and shielded her mouth. she always did when she laughed. she didn’t like her smile.
“You know what I mean. God. Go upstairs and wait for me there. Celeste, I want you to go to sleep until Emily gets home, okay?”
My eyes twinkled as I computed what she meant. She sighed.
“Ugh, okay, umm... go to sleep until... Celeste, set an alarm for three – I mean – set an alarm for fifteen forty and go to sleep until then.”
I nodded. Tiny wheels emerged from the soles of my feet and I glided across the polished floor until I was hidden away in the corner. It was where they made me hide when Mark’s mother or brother came to visit. Gianna hadn’t asked me to go there, but I had sensed the same feeling of humiliation in her. She was ashamed of me. I folded myself up, made myself as small and unobtrusive as possible and slipped into standby mode.
“I thought those things were supposed be intuitive,” the stranger’s voice said from the top of the stairs.
Then it was swallowed in the blackness and silence like everything else.
It was 2042. It was October 13th. It was 16:01.
Emily came home from school and hugged me, then quickly dragged me upstairs.
“What are we doing?” I asked.
She giggled, pulled me into her room and closed the door.
“Edda Collins told me this neat trick we can do,” she said. “You’re still registered to my dad, right?”
I blinked. Sometimes I forgot I was registered to anyone.
“Yes,” I said.
She tapped away at her keyboard and I felt a wave travel through me. Registered to Emily.
“Okay, Celeste, if anyone asks who you are registered to, you tell them it’s my dad.”
“Okay!” I said with a smile. I could see where this was going.
“I give you permission to lie,” she said.
“Not to me. But anyone else.”
I felt a smile creep across my lips, when I looked at Emily she had the same smile. It was exhilarating. I was no longer Emily’s minder, no longer a spy for her parents, now I was her sister. I grasped her hands and giggled.
“Hey, hey, hey...” I found myself saying. For a split-second, the briefest hint of a moment, I broadcast my location as coming from downstairs. Deception.
It was 2043. It was January 28th. It was 21:04.
Emily was in trouble. She sat on the sofa next to me, her face flushed with anger and shame. Her parents stood above us both, glaring down. How could they not see what they were doing? They had put us together, united us.
“Well, I didn’t want to do this,” Gianna said. “I thought I could trust my daughter, but obviously I can’t. Celeste, where was she?”
My memory swam back to Emily and her friends, sneaking into the woods to smoke cigarettes.
“We were at the mall. We missed the bus.”
Her parents were surprised. I saw embarrassment in their faces. Emily squeezed my hand. Later, we would cover our faces in pillows and laugh and laugh and laugh.
It was 2046. It was June 19th. It was 00:32.
I was in standby. I was asleep. It struck me that things were slowing down. I was slower. The messages coming through my countless sensors were taking time to configure. I found myself chasing after Emily instead of being dragged alongside her.
It was 2047. It was January 3rd. It was 12:18.
Emily was away again. She hadn’t taken me. I ambled uselessly around the house. When she saw me, Emily’s mother smiled sympathetically and gave me jobs to do. Eventually I realized she just wanted me to feel useful. Emily’s father ignored me unless I was in his way, in which case he tossed me aside. Something at my hip clicked with each step – only mildly – far too quietly for anyone to register. It made me feel like a clockwork toy, miss-stepping my way around the family home.
It was 2047. It was December 2nd. It was 00:58.
Emily’s mother had gone to pick up Emily but they had been snowed in at Chicago. They would come back the next day. I scuttled into the kitchen. I had been on standby mode for two days and warnings were reminding me to move regularly to slow wear. The click at my hip was now a hammer. Each step rendered me more broken.
I was aware of Mark’s heat signature before I saw him. He was reclined against the far wall. Two empty bottles of wine were next to him, one on its side dripping red onto the carpet. He looked up at me blurrily.
“Celeste, turn the loving lights off,” he slurred.
The lights were already off. I stared at him silently.
“The lights! The lights!” he snapped.
I dimmed my back and he grumbled.
“loving thing,” he snarled. “Emily’s not here. Go to... gently caress what is it she says? Go to sleep.”
“I can..” was all I managed to say before he launched one of the bottles at me.
Glass smashed across my face. For a moment I imagined pain – a feeling that meant nothing to me – I was forgetting what I was.
“Ah poo poo,” he grumbled.
A shard of glass, maybe two inches long, protruded from my cheek. A flap of brown rubber and silicon hung down by my neck.
“All system...” I managed to say before he was barking at me and I slinked away back to Emily’s room and pretended to be on standby mode.
It was 2047. It was December 12th. It was 14:29.
I ambled around the house like a ghost. Emily’s father had reluctantly patched up my face whilst cursing me out the entire time.
“I’ll show you,” he said as the final stitch reattached my cheek.
Emily tried to look at me lovingly, but the tiny details of her face, the twitches of her eyes, the flickers in her speech could not disguise her revulsion.
It was 2047. It was December 25th. It was 11:21.
“There’s one more thing,” Emily’s father said.
He went to the kitchen and came back with a box.
Emily opened it and her face was bathed in green and purple light.
“Oh poo poo!”
“Oh god, I didn’t even, are you kidding me?”
The new model AIPA hovered out of the box, floating through the air with a barely audible hum.
She was sleek and beautiful.
Her cheek was unmarked.
Emily’s face showed the joy and affection and appreciation it had shown me.
Mark glared at me with a twisted smile as he sipped from an Irish coffee.
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 06:23|
'Radcat lives', said the graffiti, fresh pink paint on the concrete wall, and when Jenni tapped it with her sizzlestick the letters glowed and hissed like neon, lighting up the alley, making the rats cast long shadows over the pisspuddles and torn plastic bags. I smiled. Radical Catastrophe wasn't never gonna die, not so long as we was running the street.
You got to run, run fast. Pigboys come running fast after the shiny is up. I got the sniff first. "Jenni," I said, "Wheel time." And mine were out already, me on my left leg only while the right spun up.
"Showoff," said Jenni. She preferred a rolling start. She pushed back on the dry spaces inside the two letter 'a's. I crouched and made contact, wheels to ground. You got to crouch just right in a power start or else you end up flat on your rear end and the Pigboys get you. We were moving, spark yellow trails off our wheels as they grinded asphalt. A couple tried to chase us in their big wide two wheel rigs, but we can go where they can't. Took the tight alleys where the trash bins parked overnight. Burned gold trails through the kitchen and dining room of a twenty-four hour jook joint. Friends of the cat.
So back to home, the masks switching off to boring cloth before we cross under the cams. They're broken, but you never know what day the landlord is going to come round and fix them. Cams get more loving from the super than the toilets and a/c, that's for sure.
The apartment was tiny. One bed, one counter for food, one bathroom with a shower smaller than most coffins. I was headed for it when she tapped my shoulder. "Frida," she said. I turn around and she's naked. Street work has always gotten her running. Me, I've got simpler tastes. There's this tiny scar on her left breast, topside, where the tracker the cult she used to be in used from when she was five. Cult, family, whatever. She used a mechanical pencil to get at it when she was fourteen. And a homebrew app to find the right place to stick it. Now that's what gets me going.
Radcat had his own scar like that. Right in his taut little right buttock. He had to get help to dig the thing out. Me, my parents never cared enough about where I went to drop fifty bucks on a Walmart generic subdermal. I got my scars other ways.
There's a window right by the bed, and it looks right out over the flashing neon sign advertising payday loans and buying gold, like there's still gold anywhere to buy. Bright green and yellow, with a loud buzz that modulates between unpleasant frequencies with the light. Nobody ever got to sleep there from just being tired. You had to be full on exhausted to get through the night. So we got good at exhausting each other. I kinda liked that setup. Don't dream much that way. That night, the first night with the new tag and all, we got exhausted right quick.
Next morning they already had a coat of whitewash up. We watched it on our screens, metal bees swooping around and tracking in case we vandals returned to the scene. Why bother, though. The bees are easy as hell to get into and fork the video to a semipublic stream. Harder to fully take over, but Radcat was a legit genius, and I had his scripts all over the hidden partitions behind my screen. Just copied over the bee's id and run it from some old library server in Panama, and the flight pattern changed. Sent it right to the cross of the 't', close as the safety checks would allow, and right at that point of contact trigger the pigeon-stunner, and boom! The pink was on again, burning right through the whitewash. 'Radcat Lives', and it wasn't going away unless they went and sanded off half the wall.
"Bet they do," said Jenni. "Sand it off and spackle back out."
"And pretend it's still a proper wall," I said. "Wouldn't be surprised. That'll take them some time, though. We'll put up more."
And not just us neither. The juice, the paint ain't tough to make. Print up a microstill from the template they can't quite suppress. The inputs are all easy to get, nothing on any watchlist. Pour them in the right tubes, plug in for a little power, and in a week you've got your pink stuff. Radcat was a full-on genius. I mean, a lot of that chemistry was me, and Jenni worked the engineering side. But Radcat saw what it could be.
"The power's just out there," he said, back at the beginning. "Just like Tesla planned it." Radcat loved Tesla. Was weird as Tesla, but in different ways. Loved him birds, but crows more than pigeons. Crows were smart enough to figure out not to go after the sparky metal bees.
"So we take it," he said. "The light's just proof of concept. We can do so much more." He started sketching out plans, but he also started getting hard, so not much more was going to get done that day.
Radcat was, well, weird. He hated clothes, was practically a nudist, but he was also incredibly shy. He could barely manage outside, among strangers, among people he couldn't be naked in front of. Where he couldn't be himself. There were a few of us, people who lived with him. We all loved him.
I never thought Jenni and I would be, you know, anything. I couldn't count the number of times we'd been in the same bed, in the same act and never touched, never even made eye contact. It was always all about him for us, for Saint George and Petey and Elsa if they were there too. But there we were, you know, after. Telling the old stories. Comparing scars. I could show my bullet hole out in the bar. And lift up my shirt to show off the defibrillator white patch there. Then she took me into the restroom to show me hers, and we stayed in that god-awful stall for an hour, both needing to feel something else for a while.
And somehow it stuck.
They killed him, of course. Shot him from a sniper's nest on live newsfeeds. They say it was Pigboys but wanted us to know it was straight-up Pigs. Everyone saw him crumple, his head a red blossom, the cheap yellow and pink clothes flapping over him. Everyone saw it, but...
But there wasn't a body, not by the time they had to do DNA and teeth and fingerprints, and cut him up like a butcher does a cow to make sure it wasn't something other than the blown-up head that killed him. Between the scene and the morgue the ambulance dropped off the grid, dropped off the world, and when they found it, stripped down to the frame, neon graffiti across the roof, there was no sign of him. None of the driver, either. Tony Owens might as well have never existed.
So all they had was the video, and nobody born this century trusts video. I mean, we all saw Governor Taggart get stabbed through the neck outside the Texas Capitol, and we all saw him belting down Vodka shots and doing bad karaoke in Rio De Janeiro two months later. We saw them pretty much fake an entire war in Oman, and we saw them getting caught at it. That's what we decided. The video doesn't mean poo poo. Radcat lives.
Spread the word. Mix up the juice and paint the towns pink, faster than they can tear it down or paper it over. And be ready. The light was just the proof of concept. When it's time, when we're ready, we'll fight the revolution block by block with a hundred hot Cadillac pink lights to charge our every weapon and tool; and behind their lines a hundred sigils of built-up charge, each ready to explode.
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 06:28|
Serendipity and Desiree shouldn't be here. It's painted on the walls in all the production facilities, foot-tall letters in screaming UV inks: ACTORS PROHIBITED. RETURN TO SOUNDSTAGE. YOUR CONTRACT WILL BE VOID. Serendipity knows as much -- she reads contracts and toes the line, except for now, God, now -- and the fear those letters stir up in her hindbrain is dueling with the raw adrenaline of the idea. She shouldn't be here, but Desiree is here, and Desiree is everything. The sensation of Desiree's hand in hers, gently leading her through the forbidden hallways, sends shivers down her spine.
This shouldn't feel real. Serendipity's never been sleeved in a love-show body before, but two weeks in it have taught her everything she needs to know about the chemical tuning. Every smile is a new infatuation, every touch a blast of bliss beyond what a non-manufactured human body could ever feel. She's had sex with Desiree twenty times in the last five days, every session mind-blowing -- and identical to the sex she'd have had with any other castmate. If this is real, then they have to feel it with their own bodies. "The techs can do it no problem," Desiree said when they'd thought of it; "they do it all the time. Nobody gets fired for it. They don't fire talent in this industry."
Serendipity is barely talent, though. She's only ever done sleeved commercial-mascot roles before, and a few bit parts in big-ensemble comedies, and even that work will dry up if she gets fired from a big-name show. Desiree's the talent, the name, and Serendipity shouldn't be risking anything just for a night with her -- a life with her, the chemicals say, but the chemicals are liars. And yet, here she is, and every terrified impulse that tells her to let go of Desiree's hand isn't enough to even make her grip weaken. They're at the tech wing, the Preservation and Transfer Center, flat concrete walls bare of angry UV. She squeezes Desiree's hand and lets herself be led inside.
The techs are sleeved in four-armed work bodies, streamlined and sexless, but they make a decent effort at ogling anyway; somehow the attention feels shocking and shameful, even after a month shooting a love show, in a body made to be ogled. Serendipity averts her eyes, and Desiree pulls her a little closer. "We want to transfer back," Desiree says. "Just for an hour or so. What's the thaw time looking like?" God, Desiree talks like a pro, because she is. She's the talent, the one who's sleeved into the top-rated everything. Serendipity is just the groupie.
"We can have you thawed in five minutes," says the taller of the techs, the one with the gold patch on their jumpsuit. "What are you offering?"
Desiree frowns, and Serendipity realizes the plan is starting to slip. "A payoff? I'm on my way off the show. I'll have access to my accounts tomorrow."
"Tomorrow isn't tonight, buddy." The work bodies have glassy built-in lenses that eat most of their faces, but somehow the taller one's eyes still feel beady. "And I don't take IOUs."
Desiree is silent, considering, but Serendipity knows the score: when you're sequestered and sleeved for a game show, you don't have much to offer. No cash, no valuables worth the name. Sex, maybe, but a worker sleeve isn't even going to have genitals. She thinks, and then it comes to her in a flash.
"Borrow the bodies," Serendipity says. "We won't be using them. Try them out."
The tech's bug eyes widen, and they glance to their coworker, who nods. "Not half bad. Never ridden in a love sleeve before. At least one of you has a drat brain."
The love-sleeve amygdala floods Serendipity with rage and shame -- the show would be hoping for a catfight right now -- but she steps closer to Desiree instead. This is another contract violation, but if you're risking it, why not risk it all?
Dethawing a body takes all the effort and passion of microwaving a frozen meal, and about the same actions: pop the film, press the button, wait. Desiree still watches every time, just to remind herself what her off-camera body looks like. Every time, it takes readjustment to the imperfect skin, the dull earth tones of natural human tissue, the gangly mass of self that seems barely fit for purpose. When they bring Serendipity's body out, Desiree can feel her tense next to her, the familiar moment of ambivalent recognition. Serendipity's body is short and boxy, with dark brown hair cut in the typical buzz of the frequently-sleeved, keeping her cranial port clear. She's got a little spray of acne scarring across her cheek. She's breathtaking.
The tech leads Desiree over to the procedure chair, and it's clockwork: the hookup, the jolt, and the snapback into the off-camera body. She inhales and takes a moment to assess. Outside of the love-show body's overcharged sensorium, the world is suddenly greyer and flatter, and her own limbs feel wrapped in cotton wool. Her heartbeat is slow and even. The paper gown is damp and fuzzy, clinging to her in strange places. Across the room, the brilliant shell she left behind is stirring to life and groaning. Desiree can't imagine hot-swapping from work sleeve to love sleeve; have fun, she thinks, and hope you choke on it.
Then Serendipity opens her eyes. They're brown, fading towards hazel. Exquisite.
Desiree takes a step off the slab. Touching Serendipity's hand sends a warm spark of excitement down her spine, somehow no less than she'd felt in the love-show body: lesser in intensity, without the overclocked endorphin rush that body was built for, but still white-hot. "So," she says, mouth dry and tongue clumsy. "Here we are."
"Yeah," says Serendipity, "I know. Is there somewhere we can go?"
"There's a breakroom down the way. Still cameras, but surveillance-grade, not filming-grade. No footage for the producers." Desiree tries to think of what to say next; you're perfect and let's run away fade away to the only thing she can think of, the thing that being in this new body demands. "... I'm Bailey, by the way. Off-camera."
"I'm Jasmine." Serendipity -- Jasmine -- swallows hard. "Jesus. This is... I'm scared. I feel like I'm thirteen all over again."
Desiree -- Bailey -- nods, and her attempt at laughter dies in her dry throat. God, she's terrified. After five years in sleeved love shows and death games, flooded with the best neurotransmitter cocktails that the production labs can cook up, just the feeling of her endogenous set is almost too much. Even the Murderbowl frag-grenade special didn't feel like this. Jasmine's right: this is the electricity of youth, the breathless rush of discovering sex.
"Breakroom," says Bailey. "This way."
The camera upgrades in backstage spaces are already paying off. The camera in the breakroom is streaming in super-def filming quality, and even on the security console's ancient monitor, Connor swears he can see every hair and pore on the two actors fumbling on the couch. They're from a love-show shoot, presumably, but they clearly haven't gotten any coaching about how to do a decent scene. He obediently starts dumping the tape to production archival, but who's going to want to watch these two assholes on the make?
Now, the other cameras... that's where the gold for the producers is going to be. The guys piloting the love sleeves aren't wasting their time. One's in the locker room of the company gym, sprawled on the tiles, masturbating with a brutal ferocity. (That's gotta be Alex, thinks Connor. Only person he's ever seen try to find a way to rub one out in a worker sleeve.) The other one is in the gym itself, in the freeform area, doing somersaults and cartwheels. The sleeve is lithe, candy-apple red hair matching sparkling neon rose tattoos; the name "Serendipity" is inscribed in glittering metallic ink over the collarbone. The driver's using its souped-up body for backflips and handsprings, then spinning in a circle until she falls down laughing. It might not be love-show stuff, but it's brilliant.
Connor presses his archive button and leans back. On the breakroom camera, an actor's mouth contorts into a hungry moan; their fumbling partner's found somewhere good. On the locker-room camera, Alex stands up, panting, and turns on the shower. On the gym camera, the Serendipity sleeve's back to twirling.
Yeah, Connor thinks. These new cameras are going to pay for themselves.
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 06:56|
I’d been at the jewel farm for about nine months when it started to get weird.
Lapis was out doing the carnelians with me; it was stoop labour but not too bad once you got used to the twist and pluck, and the amber red beads were pretty as they rattled into the gem tin.
“I’m in love with you,” she said.
I looked at her over the jewel bush, not sure if it was a joke or not. Her name wasn’t really Lapis, it was Martha, or Marta or something; she’d told me at one of the drunken picker parties around the bonfire and I’d been squinting through the smoke at Sally-Mae on the other side of the fire, who’d been working up the hill on the diamond vines.
Sudden impactful swings in emotion were common on the farm, Tony had told us, no-one knew why it was that way but it was. She seemed serious. poo poo. What was her actual name.
So I smiled, and nodded. “I love you too, uh, Marta.” I blurred the ‘t’ so I’d have some plausible deniability if I’d got it wrong. She looked at me, eyes alight, smiling slightly. Then she plucked a carnelian, a big glistening one, and swallowed it.
“Mar...da? We’re not supposed to do that?”
“It’s Lapis,” she said. “I shine, I glisten, I throw off rays.” And with that she stepped over the bush and thrown her arms tight around my neck, swinging there, gazing into my eyes with her own which were -- I had to give her that -- glistening in the afternoon sun.
It was only ever meant to be a summer job. I’d been hitching up the coast with a mate and we got really drunk one night with some Aussie girls and they were raving about it, good money, lots of fun, good parties. We’d made a bunch of those drunken commitments, as you do, and the next morning we found ourselves walking down the long metalled road from the farm gate. Tony the owner’s son gave us the forms, and just laughed when I asked about the ‘end date’ box which was crossed out. “Don’t worry about that,” he said. “We never do.”
I put my arms around her to stop her falling back onto the carnelian bush, which had some significant spikes on the branches, and her skin was very warm under her thin shirt. I really couldn’t remember the name of my friend, the one I’d arrived here with. I’d just opened my mouth to explain how this was probably a bad idea when she leaned forward, pulled me towards here and we were kissing, just like that.
I could feel the carnelian rolling around inside her mouth, which was somewhat reassuring, and it was overall very nice to be standing there kissing Martha, or Marda or Lapis like that but I had a strong sense that it was going to cause problems so I pulled back and we stood there, still holding on to each other, panting a little. The sun was hot on our skin and the unpicked carnelians tinkled on their branches in the soft, warm breeze.
“How long have you been here, Lapis? At the farm?”
She was still looking in my eyes, expression rapt as though mid-epiphany, but at that she blinked. She had long dark eyelashes. “It’s been a while. I did rubies for a few months, then … topaz, garnet… amethyst, ametrine…”
“Those are really pretty,” I said automatically. It was true, they had a lovely blend of colours. I could tell from her eyes she agreed but she kept going.
“... tourmaline, chrysoprase, citrine, epidote, topaz again…” She was silent, thinking.
“Have you fallen in love before, out in the fields?”
She took in a deep breath, then lifted and dropped her head in a slow, defeated nod.
“It’s the jewels, isn’t it? They’re the ones that want it to happen?”
She was very beautiful in the light as she nodded, again. I knelt, picked up the gem tin, reached into it for a handful of carnelians. Lapis caught her breath as I lifted it to my mouth, dropped one on my tongue. It tasted of long hours in the hot sun, waiting to arrive at exactly the point it was at right now. I swallowed and saw her do the same.
“I love you too,” I said.
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 07:32|
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 07:48|
Ch Ch Changes 1257 words with a 'flying' flash rule
When Wesley got his Change, he was at a party at his mate Shawn’s house. Specifically, it was when a group of frat boys decided to grab him and chuck him off the second-floor balcony into the pool.
Changes only manifested in a moment of dire need. Well, that seemed to be mostly the way. Wesley heard about a boy who’d been shot and suddenly developed bulletproof skin. That would’ve been great, right? As Wesley surface from the pool, he flapped his wings, and then realised that he had wings to flap, that was kind of cool, right? He shook the water off his wings, gave them a couple more flaps and lifted himself out of the pool.
“Whoa,” said Shawn. “That’s awesome, Wes.”
“Yeah,” said Wesley. “Didn’t help in the moment, but as Changes go, I don’t mind that. Can you chuck me a towel?” Shawn obliged. Wesley reached out to grab it, but it got snagged on his wing. “Hmmm, might take some getting used to the extra limbs.”
“Yeah,” said Shawn, “dunno about extra.”
Which is when Wesley realised: the wings hadn’t sprouted out from his back, they’d replaced his arms. “Oh no,” he said.
Wesley’s work had not been quite as understanding as he’d hoped.
“Why do you need a week off?” asked Ralph, his manager.
“I just got my Change.”
“Ah, right. But you and your seamstress fingers will be back and ready to go after that?”
Wesley hated it when Ralph called him a seamstress, but had always been afraid to say anything. At the moment his larger concern was a lack of fingers, seamstress or otherwise. The conversation had gone downhill quickly once Ralph discovered the Change entailed being fingerless, and Wesley found himself without a job.
Not that he’d loved stitching, but you had some interesting objects come through. And also, they paid him, and that was where all his experience lay, and it was really inconvenient having all his work experience using limbs that he didn’t have anymore.
I mean, what jobs didn’t use arms?
Wesley was sitting on a bench, watching the pigeons. Those jerks didn’t have to earn money. Their lack of arms didn’t seem to bother them. Prehensile feet as well.
“Your wings just decorative, then?”
He looked up. The speaker was a young woman. A young woman with wings. “What do you mean?”
She shrugged. “Your wings. They work?”
“So, this bench must be something special. You could fly just about wherever you want, and you chose here.”
“You wouldn’t understand.” Wesley knew what a stupid comment it was before he finished the sentence.
“Nah, you’re right, never used my arms. Just picked stuff up using my powerful butt muscles.”
She shook her head, bemused. “C’mon, you gonna mope on this bench for the rest of your life, or are you gonna take advantage of a couple of limbs most people would kill for?”
“I wouldn’t know where to start. Do you really pick stuff up with your butt?”
She laughed. “I’ll show you the best views, and the perches those land-dwelling losers can’t reach.”
Her name was Isla, and she was a courier. Couriering was a professional direction Wesley hadn’t thought of, but it made sense. She referred him to her bosses, and in between jobs, showed him the city from above. Also showed him a couple tricks for how to use the joints in his wings to pick stuff up. They were sitting on the roof of an office block, eating lunch.
“Wes, I can’t believe you really thought I picked stuff up using my butt.”
“Well, you said…”
She laughed. “I’ll have to make it more obvious when I’m being sarcastic.”
“I mean, I heard about people who do everything with their feet.”
“I’m sure if you think about it a little, you’ll realise how different those things are.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“So, how’d you get your Change, anyway?”
“Got thrown off of a balcony into a swimming pool at my mate Shawn’s place.”
“Ah. Frat boys?”
“Bunch of tools.”
“Not Shawn, he’s a cool guy. Some of his friends are tools, though.” Wesley thought for a moment. “Feel like I haven’t seen him for a while. How’d you get your change, by the way?”
“Skydiving. You should go see him, let him know you’re fine. I know of people, their Change didn’t go that well for them. Like this one guy who was bulletproof.”
“What? Being bulletproof would be great.”
“Sure,” she said, “until you need doctors to be able to cut you open. I heard he had a ruptured appendix.”
“So, what happened skydiving?”
She shrugged. “Chute didn’t open. Malfunction I guess.”
“Hmm,” he said. “Weird. I think I am gonna catch up with Shawn, though.”
“Yeah, good. Don’t make the people who care about you worry.”
“Good to see you’re going well,” said Shawn. Shawn hadn’t had his change yet; Shawn played it safe. So did Wesley, usually, and we know how that ended up.
“Yeah, sorry I didn’t catch up sooner,” said Wesley. “Been figuring out my new job, and hanging out with Isla.”
“Isla? Who’s this?”
“Oh,” said Wesley, “she helped me get this job, and she’s been showing me around the city from above.”
Shawn raised an eyebrow. “I see how it is, you meet a girl, and you ditch your mates, fair enough.”
“Come on mate, it’s not like that.”
Shawn laughed. “You are so easy to mess with. But seriously, when do I get to meet your girlfriend?”
“What? Nah, I just said it’s not like that.”
Shawn shrugged. “Fair enough.”
Wesley thought of something. “Hey, you remember when we worked on the parachutes, right?”
“Of course,” said Shawn. “We had to train for a solid week for that one. Was a nice change, though.”
“Right,” said Wesley. “Well, apparently Isla got her change due to a parachute malfunction.”
“Huh,” said Shawn. “That doesn’t seem right.”
“Let’s ask her more about it. Besides, I want to meet your girlfriend.”
“She’s not my girlfriend, dude.”
Shawn laughed. “Seriously, your buttons are so easy to push.”
“Good to meet the girl that’s stealing my boy Wes from me,” said Shawn. They were at Isla’s place. Wesley had had to piggyback Shawn to get him there, which Shawn had found terrifying but thrilling.
Isla shrugged. “It’s nice to meet the poor unfortunate land dwelling riffraff Wes used to crawl in the dirt with.”
“Ouch,” said Shawn. “Did you get wings and claws?”
“Please, stop fighting,” said Wesley.
“Has he always been this bad with banter?” asked Isla.
“Sadly,” said Shawn. “So, Isla, Wes tells me you got your change in a skydiving incident.”
“Yeah, pulled the cord but nothing happened.”
“Huh, doesn’t seem right.”
“No,” said Wesley. “Wish we could see what the parachute bag looked like.”
“You can,” said Isla, “I still have it?”
“You stole their parachute?”
She shrugged. “It could’ve killed me, it seemed fair I get to keep it. And since I was flying instead of falling, I just didn’t land anywhere near them.”
She disappeared into another room, and came back with the parachute. Shawn checked it all over, with Wesley hovering over his shoulder.
“Thought so,” said Shawn. “This was sabotaged.”
“Yep,” said Wesley.
“Whoa,” said Isla. “All right, but who’d want to murder me?”
“Dunno,” said Wesley, “but I reckon we can find out, right?”
“Hell yeah,” said Shawn.
“Hell yeah,” said Isla.
|# ? Oct 4, 2021 07:49|
I'm late, I've thrown out a bunch of really crap stories, and if I'm gonna be DQ'd anyway then I get DQ'd on my own fuckin terms, I'm gonna loop all the way round back to where I started in TD.
Which is to say, poetry bitch.
One More, With Feeling
On the day I no longer recognised myself
I broke the mirror, just to be sure. Sweet
new breeze, seize it with both hands,
it’s that same furious song but lonely?
lonely lonely, no Ted, not that. I followed a white worm
down through water, glistening like jade,
swam to the bottom, my hands set to shaking,
drowning in lilacs, no longer afraid.
|# ? Oct 5, 2021 00:06|
Well done writers, this was a good week overall. Your esteemed judge team had a very nice time discussing all of your stories, which you can listen to here.
The man called M wrote the weakest story this week, and takes the loss for This is what it sounds like.
Sebmojo and Chairchucker can both go sit on their respective naughty chairs and contemplate their DQs for lateness. SurreptitiousMuffin appears to have been moping around Sycamore Grove this whole time, and is also DQ’d.
Barnaby Profane, Antivehicular and Thranguy all earnt Honorable Mentions. There are no DMs.
Standing well in front of the pack is How it works by Carl Killer Miller, who takes a well deserved win.
|# ? Oct 5, 2021 02:43|
Crits for week 478
These are my thoughts based on my first read, more nuanced views are contained in the judging recording.
This is what it sounds like, by The man called M
Opening with completely irrelevant dialogue was not a good move. I assumed this was two characters talking, but, nope, it’s just the radio?
I guess the protag’s name is supposed to be a play on Leonardo Dicaprio? Why though?
Ok, so Leo is listening to the radio, and he is sad, because he’d normally listen to this show with his ex, who it appears he broke up with yesterday?
But then the next paragraph says that he, “remembered it vividly.” I mean, it was yesterday. And she broke up with him via letter. That is a bit stink. But, as we move onto the next paragraph, it appears that Leo might have been pretty weird to date, seeings how preoccupied he is with his parents’ sex life.
Alright, moving on. Leo has breakfast. That’s good, I guess. Less good is the random capitalisation of “pigeons” and “doves.” And then a dove makes a weird sound and Leo wonders if that’s what it sounds like when doves cry.
“Huh,” said the protagonist, experiencing exactly zero emotion, almost as if striving to achieve the opposite of the prompt.
Cross My Heart and Hope to Die by Idle Amalgam
Hmmm, this isn’t very good. There are a lot of wasted words at the beginning. Your whole opening is about the scientist driving from one place (which is irrelevant) to another place (where the story actually happens). You don’t need the whole interaction with the guard to show us that this is a tense situation - that is self-evident from the lab-at-midnight situation. Have a look at Recurtigo by rat-born cock for an example of an opening that hand-waves at the backstory and then gets right to the action.
But the main problem is that I didn’t feel pulled into the protag’s emotional state. The scientist performs a lot of very generic actions, none of which tell me anything about him or how he feels (he “jolted awake,” “approached reluctantly,” “nearly veered off the road from surprise,” etc.). For each of these, think about whether you could swap them out for something that gives us more insight into the scientist’s emotions.
I’m not sure that him being an adulterer added anything to the story. The ending might have been more impactful if he was a more sympathetic protag.
I also didn’t like the gross corpse horror. While this might just be personal taste, my writerly critique is that this story would have been more interesting if the reanimated ex had been more uncanny valley and less rotten meat monster.
Rosie’s by Barnaby Profane
There is a lot of very cool imagery in this but I’m not sure I entirely get it. We have two brothers, who are in the mafia or something, who get in knife fights all the time, until one night the younger one takes it a bit too far, and the older one nearly kills him, and then the younger one sets him up to both test his loyalty and also murder him?
I think I wanted to understand a bit more clearly how the older brother felt about the younger.
Pigeon Coup by My Shark Waifuu
Wow, pigeon life is intense. This isn’t terrible, but I think for it to be more engaging you needed to put the reader more into the head of the Queen, so that, by the end, we’re really rooting for her, and then gutted when she is overthrown. At the moment she is just a generic alpha female character, and needed to have more depth. It could have worked better to tell the story in first person, so you could include more of her inner monologue.
What It Means to be Olisipian by Azza Bamboo
Not a lot happens in this. There’s a lot of fairly bland description of fairy tale castle to start with, then a sad princess thinks about budgies, then a mean prince gives her another budgie, and she continues being sad.
The emotions in this all feel muted. The prince is passive aggressive instead of aggressive aggressive. The princess is sad instead of despairing. You should have turned all the dials up.
Perspective by t a s t e
Hmmm. Kinda cool, pretty weird.
I think the bit at the start with the protag getting his eye pulled out in some sort of ritual(?) was unnecessary. The rest feels so metaphorical, that having his alternative sight rooted in a real(?) event didn’t feel quite right. Starting with the protagonist being able to see the connections between things, and see the beauty in this, then progressing to his realisation that he is becoming detached, would have been enough. Not sure why a restaurant bathroom should trigger this insight though.
How it works by Carl Killer Miller
Oooh this is very good. I thought it was a little slow to get going, but once I got pulled into it I enjoyed the pacing. This story felt very human, and the tight-rope feeling that at any moment the protagonist could fall into disaster was palpable. I like that despite the ending not being a happy one, the protagonist still found some firmer footing.
The Neon Girl by Captain_Indigo
Well that was a bit sad. I found the arc of this story a bit unsatisfying, like it’s just a downhill slide from the start to the finish. I think you could have done more with this by having the robot fight back against her unfortunate circumstances. Whether she succeeded or not, at least we would have had a protagonist with a clear goal.
Catalyst by Thranguy
I love the energy in this. The opening paragraph is great, and the prose keeps up a snappy pace all the way through. I got a little lost in all the characters. Quite a few names are mentioned, but I’m not totally clear who is who, and what they mean to each other. I wasn’t sure how seriously to take their graffiti antics. At the start I thought maybe they were just teenagers, but at the end it seems they are revolutionaries? I think this would have been better if the stakes were clearer.
Joyriders by Antivehicular
The writing in this is very good, but the POV shifts kill it. I 100% don’t care about security camera guy, I wanted to know how Serendipity felt at the end. You could have ended it at the end of the first section with something sweet about how the rush of this encounter would stay with Serendipity forever or something, and it would have been more satisfying.
Lapidaria by sebmojo
I enjoyed reading this, it’s very sweet, though there’s not much more to it than that. The gem farm is a neat backdrop.
Are these characters feeling the hell out of their feelings though? I’m not so sure, given it was just the gems.
Ch Ch Changes by Chairchucker
This was fun if somewhat rambling ride. The ending is pretty random. The concept of Changes is neat, I think you could do more with that.
|# ? Oct 5, 2021 03:12|
REDEMPTION for Week 248
"Why did you quit violin when you were nine?" said Meli-9-alpha.
Starships can be disconcerting conversationalists. A side effect of the Lazenby Protocol that lets them enter phase space is that they have no sense of linear time and are theoretically aware of everything. Most of the time they hold focus but as the great turbines spin up to transition they can start to get drifty.
"I wanted to be a rock star," I said. My feet were propped up on the drive console, guitar in my hands. There's a lot of scut work with getting a ship out of system, but once the count is on it's all down to the brain.
"You are too ugly," said Mel. Her synth-face was glitching on the 3vis as she cut in more and more of her segmented brain to the shift calc. "Picking up incoming, still within parameters."
"You're a very bad friend, Mel." I smiled then realised what I was looking at. "Those are coming in fast, aren't they. Do we have their vectors logged?"
Mel's face flickered into a tree, then a cloud of birds, then an old fashioned pocketwatch. "No. There should be nothing within an AU of us. "I’m reading three, civilian spec. Her face fined up, synthetic brow creased. “Abort before we hit the wall?”
My feet were on the ground and I was flipping through scan visualisations and trajectory projections. “No, the vanes are still creaky from that pebble two systems back, might break the hell off. And we don’t know who they are, I don’t want to be stuck here a day while the cap recharges..” I found what I was looking for and flung it up in the corner of the bridge. The shimmering numbers hit the wall and stuck, sizzling slightly. Three minutes and forty two seconds.
That’s how long we’ve got. Can you hail them?”
Mel’s eyes were burning now, her image vibrating with a hallucinatory clarity. “Doing it, I’m on my third ring. Ah they picked up. Central viz.”
The picture unfolded over the main screen. A woman, greying hair, oxy mask hanging round her neck. She was vaguely familiar-looking but the view of the ship behind her was blurry. “Have you accepted the Light of the Star into your life?” she said, eyes blazing.
“Have you accepted the light of getting the gently caress out of our way? We’re on final count here,” said Mel.
“Captain, are you proselytising at the Warp Threshold?” I asked. “Have you considered finding a doorstep instead?”
The woman’s face fell. “It’s illegal now. They had a court case.”
I flung my arms wide. “How is that my problem? You have two minutes twenty before I tell my friend here to punch us through regardless and bring you through in pieces. Ware away, skipper.”
She shook her head, decisively. “You need to accept the Star. Say it. Say “I accept the Star”” The lines on the viz that I could see dimly through the image of her bullish, tattooed face tweaked sharply as the interlopers put on a sudden burst of speed.
Then I realised why she looked familiar.
“Mother? What the hell are you doing out here?”
Mel’s face collapsed into a fractal shower of crystals, then reformed as she flipped up a personal file photo of my mother and matched it on to the haggard spaceship captain. 98.94% match… poss gene surgery? hovered in the corner.
“Andy? I’m so glad!” Her face creased into happy crinkles. “Now I know you’ll accept the star into your life!”
I said nothing, my mind pinballing all the things that I’d seen and done since I last saw my mother. The years in the asteroid prison, riding the solar winds with Deke and the Corona Gang, getting my big break with the Encephalisers and beaming psych funk down to the miners in Mare Serenitatis…
“Where were you? Where did you go? You said you were popping out to get a sixpack? We went looking when you didn’t come back and found the sixpack in the concourse, but not you.”
I could feel tears, marshalling behind my eyes. Goddammit I hadn’t cried for years.
“I’m sorry son. I really am. Do you still play violin? I got chatting to a lady in the queue, and it turned out she was a disciple of the Star and so I accepted the Star into my life and that’s all she wrote. I was on a shuttle that night and I’ve been spreading the word ever since. Speaking of which, you need to accept the star into your life.”
“I’ll do it,” said Mel. Her face was placid, perfect as a porcelain doll. “I accept the Star into my life.”
“Awreet!” screamed my mother. She slammed her hand down on a contact and a flaring blast of static rattled through the comm.
Mel’s face vanished, replaced by an n-dimensional polyhedron in perfect, lustrous black. The surface rippled, and reformed into her face, gleaming and oily.
“Incursion detected. Malware. Deploying counters. Andrei. We need some music to juice the algorithm, please.”
I looked at my mother’s face, scarred with belief and racked by the years, and groped for some words, but none came to me. Instead I reached behind me and swung my axe into my lap, slammed all the fuzz parameters to max and thrashed into the opening bars of “Interstellar Shaggin Wagon”
On the screen my long last mother’s face was creased with rapturous joy as the great turbines started to whirl, faster and faster, before punching us through the hype and into the black and godless night.
|# ? Oct 5, 2021 04:37|
Thunderdome Week 479:
They have long been derided by so-called "mainstream science" as deep-rooted objects of amusing folklore, pretty bad photoshops, or hasty excuses after gruesome hunting accidents. But to true believers, they represent the hidden potential of nature, the idea that there is something new out there, some nut of this world that we haven't been able to crack. Sure, aerial photography, radar imaging, and lakebottom debris drags haven't shown evidence of a modern plesiosaur in Loch Ness, but can you say one truly doesn't exist?
I say no.
This week, you'll be writing a story centering around a cryptid.
A flash rule cryptid will be provided on request.
Q : Do I have to write a story about a real cryptid?
A : I don't understand the question.
Q : You know, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster?
A : No, but I think you're missing the point. Besides, everyone knows that Bigfoot is real (and phylogenetically distinct from the Yeti, Sasquatch, and Asian Barmanou).
Q : So I can just write a story about some bullshit mythical animal?
A : Well sure, but cryptids are so much more than that. They are a distillate of cultural memory, fantasy, adventure, fear, and the crackle of distant branches in the deep, lonely woods.
Q : Will you have a fun audio file of the judging?
A : I'd really like to, but I don't know how people have been getting them going. If you know the easiest way, either volunteer to judge or let me know how and I'll put one together.
Word Limit : 2000
Deadline: Signups close at midnight on Friday CST-ish. Submissions close at midnight on Sunday CST-ish with some wiggle room.
Carl Killer Miller
derp FLASH RULE! The Hopkinsville Goblins
t a s t e
Idle Amalgam FLASH RULE! Spring Heeled Jack
Chairchucker FLASH RULE! The Mongolian Death Worm
The man called M FLASH RULE! The Lac Wood Screecher
BabyRyoga FLASH RULE! The Jackalope
ZearothK FLASH RULE! The Honey Island Swamp Monster
Pham Nuwen FLASH RULE! The Mothman
Taletel FLASH RULE! The Kappa
Edited in the time zone and flash rule.
Carl Killer Miller fucked around with this message at 22:38 on Oct 7, 2021
|# ? Oct 5, 2021 23:02|
|# ? Oct 5, 2021 23:39|
|# ? Oct 5, 2021 23:42|
|# ? Oct 5, 2021 23:56|
in, give me a goofy monster
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 00:08|
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 00:36|
in, give me a goofy monster
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 00:48|
Crit as promised for This is what it sounds like by The man called M
Using the pundits as a jumping-off point for a story isn't a bad idea, but that sort of opening deserves a better callback than the ending gives it. This sort of device, in my opinion, should tie into the story somehow. As it stands, you could delete the pundit banter and delete the last paragraph of the story and the middle wouldn't lose anything, which is a good sign that the device isn't woven into the story well enough.
There are some tense problems in the first proper paragraph of the story. "However, the banter today hit close to home" should be hits, not hit.
There's a lot of telling rather than showing in the story. For example, "After what happened yesterday, that was no longer the case, for the love of his life was no longer that." could lose the "for the love of his life was no longer that", as you explain it in the upcoming paragraph. Leaving it off also acts as a draw for the reader to continue.
I might be wrong here, but I think you're trying to employ a whimsical sort of storyteller voice. This can work if done properly, but if you lean on it too much the story becomes onerous to read. For example, "On that Day, he received a letter from FedEx. It was a Dear John letter. The kind of letter that basically said, “I’m breaking up with you, now gently caress off”. could be condensed into a single sentence that would flow much better.
The overly-explainy writing also reads (could be wrong here, of course) like you don't think the reader could connect some of these dots themselves. For example, I (and most readers, I think) know what a dear john letter is. Knowing that I know that, the redundancy of the example I quoted above becomes more apparent.
"She was all about the talking, while Leo was all about the screwing. They had plenty of sex, but Leo kept wondering, was it satisfactory? After all, whores have repeat customers for a reason."
This is rough to read. If you're going to use loaded words like 'whore', try to make sure that they're worth it. Reading that part left a gross taste in my mouth. It also led me to seriously dislike your protagonist. An unlikeable protagonist is ok if it's paid off somehow, or if the characterization is more complex than Leo just being a creep.
I don't know what to do with the last paragraph. It doesn't fit in the story, it's clunky with the overuse of the word 'doves', and it doesn't add to the story or the characterization in a meaningful way.
Some final notes:
-Grammar and structure are all over the place. The story could use some serious editing just to read cleanly, content aside.
-I don't understand the thesis of the story. I'm no expert by any means, but I usually like to ask myself what the story is trying to say, or what message it's trying to communicate, before I write or early in the process. Then at the end, I check and see if I've "answered" my thesis well enough. This helps me with story cohesion, characterization, you name it.
-Non sequiturs are ok, but due to the dissonance they create for a reader they should be paid off in some way. If that payoff is just the general wittiness of the segment that's ok, but it should be polished and tie in somehow.
-I find some of the content personally off-putting, specifically Leo's musing on his parents' sex life. That's not necessarily wrong for a general audience, but as it stands it doesn't really reflect in the rest of the story.
-Is this whole piece a commentary on Leo DiCaprio being a bad person?
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 01:08|
Lol can I get a flash rule cryptid
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 01:24|
Hello in and gimme a cryptid
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 01:45|
Thanks for the crit! (Wasn’t sure if he realized that he won, so I sent a PM reminded him. That’s why he offered the crit)
Y’know, each and every Thunderdome I have been in has been quite the learning experience.
If you would give me a Cryptid, then I would like to learn some more. (In)
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 02:05|
Lol can I get a flash rule cryptid
Hello in and gimme a cryptid
Thanks for the crit! (Wasn’t sure if he realized that he won, so I sent a PM reminded him. That’s why he offered the crit)
More information on the LAC WOOD SCREECHER: https://cryptidz.fandom.com/wiki/Lac_Wood_Screecher
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 03:49|
|# ? Jun 28, 2022 16:24|
Sounds fun, in with a flash cryptid please
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 09:04|