In, help me out DJ DOA
FJ DOA has a couple new tracks and an old favorite they are dying to get flashed and on the air, so which will you choose?
Bat Fangs: "Turn it Up"
Bad Brains: "She's Calling You"
In, requesting songs from FJ Technics
FJ Technics wants to know: will Atlanta, London or Berlin (via Seoul) get your flash treatment?
Little Simz: "Point and Kill"
Peggy Gou: "Starry Night"
Earthgang: "Red Light"
Voodoofly fucked around with this message at 23:55 on Nov 23, 2021
|# ? Nov 23, 2021 23:22|
|# ? Jan 25, 2022 01:04|
|# ? Nov 24, 2021 01:32|
Crits for Week #485 Part 2
derp - two dreams:
Synopsis: Man tries to tell married lady he had a dream about that he had a dream about her, and fails. She tells him that she also had a dream about him. The end.
This is well-written but predictable to the point of being trite. You tried something with the format which I think was meant to indicate urgency or a stream of consciousness, but just made it hard to read. This tactic might have worked in another story, but it didn’t here; I didn’t buy MC’s urgency over this, but maybe it’s just that I’ve read a million “you just gotta tell her how you feel, man!” stories already. Overall: solid prose, kinda spongy and raw premise.
rohan - This May Affect Your Rating:
Synopsis: Space Task-Rabbit employee tricks her way into a job that she isn’t suited for, saves the day using AMERICAN FOOTBALL, BABY WOOOOOO! As a reward, a computer hacks her rating in Galactic Gig Economy App to jump up way higher, and our hero goes home to enjoy
Every time I hear or read the phrase “old Earth custom” I want to jump through a plate glass window. Okay, not really, but I do roll my eyes at it, which is JUST AS BAD.
I really feel like your downfall here was trying to incorporate your football position too much/specifically, and it took what was honestly a cool setup and made me eyeball the windows for jumpability. Like, this really could have done without the whole HEY LOOK IT’S FOOTBALL! GET IT? GET IT??? bit, and just had your MC do all her intercepting and tackling without calling it out as such. It would have made for a much stronger piece, and could even have managed to win your brawl.
Also also I really hate the “oho but she did not in fact escape unscathed” twist at the end; it’s cliche and it’s a lazy way to wrap up a piece. Don’t do that plz, k thx bye.
Thranguy - Making Ends Meet:
Synopsis: Big Beefy Dude (BBD) is at a drug deal holding a briefcase full of money when some people come up and taze him and some other people there for some reason. BBD is big, BIG Beefy, however, and he shakes off the zapping and runs into the zappy people before they can shoot him. Why didn’t they shoot him to begin with? No one knows.
Super competently written, solid character voice, funny parts that actually work, and entirely missing its second half. I don’t think I’m telling you anything you don’t already know, though, so I’ll leave it there.
Carl Killer Miller - Barricade:
Synopsis: Son, an alcoholic, is having a late-night staring session with a bottle of vanilla extract when Dad comes into the kitchen and confronts him. Dad and Son talk, Dad gives Son some alcohol to stop the DTs, and they have a heart-to-heart about Son’s recovery (or lack thereof). Dad asks Son if he can get his life together, and then the story stops.
I guess maybe you were going for a Lady or the Tiger ending here, where there’s no actual answer to what happens, maybe because you were implying that the answer he gives to the question is immaterial, since he’ll just say whatever he needs to and then relapse, or maybe because you ran out of words. If it was the former, I think you need to do more to get that across, since it could actually work if you do it right. However, I strongly suspect it was the latter and my brain has just been permanently broken by AP Lit class.
Anyway, yeah. This was probably the best written piece this week, but it had no ending. If it was a longer wordcount week - even 1k - I think you would have had the words you needed to win, but as it was you blew too many words on your (good) setup, and couldn’t manage the landing.
Captain_Indigo - Making the Cut:
Synopsis: Weirdly Normal Post-Apocalyptic Grifter scams two different tribes of post-humans, tricking each of them into thinking that he is an integral part of the trade agreement between them. There is a car ride and some exposition, and then it turns out the Armageddon Wizards have figured out his grift and have come to gently caress up his poo poo, at which point the story stops.
Ugh, I was so disappointed by this one. I really enjoyed your setup and the world you built, but then it all went absolutely nowhere. Reveals are not the same thing as endings! Also, why was Djone mostly a normal dude and Cygarax is like an orc or something. Did the apocalypse only turn some people into barbarians and sorcerers, and people like Djone got screwed by the RNG?
One of my cojudges pointed out that most of this is just an extended car ride and yeah, they’re totally right. I was on board with that when it seemed like it was building up to some cool interactions, but nope, it was just more car ride and then some “ oh no! THE END.”
I do think that this has a good idea at its core, and I like your characters and the ideas, but I needed to see a little more for this to be in “good” territory and not in “ehhh” territory.
|# ? Nov 24, 2021 02:13|
FJ HellReign was in a meditative mood, handing you Actress, the Wolverhaven wizard of ambient, and his song "Jardin"
|# ? Nov 24, 2021 04:32|
Crits for Week #485
flerp - needlessly depressing story i wrote on my phone because i forgot i was going to yosemite whoops sorry not sorry:
Mostly works. It’s bleak and stays true to bleak while allowing shadows of hope to play across it, which makes it bleaker. More about momentary triumph rather than a hard resolution. Having Dad be a head-character was the right call. The boat metaphor stretched itself pretty thin by the end. For a literally phoned in entry, it was pretty decent.
Voodoofly - The Domestique:
Mostly works. There’s a lot of action in this one and you handled that pretty deftly in the prose. It flows along, never really gets up its own rear end about any particular technical point while still remaining understandable for those of us who don’t ride. But aside from that I think this is a good case of a story that doesn’t feel the need to be complex to be good. We have a character, the character wants something but has been denied, then an opportunity arises and the character goes for it. It’s satisfying. I have a nitpick, though—Jos is obvs. non-binary and a they/them. Fine. Unfortunately the English language is still struggling with that in a grammar sense, though, so watch your antecedants. In the first paragraph, we’re learning about Jos, and about the team. Both are they/them’s in English so when you transition from talking about the team to talking about Jos, you’re going to have to be very clear that the antecedent has changed, otherwise the last few sentences in that paragraph that start with “They would” get really confusing unless a reader realizes “Oh hey, Jos is nonbinary.”
Chairchucker - One of a Kind:
Mostly works. The voice works for me, and the prose is tight. There’s a lot of questions I have about this character, but honestly not knowing them doesn’t really detract from the story as much as it makes it interesting. I think this is also a case of “unvoiced” motications speaking louder than their explicit counterparts. The ending leaves me satisfied. I’d probably read another story about this character, but I don’t need to, and I think that’s the essence of a good short story. If it ends here, I’m ok with that.
Albatrossy_Rodent - , because hellborne space-wasps are people too, drat it!:
Needs some work. The prose in this is good, and the “voice” is very well done. The central gag just wasn’t quite strong enough to carry the story, though—or rather it kept kicking the story’s legs out from under it. For this to work, I think the story needed to be about 2/3rd the length that it was. This may be a case where you have to make a decision if this is going to be a quick-gag joke, in which case the word count needs to be minimized to give the gag real “punch” when it happens instead of letting it get stale, or if this is going to be a long-con gag where it lulls the reader into thinking it’s a serious deadpan story until closer to the end when the gag hits.
The man called M - Memoirs of a Shadow:
Needs some work. I appreciate the effort you put in on this one and you seem to be making some improvements every week. Keep trying.
derp - two dreams:
Sort of works. The prose on this is really good. Unfortunately the formatting choice nearly killed it. As much as I loved what it had to say, the WALL OF TEXT made it almost a slog to get through. (Thankfully the prose was good enough to make me carry on.) I’m not sure if that was intentional or a copy/paste error. That said, I think this is one that could be turned into a poem. It nearly has a rhythm to it already, and I think it would make for something amazing in sestets or octets. None of that freeverse bullshit.
rohan - This May Affect Your Rating:
Nearly works. Then the last sentence set the whole thing on fire. This was essentially a good story. It was vibrant, it had good prose and character work, the setting was really interesting (just enough hints to a vast and fascinating world without getting up its own rear end about it and wasting precious wordcount.) It was very good… UNTIL THE LAST GODDAMN SENTENCE. There just wasn’t a need to do this at all, the story ended perfectly fine with Lottie taking a W and going home with some extra cash in her account and looking forward to some time to relax.
Thranguy - Making Ends Meet:
Sort of works. It was off to a larger-than-life start, stumbled somewhere about 2/3 the way in, and then limped to a finish. The premise is interesting: hired muscle needs to get paid steady, so they take small jobs to pay the bills. To me that’s where the primary tension and curiosity is—a person with bills and a non-standard job. What consequences are there for a thug that can’t pay the electric this month? Instead, it ends in a sort of ironic shrug “Meh, it’s a living, thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.”
Carl Killer Miller - Barricade:
Mostly works. So there’s sort of an interesting interplay of words going on here between the very dramatic prose and “high value” vocabulary that’s associated with Phillip, and the more workaday language used by Roger. I think I get where you’re going with it—that excuses are boundless and dramatic while honesty is more of a gritty simplicity that is somehow unachievable for Phillip. But in such a short piece like this, it ends up feeling a little stilted. If I knew that Phillip was a failing playwright, or an adjunct professor that had turned to the bottle after losing a tenure opportunity, then that sort of language would make a lot more sense. As it is, it’s effective, but it feels gratuitous at the same time.
Captain_Indigo - Making the Cut:
Mostly works. This one’s just fun and enjoyable. I don’t think that any new ground is being broken here, but that’s ok. It’s sort of like watching someone make yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I’ve had it a million times, and as long as it’s put together well, I’ll keep on eating it. There were a few pacing and character issues that I’d look at in a rewrite. First, the revelation that Djone was skimming off the sales happened a little too close to the big close at the end of the story. I’d be inclined to move that up to an earlier point, and either make it clear that Djone felt he was taking a perfectly reasonable cut (because sales is a skill, and he’s adding value), or that he knew full and well that he was taking a heavy cut and was actively playing one side against the other to keep his profits coming in. The second item I’d look at is just before the big close—they’re diving very fast in a car toward this settlement, but the “action” would require a minute or more to complete. Maybe give him binoculars so he can see what’s coming from a little further away and give him time to fully panic.
Weltlich fucked around with this message at 19:51 on Nov 24, 2021
|# ? Nov 24, 2021 18:15|
Here goes nothing!
I'm in for 1k. My song is The Starlight Mints - Eyes of the Night.
|# ? Nov 24, 2021 20:30|
Thank you FJ Technics I will write on "Starry Night"
|# ? Nov 24, 2021 22:09|
Week 424: Convicted of Doming and Driving
It’s weird, I participated in the audio recap and went into lots of detail on my thoughts in there, but I never actually formally wrote crits? I suspect that I thought my comments in the recap counted as crits, but I’ll just jot some thoughts here/summarise what I said in the recap for easy reference. One thing I said that I felt was universally applicable this week is that road trips feel like an odd fit for flash fiction - they’re famously long, gruelling affairs, and you don’t have room for that if you have to squeeze your whole story into less than 2000 words. I felt like that was a common pitfall.
A comment all three of us made in the recap is you buried the lede with the fish’s powers and the reason the brothers are after it should have come up closer to (or even in) the beginning. As it is the story takes an abrupt turn into supernatural territory after starting off very grounded. I also generally think starting a story with dialogue is a weak choice - it can work, but you only get one chance to hook the reader’s attention, especially with stories as short as the ones we write here, and you need to make sure they’re invested pretty much from the first word. I prefer to open on action or strong imagery but that’s just me. The road trip element is also a bit weak - partly because the trip just sort of happens and gets glossed over, where it could have been used as a way to build up the conflict and increase tension. The sea captain was also too cliché an antagonist and we said a couple times in the recap that the conflict being between the two brothers themselves would have been stronger.
Distracted driving is bad! Save a life, keep your eyes on the road. This story was divisive, GrandmaParty liked it way more than the rest of us did, and when I argued against it getting an HM it was really on the grounds that it was too small a week for HMs/DMs and just about all the stories were at least decent. I didn’t dislike it, and I thought in a week that was fairly horny this story handled attraction, romance and sex with more grace and skill than most, but it felt a little like shipping fanfiction, with lots of presupposed familiarity with the characters and a bit of a foregone conclusion, and I didn’t like the internal narration very much. It felt like it was bludgeoning me about the head, shouting “DO YOU GET IT YET?” I also don’t particularly like italicised thoughts as a rule, and find them a little amateurish; the whole story is your POV character’s thoughts, because it’s happening through their eyes, and I think there’s better ways to convey characters’ thoughts, feelings, anxieties etc. than quite literally spelling them out. I recommended Chuck Palahniuk’s article on unpacking, for example rather than just telling us what a character thinks of something showing us how they came to that conclusion, and while you have to be careful with that approach in the dome (you’ll simply run out of words!) I think it leads to stronger writing. I don’t think you would’ve run out of words though, you definitely had room for fleshing out characters, showing us why your characters think and feel how they do, stuff like that. When I actually sat down and discussed it with the judges I liked it a lot more than reading it alone, for what that’s worth.
take the moon:
Not a whole lot actually happens in this story but that’s okay because the plot really isn’t the point. I really liked what you did with your characters and the atmosphere of the piece, how you communicate the anxiety and dread Kristy feels, and sort of the experience of actually unpacking what’s going on. It’s a hard story to summarise (I did a horrible job in the recap!) but a very effective one to experience, even if I considered some of the metaphors you went with too obvious and on the nose. Your descriptions and dialogue were powerful, and I was a sucker for the prose - also, it felt like one of the most “road trippy” stories. Usually not a lot actually happens on a road trip, you’re stuck in the same car with the same people for days and days, and barring major drama the action happens at your destination, or in little episodes at places like rest stops and gas stations. This story was one of the best at tapping into that feeling without just boring the reader, especially with how much Kristy does NOT want to be in the car with her father. My fellow judges were confused at a couple points but I thought you did a great job capturing a kid’s magical view of the world and willingness to believe in supernatural causes, as well as the detachment and disillusionment of a young girl dealing with abusive family she can’t do anything about. I liked that this story was open to interpretation and took some thinking about, especially with how well you fit it within wordcount, and it was just too clearly the best story of the week not to win.
If I wanted to be a nitpicky jerk, 10 (or 11 depending on how you count it) starts your second decade, not your first. :V
This is an offensive, mean-spirited, comprehensively bad story, but also you seemed pretty clearly aware of the story’s issues afterwards and mentioned feeling bad about submitting it so I’m reluctant to pick on it too much. Everyone in this story was a caricature, to the point that (damningly) you didn’t even give the female character a name, and it felt like one of those “sorry for colonialism” movies of the 70s and 80s where a bunch of tropey white jerks go onto “native land,” piss off the locals and get murdered nastily. If there’d been any life to these characters beyond the tropes they fill, if you’d given them some sort of internal life beyond their stereotypes, this could have been salvaged, but I think you played too timidly with this and ended up with something flatly bad. You can write better than this so I hope you come back and start trying again. One thing I will say is I think claiming you didn’t do research and just reduced Nyakul to a generic “angry native” wasn’t fair, for example you use the Pitjantjatjara’s name for themselves which I didn’t in the recap, so apologies for that.
I’m going to go against something I said in the recap: exposition about the Bullets and just why Earth is blowing up the rest of the solar system would have wasted words and drained vital intrigue from this story, so it was a good call leaving it a mystery. It’s a common enough thing from me in crits of your stories that you probably hate me a little every time you see it, but you have a knack for coming up with cool settings and neat core ideas, and then your stories often don’t support that one cool idea enough for them to hold up. The characters in this piece felt flat and like they didn’t really fit in their own setting - during the recap I said I felt like the apocalypse stuff didn’t matter and these people might as well have been college grads living it up with the last of their juvenile freedom before entering the workforce. I’m not wholly sure if that was a fair criticism, but I did feel like there were some misplaced priorities here; we get no real sense of who these three characters are as people, and the apocalypse unfolding is treated with lip service such that it almost feels like it isn’t happening. I will confess, though, that I just don’t like apocalyptic stories - I’m tired of reading stories about the world ending or having already ended, they make me feel depressed and anxious, and I just bounce off them. Stronger character work, more of a sense that the characters are wanting something and trying to achieve something, a better idea of what the story is about at its heart, would have salvaged it though; the polyamory feels fanservicey and like it’s just thrown in, so that’s an example of something that either deserved more development and thematic weight or just needed to be cut.
This story wastes a lot of time and words on backstory and exposition and the rules of ghosts, which I thought wholly unnecessary - “I see ghosts whenever I take adderall” is basically all you need. When the actual story gets going, it’s been smothered a little by all the words spent to this point. Overall this was pretty good, although in a lower quality week it would’ve stood out more; it was just too clear which story was better than all the others this round. Try to find more organic places for what information the reader needs to understand the story, and focus more on the characters and emotional arc of the story; your readers are sharp and can follow along, especially with what’s at its core a pretty basic “wandering ghost hunter/helper” tale.
I found this story a little too thin, the characters too flat and obnoxious, and the emotional arc too predictable. The real story starts most of the way through the entry and doesn’t have nearly enough room to breathe; it felt a little like you didn’t know if you wanted to go with the epic cross country race or the generational conflict and story of the zoomer’s ingenuity saving the day and both ended up suffering for it. It would be stronger if it picked a lane and had a better idea of what it was going for, and played a little more carefully with the word count; for example, the speech about penguins in the forest feels like something that would need to be trimmed or cut entirely. This might be another story harmed by how strong this week’s winner was, because I just didn’t feel hooked by it.
This is very clearly a First Story™, and also anime as hell. The dialogue is extremely wordy, stilted, and reads like transcribed subtitles. If not that, it’s trying too hard to sound like Medieval Fantasy, like it wants to be wordy and eloquent and just ends up really stiff. There also isn’t any conflict at all; there’s no sense of risk or movement here even though we’re supposed to believe the traveller is in danger, and they mostly just make small talk while going Wherever. We could tell you were going for flirty, romantic banter but it doesn’t really hit the mark, and the main guy blushing and stammering at every second thing Segeria says got annoying fast. I think there’s a neat story at its heart about people from different stations connecting and bonding, and the realities of life on the road making them grow closer, but you’d need to cut out a lot of the cruft and really work on developing that core idea, maybe ditch the notion the traveller is on the run altogether. The main advice we had, which still holds, was to keep entering and practising and read a lot of good fiction, especially flash stories, so you can develop more as a writer. For your first ever entry, this wasn’t bad. You haven’t been back for a few months but I hope to see you again soon.
Flesnolk fucked around with this message at 04:04 on Nov 25, 2021
|# ? Nov 24, 2021 23:28|
In. FJ DOA, spin me some fire.
|# ? Nov 24, 2021 23:33|
In. FJ DOA, spin me some fire.
FJ DOA looks to be sticking to the two new one classic format. Which will be the one?
Savages: "City's Full"
Power Trip*: "Executioner's Tax (Swing of the Axe)"
Hüsker Dü: "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely"
|# ? Nov 25, 2021 03:10|
In. "Ruby Tuesday" by the Rolling Stones.
|# ? Nov 25, 2021 03:30|
Entry for week 486
Song choice : Brad Mehldau's https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8XRdY-JQnA
Out of many, one
My hopes and dreams, borne of my tradition and the ancestors before me, how wonderful they are. With the permission of my teachers and the community, I endow you with heritage and the sanctity of the responsibility to carry it forward. You needn’t worry about direction; you already have it. Blessed are you my little one with the sort of guidance and restrictions that will free you from the prison of choice that will detain so many of your generation. We will take a part of your body to remind you that nothing is yours. You are a person of God. Our people belong to God.
Stay in the faith, stay for our people. I see you reaching for that candy but we cannot have that candy. We can’t have the candy because we’re different, we’re special, we’re chosen Our people are chosen. So, put it back, and put it back with pride in knowing that you made that choice. You made that right choice. A choice to embolden yourself and your people. Our people.
I see you cracked the code. Yes, your friends go to school for three hours less than you do each day. But what do you suppose they do with that time? I know what you’d do with it. You’d squander it. You’d play your games, you’d watch your shows, you’d indulge in choice. Choices that remind you of the temptations that await if you stray from our people. But, perhaps you’re right, I can’t stop you. Sit down with me, I found a school that’s far away, a school for our people, let me show you. This school will be the best thing for you, and for our people.
A graduate, so proud, now, don’t stray from this path, it is the path that guarantees you success and acceptance. You will be loved, just stay here. That girl is nice, yes, but she is not one of us. So, she must not be allowed to be with us. It might seem cruel but you haven’t yet understood the cruelty our people have endured. This is a cost. A cost she won’t ever understand, and perhaps you don’t for now, but you’ll have to trust me. I’m doing the right thing. My friends have ensure me, I am doing the right thing.
I understand it’s time to move along, I always knew this day would come, but California? So far? Go, I suppose, I just thought family meant more to you than this. I feel dizzy. I just thought things would be different. You’ll go, but you’ll come back. Until you do, I don’t want to hear from you. You’re with those people now. We’ll be waiting when you’re ready to come back to ours.
So glad you’re back. Who is this you’re bringing to us? With a last name and a nose like that, she can’t be one of us. We won’t let her be one of us. Don’t you want to be one of us? One of us? One of us? Think of our people, our people, think of our people. They’re your people.
Thank you for inviting us to your home, but, oh and I hope this is some mistake. I noticed some items in your pantry. They must be hers. Oh, they are yours? I suppose this is an interesting phase for you to go through. Interesting phase. It’s very interesting. Please, don’t tell any of your friends about these changes. God forbid these details find their way to their parents and then back to us. We’ve suffered enough, our people have suffered enough. Please, let us know when it’s over? Our people miss you. They’re your people too.
Is it over? Is any of it over? Please. Tell her to leave and clean your house. Get it out, get it all out and get all of those people out. Don’t you know what you have? What we’ve done for you? Look at what’s here for you if you just come back to our people.
We can’t possibly attend your wedding, but you knew that right? You know that we had to talk to our leader about you, right? Oh such shame even coming to him as we did. We had to ask for office hours at his house for fear of people seeing us getting support in such a way. He told us to keep you close in spite of all of this but he’s just doing his best to be kind. Our people, please think of our people.
This hurts our people.
And now this, the biggest betrayal of all. A betrayal too harsh to comprehend. Do you really want your son to not be like you? To not be like our people? Our people. Think of our people. How can we live down the shame? Oh, the ugly, thoughtless choice you’re making.
Haven’t we done right by you? By our people? We kept you close, we kept you on the path. You strayed at times, but always found your way back. But this? Generations and generations that came before you. Do you reject all of their wisdom? The wisdom of our people.
I guess you know better, or at least, we’ll have to hope that you do. That you know better than our people. We can tell you we’ll pray, and hope, and believe but we know what that means to you. So what? What are we supposed to do for our people?
My person, my own person. You are perfect and I will take nothing from you. You will be labored by choice, freedom, pain, and consequence. What choices you make will be yours and they will be met with acceptance. You’ll careen through life and stumble. When you do, I will be here, because you are my person. I hope I get this right; please tell me when I don’t.
|# ? Nov 25, 2021 10:54|
So yeah signups closed a while ago.
|# ? Nov 28, 2021 01:38|
Augur in Red
“You are radiant,” he’ll say, as the moon limns you in white fire, as he runs his dewclaw softly down your cheek and it hurts only a little, then he’ll unfold his other claw and draw it down from your throat to your pubis, deglove your skin, split your ribs open and let your heart and lungs tumble out, then he will grin his crooked lupine grin, kneel amongst your remains, and read the future in all the ways you fell apart.
Or he won’t. It is a fundamental rule of divination: to see a road is not to walk down it. You’ve seen yourself devoured a thousand times over, but his teeth have never touched your skin. He hunts the children who live in the forest: he has decided you are his next quarry; you have decided you will be his last. You are better than him. The first time he appeared in your visions, you screamed and smashed the mirror, you emptied the scrying-bowl of water, you ran outside and placed a heavy stone atop the well-cover, and when you came back into the house, you saw him dancing between mirror-shards. When you tried to pick them up, you cut your hand, and when the blood touched the glass it vanished, the shard shuddered softly and grew warm, and you swore you saw a whiplike black tongue lashing out against your reflection before drawing back into the slick dark cavern of his mouth.
It is impossible to cover every mirror. Glass is easy, water too, but the forest’s leaves reflect light, and the grass, and of course your eyes – you could pluck them out, but it would only make you easier prey. You must accept that he can see you, learn to hide your intentions until you can teach yourself to stare back. You place a mirror in every room, fill every bowl and glass with water, wine, honey, whatever is available; you scry him every day until you can even recognise the particular stillness when he tries to go unseen. Nothing in nature is that still, and that’s what gives him away. When he moves, he moves all at once, an explosive unfolding of muscle and claw, but you are clever, you have seen it already and you were never there.
The moon reflects too, and when it is high and bright it becomes a great eye, its craters darken into a dozen seeking pupils, but it only makes him especially easy to avoid, when he is everywhere, you know exactly where he is. There is no point hiding, but if you stay still – actually still, not the frozen stillness of a beast but natural stillness, a gentle sway, moving as the forest moves and no more – then he will see you and never know you were there. You are better than him.
He knows where you will be before you go; you know what he will do before he does. Over the years, this uneasy detente becomes a sort of dance; he is at times playful, he surprises you with his vigour, courage and strength, but his thin lips hide sharp teeth, and his moves become more and more savage. In the stifling depths of your fifteenth summer, he casts the glint in his eye against the mirrors in your house, transmutes his lust and hatred into heat and sets the forest ablaze. As the fire rages, the heat shatters every piece of glass in the house, turns the well-water to steam. The fire does not touch you, of course: he does not seek to burn you, simply to blind you. You wait for the shattered glass to cool off before collecting it together, but every single shard is blackened and useless. There is no more wine, no more honey, so you take a silver knife and – carefully, carefully – open a vein over the scrying pool and let the blood form a little mirror in the bottom, and when you look into it you see him smiling in dark and empty mirth.
You need more blood, but you do not have more, not that you’re willing to risk giving up to him. The fire has died down now, but the animals have not yet returned to their burrows, and you chase down a rabbit and break its neck, then slice it open neck to tail and let the blood fill the scrying pool. It is not enough to scry with, but the other rabbits have fled.
The next time it happens, you are prepared. You’ve made lures for foxes, deer, any of the huntmaster’s hounds that get lost in the deep woods. You open their throats over the scrying pool and you see him, you know he is there, and he is smiling wider than ever, and when the blood dries you do it again, but it is never, never enough. You take the reflection in the pool and cast your site over the forest, and see another little house, another lost child, and you know what you must do. You reach out to her, and she cries out when she sees your reflection staring out at her, and this will not do, you will try to calm her.
“You are radiant,” you will say. You will offer her your hand, an invitation to dance, but she will refuse, she will break her mirrors, empty out the water, cover the well. It doesn’t matter, you have the moon, you have the light in her eye. There is nowhere that can escape your sight, and in time she will come to understand that it is not cruelty, it is simply a matter of survival.
After all, you are better than him.
962 words, song: Teeth on a String.
|# ? Nov 28, 2021 19:14|
Song: The Eyes of the Night by The Starlight Mints
Word Count: 994
Farm Road 50
“All of us have, on some summer or fall evening, been to a bonfire where a friend or relation resurrects the time-honored tradition of telling ghost stories. On this quiet farm road just over the Oklahoma border, an Ozarks classic takes place every night.” Carson smirked and glanced away from the camera to gesture to the dark farm road behind him. “The Spook Light is said to haunt this area. A floating yellow orb that bobs its way up and down the street. Locals attest that it shows up nearly every night. True, it’s a bit of a party spot sometimes with folks playing loud music and getting drunk. But that’s just testament to the drawing power of a legend that has persisted for years.
“One version of the story says that a Native American princess fell in love with a brave from a rival tribe. When her kinsmen found out, they murdered the man. Now her ghost wanders the plain in search of her lost love. Another version recounts the abduction of a farmer’s son by a local band of thieves. The bouncing light is the farmer’s lantern as he makes a futile search for his lost boy.
“Regardless of whether the stories are true, there are hundreds who have seen the Spook Light. I’m here tonight to bear witness to this paranormal phenomenon.” Carson paused, holding his broadcast face until the recording light on the camera turned off. “Good enough?” he asked, dropping his smile.
“Good enough!” Jan and Lou echoed from behind the tripod.
“Thank god there’s no one out here tonight,” Jan said.
Lou nodded. “Yeah, I haven’t seen a single other car since we left Hornet.” He ducked down into the backseat of Carson’s Ford Taurus and rifled through a duffle labeled Ozark Mountain University, returning with a heavy duty flashlight. “Guess no one’s interested in the Spook Light on a Wednesday.”
Carson scoffed. “It’s just as well. I didn’t want to have to sit around and wait for the rednecks to go home anyway.” He paused, checking up and down the road to affirm they were alone. “You ready, buddy?”
“You really think this is gonna work?” Lou asked, studying the flashlight in his hands.
“I don’t see why it shouldn’t,” Jan said. “If nothing else, I’ll throw some effects on it, maybe degrade the video quality.”
Lou smiled wearily at her. “All right. I’m gonna get myself in that field over there. Then you get five minutes.” With that, Lou trudged into the inky darkness, past the few squat farmhouses dotted along the road. The shrieking sound of crickets in high summer enveloped him as he walked further from his friends. Leaving the pavement, he carefully picked his way between several rows of soybean bushes until he was a good thirty feet away from the road.
Back at the car, Carson and Jan waited for Lou to get into position. “You know I don’t like hearing my voice on camera,” Jan said.
“If you want, I’ll edit this part. Anyway, you just have to say, ‘Oh my god, is that it?’ and try to be convincing.”
“I’m a lovely actress. We’ve established this.”
“Nobody’s gonna care how you sound if they think they’re lookin’ at real footage of the Spook Light.”
The light clicked on in the field down the road.
Lou cradled the flashlight and began to slowly swing it in an exaggerated ‘U.’ He’d practiced in his dorm room and was pretty satisfied with the smoothness of his movements; he was at least as graceful as a ghost with a lantern, if not a forlorn princess.
“Oh my god, what is that?” Jan asked, she hoped, believably.
“Well, I-- oh! You’re right. Jan, zoom in on that! I think that’s the Spook Light! Are you getting it?”
“Yeah, I’m getting it!”
“Look at it out there, it really looks like a swinging lantern!”
Lou was already getting bored after a few minutes and decided to add some flourishes to his performance. He darted the light side-to-side, then he tried some circles and some S-shapes. He wanted to impress Jan and give her plenty to pick from in the editing bay.
Carson took a few steps into the street, placing himself in view of the camera, his head tilted in concentration, his hands on his hips. “Fascinating, it appears to be moving in a kind of wave shape now.”
“HEY!” an unfamiliar voice cut into the night. “WHAT THE gently caress ARE YOU DOING OUT HERE?”
Lou spun toward the noise and dropped his flashlight. The voice sounded close. He peered into the dark, willing his eyes to adjust while his heart raced. Then, a silver glint in the moonlight: a revolver, held aloft by what appeared to be a man in his sixties, twenty feet distant, wearing nothing but boxers.
“I’m tired of you assholes loving around in my field.” The man cocked the gun. “You’d best get moving!”
Lou was rooted to the spot. He was trying to think of an apology when he saw the stranger begin to raise his arms.
A single shot rang out into the night. For a moment, the crickets were silent.
“Oh gently caress!” Jan sent a wild-eyed look to Carson and both dashed for the car.
The spell was broken and Lou began to run, scrambling through bushes back to the road. He saw the headlights of Carson’s car and ran to meet it. Slowing to a jog, the horror of the night dawned on Lou as he felt a creeping warm spot in his jeans start to cool.
“Thank god, there is,” Carson said when he saw Lou jogging down the road. “The last thing I need is to get someone shot for a segment on college TV.”
“Oh no,” Jan said in a hushed voice. “I think he pissed himself.”
“God, you’re right. And I don’t have any towels in here.” Carson sighed. “This goddamn Spook Light.”
|# ? Nov 28, 2021 23:38|
Last Call in Para-Space
Song: Peggy Gou - Starry Night
Sarnelia Vance pulls the release lever and drops out of real space. Wormhole walls dilate around her and swallow her up. She’s listening to Surfing - Deep Fantasy, eating smoked oysters and drinking Hibiki 17 from a glass. In para-space there are no G-forces, nothing to disturb the whiskey’s surface, even when she’s travelling at thousands of subjective kilometres per second. It’s like a TV show playing out before her in the cockpit: infinite fractal flowers unfolding, black suns exploding in the glare of inverted night. That’s the dangerous part—forgetting it’s real. One slip-up, one breach in her axiomatic field and she’s gone, lost in the quantum foam.
Luckily, Sarnelia Vance doesn’t make mistakes.
She’s running a standard commercial flight: Sol-Earth L5 to Tau Ceti II. Causality Control has given her six hours in para-space before she can arrive at her destination. Regulations say she should sit on her rear end the entire time; drink, maybe watch a movie. But now she’s through the wormhole, why let the fuel go to waste? Her passengers won’t know the difference. They’re asleep in the transport module, locked in a secondary subfield with their Planck clock set to zero. Time doesn’t pass for them; if she jettisoned them right now they’d float for eternity, waiting for someone to wake them up.
Sarnelia plucks her six-hour timeline like a banjo string, letting it vibrate between possibilities: diving for trans-baryonic artefacts in the Alien Tomb Fields? Hunting Boltzmann brains in the Pelagic Gulf? The computer calculates which jobs have the highest EV, but she waves the data away. When she’s drinking at Ravana’s Bar tonight, she wants a story worth telling to the other pilots and the wide-eyed tourist girls.
She dials the qubits of the axiom engine and hits go. The para-ship accelerates from forty to a hundred million. The Hibiki doesn’t even tremble.
The time it takes to get anywhere here isn’t movement, not really. It’s more like groundwork. She’s projecting the axiomatic field ahead of herself, laying the foundations that are preconditional to her even existing, let alone surviving, at her destination. The actual travel is instantaneous: snap, and she’s there, on the threshold of the Red Door.
Para-pilots are stone cold badasses; the type of people who kiss death on the lips three times a week. But even para-pilots think twice about a trip to the Red Door. In a hyperdimension littered with naked singularities, inverted suns and alien ruins that predate the Big Bang, the Red Door is—and this must be emphasised—just a big loving door. It has hinges, and red paint that’s starting to peel. And it’s ajar.
Whole disciplines of scientific theory have broken themselves against the Door. There are at least four cults dedicated to worshipping it. And nobody who has flown a para-ship through it has ever returned.
Sarnelia isn’t planning to go out that way, no matter how much she jokes about it at Ravana’s when she’s had too many whiskey sours. She’s bored, not suicidal. Besides, it wouldn’t be right to do that to her passengers, especially since they paid in advance.
Even going up to the doormat and peeking inside is a lucrative business, however. The Sol University-Guilds will pay exorbitant sums for even a few seconds of data from the mouth of the Door. Sarnelia slides the para-ship sideways, into view of the narrow opening, and is immediately plunged into a bath of exotic particles. A dozen alarms start going off, but she mutes them all and puts on Battles - Atlas instead.
She nibbles on the last oyster and looks into the utter blackness beyond the Door.
And something looks back.
A flicker, a flash of an eyelike infinity. A black vein zigzags from the Door to the ship, almost too fast to see. Sarnelia jerks hard on the joystick and her ship careens backward, out of sight of the abyss. She hovers there, suddenly pulsing with adrenaline.
“Computer, replay the last ten seconds of—”
She stops. Something horrible is blooming right in front of her. A pinprick of midnight black splits, doubles, recombines. Becomes a quivering fluid, a sphere, a cube. Higher and higher levels of complexity. Geometric shapes give way to seething muscle, a heart pumping antimatter, organs that grow and die like cells in a petri dish. The end result is something sleek, vaguely leonine, with a knife-shaped protrusion where its head should be. Black and glistening as if newly born.
It starts walking toward her on three-toed feet.
“Nope,” says Sarnelia, and hits the escape button.
The para-ship jumps automatically to a prebuilt safe zone. The Red Door melts away, replaced by cool void and a drift of glimmering stars. She’s still in para-space, but a vast distance away from anything interesting.
The lion-thing is there too, slouching toward her like it’s got all the time in the world.
There are things that live in para-space: self-devouring Klein stomachs, degenerate xenoservitors, predatory infinities. This isn’t like any of them. If anything it seems too normal, too closely bound by the laws of her axiomatic field. It walks.
“Fine,” says Sarnelia. “You want to play chasey? Computer, engage probabilistic evasive maneuvers.”
A power tower’s worth of possible Sarnelias go flying out in every direction, superposed in a haze of quantum uncertainty. She pushes the probability space to its absolute limit; at its furthest edges the maybe-Sarnelias are doing incredibly unlikely things, like diving into a neutron star or listening to psytrance.
All she needs to do now is find a possibility in which the creature didn’t follow, and recohere at that point.
In all possible states, all the Sarnelias look out their windows.
The creature is still there in every single one.
“You’re loving impossible!” Sarnelia shouts. She cancels the whole maneuver in a fit of spite, returning to the starfield she started from.
Sarnelia knows she has hosed up. Playing with her own life is one thing, but she feels extremely bad about putting the passengers in danger. There were known risks to visiting the Red Door. This one was a complete and utter unknown.
The thing is close now. She can see its muscles re-knitting into higher densities, becoming exponentially stronger by the second. It grips the ship with its forelimbs, ratchets back its neck, and drives its head point-first into the viewport.
The glass cracks.
Sarnelia sends the para-ship into a deep spin; the creature is thrown free, but it rights itself almost instantly. A dozen new limbs sprout from its back, sporting octopoid suckers of ultra-dense matter. That trick isn’t going to work a second time.
She’s nearer to panic now than she will ever admit if she gets out of this alive. Her hands fly across the instrument panel, punching in new configurations for the axiom engine. Local spacetime rips in half, opening a wormhole back to real space. From this end it looks like a neon orange donut with an entire universe inside its hole. It hovers before the viewport, almost close enough to touch.
One flick of the joystick and she’ll be home. Some pilot’s instinct makes her hesitate. The thing was there in every possible future she could muster. Almost as if it were…
Mind racing, Sarnelia pulls up a console and goes deep into the ship’s software. Overriding another swarm of alert messages, she opens the config file for the axiomatic field. The fundamental laws of her reality are inscribed here. One plus one is two. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. And there it is: between Euler’s constant and the value of pi, she finds a cancerous spool of code, a tumour-law that shouldn’t be there. Translating it into plain English would probably take a couple of centuries, but Sarnelia can already guess the gist of it is: a hosed up gremlin is here and wants to kill you.
“I know what you are,” she tells the creature. “You’re an ontological parasite. A reality hijacker. You came through the Door and wrote yourself into my field.”
Knowing is little comfort, though. She can no more run from the parasite than she can make a getaway from the weak nuclear force. She can’t go back to real space either—not unless she wants to let this thing loose on her entire universe. Her only choice is to excise it from the config herself.
There are good reasons why the raw config file isn’t supposed to be pilot-accessible. Revising an axiomatic field while you’re inside it is like doing neurosurgery on the back of your own head. The last person who tried it famously died of proton decay.
Sarnelia takes a deep breath and goes in.
The creature latches on to the para-ship again. Vantablack tentacles wrap around the hull and start to squeeze. Metal screams and buckles, lights in the cabin flicker. Sarnelia’s trying to slice up the config, but it’s impossible. Just like a tumour, the creature has entangled itself in the axioms. She sees the only way out is to build a whole new field underneath the current one. It’ll be a jerry-rigged job: not even General Relativity, but Newtonian physics. Just loving marbles clonking into each other.
There’s no time to test it. She hits ACTIVATE and the infested axioms explode around her, shattering into fragments of crystallised ex-reality. She plunges into the Newtonian field with a sickening jolt.
The parasite explodes into a shower of black goo. No longer axiomatic, it’s just a big dumb animal floating in a vacuum.
Sarnelia lets out a breath, wipes the sweat from her brow, and pours herself a big glass of Hibiki.
The starfield turns gently around her. The wormhole comes into view.
“Ah, poo poo,” she says.
She sits and drinks the whiskey slowly. She’s thinking about how quickly life changes. One minute things seem like they’ll always be the same: fly the same routes, do the same jobs, drink at the same bars. The next minute, it’s all gone away.
The wormhole is only a few metres from her ship, but it might as well be on the far side of the galaxy. She’s living in a Newtonian world now. Her quantum engine doesn’t work here; neither does the relativistic backup drive. Para-ships aren’t designed to actually move anywhere, so they aren’t fitted with any kind of kinetic thruster. She’s stuck.
There is one way to get back to the wormhole. For every action, an equal and opposite reaction. Jettison the transport module, and she can send the passengers home.
Or the reverse. But she already knows she’s not going to do that. This is her fuckup, and she’s going to live with it.
She won’t exactly die out here. The subfield can keep her alive indefinitely. But by the time anyone finds her, she’ll be lucky if only a million years have passed in real space. So it’s goodbye to Ravana’s and drinking till closing with the other pilots. Goodbye to Tau Ceti and the pretty girls on the promenade. Goodbye to the real stars.
The transport module decouples with a soft click. It floats gently into the mouth of the wormhole, where it spaghettifies into a strand of light and is sucked back to the L5 point. Hopefully the passengers will pour one out for her when they realise what happened, but more likely they’ll just be pissed they didn’t get to their destination on time.
She sets her Planck clock to wind down over the next three minutes or so. The stars are wheeling before her like jewels scattered on a velvet cloth. She puts on Boards of Canada - Chromakey Dreamcoat, takes a last sip of Hibiki, and drifts off into the black.
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 02:12|
I used all three songs.
Save the Date - 666
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 14:40 on Jan 10, 2022
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 04:30|
On the morning of the first day, the Crucible poured orange juice into its cereal.
Arixis looked at me, eyebrows raised. I met his gaze, my voice cautious.
“Do we stop it?”
It wasn’t like the Crucible would eat the cereal; it didn’t ‘eat’. But after a month of increasingly complex cultural trials, it would be launched off into some far-off creche of civilization in the hope that it would radiate its newfound conscience and influence those fledgling people to make better choices.
The Crucible looked over its breakfast and emitted a low, agitated trill. It extended a thin metal arm and slowly, deliberately shoved the bowl over the side of the table. The pulpy mix hit the floor, scattering sodden cereal over the hardwood.
I slapped the table.
“Arixis! Did it just throw a tantrum?”
His response carried a harsh needle of irritation.
“Toben, the debrief said that we can’t treat it like a child; it’ll ruin our objectivity. Our role was clearly delineated: we set up the iterative cognitive challenges, we record the Crucible’s responses, and we make sure it doesn’t get stuck under the refrigerator. That’s it, we don’t interfere. Besides, the most predictive thing is its reaction to the situation. Obviously.”
Arixis’ tone bothered me. Before we’d been locked into the testing habitat, a droll Central Monitor infovid had walked us through the early Crucible trials. Those Crucibles, trained by a pair of highly qualified but pretty similar C.M. scientists, had invariably spawned rigid technocracies that ended up nuking, earthquaking, or nanobotting themselves to death. So now, the Central Monitor always paired a scientist with a thoroughly screened and well-compensated layman, to add diversity to the Crucible’s development. Still, I could already tell that Arixis considered me dead weight.
I tried to break the ice.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Hey! That beeping was kinda cute, huh?”
He tilted his head quizzically, then gave me a curt nod.
Swing and a miss.
The Crucible carefully hovered off its chair, tilting ailerons to land right next to the mess. After a moment of cybernetic consideration, it scooted to the cabinet under the kitchen sink, withdrew a small dustpan and broom, then busied itself cleaning up the shambles of its breakfast. I reached across the tabletop and grabbed Arixis’ arm.
“Aww, I think it feels bad!”
The Crucible began warbling a gentle, lolling tune as it gave a little sweep here and a tiny brush there. I recognized the song as a bright transposition of our morning wake-up call. I gripped Arixis tighter.
“And it’s singing! Look at how jaunty it is!”
Arixis grunted and shook off my hand.
“Stop personifying it. It’s a Crucible, it can’t be jaunty.”
He busied himself taking notes. I looked across the narrow table at his pad; he was building a flowchart. He methodically worked his way to the bottom of the page, forking into two conclusions:
Takes responsibility for its actions, next to Imposes strict (but joyous) order.
I raised my eyebrows at him, though I felt a little naked questioning his interpretation.
“Strict but joyous order? Isn’t that kind of, you know, fascistic?”
He rolled his eyes. “It’s possible. The Central Monitor will eventually decide whether this Crucible gets launched as a cultural seed, and I don’t want to beget some kind of potential totalitarian state.”
His self-assuredness about doubled my insecurity. Still, best not to lean into it.
“Uh, sure. That’s smart,” I said. “Anyway, we’ve got twenty minutes until the next cognition trial. I’m gonna take a break.”
He nodded, still focused on his flowchart. I reached down and surreptitiously stuck my hand into my pocket. Before we’d been locked in with the Crucible, both of us had undergone a fairly thorough decontamination with confiscation of any outside material, anything that could influence the development of our little cultural seed.
But they made such tiny music players these days.
I double-checked that Arixis was completely occupied and slid the miniscule orchestrion from my pocket. I selected a particularly brutal track and prepared to key it to my aural implants.
The Crucible let out a high, painful whistle.
The orchestrion slipped out of my fingers, time slowing to a crawl as it tumbled to the floor. The micro-jukebox hit the ground and, unpaired, defaulted to its surprisingly loud onboard speaker.
The kick drums came abrupt and heavy with hell-hot guitars, vibrating the hardwood at a hundred beats per minute. The vocals hit next, deathly echoes from a miles-deep well. For a moment, the tiny test habitat was saturated with guttural, overdriven sonic savagery.
Arixis leapt from his chair, scattering his notes all over the table. He shot me a bewildered look. I panicked and stomped on the orchestrion, shattering it and slicing the track into silence.
But the damage had been done.
We trained our eyes on the Crucible. It let out a cheery beep.
Arixis looked at me. His brows were furrowed, his anger barely contained.
“What. What the gently caress?”
I had absolutely no defense: I’d smuggled in a music player, thereby taking a long hot piss on what I figured was the scientific method, and subjected the precious Crucible to an unforgivably bone-melting single. My reply was meek as I tested the waters.
“Don’t swear in front of the Crucible, Arixis.”
His expression went blank for a moment, then flipped into rage. He sputtered a severely vexed, barely-coherent response.
“Don’t swear...and you do that? Then you tell me, in front of the Crucible, that I can’t, to not swear. Oh, we are so hosed.”
Okay, damage control. Our options were fairly limited; the laboratory was completely sealed and by design, we couldn’t even pass a message to the Central Monitor. My pride dictated a single remaining option:
“Look, let’s just forget it. We keep training the Crucible, hope the Central Monitor’s cameras didn’t pick anything up, and never, ever, ever mention this again. Besides, it was what? A couple seconds of music? I bet the Crucible didn’t even notice.”
Arixis picked up his pen. He clenched it rhythmically in a desperate attempt to self-soothe.
“The Crucible is a compulsive data interpretation construct, Toben.” His voice went low, a furious spittle-laced whisper. “If it didn’t ‘notice’, it’d be pretty loving pointless.”
I noticed that the Crucible had been watching us bicker. Its crystalline core shifted from a light blue to a deep indigo. Arixis grabbed my shoulder, his fingers digging into my deltoid.
“We have to discuss this situation,” he said, jerking his head toward the Crucible. “In private.” He steered my limp body into the bathroom and slammed the only functional door in the testing habitat.
Arixis took a deep breath, then sat on the toilet lid and stared at the ceiling in deep contemplation. I wasn’t sure what to expect: maybe he’d reel off another admonishment, or maybe he’d brutally murder me in the bathing cabinet and tell the Crucible that I was taking a monthlong nap.
He looked down after what felt like a full minute, his eyes fixed on a point slightly above my head. His voice was still a little shaky.
“So, we agree that you’ve basically ruined everything through near-terminal carelessness and idiotic indifference, right?”
I nodded. He continued, on a vicious tear.
“Tell me, do I need to pat you down? Maybe turn out your pockets? Oh, let me guess: did you also smuggle in a micropad loaded with a thousand hours of teeny, tiny pornography?”
I stayed silent as he finally slowed down. After a minute he relaxed and regarded me. His expression had gone cold, his voice even.
“I think our course is fairly clear: we work through all the remaining cognitive iterations, strictly as designed. I’ll train the Crucible best I can, you try not to savagely gently caress up again, and we finish out the thirty days. When the Central Monitor unseals the lab I’ll absolutely throw you under the bus and then they’ll shoot both of us into the sun anyway.”
I almost wished that he’d bashed my head against the toilet tank. I desperately tried to settle Arixis’ worry.
“Look, maybe the Crucible will turn out fine. We had a single screwup, it’s still got a lot of time to learn. Besides, I listened to a lot of death metal growing up and I turned out ok.”
Arixis let out a deep, shuddering breath.
“For absolutely the last time, it’s a culture-templating supercomputer. It’s not a child. How did you even pass the screening? How can one man fail so vertiginously upward?”
I opened my mouth to respond, noted his expression, and shut it. Arixis patted his knees and rose from the toilet.
“God, Toben. Let’s just get on with it.”
We filed awkwardly out of the bathroom. The Crucible was sitting where we’d left it, its central crystal still cycling through hues. Arixis’ displeasure seemed to come off of him in waves.
I walked to a small cabinet and rifled through it, looking for the items needed for the second learning trial. I pulled out a hardbound copy of Erelard van Troeph’s The Solitary Quarry of Man and a viewscreen preloaded with Bumpo and Herm’s ‘Goofin’ and its totally classic sequel, ‘Goofin’ in Space’. I set them down in front of the little robot and awaited its choice.
The Crucible seemed to ignore the media entirely. It whirred, tilting upward to regard the two of us. I looked to Arixis and whispered.
Arixis tapped his foot impatiently, refusing to look me in the eye. I sidled a half-step toward him and tried to nudge him with my elbow.
He slapped my arm away, still fixed on the Crucible. The tension between us was untenable, almost violent. I took a deep breath; I knew what I had to do, further experimental disruption be damned.
“Look, I don’t know why the Central Monitor chose me to work this Crucible with you. You’re obviously a great scientist, and-”
He took a step back as his eyes widened in a clear signal: not in front of the Crucible.
I kept going.
“-and I think we can fix this if we work together. I just wanted to tell you-"
Arixis’ face contorted in a mixture of disgust and pity as he cut me off.
“I don’t know what you’re doing, but just stop. Stop. Haven’t you done enough already?”
The Crucible was cycling through colors faster now, its crystal a prismatic whirl. I sighed. Here it was, all or nothing.
“Arixis, I’m trying to say that I’m sorry. This mess is my fault, all of it, and I’ll do whatever I can to make it right. I’ll follow your lead, I’ll confess to the Central Monitor, anything. I promise.”
He stared at me for a long moment. I winced, preparing for the deathblow. Then, Arixis softened. He moved toward me, laid an awkward hand on my shoulder, and gave me a soft squeeze.
“I, uh, suppose that I’ve been overly harsh. You made a mistake, Toben. A supremely brash, completely baffling mistake, but it was a mistake.” He sighed. “I accept your apology.”
My legs went wobbly and my eyes stung with hot tears. I grabbed his hand and vigorously nodded my head. Right then, things felt salvageable, even hopeful.
We looked down at the Crucible; it beeped merrily as its crystal radiated a solid sky blue. The little robot scooted toward me and briefly hesitated. Then it extended a thin, reassuring probe and gently patted my leg.
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 05:13|
Love Peace and Hasslehoff
Song: The Metro By Berlin
The sun was shining one fateful day in East Berlin in 1986. Emma Gelb was dancing around in her room, listening to her idol, David Hasslehoff. She was perhaps his biggest fan in East Germany ever since he first became popular a year ago. In her eyes, while the Aryan was the German ideal in the days of Hitler, in the 80’s that title belonged to Hasslehoff. Sure, he may have been American, but Emma did not care. It would come to no surprise that she owned a copy of the poster of the Hoff wearing nothing but a leather jacket and a Speedo. She hung it on her door and considered it her prized possession.
The national radio station held a contest where the winner would go to the Hasslehoff concert in Paris. Naturally, Emma decided to enter. Normally, Emma’s parents would be against all things Capitalism, but every German, East and West, stood united on one thing: David Hasslehoff is the best thing to happen to all of Germany. When the day the winner was announced came, Emma was ecstatic to hear the words,
“And the winner is: Emma Gelb from East Berlin!” Emma frantically told her parents, who congratulated her as if she got into one of the top schools in East Berlin. They agreed that to get to the concert, Emma would fly to London, and take the Metro to Paris.
The flight to London was mostly uneventful, Emma was able to get to the airport on time and got to London on time. She used what little English she knew to get a cab over to the London Metro Station. While at the metro, some unsavory types went up to her.
“Ello luv! Fancy a shag?” One of them said in English. She had no idea what they were saying, but from their tone of voice and gestures, she knew they were threatening. She slowly backed away, but the unsavory types came closer. Soon after, a man in a uniform stopped by them.
“I believe the lady wants you to back off. Or is this how things are with the so-called ‘British Gentlemen’?” he said, with somewhat of a German accent.
“Shove off, ya bloody Kraut!” one of the thugs said, and they backed off. Afterwards, the soldier went to Emma.
“Geht es dir guht?” the man asked Emma. Emma was happy to hear another German. Especially one who was quite handsome. Sure, he was no Hasslehoff, but he was close enough, and in this case, close enough was still quite handsome.
“I’m fine.” Emma responded in German. She was still amazed that such a handsome man was able to save her. The thought made her quite winded.
While on the metro the man introduced himself. His name was Henrik, and he was a member of the West German Army. He took leave to see the same concert Emma was going to.
“Oh, shall we go together?” Emma asked, wondering if it would be wise to go with a complete stranger. A handsome stranger, but a stranger, nonetheless.
“It seems obvious a girl like you might need protection. And what soldier would I be if I can’t even protect one woman?” Henrik replied. While his response seemed offensive to Emma at first, she did realize that if he wasn’t there, those ruffians would have their way with her. Plus, unlike those ruffians, Henrik did have some noble charm.
When they got to Paris, they were a few hours early. Since they had plenty of time before the concert, they took a walk along the Seine River. There, they talked about their lives on each side of Germany. They mentioned how the Berlin Wall made things inconvenient at best, and hostile at worst. For example, Emma mentioned her uncle that she has never met, and Henrik mentioned family that are inconvenienced due to the Wall. They have told of other people who had to take a long trip to get to the other side just so they could go to family that would be across the street otherwise. They showed each other a glimpse of the other’s Germany and saw that not only were they mostly the same, but there were many Germans on each side that desired one thing: Unification. Later, they heard a clock chime that it was 5:30. Since the concert started at 6, they hurried to the venue.
The concert was a blast, as expected. Hasslehoff performed well, even though there were more Germans in the audience than native French. Still, it was a sold-out crowd, and to a pure-blooded German, A Hasslehoff concert that was not sold out was unacceptable. Yes, there were perhaps more Germans in Paris than the times of Hitler, but this was for love, peace, and Hasslehoff.
While Emma and Henrik went back to the metro, they talked about the concert the whole way. Like any German, they were both fans of the Hoff, and their discussions showed that. But alas, all good things must come to an end. When they got to the London Airport, they said their goodbyes and looked at each other fondly. Soon after, perhaps in some sort of burst of passion they both had, they kissed. They each apologized soon after, both extremely flustered. But one question crossed Emma’s mind.
“Will I ever see you again?”
“Perhaps.” Henrik said, “If the people truly want a United Germany, that day may come sooner than you think.” Emma kept those words close to her heart, as she said her goodbyes to Henrik. She now had another man in her life, one that she can say belonged to her. Unlike David Hasslehoff, who belonged to all of Germany. Speaking of all of Germany, she awaited the day that Germany would be reunited once again.
That day would come three years later. It is now 1989. The clutches of Communism have begun to loosen. It was announced that the Berlin Wall would be dismantled, but many Germans came and started the job a little early. One such German was Emma Gelb. Germans East and West celebrated the fact that they were no longer identified by East and West. They were all now simply German. Emma saw some soldiers close by and asked if Henrik was there. Fortunately, some of the soldiers that were there were West German and knew Henrik, so they took Emma to him. As soon as they saw each other they kissed. They stayed close to the wall to see a new beginning for Germany.
While most came for the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fact that it had perhaps the greatest David Hasselhoff concert ever helped a lot.
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 06:12|
Homeshake - Half Asleep After The Movies
The snowstorm appeared unnatural. Its unrelenting gales of ice and wind cut to the bone. Jimmy stood in the open doors of the darkened church and contemplated the work to be done. He turned to the quiet congregation inside, examined their stillness as they sat in their pews, and sighed. He imagined them all as dreamers, travelling across reality to explore worlds beyond the stars. It was in this moment that he realized he had never felt more alone. He reminded himself of his righteous purpose as the Shepherd of the flock, but it did little to placate the feeling of having been abandoned.
Jimmy yanked the ripcord on the generator and the bulky machine bounced to life with sputtering coughs and smoke. It rattled quietly against its concrete perch and Jimmy found that the noise eased his unexpectedly troubled mind. He pushed thoughts of corpses from his mind and began his task. Trudging through snow, he laid out the intricate patterns detailed in the Manual of Ascendancy with hundreds of yards of light rope, then returned to the temple and began to recite the 32 prayers of guidance to ensure that the flock journeyed safely beyond the maw of That Which Waits and through the many tendriled arms of Those That Follow.
When his task was complete, he was greeted by the morning sun. He collapsed against the temple floor and looked to the ceiling, waiting for a sign, any sign, that his part in the ritual had worked. That the Watchers heard his prayers, saw his sigils, felt the mass deposit of life into the aether from the rigid bodies that surrounded him. That they were on their way to rescue them all. To guide them to their promised eternities, freed from the cycles of damnation. Jimmy, his strength depleted and body rendered broken from the cold, looked up at his dreaming congregation.
He was afraid that they would like any other corpses he'd seen in his life. On the news. In classrooms. In streets. In his home. Broken things, hideous beyond recognition. A complete refutation of what they once were. Instead, he had hoped that the congregation would retain a degree of the humanity they held before the transition.
Their fingers were burrowed into the fabric of their clothing or a significant others' limbs as if fastening bolts. Their eyes, dulled and clouded by death, were the only features that betrayed the ecstasy of life that had otherwise been etched into every detail of their countenance. He was relieved to see that they didn't appear pained, but pleased.
He had shepherded the flock and protected them on their journey. His time had come. He had done as he was instructed, and the pills he swallowed just before... gently caress! Oh, gently caress! He hadn’t swallowed the pills. He forgot! He was supposed to. Maybe he could scramble to his feet, and- and, gently caress! His fingers were frostbitten, and the last of his energy had been spent placing the stupid sigils and reciting the god damned prayers, but now, and now… gently caress!
He crawled towards the pulpit and approached their dead leader, The Conduit, maybe she had some pills or, or, a gun, yeah! Hopefully, a loving gun to fix the one oversight in his one job. He was spent, it was no use. Half on the staircase leading to the pulpit, he began to fade into unconsciousness, and he hoped that the combination of cold and his starved body might just do him the favor of shutting him down on its own. He had no such luck, and only thought he succeeded when white light swallowed up his field of vision. Only it was just the flashlights of traumatized police whose trailing repetitions of disbelief let Jimmy know that he had failed. An officer who had been retching near the entrance finally vomited.
The months that followed were particularly difficult for Jimmy. Between confused or hurt family members and the press, he had had his fill of questions. Unfortunately, he had no answers. If anything, he had his own unanswered questions and would spend the rest of his life trying to solve them. Still, he told them what he could.
In time, he agreed with everyone that he had been indoctrinated into a suicide cult, but he kept telling himself it wasn't true when no one was around. He knew the truth and what the stakes were. However, it would only be a matter of time before these doubts gained purchase in his mind. As such, he doubted that any of his choices had ever been right. He began to see the defunct . That those people, the only people who understood him in this life, had failed. That they had died for nothing. He had hoped for their sake and his, that they were right, secure in their personal heavens, but he never could quite shake the feeling that they had been wrong.
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 06:40|
The Lifegiving Powers of Water and Womanhood
Song: Jlin’s Carbon 7 (161)
“Wake up, girl. Comot!”
Enitan blinked lazily and rubbed her eyes. She was suddenly aware she was under water. The rebreather on her face filled her lungs with cold, recycled air as she kicked and pounded at the gelatinous front of the pod. It ruptured with a slimy splat and the contents, including Enitan, poured out across the grated floor.
“Why are you waking me up?” she growled once she had removed the mask and finished spluttering.
Her stomach spasmed, then rolled over and her whole body heaved. Each muscle ached as she rolled around uselessly. She tried to get to her feet, fell on limp legs. Her stomach moaned and then she was throwing up.
“Don’t start,” she managed to choke out between saliva-webbed lips. She fought her natural instincts - the impulses and nature of her ancestors who had been earth-locked for millions of years. Evolution hadn’t caught up with galaxy walking yet. People were not designed for space.
She focussed. She repeated the mantras she had learned from the hijacked academy training comms. Perhaps feeling sorry for her, Olu dimmed the lights and lowered the roar of the engines. The Origami Elephant became a womb - dark, warm and quiet. As she walked herself through the various stages that professional galaxy walkers undertook, the sickness began to fade. She spat once, then twice, rubbed her head.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“Then why wake me up, man?”
“I wanted to show you something. If you don’t care then you can go back to sleep. Or I’ll cut the oxygen if you prefer?”
Enitan climbed carefully to her feet, steadied herself against the wall, then flipped the bird with both hands in every direction. She heard a low, chuckle. A low, soft chuckle that seemed so familiar and so human and so real that it broke her heart.
One of the consoles came to life with a flurry of musical notes.
“Come on, girl, you can do it,” Olu’s voice purred.
As if to motion her towards the console, the floor panels that led to it began to glow a soft pink.
Step by step. Slowly. Let the legs remember how to walk. Step by step. Her long, slender feet glowed with pink light as she made it most of the way, then collapsed against the screen. She examined the console with eyes still crusty with eye goop. Her shadow danced on the far wall of the ship as she eclipsed the light spilling forth.
The image on the screen was little more than a vaguely triangular blob of fuzz and static. Second by second, it grew clearer, the pixelated edges filing down until she could make out the shape of a vague structure.
“What is it?” she asked.
“No idea. It’s big though, and it’s not solid. There’s room inside. Hey, you good?”
Enitan’s head had slumped against the screen. She waved him away with one hand.
“Nothin’ spoil. It smell like money, honey?”
Olu said nothing but she could picture him. She could hear his smile In the silence. It wasn’t real of course, but it’s what the real Olu would have done.
“Smells like mooooo-neyyyyy!” he replied. The ship was suddenly bathed in green light, there was the sound of a cash register and then thumping celebratory techno.
“Argh, gently caress, hey, cryo-hangover!”
The music stopped abruptly and the lights dimmed once more.
“Eeesh, Olu, you try…” she began.
A fanfare interrupted her and she cackled, stumbled over to the table and sat down.
She managed to eat that night, in the dim light. Olu was a better chef now than he had ever been. As they talked back and forth, pepper soup appeared on the table. It was so hot and spicy that it burnt her tongue but tasted so good she couldn’t stop herself eating. The empty bowl was soon replaced by a plate of pounded yam so soft and doughy that it melted in her mouth and a rich efo riro that tasted like earth.
“More,” she barked between mouthfuls and Olu gave a deep, guttural laugh.
“She be the boss. What can I get her?”
She took a bite of the yam, chewed thoughtfully.
“We got any stew?”
“We got, but it will take a while.”
“What would you recommend, chefman?”
A dome of cloudy glass emerged from within the depths of the table. She reached out and lifted it to reveal three long, thin joints wrapped in pink paper. Just the way Olu had always made them for her. She laughed and lifted one to her lips, then crossed the room and attached the black glass orb that served as a mobile AI unit to the clip on her belt. She gave the orb a loving stroke.
“That’s it girl, show me love!”
They slipped into a slow orbit around the pyramid and Olu killed the engines entirely. Through the viewing window, it was an impressive edifice. Black volcanic glass sparkled in the rays of starlight and glimmered beneath the neon pink spotlights of The Origami Elephant. She dozed off in her chair whilst Olu finished scanning the thing for life, radiation and bio-contamination. Nothing manifested. He let her sleep.
Enitan loved her space walking outfit. More bright pink, polished black, streaks of silver. It was sleek, smooth and fit her slender, athletic body like a second-skin. The helmet was a stolen, though not by her, academy helmet. She had altered it as much as possible, sawing off ridges and insignia, filing down the facistic symbology, painting a bright pink skull over the black metal.
“Girl, you look so good. Makes me wish I had all my old parts.”
“No. Too weird. Don’t do that again.” she snapped without looking at the orb.
There was a moment of silence.
“Of course. I won’t speak to you like that again,” Olu’s voice replied. “Is that what you are asking?”
“Okay. If you change your mind and want me to speak to you like that again, just tell me, “Olu, flirt with me.”
She stepped out into space.
Olu illuminated the way from her hip, sending out beams of light to guide her the easiest route straight to the great pyramid. As her fingertips graced its polished surface, the black glass orb extended a series of light hooks that tethered her to the structure. Within minutes, she had managed to break in through the airlock and stood within a dark, silent hallway.
“There be oxygen,” Olu said. “No pathogens. You can breathe the air if you want.”
Enitan shrugged and withdrew the screen from her helmet. The chamber she stood within was wide, tall and dark. The sounds of her footsteps echoed through the stale air. Pink light swept across the area, then settled in a beam upon a great stone carving. It was symbolic… probably. A great spiral carved above tall, thin humanoid stick-figures. Symbols that were perhaps writing had been engraved above the empty doorway leading deeper into the structure.
“Not any language I can find,” Olu said.
Enitan slowly walked the circumference of the room until she returned to where she had begun. A pattern of repeated engravings decorated the outside edge of the pyramid, but what the various figures and shapes were intended to represent, she had no idea.
“You think a museum would want some of this cut out?” Olu asked.
“Too heavy to transport anyway. Easier to strip this thing of real valuables and then sell the coordinates to whichever archaeologist or whatever bids highest.”
Only one path led deeper into the structure. Olu whirred and hummed and the door blocking the entrance slid aside with the sound of grating stone. A single long corridor extended into the darkness and Enitan was hit by a rush of crisp, even staler air. She approached the doorway and paused.
“Traps?” she asked.
“Yup,” Olu replied. “Hold up, girl.”
Enitan stepped aside. The black orb at her belt twisted and span for a moment, then unleashed a series of twinkling black marbles.
“Go get ‘em babies,” Olu purred.
The collection of marbles twitched for a moment, then throbbed and pulsed with pink light. One by one, they leapt forward and rolled the length of the corridor. One hissed and spat with static, another broadcast a life signal, a third bounced up and down as if it were made of rubber. Within seconds, the corridor was filled with jets of green fire, volleys of arrows and darts and strange clouds of electricity that dispersed into the walls. Slowly, the roars and crashes and splatters died down until there was silence.
“One moment,” Olu warned her.
A stone tile in the ceiling of the corridor slid aside. There was a moment of still silence and then the great skeleton of some monstrous creature fell into the room. The bones cracked and snapped, scattering across the floor.
“Found the guard dog,” Olu muttered.
Stepping carefully over the last dying sparks, ducking carefuly beneath spears embedded in the wall and carefully making her way round the last green embers, Enitan made her way to the door at the opposite end.
“It’s unlocked,” Olu said. “You smell that? That’s money, baby.”
Enitan cleared her throat, took a deep breath, and swiped the door aside with the palm of one gloved hand.
The chamber inside was little bigger than the interior of The Origami Elephant. A single green light gave the room a dim, sickening atmosphere. The walls were smooth metal and various shelves and alcoves retreated into each wall filled with various minor trinkets. She grabbed a handful of red gems from one shelf and stuffed them into her pocket. Rotted scraps of leather or paper curled in frames and a blinking display listed what might have been names in that same unknown language.
In the centre of the space was a silver sarcophagus connected to a mess of snaking silver pipes and wires.
“Traps?” she asked as she stepped closer.
“None I can see,” Olu replied.
She approached the small tinted window in its face and wiped at it with her glove. She could feel a dull heat from within. Pressing her face against the dark glass, she peered inside the sarcophagus. It was empty.
“Warn…” was all Olu managed to say before she was suddenly aware of strong limbs wrapping around her.
Enitan screamed, some being crushing her against itself as it lifted her feet from the ground. She kicked and wriggled against the strength of this attacker, bending and bracing herself against the arms tightly sealed around her. She got glimpses of a tall, sinewy humanoid, wrapped in metallic ribbons. The figure wheezed and snarled as she twisted and turned in his grip, managing to touch her toes to the floor and push them both back.
Then Olu unleashed a burst of electricity and both of them fell to the floor twitching and yelping. Enitan rolled aside as her body spasmed and found herself staring at the waxy face of a corpse. Lifeless grey eyes stared back at her. Odd, rotten teeth emerged from sunken gums. A shining silver jackal head atop his own.
“That’s why you buy bootleg baby,” Olu barked at the attacker. “You think the academy poo poo does that? Boom!”
The attacker continued to writhe as Enitan stumbled awkwardly to her feet.
“This guy wake up when we landed, you think?” she asked.
Olu made the audio equivalent of a shrug.
“How dare you strike me?” the half-living thing on the floor hissed.
“Oh poo poo, you speak English?” Enitan asked.
“I am God Pharaoh Esphamat, who are you, grave robber?”
“Enitan Igwe, this is my AI, Olu Igwe.”
Esphamat regarded the black orb at her hip for a moment, then shook his head.
“Why are you here? What right do you have to be within my personal chamber?” he snarled, slowly rising.
Enitan casually drew her weapon - also bootleg - and levelled it towards the Pharaoh as he stumbled to the wall and supported himself against one of the shelves.
“We intended to strip this thing of valuables.”
“You would steal from the final resting place of a God Pharaoh? Have you no shame? No honour?”
“Kana hauku!” she spat. “We thought this place was empty.”
One of his legs appeared to have broken in the scuffle, but as she watched, the flailing end slipped back into place and healed. Come to think of it, Esphamat seemed altogether to be regenerating. The bones and leather that had once been beneath the ribbons of metal, were now wane and sunken flesh. The dull, stone eyes now glowed with faint blue light.
“We thought this heap of junk was just full of space junk,” Enitan said.
“It is just full of space junk,” Olu added.
“This ‘heap of junk’ is my final resting place and these are the possessions sent with me on the long journey into unknown space.” He motioned to the coffin in the centre of the room. “After unknown eons in the infinite, I have come across life and I learn that life seeks to plunder my tomb.”
“Relax,” Enitan said.
Eyes as blue as mountain streams glared from within a face that now contained the first warm glimmers of health. The Pharaoh was rejuvenating. She considered blasting a hole in his chest, if only to slow down the regeneration of his tissues. The corpse was rapidly becoming a person and that made everything that her and Olu were there to do a lot more complicated.
“Cut our losses and run?” Olu whispered.
The door slammed shut with a hiss.
“There is no fleeing from the Pharaoh,” Esphamat smiled. His lips were now full and soft. His voice had richness.
“I have awakened beyond death and proven the eternal reign of the God Kings! I will transmit my location to my people and they will follow - they will rejoice at my rebirth and your people will rejoice as we enslave you.”
“Blast him?” Olu asked but Esphamat had already pulled the trigger.
A flash of pink illuminated the cell and the Pharaoh’s shoulder dissolved like melting ice. His facial expression did not change.
“Uh oh,” Olu said.
“Yeah, we hosed?” Enitan asked through the corner of her mouth.
“Perhaps. I’m trying to hack the door down but it’s not budging. Stall.”
The God King launched forward, arms swinging together and Etinan rolled beneath them, clattered against the sarcophagus, her leg tangling in one of the coiled wires that webbed around it. She kicked and struggled, eventually freeing herself and firing another shot that didn’t even penetrate the God King’s skin.
“No, I understand your weapon now,” he smiled. His teeth were straight and pristine in pink healthy gums. His face glowed with vigor. Loose curls of dark hair spilled out from beneath the headdress.
Etinan dug her hands into her pack and loosed a handful of silver glitter in the air. She shielded her eyes and ducked behind the sarcophagus as a wave of heat erupted. The Pharaoh roared into the flash as it scorched his face, then flailed wildly back and forth with clawed hands. Etinan ducked and weaved away but slowly found herself backed into a corner, trapped between two banks of consoles. Olu clicked and whirred and they were cocooned within a shield of light.
“Any ideas?” he asked as the God King slammed his body against the shield again and again.
“I got nothing,” she sighed, watching the cracks cobwebbing across the shield.
One hand burst through the light and wrapped around her throat.
Pharaoh Esphemat lifted her effortlessly by the neck and began to choke the life from her. Kicking and writhing helplessly, Etinan’s pack escaped her fingertips and the remnants of her inventory spilled across the floor. She could hear Olu calling her and as her vision blurred she didn’t know whether it was the AI or the real Olu beckoning on.
She felt the briefest sliver of life-giving air fill her lungs. Blurrily, the God King staring down at the floor. His fingertips parted slightly.
“What’s that?” he asked, pointing at the two joints that Olu had rolled for her back on the Origami Elephant.
Etinan struggled to speak and he released his grip a little more. Cool, merciful oxygen poured down into her lungs like lifegiving water.
“I can... show you,” she managed to croak.
“gently caress yeah!” Etinan laughed hysterically as the Pharaoh took a long drag and wheezed the smoke into the rafters of The Origami Elephant.
Thumping bass pounded the walls. Behind them, dragged on pink light fibres, the pyramid sailed as a silent passenger.
“Fuuuuck,” Esphamat exhaled. “Okay, I’m so fat. Okay, what’s next?”
The table hummed for a moment and the dirty dishes retreated, and were replaced.
“Seafood afang with fufu,” Etinan said.
The Pharaoh watched as she rolled a ball within her hands and dipped it into the soup, then lifted it to her mouth.
Cautiously, he copied her, then banged one first on the table excitedly. He licked his lips and returned to the bowl. With his mouth still full, he removed the great silver jackal head and rustled his thick dark hair beneath. He tossed his headpiece onto the sofa and kicked off his ancient leather boots.
“Sell all that poo poo, buy more weed and more of this food. You guys looking for another crewmate?”
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 07:44|
Girlfriend from Another Dimension
Bat Fangs: "Turn it Up"
We chatted together on Thirdspace for about five months and she never mentioned that she was, you know. But I could tell. I mean, even before I believed, I could tell she was on the inside of it, of the joke. She wasn't one of the ones dropping the ur-memes, the ones we thought were playing this cool deepfake prank. But she helped spread them, and unlike me and everyone else I knew she never got the context wrong.
And she didn't seem to have any other socials outside Thirdspace. That was also a clue. No Tilyn97 anywhere else online.
It started with her commenting on one of the Glory ur-memes. You know the one, her with that skinny glass scimitar coming up out of the grass and looking like a hundred percent stone goddess. 'The exact moment when you know / that you're going to horny jail'. Of course it mostly wasn't the text. It was the picture itself, that first moment of believing. Seeing her, not the character but the actress, that much pretty and sexy and pure charisma in a single still, with no hint of the uncanny, and knowing that if this person existed in our dimension everyone would know her name.
But it was a little bit about the text, because that was me. J.L., on Thirdspace. Horny J.L. sometimes, even, when I was doing the online extrovert overcompensation thing that mousy shy girls like me sometimes do, which was a lot of the time. Glory of Antibor was #goals.
So that was my first contact with Tilyn. Of course, that was just another meme, just another moment of feeling seen. Not an actual contact. That was later, on one of the chat servers on Thirdspace. There were dozens of them, maybe hundreds, and at first I was dipping in and out of as many as I could, but as time went by I wound up going back to RainbowFleet more and more. You find communities, or they find you. And that's where I started getting to know Tilyn.
And the others, of course. There were about a dozen of us in the core of RainbowFleet, plus twice that many who came and went, and we didn't just talk about that franchise of ur-meme sources. After the first month or so we hardly talked about it at all. We just, you know, shared our lives. Celebrated birthdays and new jobs, complained about family and jobs, grieved together. Always behind pseudonyms or first names only. But we knew each other.
The first time Tilyn and I chatted privately was when she came out to her parents. I was the only one online at the time who had been through that before. She was scared out of her head and didn't have anyone to talk to. "I mean, can't talk to Katie since she just dumped me and made it so I can't really stay in Bagger House much longer
which means I have to go home
or else live on the street. But if I do I have to explain why.
and I can't lie to them
but what if they, what if Dad sends me
I mostly listened. Read. You know. I had some advice to give. I'd been there, both with the family thing, where I was basically disowned after Mom passed and Dad could stop pretending to understand, and also being briefly homeless after a breakup. She wanted to know about that, so I spent a long time going over my three weeks couchsurfing. She wasn't in school, not even in a college town, so I don't think much of it applied. But she seemed calmer as I went on.
"Did Mel ever take you back?"
I had mostly flown by the breakup. It still hurt a little. But she picked up who did the dumping and whose fault it all was. Everyone in that community got good at reading between the lines. "No."
"I don't think Siona will either."
She thanked me, and I was worried all night and into the next day until I got a ping. Her parents, it turned out, were not just chill they were full-on ride-or-die for her. Didn't know already, didn't have a clue even, year and a half roommate situation notwithstanding. But they went from zero to trying to set her up with the nice young lady doctor that they always wondered about that way. But she had a roof over her head, which was what mattered.
We chatted a lot after that. Long talks. Often flirty. We shared pics, no nudes, lots of faces, a bit of cleavage. Neither of us ever brought up meeting IRL. She told me, a week before it went all over Thirdspace. That she, and about half of the people on the site, were from another dimension, a different history that diverged somewhere in the eighties.
I was a believer, because I believed in her. That she wouldn't lie to me. That if this was some huge prank she would have told me that a week before. Things got ugly on most of the groups for a while after that. Flamewars. Armies of new-registered trolls fanning the flames on both sides. Even RainbowFleet got a little unbearable until the loudest pro-hoax voices took a hint and logged off or kept quiet. That's how it calmed down, communities dividing off. Most of the nonbelievers found offsites, where they were allowed to connect the 'hoax' to the other nasty conspiracy theories that lurked in those kind of online spaces.
But now that it was out there, people could ask questions, learn about the other history of the last forty years. The big world events were all different but similar. They had the same set of boomers we did, just shuffling who was in what office when. They had their big pandemic earlier, didn't have a Nine-Eleven in New York but a Galveston Bay Incident in '03, with a different series of dumb wars afterward.
Bob Dylan died young. That one hit me hardest, of all the changes. That and no Harry Potter. She just wrote a few mysteries and was done. Kurt Cobain is still alive. Nirvana was a one-hit wonder, but his other projects had a big following. And everyone born after about 1987 doesn't exist there. Maybe a few people got the same name, but not the same DNA.
The last thing she said to me was that there was a way to cross over. A way to move people, not just some low bandwidth data from here to there. Said that if I was interested, I should come to Toronto, where the Thirdspace servers were, and gave me a pass code.
I didn't answer. It was too big. Looking objectively at it, there wasn't much keeping me here. I already mentioned my poo poo family and the breakup that still had most people in my peer group considering me the villain. (Even, somehow, Margaret, the one I cheated with. I never understood how that worked. She knew what we were doing.) But it was just too big.
The next day they shut down Thirdspace. It was all over the news, not just a quirky web thing explained for boomers and gen xers, a full on story exposing this long con, this weird Canadian cult-like community practicing deep fake technology, building complex chatbots that could ace the Turing test but still weren't really AIs, all in service of some sinister scheme or other. I could never figure out what the endgame could have been, couldn't see any profit in it except maybe eventually trying to sell Glory of Antibor books and movies, Rainbow Fleet TV seasons, and all the other properties from the ur-memes. But the news and government people insisted there was something truly sinister to it all.
I cried myself to sleep. Then I woke up, emptied out my bank account, and bought a ticket to Toronto.
The building was still there, still running for now. They had lawyers, and the kind of things take time. There were still employees around. There was someone who recognized the pass code, someone who took me to the basement. I wasn't the only one. There were twenty of us in this group, twenty refugees going this way.
I had to give up everything. You can't take anything with you, I was told. My clothes, my money, my identification would go to someone going the other way when they got here. We stood there, naked, mostly covering up shyly with our hands, wondering if we hadn't gotten mixed up in a cult. Then the wall in front of us shimmered into a pool of light, and we stepped across.
They gave us gowns on the other side. I put mine on, drew the belt tight. Someone handed me a pair of glasses, close enough to my prescription. I looked around and I saw Tilyn waiting for me.
I smiled. I walked forward. There was kissing. A good way to start a new life, kissing someone you've wanted to kiss for months. Would do again, would recommend, would. Would. Would.
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 07:53|
For Rio: keep making things cozy.
crabrock fucked around with this message at 07:04 on Dec 6, 2021
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 07:58|
Results for Week 486: I want my MTD!
You did it! Thank you all for saving MTD. I know I speak for Rohan, Weltlich and myself when I say we all expect you to have long and successful careers as FJs at this station.
Well, not Flesnolk obviously, who FAILED you, and us, and Actress, by not meeting the deadline. So congrats to the rest of you for not failing us.
And, if we are being fair, maybe a few others won’t be hosting their own shows anytime soon. We here at MTD were in agreement that the LOSS went to Amars snore about college kids, a flashlight, and “perhaps the most boring description of gun violence I’ve come across in a long time” according to one of the judges.
The judges also felt that Tyrannosaurus deserved a DISHONORABLE MENTION for a story that felt phoned in, too long, and “an obviously talented writer wasting our time with something they didn't care about.” This will be a week with a few no mentions, and it didn’t feel fair to those stories to have this one as a no mention as well.
Which leads us to The man called M, who receives this week’s other DISHONORABLE MENTION. However, they also receive an “honorary” (and in no means official) honorable mention as well. The entry has major problems, but all three judges were in agreement that it showed significant improvement. We see you trying, and we appreciate it.
Truth be told, there probably could have been four to five honorable mentions this week. I think all of us had different stories we might have individually picked as an HM. But the music flash business is a harsh mistress, so in the end the sole HONORABLE MENTION goes to Carl Killer Miller for a story that starts out rough, but it’s strong characters, stronger pacing and perfect description of the assigned song won us over. FJ HellReign liked it so much that hell has requested you become hell’s full time apprentice. Hopefully we see you again at the holiday party.
Also, before we end things, we here at MTD want to remind you that we are a family focused station, and we take our parental policy here seriously. It takes a village to raise a little music nerd, and in that respect we want to mention how insane your fellow FJ in training Chili is for busting out an entry in the labor room, let alone something that all three judges found personally moving.
Which leaves us with Crabrock, this week’s unanimous winner. So unanimous that we really didn’t even talk about your story much, so you will have to wait for your critiques to be showered in accolades. It was disgustingly great (hair raising even), and you paid true honor to Gulch with your heroic tale of a hirsute husband.
So congrats to all who entered, we truly enjoyed reading your stories this week.
And congrats again to Crabrock. This makes it three wins in a row, which according to Rohan, don’t quote me on it has only been accomplished once before in TD history.
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 23:47|
Week 487: Ponderdome
*thanks to idiotlord for week image
wow wizard pondering memes sure are big right now. but let's not forget that thunderdome was in on this poo poo early, because we're trendsetters!
IF 61 PEOPLE SUBMIT STORIES FOR THIS WEEK I WILL DISAPPEAR INTO THE WILDERNESS AND NEVER RETURN
sign up to receive AN ORB of mystical power or ability. you will write about this orb IN THE LITERAL SENSE. this orb exists in your story and it is a focal point of your story not just sitting on a shelf somewhere. this is a daily-use, utilitarian orb. orbs are like a smart phone for a wizard so yeah they be using that poo poo all the time. some of these orbs are janky ok, don't expect them all to be winners.
this is a fun week so go fuckin hog wild with your silly weird poo poo
sign up by: friday dec 3 11:59pm PST
submit by: sunday dec 5 11:59pm PST
+200 words: submit by sunday dec 5 11:59am PST
sometimes when you ponder, the orb ponders back:
01. SurreptitiousMuffin - one salty orb
02. rohan - big shiny orb
03. Chernobyl Princess - bumpy orb
04. cptn_dr - some sort of power orb
05. Thranguy - interdimensional orb
06. sparksbloom - kingly orb
07. sebmojo - squish orb
08. Beezus - cheese orb
09. curlingiron - orb of prophecy
10. Yoruichi - bitey orb
11. a friendly penguin - touching orbs
12. t a s t e - yarn orb
13. derp - boob orb
14. Carl Killer Miller - weird orb
15. Flesnolk - love orb
16. Albatrossy_Rodent - chaos orb
17. The man called M - resort orb
18. My Shark Waifu - gross nature orb
19. flerp - science orb
20. Antivehicular - fossil orb
21. ChickenOfTomorrow - sickness orb
22. Chairchucker - tire orb
23. Captain_Indigo - death orb
24. Azza Bamboo - orb farm
25. QuoProQuid - corn on the orb
26. Gorka - teratoma orb
27. Idle Amalgam - wasp orb
28. crimea - orb 2.0
29. Taletel - stuck head orb
30. J.A.B.C. - plasma orb
31. Dr. Kloctopussy - frog orb
32. Uranium Phoenix - birb orb
crabrock fucked around with this message at 06:00 on Dec 6, 2021
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:26|
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:29|
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:31|
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:33|
I am IN to ORB
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:34|
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:37|
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:37|
Fuckin orb me bitch
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:42|
In for horbz week.
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:42|
help i’m being pulled in to orb it
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:43|
oh gently caress somebody dropped this orb into the ocean now it's got water inside i hope it still works?!
this orb is too big and too shiny! how tf can you even use an orb like that?
this orb is weird and bumpy i don't wanna meet the wizard who owns this orb!
I am IN to ORB
this orb is weird and spinny and has lots of lights we definitely shouldn't touch it probably ok but only a little bit!
wtf?! this orb seems to change shape at whim! what a strange orb!
oh yeah this orb is very regal and important looking! nice orb!
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 00:50|
Fuckin orb me bitch
wow do you do incantations to your orb with that mouth?
you got this weird squish orb. i hope it's not rotten or something
In for horbz week.
ah gently caress this orb smells like cheese. like a lot. people keep loving complaining about it
help i’m being pulled in to orb it
you have made demands of the orb, and the orb of prophecy answers back.
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 01:11|
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 01:12|
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 01:14|
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 01:16|
|# ? Jan 25, 2022 01:04|
it is very hard to use this orb for spells because it moves around a lot and also is bitey!
ah gently caress there is something wrong with these orbs they are touching but also i kinda like it i dunno brb doing some soul searching
look it's a privilege to get a nice orb, but some people don't have that luxury so they have to make their own orbs and that's ok
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 01:24|