Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
  • Post
  • Reply
Dec 30, 2011

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

The Late Bloomer
712 words
G71. Unnatural children eat parent.


Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 03:20 on Jan 5, 2022


Apr 12, 2006
R212.1. Man buried alive with king escapes from the tomb.

750 words


Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 14:40 on Jan 10, 2022

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018
The Stork in Cairo
796 wordss

“I wish I was older,” said young Totoes, seemingly alone, with his feet hanging over the steep banks of the Nile. Sunset rays beamed between the golden bulrushes. Totoes Sighed, “I could take care of my father, if I was older.”

“And who’s gonna take care of you, huh?” sounded a small voice from the reeds.
“Excuse me?” said Totoes, who leapt to his feet. He sifted through the rushes, trampling toward the voice of the unseen eavesdropper.
“You heard me,” said the little voice, “who’ll look after you?”
“I’ll be all grown up!” Said Totoes, “I’ll look after myself.”
Totoes parted the last of the rushes, almost stepping into the water of the Nile, where a stork waded.
“You sure?” said the stork, "okay, then…”

In a flash of light, the stork took the form of a strong, handsome man. He said “When you wake up tomorrow, You’ll be big and strong like me. Meanwhile, I’ll be you, and we’ll see who helps your dad most.” Totoes started backwards, falling over the rushes.
“Deal?” said the stork.
Totoes thought for a while about the feats he could achieve with so muscular a form. How he could lift boulders with such mighty strength!
“Deal!” Said Totoes.

Totoes woke in a tent; muscular; adult. Empty beds lay beside him, and the morning sun fingered through the tent flap.
“YOU’RE LATE!” said the man with the cane in his hand, “GET TO WORK!” and he batted beefy Totoes out to the quarry, where hundreds were cutting stone into blocks, to be dragged for miles on the desert sands.
“Aw, what a jerk that stork is,” said Totoes.

The stork woke in the young boy’s body, in the dirtwall house, with Totoes’s father laying infirm on the bed at the other side of the room. “Morning, Totoes,” said the bearded man. “Remember to eat some bread before you go out and play, okay?” He said. The stork looked upon the last slice of flatbread —the only trace of food in this whole house— and could hear children giggling, playing in the streets outside.
“Hell yeah!” he thought, “I get to do kid stuff!”

The stork played tag with the other children, and kicked butt while playing games with spheria, then they walked to the banks of the Nile and plucked the last of the dry bulrushes. They peeled the brown fuzz from the reeds, and watch it expand into a white cloud of seeds caught on the autumn winds.

“Your dad still sick?” Asked Vanessa, a young girl covered in bulrush feathers.
“Yeah, and we’ve run out of food,” said the stork.
“You know,” said Alec, an older boy, “If you catch a fish, the old man on the banks will give you four flatbreads for it.”
“Yeah!” said Vanessa, “Let’s catch a fish!”

Totoes, in his manly-manly body, knocked on the door of his father’s house. “I’ve heard you’re unwell, and I came here to help,” said Totoes.
“You’ve heard wrong!” said the bearded man, “I need no help.”
“Really?” said Totoes, “you’re better now?! Let me in so I can see!”
“I’m not getting out of bed for no stranger,” said the man.
Totoes sighed, “I see.”
“Your fire isn’t burning, sir” said Totoes, “and it’s getting cold.”
“I’m free be cold in my own home with no fire,” said Totoes’s father. “Now piss off!”

Totoes walked away from his home, shivering as the sunset drew in. His stomach growled and he ached from the day’s hard labour at the quarry. Then came the children, giggling, and the stork in Totoes’s body, who said, “you look hungry.” He offered Totoes a share of the bread and uncooked fish. “I’m too young to start a fire, though,” said the stork, “if you could do that for me, we could feed you, dad, and my friends.”

As they sat down for their meal, Totoes asked the stork, “How’d you get all those fish?”
“I had some help,” said the stork, “also I cheated: I’m a stork, remember?”
“You’re a jerk is what you are,” said Totoes.
“True, but did you get to help your dad at all?”
“No,” said Totoes, “he wouldn’t let me.”
“And that’s what I’m getting at,” said the stork.
“Yeah,” said Totoes, “thanks for your help.”
“Yeah,” said the stork “and thanks for letting me be you for a day: I had a lot of fun playing games instead of being a father.”

That night, Totoes and the stork returned to their bodies, and the stork stole the remaining fish to feed his children. The next day, it appeared to snow, but it doesn’t snow in Cairo. It was, in fact, a dying plague of locusts that piled on the city like snow.

The End.

Prompt: Storks become men in Egypt in the winter.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

764 words

Prompt: S147.1.1. Abandonment on cliff near nest of a bird.

I stood on a crag in a haze of variegated snow.

I looked over my shoulder. I saw a door, almost thrumming with heat through the blur of frost. No, not frost: drifting flakes of tealeaf and silk, mingled with a razored hail of amber and quartz, all dropping in jerks and fits to the twisting stone of the cliffs.

I turned away, barely considering the door. From my low ground, I could barely make out the nest. I wondered how the egg within it could survive the storm, but my concern was idle, negligible:

The egg was there; I knew it. And, with a mechanism as intrinsic and automatic as breathing, I knew that I had to possess it, no matter the cost. I walked forward, gripped the rock, and hauled myself up.

The wind blew harder, and I closed my eyes against the jeweled gale. When I opened them the bluffs had grown dimmer, the starlight halved.

There, another certainty blossomed in my mind: with each blink, each visual retreat from the world I beheld, the sky would undertake a celestial excision, and again, and again, until a terminal blink brought the departure of all light, all creation, and the egg dead along with it.

I knew this now, but it all came so easily; had I known it before?

I found a steady rhythm, climbing higher. The alloyed sleet fell hard, lacerating my pupils and carving miniscule contrails of pitch into my vision. I tried to resist the pain, tried to wrench my eyes open against the barrage.

In torturous, blinding agony, I failed.

I closed my eyes and pulled myself upward, my fingers playing over aches and pits and nodes, until I found a hold. I reached up again, but my hands grasped air; I stumbled, and beheld the glimmering abyss far below the darkened cliffs.

It looked sick, pulsing and beating with the rhythm of a failing heart. As my foot skidded over the edge; I subsumed another absolute truth: I could fall, but the fall would not be infinite, and at the bottom lay oblivion, solitary and piteous. And then, one last thunderbolt: I had fallen before, once, or a thousand times.

I heaved over a ledge and came to a long, narrow mesa flanked with a panoply of doors: one falciform and dripping with amber honey, one moaning a mouthless song, another a ragged hollow in the great dead sky. I defied them all and a hundred more, striding forward with my eyes wide open.

I was close, so close. And there, over a final sedimentary shelf: the nest. I stepped toward it and caught a flash of twilight, something winged and diaphanous and ignorant to any ceaseless current of time. It claimed the clifftop, putting an infinite span between my outstretched hands and the egg.

Its command sept through the sutures of my skull:

“Deliver your wisdom.”

I pursed my lips and considered the vanishing suns, the slow death in a closed eye.

“I must consider what lies ahead, though creation is painful to behold.”

The great thing quavered.


Next, the lesson of the fall.

“The void is no departure, and nothingness is no manner of mercy.”

A segmented eye emerged from its roiling bulk. The orb turned in a contorted socket, each mirrored facet scrutinizing me for a moment, then whirling away as another plane presented itself. Its voice, again:


Then, the hall of passages.

“There is no victory in an exit, no curiosity greater than the possession of what I desire.”

It huffed and a burst of viridian embers mingled with the falling snow. The voice came slower now, almost remorseful.

“Yet again, so close. And if I tell you that the item of your greatest avarice is a toxin, venom for the soul and rot for the spirit, what then?”

I gritted my teeth; the egg was so close at hand.

“I must have it.”

The mammoth creature shuddered, sucking itself away from the clifftop and trailing pools of mirrored glass. Its voice, in resignation, a final time:

“So it has been.”

In a roil of smoke and light, it burst from the cliff.

I did not pause to watch its departure; I ran to the aerie. I clutched at its writhing boughs, ignorant of any lesson, of any deliverance, of anything but my all-consuming yearning. Then, at last, I gazed inside the nest. But there was no egg, no object of my most ravenous desire.

Instead I saw a man, standing on a crag in a haze of variegated snow.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


J861. Consolation for misfortune found in food.

A Bum's Christmas
546 Words
How long has it been since I had a place I could call home? Other than the shelter, I don’t remember.

To basically pass the time I spend some time with the local bums. We light an oil drum at the local alleyway and talk for who knows how long. It’s the place you want to be if you want to spend some time with some drunk smelly assholes, especially since I’m one myself.

I was one of those poor fools who had booze destroy their life. What went from a drink with the lads turned into an obsession. All that potential wasted down the drain. Like many obsessions, I couldn’t just stop. And my life turned to poo poo because of it. Obviously, I knew I wasn’t the only guy with that problem, but I felt I was truly alone. Luckily, I met a few fellow drunk smelly assholes, and they became some of my closest friends. If we were going to suffer, then by God, we were going to suffer together.
It was at the alleyway where I found comradery, but it was the local Reverend who showed me hope. Every Tuesday night, he would stop by to give the Good Word to us. He would not only give the Word, but help us out, and make sure we were okay. I can safely say that the man was God in action. He even introduced us to the local shelter, where we could get ourselves a good night’s sleep. Which was kind of thing many of us haven’t had in years.

At first, I honestly thought that most folks find us bums to be creepy and not worth their time. But one moment in December showed me that it wasn’t always the case. Since it was your average December, it was snowing. The Reverend came over to the alleyway close to Christmas, and several people were there with him. They each had a book in their hand, and after everyone came, they huddled up in a corner, and they all opened their books. It was that time that we heard them all sing, “God Bless ye Merry Gentlemen”. They were Caroling to us. Of all the people who were perhaps more deserving, and they were Caroling to us. Sure, some of them sounded like they were not singers by trade, but what they lacked in talent, they made up with in heart. Afterwards, the Reverend wished us a Merry Christmas, and the Carolers all said Merry Christmas, as well.

Afterwards, the Carolers started to leave. I turned away, trying to get to a corner of the Alleyway. It was at that moment, that a little girl that was with the Carolers tugged on my clothes. I turned towards her, and she offered me a chocolate chip cookie.

“Merry Christmas!” The girl said, as she gave me it. I took it from her, thankful for her gift.

“Thank you, dearie! Merry Christmas!” The girl left, probably to join her parents. I took a bite of the cookie. It was delicious. Through them, I saw that perhaps there are truly good people that care about folks like us. That simple thought brought me to tears. Perhaps there are folks that do care about a bum like me.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

F57.2. Person's tongue as path to sky.

Ad Astra Per Linguam

800 words

Space travel is easy. All you have to do is say the name of your destination planet and you're on your way. That's the real name, mind. Not a vulgar name borrowed from some dead god. The real name, which is generally about twenty syllables most of which aren't sounds used in any living languages. Still, loads easier than messing with propellants and tin cans and orbital mechanics.

The other thing about space travel is that it can hurt. A lot. You're flashing through a series of points between the worlds most of which are full of hard vacuum and cosmic rays. Ideally you want a spaceship, or at least full scuba gear. But when you need to get off world while being chased by a dozen of Emperor Mortoi's elite guards across the Sebrian Bridge, feeling electraspike needles whizzing past your head, you can count yourself lucky if you manage to pull your goggles down from your forehead. That's where I was, trilling out the last few letters of the real name of Astarte wearing a formal dinner suit and jacket, torn at the knees and ripped across the chest. That and a leather engineer's hat. Way too much exposed skin. 

The good news is that the long term risk of melanoma is way lower than you might think. The bad news is that that's because the layers of skin that are getting a killer sunburn are also being frozen and bursting apart from vacuum exposure. Did I mention that it hurt? It does. A lot. The killer sunburn, lungs that feel like you've been in a plague ward, ears deaf and ringing for hours. At least I had the goggles. The last thing you want to throw on there is blind eyes bleeding down your face. Especially here.

Astarte is one of the old worlds. Just like the first traveller's thought Baal, the place I just came from must be Mars, what with the red deserts and canals and the ancient decadent empire, Asante got mistaken for Venus at first. Jungle so thick there's no space to stand carpeting the surface. Predators everywhere. And up three miles above the canopies where the air is just the right amount of thick and muggy, you have the real planet. Airships, floating cities and fortresses. Even guys in wingsuits everywhere.

When you reach your destination you end up on a solid surface. There are markings that can be put onto a floor that will attract space travellers so long as it's open to the sky.. On Baal they put them on customs houses. On Horus they're in ancient temples, some of them days of cold travel from the nearest settlement. On Astarte nearly ever capital ship has them on their deck.

I came down on the deck of the Arclight Avenger, still at a full run and not more than a dozen yards from the edge. This is a sublevital class of airship: the balloons go on the bottom. A big flat deck on top for launching wingsuit marines and flittlerships. So most of the edge has little or no safety railing. You've got to be aware of this kind of thing, be ready to stop running or turn the second you land. I turned, right into a couple of the ship's crew.

Getting captured is an occupational hazard of space travel. The good news is that you're a valuable asset and they're unlikely to harm you, excepting a few hard cases who refuse to believe that you don't know a particular world's name. The bad news is that if they don't trust you they'll watch you, twenty-four seven or local equivalent. No names are short enough that you could ever say one in less time than your handler can make you shut up, so that works. But it means you have strange goons watching you sleep and dress. Which was where I was. The Baalian court dress was space-damaged and didn't even make useful rags. I had to swap it for a Arc Corporation rankless uniform while a pair of burly airmen watched ever minute. Professional, at least. Kept their eyes on my mouth.

After that it was dinner with the captain. I'm looking forward to it. I have a bonding agreement with a few Astartean corporations. Not Arc, and certainly not Heavenspear, but a few. One of them has got to be on working terms with Arc, and they can make arrangements over the wireless once they get near an open tower. Get my privacy back, get some paying work. Get closer to affording a Horan mnemologist.

See, after my first trip I forgot the name of Earth. I knew it, but it won't come out anymore. It's always right there, on the tip.of my tongue.

Jul 29, 2007

"That’s cheating! You know the rules: once you sacrifice something here, you don’t get it back!"

E251.4.3. Vampire with eyes of owls.

(782 words)

Samira opened the door, the smile already fading from her face. Her thick hair was swept back by a rush of frigid air.

“gently caress’s sake, Daniel,” she said.

Daniel stood unshivering in the cold. He was dressed in a torn t-shirt, black jeans and mismatched army boots. Thick sunglasses shielded his eyes and his hair stuck to his skin with sweat. .

“Hi Samira,” he said, scratching his arm. “Merry Christmas.”

She wrapped her dressing gown tighter, then stepped out into the front garden.

“Merry Christmas, Daniel,” she said patiently. “How are you?”

He attempted a smile. His skin was pearl.

“Good, good, really good,” he said. Again, the scratching.

“Mhmm,” she said.

“Are the kids in?”

Samira felt a terrible pang of sympathy. No. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair to him either, but it wasn’t fair to her or to the kids or to Ash, who was a really good guy.

“They are, Daniel, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

A single tear rolled down from behind his sunglasses and stained his porcelaine cheek.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, probably right,” he said.

A long silence descended, as heavy as a blanket.

“So… um,” he began.

“Do you need money?” she asked

“What? No!” Daniel spat.

“What then?” she said. “Why are you here?”

Daniel looked as if he was going to keep protesting, but then his whole body slumped. He sat down on the cold, hard ground and sighed.

“Look,” he said. “It’s so cold this time of year.”

“So a blanket then? You want a blanket?” Samira said.

Daniel glared. The sunglasses shifted down his nose and for a split-second, his eyes were visible. They were huge, the pupils as dark as the night sky held within a ring of vibrant orange. They were beautiful and terrifying.

“I wouldn’t normally… just it’s Christmas Sam…I was just wondering if I could have a little?”

Samira leant against the wall and closed her eyes.

“You’re asking for blood,” she said. It was not a question.

“Normally, we’d… I’d… take it from drifters. I pay them for it. Only…a lot of them are homeless and I’m worried they’ll freeze to death after. For God’s sake, Sam, don’t look at me like I’m going to hurt you or something.”

“I don’t know what you’re going to do. You turn up here unannounced on Christmas Eve, strung out and desperate…”

“I’m not a loving monster!” Daniel spat back. “I’m not a junkie.”

The door creaked open. Ash stepped out of the house, a look of concern on his face. He was tall, wearing an apron covered in flour handprints.

“Look mate, maybe it’s about time you were going, eh?” he said.

“No, actually Ash, since I bought this house and it’s my family in there, and since I just want to talk to the mother of my children for a moment, maybe you should be going, eh?”

Ash went to place a hand on his shoulder. Daniel hissed and suddenly the two of them were rolling across the garden, Daniel swiping at the larger man with his fists. Samira screamed, a frail and somehow lacking sound that echoed across the lonely street. After a few seconds, Ash pushed Daniel away and stood up.

“Look, you want blood? Take some of mine, then gently caress off,” he said.

“No,” Samira sighed.

“It doesn’t work like that,” Daniel snapped.

“You need to be the right blood type,” Samira explained.

“What blood type are you?” Daniel asked, a tremor of desperation in his voice.

“Not the right kind for you,” Samira snapped. She was dabbing at Ash’s cheek, there was a scratch running from his chin to his ear.

“Samira, please, I don’t need…”

“Just go, Daniel!” she shouted. “Just…please just leave.”

Daniel opened his mouth. Closed it. Sighed.

“Fine. I… sorry.” He turned and walked out of the garden. “Sorry Ash, I didn’t…. you seem like a decent bloke.”

Ash gave him an uncomfortable nod. Daniel nodded in return and slowly made his way down the street.

“It’s not my fault!” Samira called after him. “It’s not fair to want me to be guilty, Daniel. You’re the one who decided not to die.”

Down the street, squatting behind a dark green electricity box, a wretched figure glanced up at him.

“How’d it go?” the figure asked.

“No. My wife says no. Her boyfriend offered…but he’s not a match.”

“gently caress,” the other figure said. “Oh well, you know who will match?”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. The other figure smiled a grin of sharp teeth.

“The children, Daniel. The children will always be a match!”

The December wind howled and Daniel tried to fight back the intense, overpowering thirst.

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

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

Submissions are closed. Thanks to Yoruichi for volunteering to judge. One more judge slot is still open if anyone wants it.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


Hunting Alone
720 words

The moon unlocked, and then came the red.

Dark-lapped stone tile ringed a hazy pool. Ground spices wafted through the air. Festival berries filled baskets, hung from tree limbs, drenched red in the moonlight.

Then the red moon broke, and, breaking, it shattered the stars.

In this night to end night, a dark-skinned man, with black hair, and a red beard, and a hard heart, came to the forest. He wore only furs, and he carried only a sword. And as he walked, the sword shimmered red in the moonlight, shimmered like the fur of the wolf, shimmered like the end of days. And as he walked, the forest shuddered. And as he walked, the ground shook.

The man looked up and saw the sky, and in it the stars sparkled red. A wolf's howl pierced the night.

The dark-skinned man felt a breeze, and stepped, and turned, as a white owl came flapping madly just past his head. He swung his sword, and the owl was cut in two, and fell to the forest floor, and there it glimmered red.

The man walked on until he came to the pool, and he stepped into it, and it pressed dark and warm on his skin. The red moon broke again, and again, and the red shards fell like rain, and the shards lit the forest, and the shards scorched the sky. The man stood in the center of the pool, and he peered into the depths, and the depths peered up at him. And the water churned, and the water boiled, and the water bubbled up from the bottom of the pool.

A red wolf came darting in, and the man swung his sword, but the wolf ducked below, and came splashing out onto the other side.

"You were lucky, wolf," the man muttered.

"Not luck," the wolf replied.

"What does a wolf know of luck?"

"I was a man like you, once," the wolf said, eyeing him from atop the dark-slick stones.

"What happened?" the man asked, and he gripped his sword tight.

"I died," the wolf said. "But this moon brought me back." Then the wolf lifted its shaggy head and howled.

"Then you are the one I have been looking for," the man said, and raised his sword. "But it has brought you to the wrong place. I am the slayer of wolves, the bringer of death. I will end this curse."

But the wolf only growled, teeth bared, as it slowly paced around the pool. "If you want rid of me, it will cost you your blood," it said.

"Very well," said the man, and he took his sword, and a red line cut down his palm.

The wolf watched the dark cloud growing in the pool. Then it turned and raced back into the forest.

A red-haired man stepped into the clearing then, clean-shaven, clad all in red, wearing a red cloak, with a bow in his hand. The red-cloaked man came to the blood-dark pool, and he looked down at the man in the center of it, and he smiled there as he stood.

"I hear my brother seeks my blood," he said.

Then the blood turned black, and it thickened, and it bubbled up, and the red moon shone.

"I seek only to end this, Brother Wolf," the dark man said.

"As do I," the red-cloaked man said, and the pool turned to steam, and the red moon vanished.

In one swift movement he drew a steel-tipped arrow and lifted it to his eye and loosed it, and the arrow shimmered red as it flew, and it hit true, and the man in furs fell back.

Then the steam cleared, and the red moon shone bright, and the red-garbed man turned without a sound and went back into the forest.

And the blood turned into blood-oil, and the red moon burned, and the ash fell thick and white like snow for three days and nights.

The red-cloaked man returned to town, stinking of blood and oil, and his cloak was stained dark with blood, dark as the stain on his heart. And he had no brother. And he had no explanation. And the people turned him out.

But he was free. The wolf was gone. And he returned to the forest, to kill, to live.

S115.2.1. Murder by driving nail through head.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




what what i thought we have like 26 more minutes??

well gently caress it, i am typing with frozen fingers from a 16 hour shift in hell

I You We

The first word ever born was ‘I’, and it was all downhill from there.

I birthed You with a mournful sob; You and I were never meant to be apart. I and You pressed against each other as hard as they could, trying to undo the painful delineation between them. But this act of pressing together, this squalling newborn verb, only divided You and I even further.

A universe of concepts exploded outward from the botched re-melding of You and I: Here. There. Is. Was. Will be. Now. Then. Distance. Duration. Movement. Stasis. Mass. Matter. Stars. Planets. Snowfall. Monkeys. Ideology. Sitcoms. Jury duty. Turning lanes. Ennui.

You and I lost each other in the sudden, profligate emergence of things and actions and ideas and descriptors. Any time You and I attempted to reunite, they created new concepts, further diluting themselves with semantics. The louder the noise of the universe became, the more alone You and I felt.

After a while, they didn’t even care so much about re-melding; they missed that picosecond where it was only the two of them, separate but intertwined.

They were the oldest gods in the universe, invoked every day by unwitting worshippers: You and I should go see a film. I hate You. I love You. I don’t believe You. You and I met again and again through fleeting glances on a train, stuck elevators, mis-thrown snowballs, and mutual friends. It was torture. To be intertwined across all of time yet unable to touch was unbearable for two beings who had spent a timeless infinity as one.

You and I were preoccupied with one of their younger children—Ennui—and didn’t notice they were under the quiet observation of another god: We. We grieved for them and their Ennui. The same semantics that had carved chasms between the nouns and verbs of the universe also provided a bridge between them. You and I could become We: We won. We’re okay. We can do this.

We gently seduced You and I with the promise that they would once more be part of a whole. As You and I embraced inside the circle of We’s arms, as the three selves became one, new kinds of nouns and verbs were born: Understand. Harmonize. Collaborate. We had an endless appetite for the desires of the other two gods; when I sang out a long lonely note, We nudged You into song, transforming a melody into a chorus. Even little Ennui, who had almost been forgotten in the joyous union of I and You with We, became something more, something to be shared and lovingly described in film and poetry — part of We.

And so the universe, in all of its sad, divided glory, was pieced back together like the shards of a shattered pot, rejoined with the molten gold of Us.

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

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

Sailor Viy posted:

Submissions are closed. Thanks to Yoruichi for volunteering to judge. One more judge slot is still open if anyone wants it.

Actually submissions are not closed yet because I am dumb.

Submission will close FOR REAL 1 hour after this post. That's a little later than they were originally supposed to, as an apology for the confusion.

Aug 2, 2002

Sailor Viy posted:

S191. Driving insane by keeping awake.

it’s a system that works
800 words

The separated cream in my room-temperature coffee refuses to stir back in as I give it a swirl. Gross. I shouldn’t have another cup if I want to get to sleep after my shift anyway. I feel like I’ve already had this same rationalization half a dozen times tonight. Ten minutes until I can go home.

I’m mid-yawn when my boss sticks his head into my office; his green-striped tie hurts my eyes. “Hey, just got a new shuttle of prisoners docked. Seven lucky souls, gonna need them processed immediately.”

“Just stick them on firefighting duty in the rainforest quadrant.”

My boss shakes his head. “Repeat offenders. Already been through rehabilitation, so need something a little more creative this time, and you’re the best.”

It’s easier to incarcerate people if they don’t know they’re in jail. They don’t try to escape or appeal, they just serve out their time. Give them a job they think is helping the world and they’ll work twice as hard at their own punishment. One group of prisoners fights an unstoppable wildfire, and another group replants the trees, and the cycle repeats. But somebody has to come up with the atonements. I wanted to be a school guidance counselor.

“Get Kevin to do it. That ‘teaching math to troubled kids’ gig was pretty good, even if the inmate did get stabbed.”

“But it’s nothing compared to the ones you come up with. Those lifers are still nowhere close to figuring out how that organism you created works. Pointless and cruel… the shareholders loved that one.”

“The one we told them is responsible for the plague or the one we said is eating all the crops?”

“Both. And my god do they smell awful. Anyway I sent Kevin home early an hour ago. It’s up to you.”

I groan and make my way to the coffee pot, dumping out my old coffee on the way. It’s easy enough to come up with the jobs. Just look through the inmate’s file and determine what they wanted to do with their lives, then pervert it. Wanted to be writer? Have them write technical manuals for impossible gizmos. Wanted to be an engineer? Have them design impossible gizmos until they go crazy. I stare into the coffee and watch the cream stir into the hot black. I long blink. I watch the cream stir into the hot black. Wait. I look over to my desk.

Three prisoners have already been assigned jobs, according to my screen. They’re boring jobs, barely annoying let alone cruel. poo poo. I black out sometimes towards the end of a shift. I delete them. Each takes about an hour of work. I open my drawer and remove a blister pack of stimulants. It’s missing all but one pill. I haven’t taken any tonight. I think. I take it and get to work on the prisoners.

The key is you can’t make the job too unusual. They’ll notice that’s something up. Hell they don’t even know they’ve been convicted. Just a secret tribunal decides and then suddenly they have to “evacuate” their living quarters due to “mold” and they’re presented with a new opportunity they think is what they want.

I get through six of them before my eyelids refuse to stay open. I rub my itching eyes with my dry fingers. I pour myself another cup of coffee, but when I grab the cream out of the fridge it’s empty. “Who the gently caress drank all of my cream?” I shout to an empty room. Everybody’s gone home for the evening. I look around at the empty desks, struggling to remember who even works there with me. “And who puts an empty carton back into the fridge?” loving animals.

Back at my workstation I sip black coffee and chew the sand-like granules of sugar that didn’t stir in. That seems impossible. How many scoops of sugar did I add? My coffee is hot, then cold, then hot again. I can’t tell where one coffee ends and another begins. I’ve completed six job profiles, then three, then five. I delete the bad ones and start again. My boss pops in to ask me if I’m done. His tie is red paisley. My coffee is crunchy. One more profile to go. My boss pops in. His tie is blue polka dots. Three more profiles to go. The blister pack of stimulants only has one pill missing. I don’t remember taking a pill; I take another. I watch the cream stir into the hot black. The profiles are bad. I delete them and start over. It takes finesse to come up with the jobs. They can’t know, even if it seems obvious. That’s how you know you did a good job. That’s how the system works.

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

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

Submissions are now closed for real, no takebacks.

Dec 15, 2021
Promised Land

When the Christians reconquered Spain, they brought with them fear. Fear of anyone who was not like them. For the Sephardic Jews, especially the ones who knew the stories of the past, knew that this meant them.

At first, they merely asked the Jews to convert. This did not make more Christians, instead it just split the community into three kinds of Jews. The ones who didn't convert, those that pretended to convert, and those that did convert. To the suspicious Christian, that meant there were only two kinds: the open enemies and the secret enemies.

So the King and Queen told all the Jews to leave. If they didn't leave in four months, the inquistion would have questions for them. So many Jews and ex Jews left. But to where? The Jews were not even considered people in most of Europe. Out of the pan, into the fire. My family stayed. A hundred years or so later, they would have me. As 'Christians', we thought we were safe. But we were always only Jews to them.

Then they took my mother.

So my father took me to visit the Rabbi in the Synagoge. The Inquisition was everywhere, so the Rabbi covered the floor in sand. This way, we could walk freely without being heard. My father told me to pray while he visited, so I did so. I prayed to God. I asked that he deliver us from evil, and that he turn the King and Queen into goats. After my father was finished, he fetched me and we left.

After he had settled his affairs, we went to the docks. Father pulled me aside and told me I must do something important for him. I beamed with pride as he handed me a jug.

"Fill this with sand," he said as he turned to go sell our horse and cart, the last things we owned but for the clothes on our back, and now, the sand in the jar.

We waited for many days on the docks. My father told me of a city far across the ocean that Jews lived freely.

"How can that be? Won't the king follow us?" I asked. He shook his head and told me that no one could just go there, they had to be taken there, and that no one would take the king there, because they all hated him too.

Yet when a warship came to port my father did not seek passage. It was the wrong type he said, too crowded. So we watched it sail away.

Then a huge trade ship came. There were fewer people but my father shook his head. Too many cannons he said, they would give us headaches.

Finally, an empty slave ship came. They would be going to Africa, then to the Americas. My father exclaimed 'this is it!', and we paid for the passage.

It was a few months before we reached Africa. The boat was loaded with slaves and we set sail across the sea. The journey was treacherous. We were hit with snow, hail, and rogue waves the size of castles. Some of the slaves chose to throw themselves into the sea. The crew would beat the rest, to deter any other losses. To me, there seemed no limit to Spanish cruelty.

Finally, the storm gave way to the warm  sun. The deep black waters turned light blue. My father tells me we've reached the Carribean. We didn't have to wait long after that.

Another ship appeared on the horizon. It was flying a Spanish flag. But as we approached, the Spanish flag was lowered, and the skull and crossbones took its place.

The slavers, weighed down by it's human cargo could not flee. It wasn't long before it drew up alongside us, and we were boarded. The pirates offered us all the same deal. A pistol in our hand, or ball around our leg. The slaves took no time in tossing their masters overboard, whipping a school of sharks into a frenzy.

Then the pirates finally took us home, to the city you have to be taken to, Port Royal. Ruled by none other than Govenor Henry Morgan and home to two synagoges. My father took me to one, where sand was poured on the stone floor, in memory of where we came from. I pour my jug of sand, adding it to all who came before us. My father would live another tens years, but I would sail the high seas hunting the Spanish for the rest of my life.

Yo ho me hearties, and Happy Hanukkah.

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

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


This week was a good week. There were not many stories that I really disliked, and quite a few that vied for the top spot.

The Man called M is this week's loser for A Bum's Christmas, a story that leans far too heavily on lazy stereotypes and displays an unappealing lack of curiosity towards its subject matter.

There were several stories in contention for Dishonourable Mentions this week, but each had at least one defender in the judges' chambers, so they all escaped censure.

There are three Honourable Mentions. ChickenOfTomorrow receives one for This Entry Is A Prayer, a beautiful layering of myth on top of real-world geography. Tyrannosaurus also HMs for the funny and sad POWER_MUZIC_ELEKTRIK_REV(1)VAL.mp3. Last but not least is crabrock with it's a system that works - a title that aptly describes this simple and elegant piece.

However, the one story that all three judges consistently rated highest was The Late Bloomer by Antivehicular, who takes the win. Congratulations on writing this eerie yet heartfelt story. It falls to you to ring in the New Year.

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

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

Uranium Phoenix - The Death of Tiberius Collins
Although your storytelling is impressively economical, it isn’t quite enough to shrink this story into the allotted word count, so things feel a bit too rushed or sparse and the emotional impact of the conclusion doesn’t land.
What’s missing from the first scene is a description of Collins’ attachment to the Federation. We kind of get that later on, but it isn’t fleshed out enough to really hook me.
The alien moss feels fairly superfluous to the story you wanted to tell.
Errator says “the Empire is not real” but elsewhere it’s “the Federation” - that was a point of confusion that blunted the impact of a critical line.

Derp - Ho ho ho it’s Christmas time
This got a few chuckles out of me. The characters are recognisable enough to feel real despite the silly tone of the story. I liked that although the story is obviously arguing in favour of magic and wonderment, there is a touch of moral ambiguity at the end as the girl’s fantasies lead her to ignore the guy’s real suffering.
The line “Are they a couple? Maybe, maybe not.” was a gambit that didn’t quite work for me. After reading the whole story, it’s clear that it was supposed to convey something like “they are on an early date and not sure if they like each other”. But on the first reading it just raised a lot of questions for me, like, is this story being narrated by a third person who will show up at some point? Being more direct would have served you better.

Rohan- An Expensive Gift
A clever twist on a classic formula. The way he got out of the devil’s bargain was a genuine surprise to me, although I am uncommonly bad at predicting twists.
The fact that he writes in three different genres confused me a little bit, like it was unusual enough that I thought it would be more relevant to how the story plays out.
When he says “I ask twenty years to make good my mistake — and should I fail, you may add his soul to our bargain and take us both” I thought at first he was saying the wager is over whether he can win back his son’s love.
After thinking about the story for a few minutes, it’s occurred to me that since Lawrence lost the contest, the Devil really should have won the son’s soul. Actually, wagering his son’s soul at all was an rear end in a top hat move that really cuts against the heartwarming ending…

The Saddest Rhino - Black Silk

Somewhere between a short story and a prose poem. Gorgeous imagery and language. Without looking at the source material, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on here, but I don’t really mind. There were a few slips in tense (“You leave your wife in your cold home and brought yourself to Beijing”) that were especially problematic because of the already convoluted language you were using.
“take // give // take // give // take // give” was a line that struck me as simultaneously poetic and hilarious.

A friendly penguin - The Hollow Mountain
A sort of Borgesian parable about fate and… the atomisation of society? I enjoyed the imagery and the fact that the king went Cookie Clicker on his Sisyphean task.
As an allegory, it lost me at this line: “How could anyone be happy with ruin at a neighbor’s doorstep? Even as king he had not been disconnected from the devastations of his people.” I find it hard to swallow that, even in some remote mythic past, people were so tightly connected to each other that they all shared one fate.
It was a cool idea to bring COVID into it near the end, but after that the story petered out in a really weak conclusion.
Still, this has gotten me re-reading it and picking over it for more scraps of meaning (is “connecting the last wheel to the first” meant to represent the enmeshing of global markets under late capitalism?) which I think is what you were aiming for.
There’s no snow?

ChickenOfTomorrow - This Entry Is A Prayer
I really liked this. It has vibes of Neil Gaiman or Ben Aaronovitch, but a bit more surreal. There isn’t a lot of conflict or character to hook the reader, but it didn’t matter to me because the imagery was so lovely. The ending retroactively gives more purpose to the whole story.
Really my only critique is on some improper capitalisation (“South” should be “south” but “Hogsback ridge” should be “Hogsback Ridge”). Also the title doesn’t really fit–the word ‘Entry’ made me expect some sort of meta-story that references Thunderdome itself.

Flerp - Lessons
This is just a bit of a nothing story. The stakes are low: “maybe a guy will kill a goat, but he doesn’t particularly need to.”
I think it suffers from being set in a nonspecific place and time, because there is not much weight to the character’s concerns about food and survival. Like, if he doesn’t want to feed the goat then can’t he just walk it back to the neighbours’ place?
The two lessons from Mom flatly contradict each other with no sense of progression: “Mom always told me X, but actually sometimes she also told me not-X, so today I’m going to do not-X”.

Idle Amalgam - When The Sun Burns Out
The first two sentences have four character names, which makes them a bit hard to parse.
I don’t get what the headings are for. At first I thought they indicated shifts in POV. But then after the “Jessica” heading, we get this line: “Mark shook his head, displeased that Jessica saw fit to intervene, but not on his behalf.” which seems to be from Mark’s POV.
The last few paragraphs have some really bad shifts between present and past tense.
Overall, this is apparently the tail end of a zombie movie that concludes with everyone getting chomped on. We never get to find out what exactly “branded” means (if it was a zombie bite, then wouldn’t they have been more careful about leaving Kristen free?)
I would encourage you to think more carefully about your plot elements and how they hang together. Do you need four named characters? I think this story would be simpler and stronger with three or even just two. Why spend so much time on drama between Mark and Paul if they are just going to go to sleep and then get murked without any more dialogue?
The idea of making rapid, telegraphed jumps between different characters’ POVs is an interesting one, but in this story it goes absolutely nowhere.

A Classy Ghost - Weekend at TD’s

This is a silly story, but it got a couple of genuine chuckles from me. The image of the body sliding around the floor was great. The callback to rohan’s story was a thrilling surprise.
I didn’t really “get” the ending and I’m not sure if there is anything to get.
To elevate this beyond a mere gag story, I’d need to know more about why they killed Leonard and what they hope to gain from their bargain with the devil.

Sparksbloom - Shaggy Dog, Eight Stories
Solid prose, good characterisation, a few lines that made me laugh (e.g. NPR covering the giant cat). The title told me straight up what I was going to get from the ending, but still, I found it unsatisfying.
What makes a shaggy dog story work well? I think the best ones go beyond merely being a gag and express something fundamental about the pointlessness of life. They get you leaning forward, yearning for a satisfying resolution, and then slap you in the face. This one doesn’t do that, because the resolution isn’t that far out of context - it does tie together all the elements of the story, but it does so in a fairly weak way.

Antivehicular - The Late Bloomer
This was great. Strong prose, a creeping sense of dread, and having the protag not want to eat her parents is a good twist on the prompt that makes it more interesting without losing its horror.
I’m in two minds about the ending. It’s a well-written and satisfying scene. “We gave her food and a nest” is a great line. But… I can’t help thinking that the story would have more horrific impact if she did end up eating her human parents despite her best efforts.

Tyrannosaurus - POWER_MUZIC_ELEKTRIK_REV(1)VAL.mp3
This was well-written, and certainly an original way of looking at the prompt. I’ve read a few of your stories with similar narrators (chatty, larger than life, a bit dumb) and I didn’t like any of them very much, so maybe it’s just not to my taste.
The line “the girls let the whole team hit it!” I found pretty distasteful, which set me up not to like the protagonist. Which is fine, I could be on board with an rear end in a top hat protagonist, but the rest of the story seemed like you wanted him to be sympathetic.

Azza Bamboo - The Stork in Cairo
So the first thing that struck me about this story was the formatting issues. Best practice for TD stories is to do a double new-line between each paragraph, because it makes it easier to read. You could also do single new-lines if you really wanted to. But definitely don’t do a mix of single and double new-lines, it looks sloppy.
Also, don’t do ALL CAPS for dialogue.
With that out of the way, this is an interesting premise for a story: Freaky Friday but with a boy and a stork. Except the stork also turns into a man for some reason? Why not just have the boy trade bodies with the stork? Everything feels a bit jumbled and confused. At the end it seems like Totoes is supposed to have learned a lesson, but I don’t know what that lesson is.
This would have benefited from a couple of background details to let me know when the story takes place. Is it meant to be Cairo in the present day, a historical period, or some nonspecific fairy-tale past? Why do most of the kids have Anglo names?
The home economics of the story are not very well thought through. If the boy is caring for his father, why is he “too young to start a fire”? Why bother having the kids trade fish for flatbread when they can just eat the fish?
You obviously struggled to include the snow in your story. I also get the feeling that you were straitjacketed by the other part of the prompt (e.g. you felt compelled to set your story in Egypt, but you don’t seem interested in bringing Egypt to life as a setting). You don’t necessarily have to take the prompt so literally. Look at Derp’s or Tyrannosaurus’s stories this week for examples of using the prompt as a jumping-off point rather than a restrictive box.

Carl Killer Miller - Desires
“Overwritten” is the word that comes to mind for this one. You are using far too many uncommon words, which makes your sentences saggy and difficult to read. Let’s look at just one line: “The alloyed sleet fell hard, lacerating my pupils and carving miniscule contrails of pitch into my vision.”
- “Alloyed”, while perhaps technically applicable, is an affected choice
- “Lacerating” is too emphatic
- “Pupils” for “eyes” and “pitch” for “black” add to the over-emphasis
- “Miniscule contrails” is a contorted metaphor that would be difficult to visualise even if it was explained more clearly.
I actually don’t mind that the content of the story is surreal and weird, but the combination of weird content + affected delivery is too much.
I did like how the question and answer section tied together what had previously been a barrage of incomprehensible nonsense. And the ending was suitably conclusive without actually explaining anything.

The man called M - A Bum’s Christmas

This was not good, but it did have a few redeeming features. The premise was fairly bland and generic, but the narrator’s voice tugged at my heartstrings a little bit, and the carolers’ kindness was heartwarming in a cheesy way.
There were a few problems with capitalisation (e.g. “Alleyway”) and some incorrect paragraph breaks (see my comments on Azza Bamboo’s story, above). Getting these details right is an important step toward getting your reader to take your writing seriously.
I liked the self-deprecation of the narrator calling himself a “drunk smelly rear end in a top hat” and I would have liked to see this explored more: why is he an rear end in a top hat? Who has he hurt because of his drinking? When he receives kindness, will he even be able to accept it?
The story leaned a lot on cliches that made it feel inauthentic to me. I’m not an expert on homelessness, but I find it hard to believe that homeless people would be unaware of their local shelter for “years”, or that they would be touched by the gift of a single cookie. In my experience homeless people are quite canny about where they can sleep, where they can get donations or free food, etc, because they need to know this stuff to survive.

Addendum: The reliance on cliches seems to reflect a lack of imagination or curiosity on your part. I’ve felt this in a few of your stories now. You approach your subject matter as though it were a school assignment, something you have to do. But *you* were the one who chose the subject matter. So why did you choose to write about homeless people when you don’t seem to know much about them or care enough to do any research?
You must have some passion for writing or you would have given up by now. So let me suggest an exercise: find a TD story that you admire and write down all its good qualities. Depressing, ridiculous, complex, shocking, etc. Then write down all the good qualities you would want to see in your own stories. Do you want to write funny stories? Sad stories? Stories that evoke wonder? Etc. Try to use those qualities as a guide when planning your next story’s theme and subject matter.

Thranguy - Ad Astra Per Linguam
I guess I’m a big nerd because I enjoyed this even though it was like 70% worldbuilding. Not much in the way of character or motivation, but lots of funky sword & planet imagery and a cool twist on space travel (aside from the obvious E. R. Burroughs influence, it reminds me of the “Arcturian back rays” from A Voyage to Arcturus).
The stuff about how the planets’ “vulgar” names are all the names of dead gods didn’t quite make sense to me. That might be a clue to a larger world that we don’t get to see. But if the goal of the story is to deliver a payload of fun exposition and get out, then I’d prefer if all that exposition tied up neatly.

Captain_Indigo - Father
There is a strong core to this story: a tale of a separated family that uses vampirism as an allegory to explore the dark nuances of abusive relationships. Daniel walks the line between creepy and needy. The moment when he claims he is asking for blood out of concern for his homeless victims’ health (with the inverse implication that Samira could be responsible for their deaths if she doesn’t give in) is particularly chilling.
Once Ash shows up, the story loses a lot of its subtlety. Having the two guys brawl in the yard was more obvious than I wanted. And then the ending with the other vampire just felt like a cheesy Goosebumps twist. Perhaps if you just hinted at the threat to the children, rather than told it explicitly, then it would work better.
This story would benefit from more description of the physical locations, with details that locate us in a particular time and place. The back-and-forth dialogue needs to be broken up more or it feels like it’s just voices chatting in a white room.

Fuschia tude - Hunting Alone
I really don’t know what happened in this one. A guy goes into a forest to kill a wolf, but the wolf turns into a man, who is his brother, and then his brother kills him, and then the brother goes back out of the forest but then he goes back in.
You start way too many sentences with ‘and’ - contrary to popular opinion, this isn’t grammatically incorrect but it needs to be used sparingly or you create a droning, repetitious rhythm.
I recommend you read The Saddest Rhino’s story for this week, which is trying to do a similar thing stylistically to yours, but does it better. Notice how in Rhino’s story, even though there is all sorts of obscure description, we have a clear idea of the main character, his motivation and the obstacles he faces.
All that said, I did enjoy the imagery and the general “Frank Miller does Grimm’s Fairy Tales” vibe of the piece.

Sitting Here - I You We
A gnostic creation fable told through the lens of semiotics.
This was pretty good. I don't know what to say that could make it better. At the point when I and You were fusing with We, I felt a bit suspicious of We’s promise. So the ending felt a bit too sweet and easy; it would have felt more real to me if there was more ambivalence in their rejoining.

Crabrock - it’s a system that works
A fairly light story, with an excellent twist that I wouldn’t have seen coming so soon if I didn’t already know the prompt.
Aside from the twist, and the humour of the different punishments described, this doesn’t have much else going for it. It’s slick, simple, elegantly constructed. A contender for the win but I think it is going to be edged out by other stories with a bit more heart to them.

Burning_Conch - Promised Land (disqualified due to late submission)
The first few paragraphs of this are basically a history lesson. Once we actually get to the protagonist, things move along way too quickly, like we’re reading a synopsis rather than a full story.
To fit this amount of narrative into 800 words, you would need to start the story a lot later and use details to fill in the background. For example, you could begin with the protag on the slave ship, taking care of his jar of sand, and use that as a means to (briefly) explain his family’s history in Spain.
There is no need to explain whole generations of Jewish persecution. A couple of lines describing how he felt when his mother was taken would have been much more effective in setting up the emotional stakes.
The jar of sand was a great detail (I assume it’s a historical fact, not made up). Having the protag prey upon the Spanish was a good conclusion that felt historically believable. But the last line was too flippant and kitschy for what was otherwise a pretty serious story.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Stream of consciousness crits for week 490

Uranium Phoenix - The Death of Tiberus Collins:

So an agent of the Federation assassinated a revolutionary dude called Errator. But he’s been captured, and the revolutionaries resurrect Errator using magic space moss. Then Errator becomes a godlike figure, says some poo poo to our man Collins that haunts him for ages, and then when they finally meet again Errator says some more poo poo to Collins that makes him rethink his priorities. I think that’s what happened?

This feels like you wrote twice as much story and then cut all the stuff that would have made it make sense to fit the word count. What’s missing in particular is characterisation of Collins. All I know about him is that he is an agent, has a wife, and is easily bamboozled by fancy words.

Holy poo poo as I type this I just realised that he’s John McClane.

Anyway, I also wanted to hear way more about the magic space moss, that was seriously glossed over.


derp - Ho ho ho it’s christmas time:

The spacey women in this story is pretty weird but I thought her behaviour was funny. Reading about dick-guy getting goosed was also kind of funny. The ending doesn’t really go anywhere, but then none of this was going anywhere.

This story is on par with the sort of jokes you find in Christmas crackers. It’s not very good, but it’s not trying to be anything more than it is, so rather than feeling disappointed, I was content to be mildly amused.


rohan - An Expensive Gift:

This story starts with the line, “‘How about,’ Lawrence probed, ‘a wager?’” Unfortunately, we are already half way through at this point. Everything above this is flimflam - all we need to know is that Lawrence made a bargain with the Devil, which cost him more than he expected, and now the Devil has come to collect.

This story is about how Lawrence tricks the Devil and gets his son back, yet both of these things are accomplished with the click of his fingers. You needed to immerse your reader in this moment, show us Lawrence’s fear that this is the end of the road for him. What is it that gives him hope that he can escape? How does he come up with his ruse? Was it spur of the moment or had he planned that all along? How does he feel when he succeeds?

For a story this short I would probably cut the son. There is waaaay too much extra explaining needed to make the ending work; avoiding getting killed by the Devil is ample character motivation.


The Saddest Rhino - Black Silk:

The prose in this has a lovely rhythm, but as a story I found it hard to follow. I’m not sure about the use of second person - I hard a time puzzling out who “I” and “you” were.

Once I got to the end I wanted to go click the link you put in spoiler tags with your post. This is good, in that, I was intrigued enough by the story that I wanted to understand more about what you were going for. But it is bad in that I shouldn’t have to do research to understand what the story was about.


a friendly penguin - The Hollow Mountain:

I’m afraid this is boring. It just takes 800 words to tell us what is already contained in the flashrule. It’s not really about anything, and the King has almost no personality. He doesn’t seem to want anything, except to turn the wheels of fate for unclear reasons, and then he does that, a lot, and then that’s the end.


ChickenOfTomorrow - This Entry is a Prayer:

I don’t get this. Is this just a description of a stoner going for a hike and having a hell of a time? Or is it about a homeless person dying in the snow? Who is the protagonist and what do they want?


flerp - Lessons:

This is a sweet and fairly straightforward story. I think it would have worked better if you had upped the stakes. It’s established at the start that the protag has enough food for the winter, so his decision to spare the goat isn’t particularly significant. The moment of decision also felt a little flat. He just happens to remember a fable; it doesn’t really feel like he’s wrestling with this decision.

Why doesn’t he just take the goat back to his neighbours straight away? Feeding it all winter is a pretty weird thing to do if you know that there are kids missing it. You can’t just steal other people’s pets.


Idle Amalgam - When the Sun Burns Out:

This story has a lot of potential, but didn’t quite land for me. It is about a small group of people trying to survive in some sort of bunker, knowing that one of them is ‘branded.’ They don’t say it, but I think they probably know that they are doomed.

I think you did a good job with the disquieting vibe, but you needed to give your characters a bit more personality. I think you could have made more use of the changing POV structure to give us more insight into what each person was thinking and draw the reader into the story more. Then the inevitable horrible ending would have landed with more punch.


A Classy Ghost - Weekend at TD’s:

The first half of this is fun, and I was intrigued to learn what sort of mess these two had gotten themselves into and how it was going to resolve. Unfortunately, the ending just shuts the door in the reader’s face. The lack of explanation or resolution is annoying rather than funny.


sparksbloom - Shaggy Dog, Eight Stories:


I was very much enjoying this story up to the bit where the rats climb out and bite the dog. I mean, your characters were good enough that I was glad they made it out ok, but this ending feels a bit like you ran out of time or words, or both. It’s entertaining in a lol-random way, but I think the rest of the story deserved better than that.


Antivehicular - The Late Bloomer:

Cripes, that certainly is an opening line.

Oh dang, and the rest of this is great. I thought it was going to be a horror story, and I was very pleased when it turned out to be about a good person trying to do the right thing. I think you balanced the two sides of the protag’s nature beautifully.

The ending is a teeny bit rushed, but it still works.


Tyrannosaurus - POWER_MUZIC_ELEKTRIK_REV(1)VAL.mp3:

This is really cool. I’m glad he didn’t die, and the ending works well. I struggled a wee bit with the vernacular - I kept trying to hear it as a South London accent, but I don’t think that’s right?

I would have liked a touch more insight into what sort of person the protagonist is. I feel like you can picture him very clearly in your head, so maybe didn’t give quite enough information for an unfamiliar reader.


Azza Bamboo - The Stork in Cairo:

There should be paragraph breaks between the different lines of dialogue.

The trickster stork is a pretty good character. I enjoyed his antics and the interactions with Totoes. The father’s reaction to the offer of help didn’t feel quite right, and I’m not sure what the moral of the story was supposed to be.

The dead locust rain ending was unnecessary. You would have been better to end it on a hopeful note that the father was going to get better or something instead.


Carl Killer Miller - Desire:

This is a bit too fever dream for me. I wanted a more concrete protagonist, so I knew who I was rooting for in amongst the swirl of imagery and confusing proverbs.


The man called M - A Bum's Christmas:

This is very bad. The prose is fine, and apart from a missing line break it is basically free of mistakes. But it is extremely stereotype-y, and outdated stereotypes at that. The ending is so saccharine it left a bad taste in my mouth.

There are lots of times when it’s fine to rely on stereotypes or clichés. It can save a lot of time - for example, if your character is a cowboy in a Western you don’t need to spend a lot of time describing him, cos we all know what cowboys are like - and sometimes it’s good to give readers something that is familiar. But if you’re using very stereotyped characters you need to do so consciously, and think about how you might give them a twist or bring something new to the table. Negative stereotypes that are rooted in outdated views are to be used with caution and tact.

In judge chat I wrote, “I wouldn't give M the loss because he used bad stereotypes, but because he didn't bother to give his characters any character or motivation beyond the stock standard cliché.”


Thranguy - Ad Astra Per Linguam:

This reads like the trailer for an extremely cool movie, that I definitely want to see. As a short story though, it’s not very satisfying.


Captain_Indigo - Father:

This story has a character motivation problem. Why does Samira hate Daniel? The only explanation offered through the story is that he is her ex (but that doesn’t explain why she won’t let him see his kids) and that he’s a vampire (but the story tells us that it is possible to willingly give vampires blood, because he pays people for it, so that doesn’t explain her revulsion either). At one point Samira says, but you’re the one who refused to die, implying that she blames him for becoming a vampire, but if his choices were vampirism or death then the former doesn’t seem that unreasonable, so Samira just sounds like a bitch. At the end it is revealed that his monstrous nature makes him a threat to the children, which, if Samira knows this, explains why she won’t let him in, but in this case the way she treats him seems like a massive under-reaction.

Ultimately, ‘person tells vampire to go away because vampires are scary’ isn’t much of a story. I want to know what went down between this man and this woman.


Fuschia tude - Hunting Alone:

I have no idea what’s going on in this. The moon has broken and the world is ending, and everything is red, and there’s a barbarian dude, and he kills an owl, and then he talks to a wolf, but then the wolf runs away, and then there’s a guy who’s wearing all red clothes, and he shoots the barbarian with an arrow, and then he goes home, but he can’t, but that’s fine? Did the world end or not??


Sitting Here - I You We:

Hmmm, weird. I confess I don’t get this. I mean, there is clearly a lot of emotion behind it, and I get the general vibe about the loneliness of separation and the joy of connection, but I don’t really follow the evolution of language metaphor.

I feel a bit like we’re sitting in a pub together, and you are furiously trying to explain something to me, with lots of arm waving, but the pub is too loud and I can’t hear you properly, so I’m just nodding and going “hmmm, mMmmm,” and hoping that you don’t notice that I have no idea what you’re talking about, because I can see it’s important to you and I don’t want you to feel disappointed.


crabrock - it’s a system that works:

Very good sir, very good.

I was left feeling a wee bit unsatisfied though, as I felt I had unanswered questions about what the protagonist did to deserve this fate. It’s not essential for the story, but without a bit more character meat it felt a little one-note, like, in the end all there is to the story is the reveal, albeit that it is a very good one.


Burning_Conch - Promised Land:

In this story a father and his son escape a country where they are persecuted for their religion, and make it to a city where they can live more freely, and then the son becomes a revenge-seeking pirate.

For such a high-stakes story there is very little tension. The escape, which I thought was going to be the focal point, comes off without incident. It feels like the outline of a longer story, without any of the emotional content.


Dec 30, 2011

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


Greetings, TD. As we see the year come stumbling at last to its end, I think it's time to revive one of my favorite prompts of years past, which has graced two prior new-year TDs: the Little Lytton Contest.

For those who haven't heard of it, the Little Lytton is an online contest (similar to the larger and better-known Bulwer-Lytton contest) for writing the worst possible first sentence of a novel. For this prompt, I want you to take one of the Godawful sentences from the website and use it as the first sentence of your own, non-bad submission. You're not required to copy the sentence's style verbatim, but it should be a coherent first sentence to your narrative. You may choose your own sentence or have me pick one for you. If you choose your own, your word limit is 1500 words. If you have me assign one, your word limit is 1000. This is not first-come-first-served; if everyone wants the same sentence, take it, it's the holidays.

Standard TD rules apply: no erotica, fanfiction, Google Docs, political screeds, dick pics, etc. Use this to guide your choices, and godspeed.

Signups Close: 11:59 PM Pacific, December 31st, 2021
Submissions Close: 11:59 PM Pacific, January 2nd, 2022
Word Count: 1000 if I prompt you, 1500 if you prompt yourself


1. Chairchucker
2. Thranguy
3. Captain_Indigo
4. The man called M
5. Carl Killer Miller
6. Idle Amalgam
7. A Classy Ghost
8. flerp
9. Beezus
10. Simply Simon
11. crabrock
12. QuoProQuid
13. Bird Tyrant

Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 11:38 on Jan 1, 2022

Nov 14, 2006

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

Pick me a sentence pls

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

In with "I used to be a detective, with my hat and my desk, until the war."

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Uranium phoenix: death of tiberius collins: Richly and vividly imagined, but the philosophy is a little dime-store and overall this chafes at its length. I’d like to read it at twice the length, I think - I liked the physicality of the descriptions and how it’s grounded in the emotions of its characters. 6

Derp, ho ho lol it’s xmas time: Tight, brief, funny, but I don’t love the sharp veer into tdeck the halls with boughs of lol at the end, santa is not funny and never will be I am afraid, that’s just physics 6

Rohan, a gift: I feel like I’ve read this story before roughly 1000 times, that ol’ satan must get so cranky when those confounded mortals best him, I bet he scrunches up his horn-hat and throws it on the ground and jumps up and down on it when it happens again. Still, competent if a little on the cheesy side as the ending rolls around 4

Rhino, black silk: Very arty so props for that but behind all the elegant sleeves lifting to paint simple yet beautiful verse as mournful curlew call echoes across moonlit lake ect ect i’m not sure there’s much more to this than ‘guy: is sad’ 6

A friendly penguin, the hollow mountain: Contrived and odd, hard to care about this nondescript king of unspecified kingdom pootling around under a mountain when by defn nothing much can affect or matter to him. I feel like i might be missing some kind of obvious metaphor here in which case sorry but perhaps you should have assumed i was more stupid, writer person? Yes. yes, you should. 5

Chicken of tomorrow, entry is a prayer: I like the imagery, but this needs a why, as written it’s just who. I like the specificity of all the gods, but this kind of formal listing of things, as you get with stories about climbing ladders, really benefits from a strong clear organising narrative, and it only takes a line, or even a good title. 6

Flerp, lessons: Too sticky sweet at the end, you should have left out the last line. But I still liked this lightly heartwarming tale of a guy and the goat he steadfastly refuses to murder over an ENTIRE WINTER good lord where is my crate of medals I’m cracking that bitch wide open i tell u 7

Idle amalgam, when the sun burns out: POVs here aren’t sufficiently distinct - I think you could have got a lot more mileage out of having different word choice, rhythm of speech, things the different characters noticed - a good trick is to decide on a sense that each character has foremost, so one character hears stuff, another sees things, the third smells things. It’s not as noticeable as it souinds and really helps to differentiate characters. This was a solid setup (four people in a bunker, monsters inside they can’t let in) but has a fatal lack of specificity- what the monster is changes a lot, and the characters don’t seem to really understand it either because (i suspect) you don’t. Potential, squandered. Not terrible tho. 5

A classy ghost, weekend at TD’s: OK corpse comedy, but ends in something of a wet fart which is, I understand, also a thing that corpses can do. TIL! 4

Sparks, shaggy dog: Good giant dogging, but I want more change in the characters involved. It doesn’t matter how CRAZY WACKY the background of a story is if it’s not really affecting the characters, and here that is the case, they’re just like lol w/e, better pick up our filthy bite-happy rodent friends lmao. You even set up the potential for change in the relationship in the first para, good lord this was a homerun slamdunk and you whiffed it apologies if that metaphor doesn’t make sense i don’t play much sports. 6

Anti-v, late bloomer: Nice subtle emotion through action, ending was adequate rather than great, it felt like a bit of a cop-out having EXTREMELY EVIL KILLABLE PARENTS revealed as a way of avoiding the toothsome (lol) moral dilemma presented in the rest of the story, i mean hell you know you don’t even have to show it that’s how plain it is. Still, nice piece - i would have had this as second for that reason tho.8

Trex, power muzic etc: One of the better stories the thunderdome has had about love. I liked this one a lot for its well-judged words about making music in a frenzy, and think it’s the most complete package of the week in terms of landing the dart that it’s thrown, not least because i played the outkast song that it refers to and that makes a great accompaniment. 8
Azza bamboo, the stork in cairo: This is a decent kids story with a bunch of slightly annoying technical errors and a mildly funny closer. I think you could have made this work better by bringing in the stork’s children earlier, so it wasn’t just highjinks. 4

CKM, desire: This is almost deliberately obtuse, but it makes eminent sense as a parable about addiction. However, I don’t think the extremely heightened language does you any favours here. ‘The alloyed sleet fell hard, laceration my pupils and carving miniscule contrails of pitch into my vision’ is parseable, but it’s almost comically overdone. I’m also not sure what ‘it’s command sept through the sutures of my skull’ is driving at. That said, I enjoyed wallowing in this, and I like this as another of your varying examinations of the effect of boozelust on your brainmeats. 5

The man called m, a bums xmas: It gives us no joy to award you the loss in the season of saint nick, McM, but here we are. This is just sloppy, both in the language and the story telling. Imagine your characters as humans, and make them care about things, don’t stop at cliches. 2

Thranguy, ad astra per linguam: Delightfully imagined and jauntily described, but really just a snippet out of the exciting adventures of Main Character Guy. 5

Captain indigo, father: I actually quite liked this for the attention it gives to the non-vampire family members, you know they are often overlooked but Not Here! I think you didn’t need the random vampy fella at the end, who is uncharacterised and accordingly uninteresting, when you could have kept us in the frame of our sad vamp-bum. At that point you’ve earned a nice bit of introspection, or an action or something more than a villainous laugh and fade to black? Solid, though. 6

Fuschia tude, hunting alone: I had to read this a couple of times, but I kind of loved it, just intense metal-album-cover insanity the whole way through. I love the way you just hammer your chosen words with no sense of subtlety or restraint, because sometimes that’s not what you want. 6

Sitting Here, i you we: I liked this mythic fable, not least for calling out jury duty and turning lanes as core conceptual trusswork elements of the built universe. Gets a liiittle cheesy at the end there with the tolkienian universal harmony, but coasts on through with overall charm. 6

Crabrock, it’s a system that works: Extremely clever, and fairly funny, not much to it once you get to the point. Maybe if we had some idea of what people were being punished for it would work better? As is it’s sort of a ‘lol’ in story form. Still sometimes a lol is the best gift of all. 7

Jul 29, 2007

"That’s cheating! You know the rules: once you sacrifice something here, you don’t get it back!"

In and there are way too many good ones to choose from so dealer's choice please.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


In. Dealer’s Choice.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

In, dealer's choice

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
In. Dealer's choice.

Dec 30, 2011

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

Chairchucker posted:

Pick me a sentence pls

"The human body is over 95% water, and so too is the human family."

Captain_Indigo posted:

In and there are way too many good ones to choose from so dealer's choice please.


The man called M posted:

In. Dealer’s Choice.

"It was a soft gray night with a half-moon forming a perfect D in the sky.  D for what, Alex wondered.  Danger? Discovery? Or Disaster?  Only time would tell."

Carl Killer Miller posted:

In, dealer's choice

"It was a beautiful sunrise, but Brian was not happy at all. This morning was a mystery; all of his chickens have disappeared and his rooster was not alive; he did not sing this morning as he used to."

Idle Amalgam posted:

In. Dealer's choice.

"McGreer smirked at his stunned opponent on the floor. His hands that would be for helping are for hurting now."

A Classy Ghost
Jul 21, 2003

this wine has a fantastic booquet
In, dealer's choice!

Feb 25, 2014


in give me sentence

Sep 11, 2018
In with "Madilyn Jenson’s blood type was O-positive (the tastiest for vampires), but to the dismay of Jake and his vampire friends, she guarded it like a prized possession."

Dec 30, 2011

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

A Classy Ghost posted:

In, dealer's choice!

"Sheila woke up instantly; it was that dream again — the one with the face, and the man, with the face."

flerp posted:

in give me sentence

"The saying “I have got your back” almost never has the literal meaning of receipt or possession of another’s spine."

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔
in with "In an already trying year, we were forced to take our work home—​even the murderers."

Aug 2, 2002
in with "It was a beautiful night, and the full moon glew like it had never glown before."

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

The thread will be locked soonish, so if you want to delete any of your stories in case you might rework them for publishing, now is the time

Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha

In with:

“The Crime Lads have done it again,” I realized grimly, surveying my dead wife.

Bird Tyrant
Apr 21, 2003

In: “BOOM!” said the bomb very loudly.

Dec 30, 2011

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

Signups are closed. One judge slot remains.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




sebmojo posted:

The thread will be locked soonish, so if you want to delete any of your stories in case you might rework them for publishing, now is the time

just so this very true post doesn't get overlooked...

:siren: VERY IMPORTANT POST :siren:

We will soon be moving on to an exciting new thread for 2022. As with previous years, this thread will be left open for several days to allow posters to delete any stories they might want to publish. Many publishers require that your story not be readable anywhere online, so if you think you might try to sell a TD piece, now is the time to delete it!

People who have entered the current week: Please allow the stories to be archived before you scrub them from the thread. The archive is not readable by non-members, but you can also hide stories from view if you prefer.

That said, if you know you do NOT intend to sell a piece, consider leaving it in the thread. People do go back and read old TD threads, and they'd be pretty boring if there were no stories at all.

Nov 14, 2006

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

Hmmm what if we want to sell our stories as NFTs

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔
Top to Bottom
1496/1500 Words

In an already trying year, we were forced to take our work home—even the murderers.

They bickered in the car. “We had agreed on bringing the props and doing it in his house!” - “Yes, but we never established who would bring them, now did we.” A male and a female voice muffled by the black hood over Elton’s head.

Had he been in the mahogany office on the top floor of his ostentatious business tower, Elton Benzos III would have been untouchable. But out of a capricious whim, the CEO of UniFlight, PortaGoods and so on had decided to try the commoner fad of “home office” for a bit. And so, behind his ebony and ivory desk in one of his more secluded villas, he had been vulnerable.

After a ride that would give his chiropractors conniptions, stairs more dangerous than the working conditions in his Bangladesh plants, and the clinking of chains reminding him of his youth, his captors finally removed the hood from Elton’s eyes. He found himself in the basement of a suburban house, a dust-covered rowing machine in a corner, preserves lining the walls, abandoned projects strewn about like elephant bones.

His captors were a middle-aged couple, obviously unaccustomed with a personal physician, or indeed any anti-aging products. The man’s aftershave had insulted Elton’s nose with its cheapness all throughout the drive here.

“You must be aware that I am worth an exorbitant amount of money,” Elton said through dry lips.

“Painfully.” The woman moved towards a pile of wooden beams. “I had packaged this so neatly, Thomas.” She had not.

“Yeah, my bad, okay? Let me assemble the drat thing again, you can set up the camera, and check the lighting or whatever it is you do.”

“Ugh, the camera’s still in the car. Fine, I’ll go. Let’s get this over with.”

Despite their arguing, they shared a smile and a kiss. The woman left. Thomas got in a good look at her plump backside before focusing on the construction. Elton tried to get his attention again.

“Hey, Mister. Can I call you Thomas? You don’t actually plan on killing me, right? You’re just trying to scare me to increase the ransom?”

Thomas frowned, rolled his eyes, and put Bluetooth headphones on.

“Hey! My company made those!” Elton yelled into the excellent noise-canceling. “Hypocrite!”

Thomas had just uncovered a slotted base when his wife burst through the door, panting.

“Hi Angie! Where’s the camera?” He grinned.

“The Walters…” She paused, shook her head, and yanked his headphones off. “The Walters are coming up the driveway!”

Thomas looked puzzled. “But why? Think they need some flour?”

The doorbell rang. The insistent sound seemed to dislodge something in the would-be murderers’ minds, as their faces took on a look of realization at the same time.

“The party…”


“Time really has lost all meaning in this loving pandemic.” Thomas let the beam he was holding clatter to the floor. “Alright, can’t be helped, guess we cancel then.”

“My dearest love, we invited all of our vaccinated friends. For -” she looked at her off-the-rack watch “- just about now.”

Thomas shrugged. “Okay, then invite them in. I’ll keep setting this thing up and you get me when I’m needed.”

What a stroke of luck! With the homeowners distracted, Elton would surely find a way to escape or at least make himself noticed.

Angie glanced towards him. Thomas gently touched her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I won’t forget.”

Thus, after mere moments of futile struggle, Elton ended up spread-eagled with painful chains restricting his extremities so much he couldn’t even jingle them a tiny bit, and a ball-gag in his mouth. Thomas whistled a tune betraying his lack of classical education with every off note as he kept working on the wooden device.

The doorbell rang five more times. A crude scaffold had already been constructed as Angie returned to the basement.

“Alright, fun’s over. I managed to put a few appetizers together, but I won’t cut all the potatoes myself.”

Thomas nodded. “Sure, I’ll do it. Check my work, please.”

Elton smelled her breath plagued by proper lack of dental care as Angie began to manhandle him.

She managed the seemingly impossible feat of restraining Elton even tighter. Thus far, he had assumed that these poor amateurs would slip up at some point, panic due to their plans being ruined again and again. But as the lack of circulation in his limbs started to make his fingers tingle, he realized that these people were used to improvising their way through life. What a cursed existence - and what a pickle for him!

But now he was alone. Using the ingenuity and ruthlessness that had propelled him to the top should make escaping a breeze!

About twenty minutes later, all feeling in his fingers gone, nails splintered, he had to admit to himself that the famed CEO hypercompetence was maybe a little exaggerated.

Angie came down the stairs, carrying a tripod. Elton managed to squeak out a few pitiful grunts. She put on a mask of annoyance.

“I know this isn’t proper practice, but what’s proper about this.” She loosened his restraints a bit. “There, don’t be a baby.”

She set up a camera that looked beyond her means, turned the ceiling lamp a few times trying to illuminate the spot behind the half-finished wooden construction, finally dug out a white bedsheet from somewhere, affixed it with clothespins and nodded.

“Hey Angie! Are you done with the, uh, icebox? The roast is done!” Thomas yelled through an open door. Chatter and lounge music passed through it into the basement.

“Not quite! You’ll have to sub in!”

She swapped with Thomas, sneaking another kiss in. Elton tried once more to communicate, but only managed a pitiful gurgle.

Thomas roughly removed the ball-gag and held a dirty glass under Elton’s chin. “Spit.”

Only after he had obeyed, it occurred to Elton that he could have aimed higher. “Listen, this is ridiculous. Someone will find me soon and you’ll be in so much trouble. Let me go, and -”

The gag landed back in his mouth. “We’re well aware of the urgency, you leech. Hence the prepwork.”

Thomas proceeded to quickly finish the scaffolding. He strung a well-worn rope through some holes. Screwed on a hinge. And finally, he dug out a metal sheet that had been hidden between a set of winter tires.

A diagonally cut, sharpened metal sheet.

Elton’s eyes widened and he started to struggle, causing the loosened chains to clink.

He froze.

Thomas hadn’t heard him through the headphones.

Elton forced himself to stay completely immobile when Angie came down just a bit later, took Thomas’s headphones off again, and told him something about a neighbor’s noise complaint. Elton couldn’t make out the exact words through a haze of panic. Thomas sighed, nodded and left, indicating his project. Angie smiled and finished setting up the guillotine. Then she also went upstairs.

The chains were still somewhat loose. Elton grit his teeth. He had removed of all his competitors. He had found the right bribe for every government. He had managed to crush all the attempts at unionizing. He would find a way to get out of this.

About half an hour later, with severely bruised wrists and a chipped tooth, with his one-of-a-kind suit truly ruined, he had indeed found a way. He lay on the rough concrete stained with various fluids for a few seconds, panting heavily. But he could not let this proof of triumphant will distract him.

He knew the basement door - the only escape from the windowless room - opened directly to the party going on above. No way around that - but also his best chance.

He burst into a crowd of witnesses. Thomas and Angie were still at the door dealing with a neighbor complaining. Absolutely perfect.

“Hey, isn’t that…?”

“Yes! It’s me, Elton Benzos! Your hosts have abducted and molested me! Restrain them and call the police and I’ll make it worth your while!”

The party guests just stared.

“Wasn’t there a report about you dodging all your taxes for five years straight?” A small voice from a smaller woman piped up.

“I saw a documentary about what goes on in his factories in Asia…” Someone murmured.

“You’re the fucker that screwed my cousin out of a job. Now her worthless rear end lives with me!” Yelled the neighbor from the door.

Elton raised his arms. “Now wait -”

People began to close in on him. Thomas and Angie looked at each other.

“We actually had something prepared as a special party surprise,” she said with a crooked grin.

Five minutes later, the camera rolled. Behind it, all the guests were crowded in the basement. Some regarded the chains with suspicion, but most - like the neighbor’s - eyes were focused entirely on the CEO in the gallows.

“Shall we?”, Thomas said, fondling a lever.


Jul 29, 2007

"That’s cheating! You know the rules: once you sacrifice something here, you don’t get it back!"

980 words

THE FULL TEXT OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERATIVE REPUBLIC OF MARS (plot starts on page 27) [CFRM27] was my Zahir, my reflection, my white whale. Call me Ishmael.

I became aware of CFRM27 in March of 2006 after a terrible conference at University Sapienza. I had lost my passion for teaching long ago, but it was not until the conference that this had become clear to me. I was going through the motions, I had no desire to publish and my students had become dull eyes set within a muted fog during lectures. Whilst begrudgingly brushing up on my Italian by reading a discarded copy of Lo Specchio at the airport, I found reference to a novel - CFRM27 by an anonymous author, initially published in September of 1969. The title captured my attention, as did the following paragraph:

“Reminiscent of Melville’s Moby Dick, [CFRM27] is riddled with diversions. The voice of the author spirals downward, cycling between lifeless academic writing and purple prose bloated with figurative language. Run-on sentences overwhelm, buried within one another, clauses blur, creating sentences so long and full of split-infinitives, that they require multiple reads to parse.”

With hours to kill before my flight, I took a cab back to the city and searched through bookshops, none of which had a copy, nor had ever heard of CFRM27. With thirty minutes to spare, I stalked rumours down a spiral-staircase that burrowed deep beneath the city. Within this stale cell with its wilted plants and faded postcards, I met an aspiring novelist named Riflessione. “I own a copy,” he told me, “unfortunately, recently loaned to a Mademoiselle Irréel of Paris.”

I returned home empty handed. CFRM27 became a distant thought as I continued on with my life, however, fate would reunite us when a student cited an article - A genre analysis of [CFRM27]. The paper simultaneously argued for the text as science-fiction, surrealist fantasy, postmodernism, a critique of postmodernism, satire and a love letter to Borgias. “[CFRM27] is an ouroboros. The text eats itself.”

These words reignited my curiosity and so I wrote to Mademoiselle Irréel, yet received no response. I began searching for other copies, but this only led me deeper into the labyrinth of critiques, editorials, reviews and analyses. Like Captain Ahab, I was guided by those who had witnessed my elusive quarry. Meticulously piecing scraps together, I was able to establish a loose sense of narrative, of the philanthropist who would colonise Mars.

In a Buenos Aires mirror shop, an old man told me how the seventh paragraph of the story diverges to a description of a different narrative, which is only vaguely paraphrased. A Cervantes scholar is sent back in time to kill a mysterious dictator as a baby. However, they arrive in the past to find that there are a number of possible children who fit the description. They must decide, in the light of future horrors, what must be done.

I found others who knew of the great work. Clandestine individuals who guarded their secrets and traded their findings for mine.

Within a hedge-maze in rural England, a groundskeeper with a crescent-moon scar on his face listed recurring motifs - smoke, mazes, whales. Within his Jacuzzi showroom in Slovenia, a man named Iluzija told me that despite its discordant nature, the novel ends abruptly with a happy ending.

“The narrator tells their problems in the start, then never mentions them again. Then in the final sentences, these early threads get woven together. All problems are solved. Is this good writing traditionally? No. In this? I don’t know.”

A Tel Avivian winemaker claimed to have an Israeli translation of the full text, but after three weeks, all she could produce was a photograph of her tattoo - a single sentence allegedly lifted from the text: “Within the smoke, a leviathan. Within the labyrinth, infinity.“

A grotesque Scandinavian sailor, a polyglot mathematician, a sardonic Disney Princess. Sweaty kitchens beneath the streets of New Orleans, a circular temple within burnt jungle, The Museum of Phallology in Reykjavik. People and places where information on CFRM27 were available. Snippets and snippets of snippets.

Ultimately, however, these details were meaningless. After over a decade of research, countless hours searching for answers, I was unable to find a single shred of evidence of CFRM27. Despite its alleged date of publication, the first mention of CFRM27 apparated spontaneously in 2004. The rumours and critiques I had been devouring did not describe and analyse, they created. Each review shaped the novel through allusion and illusion. There was no novel, but the shape of a novel which excluded that which the novel was not. There was no novel.

And yet.

I was part of the flotsam left in the behemoth’s wake. Through the obfuscating mist of obsession, I knew CFRM27, perhaps better than anyone. Just as Ahab and his prey were irrevocably bound by fate, so too were CFRM27 and I, and just as the whale had pulled his obsessive hunter, tethered by hemp, into the darkest depths, so too had I been abducted.

And so, I published. The most comprehensive record of the novel, ‘Shapes: Mirrors, mazes, smoke, time-travel, Moby Dick, mythical creatures and spirals within [CFRM27]’ became highly regarded. Its publication, and acceptance within academia led to promotion. My name became synonymous with CFRM27. I designed a module syllabus. The following year, it became the most over-subscribed module within the department. Even those gargoyle-faced stoics within the faculty who viewed the target of my obsession as a gimmick, regarded me with respect. A student fell in love with me and we leased an apartment together, high above the smoky, maze of the city. Each morning, we basked in new-born sunlight, sipping coffee as dark as ambergris, reading anything that might bear even passing resemblance to that great and unknowable work.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply