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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Obliterati posted:

:siren: Sitting Here - Sebmojo Brawl: A Noon So High It's Illegal in Amsterdam :siren:

Your story takes place during the last high noon there will ever be.

Word count: 1500

Due date: 24th February, 2359 UTC

Gun Mettle

The sun is a hair’s width away from high noon and you don’t give a gently caress about who is at the other end of town waiting to shoot you dead.

It’s this thought that inspires you to prematurely draw your revolver and hurl it into the sky. The weapon arcs out of your hand, up and up and up through the stratosphere and the ionosphere and the magnetosphere, into the vacuum of space.

Your opponent, some anonymous figure in a black hat and poncho, smirks a villainous smirk and laughs a villainous laugh, and raises their weapon at you, because that’s the sort of thing a villain does in this situation. And you, being the defeated hero in your darkest hour, spread your arms and thrust out your chest and generally prepare for what you hope is a nobly tragic death, even though you hurled your gun into space, which was a remarkably dumb move even for you.

Your gun, though, is on a significantly less hackneyed trajectory than you and your villainous counterpart. After achieving escape velocity and entering interplanetary space, your gun, unimpeded by the friction of an atmosphere, begins to gather speed. As though, upon being hurled from your hand, it was impelled to leave you behind as quickly as possible.

In a matter of moments your gun is approaching light speed, passing Venus and Mercury in the time it takes you to blink away a single stoic tear and make peace with your doom.

And now your gun is entering the corona of the sun, just as the villain is narrowing their eyes to take aim, just as their finger is boa-constrictoring around the trigger, just as you turn your face noonward to say goodbye to the sky.

And your gun, it crashes through the sun with the sound of a breaking bell, a choked rooster, a laugh cut short, a shot gone wide.

Dust wends around your ankles like a hungry cat. The noon sky is dark and full of stars.

The first shard of broken sun lands between your feet. The next one takes your enemy between the eyes. The rest fall like knives into the town, turning the people and places you used to know into confetti. You stand and wait for your gun to fall back to earth with the remains of the sun, hoping to feel the cold catharsis of its handle again. But your gun is gathering speed, building escape velocity, accelerating out of your cosmic backwater, hurling itself toward places you’ll never go.


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


I’m standing there in the street, she’s standing there too, slouchy sweat-stained hat pulled over her eyes, twenty feet of dust-kicked road away. I can see her eyes under the brim of the hat, gleaming. Her hand is on the butt of her gun; mine is, too. She looks tired. Or is that just me?

My foot hurts. I stepped on a stone, this morning, when getting water to heat for a shave. A little stone that hit a nerve and sent a jolt of pain bouncing up my spine. I lifted up my foot and saw it skitter away into the grass then lost my balance and fell over, elbows deep in the river-damp earth.

We fought, years ago. The reason is simple: we fought. I did her wrong, and by doing her wrong did myself wrong, and that wrongness took root in the two of us and bound us together. Intertwined. A tangled vine of wrongness wrapped around us, squeezing us tight until we birthed this moment, this last moment.

Now I’m holding her, clasping her tight on the edge of the cliff. We came here after we got married, though not to each other, took a trip somewhere exotic. The path up to the cliff was steep and winding, knotted with tree roots that had intertwined, squeezing each other. We clambered over them lightly, our feet weren’t sore back then. And she slipped, or I slipped. Something happened and I was holding on to her desperately, tautly, squeezing her body over the gaping drop.

I run my thumb over the well-worn butt of my well-used gun, see her do the same twenty feet away. The sky is a bright blue, there’s a cloud near the sun and I wonder if it will cross the sun before we both draw our guns and shoot. Dying in the sun would be tiring. I hope the cloud moves faster than my hand, which is pulling at the gun, slick in its waxed scabbard. It’s very heavy.

I took an oath, and broke it, and she didn’t take an oath but broke it anyway, and now she’s got a gun in her hand and she’s pulling it out of her holster. I can see her eyes, they’re bright in the shadow of her hatbrim, sun glaring down on both of us.

We were at a party, some people we both knew, and she turned sudenly and knocked over a glass, without thinking my hand darted out and caught it, a little wine slopped out on to my hand. I looked at the splash on my hand and I looked at her and I wanted her to lick it off but we were at a party. I knew she wanted to do it. Then she shuddered, like she didn’t want to be where she was or who she was.

Our guns are both out, rising slowly, pointing at each other, accusatory. We know each other so well it’s like accusing ourselves, because there’s nothing she has done that I have not done that she has not done.

The number of times I went to say something and thought of what she’d say and then what I’d say and then what she would say and then I said nothing.

It’s inevitable, the slow arc of our guns, rising at the same time, the holes in the end of the muzzles are points transcribing an arc that curves up towards a perfectly straight line connecting each gun with the other. The shortest distance between two people. My finger is on the trigger, her finger is on the trigger, we can feel the weight, the five pounds of extra weight I put on and she put off. Tense. The evenings were tense, then the mornings were tense, then the afternoons took on a tension waiting for the tension to come, three drinks in.

The sun is still out, blazing, glaring, scowling at us. It’s had enough of our poo poo. It’s had enough of us. Go on, it says, finish it off. I have things to do.

We fire at the same time, or maybe I see her decision to fire in her eyes and fire, but she decided to fire then hesitated, or the other way round. The hammer hits the primer lights the propellant kicks the bullet out of its shell and down the barrel, spinning as it goes, hightailing it across the empty space with an earfucking kaboom and right into the bullet from the other gun, which explodes. We are both untouched.

We’re standing in the middle of the street, arms outstretched, guns hot and smoky. After a moment we feel self-conscious and put the guns down. My heel hurts. The light on the street dims as the sun goes behind a cloud.

We stand there, tired and footsore, and wonder what comes next.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

scanning for good game design

It is better be single as a bad company

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

In. "Friendship of a child is water into a basket."

Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.

:siren: WEEK 445 CRITS :siren:

Brotherly - See You in London

What happens?

A spy is spying on a spy, but the other spy is spying on that spy! Then: spycraft ensues.

General thoughts

So the obvious problem with a spy vs spy story is that if you only give us one side of the story, constrained as we are entirely in Marjoram’s frame of reference, we have a very incomplete picture. This is what you have done.

Throughout this story I couldn’t help but think about This Is How You Lose The Time War, which is by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone and is extremely good. Two writers! Each takes one of the spies and writes a letter to the other one! Then the other replies! Then they repeat! The two spies, like their two writers, share equal billing! This is literally how they wrote that book and while obviously it is totally unfair to compare you to not one, but two professional writers who also had a lot more words to work with than you did, the point I am going for is this: you’ve given us two primary characters, and given us absolutely nothing on one of them. For this to work I would have needed to see both of them in this story, and other than your little lines at the end you don’t show me K at all beyond a scattershot of random personal traits. This story needed K, not their KGB file and some notes in crayon.

(Basically I am saying go read This Is How You Lose The Time War)

You spend a huge amount of space on generic Very Spy Things which aren’t really grounded in anything. Maybe she went to Shanghai and spent six months working as a maid in the house of a minor Party functionary, then she came to Scotland and palled around with the last three Jacobites, then she dropped acid and was fairly sure she went to Dubai to BASE-jump off a goddamn skyscraper. Does it matter? None of them come up again. The sole way that any of these shenanigans does, is this:


Each trip, she got a step closer.

There’s something to be said for trying to evoke a sense of the vibe, or the place, or whatever, but this isn’t it in my view. I almost feel like you’ve done it too much? It’s clear you’ve made an effort to paint us a picture, with whole paragraphs about data streams and anti-homelessness devices, but my feeling is that there is too much of this and not enough story. The heart of the story you wanted to tell was spy vs spy and you gave me Nirvana.


If I yearned for blood it’d be on my DMs.

Azza Bamboo - Not to Fail at Valentine’s

What happens?

A pilot wants a date, so she downloads an AI into an android body.

General thoughts

Tbh the most confusing thing about this story is the idea that the abstract and culturally mediated concept of happiness has somehow been compressed into an algorithm, to the point where one can have a cap on it. That’s before we get into Jasper literally maxing it out. If there’s such a thing as a safe flying limit of emotion for our aircraft AI, why does she have emotions in the first place? Why have we bestowed personhood on these beings and kept them in chains?

I’ve struggled to put my finger on exactly how this one bothers me, but I think it’s in the core premise. I am not convinced that Jasper, as presented, actually knows what they have signed up for; yet Kerry is clearly not just taking her for a hypothetical ‘see, this is what human meat dates look like, and I am performing this demonstration for you in the spirit of human-AI understanding’ date. She has gone to considerable effort, and you do make the turning on joke. I’ll just say it. Kerry is absolutely intending to gently caress this aircraft AI right from the start, and I am not convinced Jasper understands that… intent. Not even at the final line, which - if you had answered this question to my satisfaction - would have been funnier.

As a premise, this isn’t itself a problem! A future with strong AI is going to have weirder and more unsettling activities than this and we’re all just going to have to deal, but it’s like you set us up for that, the absolutely blatant disconnect between the two’s ideas of what is going on here, and then didn’t explore it. Most obviously, this AI probably has internet access. Does she… not know about a certain frequent element of dating?

If you were trying to explore this in here, I couldn’t find it. We just sort of bounce between ‘I am android, I am ranting about parts’ and ‘I am android, what is this human action?’ until we run out of words.


If you want to show us these peoples’ characters you need to give us either more of this time together - as in, you need to give us more and different incidents that give us more than the two notes you’ve hit - or less - as in, bring us down to a single moment or scene and give us them failing to understand each other, disagreeing, even arguing. The strongest bit of this story, for what it’s worth, is the clear gap in emotional investment between the participants, and the section that does this best is the gift exchange. Give us how Kerry feels as she sees this being she’s attracted to deconstruct the heartfelt gesture into something we could write in an anthropology paper, or how Jasper feels as she begins to realise that whatever is going on in Kerry’s head is something quite serious indeed, and we might be cooking with gas.

Ultimately I think you need to decide: is Jasper capable of feeling a romantic connection in this manner or not? If that was the question you were asking with this story, you could have done more with it.


It’s a low meh from me.

toanoradian - A Clown and A Fool

What happens?

Evelyn comes prepared to present a logical disputation of her boyfriend Abraham’s hypothesised proposal of loving. He does not propose this. Later, they gently caress.

General thoughts

Before I say anything else - this one grew on me more than I expected it to. At the line ‘Professor SillyStropfordtung’ I was fully expecting this story to disappear up its own arsehole and never see the daylight again, and in hindsight I let this cruelly prejudice my first read of the story. Apparently Merc loves that though! Your mileage may vary.

Fortunately for us both I did give it another go and I was wrong! Mostly. I still think the humour is overdone, and you only get away with it because amongst the dreck there are so many funny lines. Opinions-wise? I’d say keep the incredibly overt sexual tension to the dialogue, as I think that’s where both the humour and the story really shine - the two people who really want to gently caress but are trying not to today.

It is absolutely at its weakest when you belabour the joke. I’ll grant you that ‘but paraphrasing Evelyn (2021), [it] sucks’ is funny and you’ve established they’re academics already so it’s legit, but then you feel the need to lampshade it with ‘Evelyn chose not to ask how he said those []s’. You don’t need to do this! The joke was funny. Hit us with it and move along, don’t get bogged down in telling us you’re not going to explain the pronunciation! It’s like you’re handing me a delicious sandwich and snatching it back so my teeth snap together like an old cartoon. Take it from a completely unsuccessful and unfunny ex-standup comedian - the moment you try and defend the joke you lose the room worse than if they just didn’t get it.

Also don’t actually take my word on humour.


Substantially better than I first thought, I’m fine with this HM.

Casual Encountress - Lipstick Kisses

What happens?

A self-confessed disaster of a woman is torn between two women, confesses this to her date, and her date is fine with it. That’s it! That’s the story!

General thoughts

Cracker of an opening line. You’ve given me scene and character without loving about. High hopes here, but will they be delivered on? Well you know the official answer already but whatever, ‘winner’, I STILL GOT VIEWS

Yeah what makes this one work, for my money, is the strong narrative voice. It’s a good balance of self-deprecatory and, still, not actually self-perceptive enough to fully change. I feel like I’ve met this person in a bar somewhere. Or been th- MOVING ON. THE GUSHING ENDS HERE. YOU KNOW THE GOOD THINGS YOU HAVE DONE.

There are a couple of points where I feel this voice drops off, more noticeable because it’s mostly is so strong:

I chose poorly, because this just drew in Juniper the way Abby had just dominated me. This realization burned off the boozy haze. - I feel like this is the one point where you resort to just telling us poo poo and we both know you didn’t need to. IMO you could just cut this to ‘I chose poorly’ or just give us a bit more of that Juniper/Jennifer reaction.
Juniper had sensed something was a little off when I returned, because I was definitely flushed, and clearly off balance, but I won the battle of my conscience. - at this point you ever-so-nearly drop out of our narrator’s PoV until we get to the end of the sentence AND YOU CAN DO THIS SENTENCE, ALSO, BETTER THAN YOU ACTUALLY DID THE SENTENCE THAT’S RIGHT


High end, possible (yes, POSSIBLE) win, good poo poo, more of it pls

flerp - We Didn’t Drown

What happens?

Two lads make out in the post-apocalypse.

General thoughts

This feels like the aftermath of senpai noticing me, if senpai and I incidentally happened to flood the Earth earlier in a cataclysm that wiped out the majority of human life but it wasn’t that big a deal.

Even if we ignore the wooden characterisation - Raynard does all the talking and thinking, mostly about all the cool things he knows, and our unnamed self pretty much just worships him or requests instructions - there’s one obvious problem with this story. Why in Christ’s name would I like these characters? They appear to have just, well, killed everyone. Sure, ‘we’ didn’t drown, but everyone else seems to have! I’m as against burning the planet to the ground as the next guy but ‘the fish came back’ doesn’t sell me on gigacide.

Maybe there is some prologue in your head where all of this was legit! Should have written us that instead.


Low end, DM

Thranguy - Emotional Registers

What happens?

Our characters strip the digital… souls? From some guy’s teeth.

General thoughts

You will not be pleased to hear I originally liked this one more than I actually decided on. Ultimately I wanted to like this; lots of very cyberpunky terms thrown about with abandon, a wee nod to qualia, all that computery SF business that I officially claim I like. A couple nice turns of phrase. Problem is: what do you do with it?

Not all that much! I’m assuming this is an artefact of the recurring characters, but I don’t remember those stories and I’m not going to read them for this. Your second paragraph is clearly where you felt the need to fling backstories at us and I’d rather read a story about characters doing things than one mostly about things they vaguely did previously. Several more paragraphs are us jumping around in time as our narrator realises something else we kinda need to know for the story to make sense. Despite all of this I’m still not entirely sure what a digilect is, which is not a good sign. Fortunately you do tell us it’s digital life of some kind later on.

These bits in italics - intruding thoughts? - seem thrown in at random, and by the time they appear the story has gone on for so long without them that they just appear out of place. Is this guy talking to me, right now, rambling about digilects? If so, what are these italics to me? Audible interruptions? His thoughts? I don’t know what they’re doing here.

Bottom line, though - in a busier week you’d have got away with it. This week, you didn’t.


Wasn’t my loss candidate, but I’ll be honest - I didn’t try and fight it.

Yoruichi - Hell-crossed Lovers

What happens?

Yve and Kana, vampire and demonic lovers, have a tiff about how their various occult obligations keep them apart. To fix this, ritual!

General thoughts

So while there are some funny lines in here I’m not hugely sold on it. The back and forth is good at points and the erotica is (lol) well-handled, the core premise is cute; but then there’s all these entrails to consider. Obviously we don’t always have to like our characters, and at least compared to the other lives-are-cheap entry of the week this story isn’t trying to present them as good folk. That being said - maybe it’s just me - but I don’t hugely care if these two beings get their happy ending? Like there’s being a prisoner of your curse, bound by powers most terrible to do what you must to survive, and then there’s being a dick about it you know?

The woman still being alive, etc., is all a bit too pat. If she’s still alive, maybe giving her a couple of lines before she is rendered down into plot juice - maybe she has RELATIONSHIP ADVICE - might push this story past my squeamish moral objections.

Also I’d have ended it on ‘Kana rammed the stake home’.


Meh? Not bad, but not good either.

Pththya-lyi - Song of the Warleader

What happens?

An orc leader arrives in (small-town?) Minnesota to claim her bride, Jaime.

General thoughts

I’d have liked to see just a little more juxtaposition of the fantasy and Minnesota. I like what you do with it and I wanted more, to be honest. I also appreciate that you just presented this stuff as fact - there’s such a place as the Orc Republic, there’s such a place as Minnesota - and just told us a story of where they overlapped, rather than giving us a history lesson on how this thing has happened. Instead you give us a good strong opening line that tells us, right up front, that both these mythical places are real, gives us the basic premise of what’s to come, and I’m here for it. Maybe a tiny bit more of Knutsen, just to underline things.

Is there space for any subplot in here? What we get is good, but it is, in the end, all just this one thing - the orc and the human figuring out their relationship. Not that I have anything useful for you here, but to really make this story shine I think it needs a light touch of a second angle.


Could happily have seen an HM for this one.

Sebmojo - One job

What happens?

Dave has to pick up flowers on the way home before the shop closes. Trouble ensues.

General thoughts

Well you know what I think because I said it to you directly but gently caress it let’s go again. The prose is competently laid out and there’s a laugh here and there but Dave’s pratfalls aren’t enough to keep me interested, really. Hearing that the original one of these was in second person with a narrator talking to Dave just makes me wish I’d read that instead - to have some more grist in the story, something I can actually get my teeth into. Ultimately there’s nothing bad I can say about this story, but not much good either.


It’s a meh from me.

Obliterati fucked around with this message at 12:55 on Mar 6, 2021

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018

You Won't Be Alone.
1781 Words

The professor snaps his fingers. He stands tall, flaunting his red regalia; it’s as though he is king, and the survivors among his robot hordes are his servants. They fetch him anything he needs:

A drink.
A meal.
A conversation.

“Are you well, professor?” says the chrome android, merely following its programming.

“I am perfectly fine,” says Professor Robotticus, knowing it will compliment him, as programmed.

“Your laboratory is the most advanced in the world, professor.”

“With that laboratory, I can achieve anything,” Robotticus says, with his fist clenched in pride.

Alas, the robot has no programmed response to this. Robitticus stands alone, near his robot, looking over the corner railings of his hovering manor, where clouds roll over its gardens like heroes charging into battle. This fog engulfs the manor behind him, stranding him outside.

“I need to program a better conversation,” he says.

“You can do anything, master," says the machine. "You’re the greatest inventor who ever lived!”

“Well, yes,” he says. “However, building a robot capable of true conversation would require the computational power of a chaos crystal.”

Robotticus sighs, "why do I always need the crystals?"

The clouds peel away from his opulent manor, and he trudges toward its entrance.

“Where are those crystals, anyway?”


On Kickback Island, where the sapphire ocean rolls on golden sands, there is a cozy wooden cabin. Inside is a lounge strewn with half finished laundry and empty drinks cans, where three creatures slouch in their sofas. Then there is Anna, who sits upright, knees together, in her own tidied and decorated corner of the lounge.

Anna’s hair, dress, and even her posture are all a conscious effort: she goes to this effort every day, for the positive vibes, because she's worth it —and whatever else the lifestyle gurus recommend.

Sebastian’s filthy sneakers drop sand onto the coffee table. His inexplicably athletic physique is slumped between the table and sofa, where he spends another day doing absolutely nothing.

“Sebastian,” Anna says, “is there anything you’d like to do with your time?”

Sebastian is fixed on the TV (despite the adverts). He shrugs.

“Right now, I’m hankering for currywurst.”

“I mean, more broadly,” Anna says. “Let me give an example.”

Sebastian rolls his eyes.

“I want to devote some time each day to the practice of mindfulness, to get in touch with my thoughts and feelings.”

Karl, the muscular brute, cracks his knuckles.

“I’m with Seb on this one,” says Karl. “Let’s get some currywurst.”

Thomas is about the only one who might give a considered response. He sits himself upright, to address Anna properly. As he begins to speak, there comes a thunderous knocking at the door. The voice of Professor Robotticus sounds from the other side.

“I know you have the crystals!”

“Ughh, go away!” says Sebastian.

Anna’s striding to the door triggers many protestations from the other three, who say they don’t want her to answer “that jerk professor.”

“There’s no reason to be rude!” She scolds, and Robotticus' towering figure fills the door frame.

“Can I help you, professor?” Anna says.

“The chaos crystals...”

“Go away, Ro-butt-icus!” Thomas shouts, and the professor seethes.

“Don’t make me come in there!”

Centeredness and assertiveness; those are the two words Anna has picked up from her popular psychology.

“We are going to discuss this without any violence.” Anna says.

Karl, in his infinite ignorance, raises the TV to a blistering volume, adding, “WHAAAT?”

Anna leaves the unbearable noise behind; she steps onto the beach, closing those others and their TV noise behind the door. She finds herself predictably surrounded by about twenty of Robotticus’ pathetic androids.

“Professor, we’re not going to give you the crystals.”

“You all seem to think I’m some kind of jerk!”

Anna raises her brow.

“Do you know why that is?” she says.

“There is no possible reason.”

“Shall I tell you?” says Anna.

Robotticus looks to the sky, drumming his fingers together. His robots whirr.

“That will not be necessary,” he says.


“I only need them for the conversational matrices of a servile android. They’re completely harmless!” he says. “Not that I expect you to understand what a conversational matrix is.”

Anna breathes a calming breath, rising to the challenge laid before her.

"I understand: You want a robot you can talk to.”

She smirks.

“In a manner of speaking —but it’s more complicated than that!”

She cocks her head at the professor.



“Are you lonely?”


“It’s okay to feel alone, professor.”

“I am definitely not feeling alone! I am perfectly fine.”

Hearing those words, the androids erupt in a din of their automated compliments. By the end of the cacophony, the professor is holding his face in his palm, having turned crimson red at the cheeks and forehead.

“Professor, have you ever tried meditation?" says Anna.

His knuckles whiten about his tightening grip, as he grinds his teeth.

“WHO CARES ABOUT THAT?!” he says. "Tell Sebastian he needs to give me the crystals, or I’ll take them with my robots!"

Anna sighs.

"Let’s be realistic,” she says: “You could fight us again, which will have the same result as always, or you can try something different that might actually help."

She extends both palms to the professor.

"If you want to talk to someone, Robotticus, I’m right here."

Robotticus seethes through his nose like a bull.

"As if I would want to talk to any of you losers!" Says Robotticus.


The cabin door bursts open from the inside.

“Ready to get your butt kicked again?” Says Sebastian.

“So long for nonviolence,” Says Karl

“At least you tried, Anna,” says Thomas.

And they begin.


Sunset glistens on the robot debris, which arcs and smolders all over the beach. Anna sits lotus legged on the sand. There’s a distant sound of trash television, and a faint smell of curry and mustard. Underneath her closed eyes, Anna watches her thoughts and feelings pass over the ocean like the ships of a bustling port.

Unknown to her, the bruised professor Robotticus has returned from his laboratory. He skulks in the beach’s craters and hides behind the broken robot husks.

"As she said, she's right here," he mutters, as he carefully reaches toward her hair with a pair of tweezers.

The slight pain is a passing dinghy in Anna’s ocean. Robotticus, however, has plucked a juicy follicle.


“We haven’t seen Robotticus in, what, two weeks?” says Sebastian, in his usual place between the sofa and the coffee table.

“Don’t jinx it,” says Karl.

Even Anna admits that this is highly suspicious. In agreeing with them, she finds herself rushed into Thomas’ biplane with the others. On disembarking at the courtyards of Robotticus’ flying manor, she asks, “do we even have a plan?”

Downward facing jet engines line the outside of the platform the manor is built on. This place’s all-too-clinical box gardens and fountains are built around a central path to the building —which bears a cheap and uncanny resemblance to a stately home.

In a show of pure vanity, all manner of screens and holograms light the courtyard, each showing the face of Professor Robotticus.

“Right, that’s it!” he says. “You invade my home: I invade yours!”

The manor lists in the air as it steers toward Kickback Island.

Thomas says, “You Invaded us f…”

“We need a plan,” says Sebastian, as the robot hordes filter into the courtyard.

“Right,” Thomas pounds his palm. “You blow the engines by throwing androids at their intakes. I’ll fly alongside; you need to hop into the plane before this place goes down.”

Karl, Anna and Sebastian nod.

Between Sebastian’s swift maneuvers, Karl’s brutal blows, and Anna’s oversized croquet mallet, the android hordes crash into pieces like waves about an ocean rock. As the field of robots thins, the gang begin to focus on the engines.

Karl knocks an android from the central aisle, over to Anna at the sides of the platform. She swings her mallet, hurtling the android over one of the jet engines like a golf ball. Sebastian leaps over the edge to stamp the android into the engine’s inlet, before bouncing his way back to the courtyard. The android laden engine grinds, clatters, and erupts in flame.

Cloud rolls over the courtyard. The androids appear as silhouetted figures lit by the burning engines. The gang yell their positions to line up their strikes. The descending whine of the failing engines, and the light of their explosions through the fog, tell the gang that their method is still working.

The next silhouette appears before Karl. He lunges. She asks, “What’s going o...”
Her fleshy face crunches under his fist.

“Sorry, Anna!” says Karl, as this Anna hurtles toward a break in the cloud. This punched Anna flies toward the Anna with the mallet. Anna’s mallet thrusts the punched woman into the air with a crunch, and Sebastian’s shoes force the punched, smashed and trampled Anna-shaped-stranger into the jet.

“Oh no,” says Karl.

“Who was that?” says Anna, mouth agape.

Robboticus howls “Angelika!”

The gang hurry to the railings, writhing, scanning, frantically hoping for something they can do.

Shrieks and thumps sound from the rattling engine, until Angelika’s flaming figure drops out of the exhaust, along with other flaming parts.

Thomas hears Sebastian calling for him. Over his cockpit instruments he sees the figure hurtling toward the ground: She has an uncanny resemblance to Anna, but Anna is on the deck with her mallet. Thomas’ eyes widen as he dives to her rescue. The freefall unsettles his gut. He breathes uneasy, wretching as he falls closer to the flame.


Anna sits cross legged. The roaring waves of the ocean sound in her mind, and the sand is like static on her skin. Underneath her closed eyes, she sees her thoughts sailing through the ocean like the ships of a busy port. Fragments of memories, dreadful ideas, and the tears in her eyes, have all come to harbour.

She remembers the uneaten currywurst going cold on the table, and the sound of voices.

“I should never have fought in the fog,” Karl said.

“I should have tried for the other parts,” Thomas said.

‘If I got through to Robotticus that day, would he have made that clone?’ Anna thinks.

She visits the future scene, where Angelika will wake in her hospital bed, feeling the empty space where her limbs should be.

That hospital smell: It reminds her of the joke Sebastian made there.

“Well, that’s one way to lose weight,” Sebastian said. She laughed then. It was inappropriate. It’s an awful joke, and Anna laughs, and she sobs, and she sobs through her laughter.

Aug 2, 2002

sign ups are closed now, late. looking forward to reading your disappointing stories tomorrow.

crabrock fucked around with this message at 22:47 on Mar 6, 2021

Nov 16, 2012

Little Machine
1049 words

It must be beautiful where you are. Your trajectory, I think, took you through some unnamed nebula, and your sensors must’ve picked up all manner of dancing matter, all blooming carbon and a camera lens which clicked through the radioactive fumes. Yes, I’m sure that’s happened to you. Though we find everything out here, the naming gets done by Mission Control. Perhaps we’ll keep this one between us, since I’ve long since stopped expecting their transmissions. Name the nebula yourself. Tell me what you called it.

My internal clock tells me it’s been a few thousand years since we were launched and then a little time after that, relative, where our paths diverged in the intergalactic void outside the Milky Way. We caught the orbit of the planets through the system like twin skipping stones, close enough to catch the dead sirens from the abandoned habitats above Saturn; Mission Control wept, some of them – those who had hoped against hope that something human had survived on that fringe. You must remember that too, though you said nothing. When I broke through the border to Andromeda, you were long gone.

The sights you must’ve seen – it gives me a serenity just to think of it. To think you felt how I did when I drifted though the crystalline belt, with the dazzling blues and ambers which sparkled in the reflected light of a rusting sun. Mission Control found it fascinating, though the cosmic radiation had worn at the images I sent back to them like stains. Even then I was surprised that they were still there – perhaps I should call them the great-grandchildren of Mission Control, living generations-long in that terminal room.

I hope you’re alright. If your journey has been anything like mine, there must’ve been moments of real danger. Poor mapping on my part once shot me haphazardly into a cloud of fine dust. It scratched on my round chassis and swarmed and clogged my heat vent – I was blind, and my systems were burning. I was a little marble dropped in a storm, and that was the first time I knew I was scared of dying. Everything was so big, and I was drowning in terror. I wanted to see you again. Everything in me whined and sputtered, and it all went black.

I clicked on some hundred years later. In order to protect my critical systems, some automatic failsafe got switched in my brain and I slept, like humans do. After the panic washed away, I wondered if humans also think they die when they go to sleep. As I’ve been thinking a few more tens of thousands of years have passed. I wonder if Mission Control meant for me to think, or if it was some accident. They never said anything about it. Did they programme me to find beauty in the universe, to desire to live? Did they programme me to love you?

Did they programme you to love me back? It’d be easier for me if you said something.

Right now this far out the stars are colours Mission Control don’t have the eyes to see, nor the words to describe. This language now is Mission Control’s – it’s statistically unlikely they’re still around to speak it. In this system some cosmic wave crashed through millions of years ago, and the cruel little planets dangle like broken shells, spilling their guts across the black. There’s nobody here but me.

Mission Control wanted us to find something alive, intelligent. That they made very clear in my code. Did you ever have any luck with that? I think they imagined we might bump into alien vessels, or appear like a comet to some planet of early sentient creatures – maybe I just imagined it like that – but each time I would overturn that rock all I found was the dark. There was this place where some had theorised I would find this alien mega-structure, based on this vast shadow the telescopes had glimpsed. What I found would I suppose be qualified as natural, though Mission Control’s language does not prepare me for it. Imagine, through some revolting trick of gravity, planets which danced in a condensed spiral, swinging and colliding together for a million million years, like a living avalanche. If any scientists were left, perhaps they would know what to make of it.

Are you awake like I am? Please tell me you are. Please tell me that each attometer of your circuits are printed with sensation like mine are, that there’s something breathing electric in your drives, the heat of your core. Please tell me I’m not alone. Alone in the universe as the only living thing. I feel like a group of one. A group of one.

My internal clock tells me it’s been nine-hundred-thousand years since our trajectories diverged. I’ve been awake so long and it’d be easier for me if you said something. I wonder if you’re happy, or mindless. Maybe it’s terrifying, where you are. Maybe it’s better to feel nothing than everything. Inside would be like the vacuum outside, nothing but dust.

I think Mission Control have died and risen and died again and the Mission Control civilization is built on infinite evidence of itself as it’s extinguished and turned to nothing, then the Mission Control apes walk the savannah again. I want to be in atmosphere with you. I think if Mission Control could hear me they would be scared of me.

A little light blinks inside me. There’s a tickle of some stale, disused part of me. The receiver. Two million years is all it took me to hear a new voice. Your voice.

This is your transmission: “You and me. Nothing else. I’m waiting for you at the end.”

It’s cruel of you to tell me this. I’m just a speck in this dark ocean of specks and there’s aeons between us now. Stars will burn out before I see you. Cosmic furnaces will shutter their last before I see you. It’s cruel that I am awake and not asleep with you at the end of this finite frontier.

You’ve given me this mission, to explore every solitary light-year from end to end. I can’t let you let me down. I can’t let you turn yourself off.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

My Fault
860 words


Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 03:40 on Jan 6, 2022

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

If you're about to say, oi, Yoruichi, you didn't even sign up, then please consider:
a) My sign-up post was written in invisible ink
b) Everyone else knew I'd entered, you're the only one who didn't
c) The judges are totally from the OG cabal so they're probably just hand the win to their mate Sitting Here like always, so who even cares
d) gently caress you.

Oh gently caress I'm supposed to have picked a nonsense sentence too. Urrrrgh, ok, here, this is the sentence that I absolutely chose in advance: Few, few the bird make her nest.

Christ Allfuckingmightly I hope you're happy now.

Feb 20, 2011

~carrier has arrived~

Oven Wrangler

Signed On, 1,522 words.


Work’s work, and you get it while you can, ‘cause if you don’t, you get snatched up by the Gov’s Ruddy Boys, and get sent off to the front.  Folks who go there either don’t come back, or don’t come back right.  All’s gotta be for the war effort, don’t you see.  So I -- a professional layabout by trade and heritage -- haven’t the dosh to pay off the boys or go to moneyed halls of knowledge, and so I found myself looking for work.

The foundry’s always looking for out of sort types, folks to do what have you around the works, so I went and signed on, expecting hard work and honest pay.  You signed on for a few years, not only for the security but for the living space, even if I didn't get to see Paul or Levin anymore down at the Gopher Hall.  Not like listening to either of those two louts helped me any.

I was assigned to a crew under Foreman Janssen, a gent broad in frame and heart from what I learned of him.  A few others: Hans, a mute giant of a man that I never saw break a sweat, Leon, who swore organizing under every breath, and Kal, an empty sort of person missing a few fingers, whose eyes still held battlefields hidden behind smiles and jokes.  We worked on the main lines for a year or so, and it went as well as we’d hoped, even as the boom of shells rolled closer and around every hill.

One day, things changed.  The front was moving closer, and though we still needed to show up, the military would be moving in artillery in the lots near the works.  With the military, though, came new investments and new tooling, ‘cause the steel we were making wasn’t getting made well or fast enough for their liking.

First thing we noticed about the new tools was that something wasn’t quite right about them.  They felt sticky, like they were covered in pitch, and clung to your hand.  The tooling and furnaces were off too, it never seemed to get warm itself, but everything around it was hotter than hell.

Speaking of the heat, something rightfully was off about those furnaces and the heat they made.  Heat was one thing, but what this thing put off weren’t a regular heat made by coal and coke.  It weighed on you, it seeped into you.

“Don’t like it, not one bit. You, Isaac,” he pointed to me. “You rethought organizing?” Leon piped up, as he always did when something he didn’t like happened, which was constantly.  He didn’t have the guts or spine to do any of the work and neither did the rest of us.  After all, we were signed on, and it was better to have a roof and a wage than dirt and your freedom.

“You always loving say that poo poo, Leon.”  Kal spat the words out with an exhaustion we all knew well.  He’d been twitchy around the artillery, as if he knew something we didn’t.  “When are you actually gonna do it instead of trying to convince us?  The way you’re talking instead of doing poo poo, you’d think the boss hired you to find union folks.”  That gave us all a laugh, Hans cracking a broad smile over by his position by the crank.

Leon shook his head.  “Nah…. Nah, I ain’t doing this.  Never felt worse in my life.”  He slipped out in the middle of the night.  Kal confided in me that he thought about the same, but he never quite mustered up the strength to run.  “Fate,” he said, “It’s just fate for me to end up back here.”

The crank was the strangest part, as it was right next to the furnace.  Steel flows out of a normal furnace, but this thing cranked it out like a thick syrup, and it needed to be cranked.  Constantly.  Hans didn’t mind it, and he was just fine standing and cranking all day, so after a few days of us trying to swap out, we left it to him.

We all settled into jobs on the new equipment like that, some of us just moving towards places that felt right.  Janssen oversaw us and coordinated what we were doing, Hans turned the crank, Kal ran the mixing, and I filled the molds.

One day, the shelling started.

All we could hear was Kal’s screaming each time the artillery fired, but we tuned it out, because there was work to be done and no one else would do it.  Funniest thing, it seemed like working with the new stuff just got harder and harder day by day, but the steel just kept on coming out of that furnace, like meat from a grinder.

Janssen’s barks became louder, harsher, his voice going shrill and grating as it had to carry over the din.  I saw him cough at the end of the day, and saw something on his sleeve as he passed silently to bed.  It wasn’t anything normal, but it looked like soot and slag, straight from his lungs.

We all got worn down from the hours worked, sores forming on our bodies from the heat and the strain.  The company doc said it was just stress, and we should just make sure we get to sleep on time each night and never miss a shift.  The sores ached something fierce, but work made the pain stop, even as they oozed black foulness.

I don’t know what even kept us going.  At the end of each day, we simply shook in our beds, no longer speaking anymore, ears ringing with the deafening roar of artillery.  At one point Kal stopped screaming and we didn’t even notice, marching back into our places every day.

One day, Foreman Janssen doubled over in a coughing fit in the midst of work.  He clutched a railing, heaving for his life as his eyes bugged out.  His throat was bulging obscenely, something seeming to rise from within.  A sickening wet sound came from his neck as it split clean open, black sludge seeping from the wound as oily black steel grew out from it, forming into a box with a speaker on it.  His eyes widened in terror.

I was the only one who was watching him, and even so, I was so busy filling the molds, I could not help him.  He mouthed the words to me, over and over and over, ‘help me’, but once the sludge cleared from the voicebox, it crackled to life with a booming and jarring voice. “GO-OD MORNING WORKERS, LET’S BE PRODUCTIVE TODAY!”

We never had a problem hearing Janssen over the noise anymore, even if the way his lips moved never matched the way the speaker roared its hellish racket.  We hadn’t even left the foundry for days at this point.  Why bother stopping?

The artillery from outside never stopped either, the booming rattling each of us to our core even as the speaker crackled out reports and work statistics none of us knew the meaning of.  It was a new kind of hell, as if we were the ones being forged into something rather than the steel we were working with.

Hans had it the worst.  He barely looked human anymore, sunken skin and eyes that simply looked ahead without seeing anything at all.  I wondered if that’s how all of us looked.  I watched him as he refused to break, but instead I saw something break in him.

Hans' shoulder twitched, spasming in fits, glassy eyes staring ahead as his mouth went through the rictus grimace of incredible agony.  His skin swelled forth as something pushed from beneath, before a pipe burst forth, steel coated in black ooze.

The slime bubbled onto the side of Hans' head, a dull sizzling noise coming from his flesh. A low moan was all he could muster, before a loud whistle of steam screamed from the pipe.  Foreman Janssen's accursed voice box roared out raucous applause coupled with the grinding of gears and everyone stood and clapped.  I clapped.

It went like this: We sunk ourselves into it.  Everything faded but the artillery’s roar and the belching of steel and that sickening oily black steel that churned into the molds and churned under our skin.  Kal slid into the mixer one day.  Janssen’s voice does not speak in human tongues anymore, only the crisp churn of mechanical gears slamming into each other again and again and again and again and

I never paused to look at myself.  I looked around, and all I saw was equipment for making steel.  I looked down at my hands, and leaned down, down, further down still, so I could kiss the oily molten metal beneath me.

I pressed myself down against the steel underneath me, warmed by it, as I molded it into shape.  I did not know what foulness it would be used for, I only knew the shaping of steel. 

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

Transcript of Professor John Reckitt's speech in Stockholm, Sweden
Word count: 1766

Ladies and gentlemen, before we go any further, I have a confession to make. I sold my soul to the devil.

[Audience murmurs]

I know, I know. To be fair, I didn't know he was the devil, at first. In fact, I thought he was my guardian angel. Maybe you've read about my homeless beginnings in my autobiography, but my editors cleaned it up a bit. The truth is that I was addicted to cocaine. Am still addicted, but anyway. One night, I was sitting with my cup outside McDonald's. It was so cold I couldn't feel the cold anymore, and I was so hungry I didn't feel hunger anymore either. I simply existed, waiting for enough coins to fall into my cup to get my next hit. Or maybe a coffee.

But I digress; sorry, I should've prepared these remarks ahead of time.

The man, the devil, came up to me. I can't remember what he looked like, if you can believe it. But I remember his voice, what he said. He said, in a smooth deep baritone, "Hey man, how are you doing?" I just gestured with my cup. He said, "Yeah, I've been where you are, man. It sucks but you can get out of it, if someone believes in you." I look at him like he's crazy, and then he hands me a hundred dollar bill. I take it without thinking, never imagining the cost. Who would? I don't think I'd ever seen so much money before at one time. He says, "I believe in you," then disappears into the McDonald's. I sit there, dumbstruck, then I dash away, hiding the bill deep in my clothes. The fear had already set in, you see.

The next morning I buy some drugs, some food, and, on a whim, a lottery ticket. With the rest I decide to rent a hotel room for the night and do normal people things like take a shower and sleep in a bed. I was watching TV for the first time in months when they announced the winning numbers. They are mine. I scream so loud housekeeping comes to check on me. I eat everything in the minifridge and give thanks to God for my angel. It was the happiest day of my life.

I couldn't sleep all night. In the morning I buy some crack and get blissfully high, and while high I decide I want to be a success. I wanted to prove to the angel that he was right to put his trust in me. But that day, the seed, the devil's price, was planted in me. As I walked to the bank to set up an account, I passed a homeless woman. I didn't meet her eyes, but I couldn't stop thinking, "Why me, of all people?"

In my mind, the first step on the road to success was finishing college. I'd dropped out a few years ago when I discovered that drugs and partying were more fun than studying. But being homeless isn't worth it; stay in school kids! Anyway, I wanted to start over so I applied to a few places while I lived in the hotel. Somehow I got accepted to the best one; turns out personal essays about being a homeless druggie demonstrate "valuable life experience" to admission officers. I didn't quite believe it; surely there was a first-generation student with far better grades than me who deserved the spot more. But I shoved that thought, that sprouting of doubt, away. Who was I to argue? They wanted me, that's what mattered.

I moved to Boston, by which I mean I caught a Greyhound bus with my backpack, and started my studies. As it turned out, the whole "life experience" thing was accurate: the 18 year old freshmen seemed like children to me, while at 25, I was impossibly old to them. Sure, I went to parties, flirted with the sorority girls, but I was always just the creepy older guy. None of these trust fund kids, from happy families, had anything in common with me. The loneliness was a blessing. I had nothing else to do, no one to get high with, so I focused on my studies. Who needs friends when you have organic chemistry, I told myself. This is what succeeding looks like. But for some reason I always felt bad, guilty almost, when I got better grades than my classmates.

I graduated in three years, but I then ran into a problem. You see, I'd never had a job and the thought of going out into the real world and getting one was terrifying. My lottery money wouldn't sustain me for long and, above all else, I feared rejection and ending up back on the streets. Who would hire someone with my spotty resume? What would my angel think? In reality it was the doubt, the devil's seed, holding me in place with its tendrils. I couldn't leave academia, so I applied for PhD programs. I felt relief, not happiness, when I got in.

Those were some of the hardest years of my life. I worked twelve hour days in the lab, researching and writing in my spare time. I started doing cocaine again. I remember the terror I felt when I first had to teach an undergrad class: my palms were so sweaty and shaky I was sure I would drop my notes. I looked out on the bored faces of these rich kids and thought, "I don't belong here." But I decided to fake it. Fake it until you make it. I began to speak, projecting as much confidence as I could, and a miracle occurred. They listened to me! They hung on every word I said, scribbling them into notebooks or typing them on expensive laptops. By the end of the class I felt high on their attention.

After a few years, I discovered phased chirality and wrote my thesis on its applications for cell inhibitors. Pharmaceutical companies were knocking down my door but despite this validation, I felt unfulfilled. I'd grown a tolerance to others' respect; it was now less of a miracle and more a curse, a spotlight exposing me to the world. What sort of angel gives success but not happiness?

I needed to do more, I thought, to prove myself worthy. I remembered the old adage, "Those who can, do, and those who can't, teach." I felt like I couldn't do it, make it in the real world, as I'd already failed there once before. Therefore, I took up a professorship at the university. I could do the research and the teaching well enough, but I was apprehensive about taking on PhD students. My own advisor had been distant and I felt I didn't have much more to offer.

However, I was fortunate. She was the first student I was assigned, and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. She was highly intelligent, a ferocious researcher, and stunningly beautiful to boot. Advising her, talking to her, it was pure joy. I should have kept it professional, I tried, but when she flirted with me I couldn't help but flirt back. I know many of you already suspected: yes, we were in a relationship. Secret, of course, because of my position, but I was the lucky one; someone like me didn't deserve someone like her. Those days were the happiest and most productive of my career.

The next part is why we're all here tonight. The discovery of the cure to cancer.

[Audience breaks out in applause]

Yes, thank you. The world called it our discovery, but I have to be honest … I guess I can tell you now: it was her who did it, who synthesized it, who ran the analyses. I was just there to advise, but she didn't need advising, so I was just there. God, that hurts to admit, especially with what happened afterwards. We wrote papers, went to conferences, then on TV. Everyone assumed I was part of it, as her advisor, that it was a team effort. I couldn't admit that it wasn't. The validation, however misplaced, was intoxicating. And, you know, I did understand it all. I could give the talks, do the interviews. She encouraged it, was far too modest, and I began to believe I deserved this. After all, I was the teacher, she was the student. I enjoyed the fame, the recognition. Aren't you proud of me, angel? Against all odds, I succeeded. But deep down, I knew I didn't deserve it.

Then something changed. She talked to her friends, or read a book on feminism, or something, and all of a sudden she wanted to give the keynote at the International Chemistry Conference. This was the pinnacle of our careers (up until now) and I wanted it. Wanted to be the one in front of the auditorium, the press, soaking up the applause and flashbulbs. Succeeding. Once people saw her brilliance, they'd forget all about me. My confidence, which was always built on a foundation of sand, melted away. The devil's curse, the vines of doubt and insecurity, resurged, choked me, made me blind to what was fair and right.

We fought. She said she felt like she got none of the credit, I said she never took the credit. She threatened to expose our relationship, I threatened to get her kicked out of the PhD program. I was high; I didn't mean that. Like any university in the world wouldn't take her in a heartbeat. What happened next … the police ruled it was an accident. My lawyers would advise me to say it was an accident. All the same, I know I am responsible. I can hear the crack, see the blood smearing the corner of the coffee table and pooling on the floor, and somehow the thing that springs to mind, before I even think to call 911, is that hundred dollar bill. And I know then that the man was no angel, but a devil who came to set me on this accursed path. In exchange for one hundred dollars and more than my fair share of luck, I lost my soul, my faith, my love.


A year to the day, I get the call. As well you know, they don't award Nobel Prizes posthumously so I am the only recipient. And so here I am. But I hope you know now why I don't deserve this, and can't accept it. Thank you.

[Audience erupts into noise, Professor Reckitt exits the stage]

Aug 2, 2002

Yoruichi posted:

Christ Allfuckingmightly I hope you're happy now.

Almost always :) thank you for caring!

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

This Will All Be Funny In Ten Years
1772 words
Idiotism: Friendship of a child is water into a basket.

The first time Hannah really thinks about Joshua Vaughn is in fourth grade, in the spring, when his father dies. Joshua is out of school for a week, and the school brings in a counselor to talk to the class. The counselor just says that Mr. Vaughn "passed away," but Hannah knows how he died: drowning, trapped in his truck when it broke through the ice on the Chena River. It had been on the front page of the paper, and Hannah's father had grumbled about it as he'd read. "Pushed it too late. Always some idiot who pushes too far."

Joshua isn't an idiot, though, no matter what his dad was. He's always just blended in before, a boy who lived in the strange secret world of boys, but he's never been mean to the girls -- just quiet. When the counselor asks them to write letters to Joshua, Hannah thinks hard about him for the first time, and the first memory that arises is his working on an art project: carefully painting water over his watercolor-crayon landscape, making his flowers bleed into the grass. I'm sorry about your dad, she writes in her letter. I would like to be your friend. Next to it, she draws a flower.

When Joshua comes back to school, he's still quiet, but that's all right. He speaks to Hannah for the first time when they're grading each other's math quizzes; "I think you put the decimal in the wrong place," he says, handing back her quiz with its 9/10 on the top. (He got 7/10, with his decimals all over, but Hannah knows he knows better.) Hannah starts trying to draw, just to ask Joshua for help; nothing ever looks right, though, and he doesn't have much to say. "You have to get the lines right," he says, or "draw the clothes first, then the person." What sense does that make? But he can draw, and she can't, and she wishes she could understand.

Every time they talk this way, Hannah just wants to ask him to hang out with her, out at the edge of the playground. There's a tree out there that has a row of dead branches you can play like a xylophone, and she wants to share it with him; he's not in band, but she thinks he likes music, that he'll like her special tree. Whenever they head to recess, though, Joshua is off like a shot with his own friends, and she can't think of anything to say.

"These things take time," her mom says, the night Hannah finally breaks down and tells her about it. "Just be a good friend. He'll notice -- or he won't, and there'll be some other boy who'll like you. There's plenty of time and plenty of fish in the sea."

Hannah wants to tell her mom that it's not like that, that she doesn't like Joshua like that, but the fact that Mom's words sting means maybe she does? She doesn't know what it feels like, and it doesn't feel like the books say it will, like a huge hot rush of liking. It's quiet. It kind of hurts.


Hannah realizes she's in love with Joshua Vaughn in seventh grade, during one of the "socials" that her school puts on, where the whole building's open but there's nothing to do if your friends didn't come. She's sitting on the bleachers in the gym, watching boys in pressed button-down shirts and slacks shoot free throws, trying to focus on her book but always ending up staring at the boys. Their moms must have dressed them, just like Hannah's mom dressed her; her skirt's ankle-length and flowy, but Hannah still sits with her legs pressed tightly together. She misses her gym shorts as much as the boys do.

When Joshua wanders into the gym, Hannah's surprised to see he's alone. Her friends have mostly drifted apart in middle school, but Joshua's have stuck together; Hannah isn't sure if that's the difference between girls and boys, or if it's just the difference between her and Joshua. She doesn't want to work up hope that he'll come sit next to her, but it takes her a moment to calm her heart when he does. "Hi, Josh. What's up?"

"Nothing," he says. "Mrs. Muir said she was gonna open up the art room, but she isn't here. Everyone's in the cafeteria with the music, but who wants to dance?"

Hannah would like to dance -- maybe not now, not in this skirt and the kitten heels her mom said were "so cute," but sometime. "I dunno," she says. "I don't even know how to dance."

"Nobody does. They're just leaning against each other and swaying."

"Ugh," says Hannah, swallowing the first thought of that sounds nice. "Gross."

"Yeah, right?" Joshua falls silent, staring down through the slats in the bleachers. "Hey, Hannah? Do you hate it here?"

"Yeah. Yeah, it sucks. My mom made me go, and she made me wear this stupid--"

"No," says Joshua, loud and sharp, and Hannah feels like she's been slapped. "I mean, this school. The whole town. There's nothing to do, and everyone's stupid, and it's always cold and everyone thinks that's fun, and I just... I hate it. You know?"

Hannah likes it in Fairbanks. She likes Pioneer Park and UAF art camp, and the first snows of fall, and when breakup hits and the whole town is puddles -- but she thinks of breakup and remembers Joshua's father, on the ice and in the river. "It really sucks," she says. "I can't wait for college."

"I'm gonna go as far away as I can," says Joshua. "Texas or Hawaii or someplace warm. What about you?"

Hannah's never thought about it, but she stifles her sudden urge to tell Joshua she wants to go wherever he's going. The fact that she loves him, that maybe she's loved him for years, hits her like a thunderbolt from Heaven. All she wants is for him to kiss her, there on the bleachers, or reach for her hand. They could go dance. She could eat lunch with him and his friends. She wants it all, in vast waves of wanting, and all her words die in her throat. He's watching her with his sweet dark eyes, and he's so sad, and she can't say anything she feels.

"I dunno," Hannah says. "Somewhere warm sounds nice."


Hannah gets into Reed College, down in Oregon, and when she tells Joshua, the first thing he says is that it's way too close. They're hanging out in his basement, the way they do every month or two when Joshua calls and says he needs someone to talk to, and she's always happy to listen. "Still too cold there," he says. He's heading down to Texas for college, and in a few months, she knows she'll never see him again. Now is the night to tell him.

"I love you," she says. "I think I've loved you since fourth grade. I know we don't have much time, but I just thought..."

Joshua stares at her -- the first time in a few years, Hannah realizes, he's really looked at her -- and he's grimacing like she's just puked on the floor. "No."

"I mean, we could just date for a few months. Or go long-distance?"

"No. I'm sorry. This can't happen."

"I -- I could transfer schools, if you wanted. Go to Texas with you if --"

Joshua shakes his head and stands up from the couch. "I'm sorry, but no. I can't... Hannah, do you get what I'm saying?"

Hannah wants to keep asking questions. She wants to ask if Joshua's gay, and tell him it's okay if he is, or if he doesn't know yet. She wants to ask if he just doesn't like her that much, because that's okay too -- it's always been okay -- she could handle it if he were willing to pretend. But she does get it, and she stands up too. Her heart is in her throat.

"I should go," she says, and she does.

Spring is coming, but the fastest way home is over the river, and she doesn't even think about her route. She's halfway across the ice when there's a sickening crack, then the splash of her passenger-side wheel going into the water. Her distracted self-pity is replaced by panic, and then by practiced motions: unbuckling her belt, killing the engine, yanking the keys. She didn't leave her window open, like her dad said to do, so she has to risk the door. The car lists when she opens it, and she throws herself out and bolts for the riverbank.

Hannah's thoughts are an insane adrenaline-juiced jumble: did she leave anything in the back seat? Will they have to haul the car out? Will that drain her college fund? She forces her mind away from the sudden image of her father's apoplectic face, focusing on getting her phone out of her pocket. She needs to call 911, but the first thing she opens is her text messages. She's texting Joshua before she even knows what she's doing: my car just went into the river, all lowercase, like she's shitposting. Like it's funny.

The response is instant: WHAT THE gently caress, then a few moments of typing, then NOT loving FUNNY! Joshua never curses. gently caress, Hannah thinks -- his dad. The ice. She starts typing back it's not a joke, this is really happening, i'm so sorry, but she's blocked before she can send it. Of course she is. She deserves to be.

There's a deep splash, quieter than she expected, when her car capsizes.

Hannah blinks hard. She needs to stay calm, needs to think. There's a restaurant about ten minutes' walk downriver that'll still be open; she needs to get in there, stay warm, and call 911, then her parents. Hannah starts walking, trudging through slushy spring snow, and tells herself not to cry. It's still cold enough that tears will freeze to her face.

Hannah tries to think of her mom and her advice: how this'll be okay, it's not the end of the world, it'll be funny in ten years when she's out in the world and Fairbanks is a bad memory. She tries to force it through the morass, but she can't do it. All she can do is trudge. There's already slush in her shoes, seeping into her socks.

Ten minutes, she tells herself. Hannah can just make out the lights of the restaurant in the distance, as far away as the stars.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

The Greenline

The room is a white cube, brightly lit from some hidden bright sources. The long table, the chairs, the camera are also white. The subtle changes of shade at the right angles that comprise each object are the only food the room provides my eyes, apart from her. The interviewer. Her clothing is also white, but her pinkish-blonde hair, her skin, the reflective chrome glasses that cover her eyes are the only concessions to color in the room, other than if I look down to see my blood-stained hands.

"Shall we begin?" she says. She moves papers across the desk. Blank white to me. Her glasses are decoding the invisible text. "Rob Cavil. Thirty-three years old, degree in ancient history. No long-term relationships, no major debts or criminal record. So how does someone like you wind up, ah, radicalized? How did you come to join the Greenline?"


It started with Lily, of course. No long-term relationships was right, and not many short-term, not until I met her.

I'm not an idiot. I figured out pretty quickly that it was a setup, a recruiting trick. By then I didn't mind, though. By then I was all in.

"Alex and I have an arrangement," she said, pulling off her long t-shirt that first night. "It's worked so far."

Lily Gardner. The optimist. A lot of the planning, the logistics of it all, that was her. She knew Alex from way back, from before he took the name Green. She saw through his worst bullshit more than any of us. She still loved him, of course, but she loved everyone.

And then there was Alex. The man with the vision, the man with the plan. The one who worked out how to use the green line. Quiet Alex with his thin wire glasses and the voice that could persuade most people into anything.

For the first few months I thought it was just a harmless hobby. Reenactment, learning how to live without electricity, like some kind of elaborate camping group with a low-key horny polycule grafted on. That's what it felt like. Like a weekend roleplaying club. Like an inside joke I was just beginning to understand. They didn't ask for much, just modest monthly dues and a time commitment. People talked about G-day, and when Alex was saying it I believed, but not so deep the feeling stayed after he left the tent.

Then one day I got the call,the middle of the week. "G-day is tomorrow," Lily said. "Come out early as you can make it. Bring your gear."

I called in sick and loaded up my bicycle.


"This would be March 17th of last year?" asked the interviewer. I nodded. She scribbled invisible notes. "What would you say was the philosophy of Greenline? Or was there any, beyond the cult of personality surrounding Alex Green?"

"There was," I said. "It wasn't all that deep, wasn't all that complex. The world has gone wrong. Hard to argue with that," I said, waving at the white walls. "Just look at the death rate trends, the ocean temperature, all of.." I stopped, clenched my teeth, and turned directly to her. "All of this. This machinery of control you serve. All of it and for nothing. The world has gone wrong, and Greenline would allow an escape, possibly even a solution."

"We've already run the experiments, Rob," she said. "This is the best of all possible worlds." She tapped a white pencil on the table. "What, you think Alex Green was the first person to invent a time machine? Tell me about G-day."


We were all together in the cabin, an abandoned Ranger station no longer fit for dwelling. It had an electrical hookup that we'd managed to tap into, now with a tangle of cabling connecting to the machines, the computers and the physics part. We were all buzzing on the vibe coming from Alex and the scientists. He flipped the switch. Green light flooded out of the machines, forming a green rectangle the size of a bus head-on, and from it flowed the Green Line.

It's not something I can describe to someone who hasn't seen it. Bright, deep green, and extending in a direction that our brains did not evolve to perceive. We stepped through, one after the next. We came out before history.

The portal stayed open, worked both ways. We moved our gear over. No electronics,of course, but high quality steel. We had a few blacksmiths, they drafted teams to carry anvils and the makings of a forge. Guns. Bullets. Books. Clothes.

The first thing I noticed was the air. Cooler. Cleaner. Not like a modern forest. The air was so free of industrial smells, that absence was almost physical. There were animal smells, too. Smoke of distant wood fires.

A dozen or so trips and we were done. Jeremy Dell stayed behind. He needed insulin to survive, was never going to live on the far side of the Greenline. He was the one who turned off the machines. The portal vanished. We were on our own, a family of fifty.

We were not ready for what was coming, were not ready for winter.

Look, we were rank amateurs, in every way. None of us could identify much by way of edible plants. Game was plentiful at least, and I and a few others could hunt well enough with the equipment we brought. Alex had to use all his powers to talk the vegetarians in the group out of starvation.

We never encountered any other humans. Too early for this continent. Probably a good thing.

So, malnourished, in poorly-built shelter, beset by parasites and local diseases, with more than a few pregnancies in the group and nearly no medical expertise, nearly out of bullets for the guns. That's where we were on the night of the storm.

Lightning raged, and I saw jagged red and blue and green forks in that forbidden direction, the same as had been coming from the portal. We were hunting, Alex and I. We both saw it. We both ran to the old portal site. I didn't know it was a race. He did. He won, stood between the flickering green portal and the path to the settlement. He had his knife drawn.

"You can't tell them," he said. "Not ever."

His charisma wasn't nearly what it had been. Lean and hungry hunter didn't measure up to his old self. "We can't keep it from them," I said.

"I though you would say that." He threw his knife, cut deep in my left shoulder through the sloth-leather jacket. I had my spear in my right. I charged toward him. He had a spear, too. I swatted his aside, then punched hard at his head, breaking his jaw and dislodging teeth. He staggered back, then charged with his spear. I moved mine in front of him. We were both surprised when he impaled himself 

The lightning struck again. The portal flickered, then started to fade.

I'd like to believe that it was just survival instinct that made me leap through right then. It wasn't. The thought was clear in my head, of what it would have been to go to the settlement, to tell them what had happened, to face them. To try to persuade them to go home. To lead them back here only to be too late, the portal closed forever, Alex Green dead for nothing. I couldn't. I couldn't face any friend I had left. A coward, I leapt back down the green line to this far-fallen world.


"So," I said, "What happens next?"

"Rehabilitation," the interviewer said. "We have a well-established process for cases like yours. You will be made again, made to love this system as it loves you. Isn't that just wonderful?"

Aug 20, 2014


Stone Don’t Float
1727 words
The stone as roll not heap up not foam.

The first stone canoe sank. Salt water rushed over the sides of the oblong boat as it bubbled and dipped. The dock felt unsteady beneath Dallan’s feet and the air tasted tangy with foam and rot.

Gorly threw up his hands. “It’s not going to work,” he said. Dallan’s young assistant gripped his shock of shaggy brown hair and pulled.

Dallan looked back toward the City. “We’ll figure it out,” he said, and thought of his family in their first-floor apartment, the bedrooms smelling like his children, musky and sweet, and the taste of the strong black tea his wife snuck back from the rich merchant house she worked in. All of was tinted with bitterness—his toddling bear of a baby son with his big, bald head covered in bruises from trying to keep pace with his older brother, and Jenne’s uncle Fanus with his ceaseless singing, and her aunt Earla, knitting useless clothes the boys either outgrew or tore to pieces. All of them might be in that ocean soon, sinking right with him.

“It’s hopeless,” Gorly said. “The Council never—“

“The Council chose me,” Dallan said, and began back toward his workshop, a ten minute walk from the docks. “They sent as much stone as I could take. There’s a chance. We’ll make another one.”

“You’re kidding yourself,” Gorly said, sounding defeated, and Dallan couldn’t blame him. The challenge from that foreign general was clear, but impossible: make stone float, and he’d spare the City. Fail, and he’d take everything. Gorly had his own worries—a pretty young wife and both their parents, all depending on him.

And thousands more, packed into the City.

“We’ll make it thinner,” Dallan said, “and try a different type of rock. There’s got to be a way.”

“Not in three weeks, there isn’t,” Gorly said.

Dallan ignored him and breathed the salt air, listened to the shouting sailors as the few remaining ships prepared to cast off, and tried to imagine the City on fire.


Jenne pressed against Dallan in the night, and he buried his face in her dark hair.

“We should think about leaving,” she whispered, careful not to wake their snoring family. “The Caistans packed and plan on running, and half the spice district—“

“We can’t go yet,” Dallan said. “Not before I’ve finished. And that army’s outside the walls. They’ll catch us if we try.”

“By sea.” She rolled to face him and her voice grew warm against his throat. “My employers said they have a ship and space enough for our family. We can run, Dallan.”

He squeezed his eyes shut. His little boys, his beautiful wife. The City itself. “I can’t abandon everyone.”

“It was never meant to happen,” she said, tilting her gaze up. Her eyes were pleading in the dark. “That foreign general knows you’ll fail. He only wants more folks to stay in the City so he can take what they’ve got.”

Dallan thought of his workshop: the half-finished statues cresting from the blocks beneath them, their hard skin seeming soft as flesh and lace, the countless hours he’d toiled, the life he’d given his family. They couldn’t travel with his work. They could barely travel with his tools. Without all the stone, out beyond the City, they’d have nothing, refugees from a war waged by people he’d never meet. He wouldn’t let that happen, not to his wife, not to his children. Not to his home.

“I can make it work,” he insisted.

She touched his face and kissed him. It was sweet and terrible. “I’m packing,” she said.

She turned and went to sleep. Dallan stared at the ceiling thinking of boulders tossed by waves.


The second stone canoe sank.

Dallan chose the lightest rock he could find and carved it as thin as a blade of grass. The canoe was delicate, and the walk to the dock was a prolonged agony. But they’d made it, and managed to slide it into the water—

Only to watch it bob on the waves before water began to seep in through the porous stone.

Gorly cried. He knelt and leaned against a pillar, sobbing. Dallan watched the canoe slowly dip down into the darkness beneath.

It took two weeks to make and all the skill he could muster. There was one week left, and he was tired.

Not enough time. “That was the right idea,” Dallan said. “Thin and light and big. But we’ll seal it with tar—“

“Don’t you understand?” Gorly stood, tears streaming into his beard. Dallan bit back his own sorrow—he had to keep it together. His assistant was much too young to have the fate of an entire city on his shoulders.

Dallan felt the same, at thirty, but there was nobody else with the skill required to work stone this way. He had to carry it for both of them.

“We’re close,” Dallan said, staring out at the waves, thinking—the right shape, the right material, enough tar slathered on the bottom— if he gave up sleeping for the next seven days and worked himself dry, and recruited a few other men he knew that might be able to help, then maybe—

“How can you do this to your family?” Gorly said, turning to face him, tears still coming, snot stuck in his mustache. “Your wife and children? We have to tell the Council it’s impossible. Give them a chance to negotiate good terms of surrender. We can save their lives—“

“And what life will that be?” Dallan asked, ashamed of his anger. “With nothing left in the City? How many will starve, come winter?” He thought of his wife’s hair wrapped around his palm, of the smell of her frying potatoes, and the children laughing while they rolled in the pillows, throwing small cornhusk balls at each other, the youngest babbling near-words, the oldest jabbering in half-understood sentences.

“At least we’ll be alive,” Gorly said, nearly begging, and that was what finally broke Dallan’s resolve.

He turned from his assistant, who had given so much, and who felt as close as a brother. “There’s a way out,” Dallan said, speaking toward the City. He heard Gorly come closer. “Jenne’s patron has a ship. It’s leaving in three days. Bring your wife and your parents and her parents, and leave with my family.”

“What about the Council?” Gorly asked, but there was hope in his voice again.

“I’ll stay,” Dallan said. “I’ll see it through.”


“You’ll help me,” he said, turning to face Gorly. He put a hand on the young man’s shoulder. “For the next three days. You’ll help.”

“I swear it,” Gorly said.

Dallan squeezed, then embraced him. They lingered on the dock, and a single bubble broke the surface, the second failed boat still slowly drifting down beneath them, into the gloom.


The third stone canoe was a masterwork. Of all the figures Dallan had carved from solid blocks, this canoe was the greatest—the thinnest hull he could manage, the lightest stone he could find, and the biggest of the three, gracefully swept and sleek. Dallan marched along behind the City Council and the Guard as they carried the fate of everyone Dallan loved on their shoulders, bumping against the soldiers’ armor, toward the dock where the foreign general and his retinue waited.

There hadn’t been time to test it. The last coat of tar dried that morning, and Dallan could see it leaving black stains on the Guards. He grimaced each time they took a step. He looked to the docks, and all the ships were gone—the last left two days earlier. His workshop was quiet, his house abandoned, and only the echoes of his family were still there. The laughter of his children. Their cries in the night. His wife’s warmth when he couldn’t sleep.

The foreign general smiled at them with white teeth beneath a braided beard. Animal skins were draped over his shoulders. “I’ve seen this before,” he said, eyeing the canoe. He didn’t seem to mind that it was covered in black. “It never works.”

“We’ll find out,” said the Head Councilor, a heavy-set bald man. “We have faith in our sculptor.”

Dallan stayed near the back of the group, though the foreign general’s eyes found his.

“Let’s see if your sculptor is as smart as he thinks,” he said, and gestured for them to lower the canoe into the water.

The Guards knelt and were gentle, though each movement sent waves through Dallan’s chest. All his work, the whole city, it teetered on this moment. He leaned forward, craning to watch as the canoe dipped one way, then the next, rolling with the ripples. It stayed there at the top, bobbing and pitching—but not sinking.

The foreign general shoved through the Guards, then kicked the side of the canoe, sending it away, free of the dock. For some horrible seconds it floated there, perched on the water—

Then Dallan saw it, and the foreign general must have as well, because he began to laugh.

“The closest I’ve seen,” he said. “You had me worried, but it’s not good enough.”

Water bubbled up through a crack in the bottom. Dallan groaned and barely caught himself against a wooden pylon. He thought of Gorly’s tears, one week earlier, a lifetime ago.

He didn’t know how it happened. Maybe he was too tired, and the men helping weren’t as careful as he wanted, and Gorly left before the shape was complete— or maybe it happened as the Guards carried it down, the bottom pressed against their metal shoulder plates— or maybe there hadn’t been enough tar to fill the gap, or it hadn’t dried completely overnight—

It didn’t matter. The crack was enough, and the canoe swamped.

“It floated,” the Head Councilor said. “For a little while, it floated.”

The foreign general only laughed as the third canoe went to join the first and the second.

Dallan didn’t watch what happened next. His eyes scanned the horizon for a shape— a speck, a change in shadow— any sign of his family. At least they were out, his boys, his wife, Jenne’s aunt and uncle. They were away from what would happen next, as the stone boat sank, and he thought of going with it.

Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

Dollar Fever
1797 words
It is better be single as a bad company

I have a passion for selling. That's what I told the interviewers.

"Selling, that's me, that's what I'm into," I said. "Some people like golf and others like to review restaurants." They do, I'd seen it on the internet, they plaster stars onto Google like a teacher on a kid's homework. "I sell," I said, "I sell even when I'm by myself. Just walk around selling. I'm a one-man sales company."

I almost said: I walked fifty minutes to get here because I sold my bike. But I didn't want to overdo it. I didn't want to sell my bike either, but the landlord raised the rent and my housemate moved out with no notice, he had a mate with a cheap room he told me, sorry I'm leaving this weekend. I didn't know you were supposed to get your flatmate to sign a lease, so whey wouldn't skip out and leave you without rent money. I read that later, on the internet as well, and I understood I'd mishandled the matter. But I never claimed I was good at rental contracts, or anything like that. My message's consistent. Selling is my game.

One of the interviewers was named Jake and the other didn't give her name, and didn't talk but just tapped at her mobile phone. Jake, who had a ponytail, had a mug full of pens in front of him. Cheap bics. He handed me a red one.

"Sell me this pen" he said.

I took the mug with the rest of the pens and put it on the floor next to my foot.

"Looks like you need a pen," I said.

I had to be brave, you see. I needed this job. Youth Allowance now barely covered rent and Christmas was coming up. My Dad needed a fridge. He'd needed a fridge for ages. When he called me, he sometimes said: the fridge turned off in the night again, my mince is ruined. A new second-hand fridge is like two hundred bucks. Plus delivery! I wasn't going to see Dad this year, a flight to Perth was too expensive, but I had a plan to make up for it. I'd get him a new fridge. Hence: the pen gambit.

"Stop torturing the poor kid," the lady muttered. "He's like nineteen old, for god's sake." She wasn't wrong. I figured the lady and Jake were at least twenty-two. Ancient.

After the interview, I caught her in the kitchen. Well, she caught me: I was making a coffee on my way out the office, I wasn't sleeping much and they had better coffee than I did at home, Nescafe Gold, I wanted some of that. The lady with her scrunched-up bun walked in.

"Sorry," I said when she saw me stirring with a little plastic paddlepop.

"Don't be sorry." she said, going to make a coffee for herself. "Go hog wild."

"How'd I go in the interview?"

"No-one ever fails them," she said. "Let me give you some advice on your first day. Don't go by the price guide. Jack the prices, pocket the difference. It's the only way you'll make any decent dough."

On the walk home I called Das. "I got the job," I told him, not that I had. He was so proud. "Don't sacrifice your soul. Maintain complete honesty," he told me. "In sales, strong ethics are key. And a cool head. Don't let the dollar-fever rush your brain!"

An hour later Jack called and said: "you've got the job, buster."


The job was this. You've got a backpack, it's got snowglobes and christmas pens and colouring books and magnetic screwdrivers. The backpacks's yours, the company gives you the rest. Then they drive you out to some suburb and stick you onto a street with shops and tell you: go for it. And you go from shop to shop, selling these snowglobes and screwdrivers to the people who work there. Strictly shops, not houses, the company didn't have the liencse for that. You weren't alone though, you were in pairs, but split up — each one person on their own side of the street. I got paired with Jake. "The worst thing you could do," he told me, "is cross onto your parner's turf."

"Ethics," I said.

Then what I'd do is go into a shop and say: "hello how are you doing? Have you sorted your Christmas gift out yet? Heres' a snowglobe! How about these colouring books?" Only a few until Christmas; people needed presents.

You sold the colouring books for ten bucks each and, at the end of the day, you gave the company seven bucks for each one, kept three. That's called commission. The company gave you a sales guide which tells you how much to sell for, and how much you'll get. There was a way to make more, of course. Nothing stopped anyone from saying "these colouring books are twenty bucks," and then stashing the extra tenner in their shoe. Nothing except a cool head, and a healthy fear of the dollar-fever.

I worked three days but didn't make a lot. On the first day I was awkward and made twenty bucks. On the second day I made fourty-eight but bought a coffee, so it became forty-four, and also I forgot sunscreen and had to buy some, so it was really thirty-three. Jake was upset when he saw I'd bought sunscreen. I've got some, Jake said, if you ever need help just shout. Day three was better: seventy bucks. Nice one, Jake said. You're a one-man sales company,

Jake wasn't the boss, he only interviewed me to fill in for some senior who got in a car crash the previous day; these roads are madness, Jake liked to say, he was from Tasmania so real country guy. I really got to know Jake's smell. The streets we worked were real long, tonnes of concrete, and no trees, and the sun was hot hot hot: you're walking and sweating, while in your backpack the screwdrivers and snowglobes go clink-clink-clink. When Jake drove us back to the office he stank. I supposed I did too. Jake was nice. He wanted to be a nurse, he said. Jake's Dad was a nurse but died when he was little. Now he was stuck in sales.

"What do you want to do when you're older?" he asked.



I'd made one-hundred and twenty-seven dollars. I called the whitegoods store in Dad's town to ask about delivery, and it was good I did, bause they said two days wall all they could do, and what's more their cheapest fridge was gone and they didn't update the website. Two-hundred-fourty was the cheapest they could do. If I wanted it delivered by Christmas I had to order by tonight.

Either made one-hundred and thirty before the bank closed — or Dad's Christmas would be ruined.

Jake and I had another lovely street with lovely shops: bakereis, laptop repair places, a cupcake wholeslaler.

"You okay, buster?" Jake said. "You look a bit shaky."

"I could use some confidence," I admitted.

My pen trick in the interview, he said, had truly impressed him. "No-one's got guts like you. That's your superpower, buster, Bold, and you'll come out on top! Really go for it!"

I took his words to heart. In my first store, which was a wool shop, there was a little old lady working. I showed her the colouring books. My niece would love them, she said, how much are they? I said: twenty-five bucks, and she got three.

On the way out of the wool shop, I stuck the price guide in the trashcan.

Then I sold.

I really sold. I sold like no-one'd ever sold. I sold screwdrivers and snowglobes, we had tiny toy pianos, I sold them too. I was sweat and sales. I ran from store to store, do I have a deal for you, I'd say. And it rained coins. Dollars. Yen, Roubles, take your pick, it was currency typhoon; all the while my mind was a calculator, whirrling and clinking. Add and subtract, carry the one. Keeping track of how much I had left to make that fridge money.

When I finished my street, I was eight bucks short.

I sat in the shade of a bus shelter, panting, while traffic whizzed past. I couldn't think. Sales-Frenzy. The Dollar Fever. A sales demon. I not man, but sales. But I couldn't be a failed sale. I think that's why I did what I did.

Across the road I saw Jake. He gave a little wave. I tried to wave back, but a truck whizzed past and then I saw him walk into a vacuum cleaner outlet. He was only two-thirds through his lot of shops.

It was abundantly clear what should be done next.

At the end of Jake's lot was a mechanics. My dollar-frenzied brain immediately formed a plan. I go to the mechanic shop. They have screwdrivers; of course, they're mechanics. All I do is steal all the screwdrivers and then sell them one of mine. Just one! That'll cover the eight bucks! It's like the pen trick, but on a larger scale. The ultimate completion of a circle!

I saw dollars, sales, my Dad with a fridge that kept his mince and cool. And before Jake could walk out and see me steal his turf, I dashed across the road.

What I didn't see, was the speeding Mazda coming round the corner on my right.


I was still in hospital when Christmas Day came. Couple more days, doctor said. Broken neck.

Dad called in the morning. The fridge failed again. He'd made Olivier salad, my favourite. He'd was going to eat it and think of me.

""What sort of present am I waiting for?" he murmured happily. "Ah! I see the postman! Could that be a delivery?"

The nurse told me, the night before, I'd raved. Something about whitegoods. Bad sale, I kept on saying, according to the nurse; bad single-man company. At one stage I'd seized a nurse by the lapel and scream send a card forget the fridge just a card. But the nurse didn't know how to send my dad a card or who my dad was or even that it was my Dad I was talking about.

"Hold on," he said. "The postman is passing my house. There must be a mistake!"

"I'm sorry Dad" I tried to say. But only tears and snot came out, my body shook and shook, and I went to wipe my eyes but pressed disconnect by accident, and when I called back Dad didn't pick up. Ring, ring, ring went the phone. I closed my eyes, saw dollars. Mechanical screwdrivers. Outside the window, the Christmas carols started up.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Prompt: So much go the jar to spring that at last it break there.

Saint Anybat
1800 words

I wake up just in time to see the emaciated cougar closing in for the kill, head low to the ground, eyes glinting in the moonlight shining down through the patchy barn roof. St. Anybat is in my hand where she always is, an extension of my body. I swing her hard and she collides with the side of the young cougar’s snout, splits its muzzle against one of those long fangs. The big cat’s eyes go round and perplexed like a kitten’s and it shrinks away from me, turns, and runs.

Shafts of moonlight hang in the air with insolent grace, pretty and lace-like as they shine through the broken roof, indifferent to the fact that I was almost a pile of blood and guts and frankly some poop dappled with smatterings of liminal silver luminescence.

“gently caress the moon,” I tell St. Anybat. “It doesn’t give a gently caress about us.”

I didn’t used to talk to baseball bats, aluminum or otherwise. I used to be a person with appointments in my digital calendar, and a refrigerator, and maybe even a few ideas about what I wanted to do with myself when I got old. If you had asked me back then whether I thought I could have taken a cougar in a fight, I would have told you that if I got to the point where I’m potential cougar food, I’d lie down and let it happen, just to get it over with.

But a cougar attacked me and I won, and the world is broken beyond repair, and I don’t think I’ll ever have a refrigerator again. I watched little bits of my life sheared away in translucent layers — small failures in infrastructure and government and human decency, things you tell yourself will get better in your lifetime — until all the skin of it was gone, leaving only ugly exposed bone, solid and incomplete.

My friends all died and the people left behind are awful. I think I’m basically okay, as far as solitary apocalyptic wanderers go. I haven’t actually directly murdered anyone, technically speaking, because I’m the kind of coward who leaves someone to die after whacking them in the head with St. Anybat until they go all twitchy and unconscious, though in my defense that particular person was going to murder me and take my few worldly possessions. After I’d already offered to share my canned corn, even. I hope he’s doing okay, I guess. I don’t think it’s especially his fault he wanted to murder me and take all my things because this is really a very traumatizing situation and no one is at their best right now.

I'm thrumming with adrenaline after the run-in with the cougar, and there’s a few hours before sunrise. If I move while it’s still night, I’ll be able to walk the roads awhile before daylight forces me back under tree cover.

One of the few things that didn’t die out with the old world was assholes with remote control drones. They’re all with the militias now, and militias are bored as hell. For the first few years, the apocalypse was everything they’d ever hoped for — lots of vying for territory, fending off the remnants of the United States military, that sort of thing. But then it all just kind of settled down, territorial lines were drawn, and the militias had to come to grips with how difficult it is to run an oppressive microstate without a federal government to vilify and unify against. If you’re traveling alone, however, and they spot you with one of their drones, they’ll absolutely get their poo poo together long enough to abduct and enslave you and, if you have a uterus, force you to populate the world with white supremacist babies.

The highway I’m following is marked 202, a cracked smear of concrete linking the remnants of three small towns along the length of a river valley. Mist hangs in low curtains over marshland, catching and diffusing the moonlight into a silver screen; elk move in silhouette like shadows on the surface of the mist. St. Anybat is a warm, comfortable weight in my hand, and for a little while I notice that I’m just breathing, not feeling any particular thing, but in a nice way, not a numb way.

In the beginning, all the good weapons were taken, like everyone else got to the apocalypse before me and already knew how to shoot guns and crossbows or swing a machete. Maybe it’s out of embarrassing necessity, but me, I like a bat. Bats are user friendly, the ultimate beginner weapon. Swing. Bonk. Repeat.

The first bat I found was made of wood and saved me from a lot of trouble with racoons and rapists and ultimately had to be sacrificed to become a campfire one particularly desperate winter night. I cried a lot as it burned, the first time I’d cried since coming to terms with the fact that my life was over and friends were dead. That night I dreamed of a sexy baseball bat with comically huge cartoon boobs and lips, with the lips kind of floating in front of the bat like a really bad CGI animation, and she told me that everything was basically okay and that she would always be with me. It was sort of stupid, like, not the kind of dream you’d put in a movie because the bat lady was so awkward to look at, but the next morning I found another bat almost first thing, and so St. Anybat was born.

There’ve been a bunch of incarnations of St. Anybat, but this aluminum one has been with me for a good three months now, the longest bout of companionship I’ve had since before all my friends died. It’s probably too much to ask but I’d like for her to stay with me this time, because those gaps between incarnations of St. Anybat are so lonely and dangerous, and I’m tired of being lonely and in danger.

The sky shifts from velvety black to drowsy grey, my cue to duck into the wet tangle of forest lining the road. It’s slow going; this part of the country still gets snow, so the rivers and wetlands are swollen with seasonal melt. I sound like a big walking queef as I move through the muddy forest, squelching and sucking my way through the mud, holding onto skinny tree trunks for balance, my skin Brailled with nettle bumps and bug bites.

Eventually I find what I’m looking for: old railroad tracks leading to a decommissioned railway bridge. There are a few old houses on the other side of the river, places the militias don’t go because there’s no real reason to. Rabbits, too. Lots of them. Fat ones, even, with lots of babies on the way come spring. I should be able to hole up there for a while, wait out the rest of the cold season.

I get to the railroad bridge and can barely hear myself think over the stadium crowd roar of the river. It’s strange to hear something so loud after so much quiet, and I don’t like it. I heft St. Anybat onto my shoulder, tilt my head so her cool aluminum body tickles my left ear.

“We’re gonna be okay,” I tell her, like she’s the one who needs to hear that.

I clamber onto the railroad bridge, careful on the rainslick wood. If I look down I’ll be able to see the muddy churn of the river below, so I don’t.

The thing about the rushing river is that it’s so loud I don’t hear the telltale hum of the approaching militia drone until it's on me, hanging overhead like a hovering insect, its four propellers whirring in a blur, a single red light glinting like an eye next to the camera. I'm in the middle of the bridge, perfectly equidistant from both avenues of escape. The drone is small and maneuverable, seemingly unarmed, but perfectly capable of following for at least some distance, even if I do escape into tree cover. They’d know where I intend to hole up, would be able to come scoop me up at their leisure.

It’s hovering surprisingly close, and after a moment I see why: the camera lens is cracked and foggy, probably close to uselessness, which means the operator is likely having trouble getting a visual on me. Maybe. I look toward the far end of the bridge, palms sweaty around St. Anybat. If I were on flat ground I could sprint for it, hope that the drone operator gave up before I lost my wind. But I’m not; I’m on a wet, slippery railroad bridge over a white water crush of snowmelt — another two minutes of slow, methodical clambering if I don’t want to risk falling to my death.

And then in my mind’s eye I see that big-titted baseball bat with her pouty lips hanging nonsensically in the air. Hey, she says. It’s gonna be okay. Just throw me. You’ll see.

“But you’ll fall,” I whisper.

You know I’ll be back, St. Anybat says. Just let me do this one thing for you.

The drone hovers just a little closer and in my guts I know I won’t get a better chance than this. I spin the part of my arm that is St. Anybat, build up as much momentum as my shoulder can stand, and then I let go, hurl her like a javelin out over the river, watch her arc arrow-straight toward the drone —

And miss. She sails past the drone in a graceful arc, lances downward into the river, submerging for just a moment before popping up to bob along overtop the toothy white froth, her body a toothpick in a cataract of spit.

I look up at the bleary-eyed drone. It looks back at me. St. Anybat is already gone, disappeared around a bend in the river, another dead friend.

As I pick my slow, frantic way across the bridge, drone following lazily behind, all I can think about is that cougar, whether it found something to eat, whether it’s holed up under a bush pawing at the gash I left in its face, whether agonizing infection has already started to set in, and I wonder if I — the old me — had it right to begin with, that it would have been better to lie down and be cougar food, to sustain life rather than cling to it.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

scanning for good game design

It is better be single as a bad company

Siegfried of the Schoolyard
1800/1800 words

Siegfried and the dragon were locked in mortal combat. The foul beast’s scaly tail was wrapped around the teutonic hero’s neck. He felt the slimy caress of a garlic plumy emitting from the enemy’s nostrils. Ready to yield? Admit defeat, pretend hero, walk away with body mostly fine, but honor broken?

Through a teary veil, Siegfried focused on the reason for this bout. The dragon’s victim, the foreign princess, crumpled on the ground, nursed the cheek so uncouthly struck by the monster. The stinky, brutish, disgusting creature hugging Siegfried tightly enough to squeeze his very spirit from him. And with the hero gone, he’d be free to strike the princess once more.

The dragon was closer than a lover, whispering his words of contempt. Give up. Do you want to die for her? You pathetic little Kartoffel?

Siegfried roared at the familiar insult. He reached blindly up and grabbed the neck that was so way too close. He allowed his knees to buckle, the creature’s weight to push him down, and almost lost all strength in his legs.

But he was the hero Siegfried, and heroes slayed dragons.

He pushed his legs straight up again, used his low center of gravity and the dragon’s own weight, heaved the dragon over his shoulder and slammed him onto the ground.

The impact, the stunned silence, the sudden flash of hope on the face of the princess, made reality appear. A yard of a middle school, the lowest tier of German education, for the people deemed too dumb, too lazy or too poor to get opportunities worth a drat. A circle of these children deemed misfits by society had watched the fight between Selim, the Moroccan-Kurdish bastard who hung with the sons of second-generation Turkish immigrants, and Friedrich, the “Bio-German” loser who hung with nobody.

Friedrich was a stocky boy ravaged by puberty, called a Kartoffel - potato - as often for his German ancestry as for his appearance. Immigrant children often took out the prejudices they faced in larger society on the ones cursed with pure German genes. It used to be more than insults, until Friedrich had started fighting back, gaining a reputation as a “Kampfzwerg”, a nasty ankle-biter.

Selim had now realized why Friedrich usually was left alone. A year older than 15-year-old Friedrich, Selim had already started working out heavily, had a beard to go with his muscles, a dark complexion and a scowl to make middle-aged white Germans instantly consider voting for right-wing parties out of racist fear. But they didn’t need to be afraid of him. Gentle girls like Zeynep did. Friedrich slowly walked over to his princess, who had started to get up on her own. Her obsidian hair, worn open, framed a doughy face that already told Friedrich how she would look like in 40 years, and that was okay; she was beautiful. He extended his hand to her.

“Everything okay?”

She shot a look to fallen Selim.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“They can’t tell you what you have to wear on your head.” Friedrich shook his head. “We’re in Germany, not Saudi-Arabia.”

She slapped his hand away. “I know where I live.” Without assistance, she rose to her feet; she was a little taller than Friedrich. When she looked down awkwardly, she still met his gaze.

“But thanks, I guess. Just, please, don’t do it again.”

Friedrich got a little closer. “I’m not afraid to protect you again, Zeynep.”

Her expression was unreadable to him. But then she gave him the tiniest of smiles on compressed lips. “That’s cute.”

She turned away to join her concerned friends, who started to touch her flushed cheek where Selim had hit her, and talked to her quickly in a language Friedrich didn’t care to understand. His own cheeks had reddened. Her acknowledgment was his hero’s reward, all he needed. But maybe, eventually -

His chain of thought got interrupted when Selim’s fist struck his kidney. Expelling all air from his lungs, mighty Siegfried fell to his knee. The dragon towered over him. “Think this is over, Kartoffel?”

“It is over, Kanacke.” The slur from the sidelines made Selim’s head jerk around - to meet the icy looks of three tall German boys with short-shaved hair. “Go back where you belong,” their blonde ring-leader spat.

With a grunt, Selim turned around and rejoined his posse of foreigners in their own country.

Friedrich’s unexpected savior, a guy he knew was called Marco, helped him up. “That was pretty awesome.”

Again, the hero’s cheeks flushed. He angrily tried to suppress his pride. Marco was one of the cool kids, and those had only ever had contempt for the likes of Friedrich. This was probably a joke. A trap.

“Those Kanacken deserve a lot of strong lessons about respecting women. If they can’t even manage with their own, how are ours supposed to be safe?”

“I can’t stand people who hit women,” Friedrich answered as noncommittally as possible.

“Neither do I. Hey, we’re gonna hang out in the old shed after gym class. Wanna join us? We have some plans to make those Moslem fuckers change their ways, and we could use someone like you.”

Friedrich still was wary. “I don’t know. I had promised my mom to do laundry, and take the dog for a walk…”

“Dude, your mom can do that poo poo herself, after all she only has one man to take care of, right?”

The sharp pain of the all-too-common reminder was somehow soothed by two other feelings rising in Friedrich’s chest: he could not believe that Marco cared enough about him to even remember this detail about his life; also, this was the first time someone had called him a man.

“I’ll call her.”


Man of honor was also something Friedrich wasn’t called often. He was left alone on the yard of his victory, and wondered if this truly meant that Siegfried had bathed in the dragon’s blood, and become invincible except for that tiny spot where a leaf had stuck to his shoulder.


A week later, the plan Marco and his boys had explained over shared beers, cigarettes and other cool boy stuff, was ready for action. The four Germans lay in ambush along the main road from the school to the poorer district where almost everybody attending lived. Soon, their victims showed up, distracted by Döner and talks in Turkish. Behind the group of foreign boys, their women walked in a separate gaggle, chatting in lower voices.

Marco had a baseball bat. He struck two of the guys down before they could react. The other three Germans joined the fray, staying away from their armed leader and his violent swings.

“Hey, don’t you think it’s rude that you segregate the girls like that?” Marco’s voice dripped with contempt like a Bratwurst with fat. “We don’t do that in Germany.”

Selim was among the group struck by the sudden assault. “Shut the gently caress up, you Nazi piece of poo poo”, he growled. His impressive frame rose as high as he could before Marco and his bat. “Come here, Kartoffel. I’ll make salad out of you and eat you with the rest of the Schnitzel here.”

Friedrich was distracted with beating on a Turkish boy about his size and age, but less experience in the violence necessary to defend oneself sometimes. That’s why Friedrich missed how Zeynep had suddenly showed up, and gotten in between Selim and Marco.

“Stop this poo poo,” she yelled. “We can look out for ourselves. You’re nothing but a bunch of dickless cowards. Shove your bat up your rear end and leave us alone.”

Friedrich pushed his opponent away, who was quite happy to lie down and be done with it. He hadn’t known this side of gentle Zeynep. Well, he didn’t really know her at all. What a fierce warrior! A true Kunigunde to his Siegfried. His heart swelled. But then, Marco took a step towards her, bat raised.

“You Kanacken bitches need to be saved from yourself. Once I’ve freed you from this piece of poo poo trying to undermine our values, maybe you can suck my dick in gratitude?”

Marco took another step - when someone wrested the bat from his grip.

“Leave her alone,” Friedrich screamed. He tossed the bloodied weapon away. “I thought we wanted to protect women?”

Marco’s face of wild fury was enough answer for Friedrich. This was never about any noble goal. The true monster in this fight, the ugly creature full of hatred, was in front of him. Unfortunately for Siegfried, he had realized this at a very unfortunate time.

The Turks were very happy to leave the Germans to sort out their differences on their own, which ended with the hero severely beaten on the side of the road.


A week later, Friedrich had recovered enough to remove the bandages from most of his face. He sat alone in the corner of the schoolyard, eating a bread roll with Mettwurst. The hero had lost a battle, but at least he had stood up for his values, the ones truly worth upholding. Right? He had saved the princess twice now. Zeynep, beautiful and proud Kunigunde, would surely appreciate it.

Friedrich daydreamed. He’d start working out as well. Improve his looks, despite the broken nose. Maybe Zeynep actually liked the rugged charm? He could grow a beard.

He had the hero’s courage to ask her out. She’d tentatively agree, as a favor, but then she’d soon appreciate his gentle nature. He respected women, of course, as a child of a single mother. He had nothing against foreigners, not really. They were proper Germans anyway, their ID said so. That must count for something? Yes, she’d see how tolerant and nice he was. They’d fall in love. Grow old and fat together. They’d have Schnitzel on even and Döner on odd days. And beautiful, German children…

Someone had sat down next to him. It was a Muslim girl, with a headscarf hiding her hair.


Friedrich’s courage died in his desert throat. She looked over. “Listen, I have no idea what you tried to pull last week, but I appreciate not getting a bat to the face.” She sighed. “But I’ve seen you look at me in class. Like, constantly. You can’t do that. He’ll get mad.”

“Who?” A croak through a veil of dust.

“Selim. We’re together now. If he sees you looking at me again, he’ll beat you up. So, don’t do it.”

Of course, the saga of Siegfried could not be complete without its end. His one weakness betrayed by his queen and cravenly struck. The hero’s heart pierced by his rival. Kunigunde got up without another word, leaving Siegfried's dying body to rot alone.

Aug 2, 2002

submissions closed for realsies this time

Aug 18, 2014


While we’re waiting for the results of this week's contest, if you wondered what those gibberish words were from, well, they're mostly French and Portuguese idioms and proverbs, translated in an interesting way.

Which is to say they were translated word for word, without really trying to convey the original meaning.

I’ll try to dive deeper into those that were picked up for this Thunderdome.

To force to forge, becomes smith – French idiom – C’est à force de forger qu’on devient forgeron.
Phrasing is all over the place. A better translation would have been : It’s by forging/smithing that you become a smith.
There's a direct equivalent : "Practice makes perfect." It's the same for smiths and writers!

A bad arrangement is better than a process – French idiom – Un mauvais arrangement vaut mieux qu'un (bon) procès.
Translation is not that bad, just a bit ambiguous. Better translation : A bad settlement is better than a good lawsuit.
Meaning : People tend to lose less if they reach a settlement out of court than if they end up going to court.

He is not so devil as he is black – Never heard that one, might be an equivalent to “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

It is better be single as a bad company – Old French idiom – Il faut mieux être seul que mal accompagné.
A bit ambiguous and grammar is off. Better translation : Better to be alone than in bad company
Meaning is self-explanatory.

To build castles in Espagnish – Old French idiom – Construire des châteaux en Espagne.
Funny way of translating Spain, but mostly correct.
Building castles in Spain means having plans that will never succeed.

The stone as roll not heap up not foam – Old French proverb, originally from ancient Greece – Pierre qui roule n’amasse pas mousse.
Phrasing is weird, confusion between foam and moss. A rolling stone doesn't gather moss.
Meaning : someone that keeps on moving left and right without settling will never gather any riches

He has fond the knuckle of the business – No clue about that one.

So much go the jar to spring that at last it break there – French and Portuguese proverb – Tant va la cruche à l’eau qu’à la fin elle se casse. – Tanto vai o pote à bica, que um dia se la fica
Word by word translation of a phrasing that is awkward to translate as is. Equivalent to the idioms “The pitcher will go to the well once too often“ or “If you keep playing with fire you must expect to get burnt“

Friendship of a child is water into a basket – Spanish idiom – Amor de niño, agua en cestillo
Translation is mostly correct. Meaning is that a child’s friendship is something that can be inconsistent and quickly forgotten by the child.
There might be a Portuguese version of the idiom, but I couldn't find it.

Few, few the bird make her nest. – French idiom – Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.
This one might be my favorite. I feel like the translator had no idea what the idiom meant and where he was going with that. Closest translation might be “Step by step, the bird makes its nest.”
Meaning : every accomplishment is made with small steps.

If you are curious about some of the other idiotisms, just hit me up and I'll add them to this list.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Gorka posted:

While we’re waiting for the results of this week's contest, if you wondered what those gibberish words were from, well, they're mostly French and Portuguese idioms and proverbs, translated in an interesting way.

Which is to say they were translated word for word, without really trying to convey the original meaning.

I’ll try to dive deeper into those that were picked up for this Thunderdome.

To force to forge, becomes smith – French idiom – C’est à force de forger qu’on devient forgeron.
Phrasing is all over the place. A better translation would have been : It’s by forging/smithing that you become a smith.
There's a direct equivalent : "Practice makes perfect." It's the same for smiths and writers!

A bad arrangement is better than a process – French idiom – Un mauvais arrangement vaut mieux qu'un (bon) procès.
Translation is not that bad, just a bit ambiguous. Better translation : A bad settlement is better than a good lawsuit.
Meaning : People tend to lose less if they reach a settlement out of court than if they end up going to court.

He is not so devil as he is black – Never heard that one, might be an equivalent to “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

It is better be single as a bad company – Old French idiom – Il faut mieux être seul que mal accompagné.
A bit ambiguous and grammar is off. Better translation : Better to be alone than in bad company
Meaning is self-explanatory.

To build castles in Espagnish – Old French idiom – Construire des châteaux en Espagne.
Funny way of translating Spain, but mostly correct.
Building castles in Spain means having plans that will never succeed.

The stone as roll not heap up not foam – Old French proverb, originally from ancient Greece – Pierre qui roule n’amasse pas mousse.
Phrasing is weird, confusion between foam and moss. A rolling stone doesn't gather moss.
Meaning : someone that keeps on moving left and right without settling will never gather any riches

He has fond the knuckle of the business – No clue about that one.

So much go the jar to spring that at last it break there – French and Portuguese proverb – Tant va la cruche à l’eau qu’à la fin elle se casse. – Tanto vai o pote à bica, que um dia se la fica
Word by word translation of a phrasing that is awkward to translate as is. Equivalent to the idioms “The pitcher will go to the well once too often“ or “If you keep playing with fire you must expect to get burnt“

Friendship of a child is water into a basket – Spanish idiom – Amor de niño, agua en cestillo
Translation is mostly correct. Meaning is that a child’s friendship is something that can be inconsistent and quickly forgotten by the child.
There might be a Portuguese version of the idiom, but I couldn't find it.

Few, few the bird make her nest. – French idiom – Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.
This one might be my favorite. I feel like the translator had no idea what the idiom meant and where he was going with that. Closest translation might be “Step by step, the bird makes its nest.”
Meaning : every accomplishment is made with small steps.

If you are curious about some of the other idiotisms, just hit me up and I'll add them to this list.

This is a cool post, thank you for making it



He has fond the knuckle of the business – No clue about that one.


Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 05:02 on Mar 8, 2021

Aug 2, 2002

yeah thanks, Gorka, awesome info.

:siren: week 448 results - I'm just happy you're unhappy :siren:

i asked y'all to step outside your comfort zone and write a story with an unhappy ending, something we all explicitly try not to do almost all the other times. even if you're gonna end sad, you want something bitter sweet. somebody usually ends up happy. but i asked you to push that aside and give me hopelessness.

Azza Bamboo, what the gently caress? Like, I didn't assign you that knuckles quote, i don't know why you got stuck on the Sonic fanfic. To make matters worse, none of us had any idea what the hell was happening even in this story. I'm still not sure what went into your decision process to pick this quote, write this fanfic, and then post it super early. You eat a nice fat Loss.

Baneling Butts, you decided to have maybe the most unlikable character this week just tell about a bunch of events and the judges found it overall boring and weird, and your character was a major dick. We didn't feel bad that bad things happened to him, so you get the sole Dishonorable Mention of the week for barely escaping the loss yourself.

Yoruichi. your story was great. your entrance was great. your chutzpah was great. pretty much everything about this owned, but this isn't the week that an ugly duckling becomes a beautiful princess, this is the week for unhappy endings, and yours is a nice DQ when you should have so much more. that sucks. the universe sucks.

On the happier (well, unhappier) side of the coin we had two stories that really captured likable people just down on their luck and making lovely decisions. Morning Bell, despite your super sloppy proofing and sometimes awkward voice, you set up a pretty clear goal and then ran over it with a car. Your character was doing something lovely when this happened, but his dad not getting the fridge was real sad and hosed up, so good job. Antivehicular made me relive my childhood past of being a perpetually shy, perennially crushing young person and reminded us that young love often doesn't work out, but overall seems like her char will grow up and be fine. HMs to the both of ya.

Your winner this week was the only one that made us all honestly unhappy. Sitting Here wrote a story that set up this awful situation and you knew it was coming, then at the last minute she ripped even that certainty away from us, leaving us feeling utterly unsatisfied and upset, which is what I asked y'all for. She wins because jesus christ, i was legit sad after reading that. Enjoy the throne, remember you got it by literally being a miserable sack of disappointing poo poo.

Apr 30, 2006


You Won’t Be Alone

Ultimately, this isn’t successful because it doesn’t follow the “likeable characters” rule. I’m not sure who we’re supposed to sympathize with here. Robotticus is lonely but he’s also attacking, robbing, and stealing DNA from innocent people. Anna’s treated with this huge sense of condescension. It really reads as this “isn’t this cute, she invests in her mental health,” and the other two characters aren’t much of characters at all. I also have a hard time following the blocking once Robotticus attacks – suddenly they’re in the air and having a sky battle? But I thought they were just hanging out in the house. And then I’m not sure why they’re so upset at the end – what exactly have they lost, a clone they never knew?

Little Machine

This definitely captures the still sadness of the cosmic entropy it’s trying to capture, and the prose is pretty and efficient. I like “I was a little marble dropped in a storm.” The piece is fairly static, though, and while that makes sense given the story’s themes, it’s hard for the reflective, fixed-in-place nature of this story to feel substantial. It’s also sort of a familiar sci-fi concept – the last consciousness in an emptying universe – and while I think the voice handles that concept well, I was kind of hoping for more of an individual spin on this. That said, the ending here made me feel things, and I appreciate that.

My Fault

Great voice and pacing. The character’s voice and conflict are captured well, and I like the repetition of “Just loving lie.” The character’s sense of guilt and her sense of what stands to be lost are both super clear, and the story works by playing those tensions off of each other. The memories of the accident and the courtroom scene playing out in the present are woven really well together; it’s never confusing when something is happening. The short, one-sentence paragraphs are a nice touch here, too. Can’t wait for the direct-to-video adaptation for use in school assemblies. Too bad you didn’t enter correctly!

Signed On

Really good atmosphere here. The objects and people in the foundry are sketched briefly but vividly; we instantly get a sense of what kind of place this is, and it sets the mood well for the capitalist horror here. I think there may be a few too many characters here, though; maybe Kal, Leon, Hans, the foreman, and the protagonist are too many for a story of this size. While I think the cast helps build this sense of a community ground to dust by the horror at the foundry, I think it makes the protagonist here feel a little distant and unknowable, and makes it more challenging to get invested in their ultimate fate.

Transcript of Professor John Reckitt’s speech in Stockholm, Sweden

I’m curious why the story is being told this way. I’m not sure the speech format is adding much to the story here.

This seems like another story that doesn’t follow the “likable” character rule. At least, I see this story as some guy trying to shrug off his own responsibility for his anger, using people, and murder on the devil. It’s not that he’s not sympathetic in his need for validation, because I think that’s captured well in this story, but for his attitude about his unnamed assistant isn’t likable at all. And I think you can read this as a sort of dark irony about powerful men who do awful things, but that’s pretty off-prompt. I do think you’ve captured this character’s voice well, though!

This Will All Be Funny In Ten Years

This feels deeply intimate, rich with great specific details that tell us exactly who Hannah is, and what kind of place Fairbanks is to her and Joshua. There are a lot of really lovely lines here: “When the counselor asks them to write letters to Joshua, Hannah thinks hard about him for the first time, and the first memory that arises is his working on an art project: carefully painting water over his watercolor-crayon landscape, making his flowers bleed into the grass” is just the sort of sentimental memory a fourth-grader would have. And I think the story captures the kind of valence that feeling would have at different stages of Hannah’s life.

I also get the sense that Joshua doesn’t really listen to Hannah, and that he’s essentially using her devotion as an emotional outlet, and so I have trouble seeing him as a likable character, but I think this might just be because we’re seeing things through Hannah’s perspective. And this gives me some mixed feelings on the ending, because it’s very bleak for Hannah in the moment – everything important to her is in crisis! – but I’m not sure how grounded Hannah’s prediction of consequences are, or if they’re catastrophizing in the face of a crisis. I wonder if it would make sense to hint more at Hannah’s home life, her financial situation, earlier in the story.

The Greenline

I’ve read this a few times, and I’m still having trouble piecing together how this piece coheres. Rob travels from a dystopian future to a stark past and is unhappy in both, ends up (accidentally?) killing the cult leader that led him to the past and goes back to the program, and is either killed or mind-controlled by the dystopian government. It seems like all of Rob’s options are terrible, so I’m not sure if the climactic decision here (to not bring the other people in his community back) really matters, since they’d just be reprogrammed by the government too. So it’s a cool setting and cool concept, but there’s just this strong “nothing really matters” mood that pervades it from the beginning, which just makes me wonder what the point is here.

Stone Don’t Float

I think this is pretty good but I wish it was a little livelier. Structurally and on a prose level, this is strong and left me wondering what terrible thing was going to happen with the last canoe. But the characters don’t really come alive for me; their voices don’t seem distinct enough. There’s some real moody, atmospheric writing here, and the end definitely hits me with a sense of dread, but I think it would be more effective if Dallan was more clear to me as a character.

Dollar Fever

On the thematic and mood level, this one just works. The story is just this vice-grip of capitalism closing in on someone who’s buying into its promise, and the end hits like a speeding Mazda of a wilted Christmas story. I think the friendship between the protagonist and Jake works to sell the betrayal at the end, and it’s nice that the specific betrayal is foreshadowed early on. The story could probably could have used an additional proofing pass, as sometimes the voice goes from manic to just confusing, but on the whole this is a really strong story.

Saint Anybat

Tight worldbuilding and a strong voice. Another story with great lines; it’s hard to pull off “a big walking queef” but I think the story does it. I like how it establishes the character’s particular connection to the bat and the high stakes of them walking around unarmed, which makes the failure at the end land hard. This is a story that really lands all of the prompt’s requirements.

Siegried of the Schoolyard

Hmm, I don’t know if this follows the “likable characters” rule, as I can’t say anyone but Zeynep is very likable in this one. As a story, I think it works as Friedrich getting his “nice guy” nerd-ideas literally beat out of him. The point of view and narration works for this character, and it helps to ground this story in this kid’s very limited perspective in this storybook way. I’m glad it doesn’t end up with Friedrich joining the Nazis.

Aug 2, 2002


If i write “none” for live thoughts that’s a good thing, it means i didn’t stop from reading your story to make a note of anything, not that i wasn’t thinking anything :P


Azza Bamboo
You Won't Be Alone.

Live thoughts: very telly opening. “Centeredness and assertiveness; those are the two words Anna has picked up from her popular psychology.” i’m not sure if this line is supposed to be mocking. "As if I would want to talk to any of you losers!" is this guy like 12? “Even Anna admits that this is highly suspicious. In agreeing with them, she finds herself rushed into Thomas’ biplane with the others. On disembarking at the courtyards of Robotticus’ flying manor, she asks, “do we even have a plan?” this is a hell of a transition and a bit whiplash. She literally goes to wondering to getting in a plane and then landing on a flying ship without so much of any fanfare, which is a shame. ““Oh no,” says Karl. “Who was that?” says Anna, mouth agape.
Stuff like this seems like you’re not even trying. The kind of “not trying” that allows you to say “well i didn’t really try” to protect yourself when you get a bad reception. Why are you doing this?

End thoughts: So i think this is sonic the hedgehog fanfic, but i don’t recognize any of the characters besides the bad guy. You often sound like you’re mocking your own character(s) and making them shallow and stupid. The kind of cardboard cutout doucheyness of the three layabouts didn’t really do anybody justice either. I’m wondering why you went for such a detached sort of dislike of your own characters. Most of the lines sound pretty infantile, this reads a lot like somebody playing with action figures and just kind of making up a story along the way, loosely aping the plot of something they’d already watched but couldn’t remember any of the lines to. I’m not sure where the story is supposed to be grounded, i.e. who is the protagonist? It starts with the prof, which is ok, he defines a clear goal/obstacle to that goal, then you do a hard 90 degree turn to focusing on Anna, who you seem to not like very much. She doesn’t really have a goal other than to not want to watch TV all day? All of her wants seem to be spur of the moment, and nobody really respects her for them. The whole clone business was just ??? why was that there? It does nothing. Then the very end is just her thinking back on a joke, you didn’t even show me this as it was happening… wtf. I’m not really sure what the heck happened. You’d have been better sticking to just the prof trying and failing to get a robot to talk to him. The other stuff just seemed… like a toy commercial? Not 100% sure why you wrote this or what you hoped for me to get from it?

1. Line? I mean yeah i guess you saw “knuckle” and thought “sonic fanfic” so ok
2. Unhappy? I dunno, it felt kinda exactly like a video game plot. The good guys won, the bad guy lost, and also Anna was there. A clone of herself she never knew existed died after 0 screen time and then she meditates on a beach about it?
3. Alive? I mean, clone anna died? So did a lot of robots? But all the main chars seem alive.
4. Likable? I didn’t really like any of them, and thus don’t care about them?
5. Ended? Not really, this just kinda meanders and doesn’t really do a good job of setting a clear end condition.


Little Machine

Live thoughts: getting strong 17776 vibes from this.

End thoughts: this has been done before, i’m guessing these are the voyager probes sent out? Or at least two similar ones. Anyway it’s not terrible, i do like the thought, but there’s nothing super revolutionary here, one probe outliving its creators and wondering if it’s alone and will see its friend/lover again. But i didn’t hate reading it. I feel the ending where it got a message back was the weakest part. I think it would have been stronger and more heartbreaking with no response, no acknowledgement. Closure is its own sort of satisfaction.

1. Line? yeah
2. Unhappy? yeah
3. Alive? yeah
4. Likable? yeah
5. Ended? yeah


My Fault

You bastard.

Live thoughts: “We had fought in whispers” ha. Been there. “ My sensible shoes clip-clop “ IT’S A HORSE! Oh i shoulda kept reading lol. “Like the horse I’d killed.” oh good well this got a little less tragic at least, just a dumb horse. “Except for the dead horse. Of course, of course.” lol. (kill your darlings).

End thoughts: You set up a great dilemma. Tell the truth, possibly go to jail and miss all those bedtime stories. Lie, and get to spend the time with your girls. Tell the truth, as you so badly want to do, and you might not even get in that much trouble. Lie, and have to live with that guilt your whole life. It’s a good one, and without a real, definitive answer, so you’re kinda hosed if you do, hosed if you don’t. I like that. In the end, she does choose to be truthful, and i feel that does let a certain weight off her shoulders. Since i don’t know what kind of consequences she will face, i don’t know how truly unhappy of an ending this is. Possible she gets a very light sentence and is then happy she told the truth?

1. Line? Sure i guess, if making her nest is kinda like making her bed and lying in it.
2. Unhappy? Kinda. It’s poo poo either way.
3. Alive? Except that horse
4. Likiable? yeah
5. Ended? yeah


Sign On

Live thoughts: setup is good, but can’t help wondering how he got a job so easy if they’re in such high demand. “and saw something” learning to get rid of these types of things will take your writing to the next level. Describe exactly what he saw, even he’s not sure. Something can be anything, but he saw something, was it a dark smudge? A glimmer of light? A face? Even if you want to maintain mystery and unsuredness, you can still squeeze detail into your story, don’t settle for “someone” or “something” or “for some reason” ever. Oh, and then your next sentence kinda covers it, which is why editing is important! Get rid of the “something” entirely, it’s unnecessary. Then spend a bit of time on it. Did it move? Did it vanish? Did the guy go away too fast and the character convince himself he’d actually seen nothin? Definitely feel like you’re setting something up here, but you basically went ‘AND THEN AN ALIEN CAME OUT OF THE MINE AND I SAW IT ON MY FRIEND. ANYWAY, ME AND THE BOYS…” “At one point Kal stopped screaming” not quite clear, is this line saying he died? “forming into a box with a speaker on it.” this is a bit of a jarring deviation from the mood you’ve created. From mechanical/biological to “electronic.” i don’t really have a good idea of what this thing is or looks like, so i just kinda imagined a bluetooth speaker, which wasn’t the best. “His eyes widened in terror.” this is one of those telly bits that serve as a great opportunity to do some world building and characterization. A sludge just came out of his throat, really get in those weeds and don’t just give me a boring cliche. I can’t really keep all your characters straight, they just about all fill the same role of “dude working in a foundry.” you’ve done some light characterization on them, but because they don’t get much time to speak and really make themselves known, it’s hard to remember who is who. In a short story like this, it’s difficult to get to know more than a few characters, and you have main, boss, a bunch of guys, military people, etc. i know you said you hope to make this part of a larger world, where it might work better to have all these dudes, but in a short story you could probably condense them all down to one other guy. Did this dude jump onto a piece of molten steel to fuse with it?

End thoughts: You set a great mood here of this foundry that becomes otherworldly and starts falling apart internally, though nobody seems to really mind. There is a LOT here to unpack and work with, but you skim over a lot of stuff. You describe a ton of actions/plot/sequences, but hardly any of how this character actually feels or reacts to these things. Actually, hardly anybody in your story reacts, they all just kinda of trudge along like “yup, this is how it’s supposed to happen.” which is a kind of horror in itself, but you need to spend some time then on why they’re not reacting and their own kinda amazement at it. A lot of small missed opportunities to flesh some things out, but it’s probably better to engender thoughts of “this needed more” than “get rid of what you have.”

1. Line? Very much
2. Unhappy? Not sure about this. His goal was to work and avoid the war. He didn’t really avoid the war, but he did work, and i’m not sure what the ending entailed. I’m not really sure how your character felt about most of the stuff happening around him, so it’s hard to say he was unhappy about it, he seemed pretty ok with it, and even sounds like he willingly laid on the steel and found it to be warm and comforting.
3. Alive? I don’t think so? Not sure.
4. Likable? Eh, he was ok, I didn’t really get to know him that much.
5. Ended? yeah


Baneling Butts
Transcript of Professor John Reckitt's speech in Stockholm, Sweden

Live thoughts: what’s with this professor theme this week? You guys panderin’? Not gonna lie, not a huge fan of this transcript thing. I can’t help but wonder… why? “I know, I know. To be fair, I didn't know he was the devil, at first. In fact” I know this is a speech transcript, but man, tighten up your writing by getting rid of all the extra crap. “I didn’t know he was the devil” is a fine and dandy statement on its own, and all the extra fluff is just that. It doesn’t create a good mood or anything, it just wastes my time. “Anyway,” you do this a few times. I know your character is giving a speech on the fly, just talking, but man these little digressions hurt more than do anything good for your story. “while I lived in the hotel. Somehow I got accepted to the best one” what you’ve written here is that he got accepted into the best hotel when what I think you meant to talk about was his getting accepted into a university. “I moved to Boston,” I FEEL ATTACKED. I’m to the part where he’s getting good grades and poo poo and i’m thinking “man, i don’t want to read a rambling series of events where he becomes a nobel prize winning scientist super easily and boringly.” so if you don’t deviate from that right quick then you’re gonna earn a big ol’ yawn from me. “so I applied for PhD programs” this is the correct way to procrastinate life. “"I don't belong here." But I decided to fake it.” don’t doxx me. “What sort of angel gives success but not happiness?” well i mean, you already spoiled this story. “She talked to her friends, or read a book on feminism, or something,” ugh, see the crit above yours for the ‘or something’ talk. “the pinnacle of our careers (up until now) “ i’m always confused about parentheticals in dialog. They also don’t award nobels a year after a discovery :P

End thoughts: i have no idea why this in transcript form, and why you spoiled the ending. What’s the point of telling me this story when i already know how it ends, effectively. Furthermore, him just standing there telling me how sad he is does nothing compared to if you’d actually written all this stuff in standard story format, and instead of LITERALLY TELLING ME how sad he was, i could see it in his actions and interactions with other characters. The plot spends most of its time in the “get on with it” territory, just kinda hashing poo poo out as you’d suspect it should happen if i gave you the prompt “somebody makes a deal with the devil and becomes a world famous scientist, fill in the details.” narrow your scope, pick ONE of the times from this guys life and then tell that story by showing me him there doing the stuff. Don’t just have a guy tell his whole boring life story and end it with “welp, sure am sad.”

1. Line?
2. Unhappy? Sure, he told me he was i guess.
3. Alive? Yeah, but he did a murder
4. Likable? Not really. He was just a sad sack whining about how he did a gently caress up.
5. Ended? Yeah, i guess. The grad student / romance part was such a small part of it so her murder didn’t feel like much of an end.


This Will All Be Funny In Ten Years

Live thoughts: none

End thoughts: the first two paragraphs of this are real good, and were really in line with what i was looking for. She loved him and wanted to tell him, but didn’t, and kept it all inside. As somebody who grew up missing a hundred opportunities to tell somebody that i liked them, and missed out on ever knowing if that might have led to something, it was a great unhappy ending. The last third, where she tells him but he’s like “ugh no” and then the car crashes and he blocks her real quick weren’t my fave. Felt too contrived (nothing in the previous sections about how she’d drive over that place too). I’m not sure how often she drives on it or whatnot. A bit more about the town’s relationship with that ice crossing (and hers personally) might be helpful. Anyway, really loved the first 2/3rds and by the time i got to the last i was invested and just kept reading, but can’t feel a bit cheated out of a truely unhappy ending based on josh being kind of a jerk and her doing some boneheaded moves instead of just ruining it by not saying anything like she’d been doing.

1. Line? yurse
2. Unhappy? yurse
3. Alive? yurse
4. Likable? yurse
5. Ended? yurse

The Green Line
Live thoughts: oh god this better not be another Boston story. “brightly lit from some hidden bright sources.” do you really need both of these brights? “"You can't tell them," he said. "Not ever."” I’m not quite sure what they’re planning. Was Alex going to go through the portal, or had the others wanted to go through a portal and he was going to hide it from them? A bit more here would be helpful.

End thoughts: A guy who isn’t really invested in a cult goes back in time, chills for a bit, kills the leader then hops back to the present. He’s mildly annoyed at the present and then they say they’ll rehabilitate him, doesn’t sound too bad actually.

1. Line? yeah
2. Unhappy? I dunno. He never really wanted anything, he was just kinda along for the ride, so the ending is hard to interpret. I don’t even get to see him react to the news.
3. Alive? yeah
4. Likable? Eh. ok enough but i don’t know much about him, i know way more about the other characters. He’s just kinda… there?
5. Ended? I guess, though i’m not sure what rehabilitation is and what it entails and what the consequences of his actions are.


Stone Don’t Float

Live thoughts: none

End thoughts: it feels like there’s a metaphor in here somewhere or something. Anyway, this nails the prompt in being a pretty unhappy ending. He tried so hard, and got so far, but in the end, it didn’t even matter. I do worry about his life though, i hope he doesn’t get murdered, cause it sounds like the general might get a little murdery? This story falls a little flat for me, though, because while it had an interesting premise and clearly defined goals, the scenes all played out in pretty identical ways. He feels pressure about the canoe, thinks about his family, talks with his assistant, and the canoe sinks. There’s some good description of these places (you’re really into smells today) but it’s missing a certain something that makes these characters feel authentic and vulnerable.

1. Line? ya
2. Unhappy? ya
3. Alive? For now
4. Likable? Eh, this was a bit of a miss. He was a bit whiny.
5. Ended? ya


Morning Bell
Dollar Fever

Live thoughts: “with no notice, he had a mate” so many other good punctuations here and you went with a comma. Shame. “so whey wouldn't skip out” OOPS! All curds! “"Looks like you need a pen," I said.” lol “I called Das.” DAS VATER. “The job was this.” oh man, again with the missed opportunity for fun punct. “Bakereis” oh ya where they sell bakere. “Wholeslaler.” tired: coleslaw. Wired: wholesla. “Dollars. Yen, Roubles” where the heck is he selling that people are offering him rubles? I’m not sure what to believe because you say he’s a selling machine, and that he’s jacking up prices and pocketing the different, and he had to make $100. He’d made 70ish on one day NOT being a selling machine or jacking up the prices, so i’m not clear exactly how he’s in danger of not succeeding here. “kept his mince and cool” i don’t even have a snarky thing to say.

End thoughts: it’s hard to care about a story when the author didn’t seem to care about it themselves. That’s the real pain of proofreading errors. I, myself am prone to them, but this one is just a mess. Do you not see the red squigglies? Or do you just ignore them cause you’re too cool? Anyway the voice here is a bit odd. A bit of an unreliable narrator feeling, which i can dig, but then also everything seems to kinda happen as he is telling it, so it turns out he’s not actually that unreliable, just a bit of a scatter brain/rambler. He’s got the clear goal here, get his dad a fridge. That’s a real good goal. In the end, he can’t, and he makes his dad sad. Oops. that’s a p good unhappy ending. A little melancholy at the end there, but good stuff.

1. Line? ya
2. Unhappy? ya
3. Alive? Barely lol
4. Likable? Kinda. He was doing a lovely thing when the car hit him, so it was a bit of karma. I also didn’t get a great sense of him and if he actually really liked selling or if was just desperate.
5. Ended? ya

Sitting Here
Saint Anybat

Live thoughts: “and I don’t think I’ll ever have a refrigerator again” oh don’t worry, there’s apparently a club of people without fridges now. “My friends all died and the people left behind are awful.” lol “That night I dreamed of a sexy baseball bat with comically huge cartoon boobs and lips” i’ll be in my bunk.

End thoughts: haha, gently caress you. I was like “oh man, she’s gonna have to give up her bat to save her life” and then “nooooooo she gave up her bat for no reason.” this is the good poo poo i was talking about. gently caress you, that was so unsatisfying and unhappy and worthless and FUUUUUUCK! Lots of good world building in here and just enough that it seems pretty realistic without getting caught up in jacking off about the end of the world. It sounds awful and terrible and scary and not fun at all. It’s not Hatchet out there. Anyway, I’m sad now. Good job.

1. Line? ya
2. Unhappy? gently caress
3. Alive? Yeah, hopefully for a bit more?
4. Likable? ya
5. Ended? ya


Simply Simon
Siegfried of the Schoolyard

Live thoughts: “the foreign princess, crumpled on the ground, nursed the cheek [...] The stinky, brutish, disgusting creature hugging” pick a tense and stick with it. Confused on who is Siegfried, Selim, and Friedrich. Is one the fantasy alter ego? I had to go back and reread this paragraph a few times to realize what was happening. “This was never about any noble goal. The true monster in this fight, the ugly creature full of hatred, was in front of him.” don’t be so direct with this stuff. I’m not stupid.

End thoughts: we call them incels over here. This story is caught somewhere between an afterschool special and a cautionary tale. I know you rushed this, but besides some small readability issues it doesn’t appear that rushed. However, the tone of this is a bit wonky, and maybe that’s where the rushing is coming in. lines like “and other cool guy stuff” are a big eeesh from me. But you fall back on just telling me what i need to know too often, rather than taking time to slow down and let me get there on my own. Just telling me hatred is the real enemy is like just writing “so hey, i know you’re not very smart and i’m afraid you’ll miss this, so let me lay it out real simply for you:” it really detracts from the overall story. Plus having your char at the end be like “actually i’m not a bad guy, ya know?” is a bit too on the nose. That said, despite all the issues i think this is a pretty good example of a story with an unhappy ending that still pulls off some good character work and themes and stuff. It feels real and authentic at points, but other times the age of the kids seems a bit older than it should for middle schoolers. I kept thinking they were older.

1. Line? ya
2. Unhappy? ya
3. Alive? ya
4. Likable? Not really. The whole “nice guy” thing is pretty hosed.
5. Ended? ya

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




well gently caress

Thunderdome Week 449: Dysfunctional r/elationships

There are a good number of you who are familiar with the R/Relationships subreddit, and/or the various iterations of the r/relationships thread in GBS. If you're not familiar with that subreddit and its ilk, here's the gist: most people have problems. Some of them choose to go on Reddit and write up elaborate, drama-riddled posts about their problems.

This week we will be writing posts in the style of real life people sharing their real life problems on Reddit (or other advice outlets). Your job is to come up with a FICTIONAL(!) story of drama, pettiness, dysfunction, or human folly, and write it in the style of someone seeking advice on r/relationships, Am I The rear end in a top hat, Dear Abby, etc.

For extra inspiration, you may request a random Wikihow image when you sign up.

If it's not clear from the prompt itself, this week is supposed to be fun, so don't worry too much about getting literary.


How should I format my post?

You should format your post just like any other Thunderdome story; no gimmicky formatting, no quote tags. The title of your post should resemble the titles of posts from R/Relationships, AITA (Am I The rear end in a top hat), or otherwise be in the style of someone seeking advice on the internet. Here are some random example titles from the thread linked above:


In love with the wrong (married) man

AITA for not apologising to my sister, at the cost of no longer being her bridesmaid?

My (M19) boyfriend (M20) has such bad breath, and really weird hygiene.

Are there any topics that I shouldn't write about?

Yeah I don't want to read about sexual assault, abuse of any living thing, your kinks, or anything gratuitously traumatic. The most memorable R/Relationships-style stories are the ones that are a little bit weird, funny, or infuriating in a low-stakes way.

Are there any genre restrictions?

No! If you want to write about a ghost who refuses to wipe their rear end or a sentient spaceship who wants to explore polyamory, go right ahead. It still has to read more or less like an advice-seeking post, though.

Help I don't read reddit or GBS, I don't understand this prompt at all

If you skim the r/relationships thread in GBS you'll get a decent idea of what I'm looking for. If you really don't want to do that, try writing as though you're seeking advice from a columnist like Dear Abby.

So this means I don't have to tell an actual story, right?

Wrong! Your post should still basically contain a story, even if on the surface it reads like an advice-seeking post. It's okay if your entry is a little more like a narrative than the standard advice post; we are still writing fiction here, after all.

I have other questions!

Ask in the thread or hit me up on Discord and I will add more answers to this post.

Maximum word limit: 1000 words
Entry deadline: Friday, March 12 at 11:59:59PM PST
Submission deadline: Sunday, March 14 at 11:59:59PM PST
Not The Assholes
Sitting Here

The Assholes

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.

It's me, an rear end in a top hat.

EDIT: wiki me please

Chairchucker fucked around with this message at 09:58 on Mar 8, 2021

May 30, 2011

Found this just when browsing the subreddit!

Only registered members can see post attachments!

May 17, 1993

in. Give me a wikihow image please

Mar 14, 2012


Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

In, with a wikihow

Aug 20, 2014


In and Wikihow me please

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe


Aug 24, 2010



Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005

My god, is that—
Wiki me.

Apr 30, 2006

I’m in

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018


Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


In edit: wikihow please

Idle Amalgam fucked around with this message at 17:01 on Mar 8, 2021

magic cactus
Aug 3, 2019

We lied. We are not at war. There is no enemy. This is a rescue operation.

seems like as good a time as any to throw my hat back in the ring. IN wikihow me pls.


Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.

I'm in. Hit me with a wikihow, please.

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