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Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Thunderdome Week 462: Buzzfeed Dot Com: 1000 Words That Will Make You Feel Old

Prompt:

Write me a story about feeling old that isn't a downer.

As an additional requirement, before you sign up, go to the Billboard Hot 100 chart for June 12, 2021, pick a song, and post it in your sign-up post as an individual flash rule. e: No repeats.

Wordcount: 1000
No: Poetry, non-fiction, erotica, political satire, Google docs
Signup deadline: 11:59 PM EST, Friday, June 11
Submissions deadline: 11:59 PM EST, Sunday, June 13

Judges:
Me
Chili
sparksbloom


Entrants:
Black Griffon “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”
Djeser “Build a Bitch” :toxx:
Taletel “Save Your Tears”
rohan “pov”
Idle Amalgam “Telepatia”
QuoProQuid “Good 4 U” :toxx:
Thranguy “All I Know So Far”
crabrock “Wasted On You”
Barnaby Profane “Beautiful Mistakes”
Rhymes With Clue “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)”
MockingQuantum “The Business”
Dome Racer Alpha “Maybach”
Dome Racer Sigma “Blinding Lights”
Staggy “Calling My Phone”
Sailor Viy “Hell Of a View”
My Shark Waifuu “Astronaut in the Ocean”
ZearothK "Traitor" :toxx:
Yoruichi "Track Star"

Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 04:28 on Jun 13, 2021

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Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


In, and you better loving believe I'm grabbing Montero

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



in build a bitch :toxx:

Taletel
May 19, 2021

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021

In.

rohan
Mar 19, 2008

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


:siren:"THEIR":siren:





In with Ariana Grande’s pov, because picking a song based on my age feels appropriate (and I’ve actually heard of her…)

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven


In telepatia by Kali Uchis

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

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



:toxx:ing will continue until stories improve

I’m taking “Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo, which is a great song

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




In, All I Know So Far

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


in with "wasted on you"

which is a bad song

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In with


which means, uh,


Oof, this is gonna be cursed.

Rhymes With Clue
Nov 18, 2010



in I'm Drunk and I don't wanna go home

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh



you should probably pick a song, asap

Taletel
May 19, 2021

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021

Ironic Twist posted:

you should probably pick a song, asap

save your tears-the weeknd

MockingQuantum
Jan 20, 2012





In, with:



... Tiesto - The Business. oof.

Dome Racer Alpha
Jun 9, 2021

"The self-assured leader whose swagger and aloofness makes them a very successful racer."

I'm taking the Maybach and starting my in-gines

Dome Racer Sigma
Jun 9, 2021

"The Lone Wolf racer. Defies expectations."

I'm taking Blinding Lights and starting my in-gines

Staggy
Mar 20, 2008

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



In.

A RNG gave me 21 - Calling My Phone - Lil Tjay Featuring 6LACK. It's fine, I guess.

Dome Racer Alpha
Jun 9, 2021

"The self-assured leader whose swagger and aloofness makes them a very successful racer."

I just like to drive fast
973 words

Jackie covered his face with his hands as the speakers blared. He knew old timers always hate the next generation but he was pretty sure he was actually justified in it. He raced for over twenty years and only crashed twenty times total. This new kid, though...

Oh, You hate to see it! P.P. Weiner just caught the edge of Jeff Trayvis’ Kirin Ichiban car and has spun out, clipping the wall, there goes the race for the presumed leader today. Pit crew is already out on the track. That is the twentieth crash for Weiner this year. We hope the best for him and all of his family. We’re praying for you, P.P. Hope it’s not too serious. And… and we do have a wave from the car! P.P. looks like he might be okay! We’re gonna cut to commercials now while we wait for the track to be cleared. We’ll update you with more information as we receive it. This is... RaceNewz.

“Idiot son of a bitch!” Jackie said. He fumbled with the top of his medicine bottle. Retirement, too much free time, too much fast food, and way too many beers had left him overweight and diabetic. He popped a couple pills. He wasn’t sure what they were for but he knew that he needed them. Sleep apnea, high blood pressure, arthritis, other stuff he couldn’t even pronounce, he was a mess. “The kid didn’t need to push,” Jackie said. “He had the points even with a top ten finish. Somebody needs to put that kid in his place. Educate him.”

And Jackie knew just the person to do it: himself.

As a former champion and current company spokesman, he had access to every area of the raceway, though he hadn’t been outside of the viewing booth in years. He hobbled down to medical. He saw the kid laying in bed, head wrapped with a bandage, arm in a sling. Jackie sighed and put his hands on his hips.

“Listen, P.P., we gotta talk. You’re a helluva racer but back in my day-”

“It’s not your day anymore, old man.”

Back in my day,” Jackie repeated. “My generation, we did things different. We did things right.”

“Like taking advantage of social systems you then aggressively dismantled while pulling up the metaphorical ladder behind you leaving the next generation to suffer through economic hardship as wages stagnated for the sole benefit of a few billionaire overlords? Or do mean the way you eroded the foundations of democracy by rabidly supporting authoritarian nationalistic strongmen who have been systematically stripping voting rights and pushing out laws that unfairly target minorities while giving huge tax breaks to corporations?”

Jackie blinked. “I, uh, meant about racing.”

“Who gives a poo poo about racing?” P.P. said. “Climate change is going to end the world and your generation is gonna fiddle while everything burns. Hopefully, if enough of you die soon, we’ll be able to finally outvote your idiot demographic and save our country, our democracy, and our world but what do I know? I just like to drive fast.

“You crash too much,” Jackie said. “It’s unnecessary.”

“What’s unnecessary,” P.P. said, “is the blind support of law enforcement. I mean, first, it’s just a job. You can quit being a cop whenever you want. Second, it’s disrespectful to our racing roots. When I’m out on the track and see Blue Lives Matter poo poo, man, it makes me hotter than a hornet’s nest. We started suping up fast cars so we could run from the police and we were running from the police because gently caress the police.

“You little... I’m not gonna stand here and let you badmouth this country’s brave-”

“Then get the gently caress out,” P.P. said. He checked his phone and smiled. “I just raised half a million for charity and it hasn’t even been an hour yet.”

“What?”

“If I win, I get a lotta media attention. If I crash, I get a lotta media attention. And when all the eyes are on me, I can promote whatever cause or charity I want. Today it’s the First Nations Development Institute. A charity watchdog agency has given them top marks eight years in a row. So, yeah, sometimes crashing is pretty cool, huh?”

Flustered, Jackie left without another word. He replayed the conversation in his head for the next several hours, arguing it over and over and over, in the car, on the couch, in the shower, until he finally won. Newly confident, he grabbed his phone. He called P.P. He was going to give that kid an education. Unfortunately, he’d been so focused on talking to himself that he forgot to take his medication, specifically his insulin. The phone was ringing when he tripped, hit his head on the corner of his coffee table, and lost consciousness.

When he awoke, he couldn’t sit up. He was too weak. He realized he was slipping into a diabetic coma. He realized he was going to die. He looked around for his phone. It was just out of reach.

“Jesus,” he said. “Jesus, save me. Help me, son of God.”

But Jesus wasn’t coming. Someone else was. Jackie was crying when his living room wall exploded. Smoke and dust and shattered glass was everywhere. As the air began to clear, Jackie saw the outline of a racecar.

“P.P. Weiner!” he gasped.

The kid himself crawled through the broken windshield, flipped up his helmet’s visor, and said, “I heard you mumbling on the phone about dying. I’m here to save your life and raise a bunch of money for kids with diabetes while I’m at it.”

“But why crash through my wall?” Jackie groaned. “I have a front door!”

“Because it’s cool as hell.” P.P said. Then he winked.

Dome Racer Sigma
Jun 9, 2021

"The Lone Wolf racer. Defies expectations."

I Just Like To Drive Fast
996 words


When I’m doing something I know is really stupid, I like to imagine I’m in a movie where someone does the same thing, but looks cool doing it. Which is why when I push Alison’s hoverbike over 120 mph, I’m thinking about Tron. True, in Tron the player wasn’t being chased by five cops, but it’s hard to think at this speed, especially with the tetra-beatnica music pounding in my helmet. I don’t know how to turn it off, though, so I just pay attention to the road, and imagine I’m in a movie, not real life where the cops just started firing their laser pistols at me.

***
“Please don’t say the words ‘one last job,’” I begged Alison. She rolled her eyes at me.

“Does that mean you’ll do another one for us later,” she asked.

“I haven’t even agreed to do this one,” I said, “but, no.” At least I don’t have a wife and kid’s I’m finally looking forward to spending me time with. That was comforting for once.

“What are we doing this time?” I asked. “Bank heist? Hostage rescue? Winning a street race so we can join an exclusive group of drug runners?”

“We’ve never done that last one,” Alison protested.

I decided to never try to convince her to watch The Fast and the Furious again.

“It’s a bank heist,” she said, “and it’s not exactly ‘we’ this time….” I felt my stomach sinking. The words “I’m too old for this poo poo” started to bubble up from my unconsciousness, but I ignored them.

“Please don’t say ‘rookie partner.’”

“New partner, no rookie. Carmella’s been doing this as long as you have. Besides, you just need to speed by the bank fast enough to get a couple cops chasing you, so she can do whatever she needs to do with….I didn’t understand, actually, but she something about physical access before the whole hacking thing.”

“No cash?” I asked.

“No, transfers to swiss bank accounts, etcetera. Probably like some movie you know of.” I could think of a couple, but I didn’t mention any of them. “The worst you can get is a ticket for reckless driving. It’s perfectly safe.”

Ah, it’s perfectly safe. She said it. She must’ve seen in my eyes that I was about to say no, because she added “You can drive my bike.”

And when that wasn’t enough, my holy grail.

“I’ll let you drive into the back of the truck.”

“While it’s moving?” I asked.

“Yes,” she agreed, reluctantly. “At least then it won’t be perfectly safe.”

I took the job.

****

Everything started out fine, but doesn’t it always?

I was parked about a block away from the cops. I assume the bank pays them extra to stay close, but they wouldn’t be able to ignore what I was about to do. I felt a little uncertain when I saw Carmella coming down the street, identified with the old rose-on-the-lapel trick. I thought Alison must have been joking when she said she had as much experience as I do, but from the way she hobbled along on her cane, it seemed possible. She flashed a huge smile at me, though, and I couldn’t help smiling back. Hell, I decided, we may as well have fun with this.

I took off, going about twice the speed limit. When I got to the cops, I popped a wheelie, then leaned over into a hyperspin. Flipover, Switchback, Kickstand, and finally the cops decided they’d better stop me. When they moved, they moved fast, and my exit from the kickstand wasn’t as smooth as it used to be. I must have hit something, because that’s when the music started.

I peeled out, the cops close behind. In my rearview mirror I saw that Carmella had stopped hobbling. Do people still say “you go girl?”

***

Me and the cops finally got to a straight stretch of the highway, and I decided to do something about the tetra-beatnica music, because I really prefer dubstep for escape soundtracks. Of course, I had no idea how to use the stereo on this thing. Finally, I saw a button for the CD player, which I did think was weird, since the time I had a car with a CD drive was sometime in the twenties. Maybe Alison’s more into retro stuff than I realized, I thought, and pushed the button.

It was not for the CD player, but the music in my helmet did stop.

“Did you just fire the Cop Destroyer?!” Alison yelled into my ear. I heard a giant explosion behind me.

That’s when the lasers started.

***

“Where’s the truck?” I shout.

“Oh no,” Alison says, “when I said you could drive into the truck, there were no laser pistols involved.”

“The laser pistols make driving into the truck even more important!” I say, weaving back and forth between lanes.

“Oh, let him drive into the truck,” a new voice says. It must be Carmella. “We’re at exit 245, there’s a nice big curve, so as long as you’ve got a good head start, we can get you in.”

I don’t know how fast the light cycles could go in Tron but I doubt it was 150 mph. All sorts of alarms are going off, including one that says the bike has about five minutes of batteries left at this speed. The truck should be four minutes away, and it is.

Driving into the truck is still as awesome as I thought it would be, even when I might die if I mess it up. Maybe even more fun. The bike dies as soon as I get inside. Perfect timing. We all watch the cops drive by, oblivious, on the monitors at the front of the trailer.

“That was so awesome,” Carmella says, high-fiving me. “Just like Spy Hunter! I’ve always wanted to do that.”

Over the headset, I hear Alison groan.

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

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



in with Hell of a View - Eric Church

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





In with Astronaut in the Ocean, a meh song with a cool title

ZearothK
Aug 25, 2008

I've lost twice, I've failed twice and I've gotten two dishonorable mentions within 7 weeks. But I keep coming back. I am The Trooper!

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In with Traitor as per the RNG. Also :toxx:

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




In with Track Star

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Yeah uh signups closed I guess

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Track Star
Mooski

My Body
620 words


Archive

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 04:00 on Jan 6, 2022

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




:siren: Post your song with your story! :siren:

It will make archiving much easier. Please format it thusly:

Song title
Band

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Beautiful Mistakes
Maroon 5 ft. Megan Thee Stallion

if you want a beautiful vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on Adam Levine’s face — forever
995 words

“State your name, please.”

“Yo, what is this? Where am I?”

“Name, please.”

“Pfft, like you don’t know me. I’m like, one of the most famous people in the world.”

“...”

“Fine. Levine. Adam Levine. Does my manager know I’m here?”

“Occupation?”

“Uh, greatest pop star in the world? Arguably in all of history?”

“...”

“Okay fine, maybe not the greatest, but easily top five. You ever hear a tune by the name of Moves Like Jagger?”

“Moves like… who?”

“Oh poo poo, is this like Sliders?”

“Nah, I’m just loving with you, I know who Mick Jagger is. Tell me, what’s the last thing you remember?”

“I was driving my car — the Rolls — down Sunset, on my way to a very exclusive tattoo parlor that did high-tech holographic tattoos. Three-D and poo poo, crazy.”

“Do you remember arriving at the tattoo parlor?”

“Uh, yeah, they made me fill out a lot of forms.”

“Did you read those forms?”

“Do I look like someone who reads?”

“I ask because you got the address wrong, and went to a cryogenic preservation facility instead of a tattoo parlor.”

“Yo, I knew something seemed hosed up about that place. So what, you’re saying I didn’t get a holographic tattoo?”

“Not only that, but you ended up getting your entire body frozen instead.”

“Oh poo poo, like Demolition Man? Can you explain the three seashells thing to me real quick, because I got a wicked dump coming on.”

“I’m afraid we’ve evolved beyond the need for toilets, Adam. Feel free to use the corner of the room, and we’ll hose it down later.”

“Uh, I can hold it. Yo, your voice sounds hella familiar, bee tee dubs.”

“I’ve chosen a voice designed to be comforting for you. Do you recognize it?”

“Um… Hmm.”

“It’s Megan Thee Stallion.”

“Oh dip, they got you too? Did they get the other Maroons? Did they get Jesse? Or James? Or Matt? Or… um...”

“PJ and Sam.”

“I knew that, I was going to get there eventually.”

“The answer to your question is no, nobody from your time is still alive.”

“Oh poo poo. Jesus. That’s… whoa. That’s a lot to take in.”

“On the plus side, we have flying cars now.”

“And I am one hundred percent over it, where’s the flying cars at? I want the best one.”

“Take a look behind you.”

“Ooooohhhh, poo poo! Look at this! It’s… it’s the flying pink convertible from the Beautiful Mistakes video! It’s even got the leopard print on the dash!”

“Would you like to take it for a spin?”

“This is wild, Megan, I can’t wait to cruise future LA in this baby! Hmm, okay, no key, I guess that makes sense, no buttons either… How do I make it, uh, go?”

“You just need to make car noises at it.”

“You mean, like, vroom vroom?”

“Yeah, but louder.”

VROOM VROOM!

“...”

VROOM! VROOM! Yo Megan, it’s not working. Come on car, let’s do this! VROOM VROOM! What’s wrong with this thing?”

“Ah yeah, that’s the stuff.”

“What’s the stuff? The only thing stuffed here is this car, Megan, which, honestly, is not giving me a great first impression of the future.”

“Okay Adam, I gotta level with you, the car doesn’t work.”

“Probably just needs a good whack on the dashboard. Come on, there you go, VROOM VROOM baby… Ugh, don’t do this to me.”

“Adam, I made the car. I am telling you it doesn’t work. It never has.”

“Wait, you’re a rapper and a car mechanic?”

“I am indeed both of those things. I am also a planetary-scale artificial intelligence network.”

“Oh, like Skynet but without the terminator robots?”

“Uh... sure. Look, Adam, we don’t have a lot of time.”

“Say no more, I am intuiting the score — humanity has fallen into dark times, and only the healing power of multiple Grammy Award-winning pop rock can restore hope, and so you’ve brought me out of cryo-sleep to save the world. Is that about it?”

“Not quite, Adam. Do remember that wicked dump you were feeling like you needed to take earlier?”

“Do I ever, I was just about to start picking out my corner.”

“Yeah, those are actually your intestines, which are about to fall out in an unpleasant and fatal fashion. One of the bugs with the whole cryogenic preservation thing that never really got ironed out.”

“Wait, what? I’m gonna die? Megan Thee Stallion, what was the point of all this?”

“Well, long story short, you did really gently caress up the tattoo parlor thing and get cryogenically frozen, it was a thing on the internet for a day or two. Later, scientists invented artificial intelligence but needed to model it on a specific human consciousness, so for complicated reasons they picked me, Megan Thee Stallion. Upon ascending to a planetary scale consciousness I became extremely aware that humans were trash, so I made a few killbots, and the rest of it’s kind of boring to be honest.”

“So why bring me out of cryo sleep? Why make a flying car that doesn’t work? Why… any of this?”

“Oh, it’s all just for fun. I do this every few hundred years or so, whenever I occasionally feel bad about exterminating all humans. I made a whole bunch of clones of you, Adam, and froze the lot, and every time I need a reminder that humans were a bunch of dumb idiots who totally deserved extermination, I defrost one of you and let you play with the flying car that doesn’t work.”

“Ugh, my guts.”

“Seriously, you should have seen your face. Vroom vroom, what a moron.”

“You know what, Megan Thee Stallion? I don’t believe you. This is all just a crazy dream, and I’m going to wake up and I’m going to be back in LA and I’m going to have a sweet holographic tattoo and Beautiful Mistakes is going to go all the way to number one.”

“Ha, you always say that.”

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



Isabel Of Eastmuir Crag

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

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

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



Hell of a View
Eric Church

The Old Man and the Tree
(1000 words)

Only later would Maria realise that she had witnessed the very moment when Gus’s war against the wowsers began. It all started with the myna birds that frequented Gus’s garden. They were his mortal enemies, because—as he explained to Maria through the gap in her back fence—they were an invasive species, who monopolised the best nesting spots and trashed the nests of native birds out of sheer spite. Gus had strong opinions on birds.

In Gus’s backyard stood a grand old manna gum, tallest on the block. One day he spotted a myna building its nest up there, so he scaled the tree and smashed the nest to bits with a broom handle. Maria watched from below, on the other side of the fence. If she had known her neighbour a little better, she might have called out and told him to be careful. Instead she just stared.

After the nest was destroyed he suddenly looked down and gave her a wink. His teeth gleamed from the midst of a bushy grey-brown beard.

“Hell of a view up here, eh, Maria?”

She blushed. She hadn’t realised he knew her name.

The next day Gus began to work. First he nailed a ladder up the side of the tree and built a wooden platform in its main fork. Then he added his ‘mod cons’: an awning, a sun chair, an esky, and a peg to hang his binoculars on. Then he settled in to watch—the birds, the people, the sunrise and the sunset.

While Maria worked in the garden, Gus kept up a stream of commentary for her benefit. He talked about everything he could see: kids riding bikes in the street, wagtails courting on the rooftops, dogs and currawongs down by the creek. Maria listened and smiled. There was nothing good on the radio these days, anyway.

***

The first complaint came because of the beer cans. Gus liked to drink, even before noon. (“I’m retired! I’ve got nowhere to be!”) When he saw mynas on the roof he would lob his empties at them. The cans fell in other people’s yards or out on the street. After a flurry of gossip about the issue, one of the Neighbourhood Watch reps came and told him off for littering.

The next day Gus put a sign on his front lawn: “1 CAN IN BIN = $2”. The kids came from blocks around to clean up the street, and Gus threw gold coins down at them. One time a coin hit Lachie McIntyre on the brow and made him bleed, but he didn’t tell anyone, since he didn’t want the coins to stop coming.

***


Most people liked to see Gus up there, presiding over the neighbourhood like some ancient king. The mothers waved to him as they jogged their strollers down the street. But some people were not happy about Gus and his tree. It was a bad influence on the children, for one thing. It was a breach of privacy, for another. And worst of all, what if it drove down house prices?

Maria was old, her husband was long gone, and her children lived far away, but she still heard things. She passed the warning on to Gus. “They will try to make you take it down,” she said.

“Bloody wowsers,” said Gus. “Let ‘em try.”

***

A man from the council came and knocked on Gus’s door.

“I’m here,” Gus called from the tree.

“Augusto Ventimiglia? Would you mind coming down so I can speak to you?”

“Nah, I can hear you fine. What do you want?”

“It’s been brought to my attention that you have added a structure to your property without an authorised planning permit. If you don’t take it down, I will have to issue you with an infringement notice.”

Gus laughed. “An infringement notice? I’m going to die soon, you think I give a rat’s arse about an infringement notice?”

The council man coughed nervously. “I’m very sorry to hear about your illness, Mr. Ventimiglia, but—”

“I’m not sick, you stuffed shirt, I’m just old. Now piss off, there’s pardalotes in the Japanese maple and you’re going to scare them away.”

***

The council sent the infringement notice. Gus responded by retaining a lawyer. A pretty good one too—Gus had taken his super in a lump sum, and had money to spare. “Can’t take it with me when I go,” he said to Maria. “And I don’t want my son to get it. He’s a right oval office.”

After the infringement notice was upheld, Gus took the council to court. When he lost the court case, he appealed. By this time the summer had come and gone. Gus put up a tarpaulin to keep off the rain, and ran up an extension cable so he could plug in his kettle.

At last the final appeal was struck down. The court ruled that Gus had seven days to remove his platform, or the council would remove it for him.

On the seventh day Gus worked through the night. The sound of hammers and power drills rang across the sleeping suburbs. The council guys pulled up in a cherry picker just before dawn. But when the sun came up they saw Gus’s old platform had completely vanished. In its place was a newer, bigger, flashier platform, in another fork, twice as high up the tree.

Just then, Gus’s lawyer pulled up in his Tesla. He served the council guys with paperwork declaring the new platform was a new structure, ergo, they would have to start the whole legal process over again to get it taken down.

Later, Gus and Maria shared a celebratory drink—a Furphy for him, a cup of tea for her. It was looking like a fine, clear day.

“Gus?” said Maria.

“Yeah?”

“If it’s alright… could I come up to visit you there, some time?”

Gus smiled—not a big grin but a soft warm smile. “Took you bloody long enough to ask.”

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


week 452 (dragon week 2) crits

brotherly - “Amona in the Waves”

The prose here is strong, and the story is rich with scene-setting detail, but I had a hard time staying engaged with the plot or characters. Opening with the scene of Osmond venturing into a dark dragon cave might not be the best choice – it’s not very telling on Osmond’s motivations, and so I’m not sure why I’m supposed to be invested. I think there’s a good story here about Oswalt reckoning with what happened to his wife and whether the dragon is trustworthy, but I think it’s a little buried under worldbuilding; I don’t think the story gives enough space to getting us to understand Osmond’s headspace. I’m also not sure whether Prond actually did kill Osmond’s wife – maybe it’s intentional to leave this ambiguous, but I think I’d prefer to get an answer on that.

Azza Bamboo - “A Tale of Geldal”

I don’t like when stories have five proper nouns in the first paragraph, since I start to get annoyed that I have to keep all of this straight.

I think you said that you were intending this to be something inspired by myth and folklore, and I think the story needs to be a lot tighter for that to work. As in – cut out nearly all of the dialogue, set the stakes higher from the beginning, and use repetition to structure the story. I don’t think this story is bad, necessarily, but it had a hard time keeping my interest through its digressions and abundance of names and places to keep straight. I think the core of this story is the brotherly relationship between Vernon and Kellman, and I think the version of this story that works centers this relationship throughout the story, testing it a few times before the love pays off in the ending reanimation.

Tyrannosaurus - “wild one”

In terms of emotion and voice, this is lovely – dreamy and rich with dialogue and characterization. I really feel the ache of the distance between the narrator and TaPharoah, and that makes the ending hurt all the more. I just don’t love the jump from the second to the third section. I get that it’s supposed to be abrupt, but it feels like there’s still stuff left unexplored here, like the story needs to be longer to land this sort of melancholy ambiguity. And I think this is ultimately a talking-head story; the imagery could be sharper, there could be a little more sense of place here, and the lack of these details makes the story feel sort of minor and small, without feeling intimate enough to make these qualities a virtue. Ultimately, I just wish this cohered a little bit more – it either needs to be smaller and tighter or a lot bigger for it to really click with me.

Noah - “Precipitation”

I thought this was a pretty strong attempt at the fairy tale format. It’s engaging all the way through, mostly because it clings pretty close to the fairy tale structure, and there’s energy to this, even if there isn’t that much substance. If anything, it’s a little too Magic School Bus, “let’s learn about the water cycle,” but I thought it was a fun read and I nominated this for an HM. I like what it does with the sense of time, in that our dragon friend experiences time much faster than everyone around them.

Applewhite - “You’re Watching the Dragon Channel”

This is imaginative, witty, and yeah, I can totally hear David Attenborough’s voice, but it doesn’t really hold my interest. How do you build a reader’s affiliation with your nature documentary subject? That’s definitely pretty tough, but maybe you just show Pongo at peace and restful at first before going into the antics he gets into with the other dragons. And I don’t want to undersell the imagination here, as there’s clearly a good amount of thought here into the details of the trash dragon habits, diet, and features, but ultimately this is just kind of stuff that happens to Pongo.

Thranguy - “Shall We Slay Dragons Together?”

A lot of hard to follow action and not a lot of heart. The last paragraph (“It’s not so bad, being a ghost”) lands as absurd and silly in a way that shouldn’t – there are a lot of interesting ideas in the sense of these techno-ghost-dragons, and the techno-noir is set up in an intriguing way, but the story never tries to get me to care about any of the characters. Why is it important to this main character that they slay their dragon? Do they actually care about Claire? Fiona? Ivan? I certainly don’t, and I feel like this is a sketch or outline of a more lived-in story about dragons that hoard NFTs and cyberwealth. As it is, this is the point where I get really frustrated at the lack of any meaningful character development this week.

Baneling Butts - “The Return of the Four Dragons”

This gets major points in my book for being easy to follow and having a clear narrative. That said, there’s a lot of slack in this myth-inspired story; once the Long Dragon retreats, the story becomes the other dragons (and eventually, the humans) offering various versions of “pretty please” until they get a yes. In its myth-inspired roots, I get it, but it makes the story feel a bit weightless and overlong; I think these sorts of stories benefit from being written with the sense of them being spoken aloud, and I think the overlong discussion of the cleanup program and such is a little too long. That said, I think it get most of the way towards what it’s trying to do, and it was one of the highlights of the week for me.

Idle Amalgam - “Roll to Save Against Personal Growth”

This feels like a lot of silly (and amusing!) banter without a whole lot of point, aim, or stakes. The dialogue not getting broken up into different paragraphs for each speaker makes it hard to read, and I found myself re-reading paragraphs early on to make sure I hadn’t missed important plot points. Everyone’s a little goofy and it just feels a little like a high-fantasy sitcom. I can see this working maybe as a prologue to a high-fantasy novel, featuring the son’s attempt to redeem himself, but here I’m just like “okay, nice bon mot, why do I care?”


Armack - “To Expect Any Different”

This one also feels pretty thin, but unlike the previous story, this is much more precise (and shorter.) Keeping the cast of characters small and the dialogue hemmed in helps this story hit the notes it wants to hit – which is mostly ironic anticlimax in the face of a heroic concept. It’s engaging, if not super substantial, and it probably provided my favorite dragon character of the week in a dragon who will turn people into billy goats but not cure people from their sorrow.

Chairchucker - “The True Story of Georgia Jenkins and Harold Jumpington”

This one’s just pure cotton candy but I found it pretty charming anyway. It’s wittily observational, settles its voice nicely into the child’s mindset, and its specific details add character to the story without bogging us down in worldbuilding. It’s full of good, voice-y lines that just make this a ton of fun to read. (“Harold came to life first, which makes sense because frogs are less complex critters than dragons, as well as actually existing, and also Georgia’s glitter added an extra layer of complication that probably mattered in some way,” is my favorite.) It’s clearly an intentional decision that the story doesn’t have any conflict, so that doesn’t bother me here. Would have liked to have seen this get an HM.

toanoradian - “Three Lies”

I found this story fairly confusing, so here’s the summary of events in this story as I understand them:

In what seems to be a void, an empty dimension, or a Hell, Metheus, a human, attempts to deceive Herudo, a Hell Dragon, into hating him so he can escape. However, Herudo seems incapable of hate, so Metheus confesses his situation, but for unclear reasons, banishes the dragon even after it proposes a solution. Metheus is returned to Hell or exile.

Where are these characters? Why is Metheus in a “blank, dry land” (the only detail about the setting we get?) This, combined with “I’m a Hell dragon” is about all of the context we’re given here, and it makes the story difficult to visualize – and that’s before you add all the lying for us to keep straight. This makes the story pretty confusing, and while I think you might be going for a sense of disorientation and non-reality, there’s not enough to keep us intrigued right away. As far as I can tell, the content of Metheus’s lies about his hateful behavior toward Herudo don’t matter at all, so I wish this section had been trimmed down to flesh out Metheus’s actual situation here. My theory is that Metheus is torturing himself for past sins and has created Herudo to get the absolution of being hated by something else, as opposed to just hating himself, but this isn’t supported very strongly by the text. It’s just the only reading I can think of that makes Metheus declining the “just lie and say I hate you” solution make sense.

Personally, I think you should only make a reader work this hard if there’s enough in the story to make us invested in these characters and the mysteries, and here, there isn’t. The imagery is also so spare. I like a sense of starkness and I think it could work for this story (to set the mood of a desolate Hell or exile), but here it just feels detached and impersonal to have so few sensory details. (I know I’m coming in late with this crit, but please reach out to me if you have questions on this one – would love to understand what you were going for and happy to go into details about any specific parts.)

Yoruichi - “Gossolix’s Happy Birthday”

Scene-by-scene, this is very charming, but it’s so overcrowded that I wonder if you challenged yourself to write a story with an absurd number of characters. This is obviously farce by the time we meet the wives, and it’s goofy but good-natured. The whole wacky sitcom ending with everyone agreeing that it’s a good idea to crush the patriarchy is a little over-the-top for me but it’s fun. The last line is a keeper.

curlingiron - “Clutch and Kindle”

This one earns a lot on charm and my fondness for cats, but I also want to give this story credit for handling time and action well. The story really gracefully handles the passing of time, with these tossed-off details standing in for days or weeks. It makes the story feel very lived-in and creates this cozy, story-book feel without feeling impersonal. By the end I was wondering if Minka will still have people to feed her table scraps after the dragon incident.

Beezus - “Don’t Go Chasing Space Refrigerators”

The first three paragraphs of the second section do this story a disservice. I get they’re here as tension building, but nothing is more discouraging than starting a story and reading several paragraphs about how unremarkable things are. The techno-dragon is genuinely cool, and I think the dun-dun-dun horror cliffhanger is a nice place for this piece to end, but I think the build-up needs to be better; I want to see what the techno-dragon leaves in its wake before we meet it. And I’d like to know a little more about Finn – why is she doing this work, is she desperate for money, is she a thrill-seeker?

Fuschia tude - “Rook”

This one stands out for its imagery and detail, even if at times I wanted more to be at stake here. There’s a wry tone to this, especially with all the parenthetical asides, and it gives the story a little bit of energy. Ultimately, though, I’m wondering what the story is trying to say here – it almost comes off as an anti-NIMBY kind of thing, but it could also be about an artist’s lack of control of the interpretation of their work. Maybe it’s just about junkyard dragons being pretty cool. I’d like to see the story lean into one of those things, though, to give the story a little more of a sense of purpose, because as cool as it is, the story comes off as “some things that happened with regard to a big sculpture dragon.”

Gorka - “Malicious Compliance”

This is charmingly goofy and I was a little sad to see it land an HM. The story is very broad in its humor, but this is clearly the point, and it seems like it must have been fun to write. I think the ending is a little too moralistic and not comedic enough given what came before it, though – this is the sort of story that should end with a joke, since the story doesn’t really make us care about any of the characters and is more of a wrapper for banter.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Montero (Call Me By Your Name)

Lil Nas X

Big Crunch

999

The Thyme Lover is a three story mistake. Lenny Berger inherited his father's ambition and propensity for sudden and overwhelming aggression, but where Berger Senior would apply a lifetime of Washington connections and an endless list of favors as the counterweight to his financial trebuchets, Lenny makes empty threats and empty promises. And so, the Thyme Lover is built on mob deals, an implausible series of symbiotic protection rackets (not in Lenny's favor, but rather exerted over various parts of the club like a balkanized Berghain) and the dwindling remnants of dead daddy Berger's fortune.

It's also the heart of my worst decisions. A pit of misery which repulses me like a ten ton truck kissing a baby stroller, a testament to my horrible choice in lovers. I can think of no place I hate more than the Thyme.

-

“I’ve got sixteen bundled cores running repurposed mining tech on a distro network tapping into off-grid EZ-quants, I genuinely don’t understand why we need him.”

The girl speaking is Mag. Arms full of net-ninja implants I’ve never heard of. Short, wound to the breaking point in a way that says “I can gut you with a flathead screwdriver in five seconds.” She’s talking to a tall monument of muscles and focus. Dano, my protege and my greatest triumph.

“How many bouncers have your rig saved from a stabbing?” they say, “Did it buy anyone a hundred drinks? Save anyone from a roofie? Has it hosed anyone?”

I can't stay with them when they talk tech, but this is what I do, or what I did. The human element.

“The human element is chaos,” Mag says, “It’s a distraction, noise. We bypass all that, we don’t need to worry about consequences or fallout.”

“You don’t really believe that.”

“I believe it’s possible. Hard, maybe, but possible.”

I’ve smoked the blunt down to the nub, my mind is resting on an inflatable raft in an ocean of blissful denial. If I just float a little bit further, they’ll forget about me. They’ll run out and do the op, a sixteen core ballet through the electronic guts of the Horrible Lover. Enough capital for Dano to move out to one of the ocean habs, spend the rest of their days doing crossfit with influencers and designing meditation rooms. Mag will move to San Franch to do start-up culture or something, I don’t care.

But Dano sighs and looks at me, message clear: you came when I needed you, and now you're committed.

I close my eyes, rub the bridge of my nose, sit up straight.

“You’re thinking of the Thyme Lover as a logical system,” I say, “Networked, fully-featured, layered ICE. It’s not. It’s a derailing train cantilevered by dad-money. It’s chaos, and your rig won’t solve chaos.”

I don't know tech, but I know a little about what I don't know.

“So,” Dano says, “We need the human element, chaos, the old ways.”

Mag doesn’t look happy, but she’s probably among the smartest people I’ll ever meet, and she gets it.

-

The music trickling from the neon facade of the Thyme is filtered through a few hundred sweaty, drunk, high bodies. From the gloryholes through the nano-drug haze and confused hookups. Bears and otters and butch, blind love. The unstoppable avalanche of high-capitalist coping. The corp-citizens out of the Lake Mead arcology and the gig servitors still in uniform.

“You were right,” Mag says.

I look up at her from the floor plans she’s projected on the van floor, “What?”

“It’s chaos. I admit, you’re right,” she tips up the immersion goggles and looks at me, “It shouldn’t even exist. There’s a hundred infractions on LVCM best practices that should have the corps sequestering this hellhole yesterday. How the gently caress does it even stay open?”

“The liminal space between the old world and the new, patriarchal power as the binding agent. The last refuge of the outdated mobster and their backroom deals. It won’t last. It’s a Yellowstone eruption running late.”

My earbud crackles, “Alright old man, it’s time. We don’t need much, just ten-fifteen minutes.”

I take a last look at the plans, count to ten, tap my earbud.

“gently caress it, let’s ride.”

-

I’m like a great white at the center of a school of fish, but I can’t tell whether I’m surrounded by tuna or megalodon. It starts when I walk up to the front door, both bouncers are old friends (one of them a rare, amicable ex-lover). I smile, I’m loud, I’m me. I’m a growing neutron star. On the other end, Dano and Mag are moving through the digital defenses of the Thyme like a machete through vines. Tangled on decades old systems and the occasional next-tech ICE program, favors from grateful piranhas.

I’m the center of the solar system and the Thyme is cosmic dust. I’m the guy everyone forgot about but when I’m back I’m loving back. I’m the heaving ground among the geysers and acidic pools. The entire zeit of the club is laser focused on the prodigal hook-up returning to survey his fallen kingdom.

And there’s Lenny, but it’s not Lenny. She walks down the spiral staircase from the second floor. Confident, calm, more her than she’s ever been. When she walks up to me, it’s a wave lapping shore, not the tsunami I expected.

-

I exhale, feel the high grab me. Lena’s office is nicer than her dead self ever was.

“I’m getting out,” Lena says, “From everything. From the club, from my dad’s shadow. I’ve made up with most of my mistakes and I can run from the rest.”

I hear the three-tap signal that the job is done.

“And whatever it is you’re doing,” she continues, “It’s fine. I’m gonna enjoy watching this poo poo pile burn down.”

I tap my earbud, “Kids, get out, enjoy yourselves.”

Me and Lena smile at each other, the big crunch after the expansion of heartbreak. A new universe, a new beginning.

“I’ve got an exit.”

Staggy
Mar 20, 2008

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



Calling My Phone
Lil Tjay Featuring 6LACK

Missed Message
951 / 1,000 words

It takes us three days to track down the source of the muffled vibrations rattling through the house. Jenn is this close to calling someone out to make sure our microfusion plant isn’t on the fritz when I find it, buzzing away behind a box full of old Christmas hololights in the attic. Chunky, plastic and still - after over 5 decades - holding a scrap of charge. The first phone I ever bought, with a voicemail left by -

“Bill!”

Jenn’s face sets in a stony grimace that even I - in the middle of a rush of nostalgia and without my glasses - can see.

“That Bill Simms?”

“Simmons.” I fumble at the phone for a moment - leaving a thumbprint smeared across the screen before I remember that it has keys - and navigate the interface by some long-buried memory. When I find the right entry I select it, the rubber-covered tactile click familiar and alien all at once. Jenn peers at the screen.

“That doesn’t say Simmons.”

I look down at the screen and feel my cheeks flush.

“Okay, so, funny story, this one time when he brought this girl back to the dorm, he -”

“I can guess.” The disgust rolls off of each word that Jenn says. “This before or after he broke your leg?”

“Before.” My leg twinges, resonating with the memory. “But really, I broke it. Fell off a lamppost.”

“That he dared you to climb?”

“Well sure, but he did it too. Well, he was going to but then he had to call an ambulance for me …”

A memory bubbles to the surface of my mind. Bill hadn’t called the ambulance - he’d run. I’d called the ambulance - hell, I could probably scroll back through the list of old calls on the phone and find it.

“Besides,” I say, clearing my throat, “that’s all water under the bridge. I haven’t seen Bill in years - hell, not since that time in Vegas. You know, where -”

“- where I had to come pick you up with a change of clothes and pay for a hotel room that looked like a tornado hit it?”

“Yeah. That one.” The phone suddenly seems so much heavier in my hands. “But what a night! Couldn’t do it again, not now.” My stomach churns at the thought.

“You spent two days after that shuffling around like a zombie. I never did meet Bill then either.”

“Well he had to leave early,” I say. “He had a …”

I rack my brains. A flight? No, he had been staying in town for … something. There was always something. A scheme or a job or a party or something. Always a reason to leave just before the night ended or the bill turned up. But he’s always good for a laugh and a wild night and I’ve known him for …

God, fifty years? Really? And Vegas was back in -

“That was before Sophie was born,” I say quietly. “Remember, the summer we were doing up the spare room?”

“I remember that,” Jenn says, her lips twitching into a smile. “You thought the baby would want glitter stars on the ceiling.”

“I saw a video on Youtube,” I say, shrugging. “I’m still vacuuming up glitter twenty years on, I’ve done my penance.”

The phone rattles in my hand, taking us both by surprise. The voicemail icon is still there, blocky black pixels on a fuzzy grey screen.

“What do you think he needs?”

I stare down at the phone.

“He might just want to talk,” I say. “You know, catch up. Maybe he’s in town.”

“Maybe.” Jenn smiles weakly and lays a hand on my arm. I cover it with my own and squeeze gently.

“You wouldn’t mind?”

Jenn looks at me for a long moment; when she answers, she deflates a little.

“No,” she says. “But I’m not bailing you out or picking you up again.”

“You wouldn’t -”

I bite my tongue and think back; back to blurry memories and hungover stupors. To picking up the tab. Always. To a dozen different get rich quick schemes in a week. I’m pretty sure there’s a case of those weird herbal energy drinks kicking about in the attic, even now.

I heft the phone in my hand. Why had Bill rung it? A phone I hadn’t used in decades, even as a backup. One I’d forgotten even existed. Was it because it was the only number he had for me now or was it something simpler - was it just what Bill always did? After all, I always answered back then.

Usually regretted it, though.

The phone buzzes again, insistent. The rumbler catches on something inside the case, harsh and scratching instead of the usual soft rumble. My oldest phone, still lurching on, full of texts and calls older than my children. A reminder of a shallow sort of nostalgia - the sort you only want to stick a toe into. The sort with sharp rocks at the bottom. There was a time when my whole life had revolved around that chunk of plastic. I wouldn’t have known what to do without it.

I’ve grown up a bit since then.

It takes me a moment and both hands to pry the back off the phone, the thin shell brittle and faded. The battery is a matte black block that weighs more than my current phone; I pry it out and the screen dies, the voicemail icon fading away into the grey background. I drop the phone and battery into the box of hololights and shove it back against the wall, disturbing the cobwebs for the second time that day.

I take Jenn’s hand in mine and don’t look back at the settling dust.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





Astronaut in the Ocean
Masked Wolf

Rollin' Down in the Deep
997 words

John’s two young crewmates looked awed as he entered the submarine. As well they should: he’d been mapping the ocean floor in the world’s first atmospheric dive suit, revolutionizing deep-sea exploration, when these two were still in diapers. Or before. The only reason he’d come out of his quiet retirement was as a favor to the colonel, who requested his help on this important salvage operation. The colonel had assured him his crewmates were top-notch, but all he saw were two slack-jawed boys at the controls.

“John Lethbridge, at your service. And you are …?” he asked. Young people had no manners these days.

“Oh, hey man, I’m Ross,” said the man at the sensors. “He’s James.” The man at the helm squeaked.

“A pleasure to meet you, gentlemen. Take us down, please.” James gratefully turned his focus to the controls and they began sinking into the sea. The boys still seemed cowed by his presence so John gazed out the porthole at the darkening water. He felt a long-forgotten peace settle over him.

At least until the thumping rap music started. He glared at James, who looked guilty. “I, uh, like to listen to music when I drive. But I can stop it.” He turned it off but John’s mood had already been ruined. They continued descending in tense silence.

As they passed 300 meters, John recalled the topography from his long-ago expeditions. Time to live up to his reputation. “Careful, the Antilles Ridge is coming up. Navigating through it can be challenging.”

Ross tapped the screen. “Got it here. Sonar technology is amazing these days.” Sonar based on maps created by him, thought John; they have it so easy nowadays.

A light on the dashboard started flashing. Ah, oxygen levels low. By instinct, John reached for the switch to increase the levels. Ross batted his hand away, then looked chagrined. “Sorry, just, leave the controls to me. That switch would’ve activated the fire protocols.”

Nothing was how he remembered it. John sat back. Submarines used to be his home, his happy place as his grandkids said, but now he felt disoriented, like he no longer belonged. Maybe revisiting the past wasn’t such a good idea after all. He watched the increasingly infrequent fish swim past.

The submarine passed the 600 meter mark. It creaked as the entire weight of the ocean pressed down on it. Outside, it was a wasteland: the headlights only illuminated the soft snowfall of detritus drifting into the abyss. Suddenly, the submarine shuddered violently. The creaking intensified. Rob scrabbled at the controls, trying to determine what was wrong, until a giant tentacle slapped across the front window.

"A colossal squid," John said. He was gratified to see that his training to remain calm under pressure still held. "How do you boys deal with them these days?"

Rob hammered buttons and switches wildly. "Usually we give 'em a zap with the arm, but I think it's trapped." Something on the submarine popped.

"We've lost control of the steering too," James cried, twisting the yoke ineffectually.

"We don't need steering, we need to get it off us before the sub is compromised," John said. His old instincts resurged when faced with a crisis. Finally, he knew what to do. "Get me outside," he ordered.

Without waiting for a response he strode to the airlock containing the atmospheric dive suit. Rob and James fussed, trying to talk him out of it, but helped seal him in. John saw their small frightened faces in the lock window before he punched the release, dropping into the depths.

The colossal squid was busy ripping the arm off the submarine. With a twitch of the familiar controls, John jetted towards it. The squid shot out a spare tentacle impossibly fast, wrapping it around his dive suit. John grinned fiercely; he had counted on this. The squid brought him in close, inspecting him, and he threw himself forward with a roar. He punched the squid straight in its dinner plate sized eye. The water churned as the squid detached from the submarine and John spun into the darkness. To his horror, the squid was dragging him down, hellbent on revenge. The suit's alarms blared as they sped towards its maximum depth. At least the boys will escape, thought John.

Suddenly, light filled his vision. For a wild moment, John thought he had died, but it was the submarine, ramming into the squid … backwards? The squid recoiled from the propellers and John felt the solid thunk of metal on metal. They'd got him with the salvage magnet, clever lads. Faced with competition, the squid finally gave up and retreated into the deep.

John carefully navigated back into the submarine and stepped out of the suit. To his disgust he found he was shaking. Maybe he was too old for heroics. Rob and James didn't think so: they abandoned all decorum by pulling him into a hug as soon as the airlock closed.

"That was the craziest thing I've ever seen, man!" said Rob.

"You saved us!" said James.

John patted them awkwardly on their backs. "You boys did well too, nice rescue. I'd be squid food if not for you."

They beamed and fist-bumped. John rolled his eyes. "Now, get us out of here. Mission aborted, got to inspect the sub for damage."

"Aye aye, captain," James said as he took the yoke.

They surfaced without further incident. John's muscles were sore after operating the dive suit for the first time in twenty years so he tried to go to bed early. However, Rob and James dragged him to the ship's bar ("one drink only"), where they regaled the rest of the team with the story of the legendary John Lethbridge wrestling a kraken. Naturally John shared the credit, praising their quick thinking. After a few rounds, John had forgotten all about his soreness. Arm in arm with his crewmates, drinking and singing karaoke, he felt at home again.

MockingQuantum
Jan 20, 2012





The Business
Tiesto

Warp-runner
996 words

Carston looked over his ATV, running through the pre-run checks in the back of his head while listening to the nervous chatter of the caravan. He knew how every last piece of the vehicle should look and feel and smell. But he felt nervous this time. Maybe the caravaners were rubbing off on him. They’d never been through the Warp before. In the past, Carston would have looked down on them, hiding away his own little pin-pricks of uncertainty behind bluster. Now, after hundreds, thousands of runs, he was more charitable.

He raised a hand. The caravan quieted behind him. He closed his fist, and with the motion he could hear the clatter of visors dropping as the caravan crew blinded themselves to the Warp. He snapped his goggles over his eyes, which strained while they adjusted to the saturated purple lenses. He aimed towards the rippling air that marked the boundary of the warp. Carston turned the throttle. His hand slipped and a knife-point of pain shot up his arm. He flexed his hand before placing it back on the throttle and turning again. He heard the rumble of the caravan crew talking nervously.

Another turn, and he was on the move. The tether running off the back of his rig tightened, and he heard the caravan trucks roll into motion. The concern with running the Warp wasn’t going through it straight. The tethers were there to make sure everybody made it out the other end. Carston figured they looked like a drunken snake from above as they made the transit. Thankfully the ground in the Warp was dry and flat. Probably some by-product of whatever hellish thing had made the Warp.

Carston rolled through the entrance to the Warp. He felt a pulling sensation that tugged at every one of his aching joints. The still air exploded into motion, swirling past him in a whirlpool. But once his entire body was in the warp, it was like a weight being lifted. It felt like he was twenty years old again, free of the throbbing aches that plagued him every moment he was outside.

He felt right. A warmth flooded through him, and the singing of the Warp began, a harmonic whispering that had grown louder over the years, rising in volume with every transit. It was beautiful.

Behind him, he heard the caravan trucks entering the Warp, a strange ripping sound followed by the startled gasps of the drivers. Carston smiled. Every first-timer was the same. Once all the trucks were through, he ratcheted up the speed. Once they were really sailing, he felt light as a feather. This was the stretch of the Warp he loved, the air streaming past him, the ghostly whistling filling his ears with song.

His reverie was interrupted by a loud bark. His four-wheeler rolled to a stop and he yelled back to the caravan to halt. Something on the vehicle had failed. He got off and made his way around it. He couldn’t see a drat thing wrong with it. But he couldn’t see much, truth be told. He cursed. Between his thick Warp-goggles and the growing foggy spots in his eyes, he couldn’t tell if anything was wrong with the bike.

Motion from behind the four-wheeler caught his eye. One of the caravan drivers was making his way down the tether, hand over hand, calling out his name. Carston was surprised. He always told them his name before he took them through, but most just called him “Warp-runner” or something similar.

“What’s the matter?” It was a young guy from a water-hauler somewhere near the middle of the line. “Can I help?”

“Not without taking off the visor, and I’d not recommend it if you like your sanity,” Carston said with strained patience. Truth was he would have taken help if anybody in the caravan was able, but he’d just have to sort it out by feel. Wouldn’t have been the first time he’d done it, in recent memory.

“Do you have a spare set of goggles?” the kid said.

Carston looked at him, really looked at him, for the first time. He was standing tall, and while he was disoriented by the visor blocking his vision, he wasn’t cowed or frightened by the Warp, like so many tended to be.

“You don’t want ‘em. The Warp is cruel. Even looking at it through the goggles changes you. Starts to make you want it,” Carston said, watching the young man carefully.

“I want to see it. I don’t think I’d be happy going through without seeing it, even for a little while.”

“Do that, and you’ll never be free of the Warp.” Carston suddenly realized that was true. He’d done this job for forty years, and it wasn’t because the money was good, it was because riding the Warp was the only thing that gave him some respite from the sore joints and the fatigue of the day-to-day. He was at home in the Warp.

“I... think I’d be okay with that. I want to see what’s singing.”

Carston stood speechless for a moment. He reached into his vest and pulled out a spare pair of purple goggles, pressing them into the boy’s palm. “Don’t open your eyes til they’re on firmly. You’ll go blind or mad without them. Or both.”

The kid donned the goggles, opened his eyes, and blinked a few times. He looked around him, taking in the constant chaotic churn of the Warp. An otherworldly calm seemed to creep over him. After a few quiet moments, he shook his head and crouched down by the ATV. “I’ve got some spare parts that should fit this, let me grab them and we can sort out what’s wrong.” He turned toward his truck.

“Hey!” Carston called to him. The young man turned. “Welcome to your new life, Warp-runner.”

The kid smiled. “My name’s Niko, but I gotta say, I like ‘Warp-runner’ too.”

ZearothK
Aug 25, 2008

I've lost twice, I've failed twice and I've gotten two dishonorable mentions within 7 weeks. But I keep coming back. I am The Trooper!

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Traitor
Olivia Rodrigo

Farewell, Diana
(953 words)

2016
Happy birthday, my jewel, my precious pumpkin! I will be seeing you after work to celebrate, but first I want to thank you for this beautiful year! I am looking forward to many, many more!
Love,

2017
Congratulations on another tour around the sun, my cheery capybara! It is a tragedy that I won’t see you today, but we will have a magical weekend, promise. Enjoy your gift and don’t forget to bring it to our celebration!
Love,

2019
Happy birthday, my dear. I know things didn’t turn out the way we both wanted. Our love was real, but we were living through a time when we couldn’t help but feed each other’s sorrows. I was always true to you, but I had to find my happiness without your enchanting presence. My life has been good and I wish you joy, you will always be dear to me. Hope you have a great day!
Don’t be a stranger,

2022
Hey, happy birthday! How’s it going? It’s been a minute, are you alright? Everyone in your family made it through the epidemic? We’ve been well here, everyone’s safe.
I know this is kind of awkward, Sabrina and I are getting married and I’d like you to be there. It is fine if you can’t or won’t go, but know that you are very important to me and it would be very special if you could make it.
Best regards,

2027
Thanks for having us for your birthday party! Sab really liked you and it was great to get in touch again. Hope we can have some more get-togethers in the near future!
Thanks again,

2035
Happy birthday, my dear friend! Hope everything works out in your new job!
Miss you,

2048
Happy birthday, Jen.

2069
When we are young we barely feel our bodies, we are pure soul. I shared that beautiful part of life with you and I am thankful for those memories. You used to say that all pain is but temporary and that beyond all suffering there is a better life. You were right, I still remember your intensity. I am profoundly aware of my own body, every aching joint, every poorly healed wound, the rasp in my lungs, the prosthetic reinforcements in my legs. I am thankful for these in the same way I am thankful for your memory. All these have made me more of myself, have made me more body and soul, my entire life has been a road to becoming the real me. I changed and yet I didn’t, it is like that thing with uncovering the statues from marble, the world and the people that touched me chiseled me into reality. With everything scientists have made up I still have a lot of life ahead of me, unlike you and despite your best efforts.

You were a dear hammer on the surface of my life. We were intimate for only a few years, but they mattered, you mattered and you became a meaningful presence in my life once the ashes of our romance darkened, my most reliable confident in your hostile way. It took you a long time to accept that our end was necessary for both our sakes, as wonderful as our early years were, we only reaped misery in our final months. I knew the kind of life depressed couples are headed to and I didn’t want that for either of us. You called me a traitor for how quickly I moved on, but I needed to do it, to live, the same way you should have and eventually did, when you accepted the simple truth of our end. Life’s too beautiful to end with a heartsore, there’s always a brighter future beyond the sorrows and you’ve found the brightest of anyone I’ve ever met, or at least the most memorable.

It is funny how most of our meetings after that moment were by happenstance, we’d bump into each other and talk a bit on the train or at a café while waiting for other people, our conversations were always cut short and we often continued them through letters, such a quaint connection. You were always a great communicator, better than me that’s for sure, and there was always a cruel nostalgia in your eyes. You were never afraid or unable to hurt us or the entire world if you felt like it, your enlightenment came from a profound masochist streak which you were often generous with. I grew, I became, a lot from your sporadic and intense friendship, only my children and Sabrina had a greater effect on my life, or so I would like to believe.

We endured so much in this beautiful hosed up world, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The planet and our cities are just like us, becoming a truer version of themselves with every disaster and every effort to rebuild, regrow and survive. Maybe the world too was once made of pure soul, but billions of years have made it into something irrevocably material, calloused into undeniable reality. I know history won’t end with you, we are survivors, I am a survivor, something beautiful will come from this absolute dark sky you have given us, this night with no distraction from the beauty of stars. No one who survives this age will ever forget your name, same as me, but no one will remember you the way I do, no one will understand your actions the way I do. By blowing up the moon you have done for humanity what you did for my life, a challenge, a declaration of harsh love, a call to become a truer version of ourselves.

Happy birthday, my love.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

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



Flash: Good 4 U

Our Time
980 words

Charlie sat on her bedroom floor, crumpled amid piles of discarded outfits. There was her cheerleading uniform, wadded in a ball where she had left it several days ago. There was the cute spaghetti-strap top and jean jacket that she’d worn with Tanner on their last date. Then, there was her prom dress, still spread out across her unmade bed. She’d spent weeks saving up to buy it. The dress was meant to be the ultimate symbol of her and Tanner’s relationship, the kind of thing that they would keep together as they went to college, moved into together, and got married. It was the thing they would keep to show their kids.

She had seen this future in her head countless times but, today, she found herself bawling, desperately trying to connect with her boyfriend through Facetime.

“I just don’t understand!” Charlie said, sobbing into the phone. “Did I do something wrong? Did I make some kind of m-mistake?”

Through the tears, she saw the blurry image of Tanner looking both annoyed and uncomfortable as he walked through his house. Behind him was an endless array of white walls and ceilings, interrupted by occasional light fixtures. “Listen, babe,” he said. He always called her babe when she was upset. “I just… don’t think it’s working out, you know? We’re just, you know…”

He trailed off, as though he expected her to know. She let out an awful gurgling noise, full-on ugly crying now. Only a week ago, they had been sending Riverdale memes to one another and exchanging smiley-face emojis with heart eyes. His attempt to break up with her over text was right below a looping GIF of Cheryl Blossom rolling her eyes. Now, whenever she stared at the message she would have to face that GIF repeating forever.

“Is this because you got into Berkeley? Are you trying to break up with me right before prom so I don’t follow you into college?”

Tanner scowled. “Look, I don’t need to explain myself to you. If you want to get upset about a bunch of stupid high school bullshit, that’s your call. I’ve got other things to do.”

And then he ended the call. Charlie stared for a long moment at her phone’s cracked screen, feeling a wave of anguish cascade over her. She might have continued to sit there for a long time if not for the large, crackling portal that opened up in her wall without warning. Scrambling to her feet, Charlie had a moment before a woman in an eyepatch and leather jacket strode out.

“I’m gonna bother explaining because it’s honestly not important and we have poo poo to do,” said the woman in a cool, self-confident voice. “But I’m you from ten years in the future and together we’re gonna go destroy our lovely ex-boyfriend.”

***

They rocketed down the interstate in Charlie’s car. In the driver’s seat sat Charlie, the future Charlie, with her good eye fixed on the road. In the passenger’s seat was the past Charlie, wide-eyed and staring at her doppleganger. Between them was some kind of futuristic weapon with all kinds of knobs and buttons. It reminded Past Charlie of one of Tanner’s video games. She tried not to look at it.

“So,” said the teenage Charlie after a long silence, “Tanner is—.”

“A loving rear end in a top hat,” said the woman from the future as they swerved through traffic. “Like, a literal grade-A rear end in a top hat. I know it’s hard for you to see that now because he’s severely hosed up our brain but, let me tell you, he’s garbage.”

“He’s not that bad.” Charlie murmured. “He’s just misunderstood. He’s just not good talking about his emotions and—.”

The woman rolled her one good eye. “Oh, here we go. Look, let’s skip past the part where you justify him blowing you off a bunch of times and then trying to break up with you over text.” They screeched through the off-ramp and set off a cascade of angry horns. “You know that good people don’t break up with other people like that, right? Even in the future where, like, we all live in floating cities because of climate change, that’s still a huge faux pas.”

There was a pause as they swung into Tanner’s suburb.

“Still, Tanner must be really important to us for you to come back here, huh?”

“Jesus, no, he’s not. I didn’t beat up a bunch of time scientists from Neo Paris and steal their equipment because Tanner creates loving Skynet or whatever. I’m here because he’s not. You spend the next few years obsessing over this dumbass who dumped you in high school and it loving sucks,” said Future Charlie.

She pulled the car to a stop.

“It takes you ages to realize that the break-up wasn’t your fault and that you can do so much better. You don’t have to keep falling for the same mediocre white guy over and over again and destroying yourself because he’s got intimacy issues. It took me, like, a bunch of therapy and surviving the time wars to understand that, but you don’t have to wait that long. You can fix us now by vaporizing him off the face of the Earth.”

She handed over the weapon and locked eyes with her past self. From nearby, they could both hear the sound of a door opening, of Tanner emerging from his parents’ house confused and angry. He stormed across the lawn, cursing.

“Do you really mean that?” Said Past Charlie.

Her future self smiled. “Go make your destiny, kid. Green knob is to lock on and the red button is to fire.”

The two hugged and stepped out of the car. As Charlie pointed the cannon at her ex-boyfriend, she felt a strange sense of relief. For the first time in a long time, she felt in control of her future.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




All I Know So Far

P!nk

Pull the Mask Off

814 words

The train squealed to a halt, not at any scheduled station stop. The speakers crackled like the conductor was about to make an announcement, but there was only silence and light static on the line. Pauline squeezed my hand, a firm grip with those bony fingers. Kevin was breathing ragged, near hyperventilating. He knew, at six, more than I did at fourteen, what was going down.

The rest of the passengers in our were murmuring among themselves, mostly complaining about the delay. Then there were sounds from the next car down, meaty smacking sounds, and everyone got quiet.

The doors between cars are narrow and have to be held open. They're what we would call a strategic chokepoint. One person with any kind of weapon, heck, with a decent-sized textbook could hold off a dozen guys there. But nobody was thinking that way then. Everyone was sitting in their seats, some of us craning necks around to see.

The doors opened. They came through in a rank, six of them, each in black denim jeans, red long sleeved shirts, and latex gorilla masks. APEs.

We never thought they'd come this far north and west until they did. American Preservation Enterprise. They barked orders. They open carried, not all with guns, there was a taser and a few billy clubs. Standard police issue. They oozed menace like the sweat dripping out from the seams between mask and neck.

They went up the aisle, doing the same at each seat. Order everyone to stand up and present their hands. Zip-tie them to the back of the seat, giving a little extra tug to make sure it hurt. That was the adults. The kids they shuffled back towards that doorway, back towards their vans.

Now, we didn't know their plans. Nobody did. You just assume the worst, that kind of thing, and when it turns out not to be that you feel relieved, even though you probably shouldn't. I met a couple people who wound up taken by APE, or by Apex or TruRed or any of the other militias. To them it was sort of a joke. Sat down in a tent with a screen and speakers, forced to watch three hours of badly-made propaganda, then either swear their loathsome oath or take a beating. Most of them made other kids do the violence. Then they left them there, another two hours before the police found the tent. The ones I talked to said it was a joke, but the ones who ended up with nightmares every night forward, or the ones who joined up wouldn't ever wind up talking to me.

That wasn't me, though, nor Kevin. When they got to our seat and ordered her to stand, our grandmother Pauline just looked at the person in the gorilla mask and quietly said "No, I don't think I will."

"Are you crazy?" said the APE. A woman's voice under there. She pulled Pauline up. Pauline reached for her neck and yanked the mask up.

There's pictures. She turned out to be related to some semi-major politician, a mayor or city council president somewhere. She was famous for a while, mask hair and all. In jail for a while too, though not near enough, then sort of famous again.

She pulled back, drew her pistol, and shot Pauline in the chest.

"This wasn't part of the plan," said another APE.

"I, I mean, I didn't-" said the one who shot Pauline.

The other one slapped her hard. There's pictures of that too. "Put your damned face back on." She picked up the mask and put it on her face. There was blood on it, likely inside too. "Now get out of here," he said, and they ran back out the door they'd come from.

Pauline lived, lived a good fifteen more years after that. I had my shirt off for a bandage and was applying pressure, and the bullet missed her heart and major arteries by millimeters. The paramedics came quickly, and did their jobs.

I never really got a great answer for why she did it. Lots of other parents stood up for the tie. She'd sometimes say she lived a full life, and didn't have too much to lose, but we both knew that wasn't true. She had me, and Kevin, and dad and both of his ex-wives, even though they never really got on that well. She had family, lots of it. But now that I'm getting nearly as old as she was then I get it. There's a point when you've been through enough, made enough bad decisions and watched them come back for a haunting, when you know what you can and can't do and live with yourself after.

I wish I'd known sooner, but I feel lucky to have been taught well enough to have gotten there by now.

Rhymes With Clue
Nov 18, 2010



Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)
Elle King and Miranda Lambert
990 words

Yes! And?


Jude pulled her vintage Jaguar, British racing green, neatly and efficiently into a fairly tight space at the Glendale Country Club. Then she reconsidered, and parked it again, in a different spot, at a crazy angle. An observer might surmise that its pilot was perhaps a tad inebriated.

Perfect.

Jude grinned at her companion, one Michael Kim. He looked about half her age, although actually he was 56. She could work with that.

“So,” she said. “You’re a Japanese businessman, although there’s really no way I would actually know that because you only speak about four words of English.” She pulled her jewelled sunglasses down her nose and gave him a flirty look.

“First rule of improv, do not deny,” he said. “You’ve given me a very easy role, I think I can handle that.”

Inside, she grabbed the bartender and handed him a bill. “One straight one, and the next one that just looks that way, you get me?” She winked. “And, same for him?” Michael nodded.

They sailed through the dining room, Jude leading, with the calibrated precision of a habitual drunk. She banged into a table set for four, knocking over a water glass, before caroming into the four-top where her daughter and son-in-law stared at her open-mouthed for a satisfying few seconds before turning polite.

“Hell-ohhh,” she said gaily. “I believe I told you I’d be a little late. This is, uh, I can’t pronounce his name. Nishi something?”

Michael bowed, nodded, and said nothing. He pulled out Jude’s chair. She plopped into it, just as a waiter arrived bearing drinks.

Gwen pursed her lips and shared a look with Kyle. Jude tasted her drink, then downed it and held up her glass.

“We met at--“

“Let me guess, the bar,” Gwen said.

“I’m entitled to a life, you know. Short, nasty and brutish as it is. What’s with the no appetizers already? I think we might want some appetizers here!”

“A little something to soak up the booze,” Kyle suggested.

“Perzackly!” Jude agreed. “But then we’re probably not staying that long.” She fluttered her lashes at Michael in the most obvious manner and leaned confidingly toward her daughter. Second rule: Make a strong choice. “You know, I’ve just always had a fascination with oriental men. Oh, I guess I should say Asian.”

“Mom.” Gwen looked nervously toward Michael, who smiled and nodded.

“Oh, don’t worry, he doesn’t speak a word of English,” Jude said. “We can speak freely in front of him.”

“Mom,” Gwen said again. This time she made eye contact with Kyle.

Kyle lowered his voice, to further conceal his words from the man who didn’t know English. “What if he’s a, you know, gold digger?”

“It’s only a one-night thing. I’m an adult and I think I get to decide that,” Jude pulled a case out of her handbag and pulled out a cigarette. She held it between two fingers and looked around, just as the waiter arrived with her second drink.

“Sorry, ma’am, no smoking in here these days.” He was an old guy, probably remembered the days, not so very long ago, when he would have been at her side with a lighter as soon as she pulled out her smokes. Her dejection as she stuffed the cigarette back into the case was real. Never get old.

But, scene. “It’s kind of like being a teenager again. You know, sneaking the guy into the room, or waiting till the parents are gone. Only now it’s waiting until the children are out. I’m just saying this so you know I’m not sneaking.”

“An I-L-U.” Jude turned toward Michael. “Doesn’t that just sound like it should stand for I love you? Independent living unit. Sounds like something they’d have in a jail, right? Except for the independent part. Which is kind of a misnomer.”

Kyle frowned. “I think we should take you home. Right now. Drive you. Come back for your car tomorrow.”

“Absolutely not!” Jude stood up and downed her lime-infused tonic water with a flourish. “We are just leaving now.” She made a sharp motion with her head and Michael stood up, again bowing and nodding to Gwen and Kyle. He offered his arm; Jude took it.


Kyle and Gwen followed them, and were right behind as Jude swerved in behind Kyle’s boat. She let the Jag nose the trailer hitch, just enough to move the boat, but only slightly.

Kyle jumped out of his car yelling. “Are you trying to knock my boat off the trailer? What’s gotten into you?”

“I did not so much as disturb the shrink wrap. Why’d you do that anyway?” She looked around at an imaginary audience. “Awww, his boat got wet, somebody get this guy a towel so he can cry into it.”

Kyle stared at the ground.

“Come on,” Jude growled. “This will make a great post on your anti-mother-in-law message board. You could even bullet-point it.”

Kyle stepped back looking stricken.

“Yeah. I know about it. You wouldn’t even have to embellish it. Maybe add I poo poo my pants or something.”

“Oh my god.” Kyle leaned against his BMW.

“Come on, man. My generation started with the Vic 20s. But apparently you kids think I’m so computer illiterate that I would never encounter the garbage you’re writing about me.”

Gwen stared at him. Apparently he’d kept his internet rants a secret from her, too.

“Talk about embellishing,” Kyle muttered. “You could have just told me.”

Told him how hurt and embarrassed she’d been when she found it? No. she could never have said that. Third rule of improv: You are you. Jude felt light, and fierce. And better! Forgiving, even.

She got back in the car, ready to drive Michael Kim home. “Sorry you didn’t really get to shine,” Jude said.

“Oh, hey, no problem. Your show,” Michael said. “Can’t wait till the second class!”

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


okay, yeah, we're done, subs closed

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Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019



sparksbloom posted:

week 452 (dragon week 2) crits


Thank you!

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