When I used to come to Queenstown as a child with my brother, the airport was a tin shed on a field; now it is luxurious, international. The hills are the same though, jammed close up around the horizon, spectators jostling for a closer look at me. I pull my hood down against their gaze as I crossed the tarmac from the plane: I don’t want to see the sky either, but I can feel its watchful weight overhead.
The customs guy inspects my passport, flicking through the unmarked pages. “From the UK. Here for a holiday?”
I nod. “Working holiday. We’re emptying out my dad’s house. A vacation, I guess?” I smiled at my own weak joke but he doesn’t follow suit. He has a round, closed-in face and short black straight hair that sits close over his eyebrows.
“You want a stamp?” He doesn’t wait for the reply, slamming down his fist, flipping the passport shut and dismissing me in the same movement. “Next!”
Out on the road, in the Uber, I check my phone. There’s a typically cryptic text from my brother: TANK SHMANK. I slide the phone back into my pocket. Queenstown is a holiday town, a party town, a fun town, but my head is clogged up with foreboding, heavy with history. I have a lot of memories. I watch them shuffling like slides in an old carousel projector, ka chunk, ka chunk.
The green swirling water of the Shotover river, grey stones with a sly sparkling glint to them. Walking on the lake front. Escaping the terrible boiled mush lunches of our grandparents, down the spacies arcade. Quiet afternoons with the rain coming down in the lake, reading the paper, the old man with his tumbler of red wine, not talking. Nothing to talk about. A creaking noise from overhead, something in the attic. Full of ghosts up there.
The car takes the left turn to the little cul de sac and I take a deep breath as I fumble open the door and thank the driver. He has a mask on and doesn’t reply, tapping on his phone for the next ride. Inside the house is cold and a little damp smelling. I park my overstuffed little suitcase and walk inside. “Oscar?” No reply. The empty house feels crammed, suffocating.
I find my brother on a ladder in the sun room, standing on a bookshelf. He didn’t hear me. “Oscar?” There’s a clanking noise from up in there, and a grunt of frustration, the soft clunk of a tool being laid down.
Our dad always had good tools, I remember the smell of his workshop down the basement of the big house in Dunedin, spinning the handle of the vice on the bench. I had just been down there when he called out to me to go one time, a long while ago.
I am a child again, running out of the bathroom to the car, summonsed by a yell. Half the time I never know where we’re going or why, they talk to my brother but not to me.
“Oi,” I say. “How does it look?”
He makes a harrumph of recognition and wriggles his way back out of the hatch. His face is heavy and old and red, looking down. “This watertank is decrepit,” he says in a sepulchral tone. “Hi.”
I smile up at him. We’re in a room packed up high with boxes and shelves, crammed tight with stuff, and my belly is heavy with age and unnamed dread.
There’s a photo of us next to the spillway of a dam, water crashing and cascading down its steep concrete trench. I’m clutching at him like I’d fly into the torrent, get swept away. I remember the moss on the rocky walls, pregnant with spray.
Later we’re sitting at the table with beers. Oscar is in the old man’s seat, leafing through a photo album. Outside the sun is setting behind the mountains, the sky a luminous orange, shading to dark blue above us. A record is playing on old turntable; scratchy Lizst by a long-dead pianist. Oscar laughs and flips the album around for me to see. It’s us as babies, outside the old house. The old man is young, pipe sticking out of his bearded face.
“I used to love that smell.” I did, I could remember the tang in the car as we used to drive back to Dunedin. Playing word games, rhymes, colours, parallels. There’s too much. This place is too much.
I have a sudden vivid image of grabbing all these boxes and books and things and stuff and memories and hurling them into the biggest fire, a furnace, a tornado of cleansing blank-faced flame and shudder over my entire body, turn the impulse into a spasm that jerks my feet off the table and onto the floor and my burly creaking body upright. I grab my beer and stumble outside, breathing the cold mountain air.
I remember coming home to Dunedin, opening the door, seeing a waterfall, the front hall a dripping wonderland of water pouring from the ceiling, a moist grotto. It took me a little while to realise I’d left the tap on upstairs. The old man came to find me and tell me off later, I was crying. “What’s all that downstairs,” he asked, then stopped at the sight of my face.
My brother comes out to stand beside me and we look out at the lake. “You ok?” he asks, after a while.
I nod, and we stand there a little while, watching the fading light on the lake and the wisps of cloud around the mountains. The air is very clean, and cool.
Then there’s a crack inside the house like an axe splitting kindling, and a splattering sound from inside and we look at each other and then inside a moment later there is a hole in the roof and a smashed up tank on the table and a torrent of water coming out of the ceiling and splattering down, and around and all over everything and all the boxes and we’re grabbing things and moving things and laughing and the water is dousing the old man’s seat and washing the floor clean and it’s just a splashing whirlwind shambles as the roof comes crashing in and we’re pulling things around with waterlogged boxes and clambering up to make it better and there’s nothing up there, no ghosts, no watchful eyes, just me and my brother and a past that maybe doesn’t have to live inside me anymore.
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 05:32|
|# ? Jul 1, 2022 01:35|
You are exactly thirty-seven years from the moment you were born. You’re sitting at the kitchen table with three items in front of you: a cell phone, a piece of white chocolate raspberry birthday cake, and a large plastic bag, the opening of which is lined with velcro. On the floor beside you is a helium tank, rented to you from a local party supply store. You had to show the clerk your ID to prove it was your birthday; you’d even bought several packs of party balloons for verisimilitude.
The woman you love more than anything is sleeping in your bed upstairs, having gone to bed early in preparation for the trek back to Amundson-Scott Station. Your family always tended to wallow in midwestern goodbyes—doorway anecdotes, too many hugs, protracted porch waving—but you prefer the french exit. Leave while the banter is fresh and the laughter is spirited.
The slice of cake looks like an Instagram photo: dense and moist with fresh raspberries baked right in, buttercream flowers smooth as marble. You’ve already had some, fed to you from across the table by your lover. This slice is for the french exit, a silent witness to your sudden goodbye.
You and her were always impossible—you the state department spook, her the Antarctic researcher. That’s not why you’re sitting at the table with an exit bag and an indelible slice of cake, though. You’re an awful person and you’ve done awful things. You are an apparatus of the state; you’ve helped topple populist movements around the world, blackbagged protestors, agitated for factional infighting. You don’t understand why the woman in your bed loves you, even after you rested your head in her lap and spilled state secrets into the confessional of her thighs.
Her absence compromises you more completely than any foreign agent could. You can’t survive another departure gate, last kiss, lingering look, long lonely season. Your world is a revolting place without her, but you know too many dangerous secrets to hate the world.
The thing you’re about to do is hideously cruel. You wonder if she’ll still bake cakes after you’re gone. You hope she can throw herself into her work, bleach you away under the cold glare of the Antarctic sun.
You pick up the bag, adhere a length of medical tubing to the makeshift one-way valve you cut in the side. The other end you affix to the nozzle of the helium canister. Now that you’re on the home stretch, there’s something intensely intimate about this ritual, as if you’re disrobing yourself for death.
You finally notice the persistent buzzing on your phone—push notifications coming from apps you’d set to silent. You skim the civilian news first, then check with your own sources to confirm. The gamma ray burst hit sometime in the afternoon; the ozone layer is rapidly depleting, with photochemical smog already darkening the sky.
You’re more of a social engineer than an astrophysicist but even so, you understand that the thing happening to your revolting world is worse than any unclassified model could have predicted. The words ‘total extinction event’ run through your mind like a stuck jingle. You wonder who knew this was coming, and for how long. You wonder if they’re saying goodbye to their loved ones, or whether they’ve ended it all in some secluded bunker.
You hurl the exit bag onto the floor, take the slice of cake to the bedroom where your lover greets you with half-awake murmurs. You spend the rest of time licking buttercream off each other’s bellies, tasting raspberry on each other’s tongues, bodies wallowing together in a long goodbye.
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 06:23|
Volunteer Recognition Birthday Recognition Project
Cake: It's someone's birthday
Alcohol: More than 10 scenes, no more than 50 words per scene
Neth, 5/17: Camping during her birthday. Send off with skillets worth of cake mix. Dehydrated everything. Milk, eggs, butter, flavoring, everything dry. Powdered sugar glaze. Just add water. REI gift cert.
Alice 6/10: Loves coffee and the Old Cookbook Show. North Dakota Creole Cake, salted caramel icing. Shoe birthday candle would be funny, but petty. If candle costs more than $10, make shoe out of red vines. Etsy map of Poland.
Sandy 7/16: Doesn't want a big fuss, loves Portos. "Just buy the cake from there". Okay, but it's a 45 minute drive each way and a 30 minute line! This is just a different kind of fuss. Amazon giftcard
Jerry 9/21: Expects something very nice and very "effort", but has no taste. Box chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and chocolate shavings on top, and Ave Books gift cert.
Pearl, 10/29: Moving to Solvang, combine leaving party with birthday party. Already miss her. I will master the tiramisu sponge cake or I will die trying. If possible, get autographed copy or bookplate for Hope: The Dream We Carry. Otherwise just the book.
Self, 11/6: Sign the card to myself? Make a cake? Figure it out later.
Joel, 12/25: IF he's present; fold birthday into holiday party. IF traveling, email a $20 Coffee Bean gift card. Lady Goldenglow cake either way.
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 06:55|
Cake! +600 words
- It's someone's birthday!
Soda! +100 words (x3)
- You must have a happy ending.
- One character is non-binary.
- "I still owe you an..."
Chips and Cookies! +200 words (x2)
- You are limited to two locations.
- You must bring one of two things to the story: an elephant or an embroidery project.
A Sweet Delusion of Peace
"Happy birthday, Mistress Rhea!" the children said, presenting the cake to their local witch.
Aurea evaluated their work, as her partner and knight Aurelia hovered nearby, brimming with anticipation. The knight had helped the children in their "surprise", even if Aurea could hear the commotion from their room as she busied herself with needlework. She had set aside the embroidery she was working on for Aurelia's scarf.
The queen-in-exile noted the imperfect placement of the strawberries. At least the icing bearing her assumed name was legible.
"Thank you, children," she said. "It means the world to me that you would spend time with me today."
"Auncle Lia helped us a lot," Tomas said, the local thatcher's son. "They took care of the oven."
"I see," Aurea said, sparing a glance at her partner. The knight smiled awkwardly. Good work, she told them through their bond. The witch felt her knight's gratitude embrace her.
In this remote cottage in the woods, Aurea felt most at peace.
She tried a sliver of cake. It was a curious taste, one she would take to the end of her days. The actual specifics didn't matter--Aurea had suffered through too many failed cakes to care about every flaw, but the love and goodwill infused in the pastry shone truer than any magick she could weave.
"How did it taste, dear?" Aurelia asked, their anxious feelings radiating through their bond.
"I shall remember it fondly," Aurea replied, winking. She brought the children close and embraced them. "Well done, everyone." She felt her knight relax, and she sent them a wave of sincere gratitude.
"It's the least we could do," Sofia said, the mayor's daughter. Aurea and the mayor had not been on the best of terms, but even he grudgingly admitted that her presence was helpful to the town, as Aurea's potent medicinal brews had helped many an ailing soul.
"Shall we eat the cake, then?"
They set it down on the dining table, large enough to accommodate their three esteemed guests. Aurea let the children bask in the satisfaction of a job well done, and let them have their slices first.
"Are you not eating, Lia?" Aurea asked her partner.
"You know my diet," Aurelia said.
"Then it's more for me," the witch said. She grinned as the knight pouted. "I know you want it. Just a bite?"
With a pained look, Aurelia nodded. Aurea elegantly shoved a piece of cake into her knight's mouth.
It's going to be a rough night later, Aurea thought. As she imagined the things her partner would do to her tonight, she felt something--or someone--trip her magical wards. Aurelia felt it too, their scent changing into that of a cornered wolf.
"Auncle Lia will be heading out for a bit," Aurelia said. She casually lifted the greatsword hanging on top of the mantelpiece and strode out of the door before any of the children could protest.
Immediately Aurea felt the children's fear. "Auncle Lia and I will keep you safe," she reassured them. "It must be just wolves."
She felt a pang of regret for not taking the king's life when she had the chance. Her arts had especially forbidden murder on pain of an excruciating death for her and her bonded, so she had simply stabbed him in a way that did not hit any vital organs. It still hurt though, much to her satisfaction.
Aurelia's bond went silent. The knight had temporarily cut her off to avoid any psychic feedback from their butcher's work. In such cases, they had fifteen minutes before assuming the worst. If the bond was not restored by then, they would have to run.
Aurea checked the clock on the wall. The children stared at the half-eaten cake, their appetites gone. Aurea offered them ciderkin, and they sipped it nervously. She accompanied Sofia to the privy.
"There aren't any wolves in the woods," Tomas finally said.
"Perhaps it's a bear," Aurea said. "Auncle Lia will take care of them." Aurea had seen her knight once drive an adult bear headfirst into the soil for the crime of trespassing. The incident gave them enough meat to last a moon.
"Should we look for them?" Gaspar opined. He was most fond of Aurelia, and sat on the knight's broad shoulders often. He wished to be as strong and as kind as them. Aurea resolved to protect the child's wish.
"It will be harder for Auncle Lia to keep you all safe if you leave the house," Aurea said. If the king's people had come, they did not have much of a chance--they would go for the children first. "I'm sorry this had to happen today. Auntie Rhea has made some enemies."
"You saved my father when he was sick," Sofi said, putting on an air of cheerfulness. "You're not a bad person, Auntie Rhea."
I wish I weren't, child. Aurea had considered letting the mayor die, as he was most opposed to her settling in the woods nearby, but Aurelia talked her into saving him.
Aurea chanted a simple spell, putting the children to sleep. She would not have them awake for what was to come. If Aurelia had died, she wanted to at least give them a proper burial. As she opened the door, she saw Aurelia limping towards their porch, using their sword as a makeshift cane. Their body was covered in blood, and their left arm was a mangled mess.
Don't turn on the bond, the voice of reason told her. The resulting feedback would be too much. Aurea had seen bonded couples die from it. She ran towards her knight.
"It's them," Aurelia gasped, blood dripping from their mouth. "The king's assassins."
"Did you finish them all?" the witch-queen said.
Her knight smiled. "I slaughtered the scouts to the last man. They'd take a while to find our house. Run, Aurea. Take the children and go."
Aurea shook her head. "I would never leave you alone."
Aurea sighed. She had no choice left. "I'll miss this place. I'll miss the children, too." They were the closest they had to having their own.
The witch held out her hand, and the dread grimoire materialized in it. It was the very grimoire that her erstwhile husband would move heaven and earth to retrieve. A single spell from it and they would attract all of the king's men, magical wards notwithstanding.
Aurea casted three spells.
The first: to restore Aurelia's body to what it was before. Time reversed on the knight's physical vessel, making them whole again. Aurelia stared at their restored arm, and sighed.
I'm sorry, Aurelia said through their restored bond.
Don't apologize. It would've happened sooner or later. As long as he breathes, we would never be safe.
The second: to scramble the villagers' memories of them. Tomas, Sofia, and Gaspar would wake up not knowing they ever existed. It would be for the best.
The third: she brought a slice of the cake to the palm of her hand, and ate it.
"Why?" Aurelia said, their brow furrowing.
"Because I love you, and without you I would have given up a long time ago," Aurea said. "Because I want to be a good person. Because I still owe you a scarf."
She started casting a fourth spell. She was almost out of strength, but the children's cake had given her enough for one more. She grabbed Aurelia's calloused hand, which dwarfed her own.
Take us away.
A purple orb of light enveloped them.
I'm going to kill the king, Aurea told her knight. Even if it would mean her death.
I'm with you, Aurelia said, squeezing Aurea's hand. The witch-queen smiled.
The orb blinked, taking them far, far away.
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 07:28|
Submissions closed. Judgement to begin in a bit.
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 07:29|
Thunderdome Week 470: Thunderdorkroom
Hello writer friends! And, if you clicked the link from the Dorkroom and found yourselves here, hello photo friends!
Something the TD crew may not know is that before I doubled-down on writing bad words, I used to walk around and take bad photos.
During this time, the Dorkroom provided a really
For this week’s Thunderdome, I’d like to see how my writer friends fare with photos shared from my photo friends.
There’s a thread in the Dorkroom where dorkroomers will post some photos for you to choose from. If you’d like to leave your inspiration to fate, let me know in the sign-up post and I’ll find you a photo to work with. If you’re a photo-er who wants to write, or a writer who wants to post up a photo, please feel free to do so but don’t pick your own photo to write about.
In the spirit of this week’s cross-forum effort, the theme for this week’s stories is collaboration.
You’ve got 1130 words, because that’s how much it costs to buy a goon-approved Chamonix 45N-2. If you , you can take 400 more words, because Portra 400 is the one true film.
Signup deadline is 6pm Saturday AEST (UTC+10)
Submission deadline is 6pm Monday AEST
No erotica, political screeds, Google docs, poetry, fanfic, editing your posts.
a friendly penguin
t a s t e
rohan fucked around with this message at 11:18 on Aug 9, 2021
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 08:11|
Gimme a photo
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 08:18|
Ultima Donum Regum
It was the 1,000th birthday of Galactulon, undisputed ruler of the entire galaxy, and Ultimax Prime, Baron of the Spinward Realms, hadn’t got him anything. He stared out the spun diamond window of his star cruiser broodingly.
“My lord,” purred his Vizier, Twalf Sliccers from behind him. “Do you yet brood upon your natal gifting dilemma?”
Ultimax pounded one metal fist into an open metal palm with a clang that reverberated round the Eternite shod command room. “Yes! It tries me, Sliccers, it tries me sorely! What do you get the man who has, well…” He gestured at the star strewn immensity of the Milky Way, spread before them like there had been a terrible accident at the jewel store.
Sliccers sucked in air over his gleaming golden teeth implants. “Perhaps… one of your smaller planets, sire…?”
Ultimax turned and glared, slit-eyed. “The Lord of Existence was gifted a dozen paradise level globes by the Viscount of the Core Realms, not two days ago. Were I to copy his display I’d look a fool, Sliccers. Or, worse: a copycat.”
Sliccers tapped his chin. “Could a more unique gift be found? Something of peerless rarity, such as—”
Ultimax interrupted: “Such as this? In the Scarlet Spice Groves of Zebular 9, grows a single, ancient, impossibly beautiful, Yar tree. Atop its thousand foot span it sprouts a single sentient flower once each galactic century, which can only be safely plucked for a single minute in all that time. It is said that the sight of this flower will bring any beholder to tears and that its vegetable wisdom will reveal the secrets of the universe to those who converse with it. Wars have been fought over the opportunity to have but a few scant words with it!” The Baron paused, and Sliccers threw his hands wide.
“Well then, my Lord, your course is—”
“Rol Katan, Grand Master of Space, gave it to him last week.”
There was a brief silence in the cool air of the space vessel. Sliccers frowned, thinking.
“May I then suggest, my most radiant satrap, a really good… cake?”
The Baron considered this notion, turning it over in his mind. Slowly, vastly, he began to smile.
“Galactulon does like a nice bit of cake.”
It’s my party
Merrill huddled in her sleeping bag. The ground was cold underneath her even through the foam pad, but she had more important things on her mind and they were all extremely, intensely sad so she was crying quite a bit – the big hot tears that it felt like she’d left behind. This was so unfair, and not right and it sucked and it was a big dumb—
The zip of her tent went zzwip and Merrill looked up, and her mum was there. She had a complicated expression on her face that Merrill didn’t remember seeing before so she sat up and wiped her face.
“Oh thank God,” said Merrill’s mum. “Thank God thank God thank God” and she was through the zip which parted protestingly with a scrzzt and then she was hugging Merrill really really tight which meant she was getting snot and tears on her shoulder and Merrill tried to point that out but she couldn’t quite breathe until Mum let her go. There was a big black mark on her face. Merrill noticed.
“I wasn’t sure if you were inside, and, oh thank God,” said Merrill’s mum again. They didn’t really ever go to church so it was a bit odd but it had been a complicated night. Merrill’s mum smelt of smoke, as did Merrill she supposed, on account of their house currently burning down.
“Did you rescue any presents?” Merrill asked. She knew it was a bit selfish but it really did seem extremely unfair to have the entire house burn down the night before her birthday and she wanted to just make sure whether she’d been correct in her decision to curl up and cry a lot in the tent on the lawn.
Merrill’s mum laughed, and her chest kept moving afterwards like she was trying to make it stop but it wouldn’t. “I’m sorry sweetpea.”
There was a lot of noise outside from the firemen and she suddenly wanted to see what they were doing so she wriggled to the open flap of the tent. A moment later her mum joined her and they lay together side by side, looking at the blaze.
“Can I have a star for my birthday instead?” Merrill asked, flopping round onto her back. “Like that one?” She pointed up at the sky, at the brightest one she could see.
Her mum thought about this then nodded. “That’s your star now. You’ll have to keep it safe though.”
Merrill pulled up her sleeping bag and snuggled in tight, listening to the crackling of the life she used to have. “I promise.”
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 08:21|
prompts 600 words cake, 100 words 2x thematicaly linkied stors
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 08:23|
In, give me a photo.
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 08:30|
In, I'll take the photo.
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 13:03|
In and give me a photo, please!
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 17:24|
In, requesting photo and
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 17:55|
IN! Photo and , plz
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 19:50|
Gimme a photo
In, give me a photo.
In, I'll take the photo.
In and give me a photo, please!
In, requesting photo and
IN! Photo and , plz
|# ? Aug 2, 2021 22:39|
In and a photo please
|# ? Aug 3, 2021 02:58|
In and a photo please
|# ? Aug 3, 2021 03:22|
In, photo please
|# ? Aug 3, 2021 22:50|
In, photo please
|# ? Aug 4, 2021 00:26|
|# ? Aug 5, 2021 21:49|
|# ? Aug 5, 2021 22:07|
|# ? Aug 5, 2021 22:31|
Gonna cut to the chase cos this one was a surprisingly easy one to judge.
Yoruichi, your story gripped me, sebmojo's yours did not.
Sebmojo, your story felt more obligatory in nature. The beginning nod at the prompt basically felt pretty dismissive which I can deal with if what it's left is good, but I'm struggling to find much of anything that gets me interested. I don't really know what gets accomplished in the 50% of the story where your protag is making his way downtown, walking fast, faces pass, and is homebound, it's just kinda empty. Like there's a decent return to home vibe, and the family stuff is pretty OK but it's not worth just avoiding the prompt for, nor does it seem to do very much.
Yoruichi, I wasn't expecting the 'vacation relationship' mechanism. In this case, I didn't know what I wanted, because I very much wanted this. It was sad, complicated, and it focused not just on the characters but the dynamic itself. It was a short scene but alluded gently to much more on the outside of the scene itself so it got a lot done in a very little bit of time. I really liked it. Well done!
|# ? Aug 6, 2021 02:41|
Quick reminder that sign-ups close in a bit over six hours, and there are still heaps of great photos in the Dorkroom thread to choose from.
|# ? Aug 7, 2021 01:19|
Thank you dorkroom posters for the most excellent photos
|# ? Aug 7, 2021 04:34|
|# ? Aug 7, 2021 08:19|
Signups are officially now closed, but because there are a lot of great photos that haven’t been assigned yet, I’ll allow late sign-ups for the next 24 hours or so on the condition that you select a photo yourself from a poster whose photos haven’t yet been chosen.
There’s also one judging spot left, if anyone’s keen!
|# ? Aug 7, 2021 08:59|
here comes the birthday judgement!
Hope everyone had fun at the party!
DM: Sailor Viy
HM: Sitting Here, Pham Nuwen, a friendly penguin, rohan, ZearothK
Now I'm sure you're asking, "But, Tyrannosarus, didn't you say there would be birthday prizes?" You are correct. There are.
Our honorable mentions will all be receiving commemorative pens made of animal bone! Yippee! Don't ask where the bones came from. That's weird. Not, maybe, as weird as giving a stranger on the internet your address but that's what you'll have to do in order to receive said prize so DM me. Or don't. And I'll buy you a new custom avatar instead.
Our winner, Antivehicular, will be getting a loving cake! A real cake! No bones!
Happy birthday Thunderdome!
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 01:44|
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 01:54|
flerp fucked around with this message at 20:23 on Dec 31, 2021
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 02:01|
here comes the birthday crits
So, conceptually speaking, I can’t seem to get over the fact that this is a story about the devil blasting rope inside an oyster and then people becoming obsessed with the resultant cursed cum-pearl. And that’s weird. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s much more of a story here beyond that. You do give a good sense of… like… those old churches with stained glass windows tell the story of the crucifixion or whatever. So you have a kind of a medieval comic book feel. With that being said, I found this boring and gross.
Fun fact: you use the “Zinaida,” on average, once every thirty words. That’s, uh, probably too much. What else… uh… You know, generally speaking, this story is just super thin. Zinaida is worried that Rhea’s pregnancy might kill her. It doesn’t. The end. And while you hinted at more than that with the hunt for the stag and the search for Artemis, you left so many words on the table that you could have used to buff this up it’s just… It’s not great. Not great.
This is loving irritating. I don’t know who “he” is. Why? Why would you make this choice? I’m so loving frustrated trying to follow your blocking that I’m ready to stop reading at about the 500 word mark and just give this the loss.
Okay I came back to this after walking away for a bit. I think you’re going for a specific aesthetic. Dreamy. I get it. Still. It’s not working for me because I can’t keep track of what’s going on without really working on it and… I don’t want to work on it. Don’t make your reader do work. I think that’s the danger with dreams. How do you make them important? How do you make something inherently unrealistic into something that the reader feels is tangible? I appreciate that you took your shot. Your idea is not bad! Your idea is actually good. Interesting. Intriguing. And that’s the hardest thing to do with creative writing. Your issue this week is that you let your aesthetic take precedence over writing a clean story. Tie that up? You’re alright.
This is so innocently horrifying. You’re not angry or perverse or gory or gross. You’ve simply taken a normal concept to an insane extreme and it works out really well. Honestly, I was thinking about the “After the party, I walk home slowly, alone in the dark” that you were going to run out of words but you tied things off well. Very nice. Well done.
Pre-read note: if the thematic similarity here is “birthday” I’m gonna be not pleased.
Post-read note: okay its fine but you hosed up the flash rule. “Divide your word count in two and write two stories. They must be connected thematically but not literally.” These are literally connected. They’re two parts of the same story. I like them so I’m not going to DQ you but it’s a failure of the flash rule.
Other things I liked: the cake emoji to break up the scenes, the difference in tone/setting/everything between the “two” stories, the idea itself is intriguing.
Thing I didn’t like: lack of adherence to your chosen rules, the 50 word scene limitation (because if you’d been able to stretch your legs just a little… this could have been pretty sweet)
“Half the dialogue tree she’d mapped out started here” aight I’m with you, I’m hooked
This was good. I thought you were going to in the whole simulation has gained sentience direction and was kinda stoked for that but I’m actually glad you didn’t. Your story has more emotional resonance because you kept it (somewhat unexpectedly) grounded. This isn’t tragic. It’s just a little sad because someone wants to do something sweet but can’t. The only thing I’d pull back is: “Forget it!” Sandra snapped, slamming at the control panel. I think you could just have Sandra be weary and frustrated here. Especially since she snaps again later on. The bored, maddeningly dull frustration of talking to a simulation and getting nowhere really hits for me.
Slice of life. Simple. You used words in a good order. This is nice. It isn’t particularly deep or even interesting but it never tried to be either of those. I don’t have a lot of critiques you didn’t write a lot of words and you didn’t do anything spectacularly bad (or good).
Was bit iffy getting through this at times but you nailed the landing. First one of the week to really utilize the beginning/ending same line in a meaningful way: in this case the realization that we’ve now entered into a time loop (and I love time travel poo poo). Couple weak spots, though. This far into a technologically advanced future, “HD TV”s are undoubtedly worthless in terms of quality (like a betamax but times a thousand) so either put a hat on that or change it to something futuristic sounding. Two, the names aren’t silly enough to justify their existence. As is, they are taking up space and breaking up the flow of your sentences. I’d make them goofy as poo poo (Captain Belinda Carlisle-Crunch) or idk maybe just make the characters “the Captain” or whatever I’d have to think about it more. The point is, it’s not working for me. Also, you get a weird tonal shift when Zerinka starts talking that could probably be improved by making her less… irritated by the whole experience? Maybe just total lack of knowledge rather than an aggressive distaste.
A friendly penguin
First line is dope as poo poo.
Ah yeah this totally works. The backwards telling works for the story. It makes the story. That’s not easy to pull off. And I can legit read it either way. Well done.
I like the title.
“wasn’t local.” you could end the paragraph there. The next sentence is unnecessary because you’ve already given me that information in a much better, much more subtle way.
When you only have one character present, you don’t need to keep dropping their name. You can just use he or she, it helps things clip along.
Mad line is good.
The beautiful stuff is fun but you immediately follow it up with the same bit when you talk about the tower. Kinda diminishes both. Then a third time with “come in.” If you got less clever with the tower description, I think it would strengthen the other two instead of edging towards the line of “too much I get it okay we’re close to being irritating about this” line. Ah, drat, it’s a choice throughout. And “nature abhors that sort of thing” is such a good line!
Mid/high. I need to think about it more.
Aha yeaaaah son get all them words! Love it! This is what I was hoping for! I’m in a good mood and I haven’t read a single thing yet.
The first line is good! The joke is… It doesn’t it. I don’t get it’s inclusion. You could honestly just cut it and still keep the first line. Also, I’d switch the introduction of the human and the post-human because you have the former look at the latter without letting us know that the latter exists and it’s a bit confusing.
The emotional notes are a solid way of info dumping.
Many characters but all have different and distinguishable voices. Well done.
Your opening arguments about religion are tedious and don’t really bring anything to the table. You could probably find a way to truncate those and still get your point across.
Oh! What an ending! What a way to make it a birthday!
Alright this is my jam. Totally batshit wild characters in a mundane situation with the totally normal conflict of a (possibly) unrequited crush and a love triangle. Big fan that you grabbed a bunch of words, too. Like I said above, this is the sort of thing I was hoping for. Dialogue is good. Characterization is varied and interesting. Honestly, the only weak part of this whole thing is the ending. I don’t like “and now the adventure begins” endings.
Good opening line. I’m hooked. I’m interested in reading more.
Oh poo poo this is good. Excellent use of your flash rules. Strong, succinct, sharp writing. Well done. I don’t see hardly anything extraneous.
Brilliant, brilliant writing. Not a word wasted. So much passed on to your reader with so little. Very impressive. One day, if I win again and the time is right, I might make a prompt that is just “Psychological Christmas Creature Feature Secret Society Period Piece About Parenthood” and I want you to know that if I do it is because I love this story.
An interesting development I’ve noticed this week is that the drinkers, the people that mixed alcohol with their cake, basically wrote their stories as puzzles. This one is the same. It’s something that has to be pieced together slowly, something that requires more than one read. I liked it. And I liked how it was written. I liked how you used your flash rules. My only question is… if modern militaries failed to stop the beast, what’s a rocket a launcher gonna do?
Always love it whenever someone just tells me the problem right away. It's a good start.
I like to tell people that in short stories everything needs to pull double duty. You have a limited word count so you can’t waste space on poo poo that isn’t vital. But from “a knock on the door” to “I’ll go” you waste a whole 160 rear end words, a full 17% of your story on… the dude going to his own birthday party. And you don’t really tell me anything! No advancement of the plot, no real insight into the characters or their growth (or potential thereof). And you describe how several people are dressed. Ask yourself, does knowing that Calvin wears wire-framed glasses and a button-up dress shirt in any way advance your story? Because if it doesn’t, if there’s no point in knowing how he is dressed, you don’t have to include it! It’s really that easy. And, well, there’s a lot of stuff here that you didn’t need to include. Read it over with that mindset and I think you’ll see what I mean.
Dope. Title feels a little lazy. The fact that I have no other critique speaks to the quality of your writing. Stellar word efficiency. I love the way you play with the various goodbyes. And what a way to say goodbye to the world. Should we all be so lucky if we are so unfortunate to be present.
What is this?
Fun fact: you are the second person this week to use the name “Rhea” for a character! How interesting! Infinite amount of names and we hit two in one week.
Mmm! Gotta say, don’t love the “adventure begins now” ending. Also, gotta say, this feels like it could be a part of a larger project. It doesn’t super feel like a true stand alone piece. Also also, the two names feel too similar (I’m not sure why you made that choice but it feels significant) and I can’t tell who is nonbinary because the pronouns seem to switch a lot (I don’t know if that is an error or is intentional). Other than that, fun little jaunt. Pretty decent writing.
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 02:07|
I thought I could force myself to write again, but I just kept getting panic attacks.
Risking a DM or a loss felt better than being the only failure. So, that.
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 02:57|
Don't respond to crits.
(Also, submitting is better than failure, yes. I'm glad you submitted something!)
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 04:21|
Because I Love You
Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 09:09 on Aug 30, 2021
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 05:24|
Oh, thanks for telling me that I failed to read the rules correctly. Extremely gracious of you to not DQ me
oh wait I was actually well aware of that.
[Divide your word count in two and write two stories. They must be connected thematically but not literally. [used as inspiration, but my stories are literally connected (+0 words)]
You know, I have always had a personal pet peeve about people who are super sticklers for rules that don't matter. Are you my middle school teacher graciously giving me a C- because while I wrote an excellent essay, it wasn't entirely on topic? Are you a fellow artist, or a Bürokrat?
I'm steamed about this so let's throw down. I want to brawl you with the additional challenge that whichever rule we get, we deliberately only use it in spirit, not in letter.
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 11:36|
Thanks for the crit, Tyrannosaurus, and thanks for putting together a neat prompt!
There’s also one judging spot left, if anyone’s keen!
Yeah I'll do it if nobody else has stepped up yet.
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 15:52|
I climbed the rickety ladder up to the attic of my father’s house, counting out the familiar creaks like a rhythm inside my head. The attic was dingy, dark, and crowded. It was packed with cardboard boxes arranged in stumpy pyramids, interspersed with forgotten toys and furniture. It smelled like a mix of mildew and raw pine. Of all the rooms in the house, this one felt the most unchanged by Dad’s absence.
Emily sat in the middle of the dusty floor, a wisp of cobweb in her dark hair. I picked the silken strand from her hand, wiping it on my jeans. They were already covered in dust and grease and the thousand household tracks that accumulate in the process of packing and moving. Emily didn’t stir, just stared at the frame she clutched in her hands.
It was one of the few candid pictures of us and Dad, taken by our mother when she knew he wasn’t looking. He held me in his arms, a chubby little boy, barely a toddler, laughing at Emily as she perched on the couch behind him and circled her gangly arms around his neck in a backwards hug. He was smiling, carefree. Not an expression we saw often after Mom left.
I tried to speak, to navigate some sort of words around the choking feeling that was developing in my throat. “Why don’t you come downstairs? The pizza should get here any minute. And it can’t be good for you to just sit up here and dig through the past.”
“It’s our past, and someone has to dig through it at some point. It was always going to be me, so may as well get a jump on it,” she said. She laid the picture frame gently in the box in front of her and picked up another. I turned away. I knew if I looked into the well of the past, I’d drown as badly as she had.
“Why does it need to be you? Why does it need to be anyone?” I asked. “We can put these boxes in storage, we can go through them together, after we’ve had some… time.” I couldn’t think of the right words. It all sounded so insufficient. It sounded like a cop-out, an excuse to kick the can down the road. “You don’t have to stay here, buried away with all this stuff. We can sell the house. I think Dad expected us to sell. The place is falling apart.” I looked pointedly around the crumbling attic, with its torn insulation and cracked gable windows.
“And whose fault is that?” Emily asked, an edge to her voice. It was Dad’s, not mine, not hers. But saying that wouldn’t have changed anything. She stood, drawing close to me. I could see the tracks left on her cheeks by silent tears. “I’m not leaving precisely because it’s falling apart. I can’t stand to leave it this way. This was our home, his home. I won’t let it just crumble away, or sell it off to a developer who’ll knock it down to make room for a string of townhouses.” She sighed, a long ragged breath that dissipated her anger like an insubstantial cloud of steam.
“I know you can’t stay here with me. You need a life, I get that. You’ve delayed everything to see Dad through these last couple of years. I can’t tell you how proud I am that you’re still going to college.” Her voice broke. I broke too. Hot tears welled up in my eyes.
We’d put this off for ages, both of us insisting on being strong for the other. With a sob, I drew her into a hug. In between hitching breaths, I said, “Well I haven’t figured out my major yet, so don’t get too excited.”
She began to laugh, and sob. “You go. You’ll figure it out. Dad believed in you and I do too. I’m going to stay here, make this house beautiful again, like when we were kids. I’ll make it shine. And if you ever need anything, anything at all, you know where to find me.” She hugged me again, hard.
I heard a creak on the ladder behind me. Turning, I saw Neil’s bald head peek over the lip of the trap door. “Here you are!” he said, his voice a mix of relief and forced cheer. He was doing his best to stay positive, and I loved him all the more for it, even if he wasn’t very successful. “We’ve been looking all over for you. I didn’t even think to look up here. I was fairly sure this was all cleared out. What are you doing up here?”
I turned to look at the empty attic. It was clean, nearly spotless. Light flooded through the clean gable windows and glowed off of the whitewashed floorboards. “I was just remembering a conversation I had with Emily once. After our dad died.”
Neil seemed unsure what to do with that information. He climbed up the last few steps into the attic, ducking his tall frame under the ridgebeam. “You know, we don’t have to sell the place, right?” He raised a hand to cut off my response. “I know, we’ve been over it, but seriously. It wouldn’t add that much time to my commute. If it means that much to you to keep it in the family, I’m happy to live here.”
“No. We should sell it. Emily worked so hard to bring this place back to life, but I think some other family should have the chance to make this place they’re own. It’s not for me.”
“Too many memories?” He put an arm around my shoulder. The weight was comforting, familiar.
I nodded. “Too many ghosts.” I climbed down the creaking ladder for the last time, saying a quiet goodbye to Dad and Emily.
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 20:49|
Fellow dorkroom alumni Lily Catts has graciously offered to help judge this week, but thanks for the offer!
Yeah I'll do it if nobody else has stepped up yet.
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 23:49|
It was a Sunday morning.
Elene pushed the old bike forward as she powered across the rocky scrabble. Her trailer kicked up a dusty contrail as she wound her way to the cliff edge. A hard brake, and the Koepel Arcology came into view below, its matte black dome rising from the dry plains. And, strewn across the fields before it, the corpses of those who’d fallen in the assault. Broken bodies shriveled in the desert sun. Jackals the color of shadow flickered through the carnage, sharp teeth pulling at limbs and picking exposed flesh—
She wrenched the bike around and turned her back to the bloodshed. Yesterday that one boy had tried to talk her into joining them--“A final assault, hit those l’arcologie pricks late at night when they are partying, drugged and dosed and distracted.” He was pretty, and a tiny voice inside her pleaded with her to go, to say yes. But she did not; loyalty to her papa was stronger than such foolishness.
Elene worked her reluctant bike down the winding path to the base of the canyon. There she unharnessed the récupérateur from the trailer and carried it to the riverbed. Untangling a complicated array of tubes and piping from its boxy frame, she set up the apparatus. Satisfied, she pulled the brim of her hat down, stretched out in the sand, and waited.
It was a Sunday morning. The effluence would be spiked with glitter: opioids and painkillers and ibogaine from the previous night’s partying, in addition to the urea and nitrogenous solids upon which the récupérateur fed. Just as Elene began to drift into sleep the sound of moving water stirred her. A rust-colored discharge filled the dry river bed, flowing down from the arcology. The machine sucked the fluid into its plastic maw, drawing it across plates of bacteria and yeast. Later, she’d scrape the paste from the plates and cook it into biscuits on the fire. She and papa would share them over the week ahead, he would whisper stories of the old world until the ibogaine took hold and he drifted from her. Elene, always judicious, never ate too much — outland raiders were a constant threat, and a sharp mind was the best defense. Along with her AK-47.
Her papa was her world, her sole responsibility. Keep him alive and she’d never be alone. But he fought against living, wasting away from the ceaseless infections and tumors that ate at him; last month she’d had to amputate his remaining leg, as gangrenous lesions spread from his toes towards his torso. His mind, however, stayed strong. Elene would not be alive without his guidance during those chaotic early days, when the arcologies cut themselves off from the rest of the world, taking the resources, dooming the rest of them to an inevitable extinction. The récupérateur was his invention, a brilliant idea to live off the effluence of the Arcology. Elene focused on keeping her papa alive. If she could manage that, then maybe other hopes were also possible.
A new sound jarred her from her reverie. From across the riverbed, a serviteur ground its way down the muddy bank, dragging a combine behind it. From the looks of it, the robot was an agricultural model, built for long hours under the hot sun. The effluence was ebbing, and the river bed grew splintered as it began to bake in the heat of the day.
“Hello, are you lost?” Elene called.
It didn’t respond, just dutifully dragged the combine down and into the soft mud of the river bed, where it stuck fast.
“Well, that won’t do,” Elena muttered. She made her way to where the serviteur was floundering in the slippery clay. Pulling up its ceramic carapace, she found the voice module and flipped the jumpers. She cleared her throat and repeated: “Hello, are you lost?”
A whirring came from within the machine as new circuits actuated.
: Unit 413 reporting : task complete : awaiting instructions :
“You’re a long way from home,” Elene muttered. The farms that fed the Koepel Arcology were in the hills far to the north-- entirely automated, so those “l’arcologie pricks” never had to leave their protective domes. High walls and serviteurs with automatic weapons protected the farms from outlander raids. This unit, designed for general farm work, must have glitched and wandered off; the lumpy sand barnacles gripping sections of its exoskeleton indicated many futile months of dragging itself through the wastes. Curious, Elene examined the combine machine attached to its grapple. Opening the main compartment, a blast of mildew and stale pollen stung her eyes and sent her into a sneezing fit. A small drawer below pulled open to reveal a trove of what looked to be seeds, separated from the moldy grain above. Safely tucked away. Whether they were viable or not Elene could not say. But surely papa would know. And if they were—her heart grew two sizes in her chest. Real food, a path forward.
She looked over her shoulder at rusted bike that lay on the path. Then back down at the robot, whose dome light glowed a soft green.
: Unit 413 reporting : task complete : awaiting instructions :
Elene spend the next fifteen minutes pulling the robot across the muddy riverbank and up onto the path. She scooped the seeds into a pouch on her pack. She could always come back for the combine later, if things panned out. For the first time in her young memory, Elene felt a glimmering of possibility. She hooked the récupérateur onto the grapple and issued her first order:
As she pedaled back towards home, towards her papa, the robot dutifully followed at a steady, plodding pace. Her old bike, now free from having to pull the boxy récupérateur, felt light and fast, and she pedaled joyous circles around her companion. It felt like flying. She giggled and thought of the names she might call her new friend. She imagined a garden full of colorful plants, papa smiling down on her from the porch as she gathered food for supper.
It was, after all, still a Sunday morning. She had a whole week and a lifetime ahead of her.
|# ? Aug 8, 2021 23:53|
|# ? Jul 1, 2022 01:35|
While we’d agreed to hold the summit in Frank’s kitchen, I doubt that most of the boys had known they’d be walking into hell. The heat had taken its toll on all of us that day and as far as we knew it was going to stay hot all night. Frank didn’t own as much as a box fan, but seeing as he spent most of his time at my place anyway his blast furnace of an apartment didn’t seem to bother him that much. I think he got that from his mother, who I expect had gone the entire day in front of the oven cooking twice the food we’d have needed on our best days. The promise of the meal had driven the choice, but-
“Frank, I’m loving roasting in here. Can’t we eat outside or something?” CJ was the fattest of us, and that was some accomplishment. He’d been the most vocal supporter of Frank’s spot for unsurprising reasons.
“Man, shut up!” Frank looked toward the next room, and after a moment redirected his view to CJ’s sweat-covered face. A bit quieter, then, he raised his hand and pointed the fork in accusation. “I told you not to say that kind of poo poo here. My mother doesn’t need to hear that, especially after filling your fat rear end up.” We all chuckled at that, and CJ seemed to take it in stride, raising his own hands in apology. He’d still had quite a bit of sauce on his fork, though, and some of it shot across the table and struck Gabe in the middle of his otherwise pristine white shirt.
I was the first to notice, and without meaning to I tensed up. Soon enough, though, the crime was common knowledge around the table. Of all of us sitting there, Gabe was the worst possible target. The kid had a high opinion of his looks and took more time to ready himself each day than my sisters did together. More than once I’d had to wait in his living room and squirm around on that plastic-lined furniture while I pretended to like the taste of Tang and stale cookies. His grandmother was good people, of course, and Gabe did a good job taking care of her, but my God, that piss was atrocious. Still, you didn’t complain about small stuff to Gabe, because he was a loving lunatic.
It was hard to tell if he turned red, because we were all tomatoes in that heat, but when Gabe opened and closed his mouth without saying anything his anger was pretty clear. He turned first to Frank as if seeking permission, and then to CJ with a much sharper look on his face. “You’re gonna clean this,” he spit out, “or you’re gonna get much worse very quickly.”
Johnny and his cousin from Schenectady, whose name I forget, had been sitting between the two of them. The bumpkin had the more sense of the two and stepped back from the table first. I’d imagine he knew he didn’t have skin in the game worth catching trouble meant for someone else. He half pulled Johnny away from the table, offering an excuse about running to the corner to get us some cold drinks.
The rest of us sat there, safe from any blast radius that Gabe might leave when he teed off on CJ. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t feel one way or the other about it. CJ was a good guy, but I wasn’t about to step in front of that freight train for him. Luckily, he took the smart way out.
“I’m really sorry Gabe, that’s a nice shirt and here I am being a clumsy rear end in a top hat.” A decent start. Even with the stain in the middle of it, Gabe still liked his compliments. “Look, I got this trick my mother showed me where you can get that out with a bit of 7-Up and baking soda. I’ll catch up with those guys, get one for that and one for you to cool off with, and we’ll forget it. We’ll have dessert.” Hell, a 7-Up did sound good in this heat. Gabe didn’t look fully convinced, but he’d unclenched his jaw a bit. CJ saw his opportunity and pounced. “I’ll tell you what, pal, if that doesn’t come out and look new I’ll buy you two just like it. I’m that confident.” Masterful work. Gabe exhaled through his nose and nodded, and CJ scampered out of the room like a deer that heard a hunter just in time. As Gabe continued to stare down at his shirt, I clapped Frank on the back and served myself seconds.
The three of them took a bit longer than expected, and by the time we heard the clinks approaching we were already playing cards on the fire escape out back. It was only mildly cooler than in the house, but that small difference felt like God’s blessing. Gabe joined CJ inside and got to work, and when the two returned I had to admit the kid had done a hell of a job on the stain. Whether it had passed muster for Gabe I couldn’t say.
Still, it was past time to get down to business, so the country cousin took to entertaining himself with a comic book while the rest of us got into it. It being his house, Frank took the lead.
“Listen, fellas, it’s us here tonight because as far as I see it we’re the most qualified, even if we have to carry CJ’s weight.” To this, CJ scoffed a bit, but it was true. “If we take the lead on this everybody else is gonna fall in line. We got a chance here to take charge and get what we want.” Bumpkin laughed at this, but when we looked over, he seemed to be so engulfed in whatever Jughead was doing that Frank waved our attention back.
“There’s no point in talking around it any longer. We may not agree on everything but one way or the other the back-to-school dance is in two weeks and we need to decide who’s going to ask who. This is high school now, boys, and it’s time to get serious.”
|# ? Aug 9, 2021 03:28|