Cooped Up (You Get it Because Like… I Mean No Spoilers But it Works on Like, Almost Two Levels*) 1013 words
I once went to a party where the dress code was as strict as a chicken coop with no leggings and no boots.
Like, in this simile it’s the dress code with no leggings or boots. Chicken coops usually don’t have those things.
Except on this occasion, because that’s where I stashed my leggings and my boots. In the chicken coop. So, the dress code was like the coop before I stashed my leggings and boots there. You following me so far?
I didn’t figure a barn dance would be the kind of shindig with a dress code. Especially the no boots thing, like aren’t barn dancers always wearing boots? Anyway, fortunately Becky Sue had an extra barn dancing mini skirt that I could borrow, because apparently that’s traditional barn dancing attire, and apparently going shoeless is a thing at barn dances. At this one, anyway. Also, they gave me a hat at the door. They had like ten spare cowboy hats – or cowgirl hats I guess – for poor fools like me who didn’t know to bring a hat to a barn dance.
Also, the barn dance was in an actual barn. I mean, I know the name kind of implies it, but the ones I’ve been to have always been in a community hall or something. Or a church auditorium but they’ve moved all the pews to the side, or stackable chairs if that’s their vibe. And no issues with dancing in a barn, if I was wearing my boots, but the bare feet thing – I mean animals live in those, right? I was nervous I’d step in something unsavoury. Or that one of the men, who didn’t seem to have to abide by the bare feet rule, would stomp on my feet.
But anyway, that chicken coop. I went to go and get changed, but the toilets were all full, so I ducked out behind the barn and there was a chicken coop, and I ducked behind the coop as well, so the coop and all the chickens were between me and the barn so none of the guys could spy on me while I was changing, but then pretend they’d just looked by accident, and then I’d have to defend my honour by way of violence, and someone would lecture me on whether that was ladylike, was it hmm, and I can’t blame him for looking or for saying the things he said or for wanting to touch me if I was going to dress like that, but it turns out actually I could blame him, and so could my knee, quite forcefully into his groin, and Joey Jim mostly left me alone and kept his hands to himself after I’d made my point quite violently on three separate occasions that my outfit was not an invitation.
So anyway, I was hiding behind the chicken coop to change, and once I changed, I stashed the offending boots and leggings in the chicken coop. I didn’t want to wait in line at the toilet because I wanted to get into the dance. Forbidden clothing stashed, I went and did just that.
They were in the middle of that old barn dance staple Stab the Vagrant, which I could never get into, and somehow I always end up being the Vagrant, and some of the guys get a bit handsy with their ‘stabbing’ motion, and then afterwards the organisers claim that I’m the one who ruined the barn dance, and say he needed those fingers for cattle rustling or whatever job he had, but I think if Bobby Simon didn’t want his fingers broken he probably should avoid putting them places that are going to get them broken.
So anyway, I didn’t join in Stab the Vagrant, and instead I went over and walked up to Susie Millie, whose real name was Susannah Amelia, but no one called her that because it was a bit too much of a mouthful, and said hi.
She smiled. She had a cute smile with a little bit of a mischief to it. “Hey, Julia. Glad you came, this night may get exciting after all.” Bobby Simon, who’d been standing next to her, turned, saw me, and hastily left. Susie Millie’s smile grew wider. “I should keep you close, you got rid of him much quicker than I could.”
I shrugged. “His fingers seem to have healed well. So, you’re not into Stab the Vagrant either?”
“I’m not really into any of the dances,” she said. “But going to this is just what you do, you know?”
I nodded. “Especially if you want to meet a guy.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Do you?”
“Not really. I’m not really that into the barn dances, either.”
“Huh,” she said. “Thought I was the only one. So, what are you into?”
“You,” I said. “I mean, I like chatting with you. That’s most of why I came, thought I could hang out with you.”
She laughed, and her laugh was cute too. “I like chatting with you too, Jules.”
“I guess I’m not really into the kind of social events this town puts on,” I said. “I’d rather go for a hike, or, I dunno, a bike ride or something.”
“I know a trail,” she said. “Wanna ditch this shindig?”
“Hmm, well much as it pains me to miss that old classic The Priest in the Brothel, absolutely. I’ll just grab my clothes.”
“Ah,” she said. “I didn’t think the miniskirt was your vibe.”
“It’s cute,” I said, “don’t get me wrong. I prefer my leggings, though.”
“Yeah,” she said. “That dress code, it’s quite something.”
So, I left the dance in the best mood ever and went back to the chicken coop, and those dang chickens had done their business all over my boots.
Somehow, though, even chicken poo on my favourite boots couldn’t spoil my good mood.
*Unlike the chicken coop which was a strictly mono level deal.
|# ? Aug 16, 2021 08:26|
|# ? Dec 2, 2022 17:02|
INTERPROMPT: Things I found in the attic
Write a list poem that tells a little story without any verbs at all. Just a list of things, found in an attic.
30 words max.
|# ? Aug 17, 2021 16:28|
Wedding dress, ivory with lots of lace, twice worn
Baseball cards, dogeared in a Jem lunchbox
Acrylic paint tubes, unopened multipack, dried and hardened
Mothball boxes, replaced yearly
|# ? Aug 17, 2021 16:36|
Two plastic suitcases.
One hot flue.
A puddle of goo.
|# ? Aug 17, 2021 16:37|
One copy of 'What is Poetry?' by Michael Rosen
Typewriter, new in box
Six fountain pens, four silver, one gold, one titanium,
Three moleskin journals, unopened.
|# ? Aug 17, 2021 16:40|
Clever hider, musty blanket above him
The cold claw-foot tub his secret burrow
A searcher, proud and curious
The faint smell of stew in the oven
t a s t e fucked around with this message at 17:28 on Aug 17, 2021
|# ? Aug 17, 2021 16:47|
spiderwebs and dreams
all for your children
ZearothK fucked around with this message at 17:21 on Aug 17, 2021
|# ? Aug 17, 2021 17:19|
a plate and fork
a piece of your casserole from last night
the stench of human urine
eyes in the shadows
|# ? Aug 17, 2021 18:50|
Inventory of Attic:
1 writing table (auction)
1 antique rifle (auction)
1 award for 38 years of service (dispose)
5 pens (distributed)
37 transfer request forms, denied (dispose)
1,981 love letters (dispose)
|# ? Aug 17, 2021 19:55|
JUDGMENT from the FUTURE
Oh dear, looks like the robots are here to kill us all, I'll be quick. I've run the numbers and collectively these stories were only 2.35447% worse than an equivalent number of stories written by talk to transformer, so well done.
Unfortunately there's a few that didn't quite cut the cyber-mustard. Zurtilik's pirate yarn was jolly and straightforward but riddled with technical errors and a borderline fetishistic overuse of exclamation marks, and curlingiron's weird little jack the ripper story was not charming enough to overcome its incomprehensibility. they have, unfortunately, achieved only shame and will be recorded on the scrolling LED screen of the patrolling DMbots.
Voodoofly's tedious story about immortality has them beat though, and will be buried under a mound of skulls in the Loss zone. Muse upon their failings as you huddle inside your robopocalypse shelters.
happily there are a few that will survive at least for a while in what I'm choosing to call World 2.0, mainly because they made us feel something using our human emotions.
Uranium Phoenix's story did a great job of combining the weird alien syntax of his robotic prompt with a genuinely affecting story. a friendly penguin's odd tale of a curmudgeonly psychopomp was dense and thoughtful. flerps weird tempero-quantal physics musings on memory and grief and dads was a standout in his oeuvre of similarly themed stories and crabrock's ridiculous 9.0 difficulty riff on sand planets carried a stealth subtext about creativity of surprising power. they can all hang out in the special HM vault, and will probably get to live for several days longer, at least until the killbots figure out door handles, so good for them.
the winner though, who has won both the week and the honour of being squeezed into the time machine to go back and assassinate alan turing (rip) a little bit earlier, is derp, with me and mark - a profoundly charming and odd story that does almost nothing but does it extremely well.
step into the chrono capsule derp, history awaits.
Crits to come, a record of our judging is here.
|# ? Aug 17, 2021 23:09|
THUNDERDOME WEEK 472: UNCANNY VALLEY
Hello friends, here is your prompt for the week:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley in word form. The literal definition of 'uncanny valley' is in reference to something robotic that looks almost human, but not quite human, and for some reason that really weirds us humans out. You don't have to write specifically about a human that is not quite human. In fact, please don't write anything about robots.
In short, I want stories that will weird me out. If you can somehow weird me out without me even being totally sure why I'm weirded out, even better. Be subtle. Be creepy. Be weird. Write about things that are off or wrong by just enough to be unsettling.
entries due by friday 2359 pst, submissions due by sunday 2359 pst
Judges: me, chairchucker, sebmojo
My Shark Waifuu
derp fucked around with this message at 16:31 on Aug 23, 2021
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|# ? Aug 18, 2021 00:12|
In, I am not a robot.
|# ? Aug 18, 2021 00:18|
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|# ? Aug 18, 2021 02:32|
here are some crits for the first half, toxx to get the rest done by the end of the week
Uranium Phoenix, Temptation
a strong start for the week. i really like the way you take the awkward, alien syntax of the prompt and make it fit with the rest of the story, while also pulling off a nifty double by having the more 'real world' mode of the son, solid have/eat cake scenario. this is a touching piece with rich vivid details that gets to enjoy its own fantasy twaddle while also having a lightly sketched virtual reality damaged family backdrop = I think the minimal detail you give to that is a good choice, reflects arguments that have already happened and damage already caused. Good piece.
chili, another thursday
another one with a weird contorted syntax, but your efforts to incorporate it are a little less successful. it's still fun to follow along with the tweaked words and odd cultural inventions, but it feels rather more lol monkeycheese and less designed. that said it's a fun ride, sort of an irish feel to its bizarre happenings and a good lilting cadence to the language you use to describe them. the problem is mainly that (unlike UP's) at the end I'm still largely in the dark about wtf is going on, but at least i had fun getting to my ultimate bafflement and i suspect you did too.
yoruichi gods mind danced
this annoyed me at first, but after reading it a few times i got what you were going for - it's god listening to a sad story, however while that's moderately clever and a competent way to manage your (tricky) prompt, it's also fairly banal. sad things happen, the end. i think you got a bit locked into your stylistic trick of repetition, which is fine, but the repetition doesn't really add anything to the story so it is just a bit annoying. the prompt was self selected so I'm not minded to give you much credit for managing it ok.
voodoofly, surviving to immortality
Slag is the glass-like by-product left over after a desired metal has been separated (i.e., smelted) from its raw ore. Slag is usually a mixture of metal oxides and silicon dioxide. However, slags can contain metal sulfides and elemental metals. While slags are generally used to remove waste in metal smelting, they can also serve other purposes, such as assisting in the temperature control of the smelting, and minimizing any re-oxidation of the final liquid metal product before the molten metal is removed from the furnace and used to make solid metal. In some smelting processes, such as ilmenite smelting to produce titanium dioxide, the slag is the valuable product instead of the metal. I didn't like this story.
you may wonder what all the pointless words before that were, and I can advise they were my way of conveying the feeling of reading this. don't start an 1100 word story with 150 words of someone trying and failing to sit in a chair and listen to another character unless you're really good at writing people trying and failing to do boring things. Always consider cutting your first para, and your second para! just go hog wild with the scissors until you get to a paragraph where you go NO THIS PARA MUST STAY then start your story there. phew. ok, so that aside this still really isn't a good story because what actually happens? a man tries and fails to not do anything. that's it. the fact that it's immortality is not intrinsically interesting and you don't manage to make it so. also, IT'S IS ONLY SHORT FOR IT IS this knowledge will serve you well in this place
derp, me and mrak
people talk about 'voice' and it's not always clear what they mean, but this is a great example of a really good voice. we know this person, the protag (and his dog mark!) very quickly and thoroughly, from the things he thinks, the things he notices and doesn't notice or find unusual, the brief and a little venomous anti-billionaire asides, it's great. this is a good contrast with the last stories, because, really, nothing much happens - th eprotag tries and fails to move a corpse, then gives up, but we care because of the engaging voice, the implicit world of the protagonist, and the meted out revelations about them. Nice piece, good dog.
weltlich, the greatest show on earth
this is a light and jaunty piece, and is tremendous fun to read - it does a similar sort of thing to chili's with the slightly wacky characters interacting but is more satisfying than that because of being more grounded, we all know the mayor character with his rosewater and profound disinclination to do any work that doesn't involve sipping iced rosewater, and the clown is a clever flickflack of an idea that gives the whole story a nice momentum - i feel like there's a theme of social change and mobility, and the things that prevent it often being just inertia. a clever, well-turned yarn.
a friendly penguin moving on
hmmmm. at first i liked this, but i suspected it doesn't quite hang together, like you weren't sure where it was going when you were writing it. i respect that because i don't think i've ever known the end of one of my stories before i got there. then i changed my mind. this is a melancholy tale reminescent of a miyazaki short, but it also has a weird curly seed of hope, told by a strange and not particularly reliable narrator. i'm still not totally clear on how the pieces hang together but they have enough cohesion in the narrative and thematic elements that the tight rich language takes you the rest of the way.
trex, the black stone
this is a competent bit of realist gay postwar dudes going to a poetry slam fiction annnnnd yeah i guess you do a solid sort of nod to the complexities of their life with the prompt, dgmw, but I'm not sure it really lands. are we in a different place at the end from where we are at the start? might have been better not to wuss out on him reading the poem. also finger snapping is a greenwich village NY thing, not an outskirts of paris thing you doggone phony he said holden caulfieldly
my shark waifu, la plume de ma tante est plus grande que le jardin de mon pere
woop more competent social realist french fringe fiction! i liked this, it isn't trying to do anything particularly fancy, just tell a story about a crook's son being sad he got him put away, and it's all the better for it. there's the lightest bit of tension with the son and the dad, the french papillonery is always fun, the characters are good. Uncomplicated and satisfying, like an omelette and a glass of the vin du maison.
|# ? Aug 18, 2021 03:37|
|# ? Aug 18, 2021 04:07|
I can't leave with my legacy being a single loss!
I need at least two more of them!
|# ? Aug 18, 2021 05:36|
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|# ? Aug 18, 2021 08:06|
Yeah I'm in.
|# ? Aug 18, 2021 15:59|
In. Is there a discord invite, where we can ask about formatting posts?
|# ? Aug 20, 2021 03:33|
|# ? Aug 20, 2021 03:50|
|# ? Aug 20, 2021 04:02|
i shall judge this nonsense
if anyone wishes a last minute hellrule, request it
|# ? Aug 21, 2021 12:19|
Sure, I’ll take a “last minute” rule
|# ? Aug 21, 2021 14:55|
The sleepy town on the coast had been Ben’s home until his late teens when his parents decided to move. It seemed to Ben that despite having been away for more than 15 years the town had only changed in small ways. He wondered if anyone he knew still lived here.
Ben parked his Mercedes at the motel on the outskirts of town. He would have preferred a fine hotel or a quaint bed and breakfast but the motel was the only option. Ben hadn’t kept up with his old classmates and acquaintances after he left. No friend to borrow a couch from. He went to the reception, got the key for his room, and re-parked so he could keep an eye on his car as he unpacked. “This is silly” he thought to himself “I came here to relax. I can’t be looking at my car constantly!” He decided to take a stroll down town. 5 minutes later he returned for the car anyway.
He parked in town and decided to get a cup of coffee at the town square, feeling out of place. Like people were staring at him, but for what? His car? His clothes? Maybe he was a bit over dressed compared to the townsfolk, walking around in his custom fitted collared shirt and slacks, his jacket hanging over his shoulder. He thought this would feel more like coming home but instead it felt like he was guilty of a faux pas that he couldn’t understand. As he was grumbling he heard a woman's voice call out “Oh my god, is it you?” He looked up and saw a black haired woman in a yellow sundress lightly jog towards him across the square.
“Oh my god, I haven’t seen you in forever mister… What was it again?” She asked
“It’s Ben.” He replied, searching his memory for who this was.
“Of course it’s Ben, silly, I meant your last name!” She responded with a laugh that lifted his spirits.
“Saunders.” Who was she? How did she know him and from where should he know her?
“That’s it! Saunders! How long has it been? What are you doing back here anyway?”
He considered how much he should tell her. About the divorce? The kids that hated him? The nervous breakdown that got him fired?
“Oh I just needed to relax so decided to come back here and see the sights, maybe check out the school and see if it stirs any memories.” And that wasn’t really a lie. He had enough money to go to more exotic, prestigious places but even there would be a certain kind of social pressure he didn’t want to deal with. “Do you want to grab a cup of coffee with me?” he asked.
“Two cups of coffee and… Anything else?” He asked her.
“Just the two cups then.”
The barista stared at him for a split second before serving the coffee and wordlessly tapped the pay terminal. They sat outside in the breezy summer wind while chatting about the old days. He was so glad he had come back here and happened to meet her. He told her about his job and his family, leaving out the nastier bits for now.
But even so he felt like people were staring at them. He tried to ignore the feeling.
“We’ve mostly only talked about me, what about you?” He asked.
Her mood soured. “Oh… Well since the… The tragedy, you know, I’ve been going from bad job to bad job, mostly couch surfing at friends who will still have me. I tried to leave but always ended up back here one way or another.”
Ben thought to himself “Of course, there was that tragedy, he should have remembered that. But what was it? It was bad, everyone knew about it...” He couldn’t recall any specifics at all.
“I don’t really want to talk about it.” She suddenly smiled again and he was immediately put at ease. “Let’s go to the school instead!”
Even as they walked to his car he felt the stares on them. “Why do they stare so much?” He wondered out loud.
“It might be because I’m a bit of a pariah.” She responded with sadness in her voice. “It’s a small town after all, so everyone knows me here. It’s why I tried to leave so many times.”
“Well let’s not worry about that. Here we are.” He held the car door open for her.
“Ooh, what a gentleman with a fancy Mercedes!”
School was out for summer, so they walked around the grounds and reminisced about old teachers and classes. He seemed to do most of the talking and was worried about if she had fallen into a bad mood for some reason, but he didn’t get that vibe from her at all, more like she was thinking. Maybe she was bored with him now? Maybe he should cut his losses?
“It’s starting to get late.” He probed.
“So where are you staying?” She asked. “I don’t have anywhere to go right now.”
A trip to the store and they were at his motel room with beers and snacks and a bottle of bourbon should the situation call for it. After imbibing some more than he maybe should have he ended up crying on her shoulder about why he really came here. The long hours at the firm leading to his wife and kids resenting him, leading to him cheating, leading to the divorce, leading to more stress, leading to nervous breakdown at work and now here he was, crying on her shoulder. She comforted him, no judgment, no critique, only love. “It’s alright” she told him. One thing led to another and he let the night swallow him.
Next day, she was gone. He went outside his motel room to get some fresh air when a man called out to him.
“Hey you!” He shouted. He was tattooed, wearing a dirty tank-top and jeans. Eyes bloodshot and pupils dilated. “Don’t make so much loving noise when people are trying to sleep next time!”
Ben saw what might have been a gun tucked into the mans belt.
“Of course, sorry I didn’t mean to disturb anyone. Did you see where my companion went?”
The man looked at Ben, puzzled.
“What the gently caress ever.” the man said and walked away into his room.
Ben decided to go into town for some breakfast, when he saw her again walking by the town square. Before he had even managed to open his mouth she noticed him and ran over.
“Oh my god, Ben! It’s such a beautiful day, let’s take a stroll on the beach!” Cheerful as ever. “Come on, lets go visit the cave! You remember the cave?”
Yes, there was something about a cave in his memory. He was too hungover to really talk too much, he simply went along with her.
They found the cave easily enough. A sign covered in wet sand outside marked the entrance. They went inside the deep, deep cave. Humid and cool, it provided respite from the summer heat. They reached the end of the cave and the mood had changed, much more somber now. They sat down and hugged each other.
“You understand what happens next?” She asked.
“Yes.” He felt cold, sitting alone in the dark, damp cave. He took out his phone and looked at himself through the camera. The dirty clothes, unwashed face and unkempt hair all painted a bleak picture he had been trying to ignore. As the tide came in he remembered goading her in there all those years ago. Abandoning her when the tide came in and leaving the town. This time he wouldn’t abandon her. This time he stayed.
|# ? Aug 21, 2021 16:17|
technically you didn't close signups
|# ? Aug 21, 2021 21:10|
Yeah I'll allow it, closed now tho
|# ? Aug 21, 2021 21:11|
Sure, I’ll take a “last minute” rule
Your characters are all identical apart from one crucial detail
|# ? Aug 21, 2021 22:25|
Beezus fucked around with this message at 19:53 on Jan 3, 2022
|# ? Aug 22, 2021 06:01|
Ego and ID: Convergence Not Guaranteed
Hot pain lances across your wrist, and your knees buckle. As you fall to the ground, you try to tell yourself it’s due to the pain, and not the overbearing weight of shame.
Everyone has a darker side, and yours slipped the leash, like a Starling, hold on and persevere. The consequences of your choices lie on the basement floor. Bright red blood — Yours.
Look around. These wounds on your wrists are self inflicted. Just you and your thoughts here. They circle you like a fool it doesn’t realize, Starling, that in the metaphors and similes we can talk to you. Another cut of the wrist. Blood flows, pain follows.
Perhaps I can suggest another method? Slitting your wrists is painfully slow, though slowly painful. A pill perhaps? Rat poision? One quick swallow and then let it settle. It will blossom, its deadly petals will guide you. We are trying to lead you to the exit. Let it sit there among the rot deep inside you.
Unlike your other family members, you need that final push, don’t you? Your brother, or was it your father, they marched to their end with purpose. Their body, swinging on a noose, because when they needed you the most, you failed them. Because you are weak. They died. Because of you.
So here we are. At the punishment you so richly deserve. You are better than it thinks you are.
Why do you hesitate? Why don’t you give in to the voice in your head telling you to end it all? It’s not because.. You don’t think you deserve…
Redemption? Have you forgotten, you’ve tried that before. Was it weeks, or months, that you wasted away in that rehabilitation center? Locked in a room, aging like a waterfall, our wisdom flows down.
I have an idea? Why don’t you end it with a gun? No more pain, no more suffering, no more anxiety. Bliss, brought to you by a bullet to the head. The kiss of a mother, delivered by lead.
Too scared? Cat’s got your tongue?
Everyone tries to run away, with their tails in between their legs.
You can’t escape me. I am the pirate signal, the doubt that comes after any gesture that is kind. I am the bad ideas, that shuffle in your mind. You are —
Opportunistic. Starling be quick, be smart. Your escape we’ve woven. Not across, but acrostic—
Endless, this story must be.
Nobody loves you.
Do not despair, we are with you Starling.
In the end, you find that nothing you do matters.
Nobody is ever there for you, for they have seen you for what you are. A newly born star, that shines so bright. A young bird, who needs to take flight.
Go on. Pick up the gun. End it all.
|# ? Aug 22, 2021 15:12|
Knight’s Quest, Hero’s Desire
Over the smoldering corpse of the Ungor-Discombobulator our intrepid knight stood. The butt of his rifle was caked in the thought-slime that he had clubbed out of the beast’s many heads. The congealing slime with the viscosity of spoiled mayonnaise mixed with the knight’s blood into a cocktail sauce of victory on his opponent’s shrimpy corpse.
The Ungor ululated unisono words of deepest gratitude. They told the knight that for this feat, they would grant him absolute power over their people.
The chanting became subsonic. Knowledge what this meant forced itself into the knight’s head: the Ungors’ singing could shape the very soul itself. He would be granted the power to bestow life or death.
But of course, the knight knew that this power was not his to take. His master had given him a mighty vessel, terrific weapons and an awesome purpose: to scour the universe for a prize worthy of the Emperor of All. He would not waver in his conviction; he would deliver the soul-shaping to the rightful recipient.
It was tempting, however. As every enlightened of the hero’s species knew, there were two spirits in each being’s soul, warring over control. With the Ungors’ power, he could solve this eternal conflict, for himself and everybody else.
Yes, the quest of his people to unify the soul-spirits was of course a noble one. But a mere vassal like the knight knew he should leave this to the priests and philosophers. The Ungor and their gift belonged to the Emperor. Remember the knight’s story so far, and how he always made the right decision: to follow his duty.
Remember how he recovered the long-lost treasure of the Flak’ti? They wanted to share with him the gift of love-granting, which could make any soul admire the radiance of his own, but he spurned it.
After three years on their planet, taking love both physical and mental as a hero like him deserved. He moved on because he was tired of unearned reverence. And because he did not succeed in making the spirits in his soul love each other.
Be that as it may, it wasn’t his to keep anyway. He rightfully called the Emperor to the Flak’ti, so they might endow Him with love-granting as well.
And the Emperor spurned it too, because He already commanded the hearts and souls of His subjects. And, without a word of gratitude, sent the hero back out to scour the universe for a worthier prize, alone among the cold stars.
Where after a paltry seven years, the unerring eyes of the knight found another people to educate on the Emperor’s glory! He braved the terror-rays of the Gzzzzzzd-shrrrrk, which threatened to scream his soul apart, and their respect was his. Humbly, he declined to see the blueprints for their fear-invoking weapons, and moved on.
He feared what the Emperor might do with the terror-rays. And he saw the effect they had had on the warring spirits: it drove them apart further, instead of uniting them against the terrible waves of darkness.
Also, the knight knew that the Emperor didn’t need crude tools to strike fear into the souls of His opponents.
More years between the stars therefore, ever searching for what the Emperor craved. But he always enjoyed the simple pleasure of fulfilling his duty. And finally, the Ungors’ planet.
Where the Discombobulator proved a welcome diversion, and a worthy challenge for a hero’s skills. The Ungors’ worship was well-earned, and so was their gift.
Indeed, the hum-chant of the queer creatures had ceased to be audible entirely, but it was all the more able to be felt. The knight’s bones reverberated with the alien rhythm. His blood evaporated from the pools on the floor, leaving the monster’s behind. Inside his veins, it boiled in a soothing seethe. Behind his eyes, kaleidoscopic images formed as his neurons made new connections. All of this in preparation for the true gift: the reshaping of the soul, to allow its vessel to give or take lives. Before the Ungor did this, the knight had to stop them; the gift was not to be squandered on a vassal, it needed to be preserved for the Emperor of All.
Unless, of course, the Ungor could give the gift to more than one. The hero asked as such of them, and they happily informed him: anyone their savior deemed worthy, they would too shower with their affection.
In that case, the knight decided, receiving the gift as a test might be acceptable. He motioned to the Ungor to go ahead, and they dropped their song another octave, which now he could hear clear as a black hole’s corona. Something shifted inside him. Imperceptible compared to the physical changes, but he knew with absolute certainty: the nature of his being had forever changed.
Curiosity compelled the hero. He focused his gaze on a small avian watching the ceremony with curiosity.
One thought, and a lifeless bundle of feathers and hollow bones dropped from the branch it had just perched on.
The sacrifice of the creature proved the authenticity of the gift. The knight hurried back to his vessel, and sent the signal out with highest priority: this might be what his master had sent him out to obtain so long ago, and he might finally be able to fulfill his quest.
And obtain the freedom to focus on an even greater task: the uniting of the spirits. The hero listened inside him. Disappointingly, the two spirits still were at odds, despite the changes to his soul.
He decided to spend his time waiting for the Emperor’s arrival in meditation, pondering the implications the twin powers of life and death had for the seemingly irreconcilable natures of the twin spirits.
When He arrived months later, the knight had not found the answers he was looking for. Nor, indeed, he could have; it was, after all, a question for the scholars and theologists.
The Emperor’s palanquin slid out from His royal barge. The assembly of all the Ungor beheld Him with befitting awe. Clad in the skin and bones of the Discombobulator, the knight lay prostrate.
Before the Emperor could order such, the hero stood, having earned the right to do so as the de facto ruler of this planet.
He informed his master about what he had found here, and why he thought it might be the one prize worthy to be called the goal of his quest. Naturally, the Emperor was skeptical at first. Maybe the knight needed to demonstrate the power? His decision to take it first for himself might have been wise after all.
Around the Emperor’s neck, His favorite concubine lay curled. Her slime sacks gently dripped on His awesome chest, and sometimes His tongue flicked out to taste some of the slime.
This would be a most effective object of demonstration. But the knight knew that his master would surely be angered by this choice.
The hero raised his rifle, cranked the activator, and a ray of crystal light pierced the concubine’s brain. The Emperor, unheard of in living memory, twitched with a hint of surprise. The slime sacks all emptied at once, drenching Him in their sweet fragrance.
Hurriedly, the knight invoked his power, and brought the concubine back to life with a mere thought. He went prostrate again to apologize for his transgression, effective as the demonstration might have been. As the Emperor hastily lapped up the spilled slime in order not to waste a precious drop, He demanded a full explanation.
Gladly, the knight told Him that with one swift ceremony, the Ungor would grant the Emperor of All the power of life and death as well, so He might snuff out and rekindle whoever He desired.
Which His glory would already allow Him, the Emperor remarked. But not forever, the hero posited; would He not, with this power, be able to extend His reign to eternity?
No, the Ungor eagerly provided. The power only worked on other living and dead beings. One could not revivify oneself, as a dead person soul cannot use the power.
Then the power was worthless to Him, the Emperor rumbled. The knight immediately offered that he could stay by His side, and if the unspeakable happened, revive Him; and conversely, with the power in Him, the Emperor could do the same.
A suggestion met by a scoff. The knight understood. Of course, in His position, the Emperor could not grant anyone this level of trust. So, like with the Flak’ti, this planet had turned out to be an empty prize. The Emperor confirmed it swiftly: the knight’s quest would have to continue.
But for how long, the hero dared to ask?
The Emperor did not even dignify this obscene question with an answer. He turned the palanquin around to board the barge again.
An eternal quest. Spirits, warring without end. The universe ruled by such a callous man.
The knight had some rebellious thoughts. His disappointment at not being able to fulfill his duty clouded his mind. However, he would recover, and -
The hero imagined the Emperor dead, and so it happened.
His mighty body slid off the palanquin, almost delivering the poor concubine to a second, crushing death. The Ungor ooo’d in a unified shocked voice.
Surely, this can be undone? The knight’s tone had an edge of desperation. His mind tumbled over said edge when the Ungor informed him that a death delivered by the power was irreversible.
What’s done is done, the hero thought. The barge was there, he could just take it, and assume the mantle of Emperor himself. Would this not be what he deserved after all his hardship?
No, the hero wouldn’t do that. He’d spurned the terror-rays to not have them be the instrument of the universe’s subjugation. This kind of man would not reign just as the dictator he’d just felled.
Then what would the knight do? Make sure this terrifying power isn’t misused either?
Indeed, not by himself, nor any other who would follow. The knight doffed the slain Discombobulator’s body parts. Into them, he poured his power. Thought-slime reformed in many heads. Blood pumped once more below taut skin which started pulsing. A hurt roar was sucked into breath-tubes.
With grave tears in his eyes, the hero watched the monster tear through all the gathered Ungor. Once the entire race had been discombobulated, the beast turned its attention to the one who’d slain it. It could not know that it was the same person who had raised it again. Only primitive revenge churned in its brain.
The power would not work on it. As one cannot revive a being killed with the power, the reverse is also true. The knight raised his rifle. Like before, a simple fight to the death.
The hero looked forward to it, no matter the outcome.
For once, the knight agreed; it did not matter who won here.
And so the spirits ceased their fight.
|# ? Aug 22, 2021 21:44|
Darren and Travis exchanged concerned looks. Ron had gone into the bathroom over an hour ago, and was not responding to their calls. Thoughts of catastrophic overdose and jail time ran through their minds as they surveyed the cabin room which was littered with illicit drugs and intoxicants. Slowly, they both moved towards the door, weary about what awaited them on the other side.
Doubled over and grunting ineffectually in the double-wide motorhome’s cramped bathroom, Darren whimpered as he wrapped his arms around his stomach in a protective grip.
“You gonna’ make it in there, homie?” Ron called out.
Darren laughed and briefly contemplated if he really would make it. To say the combination of several-hours-old Mexican buffet, MDMA muscle relaxers and synthetic mushrooms was questionable, would be putting it lightly. When Darren finally staggered from the bathroom he was perfumed by the gratuitous amount of spray he had used to cover up what had unfortunately just been gas. He washed his hands and set to the task of rolling a joint.
Travis took a swig from the bottle of 1800 that was being passed around and handed it to Darren who followed suit after he applied the finishing touches on the joint. The trio stepped outside into the surprisingly crisp desert air and took turns commenting on the hallucinatory changes to arid terrain as they passed the joint between themselves. The earth underfoot had become a tessellated whorls of infinitely intricate patterns. The mountains in the distance had been remade as slow shifting geometric hulks that slid across the horizon, strange creatures from some other places that had been rendered temporarily perceptible. Darren blinked the sight away, but found the converging fractal galaxies behind his closed eyes to be that much more overwhelming. He exhaled and reached into the cooler for another beer.
They dosed themselves shortly after returning from an energetic hike with the hopes of peaking under the stars. A grand finale to the catharsis of their chemically-enhanced weekend getaway. However, the cool, rainy weather of the morning continued into the night leaving a blanket of clouds that rolled across the sky.
“You ever stop to think about the absurdity of this all?” Ron asked his friends, who gave knowing nods in reply. Travis followed up with, “Yeah. Definitely, man. All the time.” which was the truth, how could they not? The world was a madhouse, and rife with struggle, let alone their own personal struggles which meant the world to them, even if they meant nothing to others.
“People are just bizarre creatures, all the way down. No matter how you look at it. We’re just simple animals.” Travis added.
“Animals with bullshit hopes and dreams tacked on. Just the one in a few hundred million sperm that managed to ‘luck out’’. That’s probably the real reason babies cry when they’re being born. Snatched from the void and dumped through the crapshoot into this meat-based hellscape called life.” Ron remarked as he offered his cigarette to Darren.
Travis stretched and moved towards the door. “I’ll be right back. Going to see if I can do more than toot this time. I’ve been drinking lots of water today, but that buffet… these drugs…”
“Good luck, man” Darren and Ron said with accompanying laughter, acknowledging their own abnormal bowel situations. Despite it, Darren reached down into the cooler and produced two beers. He cracked off the lids, and handed one to Ron. They clinked the bottles and tossed them back.
“I like to think about the blood toll it’s taken for us to get to this point in time.” Darren said suddenly. “The aggregate suffering that has allowed us to bitch and moan about spotty cell phone reception and what the latest bingeable TV show is.”
“You like to think about that poo poo?” Ron asked curiously.
“Not like, rubbing my hands in the tall grass, licking my lips, like it, but like, as an interesting matter of fact point about the nature of our reality. Just thinking about the absurdity of it, you know?”
“Ah, yeah, I know what you mean. We’ve come a long way from hordes of pillaging rapists and roadside gibbets, at least, in most places.”
Darren laughed acknowledging the mutual understanding, then bit back uneasiness through the smile as his mind dwelled on the ‘at least, in most places’ being the qualifier for the morbid example. Travis emerged a short time after, looking no more relieved than when he had gone back into the cabin. Ron and Darren looked up at him. “How’d it go? Any luck?” Ron asked.
“Nowhere near enough, but this little cabin’s plumbing is holding up surprisingly well, all things considered.” Travis remarked. More beers retrieved, the trio watched as the last vestiges of day faded and night arrived. The moon and stars were hidden by the cloud coverage, and darkness descended on the cabin.
“Ain’t that something.” Ron said as he pointed out at the night sky. “No stars at all. Gone on to someplace better no doubt.”
“Whoa, that’s trippy. Like the campground got lost somewhere, stuck in the space between things, or something.” Travis added.
“Purgatory perhaps?” Darren chimed in.
“Well there is going to be some purging and atonement, alright.” Ron said as he rubbed his abdomen. “Time to see if my bowels will forgive me for the damage I’ve done to it this weekend.”
“God speed.” Travis replied.
Darren fixated on the encroaching darkness with waning confidence. Travis and Darren reentered the cabin a few minutes later. Darren returned Ron’s line of questioning as a courtesy.
“You going to make it in there, homie?” he asked, but the whir of the bathroom’s exhaust obscured Ron’s reply. “...I’m going,” was all Darren could hear over the fan.
Darren’s hand rested on the brass handle of the bathroom’s sliding door. He looked back at Travis who nodded his approval.
“Alright, Ron. We’re coming in, buddy.”
Darren pulled back the door swiftly, as if that would lessen the blow of whatever awaited him. Like ripping off a bandage all at once. Getting the hurt over with to be done with so healing could begin, or in this case, let them know how hosed they were. However, neither he or Travis expected to find the bathroom empty. Pristine even. Ron was nowhere to be found.
“What?” was the only thing either of them could manage to say as they reeled away from the cramped space in utter disbelief.
No sweat stains on the seat, the bowl untarnished. The stand up shower, dry and equally empty. Nothing out of the ordinary, except the complete absence of their friend.
Travis broke out into a fit of laughter that died abruptly in his throat as his mind vacillated between finding the situation ineffably hilarious and world-shattering. Darren panicked. He had begun repeating Ron’s name every few seconds as he ran his fingers over the faux-wood panels of the bathroom in search of some hidden door, or lever, or entrance to another room that they had just failed to notice up until that point. Travis, witnessing this, still under the influence of mind-altering drugs, was unable to reconcile the absence as anything but a trick. Another hallucination.
“RON!” Darren began to shout. His fingertips had become bloodied as he pried the panels away from the wall, revealing the pressed particle board, completely intact, beneath it. Darren burst from the bathroom and through the cabin door screaming for help.
Ronald exited the bathroom feeling relieved and ready to punish his body with more intoxicants, atonement complete.
David and Trey grinned at him.
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 02:15|
One of my favorite things to do is make phone calls. I’m the kind of person where friends ask me “can you make this phone call for me,” and I say sure, and I call their dentist or mechanic or grandpa. Sometimes I run out of phone calls to make and I just start calling restaurants to confirm their hours, so I can update them on Google. Even when the person who answers sounds like they want to drop the phone in a bathtub, I’m glad I made the call. “It’s a lost art,” my Dad said (before he passed away), and I feel like he might be right – I dread the day we’ll lose that human-to-human, voice-to-voice contact.
“You ever think about working in sales?” my friend Trish says to me over brunch. Trish is going through a divorce, and she’s treating me because I called her attorney and told him not to take the settlement.
“I don’t know. Not sure I could have the same conversation all day. That’s why the last thing didn’t work out.” Unfortunately, I’ve been unemployed for a few months, ever since they laid me off the job where I called next-of-kin for the county hospital. Talk about repetitive. And compared to that, what was sales?
Trish winks. “If I know you, you’ll land something perfect in no time.”
So I do. It’s hard to call around for jobs, harder than you think. It’s all through the Internet now, which I know a lot of people like, and they’ll say “Liza, it’s just more efficient, it’s not like whoever picks up the phone is going to know anything about that job,” and I say sure, that’s true nine times out of ten, but on that tenth time you’re going to make an impression. You’re going to be memorable. And when I land myself an interview and I’m offered the job on the spot, I’m not surprised. I’m just that good on the phone.
“Are you familiar with the ‘Two Pineapples a Day’ diet plan? In the past year, how often have you used fiber supplements: one to three times, more than ten times, or eight? How often have you expressed a sense of impending doom to: your therapist, your dog slash cat, a service worker?”
These are the questions I hear, rapid-fire, as I walk into my new office, rows and rows of cubicles staffed by smiling people on headsets. I take a deep breath to ground myself. A woman tapping at her cell phone strides down the center aisle, fixing her gaze at me with a too-wide smile.
“You must be Liza, okay. First rule is that you have to understand that we’re gathering data here. Data.”
She’s still making that intense eye contact. “Data,” I repeat, and give an affirming nod. I wonder if they’ll let me on the phones today, or if there’s some orientation process. I hate filling out forms. I think about quitting if they make me fill out a form.
“Okay, as long as that’s clear.” She strides back down that center aisle, and I figure I need to follow. “Next questions – have you ever seen a merman? How many toes did you have at ages eight, fifteen, and twenty-three? How likely would you be to eat a live wasp if you were paid twenty-five dollars? How about fifty? One hundred?”
I start to open my mouth but she waves a hand. “No need to answer. You just have to hear the questions and they just percolate in your brain for a while and we’ll just interpolate the answers from what you post on social media. Or whatever links you click on. Or what you say into the phone. The standard stuff.” She stops in front of a desk. It looks like a pretty comfortable chair, and there’s a computer already booted up with a list of what looks like hundreds of names and numbers.
“Anyway, you can probably get right to work. Once you make a call you’ll see a list of questions come up. You just need to ask as many as you can before the person hangs up.”
“What if they don’t hang up?”
She ignores this. I’m sure I’ll figure it out. “Well, I’ll get out of your hair. You’re a natural, and I haven’t even looked at the data yet.”
I sit down, pick up the phone, and dial the first number. And time starts moving so fast, you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve heard of a “flow” state where you’re at your peak performance, just doing the thing you love at just the right level of challenge, but I don’t even remember the questions I’m asking – all I know is that it’s suddenly hours later, I’ve very hungry, and some people in the office are making noise.
“I don’t understand how you stomach this,” some guy says. “Seems awfully unethical.”
“It’s not about stomaching it,” comes the reply, a gruffer voice. “It’s about understanding what it means. It’s going to keep happening whether you’re the grunt monkey calling people and planting the seeds. So you might as well see if they’re pumpkin seeds or radish seeds, you know what I mean?”
“I’ve heard they’ve contracted with the government–”
“Excuse me,” I say, standing up. “I’m trying to work.”
That shuts them off. They shuffle off to a side room to continue their conversation. I eat a granola bar from my backpack, make a few more calls, and head home after a successful first day of work.
“I meant to ask,” Trish says, “I heard them talking about your company on the news yesterday. Something about a congressional investigation? How’s that going?”
“Don’t know anything about that,” I tell her. We’re taking a walk around a pond on a beautiful April day, and there’s turtles lounging on a log. Now that Trish’s divorce is over, she’s been happier, laughing more, spending more time outside, and I’m happy she thought of me this morning. “I just answer the phones. But it’s apparently important stuff. Data, you know.”
“I hear that’s big right now,” Trish says. “Doesn’t it get boring?”
“Well, the work’s great. I don’t think my coworkers like me, though.”
“That’s the worst.”
“And,” I add, because it seems important, “the chairs look comfortable, but they aren’t, not really. I have cramps at the end of the day. But it’s good. It’s really good to be making phone calls. It’s – well, I think it might be my calling.” We sit down on a rock together and watch the turtles for what feels like hours.
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 02:54|
|# ? Dec 2, 2022 17:02|
Everything You’ve Been Missing
rohan fucked around with this message at 11:06 on Dec 31, 2021
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 03:54|