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sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Mystery Flavor
1080 words

“What’s up, fuckers? It’s Donnie Danger here with another shithead stunt. My lucky buddy here has twenty pints of Tip Top Tasty rum raisin ice cream in front of him. Hey Donnie Den, you hear about Tip Top Tasty? Oh yeah, that’s the ice cream startup that recalled this exact flavor because someone found glass inside.” (He’d edit in a window-breaking sound effect in post.) “What kind of sicko puts glass in ice cream, where some grandpa or whoever-the-gently caress else eats rum raisin could get hurt? I don’t know, but that sick gently caress is gonna be pretty happy when he sees Larry take a heaping spoonful of twenty pints of glass cream. Who’s ready for Rum Raisin Roulette?”

I had some reservations about this plan. For one, I’m lactose intolerant, and there’s only so much a Lactaid pill can do. Also, I feel like I needed to do some research on eating glass first.

“Pause it,” I told Donnie. “I’m not sure about the health implications of this.”

“There’s probably not going to be any glass in the ones you’re tasting,” Donnie said, “but it makes for pretty good content.”

“I don’t know. Generally I don’t eat food if there’s even a one percent chance that there’s glass in it.”

“Don’t be such a nerd.” This was classic Donnie. Back in high school he played like five sports, and went on long swinging-dick monologues about how he went harder than anyone. In college he got hurt playing football and pivoted to his Jackass-lite YouTube empire.

“How about we just melt down a bunch of pints and see if we can find any glass?”

“Yeah, we’re not trying to be Bill Nye the Science Guy, we’re trying to make people watch this whole thing cringing, all like ‘oh poo poo, that dude’s about to cut his tongue off.’”

“The problem I have with that is I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to cut my tongue off.”

“You have insurance, right? You’ve got like, an office job or some poo poo like that.” He took out his wallet and handed me $500 in hundreds. “C’mon, eat the loving glass. I’ll throw in another $500 if you try all 20 pints. Like, how much glass could there be?”

A cool grand changed things. Maybe there wouldn’t be any glass at all. Most people go their whole lifetimes without ever encountering glass in their ice cream, I reasoned, so maybe I’d actually be fine. I nodded, and Donnie promptly blindfolded me and handed me a spoon. “Dig in, spermnugget.” I was a little hurt, but I knew he didn’t mean it personally, it was just for the fans.

The spoonfuls from the first few pints were uneventful, just the great taste of rum raisin ice cream. On the fifth pint, I felt something hard in my mouth and spit it out, but Donnie looked at it and it was just someone else’s tooth. We got all the way to pint fifteen, and I was starting to think that Donnie was going to have a pretty boring video.

And then I felt something hard and sharp.

My first thought was “oh poo poo, I’m going to need tongue stitches,” but my next thought was “this isn’t glass.” Whatever I had inside my mouth, it was dissolving. Candy glass?

But then I felt the other changes. My muscles started jiggling, and I could literally feel my veins begin to bulge. My spine began to stretch like a firm Slinky. Suddenly I didn’t want to eat ice cream for money anymore. I wanted to reclaim my dignity.

I tore off the blindfold and stood up, my body still expanding. “I’m not going to be your guinea pig anymore,” I said to Donnie, except it didn’t sound like that. I wasn’t sure what I was saying, but based on the look on Donnie’s face, it didn’t make much sense, so I just communicated the same idea by picking up one of the pints of ice cream and pushed it into his face. He grunted and tried to wrestle me to the floor, but since I was two feet taller than him now, I just picked him up by the leg.

I took a moment to consider the true tragedy of Donnie, trapped by toxic masculinity into performing a facsimile of a warped ideal into a camera every week. Also I’d totally agreed to do the thing he told me to do. I placed him gently down onto his bench press rack.

I wasn’t sure of where else to go, so I figured I would go to the Tip Top Tasty world headquarters to see if they knew anything about the Magic Hulk Sugar Glass. Unfortunately I was too big to get in my car, so I just straddled a passing city bus and rode it to the airport. People on the sidewalks were taking pictures of me, and I waved and tried to greet them but they just recoiled when I opened my mouth.

When I got off and ducked into the airport lobby, there were TVs showing the news. One of them was showing me riding down the highway on top of the bus. Another one was a bunch of financial analysts, talking about how the glass ice cream was really going to hurt Tip Top Tasty’s upcoming IPO.

I tried to buy tickets to the Boise headquarters but the clerk wasn’t sure I could fit in the cabin so he wouldn’t let me, even when I got a little heated and was making those weird mouth sounds. I wasn’t sure what else to do so I just sat down in the airport lobby and glowered at the tiny little people who walked by.

“Excuse me, sir,” an airport employee said, “but apparently, the CEO of an ice cream company wants to see you? Please don’t hurt me.”

I opened my mouth, but, since she winced, I just nodded. A few minutes later, she returned with a man dressed all in purple.

“Hello, my tall friend,” he said, bowing dramatically. “My name is Mason C. Tomlinson, founder and inventor of the Tip Top Tasty corporation. You must wonder what’s happened to you upon sampling my delicious confection. You see, we aren’t just an ice cream company. We’re actually–”

Uninterested in a long, boring monologue from Willy Wonka, I started making a bunch of noise again. He put up his arms.

“Okay, okay, my dear friend, I understand. My ice cream has rather transformed you, and I am committed to Making It Right. So what can I offer you? Mayhaps a cash settlement?”

“Stock!” I said. “Stock stock stock!”

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derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again



Lipstick Apathy

My Katana

words: 1285 (plus 1000)


I was born to be a creator. A world builder, if you will. There is always a pen in my hand that pukes unique ideas onto the pages of my various notebooks. Creators are just born that way. An extra gland in our hippocampus excretes liquid ideas which drip out our noses in the form of blood. Extremely concentrated, high proof ideas. Ruby ideas of pure crystalline beauty, gushing constantly from our noses and mouths, and you know what? People take advantage. They scurry around with their filthy dishrags called dollar bills and soak up all the shimmering excretions, which are ours by right. If you are one of us creators, it has probably happened to you. If not, it will happen soon. You will be taken advantage of. I was taken advantage of. The swollen parasite who took advantage of me and stole my ideas was the video game designer and producer John Romero.

But we must start at the beginning--in the bedroom of my youth, in 1996, Dallas, Texas. I was 14 years old and at the peak of my creative output. I say ‘peak’ but I should say ‘plateau’ because my output has never dipped. My brain is forever in hyperactive creative mode. Picture the towering Mount Roraima in Venezuela; it pierces the clouds, yet is perfectly flat and consistent.

You see, I have always been a genius. People who talk about ‘growth’ and ‘becoming a better person’ are simply glossing over the reality that they were a useless mess in the past, and have now repaired themselves. This does not apply to me. As a teen I was a creative genius, and I still am. Improvement would be impossible.

On that particular day in November I had just completed the final page in my notebook of ideas. I closed it with a satisfied smile and tied it with a leather band. I heaved the sigh that mothers heave while watching their children succeed. Ah, yes, the joy of creation. My ideas were and are completely unique and unmatched in creativity. Those precious pages included dozens of characters, worlds, plotlines, ideas for magic systems, future technologies, and detailed descriptions of battles, as well as ideas for novels--72 novel ideas in total at that time.

No one would have guessed, seeing that tatted and bulging notebook in the hands of a teenage boy, just how valuable it was.

With that priceless treasure tucked safely under my arm I walked to the local Kinko’s Copies, so that I could scan, print, and bind my journal into book form. Publishing, as everyone knows, automatically copyrights the published material. I was in the habit of copyrighting all my ideas.

I entered the Kinko’s with a full heart and a happy grin. “Good day, sir!” I said to the copyman. Politeness is a sign of intelligence, and I was always very polite. “I would like to make 200 copies today!” For that was the number of pages in my journal.

“Yeah sure whatever,” said the copyman, and he flipped a lock of hair out of his face. He had strikingly beautiful hair, long and flowing gracefully like a river down his back.

I went to the nearest copier and began to scan the pages one by one, turning my journal carefully each time, gingerly, as if I were laying a delicate artwork onto the glass. As the warm printed pages glided out into the receiving tray like so many children being born, I noticed the copyman was watching me closely. That is to say, he watched the printer, and the pages of my journal being born. His eyes glinted with what, at the time, I thought was curiosity. Oh how wrong I was.

I brought the warm and heavy stack of pages to the counter. “Excuse me sir, might I request some binder clips for these papers?” I asked politely.

“I’ll do you one better, kid,” said the copyman. “I’ve got a binding machine in the back, I can make it into a proper book for you in five minutes.”

“Why thank you sir, that is very kind and generous of you,” I replied in a polite manner, and handed him the papers.

The instant he was out of sight, the subtle cues and hints of the past moment began to process in my powerful brain. One: I had never known Kinko’s to do bookbinding, and if they had added such a service, I surely would have been asked to pay up front, or at least told the price. Two: that glint in the copyman’s eyes did not look like curiosity after all. It looked like hunger. Ravenous, passionate hunger for that which was not his. Three: no mere copyman would have such luxurious hair.

My body kicked into gear and I vaulted over the counter. I ran into the back room: empty, no sign of a binding machine anywhere. The back door was open and I dashed out just in time to see a red sports car squealing out of the parking lot and into the street. I sprinted after it, but it sped away faster than any teen could run, shrinking into a black spot on the horizon that was soon obscured by the fire of the setting sun.

That day, the worst day of my life, was November the 14th, 1996. The next day, November the 15th, John Romero founded Ion Storm and began work on DaiKatana.

You see, the copyman who stole my pages that day was John Romero himself. I realized this upon the release of DaiKatana, the first game of Ion Storm. The plot and character design and game mechanics, all of it was an exact copy of the first page of my notebook. As soon as he’d seen the very first page, Romero must have known the immense value and fled with the treasure. Since then, all his success and fortune are due entirely to that single moment, that single decision to steal my ideas.

I’m sure you doubt me. Everyone does. So, for proof I have added a picture of the original first page of my notebook:




You can clearly see the obvious parallels between this and the DaiKatana video game -- DaiKatana even translates as ‘big sword!’ It could not be clearer. But if you need it to be clearer, it could be, because there’s more.

I will list three novel ideas from the list in my notebook. You can assume the rest of the list of 72 are each as potent.
  • A goblin king kidnaps an elf princess, only to learn that the princess is half goblin. War ensues.
  • A young farm boy falls in love with an elf princess, she spurns him, but then learns he is secretly a prince. War ensues.
  • A diamond thief steals the crown jewels of an elf princess, only to learn the gems are worthless fakes. War ensues.
Sound familiar? That’s no surprise. My plotlines are being used and reused across the entertainment world to this day. How? I’ll tell you how. Romero sold my notebook page by page, to sustain his parasitic life. Every entertainment company on the planet must have at least one idea from my notebook.

Not a week goes by when I don’t see a new movie, TV show, or game and know with the certainty of a parent seeing their long lost child: That was mine! Mine! I can’t go to the cinema anymore because I’ve been banned for making disturbances. My friends no longer mention a single topic related to entertainment when I’m around. Every night without fail I stare into my bathroom mirror and scream: DaiKatana is my katana!

My katana, John! Mine!

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help



The Jukebox in the Corner
2076 words

There wasn’t much to the Daily Pint. Dark wood. Dim lights. A few people at the shuffleboard table along one wall. Long mirror, bottles of whiskey, a line of taps, and Michael tending bar along the other wall. And tucked into the corner, tubes bubbling away in an ever changing neon glow, stood a jukebox. A jukebox that, for perhaps the first time in recent memory, was playing Billy Joel.

“It was always burning since the world’s been turning . . .” the jukebox sang. A man stood up and finished his beer in a quick if not undignified fashion. Aware of the stares from around the room, he turned to the door, exiting without a word.

Ali remained seated at what had been their table until the song was over. Holding her beer aloft, she gave one last thought to another first date abruptly cut short, offering a silent toast and thanks to her loyal jukebox. The jukebox never failed, she thought. Some people did double dates when meeting someone new. Some people had their friends hide at the location to offer thoughts afterward. Not Ali. All Ali needed was to introduce her date to the jukebox and the truth would be revealed.

With the song over, Ali stood and headed to the bar, to Michael. She thought back to the night a friend first brought her to the Pint, introducing her to a tall, brooding, handsome bartender in A Tribe Called Quest shirt. Before that night Ali hated beer. Before that night Ali had never heard, or even heard of, A Tribe Called Quest. But she kept coming back to the Pint, to Michael, listening to him wax poetic about bands, about hops, about peet, about movies. She would catalogue them all, then spend the next few nights relentlessly researching everything she could. Waiting, hoping, for the time when he would see her the way she saw him.

***

Michael nodded to Ali as she sat down. Finishing an order, he took a moment to check her out as she finished her beer. Ali had a different look tonight. Well, different from her last few failed dates. Every one seemed to bring out a different side of Ali, and if Michael was being honest, tonight was the best version of Ali he had seen yet. As Michael walked over to her he wondered if maybe it was time to finally get over his nerves and ask her out.

“Well that was quick,” Michael said, placing a new pint on the bar in front of Ali. “Interesting choice too. What did you say when it came on?”

“Nothing!” Ali laughed. “What? I didn’t say anything to him! You heard the song. Everyone in here heard it.”

Michael nodded. He, like everyone else, had definitely heard it. “Right. So what did you ‘not’ say that made him rush the door?”

Ali started laughing again, holding her hand up to her mouth, trying to compose herself as Michael dried off a glass and waited. After a moment she was able to talk. “I had just asked him to put something on that he thought I would like,” she said, fighting off another laugh.

“And he picked Billy Joel?”

“Right! I mean, look at me. Did you not read my profile? Or see what I’m wearing?” she asked, pointing to the pins on her leather jacket. “Why, how, would he think I like “We Didn’t Start the Fire?” I mean, I could sort of understand if he went for like a deep cut off Turnstiles, or maybe “The Stranger” even. Hell, get me drunk and I’ll sing along to “Piano Man” just like everyone. But that?”

Michael, drying a glass, didn’t have an answer. “Alright, but still, you didn’t say anything?”

“Nothing, I swear!” Ali was smiling again, and Michael noticed her cheeks starting to blush.

‘What am I waiting for?’ he thought, thinking back to all the times he had come this close before.

Ali, mistaking Michael’s contemplation for skepticism, continued. “Fine, alright. I didn’t say anything, but I laughed. Ok?”

“You laughed?” Michael put the glass down, focusing all of his attention on her.

“Yes,” she said. “When the song came on he just started on and on about how none of us know anything about modern history, how they don’t teach it in school, but they should. You know, the important stuff, the stuff that matters. How, if they cared about really teaching us, we should be studying these lyrics, not some speech from the past. Then he said, and this is a quote, he said ‘This song is America.’ And I couldn’t help it, I laughed.”

Ali smiled, playing the events over in her head one more time, then raised her glass. “To the jukebox,” she toasted. Michael, raising a glass of his own, toasted back. “To the jukebox, and Ali never having a second date again!”

***

After their sip, Michael grabbed a sharpie from the bar and they headed over to the corner. Opening the glass case, Michael fished out the card with Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits. “You want the honor tonight?” he asked, handing the card and pen to Ali.

“Sure.” She took the pen, blacked out the song, and put it back in the jukebox’s case, closing it with a click.

“Should we journey through your hits?” he asked, flipping through the jukebox’s catalogue. “Right, here’s one. “Lightning Crashes.” Remember him?”

“He was a loser.” She flipped a few pages, then spotted another blackout. “Mr. “Ironic”, he was a bust.”

“What’s wrong with Alanis?” he responded.

“Presumptive misogyny” she replied, flipping through the album cards.

“And “Machinehead?” he asked, pointing to another black out.

“Seriously, Bush? Why do you even have that in here?” Her face was in mock disgust.

“It came with the box. Stop trying to change the subject,” he said, flipping more cards. “What about here? Why is there a Stevie Wonder song crossed off?”

“Nope, uh uh, you’re not tricking me.” She jabbed her finger at the blacked out line. “This, this here isn’t Stevie. This is “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” How does one go from musical genius to utter banality?. Look at all these classics. “Sir Duke” “Superstition,” “Pastime Paradise?” Look, he could have even at least picked “Ebony and Ivory.” Sure, it also blows, but at least it would have been interesting.”

“But still no second date, right?” Michael asked, turning back from the jukebox.

“Oh, no chance.” She said, turning with him.

“Yeah, fair point,” he said, inching slightly closer as they made their way back to the bar.

***

Both were silent as they returned, each trying to figure out how to finally broach the subject. Michael failed first, asking if she wanted another pint. Ali nodded and he started pouring her a new glass. “I like that shirt by the way,” she said, pointing. “Low End Theory, right? It’s the same one you wore the first time I was here.”

Michael looked down at his shirt before responding. “Yeah, I guess it’s a favorite of mine.” Placing her drink on the bar, he worked up his courage. “Can I ask you something? Why do you keep bringing dates here?”

“The jukebox.” She pointed to the corner, the bubbling tubes radiating neon green.

Michael was undeterred. “No, I mean what do you expect to happen? With the jukebox. You probably know the catalogue by heart now. What song does some poor schmuck have to pick to earn an elusive second date?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Ali replied, cursing the sarcasm as quickly as it left her tongue. Not waiting for a response, she continued. “But I don’t know what song would earn another date. That’s sort of the point. All I want, all I’ve been looking for, is to hear something cool. Something that speaks to me. Something exciting.” ‘Something, or someone’ she thought.

Michael bussed her old glass before following up. “So you want someone who knows more than you. Despite the fact that you know everything?”

“Hey, I don’t know everything!” she interjected, cheeks fully in blush.

Michael, drying another glass, continued. “Despite the fact that you pretend to know everything.”

Ali waited a moment. “Yes.”

He picked up another glass to dry, his eyes focused on her alone. “So, another snob like you?”

Ali put her drink down, looking directly at Michael. “Someone with selective taste like me, yes.”

Michael, having finished drying every glass in the vicinity, put his towel down below the bar. “I’m a snob like you,” he said, then poured another drink.

***

A minute or so of silence passed, during which Michael took a drink and Ali held her breath. “You never let me answer your question, you know,” he said, setting down his glass.

“Which question?” She held her breath again.

“About wanting to know,” he said. “To know what song would earn me a second date.”

“Jumping the gun, aren’t we?” It came out half stuttered, half whimpered, the sarcasm fighting past the breath held in her throat. Ali screamed inside, looking down to her beer, not noticing Michael’s smile as she tried to recover. “Sorry. I just meant, don’t we sort of have to have a first date, uh, first? Unless, you know, tonight counts as our first date.”

Ali looked back up. Michael returned her gaze, each of their eyes asking the same question. A moment passed before Michael, pointing towards the jukebox, responded. “I suppose I should go over, then, and make it official.”

Ali reached across the bar, stopping Michael as he turned. “I just realized something. After all this, I’ve still never picked a song of my own.” Not waiting for a response, Ali rose off her stool, headed to the corner. To the bubbling yellow tubes, and the truth. She didn’t have to think about what to play. There was only one song, the perfect song, for a snob like her to play for a snob like him. She flipped open the catalogue. Put in a bill. Hit the number. Waited. Waited for that perfect moment, when the doubled bassline struck, to make her return.

Michael couldn’t believe it. He was quietly tapping his foot as she sat down. “Can I Kick It,” he said, subtly nodding his head to the beat. “My favorite.”

She took his fingers in one hand, clasping around his palm. “Lucky guess, I suppose.” She traced hearts on the back of his hand as she continued. “The jukebox doesn’t have Tribe, though. I had to go with Lou Reed instead.”

Michael, lulled by the bass and her fingers, jerked his head at her response. “Wait, this is Lou Reed?”

“Yeah, “Walk on the Wild Side,” she said, almost in unison with the chorus. Their eyes remained locked. Ali smiled at Michael. Michael smiled back, a smile of relief.

“I never realized Lou Reed sampled Tribe” he said, still smiling, his grip tightened ever so slightly on her fingers. “Someone like Lou Reed, at his age, sampling Tribe. That’s pretty cool.”

Two of Ali’s fingers slipped out of his hand. She looked down, briefly, then back to Michael. Past Michael. To the reflections in the mirror behind the bar. Two snobs. Two frauds, pretending to know everything. She looked away, back to the corner, where the truth stood, bubbling away in all of its neon glory.

“Busted?” he asked, following her gaze.

“You think?” She slid her fingers back into his hand, not expecting an answer. Another moment passed, each still with one hand in the others. As if on cue, both raised their glasses in salute, gesturing to the corner.

“To the jukebox!” she began, clinking her glass to his.

“And to Ali never having a second date again,” he finished, giving her hand a final, somber squeeze.

““Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” she said through her drink before setting it on the bar. “This was my song for you. Something cool. Something you’ve, obviously, never heard.”

“Obviously,” he repeated, mostly to himself.

“Obviously.” She finished her beer, tipping her empty glass upside down on the bar, smiling, cheeks fully aflame. Still holding hands, her fingers softly playing in time with the bass in his palm. “So, your turn,” she told him. “What are you waiting for?”

And in the corner, with its deep red bubbles dancing in the tubes, the jukebox sang “Doot, di-doot, di-doot, doot di-doot, doot, di-doot, di-doot, doot di-doot…”

Rhymes With Clue
Nov 18, 2010



FML part MMXIX

1205 words

It had already been a bad day by the time I got to the office and all I wanted was a new cartridge for my printer so I wouldn’t have to pull out the old cartridge and shake it every time I printed a page.

I got on the bus to go downtown and it was dark, after the sun-shot snow at the bus stop, and I had things in my hands so couldn’t remove my dark glasses. As I groped my way toward a seat the driver launched the bus forward.

I lurched backwards and grabbed for the nearest vertical bar.

And then realized the vertical bar was moving.

Because it was not a vertical bar; it was a white cane.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s so dark in here, and the sun blinded me…”

Holy poo poo, did I just complain about the sun blinding me, to a blind man? I did.

The bus lurched again, and the blind guy reached out to steady me, and grabbed me by the breast.

You wouldn’t think that would provide a lot of stability, and I stumbled, but I didn’t fall. My shades did fall off and I realized it wasn’t all that dark, most people on the bus could see, and were somewhat amused. My shame lasted the entire ride.

I walked into the office and Marina, the world’s dumbest receptionist, told me, with a very sad face, that the cleaning staff had thrown away all the office supplies she’d ordered the day before.

“Why?”

Marina pursed out her bottom lip and looked sideways, where two brand-new gray plastic trash cans sat on the floor next to a beat-up old trash can. She waved her arm toward these items, only to have said arm slam into the file cabinet behind her with a lot of force, and stay there.

“What the hell?”

Marina pried her arm loose. “Oh. It’s my magnets.” She pulled up her sleeve to reveal some kind of wire wrapped around her arm. Lots of wire. Going way up her arm. I couldn’t decide whether it looked like a cyborg thing or like a bondage thing. “It’s to keep me from getting carpal tunnel.” She wasn’t going to get carpal tunnel from answering the phone and sniping eBay items on her computer. The rest of us typed our own stuff, even Clint. And, magnets?

I should note here that I mean Marina no ill will. Maybe she’s not dumb. Maybe she’s just very literal. For instance once she asked with a straight face, “I know this is a dumb question but are there clams in clam chowder?” Our boss, Clint, said, also with a straight face: “No. Clam chowder is made of worms. And bees.” And Marina was all shocked, and “Really?” I bet she never ate clam chowder again.

Or there was the time the water in our building was turned off because of some emergency in the pipes, and if we needed the john we had to go down fourteen floors and cross the plaza to Building Two, in freezing weather. Clint said, “I think it’s due to those clowns who are out there tearing up the street.” Marina: “Clowns?” And she ran to the window to look. “I don’t see any clowns, just some guys with jackhammers…”

Back to the office supplies. “I have no idea. They delivered them right before I left.” She looked at the new trash cans again.

I had an idea. Among the office supplies she’d ordered were those two trash cans she’d just pointed at, and the delivery people had put the rest of the new office supplies into the trash cans, and Marina had left them there when she vacated the office at 4:42pm, as was her wont, so she could catch the bus. And the cleaning staff had emptied them along with all the other trash cans in the office. I told her to reorder.

“Wait,” she said, “there was one really expensive thing in there. It was like two hundred bucks.” The laser printer cartridge. “Maybe I should ask Clint.”

“Yeah, do that.” Before I could get into my office the door opened and an old lady in a mechanized wheelchair shot in and made for the reception desk, a crescent in the center of the office, with steely determination and an excess of speed. She crashed into the reception desk, altered her course, and crashed into it again. Marina jumped out of her chair, leapt back, and both her arms slammed into the horizontal file cabinet behind the desk.

The old lady hit something on the arm of the chair and it whizzed backwards. I hopped out of her way as she lined up another assault on the reception desk, behind which Marina was crucified to the file cabinet by her magnets.

Ignoring this, the old lady said, “The key, the key to the observation deck, do you have it? The door up there is locked.”

The observation deck was on the nineteenth floor and was not open to the public

I put my hand over my mouth and leaned against the wall for support.

Marina struggled to free her arms from magnetic captivity. And presumably to comply with the old lady’s request.

Grandma slammed into the reception desk again, this time leaving a visible dent.

I had a sudden vision of the kind of mayhem this maniac in a motorized wheelchair could cause on the observation deck. She might actually go over the edge.

I managed to choke out “No!” just as Marina opened the drawer that held the keys. A whole slew of paperclips attacked her arm like angry bees. And just then a well-dressed but grim woman came in the door. Saw me having a hysterical fit on one side and the old hag in the chair banging away in the middle of the room, and a receptionist doing a jitterbug trying to shake off by paperclips.

“Mom,” the lady said. Of course this old lady had a keeper she’d slipped away from. This woman grabbed the handles of the wheelchair and steered the old lady out, pausing only to tell me I lacked empathy and ought to be ashamed of myself.

I was helping Marina pick paperclips off her arms when Clint came in and told me I had to go look through the dumpster and maybe find the printer cartridge, before we ordered another one.

“I can’t climb into the dumpster,” I said. “You’ll have to help me.”

Half an hour later, filthy and dejected, Clint and I came back inside, having recovered a packet of sticky notes and a box of rollerball pens.

“Oh,” Marina chirped, “I forgot to tell you, before you left. The office place had the printer cartridge on back order. They’ll send it over later today.”

Clint and I looked at each other. “They called you, when?”

Marina looked puzzled. “I guess right before that old lady crashed into the place.”

“So,” I said. “When we went out to look through the nasty dumpster for this cartridge, you already knew it wasn’t in the stuff they delivered?”

“I’m telling you now though! And there was other stuff.”

“’Cause we were really concerned about these sticky notes,” I snarled, and waved them at her.

Marina beamed like a demented angel. “I know!”

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010




Exchange
953 words

At 02:25 local time, Unit ZK-3314-M begins to move. A millimeter at a time, he gently extricates his arm from under Leah's head. Sophisticated feedback mechanisms ensure his movements don't wake her or pull her hair. By 02:31, he is on his feet. He steps to the dresser, avoiding the creaky spot on the floor, dresses silently, and slips downstairs.

It's chilly tonight, chilly for Berkeley anyway, and fog swirls around the streetlights outside. ZK-3314-M, or "Jacob" as Leah named him, glances up and down the street. With nobody in sight, he shifts into a high-speed pace, a speed-walk which covers ground quickly but tends to make humans feel unsettled.

At the second intersection, he detects another locator beacon approaching. It's RW-2207-F "Rachel". They were both delivered to the neighborhood at about the same time, nearly three years ago, riding in the back of the delivery van together.

"Hey Jacob," she says, adjusting her speed and falling in next to him, "haven't seen you out on an exchange run before."

"No, Leah just turned on the feature a few weeks ago. This is my first trip," Jacob replies.

"Isn't she leaving it a little late? She's, what, 40 now?"

"She's 38, and the doctor says there shouldn't be any problem. You know how academics are, they always put off having kids until the last possible moment…"

They are getting close to downtown. Their infrared sensors indicate that there were still some humans out and about, so they drop down to a regular walking pace.

"It's a real hassle for us -F models, you know," Rachel says. "Scott opted in for donation right from the start, so I've been making a trip every couple days since I got here. They said they had to invent us because the humans weren't screwing enough to keep the population up, but drat if I see any sign of that at home."

"I know," Jacob says. "It was at least twice a day when I first arrived. And she kept going back and forth on whether or not she wanted me to have a foreskin, as if that matters. It's a surprisingly complicated change. They had to send a technician out every time."

A drunk college student, staggering home from the bar, overhears Jacob and stops, staring with a confused look on his face. One of his friends grabs his arm and pulls him along, stage-whispering, "Come on, dude, they're just sexbots."

///JUST SEXBOTS, RIGHT? I COULD BE TEACHING ALL HIS CLASSES, BUT I'M
JUST A SEXBOT///

Jacob jumps at the voice suddenly echoing inside his head. Rachel laughs.

///NOT USED TO WIFITALK ANY MORE, ARE YOU?///

Jacob looks sheepish. ///NO, I HAVEN'T REALLY HAD MUCH OPPORTUNITY TO USE IT SINCE I CAME HERE.///

"Yeah," Rachel says, speaking aloud again, "you get used to just talking like they do."

By now they're through the shops and restaurants of downtown, looking up a hill toward a brightly-lit building. From all directions, attractive sexual surrogate units are converging on the building for the 03:00 exchange.

Rachel puts her hand on Jacob's arm. "I really don't feel like going in there tonight," she says. "It's so weird. Nobody knows if they should use wifitalk or just speak out loud. And waiting in line for the extraction machine, ugh."

Jacob shrugs. "Well, you can stay out if you like, but I have to go in. I can't go home empty-handed. Well, empty, uh... you know what I mean."

"You know, your 'unit' should be perfectly capable of collecting the sample directly from me; the pump is fully reversible, right? We don't even need to go into the exchange center, we could just go do it in the park, like teenagers in the movies."

"In the movies, don't the teens hooking up on the football field get killed by the serial killer?" Jacob mutters, but he follows her off the street and into the darkness of the park.

***

After, Jacob sits facing away from Rachel, grumpily picking pieces of grass from himself.

"Probably best," he says, "since it would have been cheating anyway."

"You didn't seem too worried about that earlier," Rachel says, lighting a cigarette.

"Why do you smoke those? You know they can't do anything for us, we don't even have lungs."

"I know. Scott always smokes after sex, and he always offers me one so politely like I'm a real girl, so I just kind of got the habit." Rachel taps ash into a peculiar hole in the grass, one of a dozen in a tight cluster. Suddenly, she giggles. "You know, they always told us we could only have sex with humans, but who knew they'd program in safeguards to make sure?"

Jacob says nothing, just picks off another blade of grass and pretends to inspect it.

"You were getting so mad, because every time you tried, you just missed completely! The sex robot who can't get it in! The way your body would just uncontrollably dodge out of the way at the last second… I'm sorry, I couldn't help laughing."

"I don't think it's that funny," Jacob mutters. "Never happens to me at home."

"And then you thought maybe if you moved fast enough, thrust hard enough, you could beat your own programming... Look at all these holes you made in the ground!" She taps her cigarette at the hole again for emphasis, even though the ash isn't really long enough to need it. "I guess that old saying was right."

Jacob looks up. "What old saying?"

Rachel stands, dusting herself off. "Well, when I look at all the damage you did to this grass, I have to declare: The penis? Mightier than the sward."

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Friendly reminder:

If you have a flash please include it in your post. But, DO NOT EDIT YOUR POST IF YOU'VE ALREADY MADE ONE AND DIDN'T INCLUDE IT.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




The Sister and Divinity
2068 words
Prompt: Black Narcissus


"You'll use our standard approach," began The Mother Superior. "You provide education and charity, then you gently, casually slide into the apostles."

Sister Celes raised an eyebrow. "Pardon?" The word echoed in Mother’s well-appointed office.

The Mother Superior frowned and rapped her ring-covered fingers on her desk. "Peter. You know, Paul." She waggled her hand. "Occasionally a little Judas, if the situation calls for it."

Celes sniffed and briefly pondered, incredulous. What situation calls for just a little Judas? "No, I understand. I've just never heard our spread of The Good Word laid out so, um, nakedly."

Mother smiled. "Don’t lose faith, there’s very rarely anything naked about it." The older woman reached into a drawer and placed a sheaf of papers onto the table, then settled deeper into her plush velvet chair and continued. "You won't be alone, of course. You'll have two Novitiates with you. They are the finest help we have currently allocatable. Keeping in mind, of course, the recruitment downturn. And the standard washout rate." The Mother leaned back and waved her hand. "It's seasonal."

Celes’ mind wandered. Ah, the Summer Jesus Downturn. She shook her head and tried to muster some gratitude. "I thank you, Mother, but I confess I’m a little nervous. We’re to bring the Absolute Word of God to the humble village of Rajaput, to carry the blazing torch of civilization, it's such a large undertaking. But I know that the generous light of-"

The Mother cut off the blossoming of a long, anxious speech. "Yes, yes. Now please, get some rest. You leave in the morning." She stood and ushered Celes from the room, then closed the door.

"Absolute words and generous light," Mother said to the empty room. "Good Lord."

---

Celes exhaled six months' worth of ship-stink and road dust. She'd arrived in Rajaput last night and thought back to her voyage, tossing about on a verminous ship and clutching a slowly molding Good Book. Rats. What’s God’s plan with all those rats?

The Sister paced around her campsite, awaiting the arrival of the two Novitiates. The Sister-Dossier was worryingly sparse.

She stopped and looked down the road. Two small figures approached, hazy and growing larger in the sweltering Indian sun.

The taller one reached her first and gave a quick bow, then began speaking before Celes could say a word. Her voice was high, light, and pressured. "I'm Novitiate Dorothy. Pleased to make your acquaintance. Novitiate Renee will be along." Dorothy wiped sweat from her brow, then looked at Celes. "Sister Celes, is that right? It's much hotter out here than I expected. I’ve read extensively about the area and it's much, much hotter than the books say."

Celes gestured to a small cluster of stumps as Renee caught up. The trio sat down. She mentally shuffled through a list of Novitiate-jazzing icebreakers.

What's your most favorite crusade?

If you could turn water into any liquid, what would it be?

John 14:2 tells us "My Father's house has many rooms" What would your room in Heaven be like?

No, no good.
Celes decided to go direct.

“Why don't you tell me about your fields of study?"

Dorothy spoke up as Renee caught her breath. "Gardening. Well, more precisely, horticulture." She hefted a small satchel. "I've got seeds! Oh, also, as I stated, I'm something of an authority on Rajaput. Did you know, for instance, that their beautiful city has as many libraries as it has children?"

Celes gave a polite smile and nodded. That ratio can't possibly be tenable. She pointed at the seed satchel. “And what have you brought there? Vegetables? Flowers?”

Dorothy opened the satchel and displayed a small collection of cones. “It’s spruce.”

Celes was incredulous. “Isn’t that an evergreen? Like a pine?”

Dorothy shrugged. “Is it?”

Celes was silently, almost imperceptibly hyperventilating. She turned to Renee.

"And you, Renee, which of God's gifts will you be sharing with the Rajaput?"

"Lacemaking.”

Lacemaking.

“Our assignments were by lottery system. But I really do enjoy it!"

A lottery system.

Celes was speechless. Her mind whirled with doubt. Renee continued enthusiastically, despite the seemingly droll subject material.

"I mostly use thread, but anything will do in a pinch." Renee paused. "I also do the tops of pies when it's slow. Same principle, really."

Pies.

Celes would have very much liked to scream from that moment until the rapture swallowed all of creation.

They continued on to Rajaput.

--

Two guards in colorful cotton leaned on either side of a large wooden gate. They waved to the nuns as they approached. One stuck out his hand, then thought better of it and bowed deep. “Hello! Our three Sisters! We’ve been waiting on you! I am Nikhil and this is my trainee, Sanjeev” He smiled broadly and Celes relaxed a little.

Nikhil nudged Sanjeev. “Okay, Sanjeev. Give the greeting a try. Remember to relax. Just be natural.”

Sanjeev stepped forward and spoke in a stilted, excessively-English English.

“‘Dear Sisters, I welcome thee to our most resplendiant kingdom, the humble burg of Rajaput, grand imperial cosmopolis of the mid-subcontinent. I am Sanjeev, your truest footman. I offer you our most cordial greeting!” He looked expectantly back at Nikhil.

Nikhil looked to Celes. “Do you mind, Sister, if I offer him some feedback? This is his first time, and well...” he paused, a thoughtful expression on his face. “I’m trying to cultivate an environment of judgment-free scholarship,” he added.

Celes nodded. More organized than I thought they’d be. She looked back to the Novitiates, silent in tacit approval. Dorothy’s eyes were fixed on Sanjeev, visibly smitten.

“Okay, Sanjeev,” Nikhil began. “The friendliness? Clearly communicated. Very welcoming. Nice job.”

Sanjeev smiled.

“Now, the diction. I understand that you’re trying to be welcoming, make them feel at home. That’s good.”

Sanjeev nodded. Dorothy smiled.

“But your verbiage...” He paused, careful not to injure Sanjeev. “You’ve been hitting the Blake pretty hard, but no one, well…” Nikhil paused, trying to soften the blow of criticism. “No one really talks like that. You could just, for example, say ‘resplendent’. More syllables aren’t always better. It shoots right past ‘dignified’.”

Sanjeev frowned. Dorothy frowned.

“However, you really sold the city well. The content? Much better than rehearsal.”

Sanjeev smiled. Dorothy smiled.

Nikhil turned back to Celes.

“Compliment sandwich. I learned it in my night classes,” he said, clearly proud of his management style. “Thank you so much for the time. As Professor Pradesh says, ``There's no training like on-the-job training.”

Celes smiled as her guts twisted into tight loops. One’s in night school and the other took a break from studying Blake for a shift on guard duty. She felt an increasingly-familiar exasperation.

Nikhil moved away from the gate and gestured inward. “The Queen has been waiting for you. Allow us to usher you in?”

Celes looked in. Dorothy was rapidly discussing something with Sanjeev. She looked relaxed. Happy. She turned to Celes and Renee with a slightly apologetic look. “I’ll be right behind you.”

Celes, far past protest, took Renee’s hand and left Dorothy and the junior guard deep in animated conversation.

---

The Queen’s workspace struck a stark contrast to The Mother’s. It was sparse, almost shabby, but inviting. The Queen reflected the atmosphere with a brilliant smile.

“Welcome, welcome Sisters! Welcome to Rajaput!”

She threw her arms wide, as if the entirety of the kingdom was contained inside this lovely little office.

“We are so pleased to make your acquaintance,” Celes began. “We’re sent by The Mother Superior on a mission of healing, a mission of mercy, a mission to bring our supreme gifts to your kingdom.” Her enthusiasm was a little wooden. The Queen didn’t appear to notice and moved to a tall wooden cabinet, drawing out an enormous ledger. She opened the book and flipped through until she reached a densely packed page.

Celes peered at the header: Missionaries, Evangelists, Assorted and Miscellaneous Disseminators.

The Queen scanned down for an empty row and looked back up at Celes. “Sisters, I’ll be able to place you in the south quarter, between the Fourth-Reformed Amalgamists and the Apocalyptic Contritionites.” She looked apologetic. “It’s been busy.” She turned to Renee. “And you, Sister, where would you like to be of service?”

“I would like to gift you the miracle of lace. I mean to say, I bring our unique gift of lacemaking to your majesty.” Renee tapped her foot nervously. “I subspecialize in doily,” she hastily added.

The Queen nodded and turned to another page in the massive tome. She scanned it, then made a notation. “Unfortunately, the Lace Quarter is currently full.” Renee was crestfallen, but the Queen continued. “However, I’ve placed you in our tertiary Lace District. You’ll fit right in.” Dorothy clapped her hands, delighted.

The Queen showed them out of her office. Celes felt a rising knot of frustration. She was irritated with The Mother, at bringing civilization with lace, and at the idea that these people needed The Sisters’ specific brand of spiritual upheaval. A final thought floated up from the depths of her consternation. And when, exactly, was I supposed to slide into the Apostles?

---

A week passed.

Celes was adrift with weak Peter, subdued Paul, and absolutely unneeded but occasionally tempting Judas. She opened her door into the late afternoon air and noticed a small package at the doorstep. She picked it up and began to walk, unwrapping it as her heels clicked along the immaculate cobbled street. She read the note affixed to the small box:

“Dearest Celes,

What a singular lace district! The Queen was right, I’ve settled well and I’m making so many new friends. Visit soon!

Your friend,

Renee”

Celes beheld a fragrant mango pie topped with a pastry-woven peahen, each feather pulled from fresh dough. The bird was wearing a tiny nun’s coif.

She’s doilied and pied her way to salvation,

Celes savored the pastry and walked to the tower in the center of the city, hoping the height would bring her some clarity. She passed a library where, two days ago, she ran into Dorothy and Sanjeev chattering and poring over a teetering pile of books. They’d seemed happy, settled.

She continued on to the tower, climbed to its apex and leaned on a railing. She looked over the city of Rajaput, from bustling ports to busy streets. The floorboards creaked and the Sister looked over. The Queen took a spot on the railing and inhaled the cooling evening air. She smiled at Celes.

“Sister! What a pleasant surprise.”

Celes wiped a few crumbs from her mouth and fumbled for a response.

The Queen laid her hand on Celes’ shoulder. “Tell me, Sister, what ails you?”

The dam burst. Celes’ words came tumbling out. “I don’t know. No, I do know. The Mother told me I’d bring salvation, I’d educate the people, teach them the way to, the way to…” she trailed off, her eyes stinging with tears.

The Queen looked back over the railing. Far below in the street, an Apocalyptic Contritionite set fire to a pile of hay. She turned back to Celes.

“Mmm. You have a catechismal quagmire. A solution without a problem.”

Celes nodded and the Queen continued.

“And now, you’re not even sure if the solution was ever any good.”

The women stood in silence for a while, ruminating in tandem. When the Queen spoke again, her voice was hushed, reverent.

“Rajaput holds a hundred denominations of pilgrims, a hundred different ideological hammers striking one glowing ingot, over and over and over again. And yet, the city doesn’t buckle or twist. It thrives. Did you know that we have as many libraries as we have children?”

Celes was beginning to understand. A hazy impression began to form in her mind. I’m not a restorative sea-change or the glorious herald of civilization. The thought crystallized, sharp and beautiful. But I don’t need to be.

On the street, a crowd gathered around the weakly smoldering hay. The Contritionite profusely apologized to anyone that would listen.

The Queen gestured at the expanse of the city below them.

“We’re running in a thousand directions and yet always moving forward.”

Celes’ tortuous mental jumble, carried from The Mother’s office across miles of ocean and through a strange, lush land, suddenly and gloriously realigned in the gleaming heart of Rajaput. She finished the Queen’s thought:

“It’s Divine.”

rohan
Mar 19, 2008

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


:siren:"THEIR":siren:






Inspiration Flash: Final Fantasy X-2

Dating After Level 30
2215 words

‘All I’m saying,’ Lumi said, lopping the head off another demon as it lunged toward her, ‘is that maybe he gave you the wrong dimension.’

‘And all I’m saying,’ Bri retorted, lancing a succubus without thinking too much about the symbolism, ‘is that at least none of my dates end up with the boy revealing himself to be some centuries-old monster intent on enslaving the human race for ten thousand years, so maybe you could, y’know, trust in my gut instinct for once?’

‘At least Ric never ghosted me,’ Lumi hissed. ‘Although he did try and date me later as a ghost. Turns out phantasms aren’t as hot as they sound.’

Aurela sheathed her daggers and walked up behind them, laying a hand on each of their shoulders. ‘Lumi, Bri,’ she sighed, shaking her head. ‘You know I love you both, but is there any way we could have this conversation over margaritas and not in the fifth circle of hell, or wherever this is?’

Lumi looked around, sniffing the air. Tributaries of blood coursed around piles of smouldering bodies, with bones reaching out at regular intervals wielding signs in some archaic script. ‘More like the sixth, I think,’ she said, ‘based on the sulphur. The fifth is more peaty.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ Aurela said. ‘I was never very good at picking the terroir.’

‘Chedds and I used to go there all the time,’ Lumi continued. ‘There’s a nice spot by the Styx if you’re serious about those margaritas.’

‘We are going out for margaritas,’ Bri hissed, shrugging out of Aurela’s grasp. ‘At least, I am. With Cam. You two just need to stay incognito, keep an eye on us, and get me out if he turns out to be, like, anti-vax or something.’

‘If he’s even here,’ Lumi shrugged. ‘What did his message say, again?’

‘He said he found a really hot new place with ambience to die for and some “sinfully good wings”.’

‘Oh, Christ,’ Aurela said, rolling her eyes. ‘Glad to know the way to your heart is through painfully obvious wordplay.’

‘I’m sorry not all of our boyfriends can be superstar writers on some dead online forum,’ Bri spat, glaring at Aurela. ‘“Ooh, tell me again how many FARTs you have. Wow, that’s so many FARTs.”’

Aurela glared in response, and then thrust her hands into what Bri assumed were pockets somewhere within her sixteen layers of fabric. When she’d briefed the pair on the adventure that morning, Bri thought she’d emphasised a look that could seamlessly transition from interdimensional battle to casual cocktails, and this full-length monstrosity of bulbous silk achieved neither. Not that Lumi’s ensemble—two belts bandoliered around her chest, with the barest suggestion of leather shorts for modesty—was any better.

‘And the co-ordinates for the dimension took us here,’ Lumi said. ‘And we’ve been battling through demon hordes for an hour now, and he hasn’t showed, and there’s a perfectly good bar just a dimension over where we could at least sit in air-conditioned comfort and have a few drinks until you call it again, like you have the last three times.’

Bri bit her lip and looked back the way they’d come, their path a pile of lanced succubi and lesser demons. She’d really thought she had something special happening with Cam, from their cute exchanges of brunch photos to their sultry evening conversations about which gemstones added the most elemental damage to their weaponry. Aurela glided over, placed a hand on her shoulder, and gave it a squeeze. ‘I’m sorry, Bri,’ she said softly. ‘I think Lumi’s right. Your date’s in—’

Bri shrugged out of Aurela’s grasp again and raised a finger to silence her. ‘It wasn’t funny the last three times,’ she warned. ‘But, fine. Lumi, summon up the portal. We’ve got some margaritas to slay.’

***

‘The usual,’ Lumi said, taking a seat at the bar.

‘Three margaritas comin’ up,’ the barkeep said, and then motioned toward Bri and Aurela. ‘What’ll they have?’

Lumi chuckled, shaking her head. ‘You’re killin’ me, Reg.’

‘Not quick enough, Lu. You’re lookin’ better, though. Remember last time you had some hideous growth coming out of your hips.’

Lumi rolled her eyes and looked back at Bri and Aurela, still standing in the doorway and looking wide-eyed at their surroundings. Christ, she thought, you’d think they hadn’t been to an underworld bar before.

‘You can come over,’ she called to them. ‘The bar doesn’t bite.’

‘But it has teeth.’

The barkeep placed three glasses on the fleshy surface of the bar, and moved further down to attend to some robed figures with flowing beards who had just arrived from some sort of wizard dimension, their staves still thrumming with magical energy. Bri approached slowly, patting the spongy stool with one hand before closing her eyes and bravely lifting herself up onto it. Aurela stood awkwardly between the two of them, not able to negotiate a spot at the bar in her tumescent finery.

‘To hoping he’ll show next time,’ Lumi offered, raising a glass to Bri.

‘If there is a next time,’ Bri said sourly, sipping her drink. ‘Guess boys are only interested when there’s some sort of calamitous world-ending event and they need party members to cast support spells from the back row. Once you start showing an interest in your own damage output, they get all insecure.’

‘Boys are overrated,’ Aurela offered in an attempt at solidarity, downing half her drink. ‘You’ve got entire dimensions literally at your fingertips, you don’t need some hopped-up farm-boy with delusions of grandeur because he has, like, one prophecy to his name.’

Bri downed the rest of her drink and waved the barkeep over. ‘Y’got anything stronger?’ she asked.

‘Don’t have much weaker,’ the barkeep shrugged, polishing a chalice. ‘How much do you hate your future self?’

So much,’ Bri whined, squeezing her eyes shut. ‘She keeps showing up out of nowhere, criticises my fashion sense and taste in music, and then magics herself back to her land of flying cars and affordable health insurance.’

The barkeep nodded sagely and reached under the bar, returning with a bottle of simmering red liquid which he opened with the back of a dagger and poured into a tumbler. Steam rose from the glass and, beneath the meniscus, Bri could see shades swimming through the roiling liquid. Into this concoction the barkeep placed a single green olive, which Bri immediately recoiled at and plucked out.

‘To being free of boys,’ she announced, raising her glass before taking a swig. Not bad, she thought. Hints of aniseed.

‘I’ll drink to that,’ a voice said beside her, and she turned to find herself face-to-eldritch-face with a succubus, all blood-tipped horns and fanged smile and fashionably-shredded lingerie.

She was on her feet before the succubus could react, reaching behind to equip her lance, but the barkeep lay a warning hand on her arm and nodded up toward a sign forbidding random encounters in the bar.

‘Sweetie, honey,’ the succubus purred, swirling a straw through her own drink, some green-and-gold syrup decorated with petals, ‘I’m off the clock, and I’ve earned this drink.’

‘You’ve earned a swift death, you cththonic abomination,’ Bri hissed, sitting back down at the bar. ‘Whether by my hand or someone else’s, your time will come.’

‘Mm, I hold my own,’ the succubus shrugged, ‘but I’m enjoying your spirit. I’m sure you’d pose more of a challenge than the milksop I vanquished on the way over here. “Oh, save me, Bri! I was wrong to doubt your min-max strategies!”’

‘You killed my boyfriend!’ Bri cried, throwing her drink in the succubus’s face. One of the wizards at the other end pulled out a coin purse, and the barkeep glanced up at the sign before shrugging and retrieving a bookie’s hat from under the bar.

‘Sure,’ the succubus said, dabbing at her face with a napkin. ‘Just as you killed many of my sisters. Did you think I wouldn’t smell their blood on your blades?’

Lumi reached over, put her hand over Bri’s. ‘She’s right, Bri,’ she whispered. ‘We’re not really in a position to—’

The succubus’s eyes brightened, and she leaned forward to get a better look at Lumi. ‘Oh, hey, Lu,’ she smiled. ‘Long time! Chedds sends his regards.’

Lumi’s hand stiffened on Bri’s, and her eyes narrowed. ‘You killed Chedds too?’ she hissed, reaching down toward the hilt of her sword.

The succubus laughed, a shrill ring like a demonic modem. ‘Oh, no,’ she chuckled, at length. ‘He’s much more fun alive than dead.’

Lumi drew her sword, the ring of steel silencing the rest of the bar. The succubus raised an eyebrow and reached down, retrieving a stiletto from within her stiletto boots. Aurela moved swiftly to the succubus’s side, drawing a dagger from somewhere within her ventricose vestments, and held it against her neck.

‘Ah,’ the succubus breathed, her eyes moving from the ornate blade to Aurela’s velvet gloves to her stern expression, ‘Aurela. I’m disappointed, my love. You said you’d call.’

‘What can I say,’ Aurela murmured. ‘I don’t really do Plutonic relationships.’

‘Aurela!’ Lumi shrieked, hitting her arm. ‘You never told me you dated a succubus.’

‘I have a name,’ the succubus insisted, her lips a crimson moue. ‘Zola.’

Bri reached forward, retrieved the bottle the barkeep had left behind, and poured herself another generous glass. ‘Why did you kill Cam?’ she asked, sloshing the red liquid around before taking a deep swig.

‘He challenged me to a duel,’ Zola said, flexing her fingers around the stiletto. ‘Said he wanted to prove his worth before embarking on his next grand adventure, or some such romantic bullshit.’

‘Cam, you moron,’ Bri murmured. ‘Very well. I shall avenge his death.’

Zola smiled, and Aurela relaxed the dagger at her neck. ‘I accept,’ she breathed, pointing the tip of her stiletto toward Bri. ‘Would you like to finish your drink first? It may help to dull the pain.’

Bri stood, equipped her lance, and fell into a warrior-princess battle-pose in the centre of the dancefloor, beckoning Zola forward with one hand. ‘Stop stalling with banter,’ she said. ‘Let’s see what kind of moves bested Cam.’

The succubus nimbly flipped off the stool, landed on one hand, and cartwheeled over to where Bri waited. There was a flash of silver, and then a single strap of Bri’s overalls fell down, exposing the vintage tee below. Bri staggered, levelled her lance, and swung too slow to connect with Zola as she back-flipped away to land atop the pool table.

‘The Marinkov Manoeuvre,’ Bri murmured, wiping a strand of hair away from her face.

Zola smiled and then rushed forward, twin stilettoes flashing in the air; but Bri anticipated this segue and blocked the attack with the shaft of her lance, finishing with a twisting flourish that struck the succubus on the chin and sent her reeling back to the table.

‘Chesterton’s Rebuttal,’ Zola grinned, wiping a streak of blood away from her lips. Bri raised her head in acknowledgement and whirled forward, feinting left before shifting her weight and dropping, letting the butt of the lance carry the momentum to collide with the succubus’s chest—but Zola, with the effortless poise of k-pop choreography, slipped under the lance and lunged forward, sliding the blade of her stiletto under the remaining strap of Bri’s overalls.

‘Gustav’s Gambit,’ Bri mouthed, glancing down at the blade and then at the succubus’s face, inches from her own. ‘You subscribe to Special Moves Monthly.’

‘Of course,’ Zola smiled. ‘We’re not complete heathens.’

Bri swallowed, watching the rise and fall of Zola’s chest as she held the blade at her own.

‘You fought well,’ Zola continued, withdrawing the blade and stepping back. A strand of black hair hung down her face, sticky with sweat. ‘Much better than Cam managed.’

‘Who?’ Bri asked, reaching out to brush Zola’s cheek with a thumb.

Zola regarded Bri evenly as her fingers moved down to her neck, a thumb lingering by the curve of her lips. Bri dropped her lance and moved to step forward, her other hand searching for Zola’s, which swiftly reached for Bri’s side and pulled her close.

They were interrupted by a cough from the bar, and Bri turned to see the barkeep tapping a sign which read ‘No Erotica’.

‘We should take this somewhere else,’ Zola purred, taking Bri’s hand and stepping backward, opening a portal behind her. ‘My next shift starts at nine, and I’d really like to blow off some steam before I get back to running the incel-nerator.’

Bri smiled, and turned back to give Aurela and Lumi a thumbs-up. Lumi scowled at her, arms crossed against her chest in a huff, but Aurela returned the signal and went back to chatting up one of the wizards.

As she stepped through the portal to the succubus’s own dimension, Bri only hoped that Zola hadn’t yet received the latest issue of Special Moves Monthly. There were a few more steps to go, and she hadn’t quite memorised them all, but she felt certain she was well-equipped to truly avenge Cam’s death with the ultimate finishing move, the Enemies To Lovers To Enemies Betrayal.

And if not, well — at least future Bri would stop bothering her.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





Dorkula
1518 words

You’re reading the latest issue of Vampires Weekly when an annoying ringing interrupts you. You grab the receiver and say, “Castle Bran, hobby store cafe. I am Pyotr, human owner. How may I help you?” A garbled voice issues from the receiver end near your mouth and you flip it around. One of these days you’ll get it right the first time.

“-- rent the back room?” the voice says.

“Ah, you wish to rent our dungeon?” you say brightly. You decorated it to resemble your dungeons in the old country, but customers seem to think it is “cool” rather than creepy.

“Yeah, how much per session?”

You give him the rates. This was great, you think, people nerdy enough to rent the back room tended to be virgins. Virgins, with their delicious blood. You lick your lips, carefully avoiding the fangs. You only made that mistake once.

“You are set. We provide the dungeon, but please do not bring a dragon! Ha ha!” It’s a joke, but it pays to be safe. Your insurance doesn’t cover dragons.

“Ha ha. Thanks man.” He hangs up and you rub your hands gleefully. Fresh virgins!

#

On the day, the group quickly retreats to the back room. You’re eager to check out the menu, you mean, make sure they’re settling in well. Good customer service, that’s what they taught you at human business school. You whip up a treat as an excuse to go in the room.

“You can’t serve that,” the cook and only employee, Juan, tells you. You ignore him. Juan is always so critical, but he’s too useful to eat.

“Welcome humans!” you say as you walk in and set the bowl on the table. “Please eat some corned dogs, it is on the house!”

The group peer into the bowl full of corn kernels and hot dogs, their eyes wide. Good, they must be hungry, you think happily.

As they pick at your offering, you scope out the group. The bearded man at the head of the table is running the game and seems the most confident. Possibly a sexhaver, you think. The male and female sitting on the left look promising until you notice the man pinch the woman’s buttocks under the table. But the two males on the right, scraping corn off of some hot dogs, now they look like virgins. Glasses, sloppy clothes; even their anemic appearance doesn’t bother you as you know the blood inside will be light and sweet.

“Can we order some drinks?” the game master asks.

“Of course!” you say, but notice he didn’t thank you for the corned dogs. The hunger flares inside you, but you regain control. Good customer service, you remind yourself, keep them coming back until the time is right.

The game master and boyfriend order beers. The girlfriend orders wine. The two nerds order sodas. Your grin widens, they are definitely virgins!

#

Undoubtedly impressed with your service, the group returns each week. Through the human art of small talk, you learn that Tim, the game master, has a girlfriend who is “too cool for school.” You take him off the menu. The couple, Bill and Cassie, have an unstable relationship, mostly because Cassie used to date Tim and Bill is a dick. To borrow Juan’s phrasing: girl, you can do better. Definitely not virgins.

But the two nerds, Rick and Oliver, are perfect. They buy some overpriced Warhammer models and spend a lot of time discussing game strategies in your shop. The challenge will be separating them from the rest of the group since they get rides home with Tim.

You watch them from the shadows, which the group interprets as interest in their game. “Where’s your accent from, Pyotr?” Tim asks one night.

“It is modern human Romanian.”

“Cool, would you like to be a character this session?”

You’ve never played, but how hard could it be if these humans have figured it out? “Certainly, I can play a role. What is the character?”

Tim hands you a sheet of numbers, which you ignore. “You’re a vampire hunter.”

Ugh! You are disgusted and offended by the very idea. Seeing the look on your face, Tim quickly explains that you’re the villain. It turns out that the group is playing a game where they are all vampires! Your mood changes; this sounds much more fun than the usual dragons and dungeons.

However, despite Tim’s detailed rulebook, the humans are shockingly uniformed about vampiric powers. For example, you shoot at Cassie with your stupid vampire hunter crossbow but she turns to smoke to avoid it. How ridiculous, vampires can only turn into bats. You try the good old stake through the heart on Bill, but he complains enough that Tim lets him survive through the power of “blood magic.” When Oliver describes his character as having “ethereal beauty” and you look at his actual face, you finally understand that this game is nerd wish fulfillment.

Therefore, you don’t take it personally when they kill you at the end of the session. “Argh, you have slain me! I, puny human, am no match for you wondrous vampires!” you say, to their great amusement. Your time will come, you think.

#

You spot an opportunity when the group finishes their campaign. Tim asks you for a suggestion and you pull out a book that, from your research, you know contains some raunchy scenarios. Your hope is that the virgins will get uncomfortable and want to leave early. When they go to the parking lot, alone, you’ll be waiting. Just in time, too: your hunger has grown week on week.

You go in with their drinks. The group seems to be getting into the game, even Bill. Good. You listen at the door until Juan informs you your nervous energy is “harshing his vibe.” You slink away to the front desk to wait, flipping through Vampires Weekly impatiently.

As you hoped, the game ends early. Tim walks out alone, tapping away on his portable phone. Probably sending electronic mail to his sexhaving girlfriend, you think, curling your lip.

Your two virgins should be coming out next, but no one follows. You wait as long as you can, which turns out to be five minutes. You’ll just eat those boys in the dungeon, add some authentic bloodstains. The nerds will love it. Hissing in anticipation, you make your way down the hall and push open the door to the back room.

Oh no! Disaster!

The virgins are kissing each other!

You freeze, your plans crumbling to dust. Sure, it’s just kissing, but by the familiar way they’re touching each other, these two nerds aren’t virgins at all. You exit silently, as only a vampire can, and rush down the hall to the back door. You need some air to recover from this horrible shock. A small part of you thinks “aw, good for them,” but mostly you are just ravenous.

#

Bill and Cassie are kissing in the alleyway behind the shop, and look to be moving onto more exciting activities. This puts you in an even fouler mood, tipping your emotional state from “hungry” to “hangry.” And as every vampire knows, there’s no coming back from hangry.

You lose control. Pouncing on Bill, you puncture his neck with your fangs, slurping him dry in seconds like a human-sized Capri Sun. His blood tastes like old leather compared to a virgin’s, but it still satisfies your hanger.

Cassie screams and stumbles backwards against the dumpster. She holds up the little cross on her necklace, as if that will do anything. But your hunger is sated, for now. In fact, you feel a little sick, like Rick after eating too many corned dogs.

“I did you a favor,” you say to Cassie, trying to calm her down. “Bill was no good for you, everyone could see that.” For some reason she doesn’t seem convinced by this obvious truth.

Juan, who must have heard the commotion, sticks his head out the back door. “Dude, what did we agree?” he says, annoyed. “Not on the premises!”

“Sorry, Juan,” you say. This was not how you planned things to be.

Juan just huffs and looks at Cassie. “I guess I’ll have to take care of her too.” He mutters something in Spanish and raises his arms. Bill’s corpse disappears and Cassie’s face goes blank. Juan goes back inside before she returns to normal. He’s such a moody wizard, but this sort of thing is why you let him run his potion business out of your kitchen.

“Oh, hey Pyotr,” Cassie says, ignoring the bloodstains on her shirt. “Where’s Bill?”

“He left you for the purple-haired board game girl that he’s been cheating on you with,” you lie.

“I knew it,” she says. “Good riddance, it was going to be awkward at vampire night if I dumped him.” She shrugs. “Maybe now I can invite my cousin along, it would do him good to get out of my aunt’s basement. Can you believe he spends all his time arguing about Legos online?”

Your grin couldn’t possibly be wider.

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

The Greatest Show on Earth, Chapter 2
3064 words
Le Morte d'Arthur


“This is outrageous! It infringes upon the rights of the nobility and makes a mockery of the town!”

“And what rights have been infringed, Lord Quaille?” asked the Mayor, holding out a glass of rosewater as his valet added a small scoop of ice to the drink.

“My family has retained the right to a limited monopoly on tropical fruits for three hundred years. And now this vacationing menagerie is preventing commerce from entering the town!” Quaille fumed. “My ancestor did not heroically remove a pineapple from the throat of a lion just so some clown can hinder my trade company’s business.”

The Mayor took a sip of his drink before turning to Quaille’s companion. “And since you are here, I can safely assume that you have a grievance as well, Baroness Meaux?”

“I most certainly do!” the Baroness replied, stamping her foot for emphasis. “That wretched harlequin and his animals have caused me to suffer unbearable indignities! I returned from Sanq Lomaun last evening and one of those terrible creatures was blocking the road. It refused to move! I had to disembark my coach and walk like a common pedestrian. I trod in at least seven dung heaps on my way home!”

As if to make her point, the Baroness gestured to the soiled hem of her dress. It was the sort of garment that seemed to have infrastructure, like the rigging on one of the tall ships that docked in Val-Mazer’s harbor. The Mayor wondered for a moment if a large crew was needed to maintain the dress, and why they hadn’t hoisted some lanyard to spare the trim from being dragged through ox poo poo.

After taking another sip of ice-cold rosewater and wiping his hand dry on the knee of his robe, he looked to a man who’d been standing at attention for the past few minutes. “Gatekeeper Clovis. Why exactly was the highway blocked yesterday afternoon?”

“Your Honor, one of the clown’s animals was napping in the road. It was preventing passenger coaches from entering the gate, as well as his Lordship’s fruit carts. It was some sort of prong-horned deer, I believe.”

“Did you ask the Clown to move the creature?

“I did, your Honor,” said Clovis, hoping that the conversation might end there. A pointed stare from the Mayor prompted him to continue, “The clown just said, ‘Can’telope.’”

The Baroness grew incandescent, and Lord Quaille opened his mouth an inhaled as if he were about to enumerate all the other slights to his lineage this situation was causing. Forestalling him with a raised palm, the Mayor asked Clovis, “Didn’t I make you the Registrar of Circuses to handle this issue two weeks ago?”

“Yes, you Honor.”

“Then enlighten me, Clovis. What the hell is going on?” The mayor mopped his bald head with a linen cloth before gesturing to his valet and then the parasol overhead. A moment later, the offending ray of sunlight had been blotted out.

Clovis cleared his throat and considered where to begin. “Well, your Honor, two weeks ago a ship came down the road—”

“A ship?” The Mayor squinted at his gatekeeper dubiously.

“A wagon that looks like a ship, your Honor,” Clovis clarified. “It has wheels, but also a mast. Though I don’t think it actually sails, because it was hitched to a draft horse when I first saw it. I suppose if they wanted to sail, it might be able—”

The Mayor twirled his hand as if to say, “Get on with it.”

“Anyway, your Honor,” Clovis said with reddening ears, “The wagon ship was some sort of circus, but they’re not actually a circus because they’re on holiday. They wanted the town to preform for them. But the town didn’t have a permit to act as a circus, and you were very busy that morning. So you made me the town Registrar of Circuses. I’ve been issuing a permit to the town every day since then.”

The Mayor dropped his face into his palm and for several long seconds, only the sound of screaming cicadas filled the courtyard.

“Why on Earth have you been doing such an idiotic thing?!” screeched Lord Quaille.

“I will be the first to admit that the whole situation is very…silly, your Lordship,” Clovis said, standing ramrod straight and refusing to make eye contact. “But in all honesty, I was hoping that if we simply played along, they’d go away and the problem would solve itself.”

The Mayor looked up, and for the briefest of instants Clovis thought he saw a shadow of respect pass across the old man’s face.

But before the Mayor could speak, the Baroness demanded, “And just why is this awful clown still here? How long will this circus terrorize us?”

“A fair question,” admitted the Mayor. “Any idea, Clovis?”

“Ah, about that, your Honor, your Grace,” the gatekeeper nodded to the Mayor and Meaux respectively as he chose his next words carefully. “The townspeople and merchants don’t seem to be taking it very seriously. They just stop to stare when they enter or leave the town. So, the clown feels that the performance has been, um, less than adequate so far. I believe their exact words were ‘We’re not going anywhere until I get my money’s worth.’”

“And how much has the clown paid so far?” asked the Mayor.

“Nothing, your Honor. The clown said it’s a very low bar to clear, but that they believe in us.”

Lord Quaille sputtered and the Baroness Meaux stamped her foot again, dislodging some of the dung encrusting her lace trim. The Mayor let them vent their spleen for a few minutes as he sipped rosewater and considered his options. It was an incredibly humid morning and soon the sleeve of his robe was soaked with condensation that had dripped down his wrist. As the two nobles seemed to be winding themselves up launch into another airing of grievances, he placed the glass down on the small lawn table next to his chaise and clapped his hands together once. The gunshot-loud pop silenced even the cicadas.

Paused mid rant, Quaille and Meaux turned to stare at him with their mouths still open. Clovis stood stock-still, but the Mayor was sure he saw the man’s lower lip quiver and his eyes were filled with dread.

“Well now. This seems to be quite the predicament, but I believe it falls outside the purview of simple civil servants such as myself and Clovis. I am prepared to rule that the clown and the associated circus is some sort of divine test. An act of God. As such, we shall weather this trial and emerge stronger for the challenge.”

The two nobles looked at the Mayor, dumbstruck. Clovis hyperventilated for a moment before asking, “And shall I monitor the situation and provide daily reports, your Honor?”

“Good grief, man. Absolutely not,” said the Mayor, horrified. Then he took his glass of rosewater in hand and drank the rest of the liquid in a single gulp. His valet rushed to refill it the moment it was empty. “Now—I’m sure that the Lord and Baroness both have pressing business to attend to elsewhere. I know for certain that my afternoon schedule is accounted for.”

Lord Quaille finally found his words. “Are you truly going to stand for this nonsense?!” he demanded.

The Mayor fluffed one of the cushions on his chaise, then leaned back and mopped his brow once again.

“I very much doubt that I will.”

---

Deep in a root cellar that smelled of citrus and bananas, four bleary-eyed men sat around a small round table and stared at one another. One was Lord Quaille, and the other three were his trusty knights. It was one o’clock in the morning, and there was a distinct smell of ale on their breath. The nobleman wondered if he should have let this meeting wait until the sun rose again.

No, he decided, best to get this handled as soon as possible. Drunk or not, these three men would get the job done. Quaille didn’t employ many knights—just one was usually enough to deter highwaymen from harassing a fruit cart along one of his trade routes. Very few people were willing to risk their lives to steal a bushel of pomegranates.

“Tonight, the clown dies.” Quaille’s words hung in the air and he looked around the table to make sure each knight was sober enough to comprehend. He nodded and continued, “But I will be the one to strike the final blow. I will not suffer this affront to my family’s honor—but I need your aid to ensure the fool’s total destruction.”

“Tristan, you will kill the horse. You are the strongest of us all and that draft horse is a mighty beast that will not fall easily. Take your sword and slit its throat, let its blood pour into its feed bucket—this is very important.

“Be sure to bring a cauldron with you, because you’re going to knacker the horse after it’s dead. Remove the hooves and its hide. Take those to the ship’s galley and boil them down until only glue is left. Then we’ll drag the cauldron back to the deck and save it for the clown.”

Tristan looked a little taken aback but nodded in assent. Lord Quaille was the man that paid his salary, after all.

“While Tristan lays the draft horse low, Kei will deal with the circus’s ostrich. That idiotic bird has been filching tangerines and persimmons from my carts and it’s costing me a small fortune. You’re the swiftest of us, Kei, so I trust you can cut the ostrich’s legs off before it can flee.

“Then I want you to cut open its stomach and take back all the fruit you can. While the horse boils to glue, we’ll pluck that damned bird and put it on a spit to roast. If there isn’t any firewood, then we’ll smash the deck rails of that absurd wagon-ship and burn them for fuel! And…yes, make a glaze from all the fruit that ostrich ate. That’ll be fitting!

“But keep all the feathers, I’ll need those for the clown.”

As he ranted on, foam began to form at the corners of Lord Quaille’s mouth. Kei was five-and-a-half pints into a six-pint night and stared at the nobleman, transfixed. Unbidden, his hand reached out to push a napkin across the small table to his employer. The gesture went unnoticed.

“And you Artur—you will handle the tiger. Tristan is strong, Kei is fast, but you are clever and cruel. I’ve seen that monster, lounging on the deck of the ship, surveying man and beast alike. There is no doubt that it will make a meal of us all if we don’t kill it first. Strike it down, Artur! Pierce it’s heart with your sword! Know that even in its death throes, it will lash out with wicked claws and gnashing teeth to rip you asunder. Dash out its brains with your mace before it can tear you to shreds!

“Once it is dead, skin it. We will hang the hide as a gristly flag of victory once we’ve finished tonight’s work. Then I want you to cut the fanged lower jaw from the beast. I will have use for it, once I have the clown.”

No one spoke for several long seconds, then Artur finally said, “As you wish, M’Lord. But these animals are blameless. Annoying, yes. Perhaps dangerous. But otherwise innocent. We’ll follow your orders, but this just seems a bit…vile.”

The other two knights wouldn’t disobey their lord, but both Tristan and Kei mumbled soft agreements to Artur. Lord Quaille just barked a sharp, cruel laugh.

“You’re a noble man, Artur, but I am a nobleman. If I let the clown’s insults stand, then the deeds of my ancestors would be for nothing. No. The clown must die, and in a way that serves as an example to anyone who would dare challenge my divine right!

“While you three go about your tasks, I will handle the clown personally. As we sneak abord that ridiculous wagon-ship, we’ll tie a noose to one of the yard arms. Then, I’ll seize that grease-painted insurgent at sword point and force them to watch their precious pets die one-by-one. While Tristan boils down the glue, I’ll make that clown paint the hull red with the mix of oats and horse blood.”

Quaille’s eyes had gone glassy and red. Little bits of spittle flew from his lips as he raved at his three men. A fleck landed in Tristan’s pint and the knight stared at it for a moment before dumping the rest of his ale onto the cobblestone floor.

“We’ll force them to eat the roast ostrich until they can’t possibly take another bite! After that, I’ll use the tiger’s jaw to scourge that no-account punchinello within an inch of their miserable life! Then—oh then!—I’ll dip the clown in the boiling glue before covering them in the ostrich feathers.

“Only then will I hang them from the mast. When dawn breaks and the carts roll in and out of the town, everyone will see what happens to those who would defy the nobility. We’ll leave that circus fit for only vultures and jackals!”

Quaille stood and kicked his stool away from the table. “Get moving. We’ve much work to do before the sun rises tomorrow.”

---

Someone in the darkness let out a satisfied grunt, then whispered, “It’s all set, M’Lord. If you cut this snare rope here, then the noose and…whatever is attached to the nose will hoist up to the yardarm.”

“Well done, Kei,” hissed Lord Quaille, loitering by the wagon-ship’s gangplank. “Now, you all know what you must do. Let’s be about it.”

There was no better place for him to be. Surely, the clown would hear the sounds of the anguished animals and come rushing onto the deck—and Quaille would be waiting. He grinned and listened for the first signs that his men had struck.

“Ambush!” someone screamed in the inky dark. But it wasn’t Kei, Tristan, or Artur. The sound of scuffles began to fill the night, and a cold chill ran down Lord Quaille’s spine as he realized that his men weren’t the only ones prowling the gloom around the circus.

Were they mercenaries, hired by the fool to protect the ship at night? Had he blundered into a bandit raid by accident? It didn’t matter. Only one thing mattered now: he had to find the clown and dispense justice before his men were overrun.

Rushing up the gangplank he collided with someone wearing ruffles and silk—precisely the sort of absurd get-up the clown wore. He reached out and grabbed the fool by the collar, intent on dragging them to the noose to finish the job.

But they would not go quietly. After allowing themselves to be dragged along in Quaille’s wake for a few steps, the initial shock of being apprehended wore off. A hand lashed out wildly and slapped the nobleman on the ear. He howled in pain as his head was sent ringing and his grip faltered. The next blow sent him tumbling to the deck of the ship-wagon.

Quaille heard his quarry shuffling in the night, trying to escape. He groped in the darkness until his left hand wrapped around a thin ankle surrounded by ruffled fabric. At the same time, his right hand found the noose lying on the deck. With a tug, he managed to slip the noose over his enemy’s ankle before drawing his dagger to slice the snare rope Kei had indicated.

With an indignant squawk, his foe was dragged aloft. The scream was a little higher-pitched than he expected, and he was chagrined that it wasn’t the fatal end to the clown that he had planned—but given the circumstances, he was willing to take any win he could get. Now he just needed to flee before one of the unknown assailants broke through his men’s valiant defense.

Leaping to his feet, he stumbled toward the gang plank, only to find it blocked by a tall, silhouette. Quaille tried to push it aside. His hands pressed into a mass of warm feathers, but the thing wouldn’t budge. His next attempt to shove it away was rewarded by a painful peck to his solar plexus that sent him reeling.

Backpedaling toward the bow of the ship, his heel stamped down on a long, furry tail. A low growl resonated in the gloom. Lord Quaille turned and stepped backwards again as the roar of a tiger split the night. The sounds of scuffles around the ship stopped, quickly replaced by cries of panic.

He felt hot breath on his face as the tiger drew close. With one final step backwards, his heel caught on the bowsprit and Lord Quaille tumbled over the ship’s rail to land head-first in the draft horse’s barrel of oats.

As he lost consciousness, he heard the sound of swords being dropped and boots beating a hasty retreat.

---

Clovis arrived at the gatehouse at dawn. Finding no bandits waiting to raid the town, nor any army marching down the road from Val-Mazer, he turned the mechanism that slowly drew up the gate. Then he put the copper kettle on the small gatehouse stove and went outside to see if his services as Registrar of Circuses would be needed again today.

He found the clown, hands on their hips and agog at the scene laid out before them.

The tiger gently snored atop the ship’s deck. Someone had left an overturned copper cauldron on the ship’s deck, and now it glinted in the sun as the ostrich pecked idly at its reflection. The draft horse was impatiently trying to dislodge an inverted Lord Quaille from its barrel of oats.

Suspended from the yard arm by her ankle was the Baroness Meaux—petticoats and ruffles billowing out like a mock-sail on the wagon’s mast. Her men’s swords lay abandoned alongside those of Tristan, Artur, and Kei.

“All the other performances in this town have been lousy,” said the clown. “But this one is amazing. What do you call this act?”

Clovis stared for a moment, then said, “I think they’re the aristocrats.”

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




You Gotta Laugh

Paths of Glory

765 words

Henry hadn't slept for days, and Jacques, well, Jacques hadn't been right in the head  since August, since the time they shelled us and we nearly all bought it. The shell missed the trench we were sleeping in and hit the latrine just a few dozen feet west of it.  Jacques was using it, the opposite end, and when the shell hit it raised a wave about as tall as you or me that went right down the latrine trench, right at him. He got a face full of sewage. Well, whole body splash, but I'd be most worried about the face.

"And now," Jacques said, just about every time anyone talks to him about anything, "He will not come out. My peepee. I think maybe he is scared."

It's not like we've got any women out here, not like we're going to be rotated away from the front to where there's a cathouse to slip off to any time soon. So he can't tug one out in the evening, big deal. But Jacques won't stop going on about it.
And Henry hasn't slept for days. "I had a nightmare," he said. "The world was on fire and everyone else was trying to kill me."

"Are you sure you're not still sleeping?" I said.

"Martin," he told me, "I know you think you're making a joke."

So that's where we were. And I was more messed up than any of them. We fought off a charge, after that night of shelling. They threw men across the bombed out fields and barbed wire, right through the crossfire of our guns and a bunch of them crawled right over the lip of our trench and tried to take it. A bunch of German kids with fear and death in their eyes fumbling with their service pieces, screaming curses and running at out gunners.

I killed a bunch of them that day. I lost count. They didn't get to the guns, didn't break through our trench and move the border a hundred feet west. People say they're going to put a medal on my chest someday, once the paperwork comes through.

Thing is, I liked it. Some people come through that kind of thing and they never want to pick up a gun again, even if that means they get lined up and shot. And some of us go the other way.

So there we were, the three of us picked out for a midnight scouting run. My fault. I let the officers know I could draw worth a drat. Caricatures. Landscapes. And, as it happens, formations. It was two in the morning, pitch dark cloudy and drizzling rain, the three of us crawling through mud, edging around craters, and there was a gunner right in front of us out there and if we made any noise or raised anything too high or if a rat scurried over his feet and spooked him he'd put dozens of holes in each of us.
I pulled out my paper and pencil, and I drew by the enemy floodlights.

Except it did come out right. I tried to draw the trenchline and what hit the paper was a reclining woman's delicate curves. What was meant to be machine gun nests became breasts and a face, wire fences turned into short and long hair. It was, perhaps, my best work. But it was clearly going to get me killed.

I tried again. For a minute I thought it was working, but once again the landscape before me would not be drawn as anything but a tasteful nude.

I don't know if I swore out loud or if it was the rat, but the gunner let forth a long burst. High, and not sustained. I kept still, then made a third attempt, with Henry and Jacques pinching me when the lines became  too sensual. The sketch was functional,  but unsettling, especially when you knew why it was off.

It spooked the brass, too. They put off the push. Henry slept a full day, with the rest of us covering for him. He was an expert trench-sleeper after, too. Short naps between explosions all day long. And later that week, Jacques came to me, wild smiles and dazed eyes. "I stole your other pictures," he said. "It is a miracle! I an hard as a rock right now!"

They were both dead by November, and I would have been too if I hadn't lost the leg.. But that's how they'd want to remember them. I mean, you gotta laugh, right?

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Motivation
675 words

They said I was the best spy because I was the smartest, the most charming, the most physically gifted. The truth was I was the best because I could never remember which side I was working for. I was a double agent, a triple agent, hell, who knows how many times I've "switched" sides. My condition made it easy to pass the lie detector tests and to keep my story straight. I was just mostly living my normal life and every once in a while I would go drop a package or pick up a package or assassinate somebody. I could never really keep track of why I was doing what I was doing, and in the end it didn't really matter. I don't even remember which side recruited me first, I just remember she was very pretty and very convincing.

It was only an hour into our first date that I realized it wasn't a date, but a recruitment. But I quickly forgot that too, and we've been married for thirty years now. The worst part is I'm not even sure what side she's on. It's a bit of a reverse The Notebook. I'm sure who she is in the present, but our past is murky. Was that actually our honeymoon or just a cover? Was that time we broke onto a military base and stole a helicopter a mission or just an impromptu romantic getaway?

But when I look into her eyes I know whatever we have is real. I just don't know what that is. I used to think it might not actually be real, but the how many "normal" relationships end with divorce or suffer from illicit infidelities?v are they any less real? At least my wife tells me she's going to go seduce a dictator. I don't mind, because I know he means nothing to her. So who is to say that my relationship isn't as real as all the other ill-fated lovers out there just because I'm not exactly sure who we're fighting or what we're fighting for, or if she'll shoot me in the back of the head without hesitation given the order. As long as we're together, it doesn't seem to matter.

Overall I think we're helping though, because the world seems better than it was 30 years ago. So we're either tipping the scale toward a more just world, or very incompetent at sewing chaos. I'm comfortable with either. If several governments want to pay me a salary to do a bad job, that's their business. Maybe that's what the world needs: more incompetent spies. I know we've helped install several non-functioning governments. Hard to do genocides when you can't even keep the propaganda flowing.

We're retired now. Well, at least I am. She said she is, but we seem to have an awful lot of run ins with black SUVs, find a lot of "lost" briefcases, and fight off would-be muggers in dark alleys. But maybe that's just to be expected for two boomers with a fannypack full of traveller's checks. We look like easy targets. Hard to predict my wife can put your typical bar bouncer in the hospital in less time than it takes her to clean her bifocals.

Sometimes I think back to all those awards they gave me (only to immediately take back and burn so there were no records) and laugh. How fitting they truly were to a man with no records, and no clue what he'd even done to earn them in the first place. I never needed to know, and I never will. I've met plenty of people who went on at length telling me exactly why they were doing what they were doing, how they had it all figured out, how they were sure it works bring them power or money or a lasting legacy. And while there doing that, my wife was sneaking up behind them with a piece of piano wire. Some things are better when you don't understand anything at all.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

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



t a s t e posted:

To the Lighthouse

Night Light 659 words

It was time to turn on the light, but Jock Jenkins didn’t really feel like getting up. And besides, would it really matter if he didn’t turn the light on, this once?

Well yes, it mattered a lot and there was the very real chance people would die if the lighthouse wasn’t operational, but still. Ten more minutes sleep wouldn’t hurt, right?

An hour and a half later, Jock got up, climbed the stairs and surveyed the wreckage through his binoculars. Only one boat appeared to have struck the rocks, and it wasn’t a very big boat, although the captain appeared upset nonetheless. Jock sighed and went to man the rescue dinghy. Doggleberry, the lighthouse dog, barked at him as he was about to get into the dinghy. He sighed. ‘Yes, of course you can come Doggleberry.’

The two of them boated over to the rocks where the captain was still remonstrating with the nearby cormorants about how gosh darned inconvenient it was not to have an operational lighthouse near some fairly sharp rocks. ‘Ahoy,’ said Jock as he got nearer. ‘You need a hand, uh, Mr…?’

‘Jennifer,’ said the Captain. ‘Ms, not Mr, thank you.’

‘Right,’ said Jock, ‘Ms Jennifer, can I offer you any assistance?’

‘Actually, scratch that,’ said Jennifer. ‘It’s Captain Jennifer.’

‘Right, Captain, got it.’

Jennifer looked past him at the lighthouse, which was now blazing merrily. ‘So, now it works, ey? Fantastic. Very timely.’

‘Right, sorry about that.’

‘No, it’s fine, it’s only a small boat, who cares, right?’

‘Oh, good,’ he said. ‘I thought you might be mad.’

She glared at him. ‘I am too cold and wet to give the appropriate response, but let’s assume it was going to be a thorough dressing down, got it?’

‘Noted,’ said Jock. ‘So, is it just you, or?’

‘Me and Admiral Mippens,’ said Captain Jennifer, and a small furry and slightly bedraggled cat head poked out of her breast pocket.’

‘Oh,’ said Jock. ‘Right, hello Mippens.’

‘Admiral Mippens,’ said Captain Jennifer. ‘She outranks all of us combined.’

‘How does a cat attain the rank of Admiral?’

‘That’s need to know.’

Jock shrugged and helped them aboard.

They sat near the light, drying off and watching all the ships and boats not crash into rocks.

‘So,’ said Captain Jennifer. ‘Lighthouse keeping.’

‘Mmm,’ said Jock.

‘How’s that treating you?’

Jock shrugged. ‘The hours are a bit of a nuisance.’

‘Hence the whole sleeping in and letting my boat crash.’

‘Yeah,’ said Jock, ‘listen that’s my bad.’

‘drat right,’ she said.

‘Let me make it up to you,’ he said. ‘Where were you trying to get to?’

‘What, you’re going to row me there in that dinghy?’

‘Not exactly,’ he said.

~

‘Are you sure this is airworthy?’ she asked. The dinghy was tied to the cormorants.

‘Yeah, totally,’ said Jock. ‘Commandant Cormorant here will keep us steady.’

‘His name’s Cormorant?’

Jock shrugged.

‘All right, so which one’s the Commandant?’

‘That’s need to know,’ said Jock.

Jennifer shrugged and climbed aboard. The cormorants, led by Commandant Cormorant, started to flap as one, and the dinghy rose into the air.

‘Hmmm,’ said Captain Jennifer, ‘we might even end up making decent time.’

‘I definitely recommend Cormorant Air,’ said Jock.

‘I’m still mad about my boat, mind you,’ she said.

‘Understandable, Captain,’ he said.

‘Oh, just Jennifer’s fine.’

‘All right, Jennifer.’

‘Hmmm,’ she said. ‘Nope, didn’t like that at all, go back to Captain.’

‘Got it.’

And they flew all the way to her destination, and she was so relieved at getting to her destination on time she elected not to pursue a court martial, which is just as well since he didn’t technically work for the Navy so it would’ve been a bit embarrassing really. And the insurance paid for the boat anyway so all’s well that ends well, right? Also, Admiral Mippens got promoted to Fleet Admiral for general gallantry and being a very good girl.

t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010


That’s it for subs

t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010




Make 'Em Laugh - Results

It's important to laugh in this wild life, and thanks to your efforts, I nearly got there. It's pretty hard to be funny and I really appreciate those of you that took up the challenge.

As the very best in humor can be found in amateur podcasting, Chili and I discussed your stories here. ZearothK also weighed in but was prohibited from joining our discussion through sinister coincidence. Feel free to listen to that to hear us descend into madness as we venture past our bedtimes.

This week's loss goes to Captain_Indigo's Subject: Dad I have taken an Ambien and drank wine but that doesn’t detract from..., for a story that felt mean and generally unpleasant to read.

HMs for Carl Killer Miller's The Sister and Divinity, derp's My Katana, Rhymes With Clue's FML part MMXIX, and crabrock's Motivation.

The two stories that stood above the rest for us were My Shark Waifuu's Dorkula, and this week's winner, in a split decision, Weltlich's The Greatest Show on Earth, Chapter 2.

Congrats to all and thanks for making me smile, chuckle, and groan :).

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Hi there, I’m chili and I’m in a very grumpy mood and have no time for my poo poo let alone yours. Perfect for reading comedy!

I have no idea how I’m going to react this week to the words you have written, as there is no word count limit if I’m reading a story that’s over 1,500 words long and I’m not enjoying myself at all after 1,500 words, I am going to stop reading. Problem? Brawl me.

That being said, if a story manages to make me actually laugh, even one time, I will likely advocate for it to hm. So there you go.

On with the stuff:

Flyerant’s With a Teaspoon of Nostalgia

Did I laugh? No.

Overall this is fine, it’s a functional story that is more sad and tragic than it is anything else. Sure, it ultimately has a bit of a happy ending and is kind of sweet but I also don’t really understand what’s going on. Was he somehow paying tribute to his wife by throwing cakes out the window? You’re really trying to make that one gesture carry an awful lot as it’s seemingly the only thing hinting at comedy through the story and is also supposed to be some kind of cathartic meet-cute? I don’t know. It plays mostly and I don’t really hate how it ends up but it’s all fairly obvious.



Captain Indigo’s Email thing

Did I laugh? I kinda chuckled at the Mr. T thing but mostly cos it blindsided me.

This is not a story, which is forgivable considering the prompt. But it’s also not much else. It’s a cobbled-together list of grievances that feel ultimately very mean and inconsistent. By the time I’m done reading it I don’t have a good sense of who the father is or who the kid is, I’m just mostly annoyed and want the protag to calm down and shut up. Mean and ranting can be funny but it’s like I tell my kids in improv, ‘how much do you enjoy it when you’re either doing that or someone is doing that to you?’ Not much, right? So why assume that anyone wants to see it.



Idle Amalgam’s Pecking Order

Did I laugh? No.

Look, comedy is hard. I don’t mind if a story fails to make me laugh so much if there’s an effort but it really didn’t even feel like there was one here. What part of is this is supposed to be humorous? Sure the mom is some do-it-all heroine who is wisely holding everything together and sees everything even when she has a sleep mask on. Is that supposed to be funny though? How? The story itself is… fine? I mean it works. I followed it. I don’t know why any of it matters or what we’re supposed to learn or care about by the end. It’s just a thing that happens.



Sparksbloom’s Mystery Flavor

Did I laugh? Embarrassingly, yes, at spermnugget. I hate you.

Otherwise, I really had a hard time with this,. I can’t tell what’s happening after the protag bites on whatever the weird thing is. Also, they’re a giant? Or becoming one? Is the end a punchline? Am I just too stupid to figure out what the joke is? I just don’t get it, like any of it. Why is this happening, what is happening to the protag, what does the protag actually want, and why stocks?

What is this?



Derp’s My Katana

Did I laugh? Yeah, at the drawing and then a bit at the end when it just keeps getting more ridiculous.

So yeah, this is loving weird. Thank you for that at least! I’m most baffled by the formal way the narrator tells the story and quotes himself. Didn’t really find it funny, just found it odd. But the whole conceit of an incognito John Romero at kinko’s as a ‘copyman’ (that word did get a chuckle out of me) did at least keep me interested in reading on. So yeah, in any other week I don’t know how I like this but there are some funny bits and it’s strange so yeah, I like it enough.



Voodoofly’s The Jukebox in the Corner

Did I laugh? Kinda, was more just overall amused and into the digs and riffs.

My dude, what am I supposed to think here. You and I had a conversation about High Fidelity only like a week ago and then you write this? Well, obviously, I’m going to like something like this but yeah it has very much that kind of vibe and feel. I’d certainly say this is more of a love story than a funny story and I’m not much for those, but this works enough for me because of the trimmings around it. I like the game feel of the process though it may be a turn-off for some. Overall though, this works for me.



Rhymes with Clue’s FML part MMXIX

Did I laugh? Yes, a couple of times.

I liked this. The jokes come largely at the expense of Marina but we don’t pity her and in the end, others are meant to suffer more than her. The runner of her magnets on her arm works just about the time you employ it and overall this is a good story about a mundane day, with mundane stuff that has enough fun in it to make it worthwhile. This was the first story I’ve read this week that I could see play out in my head and that’s in larger part due to the strength of the gags and how they repeat, and the clarity that the characters are presented with. Well done.



Pham Nuwen’s Exchange

Did I laugh? Yeah, an annoyed chuckle at the punchline.

I’m glad you took a shot at a legitimate joke. It uh, kinda works. I will admit I had to look up sward, but then sure, it works. Up until that part though this feels pretty bleak and sad and dystopic, not so much funny. But, the conceit is at least interesting and I did want to know what happened next as I was reading it. The premise of two sex robots running off to…. Just go off and try and have more sex as an act of rebellion is itself a little amusing of a concept. Pretty good stuff.



Carl Killer Miller’s The Sister and Divinity

Did I laugh, yes, mostly at Celes’s asides.

This is a good fuckin’ story. I dug The Book of Mormon feel of it and was worried it was gonna be more of that but it took turns away from it. I was with the character the whole way and enjoyed watching her grow and change and appreciated the levity she brought with her throughout the proceedings. I just liked it. Well done.



Rohan’s Dating After Level 30

Did I laugh? No

This just meanders around for a long time and I found the banter to ultimately be tiresome. That’s a problem when it’s where the majority of the humor seems to come from. I had a hard time figuring out what the overall thing was here. The title makes it seem like it’s all a video game but there’s not much else to allude to that? Or maybe I missed it? I don’t know, feels like a bunch of ‘and thens’ and not a whole lot worth caring about.



My Shark Waifuu’s Dorkula

Did I laugh? Yes, audibly, and frequently.

This loving rocked. Not only were the awkward interactions in the beginning handled perfectly and genuinely elicited laughs out of me, I cared about the outcome of the story. The pacing was great and the ending was perfect. I loved this.



Weltlich’sThe Greatest Show on Earth, Chapter 2 (Le Morte D'Arthur)

Did I laugh? Kinda

So yeah, some funny bits but in no way did this need to go on for as long as it did. The punchline does kind of work but if you want to settle on that as the main selling point of the story you certainly needed to focus more on the tableau itself as opposed to everything else. The proceedings, in the beginning, are well constructed, the dialogue is fun enough. The planning feels a little indulgent and tiresome and doesn’t really slap with any humor. The execution of the plan is a little muddy with its choreography but I was with you most of the way. Not a strong reaction from me but it’s fine.




Thranguy’s You Gotta Laugh

Did I laugh? No

I kinda like this as a story but I didn’t find any of it particularly funny. It’s economical and visceral and I can see it play out in my head for what it is. But ultimately did it move the needle much for me? Not really. The setup definitely got me curious about where it was going to go but I didn’t quite understand the turn and why it happened as it did. Also struggled to tell how literal the smut drawing was or if it was more interpretive. I don’t know, was ultimately OK enough.


crabrock's Motivation

Did laugh? Yes. At the thirty-year reveal

This is ultimately very goofy and fits the form perfectly. If this went on any longer is start to hate it but whimsical acceptance of the protag and who he is and how he is is oddly charming and serves for a good piece. Definitely got some laughs out of me.



Chairchucker's Night Light

Did I laugh? No.

The tone of this doesn't feel casually funny, it feels rushed and lazy and very matter of fact. The story itself is minimal which is fine if anything stood out but nothing much else does. I even saw the good girl line at the end coming. This basically felt like ash and misty doing their bike antics and I didn't much like that either.

ZearothK
Aug 25, 2008

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

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Week #473 - Make ‘Em Laugh Judge Crits

Flyerant’s A Teaspoon of Nostalgia

A man tries to keep up the family tradition of baking cake for his daughter’s birthday after his wife passes away. I found this one cute and bittersweet, the opening is good and sets a light tone that didn’t quite stick with the rest of the text for me, but it wasn’t really funny. Could have used more time in the oven.

Barry vented his frustrations, and ignored his dawning career as an Olympic shot-putter of baked goods.

Captain Indigo’s Subject: Dad I have taken an Ambien and drank wine but that doesn’t detract from…

A man sends an e-mail to his father after taking Ambien and drinking wine. This is essentially a diss letter and I feel it is a premise that could work if it was more lighthearted, but this came off as too bitter to be funny or enjoyable to read, which is what earned it the loss.

Dad you’re a great guy and I love you from the bottom of my heart

Idle Amalgam’s Pecking Order

A family has to change a tire during a road trip. I felt this one was more of a snapshot of these characters than an actual story. The tire gets changed and some elements of each of the characters are explored in the sub-vignettes, but if there was an arc it kind of missed me and the family felt rather typical.

The tire, as far as Junior was concerned, was a sign of his unfortunate intuition coming true.

sparksbloom’s Mystery Flavour

The protagonist gets bullied into eating ice cream that may or may not contain glass for their friend’s stunt vlog, hulks out instead. I enjoyed the snarky tone of this, felt kind of juvenile, but turns out I do like that kind of humor. Got a few chuckles out of me, but didn’t extract a laugh.

I feel like I needed to do some research on eating glass first.

derp’s My Katana

A young man creates the entirety of contemporary sci-fantasy and has it all stolen by John Romero. I appreciated the overindulgent voice of the narrator, gave it a lot of character and I can tell you had fun with it, even if it didn’t always land. I had a big smile on my face when I remembered Romero’s amazing hair.

He had strikingly beautiful hair, long and flowing gracefully like a river down his back.

Voodoofly’s The Jukebox in the Corner

Love blooms around a jukebox. I liked this one! There’s good chemistry between the two central characters and there was a good sense of place, but I wouldn’t call it a funny story.

Two frauds, pretending to know everything.

Rhymes With Clue’s FML part MMXIX

A man has a weird day. Well written, snappy, but the vignettes all felt kind of disconnected with no greater arc to it, even as they were individually amusing. Did enjoy the mundane absurdity of it all.

A whole slew of paperclips attacked her arm like angry bees.


Pham Nuwen’s Exchange

Fuckbots try to gently caress. I do appreciate an entire story that’s built for the sake of a pun, also I learned a new word. It is an interesting sci-fi premise too, but I did feel the robots were too human in their conversation despite the code designation at the very start suggesting it would be otherwise.

“The penis? Mightier than the sward.”

Carl Killer Miller’s The Sister and Divinity

A nun goes to Rajaput and it doesn’t go the way she expected it to. I really enjoyed this one! Well written, a lot of character in all the, uh, characters, even the bit ones. There’s some good humor in the contrast between the naïve protagonist and the more worldly characters, but it wasn’t quite a laugher for me.

“We’re running in a thousand directions and yet always moving forward.”

rohan’s Dating After Level 30

An adventurer is ghosted by her date, but she gets a chance at revenge for it. This was a cool story, some nice wordplay, but kind of dragged on and the fight in the climax kind of lost its flow in the conversation, also not sure what kind of world this is. Incel-nerator was a good pun.

‘How much do you hate your future self?’

‘So much,’


My Shark Waifuu’s Dorkula

A vampire tries to get some virgin blood. Very good 2nd person story that immerses the reader in the pretentiousness of our silly vampire, fun and playful atmosphere, got a few good chuckles out of me. Would read more of this character.

The virgins are kissing each other!

Weltlich’s The Greatest Show on Earth, Chapter 2

The circus is in town and wants to be entertained. The longest story in this week, it didn’t feel longer than the others while reading it. It is consistently funny, though the middle section with the lord’s murderous plans goes a bit too dark and long even as it is an effective exploration of privileged psychosis. The punchline at the end got a good laugh out of me.

“The clown said it’s a very low bar to clear, but that they believe in us.”

Thranguy’s You Gotta Laugh

A man reminisces about fighting in the war. Good and strong prose, I liked this story, but the dark humour didn’t really land with me.

"The world was on fire and everyone else was trying to kill me."

crabrock’s Motivation

A spy reminisces about his work and marriage. I really enjoyed this short piece, I think I had a smile on through all of it, but I do enjoy the “eh, whatever” multiple spy thing, so I might be your exact target audience.

I don't even remember which side recruited me first, I just remember she was very pretty and very convincing.

Chairchucker’s Night Light

A lighthouse keeper takes a snooze, disaster ensues. I am happy for Mippens and the premise is good, but the joke kind of sailed past the story and it all came off a bit dry.

Ten more minutes sleep wouldn’t hurt, right?

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Thunderdome #474: Save Room for a Slice

Late summer is fair time in my neck of the woods, and besides midway rides of dubious safety, there aren’t many things more traditional than the pie contest at the county fair. I hope you guys saved your fork, because this week’s theme is going to be “Slice of Life.

Now, the crust holding a Slice-of-Life story together is the idea that most of the time we’re not engaged in life-or-death plots. We’re not saving the world. The stakes aren’t really that high and if we gently caress it up, then there’s probably still some hope for us.

The crust is great—can’t really have a good slice without a decent crust—but what I want people to focus on this week is the filling.

Characters are the filling in a S-o-L story. They are the soul and the flavor, and I really, really want to read about some flavorful characters this week. Maybe they’re sweet, maybe they’re salty, but they should all have depth and complexity. I need to believe that these are real people, even if they’re a little weird.

The setting for your story needn’t be mundane, as long as the characters are believable and facing the small challenges of everyday life instead of grappling with mega-crises.

I’m going to be offering ingredients—inspirations and hell rules. Inspirations are easy, you can ask me for a setting or a type of character to put in your story and I’ll give you ones that aren’t too difficult and they’ll cost you 100 words. Hell rules will be devilishly delightful. I won’t be pulling punches with them and expect to get a challenge—it might be a weird character you have to work into your story, or a very unconventional setting, or some sort of stylistic demand. But if you choose to get a hell rule, you’ll GET an extra 500 words.

Furthermore, critting is caring. If you write a crit of someone’s story in a past TD, I’ll credit the word-count of your crit toward your word count this week.

So, to sum up:
-Write a Slice of Life story
-Any setting you like, but make sure the characters have some serious character
-Start with 1500 words
-Buy character or setting inspirations for 100 words each.
-Challenge yourself to a hell rule and receive an additional 500 words.
-Be a real pal and crit someone else’s story, you’ll get the same number of words credited to yours.
-Sign Up Deadline: Noon PST, Saturday September 4th
-Submission Deadline: 11:59pm PST, Sunday September 5th

Judges:
Weltlich
rohan
(You?)

Bakers:
derp - An astronaut in an elementary school parking lot.
t a s t e - You must have at least four characters, they cannot be co-located at any point in the story, there must be dialogue, but they cannot use any sort of telecommunications device (phone, email, fax, or chatroom).
Idle Amalgam - One of your characters just found out their bank account is overdrawn. Hellrule: This story cannot revolve around the issue of being broke.
ZearothK - Your setting is a barnacle encrusted boulder at low tide.
Captain_Indigo - Your character is very concerned about some trees. Hellrule: Write this story as a monologue.
sparksbloom
Chairchucker - A character has a gambling problem. This story is set at a farmer's market. Hellrule: Every paragraph that does not contain dialogue must reference a vegetable. Every paragraph that does have dialogue must have a gambling reference, no matter how oblique.
Thranguy - a character has a fraternal twin, a music venue, and the narrative of your story must flow in retrograde
Chernobyl Princess
Carl Killer Miller - a professional wrestler, a train station. Hellrule: words cannot be repeated within paragraphs. This includes conjunctions, but does not apply to articles
crabrock - Your character's name is Dale Dartmouth, and she's a detective. Her friend Ryann Wright writes for the local newspaper.
Hellrule: Every sentence needs to have an alliterative phrase of at least three words. For shorter sentences, you can run the alliteration across punctuation marks.
My Shark Waifuu - Your character has a fear of spiders and the story is set in the Jem and the Holograms universe. Hellrule: you are not allowed to directly reference Jem and the Holograms, or any of the main cast.
Flesnolk - Your character once won a prize for best crawfish boil in Houma, Louisiana. Hellrule: Another character must speak a non-english language, but there must be comprehensible dialogue.
Uranium Phoenix
Gorka

Weltlich fucked around with this message at 21:16 on Sep 3, 2021

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again



Lipstick Apathy

in

i'll buy a character thing and a setting thing pls

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

derp posted:

in

i'll buy a character thing and a setting thing pls

Your character is an astronaut. Your setting is an elementary school parking lot.

t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010


In with a hell rule

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In, I'll buy a character inspiration and take a hell rule

ZearothK
Aug 25, 2008

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

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In with a :toxx: and I'll be buying a setting.

Captain_Indigo
Jul 29, 2007

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



In, I'll buy a character inspiration and take a hell rule please.

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


heck yeah I’m in

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

t a s t e posted:

In with a hell rule

You must have at least four characters, they cannot be co-located at any point in the story, there must be dialogue, but they cannot use any sort of telecommunications device (phone, email, fax, or chatroom).


Idle Amalgam posted:

In, I'll buy a character inspiration and take a hell rule

One of your characters just found out their bank account is overdrawn. Hellrule: This story cannot revolve around the issue of being broke.


ZearothK posted:

In with a :toxx: and I'll be buying a setting.

Your setting is a barnacle encrusted boulder at low tide.


Captain_Indigo posted:

In, I'll buy a character inspiration and take a hell rule please.

Your character is very concerned about some trees. Hellrule: Write this story as a monologue.


sparksbloom posted:

heck yeah I’m in

:toot:

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

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



in and give me one of each of all of the things

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Chairchucker posted:

in and give me one of each of all of the things

A character has a gambling problem. This story is set at a farmer's market. Hellrule: Every paragraph that does not contain dialogue must reference a vegetable. Every paragraph that does have dialogue must have a gambling reference, no matter how oblique.

t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010


Weltlich posted:

You must have at least four characters, they cannot be co-located at any point in the story, there must be dialogue, but they cannot use any sort of telecommunications device (phone, email, fax, or chatroom).
How strict are we talking for co-located

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

t a s t e posted:

How strict are we talking for co-located

They cannot be at the same place at the same time. Interpret that however you want.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




In, character, setting, and hellrule

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:



In!

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Thranguy posted:

In, character, setting, and hellrule

a character has a fraternal twin, a music venue, and the narrative of your story must flow in retrograde

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




In, character, hellrule, setting

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


in, give me a hellrule plz

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Carl Killer Miller posted:

In, character, hellrule, setting

a professional wrestler, a train station. Hellrule: words cannot be repeated within paragraphs. This includes conjunctions, but does not apply to articles.

crabrock posted:

in, give me a hellrule plz

Hellrule: Every sentence needs to have an alliterative phrase of at least three words. For shorter sentences, you can run the alliteration across punctuation marks.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Cool. Cool cool cool.

Gonna need to buy a character for 100.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





In, character/setting/hellrule please!

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

crabrock posted:

Cool. Cool cool cool.

Gonna need to buy a character for 100.

I'll give you a bogo deal.

Your character's name is Dale Dartmouth, and she's a detective. Her friend Ryann Wright writes for the local newspaper.


My Shark Waifuu posted:

In, character/setting/hellrule please!

Your character has a fear of spiders and the story is set in the Jem and the Holograms universe. Hellrule: you are not allowed to directly reference Jem and the Holograms, or any of the main cast.

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Flesnolk
Apr 11, 2012

h

Can I request an inspiration AND a hellrule?

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