Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
 
  • Post
  • Reply
crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


for those of you writing crits, the archive has a new tool to help out. on any week overview page, click the "bbcode" option



this will give you a nice formatted version with links to the archive that you can just paste straight into the reply box (or google docs)



anyway thought you might wanna know.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish



In with The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu

When I read this, I didn't have the vocabulary or experience to understand why I liked it, but compared to the other stories in the collection I read it has always stuck with me. I was super excited when the author published a book this year.

Now that I have words for it, what I would say that this piece does well and I enjoy is that it's told in a pseudo-simplistic fable-style that's enriched by the author's word choice and it has just that hint of hope at the end, despite the dire circumstances throughout.

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:






Week #474

Some preamble: this was a really, really strong week, which I think the lack of DMs speaks to. Even the losing story, as Welt’s already mentioned, was by no means bad. There was something to enjoy in every story, and even if my crits sound even slightly harsh, know that it’s only me doing the best I can to deconstruct what works and didn’t work in each story, to improve my own writing.

Uranium Phoenix - Living With What Happened: A Day in the Lives Of Those Affected By the Arc-Seven Station Attack by Senior Columnist Peter O. Sellenger:

This is one of those stories where I appreciate the way you’re using a less conventional structure and framing, but I think it detracts from my enjoyment of the piece as a whole. Partly this is due to me just wanting to see how these characters behave and interact outside of this back-and-forth interview structure, and partly it’s because I begin to wonder whether the New Chicago Times would actually print anything as seditious as Thessa’s interview, which takes me out of the story a bit.

The columnist’s character is well-established, as a great combination of ego and naivete, and I hate him, which is perfect. The idea of using him as a way to quickly get the reader across a whole lot of worldbuilding in a sensible context is solid, a nice alternative to the “new crewmember gets introduced to everybody on her first day” method used elsewhere. Actually delivering all of this as a column doesn’t entirely work for me, as I feel too much of the other characters are lost to the confines of the structure and his viewpoint. For example, I would have loved to see the actual language Thessa used when he stormed off. I think there’s a lot of potential there to see some creative invectives against the Earther columnist that could help inform both of their characters, but all I’m left with is a fairly generic image of someone with $#^@# above their heads.

Even at 3600 words, this feels like you’re just stretching before a bigger story, if I’m honest. There’s a solid world here and I genuinely do want to get to know these characters, again, outside of the back-and-forth structure you were working inside.

Captain_Indigo - Chicken Wings in the Long Grass:

The start of this story has big Week 471 energy. “It was Friday night and the trees were refusing to eat” may have been a better opening line, though — it’s a good hook and it sets the tone for what’s to follow. The actual first line is only really notable for the “flowers lazily blooming in my hair”, but it’s not immediately clear if you’re being literal or poetic with this, so it doesn’t have the same jarring impact for me.

Did you meet the brief of the hellrule (“Write this story as a monologue”)? Mm, maybe if I was feeling exceptionally generous and with the absolute loosest definition of a monologue, but realistically no. There’s a token effort to keep dialogue to a minimum, but there’s still dialogue, and the story isn’t being delivered to anyone in particular. It’s just a standard first-person past-tense narrative, which is disappointing.

Otherwise, this is a fun, inventive story. I bounced off it a bit on the first read, as the rules of this world weren’t especially clear, but on a re-read with the knowledge the characters are fey, it was much more enjoyable. Perhaps you could mention the antlers specifically earlier? That reveal was the most jarring to me, as until then I’d just been picturing a regular human with flowers in their hair (and special magical chemical powers).

Chernobyl Princess - I'm Happy For You:

It’s a bit difficult for me to properly crit this story, as I had to read it on the forums, and I happened to glimpse the last line before I scrolled up to the start, so some of the effectiveness was probably lost on me. That said: I do wonder if, absent this knowledge, I wouldn’t have already suspected there was some kind of misunderstanding afoot. It feels like the narrative is making us all-too-aware that Trish suspects infidelity and / or divorce, such that the only natural progression is that she’s wrong and there’s another perfectly reasonable explanation for Sandy being a bit stand-offish (ie, nervousness about talking about polyamory).

Welt’s already suggested cutting the final para, which I agree with, but I wonder if you could also cut the first: I think that beginning the story with Sandy openly flirting, and Trish’s eyes going to the wedding ring, tells us everything we need to know without slowing down the opening with talk of Covid.

Another problem I had with this story is that I was never very clear on where Joe was in all of this. Sandy’s recently moved to Tennessee, but Joe’s still elsewhere for the moment, as he has a conference the coming weekend, but Joe also has their kid, so will Joe have to find a sitter for the kid when the conference is on or is Sandy going back to get the kid or … I think you do a really good job at getting the character motivations and tension established, but you could probably afford to be a bit more explicit about the setup here. (Maybe I’m just dumb and misreading it, though.) (I also think this is another reason to cut the reference to Covid, since in-person conferences seem a thing of the past, now.)

I don’t want to harp on ways the story could be improved, because honestly, I found this very well written, and really enjoyed the characterisation and the slow build-up and release of tension. Nice work.

derp - Overview:

I liked this a lot on a first read, and thought the contrast between Jayne’s mounting existential dread and the exuberant optimism of Tanya was well-handled. On a second read, I’m not sure it stands up as well — I’m not really sure I get much out of Jayne’s character besides “astronaut talking at an elementary school”.

There’s definitely scope to expand upon what you have here, and provide more context to the situation that would help establish both of their characters. Outside of the hellrule, I’m not sure why Jayne’s giving this talk at the school — is she the type of person who’s volunteered to do this talk because she’s genuinely excited about it, or is it just an obligation she has to fulfil?

Solid writing, and delightfully uncomfortable to read (in a good way!), but crying out for a few more hundred words to really develop the characters and the context.

Carl Killer Miller - Master Key:

I really admire the bold, confident voice in this story, the way you’ve deployed the hellrule in such a playful manner, and the way the two stories play off against each other with the themes of past glory and ambition.

If I were to criticise anything, it’s that there are occasional hints that the wrestler, at least, knows something about the keys, but this isn’t consistent. Lines like “No, he thought. Couldn’t be.” seem to imply he’s discounting something more specific than the keys falling from the rafters, and at the end, it seems convenient that he just happens to know dropping the keys down the grate is the correct thing to do. I appreciate some magic realism, but here I just think it’s not entirely made clear how much of the magic the characters are in on.

But this is quibbling, because “this story was incredibly enjoyable and well-written” isn’t a terrible useful crit, true though it may be.

My Shark Waifuu - Battle of the Bands:

Full disclosure: I had to google Jem and the Holograms, but from what I can tell you’ve done a great job at incorporating the feel of the show and some appropriately-oblique references to meet the brief while delivering your own thing. And what a thing it is! Fun characters, a well-constructed story with clear motivations, and stakes that are appropriately slice-of-life for a punk band that (at least occasionally) assault cops. The culture clash of British vs American bands is a nice way to handle the presence of your own characters inside the confected, family-friendly universe of the hellrule. 80s kids TV needed more switchblades and punk rock.

If I had any specific criticisms, it’s that I feel the final lines of dialogue got a bit repetitive, in that we have one character suggest “we torch the room, beat up the Mohawks” and then two lines later another character is calling for “a little British Invasion, kick them off the stage and play our song”. The story loses a fair amount of momentum here where it’s most important we end with the snappy, punk-rock problem-solving you’ve otherwise set up really well — I’d suggest keeping the second line, though I do like the reference to Bristol as a reminder that this is all just another day for them.

sparksbloom - Shutout:

It was Father’s Day last weekend in Australia, and various lockdowns have meant I haven’t been able to see him for months, so your story already had an advantage in terms of emotional resonance for me. I can clearly relate to each of the characters (well, perhaps less so Phil, but I’m sure I’ve been a vindictive arsehole before…) — from the 15yo who puts far too much importance and anxiety into what’s realistically a pretty lovely job, to the older figure with the life experience and terse certainty, but who’s lost the perspective of youth to really empathise or get their thoughts across compassionately. Sure, perhaps there’s too much exposition at the beginning and the father’s character would be better portrayed through the story — but perhaps this heavy hand at the beginning is justified as a way of quickly establishing a personality that’s defined by absence and seeming disinterest. I don’t think, in this case, the story would have been improved by a less-blunt portrayal of the father, or that his character needed to be “revealed” in any way.

That said, in terms of succinct and powerful characterisation, the line “if someone had died” says so much about their relationship.

My one quibble with this story, I think, is the “But” at the start of the third paragraph, which undermines the later reveal of her father appearing by setting up a direct connection.

Otherwise, a solid, beautiful piece with real characters and strong prose, and a well-deserved win.

ZearothK - Twelve+:

This is just a really lovely and sweet story with some beautiful characterisation and an honestly tense narrative that really had me caring for these kittens. Is it still “slice of life” if it’s an actual life-or-death situation? I’m not going to quibble on that point. It’s a great scene that encapsulates the complicated relationship between two characters who don’t always act in their own interest. What’s left to improve here are a few technical issues, eg dialogue attribution, and a few lines that could potentially be tighter. I’m not going to harp on “show don’t tell”, but I think lines like:

“No luck?” Janet asked with what appeared to be genuine concern.

Offer an opportunity to do a bit more character work and let us reach that conclusion ourselves, eg:

“No luck?” Janet asked, her voice softening as she knelt down beside me.

Gorka - Seasoning:

This is a cute idea for a story that isn’t served well by only using 600 words.

The idea of someone putting salt on icecream is, okay, kind of notable I guess, but I’m not sold on it being so astonishing that he’d get all this interest about it. If this is some sort of college cafeteria, I guarantee there’s someone two tables over putting sriracha on their pancakes. (Protip: Thai black soy sauce is actually pretty amazing on vanilla icecream, but it’s like two-thirds sugar, which helps.)

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot else to this story. The cafeteria is basically a white room as far as I know, and beyond “handsome” I have no idea what Chris looks like. Nothing here is particularly bad, there’s just not enough here to pull me in. Some extra descriptions, perhaps some extra rumination before Jake goes over to talk to Chris, would have done wonders to flesh this out.

Thranguy - You Cannot Change:

Flashbacks to birthday week here, with another domer taking on the retrograde narrative (although, this time, not by choice). Was it successful? I’d say yes — with the caveat that the final line didn’t really land for me. Is there a reason we reveal the singer’s full name at the end? It feels like it’s affecting some sort of gravitas that the remainder of the story doesn’t quite back up. (Or I’m just a bad and dumb reader.)

Otherwise, I think the challenge of writing a story that alternates two timelines, each of which runs backward through time, was well-handled here. I do think the narrative structure got in the way of really establishing your own characters, though — I don’t really know all that much about Jules and Kayleigh, and the last line frustrates me a little because it hints at some sort of depth to JJC’s character which isn’t really explored elsewhere. Honestly, I’m more interested in the dynamics at play in this band coming back for a “reunion” gig than I am in whatever’s happening between the twins.

crabrock - The Gumshoe’s Greasy Graveyard:

This was a fun read, although I suspect you would have done better with the hellrule given more time — some parts feel like a missed opportunity, and other parts, such as “They’d in their years”, reveal how rushed the story was.

Dale’s character comes across really well — I enjoy the clearly one-sided competition she’s fostering in their relationship, and the sense that everything in her life is ultimately a facade, as empty as the manila folder. It’s a really effective metaphor and the ending lands.

Ryann’s character, by contrast, doesn’t feel as well-developed. I’d be curious to know how much of this competitiveness she’s buying into, and how much of it is genuine friendship with an ex. I don’t know if the story would be stronger or not if we got a sense that she was in on the joke, that she knew the folder was empty, that Dale had actually been there for an hour, etc. Does this scene play out every third Thursday? Does Dale use different props each time? I feel that Ryann’s role as a reporter would play into this a bit, allow her to do some investigation and play a more active role in the story; but perhaps that’s another story entirely, something bigger than this admittedly nice slice-of-life.

Chairchucker - Oldest Established (Permanent Floating):

When is a chairchucker story not a chairchucker story? I guess when you’ve been gifted a hellrule that pushes against your penchant for snappy, back-to-back lines of dialogue.

And I’m glad it does, because this story has a really strong voice which develops well in the sort of run-on narration the longer paragraphs allow for. Unfortunately, there’s … not a whole lot more for me to really latch onto. Liv’s character feels a bit underdeveloped, and while I really enjoy the whole conspiratorial secret gambling aspect, betting on the outcome of a pig show doesn’t quite feel absurd enough for the story. Everything sort of follows perfectly logically and sensibly, at least within the internal logic of the story, which leaves me feeling a bit unsatisfied at the end. The one exception here is Liv being caught with the boy, which doesn’t quite land for me because, again, I have no real insight into Liv’s character, so it feels a bit arbitrary and fumbles the ending a little bit.

I mean, I did enjoy this story. The voice carries it a long way, and I think there’s potential here if you happened to want to flesh it out. On its own and at this length is just feels a bit lacking, unfortunately.

rohan fucked around with this message at 06:07 on Sep 11, 2021

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Signups are closed.

Captain_Indigo
Jul 29, 2007

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



Vidal
(1998 words)

I was dispatched to the island of Ambigo to investigate a murder. My report is below.
---
The ship sailed only once a day and paused in the deep waters where myself and two pasty tourists were collected in a rowboat by an ancient ferryman. I walked to the road, my shoes and socks in hand, stared down by a gigantic mural of a cat. Insects with flailing legs stuck to the fresh paint. Flags and banners flapped in the ocean breeze and children crowded us, trying to sell us trinkets.

When I asked the taxi driver to take me to the police station, he inspected me carefully in the rearview mirror.

“Ah. The investigator from the mainland, yes?”

"I am.”

“I take the long road – Vidal Street too busy. They change the name a week ago. Means new maps but worth it, yes?”

As we pulled out onto the long coastal path that ran the island’s border, I noticed a picture of the gray cat hanging from the rearview mirror.

“You like?” he asked, kissing two fingers and pressing them to the picture.

“It’s a very nice cat,” I said. “Yours?”

“Lovely cat. Everyone’s.”

On the northern side of the island, we drove alongside a walled garden, within which loomed a great mansion.

“Jorge Ortega lived there,” the driver muttered.

“Who is Jorge Ortega?”

“The dead man,” he replied.

Ambigo had only three police and when I arrived at the station only one was present. I had expected a hard, cold man in a Generalissimo’s garb – all medals and dark glasses. Instead, Captain Delgado was a round, smiling figure in a linen suit. He had the demeanor possessed by those who are inevitably adored by children. We made introductions and I advised him that I was carrying a weapon. I showed him the porcelain handgun that had been entrusted to me by the powers that be, that is to say, the elusive and secretive overseers who had tasked me with the investigation. It was a tool of execution that would fire only one bullet before shattering.

“I think I’d prefer something more reliable,” he grinned.

“When you have only one round, you make certain that you are sure before you employ it.” I told him.

“The first Thursday of July,” he replied. “That was when the cat appeared.”

“This is the cat I keep seeing pictures of?” I asked.

“Yes. At about seven AM, this cat sits down in the center of the road outside the town hall.”

Delgado poured us both glasses of rum, then pointed above the doorway. A watercolor of the cat watched over us, its dusty fur accentuating teal eyes.

“I read a book,” Delgado continued. “Did you know, all the cats on Ambigo come from five? Five cats arrived here, brought by sailors on merchant or slave ships. Every cat on the island is a descendant. All except this one. Ambigo is a land of community, miracles and coincidence.”

He drank his rum, poured another, then motioned to my still full glass, waiting for me to drink so he could refill.

“You’re on island time now, Detective.”

I drained it.

“Good! I was worried you were a hard-rear end. So, the cat blocks the traffic. At the front of the queue is a foreigner and he gets out of his truck and waves his hands and shouts and blares his horn to get the cat to move. The queue behind him is growing longer and patience is thinning. This driver, he goes to nudge the cat away and as he does so, he finds it quite impossible. This cat, you see, is infinitely dense. It is as if this cat is completely immovable.”

I gave him what I hoped was a friendly look of incredulity.

“I know, I know, I know!” he waved his hands. “Here I am, the head of police on the island, telling you that a cat cannot be moved by a man. I understand, but have faith.”

“In the cat?”

He shrugged mysteriously.

“Miraculous things happen on this island, Detective. So he pushes and shoves the cat to no avail. Soon others are trying, none can move this cat an inch. They send for me and they send for a priest. By the time I arrive, Father Ordales has declared the cat an instrument of the divine.”

“As priests do,” I replied.

“As priests do,” he agreed. “I turn up to a gigantic crowd. Men, women, children, all have left their vehicles to catch a glimpse of this miraculous feline. One by one, the crowd attempt to move this cat, who by the way, seems entirely unfazed. It is pointed out to me that this cat is wearing a collar upon which it is given a name - Vidal.”

“Hence Vidal Street?”

“Indeed. So, all attempts to move the cat are unsuccessful and, as Father Ordales is adamant that it may be God, nobody is willing to run the thing over. We are left to consider other avenues. A child suggests we get some cat food and somebody does and we try to lure the cat away – it is not interested. Somebody goes home and returns with one of these little wool mice on a string – it is not interested. Someone suggests we should at least fetch it some water as the sun is now high in the sky and this creature must be practically baking. It looks at the water, admires its reflection perhaps, but does not drink. So then, Father Ordales goes to the church and returns with holy water and this, finally, the cat will drink.”

“How does this relate to the murder?” I asked.

“We will get there. The point I am making is that for five days this cat does not move. Does not eat. Drinks only holy water. Vidal is revered as a miracle, perhaps even God himself. This cat is proof of the divine, or so we believe. All except for Jorge Ortega.”

“The victim.”

Delgado poured himself a rum and I drained my glass. He refilled us both.

“Jorge Ortega was no victim. He has never been a victim in his life – he was the opposite. He was not a good man, and whilst I do not approve of vigilantism, I maintain – he was not a victim.”

I said nothing.

“I take this murder very seriously, detective. There have been only two other murders on this island in living memory. Imagine. It must be hard to think of such a thing when you are from the mainland. There was one murder 42 years ago, and another at the Feast of The Seven Candles 64 years ago. So, Ortega makes his feelings about the cat very clear. He is not a man afraid to upset people. Or hurt them. One of his many cars has been caught in the traffic and now he is complaining that the presence of Vidal is adding time to his commute to the south of the island. He insists that a town meeting be called to determine the next course of action. At the meeting, which is attended by the entire island I might add, he stands and calls me out personally. Asks me to do something about the cat. I ask him what he expects me to do when far stronger men than I are unable to move it. He demands I kill the creature to roars of outrage and cries of anguish. I motion to the cat, you see we left the door open so that Vidal might witness our meeting. I motion to the cat, surrounded as it is by the children of the island, by the elderly and sick who had been lifted from their beds for the first time in years to witness the miracle, by the wreaths of flowers and offerings to the creature. ‘You want that I should kill this which has brought so much joy?’ I ask him. He is emphatic.”

“What did you do?”

“I tell him no, that I will not kill the cat. And with that, Ortega walks from the building, draws his pistol and shoots Vidal in the back of the head.”

“Wow,” I said. “And that’s...”

"That is when the curse took him, yes. When the heavens struck him down for killing such a divine creature!”

“Who killed him, Captain?”

Delgado lit a cigarette, offered one to me, then took a thick cardboard folder from the top drawer of his desk and tossed it across the table.

“God? His file by the way. Multiple acts of violence, theft, burglary, bribery, witness intimidation, all going back thirty years. He had a habit of placing his hands on women without asking permission, another habit of exploitation. He abused wine, drugs and people. He used his wealth, most of which was taken from others, to remain untouchable. There is nobody on Ambigo unharmed by him in some way.”

“Captain, who shot Jorge Ortega?”

“As I said, the whole island was there, Detective. Yes, somebody must have pulled a trigger, but it was a curse that killed him, a curse for killing that perfect cat.”

I repeated my question.

“The gunman could have been anyone. There is nobody on this island who would not have had an excuse and that was before he killed God.”

This continued for hours. Delgado had said all he would say. He followed me to the parking lot.


“You are welcome to conduct your investigation, Detective. But I promise you, nobody saw what happened after he killed the cat. Nobody will be able to tell you who did or didn’t shoot Ortega.”

The taxi was waiting for me. The driver didn’t wait for me to give a location and simply head back towards the beach. I asked him if he ever met the cat.

“Yes, yes, yes, wonderful cat. Very nice.”

“And were you there when Jorge Ortega died?”

“I was. Everyone was.”

“Did you see him die?”

“Yes.”

“Did you see who killed him?”

“No, sir. Nobody did.”

We drove silently until we reached the beach. The ship that supposedly only came once a day had been waiting for me to return. The ferryman smiled at me toothlessly as I stepped into his rowboat.

“You find out who killed him?” he wheezed.

“Nobody saw,” I said bitterly.

He nodded as we rowed out over the gentle waters.

“It must seem silly to you, mainlander, our beliefs.”

“In miracles?”

“In our island,” he sniffed. “I was here for the cat. I was here 42 years ago when a sailor washed up on the shore who could tell the future. I was a boy at The Feast of Seven Candles 68 years ago, when a child appeared who could heal the sick.
The sailor and the child were killed too, by people just like Ortega.“

I turned to face him, narrowing my eyes at the glare of the setting sun over the shimmering tide.

“Sometimes a community must come together and handle its business.”

Behind us, the islanders were already ripping down the banners and flags, already painting over the mural.

---
In conclusion: There is no conclusion. Either, Ambigo is a land of miracles where gods arise, are snuffed out and avenged or Ambigo is a land where hated figures arise and must be executed by every man woman and child.
If anyone could have pulled the trigger, does it really matter who actually did?
--
Addendum: I chose note to include this detail in my initial report as it only serves to add further confusion to an already fluffy narrative. There was no way anyone upon the island could have known that it would be me to investigate. Despite this, Ambigo’s entire motive for the murder, the root of the “curse”, was a grey cat with teal eyes named Vidal. A cat that, both in name and appearance, was identical to the cat I had as a child.

-Detective Rhupti Galgola.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish



All Alone Together
Word count: 1458
Inspiration: The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees
https://thunderdome.cc//?story=10013&title=All+Alone+Together

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 22:22 on Oct 16, 2021

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




Bounty Bonanza
(Prompt: David Foster Wallace’s Big Red Son)
1991 words


“I’m not saying that there isn’t a craft to advance here, but I think that when you’re comparing the range-to-dollar efficiency of US v. foreign-made net-guns, well, that warrants taking a step back and rethinking the whole thing.”

Bounty Hunter of the Year candidate Jeffrey Layton leans back, casual in his folding chair. Everything about him seems casual, relaxed. Neither of us mentions his pun. After a pause, he continues.

“Bail jumpers and fugitives don’t get together to compare gear and notes. So, all this?” He gestures from our semi-secluded card table to the packed convention floor. “It’s a little gratuitous. But...”

I look up from my steno as he finishes.

“Well, it obscures the point.”

His remark puts me off balance. “Could you elaborate?”

The theme from ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’ thrums over the hall speakers, punctuated by cut-ins from police radio. A fugitive is at large.

Layton thinks for a moment, then continues.

“Try this: after you’re done with me, take a walk. Past the purveyors of night vision scopes, past the monogrammable stab-resistant vests, past the women in bikinis and dusters promoting 72-hour LamNabber energy gel, and let me know if you remember that’s all ostensibly to rustle a man, beat him down, maybe beat him real bad, and hoist him to justice.”

His candor is unsettling. I conclude with the obvious question:

“Then, why are you here?”

He gives me a good-natured smile.

“It’s business.”

We shake hands, the interview concluded. I make my way back to the convention floor of the Bounty Bonanza, held annually at the Marriott Suites and Extended Stay in sunny Tucson, Arizona. The packed booths seem to stretch for miles and I wonder if the gunpowder scent will come out of the carpet. I weigh Layton’s polemic in my mind and think about the assignment.

In an almost certainly poorly-controlled cohort study of fresh parolees, a near-ninety percent majority would have preferred to be hauled in by a bounty hunter, versus police or voluntary surrender (the option of ultimately not being dragged screaming from underneath a stolen vehicle was, for rationale of study design, reasonably absent).

I doubt that said parolees had time to consider the wanton commodification of bounty hunting (the four-wheel-offroad-night-vision-energy-gelling of the whole deal), but their survey selection reflects Layton’s truth: there is a romanticized outlaw-vigilante story here, a story of grinning violence, sold booth by booth.

Near the convention floor I meet back up with Chet, the Bonanza’s official press secretary. He is a pinkish, chubby man wearing one of the Bonanza’s omnipresent dusters and shifting on his feet, eager to get back to the floor. He looks at me, eyebrows raised with excitement. His tone is haughty.

“So, Layton, huh?”

My response is professionally noncommittal. “Great interview, yeah.”

He sniffs nonchalantly, an attempt to appear casual. I think his drawl is an affectation.

“I’m not biased, see, but there’s no way Layton’s getting it this year. Too preachy.”

I flip through my steno and look back to Chet.

“What about Hugh Trowley?”

The mention of my final interviewee makes Chet’s mouth go grim. “Trowley. Well, some people think he’s the best.” He does not elaborate. I frown at the myriad potential meanings of ‘best’ in the context of hunting humans. We keep walking.

Nearby, the local sheriff’s department’s booth inexplicably offers to put my photo on a faux-yellowed ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ poster. The poster is ringed with tearaway coupons for local restaurants and attractions. Per the souvenir, I am accused of horse rustling and general malfeasance, with a bold-print one billion dollar reward (approximately one-fifth of wild west 1865’s national GDP) for capture/execution. They are playing a Morricone soundtrack on tinny speakers.

Chet and I pass by the sheriff’s deputies and through the packed Bounty Bazaar, casually ambling to Hugh ‘Hunter’ Trowley. I wonder how he, among all his colleagues, scored that coveted nickname.

Chet stops to browse handcuffs and tasers. Nearly every person here is chewing a toothpick. My head swims a little from the array of Hunters’ tools on offer: the Desert Stalker, the Dusk Prowler, the Night Slayer. Chet pauses to look through a rifle scope and suck down a 72-hour LamNabber (hollow-point grape flavor). He grins, then points to the rack of gun accessories.

“Whaddya think? The price point on the Rail Rider is pretty okay, but the Dusk Prowler has that onboard laser sight.”

His question is friendly, genuine. I humor Chet a little.

“If you’re lucky, you could pay for that Dusk Prowler with a few collars.”

My lingo is generally based on police procedural dramas. It resonates with Chet, who picks up the scope, pays with a fat bundle of bills, then gingerly places it into his Bonanza swag bag.

Shortly after the inception of the Bonanza, the organizers added a ‘general interest’ section to the already-cramped floor space. There are some expected inclusions (ex. armed forces enlistment, life insurance sales), some heartening selections (ex. family planning, unionization), and some odd but strangely on-brand choices (ex. a booth hawking a shadow government-type book complete with cardboard standee of a bipedal, nautiloid Illuminati honcho (the seeming contradiction of a shellfish who is also conspiratorially Jewish is sadly but obviously unaddressed)). Hugh ‘Hunter’ Trowley is here, making conversation with a Marine recruiter.

Trowley scans over my press pass and lack of duster, then slaps the recruiter on the shoulder and begins walking over. His movements are viperine, like he has too many joints for just one body. Whatever he said has made the military man go a bony shade of white. Before I can react, Chet is gone.

Trowley throws his arm around my shoulders, nails digging into my skin. The reptilian part of my brain screams to run far, fast, and never look back.

A minute later, we settle around one of the hall’s marginally quieter peripheral tables. Trowley unholsters an enormous revolver and places it on the table, pointed in my direction. I angle my chair away, force general pleasantries, then open with a softball question.

“Why do you think you deserve to be Bounty Hunter of the Year?”

Where Layton’s smile was genial and easy, Trowley’s puts me on edge. He doesn’t speak through it, but around it. He smells of thick, spoiled milk.

“You didn’t hear? I’m the best. Most captures. Highest profile.”

Trowley bursts from his chair, picks up his revolver, and stabs the air in vigorous punctuation.

“Biggest check, fullest deck, thickest neck, and god-drat respect!”

He wipes brownish spittle from his cheek, thumbs his cannon’s safety switch on, and takes his seat all in one motion, leaning and twitching from self-injected agitation. I am frozen. His personal affirmation of a full deck is not convincing.

A silence settles over the table.

I certainly, absolutely do not want to know what this man has done.

He leans in even closer, pupils darting from my eyes, to my lapel, to my press badge, to my hairline. His voice drops to a near-whisper.

“I take it you don’t carry any active warrants?”

I wish Chet was here. I sputter a response.

“Uh, no, of course not. No. I do not.”

Judiciary innocence aside, I am unable to make eye contact. Trowley’s demeanor abruptly ratchets into insincere geniality. It doesn’t carry to his voice.

“Good! Then I guess I’m an open book.”

He is a Necronomicon, a Grand Grimoire, The Codex Gigas.

I want to follow my notes, ask him about his philosophy on hunting, his approach, or his history, but I can’t. I am a field mouse flushed from grass by the sun-blot of a stinking, brutal predator.

I make a shaky farewell and re-enter the general convention floor, barely seeing the queues and dusters. I have failed utterly. I couldn’t say a word. I never want to be guilty of anything ever again.

I feel this notion would make Trowley tremendously unhappy.

Chet appears at my side and matches my weak-kneed stride. He speaks softly.

“So, Trowley, huh?”

We walk a while before I respond.

“Yeah. There’s something really-”

Chet cuts me off. His voice is monotone.

“He’s got the numbers, that’s for sure. That’s the big thing, right? The numbers.”

We continue in silence a while longer. The hall empties as hunters, friends, and admirers file into the center pavilion for the awards ceremony. Chet pats my shoulder and scurries ahead to get a seat.

I look around at the vacant stalls and see the convention in a new, pre-hemorrhagic light. My solitary company is an animatronic cowboy whose moustache has started to peel away. The cowboy’s jaw moves up and down, utterly out of cadence with his looping speech.

“Make your jack with Branner’s barrel grease!”

I have no idea what that means.

I slow to a stop. The booths stand sinister in the absence of a crowd. Trowley’s miasma clings to my clothes. A video on repeat informs me that Branner’s increases round accuracy at 200 yards. The screen shows a groundhog (the presumed ‘jack’) sublimating into red mist, over and over and over again. I am lingering. The idea of entering the pavilion, of applauding and appreciating, makes me nauseous.

It’s too late, anyway. I hear the crowd roar and hoot. I can’t be sure over the din, but I think Trowley has won.

I see Layton approaching from the far end of the convention hall, gently pulling a handcuffed man behind him. The hunter’s got a cut on his cheek, the bounty is sporting an impressive shiner. They reach me and Layton pauses, unwrapping a granola bar and handing it to his captive. He leans on a table, dabs his laceration, and addresses me.

“Was I right?”

I consider the booths, the sales, the crowd. I consider Trowley.

“Yes. Definitely. But it’s worse.”

He slowly nods and turns to his fugitive. Layton unlocks one cuff, then snaps it onto the animatronic cowboy’s wrist. He pats the arrestee’s shoulder.

“Have a snack, sir. Long drive ahead.”

The man begins eating in small, nervous nibbles. Layton checks the cuffs, then walks over to me.

“Bonanza’s a pretty smart hiding spot, I think. Everyone’s too busy looking at all the shiny new violence to check for a bail jumper.”

I’m beginning to understand. For all his prowess Trowley missed the fugitive, basking in the well-polished savagery on display. He was in his element, too deep in it.

Layton smiles and passes me a piece of paper. It is a faux-yellowed, novelty bounty poster from the sheriff’s booth. His captive grins wide at the camera, wanted for horse rustling and general malfeasance. The reward is one billion dollars. I wonder what he’d actually done, or if it matters.

“I don’t know if hiding at the Bonanza is cocky, or just plain dumb,” Layton muses. I hand back the wanted poster. He looks down at it before tucking it away. “Well, at least he had a little fun.”

The crowd hangs around inside the ceremony hall, presumably listening for the also-rans. I hear a faint announcement for the best new non-lethal takedown accessory. I am still at a loss for words. Layton crosses his arms and continues, his tone a little sharper.

“So you, what’d you think? Come in, tap on the fishbowl, write up some cosmopolitan yuks?”

He’s nailed my loose initial thesis, but I don’t feel admonished. Layton is getting somewhere. He continues.

“Can’t say it’s right, but the lights, the sales, the show, they make the brutality palatable. They make the real monsters just a little less frightening.”

I think of grotesque Trowley looking small under the stage lights, lifting a first place trophy and its accompanying oversized novelty check. I smile a little. I try my closing question again.

“So, why are you here?”

Layton walks over to the animatronic cowboy, produces a handcuff key, and looks at me.

“Same as all the rest, I suppose. It’s business.”

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Auto-Correct
To Jump Is to Fall by Stephen Graham Jones

733 Words


Everyone always likes to go on about purpose and meaning, but I learned early on, that the only real purpose was not being the butt of the joke, and being able to laugh, when you inevitably would be.

Lorelai, the shift-manager, staggered out the back of the store and gasped. I looked up in response and nearly screamed. Looking back at us, somewhat incredulously, as if inconvenienced, was a dead man. His half-melted face was seared into a grimace on his blackened skull. Lengths of twisted metal and jagged plastic protruded in odd directions from his ruined body. The dead man just looked down at the ice cream freezer, then towards us and asked, “Y’all got any rocky road? Wife and kids are not going to let me hear the end of it, if I come home empty handed again.”

Lorelai and I just stared at him. We looked down at the security monitor to see if the cameras saw what we saw, but when we looked back up to where he was supposed to have been standing, he was gone. The cameras were clear. Lorelai was the first to scream, holding shaking hands up to her face. I followed soon after, with a lengthy interrogation that consisted of “what the gently caress?” uttered to no one in particular with increasing disbelief as the phrase was gradually repeated.

When we finally fled from the store, a semi-truck plowed into a small Hyundai that literally came out of nowhere. Our brains, preferring an understandable horror, approached the wreckage, but a fuel line somewhere must have ruptured, some wiring must have come loose. The vehicles were consumed by a sudden conflagration of flame.

I turned away then, unable to watch any further, and called the cops. Neither one of us wanted to set foot back in the store, so we sat together at the edge of the parking lot sharing a cigarette until emergency services arrived. The firetruck got there first and began hosing down the wreckage. What Lorelai and I saw through the steam and smoke was a ruined semi-truck, and a man burned to death some several feet from it, but the Hyundai and its passenger were nowhere to be found.

We tried to explain the accident to the police, but nothing added up. They asked us to pull up the camera footage, and we realized that we’d have to go back into the store. Against our better judgement, we awkwardly try and explain the dead man we saw. This was met with the silence that I expected our bizarre claims to be met with, but neither Lorelai or I expected the knowing nods and explanation that followed.

The officers told us that they’d been getting calls like this the last few days, and that they weren’t ghosts, but skips. That was the best term anyone involved could come up with, and honestly, I guess it seemed appropriate to my layman’s understanding of things, but as Lorelai and I were made to understand, there was an accident at the super collider outside Waxahachie and now we all just have to deal with it. Nothing to be done. Greater minds than ours had tried, failed, and brought us along with them in an event that would converge an unknown number of alternate realities into our own. No harm, no foul.

The news didn’t make much sense then, but over the next few days it became crystal clear as reality’s reconciliation went into full swing. Animals and people were first. Gone missing or replaced at random. Some people faded from memory, while others were plagued by the incomplete memories of people who had vanished. Then there were those who encountered premonitory, seemingly superimposed, visions or encounters with their own alternate future selves.

That brings me back to the dead man in the store. What was most terrifying about the dead man in the store, wasn’t that he was dead. It was that through those burned and mangled features, was someone Lorelai and I both recognized. Myself. A version of me that had a wife and kids. A version of me that cared about someone other than myself. A version of me that the universe deemed unfit. So as the universe tells me another one of its great jokes, plays another one of its careful tricks, I laugh like it wants, because I can’t stomach the alternative.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

The Walls
1990 words



Alexander noticed the men skulking in the trees while he watched birds one Sunday morning. He was on his back porch scanning the trees when a dark blur like a living shadow slid across his vision. He lowered his binoculars and there they were: two men walking purposefully among the trees, perhaps 50 yards from his porch.

It was at least the third time Alexander had seen people over there. One of them wore a sharp black suit, and the other wore a rugged jacket and a hard hat. The man in the suit had been there the other times, too. They stode here and there, looking at the trees and the ground, and pointing at things left and right. Every time Alexander saw the men, an uneasy feeling swelled up in his stomach. A feeling like he was supposed to do something, but he could never be sure what.

What were they doing out there? It was a long drive from anywhere, he thought. And they were out there every weekend. Didn’t they have families, or hobbies other than pointing at his trees?

“They ain’t your trees, Alex,” he said out loud. And he was right, the trees were just beyond his property line. But he felt a kinship with the trees and the birds that lived there, after so many years watching them.

Weeks of uncertainty about the strangers had built up in the back of his mind, and it finally burst forth. “I gotta do something,” he said, and set out to talk to the men.

By the time he got out to the trees, the men were gone. He noticed several large X’s spray painted on certain trees, and some colored ribbons tied onto certain plants. A wave of foreboding emanated from those X’s and ribbons. “This ain’t good,” he said. “I oughta call someone,” he said.

But who? His son lived on the other side of the country, and never answered anyway. He wasn’t allowed to call Susan anymore. He thought about the police, but what could he say? The men weren’t on his property. He heard an ominous rumbling nearby, and went to investigate.

Beyond a row of trees he stumbled into a clearing that was scattered with fresh stumps and piles of dried, broken branches. Two giant, yellow machines idled imperiously. Ten or twelve men milled around the machines like busy servants. Alexander noticed the man in the suit, and approached him.

“What’s all this then?”

The man in the suit smirked at him in a knowing way. “Go back home, Mr. Ettinger,” he said.

“What? But... “ Alexander stuttered, baffled that the man knew his name. The uneasy feeling swirled up again. Very few people called him ‘Mr. Ettinger,’ but someone had, somewhere, recently.

“Look, Indacorp isn’t going to deal with you anymore,” said the man. “Just go sit on your land that you love so much. Enjoy it.” The man pointed sternly toward Alexander’s house.

“But what y'all doing out here?” Alex finally managed to say. The man only shook his head and gave the most disappointed grimace that Alex had ever seen.

Alexander returned home. The name ‘Indacorp’ spent fifteen minutes rattling around in his brain, then finally clicked into place. He’d received a letter, or two, from Indacorp and forgot to open them.

He rooted around the kitchen until he found them in the letter basket. There were eight letters in all. Only the first two had been opened. He read them all one by one.

Mr. Ettinger, I am writing on behalf of the Indacorp development corporation with an inquiry on your plot of land...

Mr. Ettinger, I am writing again because it seems my first letter went astray...

Mr. Ettinger I have written twice and called three times now, and we are very urgently hoping to speak with you...


Each letter contained a number with a dollar sign next to it. By the fifth letter the number had increased tenfold. The eighth letter, however, contained only a phone number and the words ‘call us immediately.’ That letter was dated three months ago.

The big yellow machines, the expanse of tree stumps, and blue X’s all finally connected in Alexander’s mind. He dialed the number.

A woman answered: “Indacorp development, Mr. Harris’ office.”

“I... I’m calling about a letter I got.”

“What’s your name, sir?”

“I’m Alexander Ettinger.”

Alex swore he heard a little gasp come across the line, or maybe it was a snort.

“Ohh, I see. Well, Mr. Harris isn’t here right now, he can’t speak to you right now.” The woman emphasised her words in a way that Alexander could not make sense of.

“If you could tell him to call me-” Alexander started, but the woman hung up.

Outside, the grinding shriek of a chainsaw filled the air. Alexander rushed out just in time to see the first of his trees toppling over. He ran to the crowd of men in hard hats. They were busy attacking the next tree, sending clouds of sawdust flying out of its trunk. He waved his arms and yelled at them to stop, but they kept on going. The tree fell before they noticed him.

The chainsaws cut off and the man in the suit appeared. “Mr. Ettinger, there is no stopping this now. We’re moving forward.”

“But Mr. Harris please, the offer in your letters, I just saw it now and-”

“Oh, I’m not Mr. Harris, just an employee of his. And he’s done dealing with you, like I said before. He does not like being ignored.”

“Well I didn’t mean to, I just-”

“It doesn’t matter. We are not stopping the construction.”

“Well that’s okay, I mean, I could accept the offer.”

The man in the suit laughed, and so did all the dozen or so workers in hardhats who’d gathered around. They were all smiling and watching him with a knowing interest.

“Oh no. No no, we’re not going to buy your land, not for one cent. You’ll stay right here.” The man in the suit smirked again and pointed at Alexander's house. “Go on home now!”

Alex went home, and called the number again. He called several times per day for a week, and the answer was always some version of: “Mr. Harris is not available to talk to you,” which the woman seemed to take special delight in saying.

By the end of the week there were no trees in sight in any direction. The number of men outside had grown by ten times--dozens strode about purposefully on each side of Alex’s little square of land. Cement mixers and cranes and huge trucks full of gravel appeared. The air was constantly full of dust that made the sun glow red in the sky. The endless clanging and rumbling and shrieking of the machines was unbearable.

Every morning he called the number and was told Mr. Harris wasn’t available. Then for the rest of the day he would watch the catastrophe through his binoculars. He watched specifically for the man in the suit. The man moved about like a shark through a school of fish, dodging in and out of sight. Every time Alexander saw him standing still for a moment, he’d rush outside through the dust and noise to try to talk to him, but the man was always gone when he got there.

Concrete foundations appeared and scaffoldings grew up like weeds on each side of Alexander’s property. Then the scaffoldings were covered with tarps that blocked the sun and darkened his yard. Seeing his land delineated in such a clear, tall way made his living space seem much smaller than he’d imagined it. A small, dim, box under a dusty red sky.

One morning Alexander spotted the man in the suit near the chain link fence that now surrounded his land, and he dashed outside.

“Hey! Excuse me! Hello!” Alex shouted and shook the fence to get the man’s attention. The grinding and crashing of the construction made it difficult to hear his own voice.

The man turned and looked at Alex with a curious grin, then folded his arms and stared without a word.

“Hey! I wanna talk to Mr. Harris about the offer!” Alex yelled as loud as he could.

The man just continued to grin, and nudged some nearby workers who joined in on the staring. Alex felt the uneasy swirling in his belly again, and he shook the fence in frustration. “Hey! Hey!”

The man walked away without a word, and Alexander ran along the fence following him with shouts until he vanished into a cluster of workers.

Towering, black buildings with no windows rose on every side. Alex could only feel sun on his skin between the hours of 11 and 1 when the sun was directly overhead. Silence fell as the construction completed. The silence was magnified by the lack of wind, or any air motion at all. He sometimes heard a distant groaning of a gust passing by overhead. All the machinery had gone, aside from two lone cranes peeking their heads into the square of sky, as if he were deep in a well and they were looking down on him.

On one of those dark afternoons there was a knock on his front door. He opened it to two men in black suits. One was the man he had grown used to watching through his binoculars, and the other was older with a white beard and small glasses. The older man did not look at him.

“This is Mr. Harris,” said the man in the suit. “He’s come to watch the project’s completion.”

“Mr. Harris, sir, I’ve been trying to call you,” stuttered Alex. “I meant to ask, you see, I missed some of your letters about the offer. I’m interested in the offer, you see-”

“We are far past that, Mr. Ettinger,” said the man in the suit. “Come outside with us.”

Alexander followed the men out into the dead, tepid air. The man in the suit said a brief something into his phone, then they both looked skyward, so Alex looked with them.

Above, the cranes were moving. A wedge of black slowly sliced into the square of blue above them, like the moon biting into the sun during an eclipse. Like some demonic triangle it grew and spread, devouring the sky. As the last sliver of blue shrank to nothing Alex thought he saw a bird dart across the opening and fly off to who knew where.

With an echoing BOOM that vibrated his feet, the darkness was complete. The black buildings melded into the general darkness all around, and Alex could no longer see more than a few yards ahead of him. Everywhere but where he stood seemed a void. He heard footsteps and turned in time to see the backs of the two men vanish into the oily dark. A moment later, the weak glow of a flashlight appeared, rapidly shrinking away from him.

“Hey! But wait!” He ran toward the little light, but tripped in the dark and tumbled to his knees. “But how am I supposed to live here!”

The light shrank to a point in the distance. Then for an instant there bloomed a violent burning flame that made Alex squint and hold up his hand--a rectangle of fiery light at ground level, molten light pouring into his dark box. He saw momentarily the silhouettes of the two men move into the rectangle of light, then it all vanished with an echoing clang!

In the extreme stillness, silence, and darkness he heard the smallest scuffling and clattering sounds above him, surely caused by workers on the building tops, cleaning up, or making final adjustments. To Alex, though, it sounded exactly like handfuls of dirt scattering across a laquered coffin lid.

fishception
Feb 20, 2011

~carrier has arrived~


Oven Wrangler

Barbarian

Inspired by Jim Theis' Eye of Argon

1427 Words

~

All doubts were cast aside, all accomplishments sundered, when the Barbarian came. The shepherds from the hills saw it first, like a patch of the world that shook and would not stop. It moved across the lands, bringing change in its wake. Wild grass grew where farms were tilled, weeds grew fresh where they once were plucked. I, Sapth, know this, for I saw it in the barley fields where I worked, and saw my work undone.

I saw it, where it rippled and touched the crops and left dust and cracks, made crop decay, and made dreams, fevered and glorious, into reality. My barley, and all the others, were made into dust. I lamented, but left my fields, for there was nothing left to tend. I took axe in hand, and I followed it from a distance as it spun, whorls of itself spiraling outwards to afflict all around. I did this, so that others will know what happened to my home of Shapish.

I passed roads, once with the ruts of trade, now dust and rough scrubs, a blasted heath that did not resemble home. I saw homes, now desolate and broken, hungry eyes looking out from the shadows within. The places I knew were no longer what they were, with skittering shivers of the thing running down the lanes and alleyways, their forms shifting and changing before my eyes.

At the end of the road lay the gates, with bronze lions clutching lapis stones within their jaws. A pall was cast over the land, foreign red gleam shining from on high, and I knew it was soon to end. As I saw, it crawled its way over the gates, and where its whorls spun, the nature of things shattered. The bronze fell to pitting, the lapis stones ground to powder.

There was a man I knew, Nahil, who worked at the gate and kept it safe with spear and shield. He charged at the Barbarian as I followed behind it, peeking my head from behind the decrepit gate. As he charged, one of its whorls caught him up. His body warped and twisted before my very eyes, his muscles bulging and growing before he was a hulking brute of a figure, armor and weapon alike. I looked in his eyes for a brief moment, and I did not know the man I saw there.

There was an alley I ran down as quickly as I could, the buildings looming and shifting before my eyes as the crowds screamed horror. Those caught by the whorls were changed, made into a mockery of themselves, as if an atavistic streak was planted upon their soul. Everything moved too fast, as if the world could not catch up to us, the red sky overhead churning as a multitude.

I sped myself down the alleyways and roads, trying to see where it was going. I saw the telltale signs of its work, and that was enough to keep me on the right track. Buildings became looming, people became unruly, the streets became a strange mix of party and riot. Wine of no known vintage overflowed from fountains, their color matching the sky overhead. The further I ran, the fewer people I saw that I knew, til the faces became indistinguishable blurs.

The other end of the city walls met me well before I was ready for it, and as I ran up the now abandoned towers, I saw that it had not gone through the city. But as I looked backwards, I knew, truly, that this city was no longer my home. The great temple, where we give our tribute to the Great Bull of the Heavens, seemed to be crowned with the thing, as it wriggled and whirled itself in circles around the city.

People streamed, driven by the unholy bidding of the Barbarian, climbing the steps of the temple and throwing themselves down upon it in prostration. There was wailing, there was lamentation, there were all the usual marks of a great tragedy, but even still, their faces rose towards the peak of the temple, where rose a figure, standing atop the great altar. The mayor, clutching a knife up and holding it to the sky, brought the crowd to silence.

I knew him well. Ilabrat had spent many years administrating problems within the city, and his wisdom was known far and wide, but this was not the same man, though he wore his skin like a burdensome cloak. Where he opened his mouth, words, screams, and pleading came in equal measure, where one could not tell where one started and the other began. The words he spoke resonated through the city, and I saw the reviled thing atop of the temple shiver as if in anticipation.

I climbed down from the tower, looking to get closer. Those who were not under its thrall, such as I, were hidden, but hiding would do no one good in this moment. The words rang in my mind, in a way that I could not simply ignore, but I could not simply understand either. Closer and closer, I approached the compound of the temple, skirting around and entering through the side through an unguarded servant’s entrance.

As I got closer, another voice joined the cacophonous chanting, this time a scream. I climbed up again to see what it was, and before me I beheld the strangest sight. A woman, or what I assumed was a woman, was staggering her way up the steps, but where I could see through the diaphanous veils that covered her body, there was no skin there, merely twists and turns and hidden things that make the skin crawl.

She did not struggle, not in a way that seemed to matter, as her legs took her, shakily, jerkily, up each of the brick steps. It was almost as if strings were hoisting her up the steps like some kind of twisted puppet, making her dance up to the top and to her fate. The screams that came from her were bleak, but also carried within them exaltation.

The congregation writhed in ecstasy, howling to the sky, distracting a sentry for long enough for me to slip by and deeper into the temple complex. I saw the priests within deep cloisters as I crept, daubing blood in sigils and spirals. They rattled and quivered as if they had a life of their own, and the priests drank deep of their secrets. I turned my eyes away, lest I drink too, and lose myself as they clearly had.

I crept to the top, climbing along some stonework, feet soft and silent against the bricks. The screaming and chanting had not ceased, though it had levelled off into a wailing keen that defied comprehension. I strode closer and closer to the altar, from behind, and stared at Ilabrat, cavorting and lost within the whorls as much as any other person had been. His eyes alighted on mine and he babbled incoherently, spittle flowing over his chin in a foam.

In that moment, he was not guilty. I knew that the Barbarian had him within its clutches, and I knew that the knife he held was destined for someone’s throat that didn’t deserve it. None of the others deserved their fate either, and as I stared across the crowd gathered, I raised my axe, and I hurled it, as hard as I could, towards the center of that terrible thing, that spinning mess of whorls. Perhaps I thought I’d do one last act of confrontation, perhaps I had gone mad in that moment, as mad as the rest.

A sound like fabric tearing, like glass screaming, echoed out from it. The crowds gasped as one, and froze. The Barbarian folded inside of itself, once, twice, again and again, until it became nothing more than a gem, floating down to rest upon the great altar. As it touched the rock, it melted, flowing around the altar as if the very touch of the earth upon it repulsed it. It flowed, down through the crowds, and where it touched them, they melted away as if they never were.

All doubts were cast aside, all accomplishments sundered, when the Barbarian came. Most of Shapish died, and the places where we could live still writhed and twisted in the whorls that had birthed it. Even now, it is a place of horror, of grim tales, but of those of us that survive, we speak of its doom, so that others will heed our warning.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




William Tenn, The Liberation of Earth

Four Cruxes
1906 words

The Survivalists

The three-woman crew of the small hopper did not speak. That's the first thing Sen Jinq Sim noticed about them. Not even to each other. He assumed they communicated through micro-twitch texts projected onto each other's eyeballs, had a rich conversational world for themselves, but they did not speak to him. When he tried to stand at the wrong time they did not even gesture at him, but instead shoved him back into the seat.

Three days in their blank company, in the sealed ship with no windows. The shifts in gravity at each point of acceleration or adjustment were the only clues to his location, and those were unreliable. He could not notice and log them in his sleep.

Sen could have been wealthy. Well, he was wealthy as it was, but he could have built a world-straddling fortune. He lived comfortably, in an apartment no larger than his parents had. He could have been President of the Climate Council, or better one of those permanent staffers who dictated most policy without having to stand for confidence votes. He took no more influence than his yearly vote. He could have been patriarch of a sprawling clan, placing a dozen blood and adopted children in position to rise or fail grandly. He had not married. Instead, he spent nearly a decade working towards this, towards getting on this ship.

The shuttle contacted the docking section of Sigma Base with a lurch. The airlock doors opened. The crew lined up and saluted him, their first gesture he had seen. Sen stepped through the door.

The committee was not as impressive as he had imagined. Admiral Zephan seemed most fragile, barely filling out his ancient deep blues. The twins, Calla and and Melchior, were still bright and quick, but spoke softly, weakly. And the other two, the ones without names, the spies of old turned masters seemed distracted. Above all, every one of them looked tired.

"Sen," said Melchior. "There's a document at your desk. Your oath of office."

"No need for blood," said the first spymaster. "A fingerprint will do."

"Who are you today?" asked the Admiral.

"Time," he said.

"And Tide," said the other.

Sen read the oath. It was shorter than he expected. His eyes widened. It had been a long time since he had been this surprised. "This-"

"This makes you chair of the Survival Committee," said Tide. "Once you've signed you could have the rest of us fired. Or thrown out the airlock."

"Much the same," said Calla.

Tide made an affirmative noise. "Indeed. We hope you will at the least wait until your briefing is complete."

"This," said Sen, "This is not what I expected. I knew you needed new blood, but..." His finger hovered over the plate, and he almost seemed surprised to see it there, far ahead of conscious decision.

"We need new leadership," said Melchior. "And there is some urgency. No time to wait as you disrupt and reform factions."

Sen saw his finger on the plate, the print scanning below it and his name filling the blank.

The Closed Gate

"Scout ship Xerxes encountered a closed gate on the fifth planet of the Thistledown system," said Admiral Zephan. "This would be thirty-nine jumps out the Uranus wormhole."

"So the Axu migration has begun?" said Sen.

"Not yet," said Calla. "It will when we tell them, we assume."

"They'll find out inside of a year," said Warp.

"If they don't know already," said Weft.

"And they are not what they claim to be," said Warp.

"Explain." Sen had enough briefing materials to fill years reading them, reading only summaries. And none of them touched on this.

"You'll be the seventh human being to know this," said Calla. "Five are in this room. The other is a scout captain who had the opportunity to perform an autopsy on an Axu crewman."

She gestured up a hologram, an image of an Axu, the familiar tall four-armed frame of the only other spacefarers humanity had yet encountered, the only survivors of the Scourge that swept across the wormhole network some thirty thousand years or so past. Another gesture and the head, that uncanny upside-down face separated from the body.

"Their body is a shell. A tool. Engineered from DNA and flesh."

Warp interrupted her. "A lie."

"A deception, yes," said Calla. "And it could have been a harmless one. But then there's the head. The real Axu." She flicked at the image and it zoomed in, cleanly from the macroscopic to the microscopic, to cells with odd pinwheeling organelles, then down to molecules. Sen wasn't primarily a biochemist,  but he knew enough to know something was wrong. "All life we've encountered across more than three hundred worlds-"

"Excepting a handful of mechanical lifeforms," interrupted Weft.

"Excepting the Fiella, the Vviv, and some Mapmaker relics, yes. Otherwise all life has essentially the same genetic codes, products of the Builders' panspermia seeding of their galaxies. At the genetic level, nothing out there is more different than a mushroom or a cuttlefish. But not the Axu head." Data filled the screen. "It was too risky to carry back a sample. We only understand the very basics of Axu-head biochemistry. But we know enough to know that they are truly alien."

"They aren't part of the Builder seeding," said Warp. "That means that they're elders. Builders. Mapmakers. Tricksters. Or Scourge."

"Or an unknown fifth type," said Sen.

"An interesting thought," said the Admiral.

"The First Speaker will be meeting with the Ambassador from Axu Shap in ten days," said the Admiral. "You will need to provide instructions for our proxy."

"No proxy," said Sen. "I'm going myself. My first change as the new chair. We should get out more. Sigma station is an unacceptable single point of failure. When I return I expect 
one of you to leave for at least as long a trip, and another after them. I hope we don't need to make a formal schedule, but I do expect everyone to go, to be planetside or on a one-gate station, let's say every other year."

Diplomacy Games

"The Ambassador had some trouble explaining precisely who you are," said the alien, Folla Xi.

"He doesn't know, not completely," said Sen. 

"Fascinating." Axu sweat is disturbing to watch. It flows slowly up their heads. Sen had to remind himself how alien their psychology and physiology were, that this was not a tell, at least not in the way he imagined it. "And he directly reports to the First Speaker. So I take it that you are the true ruler of humanity?"

"In some matters," said Sen.

Folla laid his hands across each other, left on left and right on right, almost seeming human sitting there, so long as Sen did not glance at his face. "Which matters?"

"The survival of the species," said Sen. "And threats thereto."

"I hope you don't consider us in that category."

"That remains to be seen," said Sen.

Axu smiles are chilling. Inverted, and with teeth that each have a dark hole in them, round and perfect, two dozen accusing eyes. "Indulge me. What kind of threat do you see?"

"If you were an elder race, in the prime of your power, the closed gate from Axu Shap to Sol would not have stopped you. All of them were masters of the gates."

"You appear to know things that could only be learned by violating our nations' oldest agreements," Folla said. "There might be...consequences were that true."

"Perhaps I'm a lucky guesser," said Sen. "Or perhaps you've known what we know all along, and kept silent for your own reasons."

"Not all species have a concept of luck," said Folla. "Ours both do. Perhaps it is why we get along well enough. So, secret ruler of humanity, make another lucky guess. What do you think we are?"

"A remnant," said Sen. "Descendants of some isolated group of one of the elders, with only a fraction of their skills. But which?"

Folla laughed, a deliberate mimic of a human laugh. Like an old sitcom laugh track. "We do not know," he said. "But we suspect. Not the Builders. They were smaller than atoms, hotter than suns, and their tools far more crude than our flesh. The Mapmakers? Perhaps. But most species with ancient cultures recognize us, and react with hate. Not fear. We are most like scions of the Tricksters, the ones who changed the gates and half-ruined the maps."

"Why?" asked Sen. "I mean, do you know?"

The Axu shrugged with his lower arms, a weird wiggle. "In your history, weren't maps made mainly by imperialists, by conquerors?"
Folla steepled his hands, one pair above the other. "Are you satisfied? Will you direct the Ambassador to hand over the location of the closed gate?"

Sen nodded.

"Excellent. I've enjoyed this talk. And I believe we owe a debt of knowledge, with the migration begun. Knowledge concerning the Scourge that left so many worlds available for your expansion."

Sen grinned, wondering if the Axu found his hole-less teeth unsettling. "I would be happy to hear it, yes."

"No," said Folla. "You won't. There is no Scourge. No single Scourge. There are dozens. Hundreds. The wormhole network is a hostile place, and many dangers lurk in the dark corners you can't help poking at. The terror fleet you imagine, wandering eon-long circuits of gates destroying whatever they see has been built, it is real. But there is more. Rogue mechanicals in swarm. Perfect biological invaders that choke out ecologies. Abandoned instruments of wars between elder factions still fighting with means that would horrify their creators. Texts that when translated can drive entire civilizations mad."

Outbound

Sen stood alone on the bridge of the Gilgamesh, watching the stars and the tiny dot that was Saturn. Soon it would be time to sleep, but not just yet.

He was the tenth Survival Committee member to take this retirement plan he had devised. Each of the original five, and most of their replacements. He had hand-picked most of the new Committee, and the new  chair bullet his way in the same way he had. The world was in good enough hands.
"We live too long, get too set in our ways." That was the first problem of the committee, each with rejuvenation tech far beyond that available even to billionaires. But it was also the problem with Earth's growing wormhole empire. Too much comfort. Not enough growth, even on the nearest colonies.

The deep colonies were the solution to both.Automated ships carrying frozen colonists outward, a hundred gates or more with no relay chain back to Earth. New, independent civilizations designed for hard living and exponential growth. Each ruled by a Committee retiree, each one a god-emperor for the five or six hundred years the tech in their blood could give them.

Sen would have his wealth, have his power, father dozens or hundreds in his line, half his and half from the sperm bank that replaced his left testicle.

And in ten thousand years, give or take, the expanding boundaries of the deep colonies would begin to meet, with cultures divergent enough to seem strangers, a universe of friends and rivals ready to stand against anything that lurked in the dark.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Ottessa Moshfegh's "Bettering Myself" is a story about an enormously awful, unappealing character that manages to be very fun to read. Unlike most stories about awful people, this one is neither unaware of the character's awfulness nor rubbing your face in it -- it's not "hey, look how much she sucks!" Her stories always make me want to write characters like this, with almost inscrutable motivations that make you work to understand them.

Hellrule: No one in your story can understand anything the other characters say out loud.



Escape from Moon-Base 2058
970 words


Archive

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 04:08 on Jan 6, 2022

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Submissions are closed.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Boats against the current
615 words

I was never clear on who invented the scopes. Someone in South Korea, maybe, or China. They were initially marketed as a way of finding lost keys, phones, small personal items. You could flip it open, dial in the desired date in the past, watch yourself walk around for a bit and - aha! - there they were, slipping down the back of the couch.

After a while it became normal, expected, to spend time looking back at your past self. Too much time, even, it was addictive. People did memes about it. Bus trips were full of commuters reliving their past.

That particular Thursday I was scrolling through my early 20s, on the bus. Fun time; looking back on it was much less complicated than living it. Lots of drugs. Prone to foolish errors that in retrospect (or rather “In RetroSpect” as the jingle went) were easily avoidable. The music was also a little dated but my toe was still tapping inside my shoe when the woman next to me tapped me on the shoulder. I hit pause, then saw my face locked into a spastic gurn and tapped it twice more to advance a few seconds.

“Is that..?” She was looking at my screen. I felt the urge to hide it from her, but before I could decide whether to act on the impulse she was pointing at a face in the corner of my screen. It was her face, though much younger obviously, and on the glowing screen she had an expression like she was trying to swallow a baseball but wasn’t sure if she really wanted to.

“Huh. That’s really… You were there?”

She nodded in a complicated way. “Fun time.” She had a fancier scope than me and she slid her finger down the timeline, glancing at mine to get the date. Then she looked back up at me. “I’m sorry, you don’t mind? I’m Callista. By the way.”

“Be my guest,” I said. “You were there too. It was your life. Is. I mean, go for it.”

She’d already found that night, in a nimble series of taps and slides. There I was, eyes wide, face in a rictus of wooo let’s go.

“Chemical Brothers. At, ah, Turnmills. They had that residency.”

She nodded, zooming in on my face. “This is really forward of me, I’ve never met anyone like this who I didn’t … already know.”

The bus slowed, coming up to my stop. “Same. I’m getting off here though, so--”

“Oh!” she said.

I had an hour before my first meeting. “Would you come and have a coffee with me?” I said it in a rush, and was surprised at the words as they came out and afterwards, too, as I watched them land, and her eyes widen. I imagined looking at that moment later tonight, scrubbing back and forwards across it, reading the meaning in the way the words impacted on her.

She was very still for a moment. “I’m not sure I can. Maybe another time? It was nice to meet you, though. Again.” I imagined her thinking about looking at that moment tonight too, taking it apart and studying it. I saw the realisation that we would never talk to each other again settle in our faces.

“That would be great,” I said, and felt the falseness of each word. “I’ll probably see you on the bus.”

She smiled at me and I pictured her looking at that smile, interrogating it, and her reaction, and my reaction to her reaction. I would do the same, of course.

The bus stopped, the door opened, and I stepped back on to the street, trailing the past behind me one step at a time.

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


week 475 results: do your favorite story week

People seemed to have fun this week, but on the whole the quality of most of these stories felt very close together for the judges. Even when we couldn't get into the stories (and we couldn't get into a lot of the stories), it was clear the writer was doing something they were passionate about and having fun with the prompt. Given that the week was so small as well, this is a no loss week.

However, a friendly penguin gets a DM for a story that had an interesting mood and tension, but which had an ending that left all the judges frustrated for not capitalizing on that tension.

No HMs.

derp wins with a story that, while it could have been trimmed down a bit, effectively capitalized on its threatening energy and made some of the judges feel something. prompt

:toxx: to post crits for all stories by 11:59 PM PST on Sunday.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

WEEK 476: LOVE/HATE


For this week, when you sign up I will give you two random (or not? >:] ) things. Your character will hate one thing and love the other. You pick which is which.

If your character only mildly dislikes, or sort of enjoys the thing, I will make a disappointed face and sigh. This should be a strong revulsion and passionate obsession.

--- Please do not write an origin story. --- I want your characters to be fully formed with their loves and hates at the start of the story. Please don't write a story whose entire purpose is to explain why your character hates A and loves B.

Otherwise the story can be about anything.

1300 words. Have fun!

signups close friday night
subs close sunday night

judges: me, weltlich, ?

lovers and haters:
1. taste
2. Idle Amalgam
3. Thranguy
4. Captain_Indigo
5. Hawklad
6. Chairchucker
7. Chernobyl princess
8. Carl killer miller
9. The man called M
10. shark waifu
11. sitting here
12. sebmojo
13. crabrock
14. babyryoga

derp fucked around with this message at 18:15 on Sep 20, 2021

t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010


Sure

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


in

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




In

Captain_Indigo
Jul 29, 2007

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



In.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

the concept of free will ---|--- decorative plates




the letter 'X' ---|--- Bucharest


Dreams ---|--- the greater sage-grouse


The pacific ocean ---|--- Ariana Grande (the singer, personally)

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

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



Crits for Week #475

Roughly listed in order from favorite to least favorite, but outside the top three don't take too much into the ordering as I already changed it from last night to this morning and I'm sure I'd change it again by the afternoon. I will also try to go back and edit this post with the links once things are archived.

Captain Indigo - Vidal

This was great. The conversations worked really well. I appreciate that most of your story was an exposition dump, just saying this happened and then this happened and then this happened, but the dialogue makes it interesting for me despite what should be a fairly inactive conversation. Your characters are telling a great story, and it has to be a great story in order for their ruse to work. I could probably do without the beginning and end segments making it a report, although the note about his childhood cat is a nice detail so I appreciate trying to squeeze it in. I don’t have much to say otherwise - by coincidence this was the last story I read but was also my favorite and I think you nailed the tone, the inspiration, and pretty much everything else.


derp - The Walls:

I want to cut half the lines in the first third of the story (everything up to finding the letters). You are trying to start out somewhat ordinary, with just a little something off here, a little foreboding there, letting the strangeness build and build until it (literally) blocks out everything else in your world. But I feel like the pacing and tension building gets ruined in that first third because you repeat and hammer home the unease in multiple ways. Your story is good enough that we sense something is wrong without you telling us so many times. For instance, you describe these men (who we already know are something bad) placing ribbons and X’s on trees. Then you tell us that “a wave of foreboding emanated from those X’s and ribbons.” Then your character tells us “this ain’t good.” It’s too much, and ruins the pacing.

So, with that said, I really really really like this story, and basically from everything after the letters on I was completely engrossed. It builds well, and while we know something bad is happening, I didn’t expect a literal coffin being built around him. It’s a great build with a great payoff, which is why I would love to just go back over that first act and really trim it down.


[DQ] sebmojo - Boats against the current:

I enjoyed the pacing in this. For a short story you still created a nice sense of propulsion from the opening to the conclusion. It all flows nicely, and I wasn’t sure exactly where it was going yet never felt that anything happened out of place. I want to know more - about the people, the concert, the devices - but at the same time I don’t feel like I need to know any more than you told me. My only real critique was the sentence ending with: “and on the glowing screen she had an expression like she was trying to swallow a baseball but wasn’t sure if she really wanted to.” This felt out of place when I was reading it and once it was over. I don’t think you need the simile, especially when the rest of the prose paints such a vivid picture through very sparse and direct language. I wish this wasn’t a DQ as it would have been one of my favorites.


Idle Amalgram - Auto-Correct

There is something good here, so first things first. I really don’t like the first sentence. It feels clunky and, quite frankly, it tips the story’s hat too much. If you really want to keep it I almost think it works best as either the last sentence or a bridge from the explanation to “That brings me back to the dead man . . .” Second, I hated the explanation with the super-collider. It’s way too clean of an answer for an otherwise eerie story. Even if you just hint that something happened, maybe a glancing reference to realities colliding, and it makes the story much better. You start with a floating dead man, I’m not going to call you out for not clarifying that it was a supercollider that caused these skips (the description of just “skips” being the best anyone could describe was great, by the way, and all I really needed). That said, I enjoyed the story. It’s well paced with vivid descriptions. While the twist isn’t all that original, it was well executed and feels right for the story you told. I didn’t feel cheated for not immediately being told the dead man was the protagonist, which is a hard needle to thread in a story like this.


Yourichi - Escape from Moon-Base 2058

You came up with an ingenious workaround of the hellrule. However, half of this story felt like it was you telling me that Frank was an rear end but I really didn’t care why. I think if you cut everything between the “Don’t cry, you idiot . . .” paragraph and “The low-oxygen warning light . . . “ paragraph I’d enjoy the story more, even if it might be less obvious that Frank is an rear end. The story is well-written, I just didn’t care that much about Frank to really care about the rest, especially with those middle paragraphs stopping the suspense cold for half of the story.


Tharanguy - The Survivalists

First, this felt like you ran out of time, especially towards the last section. Second, I think the entire first and last section could be cut and I’d enjoy the story more. I really didn’t care about Sen, his background, his desire for wealth, or the committee. My favorite parts were the description of the alien, and discussion of their history. I would have liked more discussion about their background, playing more into the reference to conquerors being the mapmakers, maybe showing more in line with the two species besides luck. There is something here, I just think it needs more time to really flesh it out.


fishception - barbarian

I appreciate the formalistic style you were trying to follow, but I really didn’t enjoy reading it. I also don’t know if you really avoided violence as the most interesting descriptions in the story were the various violent acts (how the mayor spoke, how the woman walked). Otherwise, honestly, this just felt like you were narrating a picture: telling me what happened, but I really had no idea who these people were, why it was happening, what the significance was, or really any interest in anything. Bad thing comes, bad things happen, bad thing goes, the end. It’s well described, and there are some interesting visuals that come from your words, but honestly this feels like it needs to be a good scene in a much longer story so that we have weight and emotion tied into the wreckage you put forth for us.


a friendly penguin - All Alone Together

First, this story takes too long to get going, and I feel you tell us the same thing multiple times: the town is hosed, and David is grasping at straws to try and save it. Second, my immediate reaction to the ending was exasperation that you aren’t comparing the destruction of the original inhabitants town to the current destruction, both brought on by the same government? Especially as you already alluded to David’s family having a history of running this place? I almost felt cheated by the ending. I wanted someone in this story to recognize the hypocrisy of trying to return to an aboriginal way of life after the modern government destroyed your town. And maybe that is the intention and I’m just missing it, or it was too subtle for me. Otherwise, it feels like a copout - a story that is setting up a huge critique of climate change and the inadequacy of the government and the inability of the citizens to combat those issues, only to be resolved by building a log house. The ending really doesn’t work for me or I completely missed the boat on this. I did enjoy the dialogue, it felt natural and I sensed that there was real history between all of these people. It might be a little slow to get to the ending, but it was an enjoyable ride at least until the end.


Carl Killer Mike - Bounty Bonanza

This is harder to judge as I’m much more familiar with your DFW story than the other people’s inspiration choices. I wanted to try and just judge all of the stories without reference to the original source but I don’t think I can with yours. So, first of all, I really agree with your assessment of Big Red Sun. And I think you nail the central idea of your critique, especially the predator-prey aspect of the producers versus the stars in the original with the bounty-hunter and bail jumpers here. And that’s probably why this story doesn’t work for me. I just don’t care about these people, or the convention, and I don’t have any desire to get to know this world. The only character I remotely am interested in is the bail jumper at the end, but all we know about them is that they jumped bail and hid at the convention. I want to know that person’s story, their world, what they experienced. So I’m finding it hard to offer constructive criticism because 90% of my criticism, for both your reporter characters in world actions and for your story, is why? I’m not sure that is ever answered, especially considering your spot-on critique of the original. This is probably an unfair critique, and I don’t know how I would have responded to your story if I hadn’t seen your initial post about Big Red Sun, but I can’t unring that bell.

Voodoofly fucked around with this message at 16:16 on Sep 14, 2021

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


College Slice

In

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

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

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy


French (the language) ---|--- 'Close to You' (the 1970 album by The Carpenters)


Lists ---|--- transcendental numbers

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

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy


The Old Guitarist (painting by Picaso) ---|--- silkworms


déjà vu ---|--- sand

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022





Might as well be the Virgin Sacrifice!

In.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

The man called M posted:

Might as well be the Virgin Sacrifice!

In.

The dead sea ---|--- hair

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




In

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





In!

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy


maps ---|--- chalcid wasps

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy


the music of Nikolai Medtner ---|--- Tasseography (the art of 'reading' tea leaves)

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







in??

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk








in!!

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy


the 'many worlds' interpretation of quantum mechanics ---|--- bees



cephalopods ---|--- the novels of Thomas Bernhard

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


this sounds fun. in.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

crabrock posted:

this sounds fun. in.

Blue Mustang (sculpture by Luis Jiménez) ---|--- origami

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

BabyRyoga
May 21, 2001

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Sometimes I forget this is a thing wherein I still need to pick myself up off the ground.

In.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply