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Jan 21, 2010

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

Lipstick Apathy

BabyRyoga posted:

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


magnets ---|--- Argentina


Apr 30, 2006
believe this is what's called a "judge burp" for week 475

Captain_Indigo - “Vidal”

I liked this and thought it was very effective at creating this rich, mystic mood. I think it might benefit from cutting a few hundred words, or at least reallocating them from the back-and-forth about how no one shot the cat, but the ending is striking and the piece really coheres. I think the last detail about the cat matching the detective’s childhood cat is strange but lovely.

a friendly penguin - “All Alone Together”

This is going to be the most frustrating kind of crit – the one where I think this story is basically competent but lacks energy. I think you’ve done a successful job setting up a mood here of the lonely despair in this town, and the decision to explore this atmosphere of isolation is a good one. Where it struggles, I think, is the repetition without change – each home visit doesn’t really offer a different perspective, it’s just kind of the same thing. People have decided to move. And that makes the ending feel a little blank to me. I felt pretty strongly that this didn’t deserve a loss, but it’s a disappointing kind of story.

Carl Killer Miller - “Bounty Bonanza”

This got a no-mention for style points, but I had a hard time with this one. It’s just so dense with jargon that I had a really hard time tracking what the stakes were and what was happening. But it’s hard to penalize that because you’re just being true to the source material. The sentence level prose is dynamic and zesty but the characters are inscrutable to me.

Idle Amalgam - “Auto-Correct”

Liked this one a lot for the mood, which is tinged with this sense of nostalgia and removal from the situation. There’s some very precise imagery that I like a lot, but my issue is how removed the characters are from the actual events happening in this story. That means the end feels like it’s reaching for a profundity that the story doesn’t quite achieve.

derp - “The Walls”

This won because it was well written (although it really needed a proofreading pass) and the end was a pretty evocative horror image, but it’s so repetitive that I just wish it had been trimmed down a bit. I’m just like “yeah, I get it, the horror of bureaucracy” halfway through and even though you stick the ending, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. The details are so precise and the mood is so well-done that it makes up for it, though.

fishception - “Barbarian”

This is really not my kind of thing but I think it’s done pretty well for what it is. Despite being based on the Eye of Argon the language here is good, the action is paced well, and if it leaves me with a “so what” feeling at the end, pretty sure that’s just my personal genre preferences.

Thranguy - “Four Cruxes”

This is a super smart story with great worldbuilding and interesting ideas, but not sure if it works as a narrative. It’s the kind of story that wants more room to grow, I think, to really explore the idea of the Scourge and the wormhole empire. As it is now, there are so many intriguing setpieces here, but it requires a lot of concentration to see how they fit together, and there’s not a great payoff. I liked this a lot but understand why my fellow judges were cooler on it.

Yoruichi - “Escape From Moon-Base 2058”

This feels unfinished, kind of like it’s a collage of possible ideas that don’t really cohere. There’s kind of just this sprawling backstory and then an escape sequence that doesn’t feel like it’s really predicated on the backstory. I think the character bits that are here are pretty good, but I wanted to see a more substantial through-line here. I kind of just tune out at all of the summarized history stacked in a row.

sebmojo - “Boats against the current”

Great wistful/melancholy mood, great snapshot of the characters, good concise worldbuilding. Really would have liked to see what this would have been if you’d started writing earlier.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


Apologies for asking, but isn't there supposed to be a post mentioning when Sign Ups are closed?

Aug 2, 2002




The man called M posted:

Apologies for asking, but isn't there supposed to be a post mentioning when Sign Ups are closed?

sparksbloom posted:

Signups are closed.

don't worry, reading isn't a prerequisite here

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

The man called M posted:

Apologies for asking, but isn't there supposed to be a post mentioning when Sign Ups are closed?

Act as you see fit and face the consequences imo

Aug 2, 2002




crabrock posted:

don't worry, reading isn't a prerequisite here

lol oops

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


Okay then, I'll start with my crap story.
My Strangest Patient
613 Words
Loves: Hair
Hates: The Dead Sea

Did I ever tell you about my most bizarre patient?

Back in my early days at the ward, I met a few nutcases, but one of the stranger ones was a man who, for the sake of anonymity, I’ll call, “Sam”. Now, I fully remembered the time Sam came to the ward. Had to be perhaps one of the hairiest men I have ever seen. And the funny thing is, he didn’t look like one of those mountain men you see on TV. This was a guy who was hairy but knew how to take care of his hair. He almost looked like one of those guys you see in the 1700’s! I asked someone why he was in here, and they just told me, “Buddy, you think all that hair is his?”

A while later, I got assigned to him. Apparently, he asked that the Cowstills be playing non-stop. He had a bunch of furniture here. And when I felt one of it, I noticed something strange. Said furniture was made of hair. I asked him why he had such an obsession with hair. He mentioned growing up around a barber shop, so hair was basically his entire life. When describing hair, he mentioned it in such a suggestive manner, that I almost feel too uncomfortable going into detail. Later, I learned that part of the reason Sam ended up here was because while working as a barber, Sam would stroke some of the female customers hair suggestively. This led to the obvious sexual harassment case, and after some mental tests, he ended up here. Surprisingly, they allowed him to bring his hair collection. A fellow doctor told me that it was so he couldn’t go completely mad.

While some of the conversations I had with Sam were horrifying, some were quite interesting. For example, he showed me how he made all the furniture in his cell. The way he did it was rather complex, but outright fascinating! I saw some things that I didn’t even know could be made with hair! I asked him his secret, and Sam just showed me some glue in his hand. When I asked about it, he mentioned he “Has a knack” for working with glue, as well. Amazingly, while he made plenty of furniture, he also made objects such as knives with hair.

While many of our conversations had to do with hair, not all of them did. For example, one of my most interesting conversations with Sam had to do with death. He told me that he had no Idea where he wanted to be buried, but he knew well where he didn’t want his body to rest: The Dead Sea. I told him it was impossible to be buried there, since there was so much salt that everything floats up. He smiled and told me that it was because of the Dead Sea that he had a great fear of dying. The mere name of the place, The Dead Sea, absolutely irked him. As if there could only be death there. It got so bad, that Sam feared that if anyone even mention The Dead Sea (For Example, the Dead Sea Scrolls) he might do something violent.

A few months later, I heard that Sam was transferred to another mental hospital. From what I heard, he shanked another patient when they said something to the extent of “Dead, see!”. Word was it that Sam used a knife made of hair. While there were many patients that I had that were quite mad, Sam was perhaps one of the strangest of them all. After all, it’s thanks to him that I am bald today.

Jan 21, 2010

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

Lipstick Apathy
Oh yeah, signups are closed. But y'all knew that already

Jul 29, 2007

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

Dangerous Woman

Ariane Grande (personally) - The Pacific Ocean

(1274 words)

“I did not shriek, but all the fiendish ghouls that ride the night-wind shrieked for me as in that same second there crashed down upon my mind a single and fleeting avalanche of soul-annihilating memory.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, The Outsider

In the darkness that followed the explosion, I had only one memory. I remembered that I hated Ariana Grande. I could not recall the source of my loathing, could not recall anything else, so the intensity of the hatred became all I could focus on. It was all I had and all I was.

I blinked stupidly into the sand. Waves crashed behind me. There was a pain in my leg. I could taste salt.

Then, a second memory. I remembered a burning plane falling from the sky, an explosion tearing through screaming metal, I remembered falling into the ocean as the plane struck the water and was swallowed into the depths. I rolled over to find I had been prostrate on a beach. The ocean before me was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

When I finally built up the courage to inspect the pain in my leg, I was surprised to find no broken bones, just two small puncture marks surrounded by dark skin. I touched the wound and pain rippled out from within. Beside me, marking the sand, was the wavering S-patterns of a snake’s trail heading up the island and into the jungle. "Well gently caress,” I said aloud. With no other point of reference, I found myself wondering “Why couldn’t it have been Ariana Grande who was bitten by a snake instead of me?”

I climbed to my feet and awkwardly limped up the beach. The waves of the Pacific Ocean, perfect and beautiful and blue crashed against the shore. Whilst I had no way of knowing for sure, I thought that perhaps I had always loved the ocean. As the nameless and vague shadows in my memory – my friends? my family? - were torn away in the exploding plane, she had plucked me from the wreckage and delivered my limp body to the island. It was by her providence alone that I had survived the crash whilst the others onboard were presumably scorched corpses in a metal carcass in the darkness and the cold of the ocean floor.

I stared out over her majesty and as if hearing her voice, I was compelled to turn around. The island was small and deserted. Yet, at its very centre a hill emerged from the thick forest. Atop the hill was a hut, from the roof of which a gleaming radio mast interrupted the sky. This single sign of civilization filled me with hope. I resolved in that instant to make it through the jungle, climb the hill and get to the radio mast. Perhaps it would be inactive, perhaps I would die in the attempt, but I was given willpower by the vastness of the Pacific Ocean behind me.

By midday, my leg was significantly worse. The discoloration around the bite had darkened to a ruddy brown and the veins around the bruising were indigo. Each step brought new pain. By the time the sun was setting and I had to stop for the day, my entire leg was a vile purple. The veins were black. When I dared to poke at the tender flesh there, a sickening necrotic liquid oozed from the wound and a blistering agony scorched my nerves. “loving Ariana Grande!” I screamed to the sky.

I slept, but my dreams were an intense blur of places and people I couldn’t name. My amnesia had robbed me of memories, and left only facts behind. I knew what a car was, but I had no idea if I knew how to drive. I could list the states, but had no recollection whatsoever where I had been born. When I spoke to myself, I recognized my accent as American, but it was the voice of a stranger. I awoke with a fever. My hair stuck to my forehead and chills danced up and down my spine. How I wished that I could go back and bask in the soothing waters of the Pacific. How I longed to return to that womb of rebirth and have the sun-warmed ocean swaddle my body in weightlessness. I imagined how it might look – the salt drawing out whatever venom had been delivered into my calf – a black cloud of toxicity bellowing out to leave healthy flesh behind. I had only just woken up, but I was exhausted. I longed to lay back in the ocean and simply cease to exist.

Then, in the dawn light, I saw a flash of red. A blinking light at the peak of the radio mast that indicated power. I justified that I could not die, but must endure so that I might tell the world of how the Pacific Ocean had saved me.

I pressed on, but progress was agonizing and tedious. Between the pain erupting in my leg with each step, and the hazy lack of focus brought on by my terrible fever, it was impossible to walk with any haste or purpose. I knew if I stopped, I would never start again. I resolved myself in two ways – a dichotomous approach of carrot and stick. When I found my will flailing, when my strength abandoned me, I pictured the soft waves, the wondrous froth and the subtle salty scent of the Pacific Ocean. Though I could not even picture my mother’s face, I pushed myself forward picturing the perfect and unwavering body of water. When my fever burned, I soothed it with imagery of placid waters. I imagined the tide rising up over the beach, up through the jungle and gently lifting me to the tower that might be my rescue. And when this too was not enough, I let my mind wander to Ariana Grande. That she would outlive me, that she might be enjoying pleasures that I would never feel again. I found hidden reserves of strength to push on.

When the jungle grew thicker and I was forced to clamber and tear through the matted undergrowth, I imagined myself floating in the ocean below. When the incline of the hill grew steeper and I had to fall to my hands and knees to drag myself onward at a snail’s pace, I pictured Ariana Grande’s ponytail and her dark, lifeless eyes. When I finally crested the hill and found myself at the hut below the radio mast, I scrabbled up the door thanking the ocean. My words crumbled into exhausted, tearful laughter.

“Bad luck, Grande! Looks like I made it!” I cackled.

My body was slick with sweat and my muscles were taught and burning. I had no idea if rescue attempts would be able to make it before I succumbed to the poison flooding my body. When I imagined the snake that had sunk its fangs into my unconscious form, it was Ariana that I saw slithering down the beach.

I collapsed through the door. I could hear a quiet, rhythmic beeping in one room, but the fever was now a fog. I stumbled forward, throwing open door after door.

As I entered the final room, I was struck with a freezing terror. My heart thumped in my chest and a cold wave rippled across my flesh. For there, on the far wall, was a mirror. I stared at the bloodshot eyes, the exhausted feverish expression. Streams of foulness leaked from the wound and souped atop my sneaker.

The face that stared back at me was the face of Ariane Grande.

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:


Loves: The Old Guitarist
Hates: Silkworms
1040 words

Launch Week was one of the most highly anticipated celebrations on Takamagahara station. There were parades, sales, public festivities, and, most importantly, three consecutive days off for every indentured worker on the station. It was traditional as well for the CEOs of the various corps that controlled Takamagahara to throw a lavish party, inviting not only the rich and powerful, but also all of the indents who made up their workforces, which is how Anatoly found himself awkwardly clutching a champagne flute worth more than some of his own furniture and trying to carefully position himself so that he was never in between his conversational partners and the air vents.

“It’s the silkworms,” he said apologetically to a woman wearing solid gold armor. Her expression had turned sour immediately upon greeting him as her nostrils were assailed with the cloying, bittersweet, distressingly biological smell that made its way into all of Anatoly’s clothing. “The genehacks that make them the size we need for offworld silk production make them stink even worse than Earth native species.”

The problem with explaining is that it made people think that he wanted to talk about silkworms. About his work. Of course, every Launch Week party was like this, the wealthy only really knew how to ask indents about their work. His friends had all developed a repertoire of charming, cute stories about their labors, all spun in the hopes of finding a patron to shave a few years off of their generational indentures. But Anatoly couldn’t think of anything cute to say about the horrible, kitten-sized grubs that he was responsible for feeding, sorting, and boiling alive once they’d spun their cocoons.

He spent most of his time the same way he did nearly every year, looking at the art on the walls, enjoying the beautiful music played by a live band, and taking the opportunity to stuff his face with free food. The CEO of Gareth-Wynn Luxury Textiles was thankfully an avid art collector, so Anatoly had plenty of things to occupy himself with in between chats with his fellow indents.

He was idly strolling along a buffet table when he saw it.

The old man curled around his guitar as if for warmth. Eyes closed, mouth open, clearly singing. He knew this painting. A print of it was the centerpiece of his own decor, the first thing he saw when he woke up in the morning. But this was the original. Anatoly found himself transfixed, entranced, walking closer to it until he could see the brushstrokes.

“Do you like it?”

Anatoly jerked out of his trance, turning to face the CEO himself, Jarrad Perez.

“Yes,” Anatoly managed to choke out, flushing slightly. “Very much. I have a print of it in my cube, but…” he gestured helplessly toward the painting. “It doesn’t compare.”

Perez nodded, pointing in emphatic agreement at Anatoly. “I agree. It adds to the value, being truly original. Being the first.”

“I always like to think about what he’s playing,” Anatoly said as if the man hadn’t spoken. “What kind of music, I mean. He looks so sad, but also transported, you know? Beyond his rags and the cold, there’s this song that’s worth contorting himself into such an uncomfortable position to sing.”

The CEO frowned, either because Anatoly didn’t immediately agree with him about the value of the painting or because the smell of silkworms had finally penetrated. “Did you know that it’s not the first painting on the canvas?”

Anatoly nodded. “I read about that. There’s some sketches behind the paint.”

“A pair of women and a child and a cow,” Perez said. He grinned conspiratorially, gesturing at the painting with his champagne flute. “I’ll tell you a secret, art lover to art lover. I’m going to restore the original prints behind the canvas. I’ve hired an artist to do it, someone who has been studying Picasso their entire life. And then we’ll see the actual first painting. The actual original.”

“What?” Anatoly blurted, unable to keep the horror from his voice. The CEO looked so pleased with himself, with this ghastly plan. “Why would you do that? You’ll destroy the Old Guitarist!”

Perez looked puzzled, confused as to why that was even a question. “As you said, countless people have prints of this. It’s been copied millions of times in thousands of different media.” A hungry light flared in his eye. “But when the original, the true original is restored I’ll have something truly unique. Something only Picasso, my artist, and I will have ever seen.”

“But that’s…” the only word Anatoly could come up with was ‘heresy.’ “That’s awful! You’ll destroy the painting just so you won’t have to share it with anyone else?”

The CEO gave him a look. It was one Anatoly recognized, a combination of disgust and surprise. It was the same look he gave the silkworms when their overeager mandibles found his flesh. That’s all he was to this man. A grub that produced something of value. He wasn’t a real person, and acting like one just made him… distasteful.

“I respect your opinion,” Perez lied smoothly. “But it is, after all, my painting. If you’ll excuse me.”

Anatoly stared at the Old Guitarist, his mind blazing.

He’d heard the rhetoric of the Open Sky movement, the anti-corp agitators, the ones who pushed the narrative that all workers were being abused by callous and uncaring corporate masters. Until this moment Anatoly had always kind of assumed that CEOs were just trying to live their lives like everyone else, that the absurdities of riches didn’t change a person’s values that much.

But now he saw it. A man willing to destroy art, who looked at people like silkworm larvae… that wasn’t a person who had anything in common with Anatoly, or with any worker.

The next day Anatoly walked into the silkworm enclosure with a backpack full of carefully selected accelerants. By the time the fire suppression systems kicked on, Anatoly was dead alongside the entire crop of silkworms. When forensics looked through his cube, the only thing he’d left behind was a print of the Old Guitarist, the words “THEY’LL MAKE WORMS OF US ALL” scrawled across it in red paint.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

The Detective Kireyev
1287 words
The music of Nikolai Medtner ---|--- Tasseography (the art of 'reading' tea leaves)

Detective Alexei Kireyev burst into the perfumed tea room, gun drawn. The tea reader, clad in thick brocade robes and fine jewelry, struggled to rise to her feet. The young couple seated across from her were faster. They sprang against the wall, dropping their delicate tea cups which shattered on the wooden floor.

“Madam Rozanova, you are under arrest,” Kireyev growled as he advanced on the tea reader. She opened her mouth to protest and he slapped her across the face. Appalled by the violence, the couple moved towards the door. Kireyev waved his gun at them and they froze.

He handcuffed Madam Rozanova roughly and shoved her against the wall. She cried, “Please, sir, what crime have I committed? I run a legitimate business, I pay my taxes …”

Kireyev swung the gun back towards her. “Taxes on ill-gotten gains! You’ve done nicely for yourself,” he said. He spat on the rug under her feet. “You and your ilk are thieves, stealing hard-earned money from desperate people and giving them empty words in return. Now, give these people their money back.”

Madam Rozanova, face white under the angry red mark from his hand, tried to reach into a pocket under her robes. Kireyev shoved his hand inside and pulled out a wad of bills. He handed them to the frozen couple. “Here. Don’t let me catch you in another tea shop or I will be much less sympathetic. Now, go.” They left hurriedly.

Kireyev grabbed Madam Rozanova’s shoulders and marched her out through the snow to his waiting police car, ignoring the gathered crowd. He drove back to the station and threw her in the holding cell. The cell’s other occupants, mostly robbers and drunks, appraised her golden jewelry. She pleaded to be released, but Kireyev had already departed for his office.


Kireyev was writing his recommendation for Madam Rozanova’s prosecution (“five years in Siberia for reeducation”) while listening to a Nikolai Medtner record when Chief Prokhorov knocked on his door. Kireyev waved him in but remained engrossed in his work, swaying in time to the dramatic piano music. Prokhorov shut off Kireyev’s gold gramophone with a snap.

“I see you have detained another tea leaf reader,” Prokhorov said, keeping his tone neutral.

“Yes,” Kireyev replied, unapologetic. “Quite a wealthy one too, by the look of her.”

Prokhorov’s voice hardened. “And yet I see none of your actual cases are solved,” he said, pointing to a stack of folders. “We allowed you to remain after the Revolution because of your impressive record as an Imperial detective, but you are squandering the opportunity. Your vendetta against fortune-tellers must not overshadow your pursuit of true criminals.”

“They are true criminals,” Kireyev insisted. “You know what they did to my family.” Prokhorov did know, as did everyone in the station, but Kireyev could not be stopped when he was angry. “We used to be well-regarded in society, until a tea reader convinced my mother to bet against the Revolution. Now I must support her on my salary and she must work as a waitress in a cafe. At her age!”

Prokhorov, a proletariat by birth, said warningly, “As we all must work now in the new socialist Russia.”

Kireyev had nothing safe to say to that. Light-fingered piano music filled the silence.

Prokhorov sighed. “I agree that fortune-tellers have no place in modern society, but they are not a priority. I want to see one of these cases solved, with arrests, before I see another tea reader in the holding cell.”

Kireyev nodded and turned on the music again. Prokhorov, tired of his bourgeoisie attitude, snapped, “This is your final warning.”

Kireyev saw no compromise in the chief’s stern expression. He picked up the first folder on the pile. “Yes sir,” he said, and began to work.


Over the next two weeks Kireyev dedicated himself to the case. It concerned the murder of a foreman by one of his workers, who had disappeared. Interviews with his comrades revealed the suspect’s name-- Oleg Zharkov-- and a list of known contacts. Kireyev worked through the list, spending long evenings observing the residences in his car. The work was cold and dreary, but late at night he relaxed to the concertos of Medtner.

The music kept him sane, which was well-needed, as each day Kireyev passed by tea shops, palm readers, psychics, and other charlatans in his journeys through Moscow. He shouted at the unwitting pedestrians about to enter these shops, but it galled him that he had no authority to close them down for good. He made notes of their addresses, vowing to return once he had solved his case.

Finally, he discovered that Zharkov had taken refuge with his cousin in the Arbat district. Kireyev, giddy with excitement, organized a team of police to surround the building. He knocked, then broke down the thin front door. “Militsiya!” he shouted. “Surrender now!”

But Zharkov was not an easily-cowed tea reader. Kireyev heard a window smash and rushed into the living room, in time to see the suspect flee down the alley. Before he could act, the man pulled out a gun and shot the officer guarding the alley’s exit. Kireyev swore: he could not spend another month tracking Zharkov down again. Vaulting through the broken window, he called for the other policemen to attend the fallen officer. He pursued the criminal on foot, driven by his determination.

Kireyev ran for several blocks, but Zharkov was wily and Kireyev had not been keeping up with his physical training. He lost him in the narrow streets of Kitay-Gorod. Kireyev ground to a halt, panting and sweating. He cried out in frustration, causing nervous passers-by to give him a wide berth.

Breathing heavily, trying to come to terms with his failure, he heard the music. Faint notes of Medtner’s Sonata-Skazka drifted through the cold air; they were the balm his bruised ego needed. He followed them to a shadowed, run-down storefront with no signage. Pushing his way in, he was about to call for the proprietor when he saw a samovar and a small circular table set with one teacup. Only then did he notice the occult symbols tacked to the walls. He froze, outrage building in him. How dare the music bring him to this place!

A scrawny woman, evidently not as successful as Madam Rozanova, appeared from behind a thin curtain. “Finally, a client! Care to have your future read, sir?” she asked.

The eagerness in her voice broke Kireyev. With a roar, he leapt forward and punched the woman heavily. She fell, whimpering, and he fell on top of her. He took out his anger-- at Zharkov, at Prokhorov, at the loss of his family’s fortune, at the bloody Revolution itself-- on her face until her weak arms stopped batting at him. He sat back on his heels, staring at the blood on his hands. In the back room, a baby cried out.

Kireyev stood, the knowledge of what he’d done slowly steeping into him like tea in boiling water. His police career was over, that was clear. Chief Prokhorov would not forgive abandoning the pursuit of a murderer, especially not to assault a tea reader. Kireyev thought of his mother, who would now have to work double shifts at the cafe to afford her rent. Worst of all, his crusade against fortune-tellers, the sweet rage that had guided his actions since his family’s fall, had turned bitter by his own monstrous actions. He almost fell to his knees again in despair, but forced himself to leave the tea room. He stepped out into the winter wind, a man with no purpose, the mournful notes of Medtner’s Sonate-Elegie haunting his retreat.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
prompt: the 'many worlds' interpretation of quantum mechanics ---|--- bees

1300 words

It was what passed for the busy season at the Queen’s Cup Inn, which meant a whole ten guests in temporary residence. It was a real casual, homespun sort of place with pleasantly sagging stoops and climbing tendrils of ivy that gave those sagging stoops a tree house quality. Which is to say, Ada, the proprietor, felt relatively comfortable going and getting stoned with a couple of her guests out by the apiary, at night when her bees were sleeping.

The stars were thick as lace. Ada caught herself wondering if the sky was so vivid because of a power outage—but then, there hadn’t been light pollution from distant Seattle in nearly a decade.

Her companions were Braden and Lilah. In his former life, Braden had a job title so tedious Ada couldn’t commit it to memory. Now he was an honest scrap runner, and one of Ada’s few regulars. Lilah had just arrived three days before, looking fresh as a daisy with zero baggage to her name. Ada had raised an eyebrow, but it settled back down when Lilah paid in solid gold and, later, proved herself to be a competent hand in the kitchen besides.

The trio were sprawled out side by side in the dry grass. The earth was still warm from the March heat, a living thing against Ada’s back.

Out of nowhere, Braden said, “I always thought the glowstrom was like, our universe bumping up against another universe, you know?”

Ada groaned. The glowstrom had been all anyone had talked about for, like, two years. And then for a year after that it was all about glowstrom fatigue because everyone was so psychologically wrung out from talking-slash-thinking about that horrible, churning red glow in the sky, plus the accompanying groan like twisting metal, which had been heard from the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic and lasted for seven solid days.

“Universes aren’t just floating around out there like bubbles in a bath,” Lilah said. “They’d grow in orderly, crystalline structures. Or—” she stretched an arm overhead to point at the nearby apiary. “— like a cells in a honeycomb.”

Ada prided herself on being one of those people who could get stoned and remain immune to tedious pop science bullshit. “Okay. Okay, first of all,” she said, propping herself up on her elbows. “No one should want an infinite multiverse. That means infinite versions of yourself getting murdered, tortured, or eaten alive by ants. Second—”

“I don’t think what we want is really a factor,” Lilah said.

“Second, if universes form like crystal, or are made like honeycomb, then there are outside forces way beyond our control acting on a scale I don’t like to think about. Like, at that point you may as well believe in god.”

“I believe god is the universe,” Braden said sagely.

Lilah rolled onto her side so she was facing Ada. “What would your ideal universe be like?”

“Whole and perfect unto itself,” Ada said. “Self-contained. Living, dying, and living again, and so on. A flawless mechanical process without beginning or end.”

“Mmmm,” Lilah said. “Appealing.”

There was a thoughtful lull in the conversation, which Lilah broke by saying, “I smelled smoke earlier.”

Ada winced. “Had to burn one of the bee hives. A real nasty case of foulbrood.”

And then of course she had to explain to Lilah and Braden what foulbrood was, all the while seeing the sickly hive in her mind. She inspected her hives every drat day, and yet—

She had taken the brood trays out like normal, expecting to see healthy golden larval cups. Instead, the wax nursery looked greasy and pockmarked, the caps of the little hexagonal cells sunken or broken. The smell of rotting larvae had made her wretch. Larvae who’d been fine the day before were now dead in their own jelly, each tiny body a geyser of bacterial spores. It was apocalyptic, a biblical plague on a bee scale.

So yeah, she’d burned the hive, boxes and all, killing one world to save others. She’d check her remaining hives three times a day, see if one of the scrap runners knew of anyone still selling those antibiotics…

“Does anyone think you’re strange, living at this inn with just yourself and your bees?” Lilah asked.

“Do you think I’m strange?”

“No,” Lilah said, smiling. “But people think I’m strange for loving my hives like I do.”

“You keep bees?” Ada asked, genuinely and pleasantly surprised.

“Not exactly,” Lilah said, her smile turning sad and distant. Then: “I think it’s good you love your bees. I think you should have to love the things you burn, or you’re just evil.”

“Does anyone ever wonder if we’re, like, in the book of Revelations?” Braden asked no one in particular. “You know like maybe John the what’s-it didn’t know how to interpret stuff from our time, so he just did his best? I mean, the sky did turn red, and the sound wasn’t totally like a trumpet, but you could sort of imagine how—”

“I’ve got a mug of homemade mead for anyone who doesn’t bring up the glowstrom again,” Ada said.

“If someone could tell you definitively that the world was ending, would you want to know?” Lilah asked. “Would you have told your bees their world was ending if they could understand you?”

“No, I wouldn’t want to know,” Ada snapped. “And no, I wouldn’t have told my bees. Just like I wouldn’t want to know the exact date of my death. Just like I wouldn’t want to know if there were infinite versions of me getting eaten alive by ants. Ignorance is the greatest gift of human nature.”

Her stoned languor had worn off, replaced by a serious feeling of unease. Something about this conversation tickled her dread glands; every word Lilah said made Ada feel like she was brushing up against something huge and slimy in a deep dark lake.

Lilah went on as though she hadn’t noticed the sharpness in Ada’s tone. “If your bees could comprehend the concept of love, do you think it would matter to them—the ones you burned, I mean—that you loved them?”

“No, I think they would have felt betrayed and would have demanded I try any and every other solution,” Ada said. “Just like if I knew there was some god burning this world, it wouldn’t matter if it loved me. It wouldn’t matter if it was some well-meaning cosmic beekeeper doing the needful.” Her hands were shaking. “Which is why it’s lucky that bees don’t know poo poo from love.”

“So, to be clear, you think forewarning a hive of its imminent doom is unethical?”

“For the purposes of this pointless conversation: sure. Yep. I think that would be bullshit.”

“Noted,” Lilah said, and she was gone. A momentary breeze stirred the grass where she had been, then nothing.

Ada and Braden stared at the sudden vacancy in space. Ada was so maximally filled with deep dark slimy dread that she was expecting some terrible thing to happen—another hellish red glow on the horizon, a sound like twisting metal. Some vast horrible thing to match the small horrible fact of Lilah’s abrupt disappearance.

A coyote chattered in the distance. Somewhere, a motor hauled rear end down a cracked and forgotten highway.

Braden said, “I used to think I was smart, but times like this, I’m grateful I’m dumb as poo poo.”

Ada looked up, found the starlight as it ever was: gauzy and dead, raining softly on the dark side of a sickly world.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

maps ---|--- chalcid wasps

650 words


Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 05:09 on Jan 6, 2022

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


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

the one answer that is waiting to be heard
~1295 words

The murky river burped a fat bubble that rose up to meet the approaching patrol boat. Navy Lieutenant James “Lucky” Kelly sat on its bow and thought about how much he loving hated the water. It wasn’t just that it seeped everywhere and rotted everything it touched, or that it was full of venomous creatures looking to either bite you or lay their eggs inside your skin; no, it was so loving dark. A black void, blocking all light, hiding within its depths secrets both ugly and unknowable.

Like my loving soul, he thought, and spat another wad of chew into its depths.

It was after midnight, and his watch had just started. The smell of diesel drifted from engines that propelled him and his crew upriver. Behind him his gunner’s mate worked the wheel, keeping the patrol boat away from the dense jungle that lined the banks of the river. There were still plenty of VC in this region, near the Cambodian border. A long rear end haul up the river, five days in with five to go, traveling by night and hiding the patrol boat along deserted stretches during the heat of the day. Extract an old French POW-turned-deserter-turned-“political commissar” for the NVA named Broussard. Another loving frog to ruin his life with a never ending torrent of “le, la, les” and “Petit-dejeuners” and other French bullshit. What other kind of hosed up language tacked on extraneous vowels and consonants to make the speaker sound like they’ve just gargled horse piss? What in the ever-loving-gently caress did Marcie ever see in that exchange student? Lucky could feel his blood rise so he grabbed the eight-track and pulled the headphones over his ears. Straight away the soft contralto of Karen Carpenter washed over him, and his pulse slowed. The crew gave him endless streams of poo poo for it, but there was nothing like the Carpenters to center him, take him back to the world before the steaming jungles and illiterate villagers and sucking chest wounds and commie French commissars and exchange students and of course the loving water. Marcie had sent him this tape, in her last care package.

Along with her letter.

At dawn of the third day they’d been pulling reeds over the patrol boat, preparing for a days’ rest, when a boy appeared. Like a ghost he apparated from the jungle, grabbed Lucky by the arm, and tugged him toward the thicket. Lucky wasn’t falling for that poo poo. He toyed with the idea of putting one between his dewy little eyes, but then saw the hut and the old man through a break in the trees. The old man smiled and waved. Lucky definitely wasn’t falling for that poo poo, so he raised his carbine and took aim at grandpa. But then a fragment from a Carpenters song swam into his head—somewhere in a fairytale forest lies one answer that is waiting to be heard—and while this was no loving fairytale forest, it got stuck in his head and shooting the old man and the kid suddenly seemed like a bad idea.

Ten minutes later he was cross-legged across from the old man, carbine across his lap, listening as the kid translated the old man’s words. He was spinning a yarn about some sort of ancient sea creature. Lucky wasn’t sure why, but it seemed important, somehow. So he listened.

The old man released a stream of gibberish. “It’s drawn to the rumblings of war,” the boy translated, pointing up river towards the highlands, where the bombing campaign had intensified in recent weeks. “The Con Rit leaves its home in the sea and moves up the river, seeking its destiny. Like you.” The old man’s yellow eyes locked onto his. More gibberish. “The Con Rit is balance. Its many segments are links in the chain that connects the living to the dead. By moving towards the war it finds peace.” Again with the eyes. There was more like that, and eventually Lucky grew bored, tossed them a few C-rations, and returned to the boat.

Since then, the old man’s words grew tendrils in his mind, slithering through his cortex like ARVN tunnel rats. So that night when the black water before him rippled and parted to reveal a massive, chitinous body slithering across the river, Lucky simply pulled off his headphones and watched in silence. It circled the boat several times, hundreds of small, centipede-like appendages paddling it through the moonlight, before sinking back into the depths.

Lucky saw the Con Rit often over the next five days. Each night, while on watch, it would rise up from the water and languidly circle the patrol boat. It spoke to him once, in loving French of course, all gargled vowels and swallowed consonants. He had no idea what it was saying, how to respond to it, or if it would even hear him if he tried. So he just turned up the volume on the eight-track and let the Carpenters settle his uneasy mind, keeping his eyes on the river ahead. Together they made their way up the river.

The extraction point was a small village in the highlands near the Cambodian border. The locals gave them distant, shell-shocked stares, and freshly dug graves surrounded the homestead. The relentless bombing campaign had taken a heavy toll. But they had the Frenchman Broussard, hands and feet bound, and they produced him in exchange for a bag full of Vietnamese đồng and a crate of rations. He was a skeleton of sunken cheekbones and paper-thin skin stretched tight over aging bone; the first thing Lucky did was stuff a rag into his mouth before he could utter a single parlez-vous or sacre blue. gently caress that poo poo. Lucky’s nerves were stretched tighter than a bullfrog’s rear end. His ears buzzed and his brain felt swollen inside his skull.

It was dusk when they loaded the Frenchman onto the patrol boat and pushed off from the village. Marcie was there with the French foreign exchange student, holding hands and waving from the dock, along with the boy and the old man from down the river. Others, too, from his past, were among the villagers. Faces he caught out of the corner of his eye but blurred away when he tried to focus. The black water all around, lapping against the hull as burps of prehistoric gases rose from the depths. This was when the Con Rit struck.

Its armored carapace burst from the water, mandibles chattering as it brought its bulk down on the patrol boat, swamping it. Instantly Lucky was in the water, gasping, clawing for anything to grab onto, desperate. It yanked him down into darkness. The Con Rit’s chitinous hide, slick with algae, sliced his abdomen, opening a deep gash. His blood mixed with the black water. He surfaced briefly, and could hear shouts and screams as the jungle lit up with muzzle flashes in every direction. Munitions pinged off metal, and from somewhere above sighed a soft, organic gurgling. Then it pulled him down again, wrapping its segmented body around his, squeezing his breath away. Its insectoid face rose before him, large compound eyes reflecting back his own face in a thousand, shattered facets, each a discrete version of himself, each more broken and incomplete than the last. Then the black water took him.

He awoke in the hut by the river. The old man and the boy looked down on him. Scattered around were items salvaged from the wreckage of the boat. Lucky blinked the black water away from his eyes, and his vision landed on a blood slicked object. The old man followed his gaze, gave a crooked smile, and handed him the portable eight track player.

Putain cette merde,” Lucky sighed, and pressed play one last time.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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

Become Memory Forever
1296 words

Raju looked out the window of the Big Offroad diner as rain pattered across the vacant parking lot. He listlessly stirred a milky cup of coffee. The waitress had stopped offering to freshen it up about half an hour ago.

He saw a teal sedan jerk over the curb and into about two separate parking spaces. Dr. Stefan Palmer climbed out of the car and shuffled slowly into the diner, not bothering to cover his head in the drizzle. He took a seat across from Raju.

Raju frowned a little. Palmer had stopped shaving somewhere in the right midcheek.

“Dr. Palmer! So good to see you again.”

Palmer smiled. “Please, Raju! Call me Stefan! Or should I call you Dr. Visvabharathy?”

Raju tried to relax. At their last coffee, he’d addressed Dr. Palmer as ‘Stefan’ and was sharply admonished that they “weren’t two chums playing handball at The Pelican.”

Raju was fairly sure The Pelican had been condemned, demolished, and turned into a discount shoe warehouse about five years before he was born.

“Well then, Stefan! How has it been?”

Dr. Palmer put his hands on the table.

“Raju, my boy. I think I’ve cracked it.”

Raju raised his eyebrows as Palmer continued.

“Do you remember our last chat? About my memory? I kept having those horrid little flashes?”

Raju forced a smile. Their ostensibly monthly coffee chats (when Palmer remembered to show up) often cyclically centered around the old geologist’s failing memory. He responded cautiously.

“Well, yes, Stefan. What do you mean, you’ve ‘cracked it’?”

Palmer continued.

“I have these horrible little snatches of thought, see? Like I’ve already done something I’m doing.”

Raju zoned out during the familiar preamble. The first few times, he’d tried to opine that this was just a little déjà vu. Palmer had laughed in his face.

Dr. Palmer reached into his coat and pulled out a battered manila envelope. He placed it on the table and looked back to Raju.

“But the other night I had the most incredible notion. A breakthrough.”

Palmer opened the envelope and dumped a jumble of photographs onto the table.

“I call it Palmer’s First Hypothesis.”

Raju’s informal research on his old professor’s cognitive malady strongly suggested he play along, to not further shake Palmer’s decidedly wobbly mental ground. Still, the temptation was hard to resist.

“Your first hypothesis? Stefan, we worked together years, you had tenure. It’s hardly your first-”

Stefan cut him off.

“First, it’s Doctor Palmer. Have some decorum, we’re not at a cocktail party. Second, this is the first hypothesis that’s really mattered. Look here!”

Palmer pointed to one of the photos and Raju leaned in. It showed what almost looked like a pair of standing human legs. They were a neutral, flat brown. Was that…?

Dr. Palmer smiled.

“It’s sand. Sand, Raju!”

Raju was speechless and Palmer continued.

“Now, I have these wretched cut off moments. But what if they’re memories? Incomplete memories?”

Palmer spread out the photographs as Raju took them in. The front quarter of a car, what looked to be an especially distressed dog, and was that a bowler hat? They were all rendered, albeit imperfectly, in damp sand.

“Sand! The very heart of terra firma, and the heart of Palmer’s First Hypothesis!"

Raju had seen Palmer distressed, worried, anxious, or even angry about his deteriorating memory, but never hopeful. Never like this.

“I’m sorry, but you’re losing me. What exactly is it?”

Palmer smiled gently and Raju’s heart swelled. It had been a long time since the rumpled, slightly damp Stefan had looked professorial.

“I’ll put it simply, my boy. If I could craft the memories in mutable sand, if I could make them complete, real, then maybe…”

Raju’s eyes stung a little, but he forced the tears back. He completed Stefan’s hypothesis in a choked whisper.

“You could remember.”

Raju pretended to clean his glasses, still holding the tears at bay. Out of a combination of genuine affection and incredible worry, Raju had dutifully shown up at the Big Offroad every month, sometimes trying to rouse or reorient Palmer, sometimes waiting hours for him before driving home. He steeled himself. It didn’t matter that the ‘hypothesis’ was ridiculous. Raju couldn’t dissuade him now.

Then, Palmer leaned back and frowned.

“That was Palmer’s First Hypothesis.”

Raju blinked, shaken from his reverie.


Palmer shook his head.

“It never worked, not completely. Oh, I got close! But there is a seed of something there. There is memory in our beautiful sand, I’m convinced of it.”

Raju motioned Palmer onward.

“You’re the best student I’ve ever had, Raju. And now, just one last time, I need you. At my house, tomorrow night.”

Raju felt a distinct sense of unease.

“What for, Dr. Palmer?”

Palmer’s eyes were pleading through his now-proud bearing.

“To prove Palmer’s Second Hypothesis.”


Raju pulled up outside Palmer’s home, a lone two-story with an overgrown yard. He was about to knock on the front door, but noticed it was ajar. He pushed it open and walked in.

A light was on in the basement. Raju carefully took the stairs to the bottom and gasped.

The cavernous room was dominated by an enormous steel chamber surrounded by small bubbling vats and whirring machinery. Palmer bustled around the perimeter of the gleaming edifice, pushing buttons and adjusting dials. He noticed Raju and pointed to one of the vats.

“Raju, check the salinity there.”

Raju peered into its swirling contents. Stefan looked over, impatient.

“It’s Argentinian krill. Very high carapace calcium.”

Raju didn’t think that was much of an explanation.

“Dr. Palmer! What is all of this?”

Palmer stopped and shook his head.

“Call me Stefan. Now, be a chum and open the degassing pipe near the shale smelter.”

Raju shook his head and gripped his former mentor by the shoulder. His shirt was damp, sweaty from radiated heat. Raju’s tone was gentle, coaxing.

“Just, just tell me what this is.”

Palmer didn’t shake off Raju’s grasp, but turned and looked him in the eye.

“The memories aren’t coming complete, not with Palmer’s First Hypothesis. So I decided to go to them.”

Palmer broke away and moved toward the sarcophagus. He threw a lever and the huge edifice groaned open, hissing blistering steam. The thought of correcting Palmer, of deeming it just déjà vu, of chastising the illogical refinement of one bad hypothesis into another, it all seemed so far away now.

But as Raju watched Palmer, he noticed something incredible. They’d been through years of coffee meetings, years of Stefan slowly shuffling through the parking lot and struggling with the diner door.

But not now.

Palmer moved with an old experimental vigor. He triggered erosion engines and tuned metamorphic harmonizers. A vat of Argentinian krill began to sizzle. He called over to Raju, yelling over the laboratory din.

“It’s Palmer’s Second Hypothesis! If there’s memory locked up in all this beautiful sand, then how do I realize it? How do I join it?”

Raju edged away from the sweltering chamber and Palmer followed, insistent. The professor leaned in close.

“Please, Raju. Your task is to pull the lever. You’ll know when.”

He turned away from Raju, then thought better of it and fiercely hugged his former graduate student. He whispered into Raju’s ear.

“I’m finally feeling like myself again, old friend. Thank you.”

Before Raju could react, Palmer turned and dashed headlong into the crucible. The door slammed behind him.

Raju braced himself in the heat and inched forward to honor Dr. Palmer’s last request. He pulled the lever.

There was an incredible groaning, a furious grinding, a smell like sulfur and the sea, then everything went silent.

After an interminable minute, a spout on Palmer’s furnace issued forth a thin stream of brilliant white sand.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
False Negatives
1,184 Words
The Letter X << >> Bucharest

Emil finagled the bulky apparatus of the scanner up the derelict staircase of his tenement. He had considered himself fortunate when he was approved for his loan and had enough for the fee required for the rental of a bioscanner straight from IGSU, his worker’s permit probably helped. After the police found his neighbors as wrongly animated corpses just a few sheets of drywall away from where he and Carlotta slept, he wasn’t taking chances. He had to get results he could trust. His neighbors had rented a decommissioned scanner that had burned out during the first wave of infections. The false negatives their scans gave them cost them the lives of their entire family.

God forbid Carlotta was actually infected, but if she was… If she was, at least they would know with certainty. Emil and the kids would have time to remember her as she was, and not as she would be.

He plunked the device down onto the carpet in the living room and smiled at his family who looked back at him with nervous, expectant, eyes.

“Is that for Mommy, Daddy?” Emil’s son asked.

“Yes, it is, man,” Emil said to his son, hands already set to the task of unpacking and setting up the scanner.

“Daddy, will that tell you if mommy has a bug in her?” Emil’s daughter asked.

Emil stopped and looked up at the kids. His eyes surveyed their tiny scared faces, and he sighed quietly to himself before speaking.

“Don’t worry,” he said looking at both of them, “your mom doesn’t have no stinking bug in her, but if she did, which she doesn’t, this machine would find it. Okay?” He said with a smile that he knew was weak when he offered it. Still, the children, seeing his fatigue and wanting to believe what he had to tell them as true, took turns giving him small hugs that assured him of his own words.

Emil’s in-laws had moved in after their village was rendered uninhabitable due to the parasite. His brother-in-law, Grigore, had lost his wife and child to the infection and was a shell of himself. The prospect of losing his sister, Carlotta had him rightfully on edge, but he had lost his family. He was trying to prepare Emil for the worst. Help him to make the right choices before it was too late. To be strong for the children before it was too late for them.

His mother-in-law, Alexia, said prayers, but Emil doubted anyone listened to, let alone answered those prayers, but her insistence helped to keep him focused. Gave him something to be cynical about, because he had to be hopeful for his wife, be optimistic about the choices he was making, be sure of the steps he had taken to protect his family, but Carlotta got worse by the day, and he knew that this wasn’t something medicine could fix.
Researchers from the University of Bucharest began excavations from the Black Sea in early 2022 following the unearthing of a submerged catacomb. An earthquake had cracked open the sea and let its ancient secrets bubble up to the surface. Only, it had been like every other time when something buried was better left buried. Their hunt for knowledge had subject them and the world at large to an ancient biological weapon. A parasite called that Wyrm devoured its hosts and made them breeding grounds for its wriggling, life-ending, offspring.

Carlotta coughed weakly from the other room, and Emil signaled to Grigore and his mother-in-law to take the kids to the park. To give him time to find out. He hated the University of Bucharest. He hated the Wyrm. He hated whatever gods there were that allowed something like it to even exist, but worst of all, he hated that he felt responsible for it all. He had been on the job site as a contractor when they lifted the singing urn from the water. He knew then that something was wrong. That he should have run over to the lift, slammed the crane’s control lever down, and watched as the urn was put back where it belonged. However, he couldn’t. He was just as amazed and cheerfully astonished as everyone else.

The checks, long since depleted, paid bills for nearly three months. It was good money. It was good work. However, when the workers nearest the object got sick, and those who transported it from the sea to the university all got sick, the city turned a blind eye. Trying to cover up infections as the result of negligence. When the hospitals filled up and talks of evacuations began, Emil had already been discounted. His newly emerged concerns were disregarded, and as a result, he had needed to get the scanner himself. Needed to be sure of the results.

He entered his and his wife’s bedroom, hands gripped on either side of the scanner, and trailed its connecting cables behind him. The device hummed to life, as he hovered over Carlotta who was slick with sweat

He needed a single ‘X’, a single negative meant that the infection was going to stabilize. No one knew what the implications of that were, but everyone knew that death and grotesque reanimation awaited anyone who was completely positive.

The first positive marker appeared. A red checkmark, not an X. A checkmark, like the checked boxes on the work orders that the university filled to have his overtime paid as he happily dug away on their potentially world-ending job site.

“Jesus Christ… God! Please!” he said, dropping the scanner. He hammered into his thighs with balled fists and picked the scanner back up.

The abdomen took longer. The parasite had natural cloaking in the network of intestinal coils humans had. Another red checkmark filled the digital display, and tears he had been holding back flowed freely down his cheeks. He wondered what he would tell their children about their mother, about what infection meant for them, about what life would be like without her. He sniffled up snot that gunked up his sinuses, and wiped his watery eyes clear with the back of his hand as he balanced the scanner on his leg, then he picked it back up for the final scan. Neck and head. He hovered the scanner over her chest, afraid for what came next.

Grigore was back in the apartment then. He had come back, because his sister was laid up in here, possibly dying, he had to know. He eased his hand onto Emil’s who started backward in surprise, but then, together, each of them knowing what another checkmark on the scanner meant, pushed the device over Carlotta.

The display flashed once, twice, then… a green X. A single green X filled the last box on the scanner’s readout and Emil and Grigore burst into laughter that stirred the still slumbering, feverish, Carlotta.

Her brother and husband looked down at her with joyful tears in their eyes, and she looked up at them somewhat vacuously. A single thought rattled around in her skull, “consume.”

“Consume. Consume. Consume.”

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Dreams-------|---------The Greater Sage-Grouse

Song and Dance

920 words

Daveed dreams, the thin mattress over old stiff springs fading away, the cold pain in his bare feet fading away, his ex-lover's echoing words even fading away. A slip into darkness and silence and he is gone from his world into his place of power. He is an oineromancer, no mere astral projector or lucid dreamer but a true wizard of sleep. His own dreams are an old familiar house. He launches himself like a rocket, pierces the barriers between sleepers. He has work to do.

He gathers what he needs. Much of it is easy. A broken mirror shard frozen in reflection of a hateful eye. A drop of honey fresh from the hive. Two pages from a book that was never written. Mammoth steak, medium rare. History, deep history in all of them.

Somewhere there is a man right now who dreams of Eden, some priest or penitent. Daveed throws out sensation like a net, seeking him out. There. He enters the dream and milks venom from the Serpent itself.
History. It's a spell of history. Of erasure. There's nothing else for it now. Marcus told his brother, shared his gifts like it was some kind of party trick. That's why-

No. That's not why. It was the trigger, not the gunpowder. It was going to happen, and sooner than later. Daveed was not built for intimacy, for honesty, for trust. His world did not reward them. It was the trigger. But a bad trigger. Word would spread, may already have. George likely told his wife, and she has close sisters. Spreading like plague.

There are those who hunt wizards, dream wizards or otherwise. To kill. To enslave. To strike terrible bargains.

So a forgetting, and a big forgetting. The ingredients for the spell have to match the scope. And there was one more needed. A song, unsung.

There are lost symphonies, of course. Few people dream them. Most people dream silently, like an old movie. Where there is dialog it is words, not sounds. They don't even notice, usually. Just like watching a subtitled movie after the first few minutes. A few people dream music. Those who make it. But they rarely dream old unsung songs, and even those are not old enough.

Daveed sighs. He does not like animal dreams. Too slippery, without words to bind ideas. He likes bird dreams even less.

Cats dream of the hunt. Dogs dream of endless play. Fish dream a world nearly unchanged from the real oceans, save for an absence of hooks. But birds dream of the far past.

Daveed crosses the borders, man to mammal to avian. There. A sleeping sage-grouse. He enters the dream.

The air is thick, hot, and muggy, rich with rotting jungle smells. And all there is is air. Daveed falls through it, but there is no ground to strike and force him to wake. There are no words here. He has to reach deep inside himself to find one. 'Fly'.

He pulls from the dive. He finds the dreamer, singing. He reaches for the song.

The dreaming bird does not let it go. He needs it. His kind does not sing anymore. But they do dance, a mating dance. It is time for mating, and if he does not hear the music in his head he will not step and strut properly. The grouse will fight for this dream in ways people never do. And here it is a dinosaur.

The song is ugly, pure sex over a beat of lizardbrain id. Music to start riots over, if he were to translate it to modern instruments. But Daveed needs it. The grouse, gargantuan, lumbering through the air in a mix of collective memories, swipes at him with terrifying razored claws. He ducks away.

He has been here before. Not this bird, not this song. But when a forgetting was needed, it meant a place like this, a fight. And when he lost it meant weeks of recovery, of dreaming only in the platonic cave of sterile words that were his lucid dreams. And the forgetting undone, made so much harder that it would require the song of creation itself. Not this time.

Words. He dives into his mind. 'Weapon', yes. 'Missile', no, too complex, too based in the waking world. He need not be so constrained. One more time. Yes. 'Ray-gun'.

Red cauterizing beams blast from the barrel at the fly-tromping enemy, rending off feathered claws that fall slowly toward the infinitely distant green ground below. It does not accept defeat. The severed limbs fly at him. He shoots them down, then goes for the head.

The song is there, lodged deep in exposed steaming birdbrain. He grabs on it and pulls, willing himself out of this dream and back to his cave, his cauldron, his laboratory. His memory-palace.

The song is old and potent. The spell will be as powerful as any he has worked. Marcus will forget his powers, as will all who he spread that knowledge to. There is strength left over for the spell. He could make Marcus forget him entirely. He could make himself forget Marcus, along with every waiter and hotel clerk and barista, every antique dealer and convenience store manager who ever saw them on a date. Erase the whole thing from history. He knows he would be happier for it.

But he does not. Just the powers. Nothing more. He knows he will never have a successful relationship. He must cling tight to the failures.

t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010

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

Meet Cute
1016 Words

We’d just passed through some unremarkable Pennsylvania town when I flew from the train. I’d come to enjoy watching the sunsets by poking my head out above the cars, and while experienced riders would tell you that it was just a good way to get picked up on camera, the worst I’d yet to encounter was a face full of bug guts. Tonight, though, something was wrong. As I hoisted myself upward in the junction between the cars, they began to rock wildly and emit a hellish groan. My immediate thought was of the fate of those bugs, and in a panic I scrambled up to avoid the potential meeting of the Symplegades. This was, in retrospect, somewhat less of a ludicrous decision than it might seem, as when the train derailed seconds later I was flung into space rather than crushed to death.

When I was younger, my uncle used to take me out on the lake. He wasn’t much of a talker even then, but his passion shone through whenever he tried to teach me to water ski. My aunt typically didn’t join us, so he’d have to cut the engine and shout instructions to me as he let out the line. I caught most of the basics that way but the greater technique always escaped me. I’d always find myself skidding along the water’s surface, building up bruises along my legs and arms before slowing and partially descending into the lake. The experience of being launched from a train was similar, but even the soft grass underneath me provided much more resistance.

I came to rest. It hurt everywhere when I tried to move. I pushed forward along the tracks amidst the metal and fire. I was unfocused, and the pain was all-encompassing. Still, I progressed, one foot after the other.

The train was long, and I’d been riding in its rear. It was slow going, weaving through the strewn cars, and in my state even the simplest maneuvering presented an incredible challenge. Time and distance escaped me. The cars themselves were so indistinct that I might have been walking in circles and not recognized it. I pushed on.

I ascended a stable-looking heap to see a house with a train car through it, and on its porch a young woman slowly rocking suspended by a bench swing. For a moment, her apparent nonchalance gave the setting a natural quality, as if the house had expanded and engulfed the preexistent debris. The pastoral mirage shattered as I lost my footing and tumbled forward, shouting in surprise as I narrowly avoided running myself through. I looked up at the last remnants of the sunset.

“Hello? Are you OK?”

I was working to reply in the positive when I first began to actually comprehend the state I was in. I started to cry. “No,” was all I could get out, and I wasn’t sure if it was loud enough to be heard. I lay there for another moment but soon figured that I could have easily been mistaken for dead, and that it was no way to make a first impression. Instead, I sat up to see the swing at rest, and its prior occupant climbing down shattered steps as she approached. I suppose I was on her lawn, such as it was now.

“I’m sorry to disturb you,” I began without thinking, “I’m just a bit out of sorts.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, I’ve been in a train crash.”

At this she started laughing, and once I understood I didn’t hold it against her. As she led me carefully inside the house, I began to find the focus I’d lost. It was a simple home, save for the train car through it, comprised mostly of tasteful wooden furniture and surprisingly numerous tchotchkes that somehow all added to the overall warmth and lightness of the space. The heat and light emanating from the wrecked car, however, highlighted the irreparable damage to the frame of the house. This was assuredly one of many little tragedies sprung from the crash, and for a moment I felt somehow that I was violating a space of mourning for my own relatively petty loss.

If that was so, however, she hid her lamentations. Flaming wreckage does much to shatter placidity, but nevertheless, my hostess exuded serenity as she stepped gingerly through the shattered remnants of what I assumed was a china cabinet.

She suddenly stopped, and with only the faintest hint of a frown picked up a large chunk of a plate from the floor. As she turned away, I felt compelled to apologize again. “I’m really sorry about this. Sorry this happened to you, and sorry you have to help me out. I’m Nathan…”

I trailed off as I didn’t know what to say. What could one even say here? It all seemed either obvious or not enough. My speaking must have broken the spell, though, because she looked up and dropped her talisman. “Don’t worry about it, Nathan. It happens.”

“Does it, though?” While I’d stopped crying, she’d started. She opened a cabinet in the corner of the room and recovered a small white box.

“There’s no point. We don’t have control. It just happens.” Tucking the box under her arm, she began making her way in the direction we’d come and gestured for me to do the same. I picked up the shard of plate and followed her.

Lights shone in the distance and sirens soon followed. We sat on the swing together, her applying alcohol and bandages and me telling her about riding the rails. When the house eventually caught fire, we moved further out onto the lawn. As we waited together in that destructive light, I discovered that her name was Agatha, that she worked as a clerk for the local township, and that the two of us found ourselves in that specific place and time by an invariable series of circumstances masquerading as expressions of choice. I pondered this last revelation for a few moments.

“What happens next, then?”

She shrugged. “Ask me tomorrow.”

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

cephalopods ----|---- the writings of Thomas Bernhard

Tapes Recovered from the Midnight Zone
820 words

Is this thing on? That’s what you’re supposed to say, I understand that, a murmured entreaty to the god in the machine. I am a sacrifice to the machine, now, myself. Immured in a steel bubble plunged deep down into the icy embrace of the mother ocean by heavy winches and somber cables.

I sit here, wrapped in a blanket of metal, surrounded by kilometres of desolation, breathing air that is limited. There are a given, specific, precisely enumerated, exactly metered number of breaths in this tube, which I will expend one at a time, my alveoli caressing each molecule of oxygen and adding a fond farewell of carbon dioxide as it leaves my throat. I imagine the number, large but finite, counting down to zero - in that sense it is identical to every other moment of my life; a number, ticking downwards.

I can see blackness out my window, a pure matte black like being down a cave. If I were to stand up, careful of my head on the low instrument-clogged metal ceiling, I would see the two powerful lamps sending beams out into the water. Hapless, hopeless, those beams, like our consciousness, our conscience. We cast our minds out in the future, strive against the blackness, then close our eyes when the allotted number hits its final nullity.

I’ve been called gloomy but, to my mind, there is a simple choice: see what is there, or do not.

I suppose I should be afraid, on this trip to discover a death I know awaits me, down here in the abyss, sinking ever downwards to the fate that I was always bound to discover. In fact: I am afraid. But not of death, not of the silence after the sentence, the darkness after the light is turned off, the echo of the lightswitch click. It’s the creatures out there that I fear. You can hear it in my voice, my fear is being encoded into minute fluctuations of magnetic charge on the ferric oxide tape that is wrapping itself around the spool.

They are out there, waiting for me. I loathe them so. Their eyes, the undulating tentacles, their huge luminous eyes. I cannot easily count the number of nights I’ve dreamt of those tentacles enfolding me, suckers hungry on my damp skin. They want to clasp me tight, squeeze me into an envelope of rubbery flesh.

I am at peace with this fate. There is an ultimate blackness, and moving towards it is all we can do. In my case, I have made my decision and it is being given effect by this rapidly descending bathyscaphe.



Why am I talking to you, the mysterious you, the undiscovered you? What is it that compels me to speak, one word at a time, laying out my thoughts like an old man making a carpet, shuttle moving and returning. No-one will hear this carpet of words, no human will walk on it with their mind, stoop to inspect the whorls and arcs of my thoughts, so why not sit in silence as my funeral carriage descends solemnly to its seabed churchyard?

I think I saw something.

A flick of long limbs, the flash of a single huge eye, luminous in the gaze of my lamps.

I may not have long, so I shall speak directly: I talk to you because there is nothing else for me to do. It is all any of us can do, strive to speak, a single word at a time. If I was still in the world I would do that. If I was walking in the jungle. If I was living a life in the midst of family and friends and strangers and enemies I would do that thing, to speak, because it is better to speak than it is to be heard.

I see it clearly now. It is more horrible than my imaginations. Its eye is cruel, knowing, yet gentle. They say these creatures live forever, each part of their unctuously rippling body regenerating from moment to moment. What thoughts might come in all that time. What it would be to speak with one of them.

I have no illusions because I have left them behind. There is only the blackness of the midnight zone, this word, and the the next, and the one beyond it, and myself. And soon that last will be gone too. Everything is a clock, now, the glances of the huge luminous eyes, the spinning of the tape, the involutions of my word carpet.

My death awaits, out there, down here, as it always has. Is this thing on? I know the answer, I always have. Is it? I’m being recorded, until, very soon, I will not be.

Is this thing on?

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Lists ---|--- transcendental numbers

Always Breaking and Entering, Too, Totally Suss 819 words

When I was seven, I received coal for Christmas, along with a note that said, ‘Try to make the nice list next year.’

All the other kids got neat stuff like shoes with the soles still intact, or a second meal that day, but that bearded jerk gave me coal, and not even the kind that you could use for a steam engine or whatever if you had one of those, which of course none of us did, it was bad useless coal.

And besides which, who keeps lists of children? If anyone should be on a list, which no one should, they shouldn’t exist, but if anyone should be on a list, it should be that guy.

My therapist thinks the coal incident is behind my loathing of lists. I mean, it didn’t help, but I’ve always been aware of the evils of lists. Heck, Schindler had a list, and we all know what that movie’s about.

Full disclosure, I haven’t seen that movie, but I heard it was about Nazis, so I rest my case.

Anyway, the coal incident, while traumatic, wasn’t the incident that led to my mandatory therapy sessions.

That incident was when we had an outing, and who do I see on the walk there, but that bearded prick with a bell and a bucket. My therapist tried to explain that it wasn’t him, but I don’t see how it’s my fault that he masqueraded as someone else and then people thought he was the person he was masquerading as. If you don’t dress as that list making bearded jerk, then maybe next time one of the people who he’s wronged by putting on the naughty list won’t pull your fake beard off and kick you in the shins and smash your bucket.

Frankly I think I showed restraint, if anything. My therapist thinks that, perhaps, even more restraint is called for, and also that I should bear in mind that dressing in that outfit with that beard is relatively popular this time of year, so I can’t be assaulting everyone with that colour scheme and a beard.

Which, fine, I learned my lesson, and agreed that next time I’d make sure they’re the real one before I wreak my vengeance.

OK, so about the next time.

It was quite a lot later. I hadn’t been allowed on any outings since the whole thing with bell and bucket Santa, but since I’d managed to go a few years without any of those incidents, I got to go on the trip to the mall. We were getting jerseys because me and some of the other kids were starting a team. I wanted to get the number π, which is a beautiful number. It’s infinite, unlike lists, which suck and have a finite number of points.

My therapist said that when you think about it, if someone had a list of all the kids that would pretty much be infinite, because you’d always be adding to it, but:

a. I don’t think it works like that and,

b. Shut up.

Anyway, I couldn’t get the number I wanted, which is annoying, and also some of the kids wanted to go get pictures taken with Santa.

They said I didn’t have to come if I didn’t want to, because I guess they all know by know how I feel about that list making tool, but I said nah I didn’t mind I’d come along, because he’s probs not the real one anyway. But I needed to double check, and the only way to get close enough to ask was to line up for a photo.

So, I got to the front, and one of the sisters was there as well, just keeping an eye on me I guess, which is unfair because really, he started it in the first place. I asked him if he was really the real Santa, or just a helper like some of the other ones, and one of his elves started to say that of course he was the real Santa, but then the sister said that no he wasn’t, and the elf and the sister got into a big argument.

Then I just took a closer look and realised he was wearing a fake beard so I just got the photo, but the sister and the elf had gotten into a full on fist fight, and I started to cheer them on because, heck, who doesn’t want to see a sister and an elf in a fight?

Apparently, security didn’t, and we all got escorted out, and the sister got replaced by a different sister for a few months. It’s a shame, because she was one of my favourites.

I’m still on the look out for the real Santa, though, and when I find that list making jackass I will ruin his whole day.

May 21, 2001

magnets ---|--- Argentina
Weapon of Choice
803 words

It wasn't the first time he realized the tumultuous thrill of it all. It was, in fact, becoming a bit of a bore.

Santiago jogged over to the side of the field with a spring in his steps to greet his adoring public in the stands. To some, it was the spirit of competition, or the glory of victory that got the blood flowing through their veins. He, however, was obsessed with the high he got from meeting his fans. At halftime, they would flow down the bleachers and to the edge of the field to greet their favorite stars, and "Santi the Slayer" was among the brightest and most idolized. He boasted the colors of the Argentinian national football club on his jersey: stripes of valiant sky blue and pure white. 73, the year his mother was born was his number of choice. It was a bit unorthodox to choose your own number, let alone one out of standard numerical order like the rest of his mates, but his fame came with special privilege. Anyone glancing over the rowdy uprising of fans might consider that it was a marketing ploy, as the entire group sported mock jerseys of the same colors, with a good ninety percent also carrying his signature 73.

A flurry of hands reached out from the representative mass of spectators, each begging to be grazed by the slayer himself. More than happy to oblige, he frantically tapped as many as he could, convinced that his touch gave them magical powers. In these parts, it was common for the fans to greet the players at halftime with refreshments. The envoy this time: A small boy emerged, guided along and pushed by gentle hands that herded him to the front of the pack. He smiled and looked upwards with a certain magnetic gleam, waiting to grab Santiago's attention. They were a loud and energetic bunch, but without lack of selflessness. The crowd began pointing and gesturing down towards the sole boy in a gang of older teenagers and young adults, happy to expedite the process.

Santiago leaned in proudly, drawn to the tyke. The boy reached out and handed him a plastic cup, filled with creamy milk tea and onyx-black boba pearls.

"What do they call you, little one?", he said, greeting the boy. He took a sip of the drink.

"Um, well, I suppose my brothers call me 'El doctorado'," he replied, devoid of any apparent signs of shyness.

"No sisters?" Santiago said with a hearty laugh, turning to the rest of the crowd, whom all followed with in suit with their own. "That's a bit of an odd name, 'El doctorado'," he said, then sucked a few of the pearls up through the large straw protruding from the cup. He swallowed, seemingly having a bit of trouble getting them down.

"Science. When I am big, I will go to university some place far away, and learn the sciences," the boy said confidently.

"Well, looks like we have a scientist within a group full of football stars, am I right, huh?" he said, addressing the group, which cheered in response.

"Or maybe I will be a football star like you, slayer," the boy chimed in, with a grin.

"Hey, you can do whatever like, little one. After all, we can't all be the slayer," he said, patting the boy's head gently while sucking up another large helping of tea and boba. He twitched and looked at the cup. "A little tough today, this boba."

The rest of the stadium was alive with the sounds of other crowds greeting other players, and chatting to themselves. There was action happening over every inch of the crowd. Time seemed to stop, however, in Santiago's small huddle. He didn't even realize he was now crouched down with one knee on the ground, his hands pressed against his lower abdomen. Then the pain came.

He bellowed a wail that had drawn the eyes of spectators all around the stadium within seconds. He coughed violently, spraying droplets of blood into the air as the magnetic spheres travelling through his intestines began to clamp together and tear his digestive system to shreds, swiftly and surely.

"Vamos Brasil!" cried the boy, as he flung the blue and white jersey to the side, as the slain lay on the field twitching. Underneath the splatters of blood, a regalia of yellow and green.

"Vamos Doutorado!" the band yelled threateningly, as they tore off their Argentinian jerseys and began ruthlessly rampaging in a flurry of fists and pride.

Two small spherical magnets came together with a clank in the boy's hand. He simply walked out, unconcerned and uninterested by the chaos around him. Maybe he had already grown out of football riots, but he would always have science. And National pride.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
I think that's everyone so this round is now closed.

Crits and judging to follow.

Jan 21, 2010

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

Lipstick Apathy
oh yeah submissions closed and all that

Jan 21, 2010

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

Lipstick Apathy

I threw out a lot of random prompt things, and many of you pulled off great stories anyway. nice.

there were quite a lot of stories that one judge really liked and the other didn't much care for that ended up getting NM'd. in the end, most of you really entertained at least one of us, so nice work over all.

but we did agree on, these:

i swear there is no conspiracy going on, but for the second time in a row with me as judge taste is the winner. i guess you just know what stories i like??

hawklad and carl killer miller get HMs

idle amalgam gets a DM

babyryoga gets the loss

crits (real ones from me this time) to be posted later tonight

t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010

Check’s in the mail, derp

Week 477: Or Shall I Say Think Back

This week, I’d like you to write me a story that centers on reflection and commemoration. The scope and nature of that commemoration is up to you, but try not to be a sad sack about it unless you’ve got something great to share. This is the sort of week where it’s perfectly fine and indeed encouraged to tell rather than to show. You’re all fine storytellers, and sometimes people want to have stories told to them that way. Consider toasts at weddings, anecdotes on the back porch in the summer, keynote speeches at observances, etc. for the spirit if not the form. Capture that feeling, in the connection of telling and being told to.

You’ll start out with 1500 words to work with, but for the low price of 100 words you can buy a song from me for inspiration. One free reroll if you hate it.

Signups due 11:59ish PST Friday night, submissions the same time Sunday night.

The man called M

t a s t e fucked around with this message at 04:42 on Sep 21, 2021

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
In with song

t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010

Thranguy posted:

In with song

Feb 20, 2011

~carrier has arrived~
Oven Wrangler

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


Huh. Honestly surprised I didn’t get the loss this time.

Anyway, in.

Jan 21, 2010

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

Lipstick Apathy

My strangest patient (the dead sea/hair)

There are some good ideas here. I liked the many creative ways you came up with for how the guy could use hair, and the different results of his obsession. However, the story being told second hand like that really detracted from it and made it harder to get involved, or to care. Instead, if you describe the doctor meeting the crazy hair man as it happens, describe his discoveries of each bizarre element of the man’s delusions as he discovers them, so we can experience it along with him, the story will be much more engaging. Also, I know this was a strange week, but making him crazy seemed a bit of a copout.

Dangerous woman (ariana, the pacific)

There is some great writing in here. The descriptions of the struggle to survive, the desperation and exhaustion, these were all very good and roped me into the story. The love of the ocean was also strong and beautifully written. However, the Ariana hate dropped in at regular intervals with no explanation felt so out of place that I kept getting knocked out of the story. All it needed was some reason, literally any reason, why the character hated her. Just google Ariana and pick some facet of her personality, or something she said in an interview, anything, it doesn’t even have to be something real about her, anything at all would have helped. The end was good, and i actually didn’t see it coming at all, but it would have been so much better if there was an actual reason she was hating herself so hard (a performance she hosed up, anything)

Restoration (old guitarist, silkworms)

I enjoyed this story a lot from the moment he saw the painting, until his disillusionment with the rich. The beginning and end, though, for me, were some stale bread that distracted from the delicious meat in the middle of the sandwich. To me, making this a sci fi story was a distraction, and also detracted from the power of it. All this stuff about genetic engineering and indentured servants in company towns makes the problems with the power of the rich that you so perfectly describe seem like some far off ‘this could happen if we aren’t careful!’ kind of thing. but that exact scenario with the painting could literally happen today. The end also felt like an extreme reaction and came across to me as ‘well, i need to end this somehow.’ I really, really enjoyed the middle part of this story, I just think it needs new bookends.

My shark waifu

This one came across as a bit over the top. It reminded me of a bad action movie with a cop who has a grudge against some group of people. I did enjoy the end when he hears his favorite music being played by a fortune teller and just flips out. Overall I felt the character needed something more in order for me to care about him.

Sitting here:

I was sort of torn on this one, the idea of some global (universal?) catastrophe happening because universes bumped into each other is really cool, and drawing that comparison between their apocalyptic world, and burning a beehive because all the bees are infected with something, it did put some interesting thoughts in my head... but in the end, it’s just some kids sitting around talking philosophy. i felt there could have been more done with this


For how short this was, it really gave me a fair amount of feels. I liked the descriptions in this, and the parallel between the wasps ruining the hive and his breakup. Burning the map was a nice poignant moment. However, the bee scream at the end threw both judges off, and in such a short story every line counts for a lot.

the one answer that is waiting to be heard (french, carpenters)

I normally dislike war stories, but this one pulled me in. The character had just enough cynical bite to make it enjoyable, and the writing was sharp and fast paced without being all bombs and gunshots everywhere. Instead there’s a bizarre river creature encounter that is described really great in the end. I also was very pleased that you chose to reference the best song on the album. Not much negative to say about this one. Had a good time reading it, and the final line got a chuckle from me.

Becoming memory forever (deja vu, sand)

I quite liked this, especially the first half. I liked the characters’ interactions with each other. It was heartfelt and genuine. I liked how you showed the old dr’s memory problems with his constant flip flopping on what he wanted to be called. I liked the bizarre link between memory and sand, and I wanted to hear more about his strange thoughts on that. I was a bit let down that the end went in a more mad-scientist angle, but overall a very enjoyable read.

False negatives (x, bucharest)

During some kind of zombie outbreak, a man scans his ill wife to see if she is infected. The concept is fine, and the tension while he is scanning her is good. His desperation and worry were well captured. But there was so much exposition and description of the world added in around that moment that it got buried. In my opinion you should focus on that moment, spend most of your words there, since that is the entire point of the story. You could cut almost all the exposition and just go from his kids hugging him straight to him scanning his wife with almost zero loss, and a lot of improvement imo. We were also kind of turned off by the downer twist at the end. You don’t always need to have a twist.

Song and dance (dreams, sage-grouse)

Very cool, a fun and engaging read. I liked the concept of stealing from dreams, and the encounter in the bird dream was great. Just really interesting and I was curious the whole time. The only negative feedback I have is that by the end of it I had no idea what he was doing it all for or who was supposed to be forgetting what, and had to go back and reread the beginning. Could do with a bit of a reminder at the end of what he is accomplishing.

Meet cute (free will, decorative plates)

Okay, this is just great. Short, to the point, and at the same time full of great action and thoughtfulness. I love the image of her just sitting on the swing with a train through her house, it perfectly encapsulates the following description of her outlook on life. And all of this with little to no explaining. So many stories of this kind fall into the trap of overly explaining everything. Really liked the imagery, the ideas, the characters, all of it. Nice.

Tapes Recovered from the Midnight Zone (cephalopods, bernhard)

This was a great read. I liked the ambiance, and the cynical acceptance of his fate. I liked the descriptions of the squids and the disgust was well captured. I also like that you didn’t directly mention bernhard, but the vibe of the story fits perfectly and this guy is definitely a bernhard fan. Good stuff with several great lines You can hear it in my voice, my fear is being encoded into minute fluctuations of magnetic charge on the ferric oxide tape that is wrapping itself around the spool.

Always Breaking and Entering, Too, Totally Suss (lists, transcendental numbers)

A straightforward, humorous, fun read. The hatred of santa is almost too obvious a direction to go with the ‘lists’ prompt, but somehow it worked. It was just the right amount of silly for my tastes, I guess. In the end, though, it didn’t do anything very memorable. I feel like things maybe needed to be amped up, and more extreme in order for the ending to be really funny. but I did smile while reading it.

Weapon of Choice (argentina, magnets)

I was interested in the first part of this. the footballer’s love of the crowd and fame was well described, and it got me curious what was going to happen. However, having established a down-to-earth, real world setting, the end of the story comes off as suddenly bizarre. The violence seemed extreme and completely unnecessary. I also do not think magnets the size of bobas would cause that kind of damage, unless the kid has magneto powers. just kind of wacky and confusing.

Jul 29, 2007

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


May 19, 2021


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:


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

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

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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


Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Week 475 Crits

The Man Called M – My Strangest Patient
Short, weird, kind of bad. Welcome to ThunderDome.

I’ll be straight with you, I didn’t love this. I didn’t hate it, either—but the takeaway was that this was more of an odd character sketch than an actual story. If you were writing a larger story or set of stories about a doctor in a mental ward, then this is the sort of thing that you might write up real quick to get your own head around a character to try and figure out what makes them tick and how they’d react if tossed into a specific situation. As it is, this is more of just a “Let me tell you about a guy…”

Where I think you goofed is in hewing to the prompt a little too closely and it ran roughshod over your own work. Here’s a secret about TD: the prompts are just suggestions. If you’d rather do something else, give the prompt a polite nod, then do whatever it is you want to do. Since this is your first week on the circuit, we weren't inclined to hand you an L (you gotta work for those).

Captain Indigo – Dangerous Woman
I liked it. I think you took a risk with going for the delirium story, but for me it paid off. There’s elements of the story that don’t make sense, but you’ve done a good job giving a foundation for why they don’t make sense (the MC’s been bitten by a snake and is delirious). Is the MC actually Ariana Grande? Who knows! And this is a good use of an unreliable first-person perspective.

If I’m going to nitpick, I’d say that something that could be improved would be word choice in a few spots. Lying prostrate on the beach is not the same as lying prone on the beach, and I don’t know of a way a person could be washed ashore in a prostrate position. Prone, sure, prostrate would be weird. Anyway, if you’re going to go back and polish this story, it’s stuff like that I’d pay attention to. The prose itself is generally good—normally I’d nitpick about repetitive sentence structure, but this is told from the POV of a crash and snakebite survivor so having subject-verb-object simple constructions works for the most part. Just make sure you’re doing it on purpose.

Chernobyl Princess – Restoration
I enjoyed this story 95% of the way through, then the ending sort of soured me. There’s some debate in TD if you should kill your MC’s or not, and I’m actually in the “go for it” camp. But it wasn’t Anatoly’s death that bugged me, rather the manner. If he had ripped into the painting—destroying it on the spot, while screaming “They’ll make worms of us all!” and been killed by security guards, it would have been more satisfying for me. As written, the story sort of hiccoughs at the end though. The sudden scene shift in the last paragraph skips a beat and leaves it feeling a little awkward. I don’t hate it, and from a coldly “what hurts Perez the most” standpoint, burning the silkworms might actually be more meaningful as an act of disobedience. But like I said, it also feels like a needle skip right at the end of the tale.

My only other nitpick is the opening paragraph which has a gnarly run-on sentence in it. I was worried going into this that the rest of the story would be similarly constructed (thankfully not!), but if I’d been blind reading this on my own time instead of a judge, I might have put the story down right there. Break that sucker up into two or more sentences and this story will have a much better lead in.

MSW – The Detective Kireyev
This is a well written story with the setting adding a generally supportive infrastructure to it instead of getting too “world-buildy” when trying to tell the story. I was a little side-eyed at the idea of a proliferation of tea-readers and other psychics in post-revolutionary Russia, and I think if you removed passage out about Kireyev seeing psychic storefronts and giving dirty looks to the patrons then it would make the end hit a little harder.

Otherwise, I thought it was decent, but not amazing. What really kept it from rising to the top for me was the sort of tropey dynamic between Kireyev and the chief. Even with an early soviet veneer, it was still the same sort of “by the books chief and a loose cannon detective” that gets overused.

Sitting Here – Foulbrood
This is a nice story that inspires some existential dread. I think you played it right, letting the dialogue carry the story—and the work tuning the “voice” of each character let that come off effortlessly. It was weird, but in a good way and the “secret” of the story played out in a gratifying way. I’m always a little annoyed when someone pops a big reveal in a story and it means that I have to go read it again to “get it.” No, this was a reveal played properly. Thanks for that.

Nitpicks for this story are mostly technical. Cull some of these stray commas, especially early in the story. For example: the last sentence of the first paragraph has four of them and it makes for a janky scan. Also, things like “real casual” sort of stuck out at me in a “I’m a serious business editor, puff my pipe and frown” sort of way. I can’t articulatewhy phrases like that set off my serious business editing radar when in the prose instead of dialogue, but they do. I’ll leave it up to you if you want to keep that phrasing as part of your narrative voice.

Another good story, this is a good week, thanks.

Yoruichi – Parasitoid
Week CDLXXV, in which we burned bees.

Not a bad little story, but the scene shift in the paragraph 4 threw me for a little bit until I picked up that a scene shift had taken place. As I always say, I’m not a fan of breakup stories because, well…yawn. But I think this works because the breakup is supporting the story instead of the story supporting the breakup.

It did lose me a little in the last line though, because we go from a very realistic story, to a very fantastical “bees screaming” which sort of kicked me out of the groove. If he’d heard the flames crackling, or a drip of wax fell onto his face, or any number of other realistic—yet awful!—things had happened, I think it would have punched harder at the bell. Still, not bad.

Hawklad – The one answer is waiting to be heard
The prose on this is good for the most part, and it’s a fundamentally good story. BUT there are some things here that need to be looked at to make it a great story. Firstly, it’s set in Vietnam—so there’s a whole basket of expectations that a reader draws on. For a casual reader, I think it hits most of the notes right, but for a person who is either a vet or a military nerd there’s a couple of points here that stick out as awkward. The one that really tripped me was the reference to ARVN tunnel rats. Granted, a Navy Lieutenant would probably know about them, but I’m not sure they’d be part of his thought patterns in the way presented here. It’s sort of like having a character from Brooklyn thinking about something in terms of Mainline Philadelphia. Yeah…they’re both big cities in the northeast and it might play to a reader from the Midwest, but anyone from that part of the world would be like “huh, that’s a little weird.” Not enough to kill the story, but enough to bump me out of it for a few seconds.

Other issues I side-eyed were the kids dialogue (stereotypes aside, it still felt a little too polished) and seeing his former girlfriend and her exchange student in the crowd at the village. I know they’re not there, but the prosaic license there got a little thin. The ending was a little meh, as well, but the story was strong enough for me to give it a pass.

Otherwise another good story in a good week.

Carl Killer Miller – Become Memory Forever
This one made me think of Lovecraft’s “Cool Air” and “Color out of Space” in a lot of good ways. I think this has a lot of the same horror notes, combined with less racism. The idea of a doddering old academic is sort of a stale trope, but you fended that off by having his personality shift on the right beats during the story, going from formal to friendly and back again. I won’t say he “felt like a real person” but there was suspension of disbelief that never really broke for me, and that was a good thing. I also liked how the photographs given to Raju at the diner went from puzzling to sinister in retrospect.

What to look at for another draft? I think the hiccough that stuck out to me the most was in the description of the weird lab equipment in Palmer’s basement. Things like Erosion Engines and Metamorphic Harmonizers aren’t actual geological test devices (that I knew of, or could find online). Raju has a definite sense of awe and foreboding down there, but the way it’s writing, it seems like he knows what these things are without asking. I think a simple “He triggered a machine bearing the label of Erosion Engine before throwing a switch on another adorned with a small placard that called it a Metamorphic Harmonizer.” The point is that if the reader knows Raju is a capable geologist in his own right, but even he needs to read the signs to figure out what Dr. Palmer is up to. It sort of helps a reader identify and latch on to Raju a little more as a character.

The good story streak continues this week and I am happy.

Idle Amalgam – False Positives
I think both judges this week wanted to like this one, but there were some flaws in it that just kept us from enjoying it to its fullest. For me, this tended toward world building rather than sticking with the more compelling story going on in Emil’s apartment. And for a 1200 word story, this has a pretty extensive cast where none of the characters, save maybe Emil, get the time they need to really become people instead of props.

But what took this to a DM instead of a NM for us was the ending. I think if it had just been worldbuildy, I could have overlooked the exposition and sort of tried to enjoy the story for what it was. The “twist” at the end was just a bridge too far, though. I don’t need a happy ending every time, but this was sort of a slapstick end on what had otherwise been a fairly dark, but tonally consistent piece of writing. It was jarring and sort of left me with an “ugh” feeling.

With all that said, I don’t think this story is bad. It’s got a good foundation, but just needs another draft pass.

Thranguy – Song and Dance
I’m generally not a fan of dream narratives, and this one wasn’t bad—but there were a few things that kept me from investing fully in it. First the good: The spare prose in this really lends itself for effect. That’s how dreams work—choppy and odd, shifting on a dime. That was the right decision.

But two things really kept me from digging in on this one. The first, and most important, was the thin shell of setup that encapsulated the larger story. The failed relationship is the big “why” to this story, and yet I found myself going “wait, what” when I ran into the last paragraphs. I had to go back to the top and re-read the opener to “get” what was going on. The prose up top is lovely, but I’d be inclined to cut the first paragraph, because oddly enough the larger “why” about Marcus makes more sense later if I didn’t have that first paragraph to contend with.

The other thing that sort of bumped me out of the story was using a grouse as the bird. I know, I know—prompt. But one of those buggers breaks its neck on my living room window once a year, and I end up cooking grouse for dinner that night. Having a grouse be dangerous in any way at all just was a big “seriously?” to me. Other people might not have that reaction.

T a s t e – Meet Cute
I think both judges liked this one fairly well. The prose is solid on this very Taoist story and I can’t honestly find much to nitpick about it. It’s a little odd, but there’s nothing in the story that’s totally outside the realm of reason or makes me give it the side eye. The train derails and the MC is injured—Ok, I’ll buy that. There’s a train car smashed through a nearby house—I’ll buy into that too, I’ve lived in houses right next to the rails. The crash caused a spontaneous fire—maybe a little less believable, but if it went through a house maybe it clipped something electrical or hit a gas line, and there’s lots of sparks in a derailment. You get the point.

Normally I’d quibble with a story because the characters aren’t making choices, but rather just being dragged along for the ride…but that’s sort of the point here. I think there are still choices being made—to treat Nathan’s wounds, to let go of material possessions, etc. It’s more about little choices about being human rather than earth shattering “big picture choices”.

Good job.

Sebmojo – Tapes Recoverd from the Midnight Zone
I think Derp enjoyed this a little more than I did, and that’s largely because I suspect he’s more familiar with Thomas Bernhard than I am. From what I know of Bernhard, the tone of the story is pretty spot on in a gloomy-gus loathing sort of way. And the prose had atmosphere in spades.

But there wasn’t much beyond atmosphere for me, and this felt more like a vignette than a story. I suspect you know that already, and I won’t say that it was unenjoyable because I did like the mood. In a week with a weaker competition, I think this might have HM’d for me, but since there were a number of strong contenders it sort of bumped it into NM territory.

Chairchucker – Always Breaking and Entering, Too, Totally Suss
There aren’t many other authors in TD that have pioneered their own genre like Chairchucker has, and I mean that as compliment. A strong-voiced irreverent story that meanders a little but leaves the reader with a chuckle. Both judges liked this one this week, even if there were a couple of reasons it didn’t HM. First is that we felt that going to Santa as a play on lists was a little on the nose. Second, even though the story had very strong voice, I didn’t know much about the person doing the speaking. I got tidbits, but the gel never really set for me.

But whatever, it was a fun read and like Seb, if this hadn’t been a week of other strong entries, you’d probably have HM’d. I’m glad you wrote this and I hope you are too.

Babyryoga – Weapon of Choice
It’s not that this was a bad story, but it had a few too many points that broke my suspension of disbelief. I’ll hone in on the one that gave me the most reason to go “Nahhh,” and that was the boba tea magnets. First off, Argentinian tea culture is all about the yerba mate, not so much boba. If this was set in Taiwan or South Korea, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. If it had only been the boba tea as a peculiarity, I probably would have shrugged it off—but the problem here is that detail pinged my radar and got me looking for other detail problems. Then there’s the issue of the “tough boba” (magnets)…those wouldn’t just be tough, they’d be tooth-crackingly hard. And how did they not adhere to each other going through the straw, or in his mouth? How did they even get out of the cup one-by-one and not a solid clump of magnets stuck together? And how did they get into his intestines that fast? And…well, you get my drift.

Ultimately I just had to stop and say “hang on,” one too many times in the story.

t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010

Chili and I are planning on recording a judgechat again if any third would like to get in on it.

Feb 25, 2014
in :toxx: song


t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010

flerp posted:

in :toxx: song

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