Redemption for week 27
Canari was halfway to the door when the windows blew out. It wasn’t very dramatic, just a pop, a sinus-tightening pressure drop and a gust of wind that plucked at the carabiners she had dangling from her kilt. More by reflex than intent she dropped to the floor, hitting the riveted deck plates with a whoosh of breath. Over her head a nasty claw-footed mag-grapple clunked onto the steel wall, the cable it trailed slapping into loose coils on the ground beside her.
Canari poked her head up to look out the empty window frame, then ducked again as a rifle spat fire from the gantry opposite. The wind from outside had a cold scent to it. Probably going to rain, she thought absently, and slid her back against the wall below the window, Neoflex-clad rear end crunching on fragments of broken glass.
The cable pulled tight. Canari considered running, glancing through the smeary plaspex of the door she’d been heading to, down the long gallery to the far end of the zeppelin, then shook her head and checked her gun again. Three shots left, same as last time she’d looked. Cable was humming now, she could picture them dangling, hooked on, intent on her demise. It was a ridiculous image, and she let out a cough of laughter through cold hardened cheeks. Then she stiffened at the thump of a body hitting the metal wall behind her.
The first hunter swung his leg over the window frame, unclipping himself from the line in the same movement, which then turned into a graceless slide as Canari shot him in the neck. His hand went up to his helmet and he gasped at her with an expression of baffled chagrin. She would have laughed but he was bringing his rifle round to bear so instead she gripped the windowsill and kicked his wrist, hard, sending it spinning away. She grabbed his other arm and pulled him down, slammed her knee into his neck and leaning on it with all her weight.
He was gurgling weakly under her but she ignored him, took one breath, listening to the whir of the cable, then put her head over the window frame, fast and smooth, gun in both hands, and squeezed off two shots into the hunter that was coming for her next. They both hit centre mass and he jerked and started yelling something in their language. She didn’t see anything else because she ducked back down. The guy under her was scrabbling at her and putting out a fair bit of blood so she slammed the butt of her gun down on his skull a couple of times.
The whirring had stopped. Canari gauged the degree of consciousness of the man under her knee, judged it sufficiently absent, then scrabbled across the floor to grab his rifle. Just as her fingers touched metal, a deafening crack of gunfire echoed off the plating. Our of the corner of her eye she saw another hunter clambering over the window frame. Behind him was a shape dangling limp on the wire. Please be the last, intoned the part of her brain that still wished for things.
Bracing her feet wide on the floor she gripped the barrel tight and brought the rifle around in a hard fast arc, smashing it into the gun and knocking it out of the hunter’s hands and spinning out into the void. She was coming in for the backswing when he grabbed the butt of the gun and yanked. He was aiming to send her sprawling but her footing held and instead she pulled him into the corridor with a yelp of pain.
Broken fingers, she thought grimly, and slammed the gun against the wall, crushing his hand against the cold metal of the window. He grunted and jabbed his other fist, gloved and heavy, at her face but the blow was slow and weak and only clipped her cheekbone. She still saw stars, and the blur of the hunter grabbing for the rifle. She could smell him, his sweat and something metallic on top of that. He was pulling the rifle hard, a tug of war, broken fingers splayed out wide of the butt. She let go, and he stumbled back, eyes suddenly wide.
Canari took a step back for distance, grabbed onto the windowframe for balance, and slammed her foot as hard as she could into the side of his head. He jerked sideways and the gun pumped out a staccato three round burst. She could feel a hot streak of blood running down the side of her leg but ignored it as she ducked down, grabbed both his legs, and flipped him out the window. His fingers scrabbled against the dented metal for a second, then he was gone.
She hung on to the window frame, sucking in deep gusts of breath, and watched him fall. Between the narrow clouds the countryside below was barren, long dunes of greyish sand striped with ochre. His flailing body became smaller, and smaller, and vanished. The man on the floor seemed to have stopped breathing and was covered in blood. So, she realised, was she. Perhaps, she thought, there was a washroom nearer the stern. She knelt down and closed the eyes of the man on the floor, stole a packet of cigarettes from out of his vest pocket, and limped on, letting the blood-splattered plasplex door swing to behind her.
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 11:12|
|# ? Sep 23, 2023 11:43|
im judge this (slavering mythical radioactive slime) puppy
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 11:50|
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 16:41|
In with a flash.
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 17:01|
In, gimme a flash please.
Hell of good prompt but I'm kinda pissed you broke into my Google Drive and read the "Prompt Ideas If I Ever loving Win" file and stole the only one that was actually any good.
|# ? Oct 6, 2021 17:16|
Sounds fun, in with a flash cryptid please
THE FEARSOME JACKALOPE
In with a flash.
The honey island swamp monster, AKA the rugarou.
Additional information here: https://handwiki.org/wiki/Biology:Honey_Island_Swamp_monster
In, gimme a flash please.
The one and only MOTHMAN
Additional mothman resources here: https://cryptidz.fandom.com/wiki/Mothman
|# ? Oct 7, 2021 00:58|
In. Flash, please.
|# ? Oct 7, 2021 08:01|
In. Flash, please.
Additional Kappa resources: https://cryptidz.fandom.com/wiki/Kappa
|# ? Oct 7, 2021 23:35|
Signups are closed!
|# ? Oct 9, 2021 07:38|
chili u gently caress ty for the crit but that video was 2 hours and not timecoded for my convenience. i prolly shouldnt but i challenge u to a brawl over this. perhaps in the future u will look back at such mistakes, maybe even draw upon them for wisdom on how to proceed in a similar situation
pretending im still about poo poo i suppose but i will for this so do it up if ur fixin for a fight (your reason for ire would be that you had to read my bad story)
freal i cant leave yet till im good again lol. and i need more critting and like it's been a nightmare for like a zillion years
|# ? Oct 9, 2021 13:47|
chili u gently caress ty for the crit but that video was 2 hours and not timecoded for my convenience. i prolly shouldnt but i challenge u to a brawl over this. perhaps in the future u will look back at such mistakes, maybe even draw upon them for wisdom on how to proceed in a similar situation
I've tried to be incredibly good natured and kind throughout that incredibly arduous and difficult undertaking. I do not appreciate this at all. I will not brawl you over this. Learn some gratitude.
|# ? Oct 9, 2021 14:21|
im sorry, it was a joke friend
|# ? Oct 9, 2021 14:45|
i dont actually care about whether or not a crit video is time coded, and im sorry it came off the wrong way. i just wanted to write something and sign ups are over. apologies
|# ? Oct 9, 2021 14:46|
& i think you did a great job :)
|# ? Oct 9, 2021 14:47|
im sorry, it was a joke friend
I'm exhausted and not quite in the mood for them. Do appreciate the apology. Hope to see you for the next one.
|# ? Oct 9, 2021 14:56|
Let's keep the thunderdome thread focused on the thudner dome, friends
|# ? Oct 9, 2021 15:00|
The Case of the Lac Wood Kegger
A couple of weeks ago back in August, I was assigned by the office to help with a missing person report over in Mauricie, Quebec. Since I was mostly new over at the CSIS, I was told to go. I’m from Nova Scotia, so it took a little while to get there. Like most Canadians, I was fluent in both English and French, and Quebec was why the latter was necessary. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I came there. Hell, until I got the case, I didn’t even know the CSIS even handled missing person cases. Little did I know, what I saw there would perhaps change my life forever.
When I got there, the local police helped fill in some details. Her name is Jean Corbeaux, a student over at Laval University. She was last seen celebrating the end of the school year over at Laval at a Kegger over at Lac Wood. When asked why there, the family mentioned that it was a popular vacation spot for them. I headed over to Lac Wood, hoping to find any leads on the investigation.
When I got to the Lac, I saw an old man over in a makeshift cabin. Thinking that he might be a lead, I went to talk to him. “Excuse me?” I said, obviously speaking French. “What is it, Monsieur?” he asked. “Liam Tremblay, CSIS. I’m here for a missing person report?” I say while showing my badge. “Ah, we don’t have many agents around here!” He mentioned he was known as Old Jacques and that he lived around the area for about twenty years. I asked him about the Kegger that Mademoiselle Corbeaux was a part of. “Oh, yeah! I saw a few vehicles that passed by!” he said. I asked if there were any weird things that happened deeper in the area of the Lac. “Not much, except for the Lac Wood Screecher!” I have heard of it before, but I always dismissed it as an old wife’s tale. I told Old Jacques that, but he assured me that it was real. I left and went deeper into the Lac. The tale about the Screecher was the only lead I really had, even though many might consider it nothing. Perhaps Jacques was mistaken?
I went deeper in, and I noticed a sort of rotting smell. I followed it closer. What I found shocked me to my core. “Mother of God.” I said out loud. It was the body of a dead woman, who looked thoroughly decomposed. The sight from my eyes appeared rather ghastly. I was trained to expect seeing dead bodies, but not anything like this. During my training days, I was told by those at the Morgue that I would eventually get used to seeing dead bodies. Back then that time had not yet come. Speaking of the Morgue, I immediately phoned them. “I’m going to need some folks over at Lac Wood ASAP.” When asked why I simply said, “Found a dead body, and if what I’m assuming is correct, then this missing person investigation has become a murder one.”
A few days later, I got a call from the Morgue. Was always amazed at how much they could do with so little. Sure enough, the body was Identified as Jean Corbeaux. They mentioned that there were signs of immense blunt force trauma on her skull, which, due to the activities Corbeaux was a part of, was theorized to be from a beer keg. I asked if the keg was empty or full, he mentioned that due to how kegged beer is stored nowadays, it didn’t really matter. The Morgue worker then asked me why it took so long to find her body. I told them about Old Jacques and how he supposedly heard the Lac Wood Screecher. “He couldn’t possibly have heard it!” they said. “If he had truly heard the screecher, then it would be one of the last sounds he would ever hear!” I asked what they meant by that. He mentioned how the Screecher’s screeches supposedly can cause throbbing in the head, which could affect a man’s hearing. Thinking about how he appeared to be perfectly fine, I went back to Old Jacques.
I drove back to the cabin. Jacques was nowhere to be found. Inside the house, I saw the usual furnishings need to survive, but one item caught my eye. It appeared to be a large book. I opened it and saw that it was a photo album. All the photos appeared to focus on a particular little girl. Suddenly, I hear a noise. “Monsieur, what are you doing in my house?” Putting two and two together, I ask, “Sir, who is the girl in this photo album?” Jacques refused to answer. I press on, asking him again. Jacques pulled out a gun, saying “Don’t tell anyone about this!” Knowing that it goes against my job description, I pin Jacques to the floor. “Sir, you are under arrest.” I say, while mentioning the right to silence and self-incrimination.
After that, it was basically an open and shut case. Old Jacques was a closeted Pedophile, who used the Kegger as an opportunity to pursue Miss Corbeaux, who was the focus on his photo album. When Jean refused, he killed her. The locals believed in the Lac Wood Screecher, so he used it as an excuse so the authorities could not find the body. Little did Jacques know, is that he didn’t get all the details about the screecher down.
Now, those of you reading this might be wondering, “This was an open and shut case! How did it change your life?” My time in Mauricie was practically a learning experience. It helped me to get more used to the sight of a dead body. And it also showed me the importance of looking into each and every detail. I learned more in Mauricie than I ever did back in the academy. Though one other thing I learned happened while I was leaving.
As I started to leave, I heard an unearthly sound. The sound had kind of a metallic tint in it. It was far away, but I noticed that it could potentially be harmful when heard from a closer distance. Could it be that the Loc Wood Screecher is real? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I thought. It didn’t really matter to the case, so I went home a better man than when I left.
|# ? Oct 10, 2021 00:19|
Crap I forgot to add: For those who are archiving the stories, my prompt is The Lac Wood Screecher
|# ? Oct 10, 2021 05:44|
The Monster of Coffet
As of the last census, the population of Coffet was 148. Since the last census, I guess I drove the other hundred and forty-seven out. The sign still says 461. No one's bothered to change that since the 90's.
I'm the town postman. I'm on my way to the post office to perform the duties of my employment, checking my own mail.
Walking past the husks of little houses burned down for the insurance money and the old bar whose final stashes of liquor I've long since looted, I come across a sickly coyote. It can barely chew the raccoon that someone must have run over on their way between real places. Charley, always anxious to see another dog living in this lonely place, declines to bark.
I get to the post office. There's a functional pop machine sitting outside, but I drank all the pop inside it over a decade ago.
As I'm heading back, rifling through whichever ads politicians still find worth it their money to send me, I hear a soft pattering behind me. The coyote is following me.
"Are you seriously gonna try something, ya moldy old thing! Git!" I yell.
It continues to limp towards me. Charley growls softly.
"No, Charley," I say. The coyote's not in a stalking pose, and its head is relaxed. It's not out for any living blood today.
I recall the old stories my Pa told me to keep me from going too far into the woods. I remember what happened to my old pal Otis when he did exactly that sixty-some years ago. The coyote was supposed to have more legs than four, but maybe that part got exaggerated in the telling. I imagine this silly old creature as that same coyote, a legendary beast long past its prime.
We're just two old scavengers on this road; two lazy predators only out for the easiest prey.
"I suppose I should want some kinda revenge. Maybe I should go get my shotgun, end the sad story of the Coffet Coyote."
He sits. I chuckle. "Nah, I grew outta revenge sometime in my sixties. Come on, boy. Have you ever slept on a bed before?"
I continue my short journey home, and he follows.
There's a knock at my door a few weeks later, first thing in the morning. The coyote, looking healthier after a more consistent diet of Purina, leaps out of my bed towards the door. I throw on an old wifebeater and follow.
The third of my nine ex-wives is at the door. She was my favorite. She hated me, for sure, but she was never afraid of me. She often stood up for the other wives, and sometimes got through to me. I'd forgive her, as a treat.
"This place looks like poo poo," she says, gesturing at the whiskey-stained furniture and old newspapers strewn across the entry. "You've let yourself go, and that's saying something."
"If you want money, that's all gone. Had to sell the farmland to pay the lawyers," I say.
"I wouldn't take your money if you had a mountain of it, Travis. No. That's not why I'm here." She pets the head of the coyote, probably thinking it's just some sort of husky-mutt. Charley lets out a jealous whine.
"Why, then?" I bark.
She takes out a stack of papers. Something for me to sign, no doubt. "They're makin' a documentary about you. 'The Mailman Menace of Missouri.'"
I chuckle. "I always preferred 'the Polygamist Postmaster', myself."
"Travis, I said it on our wedding day and I'll say it again: I hate you, you dumb, mean, son of a bitch. But if you agree to be in this movie, the movie's budget goes way up. That means that every one of your old wives gets paid double. The producers thought you'd be more likely to listen to me than a rich man in an expensive suit, so here I am."
"And how much am I getting paid?"
She laughs. "You're joking, right? You think some Hollywood director's gonna let any of the proceeds go to some old child-marrying murderer?"
"Hey, come on now, everyone I ever shot lived to talk about it. Well, not the guy whose jaw came off."
"You mean my dad?" she says. She pets the coyote more harshly, her anger making its way to her hands.
"No, I'm not gonna be in any movie," I say. "I don't want any visitors. I don't need tourists prowling about Coffet. This is a ghost town, and I'm gonna keep it that way til the day I die."
"Well, I suppose I should've expected that. Not gonna give me even the smallest kindness. Goodbye, then. If you see me again, it'll be on TV."
She turns to leave.
"Wait! Maeve!" I say. She turns her head.
"You ever hear the stories of the Coffet Coyote?" I say.
"No, never. What's the Coffet Coyote?"
"An old story to keep the kids from running off, eight-legged coyote that ate children. Maybe they didn't tell it to your generation."
"Travis, I'm Barb," she says. "Maeve was the next girl you married. Jesus loving Christ."
"So let me get this straight," says the sheriff from the other side of the interrogation-room table. "You did not kill Andrea Robey. She was killed by...a legendary eight-legged coyote that has terrorized the children of Coffet for a century and a half?"
The sheriff sighs. Three days ago, a couple of tourists had stopped in Coffet for a picnic. Ruins attract wanderers, I suppose, and the only ruins Missouri had until a few years ago were mounds, stripped clean. As I walked to the post office that morning, the coyote went wild. As he was tearing that poor girl apart, I could've sworn that he had eight legs.
"I've gotta say, her wounds are more consistent with an animal attack than a stabbing or a gunshot. Much more consistent," says the sheriff.
"Great," I say. "Am I free to leave?"
"No," says the sheriff. "Look, you're not a dumb man, Mr. Kalenborn. Lots of people want to see you go down, like everyone who left Coffet to get their daughters away from you. In fact, the victim's fiance very clearly told me this was a coyote attack, but was willing to change his testimony after learning who you were. And your old lawyer, that old mobster in Kansas City, he died three months back."
"Officer," I say. "I know I've done a lot of bad poo poo in my life. Do I regret it? Honestly, I don't think my regret will ever matter to anyone, so why even bother? The girl? I hurt girls before, yeah, never like that, but I suppose it wouldn't be entirely out of character. But the dog? I never laid hands on a dog, not ever."
I don't know if Charley started running to protect the girl, or if she just got excited in the commotion and got in the coyote's way. I ran back to get my shotgun, and when I got back, both Charley and the girl were dead, and the coyote was gone.
"Oh? You're a dog lover?" says the sheriff sweetly. "I'm a dog lover myself. Got myself a border collie back home. Best friend I ever had, bar none."
"A border collie?" I say. "That's like Lassie, ain't it?"
"No, you're thinking of a rough-coated collie. Borders are black and white. Funny, two dog lovers. Guess who also love dogs? Most of the jury, probably. Difference between you and them is none of them weaseled their way out of raping underage girls six times. gently caress you."
This might be my deathbed, I realize, the medical ward of Petosi Correctional Center. It might not be, either, but even if I get better enough to go back to my cell, the cancer's not going away. No one cares enough to try and solve that problem. To them, the cancer's the solution to the existence of this miserable soul. They're not wrong. I've known I've deserved this end for a long, long time.
The door opens, but the door handle doesn't turn. He limps in, worse than I've ever seen. His fur is rotting off his bloody body, one of his eyes is just a raggy, popped mess, and I don't know if he has any teeth left to bite with. Now he's in a stalking pose, as best as he can manage with his meager, trembly legs.
I manage to laugh through the respirator.
"You're here for me now. Do it. I dare you. Kill me, you son of a bitch."
From the side of his ribcage, four more legs are growing, black, made of pure tumor. Slowly, they make their way to the ground, and this creature's weariness, fatigue, and outright patheticness don't make this thing any less terrifying, any less spectacular.
I'm as giddy as I was on my third wedding day.
"Do it. Come at me!"
With all eight of his legs, he lunges. With all my feeble energy, I raise my arms. He bites my neck, but as I imagined, he has no teeth. Still, his grip is strong, and I can feel my neckbones wriggle in their chafed sockets as he swings his head back and forth, his legs ripping at my abdomen. I grab his neck and start to squeeze.
I know why he's coming for me. I'm the last one alive who knows his legend, his terror. I am his last hurrah, one last celebration of his viciousness.
I'm the subject of a documentary watched by millions. My old house is a tourist trap, a haunted house, a site of pilgrimage for ghost-hunters and true-crime podcasters.
As long as I live, this weak little dog can never be the Monster of Coffet.
Through the respirator, through my rapidly collapsing windpipe, I scream.
"I DON'T DIE WITH YOU! YOU DIE WITH ME!"
I shove him off my neck and lean forward. How many minutes am I sitting there, strangling this pathetic creature, his many legs in the air desperately reaching for some bit of flesh to claw into, before all his legs collapse onto the side of the bed?
I lean back and hit the button to call the nurse, the Coffett Coyote lying dull all over me.
|# ? Oct 10, 2021 08:14|
The first time I saw her was as art. On the university campus, at the bottom of one of the long, dark, labyrinth hallways there was a crude image scratched into a table and splattered with blue ink. At the time, it had appeared to me as just a squiggle – the frustration and anxiety of one of my fellow musicians given form whilst they waited for a rehearsal space to open up. The second time, it was graffiti, on the side of a pizza shop in town. A long, serpentine swirl, dark hair bellowing, silver splodges for eyes. This was not the work of an artist – it was the work of a zealot.
In our first lecture, the faculty had gathered us in the largest seminar hall, the one that was usually reserved for the ‘real’ academics – the physicists and economists and all the other virgins who complained about 60 hour lab weeks whilst us music geeks sweated away in the darkest, hottest, ugliest basements of the university for 18 hours a day.
The various professors and success stories and fourth year students had done their little talks but only one had said anything worth my time. Some haunted, greasy haired Chinese girl. She had slunk onto the stage and immediately caught my attention – she looked like me. Not really. Not actually. But she had that look that I saw in my own eye. That hunger. That drive.
“One of you in this room is the most talented at your instrument,” she said in perfect Norwegian. “That will mean nothing in a few days. You will have to do things you never thought you would do.”
The legends were whispered about all over the music department. Someone even bothered one of the program leads for information about her, something that I felt was deeply tactless and others agreed. When musicians had a good week, they said she was looking out for them. When they were having a bad week, they cursed her or begged her for mercy.
The other first years hung on the word of anyone who mentioned her. Someone told me that Lin, the same Chinese girl who had spoken at that first lecture, that she hadn’t been anything special when she started, but that she’d gone to her and been blessed with talent.
And I wanted it. So at the start of second year, I went.
Five of us, Lin included, were camping in the wilderness of the Norwegian woodlands. We huddled around a smouldering fire, choked down tins of uncooked beans and sausages. We meticulously measured rations of coffee – just enough to keep us alert without making our hands jittery.
Sindre took off his headphones and motioned behind me. The rest of us removed our own and the clearing was filled with the mangled din of our various classical pieces.
“The mist is growing thicker,” he said. “Look how silver it is.”
“Not like real mist,” Marda nodded. She put her headphones back on and pulled her hood up so that only the lower half of her face was illuminated by the fire.
“Maybe it’s tomorrow then,” Johan said with a broad smile. He stood and headed towards his tent. “Or maybe the day after. Either way, I am done for the night. I will see you in the morning.”
The four of us remaining – Sindre, Marda, Lin and myself all exchanged a knowing glance. Johan was the weakest. Noticeably. He would have been the best in his school, the best in his town, the best in his county even. But he was distinctly fifth place among us. He was with us, not as a courtesy, not as a kindness, but as a sacrifice. It was his job to be worst. So that the rest of us could stress about being fourth. Instead of being last.
I could feel intense weariness creeping in but I dared not have more coffee. Glancing around the fire, scoping out my competition, all of us were losing it. We all looked tired and haggard and desperate. Nobody wanted to be the next to go to bed, nobody wanted to show that weakness. We stayed, silently gathered, all desperate to sleep but unwilling to concede, for four hours. Finally, we all gave tiny movements that might have been nothing, might have been suggestions that it was time. One by one each of us moved a little further, until in unison we stood and backed away to our tents.
“If you are lying to us, Lin,” Sindre grunted between gritted teeth.
“I’m not,” was all she said. “If this is too much work for you, go home.”
“I don’t believe in monsters, Lin,” he said bizarrely.
“How Scandinavian of you,” she replied. And then she was inside her tent.
Marda and I exchanged a final look.
Perhaps it was attraction – perhaps we both yearned to fall into one tent and forget about this all for a while. But most likely it was a look of respect. I had pegged her as the one to beat, she (I hoped) had pegged me as the same.
We found the shack the next day.
It was a beautiful piece of woodland architecture. Almost a fairy tale. Wooden beams that seemed to reject the damp and rot of the forest. Windows illuminated with the faint glow of a fireplace within. A thin plume of smoke pouring out from the chimney before being swallowed by the masses of silver mist.
Lin held up her hand.
“This is your last chance,” she said. “If anyone doesn’t want this, now is the time to go home.”
“I don’t think anyone is turning back this late in the day,” Johan said with a smile.
Simple, stupid Johan. Our idiot. Our buffoon. Our sacrifice.
As we approached the beautifully carved door, the faintest hint of music floated out from within. Music so pure and perfect that we all froze. It was beyond anything. It hit me somewhere between my eyes and throbbed there. I found myself unable to breathe. My vision went blurry. I would have stood and bathed in the sound until I had starved to death. It lasted only seconds, but that final perfect note, that long, luxurious hum held me captivated until its final echoes had rippled away through the mist.
“Oh...oh god,” Marda managed to stammer. Sindre took a step and then collapsed to one knee. His body vibrated. He looked vaguely post-orgasmic.
“Wow!” Johan said. “That was beautiful.”
I wanted to kill him in that moment. I wanted to grab his dense head and smash it against the stones again and again screaming into his crushed skull that he had no idea, that he would never have any idea, that he lacked the basic musical ability to ever understand or appreciate what he had heard.
Perhaps Marda felt the same thing, or perhaps she had seen the intent in my eye because she took my hand in hers and shook her head gently.
Lin knocked on the door.
The sound that came from inside sounded like water flowing.
The door to the hut creaked open.
Inside, illuminated from behind by the crackling fireplace, stood a shimmering serpentine shape – a glowing blue... something, that stared up at us with mirrored silver eyes and then in an instant was wrapped in mist. What stepped out was a woman with long dark hair. Her skin was grey. She stood fully naked in the cold air before us and smiled.
“Students,” she said in a voice that was almost as melodical as the music that we had heard. “It is that time of year already? Very well. What have they brought for me?”
Lin threw down her pack as the rest of us nervously followed her lead.
“Water spirit, I’ve brought you wine,” Lin said. “Good wine. Foreign wine from very far away. It is delicious and powerful and I think you will love it.”
The woman took the bottles that were handed to her and turned them back and forth. Even through the blanket of mist, the moonlight made them glow. She smiled.
Encouraged by the water spirit’s reaction, Marda and I raced to be next, but she was faster.
“I have brought you a wheel of cheese,” she said solemnly. “I have carried it all of the way through the woods because I thought you might like it. It is... creamy and rich and has been aging for a long time.”
The woman took the wheel of cheese from Lin with a smile and placed it on the table beside the door. She clapped her hands together slowly. Even her hands clapping carried something in it, the rhythm so perfect that I could hear it. As if every cell of her palms were meeting and retreating in exactly the same way each time they came together.
The rest of us offered our gifts. I gave the spirit a necklace. I would not be able to make my rent this month, nor had I worked out how I would eat. Sindre offered a jar of honey, which had surprised me even though the label was worn and faded and the jar was dusty. The water spirit seemed to like it. To my surprise, Johan presented a Luigi Cardi violin. The water spirit’s eyes lit up.
“Come,” she said to us and stepped out of her house naked. We basked in her glow. I no longer felt cold. “Bring your instruments.”
She led us down through the woods, stepping gently on damp moss and slippery stones. The mist grew so thick that it was like rain. My hair stuck to my head and my clothes grew heavy. We delved deeper until we stood before a pristine, perfectly circular lake. The water spirit stepped in to the chill waters and submerged herself within them, her skin not even prickling.
I looked to Lin who took out her instrument and followed. Soon, we stood, a quintet of musicians, waist-deep in the lake.
“Play,” she said. And we did.
Johan went first, just as we had known he would. He was a ‘good’ musician. That was not enough. One moment he had been standing beside me, blasting out his ugly, lumbering song and then he was gone, swallowed by the waters, devoured by the lake. His violin bobbed to the surface, raked to shreds. We continued. I felt the scraps of his talent slip into me but then I heard a note – not a bad note – but a note that I should not have heard, a note that stood out from our cacophonous discord as we played our different songs. Then another. I risked the briefest glance over and saw Lin frantically sawing away at her violin, another bad note, a wince on her face. She should have been the best – she had done this before – but she had messed up and now could not recover. I turned away as the water rippled around her and she fell. I was infused by her. We played on, maybe for minutes, maybe for hours, our songs tasted by the water spirit. Somehow, our tunes began to snake together, tethered to one another, until we played a new song – a song in unison made of three different songs – discord made harmony.
Sindre paused. Then stopped. He lowered his violin.
Neither of us dared say anything, neither of us dared to make a move that might throw off our playing.
“I’m just not good enough,” Sindre sighed. Then he was gone.
The water spirit clapped and watched us with her silver eyes.
Marda and I continued. Our duet filled the clearing, perhaps the whole wood. Music neither of us could ever have played. Music that we would play until one of died and the other clambered from the lake and returned better.
|# ? Oct 10, 2021 19:28|
Priyanka sat bolt upright in bed and sucked in air through clenched teeth. Her nightshirt clung to her skin and her hair was smeared wetly against her cheek. She gasped and patted the bed frantically. Damp, but only with sweat. The hot thrill that had been surging through her body faded, as it did every time. The night clarified, and the dream fogged away. She looked at the closet, but of course nothing was there. It was not her childhood closet. She was thirty, and alone in her studio apartment.
She lay back on the damp sheets and stared at the ceiling, clinging to the vestiges of the dream as it faded. Ah to go back to that night for real, to live those months over again...
The first time it happened she was ten years old and woke from a nightmare with her pajamas drenched in hot, acrid wetness. She’d tried to cry out, but couldn’t. She tried to move, and was frozen under some crushing weight. She managed to turn her head and saw an enormous pair of golden eyes watching her from the shadows of her half-open closet. The eyes were so big, so open and unblinking, and they drank her up. At that moment a secret door inside Priyanka unlocked with an irreversible click.
Thirty-years-old Priyanka’s skin flushed just remembering. The transition had been unforgettable. One moment she was terrified, uncomfortable, immobile and soaked in urine, embarrassed, on the edge of sobbing--then, she saw the eyes in her closet and everything flipped on its head. They’re watching me. The eyes seemed to emit an aura that she could physically sense, it washed over her in an extremely pleasing way. She imagined what the eyes saw, and visualised herself as if from in the closet. She saw herself lying on the bed in a puddle of piss, right there in plain view of anyone. In fact, it was quite obvious to her that everyone-- her mother, her father, her friends and teachers at school, the neighbors, the people at the park--everyone everywhere was at that moment watching her from inside her closet.
It was the most delicious, exhilarating thing she’d ever felt. Molten gold pulsed through her veins for minutes on end as she lay there, eyes locked with the thing in the closet.
She woke some time later and her parents helped her clean up, then she went back to sleep on the floor. She scooted up as near to the closet as possible. But the eyes weren’t there anymore.
For months after, she constantly woke in the night unable to move except to turn her head and see the eyes in the closet. Sometimes she thought she saw the outline of a body, small, childlike. Once she thought she saw grey skin. Each time the pleasure of being watched scorched her like fire and she thought she’d die of excitement. She started to hope for it each sleep. She would go mad if the eyes didn’t appear for a few nights in a row. She would leave food to rot in the closet and would dance and sing in front of the door for hours hoping the eyes would appear for her during the day, but they never did. No matter how loudly she cried for the ‘peeky eyes,’ as she called them, they only came when she slept.
She discovered that certain things enhanced the thrill. If she slept without covers (as she had that first night.) Especially if she wet the bed (she did this so many times her parents sent her to a specialist and she had to stop.) Or if she did other humiliating things, such as writing vulgar words all over her skin and face, or wearing the most ugly and torn clothing she could find. One night she took a jar of mayonnaise from the fridge and went to sleep with it smeared all over her hair and face. Each morning she would be certain that everyone alive had seen her in her bed that way. They had all seen her but were unable to mention it, due to the special power of the peeky eyes. Her parents, her friends, her crush, even the man reading the news on TV, all of them wore a certain knowing smirk meant specifically for her. It was wonderful. Every day was wonderful.
Then, to her horror, her parents decided to move house. She cried and screamed about it for weeks leading up to the move. Her parents had precisely zero sympathy after she could give no reason why they shouldn’t move a mere thirty minutes away. She wouldn’t even have to change schools. She cried and raged and then turned to begging--not her parents, but the eyes. She prayed in front of her closet for hours at a time. She went to sleep with pleading messages written on her face, and eventually wrote the new address there, in hopes the peeky eyes would follow her.
But in her new house, in her new closet, the peekies never appeared.
Over the 20 following years she dreamed of that first night--and the feeling of embarrassment shifting into pleasure--at least once per week. But the remembered feeling was a thin, weak imitation. She thirsted for that original thrill constantly. For 20 years she satisfied the desire in myriad other ways that always lost their excitement quickly, like little bursting fireworks, burnt up and gone.
Adult Priyanka swung out of bed and opened the closet door. There were no golden eyes there. It was an empty useless space filled only with shadows. The delicious sensation of being watched had drained out like blood, and she felt grey. She thought about going live on her OnlyFans, but even that had started to lose its appeal. A thousand people watching her strip or gently caress or piss herself was exactly nothing compared to the whole world watching her through the peeky eyes.
It was three AM but she knew she wouldn’t sleep anymore. She paced back and forth for a while then hopped online to check on the people who currently lived in her childhood home. It had been a few weeks since she looked them up. The house was only 20 miles away and she often drove past it to see if the lights were on. Sometimes she stopped and watched for a while to see if anyone was in her old room. If it hadn’t been on the second floor she would have crept up to the window. For all she knew the room might even be empty or used for storage, with nothing for the peeky eyes to watch but the gathering dust.
She’d learned the current owners names years ago, and now scrolled through their Facebook pages. Mary and Jay (what insipid names,) a thirty something blonde couple with money and lots of hobbies. Neither of them had posted in several days. Jay’s last post was a selfie of him holding luggage in an airport. “Off to Amsterdam, back in two weeks!” Priyanka stared at the picture, and a plan took root in her mind. She pulled a coat over her sweat stained nightshirt, grabbed her keys and shot out the door.
She broke the speed limit the entire drive over while she hummed the peeky song she’d invented as a child. Peeky eyes, peeky eyes, come out and see me peeky eyes.
Some instinct made her park a block away and walk up to the house. The night air chilled her bare legs. She’d not even taken time to put on shoes, and cracks in the sidewalk bit into her skin. All the lights in the house were off, and she crept up to the front door in the dark. It was locked, of course. She went around the side of the house trying all the windows. Her feet got wet in the dewy grass, then muddy as she pushed through shrubs to try each window. She gasped with delight when one of the kitchen windows slipped upward. She pulled out the screen and scrambled inside. A dog barked somewhere down the street, and she hurriedly shut the window behind her.
Even in the dark, it was obvious. The tilt of the ceiling, the island countertop, the cabinets, the location of the fridge, it all washed over her in a dizzying wave of nostalgia. Her kitchen, in her house. There was the hall, and the stairs. How many hundreds of times had she walked down that hall as a girl? How many more hundreds of times in her dreams since then? And that floorboard, still cracked. Priyanka felt as if she were shrinking into her ten year old self. Without really knowing why, she opened the fridge. Cool air and yellow light buffeted her face. She saw cans of beer and soda, packages of meat, condiments, and a plastic takeout container of what looked like some kind of curry, with a crown logo on it that said ‘Spice King.’ “Peeky eyes, peeky eyes,” she sang softly to herself, and took the container of curry.
Up the stairs. The third step creaked exactly as it always had, and she giggled. “Creaky peeky,” she said. She could hardly believe her room was right there, mere yards away. There was her door, her own door that her hands had touched a thousand times. Her sweat and her tears (and even her blood that one time) were on that door and in that room. She gripped the knob, her heart in her throat.
A bed with rumpled blankets, in the wrong place. A dresser, also wrong. A vanity and mirror in the corner, all wrong--but there, the closet, that was right. The same closet door! The same sliding door, and there, the handle which could even still have her fingerprints, and it was open halfway, just as it had been on that night. Her breath roared in her ears. She peered into the darkness of the closet.
There was a shifting sound like something moving against cloth. The room was perfectly silent, as if the walls were soundproofed and the silence seemed to press in on her ears, but then she heard it again: a little shifting sound, a tiny motion. Something had moved, but she did not see the eyes. She stood right in front of the dark opening to the closet, but didn’t see the eyes.
“Peeky peeky,” she said, barely above a whisper. “Come out and see me.” She dropped her coat and pulled off her nightshirt. She kicked her panties to the floor. “Peeky, Peeky.” She opened the curry and dumped it over her head. She smeared the coldly congealed stuff across her head and face, then down over her chest and arms. “Come out and see me, please, please.” She bounced on the balls of her feet with her hands pressed together.
Another shifting sound, then a voice, a small and thin voice that was high but also raspy and rough: “Hello?”
“I’m here!” Priyanka said. “Oh I’m here, please see me!” A key clicked in a lock inside her and she was filled with thrilling molten gold, and the closet was filled with pure gold, gold everywhere, all one huge golden eye watching her, swallowing her. She laughed and let go of herself, and hot liquid ran down her thighs and onto her feet. “Peeky!” she screamed.
“What the gently caress?” Someone else screamed, and the liquid golden eye vanished like a dream and the closet was only filled with plain yellow light. Priyanka spun around, piss still dripping off her knees.
Someone was sitting up in the bed, someone with frazzled blonde hair and wide, blurry eyes. “What the gently caress!” Mary screamed again, and frantically dialed on her cellphone.
Priyanka stepped backward into the closet, back until she smeared the wall with curry, then she closed the door in front of her.
|# ? Oct 11, 2021 00:57|
A Leopard Moth Can't Change Its Spots
"Is that him, Laura? My god, look at his eyes!"
Laura splashed a little rum into two cups of punch and handed one to Janet. "Yes, that's him," she answered, "Isn't he handsome? I think he's not very comfortable in that costume, though."
On the other side of her parents' living room room, Moth was fidgeting with his cravat. Laura could see that he had his wings folded tightly against his back, just peeking above the shoulders of his musketeer costume, a sign she had come to understand meant he was nervous.
"And your parents think he's ok?" Janet asked, sipping her drink. "I mean, my folks freaked out on me for dating a white guy..."
"Yeah, they seem to like him. Dad even took him down to the Halloween store and helped him pick a costume. Mom spent all afternoon showing him around her rose garden, the poor guy."
As though he knew she was talking about him, Moth turned and caught her gaze. The rest of the room seemed to fade away into blackness while his faintly glowing red eyes grew larger and larger in her vision. Her pulse pounded in her ears and she felt--
She was jolted back to the party by a gurgling roar and a pair of hands grabbing her shoulders from behind. She jumped, and spun around to see a horrible rubber Chewbacca mask leering at her. As Janet laughed, Laura grabbed the mask and pulled it away to reveal Walter Conway's sweaty face.
"Thanks, I guess," he said, scrubbing his hand through his hair, "that drat mask is ridiculously hot. I didn't think you'd get spooked so easily, hanging out with that weirdo all the time."
"Moth's not weird," she said hotly, "he's just not used to this sort of thing. He grew up in a small town and never spent much time around people."
"No wonder, looking like that. I bet those hicks ran him right out of town. I heard what he used to do, flying around at night, chasing cars off the road."
"They never proved that was him! Moth Mann is a gentle soul and I don't want you spreading rumors. You're just mad I would never go out with you back in high school, aren't you?"
Walter grabbed his mask and slugged down his drink angrily. "Yeah, right. Go hang out with your freaky boyfriend--oh, you've got some weird gray dust around your lips, wonder where that came from." He swiped a finger across her cheek, pretended to inspect it with a sneer.
Janet turned to Laura. "You are into him, aren't you? I mean Moth, not Walter, of course."
"Yes," Laura sighed, "but I'm just not sure he thinks of me that way at all! He's really sweet, but I'll admit he can be a little hard to read. Sometimes I think he just sees me as a friend." She looked around, but Moth must have stepped outside.
"Well, you've got him here for the whole weekend. If he doesn't make a move, you might have to take the initiative. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make a move of my own; that guy in the pirate costume has been winking at me all evening... or just blinking at me, it's hard to tell with the eyepatch."
Walter kept his distance, crouching behind hedges as he followed Moth out of the house and down toward the road. It was dark, aside from the full moon, and quiet--the big house was far from town and there were no neighbors.
"What are you up to, creep?" he muttered to himself. When Walter saw Moth slip quietly out of the house, he knew something was up. Laura had always been kind of dumb, sure, but he couldn't believe her parents had been fooled too, enough to let someone--something--like that stay at their house. He could tell this Moth guy was trouble right off the bat.
When Moth got down to the roadside, he stopped. Off in the distance, the headlights of a car crested the hill and came toward them. As Moth turned toward the lights and began to spread his wings, Walter pulled out his phone. "A leopard can't change its spots," he muttered, tapping the record button as Moth took to the air.
The party was winding down by midnight, a trickle of early departures eventually turning into a steady stream until only Laura, Janet, Moth, and Walter were left.
"Well, Walter, it's been great but we should probably get a little of this mess cleaned up and then head to bed," Laura said, yawning. "Do you need us to call you a ride, or anything?"
"No, I'm fine," he answered, pulling out his phone, "but before I go I wanted to show you something. I thought I'd wait until everyone else left so as not to make a scene."
He turned the phone to show her the screen. A video was playing, showing a huge winged figure swooping down at a moving car. It dropped out of the sky toward the car, then flapped back up a little and swung down again before the car finally sped off into the night.
"The camera on these new iPhones really does great in the dark. Look, you can even see how his hat goes flying away on the second pass," Walter said gleefully.
Laura turned to Moth. "You said it wasn't true! You promised me that you didn't attack those cars back in West Virginia, that it was just a big owl, but, but..."
Moth Mann gestured for her to wait. He stepped into the hallway, coming back with a large bouquet of flowers. Turning his huge red eyes to each person in turn, he spoke, his voice keening and echoing inside their heads.
"I WANTED TO SURPRISE YOU, SO I HAD THE FLORIST DRIVE THIS OUT TONIGHT. I PICKED IT UP ON THE WING SO NO-ONE WOULD SEE THE CAR STOP. I WANTED TO TELL YOU I LOVE YOU, LAURA."
Walter pulled his hands away from his ears while Janet wiped her unaccountably weeping eyes. Laura dabbed at a nosebleed, but smiled. Moth dipped his proboscis nervously into one of the flowers.
"Oh, Moth," Laura said, "I'm sorry for doubting you. I love you too." She threw her arms around him, raising a sudden puff of silvery-grey dust, and kissed his cheek.
Epilogue: Moth Mann was killed two years later at a baseball game when he got drunk and flew directly into the stadium lights. Laura, then pregnant, had to raise their child alone. Their son later became the first mutated American senator.
Walter later went on to be a dick to Bigfoot and at least three different species of aliens.
Janet never did hook up with that guy in the pirate costume.
|# ? Oct 11, 2021 01:57|
Noritoshi studied the waters for disturbances. He was looking for the kappa, an imp that was said to reside in rivers.
The water rippled and out popped a creature the size of a child. It was reptilian-like with its green scaly skin, webbed appendages, and beaked mouth. But the most striking feature was a depression on its head, which held water.
The kappa grasped at Noritoshi’s leg in an attempt to pull him in the river, but he backpedaled. Noritoshi reached into his satchel and threw down a cucumber. The kappa focused its beady little eyes on the vegetable before snatching it with its slimy claws and scarfing it down.
With its temper soothed, the kappa leaped back into the river and began to swim away.
“Wait!” Noritoshi commanded.
The kappa turned back and peered its head from the water.
“Yes, human?” the kappa responded.
“You will leave the village upriver from here alone.”
The kappa let out a jaunty laugh.
“Leave the village alone? No, it amuses me too much.”
“Do you think murder is amusing?” Noritoshi said with anger.
“The man wandered too close to the river, so I drowned him. It serves him right for trying to fish in my feeding ground.”
“There is another place not far from here. Plenty of fish and no humans. You can go there.”
“No. Do you humans think a place belongs to you just because you plop down a couple of huts? And besides, there are no pretty women to ogle in the wilderness.”
“Enough. I tire of this. I challenge you to the wrestling duel. If I win, you will leave the village alone.”
The kappa eyed Noritoshi up and down. “No man can best me, but you do look like a worthy challenge. I accept. And if I win, I get your shirikodama.”
Noritoshi’s eyes widened, and he covered his butt with his hands.
They chose an empty clearing as their arena. Noritoshi unsheathed his Tantō and drew a ring in the dirt fifteen feet in diameter. He then reached into his satchel for salt.
“There is no need for rituals, human. The quicker I defeat you, the quicker I get back to my river.”
Noritoshi snorted in response. He took off his tunic. His back and chest were covered in a multitude of scars of varying lengths and deepness. He left his tanto outside of the ring.
“My name is Noritoshi, and I will be the one to defeat you.” he went into a wrestling stance.
“Noritoshi, I will enjoy devouring the delicacy that is your soul.”
Noritoshi yelled, and the Kappa screeched while they charged against each other.
The kappa dug his claws into Noritoshi’s back while Noritoshi grasped at the kappa’s slimy shoulder. Noritoshi grunted in pain as he struggled to hold on to the creature. The kappa began to push Noritoshi outside of the ring,
Noritoshi gained a second wind and pushed back the kappa to the center of the ring. But the kappa was too strong, and it eventually pushed Noritoshi outside of the ring.
Noritoshi felt nauseous and dizzy, but he stood up using sheer willpower.
“I must congratulate a worthy opponent.” Noritoshi bowed.
“And so must I.” the kappa bowed, spilling the water inside its head onto the ground.
“Curse my courtesy! This is the third time this millennium that I have fallen for this trick!”
The kappa was severely crippled without water in its dish.
“Would you be so kind as to refill my dish?”
“I will, but only if you promise to leave the village alone.”
“You have my word!”
Noritoshi filled the kappa’s dish with his water canteen. A look of relief appeared on the kappa’s face.
“Thank you, human. As promised, I will leave the village alone.” The kappa jumped into the river and swam away.
Noritoshi dressed himself and retrieved his sword before returning to the village. The village elder was painting a pink cherry blossom in bloom when Noritoshi approached him.
“The kappa will bother your village no longer.”
“Good,” the wizened elder said before he reached into his kimono and pulled out a bag of coins.
Noritoshi counted the mon. Before Noritoshi could leave, the old man spoke.
“I heard Tsuchinoko had infested a mine up north. The villagers who were using that mine might pay mon if someone got rid of them.”
“I will keep that in mind.”
Another day, another monster.
|# ? Oct 11, 2021 02:59|
(Flashrule: The fearsome Jackalope)
Velvety smooth fur, soothing to the touch. The heartwarming comfort of companionship that comes in tow is lost when you have a mouth full of it.
"---auuuck," Johnathan coughed, springing upright reflexively as he attempted to clear his mouth of bristles. "Mr. Fluffles! .. God damnit." The cat let out a purr as it looked up expectantly, wagging its tail. It hopped off the bed triumphantly as Johnathan pulled himself up to a stand.
"Honey? What's up," a voice called out drowsily from the other side of the bed.
"Oh, you know. That cat can't seem to keep its tail away from my peaceful dreams," Johnathan replied, grumpily.
"Oh? What were you dreaming about?"
"Well, erm." He trailed off as he headed toward the bathroom. "I forgot."
"As long as you are up, can you go down and feed him?"
"Of course," Johnathan moaned, with a sigh.
"Love you!" She exclaimed half-heartedly, before turning over and jamming her face into her pillow to sneak a few extra minutes of slumber.
The Shumakers were your run-of-the-mill family. Johnathan, and his wife Alice. They had two daughters, Cassy, 10, and her younger sister Emily, affectionately referred to as "Em", who had just celebrated her 7th birthday. Their only 'son', one "Mr. Fluffles", was a small white Persian cat added to the family in honor of Cassy's 7th. Of course, these types of situations set a precedent. Johnathan had taken care of Mr. Fluffles' meal routine and was sitting at the kitchen table, testing a mobile app called "Rescue Round-up". "Persons adopting an animal from RR agree to take full responsibility for the welfare of said animal, to provide it with daily meals, and a place to live. Do you agree to these terms?" Johnathan was tapping the green button marked "YES" on his screen just as Alice made her way down.
"Any luck?", She said, pulling out a chair from across the table.
"This whole thing is bizarre to me." On the phone's screen there was a picture of a cat with a caption: "Orange Tabby, Name: Gibson". Johnathan swiped to the left, and it was replaced. "Ragdoll, Name: Jean-Luc Purrcard". "This little fucker pilots a starship," he said sarcastically, turning his phone for her to see.
"Huh. Well, I guess that's the sort of thing you'd expect to find on "Tind-furr"," she replied, snickering.
"Ok, so you can see why I might be repulsed that you would make the comparison between an app people use to bang, and an app people use to find pets, right?" He jested, setting his phone down on the table and shooting her a half-amused, half-annoyed glare.
"Whoa there, you took that somewhere I was unprepared for," she retorted enthusiastically. A loud clatter from outside interrupted. They turned their heads towards the window to see that garbage now lined the sidewalk.
"Oof. 3rd time this week," Johnathan groaned.
"I need run upstairs and take a shower. The girls will be down in a bit-can you clean that up before the bus gets here-ok I love you!" she was already halfway up the stairs before she finished.
"I love you too!" he shouted, spitefully.
Johnathan made his way outside. He glanced around intently, hoping to catch a glimpse of the culprit before bending down and attempting to scoop the garbage back into the fallen wastebasket. A rustle in the bushes piqued his attention briefly. Yes. What we need is MORE 4-legged, diseased, poop-machines running around this fair city, stirring up a ruckus and knocking poo poo over! He snickered to himself, daydreaming of the over-dramatic tirade he felt like he could erupt into if his morning were a few orders of magnitude more annoying that it had been up until then. The inconsequential orchestra of chaos playing in his head was ample distraction from the fact that he was scooping up the remnants of refuse with his hands. When he was finished, he walked over to the garden hose at the side of the house and gave his hands a rinse before heading back inside. He made his way to the kitchen sink and covered his hands with dishwashing detergent when he heard a voice call out from the table.
"Daddy! Is he really coming?" Emily cried out from across the room. Johnathan glanced over to her as he turned the faucet on.
"What are you talking about, Em? Who's coming?"
"Jack. It says right here that he is on the way!" she exclaimed, holding up the mobile phone that Johnathan had left behind minutes ago.
Johnathan dried his hands off and walked over, a bit confused.
"Sweety, you shouldn't play with that. Let me see." He took the phone from her, and examined the screen carefully. "Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), Name: Nixlfævtööööööööö", the left half of an "ö" extending off the right edge into infinity. There was a picture distorted and garbled by small blocks of file corruption. It looked like the closeup of some sort of furred animal with what seemed to be portions of a giant yellow eye spread out sporadically over the image. Halfway across a line of pixels towards the bottom third of the image, it cut off completely into whiteness that continued all the way to the edge of screen. At the bottom was another line of pinkish-red red shift "ö"s extending all the way across. He tried swiping to the left a few times, then in other directions, hoping to get any reaction from the device possible.
"Um, well, sweety..." he fiddled with the phone frantically. "Wh- what exactly did you do?"
"He's not coming, is he?" she chirped, with a slight tinge of disappointment trailing her words. Johnathan muttered to himself as he tried pushing in the power and volume buttons. "We'll see, sweety."
"Cassy got a cat, and you promised I could have one too! This isn't fair!" she continued, unwilling to be ignored.
Johnathan glanced over to the window as the bus pulled up. "Listen sweety, we will talk about this later. It's time to go to school." He reached over and grabbed the bag marked "Emily" from the counter. "Look, your sister is already outside!"
Emily snatched the bag away begrudgingly.
"Ok. But you promised!" She scurried out the front door just as Alice was coming back downstairs in her bathrobe.
"What was that all about?" Alice remarked, approaching the table.
"Take a look at this." Johnathan turned his phone towards her.
"Error #10300b.. failed to retrieve data from central server," she calmly read from the screen. "Yes? What does it mean?"
Johnathan looked at his phone again to see that the app had crashed. "Hm. Ok, for a second there I thought Em might have done something with the Rescue app." His eyes met with the clock in the corner of the screen. "I gotta get outta here or I will be late," he leaned in for a kiss. "Talk to you later."
"Have a nice day, dear," she replied, before taking a seat and grabbing the morning newspaper.
Johnathan left home that day, feeling as if the entire morning had been surreal.
"---auuuckk!" Johnathan spit out stray strands of fur as he sat up abruptly. He couldn't seem to sense Mr. Fluffles anywhere nearby. "Honey?" he leaned over to his side, but the bed was empty. He could vaguely feel something furry tickling, so he pulled away the blanket to be greeted by Mr. Fluffles' tail, which he swiped at gently. "Ok, ok. I'm getting up. The tail fell limp into his lap. "Mr. Fluffles?" He said inquisitively as he reached for the tail. He was hoping to get the attention of the cat with a gentle tug, but ended up pulling the whole tail towards him. There was no cat attached, only a darkish sanguine blotch on the other end.
"Fuuu----" Johnathan began to screech, staring at the tail in shock.
Suddenly, he noticed A large shadow looming over him. Extending down from the upper corner of the room, Some manner of beast was silently waiting to be noticed. Johnathan froze up, slowly rolling his eyes upwards to look, while trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Seconds of profound seemed like minutes. He sat with a sharp chill jabbing the back of his neck, and eventually felt like it spoke to him telepathically. "O- ok. You want to be fed. I'm getting up." The words "Full responsibility" echoed again and again in the back of his head as he reluctantly climbed out of bed, and walked towards the door. His eyes remained focused on the corner of the room. Although he couldn't see anything, he could sense a garbled yellow eye staring back at him, watching him carefully, as if to make sure he was completing the task immaculately. With each step he took, his brain screamed at him to act naturally, and fulfil his responsibility. As he stepped outside of the bedroom and closed the door, the inclination to run some place far away suddenly filled his thoughts intrusively. So he ran. From the thoughts? From the shadowy beast in his room? He didn't know. After a few steps, however, he was tumbling face first down what appeared to be an endless spiral of stairs. Or where they "ö's"? He fell and fell. He bounced off each "ö" with a loud thump, feeling not pain, but Emily's disappointment hitting his face like rocks. At first his subconscious interpreted the thumps as generic loud noises, but as he fell further and further, a familiar sound echoed through his head. Finally, he slammed face first into a a wall that looked like a mess of garbled squares and distorted yellow blocks. The sound of the wastebasket hitting the sidewalk assaulted his nerves, louder than ever before.
Johnathan jerked upwards in his bed, his ears ringing from the crash outside. "Honey? Is something wrong?" Alice called out softly to him, startled as she lay. Giving no reply He lept out of bed and hurried down the stairs, to the front door, throwing it open. Surely enough, the basket had been knocked over. A gentle shuffling sound at his feet snapped him back into reality, and he noticed a box sitting face down with the open flaps resting against the porch. It was moving. Without thinking, he lifted it, and a furry creature darted between his legs and into the house. He turned around and followed in suit, closing the door behind him. Alice was facing him.
"Honey? What happened?"
"The garbage." he hesitated for a second. "Oh, and I think that cat Em rescued arrived."
Alice gave a confused glance. "Honey, Why would the cat arrive at 3:14 in the morning? Don't we have to go and pick it up in person?" Johnathan scratched his head, a little shaken from the whole ordeal and listened as she continued. "I called the number for the "customer service" of that app after you left yesterday and they said their service would be offline for a few days due to a software problem. Are you sure everything is ok?
He shook his head gently. "I need more sleep. I'm gonna hit the couch tonight."
"Ok honey, see you in morning."
Johnathan made his way to the couch and crashed.
A rough bristle scratched against Johnathan's face as morning sunbeams penetrated the living room window. He reached up expecting to pet Mr. Fluffles but something felt different. His hands followed a long, furry ear. He opened his eyes to find a large yellow pupil an inch away from his face. A huge jackrabbit sat on his chest eagerly, awaiting its routine morning feast of muck and sludge. He laid under the animal, frightened to a state of paralysis by the black, horn-like tumors protruding out of the gentle thing's skull like the horns of a demon. For some reason, the phrase "full responsibility" echoed in the back of his mind.
|# ? Oct 11, 2021 04:19|
"Henry," I said, "Don't be an idiot." He looked up at me, then back to the hare, a rough tear across the heavy fur belly, the organs inside gone but for a few bloody shreds, blackening red blood on the rust red ground, the frost melted away where it spilled. "Look, I don't know either. But if I know anything at all I know that there aren't any Yeti on Mars."
This goes way back, mind you. Back to right after we got far enough in the terraforming project to start introducing Mars-adapted animals into the new forests. Proper animals, that is. The insects were decades earlier. These were the Aresquirrel and the Mars Hares. Genetically modified to survive in the low-but-rising oxygen levels and the cold. This was around when I first came, and one of the things the science team did to the new fish was to get them convinced they'd discovered some bizarre Martian cryptid. My Yeti back then was Dr. Avery wearing a fursuit, running like hell from tree to tree, taking long hits from his oxygen mask when he was out of sight. Sometimes we used other ones, like sucker marks on fish to get the new guy to think there was a Kraken in Sagan Sea. Darren Sykes spent, like, years splicing deer genes into the Mars Hare genome, trying to get someone with a baby Martian Jackelope. When they finally caught on he almost got fired, which is pretty hard to do. Now, if it had been that, well, those recessive genes are still out there in the population. That would have been possible.
But not a Yeti. Those were always a guy in a suit. And there aren't any more guys up here.
"So what the heck is this, then?" I looked at Henry, but he didn't answer. There are a lot of cameras out in the new forests. Not full surveillance, not even close. But we have a ton of them. Back when it was about a hundred rangers across five stations we needed them to monitor the ecosystem. Now that it's just me, it's a flood of information. The expert systems monitoring them are good at picking up the kind of thing they're expecting, like a blight or a forest fire. They're not good at the unusual. For that I have to sift through the images by hand. And I've found something unusual. Something tall and bipedal and hairy, moving fast enough to blur the image. A God-damned Yeti.
I wished there was still an internet I could get to. I wanted to match it against all those old blurry photos, make sure some virus wasn't deep faking those same images into my cameras. I had access to the files at Verne. Dr. Avery had left a big collection of Yeti lore. None of it matched. The resolution was wrong for that anyway, even with the blurring.
I wasn't supposed to be the last man on Mars. Or rather, I was, but, you know, not the last person. Dr. Peel, Claire, was supposed to stay with me. Things had gotten bad enough on Earth that there weren't going to be any more supply ships, not for a long time. The ecosystem could probably support the entire project, but not many of us had signed on to die here. We were a couple, were the couple. The ones who got to be the first people married on Mars, with Dr. Avery officiating.
If there's a worse way to be dumped in all human history I don't know what that would be. I was called down to the response room just as the ship was boarding, as we were saying our goodbyes to the rest of the team. Fire in the woods. The low oxygen level usually makes them easy to contain, but it's tricky work. The drones need piloting. This one was worse than usual. And then she was gone.
She left a note. I thought long and hard about burning it unread, but I didn't. Instead I left it in Verne station and did my work on the other side of the New Forest at Robinson.
She died in the Atlanta Massacre fifteen years later. I still could get the news feeds from Earth back then, could get messages from some of the old crew, hard at work making plans to terraform Earth, whenever people stopped fighting over the ashes. I made the trip and read the letter then, marveling at the depth of self-serving bullshit, missing her like it was the day she left.
It's been years since the news feeds stopped. Sometimes some kid manages to bounce shortwave to the right satellite and we chat for a while, long pauses while light carries words over interplanetary distance. I don't ever have much news other than the oxygen and temperature numbers inching upward. They always do. Every time I think, okay, at least things can't get worse. It's been a few years since the last one. Next time, if there is a next time, maybe I'll tell them about the Yeti, and the whole shortwave community will know that after three Rejuves I've finally gone mad.
"I'll be damned, Henry," I said. "It's real." He just looked up at me. "What do you know," I said. He was just a sample collection rover. Talking to him is a perfectly sane thing to do. It's when I hear him talking back that I worry.
I was doing the numbers, checking on the drones. Checking on their cull numbers. We can't let the herbivore population get out of control, so the drones keep it down when needed. Lately it hasn't been needed as much as it should. Me and the expert systems put it down to the slow degeneration of an undermanaged forest. There's only so much I can do. But when I programmed in a different model the numbers fit beautifully. The population before drone culls were matching the model for predation.
I went back to the forest, near the site of that first messy kill. I went over it more closely. I collected hair. Probably mostly Aresquirrel and Mars Hare, but I might have gotten lucky. I walked a search grid. I found dessicated unfamiliar spoor. I had Henry take samples. And then I saw it, shyly hiding behind a pine too skinny for that purpose. Hairy. Wild-eyed. But I knew what the DNA would tell me. Those eyes were human.
Or at least mostly human. We're social animal. Most of what it means to be human comes from our families, our villages. Someone, and by someone I'm dead certain I mean Darren Sykes, went and performed the most unethical possible biosociological experiment. He went and build a secret lab, or commandeered one of the stations to work while I wasn't around, and had the tanks grow and release a breeding population of Mars-adapted humans. Hairier and able to get by with less oxygen. Probably a big slower, mentally, for that, but ready to make leaps and bounds as the O2 levels rise. But with nothing to raise them human. Just dozens of feral children left to figure it out by trial and error.
I didn't keep up with Darren after the exodus. But I kept an alert for their obituaries. He never died, not publicly, not before the news feeds went down. He could be underground still, making new monsters to inherit the overheated Earth, peers for his Martian Yeti should they learn the hard way how to be more than solitary apes.
|# ? Oct 11, 2021 06:00|
|# ? Oct 11, 2021 07:48|
At the Mercy of the Monster
“I’m really sorry, Andrew. I- gently caress, hold on.” The bathroom fan is on, so I’m protected from another round of retching sounds. I’m sitting with my back resting against the closed door. The fan is so strong that it’s vibrating the wood, and for a moment I wonder if I should joke about Chris giving me an indirect massage. Probably best to hold off.
The fan stops. “I’m sorry. I’m not going anywhere like this. I’m going to try to sleep.” The fan starts again.
Well, it’s not like we’re on a schedule. I give a knock and raise my voice a bit. “It’s fine, babe, I’ll get us another night.” The Sutton-Gassaway La Quinta Inn had about ten cars in the parking lot when we got in last night, so I can’t imagine there being much of an issue with extending our stay. It wasn’t particularly nice, or even as clean as I’d like, but it was dirt cheap, right off I-79, and about halfway to Louisville. It was enough.
The lobby is somehow both bright and dingy, and there’s a faint mildew smell that I didn’t notice last night. The desk clerk is reading People with a sour look, and with dread, I clear my throat. She looks up and smiles broadly.
“Hey there! Checking out, hon?” A pleasant surprise.
“Good morning! Actually, my wife’s not feeling too well, so we think we’ll stay another night, if that’s all right?”
“Sure, that’s no problem. Usually there’s a fee but seeing as we’re not busy this weekend I’ll waive it.” I wonder for a moment if this is really that unusual for a Sutton-Gassaway Saturday, but a kindness is a kindness.
“That’s wonderful, thank you. By the way, do you have any recommendations on what to do nearby?”
The Flatwoods Monster is so obvious in the morning light that I struggle to understand how I could have missed it in the dark. According to the brochure, it stood about ten feet tall when first encountered in the fifties, but the wood carving outside of the lobby is a bit more modest. What it sacrifices in size it more than makes up for in style, however, as Braxie, the Phantom of Flatwoods amplifies the somewhat muted brochure description with ornate cuts and fantastic hues.
When I arrive at Sutton’s Flatwoods Monster Museum, there’s a larger carving that seems to be the work of the same artist. It’s not quite as colorful, but the essentials are still there: wide silver body, crimson red skin, orange eyes, and a circular face protruding from a head shaped like the ace of spades. The whole thing screams “alien” to me, and while that’s apparently a popular interpretation, it’s certainly not the only one. The museum itself is pretty sparse. There’s a nice little corner with old radios playing contemporary interviews set under a large mural of the first reported sighting, but all things considered, it’s a bit of a disappointment. There are plenty of signs for the gift shop, though, so I decide to press on.
As I descend some stairs and turn the corner at the bottom, Braxie is suddenly upon me again. In sharp contrast to the carvings and mural, the plush version of Sutton’s most famous visitor strikes me as surprisingly cute. As much as I can’t imagine that Chris will want to reflect on her time here, she’ll probably make an exception for this guy.
The gift shop, like the rest of the museum, is a bit of a ghost town at the moment. The desk is unattended, and for a moment I consider whether it’s possible that they might operate on the honor system. My vision of the idyllic country life is shattered when I spot and ring the bell, only to receive a gruff “hold on” for my trouble. A nearby door opens and I catch a glimpse of a monitor displaying a football broadcast before it’s shut again. The man who approaches might have come in off the street for all I know, but he positions himself behind the desk with such authority that I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“One stuffed Braxie will be thirty even. Cash or card?” His eyes return to the closed door as we both hear a muffled roar.
Suddenly I’m in a Turkish bazaar. “Thirty? That’s a bit steep. Any discount for the museum ticket?”
“No.” A tough negotiator.
“C’mon, I like the thing but not that much.” Mostly true, but he doesn’t know I’ll be buying it regardless.
It was the wrong thing to say, I guess. “Look man, you don’t have to be here. Buy the loving thing or get out, we’re not that desperate.” Clearly, we aren’t on the same page with this exercise, so I drop an extra five for good measure and take a quick exit. Somehow the large carving outside seems more imposing as I leave.
Downtown Sutton feels a little uncomfortable after my run-in at the museum, so I decide to take a drive back toward the hotel and pick up something for lunch. Between gas stations and chain restaurants I’ve never heard of, nothing really stands out, so I park in front of an Amoco and do a bit of research.
Sutton isn’t all that big of a town, but it’s a metropolis compared to Gassaway. When I park in front of the Theodora I can see the full extent of the town by turning my head from side to side. Still, this place has by far the best reviews of any restaurant in the area, so I do my best to check my preconceptions and head inside. Here, too, Braxie gets the drop on me. Mounted on the wall over the register is a painting displaying the most abstract depiction I’ve seen of the monster, which seems in keeping with the bohemian feel of the restaurant. It’s hard not to think of the place as an expression of yearning for more than one usually finds around here, and for a moment I feel a certain kinship with the alien. Still, even the self-centered urbanite life form needs to eat, so I grab a menu and find myself a booth.
The Theodora is the sort of restaurant that offers a bit of everything because it might very well be the only place around to offer it at all. While I’m tempted to try the tempura tacos, I decide to play it safe and order the meatloaf sandwich. I can’t get a signal here, so I pass the time by examining the assorted tchotchkes on the walls. Braxie makes no fewer than five different appearances, including a huge poster advertising FLATWOODS MONSTER FEST 2018.
My server sits to roll silverware at the next table and begins making small talk. As I start running out of things to say, I decide to swing for the fences.
“So, what do you think about the Flatwoods Monster?” A pained look crosses her face. I try to broadcast my sincerity as much as possible, and she softens a bit.
“It can get a bit much around here,” she begins, “but it’s not like there’s a lot else to talk about. Don’t get me wrong, I think Braxton County’s beautiful, but we’re off the beaten path. It’s something, at least.” I nod. “Did you come here for that?”
I adjust my nod to a shake. “No, no, just traveling through and this seemed like a place to stop. I’m glad I did; the museum was nice. Good lunch too!” The meatloaf is fine.
“Yeah, I guess if it’s the first time you’re seeing it, it can be pretty cool. It hits different after years and years, though.” She looks down at her work and pauses.
“Not a fan of the festival?”
The pained look again. “I mean, I am. It’s a good time. It’s just, it was a lot more fun when I was a kid. Now…it’s more important, I guess.”
We gravitate back toward more mundane topics and before long I’ve left an unusually large tip.
I’d hoped to share a laugh about my museum experience with the hotel clerk, but when I return, she’s nowhere to be found. I can hear those same football sounds, though, so rather than run the risk of making the same mistake twice I head back to the room. Chris looks dreadful, but I manage to pull a smile out of her when I present our new miniature friend. She’s a bit jealous, as I expected.
“Of course we never do this fun stuff together, Andrew.” Mostly joking, I think, but I’ll apologize anyway.
“I know, I’m the worst. I got you a biscuit from the restaurant, though!”
“That’s a start, I guess, but it’s not like you can bring the museum.” No, I guess not.
“Let’s come back for the festival.”
|# ? Oct 11, 2021 07:51|
My flash was the Mongolian Death Worm
Reclamation 1076 words
Geriel woke up with her arms tied behind her back and a blindfold covering her eyes. Someone was holding onto her waist from behind, which was probably for the best, as the two of them appeared to be on a swiftly galloping horse.
“What’s going on?”
“A rescue. Or a kidnapping. Or a theft. Suppose it depends on you.”
“Was I really sleeping on horseback?”
“Apologies, I drugged you. It was easier. Might make it easier on you if we’re caught, too.”
“We will be caught. He’s not going to just take this.”
“You may be right.”
Geriel considered this new information in silence for a while.
“How long was I asleep?”
“Long enough for us to get well out of sight of his camp.”
“That’s not really an answer.”
She sighed. “Are the ropes and blindfold really necessary?”
“Depends on you, I guess.”
“If what you say is true, trying to run away wouldn’t do me any good.”
“As long as you understand that.” The horse slowed down to a trot. “Hold still for a moment.” She felt hands tugging at the ropes binding her wrists, and before long her hands came free. She shook her wrists and reached up to pull off her blindfold. “How are your arms?”
“They’ll be fine.”
“Good enough to hold on yourself?”
It was dark, so it took her a moment to realise that, with her captor – or rescuer – holding onto her waist, there was no one holding onto the horse. “How are you holding onto me and onto the horse?”
“Well trained leg muscles. If you’re happy to hold onto me instead, though, it would make it easier.”
She nodded, and the stranger quickly climbed around her and sat back down in front of her. “Bit cold out here for you?” she asked.
“It will be tonight. But I guess you’re talking about the mask. It’s better this way.”
She shrugged. “So, where are we going, anyway?”
“Trying to find a safe place to camp.”
Geriel peered along the dunes, turning her head left and right. “I don’t see how any place is different than any other.”
“Looking for a place that’s not on the sand.”
“I’d rather not be surprised by the olgoi-khorkhoi.”
Geriel chuckled. “The death worm? They’re just a tale to scare children.”
“You go out in the desert, much?”
“Not much out there to see.”
“Yeah, you most likely won’t see it, either, until it’s too late.”
Geriel shook her head, but didn’t object further.
They found a rocky outcropping and set up a shelter, big enough for both of them and the horse to huddle under. The stranger tied Geriel’s legs together, and hands behind her back. “Apologies, but I can’t have you trying to steal the horse in the middle of the night.”
“I guess you’re the only one allowed to do the stealing around here?”
The stranger chuckled. “He stole you from your tribe, I stole you from him, if you want to look at it that way.”
“How would you look at it?”
“Whichever way finishes this conversation and lets us get some sleep.”
Geriel awoke to a hand over her mouth and hissed instructions from the stranger. “Keep quiet and be ready to move.” It was still relatively dark, but even darker shadows could be seen on the dunes nearby. She moved her hands and realised they were already unbound. The stranger had packed up the shelter and was now gathering rocks from the outcropping.
“What are you doing?” The stranger put finger to lips in a shushing motion.
A shout came from the shadows on the dunes, and the shadows became clearer, and closer.
“You thought you’d steal my property and get away with it?” came the call.
“Oh no,” said Geriel. “He came all the way out here?”
The stranger shrugged, and called back, “Merkit women aren’t property.” Geriel raised an eyebrow.
“She ceased being Merkit when I claimed her.”
“So, I guess now that I claimed her back, she’s back to being Merkit.”
“You’re Merkit?” whispered Geriel. “You don’t sound it.”
The stranger shrugged, and whispered back, “Sort of. A little bit. Not really. It’s complicated.”
“Geriel,” he called, “come here immediately and I might not punish you.”
Geriel took a step forward, but the stranger put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t move from this rock.” The stranger stooped, grabbed a stone, and threw it in the direction of the other speaker. It fell well short.
He laughed. “Absolutely pathetic.”
The stranger ignored him, and grabbed and threw stone after stone, each one landing well short of him, again and again, until they started to bounce off each other, but still ending up nowhere near him.
“You’re going to run out of stones, soon!” he called. “What then, will you throw the horse at me?”
The stranger ignored him and continued throwing stones.
Geriel shook her head. “Come on, you haven’t come close to your target once.”
The stranger chuckled. “What do you think my target is? Listen.” Geriel listened. There was a low rumbling. The stranger picked up the last three stones, stood and faced him, then threw the stones, each one striking one of the stones that had been thrown before.
“You’re out,” he said. “And all you’ve done is given my men time to surround you.”
The stranger shrugged. The rumbling had grown louder. “Don’t move from the rock,” the stranger whispered again. And then the screams started.
He had been right about his men having surrounded them, and they therefore heard screams from all around them. Curses, shouted commands, calls to flee, but mostly, screams. Geriel dropped to her knees and covered her ears.
After half an hour, the screaming stopped.
“What was that?” asked Geriel.
“Olgoi-khorkhoi,” said the stranger.
“There’s no such-” started Geriel, but stopped. “Did you know?”
“And what did you mean about sort of being Merkit?”
The stranger took off her mask. “He claimed me. Then I claimed myself.”
“Huh,” said Geriel. “You have a very deep voice. What’s your name?”
“Enkhtuya. And you are Geriel.”
Geriel nodded. “So, what now?”
Enkhtuya sat down. “I recommend we rest and wait for the olgoi-khorkhoi to move on. After, I thought I might go claim more of his property, or get it to claim itself. You are welcome to join me.”
Geriel nodded, and laid back down. They huddled together and fell back to sleep.
|# ? Oct 11, 2021 11:18|
Thunderdome Week 479:
All the judges this agreed that this week was pretty tough times. The majority of the stories had some significant issues in either construction, storytelling, content, or some combination of the three.
The Loss goes to BabyRyoga for a story with a couple good ideas that was very difficult to understand.
DMs go to The man called m, Albatrossy_rodent, Captain_Indigo, and Taletel
The lone HM goes to derp
The win this week goes to Thranguy for The Ranger
An recording of Sebmojo, Chernobyl_Princess and me doing the judging is below. Written crits from me will be up in a few hours.
Thranguy, all yours!
Here is the recap/live-judgin' of week 479.
|# ? Oct 12, 2021 01:14|
Thunderdome Week CDLXXX: Horror of Horrors
We’re well into the spookiest month of another haunted year, which calls for a week of horror stories. And the thing about horror is that it’s a very broad genre, not only in terms of its many subgenres, but how well it mixes with other genres.
So that’s what we’re going to do. When you sign up, I’ll assign you a genre, and you can mix it with horror of any variety to put together a story. If I were to, say, assign someone Wilderness Adventure Horror you can mix your Wilderness Adventure with ghosts or monsters or psychological horror or cosmic horror or what have you, as long as it’s horror.
If you don’t like your assignment you can Toxx up and re-roll. If you want to Toxx in your signup I’ll give you two to pick between.
No fanfic, erotica, poetry, gdocs, etc. Unless you’re specifically assigned one of those, which could happen I guess. Although I’m almost certainly not going to give anyone gdoc horror.
Signup Deadlines 11:59 PM Friday California time
Submission Deadline 11:59 PM Sunday California time
|# ? Oct 12, 2021 01:41|
|# ? Oct 12, 2021 01:42|
|# ? Oct 12, 2021 01:43|
|# ? Oct 12, 2021 01:44|
|# ? Oct 12, 2021 01:45|
|# ? Oct 12, 2021 01:52|
Time travel horror
|# ? Oct 12, 2021 02:01|
|# ? Oct 12, 2021 02:03|
The Case of the Lac Wood Kegger
The man called M
I think that you get a little bit of a boost in your premise by starting with a mystery. The back half, though, is that the payoff has to be proportionally boosted as well. For me, no story feels worse than a poorly paid-off mystery.
There’s no central conflict to this mystery. You have the ingredients of a central conflict, with a villain, a victim, and a detective, but you don’t utilize the ingredients.
I barely feel the presence of the cryptid in this one. I gave you one that was relatively difficult to write, sure, but it could have been very evocative.
Did you have to make him a pedophile? I mean, that’s a note of harshness and darkness that doesn’t ring through the rest of the piece.
The story needs a few strong editing passes. You had another thousand words and another day to look through and line edit. No points for early submission here. You spelled the monster’s name wrong in the last paragraph!
Overall, this shows a good clip of improvement from your prior works. I suggest that after you write the story, read it out loud to check the cadence and language. Keep at it!
The Monster of Coffet
Interesting premise and a good opening hook. Abandoned towns always get me.
Your ‘protagonist’ is gross and pretty awful. This isn’t bad in itself, but unless there’s some kind of payoff, it comes through as being edgy for the sake of being edgy. Pedophilia is an incredibly strong spice to add into a story. If it’s not a theme, it can seriously distance the reader. A character’s monstrousness can be told (or not told) with more subtlety. For complexity, the reader should be able to infer some things about your character. In this case, it’s all in black and white. This characterization is an example of telling instead of showing.
When I read a story with two monsters in it, I expect there to be a measure of duality to it. I was looking for notions that the two were thematically connected. There was something there with them both being on their last legs (har har), but it wasn’t enough.
Did that coyote just walk into a cancer ward?
Grammar and punctuation mistakes throughout. Could use another edit or two.
I think the idea of the piece is cool and clever, although I would have liked more hints as to what the climax would be. There were some very compelling descriptions, like Johan being ‘the sacrifice’, and the psychology of just not being last.
The first paragraph doesn’t serve your story. I think it would be better off without. On going through it with the judges, a significant portion of the story doesn’t serve your thesis.
The first segment is confusing, I thought ‘her’ and Lin were the same thing. It clicked later on, but I had to go back and reread the opening to make sense of it.
Your protagonist is a jerk, I get it. A static protagonist isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but with the transformative nature of the finale, I would expect some character growth. I couldn’t tell if he was being warped by his desire for greater ability, or if he’d always been sort of a psycho. This is a well-done description of a fantastical event, but the characterization leaves a lot to be desired. I wanted some growth, some change, something in that vein.
I can see what you were going for with the guy offing himself at the end, but it fell flat for me. It read like you had one too many characters and didn’t know what to do with them in a story that required some to die.
Well-written and strong prose as always. I guess if there has to be a pee and voyeurism fetish story in TD, at least it’s one that’s competently constructed.
The middle sagged a little for me, but not too much.
You had such a great sense of intrigue and mystery with the monster early on! The unblinking eye is a great metaphor for the OnlyFans reference later. I wish it had paid off better. The ending of the story makes the protagonist into a punchline and bummed me out hard. I don’t know if it was your intention, but it read like you had some very strong plotting for the first ¾ of the story, then didn’t know what to do with the end.
A leopard moth can’t change its spots
It’s an 80’s teen comedy pastiche starring the mothman. I think you leaned too heavily on the former and not enough on the latter, so the story came out very formulaic. You have so much ground to tread here, so many tropes to turn on their heads, but it wasn’t there.
The segment with mothman using his proboscis and yell-speaking was the strongest of the whole piece.
More than either of the other judges, the epilogue killed any interest I had in the story. While it was on-brand thematically, it fell flat for me in a story structure sense. I like writing jokes into my stories, but making a piece funny is really, really difficult because working those jokes into the story framework is challenging. The end felt like you wanted to showcase some joke-writing chops without working to fit them into the piece as a whole.
The writing is fine and the story is ok. There wasn’t much compelling or inventive here. This is amplified by the amount of really neat stuff built into the Kappa mythology. It was actually worse for me that you referenced some of those mythological aspects (the vegetable eating, the anus soul sucking, the water in the forehead) but didn’t use them well. For a story with a climactic battle and big stakes, it didn’t pull me in.
It might help you to go back to your thesis statement (maybe something like “a monster hunter battles the Kappa for the safety of a small village”) and see how you can buff the story up while still holding strong to the throughline.
More than any other story this week, I could tell you did your research on the Kappa. I appreciated that.
This story had a neat concept and a good conceit. I liked your take on the jackalope and the app.
I had a lot of trouble following this story. I started and stopped reading a few times because the prose became confusing and hard to parse. I don’t think any of the characters were particularly well constructed and the protagonist didn’t have much of a motivation as far as I could tell. Combined with the difficulty I had reading it, any cool ideas you have in here are lost. This was a week with a lot of contenders for the loss, but I think you clinched it on technical and structural grounds.
I think it would be helpful for you to try reading the story out loud to see how some of the diction comes off. Sentences like “disappointment hitting his face like rocks” don’t sound very good when spoken. I would also give a few passes for editing and formatting.
I thought the prose was solid and I liked that the story was economical in its use of callbacks and references. When I hear that there is a gene-splicing experiment, I’m waiting for a payoff later and you landed that.
I think there were one too many ingredients in this stew: the end of civilization on earth, gene splicing, divorce, a robot companion, and on. It felt muddled and as a result the ending felt rushed.
You have such a great concept here with a yeti finally showing up and its presence (and the consequences thereof) somehow being more terrifying than any possible appearance on earth. I wanted that aspect fleshed out more.
At the mercy of the monster
T a s t e
A well-written slice of life kind of story. I saw what you were going for here, with the subversion of a traditional monster story into one of a town in decline. My problem was that the whole thing wasn’t very intriguing. There wasn’t much momentum, climax, or change and as a result the piece felt hollow. I was ambling through town with this guy, but that was about it.
Your prose is solid and kept me relatively engaged throughout. All your characters felt like individuals.
A well-constructed tale that definitely told a complete story from start to finish. Your narration was pretty good and there were no glaring structural errors.
I could have used about 400% more worminess in the story. We don’t even see the death worm, only hear it and see the results. I was left pretty unsatisfied as a result. This read like a much more advanced version of the Kappa story from this week. Not very much happened and all the meaningful action was in the latter third of your piece.
It also sounded like you were hinting at some cultural practices that would have been interesting to explore. Overall the story felt very dry.
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