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rohan
Mar 19, 2008

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


:siren:"THEIR":siren:




Flash: Cyberpunk

Full-Sensory Experience
1999 words

I was halfway through my bowl of noodles when someone stuck a datapad in front of my face, its voxel display resolving into a pop-star’s visage as my eyes resolved to its proximity. No, not just a pop-star: Kimiko Takayama, whose debut solo Engine Block Lullabies had just gone triple-platinum. “Torii Stargate Survivor Kidnapped, Held Hostage,” the headline blared, before the steam from my noodles rose to obscure it.

‘Like hell,’ I shrugged. ‘Something happens every six months. It’s all part of the storyline. Sure, virtuals can get corrupted, but who gives a poo poo if some bits flip from one to zero? But Kimiko, she can bleed, so if there’s a hint she could be in any danger, it’s all over the feeds—’

‘This isn’t on the feeds yet,’ Miles replied, sliding onto a stool beside me and leaving the datapad on the counter. ‘Label’s intent on keeping it that way. They’ve deployed their bots on layer four for the first time since—well, you remember.’

I took a swig of beer, washing down the taste of the vat-grown nutes that only my wallet had acclimatised to. In the corner of my vision, an alert slid in with a too-familiar jingle: Kimiko’s latest stream began in fifteen minutes, and I’d earned enough credits to upgrade to the full-sensory experience if I wanted. Kimiko’s face, the same headshot from her Torii years that filled Miles’ datapad, winked at me and devolved into a QR code.

‘Are they?’ I asked, nodding toward the datapad. ‘You can’t tell me you’re better than the label’s bots. They fed you and they’re waiting for you to make your move.’

‘You didn’t ask how I got this,’ Miles smirked, sliding the datapad back into his jacket.‘Follow me.’

***

Miles had always cultivated a penchant for the dramatic, which is probably why he kept falling for these obvious lures. Probably why he attached himself to me, back when I was following Torii Stargate from arena to arena: breathlessly narrating their movements to my fifteen-million followers, making a narrative of their off-stage antics. Mindlessly buying into their choreographed bullshit, until the night when something—too many stims, perhaps, too little sleep, too much attention—had propelled me over a fence, through the rhythms of drone patrols, and into the inner sanctum of the Torii compound itself.

***

For all his contrived mystique, Miles knew to deliver when it counted. The final notes of “Coterminous Heartbeats” were fading into the streetsound when Miles pushed open his apartment door and motioned for me to enter. There, perched on the vinyl sheeting of Miles’ couch, eyes hidden behind the headset and hands clutching an imaginary microphone, was the surviving quarter of Torii Stargate, Kimiko Takayama, in the flesh.

I wheeled toward Miles as Kimiko’s voice trailed off. He smiled indulgently, swiping his watch against the deadbolt to lock the door. Kimiko raised her fingers to the headset and gently set it on a dock beside her, before turning to us with a radiant smile.

I closed my eyes. Unbidden, triggered by emotional resonance, a recording of our last meeting slid into my vision. Kimiko, back to the wall, clutching one arm, eyes wild, face slick with blood. A tremulous finger pointing toward the green room, toward the remainder of Torii Stargate, Yui and Asuka and Pop-Frenzy, their bodies—

I opened my eyes, turned away from the couch, and met the eyes of another Kimiko: staring down from a full-size poster on the wall, mouth turned up in the same mischievous invitation from the newsfeed and the AR promo.

‘That’s from my first solo concert,’ Kimiko said, shifting on the couch. ‘Roppongi, thirty-three. I drew one-twenty thousand that night. Half were there to see me sing. The other half wanted—drama. After what happened, the label spent ten million on security, gadgetry, anything to prevent some lunatic coming at me with a knife. Imagine, ten million creds—you could feed an entire prefecture real food for a year.’

‘I—I can’t blame them,’ I said, turning away from poster Kimiko to face real Kimiko. ‘After what happened—’

Before I could continue, there was a staccato shave-and-a-haircut at the front door, and Miles swiped the lock to open up for Liz, sweeping in breathless and sweating. Kimiko smiled up at her as if the three lawsuits against Liz’s agency were just some tortured flirtation. Liz smiled back, shimmying out of her photographer’s vest and unclasping the harness strapping three bodies and six lenses to her tiny frame. Liz was old-school: she still used cameras, which some celebrities appreciated as a nod to nostalgia.

‘Is he in?’ Liz asked, seating herself on a stool by the doorway and nodding toward me.

‘I still don’t know what this is all about,’ I said, looking around the room.

‘The label,’ Kimiko began, accepting a mug from Miles, ‘want me to go virtual. They could replace me overnight—they have all my mo-caps, my performance data, my vocal registers. They could lock me away and get rich off my simulacrum.’

She paused to take a sip of the drink, and set the mug down on the table. ‘But if I’m kidnapped,’ she went on, ‘and word got out, they couldn’t use anything until I was returned safely. During which time I could—negotiate—for better conditions. And I know if I want the word to get out, you three have the loudest voices.’

‘I’m not sure if you’ve noticed,’ I interrupted, ‘but nobody watches my stream anymore. I’m the nut who claimed three-quarters of Torii Stargate were brutally murdered. Every sponsor dropped me overnight.’

‘I know,’ Kimiko nodded, smiling sadly. ‘But there’s only one way to release this newsfeed outside the label’s blackout, and that’s from within the Torii compound. And you’re the only person who’s managed to break in.’

I closed my eyes and sat back on the couch. This time, my vision stayed blank.

‘If you do this,’ she said, and I felt her move closer, laying a hand on my knee, ‘I’ll tell them everything. I’ll tell them—the true story of that night. After all, you and I are the only people who know how Torii Stargate ended. And that story deserves to be told.’

‘Well,’ I murmured, opening my eyes, ‘you, me, and whoever stabbed the other girls to death.’

‘Of course,’ she said, not missing a beat.

***

Miles detailed the plan on the way. I barely understood why they needed me, besides misguided charity: Kimiko had uploaded the floor plans, security routes, and access codes to Miles’ cortex. Once we were passed the perimeter, it was a short jog to an access tunnel, where we’d split into three: Miles would disable any on-premise security, Liz would gather documentation useful for the negotiation, and I’d head into the control room to upload the newsfeed from Torii’s own stream.

Kimiko, of course, would stay behind, “kidnapped”, having removed her tracing beacon. Before we left, she hugged each of us goodbye, calling us honorary bandmates: the next three members of Torii Stargate.

***

We’d only just separated when Kimiko slid into my vision, streaming from the headset in Miles’ apartment. ‘You’re making good progress,’ she smiled. ‘Nobody’s noticed you yet.’
‘Good to know,’ I said. ‘Glad someone’s looking out for us.’

‘I’m a bit hurt, though,’ she teased. ‘You didn’t upgrade to the full-sensory experience before.’

‘Gotta save my credits,’ I murmured, peering around a corner before continuing down another hallway. ‘Can barely afford to eat these days.’

‘Don’t you wonder what it would be like?’ she continued, and I felt—somehow—her hands over mine, the soft touch of her skin, fingers lacing between mine. ‘Don’t you wonder what it would feel like to be—inside—’

The world shuddered briefly, my vision swarming with voxels that resolved into the inside of Miles’ apartment. Kimiko stared down at me from the poster and I looked down to the vinyl-sheeted couch and Kimiko’s legs, her hands folded neatly on her lap. As I flexed, her own fingers moved, twitchy, too small for my muscle memory to compensate.

‘How did you—’ I said, in Kimiko’s voice. My own came back in response, gravelly, much older than the streams that had once made me famous: ‘Turns out ten million creds can buy a lot of cool toys.’

A stream slid in from the left side of my vision, a first-person recording from my own eyes, deep within the Torii compound. Kimiko navigated inside my own body almost better than I did, moving quickly through the labyrinthine tunnels.

‘This isn’t the first time they’ve tried to make me go virtual,’ I heard myself say, as I staggered to my feet. ‘They put it to a vote, back in the Torii days. All four of us would have been replaced by virtuals and nobody could have known.’

I’d made it three steps from the couch when Kimiko’s legs gave out, my gait built for another foot of height, and I fell onto my hands. In the corner, Kimiko continued her path through the compound.

‘Yui, Asuka, Pop-Frenzy—what do you think they chose?’ she asked, slowing and peering around a corner. At the far end of another identical corridor, Miles stood, his back to us, at a terminal. ‘They hadn’t been hounded by people like you for years. They loved the attention of physical cameras clicking away. It was a novelty to them, a game. They had no idea how dangerous it really was. How—fragile human stars can be.’

I stumbled up to my feet, leaned against the wall for support, and worked my way down the apartment, one hand and one foot at a time.

‘They all voted against going virtual,’ she spat, closing in on Miles. Somewhere in the periphery of consciousness, I felt my own hand reach inside my jacket and close around a knife. I tried to call out, to warn him, but all I heard my own voice say was: ‘They made their choice. But their virtual selves would still be around today, if you’d left well enough alone.’

A flash of steel and blood spurted out against the terminal, Miles’ body falling to a heap at the base. Kimiko’s voice screamed out, and kept screaming, as she continued stabbing at Miles’ prone body—and then I realised it was my own scream. I staggered to the door, gripped the handle, and noticed the deadbolt’s light. Kimiko reached down, tugged Miles’ watch off his wrist, and cracked the case with the blunt of her knife. The light pulsed out and died.

‘You ruined everything,’ she continued, stretching back up. ‘Once I got rid of the other three, the label could use their data to fit out a new band, with me as their virtual centre. But you made it all about flesh again. That became everything. The label don’t want me to become virtual. They want to keep me in a flesh prison and bleed me dry.’

I turned, stumbling toward the window at the other end of Miles’ apartment. Kimiko laughed, rounding a corridor and sprinting toward Liz, bent over a desk in an office, adjusting her camera. ‘Go for it,’ she trilled, advancing with knife outstretched. ‘Leap and you’ll kill yourself, but I’ll live forever in the stream. Kimiko Takayama, the first ghost of pop.’

I shouldered the window open, climbing out onto the balcony as Kimiko reached out and wrapped a hand around Liz’s camera strap. I closed my eyes, swung over the railing, and fell—

Liz lay dead at my feet. My hands were slick with blood, the knife shaking in my grip. Alarms began to sound around me, and I whirled to face the security team approaching with guns drawn.

Screens slid into my vision; feeds filled with the news that paparazzi had broken into Torii Stargate, after kidnapping and murdering Kimiko Takayama, but I had enough credits to watch the livestream as a full-sensory experience, if I wanted?

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Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Entries are closed.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021




Interprompt: Build a World in 500 words or less.

The man called M fucked around with this message at 05:57 on Oct 19, 2021

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

I’ve got a dictionary, I’ve got scissors, I’ve got glue. This is going to be the best world ever built. My palms are sweaty, knees weak—which words do I pick? Petrichor, Plethora, Cellar, Door, and Mauve… but what else? 495 to go… my world is going to be very flimsy, limp, and moist with way too much glue and not enough paper.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Judgment

Endings remain a problem for a lot of you.

The loss goes to The Man Called M's Athos and the Living Dead

DMs for BabyRyoga's Big Rite in Little Vietnam and Azza Bamboo's Down the Shaft

At the upper end of the week, HMs for Tyrannosaurus' a good day and Hawklad's Akron '84

And the win goes to J.A.B.C. for Love as Sweet as Blood.

The Blood Throne is yours!

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Crits for Week #480


Albatrossy_Rodent - Amelia, Saint of the Miners:

This feels middling to me. The issues are at the outline level, I think, waiting too late to establish the characters, dropping big worldbuilding dumps at the wrong time, and being an urban legend retread without a compelling hero or villain. The imagery is nice though.

derp - one of a kind:

Weak and over-complicated opening. The concept works, but needs to be stripped down and punched up a bit. This one is all idea, to its detriment. I think we need more meat to the protagonist, more detail. Maybe a big turning point, too.

The man called M - Athos and the Living Dead:

The opening wants to be more epic than it is, it's a bit too matter of fact for what it needs to do.
Girth and outnumbered don't play well together. Wait, what happened to the zombies?
Bad, but big energy here though. A dramatic reading of this could be fun, if anyone is doing those these days.

J.A.B.C. - Love as sweet as blood:

Strong opening, but could be better with more of the character coming through.
I think the fight is the least interesting thing about this romance, would rather see more of them first meeting or hunting. Still, well written, an HM/win candidate

Pham Nuwen - Flotsam and Ruin:

The opening does what it needs to do. I think having the narrator bit by actual flies is too clever by half, making the ending more confusing than it has to be. On the other hand it is a bit cliche in the first place. You've invented mango chigger zombies, maybe don't then use the most obvious ending

Weltlich - Be Fruitful…:

Solid opening. 
Solid prose and worldbuilding, too, but wasted on a tree house of horror twilight zone parody level of plot. (Try with Andru as the graftee. It would hurt more.)

Hawklad - Akron ‘84:

Evocative opening. This one is both effective and confusing at once. There's a mixing of levels of literalness and metaphor that shouldn't work, but sort of does. Possible HM

Tyrannosaurus - a good day:

Strong opening. Strong overall. I almost wonder if this wouldn't work even better as a one act play. I think there isn't anything in the narration that couldn't work as dialog. Contender.

Carl Killer Miller - Graven Pastoral:

Opening is a weather report, not the strongest choice, with a bit of showing off. And it ends with a bit of a dull thud. Not particularly horrorlike, either. But it's an interesting journey to that bad end.

Azza Bamboo - Down the Shaft:

Sentence fragment without character or action, not a good opening choice. Our protagonist is casually brutal but otherwise bland, and we end without anything having happened apart from a touch of violence.  Possible DM. 

t a s t e - Serenade:

The opening is okay. The big problem with this one is that the various parts just don't fit together. Marie vanishes. The road musician of the first half doesn't fit with the ending, which barely makes sense on it's own terms.

Captain_Indigo - The terror of the Cosmo-Khan:

The opening sets a tone, to be sure.
The rest follows it well enough. But there's not enough to the old man to build enough sympathy before the reversal, which at least rises to star trek voyager plotting levels.

BabyRyoga - Big Rite in Little Vietnam:

The opener is trying for the genre but missing. Too literal. Not enough metaphor. A lot of proofing errors here too. The plot is a pile of improvish nonsense. Bad but charming. 

sebmojo - Grandpa wouldn’t let us into his study when we used to come over after school.:

An ambitious opener to be sure, but not fully successful. Honestly this applies to the whole story. Great buildup, beautiful sense of dread, but when it comes time to pay it off all you manage is some cheap ironic looping that barely makes sense. 

rohan - Full-Sensory Experience:

Solid opening. And an all-around competent piece of cyberpunk storytelling. There are probably too many characters for the word count,  I'm particularly sideeyeing Liz. Still, top group.

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018


The man called M posted:

Interprompt: Build a World in 500 words or less.

Logistics - 446 words

We’ve all stepped inside of a transporter booth, but how do they work? When nothing can exceed the speed of light, how can a simple booth at the corner of each station corridor get you from one side of the galaxy to another in under a second?

When you hit confirm on your destination, six waveform extractors positioned about the booth siphon all heat away from its contents, causing you to enter a state known as cryostasis. At this point you are frozen, your body’s functions halted, and you are (thankfully) unconscious.

There your booth is detached from the station by a collector droid, who replaces it with another booth containing an arriving traveller. The collector droid gathers ten booths on its docking rack, then places the entire rack into the hold of an automated transport. There the droid collects a rack of arriving booths and repeats the process.


Each transport can hold up to ten thousand booths in its expansive hold. Once the transport is loaded with departing booths, it flies to a secret location in the galaxy. This journey can take upwards of three hundred thousand years, depending on where in the galaxy you have departed from. In this secret location, a wormhole burrows deep into the past, allowing ships that pass through it the ability to emerge anywhere from the present moment to a specific point in time some three billion years ago (when the wormhole was formed).

The automated transports leave the wormhole several hundred thousand years in the past, where they are placed in a sorting facility that organises the booths based on their destination. Each booth is loaded into a transport headed to its final destination in time and space. While the journey from this secret location out to your final destination may take hundreds of thousands of years, your ship will have traveled far enough back in time to accommodate the journey. Therefore your booth will be installed at your destination in good time to bring you out of cryostasis within a second of your departure.

To you it may feel like you have simply closed the booth door on one station and opened it to the next. In reality you have taken a fantastic journey across time and space. But what if you were tempted to abuse the wormhole by waking up in the past?

Available on HowHub next week: How do the adjudicators know exactly where and when to find time abusers? We take a look at the heart of a deterministic supercomputer that is technically older than the universe, and we find out how to measure our timeline against an ideal timeline free of time abuse.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.



My first win. And now I get to make it everyone's problem.



Thunderdome 481: Identity is just a favorite disguise

'Who we are' is a question that holds infinite promise and possibility while keeping us up at night with the dread of not knowing the answer. The question of identity is one that plagues all of us at one time or another, especially those of us who might have to hide an identity to protect ourselves, or adopt multiple identities to make it through the day. And during Halloween, we even put on disguises and costumes to create and obfuscate our identities even further.

So for this week's prompt, I want you to give us a story about leading a double life. We'll even make it interesting: If you add in a Flash rule, you get an extra 500 words and an occupation that commonly requires a double life. If you're brave enough to :toxx:, we'll throw on an extra 500 words for a consequence of your duality or re-roll your flash rule.

Standard rules apply: No fanfiction, erotica or web links. If you do poetry it must be as part of the story and not the story itself.

Signups Close: 11:59 Pacific Standard Time, Friday Oct. 22
Submissions Close: 11:59 Pacific Standard Time, Sunday Oct. 24

Word Count: 1500 (without additions)
Judges:
J.A.B.C
?
?

Masks:
The Man Called M
BabyRyoga - Flash: Vampire
SittingHere
sebmojo - Flash: Michelin Star Critic
AzzaBamboo - Flash: Corporate Spy
Thranguy
Captain Indigo
Carl Killer Miller - Flash: International Assassin
Albarossy_Rodent - Flash: Insurance Claims Adjuster
t a s t e - Flash: CIA Field Agent
SolusLunes - Flash: Superhero
Rohan - Flash: Filmcrew on a closed-set production
Flesnolk - Flash: Nuclear Engineer
My Shark Waifuu - Flash: Serial Killer
ChickenOfTomorrow - Flash: Private Investigator
Yoruichi

J.A.B.C. fucked around with this message at 07:59 on Oct 23, 2021

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021




Am I foolish enough to enter after I just lost?

The answer is yes.

In.

BabyRyoga
May 21, 2001

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Ok, sure, In, Give me a flash rule

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






The man called M posted:

Am I foolish enough to enter after I just lost?

The answer is yes.

In.

:black101:

e: and I may as well be in since i took up a whole post

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







In flash

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.



BabyRyoga posted:

Ok, sure, In, Give me a flash rule

Vampire.

sebmojo posted:

In flash

Michelin Star Critic.

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018


In and flash

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.



Azza Bamboo posted:

In and flash

Corporate Spy

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




In

Captain_Indigo
Jul 29, 2007

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



In.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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




In w flash

Albatrossy_Rodent
Oct 5, 2021


In with a silly/ridiculous/hard flash please

t a s t e
Sep 6, 2010


In, flash please

SolusLunes
Oct 10, 2011

I now have several regrets.

:barf:


In and flash, what the hell. I need to un-rust my writing bones anyway.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.




International Assassin

Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

In with a silly/ridiculous/hard flash please

Insurance Claims Adjuster

t a s t e posted:

In, flash please

CIA Field Agent

SolusLunes posted:

In and flash, what the hell. I need to un-rust my writing bones anyway.

Superhero

rohan
Mar 19, 2008

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


:siren:"THEIR":siren:




In, flash

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.



rohan posted:

In, flash

Filmcrew for a Closed-Set production

Flesnolk
Apr 11, 2012

h

inflash

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





In, flash please!

Crits for last week will be done in the next few days

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.




Nuclear Engineer

My Shark Waifuu posted:

In, flash please!

Crits for last week will be done in the next few days

Serial Killer

ChickenOfTomorrow
Nov 11, 2012

god damn it, you've got to be kind



Yolo! In, flash please.

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.



ChickenOfTomorrow posted:

Yolo! In, flash please.

Private Investigator

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





Crits for Week #480

The reason many of the stories this week struggled IMO was because they were essentially “a genre story, then something spooky happens,” which can work but isn’t what I’d call a horror story.

Albatrossy_Rodent - Amelia, Saint of the Miners:
This is OK, but the setting is more interesting than the plot and the characters. Which is a shame, since there’s potential here. I like the religious angle on the steampunk genre, so Hugo’s reaction to being rescued by Amelia, an actual Saint, is too nonchalant compared to his reverence for the Steam God. There’s not much tension in the middle which makes the monster reveal at the end come out of nowhere. Amelia spends a lot of time and effort leading Hugo to the monster, only to change her mind immediately and tell him to run. The destruction of the Steam God feels out of place at the end, too high-stakes for a story about a man getting lost and escaping a monster.

derp - one of a kind:
This story does a good job of establishing an unsettling atmosphere right from the beginning with the mysterious rustling trees, so when the time travel plot starts the reader has the dread of “this isn’t going to end well.” For this reason, this was one of the more successful genre-horror stories this week. The issue is that we don’t know much of anything about the protagonist, and therefore we know nothing about the other selves. Why is getting wealthy through schemes so important to them? Why is their response to the original getting out of sync to kill him? The story would be more powerful if these actions had emotional weight.

Athos and the Living Dead - The man called M:
Oh boy, this was a wild ride. There’s just too many plotlines from gladiators fighting zombies, to gladiators fighting each other, and now there’s cannibalism, but he gets the girl in the end, and the zombies are back. On top of that, the tone vacillates from overblown epic to snarky asides, and the tenses used in each paragraph are inconsistent (i.e., “Nero turns his neck of fat towards Athos. “What is the meaning of this?!” Screamed Athos.”). It’s A Lot, and what gets lost is characters that aren’t one-dimensional caricatures. If Athos was more than just “a guy with muscles,” I would’ve been more invested in his crazy adventures. Even with a comedic story, we need to understand the main character in order to laugh at or with him.

J.A.B.C. - Love as sweet as blood:
Of all the stories this week, this one does the best job of blending its genre, romance, and horror into a cohesive whole. The creepy setting and the female spider-monster are established early on, alongside the protagonist’s adoration of her. The description of the campers’ deaths was the most visceral horror writing of the week, and was all the more effective juxtaposed with the protagonist’s affection for the spider-monster. The weakest part for me was the beginning: initially the protagonist seems like a monster hunter rather than a monster himself, and their motivations for fighting are unclear. The story says they “couldn’t defy their natures,” but what exactly does that mean? Is she territorial? Can he not help but hunt anything that moves?

Pham Nuwen - Flotsam and Ruin:
This one was fun. The epistolary format works well and the imagery is vivid. The horror element is more a part of the plotline than in most stories, but I don’t think it was executed as well as it could’ve been. For most of the story, I (and the protagonist) just felt sorry for Jones and MacPherson. (I’ve been bug-bitten badly enough that lying in mud and peeling off the skin would’ve seemed preferable to the itching.) The two men don’t seem to pose a threat, even if they’re going crazy and what’s happening to them is disgusting, so their attack on Cobb didn’t feel inevitable. And the protagonist eating the melons at the end felt as dumb as a group splitting up in a horror movie.

Weltlich - Be Fruitful…:
Another one that I enjoyed reading. The beginning of the story is a bit jargony, but it’s not too difficult to figure out what’s going on. The characters and setting are compelling and well-established, but nothing about it reads as horror to me. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get the ending until you explained it in Discord. I mean, I inferred what was happening from the mother’s actions but because the nam shrubs were described so well as plants at the beginning, my reaction was “... huh, really?” rather than horror. Did Ymal get assigned as grafting stock because he did so badly on the exam? If he knew that outcome was possible, why didn’t he try a little harder? If these points were cleared up, this would be a really solid story.

Hawklad - Akron ‘84:
Thranguy described the opening as “both effective and confusing at once,” and I agree. It effectively establishes Daniel’s (and therefore the reader’s) dread of the other teens at the mall, but it’s confusing as to whether it’s a normal mall described creepily or if something actually spooky is going on. The uncertainty works as teens are notoriously overdramatic and tend to view things as life-or-death situations, which is why the ending disappointed me a little. Daniel goes from teen avoiding his peers at the mall to action hero who sets off bombs around the whole place. If their escape is metaphorical (the interpretation I lean towards), then what to the bombs represent? Nerd wish fulfillment? These are interesting questions at least, which is why the story earned an HM.

Tyrannosaurus - a good day:
The beginning half is a great set-up for a spy story: a man trying to resist the system but getting sucked in, a slimy amoral government agent, mind games, people stuck in the past, all that good spy stuff. Unfortunately the back half, after the son is stabbed, doesn’t completely gel with the beginning. Because the attack is so out of the blue and described so briefly (“He tosses the knife, grabs a lamp, and he beats me.”) it doesn’t seem to necessarily follow from the actions in the first half. The writing is still good and effectively conveys his hope, then despair at Tuning’s arrival, but it seems like there’s a puzzle piece missing. If, for example, Tuning had somehow planted the idea of the son being an intruder so the father would get rid of him, then I think the two halves would fit together well.

Carl Killer Miller - Graven Pastoral:
This was one of the more confusing stories for me this week. There’s a lot of genres intersecting-- apocalypse, sci-fi, time travel, ghosts-- and none of them are sports or horror. The appearance of the baronet and his challenge tipped it towards a ghost story, but Arfaa figures out how to hurt him with the Decompiler before he becomes a threat. The connection between the baronet and the environment at the end is unclear, and the rejection of Science as a way to avoid a climate catastrophe is odd. The imagery and worldbuilding is good, especially in the beginning, but the plot needs another logic pass.

Azza Bamboo - Down the Shaft:
As you already know, this story is a bit of a mess, which is a shame as I think there’s potential here. In particular, the elevator man coming back as an undead to ruin the heist was a horror image that worked for me. However, everything around this idea needs to be clarified. Is this a modern setting even though we start in a castle? Who’s our protagonist, besides someone who wants to steal something? What is the heist plan? Plans are important in heist stories because they inevitably go wrong, but if we don’t know the plan then the problems that crop up have no impact. Lastly, the fight at the end is muddled, as it’s not always clear who “he” is referring to.

t a s t e - Serenade:
This one gave me Hotel California vibes. Unfortunately, it takes a while to get to that point. The first third of the story outside Marie’s doesn’t add anything except a complicated, unnecessary reason for the protagonist to go to the resort. The idea of a down-on-his-luck musician taking a strange gig isn’t unusual, so we don’t need the big set-up. The story gets nice and creepy once he enters the resort, but because so many words were spent on the beginning, we rush through the actually interesting part with the ritual too quickly. The protagonist doesn’t react to any of the weird stuff that’s happening around him; it’s OK if he shrugs it off as “hey, it’s a job” but some emotion after a bunch of people get swallowed up by the earth would give him more of a character.

Captain_Indigo - The terror of the Cosmo-Khan:
Right away the story establishes itself as pulp sci-fi. The characters of the alien and the mushroom man are good, but their conversation is fairly one-note up until the ending. After the reveal, I reread the story and while there were a few hints, it was a little confusing that the alien very clearly refers to himself as the Cosmo-Khan. As the alien didn’t seem to know about the mushrooms before arriving, he goes a little too quickly to the new plan of “kill himself and torture the old man forever.” And the old man is so emotionless throughout the story that his fear at the end feels almost out of place. That said, I did enjoy reading this story and liked the imagery of the alien and the mushroom planet.

BabyRyoga - Big Rite in Little Vietnam:
Another wild story that aimed for genre-comedy-horror. It worked better than Athos and the Living Dead because the over-the-top noir tone is more consistent and true to the genre it’s parodying. However, the names really threw me out of the story. Our protagonist being named “Narc” gave me expectations that there would be some kind of betrayal, which didn’t happen. “Jacob Ladder” made me think of the horror film, which doesn’t fit his character either. And “Thighs Mcgillicutty” is just ridiculous. In addition to the confusing characters, the plot is hard to follow so everything that happens seems random and without significant impact. The line “I'm only sure of three things in this world, Narc, Death, Taxes, and DON'T EVER READ loving LATIN OUT LOUD” did make me smile, though.

sebmojo - Grandpa wouldn’t let us into his study when we used to come over after school.:
This story does a great job of establishing the atmosphere and suitably creepy set-up around the study and Grandpa, but the ending didn’t pay off. I was looking for something spooky, like the kid gets sucked into the book where Grandpa rules as some eldritch being, but instead the kid … becomes the Grandpa? That confusion broke my suspension of disbelief and led me to go back and question everything else, like where are their parents? Why does the kid keep writing in the book when it’s erasing his memory? If his memory is erased, how can he be narrating the story? I’m sure a satisfying ending to the story does exist, but this isn’t it.

rohan - Full-Sensory Experience:
The first paragraph is very cyberpunk, but I’m still not sure I fully understand the protagonist’s reaction in the second paragraph. The story tries to cover a lot of ground, with a lot of characters and backstory, and some important information gets lost. We get the sense that the protagonist is a fan and friend of the band, but I’m still unclear who the heck Miles is and Liz is unnecessary as Miles also gets murdered at the end. I predicted that Kimiko had killed her bandmates pretty early on, so that wasn’t much of a twist. The bodyswap is horrifying in concept, but the protagonist experiencing both her body and his body muddled this scene. With a bigger word count, I think this would be a really fun cyberpunk story.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




in

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.



Signups are closed. Best of luck!

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


Now that I can talk about it publicly I'd just like to share a little TD win story in the thread since I'm only around at Weird Hours on the Discord.

A couple years ago, a cosmic horror Thunderdome story I reworked into a slightly longer piece and published on Surreptitious Muffin's magazine won that award down here in NZ for best SFF short story. I left it in my pinned tweet on Twitter for a while where it got read/commented on/shared by some lovely and occasionally high profile people as my profile as an author grew due to other stuff (getting an agent, teaching at Clarion West, publishing more, doing games work). One thing led to another and I am very happy to say that...

My week #324 story, The Sound, led to me meeting the team and eventually working on Darkest Dungeon 2! Chase your dreams, goons.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






Anomalous Blowout posted:

Now that I can talk about it publicly I'd just like to share a little TD win story in the thread since I'm only around at Weird Hours on the Discord.

A couple years ago, a cosmic horror Thunderdome story I reworked into a slightly longer piece and published on Surreptitious Muffin's magazine won that award down here in NZ for best SFF short story. I left it in my pinned tweet on Twitter for a while where it got read/commented on/shared by some lovely and occasionally high profile people as my profile as an author grew due to other stuff (getting an agent, teaching at Clarion West, publishing more, doing games work). One thing led to another and I am very happy to say that...

My week #324 story, The Sound, led to me meeting the team and eventually working on Darkest Dungeon 2! Chase your dreams, goons.

Someday someone is going to get on a talk show and have to explain Thunderdome rip

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


Sitting Here posted:

Someday someone is going to get on a talk show and have to explain Thunderdome rip

So, Miss Winfrey, I got my start on this forum where everyone shits their pants...

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021




Grandpa of the Light
1495 words


“She’s gone. My Wife is gone.”
This very thought hit James Maxwell for the first time in sixty years. He always thought he would always have Nancy, but he was just fooling herself. That’s how things go, I guess. One or the other. Not both. James thought. He has heard of his fellow seniors suffering from loneliness, how they eventually went mad until their death. That is, if they died of natural causes. Is this how I’m going to spend the rest of my life?

Alone?


After the funeral, James met with his friends and family. For the most part, they reminisced about Nancy, while James was asked time and time again if he was okay. And time and time again, he had to lie and say that he was. Yes, he lost the love of his life. Yes, he missed her dearly. But for James, the most pressing concern he had was: What the hell do I do now? While eating at a local restaurant, one of his grandsons pulled him aside.

“Excuse me, Grandpa.” Said the grandson, whose name was Chad, “I heard of some things about Old People being lonely, and I think I might have an idea.”

“Oh?” Said James. “And what might that be?”

“Perhaps you can join me and Dave in this MMO I am playing?”

“The Blazes is an MMO?”

“It’s the kind of game where many people play at the same time and interact with each other!”

“Oh? And what is this game you speak of?”

“It’s called Azorian Legends, it’s really cool!” James could see the glimmer in his eyes when Chad talked about the game. He mentioned that he, Dave, and their friends are part of a guild called the Wombats. Chad heard from his friends in the guild about how old people can be quite lonely, so some of them (James figured that it might have been a joke) suggested inviting him to the game. Bless his heart. Thought James. He figured that if folks like Chad and Dave could find friends there, perhaps he won’t be so lonely.
“Alright, I think I’ll install it on that computer your dad game me for Christmas.” James said. Chad looked surprised at James’ response. He soon after went back to their family. Bill, their dad, figured that James would need to figure out his taxes ‘the modern way’, so he game James and Nancy a PC for Christmas. Admittedly, Nancy was the one who mostly used it. Might as well make sure it doesn’t gather dust. James thought.

After what seemed like forever, James first logged into Azorian Legends later that day. After calling Chad and asking what server they were on, James went and created his character. He created a Gunslinger Dwarf by the name of Olde Fella. He remembered hearing of how Dwarves were bearded drunks who got into fights a lot. My kind of guys. Thought James. He explored the tutorial, and while at first, he had trouble, he eventually got the hang of things. Through Chad and Dave James learned about the most basic types of units. The self-explanatory healers and damage dealers, and the tanks. The tanks were the ones that makes sure no one gets hurt, and if they screw up, that’s what the healer is for. “Are healers supposed to do damage as well?” James asked the boys through audio chat.

“Yeah, but don’t tell them that.” Dave said.

“Heh. Reminds me of your mother.” All three of them laugh. It was through this first play session that James started to bond with his grandsons. Looking back, it was the best moment of each of their lives.

Little did Chad and Dave know; James spent some time in Azoria by himself. It was there that he further explored what the world had to offer. When James talked to his real-life friends, he would indirectly tell others of his time there by saying stuff that was technically true. For example, there was a time when he fought monsters that looked like cabbages.

“Did some gardening.”

There was also a time when he was part of a role play where he went to a Bar and chatted with the denizens.

“Had a pint with the lads.”

He also bore witness to what was known as “Erotic Role Play” and laughed, realizing that those that do it here didn’t know a drat thing about sex.

“Laughed at some awful Teen Comedy.”

James wanted to fully explore the world of Azoria, even the parts that were not handled by those who created the game. What he found was quite fascinating, and more. He even did some exploring in dungeons with fellow Wombats. Nonetheless, he also spent time to play with Chad and Dave as well.

One day, James received a call from Dave. The Wombats needed help in a certain raid that the guild was having trouble with. The main challenge came from the raid’s final boss, ‘Ragfrit, the Primal Fire’. James hadn’t been in a raid before, but he also knew that he would never abandon his family. “I’ll be right there.” James said, as he searched for info on Ragfrit online. Years ago, Bill showed him and Nancy how to use the internet. If anyone told James that he was going to use it to find info on an MMO, he would have found them mad.

Later, The Wombats, James among them, went into the raid. They fought through all the trash mobs and mid-bosses until Ragfrit himself. James then explained through the voice chat what he found online about their fiery foe. He spoke to them in a manner of an army commander briefing on a mission, calmly, but effectively. He told them what the tank needed to do, as well as the healers and the damage dealers. After James’ explanation, everyone knew what to do. During the fight, James barked out orders like a drill sergeant. By then, James was a fully respected member of the Wombats, and he considered him as much as their grandpa as Chad and Dave. They were all determined not to let him down.

After their fiery foe had fallen. The Wombats Guild Leader congratulated everyone and gave the honor of James to pass out the loot. When they came to the mount, every member of the Wombats agreed that James should have it, since it was thanks to him that they won. James felt like he was part of something great, like when he led men back in Vietnam. The major difference was that the Wombats were more organized, and the cause was worth something. The Wombats knew that Rafrit was but one foe, and that there were many more to come. The Wombats expressed that they would depend on James for the next raid. Nonetheless, James and the Wombats would continue their adventures for many more times to come.

Years had passed. Azorian Legends was still around but was past it’s prime (The fate of many MMOS.). On the game’s official forum, the following post was made:

“Hello! My name is Chad Davidson. Me and my brother Dave were part of the guild Wombats along with my grandpa. Well, unfortunately, my grandpa passed away recently from cancer. He told the family before he died about his time with the game, and how he found it to be the best times of his life after grandma passed away. He also talked about his experiences in the game when Dave and I weren’t online, including ERP! (It was never too serious, plus he mentioned that those that did it knew nothing about sex.) He mentioned that, while he cherished his time in Azoria, he also cherished us much more. Do any of you remember him? He was known as Olde Fella in game. Thanks for the help!”

Soon after, posts remembering him began flowing in:

“loving. Legend.”

“He was like the grandpa I never knew!”

“Major part of the Wombats!!!”

“Kindest person I ever met! T_T”

“He ain’t dead, he just faded away!!!”

Chad showed the thread to the family. They were in tears over how loved he was in the game. They saw that James truly made an impact on the world of Azoria.
Later on it was decided that a memorial would be held by him in game. Chad and Dave logged on to their characters for the first time in years. When they went to the meeting spot, they were amazed at how many people were there. Former and current Wombats, along with many others James met during his times in Azoria. Their parents saw the memorial and were in tears throughout. They knew of James Maxwell: father, grandfather, husband. But they now knew of Olde Mann: Champion of the Light, Member of the guild Wombats, player of Azorian legends. They saw that he was many things, but they were truly happy that there was one thing he was not.

Alone.

Albatrossy_Rodent
Oct 5, 2021


The right hand lies!

1314 words

Michael enters our townhouse wearing a big shiny Michigan State jersey, the first time I've seen him in anything but a thrift-store button-down and matching thrift-store tie.

"Welcome!" says my wife Toni, giving him a hug. He hugs her back, though his left arm is slower than his right; a symptom of the surgery, I reckon. Toni's actually excited to see him. She was referring to him by the vilest insults imaginable just a month ago. Our sixteen-year old son DeAnthony shakes his hand with a smile that certainly looks genuine.

I'd spent a lot of time thinking of Michael as an rear end in a top hat, the guy determined to prove that DeAnthony's slipping grades had nothing to do with the accident, that our insurance shouldn't cover any more treatment for a traumatic brain injury. But in the phone call last week, after he got out of surgery, he seemed genuinely apologetic. He was scared that if he couldn't find any liars, he'd lose his job, and it broke his heart trying to prove that DeAnthony was lying.

"It means a lot to me that you're having me over," says Michael. "I haven't gotten to see an actual U-of-M fan's tears in far too long."

We had noticed the Michigan State bumper stickers on his beat-up Camry. Both Toni and I had met at the University of Michigan, so we invited him over for the football game to show him it was all cool.

"And you're going to have to wait even longer!" I say, attempting to signal lighthearted jock keyfabe. Just an hour ago, I had gone to the Wikipedia page for "gridiron football" and now hope I can correctly identify when Michigan achieves a "first down."

Michael eyes the layout of wings, chips, and guac on our coffee table. I worry momentarily about coming across as a Christian making matzah-ball soup for Jews, but Michael asks politely if he may eat, then sits down on the couch with our assurances he may. He compliments our good taste in restaurants to order wings from.

Michael's left hand pulls his phone from his pocket, and his right swiftly comes to take it away.

"Sorry," says Michael. "I was warned this could happen when I had the surgery. It feels like the left side of my body has a mind of its own when it wants to. Still worth it to not have to worry about the seizures." He'd had a corpus collosotomy, separating his brain's right hemisphere from the left. The part of him that's talking to us is the right side of his body and his brain's left hemisphere; the left side of his body is something else, some vague echo of consciousness bouncing around half a disconnected brain.

DeAnthony and I sit beside him, Toni takes the armchair. As the first quarter plays, Michael is intensely invested, occasionally checking his fantasy teams on his phone. But he still has time to talk, and I'm a little shocked that the same pushy bureaucrat we knew is so kind, funny, and charming. And despite how little I know about where the ball is going and why, I start having fun, feeling real excitement when an announcer declares a first down for Michigan.

"Thanks again for having me over," says Michael as the first quarter ends. "Can't say it isn't a little weird. Who invites over their insurance adjuster? Especially after I was such a dick to you."

"It's nothing," says DeAnthony. "You were doing your job."

"Yeah, but maybe this kind of job shouldn't exist," says Michael. "As soon as my medical leave ends, I'm switching to anything else. I dunno, the antique store on Sixth has a help wanted sign."

"So you're out?" says Toni. "Out for good?"

"Yep. One hundred percent."

Toni smiles deviously. "So that means we can tell you the truth?"

"You don't have to go into it, Toni," I say.

"Yeah she does," says DeAnthony, a little chuckle rising to his lips. "We lied."

Michael laughs. "I knew it! I goddamn knew it!"

"There's more to it than that," I say. "Look, we knew the shock and trauma had more to do with the decline in grades than the concussion. But the insurance sure as hell wasn't going to pay for the counseling, but if he was being treated for a TBI, then maybe he could get a waiver for some folks to come help him with his everyday tasks."

"You're all good, Lyndsey," says Michael. "I'm not mad at all. Maybe the rear end in a top hat part of me was all in the right hemisphere." He shrugs his left shoulder to wave his arm, but the left hand doesn't seem to want to wave. "Hey! Game's back on. Go Spartans!"

And we're back into it. The Wolverines score a touchdown, then almost immediately catch an interception and run it back for another touchdown. Michael curses through his own laughter and mouthful of wings.

At halftime, Michael asks us where our bathroom is.

"Oh, so you need a moment to wipe your tears," I cackle. "Down the hall, second door on the right."

He goes down the hall rather quickly. He must really have to go. It makes sense; he's had more than his share of the wings.

Toni, DeAnthony, and I watch some guys sit around half a table talk about some things we barely understand.

"Michael's been in there a while," says Toni. "Is he okay?"

"Yeah, I kinda need to piss," says DeAnthony.

"Ugh, I'll check on him," I say. It's a little hard to get up from the couch with a tummy full of nachos, but I make my way to the bathroom.

I knock. "Halftime's almost over! I don't want you to miss any more of Michigan State getting their rear end kicked!"

"One more second please!" says Michael.

"Come on, DeAnthony needs to piss!"

"Okay, okay," he says. He opens the door and shuts it quickly behind him. He's in just a white T-shirt now, and he's clutching his Michigan State jersey against his right arm.

"Oh my God!" I yell. I pull the jersey away and reveal a gushing wound. Michael starts to cry.

"I'm sorry!" he whimpers. "My left hand just grabbed one of your razors and went wild!"

"It's okay," I say. "Get to the couch. Toni has a first aid kit in her car. We'll be just fine."

I open the bathroom door. The mirror has been hastily wiped down, but I can still see the message written in blood.

LIAR

I step out. "DeAnthony, go pee."

As soon as he enters I hear an "oh Jesus Christ!"

We soothe Michael as Toni wraps his bandages. It's okay, Michael. The rear end in a top hat really is all in your right hemisphere.

Understandably, he just wants to go home. He tries to call a Lyft, but Toni insists on calling it herself. We finish the game; Michigan State comes back to win, 24-21.

The next week, we try to call Michael to invite him to another game, the Lions vs. the Bears. He doesn't pick up the phone. A month later he goes back to work at the insurance company, tells them that DeAnthony was faking a TBI, and leaves us with the bill.

I've cleaned the mirror well, but when the room steams up after a hot shower, you can still make out LIAR in the condensation on the glass. When I first saw it, I thought that Michael's left hand was trying to the right that we were liars who deserved to get caught. But now I realize the message was for us, to warn us who we were watching football with. The left hand was doing us a kindness by smearing blood all over our bathroom. It was the right, the side that won unfortunate control over his weaselly mouth, that betrayed us.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





The Ladder
1377 words
Serial killer

I grinned as I dumped the body of my latest victim into the dumpster behind the nightclub. This one, a bigwig with a gold Rolex watch, had nearly tanked my deal with his company over some unimportant contract clauses. Power-tripping rear end in a top hat. It felt so good to track him down a few months later, corner him while he drunkenly pissed in the alley, and strangle him to death. The recognition then terror in his eyes had been delicious, just as much as all the other ones I’d killed over the years. The first few times I’d been a nervous wreck, but now I had murder down to a science. Holding my nose, I covered the body with bulging trash bags, then ripped one open to mask the stench. He wouldn’t be found for weeks. I glanced at my watch and cursed. How had it gotten so late? I had an important meeting with my biggest client tomorrow. I hurried home to shower and rest.

#

“And you’re sure you can’t drop the price by another 2%?” the client’s representative asked. I think his name was Scott. “We’ve been loyal customers and it would be great if that was rewarded.” He sat back, looking as smug as a pig in poo poo. He knew I needed this renewal more than they did. I hated him.

“As it states in the contract, the loyalty discount has already been applied to the price,” I said through gritted teeth. “The overall increase is because you are receiving all of the new features we’ve developed over the past year, at a significant discount compared to new clients.” Despite my frustration, I stuck to my sales script. It served me well in both making sales and preventing me from gouging his eyes out with my pen.

Scott shook his head. “I’m afraid we don’t have any additional budget for your service.” This was a lie, the company had recorded record profits last quarter. Then, the final blow. “I understand that perhaps you cannot negotiate on price. I’d like to speak to your supervisor, see what they can do for us.” There went my commission, over an amount that would be a rounding error on the company’s finances. With further no reason to be there, I stood up abruptly, remembered to shake his hand, and retreated from his office, seething. I made note of the sports bar across the street where people from that company had happy hour drinks. The client will be getting a visit from me in the future. Maybe I would gouge his eyes out after all.

#

I arrived back in the office, walking past all my fellow sales drones in identical cubicles. I hated them too: their passive acceptance of their lot in life, masked with inane chats about sports and families, drove me crazy. Their response to overtime requests or unreasonable clients was merely a shrug of acquiescence. Sometimes I wondered if they were even sentient at all. Of course, I had to pretend to be one of them when the situation called for it. I studied the local sports teams so I could make polite conversation, but always turned down invitations to join the office fantasy leagues. I didn’t need fantasies, I had my work.

A meeting request from the VP of sales waited in my inbox. I went to her glass-box office, irrationally nervous I’d be fired for killing off clients. “Take a seat,” the VP said, then, “Donnie’s been promoted to regional manager at our other branch. As a long-serving employee, we’d like you to take over his duties here as the new sales manager.”

Dealing with more people all day, pretending to be normal? It sounded like a nightmare, but I knew a normal person wouldn’t turn it down. “What a great opportunity,” I said. Opportunity was company-speak for anything from cake in the breakroom to losing a million-dollar contract.

“Great,” she said. “Sign this contract and we’ll introduce you to the team.”

I plastered a smile on my face as we went out to the cubicles to make the announcement. My former colleagues, now direct reports, lined up to shake my hand and congratulate me. I’d never received that much attention from them before and found their earnest stares uncomfortable. Disdain at their obsequiousness rose like vomit in my mouth, but I knew I couldn’t kill any of them. My only rule was don’t poo poo where you eat.

#

The first few weeks were torturous. I had to smile whenever someone came to me with an stupid question or unnessecary update. Most of my existing clients were split between three people, all of whom ignored my detailed notes and did a terrible job of handling their renewals. Worst of all, I was responsible for these peons and had to explain their failures to the VP.

The one bright spot was seeing Scott’s face when I told him that I was now the manager, and to accept our price or (politely) gently caress off. He quickly agreed to the existing terms and I left his office victorious. I was still planning to kill him, of course, but with all my new responsibilities it was hard to find the time.

After my success with Scott, I made an interesting observation. The ruder and more demanding I was, the more my direct reports strived to please me. I told Sarah her numbers were a little low this month, and she worked overtime to make them up the month after. I told Matt to start dressing more professionally in the office and he showed up the next week in ironed shirts and silk ties. I told an intern to get me a coffee, then complained that he was too slow. I had a fresh coffee waiting on my desk every morning after that.

Each little exercise of power sparked the pleasure center in my brain, an area previously reserved for watching a person die. Of course, killing was still the ultimate high: I especially enjoyed watching Scott bleed out behind his favorite sports bar. But he was my only target; I just didn’t have time to meet new clients. Whenever I got in my killing mood, I called for a team-wide meeting to lecture them about sales targets just to watch them squirm. It wasn’t quite the same as watching someone take their last breath, but it sustained me.

Finally, I found my high. Steven’s performance over the last two quarters had been lackluster and the call came down from the VP to fire him. I called him to my office and tried to be gentle. “I’m sorry Steven, but we’re going to have to let you go.”

His eyes widened. “Is it about my numbers? I’ll do better next quarter, I swear--”

I couldn’t stand begging. “It’s too late, Steve. Last quarter was your last chance.”

His eyes welled up and I felt a familiar stab of pleasure. “I didn’t know! My wife just had a baby…”

“I’m sorry, Steven,” I said again, this time with relish. “Please go pack your things, unless you want me to call security?”

He shook his head and scurried off. The whole office watched him pack his box and leave. I heard mutterings of sympathy but I felt only elation. That felt good, as good as killing.

#

After that, no one was safe from me. I took to firing any employee who annoyed me, and the performance of the remaining team increased as a result. I was feared around the office and any request I made was met immediately and with enthusiasm. This was eventually noticed by the VP and she called me to her office again. Nervous, as firings were much more visible than deaths, I took my seat.

“We’re impressed by your methods,” she said. “There’s an executive sales role available, would you like it?”

I thought about it. Executives only met with the most important clients, so killing them was probably off the table. Still, I would wield power over an entire office of salespeople, not just a team. Weighing my two roles, serial killer and manager, I found myself coming down on the side of the manager. Less risk and higher reward; the choice was obvious.

I grinned. “When do I start?”

ChickenOfTomorrow
Nov 11, 2012

god damn it, you've got to be kind



Flash: Private Investigator
Mr. Tlacuatzin
1418 words

"Even you can do this," Brian had said. "It's just a simple surveillance job. Sit on this malingering mailman, find intel that he's fit for work. You'll be done in a day,” he paused and narrowed his eyes. “Maybe two. Take the minivan and you could nap in the back if you get tired again."

He’d put on a stupid faux-concerned voice and clasped his hands, as if he wasn’t Mean Girls-ing me about dragging recently. You try supporting three kids while going through a divorce and learning a new job without being tired, Brian. But I took the goddamned minivan. Soccer mom vibes mean the neighbors won’t get heated, and that back bench seat’s good for surveillance. Not for napping.

The target haltingly emerged from the front door, using a hand to shield his eyes from the light. A long nose protruded from his scruffy white beard and his grey hair stuck up at all angles as he shuffled onto his porch to dig in the mailbox and grab the newspaper. Reminded me of the old homeless guy who rummages through our trash for aluminium cans. The way he moved, either that injury was bad or he was still remembering to fake it.

I investigated the docs in our discovery app and found a photo: a triangular bite to the calf. I could make out the imprints of many sharp teeth on the edge of the wound. Deep. Some tiny little yapping dog with long skinny jaws and a grip like a shark.

***

I wake up on the bench seat in streetlight-perforated darkness. gently caress! What time is it? The babysitter can only pick up my responsibilities until midnight, and - I look over to the dashboard clock, but my eye catches on a figure sneaking around the corner of the guy’s fence. He’s lost the limp and is moving with more purpose, but there’s that unmistakable long nose. It dominates his silhouette, looking more like a beak from this distance.

Perfect. I can get some pictures to toast this guy and get Brian off my back. I slip out of the van and hustle across the road, sidestepping a group of knocked over trash cans and pulling my camera app up as I slip onto the trail behind his house, looking for a shot.

Too dark. I can make him out scurrying ahead of me, grabbing something from the side of the trail and popping it into his mouth as he stoops under the branches that hang overhead, but the camera sees nothing. Something is dragging behind him, rustling and leaving a furrow in the mud. He slows, hunching, pauses at the edge of a puddle. He seems to be trembling now, almost cowering, down on all fours. I’m willing him to move forwards just a bit so I can get a photograph as he rolls sideways to collapse into the mix of leaves and mud on the side of the trail.

poo poo.

“You okay?” I call. “You need help?”

I rush up and crouch beside him. I reach for where his shoulder should be, but I can’t make sense of his anatomy in the dark, so I grab at his body and shake him. I roll him onto his back and turn his face towards me, a pale shape with a gaping drooling dark slit filled with sharp teeth. I hear his choking gasps, his hissing breath. Peer into his mouth to try to see what he’s choking on, but the light of the full moon isn’t strong enough, not like those noir books would have you believe. I need a red loving flashlight like we used for nightime nature walks.

In the beady black circles of his eyes I recognize the frightened animal look of fear. Nodding grimly, I push my hand into the maw. Gotta clear his throat. My fingers scrape on his teeth as I reach back. No! I should have swept a finger, like the baby first aid videos said. But he opens his mouth full wide - much too wide - and at the edge of the mass of frothing spit my fingertips feel something different, mushy, grainy.

I push further through the applesauce-thick goop and into the pulp behind. I touch something thick like rind, and I curl my fingers around and it moves, this chunk of apple slipping sideways, he’s gagging, hissing, his skinny arms flailing, the bristly fur on his scrawny hands scraping against my arm as he claws at me, my fingers in his throat as i try to sweep, grab it, catch an edge with my fingertips, rotate it, scrape the nail of my middle finger into flesh to pull it forwards, index finger hooking behind to wriggle the core, sliding it free of his throat. I scoop it forwards and out of his muzzle-like mouth and onto the mud of the trail and he gasps and I can start to breathe again too.

His head flops to the side, showing a large, wrinkled, black ear. Under the whiskers his face is obviously malformed, his jaw a pointed snout. He smells foul, too, and as my stomach churns I stand up and back up a step.

“Hey,” I insist. “Get up.”

He lies still. I watch his grotesque shape in the darkness, determine that he’s breathing slow and shallow, then nudge him with my foot.

“Stop playing possum and at least let me help you get indoors.”

The bile rises in my throat as I catch another wave of the inhuman stench. I turn away and vomit into the bushes before grabbing a Kleenex out of my sleeve and wiping my mouth. I notice the blood on my knuckles and rub them clean, too, wincing when I realize how badly they’re scraped.

When I turn back he’s gone, and I sag in relief.

He’ll recognize me if he sees me again, so I won’t be able to surveil him any more. I’m glad for an excuse to not see that monstrous face again, though getting burned on my first stakeout stings. But maybe this is a reason to stick to garbology, trash diving and scavenging for clues. Out at night, exploring, finding treasures in the trash. A nice regular gig. I hop into my car and comb through the litter in the passenger seat looking for a snack. I turn up the end of a burrito from yesterday and devour it in a couple of bites before rooting into the footwell and scraping together a handful of week-old french fries from the carpet.

The full moon seems brighter after I eat. I can see everything better, making my drive home smoother. Back at the apartment by midnight, I relieve the babysitter and hustle her to the door. I need to be alone. Solitary. Grabbing a handful of stale gummy worms from the cupboard, I head into the nursery and look at my babies.

I scoop one twin from their crib, hugging him against my body. He grumbles awake and begins to squall, but I hum to soothe him as I wrap the baby sling around us both.

“Hold on to mommy,” I whisper. “There you go. Isn’t that good? Climbing on mommy? Let’s get your sister up too.” She’s a deeper sleeper, and barely wakes as I lift her and wrap her into the sling’s cradling folds. Wearing both my babies, I can dip my head and inhale raw baby-head smell. The feeling of their small bodies on mine relieves an anxiety that had been building since I felt my knuckles scrape against those sharp teeth in that weirdly-shaped mouth.

My jaw aches remembering it, and I run my tongue over the sharp little teeth that crowd my mouth. My skin itches and I rub my wrist, raising my cuff to reveal greyish-brown fur. It feels strange, but natural.

I peer round the door into my eldest’s room and watch her sleeping. My shoulders prickle. It’s too late to sleep, this is prime tick hunting time and we should be outside.

“Wake up, little one,” I say, punctuating my words by clicking my tongue. “It’s time to go catch bugs. Come give mommy a hug,” I instruct as she rubs her eyes and toddles over to cling to my leg. “The moon’s beautiful. You want to go out and see it? Hop up and have a piggyback ride.”

I wrap my prehensile tail around the doorknob and open the front door purposefully as we head out to forage.

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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






Phone writing from within a power outage because lol if you fail over a mere bomb cyclone


Storm Eye Blind
Fewer than 1500 words

Fanny let herself into her apartment, then slumped numbly against the doorframe. Only the walls remained marginally intact, perhaps by virtue of the protective mounds of debris heaped up against them. The rest of she and Bruce's possessions were smashed beyond recognition.

She did the only thing there was to do, which was phone her best friend, Frida.

"Girl," she said when Frida answered the phone. "I don't know what the gently caress. I came home and the place looks like a storm blew through."

Frida was silent for a beat too long before saying, "God, are you okay?" And then, a little cautiously: "Is Bruce with you?"

"I don't think he was here when it happened, thank goodness," Fanny said, nudging a hump of debris with her foot. There didn't seem to be any mounds of shattered furniture dense enough to hide a Bruce-sized body.

"But you know where he is?"

"I know he's not here," Fanny said irritably. "Which I think we can both agree is a good thing, considering the absolute gale force state of the place."

"Fanny," Frida said with uncharacteristic gentleness, "didn't you tell me about that other time where—"

"That was different. I'd left the window open."

"—you came home and your building was buried under a hundred tons of Gulf Coast driftwood?"

"I left the window open and a little weather blew in," Fanny said. She was beginning to regret calling her friend. "And I think it's lovely that you try to link everything bad in my life back to Bruce. I never thought you'd be that friend."

There was silence on the line for a moment, the sort of encapsulated muteness of two people being quiet on the phone together. From Frida's end came the sudden sound of a television.

"Fanny, as much as I want to shrug this off, hang up, and wait for you to come to your senses, I can't. Someone is going to get hurt."

"People get hurt every day! You're honestly trying to pin an act of nature on my boyfriend. You're actually going there."

Frida went quiet again. The TV in the background got louder, as though she'd moved closer to the speaker.

Fanny was teeing up another scathing refutation of Frida's frankly unfair thesis that Bruce was somehow the cause of all the destruction when Frida made a shocked noise into the receiver.

"Fanny, you need to turn on the channel 3 news right the gently caress now."

"My TV is smashed to poo poo, in case you weren't paying attention to the literal premise of this entire conversation."

"Right. Right. Okay. I'm going to video chat you and show you my TV."

"I don't have time for—"

But Frida had already turned on her phone's camera, aimed it at the television. At first Fanny only perceived a white-blue square of light, but this resolved into the five o'clock weather report. The meteorologist stood in front of a green screened image of Florida, gesturing at something swirling upward from the gulf of Mexico.

"...and the governor has announced a statewide emergency in advance of the category five hurricane that the World Meteorological Organization has dubbed Hurricane Bruce..."

"I don't have to loving listen to this poo poo," Fanny said, and ended the call.

A moment later there came a knock at the door—probably those folks from FEMA again, Fanny thought ruefully. She decided she'd tell them to gently caress right off with their condescending little tents and food rations. Bruce had been tested by NOAA and scored a low 7 on the Beaufort wind force scale—hardly a hurricane. Some people just hated to see a happy couple, Fanny supposed.

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