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good luck to all you non-existent writers that are not entering this week because it doesn't exist
still need 1 more judge if you wanna judge the sexy duo of me and seb
crabrock fucked around with this message at 18:31 on Nov 6, 2021
|# ? Nov 6, 2021 07:08|
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 23:36|
I am judge (also sexy)
|# ? Nov 6, 2021 09:00|
coming monday or tuesday: thunderdome's sexiest results
|# ? Nov 6, 2021 18:32|
The Teacher Hunter
(Plabenie: a particular person or thing, pic of a teenage girl, a company that helps students learn about their schools.)
"It'll be eighty for Steinbronn, sixty for Lorentz, thirty for either Coville or Rusk. Others we can discuss on a case-by-case basis," said Jess.
"That's pretty steep, but I'm in," said Cole.
They were standing chest-to-chest in Mr. Schwark's art-room kiln. It was used far less often for baking clay than it was as a discreet place for students to gently caress during lunch. But Jess had come to think of it as her office, the only place she might talk to her clients without attracting the attention of the faculty.
"Who's the target?" Jess asked.
"Siebold," said Cole.
"Nope," said Jess. "Not her." Judy Siebold was drat near the only teacher Jess didn't have something on, be it a racist email or a list of every girl on the volleyball team ranked by fuckability.
"Come on," said Cole. "You must have something. She's such a bitch!"
It was widely known that Ms. Siebold was indeed a huge bitch. She taught remedial history, and made the class much much harder than regular history. Getting assigned to one of her classes was a permanently destroyed GPA at best and an academic expulsion at worst.
"Yeah, I know, but she's done nothing that could get her fired, and believe me, I've looked. You're not the only one who's been asking. I've gone as far as to stake out her house and dig through her trash. One of the easiest faculty emails to hack, and not a single one that wasn't boring work stuff. She's the worst, but she's clean."
"I'll pay three hundred," said Cole. "I was saving up for a new guitar, but if I flunk history, my dad might just disown me."
Pounding boomed from the door of the kiln. "Come on, there's only ten minutes left til fourth period! We wanna get a quickie in!"
Cole gave Jess an intense stare.
"I'll see what I can do," said Jess.
"The kids in Siebold's classes don't get their tests back, just their score. Lots of them feel confident after taking the test, then end up with an F. She might be doctoring the grades," said Ty. There was no clique, boys or girls, jocks or band geeks, that Ty didn't occasionally associate himself with, so he was Jess' first source of gossip.
"That doesn't even make sense," said Jess, leaning against the cold metal of the bleachers' underside. "Why would she go out of her way to make kids fail?"
"Drunk on the tiny amount of power being a high school teacher gives her, probably," said Ty. "If you can find those tests, you might have something."
"Well they're not in her desk or her trash. The only thing left to do is break into her house."
Ty started to laugh, but Jess cut him off.
"She takes twelve milligrams of Ambien a night. After she goes to bed at 9:30, she's out cold."
"drat, this lady really needs to shred her mail."
"She lives alone. No fancy security system. If I can get in, I'm in the clear. I just need you to tell me who in this school can pick a lock."
"Only one I know of is me," said Ty.
Jess jumped up from the bleacher and kissed him. Ty pushed her away.
"Jess," said Ty. "I uh, I get around. You can't string me along like I'm Gabe Johnson. I'm not going to break into a teacher's house on the vague promise of some rear end, not when I have several outstanding firm guarantees of rear end."
Jess smiled cutely. "Come on, you like me."
"That's beside the point. If I do this for you, I want everything you have on everybody. Let me run your plabenies directly to my people."
"Your people is everyone," said Jess.
"Right," said Ty. "You'll make more money on the cut I'll give you than what you're making now."
"That'll be a maybe. I can't make any promises," said Jess. "I can promise that we'll talk about it over Netflix and chill."
"gently caress," said Ty. "Guess I'm doing it."
It was darker than it usually was in Northgrove Heights, the deep rain obscuring the usual horizon glow of fast-food signs and freeway headlights. Jess had to sneak out proper this time; her stories of late-night study sessions with Casey were beginning to stretch believability.
Jess put away her umbrella as she got beneath Ty's. They approached the little house. Jess took the umbrella and stood watch as Ty struggled with the lock.
"What do we look for once we're inside?" said Ty.
"Laptops, papers, cell phones, any sort of odd plabenie you can think of. No idea if the evidence of the missing tests is going to be physical or digital." If the blackmail business had taught Jess anything, it was that everyone was blackmailable. Everyone had some secret they'd do anything to keep a secret.
"And--it's unlocked," said Ty, but before he could open the door, it opened from the other side.
"Jessica, Tyler, please come in," said Ms. Siebold, standing in the night-black doorway.
"Um, no, sorry to wake you, we were just--" Ty began, but he and Jess were grabbed by their arms from behind and shoved onto Siebold's entryway rug.
"Mr. Lorentz? Mr. Steinbronn?" Jess shouted.
The math teachers began zip-tying their students' wrists.
"I need to thank you, Jessica," said Siebold. "Grades at Northgrove High are at an all-time high. Seems like half the faculty have suddenly decided to start giving even their laziest, stupidest students glowing grades.
"I've known that it's been you supplying the student body with leverage for weeks now. I've seen the art room's security footage, I know who you've gone into that kiln with.
"We teachers have to defend our own. Mr. Steinbronn, Mr. Lorentz, strangle them, please. Blood doesn't come out of that rug easily."
Jess felt a cord tighten around her neck. She and Ty sputtered for air, but it was like there was no air anywhere at all. Jess' vision started to blur, and her thoughts and terrors melted away as the last of the blood oxygen danced away from her brain.
"You know, Cole, just about the easiest thing to hack on the school servers is student transcripts. You're not failing remedial history at all. You're rocking a ninety-two. She might be fixing everyone else's grades, but not yours. So why is bringing Siebold down worth three hundred bucks?" Jess and Cole walked towards Cole's car in the student lot.
Cole sighed. "She put me up to it. Said she'd fail me if I didn't. She wants you to stake out her house again. Has some sort of trap set."
"Trap? Like with cops?"
"Hell no," said Cole. "Steinbronn and Lorentz are in on it too. They know you'll spill everything if they send you to the police."
"Right," said Jess. "Go to Siebold's house tonight. Stay out of sight. If her trap is anything but a stern talking-to about the dangers of blackmail, do something about it."
"Why would I do that?" said Cole.
"Because you want to see that bitch go down as bad as I do. And I want every teacher at Northgrove to know what happens if they gently caress with me."
The door burst open, knocking both Lorentz and Steinbronn off their feet. Jess took the biggest, most delicious gasp of her life, then got to her feet, her arms still bound behind her back. Cole jumped at Steinbronn and knocked his knife away before he could unsheath it. As Lorenz tried to get to his feet, Ty rolled onto his back and kicked him in the jaw. Siebold unholstered a pistol from underneath her embroidery shawl. Jess charged her, headbutting her gut. She curdled over, dropping the gun onto the rug. Cole jumped at the gun and pointed it at Siebold.
"My phone's voice recorder was on this whole time," said Jess. "No blaming this on a breaking-and-entering."
"I say one word to the principal, and you're getting nothing but A's for the rest of your high school career," said Siebold.
"You're going to bribe us into forgetting you tried to murder us with grades?" said Ty. "Do better, please."
Cole dialed 911. He spoke to the dispatcher on speakerphone as he sawed through Jess' and Ty's bindings with Steinbronn's knife.
"So we're gonna get in trouble too, right? For all the blackmailing and burglary?" said Cole.
"Not likely," said Jess. "It's not like it's just been teachers I've been looking into. The cops have even juicier material."
"Say, when can I call in that business meeting?" said Ty. "And, you know, the Netflix and chill?"
Jess smiled. "Any drat time you want."
Then the cops rushed in, and other business would have to be tended to, for a moment.
|# ? Nov 7, 2021 05:10|
offered a crit a while ago and beezus asked. I then got suddenly insanely busy but now I'm only sanely busy
some line by line comments/suggestions here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ul0VrHECc68Wbixx3VhFqeUT4C2qoCZi9BF_w1CxodM/edit?usp=sharing
a bit of a "the machinist" plot where a guy did a bad thing and his grief fucks him all up and he can't really remember. so he flushes this dude out an airlock cause the dude's a straight up prick, then he gets sad/nuts from being alone and forgets. but the dead dude comes back and he's got like an alien in him now or something and he's like "nah i'm chill now lets eat cake all the time" and the guy is like "this is cool, but i'm still pissy so imma scream all the time for reasons" and the alien is like "yeah that's cool, i like to watch." then the screamy guy is like "you're alright, alien friend" and then he's like "but uh can i get your section's TPS reports?" and then the aliens are like gently caress OFF DAD and beat him up and strap him to a bed and maybe murder him?
I lost the plot towards the end. Ironically, that's when your writing started to get better and you started to show and describe interactions and what not. so the beginnign feels like you're struggling through it, trying to figure out wtf you're writing, then you get to describing the "now" and it's much better, but the plot also got murkier cause the POV char doesn't know what's going on, so the reader doesn't know what's going on. This kind of "mystery" feeling is tough to write. You have to find some kind of way to let me know what's going on without being like "AS THE OMNSICIENT WRITER, LET ME TELL YOU THE PLOT." i'm sure others have written on tricks for doing this, but you gotta make sure it happens cause righ tnow i'm like "uh, he felt some stuff and then went to sleep and maybe he's dead????"
I think you could spend more time showing some lovely interaction with the boss, then show the changed stuff, then show the end where he realizes what he's done and who he's actually with. Then the end comes and it makes more sense. describing all the hatred stuff as past tense was p boring and stilted, you wrote much better in the "present" because you weren't just telling me stuff. anyway, yeah, this was a pretty middling story that had some good parts toward the end that were ultimately dampened by the murky plot points.
|# ? Nov 7, 2021 05:29|
I’m sure I’ll regret this but reroll please
|# ? Nov 7, 2021 12:13|
I’m sure I’ll regret this but reroll please
|# ? Nov 7, 2021 18:26|
This is Bill. Bill was a recent customer for chemtrials.com.
Where did you first hear of chemtrials.com?
Well, it all started when I went over to my daughter Jo’s school to pick her up. Before I took her home, her teacher pulled me aside and told me of a problem she had. She had been constantly scratching at her throat. At first, she didn’t take notice of it, but when her teacher saw her scratch more and more often, and it started to worry her. I heard scratching noises all the way home. When she later said stuff like, “Daddy, it hurts!” I knew I had to do something. So, I went to the doctor. He said she had something called Christophascia, the kind of itching caused by sore throats. The doctor warned me that if it wasn’t treated, she might scratch hard enough to pierce the skin and, well…you can probably guess what happens next.
The doctor then told you about us, correct?
Not at first, but after he saw that I would do anything to help my little girl, he told me about it. But he warned me that some of the stuff they sell aren’t FDA-approved yet. He also warned me that there isn’t any ‘legal stuff’ that could help Jo, so he told me about you guys.
What medicine did you get?
Well, am I allowed to mention it?
If you can’t, we will censor it in the ad. Feel free to mention it!
Okay. It was something called [REDACTED]. It apparently has some kind of side effect of giving birth to a dinosaur, but at that time, I was desperate to try anything, even if it meant getting a dino grandchild.
Did it work?
Oh, most certainly! Jo rarely, if ever, scratches her neck anymore! Sure, she has some dinosaur DNA in her now, but at least she seems to be living like a normal girl again. And I have you guys to thank for it. Thank you!
Bill is one of many proud customers who purchased a trial from chemtrials.com. At chemtrials.com, we only prepare clinical trials that are ready to be tested on humans. For more information, go to chemtrials.com. Chemtrials.com: Saving lives, no matter the cost.
|# ? Nov 7, 2021 22:45|
Crap, I forgot the title. Whoever's editing, please add:
Chemtrials.com Testemonial Interview #133769
|# ? Nov 7, 2021 22:47|
VERY SMALL STAKES
The secret of Dorothea’s success was her ergonomic keyboard. Every second counted at WeVizThat Corporation, which measured worker productivity in seconds. Of course her coworkers understood the polite fiction and its implication that Dorothea was simply better than them. Just as in turn Dorothea understood “Still number one after all these years, Ms. Dorothea?” meant “Stop loving us and retire.”
Things had soured for the worse after last month’s productivity guillotine. The well-liked Mackie had scored below the cutoff, and for him that meant the dreaded Occupational Reassessment Bureau. Murmurs of “he’s in the bitcoin mines” whenever Dorothea got coffee. The curve for the cutoff, as always, had been set by her high score.
It was true that Dorothea was almost two decades past the retirement age of forty. She could leave whenever to transition into citizenship and relaxation, even if she were cut in a productivity guillotine. But as Dorothea gladly told the coworkers whenever they got shirty, she never let anyone bully her and she’d keep going as long as she could keep it up. What she didn’t mention was that with the help of the secret coelocanthic pills, she would never slack.
Today the annual replacement cohort had arrived. All young, wary of each other and the WeVizThat vets, but their faces not yet hardened from the guillotines. They’d be fine, thought Dorothea. Inevitably they would bond over hating her.
From behind her: “Wilfrid. You deserve our very best. You’ll sit with Ms. Dorothea. She tags volcano data.” Ominous chuckling.
“A fellow red-head!” beamed the new recruit, pointing at Dorothea’s head and his own. She kept tapping furiously at her keyboard. Feeling awkward, Wilfrid looked away, his gaze falling on the only thing on Dorothea’s desk: a golden frog figurine the size of a dinner plate. “An African bullfrog! The king of frogs!” He was beaming again. “I’m so glad you don’t have a silly tree frog.”
“Clock’s running. You’d better get tagging.” But Dorothea smiled.
On Dorothea’s screen the pictures came in unbroken waves and as fast as she could she tapped keys to tag them hot, cold, burning, lava domes, cinder cones, a million different things. In the pictures came from somewhere unknown (satellites? data scraping? other people?) and her tags went through the system to another set of people who would do something with them. She had no clue what, or why WeVizThat needed people on keyboards to do this. Nor did she care. All she knew was she was somewhere in the unfathomably long and complex factory line that eventually churned out glorious bars, graphs, charts, arc diagrams, donut charts, dot maps, gantt charts, network diagrams, radial columns, spiral plots, sunbursts, all things and all shapes, that WeVizThat sold to someones somewhere. Tap-tap-tap-tap. With incredible concentration. Seconds mattered, seconds mattered.
The others invariably found it tedious but the coelocanthic pills had long ago suppressed that part of Dorothea’s brain. Image, tap, go, repeat, four hours a shift, three shifts a day.
A few days of tap-tap-tap-tap before Wilfrid ventured, “I wanted to study frogs.”
“I did study frogs,” said Dorothea, “in university.”
“The budget for frog studiers went from three to two,” pause, “and I was third. It was here or social media review.”
“I was five thousandth,” said Wilfrid, “so it was here or the mines.”
“Lucky us,” said Dorothea.
At their breaks Wilfrid would hang around her. He was the only one. It seemed all he knew about was frogs. For even Dorothea this became wearisome, but a part of her brain told her: be nice to him. Help him. He’s better than no one.
Three months since Wilfrid started and it was his first productivity guillotine. Dorothea was anxious. She had been giving him tips to speed up but he still seemed slow. It was impossible to tell.
At the guillotine ceremony, the WeVizThat banners flapped majestically in the auditorium’s artificial wind. On the overhead screen appeared Dorothea’s score, visualized as a donkey: 5,948,000. No one was quite sure how the scores were calculated.
The next high score (shown as the donkey’s leg) was a little over 1,000,000. Groans throughout the room.
Cutoff: 500,000. Wilfrid’s score: 505,021. Relief for Wilfrid, and also Dorothea.
More guillotines came and Wilfrid made the cuts. Always barely.
Dorothea was slowing. Just a little, but she’d noticed. Of course that was impossible with the pills. Something held her back from going more quickly.
One day Dorothea had to renew her voluntary work permit. It was the first shift she’d missed in a while. The clerk at the permit office was new and examined her records suspiciously. “Totally voluntary . . . don’t understand why you aren’t a citizen yet . . . absolutely ridiculous . . . waste of my time . . .” After triple verifying, he sent her off.
Back at WeVizThat Dorothea saw Wilfrid chatting with a crowd of coworkers. He waved. She felt a strange ache inside. Afterwards she thought she felt a coolness from him but it was probably nothing.
On their next break, he was going on about ancient alien frogs.
“What did they say about me?” she asked suddenly.
Wilfrid, taken aback: “Nothing.”
Dorothea insisted and this went on until he suddenly looked tired. “Why are you still here?” he asked. “You’re killing me. You’re killing everyone.” Shoulders stooped in defeat, his young face anguished. She was taken aback by the transformation. “I’ve realized that I don’t know how I’ll make it to forty doing tap-tap-tap-tap. Twenty more years. I think I’m losing my mind. You could retire tomorrow and be a citizen. Can you imagine that? Instead you’re here setting a ridiculous curve for our cutoffs.” He began to leave.
“I won’t be bullied,” she called lamely after him.
“I know your last friend was guillotined,” he shouted back. “By your own score.”
“She retired–” He was already gone.
Unpleasant, but Dorothea supposed she and Wilfrid were friends, which was nice. Friend or not, Wilfrid didn’t speak to her for a month. Dorothea found it amiably awkward, an unfamiliar sensation.
A week before the next guillotine, she noticed Wilfrid was agitated, typing slowly even for him. On her way to the bathroom, overhearing murmurs in the coffee room: “The cutoffs have been raised. The ghouls at Reassessment need more flesh.”
She slapped the back of Wilfrid’s chair. “Start tagging.”
A shrug in response.
“Let me go to the mines.”
“You can catch up.”
“Not anymore. Not even if you stopped right now and I tagged faster than ever.” She looked at him for a time, her hands off her keyboard. It was still early before the guillotine, she decided. He had time.
The next days were the same.
Now a couple days before the guillotine, their last break that night, nearly midnight. In a secluded part of the WeVizThat compound Dorothea carefully showed Wilfrid the coelocanthic pills hidden in the African bullfrog figurine. As she explained it, extremely expensive, extremely rare, very secret, whatever, just listen. “They suppress a part of the brain. You become . . . simpler. The coel- . . . forget it. Nothing magic here. You just get focused. You care less.” All becomes bearable, she thought.
“Where’d you get these?”
“Someone who didn’t need them gave them to me a long time ago. She told me to pass them on to someone worth it when I was up for retirement. But I was not to waste them.” Dorothea laughed. It seemed so stupid now that she said it aloud. “I think I waited too long. Harder and harder to find anyone worth giving them to. I promised her and I couldn’t break that and now I’ve done it. And you must too. Just don’t wait as long as me.”
The obvious question from Wilfrid: “Why me?” The pills in working their miracles over the years had regulated her brain through the myriad cells and functions touched by the coelum until Dorothea had reached a sort of transcendent atavistic state. Blessed simplicity, all excess stripped away. One moment to the next, no anxiety, just tap-tap-tap-tap.
It also meant she couldn’t answer properly. “It’s a strange gift,” she replied evasively. No sequence of events pushing her actions and no future ones pulling them. No destiny. She was a cog just as they were both cogs at WeVizThat and the moment had arrived in her coglike advance in time where she was handing the golden bullfrog figurine to Wilfrid.
At the next productivity guillotine, Dorothea’s score was a little less than usual. The cutoffs, heightened, claimed their victims for the Occupational Reassessment Bureau. With the pills Wilfrid managed to scrape past. Dorothea knew that next time it would be Wilfrid who set the curve. The cogs at WeVizThat turned and turned. As if nothing had happened. In a way, nothing really had.
She would file her retirement papers that afternoon, Dorothea decided. For citizenship and frogs.
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 00:33|
less than 1500 words
look just leave my garden alone
flerp fucked around with this message at 20:22 on Dec 31, 2021
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 01:29|
Kat Peyton was obsessed with “guerilla music.” It was the newest fad in the post-COVID world.
Any speaker connected to the internet was a potential target. Someone might be sitting alone at home and suddenly, out of nowhere, music starts playing! It might be classical music or heavy metal or hip hop, but it was sure to startle the crap out of whoever was around.
Kat logged into her preferred guerilla music website. The first and the best: GuerillaMusic dot com.
“Over fifty million devices connected!” boasted the site’s tagline. A real time counter tracked the number of web-connected devices with which GuerillaMusic could interact.
Kat dragged and dropped the MP3 file for “Macarthur Park” into her playlist and hit play. The website sent Kat’s song to a randomly-selected speaker somewhere in the world.
“Now playing in… Brunei,” the website informed her.
Imagine how confused and freaked out you’d be if you were in Brunei buying fish or something and minding your own business when suddenly “Macarthur Park” started blasting over the PA!
With the click of a button, Kat could bring music to the farthest corners of the world. She was an agent of karma sending out ripples that could change the course of entire lives.
When she was having a good day, she played happy, cheerful music to bring joy and laughter. She was partial to Katrina and the Waves because she shared a first name with the lead singer. It made her happy to picture someone feeling down when all of a sudden their radio starts playing “Walking on Sunshine.” The universe was sending them a signal to cheer up!
When Kat was feeling sad, she played Emo music. When she was feeling mischievous, she played Weird Al Yankovic.
She giggled to herself. Those people would never know it had been Kat Peyton of Scrump, Ohio who’d interrupted their regularly scheduled elevator music to bring them a bit of Weird Al.
Sometimes she imagined her song playing in an empty house from a smart speaker left on while the owner was at work. She thought about the music playing to the empty air, creating an island of song in an ocean of silence. Maybe the house isn’t empty and there’s a startled dog barking furiously at “My Sharona.”
She always listened for the whole song, immersing herself in the thought that she was sharing an experience—a connection—with someone else thousands of miles away.
Kat’s mother had been fond of saying, “The energy you put out into the world comes back ten times over.”
Kat thought about that every time she pushed the play button on GuerillaMusic dot com. When she sent out more happy songs, Kat felt happiness washing over her. Everyone she met seemed to be in a good mood, as if they’d all just heard the song she’d played for them. Maybe they had.
Kat uploaded song after song, addicted to the thrill of playing god. She wiled away whole hours at work, just uploading songs for GuerillaMusic to play to the world.
Donna, Kat’s friend, had once dabbled in guerilla music as well, but her interest had waned after a week or so.
“Why do you spend so much time on that site?” asked Donna. The middle-aged redhead sipped her coffee and frowned down at the indicator sliding across the GuerillaMusic progress bar. “You know you can just listen to the music on your player, right?”
“But this way I know I’m listening to the song with someone else somewhere in the world,” said Kat. “That makes it more special.”
Unfortunately, not everyone in the world was as enamored with guerilla music as Kat. People didn’t like their speakers getting hacked. GuerillaMusic dot com exploited several security flaws in web-connected devices that could be used for more sinister purposes than just playing music.
Software companies rushed to implement patches that would lock out guerilla music exploits for good.
“It’s not fair!” cried Kat. “What’s their problem with bringing a little music into the lives of strangers?”
“I think it’s more the invasion of privacy people take issue with,” suggested Donna.
Kat watched in dismay as the GuerillaMusic counter for connected devices dwindled away. The numbers plunged faster than a coked-up plumber.
“Over twenty million devices connected!”
“Over ten million devices connected!”
“Over one million devices connected!”
One advice from the internet, Kat tried a few of the alternate guerilla music websites because some of them supposedly used different methods to bypass security that hadn’t been patched yet. It worked for a while, but she was used to GuerillaMusic’s interface and the alternate sites weren’t faring much better anyway. Soon all the major security exploits had been patched and all that remained were a handful of devices too primitive to accept software patches. Most of those were just disconnected from the internet.
GuerillaMusic was down to just six thousand connected devices worldwide.
Kat was inconsolable.
“Six thousand is still a lot,” said Donna.
“But there’s more than sixty thousand guerilla music users out there!” complained Kat. “These speakers must be going off every day! If anyone cared they’d be disconnected by now.”
“Maybe they haven’t disconnected because they really enjoy hearing random songs at all hours of the day,” suggested Donna.
“Maybe, but they’re all in other countries it looks like!” complained Kat, determined not to let Donna spoil her bad mood. She felt like a crucial barbaton had been kicked out from underneath her life.
“I thought you liked sending music to other countries?” asked Donna.
“I like sending music everywhere!” said Kat. “I guess… I guess I always hoped that someday, the song I played would come on right where I was and I’d get to see the looks on everyone’s face.”
“You might still have a shot,” Donna leaned over and pointed at the GuerillaMusic list of connected devices. “Look, one of the speakers is here in Scrump.”
Kat’s eyes nearly exploded out of her head.
“We have to find out where it is!” Kat declared, grabbing up her coat and laptop and pushing her way past Donna.
Kat cashed in all her vacation days at work and made it her personal mission to find the last speaker in Ohio still connected to Guerilla Music.
Scrump, Ohio wasn’t exactly a bustling metropolis, but even a city of just thirty nine thousand people is huge when you’re trying to track down a single speaker. Kat’s only hope was that the speaker was in a public place somewhere. Maybe at a diner or inside a nail salon. If the speaker was in someone’s house she’d never find it.
Kat drove up and down Main Street, spamming her playlist and listening out the window for the sounds of random music.
She visited every hair salon, beauty parlor, grocery store and bar in town, anyplace and every place that played public music. She’s sit there and click the play button over and over until she saw the words come up: “Now playing in… Ohio.”
Kat cocked her ear and listened for the sounds of Katrina and the Waves to come over the PA, but it was always just the same old same old.
“Maybe it’s in someone’s apartment,” said Donna. “Just be glad you’re bringing joy to some lonely person out there.”
“I suppose.” Kat thought it was more likely playing to the forgotten corpse of a dead grandma than to some lonely heart.
“Also, the boss says he wants you back on Monday or you’re fired,” added Donna. “You were supposed to be back at work last week. I had to tell him you were sick to stop him from firing you right then!”
“Tell him I’ll be back at work on Monday,” sighed Kat.
Kat had been everywhere in town. There was nowhere else to go. She set her laptop down on a park bench and plopped down beside it, thoroughly exhausted.
Wherever the last unsecured speaker in Scrump Ohio was, it was out of her reach. Lost forever. The owner would probably disconnect it soon, and then all the rest would follow, and she’d never get to brighten some stranger’s day with “Walkin’ on Sunshine” again.
“Mmm yeah! I used to think maybe you loved me, now baby I’m sure… ” sang Katrina Leskanich.
Kat groaned. She’d been listening to the song non-stop for two weeks. The lyrics had lost all meaning. She wasn’t in the mood to listen to it again.
She leaned over to hit “stop playing” on GuerillaMusic. It took her a moment of pointless clicking to realize her player wasn’t running.
“Oooh oh! I’m walkin’ on sunshine!” sang Katrina.
Kat’s laptop was the last unsecured device in Scrump, Ohio. Every time she’d sent a song to Scrump, it had come right back to her!
She sat back and laughed. It really did brighten her day. If the stranger on the other end could only see her face.
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 03:12|
The house was quiet. Sara scrolled through her tablet until she found the phone app, buried in a submenu. Once AI was advanced enough, corporations had swiftly replaced all service workers with robots. Most interactions happened over the internet via chat, as that was faster and easier for the robots to parse, but unusual circumstances still required calls to the sophisticated AI that handled phone lines. Sara’s hands shook as she punched in the first number. She hadn’t spoken in days and worried, irrationally, that she wouldn’t be understood.
“Hello and welcome to Lifesaver Investment Fund. How may I help?” The voice sounded warm, professional, almost human, but Sara knew it was a robot.
“Merge two funds,” she said. It was best to be direct with AI. Her disused voice creaked like a door opening.
“Okay, I can do that, but I’ll need authorization. Can you provide a reason and supporting evidence, please?”
Sara had expected this question and had the documents ready. Still, the words got stuck in her throat. “Death of spouse,” she said, then paused to collect herself. She picked up the marriage certificate, heart swelling painfully as she remembered that day on the beach, the happiest of her life. She remembered Lena, beautiful in a casual wedding dress, laughing with her friends but only having eyes for her. She read out the identification number, then picked up the death certificate. The bittersweet memories were replaced by the agony of that day, the worst of her life. The illness had caught them unawares, and before she knew it Lena was gone. She struggled to read out the number through pooling tears.
“My condolences,” the robot said. That was a thoughtful touch, Sara thought. Not all robots were programmed to react sympathetically. The majority were designed to fulfill their raison d’etre: to make communications between individuals and corporations as efficient as possible. Time spent asking about someone’s day was time wasted. Sara knew all this, but still felt consoled. The human who’d programmed the robot had thought of her.
The robot walked her through the rest of the transaction and sent a confirmation email. “Thank you,” Sara said, though she didn’t have to.
“You are welcome,” the robot said mechanically, then hung up. Sara sighed, the illusion of human contact shattered, and put down the tablet. Rearranging the documents, she caught sight of the death certificate again. The stored-up tears spilled down her face and she put her head down on the table, drowning in her sorrow. It was the third time that day.
Some time later, she resurfaced. She made herself a cup of tea and consulted her list. So many companies to notify, so many accounts to transfer or cancel. Buoyed by her interaction with the retirement fund robot, she decided to use the phone option wherever possible. At least it was an imitation of a real conversation.
In the afternoon, Sara went for her habitual walk in the nearby park. Lena had always stopped to chat with dog owners in the off-leash area, but Sara just hurried along their normal route, the exercise feeling more like an obligation than a break. Seeing happy couples was painful, and she was relieved when she returned to the house.
Slowly, Sara continued through the list. She paused to cry twice more, once after the unnecessarily complicated process of transferring Lena’s car title and once after cancelling her long-standing Starbucks Rewards account. Lena had insisted on going to a physical coffeeshop every morning, rain or shine, even though Sara told her a million times that delivery was faster and cheaper. Closing the account, with credit still outstanding, felt absurdly like an echo of Lena’s death all over again.
The afternoon wore on and Sara’s list grew shorter. Each item reminded her of a different aspect of Lena’s life. Grief grew, like cystococciosis, in her chest, a complex cyst of memories and emotion. She was grateful that none of the other robots reacted sympathetically. The distance made it easier to pretend that these were routine calls, normal interactions. She didn’t want any cold corporate references to her loss.
The last items on the list were charitable causes. Lena gave a little each month to a variety of causes, which was generous but now made it all the more difficult for Sara to track down. Sara had considered letting the automatic donations continue, but it was cleaner just to cancel them and set up new donations in her own name later. She dialled the number for the first charity, brain and fingers on autopilot.
The sound of dogs barking in the background jolted Sara back to life. “Hello, Westside Animal Rescue, you’re speaking to Margaret,” a raspy, harried voice said.
A real human! Sara froze, the well-rehearsed script flying out of her head. Now she remembered why society had welcomed the robot revolution; they were so much easier to deal with.
“Hello?” Sara said for the first time that day. “Cancel donation. Uh, I mean, can I please cancel a recurring donation?”
Sara winced at her rudeness as Margaret’s voice turned a little colder. “The centre relies entirely on donations to operate. Still, I can do that.” Sara heard the tap of fingernails on a keyboard, a charmingly analog sound after the beeps and chimes of the robot calls. “What’s the name and card information, please?”
“Lena Flores-Hill,” Sara said and read out the number. As Margaret tapped the information into the computer, Sara felt compelled to give her an explanation. “Sorry to cancel, but it wasn’t my donation, it’s my wife’s. She, uh, passed away a few weeks ago.” She shut her mouth as the cyst of grief in her chest threatened to burst. She shouldn’t have shared that.
The tapping stopped. “Oh dear, I’m sorry,” Margaret said in a softer voice. “I get it, I had to do the same thing when my husband died a few years back. It’s awful, isn’t it? Like shutting off the lights after they’ve left the building.”
Sara nodded, unable to speak through the lump in her throat. Margaret didn’t seem to mind her silence. “You’re all set,” she said, back to business.
“Thank you,” Sara said, emotions churning just below the surface.
“Not a problem. Take care of yourself, now.” The noise of barking dogs cut off as Margaret hung up the phone. The contrast made the silence in her house all the more oppressive.
Sara waited to see if she’d cry again, but to her surprise, the tears didn’t surface. She finished the list, all robocalls, and sat back, exhausted. The sun had gone down and Sara found that she was hungry. She dug in the freezer and pulled out a lasagna that her aunt had couriered to her in those first few terrible days. She’d forgotten about it until now.
While it warmed, Sara looked up Westside Animal Rescue. She stared at the happy faces of people and dogs on the home page, then clicked on the “volunteer” tab. It was time to form new connections.
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 03:28|
Number Six Will Shock You
Bearing the innumerable spawn of the nameless elder doesn't have to be a frightening experience. Learn from the stories of these lucky individuals who have turned their encounter with the emotionless face of the void into a truly positive experience!
Fun Fact: while we call the spawn innumerable, the size of the average clutch is between two to five hundred, and the initial postpartum feeding frenzy reduces their number to a more manageable two or three. Survival of the fittest in action! Or should be say survival of the cutest? Just look at the smiling faces of these eight-tailed cuties, fresh from the consumption of their siblings!
Take Jonah Q. from Wilmington, North Carolina. When he touched the pseudofossilized egg lodged deep in the inner crannies of that ancient adphidian shipwreck beneath centuries, perhaps millenia of coral growth, the tendrils passing through his latex glove like it was made of wet tissue paper into his skin, he was, as he admits in his journals, scared. 'That feeling, of fingers suddenly wet and warmed and pierced with pain, and that moment of uncertainty, not knowing if the wetness I felt was the seawater, my own blood, or something else entirely filled me with a dread beyond all fears of drowning or animal attack that I had ever felt.' And yet not thirty minutes later he felt 'a bliss entirely unlike and superior to even the most intense sexual gratification I have ever felt, something one has to imagine like the religious ecstacy of a martyr on the cross or at the stake, such pleasure as to overwhelm the sensation of being wracked and burned alive, leaving only pure joy' as the elder seed's black tendrils infiltrated the ganglia of his spinal cord.
Fun Fact: while the first generations of the renewed elders consumed their host-parents' flesh upon their birth, their modern successors need not. If a live mammal of sufficient size is present at the moment of birth (seven out of ten new priests recommend a goat, but horses and cattlebeasts work as well) the spawn will prefer to feast on that, leaving their a devoted parent to support them through the entire life cycle.
Be prepared for your life to be turned inside out over the next six months. Mood swings are par for the course, ranging from sheer and stark despair to bouts of joy, with the occasional moments of rage. Jonah Q. documents that he 'felt as a long-bottomed opium field, persisting on tiny doses that did not lessen the ache but kept the fish hook of need buried in [his] soul' and that 'the gun in my hand was steady but my finger would not budge against the trigger, not until my hand was aimed elsewhere. It is only providence that had it then aimed at loyal Edgar, rather than some servant or deliveryman when my finger twitched as if possessed, which may be near the truth. An absent cat was far easier to explain away than would have been even the least human.'
Not-so-fun Fact: while the host process has been repeatedly proven one hundred percent effective in preventing death by suicide the American Psychiatric Association has refused to endorse it as a therapeutic tool.
Dietary changes and cravings, as well, are par for the course, and keeping a well-stocked refrigerator is the kind of planning ahead that your surviving spawn will that you for later, or would if gratitude was not a concept completely alien to their culture. Most host-parents report unending cravings for milk, meat, and fish, the rarer the better. (Sorry, vegans.) As Oscar Q. reports, 'all taste, all flavors but that of iron, of blood fled my senses and the joy of eating, for there was great joy in it, came from the texture, what the chefs and critics call mouth feel of flesh being ground and torn under my teeth.' In some cases there are reports of sudden appetites for broccoli, or for large portions of salts. Keep a healthy supply of electrolyte-replenishing drinks on hand!
The birthing process itself, like all things natural, is extremely messy. Once you've ceased to hunger and can feel the roil of the countless spawn beneath the skin of your chest, the best way to ease it along to conclusion is to disrobe entirely. Oscar Q.'s last journal notes a 'sensation of being burned and smothered alive that countenanced only one solution' encouraging this. Like him, you should head immediately to the nearest bathtub and lie on your side, making sure that no natural orifice is blocked in any way. Authorities differ on whether a dry tub or one with water of the same salinity as the sea is better. Either will serve. Ensure that your goat (or other animal) is securely tethered and within reach, and wait for the miracle to happen.
Fun Fact: while photographs of the spawn make them appear solid black, in person their skin displays a pearlescent rainbow of color, with yellow and indigo tones being the most prominent!
Click for #2: Caroline F.:Learning to love, from Twenty-six Cats to Three Growing Spawn
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 04:14|
Patrick Barnes desperately needed help.
The Senior Ovonics Researcher briskly walked to the Thermal Dynamics department. He hoped that someone would be inside, working late, but no such luck.
He checked each office in turn: Transubstantiative Broiling, Convective Appropriation, he’d have even settled for one of the late-hire dullards in Warming Tray Management, but the building seemed empty this far past midnight.
Barnes spied a lone light at the far end of the south wing. He rushed over and threw open the heavy door to Clocannone Development.
He heard a sharp yelp.
A husky young man with a mop of greasy brown hair leapt to his feet, wiping the sleep from his deep-set eyes. The man’s voice was shaky, about-to-get-fired nervous.
“Uh, hello! I was on a mandated wellness fifteen.”
Barnes’ tone was curt.
“Well, break’s over. I need your help.”
Nocturnal security specialist Stan Hartwell had expected an admonishment, at the very least. He furrowed his brow.
“Help? Look, I can’t make you coffee. The union was, like, super clear on that.”
Barnes shook his head and gestured to the door. He looked at the man’s nametag.
“No, Stan. I’m Patrick Barnes, Senior Ovonics Researcher. Tonight, you and I are going to make history.”
Stan shrugged; he would have liked a snack beforehand.
The two men began making their way back to Central Ovonics. Barnes spoke up first.
“Stan, do you know what we do here at Ovonics Incorporated?”
Stan relaxed. He thought for a moment, still half-asleep, then replied.
“I dunno. You’re building a better oven?”
He took Barnes’ silence as an encouragement to continue.
“Like one that knows when I’m coming home and has the coconut shrimp ready?”
Barnes thought that Stan was, in his peculiar way, not so far from the mark. He decided not to encourage him.
The pair strolled into Central Ovonics. Barnes turned on the lights, pointed to an office chair, and assumed a professional stoicism.
Stan obliged. He looked around the office, from racks of beakers filled with murky liquid to whiteboards scrawled with riots of equations and derivations.
The guard considered his surroundings, then looked back to his companion.
“Oven technology’s come a long way, Patrick.”
Barnes’ expression softened. He moved to one of the whiteboards and cleared a space, ready to brief his conscripted colleague.
“Before we can begin, I need you to understand some basics. I’m going to keep it as simple as I can, but you need to tell me if I’m going over your head. Think you can do that, my friend?”
Stan nodded. Barnes smiled and continued.
“Good. First, a discussion of ribose-”
Stan’s hand shot up. Barnes sighed.
“What’s ribose, Patrick?”
“It’s a sugar, Stan.”
Stan nodded sagely. He patted his snack-laden fanny pack, a reassurance that he had more than a passing familiarity with sugar. Barnes continued.
“So, ribose. It is a component of the genetic backbone and the key to the development of the transportive molecule now known as clocannone-”
Stan’s hand rose again, more tentatively this time. Barnes shuddered.
“Okay, so I know all about genetics. My cousin Randolph, he breeds pitbulls, and he’s always talking genetics. One time, this chicken got loose-”
Barnes cut him off, more out of excitement than irritation.
“Maybe we skip the background and just get started, hm? Now Stan, this next part is extremely important. I need your full attention.”
Stan leaned forward in anticipation, pitbull-chicken carnage momentarily forgotten. Barnes moved to the far corner of the room and gestured to a steel table hooked into an armoire-sized computer.
“This will be your station. Due to the, ah, complexities of spatial relocation, I will be across the hall. First, you must put on these gloves; it is imperative that there is no cellular cross-contamination. Then, when I instruct you to, I need you to take the ingredients in this fridge and place them on the table. Lastly, you press the red button.”
Stan looked at him quizzically.
“Uh, that’s it?”
Barnes nodded, then patted the security guard on the shoulder.
Stan got up and moved to the table as Barnes walked out the door and across the hall. The security guard heard a low mechanical groan, then Barnes’ voice.
Stan bent over and opened the fridge. He looked through its contents: a gleaming filet of pink salmon, a small cluster of broccoli florets, a few slivered almonds, and a small bowl of dark brown sauce. He pulled them out one by one, but paused at the sauce. His stomach growled.
Stan dipped his bare pinkie into the sauce, then took a taste. Salty and heavy on the umami, but with a subtle sweetness.
He dipped his finger in again, then called out to Barnes.
A weary response came from across the hall.
“Do I pour the teriyaki over everything, or put the little bowl on the table?”
Barnes thought for a moment.
“Pour it over!”
Stan obliged, gingerly bathing the ingredients in sauce. Satisfied, he moved to the computer and pressed the red button.
The room filled with a terrific whine. As Stan watched in astonishment, the ingredients blinked once, twice, then disappeared from the table. Barnes let out a cry from the other room.
“Stan! Get over here! It worked!”
Stan wiped a trace of teriyaki onto his coveralls and dashed across the hall.
Barnes was standing beside a glowing oven. As Stan approached, the scientist clapped him on the back.
“We did it! Look!”
The pair peered inside the oven, beholding the steaming, well-composed plate of teriyaki-glazed fish paired with fork-tender broccoli, all tastefully garnished with toasted almonds.
Barnes beamed at Stan, but his expression slowly shifted into one of worry.
“Stan, how did you know that it was teriyaki sauce?”
The oven rumbled.
He looked at the security guard’s hands.
“And where are your gloves?”
The oven door burst open, spraying the men with shards of tempered glass.
The salmon rose from its platter and tottered precariously on succulent broccoli legs. It reared up, evaluating the men with dark almond eyes. Stan looked at Barnes.
The men scampered out of the room back across the hall, slamming the door shut and throwing the deadbolt. They heard successive crashes from the oven room, accompanied by a high wail.
The door rattled on its hinges, the wood creaking with stress. Stan looked to Barnes for direction. The scientist was frozen in shock, his head in his hands.
The security guard grabbed Barnes by the shoulders and shook him.
“Patrick! What do we do? What do we do, man? That salmon looked at me!”
A hinge shot out from the doorframe, shattering a rack of beakers.
Barnes was silent, near-comatose.
Stan’s mind raced as he tried to glean salvation from anything Barnes had said, anything that could save them.
A second hinge blew off the frame. Brown fluid sprayed from under the door.
Stan froze, struck by a thunderbolt of inspiration.
He ran to the table, unbuckled his fanny pack, then dumped its contents onto the steel surface. He looked over the motley collection: three gummy worms, some loose cheese curls, half a joint, and a few miscellaneous pinches of long-stale crumbs. He moved to the button, then stopped.
The third hinge blew across the room as the door dissolved into a mass of splinters.
Stan cleared his throat and hocked an enormous loogie onto the snack pile, for clocannonic good measure.
He slammed the red button.
The computer display blinked then flared bright. A deafening pop rattled the walls of the laboratory as the junk food blinked out of existence.
An enormous roar erupted from across the hall.
The murderous salmon matched it.
Stan ran to Barnes, cradling him as the building shook with tremor after tremor, explosive evidence of the pitched battle occurring just across the hall. The air filled with a sweet-tinged miasma of cheddar and burnt fish.
After a few more minutes of violent thrashing the men heard an earsplitting death knell, followed by a report of shattering glass and the wet thump of something hitting the ground outside.
The lab fell silent.
Barnes slowly got to his feet, bracing his arm across Stan’s shoulders. The scientist was dazed, his voice shaky but full of gratitude.
Stan looked over the devastation of the laboratory, then to Barnes. He forced a smile.
“Well, sorta. I’m pretty sure that cheese curl-gummy worm thing is like, way worse than the salmon.”
He thought back to the half-smoked joint among the collection of snacks.
“And it’s probably really hungry.”
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 04:48|
It is late winter in the Scottish highlands and the weather is miserable. Despite this, a small bus emblazoned with a university crest has made its way deep into the wilds, and is now bumpily easing into the muddy grass to park off the road. The same group had been trudging up here every afternoon for the last two weeks, returning each evening to the university empty handed and inexplicably optimistic that the next day, surely, would have just the correct conditions to produce the bloom.
The Blooming Heather is a rare event and usually only of interest to particularly dedicated botanists, with the weather and inconvenience of the location scaring off the majority of more leisurely sight-seers. The flowers, about three times the size of their ordinary cousins, are spread so thickly they resemble a small forest. The splash of color is striking enough, but the flowers themselves are generally found every few years in this location. But today, the rain has paused long enough for shafts of sun, the temperature and humidity have cooperated, and at last, the conditions are right. As the flowers dry they release soft clouds of purple-grey, dandelion-like seeds to hang, suspended over the thicket, mingling with the low mist, and drifting slightly in the wind. The flowers and their heavy cloud of seeds are, all in all, almost five feet deep, and spread as far as the eye can see before the mist drops again.
The bus has unloaded a handful of graduate students, their professor (an ambitious young botanist, Dr Deborah Levin), an aspiring local journalist, and, lastly, one very cold undergraduate American exchange student:
Sarah stands in the mud beside the bus and stares.
The mist blew raggedly through the cloud of seeds, but they seemed to move to a different wind, as though the air were thicker where the soft purple tufts gathered. Around her, awkward graduate students suddenly became scientists -- alive with activity and equipment, flurries of excited conversation, papers, and tangled cords as they scrambled to unpack.
Sarah, in an attempt to make friends with anyone outside of her awkward exchange group, had asked to join the group only about three days ago. She had no business here, academically speaking: she was supposed to be studying art history, not botany -- but the group apparently didn’t mind having her along, and she found their united, endless patience to be comforting.
The shout startled her.she tore her gaze away from the cloud to where Annie, the young journalist from town, stood waving at her from across the road. When she saw she had Sarah’s attention she smiled encouragingly, gestured once more to come here, then turned back to snapping photos. Annie had been kind to Sarah over the past few days, and was the only other Asian person she had met so far in Scotland. She was also, more importantly, irresistibly pretty. Sarah hurried quickly across the road to join her, cheeks flushing, just as she turned to start filming a cluster of figures standing close to the edge of the cloud.
Dr Levin and two of the graduate students were gathered closest to the edge of what Sarah had begun to think of as The Cloud, helping each other into white plastic jumpsuits, masks, and gloves.
“Apparently the seeds will stick in clumps to anything and everything,” Annie said, not looking up as she filmed, “and they’re so small and light they could easily be inhaled -- ugh!” Sarah grimaced at the thought of the fine, cottony hairs clogging her nose, her throat, her eyes -- and took a small step back.
With an enthusiastic two thumbs up to Annie and the remaining students, Dr. Levin, now wrapped in protective gear, turned and led her small team into the heather. They held their arms out at their sides, as though wading into a deep, cold, river, and the heather waved on its long stems as they gently parted it with their bodies, the cloud of seeds moving in lazy, cotton-candy swirls around them as they slowly made their way deeper into the mist. They stood and watched, frozen, until a muttered cursing to their left made them both turn. Two graduate students, rustling in protective gear, were hefting a long, cylindrical object to the edge of the cloud. There was a complicated bit of coordination between them, then a snap and whirring as the object unfolded around a cluster of flowers and seeds into a cross-shaped series of tubes, sealing them in before there was a loud thunk and a sharp ring thrust down into the dirt, snapping shut around a full spread of roots, dirt, flower, and seed all in one. Sarah blinked in surprise at it.
“What is that?” she asked Annie, unable to look away
“A kraenklok,” breathed Annie, reverently
“...and what’s a krae...clock? What?”
“A kraenklok? It’s sort of like a German crossbowie,” she said, absently, then turned abruptly back to her ipad as a thought struck her, “I wonder where they got the funding for that?” and she began flicking impatiently through pages of notes.
Sarah shoved her frozen hands deep into her pockets as she looked back to the cloud, the odd machine whirring softly away in the background. She found her mind wandering in the patterns and colors, shifting, moving inexplicably against the wind, and she shivered, suddenly wanting nothing to do with any of it. She felt all at once out of place, a stranger in a deeply foreign land. She turned and made her way back to the bus, to wait for the rest of the team out of the cold.
On the bus ride home, Annie sat next to her and tried to show her a new app that let people share their own images laid over famous works of art. “It’s all going to be selfies in Starry Night in a week flat,” she said dryly, turning and grinning at Sarah, inviting her in on the joke -- this is for you, her smile said, we can share this together. But Sarah could only manage a quick smile, before looking back out the window and the gathering dark.
By the next afternoon Sarah had started to feel uneasy. She had seen only a few people at lunch, and the hallways and dorms were deserted. She wasn't sure if they would be going again to the mountains and the heather, since they had the samples now, but layered herself in rain gear anyway and made it over to the bus. The entire walk there was deserted. When she saw the bus in the distance she almost shouted in relief -- two figures stood talking intently just outside it. She started to jog over to them, the panic in her chest loosening as she recognized one of the figures as Annie. It would be fine. There was probably a local holiday she didn't know about. Everyone must be in town. Annie would tease her about it, everything would be fine. They would go back and find the cloud gone, the heather unremarkable for anything but their size and proliferation.
She drew close and saw that Annie was talking with Dr. Levin, who looked unfamiliarly tense and worn.
“Sarah!” she exclaimed as she saw her approaching, “Well that’s a bit of a relief, at least”
“Whats going on?”
Annie gestured to the empty bus, “we cant find the rest of the team, they’re not responding to calls or anything.”
“I was just about to head over to the lab,” Dr. Levin said, attempting a lighthearted tone, “I’m sure they just got caught up in all the excitement of the new data. Do you want to join me?”
They walked briskly across campus in tense silence, footsteps echoing across empty quads, until they reached a large gray building. Dr. Levin hurried up the stairs, flashing her keycard and pushing the door to open. It didn't budge. She frowned, waving her card at the reader again, but it was unresponsive. She pushed hard at the door but it was locked solid.
“The basement lab windows!” she said, half to herself, and turned back down the stairs, rushing past the two girls and around to the left of the building, down a side path. Sarah and Annie ran to follow.
The sidepath was washed with yellow light from the street-level windows which looked into the basement lab, and Dr. Levin knelt before them, gesturing for the girls to come closer. They pressed together in the small space between the buildings, out of the wind, and gazed down into the lab.
It was gone. Or, anything resembling a laboratory had been almost entirely consumed, with only the fluorescent lights flickering over a thick, hazy cloud of purple-gray blooming heather. From where they crouched they could see the door to the lab hung open and the field stretched out into the hallway, the cloud of seeds moving in the lazy eddies of some other breeze.
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 05:22|
a broken clock twice
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 14:39 on Jan 10, 2022
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 06:25|
You like Dr Ali the most because sometimes he’ll offer you tim tams, which you were never allowed to have at home. As you sit down in the chair, he smiles at the nurse who brought you in, and then moves some papers from his desk and rests his hands, steepled, on its surface.
‘Did you sleep well last night?’ he asks.
You think back; you can’t remember any dreams.
‘Your suggestion worked, doctor,’ the nurse smiles, and the doctor smiles back in turn. You don’t like it when people keep smiling. You wonder what they really want.
The nurse leaves and Dr Ali asks you a few more questions, easy ones, about the weather and about your appetite and about your favourite books — you know what he’s up to, with his friendly manner and easy smiles — before he unclasps a folder and lays its contents out on the table.
‘Today,’ he says, ‘I’m going to show you some pictures, Timothy. And I’d like you to tell me what they remind you of—if anything. Just let me know the first thing that pops into your head. You don’t have to think about it—it’s not a trick. Are you ready?’
You nod. You’ve watched enough TV to know what’s coming.
He produces the first picture, an 8x10 print that reminds you of nothing more than a butterfly—black splotches mirrored on either side, white gaps in the centre of each dark pool. Some butterflies, you know, have fake eyes on their wings, which scare off predators by making the butterfly seem much bigger and scarier than it really is. You feel a bit better knowing that other things have to pretend, too.
‘It’s okay,’ Dr Ali repeats, handing you the picture to hold. ‘Just: your first reaction. What do you see?’
You’re pretty sure he’s expecting you to say something about your parents. But nothing you could say about your parents was based on what you saw.
‘My mum’s makeup,’ you say, at length, remembering how she’d make sure to get it even on both sides, looking this way and that in front of the mirror.
‘Did your mum wear a lot of makeup?’
‘Sometimes,’ you reply.
The doctor nods, slides the picture back into the folder, and produces a second picture with splotches of red at the top and at the bottom. This one feels easier, which feels like a trap.
‘Two people,’ you say, ‘holding hands.’
‘Okay,’ Dr Ali nods, without further questions. He reaches into the folder to produce a third picture, different to the others, which he lays down on the desk before him. You see it, and you gasp.
‘That’s Snarrick!’ you say, looking at the picture and then up at the doctor’s face. ‘That’s my picture of Snarrick!’
‘Okay,’ Dr Ali says, in the same measured tones. ‘Who is Snarrick? Is Snarrick your friend?’
‘Sort of,’ you say. ‘I think so,’ you add.
‘Have you ever met Snarrick?’
You look up at the doctor, and shake your head. ‘No,’ you tell him, and you notice his shoulders relax a fraction. ‘But—sometimes I can hear him.’
The doctor looks at you, frowning slightly. ‘What do you hear?’ he asks, gently. ‘Does Snarrick talk to you?’
‘No,’ you say, shaking your head. ‘Sometimes I hear him outside. I call him snarrick because that’s the noise he makes.’
You can almost hear him now, in your imagination: a low, hissing sound, forked tongue flitting out of a wide mouth, tasting the night air with a snarrrrr; and then the rick-rick-rick of his claws when he reaches the pavers outside your window. Some nights you pretend to sleep until you hear him approaching, and then you’re up, pulling the blinds apart to catch him; but he is always much too quick to be caught.
‘I see,’ the doctor nods, and makes some notes on a tablet. ‘Have you told anyone else about Snarrick? Your friends, your family—anybody at all?’
You’re almost shaking your head no when you remember. ‘I did—I did post that picture online, once,’ you admit. ‘On Creature Convention.’
‘Creature Convention,’ Dr Ali repeats, writing it down. ‘Did anyone from this website ever contact you?’
You shake your head. You remember checking your post the next morning, excited to see who’d commented or liked your picture, only to find it locked and halfway down the second page. The admin had left a terse reply: ‘Please remember,’ they’d said, in bold text, ‘all images on this site should be suitable for all ages and should not contain any content that is violent, or sexual, or otherwise inappropriate; this is your first warning, and any subsequent infractions will result in a ban.’
The doctor continues writing, and you look around his room. Sketches are posted up on a corkboard wall near his desk, names scrawled in crayon beneath: Amber, 5; Bec, 7; Addison, 15. You don’t think Snarrick is likely to join that collection.
‘Doctor,’ you say, suddenly, ‘what’s a … fugue state?’
He looks up mid-word, startled. ‘Where did you hear that?’ he asks.
‘I—can’t remember,’ you lie. You’d always had trouble sleeping, and you’d always been very good at hearing things you shouldn’t have. You’d heard the word two nights ago, one of the nurses talking to the other, thinking you asleep.
Dr Ali sighs, and leans back in his chair. ‘Sometimes,’ he says, carefully, ‘someone will see something, or do something, that they—shouldn’t have. And they’ll try and forget it happened, to protect themselves, because sometimes what happened is too hard to think about. And sometimes they might forget—too much. And they might think they’re someone else, for a little bit. Like—like playing make-believe.’
‘Okay,’ you say, emboldened. ‘And you think I might have had a … fugue state?’
‘Did one of the nurses say that?’
You stay quiet, because sometimes when you don’t say anything other people end up saying too much.
‘Let me ask you a different question,’ the doctor begins, retrieving the picture of Snarrick. ‘Did you hear this—Snarrick—that night?’
You shake your head.
‘I heard something,’ you say. ‘But it wasn’t Snarrick.’
‘What did you hear?’
He’s asked you this before, you remember. When you first met him, it was the first serious question he asked you. You’d told him the same thing you’d told the police; you told him the same thing now. You couldn’t have been in a fugue state, you thought, if you could remember everything in so much detail.
‘Nobody else came that night?’ the doctor asks.
You shake your head, no.
‘You don’t remember leaving the house yourself, that night?’
You shake your head, no.
The doctor frowns, and looks at his watch.
‘Tomorrow,’ he says, tapping the picture, ‘I’d like to talk with you some more about Snarrick. I’d like you to try and remember anything else you can about Snarrick. Can you do that for me, please?’
That night, the nurse leaves the glass of milk on your bedside table before turning to pull the blinds closed. You reach in gently with two fingers, find a small tablet at the bottom, and pluck it out before she’s turned back to you.
‘Drink up,’ she says, smiling. ‘Milk will help you sleep better.’
You raise the glass and drink it down, fingering the tablet in your other hand. She smiles, takes the empty glass from you, and turns the light off as she leaves. You lie awake, waiting to hear anything from outside, but tonight there is silence.
You fall asleep. You dream. You remember. You hear the sound, filling in the gaps in your memory: snarrick, snarrick, snarrick. The soft hiss of the crowbar as it whistles through the air, snarrrr; the rick of collision, of metal on skull, of your father’s body tumbling down over onto your mother’s. The knife, still in his hand, hitting the tile.
You raise the crowbar again. Snarrick. You turn, wild-eyed, to the back door, still open from when your father entered, and you look into the woods beyond, and you drop the crowbar where you stand, and you walk into the woods; and you forget.
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 06:29|
The ECH sounded like a wet finger running around the rim of a wine glass somewhere inside my brain.
Bathed in the blinking lights of the workstation, I was suddenly aware of Doctor Fisher approaching. I closed everything.
“Doctor Ortega, can I have a word?”
I took a deep breath and tried to look casual as I put my hands in my pocket, painted on a smile, and span around in my computer chair. My pockets were empty. My jacket, my very important jacket, was hanging by the door. I silently cursed myself for being so stupid.
“Of course, Michael, what can I do for you?”
Fisher had been a big guy when we started the project. I’d known him via email for years, but never met him prior to transport to the station. I had expected him to look like the rest of us academics but Fisher had the appearance of an athlete. On the trek to the research site that we had now been working at for six months, he told me he had put himself through college on a football scholarship.
Now, he was colossal. His muscles were pneumatic and bloated. The veins in his neck throbbed with the effort of transporting his blood. He towered over me in the dimly lit room, almost filling the space. His smile was warm and calm.
“I like to think that we have a good team here, you know?” he began. He reached down and idly fiddled with one of the desk toys in front of me, gave an amused smile, put it back.
“I agree, we’re making good progress,” I said.
“When we got here, we knew nothing about the cavern or the platypical crystals inside. Now, we have a strong working theory of how they formed. When we started, the sound they make was called ‘the hum’, now it’s Enduring Crystalline Harmonics. When we arrived, we talked about the weird nightmares, now there’s not just one, but two names for them. I prefer yours to Klein’s by the way. Beta-wave Distortion is better than Pschothesia. Certainly, more publishable.”
“Thank you,” I muttered.
“Riggs will have his PHD in a year. I expect Mendelsohn will walk out on the tenure track, you know?”
I nodded. There was a long silence. The crystals’ song came up from the cavern below and reverberated in my back teeth. I tried to tune it out but whenever Fisher was around it got louder.
I got to my feet with a tired smile and nodded towards the door.
“Could we carry on this conversation out past the chalk line? The ECH...I can’t concentrate.”
Fisher stared at me for a long time. There was a lot in his look. Suspicion, almost a certain flirtation. He was daring me. Or perhaps I was imagining it. I hadn’t slept well for weeks. When I looked in the mirror, the exhausted ghoul that stared back was very different from the handsome guy smiling on my ID badge.
“Sit down, Doctor Ortega. I think we should talk here.”
I sat back down.
“My point is, we are doing excellent work,” he continued. “And if we all carry on doing our excellent work, we are going to walk out of this experience with everything that any of us could want. There will be grants and recognition within academic circles, yes. But we will be the mothers and fathers of an entirely new field of study. Whatever this new field of study is called, whatever the crystals are christened, we will be to that what Plato was to philosophy, what Darwin was to evolution, you know?”
Another long pause. I considered rushing him. There was a faint sound like tearing paper. The back of Fisher’s jacket was splitting as he grew broader. Another seam opened gently over his shoulder. His eyes remained on me.
“I agree,” I said. “It’s very exciting.”
“Which is why I’m having to have this very unpleasant conversation,” he said with a sigh.
Fisher stepped forward and I unconsciously wheeled my chair back directly into the corner. He sat on the edge of the desk, eclipsing the light and eliciting a scream of protest from the wood.
“I can’t allow anything to sabotage this project.”
“I agree,” I responded immediately.
“I spoke to Alison.”
My heart sank. Dull, simple Alison.
“I wanted to know what it was you were doing hidden away here all by yourself all the time. Your research on the crystals seems to have fallen off entirely, just as it was getting most interesting. You’ve not spoken to anyone about the dreams or any of the other side-effects of spending prolonged time here for weeks. I wanted to know what you’ve been doing.”
His smile remained authentic but his glare was practically aflame. There was a sheen over the whites of his eyes, an oily iridescent film the same color as the myriad clusters of crystals in the caverns.
“You could have just asked me,” I said.
“You would have lied. Alison was very eager to help, she knows she could walk out of here very well off too. But when she checked your work history, she found something interesting. What do you think that might be?”
I could feel the opportunity out of the conversation dissolving by the second. Each back and forth was limiting my options. I had to get to my jacket.
“I think she found that I’d done nothing for a while. You’re here to chew me out for slacking. I agree, I’m letting the team down and I agree that’s not acceptable.”
Fisher’s sleeve strained as the writhing physiology beneath it threatened to rip it to shreds. I tried to wait him out, but the silence broken only by the inescapable ringing of the crystals was too much to bear.
“Listen, I’ve been having some... personal problems. I’m happy to discuss them, but could we do so in private?” I asked.
Fisher shook his head.
“You’ve not been slacking. You’ve just been working in the shadows. I want to know what on. Alison thinks you found a website that’s letting you access journals without leaving a trace. She lacks imagination, so her suggestion was that you were trying to sell us out, you know? She suggested that maybe you’re a corporate plant or maybe government. I don’t buy that. I think you’ve found something and you don’t want anyone to know what it is.”
I blinked stupidly. Fisher turned his head and smiled – daring me to speak or move – daring me to say or do something I wouldn’t be able to take back.
“Alison was right, I’m a corporate spy.”
Fisher’s familiar booming laugh echoed through the room. He threw his head back and banged the fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling. They swung back and forth, bathing us in light then wreathing us in shadows.
“How long have you known?” he asked.
Hey glared at me silently for what felt like an entire minute. I met his gaze, but I knew it was a fruitless endeavor. The ECH was now like a dentist’s drill.
“Fine,” he said with a casual shrug.
“I’m going to go for a walk outside the field,” I said. It had meant to sound decisive, but instead it had come across like a question.
“Sounds good. Get some time away from the ECH. You’re looking tired, Doctor Ortega.”
I stood, awkwardly, and he stepped aside, now taking up three quarters of the room.
I crossed and put on my jacket, patting my pockets as if searching for keys.
From behind me, there came a sound like frozen sheets of glass grinding against one another. I didn’t turn. When Fisher spoke, his voice was choked and damp.
“I got Alison to install a key-logger, Ortega. I think I know what you’re building. I can’t let you.”
I tried to still my shaking hands.
“I finished it,” I said.
I put my thumb on the little button inside my pocket – the little device inside was compiled of bits I had managed to squirrel away over the last few weeks. I was proud of it, in a way, though I would never get to show anyone. It was calibrated... I hoped, to oppose the exact frequency of the ECH.
I turned to see what Fisher had become – a sack of skin and flesh draped around jagged spines of the crystal. He looked like an anemone of beautiful glass, the fluorescent light cascading through the various crystalline edges and faces. The ECH was deafening now. My vision blurred as my eyes vibrated within my skull.
“Does it work?” Fisher’s body gurgled.
“I don’t kn...” I stammered before the crystals thrust a long jagged harpoon of polished stone towards me. I hit the button. I thought, perhaps, that for a split second there had been a moment of silence. Then what had once been Doctor Fisher exploded towards me in a storm of razor-sharp crystal.
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 07:11|
Don't call in my toxx yet it's gonna be a little late but it's coming.
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 07:54|
Submissions closed now
get a story in by judging to get a DQ crit and avoid toxxes
crabrock fucked around with this message at 09:11 on Nov 8, 2021
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 08:57|
Interprompt: It's crazy, but it just might work! (300 words)
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 09:36|
Because I'm not in the discord: there's a family medical emergency that might get in the way of posting, though I am trying to finish something and put it up today. Requesting a bit of understanding.
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 22:01|
Because I'm not in the discord: there's a family medical emergency that might get in the way of posting, though I am trying to finish something and put it up today. Requesting a bit of understanding.
you have until judgment is posted.
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 22:05|
It's Crazy but it Just Might Work!
“We’re at top speed, but the black hole is still pulling us in!” said Captain Rocket.
Captain Rocket’s ship, the Lady Dancer, strained with all her might to escape the terrible, crushing weight of the singularity, but even with the engines at maximum thrust, Lady Dancer was still slipping backward into the howling maelstrom.
“There’s only one thing to do!” said Captain Rocket.
“What’s that?” asked Captain Rocket’s loyal sidekick, Skippy.
“We need to eject the fuel core and detonate it behind the ship,” said Captain Rocket. “We’ll ride the blast wave to safety!”
“That’s crazy,” said Skippy.
“But it just might work!” interrupted Captain Rocket. “Ejecting fuel core!”
Captain Rocket pressed the big red button and ejected the fuel core. The core exploded a few seconds later and all the energy from the explosion was quickly swallowed by the abyss.
“Why didn’t it work?” asked Captain Rocket.
“Because it was a stupid idea!” shouted Skippy.
Those were Skippy’s last words. Seconds after that, Lady Dancer’s engines cut off and the ship immediately got sucked into the black hole.
|# ? Nov 8, 2021 23:48|
Because I'm not in the discord: there's a family medical emergency that might get in the way of posting, though I am trying to finish something and put it up today. Requesting a bit of understanding.
While I understand that issues come up, you have a pretty long track record of not posting stories. Looking at your post history in this thread, only two of them were entries, and even then I can't be sure because you deleted them! So here is what is going to happen. If you do not post your toxxed story, then in addition to the toxx ban, you will receive a threadban, meaning I will ban you on sight if I see you in this thread. The threadban in that case would be lifted if you sent me some redemption stories.
If you do make this week's toxx, then you may post three things and three things only in this thread: 1) "in" 2) a story 3) crits. If you post anything other than those three things it's a ban on sight so be careful!!!
This is thunderdome. Words are blood, and the blood toll must be paid.
Contact me elsewhere for questions if you have any, please
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 04:58|
might rework for publishing down the road
Flesnolk fucked around with this message at 08:32 on Dec 31, 2021
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 06:10|
week 483 results - your HMs don't exist
Oops I did it again (made a lovely prompt that elicited a bunch of pretty boring stories). I dunno why me giving you some inspiration and saying "you don't gotta be literal, just let your mind wander" ends up with almost every single person just literally writing their word and flash idea. Unfortunately that is a recipe for a pretty boring story, cause I doubt that I just happened to give you a prompt for a story you really wanted to tell.
So as you can see, that resulted in no HMs this week. There were snippets of good here and there, but nothing really landed for us.
However, if you look under the table with all the gum and boogers, you'll see a litany of stories smeared up under there that we all agreed we did not like very much. Mr Gentleman, Applewhite, Albatrossy_Rodent, and new guy Ominous Whooshing all earned themselves a nice fat DM, which definitely DO exist.
But one story was just... well, did you even try? Or did you just see your prompt and give up? You know it didn't have to be literal, right? You could have written about anything and said it inspired you. Congratulations to The man called M for taking that loss bullet for y'all, send him a fruit basket or something.
The winner for this week does not exist.
ha ha just kidding. It is flerp. it was a very easy decision his story was easily the best and we all thought so. I shudder to think what we'd have to have done if he hadn't entered this week. gross.
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 08:20|
Crits for Week 483
Here are the notes I wrote as I read your stories.
Albatrossy_Rodent - The Teacher Hunter:
Six names in the first two lines is too many, I am never going to remember all these.
What the bloody hell is this: ...(:I)...
Omg there’s more of them. I do not like these scene break emoji things.
Is Jess dead? Is this a flashback??
Oh I see yes it is.
So some high school kid has a racket going where she blackmails teachers into giving students better grades, and then she tries to break into the house of the meanest teacher, but it’s a trap, except she knows about it somehow, so there’s a fight, and the kids win, and call the cops, but she’s also blackmailing the cops, so the teenagers win?
5/10 - not terrible, but I found it too confusing.
The man called M - Chemtrials.com Testemonial Interview #133769:
This is real weird and not much of a story. Why is there a dinosaur birth joke in there? DO NOT reply to this to tell me that it’s a reference to your last story
There’s a spelling mistake in the title.
Mr Gentleman - VERY SMALL STAKES:
There is a lot going on in this story, with the dystopian backdrop and magic pills and people getting guillotined, yet very little actually happens. Dorothea wants to make a friend. She does that. She decides to do something nice for him, but turns out she was always going to do this, she was just waiting for the right time, so that’s not very interesting. The end.
You chose to write a story about someone with very flat affect, and the story was, consequentially, very flat. It needed something else to make it a rewarding reading experience.
flerp - look just leave my garden alone:
Ooh I like this. Very weird, but the protag’s desire to take control of his territory, on his own terms, was very well described. Great use of the nonsense word too.
Applewhite - Guerilla Music:
I think this story starts when Kat decides to go looking for the last unsecured speaker. Unfortunately, there are a lot of fairly pointless words before this point.
I found the ending unsatisfying. Does Kat learn anything from all this? She seems like a dick, to be honest.
My Shark Waifuu - Robotic Interactions:
Aw, this is sweet, and the description of grief is very relatable. I think the whole AI thing was a bit superfluous though - the story would have been the same, for example, if all the companies required you to submit cancellations or changes online, except the charity, which actually had a phone number. You’d still have the same turning point when Sara decides she’s ready for human company again.
Thranguy - Number Six Will Shock You:
Oh dear, that was disturbing. I mean, it is good, in that it succeeds in its aim (of being disturbing in an amusing yet also disturbing fashion), but I did not like it. This is a definite, ‘I see this has merit but it is not to my taste’ kind of crit.
Carl Killer Miller - Transportive Ovonics:
This felt like three stories smooshed together: one about Patrick, a man who desperately needed help; one about how a stupid security guard gets used in an experiment by a mad scientist; and a third about two Frankenstein-esque monsters doing battle in a lab. The combination wasn’t unenjoyable, it just felt like the story kept lurching in different directions.
Ominous Whooshing - The Bloom:
Terrible first paragraph. Who is the protagonist? What do they want? Where are we? What’s going on? These are things that you should include in the opening in order to pull your reader immediately into the story.
Ok, that was weird, and not in a good way. This just feels like the set up for a much longer story.
Tyrannosaurus - a broken clock twice:
This vernacular doesn’t feel natural to me. Maybe I just don’t recognise the accent, but I would say it is overdone.
Is the Mob one person, or the group? The dialogue makes it sound like one person, but other times it sounds like you’re referring to the whole group.
To be fair, I’ve never been in a fight, but the pivot from the level of violence inflicted on the teacher to him talking about Dune felt really implausible, particularly given you’ve described him as being seriously injured.
Hmmm, the ending is good, but overall this didn’t quite hang together for me. Still pretty good though.
rohan - Snarrick:
Oh no has this got Something Awful in-jokes in it?
Hmmm, maybe not. But, the reference to posting online was a bit odd - up til that point I’d been picturing a very young child, but maybe the protagonist is supposed to be a teenager?
So, the protagonist murdered their parents, then forgot? And now they’re in hospital?
Confusing, not very satisfying, because it didn’t feel like the protagonist had any particular motivations or desires.
And you shouldn’t drink milk after you’ve already cleaned your teeth.
Captain_Indigo - Shatter:
What’s an ECH?
This had some good ingredients but unfortunately it is not a cake/story. The protagonist’s motives aren’t clear - I don’t know what he wants, and therefore can’t get interested in whether or not he gets it or not. And then he dies.
Some cool descriptions though.
Flesnolk - This story doesn't exist:
This story has potential but needs a lot of editing (and not just because it is 1,000 words over the word limit). I like the style you’re going for with the prose but I’d say it is overdone, and in places is too confusing. Sentences like this for example I found really hard to parse: “Pekal slumbered in circles around men and women and children contorted and embalmed alive and wrenched into place so they stared forever at the chapel.”
5/10 - had some cool moments but overall I didn’t really get what was going on.
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 08:31|
Crits for Week #483
As always, the LESS i say about your story, the better. I like to read stories, so when i’m into it i just read and don’t think about critting. When something pulls me out of the story i’ll stop to jot a note. I read and rated these backwards, so if i seem real mad toward the beginning that’s why.
Albatrossy_Rodent - The Teacher Hunter:
Startin’ off your story with numbers what i don’t know wtf they mean is a risky move. Gettin nervous cause you mentioned minors loving twice 😐 if she’s teaching remedial classes i doubt that those kids are that concerned with their GPA and they’re not really “assigned” there i’d guess. Just reads a little odd. Third mention of student sex. What the gently caress is this emoticon poo poo? Fourth mention. Fifth. These kids horny as hell. “Over netflix and chill.” how are you doing, fellow kids? Second plabenie usage is better than the first IMO. well that took a turn. Did you write this for last week lol. Couldn’t resist getting one sixth and final reference to kids having sex in.
So yeah, i know HS kids bone. Fine. WHY is it such a central theme to your story about blackmail and spycraft and whatnot? It’s fuckin weird, man. It’s thematically not important AT ALL but you just KEEP bringing it up. The only time it was relevant was when she used the lure of sex to manipulate ty into doing what she wanted, which ok, but in the context of all the other mentions it just feels weird.
Plot wise this story literally has to take a break in the middle to be like ‘WELL WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED” to get around it being a deus ex machina resolution, but it doesn’t feel as fun of a reveal as it could have. I think you’d have to do a bit more work setting it up to make it land well, that needs to be your intention from the get go. Think of “knives out,” that does this. It clearly knew it was going to do it the whole time, and put in a ton of stuff in the part before the reveal to make the reveal satisfying. Here there’s not really anything for me to think about this cole character other than a call to adventure for jess. So what we have is a pretty straightforward double cross where the trappers become the trapees, mixed in with a lot of references to underage sex. Technically your writing is fine and even borders on decent and a pleasure to read, but the content is so out in left field it’s distracting.
The man called M - Chemtrials.com Testemonial Interview #133769:
Lol you made a typo in your title. Also like dude did you even try? I kinda wanted to just DQ you and not even bother considering this a real entry, but my cojudges talked me into giving you the loss. I’m not even going to bother critting this story because why waste my time if you’re not going to even bother putting in the slightest effort. Maybe you should go back to the drawing board and figure out what you want from this and from writing in general. If it’s just attention and what not there are better places for that. If you want to improve as a storyteller, you have to put in the time.
Mr Gentleman - VERY SMALL STAKES:
“The curve for the cutoff, as always, had been set by her high score.” an outlier shouldn’t affect the curve much. All the average people are what are setting the curve. ““Totally voluntary . . . don’t understand why you aren’t a citizen yet . . . absolutely ridiculous . . . waste of my time . . .”” i really hate this device...i’ve seen it before and i still really hate it. It’s such a lovely copout, it’s exposition in the worst way possible. Literally just short snippets of info, not even interesting to read. You have no way of knowing this, but i hate it. Please never do it again. It’s awful. Your story is ok in the beginning, better in the middle, and then pretty boring at the end. I just kind of stop caring about this lady because she’s got no real reason to keep going. She’s just hurting people and saying “i won’t be bullied,” like that’s pretty boring. Her friend is good and finding a friendship is good but she kinda just doesn’t change really. She gives him some pills but i dunno, it doesn’t feel like a huge change. Just loving retire, lady. The world building is p good in this tho, but a bit corny at times.
flerp - look just leave my garden alone:
“I can only see this man.” is this the sentence you meant to write? Not “only i can see this man?” it seems like they see other things. “Who was always there, siphoning the loneliness from my life.” this is a real good line.
I don’t 100% get the last 2 paragraphs, I’m not sure what they’re supposed to mean. I’m happy that this person went out and confronted the guy and made him leave, but i’m not sure exactly what that means for this character. I’m not sure the significance of the tomato, but i AM glad that you used your word not to mean wine or blood, which is the easiest (laziest and uncreative) way to handle that, so thanks! Overall this story is pretty good because it’s a person’s struggles against themselves, with a bunch of other people not helping and even being like “nah this is a good thing.” but it wasn’t good. You can’t rely on anybody but yourself sometimes, even if the others mean well. Anyway, cool story, wish i got the ending.
Applewhite - Guerilla Music:
Any time you have to start your story with exposition telling the reader what something is means you didn’t do a very good job of showing it in your story. Or you should have just deleted out the explanation. I often find that the first few paragraphs are more ME learning what my story is about, and in the end i don’t need that anymore, and the story is stronger for not explaining to myself what i’m writing about.
About halfway through this story and i don’t really know why this lady wants to play music. Like… what’s her real motivation? She’s just starting to get into it now, but it’s WAY too late. “The numbers plunged faster than a coked-up plumber.” while this is a hilarious line, it’s also awful. I’m still not sure why playing this music is so important to her. I’m with donna here. This poo poo doesn’t add up. You should have set up a better reason much earlier in the story. Like she heard a random song at just the right time in her life, and she wanted to do the same for others, etc. she just is like “I LIKE IT OK!”
Well that was a predictable wet fart of a goose chase. I really don’t understand the point of this story. Why did everybody just write THE LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF THEIR FLASH RULES this week?
My Shark Waifuu - Robotic Interactions:
There’s a bunch of good in here, and some good themes and stuff, but it fails to 100% land. The main “conflict” of the story here is that she calls things to cancel but the robots are very impersonal, and she’s dealing with the death of her wife. She cries a lot. This is expected, i guess, but you spend a lot of time on telling me how sad she is and how much she cries. I don’t doubt that. But then she calls a real person and… the real person is like “oh yeah me too” and then she DOESN’T cry and decides she’ll help dogs now. It doesn’t really mesh well together, because what to do with her time, or having something to distract her or whatever, or even “i’m missing human connection” isn’t really the main idea in the beginning of the story. It’s about AI and robots and efficiency, etc. to make that ending land, you have to have her isolated and alone and thinking about THAT as she works her way through her list, not the merits of AI vs human. OR if you want to stay on Ai vs. human you need more on her trying to use robots as a means of getting through her grief and eschewing human contact, like an AI therapist or something. Right now the two themes don’t really mesh super well together, and that weakens the overall impact of the story. In the end her actions seem just kind of like “um ok, thanks for letting me know?” rather than a satisfying solution to her situation.
Thranguy - Number Six Will Shock You:
“leaving their a devoted” typo. “Be prepared for your life to be turned inside out over the next six months” haha my kid just turned 6 months a few days so mood. “will that you for later,” typo.
The title and last line feed more into the flash idea thingy but weaken the piece overall, and you should have just done it as a standalone piece (which it obviously is). I dunno, I dig this despite the weird FAQ gimmick. It’s silly and fun.
Carl Killer Miller - Transportive Ovonics:
Ha. nothing really to comment on line by line. This is a silly story, and that’s fine. I think it would have been stronger to pick a POV character and stick with it. You head jump between barnes and stan, and that dilutes the story’s power. Stan is the obvious main character, and having him just chilling at night to get summoned by a guy to start his adventure is good enough. Maybe a bit more time on the sugar will ruin the results, etc., but overall pretty decent for a silly flash fiction.
Ominous Whooshing - The Bloom:
“ a university crest” never miss an opportunity to give detail in flash fiction. Telling me WHAT university, even if made up, can give me information about the people on that bus. There’s a big difference between PADDINGSHIRE TECH UNIVERSITY and MUDFLATS COMMUNITY COLLEGE. This whole intro is telly as gently caress, but especially this part: “The bus has unloaded a handful of graduate students, their professor (an ambitious young botanist, Dr Deborah Levin), an aspiring local journalist, and, lastly, one very cold undergraduate American exchange student” which is like dang just show me dawg. “her.she” two typos in one! “She was also, more importantly, irresistibly pretty.” kinda hosed up that THAT’s the important part. “Dr Levin” typo. “Sarah grimaced at the thought of the fine,” don’t mix in actions of one character with dialog of another in the same paragraph. Carriage return that poo poo, baby. The visual descriptions of the flowers is a little too poetic to land. I’m not sure what they really look like and what is just hyperbole for the sake of sounding ~descriptive~. ““A kraenklok? It’s sort of like a German crossbowie,”” hey that’s the name of the show! You did not handle this part of the prompt deftly. Lol you did the same thing with your idea that doesn’t exist. Eek. so uh… then everybody turns into flowers… but not the main chars… for reasons.
Yo i’m gonna level with you, this story is really bad lol. The main character has almost no agency, you introduce her through exposition and then her qualities are “shallow asian lesbian.” she does literally NOTHING in this story but sit around and observe poo poo and ask questions about your prompt. Then in the end some stuff happens and it means nothing and i literally don’t care because i don’t even know what the hell her motivation is other than “bore the gently caress outta me”
but you're new and this reads very much like Domer's First Story. Don't get discouraged. read the crits and understand why we said them. fix as many mistakes as you can next time. I've seen worse stories from new writers that ended up being very good writers. if you want to get better at writing, this is the right place to be.
Tyrannosaurus - a broken clock twice:
Gets a bit confusing to have the Mob’s dialog all in one quote section thingy. I get why, but doesn’t make it less confusing. This just clockwork orange fanfic? The story reads great up until the teacher’s dialog. Just sounds forced and corny and unrealistic. I have a hard time believing this man gets kicked in the face and then is just telling them about Dune and they’re like name dropping actors and stuff. It feels like a weird product placement.not 100% sure what the ending entailed. I THINK that the old guy took pictures of the POV char’s weiner so that’s how he knows about the box and stuff. But it seems so weird that they’re just sitting around and he’s like “oh hey lets go gently caress up that one guy” randomly. Why now? Also wouldn’t his friends see the picture of him maybe? Are they gonna take the box to the police? Are they killing him or just loving him up?
rohan - Snarrick:
“Timothy.” feels weird to give the char a name in a 2nd person story. I can kinda dig the second person here. We’re in a psych ward and we don’t really know what’s up. Confused, missing details, trying to figure out what’s going on. That’s fine. I like the story a lot up until the doctor explains fugue state. It’s too on the nose. Have him deflect. It’s good to give your reader a clue, but bad to literally define it. Then the last 2 little sections are unwarranted and unneeded. I don’t want you to tell me exactly what happened, it cheapens it. This is one of those stories that doesn’t need a concrete reveal. The story is in the weirdness and unsettledness. Of the relationship between “you” and the snarrick. That sound that we hear that portends bad things. Are we crazy? Or is it real? What IS it? Thought all your assignments were handled pretty well.
Captain_Indigo - Shatter:
“I put my hands in my pocket” you put both of them in one pocket? Is it a hoodie at least? “span around in my computer chair” spun works better. “My pockets were empty” but your hands?! “we had now been working at” be careful using “now” in stories that are told in the past tense. It feels odd. “Now, he was colossal.” you did it again, do you get why this reads weird? “Pschothesia” is this missing a y? “PHD” Ph.D. or PhD, generally. “I want to know what on.” this is awkward. “Hey glared “ hey! I thought your word was pretty cool and your usage of it was ok.
This has the meat of a good story, some tension, conflict, weird poo poo, but i don’t know enough for the ending to land. Seems like there’s this research station studying these crystals that are annoying and also give dreams, and also seems to gently caress with people, transforming them? I’m not sure how they’re affecting the main char. Is he normal and fighting it, or is he also affected? In the end i’m not sure what the device he wanted in his jacketpocket (why had he left it there?) and what it was supposed to do. So overall this is pretty middle slush pile because i feel like you need a bunch more words to let me know wtf is going on and what is happening to this char. The characterization on the boss is p good tho.
crabrock fucked around with this message at 08:49 on Nov 9, 2021
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 08:33|
screw the rules, i have thunderdome
im tired of rules. im tired of narratives, of characters reaching their goals, of all the rules floating around with writing. its all just so exhausting and boring. so this week, you will write without rules.
thats right, all the thunderdome adages are gone. wanna write fanfic? hell yeah do it. erotica? yup. wanna call donald trump a poopy head? a little late, but hey you do you. but even the rules of general writing structures are gone too. we dont need plot where we're going. or sentence structure. or punctuation. whatever man, you just do you.
so this week, i want you to write something, anything, and i want you to do so without following any of the rules governing writing. i want the strange and experimental. i dont think this week will be good, ill be honest, but i want failures that fail in interesting ways. you can still write prose, that's fine, but i really dont want traditional stories.
also, as an inspiration, when you sign up, i will give you a flash rule. it will be a rule that you MUST break. hell rules on request with a .
other rules: there arent!
word count: lol
sign-up deadline: some time saturday morning PST if i remember
submission deadline: some time monday morning PST
CourtFundedPoster - your protagonist must be the center of the piece
Albatrossy_Rodent - your piece must be told in a linear fashion
Mr Gentleman - your piece must have a conflict
The man called M - your protagonist must change
Thranguy - your piece must have a beginning
Carl Killer Miller - your piece must have characters
Captain_Indigo - your piece must happen over a period of time
Hawklad - your piece must have a relatable protagonist
ChickenOfTomorrow - your piece must have a climax
crabrock - your piece must have understandable characters (as in they speak and think in ways humans understand)
Yoruichi - your protagonist must achieve something
sebmojo - your piece must exist in a single timeline
Fuschia tude - your piece must contain tangible objects
Chairchucker - your piece must make sense
Sitting Here - your piece must obey the law of conservation of matter
J.A.B.C. - your piece must have a point of view
Flesnolk - your piece must have a plot/your piece must exist
Ominous Whooshing - your characters must have motivations
steeltoedsneakers - your piece must end
curlingiron - your piece must have emotional stakes
Beezus - your piece must have a protagonist that interacts with others and/or the world
Tyrannosaurus - your piece must have only one possible ending
Antivehicular - your protagonist must only be one person
derp - your piece must have things happening
BabyRyoga - your piece must be satisfying
Zurtilik - your protagonist must be in the piece
crimea - your piece must have a setting
flerp fucked around with this message at 23:53 on Nov 13, 2021
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 14:51|
Hell Yeah, In!
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 15:05|
Hell Yeah, In!
your protagonist must be the center of the piece
flerp fucked around with this message at 16:02 on Nov 9, 2021
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 15:10|
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 15:11|
your piece must be told in a linear fashion
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 16:02|
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 16:03|
your piece must have a conflict
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 16:04|
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 16:16|
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 16:25|
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 23:36|
|# ? Nov 9, 2021 16:29|