in with fungalpunk
|# ¿ May 13, 2021 00:11|
|# ¿ May 21, 2022 00:31|
Dig Deep For Victory
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 05:26 on Oct 30, 2021
|# ¿ May 17, 2021 03:55|
Thunderdome CDLIX: Picaresqueties
Hello, please write me some picaresque stories. What is picaresque? It is a genre of novel originating in early modern Spain. The picaresque features rogues, vagabonds, ne'er-do-wells and others of low social class. The protagonists live by their wits and are often morally ambiguous or outright villainous. They move through a series of episodic adventures*, usually without substantial change to their circumstances at the end. The narrative may include elements of satire or absurdism. For more details you can look at the Wiki article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picaresque_novel
The original picaresques were set in realistic contemporary settings. More recently, the style and structure of the picaresque has been adopted by sword and sorcery writers (think Jack Vance's Eyes of the Overworld or Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories) and even science fiction (e.g. Harry Harrison's Bill the Galactic Hero). I'd love to read about actual 16th century Spaniards but I will also happily accept a broader interpretation of the genre. 'The Big Lebowski' is a picaresque as far as I'm concerned.
*A whole novel would include many such episodes, but for a Thunderdome story just one is probably enough.
Word limit: 1759 (the year Candide was published)
Signups close: 5pm Saturday AEDT
Submissions close: 5pm Monday AEDT
List of entrants:
My Shark Waifuu
List of judges:
(It's been a long time since I judged, so let me know if I left anything out of this post.)
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 21:28 on May 24, 2021
|# ¿ May 19, 2021 05:23|
*** Deadline Extended ***
Signups close: 5pm Saturday AEDT
Submissions close: 5pm Monday AEDT
|# ¿ May 19, 2021 11:39|
Signups are closed.
|# ¿ May 22, 2021 07:29|
Submissions are closed.
|# ¿ May 24, 2021 07:27|
Still looking for a 3rd judge if anyone is interested.
|# ¿ May 24, 2021 21:27|
It's Judgment Time, You Rogues and Varlets
Writing picaresques is hard, apparently. There's a fine line between sweetly expressing the absurdity and randomness of life, and just making your reader go "So what?" - and quite a lot of you meandered over to the wrong side of the line this week.
First, the dregs of the dregs. SMEGMA_MAIL came close to suffering a terrible fate with the bland and toneless A Tale of Two Storage Lockers. Ultimately though he escaped the gallows when they were reserved for Taletel's untitled story, which takes the loss for its tin-eared dialogue and plethora of grammatical errors. SMEGMA_MAIL takes a DM instead.
The rest of you, perhaps fittingly, wandered through various layers of mediocrity, neither impressing nor unduly irritating me, which means there are no HMs to give out this week.
One agile rogue managed to wriggle free of the pack and get away with the crown jewels stuffed in his backpack: Tyrannosaurus, with the charming and tightly structured the proposal.
Enjoy wearing the crown once more, until it inevitably tumbles from your grasp again!
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 23:52 on May 25, 2021
|# ¿ May 25, 2021 23:21|
May I interest you in some crits, sir? Very cheap, a better price you'll not find for miles around.
A Tale of Two Storage Lockers
This is an interesting case study because in the abstract it seems like you have everything you need for a good picaresque: lowlife protagonists, a series of escapades, a reversal of fortune at the end. But it really doesn’t work, so why not?
First of all, the characters aren’t developed enough for me to care about them. There are a few potentially interesting quirks – Lenny is reckless, Davit is a guy who can sleep through a car crash – but they’re few and far between.
Second, the voice. Your narrator doesn’t really sound like a grifter, he sounds like a bland middle-class dude. As a bland middle-class dude myself, I admit that I probably couldn’t pull off an effective voice for this character either, which is why I’d write the story in third person instead of first.
There are also a fair few technical errors like run-on sentences (“This time I made sure to pick a street dark enough that the lovely print job on the box contained a repackaged pair of garbage speakers from some factory in some country I never heard of that didn't look like what it was”) and the dreaded use of CAPS LOCK FOR SHOUTING. Try to get someone to line-edit one of your pieces so you can see where you are going wrong with this stuff.
I liked the ending.
Bobo and Ferrs Meet Their Match
A pretty cute story, endearing characters, gave me Roald Dahl vibes. This style of narrator (omniscient, but with a distinct personality) is hard to pull off and you didn’t quite stick it. I think it’s because you didn’t commit to a particular tone of voice: “you or I or anyone else sensible would say it was quite expensive indeed” makes me feel the narrator is a grandfatherly Tolkien type, but then “Before anybody gets the wrong idea:” has a more modern tone.
The stakes feel a bit low. If you’ve ever read Fantastic Mister Fox you may remember that the tone is whimsical, yet at the same time, loving terrifying – there is absolutely no doubt that the villains want to kill the protagonists in the most vicious way possible. Your story could have used a dash of that.
“Thank you for noticing,” is a nice line.
This story begins a running theme this week of the protagonists talking their way out a situation rather too easily. The cats say Bobo and Ferrs will “regret it” if they double-cross them, but they obviously don’t have any way to back this threat up. I mean, hopping in the boat is a nice touch, but couldn’t B & F just as easily have simply hosed off into the woods? My point is, even in a light story like this, you need to put appropriate pressure on your heroes.
There are a lot of problems with this story. Let’s start with the most basic: grammar. You have a lot of missing punctuation, comma splices, and most awfully, a switch from present to past tense and back again. Before you can expect a reader to engage with your story, you need to clear this very low bar. Apparently, The Elements of Style by Strunk & White is the book to read to teach you about all this stuff. Personally I haven’t read it (which is probably why I still do comma splices sometimes, lol). I just picked things up by reading a lot of books, which is a slower but more entertaining method. If you want to read a book that’s sort of like your story but much better, I recommend City of the Chasch by Jack Vance.
Your dialogue is at best cliched, at worst garbled. “Most superiors care little about their soldiers, we’re just cannon fodder to them,” is a particularly bad line. It grates on the ear because it’s obvious that it’s the author trying to tell the reader something about the world, not the character talking in his own voice.
On the other hand, this line is pretty good: “You awake buddy? Don’t worry, we’ll fix you up, but after that, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to sell you. Consider your enslavement the payment for us saving your life.” It’s funny, it’s a bit unexpected, and it shows the speaker’s motivations (to keep the protagonist calm, to justify the evil thing he is about to do). Write more like this.
For a sci-fi story, you need to spend more time on descriptive passages. I can’t see or feel any of the situations your protag is in, so I mentally fill it in with the most generic SyFy backdrops imaginable.
The story starts in media res with an implicit promise that we will find out why the protagonist is running around in the jungle. That promise is never really fulfilled – I get the impression he was a corp soldier but why did he defect?
I will give you a little credit for capturing the “and then this happened, and then this happened” structure, which is what I was asking for.
Great stuff. I love how you keep playing with my opinion of the protagonist – he’s thinking sleazy thoughts about this woman! But he saved her dad! But he did so while breaking and entering! Etc.
Towards the end I got a little tired of the repetition of the violence. “I hit him, he hit me, I kicked him in the nuts, etc”.
I wasn’t quite sure why the protagonist didn’t go straight to “everyone run out the front door” as soon as he fought that first orderly. Perhaps a few lines emphasising that he doesn’t want to go to jail, hence prefers to help the elders in a more discreet fashion.
I’m not sure I got the last line. Is he saying he won’t get a real job because the nursing home is too tempting a target for robbery? I guess that makes sense but it feels a bit flat and takes me a moment to parse.
Diamonds and Chains
A couple weeks back I read someone on Twitter describing bad metaphors as “literary pyrotechnics” – they aren’t helping to convey information or build tone, they are just sitting there drawing attention to themselves. That’s what I’m getting from your first line.
The first paragraph is insanely stuffed with ideas – red diamond, summer queen, Pink, now the protag is being attacked by the stewardess? I admire the attempt at conciseness but you took it too far and just strained my brain.
OK, so after reading the whole thing, I feel like this story began with the twist about the planes being dragons, and you worked backwards from there. This resulted in a story that seems clever in retrospect, but isn’t actually very fun to read. I was lost most of the time with nothing to hold onto, and having it all basically make sense in the end doesn’t make up for that.
The catgirls are a big problem. They make the world seem less ‘Dresden Files’ and more like some monkey cheese cartoon where anything can happen. If they had been elves or goblins or some other folklore creature that’s known for wearing glamour, it would have been more aesthetically consistent and also set up the twist better.
The way the ‘Arch-?’ is introduced and then dismissed is messy. IMO the catgirls should just be agents of Queen Vestria, for the sake of narrative efficiency.
Lastly, this isn’t very picaresque to me. The protagonists aren’t down-and-out rogues, they’re highly professional master thieves and wizards to boot.
The Congregation of the Catacombs
Your story starts out with one major advantage: I loving love this classic sword & sorcery poo poo. And you captured the style of Leiber/Moorcock/Howard/etc passably well.
I’m not sure why the protag is so chill about walking through lightless tunnels for days on end. That seems like a pretty harrowing experience, not to mention logistically challenging (how many days’ worth of torches can one person carry?) I thought you might explore this as an unusual facet of his character, but you didn’t really.
I get that you are trying to set up the encounter with the skeleton as a tense situation where Shadrach needs to talk fast to save his skin. I don’t quite feel that tension though. Maybe if he tried a bit harder to refuse the invitation and the skeleton was more insistent? Or if he had run out of torches and needed the skeleton to lead him back to the surface?
So the skeletons don’t like interesting stories but they do like boring stories. I don’t get exactly why this is so. I think you were trying to set up a dichotomy between things the skeletons know well (war, sorcery) and things they long for (sunlight, food) but it isn’t really fleshed out enough (no pun intended) to really charm me the way this sort of story should.
The twist would have been much more powerful if you ended immediately or almost immediately after the skeleton reveals what they were considering doing to him. I recommend reading “Pickman’s Model” by H. P. Lovecraft ( https://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/pm.aspx ) - it’s kind of a corny old story in some ways, but it’s a good example of how to hold back the twist as long as possible so the reader is left, in the silence after the story, to reconsider the events in a new and more horrifying light.
Still it was a decent story that with a little more energy could have squeaked over the line to HM.
Positive Energy Guaranteed
It’s a cute idea and I enjoyed the relationship between the two protagonists, but the story didn’t have much drive. “I need to make money at my job” is usually not enough of a motivation to make for an engaging protagonist. And the ghost’s motivation is even less, it’s basically “I hate rich people with tacky houses so I’m going to annoy them”. To improve this I’d start by asking what does money mean to the protag on an emotional level? Is she the first one in her family to own a home? Does she need a stable income so she can get visitation rights to her kid? I don’t know, it could be all sorts of things, but it needs to be more potent than just “yay I bought a house in LA”.
This might have worked better in the past tense because then the summary-style paragraphs (e.g. “The scheme goes better than even I could’ve imagined…”) would feel more natural.
A Lengthy Line of Bad Ideas
A character almost falling off a cliff but then saving themselves is one of those situations that seems like it would be exciting to read about but almost never is. There just aren’t enough moving parts for it to have the physical dynamism required to grab my attention.
For the first five or six paragraphs I don’t know what kind of world I’m in – the present day? Medieval fantasy? Some historical setting? Eventually it seems to resolve into an Edgar Rice Burroughs sort of world with prehistoric creatures, or something.
The paragraph beginning “As he watched it fall he realized…” is incredibly vague. This is a character who has engaged in… jobs, relationships, businesses and partnerships. Not much to go on. Also the premise of the paragraph doesn’t really match up with his current situation. Falling off the cliff is mostly just bad luck, not a direct result of his bad decisions.
The travelling salesmen have really awkward dialogue. Are they supposed to be putting the hard sell on him or do they think he doesn’t speak their language? Then there’s this bit where Malthus sees into their past… is this metaphorically or like he literally has a magic power? And apparently they’re going to kill him but I have no idea why.
Then the thylacine (which isn’t a cat, btw – maybe you were thinking of Thylacoleo?) comes back, the story ends abruptly and we never even find out what was in that package.
Maybe all the awkwardness and unexplained stuff was intentional as a way to address the prompt, in which case good effort, but it didn’t work.
|# ¿ May 26, 2021 02:56|
|# ¿ Jun 3, 2021 04:50|
I fall asleep curled under heavy blankets, holding Julia tightly, listening to rain patter on the rooftop. I wake up to sticky heat, bright sunlight, the chatter of birdsong.
The bed is empty besides me. A thin sheet is draped over my hips.
I go into the kitchen in a daze, squinting and reaching for my coffee. Things are in different places from where I left them. The sugar jar that looks like a tortoise is gone. A bottle of sunscreen lies on the countertop, open and oozing glacially.
Why sunscreen in wintertime?
Julia comes in from the other room. She is fully dressed, face tight and hair pinned back. There is a bulging duffel bag under her arm.
“Hun,” I say, “what time is it? I must have slept so late...”
I know something is wrong by the way her lips purse at ‘hun’. “Pat, it’s 6:30. You should go back to sleep.”
“It's not light out like this at 6:30,” I say, laughing. Why is the air so hot, my skin so sweaty?
Julia doesn’t laugh. She peers at me. “Are you OK? I know this is hard for you, but… it’s past time.”
“Past time for what?”
I glance at the clock on the microwave: 6:42. That’s wrong. Is it? I find my phone charging by the couch, even though I’m sure I left it on the nightstand. I turn it on. The screen says: 6:42am, January 13.
I feel sick.
“There’s something wrong with my phone,” I say. “It says January. Jules, how weird is that my phone says January instead of August?”
Now there is naked fear and apprehension on her face. “Pat. You’re confused. It’s summer.”
“It’s not summer, it’s winter, it’s... I went to bed in winter.” I realise how stupid that sounds but it’s the closest I can get to describing what happened. “We went to sleep cuddling, remember?”
She shakes her head, mouth a little open.
“Jules. I think I need your help.”
“Oh, Pat,” says Julia. “I only came to pick up my stuff.”
But because there is no one else—my parents still live out of town, that much is still the same—Julia drives me to the hospital. She waits in the cafeteria for hours while they give me one test after another. At the end of it all, the doctor tells me the results are ‘inconclusive’.
“You have reasons to be optimistic,” he says. “In 80% of these cases, the missing memories at least partially return.” He hands me a pamphlet and I see that he was reading off the first page.
I find Julia at a laminate table, picking over a dry orange cake. When I sit down I put my hand over hers, automatically, and she pulls it back to her chest.
“Jules, I want to talk about this. About us.”
She sighs. “We already talked so much. I can’t do it all over again.”
“I—I don’t remember,” I say, stating the bloody obvious.
“Oh, come on, Patrick. This isn’t healthy. It’s time to let go.”
“You think—what, I’m lying—”
“I didn’t say that.” She stands up. “But… you’ve never been exactly stable, have you?”
There is a venom in her voice I have never heard before. I feel vertigo at the gap between us, the five months missing from my head. What did I say to her, to make her look at me like this?
We stand in silence for a long time. Then, because there is no-one else, she drives me home.
Days begin to pass. I am not coping. I take indefinite leave from work and stay home all day, running the air conditioning, wrapping myself in blankets on the couch. I still feel like any minute I could fall asleep and go back—back into the winter I left behind.
In my phone there are hundreds of text messages between me and Julia: broken conversations, their other halves irretrievably vanished. I scroll through them, trying to pry meaning out of words I wrote but can’t recall.
One night, I realise I have lost my password book and can’t get into any of my accounts. This, for whatever reason, is the thing that breaks me. I call Julia over and over until she finally picks up.
“I need you. Just stay with me one night. Sleep on the couch. I can't be alone anymore.”
There is a long silence. Then she says, sadly, “Pat...”
“Do you want me to beg? To cry? I’ll do anything, I’ll say anything, I’ll—”
“Alright. Jesus, Pat, I’ll come over.”
The night is scorching hot. I lie in the dark a long time, listening to Julia’s breathing in the next room. It’s a sad, pathetic little comfort, but I need it.
When I wake up, I’m under two duvets with my pyjama pants tucked into my socks. Outside the covers it’s icy cold, but underneath I’m warm, with a warm body next to me.
My heart rises in my chest. “Jules?”
“Hm? What’s that, hun?”
The dark-haired girl in my bed blinks sleep from her eyes. She has a soft white scar across the bridge of her button nose. Almost absentmindedly she kisses my clavicle.
I open my mouth to speak, to ask a hundred different questions. Then I shut it again, and pull her closer.
|# ¿ Jun 6, 2021 04:02|
in with Hell of a View - Eric Church
|# ¿ Jun 9, 2021 23:35|
Hell of a View
The Old Man and the Tree
Only later would Maria realise that she had witnessed the very moment when Gus’s war against the wowsers began. It all started with the myna birds that frequented Gus’s garden. They were his mortal enemies, because—as he explained to Maria through the gap in her back fence—they were an invasive species, who monopolised the best nesting spots and trashed the nests of native birds out of sheer spite. Gus had strong opinions on birds.
In Gus’s backyard stood a grand old manna gum, tallest on the block. One day he spotted a myna building its nest up there, so he scaled the tree and smashed the nest to bits with a broom handle. Maria watched from below, on the other side of the fence. If she had known her neighbour a little better, she might have called out and told him to be careful. Instead she just stared.
After the nest was destroyed he suddenly looked down and gave her a wink. His teeth gleamed from the midst of a bushy grey-brown beard.
“Hell of a view up here, eh, Maria?”
She blushed. She hadn’t realised he knew her name.
The next day Gus began to work. First he nailed a ladder up the side of the tree and built a wooden platform in its main fork. Then he added his ‘mod cons’: an awning, a sun chair, an esky, and a peg to hang his binoculars on. Then he settled in to watch—the birds, the people, the sunrise and the sunset.
While Maria worked in the garden, Gus kept up a stream of commentary for her benefit. He talked about everything he could see: kids riding bikes in the street, wagtails courting on the rooftops, dogs and currawongs down by the creek. Maria listened and smiled. There was nothing good on the radio these days, anyway.
The first complaint came because of the beer cans. Gus liked to drink, even before noon. (“I’m retired! I’ve got nowhere to be!”) When he saw mynas on the roof he would lob his empties at them. The cans fell in other people’s yards or out on the street. After a flurry of gossip about the issue, one of the Neighbourhood Watch reps came and told him off for littering.
The next day Gus put a sign on his front lawn: “1 CAN IN BIN = $2”. The kids came from blocks around to clean up the street, and Gus threw gold coins down at them. One time a coin hit Lachie McIntyre on the brow and made him bleed, but he didn’t tell anyone, since he didn’t want the coins to stop coming.
Most people liked to see Gus up there, presiding over the neighbourhood like some ancient king. The mothers waved to him as they jogged their strollers down the street. But some people were not happy about Gus and his tree. It was a bad influence on the children, for one thing. It was a breach of privacy, for another. And worst of all, what if it drove down house prices?
Maria was old, her husband was long gone, and her children lived far away, but she still heard things. She passed the warning on to Gus. “They will try to make you take it down,” she said.
“Bloody wowsers,” said Gus. “Let ‘em try.”
A man from the council came and knocked on Gus’s door.
“I’m here,” Gus called from the tree.
“Augusto Ventimiglia? Would you mind coming down so I can speak to you?”
“Nah, I can hear you fine. What do you want?”
“It’s been brought to my attention that you have added a structure to your property without an authorised planning permit. If you don’t take it down, I will have to issue you with an infringement notice.”
Gus laughed. “An infringement notice? I’m going to die soon, you think I give a rat’s arse about an infringement notice?”
The council man coughed nervously. “I’m very sorry to hear about your illness, Mr. Ventimiglia, but—”
“I’m not sick, you stuffed shirt, I’m just old. Now piss off, there’s pardalotes in the Japanese maple and you’re going to scare them away.”
The council sent the infringement notice. Gus responded by retaining a lawyer. A pretty good one too—Gus had taken his super in a lump sum, and had money to spare. “Can’t take it with me when I go,” he said to Maria. “And I don’t want my son to get it. He’s a right oval office.”
After the infringement notice was upheld, Gus took the council to court. When he lost the court case, he appealed. By this time the summer had come and gone. Gus put up a tarpaulin to keep off the rain, and ran up an extension cable so he could plug in his kettle.
At last the final appeal was struck down. The court ruled that Gus had seven days to remove his platform, or the council would remove it for him.
On the seventh day Gus worked through the night. The sound of hammers and power drills rang across the sleeping suburbs. The council guys pulled up in a cherry picker just before dawn. But when the sun came up they saw Gus’s old platform had completely vanished. In its place was a newer, bigger, flashier platform, in another fork, twice as high up the tree.
Just then, Gus’s lawyer pulled up in his Tesla. He served the council guys with paperwork declaring the new platform was a new structure, ergo, they would have to start the whole legal process over again to get it taken down.
Later, Gus and Maria shared a celebratory drink—a Furphy for him, a cup of tea for her. It was looking like a fine, clear day.
“Gus?” said Maria.
“If it’s alright… could I come up to visit you there, some time?”
Gus smiled—not a big grin but a soft warm smile. “Took you bloody long enough to ask.”
|# ¿ Jun 13, 2021 21:43|
in, give me an EPIC flashrule
|# ¿ Jun 15, 2021 22:16|
Flash rule: Fogcloaked Summits
The Dreamer's Companion
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 05:29 on Oct 30, 2021
|# ¿ Jun 20, 2021 06:31|
in with CAVEMAN
|# ¿ Jul 16, 2021 00:52|
The Story of the Sealed Cave
Listen! This is a story of purest truth, by which all may profit in wisdom. It is more valuable than honey, and it will endure as long as the mountain.
This is a story about Sekwe, She Who Feasts On Truth. Her jaw is the lynx’s jaw; her cloak is of feathers and dry leaves. As the Rockpool clan hunts the seal and the Big River clan hunts the wisent, so does Sekwe hunt mysteries. For the most delicious truths are those that humans, in their pride, have sought to conceal from the gods.
This is also a story about Prsk. His name is known and praised. Through him spoke Sekwe, who was invisible to others’ eyes.
Now the story begins.
It was in the high summer, after the solstice. Prsk had made his camp in the wetlands, beyond the hunting grounds of any clan. There he fed upon waterfowl and turtles’ eggs, while Sekwe kept watch from the treetops. One morning a Low Water woman appeared, struggling toward the camp in great haste. Her hair was matted with the dirt of hard travel. When Sekwe saw the woman, she smiled wide and said: “A mystery is coming.”
The woman approached. “Are you Prsk, the shaman who seeks hidden truths?”
“I am,” said Prsk. “What brings you so far from your hunting grounds?”
“Death,” said the woman, “and life. The hunt leader of Low Water clan has been murdered, and my lover stands accused of the crime. If you do not find the truth, the clan will take his life as well.”
This was sweet food to Sekwe, and she commanded Prsk to set out at once for Low Water camp. While they travelled, the woman related her story.
“My name is Meleet,” she began. “My lover is Kwon, who was second spear in the hunting band. Our sorrow began three days ago, on the eve of the summer solstice. Every year at this time the hunt leader must visit a sacred cave in the northern hills. He remains there from sunset to sunrise, speaking with the clan spirits, while his second spear guards the entrance.
“Wilkuos was our hunt leader—a mighty warrior, who has slain the rhinoceros and the desert wolf. He entered the cave at dusk. Kwon kept vigil outside, but he worried that he might fall asleep, so he asked me to keep him company. It is not taboo for a woman to be there, but... some might say it unmans him. So I came in secret, after night fell.
“I know Wilkuos was alive then. I heard his voice inside the cave, speaking to spirits in the dark. Around midnight he grew silent. We did not think this too strange. But in the morning we found he had been stabbed through the heart! It must have been a spirit that killed him.”
Then Sekwe grew wrathful, saying: “Command her to speak truth, not speculation.” This Prsk conveyed to Meleet, in gentler tones, and she continued.
“It was Elder Zuas who found him. She came just before dawn, carrying a cloak of birch-bark, which Wilkuos was supposed to wear when he emerged from the cave. Zuas went in, and we heard her scream. We ran inside and found Wilkuos lying dead, with a stone knife plunged into his heart.
“At first I thought he had only just been killed, for his blood was still wet upon the floor. But when Kwon looked at the body, he found it was already cold. Kwon is a hunter, so he knows well the decaying of flesh, and he was certain Wilkuos had been dead for hours. I tell you, some ghost must have murdered him at midnight.”
Prsk looked to wise Sekwe for enlightenment. But all she said was: “Ghosts do not kill with stone knives.”
Soon they arrived in the country of Low Water, between the big river and the hills, where grows the oleander, the willow and the water thistle. At the summer campground the whole clan was gathered to hear the elders’ judgement upon Kwon. At first the elders tried to drive Prsk away, saying he was a clanless vagabond. But Sekwe spoke through him and demanded to sit in judgement over the case. And the elders saw he was god-ridden, so they had no choice but to accept.
Eldest of the elders was Zuas, whose back was bent as a crescent moon. She came forward, resting on the arm of her grandson Buruk, who was third spear of the hunting band. She told a tale that matched all that Meleet had said before her. “Kwon is guilty,” she said. “He wished to become hunt leader, and his lover is lying to protect him.”
Then Sekwe through Prsk said: “What is it that makes the cave a sacred place?”
“That is Low Water knowledge,” said Zuas, “not for an outsider.”
“What knowledge is barred to the gods?” said Sekwe.
Reluctantly, Zuas spoke. “At the far end of the cave is a passage, narrow as a serpent and straight as a spear. It emerges on the east side of the hill. At dawn on the solstice, the sun shines through it and blesses the hunt leader with its light.” And in this Sekwe caught the scent of truth, and licked her scaled lips.
“Ask them one more question,” said Sekwe, “and the case will be done.”
“What question, Knife of Deceit?” said Prsk.
"Upon the sacred hill, where do the trees grow thicker: on the east side or the west side?"
Prsk could not comprehend this question, but he relayed it to the elders. "On the east side," they said.
"Zuas is the killer," said Sekwe. "Accuse her.”
Prsk began to tremble, for it was unthinkable that he, a clanless shaman, should cast the blame on such a distinguished elder. But he was sworn to obey the gods even unto death, so he spoke the words of accusation.
"This cannot be so," said the elders. "Zuas is old and frail, and Wilkuos was a mighty hunter. She could never have overcome him."
Even Prsk was forced to agree. But Sekwe spoke through him again, with great majesty, so that his throat was wracked by the strain of carrying a god's voice.
"Zuas," she said, "though you have the respect of all your clan, you desired yet more power. Envy inflamed your soul when you saw your grandson was only third spear in the hunting band. With the pride of all mortals, you believed your offspring deserved the highest honour. So you planned to murder Wilkuos and place the blame on Kwon."
"Lies!" declared Zuas, but the voice of the god overrode her.
"In secret you gathered the sap of the oleander, in which is concentrated the plant's poison. Then, that night, you went to the solstice passage and burned the sap on a bed of dry wood. You knew well that the wind blows east to west across those hills, as the trees will tell to anyone with eyes to see. The wind carried the poison vapours down the passage and into the cave. Wilkuos was in a spirit-trance, and did not notice until it was too late. By midnight he was dead.
"In the morning you approached the cave, bearing the birch-bark cloak. Inside the cloak you concealed two items: the stone knife, and a bladder filled with animal's blood. When you found Wilkuos, you thrust the dagger into his heart and spilled the blood around him so it would seem to be his. When Kwon and Meleet came in, they saw only what you wished them to see."
Zuas' face had turned as grey as a winter's dawn. "It is not true," she croaked.
"Let the proof be shown," said Sekwe. "If I am right, then there will be traces of a fire at the mouth of the solstice passage. No doubt you covered it with soil, but it should not be difficult to unearth."
Then the elders held council. It was forbidden for an outsider to visit the sacred hill, so they sent three women of the clan to discover the truth of it. At dusk the women came back with tears in their eyes. They had found the ashes just where Sekwe had said they would be. Then like rain from the mountains the tears spread to every eye, as the clan wept for the betrayal of their honoured elder. Buruk wept most of all, for he had known nothing of his grandmother's plan. Zuas alone did not weep, but cast down her eyes and murmured a curse upon the gods.
And Sekwe smiled, and licked her lips, and supped upon the sweet and flavourful truth.
This is the Story of the Sealed Cave. We learned it from Erkut, who learned it from Kuos, who learned it from Prsk himself. And if one word is false, let all our tongues be cut from our throats.
|# ¿ Jul 18, 2021 06:39|
I'm in, give me a marginalia, can't decide what else I want yet
|# ¿ Jul 27, 2021 02:07|
Simply Simon - Roles to Play
- could do with a bit more description
- sort of lacking energy after the first scene. OK, the king has a minor illness... so what?
- don't really care about this petitioners scene, sorry
- I like the idea of the song but the song itself doesn't really scan or rhyme
- massive timeskip explained as briefly and flatly as a Wikipedia synopsis
- I think this would have worked better if it started with Cilantro in the dungeon, then flashed back to the past. And told the whole story plainly from Cilantro's POV - at the start I thought that Rose was the main character
- I think the big flaw in this story is a misallocation of words. You spent a lot of time on the opening duel and the random petitioners, which weren't that interesting, and you skimped on the most dramatic parts, like Rose throwing his best friend into a dungeon.
- It feels like you came up with an idea for a 90-minute Disney movie and tried to do it in 2500 words, which wasn't really possible. You needed to capture the Disney vibe without using the full narrative structure of a feature film. I wonder how many others are going to fall into that trap this week...
a friendly penguin - Limbo
- I can't say why exactly but 'Jarome' and 'Dawley' just sound like really fake names
- OK, so we're doing cli-fi, Disney style??
- I'm really not getting a Disney vibe from this, it's loving grim. the idea of the kids trying to squeeze a little more profit from the already exploited land is actually pretty interesting, but definitely not in line with the prompt
- I like the idea of doing a "friends split up/get back together" arc, but it doesn't quite land because Jarome does all his learning off-screen. Their reunion should be an emotional climax but instead it's just Jarome saying "I actually already realised you were right and agree with you"
- so the resolution is that a) Sammy promises to work really hard to clean up the hills, even though she has been doing this for years already with no success, and b) the kids straight up murder the bad guy (with ghost magic??)
Nethilia - Jackie and the Three Beasts
- I want a bit more description in the opening paragraphs to tell me where/when we are. I'm guessing it's a generic Disney fairy tale land?
- the repetition becomes a little grating around the time the third beast shows up. Repeated patterns are a powerful tool, but they work best when each repetition has some kind of variation to play with the reader's expectations. Here, it's the exact same thing over and over.
- I'd like to know a bit more about *why* Jackie is so confident and so set upon rescuing the princess. I know it's a fairytale trope, but here it's hard to swallow considering that she apparently has nothing, no weapon, no plan, *and* she knows for a fact that if she doesn't come home then her dad is going to die of grief.
- "Lebasi’s countenance sent a shiver down Jackie’s spine" - ok, so what did he look like? What's a Disney movie without outlandish character designs?
- oh no, not another "three things" pattern...
- I don't understand the rosebush task. Can't she just watch and see which one disappears?
- Overall this story felt like you were doing a job. Like you were just plodding through the motions. You used a bunch of tropes from fairytales but didn't really do anything new with them. This phrase: "the three carrying all manner of rewards" - is emblematic of the whole story to me. What rewards were they carrying? Be specific! Have fun with it!
- Jackie literally didn't do anything or learn anything. She just walked around, got her rear end saved by some talking animals, and overcame the final challenge by sheer luck.
- Also I was sure that 'Lebasi' being the reverse of 'Isabel' would be important but nope.
(Addendum: from your comments on discord it seems like the "plodding" feeling didn't come from a lack of enthusiasm but from you having to cut a lot of details to fit the word count. Oh well, we've all been there.)
My Shark Waifuu - The Pirate Queen
- "her black cockatoo, Ned" is the first detail this week that genuinely made me smile
- this has real Disney vibes
- maybe a bit repetitive that there are basically three scenes in a row of "Alcoforado attacks the pirates". I think the middle one should maybe be another group of Portuguese, or something
- the fireship gambit is cool, but wouldn't it be much cooler if the heroes had to actually board the fireship to turn it around?
- Shi Yang becoming Captain feels a little bit too easy. I think it would work better if Bao suffered some really crushing mistake that conclusively shows him he's not cut out for leadership. Or if you showed earlier that he doesn't want to be captain, but feels bound to it by duty/heritage.
- the romance feels really tacked on at the end. I didn't notice any chemistry between those two in the rest of the story.
- Overall, a strong story that captures the Disney vibe.
Chernobyl Princess - Dragon Country
- this is a really dull first paragraph. Sorry, I don't care about your fantasy world's trade routes when you haven't even introduced a character yet
- even though the start of this story is all tell no show, I still had to reread a few times to figure out that the parents were divorced (edit: after reading further I'm still not sure what the parents' relationship is)
- So the brother doesn't need to sneak in, but he does anyway? I don't get that
- "twenty-eight children have been killed by dragons" is NOT a Disney vibe
- I really don't understand the terms of the conflict between mother and daughter. Why is it necessary for the daughter to go and fight a dragon? Just because "it's cultural"? I'm on the mum's side. Also what leverage does the father have that allows him to change the mother's mind off-screen?
- I'm 100% in support of the mother hiring people to kill the dragon
- I think this story suffered from a lack of focus: Is it about the relationship between siblings of separated parents? The conflict between tradition and modernity? Defiance of gender roles? All these themes were introduced but faded away in the second half. The other big problem was I didn't know why it was so imperative for the protagonist to go and get a dragon, so the mother and the Baron seemed to be the reasonable ones.
Chili - Helping Hands
- 13-going-on-65 is certainly an interesting idea for a character, let's see how it goes
- took me a while to realise that 'zayde' means 'grandfather' instead of being a name
- I like the idea that the grandfather's spiritual advice might not actually be very good advice
- Overall: this story obviously needs a fair bit of editing but I think you know that so I won't harp on it. The vibe is more of a live action Disney movie than an animated one, which is a nice change of pace. The premise is original and allows for some decent slapstick moments. I think you need to make the bully more cruel in the first scene so that you can get the reader's indignation running, then turn it around and make the reader feel guilty when the bully gets her comeuppance.
- The way the kids taught their grandfather a lesson needs a bit more build-up. Even in Disney-world, it's hard to believe that such an old man would change his ways so easily. Maybe it would be better if the grandfather actively wants to move on to the afterlife, and knows that he needs to learn a lesson, but isn't aware what the lesson is until the end of the story.
Tyrannosaurus - How I Didn't Fall In Love
This was well-written, it had some funny moments, but in the end it was hard to find much substance in it. I also didn't get any Disney vibes except maybe the cartoonish image of the guy hanging from the tree.
This story feels quite similar to the one you wrote for Picaresque week. I get the impression you can write these in your sleep, so my meta-critique is you should try to engage with the prompt more, let it push you out of your comfort zone.
Voodoofly - Abbi and the Great White North
- after the first two scenes, my feeling is that this is cute and moderately well-written, but dull. What's the conflict?
- the description of Abbi pinging through the cactus is excellent
- in the end this story just didn't have enough stakes to engage me. Basically it's a story about someone changing from one hobby to another. To make this sing you would need to find some kind of emotional meaning behind the hobbies. For example, if Abbi's dead mother was also a runner and she felt she had to carry on her legacy. That's a cliche example but it hopefully shows what I mean.
Thranguy - Intangibles
- very cool first paragraph
- the last few paragraphs were extremely rushed and hard to follow. After rereading a few times I think I got what happened (protag had to choose whether to undo all his previous deals OR be a goblin for a year) and he chose to sacrifice himself. Then also he came back in the last few lines and ehh I don't know what happened there.
- Aside from that, a pretty good story.
- I don't agree with Chairchucker saying it was too vague and weird. The whole 'trading intangibles' thing made sense to me, but I'm already accustomed to the idea from playing Changeling the Lost.
The Princess and the Adventurer
- I can't find much to pick on here. A lovely story. Buying yourself the extra words gave you a clear advantage, but I can't argue that you didn't use them effectively.
- If I could complain about one thing it would be that the political situation re: the king and the chancellor doesn't make a lot of sense. Chancellor overthrows the king and locks him up (how??) then king gets out and suddenly the guards all obey him when he orders the chancellor kicked out. A Disney world doesn't need to have particularly realistic power dynamics but I thought this could have been expanded a bit.
The Greatest Knight
- I didn't like or hate this. The setting was bland, the characters were bland. The climax was supposed to be a personal revelation for the protag but it felt more like she just remembered to use a specific fighting move. I actually kind of liked the Black Knight as a villain who's so one-dimensional that it's funny. Just a dude that walks around smashing and burning poo poo because nobody can stop him.
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 08:21 on Jul 27, 2021
|# ¿ Jul 27, 2021 08:14|
For you: FOX POPE
I am also taking
Alcohol: Your story is split into more than ten scenes but no scene can have more than 50 words.
Ice cream: Your story must be told in reverse order (but still make sense).
|# ¿ Jul 29, 2021 00:31|
- Chernobyl Princess hands you a medieval marginalia.
- Your story is split into more than ten scenes but no scene can have more than 50 words.
A troll crouches in a cave. Ten thousand horsemen ride above him. He gnaws on the limbs of fallen knights he has gathered in a sack.
The world is ending tomorrow.
His teeth crack on something hard and round. Surprised, he pulls it out: a bloody-smeared pearl.
On the horizon, giants are fighting. On the hill, knights. Each side struggles to maintain the high ground. Then a shower of arrows falls, killing every one.
After some time, a troll appears.
The witch draws back from the knight’s thigh, her lips stained cherry-red.
“It’s in,” she says. “Damned if I know why you want it there.”
Where she licked, the wound is already healing. The knight puts his hand there, feeling the smooth round lump beneath his skin.
The knight slaps his page full across the face. “It must be somewhere, so find it!”
His armour and clothes are strewn about the tent. After another hour, they find it under an overturned greave. He cups it between his hands.
“Everything’s all right now,” he whispers. “I found you.”
They butcher the giant tortoise from the inside out. Gangs of men work in the shell from dawn until dusk. They have a long march ahead of them.
Outside, the knights divide the spoils of the city. Among gold, jewels, silks and furs, he spies a single glimmer of white.
In the city on the back of the tortoise, in the cathedral, in the sarcophagus laid out for him long ago, the priest drinks poison when he hears the tramp of boots in the nave. He hides the pearl under his tongue.
No use—his jaw slackens in death.
The priest sets the pearl on the anvil.
“I know what you are,” he slurs. “And what you bring with you. I won’t let it happen.”
He brings down the consecrated hammer with all his strength. It shatters, a fragment slicing his hand. The pearl rolls onto the floor, unblemished.
Each day after mass he feels drained and desolate. There is only so much hope to go round. He retreats to the balcony overlooking the churchyard and drinks a little wine.
Surely there are worse vices.
Returning from the privy, he sees something glimmer at the bottom of his cup.
The woman sees a magpie perched on the steeple. Food is hard to come by these days; the city gates are locked, and the tortoise is always on the move. She takes out her sling and lets fly. Later, her children suck the gristle from its tiny bones.
The magpie flies day and night. There is always smoke in the air. Raptors hang in the sky above. They do not want the magpie’s life. They want the precious thing it carries in its beak. Where in the falling world will it be safe to rest?
The queen lives in a cacophony of omens. Rains of blood. Frogs speaking backwards. Babies born without brains. One hundred soothsayers converge on the capital with the same warning on their lips.
The pearl, which she has kept for so many years, she now hurls from her highest tower.
When they found the prince, he was clutching it in his palm. They advised the queen not to look, but she did.
Of all his birthday gifts, why this one? He had never favoured it before. The mystery ensnared her. She put it in a locket to remember him by.
At such a height, the wind blows strong from the sea. The prince cups the pearl in his palm. In its pale depths he can see a beautiful maiden: hips round, eyes beckoning, lips as white as snow.
“One more step,” she says, “and you can join me.”
Gold, satin, fine liquors, jade, leopard skins, rubies, coloured ice, a stone swan, a silver pinecone. A bird that sings threnodies, a fox that recites the catechism, and a tiny tree that bears minuscule fruit.
Among so many birthday gifts, who would notice one more?
Deep in their ancient house, the pale women swaddle their child in black silk. They croon to it, feed it milk from their breasts.
Years pass. The world sickens. Then, at last:
“Sisters, our child is grown. It is time she went into the world to fulfil her destiny.”
A dark night. A knock at the door. A hulking figure under a cloak.
“Greetings, sisters, from our master below. Rejoice! Among all his servants, he has chosen you to raise his unholy child.”
In his hand is a bed of cloth. On the cloth: a pearl.
Stumbling through the midnight surf, he searches blindly among sea-strewn rocks. His hand grasps an oyster shell. Reverently, he cracks it open to reveal the white orb within.
Above him, nameless things circle the air. “Ia, ia, she is born!” they cry. “The one who lowers the final curtain!”
Great currents ripen in the deep for the coming of the one who will be worst to the world. Her birth is nearly at hand. Her gifts will be sun and open air. An upwelling carries the shell from the deeps to the servant’s shore.
A man, naked, skin the colour of stone, strides across the seabed. His body is dissolving; this world rejects his very essence.
He has little time, but time enough.
Yes. Here: from the silt he plucks an oyster. He grasps himself and, moaning, lets his seed fall inside its shell.
Deep beneath the sea, a crack opens in the world, and someone climbs in from outside.
The dark one. The sire of the end.
It is not as he expected. He should have emerged on land, where his servants wait with thighs spread wide.
He will have to make do.
|# ¿ Aug 1, 2021 09:15|
|# ¿ Aug 18, 2021 04:07|
The Mystery Hostel
I am beginning to think there is something strange about this hostel. I am not speaking of the building itself, which is a fine old place, Gothic and dim-lit, with tall corridors smelling of dust and body spray. I am speaking rather of the hostel’s tenants. I often wonder… well, we could take the communal kitchen as an example. Every evening it fills up with the bodies of people who make use of its facilities. They prepare food. But the people are usually a completely different set from day to day. On Monday, say, they are all Israelis. Then on Tuesday, Colombians. Then the Israelis may reappear later in the week. I’m sure there is a reason, but you must admit it is odd.
You may think I am being paranoid. It is true I have been observing the staff closely. They all have their faces, though possibly the faces are not the same from one day to the next. Very well—you get what you pay for, and this is budget accommodation after all. Still, I am a little hurt that none of them have bothered to learn my name after all this time.
As for the city? The city in which the hostel is built… I am sure it is a very well-appointed city. All of the hostel tenants speak very highly of the city. One day I may visit, though I haven’t so far. The tenants give their opinions readily on the city, on the nightlife of the city, on the history of the city. It seems very convenient to me that so many points of interest coexist within a single city. Are the tenants exaggerating or confabulating in their descriptions? To what end? I have tried many times to engage them on this subject, but have gotten no response.
But I am not explaining myself as well as I could. Let me describe a particular incident that will illustrate my point.
There was a certain young man who arrived at the hostel alone. He drew my attention because he was alone, and because whenever I watched him he displayed a nervous disposition. When others entered a room he would look up with an expression of expectation or guilt. He was never completely relaxed. Even when he showered, his eyes would dart about in the small space, and his heels would lift up as though he found the texture of the glazed tiles unpleasant.
One morning I observed him eating a bowl of cereal in the kitchen. While he sipped the last of his milk with furtive lips, a group of Scandinavians came into the room, talking loudly. There were three women and two men, all tall and blonde-haired. They seated themselves along the bench beside the young man. Because the bench and the table were so small he was forced to slide out to the edge to accommodate them.
I am certain the young man had not encountered this group previously. As I said, I had been watching him closely. Yet the women greeted him, saying “Good morning,” and the men each gave him a nod.
This behaviour seemed odd to me. My attention was drawn. I sat down beside the young man, on the far side from the women, who were squeezed together on the small bench so that their elbows sometimes brushed each other and the young man.
They were talking about something that had happened last night in the hostel. A story involving alcohol, coloured paper and a karaoke machine. I listened carefully but could not piece together the story’s meaning; it was in fragments because they had all experienced it already, and were merely repeating it out of relish.
Meanwhile, as I listened, the young man also listened with a nervous smile on his face, sometimes nodding, sometimes laughing when the others laughed. Occasionally one of the women would glance toward him as if he were in fact included in the conversation.
Yet, I am quite sure he was not familiar with the events they were recounting. The previous evening I had observed him eating his dinner, looking at his phone for about an hour, and going to bed early. He had been restless and woke several times before midnight, but he left the bunk room only to urinate. Well, I am obsessing over details, no doubt. But it is in the details that I find the clues; the things that do not line up. In the crook of a smile, or the kink of a thumb sliding nervously up and down an illuminated screen…
I am digressing. Where was I? The Scandinavians were talking about their plans for the day, their visits to some landmark or other. Each time the rightmost woman’s elbow bumped the young man, he would shift a little further to the edge of the bench to make space for her. Yet at the same time he was also leaning further in to the table to bring his face closer to the faces of the Scandinavians in general. It was around this time that one of the Scandinavian men—he had a long, golden-coloured beard—was holding up a red bottle of tomato sauce inverted above his scrambled eggs. The bottle was nearly empty and he was struggling to make it produce any sauce. He sighed and his eyes met the young man’s for a moment. The young man then said, “It looks like you need to complain to the sauce cupboard manager.”
I, sitting beside him, tried to decode this phrase. The Scandinavians must have been doing the same, as they all fell silent and looked at the young man. The bearded Scandinavian looked around the table and then back at the young man, and gave a slight shrug.
The woman on the young man’s left said: “He doesn’t speak English.”
The bearded man nodded and gave a very brief but wide smile and said: “No English.”
The silence resumed. I was still trying to decode the phrase: “It looks like you need to complain to the sauce cupboard manager.” In fact I am still considering it even now. I feel that if I could unlock the contents of this phrase in its entirety I would also unlock all the secrets of this mysterious hostel.
There have been other strange occurrences. I cannot list them all here. Regardless of the situation, I try to understand and to make myself understood. Sometimes I feel lonely, especially in the small hours of the night. Then the early sleeping tenants are in bed, and the late revellers have not yet returned, and the hostel is dark and quiet. There is nothing to do then but watch their bodies shift slowly in the bunk-beds in the dark. In the past I have tried to speak to the tenants while they sleep. This is practical, as it is the only time they are quiet enough for me to get a word in edgeways. Their responses have been disrespectful, to say the least. They sweat, moan and shiver in their beds. One or two have gone so far as to bleed from their nostrils. Since then I have refrained from direct communication. Mere observation is best. Observation and patience. I still have hope that I will understand what that young man really meant, although he is checking out tomorrow.
|# ¿ Aug 23, 2021 04:00|
In, requesting songs from FJ Technics
|# ¿ Nov 23, 2021 22:22|
Thank you FJ Technics I will write on "Starry Night"
|# ¿ Nov 24, 2021 22:09|
Last Call in Para-Space
Song: Peggy Gou - Starry Night
Sarnelia Vance pulls the release lever and drops out of real space. Wormhole walls dilate around her and swallow her up. She’s listening to Surfing - Deep Fantasy, eating smoked oysters and drinking Hibiki 17 from a glass. In para-space there are no G-forces, nothing to disturb the whiskey’s surface, even when she’s travelling at thousands of subjective kilometres per second. It’s like a TV show playing out before her in the cockpit: infinite fractal flowers unfolding, black suns exploding in the glare of inverted night. That’s the dangerous part—forgetting it’s real. One slip-up, one breach in her axiomatic field and she’s gone, lost in the quantum foam.
Luckily, Sarnelia Vance doesn’t make mistakes.
She’s running a standard commercial flight: Sol-Earth L5 to Tau Ceti II. Causality Control has given her six hours in para-space before she can arrive at her destination. Regulations say she should sit on her rear end the entire time; drink, maybe watch a movie. But now she’s through the wormhole, why let the fuel go to waste? Her passengers won’t know the difference. They’re asleep in the transport module, locked in a secondary subfield with their Planck clock set to zero. Time doesn’t pass for them; if she jettisoned them right now they’d float for eternity, waiting for someone to wake them up.
Sarnelia plucks her six-hour timeline like a banjo string, letting it vibrate between possibilities: diving for trans-baryonic artefacts in the Alien Tomb Fields? Hunting Boltzmann brains in the Pelagic Gulf? The computer calculates which jobs have the highest EV, but she waves the data away. When she’s drinking at Ravana’s Bar tonight, she wants a story worth telling to the other pilots and the wide-eyed tourist girls.
She dials the qubits of the axiom engine and hits go. The para-ship accelerates from forty to a hundred million. The Hibiki doesn’t even tremble.
The time it takes to get anywhere here isn’t movement, not really. It’s more like groundwork. She’s projecting the axiomatic field ahead of herself, laying the foundations that are preconditional to her even existing, let alone surviving, at her destination. The actual travel is instantaneous: snap, and she’s there, on the threshold of the Red Door.
Para-pilots are stone cold badasses; the type of people who kiss death on the lips three times a week. But even para-pilots think twice about a trip to the Red Door. In a hyperdimension littered with naked singularities, inverted suns and alien ruins that predate the Big Bang, the Red Door is—and this must be emphasised—just a big loving door. It has hinges, and red paint that’s starting to peel. And it’s ajar.
Whole disciplines of scientific theory have broken themselves against the Door. There are at least four cults dedicated to worshipping it. And nobody who has flown a para-ship through it has ever returned.
Sarnelia isn’t planning to go out that way, no matter how much she jokes about it at Ravana’s when she’s had too many whiskey sours. She’s bored, not suicidal. Besides, it wouldn’t be right to do that to her passengers, especially since they paid in advance.
Even going up to the doormat and peeking inside is a lucrative business, however. The Sol University-Guilds will pay exorbitant sums for even a few seconds of data from the mouth of the Door. Sarnelia slides the para-ship sideways, into view of the narrow opening, and is immediately plunged into a bath of exotic particles. A dozen alarms start going off, but she mutes them all and puts on Battles - Atlas instead.
She nibbles on the last oyster and looks into the utter blackness beyond the Door.
And something looks back.
A flicker, a flash of an eyelike infinity. A black vein zigzags from the Door to the ship, almost too fast to see. Sarnelia jerks hard on the joystick and her ship careens backward, out of sight of the abyss. She hovers there, suddenly pulsing with adrenaline.
“Computer, replay the last ten seconds of—”
She stops. Something horrible is blooming right in front of her. A pinprick of midnight black splits, doubles, recombines. Becomes a quivering fluid, a sphere, a cube. Higher and higher levels of complexity. Geometric shapes give way to seething muscle, a heart pumping antimatter, organs that grow and die like cells in a petri dish. The end result is something sleek, vaguely leonine, with a knife-shaped protrusion where its head should be. Black and glistening as if newly born.
It starts walking toward her on three-toed feet.
“Nope,” says Sarnelia, and hits the escape button.
The para-ship jumps automatically to a prebuilt safe zone. The Red Door melts away, replaced by cool void and a drift of glimmering stars. She’s still in para-space, but a vast distance away from anything interesting.
The lion-thing is there too, slouching toward her like it’s got all the time in the world.
There are things that live in para-space: self-devouring Klein stomachs, degenerate xenoservitors, predatory infinities. This isn’t like any of them. If anything it seems too normal, too closely bound by the laws of her axiomatic field. It walks.
“Fine,” says Sarnelia. “You want to play chasey? Computer, engage probabilistic evasive maneuvers.”
A power tower’s worth of possible Sarnelias go flying out in every direction, superposed in a haze of quantum uncertainty. She pushes the probability space to its absolute limit; at its furthest edges the maybe-Sarnelias are doing incredibly unlikely things, like diving into a neutron star or listening to psytrance.
All she needs to do now is find a possibility in which the creature didn’t follow, and recohere at that point.
In all possible states, all the Sarnelias look out their windows.
The creature is still there in every single one.
“You’re loving impossible!” Sarnelia shouts. She cancels the whole maneuver in a fit of spite, returning to the starfield she started from.
Sarnelia knows she has hosed up. Playing with her own life is one thing, but she feels extremely bad about putting the passengers in danger. There were known risks to visiting the Red Door. This one was a complete and utter unknown.
The thing is close now. She can see its muscles re-knitting into higher densities, becoming exponentially stronger by the second. It grips the ship with its forelimbs, ratchets back its neck, and drives its head point-first into the viewport.
The glass cracks.
Sarnelia sends the para-ship into a deep spin; the creature is thrown free, but it rights itself almost instantly. A dozen new limbs sprout from its back, sporting octopoid suckers of ultra-dense matter. That trick isn’t going to work a second time.
She’s nearer to panic now than she will ever admit if she gets out of this alive. Her hands fly across the instrument panel, punching in new configurations for the axiom engine. Local spacetime rips in half, opening a wormhole back to real space. From this end it looks like a neon orange donut with an entire universe inside its hole. It hovers before the viewport, almost close enough to touch.
One flick of the joystick and she’ll be home. Some pilot’s instinct makes her hesitate. The thing was there in every possible future she could muster. Almost as if it were…
Mind racing, Sarnelia pulls up a console and goes deep into the ship’s software. Overriding another swarm of alert messages, she opens the config file for the axiomatic field. The fundamental laws of her reality are inscribed here. One plus one is two. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. And there it is: between Euler’s constant and the value of pi, she finds a cancerous spool of code, a tumour-law that shouldn’t be there. Translating it into plain English would probably take a couple of centuries, but Sarnelia can already guess the gist of it is: a hosed up gremlin is here and wants to kill you.
“I know what you are,” she tells the creature. “You’re an ontological parasite. A reality hijacker. You came through the Door and wrote yourself into my field.”
Knowing is little comfort, though. She can no more run from the parasite than she can make a getaway from the weak nuclear force. She can’t go back to real space either—not unless she wants to let this thing loose on her entire universe. Her only choice is to excise it from the config herself.
There are good reasons why the raw config file isn’t supposed to be pilot-accessible. Revising an axiomatic field while you’re inside it is like doing neurosurgery on the back of your own head. The last person who tried it famously died of proton decay.
Sarnelia takes a deep breath and goes in.
The creature latches on to the para-ship again. Vantablack tentacles wrap around the hull and start to squeeze. Metal screams and buckles, lights in the cabin flicker. Sarnelia’s trying to slice up the config, but it’s impossible. Just like a tumour, the creature has entangled itself in the axioms. She sees the only way out is to build a whole new field underneath the current one. It’ll be a jerry-rigged job: not even General Relativity, but Newtonian physics. Just loving marbles clonking into each other.
There’s no time to test it. She hits ACTIVATE and the infested axioms explode around her, shattering into fragments of crystallised ex-reality. She plunges into the Newtonian field with a sickening jolt.
The parasite explodes into a shower of black goo. No longer axiomatic, it’s just a big dumb animal floating in a vacuum.
Sarnelia lets out a breath, wipes the sweat from her brow, and pours herself a big glass of Hibiki.
The starfield turns gently around her. The wormhole comes into view.
“Ah, poo poo,” she says.
She sits and drinks the whiskey slowly. She’s thinking about how quickly life changes. One minute things seem like they’ll always be the same: fly the same routes, do the same jobs, drink at the same bars. The next minute, it’s all gone away.
The wormhole is only a few metres from her ship, but it might as well be on the far side of the galaxy. She’s living in a Newtonian world now. Her quantum engine doesn’t work here; neither does the relativistic backup drive. Para-ships aren’t designed to actually move anywhere, so they aren’t fitted with any kind of kinetic thruster. She’s stuck.
There is one way to get back to the wormhole. For every action, an equal and opposite reaction. Jettison the transport module, and she can send the passengers home.
Or the reverse. But she already knows she’s not going to do that. This is her fuckup, and she’s going to live with it.
She won’t exactly die out here. The subfield can keep her alive indefinitely. But by the time anyone finds her, she’ll be lucky if only a million years have passed in real space. So it’s goodbye to Ravana’s and drinking till closing with the other pilots. Goodbye to Tau Ceti and the pretty girls on the promenade. Goodbye to the real stars.
The transport module decouples with a soft click. It floats gently into the mouth of the wormhole, where it spaghettifies into a strand of light and is sucked back to the L5 point. Hopefully the passengers will pour one out for her when they realise what happened, but more likely they’ll just be pissed they didn’t get to their destination on time.
She sets her Planck clock to wind down over the next three minutes or so. The stars are wheeling before her like jewels scattered on a velvet cloth. She puts on Boards of Canada - Chromakey Dreamcoat, takes a last sip of Hibiki, and drifts off into the black.
|# ¿ Nov 29, 2021 02:12|
|# ¿ Dec 10, 2021 02:53|
anybody want to trade for "your story takes place on the internet"?
|# ¿ Dec 10, 2021 20:16|
Do you want "before 2500 b.c."
|# ¿ Dec 10, 2021 22:18|
Rohan and I have traded
|# ¿ Dec 11, 2021 08:50|
|# ¿ Dec 11, 2021 19:42|
If you also want to get rid of your egg card, hit me up on discord.
|# ¿ Dec 11, 2021 23:44|
(The blank hell card would have given me +1000 words if I had gotten someone to trade it off me, otherwise it does nothing.)
+200 words for trading cards.
The Marriage of Sea and Stone
On a grey morning in the dawn-time of the world, Prince Partholon rode out from the halls of Hadea, to offer himself as a hostage and bring an end to the First War.
He rode across the glassy plain, past the dry corpses of rivers and the choked gullets of extinct volcanoes. He rode through the statue-fields, where countless magma warriors had been cooled unto death; where igneous fists and zircon blades were raised in testament to a thousand years of bloodshed.
Of the other side’s dead, no trace remained. They had evaporated into steam, and returned to the earth as rain.
On the far side of the statue-field, another rider blocked his path. She was clad in diamond armour, and mounted on a granite wolfsteed that slavered molten rock. She was his sister: Battle-Princess Theia, the Scourge of Waters.
“Partholon!” she called. “Mother told me what you mean to do. How can you betray Hadea like this? Do you not see the bodies of our legions upon this plain? For a thousand years we have fought the invaders. All those deaths will be in vain if we surrender now.”
“Sister,” Partholon replied. “Do you not see the bodies? Would you add another thousand years of corpses to the pile? Stand aside.”
Theia spat sulphur upon the ground. “You will lead Hadea to destruction. Death is surrender, surrender is death.”
She spurred her wolfsteed and rode away.
So Partholon came to the ocean’s edge, where the smooth pebbles of the shore had been fused together by the heat-lances of his sister’s Ash Commandos. Far off on the horizon was the glittering castle of the water-people, with its flying balustrades of ice, its endless cascades, its silver flags.
A phalanx of waves emerged from the castle and rolled towards him. One darted out, ahead of the others; it burst onto the shingle in the form of a woman.
She was more beautiful than the rain, more graceful than the tides. She surged up the beach and flung her arms around Partholon, pressing her cold lips to his. Had she touched his bare flesh she would have been vaporised on contact; but Partholon had sheathed himself in a suit of calcified stone, and he was merely warm to the touch.
“You are here,” the Princess Undine whispered. “Oh my love, you are finally here. The Deep Council has agreed to all your terms. We will be married, Partholon—and the war will end!”
Partholon clutched her to his rocky breast. “From our love, a new world,” he murmured. She repeated it softly back to him. These words they had spoken many times as they courted each other, meeting secretly in hidden caves along the shore.
The other waves reached the shore. The Deep Councillors and their retinues emerged. There were the Pelagic Voivodes with their Submarine Guard; the Marinarchs of the Benthic Deep; and the deadly Rain Divers, whose droplet-spears had pierced so many burning hearts. Partholon knelt before the crowd and submitted himself as a peace offering: hostage and bridegroom to their most favoured daughter.
Soon there would be a wedding where stone met sea.
They prepared the ceremony in a deep basin, between the mountains and the sea. The armies of water made camp on one side, and the armies of stone on the other. As magmatic legions flowed beneath the surface, the earth trembled and grew warm; but above ground they kept to the compact, and emerged only in the calcite suits that held their temperature in check.
All the great powers of Hadea were represented there: the Lords Volcanic and Seismic, the scholars of the Deep Mantle, and even the warchiefs of the Pyroclastic Men. Only Theia and her Ash Commandos were missing. It was said they had ridden out the west gate of Hadea that morning, vowing never to return.
At the head of the Hadean forces was a throne of molten gold, on which sat the craggy body of the Dowager Empress. As her son approached across the plain, her eyes opened a crack to reveal the distant light of dwindling fire.
“Mother,” said Partholon, dismounting to kneel before her. “I am so glad you came.”
“Anything… for my beloved… son…” the Empress rumbled.
“I was afraid you might have sided with Theia in this matter.”
“Between my children… I take no sides.”
Partholon greeted the other leaders of the First Empire. For the most part they had come willingly to the field of peace, for the toll upon their peoples had been great. Still they feared treachery, and cast suspicious glances toward the water folk. Partholon reassured them; slowly the two sides drew together until they were face to face.
Undine appeared, her face hidden behind a waterfall veil. When she was close enough, Partholon leaned in and drew the veil back.
“From our love—” Partholon whispered.
“—a new world,” Undine finished.
A thundering horn sounded from the mountains. Atop the jagged peaks appeared Theia on her wolfsteed, flanked by three dozen Ash Commandos.
“Death is surrender!” Theia called.
“Surrender is death!” the Commandos replied.
And they charged down the slope like an avalanche.
“Mother!” Partholon cried. “Our legions must stop her! Give the command!”
The Empress opened her mouth and croaked: “I take… no sides…”
As she closed to throwing distance, Theia lifted her heat-lance above her head. Partholon shouted “Undine!” and threw himself in front of his bride. But Theia was not aiming for the princess, but the prince. Her heat-lance flew and pierced him through his flank. Magma spilled at once through the shattered calcite. He turned to cover Undine, but it was too late. She was already boiling away.
“Treachery!” cried the Pelagic Voivodes. The armies of water surged forward to defend the princess. In response, the subterranean legions burst from the earth to meet them. The Pyroclastic Men roared fire into the sky; the Rain Divers drew their knives and fell howling from the clouds. Volcano-mouths tore open and sprayed lava from the deep.
Then, from the shore, the ocean rose up and poured down into the basin.
Partholon fell to his knees, bleeding and crumbling. Undine hung in the air, half-evaporated. She clung to her mortal form with all her strength. The earth roiled around them and great waves crashed on all sides. They struggled toward each other through the chaos of the First War’s final battle.
The lovers’ arms found one another. Partholon touched his bride skin-to-skin for the first time. As she burned away in his embrace—as the primordial sea roared down to swamp the armies in mutual annihilation—a blazing reaction took place at the border when stone and water joined.
Long after the battle was done, and the last survivors had limped away to die, Partholon’s body remained at the bottom of the new sea. Bubbles had formed inside him as he perished. Within these pores some essence of Undine still remained: traces of acids and sugars, sheltered and kept safe inside his bones.
In the warmth of his fading heart, they began to combine; to metabolise; to multiply—
|# ¿ Dec 13, 2021 07:22|
Prompt: A woman who turns into a gun. A man who turns into a bullet. Together, they fight crime.
|# ¿ Dec 15, 2021 08:45|
I'm going to claim this one.
Prompt: A man dies and gets sent to Bird Hell on accident (or was it an accident??)
|# ¿ Dec 15, 2021 11:40|
Prompt: A man dies and gets sent to Bird Hell on accident (or was it an accident??)
Wings Against Stone
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 23:50 on Jan 2, 2022
|# ¿ Dec 19, 2021 07:44|
Thunderdome #490: Thanks, Stith Thompson
This week your prompts will come from Stith Thompson's Motif-Index of Folk Literature, an academic catalogue of motifs that appear in folktales and fairy stories. Thompson set out to "scientifically" break down folktales into their component parts, and the charm of his index comes from the combination of terse, academic prose with surreal subject matter. Click the link, have a poke around and you'll see what I mean. (The motif index is the pages labelled A to Z; the Tale Type Index is a different thing.)
When you sign up, choose one of the categories in the index and I will assign you a motif from that category as your prompt. (Specifically, I will assign you one of the phrases in bold red text.)
Your story does not have to be written in a fairy-tale style, but it can be.
Also, to add a little Christmas cheer to the proceedings, it must snow at some point in your story.
Word count: 800 words
Signups close: 6:00pm AEST, Friday 24th December (that's roughly midnight on the 23rd in PST)
Submissions close: 6:00pm AEST, Monday 27th December
a friendly penguin
The Saddest Rhino
A Classy Ghost
The man called M
Carl Killer Miller
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 06:22 on Dec 23, 2021
|# ¿ Dec 21, 2021 08:59|
D624.1. Storks become men in Egypt in the winter.
E251.4.3. Vampire with eyes of owls.
G71. Unnatural children eat parent.
In, with Ogres
F57.2. Person's tongue as path to sky.
T331.4. No place secret enough for fornication.
I'm in and i would like sex please
K210. Devil cheated of his promised soul.
S115.2.1. Murder by driving nail through head.
|# ¿ Dec 21, 2021 10:29|
N111.3.1. Fortune's wheel turned by dead king in mountain.
In, chance and fate.
G251.1. Witch recognized by seeing wasp (beetle) enter her mouth while asleep.
F767. Inaccessible city.
X514. Only usurers can carry the corpse of the usurer.
hello td it has been a long time
E72. Resuscitation by smelling of moss.
B18.104.22.168. Giant devastating hound.
In animal motifs
J861. Consolation for misfortune found in food.
S147.1.1. Abandonment on cliff near nest of a bird.
R49.2. Captivity in an oven.
R212.1. Man buried alive with king escapes from the tomb.
S191. Driving insane by keeping awake.
U31. Wolf unjustly accuses lamb and eats him.
And In, The Nature of Life
B122.1.1. Birds tell a secret.
in with ANIMALS pls
Z39.1. The goat who would not go home.
X902. Liar comes to believe his own lie.
|# ¿ Dec 21, 2021 21:00|
|# ¿ May 21, 2022 00:31|
F52.2. Columns of smoke as ladder to upper world.
In. Marvels, please.
|# ¿ Dec 22, 2021 02:47|