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Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

Never done one of these, haven’t done creative writing In at least a decade. What is the penalty if I sign up but don’t submit? I have a big exam on Thursday so it’s possible I just disappear into a hole over the weekend and forget all about this.

If me failing to submit doesn’t gently caress over other people or really piss people off then word me. Otherwise I’ll wait till the next one.

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Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

Sure word me

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

loving Tourists
1483 Words. Magic Word "Tourism"



“loving Tourists!” His backpack swung around, smacking my arm as he screamed. “Learn to ride a subway before you get on one!”

Remember your facial expression when someone tattled on you out in school? Utter embarrassment mixed with a primal desire to pound the fink’s face into a wall? That expression needs a name. Enflamed and Ashamed? Sounds like a lovely indie album, but then again, what facial expression doesn’t?

Whatever you call it, that was the look on the faces of two men shuffling a child down the aisle right now. A few people tried to share a compassionate face with them as they navigated the nest of feet and bags. The rest of us didn’t flinch away from our phones.

His backpack swung around again, smacking a woman’s hand off the rail. “Tourists. Some nerve! They got here yesterday and think they own the place. Someone’s gotta tell them how things work around here.”

I paused, taking a breath. “You know you’re supposed to put your bag down by your feet, right?” I obviously waited too long, though. Good deed done for the day, the hall monitor was already lost in emails.

******

I spotted the Lurk on 14th as I came up the stairs. It’s hard to miss a gray windowless cargo van with a couch in the back and the uncanny ability to cause terror whenever Oskar took Clara to a playground. I wondered if Oskar was running errands. If so, I wasn’t too proud to ask for a lift home.

Walking up 14th sucked. It was steep. Steep even for this city. Steep enough there were steps carved in the sidewalk. Steps that made lugging a suitcase a Sisyphean task.

“You all staying at the Skylark?”

I was impressed, the family had made it up five blocks already. One was lugging two rolling bags, the other had a duffel in one hand and their daughter on his shoulders. You figure the new boutique hotels in the corridor would advise their guests to drop down to 16th and avoid the hill.

“No, we’re up on Roosevelt.” Rolling bags put his phone back as he finished, looking around and finding nothing to help. Probably wondering why we couldn’t afford street signs on half the intersections.

“Let me help with one of the bags. I live on Roosevelt. It’s just another block up. It will be easier on the other side by the way – no stairs.” They gave me a quick look of concern. Maybe I was one of those people the travel books warned you about.

“Come on Poppy, I have to pee!”

“Right, thanks. We appreciate it.”

******

Oskar was outside as we rounded the corner, sitting on the stoop.

“Well, this is the street. Also, sorry about the jerk on Muni. This city used to be friendly. Some of us still try to be.” I got a couple thanks and a wave from the girl but they didn’t stick around.

I get it. Even the non-assholes grief about tourists from time to time, but I’ve always carried a lot of sympathy for tourists. Hell, I’m still practically one. I’ve lived here four years and I didn’t hesitate to tell them about “how things used to be.” They are on escape. Who of us isn’t most of the time?

******

“What jerk?”

Oskar was most definitely not a tourist, although I’m sure he was called one on the regular. He moved from Dresden god knows how long ago. Probably about the same time he bought the Lurk. The Lurk went a long way in his career. At the very least, it didn’t hurt his ability to charge young adventurers (very much not tourists) a couple hundred a day to show them “locals only” trails filled with “wild” mushrooms and yams. I’m pretty sure his wife Mari plants them in the wintertime.
“You know the type. Backpack wearing rear end in a top hat yelling about tourists.”

“To them? They aren’t tourists, man, they have lived here fort ears!” What was the name of that expression again?

“Fort ears? Shucking heirloom corn on your tours now?” Oskar handed me a can, I tried to ignore my shame. “Why’s the Lurk on 14th?”

“Man, it got towed over the weekend! Someone must have called it in. It was in front of our place, even, not like we were blocking anyone else! Twenty years and never even a ticket. Now this.”

He looked up the street, taking a sip. “Roosevelt’s too steep for the sweepers. Remember we left it for a month when we went down to Brazil for Mari’s family? Not a thing. But that was then.”

“Yeah. I mean, we got a couple passive aggressive notes when we first moved in for ‘parking too long in my spot’ and that sort of thing.”

“Gotta love a good note! Now, though? Neighbors just rat each other out.”

“Any ideas on who?”

“Take your pick. Street was a ghost town after last March. People are moving but doesn’t seem like any of them will be at the block party in September. Probably call the cops on that too.“

“Didn’t one of the palaces up the street finally sell? Saw a couple moving vans a month ago. Maybe they called it in?”

“Maybe. How would you even know these days? What good would it do even if I knew?”

“I don’t know, peace of mind? Besides, Mari will tell Jessica, Jessica will tell Nathan, and then everyone on the street will know who the rats are. It’s something, at least.”

“Something. I guess that’s all you can hope for lately.”

******

I officially met my neighbors two days later. Fabian and Dan were outside Oskar’s sharing a drink. Their daughter Christina was playing with Clara inside. I headed across the street with beers and apologies. Oskar gave me poo poo. Fabian laughed it off. Dan admitted he didn’t recognize me that day either.

It wasn’t long before Mari called Oskar in to help with the kids. “You want to meet us at the Page?”

“Have an early booking tomorrow. Wildflower season. And now we have to hike down to the Lurk before pickup.” We all took turns looking up the street.
Oskar went inside. Dan took Christina home. Fabian and I headed down the hill.

******

I never heard anyone call the Page a locals bar. Nobody called any of the bars around here locals bars. They all were, though, the Page no exception. You usually recognized half of the patrons that you didn’t already know by name. On a good night you didn’t meet any assholes. Good nights were becoming rarer by the day.

Christina was working. It was more crowded than usual but there were a couple stools next to a group in the corner. All of them were still wearing their backpacks.

“What beer and what whiskey do you use for the Shot and a Can special?” “Can we upgrade?” What’s the name of that local beer at the office?” “Dude, why are you paying for beer we get for free?” “I want to try something local!” “What about Absinthe? But the real stuff with the cubes like how Lindsay was talking about yesterday?”

“You two know you can just order whatever beer and drink you want separately, right? Here’s a menu!”

She had a finger-gun to her head as she turned to us. “They tried to order Fireball when they first came in.” She was purposefully loud but it didn’t seem like they heard. If they felt any shame they hid it well.

“Hey, you all live around here?” “Yeah, where’s a good locals bar?” “Something with beer you can’t get just anywhere?”

I turned to stare at them. Fabian was more neighborly.

“Here. Maybe MiniBar up the street. There is also Anchor and Chain on 23rd if you are looking for something different.”

“Isn’t that a tourist bar?” “Yeah, we aren’t tourists.” “We live up on Roosevelt.” “loving tourists, though, I bet you have to wait forever while they try to order a drink, right?”

“Yeah, probably.” I turned back to Fabian . They continued.

“It’s like on Muni, right? You can’t catch a train home half the time because tourists block all the doors.”

Fabian caught on before me. “Tell me about it. Plus, what’s with the street parking lately? It’s like we live on a parking lot, right?”

“Yeah, a few days ago we had to call in this molester-mobile parked on the street. It was there for days. I swear, we pay taxes and those people from the yards just think they can park for free?”

“I know. I know. I’m Fabian by the way. We’re at 113 Roosevelt.”

“Aiden.” “Taylor.” “Jackson.” “We are in 196.

“You meet Oskar yet? If not we should introduce you. He is sort of the mayor up there. And Cheers!”

“What are we cheering?”

“loving Tourists!”

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

In. Song me with a good song from a bad Disney flick.

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

Week 468 Disney Sleepover Week

Abbi and the Great White North
2,320 Words

Song of Inspiration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJfUfKUg7hY

________________________________________________________

Once upon a time, in the Mojave Desert, there lived a tortoise named Abbi . . .

“Slow and steady is my pace.” Abbi puffed, pausing for a split second. “Slow and steady wins the race.” She inhaled slower this time, pausing for a sliver of time. “Slow and steady will take me far,” she huffed, pausing again. “Slow and steady to be a star!”

Over and over Abbi repeated her mantra, controlling her breathing and matching her pace to the words. Step, step, step, breathe. Step, step, step, breathe. She kept her eyes focused on the trail, a few strides in front of her, ignoring the chaparral to either side. She knew the way by now, having run the same trails each morning for the last six months, but you never knew when a stray rock or root might trip you up.

Cresting the last hill, though, she paused her mantra and broke focus from the trail. Up and to the right was the billboard. In bright red lettering it read “The Mojave All-Desert Marathon: Sunday, December 19th” Underneath the words stood Abbi, on a podium, gold medal resting against her undershell.

“At least it was a good picture this time” she thought to herself. Better than last year when they captured Abbi charging up a hill, tongue hanging out, gasping for air. Or the year before that where they staged her with an exhausted hare in the background.

“No, no reason to hate it this year” she thought as she lowered her head, picked up her feet, and started the final push back to town. “Slow and steady, that's my pace. Slow and steady for another race. Slow and steady just like the last. Nobody wins by going fast.”

******

That morning, Pajaro the tortoise was enjoying his coffee in the park, chatting with a stranger on the next bench over. Pajaro wasn’t like other tortoises. Tortoises were made for the desert and, for the most part, stayed in the desert their whole life. Pajaro thought those tortoises were crazy. The feeling was often mutual.

“Ever built a snowman?” Pajaro continued. “Really, never seen the snow huh? What a shame. Me, have I built a snowman, what do you think? Everyone who lives in the snow has built a snowman. Sure beats shovelling the stuff, right?” Pajaro chuckled and took a sip of his coffee. The stranger, taking full advantage of the momentary break, made a quick exit. “Hey, no need to run, the snow will be there until spring!” Pajaro chuckled again, this time with enough force to splash some coffee on his shell.

“Tio Pajaro?” Abbi had just finished the morning’s run when she spotted him. Pajaro had always been her favorite uncle. Pajaro was her biggest fan, never missing a race, always cheering the loudest when she won, and always knowing just what to say when she lost. But even more, Pajaro never failed to disappoint with a new story about his life in the Great White North, and Abbi never tired of listening to him.

“Mija! Come here, give your uncle a hug!” Pajaro dashed across the park and wrapped Abbi in a shell knocking embrace. “Mija, I saw your billboard! Big improvement, that one! Tell me all about it, but after I hear how training is going!”

“Tio! I just spent two hours plodding through the boring desert, now you want to talk about it? No way. I want to hear something cool!”

“Abbi, training is cool! But fine, I can do cool. But not a story. You know all my stories. Stories are old news. If you want something cool, I can do you something better.” Pajaro put Abbi down, giving her a sly grin as they pulled apart. “Hurry, mija, I’ve got something to show you!”

******

“Abbi, remember, slow and steady, just like we talked about!” Pajaro was shouting from the bottom of the dune, but the words calmed Abbi all the same. Abbi breathed in. “Slow. Steady. You got this.”

Abbi pushed off. At first, the skis didn’t budge. “I thought he said people flew down the snow on these things?” She pushed again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. “Maybe they just don’t work on sand.” Another push. “I must be doing this wrong, maybe if I dooooooooAAAAAAAAGHHHHHHHHHHH!”

Abbi was skiing! For a moment she was lost in the new sensation. This wasn’t slow and steady. This was something new. Speeding! Rushing! Zooming! These were not normal experiences for a tortoise, and especially not for Abbi.

“I can do this! I can do this!” Abbi looked down at her skis cutting through the sand. “This is fast, this is really fast.” Abbi wanted to feel scared. Scared is good, it keeps you safe. But all Abbi could think was “Fast is AMAZING!”

Once the speed finally set in, Abbi regained focus and realized two things that seemed particularly relevant to her current situation. First, the skis were speeding up, not slowing down, as she continued to carve down the dune. And second, while Pajaro had told her a lot about skis, and skiing, and the Great White Downhill Ski Race, one thing Pajaro didn’t tell her was how to slow down. Or, more critically, how to stop

Screech! Still looking down, Abbi watched as one of her skis sliced open the bottom branch of a baby cactus. “Strange,” she thought. “How did that get up here on a dune?”

“Peligro! Abbi! Nopales! Look out!” Pajaro’s warning jolted Abbi’s head up just in time for her to spot the cactus patch she was rapidly approaching. She tried to turn, throwing her body hard to the left, fingers dragging through the sand as she reached to the side as far as she could, but her skis simply yelped and hissed in frustration, finding no purchase in the soft sand flowing underneath.

Poosh! Woosh! Her skis suddenly popped off her feet, flying off in either direction. On instinct, Abbi had pulled herself tight into her shell, just in time to blast through the trunk of a large cactus. Then another. And then a third. Needles flew through the air as Abbi, tensely tucked in, ricocheted from cactus to cactus, spinning and twirling and cartwheeling through the succulents until smashing back onto the slope of the dune, sending a tidal wave of sand crashing down all around Pajaro, striking his shell moments after he too tucked safely inside. Thud! Abbi’s shell shuddered to a stop a few feet away from Pajaro. Dink! Doink! Her two skis struck the ground as well, one end sticking straight into the with the other needled into the sand.

Pajaro popped back out first, rushing to his niece, trying to block out the carnage he had just witnessed in the hopes that, if lucky, she would just need a splint and not an ambulance to get home.

“Abbi! Mija! Are you ok? Say something mija! Say something!”

“Tio . . .” Abbi’s head slowly stretched out of her shell as she exhaled the words, gasping for air. Hearing the lack of any voice, Abbi stopped, inhaled, paused, then started again.

“Tio, that . . . was AWESOME!”

******

Abbi spent all day skiing the dunes. Pajaro spent all day simultaneously thrilled and worried for her. And for the next several days, whenever Abbi had even a moment of free time, she was racing down the dunes. She even modified her training route so that she would finish her morning run at the top of the sandy slopes where Pajaro would be waiting. Skis in one hand. Coffee in the other.

Abbi knew this couldn’t last, though. It was only a few more days before Pajaro would be travelling back to the Great White North. In the back of her mind, Abbi was also aware of the fact that, if she wanted to win the Mojave All-Desert this year, she would need to seriously commit to her training and stop wasting time on the dunes.

The night before his flight home Pajaro invited Abbi out to dinner. As usual, Pajaro regaled Abbi with stories and Abbi did everything she could to deflect any attention off the upcoming race.

“Fine, fine, we won’t talk about it any more mija . . .” Pajaro said as the waiter brought him another drink.

“Finally!” Abbi was about to ask about the snow wolves again when Pajaro continued on.

“. . . if, however, you answer me one last question. And honestly, too. You know you are a horrible liar . . .”

“Am not!

“ A horrible liar mija. Your entire shell turns red when you do.”

“Fine, Tio, but only one question!”

Pajaro waited just a moment. “One question: Abbi, do you love running?”

Abbi blinked a few times before responding. “Tio! I’m the best runner in the Mojave! I’ve been running since I was a hatchling. With your encouragement I might add! Why wouldn’t I love running?”

“I don’t know mija. All I know is I’ve been to every one of your races. I’ve seen you win, I’ve seen you lose, but I’ve never seen you smile like you have this last week at the dunes.”

Abbi stopped, running through all the different ways she wanted to respond, but Pajaro continued. “I don’t talk about it much, but I was a runner as well when I was your age. I wasn’t as good as you. Who is? But many people, friends, coaches, you name it, thought I would be on an All-Desert billboard, just like you.” Pajaro took a sip of his drink. “I never entered, though. A couple weeks before my first All-Desert I met a goose on holiday from the Great White North. The stories she told, mija, they spoke to me like nothing before. I knew, that night, what I had to do.” Pajaro finished his drink. “A few days before the All-Desert I was offered a job at a ski resort. Working the ski lift for room, board and tips. I spent my last penny on a plane ticket, said a few goodbyes, and, well, here we are.”

Abbi sat, enraptured. All these years she had listened to stories of Pajaro’s life, but never anything about this. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

Pajaro sat still, thinking. “Mija, until this last week, I thought running was your love, your passion in life. Passion is important. It makes us who we are. But nobody can tell you your passion, Abbi. All they can do is question it, like they did me when I left. ‘Silly bird,’ they said, ‘don’t even know you were supposed to fly south in the winter.’ But that was me and my life. I wanted for you for running to be pure.”

“I would have understood Tio. You could have told me.”

Pajaro looked down at his napkin for a moment, then back to Abbi. “True mija. I could have said something. Probably should have told you a long time ago. You’ve always been strong, Abbi, you would have handled it just fine.” His old grin slowly returned to his face. “Yes, strong. Stubborn, too, if you ask me. So, I asked my question. Now how about I do you one better. I’ve got something to show you!”

Pajaro picked up his napkin, revealing an envelope, and slid it across the table. “For you Abbi. Don’t look at it now. Take it home, think about it. I know you will do what is best for you. It’s getting late, and this old bird has an early flight.” With that, Pajaro stood, kissed Abbi on the cheek, and sauntered into the night air. Abbi ripped open the envelope the moment he was out of sight. In her hand was a plane ticket. For tomorrow morning. To the Great White North.

******

“Slow and steady, that’s my pace.” Abbi huffed, pushing herself to slow down. She knew this wasn’t a sprint, and she would need all her strength if she wanted to make it on time.

As she crested the hill she saw the familiar billboard, her face in a smile, medal around her neck. She looked up, breaking her mantra, and focus on the path, for the last time. Abbi was an amazing runner. Always had been. Probably always would be. But Abbi had a passion, and running wasn’t it. Ticket in one hand, suitcase in the other, skis strapped to her shell, Abbi looked back to her path, racing to catch her flight.

As Abbi passed security, she heard a familiar story. “Really, never built a snowman? Oh, you are in for a treat, let me tell you. There are three rules for a proper snowman. First . . . “

“Tio! Tio!” Abbi spotted him, sitting on a bench, chatting with a stranger, coffee in hand. Pajaro barely had enough time to set his coffee down before she was there, pulling her uncle into an embrace. “Tio! Tio! Thank you, Tio! I’m coming with you! I’m going to the Great White North!”

They hugged for a long while, neither wanting to be the first to let go, until Pajaro remembered. “Abbi, wait. Hugs are old news. I can do you one better. Quickly, over here!” He grabbed her hand and pulled her back to the bench. He picked up his coffee and a second cup next to it. “Here, mija, this is for you.”

“How did you . . . “ but Abbi trailed off, taking the proffered coffee as Pajaro turned back to the stranger. “So, where were we? Oh yes, the three rules . . .”

Abbi smiled. She knew this one well, although the three rules rarely stayed the same from telling to telling. Sipping her coffee, Abbi’s eyes settled on a poster across the room. It was dominated by a huge mountain, covered in snow, with wolf careening down a slope. In bright red letters read “The Great White North Downhill Ski Race: Sunday, January 23rd.” Abbi took it in, thinking to herself: “I wonder if a tortoise has ever been on that poster?”

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

In

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

Surviving to Immortality
(1144 words)

I have just been informed that the debate over the question “is it right or wrong to have immortal souls” has been finally brought to a conclusion.

“Sorry, can you repeat that again?”

Dr. Hong, the informant herself, pauses for a minute. I met Dr. Hong about fifteen minutes ago. She didn’t seem the type to answer one of life’s eternal questions, but then again . . . No! She’s talking, listen this time!

“. . . a high chance of survivability.” Ok, yeah, that’s what I thought I heard before.

***

It was probably just a few seconds, but also an eternity, before I responded. “Wait . . .” Breathe. “Wait . . . sorry, wait . . .” Breathe! Stop stammering and loving breathe! “Wait, a high chance . . . “ Breathe! You got this!

“It’s ok, take your time.” She was looking at me, patiently, not an ounce of annoyance in her eyes. Probably not a good sign.

I inhaled, exhaled. More than once. A lot more than once. “Thanks.” In, out. Focus. “I’m, um, I’m not sure what I was expecting . . .” (breathe!) “. . . it, it wasn’t that.”

She smiles, slightly, leaning forward on her stool. “You sure you don’t want anyone here with you today?”

I shake my head. A couple more slow breaths, trying to visualize the words, then failing, as they leave my mouth on their own accord. “So, when you say survivability, are we talking about . . . are we talking about the nerve, or are we talking about me?”

Still nothing but patience in her eyes as she responds. “I’m talking about you. We have to sacrifice the nerve.”

“Oh.” She is looking into me, right through me. I’m pretty sure she knows I’m lying to myself. About having this. I don’t have this. Not at all.

I’m not sure how long we sat there. Probably not long. Probably an eternity. “So what does that mean?”

Dr. Hong smiled again. She has a pleasant smile. If it was practiced, it didn’t show. The smile is disarming, distracting me from the conversation. I don’t remember anything else she says.

***

ENK-ENK-ENK-ENK-Enk-Enk-Enk-Enk-Enk-enk-enk-enk-enk-(enk)-(enk)-(enk)

The sounds, once deafening, are now fading away as the fluffy body surrounds my head. Breathe! It’s fluffy arms are closing around my throat. Something else pushes down on the top of my head. Pushing my face into the fluff, blocking all air. The sound has disappeared now. I can’t even feel it vibrating around me anymore. Breathe!

I’m tight in here, walls pressed up against me on all sides. It would be claustrophobic even if I wasn’t being softly smothered alive. But I manage to yank my left arm free, a needle ripping out of my forearm, cold liquid leaking onto my back. The attacker up top is pushing with a lot more force now, trying to stop me from moving. My face is completely surrounded. At least it’s going to be a comfortable death. No! loving breathe! You got this!

There is a new pair of hands. Warm hands. Rough hands. Pulling my left arm back, but without success. I manage to snake my hand to my throat, my fingers sinking into the plush demon currently choking the life out of me. Snatching it, I rip it down, off of my throat, down past my body, past the nest of wires and tubes. Another needle rips out of my arm. My right arm this time. But I have the bastard, down by my feet, stomping the soft life out of it, as its friend continues to seal around my head.

The rough hands grasp my left arm. It’s not coming back up to help. Wires and cords tense, catch, snag as I fight in vain. Everything is getting dark. I feel my breath catching in my throat, but I also feel my shoulder working free from the wall. I shrug, hard, throwing my face to my chest, free from suffocation, just briefly, gasping loudly for air.

My hearing returns immediately, like surfacing from the ocean. ENK-ENK-ENK. An alarm is ringing as well. I can hear voices. Some are down by my feet. One voice emanates from the walls. “We need you to relax. Just breathe. Focus on your breaths. Inhale, exhale, breathe. You got this.”

***

“It won’t be like last time. You will be asleep before we take you in.” Dr. Hong is smiling, patience in her eyes. At least from what little I can see of her. I’m lying on my stomach, slightly tilted to the left, face to the side. Trying, failing, to ignore the pain.

“No more pillows. Please.” I’m joking, but I’m not. I’ve been asleep most of last week. Morphine will do that to you. The nurses keep telling me it’s best if I don’t remember everything right now. It will help my body heal faster. But with sleep comes dreams. Dreams of being suffocated. Comfortably suffocated.

Dr. Hong, almost laughing, reassures me. “No, no more pillows. Just a couple scans to make sure everything went well from yesterday.” Yesterday. I don’t remember yesterday. Supposedly it took twelve hours. Today will be longer.

When they came to get me this morning, Dr. Hong had been ecstatic, almost giddy, describing how well yesterday went. Gabe, her resident, asked if I wanted to see any of the film. I could see the image on his phone already. Me, I assume, lying face down. The skin of my back flayed open, draped on a hook to either side of me. I politely declined. Gabe asked for permission to show it to some of his colleagues, which was fine. It felt nice to be a part of something he wanted to brag about.

I could feel one of the drain tubes beginning to pull on my back. I shifted, slightly, looking to the right this time. Towards Gabe. “So, assuming I’m all good, you’re just going to wheel me over and finish this?”

Gabe responds. “It depends.” “On what?” “On whether you spend an hour throwing pillows and ripping your lines out again.”

I laugh, then curse, loudly, as flames shoot through my spine. A hand rests down on me. Trying to steady me, to reassure me.

“It’s time. Are you ready?” It’s Dr. Hong, but the voice is distant. We had stopped moving. The room is small, cold, swimming in the vapors of soap and alcohol. Someone is injecting a solution into one of my lines. Another hand comes to rest on my shoulder. Just the slightest bit of pressure, comfort.

My vision is fading. I’m flashing back. Back to the demon pillows. To suffocation. Back through the scans and operations and tests and shocks and pain and puking and needles and worries and sweats and chills and sleepless nights. But mostly back to the questions, questions of the unknown, questions without answers, questions that have dominated every waking moment lately. Survivability. Probability. Immortality.

“I’m ready.”

Breathe. loving Breathe! You got this!

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

In. Hit me with something. I’ll try not to spoil your birthday by making you read total trash (and congrats)

Voodoofly fucked around with this message at 17:15 on Aug 24, 2021

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

The Jukebox in the Corner
2076 words

There wasn’t much to the Daily Pint. Dark wood. Dim lights. A few people at the shuffleboard table along one wall. Long mirror, bottles of whiskey, a line of taps, and Michael tending bar along the other wall. And tucked into the corner, tubes bubbling away in an ever changing neon glow, stood a jukebox. A jukebox that, for perhaps the first time in recent memory, was playing Billy Joel.

“It was always burning since the world’s been turning . . .” the jukebox sang. A man stood up and finished his beer in a quick if not undignified fashion. Aware of the stares from around the room, he turned to the door, exiting without a word.

Ali remained seated at what had been their table until the song was over. Holding her beer aloft, she gave one last thought to another first date abruptly cut short, offering a silent toast and thanks to her loyal jukebox. The jukebox never failed, she thought. Some people did double dates when meeting someone new. Some people had their friends hide at the location to offer thoughts afterward. Not Ali. All Ali needed was to introduce her date to the jukebox and the truth would be revealed.

With the song over, Ali stood and headed to the bar, to Michael. She thought back to the night a friend first brought her to the Pint, introducing her to a tall, brooding, handsome bartender in A Tribe Called Quest shirt. Before that night Ali hated beer. Before that night Ali had never heard, or even heard of, A Tribe Called Quest. But she kept coming back to the Pint, to Michael, listening to him wax poetic about bands, about hops, about peet, about movies. She would catalogue them all, then spend the next few nights relentlessly researching everything she could. Waiting, hoping, for the time when he would see her the way she saw him.

***

Michael nodded to Ali as she sat down. Finishing an order, he took a moment to check her out as she finished her beer. Ali had a different look tonight. Well, different from her last few failed dates. Every one seemed to bring out a different side of Ali, and if Michael was being honest, tonight was the best version of Ali he had seen yet. As Michael walked over to her he wondered if maybe it was time to finally get over his nerves and ask her out.

“Well that was quick,” Michael said, placing a new pint on the bar in front of Ali. “Interesting choice too. What did you say when it came on?”

“Nothing!” Ali laughed. “What? I didn’t say anything to him! You heard the song. Everyone in here heard it.”

Michael nodded. He, like everyone else, had definitely heard it. “Right. So what did you ‘not’ say that made him rush the door?”

Ali started laughing again, holding her hand up to her mouth, trying to compose herself as Michael dried off a glass and waited. After a moment she was able to talk. “I had just asked him to put something on that he thought I would like,” she said, fighting off another laugh.

“And he picked Billy Joel?”

“Right! I mean, look at me. Did you not read my profile? Or see what I’m wearing?” she asked, pointing to the pins on her leather jacket. “Why, how, would he think I like “We Didn’t Start the Fire?” I mean, I could sort of understand if he went for like a deep cut off Turnstiles, or maybe “The Stranger” even. Hell, get me drunk and I’ll sing along to “Piano Man” just like everyone. But that?”

Michael, drying a glass, didn’t have an answer. “Alright, but still, you didn’t say anything?”

“Nothing, I swear!” Ali was smiling again, and Michael noticed her cheeks starting to blush.

‘What am I waiting for?’ he thought, thinking back to all the times he had come this close before.

Ali, mistaking Michael’s contemplation for skepticism, continued. “Fine, alright. I didn’t say anything, but I laughed. Ok?”

“You laughed?” Michael put the glass down, focusing all of his attention on her.

“Yes,” she said. “When the song came on he just started on and on about how none of us know anything about modern history, how they don’t teach it in school, but they should. You know, the important stuff, the stuff that matters. How, if they cared about really teaching us, we should be studying these lyrics, not some speech from the past. Then he said, and this is a quote, he said ‘This song is America.’ And I couldn’t help it, I laughed.”

Ali smiled, playing the events over in her head one more time, then raised her glass. “To the jukebox,” she toasted. Michael, raising a glass of his own, toasted back. “To the jukebox, and Ali never having a second date again!”

***

After their sip, Michael grabbed a sharpie from the bar and they headed over to the corner. Opening the glass case, Michael fished out the card with Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits. “You want the honor tonight?” he asked, handing the card and pen to Ali.

“Sure.” She took the pen, blacked out the song, and put it back in the jukebox’s case, closing it with a click.

“Should we journey through your hits?” he asked, flipping through the jukebox’s catalogue. “Right, here’s one. “Lightning Crashes.” Remember him?”

“He was a loser.” She flipped a few pages, then spotted another blackout. “Mr. “Ironic”, he was a bust.”

“What’s wrong with Alanis?” he responded.

“Presumptive misogyny” she replied, flipping through the album cards.

“And “Machinehead?” he asked, pointing to another black out.

“Seriously, Bush? Why do you even have that in here?” Her face was in mock disgust.

“It came with the box. Stop trying to change the subject,” he said, flipping more cards. “What about here? Why is there a Stevie Wonder song crossed off?”

“Nope, uh uh, you’re not tricking me.” She jabbed her finger at the blacked out line. “This, this here isn’t Stevie. This is “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” How does one go from musical genius to utter banality?. Look at all these classics. “Sir Duke” “Superstition,” “Pastime Paradise?” Look, he could have even at least picked “Ebony and Ivory.” Sure, it also blows, but at least it would have been interesting.”

“But still no second date, right?” Michael asked, turning back from the jukebox.

“Oh, no chance.” She said, turning with him.

“Yeah, fair point,” he said, inching slightly closer as they made their way back to the bar.

***

Both were silent as they returned, each trying to figure out how to finally broach the subject. Michael failed first, asking if she wanted another pint. Ali nodded and he started pouring her a new glass. “I like that shirt by the way,” she said, pointing. “Low End Theory, right? It’s the same one you wore the first time I was here.”

Michael looked down at his shirt before responding. “Yeah, I guess it’s a favorite of mine.” Placing her drink on the bar, he worked up his courage. “Can I ask you something? Why do you keep bringing dates here?”

“The jukebox.” She pointed to the corner, the bubbling tubes radiating neon green.

Michael was undeterred. “No, I mean what do you expect to happen? With the jukebox. You probably know the catalogue by heart now. What song does some poor schmuck have to pick to earn an elusive second date?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Ali replied, cursing the sarcasm as quickly as it left her tongue. Not waiting for a response, she continued. “But I don’t know what song would earn another date. That’s sort of the point. All I want, all I’ve been looking for, is to hear something cool. Something that speaks to me. Something exciting.” ‘Something, or someone’ she thought.

Michael bussed her old glass before following up. “So you want someone who knows more than you. Despite the fact that you know everything?”

“Hey, I don’t know everything!” she interjected, cheeks fully in blush.

Michael, drying another glass, continued. “Despite the fact that you pretend to know everything.”

Ali waited a moment. “Yes.”

He picked up another glass to dry, his eyes focused on her alone. “So, another snob like you?”

Ali put her drink down, looking directly at Michael. “Someone with selective taste like me, yes.”

Michael, having finished drying every glass in the vicinity, put his towel down below the bar. “I’m a snob like you,” he said, then poured another drink.

***

A minute or so of silence passed, during which Michael took a drink and Ali held her breath. “You never let me answer your question, you know,” he said, setting down his glass.

“Which question?” She held her breath again.

“About wanting to know,” he said. “To know what song would earn me a second date.”

“Jumping the gun, aren’t we?” It came out half stuttered, half whimpered, the sarcasm fighting past the breath held in her throat. Ali screamed inside, looking down to her beer, not noticing Michael’s smile as she tried to recover. “Sorry. I just meant, don’t we sort of have to have a first date, uh, first? Unless, you know, tonight counts as our first date.”

Ali looked back up. Michael returned her gaze, each of their eyes asking the same question. A moment passed before Michael, pointing towards the jukebox, responded. “I suppose I should go over, then, and make it official.”

Ali reached across the bar, stopping Michael as he turned. “I just realized something. After all this, I’ve still never picked a song of my own.” Not waiting for a response, Ali rose off her stool, headed to the corner. To the bubbling yellow tubes, and the truth. She didn’t have to think about what to play. There was only one song, the perfect song, for a snob like her to play for a snob like him. She flipped open the catalogue. Put in a bill. Hit the number. Waited. Waited for that perfect moment, when the doubled bassline struck, to make her return.

Michael couldn’t believe it. He was quietly tapping his foot as she sat down. “Can I Kick It,” he said, subtly nodding his head to the beat. “My favorite.”

She took his fingers in one hand, clasping around his palm. “Lucky guess, I suppose.” She traced hearts on the back of his hand as she continued. “The jukebox doesn’t have Tribe, though. I had to go with Lou Reed instead.”

Michael, lulled by the bass and her fingers, jerked his head at her response. “Wait, this is Lou Reed?”

“Yeah, “Walk on the Wild Side,” she said, almost in unison with the chorus. Their eyes remained locked. Ali smiled at Michael. Michael smiled back, a smile of relief.

“I never realized Lou Reed sampled Tribe” he said, still smiling, his grip tightened ever so slightly on her fingers. “Someone like Lou Reed, at his age, sampling Tribe. That’s pretty cool.”

Two of Ali’s fingers slipped out of his hand. She looked down, briefly, then back to Michael. Past Michael. To the reflections in the mirror behind the bar. Two snobs. Two frauds, pretending to know everything. She looked away, back to the corner, where the truth stood, bubbling away in all of its neon glory.

“Busted?” he asked, following her gaze.

“You think?” She slid her fingers back into his hand, not expecting an answer. Another moment passed, each still with one hand in the others. As if on cue, both raised their glasses in salute, gesturing to the corner.

“To the jukebox!” she began, clinking her glass to his.

“And to Ali never having a second date again,” he finished, giving her hand a final, somber squeeze.

““Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” she said through her drink before setting it on the bar. “This was my song for you. Something cool. Something you’ve, obviously, never heard.”

“Obviously,” he repeated, mostly to himself.

“Obviously.” She finished her beer, tipping her empty glass upside down on the bar, smiling, cheeks fully aflame. Still holding hands, her fingers softly playing in time with the bass in his palm. “So, your turn,” she told him. “What are you waiting for?”

And in the corner, with its deep red bubbles dancing in the tubes, the jukebox sang “Doot, di-doot, di-doot, doot di-doot, doot, di-doot, di-doot, doot di-doot…”

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

Crits for Week #475

Roughly listed in order from favorite to least favorite, but outside the top three don't take too much into the ordering as I already changed it from last night to this morning and I'm sure I'd change it again by the afternoon. I will also try to go back and edit this post with the links once things are archived.

Captain Indigo - Vidal

This was great. The conversations worked really well. I appreciate that most of your story was an exposition dump, just saying this happened and then this happened and then this happened, but the dialogue makes it interesting for me despite what should be a fairly inactive conversation. Your characters are telling a great story, and it has to be a great story in order for their ruse to work. I could probably do without the beginning and end segments making it a report, although the note about his childhood cat is a nice detail so I appreciate trying to squeeze it in. I don’t have much to say otherwise - by coincidence this was the last story I read but was also my favorite and I think you nailed the tone, the inspiration, and pretty much everything else.


derp - The Walls:

I want to cut half the lines in the first third of the story (everything up to finding the letters). You are trying to start out somewhat ordinary, with just a little something off here, a little foreboding there, letting the strangeness build and build until it (literally) blocks out everything else in your world. But I feel like the pacing and tension building gets ruined in that first third because you repeat and hammer home the unease in multiple ways. Your story is good enough that we sense something is wrong without you telling us so many times. For instance, you describe these men (who we already know are something bad) placing ribbons and X’s on trees. Then you tell us that “a wave of foreboding emanated from those X’s and ribbons.” Then your character tells us “this ain’t good.” It’s too much, and ruins the pacing.

So, with that said, I really really really like this story, and basically from everything after the letters on I was completely engrossed. It builds well, and while we know something bad is happening, I didn’t expect a literal coffin being built around him. It’s a great build with a great payoff, which is why I would love to just go back over that first act and really trim it down.


[DQ] sebmojo - Boats against the current:

I enjoyed the pacing in this. For a short story you still created a nice sense of propulsion from the opening to the conclusion. It all flows nicely, and I wasn’t sure exactly where it was going yet never felt that anything happened out of place. I want to know more - about the people, the concert, the devices - but at the same time I don’t feel like I need to know any more than you told me. My only real critique was the sentence ending with: “and on the glowing screen she had an expression like she was trying to swallow a baseball but wasn’t sure if she really wanted to.” This felt out of place when I was reading it and once it was over. I don’t think you need the simile, especially when the rest of the prose paints such a vivid picture through very sparse and direct language. I wish this wasn’t a DQ as it would have been one of my favorites.


Idle Amalgram - Auto-Correct

There is something good here, so first things first. I really don’t like the first sentence. It feels clunky and, quite frankly, it tips the story’s hat too much. If you really want to keep it I almost think it works best as either the last sentence or a bridge from the explanation to “That brings me back to the dead man . . .” Second, I hated the explanation with the super-collider. It’s way too clean of an answer for an otherwise eerie story. Even if you just hint that something happened, maybe a glancing reference to realities colliding, and it makes the story much better. You start with a floating dead man, I’m not going to call you out for not clarifying that it was a supercollider that caused these skips (the description of just “skips” being the best anyone could describe was great, by the way, and all I really needed). That said, I enjoyed the story. It’s well paced with vivid descriptions. While the twist isn’t all that original, it was well executed and feels right for the story you told. I didn’t feel cheated for not immediately being told the dead man was the protagonist, which is a hard needle to thread in a story like this.


Yourichi - Escape from Moon-Base 2058

You came up with an ingenious workaround of the hellrule. However, half of this story felt like it was you telling me that Frank was an rear end but I really didn’t care why. I think if you cut everything between the “Don’t cry, you idiot . . .” paragraph and “The low-oxygen warning light . . . “ paragraph I’d enjoy the story more, even if it might be less obvious that Frank is an rear end. The story is well-written, I just didn’t care that much about Frank to really care about the rest, especially with those middle paragraphs stopping the suspense cold for half of the story.


Tharanguy - The Survivalists

First, this felt like you ran out of time, especially towards the last section. Second, I think the entire first and last section could be cut and I’d enjoy the story more. I really didn’t care about Sen, his background, his desire for wealth, or the committee. My favorite parts were the description of the alien, and discussion of their history. I would have liked more discussion about their background, playing more into the reference to conquerors being the mapmakers, maybe showing more in line with the two species besides luck. There is something here, I just think it needs more time to really flesh it out.


fishception - barbarian

I appreciate the formalistic style you were trying to follow, but I really didn’t enjoy reading it. I also don’t know if you really avoided violence as the most interesting descriptions in the story were the various violent acts (how the mayor spoke, how the woman walked). Otherwise, honestly, this just felt like you were narrating a picture: telling me what happened, but I really had no idea who these people were, why it was happening, what the significance was, or really any interest in anything. Bad thing comes, bad things happen, bad thing goes, the end. It’s well described, and there are some interesting visuals that come from your words, but honestly this feels like it needs to be a good scene in a much longer story so that we have weight and emotion tied into the wreckage you put forth for us.


a friendly penguin - All Alone Together

First, this story takes too long to get going, and I feel you tell us the same thing multiple times: the town is hosed, and David is grasping at straws to try and save it. Second, my immediate reaction to the ending was exasperation that you aren’t comparing the destruction of the original inhabitants town to the current destruction, both brought on by the same government? Especially as you already alluded to David’s family having a history of running this place? I almost felt cheated by the ending. I wanted someone in this story to recognize the hypocrisy of trying to return to an aboriginal way of life after the modern government destroyed your town. And maybe that is the intention and I’m just missing it, or it was too subtle for me. Otherwise, it feels like a copout - a story that is setting up a huge critique of climate change and the inadequacy of the government and the inability of the citizens to combat those issues, only to be resolved by building a log house. The ending really doesn’t work for me or I completely missed the boat on this. I did enjoy the dialogue, it felt natural and I sensed that there was real history between all of these people. It might be a little slow to get to the ending, but it was an enjoyable ride at least until the end.


Carl Killer Mike - Bounty Bonanza

This is harder to judge as I’m much more familiar with your DFW story than the other people’s inspiration choices. I wanted to try and just judge all of the stories without reference to the original source but I don’t think I can with yours. So, first of all, I really agree with your assessment of Big Red Sun. And I think you nail the central idea of your critique, especially the predator-prey aspect of the producers versus the stars in the original with the bounty-hunter and bail jumpers here. And that’s probably why this story doesn’t work for me. I just don’t care about these people, or the convention, and I don’t have any desire to get to know this world. The only character I remotely am interested in is the bail jumper at the end, but all we know about them is that they jumped bail and hid at the convention. I want to know that person’s story, their world, what they experienced. So I’m finding it hard to offer constructive criticism because 90% of my criticism, for both your reporter characters in world actions and for your story, is why? I’m not sure that is ever answered, especially considering your spot-on critique of the original. This is probably an unfair critique, and I don’t know how I would have responded to your story if I hadn’t seen your initial post about Big Red Sun, but I can’t unring that bell.

Voodoofly fucked around with this message at 17:16 on Sep 14, 2021

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

In. I played DE in a former life so Defense it is.

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

The Domestique
Team Titan Kazaks (Defense) - Punt Returner
785 Words



At dawn, Jos had navigated the sea of bikes, squeezing into the starting area. The race would be a one day classic, rough cobblestones mixed in with small, steep climbs, ending with an all out sprint, and Jos had just received the team’s orders. Jos wouldn’t be riding for the win. Jos wouldn’t lead a breakout. Jos wouldn’t push for intermediate sprint points. No, Jos would fetch water for the team. They would shield teammates from the wind. They would lead the peloton. They would head the sprint train. They would fight off exhaustion, enduring hell, alongside every other rider. They would avoid risk, forgo reward, and remain sensible. They would serve the team. This race, like most races, Jos would be a domestique.

******

The peloton was about fifty meters ahead as Jos pulled alongside the car, passing empty bottles to the passenger before grabbing filled bottles and shoving them into the pockets of their bib. They were five hours in, and with ten kilometers to go, and everyone would want to be refilled and refueled for the final sprint. Jos shifted into the highest gear, pulled in behind the car, and accepted a small tow back towards the peloton as they transitioned into another cobblestone segment. It would take a lot of energy to make their way back through the peloton, passing bottles to their team, so any little help was appreciated.

Click-click-click-clank! Jos didn’t hear so much as feel the derailleur slipping and catching as the chain jumped three cogs at once. They looked back at the transmission to see if they could spot anything wrong, hoping it was just a bad bounce from the rough road. Everything seemingly in shape, Jos turned their eyes back to the road just in time to watch everything fall apart.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl. Riders flipped over their bars, suspended in midair, twisted in glacial collisions. All around bikes were crashing, wheel over wheel, the ones in the front of the peloton laid out along the road, the ones in the rear smashing into their teammates and fellow riders strewn across the cobbles. The crowd on either side of the road stood frozen in shock, some ducking down, others with arms braced ahead to shield themselves.

Instinct and muscle memory took over. Jos had been an amateur sprint champion in their former life. The years away from the sport, during the appeals and treatments, might have robbed Jos of some quickness. But sprinting required more than pure speed, and Jos’ ability to maintain balance and plow through a jostling crowd was ingrained deep in their psyche.

Spotting a potential line, Jos downshifted, reducing torque on the pedals for a brief moment, hoping the derailleur didn’t skip again, weaving through the carbon wasteland that was the peloton. Up out of the saddle, front wheel skipping on stones while dancing between fallen bodies and frames, Jos managed to break through into daylight. Two other riders had made it as well, the rest lost among the wreckage.

The three escapees all looked back to survey the damage, hoping nobody would wave them back. If a fan or some other outside interference had caused the crash, then a senior rider might pause the race, letting the fallen recover and resume racing as a group. But no one was calling a halt. The riders behind were scrambling to get back on their bikes. The race was on.

Looking ahead, the three riders fell in line. Cresting a small hill, Jos could see the Roubiax Velodrome in the distance. The finish was in sight. The peloton would catch a lone rider over these last ten kilometers — but three riders, working together, had a chance to stay ahead. So they rode on, alternating positions at the lead, pulling each other ever forward.

With five kilometers to go, Jos’ fingers started going numb. It started with their pinkies. First tingling. Then burning. Then nothing. Their ring fingers came next, followed by their middle fingers. At two kilometers out their index fingers had burst into flames, skipping the tingling entirely. And now the burning in their index fingers was starting to fade.

Jos wasn’t worried, though. Their fingers had lasted as long as necessary. The crowd was erupting as the three riders swept into the velodrome. With a dull click on the shifter their fingers’ day was over. No more gears to change. No more brakes to engage. Just three more curves, two more riders, and one more kilometer separated Jos and the finish line. Jos rose out of their saddle, preparing for the sprint. It was the sensible approach. To serve the team, sometimes you had to race for glory.

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help



Week 486: I want my MTD!

Good morning, my future Flash Jockeys, welcome to your first day interning at MusicThunderDome! Here at MTD we strive to provide nothing but quality Music Flash 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year (February 29th is a myth made up by VTD1).

Normally we would try to ease you in, but honestly it’s been a bit of a mess around here lately. The FJs are overworked, the Music Flash is underwritten, and without your help, we just can’t see MTD surviving the fall season.

So, please, find your desk, put on your headphones, and get writing. Pick a song, a song you love, and get us some Music Flash for it. Something inspired, something that will make us appreciate the song the way you do. It doesn’t have to be literal; if some instrumental makes you imagine seagulls sailing through the clouds, then go with it. Give us 1,000 words. If you can link to the song in some fashion, we would appreciate it (youtube is great, but anything helps). Make us proud. Save our station!

*****



Ok, I see that some of you are a little more savvy than your fellow FJs-to-be. Yes, we want their Music Flash, but you all know how this business really works. If you want your own show some day, you need to grease the wheels. Our existing FJs might be overwhelmed, but they still have their ego, and want to be able to sound knowledgeable and hip when they flip the audience to your new Music Flash. They love options. As such, if you want to provide 3-5 song links, along with very brief pitch on why those songs would make a great Music Flash, then one of our FJs will pick the song and pitch they like best and put in their feature spot, netting you an 1,500 words. Hurry now, get those pitches in!

*****



Oh, some of you are still here. Fine, for you truly ambitious suck-ups, we have a special proposal. Three of our best, most overworked FJs need help, and they need help now! They are getting pressure from some of their most trusted artists, and need to get those artist’s songs playing as soon as possible. So, if you really want to help us out, pick one of the three FJs you want to help, and we will provide you with three songs that those FJs are dying to get on the air. You can choose any song the FJ provides, and you will get 2,000 words for helping us out so much. The FJs in need are:

FJ Moog, hosting Sax-O-Synth-O-Magic
FJ Technics, hosting Beats & Rhymes
FJ DOA, hosting Attitude and Amplifiers

Choose fast, those FJs are anxious to keep their artists happy!

*****



What, why are some of you still here? No, that’s it. There isn’t some special ultimate option for you. All of our shows have been covered except FJ HellReign’s Midnight Massacre, and trust us, you don’t want anything to do with FJ HellReign. You do want something to do with FJ HellReign? It’s your choice, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. If you are willing to head down in the stacks, FJ HellReign will give you one song, probably something most people will hate, possibly something FJ HellReign hellself hates, and you will get 3,000 words to come up with your Music Flash. Why would you pick this? You will regret this!

*****



Recap:
You pick the song: 1,000 words
You give us 3-5 songs and a brief pitch for each, we pick one: 1,500 words
You pick one of the three FJs, we provide you three songs, you pick one: 2,000 words
HELLREIGN: one song, 3,000 words, utter respect

Sign up deadline: 9:00 AM PST, Saturday, November 27th
Submission deadline: 11:59 PM PST, Sunday, November 28th
Rules: standard stuff from the OP
Songs: please provide links so everyone can listen

Judges:
Voodoofly
rohan
weltlich

Entrants:
SurreptitiousMuffin: Self pick // Stick & Poke - Teeth on a String
crabrock: FJ HellReign selection // Gulch - Sin In My Heart
Idle Amalgam: Self pick // Homeshake - Under the Weather
Carl Killer Miller: FJ HellReign selection // Soul Glo - (Quietly) Do The Right Thing
Captain_Indigo: FJ HellReign selection // Jlin - Carbon 7
Chili: Self pick // Brad Mehldau - When It Rains
The man called M: FJ Moog selection // Berlin - The Metro
Thranguy: FJ DOA selection //
Sailor Viy: FJ Technics selection // Peggy Gou - Starry Night
Flesnolk: FJ HellReign selection // Actress - Jardin
Amars: Self pick // The Starlight Mints - Eyes of the Night
Tyrannosaurus: FJ DOA selection //

Voodoofly fucked around with this message at 23:26 on Nov 29, 2021

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

crabrock posted:

In give me hellreign but I'm not using all 3k words



FJ HellReign blesses the first with recently deceased Bay Area hardcore heroes Gulch, and their Siouxsie cover "Sin In My Heart"

Carl Killer Miller posted:

In, Hellreign thing



FJ HellReign smiles upon you, granting D.C.'s atomic banshees Soul Glo, and their song "(Quietly) Do the Right Thing"

Captain_Indigo posted:

I'll go for a Hellreign too.



FJ HellReign's generosity shines brightly, providing Gary, Indiana's experimental genius Jlin, and her song "Carbon 7"

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

The man called M posted:

In. I’d like FC Moog to give me choices.

FJ Moog is in urgent need for some quality Music Flash for these three highly requested songs:



Berlin: "The Metro"




Nation of Language: "On Division St."




INXS: "Never Tear Us Apart"

Voodoofly fucked around with this message at 20:18 on Nov 23, 2021

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

Thranguy posted:

In, help me out DJ DOA

FJ DOA has a couple new tracks and an old favorite they are dying to get flashed and on the air, so which will you choose?




Bat Fangs: "Turn it Up"




Turnstile: "Mystery"




Bad Brains: "She's Calling You"


Sailor Viy posted:

In, requesting songs from FJ Technics

FJ Technics wants to know: will Atlanta, London or Berlin (via Seoul) get your flash treatment?




Little Simz: "Point and Kill"




Peggy Gou: "Starry Night"




Earthgang: "Red Light"

Voodoofly fucked around with this message at 00:55 on Nov 24, 2021

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

Flesnolk posted:

hellreign



FJ HellReign was in a meditative mood, handing you Actress, the Wolverhaven wizard of ambient, and his song "Jardin"

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

Tyrannosaurus posted:

In. FJ DOA, spin me some fire.

FJ DOA looks to be sticking to the two new one classic format. Which will be the one?




Savages: "City's Full"




Power Trip*: "Executioner's Tax (Swing of the Axe)"
*RIP Riley



Hüsker Dü: "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely"

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

So yeah signups closed a while ago.

Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help



:siren: Results for Week 486: I want my MTD! :siren:

You did it! Thank you all for saving MTD. I know I speak for Rohan, Weltlich and myself when I say we all expect you to have long and successful careers as FJs at this station.

Well, not Flesnolk obviously, who FAILED you, and us, and Actress, by not meeting the deadline. So congrats to the rest of you for not failing us.

And, if we are being fair, maybe a few others won’t be hosting their own shows anytime soon. We here at MTD were in agreement that the LOSS went to Amars snore about college kids, a flashlight, and “perhaps the most boring description of gun violence I’ve come across in a long time” according to one of the judges.

The judges also felt that Tyrannosaurus deserved a DISHONORABLE MENTION for a story that felt phoned in, too long, and “an obviously talented writer wasting our time with something they didn't care about.” This will be a week with a few no mentions, and it didn’t feel fair to those stories to have this one as a no mention as well.

Which leads us to The man called M, who receives this week’s other DISHONORABLE MENTION. However, they also receive an “honorary” (and in no means official) honorable mention as well. The entry has major problems, but all three judges were in agreement that it showed significant improvement. We see you trying, and we appreciate it.

Truth be told, there probably could have been four to five honorable mentions this week. I think all of us had different stories we might have individually picked as an HM. But the music flash business is a harsh mistress, so in the end the sole HONORABLE MENTION goes to Carl Killer Miller for a story that starts out rough, but it’s strong characters, stronger pacing and perfect description of the assigned song won us over. FJ HellReign liked it so much that hell has requested you become hell’s full time apprentice. Hopefully we see you again at the holiday party.

Also, before we end things, we here at MTD want to remind you that we are a family focused station, and we take our parental policy here seriously. It takes a village to raise a little music nerd, and in that respect we want to mention how insane your fellow FJ in training Chili is for busting out an entry in the labor room, let alone something that all three judges found personally moving.

Which leaves us with Crabrock, this week’s unanimous winner. So unanimous that we really didn’t even talk about your story much, so you will have to wait for your critiques to be showered in accolades. It was disgustingly great (hair raising even), and you paid true honor to Gulch with your heroic tale of a hirsute husband.

So congrats to all who entered, we truly enjoyed reading your stories this week.

And congrats again to Crabrock. This makes it three wins in a row, which according to Rohan, don’t quote me on it has only been accomplished once before in TD history.

Prompt.

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Voodoofly
Jul 3, 2002

Some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help

Crits for Week #486

A couple words in advance: despite this being my theme, I don’t care if your story doesn’t fit the song (or I can’t figure out how it does). In the instances I did figure it out I’ll point it out, and in some cases it might have helped, but I’m not going to tell someone they interpreted a song wrong.

Also half of these crits were written on my phone, one handed, with a sick kid in the other hand, so apologies for typos, etc.

Chili - Out of many, one:

You already know this, but I’m not touching your story. In many ways this is easily the winner as, unlike every other story this week (whether good or bad), you wrote this for you, out of a unique circumstance, capturing a precious moment that now lives with all of us forever. As such, this is perfect, and far be it for me to critique it, judge it, or even consider it as some form of competition. Congrats again, Lupin should be proud.

SurreptitiousMuffin - Augur in Red:

This would have been my second Honorable Mention, and I debated it as the only honorable mention. It’s beautifully written, it makes great use of the second person, it fits your song, and if we really were making a music videoI think your story works best in that regard, telling a short moody piece in the three minutes the song plays.

That said, while you nail the mood of the piece, it still feels like something is missing to draw us in. After the first paragraph I wasn’t really sure I cared who “you” was hiding from, and in many ways the story told the same idea multiple times: they do X, so I do Y, and so they do Z, so I do A, and they do B, etc. Again, it’s beautifully written, but in some ways it felt more like an exercise than a story. To stick with the music theme, this read like a world-class musician practicing scales. The technical ability is apparent, but it was missing the hook and passion of an actual song.

This was probably the hardest critique I had to write, because it was also the story I was most divided on when we were judging. It’s excellent, and it’s missing something, and I lack the ability to explain it any better than I already have. Also read Thran’s crit for a bit more.

Amars - Farm Road 50:

This is ten times better than my first entry (also a well deserved loss). It also is a story that doesn’t go anywhere. You have this build up with these folk tales about the ghost light, and for me they were much more interesting than everything that happened after your characters called cut on the scene. Even if this had been 1000 words of what the Ghost Light might have been I would have enjoyed it more. As it stands, we get this nice intro and then nothing really happens. We never know what these characters think about the folklore - are they really into ghost stories, are they super cynics trying to prove the believers as dumb, or are they just jaded college kids trying to complete an assignment? There is some subtle flirting between two of the crew that goes nowhere. A farmer shows up with a gun, which fires!, and nothing really happens. Then someone pisses themselves and I guess that is the end? You had something cool in the beginning, but it felt like everything fizzled out the minute you character said “Good Enough?”


Sailor Viy - Last Call in Para-Space:

There very easily could have been four or five honorable mentions this week, and your story would have been one of them. There were also four or five stories this week that started out rough and then won me over, and your story is one of them.

So, I think you nail the feel of this piece. The music references, the Hibiki, the laid back coolness of your protagonist: I get it, and I am all in on it. However, I have no idea what axiomatic is other than “something important” and using it as the ah-ha! moment just doesn’t work. You could have cut out half the sci-fi jargon and we would still get the point. “Luckily, Sarnelia Vance doesn’t make mistakes” is a sentence that I did not need, you already set it up with the first paragraph. Piloting through wormholes, listening to Surfing, sipping Hibiki - I get it, we have a cool character on our hands.

That said, for me this was a “hang out” story. I enjoyed spending time with your protagonist in their world. I want to know more Sarnelia stories (I suppose prequels), and I can’t say that for many of the other stories. You nail the atmosphere and the cool, and I can picture this in my head as something broadcast on a screen during a Peggy Gou show. The biggest problem your story had was that there was a wealth of good stories this week. If this wasn’t my first time judging I might have had the balls to hand out multiple HMs, you would have one.

Tyrannosaurus - Save the Date - 666:

Part of the reason this got a DM was that we had four or five stories that arguably should have had an HM, and felt that putting those stories and yours all as no mentions didn’t seem right. Also up front: this story oozes of raw talent, which means I was absolutely judging you on a harsher curve than some of the other entries. It probably isn’t fair, but what about art and judging has anything to do with fairness?

The good: the front half of this story made me laugh. I also liked that you said you used all three songs. You have a great voice for your protagonist, and the writing feels effortless (which again probably hurt you here). I also enjoyed the peripheral glimpse you provided into an apocalypse.

The bad: This felt one note, and in many ways too tame. If I’m taking this literally, and your protagonist wants to get one last bang during the apocalypse, to the point where they are willing to gently caress a demon, then I guess I’m expecting some Hellraiser levels of depravity. Getting a good dicking is fine, but a good dicking can come from many things. What is it specifically about a demon, or the apocalypse, that made it so good that you are getting married on 6/6/6? Give us less, trusting our imagination, or give us more, trusting our, well, gently caress it just titilating us. As it stands I read this as a disney teen version of what could have been a scandalous, depraved steamy romance. Or something that got rushed, considering the typos and all.

In a fair world this is a no mention. But your reputation, and your obvious talent, and the multiple other strong entries did you no favors this week.

Carl Killer Miller - The Culture:

“I selected a particularly brutal track and prepared to key it to my aural implants.” I was on my phone, sitting on the couch, the first time I read this sentence and the rest of your description of the song. I laughed loud enough that my partner thought I was making fun of her for something.

Up until that line, though, and I had serious issues with your story. Or not even issues so much as I had no way in. You threw a LOT of “sci-fi words” at us up front, and coupled with an unknown in the crucible it was a rough start, and it was hard to find anything to pull me into the world you were building.

But that all changed with the music player fiasco. Your characters went from being described as having traits to portrating traits. You stopped telling us and allowed us to experience first hand who these characters were, and understand the situation they were in, and understand both the boredom that would lead to smuggling in a music player and the anger that would result from someone destroying a month of tedious experiments (and possibly death from messing things up, which I guess you hint around but honestly isn’t necessary - your story didn’t need exaggerated stakes, a month of wasted work is enough).

In the end, you left us with a well paced story, where characters react with genuine emotions to a realistic event, and then respond to those reactions in a realistic fashion. There is growth, and change, in each of your characters, and it all feels natural. As a plus, I have no idea how much inspiration you took from your song, but your story and the song feel simpatico to me (I really don’t know an english word that works as well as simpatico). You won me over, and truly deserve your HM.

Also, for the record, I had no idea what the lyrics were to your song before I found the youtube video I linked. I still don’t know if I know that the hell that song was about.

The man called M - Love Peace and Hasslehoff:

First question: HOW THE gently caress DID SHE LEAVE EAST BERLIN? I was all ready for a cool story about being smuggled out of the city, past the guards and the checkpoints, just to get a chance to see her hero perform. But you managed that in a sentence. In your story, riding the tube in London is a much more hazardous journey than trying to leave communist controlled Berlin.

To get the bad out of the way: your story tries to tell way too much, skips over the fun parts (escaping the city, the thrill of the concert) and spends way too much time on completely irrelevant parts (rapey dudes on the tube). You tell us SO MANY TIMES that your characters are from Germany. ““I’m fine.” Emma responded in German.” No poo poo, the woman who has never left East Berlin who meets another German responded in German? “Emma asked, wondering if it would be wise to go with a complete stranger. A handsome stranger, but a stranger, nonetheless.” Is he a stranger? There are multiple instances where you hit us over the head with the same thing, repeatedly, like this. Or state something obvious, that we could get from the remaining words you use such as: “They mentioned how the Berlin Wall made things inconvenient at best, and hostile at worst” (and then spend a paragraph describing those issues that you just told us about in this very unnecessary sentence).

But, all that aside, we all absolutely saw you trying with this story. You have characters, that have wants, and have obstacles they need to overcome to achieve those wants. I think all of the problems I pointed out above come from you trying to strengthen your story. You have obviously read your previous critiques and put serious thought into how to improve. It shows. I’m far from an expert in writing, and a pale shadow to some of the talent that exists in the TD world, but even I can see how much work you put into this. In the end, despite all the issues, it wasn’t boring and there is definitely a good story ready to be unearthed here as you continue to build your skills.

Idle Amalgam - Left Behind:

Many of the stories this week started out rough and finished strong. Your story did the opposite: I was totally on board with the first half, up through your protagonist’s realization that they hosed up and forgot to take their pills. The second half, though, honestly just felt like you ran out of time and it got rushed. I think there is a cool idea about watching your protagonist fight their slow recognition that it was all a hoax, but you didn’t have enough words, or enough time, to nail that ending. I don’t think your story was meant to be some sort of twist reveal to the audience, but I definitely felt reading it that you were able to write the first two thirds, then edit them, but had to rush the ending to submit it for the deadline. Trust me, I’ve been there, and assuming that is correct you pulled it off way better than I have. But it went from an interesting premise to a muddy finish, and you got unlucky to be surrounded by a bunch of really strong entries this week.

However, it was a cool song choice and I definitely see the inspiration, so well done on that front.

Captain_Indigo - The Lifegiving Powers of Water and Womanhood:

The entire waking from deep sleep, and puking, needs to go. This is a long story, and a story where you rush the ending (which, spoilers, is the best part). Who cares if your protagonist was in stasis, or had to wake up, or what it was like waking up. She could have just woken up normally to her ghost man, ate some (mouthwateringly described) food and smoked a fatty in a hundred words, rather than wasting like a third of the story on it.

You could also probably trim a lot of fat on discovering the floating pyramid. She could wake up, get lit, marvel at something cool, and then be off to a payday. Your prose is descriptive enough that I totally got the idea of a floating pyramid, which is cool. Sentences like “Through the viewing window, it was an impressive edifice” are just overkill. Likewise, you probably could cut one-third of the time spent in the horror-Pharoh scenes. We get it, dude is all-powerful, it’s scary, she is hosed. Judicious editing, even a few words here and there, would keep the tension but also improve the pacing without sacrificing any detail: you have the ability to say a lot with very little, but it feels like you aren’t aware of how descriptive your words are in this story.

This probably sounds like nit-picking, and it is, because you had a great story buried under a few too many words here. Another day, another round of editing, and this is competing for a win. You got a hard as balls song for inspiration and knocked it out of the park (even down to incorporating the album name). The ending great: an eons dead pharoh and a badass space cowboy toking up and getting into poo poo could be the start of a great series of adventures, and I wish we spent twice as long with those characters.

Again, absent a wealth of strong entries and this would have been an HM. Or a little more time and a little more editing and this is an HM. But it was a fun read, and I truly enjoyed it.

Thranguy - Girlfriend from Another Dimension:

The idea of an “honorable HM for best inspiration” also came up during judging. There were seriously four or five stories we considered for an HM, so debated just granting one from pure song inspiration. If we ran with it, you would have been in the running. The reason I didn’t go with it was that Muffin’s story would also have been in the running and I couldn’t decide between you two. So, right off the bat: hearing Bat Fangs and coming up with an alternate dimension that rooted out of the 80s was pure gold and a perfect way to take inspiration from the feel of the song rather than the literal lyrics or, I don’t know, whatever.

The problem, though, is that your story didn’t really start working for me until you brought up the 80s dimension riff. Those first nearly 800 words: a lot of sci-fi terms and descriptions of people communicating online. Not to sound cliched, but I was bored with the story, then you let in on the 80s alt dimension reveal, and I say up straight and truly started to engage with your story.

And while the kernel of inspiration from that alt dimension is what made me sit up, it was your characters that kept me in. They came alive after that, started acting, with desires, as opposed to existing with pre-conceived histories. I didn’t expect a happy ending (?) for your protagonist, but I am happy we got one. Or at least the possibility of one. The first half of your story felt like you were worried we wouldn’t understand things, going into overdrive describing every little thing (even things that had a new sci-fi name for something we already could figure out). The second half trusts us, allows us to read between the lines with your characters, and has faith in your story to leave the ending open to possibilities. In a way the halves of your story are similar to the worlds they describe: two alternate dimensions, but only one I want to exist in.

crabrock - Sympathological Joy:

You make your protagonist believably caring despite being despicable. Yes, it’s a well written story. It’s disgusting without being a gross-out. It’s set in an apocalypse that is only hinted at but somehow adds to the unworldliness of the domestic situation. To steal from Chili, it’s ultimately a story of the “don’t touch the thermostat” dad. But god drat your protagonist is just fully realized. He is hot, grumpy, and covered in hair. He is also loving, protective, and cares for his wife and her well-being. Everything, from making hot chocolate to re-pelting his wife stems from these very simple, but fully illustrated, character traits.

I honestly don’t have anything more I can say about it - you take us through a fantastic journey that we never question because the character and his desires are so clearly set forth and so believably relied upon as the onus of all the action in the story. It is one hell of a feat. All three of us had independently identified it as our runaway favorite this week, and I don’t think anyone even broached an alternative choice for the win.

Voodoofly fucked around with this message at 07:50 on Dec 2, 2021

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