Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
  • Post
  • Reply
Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Into the Breech
2063 words
Flash Rule: the rocks are angry

“Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of wa—!”

“Ugh, another Julius Caesar…”

The shout ended in a dull thunk, followed by a sharp electrical pop. A few moments later, the scent of ozone wafted across the foxhole as Aurich slowly raised the periscope above the rim.

“Nice shot, Ell!”

“Just lucky. The little bastard was out of cover longer than it should have been. Either it malfunctioned, or they're up to something,” Ell said as she checked the cord on her sling. “This thing’s frayed to hell. It’ll probably come apart next time I spin it up.”

“Bet we run outta stones first,” Aurich kept scanning across the enemy’s line with the periscope.

Ell sighed. “I hope so. It’s been nothing but loving Shakespeares in this bag so far. Every dumbass rock thinks it’s the Bard, and it’s getting old.” She opened the satchel to count their remaining ammunition. Four mineralized faces peered back at her.

“All gods go with you! Upon your sword sit laurel victory! And smooth success be strew’d at your feet!” One of them offered.

“Shut the gently caress up.” Ell flipped the cover back over the bag.

Aurich and Ell had been out on picket duty for a day and a half—twelve hours longer than their turn in no-man’s land had been scheduled to last. The Droids had been probing the lines with increasing frequency for the past six, and they were both eager to be relieved before any sort of attack spilled across the enemy fortifications. Before they’d left the relative safety of the trenches, there had been talk about making a push to hit the ‘bots first.

“See anything?” Ell asked.

“You’ll be the first to know.”

Among her soldier’s kit was a waterproof bag containing a notepad, some envelopes, and her pen. Ell pulled out a half-finished letter to her mom and tried to think of something to say—something vaguely cheerful that wouldn’t depress her folks too much. There were only so many ways to say “still sitting in muddy holes, eating peanut butter from tubes and waiting to die” with sunny insincerity, and Ell had exhausted most of those during the first six weeks of fighting. Lately she had just settled for writing whatever she thought would make it past the censors.

…The ordinance corps has decided that ammunition should be versed in the classics, for some reason. I’m not sure where they’re digging these things up, but somewhere there’s a gravel pit or a quarry that’s been overexposed to Elizabethan literature. In the past week, I think I’ve heard all of the King Henrys, King John, and either one or both of the Richards. Hard to tell. I get the Dicks confused. PFC Henry (not related) swears that he swung a Francis Bacon at the ‘bots on Tuesday. It’s a mystery how he would...

“Got action! Relief is inbound—Droids are sniping!”

Ell dropped her letter and grabbed a rock from the satchel. As she tucked it into the pouch of her sling, she asked, “Distance and direction?”

“One O’clock, about a hundred meters. Looks like it’s by an old iMac.”

She stood up, just barely clearing the top of the foxhole, and started to spin the sling while searching for her target. Across the pock-marked field a line of debris demarcated what was truly their side. The Droids had sealed the small town of Appelton behind a rampart made of junk piled upon junk. Ell saw an old CRT monitor glint in the sun and released one end of her sling.

“Blow wind! Come wrack! At least we’ll die with harness on our back!” screamed the stone as it sailed away.

Two taser darts split the air next to Ell’s head, and she dove back into the foxhole Their trailing wires fell limply over the rim of the pit.

“Miss,” called Aurich. “Impacted a foot to the left of the ‘bot.”

“Goddamnit!” Ell plucked another stone from the satchel and shoved it into her sling. Then she grabbed the remaining two and dumped them into her cargo pocket. “Watch the wires, they’re probably still live.”

“Got it. Target still stationary.”

This time Ell started spinning a moment before she popped up, barely missing Aurich’s periscope as the sling took it’s first orbit around her head. She spotted the junked computer and sent another stone flying. It was shouting something about horses and crowns as she turned to look back toward the friendly lines. Sure enough, a lone figure was coming across no-man’s land at a dead sprint, heading directly for her listening post.

“Another miss. Still wide to the left.”

The Droid moved as she came up for a third attempt. Spindly and squat, it tried to scuttle behind an old office chair. Its limbs blended into the piles of refuse, but there was no mistaking the trash-can aesthetic of the ‘bots main body. Ell thought it had her dead to rights, but it shifted its gaze toward the running soldier. There as a blood-curdling scream, and the string of Ell’s sling snapped as she released a stone.

“...that fought with us upon St. Crisp—"

A loud bang echoed across the field and Ell turned to see the runner still hobbling toward them—hand on his thigh and his face contorted in a rictus of pain.

“Hit! Right in the battery pack!” cheered Aurich, pulling his eye away from the periscope.

“Awesome. loving fantastic. We got an incoming casualty.”

Aurich swore as he fumbled with the periscope, trying to pack it away safely and fish the medical kit from his rucksack at the same time. He began to ask what sort of injury to expect but that question answered itself when a young man fell into the foxhole. The newcomer convulsed and screamed through clenched teeth as another electric jolt coursed through his body.

“He’s still live! Grab a blanket, Ell!” He threw on the thick rubber gloves that were standard in every medkit kit. But before he could find the pliers, another jolt hammered through the stricken soldier.

“It’s Private Arturo,” Ell said, throwing a thick wool blanket over their unlucky fellow. “Taser dart in the right thigh.”

“Hold him. Don’t touch skin or that wire,” Aurich commanded. “Arturo…Art? This is gonna hurt, but I’ma be quick.” Wasting no further time, Aurich reached down with the pliers and wrenched the barbed dart free. With the circuit broken, Arturo’s body went limp.

“Still with us, Artie?” Ell asked, checking his pulse. “Feels steady. Good thing you took it in the leg. Just hurts like a motherfucker instead of sending you home in a box.”

“Fuuuck…that sucked,” he groaned, then winced as Aurich swabbed some alcohol on his leg and Ell tied a bandage around it with what was left of her broken sling.

“So what gives, Art?” Aurich asked after the wounded man caught his breath. “Relief is s’posed to be a two-man team.”

“I’m not relief, man. No more relief. The brigade is pushing up in an hour. They just sent me to tell you guys to hang tight and get ready to link up with the first wave.”

“Seriously?!” asked Ell, rage filling her voice. “We were supposed to get rotated to the rear after we got off this picket. Those…pricks!

Aurich had nothing to say beyond heaving a deep sigh. He kept the insulated gloves on and occupied himself by probing around the rim of the foxhole with a wooden rod, picking the tiny taser wires from the dirt and snipping them to break any current that might still flow through them.

Ell scowled at nothing for a bit, then picked up her now dirt-stained letter.

…Just got told that instead of rotating off the front, I’m going straight from picket duty into a fight. Not happy about it, but I’m not going to say anything here that might get my last letter home censored. Don’t really know what else to write. If you get another letter after this one, I’m still kicking. If you don’t, then tell Dad that I love him. You already know that I love you, but for the sake of tying up loose ends—I love you.

Until I see you again,

Then she sealed the letter in an addressed envelope and tucked it into her jacket. One way or another, she hoped it would find its way home.

Meanwhile, Arturo had been fiddling around with a small shovel. He stayed low, unwilling to expose himself to the Droids fire, and scraped away at the packed earth along the rim of the foxhole. Inch by inch, he carved a shallow trench that pointed back toward friendly lines, until he found what he was looking for. Using the back corner of the shovel, he hooked a canvas strap, and dragged a satchel into the safety of the pit.

“I dropped the presents I was bringing you guys,” he said, smiling. Then he reached into the bag and pulled out a couple of spare slings before handing them to Ell. “Hemp cord on these instead of jute, should last longer. LT says you can spin them faster, too.”

“Well, I got one shot left. I better make that poo poo count,” Ell grumped.

“They also sent more ammo.”

“I hope these rocks know some comedies, at least,” said Aurich. “Mebbe As You Like It or Love’s Labor Lost. The histories are getting’ real old.”

“Check it out!” Arturo said with a grin as he pulled out one of the stones. It was smooth and blue with a tiny, immaculately groomed moustache on it’s face.

“The true paradises are the paradises that we have lost, ” it managed to get out before Arturo stuffed it back in the satchel.

“gently caress me,” said Ell. “They got in a batch of Prousts?”

“And Achebes!” beamed Arturo. “They even sent a few Pynchons with me. And get this—yesterday after they sent you guys out here, we found some massive Bierces when we were digging a new trenchline. I saw them getting dragged over to the siege artillery a few hours ago.”

As if on cue, the three soldiers heard a trebuchet heave it’s payload across the battlefield and a voice like a freight train filled the air: “To be a Frenchman abroad is to be miserable; to be an American abroad is to make others miserable!”

The boulder sailed overhead and crashed into the Droid ramparts with enough force to make the dirt in the bottom of the foxhole jump. Aurich scrambled to pull the periscope back out of his rucksack, and the other two simply hazarded a peek over the rim to see for themselves. A gap had been broken in the enemy line—their friends and comrades were charging across

They cheered.

Then, like spiderlings from a burst egg sac, the Droids came swarming through.


Ell walked down the ruined street, gawking at the storefronts and office buildings that had been stripped of their wiring and electronics. She marveled at the dust covered floors and missing dry wall. Anything that could conduct electricity had long since been turned into ‘bots, and anything else that wasn’t nailed down had gone to the front to build the rampart.

“Found these in what was left of the post office. Thought mebbe you could use them,” said Aurich as he walked up behind her. He was holding a few pads of paper and a box of envelopes. Ell took them with a grin and gave Auric a quick hug.

“LT said the Brigade’s gonna get back on the road in about twenty minutes. We’re formin’ up in the parking lot over at the minimall,” he said.

“I’ll be there. Where was the post office?” she asked. Auric pointed back up the street.

The sorting machines and registers were long gone—but the walls were still covered in mailboxes, even if their brass numbers had been cut away by some scavenging Droids. Ell walked along until she came to the slot for outgoing mail.

She reached into her jacket and found the letter she intended to send home. Flipping it over, she scribbled on the back of the envelope: Let’s see if I get home first!

She slid the letter into the chute, and turned to jog back to the parking lot.


Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Tree Bucket posted:

I'm in.
The good thing about the DM -> Loss trajectory is that there's nowhere to go but up, right!?

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Hey TD, guess what?

Do you know what breaks a person? Not big things like war, or famine, or political strife. No, it’s the small things—the hot water heater going out in January, a couple extra inches of snow that falls right after you finish shoveling, a baked potato that’s not quite done in the center. It is the sum of weight of small injustices that crushes a soul. And the final straw that broke my back was receiving a 2020 losertar when I was CLEARLY the first loser of 2021.

And thus I have turned heel. No more “your story was great, but…” crits. I’m going to tell you why you suck, and maybe your shame will spur you to improve where my cheerful cajoling last year did not.


Simply Simon You Will
You know I’ve always wondered what an incel-only open mic night might churn out. No, actually I haven’t but now I know whether I like it or not. You’ve produced something here that is both simultaneously creepy and tedious to read. I’m not sure how long this story actually was since you didn’t bother to post your wordcount, but if you snipped out the middle four paragraphs, it wouldn’t substantially change the “story” at all. And seriously: “she smells like good things do and you smell like the worst?” poo poo. The word you were looking for was poo poo.

Tree Bucket The Three Steps of the Giant
Good grief, where to start. Listen--I like you, you got moxie. Unfortunately your writing has also got a whole sack of things that are pet peeves of mine.

-“One thousand meters tall?” All of you non-American motherfuckers are always telling me about your vaunted metric system and how superior a base ten measurement system is. Well then do some simple loving division and call it a “kilometer.”
-The giant is loud enough that it breaks his phone, but it somehow doesn’t deafen him permanently? Have you ever been around loud things? Is that how they work now? I only ask because I have been around loud things and haven’t heard anything but EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE in the past 15 years. Maybe things have changed.
-Then there’s this gem: “Rob fell to ripped soil.” Is this TD round secretly a poetry slam night that I got tricked into judging? Unless you’re desperately trying to adjust your writing to fit some weird meter (the poetry sort, not the pretend-its-not-arbitrary-because-you-can-divide-by-ten sort), then use articles. If the English language is easy about one thing, it’s articles. We’ve only got three of them, it’s not that hard. Ask Simon about the genitive case some time. Preferably when I’m not around.

But check it—as a story, this wasn’t that bad. It was weird, and it is ok to write weird stories, but you always have to keep asking yourself, “What would a real person do?” That’s the weird tale sniff-test. As long as people keep behaving like people, then you can get away with a lot in setting and events during a story. This one’s not bad, but it needs some serious tightening up to reach a point where I buy what you’re selling.

Phiz Khalifa Smooth Moon
Apparently in this new year we’re not doing word counts anymore. TwentyTwenty just burned away all of our common decency and now we just say “gently caress you judges, if you want to know how many words are in this story, you can copy paste it into a word processor.” Well gently caress you, too. How many words is this? Don’t know, don’t care.

As for what you wrote, well, I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed. If you got a point for every time the word moon, smooth, or Houston appeared in the story, you’d be doing great. But you don’t and you didn’t. As a joke, it was too long to really land the punchline, and it was too short to be a proper shaggy dog.

Brotherly The Doom Vat
Welp, you nearly had me. The story was going along just fine, then I got to the last four paragraphs. C’mon man! You’re better than this. The old wizard asks him what he’s done? That old fart was in the room on every other failed attempt. He knows.

If you and I were in the kitchen, and I kept loving up the same recipe every day, would you ask me “what have I done?” when you walked in one day to find that I had somehow not hosed it up as badly as usual?

If you’re going to go for a shock ending, then it’s gotta land

SurreptitiousMuffin Mr Hands but Make it Actual this Time

You know what you did.
Or rather I know what you didn’t do, which is proofread your entry before smashing the “submit” button. Autocorrect done did you dirty, Muffin. At least I hope it was autocorrect, or you need to have a serious chat with your Editor.

Beyond that, reading this piece gave some intriguing insight into a person’s descent into madness. It was weird and unsettling, but the person behaved like a person to the bitter end even in the face of mounting mental distress.

You doing ok?

Flerp Empty
Well would you look at that, another member of the “I’m too cool for a word count” club. Pity that you decided to be the third person to do it, which means that you aren’t the hip trendsetter you thought you were. Just another tired poseur.

Speaking of being tired—for a story about insomnia, Empty sure put me to sleep. A guy walks around and thinks about poo poo and has a dog. Break-ups are really meaningful to people who are going through them and really boring to the rest of the world. Unless there’s something in that break-up that I’ve never seen before, no amount of decent prose or cute dog will make it interesting.

Nae Man Plans;
Oh look, it’s someone else who thinks they’re like Lovecraft but not racist. Well back off Nae, because this is my turf.

The problem here is that in an attempt to give the white man his comeuppance, you shot yourself in the believability foot. Is believability foot an expression? Is now. Look, one of two things has to be true here. Either A) Ozwald and his people are pretty dumb and got conned into building a castle for some first world rear end in a top hat, or B) Ozwald and his people are pretty smart and it’s actually the first world rear end in a top hat who’s the dummy. Now from the way this is written, it’s pretty obvious that you were leaning into case B, but that leaves lingering questions about just how Ozwald’s people got conned into building a castle.

And sure, you can clap your hands and say “Haha! Because they were in control the whole time!” But that leaves an even bigger problem. That means you’re trying to sell me on an idea that there’s been an elder god watching over and guiding a bunch of Innsmouth-look jerks for centuries, but s/he/it has been waiting on one particular honkey to come sailing up so it can get finally get Malibu Stacey’s Dream Temple built.

Gorka Chosen
Yeah ok, but why tho? Was magical realism really in need of being toned down a notch?

The prose is decent, but this feels like a joke without a punchline. Odin needs computer touchers now, I guess. Big call for PMP certs to make sure Ragnarök stays ahead of schedule and underbudget. Asgard is getting bought out by Amazon and they’re migrating the Bifrost Bridge to the cloud. DO YOU SEE WHAT I AM DOING HERE? I AM FINISHING YOUR JOKE FOR YOU.

Magic Cactus Groundhogs, Reconsidered
I don’t know who came up with the phrase a hot mess but they have done mankind a service. The weird upside-down writing at the beginning is a Chekov’s gun that never goes off, or maybe it does but instead of a bullet it’s some weird word-witch spell that never gets properly explained. We’ve got two characters that are some sort of paranormal book nerds or something, but I don’t know enough about either of them to make Maria’s sadness mean anything to me. And there’s a creepy kid, because why the gently caress shouldn’t there be a creepy kid?

I’ve never done ketamine. Can someone who has tell me if this is what it’s like?

Thranguy And Talking Trees, and Leagues of Grass
A hot mess, plus DICKS.

Cactus, I take it back. I’ll have some of that ketamine if you still got it.

Noah Hummingbird Wish Me Luck
What a wonderful and elegant story to remind me what a mound of poo poo we’re all still buried under. I was ready to say “You know what, there’s been an awful lot of magical realism this week…be nice to see a well written ‘slice of life’ piece now and then.” Well weren’t you just the covid djinn to hear my wish? That’ll teach me to want nice things or have any hope whatsoever.

Also, watch what words you’re snipping out and give it one more proofread if you’re trying to make wordcount. When there’s words missing that ought to be there, and when pronouns aren’t lining up with antecedents, the annoyance interferes with the state of proper depression you were shooting for.

sebmojo Epistle of Ixion Jr. III

Hey man, you have to tell me what mobile carrier you’re with because their rates must be amazing given how you phoned this one in.

Antivehicular Advice to a Young Traveler
I can't bust heads like we used to, but I have my ways. One trick is to tell 'em stories that don't go anywhere - like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. Give me five bees for a quarter, you'd say.

Now where was I? Oh yeah: the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones...

sparksbloom Peanut Butter Jelly Time
You know, for every other person this week I’ve been a real rear end in a top hat and told them how much their story sucked and what they’ve done wrong, and how much it’s ruined my day. Can’t say the same for you, sparks. This is a really sweet story that didn’t feel like a chore to read and made me feel a little better about the human condition in general. No glaring typos, and the prose was workmanlike.

So gently caress you for throwing me off my game this week.

obliterati How Yer Grampa Glaikit Beat Back The Beats
Who’d have thought this week would be so bad that my favorite piece would be about a dubstep infected robot, written in marginal English?

May yer lum reek, fuckface.

Crabrock My Favorite Mistake
horns dot a i f f

Don’t think there’s anything going on here that you don’t already know about--like a main character who only exists to push a button in the story and just watches everything else happen. I heard you were over the wordcount, and it looked like you decided to snip out the parts of the story that would give it meaning and substance, and just leave the gags intact. Probably the right choice.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
in and a flash

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Well, well, well... I heard that someone's feeling a little froggy that I've embraced a heel's lifestyle.

To all the folks at home and in the Thunderdome tonight, let me tell you about how liberating it is to finally throw off the shackles of being a face. No more pandering to the fair-weather fans. Lots of time to kick back and write whatever I want to write instead of trying to figure out what some namby-pamby judge wants to hear. A lot of you jerks fear the losertar, but I was never free until it broke my chains.

Back to the matter at hand. I've heard rumors that someone here wants to challenge me, but won't come out and do it. So Sebmojo... I'm callin' you out, brother. You wanted a brawl, well you got one!

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Adding a :toxx: to my in to get a few extra words.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
A War Story with Uncle Welt
1000 words

Did I ever tell you about the time we fought the 101st Airborne? They came down to run a wargame against us back in ’04 if I remember correctly. The 101st’s gimmick is that they call themselves Airborne, but they're not—they use helicopters and trucks, but none of them know how to strap on a parachute.

Anyway, we gave them a day’s head start. The next morning, me and the rest of the squad went down to the airfield, got rigged up, and somebody decided that we’d be jumping out of the AN-2 Colt—an ancient Russian cargo biplane we captured during the Korean War. God’s witness, it was so old that the ground crew had to give the propeller a spin while screaming CONTACT! to get the thing started. But there were only eight of us, and the Air Force couldn’t be assed to fly a C-130 for anything less than a full platoon. Besides, the Colt was low, slow, and sneaky which suited us fine.

But it was a weird plane. First of all, it only flew 10 people at a time—seven paratroopers, the jumpmaster, and two pilots. And if you were the last man to jump, you didn’t even get a seat. You just had to squat between the pilot and copilot in the cockpit.

What really made it a tricky jump was the way the back door was situated. In a C-130 you stood up, walked off the ramp, and then your rear end was in the breeze; but the Colt had a 4-inch lip on the bottom of the back hatchway, and the door was only four feet high. You had to plant a foot on the lip, hunker down, grab the sides of the hatch with both hands, and literally throw yourself out. If you didn’t bail out fast enough, the propwash would toss you back into the tail of the plane. Not good for you, and not good for a sixty-year-old airframe that’s held together with duct tape and prayers.

So anyway, we had intel that the 101st was setting up supply depots and listening posts on the east side of Peason Ridge, and we thought it might be fun to go harass them. I was the last man in the jump order, and Clyburn was just ahead of me. We loaded up on the runway before the sun rose, and off we flew. The pilots said we’d be over our target right at dawn.

Now, the DZ at Peason was short, so we had to get out of the plane ASAP unless we wanted to land in the trees. As soon as the jumpmaster said “go!” the squad started to bail out with a quickness. Garret and Thomas got out fine, but Clyburn was a little too amped up. Instead of getting his foot planted on the top of that lip, he caught it with his toe and just kind of stumbled out of the door. I knew it was bad news. The second I was out the door, I turned my head and watched him bounce off the tail of the Colt.

It’s a good thing the static line popped his chute that morning, because there’s no way he could have pulled a rip cord. I felt my chute open a few seconds later, and I checked the canopy before looking over at Clyburn in the early morning light. Dude was just hanging limp in his risers, and the ground was coming up fast. But hand to God, what I am about to tell you is true:

Clyburn landed in a shallow grave.

There was a rectangular hole on the DZ—seven feet long, three feet wide, and three feet deep—and that’s where that motherfucker landed. I have no idea who dug it, or why, but he plopped right down into it.
Then I landed and the wind picked up. It dragged me a few feet across the ground before I could get my risers unbuckled. Clyburn was still down for the count, though. When the wind got into his chute, it billowed up and hauled him back out of the hole. With that golden-colored light of dawn reflecting across the silk, he looked angelic—as if he was being called home.

Then I remembered what we’d been up to in Houston the past weekend. St. Michael might watch over the Airborne, but St. Peter’s a cop.

I had to sprint about thirty yards before he floated off, and I heard gunfire in the distance right as I grabbed onto him. Somebody on the ground was already in contact with the 101st, but I was still fighting with the wind as it tried to pull Clyburn back into the air. I get one of his risers unbuckled just as a gust started to lift us up again and we both fell back on the ground like sacks of poo poo.

He looked pretty beat, so I let him rest while I gathered up our rifles and gear. I wanted to go link up with the rest of the squad and get help, but it didn’t feel right just leaving him there by himself. I sat down and chilled out while I waited for Clyburn to come to.

It took a half hour or so, but he woke up right as cargo humvee from the 101st rolled up on us. I thought we were hosed. Then Garret and Thomas stepped out of it. I asked where they’d got the wheels, and Thomas just shrugged and said they found it at a supply depot. Garret said the nice thing about the 101st was that they were too scared to jump, but too lazy to walk.

We got Clyburn’s concussed rear end into the back of the truck and gave him his rifle. Then we drove him back to the aid station, doing drive-bys on all the 101st checkpoints we passed along the way. Dude might have been dazed, but he still could shoot.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
---Rivals in Random Places Brawl---

The Belle of the Butcher's Ball
1494 words

The music stopped and a wiry man stepped up to the microphone. He thumped it twice and the crowd booed as a dull pang of feedback echoed around the cavernous room.

“I’d like to thank everyone here for joinin’ us at this year’s formal for the Vermont Butcher’s Association,” he said, drawling his years into yee-ahhs. “Specific thanks to Orange County Slaughterhouse for lettin’ us use their warehouse as a dance-hall tonight. It might be chilly, but everybody here ought to be used to the cold by now. I know you’re all eager to get back to the festivities, but there’s a few other folks that need to be recognized…”

The speaker droned on, and the crowd split into little cliques to chat and eat deviled eggs until the music started again. At the back of the ersatz ballroom, a group of old timers and one single young man huddled in a circle like a crown roast. Each one had a can of beer in his hand, and occasionally a head would pop up to observe the crowd in the rest of the room.

The young man’s gaze kept coming back to one of the few unattached ladies at the function. She looked back, smiled, and waved for a moment before another young man begged her attention.

The old men noticed.

“If you’re plannin’ on talkin’ to Mara Donnelly, you best get too it, Ernie.” Ted Thibault was the head butcher at Lyndonville Smoke and Cure and was wearing an ancient corduroy overcoat with moth holes and fleece trim. “She’ll be back out on the dance floor as soon as Ed finishes readin’ the obituaries, and only two songs are left tonight.”

“An’ you best be ready to dance,” added Jake Hogan, who managed the killing floor. “Mara’s got no time for wallflowers. That kid from Royal Packing has kept her on her feet all night.”

Ernie looked back across the room and saw Gilles Robicheaux chatting with Mara, putting his hand on her elbow and leaning in to whisper something. She rolled her eyes and walked over to the punch bowl to refill her cup. Gilles smirked and said something to one of his friends.

Gilles was certified USDA Prime prick. In November, Ernie learned that lesson about the Quebecois butcher the hard way.

Lyndonville Smoke and Cure’s killing floor had closed for its scheduled annual inspection, but their smokehouse was still making bacon, ham, and sausage. Ted cut a contract with Royal Packing to do the butchering for a few days until their own facility was back online. So the week before Thanksgiving, Ted had Ernie drive down to Royalton with a trailer full of hogs and Gilles was managing the unloading dock that day.

It had been a nightmare. Gilles threw the back of the trailer open before securing the side gates, and a dozen panicked pigs spilled out into the parking lot and then into downtown Royalton. Ernie had chased them until his lungs burned, but to no avail. In the end, it took help from the Vermont State Troopers and the local sheriff’s department to get the animals back to the slaughterhouse. Gilles never once lifted a finger to help, just sat on the side of the livestock chute and laughed until he was blue in the face.

The folks in Royalton were still talking about The Running of the Hogs.

“Go on,” prodded Ted. “Ed’s finishin’ up. Either talk to Mara or bring us another round of beer.”

Ernie shook his head and began to make his way to where he spotted Mara, still by the punchbowl. By the standards of the crowd, she was dressed up for the evening. She wore a purple floral-print skirt and a navy cardigan with the sleeves pushed up to reveal her toned forearms. A pair of thermal knee-high socks snugly hugged her sturdy calves and were her only concession to the chill of the warehouse ballroom. From all the dancing, a faint sheen of sweat had formed on her neck and forehead.

They made eye contact, and she smiled brightly.

He was halfway across the room when someone turned the music back on, and Gilles swooped in to take Mara by the arm. Speaking a few words to one another, she turned to Ernie with a brief shrug and a silently mouthed “Next dance,” before allowing Gilles to lead her back to the dancefloor.

And they danced. It was an upbeat modern tune that cleared away the mostly grey-haired attendees, leaving the dancefloor almost entirely to Mara and Gilles. She moved in time to the music, but Gilles stole the show. He was svelte and tall, and seemed to be the only young man in the slaughterhouse that night who wasn’t wearing an item of Carhartt clothing. His tight turtleneck sweater left little doubt that he was trim and lean, and his designer shoes probably cost a week’s salary.

Ernie regarded his steel-toed Sketchers glumly.

But that wasn’t the worst. No, the worst part was that Gilles could dance. His shoulders, hips, and feet moved in perfect rhythm. He knew exactly when to step in close to dance with Mara, and when to step away to execute some solo moves. For three and a half excruciating minutes, he owned the room and crushed Ernie’s hope of hitting it off with Mara.

The song finally ended to sporadic applause, and a slow number started up—the last dance of the evening to draw the older crowd back out. Gilles moved in to wrap Mara in a close hold, but she backed away and raised her hand to defer. He shot a withering look at her as he stalked off to join his circle of friends posted up by the buffet table.

“Hey you!” Mara beamed a smile at Ernie as she approached, grabbing him by the hand and by surprise. “Saved you the last dance.”

Before he said he just wanted to talk, before he said he couldn’t dance, Mara pulled and his feet followed her into the crowd. She found a spot that wasn’t crowded enough to bump into anyone but kept them out of the center of attention, then she turned and put her hands on his shoulders. Even through the thick canvas of his barn coat, he could feel the warmth of her touch, and he nervously reached out to put his hands on her hips.

Ernie swayed like a hanging side of beef because that’s as close as he could come to dancing.

Mara rolled her eyes and began to lead by alternately pulling him forward by the shoulders when he needed to move forward and kicking him lightly in his shoes when he needed to move back. After a couple minutes, he tried striking up a conversation to distract her from his complete lack of grace.

“Been a while since we saw each other at the summer farmer’s market.”

“Yeah, it’s been too long. I missed hanging out with you—you’re my favorite competitor, y’know!” Mara said with a wink.

“Competitor?! Last time I checked, I was selling bacon and you were selling beef. I gotta let Ted know that Donnelly Packing is moving in on our turf.” Ernie mimed looking around for his boss, and Mara laughed. “How’s business down in Ryegate, anyway?”

“Eh, you know. Cows come in one door; steaks go out the other door. The winter is just so boring though. No hiking, no farmers’ markets, no hanging out with friends…” She gave his shoulders a little squeeze.

“Not much nightlife down there, huh?”

“Only if you count moose and racoons.” The music started to wind down, and someone hit the switch to turn on the harsh fluorescent overhead lights. Mara leaned over and kissed Ernie on the cheek. “Look at you, Ernest Ducharme! You made it through the whole song.”

“I’ve even got most of the polish left on my shoes.”

“Miracles do happen. So where do you live, again?” she asked.

“Over in Calais.”

Mara made a look of mock horror before grabbing Ernie’s chin and squeezing his mouth open. She inspected what was inside then grinned crookedly. “I’m shocked. You still have all your teeth and they’re even in the right place.”

Ernie playfully swatted her hand away and started to look around the warehouse for Ted. “Well, I better get going. The boss is giving me a ride tonight and he’s probably itching to head home.”

Then they both noticed Gilles, still staring daggers at them. Mara reached over to take his hand.

“Want me to give you a lift?”

“Sort of out of the way for you...”

“You mean you’re not interested in checking out Ryegate’s moose and racoon situation?” she asked as she pulled on her parka. “I’m not in any hurry if you’re not.”

Ernie felt his ears glow red. “Nah, I’m in no rush.”

“Good,” Mara said. “Might take us all night.”

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Azza Bamboo posted:

I admire a dying genre of story that is currently being held up by Netflix’s She Ra: Your challenge is to write a story featuring:

- A strong protagonist
- Who wields a magical sword
- Whose magic is activated by some catchphrase
- And they fight some villain of some kind.

1500 words.

Due 27th March at 08:00 GMT

Edit: 3rd contestant

Edit: A month is a long time. If you both three submit early, it'll be over sooner.

I'm jumping into this cage match. :toxx:

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Open Letter to a Tetrapod, 375 M.Y.A.

Get back in the water your four-leg bitch! The gently caress you thinking coming around here on land with them weak rear end limbs?! WE. OWN. THIS. poo poo. We got roaches the size of goddamn dogs and you won't ever know what a motherfucking dog is because YOU ARE GOING TO GET BACK IN THE loving OCEAN WHERE YOU BELONG. I know you all woke cause this is the late Devonian period but if you ain't got a lot of knees and compound eyes then your vertebrate rear end is just begging to get got as soon as you poke your big-brain head out the water. Oh look at that your boy just got rolled up by a dragonfly! Makes u think rite?! And don’t bring that lung poo poo around here we already got those. Not them gross rear end damp gills you rolling with either. Proper lungs. Book lungs. Our lungs are educated motherfucker. And don’t get me started on that stupid bone poo poo. Who the gently caress keeps their bones on the inside and their soft tissue on the outside? Some dumbass vertebrate that’s who. Meat just hangin out all over your raggedy rear end. Growth-limited bitches. Always crying about your calcium and magnesium. GO BACK TO THE WATER. You gotta go in the water to do your nasty rear end loving anyway. Ladies just squirting out their eggs in some funky puddle and your dudes just nutting in the water everywhere. You don’t even know who fertilized you! We trying to keep it clean so don’t bring that poo poo around here. Can’t even chew your motherfucking food.

Bet you motherfuckers don’t even know about palps.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Azza Bamboo posted:

DON'T FORGET: There's just over ONE WEEK remaining on the magical sword brawl!

Due 27th March at 08:00 GMT

Link to the original brawl prompt.


Cut Rate
1500 Words

The spiders were closing in.

“Say it, Kevin.” I readied my sword as the torchlight glinted off their countless eyes. I tried to remember how many eyes spiders had. Eight legs, eight eyes—that sounded right.

“I told you I’m not saying it anymore, Uool.”

“Say it or we’re dead, Kevin.” I gave up on trying to deal with Kevin and do math at the same time, settling on a lot as the number of spiders scuttling our direction.

“I’ll be fine.”

“Unless you can grow a pair of legs and walk your metal rear end back to town, you won’t be fine. It’s damp in this dungeon, Kevin. Real dank. Who’s going to clean the rust off?”

“Ugh. Okay.” Kevin started to glow with a faint blue light. “Uool yeah.”

I felt the battle tide start to fill me, only to fade back out like a match snuffed in the wind.

“Godsdamnit! Say it like you mean it!”

Kevin huffed, then flared with a brilliant sapphire light and bellowed with a guttural urgency, “Uool Yeeeah!

Like a warm, hateful blanket, the battle tide washed over me and I was just a passenger along for the ride. My vision pulled back, as if my eyes were an inch or two deeper in my head and everything looked just a little washed out. I knew my right arm was swinging Kevin at the closest spider, but I couldn’t feel it or control it. It was simply like knowing that the sky is blue and fire is hot—my body was moving, giant spiders were dying, Kevin was screaming in disgust.

Now that the battle tide was in control, I took a moment to look a little more closely at the…spiders? Berserkers aren’t the best at math, but they definitely had six legs instead of eight. Six eyes, too.

The cleric that sent us on this quest said there was a demon at the bottom of this cavern, and I’d taken that with a big pinch of salt. If I had a gold piece for every time I’d killed a rooster because it was “a demon” that was “disturbing the bishop’s sleep,” then I’d have two gold pieces. My point is that to a cleric, every problem is a demon problem.

But as Kevin sent the bodily fluids of another not-spider splattering across the tunnel wall, I began to reassess my skepticism. Things in sixes was pretty on brand for a demon. As I watched the carnage, I started to tally up the not-spiders, living and dead. I counted three dozen but wasn’t sure what to make of that, other than knowing it was indeed a lot of monsters.

Slicing through the last bug with a mournful groan, Kevin’s shining light began to fade until he was a regular-looking broadsword again. A blackish goo was dripping from him and I could hear him making retching sounds.

“It’s all over now. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up, pal.” I tried to sound as soothing as I could. We were alive, but this wasn’t going to do anything to improve the funk Kevin had been in lately.

It’s not that I didn’t feel for him—a cursed sword, forever clutched in the hand of the hapless berserker that picked him up from a weapon rack in a mad wizard’s workshop. Everything else in that room was obviously evil, and the simple broadsword seemed like a safe pick. Kevin screamed for two straight days.

So did I when I realized I couldn’t put him down.

I mean, yeah, he’s got it bad—but imagine being in my shoes. I had to relearn how to do everything with my left hand, because my right hand now ends in a two-foot blade. And Kevin might not like being a mercenary, but the job options for “permanent sword-wielding berserker” are kind of limited. Don’t even get me started on my social life. Let’s just say that any lady who’s interested in a guy holding a weapon in an endless death-grip…well, the odds are good that the goods are odd.

I pulled out a rag and started mopping the not-spider blood off Kevin’s blade. He sobbed quietly.

“I’m done, Uool. I’m just done. I’m tired of being covered in monster blood and guts.”

“Ichor, actually,” I muttered.


“I think these are demons. So it’s ichor, not blood.” It was also eating away at the rag, so I tossed that one away and pulled out another.

“Exactly! This is exactly what I’m talking about! Normal people don’t know what the hell ichor is! Normal people don’t get covered in ichor while killing monsters!”

“Normal people are farmers or blacksmiths or thatchers that can let go of a tool when they’re done using it.” I checked both his edges in the torchlight to make sure I’d gotten all the goop off. “Ok, let’s get moving so we can get this over with.”

“I’m not saying that phrase ever again. If you’re going to fight, you’re going to do it without my help.”

A half-hour of silence found us still picking our way down the steep tunnels into the depths of the cavern. I tried to think of something to say to cheer him up, or at least get him through this job without any more drama. Maybe if I got him focused on the matter at hand, he’d be more cooperative.

“So…uh, I think it really is demons this time.”

Kevin sniffed. “What makes you say that?”

“Those spiders only had six legs and six eyes. And they were huge.”

“Maybe they were beetles.”

“Beetles don’t have fangs.” I scrabbled down a ledge to get to a lower tunnel and managed not to plant him in the dirt. I wasn’t sure if he noticed the courtesy or not. “There were three dozen of them, which doesn’t seem very demonic.”

“Three dozen is thirty-six. That’s six times six.” Kevin was quiet for a few moments as I kept trudging down the passageway. Then he murmured, “I’m still not going to say it.”

“Look, Kev. I can’t promise this will be the last time.” The heat was picking up and I could see a dim red glow in the distance, so I kept my voice low. “I know you hate this, but if we don’t work, I don’t eat. If I don’t eat, then I die and then you’re left laying on the ground. At least we get to see the world, right?”

“What world?” he muttered, sullenly. “The dungeons, crypts, and caves? You won’t even take me out of the scabbard when we’re in town.”

“Guards get nervous when I walk around with a naked blade. It’s even worse when you try to chat up the locals.”

He started to reply, but I shushed him as I came to the entrance of a larger cavern. Shimmering waves of heat rose from pools of lava dotting the floor, and the air was stifling to breathe. In the center of the chamber stood an abomination with the torso of a man grafted onto the abdomen of a giant spider, half again as tall as myself. Presiding over a small army of giant spiders like the ones we’d encountered in the tunnel above, it muttered to them in some unknown language. Their armored bodies covered every surface that wasn’t magma, and the sound of their chittering bored straight into my brain and told me to turn and flee.

I held fast.

“I’m going in. That means you’re going in, too. Be nice if you said the words.”

“This will be all on you, Uool. I’m never saying that hack phrase again.”

“Godsdammit. You’re a sword, Kev. Hack is what you do.”

“Go to hell!”

“Probably sooner than you think.”

I charged into the lava chamber.

Dodging around the hotter parts of the floor, I tried to make my way to the big demon in the center. It pointed at me and howled in unholy rage—then the walls came alive. Not-spiders crawled on top of not-spiders as they surged toward me in a wave of chitin and fangs.

I immediately began a tactical withdraw.

But as I was backpedaling away, I noticed two things. First, the big demon had six legs on its spider bits, and two arms on its torso. Six or eight, make up your mind! Hell must be doing some cut-rate work these days.

The second thing was that as the not-spiders rushed to attack me, they crawled off a massive pile of gold sitting at the abomination’s feet. Glittering in the light of molten rock was the answer to our problems.

“You see that gold, Kevin? That’s retirement. We’ll get a house down on the Emerald Coast and never set foot in a dungeon again.”

“No beaches! Think of the rust!”

“Whatever! Wherever!” The not-spiders were a few yards away.

“Promise this is the last job, Uool?”

“Just say the loving words!”

Uool Yeeeah!

The battle tide swept over me.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
in and gimmie one of those hell rules :toxx:

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
999 words

The young man gripped his cap in his hand, halfway between embarrassment and terror.

“Ex-excuse me but are you the accordion maker?” he mumbled as he hovered beside a small table in a shadowed corner of the café.

With their own hushed conversation interrupted, the two men seated at the table paused and looked up at the new arrival. One was middle aged with a crooked nose, a heavyset Cossack with the look of a prize-brawler that had let himself go to fat. The other was older—a gaunt man with thinning hair and an epic beard that threatened to dip into a teacup perching precariously on the table’s edge. The stoneware had been displaced by an open notebook, inkwell, and pen. Both men regarded the newcomer for a moment before the older man cleared his throat.

“I only supply the instrument,” he said with unconcealed annoyance as he fished a steel pocket watch from his coat and inspected it, “it’s up to the musician to play the tune.”

The youth’s mouth opened and closed a few times on the verge of reply, before he managed to stammer out, “I-I have a fine tune, and um…oh! I have a fine tune and need only the keys on which to play.”

Regarding the newcomer with a heavy-lidded gaze that threatened to stretch on for days, the old man finally drummed his fingers on the tabletop and nodded curtly. “Very well then,” he said before addressing his companion, “Comrade, would you be kind enough to visit the samovar and refresh our cups while I speak with our new friend?”

Without a word the Cossack stood and collected both teacups before leaving the table. The old man waved to the vacated chair and youth sat down, noticing that the seat was uncomfortably warm. He gripped his cap tighter to stop his hands from shaking.

“My name is Seymo…” he began, only to be silenced by a bony finger jabbed into his chest.

“No names! This is the first rule and remember it well.” The old man gazed directly into his eyes until the youth swallowed hard and nodded. Then with gnarled hands, he leafed through the notebook before finding the entry he sought. “For now, you shall simply be Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich. Do you know where that is?”

“The boulevard that runs past the kreml?” Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich wrung his cap, feeling the bare threads around the moth holes.

“Yes. You may call me Ulitsa Potempkin for now. When the time comes that is street where I can be found. And now I believe you know where you will be found as well.”

The struggle to comprehend was written on Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich’s face, and the young man looked from the old man to the notebook, to the back of the Cossack at the samovar across the café’s dirty wooden floor.

“Look at me, Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich.” Ulitsa Potempkin closed the notebook gently. “You knew the phrases to speak to me, but you have arrived half an hour before the time on the note. Can you read, comrade?”

“N-not well, sir. A friend helped me memorize the words and I rushed here to speak them before I forgot.”

“So I see. Hmm. But can you tell the time, comrade? Show me where the hands will point when it is noon.” Ulitsa Potempkin withdrew his steel pocket watch once more and opened the case, and the youth tapped the embossed ‘XII’ numerals.

“Both hands point here.”

“Just so. Good. Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich, the second rule is that our actions must happen precisely at the right time.” Ulitsa Potempkin picked up a small cake and took a bite, dropping crumbs into his beard. With his mouth half full, he continued. “Tomorrow, you must be near the kreml at noon. When the hour strikes, you and the others—for there are many Prospekt Vasili Ivanoviches—will rush to seize the old fort. To control the Kreml is to control the heart of the city.”

“But what about the cadets there? They have rifles and bayonets! And a cannon!”

With a small wave of his hand to the Cossack, Ulitsa Potempkin said, “Do you see that man? He is Ulitsa Zavod. Fifteen minutes before noon he will assault the arsenal on Ulitsa Zavod, believing himself to be part of our main attack. His sacrifice will draw the cadets away from the barracks at the kreml. You and your comrades will simply rush and occupy the fort while they are distracted.”

“Alone?! He’ll be killed!” Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich exclaimed in a loud whisper, and Ulitsa Potempkin only shrugged.

“Such is the price of progress. Besides, he is a Cossack. In time he will betray us. Better he dies a hero of the revolution than live to become a traitor. Does this give you cold feet?” The old man fixed the youth in a judgmental stare.

“N-no, comrade.”

Ulitsa Potempkin gave the young man a warm, avuncular smile. “Very good. Young men like you will lead us into the future. And now I have an important job for you—under the table is a bag. In the bag is a stick of dynamite. When the time comes, you will lead the charge. Breech the kreml gate and let the others flow into the fort. Do you understand?”

Clutching the bag in one hand and his threadbare cap in the other, Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich nodded with eyes filled with fear and hope.

Ulitsa Zavod returned with the tea, and the youth stood up to leave. With a twinkle in his eye, the old man reached over to slip one of the small teacakes into Prospekt Vasili Ivanovich’s bag and wished him luck as he left.

Once he was away, the Cossack sat down again. “We are agreed? We meet on Ulitsa Zahod just before noon?”

“Indeed, comrade. We wait for ten minutes after we hear the explosion, then take our men to seize the arsenal. I’ll follow right behind.”

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Dive Bar
1499 words

At the bottom of the reservoir, half buried in silt, there’s a pyramid of twenty barrels steeping in limestone saturated water. We told the feds they burnt up in the distillery fire two years ago.

When the TVA flooded the holler, there was a town called Petersville that sat a quarter mile upstream of the dam. Just a little logging camp that got jumped up to a wide spot in the road during WWI, then died when all the chestnuts either succumb to the blight or the axe. A lot of people around here still hold a grudge for the towns that got flooded, but Petersville was already a ghost town when the water rose.

Point being, our whiskey’s been sitting under 140 feet of water in some hillbilly’s front yard.

Jake and I’d laid it out in a nice pyramid inside the border of a submerged picket fence a few weeks after the distillery went down. As a goof, Jake’d sat on the porch swing after we got done putting the last one on the pile—at least as best as he could with fins and tank still on. He pantomimed cocking a shotgun and looking out for revenuers.

And we let those barrels sit there until we could find someone to pay us what our whiskey’s really worth.

This morning, we dropped down the anchor line and I watched the thermometer on my console dip below forty-five degrees when we passed through the thermocline. The lake gets cold as you descend this time of year—lake turnover doesn’t happen until fall, but if you wait until then it’s too muddy to see anything. We had our hoods on to keep the ice-cream headaches away, and Jake even fished his drysuit out of his attic on account of his arthritis. I started to wish I’d worn my drysuit, too.

There’s two kinds of cold divers—ones who piss in their wetsuit, and ones who lie about pissing in their wetsuit.

We kept going down, nice and controlled. At seventy feet we paused to clip a couple of spare tanks to the anchor cable. On a dive this deep, we’d have to make a safety stop on the way back up to decompress.

Visibility is relatively good this time of year, but it gets dark after the first hundred feet. And that’s when the nitrogen narcosis starts to kick in, too. Around ninety-five feet deep, it feels like you had a shot of whiskey. Every thirty feet after that feels like you had another. Nitrogen’s a weird gas. We were feeling pretty lit by the time we hit the bottom.

But the first thing I noticed as we touched down was that I couldn’t see the barrels. That was good and bad. Good because it meant I hadn’t dropped the drat anchor on them, bad because we were somewhere down the street from where we needed to be. I shone my torch around and caught sight of a steeple, which meant we’d come down next to the old Baptist church.

Hang on—you ever hear the one about the shipwrecked Baptist?

Listen, there was this ship out in the Pacific, and they passed a deserted island. But as they did, they saw smoke signals coming off it, so they stopped to check it out. The captain looks through his binoculars, and sure enough, there’s a guy jumping up and down on shore and waving. Captain sends the launch over to pick the poor fella up.

They get the guy back on the ship and the captain asks him who he is. Turns out he was a Baptist missionary that had been marooned for seven years on the island. The captain looks at the island through his binoculars and sees that there’s three buildings.

“You look like you’ve built yourself a little piece of civilization while you waited,” Captain says. “What’s the hut on the left?”

“That’ the house I built,” says the Baptist.

“What about the hut on the right?”

“That’s the church I go to!”

“What about the hut in the middle?”

The Baptist gets a dark look on his face and mutters, “Oh… That’s the church I used to go to.”


Anyway, we’d descended next to the Petersville Baptist church, which meant we needed to swim a few houses over to find our stash. Not bad, but we only had about twelve minutes of bottom time before we needed to start heading back to the top. And the faster we finned, the more air we’d blow through. I clipped a diving line to the anchor and signaled to Jake to follow along, and we started making our way down what used to be county route 18.

The lake had dropped a lot of silt over the years, but we could still make out the roadbed and the fences of the houses along the street. Some were chain link, most were picket—but it was eerie how well all of them were preserved. Not much oxygen gets down this deep in the lake, so nothing really rots or rusts. When you see stuff like that you gotta be careful because that’s when the narcosis gets dangerous. You start thinking this is some kind of dream, and you want to start poking around the old shotgun shacks and drowned Model-T Fords instead of getting on with what it is you came to do.

Sometimes you sit in porch swings and cock imaginary shotguns at TTB agents that don’t exist.

I just tried to count the houses between the church and our stash until I could make out a pyramid in the darkness.

About a quarter inch of silt had settled on them, and the bands on the barrels showed a little strain where the oak had swelled from being submerged. But the all rivets were holding so we were good to go. The nice thing about moving barrels of hooch underwater is that the whiskey is just a hair lighter than the surrounding lake. They’re not quite weightless, but not far off.

I tapped on the top barrel so Jake’d know which one we were going to bring back up. Then he got the lift bag rigged up and inflated it with a little air—just enough so we could tow it along behind us. Normally we’d just fill the thing up and let it go to the surface without us, but neither of us particularly wanted to poke our heads up and find a game warden snooping around our whiskey.

We followed the diving line back to the anchor cable and started coming up. It was a little tougher than I expected because we kept having to stop and let a little bit of air out of the lift bag as we ascended.

You add another atmosphere of pressure every thirty-three feet you go down, y’see. So if you put a gallon of air in the bag at the bottom, you’d have about two gallons of air by the time you got up to seventy feet, then four by the time you got to the top. And the more air in the bag, the faster it goes up.

Only we can’t go up as fast as the bag can. Same rules apply to all that air we’d been breathing into our body while we were on the bottom—we go up too fast and all those little nitrogen bubbles would start popping up in our blood and joints.

So we took it slow and got back to the spare tanks we clipped on the anchor cable, but we’re both running low on air. I swapped out my tank—but when Jake goes to unclip his spare tank, he fumbled it. Thing dropped like a rock and it’s out of sight in a flash.

I look over and his eyes are big as dinner plates. The dial on his tank gauge is about to zero out and I could tell he’s about to panic and jet for the surface. He’d make it…but we’d have to get him into a hyperbaric chamber to keep him from getting the bends. Between you and me, this whiskey’d get real expensive if we had to do that.

I grabbed him and yanked his regulator out of his mouth and shoved mine in. He took a pull of air, then I yanked it back out and took my own breath. There we went, swapping air for the next fifteen minutes while we decompressed. The worst part was I don’t think Jake brushed his teeth before we went out on the lake.

Longest drat ascent of my life.

Anyway, here’s the barrel. It’s a little wet and it’s going to drip for a few days. Don’t worry. That’s going to be water coming out of the wood, not whiskey. This is the stuff that’ll ease an uneasy mind, waste not you’ll want more before too short a time.

When you do, gimmie a holler.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Whybird posted:

I've uploaded my entry to Google Drive, since it feels like a lot of words to cram into one post. Lemme know if that's not the way we do things round these parts, and I'll stick it in a post instead.

The Arcadia Facility

I see we've got a lot of new folks this week, so here's a quick rundown of some standard rules and a quick formatting guide.

1) DO NOT EDIT YOUR POST AFTER YOU POST. Once you've made your entry, you're done. Editing will earn you a DQ.
2) No Google docs or PDF's. Post in the thread. As Antivehicular said, we've got a nifty bot that reads the thread and archives our stories, and it can't scan PDF's or GDocs.
3) In general don't post blatant fanfic or erotica. This is more of an implicit rule--this week it was not explicitly forbidden so you can post those things, but you'll be relying on the judges not to hate you for it.

Formatting looks like this, for the most part:

MY BAD STORY FOR THIS WEEK <-- Put your title up top in bold or underlined.
55 words <-- throw your word count just below in italics

Then copy/paste in your story that drags on and on and oh god you hope it's good and doesn't earn you a loss. You started typing this twenty minutes before the deadline and now it's a thousand words longer than the word limit this week what are you going to cut? Blah blah blah.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

The Fog
1187 words

The dreams don’t all start the same way, but the nightmare does—a bomb goes off.

This time it happened at a high school basketball game. (Which is weird, since I never went to any of those.) I can’t feel the blast or the heat. I just hear the boom and suddenly the crowd is milling around in a panic. The wounded are always there, too. Tonight, they were at center court with gouts of blood spurting off toward the free-throw lines.

I opened my med kit and got to work: Turn on the tourniquets. Turn off the blood.


I woke up in a pool of sweat. Better than blood—but still annoying because it left me with three options. I could sleep in a wet bed. I could change the sheets at 2am. I could get out the air mattress.

Here’s a pro-tip: If you get nightmare sweats, keep an air mattress pre-inflated under your bed.

Here’s another pro-tip: Sooner or later they all start to leak no matter how much they cost. Buy cheap ones and don’t get attached.

I found the bottle of pills my shrink prescribed in the bathroom, and shook a few of the capsules into my hand before dry swallowing them. Then I checked my med kit to make sure the tourniquets were still there.


Then I’m at work, but I had no idea how I got there. Well, that’s a lie. I took the train because there’s a new Charlie Card in my wallet, riding shotgun next to my expired driver’s license.

But I don’t remember riding the train. I don’t remember buying the fare card. I don’t remember leaving my apartment. I don’t even know what day it is. What I do know is that some paunchy dickhead with a bad comb-over and rosacea just insulted my co-worker’s nose ring. Then he got pissy when Des refused to ring him up.

“Massachusetts state law says I can’t sell alcohol to anyone I suspect of being drunk,” Des said, taking the dude’s bottle of gin off the countertop and putting it back on the shelf.

“gently caress you, millennial snowflake! I’ll have you fired!” Then the jerkbag pointed at me. “Hey you, get off your rear end and get that Seagram’s. I know the owner of this dump and I want a loving discount.”

I looked at him for a few seconds, then at Des. “Massachusetts state law says I can’t sell alcohol to anyone I suspect of being drunk.”

Then there were a few minutes of shouting. Halfway through his tantrum, paunchy dude’s pit-stained polo shirt lost the battle and came untucked from his pleated chinos.

I wondered if this was a new kind of nightmare. So, I did a bunny hop as a dream check.

Another pro-tip: if you think you might be dreaming, do a little jump. If you’re asleep, you’ll sort of hang in mid-air and slowly fall back down like a dandelion seed on the breeze.

“What the gently caress do you think you’re doing?!” yelled the ex-customer.

“Oh, uh, I’m just…” then I realized he wasn’t talking to me.

Des had the sawed-off baseball bat we kept under the register and was vaulting the counter. But the paunchy prick’s New Balances had him out the door just a few steps ahead with a couple of final shouted threats.

“gently caress that guy,” I said as I snatched the Seagram’s back off the shelf and cracked the seal. Then I grabbed two red Solo cups and filled them half-full of gin. “Yo, Des. Grab an orange juice from the cooler on your way back.”

I might be hung over in the morning, but I still had a few bags of saline in the med kit and good veins in the top of my feet.


Now I was at the aquarium.

It took three minutes of staring at the penguin habitat to remember that I was an overnight security guard now. It was ten minutes before the building closed and the crowd was thinning out.

I couldn’t remember the last time I dreamed, but I did a bunny hop…just in case. A piece of paper crinkled in my pocket as I landed. Unfolding it, I read:

-Walk rounds, make sure no visitors are still in bathrooms.
-Lock up main doors.
-@ 10p help Michelle (lab #2) with trash.
-Walk rounds.
-Hang out with the cuttlefish @ 2a.
-Trash gets picked up @ 7a SHARP. LOW STOCK!

It was in my handwriting—slightly better than my normal scrawl, so it must have been written during some brief moment of clarity. I decided to take its advice.

Three hours after my shift started, I knocked on the door to lab #2 and a muffled voice said it was open.

Michelle got stuck doing inventory this month, so she was happy to have someone else haul a few boxes of recently expired supplies out to the dumpster. Then she said all the marine-bio interns were going dancing in Allston and asked what time I got off.

“Not until six in the morning,” I shrugged, but I was relieved for the excuse. I guessed I could hop a lot at a dance club…but crowds, y’know.

“Well, if you can sneak out, look for the group of girls wearing cowrie shell necklaces.” We laughed, because all the interns this year dressed like mid-90’s So-Cal surfers.

Four hours later I stopped and sat by the cuttlefish. I saw one, asleep and hovering just above the crushed coral bottom. Its skin cycled through a rainbow of psychedelic colors and patterns. Michelle told me once that meant they were dreaming.

Again, I tried to remember the last time I dreamed. And then it was six in the morning and time for me to leave.

I did some dumpster diving to stock up my med kit on my way out. Four liters of saline, six of half-saline and three of lactated ringer from the expired inventory Michelle threw out. I also scored a box of 18-gauge needles and some tubing. What's good for the sealion is good for the primate, expired or not.


The bomb goes off in an Iraqi market square this time, and it throws me off because the nightmare almost never picks the original setting. The blood gushes in cartoonish fountains and I’m halfway through applying dressings to the wounded before I realize it’s a dream. I force myself to slow down and look around me.

And in that moment, I knew what was going on. I knew what I had to do.

My hand never wanted for a tourniquet. My med bag never ran dry

Then I woke up, soaked.


Rattling the last few capsules around in the bottom of the bottle, I tried to remember the last time I took them. I couldn’t.

The bathroom—my whole apartment—looked alien. I knew it was my bathroom, but it was like this was the first time I’d ever been there.

The med kit was lay open beside my air mattress, so I sat down and counted tourniquets and IV bags and hoped I had enough.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Week #457 Crits

Better late than never, here’s crits from a few weeks back now that I have a chance to sit down and reread them and consult my notes again.

Brotherly - The Little God—Overall I dug it a lot, stayed on tone the whole time and it was a cool setting and premise. If you’re looking for ways to make it better, then I’d look at the romantic aspect of the story because it’s a little flat as it is, and it skews the end in an unsatisfying way. Tl;dr was Favola offering himself as a sacrifice, or was he just reckless? Still, a good story this week.

Tyrannosarus - there is a reason my stories feel familiar – Lol. You know what you did. Good job writing some words, tho.

Simply Simon - Terwaworld – Ambitious with some solid foundations—but the typos, plot holes, and clunky prose let it down. Needs to decide if it wants to be science fiction or science fantasy. Needs some more revisions, as it feels very “first drafty” at the moment. I suspect it’s because you went for quantity this week, which isn’t a bad exercise in-and-of itself. My advice for a re-write here is twofold: Get rid of the zombies and the less you say about the “science” the better. The core of what makes sci-fi work is not spaceships and apocalypses, but rather putting people in different rulesets and seeing how they react.

Seaborgium - Cavern – Another ambitious piece, but another victim of flat prose. At the moment it reads more like a story without a plot. You just sort of go “here’s a thing that happened, take it or leave it.” You’re probably going to want to break this one back down to an outline and look at how it works. At the moment, it’s missing a hook—something to make a reader “buy in” to the story and suspend their disbelief. It’s also missing stakes (a term that gets over-used in TD crits, but I think actually applies here). But as the story is written now, what does it matter that the drone survived vs. being destroyed? It doesn’t really. My advice is to rewrite the story focused on the drone operator, because for a person success or failure has a totally different meaning than to a drone. Is their job on the line? Is this the last drone they have on the mission and they’ll have to go back to earth if it’s destroyed? That’s up to you. Still a foundation and can be revised to improve.

Azza Bamboo - So, Amon. – A really interesting historical fiction piece, especially setting it among the losers that didn’t get to write the history. I’m curious if Anu’s name was deliberate (a reference to THE Anu) or just a name chosen from a hat that fit the setting. The prose flows well, though there are a few detail mismatches. Some of the other judges this week weren’t as keen on it, with the criticism that it took too many historical liberties. I honestly didn’t mind so much, because that’s sort of what fiction is about. Overall a good story and it left me satisfied.

JABC - Chasing – This is an interesting conceit and mostly well done. It still needs another revision pass to do a couple of things, though. First, clean up the typos and tense shifts—sometimes in a story like this a deliberate tense shift helps delineate (or muddle) what’s a dream and what’s “real,” but at the moment the shifts feel like an oversight instead of deliberate. Also work on the end to tighten it up, the prose starts to feel a little sloppy in the last scene. This could have been a contender with another revision pass.

Flerp - If I could give you these stars... – I dig it. It’s bittersweet but lovely. The prose is spare and there’s repeated sentence structures within paragraphs, but it seems to have been done for deliberate effect—and it works. The one paragraph that booted me out of the story was the one starting with “I was chosen as a candidate.” If you decide to revise, I’d pay close attention to that paragraph because while it seems like the narrator is being humble, the truth is that on “recon missions” intelligence and curiosity are very important, as opposed to the “they just needed warm bodies” that is implied. Otherwise one of my favorites so far this week.

Obliterati - How To Navigate The Remains of Ross-248-b – The prose here is very well done, and I really like the tone and setting of this piece. In a week where I’ve read a number of stories without plot, this is the flip, all plot with barebones story, and most of the story occurs in the last three paragraphs. I’d have liked to see a little more foreshadowing early on, perhaps a preamble. Also due to the line “You’re right, I’m shouting” implies this is a transcript, but it’s laid out more like a letter or message—my advice is pick one. Otherwise this was a fun read.

Gorka - Keep Sailing South – This had me right until the end. The prose is solid and I think the pick of using the present tense was the right call for this, maybe. I think there’s an inherent “this will be a cliffhanger” ending that you have to use when telling a narrative in the present tense because the story is still ongoing, it’s just stopped for now, as opposed to “THE END.” I don’t think this is my pick for a win or HM this week, but it’s far from the bottom.

My Shark Waifuu - Supersymmetry – Not going to lie here, the writing here was really flat—especially for a semi-comedy piece. Writing high-concept that’s funny is even harder. I think the biggest problem here (like some other entries this week) is you’ve decided to try to “science it up” where there’s no hard science to build on. I find it hard to give advice for this one because I’m not sure what you want you feel is more important: do you want it to be funny, or that it be compelling sci-fi/fantasy? My advice is pick one and go all in on that if you’re going to do a re-write. If you go sci-fi, then concentrate on not breaking suspension of disbelief by trying to explain everything—handwaving is your friend. If you go comedy, then really work on the characters and don’t use the “science” for anything more than a prop.

Thranguy - The First Four Frontiers – Gotta respect your commitment to working with alternative narrative structures, and props for trying things out to see if they work. This piece is really interesting and reads like excerpts from a space opera series (one I’d probably read). And I’ll be straight with you, I lobbied for an HM rather than a win here—and that’s not because the prose was lacking. Honestly, it’s really good and enviable. But the gel doesn’t quite set given the ambiguous ending. I’m suspicious that the word count ran out and this is just where things ended up—with an episodic story you can sort of get away with “THE END…OR IS IT?!” But this feels like there needs to be one more chapter at the end that ties it all up and leaves me satisfied. Still, I really enjoyed reading it, and the prose is tight as always.

Weltlich fucked around with this message at 19:53 on Jul 4, 2021

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Zurtilik posted:

I didn't put my flash rule in my post and now if I do it will count as an edit. :smith:

Don't edit your submission.
Do edit the post you just made to include the prompt.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
In and I'll take Chili's if it is unwanted and unloved.


If not, I'll take my own drat 10001110101.

Weltlich fucked around with this message at 22:54 on Aug 10, 2021

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
First Line: The child of two cats, and a tiger, a clown, a horse, a bird a ship and a dragon, stood on either side of the threshold of the Gatehouse, watching the throng of travelers who came in from all around the world, before he had any idea what was going on.

The Greatest Show on Earth
1168 Words

The child of two cats, and a tiger, a clown, a horse, a bird, a ship, and a dragon stood on either side of the threshold of the gatehouse, watching the throng of travelers who came in from all around the world before he had any idea what was going on.

They certainly weren’t there when Clovis had raised the gate at dawn. No bandits had been waiting to sack the town that morning and no army was seen marching down the long road from Val-Mazer. With nothing to do until he lowered the gate at dusk, Clovis had gone back inside and started a fire in the small gatehouse stove and put on a copper kettle.

His tea was just poured when he realized the sound of passing carts had come to a halt. He poked his head out of the gatehouse window to find exotic merchants and local burghers milling around in the road while their oxen shat and chewed their cud. They were staring at something on the roadside—and Clovis took a moment to gawk as well.

A clown was perched on the siderail of a ship which had pulled over onto the shoulder. One might be tempted to call it a wagon, but it had a prow and a stern and a mast that would surely prevent it from passing through the gatehouse. A small menagerie had disembarked from the dropped gangplank.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Clovis asked the clown as he pushed his way through the stunned burghers, almost tripping over a large lizard with pantomime wings tied to its back. “Do you have a permit for this circus?”

“We’re not a circus today,” said the clown. “We’re on holiday.”


“All year long, we come to a new town every day and put on a show,” the clown said, jumping from the ship to unhitch the big Percheron draft horse. “But today, we’re the audience. Does the town have a permit for that?”

Clovis stared, his mouth working opened and closed with no sound coming out. Did the town have permits for vacationing circuses? He didn’t know. Truth be told he didn’t know anything about permits of any sort. He only asked because it had seemed like a thing that he should ask about.

Finally, he said, “If you come with me, we can talk to the mayor and maybe he will issue you a special permit for your holiday.”

“No,” said the clown, gesturing at the crowd. “Today, we aren’t the circus. They are.”

“That’s absurd!” Clovis shouted. “They’re just villagers, not an act.”

“And yet I am watching them perform,” the clown said as a merchant’s horse reared up on its hind legs, spooked by the tiger lounging on the ship’s stern.

Clovis thought quickly, trying not to fall into the clown’s idiotic trap. “What about concessions? All circuses must have concessions.”

The clown pointed to the ostrich, which was ravenously gulping down tangerines from a merchant’s cart.

“That’s just stealing.”

The clown tossed a guilder to the merchant.

Pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration, Clovis looked down to see the ship’s kitten batting at his bootlaces. He quickly scooped up the small grey tabby before it could topple into a nearby ox pat and tucked it safely under his arm. The kitten purred happily.

“Fun for children of all ages,” the clown said.

“I’m going to talk to the mayor,” said Clovis.


He found the mayor sipping cold rosewater in the manor garden and resting his eyes. The sun glinted off the man’s bald head and he opened one eye as Clovis approached.

“Your Honor, there is something we need to discuss.” Clovis said, juggling the kitten to his other arm so he could salute properly.

“Can we not? I’m a very busy today.”

The mayor peered into his almost empty glass. A moment later a valet stepped forward to refresh the drink, and new droplets of condensation dripped down to fall on the mayor’s linen robe.

“It’s just, your Honor, that a situation has developed that falls outside of my job description.”

“And just what is your job description, Clovis?”

He shifted uncomfortably, “Well, your Honor, I raise the gate at dawn, and lower the gate at dusk.”

“Just so. It is your job to raise and lower the gate, and it is my job to hire someone to do your job and every other job that needs doing,” said the mayor while fanning himself with a folded piece of paper.

“I understand, your Honor…but who should I talk to about issuing the town a permit to act like a circus for the afternoon?”

The mayor stopped fanning himself and slowly opened his eyes to fix Clovis in a baleful stare. Then he unfolded his fan and spread it on the lawn table before calling for an inkwell and pen. Clovis watched as the mayor scrawled something on the paper before he snatched it up and thrust it toward the gatekeeper.

“Congratulations, Clovis. You’re hired,” he said. “Any questions now?”

Clovis slid the kitten into his tunic pocket where it was content to vibrate while he read the crinkled paper. The paper bore a single line that said, Clovis, Town Registrar of Circuses. “So, your Honor, I am the person who issues permits for circuses?”


Clovis took a moment to let that sink in. “Are there any other duties associated with this post, your Honor?”

“Yes,” said the mayor. “gently caress off.”


“All right, I declare this town a circus. This permit shall be valid until…sundown?” Clovis looked at the clown who had climbed back up on the ship’s siderail, and the clown nodded. “You heard me, people. Get circusing.”

The crowd mumbled and milled, a few of them taking the cue to move along since they’d never once entertained dreams of running away with the circus. Most of the burghers kept staring as if they’d never seen a tiger on the deck of a wheeled ship before.

Clovis ducked into the guard house to make it official. He found a half-dried pot of ink and an old crow's feather quill. He wrote the details of the permit on the back side of the unfolded fan, then dipped his thumb into the ink pot before pressing it onto the permit as an ersatz seal. As an afterthought, he took up the quill once more and made an amendment: Clovis, Registrar of Circuses, Vendor. Then he tacked the permit to the gatehouse door to make it all official.

Taking his now cold cup of tea from that morning, he walked out to the side of the ship and offered it to the clown. “Drink for a guilder?”

The clown shrugged and dipped into a pocket for a silver coin.

“How’s the show?” Clovis asked, handing over the teacup and then the kitten.

The clown took both, then a deep swig of the tea. He poured the rest on the ground.

“It’s the worst.”

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
INTERPROMPT: Things I found in the attic

Write a list poem that tells a little story without any verbs at all. Just a list of things, found in an attic.

30 words max.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Wedding dress, ivory with lots of lace, twice worn
Baseball cards, dogeared in a Jem lunchbox
Acrylic paint tubes, unopened multipack, dried and hardened
Mothball boxes, replaced yearly

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Happy Binthday

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
The Greatest Show on Earth, Chapter 2
3064 words
Le Morte d'Arthur

“This is outrageous! It infringes upon the rights of the nobility and makes a mockery of the town!”

“And what rights have been infringed, Lord Quaille?” asked the Mayor, holding out a glass of rosewater as his valet added a small scoop of ice to the drink.

“My family has retained the right to a limited monopoly on tropical fruits for three hundred years. And now this vacationing menagerie is preventing commerce from entering the town!” Quaille fumed. “My ancestor did not heroically remove a pineapple from the throat of a lion just so some clown can hinder my trade company’s business.”

The Mayor took a sip of his drink before turning to Quaille’s companion. “And since you are here, I can safely assume that you have a grievance as well, Baroness Meaux?”

“I most certainly do!” the Baroness replied, stamping her foot for emphasis. “That wretched harlequin and his animals have caused me to suffer unbearable indignities! I returned from Sanq Lomaun last evening and one of those terrible creatures was blocking the road. It refused to move! I had to disembark my coach and walk like a common pedestrian. I trod in at least seven dung heaps on my way home!”

As if to make her point, the Baroness gestured to the soiled hem of her dress. It was the sort of garment that seemed to have infrastructure, like the rigging on one of the tall ships that docked in Val-Mazer’s harbor. The Mayor wondered for a moment if a large crew was needed to maintain the dress, and why they hadn’t hoisted some lanyard to spare the trim from being dragged through ox poo poo.

After taking another sip of ice-cold rosewater and wiping his hand dry on the knee of his robe, he looked to a man who’d been standing at attention for the past few minutes. “Gatekeeper Clovis. Why exactly was the highway blocked yesterday afternoon?”

“Your Honor, one of the clown’s animals was napping in the road. It was preventing passenger coaches from entering the gate, as well as his Lordship’s fruit carts. It was some sort of prong-horned deer, I believe.”

“Did you ask the Clown to move the creature?

“I did, your Honor,” said Clovis, hoping that the conversation might end there. A pointed stare from the Mayor prompted him to continue, “The clown just said, ‘Can’telope.’”

The Baroness grew incandescent, and Lord Quaille opened his mouth an inhaled as if he were about to enumerate all the other slights to his lineage this situation was causing. Forestalling him with a raised palm, the Mayor asked Clovis, “Didn’t I make you the Registrar of Circuses to handle this issue two weeks ago?”

“Yes, you Honor.”

“Then enlighten me, Clovis. What the hell is going on?” The mayor mopped his bald head with a linen cloth before gesturing to his valet and then the parasol overhead. A moment later, the offending ray of sunlight had been blotted out.

Clovis cleared his throat and considered where to begin. “Well, your Honor, two weeks ago a ship came down the road—”

“A ship?” The Mayor squinted at his gatekeeper dubiously.

“A wagon that looks like a ship, your Honor,” Clovis clarified. “It has wheels, but also a mast. Though I don’t think it actually sails, because it was hitched to a draft horse when I first saw it. I suppose if they wanted to sail, it might be able—”

The Mayor twirled his hand as if to say, “Get on with it.”

“Anyway, your Honor,” Clovis said with reddening ears, “The wagon ship was some sort of circus, but they’re not actually a circus because they’re on holiday. They wanted the town to preform for them. But the town didn’t have a permit to act as a circus, and you were very busy that morning. So you made me the town Registrar of Circuses. I’ve been issuing a permit to the town every day since then.”

The Mayor dropped his face into his palm and for several long seconds, only the sound of screaming cicadas filled the courtyard.

“Why on Earth have you been doing such an idiotic thing?!” screeched Lord Quaille.

“I will be the first to admit that the whole situation is very…silly, your Lordship,” Clovis said, standing ramrod straight and refusing to make eye contact. “But in all honesty, I was hoping that if we simply played along, they’d go away and the problem would solve itself.”

The Mayor looked up, and for the briefest of instants Clovis thought he saw a shadow of respect pass across the old man’s face.

But before the Mayor could speak, the Baroness demanded, “And just why is this awful clown still here? How long will this circus terrorize us?”

“A fair question,” admitted the Mayor. “Any idea, Clovis?”

“Ah, about that, your Honor, your Grace,” the gatekeeper nodded to the Mayor and Meaux respectively as he chose his next words carefully. “The townspeople and merchants don’t seem to be taking it very seriously. They just stop to stare when they enter or leave the town. So, the clown feels that the performance has been, um, less than adequate so far. I believe their exact words were ‘We’re not going anywhere until I get my money’s worth.’”

“And how much has the clown paid so far?” asked the Mayor.

“Nothing, your Honor. The clown said it’s a very low bar to clear, but that they believe in us.”

Lord Quaille sputtered and the Baroness Meaux stamped her foot again, dislodging some of the dung encrusting her lace trim. The Mayor let them vent their spleen for a few minutes as he sipped rosewater and considered his options. It was an incredibly humid morning and soon the sleeve of his robe was soaked with condensation that had dripped down his wrist. As the two nobles seemed to be winding themselves up launch into another airing of grievances, he placed the glass down on the small lawn table next to his chaise and clapped his hands together once. The gunshot-loud pop silenced even the cicadas.

Paused mid rant, Quaille and Meaux turned to stare at him with their mouths still open. Clovis stood stock-still, but the Mayor was sure he saw the man’s lower lip quiver and his eyes were filled with dread.

“Well now. This seems to be quite the predicament, but I believe it falls outside the purview of simple civil servants such as myself and Clovis. I am prepared to rule that the clown and the associated circus is some sort of divine test. An act of God. As such, we shall weather this trial and emerge stronger for the challenge.”

The two nobles looked at the Mayor, dumbstruck. Clovis hyperventilated for a moment before asking, “And shall I monitor the situation and provide daily reports, your Honor?”

“Good grief, man. Absolutely not,” said the Mayor, horrified. Then he took his glass of rosewater in hand and drank the rest of the liquid in a single gulp. His valet rushed to refill it the moment it was empty. “Now—I’m sure that the Lord and Baroness both have pressing business to attend to elsewhere. I know for certain that my afternoon schedule is accounted for.”

Lord Quaille finally found his words. “Are you truly going to stand for this nonsense?!” he demanded.

The Mayor fluffed one of the cushions on his chaise, then leaned back and mopped his brow once again.

“I very much doubt that I will.”


Deep in a root cellar that smelled of citrus and bananas, four bleary-eyed men sat around a small round table and stared at one another. One was Lord Quaille, and the other three were his trusty knights. It was one o’clock in the morning, and there was a distinct smell of ale on their breath. The nobleman wondered if he should have let this meeting wait until the sun rose again.

No, he decided, best to get this handled as soon as possible. Drunk or not, these three men would get the job done. Quaille didn’t employ many knights—just one was usually enough to deter highwaymen from harassing a fruit cart along one of his trade routes. Very few people were willing to risk their lives to steal a bushel of pomegranates.

“Tonight, the clown dies.” Quaille’s words hung in the air and he looked around the table to make sure each knight was sober enough to comprehend. He nodded and continued, “But I will be the one to strike the final blow. I will not suffer this affront to my family’s honor—but I need your aid to ensure the fool’s total destruction.”

“Tristan, you will kill the horse. You are the strongest of us all and that draft horse is a mighty beast that will not fall easily. Take your sword and slit its throat, let its blood pour into its feed bucket—this is very important.

“Be sure to bring a cauldron with you, because you’re going to knacker the horse after it’s dead. Remove the hooves and its hide. Take those to the ship’s galley and boil them down until only glue is left. Then we’ll drag the cauldron back to the deck and save it for the clown.”

Tristan looked a little taken aback but nodded in assent. Lord Quaille was the man that paid his salary, after all.

“While Tristan lays the draft horse low, Kei will deal with the circus’s ostrich. That idiotic bird has been filching tangerines and persimmons from my carts and it’s costing me a small fortune. You’re the swiftest of us, Kei, so I trust you can cut the ostrich’s legs off before it can flee.

“Then I want you to cut open its stomach and take back all the fruit you can. While the horse boils to glue, we’ll pluck that damned bird and put it on a spit to roast. If there isn’t any firewood, then we’ll smash the deck rails of that absurd wagon-ship and burn them for fuel! And…yes, make a glaze from all the fruit that ostrich ate. That’ll be fitting!

“But keep all the feathers, I’ll need those for the clown.”

As he ranted on, foam began to form at the corners of Lord Quaille’s mouth. Kei was five-and-a-half pints into a six-pint night and stared at the nobleman, transfixed. Unbidden, his hand reached out to push a napkin across the small table to his employer. The gesture went unnoticed.

“And you Artur—you will handle the tiger. Tristan is strong, Kei is fast, but you are clever and cruel. I’ve seen that monster, lounging on the deck of the ship, surveying man and beast alike. There is no doubt that it will make a meal of us all if we don’t kill it first. Strike it down, Artur! Pierce it’s heart with your sword! Know that even in its death throes, it will lash out with wicked claws and gnashing teeth to rip you asunder. Dash out its brains with your mace before it can tear you to shreds!

“Once it is dead, skin it. We will hang the hide as a gristly flag of victory once we’ve finished tonight’s work. Then I want you to cut the fanged lower jaw from the beast. I will have use for it, once I have the clown.”

No one spoke for several long seconds, then Artur finally said, “As you wish, M’Lord. But these animals are blameless. Annoying, yes. Perhaps dangerous. But otherwise innocent. We’ll follow your orders, but this just seems a bit…vile.”

The other two knights wouldn’t disobey their lord, but both Tristan and Kei mumbled soft agreements to Artur. Lord Quaille just barked a sharp, cruel laugh.

“You’re a noble man, Artur, but I am a nobleman. If I let the clown’s insults stand, then the deeds of my ancestors would be for nothing. No. The clown must die, and in a way that serves as an example to anyone who would dare challenge my divine right!

“While you three go about your tasks, I will handle the clown personally. As we sneak abord that ridiculous wagon-ship, we’ll tie a noose to one of the yard arms. Then, I’ll seize that grease-painted insurgent at sword point and force them to watch their precious pets die one-by-one. While Tristan boils down the glue, I’ll make that clown paint the hull red with the mix of oats and horse blood.”

Quaille’s eyes had gone glassy and red. Little bits of spittle flew from his lips as he raved at his three men. A fleck landed in Tristan’s pint and the knight stared at it for a moment before dumping the rest of his ale onto the cobblestone floor.

“We’ll force them to eat the roast ostrich until they can’t possibly take another bite! After that, I’ll use the tiger’s jaw to scourge that no-account punchinello within an inch of their miserable life! Then—oh then!—I’ll dip the clown in the boiling glue before covering them in the ostrich feathers.

“Only then will I hang them from the mast. When dawn breaks and the carts roll in and out of the town, everyone will see what happens to those who would defy the nobility. We’ll leave that circus fit for only vultures and jackals!”

Quaille stood and kicked his stool away from the table. “Get moving. We’ve much work to do before the sun rises tomorrow.”


Someone in the darkness let out a satisfied grunt, then whispered, “It’s all set, M’Lord. If you cut this snare rope here, then the noose and…whatever is attached to the nose will hoist up to the yardarm.”

“Well done, Kei,” hissed Lord Quaille, loitering by the wagon-ship’s gangplank. “Now, you all know what you must do. Let’s be about it.”

There was no better place for him to be. Surely, the clown would hear the sounds of the anguished animals and come rushing onto the deck—and Quaille would be waiting. He grinned and listened for the first signs that his men had struck.

“Ambush!” someone screamed in the inky dark. But it wasn’t Kei, Tristan, or Artur. The sound of scuffles began to fill the night, and a cold chill ran down Lord Quaille’s spine as he realized that his men weren’t the only ones prowling the gloom around the circus.

Were they mercenaries, hired by the fool to protect the ship at night? Had he blundered into a bandit raid by accident? It didn’t matter. Only one thing mattered now: he had to find the clown and dispense justice before his men were overrun.

Rushing up the gangplank he collided with someone wearing ruffles and silk—precisely the sort of absurd get-up the clown wore. He reached out and grabbed the fool by the collar, intent on dragging them to the noose to finish the job.

But they would not go quietly. After allowing themselves to be dragged along in Quaille’s wake for a few steps, the initial shock of being apprehended wore off. A hand lashed out wildly and slapped the nobleman on the ear. He howled in pain as his head was sent ringing and his grip faltered. The next blow sent him tumbling to the deck of the ship-wagon.

Quaille heard his quarry shuffling in the night, trying to escape. He groped in the darkness until his left hand wrapped around a thin ankle surrounded by ruffled fabric. At the same time, his right hand found the noose lying on the deck. With a tug, he managed to slip the noose over his enemy’s ankle before drawing his dagger to slice the snare rope Kei had indicated.

With an indignant squawk, his foe was dragged aloft. The scream was a little higher-pitched than he expected, and he was chagrined that it wasn’t the fatal end to the clown that he had planned—but given the circumstances, he was willing to take any win he could get. Now he just needed to flee before one of the unknown assailants broke through his men’s valiant defense.

Leaping to his feet, he stumbled toward the gang plank, only to find it blocked by a tall, silhouette. Quaille tried to push it aside. His hands pressed into a mass of warm feathers, but the thing wouldn’t budge. His next attempt to shove it away was rewarded by a painful peck to his solar plexus that sent him reeling.

Backpedaling toward the bow of the ship, his heel stamped down on a long, furry tail. A low growl resonated in the gloom. Lord Quaille turned and stepped backwards again as the roar of a tiger split the night. The sounds of scuffles around the ship stopped, quickly replaced by cries of panic.

He felt hot breath on his face as the tiger drew close. With one final step backwards, his heel caught on the bowsprit and Lord Quaille tumbled over the ship’s rail to land head-first in the draft horse’s barrel of oats.

As he lost consciousness, he heard the sound of swords being dropped and boots beating a hasty retreat.


Clovis arrived at the gatehouse at dawn. Finding no bandits waiting to raid the town, nor any army marching down the road from Val-Mazer, he turned the mechanism that slowly drew up the gate. Then he put the copper kettle on the small gatehouse stove and went outside to see if his services as Registrar of Circuses would be needed again today.

He found the clown, hands on their hips and agog at the scene laid out before them.

The tiger gently snored atop the ship’s deck. Someone had left an overturned copper cauldron on the ship’s deck, and now it glinted in the sun as the ostrich pecked idly at its reflection. The draft horse was impatiently trying to dislodge an inverted Lord Quaille from its barrel of oats.

Suspended from the yard arm by her ankle was the Baroness Meaux—petticoats and ruffles billowing out like a mock-sail on the wagon’s mast. Her men’s swords lay abandoned alongside those of Tristan, Artur, and Kei.

“All the other performances in this town have been lousy,” said the clown. “But this one is amazing. What do you call this act?”

Clovis stared for a moment, then said, “I think they’re the aristocrats.”

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Thunderdome #474: Save Room for a Slice

Late summer is fair time in my neck of the woods, and besides midway rides of dubious safety, there aren’t many things more traditional than the pie contest at the county fair. I hope you guys saved your fork, because this week’s theme is going to be “Slice of Life.

Now, the crust holding a Slice-of-Life story together is the idea that most of the time we’re not engaged in life-or-death plots. We’re not saving the world. The stakes aren’t really that high and if we gently caress it up, then there’s probably still some hope for us.

The crust is great—can’t really have a good slice without a decent crust—but what I want people to focus on this week is the filling.

Characters are the filling in a S-o-L story. They are the soul and the flavor, and I really, really want to read about some flavorful characters this week. Maybe they’re sweet, maybe they’re salty, but they should all have depth and complexity. I need to believe that these are real people, even if they’re a little weird.

The setting for your story needn’t be mundane, as long as the characters are believable and facing the small challenges of everyday life instead of grappling with mega-crises.

I’m going to be offering ingredients—inspirations and hell rules. Inspirations are easy, you can ask me for a setting or a type of character to put in your story and I’ll give you ones that aren’t too difficult and they’ll cost you 100 words. Hell rules will be devilishly delightful. I won’t be pulling punches with them and expect to get a challenge—it might be a weird character you have to work into your story, or a very unconventional setting, or some sort of stylistic demand. But if you choose to get a hell rule, you’ll GET an extra 500 words.

Furthermore, critting is caring. If you write a crit of someone’s story in a past TD, I’ll credit the word-count of your crit toward your word count this week.

So, to sum up:
-Write a Slice of Life story
-Any setting you like, but make sure the characters have some serious character
-Start with 1500 words
-Buy character or setting inspirations for 100 words each.
-Challenge yourself to a hell rule and receive an additional 500 words.
-Be a real pal and crit someone else’s story, you’ll get the same number of words credited to yours.
-Sign Up Deadline: Noon PST, Saturday September 4th
-Submission Deadline: 11:59pm PST, Sunday September 5th


derp - An astronaut in an elementary school parking lot.
t a s t e - You must have at least four characters, they cannot be co-located at any point in the story, there must be dialogue, but they cannot use any sort of telecommunications device (phone, email, fax, or chatroom).
Idle Amalgam - One of your characters just found out their bank account is overdrawn. Hellrule: This story cannot revolve around the issue of being broke.
ZearothK - Your setting is a barnacle encrusted boulder at low tide.
Captain_Indigo - Your character is very concerned about some trees. Hellrule: Write this story as a monologue.
Chairchucker - A character has a gambling problem. This story is set at a farmer's market. Hellrule: Every paragraph that does not contain dialogue must reference a vegetable. Every paragraph that does have dialogue must have a gambling reference, no matter how oblique.
Thranguy - a character has a fraternal twin, a music venue, and the narrative of your story must flow in retrograde
Chernobyl Princess
Carl Killer Miller - a professional wrestler, a train station. Hellrule: words cannot be repeated within paragraphs. This includes conjunctions, but does not apply to articles
crabrock - Your character's name is Dale Dartmouth, and she's a detective. Her friend Ryann Wright writes for the local newspaper.
Hellrule: Every sentence needs to have an alliterative phrase of at least three words. For shorter sentences, you can run the alliteration across punctuation marks.
My Shark Waifuu - Your character has a fear of spiders and the story is set in the Jem and the Holograms universe. Hellrule: you are not allowed to directly reference Jem and the Holograms, or any of the main cast.
Flesnolk - Your character once won a prize for best crawfish boil in Houma, Louisiana. Hellrule: Another character must speak a non-english language, but there must be comprehensible dialogue.
Uranium Phoenix

Weltlich fucked around with this message at 22:16 on Sep 3, 2021

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

derp posted:


i'll buy a character thing and a setting thing pls

Your character is an astronaut. Your setting is an elementary school parking lot.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

t a s t e posted:

In with a hell rule

You must have at least four characters, they cannot be co-located at any point in the story, there must be dialogue, but they cannot use any sort of telecommunications device (phone, email, fax, or chatroom).

Idle Amalgam posted:

In, I'll buy a character inspiration and take a hell rule

One of your characters just found out their bank account is overdrawn. Hellrule: This story cannot revolve around the issue of being broke.

ZearothK posted:

In with a :toxx: and I'll be buying a setting.

Your setting is a barnacle encrusted boulder at low tide.

Captain_Indigo posted:

In, I'll buy a character inspiration and take a hell rule please.

Your character is very concerned about some trees. Hellrule: Write this story as a monologue.

sparksbloom posted:

heck yeah I’m in


Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Chairchucker posted:

in and give me one of each of all of the things

A character has a gambling problem. This story is set at a farmer's market. Hellrule: Every paragraph that does not contain dialogue must reference a vegetable. Every paragraph that does have dialogue must have a gambling reference, no matter how oblique.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

t a s t e posted:

How strict are we talking for co-located

They cannot be at the same place at the same time. Interpret that however you want.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Thranguy posted:

In, character, setting, and hellrule

a character has a fraternal twin, a music venue, and the narrative of your story must flow in retrograde

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Carl Killer Miller posted:

In, character, hellrule, setting

a professional wrestler, a train station. Hellrule: words cannot be repeated within paragraphs. This includes conjunctions, but does not apply to articles.

crabrock posted:

in, give me a hellrule plz

Hellrule: Every sentence needs to have an alliterative phrase of at least three words. For shorter sentences, you can run the alliteration across punctuation marks.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

crabrock posted:

Cool. Cool cool cool.

Gonna need to buy a character for 100.

I'll give you a bogo deal.

Your character's name is Dale Dartmouth, and she's a detective. Her friend Ryann Wright writes for the local newspaper.

My Shark Waifuu posted:

In, character/setting/hellrule please!

Your character has a fear of spiders and the story is set in the Jem and the Holograms universe. Hellrule: you are not allowed to directly reference Jem and the Holograms, or any of the main cast.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Flesnolk posted:

Can I request an inspiration AND a hellrule?

Your character once won a prize for best crawfish boil in Houma, Louisiana. Hellrule: Another character must speak a non-english language, but there must be comprehensible dialogue.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

Uranium Phoenix posted:

In. No rules no masters.


Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer


Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer

kurona_bright posted:

In, two characters please.

A forest ranger and a person who really loves banana pudding.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Signups closed.


Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
If you haven’t guessed, submissions are closed. Judgement wil be later today.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply