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Spokes
Jan 9, 2010

Thanks for a MONSTER of an avatar, Awful Survivor Mods!

ENEMIES EVERYWHERE posted:

lol I'm an idiot and failed at timezone conversion. this is a great idea and hopefully we do it again so I can not be an idiot, and participate

really looking forward to see what comes out when people start posting in (checks watch) 48 minutes

write, coward

e: i spent 55 minutes "brainstorming" and then went to pick up dinner. you can't be far behind me!

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Artelier
Jan 23, 2015




Just found this thread, good luck to everyone participating! If there's another one at a similar time I'm in since it's Saturday morning here.

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

T.T.D.D.T.D.D

Thug lyfe.


Artelier posted:

Just found this thread, good luck to everyone participating! If there's another one at a similar time I'm in since it's Saturday morning here.

write a story in 30 minutes

fishception
Feb 20, 2011

~carrier has arrived~


Oven Wrangler

hey i really like this format, i just kinda ran out of what i wanted to do with the story so here we go

Men Rust Over
~

Father took me to the mines when I was young, and put my hand on the rock at the entrance.  I was a wee boy at the time, and my da wanted to teach me a lesson.

“Feel anything, Levin?”

“No.”

“That’s right, ‘cause iron and rock feels not a drat thing for you, boy.”

I know why he brought me there, and it was to scare me off from following in his footsteps.  He spared me enough to send me off to school, to learn something or other of a trade beyond the pick, and I picked the trade of labor organizing, as scholarly work was never for me. 

He got ruined well before rock, iron, or the company man gave a single whit.  The last one was a lesson that he didn’t teach me, but I learned well at the hands of the Pinkertons.   

But I didn’t need to see the mines to know going down there would be my grave.

I saw it in the lines of his face, the dullness in his eyes, the rattling in his breath.  He creaked when he moved, barely saw anything in front of him.  Color clear drained out of him save for his stomach, red and distended.  Worst of all, his arms, moving as if he’s still swinging pick at rock.  Despite all that, he pleaded with me to go back.

Company Doc said it was just old age.  

“Some men’s place is just to keep going ‘til he rusts over,” he spoke with a disaffected air, but his eyes never met mine for a minute, and I never trust a man whose eyes don’t meet mine.

I know he’s lying, ‘cause when my father coughs every night, he ain’t coughing up phlegm, he’s coughing up rust, and I don’t know a natural ailment that does that to a man.

So I got Jans, Ketler, and Berg together, like in the old days, and we got to thinking, and Jans, always the clever one, brought something real interesting up.

“See, Boss Lars, he got some callers a couple of months back, say they wanted to invest into the mine or something.  Seen him a lot less recently, looks paler, too.”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear that some business types bargaining, my hairs go on end, so when I heard that, I knew something was up.

We resolved to drink ‘til deep night, and head down to the mines and see what’s going on ourselves.  The fence wasn’t anything at all to Ketler’s wire cutters, and we slipped in without any a notice.

The place was real quiet, only a faint moaning sound from the workhouses some of the workers without homes lived in, so we laid low and watched the houses for movement.

Lovely as the full moon was, it was the only company we had, til a single bell rang and one of the doors banged open.  The moaning got louder as a line of folks started shuffling out the doors, hunched over, all going to the Boss’ place on site.  Something weren’t right with the way they were moving, so we crept up closer.

Each of em, glassy-eyed and broken-looking, worse off than even my dad.  A rusty foam surrounded their mouths as they walked, some occasionally retching off to the side and vomiting up a puddle of the same.

The double doors to the Boss’ place opened up soundlessly, as they shuffled in, unaware.  We were resolved to sneak in closer til Berg gave out a gasp.  “That’s my dad over there!”

Now we were in for some poo poo, ‘cause the town knew well that Berg’s dad, Anton, got killed in a mining collapse a month or two prior.  Held a ceremony for 10 minutes afore they rang the bell for work again.

I swore to Berg that I’d cut his nuts clear off with a knife if he got us seen now, as he looked fit to start a ruckus, as they got closer to Boss Lars’ place.  It had been going under some heavy construction, some folks saying the whole building was getting repurposed.

We crept up on some scaffolding, trying to get an angle to peek in past all the boards and such, and got a good look through a bit of torn lumber.

Entire floor of the place was wrecked, with a ramp from the entrance dug down into some sort of pit.  We shuffled about to get a better look, and saw Boss Lars standing next to a fellow who didn’t look quite right.  The workers shuffled in and surrounded this pit, some of them clutching their stomachs as if they were barely holding back what was within.

A voice rose from the fellow, and it didn’t sound right either.  You know when a man talks, his voice comes from him?  His didn’t, it came from everywhere.  “Ah, splendid, Mr. Garmin.  The mines have never been more productive, have they?”

Lars couldn’t look him in the eye, and said, “Well, ah, it’s just…  Some of the workers are…  Complaining.”

“Complaining you say?”  The wrong-looking fellow stretched a limb out to walk around Boss Lars, a limb that looked too large and too black to belong to any man.  “I don’t hear any complaints.”

The only sounds in the room were the moans of debased men.  The folks surrounding the pit began to retch, more and more, as whatever was rotten in their guts began to rise from them

They spat up iron.  Chunks of loving iron, from their mouths, like some kind of ore hopper.  The sound was filled with tortured cries as shells of men vomited out raw metal into the pit in front of Boss Lars and the fellow. The former could do little but look away, while the latter laughed and cavorted amidst the workers.  “Delicious delicious delicious!  You see, Lars, you SEE how pure the iron is getting.  This will be perfect.”

“I….  Don’t rightfully see the reason for all this, Mr. Kavanaugh.  This isn’t right.”

The figure stepped across the room to stand right in front of Lars.

“Ah, but you see?  Workers are much better when they aren’t unproductive.  You’ve seen more than your share of workers become unproductive, haven’t you, old chap?”

A hand, black as pitch, with fingers more like a spiders’ legs, clutched at Boss Lars’ shoulder.  “We’re just making them more efficient.  They can do all the rusting they like, but they won’t stop mining, and they won’t stop making it.”

Mr. Kavanaugh’s head, covered up by a broad black hat, slowly rotated to face us, at an angle that weren’t human.  Underneath the brim of that hat was nothing but a wide, white-toothed smile and glaring white eyes and some kind of indistinction that hurt you to look at.

We ran after that.  Something seized us, and we couldn’t stand the sight.  All of us fled the way we came and scattered into the night.

I got back home to the sight of the lantern burning low on the porch.  It was off when I had left.  I heard retching coming from upstairs when I came in, along with the clunk of something heavy hitting floorboards, but that didn’t matter.

A rusty foam seeped through the ceiling, dripping down to the floor below, but I didn't care, because whatever was making it wasn't my father anymore.

There were some calls to make, this time not to old friends or to old chums.  Who could even help with this?

I picked up the phone and went to dial a number, placing the headset up to my ear.

All I heard was the sound of a disconnected line.

Aardvark!
Mar 3, 2002



golly i hope the judges weren't expecting or hoping for the stories to actually be good or anything

e: bad timing posting that right after the first story. i'm talking about MY story being bad

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


ENEMIES EVERYWHERE posted:

lol I'm an idiot and failed at timezone conversion. this is a great idea and hopefully we do it again so I can not be an idiot, and participate

really looking forward to see what comes out when people start posting in (checks watch) 48 minutes

i did my last td story in 23 min you can do it gogogo

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

T.T.D.D.T.D.D

Thug lyfe.


Aardvark! posted:

golly i hope the judges weren't expecting or hoping for the stories to actually be good or anything

e: bad timing posting that right after the first story. i'm talking about MY story being bad

same lol dw

fishception
Feb 20, 2011

~carrier has arrived~


Oven Wrangler

Aardvark! posted:

golly i hope the judges weren't expecting or hoping for the stories to actually be good or anything

e: bad timing posting that right after the first story. i'm talking about MY story being bad

Oh no mines bad too

I brought my Drake
Jul 10, 2014

These high-G injections have some serious side effects after pulling so many jumps.



Better late than never I suppose!

twitch.tv/chieflyill

Rhymes With Clue
Nov 18, 2010



Hate and the artistic temperament (rust AND levitation, kind of)
1145 words

She had this still life in the studio--the studio being the kitchen. Things from around the house. A bowl, some grapes, a banana. Of course a banana. Some onions, which didn’t really go with the banana. Weren’t the typical things apples? It could have been worse. At one point she had done paintings of dolls, collecting them from all over the place, and those things were creepy as gently caress.

But the still life wasn’t good. Fine the first day. On the second day it looked different, droopier. The bananas spotted, the onion shedding its skin. By the end of the week the whole mess started to smell. And then there were little bugs in it and she Zanna drew them into her sketches, too.

“What is the point of this? Why do you just work on the same thing over and over?” It didn’t matter which roommate asked the question. They were all wondering.

“I’m doing this. Y’all just don’t understand the artistic temperament.”

That was a straight-up diss. Among the three of them Doe was a poet and Cheri an actor so Zanna had a lot of nerve lecturing them on the artistic temperament. The fact that none of them were working in their chosen field right now, not yet giving up the day job--not that a poet ever gets to give up the day job--didn’t matter, and Zanna was further away from the beating heart of her art than most. Cheri at least got some chops in acting civil to customers on the phone but Zanna worked in debt collection, a thing she didn’t even admit to most people.

Her roommates looked at Zanna’s most recent canvas and concluded that she wasn’t even processing what she was drawing. On the canvas you could clearly see the spots, and that the banana had turned black.

No one knew, or would admit, who was the first to introduce an object not selected by Zanna. It was a bottle of hot pink nail polish, with enamel that looked like bubblegum clotted at the bottom of the cap where it had leaked while lying on its side. A couple of days later Zanna had incorporated it into a charcoal drawing. It was a testament to her skill that you could almost see the color.

Other things began to appear. A fountain pen, a comb with missing teeth, six bobby pins. A locking carabiner. A flavored condom, or that’s what the package said. Doe put on rubber gloves to remove the slimiest onion.

Zanna said nothing, until the tarantula appeared. You couldn’t miss it--him? Her? Somebody had tethered her (we’ll go with “her”) to the banana with a thread and safety-pinned it to the banana, and concealed some water in a jar lid behind the still life, which at this point the roommates referred to as “the installation.” A collaboration. Zanna wasn’t speaking to them. She’d get home from her shift, heave an enormous sigh for the benefit of anyone who might be listening, and get out her drawing pad, or an easel with a canvasboard and her acrylics.

She had something to say about the spider though. “This is animal cruelty! She should not be tied up like that! She could choke! What’s she going to eat? She’ll starve! And she has no water! Who does this? Who did this?”

Doe admitted nothing but pointed out the tarantula’s concealed water source.

“It’s rusty,” Zanna shrieked. “What kind of lid was that anyway? Probably something poison. You people are animals!” Instead of pulling out her art supplies Zanna stomped into her bedroom, slammed the door, and didn’t come back out. At least not while anyone else was awake.

“Should we talk to her?” Cheri whispered. “Have we gone too far?”

“She’s kind of right about the spider though,” Doe said. “Where did you get it anyway?”

“Me? I thought--I thought you got it.”

They stared at each other. Doe laughed. “Oh no. you’re not fooling me.”

But Cheri shook her head vehemently. “Do I look like the kind of girl who would even touch--I mean, somebody tied a string around it, you know? And I don’t even want to be in the same room with it. Please tell me you stole it from your classroom and you’re gonna take it back. Like, immediately.”

“Well.” Doe looked at the ceiling, then back at the still life. “I think what she’s working on here is a self-portrait. A manifestation of her life, and how it is eating her soul from the inside out. No that’s not right. How it’s turning her soul into a rotting, rusty, putrefying slime pile. We’ve got to help her.”

“Way to dodge the question of where the gently caress did that eight-legged monster come from,” Cheri said. She leaned in, none too close. “It looks like--is it like a fly? With lots of eyes?” She shuddered. “Creepy AF. Better than the dolls, I guess. But I think we should set it free.”

“Good call,” Doe said. “But not tonight. I have a big day tomorrow and I’m not jeopardizing my future promotion by risking a spider bite. Or whatever other possible disease I could pick up from that mess.”

But in the morning the spider, and in fact the whole mess, was gone. The table had been cleared. Where the still life/installation had been, a canvasboard painting sat on a small plastic easel. It depicted only the tarantula, larger and scarier than the real one had been, and with more eyes, or at least more obvious ones, and claws like knives on each of its eight legs. It was suspended over a pile of bodies--bodies whose color and general confirmation matched the physical attributes of Zanna’s roommates. The spider had no visible means of support, not even its leash, which meant it was bound to fall on one or both bodies sooner or later. Was it levitating? Was it mid-pounce? Doe studied it, took one more bite of her granola bar, and decided she wasn’t hungry any more. Cheri looked at it, then looked away, turning her attention to her bulletproof coffee, as if that would save her.

And then Zanna appeared, cheerful in a way her roommates hadn’t seen in a while.

“So,” she said. “What do you guys think?”

“Uh,” Doe said. “Interesting. Do you want to talk about it?”

“Yeah,” Cheri said. “It--it doesn’t seem to be an actual depiction of what was, uh, you know, what was there. What you were drawing.”

Neither of them asked what had happened to the tarantula.

Doe went on. “What about you? Are you happy with it?”

“I hate it,” Zanna said. “But art is supposed to elicit emotions. Strong ones. The stronger the better. So. If hate’s where it’s at, then hate is okay.”

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Feed Your Head
1006 words

Everyone’s talking about the coolest thing they’ve ever done, and I’m worried someone’s going to look at me, because this right here, sitting in a graveyard with the stage crew, passing around a flask of cheap vodka, and just talking about stuff, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done. God, isn’t that sad? Fourteen years old and the only other thing I can think of was the time I was hiking up a mountain with my sister and we walked by a snake and I said “hi, snake,” and then I found out later it was a poisonous snake.

One of the guys who does the lights is talking about the time he went down on two girls at once, and I’m trying to figure out the blocking in my head when Natalie taps my shoulder.

“He’s making it up, Lyssa,” she says. “Everyone just makes poo poo up.”

She’s levitating in place, cross-legged. Just a few inches. It’s a trick she can do, and she spent the whole last week teaching me how it’s done. It’s basically just what you expect, you have to stop thinking about anything, and that’s hard as hell because who isn’t thinking about everything, and then you get light enough to lift yourself up a few inches in the air. But this morning, we were just sitting across from each other, holding each other’s hands, and all of a sudden I ran out of thoughts, like I’d just exhausted them all – my palms are getting sweaty, this is so boring, she’s going to get bored of me – and then I wasn’t feeling the ground anymore.

And then I thought this is so cool! and I fell right down to the ground, but I was doing it then, and now, in front of the gravestone of who I think is a Henrietta Pollack, I am just thinking about everything, I’m not levitating, and also I have to think of the coolest thing I’ve ever done. Or at least say something that’s convincingly cool.

“What are you gonna say?” I ask Natalie. She’s looking at the stage manager, who’s telling this story about going backstage on Broadway that I think I already read on Wattpad.

“Usually I just start talking and figure out how to stop talking,” she says. “I’m sorry, that’s probably not very helpful, is it?”

“Okay, new girl,” the stage manager says. “What about you?”

I thought we were going counterclockwise but apparently they just call on you, which of course, these are cool people who talk about the coolest things they’ve ever done, they don’t follow rules or anything like that.

“I saw a snake once,” I say, launching into the nothing-story, “when I was hiking Mount Fuji. My uncle is a detective in Japan–”

My bullshitting is interrupted by a scream, and even Natalie falls to the ground, rattled enough to experience thoughts again, I guess. Henrietta Pollack is climbing out of her grave, and suddenly I again have a new real coolest thing that’s ever happened to me.

Henrietta doesn’t really say anything. I was expecting “brains,” or maybe some kind of rasping, but instead she just kind of clambers out of her grave and scratches her peeling scalp.

“I’m listening,” she says, and death must have treated her vocal cords well because she sounds just like a TV anchor, clear and a little musical.

Natalie is like, a millimeter off the ground, which I think means she’s basically OK.

“Um,” I say, and try to remember where this story was going. Trying to buy time, I ask “are you dead?” This is clearly a faux pas, as the pause that follows is way too long.

“Yes,” Henrietta says, with a thin line of a smile, “but you were on Mount Fuji, and there was a snake. That’s so interesting.”

The other stage kids are slowly inching away, or peering anxiously at the other graves. That’s what I’d be doing, but I feel like Henrietta expects something from me, since she came all the way from death to life to hear the conclusion of the story, and I don’t want to disappoint her. Natalie takes my hand and squeezes it, and I get myself together.

“Well, I was trying to collect snakes at the time, so of course I went over to the snake with a snake box. To rescue it. But then I suddenly realized that this was a poisonous snake.”

“Oh my goodness,” Henrietta says. I can’t tell if she’s making fun of me since most of her facial flesh is missing, but something tells me it’s not a nice comment.

“Yeah,” I say, “and then it bit me. On the ankle. I still have the scars, but I don’t show them to anyone, because it feels very personal.”

Henrietta looks like she’s expecting more, so I say “That’s basically it.”

I wish I could be like Natalie and just let stuff wash over me, just float serenely over everything, because Henrietta isn’t happy. She starts screaming about how boring death is, and how she thinks that maybe, maybe life will have more to offer, but it doesn’t, because no one can end their stories well.

I’m about to tell her that I relate. You go through life thinking you don’t count, and then you meet a friend who teaches you to levitate, and you meet her friends who have cool stories, and you don’t have anything, you’re just you. And then maybe she’ll say something like “isn’t that the coolest thing of all?” and I’ll hug her very gently.

But instead Henrietta points to my feet and says “Let me see them.” And then she leaps.

Before I can move, she’s taken my feet clean off, and hoists them over her shoulder as she descends back into her grave. Everyone’s moving around me, and I think that now, maybe, I can really focus on learning to levitate.

Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."


I had a hard time coming up with anything for this prompt.


Bill Of The Bridge (562 Words)

When the railroad came, it cut the town in half, near enough. This wasn't a popular thing, mind, so they did the only thing they could do - they built a bridge. A thing of iron girders and stone, took the road right over the tracks, it made people very happy.

Billy was 6 when the bridge went up. He had never seen anything so grand, and stared at the thing for hours. He dreamed of one day building such things himself.

Long years of toil made the bridge a local icon. Almost everybody crossed it, and it was of such prominence that many a traveler saw it in the distance as the first sign of home. Many a daredevil child scaled the girders to show he was brave. Signs of paint and chalk blossomed on the girders even as the first rust did - works of wit, of ownership, of simple and unstained puppy love.

Bill was 17 and thought himself a man. He escorted Maria on foot across the grand bridge, showing her the heart he had scribed with a knife the evening before. He hoped that this would be the day – the night- that had haunted his dreams for weeks, and was confused when she simply laughed and walked away.

The town grew, and the tracks now cut a sliver from the town instead if slicing it in half. As the city waxed, the bridge began to wane. Traffic dwindled, and many began to forget it was even there. Chalk washed away, paint faded in the sun, and rusting iron began to flake. In due time, the interstate came through, and the grand bridge of yesteryear was needed no longer. One grey day in deep November, men came from the city and cut away the road forevermore.

Bill stood on the side of the abandoned bridge, deep in melancholy. Over a quarter of a century had passed, and all his grand dreams had come to naught. He had failed to even become an architecture student, Maria never walked with him again after that day, and he never had the heart to seek another. Perhaps it would be better if... No, never that. The bridge remained, and so would Bill.

Yet, this was not the end. Even as the rust deepened, the bridge found its slumber disturbed. Families came to picnic on the abandoned roadbed. Young lovers came to walk in the quiet moonlight, and daredevil children once again climbed the girders to show bravery. Crowds came to see fire explode in the sky, and to gaze at the stars when the lightning escaped the bottle and bulbs glowed no more.

People came to him now as one comes to a relic, old Bill of the Bridge, a man from an era few now could even conceive, let alone recall. Children came to hear stories, to learn songs and games their grandfathers might have known, and because they felt sorry for the lonely old man. He sat to watch the fireworks, as he had done twice each year as long as anybody could remember. Now nearing his ninth decade on this earth, he had at last found contentment. People laughed and cheered from the bridge –HIS bridge– and he felt peace. Clouded eyes began to close, thought and memory began to fade, and Bill went to sleep one last time.

Aardvark!
Mar 3, 2002



Orange Blossoms and Cheap Cigarettes

Word Count: 790

Something held me tightly to the floor of this car, or van, or whatever it was. From the sounds of the engine and the smell of the rust, I could tell it was on its last legs.

I’d woken up in that position and spent what must have been an hour struggling in vain at my restraints, trying to be heard. My head ached, and I couldn’t recall how I’d gotten to this point. I finally stopped struggling, instead staring down at the dime-sized glimpses of asphalt racing along below.

I began trying to work out how I’d gotten here. I’d been pretty drunk last night, at the local “Saloon” as it was so quaintly termed. There’d been a woman.. Blonde. We’d ended up back at my hotel room with a bottle of tequila. Straight tequila. From there, things became a blur. There'd been some tying up. I was.. angry for some reason. Was she a pro? I kept trying to pull details, but nothing was coming

I opened my eyes again. It was darker out, late afternoon, perhaps, but we were still on the move. Had I fallen asleep? The pavement beneath us looked in even worse repair than whatever rust bucket we were in. My headache had cleared a bit, but I was getting thirsty. And something in here was starting to smell. I gave a few more tentative sniffs, and felt a chill go down my spine. There was another scent I hadn’t noticed, an intermingling of orange blossoms and cheap cigarettes.

A scam. It had been a scam. She'd tied me up, acting the part of the local girl looking for something adventurous. But she'd been there for my wallet, nothing more. I got a little mad. Pulled on the ties, and found I was quite a bit stronger than she had planned for. They snapped easily. I raised out of the bed suddenly, shocking her looking through my bags. Her saying she had family nearby, that they'd kill me if anything happened to her. And then there was Violence.

As the memories started coming back, I held my eyes closed. It felt like the space had become smaller still. I had to get out of here. I had to. I began struggling with real strength, with a fervor I’d never felt before. Finally, the restraint on my right leg loosened, and I could finally move it, at least a little.
It was awkward, but after a few minutes, I gained enough leverage to begin rolling my restraints against the floor. Finally, with a shake, I freed my right leg, pulling it back to try and get at the other restraints.

My struggles had left me weaker than I expected, and my leg came down harder than I’d intended. A metal whining sound, like tearing two pieces of metal apart, rang through the enclosure. My binds loosened further still. I could move my left leg now, the one that ran with goosebumps, the one sliding against… I stopped and closed my eyes, holding them tight and breathing heavily through my nose, getting more light-headed.

Praying no one else had heard that sound, I tried desperately to free my arms. It was more difficult, and my legs were nearly useless here. In desperation, I tried pushing myself forward, my tied hands against the ground. Another sound, different, like an old gate finally giving way, and I could suddenly feel air rushing between my legs.

I found myself turned to the side, face to face with the reason for my predicament. I only had a second to look at her face, so peaceful now, before a final creak heralded in the end of my time in that place. She slipped slipped through the hole, held up from the pavement only by my weight and the straps binding us together. I couldn’t hold on. The straps grew heavier and heavier, as though she willed them to pull us together again. It was too much. I grew nearer and nearer to the hole. Had the driver not noticed they’d lost a big chunk of the rust holding this thing together?

I should never have come to that town. It had seemed as good as any other along the high-way, full of country folk and with the one motel to speak of. And one pretty blonde, smelling faintly of orange blossoms.

She dragged me further still. The pavement still rushed by below, baking hot from the desert sun. Finally, I reached the edge, but was blessedly caught on something. Any second, the driver would slow down. I held on. I prayed.

A final crack sounded, and I was pulled in to cold arms and the abrasive heat of the road below.

Paper Diamonds
Sep 2, 2011


Rusty Feelings (1009 words)


He sat heavily in the driver seat, the engine kicking on with a familiar growl. The day long headache and upset stomach had been wearing at him for hours. He looked at the late summer sun and cursed it mentally. He loved the winter. Short days meant less light for people to see him. More time alone, indoors. He wondered how anybody could live in the perpetual summer of more tropical climates. The drive home was quick but his mind still filled it with a half dozen half formed thoughts and fantasies. Some were exciting; commando missions up frozen glaciers, machine guns thumping away in his hands as he lunged from one death defying feat to the next. Bad Guys falling under a fullsilade of fire, he was unstoppable and untouchable. Well, maybe not untouchable, a good hero needed to get wounded at least once. Something in the shoulder or thigh, minor but enough to raise the stakes.

As the drive went on through the winding back country roads other, more mundane, fantasies would bubble up. Usually they were trigged by the beautiful houses on the hills most, he assumed, costing upwards of ten million dollars. He’d image what it would be like to never have to work again. To awaken on a lazy Friday morning and not have to worry about work. Not have to feel an undercurrent of dread for every hour of the day until finally the freedom of the weekend set in. He would imagine waking up late, in a beautiful bed, the sheets soft, well laundered. He’d wander downstairs casually passing floor to ceiling windows that each encompassed a beautiful vista. His day would be filled with frivolities and hobbies until finally he crawled back into a bed, well made by some unseen servant, and idly read a book until sleep took him.

As he neared his apartment, the thoughts would stray to memories, recent or distant. Some dear to him, some less pleasant. He’d think of his family often. He’d lived at home for most of his life, he had come here only a few months ago, chasing a dream. The dream had half delivered, he was doing exactly what he wanted. He was getting the pay, the responsibility, the prestige. Everything he wanted. But it had come with such stress. Such screaming and yelling, tantrums from so called professionals. There wasn’t a day that went by now that he didn’t have a buzzing headache that pulsed a halo around his head.

His mind drifted back to his family. They were a thousand miles away, which, despite the sound of things, was only about 16 hours drive. At any time he could get in his car and by this time tomorrow he could be home, hugging his mom, petting the cats, cooking dinner with his dad, chatting late into the night with his sister. A comfort but also a temptation. Much like Her. Both Hers, really, he supposed. The first one that had been there for him and the second that had been a beautiful entanglement. Each held a special place in his heart. Each plucked at his conscience daily in their own way. He still had their numbers. He texted the first one occasionally, they were friends. Years of intimacy had made it impossible not to be. They knew every detail of each other. They had been there for some of each other’s darkest, saddest moments as well as greatest triumphs. It was hard to cut a person like that from a life. Hard not to text them occasionally, see how they were, hope they were happy, healthy, all that. The second Her weighed more heavily on his mind. They didn’t talk anymore. He was certain she didn’t think of him anymore, and if she did, certainly not in the same way that he thought about her. She was the harder temptation to resist. But he had done it. Two years and not a peep. Two years and daily fantasies on the drive home. Of tearful reunions. Of quiet reunions. Of casual passings in the street. He had gone a thousand miles from home because of her and somehow that wasn’t quite far enough. Success, he thought, would be the best revenge. Then he would feel the guilt, he didn’t want revenge. He wanted nothing but happiness. For her. For him. He wondered if she had found it. But he could never be sure. He kind of hope that he’d never know. Better a mystery than a sure thing. Better to be left wondering than to feel the pain in the pit of his stomach on dark nights knowing that she was happily embracing another man in another place. Not even a passing idle thought in her mind anymore.

He arrived home. A ground floor apartment in the foothills. The scenery was beautiful. The whole valley was. It’s what it was famous for. A real tourist trap. Except now he lived here. Trapped but not a tourist. He called this apartment “home” but he wasn’t sure that’s how he felt about it. But at least it was private and his for the time being. He parked and walked up, a quick jangle of keys to find the right one and he let himself in. As soon as the door closed he was relieved. For the next two days he could be alone, recharge, do all the things necessary to be an adult for the coming week. He paused in the doorway. The kitchen sink had backed up. Backflow from a clog somewhere else in the building. It was nearly over topping. A brown red disgusting mixture of rust and coffee grounds. He whispered a curse under his breath and got to work bailing it out with one of the kitchen pots out onto the landscaping behind the apartment. Every soup put an increasing mixture of red rust until it seemed like all he was scooping from the sink was the flaky red swirls of something that had begun to rot away.

HugeGrossBurrito
Mar 20, 2018


Absolut (1057 words)

At absolute zero motion seems to stop, for my entire career I have thought about nothing else. What else is there to think of? Absolute zero cannot be achieved, but I work, absolute zero cannot be achieved but here I am as stagnant as a particle struggling to move. Every step closer I get our measurements improve. Only ever growing halfway closer to a goal, the finish line as distant as it was before. Colleagues had moved on, family had distanced themselves, but I had not changed, and I had not wavered. A particle may be brought to almost perfect stillness almost as if in two places at once but it will never stop.
I have spoken to every high school college and bar room willing to listen but the work I do is a novelty. Space programs require a rigorous nature that is limiting in a way that I can’t explain. Grants require a commitment to the conventional.
In the winter of 1956, I had resorted to posting anonymous mailings to anyone who would listen. After a small following had finally been able to understand my ideas, a surrogate had reached out to me. In a small lab, −459.67° was considered not only achievable but necessary. A philanthropist with interest in the subject was willing to fund me in a serious way, but with a stipulation. While my funding was not constrained by monetary limitation I would be required to work alone and without access to the outside world. For the secrecy of the project. With nearly unlimited resources and every possible tool available to me, for months I achieved very little. While I had initially thought I would likely have my organs harvested and buried in an unmarked grave it soon became clear the investor was entirely serious. Without my investor’s knowledge before my trip I had followed the mail to an office and a man at a desk. A failsafe. After having been flown and driven in to the lab, with a blindfold, almost laughably ridiculous, it became clear my investor was serious in their endeavor.
As I delved deeply into my research I had ignored my surroundings, I had been welded into my lab every door sealed. But I continued, it was after three years that I had achieved absolute zero. Settling into a routine it became obvious that it would not be possible to leave. It is unimportant to the purpose of this writing that I explain my process but, I know that what I have done has required technology not accessible to even my most well-connected peers. The stipulations of my employer became clearer, more specific. It would not be enough to simply bring particles to the state of absolute zero, it would need to be done on a much larger scale. Military applications. I would not be freed.
First, I had received a package of mice. No hole seemed to be visible in the strong iron doors of my lab. Still they appeared as I slept. It was not a kind process. Every specimen seemed to disappear into thin air. But a curious thing happened, after many failures I began hearing the noises of other living things, the mice. At the same hour every day screeching and scratching out of thin air. But a month later no noise. Another package of mice, a similar result. But after a year the results became predictable, screeching and scratching so loud and so cacophonous sleep was difficult, always around the anniversary of first performing my tests. Regularity. Some kind of stasis. The mice seemed to be contained in place where the process had been administered, invisible but seemingly living. I had begun hanging food from wire in the air where the sound occurred but none was eaten and my hypothesis of life was challenged. How can a being live for a year without consumption?
A large crate appeared in the entranceway of my lab one morning. Heavy breathing inside. A bark, a dog. I screamed at no one or anyone who may have been listening. I will not test this subject. She had a collar, Laika. She barked. I will not test this subject.
For a month, my food was cut off, sharing only the continued shipments of mice to survive. I will test this subject.
As I placed Laika in the apparatus, she barked. As I turned on the transmitters she not longer barked. For nearly a year I received no mice, no test subjects. I received nothing except for the food intake I had requested and received previously. Screeching and scratching. Every day now. The mice I had disappeared after many months of experimentation. The sounds of life as I festered into nothing.

But a year later I was correct, Laika would return, she barked. I heard the fainter sounds of barking more distant now. The next day I woke up. There was a larger crate at the entranceway. A man. I will not test this subject. There were no mice. There were no dogs. There was a man. I will not test this subject. The man did not wake, he appeared to be in coma. Starvation. I will test myself.

Today as I step into my machine, I think of the man in the coma. I think of the mice, I think of Laika. I think of my starvation. The mice did not eat. I turn off every failsafe and power the machine.

I see nothing of my own body; I feel as if I am in many places at once. I feel no cold. I do not seem to have form, yet I see the path ahead very clearly. Levitating among the atoms around me. I do not hunger. I remember the man, the office, the desk. I see form in the darkness. I feel more deeply now and I am among sounds, as the vibrations become more pronounced I can now see the mice. Many thousands lost in the ether. I see the man, the office, the desk. She barks. I hear the faintest sounds and see the faintest of movements she bites. The neck. He clutches it, bloody now. Terror on his face he collapses, and the life goes out of his eyes. I see very little now, except for the mice in their multitudes, levitating.

oldskool
Aug 9, 2010





Lipstick Apathy

Buoyant
644 words

"Try it!"
"Try what?"
"Floating! You just...arch your back a little bit, and the water keeps you up!"

It sounded so simple. It was, honestly. I just never got the hang of it, and then I'd start worrying about if I was doing it right, then bloop, down I'd go. But this time felt different. She was so kind, so patient, even though I'm sure she had better things to do with her Saturday afternoon than teach me how to float on my back in Mr. MacGregor's pool. It felt so natural to relax with her around...

"You're doing it!"

I hadn't noticed that I was in the middle of a perfectly executed backfloat. I was looking up at the clouds, thanking whatever aethereal beings resided atop them for my good fortune in finding someone like her, just before the piercing scream shook me from my daydreams.

"YOU'RE FLOATING!"

I turned to acknowledge that yes, I was following directions, only to discover the target of my voice several inches below me. Considering we were approximately the same height when standing, and at present I was lying flat on my back, this was relatively concerning. I reached out with a hand, meeting hers mid-swing, gripping tightly. There wasn't much resistance, but there should have been none. Water slowly trickled down my arm onto hers, flowing back to the pool from whence it came, obeying the laws of gravity I was so blatantly flaunting. The resistance against her hand grew ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly, were it not our sole focus.

Her hand trembled in mine. Fear. Fear of why I was slowly drifting away. Fear of how far I'd drift if she let go. I was about a foot off the surface of the water when another scream punctured my eardrums. The resistance I felt in my arms dissipated away to nothing. Within seconds, she was at eye level, both of us hovering horizontally above the surface.

We stared into each other's eyes. Could've been romantic, if not for the circumstances. Two minds racing with possibilities, none of them good. Water continued to drip from me, taunting me with each drop's safe landing below. With my free hand, I reached down and scooped up a handful, running it over my arms to replenish the supply of droplets, as it were. Stretching down for a second handful revealed that I had resumed my rise & the pool was now dangerously out of reach. Shivers rippled through me, and consequently through her. She maintained a death grip on my arm, both hands locked around my wrist, pulling against me as I float higher.

The distance between us grew yet again, but this time it was via descent. Her descent. Her toes reached out and touched the safety of the pool, kicking furtively at the water. Her face searched for answers, for some heretofore unknown law of physics, one that said people who float away for no reason can be pulled back down, can begin to re-obey the laws. The resistance against my wrist grew in strength, before suddenly relenting with a splash as my ascent continued, now unabated.

I'd always had a fear of flying. Fortunately for me, this was nothing like flying insofar as flight implies some semblance of control, or at least intent. I had neither. I had a slow, monotonous rise above MacGregor's pool. Wind currents pushed against me, but without the strength necessary to alter my path in any meaningful way. I twisted around to watch the clouds grow larger, before my body began carving a hole in one. I flailed my arms and splayed my legs in an attempt to make a cloud angel, moments before the lack of oxygen turned me into a real one.

STAT!
Jun 17, 2006


Gone So (exactly 1000 words what fortune)

John Goodman - Actor from Jeff Daniels’ Spiderman
Way down in the Deep South you see, Hunter kept all of his editors up in accordance with his hours. They adhered to his schedule. It was not like some other job for them. They were hooked. Locked in. A commitment they would take to their eventual graves. It was about the same each week. Hunter would be in his hotel room with three carts of grapefruit and wild turkey. The carts would stand upright in a semi-circle just to his left. To his right he tended to lay down some clumps of grass which he had instructed me, or whoever else was visiting — it didn’t matter who it was — to pull up from the grounds outside. He’d just toss the grass there on the floor.

Hunter was a severe pack rat. His desk was cluttered all to hell with books, magazines and a handful of weird gadgets. It was a loving mess. I really never understood why he insisted on the clutter. He actually brought suitcases of it with him wherever he’d travel. Just full of junk. Right in the middle of his work desk was his sketch pad and laptop. Reason he was in the Deep South had something to do with a promotional thing with Slack and Flappy Bird. It was kind of around that early 2010-ish cycle. Red Lobster Corporate Culture included a lot of internal mobile game conversation.

Tom Green - Comedy man
I was in town for a comedy tour that evening. In the Deep South. I was on tour. We drove there on buses. On buses. We came from Chattanooga. Chattanooga.

Bob Candy - Hotel Deep South Manager 2007-2018
When I first met Hunter I was already a big fan. His Hell’s Angels Slack Emojis were my absolute favorite and a hit at my old office. At about 11pm Hunter strolled in on those wavy legs of his, shouting “Jesus Christ! Motherfucker! Hot poo poo!” With Mr. Goodman on a leash. The pair of them tore up furniture and were just overall unpleasant. But I was starstruck. I had a bellhop bring a cart with Mr. Thompson’s luggage up to the room along with Mr. Goodman. Hunter walked over to the bar, as he does, striking matches and leaving a trail of them behind. “My own goddamn breadcrumbs. Does that sit well with you, Stuart?!”
I didn’t object.

John Goodman
Hunter was fisting two margaritas in between attempts to open the window “tactfully” as he put it. He had positioned the bed in some kinda way where the feet of the bed were propped against the window, and the bed was sitting on all the pillows, blankets, and couch cushions in the place. He kept trying to set fire to the pillows and blankets, I’d stomp it out, he’d take a swig or two of the margarita and repeat the process. Amidst all of this absolute fun the hotel room’s phone rang. I just glared at Hunter. “You sonofabitch we were breaking no-noise-complaint records!” He collapsed on the floor shrieking about Nixon’s doberman and I picked up the receiver.

Turns out it’s from another guest. Comedian Actor Tom Green was staying on our floor. Apparently he and Hunter had this beef that went way back about some video game Emojis Hunter had made for Tom and his family. The way it was told to me was that Tom and his family were all having Canadian Thanksgiving dinner, all hooked up on Slack, sharing Hunter’s Emojis. And Tom just about shits when he sees what Hunter did for :solidsnake:. According to Tom, :solidsnake: clearly depicted an image of Big Boss saluting the grave of THE Boss from MGS3. It was not an image of Solid Snake. Tom was pissed. Kicked his whole family out. Sent them home to the vampires in Waterloo with the smoked brisket and ribs. He left several angry voice messages for Hunter back home at Owl Creek. But Hunter was just leaning back in his chair and grinning. The biggest cheese-eating grin you’d ever seen.

So Tom’s on the phone. Tom’s livid. Tom wants to speak with Hunter. Per my due diligence as Assistant Of The Week I informed Comedy Green that Hunter was crunching for a deadline and did not wish to be bothered. This of course did not work at all, I don’t think I was cut out for this, and to this day I have no idea why Hunter hired me. So I apologized and hung up the phone. Hunter was halfway listening to the whole thing and had already settled back into his chair for the next round of not working on Flappy Bird. Not five minutes later we both hear a sound out in the hall. A sort of gravelly hum, like the Storm IV Twin-Pod cloud cars of Bespin Motors. We listened as it grew louder, then BAM! Door swings open. It’s Tom. And the guy is LEVITATING. Absolutely LEVITATING. Knees tucked in. Red and white headband around his head and great fire in his eyes. Hunter fell back in his chair and was scrambling on the floor in a pile of grapefruits. I just stood there like a dummy. Actually pretending to be a dummy, hoping he wouldn’t notice me. Tom lunged at the helpless doctor on the floor. He had him pinned down. Just swearing and spitting at the guy. I’ll never forget what Hunter did next. In what later became the inspiration for the original ending of Halloween 6, Hunter reached up and grabbed Tom Comedian’s arm. With the wrath of Wild Turkey in his eyes he pulled Tom toward him and said “Solid Snake is gone! Flappy Bird is who you are now, Mr. Green.”

Tom let go of Hunter and recoiled back in horror, still floating around mind you. Then he started changing. Getting smaller. Seemed to have a lot of trouble staying airborne. Basically Hunter turned Tom into a hit mobile game.

Some Guy TT
Aug 30, 2011

whatever marginal advantage the racial justice protestors gained from being masked was greatly outweighed by the fact that the racial justice protests were larger than the covid protests by a scale or two of magnitude

The Floating Continent
Word Count: 1239

"What's this mom? Is it a game?"

Lucretia looked up from her book, slightly taking off her reading glasses. Now there was something she hadn't seen in the longest time. An old instruction manual.

"Jimmy, were you digging through my old Nintendo Powers again?" asked Lucretia.

"You said it was OK!" said Jimmy, in the somewhat whiny voice he did that often got on Lucretia's nerves.

"I wasn't accusing you of anything," said Lucretia. "I was just asking."

"All right yeah I was," said Jimmy looking at the ground, as if he was guilty of something. "What's it like? Is it fun?"

"I don't know if it's your kind of game, Jimmy," said Lucretia. "I thought you liked open world games, like Minecraft."

"I'm just asking!" shouted Jimmy. Possibly not a shout, although Lucretia wasn't in the mood for it.

"That's enough," she said. "Your room. Now. And give me the manual."

Jimmy shoved the manual in Lucretia's hand and stomped off. It was only rather belatedly that Lucretia realized she was being far too hard on him. It was irritating. Eight years old. Lucretia had no idea how to talk to kids. Lucretia didn't even know how to talk to kids back when she herself was still a kid. Lucretia didn't hate Jimmy by any means but Lucretia still wondered a lot how she let her wife talk her into this.

Lucretia took a look at the manual. She was sure she had saved it for a reason and she had. The original art was gorgeous. It had the dreamy, musty feeling of an opium den. She remembered reading it in the car on the way home from the store. Back before the Internet there was nothing like a good quality instruction manual for building up the hype for a new game. Lucretia just couldn't make sense of Jimmy's understanding of games, where he could just start playing one as soon he got it, and typically knew exactly what gameplay looked like long before he could even bug his parents into buying him one.

Lucretia wondered whatever happened to that old cartridge. It might be worth something now. All the old game stuff was in the basement. The Nintendo Powers were just the only presentable part of the collection. Lucretia decided to go take a look.

---

Lucretia could be really stubborn when she'd taken a silly idea into her head. In this case, seeing the instruction manual again really just made her want to play Final Fantasy III, a determination that only increased when she successfully located both the cartridge and the SNES. But the far more tedious task was getting a CRTV with RF inputs. Lucretia knew where that was too of course, it was just heavy, a big pain to move, and had to be connected to a place where she could actually sit down and play the game.

After five minutes of that she wanted to quit. But after six minutes Lucretia figured that if she'd gone this far she might as well go all the way. She huffed and puffed and fiddled with the relevant instruments making all sorts of increasingly hopeful mistakes until finally she'd gotten the game to load up. There was an almost finished game, and one with considerably fewer hours. Lucretia realized she must have started a playthrough ages ago and forgotten about it. But where was she? Ah, of course. The Floating Continent.

"Mom? What are you doing?"

Lucretia turned around. Jimmy was standing at the top of the steps.

"It's OK Jimmy, you can come down," said Lucretia. "I got that game working. The one you were asking about?"

"Where are you?" asked Jimmy, curious. "Is that a hole? What's the light thing?"

"Oh, that takes me back up. Look," said Lucretia, maneuvering her characters away from the save point and up to the top of the screen.

Lucretia's party had arrived to the surface of the floating continent. Lucretia heard the eerie, ominous music a split second before it started playing out the speakers. It sounded so crude, but the whole thing gave her chills.

"What's this?" asked Jimmy.

"The Floating Continent," said Lucretia, looking at the screen and moving around. "Some uh...wizard made it levitate in the sky to do...bad stuff with magic."

"Mom, I'm not stupid," said Jimmy. "You can use real words."

"I'm trying not to spoil it," said Lucretia, feeling ridiculous since of course her son would never be interested in a game like this she was sure. They were interrupted by a random battle on the way to the airship.

"What are those?" asked Jimmy, pointing to some creepy looking red monsters with external rib cages.

"Zombies I think?" said Lucretia, not really sure all of a sudden. Neither noticed the name "Misfit" right on screen. But Lucretia did remember the best way for dealing with them. Noise Blaster all the way.

"Hey!" said Jimmy, as Lucretia played through the fight. "What was that?"

"A tool," said Lucretia. "That guy's a king, and his kingdom makes lots of tools, so he uses the tools to fight the monsters."

"Who are the other ones?" asked Jimmy. "Is that a ninja?"

"Kind of?" said Lucretia. "I guess those are his abilities, but he's a mercenary. He's not part of a ninja group or-"

"Mom, I know there are different kinds of ninjas."

"Right, right," said Lucretia. "How silly of me."

Every step Lucretia took just provoked more and more questions from Jimmy. An option to land into the airship and return begged the questions of what airships were, and why they had an airship. But then they got to the boss fight, and there were no particular questions about Atma Weapon. What else was there to be said except that it was a big scary monster that required mom's full attention?

And at this point Lucretia's sheer lack of practice gave out. She could only just barely survive the attacks, and once the fight moved on to the phase with the status effect attack, Lucretia was just too boxed in. Status effects. That was a whole new layer of complicated game mechanic Lucretia wasn't sure how to explain, but as she lost and the screen faded out, Lucretia only just then realized that through all that Jimmy hadn't said a word. He must have gotten bored and gone back upstairs. So Lucretia gave a shocked start when she turned around and Jimmy was still there.

"You were...you were watching all that?" asked Lucretia.

"Yeah, it looks fun," said Jimmy. "Can I play from the beginning?"

"Well..." said Lucretia. "This stuff needs to be stored. We use the basement for other things. And it's an old machine. So we can't-"

Lucretia stopped. She was thinking like her parents. This was the twenty-first century. They had other options now.

"You know," said Lucretia. "I can talk to your other mom about this and maybe we can work something out."

"Can we play together?" asked Jimmy. "It says there's a two-player mode in here."

"Sure," said Lucretia, before suddenly realizing something. "Hey, if you read the whole instruction manual, why were you asking me so many questions? Didn't you know how the game worked?"

"Yeah, but I wanted to see what you would say," said Jimmy.

In spite of herself, Lucretia smiled. Which was what Jimmy had really been after all along.

Spokes
Jan 9, 2010

Thanks for a MONSTER of an avatar, Awful Survivor Mods!

Rustbucket
1034 words


I heard the clunking engine approaching long before it actually triggered the drive-thru intercom. My headset beeped and I rolled my eyes. I pressed the transmit button. "Thanks for choosing Burger World. How can I help you?"

The driver yelled, straining to be heard over the noises from under the hood. "Just a cheeseburger! Thanks, lady!"

I punched the order into the register and read the total as if I didn't have it memorized by now. "That'll be a dollar eighty-two at the window. Thank you." The sound grew worse and worse as he rolled through the drive-thru in his rustbucket and approached. When I opened the window it was almost unbearable. The man behind the wheel waved and offered up two crumpled bills.

He waved his hand as I tried to pass him the change. I gave him a half-nod and dropped it in the tip cup, bringing our total up to nineteen cents on the day.

"Hey," I said as I turned back to the prep line. "Is that cheeseburger coming up?"

"Yeah," my boss shouted over the sound of boiling oil and the jalopy waiting for it. "Three minutes!"

I turned and leaned out the window, trying to gesture that it would just be a couple minutes. He shook his head and turned the car off. Suddenly there was a peaceful stillness. This must be what people feel when they meditate, I thought. "Sorry about that," he laughed. "I don't like it anymore than you do, I promise."

I grinned. "No worries. I guess you… get used to it? Just a minute on the burger."

"You would think so," he half-shouted back. "But it's as annoying as ever. Last day with it, though. I'm finally upgrading. Was planning to just junk this one. Know anyone who wants to buy a car?"

"Well, I'm in the market for something that'll get me the six miles here and back a few times a week. But…"

"Like you said, you get used to it. How 'in the market' are you? I'll give you a fair price."

"I'm not sure what a fair price for that would be," I laughed.

"Well, think about it. Like I said, I was planning to junk it." The burger finally arrived--I bagged it and handed it over. "I'll come back in a few hours. If you're still here I'll sell it to you for whatever you've got on you."

I nodded, doubting I'd see him again. He smiled and let me close the window before he started the rustbucket again.

"That's the worst car I've ever seen," my boss said.

"Okay," I laughed. "It's just a car, and we work at Burger World."

"I hate it so much. It gives me a visceral reaction. That vehicle is a war crime."

"What do you drive again?"

He scowled. "Public Transportation is the backbone of the modern city."

"It sure is, Mike."

After Rusty Car Guy and a couple other customers came through, the "lunch rush" was over and I spent the rest of the afternoon dreaming of the car I'd actually buy when I had the cash. As much as I liked to tease Mike about taking the bus, we were on the same route most days. But not forever!

I stopped working around 4:50 (and punched out at 5:00, of course). It was still twenty minutes until our bus came, so I sat outside the restaurant and offered Mike a cigarette.

"Thanks," he muttered as he joined me at the table and lit up.

We heard the noise at the same time. The cig just about fell out of his mouth.

"Well, well, well." I smiled. "Looks like your favorite vehicle in the world is here."

The sound grew steadily louder as it approached. He made a show of sticking his fingers in his ears, but he couldn't wipe the grin off my face.

Rusty Car Guy pulled into the parking lot with a much nicer sedan following close behind. He parked it a few feet away from us and swung the door open. "Told you I'd be back," he laughed. "I had to convince my wife it was going to a good home." He jerked his thumb at the other car, where a woman waved from the driver's seat.

"So how much do you want for it?" I asked.

"Two hundred?"

I shook my head. "I can maybe manage one?"

He thought for a moment. "You know what? I feel like I had a two hundred dollar burger today." He pulled the keys from his pocket and dropped them on the table.

I blushed. "Are you sure?"

"Trust me. The homeowners association is gonna run us out of town if we don't stop… 'noise polluting'." He made a face. "I'll come back later this week for us to handle the paperwork and everything, but it's yours."

"I can't thank you enough," I told him.

"It's really nothing. Drive safe." With a grin, he walked around to the passenger side of the new car and he was gone.

"Hold on." Mike walked inside while I inspected my new ride.

I tapped my foot, waiting impatiently.

He returned a couple minutes later with a french fry jammed in each ear.

I stuck my tongue out. "Get in." He nodded.

The key turned and the motor started. From inside, the sound really wasn't that bad as long as I kept the windows closed. I'd have to replace it sooner or later, but for the moment everything was perfect.

I yelled along with every song on the radio as I drove Mike home, figuring he could pay for a taxi if he didn't appreciate my vocal stylings.

"Thanks for the ride," he shouted as I idled in his driveway. "Pick me up tomorrow?"

I sneered. "Apologize to Rusty first."

"Who's-- oh." An exaggerated sigh. "Rusty, I am very sorry for calling you ugly and loud. I wasn't wrong, but it's part of your charm."

"It certainly is," I reminded him with a smile. "See you tomorrow."

I floored it as I hit the highway on the way home. This rules.

boar guy
Jan 25, 2007



Yogi- ~1800 words

They told you you’d learn to be enlightened, in college. So you signed away on a two year, postgraduate unpaid apprenticeship with TrendSet to get into Harvard- the orbital branch, only sensible for someone born in zero-g- what they actually taught you was that it’s not okay to be wrong, ever. Academics is just a different type of dogma. Make your money as a priest or a PHD- it’s just two different decorations of the same altar.

You graduated 3rd in your class in 3426 from the Harvard Orbital school. The assholes at 1 and 2 weren’t any smarter- their parents were just better connected. Especially Anderson, that poo poo stain. Fucker couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag. Frankly, it was easier than you thought it’d be- but certain names run deep at Crimson U- Anderson, Bishop, Gilbert, Kissinger- these all carry weight beyond the average-to-nothing name you’ve got. In any case, 3rd in your class ain’t bad, and you’re able to do your apprenticeship with TrendSet, continuing on- working from your hab, 12 hours a day, strapped into a VR rig that lets you swim through code like it’s your native element. You’re very good at what you do, and you’re rewarded with credits to the best VR experiences and the finest (sometimes even REAL, like born, lived and died) food. Some of it even comes up from the old planet- wriggling and gasping until the chefs at your corp process and prep it for you and the bots deliver it- this year’s golden boy. It’s a comfortable, easy existence- 3rd in your class at Harvard, even in the 35th century, still means something, and you’re looking forward to assuming a Directorship at one of the three main corps once you finish the mandatory two year apprentice period with TrendSet. Sure, they paid for everything but man….so boring and old school. VirtuaTime and FunGrid look so much more modern, more fun! They’ll be time for that, though. The world- which orbits the earth at an altitude of one point three million feet, as far as you’re concerned- is your (admittedly, vat-grown) oyster.

For now life consists of off work, obviously, followed by time in the hab, visiting any one of thousands of virtual worlds, being served a million varieties of virtual food, and having a million different virtual experiences. You want for nothing, and are respected by all in your field- mostly. You code the apps that entertain the inner ring’s billions, picking and choosing contracts that come up regularly on WeWriteCode- It’s a pleasant, but not especially challenging, existence; sterile, weightless, calorically regimented, and prescribed.

Until one day, out of Scandinavia- actual Earthside Scandinavia, what a rube, can you believe it?- the Indian expat Singh is stealing your bids! Four in the last month alone! How the gently caress can this guy get away with writing code twice as fast as you do, and for half as much money? No one’s that good- especially with a name like Singh. Not that it matters, because he’s able to work twice as fast. The money isn’t really important, but his rep for fast cheap work is getting you thrown in the “if the guy we really want isn’t available pile”. gently caress that! You’re the best of the best and they should be putting you above everybody else. The gently caress is going on here anyway? Singh is a devout Hindu- you even heard him talk one time about how seeing an Earthside yogi ‘levitate’ (yeah, your rear end) as a child encouraged his work in zero-gravity physics that the VirtEx guys loved so much for the glider and fighter sims. What a load of pretentious, sentimental horseshit! How can anyone possibly have faith in this year, as we immerse ourselves to the eyeballs in technology? God, if they ever existed- is gone, or disinterested. Not sure which is worse, but they’re practically the same, anyway.

You run into Singh in the cafeteria one day on a mandated 10 minute break out of the chair, otherwise you get sores. You don’t like Singh very much- he’s got a smugness that doesn’t suit his position. What’s a real-to-life believer doing masquerading as a scientist anyway? Guy probably thinks that the yogis taking coins from slack jawed tourists on the space elevator platform are actually levitating or hammering nails through their dongs.

As the bots flit about, massaging your glutes and cavs to ward off bedsores, you prep a bulb of coffee analog, Singh comes in on his cot. The last thing you wanted to see today. gently caress this guy- the gently caress does he think he is? You’re king poo poo of gently caress mountain around here- even If he’s been edging you out on your performance metrics for the last few weeks. “Hey Lindthey”, he lisps, in that way that you know that he can’t help, but that has come to grate on you like sand in your shoe “how’th it going’?

Biting an apricot, you respond ‘Singh. Hello’.

‘I’m working on the Delhi parade this week, how ‘bout you?

This grates on you- Singh knows goddamn well that you bid on that job, and he totally underbid you. 10k for 13 thousand virtual dancers, all with individually distinguishable AI routines and costumes? That was a 20k job at least- at 40 hours. You know, and it burns, that Singh can do it in twenty.

‘Oh, I’m on the Super Bowl- crowds won’t populate themselves, you know’.

‘Ah, well, it’th probably juth ath well. There’th a thpiritual element to Diwali that it’d be difficult for you to incorporate in to your work.’

‘Singh, I can program anything, you know that. That’s why I go the Super Bowl. They chose you because you’re a Hindu’.

‘No, they chothe me because of the intangible that thomeone of faith can bring to the program‘.

Singh’s eyes twinkle. You know he’s baiting you, but you can’t help yourself. Eventually he convinces you that the reason you didn’t get the more prestigious Diwali parade job is because of your lack of faith, to which you reply that it’s ridiculous and that things that you can’t see aren’t real. You won’t be tricked or taken for a fool.

Singh looks thoughtful and suggests a bet. You go Earthside and find definitive proof that something he believes is true is false, and he’ll give up the Director promotion you’re both bidding on. If you can’t do it, you give him the keys to your new research on behavioral patterns- guaranteed to increase sim actor realism by 14% and worth a mint to any of the three major corps. Worth blood to some of the minor ones, too.

You order the couch to take you back to your hab, you’re pissed. The nerve of that bastard, condescending to you! The corp can get their code out of you in a double shift tomorrow- you have to come up with a way to prove that that fucker Singh wrong. Nothing else mattered- you’re the best! You’re not handicapped by something as lame as faith.

(Management recommends a vacation after your missed shift, and is very insistent- it’s implied that you will lose the prestigious position that you and Singh are gunning for, if you don’t do as advised. You’re on a virtual macaw-perspective tour of an Amazon rainforest that hasn’t existed for two thousand years trying to relax when it comes to you- the very yogis that Singh was so inspired by are well-documented hucksters! It’s just a trick- but he believes it- either that or he doesn’t care, you’re not sure which is worse, and it sickens you. You make a plan to go to India to prove that what Singh drew such profound inspiration from observing isn’t possible.

You’ll show that bastard Singh! The yogis he loves so much Earthside? You’re bringing back evidence that it’s just a tacky carnival trick to get rupees from stupid children and gormless rubes. Next chance you get, you’re headed earthside on the slow boat space elevator- takes about 4 days to get down there at top speed, but the extra expense will be worth it to prove that bastard wrong. Otherwise, you’d slowboat it with an underclassman and, heh, take in the comforts of a long space trip. Not that you’re like that. Hee hee. On the way, you pick up a flitting, hummingbird-like camera that sits just off your shoulder, documenting everything, from the gift shop closest to the central shaft. There’s a Plexiglass window in one of the hallways, and you can see the cable you’re riding on- no wider than a baseball bat- flying past as you descend to the surface of the old world.

You dismount the cab, blinking in to the noonday sun, and step to the platform, an indistinguishable mass of humanity crushing in on all sides- handle your luggage? Find a hotel? Need a cab? You shake off all the dirty reality and approach the wizened elder- the air is oppressive and smells of people too tightly packed, cooking oil not finely enough refined, and diesel exhaust. His face is that of an apricot pit a day after the fruit around it has been eaten- brown, deeply runnelled and dry, with tufts of hair barely clinging to his scalp in a few scratchy patches. He’s perched, you’re certain, on a metal framework concealed by his sari, giving the illusion of levitation, which, of course, as you know as sure as you know your own name, is impossible.

He stares ahead in the manner of someone that’s seen too much, his left hand grasping a bowl that holds a few meager coins. You take in the place- the heat, the smell, the crowd, the humanness of it all- and are disgusted. You’ve never been so sure of anything in your life but as you take a running start and really launch yourself at the elder with a kick that’d make your personal trainer, always worried about bone mass, proud- your foot passes through nothing and the yogi remains serenely in place as you fall to the ground, shattered. Literally. You break your hip due to the high gravity. Hab life hasn’t prepared you for the real.

You return to the hab quietly- the hip repaired in your suite back up on the elevator. Eventually you run in to Singh in the canteen and you turn over the cypher to the file containing the research he so covets- it will let him outbid you on any project in the future, ensuring your professional demise. Tearfully, you turn and ask him “how did you know?” Singh turns and replies- “I didn’t. But I believed”.

toanoradian
May 30, 2011


1000 words. Concept: Rust

Eating Your Way
The building failed to have a name. Whatever its original plans were, it became a mistake. A tall structure of concrete, but with problems of funding, or maybe of planning, it rotted. All you could see was the steel scaffolding, a metallic skeleton, the remains of some massive scavenging. The rust further disgraced this failure of a skyscraper, covering it in wide, brown-orange marks of shame.

Few kilos from the building, there was a truck, and a table with a computer behind it. A man dressed in yellow visibility vest atop a blue overall stood in front of the computer. “Boss wanted the building to go boom today,” Andy said. It wasn’t meant for the woman next to him. “His exact words: big boom for big bust of a building. TODAY, or else I’ll cry to mommy.”

“I’m pretty sure Boss doesn’t speak like that,” Brenda said. She wore the same thing as Andy, for solidarity.

“You’re right, it was more like: boo boo Bossie wants to hear bombs today, if not Bossie’ll cry!” Andy said.

“So this is why you’ve been in such a bad mood. You won’t even listen to me about this building’s curse-”

Andy glared at Brenda. “This building is the intersection of two intersections. First, this building is built on top ley lines, making the magical energy particularly complex and dense. Second, rust is, in your own words, the intersection of nature: air, with artifice: iron. Rust is thus a perfect, “ Andy did the air quote sign, “receptacle for the energy. All the buildings on this area of town will rapidly rust if this building stands. I listened, Brenda. I even knew you named this building the Rust Monster, but you scratched it off your notes because you knew I think it’s a stupid name.”

“Alright, alright. I got it. I suck, the Boss suck, Andy’s the smartest, handsomest, most responsible adult in Drabville. As long as this building’s gone, it doesn’t matter whether this building is cursed or not.”

Andy sighed. “I’m sorry, Brenda. I shouldn’t be like this. You helped a lot already.” He pointed to the computer’s monitor. It showed an image of the interior of the building, with red dots covering numerous spots.“Nobody in this world sets up bombs faster than you. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” She pulled out a small metal box, with a big red button on top of it and presented it to Andy as if it was a gift on her palms. “You do it.”

Andy slammed his right fist on the button. Brenda didn’t flinch.

There was no surprise in the sound, no frenzy in the fury. Air blew out around the place, and even his dull nose can smell rust. Smoke surrounded the area, like a curtain closing down on the structure’s story.

After the smoke cleared, the building stood, unharmed.

Andy was dismayed, Brenda was shocked. He slapped the button box out of Brenda’s hands. This woke Brenda out of her stupor, and she realised a small corner of the box had rusted. “It knew. The Rust Monster knew we’re here,” Brenda said.

“It’s just some rusty scaffold. How can it know anything?”

Brenda looked at Andy and held hs right hand. “Andy, the Rust Monster is too strong.”

“It’s not supposed to be stronger than your bombs, Brenda.”

“Well, it has beaten me. Will it beat Andy?”

“I...I don’t know.” He started gripping her hand back. “Maybe I should just quit. Tell the Boss he’s a loser or something, let him slap me. I’ll just say, boo boo Bossie wants to hear bombs today.”

“Or Big Man Andy could finish the job.”

“People would see.” He let go of her hands.

Brenda smiled and with a flick of her hand, opened the back of the truck. Inside it was a cylinder, wide and tall enough to fit an adult, topped with a dome. The cylinder body was blue, the dome white. Andy stared. “It looks just like you,” Brenda said. “Well, from far away.”

“You really think I should do it?”

“Show me, Andy. show me the strongest, handsomest, most responsible Andy.”

Andy smiled weakly. He closed his eyes, and started focusing on his empty stomach. On that lurking devil in his gut, the black hole in his center. “Big Eat Mode,” he whispered to himself.

Andy’s body shifted. His limbs shrunk to nothing, but in exchange his trunk expanded, becoming a perfect cylinder. All the imperfections of the human body melted away into pure blue cylinder, from toe all the way to his lower lips. Everything above the upper lip expanded and turned into a white dome. His mouth transformed into the simplest form: a black line separating the cylinder and the dome.

Andy had entered his Big Eat Mode. Blue magic flames burst forth from the bottom of the cylinder. He flew like a rocket towards Rust Monster. Rust started appearing on the blue cylinder, but Andy simply opened his mouth slightly and sucked it all in.

Rust tasted like overburned sponge, Andy thought.

He slammed into the Rust Monster and started eating it. Nothing could stand against Big Eat Mode. Andy opened his mouth on a piece of metal and a bite’s worth of metal simply disappeared. There were no sounds of chewing. Big Eat Mode, the apotheosis of a gourmand, transcended mastication.

Metal tasted like blood-soaked electricity. Concrete tasted like fried golf balls. The dense, complex magical web that belied the Rust Monster tasted like a wallet bursting with family pictures. There were thousands of tons in the building, but eh, Big Eat Mode was unburdened by things like that.

Four hours later, Brenda walked into the spot where Rust Monster was. Andy was laying on the ground, back in human form (“Small Eat Mode”). He was rubbing his stomach and occasionally burped, letting out blue wisps.

“A job well done, Wizard Andy. Dinner’s on me.”

Andy laughed. “Eh, what the hell. Could do with some dessert.”

Arsenic Lupin
Apr 11, 2012

This particularly rapid unintelligible patter isn't generally heard, and if it is, it doesn't matter.





[no title], 1559 words, Rust.

Join the Mechanical Man Corps, they said! See (possibly) and terrorize (definitely) the world! Every young heart would thrill with pride to don the Knightly Armor of Today, stomp through opposing armies, and fight hand-to-hand twenty feet above the ground!

Of course Ruperta had joined. Sign here, they said, take this quarter-eagle, they said, now you're one of us!

One of us, she was. However, she had neglected to inquire about the precise duties of the Corps. A few, a rarefied few, donned the Knightly Armor of Today. You could tell them by their swagger, by the way they drank, and by the swath they cut through the local youth.

Everybody else? Ran the greasers, the riveters, the sanders. It took a lot more people to keep a Mechanical Man running than it did to pilot one. There were hundreds of engineers, but only four Mechanical Men, which needed, in total, four pilots plus a reserve. The Army kept trying to get moneys for more, but the Dirigible Force and the Kraken Fleet (one kraken didn't make a fleet in Ruperta's opinion, but you didn't say that around sailors) had better friends in the Government.

Ruperta's grandfather had been to sea, and he had told enough tales of foul food and worse weather Ruperta had no plans to follow. And the Dirigible Corps? Well, they required you to be of gentle birth and breeding, which Ruperta wasn't. The Mechanical Man Corps it was, then, or else no great machines at all.
That Saturday afternoon Ruperta found herself sitting in a shed full of her fellow mechanics, wrenching at a finger motivator. Some damned fool had overtightened one of the bolts on the cover. That hadn't mattered when the motivator only needed lubrication, but now it needed a full bearing replacement, which meant that the case had to come off entirely.

The wrench slipped, and the damned bolt stripped. Ruperta spat "Rust!" before she could stop herself The three people closest to her hissed, and everybody else glared.
The worst enemy of a Mechanical Man was not cannon fire, not another Knight of Today, not even its idiot pilot, but rust. Everyone cursed rust. But you weren't supposed to do it in the mending shed; that called the corrosion devils where they'd do the most damage.

Ruperta stood up, spun around five times anticlockwise. chanted "HereIcallStCatherinesweetkeepthedevilsfromourfeet", and spat over her shoulder, narrowly missing Karl at the other bench, who'd never liked her anyway. The glarers returned to their own work and she sat back down, looking resentfully at the stripped bolt. The pilot wouldn't be happy if his precious Gawain stood idle another day for lack of a finger. For the lack of a bolt the finger was lost, for the lack of the finger, the temper was lost, for the lack of a temper her promotion was lost.

Well. She stood up, walked to the foreman, and said "I've stripped" -- never blame someone else or your tools, it's not the Corps way -- "a bolt. Can you come tell me whether to use a smaller wrench or heat it up?"

The foreman grimaced, then got up and followed her to the finger in its cradle. He looked over the assembly and huffed.

"Saw off the head. Serves you right, too; be more careful next time."

Oh, Lord. A one-hour task had just stretched into half a day, at least. First she had to saw off the bolt head and remove the plate, then remove the entire works so they wouldn't get contaminated with filings, then drill the bolt out, then put everything back in place, and then reassemble the whole thing. She'd be coming back to the shed after supper and working late into the night. And be scolded for wasting gas to light the place, too.
###
The wall-clock, brazed by bored engineers with wires and broken sprockets and shavings until it resembled a metallic coral reef, struck two. Ruperta groaned, stood up, stretched her back, and curled backwards. Her neck cracked fit to wake the dead.

There was a skitter behind her. Probably a rat. The foreman wouldn't tolerate a cat; Ruperta didn't know why, but she was too smart to argue.

The skitter repeated. Two rats? Ruperta looked around.

There was a small child -- a very small child -- at the back of the shed.

"Does your mama know where you are?"

The reply came in a deep contralto. "Not these two hundred years, dead as she is."

Ruperta took a step back. This was no child.

"I apologize for being rude. How do you do?"

"Neither better nor worse. And you?"

Ruperta swallowed down a gulp. *Be very, very polite.* She bowed. "I am very well, thank you. " *Never give your true name.* "I call myself Alinda." "Are .... are you enjoying the night air?" Pathetic, Ruperta.

The small figure snorted and shook its head. "That's neither here nor there."

It stood in the shadows, waiting for Ruperta to say something. Or do something. But what?

"Um. Might one ask what brings you here?"

"My own two feet, of course. Do you see a horse here?"

This could go on all night, and Ruperta was tired. "I have work to do. Did you come to talk with me? If not, I will not trouble you further." *Miss Smythe in Sunday school would be so proud. And surprised.*

The shadowed figure tossed its head and came forward into the light. It was less than three feet, wearing blue woman's dress -- *make no assumptions* -- and a scarlet hood shadowed its face, leaving only the mouth and chin visible. "I came to tell you to keep your saints' names off your lips. You stand on our land, and we need no blessings nor curses from you."

Oh. "It's a good-luck charm ... it's not really a prayer."

"That's no matter to me or mine. We're no devils nor angels neither, and we'll have none of your blessings nor curses. Keep your lips to your own affairs, and stay out of ours." The figure turned to go.

"Wait --" So stupid, but Ruperta couldn't bear to lose the chance of talking with one of the Folk. "Is there .... is there something I could do?"

The person turned back, a smirk twisting its lip. "You fool. Make no offers without limits. I could make you serve me a thousand years for that. Lucky I don't want you."

Ruperta stood straight. "Is there anything, needing no more than twelve hours of my time, nor any injury to me or others, nor any promises beyond those hours, you would ask of me, for cursing on your land?"

"Well. Bold and wise. Bolder than some, less foolish than many." It stood still a moment. "Make me a mouse."

"What?"

"A mouse. Make it of brass -- not iron nor steel nor silver -- and make it move. Bring it to me here a week from this day, at midnight, Alina."

"My word on it."

The person turned and left.

Ruperta danced two steps of glee before she settled. She was in so much trouble. So much. But it was *interesting* trouble. Something new, in all the dull and settled days. She needed to finish the actuator first. Ruperta sat down and returned to her task.

In the next days, Ruperta sketched out mice on scraps of paper in stolen moments; her mates teased her about writing love letters, and asked who to. "None of you, that's for sure." They shrugged and went back to talking about sports.

She made excuses to stay late, risking being thought a sloppy workman. She could use the same scraps and fragments other workmen had spent on the wall clock, but how? A wind-up mouse that ran on wheels was trivial, of course. But trivial wasn't the same as fun, and fun had been in short supply since she joined the Corps. What if ...

It took two full days of sketches -- two out of a week! -- before she found what she wanted. A mouse running along the floor was easy and dull. This mouse -- this mouse would be interesting.

An hour before midnight on the Saturday she drove the last screw home and began to polish the mouse. It was made of brass, as promised, with copper ears and whiskers, and a jointed copper tail. Just right.

There was a noise behind her. Ruperta rose, turned and bowed.

There stood the same person in scarlet-and-blue. "Do you have my mouse?"

"I do. " Ruperta gestured at the table. "Shall I show you what it does?"

It nodded, then came forward. Ruperta could see its face more clearly now. Not a child, nor old. Neither unearthly beautiful nor unspeakably ugly. A shiver went up her spine nonetheless. Ruperta walked around the table, so that the mouse was between her and the person.

"It's wound up. All you need to do is push this button, right between the forelegs."

"You do it."

Ruperta did. The mouse sat up on its hindquarters, twitched its whiskers, looked around, and dropped back to all fours. Not Vaucanson, but quite respectable for a week's work. She looked to see what the Folk thought.

"Well enough done. Give me it, and we are balanced."

Ruperta did; the figure turned and left.

She was careful never again to need to say St. Catherine's Charm.

Arsenic Lupin fucked around with this message at 03:59 on Mar 6, 2021

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Corrosion
1091 words

There’s no way to justify Cynthia’s optimism, no reason for her to hold onto hope. It clings to her like a weed, growing in absence of sustenance, flourishing under the harshest conditions. Every day, I tell her there is nothing to look forward to. I remind her that the light of the world has been extinguished and that the world cannot get better. And yet, she clings to the idea.

Despite the wars and the chaos, despite us living in the ruins of a decaying world, she refuses to break. It is a quality I love and I hate in her. It breaks my heart and makes it soar.

“Roger, darling, you’re talking to yourself again.”

My head shoots up, almost slamming against the top of the tractor I’m dismantling. With care, I remove it, plucking a few corroded screws and washers from the wreckage as I go. My senses feel clogged by rust.

“Oh am I? Sorry, darling.” I say with forced pleasantness. I scratch my head, shaking loose dust from my few wisps of hair. In the weeks since the collapse, it’s been harder and harder to stay clean. “Any luck findin’ replacement parts for the generator?”

“Nah. Nothin’ we don’t already have.” She calls back. I catch a bob of grey hair peeking out from behind a grain cart. There’s an awkward hobbling of movement as Cynthia stretches her old bones. “How’s about you, Johnny?”

With that question, any tenderness I feel vanishes. There’s a long pause followed by the sound of metal scraping against metal. I watch as a lanky boy-child unfolds himself from underneath the grain cart. He lumbers over to Cynthia and, wordlessly, deposits a handful of rust-speckled parts. A sickening warmth spreads into my face as she looks down at the pieces, counting them with a gnarled finger. The heat becomes more intense as she crinkles her face into a smile and tousles his hair.

“Ah, very good, Johnny. Very good.”

The boy says nothing and curls back below the truck. I lock my jaw and get back to work, ignoring the pounding of blood in my head.

***

The boy called Johnny is not our boy. His name probably isn’t even Johnny.

A few days after the war, Cynthia caught him walking down the hill to our farmstead. She had watched as he stumbled, wide-eyed and blackened by soot, into our little garden. A survivor of the collapse no doubt. A refugee from one of the many annihilated cities, likely irradiated and germ-infested. A danger to us both.

And yet, that had not stopped her from welcoming him into our home, from dressing his wounds, and letting him into our son’s room. Our private space. Our sacred space. The only space in the world preserved from the ruins of the world.

By the time I learned of the boy’s arrival, he was already sitting on our son’s bed, wearing our son’s clothes. I tried not to get angry about the extra resources or the extra mouth to feed. Instead, I tried to ignore it, this intruder, this festering sore, this false substitute for our child.

I will not let this leech come between Cynthia and I, even though I know the effort will be useless in the end. So much is already failing. Our relationship might as well too.

***

The three of us walk through the field back toward our farmhouse. The silence between us is both unsettling and consoling. The only sound for miles is the whipping of the wind through reeds of sickly looking wheat. The sky looks cracked and stained, an egg yolk smeared with soot.

“You know, Roger, thanks to Johnny, we might be able to fix up some of our equipment.” Cynthia says in a bright tone amid hobbles. “He’s been a huge help these last few days, wouldn’t you agree?”

I grunt but do not meet her gaze. Beside her trudges the solitary form of the child, rising from the wheat like a scarecrow. He catches my eye for a moment and glances away.

“Johnny here could help us a lot. He’s already been cleaning and scavenge for old parts. With him helping hold down the farm, we could go exploring further to find new materials. Maybe even go into the cities…”

Again, I say nothing. The farmhouse sits in a state of mild disrepair. Shingles array unevenly on the roof. Paint flakes off the walls. The building sways as the wind rattles it. Seeing it sit there fills me with a strange bitterness. I feel my restraints snapping, the bile I’ve been holding back spill out.

“Ain’t nothing in the cities, Cynthia. Ain’t nothing in the countryside. There ain’t nothing anywhere. This kid can’t solve our goddamn problems because he’s in exactly the same fuckin’ boat as we are,” I spit. “The whole loving world is gone and what we’re doing now, scrabbling around for rusty parts, is just putting off the inevitable.”

I stop walking.

“Like, gently caress. Jesus fuckin—. Jesus goddamn Christ.” I press my hands into my face and feel something hot. My body quakes. “I don’t know how—. I don’t know how you can keep on pretending that everything is fine when it’s not. I don’t know how you can treat this kid like he’s something that’s gonna outlive us, like he’s our real…”

Cynthia’s body presses into mine as my body lets loose an awful shudder.

“It’s so stupid. So goddamn stupid.”

The skin on her hand is so thin it feels like paper. I feel it caress the rust-smeared fabric of my shirt before she pulls my face to meet her’s.

“I don’t have any kind of answer that will make everything okay,” she says, looking at me intently. “I can’t pretend the world isn’t a hard place or that I know it will get better.”

We stare into one another’s eyes.

“But we have to keep moving. We have to do all we can to help the people around us. Even when it seems hopeless, we can’t lose sight of what makes us human.”

She thumbs away a tear from my face. I look at her and then the boy.

“Alright,” I say softly. “Alright. Let’s do what we can.”

We walk back to the farmhouse together. I help Cynthia back into the bedroom and then go out with the boy to try and repair the generator. The work is hard. We struggle to replace one set of rusted parts with another. In the end, though, the machine whirrs to life.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


QuoProQuid posted:

Corrosion
1091 words

There’s no way to justify Cynthia’s optimism, no reason for her to hold onto hope. It clings to her like a weed, growing in absence of sustenance, flourishing under the harshest conditions. Every day, I tell her there is nothing to look forward to. I remind her that the light of the world has been extinguished and that the world cannot get better. And yet, she clings to the idea.

Despite the wars and the chaos, despite us living in the ruins of a decaying world, she refuses to break. It is a quality I love and I hate in her. It breaks my heart and makes it soar.

“Roger, darling, you’re talking to yourself again.”

My head shoots up, almost slamming against the top of the tractor I’m dismantling. With care, I remove it, plucking a few corroded screws and washers from the wreckage as I go. My senses feel clogged by rust.

“Oh am I? Sorry, darling.” I say with forced pleasantness. I scratch my head, shaking loose dust from my few wisps of hair. In the weeks since the collapse, it’s been harder and harder to stay clean. “Any luck findin’ replacement parts for the generator?”

“Nah. Nothin’ we don’t already have.” She calls back. I catch a bob of grey hair peeking out from behind a grain cart. There’s an awkward hobbling of movement as Cynthia stretches her old bones. “How’s about you, Johnny?”

With that question, any tenderness I feel vanishes. There’s a long pause followed by the sound of metal scraping against metal. I watch as a lanky boy-child unfolds himself from underneath the grain cart. He lumbers over to Cynthia and, wordlessly, deposits a handful of rust-speckled parts. A sickening warmth spreads into my face as she looks down at the pieces, counting them with a gnarled finger. The heat becomes more intense as she crinkles her face into a smile and tousles his hair.

“Ah, very good, Johnny. Very good.”

The boy says nothing and curls back below the truck. I lock my jaw and get back to work, ignoring the pounding of blood in my head.

***

The boy called Johnny is not our boy. His name probably isn’t even Johnny.

A few days after the war, Cynthia caught him walking down the hill to our farmstead. She had watched as he stumbled, wide-eyed and blackened by soot, into our little garden. A survivor of the collapse no doubt. A refugee from one of the many annihilated cities, likely irradiated and germ-infested. A danger to us both.

And yet, that had not stopped her from welcoming him into our home, from dressing his wounds, and letting him into our son’s room. Our private space. Our sacred space. The only space in the world preserved from the ruins of the world.

By the time I learned of the boy’s arrival, he was already sitting on our son’s bed, wearing our son’s clothes. I tried not to get angry about the extra resources or the extra mouth to feed. Instead, I tried to ignore it, this intruder, this festering sore, this false substitute for our child.

I will not let this leech come between Cynthia and I, even though I know the effort will be useless in the end. So much is already failing. Our relationship might as well too.

***

The three of us walk through the field back toward our farmhouse. The silence between us is both unsettling and consoling. The only sound for miles is the whipping of the wind through reeds of sickly looking wheat. The sky looks cracked and stained, an egg yolk smeared with soot.

“You know, Roger, thanks to Johnny, we might be able to fix up some of our equipment.” Cynthia says in a bright tone amid hobbles. “He’s been a huge help these last few days, wouldn’t you agree?”

I grunt but do not meet her gaze. Beside her trudges the solitary form of the child, rising from the wheat like a scarecrow. He catches my eye for a moment and glances away.

“Johnny here could help us a lot. He’s already been cleaning and scavenge for old parts. With him helping hold down the farm, we could go exploring further to find new materials. Maybe even go into the cities…”

Again, I say nothing. The farmhouse sits in a state of mild disrepair. Shingles array unevenly on the roof. Paint flakes off the walls. The building sways as the wind rattles it. Seeing it sit there fills me with a strange bitterness. I feel my restraints snapping, the bile I’ve been holding back spill out.

“Ain’t nothing in the cities, Cynthia. Ain’t nothing in the countryside. There ain’t nothing anywhere. This kid can’t solve our goddamn problems because he’s in exactly the same fuckin’ boat as we are,” I spit. “The whole loving world is gone and what we’re doing now, scrabbling around for rusty parts, is just putting off the inevitable.”

I stop walking.

“Like, gently caress. Jesus fuckin—. Jesus goddamn Christ.” I press my hands into my face and feel something hot. My body quakes. “I don’t know how—. I don’t know how you can keep on pretending that everything is fine when it’s not. I don’t know how you can treat this kid like he’s something that’s gonna outlive us, like he’s our real…”

Cynthia’s body presses into mine as my body lets loose an awful shudder.

“It’s so stupid. So goddamn stupid.”

The skin on her hand is so thin it feels like paper. I feel it caress the rust-smeared fabric of my shirt before she pulls my face to meet her’s.

“I don’t have any kind of answer that will make everything okay,” she says, looking at me intently. “I can’t pretend the world isn’t a hard place or that I know it will get better.”

We stare into one another’s eyes.

“But we have to keep moving. We have to do all we can to help the people around us. Even when it seems hopeless, we can’t lose sight of what makes us human.”

She thumbs away a tear from my face. I look at her and then the boy.

“Alright,” I say softly. “Alright. Let’s do what we can.”

We walk back to the farmhouse together. I help Cynthia back into the bedroom and then go out with the boy to try and repair the generator. The work is hard. We struggle to replace one set of rusted parts with another. In the end, though, the machine whirrs to life.

This is for the prompt "Rust" btw

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Affixed
Word count: 1122

As promised, the bloody spires of the once great city gave off a glow that pierced even the thick dust. The rumors had also said the wizard lay at the heart of it. Instead, he sat at the edge of the city, staring over the plains I had just walked, scoured yellow by the winds of desolation.

“Saw you coming from a way’s off.”

His robes were rags. His staff, an iron girder, laid across his lap. His beard, as dark and dusty as my own. More than that, I couldn’t see through the haze. If he saw me, it was with eyes that looked beyond the reality I knew.

“You didn’t stop me.”

“Sometimes I like a bit of company before the end.”

“I’m here for a blessing.”

“No one ever comes for conversation. Shame. I used to be pretty good at it.”

I thought about running, into the city, away from it. It wasn’t too late to change my mind. I didn’t have to pay his terrible price, whatever it was. But I wanted what I wanted and if you wanted more than the endless days of wandering and withering in the winds, of every day exactly as the last, you went to see the wizard.

“You could just talk after.”

“No one feels much like talking then. Though the way their jaws loll open, you’d think they were laughing at one of my jokes. Haven’t told one though. Not for some time.” The wizard gestured behind him. “You all come here wanting something. Never seeing what wants will get you.”

“They say you give people what they want.”

“Who says? I don’t know how word gets out when the people haven’t.” He chuckled. “Maybe there’s still some power left in these old words after all.”

How could he laugh? If his powers were real then he could end the sand, end the wind. He could do whatever he wanted. He could end us all.

“I’m not here for your riddles. Fix it. Fix it all.”

“What do you know about fixing? Everyone out there is unfixed; wandering. I’m the only one who stayed, who remembers.”

“We don’t have a choice.”

“Were you there when the city came crashing down? When the rains dried up after turning the city red and the winds blew in and snatched everything and everyone from me?”

“You did that to yourself!”

He stood. His body stumbling as if he carried a boulder on his shoulders. But I was the one weighted. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to move. I was already dead.

“And I did it for all of them. Look at them now. They know exactly what life is, what to expect, and they are never disappointed. It’s what they wanted. Now, what do you want? Tell me so I can end this for both of us.”

He pushed his face right up to mine, though I stood several inches over him. I could see his eyes now, tan, almost lost in the haze even this close up.

I wanted to tell him. I wanted it over as much as him. But I didn’t want to let go of my hope. It had brought me this far. Where else might it take me? But there was nowhere else I wanted to go.

“I want to stay.”

“You want to stay? Now who’s talking in riddles. State your wish so that I can give you what you deserve.”

“I don’t want to wander anymore. I want to live in a city and not always be beckoned by the wind. I want to put down roots and be a new kind of tree. I want to build up, not move out. I’m tired.”

“You’re tired? You’re tired? You all come here with your hope. And you don’t see. You can’t see. I’ll show you how to see.”

He raised the iron girder and pushed it into my chest. He spoke a single word and I sank to my knees.

“That’ll keep you in one place.”

He straightened up and moved as if his age had fallen away. His shoulders didn’t stoop and he barely fought the wind at all as he walked away from me and the city. He didn’t bother to look back or talk to me as he had longed for someone to do.

I crawled to the wall where the wizard once sat and again a wizard sat. The burden on my back told me everything I needed to know to lift the city, to clear the wind, to bring back the rains.

It also showed me the sorrow of the world before the rust and dust: the hate and dread and woe. In the winds, everyone could flee. They could run away from these burdens. All except one man. Here I sat, able to grant any and every wish, but cursed with the knowledge of every outcome. Every pain it would cause and those it already had.

With tears in my eyes, I placed my palm against the ground to hear its cries of woe. The concrete at my back told me of sapped strength and failing supports.

But this could not be right? The earth had been happy once, hadn’t it? This building stood tall and beautiful. I wished the wizard would return. He had known a life before all of this.

I staggered into the red city and the wind died, blocked by the remaining strength of the perimeter walls. The dust still moved through the streets, but in eddies, not waves. I grabbed a handful and rubbed it against the iron bones of a building. The rust softened.

I scoured the sand against the building, feeling like I was trying to erase time itself. I don’t know how long, but the red lightened to grey and my burden was… not lighter. No, there was still just as much despair as before, but it was balanced against something else. A remembrance of hope? I saw possibilities all tinged with sadness and joy. And together they made something better.

Knowing pain every day, expecting no more than suffering may have helped us live in this inhospitable land, but the hope that brings men and women to the city, for a better life, for a kiss from their sweetheart, for a chance to see the stars, is what builds towers and plants trees. A hope that tomorrow will not be the same.

But I got what I wanted. I need others. I need more people to want. And when they do, when that next person with the faintest glimmer of a tomorrow walks up to me, I will give them what they want. And we will fix it all together.

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.


Sucks To Be You
803 words

Carrie used to boast that she could sleep anywhere. She loved sleeping. Hell, it once ranked in the top five of her favorite hobbies. So long as she could be horizontal on a somewhat flat surface, sleep would find her. The good kind of sleep, too; the deep, dreamless sort that rejuvenated the mind and body.

But these days, Carrie spent most of her waking hours scheming how to stay awake. She sat at the table nestled in her tiny kitchen nook, nursing a cup of coffee. She lost count after cup number five. Her heart beat furiously while a profound weariness saturated the sense of self she supposed one could call a ‘soul.’ Bloodshot eyes stared out the rain-splattered window, seeking something, anything that might spark excitement.

Until the sound of a hundred different voices rumbled in unison a single word of greeting.

“Hey.”

The word rolled over her like thunder. Carrie screwed her eyes shut so tight, she thought she saw flashes of light in the darkness of her eyelids. She wasn’t ready for this.

“Leave me alone,” she croaked.

“You sound awful. You should get some sleep,” the chorus crooned.

“I’m not falling for that again,” Carrie bit back. Anxious energy swelled in her chest like a balloon. Ever so slowly, she opened her eyes and turned her toward her living room.

A column of black smoke hovered three feet above the coffee table. Dozens and dozens of yellowish cat eyes blinked at her asynchronously, with no discernable matching pair among them.

“What are you talking about?” The voice of many replied. The upper half of the column undulated in a way Carrie’s eyes couldn’t quite follow, but perceived as something akin to a shrug.

It floated toward her, tendrils of inky black darting out to prod at the trail of clothing she’d left scattered on the carpet. One lashed out backward toward the coffee table and ensnared a remote control. The television burst to life in an explosion of white noise. Carrie visibly flinched.

“Can you turn that off?” Carrie called out over the static.

The creature did not, in fact, turn off the television. But it did lower the volume. And then it changed the channel. Public access. Guided meditation. The sound of soothing spa music filled her apartment.

The tendril dropped the remote on the floor as the column shuddered and writhed; it grew thinner and taller until it reached her ceiling. “Sounds like someone needs to go to bed.”

“Sounds like someone needs to shut the gently caress up,” she bit back with a snarl in her voice.

A sound like air leaking through tires hissed through the room.

“I’m just trying to help,” some of the voices whispered. Others shouted. Whatever they did, they did it together. “How about some Bob Ross?”

Her extremities vibrated with fatigue; the check engine light was on, warning her that her body would not endure this for much longer. Every second spent in the presence of this darkness felt like another year’d been shaved off her life. Her mind did its best to cope; it assured her that sleep would free her from the torments of the day. This had always been true.

Until now.

A sob welled up in her throat. She nearly choked on her reply. “Please, please leave me alone.”

“Yeah, so, I can’t do that.” The column shuddered again and hovered closer. Carrie smelled smoke now, like a fire in the distance. Deceptively distant danger that belied the dubious purpose of the dark mass hovering before her. “Is it really so bad?”

She nodded, lips drawn in a tight line.

“Maybe you just need a change of perspective.”

Something inside her snapped, like a frayed cord under pressure. She slammed her fist down on her kitchen table and leapt to her feet. She rounded on the creature and glowered up at it, enduring the weight of dozens of orphaned eyes staring down at her unblinking.

“I never agreed to this. This was never part of the deal. I want out!,” she shouted up into the smoke.

A moment passed before a sound rumbled through her, low and deep.

It laughed at her.

“It doesn’t work that way,” the voices teased as a single tendril reached out, wriggling over her shoulder. Carrie turned to find herself face down on the table, fast asleep; a pool of coffee gathered beside her overturned mug.

The laughter grew louder. She looked down to find her feet no longer touched the ground. Bright green eyes sprouted out of the checkered linoleum and blinked up at her. Viscous drops of ceiling tile dripped on her like candle wax. She screamed as they burned straight through her.

“Stop!” Carrie cried out.

“No way,” replied the many voices. “We’re almost at my favorite part.”

I brought my Drake
Jul 10, 2014

These high-G injections have some serious side effects after pulling so many jumps.



Better Late than Never - 400 words

I have exactly one flying dream and it's a sequel to a falling dream. In my falling dream I cling tightly to a cliffside, the sunshine merciless in a cloudless sky, my feet slipping on the rocky face. I don't fall. In the flying dream, I find that I no longer need to hold tight to the cliff face, and I levitate. THe sun either becomes large enough to fit my entire field of view or I'm suspended in sunlight, neither flying nor falling.

I'm a recovering suicide addict. Depression means fantisizing about offing yourself and deep depression means play-acting it out. There comes a point when you fall down far enough that the game is over. Something inside you clicks and you no longer care enough about yourself to stop. I'm also terrified of heights. No airplanes, no tall buildings, not even a stepladder. Midair suspension is a loss of control that makes me sick to my stomach.

It doesn't surprise me that my lucid flying dream involves floating. I guess my dreams are telling me that I don't need to be tethered to anything but I don't need to be propelled around either. I've heard of water therapy as a relaxation technique but it's not the same. Not a huge fan of swimming, being covered in water, unable to breathe. What is it about me that gets the best fantasy from ignoring gravity entirely?

If Harris Burdick wrote this story, it'd be coupled with an amusing line drawing.

I suppose I'll wake up eventually from this other dream I keep having. I'm talking to an unseen stranger and describing my dreams. It only happens on the really good meds and fortunately I'm taking them again. I can remember it so well when it's happening, and can retell it convincingly. But then I wake up, and I just remember the explaining dream, or flying or falling or whatever theme dream occupies my unconsciousness lately.

Fake suicide enough times and you can't tell whether you really exist.

I keep hoping one day that I will find myself a few inches off the ground and no idea how it happened, just that the experience is real. My brain craves stimulation and giving a gigantic "gently caress you" to gravity would be a good hit of dopamine. But not too high. Low enough that I can dip a toe and strike the earth.

Xelkelvos
Dec 19, 2012


The Rust Miner
1025 words

“Come on! Come on!” Deep in the latest shaft, Vellus dug with desperation. The density sensor said there was a pocket of something hard in the refuse and he was determined to get to it. He was on his last bits of cash, fuel and food. This was his final dig. If he couldn’t make a big find, he’d have have a lifetime of debts to pay from his previous failed digs. This was it. This was his last chance.
A few shovelfuls later and he hits a long awaited “Clink.” Clearing away the detritus he unearthed a chunk of metal. It gave him pause. The color wasn’t right, but it might’ve been paint or dirt or an alloy. He needed to find rust. That was the ideal: Refinable iron oxide for use in making the iron for the magnetic warp gates needed for interstellar travel. Other metals and methods were poor substitutes. They had their own uses, but the demand for the gates was immense. The red iron oxide was an indicator of relative purity and meant less work extracting impurities.
Vellus pulled another tool from his pocket and placed it on the piece of metal. It beeped and buzzed as it analyzed the material. "gently caress." Titanium. Aluminium. Tungsten. They all had their uses, but they were comparatively worth no more than the trash surrounding him.
Mining on Earth was a gamble. The humans had leased portions of the planet for the rest of the universe for resource extraction. The old mines had already been stripped bare so what was left that wasn’t protected was the remains of the humans’ previous civilizations. Outside of the ruins of cities and manufactories which were snapped up by the connected and the already wealthy, the best place to try and find the precious metal was in ancient piles of garbage like the one Vellus was in now.
With this failure, he’d have to try and scan again to find something hard, hopefully metal and hopefully the type he needed. He could try and ration what food he had left besides what he needed for his return to town, but maybe not more than a few days.
He sighed. "Let's do this again." Back at the surface, he activated the scanner and he waited for the next ping that indicated new possibility. Vellus prayed for luck using the old human symbol of crossed fingers on all four of his hands. With a beep, was a new result. A several dozen meters from his previous find was another hazy chunk. It was the best he’d get with an eighth hand scanner that was ten versions old.
It had been like this for weeks. Unfortunately, it continued for days of sweat and toil more. Vellus’s food was all gone. Even the stuff saved in case he failed and needed to return with his tails between his legs. He kept digging through the hunger, the only thing filling his stomach was the churning mix of hope, despair, and desperation.
Three nights after he ran out of his last piece of food, something boiled in him. It had lingered in his gut since the first time a claim he tried panned out to nothing, and it just grew more and more after each failure, waiting. The only thing that suppressed it was the mix of hope and other feelings that kept him driven towards the next dig. But this was it. This was the point of no return past all other points. He’d collapse at the wheel of his ship before he’d get back to town. He didn’t see any other option. Those other feelings had evaporated and the last thing waiting was anger and resentment.
He activated the laser drill on his ship and readied it. This was it. There was barely enough power for one more borehole. This last bit of power might also drain his ship, stranding him. It didn’t matter. The scanner had been running as he fumed and as soon as it beeped with a result. “Shut up!” he reflexively reacted by throwing his shovel at it. This probably the first time it suffered a blow like that, but it might have been the last. The display flickered and the machine beeped erratically. Vellus swore as he realized what he had done, but could barely care about the damage, let alone what the blow might’ve done to affect the readings. He didn’t care. With the new location, the pointed the drill at the spot and fired.
The laser dug and dug as deep as the last gasps of power would allow. It was deep. Very deep. It might’ve been an error. It might’ve been a glitch. What difference would it make? The drill shut off, the last iota of power drained. The senor showed that whatever density anomaly was at the bottom of that shaft, the drill didn’t reach. “WHAT. drat IT TO ALL OF THE HELLS!” He needed to see what was at the bottom. He was so close. So he leapt.
It was deep. Very deep. But the safety equipment he had made sure he would slow before the fall was dangerous. At the bottom was what looked to be a shell. Corroded, hard. He couldn’t determine the material. “Is this it? I’m so close! This can’t be it!” He screamed and wailed. Rage now mixed with despair. He stomped and punched the shell, each one punctuated with a cry. “This! Can’t! Be! It!”
And with that last blow, he could hear something. The shell had cracked. That blow was it. That was all the shell could take and it collapsed. Vellus fell. He didn’t know into what, but what he landed in was wet. He was neck deep in something. The water was murky and the space he was in was dark. He fumbled with the light on his helmet and when he saw the interior of the roof, he laughed. Every other feeling had gone away and left him with the largest smile he could remember.
A tool in his pocked blinked and beeped as it read the fluid. Hydrogen. Oxygen. Sulfur. Iron.

Artelier
Jan 23, 2015




Mr. Steak posted:

write a story in 30 minutes

gently caress it, okay. Not an official participant but whatevs, cranked this out in 15

____ With Style - 269 words

Hang on, I said. Hang on.

We held each other tight, an embrace of love and life. We were sticky and slick with sweat and doubt. Our hands were interlocked, never wanting to let go.

I didn’t want to see. I felt. Our bodies lose their weight, the rush of gravity leaves the both of us. The bustle of the city, the rush of the wind, they all disappeared. I could feel my breath. I could hear ours.

In this very moment, when we stepped off together, we were finally, completely, on our own. We left our families behind. We left our enemies behind. It was just us with nothing to tether us.

What life could we have had, sneaking around like we did? Our families were incompatible. Neither one of us were going to convert. And both families demanded conversion. Hell, our government demanded it; one more statistic to bump up. That was no life, confined to living rooms and guest rooms of “loved ones” with none to spare. No privacy. No intimacy.

This was the only way.

When we got into the air, I closed my eyes. I wanted to breathe in this moment. This was a choice we could finally make for ourselves. So many others have made the same choice we did, to float and leave. It wasn’t an easy decision, but in this moment, as I felt our bodies go weightless, it was the right one.

And then the wind starts hitting my face.

I open my eyes. And the pavement is rushing towards me.

We are not floating.

Hang on, I say. Hang--

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

T.T.D.D.T.D.D

Thug lyfe.


Night

680 words


Like a sheet descending, night came quick and without warning. The forty-fifth occurrence since Earth was devoured. We opened our umbrellas and kept walking home from detention.

“What? I didn’t catch that last part.”

Wendy didn’t repeat herself, even after the snapping died down. “Forget it.”

“You used to used to look at the stars together, right?” Wendy didn’t look up. “He told me about this one time. He said you told him why you love the constellations. Because it’s like a bunch of cool animals in the sky.”

Wendy wasn’t telling me to shut up yet, which was all the encouragement I needed to keep talking. “Well, I know some of them are people, not animals, but whatever.” I looked at Wendy’s face anticipating some small reaction, but she was unreadable. “Anyway, um...”

I wanted to say something comforting about how Dan would live on in the stars, but considered too late that my brand of painful irony was probably not what Wendy needed right now. And just as I was beginning to understand how astronomically bad I was at this whole thing, the sky slithered and we stopped walking.

I turned to Wendy, every movement of my neck feeling like a death sentence. “Hey,” I said. “Hey!” I said more firmly, and waited for her eyes to look at me. “You need to stop thinking that kind of stuff. Okay? You need to stop that right now.”

We hurried home more quickly after that, making sure to stay hidden under our umbrellas. We lived next to each other, so I’d been walking her home ever since my brother passed away. I was worried about how she’d fare through the night, but her parents had been good to her, so I felt a weight leave my shoulders when I saw her off.

Of course, being alone with my thoughts was hardly preferable, but there’s nothing wrong with a little self-pity from the safety of your own home. The ceiling blocks it from them, so it’s fine.

A couple hours later, I heard a thump from outside my window on the side facing Wendy’s house. About time, I thought. I’d been hoping some small ones would touch down in the area. Considering Wendy’s state of mind on our walk home, they were bound to sniff it out eventually.

I took my hand-axe from the nightstand, crossbow from the dresser, and six bolts from the desk drawer, which I shoved into my sweatshirt pocket for easy retrieval. I cannot overstate how enthusiastic I was about hunting demons, nor how cathartic it felt to do so.

I rushed out of my house and nearly barrelled headfirst into one at head height, probably on its way down. It didn’t take more than one swing. These were easy to kill, but the rush was exhilarating. Like their blood was filling a cup inside me, and I had been so parched. They didn’t actually bleed anything, but that’s still how it felt for me.

I made my way toward Wendy’s house, slaying and slaying and slaying as I went. No real goal in my mind, just killing until I got tired of it. These things weren’t a real danger to anyone over the age of six, and bigger fish had more valuable sources of food than this podunk suburb.

I looked up. The night sky, as we’d become accustomed to calling it, was alive with motion. Like a huge sheet suspended in the air, it was impossible to make out the individual shapes which constituted it.

I don’t know if it was just some subconscious connection, but a flash of grief for my brother shot through my mind and my enthusiasm ebbed even faster than it’d come. I kicked a demon to the side which had been gnawing on my leg and walked dispassionately back to my front door.

I looked up again absent-mindedly, and just for a split second I let myself feel. The sky slithered violently and I was grinning as I stepped back inside. I’d kill the bigger ones, someday.

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!


Magical bureaucracy is really no different than regular bureaucracy

No one ever thinks about maintenance when they decide to build a floating city. It’s not terribly surprising; wizards are much more about what they can make than what they can keep going, and of course everyone’s going to be very enthusiastic about living in the future, so by the time things start to go wrong you’ve got half a million people a mile above ground, and there’s never any of the genius artificers who built the place around by that point.

Of course, there always has to be someone to keep the alchemical lights on and the houses afloat, so there’s always work for someone like me, who wasn’t clever or rich enough to get into one of the big magic colleges, but decent enough with magic and good with my hands. And that’s how I wound up here, mucking about in the internal workings of a levitating city in pitch darkness with only a rock with a light charm on it to guide my way.

“Do you see anything?” The tunnel’s mostly flooded, so I have to slog my way through the hip-deep water. I’ve got waders on to protect me from any alchemical current or noxious potion that may have spilled out when the tunnel filled up.

“If I find anything, I’ll tell you I found something!” Sebastian’s voice echoes back to me, a little warbly but inteligible. Sebastian can see in the dark much better than I can, so I usually use him as a scout, although this time he also has the distinct advantage of being small and nimble enough to run along the pipes running along the top of the tunnel, avoiding the water entirely.

I take out my map and unfold it, taking care to not let it trail in the water. The blueprints the builders left are mostly useless, but they've been supplemented through the years with lots of added diagrams and annotations from other maintenance crews before me. Unfortunately for me, this tunnel doesn’t have much information marked. All I know for sure is that this tunnel isn’t supposed to be full of water.

I slosh my way into an intersection, and find Sebastian waiting for me in repose, his black tail lashing the pipe he’s lying on.

“Well?” I say, refolding my map.

Sebastian gives a dramatic sigh, turning one ear out to the side. “The branch ahead is a dead-end, looks like either a cave-in or a very bad bricklaying job. I couldn’t smell a draft coming through, so it’s probably the latter. The left and the right smell the same, and don’t seem to be anything of note for at least a 100 meters in either tunnel, so it’s a coin toss on which way to go.

“Fortunately we have something better than that,” I say, turning towards the lefthand tunnel. “You wouldn’t know form up there, but there’s a current flowing from this direction. Seems likely our water source is coming from this direction. Come on, Seb.”

Sebastian saunters off down the left tunnel ahead of me, but I catch up to him again in a few minutes; the pipes along the top of the tunnel have made an abrupt ascent into the ceiling, leaving him no more elevated platform to avoid the water. I walk past him without slowing down, and he jumps onto my shoulder, although I can hear him grumbling to himself as he settles himself on top of my pack.

“From the echoes it sounds like there’s a chamber up ahead,” he says conversationally, and I pat him absently on the head.

The water is getting higher as well as faster, and we spend the next several minutes in silence as I fight through to the end of the tunnel. As we get closer I can see a faint light outlining the exit, but I can’t make out much of the chamber beyond.

By the time we reach the exit, the water is high and fast, and Sebastian has decided that he would rather stay on my head than my shoulders, which hasn’t made the journey any easier. Fortunately there’s a rickety staircase just to the left of the tunnel mouth, and I haul myself up to the platform above. Sebastian leaps off of my head, shaking imaginary droplets off of his feet, as if he were the one who’d had to swim half the way instead of me.

I take off my pack and set it down, stepping out of my now-pointless waders. Hopefully there wasn’t anything too noxious in the water, although at least I know there’s no electrical current, since I made it out alive. I put the waders down and rummage a charm stone out of my pack; a tap and a word and I’m dry again, thank the gods.

“Talya,” Sebastian says behind me. “I really think you ought to see this.” I turn around to see what he means, sending a magic wave at the worn-down illumination crystals on the walls.

The sight isn’t pretty. An enormous machine sits in the middle of the circular room, a waterwheel turning under a stream of water flowing down from the ceiling in a torrent. The wheel powers the machine, which all connects to a stone orb the size of a house, a network of runes and symbols covering its surface.

I’ve seen that orb before. I pull out my map, tapping my drying charm on the now-damp paper a second time and thanking the gods for waterproof ink. And there it is, the one thing that the morons who built this place actually made a decent illustration of - the enormous alchemical battery responsible for powering the entire island.

“But why is this even here?” I hear Sebastian say from the platform beside me. “I thought the orb was supposed to be powered by some high-level alchemical spell, not a waterwheel.”

“They probably talked themselves into a corner and then couldn’t actually produce the goods,” I said. “Pretty common, actually.” I looked for any notes my predecessors might have left for me on the matter. Finally, I spot it, a single sentence that someone appeared to have spilled coffee on in the last several generations of maintenancers: DON’T LET THE GOLEM RUST

I look again at the waterwheel, staring into the pool around it and trying to figure out what this could possibly mean, when I notice that the boulder poking above the surface next to the waterwheel is actually a giant head.

Great.

I lay out the blueprints on the platform between me and Sebastian, then start taking off my boots. “Alright, I’m going to go see a man about a golem. Spot me, will you?”

“If you’re going out there, you’d better hurry,” says Sebastian, tail lashing again. “If the water reaches that battery, you’re going to get fried.

“If the water reaches that battery this entire ill-advised island is going to fall out of the sky,” I reply.

“Well then you definitely need to hurry,” says Sebastian.

I set my hat next to my boots and dive into the water. There’s a pull towards the mouth of the tunnel we entered through, but it’s not as bad as it was trying to get in. I’m able to make my way to the golem and take a look at what the problem is.

The golem is well-constructed, but rusted into immobility, giant fingers curved around the handle of an enormous pump. Apparently someone decided that it would be easier to get a golem to pump water out of the room than install another fancy (and expensive) artificers engine like they have in the rest of the island. Of course.

I dive under the water and start working away at the rust, tapping each of the golem’s joints to get them moving. After a few minutes I come back up for air.

“Sebastian! I need another joint charm!”

“What do you expect me to do about it? Come get it yourself!”

“There are dozens of joints on this thing, and we’re a bit pressed for time at the moment! It’s your dignity or your life, at this point!”

“Ugh, fine!” I hear a rustle and a splash from over by the platform, and I dive under again. By the time I hear his kitty-paddle I’m ready for the second charm, and ten minutes later the golem lumbers slowly into motion. The pump makes a groan like a tarasque waking from a nap, and the water starts swirling around it. I head back for the maintenance platform where Sebastian is waiting for me, waterlogged and baleful.

“Oh cheer up,” I say, tapping him and then myself with the drying charm. “Besides, you wouldn’t want your swimming skills to get rusty, would you?”

Sebastian stares up at me, fury evident on his face despite the difference in species, and I laugh, letting my toes dip into the slowly sinking water.

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

T.T.D.D.T.D.D

Thug lyfe.


(side note: talk about rushed endings! i didnt know what the hell to do with the ideas i'd introduced lmao)

Psychomax
Apr 4, 2009


Rusty box
In the 25 years since the fire, Ferdie's parents sold the plot at 856 Cedar Street, the city de-fire-a-fied the land, and the new owners built a new house where Ferdie's had been. Those owners sold the house, and then it was sold again, and it now belonged to the most miserable assholes to ever walk the earth.
Ferdie's parents had a fire-safe that they kept in the basement and filled with bonds and deeds, his birth certificate, a collection of jewelry and rare coins accumulated by three generations of his family, and other valuables. It was never found after the fire. they sifted and raked for months, and even brought in a shovel-truck to help empty out the basement. Eventually they gave up and moved on.
Every few years, Ferdie would remember that safe and nothing else mattered.
Both of the previous owners were happy to accomodate Ferdie's requests to poke around in the dirt. Well, maybe not happy, but they didn't call the loving cops on him and serve him with a restraining order.
Monica and Henry Blathford, the current owners of 856 Cedar Street, ate dinner in their living room and watched TV. Ferdie was in the basement, excavating.
The Blathford's never went in the basement, they just used it for storage. The first time they found him, he had been digging for three months before they opened the basement door once. They didn't even fill his tunnels back in, they hired someone to empty all the dirt out of the basement and they covered the wall with plywood. Ferdie was back in within a month.
The second time Ferdie only had time to dig for a few weeks before they went down to check out the noise. They removed the dirt again and filled the hole in with cement. As soon as Ferdie was out on bail, he was back in the basement and through the wall after two days of picking. The blathfords really didn't care what happened in their basement. If they cared they would look in the basement more often. They just wanted to be able to pretend that everything was normal and they were in control.
When Ferdie found that safe, none of the charges they had against him would matter, because laws don't apply when you have money. His poor credit score wouldn't matter because he could just pay cash. He wouldn't need to worry about explaining his criminal record to potential employees because he would never have to work again. And when he found that safe, he would never bother the Blathfords again, so all they were doing was increasing the time they were going to be in each other's lives. If they really wanted to get rid of him, the best thing they could do was just let him dig.
Ferdie coughed into his bandana, and the reverberations were swallowed by the earth around him. He took a swig from his canteen and leaned against the wall. He reached the north edge of the property yesterday and although he found plenty of rusty, rotting bits of his old house, no safe. He was sure the safe had been on the north wall of the basement, so his next task was to go deeper.
"Ferdinand?" A muffled call at the edge of Ferdie's hearing. Was it real? When was the last time he had eaten?
"Ferdinand you son of a bitch, motherfucker!" came the voice again. That was definitly Henry Blathford. He had only gotten in a week of digging this time; the Blathfords were getting more paranoid. It was realy pissing Ferdie off.
Ferdie wasn't coming out with his hands up again. He was going to make that misearble son of a bitch come in after him.
"I have a gun! Did you hear that? It's cocked! Come out here and we're going to settle this right now!"
Ferdie's stomach dropped. That wasn't the Henry he knew. Henry had a big head and a spine like a pool noodle. This Henry had some balls. Ferdie took stock of his supplies. The only thing he could use as a weapon was his shovel, and the tunnels were too narrow to swing it around. He could jab with it like a spear, but that wouldn't do much against a gun. He was totally trapped.
"I'm counting to ten, then I'm coming in!"
Ferdie went into a side tunnel he had dug and started digging as fast as he could. He took the dirt from one side and piled it up behind him. By the time Henry reached 10, the pile was barely higher than his knees. Ferdie was hosed.
"Come out you psycho!"
Ferdie pulled a canvas tarp out of his backpack and covered his legs, then scraped the pile of dirt over the tarp. He put his head under last, and snuffed out his lihgt.
"The cops are on their way," Monica said.
"They're just going to give him another slap on the wrist, and then he'll be back again! We're going to be dealing with him for the rest of our lives!"
"Henry, you're turning purple..."
"Ferdinand! I'm coming in!"
Ferdie felt a puddle spreading around his back. He was too terrified to move, but it was hot and sticky. Henry stomped through the tunnels, coming as close as a few feet from where Ferdie hid, but then he stormed off again. Ferdie dared to reach behind him and peek at the myterious liquid. For the first time, he noticed a pain shooting through his shoulder. The liquid was blood, he must have cut himself when he hid.
"This guy's a loving mole person!" he heard Henry shout from somewhere far away. Ferdie turned on his flashlight and saw the rusty, bloody corner of a metal box poking out of the ground.
Ferdie forgot everything else that was happening. He tore off his tarp and dug and scraped around the edges. There was a triangular foot. There was the brass handle. He plucked it from the ground, ignoring the pain in his back, the blood on his arms and face, the footsteps behind him.
"I found him!" Henry shouted.
Ferdie froze.
"Just get away from him, the cops are almost here!" Monica said.
"Turn around," Henry said.
Ferdie couldn't move. "I found it," he croaked.
"Turn around and look at me!"
Ferdie looked over his shoulder. The barrel of a handgun touched his nose. "I found what I was looking for. I'll leave, and I'll never bother you again."
"Like the last two loving times? Stand up."
Ferdie used his shovel as a crutch and stood up. "The police are coming. I'll just sit here and wait until they come. I wont' run."
"You broke into our home over and over again, you destroyed our property, you lived in our basement… you're just going to keep coming back! You'll never leave!"
"I'll leave after this. I have my safe. That's all I wanted."
Henry's hand shook, his finger on the trigger.
"Henry!" Monica shouted.
Henry turned his head.
Ferdie swung the shovel.

boar guy
Jan 25, 2007



i accomplished a lot of what i wanted to but i definitely know where i came up short in some spots as well

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe



No more entries!

Judging will be done as swiftly as possible. If it can't be done within the next couple of hours, I'll post letting you all know.

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!


curlingiron posted:

Magical bureaucracy is really no different than regular bureaucracy

This is 1490 words, btw

Aardvark!
Mar 3, 2002



i noticed several fuckups plot wise/missing things that i needed to put in immediately after i posted. i dont know why posting it made them all immediately obvious

boar guy
Jan 25, 2007



i feel like if i could put down a solid 1800 words a day i could supplement my income pretty good

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

T.T.D.D.T.D.D

Thug lyfe.


how did some of you write so many words??

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HugeGrossBurrito
Mar 20, 2018


that was fun thank you

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