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Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



Seven hundred authors have written eighty-five hundred stories totaling over ten million words and they’ve all been loving garbage!

THIS.

IS.

T H U N D E R D O M E!



:siren: CLICK HERE FOR CURRENT PROMPT :siren:

I’m sorry, what’s a “Thunderdome” exactly?
Thunderdome is Something Awful’s first, only, and best weekly flash fiction writing contest.

Oh this like a writing group? I’ve done writing groups before!
Ohh, my sweet little war pup. Not like this you haven’t. The prompts suck, the judges are blind, and the critiques are brutally harsh. We don’t give a poo poo about what you meant to write and we’re not going to hold your hand or whisper sweet, meaningless nothings in your ear. lovely stories will be torn to shreds and you might just get your widdle feelings hurt. But… if you’re strong enough, if you’re brave enough to stick around, you’ll see the burning flames of our hate leave your writings shiny and chrome.

Neat! How do I join?
Click the link above. Say “In.”

Should I know anything important before I join?
Yes.

First and foremost, read the prompt post. Then read it again. Then read it a third time. Don’t gently caress this up. It’s just "reading." And the prompt post is going to give you a lot of important information. Such as:
  • The word count. This is a maximum. Don't write a story with more words than the word count. You'll be disqualified.
  • The deadlines. There will be two deadlines. One is for signing up for the week. The other is for submitting. If you sign up after the first deadline, you'll be disqualified. If you submit after the second, you'll be disqualified.
  • The prompt itself. This varies from week to week. You might be writing in a specific genre. You might be dueling another writer. You might be submitting for publication. Who knows? You will if you read the prompt post. Sometimes additional flash rules will be assigned after sign-up or are available upon request. Again, this varies.
There are, of course, additional things to keep in mind.
  • Do not edit your story after you've posted. Once a story is submitted, that's it, you're done. If you edit your post, you’ll be disqualified.
  • Do not post your story in a stupid-rear end way. Just put in the thread. Spoiler tags, quotes, or off-site links are no good here. You’ll be disqualified.
  • Do not respond to crits in thread. You can say thanks if you absolutely have to say something but that's it. Take your judgement on the chin and move on. You won’t be disqualified (because judgement will have already been posted) but you will be yelled at.
  • If you fail to submit, :toxx: the next time you enter. The only thing worse than failing is failing twice. And, honestly, you're only failing yourself. Put your account on the line.
  • No erotica.
  • No fanfiction.
  • No shitposting.
  • If you are disqualified, you can't win but you can still lose.

What happens if I win?
You decide the next prompt. You judge the entries. You give critiques. You continue to the cycle of blood. Click here for help.

What happens if I lose?
You get some harsh words on how to improve. You also get a fancy new avatar for dying historic in the dome.


See? That’s not so bad, is it little baby?

Okay, I'm sold. How can I enter this wonderfully horrible arena of blood again?

:siren: CLICK HERE FOR CURRENT PROMPT :siren:

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Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.



in

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



Resources
Discord
PM me or post in the thread for a link.

The Thunderdome Archive
Lovingly created by crabrock, it has everything your heart desires: stories, stats, graphs, dramatic readings, and even a somewhat regularly updated podcast. You need to enter at least once to gain proper access.

Fiction Writing Advice and Discussion
If you want to talk about your story or just writing in general, this is SA's home for it.

Previous threads:
Thunderdome 2012: FYI, I do take big dumps, holla.
Thunderdome 2013: If this were any other thread we'd all be banned by now
Thunderdome 2014teen: Stories from the Abonend Bunker
Thunderdome 2015teen: Weekly Stories with Positive People
Thunderdome 2016teen: Fast Writing, Bad Writing
Thunderdome 2017teen: Prose and Cons
Thunderdome 2018teen: Abonen Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here
Thunderdome 2019teen: Writing Our Wrongs
Thunderdome 2020ty: This Dumb Joke Will Continue Until the Words Improve.
Thunderdome 2021ne: Out of the Dumpster and Into the Fire

Glossary
by Sitting Here
    Failure - Neglecting to submit a story at all. More shameful than losing. See also: Toxx
    HM - Honorable mention; a story that was in consideration for the win, or had some notable positive quality.
    DM - Dishonorable mention; a story that was in consideration for the loss, or had some notable negative quality.
    DQ - Disqualification; a disqualified story. Stories that were submitted before judgment, but after submissions close. Also includes stories that went over word count and stories that were edited after posting. Disqualified stories can’t win, but they can lose, which is better than failure. See also: Redemption.
    Flashrule - A sub-prompt given by the judges as part of the main weekly prompt, often serving as an additional challenge or piece of inspiration.
    Hellrule - A particularly unfair flashrule, requested at one’s own risk. Not every judge will issue hellrules.
    Redemption - A disqualified story submitted after judgment has been posted. Better than failure.
    :toxx: - Adding to your signup post indicates that you will forfeit your forums account if you fail to submit. Banned accounts may be unbanned at the owner’s expense.
    FJGJ - Fast Judging, Good Judging. A thing impatient morons begin shouting the moment submissions close.
    Brawl - A duel between two or more writers. Brawls are separate from the weekly prompt. See On Brawling by Sebmojo for a detailed explanation.
    The Archive - A repository of all Thunderdome stories, faithfully maintained by crabrock and Kaishai for several years.
    Losertar
    - Another name for the free avatar given to losers of the weekly contest

    Kayfabe - It is the showmanship that makes Thunderdome different from other, similar contests. Kayfabe gives participants the opportunity to show a little swagger, or act out grudges and rivalries within the arena of words. Kayfabe is optional, and it’s meant to be fun, not abusive. Come find out what you’re made of, you unblooded weenies.

2022wo Leaderboards
The past is dead. The future is now.

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 05:23 on Mar 30, 2022

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



On Brawling, by Sebmojo:



brawling what so someone said something mean and your bottom lip is doing that quivery thing and you feel like you can't go a single second more without punching a motherfucker? thunderdome has just the thing.

you can't fight here it's the Thunderdome when two people hate each other very much, and one of them is you, you get to slap down a challenge. make it big, make it brassy; you're slapping your sex bits down on the bar, try and make 'em bounce a little.

help someone's slapped me with something help accepting brawl challenges isn't required, but if you like to sling the poo poo around (and you should) then failing to back up your bad words with good ones will be remembered. brawl stories are good, being able to beat someone you're mad at is better.

how does it work? once you've thrown down a challenge, and had it accepted, a brawl judge will step up just like that weird bartender in The Shining. they'll give you a prompt, a word count and a deadline. they'll also, and this is real important, state the :toxx: this means if you fail to submit by the deadline then you get banned. the judge doesn't need to give you an extension.

what do you mean banned brawl toxxes are obligatory. if you're actually a literal secret agent and you've just discovered you're parachuting into Syria in two hours time then get on Discord, snivel at your judge and maybe they'll remove the :toxx: from the prompt, but expect that to be a one-time mercy if you gently caress it up.

anything else? don't challenge anyone until you've done a few rounds, good grudges take time to fester, don't step up to judge a brawl unless you've at least got an HM or the participants have asked you to, and declining a random drive-by brawl is more acceptable than one with a grudge behind it. this place runs on words, and hatred, and you gotta fuel the fire.

brawl judges, don't grab brawls if you don't have a prompt ready and don't be dicks; what matters is whose story is best, don't gently caress around.

is that it yes, fight well you horrible monsters

===================

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



(reserved)

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.



THUNDERDOME CDXCII: NO HUMANS ALLOWED



Welcome to the year 2022, Domers. New thread, same whatever. I’m here and I’m 100% over humans and all the human things they do, so this week is for stories that feature literally anything except humans. That means exactly zero characters in your story can be human. Your characters can live alongside humans (because let’s face it - humans exist) and possess some human qualities, but I don’t want to see actual certified humans in your stories at all. No screen time for them. No dialogue. You may acknowledge that they are real, but that’s it. My respect and admiration will be awarded to the writer that can craft a compelling tale that takes place in a world where humans don’t exist, but this is not a requirement.

So go ahead, write a story that is 1000 words or less starring ideas made corporeal, cryptids, tapirs, talking mist, ghouls, sentient bowls of Jell-O, etc. Go nuts. If you let me assign you ONE specific non-human entity to feature in your story, your limit is 1300 words. But wait, there’s more: if you request TWO specific non-human entities from me, your limit increases to 1500 words. No story should exceed 1500 words.

Signups close: 11:59 PM Pacific Time, January, 7th 2022
Deadline to Submit: 11:59 PM Pacific Time, January 9th, 2022
Word Limit:
1000 words if you come up with your own not-humans
1300 words if you let me assign you one not-human
1500 words if you let me assign you two not-humans

Judges:
Beezus
The Man Called M
ChickenofTomorrow

Entrants:
1. Chairchucker
2. Sitting Here
3. Captain_Indigo
4. Thranguy
5. Idle Amalgam
6. sparksbloom
7. Nae
8. Crabrock
9. BeefSupreme
10. Taletel
11. Burning_Conch
12. Ceighk :toxx:
13. Hawklad
14. yeah ok ok yeah
15. flerp :toxx:

Beezus fucked around with this message at 02:39 on Jan 12, 2022

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Post

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.



oh there's assigny things please assign me a thing

EDIT: OK two actually

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.



Chairchucker posted:

oh there's assigny things please assign me a thing

EDIT: OK two actually

- A tree with a strong sense of right and wrong
- A dog made of spaghetti

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022





I promised on the Discord that I would Judge this week if I lost last week. I did, so, I would like to judge.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







in.

Captain_Indigo
Jul 29, 2007

"That’s cheating! You know the rules: once you sacrifice something here, you don’t get it back!"



Give me two please because I am IN

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




In

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021

In. I'll take two entities, please.

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


In. I’ll take 2!

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.



Captain_Indigo posted:

Give me two please because I am IN

- A being made entirely of ice and spite
- A scarecrow

Idle Amalgam posted:

In. I'll take two entities, please.

- The Leviathan
- A chatty rock

sparksbloom posted:

In. I’ll take 2!

- A secretarybird
- Fire

Beezus fucked around with this message at 20:43 on Jan 5, 2022

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.



In, give me two entities!

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.



Nae posted:

In, give me two entities!

- A Porsche 911 with a heart of gold (any year)
- Gytrash

Beezus fucked around with this message at 20:43 on Jan 5, 2022

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


in 2 plz

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.




- A gaseous entity from a planet shrouded in complete darkness
- Sand

BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007

Like most things, I am nothing


in, one please

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.



BeefSupreme posted:

in, one please

A rebel demon with a cause

Taletel
May 19, 2021

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021

In.

Burning_Conch
Dec 15, 2021


In.

Ceighk
May 27, 2013

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022




In.

EDIT: :toxx:

Ceighk fucked around with this message at 17:57 on Jan 6, 2022

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


College Slice

In

yeah ok ok yeah
May 2, 2016



i;m in gimme a thingme

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.



yeah ok ok yeah posted:

i;m in gimme a thingme

A mountain

Sally
Jan 9, 2007


Don't post Small Dash!


Beezus posted:

A mountain

lol

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse





I think you mean "in"

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!







in :toxx:

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.



Signups are now closed.

Ceighk
May 27, 2013

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022




Death and the Cat and the Maiden
974 words

The thing about walking around as a skeleton is fellas come at you with a whole lot of baggage, and I don't just mean their gooey bits. There was me, hunting for cats by light of the moon, just minding my business, when this girl popped her head out the door of her spired mansionette and, catching sight of me, started screaming. Most of them do - grown men too of course - only this one, instead of running back inside to convince herself she's been stewing the wrong fungus, goes quiet and then gapes at me: 'Granny?'

So I said: 'Sorry hun, you've got the wrong croaker.'

That was my second run-in with a would-be descendant in a month, which was roughly how long I'd been alive. Seems like it's easy to have one of those faces when you don't have a face. I'd tried to explain to the first guy that more than not being his dead gran, I wasn't anyone's: whoever's dear departed once grew on these bones, I'm just a lodger, walking them about now they're no longer needed. I'm animate dead, not some dead guy reanimated.

But it's hard to talk philosophy when you don't have a tongue, so the second time it happened I just went to leave. Only no sooner had I turned round than this girl dashed in front of me, arms outstretched, and declared: 'You're not getting away that easy!'

I told her again that I'm not who she thinks, though all she probably heard was chattering and dust. But just as I was readying myself to barge her out the way, the sleekest, sneakiest tabby came picking its way through the snow and slinked right up the path to the open front door. I stared at it, transfixed, and as I did the girl linked her elbow round my humerus and guided me towards the house. I let myself be guided. The cat slipped inside.

By the time I'd crossed the threshold it was nowhere in sight. Cats are tricky creatures, so I decided to play along with whatever the lass was projecting on me. I'd have to get tricky myself to achieve my goals. She draped me in a knitted shawl that went down past my patellas and sat me by the fire. Thirty minutes into her ramble about everything that had happened since the woman she thought I'd been had died, I started counting my blessings.

Seems like their whole family had conked out over just a few years, leaving this girl alone in the big empty house. I thought: It's great to be an animated skeleton. Some people go through their whole lives having no idea why they've been put on this Earth, and with every death around them they just have to face the futility of it all, their fruitless impermanence. Me, I woke up for the first time ever to some veiled sorceress whispering in my lug hole about sacrificing cats at the stone circle outside of town, and except for wishing she'd picked a less devious quarry, from then on I knew my purpose.

Speaking of cats, this one had slipped back in. It seemed wary of me at first, but the girl took a tin of fish from a small stack on the mantelpiece - the whole room was littered with empties - and enticed it onto her lap, stroking behind its ears while it ate from her other hand.

'You remember Partridge, don't you Granny?' she said. 'I know you never liked him much but he's been such a companion to me now you're all gone.'

I'd leant forward and almost reached out to grab the wily beast, but there was something in the way it nestled contentedly into her lap that gave me pause. Cats around me were usually all ferocity and bite, but this one was positively docile. Instead I mimicked what the girl had been doing and, tucking my distals behind its earflaps, gave the creature a scratch.

The girl stared at my eye sockets in total shock. 'Oh my, that's the first time you've made him purr, Granny! Here, let me set him on your lap. You can hold him.' With the animal handed over, the girl went on talking about how things weren't so bad if she thought about it; how it was time to start taking ownership of her life by getting out there and meeting people, even if everyone she'd once loved was now dead. She was still young - she couldn't let that hold her back.

Eventually the fire died out, the moon went down, and the girl grew quiet. I thought she'd fallen asleep in her chair, but when I stood up to leave she reached out two hands to clasp me by the metacarpals. 'I know you can't stay,’ she said, ‘but thank you so much for coming. The fact you made friends with Partridge after all these years just means so much. You’re absolutely right: we need to find love where we can in this life, it's too short not to. I love you, Granny. Rest well.'

She was crying when I left, but I went out with a warm, fuzzy feeling in my chest that I'd never felt before. It was the cat. I'd trapped it inside my rib cage while the girl wasn't looking, kept quiet and content with another tin of sardines. I took the creature out as I walked through the snow and held its furry body between the crook of my arm bones and the hand-knitted shawl. Looking down at him there, I almost started to think there was more to these little guys than particularly annoying prey.

Almost.

When I got to the stone circle I cut out its heart for the Dark God Shbinyuath. You can't give up on your purpose in life.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




:siren: Yoruichi vs. Muffin Brawl :siren:

The Race
1980 words


Kat Englethorne wanted to be hidden away in the attic of her family’s manor house painting with oils on a canvas twice her height, but was she? No! Instead Kat was strapped into the cockpit of a HORSE-3000, crouched in the belly of the mechanical beast as if sitting astride a motorbike, with her upper body laid in its neck and her sweating palms gripping the steering yoke. Kat’s possibly-dead brother was yet to return to from the war, so it fell to Kat, Baron Englethorne had insisted, to defend their family’s honour in the annual point-to-point.

Kat popped her HORSE-3000’s chest hatch and spewed. The chunks flashed away between the racers’ metal legs. The heat, the fumes, the noise; it was all making her head spin. She’d tried to plug her ears with cotton wool but the machine’s vibrations had shaken the plugs loose, and the thundering of hooves made her brain feel like it was being shaken furiously inside a tin can. Accurate, thought Kat. She risked a glance through the left shoulder porthole. Dylan, the boy from one county over who ate with his mouth open, was passing her on the inside. He’d painted red stripes down the side of his steel-grey racer, and its hooves kicked up clods of earth that splatted against Kat’s orange chrome mount. Goldie, she’d named it. Kat yanked the chest hatch shut and wiped her mouth on her sleeve of her silks.

Tightly bunched, the pack pounded around the clubhouse turn and accelerated onto the back straight. Kat was stuck in the middle, jostled on both sides. She could just see the ramp at the end of the straight. She remembered Thomas, waving his fork around and dominating the dinner table conversation as usual, going on about how you had to get a clear run at the ramp, how he reckoned that was the point at which the race was really won or lost.

It was also the most dangerous.

The thought of Thomas led Kat straight to the memory of her mother, sitting in the kitchen that morning in the pre-dawn darkness. Unable to sleep, Kat had thought she would sneak up to her attic studio, but her mother’s presence had blocked her path. Veronica had been crying, an untouched mug of tea cooling beside her interwoven fingers. Kat knew her mother wasn’t religious, so she couldn’t be praying... Kat had fidgeted in the hallway. It occurred to her that her mother might be worried about Thomas. Her father and his men spoke constantly about the war in tones both hushed and urgent, but Kat tended to tune them out, so she didn’t actually know how it was going. But Kat was sure that Thomas was fine. He had been so excited to go, after all.

CLANK. Goldie shook from the impact of another racer barging into her ribcage, and Kat almost lost her grip on the yoke. Her stomach churned. I barely even ate breakfast, she thought reproachfully at her digestive system. She realised she was boxed in. Her father had given her a long lecture on race tactics, but Kat’s mind had at that moment been full of the precise indigo blue that she needed to mix for her painting. Squeezing her eyes shut against the rising nausea, Kat found the booster button with her fingers, and palmed it down.

Goldie locked her knees up against her chest and shot over the leaders’ heads. She stumbled on landing, righted herself, and took off for the base of the ramp. If Kat had been in the grandstand with her parents she would have heard the crowd gasp at such an audacious move so early in the race. She would have seen the furious look her mother shot at the Baron, her fear using anger as camouflage, while the Baron kept his eyes fixed straight ahead, fingers digging into his thighs beneath his long coat.

But Kat wasn’t in the grandstand. She was rattling around inside Goldie, trying to steady herself on the seat and get a better grip on the shaking yoke. They hit the base of the ramp, and the jolt made Kat’s hands slip. She saw the edge rise up to meet them and then they were off, rocketing into the air above the Barony’s largest forestry. Kat just had time to register how much of it had been felled for the war effort before Goldie rotated 90 degrees to the left, sailed horizontally for a single, weightless second, and then began to corkscrew.

Kat instinctively curled into a foetal position. The harness straps bit into her back and her forearms saved her head from banging against the inside of the neck compartment. Earth and sky barrel-rolled past the windshield. An immense clang knocked the air from Kat’s lungs, and as she gasped for breath she found herself upside down, but mercifully no longer spinning. Outside the shoulder porthole she saw Dylan grinning at her. He gave her a thumbs-up, then accelerated away. Goldie’s automatic stabilisers kicked in, and she flipped the right way up, depositing Kat back in her seat and making her gurgling stomach bounce.

Kat threw up a little in her mouth, then gagged and coughed as she swallowed it back down. She yanked the straw of her water bladder into her mouth and took a desperate gulp. The water was warm from the engine and tasted of iron. Kat shuddered. This was, quite possibly, the worst day of her life. Worse, even, than the day Thomas’s battalion had left. Kat remember how the Baron had stood on the top floor balcony for hours after Thomas had disappeared from sight, banging his walking stick against the metal brace on his bad leg. Kat had winced with every hollow tonk, imaging the shooting pain that each impact must send through his ruined knee. Veronica had locked herself in the greenhouse, and so Kat had been left alone to retreat to the attic. But nothing she painted that day had turned out right, and in the horrible quiet as they sat for dinner Kat could find nothing at all to say to her parents.

The racers spread out, roaring over the forest in an elongated V. Kat drifted on the outside edge of the pack. There was nowhere safe to land until they got back to the home stretch of the racetrack proper, so she gripped the yoke and banked Goldie around to follow the others. They were heading for the canyon, red and white flags marking the passage that the racers had to pass through.

There were lots of stories about the origins of the canyon, the most popular being ‘war between giants.’ As far as Kat was concerned, the canyon marked the edge of the world. Beyond the huge rift the land was barren and hostile. Poisonous gasses rose from deep rents, and spidery creatures click-clacked on long claws across the rocks. Her uncle had bought one home once, milky liquid oozing around the arrow in its carapace. Kat had filled a sketchbook with pictures of it before her mother caught her and forced her father to take the monster away and burn it.

The race swooped down into the shadows of the vast cliffs. Kat counted the compulsory passage flags as they flashed past. One… Two… But something was wrong up ahead. Racers were pulling up and out of the canyon. She saw Dylan’s red-striped machine circling, a cloud of dust rising from the canyon below him.

Then Kat saw the spiders. They were spilling into the canyon from the desert side, clattering down the cliff and onto the canyon’s sandy bottom, where a small band of mechanical chargers galloped. Kat recognised the Baron’s coat of arms beneath the dust that caked their sides. She saw one falter, then come to an abrupt halt, they way they did when they ran out of fuel. A man in a filthy uniform tumbled from the side hatch and began to run.

There’s no way he’ll get away from the spiders on foot, thought Kat. She peered out through her portholes, expecting to see help on the way to save the soldiers, but the canyon was empty. Above her some of the racers still circled, while others appeared to have cleared the compulsory passages and continued on. Kat looked back down, unsure of what she should do.

Kat looked again. Her heart began to pound.

It was Thomas.

Kat wanted very, very badly to be back in her attic. She felt sick, but not like she was going to throw up again. This was a different kind of wrong. Kat saw a claw-legged monster bearing down on her brother and felt like she was watching the world, or at least her version of it, come to an end.

A red-stripped grey flash hurtled past Kat’s windshield and landed on the spider with a crunch of metal. Dylan’s racer fired its booster engines and rocketed vertically back off the canyon floor, its mangled front legs dangling. Dylan hauled it around for another pass, but the flapping legs made the machine wobble dangerously close to the cliff.

Kat saw Thomas stumble, then heave himself upright and keep running. The spiders kept coming.

Kat’s heartbeat rose to a roar in her ears. She felt like she was going to vomit, or pass out, or both. In her mind’s eye Kat saw her mother, crying in the dark kitchen. She squeezed her eyes shut as if to block out the sight. With her fingers Kat found the ignition switch, and cut the engine. Kat screamed.

Goldie plummeted. Kat’s eyes snapped open, and she slammed on the emergency landers just in time to hit the ground with a merely bone-shaking crunch. She kicked open the side hatch and jump-fell down onto the sand.

“Thomas!”

He turned and sprinted towards her. Kat could hear him breathing in high-pitched gasps. His eyes were wide with fear. Somehow, seeing her big brother’s terror made Kat feel braver, as if the sight was so preposterous that none of this could be real. He reached Goldie and clambored inside, then held a hand out to Kat, too out of breath to speak. Kat tried to jam herself in beside him but there was no way they were going to get the hatch shut with both of them in there.

“I’ll ride on top,” Kat said.

Thomas, still hyperventilating, shook his head at her, but Kat unclipped the harness and scrabbled onto Goldie’s back. She threw the strap around Goldie’s neck and wrapped the ends around her forearms, gripping them as tightly as she could. Her legs shook as she banged on the metal with her heels.

Thomas was a much better pilot than her, and he brought Goldie smoothly up to a canter, dodging around the boulders that littered the canyon floor. Kat glanced over her shoulder and saw the spiders falling behind. Ahead of them, a squadron flying the Baron’s banners swooped into the canyon, touched down and galloped towards them.

Thomas increased Goldie’s speed to a gallop, and the wind and adrenaline whipped Kat’s nausea away, leaving in its place pure, crystalline terror. Kat screamed for all she was worth. She recognised her father’s charger at the head of the squadron and thought furiously about how she would never let him make her do anything like this ever again. This was, without a doubt, the worst day of her life. She realised, with grim satisfaction, that she’d be able to tell Thomas so at dinner that night. He might even have to shut up and let her talk for once.

Kat was grinning and crying all at once as they reached the safety of the squadron, and she fell, shaking, into her father’s waiting arms.

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Prompt:

- A secretarybird
- Fire


Foraging
1019 words

There is no time for the secretarybird to return from her forage before her eggs are consumed by an angry gust of flame, and as she stomps the head of a gaunt-looking grub she feels an ache inside.

It is a myth that the secretarybird stomps its prey out of a sense of wonton cruelty – she stomps because it is direct, it is blunt, it is merciful. She wishes Fire would issue her the same cruelty.

There is nothing Fire will not take from her: her home, her future, her children, turned to dust among the ashy shrubland. There was a time when she’d made peace with Fire, when its rages were more quickly tempered, when it had a sense of mercy. There was a time where her eggs hatched unmolested, her nest undisturbed.

When she flies back to the nest a few nights later, after the blaze has turned to embers, a glint of hope in her breast, it is dashed in the utter devastation of a field of indistinct soot. She tilts her head at a charred coal, wondering if there could be a shell beneath it. She tips it over with a foot and there is nothing.

***

She flies far. Each time, she thinks she’s flown far enough to a place that surely Fire won’t reach, just days and days of aching wings. It’s a good sign when the lizards and mice are plentiful again. Maybe the other birds are attuned to Fire in a way she isn’t, and they escape and feast before she can get there. Maybe the earthly creatures are attuned, too.

Another secretarybird beneath her dives and lands upon a squirming adder. She perches on the stripped limb of a tree and looks down at him and his determined stomp. It’s the first sighting she’s had of another of her kind since Fire’s last attack, and it troubles her. Competition. Scarcity. Another thing to lose to another inferno.

What had she done to offend Fire? Nothing. Perhaps the plucking of the charred flesh of a hare from its devastation? A sign of disrespect, a lack of the requisite awe? Even so, she learned the lesson. She learned the lesson.

The secretarybird below peers up and screeches at her, and she flaps her wings. She can’t commit to a mate while Fire was still seeking her.

***

She flies over a well-picked over field of still smoldering ash; nothing remains twitching in the singed grasses. Her stomach is empty. Somehow she’s slower than the others, or maybe that’s just part of the curse that Fire has placed on her.

And then.

A towering mass of steel, warped and singed at the bottom, has melted into an angular shelter and beneath it – a bit of green, a fallen tree. She swoops down, hardly daring to hope for dinner. But under the shelter, a twiggy nest survives. And inside the nest, three small eggs.

She knows they aren’t her eggs. And of course she knows they aren’t even secretarybird eggs. But they’re eggs of some creature lucky enough to escape the ravages of Fire, and something blooms inside of her, some steely slick of determination. She won’t leave these eggs.

***

The mother bird comes back in a few hours, fragile and starving like the secretarybird. The secretarybird is sorry. The mother bird is a tiny sunbird, green and brilliant even with its stripped matted feathers. If it weren’t for Fire’s grudge, they would have coexisted on different parts of the grassland, appreciating each other in a nearly imperceptible way.

But that’s not the world the secretarybird lives in. Even in hunger, it’s not hard for the secretary to crush the mother bird’s skull beneath her feet.

***

She’s afraid to leave the eggs, but after a day the hunger in her belly sharpens to a pain and she knows that she needs to prepare for motherhood. She eats the mother of her future children but still needs more, the sunbird is small and dainty and she is large and can’t be satiated by one kill alone.

She knows Fire is wily and when it learns it has spared these eggs it will be back, more furious than ever, and so discretion is key. The earth has been scorched long enough ago that anything still squirming in its wake will have died or already been harvested, and traveling beyond Fire’s reach will take hours. And Fire will know when she leaves. It will follow her once again and take away the eggs she’s fought so hard to protect.

Above her, she sees the occasional other bird flying past. Most of them are in pairs, in flocks, and the secretarybird dimly remembers a time where that was true for her as well. Maybe she was meant to be eradicated by Fire, like the rest of them, but through grit or maybe just luck, she’s still here to watch the other stray birds survey the wasteland. She knows some of them have seen her. What she wants is for one or, well, even two of them to come down and investigate that slab of warped steel and the stirring beneath. She can take care of the rest. She knows she’ll win.

She pokes her head out, focusing on the ache inside of her, hoping she’s looking ill, pathetic, scavenge fodder. A pair of secretarybirds swoop over her but seem to reconsider an investigation.

And then a bird she’s never seen before lands in front of her, just out of her eyesight. It’s a brilliant kind of red and orange, spectacular even in her weakened state, and also nearly twice her size.

She tries. She stands and kicks at the huge shimmering bird but the bird singes her foot, and in a second bright embers peel off of the bird, and it’s past her, into the fortress.

The secretarybird doesn’t need to process to know what the bird wants to do. But she refuses to let Fire win this one. She takes her foot and stomps on each egg, a half-second before Fire’s bird erupts into its awful conflagration.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!







Songs at the End

Birds flutter forward along the forest canopy like ghosts. They are terrible things, singing in their shrill voices, foretelling the end of the world.

I run. I was born to run, to hunt, to kill. My nose is filled with scents. There are deer and squirrels and foxes scattered between the trees. My paws want to move towards them, my teeth want to bite into their flesh and feel the heat of blood rush down my throat.

I am stronger, I realize. Days ago, I would have listened to my body. I see a deer dart between bushes, and I know I would’ve jumped at it and slaughtered it, but I don’t have to.

The end of the world is coming, I know, somehow, because these thoughts should not be in my head. I should not have thoughts.

My pack has scattered like snow. I am alone and I run, trying to escape whatever inevitability chases me. I do not know my pack anymore -- they are bundles of white fur in my memory, vague smells. I want to give them names that they don’t have.

I trip over something. My body lurches, but my back legs dig deep into the earth and keep me from falling. Where I was, there is a bird. It is mid-sized, black chest with white trailing up its back feather. Its eyes are a pure black and stare at mine.

I have eaten birds like this before. Creatures that have suffered something -- disease, age, a bad jump -- and have killed them without a thought.

Now I have thoughts.

I inspect its wings. There is blood. It shivers in the cold wind. I should be running, my instincts tell me. It is a deep, primordial feeling like hunger, but I am different now.

I reach for the bird with my mouth. It winces, prepared for death, but I do not eat it. I can’t. I can see, in the deep blackness of its eyes, understanding. Its wince is not out of fear, or at least, not the basic unthinking sort of fear. It is too subtle, too aware. It is the fear of what it means to die, fear of what is after.

I will not kill when the world is ending.

I run with the bird, but not away from the vague end I know is coming. I am running to the river. Its blood drips onto my paws as I run. It is dying and I do not know what I can do but I do know I want to do something.

Why? The thought intrudes into my mind.

For years, for as long as I lived, I have killed. I have hunted because that is what I do. My teeth are so sharp and the bird shakes in my mouth from them digging into its flesh.

I want to be something more. The end has given me thoughts. It wants me to know the end is coming, so it lets me think. There is so little time and so little left to be, but I will be something else.

The river is empty of life. There are no fish, no birds, no insects that scitter on the grass. I put the bird down in front of the water. It looks at me then at the water, but it doesn’t move. I do not know if it understands, if it can think like I can.

So I drink. Then I look at it. Then drink again. The bird seems to get the idea, and it hops over to the water.

I want to help you, I want to say. I want to make sure you don’t hurt.

There are no words between wolves and birds, no words that can be said to anybody. No way to be understood. So instead, I lie down into the dirt and howl.

I never knew why I howled. It was just something my body said to do. Here, though, I howl because there is nothing left for me to do. I can feel the end on the back of my neck like a light wind before a rainstorm. The bird finished drinking, but it will not be able to fly for some time. It pecks at the grass, finding a few seeds, but it feels half-hearted, an obligation of living.

I howl because I want to tell the bird that we could be more. That I can understand it and it can understand me if we just had the words.

Then, the bird walks over to me and puts its head into my chest.

It could just be an instinct, I think. Warmth in the cold. Then, it nuzzles its beak deeper into me and I can hear its breathing calm. It is trust, I decide, maybe naively, but I don’t care. I have saved it and that is enough, I decide.

I whimper and fall into the dirt, cradling the bird.

Then the bird sings. A tired, barely audible sound, foretelling the end of the world, but we will take it together. I howl and it sings. Our sounds mingle together, echoing throughout the quiet forest, a unique harmony the world has never heard, and it is ours.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.



Maybe I Should Rebrand to Reduce Confusion* 531 words

I’m chilling in the yard when Tango the Spaghetti Terrier and Waffles the Cat come in, and they’re all like ‘Hey Great Tree of Right and Wrong, can you settle a dispute for us?’

Heck, sure, I think, what else am I gonna do? ‘Ask your question.’

‘Well,’ says Tango, and a slight tangent here, but Tango being made of spaghetti is really weird for a dog, right? And occasionally he goes to chase his tail, and then he catches it, and then he eats it, and the spaghetti he’s latched onto just kinda goes into his mouth and joins the mass of spaghetti, and honestly it is super messed up. That is certified Wrong, and I can say that because I’m the tree of Right and Wrong, and I know Wrong when I see it, and a dog made out of spaghetti eating his own tail? Extremely Wrong.

Waffles isn’t made of waffles, by the way. That’s just her name. I don’t know if Waffles is actually a ‘she’, I’m just going by the ‘all dogs are boys, all cats are girls’ rule. They all look the same to me. Except Tango, who’s made of spaghetti, which is all kinds of messed up.

I digress. ‘Well,’ says Tango, ‘Waffles here thinks that the nearby building is a laboratory, but it’s obviously a restaurant. So, which of us is right, and which of us is wrong?’

OK so I guess I understand how they made the mistake, but, ‘You both understand that I’m more an arbiter of morality than a fact checker, right?’

‘They’re obviously a restaurant,’ said Tango, ‘because they made me, and I’m spaghetti, and that’s food, and restaurants make food.’

‘All right,’ said Waffles, ‘but consider this; you’re a dog and also spaghetti, which is outside of the purview of a restaurant because they make meals, not life. QED.’

‘What does QED mean?’ asked Tango.

‘I dunno, it just sounds cool,’ said Waffles. ‘So, which of us is right and which is wrong, Mr Tree?’

‘Just so we’re clear,’ I said, ‘you were made in that building?’ I’d kind of wondered, because, you know, spaghetti dog, kinda weird.

‘Yes,’ they both said.

‘Like, from nothing?’

Tango shrugged. ‘From spaghetti, I guess. I’m no chef.’

‘Or scientist,’ said Waffles, ‘which is who made you, in a lab.’

‘Anyway, what’s your decision?’ asked Tango.

I sighed and rustled my leaves. ‘You’re both right, and the people in the building are wrong.’

‘I don’t really understand how that works,’ said Waffles.

‘I said I’m not a fact checker.’

‘I don’t know what that means.’

‘Hey,’ said Tango, ‘does that mean it’s a restaurant and a lab?’

‘Soon it will be neither,’ I said.

‘Trees are weird,’ said Waffles, ‘but whatevs, I can live with both of us being right.’

And the two of them wandered off. And that evening, late at night, having found out that the inhabitants of the building had been doing Wrong, my roots came up from the ground and tore the building apart, brick by brick.

~

*Like, I dunno, maybe Tree of Naughty and Nice? I’m just brainstorming here.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.



Beezus posted:

- A tree with a strong sense of right and wrong
- A dog made of spaghetti

Forgot to mention my prompt elements this is it here

yeah ok ok yeah
May 2, 2016



THUNDERDOME CDXCII: NO HUMANS ALLOWED
Sea Otter and the Mountain
1279/1300 words

Beezus posted:

A mountain

Once, Sea Otter lived a vain and easy life. Days were spent basking in the sun, feasting upon urchins. Nights were spent snoring beneath cedar boughs on the shore, nestled amongst beds of daffodils in the shadow of Bent-over Ridge. In times of plenty, Sea Otter kept to himself and gorged. When food was scare, he troubled friends for food. The creatures of Bull Narrows tolerated this habit. For though he lacked manners—gorging himself whenever he visited, and always leaving abruptly, a mess in his wake—his personality always won them over.

Rude, yet charming.

It was a reputation Sea Otter wore with pride.

“Rude, yet charming,” he spoke aloud.

He cracked open his last urchin and slurped down its contents. It was meant to be dinner, but he wished to celebrate. The previous night he had been enjoying food at Marten’s when Raccoon paid a visit. The company had been wonderful, but importantly Sea Otter had managed to confirm an invitation to Raccoon’s the following night. If the snacks Raccoon had shared were anything to go by, then he was in for a tremendous feast.

The afternoon sun shone bright. It was time to get a move on. Raccoon lived on the other side of Bull Narrows, using a log of driftwood to paddle between shores. Sea Otter had no need for such a cumbersome form of transportation. Indeed, it wouldn’t take long to cross the strait and reach Kraken Point. From there, he would duck into Maple Grove and follow the Grey Path. At its end, a bridge crossed a stream and just beyond lay Raccoon’s den. Raccoon warned that a troll lived under the bridge and would demand a toll. Sea Otter wondered how Raccoon endured a such bothersome creature, but his friend insisted it was worth it: the troll made for cheap and effective security. Still, Sea Otter had no intention of paying any toll to any troll.

Rude, yet charming, he thought to himself.

Sea Otter entered the sea and swam off. The journey was brief and uneventful; the sun still shone directly above. He clambered onto the other shore and shook himself dry. Kraken Point loomed ahead. The stony hill up from the beach was in the shape of a smashed skull, a massive boulder protruding from the middle. As Sea Otter continued, he recalled the stories he’d heard as a young pup.

Countless years ago, Kraken Point used to be the home of a huge, flesh-eating head. The head was cruel and ravenous. Its mouth opened below water line and its prey would float in. Once inside, it snapped like a trap, grinding those caught inside to red pulp. None escaped. The locals quickly learned to give the head a wide berth, but not even that guaranteed safety. Inside that bulbous visage was a sticky tongue of great length. Like a toad, the tongue would ensnare any in range.

The animals of Bull Narrows, hungry for the bounty of the strait, but fearful to fish, sought help to end the Head at Kraken Point’s predations. Only one beast was brave enough to step forward. The stories described a strange creature, walking upon two legs and waving about sticks and stones like an orc or a troll, and yet was neither. It bristled with coarse hair and could mimic the sounds of other animals. It was simply called the Hunter. The Hunter swam across the strait, upstream from Kraken Point. When it reached the shores, it hiked the forest and climbed up Bent-over Ridge—though at the time, Bent-over Ridge was a tall peak known as Bull Mountain. Once at the top, the Hunter spoke to the Mountain and asked for help. He requested the Mountain lob a boulder across the strait to crush the face. The Mountain refused, complaining that it had a terrible throwing arm. The Hunter offered to throw the boulder himself and asked the Mountain to kneel so it could have a clear shot. The Mountain agreed and knelt. The Hunter spat in its hands, tested the wind, and lifted a boulder eight times its size right over its head. With a piercing shout, the Hunter flung the boulder. His aim was true; the boulder landed square on the Head at Kraken Point, caving in its skull and killing it instantly.

At least that’s how the story went. Sea Otter had never thought to ask the Mountain.

He had made good time. Again, the trip was uneventful. Tromping through Maple Grove, Sea Otter found the Grey Path and followed it further inland. The path was made of broken stone, slabs of varying sizes, occasionally peppered with flecks of white and yellow. Grass and flowers grew between the stones. Late in the afternoon, Sea Otter finally arrived at the bridge before Raccoon’s den. Sure enough, lounging beneath the bridge was a troll. Its skin glowed faintly giving away its position.

“Pay the toll to cross,” it said, moving only its eyes.

“No need, friend,” said Sea Otter, “I’ve no intention to cross. I intend to come underneath your fair bridge and onward.”

“Cross above, cross below, you must pay the toll.”

Sea Otter frowned.

“Well, what if go up and around the bank and back down again? I’m only going to Raccoon’s den—I can see it right there,” Sea Otter gestured.

“And I can reach you from here,” the troll lifted its elongated arm and demonstrated.

This exchange went back and forth for some time, neither party budging. As time passed, Sea Otter became less charming and more rude. Eventually, the irritated troll chased Sea Otter off, warning him not to return without an offering.

Sea Otter slunk away, irritated. It was getting later, and he regretted eating his last urchin. Dinner at Raccoon’s lay behind the bridge, but all his valuables were back across the strait in his den at the base of Bent-over Ridge.

It was then that an idea struck him.

Off at a run, Sea Otter made his way back down the Grey Path, through Maple Grove, over Kraken Point, and back into the sea. He crossed Bull Narrows as quick as he could. He stopped at his home only long enough to catch his breath before setting off through the woods up towards Bent-over Ridge. At the top, Sea Otter explained the situation to Mountain—though he left out the part about wanting dinner and put it purely in terms of a wicked troll trapping his dear friend Raccoon. He explained that the only way to help would be to eliminate the troll, to crush him in much the way the Head at Kraken Rock was once crushed. The compassionate Mountain, fond of Raccoon, eagerly agreed to help. But although it had many boulders to spare, it cautioned Sea Otter that his throwing arm was terrible. Sea Otter insisted, for although he was athletic in his own way, he did not have the strength of the ancient Hunter. And so, Bent-over Ridge stood once more to its full height, grasped a boulder in its titanic arm, and let fly. The thud reverberated across the strait.

Sea Otter thanked the Mountain and made his way back to Raccoon’s. It was evening now, and if he hurried, he’d be there before sunset. Pushed on by hunger, he made good time, through the woods, across the strait, over Kraken Point and into Maple Grove, along the Grey Path, and to the troll’s bridge.

Despite his protestations, the Mountain’s aim had been true—or at least true enough. The troll was gone and so was the bridge. But so was Raccoon’s den, buried under tons of stone.

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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







no prompt assigned

Portulaca Oleracea
730 words

The seed that will become you falls from the cloaca of a bird and lands between the teeth of a cracked sidewalk. It’s a remarkable start—you might’ve fallen an inch to the left or right and never taken root. But you fell into that clammy little crevasse, where generations of moss and lichen had churned concrete into just enough soil to germinate a hardy little seed, and began to grow.

You are a purslane sprout, capable of growing almost anywhere, and your resilience is your cage. You emerge from between concrete teeth in a star-shaped splay of stems clustered with cheery ovoid leaves, the only leafy green thing for many yards. Everything around you rumbles and stinks. The rainwater that drips into your crevasse tastes of oil and salt.

In the distance, a raised flower bed houses a few cynical old shrubs. You extend your roots toward the faint emanations of plant-consciousness, following an instinctive drive to commingle with other growing things, but you’re walled in by solid concrete in every direction.

The moss and lichen are content to steadily chew at the concrete, throwing generation upon generation of themselves at the slow, steady dismantlement of your prison. You don’t have that kind of time. You were meant to grow and die with your thousands of siblings in great waves, a kind of vanguard for other plants.

You and your companions are baking under an indifferent sun. The concrete around you sends up wavering thermals. The moss has gone dry and spongy on top, even as its moist underlayers continue to chew. The lichen remembers hotter suns and harsher climates. Heat and drought are part of life. Your body undergoes a series of molecular changes that allow you to operate more efficiently in drought conditions. You can neither thrive nor die, so you persist in a frail, thirsty limbo.

When the first trickle of water comes, your roots swell with it. Chemical signals within your body give the all-clear to photosynthesize like normal. You don’t have the ability to wonder why this cloudless day has produced so much water.

Then comes the deluge. Then the gnashing, ripping column of water that stabs down into your little crevasse, uproots you from your shallow plot of dirt, and sends you sprawling across the pavement. Chunks of moss land around you. Only the lichen is left in the crevasse when the apocalyptic spray moves on. The ancient organism continues to slowly and serenely chew at the pavement, barely marking your absence.

You dry out. You die. Your body skitters across the concrete according to the whims of the wind.

And then, somehow, you’re alive again.

The cellular structures and chemical signals that previously defined you are gone, but something of you persists in a sprawling new form. Something has bonded with your material essence, taken your death into itself, and metabolized it into new life. It’s like being inside that faint web of plant-consciousness that told you of your proximity to the cynical shrubs, but bigger. All-encompassing.

Your new body is alive with the ghosts of other plants and animals, rich with strange carbohydrates and hydrocarbons. You encompass a long strip of earth between the sidewalk and a drainage ditch. Your physical corpus is made of millions and millions of fine white filaments, just like the ones that wrapped your old body in their digestive web.

Beyond the physical network of your body, you feel others like yourself: sprawling composite lifeforms made of living death. Some of them are huge, spanning entire forests.

Your new body remembers being a single spore, drifting away from one of those huge forest bodies. It remembers landing in a clammy patch of earth between a sidewalk and a drainage ditch where it underwent the miracle of mitosis. It remembers consuming others like you: hardy little purslane plants uprooted from sidewalks and parking lots and gardens. Your old companion, the moss, is there too, woven into the stuff of your body.

You are not really dead. You were never going to die. From spore to seed to crevasse to soil and back again, you are one and the same as everything else, part of an indelible whole.

In the nearby distance, the wizened old lichen contentedly chews concrete. The world rumbles and stinks. Seeds fall and grow and die and live, and all is well.

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