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|# ? Feb 12, 2022 16:21|
|# ? Jun 30, 2022 02:05|
Week 497 Entry
Bunny awoke in her warren to the sound of a leaf skittering across the ground.
She sniffed the leaf and detected the scent of four different animals. Bunny’s heart filled with warmth: an invitation: an invitation to the high court.
She ate a leafy breakfast, carefully groomed herself until her fur shined pristine white, and hopped out of her home and onto the nearby wolf den.
A small, shrill howl creaked through the cave and filled Bunny’s ears as she arrived. Bunny smiled as the month-old wolf pup tottered forward.
“Hi, Bunny,” Pup said. “Why are you up so early?”
“It finally happened, Pup. I got an invitation to the court of the high council. I’m getting a name.”
“Oh wow! I bet it’ll be Brave Bunny! You’re not scared of anything!”
Bunny chuckled. But, secretly, Brave Bunny was on her shortlist of hopeful names. “Well, who knows, but I’m just glad I’m finally going to get some respect around here.”
“I respect you, Bunny!”
“You want to come?” Bunny asked.
“Really? Can I?”
The sun neared the top of the sky when Bunny and Pup arrived at a wide creek. Bunny didn’t hesitate as she hopped from rock to rock and across the creek in seconds. Pup let out a howl behind her.
“What’s wrong, Pup?”
“I… I’ve never been in water like that before. I don’t know if I can swim or not.”
“Oh,” Bunny replied as she hopped back. “It’s not a big deal; you’re quick and sure-footed. You’ll have no problem making it over the rocks.” Bunny hopped over a couple of rocks and turned back to Pup. “Go on, Pup, you can do it.”
Pup inched his way over to the edge of the creek and whimpered and whined. Overhead, a cloud blew past the sun. Bunny looked up and quietly rapped her foot on the rock below. “You’ll be fine, Pup. I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
Pup continued to whimper. “But what if I wet my fur?”
Bunny chuckled and splashed into the creek next to the first passing stone. “Go on,” she said.
“But you’re all wet!”
“Don’t worry about me. Go on.”
Pup hopped onto the first rock and teetered. Bunny nuzzled Pup back into balance and nudged him forward until, rock by rock, Pup crossed the creek.
Her fur damp with mud, Bunny smiled as the proud little wolf looked up at her. “Maybe when I’m older, I won’t be so scared.”
“Until then,” said Bunny, “I’ll be old enough for both of us.”
Pup smiled and chased after Bunny as she hopped back into the thick of the wood.
They arrived at a fox burrow as the sun drifted further westward and shadows extended in front of them.
“Oh, Bunny,” Pup cried. “We’ll have to find another way, right?”
“Why’s that?” Bunny asked.
“I don’t want you to get eated, that’s why!”
“Well, for starters, keep your howl down. No need to draw attention to ourselves.”
Pup tilted his head down in shame.
“It’s OK. We just need to keep a sharp eye. It’s not dusk yet. Foxes can be out at any time, but the foxes in this burrow usually don’t come out for another hour or two. We should be fine.”
“Will I know all of these things someday when I’m old like you?” Pup asked.
“You will, and you already know more now than you did when you woke up. Just keep listening.”
The two set off around the burrow. Bunny kept silent, but Pup couldn’t help himself.
“Hey Bunny, why do you want a name so badly?”
“Because,” she whispered, “if you don’t have a name, no one respects you in the wood. Now quiet down, OK?”
“But what about me? I respect you. I think you’re my brave and kind old bunny.”
“Why?” Pup squeaked, only a little too loudly.
“It just--Freeze!” Bunny whispered sharply.
Suddenly, Keen Fox, the leader of the skulk, ambled out of the burrow and scanned around for the source of noise she heard.
Freezing didn’t work. Keen Fox bolted towards Bunny and Pup. Bunny knew she could outrun Keen Fox, but she wasn’t so sure about Pup.
“The creek! Head to the creek!” She shouted as she made a beeline straight toward Keen Fox.
“But wait, where are you going?!” Pup cried out.
She didn’t have time to answer. She approached Keen Fox, who was delighted but surprised at her pathing. She darted out of his reach at the last moment. Keen Fox only managed to bite the tip of her left ear.
Bunny took advantage of Keen Fox’s momentary confusion and sprinted ahead. She dove into a nearby tree cavity while Keen Fox regained his balance. She rummaged and buried herself in the dirt within it, concealing her scent and presence, and watched through her paws as Keen Fox searched and ultimately gave up.
Bunny arrived back at the creek after the sun had set and the moon shined a coating of white light that danced off the water.
“Pup!” She called out.
Pup peeked out from behind a tree and smiled. He bolted at her and licked her face.
“Come on then,” she wriggled away. “Let’s get you home.”
Bunny hopped off, and Pup followed behind.
“But wait, what name did they give you?!”
Bunny laughed as she hopped on. “I didn’t get one from them. I came back to find you.”
Pup stopped on the spot. “What? You mean you didn’t make it?”
“I didn’t need their name, I already have one, and I only need it spoken by the only critter in the wood that matters.”
“So what should I call you?”
“What you’ve been calling me. I’m your Old Bunny.”
|# ? Feb 13, 2022 05:34|
What We Remember (820 words)
Discord Nae posted:
The move had been delayed. The woman, Dorothy, was tired. Very tired. The child, Dorothy, did not yet understand. It’d been a long month, longer still in the living. Two days more was two too many.
But the woman smiled. The frustrations were hers. She asked the child if she wanted to go out, one last time, and the child said yes. It was starting to rain but that didn’t matter. They needed to get out from this naked apartment. It’d been theirs once, but every scrap of identity had been taken down and disappeared, packed tightly into cardboard boxes.
There was the click of a lightswitch, the door, then the key, and the room fell silent, and remained so for a time. Through curtainless windows the sky churned gray, the arrival of the rain signaled by the sound.
Cody peered out from within his box. The raindrops called him to the table by the window, one of five bits of furniture which were not theirs to take. Hearing no footsteps, Cody was emboldened, and wriggled free of his cardboard prison.
Cody was a bear and, though he didn’t look it, was getting to be quite venerable in years. He had been given to the woman, Dorothy, when she had been the child, and though the child had changed, the name was the same. He marched with purpose toward the window, the table. He climbed up a chair and looked out to the sky. For eyes he’d been given two polished black marbles. In them reflected whatever he saw.
“What are you doing?”
Agatha, from the box, was inquisitive as ever. In two years there’d been no end to her questions.
“Remembering,” said Cody. He did not turn around.
Agatha crept from the box, second-guessing every step, her over-long snout sweeping the floor. Agatha was an anteater. The child loved them. She had long displaced Cody as the child’s new favorite. Agatha knew this, and approached with care.
“What are you remembering?” The rain tapped against the glass.
“The view?” Agatha hung her head. Her eyes, also marbles, were dark and empty. “The view is right here! You don’t need to remember that.”
“I will,” said Cody, “And I want it to be right.”
Agatha looked over her shoulder, shrouded in the shadow of cardboard towers. The others had been buried, packed away, or sent ahead. It was just her and Cody. She sniffled, and climbed.
Cody sat still as she clambered up to the table. He didn’t look back even as she stood, huddled, shuddering behind him. Sensing that she had completed her venture, he scooted to the side to allow her a seat. She was a good deal larger than him, and his gesture of politeness left him almost by the edge. Agatha combed her nose with her hand, and scuttled up after to fill the void.
The world outside was cast in dull, bluish grays, the details of the people obscured by umbrellas. But the lights were on and the shops were open, and cars continued to funnel down the street.
“They look so sad.”
“That’s just how they look.”
“You look sad, too!”
Cody said nothing.
Agatha rubbed her hands together. She knew, of course, that the glass kept them safe, but gazing below…not quite safe enough. She shuddered, again, and combed back her nose.
“We’re up so high.”
“We always were.”
Agatha scratched at her neck. “Is it scary?” For the first time, Cody turned.
“Is what scary?”
“It’s…uncomfortable,” Cody said, “But I wouldn’t say it’s scary.”
“I don’t like it.” Agatha shook her head. “They take your friends away and put you in a box. I’ve been in a box before. It’s dark and hard to sleep, and there’s no room to move.”
“Even less when you share it,” Cody added, a tinge of annoyance in his words. Agatha shrunk back, hands over her head. Cody, catching himself, continued, “But it’s better than being alone.”
Agatha touched the tip of her snout with a lone, thoughtful finger. “Oh! I suppose that’s true.” She was silent for a time, until finally asking, “Will Dorothy be okay?”
“Dorothy is strong.”
“But she must be so lonely. We’ll see all our friends on the other side, but Dorothy will never see her friends again.”
“Loneliness is something everyone endures.” Cody lowered his gaze. “That is why memories are so important. You need to remember it wasn’t always like this.”
“What if you have bad memories?”
“Then you must work to replace them with good ones.”
“I see.” Agatha considered the traffic below. “Is this a good memory?”
“It will be.” Cody looked back to Agatha. She saw herself reflected in his eyes, and he in hers. “A quiet spring morning with rain… and a friend.”
“Oooh!” Agatha buried her snout with her hands. She embraced Cody. He did not protest.
|# ? Feb 13, 2022 14:31|
Dan is an angry bird.
He’s angry about a lot of things. He’s angry about the weather, about the hot summer sun pouring onto the windowsill he’s on and burning his plush skin. He’s angry about capitalism, about the marketplace that forced him to be created and then given as a Christmas gift to only be forgotten. He’s angry about Annie, who sits on her bed, crying softly. He’s angry about being angry because he doesn’t want to be angry but he was built to be angry so all he can do is be angry about being angry about being angry and so on and so forth. All while Annie cries and Dan can’t do anything but be angry.
Dan has learned that Annie has two different types of cries. The first is this one he’s watching. It’s soft, but there are tears, and she holds her pillow tight to her chest, and she tries very hard to be as quiet as she can. The second is subtler, but Dan has noticed it because he is always looking at her bed. She lays there, eyes closed, and doesn’t move. Her arms go slack. She cries inside, Dan knows, and he’s angry about that. He should be sad, he thinks, but he’s angry instead.
Her phone sits on the ground beneath Dan. She threw it. Hard. It’s on Facebook, messenger open, and there are constant dings and flashes. It gets louder and louder, and Annie mutters “Shut up.” Dan hates that phone. It has always been so annoying. Chittering every night. Annie stares at it all the time. Dan wants to say, “Pick it up then,” but he can’t because he’s an angry bird, so he stares at Annie. She never notices him.
She gets up, finally, and grabs her phone. She scrolls through it, face in a pained grimace. “Why,” she says. Dan doesn’t know what she sees, but he can see it hurts her. Her lips quiver, her hands shake, but she keeps scrolling. Dan is so angry at Annie. Angry that her phone is what is making her cry and she won’t put it down. Angry that whatever her phone is doing is making her feel something other than anger.
Then she looks at Dan. Dan thinks, What the hell am I supposed to do? and, like in response, she punches him square in the eye. It doesn’t hurt, which makes Dan angry. She stares at Dan for a bit, then her hand, and then she says, “I hate you,” right to Dan, and Dan is angry that he can’t say back, “You’re not actually angry,” because the punch was limp and Dan ran in his head millions of times how he would punch something if he had fists and no way it would’ve been like that.
Then, her eyes soften, and she grabs Dan off the windowsill for the first time since that Christmas and she takes him into her bed. She pets the top of his head softly and she whimpers as her phone chimes right next to her. She whispers, “I’m sorry,” and Dan wants to say, “I’m just an angry bird. It’s not like I can feel anything else,” but he can’t, so instead he tells himself that he’s allowing her to hold him.
“It’s over,” she says, her phone still going crazy. “He hates me, everyone hates me. Everything they’re saying.” She stops as if she realizes she’s talking to a stuffed animal.
Dan is an angry bird, stuffed in between the arms of a soon-to-be-adult who’s crying like a child, and he tries his damnedest to cry, damnedest to force a tear out of his plush eyes, but there’s nothing, he wasn’t built to cry, he wasn’t designed for this, and he’s angry, he’s so goddamn angry when Annie hugs him tight and she says she doesn’t want be here anymore, that, for a moment, he feels it. A little tiny piece of relief, like when an ear pops. It’s the drop of Annie’s tears but it’s also something more because it’s inside of him. It’s an untightening of his insides.
Dan is an angry bird.
He’s angry about a lot of things. He’s angry about how tight Annie is holding him. He’s angry that her phone hasn’t died yet. He’s angry that eventually he’ll be put on that windowsill again and be forgotten. But what’s he’s most angry about is that he’s feeling something different with the anger. Fear that this little girl, almost to college, will not make it. Dan doesn’t know what it’s like. Doesn’t know what the phone is saying or what she’s feeling, but he’s so scared that she’ll be gone. He’s watched her for so long, watched her cry so many times in her two different ways, that he wants there to be a time where she isn’t crying. Even if he’s not there to see it, that’s what he wants. He’s angry that the first time he’s felt anything other than anger, it has to be fear.
Annie’s breath slows. She turns off her phone. She grips Dan close to her chest and pets his giant stupid nose. She’ll get through it, Dan hopes, because she always does. She always gets up in the morning. He doesn’t know if he believes it.
Annie pets the top of Dan’s head. He hopes it’s enough to just be here in her arms. If it’s not, he’s gonna be angry.
|# ? Feb 13, 2022 19:51|
Family gone. Dog asleep. Flag dropped. Time to race.
Zoe’s six hooves pounded against the track. The sleek, blue, horselike creature’s pink-tipped antennae streamed behind her, huge eyes covered by a blindfold as she outpaced most of the competition. The hated Monster Truck was the only one who could outpace her, the heat of his engine as bright against her thermal sense as his green paint would be to her eyes.
“Left turn, soft change, slow turn…” chanted her spotter, a floppy-legged horse named Homer. They careened from hardwood onto plush hallway carpet. “Monster swinging wide, straight and speed, go Zoe go!”
Zoe wasn’t a new racer, but Homer had ages of experience. He’d been a racer himself before “the accident” that flung him into the dog’s kennel. Unable or unwilling to tell the difference between its own toys and those belonging to the Child, the dog had gnawed the stuffing out of Homer’s legs before anyone was able to help him.
She’d been in the stands that day. She knew it wasn’t an accident. She’d seen Monster Truck shove him into the kennel. She’d been practicing every night for the past year for the opportunity to beat that cheater and make her friend proud.
So the second her hooves touched carpet Zoe poured on the speed. She pulled alongside her rival, neck stretched out, reaching with her nose to try to catch millimeters of advantage.
But Monster wasn’t called that just because he was a monster truck. Zoe heard the slight change of tone as he swooped toward her, almost before Homer screamed at her to pull back.
Not happening. Zoe focused, relying on her heat sense and the sound of Monster’s wheels to guide her. Just before its chassis impacted her legs she leaped, converting all her forward momentum into a flawlessly smooth barrel roll that just barely took her over Monster.
Time slowed as her antennae brushed Monster’s roof. She could hear Monster’s spotter screaming at him over his radio almost as clearly as she could hear Homer screaming in her ear.
She hit the ground running, legs churning. Behind her, Monster slammed into the wall, costing him seconds and knocking him back into third place.
“Hard change,” Homer barked as the hallway carpet gave way to the tile of the kitchen. “Hard left. You’re in the lead. Stupid move, Zoe.”
“Winning move you mean!”
“It was risky! You won’t win with stupid tricks!”
“I can beat him,” she growled. “I know it.”
“If you’re smart, you’ll remember that there’s always another race. Heading into the living room. Watch… [i[Sticky trap left!”[/i]
Zoe darted right, then left again as Homer barked out the locations of the velcro plants scattered across the floor. They’d cling to her felt and hold her in place for fifteen precious seconds, destroying her lead. She counted as she dodged, there should only be nine plants after all…
“You’re heading behind Big Chair, I can’t see back there and I think there’s another sticky trap. Swing wide.”
“I counted nine.” The threatening whine of Monster’s motor approached. “I can make it!”
Zoe wasn’t listening anymore. She leaned into the turn, so close that one antenna brushed the back of Big Chair…
And her second right hoof hit a trap.
The hapless racer tumbled in a flail of limbs and antennae. She managed to roll onto her back and allow momentum to carry her a few extra inches, but came to a rest just past the chair.
Homer was silent. Then, “you counted, huh?”
Zoe closed her eyes. Monster Truck roared past her, honking mockingly. “I counted wrong.”
“Guess you did. Listen, Zoe, you’re a great racer. You’ve got promise. But you don’t listen. There’s always another race. Unless you get broken.”
“I just want to beat him,” Zoe said softly. “For what he did to you.”
“Then we’ll do it together. You’ve got two more laps,” he said as the trap released her and she struggled back to her feet. “Are you ready?”
In answer, Zoe took off. Monster was upsettingly far ahead. Every instinct told her to just run as fast as she possibly could, but Homer kept holding her back slightly on the straights and pushing her through turns.
Homer had been studying Monster for years. He knew every weakness, from the slowness of his acceleration to his inability to take corners. By the time she finished the second loop she was back on Monster’s tail. She could feel his heat, he was close as they entered the kitchen. Closer still into the dining room. Her forelegs were in line with his back tires. Just one push and she’d win it…
“Slow!” Homer barked. “Slow slow slow Zoe!”
Against every impulse in her body, Zoe hit the proverbial brakes, letting Monster zoom ahead, toward the finish line…
…and the dog, now awake and extremely interested in the speedy toy. The beast leaped off of the couch and onto Monster, knocking him off his wheels, trying to investigate the source of the whine with its claws and teeth.
Zoe hesitated. She could win this now, avenge Homer, and Monster would never race again.
But an RC car that didn’t run would end up in the dump. She couldn’t have that on her conscience.
Zoe veered off the track and slammed into the dog with as much force as her plush body could muster. The dog yelped and let go of Monster, who managed to flip back onto his wheels and ram the dog’s legs with his bumper. The creature leaped back onto the couch, whining and licking its paw, while Zoe and Monster made their escape.
“He’ll never thank you for forfeiting,” Homer said as they watched the other toys enter the winner’s circle.
“That’s okay,” Zoe said. “There’s always another race.” She threw her foreleg over Homer’s shoulders, smiling as widely as any winner ever could.
|# ? Feb 13, 2022 21:11|
Eggs. Eggs! This bird loves eggs, loves them so much. But some of the eggs are broken?!
Not Beyond Turduckendome
Once, there was a chicken named Clark Cluckson. Clark didn’t think like the other chicken in his class, but he was treated like a regular chicken being because chickens are not pricks. After graduating from Cluck University, Clark had no idea what to do with his life and he was bored. He heard about an animal writing contest called “Turduckendome”, a weekly writing competition for poultry birds such as himself. For years, he noticed their stories, and wondered what it would be like to enter something like that. Thinking that he could at least practice writing that way, Clark eventually entered the Turduckendome.
When he entered, he was amazed to see more animals than his fellow poultry! He also saw animals such as horses, crabs, and even black cats! Clark asked around and found out that despite what the name suggests, it was open to all animals, even humans! So, Clark went and competed. And he learned a few things that had nothing to do with grammar. For example:
Crabs and horses are jerks.
Crabs and horses were also able to write, and write well.
Don’t take the topic too seriously.
And perhaps the most surprising, it’s okay to lose.
Though he was not a fish, he seemed like a small fish in a big ocean. There were many animals that were talented writers! Some of them even wrote novels! Nonetheless, Clark would try his hand in writing. At first, he did okay. But week after week, he would lose.
The last lesson Clark learned was perhaps the most bizarre of them all. He was taught all his life that being considered a loser is a “bad thing”. After all, winning is better than losing, and losers deserve to get fed to the humans. But, things were different at the Turduckendome. The animals there actually tried to help Clark out. Some of them truly didn’t even mind that Clark was a “loser”. Clark’s stories had many, many problems, and they went through most, if not all of them.
Through the stories Clark made, he learned much about writing and himself. While his mind made it difficult to truly take those lessons to heart, he tried to learn from them anyway. While there were weeks that he honestly should not have entered, there were also weeks where he did not regret entering, even though he lost. There was one week where he even judged a Turduckendome!
One week, considering the prompt that was given, Clark decided to write a story involving Chickenphremia, a serious mental condition found in many chickens. The character in his work would do horrible things. Looking for inspiration, Clark would ask if any previous Turduckendome stories had tackled Chickenphremia. Those he asked were shocked that he would do so! There were many who wrote for a long time, and even they wouldn’t write about Chickenphremia, or their species equivalent! Seeing how that was a horrible idea, Clark went back to the drawing, or in this case writing, board.
When wondering what he would do instead, Clark decided on doing something simpler, since the prompt was asking for simple. He decided to tell his Turduckendome story, with the names and species changed. Thinking about it, he was grateful for all the help he had received in the Turduckendome, even though he was a “loser”. While he did not necessarily write to win, he at least wanted to show how grateful he was for the folks there. While there have been struggles with them, he can honestly say that they are good animals.
|# ? Feb 13, 2022 21:57|
You're the first person to request, so you get the #1 bear. Please note: he is #1 at EVERYTHING.
Number 1 Bear
Words: 921 / 1,000
Muffin was the first bear. He had the badge to prove it and everything.
Of course, being the first bear also meant that he was the only bear. Because of this, he had all the colours of the rainbow (and then some) to himself and he stored them in his fur. Muffin was very proud of that. On the other hand, being the only bear meant that he was also a lonely bear. Muffin didn’t like that so much.
There weren’t many animals back then but they were all Muffin’s friends. There was Sammy the Sparrow and Louie the Louse and Berty the Beaver who lived in the river. The forest was alive with Muffin’s animal friends and he spent every day playing with them but -
But when the sun started to go down and all of the animals went home by themselves, Muffin went back to a den that was cosy and dry but just too big for one bear.
One day, Muffin helped Berty build out their dam, carrying great big logs down to the river for them. Afterwards, while he was bathing in the water, Muffin had a fantastic idea.
“I’ll make more bears,” he cried, “and then they’ll be my family!”
Muffin was very pleased with himself. But what to make them from? Bears don’t own much - but when Muffin saw his reflection in the water, he had another fantastic idea.
“My colours,” he said. “I’ll make them from the colours of my fur.”
And so, he pulled the green out of his fur and began to mash it like clay - but Muffin’s paws were very big and wet from the river and the colour kept on slipping and sliding. By the time he was finished, the green didn’t look much like a bear - its head was all squashed and its back was all lumpy and its limbs were all skinny and wrong. It hopped away from Muffin before he could grab it and disappeared into the river.
Muffin had just made the first frog! But he was sad, because it wasn’t a bear and now his fur had blank patches where the green had been. He sulked for a little while but he was still very lonely and so he decided to try again. This time, he got out of the river and dried himself off and found a nice quiet clearing to work in.
“This time,” he thought, “I’ll take my time.”
And so he pulled not one but two colours from his fur, slowly weaving indigo and violet into a shimmering sheet. He would stuff it with grass and sew himself a family - but his claws were too sharp and when he tugged at the sheet it fell into a dozen ribbons that fluttered off into the sky. Muffin watched the first butterflies fly away and his spirits sank, his fur covered in even more blank patches.
“Oh this is hopeless,” he cried. “I’m good for nothing!”
“What did you say?”
Muffin turned to see his friend Berty the Beaver crouching at the edge of the clearing.
“Oh, Berty,” Muffin sighed, “it’s no good. I can’t do anything right - I tried and tried to make a family for myself but my paws are too clumsy and my claws are too sharp. What can I do?”
“Don’t say that!” Berty said. “Why, your paws may be big and your claws may be sharp but you’re good for so many things! You pulled all those trees to the river for me - why, without you, my dam wouldn’t be half as fine!”
“But I can’t build a family like that,” Muffin said. “I’ll be all alone forever!”
“You’ll never be alone,” Berty said. “You have me - and I know Sammy and Louie feel the same way too! But if you want to make more bears, why, I’d be happy to help!”
Muffin sniffed away a tear and looked down at Berty. The beaver’s hands were small and nimble, his claws no trouble at all.
“Of course,” Berty said. “I’d be happy to pay you back for your help with the dam, friend.”
Now Muffin was a proud bear but not too proud. He gladly accepted Berty’s offer and pulled from his fur all of the brown, scooping it in front of the beaver. Berty, for his part, patted the colour flat with his tail and then sculpted it with his hands - soon, a dozen little brown bears sat in the clearing.
“Oh, Berty, thank you!” Muffin laughed and jumped around the new bear cubs, who laughed and jumped around him. “More! Can you make more?”
And so Muffin pulled the red and the black and white from his fur, and the yellow and the orange and the colours in between. Berty sculpted each of them into a dozen bear cubs, blending colours as he went. Muffin was soon surrounded by a crowd of cubs of nearly every imaginable hue. The only ones missing were those he had lost; the green and the indigo and the violet.
And blue. Muffin kept that to himself, because even with his multicolour family around him he was still a proud bear. His fur was patchy and blank in the places where he had pulled out the colour but in all the other spots it was as blue as the river. For the rest of his days, other bears would look at his blue and his badge in awe and whisper to themselves: “There goes Muffin.”
“The Number 1 Bear.”
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 00:01|
For Gallantry in the Face of Ants 994 words
“Where did you have your picnic, in a swamp?”
Her little sister, Allie, shook her head. Little globs of mud splatted the door, the walls, and Judith. Some also fell on her picnic basket and stuffed anteater, but neither looked like they could get any muddier. “There were ants,” she replied.
“Right,” said Judith. “Mud ants, obviously.”
“No, silly, normal ants. Well, big ants.”
“Of course,” said Judith. “Come around the back, I’d better hose you off before you come inside.”
They walked around the back of the house, and Judith grabbed the hose.
“Wait,” said Allie. “Can we use the sprinkler?”
“Sure, why not.” Judith connected the sprinkler to the hose and set it up in the middle of the tiny lawn. Allie grabbed the stuffed anteater and ran back and forth through the jets of water.
“There!” said Allie. “All clean!”
“I don’t think so,” said Judith. “You definitely need a bath.”
“And Antonio too?”
“Hmm,” said Judith. “Let me check his label.” She took the anteater and turned him this way and that. “Looks like he’s lost his label. I’m sure that’ll be fine though, it’s just hot water.”
“Sure, why not.”
Fortunately, the back yard opened straight into the laundry, which connected to the bathroom, which allowed them to go straight to the bath without dripping or getting mud on any carpets. Judith filled the tub, and Allie lifted her hands above her head to allow Judith to pull her shirt off her.
“Hmmm, still a lot of mud on this.”
“It was the ants,” said Allie. She stepped out of her pants, and into the tub. Judith passed the anteater to her, and she pushed him underwater.
“The ants, of course,” said Judith. She squeezed some bubbles into the tub and handed Allie a washcloth. “Make sure you scrub every inch of yourself. Now, how did these ants get you all muddy?”
Allie started scrubbing her arms. “Well, I decided to picnic next to an anthill, because it was also on a good spot next to the pond, and Antonio could protect me from any ants.”
“I see,” said Judith.
“And then the ants attacked, and Antonio protected me, but there were too many of them, so we had to do asymmetrical warfare.”
“Uh,” said Judith, “what exactly do you mean when you say…”
“Oh,” said Allie, “we just learned about symmetry in school. It’s when two sides of your paper look the same when you draw a picture, except reversed. Or like how most faces look the same on both sides, except how I’ve got a spot on the left.”
“Uh huh,” said Judith.
“So, the ants attacked by having like, hundreds and hundreds of ants, but there were only two of us, me and Antonio, so we couldn’t do that.”
“No, I suppose you couldn’t.”
“So, I filled up my bowl with pond water and tried to wash the ants away, and their anthill got a bit muddy, and also me and Antonio accidentally fell into the pond a little bit, and then rolled on the ground to dry off a bit.”
“Right,” said Judith. “Hmmm, looks like we have to wash your hair.
“Mum always did it for me.”
Judith nodded. “Tilt your head back.”
Allie tilted her head all the way back and looked straight up at the ceiling, and Judith took a tiny bucket, filled it with bath water, poured it over her head, then rubbed shampoo in until it was all lathered up. “Antonio needs his hair washed, too,” said Allie.
“Good point,” said Judith. “Do you want to do it, or should I?”
“I don’t know how, that’s a mum thing too.”
“Right.” Judith squeezed shampoo onto Antonio and rubbed it in vigorously around his head. “I think we’re ready to rinse you off, now. Here, hold onto Antonio.” She passed him back to Allie, who held him out of the water. Judith poured more water over Allie’s hair and rubbed her hair vigorously to make sure it all got rinsed out. “Time to rinse Antonio,” she said. “Do you want me to do that?”
“No, I can do his.”
Judith passed her the tiny bucket, and she filled it up then poured it over Antonio’s head. Then, for good measure, she dunked him back underwater and vigorously squeezed him.
“All right,” said Judith, “I think you’re both as washed as we’re going to get you tonight.” She held up a towel, and Allie got out, clutching Antonio, and stepped into it. “I think Antonio will have to be dried separately,” she said. She took the anteater from Allie and put him into the clothes dryer. “He’ll be good as new in no time.” Then she dried off Allie, starting with her hair and working down. “I guess that’ll do. You look ready for bed.”
“I want my antelope pyjamas.”
“Sure.” Judith went and got them and helped her get dressed, buttoning up all the buttons because Allie still had trouble with that.
“I need Antonio to get to sleep.”
“He’s not going to be ready for a while.”
“But I need to cuddle him to get to sleep!”
Judith sighed. “How about if I lie down next to you, and you can cuddle up to me?”
“All right, but you have to be in pyjamas too.”
“Fine.” Judith got changed, and the two of them crawled into her bed; Allie’s was a little too small for Judith. Allie nestled into Judith, who waited patiently for her to fall asleep.
“I think Antonio should get an award for protecting me from the ants.”
“Like a medal?”
“No,” said Allie. “More like a hat. Or a cape.”
“All right, I’ll make sure he gets a hat.”
Judith had meant to get up and move Allie once she fell asleep, but it was comfortable, and she was tired.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 01:03|
Dumpy and the Fortune Teller
Word Count: 903
On a lonely side of the hill Evercolder
Lives a sad little rock named Dumpy the Boulder
Dumpy never has much and very little to gain
No friends, no comforts, no roof for the rain
Dumpy wished he could play, dance, even laugh
Then one day a carriage comes up from the path
The driver’s a man in dark cape and top hat
He tells little Dumpy he’s The Great Mudgothplat.
“Hello little one,” he says with a smile
“It seems you’ve not had any joy in awhile”
Dumpy nods yes. The man seems so nice.
“I can help you with that. But for a price.”
The man steps down from his traveling stall
He holds in his hand a crystal ball
“I’m a teller of fortunes and all that will be.
I can point you toward joy for just a small fee
I’ll show a future of mirth untold
And all you need do is bring me some gold.”
The crystal shines bright with a mystic glow
With magic like this, how could Dumpy say no
Dumpy ran down the road, ever so bold
Until he stopped to wonder where do you get gold?
But then he remembered, though it’s melted in blocks
Before gold’s made into bricks, it’s just shiny cave rocks
So he gathers the best looking stones on the ground
And returns to the cart with more than one pound
But Great Mudgothplat’s eyes were pointed in rage
Dumpy soon realizes he’s angered the sage
The man pholds forth his orb in its glorious light
“Dare you insult me with this pebblish trite?
Out of my sight, you sniveling cur
And don’t dare return without any treasure!”
Dumpy rolls away and thinks it’s not fair
He wants to be happy, but has no treasure to share.
He crawls the dirt, and looks through the grass
There’s so little of value on this mountain pass
He had some pebbles, some sticks, and the sort
It wasn’t much, but it still gave him comfort.
He may not have gold, a crown, or a gem
But these little scraps were treasure to him
So Dumpy digs through the very little he owns
And he gathers his favorite branches and stones
He takes them down to Mudgothlat’s cart
He hands them to him with all of his heart
The magician snatches his gift, throwing it down
“You call this treasure?! It belongs on the ground!”
He picks up his orb and its magic shines bright
“The magic in this crystal is mine by right.
This craft is not meant weaker hearts
But I have spent years mastering these arts
I can see all that was and will ever be
And how dare you expect me to do it for free
So come back when you have something of worth
Unless you don’t want a future of mirth.”
So Dumpy rolls on, his heart all but shattered
He rolls on defeated and emotionally battered
But still he goes up to the mount’s highest peak
Not the slightest idea of what he will seek
Land grows strange as hidden beasts roar
He’s never been to this hillside before
The trees have claws, the flowers all hiss
His vision’s obscured by poisonous mist
But a glow in the distance cuts muddled sight
He rolls further to see the source of the light
The shines in the distance that sooth Dumpy’s fear
Are crystalline rocks in the shape of a sphere
Dumpy looked deep into each crystal ball
Enough to then know they’re not magic at all
So Dumpy returns his circular prize
The wizard’s mouth drops and his eyebrows do rise
He mutters and stammers through his excuse
Though inside he knows there’s really no use
For this boulder’s stone glowing so odd
Proves Great Mudgothplat to be a mere fraud
Mudgothplat flees back to his cart
Snaps the horse reins. Forward they start.
He shouts as he leaves “Fine! Keep your stone!
You won’t tell anyone. Because you’ll still be alone.”
The carriage disappears as it speeds down the hill
Its rattle grows quiet, and the mountain grows still
Dumpy sits there, a weight in his heart
Poor boulder’s back to where he was at the start
So he picks up his orb and rolls back to the peak
Past the claws and the mists to lands ever so bleak
Further and deeper than he ever dared roam
But he may as well, there’s nothing back home
The path’s jagged, unclear, and covered in snow
But still he pressed on, his crystal in tow
The mists cloud the sky, he can’t tell if it’s day
How long has it been? Is this even the way?
He almost surrenders, but then a voice from the road
“Where’d you get the ball?” says a friendly young toad
There’s several from where he heard the toad speak
So Dumpy takes them up to visit the peak
They hop and jump from crystal ball to ball
Then misty dark peaks don’t seem so scary at all
The claws aren’t so sharp, the plants may not be mad
The mist isn’t poison, though it smells a bit bad
But while boulders can’t leap quite just the same
He chased all of the toads in a fun little game
And though Dumpy has little on mountain bends
As of this day, he finally has friends
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 03:06|
Some nights, when the rain was especially fierce, and thunder threatened to shake the house apart, Charlie would take you downstairs and you’d sleep together, under heavy woollen blankets, before the soft warm glow of the fireplace.
As much as the noise frightened you, those were your favourite nights. When Charlie was smaller — when you were almost the same size — you never stayed apart. Once he grew bigger, and started tottering on two legs, digging through the dirt outside — where you were forbidden — Charlie spent less and less time with you. He no longer held you on his lap before the TV, or snuck you sips of his juicebox, or fell to sleep clutching you tight — except for those frightening, magical nights under the woollen blankets on the loungeroom floor.
His mind gave you life, his hands gave you movement, and when he sunk into slumber you followed dreamlessly, waking only when he carried you back upstairs to the shelf you spent more and more of your time upon. But one night, when his eyes closed and you felt sleep descend, the crackle of fire and the roaring storm did not disappear but instead grew louder, stronger, as the darkness of night became suddenly day; for a brief, incandescent moment, all was noise and all was light and all was heat.
And then everything was silent, and dark, and cold; and you succumbed into whatever sleep followed such fury, Charlie’s arms still tight around you.
When you woke, you saw the ground through your legs, black dust and shiny rocks shimmering through hazy white fur.
And above, where before hung a single bulb, now sparkled countless lights, far above the rafters, impossible to reach, even if Charlie had held you up in his hands—
Charlie. His hands no longer held you. You were awake, but he was nowhere nearby.
You stood. That was easy, now. Effortless. You thought, and limbs obeyed.
You heard voices, close and getting closer. Not Charlie’s, not Charlie’s mum, not Charlie’s dad — who had never once raised his voice as loud as these. Strangers, in strange clothes, faces hidden under helmets, behind masks, carrying axes and torches, sweeping light through the darkness to reveal how much of the house was … not, anymore. You followed them, invisible to their eyes, so small you almost sunk into their footprints in the ash.
They pressed on, out of the house, onto the deck, miraculously intact, and then the grass beyond. You reached the lawn’s edge and hesitated. You’d never been allowed further, for fear your legs would turn green, your face ground into mud. And yet there, on the grass, near the swing Charlie had once strapped you to, sneakily — two figures, blanket-wrapped, clutching each other tight; their heads together, facing away from the house.
One of the strangers walked across the grass and over to them. You thought about following him, and your legs obeyed, the four of them moving across the dirt and the grass and the ash blown forth from the house. None of it stained your paws; none of it made a mark at all. And your paws left no prints in response.
The stranger reached the figures and they spoke to each other. One of them turned, to face the house, to face you — Charlie’s father. He didn’t see you; he was looking past you. He was looking past everything — looking to something so far away not even Charlie’s legs could have carried him there. And then he looked away.
You ran. You bounded. You flew. You found new strength in your limbs, throwing yourself forward, careless of direction, your destination a mantra: you needed to find Charlie.
Only when the sun’s warm light arose, clearing any shadows that might have hidden Charlie, did you stop, and collapse to the path. It was hopeless. Wherever Charlie had gone, you were unable to follow.
You realised someone was calling to you, and looked up to see a bear sitting on a porch nearby, waving a paw in your direction; its fur white and see-through like your own.
‘I’m looking for Charlie,’ you said, walking closer. ‘Have you seen him?’
The bear shook his head. ‘When did Charlie leave you?’ he asked, gently.
‘Last night,’ you said. ‘We both went to sleep, cuddled under the blanket, before the fireplace. And then—’
The bear nodded sagely. ‘What’s your name, young one? What did Charlie call you?’
‘“Good Boy”,’ you said.
‘Of course,’ the bear said. ‘You must have been, to pass through like this.’
‘Pass through?’ you asked.
The bear shrugged. ‘We don’t all get a second chance,’ he said. ‘Charlie believed in you. He thought you were real, just as Sally thought me real. “Big Bear”, she called me. I was with her—’
He broke off, looking up at the house, at a single curtained window at the top, before looking away as Charlie’s father had. ‘When she left, I was too old for anybody else to love. All I can do is stay, and remember my favourite nights, snuggled up in her bed at home. But you—there’s more you can do, young one. Go back to where Charlie left you—I think he meant for someone else to have you, now he’s gone.’
And that’s where I found you: half-buried, covered in soot, in the remains of that house.
You ride with me, now. We spend days at schools and libraries, teaching, helping everyone stay safe; and at night, you ride with me, your white fur lit up by flashing lights.
Because, sometimes, I’m not fast enough. Sometimes, the worst has happened; and people stand huddled under thick woollen blankets on the lawn, watching everything they’ve ever known turn to ash, and that’s when I need you.
I take you, and I put you in a child’s hands, and they hold you close to them, and in their minds you’re holding them back, as tight as you can.
Because you’re a good boy.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 03:44|
Blood and Comfort
It took all thirty gods to tear The Iron Hand down from his throne. They bound him through his trial, teeth gnashing, rivers of blood streaking from the golden bindings at his wrists. Guilt was never an issue. But how do you punish someone who smashed mountains into pebbles? How do you punish someone who tore canyons into the earth with his fingernails? How do you provide justice to the thousands of orphans he created?
After a year of deliberation, they took him apart like ants, ripping pieces from him like crumbs from bread. They shaped each lump, caressed them into a fuzzy caricature. A monstrous immortal, split into a million fingers, all part of the same consciousness.
The Sunset Bard laughed when he chose the shape. “A bison,” he proclaimed. “Let him know the burden he imposed upon us. Let its placid ways be a guide for him. And let his memories yoke him.”
They washed the world with stuffed bison. The gods spread them like dust, coming into existence under beds and in corners, appearing like friends long forgotten. The Iron Hand sighed from a million mouths and settled in for eternity.
The children denied the peaceful punishment he envisioned. While some bison sat on the shelves, mouldering, others fought wars that made his seem like skirmishes. The Iron Hand was the hero of ten thousand skirmishes, smashing through lines of soldiers, his stomping hooves turning their bones to powder in the soft dirt. He died ten thousand times and was reborn minutes later, carrying screaming soldiers on his back. He knew more glory from children than he did from the hands of men.
While some fingers got to be soldiers, others got to be pillows, covered in snot, soaking in tears, providing small matches of comfort in dark times. His hug soothed hungry bellies and his cuddles dried red-streaked eyes. They believed in him more than the soldiers he led into battle.
His brothers came for him eventually, yanked him from sleeping arms and bookcase pedestals and shoved his crumbs back into a lumpy loaf. “Have you learned your lesson?” they asked. “Have you atoned for what you have done?”
The Iron Hand stood broad before his jury and nodded.
His brothers embraced him, clutched him tight to their chest, their claps wracking his granite body. But tears flowed down his cheek.
“What’s wrong?” they asked. “Don’t you miss our fellowship, and our sweet apple wine? The serving girls are asking for you, and we’ve all agreed that it is time.”
He clenched his hard fists and shook his head. “Send me back,” he told them.
When they pulled him apart this time, he smiled.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 03:55|
https://ibb.co/c6LJfmb (couldn't get the bbcode to work)
Fake Midna in the Forgotten Forest
Fake Midna emerged with a zoomy leap from the silvery-green mist and yipped, "Hi, Mr. Mushroom! Do you want to play?" She was a stuffed pomeranian; her red-gold fur was thick with soot, and her button nose had long since been chewed off.
"Bah! This is no time for silly games," said Mr. Mushroom. "Not after the news of the bullfrogs' school board elections. Truly the state of affairs in the Forgotten Forest is going south," said Mr. Mushroom.
Fake Midna saw no reason that any time shouldn't be one for silly games, but Mr. Mushroom looked very grumpy, so she let him be and went looking for other friends to play with. No one she talked to was in the mood for playing; the craggy trees' limbs were too stiff and sore, the snakes hid as she approached, and the crows were too busy with gossip to pay her any attention. In the back of her mind, Fake Midna knew she had come to the wood to find her best friend, but she had forgotten who she had come to find, or how she had made her way to the forest to begin with.
A little girl covered in a big white bedsheet skulked along the deer trail. Fake Midna burst through the thorny underbrush to greet her.
"Hi!" said the little toy dog. "Do you want to play?"
The little girl peered down at Fake Midna through the cut-out holes in her sheet. "You look familiar. What's your name?"
"I'm Fake Midna! Let's play!"
"Fake Midna? That's a peculiar name. Is there a Real Midna?"
Fake Midna ran in circles around the little girl as she thought. Then, in a flash of remembrance, she barked, "Oh yes! Midna!" she exclaimed. "She's my best friend! I came here to find her!"
A stump let out a frustrated groan as the little girl sat on him. "Midna...I know that name. Can you tell me about your friend?"
"Of course!" said Fake Midna. "We used to play every single day. She looked just like me. We would have big battles, and one time she got so excited she chewed my nose off!"
The little girl brought her hand to her chin. "Yes, her name was Midna. I came here to find her too. Do you know where she is?"
Fake Midna sat down. "Well, she told me where she would be, but I don't remember. 'Meet me at…' meet me at where?"
"Yes, she told me, too. Where was it?" said the girl. Fake Midna leapt onto her lap, and the little girl pet her as she thought. The feeling of the girl's burn-scarred hands on Fake Midna's ashy fur was soothing and familiar.
"I know you," said Fake Midna. "But you aren't a little girl. You're a grown-up."
"I suppose you're right," said the woman. Suddenly Fake Midna jumped off her lap and hopped in the air.
"Katrina! You're Katrina! You're my friend! Oh boy, it's so good to see you! Let's play!"
"Yes, that was my name, wasn't it?" said Katrina, but like everyone else in the foggy woods, she seemed in no mood for games. Tearstains formed on the sheet just below her eyes.
"What's wrong, Katrina?" said Fake Midna. "I know you love to play."
"It's good to see you, too, Fake Midna," said Katrina. "But you're not who I came here to find."
"Right…" said Fake Midna. "I hope Real Midna isn't out there all alone and scared. But know what? Midna was always so good at playing, I bet even grumpy Mr. Mushroom would play with her."
Katrina let out a laugh through her tears. "Yeah, you're right. She isn't scared. To her, this is just a forest full of friends."
"Wait!" said Fake Midna. "I think I remember something. What did the little bag say on it, the one she stayed in after the day with all the smoke?"
"Meet me at…" Katrina began before Fake Midna joined in. "...the Rainbow Bridge."
They looked around. The gloomy forest did not look like the place for a Rainbow Bridge.
"Excuse me, I couldn't help but overhear," said Mr. Mushroom. "I have a cousin who lives over by the Rainbow Bridge."
"What?" said Fake Midna. "That's fantastic! Can you please tell us where it is?"
"Well, um, it's that way, a long, long way off. To get there you have to go through the darkest, scariest part of the forest, the place with all the giant spiders and whatnot."
"Spiders?" said Fake Midna. "I love spiders. They're my friends!"
"And now that I think of it," continued Mr. Mushroom. "There was a little dog that passed by a while back asking for directions, too. She asked me to play, and, well, she was too cute to resist. drat near chewed off my cap."
"Thank you so much, Mr. Mushroom!" said Fake Midna. "I knew you were going to be a friend!"
"I don't know," said Katrina. "I'm scared of spiders."
"Well then any time you're scared, we'll play a game until you're not scared anymore," said Fake Midna. She could tell Katrina was smiling underneath the sheet.
"That'll work," Katrina said, and the two old friends made their way deeper into the wood.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 05:21|
Morning in the Mud
From its very start, Francis Frog endured a very trying morning.
He’d kept to his bedtime and slept soundly through the night, but despite being a good frog, his reward had been a rude awakening as his lily pad sunk into the marsh below. Sputtering and coughing, Francis righted himself and swam toward the water’s edge as he contemplated how pleasant his morning might have been with a bit more time to rest. Instead, he’d have to rush to clean himself up in time for his appointment.
“You know, I’ve always thought amphibians look best with a bit of grime on them,” said Thomas Toad as he served breakfast from his seat in the shade. Francis enjoyed spending his mornings with his cousin, but today Thomas had prepared beetles, which were among Francis’ least favorite foods. Still, he did his best to be polite and filled his plate as Thomas looked on.
“I think it might look better on you than on me, Thomas.” The two chuckled at this together, as Thomas still wore a thick coat of dirt from digging the previous night’s burrow. Francis picked at his food and joked with Thomas, and as the morning wore on, he had nearly forgotten his unexpected mud bath when the two heard a loud shriek from above.
“It’s a heron! Francis, hurry,” beckoned Thomas as he leapt down into his burrow hole. For a moment, Francis weighed the prospect of being eaten against the certain discomfort of the day’s second coating of dirt. When his cousin called again, however, the frog quickly dashed into the dark and ran face-first into a tree root.
It was all too much for poor Francis then, and the little frog began to cry. “This has been the worst day of my life,” he said, through sniffles and groans. “First, I nearly drowned in my sleep, then I got covered in muck to start my morning! After that, I had to rush to get to breakfast on time, only to stay hungry because Thomas served nasty beetles! To top it all off, I had to leap for my life, only to smush my nose on a root! What’s worse, I’m now covered in muck again like a louse! What’s the point of being a good frog if all of this will happen anyway?”
Francis was so absorbed with his tears and complaints that he didn’t see Thomas next to him looking glum. The poor toad hopped away deeper into the burrow as he, too, started to cry. Francis sat feeling sorry for himself for a little while longer, but when he realized that Thomas was gone, he composed himself and set out to find his cousin. The burrow was even deeper than he had thought, and even though Francis felt a little unnerved by the dark, he found his courage and trudged forward.
Before too long, Francis came upon Thomas hiding in a small nook. His relief upon finding his cousin quickly turned to guilt when the toad shared what had sent him away.
“I’m sorry that I made us beetles for breakfast, Francis. I didn’t know that you felt that way about them. And I’m sorry that my burrow got you dirty again. I just wanted to be sure that we were both safe.”
Francis felt even lower than the worms that crawled beneath them. “Thomas, I’m sorry too. I was hurt and upset, and I didn’t think about what I was saying.” He stuck out his webbed hand and patted the toad on the back. “I may have had a difficult morning, but there’s no reason we can’t enjoy a lovely afternoon together. I’ve got an idea that I think you’ll like.”
The two made their way back to the remains of their breakfast, and when they were sure that the heron had gone, they hopped along back toward the water’s edge. As Francis cleaned himself, he found that he cared just a little bit less about having a spot of grime on him. The two cousins enjoyed an afternoon highlighted by delicious fly pie, and when Francis found a small bit of fly on his cheek, he didn’t worry much at all.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 06:02|
The plague doctor, keeper of secrets and keys and ethernet cables.
Birds and Sovereigns
Janey tastes blood. Her own, from her lip. Her legs are bruising. There's something going on with her left shoulder that she doesn't want to think about, doesn't want to try to lift that arm or use it standing up. It's dark. Some kind of basement or underground garage, she's sure. She can barely see anything further from her face than her legs. Except. For the eyes. Bright white. Not much higher than her own head. Unblinking. Moving slowly forward.
"Does." It's barely a word, more the screech of a predator bird, the sound of a throat used to long silence clearing. The next words are clearer. "Does the Janey need Praxis' help?"
Twenty years. At least. Twenty years since she heard that voice. In her head, she's always assumed. There comes a time when one doubts the more fantastical aspects of one's youth, when one adds two and two, the facts that nobody else was every around when Praxis spoke and that nobody else really still thought their toys were people, and gets four. One day, over summer break, she asked what had become of that old stuffed toy. Her parents told her it must have been lost in the move, or the move before that, and that was that. But she still remembered.
It wore a beaked mask, with clumps of feather beneath, so she had always imagined it a bird. It named itself, in those childish days, and, speaking for itself, assumed primacy over all of her other toys. And when she had problems, Praxis always had advice for her.
The advice usually involved burning down someone's house.
"Fire," Praxis said, "Is ever the most effective sovereign against their kind."
"Don't be silly" she said. "We can't burn down Ron's house just 'cause he splashed mud on me." Or whichever grievance of the day.
"You saw him stomp that puddle with deliberation," said Praxis. "And he knew full well it was a new outfit. Fire is the best option. Anything else and the sickness will return."
Fire, Janey remembers. The men looking for her deserved it. Deserved justice, but that would never come from any court. There were two police among them, and the son of the mayor. They'd killed before and would again and no judge would ever see them charged, no newspaper or broadcast would ever print or speak a word of truth. Too much money in too many dirty hands.
"Yeah," she says. "I could use a little help." Praxis steps forward, grinning, a tame lick of fire forming at the tip of its outstretched wing. "Only thing is, I sort of want to get out of here alive."
"Then follow Praxis," it says. She stands, wincing as she braces herself. She can walk, thankfully. You should see the other guy she thinks, looking at herself in the firelight. The other guy looks better off, though. Possibly seriously concussed. She only got one hit in, but she had made it count. There's a hatch in the floor, old steel, set in the foundation. She sees the rug that had covered it up. "How Praxis got in," it says.
She will wonder, in her future, if this was as imagined as she used to think those childhood conversations. If the City Under The City was a flight of fancy in the fugue state of her escape, or even if she is still down there, frantically imagining an alternative to her fate when they find her unconscious body. But then she will remember the evidence of her own senses, remember the sight of Praxis flooding the basement with white-hot flame as she closes the hatch beneath herself.
"Do not worry," it said. "Praxis is kin to the Phoenix, and has risen before, will rise again."
She will hear the words, will reach into her pocket and clutch the blank steel that she earned from the Undercourt, and she will cast away those doubts.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 06:29|
Call of the Wild (abridged)
The frozen lake of the playroom stretched out in front of Beige, the gray wolf. Behind him, the members of his sled dog team stood in their harnesses, waiting for the command of their fearless leader. Neither Slipper, the cocker spaniel who held a red shoe in her mouth, or Nanook, the small polar bear, said much, but– Beige abruptly fell over. Getting up, he glared at the team’s clown, a chubby Dalmatian named Lucky.
“Look what I can do!” Lucky was bouncing on his thick bottom, tossing around the rest of the team as he did so as he was twice the size of the other dogs.
“Stop that,” Beige said irritably. “We’re playing sled dogs, not circus.”
Lucky laid on his belly. “Sorry.”
Satisfied that the team was under control, Beige called, “Mush!” They surged forward haphazardly, each dog pulling according to their ability. Beige, as the oldest, steered the boxy sled, but Lucky contributed much of the pulling power, dragging along the smaller dogs. They howled joyfully as their soft paws slid across the hardwood floor.
Suddenly– “Oh no,” said Beige, “the ice cracked and the sled is falling in!” He ordered the team to hold still as he circled back to determine how to extract the sinking sled. Before he could do so, he fell over again. Lucky had started bouncing, and without his weight holding the sled up, the whole team was dragged backwards. Slipper fell in the water, Nanook close behind her.
“Hold the sled, Lucky!” Beige shouted, but it was too late. With no traction on his bottom, he slid into the water as well. His fat paws gripped the edge of the ice as he whined from the cold.
It was all down to Beige. Heroically, he pulled the entire team and the sled out of the lake.
“I saved you all this time, but sled dogs need to work as a team,” Beige said to Lucky. “That means no bouncing.”
Lucky promised to be on his best behavior as the dogs headed into the pine forest. Thick snow carpeted the ground and the trees were clustered in groups of four, so they couldn’t run as fast. Still, Beige jerked to a halt as the sled caught on a chair and overturned, the entire team ending up in a pile.
“Lucky, you started bouncing again!”
Lucky covered his eyes with his floppy ears. “I just like bouncing.”
“But look, the sled crashed. Now we’ve got to untangle everyone.” Beige set to work straightening out Slipper and Nanook, whose harnesses had wrapped around each other. Lucky made a few furtive bounces while he waited, much to the frustration of Beige.
Their arguing attracted the attention of a yeti. It toddled over, idly smashing two cars together. Beige and Lucky both looked up, alarmed, but they knew how to deal with it. As the yeti started reaching for Nanook, they yelled in unison, “Go away!” Beige made a threatening wolf growl while Lucky barked as loud as he could. The yeti was more perplexed than scared, but it wandered off nevertheless.
“Let’s go,” Beige said once the danger was past. Lucky bounced sulkily in place. “Come on,” Beige pleaded. “Mush!”
That magic word got Lucky moving, and the dogs kept running. Beige was so distracted by Lucky’s mutinous attitude that he almost led them off a cliff. He ground to a stop, the rest of the team and sled sliding into his back.
“This cliff is too steep, we’ll have to go around,” Beige said with authority. He started to pull but didn’t go anywhere: Lucky was sitting down in his harness.
“I’m going to bounce down,” he said.
“No, that’s stupid,” Beige said automatically.
“No it’s not!” Lucky insisted. “Look.” Pulling the sled to the edge of the cliff, he bounced down a step, then another.
“The sled can’t go down,” Beige said doubtfully.
“Yeah, watch!” With the next hop down, the sled slid off the edge of the cliff. The box tumbled down the stairs, its contents and the dogs flying everywhere.
“I can bounce back up too!” Lucky said, dragging the sled as he hopped from step to step.
Beige paused. On one hand, Lucky wasn’t playing sled dogs right. On the other hand, he wanted to see the sled fall down the cliff again.
“Good work, Lucky!” he said. “You discovered a way for us to traverse the cliff.”
Lucky beamed. “Do you want to go down it again?”
“Yeah!” said Beige enthusiastically. They went up and down the stairs, laughing, until they got tired. Beige sorted out the other dogs then stood at the front, Lucky standing proudly behind him.
“Mush!” Beige cried, and the dogs ran on to their next adventure.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 07:00|
A Signal in the Fog
Foghorn slips into his human's dream world with such ease that, for a moment, he thinks he's learned how to dream himself. He's in a classroom, peeking out of a backpack, and Laura is at the desk, writing something too far away to read. She's hunched over and tense; her hand moves like lightning from line to line, but she never turns the page. This is a nightmare. She's having a nightmare, and at last, Foghorn is here.
It's been a very long time since Foghorn was needed, and in truth, he thinks he was never needed very much. He was a strange choice for favorite: a carnival prize, cheap fake fur and cheaper flocking, made to be discarded after a few weeks or traded for something bigger. He's gone everywhere with Laura, but he's never been a guardian, just a silent and sympathetic friend. How can he be silent, though, when his girl's gripped by a nightmare? He tries to cry out, but his beak doesn't open; neither wings nor legs cooperate when he tries to force his way out of the backpack. Even here, he's just a toy, and a third-rate toy at that.
There is nothing in the nightmare but time, and Foghorn thinks as hard as he can manage. Something unfamiliar itches inside him, but it's hard to tell if it's the power to help, or just the desire to. If this is Laura's nightmare, then it works by the rules of her imagination, doesn't it? Laura's never thought about him as a protector or a savior, but he's always been present, the constant companion. If his place in her mind is as something present, then maybe he can push at that, make himself known. Foghorn thinks harder than he ever has and imagines herself near her.
There's a little pop of tension in the air, barely palpable, and then a second Foghorn is sitting on Laura's desk. She looks up from the endless test, and Foghorn watches her from two angles at once; it gives him a strange, dizzying feeling, like nothing his simple body has ever felt before. "Foghorn?" she says. "What the hell?"
The borders of the room are blurring. Some conscious part of Laura's mind is stirring, and the room is dissolving around them. Good. The dizziness is only getting worse, and Foghorn is ready for his own dreamless rest.
After a few more nightmares, it gets easier. Foghorn splits himself into three, then four, then more, and with practice the disorientation starts to fade. Instead, there's something almost comforting about it; it reminds him of very old memories, of his first journey, packed tight in a plastic bag with dozens of his brothers en route to the fairgrounds. Foghorn stacks himself high in the classrooms and bookstores that populate Laura's nightmares, into the trunks of broken-down cars and on top of endless piles of clothes waiting to be packed into tiny suitcases. Everywhere Laura's anxiety might send her, Foghorn makes sure that she sees him.
She always recognizes him immediately, but it always takes time for her to put the pieces together. "Two Foghorns? That's funny. Wait, three?" Even in the deep haze that she's in while dreaming, she senses something wrong. One night, she even says it out loud. "This doesn't make sense. There's only ever been one of you."
On one hand, that's not quite true. Foghorn has laid in a bin with hundreds of his brother-selves, before that long journey in the plastic bag with a few dozen; when you're a mass-produced thing, you know it forever, no matter how much you're loved. On the other hand... it's been years, hasn't it? Many years, Foghorn thinks, though he's never been too good with time. He's been washed and stitched up countless times by Laura's mother, his eyes repainted by her father, his tag that marked him as one of many cut off and lost a long time ago. There's only one of him, and that's what he means to tell her. There's only one of him -- and if there are more, something's wrong.
Laura is easily lost in her dreams, and the message takes a long time to get through, but one night, it breaks through the waves of fear and worry. "Five Foghorns?" she says, out loud, with only the Foghorns to hear her. "That only happens in dreams. Which means... holy poo poo, this is a dream, isn't it?" Her shoulders relax, and the twisted landscape around her begins to blur, its demands on her loosening. "Just a dream. Okay. Breathe."
Foghorn wasn't made to last long, but here he is, after all these years. In the waking world, dust collects on his shabby fur and glossy plastic eyes, but in Laura's dreams, he's her hero at last. She's given him a life, and in return, he can give her back a decent night's sleep.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 07:29|
Mansour was snout-deep into his fourth bowl of bourbon and raspberry when the call came through, a harsh electronic bray that cut through his pleasant booze-fug like the smell of a fresh-cut lemon. He ignored it.
It had been a long time since anyone he’d want to talk to had called him.
“Aren’t you going to answer that,” said Ambrose.
Ambrose was Mansour’s latest favourite barman, not least because he knew when to shut the hell up and just fill the bowl, so this was different enough to get Mansour’s bleary-eyed attention. Ambrose’s face was deadpan, but Mansour always had been crap at reading human expressions, those tiny ears could mean anything.
“Sure,” he said, after running his tongue around his chops a couple of times to catch the last sweet drops. The phone rang a few more times as they looked at each other, then Mansour slapped at it with a paw, sending it skittering across the sticky varnish of the bartop, before clattering to the floor. The ringing stopped.
“drat it,” gruffed Mansour, and leant down off his stool to get it. The ground was further than he expected, or the stool was slipperier, or local gravity conditions were flat-out wonky because the next thing he knew he’d clipped his head a thumping whack on the side of the bar and was sprawled in an awkward alcoholic heap on the cheap parquet-effect tiling.
Ambrose was suddenly kneeling beside him, hands firm on his collar and belly. “Up you get, mate.” He placed the phone carefully beside the bowl.
Mansour felt his tail wagging a little, involuntarily, as he was settled back onto the stool and stopped it, raised his ears from their craven slope. This was embarrassing. “Thanks.” The bowl of bourbon was still half full. Mansour looked at it, tapped the plastic sides and watched the ripples. The bar was quiet that night, and a shamefaced glance confirmed that the couple people in the corner round the pool table hadn’t noticed his tumble.
“Do you,” asked Ambrose, after a bit, “know who that was?”
Mansour panted a little as he reached out and touched the phone. “Yeah, it’s my son. It’s, he’s been calling.”
Ambrose had a row of glasses in front of him. He picked one up and inspected it, then replaced it, nudging it with a finger to get it in line.
“We get on, it’s not like that, it’s just.” Mansour had a sudden urge to bury his snout deep in the remains of the bowl, just suck, and suck the sweet fire down his throat, pipe it straight to the hole at the middle of him until, well. Just until it was gone. Then he could get another. Go somewhere else. Maybe go to the store and pick up a bottle, better make it two, don’t want to run out. He didn’t want to look at Ambrose.
The smell of the bourbon and raspberry was sickly, cloying, acidic. He tried to remember the last time he was enjoying his life, the last time he could say yes that’s the sort of life a dog should have.
Everything was quiet.
Very, very carefully he leant forward, put out his tongue, touched it to the surface of the bourbon, felt the fire burn its soft underside. Then, he sat back up.
“I don’t think I’ll finish that, Ambrose. Would you mind, uh. Could you?”
Ambrose nodded, slid it across the bar and tipped it into the drip tray. "You want some water? Something else?"
The phone started ringing again. "Yeah, just a splash. Thanks. Don't wash out the bowl."
Mansour shook his head, feeling his ears flap around like they used to, long walks on the beach a long time ago. Then he extended a cautious paw to the battered phone and answered his call.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 07:59|
Playtime's over, kids! Submissions are closed.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 08:03|
Auntie Anne the Anteater is huge. So is her guitar.
March of the Ginormo Ants
Long ago and far away, past the ruins and over the strait, there lay a mountainous island. Nestled beneath a glacier was a vast forest with rivers and lakes. Within that forest was a copse of maples. To the inhabitants, it was known as Maple Grove. Those inhabitants were a group of living stuffed animals. They enjoyed a mundane yet charming life, spending their days playing games, collecting trinkets, and napping in the afternoon sun. They never deviated from their routines, and truly, they never thought to.
Then one day Auntie Annie woke up.
Auntie Anne often slept for years at a time, so when she woke up, she was hungry. Auntie Annie was also big, so she had a big appetite. After such a long slumber, she was very hungry. So, she summoned the animals of the wood and demanded food.
“I hunger,” she boomed.
The stuffies worked to gather their favourite snacks. Ellie Elephant brought a handful of coloured beads. Snowy Owl brought pieces of oyster shell from the beach. Peter Whale brought an array of acorn tops. The other stuffies did not have the chance to present their offerings, because Auntie Annie waved them away.
“No, not this.Real food,” she said, “Bring me a good meal or I’ll eat you!”
The animals protested. After all, their stuffing would not be very appetizing, but Auntie Annie would not be dissuaded.
“Bring me a good meal by tonight or I’ll gobble you all up!”
And with that, Auntie Annie left the frightened animals and stomped off to her sunny hill.
“What will we do?” wailed Cat Happykins.
“We’ll be eaten for certain,” chirped Bird Birden.
“Pull yourselves together!” Snuggles O’Hare called, “There must be a solution. We must find it!
The animals sat and thought, thinking the hardest thinks they’d thought in years.
“I know!” Ellie popped up, “The Ginormo Ants! Auntie Annie is very big and she is an anteater. They would be the perfect snack!"
“But how will we get them out?” Snowy asked, “The never come above ground before dark and by then it will be too late.”
“We must lure them out of their nest early!” said Ellie, “And I have an idea. Everyone, grab the noisiest noisemakers you have and meet me by the Ginormo Nest.”
The stuffies did just that, gathering their drums, tambourines, and bells. At the entrance to the nest, Ellie directed them to make as much noise as possible. The animals gave it their all, generating a racket not often heard in Maple Grove. But no matter how loudly they played, nothing emerged.
“I’m sorry everyone,” said Ellie, “I thought for certain that would work.”
“It’s okay,” said Snowy, “I have a thought: If loud noises aren’t working, maybe we can lure them out another way. Peter Whale, Snuggles—you two gather the biggest leaves you can find. Everyone else, come with me.”
The animals split up. Snowy took Ellie, Bird Birden, and Cat Happykins to the edge of the copse. It was there she had come across a deer corpse last week, the remains of some predator’s kill. The body had begun to putrefy then and was positively rancid when they came across it. Snowy explained her plan to draw the ants out with smell as they hauled it back to the nest. Peter and Snuggles were already waiting with the leaves. All ogether, the animals fanned the leaves to waft the smell of the corpse into Ginormo Nest. But no matter how fast they wafted, nothing emerged.
Before the animals could feel to dejected, Bird Birden chimed in.
“Friends, I have an idea! Perhaps the Ginormo Ants aren’t coming out because they don’t like what we’re using as lures? Loud noises and nasty smells aren't exactly the most pleasant experiences. Why don’t we try a more pleasant bait?”
The animals agreed it was worth a try and asked Bird Birden what he had in mind.
“It’s simple,” he said, “I wrote a song some time ago that is perfect for this situation. The only problem is we need an instrument big enough to carry the sound deep into the Ginormo Nest.”
The animals knew where this was going. They needed to talk to Auntie Annie. They gathered their courage and set off for her hill. The big anteater greeted them when they approached.
“Hello,” she said, “I see you have brought no food. Does this mean you have given up and wish to offer yourselves to me?”
“No, Auntie Annie,” said Bird Birden, “But we have figured out a way to get a most splendid meal for you: I have written you a song.”
“How will that help?”
“Well, we need you to play your guitar. Only your beautiful playing could lure the Ginormo Ants from their nest.”
Flattery will get you everywhere, they say, and Auntie Annie was rather chuffed. She dug her giant claws deep into her sunny hill and grasped something beneath the dirt. With a roar and a rumble, she pulled a guitar as big as herself out from beneath the ground. The stuffies picked themelves up from the ground after the tremors had ceased.
Auntie Annie followed them to the Ginoro Ant nest. Along the way, Bird Birden taught her the song.
When they arrived at the entrance, Auntie Annie sat down and began to play an acoustic rendition of “The Ants Go Marching”. The effect was almost immediate. Deep from within the cave the sound of thousands of feet scurrying could be heard. It was not long before Ginormo Ants were marching out of the cave, up Auntie Annie’s guitar, and into her mouth. Auntie Annie played until she had had her fill. Once satisfied, she returned to the crater that was her sunny hill, curled up, and went back to sleep.
Maple Grove was once again at peace and its stuff animal inhabitants slept easily.
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 08:18|
All right, all right, I'll allow it. But you'd better be going somewhere with this, counselor!
|# ? Feb 14, 2022 16:06|
Judging will occur sometime later tomorrow because I left my laptop in someone else’s house three hours away so I’ll be driving all morning and afternoon! Yay!
|# ? Feb 15, 2022 04:58|
interprompt: I opened the door, and before i could blink (300 words)
|# ? Feb 15, 2022 22:39|
Enough of cute things! Let the cruelty of the judges wash over this friendly land!
This was a good week with some fierce competition. Our HM piles were big and beefy, as were our winners piles, but in the end, only one can prevail. This week, the winner is:
flerp, you took a big angry bird and used him to tell a story about the anger that comes from helplessness and the toll relationships can take on us. Take your bird and your win and your seat upon the blood throne!
For HMs, we've got three: CaligulaKangaroo, who wrote an absolutely charming poem about a sad little rock named Dumpy; rohan, who legitimately made me cry with his ghost dog story; and Bad Seafood, whose meditation on moving and memory captured a wonderful sense of melancholy. Bravo, you three!
For DMs, just one this week: My Shark Waifuu, who wrote a story with a lot of characters without much meat to justify their presence. At this length, every word is precious, so you've got to scrutinize everything you add to make sure it's important (or so I'm told...)
For the Loss, it breaks my heart to say it, but it's going once again to TheManCalledM. It didn't do much with the prompt beyond using a chicken as a stand-in for your autobiography, and your prose still has a ways to go before you're on the level of most of the regulars here.
This is the best story you've submitted so far. Your tenses were all good, the story had a natural beginning and ending, and--this is the big one here--you wrote something honest. There are writers who will go their whole lives without writing a single honest word; you are not one of them. You took a risk and put your real feelings on the page, and even if the execution didn't meet the level of what we usually see here, your story still has merit because it says something real. Keep writing, and keep writing honestly. You're improving and I'm more and more impressed each week you come back to show us what you've learned. You may have lost, but you have a lot to be proud of.
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 05:18|
How the Prompt is Chosen
hello i have no ideas so im recycling a prompt from poemdoem (rip) with some modifications
im gonna share one of my favorite poems, How the Pope is Chosen by James Tate. it owns hard. you can read it here
James Tate posted:
How The Pope Is Chosen
that fucks right? i know. anyways, the prompt.
when you sign up, you will pick 1 to 4 sequential lines from this poem and that is your prompt. just pick whatever sequence you think was really cool or neat or funny or would make a good prompt. i dont really care. if you cant decide, you can ask me to give you a set of lines. repeats are acceptable
but also i want to make this a little bit of a challenge too so i want you to attempt a tone shift like Tate does here. you dont have to do a shift exactly like how he does his, where it goes from funny to existential, but i want some kind of shift. start out depressing and go hopeful. start out action-packed and end on philosophical. whatever, i dont care, but i just want you tone to change in some capacity. just read How the Pope is Chosen to see what im looking for.
and thats it. pick your favorite lines, make a story where your tone changes, and then you post. easy, i hope.
also, poetry is not required. you can write poetry, but it is not required nor is it especially encouraged
2015 max words
sign ups close fri 2/18 at 11:59pm PST
submissions close fri 2/20 at 11:59pm PST
a man called m
popes who threw up from too many slurpies:
flerp fucked around with this message at 19:27 on Feb 20, 2022
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 05:38|
Hello please pick my lines for me
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 05:40|
Hello please pick my lines for me
They drink Slurpies until one of them throws up
and then he's the new Pope.
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 05:46|
Some of the full-bodied popes are a million times bigger than us.
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 05:48|
we try to sing a song, but the words do not fit the music too well.
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 08:06|
In, please pick me some lines.
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 08:41|
In, please pick me some lines.
What, we don't know, because we are not like them.
We can't even dress like them.
We are like red bugs or mites compared to them.
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 09:41|
Yeah, I think I’ll judge this week.
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 13:13|
Some of the full-bodied popes are a million times bigger than us.
They open their mouths at regular intervals.
They are continually grinding up pieces of the cross
and spitting them out. Black flies cling to their lips.
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 17:43|
but I won't. After a poodle dies
all the cardinals flock to the nearest 7-Eleven.
They drink Slurpies until one of them throws up
and then he's the new Pope.
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 18:19|
growing up to become a Pope is a lot of fun.
|# ? Feb 16, 2022 22:17|
Enough of cute things! Let the cruelty of the judges wash over this friendly land!
I did not want this to influence the results of the judges, so now that it's done I just wanted to post that I'm super pumped that I got this one in--even if I was 15 minutes past the deadline. I got the 'VID last week and was feeling pretty laid out. Witness me. That is all.
|# ? Feb 17, 2022 01:23|
Reading and audio crit for Alco-Pop by Sebmojo:
|# ? Feb 17, 2022 04:42|
And one for Chernobyl Princess!
|# ? Feb 17, 2022 05:13|
It’s Valentine’s Day (belated) so in addition to your crits, I’m telling every one of you something I loved about your story. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Chili - A Name - This was very cute. I think your pacing was a touch off in both the opening and the ending, since the opening went on a little long and the ending was a little short. Also this early line with the nested colons threw me off a little. “Bunny’s heart filled with warmth: an invitation: an invitation to the high court.” I don’t know if double colons is street legal or not, but there’s got to be a better way to express the thought.
⁃ I loved: The idea of a council that gives names to the animals. It’s a very good conceit with a lot of potential for other worlds and stories. Happy Valentine's Day, Chili!
Bad Seafood - What We Remember - Quiet and heartbreaking. Really captured the discomfort surrounding moving well, and how that translates to how our lives change as we grow. Re: naming the mom and daughter Dorothy, I see what you were going for, but I’m not sure the thematic benefits added enough to balance out the momentary confusion it caused in a couple of places.
⁃ I loved: Cody’s quiet patience in the face of Agatha’s innocence. You made these characters come alive in a way I found very touching. Happy Valentine's Day, Bad Seafood!
Flerp - Angry Bird - You really made this bird’s anger relatable and understandable and tragic. I’m reading it again to find some flaw to critique, but it’s moving me all over again. I’m sure I could find something to nitpick if I tried, but honestly, sometimes I just want to sit with a piece, and this is one of those pieces. Really nice work.
⁃ I loved: Annie punching Dan and Dan not being angry at her, just angry at everything that surrounds her, is really beautiful. Happy Valentine's Day, flerp!
Chernobyl Princess - Blind Race - Another cute one! Zoe and Homer are both very good animals, and I thought you did a good job expressing their relationship. The thing that the piece was missing for me was why anyone aside from Zoe was invested in the race. Homer had a vendetta against Monster, sure, but what meaning does the race have to him and the other animals? Why do they keep doing it when it’s so dangerous? If there’s a reason (which I assume is something like ‘it’s fun’), it should come through more in the text.
⁃ I loved: Your opening line. Great rhythm, great energy, perfect start to the story. Happy Valentine's Day, Cherynobyl Princess!
The Man Called M - Not Beyond Turduckendome - I already told you in TD chat the general reason you keep losing (a skill-gap issue), but for the sake of this crit, I’m going to focus on a single place where you can improve: fleshing out scenes from brief descriptions.
Take this line, for example: “After graduating from Cluck University, Clark had no idea what to do with his life and he was bored.” This tells us a lot about Clark on a surface level, but there’s no emotion behind it. What does Clark’s boredom look like? (We’re pretending we’re talking about a chicken here and not you, even though this is very clearly autobiographical.) Does Clark sit in the same chair all day, flipping through hundreds of channels without committing to a single show? Does he keep picking up hobbies and dropping them when he hits a roadblock? Does he irritate his friends because he’s dismissive of everything? These scenarios all describe a person struggling with boredom, yet each one of them paints a different picture of who this person is. You’ve got bored/depressed, bored/flighty, bored/hostile: they all take the same concept in completely different directions.
Using the line above as an example, try looking at other places in your story where you state something in plain terms, then imagine how you could add details to transform the sentence into a scene that feels real. As a hint, I’ll give you another line to try playing with: “When he entered, he was amazed to see more animals than his fellow poultry!” What does that amazement look like? How does it feel in scene?
⁃ I loved: This is a story that could have only been written by you, which makes it your first step towards finding your voice as a writer. You probably shouldn’t be quite so obvious with your autobiographical details next time, but drawing from life is what makes writing come alive. To practice with this without making a story straight autobiography, try taking details from completely different sections of your life. How would your third grade teacher work as a character in a story about the first place you ever worked? What would happen if someone ran drove your favorite car through the front window of your favorite store? Mix and match, see what works and what doesn’t. It won’t all work; try it anyway! Happy Valentine's Day, TheManCalled M!
Staggy - Number One Bear - Reminds me of the story about the rainbow fish with the colorful scales, the name of which escapes me. Good moral, good story for children. Like a lot of pieces this week, it didn’t rank because it didn’t have the emotional heft of some of the heavy-hitters, but it was still a competently written story. I enjoyed it quite a bit and I’d happily read it to my nephews, who I’m sure would enjoy it, too.
⁃ I loved: The premise of a bear making more bears out of his own fur so he can have more friends. It’s a great concept. Happy Valentine's Day, Staggy!
Chairchucker - For Gallantry in the Face of Ants - I think I got what was going on here, and I know I liked it. Not totally sold on a kid understanding asymmetrical warfare, even if they just learned about symmetry. I also would have liked to know a tiny bit more about where the mom is. You hinted at it enough to pique my interest, but didn’t go the distance with it. Just give me a tiny bit more! I’m slow!
⁃ I loved: How you handled the relationship between Judith and Allie. Judith’s quiet, unending patience was so calming in the face of Allie’s childish excitement, and their dynamic came through wonderfully. Happy Valentine's Day, Chairchucker!
CaligulaKangaroo - Dumpy and the Fortune Teller - Oh poo poo this was really good. I’m not really qualified to crit poetry beyond the occasional simple meter slip-up, but I know it made me love Dumpy and his beautiful orb.
⁃ I loved: the surprisingly solid characterization for a silly poem! I felt bad for dumpy and I was very happy when he made friends using the power of Orb. Also, Dumpy is such a good name for my precious boy (who is an unnamed Nu from Chrono Trigger, if you’re curious about wtf it is). Happy Valentine's Day, CaligulaKangaroo!
Rohan - Good Boy - I wasn’t always clear on what was going on, but I did say I’d take vibes over a structurally solid story, and that’s where you delivered. I cried, you sicko. This story combines everything I love about pets with everything I love about kids with everything I love about dolls with everything I love about humanity. Beautiful and tragic. Go to hell.
⁃ I loved: crying alone on Valentine’s Day. I’ll kill you. Happy Valentine's Day, Rohan!
GrandmaParty - Blood and Comfort - Took me a little bit to figure out what was going on, but when I did, it really came together for me. Original, clever idea, but the execution was a little wobbly up front.
⁃ I loved: the concept of forcing someone to experience life as a stuffed animal. Reminded me a little of the movie Fluke (Matthew Modine is a bad person who dies and comes back to life as…his family’ s golden retriever? It’s better than it sounds) but more creative. Happy Valentine's Day, GrandmaParty!
Albatrossy_Rodent - Fake Midna in the Forgotten Forest - It ended when it was just getting started! I want to read more about Fake Midna and Katrina’s trip to the rainbow bridge, and what happens if/when they find it. I also want to read more about Fake Midna in general because she’s very cute.
⁃ I loved: the way Fake Midna was oblivious, yet compassionate. Really fit the mood of the piece. Happy Valentine's Day, Albatrossy_Rodent!
Taste - Morning in the Mud - Another cute one! Really resonates with me after having a string of lovely days. Another competently written story that didn’t necessarily reach the highs of the winners, but doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. Reminded me of the Frog and Toad stories, which have always been favorites of mine.
⁃ I loved: your opening line, even with the two ‘verys’. It sets up the story perfectly, telling you what kind of frog Francis is and what kind of story we can expect in a single line. Happy Valentine's Day, Taste!
Thranguy - Birds and Sovereigns - Oh, this was an eerie one. You almost got an HM for the feel alone, but it was a tough week and there were too many good entries. I think it could have benefitted from a few more words though, because I was left asking many, many questions. Still, good atmosphere!
⁃ I loved: the whole vibe of this piece, and how compellingly creepy Praxis was (Great name, too). Happy Valentine's Day, Thranguy!
My Shark Waifuu - Call of the Wild - A lot of characters. It was all right, but there were quite a few stories like it. On that note, I’ll give you the same crit I gave another story: why is this sledding run important to them? I don’t need the origin story of why they’re doing it, I just need to know why they care if Lucky messes it up.
⁃ I loved: Lucky covering his eyes with his floppy ears. Charming little details like that really elevate a piece for me and make it come alive. Happy Valentine's Day, My Shark Waifuu!
Antivehicular - A Signal in the Fog - This one was super cool, and it was another one that didn’t quite get the HM, but might have even won on another week. I think the biggest weakness is that Laura doesn’t really come through as a character. I know who Foghorn is, but I want to know a little more who she is so his desire to help her has more meaning.
⁃ I loved: the concept of a plush helping its owner through dreams. This is such a cool idea and I love Foghorn for coming up with it. Happy Valentine's Day, Antivehicular!
Sebmojo - Alco-pop - Pretty good vibes and the imagery was on point. I’m not quite sure what tipped Mansour towards pulling his life together at the end, though. A few extra sentences to expand on Mansour’s decision to get it together would improve the story a lot.
⁃ I loved: a plush dog drinking human booze out of a dog bowl at a human bar is really, really funny to me. Happy Valentine's Day, Sebmojo!
Yeah ok ok yeah - March of the Ginormo Ants - Wildly creative, beautifully illustrated, lovingly crafted. I told myself not to factor your illustrations into judging, however, since this is a writing contest and not an art contest, so I begrudgingly judged your story on its own merits and it didn’t quite reach the threshold to HM in such a stacked week.
⁃ I loved: the illustrations! I know I said I didn’t factor them in judging, and I didn’t, but it killed me to ignore them because they conveyed emotion and momentum and I never want you to stop drawing, not ever. Happy Valentine's Day, yeah ok ok yeah!
I did not want this to influence the results of the judges, so now that it's done I just wanted to post that I'm super pumped that I got this one in--even if I was 15 minutes past the deadline. I got the 'VID last week and was feeling pretty laid out. Witness me. That is all.
You are witnessed. Now get some rest!
Nae fucked around with this message at 07:20 on Feb 17, 2022
|# ? Feb 17, 2022 05:46|
sign ups closed. small week so if you fail i will personally make fun of you
|# ? Feb 19, 2022 18:34|
|# ? Jun 30, 2022 02:05|
Jesus in the Wilderness
My Lord and Savior,
did they teach you the Rule of Three at Nazareth Elementary? That you can live three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air? I don't know how true the truism is; I have not read any scientific papers on the subject, nor have I gone more than a day without food or more than a few hours without water or more than maybe a minute without air, surely during a breath-holding contest. I do not necessarily think it a fact that if you begin your fast on a Tuesday that you will die three Tuesdays later. But I do guess that if you go more than a day, maybe two, without food, that every day you fast after that point will be consumed by thoughts of consumption.
Jesus, oh Jesus, my King,
your plan is to spend forty days and forty nights in the desert without eating or drinking. Now, you are the Son of God, so maybe your Godly body pushes mortal boundaries, and maybe you can live near twice the duration that the Rule of Three dictates with regards to food. I do think, however, that you should strongly consider fudging the rules when it comes to drinking. I don't know about Aramaic or New Testament Greek, but in English, "drink" can indicate both the consumption of any liquid or the specific imbibing of alcoholic beverages. If you want to go forty days without drinking, perhaps use that English sub-definition of "drink" and stay sober for those almost-six weeks. If depriving yourself of water is necessary to summon the specific experience of spiritual horror you are seeking, then deprive yourself of water within reason.
Thank God that the rules don't specify anything about depriving yourself of oxygen.
My Lord, my Lord, hallelujah my Lord,
how long will you be starving yourself before you start to see the ghosts?
They will start, I imagine, with the ordinary ghosts of the Galilean desert, the centurions who died of thirst on the dry, dusty roads, the sheep-herders devoured by hyenas, the stray children with vulture-picked skeletons.
When will the ghosts of the past emerge, as the ghost of David watches madly night after night from the ghost of that old Jerusalem tower for the ghost of Bathsheba to lift up the ghost of her leg over the surface of the water to shave it clean as Uriah's ghost, the ghostiest ghost of all the ghosts, lives out again and again the day he became a ghost?
Then I imagine you will see the ghosts of your future, the lashings, the thorns, the cross. The Judas who died hanging from a tree and the Judas who died with his bowels expelled onto the field.
I imagine you will see the ghosts of all futures: Anne Frank will be holding hands with Matthew Shepard with Emmett Till standing between them with his hands on both their shoulders and for sure your Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. will be there, and maybe just maybe Malcolm X too hanging out by the Wounded Knee tipis, and will you see the color in all their translucent skin, you historically accurate Brown Jesus, as they are begging you to eat, to pick up Satan's stone-bread and devour it, to end fast the story that will lead you to the cross?
What will guide you onward amongst all these folks who lived through their apocalypses until they didn't, what will make you keep going when you see the knee on George's neck, and when these people demand you not make a name that they will die for, to not build a holiness and purity their killers will murder for, what is it that will demand your NO! and bring you to Satan, to deny his infinite kingdoms and more importantly his bread, knowing the future that will come?
The ghosts of everyone will be there in that desert soon enough, I imagine, when the makers of the End wear the fatal cross like Caesar wears his jewels, when the money it was all for bears the words IN GOD WE TRUST, when the seven-headed beast and the Whore of Babylon and the horsemen are riding through town tattooing six six six on everybody and hissing that it's all in your name. When the ghosts of those millions you will never meet from lands you will never imagine find their way to that desert, to that pitiful starving dirty God-borne husk of a man, when they all scream NO, and all you have to do to end it is eat that rock, that softest buttieriest loaf you ever might taste when all you've known for the past thirty-eight days is hunger.
You poor man, if you can hear my prayers, trapped on endless hills of dry Galilee shrubbery, I will not tell you not to eat that bread. If at the end of all this, you decide maybe it's best to sit and snack with the devil beside you, I will not blame you. To hell with those that would.
remember to eat a good full meal before you go. Give yourself a little food baby, a little fat to be whittled away.
|# ? Feb 20, 2022 21:26|