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Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

flerp posted:

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.

The Names of the Island
Words: 1,022 / 2,015

There are gods in the caves in the mountain.

There are gods in the caves and they do what gods do: they feast upon humans. The children of the Island will often ask why; what is a human to a god? And the oldest and wisest of the women around the campfire, the ones who dress in scarlet and live in small huts in front of the caves, will smile and nod and say: what is a fly to a spider? What is a log to the fire?

What are you to a god?

Flies have wings and branches have bark but humans have precious little to dissuade a god. Arrows and spears kill the flesh, of which gods have none. And so the oldest and wisest of the children around the campfire, the ones who don’t realise that they are children still, will wonder: why have I never seen a god? Why have they never come for me and mine, never left their caves in the long span of years - more than a dozen! - that I can recall?

Because they are shrouded, of course.

The Island is small and can be crossed in an hour. When a new birth is imminent, one of the women in scarlet will be there. When waters break suddenly, the women in scarlet are called before the midwife. This is because they know the right words and the secret hand gestures; they know the proper manner of anointing and dressing the new babe. They know the names, of which there are many, and so they say to the newborn: you are fire. You are the surf. You are boulder.

Gods do not hunger for fire, nor the surf on the shore nor the boulders of the mountain.

And in this manner, the Island is safe. No humans walk its shore, after all, but fire and surf and boulder. And if fire should take another name, one suited to human tongue, then they do not lose their first name. And in this manner, they are shrouded from the gods, who sleep in their caves in the mountains.

But just suppose -

Just suppose that there was a secret birth. Suppose that she and he were not promised to each other but found each other regardless. Found each other and, nine months later, found themselves in a dark fishing hut rattling with midnight rain and the feeble cries of a newborn. A secret birth so that she and he could, for a night, be they. And the newborn cries as newborns are known to do but there are no women in scarlet there to say the right words or make the secret hand gestures. And perhaps, in a moment of recollection, she calls the newborn Sky.

But Sky is not sky.

The Island can be crossed in an hour and it takes that long for the gods to wake, the scent of a human in their minds. They stretch out their limbs, of which they have several, and draw in the air, which mixes with their blood. The gods are awake and the gods are hungry. They pass by the huts where the women in scarlet dwell and crawl down the mountain and never once leave their caves, for a god is a thing with only one end and as much middle as they need. And maybe the women in scarlet notice and maybe they don’t.

But just suppose they do notice.

Then they race down the mountain. They do not fight the gods because they are also shrouded and named for root and cloud and undertow and other things that cannot hurt a god either. But gods are slow and women are not, even if they are root or boulder, and so they overtake the gods and begin a desperate search that they half-remember from when they sat around the campfire and asked questions that they thought were wise. And maybe they find he and she in time and speak the right words and make the secret hand gestures and now Sky is also sky and the gods retreat, hungry, to their caves.

But maybe they don’t.

Maybe the gods come across he and she first, unspooling themselves from their caves and coiling around the fishing hut, coarse skin rubbing on coarse skin. The closer they come, the louder the baby cries and the louder the baby cries, the closer they come. He and she cry too as the wooden walls and roof of the fishing hut peel back, as the gods begin to croon and bob their heads and descend upon the babe. Their mouths open all the way and their eyes roll back. They brush aside he (who is surf) and she (who is fire) and inhale deeply, so deeply that the newborn babe can no longer cry.

What then?

Then, the gods return to their caves, sated. The women in scarlet arrive in the end (for the gods leave easy trails to follow) and now their task is a grim one. They send to the village for two stout man to hold he and two more to hold she and they take the babe - which is no longer crying but, sadly, not at all quiet - and they wrap it in broad leaves and carry it up the mountain to an empty cave. They place it inside and say the right words and make the secret hand gestures and name it the only thing they can name a newborn that now speaks in their language.

They name it god.

And in time he will climb the mountain and build a small hut in front of a cave that is no longer empty, while she learns the right words and the secret hand gestures. In time, she will be gifted with scarlet robes. They will never be they again but sometimes he will come and sit with she at the mouth of the cave and sing soft lullabies into the darkness. Sometimes, they will hear snippets of song returned - but this is pure coincidence, of course. Sleep talk.

The gods cannot hear the surf and the fire.


Mar 21, 2010

When the stoner kings convene in high summer sadness
the blistered yellow lines of the carpark bow
and the tarseal weeps black–
emperor big dave used to come here, behind the bins
to meet his subjects, to chill and pass judgement
“nah it’s all good man,” he’d say, if they weren’t cops
“nah it’s just tobacco man,” he’d say otherwise
and as he spoke it was, and the cops left empty-handed
and big dave remained, full-pocketed.

the ten kings each hold a slurpee high
“big dave” they say, and they throw back their slurpees
fighting back electric freeze, crucifix nails in each sinus
each stoner king drains their frothing cup, then a second
cup of milk from the jug sitting in the sun
then looks down and tries not to yartz–
no surrenders.
“who's got the next round?” asks Mad Mags, wreathed in sunlight

the slurpees arrive alongside a slinky feline messenger:
proceedings are put on halt.
It is a good cat, with fierce and lovely eyebrows
and stately socks on three feet only.
“meow,” he declaims.
After a short debate, all agree: dave would’ve liked it very much.

the shocking cold, death cold
“i’m out bro,” says Robbie, who used to be a monster
had a patch up north with tripwires and sharp stakes
but now teaches 6th-form bio, he places his cup on the ground
retreats into the shade and pets the cat

“one time I saw dave evade ten cops,
by turning into a bush,” said K, “then when he was safe
he broke off a branch and we smoked it.”

“one time my ex was on the piss,”
said Mags, “and dave flew over in the form of a white dove
and showed me where to hide my head.”

“one time I got lost out in the ‘rapa at night,”
said Gavin, “then the clouds rolled back
full stars to see by, and there was a new constellation
that just said DAVE.”

“meow,” said the cat, whomst the kings decreed
should be called Beans, and K starts crying
The kings all agree: it’s the brain freeze.

two more rounds, thunderous chunder, perfect technicolour stains
only two kings remain:
Mags stares down Murray, who used to be a punk
a mosh-pit killer, who did one tour and now he screams at night
so he smokes and he hopes for cloudy days.

They throw back their cups, no surrender. And again, and again.
They’re all well-heeled at this point, a council in the old days
would’ve tapped out to make rent, but they’ve all got soft shoes now
and so they drink and drink, brains frozen, stomachs bloated
then the clatter-crash, Beans has knocked over one of the bins
and behind it, a perfect tinfoil fifty.

“Emperor Beans,” breathes K.
“Emperor Beans,” nods Robbie.

Together, the kings hold aloft the milk, and empty it in the shade.
Beans laps happily, and the kings cry
because, they all agree, it’s very funny
even though it isn’t.

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving And something has got to give

The Oblate Job
1671 words
Prompt: 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.

The Deepgreen Colony contract looked better than it had any right to be. Even the chintziest outfit could write an attractive contract, and Deepgreen was about as chintzy as it got: a breakout commune colony on a swamp planet, risky enough that even the sharkiest loan corps wouldn't underwrite them. They'd made it a few generations, though, enough to start worrying about genetic bottlenecking, and they'd scraped up just enough to make Jack and Mason take a look at their offer. Not much cash in it, of course -- if they'd had the cash, they'd have bought a fresh gene line legit -- but a little, plus citizenship and lifetime room and board on Deepgreen, if they wanted it. It never hurt to have more places to lie low. The Church wasn't in the business of pursuit, but you never knew, right?

Stealing oblate embryos from the High Cathedral was a step up in ambition, but not in difficulty. The Church relied on biometric security, and Jack and Mason came from a mission planet; even five years since the escape, nobody had bothered to flag them in the system as apostates. It was as simple as a pupil scan, then access to facilities that didn't even lock the interior doors. Sometimes Mason wondered if they even counted as thieves, when the Church made these jobs so drat easy. Waltz in, grab a few pallets' worth of embryos and gene stock, and walk out whistling a hymn. Mason always told himself it wasn't supposed to be this simple, that one day it wouldn't be, but the Church hadn't put up a fight yet.

The setup was easy: their well-worn sexton's robes, plus the bio-stasis cart that'd give them a comfortable window to work with the samples. No weapons, nothing suspicious. The loading-dock gatekeeper at the High Cathedral didn't question their cover story -- with a dozen deliveries of fresh offerings from the mission worlds every day, why would he? -- and Mason checked them in while Jack pushed the cart. The hardest part was always keeping his breathing even, swallowing the mote of fear that the alarm would sound and the system would start its loud proselytizing at a "lost child," but as always there was just a chirrup and the glowing white splash screen, with WELCOME HOME EPIPHANY JOHNSON! in what someone thought was a "friendly" Gothic font. Mason exhaled, keeping his eyes level. This had to look normal, to the biometric scanners and the security cameras and the smiling desk clerk. It was a well-practiced act, but it never felt good.

The clerk waved them through with a "welcome, sisters!" (and Mason could practically hear the gritted teeth behind Jack's practiced smile), and Mason followed the memorized map towards the laboratories. The easiest path went through the Oblate Quarters: corridors of metal cells with plexiglass doors, isolation without privacy. The High Cathedral oblates were a uniform lot, shining blondes in white robes, kneeling on the floor in prayer or sitting on their metal cots in blank-eyed stillness. Mason kept his eyes on the path. It'd be just as fast to head across the production floor on their way out, with less to see.

Mason and Jack's luck held all the way to the labs: empty hallways and unlocked doors, a few with notes about being "on prod." Mason let himself whistle a little as they loaded up the cart, scanning bar codes into a data pad. "You're in a good mood," said Jack, with a half-raised eyebrow. "Nerves holding out?" A break in character, if there'd been anyone there to listen, but that was Jack for you. One of them had to be fearless.

"Yeah, I'm fine, just fine," Mason replied. "You think we can head out via the prod floor? Looks like it might be busy."

"It'll be fine. It's always fine. Busy is good. You all set?"

Mason nodded and tightened the cargo straps on their score: thousands of embryos and many more gametes, all secure, all going from the Church to a co-op colony. None of them would be oblates. None of them would ever be named Epiphany. Thank the cosmos for small favors.


The crowds picked up as soon as Mason and Jack crossed from R&D to production. Most if it was workers, the sextons in brown utility robes and celebrants in laboratory blue, but several of them led packs of oblates behind them, in tight lines that shuffled like they were manacled. Mason kept his eyes forward and his mind on the map, even as he muttered reflexive "excuse me"s as he carved out a path for Jack and the cart.. Nobody looked their way; all eyes were fixed upwards, at God or something like Him.

The first sign they'd hit the Primary Production Chamber was the sudden grade in the walkway, just enough to give a little resistance to the cart, and Mason grabbed his end and helped Jack pull it up. He glanced upwards, taking his eyes away from the walkway for the first time, and the whole scene hit at once: the vast vaulted ceiling, the walkways spiraling up and up, and the impossible bulk of the Saints. Each Saint was a structure in and of itself, caged and supported by wrought-iron scaffolding, perfectly proportioned human bodies draped in gore-stained silver silk. Fluorescent halos lit their lovely, vacant faces, and their jaws chewed endlessly with a placid rhythm. Mason could barely make out the figures on the walkways leading to the Saints' mouths: workers in brown, feeding oblates in white into the open maws, which swallowed nothing. Mangled remains poured from the Saints' mouths, down below where Mason stood, but to what Mason knew must be harvesting vats and packaging lines. He thought of the relic he'd received for Confirmation, the little locket of sanctified bone chips, and knew now that those bones had been carved by Saintly teeth. "Jack," he said, and only in speaking realized how silent the room was, save for the mechanical sound of mastication and the wet thuds from below. "Jack, we have to move."

Jack said nothing, and Mason looked back to see him staring at the Saints, knuckles white on the cart handle. Mason grabbed his side of the cart and yanked, and Jack stumbled forward. "gently caress," he said, so low that he was barely audible even in the silence. "gently caress."

Mason thought about the route and pulled hard on the cart, and after a moment, Jack followed. There would be no whistling this time, no hymns: just the sound in his head of teeth on bone.


It was an old superstition of theirs to ride in the cargo bay on the way back from a job, but Mason yearned for his quarters, for the comfort of his shoddy foam mattress and staticky music player. Jack hadn't said a word since they'd loaded up, and Mason couldn't force himself to find chatter to fill the air. Deepgreen was seven hours away.

Jack didn't speak until Mason was mid-bite of a meal bar, as if he'd been waiting for a moment where Mason couldn't interrupt him. "They were holy. They were blessed. And now we're... we're stealing that."

"gently caress, Jack," said Mason once he'd forced the dry lump of protein down his throat. "You saw it, right? Can you think of a worse way to die? Chewed up, and if you don't die from that, the fall?"

"But they weren't screaming," Jack replied, staring straight forward. "I think maybe they were happy. They got their birthright. And now we're taking this lot away to work themselves to death on a swamp planet?"

"We're taking them away so they can be people. Work, sure, but whatever work they want, and play too. Fall in love, have kids, watch those kids work and play and be free. They're not gonna go from the womb to a cell and then into the loving jaws!"

"And they'll never know God," said Jack, "not really. They'll never be a part of Him. You know they use the relic flesh to seed new mission planets? That's as close to God as you can get, birthing a new world for Him. That's like Heaven." He closed his eyes, then opened them again, staring at the cargo freezer. "You ever think about Heaven?"

Mason hadn't thought about Heaven in years, not since they'd promised each other that they'd escape, even if the only road out led to Hell. But they hadn't escaped, had they? Every job, the Church welcomed them back. They weren't "breaking in" any more than you could break into Sunday Mass. "What I think," said Mason, "is that we need downtime. Why don't we take a few days on Deepgreen, relax some, and maybe we get out of Church space for a while. Find other jobs."

"I think we..." Jack stopped himself, even as Mason could still read his lips, mouthing take them back. And then what, he thought? Confess? Go back, ship ourselves off to be Epiphany and Prudence forever? But Jack shook his head. "Yeah, I think so. Take a little time. Just, I..."

"I love you, okay? I'm right here with you, and I'm going wherever you're going. But not home."

"Yeah," said Jack, and closed his eyes again.

Mason crossed the room, sat down next to Jack, and laid his arm across Jack's shoulder. He told himself that this would pass. They'd talked about God before, in the long days between jobs when the money was running out, but they'd never faltered. Jack was brave, and no Saint could change that, not even those Lucifer beauties with shining white teeth. If Mason had to be the brave one for a while, he'd find a way. They'd manage.

God was always watching. They'd never thought they could outrun him, just spit in His eye and laugh. If that led to Hell, to a death in the crushing fist of the Church, then it was still better than the Saints' jaws.

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


flerp posted:

They drink Slurpies until one of them throws up
and then he's the new Pope.

How About Wizard in Chief? 698 words

“I’m getting a slurpee, any of you want one?”

They all said that yes thanks they’d love one, except for Victor, who said, “No thanks, but I’ll take a slushie, which is what they actually sell here.”

“Oh sorry, I’m not getting any drinks for pedantic jerks.”

Johnno did, though. He got slurpees for all, because since he was buying he could call them whatever he wanted, and they sat in the booth and tried to drink them slowly enough to not give themselves brain freeze, but quickly enough that they didn’t melt.

“Right,” said Victor. “I declare this meeting of The Council of Wizards officially open. First order of business: why are we meeting here?”

“I don’t remember that item being on the agenda,” said Grant.

“Oh, were we supposed to read that?” asked Roland. “I didn’t get around to it.”

“This was a late addition, by me, just now,” said Victor. “Seriously, I thought we had access to your stepdad’s magic tower, Johnno?”

“He’s using it,” said Johnno. “This is better anyway; you don’t get these in the tower.” He wiggled his slurpee for emphasis.

“I suppose not,” said Victor. “Anyway, next order of business. Appointing a Grand Wizard.”

“Let’s rethink that title,” said Roland.

“Why, what’s wrong with it?”

“Are you for real? Read a history book, dude.”

“Do we even need a head honcho?” asked Johnno.

“It’s important for ceremonial purposes,” said Victor.

Johnno’s orb started to pulsate. “Yeah, I’ve gotta get this. Carry on without me for a bit.” He took his orb to a separate booth and gazed deeply into it. “Hey Evelyn, what’s happening?”

“Hey Johnno,” she said. “We’re still on for tonight, right?”

“Oooooh, totally forgot. I’m at this wizard meeting. I don’t think it’ll take much longer.”

“Oh yeah,” she said. “Me and the girls have been meaning to ask; how would you feel about combining the councils?”

Johnno stroked his beard in thought. It was a clip-on beard, but you worked with what you had. “I can run it by the lads, not sure how they’ll take it.”

Evelyn raised an eyebrow. “Who are the lads, exactly?”

“Uh. Roland.”

“Uh huh.”


“Yep. Good guys, like them both.”

“And, uh, Victor.”

“Ah,” said Evelyn. “Victor. Why do you guys hang out with him, again?”

“Oh, he’s not so bad.”

“Sure,” said Evelyn. “Well, you run it by them I guess, and come by to pick me up once you’re done with the council meeting, all right?”

“All right,” said Johnno. He went back to the other booth.

“It’s about tradition!” Victor was saying.

“Maybe it’s not a very good tradition,” said Grant.

“We’re still on this, huh?” asked Johnno.

“Come on, tell them,” said Victor. “We’ve got to preserve our legacy!”

“Interesting you should bring that up,” said Johnno. “I was talking to Evelyn just now-“

“Oh, I like her,” said Grant. “She’s a keeper. How’s she doing?”

“Yeah, going well. I actually forgot I’d made plans with her tonight, so as soon as we wrap this up, I’m heading to her place.”

Victor conjured a whip and cracked it. “You’re whipped, mate.”

Johnno ignored him. “Anyway, she wanted to know how we felt about combining the councils.”

“Sure, let’s just spit in the face of tradition,” said Victor. “Besides, women aren’t biologically suited to magic. It’s their hormones, messes it all up.

“Who else is in that council?” asked Roland.

“It’s just her, Anita and Melinda.”

“We don’t need those hags in our council,” said Victor. “Seven would be too many for a council, anyway.”

“Six would work, though,” said Grant. Johnno and Roland looked at him, then at each other, then at Victor.

“Yeah,” said Johnno.

“Six would work,” said Roland


Victor nominated himself as Grand Wizard, seconded this nomination himself, and with no one to dissent, the motion was passed. With no further items on the agenda, he declared the meeting closed.


The new combined council met the following week. Anita’s mum had a really good magic tower which was highly suitable. “It’s a shame you couldn’t convince Victor to join us,” said Evelyn.

“Is it?” asked Johnno.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Prompt:we try to sing a song, but the words do not fit the music too well.
1302 words

There is a third verse to our national anthem that nobody ever sings. But if you did, the words would fit the music better than the parts you know. You wouldn't though. The words are ugly words, and you aren't the sort of person who savors the feel of ugly on your lips.

That would be Marwa. He was that sort of person. When the list of those words circulated through our class on the d-l, some kids would try a few, ones far removed from experience, just to feel like rebels, sure. Not Marwa. Marwa learned, watched, waited, ready to deploy one at the right moment.

If he didn't know the insult was accurate when he said it he certainly did when my fist connected with his jaw. He laughed it off. It didn't happen again. And you shook like a phone after curfew each time you woke up in the middle of the night dreaming what he said.

The anthem is a mess. Practically unsingable. There's a bit at the end of the chorus where your voice has to span two octaves. Most people, even if they have that kind of range, have to pick exactly the right key to sing it in at the beginning. And if someone else is leading, is picking the key, well, then just about everyone is going to flunk out on the low note or the high.

Mika could, though. God, that voice. I don't see her face when I think about her. I mean, I can barely remember it before, and neither of us thinks about it after outside of nightmares. But her voice. We have to remember her voice. She sang at the rostrum, sang the anthem, her tears channeled down strange paths by the lattice of scars. She hit those notes perfectly once, then twice. The organist stopped there, but she went on, singing that near-forgotten third verse, eyes blazing like novas at each little hateful slur aimed at some national rival we haven't warred against in lifetimes. Then the chorus once more, with that range check professionals often fail. Finally she stopped. Applause, slow at first but then an ovation. She turned and ran out the back door of the choir hall. Nobody went after her.

She was the first girl I kissed, the first pair of fumbling hands beneath my clothes. But it didn't last. When you were with her, later, I could tell you were going further and I was madly jealous of you both. But that didn't last either. She was alone when they came with their boxcutters, and later, running up the bell tower steps, climbing over the safety railing at the top, the long hesitation before leaning forward. Alone.

The first verse of the anthem is our collective ideals. They've changed over time, mostly for the better, so that verse has seen a lot of rewrites. And whoever did those rewrites,  whether it was a committee or just one soulless drone working in a beige cube somewhere in the capital, whoever it was wasn't a tenth the poet the original author was. And he wasn't anything great. Probably burned witches and beat his kids in his spare time, too. People back then were like that. Even more than now. But he could at least get the rhymes and scansion right. So we've got line after line overstuffed with extra syllables, triplets and quintets notated on the sheet music where it doesn't give up entirely. Whatever rhythm there is in a performance must be forced. 

Javon taught us both how to dance. One year and change older, at the exact time when that mattered. We weren't back together together yet. All the weird stuff around Mika was getting in the way. And then there was Javon, who could get us into the clubs. Javon, who knew how to dance.

It was like Oz in there. No, more like Narnia. Magical and new, but dangerous, and with something just out of reach ready to pass judgment. Mostly it was fun. Dancing. Flirting. Breathing in second hand buzzes and contact highs on the strobing floor. Listening to the slam poets turning ugly words into points of pride.

I'm sorry. I assumed you were still that kind of fragile about those, even years after Marwa. But you took to the poetry and to that poet. That lasted a month, weeks of loud grinding in a women's room stall, forcing anyone there for the usual reasons or to get high to listen, to participate just a little. Then one night she took you home. 

I only ever touched one once. That night. Javon's. "It's okay," he said. "I mean, neither of us are straight, so it doesn't really count." It was, I mean, well, it wasn't. Love. It wasn't love. It wasn't anything like love.

I never told you about that, but I'm pretty sure you figured it out.

The second verse is even worse than the first. It's all about the history of our nation. The parts that mattered at the time, at least. The revolution. And everything about the past is different now. I read the original verse once. I was stunned by how wrong, how simplistic it was. I see why nobody would want to believe that, would want to sing it in public, even if it does scan and rhyme correctly.

Javon warned us away, that Friday night deep in August. We might not have gone at all. Your poet had moved on to some other adoring fan and you had decided not to waste a second being sad or lingering heartbroken. You walked up to me like I was your property, like I'd been waiting and pining for you for years, and when you put your lips on mine it almost felt like that was the truth of it. That was the beginning of August. By that late in the month we sort of knew we'd enjoy ourselves more staying in, but Javon was still a friend and we had our routine. But Javon warned us off.

It's sort of famous, that raid. Men in white, wrecking the place, knives out. The police keeping out of it except for the ones with white cloaks themselves. Blood, and fire, and no consequences.

Javon warned us. Which means that Javon knew.

Nobody ever sings the third verse. Nobody bothered to rewrite it. They probably didn't want to. But we need it. It's about what we must hate, as a people, as a nation. Not the country we left in the revolution or the ones who would undo that war. Not old enemies, but current ones. A verse for the men in white, to remind us of who they've robbed us of. Mika. The August dancers, your poetess and her new friend. You.

I can sing the chorus, if I start in the right place, with a B-flat on that first 'O'. I have to go deep in my chest for that low note, and the high one will wreck my vocal chords if I hold it even a second too long, but if I let go at the right instant I can make it through the last two lines after it.

It was yesterday. No, that's how it feels. A month? I just checked the calendar. Two and a half months. Since the riot.

We got him, you know. In the same riot. You cracked his skull with your baton even as your throat exploded against his knife and hand. He was still down when you'd stopped breathing. He was, though, ragged and loud. I kicked him until he stopped. It didn't feel good. It didn't feel anything. But I know that I'd be hating myself today and forever if I hadn't done it.

This is me, letting go.

Jul 25, 2012



growing up to become a Pope is a lot of fun.
All the time their bodies are becoming bigger and stranger,
but sometimes things happen to make them unhappy.

Word Count:


Dog-faced killer from far Canaan kingdom
Cynocephalus bringer of death
Standing five cubits tall, face of mastiff
Handed a sword and told it was his life
His form made him a challenge for warriors
To them, he was mere beast, trophy to mount
Though inside he felt a deep emptiness
Unfulfilled with the path laid out for him
Though such sorrow can be unspeakable
When the only language you have is war
He often felt the gods watching from high
Or something else pointing to his true path
So he sought out the most powerful lord
Finding himself in the senate of Rome
The brave centurions feared the giant
But not the Emperor Valerian
He promised the great cynocephalus
Martial glory and a name that echoes


Valerian pointed his hound towards
The Christians who recruit in the empire
They gave him a gladius and round shield
And sent him to Syria to slaughter
The zealots could not comprehend the hound
Nor could they defeat him in fierce combat
But most surrendered with little conflict
Letting the beast take them to grisly death
Then came the day Valerian arrived
Confidently laughing at his hound’s work
The Romans throw Christians in the fire
As crowds cheer the public executions
But then the priest Petilianus is called
Dragged to the pyre screaming fierce curses
“May the devil take you, Valerian!”
Shutters the crowd as he is burned alive
The cynocephalus looks to his lord
To find Valerian crossing himself
The hound throws down his sword and shield, leaving
No longer confident his lord is the strongest
As the hound leaves, he sees a single child
With a knowing smile and up breaking stare
But the emperor watched shocked
Watching as his blunt weapon walks away


He went to Mount Hermon where the demons played
And served the one they called King Lucifer
He could feel the gods watching him again
And he felt the closest to them by these hills
Even if the tasked ordered were brutal
The entities felt so close to divine
Though it felt as a holy corridor
While the necessary door remained locked
But the acts they demanded were violent
Speaking in the language he understood
When an errant child wandered towards
The devil demanded his soul taken
So the hound gathered legions of demons
And corned the scared boy in a valley
The weeping child had two stick to find them
But rebuked them without a single strike
The cynocephalus watched them recoil
As the child crossed the two sticks together
This was not a victory understood
This boy conquered an army without blood
When the vile specters dissipated
The cynocephalus asked him his name
“Melchiades,” he said. “I’m a Christian.”
The hound understood why he was hiding
He begged the child to follow him downhill
“We’ll be safe if we can cross the river.”
As he ushered Melchiades away
He wondered if the other child watched on
Still smiling as he did so long ago
Melchiades asks what the hounds name is


They run, they swim, until they arrive North
In Turkey, by the Esen, they camp
Melchiades tells oral stories while
The hound teaches him how to swim rivers
Soon, other Christians need passage across
The cynocephalus offers his own back
Months later, while drying off, he sees him
The lone child who smiled so knowingly then
Asking for a ride across the river
The hound does accept, but to his surprise
Struggles under the child’s deceptive weight
“Tell me,” the boy asks, “How many have you killed?”
The hound can’t answer, he can barely breathe
“Did you have a choice?” The boy asks. “Or not?”
Again the hound has no answer for him
“Have you sought forgiveness from their families?”
The hound crawls onto the shore, his back pained
“Your weight was the weight of the world,” he says
“Of the world? Or of He who created it.”
Taking a single stick the child plants it
Jamming it in the soil as it glistens
Twisting, expanding, blossoming, until
A full bloomed fig tree where there was none
“Who are you,” the pained and shaken hound asks
“I can forgive you, but I cannot change
The actions you’ve committed and their harm
But know there will come a time when you can
Stop harm like you wrought, but at a cost.”
The hound asked the child “What is your name?”
The child replies “Let me tell you yours.”


The hound with new name returns to campsite
Though finds little more than wreckage left there
Suddenly knowing the Romans had come
He panics but soon feels a sense of peace
This was the moment the boy spoke about
This was the moment when thing were set right
He leaves his sword and takes a walking stick
Making his way towards Byzantium
The sentries let him through without challenge
They remember the slaughterous giant
He makes his way to the open fires
Past the captives in hay lined prison carts
Past Melchiades full of childish awe
Approaching the emperor with great ease
Valerian shouts in angered horror
“How dare you, Reprobus? You mock this court”
“I have no fear of your wrath,” the hound says
“I will not fight you. But you will free them”
Valerian rushes his former hound
Slapping his snout and spitting upon him
“You are a coward,” the emperor shouts
Though the cynocephalus laughs it off
Legions of centurions draw their spears
Circling the beast they had grown to fear
He laughs again, taking his walking stick
Shoving it in the ground, as he was shown
And it does grow and stretch and blossom as such
The ground rumbles as roots form under it
The branches spread out over the town square
The guards that don’t trip still fall to their knees
Valerian looks around as his men
Unlock the prison cages one by one
Melchiades rushes out, looking back
Seeing the few guards not kneeling approach
They swarm towards the lone cynocephalus
Who nearly walks himself into the flames
The Christians escaped, though one child did cry
But the hound felt right as he faced his fate
“Before I die,” he says, “I ask one thing.
Let them know the true name of the martyr.”


Melchiades would grow old in the church
He joined the priesthood, later became Pope
He returned to Byzantium one time
Those in those days, it was Constantinople
King Constantine requested a meeting
To discuss the Christian empire
Though Melchiades would share one story
About a saint, patron of safe travel


Feb 25, 2014
everyone submitted wow awesome

submissions closed obv

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
The next four posts from me will be brawl entries for the trenchcoat brawl. They will be posted one of the following ways.

  • In order of how much I like the entrants
  • Alphabetically
  • Who is geographically closest to me
  • Who I think is smartest
  • Randomly

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Through the veil of sleet, Arag-Ek-Anum saw the spindly, tangled wreck of the ancients’ tower piercing up into the clouds. They said it went all the way to heaven, and one day the ancestors had ascended it to meet the gods, and instead been devoured by the sky; on nights when that selfsame sky blossomed with leering lidless stars, it would spit back out their blackened bones, twisted mockeries that made for their old homes just to tear them apart. The steppe had likely never been a pleasant place to live, but these days it was home only to convicts, exiles, and madmen.

Arag was – according to the authorities – all three. He was the last knight of the heretical Order of Urzi, who’d gone to heal heaven and never returned. All except him. He ran the tip of his sword through a patch of ice – the monomolecular trail it left behind was so slim as to be invisible. It wasn’t snowing hard, but they’d had a large dumping the previous night and now the wind was howling, bringing freezing sleet in sideways. They’d found a nice cave to spend the night in, and it had kept the worst of the weather off them, but it was time to go to work.

Arag swung the sword around onto his back and smiled in satisfaction as it trembled into place in his sheath’s grav-field. Medved grumbled, so Arag took out a small piece of salmon and handed it to him. Med swallowed it in one bite, and Arag stepped in close and let the bear’s body heat be a balm against the cold. Med batted playfully at him, his paw bouncing harmlessly off the refractor field. So long as it wasn’t the tip of a claw, he was perfectly safe.

“Just you and me, huh big guy?” he said.

ksnrf sneezed Med.

“Yeah mate” said Arag. “Of course.”

He mounted his saddle, then gave Med one last scratch behind the ears before whistling and tapping his heels against Med’s sides. They set off at an amble, Med’s massive paws crunching through the snow. Arag found himself humming a tune he hadn’t heard in a very long time, something a lover once taught him, and when he realised which song it was, he stopped humming and sighed. As if on cue, a star opened high above him, its tiny pinprick pupil dropping fast, its blazing trail slicing the sky in half. Arag crouched low against Med.

“Ag! Ag!,” he spat, and squeezed his calves against Med’s ribs. Med took off with a roar, crashing across the steppe. The wraith had almost disappeared over the horizon, and Arag remembered the second and third lines from the old creed: where branches break, stone stands; where stone shatters, branches bend. He rammed both elbows back into his own waist, pulling Med’s bridle and overclocking the refractor field in one swift motion. Med dug in his forepaws, dropped his belly and let his back paws slide, as he’d been trained while Arag flattened himself against Med’s withers. The shockwave ripped out towards them, the pressure throwing snow and ice into the air. They whirled into it, as low-profile as their bulky frames would allow. The nanobots in the refractor field glowed white-hot, guttering for a moment, torn open like a boil, then swiftly began to reassemble itself. Med was facing forwards again, back up and charging through calf-deep water that was draining into the raw dark earth. Arag held out his hand and roared the old battle cry – the grav field on his back disengaged and the magnets in his glove activated at the same time, and his sword shot into his hand.

The wraith was larger than most, quadrupedal, almost centaur-like, a grinning bear skull inset in a lake of writhing nanofluid, a weeping tumorous spiking upward from its withers, crowned with a rotting orcish face. Ulug-mak-Naril, Blade of Dawn.

“Brother,” he wheezed, just as Arag’s sword sliced upwards across his collarbones, severing the stolen head from its parasite body, a killing blow on any ordinary wraith. He heard the splash of Ulug’s skull hitting the lake of snowmelt. The last line of the creed: one strike; you will not get a second. He urged Med around, and his face fell as Ulug’s ruined chest reassembled, and a second face emerged from the oil, regrown. The first head was on the ground, and both of them opened their mouths and spoke in sick sing-song harmony.

“They hate you, brother. Why do you fight for them?”

“I don’t fight for them,” spat Arag. “I fight for us.”

“We do not need war, brother, we need peace; take my hand, you can see Kav again, he would forgive you. ”

An arm emerged from the mass of his chest, hand extended outwards.

“DON’T YOU DARE SAY HIS NAME,” Arag roared, and Med roared with him.

“Always the idealist,” said Ulug. “Very well. You will not bend; you will break.”

Arag charged, Med charged. Ulug’s sluglike torso rocked back, trying to roll under the strike. Out of the corner of his eye, Arag saw Ulug’s sharpened armbone rocket from his palm, right through the refractor shield and deep into Med’s flank. They were moving too fast, and the bone-blade ripped across, right through fur, fat, and muscle. Bears were tough beasts, but even they had limits. Med lost his footing, and Arag hit the mud shoulder-first. The heat from the Med’s nanofield repairing itself vaporized the water, shrouding them all in scalding steam. Through a haze of pain, Arag lunged upward. A savage blow from Ulug’s armblade almost cut him in half, but he stepped around it and cut once, right through the saddle where rider and bear met and grinned as his blade bit into the knot of gristle and bone that served as its heart. Ulug fell apart, the oil from his body dissolving into what little was left of the water. Two more skulls dropped out of the mass, and Arag smashed both of them with his boot, just to be sure, then rushed over to Med.

The wound wasn’t fatal, but it was bad. It would definitely leave a scar, and likely become infected if not dealt to quickly, and there weren’t a lot of veterinarians out on the steppe.

Arag put a hand against Med’s shoulder, and patted him softly. “Hey there big guy,” he said, “I’m gonna do something and it’s gonna hurt, and I just wanna say sorry in advance.”

Then he pierced his own refractor field with the tip of his blade, held the tip inside the field while the nanites glowed white, and then – as quickly as he could – dropped the blade, pushed his palm against the wound, then stepped sideways, dragged his hand along the entire thing, cauterising it. Med roared and tried to twist and lunge at him, and he let the blows glance off his field.

“Sssh,” he said, “ssssh,” and somehow it seemed to get through and Med calmed down.

“Let’s go home,” he said, “have some nice fish soup, and you can have a nice sleep okay? I’ll even let you sleep indoors.”

Med growled at him. Then the sky opened up. Even through the driving sleet and the dark clouds, it was impossible to ignore. A thousand new stars, each one filled with fire. More than they could possibly hope to fight. Hells, he doubted the refractor field could survive the impact alone. He clambered up into Med’s saddle and knew immediately something was off, the balance was all wrong. The dark darts of heaven ignited as they entered orbit, and the boom shook Arag down to his bones.

“Boy,” he said, “we gotta run, okay? I know it hurts, you gotta run as fast as you can. Now, ag, go!”

Med took off, slowly at first, limping badly on his lefthand side. There were just as many fires in front of them as behind. Even juicing the field could only go so far. Up ahead, he saw a pinprick of darkness, the mouth of their cave. Where branches break, stone stands.

“Ag! Ag!” he shouted, and Med took off, each step more laboured than the last, but as swift and implacable as a train. As they crashed across the steppe, Arag roared the first line of the creed; “THEY BREAK HEAVEN; WE RAISE HELL.

The distance between them and the cave vanished, but there wasn’t enough time, there had never been enough time. He’d lost everything and then some, and each day the pressure got worse, an endless crashing wave, one orc left to hold up the sky. The first salvo of impacts made landfall ahead of them lit the entire horizon on fire, a dozen shockwaves all racing across the ice, and he couldn’t hear his own voice over the sound of splintering and shattering. A hundred more impacts rang out from behind him, the roar of a dying god. The mouth of the cave was so close, less than thirty feet away, but he had only seconds. He dug in his heels and whipped Med around, and ran back, right into the second shockwave. It picked them up and hurled them faster than they could’ve possibly run. Arag struck the side of the cave mouth and his refractor field lit up as he screamed in agony, but the darkness of the cave covered him. He could do more than scream as the world became lost in monstrous sound. When he got up, he saw Med in the cave too, unmoving.

A figure roiled up into the cave mouth, a beast of slick dripping darkness.

“Husband,” it wheezed.

Arag slammed his blade into the dirt and forced himself, shaking, to his feet.

“My husband is dead,” he said.

It cocked the mass of oil where its head would be.

“Then why do I remember?” it hissed.

“Because that’s what we do,” said Arag, “we remember the dead, even when it hurts.”

“Yes,” said Kav, “it hurts. I could make it stop.”

They broke heaven; we raise hell.
Where branches break, stone stands;
where stone shatters, branches bend.
Make one strike; you will not get a second.

He lunged and struck, lower than he’d been trained. His blade caught, for a moment only, on Kav’s heart. Arag passed through him, and for a moment it seemed as though he’d missed, then Kav fell apart in two even pieces.

“I’m sorry,” Arag said. He stepped out of the cave. A thousand wraiths converged on him. The sun was going down, not that it mattered this close to heaven. Arag levelled his blade, and gave a feral grin and he heard a familiar growl from behind him.

“C’mon big guy,” he said, “let’s raise hell.”

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
Hump Day

Lucien was dangling from a two hundred meter organic diamond fibre, a kilometre and a half above the rain-lashed streets of Neo-Wellington, when the EMP hit: his visor flashed bright white, with a high-pitched skreeee, then turned silent and black.

“Balls,” he said. The sound was muffled by the flanges of his breath mask. “System reset. Execute.” Nothing happened, so he flipped up the visor and squinted through grey sheets of rain down the fifty meter expanse of mirror-smooth and obsidian-black glass that lay betwen him and his target.

EMP was from the Hutt, call it 10 klicks, 300 m/s travel speed, blast wave coming 30 seconds, call it twenty five from now.

A heavy gust blatted freezing rain, shotgun-like, into Lucien’s bare face. He hopped down the building in long arcing falls, kicking away from the slick wet surface, and paying out the monomol five meters at a time with a finger on the manual release. At eight seconds to go a trickle of icy water had found its way through the neck seal of his suit and was slithering down his chest and he guessed that he was roughly at the target.

Lucien unholstered his .224 flechette pistol, slapped down the visor against splinters, and sprayed a rough circle of darts into the glass, gun juddering in his hand. The splinters were still ricocheting off his armoursuit when he jumped as far out as he could, feeling the wind catch him and send his coat flapping wildly, then crashed back onto what he hoped was the centre of the weakened circle.

It gave, with a fearful cracking noise he could just hear through the black and muffled confines of his helmet, but not enough. The shockwave would nearly be on him, a part of his brain thought calmly, stopwatch in hand. He jumped again, pulling his knees up to his chest and kicking in at the circle, felt it give way and hit the cable release at the same time, rolling along the glass-littered carpet tiles and into the cover of a support beam. Three, two, one…

The sound was seismic and horrific, a basso profundo rumble that set the whole megastructure swaying in counterpoint - Neo-Welly buildings were built to take the Richters, though and he spent the space of three breaths in a silent prayer of thanks to the earthquake regulating nerds of the Greater Wellington Region. The cracked circle of glass he’d just scissored out of the building’s fabric was caught by the thunderclap of wind and sent spinning across the office he’d landed in, to shatter against the opposite wall.

Lucien admired the effect in a slightly bleary way. Then a beep came from his collar, the shamefaced sound of his suit booting back up again. Just in time.

“Tangerine, Romeo, Nectar,” he said into his neck mic, yelling over the howling of rain and newly atomic wind. “Your transport has arrived. Confirm location.”

There was no reply, but Lucien was on his feet and moving. Security would have picked up the incursion, and though a nearby nuclear strike would distract at least some of them he didn’t want to rely on that. Taking a punt on the resurgent qualities of his armour he muttered the reboot codes, and sighed as the subsystems pulled themselves together and laid out mission data. He was one floor up, sixty meters southwest. Not bad, not great. The door he was jogging towards opened, a harried looking guard behind it, and Lucien tased him down to a quivering heap without breaking stride.

His internal monologue, always an issue mid-mission, was moving into self-care:

Hard part over with. Rest will be smooth sailing, nuke came through a little early, but we are on this. Asset recovery is what we do. We’re a profess–

On that thought Lucien caught a flash of prox-warning as he rounded a corner and threw himself down, but he was too slow. A brace of bullets hit him, shoulder and arm, like getting kicked by a grumpy horse.

A crackle in his comm: “I’m so sorry.”

Lucien palmed a couple of grenades, one frag one gas, and skimmed them over the low cubical divider he was lying behind.

“Tangerine? I’m inbound. Are you safe? There in one minute.” The grenades went off with a popping sound. His arm was aching; at least his med-stats subscreen said nothing broken.

“I’m really sorry, but I can’t come with you.”

“That’s not an option, Tangerine, you just hang where you are, I’ve got you. We’ll have a nice chat.” Lucien had a lock on two of them, maybe the third was down, couldn’t be sure, assume not. He poked his gun over the divider, dialled in the range, and sent a spread of fused micro-charges. They exploded with a subdued crump and he saw all three down.

“It’s just, I’ve been thinking, and I don’t want to work for your guys? I want to stay here.”

I hate this man more than cancer. Lucien was up and running, hobbling really, right arm pulled in close to his armoured chest, inside the protection of his armoured coat. The tracklights on his visor were showing a dotted line to target, 30 seconds. Please let him be there so I may hate him face to face.

“I appreciate that, Tangerine, we all have days when we don’t want to go to work, you know? I’m having one right now. Oonf.”

“My name’s Derek,” said the voice in Lucien’s ear, but he was otherwise engaged, grappling with a fourth mercenary. Goddammit. From the suit-moko on their masks they were Ngai Tahu, expensive, and that meant he’d probably been set up. But why bother with this crap about changing his mind. He put a foot behind the merc, who was holding his vibro-knife in a hand that Lucien had locked outstretched, then amped up his suit myomer with a clench of his jaw and slammed him through the wall and sprayed a clip of flechettes into their prone body.

“Hi Derek. Thing is I have a job to do, here. I’m going to be with you in about twenty seconds, and then we’re going to leave. Are there any problems with that?”

Derek’s didn’t reply for a few seconds, enough time for Lucien’s myomer-assisted arms to pull apart the lift doors. He risked a quick scan, burning a chunk of suit power to get the adjacent floors - seemed clear.

“I want to quit my job. I play the flute. I want to play the flute instead of doing my job.” It sounded like he was crying. No, I hate him like a combination of cancer and sandflies. “Do you understand that?”

“Derek, I do understand that. The flute’s a lovely instrument. I’m totally confident you will be able to play it at your new job, which will be similar to your current one except not radioactive. Does that sound good? Not radioactive?”

Lucien was at the door, a big X blinking on it in his heads-up, and he burnt another five percent power to scan absolutely everything as fast and hard as he could. No explosives, triggers, electronics. Clean. Jesus. Suit charge was dropping fast though, maybe the EMP zorched the capacitors. Whatever, get him and blow this place. He raised his foot to kick the door off his hinges then, instead, put his foot down and turned the handle instead.

Inside was an office, a little disarranged from the nukewobbles. Lying on the couch was a shortish man with a little moustache. He looked over at Lucien with a bleary, lolling expression. “Sorry again, I just really would rather stay here if that’s ok.” There was a vape in his hand and the air was thick with its smoke. Lucien grabbed it out of his limp hand.

Tranked out. Could be worse. “Derek, I’m going to pick you up, and then we’re going to leave. Is that ok? I’m asking only for information, because that’s what’s going to happen.” As he spoke he swept the limp body up into a fireman’s carry, powering up the suit to compensate. A red blinking light helpfully explained he would be running out of power soon. Thanks, little light. Round the corner there was a straight run down the corridor to the window, which might or might not have survived the blast. The same coinflip applied to his exfiltration vehicle, a kilometre plus below them, but Lucien elected not to think further on that possibility. Instead he glanced round the corner, sized up the range and sent a fused grenade zipping down the hall. It detonated with a gratifying thump, and he could hear the splatter of rain coming in. OK, you have this, quick run, anchor the line, slide down it to the van.

“Sometimes you just want to stay in bed, you know?” The voice was wavering in his ear, but at least he wasn’t struggling.

“Derek I know exactly what you mean. Wednesdays in particular. Do you hate them too?” The corridor was clear, nothing on scan, nothing on IR, no explosives. Red light was blinking faster though. The window frame was still smoking when he got there, and started fastening the line brace for their descent. “This Wednesday I thought about staying in bed and playing the fuckin’ ukulele but I didn’t because I had to rescue you. Now, I’m going to–”

He’d put Derek down by the window to get the brace right, so there was nothing between Derek and the air when the earthquake hit. It came first as a slamming, sudden impact that knocked them both over, and then as a great rolling shudder, that slid Derek right out of the shattered window frame and into the yawning abyss below, tumbling as he fell.

Lucien didn’t stop to think, just hurled himself right after Lucien, coat flailing, wind battering, diamond monomol trailing behind him like an immense fishing line.

He almost got him. It was really close, fingers outstretched, grasping for a piece of Derek to hold on to. Almost.

But not quite. The last vestige of suit power ran out with a bleep, the safety catch on the monomol reel engaged, and Lucien was yanked to a stunning horrible stop, and slammed into the side of the building.

It was still swaying, he could feel it through his back, hear a scraping of metal on glass. He wondered if his back was broken - could feel his feet, probably not.

Lucien raised his visor, lifted a painful hand to his mouth, and took a pull on the vape, held it in for a moment and puffed out a big cloud to be whipped away by the wind. Then he laughed, once.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
1800 words

“Don’t you walk out on me,” Darla said from amidst the tousled sheets.

Brenda Steele paused in the middle of doing exactly that. She’d almost made it to the door of the small apartment without waking Darla up. A few more steps and their sordid weekend together would have been just another notch in their respective bedposts.

“I’m not some conquest you can take for granted,” Darla said coolly. She looked regally post-coital there on her bed, surrounded by rumpled imitation silk and black candles.

Brenda placed a cigarette between her lips and said, “I don’t take any of my conquests for granted.”

Which was true; she’d boned some absolute bombshells, but most of her time was spent alone and paranoid on various far-flung missions. Her ‘conquests’ were the only pleasant memories she had; when she was embedded with insurgents or within a hostile government, she ran her mind over those tangled, sweaty encounters like a monk counting their prayer beads.

But she couldn’t stay. That wasn’t the way her life worked. She undid the deadbolts and turned the doorknob.

“You’re a fool,” Darla said, “and as the fool you will know yourself. So mote it be.”

Ah. Right. That had been the thing about Darla, Brenda recalled. Darla insisted she was an honest-to-god occult witch. All the more reason to relegate her to the realm of pleasantly horny memories and move on.

“If I end up in your bed again, we’ll know you were right about that,” Brenda said, sliding on a pair of sunglasses. She stepped into the morning light, feeling well-hosed and wise, and lit her cigarette.


Brenda was forced to admit something was wrong when an explosion went off on the ferry carrying her from Helsinki to Tallinn, where she was supposed to meet her Estonian contact.

She should have been in the ferry’s bar—she always ended up in the bar, regardless of which country she was in or mode of transportation she was using—except she’d felt a strange and uncharacteristic urge to go out to the prow of the ferry and look at the pretty reflections of the clouds on the water of the gulf, maybe let the sea breeze ruffle her trench coat in a cinematic sort of way.

A fiery whoomf cut through the crackle of wind in her ears. Brenda whirled around, saw black smoke already pouring upward into the sky. The ferry now had a smoldering crater in its starboard side, a gaping wound where the bar used to be.

Brenda lowered her sunglasses and said, “Woah.”

Then people began to scream.


The ferry never made it to Tallinn; the Finnish border guard towed it back to port with much ado, and Brenda was swept up into the chaos of the investigation. Several international bodies were calling it a terrorist attack, which had Brenda feeling very fretful indeed. Super spies tried to stay away from terrorist attacks.

As she waited for Finnish agents to clear her to leave the port, Brenda did a quick check-in with her brain. She should have died in that explosion. If she’d been acting like herself, she would have been in the ferry bar. Instead, she’d been out on the prow of the boat, reenacting that scene from Titanic. Brenda hadn’t even seen Titanic, nor did she plan to.

As the fool you will know yourself.

She wasn’t acting like herself, and she’d survived an attack that by all accounts should have taken her life. This wasn't going to go unnoticed by her employers.


It was after midnight by the time investigators released the ferry passengers, with the heavy implication that no one should leave the country. She dragged her exhausted carcass to her organization’s Helsinki safehouse—a run-down hotel at the edge of the bleakly industrial Jätkäsaari quarter.

The dingy hotel bar was lively with the din of drunken voices. That was good. It was always better to hide in plain sight, and hiding in plain sight was easier in a room packed with a couple dozen sweaty, bellowing barflies.

She slid into a seat at the table across from her handler, ‘Florin’. He was hawkish as ever, and appeared to be nursing a Shirley Temple. Two cherry stems sat on his napkin.

“Your face appeared in seventeen separate international news clips,” he said by way of greeting. “Couldn’t you have just died in the explosion? It would have made things simpler.”

Brenda found herself looking between those two cherry stems and the mostly-full Shirley Temple. Somehow she’d never figured Florin for an eat-the-cherries-first kind of guy. But then, she’d never really thought about it. It wasn’t the least bit relevant to anything she did. Florin was, for the most part, the voice in her ear telling her where to go and who to kill. When and how he ate the cherries out of his mocktail was irrelevant.

Except she couldn’t stop thinking about it. In the entirety of their professional relationship, Brenda had never considered Florin as a human being with cherry-eating habits; now she saw his crisp facade as the tip of a great iceberg she would never have cause to understand.

“I assumed I was more valuable to you alive,” she said, tearing her eyes away from the cherry stems. “Apparently that was a miscalculation.”

“Our colleagues in the Estonian government are wondering why one of our people was so close to the incident on the ferry,” Florin said. “It’s raised questions about your intentions. And your allegiances.”

“I’d never be that sloppy on purpose,” Brenda pointed out. She had twelve years of cold, hard spying to back her up. “You know I didn’t have jack poo poo to do with the explosion. You know that.”

“Be that as it may,” Florin said, sounding very nearly sorry, “the Baltic situation is too delicate. As a display of good faith to our regional colleagues, we’re taking you off the assignment.”

“You mean you’re taking me off the assignment…of being alive,” Brenda said.

Both she and Florin raised an eyebrow at that. There was a beat of mutually embarrassed silence.

Then he smiled and said, “Of course not,” just before he drew his silenced handgun and fired.

Brenda, who had been considering Florin with renewed curiosity, read the warning in that smile and was already moving out of the way. The bullet punctured the wall where her head had been less than a second before.

She hurled herself onto the floor, rolled clear of Florin’s line of sight, then sprung to her feet and bolted for the door. A commotion went up in her wake; good. The barflies might even slow Florin down for a few beats.

Brenda pounded pavement, sprinting hard into the Helsinki night. A few seconds later, she heard Florin’s footsteps behind her, rapidly gaining. He had a long stride and would close the distance in a matter of seconds.

Brenda skidded blindly into an alley, praying it had an exit; it did. She saw street lights at the other end, ran for them.

Then, to her left—a yawning slice of darkness. An alley within an alley, some sort of ingress into the narrow space between two sections of the same building. In the fraction of a second it took her to observe this space, she noticed a small, glowing purple sign a ways down the passage, the only light in the darkness.

It was a stupid move, one she would ordinarily have not made. But it hadn’t been an ordinary day, and breaking from routine had already saved her life once. She lurched to the left, pelting headlong into darkness made even deeper by the purple light glowing in its depths.

The light turned out to be a neon sign advertising a psychic tarot shop, the only business in the mini-alley. With no other apparent exit and Florin closing in behind her, Brenda threw herself against the door to the little shop as she turned the knob, expecting the place to be closed at one o’clock in the quiet Helsinki morning.

She tumbled into the shop, announced by the disordered tinkle of bells, quickly slammed the door behind her, and then put her back to the nearest wall.

“Can I fix you a cup of coffee?” asked a voice in cheerful Finnish. “You seem like the sort who could use some night coffee.”

“No,” Brenda panted, then added, “thank you.”

“I won’t insist,” said the woman seated at the room’s only table. “But I do insist that you let me read your cards.”

“Yeah— no—I can’t…there’s someone out there and I really ought to—”

“It’s my policy for mysterious people who tumble through my door at odd hours,” the woman said. She picked up a deck of tarot cards and tapped them pointedly on her little table. The whole shop was little more than a shoebox; just the proprietor, her table, and her cards.

Brenda listened for the sound of Florin’s footsteps, but after several seconds, she realized that he hadn’t followed her down the side passage, probably hadn’t even seen it as he’d run by. She was, for the moment, safe.

“Fine,” she said, flopping down in the chair across from the psychic. “Fine. Why not.”

The woman shuffled her cards, cut the deck, and then, after some wordless consideration, drew a single card.

Brenda held her breath.

It was the Eight of Wands, a card Brenda had no familiarity with whatsoever; all of her scant tarot knowledge had been absorbed unwillingly from various eccentric lovers.

“You look disappointed,” the psychic observed. “Were you expecting a different card?”

Brenda slumped back in her chair, laughed ruefully. “If you’d drawn the Fool, it would have made for a nice punch line,” she said.

The psychic rested her chin in her hand. “Do tell?”

So Brenda told her about Darla, about the strange feeling she’d had on the ferry, the explosion that she’d been foolish enough to survive, and her narrow escape from Florin.

“I think,” she said in conclusion, “I’ve been cursed by a witch.”

The psychic drummed her fingers on the worn tarot deck. “No,” she said after a long moment. “The only magic your Darla did was invoking the power of suggestion.”

“You’re saying the real Fool was inside of me all along,” Brenda said mildly.

The psychic flipped over the deck so that the bottom card was facing up. “There are worse archetypes to carry inside of yourself than open-mindedness and possibility,” she said.

Brenda glanced down at the newly revealed card, then looked again. She smiled, then started to laugh. There was The Fool, grinning up at her from a lush world of possibility, bindle on his shoulder, his hand raised in greeting to whatever adventure might come next.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
The Chronicles of Spiderman James: Spiderman James and the Vampire’s Sword
1190 words

Far below the city, the iron door to the vampire’s ancient prison clanged shut behind Spiderman James.

“No going back now,” said his sword, Agbat mal-Habradak. “Not until you’ve killed the vampire.”

“What if I don’t want to kill the vampire?” said James.

“Then I’ll kill your mother and - look, we’ve been over this.”

James pictured Lucretia, her hairy black legs wrapped protectively around the egg sac containing his future baby brothers and sisters.

“Why do you want to kill this vampire so badly anyway?” said James, squinting. Being a spiderman he could see pretty well in the dark, and Agbat’s red glow was hurting his eyes. James pulled his wraparound shades off his spikey blond hair and put them on. Better.

“Because he’s an ancient evil who lies waiting beneath your city for his opportunity to slaughter everyone?” Agbat’s grip was suddenly scalding hot, and James had to toss the sword from hand to hand to avoid burning his palms.

“Aren’t you also an ancient evil that--”

“Quiet!” hissed Agbat. “We approach the chamber.”

Agbat cooled until only the faintest glimmer of hellfire played along the blade’s obsidian edge. James dropped to a crouch and scuttled silently up the rotting stone wall.

The ancient evil vampire Vladimir Voskoboynikov sat bolt upright in his sarcophagus, bat ears quivering. The clang of the iron door had woken him; a sound that he had not heard since the start of his accursed imprisonment 267 years ago. Perhaps his demonic sword, Red-Blossoms-at-Dawn, had finally found its way back to him. Vladimir licked his fangs.

James darted out of the tunnel’s mouth and zipped up to the ceiling, hips turned out at a 90 degree angle and body flat against the wall. The chamber was round, roofed with a high dome and faintly lit by a single blue flame burning in a metal brazier at the chamber’s centre. The stones were slick with muck that trickled from the sewers above through an opening at the dome’s peak, just beyond the reach of the light.

The vampire was dressed in rags. His red velvet cape was rotting on his back and his silk shirt had gone grey with age and grime. The skin on his face was the colour and texture of a raisin and his desiccated lips were pulled back showing an awful grin of yellow teeth. A huge red ruby hung on a gold chain against the vampire’s skeletal chest.

Gross, thought James. Then he stopped, and chided himself. Lucretia had taught him better than to judge quote-unquote monsters by their appearance. What would she think, he thought, if she knew he was here, about to murder another (un)living creature just because a talking sword had told him to. Sure, Lucretia killed things all the time, but she had to, to live. She couldn’t subsist on tofu burgers like James. But it wasn’t like he was going to eat the vampire, so was killing him really ok?

Don’t tell me you’re having a loving moral crisis. Agbat’s voice forced itself into James’ mind like someone pouring aspic into his ear.

James shuddered, cursing for the hundredth time the day he’d bought Agbat on a whim from Herbert’s Cursed Items and Magickal Supplies. He understood now why the sword had been so heavily discounted.

I will chop your mum into spider sashimi and make an omelette with her eggs. I will--

James’ chest tightened. He so badly wanted to be a big brother. Growing up it had always just been James and Lucretia - she would never tell him anything about his father, no matter how many times he asked - and the thought of having more family, a proper family, meant everything to him. If killing an ancient evil vampire was the price he had to pay to keep them safe, then…

James took a deep breath and tightened his grip on the sword’s handle. Agbat’s infernal monologue ceased and a tongue of flame licked the edges of the blade.

Yesssss, the demon sword hissed.

The vampire’s ears flicked. His head turned, and his eyes widened--

James shot from the ceiling like a bullet from a gun that shoots spidermen. The vampire opened his mouth to scream--

“Blossom!” Vladimir shouted, and threw open his arms.

Agbat’s grip flashed red-hot and James released the sword with a yelp of pain. He twisted in the air just in time to avoid landing on Vladimir, and Agbat mal-Habradak Red-Blossoms-at-Dawn the cursed demon sword tumbled, trailing flames like a bridal train, into his master’s waiting arms.

The vampire cackled and swung the sword with a whoosh of flame, then fired a fireball at James.

James jumped out of the way just in time to avoid getting barbequed. He shot a rope of sticky silk out his navel, exposed between his black crop top and skinny jeans, and scurried hand over hand up it to the marginal safety of the dome.

“Holy Nosferatu, did you see that?” Vladimir said to Blossom.

“He’s a spiderman, yes,” said the sword. “Now kill him so we can use his blood to break the seal and get out of here.”

“But what if I don’t want to kill him?” said Vladimir. He slung Blossom over his shoulder and pointed one long manky fingernail at James. “Hey man-spider, how did you do that?”

“What, this?” James poked out his belly, then pfffth’d a stream of silk straight at Vladimir. It hit the vampire’s chest and stuck to the ruby amulet. James gave the web an expert flick, then yanked the necklace up and over the vampire’s head and into his waiting palm.

“Hey!” said Vladimir.

“Mum’s going to love this,” said James, and pocketed the necklace.

“KILL HIM KILL HIM KILL HIM!” screamed Red-Blossoms-at-Dawn.

Vladimir unshouldered the sword, braced his legs wide apart and wrapped both clawed hands around the grip. Fire jetted from the tip and scoured across the mouldering stones. The layer of wet muck boiled and steamed, and James coughed as a dreadful smell filled the chamber. He lept and swung on his navel-web, sticking his threads to the dry stone left in the cone of flame’s path as Vladimir wielded Blossom to chase him around the dome.

James climbed higher and higher, until he was in jumping distance of the hole at the top. He grabbed the lip, and heard the vampire groan and Blossom let out a stream of guttural curses as he whipped his body into the tunnel and out of sight.

The ruby amulet pressed into James’ thigh as he wriggled up the narrow drainage hole and into the sewers above. He grinned as he thought about how one day he could tell his little brothers and sisters all about the time that their big brother, Spiderman James, saved the city from a vampire and an evil demon sword and got his mum the best present ever. And about how they should never ever buy anything from Herbert’s Cursed Items and Magickal Supplies, not even if it looked really cool, and especially not if it was super heavily discounted.

Sep 3, 2020


The Great Duster-Dustoff has come to a conclusion, and my decision has been rendered unto the 'Dome. Let the word go forth! The winner is:


Ah, the fabled duster gal! Now, I didn’t say you could do a duster gal, but I also didn’t say you couldn’t, and lord knows the 90s had their fair share of duster gals. Trish from Devil May Cry, Trinity from the Matrix, the Major from Ghost in the Shell, and Julia from Cowboy Bebop all fall into this ‘too cool for school’ category, and I’m glad someone had the good sense to acknowledge such ladies in spite of my oversight.

But that's not why you won, mystery writer, oh no. You won because, unlike these other rodeo clowns, you took your duster gal and actually made me care about her, which was all I really wanted. Congratulations, whoever you are. And to the rest of you, may your suffering be legendary, even in Hell.

Now for the crits!


The world-building was rich and delicious, so rich that it swallowed the rest of the story. I know the history of the ancient’s tower, the power of the stars, the molecular width of the sword, the refractor technology behind the shields, every line of the old creed, and a hundred other details about the setting, but all I wanted to know was who Arag-Ek-Anum was. By the end of the story, all I can tell you is who he’s lost, and I can’t tell you much about who those people were, either. Who was Kav, aside from husband and lover? Those words don’t tell me anything by themselves; I need more than that to know how Kav made Arag feel and what his absence means. Same story for the conflict between Arag and Ulug. I know they have history, but I don’t get a sense of what that history means to Arag. How has it shaped him up to this point? How does he feel once Ulug is gone?

Now, it wasn’t all dire. You did do some nice work with the relationship between Arag and Med, so I did learn enough about Arag to know he cares about animals, but that’s true of most people. I didn’t come here to learn about most people: I came here to learn about Arag, and you left me wanting. If you don't like it, brawl me about it!

Hump Day

Your assignment was to make me care about your protagonist, but you made me care about his target instead. I kept waiting for Lucien to make a genuine connection with him, but the closest you got was with the Wednesday dialogue, where Lucien struck me as more dismissive than empathetic. When Lucien dove after Derek, that had potential, but it ended with Derek dying and Lucien vaping and laughing. Badass, sure, but not in an endearing way.

I did like your world-building details, sparse though they were. I’m a sucker for any city called Neo-X, because it falls into the same ‘stupid/cool’ niche as the duster guy, and it set the tone for the rest of the story. The inclusion of the make and model of Lucien’s gun was a good touch for this kind of story, as well. Having said that, your desire to set the scene up front knocked your pacing off balance, since the conflict didn’t start until Derek said he didn’t want to go with Lucien, and that was at the ~700/1700 word mark. If you ever want to retool this story, try getting Derek on the phone sooner and interspersing his complaints with the action. The combination of the two will elevate both halves, creating something that’s stronger than the sum of its parts.


I knew you’d won as soon as I hit the line “She stepped into the morning light, feeling well-hosed and wise, and lit her cigarette.” That line captures the essence of the duster guy (or gal): someone who projects an image of being clever and aloof while simultaneously doing stupid and self-destructive things. I wasn’t going to hand you the win unless you made me care about your protag, however, so it’s a drat good thing you pulled it off.

I’ll tell you how you did it, too—it was this series of lines right here: “Brenda found herself looking between those two cherry stems and the mostly-full Shirley Temple…In the entirety of their professional relationship, Brenda had never considered Florin as a human being with cherry-eating habits; now she saw his crisp facade as the tip of a great iceberg she would never have cause to understand.” You set up Brenda’s idea of herself as a wise individual early on, and in this scene you showed her that wisdom was false. That was how you won.

Also, nice bait and switch at the end with the Fool not being the first tarot card to show up. I’m glad you had it come off the pile eventually, but you made me wait for it and I like that about you. Well done, scamp.

The Chronicles of Spiderman James: Spiderman James and the Vampire’s Sword

You had some good lines and imagery in here, and you kept the silly tone consistent, but Spiderman James’s motivation of ‘fighting to defend the family he might have in the future’ isn’t super-compelling. With all the words to spare, you could’ve either added in an actual sibling for him to defend, or expanded more on how the absence of a real family has impacted his decision-making. As it stands, you could excise the two paragraphs that mention family and the story wouldn’t change, which tells me you didn’t do enough to connect the protagonist’s motivations to the plot progression.

On a quasi-related note, I’m torn about your decision to occasionally switch to Vlad’s perspective. Given the tone of your story, I don’t think it’s beyond the pale—that’s a little vampire joke for you—but I question whether it added enough to the story to justify asking the reader to reorient themself in a different perspective. All you seem to have gained from it is the early reveal that the talking sword is Vlad’s, and I think you could have found another way to tip your hand on that. Ultimately, your protagonist’s underdeveloped motivations did more to hurt the story than any perspective tricks, but this feedback is something you might want to keep in mind should you try the same technique in a future story.

Feb 25, 2014
week 498 results

cool week for me. not so cool for my co-judges, i feel, but i liked the more out there takes i got to read. but anyways, lets move forward

no loser. nothing we hated. good job people

dm goes to CaligulaKangaroo. i was actually okay with this but when i found out it was a retelling of a historical story, i cooled on it. it was fine, but the poetic meter here only served to length something that was already too long made this feel more painful than it needed to be.

hm to Thranguy. a bit too complex and opaque for my tastes but my co-judges liked it and hey it was still cool.

easy win goes to Staggy. just a banger of a story, really. not much else to say here

sorry for making td do the worst thing it could possibly imagine -- engage with poetry

take it away deer lord

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


M crits!

Rodent on Discord posted:

Haha weird week for M to judge.
He needs to be able to crit some normal-rear end stories with characters and motivations and he gets our most avant-garde bullshit.
Mission Accepted, sir!

Note: Been reading some Big Sleep recently, so I decided to read them all out loud in my “hardboiled detective” voice.

Albatrossy_Rodent-Jesus in the wilderness
This one got me thinking. No, not stuff like “what the hell is this?” Or “what a crap story”, but the good kind of thinking. And the kind of stories that gets a man thinking are some of the good ones.

Staggy- The Name of the Island
This one also got me thinking the same way. It seemed like an old legend passed on by an indigenous people. This makes me wonder if the old kinds of stories are your forte.

This is a bizarre one, but in a good way. It has the incoherentness of a stoner’s story, yet it seems rather coherent? A confusing opposition of contrasts.

Antivehicular-The Oblate Job
I must admit, I was a little confused with this story. Why were Jake and Mason there? Are they working for or against the Church? What info that was given did not help. Also, It wanted to do more than the word count can allow.

Chairchucker-How About Wizard in Chief?
Other than the “Racism and Sexism are bad” angle, I was rather confused. Why should we care about these characters? I know it’s flash fiction, but we should be given a reason to care! Still better than the one you posted when I last judged.

Looking at this, it seems like a story I wouldn’t like, and yet I did. You put the pieces together in your puzzle and made a picture that was, while hideous, rather complete.

It was a good story, but it had one glaring problem. Remember When Flerp said your story didn’t have to be a poem? Crap like this is why. The end point was enjoyable, but it seemed to go on and on and on! I honestly think it would’ve worked better as a story, and a much shorter one at that! Plus, you’re just retelling the story of Saint Christopher!

Overall, I noticed that most of the authors had an interpretation of the poem similar to what I did. Criticism of the Catholic Church. Flerp didn’t see it that way, but okay.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Thunderdome Week 499 - Listen here you little poo poo

Because someone had the temerity to use my first idea for this prompt last year, we're going back to basics.

A whole lot of stories revolve around conflict and this week so will yours. Write me a story about two characters who disagree about something on a fundamental level and take their conflict way too far. You're all on the internet so this should be a familiar situation. Crucially, though, both characters should be equally right/wrong (including slapfights about things which have no objective right answer).

Example: the proper way to cut sandwiches.

Now, I don't want lolrandom stories. "You like pineapple on pizza so now I will shoot you" is not interesting. Conflict doesn't have to mean physical violence either. Maybe the conflict is a long-running issue; maybe it's a symptom; maybe it's the spark. I'm looking for strong characters here.

If you like, a judge can assign you the conflict. Otherwise, you can choose your own. You don't have to post it separately in that case but it should be clear what it is in your story. If a judge does assign it, please quote it above your submission.

No: erotica, political satire, Google Docs, etc.

Word Limit:
1,000 words if you choose your own conflict
1,200 words if a judge chooses for you

Signups close: Midnight PST Friday 25th Feb
Submissions Close: Midnight PST Sunday 27th Feb

  • Me
  • The man called M
  • Chernobyl Princess

  • rohan - Marmalade: peel or no peel?
  • Sitting Here
  • Chairchucker - the quickest way home.
  • Bad Seafood - who bought the toaster?
  • Albatrossy_Rodent - Breakfast tea: do you add the milk first or the water first?
  • Thranguy - what shade of blue is this?
  • CaligulaKangaroo - how soon is too soon to respond to a message?
  • yeah ok ok yeah
  • BabyRyoga - Two guys in love with the same woman (or vice versa).
  • sparksbloom - How shall spending be handled?
  • The Cut Of Your Jib

:siren: The winner this week will judge week 501 not week 500! :siren:

Staggy fucked around with this message at 09:27 on Feb 26, 2022

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
Yup, like Staggy said, :siren:week 500 will obviously be a special prompt:siren: so if you enter this week, prepare your brain for the idea that you might be judging the week after next.

If that doesn't work, you can always abdicate to someone else to create and run a prompt.

Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


I am in and would like something for my characters to fight over, please

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
oh also im in

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


in and gimme, can I request a not depressing thing please and thankyou

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


Since I was a dissapointed that a loser other than me did not show last week, I shall judge again this week.

I do fully intend to write for week 500, however.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Gimme something petty.

Oct 5, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

In, give me something goofy and hyperspecific.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
In, give me something.

Jul 25, 2012


Conflict please!

yeah ok ok yeah
May 2, 2016

In like Flint.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

rohan posted:

I am in and would like something for my characters to fight over, please

Marmalade: peel or no peel?

Chairchucker posted:

in and gimme, can I request a not depressing thing please and thankyou

The quickest way home.

Bad Seafood posted:


Gimme something petty.

Who bought the toaster?

Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

In, give me something goofy and hyperspecific.

Breakfast tea: do you add the milk first or the water first?

Thranguy posted:

In, give me something.

What shade of blue is that?

CaligulaKangaroo posted:


Conflict please!

How soon is too soon to respond to a message?

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

I am judge

May 21, 2001

In, and give me a conflict!

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


BabyRyoga posted:

In, and give me a conflict!

Two guys in love with the same woman (or vice versa).

Apr 30, 2006
In. assign me something!

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


sparksbloom posted:

In. assign me something!

How shall spending be handled?

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

in :toxx:

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Signups are closed.

As a reminder, the winner of this week will judge week 501, not week 500.

If anyone who signed up this week and didn't request a prompt conflict would like one, feel free to ask away (but keep in mind a judge may not be around to assign one at the last minute).

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 499 Submission

The Hard Sell
1000 Words

Bill scratched at the recent skunk stripe in his scruff as he flipped the ledger shut and flat-palm pressed it into the counter as though force of will could push it through the rutted formica and back to the pits of hell.

He heard the low mumble of “Drunken Sailor” from the top of the stairs before the squeaking of his mother’s descent. Eventually, one natty slipper. Then the next.


Her words were still quick. “I got it.”

Bill danced his way through the musty cardboard hedge-maze to the landing where Ma was touching down on the worn sunrise burnt into the hardwoods’ lacquer by fifty years of kind neglect, rays bouncing out into the room until they met the dusky mildew of the cluttered walls. Bill traversed one, unknowingly, hidden beneath the boxes.

“I said, I got it.”

“Alright, Ma. Next time wait for me.” His hand reflexively rose to scratch. Ma caught it, licked her thumb, and rubbed at the graphite stains.

“You’re working too hard,” she said.

“Did you ever look in the accounting book? It’s gibberish. There wasn’t exactly a solid business plan here.” He waved towards the junk crowding the pawn shop floor.

“There are higher purposes than just making money.”

“Well, you’re going to need some divine intervention.” Bill muttered, ”Dad left a hell of a mess.”

“You’re here now. Mysterious ways and all that.”

“I came back to get things squared away so you could get a condo in Florida or something. I didn’t expect a hoarder house. And, and look at you. What if a social worker came in? I can practically see through your robe.”

“I like it. Your father got it for me the day we moved in here. Carried me up those stairs in it. ‘Course I wasn’t wearing much else.”

“Ma!” Bill rasped.

Ma raised her creaking hands. “OK, OK, sheesh.” She hadn’t been Gloria in a long time. Bill’s father was the last to call her that, once they were tucked away upstairs, home. With Walt gone, she might never be Gloria again.

“Point being, Ma. There’s not enough money in the place to consider retiring. Probably wouldn’t even pass inspection. Maybe you can swing some part-time help.”

“Your father always wanted you to take over.”

“I’m not moving back. Rats aren’t supposed to jump on to sinking ships. God, at least tell me there aren’t rats.”

“Mickey and Minnie are the only company I have left. Especially if my one and only boy won’t stay,” she mock-pouted.

“Pouring it on a little thick, Ma. But this just isn’t me.”

“Remember appraising that hutch with the swallowtail joints? Your father was so proud. It’s in your blood, Billy.”

“Just—stop trying to guilt me into it. Can’t you just turn it off for one second? I’m not trying to buy a freaking watch.” Bill’s breathing subsumed the room, purposely loud.

Ma’s voice was soft, “When your father started this place, oh, he had dollar signs in his eyes. But then we got to know the people around here we realized we could do some good.”

“I’m sorry, but you’re putting the guy up on a pedestal.”

Ma rummaged in a box and lifted an antique tennis racket. “The Grants. Four kids, they lived in the house with the orange shutters on Maple?”

“I remember.”

“Your father gave them a hundred dollars for this old thing. They couldn’t make the rent one month and well, your father was your father. That’s the Johnsons’ box, old Mrs. Laney's.”

“Good for him. The one noble pawn shop owner. Look where it got us.”

“Think about the good you could do.”

“Here? You realize that half the people who come in here are going to spend the cash on drugs, and most of this crap is probably stolen. I’d have to put up bulletproof glass.”

“Even if you did, Billy, think about the Grants and Johnsons out there who actually need you.”

“Well, why didn’t you two start a charity then? I don’t get it.”

“Times were different then.”

Bill inhaled sharply. “But it’s now. What am--how am I supposed to do this? And anyway, you’re romanticizing the whole thing like you remember it being Leave it to Beaver or something from when you were a kid. It was the Seventies, not some black and white TV fantasy.”

“We all do that, though, don’t we? Maybe it’s part of human nature? Gloss over the bad parts. Maybe like a defense mechanism. Otherwise, who would ever get up in the morning? You look miserable, Billy. That’s not what your father and I ever wanted for you.”

“I mean, I’m going to have to take care of all this eventually, so why not now, right? Apparently so concerned with everybody else you figured everything would just wind up fine in the end like a stupid sitcom. And I’m not.”

“Billy. . . .”

“I’m sure you and Dad had a nice fulfilling life here. If you thought you were building something to leave for me, you blew it. It’s a broken legacy.”

“A fulfilling life is not nothing. And you have a chance at one here, too. With me, for a couple of years?”


“What do you really have going on right now, anyway?”

By all conventional standards, nothing much. Bill had a tiny studio but it was on the beach. He would bartend for tourists, cover for the tchotchke vendors, and pick up the occasional DJ gig. It was simple, unambitious, free.

“Are you kidding me, Ma? Hammer the nail home then just keep pounding. I gotta go.”

“Then just leave me here alone. I’ll figure it out.”

Bill found the way to his rucksack and fished out a dented silver hipflask.

“Your father’s,” she said.

Bill unscrewed the top. “Hmm.”

He sat down on the step and Ma gingerly lowered herself beside him. Under the flicker of the fluorescent shop lights, he took a long swig then passed the flask.

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Backseat Trolley Problem 1141 words

“Take this exit, it ends up quicker.”

Carrie shook her head. “I’d feel more comfortable just following the GPS. Besides, I know the servo on this route actually has a decent diner.”

“But the servo on this exit has a Maccas and a KFC.”

“Yuck,” said Carrie. “No thanks.”

Bryan sighed as they passed the exit. “There’s more traffic this way, too. We should’ve taken the exit.”

“It’s fine. We’ll get there fine. If you wanted to choose the way, you could’ve offered to drive.”


They stopped at the servo, filled up, then parked and walked inside to the diner. “Probably lost twenty minutes in traffic already,” said Bryan.

“Get over it,” said Carrie. “There’s plenty of traffic on your route, too.”

“It’s nowhere near the amount,” said Bryan. “In fact, I’m going to look it up on the traffic app.” He pulled out his phone.

Carrie shook her head in disgust. “An app? Seriously, let it go. It was an hour ago, it’s not like we’re going to head back now.”

“Fine,” said Bryan. “But the other way would’ve been quicker. I wish you would listen to me more.”


Fortunately, it wasn’t until they’d finished their meal that the robbery happened. The two robbers were in balaclavas, one green and one purple. They entered the diner from the connected servo; green balaclava carried a backpack into which they were stuffing what appeared to be packets of lollies and bundles of cash, and purple balaclava carried a gun, which they pointed at Carrie and Bryan. “We’re taking you two as insurance!” they said. “Put your hands up and come with us!”

“Great,” said Bryan. “This wouldn’t have happened if you’d just taken my directions.” The two of them put their hands up and started walking towards the door.

“Oh sure,” said Carrie, “why not make this my fault too. How could I not have foreseen that driving this direction would lead to us getting kidnapped?”

“Shut up, you two,” said the one with the green balaclava.

They shut up, and the four of them hurried outside. The balaclavas bundled them into the back of a car; Purple got in the back with them, and Green got into the front, tossed the backpack on the floor on the passenger side, and started to drive.

“You wanna turn left here,” said Purple.

“How about you focus on our additional passengers that you brilliantly decided to bring along?” said Green. “I’m going right, it’s more direct.”

“More traffic, though,” said Bryan.

“Thank you!” said Purple.

Carrie sighed. “This again?”

Green turned right. “Bet we get stuck in traffic,” said Purple. Bryan nodded.


They didn’t get stuck in traffic, because about 30 kilometres down the road, a police car popped out from behind a tree on the meridian strip and started following them, siren wailing.

“Glad we decided to go the direct route,” said Purple.

“If you try to tell me that this is my fault, so help me…” said Green.

“Well,” said Bryan, “there is an increased police presence on this stretch of road, because there’s a Police Academy just off the next exit.”

“You see?” said Purple.

“Not like either of you mentioned that before, though, did you?” asked Carrie.

“Right!” said Green. “If you’d told me there was a police academy nearby, that might have been relevant information.” Green slowed down and started to pull over. “I can’t run from the cops, I already have demerits on my license from rolling through a stop.”

“Rolling through a stop?” said Carrie. “Why are they wasting their time and resources on that nonsense instead of focusing on real crimes?”

“You two be cool,” said Purple to Bryan and Carrie. “Stay quiet and no one gets hurt.”

They pulled over, and the police car pulled over behind them. Two police officers got out and walked over to them. The first one tapped on the window, and Green rolled it down. “Is there a problem officer?” they asked.

“Do you know how fast…” the officer stopped. “Why are you wearing a balaclava?”

“Oh, forgot about that,” said Green. “It’s just so comfortable, I forget it’s there.”

“Hmmm,” said the officer, and pulled out a gun, “I think, just to be safe, I’m going to get all four of you to get out of the car and put your hands where I can see them.”

Purple may have thought about resisting, but there were two police officers, each with guns, and the odds did not look good, so they dumped their gun on the floor of the car, because no one can ever find anything down there, and they all got out and stood facing the car with their hands behind their heads. The police officers did some highly skilled police things where they described the vehicle and the four people into their radio.

“Right,” said the radio, “so the people with the balaclavas robbed a diner, and the other two left the diner without paying for their meal.”

“That’s hardly fair,” said Bryan, “we were being held at gunpoint at the time.”

“Wow, jackpot,” said the other officer. “Good thing I took your advice and went this way.”

“There,” said Purple, “see what can happen when you listen sometimes?”

“Well,” said the first officer, “it looks like I get to arrest you now. Are you planning on resisting at all?”

“No,” said Carrie.

“Maybe a little,” said Green, and Purple kicked him in the shin. “Ow,” said Green, “all right, no.”

“No take backsies,” said the officer, “looks like we’ll have to use the appropriate amount of force to stop you from resisting.”

The two police officers didn’t get to engage in any police brutality, however, because that was when the UFO showed up. It hovered above them and a big light shone down on all six of them. The police officers both fired their pistols at the UFO until they were empty, but the rounds glanced harmlessly off the UFO. Then all six of them slowly levitated towards the UFO, and into a hatch that opened at the bottom.


They found themselves in a containment module in the middle of the UFO, surrounded by some kind of see-through alien material. You know, similar to glass, but more high tech and sci-fi. “Greetings, humans,” said a large green alien. “You will have the honour of being studied by us back on our home planet. Now plotting a course for our homeworld.”

Another alien turned around. “You know, the navigation equipment does not display the optimal route. If we were to go via the Grebulon Sector…”

“Absolutely not,” said the first alien. “I’m going to let the navigation equipment perform the task for which it was designed.”

The other alien shook its head. “Would’ve saved a few lightyears, but fine.”

Jul 25, 2012


Staggy posted:

How soon is too soon to respond to a message?

Word Count:

Mark Ferrier
Dad’s funeral is tomorrow. Will you be there?
Yesterday - 2:58pm

Mark Ferrier
Cool. Glad you haven’t changed.
Yesterday - 3:15pm

Tony Ferrier
I’m going for a smoke out back. You can join if you like.
Today - 10:59am

Mark nervously waddles into the church parking lot. He hadn’t worn this suit in years and wasn’t acutely aware of every imperfection in the fit. He struggles to adjust his tie to ease the irritation his collar causes his neck, scratching his knuckles on his poor morning shave. The buttons of his shirt barely hold in the pounds he gained over quarantine, feeling more like chains across his emerging gut. The inside of his jacket vibrates. He fumbles the iPhone out of his pocket finding a single new text message.

Stephanie Black
Hope it goes well.
Today - 11:01pm

“loving milennials and their phones,” a raspy voice says from behind, followed shortly by the flick of a Zippo. Mark turns to see his older brother Tony walking down the sidewalk, lighting his Marlboro. His suit fit better, but Mark figured he bought it for a recent court date. Though he figures his dad would appreciate it covering up most of his tattoos.

“Year and a half and that’s the first thing you say,” Mark snaps back. The memories of their last argument come rushing back to him. Mark can nearly recite his desperate attempts to convince Tony Dad needed him, and Tony lashing out at their father’s manipulative tendencies and temper. Deep down it still killed Mark that it all started because Tony wouldn’t answer his text messages right away.

“Calm down. It’s a joke.” Tony takes another drag off his cigarette. He ashes it on the street before pointing it toward Mark’s phone. “Unless there’s somebody more important you gotta talk to.”

Mark tucks the phone back inside his jacket because hold his arms out, like a magician making a rabbit disappear. “There! It’s gone! Dad’s loving funeral can’t let the phone poo poo go?”

“No, I’m serious. Who ya’ texting?”

His brother’s sarcastic smirk and smoky chuckle betray his insincerity, but Mark decides to answer anyway. “My girlfriend.”

“Girlfriend?! Lose contact for that long, your younger brother finds true love. Let me ask something. The day after your first date, did you text her that morning? Or did you give it at least forty-eight hours?”

“For gently caress’s sake! What was dating like back in 1998?”

“You never want them to think you’re desperate.”

“Is that why you got pissy with Dad? Didn’t want to think you were desperate?” Mark barely realized what he let slip out, only realizing with the shift of Tony’s expression. The feeling of unease between them grows thicker than the nicotine cloud the frustrated elder exhales. Though does his best to break it with a bit of forced laughter. “Sorry, I had to. God, can you believe our last conversation was a blow up over texting etiquette?”

“Yeah, well maybe if I was one of those assholes who texts in the movie theater, Dad might have given a poo poo about me.”

“gently caress, Tony! Dad was sick!”

“Dad got sick. But before that he expected us to be at his goddamn beck and call. And suppose you were busy. Suppose he didn’t have access to you for two loving minutes. You might as well never loving call, because the hell you’d catch ain’t worth it.”

“Yeah, okay. I’m sorry our elderly father had chores he needed his kids to run.”

“And how many times did you do it? Better question, how many times did you not do it? Tell me about the fits Dad threw when you couldn’t.”

Mark exhales as if trying to release the anger building inside him. He nervously glances around, hoping no friends or family see this blowup. “Dad could get cranky. But I’m not going to ignore him if he needs help!”

“Cranky? One time I didn’t text him back because I was on the freeway. Before I even get home, he sends a paragraph calling an ingrate, saying he didn’t have to tolerate the poo poo I put him through. Of course he did, because he was ‘such a good father.’”

“Dad gets frustrated. And no offense, but you’re pretty notoriously difficult to get a hold of.”

“That’s what you gotta do with manipulative assholes. Set that boundary. Let them know you don’t jump when they say jump.”

“So you think everyone that texts you is trying to manipulate you?”

“I think anyone who does will catch on fast.”

“So did Dad catch on? Because there’s a pretty definite yes or no now.”

Tony stops talking, letting his brother’s words sink in before taking a seat on a concrete flower planter. He flicks his spent cigarette onto the street before removing another from the pack. “Dad was different with you. You know that right? I don’t know if it was just him being older when you came around or me just being a poo poo kid—“

“You were a pretty poo poo kid.”

A smoky half-cough laugh from Tony answers Mark’s joke, much to Mark’s relief. “Yeah, I guess I was. But it was always a push and pull with him, y’know? I’d go one way. Dad would get pissed. So I’d push back. Then he’d say the nasty poo poo.”

The tobacco odor sickens Mark a bit, but he still feels compelled to take a seat next to his brother. “For what it’s worth, Dad didn’t always say poo poo around me. Most of the time, it was always some random memory. Like that one in Tampa. The golf course?”

“Oh poo poo, when I got that hole-in-one on the eighth hole?”

“We were on the seventh!”

The brothers share a laugh. Tony coughs a bit. “I can’t remember the last time I went mini-golfing.”

“They did just open that place on 5th street.”

“Mark! Are you asking me on date? Your girlfriend must be very open minded.”

“gently caress you. But it would nice to do something like old times.”

“Yeah. I’d like that.”

“Just look at your goddamn texts next time.”

“Give me more than ten minutes. I’ll get to it.”

They share a laugh as they rise to their feet. Mark starts to head back to the church before realizes Tony hasn’t moved. When Mark turns to look at his brother, he sees the elder Ferrier with arms open. He laughs before accepting Tony’s offer and embracing him. A vibration in Mark’s jacket pocket pulls his attention, breaking the brother’s apart. He fumbles the iPhone out to find another message from his girlfriend.

Stephanie Black
Is everything okay?
Today - 11:13am

“Girlfriend again?” Tony says with a laugh.


“You better text her back.”

Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


Marmalade: peel or no peel?

Not Quite Hot Noodles

1200 words

Of all the challenges awaiting an acolyte psychopomp, Olivia thinks, cravings for hot noodles are the hardest. Hot noodles, or deep-fried synth-meat, or jam atop toasted nute-wafes; what she wouldn’t give, after months aboard the Tartarus ferricraft, for some actual food.

Which is the entire point, of course: this final assignment, paired with an adept who could only be inconvenienced by a baby acolyte, is mostly about acclimatising to the ascetic life of a Collector, and much less about actually performing the Collections.

Still: it’s cruel to offer such good noodles in the spaceport beforehand.

Beside her, Partheus transcribes the latest Conclave transmission, and draws a sharp breath. Olivia, who’s seen Partheus survey canyons of orbital cannon-fire with less astonishment, turns to face him and leans forward, hands on knees, waiting. She’s not quite game to address him directly—not after last time—but the prospect of fresh information fuels a new hunger.

‘A gamma planet,’ Partheus murmurs.

When Olivia doesn’t respond—doesn’t throw hands to cheeks and exclaim, a gamma planet?—he looks at her briefly, pityingly. ‘It’s technically—outside our jurisdiction,’ he tells her.


‘“Technically” means we need to get there first,’ Partheus explains, swiping at his tablet. ‘We’re the only Conclave ferricraft within—’ he consults the screen, running a finger down glyphs Olivia still can’t translate, ‘—three light-years. Empress. Why did it have to be—’

He stops short of ‘—when I’m saddled with a helpless, mewling infant,’ but Olivia hears the admonishment anyway. ‘I guess that technically overrides training,’ she tries, eager for a lecture-free landing. Maybe it’s urgent enough for Partheus to act alone, as befits an adept; she can stay and complete the serials she’d packed in a rare moment of aspiration, free of judgment.

‘Or perhaps,’ Partheus says, before keying in the co-ordinates, ‘it will become impromptu firearms training with live rounds. Have a vite-pouch. You’ll need the energy.’


On the surface, they head magnetic north, while Partheus explains the theory of ley-lines—which Olivia learned in creche, so the implicit assumption stings. They’re a few hundred metres downwind of the first settlement when Olivia realises his lecture is not education, but distraction.

‘I’ll handle the collection,’ Partheus tells her. ‘Log cultural data. We’ll need it for the report.’

He strides ahead, collector unslung and coils warming up, and Olivia glances back to Tartarus before retrieving her tablet and looking around. Dark clouds hang overhead, and light ashfall obscures what she imagines was once a vibrant commune. She runs through the checklist: black asphalt, and remains of personal transports; energy pylons outside ash-blasted brick assemblages; a civilisation still three or four cycles from gate-flight and integration. She notes this down dispassionately before crouching and finally inspecting the dead.

He—she’ll humanise him, while Partheus isn’t around—looks younger than her, which of course he is, and that never helps. She makes note of his uniform, the cultural markers of cut and fabric, and reaches inside for some sort of identifying—hang on. What’s this?

She pulls out a small, oblong tin, its bright orange casing untouched by ash, and sounds out the glyphs from memory. Mar-mah-laid? Below the glyphs, there’s an image of a jammy paste, which she recognises from one of her serials. Yes. Marmalade.

‘Conclusion?’ Partheus asks, startling her, as she slips the tin into her suit.

‘Um,’ she starts, standing and wiping dust from her trousers. ‘Judging by cloth and skin-tone, I’d suggest—’

‘How many times, Olivia,’ Partheus chastises. ‘“The shell is meaningless. Only the core—”’

‘Type four-A,’ Olivia suggests. ‘Unbound. Slight resonance.’

‘Four-B, but yes,’ Partheus nods. ‘The distinction is—’

At once, both of their tablets sound a warning chime, and they look back to see another craft enter atmosphere.

‘—not important right now,’ Partheus concludes, as they run back to Tartarus. ‘Let’s cover emergency evac first.’


In the serials, spacefights are always the most exciting part. Olivia has no patience for the other bits—mostly conversations about which pairs are copulating—but spacefights always involve quick decisions, and explosions, and fascinating new vernacular.

Somehow, Partheus makes even this dull. Mostly it involves him murmuring to himself and making minute adjustments to dials and levers; and after getting told off a third time for trying to watch the monitor over his shoulder, Olivia retreats to her own chair, pulls her knees up to chest, and gasps as something hard digs into her ribs.

Partheus doesn’t notice. Slowly, Olivia reaches into her suit, and retrieves the tin.

She thinks back to survival training. The seal’s intact. It’s not bulging. Rations, she presumes, made for longevity.

Ahead, Partheus is still distracted. She turns the tin over, fingering the ring-pull.

Technically, an adept may source local supplies on assignment. She’s not yet an adept, but nobody ever ascended by following all the rules.

And there’s every chance this other craft—who wouldn’t hesitate adding two souls to the ten-thousand it was sent for—can counter Partheus’ manoeuvres with, y’know, cannonfire. And someone else would prise the tin from her hands, intact and full of potential.

Slowly, she peels back the lid.

The scent wafts out, a fruity sharpness that fills her mind with thoughts of—home? She has no other word for it. Home, but—happier.

She digs a finger in, brings it to her mouth, and licks the jammy fruit, rolling it around in her mouth, savouring the sweetness, the slight bitterness—and then she’s spitting it out, frantic, retching, and Partheus finally notices, and he jumps from his seat and pulls a syringe from somewhere and is about to jab it into her neck when the ship shudders with impact—

‘It’s okay,’ Olivia says, straightening and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. ‘It’s just—there was—’ she reaches into her mouth, pulling out fibrous matter from between her teeth.

‘Peel?’ Partheus asks, eyebrow raised, as alarms sound behind him. He reaches down to pick up the tin. ‘Well, yes—it’s marmalade. Where did you—’

‘Why would marmalade have peel,’ Olivia asks, still wiping her mouth. ‘Ugh!’

‘“Sustenance”,’ Partheus intones, setting the tin down—Olivia hears the tones of sanctimony as clear as the sudden eruption of cannonfire—‘“should always include all remnant components, for no waste shall be—”’

‘Really?’ she asks, folding her arms to challenge him. ‘Conclave scripture? What about : “the shell is meaningless”?’

Partheus’ eyes widen, and they’re both thrown to the ground. Overhead, the lights pulse a red she’s only seen in simulations, which means—

‘We’re going to become marmalade if you keep this up!’ Olivia shrieks, and lunges for the console. Partheus sputters indignation, but she’s already angling away from the approaching craft and presenting a narrower profile. From there, she casts her mind back to her own scripture—Styx & Stones, season four, episode five—and accelerates to meet the attack.

There’s every chance they won’t make it. The simulations are remarkably averse to combat. And she knows the serials leave out all sorts of unpleasantness.

But for now, ten-thousand and one souls are in the hands of an acolyte who’s bested her adept in scripture; and she’ll savour the moment while she can.

It’s not quite hot noodles, but it’s close enough.

May 21, 2001

Two guys in love with the same woman (or vice versa).

Three's a Crowd
877 words

Max reclined in his seat and sighed softly.

"The monotony." He said, with an air of sarcastic snobbery. He looked across the room to Jim, who was sitting in a recliner and rocking back and forth gently.

Jim snickered. "The monotony." He replied, glancing at the ceiling in boredom. "Sitting in here and wasting away on such a nice day when we could be hiking. Or playing golf," he added, expressing his frustration.

"Oh of course, golf. That sounds like a lark," Max looked over to far wall, where Ksenia was waiting patiently. "Hey Ksenia, dear, what's the weather like outside today?"

"It's warm and sunny outside, with no chance for rain, Max," She replied.

Jim rolled his eyes. "I just said it was a nice day. Can't you think back thirty seconds?" He looked over to Ksenia. "Hey Ksenia, don't listen to this moron."

Ksenia blinked in confusion, not knowing how to respond.

Max was taken off guard. "The hell? Chill bro, no reason to throw out insults. You do this every time."

"There's a goddamn window right here," Jim gestured, pulling on the dangling cord just within reach from where he was sitting and sliding away the drapes. Clear sky, no clouds. Midday sunbeams filled the room.

"Calm down, we don't appreciate your outbursts," said Max, lowering his voice with assertiveness as if to signal that Jim should do the same.

"You are harassing her with your asinine questions, isn't that right, Ksenia?" Jim called out confidently, content with the way he was conducting himself.

"I don't know," Ksenia replied, after a brief pause.

"I think I get it," Max chirped, "You're Jealous because she hangs on my every word -- doesn't mean you need to get all butt-hurt about it."

"I'm just as important to her as you are." Jim snorted loudly, trying to hold back his laughter.

"Damnit Jim, I said chill-" Max said, clearly growing impatient.

Jim called out mockingly: "Hey Ksenia, darling; not sure how to tell you this, but um, I think I am madly in love with you. Will you marry me?"

Ksenia responded after another short pause. "That's impossible." As she replied, a pillow smacked Jim in the face, prompting him to his feet."

"Hey, just having a little fun!" He exclaimed. "That's the problem with this one, Ksenia. No sense of humor."

"I'm sorry-" Ksenia started to respond, as Max rose up and swung at Jim. He weaved out of the way just in time.

"Hey--, Now who needs to chill?" Jim squeaked, backing up towards the window the window. Max slammed him against the adjacent wall with a thud, narrowly missing the pane.

Max scolded Jim with a firm but suppressed hiss: "I don't appreciate your bullshit. We are trying to relax --" As the three were interrupted by a shout from the other end of the house.

"HEY!" The voice boomed. Max and Jim both froze up. "WHAT THE ACTUAL gently caress!"

"poo poo, looks like daddy's home," Jim hissed at Max.

An older man stormed in the room in a fit, brandishing his five iron like an inflatable effigy waving in the wind.

"I TOLD YOU PUNKS NOT TO COME AROUND HERE ANYMORE!" He roared, jamming the end of his club against the floor in anger. Jim frantically reached for the latch on the window, giving it a quick flip and positioning his arms to heave it open. The man rose his club and strode towards the two menacingly. Max grabbed the porcelain ashtray sitting on the coffee table in the middle of the room and flung it at the man to divert his attention, as Jim pushed the window open and carefully began to climb out. The man lunged towards Max and swung the club full strength with both hands like a baseball bat, who easily ducked the reckless swipe and retaliated upon his aggressor with an agile sweep to the legs. He shuffled over to the window and called out to Ksenia as he swung his legs over the sill.

"Gotta go. Catch ya later, Ksenia."

"Bye, Max," She responded in tune.

He blew a kiss to her before slithering outside and sprinting away down the street in pursuit of Jim, who was waiting two houses down the road for his buddy to make it out. The man slowly rose to his feet, and stumbled over the window, peering outside to see the two running off. He groaned and closed the window, fastening the latch. He looked over to far end of the room and sneered.

"Oh, so I take it you know those punks?" He called out sarcastically to Ksenia, who remained silent.

He plopped down onto the recliner Jim was sitting in previously, looked at the broken remains of his ashtry over on the other side of the room, and let out a huge sigh. "drat vagrant kids. Ksenia, I am gonna need another ashtray, just like the one we bought last month.

"Ok," Ksenia replied. She paused momentarily and then flashed with an azure sparkle. "By the way, I can get notifications from local law enforcement agencies to alert you of burglaries in the area if you'd like. To do so say-"

He interrupted her, seemingly not impressed. "Ksenia, shut the gently caress up."


Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Dangerous Criminals
what shade of blue is this?
987 words

"I don't see what the big deal is," said Gregg as he adjusted the center rear-view mirror. "Light aqua's not hardly any different from turquoise anyhow."

"The point," said Dian, smacking him on the side of the head with the old menu from Xi's Kitchen she had had to clear off the passenger seat minutes before, "Is that we follow the plan. We use a spotter. Me. I spend all day watching the lot and trying not to get mistaken for a pro so that we pick out a car that we know just went in to long term parking."

Gregg swatted her hand away and looked in the mirror, backing the car out of the spot. "What, you want I should put it back?"

"And let them see you get in to a second car right in front of the same camera?"

"So we keep to the plan," said Gregg. He switched gears to drive and moved through the dark lot.

"Can't," said Dian. "No idea how long it's gonna take for this one's owner to notice it's gone and turn on the LoJack."

"Shh," said Gregg. He slowed down at the gate, pressed the 'lost ticket' button and stuffed twenties in the slot until it meet the max charge. The gate lifted and he drove up the ramp.

"So what are we doing now," said Gregg.

"Maybe take it to Sonny's?"

"Sonny?" said Gregg. "That crook? We'd be lucky to make up what I just paid to get it out of the lot."

"You got any better ideas?"

"I don't know, I'm just saying the original plan is a bust."

"Maybe you should have told me before I paid to get it out."

"Sonny's wouldn't be that bad," said Dian. "We'd make decent money parting this thing out."

"We don't do this to make decent God damned money," said Gregg. "This thing's got to be good for a few hours. Let's use it on getaway. I know you've been wanting to hit Pollux Jewels for, like, months."

"That's a three man job, minimum. Four to do it right. Who are we going to get on this short notice?"

"Eddie's always up," said Gregg.

"It's Monday morning," said Dian. "Eddie's either hung over or else he's-"

Gregg hit a speed bump at forty miles an hour. "Sorry," he said. 


They both turned around. Dian swatted Gregg's head again with the menu. "Eyes on the road!" Gregg swung back around, jerking right, away from the line of parked cars.

"But that was-" he said. 

"I'll take care of it," said Dian. She turned to the teenager lying across the back seats of the car. "So who the hell are you, kid?"

She awkwardly switched from lying down to sitting, like half an drunken octopus darting across an aquarium tank. "Mitsy Fairchild. Who the hell are you?"

"Dangerous criminals," said Gregg.

Mitsy rolled her eyes. "He's right," said Dian.

"I don't see no gun," said Mitsy.

"You won't see it until it's too late," said Dian. They stared at each other. Mitsy blinked.

"Okay, okay. What, you kidnapping me or something? Make my father pay a hundred thousand dollars?"

"Does your dad have a hundred thousand dollars?" said Dian.

"Nah," said Mitsy. "Maybe twenty though. Not that he'd pay a dime if he had the choice, but with everyone watching he'd have to cough up. I'll help out if I get a third."

"You really hate him," said Gregg.

"No," said Mitsy, "I sleep in his car because its just so loving comfortable." She turned to Dian. "Is he always this dumb?"

"Smart enough to know not to go federal," he said. "I don't mess with the FBI."

"So what the hell are we going to do?" said Dian.

"Mitsy," said Gregg, "How long have you been camping out there? Three nights?"

"More like a week," she said.

"Well all right then. Back to the original plan then. He hasn't called LoJack yet he's not gonna. So we take it to Gabe and strip out the plates and electronics and sell it off whole."

"And I get a third," said Mitsy.

"You get cab fare home," said Dian. Mitsy started to talk. "One word and it's bus fare instead."

"Doesn't matter," she said. "Not going home."

"I don't care where you go," said Gregg.

"I've seen your faces," said Mitsy.

"Jesus," said Dian, "Do you want to get killed, is that it? You trying to get me to do it for you?"

"No," said Mitsy, left eye and lower lip slightly twitching. "I want in."

"You know," said Gregg, "Pollux is a three person job, minimum."

"She doesn't look the part," said Dian. "We'll need wardrobe."

"We'll be flush after we finish with Gabe. That'll give us time to make sure Eddie's head is on straight, too. Four is better. Give you time to teach her how not to embarrass herself in there."

"We'll need a getaway car, too. You going to spend money on a junker?"

"Now that's a waste when I can still get into anything made in Japan," said Gregg. Gabe told him it was like a universal remote, the black fob sitting in his pocket. Works like a charm. Worth every dollar.

"Okay," said Dian. "But this time make sure you get the right one. When I say turquoise I mean turquoise."

"You could give me the drat plate number," said Gregg.

"I told you," said Dian, "They watch for that. People writing stuff down or taking pictures. The guys watching the camera see that and they say something."

"You can't just memorize the number?" said Mitsy.

"That's something only people on TV can do," said Dian.

"I can," said Mitsy.

"Bullshit," said Dian.

"Easy enough to put to a test," said Gregg. "If she can, that'll make it a whole lot smoother."

"I can," said Mitsy. 

"We'll see," said Dian.

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