Bixbite aka Red Beryl, or "The Red Emerald"
|# ? Apr 2, 2022 01:01|
|# ? Jun 28, 2022 14:51|
Note for Domers: Since a couple of people have asked me questions about their gems in discord and are worried about accuracy, let me be clear: I don't give a poo poo! I love sharing the facts with you guys because I'm a huge dork, but I am totally down for ridiculous stories with moon-sized, sentient gems that defy all of the properties of anything I know to be true. If all you do is say 'its a crystal and it's the same color as the one in my picture,' great. Awesome. Write a good story and put a gem in it; don't worry about appealing to my Dr. Stone brain!
(I'm adding this to the prompt post as well)
|# ? Apr 2, 2022 01:34|
Signups are Closed
|# ? Apr 2, 2022 16:15|
Week 500 Judgment
The 500th week of Thunderdome was an epic farrago of crossed worldlines, a veritable gallimaufrey of wildly unclipped possible universes.
In some of them Thunderdome was destroyed. In others Thunderdome destroyed itself, or everything, or the concept of cheese, idk it was all fairly confusing.
Judging was complicated not only by it being more than four dozen stories at least half of which were deliberatefly ternible but also also becauv
there were some
ERROR 32 ABORT/RETRY/FAIL?
|# ? Apr 3, 2022 09:50|
Eyes in the Dark (1,184 words)
The skull had been her mother’s, a fact that gave her comfort. She held it in her arms, cradled like a babe. Her fingers slowly traced the hallowed, empty sockets. She spoke the secret words. The forms would be obeyed.
“Oy! You up yet?”
The voice belonged to the caravan leader. He threw back the curtain, flooding the back of the wagon with light. There among the pillars of well-secured cargo, cramped and confined, the girl recoiled.
“Lazy good-for-nothing. It’s nearly sunset. Up, up!”
She grimaced, and stood.
Stepping out from the wagon, she was greeted by the sight of the city on the hill. They were almost there. One more day, maybe two. Around her the others were setting up camp. Their jobs were over. Hers would begin.
She wasn’t much by daylight, mousy and meager, her short hair thick and tangled and tussled. Her eyes betrayed a distinct lack of sleep. She had neither bathed nor changed clothes in a week. Hiding the skull within her robes, she made her way to the camp’s perimeter. The others watched, but kept to themselves. It was bad luck to mingle more than required; better still, they agreed, not to cross paths at all. But the nights were cold and deep and treacherous, and even they had their uses as guards. One of them, a youth (who did not understand), had tried to talk to her several nights previous. The rest were quick to correct his indiscretion. He, too, now looked on from afar.
Selecting a branch from a bent and crooked tree, she snapped it off and touched it to the ground. Walking in a circle, she defined the space. Completing the circle, she sealed them off. All the while she recited the words, barely audible, a whisper on her lips. Tossing the branch aside, she pulled a small knife, and used it to sever a short lock of hair, offering the strands to the wiles of the wind.
The rite concluded, she returned to the center. The others were eating. She’d have to wait.
From her pockets she produced a spool of dark thread, a collection of sticks, and a small velvet sack. The thread was black, invisible by night. The sticks were seven, with charcoal markings. Within the larger circle she created another, defined by thread, pulled taut with the sticks. In the middle she placed her cherished skull. She laid it with reverence in the absolute center.
“See what we cannot,” she commanded the skull. Taking the sack, she selected two gemstones, two matching minty greens, the size of two eyeballs. One she placed in the skull’s right socket. The other she held in the palm of her hand.
Soon the meal was over, and her travel companions had gone to their tents. They slept on bedrolls with pillows and blankets. She helped herself to the dregs of the stew, her free fingers tracing the edge of the pot. A few morsels of meat. Tonight, she was fortunate.
Just one more day. Maybe two, at the most. Then she’d be paid, and could go on her way.
“Is that why you do it?”
She turned towards the voice. It was soft and sweet. They always were. There in the dark, beyond the boundary, something slunk and slithered through the woods.
She straightened her posture, her mouth a thin line, her dull eyes sharpened and steely and green. She gazed into the darkness, her whole body tense. She gazed with the eye in her hand, the eye in the skull.
“If I don’t, who will?”
The darkness breathed in. A quiet chuckle.
“So you sell your body for gold?”
“You refer to my service?” Her eyes narrowed. She knew their game. A question for a question. Answers were costly. Silence was forbidden.
“I refer to your body,” the darkness continued. It spoke slowly, deliberately, savoring the words. “A fragile thing. Like a bird, you are. Sunless days and sleepless nights. What’s left of the food they forgot to throw out.” Here and there she saw shapes in the trees. “Poor little thing. Aren’t you tired?”
“You question my resolve?” Her vision focused. It needed a mouth. She needed to find it.
“Only your longevity.” Groping fingers emerged from the dark, picking at the edges of the circle of dirt. “And for what? For money?.”
“Is it wrong to be needed?”
“Needed, yes, needed, you are needed indeed. But wanted? Not wanted, no, not even once. An unfortunate necessity. That’s what you are. Tolerated only in proportion to your use. Surely in your heart, you hoped for better?”
“And what would you propose?” She scanned the treeline. They were only so clever. The fingers at the hem of the circle were distractions. No matter how bold, it would be something small. She looked to the branches, awaiting its retort. She reached to her belt, where she carried the knife.
“Take it,” said the darkness. “The blade at your side. Slit their throats. Drink your fill. They’d be powerless to stop you. These insects who pay for the privilege of your body. How much of your life have you sold for a pittance? There’s gold enough in their coffers and bellies.”
“You would have them hate me more?”
She swallowed, hesitated. The knife trembled in her hands. Then she saw it: a beakless crow. Clad in midnight, it leered from a branch. The hole in its face seemed to swallow the night.
She flung the blade, a practiced gesture. It flew into the dark and found purchase in flesh. The voice, once sweet, suffocated, and vanished. The fingers withdrew from her earthen domain.
She stood there in the dark, alone and wary. A moment passed. She shuddered, and exhaled. The darkness lingered, that yawning chasm, but now it was well and truly empty.
“Is it…” she said, addressing the emptiness, “...Is it wrong to want to be better than them?”
She approached the edge of the perimeter, then stepped across. The corpse of the bird was within easy reach. She removed the knife and returned to the circle. Safe within its confines, she sat before the skull, looking at herself through her own green eyes - the eye in her hand, the eye in the skull.
“Is it…” she said, addressing the skull, “...Is it wrong…”
She shuddered. There were tears in her eyes. She crumpled to the ground, her head in her hands.
At long last the dawn crept over the horizon. She had already collected the tokens of her station. As the others arose, she climbed back into the wagon. She drew shut the curtain and curled up within. In just one more day they’d reach the city. She’d be paid and then, for a little while, free. They didn’t care who you were in the city. So long as you paid, you were always welcome. She’d treat herself. Good food, then a bath, and a bed with pillows and a blanket by the fire.
She held the skull closely, cradled like a babe.
|# ? Apr 3, 2022 20:10|
Bixbite aka Red Beryl, or "The Red Emerald"
I knew Mike was sketchy when I moved in with him but I didn’t realize he was stupid as poo poo, too. He’d been working as a landscaper for this hella rich Chinese dude but his eyes got to wandering and when the dude went out of town, Mike decided to break in and steal some poo poo. And maybe he wouldn’t have gotten caught except his phone automatically connected to the wifi. And, as it would turn out, this Chinese dude wasn’t rich through totally legal means. Thus, it wasn’t the police that came looking for Mike.
So I’m eating breakfast, a warm Coors and a stale bagel covered in Taco Bell hot sauce, when Rocky kicks our front door in. It’s very violent. He’s a big guy. All muscley and tattooed. He points a sawn-off shotty at me and I, midchew, slowly raise my hands, still holding the beer and the bagel.
I say, “Hey, if this is about Mike, he’s not here. If this is about drugs, I don’t know where they are but feel free to toss the place.” One of the infinitesimally small benefits of being hella poor is that you don’t have anything to lose in this kind of situation.
Rocky says, “I’m not looking for drugs. I’m looking for a dragon.”
I say, “Like a real dragon?”
He says, “Nah. A statue. Got bixbite eyes.”
I say, “What’s bixbite?”
He says, “gently caress if I know. I’m just doing what I’m told.”
I give him a sympathetic smile. “Bosses, amirite?”
He laughs. Which is good. I know I’m not his exactly his target but I also know that, as a witness and a roommate, I’m well within the potentional-to-be-murdered-or-violently-injured-range. I need to make a human connection or prove myself useful or, preferably, both. And quick.
“Hey,” I say. He’s a little closer now and I can see more of his tattoos. Lotta typical gangster poo poo but some Poly stuff, too. Including the Hawaiian islands on his neck. “Hey, weird question but… are you kamaʻāina, brah?”
He gives me a look. “poo poo. Yeah. Howju know?”
He has ‘WEST SIDE’ across his knuckles. Now, if he’s repping somewhere on the mainland, I might be hosed. But if it’s islander and he’s from Oahu (and, like, ninety percent of the population is) then he might be from…
I say. “You just remind me of my boy from Waianae.”
“Brah!” he says, slapping his chest. “I’m from Waianae! Whose ya boy? I might know him!”
“Uh… Big Dog. You know a Big Dog?”
“Big Dog what?”
I grit my teeth. “I, uh, can’t… Guns make me kinda nervous, y’know? I can’t think straight.”
He waves his hand and lowers the gun. “No worries, cuz. This just for show. I mean, for you. Mike? Aiyaa, that’s one kneecap, braddah, minimum. Bossman told me to gently caress him up good. Big Dog what?”
I start thinking real fast and speaking real slow. I watch his face to see if anything catches. “Kea… something… Kea…loha? Uh. Ke…lamane? Keahi?”
His face brightens. “Keawe?”
“Yeah!” I say. “Maybe!”
Rocky sighs. He kisses his fingers and points to the sky. “Miss you, brah.”
I blink. This is extremely convenient. “Big Dog’s dead?”
“Yeah,” he says. “Was driving his moped drunk. Fell off. No helmet. Hit the road. Dead. Just like that.”
“drat,” I say. I kiss my fingers and point to the sky. “Miss you.” We’re both quiet for a bit. I lick my lips. “Do you want a beer? We couldn’t pay the electric so they’re warm but…”
“Ah,” he says, shaking his head. “I’m working, brah.”
Rocky scrunches up his nose. “But maybe just one?”
I say, “For Big Dog?”
He says. “For Big Dog!”
Well, one beer turns to two and two turns to three and three turns to four and then we decide we should walk to the corner store and get another rack and, well, unfortunately, all I’d had to eat was that stale bagel and I have a tendency to get real emotional when I’m shitfaced so I start feeling guilty about lying and then I start crying.
Rocky says, “Brah? What’s wrong?”
I say, “You’re just such a cool dude.”
He says, “You’re a cool dude!”
I say, “Nah, man.”
He puts his hand on my shoulder. He says, “Ay. Hawaiian.” And that’s a very personal thing for a kanaka maoli to call someone! So I just start sobbing. He says, “You’re a great guy!”
I say, “Nah, man. I lied to you. I didn’t know Big Dog. I just made it up because I was scared.”
He says, “Brah! I had a gun! You was supposed to be scared! And you just came clean, right? That’s legit, brah. That’s big man poo poo. Not a lot of people will admit when they wrong these days. And if you had known Big Dog, he would have liked you. I know it.”
I say, “Really?’
He says, “Yeah.”
I raise my beer and make a toast. “To Big Dog!”
He says, “To Big Dog!”
Well, we keep drinking. We start telling stories. Laughing. Having a good time. And, eventually, Mike comes home. He sees the busted door. He sees all the empty beer cans. He freaks the gently caress out. He just goes ape poo poo, yelling, “Yo! What the gently caress? The loving door is loving hosed! loving gently caress, man! What the gently caress! And who the loving gently caress is loving this, man? gently caress!”
Me and Rocky have our arms around each other's shoulders and we look at each other and we just start laughing. I say, “Hey, Milke. This is my friend Rocky.”
Rocky says, “Wassup?”
Mike says, “Who hosed up my door?”
Rocky says, “I did.”
And as Mike walks towards us, I can see that he has mad cocaine eyes and I realize he’s about to do something really, really stupid. But before I can stop him, he open palm slaps Rocky across the face.
I squeeze my eyes shut so I don’t see what happens next but when I open them again, Mike is laying on the floor with a broken nose and Rocky is towering over him and pushing the sawn-off into his mouth. And I realize, Oh, poo poo, if I witness a murder then I’m probably going to be murdered, too! So I shout, “Mike! The dragon statue! With the… the bixbite eyes! Where is it?”
Rocky pauses, glances at me, and gives me a small smile.“Ah. Thanks, Hawaiian.” Then he turns back to Mike and threatens some very intense, very graphic violence. And then he pauses again and turns back to me again and says, “You know what, brah, you don’t need to see this. It’s gonna be hosed up. I’m gonna drag him into the bathroom. You cool?”
I say, “I’m cool.”
Turns out Mike just pawned it.
Well, I couldn’t exactly keep living there after all that and I didn’t have anywhere else to go so I ask Rocky if maybe I can crash with him for a bit and he says, “Sure.” Shows up with his truck the next morning, helps me pack my poo poo, lets me crash on his couch for a couple weeks until I can find a new place. Great guy.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 02:21|
note to self
I dream constantly of being swallowed. In my dreams, often the dark gap at the top of my desk drawer stretches open with wooden creaks and pulls me in. Or, I walk down an empty street and the tiniest crack in the pavement yawns open with the jagged shriek of grinding rocks, and pulls me inside. Other times I’m lost or searching in a forest, and it is the trees who swallow me. A crack in the bark splits open, wider than possible, wider than the tree, a doorway into blank blackness that drinks me in like I'm boneless.
I sit at my desk and the desk drawer is locked. The sun is going down. I am alone and, for the moment, calm. My journal is open in front of me and I am trying to remember. The lights are off but for a reading lamp which draws a bright circle on my desk. I write:
There must have been a time when I fully knew exactly what happened. Each year that passes, that knowledge is farther behind me. But it is within me. I believe that focused effort can bring it forth again. Nothing is ever truly forgotten. Here are the things I know about what happened:
It was dark, cold,
I was alone and was not meant to be alone
I was young, my limbs were thin and weak
Water trickled somewhere
I was afraid
I could see nothing
Rocks clattered near and far, sounding like broken pottery
A green, yellow, brown glinting
I was afraid
A knock at my office door scatters my memories.
Are you coming to dinner?
The door closes. Quiet. Dark. The sun is down. My desk drawer is locked. All is still. I try to gather my thoughts. I read over the words I have written and I see a line I don’t remember writing. I realize that the pages of my journal have turned back while I was distracted by the door, and I am now looking at an earlier page with an earlier list of memories that I wrote at an earlier time. At that time I also wrote the words: dark, alone, water, fear, rocks, a green glint. The extra line that caught my awareness at the bottom of this earlier page, says:
My desk drawer is locked.
The gap above my desk drawer is darkly gleaming. The keyhole is silently sighing. I try to think of when I opened it last, and why. Why I keep it locked. I keep it locked because something important is inside. I try to remember where the key is. The gap above the desk drawer is widening. It is a black and hungry mouth waiting for my hand to draw near. I hear, somewhere, the clattering of rocks. My hand is moving toward the gap. My fingers fall unerringly toward that crevice. Now they are inside in the dark and cold, so cool it feels wet, and I grip the inner edge of the drawer and I pull, and it slides open easily.
Green glints up at me from the drawer. The lamplight spills in and splashes celedon, amber, brown, fractal rectangle slices of glimmering light. I take the hardened chip of light between my thumb and forefinger. It is a sphene gem, perhaps a quarter inch across, I know this without knowing how, I also know it is cut from titanite crystals that occur in intermediate and felsic igneous rocks as well as metamorphic rocks, which can often be found in caves. Viridescent light gleams, shifting to gold, umber. Oscillating colored parallelograms, so difficult to focus on. I bring the gem to my eye. I tilt it here and there, back and forth. There is something in its center that I can’t quite see. I turn it. I hold it to the lamp. I lean close. With the stone at my eye I see the dark rectangles align and lock together to form a perfect black square in the center of the gem. And I’m falling in.
A black tunnel of obsidian ice chips swallows me, a hard throat made of teeth and bones, I’m scraped squeezed and falling, every direction is down. I slide to a stop and a rumbling, clattering mouth closes above sealing me off from pure air and light. All is stale and dusty, pebbles rattle and skitter around me. My breathing crowds my ears. I try to speak and dust chokes me. Where... someone else was with me, and now... I hear water trickling somewhere in the dark. I hold my breath to listen closer and I hear other breath, someone wheezing nearby. Are you there? Are you okay? I ask... who? I try to move and pain lances through my right leg, something impossibly large and heavy pins me like an insect to a board. Are you there? The wheezing is louder, and there is a bubbling and dripping and I sense now that it is only feet away from me. Hello? Rocks crumble above me and a blade of light slashes down, blinding me, I turn away, blinking, dazzled and my eyes refocus on what the sudden light now illuminates six feet away from me. A glinting green crystal afire with a single ray of daylight flickering green and brown, and red, dripping, a red fountain dribbling up from the soft, pink throat the crystal has pierced. Wheezing, gurgling drip drip dripping, he looks at me, reaches for me. Dad!
The gem clatters into the drawer and I slam it shut. My heart is pounding, I'm panting, sweating. I squeeze my eyes closed. My heart is slowing, steady. I breathe deeply and slowly. I open my eyes. I am surrounded by books, bookshelves, and I am at my desk. My journal is open. The sun is down, it is night and I’m alone. I am at my desk and the desk drawer... I look at the dark crack above the drawer, and it sighs cold air at me, and I hear the drip drip of water and the clatter of broken rock
A knock at my door.
Is everything okay?
Yes, I’ll be down soon
The door closes. Quiet. Dark. I open my journal and write at the bottom of the page: the desk drawer is locked. Then, I change my mind, scratch it out and write: I opened the desk drawer and it was empty.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 03:06|
Gem: Padparadscha sapphire
In the gem-fermenting trade, pedigree matters. It's been the driving force behind all of your professional priorities: a strictly adequate education, saving funds for the the installation of a top-of-the-line endocrucible and its matching benchtop devices, then paying for clean reagents and rigorous certification. Your profit margins could be better, but your clientele is solid. You have a steady rotation: divination rutile and earth-shaping polycrase most of the year, lunar pearls for cleaning cycles, then dryad-fooling quick-amber to purify your inner furnace. It's not glamorous work, but it keeps the lights on.
The sapphire comes out of your throat as part of a batch of pyrope, special-ordered by a necromancer acquaintance. Necromantic pyrope is always blood-dark, steeped in hateful humors, so the single pinkish-orange stone stands out from its siblings when you start sifting and washing. You assume a rogue spessartine, but the scry-box reads CORUNDUM, five tests in a row. Corundum is alchemically inert, only of interest to a few Saturn cultists, who both strongly favor blue stones and don't pay their invoices. You set it on your benchtop and stare at it for a moment. It's an irregular spheroid the width of your thumbnail, the color of a cloudy dawn. It is beautiful. It is worthless. You don't know how your body even made it, or how to make it stop.
You scour your notebooks for an answer. Your reagent regimen is the same as ever; the color of the stone suggests iron or chromium, but you haven't fermented any iron since your last peridot order, years ago. Is your crucible retaining sample that long? You think of your certification, your calibration schedule -- a budget that can't take extra strain, another surgery --
A long cleaning cycle, you decide. That night, you ingest the reagents for lunar pearls: calcite pills and powdered nacre through the hatch under your tongue, down into the crucible, and fish oil and flaxseed to your stomach. A week later, the pearls you vomit up are translucent and orange as roe. Beautiful. Impure. Worthless.
You take freelance mixing work to pay the bills, and you try another cleaning cycle.
Something is broken inside you. Even after months of pearl and amber fermentation, when there should be no mineral matter left in your crucible at all, the sunrise stain lingers, and your one attempt at rutile produces two more salmon-pink chunks of corundum mixed into the harvest. The amber still sells as well as it ever did, and you manage to hock the pearls to novice geomancers who aren't concerned about certificates, but your thin savings run thinner every month. A long night with the books convinces you: a replacement crucible, or ruin. A replacement crucible and ruin, between the costs and the recovery time for the surgery, but better to do it now while you can still salvage a few clients. You'll call your mother to help you through these next few months. You'll survive. When you lower your head to sob, you try to tell yourself it's just physiological, the clearing of backed-up humors.
You awaken at your desk, cheeks still warm and damp; it's just before sunrise. You stand up and walk outside, slippered feet crunching through half-rotten late-autumn leaves, and you peer between the bare trees at the distant horizon. The sun is the same pinkish-gold as your failure. The dam of your grief breaks, again, and you slump against a tree to bawl. You shove a handful of bitter chokecherries into your mouth, and your crucible hatch opens automatically -- as if it knows better than you, now.
An hour later, a single iridescent egg rises from your throat. When you open your mouth to disgorge it, it hatches, and the chickadee inside flies away.
There is a broken miracle inside you.
One of your clients has openings for bench alchemists. When your interviewer asks why you're changing jobs, you mention a desire for stability in your life and applications for your education, neither technically lies. You were adequately educated, but there are clearly too many things you just don't understand.
You stop fermenting chokecherries, but you stop with your standard formulations too. When your crucible hungers, you feed it novel mixtures, just to see what happens: experimentation, something you haven't done in far too long. Any dose of aluminum brings up corundum, some pinkish-orange and some in colors you hadn't imagined. You should probably consult a gemologist, you realize -- someone who knows the whole absurd range of what the earth makes.
You have to remind yourself it'd just be for curiosity's sake. The earthborne-gem market runs on certification and pedigree as much as the alchemical market does, and trying to sell them body-fermented corundum will work as well as selling them live toads. If there's a buyer for what you bring forth, they'll be unscrupulous, or young, or artistic. If there's not a buyer... well, money's not the only thing to live for, is it?
After you settle in at the bench job, you have your orange pearls strung, and your first sapphire cut and mounted on a pendant: a golden sunburst. It is worthless, but it is beautiful, and beauty deserves to shine.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 04:33|
When I used to be a girl, Mom liked to take out her wedding ring and tell me I would wear it one day.
“It was your grandma’s, God rest her soul. She gave it to your dad when he told her he was going to propose. Two colors, a perfect symbol of marriage. Two different people, fusing together into one perfect union. A shimmering blue and a golden yellow. I cried when he gave it to me. I know you think it’s all stupid, these rings and jewelry, but one day, you’ll get it. It’s not about all the pretty colors, it’s about what they mean.”
Mom and Dad got divorced the summer after I graduated high school. Still, when I visited, Mom would ask me about boys from college, talk about cousins and their weddings and kids and houses they bought in Texas.
“You’re still growing up,” she said when I said I didn’t want kids. “You’ll change your mind when you meet that someone.”
Mom never gave back that ring, I learned from my dad. It’s hers, he said. He gave it to her because it was meant to last forever, and even if their marriage didn’t, he still wanted it to mean something.
A week after I graduated college, I went to visit Mom. She couldn’t make it to graduation which was nice because I could wear a button-up shirt, slacks, and a binder without having to deal with questions. I had to go rooting through my drawers to find a frilly enough shirt to not have to deal with too many questions.
Mom hugged me when I came through the door. She said congratulations, she was happy for me, then she said my jeans seemed loose and that the shirt was a little ratty and she asked why I cut my hair so short and that we should go out shopping to celebrate.
“I’m alright, Mom,” I said as I sat down on the seat across from the couch she was sitting at.
“Look,” she said, “you’re an adult now. You really got to think about the way you look.”
“I do,” I said.
“Sandy, please. I know, you did great. I’m so incredibly proud of what you did, of how far you got, but I’m just worried sometimes.”
“You don’t have to be,” I said. “I know what I’m doing.”
“I just, I don’t want you to miss out on opportunities. There’s so many great guys. My friend Cindy, her son graduated last year. Landed a great job at a lab. Still single. I can…”
“Mom, really, I don’t need the help.”
“You’re not seeing anyone, right?”
“It’s, that’s not important.”
Mom shook her head. “It is. I know, kids are taking it slow, but, I just, I always had this dream. That one day, the guy you’ll marry will come up to me and tell me he loves you and that he wants to marry you and then I give him this ring.” She rubbed the gemstone in between her fingers. “And then I’d see you, up there on the altar, in a beautiful dress, getting that ring slipped onto your finger like I did and like your grandma did. I just, I don’t want you to miss that chance because you’re scared.”
“I’m not, what makes you think I’m scared?”
“I don’t know, I just, I don’t get it.”
“Mom, things are just different now. I’m different.”
“I know, I know, it’s just, I want you to be happy.”
“I am happy.”
“Everyone says that,” she says.
“Mom, I’m not a girl,” I said.
She looked at me, eyes confused.
“I’m not a girl. I’m not Samantha. I’m David. I, I hate this.” I grabbed my thin shirt that hung over my breasts. “I don’t want to be, I’m not, this person anymore.”
“Honey,” she started.
“I’m happy, I promise you. I’m happy. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. This is what I’ve wanted, what I’ve been, for years. I’m sorry, but I don’t want that. I don’t want what you want. I don’t want to be up there in a dress and be handed a ring. I just, I want to be me. I want to be allowed to be me.”
“Honey, please,” Mom said, “I know. I know it’s hard, but, we all have people we have to be. Things we have to do.”
“No,” I said.
“I’m not, I’m someone else, Mom. And if you don’t can’t take that, then, I don’t know, but that’s how it is.”
“Honey, I love you.”
“And that’s why I’m worried.”
“So please, can we just talk about it? Find out why you think you’re like this.”
“I don’t think Mom, I just am.”
“You’ll always be Samantha,” she said.
I stood up. I’ve imagined these moments before. It felt like a hundred different timelines when I thought about coming out to her. Her hugging me or laughing or saying it was obvious or her cutting me off or her yelling at me. And here it was, all those splintered possibilities leading to her just sitting on the couch and telling me that I wasn’t who I was. It was so simple that I wanted it to hurt more. I wanted there to be more emotion here, for her to scream or cry or do anything but blandly call me Samantha.
“I’m leaving,” I said.
“Honey, please, just think it through.”
Then, she took off her ring, and pushed it across the table to me.
“This is yours. It’ll be yours. You’ll always be my daughter, I’ll always love you, and I know that day will come where you will wear this too.”
The ring sparkled in blue and yellow. Two different people, Mom used to say, was what the ring represented. Mom and Dad. David and Samantha. Mom and me. To Mom, she saw them as a union, a joining of colors, but in there, I could see the rigidity of the colors. A line dividing the colors. They would blend at the edges, but they were still distinct, separate, impossible to truly be fused together.
“Mom, I’m never going to be like you,” I said, touching the smooth gemstone surface for the first time, and slid it back to her.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 04:56|
I felt I was a bit rude and angry instead of funny about this advertisement and I don't want to be that way. Brawl me here and if I lose I will compose a judge's week on your site or commit to writing for three weeks. Dealer's choice.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 05:08|
Spessartine 'Mandarin' Garnet
The sunlight streamed through the oval design carved in the octahedron walls. It reached the almandite jewel perched in the triple-headed eagle claws atop the Staff of Khar. A brownish red beam emerged from the jewel, but instead of pinpointing the burial location of Empress Mephita the Scaled, it instead targeted the closest person to the Staff of Khar. A simple research intern who screamed as the beam burnt him into a pile of smoldering ashes.
"Ugh, another intern gone!" Dr. Hawkeye Lee huffed as she leaned against the large statue she hid behind. "At least it wasn't the dog."
"I told you, we need a Mandarin Spessartite Garnet, not this crappy red brown junk." Professor Specs MacFarland whacked Hawkeye on the arm with the largest book she was carrying. "Short cuts will not work! As my father once said-"
"You try finding a Spessartite that is orange enough to steal on this damned planet, the United Earth Corps have plundered this place dry!" Hawkeye pushed herself off the wall and headed for the exit. "Scout, stop licking your balls, it’s time for lunch!"
At the sound of "lunch", the retriever mix jumped to attention and trotted after Hawkeye. Specs followed at the rear, weighed down by her usual stack of books. Outside the octahedron, they jumped in their crocohorse carriage and headed for town. Hawkeye called their university liaison, James.
"We’re going to need some new interns, see if you can get some with at least a semester under their belts," Hawkeye demanded. She briefly tried to recall the name of that poor intern, but failed.
"Very well, I'll put out the word," James replied, “but you’re going to run out of kids looking for three free credit hours soon.”
“As the University has shown repeatedly, as long as their checks clear, they don’t care what the students do!” Hawkeye replied.
They headed to the usual place, a nameless food shack that served local cuisine and spirits. The owner, Borhum, specialized in locating rare items for clients, but so far had come up empty this time. "Ladies,” he greeted them, then frowned. “...dog." Scout bounded to in the middle of the tables and starting licking a guest's chair. Borhum rolled his eyes, and addressed the women as he poured their usuals.
"I finally got a lead on that orange mandarin jewel you were asking about. There was an idol for Salasifrango the Goddess of the Claw, and the eyes were said to be the orangest garnets in the region!"
"Yes, the Cursed Avia idol, housed in the lost Claw Temple of Salasifrango," dismissed Hawkeye. “and who describes garnets as orangest?”
"Long lost no longer," Borhum said, "sewer construction on the east side found a new set of unmarked tunnels, one leads to the Claw Temple of Salasifrango."
Hawkeye placed two gold coins on the counter. "We are going to need that library location!" She eyed James herding two new prospective interns their way, "This sounds like a great audition for our job opening!"
"This sounds incredibly dangerous," said one of the interns after being explained their task of retrieving the jewel.
"Nonsense," Hawkeye insisted, "this is only moderately dangerous. If it was really dangerous, we’d lie more about the safety!"
“Just don’t step on the hexagon tiles with flowers, and only step on the square tiles with flutterbirds!” Hawkeye repeated.
"Make sense to me!" declared the other candidate. He lasted almost an entire floor before he stepped on a flowered hexagon tile and became a pin cushion for poison darts. The skeptical intern successfully dodged the falling rock traps and escaped, visibly shaken but holding the coiled bird head idol with the bright orange jewel eye.
Hawkeye snatched it away immediately and started prying out the eye. “Perfect, perfect! Congrats on getting the job. Now take Scout for a walk!”
“I haven’t slept in three days!”
“You can sleep on the ride back to the octahedron. Hurry, before Scout pees on that tapestry!” Hawkeye pushed them out the door. She returned to the jewel, holding it up to the light. The orange was brilliant, the gem looked like something out of a fantasy drama, such as that old cinema that gave the Empress the map idea. This one had to work! They’d find out in the morning.
“Specs, wake up!” Hawkeye kicked the chair Specs was sleeping in, her face buried in an ancient text. Specs sat up, her glasses squished flat and against her face, confused until Hawkeye told her the news. They needed to leave immediately to get to the octahedron in time.
The Staff of Khar seemed full of extra Khar today. Hawkeye planted it triumphantly in its stand, the orange mandarin sparkling at the top. Hawkeye and Specs ran and hid behind a statue of a crocohorse, which bore scars from prior attempts to discover the tomb location. The skeptical intern stood confused for a second, then realized what they were doing and tried to find his own hiding place. Scout continued to sniff near some statues of long dead emperors, just in case they were somehow carrying snacks.
Sunlight rays poured through the oval and streamed directly into the orange mandarin. It glowed, vibrated, and shot out an orange beam. Instead of zapping whoever was closest, it aimed at the carved regional map on the floor. Hawkeye peered over the rump of the crocohorse. Blast, the beam was directly in the center of Rokuton Square, under the Palace of the Frog Hermit. They’d have to march through the ancient sewer lines, two thousand years of unmapped, unregulated pipes, just to find the tomb of Empress Mephita the Scaled. Time to get stinky.
“Hey, kid, congrats on surviving the week. What’s your name?”
“First names only, I don’t want to learn your life story unless you manage to stick around for a few weeks! Heck, Specs here has been working for me for the past five years, and I don’t even know her real name!”
Specs popped up from behind the statue at the sound of her name. “Um, actually, as the Primary Investigator for the University, you technically work for me-”
“See? Learning about your coworkers is always a drag. Get your boots on, we’re headed to the sewer!”
Vicente stayed where he stood. “Well, the thing is…”
“I get it, I get it. Take these fragments from the last jewel we tried as hazard pay. Just think about how with the three credit hours, you won’t have to take Galactic Dynasties 101!”
Vicente was shocked. The jewel fragments were more than he made at his last job in three months. He might even be able to pay for his mom to see a doctor. “Thank you,” was all he managed to say.
“No problem, kid, just sell it fast because all this stuff is cursed. We’ll have tons of jewels like that after we raid tomb. Some we can even keep for ourselves! Now pack up our stuff!”
Vicente rolled the Staff of Khar back into its cloth wrap and picked up Spec’s stack of books. Scout had peed on every statue in the octahedron before he had finished.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 05:30|
The “Great” Jewel Heist: A Jake Malone mystery
Now, I’m not one to give out lengthy explanations, but Jane’s a gal that definitely deserved one.
The first time I met Jane Connor I wasn’t instantly smitten. She had the kind of look where you weren’t instantly attracted to her, but once you get to know her, you can’t stop thinking of her. She wasn’t the kind of type that could kill a man, but once she had eyes on you, you were hers for life.
I first met Jane about a week ago, at first I thought it was just a regular dame that met me in the office. Like most dame’s around here, she was trouble, I just didn’t know how much at the time. She sat down at the chair next to my desk, and spoke.
“You Jake Malone?”
“Yeah,” I said. “And who might you be?”
“Jane Connor, flash fiction writer by trade. You may have heard of my father?”
“Doctor Jackson Connor, the famous explorer?”
“That’s him. Anyway, he’s holding an exhibition in a few weeks for the ‘Bloody Alexandrite’.”
She told me that back in ancient times, Alexander The Great (after finding and naming the mineral, since he was the most humble of men) took a small piece of Alexandrite and dipped it in the blood of his enemies, giving it a reddish hue. I honestly thought it was just a legend.
“Here’s a photo of it,” she said. While it was obviously in black and white, it looked genuine enough.
“Okay, but why the hell are you showing me part of your dad’s rare jewel collection?”
“My father is showing it off at the LA Museum of Art,” she said. “and after receiving this,” she hands me an index card. “He wanted to make sure there was extra security for the exhibition. and that’s where you come in.” I went and looked at the card.
“I shall take what is rightfully mine!” It seemed ominous enough that I was intrigued.
“So, a simple protection job, eh? Tell me when and I’ll be there early,” I said. After Jane told me, she left my office.
I came to the museum about an hour and a half early, so I could get a good glimpse of the surroundings. There were plenty of hallways with paintings and statues made by artists from all around California. A few ways away was the exhibition hall, where everything was being set up. I saw Jane, so I went to her. She was with an old rugged man.
“Malone, I’d like you to meet Doctor Jackson Connor, my father.” He took out his hand. I shook it.
“Ah, you must be our great detective!”
“Please, that was Holmes.” We both laughed.
We talked for a while longer, but soon afterwards, we were interrupted by an older Greek man.
“Excuse me sirs, the exhibition is about to begin.”
“Uh, Doc? Who was that?”
“Ah, that was Mr. Nikos, the caretaker of the museum,” Connor replied. “But enough dilly dally! We have an exhibition to start!” We each moved to our positions. Jackson to the front of the stage, and I went to the back.
Soon after, Mr. Nikos went up and introduced Doctor Connor to the stage. After saying a few words, he turned to the display.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you, the Blood Alexandrite!”
The cloth covering the podium was removed…
…but there was nothing there. Gasps were heard throughout the museum.
“The Blood Alexandrite! It’s gone!” Everyone in the room started to panic. In the midst of the panic, I kept my eyes open. My eyes happened to catch the eyes of Mr. Nikos. As soon as he saw me, he ran.
Obviously suspicious of him, I chased after him. He went a few ways until I was able to tackle him down. When I tackled him, a certain red Jewel managed to drop out in front of Mr. Nikos.
Nikos struggled as I held on to him. “Get off me you drat fool!”
“Why did you steal the Alexandrite, dirtbag?” I yelled while holding onto him.
“My name is Alexander,” he replied. “I was named after my ancestor! It is my birthright!”
After the gunshot, Mr. Nikos stopped struggling. I got up to see who shot the gun. It was Jane.
“Well, someone had to do it!”
Jane went over to Nikos’ corpse, and dipped the Bloody Alexandrite into some of his blood. She then looked at it.
“Nice and fresh.”
Afterwards, the exhibition went off without a hitch. Doctor Connor showed off his Jewel, and everyone was amazed.
Soon after, Jane met with me afterwards.
“Well, that was quite the story!” she said. I agreed. “A shame it ended so quickly.”
“Well, it’s supposed to end quickly,” I said. “After all, it’s flash fiction.”
And like many stories, we ended it with a kiss.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 05:36|
Title: Cut Jehms
Word Count: 1192
If I had to recount my most memorable episode filmed in my career, I think back to “Big” Jim Kowalski. He was a 48-year-old JAVA developer born in suburban Oakwood, Ohio but relocated to Dayton for work. I first met Jim at an Applebee’s in downtown Dayton. I was initially in town to film an episode of 90 Day Fiancé; however, the shoot was ultimately cancelled on account of the original couple being indicted on smuggling. They had apparently attempted to use our program to acquire a drug known as Shabu through an established ring in Dayton. While mulling over what to do next it was then I met Jim for the first time.
He wore a copious amount of gemstone jewelry and a full, dark blue denim suit with white New Balance shoes. I think they referred to his look as a “Canadian tuxedo”. He sat behind me at the neighboring booth, alone. I, too, was sitting alone slowly working at my microwave-sized portions of Sweet Asian chile sauce boneless wings and my 6th Mana Margarita. Maybe we were two asteroids destined to collide? It may have been the Mana Margaritas but I felt compelled to get to know him. I also had to salvage being stuck in Dayton. It started with me asking where he got all those gemstones.
He excitedly rose from his booth and explained in tremendous detail what each gemstone was and the sexual energies each gave him. I told him my job as a producer for 90 Day Fiancé and my reason for being in Dayton. Before I had a chance to explain what Shabu was, Jim interjected he was actually about to meet his future wife from Bolivia. She apparently was a princess seeking to leave her small town and was looking for an American lover. He had discovered her through a Facebook group dedicated to gemstone trading. He said it had to be fate finding her while seeking ametrine, a stone he said he was missing much like love in his life. They stayed in daily communication for two years, bonding over gemstones and their mutual interest in Republican politics and The Masked Singer. Jim said it took months of convincing, but he had finally been “given the green light” to come for a visit just yesterday.
I was immediately smitten with him and his story. It had it all: some form of romance, a middle-aged man adorned in gemstones wearing orthopedic shoes and a beautiful princess an ocean away. He asked if I wanted to see his gemstone collection and began scrolling through pictures on his phone. I replied I could do one better: how would he like it if I filmed him and his gemstone collection? Not only that but (more importantly) also help pay for his trip to Bolivia to find his future wife? He immediately agreed to having him gemstone collection filmed but was reticent about filming the trip. He eventually conceded when I raised the point he had never been outside of Ohio and having a fellow traveler would make things safer. Plus, this would be a free way to commemorate such an important moment in his life. We toasted over one more order of Mana Margaritas.
I made the necessary preparations for travel and a week later arrived at Jim’s home to film some B-roll. He lived in a rather cramped one-bedroom unit where beige was a very dominant color, . if nothing else by choice. A beige couch, beige-painted walls, beige throw rugs. Everything was beige except for his most prized possessions: bookshelves absolutely filled with what looked like piles and piles of colored rocks. There were some small boxes filled with gemstones, some gemstones sitting in carefully created piles. There didn’t seem to be anything that would indicate what the order of these things were in. It was somewhat funny to consider the bookshelves themselves were probably worth more than the stones Jim so seemed to treasure.
Jim was too excited about Ametrine to speak coherently. He kept pacing between the shelves of gemstones and his luggage. He said he had to make sure the collection perfect for when Ametrine arrived, saying, “It has to be perfect for when she completes my collection.” I remember his beaming smile as he said that followed by me struggling to cover my chuckling as a coughing. I was also unsure if he understood the climate differences between Ohio and Bolivia when he was packing. When I argued he needed to pack fewer Canadian Geese coats, he stressed she needed to know he, quote, “First impressions matter. Have to show I lot of money.”
After a grueling 13-hour flight in which our flight had to stop several times due to Jim’s predilection for chronic, howling night terrors which disrupted the flight (thanks to his over-consumption of Dramamine) we landed in Puerto Quijarro, a beautiful and verdant river-side city of 12,000 people which sat adjacent to Rio El Pimiento. The river was the country’s only natural water-source that reaches the ocean. It was a far cry from the drab color Ohio provided us.
We met with our translator at a nearby hotel where we attempted to figure out the best route to Ametrine’s address. We had to decide if we wanted to drive at least 9 hours westward or take a short flight in a privately owned plane to Aeropuerto de Ricón del Tigre. After several negotiations with the studio, we settled on a gentleman who owned a beaten-up Suzuki who was willing to do the long drive. Despite initial protest, we agreed to again sedate Jim with Dramamine (this time having his mouth taped shut, with his consent of course) as “to conserve energy for his ultimate meeting.”
The taxi driver pulled up to a visibly ramshackle house and said we had arrived. Jim began to hyperventilate. I had noticed he had a tendency to sweat profusely, but his anxiety was visible. He was drenched in sweat; I could smell it, it was disgusting. ”Oh man, this is it.” Jim said, rubbing his hands on his thighs. I felt excited for him, like I was living a tremendous moment vicariously through him. That was probably true in that moment. He began to exit the car before I had to ask, “Hey Jim?” He turned around. “Why do you call yourself Big Jim?” He chuckled. “Sounded better than Regular-sized Jim.” He turned around and walked to the house, knocking on the door with vigor. The door opened and he entered. We lost sight of him ever since. loving magic act.
The last correspondence I ever received was a post-card. Damnest thing. It was a picture of Jim with Ametrine. Never explained to me where he went when he went into that house. I had a film crew and everything and we lost him like a Criss Angel act. I was pissed at first, angry at myself for falling for yet another drug smuggling operation. But now…the idea that Jim was out there, finally having found that one thing he was looking for…I don’t know. Seemed a better ending than anything else.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 06:05|
All the Jewels in the Crown
Tiva threads through the streets of Shiner's Quarter, nearly invisible as only a girlchild can be. Invisible to most, at least. There are predators, packs of the truly lawless. One such tracks her for a while, each man fingering the curved knife at their side. Then the lead man spots on her rough handspun undyed-brown cloak, and the single patch, the eye-in-falcon's-claw sigil of the Bishop In Rags. He whistles, two short high notes, and the group disperses into the night. Tiva exhales and presses forward.
There is a night festival in the Crooked Square, the night of the winemakers. Most nights there is some kind of festival, and most nights, like this one, it is a minor one. She presses through the crowd. They do not part for her but they do not offer much resistance. Out of pure habit she lifts six silver coins and a heavy brass watch from the pockets of the drunkards and louts along the way. She is almost at her destination, almost to the sunward corner of the Crooked Square.
"Sloppy," says Alyn, his voice rough as his bony fingers dig into her shoulder. "Four of my ravens saw you on the way."
"The order did not say 'unseen'," says Tiva. Alyn raises his other hand. Quickly, Tiva continues. "That would be Kev and Del on the arch, Narse behind the one-eared gargoyle, and Jax in the crowd." Alyn lowers one hand and relaxes the one on her shoulder. "And tell Pinner if he wants his watch back he knows where to find me."
"You have the message?" says Alyn. Tiva nods. "You can give it to me."
"Sure, and take a beating for it," she says. "Orders were directly into the Bishop's hands."
Alyn reaches back and taps the wall, and the blank stone opens like a door. "Quickly, then."
Tiva has only met with the Bishop In Rags twice before now. Once, when she first passed the exams. Alyn told the Bishop she was the first to pass so young, and one of very few to pass on the first attempt. The Bishop, well, the Bishop always seems to be smiling, even when enraged or upset, but at this his lips curled upward even more, looking like a painted face, like a clown, and Tiva bent quickly to kiss the Bishop's ring, with its absurdly large white crystal, just to be sure not to laugh and ruin everything. And a second time, far less happy. "You owe your Bishop a life," he had said, voice all edge. She hears it in her head as she navigates the passage. That time she had torchlight. This time, only memory. There is a trick step on the stairway, near halfway down, just an inch higher than it should be. She hits it wrong, but rights herself, swearing silently. Too much noise. Points off.
"You have a secret for me," says the Bishop In Rags, and five torches in the room flare to life at once.
"I do," says Tiva.
"It was a single word," she says. "Spinel. The traitor said you would understand."
The Bishop stood from his chair, and the tattered silk around him rustled. There was not much left to it, and the man was clothed more in shadows than rags, though those were still thick enough to keep his modesty. Only his face was still well-lit, unchangingly so as he rose. "Spinel. Red spinel, no doubt. Are you familiar?"
"Some kind of gemstone?" guessed Tiva.
"Indeed. We call red spinel false ruby, though it is just as rare, just as beautiful, and even harder. This is not the falsity of quartz to diamond or pyrite to gold. But it is not ruby." Tiva nodded slowly. "Patrician Gaveraux's crown seats many gems, each infused with a protective spell. The diamond guards him from arrows and bolts. The emerald makes him immune to seduction charms. The opal wards off curses. The sapphire wards him from frost and fire. And the ruby, well, the ruby neutralizes poisons."
"But it is no ruby." says Tiva, sensing the pause and prompt.
"It is no ruby. Spinel can hold spells, yes, but not that one." The Bishop walks over to a small chest. He opens it, and lifts a vial from a velvet pillow. He holds it out to her.
Tiva trembles. "There are others," she says. "More experienced."
"Better?" Tiva does not answer. "Good. Humility is not a virtue in our canon. You owe me a life, Tiva of the Wandering Star. Let it be a tyrant's."
She takes the vial.
"The agent is called Nightbane. You can review its properties in the library. You have a week. Survive and escape if you can, but above either do not be captured and above all three succeed."
Tiva bows slightly, then turns toward the exit. The torches douse themselves, and she climbs and plots in silent darkness.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 06:25|
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off (367 words)
“So, you thought that you could trick off with my money,” John said.This seemed to be a rhetorical question. At any rate, Felix wasn’t saying much except to scream incoherently every now and then. Didn’t seem like much else was possible considering his present predicament. How could anyone speak with a laser slowly working its way up down their back. The smell of pig flesh hung on the air like a morbid promise of a hot breakfast.
After several minutes, Felix noticed his back was no longer aflame. “What should we do with you?” John said.
“Maybe let me go? Chalk this whole thing up to an excellent learning opportunity.”
Of course, there was no chance of this. Feliix fully expected that, by the end of the night, his body would be sprayed through the air. That was the promise of the woodchipper already at work on one of his companions.
“You guys hear that?” said John. “Seems like this rear end in a top hat isn’t just a thief. He’s also a comedian.” With a nod, the laser resumes its steady march up and down and then, after another eternity, stops. “I like lasers,” John said.”You can use ‘em all night on a guy without killing him. Is that what you want? To be slow roasted and fed to my dogs. Alive?”.”
This seemed like another rhetorical question. It went without saying that becoming puppy chow was a very unattractive option. Who wants to become the rarest cut of Purina One?
“I can feed you to the dogs,” John said. “But what do I gain from that?” Felix sensed that John was coming to a decision of some sort. “You ever been to Maria?”
“The jewelry store?” asked Felix. “I might have passed by it once or twice.” A crook of Felix’s caliber was always passing by spots like that. Too much security. It was a nice way of getting shot in the head. Nothing much more than that.
“”Well tonight you’re gonna do a little more than pass through,” said John. “Break in and steal some diamonds. They’re red. You can’t miss ‘em. Do this and maybe you live. Refuse and you definitely die.”
There wasn’t much of a choice.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 06:59|
Demantoid Garnet, YAG
Lissandra Tourmaline, acolyte mage of the Vanadium Order, ascended the final set of stairs to the Chrysoberyl tower and leaned heavily on her staff to catch her breath—five years hunched over manuscripts were beginning to take their toll. Collecting herself, she stood upright and pressed on, cloak clutched tight against the wind, reaching the tall oak door just as her garnet-fuelled staff sputtered and died out.
‘Oh, for the love of—’ she muttered, and stamped her staff heavily. With some hesitation, the gem flickered into luminescence, suffusing the scene with a dim green glow. She wiped her feet on the welcome mat, reached forward, and rang the doorbell.
Quick footsteps, a shout, and the door burst open. Her eyes had barely adjusted when she was tackled and nearly toppled by four feet of exuberance.
‘Auntie Lizzie!’ the girl cried, wrapping her arms tight around the wizard. ‘You caaaame!’
Behind her, Octavia appeared in a burgundy gown, hands covered by oven mitts, an apologetic smile on her face. ‘I didn’t want Gloria to get her hopes up,’ Octavia said, peeling off the mitts and tucking them into a pocket. Lissandra caught a glimmer of garnet on Octavia’s finger before she tucked her hands behind her back. ‘She has a very early bedtime.’
‘I knoooowwww,’ Gloria sighed, pulling herself away from Lissandra. ‘But I told you she’d come.’
Lissandra smiled down at her. ‘I hear you’ve started phase-shifting coins,’ she said, and the girl’s eyes lit up. ‘Maybe you could show me tomorrow?’
‘Tomorrow!’ Gloria cried, whirling around to face her mother. ‘She’s staying the night?’
‘Well,’ Octavia said, crouching down, ‘it’s such a long journey, it wouldn’t be very nice to send her home straight away. Now, should we get those teeth brushed so the dragon doesn’t whisk you away overnight?’
‘She’s grown,’ Lissandra said, when Gloria had run back inside.
Octavia watched as Gloria ran up to the stairs, before peeking back for a sneaky wave and vanishing again. ‘Mm,’ she nodded. ‘Orbcalls don’t really do her justice.’
‘No,’ Lissandra agreed, rubbing her stomach where the girl had squeezed tightest.
They entered the kitchen, where Jasper stood chopping carrots, six-foot-six frame incongruous in a lacy pink apron. ‘Lizzie!’ he beamed. ‘You survived the ordeal of Chrysoberyl mountain!’
‘You sound surprised,’ Lissandra chuckled, setting a bottle of wine atop the counter. ‘Was there a wager I’m not aware of?’
Octavia smiled tightly and went to check the oven. Jasper looked at the wine and gasped, raising his eyebrows. ‘You remembered!’ he cried, lifting the bottle. ‘Octavia, did you see? It’s that pinot you liked. Should we crack it open, or wait until little miss isn’t listening in?’
Octavia straightened and smoothed her dress. ‘She should be getting ready for bed,’ she said.
Jasper shrugged and tilted his head toward the doorway, and Lissandra felt tendrils of his thaumaturgy flow out the kitchen doorway. There was a ticklish giggle, and then Octavia shook her head and strode out.
‘I think the grown-ups can talk now,’ Jasper smiled, as Octavia bundled the girl back up the stairs. ‘Glasses are on the shelf.’
‘I didn’t know you’d been practicing,’ Lissandra murmured, pouring three glasses.
‘Started last year,’ Jasper beamed. ‘Still a long way to go, but it helps, with her running rampant.’
‘Mm,’ Lissandra nodded. ‘Of course, the garnet must level the field somewhat.’
Jasper frowned, and continued to slice carrots in silence for a few moments. Lissandra raised her glass and drank while watching Jasper work.
‘Lissandra,’ Jasper murmured, ‘if that’s why you’re here—’
‘No,’ Lissandra said, draining her glass, ‘of course not.’
Jasper nodded, and then lifted his glass. ‘It’s good seeing you again, Lizzie. Been too long.’
‘Mm,’ Lissandra agreed, looking around at the kitchen. She barely recognised it for all the work that had gone in: brilliant surfaces gleamed in every direction. ‘I like what you’ve done. I remember when this was all vinyl and formica.’
‘Thanks,’ he beamed. ‘What’s news from the city?’
‘Nothing much,’ Lissandra shrugged, swirling her wine before raising it to her lips. ‘Still waiting on assignment. Looking for a place in the Eastdocks.’
‘The Eastdocks?’ Octavia asked, returning. ‘Gosh, Alexandrite’s changed so much. I remember when only thieves and beggars lived there.’
‘No,’ Lissandra said, taking a swig. ‘Not that much. It’s just all I can afford—after tuition, after reagents, after spending two thousand on an artificial garnet that can’t light up half the time—’
‘Liz,’ Jasper ventured, a warning edge to his voice.
‘It’s fine,’ Lissandra shrugged. ‘Better there than back in Vanadia with those lecherous old farts, freezing my barely-covered tits off so there could be a Tourmaline in attendance.’
‘I think, uh,’ Jasper murmured, moving toward the oven, ‘I think the vol-au-vents might be just about—’
‘Because it’s what she wanted,’ Lissandra continued, into her wine glass. ‘Nevermind my own ambitions, nevermind how nice it would be to spend my twenties living it up in the real world—’
Octavia set her wine glass down, and Lissandra felt Jasper’s eyes slide over to her face, too slow in warning.
‘Is that what you think I was doing?’ she asked. ‘“Living it up”?’
‘Well—no,’ Lissandra faltered. ‘It’s just—it was hard for me to—’
‘Let me tell you what I was doing,’ Octavia said, arms folded, too calm. ‘So, I’d start each day at five. You know me, never an early riser, but any later and I’d miss mum’s first bowel movement. Which was, well, unmissable. Not that I had to set an alarm, of course—’
‘I didn’t mean—’ Lissandra whispered.
‘And you think you had the harder go of it!’ she cried. ‘I gave her everything I had! I gave her dignity, a grand-daughter, all the hope I could spare. And you know what she told me?’ she continued, eyes brimming, wrenching the garnet ring off and tossing it onto the bench. ‘“Give this to Octavia—she needs more help than you do.”’
‘I’m sorry—I don’t—’
‘On her last day,’ Octavia said, slowly, eyes level with Lissandra’s, ‘she looked up at me, and said, “thank you, Lissandra. I knew you’d come back.” After everything I’d done. “Thank you, Lissandra.”’
Lissandra sat down heavily at the table. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she said.
‘You were there,’ Octavia continued, flatly. ‘As far as she knew. Where was I? gently caress. Who cares. “Living it up” somewhere, I guess.’
They sat in silence, the garnet reflecting the tableau. Lissandra glanced over at Jasper, but he wouldn’t meet her eyes.
‘Take it,’ Octavia said, eventually. ‘It’s yours. It always should have been.’
‘No,’ Lissandra shook her head. ‘She wanted you to have it.’
‘And she wanted you to freeze your tits off!’ Octavia laughed mirthlessly, wiping her eyes dry. ‘I’ve spent too long worrying about what she wanted. Took five years to get this kitchen done because I was worried she’d avenge the splashback.’
‘Oh, lord,’ Lissandra sighed. ‘With the frogs? I’d almost forgotten—’
Jasper shook his head, chuckling. ‘She made me wait till the new moon,’ he told Lissandra, ‘burning incense the whole time.’
Octavia smiled at the memory, and reached for her glass. They settled into a comfortable silence, broken only by Jasper swearing suddenly and rushing off to salvage the thoroughly-burnt entree.
‘You know,’ Lissandra said, lifting the garnet ring and turning it over in her hands, ‘it takes a lot of control to wield a gem of this quality.’
‘More than I’ve got,’ Octavia sighed.
‘It would take training,’ Lissandra went on. ‘Discipline. A steady hand—’
‘If you think I’m going to Vanadia—’ Octavia said, an eyebrow raised.
‘No-one’s going to Vanadia,’ Lissandra said, setting the ring down. ‘And I’m not talking about you.’
Octavia raised an eyebrow; Lissandra only reached forward, took Octavia’s hand in her own, and sent her thaumaturgy out in threads, through the open doorway, and up to the first landing where they wrapped around Gloria, who gasped and ran back upstairs.
‘To eavesdrop on two wizards,’ Lissandra smiled, ‘takes a certain amount of raw talent.’
‘Oh, no,’ Octavia chuckled. ‘Can’t keep up as it is.’
‘When she’s old enough,’ Lissandra smiled. ‘And I’ve had time to train her.’
Octavia tilted her head, raising an eyebrow.
‘Passed some lovely cottages on the way,’ Lissandra smiled. ‘I can live without the Eastdocks charm. And it’d be a shame to go home straight away.’
Octavia reached out to squeeze Lissandra’s hand, and Lissandra squeezed back.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 08:02|
Miss Fairy-Tale 1091 words
Hannah checked herself out in the mirror. Yeah. Yeah, that was good. Make-up looked fierce. Her hair was perfect. She was absolutely rocking the dress, and the sash in front that read, ‘Miss Bone Hollow’. There was something missing, though. She grabbed her phone and made a call.
‘What’s up, Hannah? Aren’t you supposed to be on stage soon?’
‘I just realised what my outfit was missing.’
‘Well, bit late for that now.’
‘No, you could totally get it before I have to be on. Or before evening wear, at least. I just need some jewellery.’
‘Anything in particular?’
‘I dunno, something blue or white?’
‘Blue or white gems, right.’
‘But not just any old gems. I need to stand out.’
‘Got it, expensive blue or white gems.’
‘Thanks Barney, you’re the best.’
She hung up; just in time too, as the call came out that they were on stage in two minutes.
The other contestants’ acts were lame. Miss Rainbow Meadow showed off her unicorn’s ability to count by tapping its horn. Did that even count as her talent? Surely it was the unicorn that was talented. Miss Sugarplum Wonderland baked some cookies and served them to the judges, and honestly it was ridiculous that she was permitted to take half an hour for her act. Hannah didn’t mind too much, though, because that gave Barney more time to go steal her some jewels. Finally, this nauseating parade of mediocrity reached Hannah. She stepped forward onto the stage, smiled, and curtsied. As she straightened back up, her eyes rolled back in her head, and she chanted the forbidden words of necromantic power. The stage cracked, then splintered, and up from the depths rose a skeleton.
It was a gorgeous skeleton, too. Pristine, pearly white bones, not a single break, not so much as a chipped tooth. The skeleton climbed up onto the stage and curtsied, and then Hannah and the skeleton danced the tango together. The music came from the very air itself, whistling through the hall, and through the bones of the skeleton. The two of them were perfectly in sync; as she went forward the skeleton went backwards, and the clack of the skeleton’s bones and her stilettos marked perfect time. As the last steps of their dance finished, Hannah dipped the skeleton low, kissed it on its skull, and then dropped it back into the stage from whence it had come. She straightened up, smiled at the judges, then curtsied again.
It was probably a good thing Hannah had been last to show off her talent, because the splintered stage might’ve made it difficult for anyone else to perform. As it was, an extra long break was announced before the next section, while they figured out how to repair it. Hannah called Barney again.
‘Hey Hannah. Yeah, listen, I got a bunch of something called a Paraiba tourmaline, apparently they’re really expensive. Really pretty and blue. They’re not in anything though. Just a bunch of loose tourmalines.’
‘Thanks Barney, did I mention you’re the best?’
‘It’s what I do. By the way, am I still fine to hide bodies at your place?’
‘Of course. Same place as usual.’
‘All right, I’ll swing by as soon as I can.’
The break wasn’t as long as expected; the pixies who had been hired to repair the stage came back from a short break to find that it was completely repaired. They shrugged, claimed credit and payment, and went on their way.
This year, each contestant was asked two questions: one unique to the contestant, and the other shared by all contestants. The other contestants, of course, had dull answers such as ‘world peace’ and ‘happiness for all’, although Miss Sugarplum Wonderland pledged to bake cookies for all the other contestants, and Hannah was firmly in favour of that.
Finally, it was Hannah’s turn. ‘Miss Bone Hollow,’ asked the judge, ‘what will be your first act if you win the crown as Miss Fairy-Tale?’
This was the shared question, so Hannah’s answer was prepared and rehearsed. ‘When I am crowned Miss Fairy-Tale,’ said Hannah, ‘my first act will be to raise an unholy army of the dead and use them to crush any who dare oppose my rightful rule; a reign of terror that will last a thousand years!’
‘Right,’ said the judge. ‘Interesting answer. And to our second question: if you could train any animal as a faithful familiar, what animal would you choose?’
‘A hedgehog,’ said Hannah. ‘They’re adorable!’
The other contestants all nodded. It was true, hedgehogs were extremely cute.
Barney arrived in the next intermission and dumped a handful of gems into her hands.
‘Thanks Barney,’ said Hannah.
He smiled. ‘Always a pleasure. Know how you’re going to use them?’
She nodded. ‘I know a guy.’
‘Great,’ he said. ‘I’ll sneak in back so I can watch the rest of it. What segments are still left?’
‘Just evening wear.’
‘So, you’re all gonna get up there in your pyjamas?’
Hannah shook her head. ‘You’ll see.’
All the contestants looked lovely in various kinds of formal dress. Except for Miss Sugarplum Wonderland, who had apparently interpreted the segment the same way Barney had and was wearing pink flannelette pyjamas with hearts and fairies on them, along with fuzzy purple slippers. Finally, Hannah entered. She was wearing a bone white dress, with the stunning blue Paraiba tourmalines stitched in the shape of a grinning skull. Barney had no idea how she’d gotten that done in the time between segments; the guy Hannah knew must’ve been very good. Hannah smiled to the judges, twirled and walked off the stage.
The judges took much less time than Hannah or Barney expected to announce the winner. ‘The winner is Miss Sugarplum Wonderland,’ one of them said. ‘It was close, but those cookies got her over the line.’
True to her word, Miss Sugarplum Wonderland had already baked cookies for all the other contestants.
‘How did you have time to do that already?’ asked Miss Rainbow Meadow.
She shrugged. ‘I just really love baking!’ She passed them around, and all the other contestants started wolfing them down, while the judges took the crown and placed it on her head.
‘So, you already baked cookies,’ said one of the judges. ‘What will you do next?’
She smiled. ‘I think I’ll do whatever I want, don’t you?’
The judges and other contestants dropped the enchanted cookies and said, as one, ‘Yes, mistress.’
‘Oh bollocks,’ said Barney.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 10:53|
Submissions are closed
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 14:34|
I felt I was a bit rude and angry instead of funny about this advertisement and I don't want to be that way. Brawl me here and if I lose I will compose a judge's week on your site or commit to writing for three weeks. Dealer's choice.
Just to make sure we're on the same page here:
So, anyway, Now that April Fool's day is well and truly passed, please allow me to over-explain the joke.
In my day-job, part of what I do is I tell other people how to make websites. I explain security stuff to normal people, and tell developers to stop being terrible human beings and make websites accessible like our law demands. However I hadn't actually built a website for a decade so I thought I'd have a crack and see how thing had changed. I wanted to learn python, this old-fangled django framework seemed perfectly suited to my aims, and wondering how ThunderDome could be made as a web-based application had been tickling my brain for a few years. When the fate of the forums was a little tenuous a couple of years ago I thought that was as good a time as any to give it a try, so I started an account on pythonanywhere and downloaded vs-code (all free things because I am actually not a lottery winner) and began to teach myself what git and github did (the fraction I have learned still hurts my brain).
Turns out, there's a bunch of stuff that the app brings to the table, and a bunch of stuff it loses. It's not trying to replace crabrock's wonderful site, which IMHO is far better geared towards the needs of this community. Instead its seeing what happens if you built the contest with a database in mind. You can group crits with stories, so people can see them all in the same place. You can create notifications for people. You can let judges see how other judges are going, and hide author identities from them by design. I was also conscious that the culture that has built up for the SA ThunderDome wouldn't be apparent, so some things you can't do to prevent accusations of unfairness. Hellrules are anonymised, word counts are the same for everyone, that sort of thing. It's been an interesting experiment to say the least.
It had gotten to a certain point, then sat there for a couple of months while I returned to second pass my novel, and April Fools seemed a good opportunity throw a link down and see what happened. With the acrostic above and the reference to poisson d'avril I hoped it would be fairly obvious I was kidding about the background, but, OTOH, it is an actual thing so the only question is...what to do with it now?
To be honest, I don't know. I don't think its ready for primetime, just yet. I'm the only person that's ever really tested it, so there are probably a whole heap of bugs I haven't noticed. At the same time, I think it may have potential. An accessible flash-fiction writing competition might be a good thing to bequeath to the world. Some folks have indicated a fully anonymised judging system would be useful - so my next upgrade is to make a 'raw' competition with no signup/writing period distinction and only one judge who can close the contest manually. Different types of competitions are actually fairly easy to add, even if writing test-cases is a chore (I have discovered) though also a lifesaver (I have also discovered)
So, I'm open to suggestions. I pop into the discord from time to time, or you can reach me on my SA username at gmail. I've also added a bunch of dummy data into the site for a while so you don't have to actually sign up , you can log in as any user with a ** in front of their name, password 'ft', eg, you can log in as a judge and see what judgemode looks like. (NB: I don't do anything with sign-up email address except send a signup confirmation link to prevent botspam). Feel free to try and break the site. Any feedback or bug reports are more than welcome.
Anyhow, you were saying...
I felt I was a bit rude and angry instead of funny about this advertisement and I don't want to be that way. Brawl me here
Advertisement?!? You have besmirched my lovingly crafted jape. Bring it, and I will show you exactly how cut your jib can be!
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 18:38|
Week 504: Judgment
There were some real polished gems this week (do you get it??). There were also a lot of skeletons. Spooky skeletons scare me! Nah, just kidding, the skeletons were great. So were (most of) the stories.
This week's Winner is Antivehicular with Sunrise, an inventive, thought-provoking work that captured the inimitable beauty of the padparadscha sapphire.
Honorable Mentions go to Bad Seafood, flerp, and rohan, who all told lovely stories with minor flaws that did nothing to diminish their value.
No Dishonorable Mentions this week, and a single Loss for AllNewJonasSalk. Let's call the whole thing off, indeed.
Full crits coming shortly. Take it away, Anti!
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 21:08|
Advertisement?!? You have besmirched my lovingly crafted jape. Bring it, and I will show you exactly how cut your jib can be!
I will judge this, due high noon nz time April 26, 1200 words, prompt is: catching the april fish.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 21:20|
Crits for Week 504: Nae's Righteous Gemstones
Note: some crits will have bonus jeweler's notes! These have no bearing on your story placements, I'm just adding these as an FYI for any curious parties. Feel free to skip over them if you hate learning.
Bad Seafood - Eyes in the Dark: I like this story a lot. I wasn't sure quite what was going on with my first readthrough, but on my second, it makes more sense. I thought the way the other people in the camp kept their distance was well illustrated for the space, and the beakless crow was a neat touch. If I have any complaints, its that the earlier prose was a little weak compared to the rest of the story (although the opening image is very cool).
Bonus Jeweler's Notes: The hardest part of finding two matched vanadium chrysoberyls would be finding two with the same body color, which means your best bet would be to find one huge gem and cut it into two. Since each of these guys are the size of eyeballs, the uncut gem would have to be close to the size of a baseball. Luckily, chrysoberyls actually do get that big! That would be extremely pricey, though, especially with the vanadium coloring, so your girl might want to consider selling them (or donating them to a museum!)
Tyrannosaurus - Great Guy: Well hell, I liked this story a lot, too. It was a fun, Lebowski-ish adventure with local flavor. I got a little caught up when I wasn't sure if your protagonist was making the Big Dog stuff up or he was really just that nervous, but that confusion only lasted a couple of lines and didn't detract from my enjoyment of the piece.
Bonus Jeweler's Notes: I’d be very interested to see how a pawn broker would handle someone selling bixbite. It’s rare enough that even most jewelers aren’t going to know about it, and if they do, it’s a hard sell because of the aforementioned unfamiliarity. If you really wanted to flip stolen bixbite for what it’s worth, you’d probably want to find a fence ahead of time.
derp - Note to Self: I get what you were going for here, and I commend your attempt to try and capture the horror of the unknown through chunky paragraphs and staccato sentences. It was worth a shot! Unfortunately, you missed out on a key element of this type of cosmic horror: the psychological element. You do great work describing the character's actions and physical sensations, but there's no emotion in the piece. How do these horrors make your protagonist feel? Tell me that and then you've got some solid horror.
Antivehicular - Sunrise: Beautiful imagery. Inventive concepts. What I want more of is the character behind it all. To that end, I don't have any particular issues with second person stories, but I do think they make character work harder, since we (the writers) want to leave enough of a gap for the reader to see themselves in the characters shoes without writing a story around a total blank slate. If you'll permit me the audacity to suggest a solution, you can try adding an additional character to flesh out the protagonist through their interactions and observations. That'll keep the protagonist from feeling like the exist in an emotional void.
Bonus Jeweler's Notes: Just wanted to add that you really captured the sunrise beauty of the pad through your prose. Really nice work on this.
flerp - Family Heirloom: I loved this piece. I'm reluctant to say how accurate it is, as I'm cis and don't have the experience to know that, but I could feel both characters struggling to find their way and it really struck a chord with me. The only line that bugged me was the line about the dad letting the mom keep the ring because of its symbolic meaning, and that's only because I've seen so many ring-related fights in divorces, especially when family heirlooms are in the mix. Either I don't know the right people or this dude is the nicest man in the universe.
Bonus Jeweler's Notes: Parti sapphires (also known as bicolor sapphires) aren’t new, exactly, but they’ve only become widely known and sold in the last five to ten years. Hence, it’s highly unlikely anyone’s granny would have had one sitting in their jewelry box. The more likely candidates for an olden-time bicolor stone would be ametrine or tourmaline, though the actual most-likely display of two colors in one ring would be the classic ‘moi et toi/toi et moi’ ring style, where two gems of equal size are set against each other. Those were quite popular in the early/mid 20th century, so they have the highest odds of being in any given granny's jewelry box.
Tars Tarkas - The Octahedron: Way too much story for the space. Too many characters, too many scenes, too many ideas for 1200 words. I know because I've tried this exact same move myself, multiple times! Also, you've got repeated words in quick succession (instead twice in the same sentence in the first paragraph, replied as the dialogue tag back-to-back around the midpoint). Some of the ideas were cool and I thought the tone worked, but all in all, this story needs help.
The Man Called M - The Great Jewel Heist: Well I'll be damned, you actually made me laugh. You also had some repeated words (instantly twice in two sentences up top) and typos (dames plural doesn't need an apostraphe), so you've stil got some work to do in that department. But that's okay, you're improving! Anyway, I'm a sucker for noir, so maybe other judges wouldn't let this kind of thing slide, but I think this is your best work yet and you should keep playing in the noir space if you really enjoy it. Is noir easy to pull off in flash? Nope, not even a little bit, but it's a lot harder to write poo poo you don't want to be writing.
Bonus Jeweler's Notes: Two notes on this one: one, it’s funny that you decided to write about Alexandrite’s name origin, because that’s one of the few gem names we actually have a recorded origin story for. Your guess of Alexander the Great was pretty good, but it was actually named for the Russian Prince Alexander II in the early 1800s. As for the second note, I checked my gem textbook for more info on alexandrite, and it turns out the image I used for you is an enhanced photo that fooled the trade (and me!) for decades! In reality, most alexandrites color shift from a teal blue to a purplish red, and the true green to true red color change is drat near impossible to find. Just goes to show you that even self-appointed experts like myself can get it wrong if they don't check their sources.
Jet Set Go - Cut Jehms: Describing Big Jim and then hitting me with the line "He excitedly rose from his booth and explained in tremendous detail what each gemstone was and the sexual energies each gave him" absolutely killed me. I loved this character and I want the best for him. The story itself wasn't entirely coherent, and I think you could have slowed down/packed in less to make room for some dialogue so the story wasn't all telling, but I'll give you a lot of credit for painting the beautiful picture that is Big Jim.
Bonus Jeweler's Notes: A gemthusiast like Big Jim would never put his gems in piles in the open, since gems can all scratch and chip each other pretty easily. This is why wearing a diamond wedding band next to a diamond engagement ring is a problem in the long-term, because the diamonds will wear away at each other given enough time. Keep your gems separated, people!
Thranguy - All the Jewels in the Crown: It ended when it was just getting started! Like many classic Nae stories, this feels like the beginning of a larger piece. I liked the world and I liked Tiva and and the Bishop in Rags was cool, but I finished the story feeling unsatisfied. Still, what a cool world. I'm actually liking this piece more as I think about it.
Bonus Jeweler's Notes: Again, two notes: one, very nice details with the spinel being the false ruby. It took humans literal millennia to figure out that spinels and rubies weren’t the same stone, and some of the most famous rubies are actually spinels (off the top of my head, the Timor Ruby and the Black Prince’s ruby both fill this category). Good researching! For the second note, by referring to mahenge spinels as red, you actually dove head-first into a very high-stakes debate about whether bright pink counts as red. All things being equal, red is the most valuable color for a gemstone to be, so buyers and sellers will haggle endlessly over whether a gem is pink or red. While it's generally agreed that top quality Mahenges are pink, I've personally bought ones sold as red (which I disagreed with, but purchased anyway because it looked great!)
AllNewJonasSalk - Let's Call the Whole Thing Off: This isn't a story; this is a premise. All you have is 300 words of torture and then a couple dozen of "I need you to pick something up for me." Next time, try writing a story. You had the words to spare.
rohan - Going Home: Maybe it's because I'm a sister-haver and a green-garnet lover, but I really felt this piece. I loved what you did with the gems and I thought the relationship between the siblings felt very really. The ending was pretty abrupt, though; conflicts like this can take decades to untangle, but these two patched things up in one night. Wouldn't that be nice!
Bonus Jeweler's Notes: The way you integrated synthetic and mined gems into this story was really neat. I don’t really have a gemology note for this, but I just wanted to emphasize that it was cool!
Chairchucker - Miss Fairy-Tale: The loving mind control twist at the end got me. What a hoot. The tourmaline skull didn't really pay off, though, which is a shame because it was a cool concept. Still, I love Miss Sugarplum Wonderland and Miss Bone Hollow and I hope you bring them back to the Dome someday.
Bonus Jeweler's Notes: I hope that stage was made with soft materials, because if one of those tourmalines fell out of the dress, it would break and so would my heart.
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 21:23|
THUNDERDOME DV: Things to Do in T-Dome When You're Doomed
This week, I'm interested in character-focused stories. Your prompt is this: your protagonist learns they have only a limited amount of time to live, and there's nothing they can do to change that. Maybe the cancer's back and it's everywhere this time, or the starship's life support is breaking down with no help in sight, or an imp's manifested on their shoulder to tell them Satan's taking them back to Hell in 7 days -- the point is, the end is nigh, and there's nothing left to be done. What will they do with the time they have left?
To clarify: I'm not looking for Twilight Zone-type stuff about people struggling futilely and ironically against their doom, or creating self-fulfilling prophecies to fulfill it. I'm interested in what your characters do when there's a ticking clock, no hope, and nothing to lose. If you write me a Twilight Zone episode, I will be very cross. Tone, genre, and all of that good stuff is otherwise up to you.
Standard rules apply: no erotica, fanfiction, political screeds, or dick pics.
Signup Deadline: Friday, April 8th, 11:59 PM Pacific
Submission Deadline: Sunday, April 10th, 11:59 PM Pacific (or whenever I go to bed that night/Monday morning, you know the drill)
Word Count: 1500
5. Vinny Possum
6. The man called M
9. Bad Seafood
10. Nikaer Drekin
11. Tars Tarkas
12. Uranium Phoenix
14. hard counter
Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 09:13 on Apr 11, 2022
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 22:30|
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 22:35|
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 22:40|
Crits for week 504 GEMS!
Bad Seafood – Eyes in the Dark
As far as the character, setting and plot go, this is very clear. I can easily picture everything that is happening and I like what is happening. I mean, I don’t like what those rude travelers are doing to her.
And when I went back to get the name of the main character I realized that she isn’t given one which gives this story another dimension. She’s so insignificant in this society that she’s not even named in her own story. I want to more about that, by the way, the circumstances surrounding why she is loathed but yet necessary and what she’s going to do when she gets to the city.
And that’s a reason I didn’t like this more was that although all of the elements were there, exactly what the main character wanted, why, and why she has her mother’s skull were things I needed to know more about. Just left feeling a little unsatisfied.
Tyrannosaurus – Great Guy
There’s not much story here. There are two characters, well-developed and clearly vibing with each other, who need more room to find the story they’re meant to tell. And this story is more about Rocky than it is about the narrator. But it’s not really about anything because what are any of them really searching for? This falls more on the slice of life side of flash fiction in terms of what sort of action we get to see. We get to see Rocky being a great guy. And that makes me feel better about the world.
derp – note to self
Opaque. Not sure what’s happening. Drug trip? Drug diamond trip? This is clearly meant to be horrific but I don’t have anywhere to stand, no baseline in which to feel horror for. Upon reread I follow a little more but the ending still doesn’t help. But I’m a reader who wants to know the reasons behind things. So this unknown horror in the desk drawer is one thing. But the unknown character, the unknown experience, the unknown reason why they forget. Too many suppositions to make for one short story.
Antivehicular – Sunrise
I like this piece in the end. The beginning felt very crammed full of jargon and concept words and I glossed over it, getting the meaning without needing all of the specifics. But where it goes is much more interesting because I can see it as a parallel for so many parts of our existence as humans in the society we’ve created.
We take something, perhaps a talent, that is interesting and sometimes unpredictable and we monetize it, making it labor rather than being able to enjoy the process and the beauty we can find there. Once we strip that away and allow it to return to something we don’t need to understand or depend on for survival, it’s allowed to return to us as a joy or at least not as a cause for anxiety.
The second person POV didn’t bother me as soon as I got past the beginning. It was probably only noticeable to me because of how much I was wading through the vocabulary for meaning. I think with reading this out loud, that might smooth out any awkwardness.
flerp – Family Heirloom
As always a short, impactful piece. The connection of the two colored stone and the two identities works. Simple and meaningful. Missed the top spot for me because the prose was too sparse for me to really connect with either character very deeply. There’s enough in the piece to understand both the mother and the son. No problems there. A reader can see how they’re both struggling. I think I was just looking for more introspection from the main character to feel an even greater connection.
Tars Tarkas – The Octahedron
Chekhov’s dog. This is trying to be fun and lighthearted, but it’s also trying too many things for the word count and instead of people feeling as if they have characteristics and goals I care about, they’re all just punchlines. This also suffers for having no single central goal. All of the goals that we see in scene are achieved with no in-scene difficulties.
Descriptions of action and set dressing are short and sweet. Just enough to get an idea of where they are and what’s going on which is perfect for a flash piece. But characters and direction are lacking.
The man called M - The “Great” Jewel Heist: A Jake Malone mystery
The voice of this piece isn’t bad. It leans on tropes but the short sentences help to lay the mood quickly that this is from the perspective of a detective. This has the plot points and setup elements of a mystery. It’s also bloated with a lot of unnecessary details and too simple action.
I’m not one who needs every aspect of a writing piece to be original and interesting. So a museum collector who steals a gem because he’s the great great great etc. grandson of the original finder is perfectly serviceable for me as a motivation. But there’s no development or involvement of any of the characters. This story shows us only surface level interaction between all of the characters in service of not even a gem heist (because the guy has already stolen the gem) or a mystery, because there’s no time to wonder who did it. Nikos could have already gotten away with the crime.
Also, Jane commits murder. And while I think it’s intriguing that she does it to dip the gem in fresh blood, that’s where I wanted to see this go places. The initial description of Jane as this special figure and then her shooting a dude. That is interesting. Instead everything returns to status quo but Jane doesn’t go to jail.
JetSetGo – Cut Jehms
Well, it didn’t go where I was thinking. This story did a good job of building up the suspense for what was going to happen when this Ohio rube met his “princess” and all of it was filmed and it was going to be such a letdown. And I was expecting all of this lead up was going to end in a one-liner punchline that didn’t deliver on all of that suspense. I’m not sure what could have delivered actually, but it definitely wasn’t the complete disappearance of Big Jim. But not in a cool way either. More in like a “this unnamed protagonist just spent hundreds of thousands of studio dollars to film a subject and then let him walk into a house unfilmed” way. Which is just baffling. And then nothing happens after that. He gets a postcard. Did he not follow Jim into the house? Knock on the door? Ask around?
Goes a little overboard in the name dropping of specific things like menu items at Applebees. Paints a good picture of Jim but an eyebrow raising one of the narrator who is the actual subject of this piece since he’s the guy who seems pretty hapless and that juxtaposition could have been played up. You see a guy you think is a rube but it is you yourself who is the rube. But in the end, the narrator didn’t even understand that he got got. Probably because that’s not what the story was about, but it’s something to think about.
Thranguy – All the Jewels in the Crown
You’re just writing chapter scenes to books that I never get to read. Stop teasing. Where’s the novel?! Anyway, this is well done, a few awkward sentences here and there that I had to read a couple times to follow completely, but otherwise, good character building for Tiva and the Bishop. Good scene setting for what we needed in a flash piece.
And while I’m very intrigued by all of it, it’s really just the first half of the first chapter of a much longer piece. I want to follow Tiva’s adventures and learn more about the Bishop and his motivations and what further protections this king has and the obstacles Tiva will face. Awesome stuff, doesn’t satisfy, only entices.
AllNewJonasSalk – Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
What is this? It’s not a story. I’m sure there is a story underneath all of the torture but it’s not even hinted at here. The narration of this appears to be omniscient so we could have gotten the whole story without even needing one perspective. There are no characters, there is only pain. For Felix and the reader.
Rohan – Going Home
A lovely piece that has strong characters, setting, dialogue, use of gems in the story but doesn’t have enough space (lol) to really explore the character growth that it wants. As is, the accusations and setting straight come a little too soon. Also want more about Lissandra’s life and why she’s coming to visit and why she’s staying and and and… you’re going to have to expand this one.
chairchucker – Miss Fairy Tale
This was a bit of fun at the end of reading but utterly fluff. I love the idea of a Miss Fairy Tale. I kinda want to see this done with known media characters just to see someone really play it up. The gems were a side note, actually, so was the main character. Since I feel like she could have raised an undead army regardless of if she won this contest or not. But then again, couldn’t Miss Sugarplum Wonderland also get a mind control army without winning the contest. I would absolutely eat cookies without thinking about it and get turned into a zombie slave. Unless she specifically needs these people and they weren’t going to eat her cookies until afterward.
I don’t know, this doesn’t need to make more sense than it does because it’s a fun story. Also, you’ve totally stolen a plot element of a book I’m writing and now you must pay me royalties.
a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 22:52 on Apr 4, 2022
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 22:46|
i love when someone asks me to do a thing i want to do anyway. in
|# ? Apr 4, 2022 23:14|
|# ? Apr 5, 2022 00:22|
CRITS CRITS CRITS
Really great worldbuilding here, a cool character arc, but I kind of also don't understand why she doesn't just leave. Feels like the Wicked Spirits tip their hand by being all murder hungry when they could tempt her away more subtly. But great bleak fantasy vibes. I would love to read more of this.
This was funny and I liked it. All the depth of a puddle, but hey, it doesn't have to be deep, it just has to get written. As Nae and Penguin have said it would have been a lot better if we saw these dudes doing more cool stuff together.
A super cool introduction to your Call of Cthulhu character. More seriously, the prose in this is lovely but the scene itself is confusing. There isn't enough Here here for me to determine whether or not this is a guy going insane, having a bad magical thing happen, having a regular nightmare... and there isn't enough backdrop for that uncertainty to feel earned and worthwhile.
Yes! Bizarre body horror rock eating! hosed up magic! Vomiting rocks like a weird Ito Junji short story! This was probably the weirdest story of the week, and I loved it. I actually didn't even notice the second person issues that my fellow judges did, because jargon-heavy science-fantasy is absolutely my poo poo. I also appreciated how the choices the main character made and their reasoning behind them served to define the world in which they lived. It made it feel real instead of contrived.
Also I just loving love the line "There is a broken miracle inside you."
Heartbreaking. The phrase "Find out why you think you're like this" is brutal. Well written and very sweet use of the gem, definitely a well-written story and would have had the win in a less strong week. I liked that the main character stuck to his guns and didn't take the ring, though there was a large part of me going "sell that poo poo you fool! Accept it and sell it!" But that would mean accepting all the maternal baggage that goes with it, so ultimately not worth it.
Spacing in between scenes would have made this read a lot cleaner. The goofiness was kind of fun, given that a lot of folks went grimdark this week, but I feel like we got a lot of scene setting and not a lot of scene. Cutting your cast of characters down a bit and focusing on one plot thread in the future will help a lot.
Man Called M
It's a story! Characters that want things! Whose actions move them toward those things! It's ridiculous and the framing is a little roll-eyesy, but there's a marked improvement over your previous work here. I think it's probably a good idea to continue playing in these well-worn tropes for a while to practice technique.
A cute, weird story that doesn't quite go anywhere or resolve anything. But it's well written enough and I was interested right up until the end where it just... ended. Sometimes that happens, this guy was super thrilled to find the next Tiger King and then... nope. But it didn't feel like there was any resolution to the story. No character payoff.
More excellent grim fantasy! I love this little thieves/assassins guild concept, so many of these styles of stories wind up romanticizing the theft-and-murder bits. I like that this kept things grimy. But still, it was the first half of the first chapter of a novel. Please write that novel.
gently caress you I'm not here to read torture porn. you had plenty of words to write an actual story in.
Lovely slice of life fantasy. I feel like the sisters wrapped things up a little too easily by the end, and some of the blocking around the middle was a bit confusing, but it was real and grounded in itself, and it used Magic Rocks in a cool way.
Another extremely cinematic piece from Chairchucker. I want to watch this Pixar movie.
|# ? Apr 5, 2022 00:40|
|# ? Apr 5, 2022 05:27|
Yeah, I got something that should work. In.
|# ? Apr 5, 2022 05:48|
great prompt. in.
|# ? Apr 5, 2022 11:29|
Week 501 Crits!
Apologies for the delay. These past few weeks have been a bit draining.
Grey Rabbit - Ceighk
Let's start with the good. This was one of the more readable stories this week, with some haunting imagery sprinkled throughout. A solid sense of place and uncertainty.
As for the rest, well, neither of your characters are particularly likable, nor interesting. Your protagonist is well-meaning in a bland sort of way, while their partner is just a straight-up trope without frills or extras. The game itself seems strange and ephemeral, which is fair enough for a concept like this, but the protagonist's take on the rules feels arbitrary, her decisions abrupt. Things happen in this story because they need to, because otherwise there won't be anything to write about. I'll admit, you had a fair bit to cram in there, but it is what it is.
Varmints - Bacon Terrorist
I don't typically comment on typos or formatting but why, WHY. Break up your paragraphs, separate dialogue, make this thing parsable, please, please. Not that that would've saved it from the bottom: your characters are all interchangably forgetable, accomplish exactly one thing (of dubious import), and then it's over.
Project Cicada - Chernobyl Princess
The first actually likable weirdos this week. Not bad. The story itself is (intentionally) brisk and flippant, which mostly works, but gets a bit choppy by the back half when it's time to wrap things up, and the protagonists read interchangably throughout. Not a real sense of tension here, nor place for that matter. After hours between cubicles isn't exactly a remote, nor evocative, location. Not a story that'll stick with me, but inoffensive enough as a two-mintute sitcom.
A Long Bumpy Road - Greatbacon
I confess, when I returned to my notes for this story, I'd only written one thing: "Meh." I decided to read it again, for the sake of constructive criticism, and yeah, "Meh" pretty much sums it up.
Structurally, your prose is fine, competent. I could follow the action and understood generally what was happening. Narratively, things happen, characters react, on to the next setpiece, aw, look, they do love each other. I feel like I've seen this specific brand of bickering couple movie a dozen times, and the driver is never much more than a cheap excuse for comic relief. The snobby woman who'd rather die than lose her expensive shoes, break a nail, what have you - in particular - is a hated trope of mine. Meh, for sure.
Jessi & Jerome in the Clay Dog Conundrum - My Shark Waifuu
A solid middle-of-the-pack story with one glaring weakness: its over-reliance on refering to things happening off-screen. When I'm reading a short story, I prefer most of it to be happening in the "Now," and the shortcut of referring to extraneous events we weren't privy to can wear thin easily.
Aside from that, competent prose, likable-enough characaters.
The Con - ZearothK
The perfect title, wasted on a meandering setup, culminating in a middling punchline. You've probably heard of saying a lot with a little; this story says a little with a lot. Setting aside the obvious attempts at locking-in various flashrule stipulations, this story has a lot going on in the background, but not so much going on center stage. Our interchangable protagonists (there was a lot of that this week, wasn't there) show up, do a thing, and call it a wrap. Not enough tension for a heist story, not enough funny business for a comedy, not enough focus for a character study.
Kurokodairudandi - Rohan
The second-person story is always a risky play. Third-person's dependable, reliable; first-person's intimate, internal. Second-person, used properly, can invoke a kind of interaction with the audience. I'm not sure this story was well-served by that ambition, even if I am, myself, a cringe weeb.
But yes, the cringe weeb. Or weebs, I should specify. Most of these characters were stock stereotypes of one kind or another. Events happened, and we were party to them. There was a problem, but someone else solved it. In the end, even being generous, this story doesn't amount to much more than a clumsy anecdote.
That said, the bit where the monk is a fan of Australian culture and learned English from Crocoile Dundee was very funny.
The Last Supper - Nae
As far as the prompt's concerned, this was the only story this week that hit all the notes that were specifically asked of it. Well done. Many authors went for a comedic tone, which was fair, but you're one of the few who took it somewhat seriously instead, and delivered. There's some innate ridiculousness, courtesy of the premise, but you make us care about your likable weirdo in pretty short order, and delivered a story with a measure of depth and emotion even. This was the only story that really engaged me this week, where I wanted to know what happened next as each paragraph lead on. A well-deserved win.
Hole in One - Thranguy
I'll take Ran Out of Time for 600, Alex. A solid start to a story that just...ends when the bad guy shows up, reveals himself, and is summarily defeated with little effort or interest. This is also yet another candidate for interchangable protagonists, though at least you kept the dialogue snappy instead of bland.
Jake and CLetus vs. the Utukku - CaligulaKangaroo
A charming but ultimately boilerplate story. Cletus does everything, Jake provides commentary. Of the deliberately humorous submissions, this was definitely the best among that group. Relies a bit too heavily on exposition, devolves into dialogue, but there's something workable underneath it all.
|# ? Apr 5, 2022 16:52|
I am judge 2.
|# ? Apr 5, 2022 23:27|
I volunteer to be judge 3!
|# ? Apr 6, 2022 00:09|
In before I run out of time and possibly drink too much to be of any use for several days.
|# ? Apr 6, 2022 20:07|
|# ? Apr 7, 2022 08:56|
In for this week!
|# ? Apr 8, 2022 02:00|
Wanted to wait until I had a draft to commit as this week got busy late at night
Both perfectly fair, it is very obvious the original piece was way too long and busy. This week's will hopefully be better structured without me throwing everything in I can think of that doesn't need to be there. Can you tell I'm used to just writing long rambling things?
|# ? Apr 9, 2022 00:37|
|# ? Jun 28, 2022 14:51|
|# ? Apr 9, 2022 02:55|