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Albatrossy_Rodent
Oct 5, 2021

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


In

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hard counter
Jan 2, 2015





sure, i'll take a shot at this

in

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




In

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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



Signups are closed!

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again



Lipstick Apathy

the plane was on time
600w



As soon as she clicked the buy button and the plane ticket was in her possession, she knew, in a way she knew. From that moment, the moment she was truly going, she could no longer imagine herself pressing through the crowds on Takeshita street with her arms full of shopping bags and she could no longer imagine trying her Japanese on the cashier at Zaku Zaku and she could no longer imagine the hotel and the crisp, cool sheets and the view of the city lights from her 20th story window, lights that would glint in her eyes in the selfie entitled ‘tired after an amazing day of shopping’. All these scenes that she’d dreamed during months of planning were suddenly inaccessible, as if a black wall had slid across her mind’s eye. She could imagine boarding the plane and listening to her audiobook and drinking a rum and coke and gasping at brief turbulence before falling asleep, but no further. She knew, then, though she couldn’t allow herself to believe it, she knew that she would not get off that plane. She continued on the path that she had set for herself and she packed her bags and talked excitedly to friends and family and made arrangements for her dog to be walked and fed and she made sure her passport was in order and the days counted down and behind it all she only felt cold inevitability and a complete inability to act. What could she say? Everyone, I have a bad feeling about this flight so I’m not going on my dream vacation, impossible, completely impossible. The Uber driver hefted her luggage into the trunk and they chatted about the helpless panic they both always felt during takeoff as the ground shrank below them and their primate brains screamed at them to stop, stop get down, get back on the ground this is not natural. And they pulled into the airport and she got out and wheeled her bags through the echoing crowded place up to the correct gate and up to attendant and handed over her ticket and watched herself take step after step down the jetway and onto the plane, and every face in line held a special meaning, and every stray word burned a mark into her brain, and every moment that passed was precious and rare, and she knew she could stop walking, she could turn around, and yet she could not, she absolutely could not. And she squeezed past people shoving things into the overhead bins and got into her seat and put on the seatbelt and the plane left the hangar and began to roll along the runway, and still it was not too late, still she could scream and flail and make a scene and the plane would be stopped, but how, how on earth could she do that? And the engines began their ascending whine and she was pressed into her seat and everything rumbled and shook and then she was off the ground, up up up, and it was all too late now, nothing could be done and there was no changing anything, and it was such a relief that it was all out of her hands. And hours passed and the sun went down and the cold infinite depth of the Pacific waited beneath her, and she wondered if everyone on the plane knew, she wondered if everyone always knew, and if no one could ever act to change what they knew was coming.

Ceighk
May 27, 2013

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022




The Remainder
1500 words


One month from the end we were gathered in Airlock Bay 4, that being where Kinglsey had run after yelling about McCuttler wanting to space himself. Now he was really going to do it, McCuttler told us, if only Kingsley would take his foot out of the 'goddamned doorway'.

'Come on McCuttler, don't do this,' Kingsley said, boot wedged in firmly. Kingsley always talked like he was speaking to a sulky five year old who ought to be sitting still through a long car ride. In a way it was comforting how little our encroaching deaths had modulated his tone, but mostly it was annoying. 'Think of your last few weeks. Think of what you can live for.'

'Live for! Like what?!' yelled McCuttler. 'Another month of drinking synth-soup and hearing Lewandowski's pornography echo through the grey hallways? Another month of losing at mahjong until we all burn to crisps like marshmallows thrown at a bonfire? Jeez Louise and no thanks mister, I'll just go now.'

'Hey, man,' Lewandowski rumbled from behind me, sounding hurt. 'I'd have turned it down if you’d asked. And what does losing matter anyway? It's not like any of us can spend the money.'

McCuttler wrung his hands in wordless frustration. 'Well I don't care. I don't care! I want to go now. Not in a month, not tomorrow, now. What's it to you? I've thought about this, I've made up my mind. Just let me go.'

Kingsley looked about to pipe up but I put a hand on his shoulder. 'I think it's McCuttler's choice,' I said. There was nothing any of us could say that would refute his logic. The only thing separating his death now from those of us who completed our immutable flightpath into Jupiter was, on average, 91 bowls of soup, 76 games of mahjong, 244 hours sleeping, and 483 hours spent struggling in vain to find some way, however minor, to break up the repetition of it all before the end.

Tension left Kingsley the way air leaves a balloon. Then McCuttler barged him backwards, slammed the door shut, and quickly depressurised the airlock. When his eyeballs exploded they left a symmetrical stain on the thick quartz porthole, like a Rorschach test or a butterfly.




Mahjong wasn’t the same without McCuttler. Playing with three was a hollow reflection of playing with four, and the unanswered question of his suicide filled the ship like a haunting. Why don't you follow me? asked the ghost in the North seat. I had no answer, and despite his protests, neither did Kingsley. He slumped over his tiles and played moves that made it impossible for him to win.

'If only the asteroid hadn't hit the med lab,' said Lewandowski for the third time that day, swapping a West Wind for an 8 Bamboo. He just wanted the drugs. Lewandowski's capacity to be sated by pleasure alone had made him remarkably resilient given our situation, tempered only by our limited entertainment options.

'I'd rather it hadn't hit us at all,' I said. The cruel joke was that our ship had managed to seal every breach so effectively that we had been living in the surviving quarter for nearly a year, but it couldn't even manage a distress signal as we slipped into the nearest gravity well. 'Your turn, Kingsley.'

Kingsley groaned.

My gaze drifted up to the skylight. Jupiter hung above us, its storms distant enough to appear serene. It was only between turns that I noticed how it had swallowed up the viewport. The neat clicking of the tiles and the constant mental buzz of arithmetic dulled even the blind fear of annihilation.




The closer we got to the end, the more we slipped into worlds of our own — Lewandowski into his tapes of slapping flesh, Kingsley into fixing a broken radio, and I into the view from the rec room skylight.

To work in space is to witness the uncaring majesty of the universe from an air-conditioned box, furnished like a waiting room. I thought I was used to it after six years fixing vending machines in the cosmic abyss, but when everything else fell away, I realised I had just been forcing myself not to notice.

What I lost from the game, I gained from Jupiter. I spent every waking hour gazing into its silent, churning mists. When the ship's lights dimmed in artificial night I slept in its amber glow, on the narrow blue couch next to the soup machine.




'We're picking up signals from the Kuiper belt,' Kingsley told me, eight days before the end. He held a radio that buzzed like a cave of hornets, pacing erratically like he hadn't slept in days.

'Sounds like noise,' I said.

'To you, yes. But nothing this frequency should be coming from that direction. The fact there is noise is incredible.'

'What are you suggesting? Intelligent life?'

'Well, I wouldn't put it so bluntly...'

Once I would have been thrilled to find what might be an alien transmission. Now the thought of aliens that behaved just like we did, talking on their radios and zipping about in spaceships, seemed boring, irrelevant.

'Look at that storm,' I said after a minute. 'It's only been there since yesterday, but it must be a thousand miles across. Can you imagine? Something that huge, twisting into being then unravelling like it was never there.'

When I looked for Kingsley he was gone.




A couple of days later, something happened in Kingsley’s cabin. He didn’t want to talk about it.

He started working in the rec room. He set up his apparatus on the table and flitted around it like a hummingbird, stringing spools of tape through an expanding array of struts and reels. His movements would have seemed feverish even if I hadn't spent two weeks watching the glacial roll of Jupiterian weather — but I had, and that made them unbearable.

'Is this really necessary?' I asked as he turned the thing on, its speakers shrieking like a braking steam train.

'There's a pattern! Can't you hear it?' he shouted over the noise.

'One you can decode in three days? Before we and the evidence are annihilated?'

He didn’t answer. I stared into Jupiter, trying to ignore him. I was glad Kingsley was able to occupy his time, but his fixation on proving that the remotest parts of the solar system could be a home for conscious beings was depressing — as if it all couldn't just Be, uncomprehending and unwitnessed.

A few hours later, Lewandowski stumbled in to get some soup. 'What's the racket?' he mumbled. He had always been the last to let our situation bother him, but with three days to go he looked ruined.

'It's coming from the Kuiper belt,' said Kingsley.

Lewandowski dried his eyes. 'That far out, really? Could be a refraction. You get all kinds of effects in a magnetic field like this. Weird the decoder in 3b couldn't untangle it, though.'

Kingsley loosened his jaw. 'That thing works?'

'You haven't tried it? Yeah man, let me get it for you.'

Lewandowski came back with the decoder and began hooking it up to Kingsley's radio.

'Are you sure you want to do this?' I asked Kingsley. I worried that a mundane solution to his mystery would leave him with nothing to live for, half suspecting he had forgotten about the decoder on purpose.

Lewandowski flipped the switch. The static congealed into an oldies pop song.

We live in a beautiful wo-or-orld. Yeah we do, yeah we do.

'Shut it off,' said Kingsley. 'Shut it off!'

The storms raged on with indifference.




That night we all slept on the rec room floor. Jupiter was now so close that we couldn’t see its edges. Sometime soon its pull would overpower the ship’s artificial gravity and make up become down.

Lewandowski shifted next to me. 'I've been inside for too long, man,' he said. 'I miss the sun. I miss the breeze on my face.'

I knew what he meant. The ship’s conditioned air was cloyingly still.




On the last day of our lives, we returned to Airlock Bay 4.

We had expected to fry while passing through the hot upper atmosphere, but the heat shields held — another perverse miracle. Now just a few kilometres above the clouds, the sky was a hazy yellow. On the horizon, distant plumes danced higher than our ship, writhing vortices in orange and white and red.

Any of us might have proposed what we did next, though I was the one to say it.

When we puncture the clouds, we will open the airlock and be swept into the hurricanes. We will live only for minutes, but for those minutes we will feel more alive than we ever have before. When we die it will be with the storm in our hair and in our lungs, and our bodies will be torn apart to scatter forever on its winds.

On this we were all in agreement.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED





A Historical Primer On Chir Vah’s “The Last Requiem,” Performed in Year 219 of the Sunbreaker War
1487 words


News agencies in the system of Zij Ion began to predict their imminent demise around year 218, as the Imperator’s fleets breached the Cotol Empire’s salient along the spiral arm of the galaxy. On Temperament 5, 219, merchant ships brought in confirmation that the Imperator’s left flank would be passing through Zij Ion in the next month, bringing a small fraction of those fleets—the 10043rd through the 10198th—through Zij Ion.

Zij Ion had declared neutrality, but at this point in the war, none of the great powers cared much about that. After all, what use was a rule if there was no one to enforce it? Even if they’d been allies of the Imperator, it might not have mattered; the 10043rd through 10198th Fleets were low on fuel, and the warp-line to the supermassive black hole that had been feeding them antimatter for the last decade had been severed by a Cotol strike force.

Anyone with an elementary knowledge of stellar logistics knew the score. The Zij admirals prepared the fleets for battle, not really as a meaningful exercise, but a way to keep their pride intact. On Solace 1, 219, the mere two million ships Zij Ion had to muster, including all twenty-two thousand capital ships, were encircled and smashed in the inner heliosphere—the expected result of being outnumbered a thousand to one.

The Imperator, not wanting to risk the enemy being alerted to his operations, ordered that no evacuations of Zij Ion be allowed to take place. Per standard procedure, the system’s star would be drained to create the antimatter needed to refuel his fleets.

The people of Zij Ion were then ignored as the Imperator’s fleets went through the now rote process of preparing the star for consumption. Stuck planetside, there was little they could do.

It was in this context that Chir Vah began to compose “The Last Requiem,” which was the working title up until it was performed for the first and last time.

Chir Vah met with the famous Dohi Veen Second Orchestra, as well as representatives of the Forty-First Set Designer’s Union and eighteen construction companies. While the meeting minutes sadly do not survive, Chir Vah’s last comments did through second-hand accounts. With his typical stone-face demeanor, he stabbed his index finger into the table and said, “The last thing we are going to do is make some loving art.”

Fragments of a digital biography by Chir Vah’s mother note that this was, by her reckoning, the only time Chir Vah had swore since he was six years old.

The meeting adjourned.

It is not really necessary to say that despair ran rampant through Zij Ion’s forty billion people (estimated, see Tolvac, et al.). Through Chir Vah’s project, the workers and musicians who stayed with him felt a renewed sense of purpose.

Construction of the stage proceeded in a wide valley. The sweep of the northern and southern mountain ranges were lines, giving them a vanishing point at the horizon on a clear day. More dramatically, the astronomers had calculated that, based on the estimated time of star consumption, the valley would be pointing directly at Zij Ion’s sun in its final moments.

Either through historical accident or Chir Vah’s dogged force of will, by Solace 6, around three hundred set-design and construction unions were working around the clock. Anarchy, in the political sense, had taken over; the government had dissolved, and corporations either ceased to exist, or people simply ignored the previous command hierarchies. Entire city sustainment systems were diverted to the valley by Solace 10, with around twenty-five million robots disassembling part of the southern range to give it, per Document Fragment 4342, “a more aesthetically appealing sweep, and to provide stone for the lower stage assembly.”

Music lessons and training was done ad hoc in public squares across the planet. Logistics crews, mostly formerly military, began to assemble the musicians and onlookers so that by Solace 15, a steady stream of trains and pedestrian traffic was flowing into the valley. At this point, Chir Vah was clearly not leading anything except refinement of the score, but the vision he had proffered had taken a life of its own. Tolvac et al. estimate two million musicians and fifty million performers (mostly citizens who would be positioned in front of the cameras or singing), with the crowd of onlookers at one billion.

The numbers here seem impossible to comprehend, and ridiculous in quantity, yet the 985 video clips of the performance that remain show the entire valley turned into stands and stages, full of people all turned toward that horizon, huge pipe-organs that towered like skyscrapers, drum lines miles long, viola groups the size of armies.

On Solace 23, at noon, the performance began. All eyes turned westward, except one: Chir Vah faced his performers and audience from a commanding pyramid, and behind him was only Zij Ion native wilderness, preserved for generations. He did not see the sun, only his people.

By two o’clock (Universal Day Equivalence Time), the sun had dimmed noticeably, and by four, the sky began to take on sunset-like qualities, the scattered clouds burning orange around violet. The orchestra and choir were still hitting notes of pride and triumph.

At five o’clock, the sun had dimmed so much that the textures of the plasma could be seen by the naked eye, and the star’s flames were stretched wide as the gravity of it was dissipated. The sun grew steadily larger in the sky. Here, the music took its dramatic turn, and reflected the requiem of its name. Across the stages, people howled in concert.

As the music mounted in volume, grand pipes mourning, the wind intensified. The sudden chill created a howling gale through the valley, so that the wind too joined the chorus. In Clip 553, one can see winds ripping away instruments, and sheets of music tumble like leaves.

By chance, the Sub-Colonel of the 62921st Imperial Division had been ordered to practice near-ground planetary bombardment, the admiralty figuring that a bunch of condemned people wouldn’t mind their planet being used for target practice, or at the very least, would be unable to lodge a complaint. As the sixth movement (Requiem, Finale) began swelling, the northern mountain range lit up with the flash of cluster-fusion bombs.

Here, Chir Vah completed his masterpiece, by timing the sweep of his conductor’s baton with the explosions, letting them take over for the drum section (now largely buried in a landslide from Mt. Iael’s southern face collapsing). Given his total lack of cover on the zenith of his pyramid, Chir Vah was struck totally blind.

The resolve of Dohi Veen Second Orchestra and its compatriots held fast, standing tall in the face of both nuclear bombardment and the now hurricane force winds whipping down the valley—discipline that would have put any army to shame.

Clip 985 shows the final moments. The camera is positioned a kilometer from the base of the pyramid, looking up. Two recording schemes capture both the crowd at the base and a zoom-in of the conductor and firmament. The orchestra and choir can no longer be heard, but the wind across the tops of the grand pipes keeps the consonance of the piece. Chir Vah still stands, tears streaming horizontally from his face, at the pinnacle, the sun now spread across the sky, bisected by the horizon, surreal tones of violet and orange--as the star shatters. Spread before him, the people of Zij Ion can be seen shrieking their last laments, bowing and kneeling, weeping and screaming, reaching and clawing at the their sun one last time. There is a frenzied desperation to their last moments, a despair that cuts into any viewer with a soul. It is both scripted and totally genuine.

Chir Vah conducts then, not any kind of sound, but the dissolution of the sky behind him in its final twilight. Unseen, the fleet above sucks away the final remnants of stellar plasma, and the world goes black.

One would like to credit Chir Vah and the people of Zij Ion for the Refusal Movement that eventually caused the total collapse of the Imperator’s and Cotol’s empires, but it played no part in that. The broadcast equipment failed, and only centuries later were recordings retrieved from the dead planet. The Sunbreaker War would consume twelve-thousand eighty-six more stars. Still, The Last Requiem marks a turning point in art history, and none who study the subject can ignore the rent it has made in the hearts of humankind, nor shall that breach ever heal. It is through this lasceration that we may harden our resolve, and know the unfathomable price of war. With Chir Vah’s voice, we may say to any would-be conqueror: Never again.

Vinny Possum
Sep 21, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER


Patriarch
1485 words

The ceremony was in three days. Dhankanir Qarbil somehow remembered that, even as fewer and fewer thoughts and events made their way through the swamp his mind had become to form memories. He couldn’t remember if he had picked the date himself, or it had been his wife, or even his eldest, Bulan.

Bulan, the boy was growing up handsomely. Boy? Man. He could recall sending him off to the war, but he could swear that Bulan’s 12th birthday had only been a few months ago. Or was that his grandson? Did Bulan have a son? Bulan had nothing but daughters for so long… Yes, that was right, there was worry that the clan would pass to another line. If Bulan had agreed to the ceremony, Qarbil had to have a grandson from his eldest.

The thoughts were overwhelming him. With six days left before joining his father and grandfather and ancestors, trying to sort these things out was a taxing waste of energy. He inhaled deeply, the fresh scents of the garden around him filling his lungs. Even as the flowers had blurred into a smeared watercolor and the bubbling of the fountain faded into a whisper, this one sense remained his companion, pulling tantalizing bits of memory from the fog. He had been here when he learned his own father had been killed, ambushed by a rival during a routine tour of his bondsman families’ villages. He had died like a real man, in the field, gun in hand, not slowly losing his grip on reality and his own body while his son and wife picked a time to send him to the ancestors. Back when honor meant something, before the federals had freed the bonded families and destroyed the order of things…

The garden had been smaller then, mostly tile, only a few hardy rose bushes in an open courtyard. It had been his personal project, tearing out the stones and filling the ground with fertilizer. The servants helped, of course, but Qarbil liked to get his hands dirty. Even as his connections with his offspring and wives frayed, the garden still spoke to him, no, sang in a bouquet of aromas. Even with his near total lack of vision, he knew where everything was. The roses, the creeping vines, the pungent olives, and the bubbling fountain, draining into a pond full of carp. The murals along the walls, depicting the Dhankanir countryside as it had been in his childhood, before the bellowing trains, the hideous tarred poles carrying electricity, before the thieving merchants bought up the land from the former bondsmen and tore up the land in search of riches, before foreign priests set up schools to tear the young men away from the ways of their fathers.

Maybe it was better that he was going. He feared the ceremony more than he would ever admit, but maybe it was better to close his eyes and feel the bite of the blade in his jugular before the world he knew was gone entirely.

“Grandfather Dhankanir!” The voice was nearly shouting in his ear. Husky, female. Young, but most voices were young to him now. He could smell tobacco on her breath, disguised with mint leaves. A disgusting habit that even his most dutiful children and servants had picked up. He felt the hands on the back of his chair. “It’s time for supper!”

“Makta? Is that you?”

“No, Grandfather Dhankanir, Makta is my mother. It’s Uqta, remember?”

He did not. Makta had always been his maid. Uqta was a little girl, barely old enough to flirt with the stableboys. He shook his head. He did not have the energy to argue with the woman about her identity. The maid, Makta or Uqta, pushed his chair along the cobblestones. The odor of lamb in mint sauce filled his nose, and the chair bumped at it crossed the threshold back into the manor proper. The table slid into his limited field of vision, where a porridge of lentils, a glass of brandy, and a lamb chop awaited him.
Uqta, or Makta, slid up from behind his chair, and began carefully cutting the lamb chop into tiny portions that the patriarch could chew. As the clinking of the knife and fork on the plate reached his ears, so faint that it nearly seemed from across the hall, Qarbil wanted to protest, but the sweet smell was enough to calm him.

“Where is Bulan? Where is my wife?” even he could tell the table was empty.

“Grandmother Dhankaniris is taking her afternoon nap, your son left to fetch the Speaker a few hours ago, as you requested. He should be back soon.”
The maid covered his lap with a napkin, shuffling another into his collar to serve as a bib. Qarbil gingerly picked up his fork, scooping the lamb into the lentils, and taking a bite. His hands shook, but they had been shaking for years now. He only made it about halfway through the meal before he could eat no more, and sat nursing his brandy, as the maid plucked an old melody he could only half hear on a dulcimer, his rattling bits of memory filling in the gaps.

“Oh, Young Lord!” he could feel the table tremble as the maid rose to curtsy. His son, his eldest, smelled of motor oil and sweat, but there was another, more pungent scent in the air that nearly drove it out.

“That will do, Utqa, you can go home, and here’s something for the children.”

Bulan had always been firm and assertive. A real man, like his grandfather. Almost worth the two boys who never came back from the war. Almost…

Qarbil felt his son’s firm hands grip the handles of the chair.

“Father, I brought the Speaker. He is lucid enough now, if you would like to speak with our fathers.”
That was what the smell was. Years of unwashed flesh and clothes, matted hair and beard. The Speaker had been a cousin once… No, a nephew, until the fits started and the spirits took hold of him. Qarbil could not recall what his name had been, which was just as well, no one who could would utter it. He nodded.

“Yes… bring me, boy.”

Dutifully, his son pushed the chair back across the courtyard path, through the other side of the manor, and into the mausoleum. The air here was dry, dusty, and the only light came from dim torches on the walls.

He heard some sort of mumbled speech, but could not make out a word.

“Speak up!” Bulan’s voice boomed out, betraying a lack of patience with the Speaker.

“W-who do you wish to v-visit Grandfather?” The medium’s voice was as erratic as the air wafting off him was foul.

“Bulan… calm yourself” the old man croaked, before addressing the Speaker “My father. Dhankaniris Turman.”

The smell of the speaker’s herb burning filled the air. It took Qarbil back to when Bulan came home from the war, wounded, defeated and less two brothers. Qarbil had summoned the speaker as the federal troops closed in on the manor, scattering the bondsman militia. His father and grandfather had not failed him then, and with their guidance he had managed to negotiate to keep most of the clan holdings.

Even without the aid of sight he knew what happened next. The speaker took one of Turman’s bones, touching it first to his forehead, then to his tongue, and shook.

“Qarbil, boy, I’ve been waiting for you.” the speaker’s voice was drowned out but Qarbil’s father, as the empty vessel was filled.

Tears welled up in the old man’s eyes. As hard as he had tried, he had never lived up to the great man’s stature as patriarch.

“Da- Father… Have I done… It’s all changed… I…”

He felt a heavy hand on his shoulder.

“You did well with what you could. I left you too soon.” the voice cracked with emotion “I wish I could have met Bulan. You’ve raised him well, a man after my own heart.”

“I’ve left him with near nothing… the bondsmen are gone, the federals…”

“Son, their blasphemous experiment will fall to chaos soon. The old ways will return. Bulan will return glory to Dhanakir. You will be remembered as the father of a great man, as will I.”
Qarbil reached out embracing the speaker. He simultaneously felt the skeletal frame of the spirit-mad shaman, and the robust, meaty arms that had taught him to shoot a bow. The stench and the sweet scent of the herb mingled, carrying him off to sleep.

******************************************************************************************************

Outside, Dhanakir Bulan sharpened the ceremonial knife. It had to be perfect, fast, and as painless as possible. He had been preparing for years now with mixed dread and anticipation for the hardest thing he would ever have to do. The ceremony was in three days.

AllNewJonasSalk
Apr 22, 2017

THUNDERDOME LOSER

That One Michael Jackson Pepsi Campaign
749 words

The sounds of Prince flow across the room. Every chord impeccably played. He was a man. Dead now. Sometimes it seems like everybody that was ever somebody is now just nobody. If you’re lucky, you get to go out on a high note. Maybe you get one more push of the plunger, right after a needle breaks skin and, before you know it, you’re in heaven asking God how he let a bad batch through.

“It wasn’t a bad batch. It was your batch,” says God. And then darkness. Eternal and sweet. There’s no God. Just the firing of electrons right before your brain says “Good night.” Where I’m from we spend a lot of time looking for ways to not die. When the house painter comes calling, he usually paints the place red. Very careful not to splatter the linoleum. A good painter brings his own plastic wrap.

I’m dying. Not exactly worried about it. It’s a process. Creeps up on you slowly. One day you’re right as rain and feeling like the whole world is against you. The next day you’re in the dirt and the whole world is above you. The only thing that shifts is perspective. Karmic justice and all that jazz. Hurt enough people and paint enough houses and one day it’s your turn. You take that poo poo on the chin, though I mostly would prefer right through the forehead. Less of a mess. Easier for your mother to give you a proper send off. You can always tell the guys who got it the worst. Caskets closed on account of not having much to put in them. Those are the best sorts of funerals; short and sweet. People don’t usually have a lot to say about a guy shoved fingers first through a wood chipper.

“Here lies Elton. And there and there and there.”

I figure when they come for me, it’ll be at night. Probably quiet like. A soft knock on the door and nobody will answer. People look for drugs at all times of the night so it won’t be too out of the ordinary. Money never sleeps and often gets people killed. They will show up and try to score some bud. Nobody in the house will have it so they’ll knock on my door and then I’ll be singing Daisy.

Really, I should be so lucky.

Last night I walked into a gas station. It seemed empty at first and I started to turn around but a voice from the back said “I’ll be right there.” A minute later, I’m standing in an aisle studying a bottle of mouthwash. The label says it is flavored like spearmint but when I take a swig all I taste is ash.

“Yo, the gently caress you doing?” says the clerk. He’s finally made an appearance. “This ain’t a library. You paying for that or you getting the gently caress out.” He says this with the cool calm of someone used to kicking people out the door.

When I pull my shirt up his expression darkens. All that calm exits the room. Guns tend to do that.

“This supposed to be some kind of joke.” It isn’t a question. “I don’t know what you’re on but you can do better than this,” he says.

I assure you. I can’t.

I could tell him this is a robbery but that’s no fun. Instead I pull the gun out and let off a shot. The bullet zips past his head and hits a two liter of Pepsi.

“Stop running your lips or feel the Pepsi way,” I say. “Your choice.”

He shuts the gently caress up and opens the register.

Normally, I can get through seven licks before I call it a night. Hit one lick and you’ve hit all the licks. Nobody wants to die for ten dollars an hour. Tonight I call it quits after the first one. I wasn’t particularly hard up for cash. I just wanted to make sure the gun worked. Never actually fired it before. Displaying a gun is just about the same as firing it. The presence alone will put the fear of God in most people. You just gotta watch out for the godless.

When they come, I won’t show them the gun. That way they know I mean business. If I gotta die, I want to die right. Look him in the eye and beg like a man. Put the fear of God in him.

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

From the Diary of Isaiah Shafer
1,487 Words

June 9, 1892

Budd drove me to the Doc’s on his supply run into town. I didn’t tell him the prognosis and I don’t intend to - the family knowing all this would only make the next month or so more miserable, and according to the Doc it will already be rough enough. I have tuberculosis - consumption, as they say. Why my body’s worth consuming I’ll never know - I have always been thin and weak, liable to be knocked over by a stiff breeze. Doc says I’ll be lucky to see July, and any time I have left after that will be a miracle.

Twenty-three years. I guess that’s all the Lord portioned out for me. Even Doc Holliday got another decade or so to do his gambling and whoring and gunfighting, but TB couldn’t wait that long for me. I’m almost flattered.

Back at home, sinking back into my deathbed, I thought of the derringer Pop had given me, the day we rode out to trade with the Indians. Just in case, he said. Better to have it and not need it. An idea crossed my mind - do I need it now? I suppose they do say life is a gift. I’d better cling on in case that turns out to be true.

June 11, 1892

A party from the Ogden ranch arrived this morning, led by their eldest son, Zachary. I had seen him once or twice before. It’s impossible to deny he cut an impressive figure on his white stallion, riding proud and tall up to our barn. I would be more impressed if I didn’t know the pittance he was offering for our cattle. I watched Pop and my brothers ride out into the field to meet them, spying from my bedroom window. This was the perch from which I observed all comings and goings. Pop never told me himself, but I think he wants the weakling out of sight when conducting business.

Perhaps he’s right. Imagine my brittle frame hoisted up onto a ratty old steed, me hacking my lungs out while big, important deals are conducted. Not that Pop’s much of a negotiator in the best of times. He means well, but decades of ranching have beaten him down, and he’s not the shrewd man he once was. And do my brothers help pick up the slack? Budd is barely aware of what’s going on around him, and Clarence is desperate to escape to college and city life.

No, if I had to bet, I’d say Ogden has eyes on the ranch itself. It’ll be a sad, sorry day if that deal goes through. Fortunately, I doubt I’ll be around to see it.

June 15, 1892

It took a little cajoling, but I convinced Budd and Clarence to teach me how to ride. They hoisted me up onto a calm, gentle horse (really, little more than a pony) and led me on a trot around the field. For a few minutes it felt as if an earthquake was rattling through my bones, but I held on tight and soon enough managed a decent balance. Just as they were about to lead me back home, I urged my horse on and sent it galloping through the yellow grass, the wind whipping past my face and making me feel more alive than I have in a long time. We were trotting at most, but for the briefest moment it felt like we were free.

Too soon, Budd rode up to collect me - perhaps all freedom is fleeting. He gave me a glare as he led my steed back to the barn, but I couldn’t stop grinning. I’d felt something new and wonderful. Yet it brings me a twinge of melancholy. How many more wonderful things will I never experience for myself?

June 16, 1892

A bad day. Little energy to write, but I will try to make do. Lots of pain, long coughing fits. My lungs are not cooperating. I fear Clarence is starting to catch on - I can no longer conceal the worst of it. Fortunately we had little time to talk, as the household was concerned with bigger matters.

Zach Ogden, continues to be a thorn in Pop’s side. He and his posse rode out to us again. His eyes were wild as he berated Pop, saying our damned stinking cattle weren’t worth a poo poo. He screamed that half of them had dropped dead before reaching the Ogden ranch. Whether or not this is true, I have no clue. Possibly they drove the cows too hard, or Zachary is just spinning tales to drive our land price even lower.

My great manly brothers stood by during this shameful display and did not say a word. They didn’t even need to be held back when Zach spat at Pop’s feet. I could do nothing but watch from my bedroom window and burn - from fury and fever alike.

June 18, 1892

Months ago, on a trip into town, I met the gaze of a beautiful young woman with brown eyes and long, dark hair. We shared a little smile, not the sort of patronizing, pitying smiles I receive too often, but a little greeting, a secret moment we both shared. Back at the ranch, I told Clarence about the woman in private. He laughed big and loud, and told me this woman’s name was Marie. He said that she was a woman of ill repute.

At this point in my life, I care little for reputes, ill or otherwise. I have much more interest in those wide, brown eyes and the smile that fluttered beneath them. So, once everyone was in bed, I made my way to the stables, led my little horse out into the field, and stole off to town.

When I first hobbled inside the brothel, there she was, lounging across a couch with that glorious black hair tied in a long braid. Her alabaster skin held an amber glow in the lamplight. I stuttered through my request, and she gave me that smile once more before leading me away by the hand.

Later, we sat side by side on the balcony, breathing in the cool night air. Neither of us said a word, or had to. If I could choose one moment in which to linger forever, this might be it. But too soon it was over, as everything must be, and I rode home alone.

June 21, 1892

It’s been a quiet few days in the life of a lunger. My muscles are weak, my skin ashy and coated in a thin layer of sweat. When I woke in the middle of the night to see our barn burning, I thought it was a vision brought on by the fever. The blaze stained the sky a hellish orange. The shrieks of the horses sent a chill through me. I peered down through my window at the chaos and saw that white steed I knew all too well standing in the middle of the field, its rider holding a torch and grinning with triumph.

In the morning, Pop was shaken, worse than I’d ever seen him, and my brothers could hardly say a word. I shouted at them, asked them over and over what they were going to do, but Clarence only scowled and told me not to be stupid. I couldn’t look at them any longer. I limped back to my deathbed. When we allow men like Zachary Ogden to do as they please, what kind of world do we expect to live in?

June 24, 1892

A rare good day, without too much pain. Seeing as my good days are numbered, I feel I should seize the opportunity while I can.

Hello, Pop. Hello, Clarence and Budd. I’ve slid this diary under Pop’s door, so that you will know the full truth of these last days. I apologize for taking the horse.

Remember the day I mentioned before, when we traded with the Indians? I kept the derringer you gave me, Pop. A petite little thing. Perhaps you thought my arm would snap if I fired a full-size weapon. Maybe you were right, but the gesture stuck with me all the same. You’ll be happy to know I intend to make good use of your gift. It will achieve what your best efforts could not.

I will be riding to the saloon to meet with Zach Ogden. He doesn’t yet know of our appointment, but I hope he will take pity on a feeble lunger and lend me his ear for a moment. I will give him something to listen to.

If all goes as it should tonight, you and I will not meet again unless the Lord sees it fit. In the meantime, I hope you three will find your courage. Perhaps you can use mine when I am done with it.

With love eternally,
Isaiah Shafer

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015





Better This Way
1498 words

Lately, I’d become quite practised at saying goodbye and, quite frankly, I could do it quite well now. I could enter into a conversation with someone, the very last conversation I’d ever have with them actually, and evenly lay out my diagnosis, my prognosis, what arrangements I’d made for my family, and what plans I had for the little time left. I’ve guided many bleary, red eyes through this terrible conversation, they were the eyes of neighbours, colleagues, kinsfolk, and others whom I was obliged to inform. I’d do it such that they weren’t burdened with extra tears. They’d know that my wife and two sons would be provided for, and that I was being as strong for them as they were being for me. I’d end these conversations with my conscience clear by letting these people know how much our relationship had meant to me, if it did, what qualities I’d valued in them, if any, and how they’d affected my life for the better, if I could say so honestly. Then, and only then, could I part ways knowing that I’d done right by the traditions of anyone, whether those of my old country or those of America. The only uncertain claim I felt compelled to make was that I was personally coping well with the situation. In truth, though it seemed right to say, I really didn’t know.

Eventually I moved myself into a hospice, to live out my remainder in a strange place among strange people. I wouldn’t taint my home with my passing. I had worked many hours for many years to make my home a decent place. In the old country I was reasonably well-educated but here that meant nothing and, at first, I had to make-do with the work that a man with no credentials and limited English could find. It took time to eke out the technical certificates required for better work, and that long interim was mired in hard hours worked diligently at cut-rate wages at unwelcoming places. No work is inherently without its particular dignities but, at times, certain owners robbed certain employees of these dignities; to them we were faceless, interchangeable parts made less human and more alien by barriers of language, custom and appearance, and we would stomach what little they'd give us. Those were the bad years, and my home was a living assemblage of as many good years as bad years. I wouldn’t abuse the spirit of it by dying there. My wife preferred that I stay, but I couldn't shake the vision of disintegrating in the bed we dutifully shared for many years, years happy and sad, knowing full well that, at best, I’d eventually barely be kept sedate by heavy doses of morphine. A withering death. I knew our home was as much hers as it was mine, she’d given many years to greenhouses and tree nurseries to help provide for it, but this vision was too disturbing for me. I’d been called firm before, perhaps even stuck-in-my-ways, but for once I had to be wholly unreasonable to get my way. I regret being so stubborn but, please understand, it seemed better this way.

I wished that God would’ve seen fit to time my illness better, to at least delay what couldn’t be circumvented. My two sons suspended their university studies to come visit me. They were the supreme blessings of my life whose mere births had heralded the start of my home’s good years. They sparked creativity in me to seek brighter horizons, as much for myself as for them, and I was bettered by their presence in my life. As they matured, I was delighted that they sought even brighter horizons for themselves by pursuing academic studies. That path would be hard enough for them already, without having my burdens placed on them. We too, would soon have our Last Conversation... to say what needed to be said while there was still time. We would surly speak again, if time allowed, but never again in this manner, with this gravity.

Unfortunately, all my practice at Good-byes had failed me. When finally confronted with my sons, I couldn’t move beyond pleasantries. I shrunk before the task. I only spoke of the trivial, of the comforts of my room, of the colour of my bed-sheets, of the quality of the meals, of the dispositions of the staff. I was being shy with my own sons. I wasted precious time on trifles. As visiting hours ended, I’d managed to say nothing of substance despite believing I was prepared to. Fatigue had come upon me quickly, as it was wont to do these days, I quietly reasoned, and perhaps that’s why I behaved as I did. Perhaps the morphine was to blame. I’d surely do better tomorrow. As my sons prepared to leave, my eldest informed me that my wife was taking this time to rest at home and she’d visit sometime next morning. My youngest left his device on the night-stand, a device loaded with a wide array of audio-books selected for me. On top of his device, however, was a letter. I didn’t notice it immediately, but after my sons left I hurried to read it.

In the span of a few paragraphs my sons had done what I could not. They said good-bye, eloquently and with feeling. The penmanship was not theirs, and it was strange to see them write so fluently in a language they’d gradually abandoned for English, but the sentiments were surely theirs. They apologized for being so indirect, but they knew I could be guarded with feelings, and that I might become as evasive with them as I was with neighbours and colleagues, who I only informed of my condition once the subject became inescapable. They promised to do me proud.

And so I was now confronted with exactly what I didn’t want to admit, with what I was soon to lose permanently, and why I couldn’t honestly tell others that I was coping well, because I truly wasn’t. I was only avoiding a crushing truth, one no man could cope with: I would never see my sons become men.

I knew I could be reserved with feelings. I never communicated as well I wished either, because my sons and I were raised in different worlds. A barrier of custom and language created a clumsiness between us, but I believed that time would mend this gap. The most apt description of fatherhood I’d ever seen wasn’t a saying from my own father, or his father, but a line from an American film, from my sons’ world, where a man addressed his father thus: “...You did what you're supposed to do! Because you brought me into this world! And from that day you owed me everything you could ever do for me just like I will owe my son if I ever have another!” I believed someday we'd share this attitude, united in common experience, when my sons would become fathers themselves. I'd completely understand their feelings and they'd completely understand mine. We would commune in silent but knowing harmony, our inward worlds resonating alike, as equals. This, I knew, would never happen now.

I finally recognized the letter’s penmanship and I knew it was my wife’s, albeit untypically shaky. She must’ve translated their sentiments into eloquent prose. By God, I hadn’t even begun to tell her how I felt. I'm surely hard-headed. I’d focused so exclusively on her material needs that I hadn’t considered her other wants. It was always so with us, it’d been so long since we had last set aside time for ourselves. With our children’s departure from the nest so imminent, and the growth of my business finally allowing me to delegate, I thought the rediscovery of our intimacy was just within reach, and that there was time to rekindle our flame... but it wouldn't be so now. I only wish I’d been more affectionate in the years we did have, but we two were brought up in a world that preferred a polite distance between man and wife, where declarations of adoration were reserved for marriage ceremonies. In my zeal to create a tidy life, I’d only given her dirty hands and a bent-over back. It's not fair. She would be the curator of my memory now, it’s hers to decide what would, and what wouldn’t, taint our home. Perhaps I should have stayed there.

I can never truly know if my decisions in life were the right ones, perhaps they were mere extensions of my own eccentricities, but I must stand by them now, as I must soon leave this world in a manner appropriate to my demeanour. I’ve relinquished this letter to a nurse who will make it available when the time comes. If I ultimately never found the resolve to say what must be said, in-person, I'll make it clear here:

I love you all so much

Good-bye

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022





Dead Man’s Jazz
879 Words

It’s the here and now, and I am getting ready. I’m getting all the guns I could find. Big ones, small ones. I’m packing heat, cold, and lukewarm. Hell, I even brought a few knives for good measure. I’m determined to finish things. It’s the here and now, and I am preparing for the last day of my life.

I think back to ten years ago. I had been discharged in the army, so I decided to join a mercenary group. That’s how I found the Adders, a group not bound by the government, or any government. It was there I was introduced to him.

“You must be Joe? I’m Sam Juda. A pleasure to meet you.”

I think back to a year after that. Me and Sam got into a number of jobs with the Adders, and while we weren’t necessarily the best of friends, we both knew we had each other’s asses. On one excursion, we just so happened to meet a certain young woman, who just finished being a girl. Due to circumstances from said excursion, it was obvious that we couldn’t just ask her to come home, so we took her with us.

“What’s your name, lass?” I asked.

“Julie…” she said, obviously scared out of her wits.

Throughout the next few years, Julie would train with the Adders, developing into quite the assassin herself. She would get to know both me and Sam, and we would both fall in love with her. There was one day that Julie made her choice. She chose to be with me. We were in love, so we made love.

I think back to two years ago, when the Triad attacked the Adders. Many of us were killed in the attack, including (or so I thought) Julie. I would later find out it was Sam who sold us out.

I think back to a year ago. I started working a few odd jobs around the city, mostly involving killing. I worked with a few partners, and they were the kind of people I considered family.

I think back to a few weeks ago. Julie would come back into my life. I honestly thought she was dead, so I was relieved she was there. While we reminisced, Julie told me that sam rose up the ranks of the Triad and became their leader. Later that night, we reminisced on a more personal level.

We were in love, so we made love.

Unfortunately, some triad members came and shot us down. Julie died for real that time, while I remained somewhat unscathed, or so I thought. Turns out, I later learned that a bullet was lodged into me in a way that it would eventually kill me, but if it gets taken out, it will kill me soon after. When I was told this information, I knew what had to be done.

Present day. I finished driving up to the Triad Headquarters. Found it funny that they became powerful enough that their headquarters was wide in the open. I could see part of the reason why, because as soon as I walked in, there were some metal detectors up front. As soon as I went through a detector, I was stopped by a security guard.

“Excuse me sir, I need you to remove your metal items,” he said. I showed what I was carrying. Every last part.

“Holy gently caress!”

I started unloading. Sure, my aim wasn’t what it was back when I was with the Adders, but for punks like these, it was enough. Sure, they got a few hits on me, but I had a certain destination I had to go to, and I didn’t have time to just lay down and die. I gun my way to the elevator, and press the button to the top floor.

As I headed up the Triad Elevator, I prepared for a fight by hiding to the side of the door. Sure enough, as soon as the door opened, guns were firing. I got out of the elevator, and quickly knocked down a Triad guard.

“Where’s Sam?” I asked him.

“Down the end of the hall, to the left!”

I quickly went in that direction, gunning anyone standing in my way.

When I went through the fancy looking door at the end, I noticed a desk with a chair. I went over to the chair and turned it around. It was empty. I then felt a gun at the back of my head.

“I was wondering when you were going to show up.” Sure enough, it was Sam.

“Well, I did have a blast trying to get here.”

“I honestly thought my men killed you, along with Julie.”

“Well, you know what they say, hard to kill a man who fucks.” We both laugh.

“I know drat well why you are here, and it isn’t for some witty banter, '' Sam said. He started to pick up his gun. I do the same.

“Then let’s get this over with.”

“Yes, let’s.”

We both fire our guns at each other.

Sam falls to the ground.

Soon after, so do I.

As I laid dying, I couldn’t help but feel satisfied. Before I rested my eyes, one thought came to my mind.

Julie…I’ll be there soon.

JetSetGo
Jan 1, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022

Sacrifice on the Glory Road
1274 words

I’ve been hauling rear end for the past 60 miles and there’s another 15 miles left to go. I push down on the accelerator as hard as I can, praying that pushing down harder would somehow make a difference. How could I have been so stupid? I let my guard down, thinking this was going to be a simple pick up. There are never simple pickups. I was warned that from day one. I grimace every second, feeling the bullet lodged in my abdomen. In the Wastes there are always vultures scavenging. I was unlucky this one was well armed. I feel a rush of blood from my side. A cascade of warm and wet on dirty clothing. I feel weak. My seatbelt keeps me upright. This loving sucks.

At 100 miles-an-hour time and space gets kinda funny. The world is rocketing past you like in the old-world cartoons. It’s all a blur. But when staring straight ahead it’s like I see everything in slow motion. I feel the car floating. The only time I’m reminded I’m not flying is when I need to steer. I feel the car twitch quickly and violently. The sudden movements remind me of the fragile control I have over the moment. If it wasn’t for the absolutely brutal pain and bleeding I was experiencing this would be the thrill of my life. The car’s V6 engine does all in its power to haul maximum rear end but it can only do so much. Worse yet, if vultures catch whiff of me there won’t be much I could do but try and out run them. Every second matters, though. I do my best to stay focused on the moment and not let doubt take over.

I try my best to remember why I’m doing this. In the trunk was someone’s last hope: rare penicillin. Just having a moving car was enough of a casus belli to have thirsty scavengers gently caress with me, but the thought of desert goons wasting precious medical supplies because they were too ignorant to know what they were would be too painful a thought to manage. If I’m going to eat this bullet, at least let there be a point to it. Otherwise, if it’s all the same I’d just like to go back home. Back to my wife Roxanne, the only bright spot in an otherwise lovely world. If there was anything I was fighting for most of all, it’s to see her face again. Better yet, for her to see me again but this time as a hero.

I knew taking this job meant risking my life but this was the first time I actually found myself in genuine risk. I once felt strong with the 9-millimeter handgun by my side, but in this moment, I realize I was woefully under-powered. I only have one hour before night-fall and that’s when things get even worse. I’ll need to depend on my headlights to see anything, let alone whatever is creeping in the darkness. I may as well attach a bull-horn to the roof and scream HERE I AM, gently caress WITH ME.

My mind drifts too long as I catch myself being lit up by headlamps following my tail. The only words I could summon in the moment: “Sweet and sour chicken balls. gently caress. gently caress! gently caress!” I had gotten lucky driving this long under their nose, but it was far too much to hope I could reach home clean. The lights started small but they grew bigger and brighter. It’s clear they’re gunning for me. No one else was kicking up such a big dust trail. Fortunately for me, it looks like they’re driving two lovely rust buckets. So long as I can keep pace, I should be ok. Besides, there is no going back.

I feel powerful slam from behind me. My car jolts forward but I can hear it straining from the impact. Not good. I can’t see what the drivers look like but by the tell of their driving I could guess what they wanted: to pillage whatever their filthy-rear end hands could take. I had my gun inside the middle console but turning to shoot proved to be too painful. I was barely in control of driving as is, turning to blind fire felt impossible. Still, I couldn’t just take the hits. They had to know I meant business, too. I slam the brakes to let them past forward, then leaned hard onto the left to slam onto the oncoming vehicle, aiming for their tail in hopes of forcing them to spin out. Instead, we slide the sides of our cars together, ripping off both our side mirrors. I try to use the momentum of my car to force my opponent off the road but I quickly then feel another slam my other side. The second driver entered the fight.

Focusing became a challenge as I try to swallow my pain as if that would actually do anything. I wasn’t quite sure yet which was worse: the prospect of letting the village down or the intense throbbing and hemorrhaging occurring at my side. Failure meant death, and the only thing keeping me alive was the violent sense of speed trying to tear the car apart and whatever sense of honor I felt cognizant enough to credit myself. I had to complete this run. Doing this would finally go a long way to proving myself and my place within the village. This was my test.

I can see the village coming over the horizon, but I cannot shake the vultures. If I get close enough to the village, I can hope the border guards can take their shots at them. I summon what strength I have and reach for my gun, firing a desperation shot from the passenger-side window. The shots shatter both our windows, glass flying everywhere. I do what I can to shield my eyes with my gun hand while keeping the other hand on the wheel. I try to turn to fire toward the driver side but the now out of control right-side rust bucket slams into my tail, forcing me into a spin out. At 100-miles-per-hour, the car begins to flip violently and shreds into pieces and it continues to roll.

My consciousness fades until I slam into a barricade. Hard. The whole moment becomes a slow-fast blur. I can see myself ripped from seat, going face first going face first into the windshield, the collision itself a blank-out-moment before I can feel the hard thud onto the ground, hitting my jaw on the ground and my head rebounding backward. Everything finally settles into a moment where I lay motionless. I can see home. It’s right there. I can’t feel my body but every instinct is screaming crawl. Push. Anything. I’m not sure if my limbs are moving but I do what I can to shuffle my mass forward. Things become a blur again.

I feel my body being dragged. I’m powerless to do anything but be dead weight. I’m so tired and thirsty. I feel weirdly hungry but my stomach feels full. I feel quick moments of pain before going totally numb. I hear yelling but can’t tell what they are saying. I look up and see her face. I want to touch her face but all I can do is smile. I see her silhouette lean closer to me. “Stay with me!” I think she says things are going to be alright. The last thought I remember having was hoping they found the penicillin in the trunk. If I died, I hoped at least my sacrifice meant something.

Tars Tarkas
Apr 13, 2003


The Dance
1497 words

As the light receded and darkness won, the mayfly searched for a safe space to molt into his final form. The excitement of finally being able to perform the Dance almost eclipsed all other thoughts. Three bright lights glowed by the lake, a large rectangle between two smaller squares. That was not the watching moon, but these lights were attractive. The warmth that accompanied them was the big draw that drew him close.

The mayfly subimago flew into the larger rectangle of light. It was a cave! There were plenty of extrusions and dark cervices to hide and molt, keeping him safe from those that stalk in the dark until the light returned outside. After a bit of search, he found the perfect spot behind some large cylinders and set to work emerging as an adult.

The mayfly's mind was being reformed, thoughts of pond life faded to distant memories. Now the urge to perform the Dance was paramount. His body metamorphosed, the wings stronger, the legs longer, the genitals paired and activated. Very activated, it was as if they were issuing the commands to Dance. His whole being was bathed in the urge.

The imago form burst through his subimago’s exoskeleton as the mayfly left his immature stages behind. He was fully realized and knew that after the next light faded he would be no more. All that mattered now was the Dance. It began at first light, the mayfly stayed put to keep safe, positioned to admire the night stars from one of the square cave openings. He never had a good look at them in his years in the pond, going that close to the surface was dangerous.

Shortly before light broke, sounds of a giant rumbled as it stomped through the cave, its deep voiced boomed out as it harvested the bounty that lay inside. It had a form of bioluminescence that flashed around the cave as it stomped. There was a large slam, and the pounding steps grew softer as it returned back the outside, towards the lake. The mayfly chanced a look, and saw to his puzzlement the largest entryway to the cave had disappeared. Perhaps the giant had dislodged rock slide. The two smaller square entrances remained, and through the one he spied through he saw the glow that preceded the breaking of the light. It was time to get ready for the Dance!

He flapped his mature wings, pausing to appreciate the boost in power. The increase in speed and lift would be amazing! He could not hold back and took off, circling the interior of the cave a few times as he grew comfortable with his new body. One pass knocked over a colorful rectangular container that was lighter than it looked, it tumbled to the floor, spilling its contents, brightly colored triangles. They smelled full of complex nutrition that he would have loved as a nymph had the triangles landed in the pond. Now with no functional mouth, they were just curiosities. There was no time to investigate, all he required was the Dance. He headed out one of the two smaller exits.

What is this? Something refused to let the mayfly pass through! Some sort of invisible barrier was keeping him inside. He tried again and again.

No...

No.

NO!

This cannot be! He must perform the Dance!

The mayfly doubled, tripled, hundred-folded his efforts. The barrier would not yield. The lake remained tantalizingly in sight but out of reach. He saw the first Dancers arriving and starting their moves. The mayfly tried the other small exit only to find a barrier there as well. The mayfly was stunned, he did not know what to do. All he wanted, all he lived for was the Dance. He saw the promised land, but could not enter it.

The mayfly landed on a high shelf and surveyed the cave. There were multiple ledges at regular intervals, each packed with mysterious items the giant rummaged through. The far wall had more items hung in a display. Perhaps this was a worship temple, instead of the Dance in public, the giants would Dance in private. The mayfly did not want to anger the gods the giants Danced for, perhaps that was why the barriers formed.

His perch allowed him to see outside the closest portal. The lake was beautiful in the light, but not as beautiful as what he could see of the Dance happening above it. Untold numbers of mayflies engaged in a complex display, living their brief adult life to the fullest in hopes of attracting the highest quality of mates.

Maybe the way out is open! He tried again, but was still prevented from exiting towards the lake. The other square opening continued to be barred by the barrier too. The mayfly traced the outline of the entrance, looking for any weak spot he could fly through.

Exhausted, he landed at the bottom of a square entrance. There, he recoiled at a grisly sight. Dozens of bodies, a few insects he recognized and many he did not. Worst of all was two other mayfly corpses, long dried up. All trapped forever in this cave for all eternity. It was a trap, and he fell for it.

Without any other recourse, the mayfly mindlessly did the Dance by himself, a lone production mirroring the countless swarm happening just outside. As he flew up, down, left, right, forward, back, he saw moves performed by some of the Dancers that he began to mimic too. Soon he had swirls, loops, and all sorts of flourishes. He couldn't be in the big Dance, but he was doing his own solo production. Perhaps that would be enough tribute, he may not find a partner but may still attain salvation.

After a few hours he was on another break. The light outside was beginning to fade. The Dance was still ongoing, but the numbers were dwindling. He surveyed the cave again before it got too dark.

The triangles were moving!

That demanded a closer look. He flew lower to inspect. They weren't moving by themselves, there was something else down there. A lot of somethings. Innumerable tiny insects! The mayfly saw they were working together to move, dismantle, and collect the triangles. In a sense, they were doing a Dance of their own.

The mayfly watched them work, fascinated by creatures both similar but so different. He was so absorbed it took him a while to realize the insects had to have come from somewhere. THEY COULD GET OUT OF THIS CAVE!

The mayfly darted to action, swooping down low and buzzing the tiny insects. They remained focused on their work. They were formed in a line, as if they were directing the solution for the mayfly. He followed to a crack in the corner that they were marching through. It was small. Maybe too small.

The mayfly hustled into a gap in their Dance line and squeezed in. He did not want to disrupt their Dance, instead becoming part of it. What mayfly could claim to be part of so many Dances? He got to the crack, but his wings were too tall! He could not fit. The tiny insect behind him paused, bewildered, antennae wiggling. He was disrupting their Dance. He had to hurry, he had to get through. The mayfly leaned so he was almost horizontal, a move from his own Dance, and squeezed to get through. It was failure, he was stuck. He could not risk hurting his wings, so he did the only thing he had left, he pushed through and ripped off two legs.

The pain exploded in his head, overloading all the other senses. But he was free! He was out of the cave! He wobbled a few steps, his four remaining legs barely strong enough to hold up his body. The pain began to fade as he spread his wings and took off! He whizzed to join the Dance. Joy of his newfound freedom caused an exuberance to his moves, he flew corkscrews, loops, even a triangle pattern to celebrate his release. He also flew the moves he instinctively knew - exact, precise, and deliberate. The mayfly had already switched through multiple patterns when the female grabbed him. Mating occurs in the air, and the mayfly had attracted one of the few remaining females. It was magical, and it was the only thing holding his body together.

After that brief moment of triumph, the mayfly irregularly descended near the shoreline. His energy was drained. He crawled under a large bush as the light dimmed. He watched the Dance dwindle with fewer and fewer participants. There would be a new Dance next year, with a new generation of mayflies. A few years later, the children he sired tonight would participate in their own Dance. The mayfly left the world just before the light did, staring at the stars, wondering if they would watch his children Dance.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Happy Birthday to Me (1,220 words)

“That’s not true! You’re lying! Liar!”

Maddie maintained her quiet composure. Her little brother, pointing, wide-eyed and trembling, made this difficult. She took a deep breath.

“No, no,” she said, “It’s all right here.” She pointed at the page of an open book. The curl of a smile almost betrayed her.

Sam climbed up one of the wooden stools that encircled the kitchen counter. Maddie had been studying, her books and notes strewn across its surface. Sam followed her finger to a large diagram: a skeleton wearing the body of a man. There were boxes as well, filled with letters, linked by arrows to various parts. Sam furrowed his brow. He knew enough to know these were letters, but not enough to discern their meaning.

“The human body replaces itself every seven years,” Maddie explained, her finger tapping at one of the boxes. “Sorry Sam, but tonight’s the night.”

Sam stared at the box, the diagram, trying to make sense of it. Another, smaller image showed a close-up of the skin. [Cells] were mentioned, whatever they were. He saw the number [7] accompanied by [years].

“But, but my birthday’s tomorrow!”

“Sorry little buddy.” Maddie stopped to swallow, her voice cracking. “That’s just the way… the way that it is.” She was holding back tears.

“But, but!” Sam turned from the book to his sister, and saw the emotion welling in her eyes. He, too, felt the urge to cry, though not (as he thought) for quite the same reason. “But mom and dad! They just went out! They said, they said… they would buy me something!”

“Of course they did.” Maddie glanced to the side. “They’re finding…your replacement! Don’t you remember?”

Sam’s gaze stretched past his sister, into the distance. A previous dinner, a mere week prior, floated and formed within his brain. Their parents had been smiling. “Get ready for another little brother,” they told them. He’d been noticing his mother’s tummy getting larger. She ate when she was stressed; she’d said so herself!

But the stress of replacing one’s own child, to Sam, paled in comparison to being replaced.

“I…I…” He began to cry. “I don’t wanna die!” He fled the room.

Up the stairs, across the landing, he rushed to his room and clutched at the bed. “I don’t wanna die!” He repeated the mantra, his eyes damp with tears, his nose damp with snot. The comforter failed to quell his laments. He reached for a friend. On his bed were assembled a selection of allies, stalwart defenders against the unknown. He grabbed at two, a stuffed tiger and bear, and held them close. His crying subsided.

“What…what am I supposed to do!?” He looked to his stuffed companions for answers. Neither the bear nor the tiger responded. “I don’t wanna die…I don’t wanna die.”

Suddenly, a thought. His body seized up, a solemn sobriety in his face. He only had a few hours left…and he’d almost forgot! He placed the animals on either side of him, his head bowed, hands together. He struggled to remember the all-important words.

“Now I lay me…down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul…to keep! If I…should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

He nodded in affirmation, then collapsed, his formerly serious expression melting into one of morose disappointment. The here-after was covered, but what of today?

Seven years. He gripped the carpet, brow furrowed. “That’s not long at all!” For a while he lay there, sullen and quiet, contemplating the finality of his feeling existence. “I don’t even remember the early parts…”

Speaking the words seem to stir something in him. His eyebrows unknit. He sat up abruptly.

“I didn’t even get to do anything!”

He looked around his room. Here and there were tasks half-finished. Chores undone, homework incomplete, but also games unplayed, and books unread. He looked to the clock: it was [5:14]. He had only had around seven hours till the end; four, when he remembered his bedtime.

“Forget that!” He declared, arms up. “No sleep!” He wobbled to his feet and looked about the room. Piles of clothes, a scattering of toys. “Me Number Two can clean this up,” he decided, arms crossed. He looked to his schoolwork. It was nothing so complicated, he didn’t imagine, that his mother or sister couldn’t help them out later. He gathered the materials and put them at his desk. “He can do this, too!”

He considered the book he’d been reading with his father. He picked it up and counted the pages. One, two, three… too many! He tossed it aside. There was no finishing any of these book in one night.

There were toys, of course, and games as well. Most of these he’d hoped to play with friends, but it seemed he wouldn’t be seeing them again. He wished he could’ve given some of them away, to deserving parties, but he supposed his replacement would want them too. There was only one thing to do, then. He bent over and fished out his Gameboy. They weren’t allowed to play games before homework was done, but it wasn’t his homework. Not anymore. Climbing up onto the bed, he turned on the device. Here was a task! He’d reached the final dungeon with all his equipment. Only the Emperor of Evil remained.

Sam sat cross-legged, his head bowed, hands together. He concentrated on the boss, remembering a weakness communicated by a friend. An hour, then two, and the deed was done. [Congratulations] the screen informed him. He’d saved the world.

Sam fell back onto his bed, arms spread. The ceiling fan rotated slowly above. He began to feel sad again. He hadn’t done much, but at least he was a hero. He glanced to the desk where he’d stacked all his work.

“He can do it,” he said, and turned away. He wrapped the comforter like a cape ‘round his body. Then, he hesitated. He looked back at his work. The new him would be here tomorrow, but would he have time to do it before class? Sam had saved the world just now, and nobody knew it but him. He’d be gone tomorrow, and the only thing his replacement would know about him was how much work he’d left behind.

Sam lay in silence a few minutes more, then rose to his feet and approached the desk.

***

“Maddie? Sam? We’re home!”

“Oy,” said Maddie from the kitchen, “Welcome back!” She was chewing on some pretzels, her study nearly done.

In walked the parents, well-dressed but tired. Their father was lugging a box in his arms. “Where’s Sam?” he asked, setting it aside.

“Ohhhh…” Maddie hesitated. With a guilty side-glance, she regarded the clock. “He’s…asleep! Upstairs. I put him to bed.” She hadn’t heard anything downstairs at least.

Climbing the stairs, their mother was initially displeased to see the light on, but her whole mood changed when looked into his room. There, at the desk, the boy was sleeping, his head bowed, hands together. It seemed he’d been working on school work. She made a note to question Maddie after. She lifted him up and put him to bed.

“Happy birthday, Sam.” She kissed him on the cheek. The sleeping boy smiled and the lights went out.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Concealed by Leaves
1499 words

If, by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame and he will succeed in his calling.

Just after waking up I became aware of my impending death, which would occur later that day. It was an unusual and not-unpleasant sensation, to be so clearly and exactly apprised of the time of my demise. I held onto the new certainty, inspected it from all angles. It seemed a good thought, well founded and convincing in all respects. I couldn’t say how I knew, just that I did.

It was a cold blustery day outside, the sort that existed to make you pull your coat around you and cut short any errands, and the few clouds were sparse and swift moving. I looked out my window at a particular cloud that was hovering over by the harbour entrance, tattered and torn by the wind. I pulled up my duvet against the impression of cold that cloud gave me.

I wondered briefly if I was mad, but discarded the thought, at least for now; not being a mental health professional I was in no position to judge. I simply knew, with utter conviction, that I was going to die at 5:26 PM. A little more than a regular working day away.

That reminded me and I reached down for my phone, which had fallen off the bed last night, to call my manager Tony and say why I wouldn’t be in. He was surprisingly relaxed about it.

“Sure, mate, you get well, see you in a day or two.”

I guessed he hadn’t heard me. “I’m going to die this afternoon, so probably not.”

He laughed and said, “I know the feeling! Alright, talk to you later, I’ll let the team know.”

The phone, without his call, was just a slab of black glass. I looked at it, seeing it for what felt like the first time. My face looked back: sleep-bleared and tousled, but otherwise normal. I tested the certainty inside me another time, found it as rock-ribbed and resolute as before.

“I am going for a walk,” I said, out loud. I didn’t know who I was saying it for, but it seemed to help because the next thing I was particularly aware of was the click of the lock behind me and the bite of the cool, rough wind on my skin. I turned right and started walking, jinking across the road to take the path down into the park. I was breathing louder than usual, and took the opportunity to note the shape and texture of the air as it came in my nose, out my mouth. I’d been doing that for years, I realised, just an astonishing number of breaths in and out.

The path down from my house is narrow and winding, and when it rains the water floods across it, cutting channels in the mucky clay. I was half way down the path when a particular channel caught my eye. The Council had dumped a mound of gravel beside it. I went to step over it, then paused, foot outstretched.

On the one hand, I only had nine hours to live. On the other hand, it would be awful if someone slipped and hurt their hands, or scraped their knees on the path. I knelt down and pushed a handful of gravel into the clay depression, then another. My pants were getting dirty but it wasn’t like I was going to have to wash them.

Ten minutes later I was walking through the gates at the bottom of the park. “CENTRAL PARK,” they said. “1913”. I supposed I could have one of those signs on myself. The street was dotted with morning walkers and I mentally hung a sign round the neck of each one, substituting “?” for the date. There was a bus stop with a bus waiting, doors open, so I clambered up, swiped my card, and sat down beside an old guy in a gaudy woollen hat.

The hat seemed to be an abstract attempt at an animal, perhaps a muskrat or dolphin, rendered in an entire grab bag full of multicoloured woollen offcuts. “That is an extraordinary hat,” I said, after a while.

He turned his head, lowering it a bit so I could see the top. “I’m learning to knit, I have a rule about wearing the results.” The top of the hat had a hole in it.

“Why the hole?” I asked, after a moment.

“It’s really hard to close it up.” He smiled at me in a way that communicated that we’d had a nice interaction, between strangers, and should leave it at that, then turned back to look out the window.

I pushed the bell for the next stop, and said “good luck with the holes,” to which he raised two fingers in benediction and hopped off.

As it happened, I was not far from my mum’s house so I set off towards it. At first I walked fast, then wondered why, so I slowed down. Each time my foot hit the ground it made a slapping sort of noise and I found myself enjoying the vibrations that travelled up my legs, echoes of the sound of the slapping foot on the concrete.

Mum was just having tea, so I joined her. She was in her eighties but spry enough, hobbling around getting me milk and sugar, waving off my offers to do it for her. We drank tea and talked about the weather, which we agreed wasn’t great, but wasn’t bad either. After a while conversation slowed and I checked my phone; seven hours to go.

“Would you do anything different? If you had your time again?”

I’d always liked how she thought about things, and I enjoyed watching her think about this one.

“I always wanted to be a newsreader, like on the telly,” she said, at last. “I think I’d have been good at that.”

I waited for her to go on, but she didn’t.

Some while later I was on a street in town. I’d helped my mum with some jobs, and looked at some birds, and climbed a hill, and talked to my ex-girlfriend (went badly), and walked a long way. I’d been breathing, and listening, and not thinking about very much.

A homeless man was sitting down on a piece of cardboard so I squatted down beside him with my back to the wall.

“Hey,” I said.

He nodded to me in a dignified way.

“This is an odd question, but is there anything you think you wish you hadn’t done? Anything you wish you had done? I’m dying in a couple of hours,” I said.

The man’s expression was unchanged for a long time, and I thought he hadn’t heard me. A few construction workers walked past in orange vests, one of them throwing a coin into the hat in front of us.

At last, he shook his head. “Nah, mate.”

I thought on that for a bit, then nodded and stood up. I had a folded fifty dollar note in my wallet which I offered him but he held up his hand in a ‘no charge for that’ way and I put it away.

I picked a direction with the wind at my back and started walking. Not long to go, now.

The road led to a hill, and the hill led to a steeper hill, and at the top of the hill with a few minutes left on the clock was a tower, some kind of radio mast with red and white lights blinking into the gathering gloom, perched on a hill overlooking the harbour. It had started raining gently halfway up and everything was covered in a fine wet mist.

I looked up at the mast, and the red and white lights, blinking away the moisture. It would be very fine to climb that, I thought. Very satisfying. I grasped the steel, pulled myself up.

It was an invigorating climb, and the city, its lights beginning to sparkle in the evening dusk, was beautiful when I looked behind me. Then I missed a handhold, and my other hand slipped on the wet painted steel, and I was falling.

They talk about your past flashing before your eyes when you die, but it's really your future, the one you thought you might have had but were wrong about.

And, yet, as the ground came up beneath me, I lived an eternity of me that amounted to nothing more than the Earth's final, absolute embrace, and I was content.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Goodbye
1210 words


On her last day on earth, Meredith stalked across her city, en route to finally tell Sam all the things that she regretted not saying, before it was too late. Blue-green meteors streaked across the sky. Meredith wondered where they were hitting, and shuddered. She had her earbuds in, a song she had thought would match her mood. But at the violin refrain tears began to prick her eyes, and she yanked the buds from her ears in a fit of irritation. No crying, she told herself. Meredith turned her face to the south, and let the cold, salt-scented wind scrub her eyes dry. Then she turned, and resumed her march up the hill.

The city’s white weatherboard houses glowed pale green in the sickly light. Most were empty. Meredith hadn’t seen the point of leaving. It wasn’t like you could evacuate to somewhere safe. She passed the yard of a student flat. The long grass was strewn with empties. Music thumped from behind curtained windows and she could smell the weed even from the street. Her nose wrinkled. What a way to waste your final hours, she thought. Though, there are stupider ways to wait for the end of the world.

Like traipsing halfway up a stupidly big hill to see your stupid ex.

Meredith stopped, hands on hips, to catch her breath. She’d walked up the side of Mt Victoria all the time when she and Sam had lived there together. God, she hadn’t seen him in what, six months? It had really hurt, the fact he’d stayed in their old house. I can cover the rent by myself, he’d told her. Why should I move out?

How about because you’re a lying affair-having bastard so you should be the one to gently caress off and find somewhere else to live? But of course Meredith hadn’t said that. She’d barely sworn at him at all. He had a way of turning her willpower to dust, even as he hurt her.

Meredith resumed her stomp up the hill, pissed off at herself all over again.

So why are you going to see him? her inner monologue said.

gently caress off, thought Meredith.

She wanted Sam’s arms around her. Now, at the end of the world, she wanted to press her face into his neck and have him hold her tight, like he used to. Who cared about all the things she wished she’d said to him? They could stay unsaid, as long as she was with him at the end.

Meredith thought about what her closest friend Sara would have said, if she could see her puffing her way up the deserted road, raincoat flapping in the wind. Sara would have given her a laser-eyed stare so powerful it would have brought on the apocalypse early. But Sara was gone. She’d “evacuated,” with her dog and her two kids. When Meredith had asked where she was going Sara had gone very quiet. I can’t just bear the waiting, she’d said.

A crushed beer can sailed over the high wooden fence, bounced off Meredith’s shoulder and clattered into the gutter, leaving a streak of foam on her raincoat. “Ow!” She yanked open the gate and glared at Sam, who was sitting on a lawn chair with a box of Steinlagers by his knee.

“What are you doing?” Meredith said. Her heart hammered. Sam. He looked just the same, if unshaven. Bare feet poked out from his faded jeans. She wanted very badly to touch him. She suddenly saw herself taking three strides across the lawn and slapping him with all her might. Meredith blinked. She was still standing in the gateway, frozen.

“I didn’t know you were there,” said Sam. He fished around in the Steinlager box, found it empty, and tossed it across the lawn in disgust. “What are you doing?”

“I came to say--” Meredith stopped. She’d nearly said, ‘goodbye.’ Another meteor shower flashed through the sky above their old house. A tremor ran through the ground, and Meredith’s legs felt weak. She gripped the gatepost and bit the inside of her cheek. No crying.

“Hey, Mere…” Sam stood up, took one step towards her. Stopped, swayed a little. “Do you want to come in?”

Yes, thought Meredith. And then, god he’s drunk. But it wasn’t like she’d never seen Sam drunk before. Heck, getting pissed together had been their main pastime, in the early days. Meredith had just grown out of it a little faster than he had.

I just need to keep moving, Sara had said, as she’d forced the door of her Toyota hatchback down over the kids’ suitcases and the dog’s cage. But that was Sara to a T. Action woman. You can’t let fate make you a passenger, she’d said to Meredith one night, when they were getting stoned in the park at the end of Sara’s street. But Meredith wasn’t like Sara. Stuff giving the finger to fate, Meredith couldn’t even stand up to Sam.

It was getting dark. Black clouds rolled in over Mt Vic and hid the meteor streaks and the small, red sun. The southerly wind juddered along the street, kicking Sam’s discarded can and making it rattle in the gutter. Fear prickled the back of Meredith’s neck.

She watched Sam’s broad-shouldered frame disappear down the familiar entrance corridor, the red-painted front door left open for her behind him. She was afraid to go inside. She could feel the endlessly rehearsed arguments welling up inside her, the words waiting to burst out like pus from a wound. Do it! she willed herself. Tell him what you really think, for once.

Or maybe she’d just cave the moment he touched her, climb into bed with him, and spend her last hours on earth getting drunkenly hosed.

Isn’t that what you walked all the way up this big-rear end hill for? said her inner monologue, in Sara’s nastiest tone of voice.

No! Meredith turned and looked out over the view of the harbour that she loved so much. Far below she could see the waves crashing against the city’s seawalls. A section of Oriental Parade crumbled into the bay, and the ground shook again.

Then what do you want?

“Mere?” Sam was back, standing in the open doorway. “Are you--”

Meredith shoved herself away from the gatepost like a boat snapping free from its mooring. She turned and ran. Her breath came in great sobs and tears began to roll down her cheeks. She heard Sam shouting after her but his words were whipped away by the wind. Her coat billowed behind her and she held her arms out wide for balance. She cut through shortcuts between the houses, took the cracked steps three at a time. The steep slope hurled her forward, down and down into her city, leaving Sam far behind her.

Meredith opened her mouth and screamed, and the wind howled with her. Then the heavens came unmoored, and the stars rained down upon the earth.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

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



‘Til Death Do Us Join 1202 words

“What was that about?”

“Must’ve been a false alarm,” I say. It was not a false alarm. What it was, was we were going to die, and it was going to happen in the next day or so. The oxygen was shut off, and it would be for at least the rest of the weekend. I switch the warning off anyway.

I check the monitors again. Not sure what I expect to find that would matter. I guess I was still technically on the clock but at this point, what were they going to do? Dock my pay?

“Hey,” says Carrie. I turn around. “I’m just going to have a quick look myself, all right?”

No, don’t. I shrug. “Go for it.” I can’t even explain to myself why I don’t want her to. Well, not entirely true. I hate seeing worry on her face. Would it be creepy to tell her that? It’d be a bit creepy. Good thing I didn’t tell her that, just lied to her face about the fact that we were going to die, instead. Probably a good thing I was going to die, since she’d probably never talk to me again after this. I take out my phone and start playing a game to drown out the voice of my self-loathing. At least we still have power and internet.

“Hey,” says Carrie again. She’s back already. I love how efficient she is, which is a weird, even creepy thing to love about someone, and also not really important under the circumstances.

“Hey.”

“Oxygen’s out.”

“Oh.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

I shrug. “Didn’t want to worry you, since we can’t do anything about it anyway.”

She raises an eyebrow. “I think I would’ve been worried when I started choking to death.”

“Is that how it works? I thought it might be more peaceful.”

She shrugs. “I don’t know.” She sits back down. “What’re you playing?”

“You’re not mad at me?”

She shrugs. “I guess I get it. It’s dumb, trying to protect me from worry, but I guess you don’t know how I would react.”

It’s true, I didn’t know how she’d react. For example, I was certain that she’d hate me forever – or for the next few hours or however long it was until we died – for lying to her face and for being the person she had to spend her last hours with. Which is still possible, maybe she’s just hiding it very well. She was usually very level-headed about things, which is another thing I love about her, although maybe my brain is just inventing things to love about her at this point.

“What are you playing?” she asks again.

“Hmm? Oh!” I forgot about the phone. I show it to her. “It’s kind of a puzzle game. Just something to take my mind off. I can show you how it works if you want a go.”

“Sure, why not?” she says. “I know we’re technically on the clock, but I won’t tell the bosses if you don’t.”

I chuckle and show her the game. How to move the pieces into position, what to match up. “Yeah, all right,” she says. “Think I’m getting the hang of it.” She plays and I watch over her shoulder, making sure not to quite touch her shoulder, even though I really want to. It’d be inappropriate workplace behaviour or something. I mean, we were already friends before we worked together, but it’s nothing more than that, she isn’t interested in me that way. I haven’t explicitly asked her if she is, but it’s obvious she is too professional to ever date someone she worked with, anyway. Even if we’ve known each other forever.

“Alan?”

“Oh, sorry, mind wandered.”

She chuckles. She has the cutest laugh. “Just thinking about the situation we’re in, I guess?”

“Something like that.” Yep. Just the impending death. Definitely not thinking of how much I want to hug her right now, and tell her everything’s going to be all right, even though it’s not, and even though she doesn’t look at all worried. She’s too amazing to be worried. All right, my brain is definitely finding some weird reasons to crush on her right now. “I wonder if we should call our loved ones or whatever.”

She shakes her head. “My parents died a few years ago. I’ll let the company spread the word to everyone else I know. How about you?”

This is it. I’m going to say the dumbest thing possible. I mean what’s the worst that can happen if I tell her how I feel? “The person I care about most knows already.”

She frowns, and I realise that the worst that can happen is what is definitely about to happen, which is that she doesn’t ever want to see or hear me again, which is very awkward since we’re stuck together for the rest of our lives. I mean, we can probably get about twenty metres away from each other, max. “Oh, did you call someone while I was checking?”

All right, I guess I was a bit ambiguous, which also means I’ve still got a chance to get out of this without embarrassing myself. But… I shake my head. “No,” I say. And it’s a dumb thing to say but I’m already here, so I say, “I mean you.” And because I’m just that dumb, and if I fill the air with more words she won’t be able to get a word in to say that she doesn’t care about me at all and actually she’s glad I’m dying, which would be pretty rough since we were already quite good friends before we worked together, but at the moment it makes sense that that’s what she might be thinking given what an idiot I’m being, I say, “The person I care about most is you. Which is very bad timing I know, and I’m sorry. I don’t know why I bothered you with this. You probably would’ve been better off not knowing.” And I have more things to say but she interrupts me by kissing me. “Oh,” I say. “Does this mean…” and I can’t finish the sentence and I really want her to answer the question I have not asked.

And she’s crying a bit, which I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. “Your timing sucks,” she says, which in retrospect is true, it really does.

“Sorry,” I say again, and I decide to test if the kiss was a one-time thing or if I can go for a second one. She kisses me back, and she cries, and I hold her, and I tell her everything’s going to be all right.

“No, it’s not,” she says, and we’re crying, but also smiling, and we don’t move from each other’s arms.

We do move after a bit, because if we’re going to die in each other’s arms, which is definitely what’s going to happen, we’re going to do it somewhere more comfortable, like the break room couch. She falls asleep before me, and I don’t try to wake her, because I hope that I was right, and that it’s peaceful.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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



Entries are closed.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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



TD 505 RESULTS: The Prompt Is Just A Place To Hang Your Head

This was an interesting week to judge: generally competent entries that often lacked zing, or didn't click with a particular judge because of personal reasons. The reader is, as always, your worst enemy. That said, consensus has been reached and judgment shall be rendered.

Your winner, by unanimous decision, was Yoruichi's "Goodbye", a piece that kept it sharp and focused in a week that often wandered! Good stuff.

Honorable Mentions go to Ceighk's "The Remainder" and JetSetGo's "Sacrifice on the Glory Road," where we each had some quibbles but generally found the writing solid and enjoyable.

No DMs this week -- it was a mixed bag, but the judges agreed that even the weaker end of the center brought some stuff to the table.

The loss goes to The man called M's "Dead Man's Jazz", which fell into some of the common traps of the week (excess exposition) and some novel traps of its own. Keep working and keep fighting, M, but... this one wasn't great.

On the whole, this was a solid, high-effort week, and I sincerely appreciate you all working with me on a challenging prompt. Throne's yours, Yoru!

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.



Crits for Week 505: The Prompt Is Just A Place To Hang Your Head

Derp - the plane was on time - For the purposes of this crit, I’m going to ignore the fact that there are no paragraph breaks. I personally hate this and would rather scrape my eyes out with a grapefruit spoon than read (or write) a story like this, but if this is a style you’re trying to cultivate, the least I can do is meet you where you are with my critique.

That said, I actually think your story flows well, and I think the way the decisions you made with your prose support that feeling of relentless inevitability you were trying to create. There were only two spots for me where the flow broke down: One was on the line “She continued on the path that she had set for herself and she packed her bags and talked excitedly to friends…” and the other was “The Uber driver hefted her luggage into the trunk and they chatted about the helpless panic they both always felt during takeoff…” Both of those felt like pauses rather than the continuations of previous thoughts, which didn’t mesh with the pace of the prose. Adding a few words to create a smoother sense of transition would help in both of those places.

Prose aside, where this story falls apart for me is why your character is content to go along with the flow when they genuinely believe it will lead to their death. You tell us that she’s overcome by this sense of inevitability, but you never explain why she’s so nonchalant about dying. She’s got a dog, she’s excited about showing off her Japanese, she likes shopping: she’s got things to live for! So why is she down with dying? It would make more sense if she doubted her own premonition, or she believed it wholeheartedly but she’d already decided she didn’t want to be alive, but all you have here is a person who has a premonition about their own death and responds with: “Guess I’ll die.” If you want me to believe that, you need to give me more to go on, because it doesn’t work for me as it stands.

Ceighk - The Remainder - I loved the pieces of out of this story. It reminded me of The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin (https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/the-cold-equations/), which is an old favorite of mine. Your characterizations of all the cast members were great, and all of their actions and fears felt realistic based on what we know of them. My only minor complaint is that the ending felt a little rushed, like you realized you ran out of word-count and just needed to finish it up. I think the protagonist’s decision is fine, since you set up their fascination with Jupiter’s storms, and you also set up that Lewandowski wanted to feel the breeze again, but I think I want a little more from Kingsley. We know he’s ready to go because there’s no transmission left to decode, but I still want some sense of catharsis for him. Jumping into Jupiter’s clouds doesn’t feel as satisfying for him as it does for the other two, who wanted to be outside/with Jupiter. Honestly, I’m a little surprised Kingsley didn’t kill himself the second he heard the decoded transmission, but that’s getting into the territory of me telling you to write the story the way I’d write it. I can’t help it, though: I like this story too much and I want you to perfect it!

Uranium Phoenix - A Historical Primer On Chir Vah’s “The Last Requiem,” Performed in Year 219 of the Sunbreaker War - Telling a story through the guise of a historical text is a difficult thing to pull off, since the tone can veer too far into dry detachment if you’re not careful. The first third of your story falls into this trap, but once you start talking about the Requiem, it becomes a much stronger piece. By the end, I liked the story quite a bit, but I can’t get past that textbook-dull start. I suggest you reread this and ask yourself how much of that introductory information is really necessary, because the answer is “a lot less than you wrote.”

Vinny Possum - Patriarch - This is a competent piece. The world-building is solid but not overwhelming, the characters are relatable without straying too far into stock territory, and the scenario is realistic but still has a unique flavor. There wasn’t any one single aspect that grabbed me as being exceptional, but I think that’s down to personal taste. I hesitate to crit it too heavily because what you have here works well enough that it might be the perfect story for someone else just as it is. See what the other judges have to say!

AllNewJonasSalk - That One Michael Jackson Pepsi Campaign - Would this story work better if I knew the Pepsi campaign? I don’t know, but right now, it’s not working for me. I’m not even sure it’s on prompt because the impending death is so nebulous that it doesn’t feel urgent. If he had an expected date and time of death, his decisions might feel more meaningful, but right now it’s just a story about a sloppy guy who holds up a store and shouts about Pepsi. On the plus side, you’ve got a distinct voice and it comes through in this piece. I just wish the prompt element was stronger, because that lack of urgency is killing the story.

Nikaer Drekin - From the Diary of Isaiah Shafer - I saw the end coming from a mile away but I was still glad that it shook out the way it did. Isaiah’s actions make sense, as do the actions of the other characters in the story, and the plot flows nicely from entry to entry. Not the most surprising or original piece I’ve ever read, but I’m not mad I read it.

Hard counter - Better This Way - Another ailing patriarch story, huh? I think you’ve got the bones of a good piece here, but I would have liked to see some of these beefier paragraphs blocked out into scenes, specifically when the sons come to the hospital. You gloss over their visit with the same detached telling style you used to describe the protagonist’s frustrations with the technical certification process (a paragraph you didn’t really need), so their final meeting came and went without much impact. I want to see this meeting up close, to really feel the awkwardness and the regret and the sadness in the room. Don’t sell this story short by taking a bird’s eye view approach to deeply buried emotions.

The Man Called M - Dead Man’s Jazz - The main thing that jumps out to me about this story is how torn I feel about the ‘I think back to’ conceit. The repetition gives the story a more poetic feel, and it’s fun to see your technique evolving in real time, but at the end of the day 50% of your story is a guy standing around and thinking. As for the other 50%, well, let’s just say the dialogue wasn’t your best. Hokey action dialogue is surprisingly hard to nail, and you’re probably going to have write a lot of it before you get stuff that consistently works. First piece of advice: try reading your lines aloud, specifically this one: “I know drat well why you are here, and it isn’t for some witty banter.” Does this really feel like something anyone would say in any situation? If it doesn’t (hint: it doesn’t), ask yourself what does?

JetSetGo - Sacrifice on the Glory Road - Ooh, another good one. It’s Mad Max down to its bones, but your story has everything it needs to succeed. The plot has goals/stakes/urgency, the protagonist has people and places he cares about, the characters and the story are shaped by the setting, and you clearly executed on the prompt. Your prose was really strong too, with the exception of a couple dud lines. The one dud that stuck out to me: “Otherwise, if it’s all the same I’d just like to go back home. Back to my wife Roxanne, the only bright spot in an otherwise lovely world.” In a visceral story, this bit sticks out for its lack of grounding details. Why is his wife the only bright spot in an otherwise lovely world? Are there any traits that make her special? What can you reveal about her that makes her come alive in the reader’s mind so that we feel her value as deeply as the protagonist does?

Tars Tarkas - The Dance - Another competent piece that ultimately didn’t move me. I think this piece could have benefitted from being shorter, since the mayfly’s simplistic viewpoint wears thin as the story goes on. Having said that, other judges may feel differently, so this is another piece where I don’t want to crit too heavily on what may just be my personal taste.

Bad Seafood - Happy Birthday to Me - Haha, Maddie is such a fucker. I liked the conceit of the story and I think you executed pretty well. The biggest issue I had was that the perspective flipped around a bit too much in the opening before settling on Sam, so I wasn’t sure who’s story it was at first. If you have questions about where this occurs, hit me up in Discord and we can do a line-by-line together. As for your self-assessment in TD chat, yeah, I actually do think you hit the tone and the voice you wanted, but that’s just my read. A parent of an actual child might be able to offer you some more useful feedback on child voice, since everything I know about how kids sound is either filtered through the voices of adult writers or my own memories, both of which are rife with contrived bullshit!

Goodbye - Yoruichi - Another strong story. The imagery was lovely and I understood Meredith’s dilemma. I also liked how you used the memories of her friend Sara as a kind of angel on her shoulder, contrasting her desires with her guilt. If I have a crit, I think it’s just that I want a little more of your vivid imagery at the end, because it’s one of the finest points of the story and I really want to slow down and savor that cathartic final moment with the visuals you’ve created.

Chairchucker - ’Til Death Do Us Join - You’ve got the beginnings of a solid story here, but I think it needs a little work. First, I know not everybody goes through the whole DABDA-grief paradigm in the same order, but both of these people whipped around to acceptance really really fast. This could work if you set the story a few hours/days after they’ve had time to process their grief, but the whole thing falls apart when you start the story with them getting the bad news. That aside, I think your character work was nice and it was a sweet story with the happiest ending you can get where everybody dies. Overall, I liked it, even if the opening isn’t realistic.

Sebmojo - Concealed By Leaves - well, I read this one. Then I forgot about it, forgot to crit it, and had to be reminded it existed when the other judges came calling. It’s not bad, really, but it plays the same game some of the other stories do where thee impending death may or may not be entirely in the protagonist’s head. To me, that’s not in the spirit of the prompt, but it does make this story a little more interesting. If you were to revise this, I’d say play up the ambiguity a little more and leave us questioning whether this guy is having legitimate premonitions or a mental breakdown. But that’s just me!

Vinny Possum
Sep 21, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER


Could I get a link to the discord?

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



Vinny Possum posted:

Could I get a link to the discord?

https://discord.gg/JgyUPgpw

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




:siren: Thunderdome Week 506: Surrealism :siren:

Prompt: Surrealism

FAQs:
Q) But, what--?
A) Surrealism

Word limit: 900

Deadlines: 8pm Saturday and Monday, NZ time

Judges with melted clocks for heads:
- Me
-
-

Entrants:
1. Chairchucker
2. Thranguy
3. My Shark Waifuu
4. AllNewJonasSalk
5. sebmojo
6. JetSetGo
7. Idle Amalgam
8. The man called M
9. Bad Seafood
10. derp
11. Nae
12. Mrenda
13. SurreptitiousMuffin
14. Tyrannosaurus
15. hard counter

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 06:46 on Apr 16, 2022

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

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



In I guess

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




A fish.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





I'm in!

AllNewJonasSalk
Apr 22, 2017

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I’m in like like a bad case of eyeball herpes.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







In

JetSetGo
Jan 1, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022

What the hell why not, I'm in.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022





I got something stupid in mind.

In.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




OR, you could write something not stupid? Just a suggestion.

Anway, let's take a look at this:

Dead Man’s Jazz
879 Words

It’s the here and now, and I am getting ready. This is a crap first sentence. Saying things like "it's the here and now" is a waste of words. Be specific, for example: "It's Christmas Eve and I am strapping on my gun holster." See how this immediately gets the reader interested? I’m getting all the guns I could Tense shift AAAARRGH. This should be "I'm getting all the guns I can find" OR "I was getting all the guns I could find." The latter is better - past tense is the 'standard' story telling tense, only write in present if you're doing so deliberately find. Big ones, small ones. I’m packing heat, cold, and lukewarm. This is a terrible joke. Wtf is a lukewarm gun? Hell, I even brought a few knives for good measure. The way you've used "hell" here is good, in that it helps me imagine what sort of person your protagonist is. I’m determined to finish things. It’s the here and now, and I am preparing for the last day of my life.

I think back to ten years ago. Oh noooo a long and pointless flashback. I had been discharged in the army, so I decided to join a mercenary group. That’s how I found the Adders, a group not bound by the government, or any government. It was there I was introduced to him. There are so many pointless words here. It's flash fiction, you need to get to the point as quickly as possible. This whole backstory could be one line.

“You must be Joe? I’m Sam Juda. A pleasure to meet you.” This is an incredibly boring line.

I think back to a year after that. Me and Sam got into a number of jobs with the Adders, and while we weren’t necessarily the best of friends, we both knew we had each other’s asses. On one excursion, we just so happened to meet a certain young woman, who just finished being a girl. This is a fairly unpleasant way to talk about a young woman. Now, if you mean to give the impression that your protagonist is a misogynist, or perhaps just holds very outdated views about women, then good, but is this what you intended? I don't think so. Due to circumstances from said excursion, it was obvious that we couldn’t just ask her to come home, so we took her with us. This sentence doesn't quite make sense - you couldn't ask her to come home, so you took her with you?

“What’s your name, lass?” I asked. What sort of person says "lass"?

“Julie…” she said, obviously scared out of her wits. No, bad. If you want your reader to know that a character is scared, then describe what that looks like. Perhaps she is shaking, clenching her hands, maybe crying?

Throughout the next few years, Julie would train with the Adders, developing into quite the assassin herself. She would get to know both me and Sam, and we would both fall in love with her. There was one day that Julie made her choice. She chose to be with me. STOP WRITING AS IF YOU ARE SUMMARISING THE PLOT OF A MOVIE. We were in love, so we made love. I hate this line.

I think back to two years ago, when the Triad attacked the Adders. Many of us were killed in the attack, including (or so I thought) Julie. I would later find out it was Sam who sold us out.

I think back to a year ago. The repetition of "I think back to [time period we're now flashing back to]" is really tedious to read. I started working a few odd jobs around the city, mostly involving killing. I worked with a few partners, and they were the kind of people I considered family.

I think back to a few weeks ago. Julie would come back into my life. I honestly thought she was dead, so I was relieved This is the weakest possible emotion for someone to feel upon discovering their lover is alive. Is this deliberate? Is your protagonist the sort of man who doesn't experience strong feelings?? she was there. While we reminisced, Julie told me that sam rose up the ranks of the Triad and became their leader. Later that night, we reminisced on a more personal level.

We were in love, so we made love. I can't believe you put this poo poo in twice.

Unfortunately, some triad members came and shot us down. Julie died for real that time, Did the protagonist feel any feelings about this? while I remained somewhat unscathed, or so I thought. Turns out, I later learned that a bullet was lodged into me in a way that it would eventually kill me, but if it gets taken out, it will kill me soon after. When I was told this information, I knew what had to be done.

Present day. FINALLY. Finally we are at the start of the loving story. Look at all the words above this. All of them could be deleted. I'm serious. Sure, if you started reading from here you might wonder a bit about how the protagonist got here, but it is a much more interesting reading experience. I finished driving up to the Triad Headquarters. Found it funny that they became powerful enough that their headquarters was wide in the open. I could see part of the reason why, because as soon as I walked in, there were some metal detectors up front. As soon as I went through a detector, I was stopped by a security guard.

“Excuse me sir, I need you to remove your metal items,” he said. I showed what I was carrying. Every last part.

“Holy gently caress!”

I started unloading. Sure, my aim wasn’t what it was back when I was with the Adders, but for punks like these, it was enough. Sure, they got a few hits on me, but I had a certain destination I had to go to, and I didn’t have time to just lay down and die. I gun my way to the elevator, and press the button to the top floor.

As I headed up the Triad Elevator, I prepared for a fight by hiding to the side of the door. Sure enough, as soon as the door opened, guns were firing. I got out of the elevator, and quickly knocked down a Triad guard. This is still quite, "and then I, and then I, and then..." but it is an improvement on your previous fight scenes, in that you are actually describing some action.

“Where’s Sam?” I asked him.

“Down the end of the hall, to the left!”

I quickly went in that direction, gunning anyone standing in my way.

When I went through the fancy looking door at the end, I noticed a desk with a chair. I went over to the chair and turned it around. It was empty. I then felt a gun at the back of my head.

“I was wondering when you were going to show up.” Sure enough, it was Sam.

“Well, I did have a blast trying to get here.”

“I honestly thought my men killed you, along with Julie.”

“Well, you know what they say, hard to kill a man who fucks.” We both laugh. Ok, this line is terrible, but it is also good, because you are finally starting to show us some character. Who says something like, "it's hard to kill a man who fucks"? A dickhead, that's who. And who laughs at that joke? His dickhead friend. So, now we know something about these two dudes, and we can start to feel interested in whether one is going to kill the other.

“I know drat well why you are here, and it isn’t for some witty banter, '' Sam said. He started to pick up his gun. I do the same. Christ almighty with the tense shifts. This should be, "He picked up his gun. I did the same" OR "He picks up his gun. I do the same." Honestly you should really just stick with past tense. It still reads like things are happening in the present, and is just easier to write and read.

“Then let’s get this over with.”

“Yes, let’s.” BORING

We both fire our guns at each other.

Sam falls to the ground. You need to insert here how the protagonist feels about finally achieving his revenge.

Soon after, so do I.

As I laid dying, I couldn’t help but feel satisfied. Before I rested my eyes, one thought came to my mind.

Julie…I’ll be there soon. I like the fact this ended on a sweet note.

This story is very bad. The first half is all interminable flashback which reads like a movie synopsis, and the second half is very clunky. BUT, I do think this is your best story so far, because imo this one gets the closest to having a clear character who has some personality and a clear goal and motivation. The protagonist is a no-emotions assassin guy, who fell in love once, but then the woman he loved was killed because his friend betrayed them, so he went hunting for revenge. That is clichéd, but that's ok. Your prose is terse and not very good, but the clipped style does at least match the personality of the protagonist.

For your next story I'd encourage you to really focus on your main character. Describe them. What do they look like? What things do they like and dislike? Show the reader how your protagonist feels in response to whatever happens in the story as much as possible. It would probably help to try writing in third person instead of first so you can concentrate on bringing your character to life.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


In.

Ceighk
May 27, 2013

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022




Week 505 crits
Picked some stories that interested me to crit them, focussing primarily on style.

Dead Man’s Jazz - man called m
Honestly, the first paragraph here kinda slaps. Real sense of voice: I love the sort of tough guy affirmations your narrator is doing, stringing together cool sounding nonsense in a way that sounds tongue in cheek but without pushing it to the point of being totally ridiculous. I can just hear an old timey noir radio guy or an 80s Stallone impersonator saying this through gritted teeth.

There are moments later on where the voice comes back, but in general you do lose it when you’re depicting action. It’s hard to get the balance between making action clear and giving it a voice, and erring on the side of clarity as you do here is definitely not a bad idea, but I do miss the personality that came through early on. There are also a few stylistic clangers, like when you start three sentences with ‘Sure,’ in very close succession. Do you ever read your writing back to yourself out loud? I find it can help with picking up stuff like that.

Anyway if you want to write like this you should maybe try reading James Ellroy.

Better This Way - hard counter
The first thing that strikes me about this stylistically is that it is wordy. I don’t mean that it uses long sentences or complex language - there’s an old school literary quality here that works, so that’s fine. But there are a whole lot of words that could be removed without affecting the meaning. A sentence like ‘The only uncertain claim I felt compelled to make was that I was personally coping well with the situation’ is like 90% waffle.

What is interesting here is that this does actually jive with the theme of the writer being unable to express himself without resorting to pleasantries, but I’m a bit unclear about how this is meant to function. Based on the ending, it seems like we’re meant to see this letter as a final success at telling his family how he feels - if this is the intent, the waffle seems at odds with that. Though it does point towards an interesting conflict: perhaps the writer is aware of his tendency to waffle and is trying, but struggling, to overcome it. However there is no real signpost to the reader that this is something you are consciously playing with and they should be paying attention to.

It’s the same with the twist that the whole thing is a letter, presumably to his family, despite the fact he writes about them in third person. It does kind of make sense that this guy would use that as a strategy to say what he couldn’t say otherwise, but I’d have loved if that was drawn attention to so it could be explored and didn’t just seem like an oversight.

Final note on style: if you’re gonna write sentences this long, more punctuation other than commas and full stops could really help the rhythm and clarity of your prose.

the plane was on time - derp
Yeah this is good. The lack of paragraph breaks here does a few things you wouldn’t be able to do if you’d used them, as does starting so many sentences with connectives. There’s a real plunging sense of inevitability here, of being caught up in a process - both a physical movement and a thought process - and being powerless or unwilling to divert it. There’s a sense that if there was ever a pause the spell would break, but there isn’t so it doesn’t. It also allows for this gradated movement from one topic or mood to another: if you broke it up it would feel like ‘this is the character’s love for Japan’, ‘this is (separately) the character walking through the airport’. This way the two blur together and can’t be disentangled.

Reminds me a lot of Krasznahorkai - now I think about it isn’t there a bit of War and War in an airport? - but not in the sense that it’s derivative, just a similar feeling of a torrent of words rushing past you.

The Dance - Tars Tarkas
Doing this sort of subjective 3rd person perspective for a creature with - we presume - radically alien subjectivity is always going to be a question of compromise: the challenge is to get the right balance between something that sort of approximates how such a creature would ‘think’ and something that is both legible as a story and beautiful to human ears.

You have clearly thought about how to achieve that, but as it is it never quite pops. You acknowledge that there are things about the world that a mayfly would not understand, but in describing them you rely on language that is so literal and matter of fact that it doesn’t create the impression of a non-human perspective. Look at this sentence: ‘There were multiple ledges at regular intervals, each packed with mysterious items the giant rummaged through’. You’re avoiding using certain concepts because the mayfly wouldn’t understand them, but almost every concept you invoke instead - giants, items, regularity - feel very human.

Elsewhere, the perspective slips away altogether. A sentence like ‘The imago form burst through his subimago’s exoskeleton as the mayfly left his immature stages behind’ is entirely in a scientific register. This feels like the way an entomologist would describe a mayfly, not the way a mayfly would conceive of itself.

I’m not saying you should avoid human concepts altogether - obviously that’s impossible, so it’s a question of compromise. But if you’re going to make the story harder to understand in order to represent a non-human consciousness, you have to do more than replace one set of human concepts with another, less obvious one. If anything I think a perspective that was more stylised, more clearly a poetic impression of the creature’s consciousness rather than an attempt to represent it directly, might work better.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again



Lipstick Apathy

oh yeah, in. but i'm writing a poem, deal with it

Tars Tarkas
Apr 13, 2003


Hey, can I get a discord invite too? The one higher on this page is no longer valid

thanks

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.



I actually got an idea, count me In.

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Have you ever come back home after a long while out of town and found all the furniture rearranged and the apartment is full of new roommates? All the cupboards are nearly bare and where we used to keep the tea is now nothing but lentils!

I'm at a loss for words.

No, that's a lie, I have lots and lots of words and precious little time to vent them.

I am challenging Nae to a brawl!

Anyone of you louts can judge, but here are my terms: The focus of this brawl will be the 3rd person omniscient. The deadline for this brawl must fall after May 21st.

The judge may embellish beyond that, but don't you dare come at us with some weak sauce. Lentils are bland enough as is.

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Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.



Weltlich posted:

I am challenging Nae to a brawl!

Anyone of you louts can judge, but here are my terms: The focus of this brawl will be the 3rd person omniscient. The deadline for this brawl must fall after May 21st.

The judge may embellish beyond that, but don't you dare come at us with some weak sauce. Lentils are bland enough as is.

I accept your challenge and I agree that I need lots of time because I am inexplicably really busy, so a post May 21st end date is my jam!

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