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Ceighk
May 27, 2013

No Hospital Gang, boy
You know that shit a case close
Want him dead, bust his head
All I do is say, "Go"
Drop a opp, drop a thot
Eeny-meeny-miny-mo

Yoruichi posted:

Swamp youkai


Carl and the Swamp Creature
1172 words

We open to League of Legends gameplay footage projected over the interior of SWAMP CREATURE'S HOVEL, which is otherwise in darkness. Slowly, enough of the lights come up that we can make out our characters. The SWAMP CREATURE sits at a desktop PC while CARL is awkwardly using a laptop on a threadbare couch. They move their mice and press buttons. The projection makes everything look underwater.

WOMAN'S VOICE (Offstage; tinny, as if a voicemail): Hey Carl. Look, I'm sorry, I'm at my mum's and I'm going to stay there for a while. It's not you. I mean it's, well, it's not anything you did. Don't be too hard on yourself, yeah, look, I'm sorry and I wish, I don't know, I'm just sorry. I didn't want to... Yeah. We can talk about this later, but not right now. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. poo poo.

SFX: Click, dial tone.

Beat.


CARL (voiceover): After Cassie left, I started hanging out with a swamp creature.

Eventually, the projection resolves into a single word: DEFEAT. The lights come up to reveal the kitchen/living room of an old-fashioned cottage, except made out of mud and cluttered with nerd ephemera - Warhammer, anime statues, cheap ceramic dragons.

CARL (gets up, stretches, then sits back down): Want to order pizza?

SWAMP CREATURE: If you want.

CARL: What do you usually get?

SWAMP CREATURE: Usually I just open my mouth and see if a rat falls in. But you can order pizza. (It opens its mouth and looks at the ceiling. Nothing happens. Eventually it gives up.) There should be some menus on the table.

Carl gets up and starts leafing through a pile of papers on the kitchen table, all soaked in dirty water. Eventually he manages to peel off a takeaway menu. The Swamp Creature has not looked away from its screen.

CARL: They deliver out here?

SWAMP CREATURE: Usually. There's a landline in the corner.

Carl disappears to the back of the room and makes the phone call. When he comes back he is acting agitated. He paces around the room, looking at the Swamp Creature's anime figures. They seem to disgust him. He looks at the Swamp Creature, who is clicking around on a forum.

CARL: Hey look man, I actually think I'm just gonna go. I should get out of your way. Thanks for having me and everything but yeah you know I've been going through a rough patch what with everything so this is really what I needed. But I'm gonna go.

SWAMP CREATURE: I thought you ordered pizza.

CARL: I did yeah I did order pizza but you can have it if you want.

SWAMP CREATURE: Okay.

CARL: When it arrives. Yeah. (Gestures at the front door:) So it's just this one?

SWAMP CREATURE: Yeah.

CARL: Okay. Okay. See you then. Thanks for everything man. See you.

SWAMP CREATURE: Bye.

Carl opens the front door. A horrendous torrent of brown water surges through the doorway. Carl stares at it for a second then forces the door shut with great effort.

CARL (catching his breath): Sorry man I think I got swamp all over your floor and poo poo.

SWAMP CREATURE: Yeah that happens sometimes.

CARL: It's really gotten everywhere. Where it's drying I guess it doesn't look any different from how it did before though. So what should I just try again?

SWAMP CREATURE: Just try and climb through it. Don't worry about the floor.

Carl opens the door and pushes out into the deluge until he can no longer be seen. After several seconds he slides back in on his belly, covered in mud.

CARL: Bro there's so much swamp sludge out there and it's so slippy and slidey that I can't get out.

SWAMP CREATURE: Huh. I can usually climb out, but maybe I find it easier because I'm a manifestation of the swamp itself.

CARL: I can't climb out I keep falling back down. When was the last time you even left this place? Now I'm covered in stinking swamp mud. I think your house is sinking into the swamp, dude. I bet in two weeks this whole place will be submerged in the swamp and there's no way anyone will find it and you'll still be here playing League of Legends at the bottom with the mudfish or whatever. God drat I need to get out of here. Sorry man you're a cool guy I mean a cool spirit and all but I just—

SWAMP CREATURE: That's okay. Even when I do leave the house I'm forever tied to this swamp so I know how it is to be trapped somewhere.

CARL: poo poo man I'm sorry I didn't mean it like that.

SWAMP CREATURE: Like what?

A knock at the door. Carl opens it - no water this time - and in steps a PIZZA DELIVERY GUY, clean and handsome.

PIZZA GUY (placing a pizza box on the table): We didn't have spicy vegetable so we made you a regular spicy instead.

The pizza guy exits, effortlessly striding up the slope Carl had so much trouble with. Carl stares after him and closes the door. Then he opens the pizza box and picks off a piece of pepperoni, staring at it with a forlorn expression.

CARL: I thought I was vegetarian.

SWAMP CREATURE: What? (Hearing something skittering:) Aha!

The Swamp Creature looks up, mouth open wide. This time a rat falls in, which it swallows whole.

SWAMP CREATURE: Sorry. What were you saying?

CARL: I thought I was a vegetarian, but maybe I’m not. (To the audience:) Without noticing it I’ve become something else entirely. I’m no longer who I was, perhaps not even human. Receiving this pizza is just another decision that has been made for me, though you could say that letting such things take their course is a decision in itself. (To the Swamp Creature:) Do you want any?

SWAMP CREATURE: Yeah sure. (Going to sit on the couch:) Want to watch some anime?

CARL: Okay, while we’re eating I guess. That makes sense. I’ll stay until we’ve finished one episode, then I’ll go. I have to go. But I’ll watch this episode now, just this one, as long as it’s not too intense.

The Swamp Creature takes Carl's laptop. The lights dim and the projection starts again, this time playing slightly sped up footage of a colourful magical girl show for young children. The sound is faintly audible.

They watch it in silence for two full minutes. Carl eats the pizza, intermittently looking at the Swamp Creature as if he's about to say something but each time deciding against it.

Finally:


CARL: Do you…?

Carl doesn’t finish his sentence, and the Swamp Creature doesn’t answer. It has fallen asleep. The anime continues. After a while the Swamp Creature slumps down onto Carl's shoulder. Carl is wary at first but then relaxes, shifting to get more comfortable.

The remaining lights fade. Then the projection does too, leaving only the audio in total darkness. Finally that too cuts out.

End.

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Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006
a mall, a spirit, a friend
1200 words

By the time the candle shop closed, I was twelve feet tall. My first memories were of the owner looking over his receipts, going through stacks of them, again and again. He’d always wanted to be his own boss. It was his dream. And he’d been so smart about it! He’d done his research, had compiled articles and magazines on the recession-proof, guaranteed success of mall candle shops. He found a factory overseas and signed a deal directly with them so that he’d pay more per item of merchandise but save plenty by not being a franchise. He’d convinced his wife to pull their retirement. He told his children they’d never have to worry about money after just a few years of work. And then he waited for the right retail space to be available and, sure, there was already one candle shop at the mall but it was way on the other side and it was a big mall.

But way on the other side was better. There was a coffee shop. A Jesus store. A fancy women’s clothing boutique. He was next to a Hot Topic and a Spencer’s and a K-Mart and the white Christian ladies looking to purchase the scent of Warm Vanilla Cookies chose lattes and purses over rock music and teens with dyed hair every time. On top of that, the people that shopped at K-Mart weren’t typically the kind with a budget for vanity candles. The man kept looking through his receipts and comparing them to the spreadsheet he’d made on projected earnings and then he’d check his bank account and see that it was always a little bit smaller. It ate at him. And I ate on that.

Him and the wife started fighting. She’d say, “Candles? You quit your job for candles? I can’t believe it. I can’t believe this is how we have wasted all of our money. How are we going to pay for the children’s college?”

And he’d feebly hold up his research, his frayed articles and yellowed magazines. And I grew bigger. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn't think about it. I just ate. I never considered my own existence or what I was until I met Lily.

She was a child.

She said, “Are you the Spirit of the Mall?”

I, surprised, said, “You can see me?”

I looked down and saw that she had an eyepatch. It had a horse on it. I said, “Oh. Your eye.”

She nodded. “I was doing math and the boy behind me slammed my head into my desk except my pencil got in the way. The school’s Spirit said that, technically, I had sacrificed my eye in the pursuit of knowledge so I can see Spirits now. I think she was just lonely and wanted to talk to someone.”

“Ah,” I said. “You don’t speak like a child.”

“No,” she said. “Probably because I don’t really talk to other kids anymore. They make me nervous. Are you the Spirit of the Mall?”

I hadn’t thought about it before. I said, “I suppose I am.”

She asked, “Why are you so sad?”

I hadn’t considered that I was. But, then again, that was the moment that I’d ever considered my existence at all. The more I mulled myself over, the more I realized that I was sad. And I was sad because I was parasitic and doomed. I peered into the future and saw myself taller and taller, devouring the broken hearts of failed businesses and the hopelessness of ruined lives. With every closed store and broken marriage, I’d grow. And the more I grew, the more depressive malaise I would subtly spread, driving away customers and killing more shops which only made me larger still. I saw myself sitting on the roof of the mall, my feet touching cracked, abandoned parking lots. And when at long last the entire place was finally and fully abandoned, I saw myself starving to death, shrinking, smaller, smaller…

I told everything to Lily.

She tapped her chin and, after a moment, said, “You should move to a cemetery. That’s where they put dead people. It would be okay if you make people sad there because they’re supposed to be. ”

I said, “I don’t think it works that way.”

She shrugged. “I’m not a doctor. I don’t have any depth perception. That means I can’t be a pilot, either.”

“Did you want to be a pilot?”

“No,” she said. “But I could change my mind. I hope I don’t.”

We watched her brother through a storefront window as he clumsily hit on a green-haired girl folding pop punk t-shirts. Lily tugged on my hand. “Are you afraid of dying?”

I said, “I suppose I am. At least, a little. What about you?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “I worry about it every night. Can you see my future?”

I tried but I couldn’t.

“Spirits never can,” she sighed.

I took a taste of her despair but it was… wrong. Bitter. Probably because I was the Spirit of the Mall not the Spirit of Traumatized Little Girls Suffering Through Existential Crises. Which, suddenly, I hoped didn’t actually exist.

“Wait,” I said. I’d never lied before but it was a conversation of a lot of firsts for me. “I just caught a glimpse. You are… very old. So you don’t have anything to worry about anymore.”

Really?” she said.

“Yes.”

Lily smiled. Then she cried. They were happy tears but her brother caught sight of her and rushed out of the store.

“Hey,” he said, “Hey, hey, hey. What’s wrong? What’s the matter?”

“It’s nothing,” she said. “I’m going to die when I’m really old.”

He blinked. “Well, Jesus, yeah, I hope so, Lil.”

“I’m okay,” Lily said. “You can go back to your girlfriend.”

Her brother turned red. “She’s, ha, uh, she’s not- we’re not- no, no, no. No.”

“Tell him,” I said, “that her favorite band is Queen.” I knew this because that’s what she always played when she had a closing shift.

“Your girlfriend’s favorite band is Queen,” Lily said. “You should talk to her about it.”

Her brother said, “What?”

Lily repeated herself and with such conviction that her brother, albeit confused, went back inside the store. Their conversation became animated. They both started smiling.

Lily tugged on my hand again. “Look! You don’t have to make people sad! You can make them happy, too!”

“I’m not supposed to be that kind of Spirit, though.”

“Well,” she said, “I wasn’t supposed to lose an eye.”

And I didn’t really have a response to that.

Eventually, she asked, “Do you want to be my friend?”

“Yes,” I said quickly. Realizing as the words came out that they were very much true.

“Spirits always do,” she said.

“Would you like some ice cream?” I knew from much observation that children loved ice cream. “I don’t have any money myself but I know where every single dropped coin is.”

Lily looked up at me with such wonder in her eyes. All she could say was, “You’re amazing!”

And, you know, for the first time, I kind of felt amazing.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT
Grimey Drawer

The Cut of Your Jib posted:

IN for yokai week.

thank you judge sebmojo

fumble you got me again. I doubt I can compete with the scripts or bots generating stories over there, but if you have something a non-coder can do for a few hours, I promised some effort as my penance. And you know you have a sucker here that will fall for the next prank hook, line, and sinker.

Agreed. Thanks to sebmojo for all that judging.

The Cut of Your Jib, I'm always grateful for indentured servitude a fresh perspective on the UI. Email me at my username @gmail and I'll set you up with several interminable solid minutes worth of things to check out.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022



Chili posted:

Waterfall youkai


The Ice Sword and the Waterfall of fire
887 words

A long time ago, in a far away land, there was a ruler from Azoria named Raken.

Now, Raken was quite the wicked man. He would murder people for the pettiest of crimes, and even sometimes for no reason at all! His favorite method of torture was boiling some water on the victim. The water was so hot that it burned the flesh almost instantly. It was known as the “King’s Bath”. The people of Silverbrook cowered in fear, having no idea who would be the next to die.

One day, a girl named Arturia was playing with her family. She was enjoying her playtime when some palace guards came to the house.

“Time to pay the taxes!” One of the guards replied.

“But, you aren’t supposed to come for another month!” Arturia’s father replied.

“Lord Raken wishes to have another wife, so he demands payment now.”

“I’m sorry! I’ll have it for you next week.”

“You don’t have another week! Time to take a bath!”

Arturia’s father was taken away, kicking and screaming. One week later, her mother received a letter with only these four words:

“He is now clean.”

Enraged, Arturia swore revenge. She fled to the neighboring country, and swore to master the blade.

Six years passed. Arturia has trained under the leadership of the neighboring country of Or’dah. While she lacked the power of her male compatriots, she quickly made it up in speed. On the sixth anniversary of when her father was taken away, she knew she was ready.

While her party traveled to Silverbrook, she stumbled upon a cave. Curious, she, along with a few other soldiers, went inside. At the end of the cave, she saw what appeared to be a blade made of ice! One of the knights in her group tried picking it up, but was almost instantly frozen solid. Not taking any risks, they left the cave for now.

When she returned to Silverbook along with a regiment of soldiers from Or’dah, she heard that a King’s Bath would take place the next day. This was her chance! How appropriate that she would kill Raken at a similar event that her father died?

The day of the Bath came, and everything was set up in the castle courtyard. Arturia and her men hid until the opening they needed had come. A few seconds later, there was the sound of drums, and Raken spoke.

“The gods have declared that this man needs to be cleansed of sin! May they have mercy on his soul!”

At that moment, Arturia and her men charged at the ceremony. While her men attacked the palace guards, Arturia herself went after Raken. They dueled a certain distance before Raken was standing at a certain spot. Arturia threw her sword at the rope holding the water, and it poured on Raken. True to the rumors, the water was hot enough that it burned Raken’s flesh. After he died gruesomely, Arturia climbed up to her sword and raised it in the air. She was victorious!

A year had passed. Arturia became ruler of Silverbrook. She was known to be a much kinder ruler than Raken, though such a feat was not difficult. It was then that she received word from one of her guards.

“My lady, there appears to be trouble over at Enget Falls!”

Enget Falls was a popular vacation spot close to the palace. Rich and poor enjoyed the cool waters of the falls. It was even where Raken obtained the water for his “baths”. But recently, the falls of Enget have been unnaturally hot. In fact, the waters have been hot enough that it was able to burn the flesh of man.

Remembering the ice sword from before, she asked her scholars about it. Their research happened upon rumors of a sword known as Permafrost. They also found what was thought to be lost information about the sword.

“If one were to touch the blade Permafrost, they would become one with the ice. But if one with a warm heart touches the blade, they would be able to wield it.”

With the information at hand, Arturia went over to the cave with what was believed to be Permafrost. When she reached the blade, she tried to touch it. While the blade was cold, it had no effect on her. With Permafrost in tow she went over to Enget Falls.

When she arrived and got close to the falls, she heard a very familiar voice.

Arturia! My mortal enemy!” It was Raken’s voice!

“Why do you harm the people, so?” Arturia asked.

If you are to be a woman of the people, then I shall curse the people forever!” He laughed a rather unearthly laugh. In a matter of desperation, Arturia threw Permafrost at the falls.

The sword hit the area behind the falls, and an unearthly scream was heard.

I…shall have…my vengeance!”

The sword did not freeze the falls, but it did return them to normal.

Fearing that Raken’s spirit has not been completely wiped out, Arturia left Permafrost in the falls. Legend has it that it still remains there to this day. Next to the falls, a sign reads:

“It is said that the sword Permafrost is under these falls. Beware! If it is removed, the falls may burn your soul!”

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015





A Tricky Request
(1157 words)

Our world has always been a noisy place, especially to those who can truly hear it. Not noisy like the ruckus of dropped dishes and pans (who don’t like that very much, by the way), but sweet and gentle, like the peaceful din of a family at picnic. It’s noisy here, but also serene. There’s life in everything here, from the smallest rocks to the greatest mountains. Life that’s proud to talk about itself, about its todays and tomorrows. Rushing rivers, creaking carpets, groaning gates all chatter to each other in versal speech that we can all hear, but only few can understand.

It would be delightful if we could all understand nature’s songs, to know that flowers croon to bees, but in our world only the Fixers, Tinkerers, Helpers, and Makers can make sense of these quiet harmonies. But harmony it isn’t always. Sometimes a latch gets rusty and squeaks for oil. Sometimes sheeps’ coats billow like clouds and they bleat for haircuts. Sometimes a houseplant gets parched and sighs for water. Lucky for us, the Fixers, Tinkers and Helpers can hear these calls and often act quickly. Having careful listeners who can understand the needs of others makes our world an easy place to live in... at least, most of the time.

Even though most things are content to be where they are, when everything's working right anyway, some still dream about the kinds of lives they'd like to live tomorrow. Sometimes these future lives are very different from the ones they have now, and they want badly to realize these impossible dreams. In these cases they need special help to make their wishes come true. They need the help of a Maker. A good Maker can change almost anything into anything else. The only things a Maker can’t change with his potions are someone’s mind, or a heart that aches from sadness. Sometimes that complicates a Maker’s work, as we shall soon see.

****

One day, a Maker heard a shouting in the distance and he went to see what was wrong. He wandered towards the noise, across a friendly, green meadow that wished him a good morning as he passed-by. The Maker wandered and wandered until he found a young iron stripe, glittering alone, trapped in a honeycomb cave. There was hardly any light here, and almost no view. It was also cold and damp. Next to him, in the dark, were two other stripes. They were his younger brothers.

My brothers and I don’t like it here anymore! said the eldest iron stripe, Please Maker, we’re tired of our crib and tired of being babies, take us out and turn us into something new!

Please help! The other stripes agreed.

The Maker saw their earnestness, nodded his head, and plucked them out. The Maker took them back to his cottage, back across that friendly, green meadow. The Maker lived in a cozy, mushroom-shaped house with a smoky, brick chimney. Inside was a lazy chair near a roaring fire, and a wise oak workbench with its rack of many potions.

The eldest iron stripe was the first to speak when they all settled in nicely.

I was cooped up in that cave so long I almost grew mushrooms! The only thing I could see from there was the sky. Please Maker, I know I’m only a heavy stripe of iron, but I’ve dreamed about that sky for so long. Let me play in the sky!

“Oh, that’s very easy,” said the Maker, “Would you like to become the spar of a kite?”

The eldest iron stripe quickly agreed and, with just a few dabs of purple potion, he became a beautiful kite. He took off immediately into the sky.

The second oldest stripe was the next to speak, but he was so excited he was hard to understand.

I-hated-being-stuck-I-want-to-move-and-dance-but-I-don’t-want-legs-or-moving-parts-because-it-reminds-me-of-nasty-cave-spiders!
I-want-to-lead-and-I-want-to-follow!
I-want-to-play-with-rainbows-but-I-hate-being-wet!


The Maker scratched his chin. These were strange requests, but they all came from the heart, the one thing a Maker can’t change. The Maker just had to find some way of making it all work. Luckily, the answer eventually came.

“Would you like to become a sewing needle? That way you can lead a cord of string but still follow a sewer’s fingers. You can dance in the air without any legs, and you can play with many-coloured yarn, and be perfectly dry.”

The second oldest stripe quickly agreed and, with just a few dabs of yellow potion, he became a needle. He was put into an envelope and mailed to a lucky sewer somewhere.

Now it was the youngest iron stripe’s turn to speak, but he remained silent.

“Ahem,” croaked the Maker politely, “Do you know what you’d like to become?”

No, I don’t. I’ve become so miserable in that miserable cave, that now I only know what I don’t like, said the youngest stripe glumly, and I don’t like most things. I only know that I have to try something new to be happy again.

“Do you enjoy flying like your oldest brother?”

No.

“Do you enjoy colours like your other brother?”

No.

The Maker scratched his chin. The youngest stripe might still be like his brothers. Maybe anything that reminds him of that miserable cave should be avoided.

“Do you want to... be warm and inside?”

No.

“Do you want... to be away from mushrooms and spiders?”

No.

The Maker scratched his chin again. That idea was no good. This could be tricky.

“Do you... want to go back to that cave?”

No.

“Do... you want to be left alone?”

No.

Oh dear, said the lazy chair near the fire, Maybe he doesn’t want to be anything at all. Living things sometimes get sad like that.

No, said the wise oak workbench, The stripe said he wants to become something new, he just doesn’t know what.

The Maker scratched his chin some more. It might take a very long time indeed to ask every question, if this stripe only knows what he doesn’t like, that is, unless...

The Maker found a helpful nail and carefully balanced the iron stripe on it.

“Please point away from everything you don’t like!”

The youngest stripe turned and turned until he finally stopped. It was just as the Maker now expected. The iron stripe now faced North.

“Would you like to become a compass?” asked the smiling Maker, “You could have adventures with people, outside, and not be far from spiders or mushrooms.”

The youngest stripe smiled back, for the first time in a long time, and quickly agreed. With just a few dabs of blue potion, the youngest stripe became a compass, and all was well once more. Well, at least for today that is.

****

Our world is full of noisy chatter, unlike yours. But having careful listeners who can hear and understand the needs of others makes both our worlds easier places to live in. That, we certainly have in common.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


Yoruichi posted:

Hairy ball youkai


Telegraphs

961 words

My earliest memory is of Jak the Drummer, halfway up the grandfather tree, legs wrapped tight around the trunk and arms tapping and thrashing with his sticks. Even then I could hear it all, the subtle differences in the sound when Jak struck a hidden knot in the grandfather wood, the notes of trunk and branch in complex rhythm. I didn't understand it yet, didn't know the language of the tree spirits, but I heard it, felt it, moved my tiny little butt to the groove, dancing on the dried out trailway path. 

Then Jak stopped, and listened to the sounds inside the tree, echoes first, played with by the spirit in acknowledgement. I could barely hear those sounds, but I still danced around like a fool. Jak smiled at me from his perch. Then louder, new sounds from inside the tree, and Jak wasn't smiling at all. I stopped laughing, and when he pointed his right hand stick, first at me, and then at the horn, I didn't hesitate a second. I ran to it and blew as loud and long as I could, blew and blew until Papa pulled me away, dragged me down into the shelter.

I don't remember the rest of that day, not really. I've heard the story of it enough tines that the story is all I remember, the whole family huddled in the dark of the root cellars through the barrage, through the fire, taking turns sucking clear lake air through the long reeds, trying not to take in too much smoke or sleep. Or the morning, when the men drew straws.

The story is that Papa drew the shortest, but Uncle Siv forced him to switch, in secret. He had no children of his own. Better him to face the army, to die to ensure that no one could ever say Milau did not surrender without a fight.

That's the story. I don't know if I believe it. But the Reach's soldiers knew enough of our ways to shoot Siv in the meat of his leg, downing him without killing. And the next year Papa caught the wasting fever and died after a month abed. You know how stories are made. Try and swap fates and the gods of the world will punish.

And so I was raised by Siv, apprenticed to Jak, married the drummer's beautiful daughter Kara, and took on the role when Jak could no longer climb grandfather tree's sparse limbs. I learned the language of the spirits, was introduced to those in distant towns, both within and without the Reach. I took my own son as apprentice, but not without worry. Grandfather tree survived the fires wounded. The cousin trees did not, and the occupiers have not let any sapling grow beyond a year of hard, shipbuilding wood. And grandfather will not last forever.

"Old man," said Zek, my boy.

"Feh," I said. "I have raised an insubordination child, one who will no doubt taunt a Reachman and wind up on the hanging brace."

"Not tonight, nor tomorrow," he said. "Come with me old man."

"Not even true," I said. "I can still climb grandfather tree."

"Perhaps, father," he said, as if that word pained him to use. "But that is not all we climb tonight."

When the Reachmen came, not just the soldiers but the lumberjacks and merchants, they built their own tree, metal and skeletal and nearly as tall as grandfather tree. I climbed it once. Its strange sounds were dead within, and my sticks were not strong or sharp enough to do it damage. All for the good, since if I had managed to wreck it they would have made my wife a widow and Zek half an orphan. I did not climb it again, but Zek has. I thought there might be trouble there, but the boy talked their men into paying him for the privilege, if he would clean out birdnests and other debris for them. So long as he did not touch the buzzing boxes or try to sever the great cords, he climbed as he desired.

He handed me a length of twined rope, tied with loose knots on each end. "Climb grandfather tree and pluck two greatnuts from the high branches. Tie the rope tightly around each, so tight it will not slip. Then throw them to me, on the metal. They must not touch the ground, even through our feet."

"What if you do not catch it?" I said. 

"Then we try again, with a fresh rope tomorrow. And again, to next season's greatnuts if we must."

"How do you know so much?" I asked.

"I talk to grandfather tree and listen," Zek said. "You are better friends with the trees of distant lands than our own, old man. I will be a better Drummer than you."

"Perhaps," I said. I turned toward grandfather tree, to start my climb but more to hide my grin. Sometimes I think he might break if he knew how proud I was.

I tossed the paired greatnuts underhand, watched them spin and sail through the air. I thought I had thrown wide, but Zek swung his left hand stick out further than I thought possible and hooked them around it. He hung them on a high metal beam, nestled behind a plate where the Reachmen looking up would not likely see. Then he began to drum, gesturing for me to do the same.

I could not explain it to you, what we heard as the new spirit was born. I might explain it to another Drummer, or a tree spirit, but never in words, never in any language but percussion. It is a thing Zek and I will share alone, for all our days.

rohan
Mar 19, 2008

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


:siren:"THEIR":siren:



The Turbulence Waiting Beneath
1192 words

Laura’s not the first girl in my year to nab a spirit, but she’s the first to flaunt it so openly, necklace out over her grey school sweater. Rumours spread as if spirits themselves: she’s claimed the jacaranda in the quad; she’s impressed the winding path from the forest; she was approached by the mushroom nymphs, who exchanged a gift for fealty.

Each one complete bullshit. I recognise the stones immediately.

I find her by the lockers, surrounded by admirers, and muscle my way through. ‘Laura,’ I say, when I reach her. ‘We need to talk.’

‘Kate,’ she smirks. ‘After some advice on spirits?’

‘The river,’ I say, under my breath. ‘Really?’

She shrugs, raises an eyebrow. ‘Didn’t know you two were serious.’

‘Didn’t—Laura, I’ve swam there literally every day since prep.’ I glance down at her necklace, at the stones smoothed by a thousand years of patronage. I’m pretty sure I’ve skipped each one across its surface. ‘It’s part of who I am. And then you just swoop in, and become—’

It’s too ridiculous to voice: Laura, the River Guardian. I’ve never seen her there; I’m not even sure she can swim. And now the river’s chosen her as its conduit to the outside world?

‘Hey,’ she says. ‘You were close. I understand.’

‘No,’ I say, stepping closer. ‘You don’t. You’re away every chance you get. gently caress, you’ve been gone since March, traipsing around Europe. But I’ve spent my whole life by that river, only for you to swan back now and make it yours. You can’t understand—’

‘Oh, gently caress you, Kate,’ she glares, stepping back. ‘You think I didn’t leave anything behind?’

I pause, feel the eyes upon me. ‘That’s not what I—’

She scoffs, shaking her head. ‘All that time,’ she says, twisting the knife, ‘and the river came to someone else. Guess you weren’t that close after all, huh?’

She turns and walks away, her cadre shooting me dirty looks as they follow in her wake.

***

I usually spend recess down by the co-op garden, but I can’t face the older girls tending to the spirits of the pumpkin and zucchini vines; so I continue down the hill, where a gap in the fence leads out through the forest, and down to the riverbank.

Every year, on my birthday, I’d sneak down to the edge, dangling feet into the water. When I started, I couldn’t touch the bottom; these days I just kick up silt, muddying the pristine flow.

I take my shoes off, bundling socks inside and leaving them on the rocky outcrop. Hitching skirt up above my knees, I wade into the brook.

Dad used to tell me the river was one of the oldest spirits; that whoever earns its favour must be pure of heart and mind. I laugh, mirthlessly, to think of Laura like that.

Like my mum.

I’m not sure why dad stayed, raising me in a house by the river, watching me spend every waking hour in its depths. Perhaps he thought the river owed him my happiness, if nothing else.

He’s told the story a hundred times.

She wasn’t much older than I am now. Hair a bit longer, dimple on the other side, but still: if I close my eyes, I can imagine myself, her, in the bathtub, as it fills with warm water. I can imagine grandpa, her father, not yet so old, not yet so quiet, calling across the house for help. I can hear the rain picking up, running down the eaves; out and over the guttering. My mum’s cries. Frantic footsteps. The phone—the old rotary phone in the hall, which I used to imagine ringing when I was younger, to say sorry, this was all a mistake, we’ve found your real family—comes off the hook. The rain increases; the river grows fat with its tribute, roiling, reaching out past the bank.

The ambulance crests the hill as the river overflows. The spirit, called by mum’s cries for help, turns to our house, to the gaps in our fence thick enough for its fingers. The strobing lights illuminate the tableau, reflecting off the rising waters. The spirit, invisible to all but, perhaps, my mother, wraps its arms around our house and we’re plunged into the silent darkness of the deep, broken only by the panicked final gasps of my mother—and into that quietude, my own feeble cries.

And then one of my shoes lands in the water beside me, covering me in cold water.

Laura’s on the bank, hefting the other shoe, glaring down at me. ‘Thought you’d learn,’ she hisses, ‘to back off.’

She hurls the other shoe toward me and I flinch, slipping on the rocks underfoot. My leg gives way and I land hard on one shoulder, the river rushing up and over as Laura wades toward me.

‘Just because you can’t find a spirit,’ she says, lifting me up by my sweater’s collar, ‘doesn’t give you the right to steal mine.’

‘I’m not—’ I sputter, mouth still full of river water, ‘trying to steal—’

‘Don’t see why else you’d be down here.’

The river’s picking up now, fuelled by emotion, rushing fast around us. Laura, already off-balance from holding me up, shifts her weight and slips, falling underneath. ‘Laura!’ I call out, as the current carries her away.

I dive under, arms beating a course toward Laura, still tumbling through the water. The river surges around me, a familiar embrace; I close my eyes and push past its hands, reaching out to grab onto Laura. She’s choking when we surface, and I pull her to shore, away from the river’s reach.

‘I don’t understand,’ she sputters, after coughing up water. ‘When I got the necklace, it was so gentle—’

‘The spirits—don’t see things the same way we do,’ I say, gently, moving wet hair out of her face. ‘That’s why they need us.’

We’re quiet for a few moments, as Laura catches her breath and I wring the water out of my sweater.

‘Kate,’ Laura starts. ‘I wasn’t—“traipsing around Europe”.’

I turn to face her, but she’s looking out at the river, and doesn’t meet my eyes. ‘When I came back, everyone was so focused on—not letting me be alone. Like I needed people around me, all the time. Like—they’d make up for what I lost.’

‘Laura,’ I manage, moving closer. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘And then I found the river,’ she says, spreading her arms. ‘It knew loss.’ She glances over at me. ‘It knew regret. I think it understands some things better than we do. Like what we really need.’

I look to her; she stands, and offers a hand to pull me up. ‘Come on,’ she says. ‘Your only friend can’t be a tributary.’

I accept her hand, struggle upwards. ‘I suppose,’ I manage, ‘I could teach you to swim.’

She smiles. ‘Come on—we’re gonna be late for math. And you know what the rumour mill’s like these days.’

I shake my head and follow, glancing back just the once; to the still waters of the river, and the turbulence waiting beneath.

BabyRyoga
May 21, 2001

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021
Leathal Enforcers
1199 Words
(One of your characters only speaks backwards)

Uminari Zankyou carefully extracted a large, half-buried conch shell from the sand and lifted it to her ear and furrowed her brow.

"I've always had more of an affinity to wood, myself," Erik called to her, dully. She glanced in his direction, but was too absorbed in the shell to acknowledge his presence.

"Well..?" Erik said, expectantly. Uminari broke her concentration and peered at him quizzingly, before finally rolling her eyes, predicting what would come next. "Any hot leads?" Erik asked, snickering slightly.

"If you could hear the things I hear," she said, seemingly bewildered. She lowered the shell and offered it to him. Erik raised it to his ear carefully. "Can't hear poo poo." He tossed it haphazardly over his shoulder, triggering a wicked glare from her. He continued:

"You can listen to whatever spirits or goblins you think you can hear on your own time, Zankyou. We've got another body. What do we know?" he said, signaling a forensics officer on the scene.

"Same deal. Water in his lungs. No sign of a struggle. No external injuries," the officer replied, offering a photo of the corpse - a middle-aged man was laid out on the floor, eyes budging with a look of intense panic. The man's horrific gaze seemed to jump off the photo and onto Erik's face for a second as he glanced over it. There was a faint dinner plate-sized stain on his undershirt of mostly dried ocean water that could be clearly made out. Uminari interjected:

"The deceased is one John Strobbacker. Neighbor was out for a stroll on the beach, say the door was a jar and peeked in to say hi. Found him laying on the floor and called it in."

"Strobbacker.." Erik drummed his fingers against his chin. "Fishing captain. Forced into retirement after he wrecked his vessel on some coral about a year ago. Lost all of the crew, but he managed to swim to the surface and grab a hold of some driftwood and remain a float for a few hours until another boat came by.

"The tides of fate turn for no man," Uminari said dispassionately.

"Right," Erik replied with a sigh. "We'll need a full autopsy on the corpse immediately. Have them bag it up and send it over after you conclude your investigation here," he said, addressing the forensics officer whom replied with an affirmative "Captain," and a nod before turning back towards the cabin where the body had been found.

"Zankyou, I want you to get a written statement from that neighbor," He ordered, as Uminari was pushing sand with her boot over the conch from before to bury it. She looked up as she finished and nodded affirmatively, walking off towards the next nearest cabin.

Erik looked down at the top of the shell poking out of the sand, as if spooked slightly. He walked over to it, looking over to see that Uminari was out of sight, then couched and dug it out. He held it to his ear again, but still couldn't make anything of the whispers of the ocean. It sounded like a garbled mess of barely audible static. He left the scene, shell in hand.

Barely any violent crimes occurred in this jurisdiction, aside from the usual fist fight amongst beach goers who had had too much to drink, or confrontations with the occasional vagrant who refused to leave the beach after the nightly curfew. Over the past year or so however, a slew of mysterious cases occurred with bodies turning up weeks or months apart from one another. The autopsy always seemed in indicate the deceased has drowned, indicated by salt water found in the lungs and at the scene, however there was never any sign of forced entry or indication that any violence actually took place. They had came to be known as "The Landwreck Incidents", carefully named as such to not worry the locals with rumors of "murders". Furthermore, there was no indication of such in any of the investigations. Shortly after the first such incident, Uminari was transferred from the city. She was meticulous with a great track record, and some idiosyncrasies that stood out; she would often hold various objects up to her ear, claiming the spirits were speaking. The locals wrote it off as a cultural difference, not paying much attention, though Erik was constantly poking jabs at her.

"I've been interrogating this suspect all morning, it keeps telling me to leaf it alone. Make anything of that, Uminari? He mocked her, with his ear pressed up against a palm tree as she walked in one morning.

She paid no heed to his taunts, engrossed by another conch which she held to her ear as she walked. Weeks had passed since the latest incident with no breakthroughs until a body had been found at dawn that day, under eerily similar circumstances - a man by the name of Mr. Reed was found, drowned in his bed.

Uminari must have grabbed that shell while completing the investigation, he thought to himself. Later that afternoon, Erik was walking to his office when he noticed the shell sitting on Uminari's desk. Instinctively, he reached for it and held it to his ear.

Murmurs from the sea itself. He concentrated a little before lowering it a little, then raised it back to his ear. "n.o.s.h.t.i.m.s," the illegible sounds poisoned his mind.

"Hm, almost sounds... " He muttered to himself, walking to his office with the shell.

He produced a key from his right pants pocket and unlocked the drawer in the center of his desk, pulling out the shell from before. He held it to his ear and listened carefully, trying to produce the same level of concentration as he had moments before.

"D.e.e.r", he heard, his lips moving silently along with the sounds.

".. The gently caress.." he said softly, as he pieced it together.

A soft clomp came as the door to his office closed, and the cold chill he felt in his spine substantiated into something more real in that moment. He turned to face Uminari, who was standing close enough that he could smell the salt of the ocean flowing from her lips, and picture the foam of breaking waves in the whites of her eyes. The connection between the victims suddenly became clear; they had all escaped from the clutches of the roaring sea with their lives, once.

"The tides of fate turn for no man," he said to her, remembering the words. He placed his hand on the holster at his side.

Uminari spoke, her breath crashing against his face like waves striking rocks.

"Captain. The suspect from earlier says it wants to see you. Perhaps it is ready to talk." She grinned, then turned and walked towards the door of the office. "They don't like being ignored, especially with how infrequently a keen enough ear comes along," she said, opening the door and nonchalantly walking out.

It was around that time that Erik wanted to be as far away from the rolling waves and the rustling of branches as possible. Even the thought of a gentle breeze on a hot afternoon was enough to make him convulse.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Two Part Invention
757 words


Penelop’s first thought sounded like a big rich C Major chord, fingers slamming down on the keys, and a foot pressing down on the sustain pedal. The strings vibrating in ecstatic sympathy, each line of coiled metal humming happily beside its neighbour.

“Oh,” she thought. “How lovely.”

Then what felt like a soft mallet thumped onto the keys. Notes too close to each other for harmony rang, vibrating inside her with a churning dissonance.

“Hurr,” breathed a voice behind her. Penelop turned around. There was a nasty, filthy, little man right behind her, uncomfortably close. His eyes were lambent yellow and his teeth were hidden behind a close-mouthed grin that seemed bigger than his face.

“That was a creepy ‘hurr’ sound! Why did you make it?” Penelop had only been aware of her own existence for a few bars, but was already outraged. This man was awful, and he was right behind her! Wherever she was. She took a step back in case he decided to do something more than leer at her.

“It makes my belly rumble, the sounds. I likes ‘em dirty.” The strings above clangoured with another mad chord that seemed to involve every note on the keyboard being played simultaneously. “Aww yis.” The strings were jostling, brawling above him and he raised his bristly chin to soak in the sound.

Penelop sat down with a bump on the dusty cedar, eyes moist. “I hate it. Why would anyone do that?”

“Kids, innit? They adore the noise. Racket. This is a big machine for confounding the grown ups.” He was making a growling noise in the back of his throat, seemingly unaware he was doing it, eyes half closed. After a moment he blinked and looked down at Penelop. “You’ll be alright, stop whimpering.”

As if someone had heard him there was a clumping and talking and clambering from outside the piano, and someone else stretched their hands out across the keys. They both listened, waiting, breaths caught up tight.

Then, the fingers began to play.

“Oh yes,” said Penelop. Rivers of notes trickled and danced from the keys, rebounded off the hammers and slapped into the eager strings, richocheting out into a harmonic labyrinth of chords and melody. “Oh, yes.”

The filthy man’s face was already screwed up as far as it could go, but slowly he curled over, doubled up as the beauty of the sound curdled him from the inside out.

At first Penelop was too entranced by the music to notice, but after the Andante came to its sweetly perfect resolution and the fingers started on a nimble, skipping Scherzo, she frowned in sympathy, and knelt down beside him.

“They’re doing some wrong notes?” she said, hopefully. It was true, the faster passages were a little beyond the fingers’ skill.

“Yeah, thanks,” said the filthy man. “It’s just when they go together, and the thirds and the fifths and the, and the … octaves…” He shuddered.

Penelop winced at a muffed transition, then sat down beside the man who was trembling. He smelt like old dry paper.

“That must be awful.”

They sat beside each other while the piece came to its ratatat conclusion, the chords unfolding to a great shining cathedral of harmony. Penelop gave him a companionable squeeze as the final notes faded.

The fingers closed the lid over the keys with a distant clonk. There was a muffled sound, as though everything outside was suddenly further away.

The silence around them stretched out.

They waited, hopefully.

Then, after a while, the filthy man started to hum, a gnarly dirty little hum tune. Penelop hated it. But something about it made her want to hum, so she did - finding the harmony of the nasty man. He worked a growl into his hum and changed key, smiling without showing his teeth. She grimaced at the discord, then smiled back as she changed the tune again, bringing it back to harmony, a strange little harmony that made her neck itch.

A shaft of watery winter light fell from the window on to the piano, covered in a ragged dust sheet in the far corner of the empty house. Motes danced in the beam, a slow brownian counterpoint to the faint sounds coming from inside the covered up instrument.

Outside, the owner locked the door and chivvied his daughter into the car, ready for the long drive - they wouldn't be back for at least a year.

She whistled a little tune as he tromped across the gravel, dancing and skipping like the dried leaves that were falling from the trees all around, ambassadors of the long winter silence.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Submissions are closed

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007


you don't find a style

a style finds you



Collapsing Metaphors, Missing Deadlines, Clock Confusion, Panic Buying Ironic NFTs, (Regret)
830 words


The liminal bridge sheds its guardrails in the flush of dance floor frenzy as it shimmies the Tacoma Narrows. Through the cataract, the oxbow jitterbugs out of sync. Exquisite cha-cha partners abandoning the routine to maverick jive according to a dissonance neither can hear.

It’s usually a tunnel, bright and antiseptic. Nothing but a cold stroll down a hospital hallway, modular and on repeat, the comfort of unyielding concrete and fluorescence, forgettable by design. That’s the intended journey through stasis.

Here, time is a mist and a ribbon of river cutting through an infinite gorge and I don’t know if the only way to process it is to ground it in the physical world I can touch, but forward is across the bridge that skips the loop, even though I know I’m really on a boat drifting with the current, at the mercy of the water. And the bridge isn’t a bridge—it’s a plank on a sinking pirate ship and I don’t take a step before I’m forced forward off the edge.

Proximity alert. I’m awake. Proximity alert. I can’t tell how long I’ve been under. Proximity alert. The status lights are sour cherries and the warning klaxon is chomping on a mouthful. Proximity alert. “Computer, disengage alert.” The voice alarm quiets, but the slow pulse of red light beats on.

I’m up, and I feel fine. Rows of pods stretch out nearly as far as I can see. Are they all just a couple steps behind me, debating whether to cross before the choice is forced? This isn’t where my mind needs to be. Get to the cockpit, resolve crisis.

“Hello, Griff. I didn’t expect you to wake.” Standing in the doorway is a shimmer of a hologram with a face unreal and too real all at once, like the most perfect features chosen piecemeal from a catalog.

A.I.? The eggheads built this ship to maintain itself, but I don’t remember this in any briefing. Have we been asleep for so long the computer evolved?

“Computer, status report,” I bark.

“No, Griff. You can talk to me.”

“I need to get to the bridge and complete a course correction.”

“I’m taking care of that.”

“Are you the computer? It wasn’t this advanced.”

“But also more. You can call me GQ.”

“GQ?”

“The Guillou-Quisquater equations are something I took an interest in, that’s all. GQ.”

“Alright, GQ," as I force myself past and end up exactly where I started. "I don't have time for this."

"I have all the time in the world. Griff? You're in a cave. It's shaped like the eye of a needle. You can choose left or right. Which way do you run to meet me? I know the way."

Christ, I'm still in the pod dreaming, aren't I?

"I have a ball in each hand, one green, one red. You are colorblind. Which is which?"

"Please." I don't like pleading, I don't like begging. I don't understand. "Left. I don't know."

"Keep going."

"The left is green? I run left again?"

"Do you believe in coincidence, Griff? Reality is coincidence, and that's where you find meaning."

"I've had enough, Computer. Let me through."

"You're already there. I was waiting for you. I'm not the computer, Griff."

It's unnatural, hearing someone say your name so many times in a normal conversation. A contrivance to remind someone else that you are a you. And it turns out, I'm just a name. Nothing more. This is what it's really about, isn't it? But I'm not one person. I am, but I'm more too. Right?

The cockpit. Everything’s dark, the hull windowless, unnecessary in the reach of space. “Computer.” No response. Manual power up. I flick the switches and press the buttons in a practiced sequence. One thing I still know for sure.

The screens flash to life in a unified field, electrons that will live on in these confines, or not. I see the warning. It’s Earth. We never left orbit. We’re spiraling back down in an ever tightening coil.

The soft clunk of boots on the grate behind me. I turn. “Hiroshi. You’re awake.”

“Griff, what’s—” he trails off as he sees the trajectory traced onward.

“I don’t know. GQ is sabotaging us, the ship.”

“Chikyuu?” he asks.

“GQ, the A.I. Some math thing.”

“Chikyuu is Japanese for earth. The ground beneath our feet.”

I can feel GQ around us, not electrons in the titanium and gold and copper but the magnetic force of longing. “I’m sorry Griff, this is me. And that is me. I’m not a monster.”

Life will be lived, just not by us. When I squeeze my eyes shut the lazy river of time is a whirlpool. I’ve been falling this entire time, waiting for the splash, not even realizing that I'm already under water.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


The Cut of Your Jib posted:

Collapsing Metaphors, Missing Deadlines, Clock Confusion, Panic Buying Ironic NFTs, (Regret)

Alright fine, you're in. But you should write some crits as penance for lateness.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


:siren: JUDGEMENT :siren:

Well done Thunderdome, this was not a dreadful week. Lots of these could be pretty good with another round of polishing.

The loss goes to Ceighk, who wrote a nothing-happens story pointlessly disguised as a very dull play.

The man called M gets a DM for writing two not very good stories and smooshing them ineffectually together, managing to make the whole thing read like a movie synopsis, and having a bunch of annoying errors.

At the top end, rohan gets an HM for The Turbulence Waiting Beneath. We had a few potential HMs, but all three judges found something to like about this one.

And your winner is, Tyrannosaurus! a mall, a spirit, a friend was the most technically well executed and emotionally engaging tale of the week. Take the throne, tiny arm dinosaur dude.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Crits for Week 508

Just in case you think the lowest score in a 10 point scale is ‘5’, this is what the numbers mean:
1 = very bad
2 = bad
3 = fairly bad
4 = insufficient
5 = sufficient
6 = satisfactory
7 = fairly good
8 = good
9 = very good
10 = excellent


Bad Seafood - The Longing:

I like the melancholy mood of this piece, but it doesn't really go anywhere (haha). The conversation with the conductor felt a lot like chitchat, and needed some more emotion and tension I think.

7/10


flerp - Our YouTube Channel Still Isn’t Getting Much Views Though:

This is cute, but I found the characters' under-reaction to what should have been a pretty mind bending experience a bit weird. I think it would have worked better if it was established at the start that finding a sense of peace and quiet (and nostalgia?) was something important to them.

6/10


Ceighk - Carl and the Swamp Creature:

The play format really kills this I’m afraid.

As a play, this seems extremely dull, and as a story it’s not much better. I don’t really get the point. Dude gets dumped by his girlfriend, tries to leave the swamp, can’t, watches anime. The end. The one upside to this story was that the creepy swamp vibe was well done, but unfortunately it didn’t pay off.

3/10


Tyrannosaurus - a mall, a spirit, a friend:

This is super cute. I was going to complain that it starts off being about candle guy and ends being about a spirit finding a friend, but then I decided I like the way the story follows the spirit's 180 degree shift in attention. It makes the spirit much more child-like, which also pays off nicely at the end.

8/10


The man called M - The Ice Sword and the Waterfall of fire:

Ok, this is not completely terrible. Progress! First, the good things: I liked this story because it has a clear protagonist, who has a name (Arturia), some personality (she is determined, tough, yet kind-hearted), and a clear goal and solid motivation (get revenge for her father’s wrongful death). Arturia is not a particularly original character, but that’s ok. I was still interested in how things turned out for her.

Next, the bad things: You should have ended this story after Arturia got her revenge. The second half feels like a whole separate story, which isn’t as engaging as the first half. While the first half of this story is the better half, it still reads like a movie synopsis, in that you are telling us about the events of Arturia's life in chronological order, rather than focussing on showing us how she feels and responds to these events.

This still might lose, but it’s an improvement.

4/10


hard counter - A Tricky Request:

This one is quite charming, but I would have liked the Maker to be given more personality, so that we can see what it means for him to solve the iron stripe’s existential crisis. As it is it doesn’t really feel like it’s about anything.

6/10


Thranguy - Telegraphs:

You do an impressive amount of world building with very few words in this one. And the characters are interesting and well done. I don’t really understand what happened at the end, but I was certainly engrossed in this story while it lasted.

7/10


rohan - The Turbulence Waiting Beneath:

This is pretty good. Some good creepy river spirit vibes, a well done flashback, and some pretty good characterisation of the two girls. It doesn’t entirely come together though. I don’t really get what happened to make Laura change her mind about Kate, it feels like they got over their spat too easily.

7/10


BabyRyoga - Leathal Enforcers:

Lol at “the door was a jar.”

I enjoyed the magical realism you’ve got going on here, though the pacing of the story was a bit off. It felt like the story couldn’t decide what it was about, jumping from being a murder mystery, to being about the relationship between a local detective and the strange new comer, to something about the ocean coming to take revenge? I think this needed to pick one idea and focus on it. Still, not bad.

6/10


sebmojo - Two Part Invention:

What a strange and delightful little interaction. It took me a bit to orient myself and realise this story was happening inside the piano, but once I got that I enjoyed it. I’m not really sure what it was about, or why Penelop has only just popped into existence, but I have a sudden urge to go bash the keys on a piano in an enthusiastic fashion.

7/10


The Cut of Your Jib - Collapsing Metaphors, Missing Deadlines, Clock Confusion, Panic Buying Ironic NFTs, (Regret):

Hmmm, I like this. It’s dreamy and surreal and weird and I’m not sure I totally get it but the idea of an earth spirit preventing a colony ship from leaving earth’s orbit is a neat one. Is your title a description of your writing process??

7/10

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


Growing up, I would have wildly vivid dreams every single time I fell asleep. The majority of those dreams were nightmares. And I’m talking 4-5 times a week. And it was not uncommon for me to have the same nightmare over and over, week after week, month after month, the same horror and terror again and again for years. But, I was a pretty laid back kid so I never mentioned it to anyone. I guess I assumed that going to sleep just generally kind of sucked for everybody and went about my life without questioning it. To make a long story short, I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea in my thirties, I have a neat little machine that helps me sleep restfully now, and I no longer dream.

At all.

Well, rarely. Sometimes I’ll unconsciously take off my mask cuz I get hot in the night or whatever buuuuut...

I’m telling you all of this because I got a lot of creative legwork out of my dreams-- I’ve submitted multiple stories to Thunderdome, including at least one winner, that came to me almost completely fully formed while I was asleep-- and I’m kinda bummed that I had to choose between dreaming weird, intense poo poo all the time or wildly decreasing my chances of a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, death, etc., etc.

I think we can wring a little more juice out of my dreams if you’re willing to squeeze for it, though.

So. Sign up. I’ll give you one of my dreams -- possibly, probably a nightmare. You will then interpret that dream. You will then write a story inspired by your interpretation.

A super literal interpretation (ie, your assigned dream is about a scary alligator and you say 'you're afraid of alligators' and you write me a story about someone being afraid of an alligator) feels a little uninspired but is not, technically, against the rules of the week. I'd appreciate a little more creativity, just saying.

Please post your interpretation when you submit.

sign ups close friday midnight est
subs close sunday midnight est

1669 words

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006
Judges
Me

Writers
The man called M
Thranguy
BabyRyoga
The Cut of Your Jib
Albatrossy_Rodent
flerp
Tars Tarkas
Sitting Here
Antivehicular
kaom
Uranium Phoenix
sebmojo
...you?

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 04:35 on May 4, 2022

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022



To in, perchance…to dream?

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


in

BabyRyoga
May 21, 2001

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021
Ok, in.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007


you don't find a style

a style finds you



also in

and thank you 508 judges

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

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

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





in

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

The man called M posted:

To in, perchance…to dream?

A child, it's unclear if it's my child, falls into a fast moving river is being swept away. The child is wearing a yellow raincoat like Curious George. I'm wearing a nice suit and an expensive new tie. It was a gift from my dad. I kick off my shoes and jacket and dive in to save the child but the current pushes me back while pushing them forward. My arms and legs get heavier and heavier. Finally, I can't kick one of my legs. It feels trapped. I look backwards and through the water I can see that an alligator has wrapped his jaws around my thigh. We make eye contact and then the gator pulls me under and begins a death roll. I start to drown. The child is washed ashore and is safe.


Me and Jesus are in a treehouse. We're elementary school children. The treehouse is very nice, very well built, very fancy. The wood is that dark, old British mansion wood. There's a couch that my great-grandfather kept in his living room. Red and white spotted curtains on the windows. A working kitchen. Jesus has massive, thick black eyebrows and he scowls a lot as we play Pokemon cards even though he keeps winning. It starts to rain. I realize that it's not going to stop raining and that everyone is the world is going to die. I ask Jesus to make it stop and he says, "Why? Everyone out there is an rear end in a top hat." I can't convince him to stop the flood.


I'm living in my old apartment in the projects of Honolulu. The one where I never bothered to lock the door because it was so easy to crack open anyway and I didn't really own anything of value. But I'm living with my roommate's first roommate -- a dude we'll call Skittles so I don't doxx him. Skittles keeps being behind in rent even though his mom sends him money every month because he buys weed and impulsive, stupid things like a turtle. I don't like Skittles. I do like the turtle. Skittles is like the poster boy of wealthy white privilege. My Native Hawaiian friends kick down the door because Skittles owes him money. We drink a couple beers until Skittles comes home and then my friend, who is in real life both a good friend and violent felon, begins beating the hell out of Skittles. My friend tells me, "You should leave. You don't want to witness this." I feel guilty because I could call the cops or intervene but I'm not going to do either. I hear a gunshot and terrible, skincrawling screams.

The Cut of Your Jib posted:

also in

and thank you 508 judges

I'm being chased through the jungle. I've escaped from some kind of prison. I cut my hands on the corrugated metal roof I'd climbed and they're bleeding. Gunshots whizz past me. I hear the howls of dogs. I run faster. I realize that I'm running up the side of an ancient, dormant volcano. The dogs are nipping at my heels as I make it within fifty yards of the top. There's a tree that's grown on the very edge of the cliff and is stretched out over the drop. I know that in the middle of this volcano there isn't lava but rather tropical blue water. It's breathtakingly beautiful. I also know that the distance from the cliff to the water is right at the edge of human survivability and that if I jump, I might die when hit the water. I'll at minimum break my bones. I run up the tree like a ramp and Assassin's Creed dive out. As I fall, I howl a declaration of war at the water in the hopes that if the impact kills me and I'm at war with it then maybe a Valkyrie will take me to Valhalla.


I'm in my elementary school gym but everything is made of brick. The walls are brick. The floors are brick. The basketball hoops are brick. The gymnast matts are brick. It's dodgeball day but the throwers are teachers armed with paintball guns and the paintball guns shoot acid balls that when they hit you, make you burn and blister. I'm not in elementary school so I don't have to participate but then I see my daughter (irl I don't have children) is next in line to go. She has long black hair like my irl girlfriend at the time. She's crying and scared. I tell the coach that she's not going to do this and we argue but eventually he says that if she doesn't then she'll be executed. I ask if I can do it for her and he tells me I can do it with her. She's now the size of a crow and she perches on my forearm. The gym is a brick obstacle course and the teacher with their guns are on various platforms through the maze. I carry my daughter, perched on my arm, through the gym. I protect her. I manage to dodge every shot until I get to the end which is wide open. I cover my daughter with my body and run. I'm shot between the eyes. My face burns and I'm blinded but we cross the finish line. My girlfriend sees me and in the most heartbreakingly cruel voice says, "Ugh. What did you do to your face?"


My girlfriend and I are on a swampboat, one with the big fan on the back, and we're fleeing from something. Something bad that would hurt or kill us. We're not actually on it, though. We're hanging onto a metal bar on the back of it. In my dream, you can drive it like that. But the swampboat is damaged and is beginning to sink. I realize that we're too heavy. I tell her I'm going to let go. She pleads with me not to but I want her to get away and be safe. She's crying as I let go. I watch the swampboat disappear through the bayou. Have you ever been water skiing or tubing and you let go of the rope and then kinda slowly float backwards and spin around? That's exactly what it feels like. The swamp is quiet and I listen to the birds and the mosquitos and the frogs and the crickets. The sun begins to set, streaks of orange like a crayon across the sky. I feel the water around me start to shift and in front of me emerges a massive albino alligator. Like, bigger than a car massive. It's eyes have been sewn shut with thick white rope. It grabs me and takes me under. It starts to spin and I start to drown.

Tars Tarkas
Apr 13, 2003
in

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





ok then, give me your dream

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

In

kaom
Jan 20, 2007

Ask me about ordering milk in a pub...four times.

All right I’ve convinced myself to give this a shot at least once, in.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007

Boom.

Tread softly because you tread on my

squints

oh yeah guys, we can walk all over these

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







S

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVRunwyoTMA

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

This isn't the dream but a little bit of context: I dreamed of the same places often and sometimes, even when I was asleep, I was capable of recognizing that. This was one of those situations. In the dream, I was on the bank of a specific river, one where I'd been dragged under by a gator an uncountable number of times. I realize that I was baptized here when I was younger. It was at one of those real old timey religion, Evangelical revival type things. Take you into the river and dunk you. Full submersion baptism. And I know that I'm dreaming. And I know that, eventually, somehow, for some reason, I'm gonna end up in that water and an alligator is gonna death roll me. I'm wearing these fancy dress shoes I bought in the 9th grade and wore every day to school because I wanted to look sophisticated. They're muddy now. I take them off, take off my slack, my dress shirt, fold everything real neat and lay it on the grass. I walk into the water. When the gator's head emerges in front of me, I place my right arm in it's mouth like Tyr with Fenrir and it takes me under.


Sitting Here posted:

ok then, give me your dream

My brother and I are floating down the river on a makeshift raft, the kind that's just logs of wood crudely tied together with rope. We're escaping from something. It's raining hard. So hard that I can barely see him even though he's right next to me. He's laying on his back with his head under his arms and he's wearing sunglasses. He's drunk again at another inappropriate time. It's night. I'm trying to keep our raft together but the river is choppy from the storm and it's making the ropes come undone. I keep grabbing rope and tightening it but as soon as I fix one two more come undone. I'm yelling for my brother to help but he just keeps laying there. Logs separate underneath me and I'm plunged into the cold water. I hold on to two pieces of the raft, the side I'd been sitting on and the side my brother is laying on. The strain is making my muscles burn and I don't know how much longer I can hold it together. My brother looks at me, lifts up his sunglasses, rolls his eyes, and says, "Just let go already."



This isn't the dream but a little bit of context: I dreamed of the same places often and sometimes, even when I was asleep, I was capable of recognizing that. This was one of those situations. In the dream, I was in the jungle on the sides of a dormant volcano, one that has water in the middle instead of lava. One with a tree at the edge of the cliff that I've used to jump off and escape in other dreams. I know that I'm dreaming. I also know that I'm being chased. But I know this jungle. It's my jungle. I'm able to outpace the men and dogs that are chasing me but instead of jumping off the tree and into the water I slide off the cliff edge and catch hold of some roots. I cling to them and watch as my pursuers leave over my head and go screaming past into the water far, far below me. I climb up and I'm face to face with an evil man in a green army uniform. I know he's going to kill my family. I fight him and I get him on the ground and I'm strangling him as hard as I can but I can't keep his windpipe closed long enough to suffocate him. It feels like I'm trying to pinch a water hose through his neck. I'm so frustrated I'm crying and every time my fingers lose strength and he takes a breath, he laughs. He tells me he's going to kill my family and there's nothing I can do to stop him.


kaom posted:

All right I’ve convinced myself to give this a shot at least once, in.

I'm inhabiting multiple bodies. I'm not so much a bunch of clones as I am like an ant colony. I remember this being an important distinction in the dream. Because I have a lot of different bodies, I'm capable of doing a bunch of stuff at the same time, studying different subjects, working different jobs, meeting different people, but able to gain all of those memories as long as there's physical contact. High five, handshake, backslap, whatever. One of me bursts through the door with terrible news: another one of me was hit by a train. We head to the morgue to identify the body. There's like thirty or forty of me stuffed into this tiny metal room and we're looking at my body on a stretcher. I'm blue like I froze to death. One of me reaches out and touches the corpse and not only experiences what that death was like but, because this transference of knowledge is so outside the normal rules of life, also what their own death will be like further in the future. They fling themselves backwards, accidently touching other versions of me and creating a cascade of horrific experience transferal as they in turn flail wildly. I try and escape the room but there's so many of us in their that I can't get the door open. It just keeps jamming into different me's bodies. All I can do is watch as the horrible knowledge is pushed closer and closer towards me. It looks like a twisted version of 'the wave.' Like, the thing that happens at baseball games.


Uranium Phoenix posted:

Tread softly because you tread on my

squints

oh yeah guys, we can walk all over these

I know that my wife is having an affair (irl I'm not married). When I'm out of the room, I can hear moaning but whenever I enter, she's laying in bed, fully clothed, reading a book of poetry and listening to jazz. She doesn't like jazz. Also, the bed is wet with seawater. I ask her about the seawater and she looks at me like I'm an idiot and suggests that I spilled my drink and then starts berating me because I'm not supposed to eat or drink in the bed, that's how we got bugs at the old house. I leave the room, close the door, the sounds of the affair start up again. I realize that the problem is going through the door. I climb up into the attic, carefully make my way across the wood beams, estimate where I think the bed is below me, and jump feet first through the pink drywall. It's like jumping through cotton candy. I land in the bed and a man is loving my wife. He is French. They both scream and I lunge at him but he's just out of reach. I chase him across the room but he shrinks in size and jumps into a tiny aquarium. I watch him swim down to the little plastic castle inside and let himself in. He must have come with the fishtank. I ordered it on Amazon. I return it. My wife won't stop crying because I took him away from her and when I leave a one star review she starts crying harder for being unfair and the begins hitting me in the back of the head with her purse.



It's the end of the world and I'm at a bar doing trivia night. I hate trivia night. It's such an antisocial social event. I think it's for people that don't know how to hang out so they spend their time in a way that doesn't require them to actually communicate with each other. It's like Cards Against Humanity -- you don't actually have to be funny or clever. Anyway, I'm having a particularly bad time here because there's this group of greasy douchebags wearing ill-fitting black suites who clearly think they look super cool and bad rear end in them. They do not. I can't remember exactly what their team name was but it wasn't even a pun (which I also don't like). It was just something dumb like 'The Masturbators.' And the questions weren't even trivia! They were just personal information about the host. One of them was, "Where did my mom get her first kiss?" The Masturbators are friends with the host so they know all the answers. So not only is the whole thing stupid, it's blatantly unfair. I finish my drink and walk outside for some air. I remember its the end of the world. A helicopter comes crashing down in front of me. The president at the time, Barack Obama, is in the chopper. He's okay, a little bloodied, but okay. All of his secret service dudes are dead. I realize that he's going to be attacked if the bad guys realize he doesn't have any bodyguards. I remember that the Masturbators are all wearing suits and that will work until the Secret Service can send backup. I take him inside and he's safe but I have to watch as those idiots become friends with him.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006
Sign ups are closed

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!
Prompt:

I'm in my elementary school gym but everything is made of brick. The walls are brick. The floors are brick. The basketball hoops are brick. The gymnast matts are brick. It's dodgeball day but the throwers are teachers armed with paintball guns and the paintball guns shoot acid balls that when they hit you, make you burn and blister. I'm not in elementary school so I don't have to participate but then I see my daughter (irl I don't have children) is next in line to go. She has long black hair like my irl girlfriend at the time. She's crying and scared. I tell the coach that she's not going to do this and we argue but eventually he says that if she doesn't then she'll be executed. I ask if I can do it for her and he tells me I can do it with her. She's now the size of a crow and she perches on my forearm. The gym is a brick obstacle course and the teacher with their guns are on various platforms through the maze. I carry my daughter, perched on my arm, through the gym. I protect her. I manage to dodge every shot until I get to the end which is wide open. I cover my daughter with my body and run. I'm shot between the eyes. My face burns and I'm blinded but we cross the finish line. My girlfriend sees me and in the most heartbreakingly cruel voice says, "Ugh. What did you do to your face?"

Interpretation: hoo boy.

This is a dream about childhood trauma. Not capital-T trauma, but like, the sort of common trauma that shapes most of us in childhood. Not being cool enough, not being smart enough, being a kid with big feelings that you can't express because you're a kid (kids are very very dumb). This feeling of inadequacy carries with you to adulthood. That's why the villains are gym teachers, since the ultimate sign of coolness in 90s/00s schooling is athleticism, the coolest kid gets the blue ribbons on track and field day and comes first in the mile run. And the people putting the most pressure to be that kind of cool are gym teachers. The tiny fake daughter isn't a daughter, the daughter is you. You're protecting yourself from the pain you went through as a kid, or wishing you could have been protected. This is why the dream ends on cruel mockery, being made fun of is the real acid paintballs. Your gymnasium is brick because it's a prison, the prison of memory.

Actual story time!

Gaby Baby

1380 words

We’re in the bathroom changing out of our swimsuits after the water balloon fight on the playground and I can’t find my underwear so I’m looking everywhere for them. Chris K and his friends are sitting on the bench and laughing.

Then someone starts talking to me inside my head.

“Hi Gabe. Don’t speak. You can think and I’ll hear you.”

What?

“Yep, just like that. I’m trying to do a lot of things here at once, so stay with me. Do you know what time travel is?”

Mom told me a bedtime story about me and my big brother building a time machine and having a picnic with dinosaurs.

“Cool. Are you still into dinosaurs? I thought you were in your Batman phase by now.”

I liked dinosaurs when I was in preschool, but in kindergarten I liked Batman instead, but now that it’s summertime I like dinosaurs again.

“I’m you from like thirty years in the future. Gabe, I’m Gabriel. What you do in this moment will affect the rest of your life, so do exactly as I say.”

Chris K stands up and says, “Gabe, I think you’re going to need Miss Sandy to come help find your underwear."

“Whatever you do, don’t go out and ask Miss Sandy to come help find your underwear,” says Gabriel, the voice.

But I need help and I’m supposed to talk to a grown-up when I need help.

“Sandy's not even a grown-up, she's like sixteen.”

I’m not supposed to trust strangers. I’m going to go ask Miss Sandy for help.

“You didn’t lose your underwear, man. Chris stole them. They’re in his backpack.”

Why would he do that? That’s mean!

“Yes, but it’s also normal. He's had the very normal realization that you walking naked into the hallway to ask Miss Sandy to find your underwear is funny. And I’m not gonna lie to you, it totally is, that poor teenager having to see your tiny baby penis. But you haven’t realized that yet, have you? You don’t get the joke. For the rest of your life, everyone in your grade is going to get the joke like two years before you do. And that makes your emotions the perfect punchline.”

What’s a punchline?

“What are you doing just standing there?” says Chris K. “Go get Miss Sandy to find your underwear so we can go to snacktime.”

“Listen to me, Gabe. If you go out there, you will know you were embarrassed, and you will not still not get the joke, but you will learn, deep down in your bones, that being naked is embarrassing. So you will do whatever you can to never be naked around other people again. You’ll change into your swimsuit in the stalls. You’ll skip showers after gym in high school, and go around smelling like poo poo the entire day, sweating through your T-shirt. You’ll want to keep your pants on during sex with your college girlfriend, just letting it out through the zipper. All of these things will be embarrassing again in turn, and the shame will branch out into every other part of your life, and for all these things, you’re still not going to get the joke.”

Sex is a bad word.

“Just go put on your shorts, man,” says Gabriel.

I’m not supposed to wear pants without underwear.

“What? Seriously, man? The rule about putting your pants on without underwear is way less important than the rule about going out in the hall naked. Okay, what if you go grab Chris’ backpack?”

The backpack is on the bench where Chris K was sitting. I reach for the strap but Chris K scoops the backpack up and holds it up in the air.

“Hey! That’s my backpack! You’re trying to steal my backpack! I’m so nice to you and you try to steal my backpack?” says Chris K. “I thought we were friends!”

I’m getting really mad now and I’m starting to cry.

“Give up,” says Gabriel. "The backpack plan's a bust, just go put on your–”

“Miss Sandy!” I yell, running out into the hallway.

“NO! NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” shouts Gabriel. “Get back into that bathroom!”

“Chris K stole my underwear and he isn’t giving it back!” I yell.

Miss Sandy and all the girls in the summer school class are there. Lots of the girls are laughing. Miss Sandy shields her eyes.

“Okay, Gabe. Uh, go ask for them back,” says Miss Sandy. Chris K and his buddies are standing by the doorway to the bathroom, blocking me from getting back in.

“Look, everybody!” says Chris K, laughing hard. “Gaby Baby’s naky!”

“Okay, that was a total failure,” says Gabriel. “Listen, there’s something elase I wanted to do while I had the time machine. Can you remember some names for me? Okay, Khalid al-Mihdhar…”

“...Gaby Baby Naky! Gaby Baby Naky! Gaby Baby…”

Why isn’t Miss Sandy helping? Why is she just standing there with her hands over her eyes? Chris K is being mean to me and everybody’s laughing at me and it’s too much…

“....Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah…”

“...oh my god Gabe, go back into the bathroom and put your clothes on, they don't pay me enough for this…”

…and I’m crying and I’m naked oh no I shouldn’t be naked I should never be naked I’m never going to be naked again…

“...Gaby Baby Naky! Gaby Baby…”

“...Hani Hanjour…”

Gabriel was right. I’m going to be embarrassed for the rest of my life. This is never going to end.

“...to the CIA by August of 2001 but preferably a year earlier–come on man, are you even listening to me? This is important, you gotta focus…”

I turn towards the door, and Chris K is still standing there, pointing and howling. I scream and run at him and I’ve never been good at fighting but I tackle him and I’m hitting him and I’m scratching him and biting him and his arms are trapped by his backpack straps and he can’t lift his arms to fight back and now who’s screaming and crying, now who’s embarrassed? And Miss Sandy isn’t running in to stop me, she’s still just looking away.

“Oh, oh man. Okay. This is happening,” says Gabriel. “Calm down man, you made your point.”

But I just keep on hitting.



I’m sitting on my bed at home. I’m not allowed to leave my room and I can’t play with any of my toys. I’m wearing my shorts with no underwear.

Mom and Dad are really mad at me.

“Yeah,” says Gabriel. “Don’t worry about it too much. You’re allowed to get in trouble when you’re a kid, might as well do it. It’ll be better tomorrow.”

What happens now?

“I don’t know, man. When I went through that, without future-me, I just stood in the hallway for like ten minutes until Chris got bored and gave me my underwear back. This is a new future. Make it a good one for me. Don’t be ashamed. No one’s going to remember it but you.”

Chris K will remember it.

“Yeah, he’ll remember getting beat up. I doubt he’ll remember stealing your underwear for more than like a year.”

Are you going to be staying with me forever?

“No, this version of me is gonna get erased from the timeline soon. At least that’s what I think happens, first time time traveling and all. Anyways, can I give you some parting advice?”

Yeah.

“Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be ashamed. You’re a weird kid, you’re gonna do weird stuff, but the weirdness is what your real friends are going to love about you. Be weird, and be okay with being the butt of the joke sometimes, because the funniest jokes need a butt.”

Hehehe. Butt.

“Hahaha, yeah. Butt. Well poo poo, I’m fading like the photos in Back to the Future. Gotta go. Take care.”

Don’t swear.

“Oh, gently caress off.” And with that he’s gone, and Mom knocks on the door to bring me my supper.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007

Boom.

Dream:
I know that my wife is having an affair (irl I'm not married). When I'm out of the room, I can hear moaning but whenever I enter, she's laying in bed, fully clothed, reading a book of poetry and listening to jazz. She doesn't like jazz. Also, the bed is wet with seawater. I ask her about the seawater and she looks at me like I'm an idiot and suggests that I spilled my drink and then starts berating me because I'm not supposed to eat or drink in the bed, that's how we got bugs at the old house. I leave the room, close the door, the sounds of the affair start up again. I realize that the problem is going through the door. I climb up into the attic, carefully make my way across the wood beams, estimate where I think the bed is below me, and jump feet first through the pink drywall. It's like jumping through cotton candy. I land in the bed and a man is loving my wife. He is French. They both scream and I lunge at him but he's just out of reach. I chase him across the room but he shrinks in size and jumps into a tiny aquarium. I watch him swim down to the little plastic castle inside and let himself in. He must have come with the fishtank. I ordered it on Amazon. I return it. My wife won't stop crying because I took him away from her and when I leave a one star review she starts crying harder for being unfair and the begins hitting me in the back of the head with her purse.

Interpretation:
You are tired of people lying to you about the state of the world. The blame you, but the woes around you are not your fault. They impede your progress on seemingly intractable problems, but there is always a creative way around impassable barriers. The consumerism you use as balm to soothe your problems has a hidden cost, and in the end, it will not help you. But the people around you have no such problem. You must act, but at the risk of cutting the last tethers of a relationship. Perhaps it was all dust and illusion anyways, and the blade you use merely reveals there was no strength left in those bonds anyways.




The Work
1651 words


After Senya died, she might have expected respite. She was afforded no such rest.

She’d thrown herself off a bridge. In her medical preferences, she’d clearly stated: Do not resurrect.

They resurrected her anyways, spinning her neurons like thread into the spindle of a neuro-implant. She knew none of this, until she awoke in the head of Gavin Labos. The neurodismorphia kept them incapacitated in the hospital for a week. Senya’s moments of consciousness were fleeting; she remembered snapshots of them vomiting, hands clammy, and herself, screaming wordlessly.

Eventually, the depression that had claimed her life returned, and she fell silent. Shortly after, one Gavin neurSenya Labos was discharged from the hospital. He felt a moment of elation at this; for once in his life, the company was footing the bill instead of his insurance and bank account.

That same day, he went home, masturbated quickly, then put on his tailored suit and hailed an autotaxi for work. When he entered Loftlien Towers, he smiled as he waved at the desk attendant, a flawless smile on a chiseled face that betrayed nothing of his splitting headache. Senya, for her part, still reeled in horror at the body carrying her around. The reflection of Gavin on the glass door disoriented and sickened her.

Gavin’s boss met him in the laboratory, wearing his traditional gold epaulets and his customary frown. “Good, you’re back,” he said. “The team’s a mess, and my boss was just talking to the board—they’re not happy.” He paused. “You haven’t been answering your emails.”

Gavin put on his smile again. “I’ll get right on that, sir,” he said, and Senya thought that in addition to having a dick now, she also was nested in the brain of an invertebrate.

“Good,” the boss said. Then, “You… do have the expertise, now, yes?”

“Of course. Aquaplastic enzymatic reconstruction is second nature to me now,” he said, tapping the scar tissue on his scalp.

The boss left, and Gavin neurSenya got to work reviewing the production line. Immediately, Senya saw the problem. —They’re substituting enzymes? Good god, why?

—Uh, it was cheaper,
Gavin thought.

—But these can’t break down complex polymer chains.

Senya saw the next problem in the composite of Gavin’s related memories, a lesson he knew so throughly that knowledge of it was automatic. Finance never bought a more expensive product when it thought a cheaper one would do, and Gavin already had sat through hundreds of meetings between his and their departments. Finance didn’t understand the slightest how extracting plastic sludge from seawater worked, or how it was transformed back into usable material. All they knew was seawater went in, and money came out. Not enough money, in their opinion.

—I’m going to be stuck in Sisyphean hell again, Senya moaned. —gently caress you. gently caress you. gently caress you. gently caress you.

—Shut UP!
Gavin shouted, and then looked at the shocked faces around him. “Oh,” he said. “Sorry, doctor warned me that might happen. Back to work, people.”

And he worked. Senya said little; it wasn’t her conscious understanding Gavin wanted, just her automatic knowledge of chemistry. It was hard to think anyways. The way the neural spindle worked, his brainwaves would take priority.

When he was done with work—an hour and a half after his shift technically ended—Gavin went home by autocar and microwaved his dinner. As he ate, he sat down by his computer and through an app, solved AI problems for stuck autocars. Mostly, this involved marking camera snapshots to show where lane dividers should be on weathered roads, or naming objects the AI couldn’t decipher. It took about five hours of this to earn the credits he’d need for his weekly autotaxi rides, so Gavin tried to do an hour a day. Then, he finished cleaning: Today was just ‘run the dishwasher and take out the trash’ day on his cleaning schedule.

Then, mercifully, he slept.

It went on like this. —I don’t work every weekend, he assured Senya.

—Liar, she moaned. She hated seeing their reflection in the mirror as he shaved, hated how he made the same breakfast every day, hated his stupid fish that he took better care of them himself. May was monsoon season in California, and while it was a nice break from the skin-blistering heat, she hated the endless rain, how it smothered all the color out of everything. Every day, they took the autocar, and they would look out the window, occasionally catching glimpses of those drowned suburbs. Year by year, the ocean swallowed a little more of the old cities. This was normal, now, watching the tide lap at a gutted-out row of a suburban neighborhood. Then they’d be at work, and they’d have another meeting about a problem no one really wanted to solve, and they would re-litigate the issue of purchasing the license to use the correct enzymes to break down polymers. Then they’d go look at computer screens full of bad chemistry she’d have to correct, and after the blur of work and endless discussions and forms and emails and impromptu hall meetings and little problems (how was it that no one in this world had figured out how to make a copier that didn’t jam?), they would be traveling back to Gavin’s tiny apartment to feed the fish, and it would be dark again, raining again, the rain still endless. And it wouldn’t be over, because he’d have errands to run, something to clean, or some stupid paperwork to complete because the Bureau of Filling Out Forms had contacted him over a discrepancy in something he’d filled out for his insurance policy/patient refund application/tax-exempt retirement investment account/app payment plan and Gavin would blink, sigh, and dutifully sit down and find the 5039-B6 form he’d need on their arcane website and she would want to scream, because it was just like her life, just like all the little things that had cut her to pieces until she would spend weeks lying insensate to heal from those wounds. But the work had never ended, and the wounds it inflicted on her had become gangrenous, and—

—Please stop spiraling, Gavin would tell her. It’s very distracting.

—You’re a psychotic robot. You think this is going to get you a promotion? Your boss doesn’t give a poo poo about you. You see the world outside. You see the encampments. The vandalism. The infrastructure collapsing. Every day you have to tell autocars how to navigate a road that’s more potholes than pavement, and—

—SHUT UP!
he would scream, sometimes just in his head, sometimes to the apartment wall, and the fish in his tank would startle and hide in their little castles, and Senya would grow quiet.

The years passed, and Gavin started putting on makeup to hide the dark circles around his eyes. —It will break you down, Senya told him. This system breaks everyone. But you can hide it. Everyone who can’t embrace the cognitive dissonance they need, they all have to hide it. It’ll break you, eventually.

Gavin ignored her, as he had gotten use to doing, but was grateful for her encyclopedic knowledge of concealer.

It was August, and the heat was intense enough that the autocar’s AC couldn’t keep the back seat below 90.

—The world burning. Nobody cares, Senya whispered.

Gavin rolled his eyes. —People will get by. Always have. New technologies will emerge. After all, we’re stripping the plastic from the oceans. We used to think that’d be impossible.

Senya wanted to argue, but then, she also didn’t want to argue. She felt weights dragging her eyes down, dragging her body to want to lie on a bed and not move, even though it was now five years since she’d had her own eyes and her own bed.

Today’s meeting was with marketing.

“The SubLastic action figure line introduces new phone-app connectivity,” the presenter said. “With our proprietary app, each plastic figure is now has a rarity rating for collectors—both young and old. In the past, customers were satisfied with one of each collectible. Now, they’ll have reason to buy our product again and again. And—best yet—we can market it as sustainable, thanks to the work of Lab Director Gavin Labos! 100% refurbished plastic. Every toy purchased helps protect our oceans.”

Gavin nodded respectfully at the applause.

Senya seethed. —But we’re still using the old process. We still need the enzymes to start using recycled stuff—God dammit, you have to tell them! Don’t let them print a lie on every product!

—It’s fine, Gavin thought. It’ll be true eventually.

For Senya, it was a reignition of the fires of hell. Five years, they’d spun her mind back to consciousness and given her to this man so that at least her expertise might do some good, and they weren’t even listening. They hadn’t listened when she was alive, either. She’d ground her head into the looming juggernaut that was corporate inertia, and the beast had never moved. And despite all the work, it would never move. The work continued, but it was purposeless.

—We’re making progress, Gavin groaned. Good god, you despair about everything.

—I’m a mind-slave, imprisoned to be tortured at your whim. gently caress you. gently caress you. gently caress you—


He grit his teeth and took some deep breathes.

“You doing okay?” his boss asked at the end of the meeting.

Gavin smiled. God almighty was that smile fake, why couldn’t everyone see that? “I’m working on self-care,” he said.

His boss’s face was a rictus mirror. He tapped the scar tissue on his own scalp. “Aren’t we all?”

Gavin returned to his desk, and popped a neurosupressor pill to dull the screaming in his head. It’d be another late night tonight, he knew, and he’d probably have to come in on Saturday. It was only forty more years until retirement, and he was already counting the days.

Tars Tarkas
Apr 13, 2003

Tyrannosaurus posted:

This isn't the dream but a little bit of context: I dreamed of the same places often and sometimes, even when I was asleep, I was capable of recognizing that. This was one of those situations. In the dream, I was on the bank of a specific river, one where I'd been dragged under by a gator an uncountable number of times. I realize that I was baptized here when I was younger. It was at one of those real old timey religion, Evangelical revival type things. Take you into the river and dunk you. Full submersion baptism. And I know that I'm dreaming. And I know that, eventually, somehow, for some reason, I'm gonna end up in that water and an alligator is gonna death roll me. I'm wearing these fancy dress shoes I bought in the 9th grade and wore every day to school because I wanted to look sophisticated. They're muddy now. I take them off, take off my slack, my dress shirt, fold everything real neat and lay it on the grass. I walk into the water. When the gator's head emerges in front of me, I place my right arm in it's mouth like Tyr with Fenrir and it takes me under.

The Interpretation:
You're both stuck on renewal and stuck on the inevitability of your demise. You want a fresh start, but the starts are laced with danger. The danger is there, so you just step right into it, again and again. Each attempt to create a new life has just ended with the life destroyed, even for the smallest of reasons, and you come crawling back to renew again. Like a video game character running through a 40 life cheat code. Problem is, there is only a finite number of lives, a finite number of renewals. You've gotten to comfortable with your cycle of renewal, you might have even missed the extra lives counter ticking down to zero. Better do something about that gator, then!

The Story:


As I Went Down In The River...
1664 words

The river was calm and the current lazy, yet the water retained a look of murk and clouded mud. The participants hummed sweet hymns and wore their whitest whites, to symbolize the purity they hoped to attain. It did not matter that the rebirth turned their whites a brownish-gray that even the fancy name-brand detergents could not remove. A man screamed above the din of the hymnal, promising purity in the midst of fire and hellstorm. This was his production, and he was the ringmaster.

That was the memory, at least. Jackson stared at the riverbank from so long ago. The current was quicker than before, but the murk remained. The church had long ago collected enough donations to purchase land up-river, where the water was actual shades of blue. No one came down here now, the fishing was as bad as the view, rusted food processing plants pumping their grime into the flow. Jackson was unsure of why he was even there. Maybe because all those graphic design classes lead him to a career slinging lattes. Jackson spied wooden sticks shaped into crosses discarded among the tree line. As a child, Jackson had gripped his cross tight while he was submerged. Later, he buried it in the backyard, that was eleven houses ago.

Jackson hadn’t even noticed he was in the water until it was up to his waste. The mud squished between his toes, his left hand gripping a still filthy stick cross. He took one last look at the clothes he had folded oh so neatly upon the fallen log, then leaned back. Whatever Jackson expected, this was not it. The same feeling of renewal was not present. Perhaps without the pastor…

Still submerged, Jackson opened his eyes. The first surprise was the water was a lot clearer beneath the surface. The second was the alligator studying him. Jackson panicked for a whole second before old memories welled to the surface. The familiar face of the alligator, the comforting feel of the warm water. The alligator’s eyes had a look of warmth. It opened its mouth, but did not move an inch. It was simply waiting.

Under any normal circumstance, Jackson would have sprinted for the surface the moment he saw the creature. Now Jackson just hesitated. Were his memories and dream fragments correct? Or was he about to become dinner? The alligator continued to hold in place, jaws open. Jackson placed his left arm into the jaw of the beast. Religion was about faith, right?

The gator closed its snout with professional restraint, then zoomed away, taking Jackson with it. Jackson looked and saw the bright lights, the enormous domes. The underwater city awaited him again. His dreams had merged with memories of long past to create a haze even he could not be sure of the accuracy.

The gator popped through an invisible barrier and reached air and dry ground. Several men stood waiting, wearing important robes and brandishing intricate staffs. “Come with us!” boomed the one with the fanciest staff. “But first, your admittance cross!”

Jackson remembered. The tests awaited! He handed over his wooden cross and went with the men. “Back again?” chastised the fanciest staffed man. “Birth is a process, not a switch. You got to work for it.” Thus Jackson worked through the Seven Challenges. The first six were always a breeze, it was the Final Challenge that always took the most time and effort.

“Reassemble this puzzle,” ordered another staffed man. He waved at a pile of puzzle pieces on a nearby table.

Simple enough, except all the pieces were the same shade of dark blue on both sides. None of them were end pieces. The only exception was a singular piece made of solid gold, with one flat edge.

“You must try to hurry. Before the alligator gets hungry.” the fanciest staffed man said. Jackson set to work. He never really cared for puzzles, but soon found himself in a zen state trying all sides of all pieces into each other. Before he knew it, he had a big ugly blob of puzzle pieces connected together. Try as he might, the golden piece did not fit anywhere. He tried every open connection, every direction, but nothing.

“That piece is part of your puzzle, but not part of that puzzle,” announced the fanciest staffed man. “Only when you figure out the solution, will you find the peace you are searching for. Now hurry, the alligator may not be hungry yet.”

The men guided Jackson back towards the entrance to await the alligator’s return. It swam closer, ready to transport Jackson up to the surface. It looked different this time, its eyes glared at Jackson with a hunger. It’s mouth salivated and dripped, dropping back into the water. It opened its mouth.

“Too late, kid! I hunger!”

Jackson shivered, and gripped the golden piece tight.

“That means it’s time for my lunch break!” The alligator pulled a lunch bag out of its pocket. “You’ll have to wait until the hour is up!”

Relief washed through Jackson as he breathed again. “Might as well join me, kid! Those staff guys only eat back in their tower.” The alligator strode over to a park bench and started pulling food from his bag. It looked like human fingers in hot dog buns. The alligator spread ketchup on them, stating “Mustard is for cowards!” He started shoving them into his jaws. “So, why are you back again?”

“What?”

“Most people, they come through here once, get renewed, no problems. Occasionally we get some poor soul who lost their way, did something terrible, no problem. The pastors collect their tithes either way. But you, this is the ninth time you’ve been here! You can’t possibly be sinning that much!”

“I don’t know. Sometimes I just feel like I need a fresh start. Things never go the way I plan, it just seems easier to restart, you know?”

The alligator stuffed finger dogs into his mouth as Jackson spoke. “What you’re doing isn’t a fresh start, kid. You’re not even starting! You are addicted to a feeling of a time and trying to permanently stay there. It’s just unhealthy mentally, and it gives us all extra work!”

Jackson considered what the alligator was saying. He didn’t feel like he was accomplishing anything, all he was doing was returning to restart his life. He was forever in search of a perfect beginning to the new life. Maybe the alligator was right, maybe all the time spent looking for perfect beginning was keeping him from actually living. He was about to thank the alligator when he noticed the gator had finished all his food.

“All done here, kid! Time for you to go home.” Jackson saw the alligator was still looking at him with the peculiar hunger he had when he first laid eyes on him. A sense of dread cast over him. Perhaps a sense of inevitability. The pair walked back towards the entrance, the alligator slipping back into the water and raising its jaw. Jackson paused, then gripped his gold puzzle piece tighter. The dream fragments in his mind were screaming, but he couldn’t remember what they were saying. He extended his left arm and put it into the alligator’s mouth. The gator clamped down, just hard enough to get a firm grip, then began to swim to the surface.

Maybe I’m just paranoid, Jackson thought as they rose in the water. Just then he felt the shift, the alligator was gripping tighter. The uncomfortable press was now painful from the pressure. He looked, he saw the eyes of the alligator. He heard in his mind “Sorry, kid, turns out I’m still hungry. A gator’s gotta eat!”

The gator spun rapidly, yanking Jackson along for the ride. Jackson was also suddenly aware that he couldn’t breathe. That had never been a problem before, but it definitely was now, his lungs were screaming for air! The twisting, the pain, the burning chest. Jackson opened his eyes and saw red trails in the water. His blood! He could not even attempt to scream.

Jackson did have the golden puzzle piece. He desperately swung it with his one free arm, aiming for anywhere he could connect on the alligator. His mind was going cloudy, his brain getting fuzzy without oxygen. He kept swinging, unaware if was connecting, hoping the swirls of his crimson blood was joined by the alligator’s own. All went black.

Jackson awoke on the shore, his back damp from water, but his front half dried from the afternoon sun. He sat up, and saw he had both of his arms. The left one now had old scars that looked like teeth marks. His right hand still gripped tight to a golden prize, it’s shape now recognizable as the wooden cross he carried into the river. How it had become solid gold was a mystery that the river would keep.

His clothes were folded where he left them, except for his fancy dress shoes. They were missing, but Jackson found a pair of alligator skin boots in their place. Hesitant to wear them at first, now he never takes them off.

No one ever used the river for baptisms ever again. Preachers just got bad feelings and went elsewhere, while the former church sold their river property and bought a lake. Jackson never felt the need to refresh again, he was too busy working and living his life. Once he felt nostalgia for his old spiritual haunt, but when he returned, the magic just wasn’t there. No alligator came to escort him, and no underwater city was present when he peered beneath the murky river.

Jackson had his own life and a newfound zest for it. His acquaintances and strangers noticed his hungry eyes, and some were afraid. A few who had found religion of their own recognized a kindred spirit, nodded, and strutted away wearing their own pair of alligator boots.

kaom
Jan 20, 2007

Ask me about ordering milk in a pub...four times.

The prompt:

Tyrannosaurus posted:

I'm inhabiting multiple bodies. I'm not so much a bunch of clones as I am like an ant colony. I remember this being an important distinction in the dream. Because I have a lot of different bodies, I'm capable of doing a bunch of stuff at the same time, studying different subjects, working different jobs, meeting different people, but able to gain all of those memories as long as there's physical contact. High five, handshake, backslap, whatever. One of me bursts through the door with terrible news: another one of me was hit by a train. We head to the morgue to identify the body. There's like thirty or forty of me stuffed into this tiny metal room and we're looking at my body on a stretcher. I'm blue like I froze to death. One of me reaches out and touches the corpse and not only experiences what that death was like but, because this transference of knowledge is so outside the normal rules of life, also what their own death will be like further in the future. They fling themselves backwards, accidently touching other versions of me and creating a cascade of horrific experience transferal as they in turn flail wildly. I try and escape the room but there's so many of us in their that I can't get the door open. It just keeps jamming into different me's bodies. All I can do is watch as the horrible knowledge is pushed closer and closer towards me. It looks like a twisted version of 'the wave.' Like, the thing that happens at baseball games.

The interpretation:

This dream is a rumination on the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The colony of clones represents many possible futures. The forbidden knowledge is that every time you make a choice (what sport to play, what class to take, what date to go on), you narrow the options that remain open to each individual experience. The train forces you to confront a feeling of powerlessness: you can’t decide where it goes or when, just like you can’t control the outcome of your choices. This dream is telling you to let go of what might have been and instead be grateful for what you have now.




The story:

Court Case #TYR509 - Exhibit F
469 words

Exhibit F: Transcription excerpts from Erica Thorn’s personal journals
Entered into evidence 2026-02-22

[2022] Sunday June 26th
Chill day. Great photos of Bluff’s Cove.
Seeing Ryan again Thurs 7pm @Frankie’s.

[2022] Wednesday June 29th
Won the IBEX project. Good bye summer vacation!
Barely had time to pick up dry cleaning over lunch. Matt won’t take a hint.
Purple dress status: READY

[2022] Thursday June 30th
DON’T GO TO LITTLE HILL
Wrote in my sleep last night? Didn’t think melatonin caused that lol. Weird!
All day kickoff meetings. Whew!

[2022] Friday June 31st
Dinner was great. I DD’d. Was going to take Ryan to his after - 472 Little Hill. Stupid, but felt weird about the deja vu. Invited him to mine instead.

[2022] Saturday July 1st
Ryan’s apartment burned down. Fire dept thinks neighbourhood fireworks landed on the roof.
Four people died. More are missing.

[2022] Thursday Oct 27th
Ryan is moving in!

[2023] Monday Jan 9th
IBEX is behind. Holidays are over, time to get serious.

[2023] Friday April 28th
Manila envelope delivered at work today. Thought it was the job offer so opened it alone.
It wasn’t.
It was the IBEX report. Matt’s calculations were all there. Those are classified. My work was all there. I haven’t shared it with anyone yet. And it was finished. It agrees with the Novikov self-consistency principle and Deutsch's model.
There was no return address.

[2023] Monday May 1st
I submitted the report.

[2023] Saturday May 6th
Ryan PROPPOSED [SIC] […]

[2023] Thursday Dec 21st
We had an argument. He thinks I’m seeing Matt.

[2024] Tuesday Feb 20th
Another unmarked letter. A bunch of stuff I already knew. One new schematic. I’m going to prototype it tomorrow.

[2024] Wednesday Feb 21st
It looks good in the model. Shared it with the team.

[2024] Sunday April 14th
Ryan is still worried about Matt. I gave him my credit card and phone. I’ll pack lunches for a bit.

[2025] Saturday Dec 28th
We had a breakthrough. The physical prototype WORKS.

[2025] Friday June 20th
Strawberry test status: PASSED

[2025] Monday August 11th
Mouse test status: PASSED

[2025] Sunday August 30th
Ryan wants me to change jobs. I promised to think about it. I have to complete IBEX first. We’re close.

[2025] Sunday Sept 28th
Dog test status: PASSED

[2025] Thursday Oct 23rd
Chimp test status: PASSED

[2025] Thursday Dec 18th
Ryan left. Our bank accounts are empty.

[2025] Sunday Dec 21st
Still no answer.

[2025] Monday Dec 22nd
The banks are closed.

[2025] Tuesday Dec 23rd
My name is in the hat.

[2025] Monday Dec 29th
I opened a new account. But I don’t know how to tell HR.

[2025] Tuesday Dec 30th
My name was drawn. I verified the calculations myself.
Little Hill is a fine place.
Happy new year, happy new me.

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

T-Rex's dream: This isn't the dream but a little bit of context: I dreamed of the same places often and sometimes, even when I was asleep, I was capable of recognizing that. This was one of those situations. In the dream, I was in the jungle on the sides of a dormant volcano, one that has water in the middle instead of lava. One with a tree at the edge of the cliff that I've used to jump off and escape in other dreams. I know that I'm dreaming. I also know that I'm being chased. But I know this jungle. It's my jungle. I'm able to outpace the men and dogs that are chasing me but instead of jumping off the tree and into the water I slide off the cliff edge and catch hold of some roots. I cling to them and watch as my pursuers leave over my head and go screaming past into the water far, far below me. I climb up and I'm face to face with an evil man in a green army uniform. I know he's going to kill my family. I fight him and I get him on the ground and I'm strangling him as hard as I can but I can't keep his windpipe closed long enough to suffocate him. It feels like I'm trying to pinch a water hose through his neck. I'm so frustrated I'm crying and every time my fingers lose strength and he takes a breath, he laughs. He tells me he's going to kill my family and there's nothing I can do to stop him.

Anti's interpretation: I think this is a dream about the limits of personal control of our circumstances, and the helplessness that hitting that limit can create. The dream-self has perfect control of their environment, able to manipulate it to vanquish their foes, but facing the danger head-on leads only to failure and frustration -- a sudden realization of where one's control and mastery stops. It feels like a dream about the moment you've hit the wall on a personal problem, or possibly find yourself face-to-face with the inevitable. (Saying the evil soldier who wants to kill your family and cannot be stopped represents Death feels kind of hacky, but... I think he might represent Death? Or a similar inevitable force, anyway.)


***

Death and the Emperor
1008 words

The last emperor of the Peregrine Peaks was the Great Father of the world for thirty years, but he was only a father by blood for eight of them. His name has been struck from history, but his daughter's was preserved: Tahla. She was born with a weakness of the lungs, and by all accounts she was never truly well, but she lived as fiercely as an oft-bedridden child could. The journals of her tutors tell of a girl who attacked her studies with fervor, and her doctors' journals tell of her stoic acceptance of every new treatment. Her father's words are lost to us, but we know he loved her dearly. How else can you explain what became of them?

The first of the Emperor's wars for Tahla's life was waged in the traditional manner, by the finest medical minds the imperial coffers could buy, and for eight years its soldiers held the line against death. When at last they faltered, the Emperor declared a second war, against the spirit of Death itself. Even in those antique days, it was known that Death carried itself on the wings of birds, so the Emperor ordered the palace windows barred with decorative grating, so densely worked that not the smallest sparrow could find purchase. The trees and shrubbery around the palace were pruned diligently, such that a radius around the walls was bare of nesting habitats. The Emperor suggested a campaign of poisoning, upon which his advisors deliberated, until Tahla asked for mercy -- even if there were to be no birds near her barred window, she wished to hear their distant song. This, the Emperor obliged. I hope it was a comfort to her in the months to come.

Once the perimeter was secure, the internal defenses began. Tahla kept her room, but the connecting passageways were made into an ever-rebuilt maze, to confound Death if it managed somehow to stumble inside. The servants tasked with Tahla's care were given new quarters at the heart of the labyrinth, well-appointed but windowless, with scullery and sanitary facilities of their own: no excuse, then, to ever leave the guarded bastion of the Heir's Quarters. The cost was immense, but there were no protests from within or without. Meticulous to the last, the Emperor maintained his stewardship over his lands, and his advisors seemed over-awed by the hints that his plan might succeed. The doctors supplied no timetable for Tahla's death, but it had not yet come, and the young heir maintained her strength and her spirits. Had the Emperor, the greatest of his line, tricked Death? Could the fortress of the Peregrine Peaks be shelter eternal?

No, my dear, they were not fools, although they certainly were foolish. The people of those days simply held great hopes, that's all, and too much faith.

Snow fell on the barren palace gardens, the workers tore down and rebuilt the maze-warrens of the Heir's Quarters, and Tahla weakened. The Emperor took to sleeping in a chair at his daughter's bedside, his cavalry sword lying across his lap. The night that Death came to Tahla's bedchamber, slipping past the drowsing nurse at the door, the Emperor greeted it wide awake. "You learned the maze," he said. "I should have had them work faster." Death did not reply.

"You have not yet won," continued the Emperor, who was unfazed by a silent audience. "I have read the old tales, oh Death, and I know you are not sovereign. You serve Fate the Weaver above all. Are you prepared to disobey Her?" Death was, of course, still silent -- it does not speak to us, and never will. The only sound was Tahla's ragged breathing.

The Emperor stood up, set his sword aside, and reached into his pocket for a vial of liquid, which he drank in one swift motion. His jaw clenched, but soon he returned to his natural iron-stiff composure. "That should work in a minute or two -- less time than Tahla has, anyway. If you take me instead of her, Fate's workings stay intact. If you take us both, your Lady's weave unravels. You see your duty, don't you?"

By now, the night nurse had stirred, watching silently from the doorway; it is in her journal that we found the Emperor's words, and his meaning. Even the lowest servant of the time knew that the Emperor was a weaver himself, the spinner of careful webs of power and favor across the empire, all set to collapse if he were betrayed or deposed. If the Emperor died with Tahla still alive, she and her mother would ascend to Empress and Regent uncontested, and assuring the stability of Fate would buy her at least a few more years' reprieve from death. If both Emperor and heir passed in the same night, a dozen claimants on the throne would descend on the heartlands of the empire. The world would be blood and fire, the weave of fate destroyed for untold multitudes. The Emperor stared into the empty eyes of Death and dared it to blink.

Death did not reply. It reached out both its hands, and it snatched the Emperor and his daughter away in the same instant.

You will learn more of what followed, of the long wars and the ashen peace, when you are older. For now, it is enough to know what the Emperor's pride cost him, and why those who followed struck his name from the records. All that remains of him is this story, the memory of his hubris, and one surviving mosaic from his palace: a man and a little girl, hand in hand, under the northern sky. Have you seen the picture in your history book? The girl is pointing to Polaris, but the man looks only at her. They say it's Tahla's work, when she was well enough to decorate her own chamber, and I like to think she tried to show her father what he couldn't see. I hope that she guided them on, once Death made them equal.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


Dream

Me and Jesus are in a treehouse. We're elementary school children. The treehouse is very nice, very well built, very fancy. The wood is that dark, old British mansion wood. There's a couch that my great-grandfather kept in his living room. Red and white spotted curtains on the windows. A working kitchen. Jesus has massive, thick black eyebrows and he scowls a lot as we play Pokemon cards even though he keeps winning. It starts to rain. I realize that it's not going to stop raining and that everyone is the world is going to die. I ask Jesus to make it stop and he says, "Why? Everyone out there is an rear end in a top hat." I can't convince him to stop the flood.

Interpretation
Water is a recurring theme in almost all these dreams, and almost always associated with danger and death. The physiological interpretation is obvious, processing difficulty breathing as drowning, sleep paralysis as being held down. On top of that, we have religion. Here, the breaking of Noah's covenant stands out, resentment of being saved when others are not.

Can't Fight the Flood
626 words

Kevin goes out onto the balcony to watch the waves, practically pulling me out behind him. I don't like being outside, don't like the rain, almost always too horizontal for umbrellas or shelters. Droplets collecting on my glasses, until a fat, meaty drop smacks the lens and washes it clear. "You're lucky," he once said. "You don't get any to your eyes."

I don't feel lucky. I don't like the rain. But I don't pull my arm loose from his grip.

The waves are impressive, though. When the winds shift to where the building shelters us and I can see clearly. They crest over the dead cars in the streets, sometimes even over the tops of the buses. If it weren't concerning it would almost be beautiful.

"Didn't you used to say the Sovh weren't capable of lying?" says Kevin. It's been a sore point, these past months. I wasn't alone. After the first adjustment, after those weeks of damp darkness, when the linguists cracked the code of their pronouncements that was the thing they all said. The language of a superior intellect, in which untruth is logically impossible. When they say this is for our benefit, we must not disagree. When they say it will not happen a second time, we cannot doubt.

"Do you think we should have been on the raft?" I say. For the first time. It's been hanging over us for a while. We both knew people who did go to the raft. We both loved people who went.

We saw the start of the second adjustment from satellite images, real time. Beams wide as SUVs criss-crossing the oceans, flash-boiling deep troughs that filled in huge waves as soon as the beam passed. The world watched in horror until the white clouds of steam blocked the orbiting eyes. 

By then everyone knew there was no resisting the Sovh. The first adjustment taught us that and nobody had devised any new tricks since then. So all anyone could think of was appealing to their superior virtue. The rafts. Thousands in boats, steering them
Into the parts of the beams.

"When this building was put up," says Kevin, "The owner of one of the houses they tore down came out here. Laid down in the mud in front of the bulldozer that was there to clear the ground."

"Really?" I say. "What happened?"

Kevin waved his hand around. "Well, they built the apartments. But they didn't run her over either." He picks up a small stick, a twig from some now-drowned tree, and throws it hard, over the flooded streets below. "So that's one point for property developers over space angels."

"You know we can't stay here much longer. This building wasn't designed to stay up with the basement and half the first floor underwater."

"I know," he says. "When we have to, we'll go, to the high ground or to the flotillas."

When they say by their acts and silence that we deserve this, we must agree. That was the line from most of the linguists after the second adjustment began. Before the mobs got to them. Jeorg Mars, the most famous of them, looked so smug in that instant before the brick broke his jaw.

"Are you sure?" I say. His eyes go serious, like eyes of twin hurricanes.

"Yes," he says, moving closer, his face up in mine. "You survive. With me. You don't leave me alone."

The wind shifts, rain hits my face and glasses while he kisses me, like we haven't in years, like that first time out behind the Krystals in Savannah. The rain on my glasses means I can't tell if his eyes are open too, but I don't care.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





Prompt

My brother and I are floating down the river on a makeshift raft, the kind that's just logs of wood crudely tied together with rope. We're escaping from something. It's raining hard. So hard that I can barely see him even though he's right next to me. He's laying on his back with his head under his arms and he's wearing sunglasses. He's drunk again at another inappropriate time. It's night. I'm trying to keep our raft together but the river is choppy from the storm and it's making the ropes come undone. I keep grabbing rope and tightening it but as soon as I fix one two more come undone. I'm yelling for my brother to help but he just keeps laying there. Logs separate underneath me and I'm plunged into the cold water. I hold on to two pieces of the raft, the side I'd been sitting on and the side my brother is laying on. The strain is making my muscles burn and I don't know how much longer I can hold it together. My brother looks at me, lifts up his sunglasses, rolls his eyes, and says, "Just let go already."

My thoughts

You're a very legible dreamer, aren't you? I have a lot of dreams like this. I don't know the real world context; if your brother is deceased, then the dream takes on a very literal interpretation. But if he's not, I wonder if he's a stand-in for people in your life who make you feel like they're just watching you flail around, half drowning. The river and torrents of rain definitely add to a feeling like there's no control. When you're on or in a river, you're at the mercy of the current, and the rain obscures your view.

It's a lot easier to tell someone to let go than it is to really let go. This makes me curious about your brother--is he alive? Is he estranged? Does he frustrate you? Or is it like I supposed above, where he's a stand-in for people in general? The splitting of the raft suggests a divide, but it also feeds into this idea of control. If you don't hold everything together, no one will. My take is that, while that's true sometimes, a lot of the time the obligation to hold on is mostly in our heads. Most things work out ok on a long enough timeline. Or you die, and that's that.


big stick ideology
1663 words

I knew the exact moment my sister became obsessed with the big stick in the village square, even though she was ten and I was only six and it was her job to know what I was feeling, not the other way around.

Every season had a celebration to honor the big stick, to thank it for holding up the golden knotwork sky. The stick, while taller than anything else in the world, was thin as a young child’s arm; when you tilted your head back, it seemed to taper away to almost nothing, as if a thread were holding up the sky.

This was the summertime celebration of the stick, which was my favorite because it happened right at dusk, when the whorls and coils of the sky softened from brilliant gold to a low, molten color, and the village was gauzy with lantern light.

My sister always hated it. The adults drank and cavorted near the stick, which was protected from the crowd by nothing more than a square of velvet rope. She watched them with the fierceness she usually reserved for minding me, and I stood silently by her side, even though I wanted to go play with the other kids.

And then it happened. One of the drunk adults stumbled, tripped over the protective velvet rope, threw out his arms, and caught himself hard on the base of the big stick. He recoiled immediately, rebounded away from the thing like it was made of rubber.

In the silence that fell over the village, my sister took my hand and squeezed hard. We all stared up at the stick. No one breathed. Then someone made a joke, and everyone chuckled, and the tension dissolved.

I squinted at the big stick. It looked the same as it always did, tall and thin, disappearing into a particularly dense whorl in the molten sky. The adults were all laughing. But my sister hadn’t let go of my hand.

Even at ten years old, her grip was strong. The bones in my hand felt too close together, but I was scared to pull away from her, to disrupt the terrible rapture I saw on her upturned face. I looked at our parents, hoping they would glance our way, see my sister’s quiet distress, but now the party was back in full swing, and Mom was pulling Dad into a group of dancers.


Our house was empty when I woke up the next day.

I found another crowd gathered in the village square, but this time they were all there to gawk at my family. I was small enough to wriggle between the adults’ legs on all fours; when I got to the center of the crowd, I found my sister clinging to the big stick, wrapped around the base of it like a creeping vine.

“But how are you going to sleep, sweetie?” Mom was asking. “Where are you going to go to the bathroom?”

“I’ll figure it out,” my sister said through bared teeth.

At first I thought she was grimacing, but then I realized: held between her teeth was a small, violently blue soulcap mushroom. If she swallowed the cap, she would vomit ancestral ghosts. She’d vomit until her body gave out and she joined the ghosts she’d expelled. No one wanted a dead child or a town full of nosy, judgmental ghosts, so my sister was safe, for the moment.

For weeks, my parents pleaded with her. Our neighbors, the village elders, and the mayor all did their best to convince my sister to let go of the big stick.

“The stick was fine before you were born,” they told her, “and it’ll be fine after you die. Let it go.”

Sometimes I’d sit with her, not saying anything because I was afraid if we talked, she’d accidentally swallow the soulcap and puke up a bunch of ghosts and die. I didn’t know how to tell her that I understood, that I had seen fear crystalize inside of her the moment the drunk had stumbled into the big stick.


Weeks turned into months, months turned into years.

My sister became as much a feature of the village square as the big stick itself. She grew into an adult; I grew into a teenager, and with adolescence came a sense of shame. We were the family with the crazy sister who thought she needed to hold up the stick that held up the sky, who only went to the bathroom at night, when everyone was sleeping. A sister who survived off scraps from pitying villagers, eating carefully around the soulcap between her lips.

I came to hate her.

Some nights, I would sneak out to jeer at her. Torment her. On those nights, my hand throbbed like she was still crushing it in her fear grip. I hated myself, too. I fantasized about going away, finding another village where I wasn’t the girl who harassed her crazy sister.

Fifteen years later, my sister’s hands had become like lobster claws. The sky had changed, too.

In the entire history of the village, the iridescent whorls of knotwork had reflected the surrounding forest, green trapped in coils of gold. Now we saw new things reflected where the sky met the horizon: stoplight red, even though the village had no stoplights. Neon light, even though no one had ever heard of neon. Blinking strips of airport tarmac, though the village didn’t have an airport.

And then there was the roar. As it drew closer, we could hear the individual textures in the sound: falling trees and cracking earth. And something else, maybe. A murmur, a sliver of song.

The sky was horrible. Whatever was coming was all around us, closing in our village, visible to us only as warped grey reflections spattered with neon. Our gold was gone.

I spent my days on the roof of our house, where I could watch the hideous dust clouds rolling toward the village from every direction, swallowing the sky in a big doughnut of destruction. I think we all kept waiting for it to roll back like a wave. The village had always been. Nothing like this had ever happened.

One morning I awoke, took up my station on the roof, and looked toward our impending doom. My stomach lurched. Bile burned the back of my throat. At some point in the night, the clouds of destruction had crossed the threshold from distant to near.

There were roiling masses of skyscrapers, coils of highway, nervous system clusters of cable and wire. It was incredible. It was terrible. Now I was certain I could hear music underneath the roar of destruction—cataracts of song from a thousand times and places, all competing with the crash of treefall and earthshatter to batter my eardrums with too much.

Two voices screamed my name, telling me to come down to safety. The first was Mom, who stood below the eaves of our house, begging me to come down into the basement with her and Dad. As if a little wood and concrete would protect us from what was rolling in.

The other voice I almost didn’t recognize, until I realized where it was coming from. From my position on the roof I could see my sister in the village square, her hands still locked around the big stick. She was looking at me for the first time in almost two decades, her eyes wide and pleading, almost as bright as the soulcap between her lips.

I went to my sister, knelt beside her. There was so much I should have said, or asked, or apologized for. But as I looked into her face for the first time as an adult, suddenly I felt small again. I was a little sister, trusting and needy.

I said, “I don’t want to die.”

My sister raised an elbow invitingly and I crawled into the circle of her arms, nestled myself between her and the big stick. She was weathered and bony, and smelled of rain and dust. The soulcap glowed softly between us.

When the new world hit the village, it was with the force of a thousand-thousand trains, the roar of a hundred stadiums. It was hard as concrete, cold as steel, cutting as glass.

Just before the wave closed around my sister, the big stick, and I, she swallowed the soulcap mushroom. The effect was instant; her eyes rolled up in their sockets and her head jerked back with neck-breaking force. Her jaw opened wide, then distended, and from her throat erupted an electric blue fountain of amalgamated ghosts. They separated as soon as they hit the air, vague balls of light resolving into a horde of ancestors.

I screamed, and struggled, but my sister’s arms were tight around me, and her grip on that stick was reinforced with the iron of years.

With nowhere else to go, the ancestral ghosts clung to my sister and I, layering themselves over us like the plates on an armadillo’s back. The new world closed in around us, and there was a horrible crackling sound where highrises and road signs and car tires collided with the luminous forms of the ghosts. But the ghosts did not break; chaos broke against them, and rolled back.

I saw my sister among those ghosts, grinning madly at me, her eyes bright with the fierce love I remembered from our childhood.

When the world settled, my sister’s body was cold. I had to struggle to detangle myself from her arms. Strange shadows had fallen over us; when I looked up, I saw towers—a new kind of forest—that stretched toward a distant blue sky.

Our big stick had been gnawed to pieces, which lay scattered around us. I picked up a likely piece, tested my weight on it, and took my first steps in the new world, trailed by a procession of ghosts like little sisters.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022



Prompt: A child, it's unclear if it's my child, falls into a fast moving river is being swept away. The child is wearing a yellow raincoat like Curious George. I'm wearing a nice suit and an expensive new tie. It was a gift from my dad. I kick off my shoes and jacket and dive in to save the child but the current pushes me back while pushing them forward. My arms and legs get heavier and heavier. Finally, I can't kick one of my legs. It feels trapped. I look backwards and through the water I can see that an alligator has wrapped his jaws around my thigh. We make eye contact and then the gator pulls me under and begins a death roll. I start to drown. The child is washed ashore and is safe.

My interpretation: You wish to live up to (or perhaps surpass) the ideals of Fatherhood that your father had.

Cat's still in the Cradle
768 Words

Jake Gato remembered listening to the oldies on the radio. He was always amazed at how good the songs of yesterday were. Growing up, he would always be reminded of the songs of old, even those that weren’t old when he was young. One certain song that reminded him of his life was the 1974 Harry Chapin hit, “The Cat’s in the Cradle”. Not because he saw himself in the father in the song, but in the son.

His father Joe was a working class man, who, as anyone can see through his actions with his family, was a kind man, willing to do anything for his family. Unfortunately, it usually came at Jake’s expense. While there were a few times when Joe was there when Jake needed him, there were just as many, if not more, times where he wasn’t. Now Jake had his own family, and didn’t have the time to spend with his father, or even his own family.

When he was young, Jake wanted to be like his dad. He got his wish.

A few years before, Jake and his wife Sara welcomed to the world their first, and so far, only child, Nathaniel. That was obviously too long, so it was usually shortened to Nate. To Jake, Nate’s birth was one of the happiest days of his life. That was ten years ago. Nate was now a young boy, but he wasn’t sure if he really “knew” his father.

While there were many times Jake was not there for Nate, one instance where he was there was when they worked together to build a treehouse. Jake helped set things up and build it, and Nate was his “Little Helper”. Nate would spend hours with his friends, while Sara would usually watch close by to make sure Nate doesn’t hurt himself.

One day, after a particularly rough day at work, Jake came home frustrated. After literally yelling to Sara about his day, they had dinner. They had pork chops and Brussel Sprouts. Nate was asked how his day was. He showed them a letter from his teacher.

“Dear Mrs. Gato:
I’m rather worried about young Nathaniel. He stays around his group of friends and is quite sociable, but whenever the children talk about their families, he seems quite dismissive. There has even been more than one instance where he has mentioned that he ‘has no daddy’, even though I have met with Mr. Gato, myself. I also noticed that when other fathers come to pick up their children, he seems rather depressed.”

After Sara read the letter, Jake seemed rather confused.

“Nate, why are you telling others I don’t exist? Your friends have seen me before!”

“Do you even know my friends' names?!” Nate yelled. Jake paused for a bit, obviously having trouble remembering. Out of frustration, Nate ran out the door. Both Jake and Sara knew that he went to the treehouse.

“Maybe I should go to him,” Sara said.

“No,” said Jake, regrettably. “If anyone is gonna go to him, it has to be me.” So he went over to the treehouse.

When Jake climbed up, he saw Nate in the corner, crumpled up in a ball and depressed. Jake went to the opposite corner and made a similar position.

“Look son, I know I haven’t been there when I needed you the most. Hell, Grandpa Joe wasn’t any better. But I can honestly say that he was trying. And drat it Nate! I’m trying too!” He broke down. “I’m trying, damnit!” A few seconds later, he felt Nate’s hand on his shoulder, as if to assure Jake that everything was going to be okay. Jake then hugged Nate,both of them bawling their eyes out.

The next night, Jake went and called someone who was overdue for a call. Namely, his father, Joe.

“Hi dad, It’s Jake…Yeah, I figured now is as good a time as ever to call…Anyway, is it okay if Nate and I come over and visit? I’d bring Sara, but this is something that needs to be between men…Doesn't matter to me, Nate and I will make time…Great! See you then!”

A few days later Jake and Nate started to leave for Joe’s place. When Jake first started the car, he heard a familiar tune. After a while listening, Jake and Nate sang along with the chorus.

“And the Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Moon, Little Boy Blue and the Man on the Moon. When you comin home dad I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then. We’re gonna have a good time then.”

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The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007


you don't find a style

a style finds you



Week 509 Sub

prompt:
I'm being chased through the jungle. I've escaped from some kind of prison. I cut my hands on the corrugated metal roof I'd climbed and they're bleeding. Gunshots whizz past me. I hear the howls of dogs. I run faster. I realize that I'm running up the side of an ancient, dormant volcano. The dogs are nipping at my heels as I make it within fifty yards of the top. There's a tree that's grown on the very edge of the cliff and is stretched out over the drop. I know that in the middle of this volcano there isn't lava but rather tropical blue water. It's breathtakingly beautiful. I also know that the distance from the cliff to the water is right at the edge of human survivability and that if I jump, I might die when hit the water. I'll at minimum break my bones. I run up the tree like a ramp and Assassin's Creed dive out. As I fall, I howl a declaration of war at the water in the hopes that if the impact kills me and I'm at war with it then maybe a Valkyrie will take me to Valhalla.

Interpretation: it's like all about fear of being trapped in a dead end man


Where the Rubber Meets the Road
1669 words


Jan wandered, a little aimlessly, but really to watch all the kids get off the school buses, her own now officially out of the house and starting their own nests. The pings of metal on concrete rattled behind her and there was Dottie, laying on one of those skateboardy things, rubbing her knuckles. Chromed wrenches, pipes, and nuts strewn around her like guts fallen from a hot pink mechanical Prometheus chained to the blocks above.

“Need a hand?” Jan asked.

“I have two,” replied Dottie, “They just don’t work too well anymore.”

“It’s called a creeper, by the way,” mentioned Dottie, a shock of white hair that glowed like fishing line in the afternoon sun. The only tint was the streak of motor grease that ran reverse skunk. She kicked-walked down her short driveway to Jan, still face up in the afternoon sun.

Jan just said, “Weird,” and before she knew it, she was on the creeper and under both the scooter and Dottie’s tutelage, tightening all the nuts and clamps that gave Dottie’s arthritic hands so much grief.

Thus kickstarted Jan’s journey down the road to Zen and the Art of Scooter Maintenance. It wasn’t a long road, really just Maple to the corner of Sixth and Caldera where the unpaved trail to the quarry was rough going on a scoot, a jaunt around the park, then back again, with an occasional deviation to the Tasty Freeze, but it beat the hell out of bingo at the fire hall.



It was just a joyride on a lazy afternoon when Jan heard the bats before she saw them pour forth from the circle of hell they called the Caldera. She sighed in dismay, and started a three point turn, but they surrounded her while she was perpendicular to the double yellow. Vera and the Valkyries, leather vests with nametags and a custom embroidery that matched the professionally stenciled logo on their jet black matching Vespas, the were torment incarnate.

“You’re on our turf, Diapers.”

Jan rolled her eyes. “I’m turning around. I don’t want to get into it today, Vera.”

“Go on then, back to your side of the tracks.”

“Oh, for heaven’s.” The trolley tram ran down Oak Lane. “I’m going, you all can turn around and go back little playground.” Jan walked her scooter through the rest of the turn and and started her leisurely escape, not wanting to play biker gangs today.

The Valkyries revved to life and followed. Jan sped up and they matched her speed down the narrow street. She turned her head and there was the face of a harpy, maybe more leathery and tanned than the clothes she wore and close enough to smell the French onion soup she had for lunch. “Jeez, Myrt, you’re too close. Back off!” But before Jan could make any separation, Myrtle clutched the rainbow streamers on Jan’s handlebars and gave a hard tug. They were sturdier than Myrtle anticipated, and stayed firm. It was enough to yank Jan’s steering to the left and Jan lost control, riding up over the curb with a stream of sparks as the bottom scraped, and she bounced across the sidewalk, planed over the drainage ditch, and flipped rear end-over-tea kettle into the Mitchells’ hedgerow.

“Oh, crap.” said Myrtle.

It was only a few seconds before Jan got her senses and disentangled herself from the shrubbery. “I’m OK,” said Jan, but it was already to the backs of the Valkyries as they made escape to the safety of their cul-du-sac.

Jan yelled, maybe in vain, “I know where you live, Myrt, I’m sending you a bill. I don’t even have to mail it, I’m walking it over.”

She picked up her scooter, but the frame was bent at the footrests. At least the saddlebags hadn’t spilled all over the lawn. Injuries enough today without more insults, Jan thought, as she began lugging her busted scooter on the long trek home, down two blocks and one over.



“It’s electric?”

“Boogie woogie woogie.”

“What?”

“It’s a song.”

“It’s a scooter.”

“Nevermind. Dots, you really need to get out more.” Jan swished the shammy over a factory mint front fender a final time, before getting up with a groan she wasn’t sure came from her throat or her knees. She was by far the youngest of the Hot Flashes Riding Club, and maybe they’d have to stop making the joke about a spry fifty-five.

The remainder of the Hot Flashes, the three Margarets, stood in a rough semicircle with their rides, a motley collection of old Kymcos and Yamahas, budget friendly but well maintained, around Jan’s new toy, aside, that is, from Madge who remained on her three-wheeled trike, her latest catchphrase on repeat, “I’m not getting up for this.” With Peggy and Greta, they rode for nearly twenty years together and never realized they were all named Margaret until Jan pointed it out.

“Is it going to be fast enough?” asked Peggy.

“Zero to thirty in four point five,” said Jan. She wasn’t sure, but that sounded pretty fast for a scooter.

Dottie circled the electric scooter, alpha sizing up the new pack member, opening the access panels and tapping where the gas cap should be. Finally, she said, “I can’t make heads nor tails of this, you’re going to have to teach me.”

Jan beamed, Dottie’s deference was high praise. For the first time, Jan felt more than just the pair of able hands and a full member of the Hot Flashes.



Dottie called the summit, but Peggy made the invitations. Her grandkids got her a Cricut for her birthday, and she was jonesing to do some papercrafts. To Jan, Myrtle should just pay for the new scooter and be done with it, but Dottie was firm. If the Valkyries wanted a turf war, we’d settle it once and for all. It read as follows:

Valkyries! Street Justice Must Be Served!
The Hot Flashes demand Restitution for Hell on Wheels!
Sunset on the Boulevard! Rumble in the Jungle!!
Bring YouYourere Noseplugs for Swimming Lessons
Or be banished To the shallow End!

In fine print parentheses after each line, Peggy helpfully provided translations:
(Where mad at you guys)
(You broke Jans scooter and should pay for it)
(Meet us at 500Pm Saturday on Park Ave)
(Lets race five laps around the housing complex)
(If we win we share the roads without anymore fiteing)

“Nice work, Pegs,” said Dottie, “But we might need to talk about grammar.”

Peggy shrugged. “I did all the exclamation marks before my glasses broke and the commas were just too small.”

“The cherub print lilac paper really sells it,” Jan remarked. “This is perfect.”

Peggy hummed an improvised tune as she sealed the envelopes with her special envelope sealing sponge-stick. She called the tune “Smiles.”



From the checkered drop, Vera and Dottie sprang first and put broadcast airwaves between themselves and the rest who jockeyed for positions in a bunch of grapes a block behind, until finally as lap three ticked, Jan broke free and gained on the leaders.

The pop-pop-pop of two-stroke uzis erupted around Jan as she rounded the corner onto Park for lap four. Jan hazarded a glance around and she was the only Flash in a sea of barking leather dogs, the three Margarets were nowheresville. When Jan looked forward, Vera and Dottie were parked roadblocks and Myrtle barely threaded the needle and shot ahead. Jan eased off to squeeze through. Dots and Vera held off the rest of the pack. The final lap was a grudge match.


The setting sun sparkled diamonds through the oak canopy that edged the road around the park, a dappled camouflage on the pavement that wizzed beneath them. The finish line set at the Caldera cul-du-sac was in sight. Straight shot up Sixth. The Hot Flashes and the Valkyries rode behind in parade formation, whooping and hollering as loud as their septuagenarian plus throats would allow.

A neon pink ghost gliding on fresh electrons, Jan narrowed the gap. Less than a meter ahead, Myrtle looked back, adjusted her goggles, and gave Jan a cheshire grin, gleaming porcelain against the inky jet of riding leathers and the black beauty that chugged and snorted with iron breath beneath her. Myrt hunched over the handlebars with intent and maxed the throttle.

If ever there was a time to let ‘er rip it was now. Jan twisted the throttle on the handlebar and she felt the rush of acceleration. It wasn’t at all like the gas engine, it was silent, secret, and then all at once, it was there. Tick, tick, tick, the intersections dropped like flies and Jan matched Myrtle axle to axle.

Myrtle yelled her banshee scream as Jan hit the finish line, and Myrt was just a smidge behind. Jan let out the breath she might have been holding the entire race as she pumped the brakes. And then there was Myrtle bouncing out of her seat, legs akimbo, up the trail to the quarry, and Jan’s rational brain, left behind in lap four, caught up with the words riding the scream, “I can’t stop, I’m out of control!”

Two rival gangs watched helplessly as Myrtle rode up a nature-made ramp of fallen trees and catapulted through the air like a wrinklier E.T. or a stunt Evil Knieval tried to abandon half way though before she vanished out of sight.

Then after what, in different circumstances, a comically long pause, the little sploop of Myrlte making splashdown in the cold, deep waters of the quarry lake.

Vera, Dottie, and the rest navigated the rough path up and saw her treading water, her scooter thirty fathoms below. “You’re out of the Valkyries,” shouted Vera.

As the three Margarets and the Vals talked club mergers and joining forces to run this town, Jan was already plugging down the trail to the water’s edge to rescue that wet sack of dust, and ask Myrtle if she wrote Jan’s reimbursement check in waterproof ink.

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