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The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


Best Man
728 Words

Luke was at the hotel, waiting around. He was wearing a rental tuxedo.

Jake, where the hell are you?

A few minutes later, Jake arrived. He was also wearing a rental, but he was in a much fancier getup. After all, today was his big day, not Luke’s.

“Crap, I forgot my tie! Could you go and get it quickly?”

Luke sighed. He and Jake basically knew each other all of their lives, and he was still a forgetful son of a bitch.

“Fine, I’ll be right there.”

While he went up, Luke happened to observe the bridesmaids with the bride to be. Heather. A girl both Luke and Jake knew all too well. He paused to observe, with one thought crossing his mind:

Christ, she looks beautiful…

After a few minutes, the Bridal Party left for the Church. As soon as they left, Luke quickly came back to his senses, and went to get Jake’s tie.

After a little while, the Groom Party headed over to the church. They were preparing for the wedding in front of the Sanctuary, and Jake was a drat wreck.

“Calm down, man!” Luke said. “It’s only a day you have to remember for the rest of your life!”

“Gee…thanks.” Jake said sarcastically. Sure, Luke was an rear end, but he was Jake’s rear end. Surprisingly, this helped Jake calm down. Luke did have a way of lightening the mood.

The wedding basically went off without a hitch. Luke thought himself lucky that they didn’t do the whole, “speak now, or forever hold your peace” thing anymore. And even if they did, Luke held his peace for Jake’s sake a long time ago.

Afterwards, there was the reception. The newly married couple was introduced, along with the groomsmen and the bridesmaids. After everyone was seated, the reception began.

While everyone was eating, a million thoughts crossed Luke’s mind. Yes, he was in love with Heather. Yes, he loved her for as long as Jake did, if not longer. Yes, it haunted him every day that he never acted on his feelings. But he knew that they were happy.

Sure, this kind of thing would basically cause a love triangle, but Luke and Jake were basically brothers. They were as close as siblings could be, even though they were from different families.

When Jake was with Heather, they were happy. What kind of prick screws with his brother’s happiness?

Luke basically gave up on Heather for Jake’s sake a long time ago, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

While the reception was going on, he noticed that the live band had an acoustic guitar. This gave Luke an idea, and hopefully a way to sleep at night.

Later at the reception, it was time for the Best Man and Maid of Honor to give their toasts. Since he was the Best Man, everyone had their eyes on Luke. He went up, grabbed a stool, a mikestand, a mike, and the acoustic guitar, and set things up in the middle of the room.

“This is for Jake and Heather.” He said.

He started playing an old Jim Croce song, an old song he used to listen to on the radio. Luke saw it as the perfect way to take a weight off his shoulders.

Yeah I know it’s kind of strange, But every time I’m near you I run out of things to say. I know you’d understand. ‘Cause every time I tried to tell you, the words just came out wrong.”

He looked at Heather when singing the next part.

So I’ll have to say I love you, in a song.”

Luke continued the song. While he was singing, Heather was in tears. Whether she shared his feelings or not, Luke would never know. After Luke was done, he went and picked up and raised his champagne glass.

“Here’s to the happy couple.” He then put everything away, and sat down.

“Luke, are you…?” Jake asked as soon as Luke sat down. Luke put a hand on Jake’s shoulder.

“You won the game, man. I didn’t even compete.” Jake then gave Luke a look, as if he was grateful for all he had done.

Afterwards, the reception continued and everyone had fun. At the end, as everyone started to leave, Luke stayed behind, and lifted up a champagne glass.

“Here’s to the happy couple.”


Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
:siren: :siren: :siren: IMPORTANT 10TH BIRTHDAY ANNOUNCEMENT! :siren: :siren: :siren:

As of this post, we need just under 50 stories to achieve a successful next decade of Thunderdome! That number will go down as entries roll in this week, but we're gonna need to see some real 11th hour miracles in the next few days.

Do you have redemptions to write? Now is the time. Do you have a great interprompt idea? Pounce on it! I'd love to see a huge turnout for this upcoming week. Consider: the victor of week 521 will be the first prompter of the new decade. What an honor!

As the cabal makes preparations for TD's 10th birthday, we felt we would be remiss if we didn't have some sort of gimmicky crowd-sourced element. To that end! Please click the following link:


And follow the very simple instructions. Feel free to submit as many flash or hellrules as you want!

I will see you all on the bloody sands of week 521 :black101:

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 07:23 on Jul 25, 2022

Rhymes With Clue
Nov 18, 2010

Week 520
Too late
999 words

Marina was always going to come to a bad end and no one could save her. I couldn’t. Or maybe I could have, but it was too late.

When I left her car back at her place with the keys on top of the left front tire and hoping nobody saw me do that. Too late. When I took evasive measures so no one would see me as I stomped through the rain back to the bar’s parking lot to get my own car, it was too late. When I drove my own car home, very carefully, adhering to the speed limit, it was too late. When I got into bed shivering and nauseous, it was too late.

When I got to work the next day and learned Marina had been arrested it was way too late. And I was relieved. I spent the day thinking about how to get my story straight, forwards and backwards, but nobody ever asked me. I thought about the last thing Marina said to me, or the last coherent thing. “C’mon Barb, if I have to make nice with this scrote from Indiana or where-the-gently caress-ever I really need a real drink.”

So I made her a real drink. Not every time. Say every third drink. That wasn’t enough to wreck her. I know she had something else. But maybe if I’d given her the alcohol-free drinks the dancers were supposed to get, she might have been less wrecked? Too late.

When I came into the parking lot after closing and saw Marina stabbing her keys all over the car door but nowhere close to the keyhole the best thing seemed to be to offer her a ride home. She wouldn’t get into my car. She’d rather fight me. Not that it would have been much of a fight. She could barely walk around to the passenger side.

Marina’s car, old but classic, candy-apple red in the daylight, glowed maroon under the buzzing light in the parking lot. Side windows so dark I had to roll mine down to make sure I was clear to make a right on red and so comically overpowered that the tires squealed every time I accelerated, with the slightest touch. Zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds, or something like that.

Getting Marina into her place had been like hauling a blow-up sex doll filled with 120 pounds of wet Jello. As I dumped her onto her couch, I actually worried that Marina might never wake up. And then, another turning point. I could have left her car there, parked in her space at her building, which seemed to be what she wanted. Her objection to riding in my car, slurred and incoherent as it was, had indicated she didn’t want to leave her car in the parking lot overnight. I didn’t want to leave mine there, either. So there was another bad choice.

I was blocks from the bar in Marina’s car when the cop pulled me over. I don’t know why; probably because no one decent is out at three a.m. and nothing good happens then, or maybe it was the illegally dark windows. When I leaned over to get my license the cop said, quite sharply, “Stop! Hold it right there. I'm gonna need you to put both your hands on the steering wheel and keep them there.”

Not gonna lie, I was shaking. Cold sober, but he probably had got a blast of booze from where Marina had been stinking up the seat, and even without that, working in a bar you pick up the scent of alcohol. And then he said, “I'm gonna need you to step out of the car, ma’am.”

So I was sitting there and wondering how to step out of the car while keeping both hands on the steering wheel when the cop just dropped. And I sat there, hands on the wheel and probably mouth hanging open when I saw the guy in the hoodie right behind him. Okay I was getting a ticket, now I'm getting carjacked—

“Get outta here Gwennie,” the guy said. “What are you, stupid? Just bounce. Move it, go fast!”

I moved it, I went fast. It didn’t occur to me until later, when I was plodding through the rain back to the bar’s parking lot (and hiding behind trees and parked cars when the rare auto passed), that Marina was her bar name, Gwen was her real name (what are you, stupid?), so the guy knew her. And—had I ever seen him before? At the bar? Anywhere?

Maybe the cop was just knocked out, not dead. Maybe the guy with the lead pipe, which is how I think of him even though I never saw anything in his hands, maybe he wouldn’t have done me any harm. Maybe the cop had a body cam. Maybe he’d already called in Marina’s license plate number. Maybe I could have hung around and explained everything but it didn’t seem like a good idea at the time, and it’s too late.

By the time I heard that Marina had been arrested it was too late to go in with my story. Not that it would have exonerated her, because she could get sent up for years for just what they found in her car, quite aside from assaulting an officer of the law. Apparently when they picked her up she was still so blotto that she said she remembered nothing and she could have done anything.

So that’ll be hanging over me, even knowing that Marina’s trajectory wasn’t good, definite downward spiral there, she wasn’t going to come to any kind of good end. And also hanging over me is the memory of the guy in the hoodie. Who was he? He could exonerate her but at his own expense, so he won’t, and anyway, it’s too late. It's too late to tell anyone what really happened out there.

It was always too late.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

520 crit for words
prolly spent more time thinking about this crazy thing than my own entry for this week.

Idle Amalgam posted:

Week 488 Immaculate Conception
1,440 Words
Motivations: since the character goes to AITA they clearly want justification for their actions, and get a bunch of redditors to immediately support her and dismisses the criticisms out of hand. The story within the story character’s motivations are a little more murky.

I’m diving into plot stuff and details that I think might salvage the story, but really it’s the motivations that let you down. You don’t need to do a deep dive into these characters’ psychologies and can do a plot heavy horror story, but from the start there’s no clear reason why the woman is sticking around, and there’s nothing stopping her from leaving or getting real help at any point before the egg hatches. It doesn’t make sense that she wouldn’t show a live person her chicken-man husband, and that no one she calls tries to help or get scientists and doctors involved.

I don’t doubt that someone would go to reddit and continue giving updates if something like this happened, but the tone is definitely a little too casual for the circumstances, especially in the later updates. You could really play with the format and do some interesting things with an AITA, but I wonder if it would have been better to frame it in a different forum. To keep the casual tone, I’d pop it in like pet island or whatever with the first being, “anyone know what giant birds like ostriches eat, thanks!” Then a post a week later with, “well, my DH (dear hubby) isn’t handling the feed too well. Also, the egg shell is a bit leathery, do I need to spritz it with water or anything as it grows?” Wait, what? Then build the strange case of the chicken man.

Since the story either way isn’t actually taking place on the internet, just information relayed via the internet, you could have framed it in a Freedom of Information Act type thing, requesting documents from the government and getting an X-Files pdf with an interview transcript or case notes someone forgot to redact and go full-blown body horror without the AITA conceit getting in the way.
But if we stick with reddit-style, I’m not too sure how the moderation works—the account was deleted, but seems pretty clear by your ending that the wife has lost humanity and couldn’t do it herself. If the account was banned then it was a prank, or if absolutely true, then someone would want to scrub the entire story. Just the [deleted] account leaves questions for me on why that’s the specific detail.

Going to set aside the physiological details (I don’t think narrow urethra causes infertility) and the specifics of how the egg-laying works. Hell, even that I don’t think eggs grow in size once they’ve been laid, but you could use that for effect (more about that in a bit). I don’t think any of that needs to be explained so long as you set up the horror of the scenario in a good way, or go full-tilt into sci-fi. The middle ground bogs the story down since the details could be interesting, or the mystery interesting but I’m just told, “suffice it to say there are details and we’ll just leave it at that.”

The first section makes me feel tight in the chest, not from the egg horror, but because of the implications of spousal rape and forced impregnation. Ease into it with maybe it’s a couple who actually does want to get pregnant and tries everything without success, and the husband starts looking at strange websites for alternative solutions. Or there’s a fight about having kids at all, and the wife leaves in a huff, returns to collect some belongings only to find DH proudly nesting with a strange egg. Either of these adds some sympathy to the husband, and you can draw out the “has he lost his mind?” before the actual body horror.

Either way, you could call out some internet sites specifically or create your own to add some mystery. Finding a secret login screen on that 404s now or even the husband shows an SCP story about how to make a hybrid baby, then the entire thing is redacted the next time the wife checks it. You’re using the internet as a plot device and a framing device, so may as well go all out.

The second update leans into the physical changes too quickly—argument about having kids, wife leaves overnight, then comes back to pack a suitcase, or even just talk it out and the husband is cradling an egg, then the next time she comes back to the house the egg is bigger and the husband is acting more birdlike but no apparent physical changes, I feel like that’s a better ramp-up.

Especially when there’s a remark about all the phone calls. Surely, I would come physically and check in if I got a call about this. And if the authorities get involved, but before the feathers, then, well, he’s not all there, but we can’t do an involuntary commitment because he’s not a danger to himself or others, etc. Nevermind the local media frenzy: “Man thinks he’s a chicken? More at 6:00.”

So you can dismiss all these concerns/?plotholes? in the first two updates, and if wife decides to stay and take care of her husband that is acting increasingly bizarre, you get a good dose of empathy for her. She was mad, then confused, and she might feel trapped in the relationship, but she’s sticking around because she’s a good person (and though the husband may want a traditional family, the gross parts at the beginning don’t have to be so gross—obviously you can do a Handmaid’s Tale thing and be successful, but it doesn’t fit in with the the rest, and at least for me, that’s where I get hung up. I’m just like, sever and get the gently caress out of there before the story gets going).

So on the third drop the “my god, it was all real.”
You gloss over the specifics of how it works, but the wife seems to have at least gotten an explanation on the details, so you could do some things with either trying to reverse engineer the process from a website in the history or trying to remember the details from a rambling explanation to stop the changes. She says she wants to restore things to the way they were, but we’re told the husband is too far gone, and she’s just going to smash the egg. There’s no attempt to actually fix things.

Pt 3 also opens with the matter of fact, “It hatched.” Then rewinds to the build-up. You kill any tension about whether she’s going to smash the egg as she relates the details since we already know.

The egg smash itself: husband is guarding the egg fiercely, but she’s able to sneak up on it in the night. OK, but it’s tough to sneak up on birds, even when they’re sleeping, and more so when they’re nesting. Rather than just watching the clock, even something silly like a trail of feed into the back yard or some other trickery would be more interesting and shows that the wife is planning. Or a “fight scene” where the wife just goes and smashes it. Maybe that’s where she can get scratched and then “infected” with bird transformation genes or however it works. Otherwise, you’ve established that the husband had a complicated system for laying an egg and the wife doesn’t go through any of that prior to transformation.

I get that you probably envisioned a cool Alien egg starting to hatch, and maybe you should have just let it hatch. Or have the shell be smashed and then see the baby inside and have a change of heart. I don’t feel why the wife was suddenly compelled after all this to embrace maternal instincts. I guess something simple like her inhaling a puff of steam from inside the egg could do it, since just one sentence before she’s ready to puke thinking about chimeras. This is such a key moment when the switch is flipped from disgust to lovingly raising a creature (actually there’s no physical description of the baby, so does it look human, grotesque, some cartoony hybrid cuteness, we don’t know).
How the baby looks, smells, etc. could have changed the wife’s mind, her resolve faltering because it’s just so cute or, at least, human-ish.

The abrupt ending doesn’t really work, since the logic of how she posted isn’t addressed. Maybe a wrap up where she slowly devolves into chicken speak over a sentence or two would cover that and still make your ending achieve what you wanted.


bonus crit since it was mostly already written:

I enjoyed this one, so this is mostly a list of things to think about if you ever expand it, particularly from a hard sci-fi sort of viewpoint where I, as a reader, would want things to make sense from a modern world. Of course, if you careened a timeline off from the 80s, then the lights would be logical. I dunno, it feels like it might have been written a couple decades back, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but I'd love to have some updates where apoc stories integrate smart phones and drones and LEDs into the dying world.

Motivations: Primarily physical survival. Emotional toll from loneliness, protag seems like the last person on earth, and still struggles to find their place in it.

What seems like a “hard” science fiction story should make it clear to the reader that certain conditions are occurring, but have character interpret what’s happening in the mystical or metaphysical. You got the second bit right, but I feel the sci-fi world is a bit jumbled and I really started focusing on that instead of the internal plight and existential dread of the character.

Since there have been so many “last person on earth” stories and movies it’s hard to get a new angle on it, so maybe simplicity is best unless you come up with a cool gimmick. The plastic ocean is a good one, and if it were slowly encroaching and contaminating the good soil or something that would set a ticking clock.
Similarly, ten years ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the floodlight situation, and you could create good tension with the lights slowly dying one by one. But it’s like the cell phone problem in mysteries. There was time enough to build a city and import topsoil (that’s a really good detail) but they brought old halogen floodlights instead of LEDs?
If this is like a Fallout alternate timeline, there’s not enough devoted to explaining the outdated tech, and since you set up the slow death of the environment, then a few survivors commandeering a research station doesn’t work either.
And given the prevalence of respirator knowledge that’s hit the mainstream in the last couple years, smelling the sour oceans says to me either the mask is sub-par, or there’s a malfunction/faulty seal. Something like that could ground the hallucinatory effects going on, even if the character doesn’t realize it.

If you wanted to do the “hold a mirror to modern society” schtick, then it certainly seems more likely that Musk or some other rich knucklehead would try to build a Sanctuary, and do it in the dumbest way. I can think of a couple stories/movies where the underclass rises up, but not one where after casting off their chains they then have to deal with the idiotic design and bad tech that the science bro put together.

The character is far enough removed from present day that a new religion has developed, but still ponders the irony of Sanctuary. Maybe a description of the ruined husk of the city and then drop the name and let the reader connect the dots? Or sanctuary as a curse word whose origin is forgotten or unknown by the character, just that Mother used it in that way.

It’s unclear just how much old world knowledge is around, since there’s at least an atlas in the bunker, and you do mention Sequester and doing some scientific stuff presumably about fertilizer and carbon capture as a ritual that the character doesn’t understand. That’s interesting, and a few more details scattered throughout like that, or even the whole thread of a future farmer just doing the rituals could be a piece. There’s enough biology around the bunker that it seems odd not to mention trying to eat it.

Red algae: definitely edible. I don’t think the effects of microplastics are immediately apparent, so I expect that desperate survivors would have tried it and maybe think it’s the solution until there’s a failed crop of babies from the pollutants. An abandoned algae farm floating off shore might help sell the desperation that the previous generations tried everything.

Lichens: had to look this up to be sure, and some are edible, many not. Would have been a good bit for your character to race to a bright green patch and then be tormented by the knowledge that it’s toxic, or consult some picture flash cards until hope is dashed.

But that leads to the biggest food issue: mushrooms. You drop mycelial towards the end, and shroom farms are being explored either as supplements to food stores or some nutrient dense ones as bunker supplies since they can grow with little or no light, and don’t take too much maintenance to grow. Since it’s been established that soil has been imported from all over, it would stand to reason that some spores would have tagged along, and there might be wild mushrooms to eat. Maybe even a bunker where the last remaining food is a bunch of psychedelic magic mushrooms (copyright me do not steal)

So my long winded point here is that maybe it works better if there’s no life/food around at all, and the character remembered grubs when they were knee high, but now there’re only empty husks in the dirt.

FInally, a little confused about the sky imagery. Given the focus on physical survival, I thought initially it was a raincloud. With another smackdown of the survivor, It might roll in and they discover it’s acid rain or filled with nuclear particles which would have ruined the farming prospects once and for all. But it’s some pathogen/disease cloud?

Seems like all the apocalypses happened at once. Thawed ice caps, plasticized oceans (but then there’s imagery about it multiplying so is it a grey goo thing?), itching tumors (presumably radiation), pathogens. Too many apocalypses being dealt with, or I don’t get how all these effects tie together and what happened to the old world.

I mean, in the end, the dark cloud is the spectre of death and madness, and that’s fine. If the entire piece simply used the evocative tones in your italics paragraphs about being the last survivor you could have side-stepped the practical survivalist issues but those same paragraphs hinted at scientific things.
I know there’s sort of a running argument in the Dome about obscuring plot behind imagery, or “puzzle boxing” it in flash fiction and I am on the side of liking it since I will try and figure out what a story is trying to say even when it’s messy. But this one never gave me an ‘ah-ha’ moment where the details clicked and I could piece together how the world failed. I got hung up on trying to figure it out.

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 06:00 on Jul 25, 2022

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 520 Entry

FLASH - Your protagonist refuses to drink alcohol, "For religious reasons," but they're lying

Gourdian Not
1500 Words

Kentik chewed the fibrous tinnit stem, bitter with floral undernotes, like a day in the meadow when the rain hasn’t visited. As the gourd was passed, Kentik spat the mass into its hollow. Around it went until each villager made a contribution. With priests’ murmured chants, the sacred bowl, hard and old as stone, traveled three cycles before the Priestess raised it above her head.

Through the shimmer of coals in the firepit at the front of the dias, the Priestess appeared to waver, but her voice was nimble as it danced above the Kentik and the other villagers. “Dream Mother, infuse the tin-baku with your spirit, Mother of Soil, bind the essence to the tin-baku, Fire Mother, transform the tin-baku, so that it might transform me into the conduit for your guidance.” As she lowered the bowl onto its bronze ring above the fire, the other priests sang.

An old one joined the chant and soon, voices chirped all around him, like the crickets in the meadow once the rain finally arrives. Just as steam began to rise from the bowl, Priestess lowered the lid, and chanting priests lifted the bowl with bright wool mitts placed it in a recess behind the altar, and returned with its sister, placing the second gourd at Priestess’s feet.

The Priestess knelt and breathed in the aroma of last harvest’s tin-baku. Kentik saw the corner of her mouth curl in the faintest smile. She dipped the wooden ladle and drank deeply. She couldn’t hold the smile back now, and draughted a second ladleful. The altar-tender, Timbu, replaced the lid and the priests returned it to its sacred place.

The crowd tommed on skin-drums or slapped hollowed logs as the Priestess danced for divine guidance, twirling and bouncing, and more than once the panicked Timbu guided her back from the edges of the dias, or the heat of the embers, where she careened more and more frequently.

She loosed a howl, and climbed onto the fur covered altar where she collapsed. The crowd dispersed, but Kentik lingered, watching Timbu cover Priestess with a second fur, and as she turned to leave and retire for the night, the Priestess tugged on the back of her robe. He stopped and Kentik heard the Priestess say, “Timbu, fetch me some meat skewers? You know how I like them, crispy.”

“Of course, Our Vision. I’ll prepare them right away.”

“With the spicy vinegar sauce.”

“At once.”

Kentik watched Timbu amble away, robes hiked to avoid the dust, and approached the dias to ask the Priestess about his future. She was idly humming. He cleared his throat. She pointed a finger and in a voice higher and reedier than Kentik had ever heard from her, she uttered a drawn-out, “You,” as her bangled arm dropped and dangled off the edge of the altar.

Mothers, what did that mean? Kentik looked around, saw no one, and crept onto the dias. As he approached, he whispered, gently reaching out to touch the blanket, “Priestess, what-” but she interrupted with the first sawcut of a snore loud enough he flinched. She would clear half the forest by morning.

The old ones were always quick with an omen, quick enough that Kentik didn’t put much stock in them. But this was different, the Priestess, must have seen something so grave and terrible that she passed out from the sight. He had to know. The tin-baku. No, it’s sacred. Only the Priestess may drink it. Dream Mother, take this thought from my mind.

But Kentik could think of nothing else. Maybe that was Dream Mother’s reply. He picked up the gourd and it sloshed, heavy with the tin-baku. I can’t do it. Then Timbu rustling down the trail from the cook fires decided for him. Kentik would be caught if he didn’t run now. So he did. As he flitted into the trees he heard Timbu exclaim, “Priestess. Every. Single. Time.” And he was at the riverbank where the babbling covered the sound of his breath before he realized the sacred bowl was still in his hands.

He opened the gourd and smelled the brew inside, vaguely tinnit, but strange. Rotten, but not. He offered another supplication to the Dream Mother and while his stomach knotted, he felt the overwhelming compulsion to try it. The Mothers must want this. Kentik raised the bowl to his lips and drank.

Fire Mother. He felt the heat creep into his cheeks and forehead, and his tongue went numb. Then he tasted the Mother of Soil’s gift, the tinnit and the meadow and it was like he was there now. And he wanted to drink more. So he did. And the fire tasted good.

Kentik sat on a rock in the stream, water rippling over bare feet that nudged smooth stones into the current. And he felt love. Not any specific thing, but an overwhelming love for all the village and for the village that was a day’s walk along the water, and the next and the next. And like the Priestess, he couldn’t stop smiling. He watched the warriors chase prey across the sky, and his head felt light enough that he wondered if he would join them in the eternal hunt. But then he worried that his mother and brothers would miss him and he would miss them, and Kentik hadn’t cried since he was a child, but he couldn’t stifle the tears on his cheek now. He tried to stand, to return and hug his family, but the Mother of Soil had other ideas, and the tears were washed downstream as he found himself face down in the water.

He rolled over, the water barely calf high, and the waters pushed him to the shore until his back was touching the silt. There he stayed, and like the Priestess, he couldn’t think now of anything besides entering the Dreamlands. But before he drifted off, he saw the sacred gourd floating towards Tall Trees village. Then the sky hunters and the animals went dark.

Timbu’s bellowing woke him. He bolted out of his bed, though his head took a moment to catch up. Wait, his bed? He didn’t remember coming home. He couldn’t remember traveling through the Dreamlands but he must have prevailed, though his head pounded with the heartbeat of the earth, and he was unsure if this was a dream wound, or if he had achieved some connection to the spirits. Unsure, until Timbu tore open the flap on the hut and light poured in. Then Kentik knew he had been cursed.

Timbu paced, counting the congregating until finally everyone was at the altar. “A grave injustice has been committed. Sacrilege. Someone has stolen the sacred tin-baku. Return it immediately and the Mothers may forgive this affront.”

Everyone waited. Kentik watched Timbu’s face for any signs that he knew. Timbu felt Kentik’s stare and called him out. “Kentik,” she said as she approached, the hem of her robe whisking dust. Uh-oh, this was serious. “You lingered after the ceremony. Why?”

A drop of sweat beaded on Kentik’s hairline. “I—.” The more he thought the more his head pounded.

“Nothing to say? You violated the sanctity of the altar. Kentik stole the tin-baku.”

“No. I didn’t take it. I swear to you.” Kentik already felt punished enough by the Mothers, Timbu didn’t need to be involved.

“You took it,” Timbu rumbled.

“No.” Their gazes locked and Kentik called on all the Mothers to help him not vomit directly on Timbu.

A child spoke, “Maybe a monkey took it.”

Someone snorted with laughter behind Timbu. She spun, indignant, until she saw it was the Priestess, stretching.

“What did the monkey take, child?”

“I don’t know.”

“Timbu, fetch the ladle, the Priestess feels there’s an unseen vision lingering and I desperately want to find out what it is before I start the day. And get me two strips of medicine bark.”

“That’s just it, Our Vision, someone stole the tin-baku. It’s gone.”

“Well, that is a problem.”

“More than a problem, it’s a sacrilege.”

“Please, Timbu, get the medicine bark, then conduct your interrogations elsewhere. I must ponder the visions in peace.”

“Of course.” Timbu bowed and retreated, one eye on Kentik until he vanished around the trail’s bend.

Kentik turned and the Priestess was looking at him. ‘You,’ she said. Kentik froze. “There was something I was going to say to you. But Mothers, I can’t remember now. Are you okay, Kentik? You look how I feel.”

“Of course, I just wanted a blessing. Think no more about it, I beg you,” he replied between thumps in his head. Kentik closed his eyes, inhaled, and felt a little relief. He wondered if he’d ever remember the Dreamlands, but he had the sense that some magical communion had happened, and he was caught now in a tumult of emotions. He waved an arm, and his brothers and sisters and mother gathered around him. “I already have my blessings.”

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

I am third judge

Apr 21, 2010

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

555 words

It doesn't get any easier.

She's talking to you. There's anger, annoyance in the tone. You translate that before starting on the words, while you lift one leg and let the other fall, while you let your arms swing not too rhythmically but not too stiffly, while you turn your head to face her. Five movements, one each for your five starfish arms, and your head in the middle squeezing meaning from the words.

You remember the crib, being content to flail about, to take everything in. You remember the moment you started understanding the tones on your mother's face and in her voice, when you started to understand she was worried, most of the time, and when the suspicion took root that it was because of you. That was the moment. It hasn't gotten any easier since then.

"Are you even listening to me?" It's a trick question, of course, but a bit of a relief. You have scripts for that question, procedures that generate reasonable responses. A Chinese room, but for humaning. Your starfish arms work the levers of the room, answering the questions that arise. Do you want to start to fight, avoid contact for a few days? No. Do you want to appear pathetic, gamble for sympathy? No. You generate the text that you spool into your mouth. You are aware how much longer this takes, starfish mind and scripts doing the work of brain and mind and soul. It hasn't gotten any easier. The scripts grow more complicated faster than you can memorize and internalize them.

"Sorry," you say. "You know how I get distracted sometimes." She rolls her eyes.

"I said," she says, and the recursion puts a little smile on your starfish face. With effort you don't let the arm that works your face reflect that smile. With effort you wrench your attention away from that regression, like a mind inside a room inside a mind, and listen to the rest of what she says. It hasn't gotten any easier. "You probably completely forgot Mom's birthday. God, Eddie. Can't you just be normal, for once?"

You've been trying to write the scripts for that one since you could speak. It's a tangled mess of bad paths and options you don't want to take. You turn knobs to the 'no' position with your starfish arms again and again but the options don't get more attractive. You become aware of yourself staring toward the middle difference.

"Of course not," she says. "Look, we'll just say this is from both of us." You blink. "You're just lucky to have a sister like me."

This script is easier, safer. Expressing gratitude almost comes naturally. Your arm only hesitates for a few microseconds on the knobs that start arguments before selecting 'no'.

It doesn't get any easier. Tomorrow, in a similar place, a similar script, you'll probably choose harsher words, choose a fight, choose pushing her away, her or someone else.

You go inside, hoping for a good mood. The scripts with your mother don't have many good paths whatever you choose.

You let the worry slip from your real face to your top arm to your other face. She sees. She grabs your fidgeting hands, and squeezes, and smiles.

And it gets, for a second and by just a little bit, easier.

Tars Tarkas
Apr 13, 2003

Rock the Mok

A nasty woman, I think you should try is, Jess.

Week 520 entry

994 words

Save A Million Dreams!
Help Grandma Bear Beat Cancer!
Together We Spay All the Cats!
Give Clarence A Decent Funeral!

Debs Miller watched the numbers roll in on those GoFundUs fundraisers. She was proud of their take, and why shouldn’t she be? She set them all up, and all those thousands of donations were going right into her pocket.

Debs didn’t set out to be the Queen of GoFundUs, but after seeing far too many of her friends and family post fundraisers on Facebook, some quite successful, the lure of money was too strong to resist. She went from an initial test post to an entire racket. Debs had to set up spreadsheets to keep track of the legion of fraudulent accounts, fake photos – Debs switched from photoshop to AI generated images, and social media histories. She is paying a writer to plant fake news articles, thanks to the death of journalism it became far too easy to get published if you give the “news” away! Debs even has a contact at GoFundUs who makes sure some of her fundraisers get promoted in exchange for a small fee.

Originally Debs justified this because of her loans, her mom’s medical debt, her no-good brother’s child support payments. The truth of the matter is, Debs just wanted the money. She hid it well, still living in the same trailer she had when she started, but she had almost half a million squirreled away in different accounts. It was almost enough.

Until that bitch showed up!

Someone had stolen the sweet spot, getting the top placements above actual fundraisers, and even worse, were placed above Debs’s planted fundraisers. The stories looked real, only Debs trained eye recognized the pattern. One techniques for success is to copy the styles of stories that go viral, and soon Debs noticed her postings were being mimicked. They even fundraised off a fake mass shooting Debs and her writer spend a month planning! It went viral on Twitter, but this new person somehow got their imagined victim’s fundraiser higher in the algorithm and raked in three times the cash.

No one stays on top forever, but Debs was not about to relinquish her crown to some upstart. The resentment from being cut from dance squad in school one too many times festered, now Debs never settled for second best. She only wanted to retire on her terms. Beyond that, too many frauds would spoil the con.

This new person was good, separate accounts on all the payments, AI generated pictures, writing just amateurish enough to look real (if the stories are too copy-edited they just sound fake!) There were even updates from the happy families, and even videos using actors. Just apply a bunch of filters and suddenly you have a grieving widow, a family that can't pay for mom's funeral, or desperate people needing insulin or baby formula.

Despite the skill, they made one mistake. They pissed off Debs. Okay, they made two mistakes. An email accounted was connected with enough real people that Debs could use that to triangulate their real identity. Thanks to a decade of weaving false identities, Debs knew all the tricks to reverse and follow the breadcrumbs until she found them.

Devon Marie Robinson. That bitch!

Not only that, Devon Robinson lived only three hours away! Debs didn't own a car, she needed to keep invisible in case someone tried to backtrack her. But her no good brother Dalton had one. She even thought about leaving him a note, but he was still passed out from last night's bender. He'd probably just think he left it parked downtown again. The tires kicked up gravel and dust as she peeled out. She didn’t know what she’d do, but she eyed Dalton’s Beretta M9 she had taken from the glove box and placed on the seat. It seemed to know what to do.


GoFundUs CEO Brogan Bartlett dropped by Knowledge Manager Kellan Smith’s office with a bottle of Merlot. “Kel, it’s time to celebrate! GoFundUs just had a record breaking quarter, and the publicity boost from those scammers going down will drive a round of new users!”

Kellan smiled as he took his glass. “I heard those two ladies shot each other and half a subdivision, strange to think they were responsible for almost all of the fake fundraisers posted. Finally, the site will be legitimate!”

“Hate to break it to you, Kel, but we are continuing their fundraisers. From now on all their new crowdsourcing will go directly to GoFundUs, that way we get 100% of the money. I've even retained the same ghost writers, they work for pennies compared to how much the last team cost.”

“Wow, Brogan, that's crazy. I had no idea this company was so ruthless.”

“If you think that is crazy, wait until you see our stock prices after next quarter’s earnings report! The reservations will melt away." The CEO raised a glass. "To the stock price tripling!"

"I'll drink to that!" Kel took a big swig of the wine. "Are you sure all our bases are covered? I'd hate for this to blow up in our faces after how bad this press was."

"Don't worry, Kel. I've made sure to tie up all the loose ends." Brogan nodded towards the glass of wine Kel just drank from. Kel’s eyes widen, but suddenly he grabs at his chest, unable to speak. “It will look like a heart attack,” Brogan continued. “You just worked yourself to death! Too busy not letting me in on your cut of promoting the sham postings. Of course, there will be a fundraiser for your wife and kids. They might even see some of the money.” The CEO leaned close. “But GoFundUs will see most of it!”

Help an Innocent Bystander Walk Again!
Let’s Help Debs Get a Proper Lawyer!
Get a New Car For a Poor Single Father!
Give a Father of Three a Proper Send-off!

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

Messy Bitch
980 words

Lupe held her wrap above her head to block the full moon and, stumbling in her high heels, ran into Evergreen High’s gymnasium. The room’s natural sweatiness mingled with the sweet smells of flowers, punch, and too much perfume. The miasma, combined with strobing lights and booming music, assaulted Lupe’s senses, and she grinned wildly. Prom was exactly how she’d imagined it.

Lupe normally spent full moons with her family, running together as a pack of wolves through the pine forests outside of town. She couldn’t deny that she enjoyed the freedom to be herself that she never felt in her daily life as a lonely high schooler. But Rochelle from math class had been talking about prom literally all year and she’d finally convinced Steve to go too. Just the thought of him in a tuxedo made Lupe blush. All she wanted was to be a normal teenager tonight, and normal teenagers went to prom.

Finally she spotted Rochelle and Steve across the room. She shoved her way through the crowd excitedly, then waved to get their attention. “Hey guys, I made it!” she shouted.

They looked startled. “I thought you said your parents wouldn’t let you?” Rochelle asked.

“We had a big fight,” Lupe admitted, trying to forget the disappointment on her mom’s face as she slammed the front door. “But it’s prom. I had to come!”

Rochelle relaxed at this perfectly reasonable statement, and grabbed Steve’s arm. “Cool. Now let’s go dance!”

Lupe stole a glance at Steve as Rochelle dragged him into the mass of bodies. He was as handsome as she’d imagined. He caught her eye, then they both looked away quickly. Heart pounding in time with the music, she decided that tonight she’d make her move. Well, after this song, this was her jam!

She danced with abandon, feeling just as free as if she was running through long grass or howling at the moon. Eventually the music shifted to a slow song and she came to, noticing with shame that the other dancers, including Rochelle and Steve, had moved away to give her flailing limbs a wide berth.

Lupe slunk off the dancefloor with the rest of the single people and spotted the pair outside the gymnasium doors. She hovered on the threshold. If moonlight touched her, she’d start to change.

“Hey, Lupe!” Rochelle called. “Sorry, it looked like you were having fun, but me and Steve were too hot.” She fanned herself in the cool night air.

“Aren’t you hot too?” Steve beckoned her over. Lupe wanted so badly to join him. She chewed her lip and glanced up at the moon. It was behind a cloud, maybe it would stay that way? She took a tentative step outside, then another.

She managed a few minutes of chitchat before she felt a familiar prickling on her scalp. She gasped and leaped backwards out of the moonlight.

“Are you all right?” Rochelle said, alarmed. “Wait, did you wear cat ears to prom?”

“What, no!” Lupe said, using all her willpower not to touch the wolf ears that had appeared under her hair. “Just … I’ll be back in a second.” She whirled and rushed to the bathroom, trying not to step on the tail under her dress.

Of course, the bathroom was full of girls. Lupe tried to ignore their stares as she rearranged her hair to hide her ears. Still, the whispers of freak … weirdo … furry stung, as they always did. She left as quickly as she could, hoping to convince Rochelle and Steve that everything was normal.

The music was now too loud for her sensitive wolf ears and she skirted around the back of the dancefloor, hoping Rochelle and Steve hadn’t gone far. She heard them behind the bleachers before she saw them, and some animal instinct made her stop and listen first.

“What’s up with Lupe? She’s always a little strange but she’s been, like, extra high-strung tonight,” Rochelle said.

“I think she’s got a crush on me,” Steve said. Lupe’s heart leapt to her throat, then sank like a rock as he said, “It’s making things awkward. I knew we should’ve gone official before prom.”

Her ears buzzed with adrenaline, but Lupe still heard Rochelle say, “I know. I just like it being our secret, though.” Then, the unmistakable sound of kissing.

Lupe stumbled backwards, hands over her ears. The hot air of the gymnasium smothered her, the music and the judgemental looks and the hormones overwhelmed her senses. She had to get away, so she ran outside into the waiting arms of the moonlight. She managed to get out of sight behind the building before her wolf form tore out of her long dress.

Finally, she felt like herself. Senses sharpened, she smelled that she wasn’t alone. Two guys, football players who’d never even glanced her way, now stared at her, cigarettes dangling from their fingers. If she could, she would’ve laughed at the petrified expressions on their normally confident faces. Then she grinned and advanced on them. Tonight was supposed to be fun, so she was going to have fun her way.

The boys screamed as she charged past them, back into the gymnasium. The crowd scattered before her as she herded them around the room, reveling in the way she could force them to run left or right. Then she upended the refreshments table, punch bowl and all, adding chaos on top of chaos. With her keen nose, she found Rochelle and Steve still hiding behind the bleachers. She snapped at Steve and he bolted, leaving Rochelle paralyzed with fear. Lupe licked her face before bounding out the door and across the sportsfield.

As she entered the woods, she heard a distant howl. Mom was going to ground her forever but it was totally worth it. Grinning, she ran to find her family.

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?


Lovely Ghost posted:

I Wonder Who’s Asleep in There
by Lovely Ghost

1068 words


Grint’s boots clicked rhythmically against the titanium flooring as he walked the halls connecting Suites 431 through 439. Gold-plated metal and sapphire swirls adorned the elongated walls, the pattern crawling up overhead in an arch and sparkling along the seam of his peripheral. As Grint walked, his movement was followed by screens on either side, each displaying a sunny beach vista as they slid across the walls in perfect sync with his pace. Some good setting of tone and place here. If I were to nitpick, I’d cut “rhythmically” as it slows down the opening to no real effect.

Sandy beaches was the chosen theme for today. Each time he worked a guard shift this is a bit awkward — it implies he works other shifts, or that guard shifts aren’t a common occurrence for him. Could just be “each shift” for simplicity, the hallway showed him a different visual of the planet his people had left behind. Yesterday, the screens illuminated a sweeping mountain landscape. The day before that, a river snaking through a green forest. I appreciate this as a worldbuilding detail, but on a second read, this is the sort of detail that could easily be cut to add more weight elsewhere; it doesn’t meaningfully change anything about the world and there are easier ways to establish that he’s working a guard shift.

“Earth sure was beautiful,” Grint mumbled. Could probably replace “was” with “looked” here, as “was” implies a familiarity or experience — as if he’d known life on Earth himself.

All colonists were educated with many details of Earth, from its natural formations to the crowded streets and smoggy sea of buildings. But like the many that had come before him, Grint would never really know Earth; only the planet’s final creation: some awkward punctuation here that doesn’t parse very well; I do love a good semi-colon, but that could have been a comma refugee vessel SSE Aurora, and the vast reaches of black and stars that stretched infinitely in every direction. I’m all for simplicity of prose, but this feels like a ripe opportunity for some more evocative language than “black and stars”.

A melodious whistling carried from Grint’s lips as he approached Suite 433, deciding it was time he resumed his game. He habitually straightened his gray uniform, as if risking inspection from his shift manager this doesn’t work for me — “risking inspection” sounds like straightening his uniform will somehow trigger his manager’s attention, and then carefully touched the sealed entrance to 433.

“Hello,” he sighed, I’m guilty of this too, so perhaps that’s why I’m picking on you, but “said” is a better dialogue attribute than anything else nine times out of ten. “sighed” here particularly doesn’t work because it doesn’t fit the context or character I’m imagining so far, and doesn’t lead in to the following sentences well. admiring the embossed pattern on the immovable doors, “I wonder who’s asleep in there. A beautiful singer, maybe? Long, blonde hair. Still wearin’ your favorite purple dress. I bet you toured with a blues band and became a beloved icon; a window to a better time during the ragin’ city fires.”

“Viola Price,” he decided, “Yes, Viola Price. A proper name to bring the blues genre back in form.”

While on patrol, Grint enjoyed coming up with stories for the Sleepers that were behind each set of golden doors. Years ago, it had simply been a way to pass the time, but he’d be lying if he didn’t admit that, one-sided as they may be, he looked forward to these conversations more than the ones waiting for him at home. Two things: first, “at home” strikes me as odd phrasing, since it’s well established now they’re all on the same ship, and “home” implies a sort of distance, a remove from this life, that doesn’t really exist. “waiting for him in his quarters” might work — something a bit less comforting, a bit more in keeping with the dystopian tone.

Secondly: this is your opening. It’s a great hook that does a lot in very little, establishing his character, the setting, and some good questions to inspire continued reading. (eg: who are the Sleepers? Why is Grint on patrol? What’s wrong at home?) I think, as you (hopefully!) enter TD more often, you’ll see this as a pattern: “cut the first paragraph” is a mantra for good reason, and a lot of us find the story’s correct opening only after writing a few hundred words to tell ourselves what’s happening first.

I’m not saying everything before this paragraph is superfluous. But I’d recommend cutting it into a separate doc, starting here, and seeing how things work and what needs to change to have it make sense; it’s probably less than you expect.

“Must be nice, eh Viola?” Grint asked, “Driftin’ in a peaceful slumber, safe in your cryo pod, not a single worry. Never agin’ while entire generations live out their entire lives servin’ the colony. You’ll never know the abyssal I suspect this is meant to be abysmal, but this also kind of works? existence that is hard labor from 9 years old to death Nine years? Luxury!. Young men dyin’ in the engine rooms, young women birthin’ new workers every year; each of us destined to become recycled food centuries before the Aurora reaches paradise.”

He continued running his hand along the gold etching, tracing the pattern with his rough fingers.

“You and all the Sleepers got to preserve your beauty, didn’t ya?” Grint smiled,. “Your exact self that left Earth. You closed your eyes as the old planet breathed its last, and in what will seem like an instant, you’ll open them as the owner of a new planet. All because you were somebody before the world ended, and our ancestors weren’t.Could probably cut this last bit; I think there’s enough impact without.

Grint recognized the delicate naivety to that circumstance, and he pitied them. The Sleepers would never truly understand the stacks of dead that sacrificed everything in service of the Aurora, assuring the voyage to paradise continued onward. Earth’s most fortunate and famous, safe and sound in their pods, would simply wake once the journey was over and resume their life of plenty on a new Earth.

His mind wandered to his wife, Ofeena, her scarred hands working tirelessly in the recycling chamber each day, ensuring everyone in the colony got their proteins and water rations. Despite their marriage and subsequent pregnancy being arranged by the council, they had both admitted that they were a better match than most. They shared the same affinity for old Earth music and Ofeena’s melancholic humor tickled Grint in just the right way.

But after the recent birth of their first son, Olaf—who took after his daddy with an untameable mane of dark hair—Ofeena spent most of her time crying or watching rocks float by as they drifted amidst the black.

Now that Olaf was born, she was required to carry another child. And how could Grint blame her for reacting the way she had? How could they possibly bring more children into the endless, digestive maw that was the Aurora’s workforce? Dooming them to a short life, bloodied from labor, brittle from hastily scrubbed oxygen and malnutrition. Grint and his family would never know air that wasn’t breathed millions of times over or food that wasn’t vat-grown or recycled from their dead. There’s a bit of repetition here from Grint’s expository dialogue to Viola, and while either approach works, together it feels a bit like overkill. On an edit, you might be able to cut some of this, or trim the earlier dialogue; I’d probably nix this, and trust the reader to draw their own conclusions about how Olaf’s birth has changed their priorities (as you do a few lines later with “now he had a son”).

“Don’t get me wrong, Viola,” Grint said to the golden doors, “I’ve always been grateful for what I have. I’m not swelterin’ away in the engine rooms, or riskin’ my limbs gettin’ smashed in the water processors. I get to spend my days with interestin’ folk like you. Walkin’ these spectacular halls, dreaming up stories. But...”

But now he had a son.

Grint tapped on the transparent keyboard next to the “433” plaque, logging into the main power grid for Viola’s room. The credentials hadn’t been easy for a simple guard to come by. But relationships with similar-minded people, had gotten him access. This feels a bit too easy an explanation; something with a bit more detail might help here, eg perhaps a way he’s used his own role as a guard to help someone else get away with something?

“Now,” Grint continued, pacing back and forth, “I do wish I would’ve gotten to know you, Vi. I would have liked for you, all of you, to see the next Earth. But as long as the Aurora’s precious energy keeps your pod powered and these lavish halls lit, the colony will always be suffering. Scroungin’ for every last drop of power.”

“If it makes you feel any better,” Grint forced a smile, moisture welling up in his eyes, “I won’t get to see paradise either. Nor will my son. But, maybe one day, his children’s children’s children will get to see the future humanity creates on a new world.” Until this moment, I was kind of wondering if his plan wouldn’t involve replacing Viola with Olaf, so that at least he could grow up on paradise. Simply turning off the power feels a bit … callous? I mean, I understand his motivation, but I was kind of hoping this was going somewhere that might end on a happy note for at least one of the characters.

With a bite of his lip, Grint dragged his finger down the screen, reducing Suite 433’s power to zero. A portion of the hall dimmed and a monotonous hum from within the room dulled. Grint let out a long sigh, wiping a tear onto his sleeve before straightening and setting toward Suite 434.

He approached the set of golden doors and placed a hand on the brilliant etching.

“Hello,” he said softly, “I wonder who’s asleep in there.”

Welcome to TD! For all the bold above, I’ll say first that I enjoyed reading this story, and you’ve done a lot of things really well. There’s a character who wants things, there’s a solid emotional core, and the story sticks the landing.

Where the story fell apart for me, a little, was in the realisation that Grint’s revolution is ultimately futile; and while shutting Viola off will reduce the amount of food and power required for the ship, it still strikes me as a bit mean-spirited for a character who until then felt very sympathetic (which, I mean, well done). As I mentioned in the crit above, it might have felt nicer if there was some tangible victory to all this; either a better result for Olaf and / or Ofeena, or else some realisation that, actually, the council are the villains, and killing supposed famous musicians isn’t going to solve anything (that you paint Grint as someone who appreciates art and music, and then go on to have him no qualms about killing someone who may well be a famous musician, feels like a missed opportunity).

Hope to see you in TD again soon!

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Submissions, at long last, are closed.

Lovely Ghost
Jul 12, 2022
This is a late submission for this week.

Week 520

Brass Tax
by Lovely Ghost

999 words


“Oh Curtis,” Mom said before folded hands, “Look at you. You’re the spitting image of your father. Isn’t he, Gerald?”

I slouched in my baggy suit, ill-fitted sleeves hanging well past my palms, hair combed for the first time since grandpa’s funeral. The red and black necktie was noosed so tight I could intimately feel every gulp as my Adam’s apple struggled to break free of my collar.

“Sure, I can see it,” Dad responded, bristly mustache twitching.

Anything other than stoicism from Dad was a rarity, but I had been learning to translate his mustache mannerism. Wait, was he actually smiling beneath that raven-colored face broom?

Dad put his arm around Mom as she wiped away misty eyes on her sweatshirt. Her crows feet wrinkled as she squinted at me, wordlessly. An unfamiliar look of adoration. A look that said, “Curtis, in your 17 years on this Earth, you’ve never cared for anything but video games and pot. Other than that one time you didn’t strike out in little league (slow grounder to first, and I tripped running to the base), this is the first time we’ve been proud to call you our son.”

Despite every effort to keep the band concert hidden, and the fact that I’d be playing 1st Chair trumpet, the news had gotten to my parents before I had even left school.

And once my mom got hold of something worth sharing, so began the cascade of phone calls and Facebook posts. My grandma is now making a getaway from the Home to attend the concert. She even called me, sending her love in a raspy voice that has suffered too many smokey casinos. Apparently her nurse showed her how to take “cell phone pictures” so she’d be ready to capture the night.

It’s so sweet I could vomit my pizza rolls all over the kitchen floor. Yesterday, my family saw me as a burnout, one pop quiz away from a complete collection of F’s. But today, I am a prestigious 1st Chair trumpet player in Fredericks High band ensemble. I am finally a success.

It would all be so meaningful if I actually knew how to play the loving trumpet.

“Does someone have the jitters?” Mom asked, noting the sweat beading on my forehead as I began drenching the armpits of my dad’s old suit.

How did this even happen to me? How does an idiot who has never picked up so much as a harmonica become 1st Chair?

About a year ago, I was playing Frogger on my TI-83 during Trig when I overheard Christina mention the brass section was desperate for help. “I play trumpet!” seemed to explode from my mouth, disrupting Mr. Lewis’s riveting triangle talk.

I should have taken it back. I was about to take it back, but then I saw those sparkly eyes piercing mine; it was the first time Christina had even looked at me since I had to stand up and read Macbeth in English Lit.

And once the lie had started, my god and it had been so easy to keep getting away with it. Mr. Harrisburg was so desperate to fill out his ensemble, he waved me in without a single audition and put a trumpet in my hands.

“But Curtis, you complete moron,” I hear you wondering, “How do play in a band when your musical talent sounds like cottage cheese slopping onto a plate?”

Oh, you mean blending in among three other trumpet players in the loudest section of the band? When there’s an overzealous tromboner blaring in everyone’s ears, it’s impossible to hear what the person next to you is playing (or in my case, not playing). Every day, I pantomime giving that trumpet the heartiest of mouth-to-mouth as I blow literal sweet nothings into the mouthpiece. By the end of practice, auditory canals destroyed, everyone fist bumps to a job well done and packs up their poo poo.

And with the lie so easy to keep, my willingness to come clean evaporated, especially as I came to understand the benefits. Christina and I started getting to know each other, and two mini golf dates later we were making out in the back of my Ford Taurus. I’ve actually made friends; people who are genuinely kind of awesome and not a pain in the rear end. I was even invited to their lake retreat, A-Band-on All Hope.

Throughout the last year, I’ve muddled my way through practices, made plenty of excuses to get out of private lessons, and got out of every concert so far. But the debt comes due eventually.

And my recompense came in the form of Henry… loving Henry. I had been happy to suffer our pompous, 4.0 slinging 1st Chair all year because he was making my life easy, quarterbacking the team while I sat on the sideline and reaped the benefits. But after Henry came down with the flu, who does he recommend to replace him?

I have to wonder if he’s been onto me from the very start.

Mr. Harrisburg, last year before retirement, was so happy to be absolved of the decision, he placed the burden on my shoulders without even asking me to audition.

I could have kept this charade going until I graduated, but after tonight, especially during my solo section, everyone will know; the band, my parents…Christina.

Maybe I can sneak off and pull the fire alarm? Or pretend to pass out? Hell, I probably won’t need to pretend.

“I can see you’re nervous,” my Dad grumbled, mustache wiggling back and forth, “But you’re going to do great! I just wish you would have told us about it sooner.”

“I know!” Mom said, “We honestly had no idea you were so talented! You’ve never once practiced at home.”

The great irony is, in the entire time I’ve been living this lie, I could have just… you know, actually learned to play the loving trumpet. But once a burnout, always a burnout.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Week 390 Redemption

If You Can't Laugh With The Big Dogs, Take Off The Shirt
1686 words

I had my cargo shorts full of firecrackers, flip-flops duct-taped, wraparound sunnies on the back of my head, and I was wearing my most hilarious shirt. It was the best summer of my life, and I was fully prepared to be the breakout star of Uncle Ken's Fourth of July backyard bar-b-que. It almost worked perfectly, until Mitch Davis showed up to ruin everything.

I showed up right on time, at 4pm, when the party was already well underway and everyone (including me) was a few beers deep. Now, showing up at a party is an important moment - you don't want to go too big and throw off the vibes, make it all about yourself if you can't back it up. But just the same, if you go too small, fly under the radar, head straight for your little group of cousins, you risk getting called out by the host and roasted for not saying hello. And Uncle Ken roasted hard. I've seen even swaggy uncles get roasted into wackness by Uncle Ken. Style is a social construct after all; the clothes themselves are only part of the equation.

For that reason, I made a beeline for Uncle Ken on arrival, emitting a low party-animal howl, holding an ice-dripping five-pack over my head by the empty sixth ring, and already swigging down the missing beer. Ken was just where I expected him - manning the grill and having roaring conversations with anyone who passed within 5 feet.

"Ken," I bellowed, rattling the beers at him.

"Charlie," he returned with a gratifying rumble in his voice. He waved me over with his greasy spatula, set down his beer, and cracked open the fresh one I tossed to him. Uncle Ken always wore the same thing at his BBQ's, because he found something that worked: leather thong flip-flops, checkered board shorts, a salmon-pink polo shirt, and a wide-brimmed straw gardening hat. And then there was his apron, the absolute cherry on top. It was white (never stained, he took time to hit with the bleach pen), and featured an illustration of a naked woman's body, cut off at the neck and the knees. Sound pretty standard? Get this - standing over the woman, strategically covering her bush, was a very, very silly bright-orange crab, reaching up to pinch her nipples with its claws. So funny. Such a legend.

Uncle Ken and I backslapped for a few minutes, I gave him my order (two franks and a rack of ribs), and I started making my rounds. Everybody was there. Billy, Jimmy, Ashley, Tracy, even little Gary Rodger, just turned eighteen. None of them could hold an M80 to my fit, of course, but I didn't give them any poo poo over it. It's good for them to have someone to look up to. To inspire them. And obviously, I have to admit, it felt good to hear the peals of laughter that went up any time I turned my back to this or that group of folks, and they could see how hilarious my shirt was. Those moments are what keep me alive.

I'll never forget feeling that sudden fizz of adrenaline into my bloodstream when I heard Mitch Davis' truck pull up. It was unmistakable – the thing was lifted eight feet in the air, the shocks squeaked like newlywed bedsprings, and he was always blasting trap mixtapes through speakers that could not handle the bass.

In my head, it was fight or flight. I wanted to grab a six-pack and book it down to the river like a throne-warming bonobo when the alpha swings back into town. But then I remembered my armor. What set me apart from the beast of the forest. My undeniable style. My hilarious shirt.

I cracked open another cold one and stood my ground to watch Mitch's entrance.

What came around the corner of the house first were twin four-foot-tall denim ballerinas wearing pink cowboy boots, running for their grandma's open arms. Cute, I guess? Children don't interest me. Their sense of humor hasn't developed yet before fifteen. Mitch's kids probably even couldn't read a shirt yet, much less understand its nuances. But my chill vibe evaporated when Mitch himself turned the corner.

He had cool sneakers on. I didn't know what kind - I'm not a sneakerhead. I just know that he is, and if Facebook comments are to be believed, the ones he gets are cool. I expect it from him, and I don't try to compete. I win elsewhere, I assured myself.

His legs were tan and hairy. He wore baby blue and white basketball shorts that fit well, and it took me by surprise that he didn't seem to have anything in his pockets. Not even a phone or a wallet, which made his look seem more effortless.

When I saw his shirt, I felt a twinge of annoyance. I thought it was just a plain white t-shirt - like Mitch hadn't even made an effort to wear anything funny. I wanted to beat him, and I knew my weapon was strong, but the battle couldn't happen if he declared himself a pacifist. But then he flipped his well-kempt rat tail to his other shoulder and revealed something that made my blood run cold.

His shirt bore the exact same Big Dog logo as mine, on the right chest, only his shirt was white and mine was black. So, it would be a fair fight after all.

It was a long time before Mitch made his way over to the group I was in, with Ashley and Jimmy and a few of their cousins. He had to stop in with Ken first, of course. Ken loved Mitch's shirt. More than he did mine? I couldn't tell, and I couldn't get a good look at the shirt to judge for myself. I also kept my back turned away from Mitch the whole time, in case he was scoping me out too.

Finally, when his whassup's and howareya's to the others were done, he and I squared up. I had been watching the people walking behind him peek over and laugh, pointing his shirt out to others. It did make me sweat.

"Charlie," he said with a laugh in his voice. We bumped fists. "How you doin' man? Feeling good tonight?"

"Feelin' good. Chillin'," I said. His exaggerated grin and eyebrow raise referred to the little altercation we'd had a few weeks back out in Billy's field. A much smaller backyard hang than this, and thankfully word didn't get out that much, or at least it didn't cause a stir. Now this altercation never turned into a tussle, but I did lay some harsh words on Mitch at the time. I had said his shirt wasn't funny. (It said "Surfs Up Yours," and it had a frog in a straw hat surfing a big wave, with one hand giving a giant middle finger in forced perspective. See? Not even clever. We live in Ohio. Where's he surfing?) I didn't realize it at that moment, but Mitch's cool reply was what caused me to start looking for the most hilarious shirt I could find.

"Guess I'll have to have a funnier one next time," he'd said. And even though all I could see was the firelight reflecting in his Wayfarers, I believed him. Mitch Davis was a man of his word.

"Chillin', sick. Looking to do some of that myself tonight. But listen," he said, leaning close. The whole crew who had been at the Billy's field hang gathered around us to see what happened next. "I want to see that shirt of yours. Ken said it's a real gut-buster."

There it was. The gauntlet, on the floor in front of everyone. I flashed Mitch a smile. "Oh, this? Sure thing, bud." I cracked a fresh beer and turned around, straightening up while I tipped my head back for a long drink. To my astoundment, Mitch gave me the gift of reading it out loud.

"Listen here, chump," he started. "Keep your opinion to yourself. You don't want to hear mine." He paused, trying to work it out. I kept chugging the beer, but I couldn't even taste it. I felt his eyes roaming my back, taking in the drawing of the big Saint Bernard dog in shades, wearing army fatigues with a cigar in his teeth, and toting an enormous machine gun labeled, "MY OPINIONS."

He laughed. Loud, a lot, and it was real. I crushed my empty can and roared, charged up at my full power. I turned around slowly and gestured with my chin. "Let's see yours," I said. "Big Dog bro's."

Mitch grinned and nodded. He turned and took a wide stance, with his hands on his hips, his rat tail helpfully tucked over one shoulder. "Hey, crypto-losers," his shirt began. An icy pit opened up in my stomach. It was topical. "I got an NFT for you right here." In the foreground, there was the Big Dog, snarling as usual, with his crotch pixelated, and he was giving me the double middle finger. "Non-Flushable Turd," it said, with each letter huge to form the acronym. And sure enough, the Big Dog was sitting on top of a giant poop that stretched way down into the background, where it was stuck into a little toilet. Forced perspective. Mitch Davis' ace in the hole.

I wish I could tell you I didn't laugh. I wish I could say I stood there stone-faced, until Mitch packed up his kids and drove off, never to return. But I'm not that strong. Poop is funny. So yes, I laughed. And even though Mitch assured me mine was funnier, and the crowd at the BBQ was split, I knew what I felt. Things changed for me that day. I stopped drinking, and I stopped trying to play the hilarious shirt game. I let go of my hatred for Mitch, and he accepted me as a friend. We hang out sometimes, watch sports and things. You should see the art this guy has hanging in his house, it's hilarious.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Guys, we gotta get some words sacrificed to the word god. We can do this, we've got a week to go.

So besides the regular TD round this week (which you should enter), and Yoruichi's Redemption Brawl (which you should also enter), I am declaring:

A flash mob for flash fiction initiative. A low stakes cage match for all comers. Read the prompt, write a story, post the story. FILL THE BLOOD METER.


1) One prompt every 12 hours for the next 6 days.
2) 500 words
3) One judge. One winner. Winner becomes next judge.
4) Bonus: I will crit every story entered during the gang brawl. Maybe not immediately, but within the next week.

Gang Brawl Prompt #1: Moby dick, but about corn.
Due: 12PM GMT 26 July 2022 (12 hours from now)

Jan 20, 2012

Week 363 Redemption

Faces in the Dusk
986 words

Constance had wandered the woods for hours, searching for the grove that Old Tom had told her about, the one where the Face Changer would appear in the dusk. She'd counted the seconds, from nothing to a hundred and back down again, until she couldn't keep track of how long she'd been walking anymore. The counting calmed her when the darkening woods began to stir with night birds and hungry rustling beasts.

The path had run out ages ago. She had marked the trees with chalk every now and again, scrawling backwards-pointing arrows in hopes she could follow her backtrail to the village after she found the Face Changer and asked her question.

Every bush and bramble snatched at her rough dress, as if the forest itself was trying to snatch her back, away from the ghost she sought to question. A particularly insistent root snatched her foot out from under her and sent her tumbling to the ground. She laid there for a moment in the dank rot of late fall undergrowth, embarrassed by her fall despite there not being another living person for miles. A sob welled up in her throat as the well of despair that had built up in her in the months since Father died overflowed for a brief moment.

She choked back the tears, thinking of her mother and younger sisters back home, and their own sadness, borne of their father's sudden absence. They needed answers just as much as she did.

She raised herself up on to the palms of her hands, her knees, finally to her feet. A man stood before her. He hadn't been there when she fell. He was a few long strides away, and looked apprehensive and still, like a wild deer ready to run at the slightest sign of threat. His face was in shadow, hidden away at the top of a bent-willow body that looked like it hadn't known sustenance for days.

Constance approached the figure slowly, her hands outstretched and patting the air in a calming gesture. "Don't worry, friend, I mean you no harm. I only wish to ask you a question."

A rasping sound reached her through the dead air that surrounded the figure. "Harm? Sweet childling, ye couldn't do me harm if ye bent your very will to it." It rasped again, louder this time. It was the laughter of the bitter dead, a chilling sound that made Constance feel as though she should turn the way she came and run as fast as her feet would carry her.

She steeled herself and stepped into the clearing, halving the distance between her and the figure. "Are you the Face Changer?"

"I may be," the figure said, stepping into the wan moonlight. The gruff voice came from a round angelic face. It was Leah, Constance's younger sister who had died two winters earlier, taken by the flu. Constance still remembered the feel of Leah's feverish face as she toweled off the sweat in the middle of the night.

"I would invoke the right of my family and village. We each get one question of you that we may ask of the dead."

"True enough, ye lass," said the Face Changer, now wearing the visage of an old man with deep wrinkles around his eyes. Her grandfather? Who ever this face was, Constance did not recognize them. They must have died when she was very young. "One question I give you, then scurry off home and return here no more."

"Then I'd ask it of my father," Constance said. She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, as a bulwark against the tears that welled behind her eyelids. "How did you die? Where did you go?"

The Face Changer just stared at her. Her mind hurt as she saw the Face Change cycle through so many who had passed, yet she did not truly see his face alter itself. It was as if each new face was the one he was wearing mere moments ago, and had always worn. First her grandmother, then the boy who had fallen down the well, then the man who had lived across their field, who just stopped showing up one day. He cycled first through a dozen faces, then a thousand, each a unique, terrifying visage of death that Constance ceased to recognize after the fourth or fifth.

Finally the Face Changer fixed on a single appearance, one so paper-white and featureless that Constance had an immediate impulse to run away as fast as she could, away from this thing that was not quite human, no matter how many faces it took from the dead. Instead she steeled herself and nodded, nodded for too long, as if trying to dislodge the lump that had appeared in her throat from her unanswered question.

"So he is not dead. He left. He walked out into the last snows of winter and left us, left his family. This is how it is," Constance said, her voice delicate, held together lightly like a basket of woven grass.

There was a silence in the clearing. The Face Changer raised a hand, as if to reach out to her, but halted the gesture midway. "Many died this winter. It was hard." The Face Changer's voice was gritty, but raised at the end, as if he was risking a question of his own.

Constance felt a hot rage of disgust. To think this carrion-eating abomination would presume it could sympathize with her! She took a stone from the floor of the clearing and threw it at the Face Changer. There was a brief moment where neither figure seemed to know what to do.

Then Constance ran, as fast as her feet would carry her. Not back to the village, but straight through the woods. She would find her father and bring him back to her mother, her home.

Or at least, she would bring him back to the Face Changer.

Jan 20, 2012


The Great Green and Off-Yellow Whale of Agriculture
493 words

The bitter wind tore through the ears, both the corn's and the crew's. The sails bellied out beautifully, straining against the backstays, but the ship would not budge. The crew shot concerned glances to one another as they backed to the rail or flew up the ratlines, anything to avoid the hawser-end being swung threateningly by the bosun as he paced the deck, swearing under his breath. Already some of the crew stumbled about with welts rising on their backs or arms, former victims of the bosun's increasing rage at their predicament.

As quietly as he could, the bosun "directed" what crew he could reach to the ladders down the side of the ship, then a few more to the capstan. The men on the ladders dropped to the ground, navigating the great green stalks until they reached the bow of the ship. The rest at the capstan started turning the great axle, lowering the massive anchors to the ground below. As one, the men below hauled on the anchors for hours, inching the great iron crosses a few inches or a foot further along, digging up great furrows of earth and corn in the process. Then the men above would lean hard on the capstan bars, turning the post to shorten the anchor chain and drag the ship a few feet forward.

It was perilous and exhausting work, and each turn of the capstan brought with it unhuman creaks and shrieks of protesting wooden planks as the very hull of the ship was bent against the unforgiving earth. With each sound the crew turned, as one, to stare at the captain's cabin, but with each protestation of the ship, the cabin's door did not stir.

After half a day of back-breaking labor, someone cried out and pointed to the horizon, where the sparkle of water could be seen. The bosun hushed the man and raised his spyglass to the distance. The storm that crept across his brow said all that needed to be said. There was no relief for them on the horizon. "Tis but a stream," said the bosun, dejected and broken.

There was a slam that made the entire crew jump, followed by a thump-tock, thump-tock, thump-tock that stopped each of their hearts. A gnarled hand was extended, into which the bosun laid the spyglass. The ship's grizzled captain raised the spyglass to his single ice-blue eye and scanned the horizon. He lowered the glass and took in the sea of corn that had trapped the ship overnight.

As one, the crew held their breath, waiting for some exclamation or explosion from their fiery captain. Someone would pay for this, even if none of them could so much as explain how they found themselves in their predicament.

The captain lowered his chin to his chest, took a deep breath, and muttered, "Christ, not again. I swear to God, this loving whale isn't worth putting up with all the bloody corn."

Jun 23, 2022

It's a puzzle.

The Maize Maze
500 words

Amy loved to be scared. She loved scary movies, haunted houses, horror escape rooms, and anything that made her heart race. She chased that high year-round, but became especially desperate for it every Spooky Season.

So when ValleyFair temporarily became ValleyScare during October, there was no question Amy would be there. She made sure to go late on Halloween night, after all the families with small children went home. She knew the actors would be pulling out all the stops and trying extra hard to make every experience truly frightening.

The weather was crisp, and the ambience was better than Amy expected. Spooky music echoed in the night, and fog machines covered the ground in an eerie haze. Low-budget actors in lower-budget costumes roamed the park, following patrons or jumping out at them. Amy reveled in it.

The first haunted house was themed like an abandoned high school. Zombie cheerleaders with fake chainsaws chased around screaming teenagers. Amy followed the snaking path through the cheap set pieces and plastic props. It was… fine. The actors occasionally broke character and they seemed so tired. Amy sympathized, but her spirits faltered. She realized this wasn’t going to be the truly memorable horror experience she sought.

Amy toured a couple more adequate haunts and tried her best not to be too judgmental. She was having an okay time, but wanted more. Each theme became more predictable and the production value got lazier.

Before she knew it, the loudspeakers announced that the park would be closing soon. Amy only had one more haunt to see: The Maize Maze. Her expectations were low, and she wasn’t sure why she saved this one for last. Little did she know it would be the most memorable haunt experience of her life.

She entered the corn maze and it was a pleasant surprise: thick rows of corn stalks made it difficult to navigate and each twist and turn was unexpected. Suddenly, a short man jumped out in front of Amy. He was wearing a ghillie suit embellished with fake ears of corn. He stopped her in her tracks and shouted “CORN!” before disappearing into the stalks.

Amy was frozen. She was startled, dumbfounded, and her brain processed what just happened. Did… did that actor really just shout “Corn”?

She continued in the maze before hearing a rustling sound behind her. She turned around suddenly as he was already screaming at her again. “COOOOOOORN!” He disappeared into the darkness.

Amy started to laugh. It was so perfect. So ridiculous. This actor was clearly bored and done with this strange summer job.

She rounded a corner and vaguely saw a shadow hunched against the stalks. “corncorncorncorn” it muttered as she passed. It made no effort to jump out at her. “Corncorncorncorn…” it continued as she walked away. The sound faded from her ears. She laughed the entire way home.

This event was five years ago today, and Amy imagines that poor actor is still huddled in a corner muttering “corncorncorncorn…”

Dec 16, 2021


The White Whale of the Prairie
386 words

Moby corn, or, The White Whale of the Prairie, was a creature that had long been the stuff of legend among the settlers of the American West. It was said to be a gigantic white bull with horns as long as a man's arm, and a hide so thick that bullets could not penetrate it. Many a brave hunter had tried to track down the creature, but none had ever been successful.

One day, a young man named Ishmael decided that he would be the one to finally capture the creature. He set out on horseback, armed with only a lasso and a knife. After days of tracking, he finally caught sight of the creature. He rode after it, lasso in hand, but the creature was too fast for him. It seemed to be playing with him, leading him on a chase across the prairie.

Finally, the creature stopped and turned to face Ishmael. It stared at him with its cold, black eyes, and Ishmael felt a chill run down his spine. He knew that he was in the presence of something unnatural.

He rode closer, lasso ready, but as he got closer, the creature began to change. Its body began to swell and its skin turned to a deep, reddish-brown. Its horns grew longer and sharper, and its eyes turned to glowing embers. Ishmael was paralyzed with fear, and could only watch as the creature transformed into a fearsome demon.

The demon charged at Ishmael, horn first. Ishmael reacted instinctively, throwing himself to the side. The demon's horn grazed his arm, tearing open his flesh. Ishmael felt the pain, but he did not have time to think about it. He scrambled to his feet and ran towards his horse.

The demon was right behind him, but Ishmael was faster. He leapt onto his horse and rode away as fast as he could. He did not look back, and he did not stop until he reached the safety of the town.

Ishmael's arm was badly wounded, but he did not care. He had seen the creature with his own eyes, and he knew that it was real. The legend of the Moby corn was no longer a legend. It was real, and it was out there, somewhere on the prairie.

Jan 21, 2010

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

Lipstick Apathy
[quote="Weltlich" post="525092245"]

Gang Brawl Prompt #1: Moby dick, but about corn.

Call me Cornmeal. Some years ago, nevermind how long precisely, I had a mountain of debt and a dead-end job that I hated and my soul was being drained one teaspoon at a time. Then my grandpa died, and left me his farm. It changed everything for me. I quit my job and left the city without a thought. The minute I stepped off that bus and smelled the dusty sundrenched air, I knew I was home.

Over the seasons I got to know the people of the small town. I learned their likes and dislikes, discovered their friendships and rivalries, I even married and divorced a few of them. But as the years went by, I spent less and less time in town at the saloon or the community festivals, and more time alone on my farm. Eventually I stopped selling my produce, and ate it instead. I allowed the weeds and shrubs to go wild, vines grew over my roof and windows and up through the floorboards. I slept on a pile of leaves with bunnies and chickens curled up next to me. I loved it. It was perfect. Except...

Years ago, back when I went into town, I'd tasted an unforgettable corn. It haunted my dreams with its sweet crunchiness. Its absence from my mouth was a crack in the perfection of my daily life. After months drooling at the thought of it, I decided I had to have it. I knew that Pete of Pete's Produce had grown the corn, so all I needed was to get into Pete's shop and buy some corn seed...

I crashed through the brush and onto the road and stumbled into town, filthy and bleeding from brambles. When I entered the town square, the bustle stopped, and people scurried into their houses like bugs under a lifted rock. Doors slammed and locked, the square was empty. I slowly became aware of my appearance. I had not shaved in years and my beard was a tangled mass that hid my face, my clothes were barely present scraps. I paused to clean my face with some spit shine, and angle the bits of clothes over the most important parts. It didn't matter. None of these people mattered. Only getting the Corn mattered. I found Pete's shop, and entered.

"C-can I help you? ... Sir?" Pete and his purple-haired daughter cowered behind the counter.

"Haha, Hi Pete, it's me, James Farmer, I'm sorry about my appearance, I've been a hermit for quite a while, and I kind of lost track of things. I'm here to get some of that delicious corn of yours and then I'll be on my way. Is that okay?" is what I meant to say. What I tried to say. But after so long without a word, the only thing I could get out was "CORN, ME CORN CORN ME CORN, CORN"

Well, he handed me a bag of something, and I was so relieved to get out of there I didn’t look until I was home in my pile of leaves. Then, when I opened the bag and reached hungrily inside, I only got a fistfull of cornmeal.

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan's country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.


In Gardens
486 words

In gardens, or on the roofs of the first houses. In half-wild plots where the women came to play with botany at certain times of year. In places that the hunter would step over (as he pursued the peccary through the underbrush) and never know it was cultivated at all. Here, there and everywhere, the teosinte waiting to be born anew.

There was a woman without husbands or brothers, who walked in the hills and said strange things to the children. She would eat anything to see if it was good. Suck stones to see if they would go flat, like on the river bottom. Many times she almost died from eating bright red berries, foul brown roots. Even if told by everyone: “That is no good,” she would not believe it until she had tried for herself.

In this way she pried apart the wild teosinte, digging her nails under the outer shell, and found the tiny kernels within. Some said (much later) they were sweet even then. Not so. They tasted of nothing much. It was the work of digging them out that she enjoyed, more than the eating. The children liked it too—they made a game of it. So she would plant it in her gardens, one strain crossed with another, left to grow and change for months or years at a time. Quite literally, playing with her food.

She died. The children that played her game grew up and had gardens of their own. These ancient botanists were women mostly, but sometimes men or other genders. The game was now to find genes (they knew genes, yes, far better than you or I today) for bigger kernels and softer shells. Was it for eating? Not really, no. These were still the tiniest morsels compared to the wild nuts of the forest or the meat brought back from the hunt. They did it all for the pleasure of the shell between their fingers, the waving heads of the new strain pricking through the earth in spring.

That old woman’s game was played for centuries. Plant-lore carried across vast distances by women walking alone, women walking with men, women with children on their backs. Casting the seeds wherever they thought it might flourish. A hundred strains, a thousand. Taste, colour, texture, size.

Until one day the stalks were bending over because the kernels were so large, so full of sweetness. Until whole cities gorged themselves on it. Until the hills where the old woman roamed were laid bare, all her strange treats burned away to make room for more of the yellow treasure, teosinte no more.

Some say that old woman would weep if she could see what her little game has become. That is not true. She would laugh to see the silver towers on the plain. The first time she ate tacos her eyes would bug out with delight.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007



Moby Corn!, or The Hunt for the Great White Corn in which Vengeance turns to Disaster, Chapters 43-45 (unabridged)
~500 words

Chapter 43
As the captain raised his eye to the glass, the crew held their breath, and many a man made the sign of the cross, except for two of the crew who were sweatily wrestling by the bow.

“White maize,” Ahabba breathed, grinding his jaw as he spoke. He needed say no more, the hellish gleam in his eyes told us our orders.

“God help us all,” said Stellarbuck.

“Don’t believe in God,” said Fedah.

“God help most of us,” said Stellarbuck. Then, turning to the crew he cried, “trim the sails! Carry up the helm! Demast the topgallant jibsheet!”

Like rats struck into motion by a lantern in the grainery, the crew scattered to their tasks, swabbing decks and backstaying turnbuckles as they tillered toward the great beast. I turned to Quinquay. “I’m really thankful for the life lessons you taught me earlier,” I said. “I feel that’s going to come in handy real soon.”

Chapter 44 - How To Shuck Corn Part VII
Each Shucker needs a steel hand drill to penetrate the thick husk of the corn. Four men, two standing tall, two kneeling, should drill into the outer husk simultaneously, so the great green chaff does fall off all at once. Then, each man must take his calipers and pry heartily at the inner layer, until that gruesome rind does peel off. The task is repeated for each cardinal direction, and thus the grim yellow kernels are revealed.

Chapter 45
A tempest fast descended upon us as we chased, lighting striking like the tines of Posiden’s trident, only the thunder could not compare to the bellows of the stricken beast. The white maize could only be Moby Corn, its scaly hide riddled with the scars of a hundred corn skewers.

“The skewer’s tangled!” called Quinquay. “This leviathan will be the doom of us all!”

“Man is the real monster,” I muttered ominously.

“No. Well, yes, but that’s not really the theme here,” he replied.

But Ahabba would not let us stray our course. “Take us right upon it!” he cried. With a terrible splintering of wood, the bow sundered upon the creature. Here at last, the captain’s spell over the crew broke. They fled, but not Ahabba. “Towards thee I husk; from heck’s lung I stab at thee; for stalk’s sake I spit my breath in your general direction. Sink all the unpopped kernels, and drat thy silk! Thus I give up my corn skewer!”

And as he called out his attack, the damned cob dove, a mess of ropes and shattered hull and men dragged down into the depths with it. Quinquay and I made hard for the rowboat, yet intact despite the groaning of ropes and men and roping men. From that small sanctuary, from the flashes of lightning through the dark veil of the storm, we saw the great beast rise again through the seas, Ahabba tangled in the skewers.

“What’d we learn?” I asked Quinquay.

“Not to do it again,” he said, gesturing.

May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
Words: 350

Out the winda, Adam been lookin' at the bad corn. The cahbs were rotten. The fields fallow and dry as his father’s semen. In the reflechin’ he traced the jagged scah from his temple down to his collarbun and more. The corn marked him as soon as he done had the leg enough to outrun the belt. Sharp stalks, heavy with dew, cut him from face to nip, etching their history together. Them scars chased him longer into grownedup than his father’s belt could.

Adam was a corn man, like his daddy, and the corn would outlast him like it outlasted his father. So, he had thought. The fields his brother done, the drat miracle child, were green, soft, unspoilt. Their kernels were gems polished t’a shine under the rough, sandy winds.

Adam been an only child most his life. Born to absorb all the rage of a corn man. Born so it could grow wings and find a new home. Born too early. Born a corn man.

Daniel been born too late. Been born to be not but a vessel for the wisdom and sudden regretful kindness of an old man. He ain’t been born a corn man but a corn man he came.

April stood in the dir. The wife been gone for three days. Left a note saying she’d be back, but ain’t when. In her hands was a maneela envelope. Adam knew there were divorce papers in it.

“Will ye finally ask yer brother?” she said. “I’m askin’ ya.”

He looked at her and wondered this all stagecraft? She either never truly understood him, and good riddance, or this were just one final cruelty she would visit upon him before she left.

The answer need not be said. She placed the envelope on a stack of unopened, registered mail and left. Adam looked out the winda, not to her but to the corn. He was a corn man, and if it was fixin’ to take everything, it was gonna to have to take him too.

Tars Tarkas
Apr 13, 2003

Rock the Mok

A nasty woman, I think you should try is, Jess.

Gang brawl

The Golden Ear
491 words

Years ago Morgan saw the Golden Ear. He was on the bus riding home from second grade, and saw the shining as they past the corn field. The second he hopped off the bus he sprinted back and grabbed it. The explosion flattened half an acre and knocked down the remains of the old Dairy Queen. Morgan was singed but lived, the Golden Ear vanished. Later he learned that you need to be one with the maize to be able to use the Golden Ear.

Morgan spent the past twelve years walking the rows. The detasseling jobs were an excuse to make some serious cash for a kid who would otherwise need a work permit, but also allowed access to the corn field itself. Access to its power. He would find the Golden Ear again, and gain the power of the Corn!

Near the end of the day, Morgan wasn’t even detasseling any longer, just searching. He dodged sweet Poppy, Farmer McBroom’s daughter, she was just a distraction. He heard the calling, felt it in his soul. Then he saw it, that flint of gold. Morgan raced, but just as he grabbed at the Golden Ear, another hand landed on the cob. Orville Ahabacher!

“That Ear is mine!” Orville declared.

“Never!” Morgan replied.

“We must settle this the olden ways!” Both Orville and Morgan pulled back, Orville ripping off his bow tie as it transformed into two razor sharp fans.

“That is not the technique I expected!” Morgan thought as he dodged the fans. Morgan had nunchucks fashioned from a rare heirloom corn, and swung them around, striking several blows on Orville’s body.

“You insolent child, I’ve been chasing the Golden Ear since your grandpappy was in diapers, and I will prevail!” Orville’s eyes glowed and he rose in the air. That’s when Morgan noticed Orville’s leg was not a leg at all, but a gigantic corn cob! Said corn cob leg then slammed Morgan’s face, flattening him.

“As a child, I did not have the strength to hold the Golden Ear, but at long last, it is mine!” Orville’s voice rang in Morgan’s head. All this work was for naught, now this freak was going to claim his prize. Morgan struggled up, it wasn’t over.

It was over. Orville did not claim the Ear, he looked with jaw agape at Poppy. The Golden Ear was part of her now, and she radiated a yellow glow. “I NO LONGER WALK AMONG THE ROWS, THE ROWS BEND TO ME!”

“NO!” yelled Orville, but a tangle of corn silk wrapped around him and pulled him into a giant husk. Morgan froze, unsure what to do. Poppy turned to him. “User of my heart! Face the wrath of the kernels!” A constant popping sound emitted from her body as popped corn poured from her sleeves, the tide of which overwhelmed Morgan. His body fertilized next season’s corn. The pigs that ate it were delicious!

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

:siren: REDEMPTION DOME :siren:

Blood blood blood!

Something Else posted:

Week 390 Redemption

If You Can't Laugh With The Big Dogs, Take Off The Shirt

Lol, what is this. I didn't want to like it, but the ending is great. I lol'd. Poop is funny. I'm glad they're friends now. The whole premise of this is daft but the stakes were 100% real for your characters, and therefore I got sucked in as well.


MockingQuantum posted:

Week 363 Redemption

Faces in the Dusk

Hmmm, not bad. I can understand Constance's desperate need to know what happened to her father, but it's not clear why, upon discovering he wasn't dead, she assumed the worst of him. Discovering he wasn't dead could equally have caused her to feel hopeful that he was just lost or injured or something and could still come home. I think you needed to foreshadow that she was suspicious that he had left them for this story to really come together. The Facechanger was a very cool idea though.


And thusly we have a new leader!!!!!!!!!!

Redemption Dome Leaderboard:
1st - Something Else (7 points / 2 entries)
2nd - flerp (7 points)
3rd - MockingQuantum (6 points / 2 entries)
4th - Albatrossy_Rodent (6 points)

Dec 30, 2011

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


The Roundup
439 words

It's late spring at the co-op, a bright warm spring, and Old Man Aaron has his gene-scanner ready to go. The top indicator light's blinking amber, and Yitzhak steps off of the farmhouse porch to take a closer look. "Thing booting up okay?"

"Taking its time about the firmware," says Aaron. "At least it's still pulling updates, old as it is. Got to be sure when I do the walk. Can't let any of the Roundup slip through."

Yitzhak's heard the story every season he's come out to the co-op: how Aaron's for-profit monocrop operation had been downwind from a Monsanto field without a genomic license, and how cross-pollination and the lawsuits tore it all down. He's never seen a lick of proof of it, unless the old man's vigil counts: days at the beginning of a growing season spent doing nothing but gene-scanning the seedlings and culling anything with even a trace of proprietary DNA. It could be the act of a guilty seed pirate, but after the point of ruin, does guilt or innocence matter?

Yitzhak's walked the rows with the old man before. There are fewer culls every year, and it's hard not to just sit him down and explain how ag law works these days. How all the strong stuff's locked in the domes, where no pollen enters or leaves; how any strain they find out here's going to be so obsolete that none of the corps would bother suing even if they knew. How the corps don't sue co-ops anyway, for the same reason you wouldn't arrest a housefly for trespassing. How little they'll find, and how little it means.

It's not worth the fight, though -- never has been, never will be. The corn needs thinning anyway, and the co-op thrums on without some kind of perfect efficiency. They can spare a few days of an old man's labor, and Yitzhak's too, for that matter. If they cared so much about his pulling his weight, they wouldn't let him keep coming back, season after season, to his escape from the city.

"I'll help you out," says Yitzhak. "Do the thinning if you do the scanning. Many hands make light the work."

"Right you are, boy," replies Old Man Aaron with a grin. "Think this might be a good season. Our last real good one at the old place had weather like this when we planted. Best corn harvest I ever saw..."

They walk together down the rows of new corn, the gene-scanner's light solid and green. Maybe this is the year without Roundup. Maybe this is the year Old Man Aaron earns his rest.

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Gang Brawl Results

I’m honestly surprised at how tough this was because we had some strong contenders. It came down to three coin flips and Antivehicular takes home the fist win in this series!

Post your prompt, Antivehicular and be ready to judge in. 12 hours!

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


Your prompt is "infinitely late at night"

500 words, due in 12 hours (midnight GMT / 5 PM Pacific)

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
GangBrawl: infinitely late at night

The Needful
308 words

Flour. Beef. Beans. Cheese.

Doesn’t matter what you order, you’re getting the same four things. Just put together different. Please tell me what you want.

I don’t judge. You might be ashamed to be here this once—but my brother and sister in Christ, I’m here every night. I’m here for you.

Maybe it was last week, maybe it was thirty years ago… There was a woman who came in every night at 4 am and ordered three soft tacos and a crunchwrap supreme. Eight packets of hot sauce. She would get one refill of a small Mountain Dew. She sat just over there in the corner booth and ate slowly until the sun came up.

One night she asked me if I knew why. I said of course I did not—it was not my business to know, only to serve. She said she would tell me anyway, because she had no one else to tell.

The woman had five children. Five! And she loved them all dearly. She gave them everything; the money she made, the hours of her life, her joy and her love and her fear for their future. And they took all that she could give and asked for more.

And she was devoted to them, but she said to me that she just wanted one thing that was hers and hers alone. One thing that her children could never take away from her. So while they slept in their beds, she ordered three soft tacos and a crunchwrap supreme every night. And I watched her grow a little older every time I refilled her cup of Mountain Dew…but it was always her cup of Mountain Dew.

Do you understand?

Now please, a line is forming behind you. Tell me how you would like your flour, beef, beans, and cheese put together.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007



Centuries of Night
498 words

As Dr. Seil Senua speed away on his starship into the infinite night, his streaked engines gave a long, bright gently caress you to all the skeptics and cretins that had tormented him and his career.

Technically, it was the university’s ship, and technically, he was hijacking it, but things like property rights and theft became moot when one was accelerating towards the speed of light. They could never catch him, because he would never return.

Dr. Senua hit send on his manifesto. The document was, for Dr. Senua, uncommonly concise. It outlined two points, and a brief mathematical treatise on why he was right and the larger astrophysicist community wrong: The universe, actually, was not flat, but the reason that increasingly precise measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation were near zero was that it was far larger than they were willing to admit.

Stealing the ship to prove these points was both unconditionally egotistical and an altruistic sacrifice; a noble suicide dedicated to the greater humanity.

The ship had a dedicated ten-human ecosystem, meaning it could turn the waste and exhalations of his one self back into food and oxygen indefinitely. The slipstream scoop-field would send stray hydrogen atoms and particles in the path of the ship to the rear, where the fully-stocked antimatter drive could annihilate it for speed. When he ran out of antimatter, it would switch to fusion mode. In this way, he would slow in acceleration, but not quite stop.

Dr. Senua reckoned that with the medical bay’s standard stock of anti-aging therapies, he had about two-hundred and five years to travel. Time dilation would gradually increase, but he hoped the scientists who would receive his last broadcasts–some tens of thousands of years later–might be a bit more open minded. He would send them grand marvels: Galaxies impossible to see from their tiny corner of the universe. Pictures of stars on the other side of the Milky Way. Of course, by the time he could validate his theory, he’d be far too far away to send a mere tight-beam of radio waves that could be received. No, a signal strong enough to reach that far would need to be big. Real big. If the universe was curved–just ever so slightly!, he would curve his ship’s path to match, and somewhere distant in the cosmos, it would annihilate itself on a star. If it wasn’t, he’d stay the course, and annihilate the then-ghostly vessel on a star ahead.

A deep sense of both melancholy and peace settled over him. Before him, the stars shifted ever so slightly to blue, the stars behind, a bit more red. He was sad; for him, there was no more chance of intimacy, or the joys of seeing loved ones grow. He was content; he would leave this world a little changed, a little more knowledgeable.

As the hour became infinitely late, he accepted this irrevocable destination. At least it was a fate of his own.

Dec 16, 2021

Gang Brawl 2

The Green Door

The club was still going strong when I left, the music thumping and the strobe lights flashes giving the place an otherworldly feel. I had stayed until last call, nursing my drink and feeling more and more out of place as the night went on. I'm not really a club person, preferring the company of a good book or favorite tv show over a drunken crowd any day. But my friends had insisted, and I had gone along, hoping to have a good time.

Now, I was regretting it. I felt lonely and out of place, the music still ringing in my ears as I made my way to the train station. It was late, or early, depending on how you looked at it, and the streets were mostly empty. I was walking quickly, eager to get home, when I saw the green door.

It was set back from the street, half hidden in the shadows. It was an odd color for a door, and it stood out to me in the darkness. I hesitated for a moment, then, on a whim, I reached for the handle and turned it. The door opened easily and I found myself in a small, cramped room. There was a sink in one corner and a bed in the other. The only light came from a small window high up on one wall.

The room was chilly and I could see my breath in the air. I hesitated for a moment, then closed the door behind me, curious to see what would happen next. I heard the sound of a train in the distance, and I knew that I could leave anytime I wanted. But something about the room, and the green door, made me feel safe.

I climbed into the bed and pulled the covers up to my chin. As I lay there, looking up at the ceiling, I felt the loneliness begin to fade.

I don't know how long I stayed there, but eventually I fell asleep. And when I woke up, the sun was shining and the room was filled with light. I got up and stretched, feeling strangely refreshed. I looked around the room, now seeing it in a different light. It wasn't cramped or cold anymore. It felt like a safe space, a place where I could just be myself. I left the room and closed the door behind me, not sure what to make of what had happened. But I knew that, when I needed it, the green door would be there.

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

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

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:


496 words

Okay, bud. I’ve read the book and sung the song, time for you to go to sleep. Do you want me to leave your door open? This much? Perfect. Goodnight, I love you.

I’m really not sure you’ve thought through the broader implications of that kind of social policy, hon. Like, how would you even enforce it? There’s a thousand– Oh god. She’s had a blowout. Yep, she crapped on me. Can you please… thanks. I’m going to give her a bath before I change her.

Stinky, sleepy baby. Goodnight, stinky baby. I love you.

Hey buddy, what’s wrong? I’m just nursing your sister. Yes, she’s eating. What– Oh. I see. You’ve had a little accident. Let me call your dad and he’ll get you some new sheets on the bed. It’s okay, it happens.

There, is that all better? Good. See you in the morning, bud. Goodnight, I love you.

I’ll make the coffee. Are you good to take first shift? You don’t have to sleep on the couch, remember there’s a whole bed in the nursery. Let me know if you need me to take over. Goodnight, I love you.

Oh my god how is it possible for her to scream for a half hour straight? gently caress it, I’m going back downstairs. Hey babe, do you need a hand? Oh, I know, she’s a handful. Pass her over, I’ll take first shift if she’s going to be like this. No worries, I have the boobs, she’ll be fine now. Goodnight, I love you.

Mm? Buddy? Is that you? What are you doing up?

You couldn’t sleep? Oh no. That sucks. Nightmares are pretty scary. Come on, I’ll keep you company in your room for a little bit. Do you want me to sing you another song?

Edelweiss, edelweiss, every morning you greet me…

Goodnight, buddy. I love you.

This stupid forum is the best ten bucks I’ve ever spent. Oh, gently caress, how is it that late? This is fine. I’ll just…

…Of course she’s crying again. Oh, well. I wanted to finish that thread anyway. Come here, kiddo. Aww, she’s asleep again. Goodnight little girl. I love you.

Hey, babe? Yeah. I’m tapping out. She’s just big mad tonight. Do you need anything? I’ll get a bottle warmed up for you. Thanks. Goodnight, I love y’all.

Oof! Hi buddy! You’re very… awake. Oh, god, it’s 7:30? My alarm didn’t… poo poo we’re going to be late. Okay, why don’t you go sit on the potty and I’ll just… I’ll just get us some clothes.

No, you can’t take Thomas Train with you to school, it’s not your share day.

Good morning, hon. Oh, coffee, thanks. I’ll take this baby too unless she’s going to stay asleep. Are you going to hit the gym after dropping him off? Rad. I’m going back to sleep. I love you both. Goodbye!

Jun 23, 2022

It's a puzzle.
Gang Brawl 2: Infinitely Late at Night

500 words

I was a typical sleep-deprived college kid. I had one part-time job while I double majored, but it didn’t quite pay the bills. That’s when I learned about PRACS.

I don’t know what PRACS stood for, but they paid good money. They did clinical research on new medical drugs. You could check in for a study on a Friday, stay at the facility all weekend, and walk out Monday with a check for $600. Odds are you’d get the placebo anyway so you’re literally getting paid to do nothing. Other than sell your body to science and risk medical complications, I suppose. But I was 18 and invincible.

When you sign up for a study, all you know is the start time, end time, and pay rate. I quickly discovered that different studies paid more if they were more uncomfortable. Did the drug involve a needle poke instead of a pill? That could be a couple hundred more dollars. So I should have been nervous when I saw the listing for Study 4-763. Check-in Thursday evening, check out Sunday morning. The pay? $2000. I couldn’t believe it. For two grand I didn’t care what the drug did. I made arrangements for my Friday classes and signed up for the study.

I arrived at PRACS and filled out all the waivers, but they seemed thicker than usual. They performed the initial health screenings, then brought us into a brightly lit room with ten hospital beds.

They told us we would be taking a pill and getting into a bed, but that we weren’t allowed to sleep. That was why the study paid so much: we were allowed seven hours of sleep on Friday, but that was it. No problem. I pulled all-nighters at least twice a week. Plus who in the world could fall asleep in a brightly lit room surrounded by strangers?

After about half an hour, I began to feel tired. It was 8 pm on a Thursday. I wouldn’t normally even think about going to bed for another five hours. I leaned back in the bed, but nodded at the attendant to assure her I wouldn’t fall asleep. I was just closing my eyes for like two seconds.

Next thing I knew, the attendant was gently shaking me awake. I apologized and said I didn’t know what happened. She said not to worry, but that she was going to prop my bed up to a seated position. By 8:45 all the beds were propped up. It didn’t help. All ten of us kept taking turns nodding off. We fought so hard to stay awake. They played loud music. It was torture. By 9:30, the attendant was just moving into a circuit, waking up each person. By the time she made it around, the first people were already asleep again. By 10:00 I was crying and desperate, begging the attendant to leave me alone. The last thing I remember is the attendant calling down the hall for her supervisor.

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015

blood for the blood ... throne, here's something i wrote for an inter-prompt that i didn't get to post before the next prompt slid in, now's a good a time as any, i guess v:shobon:v

The man called M posted:


In 500 words or less, create….a World.

Your World
(498 words)

The world must’ve felt so warm when you came into it. You were surrounded by your siblings once more, who all emerged just a little bit before you did. Huddled together, so small and tender at the breast of mother, you were already a part of a loving family. You were so delicate and raw you could only take in the waking world in fits at first. You slumbered away those first few weeks; your eyelids still too cumbersome to keep open. The toll of provenance is ever heavy, but your family was already there for you. They were pleased just to have you in their lives. They were ready to nourish you, to see you grow. It was only a matter of time before strength came easily, and the rambunctious patter of your soft pads could be heard at all hours. Little yips to welcome the dawn of each day. This was your first world, the world of your infancy, and it was beautiful.

Then you joined a second family, our family, and entered our home. We were just as pleased to have you. We made such a fuss of your first day. The kids couldn’t stop petting you, and mom took dozens of pictures. Even dad beamed proudly all day. The kids invited over all their friends to enjoy your company. Your first bed, the first one you had all to yourself, was a warm blanket inside a cozy basket. For a time, we debated who’d be the first to walk you. This was your second world, the world of your youth, and it was beautiful.

As the years passed, you were there for us as much as we were there for you. Sometimes the kids came home with scrapes from rough play, and you were ready to sit beside them. Their tears were always fewer with your head on their lap. When mom lost her job, you were her steadfast companion at home. She credits you for keeping her eyes bright until she found another. Dad took you for mourning runs, as much for your health as for his, and you made sure he kept his routine. This was your third world, the world of your maturity, and it was beautiful.

A part of us had always hoped we’d have the time to grow old together, to rock on our hammocks and enjoy the cool glow of the evening sun. To step back from the dash of life’s treadmill, to savour each moment for the gift that it is. We’d have watched the bloom of the kids together, with magic in our eyes. This would’ve been your fourth world, the world of your seniority, and it would’ve been beautiful.

The fill of life’s cup is a mystery no one can know, and sometimes we receive much less than we deserve. We can only make the most of what we have. You did, and I’ll always be happy to know that your worlds were always beautiful.

Jan 20, 2012

hard counter posted:

blood for the blood ... throne, here's something i wrote for an inter-prompt that i didn't get to post before the next prompt slid in, now's a good a time as any, i guess v:shobon:v

Your World
(498 words)


Posting an interprompt story long after the interprompt has been and gone is a bold move, full of audacity and panache. Interprompts originally weren't going to get counted for the bloodometer but then we forgot our own arbitrary rules the blood god sent down their dictum that all writing in the spirit of the 'dome will sustain their bloodly glory. Well done!

Jan 21, 2010

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

Lipstick Apathy
infinitely late at night


derp fucked around with this message at 20:03 on Jan 2, 2023

Feb 25, 2014

Turn the Lights On


flerp fucked around with this message at 20:10 on Oct 9, 2022

Jan 20, 2012

A Night You Remember
500 words

The crisp night air was a sweet relief after the stifling press of ska fans in the bar. I didn't mind a song or two, but after a couple of beers the trombones were murder. I looked down the length of the building and spotted Danny, leaned in a cool-guy slouch against the brick wall of the bar, the glow of his cigarette flaring as I joined him. He offered me a cigarette, which I waved away.

"Hell of a show, huh Nick?" he asked, gesturing at the thumping music that defied the door of the bar and escaped into the street.

"Can't say I'm a fan, honestly. I caught a metal band here the other day that was killer, though. You would have loved them. Two bassists and a seventeen-year-old on the drums."

Danny laughed and took a drag from his cigarette. "Why'd you come, then, if you're not into it? It's not like you're gonna score any cool points with your college friends for catching a so-so ska band."

I snatched the cigarette from his hand and took a drag. I'd been trying to quit, but shows and bars felt like they were in black and white without a cigarette. The nicotine made everything blow up in vivid color. "I came because you asked. I've been looking forward to seeing you, catching up, hearing about how life is on the west coast."

Danny laughed and lit another cigarette with a jet-black Zippo. He tucked the lighter back into the pocket of his

"This isn't how it happened."

I looked up at him, startled. He was turned to face me, straight as a telephone pole, unblinking eyes fixed on mine.

"This isn't how it happened. You didn't say any of that. You weren't at this show."

I turned away from him. I couldn't take that look. I couldn't handle the pity in his face. "It's how it should have happened. Something might have been different."

Danny softened, shrugged his shoulders, resumed the cool-guy pose. "Maybe. Maybe not. It's not like you made me do what I did. Nobody made me do anything." He put out the cigarette. I noticed mine was gone too, though I didn't remember ditching it. Danny turned to me again, though he looked more casual this time, less pitying. "The fact is, what's done is done. You'll never know why. And you have to find a way to be okay with that fact. You have to stop replaying the fantasy version of this night, over and over, like you're gonna unearth some explanation of why things played out the way they did." He put a hand on my shoulder and pulled me into a bear hug. He pulled away, and dropped the black Zippo into my shirt pocket, and started walking away.

"Wait!" I yelled, desperately hunting for something I could say that would keep him there just a moment longer.

"Too late, dude. I'm already gone," he said, as he disappeared into the night.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 03:26 on Jan 15, 2023

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015

infinite night brawl
(497 words)

I just wanted to do something different, something exciting for a change. I never went to any school dances, played any sports or joined any clubs. I didn’t even buy tickets for prom. It was always just school, homework, and stocking shelves at the supermarket. None of that was any fun. To me, they were just joyless steps I had to take on the way to a better tomorrow, and I was always thinking of tomorrow. Of getting into a good college, and maybe at least having my textbook money settled. I’d spent my whole highschool life up to this point in a daze, like I was never really living in the same present everyone else did. I knew I was missing something, but I didn’t know what yet.

Then I’d heard the other kids in my neighbourhood, all boys my age, talk about buying some spray cans. They were going to tag the highschool one night. I’d overheard them. Then I did what I almost never do. I invited myself. They all looked at me like I was a narc. I knew I had some kind of reputation at school, but I never knew how bad it was ‘til I saw the way they looked at me. I even used to be friends with some of them, back when we’d do tricks on our bikes at the elementary school parking lot. They tried to psyche me out. They told me if there was any trouble, it’d be every man for himself. That I’d probably have to outrun cops. I had to use whatever currency was still left in our past to guilt them into letting me come anyway. I don’t know why I made my stand here, of all places. I’d never been a vandal. I could’ve just changed my mind about prom, if I wanted something new, but I was set on something different. I felt like an artist, all sprung up inside, ready to attack a canvas.

The night finally came. It was late and the moon was out. I’d told my parents I was at the neighbours’. We were all casually dressed. I probably would’ve come out looking like a cat burglar but they told me not to. We strolled right up to our highschool and they handed me the can. I was first. I probably still had to prove I wasn’t a narc by getting my hands a little red. I snickered when I put up the first thing that came to mind.


I barely had time to finish before a light flickered inside the school. We all bailed as it had been a siren. It really was every man for himself. For second I didn’t care if it was actually cops after us. It’d ruin my chances at a good university, but I needed this night. I’m glad a part of me will always live in that night, laughing and running madly.


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


I hate to make this feel less like a gang brawl and more like a tag-team match, but in another field of solid stuff, it was Weltlich's entry that really sang to me. The love of Fourthmeal, I guess.

Welt, all yours for Round 3!

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