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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







No flash rule.

But, so, the cactus.
1450 words

There’s a cactus in the outfield of the Camp Prickly Pear baseball diamond. In another world, this place is green and populous, and the cactus isn’t fruiting. But the cactus is fruiting, so Camp Prickly Pear must squat beside a dry riverbed near the Mojave Desert.

Camp Prickly Pear sits on a dusty, poorly-irrigated patch of land beside a dead river, so there must be a kid named Witlow who has big, tragic dreams of baseball stardom. The cactus is a huge old saguaro, so major league baseball must be pretty much dead.

Major League Baseball is very much dead, so this game that Witlow is playing with her friends is about as high-stakes as baseball gets anymore. In the world of the cactus, Witlow’s understanding of the game comes from old video clips her family keeps on the hand-me-down hard drive.

Witlow is a terrible baseball player, so the cactus must cast a long shadow across left field. But in this desiccated place, Witlow’s love of baseball is verdant, like how she imagines the grass at Angel Stadium was. Her love is crisscrossed by the lines of a riding mower, watered by a hundred commercial sprinklers. When she’s playing baseball, she smells earth instead of hot dust, even if she can’t catch worth a drat.

Baseball in Camp Prickly Pear is kind of its own thing. There aren’t enough people to make up two teams, so everyone rotates between field positions and at-bat. Whoever’s on the field is a team; whoever’s at bat is the enemy. Scores are given on an individual basis—everyone bats for themselves.

All the other players cycle between the bases and the field positions, except Witlow, who can't catch worth an old bloated tin of beans. Witlow is always in left field, out there with the cactus. The cactus is the greenest thing for a mile, other than the algae that grows in the camp’s tiny reservoir.

This game, Witlow has miraculously managed to take a few bases. She’s actually half-decent at hitting, but she always gives points back via fumbles out there in left field. But, so, now she’s one point ahead of Catley, who is widely considered within the thirty-nine person population of Camp Prickly Pear to be the best baseballer in the whole settlement. Catley is a fair bit older than Witlow; she grew up watching the last of the big games on streaming TV.

Witlow can barely believe her own score. Each time she goes up to bat, it’s like she’s watching the ball lazily progress along a pre-agreed upon course. It’s just a matter of putting the bat where she knows the ball will be. She hits two home runs—eight points, one for each base.

The cactus has so many arms that it looks like a child’s crude drawing of a tree. It’s thirty feet tall, nearly 150 years old, and can remember when Camp Prickly Pear was a youth re-education camp rather than a huddle refugees from the northern turf wars. In another world, the many arms of the cactus are instead the fronds of a giant fern, but the cactus’s arms are festooned with ruby red fruit, and there haven’t been ferns at Camp Prickly Pear for generations.

The cactus remembers its own birth. 146 years before this game—the game in which Witlow is in the lead for the first time ever—a kid named Ezra was also bad at baseball.

Ezra spent their time planting cactus seeds at the edge of the baseball field. Back then, Camp Prickly Pear was a religious camp, a place where worried parents sent kids who were too divergent from the emerging theocracy. Ezra had begrudgingly selected baseball as their mandatory sport of choice, but spent all their time in left field studying the flora of the desert.

Ezra was fascinated by cacti, had read all about the iconic saguaro before being shipped out to Camp Prickly Pear. They knew the seeds were delicate and short-lived, learned where to plant them and how to nurture them.

Just as the bat cracked, just as the ball arced into an easy pop fly, Ezra poured all of their love into the planting of one particular seed. They didn’t really understand what they were doing; it was like Witlow hitting those two home runs. Their love traveled along a predetermined course toward a single saguaro cactus seed. As the ball sailed through the convection oven air, as their teammates called out Ez! Ez! Get it Ez! Ezra was using the side of their hand to cover the seed with earth. Their mitt was on the earth beside them.

The ball thumped onto the well-watered grass next to Ezra. The other team scored.

146 years later, Witlow feels her pulse thrumming in her neck. Catley has the last at-bat; if she hits the ball Witlow’s way, that’s it. There’s no way Witlow can run down one of those huge slams.

Everyone else knows it, too. They’re all shouting Come on, Cat! like Catley is the rightful heir of victory. Like Witlow isn’t a contender. Everyone figures Catley will whack the ball into left field and Witlow will fumble it like always. Catley will win and it won’t matter, because the reality is that everyone lost a long time ago.

The pitcher, as if trying to hasten the inevitable, shoots Catley an easy meatball straight over the plate. Catley swings the bat, puts the ball just where she wants it—a fast, flat arc toward left field. She starts running.

First base.

Witlow is already sprinting, her feet kicking up dust. The ball is gonna overshoot the field by a lot; everything beyond the baseball diamond is gritty sand and rocky, uneven turf. Impossible to run across without risking an ankle.

Second base.

But Witlow needs that ball. The love of the game is pushing outward from inside of her, swelling like the ruby red fruit of the saguaro. It was easier when she’d never had the lead. Now victory is in her mouth, tasting of pennies.

Third base.

The ball reaches the apex of its arc, begins its final descent.

There’s a world where Ezra got to grow up free of fear and shame. There’s a world where Witlow is on the varsity baseball team, playing on manicured fields. There’s a world where a saguaro cactus never grew at the edge of a desiccated left field.

But the huge cactus is fruiting, maybe for the last time in its long life, and the ball is screaming toward the edge of the field, and Catley is rounding third, and the world is on fire and baseball is dead, and Witlow is running the hardest she’s ever run in her life, too hard for the morning heat, knowing she won’t make it, knowing that the ball was always going to fly way out of her reach, but loving the game too much to do anything except throw her whole mind, body, and soul into this one futile sprint.

One small act of defiant love touches another.

Just as Catley lunges for home base, just as Witlow starts to feel too winded to keep up the dead sprint for the ball—

The saguaro cactus is like a huge hand with three dozen too many fingers. Without moving, it reaches up into the ball’s path. A reach 146 years in the making, slow and sure and inevitable.

The ball thwacks off of the woody central spire.

Witlow has her mitt out, not so much in anticipation of the catch but in a gesture of pleading—please don’t go. She catches the rebound from the cactus in that lucky hand, nearly drops the ball, saves it, then pulls it tight into her chest. She can barely breathe.

Cheers erupt behind her. She can’t turn around. She can’t force herself to look and acknowledge that Catley made it home anyway, that her dead sprint and miraculous catch was for nothing, just like everything else in Camp Prickly Pear.

Wit. Wit. Wit! Wit! Wit!

She doesn’t understand what she’s hearing at first. It isn’t until the others rush her, pile onto her with congratulations, that she realizes that she’s won. At the same moment, 146 years earlier, Ezra smiles at the place where their seed sleeps safely in the earth.

Witlow looks at the ball in her hand and wonders if she can be part of a world where there’s enough love to bring back baseball. She decides she can.

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Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Flash rule:Cornhole

Planet Cornhole

1093 words

I have, like, the world's most embarrassing dad ever. It's not even close. Let's start with this: he owns a bright green t-shirt with the words "Galaxy's Best Cornholer" printed across the middle, and he wears it in public. And by in public I mean to school, to pick me up after soccer practice. Just walked right up to the field at the end of the session in it.

It was his own fault when the aliens abducted him, and I should have left it at that, but he was my only ride home. So I had to forever abandon the plan of pretending I didn't know this strange man and instead run right at the levitation ray and jump in. What's worse is that Billy Scugs ran right after me and also started floating into the air.

Antigravity is not fun. It's nothing like flying. The big problem is that anything that's not firmy connected to you gets pulled extra hard, which is mostly hair. It feels like you're getting pulled by your hair, five hundred meters straight up to the middle of the flying saucer. And then they drop you down onto the deck from like a foot above. Billy landed wrong on his left foot and it sort of twisted under him, which was kind of funny and he wasn't really hurt, just a bit sore for a while, which is his natural state of being anyway.

Then you get to see the aliens themselves, and let me tell you that they are U.G.L.Y. ugly. Lime green skin with pink and purple blotches. Big black eyes. An antenna on the left side of their faces that ends in a lumpy orange thing that looks like a reject potato. And their hands, which end in a completely random number of thin bony fingers. Maybe they looked good to other aliens, but I doubt it. Some ugly is universal.

And if that wasn't enough, they started talking next, and when the aliens talk, it's not just sounds, although there were sounds and they were like nails scratching glass run through the evil alternate universe version of autotune, but the sound wasn't the worst of it. The worst was the smells. They mostly communicate with belches and farts, and as far as I could tell they'd been eating nothing but licorice, rotten eggs, and cowflops for days. But that wasn't really the worst part, even. The worst part was that I could understand it, every word.

"Jasper Jones," they were saying, "By the authority of the Panstellar Interspecies Sporting Society, we demand that you either forfeit or defend your claimed title as so-called galaxy's best cornholer." Two things. One, Jasper Jones is what other adults call Dad. And two, that name has just as unfortunate an acronym in the alien language I wish I didn't understand.

"Forfeit?" said Dad. "You mean, take off this shirt?" He started to reach for the bottom.

"Forfeit the stakes of the tournament," the alien spokesthing said/outgassed. Dad let go of the shirt.

"And what stakes are those?" Dad said.

The aliens laughed. I mean, I knew it was laughing. It was also the orange potato antenna thing throbbing obscenely. I shivered, back then and just now, remembering it.

Hyperspace. There aren't even words for most of how it feels going through hyperspace. I could say it's like having each one of your organs turned inside out and then back again but you suspect that maybe one of them, a kidney or a spleen accidentally got left that way, and that would be kind of close, but also not even. And there was Billy Scuggs all saying "Isn't this cool, Miranda?"

Anyway, here's the thing: aliens are really crap at cornhole. I mean, it's a dumb game to start with, which is why Dad loves it. You throw the bag, it goes in the hole, you score points. And none of the aliens are much good at throwing stuff. Not the ones who brought us to the tournament. Not the ones with too many tentacles and eyes. Not the ones that look like cats but with needles instead of fur. Especially not the beings of pure thought and energy. Every one of them crap at cornhole.

What they weren't crap at, though, was cheating. It started with the gravity. Of course it wasn't Earth normal gravity, but Dad just needed a few practice throws to adjust, and that would have been fine. But they kept changing it. One time they changed it right in the middle of a throw so what should have been a complete miss over the whole board instead slammed right down to block the hole. And the refs were useless. Two of them were blind, as in their species had no visual sense at all. One of those had sonar sense,  and that was fine, but the other one just said it had an intimate sense of the universe's interconnectedness. I don't know if they were bad or paid off or what, but we weren't getting any fouls called on the other team, even the one that was so big it couldn't help being outside the pitching box.

I guess it wouldn't have been fair to call that one out though.

Point is, they cheated their asses off, if they had asses. But since they were still crap and Dad is, much as I hate to admit it, very good, he still won.

But just when we were about to go home, one of the original aliens came up and farted at us. "Wait!" he said. "There's still the crew tournament. What would you say to double or nothing?"

Dad narrowed his eyes. He's not a gambling man except where it comes to cornhole.

"Crew's four," I said. "Even if Billy knows how to play we still only have three."

"Who doesn't?" said Billy, and I could see in Dad's eyes him planning out the next ten years of my life, ending in a cornhole themed wedding at the Indiana state fair.

"I can throw a bag," said Elvis, stepping out from the shadows. He looked like his younger self, in his prime, but with a touch of gray in his pompadour. Clean living and or alien technology, I guess.

So anyway, that's why the P.I.S.S. are towing a lightly-used planet into an orbit between Earth and Mars. Dad even named it Miranda, which is utter cringe, so it'll always just be Planet Cornhole to me.

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015







Three Winters Cold
(1499 words)

“We got our asses prolapsed today. We never get our asses prolapsed. Those guys took our anal virginity. Just what the gently caress happened today?”

Ryan chewed his vulgarity, fully milking it to convey his bitterness. He searched the faces of the two beside him, Les and Scott, the only two to join him at the diner after the game. Their faces gave him nothing. Les stared vacantly into the distance, being neither here nor there, while Scott quietly nursed a swollen ankle under the table, hoping it’d go unnoticed. They wanted to lick their wounds, but Ryan wanted to reassess the game, like coach used to.

Ryan slammed an angry fist onto the table, jittering the sodas and food set atop it.

Coach never did that.

“...Dude,” Les puffed out. Even under the lifeless fluorescent lights his face looked rosy and moist. A deep exhaustion weighed his features down.

He’s got that double-chin now, he won’t recover from the game for a while, Ryan supposed. He noticed Les’ new paunchiness earlier, and chalked it up to too much college partying. Now, Les looked outright piggish. He had a pile of crumpled tissue around his tray, from mopping his brow with napkins.

Ryan slammed another fist down, even harder. The other patrons, if there were any, would’ve jumped at the clattering glass. The cheap metal table buzzed long afterward.

“Dude, chill,” Les interrupted. Ryan’s scowl relaxed a moment. He finally got a proper reaction. A wicked pleasure from rubbing salt into wounded egos briefly eclipsed his own resentment, but the moment soon passed. A young waitress cautiously leaned over her kiosk to inspect the commotion. Scott noticed her concern and amicably waved back. He’d lately come to realize just how intimidating incredibly large young men could be. Scott felt obligated to deescalate if Ryan's temper didn't sputter-out soon.

“Why aren’t you fired-up?” Ryan complained, “I’m mad as gently caress.”

“Dude, it wasn’t even the real thing. It was just a casual walk-in for randos at the local rink.”

“That makes it loving worse. We’re junior tournament MVPs. We should’ve butchered randos.”

“We were champions three years ago, dude.”

The remark set Ryan’s eyes ablaze. Scott had seen Ryan throw ugly tantrums after bad games before. He wasn’t a scrawny teenager anymore, and coach wasn’t around to rein him in. Les turned his dull gaze away. Ryan sucked in air through his teeth, like a viper preparing to strike. Scott had to act now.

“-You know, these intramurals bring out all kinds of people,” Scott explained in soothing tones, “The bigger the rink, the more likely some ringers’ll show up. Like, we showed up, right?”

Ryan wasn’t having it. He gripped the metal table so tightly veins bulged on both of his massive arms. He could easily rip it from its cheap supports.

“I got the whole loving gang together for today’s comeback smash. I don’t care if the ‘seventy-two Bruins laced up and played for the other guys. We should’ve had this one on lock.”

Les rolled his tired eyes.

“We were never that good.”

“We made every other team our bitch. We hosed their-”

“-Dude, even back then, we had off-games.”

“Once we all synched-up and became a real unit, we were un-loving-beatable.”

Scott and Les blinked. Neither remembered things that way. Zero dominating wins. Surely there were more wins than losses, they were indeed champions, but every win was hard-fought, even after they synched-up. Scott shook it off; there were more important worries. Ryan’s grip on the table was ferocious, but still unconscious. He was gradually peeling the metal off its bolted supports, without even intending it. He could make a terrible scene the moment he meant to. That poor waitress was still sneaking glances at them, Scott observed. Deescalation was paramount. Scott smiled warmly, trying to hide the expression his throbbing ankle preferred him to make.

“We’re out of practice. We just need time to synch-up again.”

“We worked that poo poo out years ago. We became a death-dealing, team-trashing, kill-squad together. You guys were my wingmen...”

There was a flash of warmth on that last word. Ryan’s grip eased. Scott and Les were his wingmen in every sense. They’d been lifelong friends, ever since they all met at mini-mite hockey. Their friendship often went beyond the game. Though living on different sides of town, they still travelled in the same circles, especially once they all had cars. Often quite literally then. Post-secondary, however, had made their distance real. Ryan continued.

“...like, I was Maverick, and you were Iceman and Merlin.”

Les scoffed at the comparison. Ryan’s eyes narrowed and his grip tightened. He’d taken that scoff as a sneer at their friendship. The bolts buckled under Ryan renewed grasp.

“Back in the old days, even if we did lose, we always got riled-up together. Now it’s like you guys don’t even care. Look at you Les, you didn’t put on the freshmen fifteen, you put on the senior-loving-sixty.”

Les tented his hands and closed his eyes deeply. Scott flushed. He had to divert the conversation fast, but Les had to get his say too. Les composed himself as Ryan braced for impact. Ryan craved another proper reaction. He was wired enough to throw down, here and now, if it came to that.

Les’ words came balanced and level.

“Believe me, dude, I wanted to win today. I needed to win... I’ve been feeling like a piece of poo poo lately... like, you’ve obviously noticed, and, just... I really could’ve used a win.”

Les stumbled. Ryan’s eyebrows raised, he chalked up Les’ weight to college parties. That fucker was having the time of his life, Ryan guessed earlier. Scott shifted his focus from Ryan to Les. Les actually did seem miserable. Les continued.

“Senior year has been shredding me. You guys remember I’m doing that econ-finance double major right? It’s just been non-stop all nighters for my thesis. It’s like my supervisor thinks I’m just some dumb finance-bro wannabe. I work twice as hard for half the credit. I barely sleep anymore.”

Ryan looked into the hurt eyes of his friend, and briefly forgot his own resentment. Scott took a moment to puzzle things together. Les hated coffee. If he needed a caffeine fix for an early practice, he’d drink venti frappuccinos.

“Is it... caffeine binges?” Scott asked.

“Not just that, dude. Finance is all about networking and connections. And there’s maybe another recession coming. They don’t hire newbie advisors when everything’s going tits-up. I need to find an in. And fast. I’m going to every finance club dinner and function, just to feel things out. I smile all the time, but I haven’t actually felt anything in a while. I’m not depressed or anything, just overworked. I barely enjoyed hockey today.”

Les slumped, the confession drained him. Scott studied Ryan’s body language now. He seemed calmer, like he wasn’t about to wreck the diner. The moment could soon pass if another storm blew in. Scott blurted the first thing that came to mind. The truth.

“I really wanted to win today too. I probably needed a win just as badly...” Scott started. He’d have to admit his own problems now. He hated the idea of burdening others with his worries. He prided himself on freeing others by giving no indication that anything was wrong with him. No choice now. Scott continued blurting.

“...My girl left me a couple weeks ago. Just showed up at my dorm-room one night. She starts off telling me I’m great, I’m the kind of guy she could settle down with someday, but that’s bad, because she wants to explore the dating scene a little more before then...”

Ryan and Les implicitly understood. It wasn’t just that she wanted to explore, but that she was already exploring. Probably. When she finally found someone exciting, she had to suddenly break things off with Scott. But there was something else. Scott’s voice seemed unsteady. He’s never unsteady.

“...When she turned to leave, I tried to stop her. Who doesn't go after their girl? I put myself between her and the door. She looked so scared all of a sudden. Sometimes I forget she’s half my size. I was going to tell her how much I loved her, but I froze when I saw her face. It was like some slasher movie poo poo. I just stepped back and let her go. It chews me up, things ending like that.”

The confession drained Scott. Ryan leaned back, resting his hands on his lap.

“...Sorry, I didn’t know college was like that. I thought you guys were having the time of your lives. Parties. Girls. Beer. Meanwhile I’m stuck at home, apprenticed at my uncle’s workshop, working nine-to-five in the same loving town I was born in. I needed a win today too, like the kind we had when we were a squad.”

The three sat quietly for a time, feeling exposed in a way that strangely drifted into warmth.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007


you don't find a style

a style finds you





Week 521 Submission - Sports Day

m v n v m v love
1500 Words



“Ready, set, go.”

Noses riding the tops of poles hammered into the hard earth, the boys, Marcus and Bryant, side-shimmied in a tight circumference, spinning around and around while Mama watched for the slightest glimmer of firelight between schnoz and stake. “Eighteen, nineteen,” she counted when Marcus gave up the goat and flopped backwards onto the grass. “Twenty-three,” as Bryant joined his brother.

“Now quick, Polaris.”

The starfield whorled above Bryant and his finger made figure eights as he tried to point it out. “There.”

“That’s Vega. How do you get from Vega to the North Star?”

“Follow the snake. Find the Little Dipper. There!”

“Very good.”

Marcus chimed in, “I see the North Star, Mama.”

“Well, you had extra time and not as many spins. Find Arcturus for me.”

“Les’see. The Little Dipper points to the Big Dipper, and the Big Dipper points to the Kite. Arcturus is the tail. There.”

“Good. And which direction is it?“

“West?”

“But?”

“But. . .”

“”Not alwa—”

“Not always West. It spins around Polaris.”

“Point goes to Marcus.”

Marcus, now steady, stood and spun, arms outstretched, eyes on Polaris, watching the stars streak to stripes as the last blue faded like an old photograph and the sky reverted to the duochrome of its negative.

“That’s not fair! I spun more.”

“Marcus had to find a tougher star. You’re still in the lead, Bryant. Want a point? What do you hear?”

Bryant tugged on Marcus’s pantleg, stopping his momentum. Marcus flopped down crosslegged. Bryant scrunched his eyes in concentration. “Crickets.”

“Duh,” retorted Marcus.

“Hush,” said Mama. “Listen.”

Above the background din of the crickets, a creakier note, a slow pull of an unrosined bow bouncing against the strings. “Um, a locust. Locusts. And some peepers.”

Marcus giggled and refrained, “Peepers.” He loved saying it.

“Mama, is that a bullfrog?”

“Maybe, Bryant, I can’t hear anything other than the peepers tonight.”

“Peepers.”

Mama smiled, her face carved with deep undulating lines in the light of the waning fire. “I doubt you’d want to eat a bullfrog. Tough. But you could in a pinch. But the spring peepers? Tasty.”

The boys rolled toward each other, exaggerating their repulsion at the idea. “You eat a peeper.” “No, you eat a peeper.” Their revelry was cut off by a scream that felt close by and far away at the same time. The forest around the little clearing distorted sound such that they might be listening to the real thing or only the ghost of an echo.

“Mama,” whispered Marcus.

“It’s okay,” she said.

“Coyote?”

“It’s just a fox.”

“It sounds like a kid crying.”

“They can. Foxes won’t come around, don’t worry. But if you see one, don’t go chasing after it. You don’t want to get bit.”

“We leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone.”

“That’s right. That’s enough for tonight, boys. In the house or out here?” It wasn’t much of a question.

“Out here,” they said in unison.

“Alright. Spread your wacks. Fastest wins.”

They flipped more than unrolled the bivouac sleeping bags, and Mama watched, gaze flicking down at her timepiece occasionally. Marcus was inside his bag first, the drawstring pulled tightly around his face, a little smiling bit of icing poking out the end of a Gortex creme horn.

“Point to Marcus. See, you were all out of sorts before. The score is tied now. Now watch the fire and sleep.”

“Mama, what’s that?” asked Bryant, waking Mama from her doze. She looked and saw the blinking green and red lights tracing a quick arc across the stars. If she concentrated hard, she could hear, or imagine she hear the sound of the propellers. She knew what it was.

“Ghosts of the past,” she said.

“What?”

“Sorry, it’s nothing. Magic of the night. Watch it go by. You know how transient stars are.”

“Unpredictable,” he said with a yawn and soon enough, it was gone.

Morning came, stiff and damp. The boys were packed before Mama woke, practically a first. She squirreled out of her sleeping bag as though her tail was made of stone. She checked the ground, but there were no roots nor rocks that might have bit into her back while she slept. She knew what it was. And it was quicker than she had hoped.

Marcus and Bryant poked at the embers, flicking an occasional crackling dance of sparks with their sticks. Mama groaned as she rolled her bag and ratcheted down the straps to her ruck sack. “Okay, boys, time for the bushel race.”

The kids hucked their rucks, and for the first time, Mama paused. “Leave them boys. Just grab your baskets.” Excitedly, they dropped them, collecting the baskets they themselves wove from bullrushes, Marcus narrowly gaining the point due to the wicker handle he constructed, unbidden. Bryant, perhaps out of jealousy, attempted the same later that day, and failed until Marcus revealed the secrets about soaking the whip-saplings before braiding them. And Mama nearly cried at the ingenuity of her own son’s devising.

But Bryant was the one who paused now, and asked, “Mama, are you okay?”

She shrugged him off and nodded towards the field. “Go on, pick whatever you like.”

Bryant hesitated until she said, “On your marks, get set, go.”

The boys raced, gathering tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers, and Marcus plopped a funny purple thing, and both regretted not starting with the runner beans before hucking down the rows with the heavier vegetables. Marcus felt the rumble before they heard the stink gorgon bouncing up the rutted path. The boys rushed back to Mama, waiting at the edge of the woods, and they watched, crouched, as a Mama with a beard climbed out of the stink gorgon and put a rock up to his face. They all looked, in confusion, irritation, and consternation, at Marcus’s basket sitting next to the row of wax beans. That rock, Mama knew what it was. She couldn’t be sure, but it felt that maybe the beard Mama and the real Mama made eye contact for just a second before they disappeared into the woods and he disappeared into the cab of his truck.

‘Boys, we have to go.”

“Mama,” said Marcus, “my basket.”

“Don’t worry about it. Come on,” assured Mama, but as the boys ran ahead, Mama lagged further behind, and they had fully caught their breath and sat anxiously by the old fire pit, rucks strapped dutifully to their backs as Mama finally broke the treeline into the clearing.

She dropped onto the broken log that served well enough as a fire gazing contemplation spot, and her breath could not catch up to the boys. It was a fit more than a rest as she crushed her temples between palm and fingers, and her pinky pushed hard into the corner of her right eye.

The clatter was behind her, and the boys heard it too. “Mama,” said Marcus, “It’s a whirlybird. What do we do?”

Mama had made every effort to prepare, but preparation takes a backseat to pain. She struggled to unbear her fangs, but still it slipped out. “Do what you want.”

“Mama?”

She knew what it was. A spinal tumor. Two surgeries, bouts of chemo and a doctor giving her the best case of near total paralysis, and a derelict husband. It was a light at the end of the tunnel when she realized none of that mattered. Mama had her boys and her boys were nearing on self-sufficient. Six months stretched to six years, and the three of them were together, sometimes scuzzy, sometimes cold and miserable, but always together. And she had taught them.

Preparation takes a backseat to pain. And Mama really couldn’t take it any longer. It wasn’t make or break it, it was just ‘how do I break’. There are no good answers to that.

“Marcus,” she said, “You’re my smart man. Bryant, you’re my baby.”


“I’m not a baby.”

“I know, I know. I don’t mean—I hope you understand what I mean. Someday, maybe.”

Marcus leaned in and whispered, “Mama, the whirlybird is getting closer.”

“It’s your choice, Marcus. You win. Hup, hup. You win by one point, so don’t think you’re so superior to Bryant. 157 to 158. That’s close.”

“Mama, the whirlybird.”

“Marcus, it’s you’re choice. I have to stay here. My back is broken. I will rest here, forever. I’ve given you everything you need. Live off the land or live in the land of monsters. You may find magic there, but you will certainly find heartache. Just take care of Bryant.”

Mama couldn’t move as the helicopter touched down and the boys ran to the edge of the woods. She projected her love onto them and pushed so hard she hoped they could feel it. She hoped they made the right decision, but all she could see were the streaks of light spinning around her in the sky, and she wondered whether it was noon or midnight or if that ever even mattered.

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


Striking Out Regrets
1151 words

The visitor arrived in the middle of their Saturday practice, and watched quietly from the bleachers. Coach Kitami noted his sharp appearance, the look of a man who wanted to blend in but ended up standing out more. A talent scout, maybe? Not that they were favored to win the regional qualifiers, anyway.

He chose to ignore him until the session was over. He cleaned up the field with the team, gave select players some pointers, and sent the team home.

The visitor approached him after the last of the players had left.

"Can I help you?" He asked the man.

"Don't you remember your pitcher, Kitami?" the man said, taking off his shades with an awkward smile.

"Yoshino? Why are you here, of all places?" Didn't he have better things to do than visit his alma mater in the countryside?

"You're still a worrywart, even after all those years, eh? It's fine, we don't have any practice lined up today. I just came to talk."

"You could've sent me a LINE message," Kitami pouted. Maybe a heads-up would've helped him prepare for their meeting.

"I don't have LINE."

"Oh." Knowing Yoshino, he might even be still on a clamshell phone, despite owning a Porsche.

"I see that your the coach now. It suits you."

"Thanks."

What was this awkward air? After losing their final chance to get to Koshien, they went to different universities. Yoshino got an athletic scholarship, while Kitami fought tooth and nail to get in. Masaki Yoshino became a household name, and Takeshi Kitami returned to the countryside to settle down and become a baseball coach.

Time and distance had changed them. Kitami was more than happy to keep it that way, but here was Yoshino, picking at the scabs of his memories.

"So can I help you with something?" Kitami said. "I've got drills to plan for next week. The kids are relying on me. Little brats want to go to Koshien, as if it's that easy. Now I have to do all this extra work to help them."

"From where I sat, I thought you were enjoying every minute of practice," Yoshino said.

"Well, I can't just let them down, can I? Better to let them experience the harsh reality for themselves than for me to tell them not to go for it."

"I'll be cheering for you. It's the least I could do as a graduate of this school."

Kitami turned away. "Thanks, I guess."

"Remember our last game together, Takeshi?"

"Eh, it's been ten years," Kitami said, scratching his hair. Not this.

"Remember how we lost?" Yoshino pressed on.

"You came all the way from Tokyo to make me relive painful memories? Gimme a break."

"It was my fault, Takeshi." It wasn't. It truly wasn't, and Kitami had spent days reassuring Yoshino, who missed a week of practice, to convince his pitcher of the fact.

Takeshi Kitami, baseball coach of Aotori High School, sighed. "I'm going to inspect the field one more time. Walk with me."

Yoshino shadowed him in silence as he took his time checking if the boys cleaned the field well.

"You're drawing it out," Yoshino said, stating the obvious.

"I needed to clear my head. And I've told you again and again, it wasn't your fault." And even if it was, it was Yoshino who kept the dream alive, turning pro straight out of college.

"I'm in a slump, Takeshi. I've lost my drive and I'm trying to get it back."

"Oh?" Kitami followed all of Yoshino's games, and it tracked. His pitches were still excellent, but his team was losing more games than it won this season. Kitami had chalked it up to bad luck, but it seems there was much more beneath the surface.

"All these years I've wondered, could we have won that game, if I had pitched better? I came here because I wanted to put the one regret in my life to rest. Please, let me throw that fastball once more."

The images and sounds from that fateful game returned in full force. Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, full count—it was some real baseball manga poo poo. Kitami called for a fastball, but there was enough hesitation in his call that Yoshino wavered in his pitch, allowing the cleanup batter to score a home run.

"If that's what it takes for you to shut up about it," Kitami said. "I'll get the gear."

---

Kitami settled in at the catcher's position. Seeing Yoshino on the pitcher's mound brought back memories he had been trying to suppress. And why? They were good ones, for the most part. Yoshino never argued with his calls. They were a good battery, all things considered. He almost missed him.

They warmed up by playing a few rounds of catch. Yoshino's throw had a certain heft in it, honed by years playing at the highest level. This was not the Yoshino he had played with—he was quite literally out of Kitami's league now.

"You ready?" he said.

"I asked for this, all right," Yoshino said.

Let's put the ghost of regret to rest, Kitami thought. He gave the sign. Four-seam fastball, Yoshino's specialty. The pro player's windup was a beautiful sight to behold, and Kitami had a front-row seat to the spectacle.

Yoshino threw the ball.

Kitami suppressed a gasp as he caught the pitch cleanly. He had caught hundreds of pitches in his time, but this one felt significant. It was as if all of Yoshino's feelings throughout the years had flowed into the ball, which finally reached him.

He lay on the ground, staring at the blue midday sky.

"You okay?" Yoshino said, running towards Kitami.

"Never felt better," Kitami said, taking Yoshino's hand to help him up.

"Do you think we struck that batter out, Takeshi?"

"Yeah." Kitami collected himself. "I got some iced barley tea back in the dugout. You want some?"

"Just like old times?"

Kitami smiled. "I improved the recipe."

---

"I must say, being a coach suits you," the pro player said, as they enjoyed refreshments in the shade. "You've always taken good care of us, and it's nice to see you continue that with the kids."

"It's just my way of keeping my promise," Kitami said, staring at his cup. "To never forget baseball in my life. Even if I can't be a pro like you, I can do this much."

"Being a pro gives you a unique set of worries. I can't believe I've gotten this far, honestly."

"I've always known you had it in you to succeed," Kitami said.

"That... means a lot. Can I visit again?"

"Only if you help in our drills."

"I'll do that."

Kitami shook his head. "Really? I didn't think you would—"

"I'd love to be your assistant. I'll be in your care, coach!"

Takeshi Kitami's heart sank, but with it came a profound joy.

rohan
Mar 19, 2008

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


:siren:"THEIR":siren:





Team Effort
1500 words

One of Professor Corvus’ frequent maxims was that a true assassin never asked any questions. ‘Curiosity,’ he would say, ‘is for the coroner.’ No matter the quarry or the stakes, an assassin’s job was simply to ensure a cadaver appeared on a slab, as a chosen card appeared atop a deck; silent, surreptitious, showmanship only for distraction. No assassin asked why their mark deserved to die, any more than a magician asked why the ace of clubs curried specific favour.

(While Yvette admired the pragmatism, mostly it seemed an excuse for Corvus not to host office hours after class.)

Despite this, the assassination faculty’s inaugural soccer squad admitted some reservations about the missives which had begun to appear in their change rooms before each match. Chester’s had been the first: a contract for the murder of his opposing team’s counterpart, to be delivered following the match. The following weekend’s match saw Declan invited to decapitate the opposing forward striker, achieved via means of an ensorcelled ball that exploded on impact with the man’s head. A five-minute recess was called, no foul play was discovered, and their bounty was waiting in the locker room post match.

‘I think it’s Corvus,’ Chester admitted in the pub, after a brutal match in which they’d barely eked out a win with a penalty shootout (of the non-lethal variety). Rose, still recovering from a mad dash upfield to whisper a hex to the opposing wing-back defender, groaned. ‘Why Corvus?’ she asked. ‘He hates that we’ve formed a soccer squad. Why would he encourage us to keep going out each week?’

‘Exactly!’ Chester exclaimed, clapping his hands together. ‘He’s trying to keep our skills sharp even while we’re not skulking around rooftops. It’s just another game to him — I reckon he’s probably grading our executions for bonus credit.’

Yvette rolled her eyes and reached for her ale. ‘Corvus never grades extracurriculars,’ she said. ‘And if it was him, why would he be paying us? He could complain about his coffee being cold, and you’d have the barista’s head on his doorstep before thinking to just make another.’

‘Maybe it’s a betting ring,’ Rose mused, laying back on the bench and closing her eyes.

‘Whoever it is,’ Declan murmured, pouring himself another glass from the jug on their table, ‘they’re well funded. These are better contracts than we’ll get post-graduation, I reckon. For once, I’m happy to listen to Corvus and not… ask… questions.’

#

They were training for an upcoming match against the tower guards when a wiry figure came sprinting across the field toward them, an envelope clutched in his hand. ‘Oh, poo poo,’ Yvette said, pausing play. ‘It’s a haruspex.’

‘We’ve booked the pitch till noon,’ Rose said, as he arrived at the edge of their throng and paused to catch his breath, hands on knees.

‘Relax,’ the man said. ‘I’m not here to practice—or investigate a murder,’ he added, pointedly looking toward Yvette. ‘Is Chester around? I’ve got the results.’

Chester pushed forward, and took the papers greedily. The team parted around him as he read through the pages with some consternation.

‘The contracts were clean,’ the haruspex summarised. ‘Very little in the way of thaumaturgical detritus; no residual divinations from the threads. Our friends in forensics also cleared it for fingerprints,’ he added, as an afterthought.

‘That doesn’t prove anything,’ Rose shrugged. ‘Most clients wear gloves.’

‘Corvus wears gloves,’ Declan piped up.

Rose rolled her eyes as the haruspex went on: ‘Funny, though—the envelope itself contained a chalky residue; only on the outside, though.’

‘Bookies use chalk,’ Rose added, thoughtfully.

‘Alright,’ Yvette said, clapping her hands together. ‘This is all very fascinating, but we’ve only got the pitch for another hour, and we’ve got three more plays to work through before next week’s match. If we could all please focus on why we’re here?’

‘That’s right,’ the haruspex smiled. ‘Don’t let me keep you—I don’t need augury to see how you’ll fare this weekend.’

‘Oh, go choke on some entrails,’ Yvette spat.

#

As the semester progressed, so too did their skills on the pitch. When Headmistress Vespertine had originally scheduled mandatory PE for each faculty, nobody expected the crew of anaemic shadow-dwellers to rise so successfully up the ladder; least of all Vespertine, who hadn’t even realised the faculty of subterfuge and masquerade had existed until Corvus had requested an exemption. And yet it transpired that years of learning how to leap across rooftops and shimmy up gutters was perfect conditioning for a sport of legwork and deception.

#

‘Alright,’ Chester announced, opening the envelope before the next match. ‘Cassie, you’re up.’

Cassie, six feet of toned muscle and the closest they had to an actual athlete, rolled her head around her shoulders and reached out for the envelope. ‘Let me guess,’ she said. ‘“Forward striker, piano wire”.’

‘Close,’ Chester admitted, nodding approvingly. ‘Hessian rope.’

‘How is that close?’ Cassie hissed, reaching for the letter. ‘The thickness is completely different; they call for entirely incompatible strategies!’

‘Can you lot calm down?’ Declan called out, from the other side of the change rooms. ‘We’re trying to formulate a winning strategy over here.’

Chester and Cassie looked over at the others, huddled before a whiteboard marked with their names and positions; the only suggestion of violence a collection of hastily-drawn arrows flying between them.

‘If we can best the Apothecanaries, we’ll be a shoe-in for promotion next season,’ Yvette was saying. ‘Rose, I’m counting on you to lead the deception manoeuvre we practiced last week; remember, they’ll follow your eyes before your feet, so be careful not to telegraph. Now, Chester—Chester!—you’ll be leading the actual attack, up through their left side, past their—’

‘Isn’t the actual attack,’ Chester said, ‘where Cassie comes in?’

‘What?’ Yvette asked. ‘No. Cassie’s over here—’ she pointed to an unusually tall stick-figure—‘waiting for the Chopin play, when I sweep by her left with the ball after Declan—’

‘I think,’ Chester said, seething, ‘you’ve forgotten why we kept playing this bloody sport.’

‘Oh?’ Yvette asked, folding her arms across her chest. ‘You’re not just salty after I got on the front cover of the gazette this week?’

‘You’re an assassin!’ Chester cried, rushing over and knocking the whiteboard down. ‘You’re not meant to be on the cover of the gazette! None of us are! If people even know we exist, something’s gone terribly wrong!’

‘Oh, I get it,’ Rose said, looking sideways at Yvette. ‘His wizard boyfriend hasn’t talked to him after last week’s four-one thrashing.’

‘That’s got nothing to do with it,’ Chester said, collapsing by the wall with a huff.

Yvette laughed, and held out a hand to help Chester up. ‘Come on, Chest,’ she said. ‘Three more games. Alright? Three more games before they’re back to fearing our blade over our footwork, deadly as it is.’

#

The week before the finals, the squad were called in to Vespertine’s office to celebrate their successes on the pitch that year. Even Corvus had arrived; skulking somewhere on the periphery of celebration, refusing each drink offered and nursing a single hors d'oeuvre, admittedly, but he was there, and Vespertine considered that its own triumph.

‘To the finals,’ she called, raising her glass in a toast. Assembled around her desk, the inaugural squad of assassin footballers inconspicuously sniffed for poison before downing the scotch.

‘I must say I’m quite proud of you all,’ she continued, beaming. ‘To think: that you could all find a passion that doesn’t involve knives and blood and poison. Well done, all!’

Yvette and Chester shared a glance, and then downed the rest of their glass.

‘Well,’ Vespertine continued, clapping her hands. ‘I won’t keep you all—I trust you must be keen to get back to training before your first match of the finals. Tell me, which team are you thrashing first?’

‘I have the line-up here,’ Corvus announced, retrieving an envelope from somewhere within the black folds of cloth, before slicing it open with a knife imperceptibly tucked between his fingers. ‘Let’s see: semi-finals one, home team the Murdercrows, and away team … ah.’

‘Ah,’ Vespertine prompted.

Corvus smiled, and handed the parchment to Yvette. ‘I believe,’ he said, ‘you’re well acquainted with this line-up.’

Yvette read the sheet silently, and then passed it to Chester, her eyes tightened in frustration.

‘Go on,’ Corvus said, with savage anticipation.

‘Charnel House,’ he read. ‘The inaugural squad of the necromantic university.’

‘Featuring such luminaries,’ Corvus continued, ‘as Henry Butler, undead striker. Roisin Mulcahy, headless defender. And Bryce Gilligan, Wolverhampton’s lycanthropic goalkeeper extraordinaire. A squad of once-were cadavers with a score to settle.’

‘Surely that’s against the rules,’ Yvette moaned. ‘You can’t sub an entire replacement team in for the finals!’

‘No more than you can murder without so much as a red card,’ Corvus smiled, flashing a savage grin for the first time in months.

Headmaster Vespertine sighed and poured herself another glass of scotch, as Yvette and Corvus continued arguing. Sometimes, she knew, it was better not to ask any questions.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









Week 464 Redemption: Time Capsules
Flash rule:

Soil Babies
900 words

Just as the season was turning to autumn, bringing a fresh bite to the air and an occasional brush of frost on the ground, the babies started turning up in the ground. They were curiously calm, these children, even beatific. As the shovels unearthed them, they would smile and yawn, stretch their soft-fleshed jaws wide to yawn and giggle at the newfound world.

The village folk mostly took it in their stride, laying the earth babies side by side on the green. Old Mother Mardle decided they were her lost children, come back after so many years away, and went from one to another, crooning an old lullaby; the babies seemed to like it, cooing at her quavering voice as she hobbled past them.

Another curious thing about the babies that the villagers’ shovels turned up, one after the other, was that they weren’t hungry. A few of the village women whose own babies were still at suck attempted to feed them but their gums did not grasp the nipple, and they never cried for milk.
It was one of these women, though, who heard the first whispered words. Alice was her name, and she shrieked when she heard them, and would have dropped the baby on the springy grass of the green had not her skirts caught it. “Davris!” she cried, and then snatched up the baby again and pressed his little lipless mouth to her ear. For it was her husband, dead these five long years, whose voice she had heard coming out of the earth babby’s tiny mouth, his words as though from beyond the grave.

Naturally this caused quite the stir, because while it was one thing, and a very curious one, to be harvesting children from the ground, it was yet another to be piercing the veil of mortality itself. Very soon there was a line of folks, old and young, crawling from baby to baby listening intently for words from the lost. It didn’t happen often, and there was speculation that the dead might have trouble finding their ways into such a tiny receptacle, but it did happen.

And so it was that Rosith Lorn found out that her da had died at sea, and Twilf Mangle that he was not his mother’s son and many other secrets beside were revealed to the villagers as they tilled the baby fields for revelations from the dead.

There was, of course, a Mayor of the village, whose name was Orchindale. It was well known that he had a history thick with tragedy and that events had occurred, when the Bad Baron was overthrown, of which it was not meet to speak except in a whisper. And therefore when he made his way to the field, after a decent amount of time had passed to avoid the appearance of eagerness, the villagers made careful way for him, and left him a good range of babies to consult for the ghosts of his family, and his wife, and his wife’s family, and others beside, (so it was said).

He was a large man, and let out a heavy puff of breath as he sank to his knees in a ring of murmuring earth babies. Now while these babies refused milk, and seemed not to mind the cold or the rain, it was true that they were somewhat diminished since they first broke surface in a levered-up wedge of dark earth. It was widely acknowledged that, little by little, they where shrinking and becoming a little more wrinkled every day. Nonetheless their sunny good humour was undimmed, and so Mayor Orchindale put his heavy municipal ear to the first baby in sound hope that he might hear some words from the past. The villagers nearby were silent, either out of a desire to give him comfort or to hear whatever it was that he might hear. However both desires were to go unsatisfied, for neither that baby nor the next, nor any of the ones after that, would speak to Mayor Orchindale in the way that he hoped, and their baby-soft coos were as devoid of language as the rustling of the trees and the hiss of falling rain.

Mayor Orchindale stood up, at last, and those who saw his face felt the urge to turn away from it as one might from unwanted nakedness. But the next morning the Mayor returned, and went again from baby to earthborn baby, muttering entreaties into their own ears that they might reply with the voice of those he had loved so much and lost so hard. Yet, and yet, and even yet, there was nothing.

Weeks past and the babies shrunk, and the green grew wild. The whispers of the earthbabies grew fainter as they shrunk ever smaller, and still the Mayor arrived each morning to seek the past anew.

The word of these miraculous babies born from earth had reached the castle of the New Baron and, one day, he came to behold them for himself. His horse, and those of his men, clip-clopped into the village square and stopped, blowing gusts of hot breath out their nostrils. The Baron dismounted, and barked greetings to the people of the village - he was a good ruler, by and large, and liked to think he had the confidence of his subjects.

This man Orchindale he knew a little, from the bad times before, and it was with a careful tread that he mounted the hill to the overgrown village green. Mayor Orchindale was there, crouched down, muttering, but when he stood up it was all the Baron could do not to step back; his face was a ruined castle, a rockfall, a weeping willow enmeshed in a flooded river.

“They will not speak,” he said in a voice that was thick with the clogged up dirt of the field. “My little ones, they will not speak.”

And the Baron looked from his face, to the ground, to the wrinkled potatoes clutched in Orchindale’s trembling hands, and did not know what to say.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012





Submissions for week 521 are closed!

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




:siren: REDEMPTION DOME :siren:

And with the stroke of (a time proximal to) midnight, the Redemption Dome is over!

Fumblemouse posted:

Fumblemouse Redemption Arc
Week 61 - Fractured Tradition Posits Hope - 1200
Forget it, Jake. It's Puzzletown.

God dammit Fumblemouse I have several Redemption Dome stories to crit this evening and now all I want to do is solve your bloody puzzle because I bloody love cryptic crosswords.

Hmmmmmmm. Without solving the puzzle I'm giving this 6.5/10. I enjoyed reading it but it's a bit sort of pointless. I'll come back to it after I've done the others.

Fumblemouse posted:

Fumblemouse Redemption Arc
Week 102 - Bingo - lower line
One morning out stealing

Oh gently caress me. Omg if I can't solve this you know I'm not going to be able to sleep.

6.5/10, as above.

Fumblemouse posted:

Fumblemouse Redemption Arc
Week 113 - SFF
Mr and Mrs Cryptic

FUMBLEMOUUUUUUUUUUUSE!!!

7/10. My admiration for your dark arts is growing even as my comprehension does not.

Fumblemouse posted:

Fumblemouse Redemption Arc
Week 128 - Black Metal
Last Brimstone Of The Tombs Of Blistering Procreation

"Necromancers were never as easy to dispatch as demonspawn, and often required a defter touch, such as two swings of his broadsword rather than only one." Lol.

I swear if the last one doesn't explain what's going on to me I'm going to be so mad.

7/10

Fumblemouse posted:

Fumblemouse Redemption Arc
Fairy tale
The fisherman and his wife

Alright this still makes no sense to me but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.

All five of these are very good, but of course are best enjoyed as a set rather than individually. The final entry is the best as a standalone story I think, creepy but in a slow and thoughtful way, and I'm giving it 7.5/10.

sebmojo posted:

Week 464 Redemption: Time Capsules
Soil Babies

A man agonising over potatoes! Lol.

The ending of this is a joke but the story itself still isn't bad. It's weird and intriguing, and the image of someone desperately searching for a message from a lost loved one is well done.

6.5/10


Redemption Dome :siren: FINAL RESULTS :siren:

Your Redemption Dome Champion is...

FUMBLEMOUSE!

Congratulations, Mr. Mouse, your redemption arc befuddled and delighted, your failures are now zero, and your FART rating is... wait, poo poo, it's dangerously close to mine...

Final leaderboard:
1st - Fumblemouse (7.5 points / 5 entries)
2nd - Something Else (7 points / 2 entries)
3rd - flerp (7 points)
4th - Sebmojo (6.5 points)
5th - MockingQuantum (6 points / 2 entries)
6th - Albatrossy_Rodent (6 points)


Congratulations redeemers, happy birthday Thunderdome :sparkles:

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 09:43 on Aug 1, 2022

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME









Well done! The blood god is sated. The next decade of Thunderdome may begin.

Now, a celebration! Keep an eye out for the birthday prompt within the hour!

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 07:58 on Aug 2, 2022

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME









It’s a little weird to be typing this post. Just shy of ten years ago, I was a stupid moron living in a party house, gazing out through my bedroom window at a cherry tree wondering, “Why are my stories so lovely??”

Naturally, I logged on to Something Awful dot com to try and sort it out. MEANWHILE. Three unknowable eldritch titans were conceiving betwixt them a flash fiction contest. Rounds would be short and brutal, the prompts borderline nonsensical, the results unforgiving.

After some straining and grunting, Thunderdome was born screaming onto bloody sands, and promptly gave everyone and everything the finger.

The first prompt was “a man agonizes over his potatoes.” The first combatants were eager but confused. Those early days were heartless, with the insults coming fast and loose. The stories were rough, often bad, and even the good ones were unlike anything most of us had seen in publications. There was no particular reason for Thunderdome to continue for any length of time, and maybe that’s why it’s persisted now for a decade.

No one came into this with longevity in mind. Thunderdome has always been pure, concentrated “just write” We put one word after another onto the page, and next thing you know, ten years have gone by. And you look around and notice that everyone you started out with has gotten pretty goddamn good. Maybe you yourself have picked up a few skills along the way, too.

In ten years of Thunderdome community, careers were born. There were marriages, deaths, births, gatherings. A surprising amount of travel. People coming together in ways that I would never have fathomed in August of 2012. There is a globe-spanning network of friendship and creative camaraderie that is second to none.

I could wax on for a considerable amount of time, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of a flash fiction contest! Without further ado, I give you…



CHOOSE YOUR DESTINY.

prompt destiny alpha - Vanilla version

A variation on the classic Thunderdome experience: A [blank] agonizes over [blank]. When you sign up, you have the option of filling in the blanks for yourself, or you can ask the judges to fill them in for you. If you request a fill-in-the-blanks, the judges will select words randomly from a big list of people and things.

People who sign up for this prompt are entitled to #SpinTheWheel! one(1) time. See Chili’s post directly below for details on Thunderdome’s 10th birthday livestream wheel-spinning extravaganza!

Flash and hell rules are still given out upon request, whether or not you choose to use your spin on the wheel. Again, see Chili’s very illuminating post below for details! Note: Asking for the judges to fill in your blanks does NOT count as asking for a flashrule. Flashrules will be handled slightly differently this week.

Entrants to the vanilla prompt can choose to join the ladder prompt later, but they have to declare their intent to do so in the thread.

Base wordcount: 1000 words maximum
Deadline: Sunday, August 7, at 11:59:59PM PST


prompt destiny omega - fully modded and ready to gently caress you’re poo poo up

This is where it gets interesting. This challenge isn’t for the faint of heart.

The structure is as follows:

Prompt #1: Same as above: A [blank] agonizes over [blank]. Identical to the first prompt, except you’ll have to write a whole lot faster!
Prompt #2: A week 80 flashback! tl;dr: It's autobiography week! Any genre welcome. It's truly that simple. 1300 words.(Archive prompt link)(Goldmine prompt link)(Birthday week post)
Prompt #3: 250 words about WONDER, with an invitation to a publication rush later this year (Prompt link here.)
Prompt #4: WIZARDS

This is a ladder prompt! You can join the fun any time you want, but you can’t skip ahead. Let’s say you want to write for prompt #3. You’ll still need to write something plausibly story-like for prompts #1 and #2 before you’re allowed to write for #3. And obviously, the sooner people submit stories for each prompt, the faster the prompts get unlocked!

These stories are going to be quick, nasty, and ridiculous. The judges will be looking for boldness, panache, daring, fierce styles, and a whole lot of gall. Don’t think, just write.

Entrants in this category are entitled to #SpinTheWheel up to four(4) times—one(1) spin for each story submitted as part of the ladder prompt. Please see Chili’s very helpful post below for info about the wheel.

Base wordcount:
Omega Prompt #1: 1000 words
Omega Prompt #2: 1300 words
Omega Prompt #3: 250 words
Omega Prompt #4: 1300 words
Deadline: Sunday, August 7, at 11:59:59PM PST

:siren: PLEASE STATE WHICH OF THE TWO PROMPT CATEGORIES YOU’RE SIGNING UP FOR IN YOUR SIGNUP POST. You can switch later if you want to. :siren:

Boilerplate rules: No erotica, google docs or external links, ideological screeds, plagiarism, fanfic (Fanfic of other TD stories is ok)
Questions? PM me, or head to #Thunderdome on the Thunderdome Discord server. Direct all questions about #SpinTheWheel to Chili!

Judges
Sitting Here
Sebmojo
Tyrannosaurus

Prompt group alpha

Prompt group omega

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 18:24 on Aug 4, 2022

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit




Fun Shoe

Step right up, step right up! We've got a wheel here that needs spinning!

When you sign up for any of the prompts this week, you have the option to #SpinTheWheel.

What's the deel with this wheel?

The wheel has 12 wedges, these wedges have all sorts of random things on them! What kind of things? You'll have to tune in to find out because for the first time ever…

We're going to twitch!

Every night, at 10:00 PM EDT, I will live stream a real-time spinning of my wheel! Why do I have this? I am not a well person; I am a wheel person.

https://www.twitch.tv/honkerwatch

The wheel will refresh with every spin. Things will come off, and things will come on! So don't get cute thinking you can rely on the bravery of others.

Other fun events may or may not occur each night, so feel free to hop on for any of the times if you want to join in, even if you're not queued up for a spin! Additionally, if you have requested a flashrule or a hellrule, you will be assigned one during that night’s spin! You can request an additional rule even if you don’t #SpinTheWheel.

When signing up for either prompt, please indicate if you’d like to spin by posting #SpinTheWheel. And, if you do sign up for a spin, be sure not to sub your entry until the wheel is spun because the outcome may impact your entry!

If you cannot attend the live stream, all results, including spins and all assigned flash and hell rules, will be posted in the thread immediately following the spin.

Chili fucked around with this message at 18:03 on Aug 1, 2022

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


In. Vanilla. A [couple] agonizes over [altruism].

Yes, I'll #spinthewheel. Hopefully it blesses me with a word count bump.

Armack fucked around with this message at 18:17 on Aug 1, 2022

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




In, Omega, judge blanks, #spinthewheel.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021



In. Vanilla. Please fill in my [blanks], #spinthewheel!

MockingQuantum
Jan 20, 2012





In, omega, fill my [blanks], #spinthewheel

PhantomMuzzles
Jun 23, 2022

It's a puzzle.


I would like to be in for Omega! Can the judges please fill in the blanks for me? And I would love to spin the wheel because it sounds delightful!

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish



In, Omega, fill in the blanks, #spinthewheel

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







Fill in the blanks! The grammar is going to be playfully nonsensical with some of these. Just go with it!

Thranguy posted:

In, Omega, judge blanks, #spinthewheel.

A [swimming instructor] agonizes over [the moon]

Idle Amalgam posted:

In. Vanilla. Please fill in my [blanks], #spinthewheel!

A [electrician] agonizes over [a volcano]

MockingQuantum posted:

In, omega, fill my [blanks], #spinthewheel

A [Vampires] agonizes over [teardrops]

PhantomMuzzles posted:

I would like to be in for Omega! Can the judges please fill in the blanks for me? And I would love to spin the wheel because it sounds delightful!

A [Angels] agonizes over [The mesosphere]

a friendly penguin posted:

In, Omega, fill in the blanks, #spinthewheel

A [Spies] agonizes over [love]

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018


Absolutely in. Vanilla, judges please fill in my blanks. #spinthewheel

Edit: Switched from omega to vanilla for I am a coward.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







Beezus posted:

Absolutely in. Vanilla, judges please fill in my blanks. #spinthewheel

Edit: Switched from omega to vanilla for I am a coward.

A [wizards] agonizes over [dinosaur island]

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔


Great time to finally do this again. I'm your Omega, fill my blanks, spin me right round baby.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







Simply Simon posted:

Great time to finally do this again. I'm your Omega, fill my blanks, spin me right round baby.

A [metaphysical concept] agonizes over [Dewey Decimal System]

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P



In and fill my blanks. #spinthewheel

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









Sitting Here posted:

A [metaphysical concept] agonizes over [Dewey Decimal System]

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's time....to DIE!"


In for Omega. Judges please fill in my blanks . And of course I want to #SPINTHEWHEEL

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









QuoProQuid posted:

In and fill my blanks. #spinthewheel

A [spaceman] agonizes over [a zoo]

Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

In for Omega. Judges please fill in my blanks . And of course I want to #SPINTHEWHEEL

A [private detective] agonizes over a [abonened bunker]

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


In.

Alpha, judge blanks, spin da fuckin wheel baybee

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007

Boom.



In with the OMEGA. Filling in my own prompt 1 with "An extradimensional graduate student agonizes over their hosed up thesis project"

No mods, no masters, no wheels

sempre posting

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022





https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krudzxbcwq0

In. Vanilla. Fill My Blanks. Spin the Wheel, make the deal!

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007

Boom.



Prompt #1: An extradimensional graduate student agonizes over their hosed up thesis project


Thesis Retrospective: Results Analysis for Sub-Universe Generation Method for Obtaining Large Quantities of Iron (Final_Final_ActualFinal_2_Edited)
633 words


The process for creating smaller universes with lesser fewer numbers of dimensions, nested in the void of our own universe, is a well established technology with a rich history1. Four our my. <Comment 1: You only need to use the plural if you actually worked with other people, which your group assures me you did not> project, we I decided to create a four spatial-dimensional and single time dimensional universe through the Simplified Jod-Ur Hypersphere Generation Process2.

Natural laws in the hypersphere were created to bias toward matter. An error in baryon asymmetry did accidentally create some antimatter, but not in a way that interfered with the targeted process-goal <Comment 2: Please do not use passive voice merely to avoid taking responsibility for errors in your universe>. Adjustments in spatial expansion and of the fundamental forces led to large amounts of hydrogen being generated by the universe. By tweaking gravity parameters3, we I allowed for the hydrogen to form “stars,” bright matter centers dense enough to undergo fusion <Comment 3: Please do not condescend to your readers> which would continue the fusion over billions of years, slowly stepping elements up. Most stars did end up generating iron, though admittedly some did not, and the process could therefore use refining in future experiments. However, a cleverly designed secondary process led stars to supernova, expelling most unwanted elements and allowing for repeated successor generations of new stars, which in turn could produce more iron. Unexpectedly, <Comment 4: This should not have been unexpected. Please catch up on our class readings> supernovae created heavier elements, and radioactive decay did not always result in iron as planned.

Most interestingly, though, not all matter around each star made it into the star itself. Fractional percentages of matter condensed into “planets,” which sat well outside the fusion zone of stars in stable orbits. Most of these planets were boring inconsequential. However, in only a few billion years, the accumulated effect of random events created life on successor generation planets. While most life stayed as single-celled organisms, some evolved into multicellular life, and accumulated enough neuro-complexity as to experience emotions and, we hypothesize, intelligence4.

Our first attempts at contacting some of these intelligences did not go well5. The primitive organisms had only rudimentary systems for sensing the universe around them, and communication was hampered by emotional, cultural, and egotistical biases. However, this misinterpretation was fixed after only a few thousand years (relative), and we were able to dialogue with many organisms, learning about their subjective experience in this sub-universe. Trillions of universe-native cultures created rich arts, stories, and artifacts to express themselves. In the end, I felt a personal responsibility to these ephemeral forms of life, and did the best I could do enrich their existence with joy and meaning. More remarkable than there their art was the relationships they formed amongst themselves, and the wonder they expressed in discovering their own cosmos. For them, the universe did not exist merely to generate iron, but for whatever purpose they anointed it. Attached is the accumulated art and history of all the civilizations [WARNING: File Size Limit Exceeded].

In the end, anyone can find a way to produce iron, but the real wealth in experimentation is the accidental discoveries <Comment 5: This is really wonderful, but you may wish to consider switching degrees>. Novel forms of inefficiency may lead to further surprises in our pocket universes. I, for one, look forward to generating large quantities of iron again.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

in vanilla! fill my blanks pls

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









The man called M posted:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krudzxbcwq0

In. Vanilla. Fill My Blanks. Spin the Wheel, make the deal!

A [bad dad] agonizes about [compost]

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









derp posted:

in vanilla! fill my blanks pls

A [teenagers] agonizes about [the void]

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Alpha in, please fill in me blanks

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









Yoruichi posted:

Alpha in, please fill in me blanks

A [spiders] agonizes about [divorce]

Tars Tarkas
Apr 13, 2003


In, Omega, and please fill in my prompts

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









Tars Tarkas posted:

In, Omega, and please fill in my prompts

A [Empire State Building] agonizes about [werewolf]

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

What use was time to those who'd soon achieve Digital Immortality?


In on Alpha mode, please fill my blanks and #spinthewheel

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flerp
Feb 25, 2014

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







omega pick things

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