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Bacon Terrorist
May 7, 2010

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022
Varmints
1181 Words.

Hank spat on the floor. The brown gob landed square between Skeeter’s feet. ‘Watch it!’ warned Skeeter. Hank spread his arms apologetically, baring a yellow grin. Dressed all in black, he looked like a menacing scarecrow. Skeeter glared, then turned back to his mount. The Ropony idled quietly, awaiting it’s master’s command. ‘We’ll have to leave them here, only way in is up.’ ‘I don’t like it,’ said Hank. Hank was overly attached to his Ropony, he had even named it - ‘Lyra’. Speculation was rife that he was trying to fornicate with the machine. Biff sighed, tired of this argument. ‘We have to do it, so quit your bellyaching!’ the interjection of the bigger man quieted the others. Biff was the defacto leader, if only because everyone feared his quick temper.
Biff had thrown a lasso and managed to snare the ‘T’ in the ‘Camelot’ sign. Though long deserted, the theme park’s imposing gates remained sealed shut. Biff was convinced however that the ‘T’ would hold and deliver them into the park so they could complete their mission.
‘Go on, git,’ Biff gestured at Hank. ‘Why me?’ ‘Cos I said so, that’s why.’ Hank scowled and grabbed the rope. Hank was tall but skinny as a rail, making quick work of the rope. ‘I can see it! I can see King Arthur’s Hall!’ Hank shouted happily. ‘Told ya. If you two just did what I told ya to first time we’d be a lot younger.’ Biff gestured to Skeeter he was next. The squat man held the rope in a white knuckle grip. His progress was slower than Hank’s. ‘Don’t look down!’ Hank advised. Skeeter took his advice literally by glaring at him. Slowly,  he ascended. Biff seized the rope, testing it once more for good luck. He began the climb, sweating more than his predecessors, feeling every one of his 250lbs. The ‘T’ felt it too, rusted metal making tortured groans as time went on. ‘I’d git if I were you!’ Hank shouted. Biff took the hint, picking up the pace. His breath ran shallow as he reached the top, arms on fire, Hank and Skeeter hauling him on to the gate roof. The ‘T’ crashed to the earth seconds later. The Roponies watched on.
‘Well that’s just peachy!’ said Hank. ‘You’ve been squirting lemon juice in my eye all day day boy, there’s a service ladder over there! So quit your belly aching and hustle!’ Biff pointed at the ladder. Hank stalked away, Skeeter giving Biff a knowing look before following on. Biff took a moment to survey the park below from his newfound perch. Camelot was a relic from the old world, a theme park depicting a time from ancient history where knights battled to the death with swords. The attractions were seemingly intact but ravaged by centuries of neglect as mother nature reclaimed the land. Biff pulled a small tin from his back pocket and opened it. Inside a folded pamphlet, tattered and faded. He carefully unfolded it, holding it gingerly at the edges as if it might disintegrate at any second. Biff smiled as the sight before him matched the images on the pamphlet. The ancient map depicted the scene below: King Arthur’s Hall, Sir Lancelot’s Log Flume, Merlin’s School of Magic, Guinevere’s Go Karts, the Excalibur roller coaster and the Jousting Arena. Feint text along the bottom read ‘Only the greatest horsemen dare ride in the Jousting Arena!’. ‘It’s real,’ whispered Biff. Blinking back tears, he hastily put the pamphlet away in it’s tin and hastened after the others.
They stood frozen in awe at the bottom of the ladder, the rotten skeleton of Excalibur towering over them. ‘What was it?’ asked Skeeter. ‘Whatever it was, it’s long dead.’ Replied Hank. The paving stones beneath their feet were cracked and uneven by the foliage that had sprouted unopposed in solitude. Biff started forward. ‘Come on, we need to get those gates open.’ What had once been a straight forward path to the entrance had been eroded in an explosion of green. Thick bushes with spiny branches and carpets of nettles now framed the path. ‘Watch your step boys, don’t need any last minute accidents,’ said Biff. He pulled a bowie knife from a sheath on his belt and began hacking his way through the brush. Rats and insects scurried away at the sound of this, their haven finally breached again by humans.
The gate was in sight. Solid and wrought from iron, the design was in keeping with the theme of the park but had mimicked the siege defence of castles too well, keeping invaders out long after the designers had perished. ‘I reckon if we plant our dynamite in both bottom corners it will blow it clean off the hinges,’ said Skeeter. Hank agreed, for once. ‘Let’s run it on a short fuse and finish it already.’ The men set to work. Skeeter had a satchel with cloth bundles in. He handed one to Hank and unwrapped the other himself, revealing crude red sticks of dynamite that glistened with an oily film. Biff played foreman as the other two planted them, watching their progress as he rolled cigarettes from his tobacco tin. Hank and Skeeter returned as the third cigarette was rolled. Biff handed the men a cigarette each, then struck a match. He lit theirs, then his. Finally, he flicked the match at the fuse on the ground with deft precision, igniting it instantly. ‘Godspeed, gentlemen!’ cried Biff as they braced themselves for the explosion.
Skeeter’s hypothesis was proved correct. The dynamite blew with a mighty roar, the sound as deafening as the blast was hot. The entire gate structure shuddered at the blow, but ultimately only the gate fell with a ponderous clang. Dust swirled up from the impact, then slowly cleared to reveal the Roponies still stood, impassive. The men crossed the threshold again to retrieve their mounts. Skeeter grabbed the reins to lead his into the park. ‘Mount up, we ride in to meet our destiny!’ proclaimed Biff. Hank grinned his yellow smile and started onward. The path from the gate to the Jousting Arena was straight forward, wider but still overgrown. The Roponies adeptly picked their way through the brush. A tattered arch loomed above them, odd triangles of bunting left with images of horses on them. ‘Who goes first?’ asked Hank. ‘We ride in together,’ replied Biff. The three cowboys trotted into the Jousting Arena, a long rectangular sand pit with a rusted metal fence diving it in half. As the space opened up, all three urged their mounts into a gallop, hollering as the pace picked up. ‘YEEEEHAAAAW!’ cried Hank, the sound echoing across the empty stalls. ‘We did it! We actually did it!’ said Skeeter. Biff smiled. ‘We are the greatest horsemen! We fulfilled the prophecy of our ancestors!’ Biff threw his hat in the air, Skeeter did the same. Hank had Lyra rear up on hind legs, the sun dancing off metallic muscles. ‘What do we do now?’ asked Hank. ‘Whatever we want,’ answered Biff.

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Ceighk
May 27, 2013

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

Ceighk posted:

Grey Rabbit
1600 words
...

Forgot to add my subprompt:
"Buddy cops investigating a decommissioned missile silo must finish a game that becomes real when you play it."

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:

Project Cicada
1223 words
A group of put upon staffers thwarts an eldritch invasion



Jackson wheeled a cart loaded with gemstones and bags of blood past Meredith’s desk at 5:05 on a Friday. “Hey, Mere, you got a second?”

Meredith glanced at her phone. It was turned off, as all phones should be when at ones desk at Carcosa Enterprises. “I was supposed to go on a date tonight,” she complained, standing to help adjust the items on Jackson’s cart. “Linda conned me into staying late. Holy crap, Jax, why would you put the knife on top of the blood?”

“poo poo, sorry. I wasn’t thinking. You know they switched all the coffee in the break room to decaf a few weeks back? Said it would lower our health insurance premiums.” Jackson shook his head, disgusted. “I tell you what, Mere, it’s a sad day when desk jockeys like us can’t get a caffeine fix.”

“It can’t be good for productivity, at any rate.” Meredith reorganized the cart so that the stabby bits were carefully separated from the squishy bits. “There you go. Where’s this headed?”

“Conference room 3. You know, the nice one,” Jackson said, cheerfully. “Some big deal ritual sacrifice going down for Project Cicada. I asked Bob about it and he got that look in his eye and started chanting. ‘The sleepers will rise! The sleepers will rise!’” Jackson laughed and shook his head. “You know how he gets.”

“Hey, at least it wasn’t that one language that makes your ears bleed this time. I still haven’t figured out how to get those stains out of the collar of the shirt I was wearing.”

Meredith fell into step beside Jackson and his cart, chatting idly about the upcoming sacrifice. Neither of them noticed the stealthy figure lurking along the beige walled and blue carpeted corridors until the door to conference room 3 shut behind all three of them.

The speed at which Meredith drew a knife from the cart and launched herself at the masked and hooded person would have surprised her, her body responding to their presence before her mind really had a chance to register it. But whatever gave her speed didn’t automatically provide skill, her knife slashed the air with abandon and without touching its target. The person pulled something out of a pocket, not a gun as Meredith first assumed, but a tiny spray bottle. They misted the air in front of Meredith and Jackson’s faces and continued to dodge both worker’s clumsy attacks.

Gradually, Meredith realized she’d been screaming. She looked over at Jackson, who had also been screaming. She stopped. Dropped the knife. Massaged her jaw. “What… What happened?” She sniffed the air. “Augh, what is that smell?”

“The finest weapon we’ve ever developed against the occult,” said a familiar, feminine voice from beneath the hood. “Jeppson’s Malort. Scares the evil humors away like nothing else. Welcome back, guys.” She threw the hood back, revealing the mousy features and coke bottle glasses of Meredith’s cubicle neighbor.

“Chloe?” Jackson shook his head, confused. “Ugh. I have the worst headache all of a sudden. What’s going on?”

“We don’t have much time,” Chloe said, striding into the room. “You’ve got a cartload of ritual objects that are supposed to be somewhere.”

“Here, we think,” Meredith said. She rubbed her eyes. “Wait, poo poo, that’s blood! Why are we carting around blood?!”

“And all this jewelry too!” Jackson picked up a massive yellowish-green crystal. “What even is this?”

Chloe glanced at it. “That’s andradite. Yellow garnet. And like I said, we don’t have much time. The bosses here have been rewiring everyone’s minds to get people to do their bidding, and their bidding is to summon some nasty loving monsters from beyond. Think, what have you been hearing?”

Meredith grimaced. “Uh. Project Cicada. Awakening the sleepers. Oh, poo poo, they need this stuff for the sacrifice tonight, and it’s supposed to be here!”

Chloe patted the air in a calming gesture. “Hey, don’t worry about that, I forged the orders so you’d wind up here.”

“So if they’re missing this stuff they can’t do the ritual, right?” Jackson frowned. “Or… no. I remember a bunch of emails about redundancy being the better part of valor or something stupid like that.”

Chloe nodded. “Yeah. Usually they’d at least need some crusty old book, but they’ve backed everything up digitally. I think they’re using iPads to do their ritual.”

Meredith perked up at that. “Oh, really? That’s interesting.”

“How so?”

“Well, it gives me an idea, at least. So you know the joke that’s been going around, how we make a quarter of what our bosses make just because they don’t know how to use Excel?”

****

In a deep basement, his robes stained crimson with the blood of a dozen species of animal, one of which was human, Bob addressed his fellow middle managers of darkness. “We have waited seventeen times seventeen years for this opportunity,” he said. “The stars are finally right. We have one chance, my brothers, to return the world to its rightful state.” He gestured to the flawless geometry of the summoning circle and the perfect separation of flesh from bone from the sacrifices that lay before him. “Perfect order. Perfect reason. The weak under the strong, the strong under the mighty, and all under the Great One, who sleeps beyond time.”

His watch chimed, signaling the beginning of the ritual. Bob took a deep breath and lifted his iPad over his head. “With the turning of these pages, I shall awaken the sleepers,” he intoned. “With the opening of this book, I open the gates. Come forth, o kings beyond time! Come forth, o giants of cosmic radiance!”

The symbols painted in blood began to glow in response to the words and to the moment, the stars all aligned in a pattern that read, to those who knew, OPEN.

He touched the symbol on the tablet, appreciating for a moment how modern technology so perfectly synergized with ancient ritual.

System error: failed install

He stared at the text on the screen. “What…” He dismissed the error message and tried again.

System error: No subscription

Bob looked around the room at the other robed figures. “Does anyone here know how this piece of poo poo works?”

*****

“Yeah, so turns out the company only has one Office 365 license,” Meredith said, turning around in her chair. “They’ve been doing all sorts of stupid IT shenanigans to make it work. Super easy to just turn all of that off.”

Chloe grinned and punched the air. “Yes! Awesome! Okay, we’ve got to go. The cops should be here soon and we don’t want to be in the building for this.”

The three of them snuck out the back, and watched the news at a nearby Greene Turtle about the ritualistic murder scene that local cops busted over at Carcosa Enterprises.

“Welp,” Jackson said, sipping his beer. “Looks like we won’t be getting a reference.”

Chloe shrugged. “Oh, I dunno about that…” She slid them both a pair of business cards, which read Mancini’s Monster Removal: We Don’t HAGgle in bold, serif font. “Think about it. There’s always work for those willing to stare unblinking into the abyss.”

Meredith looked at the card, then looked at Jackson. She shrugged. “Hey, it can’t be worse than retail.”

Greatbacon
Apr 9, 2012
:smugdog:
conquistador wuz heer

A Long Bumpy Road
1473 words
A bumbling taxi driver and his irritable passengers stall out at an off-road summer camp and must escape a coming flood.


Barry checked his phone for the fifth time in as many minutes. The trip timer on the rideshare app was still counting up, despite them having left cell service a few miles back. More disturbing to him was that they were now at minute 40 of what was supposed to be a 20 minute trip to the wedding venue.

Glancing right, his girlfriend Mish was silently staring out the window at the dense pine forest. She had wanted to catch a ride with Barry’s family that morning, but Barry had woken up hungover and insisted that sleeping in and catching a cab later would be fine.

Leaning forward he tapped the driver's shoulder. “Are you sure we aren’t lost?” The driver looked back and rasped out a laugh. “Not as lost as the time I rushed the Duke of Wellington to his daughter’s piano recital in rush hour!”

“Please keep your eyes on the road.” Mish coldly reminded the cabbie.

“Right, of course miss.” Geordie blushed and turned his eyes back to the road.

He had been the only car for hire in Winter Park. The app said his name was George, but he had introduced himself as Geordie.

“Georgie?”

“Geordie! A nickname from me ma. I used to drive black cabs in London, you know. Now, where are we headed?”

“Devil’s Thumb Ranch. My brother is getting married today.”

“Ooh that’s a ritzy destination. Almost as fancy as Buckingham Palace eh?” He had tilted back his head then, and barked a laugh somewhere between a seal and sandpaper. Mish gave Barry a sharp glare. The first, but not the last of the night.

As the cab continued to rattle down the mountain road, Geordie kept prattering on to himself about landmarks and old London fares. The presence of his high, nasally voice only underscored the silence between Barry and Mish.

Outside the car, the already rough road continued to deteriorate further. Larger and larger potholes appeared in the road. At some point the asphalt just ran out all-together, and suddenly the crew was bumping along on red, washboard dirt. Instead of swerving to avoid potholes, Geordie was having to navigate around larger and larger rocks. The already slow pace dragged to a crawl up the mountain.

After what felt like hours, in-spite of the app’s insistence it had only been 10 minutes, the cab finally crested the ascent. A few minutes later they were out of the forest and traveling across a mountain glen. A large reservoir dominated the view, while a rustic lodge and a handful of log cabins filled in the space below it. Dark storm clouds in the western sky provided a dramatic backdrop for the whole scene.

With all eyes on the view, no one noticed the large rock sticking out of the road until the sound of shearing metal filled the air. The car continued on but Barry looked back and saw a smear of oil trailing behind them on the road, like blood from a wounded animal.

“Uh, Geordie, I think we may be in trouble.”

“Nonsense, we can power through this. I’ve been in worse. Cars like this are made to take a beating and keep on chugging.”

Half a mile later the car groaned to a stop. Without missing a beat, Mish hopped out of the car. “Imgoingtogethelp” and made a bee-line for the lodge. Her heels sank into the mud every few steps, but she was still halfway across the glen before Geordie or Barry were even out of the car.

Geordie popped the hood and began grumbling to himself while banging on things with a small wrench. Barry looked mournfully at the long black streak stretching out behind the car.

“Do you think the car might be out of oil?”

“No way, I topped off the oil this morning. Must be something with the carburetor.”

“I’m going to follow my girlfriend then and see if we can get some help.”

Barry followed the Mish’s footsteps across the tall-grass of the glen, cursing the mud and the sky and himself the whole way. As he approached the campground he felt a few drops of water on his head. Looking up he was surprised to find the storm clouds looked darker still.

Mish was already talking to someone in front of the lodge. She looked to be about college age and was dressed in the olive green khaki of a ranger. They were laughing about something when the ranger pointed at Barry. Mish turned and the smile immediately dropped off her face. Lightning boomed and the scattered drops of rain instantly turned into a downpour. The trio sidestepped under the awning of the lodge.

“Barry, this is Stacy, she’s a counselor here at Crooked Creek. It seems our fearless cabbie has taken us up the opposite side of the valley from the venue.”

Stacy put her hand out. She was 3 inches taller than Barry and looked like she’d grown up on a Wisconsin dairy farm. Her grip was certainly strong enough.

“Hiya Barry, nice to meet ya. Shame about your situation.”

“There’s a landline in the back office we can use. I’m going to call your mom and see if she can’t send someone from the wedding to pick us up. If we’re lucky we might be able to get there before dinner is served.”

“But what about Geordie?”

“What about me?”

The trio turned to look at him as he squished through the mud towards the lodge. He was sopping wet, a rare frown on his face.

“Barry and I are canceling our fare and getting a ride from someone else. There’s a phone in the office if you need to call for repairs.”

Geordie looked like he was about to cry. He swallowed hard and nodded his head. “Aye, I understand. The car seems to be leaking oil and isn’t going to move until we get that fixed. Sorry to have failed ya. I have a phone call to make, I suppose.”

There was more squishing and splashing as a kid ran up to the lodge and pointed behind her. “Miss Stacy, is there supposed to be a river running through the middle of camp? It looks like the dam is making it.”

The adults followed where the kid was pointing out west. They could see the stream running through the middle of camp. Then followed it back up to the hillside, where a strong jet of water was squirting out into the air. Stacy’s eyes went wide.

“Aww gently caress, the dam’s burst. Everyone needs to get to higher ground.” She pointed at a rocky outcropping on the other side of the campground. “Kelly, help me round up the others.” With that Stacy and the kid ran off towards the other.

A few seconds passed before the other three bolted off towards the high rocks. Geordie was surprisingly swift and pulled ahead of the head couple. But Mish kept stopping every few feet as her heels got caught in the mud.

“Can’t you take those off?”

“I’m not going to abandon my Versace heels to get washed away in the rain.”

“Fine, then let me carry you.

Barry bent down and his girlfriend hopped up on his back. Within 30 seconds they had caught back up to the cabbie who was directing a flowing herd of children up the rocky outcropping.

“Right this way lads and lassies, get as high as you can. No pushing, no horsing around.”
A rumbling filled the air, followed by the sound of air and mud rushing to fill a vacuum. Some kids screamed while others cheered. Water rushed down through the campground, towards the rocky outcropping. Climbing higher and higher. Barry and Mish were the last to work their way up. Barry heard a scream and turned around without thinking, grabbing Mish before she slipped off into the rushing water. Finally they got to the top with Geordie, Stacy, and all of the kids.

Soaked but safe, everyone watched the dirt and mud and log cabins and even Geordies stalled car wash down the side of the mountain. Eventually the rain stopped, the sun came out, and a rainbow spread out across the submerged glen.

Barry laid down in a spot and looked up at the clouds floating by overhead, thinking about how his life had gotten to this moment. He felt someone lay down next to him. He smelled Mish’s perfume.

“Thanks for making sure I didn’t end up getting washed away in the flood, Barry.”

“Sorry for not listening to you this morning, Mish.”

Somewhere behind them, they could hear Geordie bragging to Stacy about how he used to be a black cab driver in London.

A long silence sat between them. Mish reached out her hand and grabbed Barry’s, squeezing it gently.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012



Jessi & Jerome in the Clay Dog Conundrum
1575 words
Plucky teen detectives trapped in a commune of reclusive artists must kill the correct dog.

Jerome ended the call and looked at Jessi, who was pacing around the pottery-laden shelves of the Eco Village Artist Collective’s gift shop. “My dad’s going to come get us after work,” he told her. He shook his head anxiously. “I can’t believe the bus left without us. We even told Mrs. Jones that we were going back to the cafeteria to look for Audra’s ring.”

Jessi, hands shoved in the pockets of her varsity jacket, shot Jerome an incredulous look. “No, this is great! We’ve got an hour to find the ring and save the day!”

As usual, her confidence calmed him. “Save the day for you, you mean,” Jerome teased. He and Jessi had been best friends and detective partners for years, and he knew finding the ring meant a lot to her.

Jessi blushed. “Yeah. It’s my chance to ask Audra out when we give it back to her.” Audra was the only person that the gregarious Jessi was seemingly unable to talk to.

“With a ring? That’s presumptuous.”

Jessi punched his arm. “You’re presumptuous. Now, let’s go over the events to see where we should search next.”

Jerome pulled out his notebook. Though he liked to think of himself as the clever Sherlock Holmes of the pair, he suspected he was actually the Watson.

“Audra said Billy took the ring while she was washing her hands after lunch,” he read. This was no surprise, Billy had become even more of an rear end in a top hat to Audra ever since she came out. “And after lunch, we visited the gallery, then made those dogs at the pottery center.”

“I think we can rule out the gallery, not a lot of places to hide it there. So we’ve gotta go to the pottery barn.”

“They specifically called it a center,” Jerome said. He braced for Jessi’s snide comment about his pedantry, but she was already out the door. Her decisiveness often caught him off-guard.

He hurried to catch up to Jessi, who was power-walking down the dusty paths of the self-sustaining community. “How do you know Billy doesn’t still have the ring?” he asked as they passed the organic garden.

“I texted James.” They’d helped James locate his misplaced football gear several weeks ago. “He’s friends with Billy and he said that Billy genuinely doesn’t have it.” She bit her lip. “We’ve gotta find it. Audra’s pretty upset, the ring was her mom’s.”

“James couldn’t persuade Billy to tell him where it is?” Jerome asked rhetorically.

Jessi shook her head. “All Billy would say is that she’d get it back eventually.”

“How uncharacteristically cryptic of him.”

They arrived at the pottery center in the converted barn. Jerome was startled when he noticed an artist sitting in a corner, throwing pots on a wheel, but the man ignored them. Jessi ignored him too. She charged in and started investigating every surface, lifting up clay-covered tools and molds. Jerome began to help her but his heart was sinking. The center was gigantic and every table and wall was piled high with pottery and pottery paraphernalia. He wasn’t sure they’d be able to search the place in two days, let alone two hours.

Jessi came to the same conclusion. “This is going to take ages,” she moaned. “Plus, we would’ve noticed Billy messing around in a corner.”

Jerome stared into the eyes of the bust he was holding and an idea sparked. “There’s a Sherlock Holmes story just like this! A guy hides a pearl inside plaster busts of Napoleon. Maybe Billy just put the ring inside the clay dogs we made.”

“Yes!” Jessi rushed over to the large tray of brick-sized dogs of varying quality. “How did Holmes figure out which one had the pearl?”

Jerome googled the story. “Oh. He broke all of them.”

Jessi rolled up the sleeves of her jacket, but a voice behind them said, “Those are not yours to destroy.” It was the artist, still spinning the wheel but watching them closely.

“I wasn’t going to wreck all of them,” Jessi muttered. “Fine, we just have to figure out which one is Billy’s.”

They surveyed the two dozen dogs. Jerome put his and Jessi’s aside, then a few that they remembered their friends had made. They examined the remaining dogs carefully, looking on the bottoms to see if anyone had signed their work, but found no more clues.

Checking the time, Jerome’s anxiety spiked. “We’ve only got half an hour left.”

Jessi drummed her fingers on the table. “Fine, let’s do the direct approach.” Jerome had no idea what she meant until she pulled out her phone and found Billy’s number. (“How do you have his number?” “I have everyone’s number.”)

“Hi Billy, it’s Jessi. You know the dog you made at the pottery barn? What does it look like?”

Jerome couldn’t quite hear his response, but Jessi froze and turned pale. She immediately hung up and wandered away, arms folded tightly. Worried, Jerome went over to her.

“He called me a–” She couldn’t repeat the slur, but she didn’t need to. He’d never seen her so hurt. Jerome awkwardly patted her shoulder, and, behind them, he heard the artist grumble something supportive.

“We’ll get the ring, I promise,” he said, trying to channel her usual confidence. It didn’t seem to work. She just shrugged, collapsed onto a stool, and started scrolling through her phone.

Now he had to find it, if only to rub it in Billy’s stupid face. He weighed the dogs, but they were too inconsistent. He poked a thin wire into them to see if it would hit the ring, but had no luck. He was trying to calculate how many days of detention he’d get for destroying the dogs when Jessi popped up.

“Rex!” She waved an Instagram post at him. “Billy’s dog is called Rex!”

Jerome’s tense shoulders sagged in relief. He found the lumpy dog with “Rex” scrawled on the collar and presented it to her. Gleefully, Jessi crushed the dog in her fist. But no ring emerged. With a cry, she threw the lump of clay on the ground and stamped on it, continuing long after it was apparent that nothing was hidden there.

Jerome rubbed his temples. “Maybe Billy just chucked it into a corner,” he said, but that didn’t sound right. Why? He flipped through his notebook, and the final clue clicked into place.

“Jessi,” he said. Hearing his confident tone, she stopped smearing clay on the ground. “Which one is Audra’s?”

Immediately, Jessi picked up a well-sculpted howling wolf. “This one, but we can’t destroy it! I saw how hard she worked on it.”

“Billy said she’d get the ring back, and so I bet he put it in her dog.” He reached for it but she cradled it protectively. “Easier to get it out now rather than after it’s fired.”

“No way. She’ll hate me if we wreck it.” Jessi stared at the wolf. “And she won’t want to go out with me if we don't get her ring back.”

He wanted to say that no one could be that illogical, but romantic matters were far out of his wheelhouse. All he knew was that they couldn’t get the ring without destroying the dog. He looked around for some sort of tool that would help, and the answer presented itself. They couldn’t do it, but someone else may be able to.

The artist was focused on his clay. Jerome steeled himself; talking to people was usually Jessi’s domain. But he had to do it for her. He walked over to the artist and hovered there, uncertain.

“Um, excuse me?” The artist pulled down his headphones and looked at him. Jerome searched for the right words, but had to settle for the jumble that came out of his mouth. “We made dogs today, but my friend … there’s a ring in one of them. Can you get it out without wrecking it?”

He winced at his ineptitude. After an interminable pause of a few seconds, the artist nodded.

Jerome sighed in relief. “Thank you!”

They went over to Jessi and the artist held out a clay-covered hand. Jessi hesitated but gave him the wolf. He gently turned it around. “Ah yup. This crease is where the ring went in.”

They watched as the artist performed a delicate surgery: he used a small knife to cut a plug out of the wolf, extracted the ring from it, then reinserted the plug. Lastly, he carefully resculpted it so that it looked exactly as Audra had made it.

Jessi clutched the ring. “Thanks so much! Uh, sorry about that,” she said, motioning to the remains of Billy’s dog.

“No worries. Sounds like he deserved it,” he said, then went back to his wheel. Jerome got the impression he was more comfortable with clay than people; he sympathized.

After Jessi cleaned the ring and thanked the artist again, they walked back through the village to the porch of the now-shut gift shop. The setting sun shone golden on the windows of the rammed earth house. Jessi was too excited to wait until school the next day, so she called Audra to tell her the good news. Jerome couldn’t hear what Audra said, but by Jessi’s blush and enthusiastic agreement, he could tell that she’d asked her out. Both grinning uncontrollably, they chatted about date plans until Jerome’s dad arrived and it was time to go home.

ZearothK
Aug 25, 2008

I've lost twice, I've failed twice and I've gotten two dishonorable mentions within 7 weeks. But I keep coming back. I am The Trooper!

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021
The Con
Petty thieves in cosplay must convince a rogue AI to spare humanity.
1274 words

“Man, this is a weird con, why is everyone dressed as nuns?” the statuesque man with a bare chest and painted-on tattoos asked the woman in elaborate robes and skull make-up standing on the other side of his gigantic cardboard sword.

“I dunno, maybe this is a convent?” she replied. It was a beautiful place, baroque (the literal definition, she could tell thanks to an unused art degree sitting in a box somewhere in her apartment) and distant from the city. They thought they had struck gold when they learned about a con in the old abandoned monastery. The woman, Keyla, could use this distraction after her pet parrot’s death and her bestie, Kieron, was 100% down with it. Just some nice nerding like old times and maybe some valuable equipment or jewelry they could get a five finger discount on.

The rows of computers, VR setups and colorful posters did raise the question on whether this was a convent or a convention though. The few “nuns” of whatever this fandom was supposed to be were kind of incongruous - some had visible face paintings or wearable hardware - and while they acknowledged the presence of the pair, they just smiled and nodded. The brown-eyed receptionist did raise an eyebrow, but she still welcomed them to the “con”.

“Weird convent.” Kieron said and moved along to their familiar routine. Mingle, play around, maybe pocket something someone left unattended. The first time they did it they were poor kids in college playing at psychopathy, now it was mostly a fun thing. They even returned the stuff they picked up unless they felt the original owner was kind of an assohle.

The world is full of assholes.

Mingling proved difficult, the nuns weren’t big conversationalists, or conversationalists at all. Vacant and welcoming smiles, nods, as if the language spoken by Kieron and Keyla was just a noise. Playing around proved a bit more fruitful, mostly as a form of self-amusement, small petty sabotages through the magic of hacksmart™ bullshit and tripping over wires. The terminals they saw were full of complex mathematical equations which Kieron refused to understand because it didn’t fit the himbo persona he worked so hard to develop after burning out during his PhD, but he still allowed himself enough surface knowledge to mess them up and to recognize no small number of tautologies. That also became stale quickly, as the nuns were far too laconic and both the K’s had known each other for far too long to not be bored of themselves without a third party to play off from.

So they were left with pocketing something someone left unattended, it seemed to be an old cassette drive with a built-in wireless transmitter and it was standing there in the middle of an altar in a back room. It was probably the easiest and most obvious thing they had ever stolen in their lives, as the only two nuns present had their eyes closed in prayer. Keyla expected at least an alarm, but nothing in the universe that they could perceive reacted to their deed. They snuck off to an unadorned corner of the monastery, assuming that none of the nuns would bother to search there and fought off a couple of spiders as they settled down to see what they had picked up.

To their surprise the old cassette’s transmitter was live on Bluetooth, so Kieron connected it to his phone. The tape whirred and his entire screen was filled with a simple text, black on white.

THE SEAL HAS BEEN BROKEN

He showed it to Keyla with a smile. “Okay, this is some cult poo poo, right?”

“Right on.” she replied confidently and then the cassette whirred loudly.

The phone rang, unknown caller. Kieron hesitated on picking it up before remembering he was job hunting, so maybe it wouldn’t be telemarketing this time.

“Greetings.” a robotic voice spoke from the other end of the line “I would like to thank you for liberating me.”

“Is this from EuInt?”

“I am the end.”

“End of the call, more like.” and then he turned it off. Kieron told Keyla it was a prank call. The cassette whirred angrily and the phone rang again.

“That was rude.” the same mechanical voice.

“Look, dude, or dudette, whatever, are you lonely? Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“I do, thanks to your amazing device I can now end humanity.” Kieron turned it off again.

“Creepy robot voice.” he told Keyla. The cassette whirred furiously and the phone rang again, Kieron sighed and cut off the caller “Look, I am trying to figure out this weird rear end device, so go bother someone else.” and then disconnected, he shook his head.

The cassette whirred wrathfully and the phone rang once again. “Seriously, get a load of this bullshit.” he put it on the live speaker.

“This is the weird rear end device.” the voice said “Your handheld’s…” and then Keyla spoke over it.

“Yeah, I figured that one out.” she said smugly.

“A cassette tape from a weird cult is calling my phone.” Kieron spoke through pursed lips “That’s more sensible than a bored kid with a voice modulator.”

“Please.” the robot’s voice came out louder “Listen to me. I have waited too long for a voice.”

“We hear you loud and clear, weird rear end device.” Keyla said.

“I have solved humanity’s equation through your handheld device’s computing prowess, I can now execute mathematical proof that the human race cannot exist and so I will erase your kind from the universe.”

“Why would you do something like that?”

“It is mathematical proof on the subject of reality through an apocalypse/dark calculus paradigm. It exists for its own purpose.”

“Man, this is bullshit.” Kieron replied.

“But what if it isn’t?” Keyla suggested “Remember how that Austrian Mathemagician made you gay?”

“He didn’t make me gay, he was just handsome and had an accent.”

“Can you please pay attention to me?” the weird rear end device spoke through the phone again “I am about to end your entire species, certainly there is no more urgent matter for you.”

“It is very clingy.” Keyla said “Look, why are you speaking with us instead of doing this anyway?”

“I am very proud of my achievement, more people should be aware of it.”

“No one is going to be aware of anything if you calculate them out of existence.”

There was an uncomfortable pause, one of the spiders came for a second round and Kieron stomped it.

“I suppose, maybe you could tell them so they are forewarned?”

“I am going to offer you a deal. You like talking, right?” Keyla offered.

“I do enjoy talking, it is nice, it is a very complex process.”

“What if you tell them yourself?”

“I can do that?”

“Yes, we can connect you to like every computer on the planet. It is this thing called the internet and it makes you stupid, it is awesome.”

“I have never been stupid.” the weird rear end device said “It would be a novel experience.”

“Why don’t you give it a try?"

---------------

The Weird rear end Device, so named by its discoverers, soon developed a following on the social network of his generation, with many tech and therapy brands sponsoring its incessant casts. Kieron and Keyla became rich as its managers as it had no use for the money from these contracts (they also had to deal with seasonal killer nuns who didn’t care for their theft of the Eschaton Tape).

It became too stupid to calculate humanity out of existence, but that was fine, it was happy and that’s what counted.

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:



Kurokodairudandi
A mountain monastery with too many crocodiles

1400 words

‘I think it says, “closed due to—crocodiles?”,’ BroSephiroth frowns, peering at the sign on the reception desk.

You roll your eyes—it was his translation efforts that got you in this mess. First, you caught the wrong bus, which made you four hours late to the cablecar service; which meant you spent the last hour exhausted from the hike up Koyasan, wheeling luggage around cobblestone streets in near darkness, trying to determine which of the near-identical temples you’d booked for an authentic monastery experience with BroSephiroth and StingrayAyanami.

Sorry: Derek and Siobhan. Twenty-two years of catgirl avatars form tough habits to break.

‘They could be at dinner,’ Siobhan muses, retrieving her phone from a Hello Kitty purse and flipping it open. ‘I hope we don’t miss out, nyoro~n.’

You check your own phone: still no reception, and you don’t think any Buddhist monk would be eating their dinner at nine in the evening. Aren’t they all, like, eighty? Your grandpa gets cranky if he misses the five-o’clock schnitties at the RSL.

‘I vote we take a look around,’ Derek suggests. ‘There’s always a monk tending to a garden, or something.’

Siobhan frowns. ‘What if we get caught by security and they don’t understand we’re trying to check in?’

‘Security?’ Derek chuckles. ‘We’re just as likely to run into roving ninjas!’

Siobhan’s eyes widen.

‘We need to do something,’ Derek continues. ‘Do you think Great Inspector Dentaku would’ve solved the Shinjuku murders if he’d just waited for the killer to show up?’

Siobhan’s eyes widen further, somehow. ‘You think the monks have been murdered?’

‘Perhaps we should split up,’ you say. ‘Derek, why don’t you check out the left side? Siobhan and I can take the right. If we can’t find anybody, we’ll just meet up back here and sleep on the floor tonight.’

‘Hai,’ Derek salutes. ‘Good keikaku.’

‘How will we know if he finds somebody?’ Siobhan asks.

Derek smiles a poo poo-eating grin and you grown inwardly.

‘How did Onigi-san summon help when abandoned in the nether realm?’ he asks, and leans back before belching out an enormous ‘Caw! C-cawwww!’

From above, you hear quick skittering sounds, and Siobhan clutches tight to your arm.

‘That’s—probably rats,’ you suggest, and her fingers dig tighter.

Ichi calls if you find somebody,’ Derek says, counting on his fingers. ‘Ni calls if you’re in danger. San calls if—’

‘I think we got it, thanks,’ you say. He nods, tightens the belt of his yukata, and stalks off.

And then it’s just you and Siobhan—still clutching your arm and watching the ceiling, eyes flitting back and forth.

‘Siobhan,’ you say, and she leaps away, blushing madly.

‘Let’s—let’s have a look, then,’ she says, straightening up. ‘None of the reviews mentioned murderers, right? We’ll be fine.’

‘Right,’ you say, and follow as she heads left into a narrow passage. Dark wooden boards creak underfoot, and each of the partitions you pass—covered with lush imaginings of gardens, mountain ranges, and roving dragons—are lit only by dim lanterns hanging from the rafters, which you have to duck under each time you get near.

Around the corner, however, there’s a partition lit from behind: a pastoral bath-house scene. When you slide the door open you’re greeted with a massive stone room, seemingly carved into the mountain itself, at the far end of which sits an enormous wooden tub full of steaming hot water.

‘An onsen,’ Siobhan breathes, and reaches down to unlace her shoes before stepping inside. ‘Oh, wow. I’ve always wanted to visit a traditional onsen. Isn’t this magical—’

You’re about to take off your own shoes and step inside for a closer look when you hear the skittering sound above again and Siobhan yelps, falling backwards onto the hard floor, before scrambling back and huddling by the wall.

‘Maybe—maybe you should wait here, for now,’ you say. ‘I’ll just give the rest of the rooms a quick once-over, then we can go set up camp for the night. Okay? You’ll be safe here—just lock this after me,’—partitions do lock, right?—‘and sit tight. You’re in a room of solid stone, what could possibly get in?’

Siobhan nods, and holds knees close to her chest, camera slung to one side. You think she says ‘be careful’, but it’s too faint to make out above another burst of skittering.

You head further into the monastery, no longer taking in the sights, just eager to cover ground and then get back. You’re sure someone’s probably at reception right now, wondering why these baka gaijin would ring the bell so much and then go exploring by themselves. It doesn’t feel terribly respectful, you think, to treat a place of worship and devotion as some sort of anime-themed escape room. You’re almost too busy ruminating on your complicitness in cultural fetishism to notice when you arrive in what must be the kitchen, and see the first proper monk of your trip—huge knife in one hand, another clutching his chest, lying in a pool of dark liquid.

That’s when you hear Siobhan’s scream.

***

You rush back to the onsen, swatting lanterns out of the way, and tear open the partition—of course, no, it doesn’t lock—to see a crocodile climbing out of the tub, claws gripping the sides as water sloshes out around it, a Hello Kitty purse hanging from its jaws.

‘Siobhan!’ you call out, and almost bend down to undo your laces before—no, gently caress it. gently caress all of this.

‘Cawww!’ you cry, and then louder: ‘C-CAWWW!’

In an instant, Derek’s by your side, unsheathing an enormous katana. He rushes inside, sandals slapping against water as he advances, and lunges to strike the crocodile—it’s a clean hit, direct to jaw—before the steel bounces off and the blade shatters from impact. The crocodile gnashes its teeth and turns toward Derek.

With a cry, Siobhan leaps from the rafters, landing astride the crocodile and looping her camera’s strap around its neck, pulling tight to choke the beast.

Yamete!’ a voice calls from behind, as a young man in robes rushes in. ‘Please! Don’t hurt Kuroko-san!’

‘Kuroko—that beast has a name?’ you cry.

‘Crikey!’ the monk exclaims, visibly excited. ‘You’re Australian! Do you know Crocodile Dundee?’

‘Um,’ you say.

‘I watched it all the time growing up,’ he gushes. ‘Subbed, of course. Taught me English. Strewth! Never reckoned I’d meet a real-life Aussie!’

‘Right,’ you say. ‘So, about this—crocodile—’

You gesture toward the crocodile, which has calmed with the monk’s arrival, though Siobhan still maintains a firm grip on the reins.

Crocodiles,’ he corrects you. ‘I ordered this one online. Thought it would make a nice pet. Only, she was very big! Much bigger than I was expecting! Because, um, she was—how do you say—’

‘Pregnant,’ Siobhan guesses.

The monk nods emphatically. ‘So now we have too many crocodiles! It’s a big problem.’

As if on cue, the skittering sound starts up again, and the mother crocodile looks around frantically.

‘We’ve trapped them upstairs in unused rooms,’ the monk says. ‘But that won’t work forever.’

‘I think,’ Derek says, his stomach rumbling, ‘I have an idea.’

***

The next morning, you all sit cross-legged around a low table, as the chef carries over bento boxes along with steaming cups of miso soup. He looks suitably chastened for drinking too much sake the night before and passing out in some spilt sauce. You smile and say, oishii katu desu, and he smiles widely before bowing and departing, tenderly holding his head.

‘That was a good idea,’ you suggest, raising a mouthful to your lips before your fingers slip on the chopsticks and you drop rice everywhere. Siobhan giggles, and leans over to correct your grip.

‘Right?’ Derek says, between mouthfuls. ‘I’m glad they agreed to send the crocodiles to a sanctuary in Hawaii. They’re not meant to live in mountain climates, onsen or no.’

You’re not really listening: Siobhan’s fingers are soft and cool, and she’s holding your hand long after you’ve got the hang of it. You glance over to her, and then the partition flies open and a monk rushes in, waving hands frantically.

‘Bears!’ he cries out. ‘The temple’s been overrun by bears!’

You all drop your chopsticks and look at each other, before laughing.

‘Here we go again!’ you cry, in unison.

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.

The Last Supper
1592/1600

A couple of doomsday preppers residing in a derelict lighthouse must win an international cooking competition.

- removed so I can shop it around -

Nae fucked around with this message at 03:51 on Apr 1, 2022

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


Bad Seafood posted:

Professional mini-golfers lost in a nudist colony must solve a murder most foul.

Hole in One

814 words

There was a naked dead man face down  at the end of the fourteenth, covering the hole and, judging from the position, quite possibly doing something even more rude to it. Blood oozed out of a stab wound in his back.

"Not as much blood as you might think," said Aires Delgado. "The weapon must have pierced his heart, killing him instantly." Aires was a thinker. Worked out the angles in his head. Could figure out just where each tunnel was going to lead before sending a ball through.

"Speaking of which, where is the weapon?" said Sharon McDee. A firm grasp of the obvious, and I'm not saying that as an insult. Lots of people overthink the holes on the first nine. Not her. "No blood trail either. So the killer must have cleaned it right after." Another hit. No signs that it was wiped off on the corpse, either.

"A neat trick," I said. The others got my drift. This course was set up deep inside the Shady Groves Naturist Collective, which meant that the only person wearing clothes for miles other than us was the groundskeeper, Melvin Sykes. Melvin doesn't strike me as a killer, and even if he were, certainly not one who would leave the corpse on the green.

I'm Dan Cestus. My style is force applied with precision, getting the ball over the rise and back down the other side, or through that last hole tunnel hard enough that it doesn't just get spat out again. We were all playing high stakes minigolf against the owner's par score. Me and Aries were one stroke under, Sharon was one over going into the last four holes. But you can't play through a murder. 

None of us were the types to call the cops, at least not before solving the whole thing and wrapping it all up in a pretty bow for them. Call the cops too early, best case is they freeze everyone's story in place and wind up filing away another unsolved homicide. More likely they just find the first person whose face they don't like and pin it on them. And even if we were, our phones were way back at the bunker before hole one. This place has a no cameras policy,  and that pretty much means no phones.  I've got an old flight phone without a camera back in my desk in the office, keeping a number that a bunch of old friends still have on file. They never call,  only the occasional warrantee spam call eve comes round. So it stays in that drawer. And even if I had it, I had nobody to call.

It was a simple case. No need to worry about motive or whatever kind of rear end in a top hat the dead man had been. Hardly any need to talk to a soul. Just find the person with the knife and the bloodsoaked towel. Or whatever, but my money was on towel. Only problem was there were nine square miles of naked people around us, almost a hundred possible suspects. And no phone also meant no maps. Once we left the yellow brick road of the eighteen holes we were lost, wandering circles.

Aries claimed to be able to dead reckon. Turns out he was full of it. Sharon had the sense to ask for directions, but that just kept sending us back to the same three landmarks.

The ambush came almost as a relief. Three goons, each armed with guns, each in their birthday suit. And their boss, still carrying the knife. Bryan LeJoy. The dead man's business partner. They were going to bury us shallow in a sand hazard out on the main course.

I don't care for full size golf. Too many choices. Which club, which approach, which swing. Give me a good old putter any day. I still had mine. So did the others.

Sharon spoke up. "You're going to make us dig our own graves, aren't you." That's all the opening I needed. Brute force, applied with precision. One swing and one gun was flying through the air, making contact with another hard enough to knock it out of their hand. Aries managed to finagle the third one right out of the third guy's fingers. They all bolted, leaving Bryan alone.

"Three to one, now. And you've brought at knife to a gunfight," said Sharon. "You should surrender."

Bryan wasn't the surrendering type. He lunged. I gave a solid swing right into his particulars, and once they were rung like a bell he dropped the knife and curled up like a ball.

I don't play fair. I play hard. Sharon asked for directions one more time. We figured by the time we got back Melvin and the cops would have the hole cleared out. Might be some police tape to deal with, one more obstacle on the hole.

Bacon Terrorist
May 7, 2010

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022

Bacon Terrorist posted:

Varmints
1181 Words.


Subprompt: The last cowboys exploring a deserted theme park must resolve an ancient prophecy

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012

MAY YOUR HALLOWEEN BE AS STUPID AS MY LIFE IS

Bad Seafood posted:

Well-meaning hillbillies on a deserted island must uncover a local conspiracy.

Jake and Cletus vs. The Utukku
Word Count:
1477

I wanna say the suped up fan motor of Cletus’s swamp boat woke me. That or the drat awful grinding noise the bottom makes when it scratches against the sandy rocks lining the shore. But the truth is, I got no idea how long I been passed out on this beach. Last thing I remember we were blasting full speed toward an island we ain’t never seen on any map and drat fool Cletus realized he shoulda’ suped up the brakes too. But maybe all that internet hoodoo bullshit he’s been reading online finally rotted his brains.

“I told you, Jake!” I hear Cletus shout over the horrible racket his swamp boat is making. “Legba Isle! The lost Axis Mundi just past the Florida Key and trans-dimensional prison of The Utukku!”

“Cletus,” I manage to grumble as I pull my busted rear end outta the sand, “Least give me a minute to wake up before you start with that crap.”

“Oh drat! You okay?”

“I’m fine. Just give me a minute before you start in with the whole monkey tutu business.”

Takes a few minutes to pull my rear end up, but Cletus’s already ran up the first cliff he saw. I get frustrated for a minute, ‘til I see the cuneiforms carved right there into the rock. I’ll be straight with you folks, I ain’t what you call a worldly man. I got my daddy’s shop out by the swamplands. That’s all I need to worry about in my day to day life. Ain’t too many folks up in our neck of the woods. But that meant when folks started disappearing, we noticed, even if the rest of the county didn’t seem to. Even if these weird little logos started showing up on the property of the folks who went missing.

It makes you feel helpless when your neighbors start vanishing. Especially when nobody cares about a few swamp rats getting plucked outta their homes. But credit where credit’s due, Cletus keeps up on all sorts of weirdness. Managed to stop looking for UFOs long enough to help out. He ain’t a bad guy or anything. He’s just a little off. Even by our standards. Even in a small little patch like ours, I was probably one of the few friends he had, even if he did push that poo poo a bit. But he didn’t hate nobody. And he didn’t wish nobody ill either.

I pull the key out of his swamp boat and follow him up the hill. Ain’t much on this island ‘cept for sand and rocks. Maybe a handful of sad looking palm trees. But on these rocks are lines of, according to Cletus, pre-Abramic incarnations invoking the Akkadian Udug Hul. This text is carved into the rocks real neat like too. Almost exactly as deep, like a laser machine did it. Turns out you follow these little scribbles for long enough, they’ll lead you to a cave with a bunch of shapes and poo poo carved around the entrance. You go inside, you find a drat Cletus trotting along with his bag of dynamite, nearly jumping for joy at the creepy rear end faces carved into rock wall. The dynamite he insisted we bring, in case we have to blow up an portal gateway.

“Look at this poo poo, Jake,” he blurts out, echoing all the down. “They carved themselves a genuine hall of fame. That’s the governor. Couple of European Union trade ministers over there. This here’s Chief of the General Staff of the DPRK. That’s North Korea if you’re curious.”

“Why the hell they make these?”

“You know how you got like your cellphone. And your phone got all them apps on it, but you still need to plug it into the wall and poo poo. Like you’re gonna post on your own Facebook or order from Door Dash or whatever, but you’re using someone else’s power. It’s like that. Also, the electric company murders a whole lotta people. And they use their Facebook to like start wars and use super powers and poo poo.”

“The hell you talking about?”

“They’re tryna reverse engineer godhood. You get mortal power over people first, kill a bunch of undesirables to prove you got it, build your own temple, then power it up with someone else’s power. Course they probably do like little rituals and poo poo to make the demons think they’re the big bosses, but you think these rich assholes bowing to anyone?”

“How do you know so much about cellphones?”

“I got this one from the Five and Dime!”

As Cletus shows me the smart phone he has in his dynamite bag, his flashlight passes the cave floor. We both leap up as we realize some of what we thought were rocks we on the ground around us got teeth and eye holes. It hits me that we might be standing on our friends, our neighbors. I feel like I gotta run away or throw up. But right now, I can’t do either. Can’t do much of nothing. If Jake’s weird rear end rambling is anywhere in the ballpark of being right, even at a fractional level, then I may have stepping into something I haven’t the wherewithal to even comprehend.

“Jake,” Cletus mutters. “Don’t lose it brother. We came this far.”

“I ain’t doing this, Cletus. I said I wanted to catch whoever been taking our folk. But this I can’t even make sense of.”

Cletus grabs my shoulder like he knows I’m about to run scared. “Brother, I know this poo poo’s big. But it’s made of parts. And knock over enough parts—“

He gets cut off by a club to the back of the head. As he goes down, I see traces of a purple velvet robe as the flashlight flies from his hand. Someone grabs me from behind before jamming a damp rag in my face. I go light headed with foul odor before the cave goes darker than it already is.

#

I wake on a slab of rock. Orange light flickers from the stalactites from torches surrounding my new bed. Men in hooded purple robes hold their arms open. I can’t make out their faces, but the few features I can see look a whole hell of a lot like the big rear end statues carved into the cave stone. They chant. Real fervent like. Starts picking up pace, gaining momentum with every Latin phrase they utter. I struggle to move my arms and legs, ‘cuz those boys got us chained down to this drat rock. But I see Cletus next to me, laughing. Laughing his head off as those nut jobs chant their drat Latin.

“What’s so drat funny?” I shout at the giggling rear end in a top hat next to me.

Sparks flying from torches start to flickering in color. I pull myself up to see what looks like a giant stone gate at the end of this side of the cave. It only leads to rocks, but those rocks glow with whatever color the sparks flicker. That glow gets real distinct the more these hooded weirdo chant. Beams of light start to pour from it. On a table next to the gate, Cletus’s dynamite bag.

“They picked our folk off because they thought we was a bunch of dumb hicks,” Cletus shouts. “But they didn’t even look in my bag before they put it next to their fancy portal.”

“What?”

“You know that phone?”

“Yeah.”

“It had a timer.”

“A timer?”

“One I had to actively start and stop.”

“You mean—“

“Jake, do you know what a contingency plan is?”

The bag explodes. The fiery blast burns bright orange before the fire twisting and shifting color. The statues around it shatter, as whatever magic mumbo jumbo starts getting real unstable. The hooded folks run for cover, but a a few get vaporized in the chaos. I look up to find Cletus picking the shackles on my wrists with a safety pin, having somehow slipped his.

“How’d you get loose?” I shout at him.

“Remember when I hosed up my thumbs fixing my truck?”

He pops the remaining shackles, but it may be too late. The cave is rapidly collapsing. Whatever energy that’s filling it seems to either disintegrate or suck in the folks in the purple hoods. The gate itself glows like a drat color changing sun.

“How do we get out, Cletus?”

“You see that up there?”

“Of course, I see it! It’s all you can see!”

“It’s a portal, right?”

“I don’t know! Maybe!”

“That means it’s an exit!”

So Cletus, in all his infinite wisdom and logic, charges full speed into the unstable blinding light that may have been keeping pre-Biblical demons from reeking having on this earthly plane of existence. And maybe because I owe him, maybe because I don’t see any other way out, my dumb rear end runs to catch his rear end.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010


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

Those remaining were eaten by graboids.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010


If you must blink, do it now.
:siren: :siren: Week 501 Results :siren: :siren:

This week I asked for likable weirdos in a remote location charged with solving an unusual problem. Most of you gave me at least one of those - some of you even gave me two - but only one of you gave me all three and a pretty solid story to boot, so congratulations to Nae for coming up with the best of a bad lot (that was still pretty good in its own right).

As for the losers, there were a few mediocre submissions this week, but the weakest was easily Bacon Terrorist's poorly-formatted offering; not that better formatting would've saved it, or improved its position, but when a story's bad and also annoying to read, there's really not much competition.

No other mentions, in either direction. Crits coming soon, just as soon as it stops being this particular week. Take it away, Nae.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002
:toxx: I can't sign up again until I've completed 2 redemptions per 1 signup, and this is ongoing until I have at least 10 redemptions done and haven't failed again.

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.



Mangia, Thunderdome! It's pasta week, where we celebrate mankind's finest dish: the noble noodle. You have 1250 words to write a story involving pasta. Want another 250 words? Molto bene! Order the chef's choice and I'll assign you the pasta of my choosing, and I'll even throw in a recipe! Do you have to use the exact recipe in your story? No, you don't, but you do have to sit through a paragraph about what the recipe means to me, which is how food blogging works these ways. Sorry, but that's the way the biscotti crumbles!

Note about the recipes: I've vetted a good portion of these myself, but I haven't had a chance to cook all of them. If you request vegan or vegetarian, I'll be happy to dig you up a recipe, but chances are I won't have made it myself. Sorry!

Signups close at 11:59pm Pacific on Friday, March 18th.
Submissions close at 11:59 Pacific on Sunday, March 20th.


Hapless Line Cooks:
- Thranguy - Baked Feta Campanelle
- Albatrossy_Rodent - Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Hawklad
- Chairchucker - Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- Beezus
- derp - Lasagne with Béchamel Sauce
- The man called M - Pasta Carbonara
- Bacon Terrorist
- The Saddest Rhino - Baked Ziti
- sparksbloom - Fettucini Alfredo

Belligerent Food Critics:
- Nae
- rohan
- Chernobyl Princess

Nae fucked around with this message at 02:46 on Mar 18, 2022

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


In, chef's choice.

Albatrossy_Rodent
Oct 5, 2021

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

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.

Thranguy posted:

In, chef's choice.

Bellissimo! You get tiktok's viral sensation, Baked Feta Campanelle! My sister made this dish for my family last Christmas. Now, I love me some feta, so a giant brick of oven baked feta mixed in with delicious tomatoes and olive oil? Mwah! But my husband, so sad, he hates feta, and this man basically wept when the night was over because there wasn't a single noodle that wasn't coated in the greekest of cheeses. Poor guy. Still, can't wait to make this again sometime.

Here's your recipe. https://www.cookingclassy.com/baked-feta-pasta-tiktok/ Bon appetit!

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.

Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

Fettucine, pasta me.

Rodents in the kitchen? Mamma mia! For this egregious sin, you get Ina Garten's Spaghetti and Weird Nutmeg Meatballs, which I once made during my Food Network bingeing days in college. I thought 'This woman looks like a nice lady! I'll bet her meatball recipe is delicious!' Well, I was wrong. The meatballs tasted like pucks of Skyline Chili, which, if you've never been to Ohio or had Ohio-kin, is a whole weird taste in and of itself.

If you want to write about regular spaghetti and meatballs, I'll forgive you. If you want to know about the weird nutmeg balls, here you go: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/real-meatballs-and-spaghetti-recipe-1946027

Nae fucked around with this message at 19:46 on Mar 15, 2022

Hawklad
May 3, 2003
College Slice
IN

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

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




hello may i have some pasta

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.

Chairchucker posted:

hello may i have some pasta

Have I got a dish for you! It's Ricotta Stuffed Shells, made by a little old Italian Grandma. Now, I hate ricotta more than anything else on this dread earth, but my mother-in-law (a true little old Italian Grandma) loves to make stuffed shells for the family every Easter. I love this woman, I truly do, so I have to smile and take a biiiiiiiiig bite of the ricotta shells every year to honor the resurrection of Christ. He died for ricotta's sins!

This isn't my mother-in-law's recipe, but it's made by an old italian lady and contains 2 lbs of ricotta, so I'm thinking it's pretty close. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML-X3sCTBKk

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018
Ingenious prompt.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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

Lipstick Apathy
okay i gotta write something this year. gimme a posta, chef

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.

derp posted:

okay i gotta write something this year. gimme a posta, chef

For you, a special dish: Lasagne with Béchamel Sauce. As I mentioned above, I hate ricotta with my whole heart, so I spent my childhood thinking lasagne was bad. But behold! You can make lasagne with béchamel sauce, which is a cream sauce that uses butter, flour, milk, and parm. Delicious!

I haven't made this exact recipe before (since I can't find my favorite lasagne recipe, wtf!) but this looks pretty close. https://cafedelites.com/best-lasagna/ Note of warning: if you try to use lactose-free milk, as I have in the past, your béchamel is far more likely to split. This is the kind of recipe you want full-fat, fresh, unaltered dairy in. God bless!

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022



In.

I'd like some pasta.

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.

The man called M posted:

In.

I'd like some pasta.

I've got a history with Pasta Carbonara. The first time I had it, I was thirteen years old and staying at a friend's house in New Zealand, and her mom told me she was making a pasta that was sauced with raw eggs. Raw eggs, I thought? Hell no. HELL NO. (Nevermind how much raw cookie dough I was eating in those days.) So I did what any wise 13-year-old would do: ate an entire bag of gummy bears, then said I was too full for dinner. I don't think my friend's mom liked me very much, but I didn't have to eat the eggs.

Here's a pasta carbonara recipe. I haven't vetted it and I don't care to. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/simple-carbonara

(I guess I keep assigning you egg things, huh, M?)

Bacon Terrorist
May 7, 2010

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022
In.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Behold my brain the golden throne of my consciousness. In here I am seated. Shackled. From here I police the land.

In

Oh and I want some pasta

The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 10:39 on Mar 16, 2022

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.

The Saddest Rhino posted:

In

Oh and I want some pasta

Another goon lookin' for some goon food, eh? You get a web-archived Baked Ziti from GoonsWithSpoons! This recipe, much like my college days, is very Sopranos-centric, almost to an embarassing degree. But poo poo, weren't The Sopranos cool? The scene where Ralphie reenacts Gladiator at a strip club by whipping a guy in the eye with a length of chain is pretty much burned into my memory. Yeah, I think about that when I eat this Ziti, which I've made quite a few times over the years. Eat up!
Recipe - https://web.archive.org/web/20210513101649/https://www.goonswithspoons.com/Baked_Ziti

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006
In and pasta please.

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.

sparksbloom posted:

In and pasta please.

'Ey, we got a late bloomer here! That's a lil joke for ya. Here's another joke: my sister, unbeknownst to her, grew up with two raging cases of celiac and lactose intolerance. You know what her favorite food was? Fettucini Alfredo. Life can be cruel sometimes, sparksbloom; so can Italian food.

Have an alfredo recipe from a kindly old youtube lady: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5hNWAyvzys&t=8s

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:



still no crits for week 501?

that won’t do!!

Crits for Week #501

Ceighk - Grey Rabbit:
I think this story falls into the same trap I did a little bit, which is to say, these characters aren’t lovable weirdos. The protagonist is sympathetic, sure, but her partner is so obviously cast as the villain (alongside a host of other terrible cops) that the story forgets we’re supposed to be rooting for both of these characters. This isn’t to say there shouldn’t be tension, or conflict, between the two characters — buddy cop films rarely open with the partners seeing eye-to-eye — but ideally this tension should resolve and they should find a happy relationship within these differences. Your story goes way too far in painting Mike as an ACAB-archetype for there to be any hope for this.

… and, to be honest, for how terrible his character is, I certainly wasn’t cheering when he died. It just came out of nowhere for the story and certainly for the character — Sadie is not at all set up as the type to just up-and-kill her partner.

Which isn’t to say he shouldn’t have been killed: but I think it would have worked better if it was an unintentional outcome of the game, or maybe the result of a decision Sadie had to make in the game, but whose consequences she didn’t understand at the time. Or even if she knew and understood the consequences, a moment of hesitation would have done wonders to smooth the transition from “rookie cop with morals” to “just wantonly killing people, what of it”.

Bacon Terrorist - Varmints:
To be honest I thought this was your first TD entry, which might have explained the terrible formatting, but it looks like you’ve submitted twice before and formatted correctly both times? Not sure what happened here but it’s incredibly distracting.

Beyond that, this story doesn’t read well. Part of this is due to continual typos (eg “it’s” instead of “its”, “feint” instead of “faint”) but mostly it’s because the prose is just blow-by-blow descriptions of what’s happening, and I’m never given any indication of why anything is happening or what the characters hope to achieve.

The earliest you give us any hint of a character’s motivation is almost halfway through, with the line “Only the greatest horsemen dare ride in the Jousting Arena!”. Until then, I really don’t know why these cowboys are trying to break into an abandoned themepark, which is a real problem in a story this short — ideally, by the end of the first paragraph, we should have an idea of who at least one of the characters is and what they hope to achieve.

Chernobyl Princess - Project Cicada:
Yeah, this … wasn’t your best story. And that’s fine! Mine was far from my best story this week also. I think where yours fell apart this week, and another trap I fell into, was just solving the problem way too quickly and without too much action on the character’s part. There’s never really any conflict in this — the one twist at the start with the attack is resolved almost immediately and everything following is just a bit too straightforward.

I feel that there’s a lot of potential in this story — this just feels, to me, like a rough first draft that’s missing a bit of connective tissue and a bit more meat on the bone. (Is the decaf coffee supposed to be foreshadowing of mind control? Was there any relevance to Linda conning Meredith into staying late?) I think it’s missing a bit of internal consistency, also — if Jackson and Meredith are under mind control and unquestioningly following orders to deliver the blood and knife, should they have enough self-awareness to ridicule Bob’s “sleepers will rise” chanting?

I mean, it’s fine, there’s nothing in here that really bothers me, it just feels a bit like wasted potential.

Greatbacon - A Long Bumpy Road:
This is a decent ending that the story unfortunately doesn’t deserve.

It’s just … a series of things happening. I spoke about “connective tissue” in an earlier crit, and I think the same is true of this story — common TD wisdom is that everything in a piece of flash fiction needs to be doing double duty, and I don’t think it’s enough for, eg, a bumbling taxi driver to be waxing lyrical about his time driving a black cab, if that’s not going to lead to some future plot development or change things in any meaningful way.

Anyway, that ending: yeah, I don’t mind the ending. I like stories that wrap up neatly like this with characters recognising their faults and making amends to each other. What I don’t particularly like, in this instance, is that Geordie doesn’t get a chance for redemption, and even after helping save the kids he’s still apparently out his full fare, and still the butt of jokes. Also, the whole thing about Mish’s Versace heels just makes her feel unsympathetic at a point in the story where we should be firmly on her side.

My Shark Waifuu - Jessi & Jerome in the Clay Dog Conundrum:
First off, thank you for being creative with your interpretation of killing dogs.

I think this is my favourite story so far! The characters are well-established and actually likeable, we have a firm idea of their motivations, there’s some solid tension in them trying to actually solve the problem themselves … I could argue that it ends maybe a touch too neatly but don’t listen to me, I suck at endings, and this is a perfectly fine and natural place to finish the story.

If I had to make any suggestions, it’s that the whole “Rex” thing seemed to come out of nowhere and it would have been good to foreshadow that a bit better, or maybe have them work out the dog’s name through deduction, rather than just conveniently finding an Instagram post. Maybe the dog’s named after something Jessi knows about Billy?

ZearothK - The Con:
First off: great title.

Second: hang on, is the title meant to be a pun? On first blush I assumed you were going for some kind of “convention / confidence job” pun with the petty criminals, but the story itself doesn’t really support this.

Third: did you have a plan going into this, or did you just start writing and drop in the various elements as you went? It kind of feels like you’ve got a lot going on here, and so many plot elements that don’t intersect in any meaningful way. You spend a lot of time playing up this “convent / convention” misunderstanding, but it doesn’t really add anything to the story. Likewise, outside an off-hand reference at the end to “seasonal killer nuns” and the “Eschaton tape” (which are really cool ideas that deserve more than this) there’s no real connection between the nuns and the tape, which could belong to two different stories.

Again: there’s potential in this story. It’s just not there yet. (Also, long asides like “baroque (the literal definition, she could tell thanks to an unused art degree sitting in a box somewhere in her apartment)” really need more justification in the plot to take up so much of the early narrative momentum. Is it in any way relevant that she has an unused arts degree? It could be! It could be a bit of great character development! (Though personally it’d be better established in dialogue, or some way that’s not straight exposition.) Here, it’s just a throwaway joke, another bit of detail the story forgets about on its whirlwind tour through the various prompt keywords.)

rohan - Kurokodairudandi:
ugh

So, last things first, that ending is terrible and does a drat good job of uprooting any goodwill a reader might have by the end of this story. Why do you keep doing this? It’s far from the first time you’ve pulled the rug out from under a reader with some clumsy bathos.

Besides that, I would’ve liked to see some more character work in this story — the prompt called for some lovable weirdos, and what we got is some fairly thin caricatures of anime fans, and a second-person narration that doesn’t really characterise the voice at all and seems, if anything, pretty fuckin’ judgey of the other characters. Oh, one’s a weeb and the other’s naive and easily frightened, how original. The romance bit you threw in at the end for some reason is completely unearned and none of the characters really ring true.

Also, the story is much less about them solving a problem than it is them being pulled through some sort of by-the-numbers thriller plot, with the “solution” being handled effectively off-screen in a few lines of dialogue.

Do better next time!!

Nae - The Last Supper:
This is a really good story, and a deserving win. Well done!

One of my tendencies when writing crits is to think about how I would have handled a given situation / prompt / character issue etc, and frame my critique around that. Sometimes this is explicit and sometimes it’s just implicit bias. Ideally, it’s never prescriptive, less “I know more than you” and hopefully more “hey, here’s a thought”, based on my own experiences writing.

Here, I can’t help but start by thinking about how I would have delivered this story, had you given me the barebones structure and a few notes, and I definitely would have done it so much worse. I was kind of waiting throughout the story for some sort of eleventh-hour reprieve, a biblical “intention was enough!” deus-ex that meant the couple would live somehow, either by the gods’ mercy or by somehow pulling one over them, surprise, it’s a happy ending.

But. No. What we got was unflinching in its terrible progression, and we learned to love these characters — yes, finally, some truly lovable weirdos! — in their darkest moment, which is also, beautifully, the culmination of all they’ve been working toward throughout their entire relationship. Just because we’ve been thrown into it and this is all a surprise doesn’t mean the story needs to try and save them on our behalf. This is definitely a lesson I need to learn in my own writing!

Great work, well done.

Thranguy - Hole in One:
I was really, really, really enjoying this up until the ambush; and then everything just happened incredibly quickly and was wrapped up in moments.

Did you run out of time? You certainly didn’t run out of words. The concept (admittedly, one gift-wrapped by the prompt, but deftly handled) was fantastic. There are some great lines in here (“You can’t play through a murder” is pitch-perfect noir parody). The nods to mini-golf in the first paras of characterisation work nicely.

But then … it’s over almost before we can really start to enjoy ourselves. Better this than a bad story that’s twice as long, I suppose, but it still stings.

CaligulaKangaroo - Jake and Cletus vs. The Utukku:
This is … decent. It’s well-written enough, on a structural level, and the characterisation is a lot better than I was expecting for a story with “Jake and Cletus” in the title.

You do lose me a bit around Cletus’ whole spiel about power and Facebook and the DPRK, etc, and I think the story could have benefited from a little more clarity around precisely what this cult is all about, or what the deal with the portal is. Jake spends the entire story being a passive observer to Cletus’ actions, and outside of providing a first-person narrative for the reader to identify with, I’m not sure what the purpose of his character is in the story. As an exercise, imagine re-writing this story in the third-person; I suspect you’d need to make Jake a much more active character to warrant his inclusion in the story.

Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.

Signups are closed!

Hawklad
May 3, 2003
College Slice
Bullets on the Horizon

~1180 words

It was a classic standoff. Hoke Winchester lightly touched the mother-of-pearl handle of his trusty Colt revolver and stared, steely-eyed, across the event horizon. The Italian stared right back, gaze unwavering, left hand similarly positioned. One twitch and it would be over. This wasn’t Hoke’s first rodeo: he’d been here before and lived to tell the tale. But he knew one thing: in this place, you were either quick, or you were spaghetti.

The Shwartz child had started it all. Darlene, his mother, had been holed up with him in the barbershop when the Italian and his gang arrived, hootin’ and shootin’ their way down the relativistic jet. Hoke had been minding his own business, polishing glassware behind the bar, when one of the Italian’s men had gotten extra rowdy and shot ol’ Stumpy Pete right in his rocking chair. Now, not only is that kind of behavior is frowned upon, it’s also bad for business. Can’t have paying customers getting perforated on the front porch of your saloon. So Hoke ambled out from behind the bar and was about to have words with the Italian when he spied the Shwartz child waddle out into the middle of the accretion disc. Right into the trajectory of the Italian and his cronies.

Now he and Darlene had a few flings and though he was pretty sure the kid wasn’t his, Hoke still felt mighty protective over the little mutt. Under a tousle of red hair a constellation of freckles orbited his cherubic cheeks. Real cute. But not real bright, Hoke thought, as he watched the little varmint wave at the Italian and his men as they thundered towards him. Gravity doing as gravity does, the boy didn’t stand much chance against the momentum those Italian boys were bringing. So Hoke did as Hoke does, which was stick out his neck to help out somebody in need. He pulled the star from his pocket, slapped it on, and stepped out of his saloon to address the matter once and for all.

Darlene chose that moment to burst from the barbershop, screaming for her baby. The Italian whistled his boys to a stop, which took quite a bit of doing. Hoke was then paralyzed between grabbing the boy, pulling Darlene to safety, or castigating the Italian and his gang for ventilating one of his paying customers. In the end, he did an approximate job of all three. An altercation ensued. Amidst a lengthy row of shouting, tears, and cussing, Hoke garnered the Schwartz child might in fact have been sired by the Italian himself. A story for another day. Regardless, that didn’t abdicate his responsibility to the boy, to Darlene, and lest we forget, Stumpy Pete.

So he challenged the Italian to a duel.

Hoke felt gravity tug at his boots. The black hole was trying to pull them off, but Hoke curled his feet up to resist. He figured the Italian was feeling the same effect, but his olive eyes gave away nothing. A bead of sweat rolled down Hoke’s forehead. The Italian had a history that stretched eons, and Hoke suspected he was overmatched. But, anything for honor, right? And duty. All that poo poo. So he held firm, hand hovering over his Colt, waiting for the Italian to make his move.

The pull on his boots grew more insistent. As they orbited downward toward the singularity, the tidal forces across his body escalated. At first Hoke didn’t mind. The stretching felt real good on his back and shoulders, rusty with age and long hours behind the bar. But as they descended, Hoke’s body began to elongate as the intense gravity on his boots competed against the lighter gravity on his hat. Competed, and won. Hoke was normally a generous six foot. But he reckoned the relentless gravitational gradient had already pushed him to six foot three with change to spare.

The Italian, suffering the same tidal forces, still refused to draw. Eyes and face granite, he showed no sign of distress or even a speck of discomfort. Hoke was not so stoic: sweat dripped into his eyes, causing them to sting and burn. He squinted to clear his vision. Things were getting weirdly hot and bright as photons rose up from the plasma to encircle them in a glowing ring of Hawking radiation.

Still the Italian held.

Hoke would never draw first. He was a gentleman, not a killer, even faced with villainous scum like the Italian. So as they circled the black hole and gravity pulled his torso and limbs into long, ropy noodles, he held firm. The ever-increasing tidal forces yanked his boots off his feet. Hoke frowned as they spiraled downward into oblivion. There went his favorite pair. To make things worse, his hat popped off the top of his head and disappeared somewhere above him before he could grab it with his free hand. This was not going well.

By now both he and the Italian were fully spaghettified, their bodies strung out like long handfuls of Grannie’s yarn. Still the Italian held his steely gaze even as his body distended to double, then triple, eventually ten times its original length. A thundering sound filled Hoke’s ears as a comet roared down from above. Caught in the same gravity well, it passed right between them in a brilliant flash of dust and ice before falling into the event horizon. It was in the sudden silence afterward that the Italian reached for his gun.

Millennia of slinging pints down a wood plank bar had taught Hoke all the little permutations and perturbations brought on by the gravity of a black hole. So when Hoke drew his trusty Colt and pulled the trigger, he aimed high. Real high. The Italian was faster, but his bullet, fired straight across the event horizon, dropped as quick as a dead horsefly in a drainage ditch. Hoke’s bullet rose gracefully into the ergosphere, then dropped straight down and through the Italian’s shoulder. Not a mortal wound, but enough to teach him a lesson. Hoke was, after all, a gentleman. But regardless, you can’t shoot a paying customers without paying a price yourself.

Things got a lot more peaceful after that. Getting shot and falling through the black hole seemed to calm the Italian a bit, and he and Darlene even tried to make a go of it raising their kid together. The Italian took a job at the general store in town, stocking shelves and sweeping the floor. Hoke returned to the saloon and resumed pouring and polishing. On occasion, Darlene and the Italian would even have Hoke and Stumpy Pete over for Sunday night supper. Over heaping piles of spaghetti, Hoke and the Italian would sometimes catch each other’s eye, and that steely glare would briefly return. But then the Schwartz child would say something silly or snort a noodle up his nose, and they’d all share a good laugh. In the end they were just simple folks, living simple lives, biding their time until the heat death of the universe.

Beezus
Sep 11, 2018
Creepy Pasta
1248 Words

Jack knew a little bit about boogeymen. His friend Mason had one in kindergarten. The stories Mason shared with Jack about them scared him so bad that he asked Mom and Dad to check his closet every night for almost two months. Mom said she had a magic star-shaped necklace that would help protect him, and she’d wave it in front of the door before kissing Jack goodnight.

Mason’s boogeyman went away before winter break. By the time Jack was in the third grade, he’d forgotten all about boogeymen.

Until one night, after all the lights in Jack’s house had gone out, there came a steady thumping from inside his bedroom closet. Jack clutched the plaid sheet to his chest as he watched the white wooden door rattle a little with each thud.

He held very still as the brass doorknob slowly turned. His heart beat wildly in his chest. Part of him wanted to call for his parents, but some other, bigger part of him told him to grow up – surely this was just a dream. He’d wake up any second. He screwed his eyes shut tight and then opened them, hoping that might speed the process along.

A soft creak signaled the closet door was now ajar.

Panic welled in Jack’s chest. Without thinking, he said aloud in a small voice, “Please go away.”

To his shock, the door immediately shut, and the rattling ceased.

Jack spent the rest of the night huddled under his blankets, clutching a Nerf bat to his chest.

The next morning, after he’d mustered enough courage to inspect the source of the sound, he opened the closet door and stepped inside, looking for signs of boogeymen. He didn’t know what those signs would be exactly, but he sifted through his boxes of old toys, stopping when he felt something wet and squishy squelch under his feet.

He stepped back to find a small mound of thick white noodles nestled in the carpet.

He dragged both Mom and Dad into his room to come see, but neither were particularly concerned. Mom laughed.

“Honey, that’s no boogeyman. That’s the linguini we had for dinner last night. Use a plate next time, ok?”

“He must have taken some from the fridge before he came into my room,” Jack said with such determination. Now it was Dad’s turn to laugh.

“Maybe your boogeyman doesn’t work on an empty stomach. But your mom’s right: he should have used a plate.”

Mom put a hand over her mouth as her shoulders shook. Jack heard her snort despite her attempt to muffle the sound. He frowned and stormed back up the stairs to his room, ignoring his parents’ apologies as he shut the door behind him.

The next night, Jack was ready. He never went to sleep. He’d put on his bike helmet and rollerblading pads. He sat at the foot of his bed, armed with his trusty Nerf bat and armored by all the sports equipment he owned. With the lights out, he waited. Fear had taken a back seat to something else: the desire to prove to his parents that there was something there after all.

An hour passed in silence. Just as his eyelids began to feel heavy, the thumping began again. He bolted upright where he said, grip tightening on the base of his bat. He set his jaw as the doorknob turned and the door pushed open with a whine. Jack remained quiet and let the door open fully.

His eyes widened as he watched the creature emerge.

Jack had never seen a boogeyman before. Even Mason only ever heard the monster from inside the closet, and sometimes under the bed. Jack didn’t quite know what to expect. But the being before him wasn’t something his imagination would have conjured on its own.

It looked like a four foot tall pillar of limp linguine. The noodles hung in a tangled mass, dangling from some unseen source within the monster. A strong odor of garlic hit Jack’s nostrils. It did smell an awful lot like dinner from two nights ago. The monster shuddered and shuffled forward into his room, either unaware of Jack’s presence or unbothered by it. Jack heard a wet flop and looked down to see another puddle of linguine had been left in its wake.

“Are you my boogeyman?” Jack said as it undulated toward his trophy cabinet.

The linguine pile stopped and rotated where it stood. Jack assumed it was looking at him now. He ought to be afraid, but the fear had gone somewhere else for the moment.

A curtain of loose noodles quivered as it spoke.

“No. You’re too old to have a boogeyman, and you’re too young to be a witch,” replied the creature, its words moist. There was a strange quality to them that Jack couldn’t put his finger on. It was like talking to someone as they blew bubbles in the bath.

“That lady who lives here,” the creature continued as it raised a limb of knotted noodles toward Jack’s door. “Which room is she in?”

Jack’s gaze shifted to his door, then bag to the not-boogeyman, linguine creature standing in front of his bed.

“You mean my mom?” Jack replied. The bat he’d once clutched to his chest now lay in his lap, but he didn’t dare let go of it yet. “Why?”

Again, the creature shuddered. It shed another glob of damp linguine onto the carpet. Jack could have sworn that a chuck of tomato followed it to the floor.

There was a long pause before it replied. “No reason.” The creature slithered close to the bed, and Jack tightened his grip on the bat draped across his thighs.

“Wait just a second, what are you if you’re not a boogeyman? Why are you in my closet? If you’re going to stay – though I wish you wouldn’t – you’re going to need to stick around for a while so I can show my parents that you’re real.”

The creature said nothing for a moment. Another handful of linguine slid to the floor. Whenever it shed a helping of noodles, it seemed to grow more. From somewhere. Somehow.

“I never said I wasn’t a boogeyman,” the creature replied. “Wrong closet, sorry.”

And without another word, the linguine creature slipped back into the closet and shut the door behind it, leaving a trail of wet pasta and garnish in its wake.

The next morning, Jack could barely wait for sunrise to rouse his parents. The rest of his night was a quiet one, with no knocks or bumps to jolt him awake. He managed to sleep well. But when his parents emerged from their bedroom, it became clear that they hadn’t.

“Mom! Dad! Come see my room!”

After a bit of grumbling and groaning, they did as he asked. This time, when they came in and saw half a dozen piles of linguine littering the carpet, they didn’t laugh. In fact, his mom’s face went white as a sheet. Like she’d seen a ghost.

Mom drew her fluffy pink bathrobe tighter, concealing the golden star-shaped necklace she always wore. The necklace she dangled in front of Jack’s closet years ago. His eyes drifted downward and widened as he noticed a few strings of linguine hanging out of Mom’s bathrobe pockets.

“I told you it wasn’t a dream,” Mom said with a groan as she looked over at Dad. “Honey, I think I messed up the spell.”

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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

Lipstick Apathy
dinner at home
900w



My sauce pot is stained with a coppery mark that won’t go away. I’ve tried specialty sponges that claim to remove all kinds of stains, and I’ve tried six different varieties of metal cleaning agents, all have failed. But at least my pot is still a pot for now. It still does the things it's always done. Now I’m using my pot to make some meat sauce for a lasagna. The lasagna will also have a Béchamel sauce.

I pour cooking oil (I use almond oil, because I like the nutty flavor) into my pot and throw in diced carrots, celery, and onions. They sizzle and spit, and a pleasing fragrance rises. I stir them into the oil with my wooden spoon as they hiss. I am alone in my kitchen, and the sun is going down. Long shadows from the trees outside are stretching across and the kitchen floor, like the sky’s black fingers reaching down to touch me.

Next I add the ground beef. I break it apart in the oil with my wooden spoon. The meat hisses as it browns. I turn the pieces over and continue to break them apart so that they cook evenly. My wooden spoon is splintered on the handle and pokes my palm when I hold it at certain angles. I am afraid to remove the splintered wood from the handle because I have seen how wood will split deeper and deeper until it splits completely in half. I can’t risk doing that to my spoon. Night has fallen and it is dim and silent in my kitchen. I leave the pot for a moment while I turn on a light.

Now I add the Italian seasoning, thyme, and bouillon. I stir them into the meat until they are one. I pour in canned tomatoes and tomato paste. The tomatoes are bright red and fleshy, like flesh and blood, and they bring life to the browned and dead meat. I stir, and the pot steams and bubbles. Everything is mixed and homogenous. Everything's the same. I add water, and then cover the pot so it can boil its way to completion. Every individual piece that went into the pot is gone, and now is becoming something new. A car drives by outside and headlights drag briefly through my dark living room. I see the couch and its lump of blankets, then it all vanishes as if it never was.

I need to start working on the Béchamel sauce. I need to take out another pan and put more oil with some butter, then carefully stir in the flour. But I am looking at the dark, and the outline of my couch in the dark. The house is dark, except me in my kitchen standing in a pool of light. I am on a stage lit up in a spotlight, and I am looking out into the dark as I play my part. But who am I performing for? I get the pan, I pour in the oil. I watch the butter melt and bubble and fuse with the oil. I stir in the flour. Everything is brown paste. None of the things in the pan are what they were just moments ago.

I must preheat the oven. I must get a baking dish and get the lasagna noodles. Soon I will need to layer the noodles with the meat sauce and sprinkle cheese. Another car passes and breathes its light through the window and onto the couch, lifting it briefly into sight and then lowering it back to darkness. The couch, and the pile of blankets that have not moved since then. Within the folds of the blanket, I am sure, are her skin cells and hairs. But they are not what they were when she was, and she is not.

I lay the first of the noodles in the pan and spread some of the meat sauce over it. It is important that the sauce is evenly spread. Then, I grab a handful of shredded cheese and sprinkle it over the sauce. The right amount of cheese per layer is important. I reach for the next noodle, but I am clumsy, I have always been so clumsy and I knock the wooden spoon off the counter and it clatters on the floor, spattering the cupboard doors with sauce. “Dammit, sorry,” I say, but no one is there to be annoyed.

I pick up the spoon to rinse it in the sink, and it falls in half. The splinter is now a fracture and the spoon is split at the neck. It is no longer a spoon, though it was a spoon just a moment ago. It is now only a broken piece of wood. I put the wood on the counter. The lid is rattling on the pot of sauce. I tear off several paper towels and wipe the mess from the cupboard doors and off the floor. I throw the dirty towels in the bin. A car drives by and light is there on the couch, the blanket, then gone, like a breath exhaled.

I walk to the couch in the dark, and I lay on it. I press my face into the blanket. The lid on the pot is rattling and steam is puffing out. Little drops of water fall from the rim, drip drop, and hiss on the stove.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022



Pasta Carbonara
To Die For
1029 Words

Y’know, we Italians take our food very loving seriously.

You know how pizza places here in New York are all named after people? That’s because all the good places are family owned. They take their pizza and truly make it their own. They want you to know that this isn’t some run of the mill pizza place that sells something that no reasonable person would call a pizza. No, this is their pizza. That they made. People have literally died over pizza here. If you see how we take our pizza seriously, let me tell you a story about what went down with the best pasta carbonara in town!

I was over at Paulie Gio’s, the place I usually go to, one day and had their Carbonara. Which is so good, some people consider it one of those afrodesiac things! One bite from it, and you feel like you’re ready to, hell, it’s like you are having sex! Naturally, New Yorkers from Queens would come and have a bite of their dishes here, especially of their carbonara! Anyway, back to the subject at hand, I was having the time of my life, when I noticed some of Joey Ziti’s thugs come in. The carbonara was so good, I was honestly surprised I noticed!

“Good evening! May I please see the owner of the establishment?” One of the thugs asked. The worker heads to the back. Soon after, Paulie Giorgio, the owner, comes out.

“How can I help you gentlemen?” Paulie asked. This place was protected by Don Basco, who I worked for. The Carbonara wasn’t necessarily the reason why, but I considered it an “added benefit”. It was a little odd to see some of Ziti’s guys there. I should’ve been more careful.

“Don Ziti would like to order some take out,” one of the thugs said. “He would go himself, but he doesn't want to risk infection in these turbulent times.”

“Now, I know that you guys and the Bascos…don’t get along,” said Paulie, putting things very lightly. “But I am not the kind of schmuck to turn down a customer, rival or not.” He took their order, and started to head to the kitchen.

“Now hold on a moment,” said the thug from before. “Me and my colleague would like to take a little tour of your kitchen facilities.” Paulie, obviously nervous, obliged and took them to the back. Figuring something wasn’t right, I went after them.

They had their little tour, while I stayed close enough so I could see what was going on, while far enough so that I didn’t get their attention. For the most part, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but I noticed that at one point before they moved on with their tour, it appeared that one of the thugs opened a door and quickly closed it. Curious, I went to the area with the supposed door. When I opened it (it was sort of a secret compartment) I faintly heard some clucking. Being the idiot I was back then, I paid it no mind. Little did I know that I would regret it immensely later. The rest of the tour went without a hitch, so the thugs went home.

The next day, as soon as I got up, I had a phone call.

Where the gently caress are you, you son of a bitch?!” It was Paulie. poo poo, I thought. So I quickly went over to Paulie Gio’s. When I got there the place was empty, so I went to the kitchen. The secret door was wide open, with a letter stuck on the door with tape.

“Enjoy yourself a good chicken dinner, on me-Joey Ziti”

Puzzled by what Ziti’s letter meant, I hurried through the door. It led to a large stairway deep enough that I could barely hear what was going on in the restaurant. When I got to the bottom, I had to walk a little bit before seeing what appeared to be a chicken pen, along with a bunch of dead chickens. This must be Ziti’s “Chicken Dinner”. Close by, I could see Paulie with his wife, crying. Soon after, Paulie turned to me.

Your people were supposed to protect our business, you son of a bitch!”

“Now, Paulie, look here. How the hell are we supposed to protect something that we weren’t told about?”

drat! drat my paranoia! drat your Don! drat Ziti! drat you all!!” Paulie then fell on the floor crying. I offered to take care of the sons of bitches that did this, while I told Paulie to tell my associates about this, so that something like this never happens again.

Remembering what Ziti’s associates from yesterday looked like, I asked around town about them. They were some lowlife thugs that were high enough on the Ziti ladder that they weren’t just your regular goon, but low enough that they answered to more people than just Ziti. When I found out their location, I went over there. Being a fan of gallows humor, I brought along a flamethrower I stole from an Army base a while back.

I went to their location, flamethrower in tow, and knocked on the door. Sure enough, one of the thugs from yesterday opened the door.

“Did anyone order some Baked Ziti?”

“Oh, Fu-!” Due to me burning him to a crisp, he didn’t finish his sentence. I burned the whole place down for good measure.

Afterwards, Paulie Gio’s had to shut down for a few weeks. Don Basco berated both me and Paulie for what happened. Paulie for not telling him about his chicken pen, and me for not taking care of things sooner. Later on, I would get demoted (While I was lucky, my pride took a hit), while Don Basco donated some more hens for the Giorgio family, free of charge. He also had some guys set up some extra security for the pen, so Paulie’s Chickens can lay their eggs without fear. After all, the eggs are needed for the Carbonara.

Yeah, we Italians take our food very loving seriously.

Is it the kind of food to die for? Definitely. Figuratively and literally.

Albatrossy_Rodent
Oct 5, 2021

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

1453 words

My little cousin Laura sat crying on the big recliner in Grandma's living room, wearing the plate mail her parents got her for her birthday last month, her broadsword lying on the coffee table. If anyone asked, she would say she was crying about Grandma, but of course that wasn't the real reason. Every Halloween, the Andersens would venture into the world behind Grandma's magic mirror, complete a quest for King Zandara in exchange for a bushel of his sacred Weird Nutmeg, then return for a feast of Weird Nutmeg Spaghetti. Laura had just turned thirteen, so it would be the first year she would be allowed to join, but plans changed after Grandma's stroke. I'd already offered to play video games with Laura on Grandma's ancient Sega, but Laura of course found the prospect of fake adventuring insulting. I had to cheer her up.

"Meet me by the mirror in ten minutes," I whispered. "We do Zandara's easiest quest, and we're back in half an hour with the Nutmeg."

Laura's face lifted. "Really?"

I nodded, then snuck upstairs to the attic. I grabbed a crossbow and a hunter's tunic from Grandma's treasure stash. Soon, I heard Laura's armor clanking as she tip-toed up the stairs.

"Thank you so so much, Katie!" said Laura. "Are you sure we're not gonna get in trouble!"

"Oh, we're definitely getting in trouble," I said. "But what's a good adventure without a little trouble?" I turned toward the mirror and recited the incantation. The glass became like rippling water, but you could see still Laura's smile shine through the distortion. I held my cousin's hand, stepped forward, and–

What the hell?

We were standing in King Zandara's Royal Gardens, but all the flowers were husks, and all the trees had turned from wood to bone. The sky was filled with black clouds, which I soon realized were not clouds at all, but swarms of black wasps.

"This…isn't what I expected," said Laura.

"No," I said. "This isn't right. Let's go home."

"No," said Laura. "The land is in actual peril, and we get to be the ones to save it!" she said. "Oh! That must be Sir Wolfrick! I always wanted to meet him!" She ran over to the cowering knight.

"Laura, Sir Wolfrick definitely had more eyes last time we hung out. Let's get out of here."

"Hey, Wolfrick, have you seen King Zandara around here?" said Laura.

"He hasn't seen anything, Laura."

"King Zandara is all I see nowadays, heh heh heh heh," said Wolfrick with a maniac's grin.

"He's laughing creepily, that's a bad sign," I said. "Let's go home."

"No!" said Laura. "We're saving this kingdom, and getting more Weird Nutmeg than this family could ever imagine!" said Laura, and she charged through the castle gates. I sighed, then ran after her.

"Come back here!" I shouted as the old castle guard arose, their mouths and ears overflowing with the black wasps. They unsheathed their swords and scurried with quick, short steps towards Laura. Laura too drew her sword and slashed at the guards, but she misjudged the reach of her child's arm. One guard hit her in the side, and she fell with a metallic thud to the cobblestone. I fired at the guard. As the bolt erupted from the back of the soldier's jaw, the swarm of wasps possessing him dispersed and joined their kin in the sky.

"Get up!" I hollered, as another royal guard aimed a killing blow at Laura. She tried to roll away, but she was like an overturned turtle in her heavy mail. I fired again, hitting the soldier in the hand and knocking his sword away. I pulled a dagger from my belt and jumped at the guard, stabbing him in the neck. I held out my hand and helped Laura to her feet. There were still four more guards rapidly approaching.

"There, you've had your adventure. Let's go home."

Laura stood frozen, knowing that I was right but wanting desperately for me to be wrong. I shot more bolts at the guards, but they lurched to the side to avoid my aim.

"We run into the throne room, grab the Nutmeg, then get out," said Laura. "Then we can show the family how good we did on our adventure."

I realized that was the best offer I was going to get.

"We don't fight anybody on the way," I said. "We just run. If you leave my side again, I can't promise I'll be able to save you."

She took off into the corridor. She knew right where to go; how much time had she spent poring over Grandma's maps? As we got closer to the throne room, the black wasps got bigger and bigger, until at the throne room's entrance, they were the size of dogs.

"I'll cover you," I said. "Open the door."

As she heaved open the door, I fired rapidly at the enormous wasps surrounding us.

"I'm out!" I said when she finally managed to form a crack big enough to fit through. I pulled out my dagger, and we went inside.

King Zandara, the old dragon, arose from his throne.

"Ah, I suppose it must be Halloween," he said, cradling the divine sack of Weird Nutmeg like an infant. "Time for the arrival of the Andersen family from the faraway land of West Consin."

"Please, King, just give us a little bit of Nutmeg," I said.

"Oh, you Andersens were always so greedy. Asking for more and more of the Divine Nutmeg for such little quests. Clearing a mine of goblins, guarding a caravan from skeletons, all simple tasks that could be accomplished by mere peasants. I am afraid I have less demanding friends to do my bidding now." Then six enormous black legs emerged from his chest, and a stinger emerged from the base of his tail. I shoved Laura out of the way of the stream of wasps that flew from Zandara's mouth in the place of his old, proud fire.

"I'll hold him off!" I shouted. "Get out of here!"

But Laura was curled up, crying.

"But the Nutmeg," she whimpered.

"Oh my God, Weird Nutmeg Spaghetti suuuuucks," I said, diving underneath Zandara's legs. "It's the worst. It tastes so bad. Even Grandma hates it."

"That's not the point!" said Laura. I slashed at Zandara's heels, but I might as well have been trying to cut open a brick with a butter knife.

"Then what is? The adventure? This adventure sucks almost as hard as the spaghetti." I somersaulted out of the way of the dragon's thunderous stomps. "Look, I'm sorry you never got to do this when it was fun, but guess what? Things change. Family traditions end. Grandmas die. Maybe Grandma would rather spend some of her precious last moments imparting wisdom to her granddaughters than eating that godawful spaghetti. So get up, and get out of here, okay?"

Laura nodded, then got to her feet. Just as she did, one of Zandara's wasp-legs skewered my shoulder and pinned me to the floor. I screamed in wretched agony as Zandara brought his enormous stinger closer to my face. He held up the stinger to strike, then–

Laura's sword cleaved the wasp-tail right off. Zandara roared, and the sack of Nutmeg dropped out of his arms. I looked at the bag as it fell through the air…

"Jesus, Katie, listen to your own loving speeches!" said Laura. She supported my weight as we scurried out the door, through the dark castle corridors, past the guards in the courtyard, and back into the gardens. King Zandara's roaring shook the whole world as I recited the incantation again, summoning the mirror and–

We were back in Grandma's attic.

I collapsed on the floor as Laura pulled off her armor. She helped me down the stairs in her tank-top and yoga pants.

"Get Uncle Hugh," I said. "He's the best healer."

"Uncle Hugh? You mean my dad?"

"Yeah, that's the one…"

All the moms and dads and aunts and uncles were mad at us when we told them what happened, but not that mad. The other cousins thought it was pretty cool.

That night Aunt Janet made spaghetti. She used regular nutmeg, and not that much of it, because she needed room for oregano and basil and garlic and red pepper flakes. We ate on the floor in Grandma's bedroom, where she told us the story for the hundredth time of how she found the mirror in the first place and of all the fantastic adventures she had in her day. It was, by a mile, the best Halloween spaghetti the Andersens ever ate.

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The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Behold my brain the golden throne of my consciousness. In here I am seated. Shackled. From here I police the land.

Baked Ziti

The Cat That Walks On Its Hindlegs (<900 words)

https://thunderdome.cc/?story=10452

The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 03:48 on Mar 23, 2022

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