You looking for trouble, friend? Cos if you're looking, look no further. I will get mad for no reason and talk as much crap about you, myself, anyone or anything if need be.
I'll baby shoes for sale never worn your rear end
don't be too mean im a bit sensitive
|# ? May 13, 2022 15:13|
|# ? Nov 28, 2023 10:15|
I'll baby shoes for sale never worn your rear end
I have nothing to go on except your willingness to engage. I'm more just pissed at EVERYONE ELSE IN THIS ENTIRE COMMUNITY FOR NOT ALREADY ISSUING SOME KIND OF BRAWL PROMPT!
What the hell is wrong with every single one of you loving slackers?
|# ? May 13, 2022 15:30|
It's been 17 whole minutes since sephiRoth was kind enough to slap me back with their finest dueling gloves.
Pick up the pace. We got a bloodometer to fill.
|# ? May 13, 2022 15:31|
Alright, you want a brawl prompt? Fine. I’m gonna give you two two random tropes from TV Tropes. Both of them must be used. (How they are used is up to you.)
sephiROth IRA, your tropes are: Black Spot , and Barely Missed Cushion.
Chilli, your tropes are: Chunky Salsa Rule and Facial Scruff.
Deadline is on May 27th.
LET'S GET IT ON!
The man called M fucked around with this message at 21:13 on May 13, 2022
|# ? May 13, 2022 16:31|
Alright, you want a brawl prompt? Fine. I’m gonna give you two two random tropes from TV Tropes. Both of them must be used. (How they are used is up to you.)
|# ? May 13, 2022 16:34|
Since it was asked: virtually all stories count toward the Blood-o-Meter (including Chili's story, yes). That includes brawls, redemptions, and DQed stories submitted after the deadline. It does NOT include interprompt stories, which, for those who are unfamiliar, are the quick and often silly stories that sometimes get posted between rounds.
Mostly the blood gods would prefer people either sign up for weeks or do brawls, however. Fresh blood best blood.
|# ? May 13, 2022 18:01|
IN, unless you prefer side judge (I'll still sacrifice a DQ story at the altar)
|# ? May 13, 2022 21:02|
Really looking forward how to express the cushion thing in text.
|# ? May 13, 2022 21:51|
The blood throne calls, and we all must answer.
|# ? May 14, 2022 02:07|
a moss wreathed titan blinks the lichen from its eyes as it raises its head and utters three words:
im in bithc
|# ? May 14, 2022 02:26|
weird cozy is still cozy right
|# ? May 14, 2022 05:23|
Absolutely! As long as it still meets the rest of the prompt, get as weird as you like
|# ? May 14, 2022 07:51|
IN, unless you prefer side judge (I'll still sacrifice a DQ story at the altar)
I would love for you to be in!!
That said I do need 2 judges, so it's up to you
|# ? May 14, 2022 08:24|
It has come to my attention that a swap was asked for in Chilli and SephiRoth IRA's brawl.
Reminder (If I didn't mention already), the Tropes given are completely random.
Chili, your new tropes are: "Sesame Street" Cred and Units not to scale.
SephiRoth IRA, your new tropes are: Fair Play Villain and Novelization
Remember, these are COMPLETELY Random.
They both get a 250 word deduction, so their new limit is 1250 words.
|# ? May 14, 2022 14:23|
Up and Down Crits for Week #509
Albatrossy_Rodent - Gaby Baby:
There’s several ways you might modify the story, and each would lead to a tonal shift. Keeping it as the kid-Gabe’s perspective keeps it a humor piece. In this case, I would play up the ridiculous things kids do and how they see the world. You have a pretty good handle on kid voice/behavior here already (like ““Sandy's not even a grown-up, she's like sixteen.””) and Gabe busting out despite time-Gabriel’s advice to tattle, though there’s places where the kid Gabe is voicing a bit too much metacognition (such as: ”I liked dinosaurs when I was in preschool, but in kindergarten I liked Batman…” and “…and it’s too much…”). The sudden swap to trying to stop 9/11 is the funniest part.
The alternative is, as discussed previously, to swap the perspective to time-Gabriel, which would probably also shift the tone of the story to more of a horror story because we might get them speculating as to all the horrible changes that could occur because of the screwup, or how they’ll never be able to fix themselves, or whatever. Or, you could have a more poignant story with the shift of Babby Gabe to Teenage Gabe. That seems more in line with where your ending is trying to land, since time-Gabe leaves with “Don’t be ashamed. You’re a weird kid, you’re gonna do weird stuff, but the weirdness is what your real friends are going to love about you.” What parts of the story are important to that ending? A more meaningful conversation about Gabe’s weirdness and self can happen with a teen, but that leaves less room for the humor.
Tars Tarkas - As I Went Down In The River...:
It feels like a tense shift needs to happen in the first paragraph (”The river had been calm… The participants had hummed sweet hymns…”) to add clarity. I don’t really buy “Jackson hadn’t even noticed he was in the water until it was up to his waste.” It’s very hard to not notice you’re in water. Look also for typos (”he burired it in the backyard; that was eleven houses ago). I like the use of counting moves to count passed time, though I would like a better handle on his age.
At first, the story seems to be about reclaiming a moment of faith from baptism. Then, we go full-weird with the alligator dragging him to a magical underwater dream-city. Why does the memory of the gator only surface when he sees it? Presumably, he remembers the underwater city and gator and that leads him to go back to the river, in which case, you can foreshadow this up in the first paragraph.
As it is, the story has tonal whiplash. It starts with a somber memory, then goes absolutely nuts with fancy-staff men yelling “Come with us!” and ridiculous fakeouts (”Too late, kid! I hunger!…The alligator pulled a lunch bag out of its pocket…”) that are the written equivalent of a Duke’s of Hazard perspective fakeout (will the cars collide midair!?!? No, they’re like 20 feet apart if you rotate the camera to see that). The story also advances without any preparation. If the alligator has a pocket, then perhaps it needs to be wearing a suit when we meet it. If Jackson has really been to the river nine times, then the alligator and the priests are not going to be a surprise at all like they are presented. Otherwise, it feels like the story is not planned. Perhaps it isn’t, in which case a strong revising pass from the end backward is needed. If you’re trying more for dream-logic, where the world shifts, I would be more explicit about it. If the alligator has a pocket, but didn’t have one before, Jackson can think that to himself, the way when we wake up dreams don’t make as sense as they did. Another note: Exclamation marks should be used sparingly. You have way too many here. I also don’t get a sense of where things are. The gator drags him to and fro, but if they’re sitting on a park bench underwater I want some descriptions. The area can be dream-surreal, but I want to be able to visualize it.
I also don’t know what kind of message the story is trying to leave us with. What does beating the poo poo out of an alligator with a puzzle-piece/cross then using it for shoes represent? If this is to be a meaningful dream that changes Jackson, we need some indication of what he learned. That he doesn’t want to die? Is that it? The ending is not satisfying. We learn Jackson was ‘too busy working and living his life.’ In what way? What changed? This is too vague, and the connection between anything he might have learned in his weird spiritual journey and his previous life is not apparent. In fact, we don’t really understand what brought him back to the river in the first place. Details about what his life is like before and after this experience are critical to making the story meaningful to both the protagonist and the reader.
Perhaps there is too much focus on making the story a 1:1 recreation of T-Rex’s dream, but what we need here is a story, not simply an elaboration on T-Rex’s dream events.
|# ? May 14, 2022 15:41|
The Serene World
They were stargazing when they saw the distant streak of light fall from the heavens. This far away, the falling star was silent, but Old Xia recognized the telltale streak of green angelfire.
“That’d be one of the Seraphim,” he said. “They’ll be wantin’ a proper welcome.”
His daughter, Tuin, could already tell he was committed, so she didn’t argue, just said, “It’s a long walk to the horizon.”
She helped him pack the next evening, and then he was off before the dawn. She watched until his silhouette was distant. He turned and looked back at her, and even though neither could properly see, both of them knew the other was smiling.
Xia could have skipped the waystations—he kept the ancient cybernetics in his legs under good repair—but he rested at each one, took his sip of wellwater, and sat under each candleberry tree. Along the winding dirt road, the traveler’s gardens kept him fed until they petered out into the snow-blanketed tundra, and the path vanished.
It wasn’t hard to find the fallen Seraph. Their ship had cut a path through one of the valleys, and though snowdrifts had piled high next to it, the glint of its silver hull shone bright in the sunlight. Old Xia made his way down the rocky cliffs and found the pilot’s reliquary-nest. The Seraph was lying still, only a torso, head, and single arm left. Their wings had been stripped bare, the metallic feathers shorn.
“You’ll be okay,” Xia murmured. Gently, he disconnected the Seraph from the tangles of wires and tubes of the cockpit, then lifted them up. He set them down next to the cliffside and covered them with his cloak.
“Time and rest are the great healers,” he said, and set to work building a cabin. From time to time, Old Xia would sit, and his eyes would linger on the Seraph. Somewhere inside them, little nanites were working to repair the damage. The struggle above had not been kind to them. Scars upon scars were layered over their skin. Even now, in their hibernating state, their eyes twitched beneath the lids, and their jaw was clenched.
Old Xia had brought along his ‘Netic tool, so the cabin only took a few days to build, and the roof another after that, his old hands deftly weaving the still living branches of vitapine. To get the fur for the bed, Xia played his pipes. After his song was done, the animals would let him groom them with the brush on his ‘Netic. When the bed was ready, Xia lifted the Seraph onto it and set a bowl of berry-paste by it. Eventually, the Seraph’s autotube found it and coiled into the bowl. Still, they hibernated. Old Xia set about crafting a hydroponic garden that would be watered with melt-snow.
With winter approaching, Xia set out to find some emberbirds, coaxing them down from a high nest with a song his grandmother had taught him. They gifted him feathers, red like heated iron, and he set them in a stove by the Seraph’s bed.
Soon enough, the dark clouds came over the valley. Old Xia shut the door tight, and watched out the window as the snows came down endless, drifting and swirling on the wind, while the emberfeathers crackled with warmth. While he waited, he passed the time making carvings of the animals whose gifts he had received.
The tanglefruit plants came along nicely, and Xia got into a routine of little chores and care. Each evening, he sat another bowl by the bedside and smiled.
At last, the Seraph stirred, and their eyes flickered open.
“I must return,” they said. “I have… more battles to fight. The conflict….”
“You can rest,” Old Xia said. “There’s no haste to your return.” He could see the Seraph struggling, trying to muster the energy to even move, though their fingers trembled with the effort.
Exhaustion won out over resolve, and they went limp again. “They need me,” they muttered.
“All those battles will be there when you return,” Old Xia said, voice soothing and low. “There were struggles when I was a boy, and I doubt they’ll be ending any time soon.”
The Seraph went quiet for a time. They watched the emberfeathers crackle, then watched the snow fall silently across the valley. “How old are you?” they said at last.
“Older than you,” Xia said. The Seraph looked up, and met Xia’s eyes. They could see the centuries of wear in them. “Rest,” said Xia.
A serenity settled over the Seraph. Their jaw unclenched, and when their eyes closed at last, there was no movement in them. “Thank you,” they said, and slept, while Old Xia kept watch.
|# ? May 14, 2022 20:45|
A Witchy Stroll in Guardian’s Grove
Word count: 704
Tiffany took a deep breath of gently swirling steam and let it back out into the depths of her china tea cup, pinky daintily raised. Mapping the ley-lines (fairies), cataloging local wildlife (mostly slugs), guiding strays home (cats and humans alike)—witching was hard work.
Felix, an orange tabby and a former stray himself, purred where he lay curled up on her lap. Tiffany obligingly rubbed under his chin.
What she needed was some help around here. A brownie would do nicely, if she could tempt one to her garden with a sufficiently stylish mushroom patch. She peered into the bottom of her cup at the soggy white peony leaves lumping together into a distinct four-quadrant shape. Outlook hopeful.
The china clinked as she set it in the sink for later and gathered her outfit to face the day: pointed hat, cloak and leaf-shaped pin, gloves, and, quite naturally, a pair of large purple gumboots.
She paused on the porch, appreciating the patter of rain on wood, and glanced back at Felix. He meowed and stretched out in front of the fireplace. Her home would stay expertly guarded in her absence.
Tiffany patted her hat once for safety and set off into the reliable embrace of Guardian’s Grove. Thick moss cushioned her footfalls. A brook babbled nearby, swelling in renewal at the first rains of fall.
The trees provided everything she could ask for—shelter, food (in the case of chestnut trees), and companionship. House sparrows called to each other across the woods, a seeking toodle here and a returning dee there, all fluffed up in their nests to keep warm.
And the tree roots, in particular, were of interest. Tiffany was far from their only beneficiary. She crouched down at the base of an elm, minding her cloak didn’t end up in the moss.
“Hmm,” she hummed to herself, carefully inspecting the small white buds emerging from the soil. “A liberty cap. Not quite right.”
She stood up and stretched her back. Mutualism was an important facet of nature. Like how she housed Felix and in return he kept her feet warm.
What she was looking for would most likely be found along a ley-line. She had come prepared, unfolding a hand-drawn map from the deep pockets of her skirt.
“Let’s see…” She scrunched up her nose. “North from the anthill, north again at the rock shaped like a duck, south from the chestnut tree with the knot below the bottom branch, south from turtle pond, west of the fallen log, veer right past the boulder with the heart graffiti, left at the old lost-and-found bicycle on the path, turn right off the path again at the stump that looks like Elvis, and….”
Tiffany glanced up at her surroundings. Her purple gumboots were now planted solidly on the ley-line that ran through Guardian’s Grove, invisible to the untrained eye under all the mosses that thrived in the undergrowth.
The map returned to the safe harbour of her pocket and she stepped forward, senses peeled. The woods smelled sweet and earthy, the aroma of the final days before the leaves started their transition into the mosaic of fall. Ferns rustled with the passage of small, burrowing mammals. A squirrel stared at her, cheeks full and limbs splayed across a tree trunk, before resuming its descent.
She watched it scurry off into the woods. Then—there! A hint of red under a pine tree?
Tiffany crept closer, until she could confirm the find with her own eyes. A cheery round cap in red with white spots. Fly agaric!
She bent down and worked a quick spell for the health and safety of the network of mycelium that produced such a treasure. Then, with great care and consideration, she scooped a single mushroom up into her hands, rich soil and all.
Tiffany thought it looked perfect in her garden, planted right between Bard the Elvis gnome and Don Fluixote, the gnome riding a flamingo. Felix, overseeing her handiwork from his perch at the kitchen window, seemed to think so too, yawning his approval.
That night, she settled into bed and closed her eyes to the soft lullaby of a brownie setting about its work.
|# ? May 14, 2022 22:03|
Always Bring a Cardigan
a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 16:27 on Jul 25, 2022
|# ? May 15, 2022 13:43|
Nethilia fucked around with this message at 10:34 on Jan 15, 2023
|# ? May 15, 2022 14:48|
derp fucked around with this message at 20:00 on Jan 2, 2023
|# ? May 15, 2022 16:21|
Week 510 Cozy with a caveat: Unless some cozy souls offer to judge by closing time, DQ this and I will be an rear end. judge
Far in the future, fifty-seven years from now, there lived two little girls. Okay, they’re not little. Almost grown-ups. Better? Victoria lived at the top of the tallest skyscraper. Who? Oh, yes. Syd lived there, too. I forgot about her, thanks for reminding me.
From their window, they could see clouds so thick you might try to use them for a pillow. But you can’t, they’re just clouds, after all. You know what else is a cloud? Farts. Stink clouds. Alright, settle down.
Every night, they played fetch with Robo-Daisy, who was a robot dog, and also a vacuum cleaner, just like she is now. Because they threw a metal robo-ball, Syd grew a muscle arm and her team won the under eight tee-ball league every year.
Syd was also an inventor. She always kept her journal under her pillow so she could invent without getting out of bed. Her favorite was a special telescope that could look around all the other buildings and see Gramma’s house. A homework robot would be good, but you can’t invent one unless you actually do your homework.
I’m getting to you. In the future, everyone ate gloop. At dinner, a tube came out of the ceiling and people said, “Gloop me!” and it sprayed gloop all over their plates. Victoria was the best gloop chef. She had one million subscribers on her cooking channel, but there are only so many ways you can prepare gloop. Hmm, what do you think it tasted like? Gross. But you’re exactly right.
One day, Victoria said, “There has to be a better way,” and shook her fist at the sky, like in Mum’s favorite commercial. “Who makes the best food?” thought Victoria.
Syd said, “Gramma, duh.” Wait, you didn’t know sisters can hear each other’s thoughts if they squeeze their eyes shut for at least an hour?
Anyway, Gramma’s house was the only place in the world with grass since she never mowed it. But it never got too tall because Gramma had a secret. Hang on, I’ll tell you.
They looked in on Gramma through the telescope. She had things on a plate that were kind of round, with little brown dots, and a glass of strange white juice. Gramma was really chowing down on these things. Syd and Victoria looked at each other and went, “WHAT? What the heck are those?” You sure? Maybe they’re something else that’s round and brown. Dis-gu-sting. I dare you to ask Gramma if she eats that.
Whatever they were, once Gramma finished eating and gulped down the mystery juice, she burped so loudly the house shook, then fell asleep in the Gramma chair. Victoria said, “I simply must have that recipe.”
So Syd worked until dark, drawing in her journal, and invented a grappling hook that could reach the moon. In the morning, they blasted off. When the hook hit the moon, it opened one eye and said, “Ow! What the heck are you doing?” But the moon was too tired to stop them and fell back to sleep.
They swung on the rope all the way to Gramma’s house and landed on her porch. “Activate stealth mode,” Syd whispered.
But Grammas can’t be fooled. “Come give Gramma kisses.”
“No time for mushy stuff,” said Victoria. “We need that recipe, stat.”
“Slow your roll, small fry. Gramma’s just a big old sleepyhead.” Gramma got the box off the top of the fridge and gave them the recipe card.
Victoria read it. “Milk? Eggs? Gramma, this is just nonsense.”
“Watch.” Gramma rang one of her special bells that no one else is allowed to touch and the girls saw two strange creatures wearing snorkels come out of the pool behind the house. “This is how I get my milk and eggs.”
The little creature laid an egg. The big one munched some grass and said, “Moo-ilk me.” Syd milked it with her super-strong arm but was grossed out, like gag-me-with-a-spoon. They had never seen animals before, just robots, so they had to make up names for them. Yeah, but if you didn’t know about chickens and cows you’d make up new names. They said “Goodbye,” to—Daisy Jr.—and?—okay, Uncle Tim. Then Syd washed her hands. For once.
While Victoria baked millions of cookies and made a cooking video, Syd redesigned the gloop pipes. At nighttime snacks, they were finished. Instead of gloop, cookies shot out onto every plate. Those cookies were dee-lish. I’m not saying they were heroes, but Victoria and Syd were elected Presidents of the World. Job well done, they went home for a good night’s sleep.
Thank you, it was a ‘cool story, brah.’ Smash that like button. Shh, don’t wake Syd. Alright, one more tuck-in. Yes, I’ll leave the little light on.
|# ? May 15, 2022 19:28|
Clover awoke to the sound of rain. Her cat, Hammond, ever the professional, was already dressed. He’d made her some tea.
“Punctuality is a virtue, Miss Clover,” he said. He looked very smart in his vest and apron.
Clover turned away, wincing, her face enveloped by her pillow. Hammond tsk’d. He reached for a small jar of honey, shaped like a summer golden hive in miniature, and added a drop to the cup he’d just poured.
“Opening soon approaches, Miss Clover. Your breakfast awaits. You’ll find it downstairs.”
“Hammy, please. I just want to sleep.”
“Sleep is important, but so are our duties.”
“Nobody ever comes by in the rain.”
“Nobody yet.” Hammond nodded. “And maybe not ever. But suppose someone did. Would you abandon them, out in the rain?”
Clover sighed, and sat up in bed. She loosened the buttons on her crumpled nightshirt.
“Where are we today, then? Still in the town.”
“We moved in the night. We’re in the woods.”
Remembering her tea, she stopped to partake, nursing the cup between her fingers, letting the warmth flow into her hands. Hammond finished laying out her uniform, freshly washed and ironed, before heading for the door.
It was a few minutes before Clover joined him, adjusting her apron as she set down the stairs. Her eyes remained on half-lidded vigil. Her hair was a mess, but she was awake.
“Very asymmetrical, Miss Clover.”
“Thanks, Hammy.” She winked with a toothy little grin. “Thought I’d try sleeping on the other side, you know?”
Satisfied, finally, with the state of her strings, Clover looked out from the storefront window. They were indeed in the middle of the woods, with a single dirt path flowing just past the door.
“Shame,” she said, “I’ll miss the seaside.”
Munching on some toast, she went about her duties, setting up shop like any other day. The cafe picked the venues, without their input. Hammond had the kitchen. The front room was hers. Having tended to the kettles, each set to boil, she dusted the tables, adjusted the chairs. The sound of the rain on the glass kept her languid, a hum on her lips, her own invention. She grabbed the broom and began to sweep. The floorboards creaked softly with every step.
Her chores completed, Clover returned to the counter, where she kept a radio next to the cash register. Taking a minute to find the right station, wordless melodies soon filled the space, joined soon after by the smell of fresh pastries, left overnight to rise in the oven.
Clover breathed in deep and leaned against the cash register, propping up her head with her right hand, drumming on the countertop quietly with her left. Hammond re-entered, carrying a tray. She helped put the croissants out on display.
“Capital work, Miss Clover,” he said, surveying the area, “Truly, your tardiness belies your talents.”
“What can I say?” Clover shrugged. “If it’s worth waiting for, it’s worth waiting for.” Approaching the door, she flipped over the sign: NOW OPEN, in flowing cursive.
Returning to her post, Clover raised her elbows to the countertop and rested her chin on her fingers. The rain continued to fall through the trees, the dense green foliage quivering with the weather. This wasn’t such a bad spot, Clover supposed. The cafe was perfect, unspoiled, and empty. Days like this were okay too.
Time passed slowly, if it passed at all, Even Hammond, eventually, gave up. Leaping up to the counter, he made himself comfortable, curling up into a ball next to the radio. Clover reached for the dial, lowering the volume. Hammond purred. She scratched behind his ears.
“All that fuss for nothing,” she said with a mischievous grin
“It’s not wrong to be ready.”
“But it’s nice, you know? Not to be needed.”
Hidden by the clouds above, and the trees, the day would darken, signaling night. Clover stretched and yawned and ran her fingers through her hair. Hammond had taken a position by the window.
His ears perked up, then his body followed. “Miss Clover,” he said. “I believe someone’s coming.”
Clover’s eyes snapped open. She did her best to make herself presentable, brushing at the crinkles and crumples in her clothes. Hammond raced back to the open countertop, poised and ready to bow his head.
The door swung open, ringing the bell. Cloaked figure entered, dripping wet, and threw back their hood. “Not too late?” They looked to the counter.
“Not at all,” said Clover with a two-finger salute. “Anytime, anywhere, anyone who needs a break.”
|# ? May 15, 2022 20:39|
flerp fucked around with this message at 20:09 on Oct 9, 2022
|# ? May 15, 2022 22:55|
Cozy conflict: Dropped items always end up in the weirdest spots
Night had fallen on Solaris-Five by the time Fay climbed up to join Jasper on their shuttle’s hull.
Above, diaphanous clouds parted to reveal the distant iridescence of uncharted night; spirals of nebulae glistened like schools of emerald fish against the blackened depths. Jasper lay stretched out on the glassy metal, hands behind his head, looking up to the stars—to all the places, Fay thought bitterly, they could not go.
‘No luck?’ he asked, turning to face her.
Fay shook her head, and sat down heavily beside him, cross-legged. Her scales caught the light from Jasper’s lantern, reflecting in shades of blue and gold, up to the smoothness of a face tinged red from exhaustion. ‘It was those Karlaks,’ she muttered, worrying her hands together. ‘I know it. Those repairs were too cheap. They’re counting on us to go back.’
Jasper shrugged with a carelessness still foreign to Fay. Three cycles working together, shoulder-to-shoulder in that tiny shuttle; and for all the challenges she’d expected, her cold-blooded limbs so close to his warmth, his circadian schedule against her cyclic hibernation, nonchalance barely merited mention.
But it was his easy smile, the way he shrugged off dire concerns, that she found hardest to understand. ‘If I don’t find the source,’ she said slowly, running a grease-stained hand over her overalls before patting pockets for her pipe, ‘we won’t make it halfway to the next station before it all gunks up again. Empress. I bet it’s the insulation they put in. I bet it’s all come to bits and jammed up the intakes.’
‘Fay,’ Jasper said, passing her the pipe, already full and smouldering. ‘You’ve been in there for nine hours. You’ve earned some downtime to stop thinking about it.’
‘Jasper,’ Fay frowned, between hits, ‘if I don’t think about this, we’re not going anywhere unless someone else fixes it. And I don’t see anybody else on this planet—’
‘Well, poo poo,’ Jasper said. ‘Why am I still wearing my shirt?’
‘Can’t hear you,’ Jasper said, voice muffled by the shirt pulled up and over his head. Fay watched him struggle ineffectually against the fabric, writhing as if caught on a lure, before making a show of extricating himself and flinging it over the edge. He smiled at Fay, who returned his good humour with a glare.
‘I don’t think,’ she said, ‘you’re listening to me.’
‘Fay,’ he started again. ‘You’ve been in there for nine hours. You’ve tried everything—’
‘Most everything—look. We have an FTL drive, right?’
‘—Right,’ Fay said, caught off-guard.
‘And I was thinking, when we do get this back in the sky, and I’m sure we will, I have every confidence in you … why don’t we always run the FTL? I mean, we’d get everywhere so much quicker, right?’
Fay blinked, twin eyelids resolving into disbelief. Jasper, half-naked from the waist up, chest covered in a dark carpet of fur, smiled back blithely.
‘Well, thank Empress you’re just the navigator,’ she said. ‘Do you have any idea how much energy FTL requires? How long its recharge cycle takes? If we ran it even a quarter of the time, it would never get enough downtime to—oh. Oh.’
Jasper smiled indulgently, and reached out an arm to loop around Fay’s shoulder, pulling her close to him. She sighed, nuzzling into his chest as he lay back against the hull. ‘Y’know, you know a lot about spaceship engines,’ Jasper murmured, stroking her overlocking scales. ‘But there’s an engine in here you need to maintain, too.’
‘I know,’ Fay murmured, running a hand along Jasper’s chest, tangling fingers in his thick hair. ‘This engine would just rest a lot easier if it could work out what was—hang on.’
She sat up suddenly, tangled fingers pulling out a wad of Jasper’s hair as she raised her hand to the lantern-light. ‘Hang on,’ she repeated, as Jasper clutched his chest and gasped: ‘What was that for?’
‘It’s not insulation jamming the intakes,’ she hissed, narrowing her eyes at his black curls. ‘Nine hours. Nine hours and all I needed was to get you topless.’
‘Um,’ Jasper managed, sheepishly. ‘I—I guess Rappori ships don’t normally need hair filters, do they?’
‘Uggghhh,’ Fay sighed, collapsing back against the hull.
‘Sorry,’ Jasper murmured. ‘Shall I … chart a course to apology drinks?’
Fay stayed silent, taking in the nebulae above, the shimmering points of possibility—all the places they could now go. The night markets of Roppori. The frantic exuberance of Balthaeus. The complex commerce of Karlak.
‘No,’ she said. ‘Not yet. Let’s just—let’s recharge, a little, first.’
Jasper smiled, and pulled her close to him, rubbing the small of her back as they admired the night sky.
‘But don’t get me wrong,’ she added. ‘You’re buying me so many drinks after this.’
|# ? May 16, 2022 00:30|
The Care and Keeping of Corgi
Sunlight filtered through the trees, filling the laundry room with the welcoming warmth of light. Elizabeth closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of fresh linens and plants. The indoor plant situation in the house had gotten out of control, so she'd moved some into the laundry room some months back. The fussy orchids and anthuriums didn't survive the transition, but the indifferent jade plant kept on growing like always. As for the cilantro, well, she was starting to think that thing actually thrived off the soap-rich air. A good thing, that: she was always doing laundry, especially in the heat of summertime.
A thin whine floated up from her feet. Her corgi, Muffin, had planted himself by her feet. He was smiling, the little scamp: probably because he wanted treats. He always wanted treats. That was the corgi way.
"You hungry, little monster?" She leaned down and rubbed the top of his red-and-white head. He jerked away, momentarily indignant, then shoved his head into her palm when she tried to stop. "Goofball. Come on, let's get you fed. And let's get me fed, too, because I've been folding laundry forever, and I think my ramen's ready."
Muffin followed at her heels as she wandered into the kitchen. Sunlight poured through the window over the sink, giving life to the sage cabinets and stone counters. The air was rich with the salty scent of ramen, waiting for her to eat. She took it all in and sighed with contentment. "It's the little things, right, Muffin?"
Muffin honked appreciatively. He was a honker, that one: an odd trait for a corgi, but it suited him perfectly. He could convey a lot of emotion with those noises, especially when he was grumpy about something. The one time she offered him a piece of cilantro, he must have honked at her all day.
She ladled the herbed broth and noodles into her bowl and brought an experimental spoonful to her lips. Before she could try it, Muffin smacked his paw against her foot.
"Sorry, buddy, but dogs can't really eat ramen," she said.
He barked at her, indignant and proud. She laughed and stuck out her tongue. "No woofs!"
A bird-like trill stole her attention. She waited for the protracted song to finish, then lowered her spoon. "Dryer's done. Back to folding." She could finish her ramen first, but there was something so comforting about folding laundry straight out of the dryer that she couldn't resist.
She brought the ramen bowl to the laundry room: a necessary precaution in a home with a furry food thief. The thief in question waited patiently at her side as she folded the plush towels from the dryer. Allergies seriously limited what kind of detergents she could use, but the perfume-free varieties still had a natural scent she loved. She pressed one of the towels to her face and inhaled the smell. "Wonderful."
When she set down the towel, Muffin rendered his displeasure with a tiny woof. Guilt washed over her as she realized she'd forgotten to give him his food. "I'm so sorry, little baby!" He was almost ten—no baby by any stretch, but he sure acted like it. "Here, I'll give you something special to make up for it."
She took the ramen bowl and sat cross-legged against the wall where she kept her plants. They strained towards the light, creating the illusion that they were watching her enjoy her food. That seemed fair to her. She'd watched them eat and drink before, especially the pitcher plant.
"Okay, come here, Muffin." That was unnecessary since Muffin was already at her side. His tongue flopped out of one side of his mouth as he panted in anticipation of the good things to come. She laughed and flicked her fingers in front of his nose. "Now wait."
Taking great care not to splash herself, she pulled out a single strand of ramen with her chopsticks, then dangled it over Muffin's nose. A leafy green dangled precariously from the tip; Muffin eyed it like it was home-grown gold.
"Wait…" she said. "Wait…okay, get it!"
He snatched the noodle in his jaws. It hit his tongue, and he closed his mouth, and for a moment, all was right with the world.
Then he froze.
Elizabeth sat up straight. "What's wrong, baby?"
Muffin chewed once—twice. Then he spat the mangled noodle on the floor. In the center of the mush sat his most hated enemy: the dreaded cilantro leaf.
"Oh no, I forgot I put that in there! I'm so sorry, Muffin!"
His eyes narrowed, and he raised his snout, and the laundry room was forever shaken by the honk of a corgi betrayed.
|# ? May 16, 2022 01:05|
Thanks for the crit flerpo
Mr. Skunk scuttled home through the thicket, one paw pushing away the stems of the nettle while the other carried a basket of all the nastiest mushrooms, perfect for improving the stench of his spray. His daughter Stella wandered close behind with a basket of sweet berries and a sly-blue sundress unbefitting of a skunkling. Mr. Skunk had long accepted that his daughter wasn't one for skunkish pursuits, and even loved her for it, but he often worried about her place in the world. Stella's sprays smelled of blueberries and nectars and wildflowers, smells that would attract the scary things of the forest rather than repel them.
Mr. Skunk spotted a hive of bees scurrying in the treetops above.
"Bah!" he grunted. "Surely getting ready for the year's flower contest. I don't see why they even try. They would still win if they didn't."
They kept walking. When they neared the bridge to their little cottage, Stella meekly said, "Poppa?"
Mr. Skunk turned his head. "What is it, dear?"
"Well…Momma told me why you hate the flower contest so much."
Mr. Skunk chortled. "Did she now? I assure you, my darling, my youthful entries into the contest were not in earnest. I was simply testing whether I could cultivate stinkier flowers to maximize the punge of my skunk-farts. I hoped to get in last place, as a matter of fact, as a matter of fact, to prove I could grow the worst-smelling flowers in the whole forest."
"Maybe the first year," said Stella. "The third time you entered, you got sixth."
Mr. Skunk sighed as he seated himself on the ledge of the little stone bridge. "I see your mother really did tell you everything. I suppose I should've known this day would come; your eyes had the sparkle of a lover of lovely things as soon as you were born. I was much the same, disdaining the stink I was born to. I thought if I entered the world of flowers and moonlight, I would find my people with the rabbits and foxes for whom prettiness is an ancient legacy."
"But you didn't," said Stella, taking a seat next to her father.
"No. As well as I did in the competition, the rabbits and foxes still saw me as a stinky skunk. They made it known they didn't want our kind anywhere near their precious prettiness. So if you are asking my permission to join the contest, I must advise against it. You will not find the belonging you crave."
"I submitted the forms yesterday, Poppa," said Stella. "I'm not asking for your permission. I'm asking for your help."
"Well, I would advise you to rescind…"
"Don't you see, Poppa?" said Stella. "I'm not doing this to belong somewhere. I'm doing it because I want to grow flowers. I don't need to find my people. I have them." She set her paw on her father's.
They sat a moment, listening to the wind as it zig-zagged amongst the thicket.
"Stella," said Mr. Skunk. "Your mother and I were going to give you a skunk-name. Stench or Stonk, or the like. But when we saw you that you needed a name that matched the delicate chaos of the heavens."
They got up, but instead of going back into the house, they set their baskets on the porch and made their way to the garden shed.
"Let me warn you that we will not win the contest," said Mr. Skunk, rummaging through piles of discarded equipment, finally finding his rusted watering can. "The bees always win, and second is never close, even the wondrous prairie-gardens the foxes and rabbits conjure. We are going to lose."
"I know," said Stella. "But I bet we can beat your old score, sixth."
Mr. Skunk smiled. "Yes, I bet we can." The two of them walked out of the shed, determined to grow the fifth-best garden in the whole wood.
|# ? May 16, 2022 02:21|
I was just about to start brewing my morning coffee when Ria, my neighbor, called.
“Thank the Lord you pick up,” she said. “You must come over. There has been… a murder.”
Now, for anyone else, I would have said, ‘What are you doing talking to me? Call the cops.’ But I knew, vaguely, that something had happened way back when in the Philippines and Ria didn’t trust the police so I said, “Okay. I’ll be right there.”
“Thank the Lord,” she said. “I already make you a coffee.”
She pronounced it like ‘copy’ and I found that wildly endearing. When I broke my hip, she’d brought me meals out of good Catholic compassion and we’d chatted for hours for weeks and discovered we both had adult children living in other states and that we were both widows and I discovered that I was in love with her.
She was waiting for me by her mailbox. She was only two houses down but my arthritis was acting up that day so I was hobbling slowly. Her little dog, a Bichon named Mr. Washington, ran excited circles around her feet as soon as he saw me. We were good buddies, me and Mr. Washington. I gave them both a wave. Ria shook her head and put a hand on her hip.
“Why you are wearing a bathrobe?” she asked before she handed me a cup of coffee. “My goodness. What would my husband say?”
“You told me to hurry.”
“Kaya! I say to come! Not hurry!”
“Well, I can go back and change if-”
“No, no, no,” she said. “Come, come. Look at this murder.” She looped her arm around mine and helped me walk to the back of her house. She then pointed dramatically at her flowerbed. The dirt was kicked up. The plants broken and torn. I peered down at them, looking for a body or blood or signs of a struggle when she said, “Someone, some masamang man, he murder my flowers!”
“Ah.” I said. I couldn’t help but smile. “Ria, ‘murder’ usually, kind of specifically, means that a person, a human person, was killed.”
She gave my arm a light smack. “I know this! But I like the word. My heart is hurting. So it is a murder.”
I poked at the ground with my cane. After a moment, I uncovered the head of chewtoy.
“Well,” I said, “I think I know who the killer is.”
Mr. Washington darted between my legs, grabbed his half-buried toy, and then ran through the yard, squeaking and barking.
“No...” Ria said. “Mr. Washington! I change your name to Mr. Murder!” We watched him play, still arm and arm. I took a sip of coffee. She glanced back at her flowerbed and sighed.
“Well,” I said, “I’d, uh, I’d be happy to drive you to the store. We could buy some more flowers. Have them in the ground before lunch.”
“Hm,” she said. “Lunch. You eat breakfast?”
“No. Not yet.”
“Good,” she said. “I already cook tapsilog. Would you like?”
“I would like,” I said. “Though I am still wearing my bathrobe.”
“Tsk, hay naku. What would my husband say?”
“What would my wife?”
She smiled. “Maybe they are having breakfast, too, up in Heaven.”
“That would be nice.”
“Come, come.” She gave my arm a squeeze. “We eat first.”
She helped me up the stairs and through her backdoor. On the table, there were already two plates piled up with beef, garlic rice, and fried eggs. The smell was incredible. Her bringing me food was the best part of me breaking my hip.
We sat down and she offered me her hand.
“Will you say the Grace?”
I took her hand in mine. Gently, she rubbed her thumb across my knuckle. I looked at her hand and I took a deep breath and instead of a prayer I said, “Ria, can I take you to dinner?”
She gave me a look. “What?”
“Tonight, I mean. Can I take you to dinner?”
“Oh,” she said. “I thought you meant now. Yes, okay.”
“I mean, uh, as a date. I’d like to take you out on a date.”
“I know this!” She shook her head. “Take you so long to ask, ano ba. First, though, say the Grace. Then breakfast. Change clothes. Go to store. Flowers. I cook lunch. Maybe… pancit?”
“Pancit sounds good.”
“Then dinner date.”
“Dinner date sounds very good.”
“Grace,” I said. “I know.”
“Good." She squeezed my hand. “Go ahead.”
|# ? May 16, 2022 02:47|
Mr. Frog wants to sleep
It was late at night, and Mr. Frog was awake. He needed to sleep so he could bake a cake. For it was his birthday tomorrow, you see. He was turning thirty-three.
The crickets were chirping and chirping quite loudly. All Mr. Frog wanted to do was sleep soundly! He hopped over to them, to tell them to stay silent, or Else he will have to be violent!
“I say, cricket sirs, please cease and stop!” Mr. Frog said, about to flop.
“I’m sorry sir,” said the cricket rep. “We’re sorry that you haven’t slept! But we must chirp, can’t you see? Or else what crickets would we be?”
“Isn’t there another place where you can chirp like an ace?”
“I heard of a place about a mile away, where we can chirp and we can play!”
“Then go and play!” Said Mr. Frog. So he went back to his bog. While he felt like he had some booze, he really just wanted to snooze!
He tried to go to bed forsooth, but he was hunted by his youth! Memories of a tadpole be, bad ones that haunted him. (as you can see.) Memories and things he regretted, so much it made him quite upsetted. Not in the mood to snore, he went to get a pint from the store.
Joe the duck worked a late shift there, along with Jack Fox and Suzy Hare.
“What booze do you have?” Mr. Frog croaked.
“This gin with the flavor of artichoke!” Joe quaked this at the tired frog, who rather would sleep like a log.
“Wouldn’t he need some sleeping pills?” Suzy said, for the thrills.
“Good Idea Suzy,” Joe said looking out, his forgetfulness made him sound like a lout! “These should knock you out quite well, but don’t OD, that ain’t swell!”
“Thank you all!” Said the almost-toad. And so he left, carrying his load.
When he got home, he turned on his light. What he saw next was quite the fright! What he saw, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was his friends yelling, “SURPRISE!”
Mr. Frog wondered what was going on. It turns out, the crickets sang a song. They told his friends that he was trying to sleep, so to the opportunity they did leap. They literally brought everyone there, including Joe, Jim, and even Suzy Hare! To help their friend sleep heartily, they decided to have a slumber party.
So Mr. Frog learned in these ends, if you are having trouble sleeping it’s best to sleep with friends.
|# ? May 16, 2022 03:30|
curlingiron fucked around with this message at 21:53 on Jan 2, 2023
|# ? May 16, 2022 04:10|
Chloe’s sheets are just like Willow remembers them – soft and crisp, just the right weight, tight and comfy. It’s been two years since Willow’s been here last. Two years since she’s been in Boston. But the smells are the same, the same jasmine detergent, the same note of garlic hanging in the air, the clean hotel room smell in the closets. It’s familiar and satisfying and a little bit sad, but not in a way that curdles her, just a way that reminds her how precious the moment is.
The door to the studio creaks open. “Hey, stranger,” says Chloe, as she takes off her Docs and takes her hair down. Willow stirs, rises up in bed, grins dumbly at Chloe, who’s prettier than ever, her short secretarial hair grown out into cascading curls. “You look good.”
“It’s so loving good to see you,” Willow says, and climbs out of bed, clad in pajamas, and wraps her arms around Chloe. “And seriously, thanks for letting me stay.”
“I said you’re always welcome. I don’t say things I don’t mean. You are always welcome.”
It’s hard for Willow to believe that, even from Chloe. Willow says poo poo she doesn’t mean all the time. She tells moving friends she’ll stay in touch and doesn’t reach out. She offers to help with coworkers’ moves until it’s a day before and then hopes that they’ll forget. She tells her parents she’ll call more often and keeps on calling them once a month. She means those offers in the moment, maybe, but they don’t stick with her. And if she told someone they were always welcome and then they cashed that in after years of silence? She’d probably very likely find a way out of it.
Chloe changes in front of her into some sweatpants and a Harry Styles t-shirt. Willow wants to hug her, but she’s not sure if that’s appropriate, if that’s the dynamic. “I’m hungry,” Chloe says. “Potato pancakes?”
Even though she’s not really supposed to eat much before surgery, Willow nods. She’s not turning down a late-night Chloe potato pancake. She keeps a giant Tupperware container of her homemade mix in the fridge, and it was always perfect, exactly what they wanted, when they’d stayed up way too late talking crossfaded and found themselves up at 1 AM, craving carbs.
Chloe melts some butter in a cast iron and Willow straddles a chair behind her. “I almost stayed at a hotel,” Willow says.
“Yeah? Wanted to take a bath?”
“No, I– they still haven’t fixed it?”
“Still completely covered in chipped paint, yeah.”
Willow smiles, remembering the ritual of plucking paint chips out of the drain after they’d showered together. Somehow it always ended up being Willow’s job. “I just wasn’t sure you still wanted to see me. Like maybe in a ‘let’s get coffee’ way but not in a ‘let me sleep in your bed and also you make me snacks’ sort of way.”
“Aw, Willow,” Chloe says. She plops four pancakes into the butter and they sizzle. The air smells decadent. “You’re one of my dearest people. Really. I don’t say things I don’t mean.”
“You ghosted me,” Willow says. She looked over the messages and like, it was borderline. Like it wasn’t like Willow had asked a question and Chloe had never answered, it was just that Willow had said good night and Chloe never responded.
Chloe put her hand on Willow’s shoulder and ran it up through her hair. “Is this okay?” Chloe asks, and Willow nods. She’s turning her head every few seconds, eyes on the pan, but every time she looks back at Willow there’s this wide-eyed concern. “Um. It didn’t – I guess I do have this thing where, well, I need to be around people to feel close to them. And maybe that’s something I should work on, or–”
She dashes back over to the pan and flips the latkes, and there’s a not unpleasant charred smell coming from the skillet. “It’s good to see you,” Willow says, letting it go. Because it is good to see her, it’s good to see Chloe, even if Willow leaves for surgery tomorrow, doesn’t come back to Boston for another two years.
Willow goes to the fridge, takes out the sour cream and chives, and starts chopping the herbs on the counter next to the stove, next to Chloe. The two of them turn their heads at the same time, and even though the pancakes are starting to burn, they kiss for a long time.
|# ? May 16, 2022 04:55|
Cozy conflict: I can hear it, but I can't find it.
Something in the apartment was beeping.
Tracy forced her eyes open, ripped away from the fleeting half-dreams she'd been drifting through on the way to sleep. The sharp electronic chirp cut through the white noise of the running dishwasher, and Tracy ran through the potential sources in her head: smoke detector? Carbon-monoxide detector? No, not loud enough. Her phone was on vibrate; Marissa's phone was with her at work. Neither of them had set a non-phone alarm in who knows how long. What in God's name was beeping?
Not just beeping, Tracy realized as she stood up and glanced around the living room. The thing was playing a chirpy song, a tune that sounded vaguely familiar even in mangled MIDI form. A weird noise and a half-remembered song? God, she'd never get back to sleep. Time to go on a hunt.
Tracy started with the bookcases. She'd owned a few books as a child with embedded sound chips, theoretically intended to only play when the book was open, but prone to bugging out and playing endlessly for years. None of them had survived her childhood, thankfully, but who knew what Marissa might have brought home from her last visit to her parents? The newest additions to the latest bookshelf were mostly old college textbooks, though, and all blessedly silent. The remaining shelves were all full of old friends, the comfortable patched-together collection, and they were definitely not playing a maddeningly familiar song.
(What was it? Tracy could practically hear a line about diamond stars, sung in a masculine swagger. What in the Hell was that song?!)
A step into the bathroom and a quick visual sweep confirmed the lack of anything electronic, and so did a walk across the apartment to the kitchen -- finally clean, with the last load of dishes still running, loudly enough that Tracy could barely hear the beeping over the noise. Good. She didn't relish the possibility of sorting through all the utensil drawers for a forgotten egg timer. The only plausible place left was the bedroom -- the place with the most stuff, naturally, and the most places for some random gizmo to be thrown into and forgotten. Ah, well. They'd been putting off decluttering too long anyway; maybe Tracy could get started while she searched.
The beeping was at its loudest in the bedroom, but where could she even start looking without getting lost in the weeds? Tracy took a step back and walked the perimeter, with as much focus as she could manage. The closet! Oh, God, the closet. Nothing to it but to finish it.
The closet was simultaneously the most and least organized space in their apartment, neat rows of clothes battling with boxes of junk. Everything they hadn't bothered to unpack from the last move had ended up stuck in here, and it was far past time to throw most of it out, especially if it included some strange singing desk toy. The song was coming from above her now, loud as anything, and Tracy could finally place the voice that was yowling the lyrics in her head. Marc Bolan. Was she really being driven to madness by a terrible MIDI rendition of "Bang a Gong (Get It On)?"
Tracy stood on her tiptoes and pulled the first box down -- all old paperwork, no sound. The second was just as silent, containing a few sets of fitted sheets too small for their mattress, definite thrift-store stuff. She hauled down the third box, somehow heavier than the paperwork, and there it was on top: an open greeting card, MIDI chip screaming its little heart out. Tracy closed it as swiftly as she could, trying not to look at the layer of wrapped packages underneath.
No wonder Marissa had been dragging her feet on cleaning out the closet. She hadn't wanted to spoil her new hiding place for birthday gifts. And that song -- Tracy'd sung it once at karaoke, hadn't she? The night she'd finally worked up the nerve to buy Marissa a drink and strike up a conversation. She'd almost forgotten, and it was sweet to be reminded.
As beautiful silence reigned, Tracy put the boxes back in their place. All further chores could wait; she'd done her good deed for the day, and now it was time to nap away the rest of her day off, in the home she and Marissa had built together. Next month, after her birthday, there'd be time for thrift-store trips and decluttering and productivity. For now, it was time for a well-earned nap in a quiet apartment.
|# ? May 16, 2022 05:11|
What Is Best In Life
The soundscape of the colossal blackhole had always been strange, but it was a familiar, comforting, sort of strange. The giant blackhole, the Ink Maelstrom, was cannibalizing a trio of nearby stars. Its tremendous gravity flayed its neighbours, perpetually tearing off immense sheets of ions from their fiery halos. The crush ignited them further into a blazing red stream that spiralled towards the great abyss. This cosmic firestorm shone brighter than any real star, and it seemed even more alive set against the darkest blackness of the all-consuming vortex. The violence of this ingestion quaked tremors back through the spiral, tremors whose ripples echoed through the void as electromagnetic waves. These waves could be caught by radios and translated into sound.
For a long time these were the only songs we listened to and, for us, they made sense. They made our world make sense. But those times are gone now.
Sierra turned up the radio, using this symphony to set a dreamy mood. She dimmed the lights of her cabin room, the largest quarters on the ship, and she opened up the skylight, preferring to let the Ink Maelstrom’s fierce glow color the walls instead. The world was certainly different. Humans openly populated the galaxy now, and they explored purely for curiosity’s sake. Only a few still lived who recalled an older, bittersweet age. Though outwardly shy, the lingering habits of these elders sometimes spoke volumes of that time.
Sierra readied incense candles that reeked of recycled oil. A forgotten romantic cliché, but one her husband would appreciate. Her husband, Pike, could arrive any moment. There were so few left who’d understand these gestures, and today she was feeling the need to reminisce with someone who was there, to reprieve herself of a present that sometimes felt like it belonged to others. She re-adjusted the skylight. The Ink Maelstrom was now elegantly framed above.
Sierra's ancestors once saw beauty in their own heavens. They perceived immaculate celestial waltzes whose wakes traced flawless, platonic shapes. They believed these bodies were virtuous by immutable law, and that an impassable firmament kept them further innocent of the anarchy below. Her ancestors didn’t know the universe had other rules, rules primed to slowly sculpt the stuff of stars into life and, from that roiling cauldron, spawn apex predators of supreme menace. When her ancestors grew bold enough to break the firmament with their first starships, they soon pined back for its protection. They met their galactic neighbours, and they proved to be most unkind. Predators perfected by the eons. For a time, her ancestors hid from them in unthinkable, impossible places. From within the raging lights of blackholes. Generations of them lived in the shadows of these giants, living, loving, courageously nonetheless. Eventually the predators found her people, but her people knew the hazards of these fantastic places better than they, and in their reckless, single-minded pursuit the predators tumbled into the abyss.
My generation is the last to remember, we’ve been free for so long.
A firm knocking came at the door. It was him. Sierra smoothed her cushy gown. The door hissed open and Pike entered. The white-haired man held a jug of moonshine (labelled industrial cleaner) in one hand, and boxy, C-type rations in the other. It was nice of him to humour me. He placed the bounty upon a table.
“That stuff's not real, is it?” Sierra chided.
“Lady, it’s so real, it’ll whiten your teeth,” Pike said, taking in the room’s ambience, “Love what you’ve done to the place.”
They wasted no time. Pike took Sierra by the hand and they waltzed to the ambient soundscape. First the Andromeda Five-step, and then the Mourning Star’s Musette. The shapes their rhythms traced on the waxy, iron flooring weren’t as immaculate as the celestial transits that inspired them, but that was life. Lives the people of her day lived. They laughed when their ankles knocked after turning slightly out-of-sync, or when a left whisk morphed into a back whisk. It didn’t matter. Perfection could be aspired to, but changing the rules of the dance into something more pleasant suited them just fine. Their happy strides bounced into Orion’s Sway.
After a long interlude, their pace slowed. They weren’t as young as they once were, but they were still content to just hold one another under the roaring light, gently swinging to the beat of their heart. Pike’s gaze softened, the rosy illumination was too much to resist. He carefully parted Sierra’s silver hair and kissed her brow.
“You think the grandkids’ll understand any of this?”
“No, and I wouldn’t want them to.”
“Do you regret those days?”
“No. That was our time and we were strong enough for it. I'm glad we were the ones to see things through."
|# ? May 16, 2022 05:58|
Wild Like Wolves or Winds
Madeline did not like the sound that the rain made on the windows, not one little bit. "It sounds far too much like an army of ants stomping their boots as they march right up the side of the house." she said.
"I assure you," said Fen, "It is only the rain."
"You're talking again," said Madeline.
Fen stretched and yawned, then got up on all fours. "I am unable to deny it," he said.
"That's not good," said Madeleine.
Fen was a dog who looked a little bit like a wolf, a big grey scary wolf, as long as he was completely still. As soon as he moved he was clear not just a dog but a very good boy of a dog, more apt to lick someone into submission than to bite. Even when he was sleeping his big grey tail was usually in constant wag. And he did not, typically, speak in anything but the customary barks, yips, and low growls of his kind.
But there had been exceptions. Her thirteenth birthday, of course, but with the great purple fireball and the trees bursting into grapefruits and poor Joseph Bartignion growing antlers, Fen nuzzling her hand and saying "Now don't you find all this a bit excessive?" almost got lost in it all.
"I don't suppose you've mastered the Skytongue charm, then?" said Fen.
"I'm still on candles," said Madeline. "And I can't practice those in the rain anyway."
"You'd be outside working on them right now if it weren't raining, then?" Fen started to pace in circles.
"Maybe," she said. "Probably not. Candles are so boring."
Madeline could burn a tree so fast it exploded. Just not all the time. Wild magic, just barely under her control. Sometimes when she was extremely mad. Sometimes when she was in danger. And every time, if Fen was around, he had plenty to say about it.
"So," said Fen, "Just how much does the rain bother you?"
"Not that much," she said. "It's been raining all week and you haven't said a word until now."
"I don't think you're in any real danger," said Fen. "Your parents are fine downstairs, and I don't smell any strangers in the house."
"Then why are you talking?"
"Hm." Fen widened his circles, stalking around the entire bedroom.
"Tell me a story, Fen," said Madeline.
"What?" said the dog.
"You must know some stories." She reached down and scratched his right ear.
"I've been with you and yours since I was a pup," said Fen. "Anything I can tell you is something you were there for."
"Not that kind of story. An old story. The kind that dogs pass down that goes back to the wolf times."
"You wouldn't like those stories," he said.
"Tell me one anyway," she said.
He did, a story of hunting prey, racing down stags until they tired, of sharing the spoils of the hunt and how the great trickster talked his way into the best bits even though she had barely helped, of wolfish romance, though he left the details to her imagination, and of the time the birds stole a whole kill away, and of the fight with the great white bear that ended this wolf story, though there was a shorter story of their children's clever vengeance on that bear that followed.
"You should sleep," said Fen. "Before you accidentally turn the glass into rubies or something."
"We still don't know why I'm using wild magic at all," she said.
"I've been thinking," said Fen. "Have you ever gone a week without practice before?"
"No," she said. "You think that's it?"
"I do. If it's still raining tomorrow go back to Evelynder's motelight or the Carpenter's charm to move toothpicks or some other indoor spells."
"But what if I'd rather have you to talk to?" she said.
"Then master Skytongue's," he said.
"That's too hard," she said.
"You are the most powerful wizard of your generation," said Fen. "I am certain it is within your power. But tonight it is past your bedtime."
|# ? May 16, 2022 06:54|
With its Tapestries Red
She took another step, toes vegetable slow as they quested for another soft and silent patch of earth through the fallen leaves. Her breath was caught, holding in the gentle murmurous forest smells, arm barely trembling as she pulled the bowstring back, taut. The deer, visible now past the densely flowering caryopteris, had its head down on a lush outcropping of grass. It was a beautiful animal, she thought. Glossy coat with a spattering of white, little bobtail twitching as it ate. Shafts of light dappled its coat through a hole in the canopy. Her arm was feeling the strain of the heavy bow so she sighted on the point he’d shown her - a hand behind its shoulders, halfway up the chest.
Just as she loosed, a stick cracked behind her and the deer’s head jerked back. The arrow creased a line of red across the deer’s chest and it was off, crashing through the undergrowth. She felt the urge to yell - imperious, raging words. She said nothing, just smiled faintly, then laughed, then went to get her arrow back. It was embedded in a tree and she worked it back and forth to get it out, careful to not break the tip. The sun was warm on her head.
“Your Highness,” said someone behind her.
She turned, arrow in one hand and bow in the other.
Something about her expression made the man, who was dressed in a bright red hunting tunic, step back. “Your Highness! I didn’t realise you would be here.”
She frowned, unearthing memories she’d long thought buried for good. “Drawlight? You hold the fief over, over the Polhills…?”
“Eastern only, your Highness.” He gestured self-deprecatingly, as though to suggest that was the least prepossessing segment of the compass. “It has been, well, a long time. Your cousin the King will be–”
“Please,” she said. “Say nothing. I would be grateful. And call me Susan.” She was feeling better, the sharp roil that had troubled her belly at the first sight of him fading. She smiled her second best smile, and he blushed. “He is well? And the, ah, Kingdom? They are both well?”
“They are, your– They are. They flourish.” Drawlight spread his hands wide, as if to evoke a kingdom like the warm and sweetly-scented patch of summer forest in which they stood.
They stood there a moment more, breathing together. “Well. That is well. This has been a delightful encounter but now, Drawlight, I believe I have a deer to catch up with.” He seemed about to say something, so she smiled her second best smile again, and walked away.
The deer was long gone and she couldn’t find its trail, and after a while she stopped looking for signs of its passage. It was a long way back to the cabin, but she didn’t have a deer to carry so she dawdled, enjoying the way the air caressed her face.
The sun was setting as she climbed the low rise to their whitewashed cottage, covering it in sheets of rich red light. A trail of smoke rose from the chimney. He was on the thatched roof, tapping a plug of thatch with a wooden mallet. She whistled to him and he turned, grinned, and whistled back, just like a bird. She hung her bow on the door as he clambered down, then his strong arms were around her, hands running up and down her back, hot lips on hers. She leant into the kiss, then lifted her head as he kissed down to her neck. She sighed, and put her head on his broad shoulder. “I didn’t catch anything,” she said. “I’m a very bad hunter.”
He hummed through his beard into her neck, a tickling laugh. “We can eat potatoes and cress. I’ll go down to the stream with you.”
“That would be nice.” She remembered the encounter and pulled her head back, looking up into his dark eyes. “I met someone from Court. Drawlight. Pleasant fellow. Apparently it’s all going well.”
“Disappointed?” His face was deadpan but she could see the grin inside.
“Perhaps, a little. Not really.” She stroked his face, watched him tilt his head into the touch of her fingers.
“Did he ask why you left?”
She shook her head, and put on her most affected voice: “I said ‘you won’t understand, and you may as well not try’.”
The last ray of the sun fell on his weathered soldier’s face as he laughed, and lingered there, and she watched it, packing every moment of him into her heart like a memory.
|# ? May 16, 2022 07:00|
SH: I'm still down to judge, and I've read and did a good amount of thinking about the stories as they've trickled in. Dunno your timetable, but I need to go through the last four or five to give them proper due.
Is discord the place to be now? If so, can someone drop me a link to the proper place?
|# ? May 16, 2022 07:04|
SH: I'm still down to judge, and I've read and did a good amount of thinking about the stories as they've trickled in. Dunno your timetable, but I need to go through the last four or five to give them proper due.
Yes! I'd be happy to have you and board, and count your story as a DQ blood donation.
|# ? May 16, 2022 09:02|
o right, submissions closed.
|# ? May 16, 2022 19:39|
Cozy Judgment - Week 510
This week was a really different reading experience. I got to think about things other than conflict and tension—pleasant little details, lingering moments, and the spaces between events. I think the writing quality was even a bit better than usual! Maybe this was a fluke, or maybe it was because you had more space to think about your characters and their environments. Whatever the reason, this week was a rare pleasure to read. As I mentioned in the prompt post, I've been exceedingly stressed out and exhausted, and this was exactly what I needed. It felt like crawling inside a little microdimension of delicious food, happy plants, animal friends, and easy comfort.
My co-judge, Jib, and I both had pretty long HM lists. So we thought: to hell with it. HM party.
A friendly penguin
There were no dishonorable mentions this week. Some of the stories were a little further from the mark than others, but generally speaking you all seemed to get what I was looking for. Unfortunately, Man called M absorbs another loss. I was poised to make this a no-loss week, but there was really no reason for the rhyming couplets, and the subject matter of the story was weirdly dark with no payoff. Still! It wasn't the worst thing I've read, and I'm enjoying watching you improve!
This was a very hard choice because there were some strong contenders. In the end, we settled on derp as this week's cozy champion. Crits to follow immediately.
Housekeeping stuff for archiving: The Cut of your Job and Curlingiron are DQed. Thank you for contributing blood to the Blood-O-meter, however!
|# ? May 17, 2022 04:37|
This was really nice and restful to read. I liked the phrase “as her smile rested”. Like she could finally relax her face. I love when the most harrowing part of a story is a walk across a parking lot and a trip up an elevator. And it’s all okay because stuff isn’t as hard as you think it’s going to be, and there’s a cozy bed waiting. A+ cozy.
I was genuinely curious what you were going to do. Then I open up your story and there’s like crashing spaceships and grandpas wandering off toward the horizon. I was like dude what. Where are you going with this. And the answer was: a place where everything is nice and basically ok, where it’s fine to just have a rest. I fully admit to having a full-body reaction to that concept. A+ cozy.
Your story includes a skirt with deep pockets. That right there is wish fulfillment. This story captured a lot of what I like about wandering around in the woods on a free day. It’s very lush; I especially love the description of the place where Tiffany found the mushroom. Like, I’ve been in that moment, seeing those things, smelling those smells. You captured a lushness that was very pleasant to inhabit. A+ cozy.
a friendly penguin
YESSSSSSSS HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. As soon as I saw the names I got so hyped. This whole week was basically a spell to summon Knitwitches. It’s hard for me to crit this as a TD story, since I am familiar with the project it came from, but even so: I think the interaction between Wendy and Brynne is really charming, and the description of the convertible cardigan convertible is really vivid and fun. I love the idea of a cashmere car with nostalgia woven in, and having all the time to enjoy it. A+ cozy.
What I love about this story, other than the good words, is Cee. Cee gets to just be a kid who believes in fairies and makes pretty flower crowns. Things like racism and religious intolerance are there at the edges, but this is a moment where life gets to be simple and magical and sweet. And she’s got an amazing big sister looking out for her. Also we get the imagined future scene of Nicolette reading to Cee while they’re all snuggled up. A+ cozy.
I like how the line breaks let each image and sensation stand alone. Each tiny moment is imbued with poetic weight, even though the writing itself is very frank minimalist. I really enjoyed the implied conflict with the tents, then the very minor moment of tension before the deer steps out of the brush. You flirted with possibly maybe introducing a disruption to the cozy vibe, and then pulled back at the very last second. Which allowed me to feel a small rush of relief as cozines returned. A+ cozy.
cut of your jibbles
I guess this is a conflict of interest since you’re a judge but THANK YOU for your donation of blood to the blood-o-meter! A true role model for the community. Anyway, this story had me actually laughing irl a few times. You really worked with the narrator’s voice, and even though there was technically a lot of “action”, it was all comfortably framed within a very silly bedtime story that managed to feel gently topical without throwing any particular issue in my face. The moment of tenderness at the very end really cinched the deal. A+ cozy.
And we immediately have a dapper talking cat. I’m in. And OH MY GOODNESS. I want this to be a video game. A traveling coffee shop that goes to different neat locations, allowing you to converse with different folks in need of a rest and a cozy drink. I love how this story lingers in the moment between implied plot beats. Optimal wish fulfillment. A+ cozy.
This story is really funny to me because we get the inside baseball on how much thought this guy puts into his apparently low-effort messages. This is probably the angstiest story so far, but stuff ends on a positive note, and there’s no immediate call to action for the protagonist. They’re just gonna wait out the snow storm, chilling with a cute dog (RIP). I do think the romance stuff did pull a little focus from the cozy stuff, even though the story was very chill. A- cozy.
You got a laugh out of me at the reveal that it was Jasper’s luscious 70s pornstar carpet of chest hair that is clogging up the intakes. I wish Fay had been a little less resistant to chilling out. That would have been a bit cozier. Also OUCH, ripping out a chunk of someone’s chest hair would really hurt! I think a better way to do this would be to have them already in bed together (or whatever) snuggling, maybe looking out at the cosmos that’s just out of their reach, and have Fay reach her realization about Jasper’s hair in a gentler way. B- Cozy.
This is great. Fresh laundry, plants, ramen, and a corgi. This was a really pleasant moment to inhabit; I could see the sunlight glancing off of everything, smell the ramen and fresh laundry. The corgi angst was just the right amount of drama. I also love the basic premise of the story, which is that chores can be an opportunity to enjoy the moment, and to relish in caring for one’s home. A+ cozy.
Is this cute? Certainly. Do I think you kinda strained to put a lot of plot in a little space? Yes. The setting is nice; you took your inspiration and brought it to life. I would have preferred to focus on Mr. Skunk and Stella gardening, though. If I were going to rewrite this, I would jump straight to dad and daughter gardening together. Maybe they still discuss the competition, but it’s more about the beautiful things they’re creating. Because after all, that’s what Stella cares about. She just wants to grow pretty things. Let your story focus on what your character cares about! B- cozy.
This story made my heart feel so full. It was funny. It was gentle. It featured the active romantic lives of older people. There was really good food that made me feel ashamed that I’m currently heating up a frozen calzone. I like that there is implied grief, but it's very elegantly muted by this idea that, as on earth, the deceased spouses are enjoying a lovely breakfast together. A+ cozy.
Man Called M
Every once in a while, there comes a TDer whose artistic choices mystify me to the point of begrudging respect. You, M, are one such person. I would actually love to know the decision-making process here. Why the rhyming scheme? It’s difficult to tell a really good story, and even moreso to tell a good story when every sentence has to be a rhyming couplet. And why the dark subject matter? Mixing sleep aids and alcohol is pretty dark. ODs are pretty dark. Implied trauma is pretty dark. It was absolutely possible to tell a sweet, cozy story with this premise (the protagonist can’t sleep, all his friends come over for a slumber party). I would have much rather read a more standard piece of prose without the allusions to death and regret. C- cozy.
There’s something really satisfying about freshening up your house; getting rid of old food, dusting things off, generally making the place feel hospitable again. Honestly, I kind of just wanted to spend the whole story puttering. I think it would have been absolutely fine to cut out a bit of the invitation angst; maybe the new-coronated queen just shows up unannounced and is like “I wanted to see you sooner but I knew you needed to rest. You did, however, promise me a proper cup of tea.” A- cozy.
I really enjoy how you just linger in the moment without really coming out and defining the dynamic between Willow and Chloe. There’s a kind of resolution here, even if it’s not one that leads to any concrete change. Maybe they’ll keep in touch this time, maybe they won’t, but that’s not what’s important. Upset at u for burning those pancakes tho. A+ cozy.
Good for you, Tracy. You don’t need to sort out your whole house in a day. I found myself genuinely curious to find out what on earth the chirping sound was going to be. The answer was really cute. And as someone who desperately wants to take a nap while writing this, I am proud of her for choosing rest over more chores. A+ cozy.
This is really cool conceptually, but I think you showed a little too much of your world building—especially in such a short piece! It would have been fine to focus more on the dance between Sierra and Pike. I would have liked to linger in the moment with them. The history of the situation—while very cool—is a little less interesting to me than the revealing little details, like the candle made out of recycled materials. B+ cozy.
There’s some nice wish fulfillment in this. Who wouldn’t want to be a young magic user with an occasionally-talking dog? I think the story lingers a little too much in the how and why of Madeline’s magic, but it’s still a nice, comfortable moment that was pleasant to hang out in. I liked the detail that there are certain stories known by all dog kind, passed down from wolves to domestic dogs. The story was gruesome, but comfortably so, since it’s being told gently to a child. A- cozy.
As usual you’re very deft with the words. I like how you managed to convey awkward small talk while still keeping a sort of high fantasy cadence. I also enjoy that there’s no call to action; Susan doesn’t give Drawlight the chance to really suck her into anything that might encourage her to change her situation. She just gets to savor what she has. The scene at the end is really sweet. A+ cozy.
|# ? May 17, 2022 04:38|
|# ? Nov 28, 2023 10:15|
Did I not post an in?
|# ? May 17, 2022 04:55|