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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:

Flash: He thinks he'll be all right, but he doesn't know for sure
Like every other unindicted co-conspirator

395 words

“Is she gonna snitch?”

Fifteen, ear pressed to Dr. Yi’s door, waved for silence. –I’m trying to listen,-- he sent to their secure channel. He could barely hear Niner’s voice. Yi’s angry ranting at catching her in his office was a lot clearer.

Rather than shut up, Fourteen hissed in Fifteen’s other ear. “If she snitches we’ll need to have our own story straight.”

–You have secure comms wired into your actual brain, numbnuts, use it!--

“They monitor our internal systems.”

--If you don’t trust my code then we’ve got bigger problems.-- An alert triggered at the edge of Fifteen’s vision. --Seventy seconds before cameras come back. Let’s go.-- He activated the stealth nanites in his skin, faded from view and slipped down the hallway, trusting that Fourteen would follow.

They were swift and silent, pausing briefly to deactivate and reactivate the security measures put in place to prevent them from doing exactly what they’d done tonight. They were too dangerous, too expensive to be allowed freedom.

--I won’t let them decommission me,-- Fourteen sent as they slipped back through the vents into their assigned dorm. Their nanobots traveled in a cloud behind them, clearing the evidence of their “escape.” --I won’t do it, Fifteen!--

--Niner has never snitched,-- Fifteen sent. --And the risk was worth it.-- He accessed the file they’d copied from Yi’s computer.

Steadman-Zhang Nanogen Prototype Series IV Operating Manual

Fifteen dumped the file into the shared NGP-4 workspace and started his readthrough, eyes glassy and unfocused. He could feel Fourteen poking sullenly at the information alongside him, until a paragraph by Dr. Yi made them both sit bolt upright in their bunks.

While the Nanogen prototypes are not children, and to think of them as such would be dangerous to the point of absurdity, it is true that they resemble human teens, and evince similar traits. In order to maintain authority over these sentient weapons, it will be important to allow carefully managed illusions of agency and choice.

“He even suggests letting us raid his office,” Fourteen whispered. “gently caress. We played right into it.”

Niner strode into the room at that moment, looking smug and excited. “He bought it!” She chirped. Then she paused. “Hey, why the long faces?”


Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Prompt:Departure, Godspeed, bless his heart, Good Lord What a fuckup, what a fighter


400 words

Being completely without hope is one thing. Been there, lucked out, lived through it. It's almost zen when you know your fate is totally out of your control.

What's worse, though, is when you do have the tiniest shred of hope, but that hope is completely stupid. Especially if it's entirely your own drat fault.

So there I was. Top of the world, Leopold Czaroff's mountain fortress. Infiltration gone to poo poo. The main explosive was planted. Czaroff's hunter-killer drone factory was about to get spread all over the mountainside. But it was looking like this was going to wind up a suicide mission.

Leo Czaroff had a motorcycle in his main office. Twenty stories up, and that's on the other side of the complex. The observation deck stretched over the mountainside. And there it was. A factory-new Ducati superbike. 

Plan A was to get it into the freight elevator, then be ready to run right over whatever welcoming committee they had at the bottom floor. I found the keys in the ignition and cranked it. It sounded sweet, that roar. I bet Leo custom-designed the room's acoustics.

Too many guards near the elevator. There was a stairwell door that I might be able to reach, but the idea of riding bumpy stairs and hairpin turns was out. Plan C seemed even worse. A tiny shred of hope so stupid it made me sigh.

I turned around, back to the office, building speed. Right into that big window.

II was glad for the helmet. The window stopped the bike, but cracked open doing it. Safety glass cubes falling out. The engine was still running, despite the damage.

I could work with that. I edged forward, teetering. The mountainside wasn't quite vertical, more like eighty degrees. I leaned forward, pressed the accelerator, and down I went, guards guns blazing behind me. Down, along the complex wall, down to the main engineering facility. The roof over the drone launch area loomed like a ramp.

I hit the detonator. The charges sent drones and debris flying out.

You'd be surprised how much control you can have in freefall, with a big massive falling object to spin and launch yourself with. I spun, I released, and flew right at a large drone, predator type. Even without an engine it could glide as long as I could hold on, and I held on all the way.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Rats Rats Rats
390 words

There is a rat in my kitchen, but it’s ok because I LOVE HER.

A skinny, mangey thing, I first saw her nosing the rat-proof container of flour in the bottom of my pantry. As I watched she lay down as if dead. But she wasn’t! I could see her little rib cage fluttering. She looked starving.

So I fed her, of course. Weetbix mashed up with milk. I don’t know why I thought she’d like that but she did, she gulped it down, her little black eyes fixed on me. Long story short I kept this up for a few days and now she is my BEST FRIEND.

The COMPOST RATS are a whole nother matter. Big buggers. Long as my forearm and twice as fat. They dig huge tunnels and drag away my banana peels and avocado stones while my fluffy cat just watches from the windowsill. I dread the day when I go to empty the food scraps bin and they don’t run away, but instead come at me with their long yellow teeth.  

My BEST FRIEND had babies, but she ate them. Well, most of them. What I mean is, she ate some of all of her babies. Left the remaining bits stuck to the kitchen lino. Pretty metal if you ask me. She ain’t going to share her Weetbix with no one.

Then the winter cold drove the COMPOST RATS inside. I don’t even know how the oversized rodents got in. Maybe they just pushed open the cat flap, bold as you like. I could hear them in the walls at night. My BEST FRIEND heard them too. Her ears quivered, nervous, as she ate her Weetbix. I stroked her russet fur with my fingertips and told her not to worry.

She was furious when I caught her. Sorry, sorry, sorry, I said as I slammed a box over her unsuspecting head and shoved her in a little cage. The cat too; I locked him in the laundry.

I put her cage on my bedside table. Her little black eyes met mine through the cage’s mesh door. She understands, I thought. I snuggled under my duvet and listened to the COMPOST RATS come scurrying into my trap. EAT BAIT AND DIE, I thought at them.  

There’s a rat in my kitchen. Just one, and I love her.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

A Body as Abnormal as the Mind
396 words

I rifle through the bathroom cabinets without finding evidence of Benjamin. I scan the labels on a set of prescription bottles and tubes: prescription moisturizer, steroid cream, tacrolimus ointment, oral prednisone, all with Jason’s name on them.

It’s a graduating set of therapies for eczema. I’ve seen Jason scratching his arms at meetings, leaving little white scales of dead skin all over the table, then sweeping them into a pile with the edge of his palm.


I keep going, not knowing what I’m looking for. A wrinkled tube of toothpaste, a second sealed tube of toothpaste, a brick of goat’s milk soap. I stare at it for a moment, locking eyes with the picture of the goat on the label. I wonder, little goat, if you knew that your milk was shipped halfway around the country, compounded with lye into cakes, then smeared over the arms of a very flaky man who may have committed a murder.

The goat stares back. I keep moving, and fling open the cabinet under the sink.

Oh. Well, that’s something.

A half empty pint of Old Commodore gin. In that instant, it all comes flooding back: the weak, chewy snap of the perforated cap, the slight yield of the cheap plastic bottle, the label with the dancing girl that starts to discolor as soon as a drop of liquor touches it.

Uh, not that I spend a lot of time thinking about that stuff, these days. But it’s interesting, nonetheless. What’d Jason say at the last meeting? That he hadn’t picked up a bottle in years, that the booze was a solution to a problem he no longer had, that he now had the ability to turn his crises over to a higher power of his own understanding.

And none of that necessarily excludes murder.

I leave the cabinet door ajar, move to the bathtub, and throw open the curtain. There, near the drain: a narrow rivulet of rust. Blood, or maybe just old hard water. I close the shower curtain, take one last lingering look at the Old Commodore under the sink, then leave the bathroom.

Kitchen, next.

There are two plates in the sink with little strips of golden-brown chicken skin clinging to both of them. There’s a heap of bones in the trash.

Odd. Jason’s definitely the kind of guy who keeps a carcass for stock.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

The Earth is Thick With Noise
349 words

The sun burns through a canopy of green. It’s too hot to go down, so hot that I can almost hear it, like a big detuned radio jammed into the sky.

I turn, staring in a slow circle like a tree is going to suddenly leap out, throw its arms wide, then doff its hat and distinguish itself from the others before cheerily pointing me along my way. It doesn’t, they’re all the same, and I’m extremely lost.

Also, given how vividly I personified the tree, I think I’m seriously dehydrated. My head is spinning, and my uvula is the size of a walnut.

“Hey! Louise!”

I look into the treeline and see a flash of orange nylon. Is that Richard?

“Heyyyyy! Looooooouieeeeeeeese!”

The voice comes at a drag, like each word has meandered through honey before making its way to me. I stagger toward him, my eyes fixed on his bright pink windbreaker. I keep him centered in my vision, like he’ll pixelate and vanish if I don’t.


He smiles wide as I get closer, and whips off his hat. His hairline is a blur of dirty blonde static. He points deeper into the forest. I follow his finger and look deep into another indistinguishable mess of green. I try to speak, but my words are a tumble.

“Into there? But where does it go?”

Randall whips off his hat and runs a hand through his hair. I’ve always admired it, all deep and brown, not so much growing from his head as tumbling from it, in waves and splits and roots that almost touch the ground. He looks at me again.

“Heyyyyyyyyy! Looooooooooouieeeeeeeeeeeese!”

I take a step toward him and my knee does an awkward twist. Suddenly I’m staring into a little slice of ground, of wood chips and splinters and pebbles and dust. Maybe I can go in there instead, through the debris and halfway home. I flick aside a stone, to try and crawl behind it, to get deeper and deeper, and eventually through.

The sun doesn’t shine. It roars, and it is laughing.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Hot Pork in Motion
397 words

“Don’t eat the Al Pastor on Friday.”

I blink at Ajay. He slaps two tortillas onto the grill press.

“Uh, what? Why?”

He holds the grill closed and uses his free hand to motion me closer. I oblige, almost leaning over the sneeze guard. He speaks in a whisper.

“I can’t tell you, man.”

“Why’d you ask me to lean in, then?”

“Because I’m watching your rear end, man. I’m shielding you from harm.”

Little tendrils of black smoke rise from the grill press, and Ajay lifts the handle.

“gently caress, man. Tortilla’s toast. Lemme get it going again.”

A line is beginning to form. He flips another couple tortillas into the press and brings the handle down.

Ajay and I struck up an acquaintance over the past year. He is Indian, and I am Indian, and that is about it.

“Why can’t I have the Pastor on Friday?”

Ajay pulls my tortillas out of the press and lines them up on a disposable tray. The styrofoam starts to curl from the heat. He looks at me and rolls his eyes.

“Because I’m quitting this loving job, is why.”

I look at him quizzically. He heaps two mounds of pork onto my tortillas and continues.

“Friday is when the whole c-suite comes down for tacos. You know who Vacho Slim is, man?”

I work in Institutional Tax Compliance; I do not know who Vacho Slim is.

“No. Who’s Vacho Slim?”

Ajay smiles.

“Vacho’s dusty, man. So dusty. He brings that heat in motion.”

I don’t think ‘Vacho’ is actually a Spanish word, but I can’t be sure. I nod, slowly, and Ajay’s smile gets wider.

“You know what PCP is, man?”

My nod slows. My head is barely moving. Ajay finesses some onions and cilantro onto my pork. I lean back toward the sneeze guard.

“You’re gonna put PCP in the pork?”

Ajay’s eyebrows shoot up, but his voice is still a whisper.

“Yo, keep that loving poo poo down, man. God. But yeah.”

He passes over the styrofoam box. I weigh it in my hand.

“But you’re gonna make a lot of other people sick.”

Ajay is solemn.

“A hard rain drowns all rats, man.”

My stomach rumbles. I don’t know if he’s gonna do it, but the rat stuff is pretty convincing.

“No pork on Friday,” I say.

“No pork on Friday,” he replies.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Puzzle Night (400 words)

The 15th was puzzle night. It’d been puzzle night for fifteen years.

They’d clear off the kitchen table, the only flat surface in the apartment that was big enough, and spill out one of those 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles. He’d put the kettle on, two mugs with tea bags, and they’d put it together over the evening. Traditionally, they alternated: he picked the puzzle in January, March, May, and so on; it was her turn in February, April, now June.

It was June 15th. He looked at the box. Alice in Wonderland. She was falling down the rabbit hole. He shook the box. He could hear the pieces. He put the kettle on and pulled out a mug. He still grabbed two tea bags. He put one back.

The puzzle was new. It was always new. He used his nails to navigate the edge of the box, to cut through the plastic. The pieces within were contained in a bag. There were also instructions, just in case you’d never seen a jigsaw puzzle before. They described how you could glue the pieces together when you were done, hang it on your wall. They’d never glued them before. They didn’t need to. He didn’t glue them now. He didn’t want to.

He tore open the bag, turned it sideways, and littered its contents across the table. A few pieces fell off the side, to the ground. He picked them up. The kettle whistled. He filled the mug.

A thousand pieces; 1,334, to be exact. He stood the box up, placed across from him, and began the slow process of picking out edges. From time to time he’d find a blue piece. Alice wore blue. He’d set that aside. He’d also find red pieces. The rabbit wore red. There were a lot less red pieces than there were blue. With everything in piles, he began to piece it together. Like most human beings, he started with the edges. It was always best to outline the shape, to measure the gap. He also needed to make sure the whole thing fit. Once, twice, it had been too large, and required starting over, sprawled out on the floor.

Each piece clicked in place with a satisfying snap. He’d look to the box to compare his progress. It’d take him awhile, but he was getting faster. Every month was a little bit better.

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:

Shiny Things
283 words

You were walking a path you'd walked a dozen times before when you saw the most beautiful rock you’d ever seen in your life glittering in the dust. You stopped and knelt down next to it, fascinated

The word “rock” didn’t do this structure justice, according to you. “Rock” sounded bland, conjuring images of dull, brown lumps. This was anything but. It drank in sunlight and reflected it back in countless rainbows. You saw colors in this rock that you'd only seen on the wings of the grackles that flocked around your house. It was beautiful. You picked it up. It was warm in your hands, with a rough surface that reminded you of a crisp oatmeal cookie. It even smelled nice, like sunny days in the park.

You didn’t have the words to describe what you felt. It was overwhelming in its beauty. On another day it might have brought you to tears. Instead, you brought it to me.

“Mommy! Look!”

You pushed your newest discovery into my leg. I held out my hands, accepting your treasure with a slightly bewildered smile. “Oh, how lovely. It's a piece of asphalt.”

“It’s beautiful,” you said, awed. “It’s so shiny. So pretty. It’s for you. I want to keep it. Can you hold it for me?”

“Sure, bud.”

I carried it for you back to the house. By the time we got home you’d forgotten about it completely, distracted by promises of ice cream and Octonauts. I placed the chunk of asphalt next to the front door, by the other rocks and pinecones and assorted treasures of previous walks.

I hope the world is this beautiful to you forever.

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?


the dumplings weren’t even hot after all that
400 words

It’s three-AM, station time, and Hannah still hasn’t shown up. The deal was, I’d take the first shift if she got here before the really weird aliens started arriving, and now I’ve got dozens of ships backing up while a furious, tentacle-faced visage repeats their docking credentials for the hundredth time.

I flick the mic on and stammer, I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch—, and the translator echoes some squelching approximation of contrition. It doesn’t work; their tentacles flare orange, its furious response sloshing through the speakers.

Esteemed warrior,’ I try. ‘Please accept my sincerest—’

The tentacles shake and spittle covers the camera, blurring the semaphor of indignation. ‘Insolent flesh-purse!’ the translator reads out. ‘Your ancestors feed grublings!’

The feed for line two flashes amber, and I fumble to answer it, hoping it’s Hannah with an incredibly good excuse.

‘This is alpha-one-three-seven,’ the voice announces, in the clipped tones of military patience. ‘Currently seventeenth in queue, requesting progression estimate, over?’

Oh, thank god: never so happy to hear a man’s voice. ‘Roger that,’ I say, slipping back to familiar parlance. ‘Experiencing moderate delays, anticipate—’

‘Oh wow,’ the man says. ‘Carol? Carol, it’s me, Lloyd! What are the odds? Hey, I never finished telling you about quarks, maybe while I’m here we should—’

Back to line one: ‘—may your children choke on your intestines—’

Line three blinks on and I toggle over. ‘Bay Control, it’s Medical, we have a transplant for the Pryctorian ambassador currently in queue, requesting urgent—’

Line four: ‘Bay Control, why is the Kryndal Chancellor requesting your head?’

Line one: ‘—may your ancestors drown in their own—’

‘Oh, gently caress you and your ancestors,’ I hiss; realising, too late, that my mic was still switched on.

There’s silence following the translation, and then the tentacled face flashes green and a horrible squelching laughter fills the room, so loud I barely hear the autodoor slide open behind me. ‘Ah, you’re a quick learner,’ Hannah says, sidling up beside me and placing a take-away container on the console. ‘Took me five shifts to realise they only respond to aggression.’

‘Couldn’t have told me that two hours ago?’ I ask. ‘Or, y’know, gotten here?’

She slides into the chair next to me and smiles nervously. ‘I got you dumplings?’ she tries, opening the box. ‘Took ages to get them. God, you wouldn’t believe the lines at the food market …’

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Gratitude (400 words)

The morning light revealed several bodies in the thicket. Six in all, she wagered, shrouded in the mist.

The girl stepped softly, eyes narrowed. She was a scrawny little thing, weather-beaten, dressed in green. At her belt was a dagger with a scrimshaw hilt, her right hand poised to draw first blood.

The closest form was headless, a corpse without a name. The others sported wounds less immediately fatal. They stared up at her with dull, vacant eyes. From a satchel at her side, she produced a small mirror. She held it to their lips to check for any breathing.

The forest around them lay silent and still, an infinite expanse of slender, striped trees.

Satisfied, the girl collapsed, propped up on her arms. She exhaled, shuddering, and began to pick over the scene. Two of the bodies wore matching blues. They were clean-shaven men with polished black boots. The rest were dressed in eclectic browns. They had beards or were bald. They carried provisions.

She clapped her hands together, a smile on her face. There were apples and jerky, nuts, even cheese. Sitting cross-legged, she devoured her find with animalistic fervor. She’d throw a passing glance, now and then, over her shoulder. She washed her breakfast down with another fellow’s water.

Wrist to her mouth, she returned to the hustle. Against a stump lay a man with an eyepatch. He carried a pipe and a pouch of tobacco. She twirled the pipe between her fingers before nibbling on the stem like she’d seen others do. She stuffed the tobacco into her bag.

She turned away, then returned to the eyepatch. She considered it a moment, then lifted it up. She was greeted by the socket, a yawning emptiness. She flinched, then stared. She removed the man’s patch and held it to her eye, brows furrowed, nodding. She added it to the haul.

There were other things to take, tools and utensils. Even a few coins. She tallied it up. Rising to her feet, she looked to distance, then regarded those around her, lying in the dirt. She studied them a moment, then shut her eyes tightly. She sighed and crouched and selected twelve coins.

Placing two over each of their eyes, and two in the palm of that first, headless corpse, she clapped her hands and offered a prayer. Soon she arose, and then she was gone.

Apr 12, 2006
Great Apes
400 words


Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 20:51 on Jun 13, 2024

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015

Based on a True Story
(500 words)

We’re sixteen, we’re in the bad part of town the next city over, and we’ve got two cases of beer.

And our ride bailed on us.

Mike and I are stranded here, and there’s nothing but the stars overhead to point the way home.

This wasn’t the plan.

We’d heard about this place where the guy doesn’t check IDs as long as whoever’s asking’s over 6 feet tall, so naturally Mike and I’d go in. The other guys were supposed to come back after leaving to buy the other stuff, but they disappeared. We don’t have phones yet, so we’re just waiting in a parking lot like two idiots. Our arms are trembling because neither of us considered putting the cases down this whole time.

Once we realize we’d been hosed, we try transit. Two consecutive buses refuse us when they see the cases. We’d be okay if we could find Central Station, but Mike’s already talking about ditching the beer.

We're not ditching anything. We just need a new plan.

I go to a thriftstore to buy a decoy and some tape. We lose the boxes and stuff every single pocket of our cargo pants with bottles. My pants’ button bulges dangerously. We look like even bigger idiots now, but this does conceal the labels. A third bus pulls up.

“Whatchu boys got there?” the driver asks.

“Just good old American root beer, Sir,” I say, holding up the decoy.

The root beer I found had a different shape, but the driver scoffs and waves us through. We pay our fares and clink towards the back. We can’t even sit because of the bottles. We endure by exchanging knowing glances and snickering every once in a while.

Once we make it to Central Station, we walk a long while looking for a bay with our town’s name. The beer makes walking awkward, but I saw that coming. We already have tickets, so we can be less stealthy. I use tape to bind two beers together, carefully covering the labels, so we can both carry several in each hand. Walking’s actually less awkward now.

When our bus finally pulls up, we board. My pants' button tears on the last step. My trousers plummet. I can’t catch them because I’m quad-fisting bottles.

“I don’t know this man,” Mike says, clinking ahead.

The driver doesn’t blink. I just wave the decoy and the ticket between my fingers at him, and crab-walk in. Some girls laugh, but I’m not ditching anything yet.

When we finally make it back to town, we miss the last bus to our neighbourhood. It’s a two hour walk now, and the tape’s loosening. We can’t make it like this. I try to make beer-bandoliers, but the bottles are too slick now for thirftstore tape.

“Let it go,” Mike says.

“I gotta at least try one,” I say, biting-off the cap. The lukewarm suds touches my tongue a split-second before I gag.

“gently caress, that’s awful... Hey, you wanna try?”

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 515 Submission
flash rule: The refrigerators house the frogs
The conduit is the hollow log

400 Words

Getting back should have been a straight shot hugging the treeline, safe from the stalk-eaters that rumbled through the fields and deeper where the tree-eaters lurked, those that vanished the canopy and left only rutted ground behind, but her long legs on the hunt carried her too far too fast and when twilight settled, her internal compass spun in sacred dance to the night gods, the ones that exist in blinks of flash, the ones that reflect then consume. The dark. The quiet. The stillness of the unfamiliar. Anuran lost the way home.

Ahead an avenue of empty space loomed where the trees grazed each other only at arms’ length, and it struck her that the delicious and delicate globes of light that flitted on the edge of the forest were not there, nowhere, it seemed, like they never were. But choice fled before her and Anuran carried on. She hopped up and over the rotted logs and into the trampled brush, onward.

Then, there was light around her. She wondered as she blinked her big gold-flecked eyes that she hallucinated the lights, but no, the shelves of pale mushroom glow fueled by rot pointed the way forward to a clearing. Before she knew it she was there and the sun that bloomed before her filled her stomach with twisting ache.

Bone faces, smooth and taut, surrounded the fire and their call and response was strange, rarely if ever repeated, and unceasing. One spotted her with dead eyes, eyes that eat the fire, the eyes of the beast gods-over-all, giants that pushed the stalk-eaters and the tree-eaters to their loud and messy business. She was scooped and shuffled between them, and when she thought she might be free and clamber back into the wooded safety, she was scooped again.

Finally, cruel playtime was over and she was dropped into their cave, a stone rolled over the entrance, and the abyssal darkness returned. Anuran felt the chill from the loose stone that rattled beneath her feet, and they lulled her until she moved no more. In the dreamland, she felt the only the vibrations of their enduring chatter.

And with a sudden waking whoosh, she found herself in the home-waters, chill-stones floating around her, and the beast gods retreated, loud and unafraid. And eventually she heard her brothers and sisters, hello Anuran, and she returned the call, hello Anuran.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 515 Submission
flash rule: The refrigerators house the frogs
The conduit is the hollow log

400 Words

Chris pressed the origami frog down on the cubicle wall and after a brief uncrinkling it hopped forward. He’d gotten pretty good at making them. Nicole nodded, then turned back to her computer screen.

Chris spun his finger around his ear until Nicole pulled out an earbud. “They do a real frog jumping contest in Caleveras. It’s from the Mark Twain story. I saw a documentary about it, narrated by Dwight from The Office. Rainn Wilson.”

“Mmmhmm,” was all she replied.

“So, what are you doing for your birthday?”

“Probably nothing much. It’s a work night.”

“You only have so many birthdays, so they should be fun.”

“True.” Nicole put her earbud back in.

Chris futzed with some paperwork. It was nearly coffee time. Nicole got up and made her way down the aisle. Chris stood to follow, but saw her meet Dan at the cross-way and slid back into his chair. Then he decided to keep sliding and squirmed under the gap into Nicole’s cubicle where he waited.

As Nicole wheeled her chair out, Chris leapt with a “Ribbit!”

“Chris!” she shouted. Heads prairie dogged up, stunned, then a cascade of chuckles and murmurs before things settled. Chris walked down the row, past the eyeroll of his supervisor, and back to his desk.

A few minutes to noon. Chris got the early jump this time, and sped to the kitchen. As Nicole and Dan and their gang came in, Chris opened the box that was still cool from the fridge and said, “Happy birthday,” in a nervous warble. Inside was a homemade chocolate swiss roll decorated as a fallen log and paper frogs holding candles in a little diorama.

“Thanks,” said Nicole, “but HR Amanda got a sheetcake for the office.”

“I know, but you said you liked buttercream better than whipped icing.”

True, but Nicole only remembered saying that about the poo poo cake they ate during orientation two and a half years ago. Dan pursed his lip for a smart remark when Nicole tapped his arm. “OK, cut me a small piece.”

Five rolled around quickly. Chris stood and shuffled papers, eying the gang gathering around Nicole while she changed from her office flats into heels. As they headed out the door, Chris slumped back into his chair and flicked a frog into the trash can. Then he heard an exasperated birthday girl shout, “Oh, come on, Chris.”

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 515 Submission
flash rule: The refrigerators house the frogs
The conduit is the hollow log

400 words

What was that dream? Just on the edge of remembrance. Frogs playing hopscotch on my chest. Bouncing up and down, counting it out. One, two, three, four. Nah, it was better than that. Not a frog—a baby. Yes, I’m laying on my back, walking the baby up and down my torso, legs churning just as much sideways as up and down, a little living Newton’s Cradle. The days just before they take a step on their own. Strong legs, taking a bit of wind when a heel connects with my sternum. Just before the first step to not needing me anymore. At least, I remember, it’s a long journey.

That dream. A bubbling face, round and soft, coming to meet mine from above, blowing raspberries in that half-open-mouthed way babies do. Yes, I feel the breath on my lips, strong. This little tadpole might grow to be a swimmer. Or a professional balloon inflater. A happy little clown, with sausage arms and legs like the start of a balloon dog made at the county fair. What was that baby’s name? Anne, Annie? That doesn’t sound quite right. I can’t tell if I’m filling in the details.

Maybe we were at the fair. On a blanket just off pavement so hot the balloon dog would pop if you dropped it. Annie pulls her little wagon through the waggling fingers of the heat mirage, older, and older still. Tennish. This part feels clear. We go to the arcade to play the machine where you grasp the joysticks and it gives you a little shock. Whoever holds on the longest wins. It’s the start of a yearly challenge. The first zap a surprising rush, but I play it honestly, holding on as long as I can. It takes many years, but eventually I have to let go first.

Annie’s settled on the blanket, wringing one hand then the other as she trades her ice cream stick back and forth in between too-big bites. I can feel the chill and oncoming headache from my spot on the blanket, watching the sun set. The fireworks begin. Annie fits in my lap, small and fragile once again. She covers her ears, “I don’t like the bullfrogs.” As the boomers end and the first rocket lifts, her hands fall away, eyes sparkling. What would you like to call it?. “Sky flower.” That’s good. I nod and fall asleep.

Aug 18, 2014

Magic research
408 words

Outside, one could hear the sounds of nature, wind rustling the leaves and chirping birds.
Inside the greenhouse, there was only silence.

Cathy was frowning at her notes. No progress in the last week for all samples so far. She almost dropped her notes when a booming voice echoed behind her.

"Still going with your little pet project, huh? You should spend that time and focus on things worth their while!"

"Well Mike, your notion of things worth their while involves either money or destructive power, so I'll pass. I'm gunning for breakthroughs never been done before."

She kept her eyes on her notes, unwilling to see his constant smirk.

"You mean putting quills on trees and expecting birds to pop out?"

"It's called grafting, and I'm sure it's gonna work out. Eventually. Now, don't you have students to attend? I'm sure they would be delighted to hear about your famous earth magic."

Cathy started to walk away, towards the last of her grafts. Mike was still blabbering about behind her, but she had learned to tune him out. It was that or reliving the same useless debate. Then, she looked at the last tree of the day, a red cedar that had been grafted with hummingbirds. It was brimming with magic. Worse, the grafted feathers were missing. She turned around, staring daggers at her unwanted guest.

"Did you mess with my experiments? That's a new low for you."

"What? I didn't do anything!" He looked genuinely surprised.

Maybe it wasn't him, and if Mike wasn't responsible, then what happened here? Cathy took a closer look. The veins on the grafting spots looked like something had been torn out. Now she had a hunch. Someone had stolen the only experiment that had shown any advancement. She wanted to scream, but held back for now.

"Well, there goes two months of research. I'll have to redo this from scratch." She sighed.

"Cathy?" Mike asked in a small voice.

"Can you please go pester someone else, Mike? I'm not in the mood."

She looked at him. His eyes were wide open and looking down. She followed his gaze. That's when she saw them. Tiny and colorful, they sat there, motionless and low on the ground. Neither Cathy not Mike dared to move or speak. And then the tiny birds took flight and started chirping.

Cathy dropped her notes, covering her mouth. Today, inside the greenhouse, echoed the most marvelous sound.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Prompt:Just because you don't believe it doesn't mean I didn't mean it


400 words

"So," asked Ajax, "Where are you gonna sleep tonight?"

"That an offer?" I said. Slurred. I still don't have much tolerance, not for the hard stuff. You'd think, but.

"I'm offering a couch," he said. "The wife would give me hell otherwise."

"Even if we let her join in?"

"She wouldn't go for that."

"We could bring her 'round."

"You're drunk."

"No poo poo," I said. I got in the car.

I was almost passed out. Standing up had been all that was keeping me awake. "As far as anyone is concerned, we're cousins, okay."

"We are cousin. Like that's ever stopped either of us before." I'm not sure if I actually said that before slipping away. True though.

After the first five hundred years you have four choices. You have the only people you can really relate to, who saw Homer's dark seas, who fought for or against Alexander and Chingis and Xerxes, and who happen to have at least one grandparent in common. Or you can have ludicrous age-gap relationships that would be even more problematic if any of us were more mature than a nineteen year old and as soon as you have any kind of common ground with them they drop dead of old age. Or you can be lonely, with intermittent hedonism, partners who might as well be fingers on a hand you've slept on until it's numb. I was mostly the third these days. Looks like Ajax was taking a rub at two.

Coffee. I must have been kind of awake for a while, but not where I was remembering anything until that smell.

"Told you," said Ajax. "Niobe loves my beans."

"Too harsh for me," said someone else.

"You'll get used to it," he said. "An acquired taste." He turned to me. "This is Susan."

"Maybe when I'm eighty," she said. He smiled. She went upstairs.

"Listen," said Ajax, "Was he playing? At the concert?" I nodded. 

I can count to four. So can he. The fourth option. Older than us, maybe by a lot. We used to call him a god. Now, maybe an alien. Maybe the God, though. The Drummer.

And the think about the Drummer is that if you ask him to let you die, he will.

"Yeah," I admitted. "Not to go be a groupie again. But you know. Now and then I've just just got to hear him play."

Mar 21, 2013
Flash rule:
Throughout this entire ugly outing
I've been mumbling the convex of what I should be shouting

Stars (396 words)
One more night, Ellie reminded herself, staring into the campfire. One more night, and then she could fly back to Boston and hopefully not have to deal with her mother face-to-face for another six months.

It sounded bad when she put it like that. But Ellie played the part of dutiful daughter well enough; she texted on the appropriate holidays, and called once a week. And when Mom had asked her to go camping out of the blue – something they hadn't done since Dad passed – she shrugged and put in the PTO request. She and Mom would never be as close as they had been, but they could be friendly. Polite. Coldhearted, perhaps, but it worked for the both of them.

She'd assumed so, at least. Ellie glanced over at the silent, dark tent, wondering how everything had gone wrong. Breakfast had been fine. The hike had been pretty. But it was after all that when everything had boiled over.

She'd been texting Priya when Mom had asked if she wanted cocoa. Ellie had said yes and continued texting. Mom had gotten irritated, they'd argued, then Mom started crying about them being strangers, and then Ellie had told her not to make a scene, and, well. What followed had been basically a restaging of Ellie's worst teenage memories, only it ended with Mom running off rather than Ellie.

So Ellie had hunched her shoulders and waited, staring at the fire. And when Mom had come back, she just stared at Ellie, eyes red and mouth pinched, then went into the tent.

It was then Ellie wondered if she'd hosed up. She'd thought their role-swap as a sort of humorless ironic twist – but the more she thought about that the less she liked it.

She didn't want to be her mother. And maybe Mom didn't want to be that woman anymore, either. Maybe she wanted them to be friends, like the way Priya and her mother were.

Was that something Ellie wanted?

She thought of old trips to these hills – the way they'd tramp out to a nearby meadow during those nights, lay out a blanket and point out the stars. Her father would name the constellations, and her mother would tell their stories.

Ellie looked up, and traced the smoke trail up to the glimmering stars. Then she stood up, bracing herself for an uncomfortable conversation.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Course Correction (400 words)

“Do not be deceived. Only we are human.”

The old man’s voice was somber, almost clinical. It was the absence of malice the boy had found chilling. The old man’s eyes were lazy, half-lidded. He spoke with cigarettes and casual conviction, as though this information were so obvious it scarcely needed saying.

“All of them are lying. It’s all they ever do.”

The old man had been seventy when he finally pulled the trigger. He’d blown out his brains with a Colt Single Action. The police found his body out back of his house, seated in a rocking chair, cracked like an egg. But his words still echoed within the boy’s mind. There he was immortal, patient, and relentless.

The boy’s father had voiced similar concerns. His words were loud, choked with anger. His brothers’, too, were awash with emotion. This only made them easier to ignore. He knew they were wrong. He knew they were scared. But it was the old man he heard when he saw Them on the street: a dispassionate disdain, solicited freely. Repeatedly. Absentmindedly.

The subway arrived, packed to the brim with human beings. Some got off. More got on. He found himself sandwiched, holding the handle that hung from the ceiling. He looked out and saw Them, seated together. They were chatting, laughing, three to a side. He grit his teeth behind his lips. He caught himself, grimaced, and looked away. There were more of Them behind him. Everywhere he looked.

“Like insects,” the old man thought in his head.

The boy closed his eyes. He looked to the ceiling. The ads along the top were a welcome distraction. He thought about the weekend, his coming plans. The subway shifted, stopped, and resumed. Some got off. Some got on. He blinked and remembered the old man was gone. He steadied his breathing, avoided eye contact.

His stop came up. He pressed through the crowds, stepping out onto the platform. He took a deep breath.

“Excuse me!”

He turned. One of Them had gotten off. “I’m new around here and I don’t know the area.”

They were speaking human words from their human-like mouth, looking at him through human-like eyes.

“Do not be deceived,” the old man thought, his rotting corpse festering in the kindling of his chair.

Instead, the boy smiled, nervous but friendly. “How can I help?” he decided to say.

Sep 14, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

flash: Wearing long sleeves to hide the mark of Cain

500 words

Kalen stood swaying in the crowded semi-dark of the train’s cargo compartment as it hurtled through the valleys of jagged mountains he knew were there but could not see. Rays of coastal sunlight filtered in through half-windows, along with boiling sea air. Kalen tugged absentmindedly at his sweat-drenched left sleeve.

“Approaching the station! 5 minutes out!” The soldier at the front of the compartment shouted.

“What’ll you do with your freedom?” came a voice to Kalen’s left. Get this God-forsaken mark removed as soon as humanly possible, Kalen thought while he half-listened for a response. None came. The question was for him, he realized, as he turned to find a short, leathery older man looking at him. He was shirtless, but still sweating, like most of the others in here.

“Uh, yeah. Same thing as everyone else, I imagine. Find work, find a home.” Kalen responded courteously, anxious to keep a low profile—but then he added, genuinely: “I need to see the ocean.”

The old man smiled. “Ah. Well, in that, at least, you won’t be disappointed.”

Kalen smiled back, then looked forward. He found eyes staring back at him. Aguilar. A current slithered down Kalen’s spine and turned his sweat cold. Aguilar’s face was unreadable. He must have heard Kalen’s voice.

Seconds passed interminably. Here they stood on the precipice of freedom, and Kalen’s one hope—that nobody here knew him, and thus, crucially, nobody on this train could volunteer the information that would land him on a different train, with a different, less-free destination—had evaporated.

He had no idea what Aguilar might do. He might sell out Kalen, believing that it would secure his own freedom. He might sell him out, believing that if Kalen were discovered otherwise, they might all end up on a different train. Or, he might do nothing, believing they could both be free—Kalen hoped.

“Arriving at the station!” The soldier barked, and then moments later, the train slid to a stop. The soldier stood and directed the passengers out both sides toward a pair of gates. Kalen and Aguilar got out on opposite sides into separate lines. Kalen’s eyes kept darting toward Aguilar as their lines progressed.

As he neared the front, Kalen took one last look at Aguilar—and was struck with the realization that Aguilar was also wearing long sleeves. The only other in the crowd. Aguilar’s hard choice was now Kalen’s.

He had no time to decide, as the gate now stood in front of him.

A hand darted out and grabbed his wrist—his left wrist. “Don’t,” came a firm, kindly older voice. Kalen turned, wide-eyed, to see the old man next to him. The old man simply smiled back, and tugged him toward the table.

Kalen would later be unable to recall what happened next, other than that he suddenly found himself on the opposite side of the gate, walking next to a giggling old man who kept repeating “My son! Bunch of rubes!”

Dec 30, 2011

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

Submissions are closed!

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Story starts as bread goes into the toaster. Story ends as toast pops out.

150 words

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018

An Imagined Conversation Between Tom and Michael

"So, uh, what's wrong with it?" Tom says, to his empty kitchen. The scent of drying bread rises from the toaster, whose amber light beams like hazard signals.
"Do the lights come on when you turn the key?" He says, standing in his gray t shirt and underpants, barefooted in the crumbs and stray cheese gratings.
"Does the starter motor turn?" He says.
A keyring encircles his index finger. He thumbs the keys one-by-one over his knuckle, around the ring; a cycle.
"And it doesn't start, huh?"
He leans against the countertop, and cocks his brow at the specter of a living man who stands at the road in the kitchen.
"I can take a look, if you want?"

Dec 30, 2011

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

Thunderdome Week 515: JUDGMENT

In general, I enjoyed judging this week! I thought it was, overall, a well-executed week, without a whole lot of a low end. I believe my cojudge may have disagreed, but so it goes.

We did, however, agree on the WINNER: Bad Seafood's "Puzzle Night," which is nice and cozy until you realize you're bleeding everywhere, all in 400 words.

HMs are based largely on my own fiat: Sitting Here's garlic soup story, Tyrannosaurus's "Great Apes," and Bad Seafood's "Gratitude" also really used their word count well. This was a good Doof week. Go read his stuff.

The single DM is MockingQuantum's "Mist," which both judges agreed didn't feel complete.

Your LOSS, which is pretty much purely my fiat, is Gorka's "Magic research." This isn't a terrible piece -- this week didn't really have any stinkers -- but it was the least satisfying for me on the whole.

Crits will be up shortly. Doof, it's your throne.

Dec 30, 2011

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


Like I said in the judge post, this was a pretty solid week! As usual with small-word-count weeks, the weaker pieces either felt like they didn't have enough space for their story or tried to cram too much exposition in. Seriously, though, this was a tight field, and I didn't particularly dislike even the loser and DM.

Chili, "Corporate Climbing"

Somehow I suspect this will not be the last Boss Baby story to hit the thread. New archive tag when?

All that aside: I sort of want to know more about this protagonist. I'm getting a depression vibe here, someone who doesn't accurately recognize how the world views him, and it'd be nice to see him react more to actually getting the job (and maybe having to actually try?) This is an interesting dude, and I'd like to see him in a longer-form piece; I'm not sure the length is working for you here. It works for the joke, but there's more here than the joke.

Copernic, "Straight Shooting"

This is a weird little piece, and I'm trying to figure out if I think it really works. The prose is disjointed, which works to create a sense of unreality that works for the plot, but at times is a little wonky to read. (Having the first sentence all dialogue reads very oddly.) I'm also not sure why Will is here -- not every detail needs a payoff in short fiction, but in microflash, it probably does.

Tyrannosaurus, "Breaking News: Industrial Giant Caterpillar To Relocate From Illinois to Texas"

This is a piece that was clearly written for its title, but I think the execution is very solid. I appreciate the fact, in particular, that this is a <i>unionized</i> industrial giant caterpillar, and that the people who work on it are making a rational decision, which might be the lesser evil even as the caterpillar lays waste to the highway. This one has good bite without feeling trite or mean-spirited, and it feels realistic instead of polemic, despite being about... you know... a giant caterpillar.

Albatrossy_Rodent, "Combination"

This is light and insubstantial, and I'm guessing that's intentional, but y'know, sometimes a micro-week can support some jokes. I laughed. I'm not sure I have anything more to say about it? It's light, it's funny, it's only going to work for a very specific subset of people, and that's fine.

BELATED CRIT EDIT: I described this story to my fiance a few hours after reading it, and not only were they delighted, I liked it more in the explaining! This might be high on my list now. It's just really fun.

derp, "bad soil"

In my limited experience with orchid cultivation, this piece is chillingly accurate. It's a nice short piece for setting its mood and getting out, and I think it's successful in that: the ultimately self-destructive frustration of failure for no clear reason, as the rationales get more desperate and unlikely, adapts well to the length.

Thranguy, "Eye Contact"

This is pretty good! I get that you're doing a comic-book riff here, but I'm not sure the Paragon logo stuff entirely jibes with the rest of the story, where the point is more the Paragon saving people as a human act. It's a decent riff, though, on what laser eyes would mean and the potential hazards of using them.

MockingQuantum, "Mist"

This honestly feels like it needed to be in a larger story -- I'm just not sure the word count gives this enough room, and it feels like you're just really establishing the concept more than writing a full piece. I'd love to read a full story about the narrator being thrust into Willis's position, having to learn the art of astronavigation on the fly just to survive, but this isn't quite satisfying on its own.

Sitting Here, "Daily Special: Roasted Garlic Soup (V)"

This is a nice little meditation on the risks and calculus of helping others. I'm particularly fond of the urban nature imagery here; I can absolutely picture the tree sprouting from its little patch of soil, defiantly spreading seed pods everywhere, and the little puddle it captures underneath it. This strikes me as a strong piece for the week in that it knows its scope and achieves it, even if that scope is limited.

Chernobyl Princess, "SZC-2077219-NG015"

I like the shell of this, but I think it suffers a bit from the stakes not being completely clear. Are these robot kids actually at risk of being decommissioned, or is this basically just a caper? I guess being teens means the stakes may not be totally clear to them either, but things got a bit muddied for me by my worry that they were actually in danger. This might be another one that isn't a great fit for the word count and could be expanded.

Thranguy, "Freefall"

I see what you did there with the motorcycle and the hang glider, even if I feel slightly called out.

For me, at least, this is competently written but falls flat. I think this is a somewhat over-ambitious action scene for the word count, and we don't have enough time to really get a feel for the character or feel like they're making choices or taking risks. It all feels kind of easy, which isn't a good thing.

Yoruichi, "Rats Rats Rats"

I know you've described this in Discord as just a bit of nonsense, but it kind of works, in its off-kilter way? Rats are simultaneously delightful and horrible, and this is definitely a story about that! (I thought about going into a long explanation here of the circumstances of rats eating their babies, in the grand spirit of TD Crits Teach You About Animals, but, y'know, nah.)

Carl Killer Miller, "A Body as Abnormal as the Mind"

I was really enjoying this at the start -- I think there's a good character voice here and some excellent sensory description, particularly the "weak, chewy snap" as a description of opening the cap of a plastic bottle -- but it lost me at the end. Is the implication that, while the narrator assumes Jason murdered Benjamin, that Benjamin may have murdered Jason instead? Or that the narrator is completely off-base about this person he knows through AA and thinks might be a murderer? Or that Benjamin's body is hidden somewhere? (References to a carcass in a murder mystery are always going to feel loaded, IMHO.) I'm just not sure what this piece is supposed to leave me with

Carl Killer Miller, "The Earth Is Thick With Noise"

Oh boy, heatstroke delirium! This took me a couple of reads, especially to realize the breaks in continuity are deliberate, but I think I see where this is going. The language is great, and the plot being pretty thin gruel is forgivable at the length. I wish there was a little bit more here, but what's here is fine.

Carl Killer Miller, "Hot Pork in Motion"

Is this now the second story you've written for TD about dosing people with PCP as an act of revenge?

This may be the most successful of these pieces as a complete story. We've got characters who are sketched out through this single conversation, and a very realistic vibe of the "service worker being friendly to a slightly weirded-out regular," with the extra wrinkle of... well, the service worker being about to harm a lot of people and trying to give a favorite regular a heads-up. The dry voice of the regular, who is clearly in completely over their head, works well for this.

Bad Seafood, "Puzzle Night"

drat, this one cuts like a scalpel. This is a very careful use of economy in both form and detail, saying just enough that the truth of the situation hits the reader on their own. (The tea bags hit hard, man.) Not a lot to say about this -- it's absolutely efficient, tuned, and ruthless. Nice stuff.

Chernobyl Princess, "Shiny Things"

Aww, this one is just sweet. This is another one that aims conservatively but hits its target, I think: just a nice childhood/parenthood moment that feels nostalgic and well-observed.

rohan, "the dumplings weren't even hot after all that"

This is another one that's light, breezy, and adequately satisfying. (I particularly cringed at Lloyd, whom I'm guessing is the galaxy's champion of not taking any drat hints.) I think you would want to beef up some of the character stuff if you were planning on making this longer, but as stands, it's just fine.

Bad Seafood, "Gratitude"

Another simple, effective piece. (This seems to be a theme this week, pleasantly enough.) The use of omniscient voice is a good choice here, since I think conveying the protagonist entirely through her actions is a good way to keep things efficient without losing much, and her actions tell us what we need to know about her. This is good stuff.

Tyrannosaurus, "Great Apes"

Oh, this is ominous and does a good job at setting its tone immediately and conveying personality through dialogue. "Fuckstick" is, let's say, a challenging word to deploy appropriately, but this is a good usage. The dialogue is nicely paced in terms of escalating the emotion and stakes, taking our protagonist appropriately from concern to scorn, and Hagen from hostility to murderousness.

hard counter, "Based On a True Story"

I 100% believe this is based on a real adolescent experience, because this is painfully accurate adolescent nonsense thinking, starting from the bit about forgetting to put down the cases while you're waiting in a parking lot. It's unembellished, but I think that's probably for the best, because this is really one of those dumb unglamorous situations that doesn't require or benefit from a lot of beauty in the prose.

The italicization choices are a bit odd. Why "Central Station," in particular?

The Cut of Your Jib, "Kenopsia"

I suspect this might be my fault because of the relatively concrete flash rule, but while I see what you're doing here, I think the animal-voice usage hinders this piece from being emotionally affecting in the way it ought to be. Writing animal-voice descriptions of humans and human things is immensely difficult to do properly, and I think this errs on the side of being too vague, pretty but not really punchy. I was also going to rant some about the use of "Anuran" to name a frog, but that was redeemed by the last line, which I think is implying it's a group name as much as an individual's? The last line works, in my opinion, although I'm not sure the piece does as a whole.

The Cut of Your Jib, "Anemoia"

The second story from the same flash rule? Huh. Okay. Let's see where this goes.

Oh, it's an Awkward Office Guy story, which I guess fits with the Grandaddy flash rule. This is kind of endearing, in that painfully awkward way where Chris is clearly trying to be considerate but also clearly living entirely in his own head, and I'm mostly glad his coworkers seem to be throwing him a bone towards the end.

The Cut of Your Jib, "Paramnesia"

This is a nice little meander that really doesn't quite go anywhere. I was waiting for some uniting element about the relationship, some kind of overarching theme, but I guess it's just sort of unfocused memories of spending time with their kid at the fair? It's nice, and well-written, but it doesn't quite hit for me.

Gorka, "Magic research"

I love the final visual here -- always hard to go wrong with hummingbirds -- but most of this story feels like I'm just being told what it is. If this had room to breathe, for the characters to actually be characters and not just declare the conflict of the story at each other, I think this could be nice, but as it is, it feels like a very first exploratory draft of a story.

Thranguy, "Forever"

This feels a little bit rougher and sketchier than the other two you submitted this week, sort of gesturing at a general sad-immortality plot; I like the implications of the last line, of flirting with the possibility of your own death but still not being ready for it, but I wish this was otherwise a little bit less about the big picture and more about these characters in particular. I don't have any kind of feel for them besides generic sad (horny) immortals.

kurona_bright, "Stars"

This one's a bit tricky for me. My gut reaction is that this is the story before the story, and that the real story here is in Ellie and her mother actually having that conversation, but on the other hand, I think the revelation that one can't keep family relationships on autopilot is kind of a story of its own? I feel like this is a little bit kneecapped by the length, once again, and the desire to explain the whole scenario instead of just starting (say) in medias res, with Ellie staring at the campfire while waiting for her mom to return, figuring out what she wants from there. I think a focus down on Ellie's feelings would help it.

Bad Seafood, "Course Correction"

This is kind of a rough read, although the ending helps. I think using just "Them" for the alleged inhumans is a deft choice, since it could apply so broadly; my mind definitely jumped to "women," but there are any number of outgroups that our protagonist's unpleasant relatives could be talking about here. Good imagery in response to the dead old man (grandfather?), which does a lot to paint him as a repulsive/persuasive figure.

BeefSupreme, "Benevolence"

I hate to end the week with the same crit I've used on a bunch of other stories, but this one feels slightly abrupt, like it needed more time. I think there's a decent balance of telling to showing here, given your word count restrictions, but I wish Kalen had been given the chance to make a real decision at the end (or that the old man grabbing him had explicitly been to prevent him from having to, instead of just getting him through a barricade? Maybe that was the intent, but it wasn't clear to me). I think you could probably nail this with like a couple hundred more words and a fleshed-out ending.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


Hello! I'm the other judge! Hopefully these crits feel complete. (Unlike most of the stories)

To make things easier for the writers, I’m gonna try to group the stories by writer, that way you aren’t searching for your next story after the first.

Chili’s Stories

Corporate Climbing

While it has a dumb meme ending, there wasn’t anything too offensive about the story. Only real problem I had was wondering if you meant “Stu”(a guy’s name) and not “stew”. (A kind of soup) Overall, the only other problem is that it really isn’t anything special (meme ending aside).

Copernic’s Stories

Straight Shooting

This one has very noticeable problems. For example, there were a few sentences that seemed very off, that made me wonder why they were even there. (Police and fire, and the military, were very busy.) Also, there was at least one point where there was wrong punctuation! (“Can you not shoot at them.”) And the ending I’m thinking is supposed to be some shocking twist, but it just left me wondering, “What the hell did I just read?!” And not in a good way.

Tyrannosaurus’ Stories

Breaking News: Industrial Giant Caterpillar To Relocate From Illinois To Texas

This is about as subtle as a crazy man with a 2x4 hitting you. And the 2x4 has the word “subtle” written on it. I almost wonder if it breaks the no politics rule. It’s okay, but it’s the kind of story where if I said that it “wasn’t for me”, I would be immediately considered an rear end in a top hat.

Great Apes

Pros: It isn’t about NFTs.

Cons: it isn’t that great either.

There were some points where the grammar seemed off, and this hampered the story a little. Also, while it does appear that Hagen is trying to kill the narrator, the ending doesn’t make it clear, and made me go “….okay??”

Albatrossy Rodent’s Stories


I’m kinda thinking this is one of those stories where the critter would just say “gently caress you” and move on. Other than the clicking going on for far too long, there wasn’t anything horribly offensive about the story. But the clicking will probably weigh it down a lot. (When looking at it on my phone, the page shrunk!)

Derp’s Stories

bad soil

Was there some hidden prompt where the goal was to “be worse than M”? Because it sure seems like it! I looked at the story, and wondered to myself, “what is the point?” Bad soil, more like bad story! It felt like I wasted my time, but it wasn’t horribly offensive.

Thranguy’s Stories

Eye Contact

What if Cyclops from X-men was a coward? That’s what came to my mind. Nothing offensive, but nothing too special. Might help with Worldbuilding if you mentioned what Paragon’s power(s) was.


How was it possible to make an action scene from a blockbuster sound so dull? Well, you managed to do it! “II” wondered if you had trouble writing three stories, because this had a “need to get this poo poo in” feel.


This is the best of your trio, but not by much. There were some grammatical errors, and some some repeated words. Almost made me wonder if whatever you used to write your stories had spell check. Other than that, nothing special.

Mockingquantam’s Stories


I think I’m starting to see a pattern here. You guys are telling a part of a story, instead of telling a complete one. This one had that kind of feel as well. Sure, there was enough for horror, but it just doesn’t feel complete. Other than that, there were no grammar mistakes that I noticed.

Sitting Here’s stories

Daily Special: Roasted Garlic Soup (V)

While this is a complete story for once, it seemed like it was nothing special. Though I honestly thought the title had very little to do with what was going on. That’s basically my only complaint.

Chernobyl Princess’ Stories


First of all, gently caress you for forcing me to copy and paste your title. And second, gently caress you for writing part of a story! In my opinion, if there’s anything missing in the story, there should at least be a reason. I don’t see the reason why there are things missing, so it seems like only part of a story.

Shiny Things

This, however. This is good. There’s a complete story, and it’s about a child growing up. There’s some missing punctuation and other errors, but this seems like one of the better stories so far.

Yoruchi’s Stories

Rats Rats Rats

This one was also a complete story, which is good. Kind of messed up. I think I may have seen some grammatical errors, but other than that, it’s a horse story. And a horse story is good.

Carl Killer Miller’s Stories

A Body as Abnormal as the Mind

Again, this is telling only part of a story, instead of being a whole one. I know from earlier that there are some of you that can do so much with so little. Many of you seem afraid to do so.

The Earth is Thick With Noise

The first sentence to your first story’s crit applies here. But I couldn’t help but think, “What was the point?” Woman follows a man, then trips. Laugh track. I’m sure a story can have depth while being short, but this isn’t it!

Hot Pork in Motion

First sentence, first story. This one was at least interesting. But again, it feels like a part of the story. I’ve certainly seen you do better. Sure, with more words, but still better.

Bad Seafood’s Stories

Puzzle Night

This one was alright. It sort of told a complete story, without going into too much detail. It told all that was needed, and still kept it short. Well done.


This one seems weird. It seems complete, yet it also feels like part of a story. I could tell what was going on, and while there may have been stuff that was missing (such as how the men died), it didn’t seem necessary.

Course Correction

This one was also good. Sure, there were some things missing, but it added to the intrigue. It was part of a story, and yet a complete story at the same time. My guess (this was written before Anti’s Judgement) is that the choice of winner will be between your stories.

Rohan’s Stories

The dumplings weren’t even hot after all that

Like before, it feels complete and yet incomplete. I wanted some more, but unlike some of the earlier stories, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Well done. Entertaining story, as well!

Hard Counter’s Stories

Based on a True Story

This one is actually good! Nice and complete, with all of the info the reader needs to know. If it is a story of when Hard Counter was Soft Counter, then holy poo poo.

The Cut of Your Jib’s Stories


I’m not sure what to feel when reading this. Happy? Sad? Confused? Indigestion? What I do know was that there were enough run-on sentences to make even the Apostle Paul blush. Otherwise, it’s bloody confusing.


This one is more straightforward, and still feels like there should be some more. Maybe the “log” was the conduit? I don’t know. As Val Kilmer said in Batman Forever, “It just raises too many questions.”


This is much more straightforward and complete. Sure, there are questions asked (Does the narrator have Alzheimer’s?), but it doesn’t detract from the story. Other than a little punctuation error (zap needs a ‘s) it’s perfectly fine.

Gorka’s Stories

Magic Research

This one is nice and complete. Sure, it doesn’t have all the info, but it didn’t feel necessary. Just a nice little story about a scientific breakthrough. Nothing wrong with that.

Kurona_bright’s Stories


Once again, I’m left wanting more. But once again? This isn’t a bad thing. This felt very real, the kind of real that hurts. Sure, I’m left with some questions. But they do not detract from the story.

Beefsupreme’s Stories


This was a good story, but I think you might’ve depended on the prompt to explain the mark. In my opinion, the mark should have been explained, if only briefly. Other than that, nice and complete. There are a few questions asked, but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Week 516: An Age Undreamed Of

"Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars — Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet." - The Nemedian Chronicles

Sword and Sorcery often gets a bad rap, though I guess I get it. A lot of the genre's public image is wrapped up in John Milius' 1982 film Conan the Barbarian, prominently featuring the macho muscularity (and occasional acting talents) of a then-young Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the art of Frank Frazetta, prominently featuring scantily-clad barbarians, male and female, engaged in heroic bloodshed. Now I like that film - I also like Frazetta - but it never prepared me for actually reading the original stories by Robert E. Howard, whose pulpy reputation belies his talent, and whose public saturation obscures the efforts of other creators. There is violence, yes, and sometimes sex, but also introspection, mythic context, and wonder, carried by protagonists with immediate concerns and personal goals, struggling to survive in a world that makes them small. These simple heroes find themselves adrift, sandwiched between the majesty and indifference of nature, the decadence and cruelty of civilization, and the alien dreams of unknowable gods and ravenous spirits.

It also plays well with the short story format. The best Sword and Sorcery, in my opinion at least, is found less in rolling epics than it is in serial escapades, the needs of the moment.

So that's what I'm looking for: Sword and Sorcery. To better accommodate the potential purple in your prose (for what's a good legend without exaggeration?), I'll be upping my usual cap to 1,500 words. Don't make me regret it. Flash rules available on request; unlike last time, these'll be more open to interpretation, and decidedly less goofy. Rather than make you jump through hoops, I'd rather you focus on writing good stories.

Though "Fantasy" on the Internet tends toward the Medieval, Sword and Sorcery (usually) is a little more global. These are tales from when cities were pockets of stability, islands of order in a sea of quiet chaos. Ancient Mesopotamia, the Mongol steppes, river kingdoms in Africa, even Mesoamerica; all these, and more, are available to you. I've got no beef with European influences, but if that's not your thing, then write something else! The stage is set dressing, the feel is what counts. Likewise, lest you feel beholden to overly masculine archetypes, your protagonist need only be someone who can act of their own accord, untethered from society, who acts as they see fit. The classical barbarian is typically your go-to character, but remember that a barbarian is only someone who speaks a different language from the assumed perspective. A certain level of physicality is presumed in the protagonist, but it is just as often their cunning, knowledge, or other skills that secure their victory. Magic, however, is a rarely among them (though not unheard of, nor forbidden), and rooted more firmly in the realm of ritual and spirituality. Wizardry is typically the province of villains who rely on fickle, otherworldly powers they don't fully understand, whose attempts at control often foretell their doom, but many a reticent witch or shaman have proven prudent in communion with the stars.

If all that got a bit dense for you, here's a summary:

1. Sword and Sorcery is a subgenre of Fantasy Adventure.
2. Sword and Sorcery protagonists are "Outsiders," wanderers caught between the natural, spiritual, and civilized spheres; whatever else is true, they are self-reliant and capable; often opportunistic, they're typically concerned with the needs of the moment (as opposed to lofty ideals).
3. Sword and Sorcery protagonists typically contend with either the savagery and indifference of nature, the whims and wiles of the gods, the excesses and intrigues of civilization, or some combination thereof.
4. Sword and Sorcery is rooted more in mythic Antiquity than Medieval folklore; stories can be rooted in history or made-up completely, but feel free to draw from a diverse array of cultures and influences.

So basically, if you've seen any post-Spaghetti Western, dress it up in fantasy and you're on the right track.

Aside from that, the standard rules apply: original characters only, no screeds, no porn. Sign up by Friday, June 24th, at 11:59 PM (PST), with submissions due Sunday, same timezone, same time.

Now go forth and conquer.

The Three Winds
Bad Seafood
Somebody else

Glorious Fools
Rohan - The jeweled sea ever-lingers in the mind
MockingQuantum - They would be slaves no more
The Man Called M - The palace became a prison
Thranguy - The snake coiled in the belly of the bowl
Something Else
Ceighk - They shared a common purpose, though not the common tongue
Flerp - :toxx:
The Wicked ZOGA - The small god smiled, like a knife in the dark
My Shark Waifuu - They crept ever closer, waiting to feed
The Cut of Your Jib

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 07:02 on Jun 25, 2022

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?


in, flash please

Jan 20, 2012

In, with a flash

Jan 20, 2012

REDEMPTION TIME: Week 361 - Extremely Creative Nonfiction

The Broken Table
786 words

It was a glorious summer, the days exquisite, strung together like opalescent pearls. There was no round table around which we assembled, but the five of us each had his domain, and together we basked in the kingdom that spread out before us. We were benevolent, gregarious, welcoming to all. Our feast-hall was open to any comers, and we reveled in the joy of those who came to us.

Ser Rowan, Ser Kennaigh, Ser Adrian, Ser Jacobi. Each was a mammoth being, a figure of legend. I longed to stand in their shadows, to some day grow to such myth as they embodied among my kind. That summer, I was their squire, their standard-bearer, and grew in the nourishing light of their reflected glory.

But the continuous fetes in their feast-hall were darkened by a shadow that no one of us could have predicted. A cowl of disharmony had fallen over our fellowship: a dread influence that sought to tear us apart. It was an inhuman, uncontrolled malignance, driven by no mean goals but the sheer need for destruction. And it met this need with shocking and rapid aplomb.

The fellowship was rent asunder so suddenly that we were each of us spun about, cast into fear. We drew our weapons, and faced each other, casting blame for our strife at each others’ feet. There was no resolution in battle, though. Some glimmer of our brotherhood cleared our eyes long enough for us to see truth: we must go our separate ways, and forsake what bond we had.

The darkness that tore us apart had a name, a dreadful moniker that would echo in infamy forever: Brianna.


Her car was all alone in the diner parking lot. Even before I got close, I could hear the sappy J-pop blasting over her car speakers. Something was up, and I could tell it would take some untangling.

The interior of her car always smelled like strawberries. I could never figure out why. No air freshener, no spray bottle of scent hidden away in the glove compartment. It just seemed to exude from the faux-leather interior, not so strong as to be overwhelming. Just present, like scene setting.

Her eyes were red and puffy, but if she’d been crying, she’d finished some time ago. I probed as lightly as I could. Brianna wasn’t prone to strong displays of emotion, usually choosing to bury her agitation or sadness under a robust veneer of wry humor. It’s one of the things that I took solace in, during my own bouts of unhappiness. I wasn’t sure how to get her to open up when she was like this.

“Is it Rowan?” I asked. He was a regular source of irritation, but had never pushed her to tears.

“It’s all of them. They’ve all called me tonight to tell me what a horrendous human being I am.”

I was floored. “Why? That seems-- I don’t even know. Talk about out of left loving field.”

“Rowan thinks I led Kenny on, Kenny thinks I was sending mixed signals to Adrian, and Adrian thinks I’ve mistreated Rowan. I’m public enemy number one all of a sudden.”

“I didn’t even realized they were interested in you. Or that you were interested in them.”

“I’m not!” Her voice broke, interrupted by a barely-contained sob.

Pieces began to fall into place: strange remarks on Brianna’s behavior, sudden inexplicable bouts of anger directed at each other, plans canceled left and right with little or no explanation. I’d seen the dark product of a boyish entitlement growing in each of them, sprouting vile vines that reached out towards the only friend they could express some unrequited feelings towards. And the fruit borne of that situation could be nothing but bitter.


We gathered there, on the open plain, astride our mounts, banners in hand. Through the visors of their glistening helms, they eyed each other with venom.

Ser Rowan turned to me, in his golden glory, and called out. “Squire! Which of us has the most righteous claim to the fair Brianna? Which of us warrants her favor?”

“None of you. You’re all terrible. She’s a human being, not some prize. I’m done with this, with your petty fantasies.” I was me again, a dumb teenager without the sense to head off what had become a toxic freight train of high school emotions.

And there they were, standing in front of me, the men I had idolized. I can’t fool myself to think my insufficient condemnations brought them low, but from that day they were boys in my eyes, lost boys who would always be a reminder to ask myself who stands to be hurt, when children play at being men?

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009



I have an idea, but I would still like a flash, please.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

rohan posted:

in, flash please
The jeweled sea ever-lingers in the mind.

MockingQuantum posted:

In, with a flash
They would be slaves no more.

The man called M posted:


I have an idea, but I would still like a flash, please.
The palace became a prison.

Oct 6, 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!

I am a judge.

Apr 21, 2010

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

Sep 3, 2020



Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Thranguy posted:

In, flash me
The snake coiled in the belly of the bowl.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

I am in

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


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
hell yeah, in and flash me


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Ceighk posted:

hell yeah, in and flash me
They shared a common purpose, though not the common tongue.

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