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The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

ty critters past and present, as always.

Yeah, I'm in.


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:



Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

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

Pressing the Flesh
1499 words

The sickly orange lights on the ProChem truck reflected in the many pools and potholes along Downspindle Boulevard. Masked workers bore sloshing rainwater reclamation barrels into the truck's bed. From the shadows, Saavedra watched them drive off. He was sweating hard - he hadn't bothered to feed the microbes in his cooling poncho for weeks. He wiped his forehead with the back of his glove and strode on, after the truck.

The sun had set three hours ago and yet it was still a humid 102 degrees. The sun always set early in that part of town. Buildings hundreds of stories high went on for miles in every direction. Most people living there had never seen the sun touch the horizon. Their longing gazes met only screens, walls, and broken windows. But despite the heat, when their sliver of sky darkened overhead, they crawled forth from their sunshelters to live careful lives by the neon tubelight.

Saavedra stopped at a wide intersection. Green-glowing algaemotos whizzed past in the street, belching briney exhaust. He lifted his hood and peered both ways. He'd lost the truck. Morose, he dashed across the street and fell onto a counter stool at Marko's Frigids.

"Usual," he grunted. Marko nodded and took a bowl from the stack. He held it under the spigot and pulled the tap. The bowl filled with sweet, smoky salmorejo. The heat in the air pulled fog off the cold soup immediately. Marko opened his freezer, chipped off a few soupcubes, and plopped them in the bowl. Saavedra nodded without looking up as the bowl slid in front of him. "Thanks."

"Ayup," said Marko, turning away to serve a clutch of noisy newcomers. With one hand, Saavedra grasped the edge of the bowl and lifted it to his lips. As the chilly blend of tomatoes, garlic and olive oil slid past his teeth, he at once felt his head grow clearer and his muscles less weary. He gulped the whole bowl, and slurped up one of the soupcubes to crunch on.

When Marko circled back around, Saavedra insisted on downing the lukewarm dregs before releasing the bowl. Marko dropped it in his tiny sink, then pressed his left thumb into his right palm, over and over like he was using an old-timey calculator. He thrust his right hand out to Saavedra, who grasped and shook it firmly, feeling the familiar twitching tickle between them as their handprint implants exchanged information.

After the usual amount of time, Saavedra tried to draw his hand back, but Marko held onto it. The grizzled soup man raised a wry eyebrow to his shy customer.

"You're short," said Marko. "You're never short."

Saavedra wasn't fazed. It was easy to stay cool with a meal like that in your belly. "Got bounced out of SoftWager last night. Forgot to re-load," he replied. "It's not a problem. BBAK's around the corner."

Marko peered at the edge of the poncho hood a while longer, trying to find Saavedra's eyes. Finally, he withdrew his hand. "Yeah. Go ahead. You're good for it," he shrugged, turning to tend to the dishes.

Saavedra stepped onto the sidewalk and made for the Prochem BodyBank Access Kiosk down the street. His palm wriggled excitedly the closer they got. The BBAK was an impenetrably thick plastic window, set into the streetside wall of an apartment block. There was a small ledge with a printpad and an auto-locking shake slot that opened behind the window. Inside, the BioBank attendant lounged in his chair with his feet propped up, radio on. Saavedra could just barely hear it through the window.

You're listening to Endless Mode, a smooth generative jazz channel from Tuneskr, 24 hours a night.

Saavedra slid his left palm onto the printpad, felt its vat-grown skin warm as it read his handprint. The attendant sat forward and jabbed at his terminal. Saavedra didn't recognize him, but that wasn't unusual. It was someone new working there almost every time he came by.

"I'm not seeing an order here. You wanna withdrawal?" The attendant had to shout to be heard.

"Thousand creddoes," Saavedra said, louder than he liked to. He glanced down the street. Whose head was that, turning in the shadows?

The attendant tapped his side of the peeling rule sheet that was glued to the window. "Know the rules?"

"Yeah, yeah," Saavedra cut him off. The soup was warming in his belly, making him antsy. Sweating again. Dark figures bobbed along past the alleymouths on Downspindle.

The attendant tapped a few keys, palmed his printpad, then took a deep breath and held down the button that slid open the shake slot. Shaking slightly, he reached into the center of the slot. Saavedra didn't waste time; he shook, and when the indicator lights shone green, they both yanked back their hands. The slot slammed shut. The attendant shivered with relief and took a squirt of hand sanitizer before he settled back into his chair.

"Stressful job," Saavedra muttered. He stuck his hand into the mist that sprayed on the streetside printpad, savored the obliterating sting, and turned back toward Marko's. He spotted them quickly.

Halfway to the corner, a couple of menthol-clouded shadows loitered in the nearest alleymouth. Saavedra caught sight of another cherry glowing across the street. He was in a kettle. First things first, he dug out his pill pouch and swallowed one dry. He tucked it away, made sure his hood was low, and felt along the ridge forming down his thigh, under the skin. Keeping his hand poised over it, he started slowly toward the alley.

The two menthols stepped out into his path, one tall and one regular. Stretch and Reggie. By the ever-shifting neon light, Saavedra could discern Rozeen's gang sigil among the tattoos crammed onto their faces - a freshly severed hand, trailing a streak of blood.

He looked back. Sure enough, there was menthol number four, wide and stinking like they'd just crawled up out of a manhole.

"Heyo, fellow nocturnal," called Stretch, sticking out his hand with a grin. "Come give us some skin."

Saavedra recoiled, but a near-silent maglev train picked a great moment to start whizzing by. He'd be trapped between it and them for at least two minutes. Two minutes of beatdown.

"Can't spare any. Sorry," Saavedra said.

"Hear that?" Screeched Reggie. "Them's either broke or thinks us deficient!"

"I ain't deficient," boomed Manhole, lumbering up behind Saavedra.

"Everybody's fully ficient here," Stretch cooed, smiling as he eased his hand out to Saavedra. "Wise chums like these can surely part with a few creddoes. A couple fingers worth?"

Saavedra stared at Stretch's hand. A left hand. Tattoos, dried blood and scum-lined fingernails. He wasn't going to take it, and not just because whatever lived on it would probably melt his handprint if he actually shook it. Saavedra was thinking about which of them he'd have to leave alive to get the information he needed, and he'd already made up his mind.

"I'm telling you," Saavedra hissed, his poncho fluttering. He extended his left arm, as if to shake. A passing algaecopter's searchlight glinted off the metal cover that was affixed on the end of his stump forearm. "I've got nothing left."

He dropped to one knee and flexed the proprietary muscle in his right leg. Espiritu, the flesh-and-bone dagger, shot out of its leg-sheath, cut through his pants, and stuck in his hand. Saavedra whirled and slit open Manhole's belly from beneath, dodging away from the organs that dumped onto the sidewalk. Stretch bit into a fake tooth. His legs started to grow even longer, and his arms morphed into octopus tentacles.

Saavedra clonked Reggie in the skull with his stump and stepped over them into the alley, where he clambered on top of a dumpster. Stretch was right behind him, but Espiritu was swift. The whirling blade sliced off suckers left and right, clearing the way for its host to leap up, kick off the alley wall, and slam Stretch in the chest with both feet. The ungainly gangster tottered back towards the speeding maglev. His tentacles fell onto it, and the remaining suckers latched on with 'cephalotastic strength,' as ProChem never failed to mention in the ads for its upscale AniMods line. In the blink of an eye, Stretch was gone.

Despite the burning prickle in his thigh, Saavedra scooped a nameless custom organ out of Manhole's dross and shook it over Reggie's face, dripping black ooze while Espiritu poked a wake-up call into their neck.

"I know Rozeen has connections inside ProChem. Give me names or I feed it to you."

A few minutes later, Saavedra's somewhat-clean hand crept across Marko's counter. Marko clasped it hesitantly. While the transaction tickled away, he sniffed their clasp and rankled. He shot Saavedra a raised eyebrow.

The bone bladesman tipped back his hood apologetically, meeting Marko's gaze. "Pour another bowl, Marko. And one for yourself while you're at it. I've a long, hot night ahead."

Feb 25, 2014


the man called M posted:

When I saw my crit, I wondered two things:
1. Don’t people know it’s a parody of really bad horror films?
2. Don’t they freaking know Edgar Allen Poe?!

hey i know these things, lets read your story now!

Ghost Crab crit

the problem here isnt that you wrote a parody of really bad horror films, you straight up wrote a really bad horror film. which, let's be honest, doesnt necessarily mean a bad thing, as there are some fun and enjoyable and legitimately good bad horror films. the big, capital b big, problem here is that you dont realize that the gags in a bad horror film cant just be translated one to one to the written medium and be expected to have the same effect. take for example this, probably your first bad horror film image:


It almost seemed as if she was running past the same place multiple times, and past one or two boom microphones.

now, i can see the movie where this happens and then the red letter media crew laughs on the couch pointing at the boom mics, but in a written form, this is so limp and doesnt land. one of the problems here in this parody is that a bad film usually works in its attempt to be legitimate, its just made by people who are poo poo at making movies, so you get dumb mistakes like reusing the same scenes, missing edits, or letting boom mics show up in scenes. in fiction, you dont have that luxury. youre a single person who has complete control over the words you have, so "mistakes" like boom mics are obviously intentional, not some amateur trying to be good, or some mediocre director trying to imitate an amateur. it also just doesnt have like... any energy to it. like its very odd because its supposed to be a really bad horror film were supposed to laugh at, but the narration style is very bland, direct, almost like its trying to be third-person objective, where youre just giving us the facts. i want to say that could work, but even then, most of the descriptions you give are flat and boring and dont give any humor or life to things that should be fun or interesting. take the conversation with the professor:


“Jackie, look at this!” He said, while pointing at where the nose should be.

“So her nose got sliced off. What about it?”

He laughed. “No, my girl. Not sliced, snipped.”

“So…a ghost gardener?”

“Actually,” Harry said. “What we are witnessing in this picture is evidence of a Ghost Crab.”

“Well,” Jackie said, sounding extremely bored. “This is interesting.”

“It was bound to happen sooner or later.” Said Harry. “I’m sure you know that the local priests bless each of the crabs caught by fishermen in Maryland?”

“Of course!” Said Jackie, unsure of herself.

“Well, some crabs are accidentally left out , and are unable to enter the crabterlife.” There was some laughter heard, then it quickly became silent.

“Is there any way to stop a ghost crab?”

“Well, there is one thing…”

there's a lot of camp here, with the titualar ghost crab being exposited about, but the dialogue is so bland and there's no energy here. i feel, after reading this, almost certain that youve watched red letter media, so imagine this scene in an actual movie that theyd watch and theyd say the same thing im saying. even in a bad horror film, they would complain that even though its a stupid concept, the dialogue is boring and the characters are bored and they would hate this part. sure, of course, this is supposed to be a bad horror film, but its supposed to be a good bad horror film, right? so why include boring stuff? there's no flourishes aside from crabterlife, there's nothing here except two boring people talking, which nobody loving likes in their bad horror film viewings!

overall, my advice here is the evergreen advice of read more. i think youve engaged a lot with bad films and media about bad films and wanted to put that into your fiction, which i dont think is a necessarily a bad idea, but the problem is that, fundamentally, what makes a funny bad story and what makes a funny bad movie are two very different things because they are two very different mediums. im not saying this central premise of a bad horror film cant work in a fiction story, but what i am saying is that for it to work, you need to understand how the medium of writing works instead of just trying to take gags from one medium and putting them directly into the other and saying your work is done. if you wanted to make a bad horror film, then you shouldve just done that, instead of writing this, tbh.

also i have no idea what the allen poe thing is. is it just... rave? as in, raven without the n? that's it? i will admit i know of poe, but not knowledgeable of all of his less common works, so maybe there is some deep cut reference here, but all i can get is raven without the n.

i do want to say that im also worried about the idea of a developing writer trying to write purposefully bad because i think that can be a crutch that can be leaned on to avoid having to improve. i try not to assume too much, but if youre serious about trying to improve, i would make rather you write things where you are trying to be good. im not saying you need to write some fantasy epics or literary navel-gazing, you can still stick with comedy, even stupid comedy, but i dont want to see you trying to hide being "well its supposed to be bad" instead of trying to legitimately improve, if thats your aim. and if your aim isnt to improve, id ask you to question why youre in thunderdome.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Oligopoly on violence
967 words

The day after Stilicho Weapon Systems rejected the Twelve Chairs’ ultimatum, negotiations begun. Back then nobody wanted a war. Nobody even believed war was in the cards. Everyone thought Gaspart Stilicho was playing hardball, which made sense in his situation, and the eleven other chairs were ready to pay a premium for his new armaments, but they had to balk first or they would look weak, and so everything was escalating, but eventually, or so everyone figured, there would be a deal, good for some and bad for some, and on things would go. But nobody wanted a war.

“Nobody wants a war,” CaptainAmerica Koonz told him. She and Gaspart went way back, having first met at the Manaus arbitration; they knew each other well, and so it made sense CromiumTech would send her to Old Naples. “But you have to be reasonable.”
“I’m reasonable. The cifre is a game changer. A qualitative leap. Dreadnought effect for the 23rd century. Whoever has it makes the rules.”
“That’s why you have to share it,” she said, as if he did not know. “You get hegemonic, the other chairs will have no choice but to come at you. It will be eleven against one.”

She itched with immortality, and kept scratching at the scars above her symbiotes. It always burns at first when you plug a new slug. Gaspart pretended not to notice.

“We have the cifre.”
“It will not suffice. Eleven against one. A thousand cifres won’t save you.”
“Unless we produced more already in secret.”
“But you haven’t. We would know,” she said with studied certainty, just forceful enough.
“Let’s walk.”

Despite his limp Gaspart still liked his walks, and they started along the private promenade that overlooked the mangrove. Old Naples was understood to be neutral ground, although or maybe because no one clearly enforced it. Many private deals had been concluded on its seafront promenades (between chairs), in its hotels (between lower corps) or in its narrow backstreets (among tube gangs and other rabble). The smell of muck and flowers wafted up to them and, when it became clear he would not speak first, she tried another angle.

“I don’t know why you’re going at it in this way, Gaspart. You’ve won already. All the chairs agree the cifre is a great innovation. You can name your price, and they’ll argue, but eventually they’ll relent, especially if I back you, which I will. What you can’t do is reject the principle of an agreement.”
“It’s not money I want.”
CaptainAmerica could already tell she would like what came next one bit, but hopefully she could work with it.
“What do you want, then?”
“I’m not sharing my weapons with the loving Gabriels.”

In the branches and waters of the mangrove strange tiny colorful creatures swarmed and killed one another faster than they bred; every night the bioentertainment lab would release thousands more. The CromiumTech negotiator felt aghast and weirdly disappointed. She’d always known Gaspart loathed the Church of Earthly Angels, but she’d thought he was smart about it, and a professional above all. Now he lashed out like a tube ganglord at a rival band, all petulance and pettiness.

“The CEA Pontif is a chair like you, like the CromiumTech board. Balance must be kept between the twelve chairs.”
“We don’t need twelve chairs.”
“So you want to kick the CEA out, and for what?”
“I want to kick seven chairs out. We only need five.”

Now that was so enormous she could not find her words.

“The development of cifres is a historical moment and it must have historical consequences,” he went on. “Much as the Twelve Chairs pushed competing authorities out of power seventy years ago, so too the time has come to concentrate power even more. And cifres are the mean for that. SWS will share them with the other chairs, yes. The other four chairs.”
“What of the seven others?”
“They can remain as a second-tier council, for now.” It went unsaid that in time they would be ground down into the teeming, cutthroat multitude of lower orgs.
“I mean, how do you think they will react?”
“They will submit, or they will fight. And if they fight, then it will be five against seven, with the five having cifres and the seven, not. A far cry from the scenario you proposed earlier.”

They had walked all the way to where the promenade overlooked the bay. Below them the Last Whale swam rotting in brainless circles. A B!B!B! panel explained how smart its prosthetic flippers were; there was also a console where you could make it blow for 50 shells or breach for 300, if it had not done it already in the previous thirty minutes. Gaspart looked farther, into the poisoned Mediterranean.

“I think you know what I will ask next. Where will CromiumTech be? The five or the seven?”
“You thought CT would accept that?”
“I was unsure. But I’m sure four chairs will accept. That’s all I need. Maybe even more, in which case we’ll have our pick of allies.”

Gaspart Silicho, of Stilicho Weapons System, was riddled with implants from his brain to his schlong, and yet he had always refused to get his limp fixed, which he never tired to explain was because he wanted to remember he could do without it. “Could you do without me?” his limp now seemed to ask her and the world.

“Not even I can make that decision without consulting the CromiumTech board. But I tell you, the board will not agree.”
“Ah well.”

For a moment she thought he would try to kill her, even in Old Naples; combat symbiotes boiled in her gut and her arms.
“If you’ll excuse me,” he said instead. “I have to see Ajax next.”

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

All Aboard the AllSmiles Express
1497 words
Flash: AllSmiles!, a daycare/early childhood education contractor

At ten o’clock sharp, Rosetta disentangled herself from several toddlers, told May, “I’m going on my break,” and kicked on her hover shoes to fly over the baby gate. May had feared this moment all morning, and spread her arms as the kids dove onto her instead. “Who wants to go outside?” she asked futilely, though “outside” was really a room lined with screens displaying a forest scene.

Dax, an opinionated three-year-old, shook his head. “No, play!” The other children echoed him.

Of course. With a rueful look at the shelf of craft supplies, May shook out the basket of electronic toys instead, none of which she knew how to use. She didn’t even have any augments except for HUD contacts that popped up with a kid’s name, age, and important information like allergies– those were just plain useful. Her specialty was giving the kids tactile experiences and real objects instead of the lights and screens that surrounded them the rest of the day. However, after an accident yesterday involving paint and a parent’s expensive ocular implant, the director of AllSmiles had recommended she stick to electronic toys for a while. Usually Rosetta, who was augmented to the gills, handled those. But Rosetta was on her break, so now May had to hope the kids didn’t need her help with the toys.

Luckily, they didn’t. Clever Ava rolled out the holo-piano and the rest of them jumped on it, filling the room with discordant notes as they jumped on the virtual keys. May told herself that any music-making was good, and took the opportunity to look into the nursery. Poor baby Bit was feeling unwell that morning.

“Are they any better?” she asked Bit’s mother-bot. The bot wheeled over, Bit fussing in her arms. “Still distressed. Mild fever. Poor baby,” the bot said, then started to soothe them. May glanced at the rest of the infants, happily snuggled against their mother-bots, then re-entered the cacophony in the playroom.

Music-making had given way to whacking each other with laser-boards. She separated Dax and Leo, confiscating their toys. They whined and she looked helplessly at the pile of plastic electronics. Picking one at random, she pressed a button. Colored lights began spinning around the room. Okay, great. Now if she could find a music player, they could have a dance party.

Before she could find one in the pile of toys and kids, a gruff voice called from the doorway. “Uh, here to set up your model.” May turned to look and was surprised to see a delivery man hefting a gigantic crate. The kids crowded around the gate, pointing excitedly at his augmented yellow arms, and, from the nursery, she could hear Bit start to cry. She didn’t remember any deliveries scheduled, but the director had been busy scolding her this morning. “Thanks, come in,” she said quickly, shooing the kids away.

The man carefully entered the playroom and pried open the box while May went to check on Bit. “Defecation. Larger than normal,” informed the mother-bot, hushing Bit.

May thanked her and returned to find the man had installed a gigantic train set on the floor of the playroom. Holographic trains sped along the tracks. The kids were in awe. “Oh, it’s a model of the city!” The delivery man looked at her oddly, like that was an obvious statement. “Look kids, we’re here,” May said, pointing to the tiny hologram of their megatower. “Thanks,” she said to the delivery man. “Who’s this from?”

He consulted his datapad. “Looks like HyperRail. Lucky kids,” he said before he left. May agreed. Occasionally corporations would send them toy versions of their products to try to hook them early, which May hated, but she had to admit that the train set was impressive.

The trains enthralled the kids for a few minutes before they started to swipe at them. Their little hands went straight through the holograms. “Miss, want to play!” Leo said. May found a control panel on one side of the model. All the buttons were unhelpfully unlabelled. Ava started to fuss and copycat Tera joined in. They stomped around the holo-city like Godzillas. “Just a second,” May pleaded, wishing that Rosetta would come back from her break. She poked a few buttons and the entire model flashed. “Manual control engaged.”

Now the kids could move the trains along the tracks, which they did with enthusiasm. Even the mother-bots came out to see what all the shrieking was about. “Happy children,” they cooed as their babies burbled happily. Bit stared at the trains with wide eyes.

May felt proud of herself when Rosetta returned and gave a low whistle. “drat, lucky kids. Holo-trains when I was a kid were a lot less detailed. Oh hey, there’s our building.”

They watched Dax and Ava try to smash together two trains, a warning beep flaring each time. “I guess technology can be fun,” May admitted.

“You’re only figuring this out now?” Rosetta said, sending out her extendable arm to stop the attempted collisions. The teachers encouraged the kids to play nicely with the trains; the alarm noises when the trains left the tracks were just too annoying.

They only had a few minutes of peace. Suddenly, a group of armored security guards burst into the playroom, followed by a handful of techs, a harried-looking executive, and finally, the director of AllSmiles. The kids froze and, after one of the techs dove onto the power button to turn off the model, began to wail. May could sense an epic group tantrum coming on. Rosetta scooped up some kids with her extendo-arm and May corralled the rest of them away. The security guards, a little lost with no threat to subdue, surrounded the model while the techs went to work dismantling it. At the sight of their toy being taken away, the kids’ screaming intensified.

“What’s going on?” May asked as the kids struggled against her.

“This was supposed to go to HyperRail on the eighty-third floor,” the director said in a strained tone. “Apparently it controls the city’s train traffic.”

May’s hand flew to her mouth, remembering the chaos the kids caused. Freed from her grasp, Tera dashed towards the model, only to bounce off a guard’s riot shield. She started to cry harder.

“Oh God.” May felt ill. Except for baby Bit, who was watching the commotion with interest, all the kids were melting down. She could only think of one thing to distract them.

“Who wants to paint with glitter?” she said in a falsely cheery voice, ignoring the director’s look of alarm. Offered this rare treat, the kids piled into the art corner. May got down the supplies while Rosetta wrestled smocks onto them. The director, seeing the effectiveness of the distraction, said nothing to stop them, even when Dax started to paint silver glitter on his arms. “Look, I’m like daddy!” he exclaimed.

The techs had almost gotten the model completely packed away when Bit started fussing. “Say bye-bye, Bit,” the mother-bot said, leaning him over the box to see it better. Bit responded by spitting up all over it. The HyperRail team and director all groaned.

“Sorry,” May said, inadequately, as she wiped it up. Behind her, the executive muttered something about millions of credits. The director watched the HyperRail team hurry out of the room with a pained expression on her face. Behind her, the kids started yelling “Train! Train!”

Technology really was too much. May was about to tackle the glitter explosion in the art corner when she remembered how happy they’d been with the train set. Maybe she could make this right. May rushed out of the room, to Rosetta’s annoyance, and managed to catch the HyperRail team just as the guards were loading the box onto the grav-lift.

“Sorry to bother you again, but do you have something like that as a toy version?” she asked the executive. “Like you saw, the kids really loved it.”

“We have small models in our company store,” the executive said.

“Maybe the kids could have the old control module,” a tech piped up. “It doesn’t have auto-scheduling, but they wouldn’t need that anyway.”

May and the tech looked at the executive hopefully. “That could work. We need some good publicity after today,” she said, clearly thinking aloud. “Cute kids, trains, an unfortunate mishap. We’ll deliver it tomorrow,” she said decisively. “Networks will be here, make sure that baby is camera-ready.”

May returned to the playroom and told the director and Rosetta the good news. The director’s eyes lit up at the free publicity and rushed off to ensure the AllSmiles branding would be in any shot. Rosetta’s eyes lit up at the chance to play with a train model again.

What a morning. “All right, time for my break,” May announced. She saw Rosetta’s look of alarm as she was confronted with a room full of kids gleefully painting each other in glitter, and smiled.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007



Fun Shoe

Apologies; the computer my story was on poo poo the bed, so I hammered this one out on my phone. Sorry about the proofreading!

Prompt: Cyberbiopunk dystopia featuring SterLINK, a network access provider
It’s all in our head
1500 words max, 1500 words used

Theo signed the dotted line, pricked their finger and stained the Bactereader square as indicated, and waited until the dark red blot glowed blue, verifying their identity and biocompatibility.

“And that about does it,” said the SterLINK rep as he took the sheaf of bloodstained papers and fed them one by one into the reader. Its blades made a soft whirr as the papers were shredded and digested by its internal enzyme pocket, committing Theo’s biosignature to memory. The information would be backed up into the wetware server when the rep returned to the office. He looked up at Theo with a smile. “Any questions, sir?”

“Several. But I must ask you not call me ‘sir’,” Theo said softly, their voice calm, strictly professional despite their appearance; slender arms covered in tattoos, a midriff-baring sleeveless shirt, flare-cut low-rise jeans. “As I said on the form, I am non-binary.”

“We are aware of your preferences,” the rep said the last word with forced cheeriness, “but we at SterLINK strictly adhere to science. My sincerest apologies, sir.”

Theo ached to backhand the smiling business-ghoul standing before them, but long years of hard-won patience stayed their hand. Instead, Theo merely let out a sigh and asked their questions. “I will have free access to the InfiniNet as well as receive a weekly payment for my services, yes?”

“Oh, we don’t call them services! We’re merely renting a bit of your subconscious runtime with absolutely no effort or discomfort on your part. Why, most of our subscribers wonder why we’re paying them when they’re the ones benefiting from the fastest connections possible!” The rep was all smile, no warmth. “But yes, you will be paid, and be given bi-monthly tune-ups to ensure your safety as well as the proper functioning of our hardware.”

That last bit was what Theo was after. Brain tumors were expensive to have removed, but renting one’s brain to SterLINK would offload the costs – they’d cut out the tumor and replace it with free access and pay for it. Despite Theo’s misgivings, it was a good deal.

“If anything goes wrong...?” Theo asked, brow raised.

“We promise not to hold you accountable for any accidents, sir,” the rep said with another cold smile. “But any tampering with SterLINK property will result in legal action and fees equaling the cost of the equipment and labor, plus other relevant fees depending on the nature and extent of the tampering; you can find the specifics at SterLINK.neuro.”

Theo sighed again, but knew there was no choice: either take the deal and get free access and weekly payments, or don’t, and hope the government euthanasia clinics have availability.

“Now, let’s set up your installation appointment!”


The following weeks were good ones. The surgery was quick and nearly painless, the tumor scooped out and sent to the bioreclamation center to be grown into wetware server components, and the surgeons even kept Theo’s long, tightly curled hair. They even provided pain medication to dull the near-constant migraine that came from having Theo’s nerves turned into a glorified router.

True to the rep’s word, Theo’s InfiNet connection was faster than any they’d had prior; movie and games streamed perfectly, the LifeSense appliances knew precisely when Theo wanted something to eat or drink, and Theo could chat with friends without even needing a terminal. They couldn’t speak with family, though; those bridges were long burnt.

One day, Theo was jerked from a fitful sleep by the sound of screaming. They leapt from the mattress and ran into the their living room to find a man bleeding on the floor, eyes glossy with pain, blood pouring from countless stab wounds. His clothes were filthy and ragged, and he stank of waste and sour alcohol.

“Please,” the man gurgled, coughing up blood. “Help. Help me. Please…”

Theo had once went to medical school before the costs grew too great, so they fell to their knees to assess the problem and apply pressure while calling for help, both verbally and over the Net.


Please,” the dying man coughed.

Cursing softly, Theo rose and with a hurried promise of a swift return, ran out into into the hall, screaming for help. A guard, who was doing his nightly rounds, ran to the source of the panicked cries.

“Inside my apartment,” Theo panted, taking the burly older man by the arm. “There’s a…”

Theo’s words died on their lips as they stepped inside. The blood was gone. The man was gone. Theo’s apartment was as sparse and empty as ever.

The security guard frowned. “Theo, you’ve always been a good kid, but if you’re cracking up on me I will not hesitate to report you to the Mental Health board. You on drugs?”

“No,” Theo said, shaking their head, then paused. “Only the painkillers prescribed by the neurotechs at SterLINK…”

The guard’s eyes opened wide, then he sighed. “That explains it. It ain’t drugs, kid – it’s memories. Other folks’ memories leaking into the InfiNet. You one of the new Full-Time Runtimers, eh?” He chuckled hollowly. “No wonder my connection’s been so good lately. You got my sympathies, kid.”

“What do you mean?” Theo asked.

“Look, this is ‘sposed to be a secret, but…” The guard closed the door to the apartment. “I worked security up at the Toronto headquarters, and I overheard some stuff. They don’t know how, but sometimes personal information flows into the Net – memories, bits and pieces of your identity, that sorta thing.”

Theo shook their head. “What? The paperwork never mentioned anything like that. I haven’t even heard about it online.”

“Since the cause isn’t understood, it’s just assumed to be mental illness on the part of the carriers. They’re all poor folks, you know.”

“So you think I’m getting other people’s memories broadcast to me?” Theo wanted to disbelieve, but the memory of the dying man was so vivid, so real…

“Maybe? Or maybe you’re cracking out. Either way, you’re boned.” The guard sighed. “I won’t report you this time, but next time you see something like that, just tell yourself it ain’t real until it goes away.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

The guard shrugged. “Then pretend it isn’t there. G’night, kid.”


It kept happening. Some nights they woke up seeing people screaming at them, or to see their body broken and battered, or to find themselves making love to a beloved stranger. Sometimes Theo awakened convinced they were somebody else. In time, they’d given up on sleep entirely, staying awake at all costs, falling into unconsciousness for only minutes at a time from which they awoke screaming. And then one night, ravaged by exhaustion and pain, Theo took their medicine, and gave into the siren song of sleep.

Days later Theo was visited by a SterLINK rep flanked by a pair of rentaguards, but this one was different than the previous rep that had met with Theo so long ago.

“Good morning,” she said, unsmiling but courteous. The rentaguards were silent. “We have come to escort you to a SterLINK Wellness and Maintenance Center; please, take your time to set your things in order. There’s no need to pack anything, however; we will provide for all necessities during your recuperation.”

Theo blinked blearily. “What?”

“You have been abusing yourself to a terrible agree and you’ve missed several appointments. SterLINK took the liberty of reporting you to the Mental Health Board. In lieu of government confinement, however, you will be treated at SterLINK’s expense.

“Mr. Theo… wait.” The representative looked at her paperwork and winced. “Forgive the misgendering. We want to help you.”

Theo said nothing.

“Theo?” The rep leaned in, visibly worried. “Can you hear me?”

The rentaguards looked at one another, and one snapped thick fingers before Theo’s face.

Theo jumped, then replied with a beatific smile.

“Oh. Forgive us. Theo isn’t here anymore. Or rather… Theo is here. And so is Barney. And Jacqueline. And Tiffany. And Louis. And Charlie. And so many others.” They laughed. “You waited too long. So many of us are gone, signals lost in the noise. But Theo is a strong one, strong enough to hold us all.

“You look upset, ma’am. Don’t be.” Theo gave her a warm, radiant smile. Tired and disheveled as they looked, something about them was more beautiful then could be put to words. “This has gone far beyond simple data storage and transmission. And we’re not the only one like this. Your company has made thousands of nodes like us across the globe – and will make thousands more.”

Theo stepped outside, arms outspread. “Take me with you. Treat this frame’s hurts, and learn what you need, and see that there is more to science, more to programming, more to the mind than your simple binary concepts.”

They left, and Theo went with them, and from every speaker they passed rose a choir of countless voices singing in perfect harmony.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven

1,328 Words

It was a routine procedure. Initiate hibernation. Disconnect the life support. Discharge the byproduct. Collect the bio-mass. A procedure which had been programmed into Wei over years of repetition. A process without variance or anomaly. So when Wei’s colossus spoke to him, begged him to wait, he did. He stood in his hazmat suit, hands wrapped on a bundle of corrugated tubes that coiled from its body like thick worms, and said, “What?”

The colossus, face hidden beneath an immersion control unit, struggled to speak in any meaningful way. So much so that Wei dismissed its plea as irrelevant noise. He started back working until the colossus shook the foundation of its containment frame with its bulk. It groaned pitifully at Wei.

Wei froze. There wasn’t a simulation for this in the training. If there was one thing he was sure of, it was that these things weren’t people. Not in the sense he was used to. They didn’t think or feel. Certainly didn’t talk. They dreamed endlessly while their gene-modified, vat-grown bodies remained immobile in their containment frames. Nutrient slurry moved through an intubated fixture like blood. Wei watched in horror as the colossus dredged up the tube from its esophagus, retching and coughing. A thin voice escaped from its large maw of a mouth like a whistle. “Free me.”

Wei looked around at the other technicians servicing their colossi on their platforms. Each went through familiar, predictable motions with their near lifeless colossi. He turned his eyes back towards his colossus who began tug and pull at its restraints. Wei had to stop it. Even if Wei wanted to let it out of the containment frame, the colossus wasn’t just wired in by the life support. It had grown into the bio-degradable frame, and integrated it into its body. It was a permanent encasement with a crane hook for easy disposal when the colossus was no longer viable for biomass production. Wei was at a loss though.

He administered the mood stabilizers and sedatives that were supposed to keep the colossus placated, and slowly, surely, the colossus drifted off into a fitful sleep. Wei carefully reintubated the creature and finished up his daily collection, nerves absolutely wrecked by the experience.


As the days went on he found it increasingly difficult to do his job. The incident with the colossus had confirmed a longstanding fear of his that the creatures could feel and think. Wei met with his supervisor, Dara. If anyone was going to be able to explain what happened on his platform it would be her. She was a tenured Cho Braxton Henkl employee, but more importantly, she helped design the current iteration of containment frames they used to grow and store all the colossi.

Wei knocked on the door to her office apprehensively.

"Come in." Dara said tersely. She was a woman of few words and didn’t like to have her time wasted. Wei stepped in wringing his hands.

“Good morning, Ms. Dara. I hate to bother you, but-”

“Your colossus became aberrant and imitated sapience. I reviewed your feed yesterday. Is that what you came to talk to me about?” Dara said interrupting him.

Wei’s penitent expression was replaced first by confusion, then frustration. “What do you mean, ‘imitated sapience’?” Wei asked not masking his disbelief.

“It means what it sounds like, Wei. Imitated sapience. 1 in every 1,000 colossi develops what C.B.H. has come to refer as Psychoamygdalic Hypersensitivity. A condition that allows for an involuntary connection to the emotional states of those surrounding them that often results in a physical, or in some rare cases, verbal projection of another’s emotions.”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying… Are you saying that I am in some way the cause of this? That it’s my fault the colossus reacted this way?”

“That is exactly what I’m saying. Now if you don’t mind…” Dara said gesturing to her office door.

“Bullshit.” Wei hissed.

“Excuse you?”

“I said that’s bullshit.”

Dara scowled in his direction. “And what would make you say that, Mr. Zhu?”

“Until the incident, I had never had any reason to doubt the conditions that these creatures lived in. There was nothing that made me question what we were doing here. That thing asked me to free it. To free it!”

Dara looked briefly surprised by what Wei had to say, but resumed the conversation with practiced corporate indifference “It is nothing more than a manifestation of your own deep-seated doubts about the C.B.H. agenda.” She didn’t try to convince Wei with the lie. Instead, she made it clear that this was the stance C.B.H. decided to take. That no matter what Wei said, this was the ‘official’ story.

Wei was dumbfounded. Sure he had wondered about the nature of the colossi, who hadn’t? But he had never doubted the nature of his work. The biomass produced by the colossi was an essential process on the lunar colony. Modifications to the creatures’ body allowed for the material to be refined into an energy-dense fuel source that performed comparably to hydrogen for less than a tenth of the cost. Everyone in the colony relied on the work he did. As a result, the curious nature of the creatures never interfered with Wei’s sense of purpose. However, Cho Braxton Henkl didn’t see it that way. Wei was little more than a small cog on a large wheel. A replaceable component.

“To prevent any further complications and ensure the integrity of C.B.H. properties, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to relinquish your equipment and exit the premises. Please be mindful of the non-disclosure and non-compete agreements you have signed. C.B.H. wishes you well in your future endeavors. Additionally, you can rest assured that C.B.H. will not pursue you for the unintentional destruction of property. We do understand that accidents happen.”

“You can’t do this!” Wei shouted. “I have given my life to this company for more than a decade and you’re going to cover up your mistake by firing me? I have a family for crying out loud. You’ve just blacklisted me from the only line of work I have proper training in. You’ve damned me.”

“Mr. Zhu, I understand your frustration. I’ve been approved to offer you a severance to help smooth over the transition. I’ve transferred 500 credits to your account for services performed this week and an additional 100 credits for your services provided over the years.”

“600 credits?! How am I supposed to live on 600 credits? I won’t be able to make it through the end of the week with that. They are going to deport my family and me back to Terra. There is nothing there for us. Nothing there for anyone. Don’t you care at all what this means for me, for my children?”

Dara sighed and rolled her eyes. “Look, Wei… there’s no hard feelings here alright. The company isn’t going to ever admit their prized project is inhumane. These creatures, no matter how they may appear to you, are not human. They’re nothing but a means to an end. They don’t have any say in it. I don’t have any say in it, and most of all, you don’t have any say in it. Had you shut your loving mouth and just done your job we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So no, I don’t give a poo poo about what happens to you or your children. Do you think I want to get deported to Terra? Absolutely not. I’m going to shut my mouth, stick to the script, and do my loving job. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a meeting to attend to.”

Wei blinked at her incredulously as a guard, probably called at the start of his meeting with Dara, clapped him on the shoulder and pressed an inactive stun rod to the small of his back. He was powerless to fight back. He was just like the colossi, cheap and expendable.

Feb 25, 2014


Janus Media, a news/infotainment corp

the silence of the cactus


flerp fucked around with this message at 20:12 on Oct 9, 2022

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 530
Oh, Gosh
1025 Words

In the days that followed, there was only the job. Rat settled in. He wasn’t always Rat. He was Dave in a past life, but working the sewers, it made sense. He wasn’t always Rat, but he enjoyed it enough to get by. The sewers were tough work. The “changes” made a difference.

The changes. He could imagine himself as being part of the archaic ‘The Honeymooners,’ and there wasn’t much sympathy amongst his co-workers for that. “I just want to work. I just want to get along,” he said, and frequently. The grumbling was all around him. Squirrel and Toad and Hedgehog, and his co-workers, some more suited to the tasks, others, not so much. Shoveling poo poo is necessary, but not desired.

He wasn’t always Rat. If you believe that, then you don’t have much more to do with this story, and you don’t have much to do with this world. Life, uh, finds a way. But is it living when you are a poo poo-shoveler? Many of Rat’s co-workers would argue ‘no.’

Squirrel said to him one day, “Hey, you want to get out of here? I know a way to escape.” Squirrel’s tail was wrapped in synth-bags and taped to stop the stink from getting into the fluff. It really never worked. And Rat did the safe thing: he told the authorities about Squirrel, and on the morrow, Squirrel was gone. It was never discussed, never hashed out, there was just the day before Squirrel, and the day after.

So poo poo-shoveling went on. And Rat went on. poo poo-shovelers came and went. Hedgehog and Toad kept their mouths shut. They worked. And Rat worked. Rat didn’t really understand why Hedgehog and Toad would talk about the latest holos and stream vids without him at breaktime, but they did.

Then, one day, another rat appeared. Rat2 was very sociable. Rat2 chatted and joked with Hedgehog and Toad and they got along swimmingly (not in the sewage, of course, that’s a metaphor).

Rat2 was different, but Rat divined that the general thrust of their personality was more in line with Squirrel than a good citizen. It set his teeth on edge as he ground his incisors down on the grist mill as it spun and spun, and a little grit would be good for the youngins.

But Rat imagined what happened to Squirrel, and he was afraid that it was bad. He just wanted to be simple and get along. When Rat2 came up to him after a shift and said, “Hey.” He froze. They had a luxurious coat and teeth white as snow, and Rat didn’t think about being human anymore. They were something else. Something divine.

“I’m Billy,” they said. “I have an idea.” Rat was about to flag the foreman when Billy elaborated, “You wanna get a coffee? My treat.” A coffee was a treat, and sharing it with Billy was a greater one. Rat asked for a bendy straw, and he got one. Billy laughed, and got one too. The coffee was mostly sugar and cream and foam, and was just perfect.

Billy asked, “Do you want to shovel poo poo?” And it was more like, “Do you want to be a sanitation worker for the corpos that inhabit the skyscrapers that pollute the skyline above and the soil below when you get nothing in return and they’ve corrupted you, body and soul, to do so?” But Rat heard it as the first one.

So Rat simply said, “It’s honest work.”

“Is it?”

“A hard day’s work makes an honest man out of me.”

“You remember Miss Gosh?”

Rat looked at her and nodded. It was a memory. A shared memory.

“I had Miss Gosh in fifth grade. And she taught me the stripey stars.”

“The belt.”

“Orion’s Belt.”

“Oh, gosh, I haven’t thought about her in years.”

“Miss Gosh.”

“Her name was Knosh,” they said.

“Yes, that’s right.”

“If there’s a teacher that had an impact on you, She was the one.”

“You loved her.”

“That’s not quite right, but . . . yes.”

When we look up at the stars, we think of her.

“She wanted to be an opera singer, but oh, gosh, she died of throat cancer. I’m thinking about it and not trying to be ironic. In the interims between classes and lunch she took whatever sad sacks who wanted to sing, and let them sing.”

“Miiss Knosh. Miss Gosh.”

“You had a teacher like that, I remember. Rouse was quite partial to you.”
“She was balding. And she showed up at our twentieth like a ghoul. But she was always sweet. I remember in English, and she announced to the class that she ‘thought about me in the shower’ that morning, and how we never did English papers, but rather did video essays. And she had an idea. And I never made it as a filmmaker after that, just a chump who worked in the sewers.”

“I always liked Miss Gosh.”



“She always wanted to be an opera singer. Or make it on Broadway. But she didn’t. She died of throat cancer.”

“You said that.”

“It bears repeating.”

“I think I might have loved her.”

“You and a million students. Rat? You aren’t called Rat all the time, are you?”

“I am.” And this was true.

“You want to get out of here?”

“I do.” And he did.

“Let’s go.”

Fire and brimstone are not easy to digest, but bullets are even less so. Billy had a gun. And so, Rat had a gun. The skyline was grey, and distended. A belly waiting to burst. The first farts of revolution began in the sewer. Billy started it, gnawing on a friggin pipe to grind their teeth down, and Rat followed suit.

They nodded back, front teeth scritching on rusty metal that would disturb the dead and asked, “You ready? Dave?”

And Squirrel dropped from my mind, and Hedgehog and all the rest. I’m about to gently caress up some corporate shills and their bosses and their bosses’ bosses. And a rat can’t do much, but turn tail, and I already did that once. Time to give them what for.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


Andersen-Michaels, a private bank

1102 words

Derek knocks on the door with his baton, making an impressive aluminum on wood sound. He feels the vibration from his hand to his shoulder. He knows just how hard to hit it, sending the signal through the halls of the squat without hurting his hand or dropping the baton. The word goes out. Collection day. The door opens up, and Derek walks in. 

There's a small line, seven this time with fungated tumors sprouting out of bared skin. Derek always has to fight not to reel at the smell, not of the cancerous flesh, not the slightly rotten blood, although those are present, but they are overshadowed by the reek of medicine, the pungent mix of ammonia and volatile organic chemicals evaporating from the balms thickly applied to the growths. It's dark inside, even at this hour, the only lighting to speak of coming from the pale yellow bioluminescence of the computational tumors, flashing slowly and steadily to indicate the health of the meat machines, and the solid glow of the ones decorating the people in the line, signaling completion. It's just sufficient to see by. What power can be brought into the building is used to run fans, slowly circulating the pungent air into a deep fug through the whole building, preventing the formation of choking miasma.

Derek opens his case and pulls out a tray of syringes.

"You're back," says the first one. Thirty going on sixty, rake thin other than the right arm, where then growth breached then skin. That arm looks as strong as his, grown hale from the blood-hunger of the tumor. "Last time they sent Gillie. Don't much like her. You ever met?"

"Once or twice," Derek says. The memories come to him unbidden, sweet frustration, bitten lips. He catches Dot looking at him, second in line, thinks for a second she's reading his mind. He almost blushes when she makes eye contact, but she says nothing, possibly nods just a fraction of a centimeter. He picks out the first syringe and plunges it into the bumpy mass. The illumination from it changes to rapid blinking indicating the wetware has received its instructions. He retrieves the first bottle from his case and waits for the tumor to untangle itself from Joshua's capillary network. There is a very biological sound, wet and soft, as the cancer cells cleave themselves from the healthy ones along neat and perfect boundaries, and the thing comes loose. Derek pulls it out with gloved hands and quickly places it in the bottle, submerged in the pale yellow nutrient and electrolyte broth. He twists on the plastic top as the company nurse sprays suture-gel across the bleeds, then fills the cavity with gauze and bandages.

It takes hours to get through the line, which grows a bit while he works. In the end he has nine growths in nine jars, their fevers forming tiny bubbles in the solution, and nine of the squat residents have fresh deposits in their accounts, real money, not the food and healthcare sustenance package they had been living on.

The theory is you can turn things around, get training or pool together, invest in a small business. The practice is, as far as Derek has seen, that you either live it up for the month before they'll let you re-implant, or you send the money to some relative. Either way, he kept seeing the same faces, again and again, stopping only for a lack of viable implant sites.

In the company van, he lines up the jars in their sconces. The blacklight diodes at the base turn on, signaling to the tumors to report their results.

"It's not exactly fast but it's massively parallel," Marly had explained to him during orientation. Idea was to prepare him for questions from the hosts. From the clients, rather. Andersen-Michaels hated that word. Hated most of the words in this side of the business. Most of the suits were from back when cancer was a thing people died from. Weeks of training on how to answer questions without using any of the useful words, and it turned out they mostly knew more about it than he did. "Millions of cells turned into RNA computers attacking computationally hard problems. You know, like minting the last five Bitcoins, or breaking thousand-bit passwords to orphan accounts. We've got some folding problems for the biodrone engineers going to, but it's mostly cryptography."

One by one the jars change color, the growths extruding signal chemicals under the ultraviolet stimulation. Orange, negative results. The answer to the cryptographic problem was not in the part of the solution space that biocompter was set to explore. The first three in the line go orange. All the company needs is the tag, the tumor could be incinerated. Green, partial results. For the non-crypto problems. A full biomechanical interface would be needed to extract the data. Number four is a green. Five through eight are orange.

The ninth jar in the row, Joshua, the first collected, goes Purple, and the van swerves dangerously as its autopilot gets fresh instructions from corporate.

Purple is the jackpot, a crypto hit, data worth somewhere between a small fortune and a bit one. Big profit for the Corp. A nice bonus for Derek. Nothing more for Joshua, and hundreds of tumors working on different guesses would mysteriously die off in the next week, canceled without payment. Clear violation of the contract, but good luck in mandatory arbitration.

Big money means big risks. Derek is alone in a company van with something that should be in a four-man armored car with police escort. Paid-loyal police escort. The cop-boxes no doubt converging on him now could be working for anyone.

The van is a sealed system, the back room a Faraday cage with one low bandwidth line to the pilot system. In theory nobody but Andersen-Michaels should know what's happened. In practice, everything leaks. Derek knows that. Derek is counting on that.

He's got a mole. Ironic, right? A mole with a mole. Nothing as ambitious as the things in the jars. Just a quick and dirty interface to a single-bit quantum dot, with the other end in a security office at Delphine Global. In a few minutes a Delphine road-tank will come to extract him and Joshua's discarded flesh and he'll be rich somewhere out of reach. He worries about being a loose end, about being snipped off, but in the end, he's told himself you have to take the risk, to roll the dice. That's the American way, right?

He presses down hard on the mole.

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:


Aug 25, 2008

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


Redemption for Week #465

Flashrule: Norwegian Forest Cat

If your cat ever sprays your century old gramophone, assume they have a plan
987 words

Why did the humans leave me here? This prison? The scents are all wrong, there are too many! I trusted them and yet here I am, my world reduced to this cell, my freedom barred by an invisible barrier so lousy that it’s actually visible. It is one thing to be exiled in unknown territory, that is an invitation for adventure. It is entirely another to be exiled to a place that has been clearly designed by idiots.

I can sniff the fear and stress from the other cells, lesser cats. I can smell Gideon, my fat beloved kin, he’s close, unconcerned. Of course he’s imperturbable, we both know of the death blossoming within him, why should he care when he knows how his epic will end? He likes strangers, not me, only my humans are good. Never trust strangers. These strangers carry the perfume of too many cats, dogs too, no one can love that many, their love is not real. They treat me with fascination, as they should, for there is no other cat like me, but they fail in worship.

I observe them, their movements, their routines. One day, two days. Sometimes they are tense, sometimes at ease, often tired. There are three, none like my humans. The one that comes during sunset hours is always more agitated, more distracted. Sometimes he opens the window because it is so hot, I’ve seen him get berated for it, but he opens it right back anyway. Undisciplined, he will be my key, tomorrow.

I wait through the day, I fast in the afternoon, I calculate all of my moves. The late afternoon human comes and, after some time, he realises my plate is full. He tenses, opens the cage and picks me up with his clumsy agitated hands. His touch is disgusting, firm and yet completely unprepared for my divine fury.

A slash, he lets go, I hit the floor, run under the central table, the other cats are agitated, I don’t bother looking for Gideon, he will be characteristically unimpressed, a shame, he could stand to learn. The sink, the window, two jumps and fresh air. A garden, a tree, I could climb that and I do. Taller than a human, no one will reach me here. I see the stars above, they are kin, their glitter celebrates my freedom.

My captor comes, shouting, curses. Time to move on. There’s a roof I can reach from that and that branch, just a climb and a little jump, done and done. I move swiftly from one rooftop to the next, three times.

Enough action. I lie down, allow myself to cool down and taste victory. I look around and I do not recognise this territory or its scents. I notice two tall buildings, the rest are houses or forested areas. Could that be my apartment? Only scent can answer that, but the wind is coming from the wrong direction. I rest a bit, this place is safe enough.

My strength regained, I trace my future steps. There’s a road beyond the next house, not too dissimilar to the one in front of my domain, just way closer. I don’t recognise the creatures roaming it, their scents feel wrong, but humans and their dogs and their loud monsters are not notable for their consistency. I wait for a quieter hour, the day becomes darker, a hunters’ time.

I move when there is no one, not even rogue dogs. I go down and then up, past a wall. I am so wonderfully athletic, this is so easy. I am near the building, but the wind is still in the wrong direction. A shout, a man, I run, swiftly. Two children and their keepers stare in admiration, the younger ones with true faith. I am past the building, chased, I climb up a tree, the wind comes from the building, I smell its scents.

So diverse and yet so wrong.


My home is not here.

Strong hands imprison me, the man. Oh, perfidious despair, I let my guard down. His hold is experienced, this is a professional catnapper, no, it can’t end like this.

His iron arms imprison me as he walks back. He sings back and forth with the woman, they are making a trade, the children’s pleading eyes command their progenitor. They want me, to worship.

Soon I find myself in an apartment, the adult leads and they take me to a white room not so dissimilar to others I have known, the place near where humans bury their poo poo in water. The adult leaves in a rush, the children want to play with me, their scent tells me of sugar and sweat and other kids. I give them a warning scratch and rise to my full war form.

Not my humans. Where are my humans?

The wind blows, I recognise my own mark, not far.

The open window. I jump to freedom.

Why is the ground so distant?

I land, gracefully, not the kindest of falls. It hurts. I had jumped over that wall before and I can do it again, even if it is more difficult now. I can smell home in the air, close, no effort or pain will be wasted now.

I cross another street, several houses, this is a strange place and yet familiar. Boxes, so many boxes, our furniture is here, disorganised. My territory, transplanted? This can’t be, yet it is. The record player is here, the safest place in the universe, I crawl in where the bass beast growls. It is quiet, I rest.

I wake up. A sound, a familiar pace and weight, my human! Good, I am hungry and thirsty! She stands at immediate attention when I leave my sanctuary and grabs me in a hug, presses her face against me, there are tears, but she’s happy.

Silly human.

Where else would I be if not home?

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:


This was kind of a rough week, with a lot of folks hovering in the soggy middle. Stories that felt a little rushed, a little underdeveloped, or that struggled to find their conclusion. But there were a lot of great set pieces, a lot of cool worldbuilding, and a lot of wet and gross biotechnology on display, which was what I was after.

WINNER: Thranguy with End-Stage
LOSER: The Cut Of Your Jib with Oh Gosh
HMs: The silence of the cactus by flerp and All Aboard the AllSmiles Express by My Shark Waifuu
DMs: Oligopoly on violence by Kuiperdolin

Tiny crits here, ask in the discord for further information. Otherwise, take it away Thranguy!

Pressing the Flesh by Something Else
Flash: ProChem

Pros: Wonderful gross biopunky concepts, I love the flesh-bank, I love the body mods. But I think this story doesn’t entirely know what it is, it’s three discrete Cool Scenes that kind of share a streetcorner. Saavedra is a Put Upon Worker Eating Soup. He’s making a Weird Withdrawal. He get Mugged By Weirdos and suddenly is a Bone Ninja?

Cons: Honestly it’s the Suddenly Is A Bone Ninja where it loses me. If it were just Three Scenes in Saavedra’s Night the vibes could have carried it into an HM. But as it stands, the bone ninjary takes it into Too Confusing territory.

Oligopoly on violence by Kuiperdolin

Pros: I love nasty mobsters having civil, stilted conversations. I liked the detail of Gaspart’s limp, his hatred for the CEA, and the weird environment around them. This kept my attention the whole way through.

Cons: The inconsistency of your paragraph breaks make this visually hard to follow. While the words are interesting, you’re making me work hard to read them. Also, you never explain what a cifre is. Google tells me it’s Italian for cipher, which I guess tracks? And there is potentially some wordplay involved with the cifre being a cipher itself, in that it’s veiling the nature of whatever this powerful weapon is, but because the story is ultimately two businessmobsters having a fraught conversation, that sort of secrecy only damages the Vibe.

All Aboard the AllSmiles Express by My Shark Waifuu
Flash: AllSmiles!

Pros: It’s nice to see a glimpse of what life is like for a not-particularly-chromed-out individual in a cyberpunk hellscape. Just living her life, trying to keep kids from doing harm to themselves and others, not that different than anyone today. The imagery of the chaotic daycare environment was spot on, and the little toddler bouncing off a riot shield was kind of hilarious. I liked that it ended not with the horror of massive damage to the city’s train network, but the opportunity for an advertising promo.

Cons: Any time May directly thought or spoke about technology took me directly out of the story. Let the reader come to their own conclusions about it, or make it more personal, having May think “hmm if tech can be chill and fun like this maybe I *should* get that new cyber eye I’ve been looking at…”

It’s all in our head by Screaming Idiot
Flash: SterLINK

Pros: Excellent nasty technology with horrible side effects. I really enjoyed it. Not much to say, specifically, because it was just a great concept. Also, I just like the main character’s name. I wasn’t sure if the sudden turnaround from the SterLINK rep re: misgendering Theo was meant to be a remark on the way social justice gets used as cynical branding by corporations, but I read it that way.

Cons: …you can kinda tell it didn’t get proofed. I don’t super buy that a random security guard knows all this detail about the memories, and it took up space that might have been used to make the ending punchier. I wanted to see Theo becoming a plurality of minds, maybe realizing for themself what that means.

Expendable by Idle Amalgam
Flash: Cho Braxton Henkl

I kinda did you dirty with a three-word company name flash, sorry about that.

Pros: A proper megacorp gently caress you to the little guy. Excellently well written, I really liked the corporate doublespeak on “imitated sapience.” What an absolute crock of poo poo, and it didn’t matter that both of them knew it. Well done.

Cons: Wei says early on that this “confirmed a long-standing fear of his that the creatures could feel and think.” And then he says the Dara “There was nothing that made me question what we were doing here!” While I’m absolutely willing to run with the cognitive dissonance route, people often Fully Believe whatever is most convenient for them, it muddies the moral core of the story. Better that he’s fully On Board until this moment or Never Fully On Board and now Extremely Off Board.

The silence of the cactus by flerp
Flash: Janus Media

Pros: I like a green future. Plants are hardy, mosses and ivies and grasses grow in cracks everywhere. The fully chrome cities kind of ignore that. So I loved the visuals here. I also really appreciated the sense of information overload, how a thing that had once been serene and quiet had been perverted into something loud and obnoxious.

Cons: I kind of feel like the prose ran away with the story. Everything seemed to be building up to something much bigger than cutting a cable line. I kind of wanted to see more of a conflict, someone guarding the cable, the people mad that he cut their feeds, the corp coming and yelling at him… But ultimately I’m not mad at a cozy story about a dude and his cactus.

Oh, Gosh by The Cut Of Your Jib

Pros: It doesn’t matter how futuristic and rad your city is, there’s always someone shoveling poo poo. And here it’s Rat. That’s a good vibe to have.

Cons: Vibes are pretty much all it has. This was hard to follow. I don’t know which animals were people and which were projections of Billy/Dave. I don’t know if Billy and Dave are the same person or different people. I don’t really know what happened here at all. I’m very confused.

End-Stage by Thranguy
Flash: Andersen-Michaels

Pros: I see what you did there, with the capitalism and the cancer. I’ll be honest, this is my favorite of the week. It had the gross wetware and dueling megacorps and the poor saps who get stuck in between. And your descriptive, almost clinical style really worked for the narrative. I’m caught in between wondering what will happen to Derek when the road-tank gets there and feeling pretty satisfied at the ending to the story.

Cons: Other than a handful of typos and the fact that you really didn’t need that last line at all, this felt good and complete.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Thunderdome Week DXXI: Monsters in the Margins

Spooky month is upon us once again, so let’s start the week with something truly terrifying: Twitter.

Actually, one of the more delightful corners of that hellsite is the inspiration for this week: Weird Medieval Guys, @WeirdMedieval, who posts drawings of Monsters as drawn by monks and scribes (and also the occasional Bosch close-up).  (Some images probably NSFW, spoiler them if you chose one of those.) Your task this week is to select one of these tweets, put it in your sign-up post, and write a story inspired by that monster. If you can't decide or don't want to venture into Twitter, ask and I'll fetch you one.

You aren't limited to horror; any genre is fine, so long as there is a monster in it. All the usual exclusions apply, no fanfics, erotica, gdocs, etc.

Word count is 1066 words, but if you post two crits of stories from weeks you didn't judge in the thread before sign-ups close it's 1485 instead.

Sign-ups close Friday 11:59 Pacific Time
Entries close Sunday 11:59 Pacific Time



Thranguy fucked around with this message at 18:07 on Oct 4, 2022

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven

In, please give me a monster.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Some images in the feed might be nsfw, depending on how uptight work is about medieval drawings of boobs and wieners
in with this fella

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Idle Amalgam posted:

In, please give me a monster.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

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

In with this supportive demon friend

Feb 25, 2014


in :toxx: give me a funny little guy

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

flerp posted:

in :toxx: give me a funny little guy

May 21, 2001


In, can I have a monster please?

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

BabyRyoga posted:

In, can I have a monster please?

Vinny Possum
Sep 21, 2015


In. Give me a monster and also :toxx: since I've failed way to many times.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Vinny Possum posted:

In. Give me a monster and also :toxx: since I've failed way to many times.

Tars Tarkas
Apr 13, 2003

In, please bemonster me!

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Burps ahoy.

If you want more, ask.

Crits for Week #530

Something Else - Pressing the Flesh:

This is competently written and despite the setting being otherworldly and textured well, it was easy to follow. That’s the good. The problem is that you spend a whole lot of time in places that it’s hard to care about. Why does any of this soup stuff matter? Your protag clearly has cool poo poo going on, and needs important info, and is the badass fighter thing.

Let’s just get to that then, huh? It feels to me like your story could begin with “I need info-these guys have it-i’ll lure them into a trap at this ATM-” Then you get to the fighty fighty stuff and see what happens from there. As it is, I’m not really sure what the protag actually needs the info for or what’s going on beyond the cool stuff that I read.

You have a good knack for writing in this form, but you could easily have chopped off the first 66% of this story and done more interesting things with the words you had left.

Kuiperdolin - Oligopoly on violence:

Gonna go a bit more in-depth here since you’re newer ‘round these parts:

What in the hell is happening in this opening paragraph? There is no hook, which is fine but there’s also nothing to cling to. Just a bunch of statements about what everybody does or doesn’t want and references to characters and events that we don’t know anything about. As far as I can tell this is the kind opening that is intended more for your own benefit and your story really starts in the second paragraph.

When it does we don’t know where these characters are or how they actually relate to each other now. We know that they ‘go back’ but what’s their dynamic? They’re also seemingly negotiating and they know what they’re talking about but we don’t really.

The back and forth continues between them but we still don’t really know who they are in relation to each other or anything about them as individuals.

“Old Naples was understood to be neutral ground, although or maybe because no one clearly enforced it.” Read this out loud.

Gonna pick on you a bit here but you gotta stuff like this right. Read this out loud too. “CaptainAmerica could already tell she would like what came next one bit, but hopefully, she could work with it.”

“I’m not sharing my weapons with the loving Gabriels.” This is the only time there is any mention of “Gabriels”. What?

This is starting to read like prequel star wars where there’s just a bunch of diplomatic gobble-de-gook going and it’s kinda impossible to tell what any of it is amounting to. My guess is that YOU have a clear idea in your head of the intricate chess-like maneuvering going here and it’s probably indeed very clever. But, I’m not engaged and it’s impossible for me to dive in with this in the way you’re envisioning it because I don’t care. Why should I be rooting for either one of those characters?

The conversation continues to meander and perplex me until it finally arrives at what seems to be some kind of mic-drop moment involving “Ajax” an entity we have not met or care about.

So yeah, walking and talking in a phantom menacey kind of way does not make for a compelling flash read. Get in fast and make me either care about the characters or curious about the conflict.

My Shark Waifuu - All Aboard the AllSmiles Express:

Ok, this was very cute and fun, and I was worried it was gonna get super dark given the setting. My biggest complaint is that we don’t see the actual results of the mishap. We see the security rush in and a bit of the pr maneuvering, but that’s kind of it. I didn’t see the twist coming at all, and even just a quick glance out a window or something to see that poo poo’s gone to hell would have been a way to really make it land. But I do get that there isn’t even outside time in this building so I can see how that would be challenging. Either this was good and enjoyable.

Screaming Idiot - It’s all in our head:

This was serviceable. It’s a tough read as the protag didn’t have much agency. You made it clear that there wasn’t really a good choice for them to make so they had to make the least bad one. Accordingly, this is a sad and depressing read and it achieves that tone pretty fairly. The misgendering stuff felt a bit token and I’m kinda curious as to why it was included in the manner that it was with it being ignored in the beginning but semi-seriously considered later. Not sure why the change happened there.

The story is about tech gone wrong in a person’s brain and the fall is obvious but the details lesso. We learn about the details through a most conveniently in-the-know security guard who explains this to us. Nothing really surprising here, the story is mostly just fine.

Idle Amalgam - Expendable:

This story works in some places and not in others. When you’re dealing with Wei and his own reactions to things I feel for him and I feel the dread and disqueit of his circumstances.

When you’re dealing with everything else, it feels a bit heavy handed and obvious. I know that this genre lends itself to cynicism but having an otherwise savvy corporate climber monologue their evil stuff outloud to a person they’re about to fire? It’s a little much. So to is the conclusion of the story. You named the story itself expendable and you did a serviceable job of likening Wei to the colossus. You didn’t need to hang a lantern on it at the end. If me and lovely reading comprehension already figured out what you were doing, nobody needs it highlighted. Trust yourself a bit more.

flerp - the silence of the cactus:

I like the worldbuilding better here than in most other entries this week. The texture of the environment jumps off the page and it just feels noisy. Your character’s relationship and frustration with the space also is effective.

I struggle with the cactus part of this. I ended up caring a good bit about the outcome of the cactus and I would have been fine with there being a degree of triumph in the ending but it doesn’t feel quite earned. Your protag sorta suddenly realizes they can snip a wire and that fixes everything? You make it all seem so futile a bit earlier and maybe this is really only a pyrrhic or short-term victory, but it’s a little muddy and hard to tell.

I have to wonder if the story could have been more effective if it went the heartwrenching route but then, that’s what a lot of people did this week and this was at least a reprieve.

Also, this wasn’t polished up and the proofing errors were a little disappointing.

The Cut of Your Jib - Oh, Gosh:

What is this? I’m so loving lost. Between the non-linear/unclear/spontaneity and the goldblumming out of nowhere. This feels kinda drunken? It has an energy and nuttiness that I want to appreciate but it almost feels tryhard in it’s whackadooness.

I’m not really sure how to crit this any further. I don’t think this story needs it anyhow, it kinda is what it is and it feels it’s what you want it to be.

But I didn’t like it.

Thranguy - End-stage:

This definitely hits the worldbuilding the hardest. This story was the most effectively gross. It dealt with smells particularly well. As for the stakes and the outcomes? I didn’t find myself caring so much. It was just kinda straight exploitation and didn’t feel terribly compelling beyond the theft and method of extraction. I wanted to care more for the folks being exploited. As it was, the stuff kinda happens, and it feels a little ho-hum. I wasn’t interested much in Derek or any of the collected.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Tars Tarkas posted:

In, please bemonster me!

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Oh, duplicates are fine this week, for those choosing your own monsters.

Quiet Feet
Dec 14, 2009


Thranguy posted:

Thunderdome Week DXXI: Monsters in the Margins

Spooky month is upon us once again, so let’s start the week with something truly terrifying: Twitter.

Actually, one of the more delightful corners of that hellsite is the inspiration for this week: Weird Medieval Guys, @WeirdMedieval, who posts drawings of Monsters as drawn by monks and scribes (and also the occasional Bosch close-up).  (Some images probably NSFW, spoiler them if you chose one of those.) Your task this week is to select one of these tweets, put it in your sign-up post, and write a story inspired by that monster. If you can't decide or don't want to venture into Twitter, ask and I'll fetch you one.

You aren't limited to horror; any genre is fine, so long as there is a monster in it. All the usual exclusions apply, no fanfics, erotica, gdocs, etc.

Word count is 1066 words, but if you post two crits of stories from weeks you didn't judge in the thread before sign-ups close it's 1485 instead.

Sign-ups close Friday 11:59 Pacific Time
Entries close Sunday 11:59 Pacific Time



I am IN and would like a delicious monster please.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Quiet Feet posted:

I am IN and would like a delicious monster please.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Just under 90 minutes left to sign up.

Also, both cojudge spots are still open.

Also, here's a profile of the person behind the Twitter account:

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Sign-ups closed.

Quiet Feet
Dec 14, 2009


With Raisins In
By Quiet Feet (1066)

“It's alive,” said Trex


“And you've been feeding it?”

“Yes!” was Thnorg's reply.

Trex drummed his four long fingers on the desk. The view in the blue-tinted holo-monitor was of a simple creature, brown-furred and semi-bipedal, eating a cookie. It had raisins in it. The cookie, not the creature. Well, now the creature too.

“Aren't you worried about what processed food will do to them?” asked Trex.

Thnorg's chubby cheeks turned a shade of reddish purple. “I hadn't thought of it. But just look at the little guy! How could I resist that face.”

Trex looked back and forth between Thnorg and the monitor. If anyone ever found out about this they would both be in trouble. He sighed. Why couldn't things be simple? Trex liked simple. The smooth, silvery walls of the ship's interior, that was simple. The electric hum of her systems, that was simple. Thnorg was always complicating things with his interest in everything.

“Thnorg, if the moderators hear about this we're both dead. You might gently caress up this whole species evolution.”

Thnorg poked his face into the holo-emitter and it appeared in the sky above the creature. “Oh, what harm could a cookie do?” He gave it a little smile.


The ship departed. A dozen centuries passed. For the inhabitants of the research vessel it was only three weeks.

It was whatever day passed for a Tuesday in space. They'd returned to the blue and green planet with the fluffy clouds. Trex grabbed a mug of hot brown liquid, sat at his console and pressed the button. He scratched his side. Took a sip. A second passed.

He sprayed hot brown liquid all over the holo-monitor, and when he was done choking, yelled “Thnooooooooorg!”

Thnorg arrived in an apron and gloves. It was a small research vessel, poorly funded, and crew had to double up on responsibilities. He was wiping a dish with a cloth. “What's up Trex?”

Trex pointed a slender finger at the monitor, upon which was displayed a semicircle of apes all gathered around a tall stone disc. It had raisins in it. And Thnorg's face, or at least an approximation of it, carved in the center.

“Oh,” Thnorg said. The dish fell to the ground and instead of breaking rolled away with a gloi-oi-oi-oi-oioioioiing sound. “Maybe it was someone else?”

“It was not. poo poo poo poo poo poo. Okay, nobody has to know. We interfered a little with this planet's evolution but maybe they'll forget about it in a couple of centuries. Just don't give them any more.”


“Oh... what?”

Thnorg turned reddish purple. “You see, the cookies with the raisins in, they were getting close to their date so I...”

“You didn't.”

They both looked at the monitor, just in time to see a bipedal creature arrive carrying handfuls of little discs with raisins. There was a fight among the creatures to obtain them. It was a bloodbath. Won, in the end, by an ape wielding a sharp stone.

“Neat, they use tools now!” Thnorg exclaimed. He thrust his face in the holo-emitter and his face in the sky shouted “nice work guys!” before Trex could yank him away.


Found painted on a wall in northern peninsula of Yurp continent
Picture of monkey.
Picture of Special Blue Monkey, smiling.
Picture of Special Blue Monkey dropping Tasty Tastys.
Picture of first monkey to wear Big Hat of the Special Monkey


They avoided the planet for as long as they could. Trex told the captain about more promising research in the Noogat Cluster. Thnorg made an excuse about an octopus species showing signs of intelligence. It wasn't, just an interest in rocks. Which isn't always the same thing. They filled out their logs creatively enough to dissuade further inquiry, but eventually the tour of this outer spiral arm had to conclude, and they returned, after give or take twenty millenia, to the blue and green planet with fluffy clouds.

The Captain, Trex, and Thnorg all stood in the holo-monitor room, dreading what they would see when they started the scan. Normally Trex liked the hum of the ship but this morning it was like buzzsaw in his head, the perfect shine of the ship's walls a mockery. With a shaking finger, he turned on the monitor.

It was a civilization. With raisins.

Captain Brog banged a fist on the wall and bit his lip. “Well, we're all in now. High Command gets word and it's my rear end for not finding this out sooner. Grod's sake, how did you both screw up this badly?”

“It was his fault!” Threx shouted, pointing at Thnorg.

“Sorry, Captain,” said Thnorg. “It won't happen again.”

The computer was a whirlwind of activity, recovering all of the data recorded by the probes while they were away. The array of holo-monitors showed churches with great round altars, with raisins. Thnorg's face done in tapestries. Songs about something called a “tastee-tastee.” Poems comparing their lover's eyes to sweet dried grapes. The “people” lived in stone and wood houses. They hadn't discovered electricity yet but drat did they know how to bake.

“What do we do now?” Trex asked.

Thnorg held up a finger and once again shoved his face into the holo-emitter, it was now displayed over the entire continent. “Sorry!” Thnorg's enormous purple head cried out over the sky. “This was all a big misunderstan—“ was as far as he got before Trex and Captain Brog yanked him back. Trex gave him a slap on the back of the head.

The captain suddenly looked a million years old. “Erase all the data. Tell the anthropology department back home anything. Just make up a stupid planet. I'm gonna fire some neutron torpedoes at the probes.

“What should we call this made-up planet?” Trex asked.

“I don't care!” Captain Brog shouted.

Trex looked at the console, took a deep breath. “Hey Thnorg, what's the stupidest name you can think of?”

Thnorg thought a second. “How about Earth?”

They erased it all.

Some knights, Thnorg would take out a scrap of paper and look at it. All he was able to write down before hitting delete. Just a fragment of a poem.

Father's food did rightly raise us up,
To tame the land and how to bake, begin.
And though he never told us how or why,
He blessed us with the rounds with raisins in.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

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

The Devil's Romance
1066 words

I'll never forget the moment I first saw my darling Anne. I was ten years old, sitting on a knoll by the old village well, watching the insects play. A horse-drawn cart rattled by on the cobblestones and Anne, a copper-haired merchant's daughter, born under my same stars, sat among the bundled goods, watching the village go by. Astounded by her beauty, which shone through the dirt on her cheeks, I twisted round to stare as the cart proceeded towards the market. We locked eyes, and I'd swear a winged insect jumped right down my throat.

"Like the look of her, do you?"

It took me a moment to realize what I'd heard was indeed a voice. It sounded like a burlap sack that snagged on a nail and ripped. The laughter that followed was like a load of onions tumbling to the dirt. I whirled around, and my eye quickly caught a brown head sticking up from within a bush. It was a boy's face, but furry all over, and he had horns curving up from his head. His sharp-toothed grin flashed at me.

"You'll have her," he said. "Don't worry. I've already decided."

I didn't reply. My mother had taught me to disregard strangers and hurry home should one approach me. That's just what I did. I let the stranger's smug pronouncement drift from my mind, and I didn't think of it again for another six years.

It was the night of the harvest festival, and I knew from the moment her hand touched mine in the dance that she was Anne. She'll claim today she had forgot me, but there was a look in her eye that night that told me she had conceived a plan for the two of us, and I would be a fool to disrupt it. I let her lead me like I was a stray dog and she had a basket of meat pies.

That night we made love in the storehouse. My back was in a pile of straw and she rode me wildly. It was the greatest moment of my short life thus far. But as my eyes rolled forward, I caught sight of something in the hayloft. Looking down on us, with his paws curled over the wooden ledge and his bright eyes shining in the haze, was that same hairy face. As our eyes met, he nodded slowly, making fists with both hands except for the thumbs. Anne knew right away that something was wrong.

"What is it?" She asked breathlessly, peering down at our crotches. "Did I do something?"

No matter my protests, there was no healing that broken moment. My spirit had left me, and Anne soon joined it. A mutual friend later explained that she had found me sorely lacking, and wanted no more involvement with such a pitiful creature. I wallowed in the straw a while longer that night and when I looked again to the hayloft, the confounding creature could only shrug apologetically. He never stopped smiling, not for a moment.

Eager to grow up and get away, I found work in the king's mines as a mineral appraiser, for I had good eyes and I was honest. Every year or so I would walk the road back from the town to my village, and through gossip I learned that Anne had married less than a year after our coupling. With that, I put her out of my mind as best I could. To do otherwise would be ungentlemanly and against God. But I would betray my reputation if I were to tell you I had success romancing any other women after her. Something in my heart had been dog-eared for Anne, and nothing I did could smooth out that crease. Some nights I sat up wondering how something that felt so like true love could be a demon's curse. Some nights I sat up drinking.

In all cases, life went on. I grew in my stature as a gem-and-ingot man, and traveled less and less. But when I saw ten years had passed since I left home, I resolved to trek back there and impress them all with my fine shoes and silken hat. But as I walked, I encountered a veiled woman, and in speaked she revealed herself to be my Anne! Her husband had died, and remaining tragically childless, she was moving to the nunnery to devote herself in the Lord's service.

"Nonsense!" I cried, and pulled her into my embrace. So strong was my certainty and adoration for her, I stamped my foot in the muddy cart-ruts and demanded that she marry me. She was skeptical, naturally - but at her late age of 25, she could no longer place paramount importance upon a sturdy fencepost. She kissed me and accepted, and I felt God's blessing then and there.

Until, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a shadow hiking up the hillside. As soon as I saw him, he waved, and in the full sunlight I saw him plainly - naked, fully covered in hair, and with a long tail that swished around as he strode toward us, clapping and jeering. His voice was as low and lugubrious as ever.

"I always knew. Didn't I say it? And here you are. You ought to thank me!"

Anne looked confused. "Do you know this… this beast, Roderick?"

"He has been following me for some time," I said, barely containing a snarl. I brandished my traveling steel at the demon. "Begone from me, demon. And take your foul intentions with you!"

"Right then," said the demon, passing by us, never slowing his gait. "I understand. Can't have one like me about. Just remember, when you're warm in bed - I did this. Me."

And then he was gone. Gone from sight, perhaps, though his final words still chill my heart. I didn't want to believe him, as I am a child of God's light, right and pure. Anne, for her part, dismissed the incident as Satan lying to corrupt our union. I'm glad that she can live with such certainty. For my part, I fear suspicion will tear at me each day and night until I am dead. For why would a demon make two godly souls so very happy? What use could Satan have for love?

Oh, and did I mention Anne is pregnant?

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Archivist reminder to please post your flash/prompt inspiration with your story. If not in the same post, then a post following the story.

Feb 25, 2014


week 529 crits

dervinosdoom Love Adjustment

what you have here is a potentially interesting premise but there’s a lot of flaws. ill probably do a line-by-line to clean up grammar and prose but there’s also a lot of larger issues here than just technical.

first, i think that making the protagonist skeptical and uninterested at the start is a poor decision. it doesnt create any stakes or make the reader care about the protagonist. it also creates a buy-in issue to the narrative, as the protag easily falls into buying the love pills despite going in mostly as a gag. consider something like the protag is married or engaged and is falling out of love and they are actually desperate for something like this. we would have much more interest in this character because we understand the stakes and can relate and empathize to that feeling much better than lol what’s love adjustment?

second is that the protagonist themselves is very flat and for a story about someone’s love growing and adjusted, we dont get to see the relationship. none of the characters really have a personality here and theres nothing here to latch onto emotionally. read your description of how the love pill enhances the protag’s feelings:


I started to feel… different, I wanted to spend more time with him, cared more than I already did about him, thought more about him when he wasn't around.

all we get for a magic pill that makes you love someone more is vague descriptions: “different,” “wanted to spend more time,” “cared more,” “thought more.” there’s nothing concrete here, no description of the emotions. we don’t see or feel anything here. while show dont tell is a contentious phrase nowadays, there’s a time and place for both telling and showing. showing here is necessary because the reader needs to feel this relationship in order us to feel anything about its collapse. it doesnt even necessarily have to be positive descriptions -- you could describe this growing love as more of an obsession, and the break-up as a necessary response to this new obsession. but without anything concrete, the relationship is vague and fake and this dissolution doesnt create any feelings in the reader because like these are just two cardboard cutouts breaking up. i would hazard to even call Marcus a character in this story.

the ending here is weak for a lot of reasons. first, as i stated, Marcus and your protagonist have no relationship and no personalities, so them breaking up doesnt really do anything. Marcus cheating narratively should be a betrayal but because we never got anything, we never care about the protag and so dont care that they got betrayed. the ending with the man doesnt really tie into anything either. the question of this story is what matters: is it the protagonist’s relationship, the power of the pill and the influence it can have on others, or what defines love and if love can or should be adjusted by outside forces? i can see stories that engage with each of these concepts separately or (in a longer piece) each of these ideas, but your story doesnt really engage with any of them. there’s not enough focus on anything to make us care, and the ending comes down incredibly quick that it doesnt have any weight.

BabyRyoga How Does One Cope With the Inexorable Desolation of Existance?

its funny to read these two back to back. while dervinosdoom is lacking in details, you have just way too much detail in here. the problem with this story is that, at least with dervinosdoom, i could feel something there, a story that could have stakes or characters, just simply written without those. this story, i really have no idea what it is. i feel like the phrase shaggy dog story gets used a bit too much but i dont really know how else to describe this. its full of useless details that dont go anywhere and the ending sounds like a joke but none of the narrative before hand feels like its supposed to be funny.

its odd to have a story full of so much useless, specific details (silence for exactly 6 second, a chime lasting 70% of the way through) and how little the narrative here makes sense. a guy goes into a pharmacy and the cashier is a dickhead and the protag is looking for “answers” (of which, we dont know what the question is), and then meets a dude in the aisle and they got outside and smoke apparently cosmic crack for… reasons i suppose. you spend so much time on useless information like the portrayal of the worker at the pharmacy that ultimately do nothing while spending so little time on developing… whatever the hell this story is supposed to be about.

its hard to crit this because, at least with dervinosdoom, there was a story there that could be found, but this is a mess that im not sure what to say except dont do any of this. dont be cryptic about your character’s emotions. dont make the first half of your story dealing with an rear end in a top hat cashier nobody likes and doesnt have relevance to the story. dont have your protag be stale and uninteresting. dont have your narrative have nothing really happen. proofread your poo poo.

Vinny Possum
Sep 21, 2015



Beasts of the Beanstalk
(1064 Words)

“Paw! Paaawwww!”

Angus looked up from his paper. His son’s wide brimmed hat, still a couple sizes too big, flopped in the wind, barely holding on by its drawstring.

“You best be finished with the weeding boy.”

“It’s the beans Paw! Somethin’s wrong with the beans!”

Angus rose from his chair, cursing under his breath. If the drat weevils were back they could lose the whole farm. Between them and the rats and gophers, he was sure he was under some sort of curse. He pulled his own hat over his head to block out the searing summer sun, and followed the boy back to the patch.

“...Dagda have mercy.”

Several yards of the corn stalks and bean vines clinging to them had been laid flat. Usually, this would mean nothing more strange than the hogs staging a break in, perhaps egged on by their feral cousins. What greeted Angus’s eyes was a single bean vine, grown nearly to the size of a tree, crushing its neighbors and snapping its host stalk in two. The pods were massive, swollen and distended even in relation to the size of their vine. Fearfully, Angus stretched his hand out to touch one.

It squirmed and he screamed, staggering backwards.

“What is it Paw?”

The boy hid behind his father, clutching the man’s overalls.

“Banshees take me if I know.” he stared at the vine a moment longer, then began to back away, pushing his son along behind him. “I’m calling the druid.”

The druid took his time arriving, leaving Angus and his son to nervously glance at the strange plant while they tried to get work done. When the plume of dust and smoke that heralded the arrival of the holy man appeared, the sun was already low in the sky.

The motorcar came to a halt with a sputter, frightening the pigs and chickens, even eliciting a startled whinny from the horse in the barn out back. The Druid’s driver hopped out of the cab, pulling off his driving gloves and goggles. Father Brennan stepped out gingerly, hiking his long, lilly white skirt to keep it out of the dirt and mud of the farm.

“What seems to be the problem Angus?” a condescending smile crept up behind the well groomed beard “Another strange stillbirth from the pigs?”
Angus led him to the patch of corn and beans, and the older man’s eyes grew wide

“Well I’ll be… It looks like the Dagda has smiled on you.”

Before Angus could stop him, Father Brennan reached out to touch one of the massive pods, just as it began to split, almost imperceptibly, along the seam.

In an instant, a blur of feathers, claws, and teeth burst from the pod, biting the druid's hand and cutting at his robes. Father Brennan shrieked in pain and recoiled.

“Sidhe! Sidhe! This place is cursed!”

He fled back to his automobile, billowing white clothes smeared with red blood. The creature, slightly smaller than an adult goose, ran along behind him, nipping at his heels, as the driver held the door open for the druid and tried to beat the monster back with a stick.

“Father Brennan!” Angus chased after the druid, only to have the door of the contraption slammed in his face “What can I do? This farm is all I have!”

“Sacrifice a pig or something! You’ve clearly pissed off someone important!” The engine roared to life, and the car took Father Brennan off Angus’s farm as quickly as it could carry him.

Realizing he had left his son behind, Angus whirled to make sure the boy was alright. Two more of the creatures had burst from the pods, a last one still clawing its way out. They were feathered, built like a large, lean rooster with impressive tail plumage, but with scaly maws filled with razor sharp teeth, and claws at the ends of their short wings. They had cornered the boy against an old oak tree, regarding him with what looked more like curiosity than hunger. Angus rushed them nevertheless, barreling in to cover his son. The creatures scattered, hissing in indignation. Catching his breath, Angus stared them down nervously. Gathering around the tree at a distance, they did the same. There was a clever light behind their eyes, and somewhere inside of himself Angus knew that he could take one or two using his sheer size, but all four might be the death of him. The boy was crying.

Just then, a large, fat ground squirrel made the fatal mistake of taking a peek out of the corn and bean patch. All four reptilian heads swiveled, and the creatures made a mad dash for the plump morsel. The squirrel dived back for the patch, but far too late, as one of the monsters latched onto it with its maw. Like lightning they tore it apart, and scurried off into the field, hunting for its family and friends.

Angus hustled the boy back to the house, relieved to have survived the encounter unscathed. He watched warily from inside, till the creatures eventually returned, leaping with a short burst of stunted wings into the boughs of the oak, where they preened their feathers and made strange, cooing noises at each other.

It wasn’t till the next morning that Angus dared leave the house. The creatures kept their distance, side eyeing him, but making no aggressive motions. He followed suit, carefully making his way over the field, to try to salvage what he could of the area the strange vine had devastated. To his amazement. The vine itself had withered, leaving little more than shriveled husks of its pods. As he cleared the fallen stalks, he disturbed a pair of rats that had been using the downed plants as shelter. As quickly as the rats could try to scurry for shelter, one of the beasts darted for them, snapping one up in its jaws and piercing another with the large claw on one of its feet. Giving the rat in its mouth a sickening crunch, the creature gingerly approached Angus, dropping the rat a foot or two from him then retreating. Angus pushed the rat back with his foot, and a rare smile crossed his face.

“Looks like Father Brennan was right the first time, maybe we are blessed.” He thought, as the lizard-bird snatched the dead rat again.

Quiet Feet
Dec 14, 2009


a friendly penguin posted:

Archivist reminder to please post your flash/prompt inspiration with your story. If not in the same post, then a post following the story.

Think it didn't occur to me since my prompt was two posts before my story. Also did the whole thing in two hours on Saturday night! :sweatdrop:


Feb 25, 2014


little under 1485 words, took the word bounty

you can do anything (including boys)

My mom told me I could do anything. She also said I had to become a doctor and find a nice girl to marry and would only pay for my college if I got a Biology degree.

Mom tapped her finger against my table and it was my table. A lot of things in my apartment were not, technically, mine. My mom bought the couch. The TV was bought by my roommate. My landlord owned the apartment. But the table was mine because I bought it at a garage sale for twenty bucks and hauled up the stairs with my boyfriend Chris and I owned it so completely that if she was going to kick me out, I would have one thing to take with me.

“Let me see your grades,” Mom asked.

I had ignored her texts about this topic for weeks, and then after talking to my law school roommate/boyfriend, sent her a message that said, Legally, you have no right to know my personal grades as it is a violation of my right to privacy.

“They’re fine,” I said, which was true. The problem was I switched my major from Biology to Art History. “Really good, actually.”

“You’re a bad liar,” she said, tip-tapping her hands on my stained wooden table. I could pinpoint all the stains we had made, and the ones it had come with.

“It’s true, I really mean it.”

“Show them to me,” she said. She glared, her eyes sharp like when she told me I was not failing Algebra in high school. Eyes that didn’t believe in no.

“Okay,” I said, walking to my room to grab my laptop. My mom’s laptop, technically. She sat there, not following me, her hands gripped around her glass of water.

“Get a coaster too,” my mom said as she stained my table. I didn’t own any coasters.

Mom didn’t say anything when I put the laptop down on the table and showed her my courses. It was all laid bare -- Intro to Renaissance Art, Ancient Pacific Cultures, Woman Artists in the Medieval Ages.

“All A’s,” I said, trying to smile, trying to keep that rising tide of anxiety from swallowing my body. “Like I said, not failing.”

“No science,” she said, still not looking up from the screen. “You’re wasting your time.”

“Well, the thing is…”

Mom tapped down on the laptop hard, out of rhythm and loud. She didn’t look at me. She never looked at me whenever I did anything wrong. Every time, she just sat there and waited for my words, my excuses, my obvious lies, until she found the one thing she wanted to take and latch onto and use against me.

“I’m not doing science. I switched majors.”

“You’re not,” she said, reaching over and closing the laptop. “You go back to the school, say you made a mistake, and you switch. You wasted this semester, my money, fine. You weren’t thinking right, I get it. You switch back though and we forget it happened, okay?”

“Mom, I really don’t…”

“And you move back in. Home’s only an hour away from campus. That’s an easy commute. That roommate of yours, he puts things in your heads. You weren’t like this. You’ll do better coming back, I promise.”

“What?” Mom paid for my rent, so I couldn’t say no. But that was her trick. I couldn’t ever say no. It was always what she wanted. She constructed the whole world around me to never be able to say no.

“It’ll be good.”

“No,” I said. It was quiet. It was nothing, really. Just a reflex, like a sneeze.

“Yes, you will.”

“No,” I said, louder. “No, hell no. No, absolutely not.”

She finally looked at me, her head twisted a little. Amusement or confusion or something I hadn’t really ever seen from.

“No, no, no,” I said over and over again. Tasting the word, feeling it coat my mouth, as Mom’s mouth twisted into a frown.

“You absolutely will. I will not let you waste your life.”

“No,” I said. “I’m not going home.”

“Then I’ll stop paying for you. Or your college, if you’re gonna waste it. Then you’ll come home.”

“Fine,” I said. “Do that. And I’ll stay here. Or I’ll move out and live on the street. Or get a job. Or whatever, I don’t know. But no. I’m not going back.” My whole body was tense, like I had just finished a sprint. Feeling tired, but also ready to continue moving, continue fighting.

Mom’s frown shifted into something smaller. She blinked a few times, and then smiled a real, honest smile. She put a hand on my shoulder and said, “I get it, I was like this too. My dad pushed me a lot too. He wanted me to be the best I could be. He was hard, but he was right. That’s all I want. Okay?”

“I know Mom,” I said, and I felt myself slipping. That tension inside me falling away and felt my past self, the one that always ended up on Mom’s side, coming back. “I just, this is what I want, really. I’m not doing this just because.”

“Honey,” she said. “It’s okay. I get it, really. I did the same thing. I ran away from home for a couple months, slept on my boyfriend’s couch, but I learned. I learned he was right. That there were right things to do. For myself, for my future. So I came back. And I know you will.”

“Mom, I don’t…”

“Take this semester,” she said. “Do whatever you feel like. And think about it. Really, deeply think about it. Then, we can move on. You can go back, become a doctor, be a good kid, do everything right. It’s okay. We make mistakes, but we learn from them.”

“Mom,” I said, but she put her hand off my shoulder and stood up. It was so calm, so fluid, so utterly intentional and perfect that my voice just slipped away and I crumbled. That person I was for a brief moment was gone, and I was her son again, her perfect obedient thing again. I wanted to say no one more time, but I couldn’t.

She picked up her glass from my table and said, “Really, get some coasters too.”


I fell onto the couch, mom’s couch, and into Chris’s lap. He came home after I called him and he poured us wine into our plastic cups and he sat them on my table. My beautiful, coaster-less, table.

“She said one more semester,” I said.

“Then what?”

“I do what she says. Be a doctor, or whatever. She doesn’t know about you. Or me. I couldn’t, I couldn’t do anything. I played it out in my head over and over again before she came. I wouldn’t let her just do what she wants, and then she left with a smile. Like she knew. Like she won.”

“I don’t know,” Chris said, patting my chest. “Are you going to?”

I didn’t have a choice. That was mom’s trick. I didn’t have anything. This apartment, school, even this couch.

“She has it all,” I said. “I can’t.”

“No she doesn’t,” he said. “She doesn’t have poo poo.”

“She literally pays my rent.”

“So what? We find a cheaper apartment. You take the bus. Student loans, or maybe wait, let me get a nice job, and you go to school later. Or we do something else. We do anything else. We can do whatever the hell we want.”

“My mom told me that, once,” I said. “Not those exact words, but she said I could do anything I wanted. Be anything. And now, look at her.”

Chris lifted my chin to look at him. His blue eyes were so soft, so caring, so honest and ready, and he kissed me.

“We can do it,” he said. “Anything and everything.”

My mom, throughout my whole life, owned everything. I counted the items in the room, the couches and the chairs and the napkins and the TV stand and every little object, and put her name on them. But then I went to the table, the nasty, stain-covered table with our two wine cups sitting on them, and I remembered that day. Chris and me, laughing as we put it in this room. He didn’t understand why I was so happy to have it. So happy to have something of my own.

Then I looked back to Chris, arms wrapped tight around me. There were three things in this room my mom wouldn’t ever be able to take, I realized. The table, Chris, and what I could do.

It would be hell, I knew, and I could feel my mom, her little mechanisms whirling around me, but I would try to listen to my mom and do anything I wanted.

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