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|# ? Nov 26, 2022 10:06|
|# ? Jan 30, 2023 01:21|
Fautons (252 words)
Jezip had a troubled adolescence, but who doesn’t? Especially a bright kid growing up without a mother. Cimon tried to weather it, thinking maybe it would not have happened if he had been a perfect father. But as Jezip entered adulthood he became flickering mad, rambling about shadows and their lost world. Simon, with blinding dread, remembered his wife at his son’s age, and tried to reason with him:
“Shadows don’t exist. How would they move with you, keep your shape, how would they exist without mass or brightness? Yes, objects exposed to light will be darker on the opposite side, and you could call that a shadow. But people are made of light itself, so no part of them can be unexposed. Shadows of people don’t exist.
They’re just a metaphor from myth and literature, a symbol of the evil version everyone carries around of themself, or of their capacity for evil, close, inescapable, yet untouchable. Not a terrible metaphor as such things go.”
But Jezip hardly listened; he went on about old books and cranks’ testimonies. Some dullard had seen his shadow in a mirror (a double impossibility), maybe, somewhere, as if people did not see things that do not exist all the time. And Jezip bolted, chased the rumor. He faded out of his father’s life, lost himself in obsession and ruins, used and swindled by bad people, roaming sordid depths for their false secrets, alone in the quest for the black companion.
His mother was shadowing him.
|# ? Nov 28, 2022 00:15|
The Captain’s Order
Paxton was a shipborn, accustomed to the ascetism of long-haul spaceflight, and he was not coping well with Voss Dhraga station. From orbit, the markets felt familiar, stalls packed tight like soldered circuitry. But — as ever — schematics barely resembled reality. He hadn’t accounted for the crowds: the clamour of haggling in a hundred languages, the crush of limbs, the humidity. Eyes watering from fumes of burning grease, he squeezed past stalls selling noodles slathered in smoked fat, and emerged before the shuddering cacophony of Tech District Five.
Districts one through four had been a bust. First, hardly anybody had noticed him; sixteen years of vite-pouches had not endowed him with any sort of presence to stand beside the seven-foot tall feathered bipeds of Karlak, or the three-hundred pound Gharls, and be seen waving an order sheet in the air. Nor was his grey jumpsuit, now covered in a fine mist of grease, noticed against their garish fashions and coruscating scales. Even when he had their attention, nobody seemed to stock anything on Captain Virgo’s order. When the last, a chitinous octopod with enormous goggles, had passed the sheet back with an apologetic chittering, Paxton had to fight the urge to crumple it up and vanish into the throng. Better that than to return empty-handed. On-board, he could always find the source of an errant ping, an expensive leak: here was his chance to prove himself more than wiry limbs navigating maintenance tunnels. Squaring his shoulders, he pushed through.
The next stallowner, when Paxton handed over the sheet—crumpled and sweaty from his anxious grip—perused the list thoughtfully; and then chuckled, bulbous cheeks shaking, as they handed it back.
‘You’ll be plunging into the guts for these,’ the vox translated, mangling some local idiom. ‘Maybe try TD-9? Should find the flux inverters there, in any case. Maybe TD-11 for the wireless shangles.’
‘There’s nowhere closer?’ Paxton managed. ‘I’ve been looking for hours.’
‘Oh, I could ring ahead to check,’ they offered, shrugging their heavy shoulders and motioning toward the comms-box nestled between plastic tubs of stripped wires, bulging fuel cells, and dented tubing. ‘If you’d like.’
‘Would you?’ Paxton gasped, collapsing onto the stool. ‘I mean—yes—please.’
The stallowner nodded, and lifted the receiver. A conversation followed; Paxton couldn’t follow, his vox overwhelmed by the rapid burbling, but it felt productive. Finally, he thought, he was making progress beyond stallholders shrugging parts of their increasingly incomprehensible anatomy. In hindsight, it was obvious: Paxton’s true skills were tenacity, determination, lateral thinking. The Captain wouldn’t have entrusted him with a trivial task.
‘Binchi has most of this,’ the stallowner said, handing the sheet back to Paxton. ‘Fifth stall in TD-7, bright purple signage. Can’t miss it.’
‘Th-thank you,’ Paxton said, easing off the stool. ‘Thanks.’
‘You’re quite welcome,’ the stallowner smiled. ‘That’ll be fifty credits.’
Paxton paused. ‘Sorry … ?’
‘For the call,’ they added, leaning forward. ‘Or — you could buy something. That would work.’
Paxton grimaced. He imagined returning to the ship hours late, hauling dented tubing and burnt-out chips, Virgo’s credit chip run dry from a “favour”.
‘drat you, Brolga,’ someone called out, muscling past to shove a circuit in the stallowner’s face. ‘You didn’t even strip the serial numbers off!’
Paxton saw his chance, and slid off the stool slowly, edging away from the counter. The stallowner—Brolga—widened their eyes in mock innocence. ‘Apologies, but I am with,’ the vox translated, in absolute politesse, ‘a customer,’ nodding toward the retreating Paxton. ‘I’m certain this can—’
The newcomer whirled toward Paxton, an eyebrow raised. ‘No, you’ve got yourself another mark,’ she said, in Paxton’s native spacer tongue. His eyes widened. She didn’t seem shipborn; for one, her dozen coiled bright-blue braids would be a liability in zero-gee, and her skin was freckled from real sunlight.
He realised he was staring, and she smirked at his sudden blush. ‘What’s he trying to palm off, shipborn?’
‘N-nothing,’ Paxton stammered, still retreating. ‘He was helpful, until—’
She stalked toward Paxton, grabbing the crumpled sheet from his hands. ‘Nanite mod-bots,’ she read, eyebrows furrowing. ‘Hexagonal bolt-plugs. Wireless shangles…’ she trailed off. ‘Who’s got you picking this up?’
‘My captain,’ Paxton said. ‘We need them to fix up the engines.’
‘These aren’t real parts,’ she told him. ‘None of this is real.’
‘Freya!’ Brolga protested, leaning forward with wide eyes. ‘You’re not supposed to tell him!’
‘You knew?’ Paxton blurted, stepping forward again, fear diminishing. He felt his fists clench; and then Freya’s hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. ‘You’d’ve sent me all the way to TD-7…’
‘Steady,’ Freya warned. And then, to Brolga: ‘Is this true?’
‘You soilers wouldn’t understand,’ he spluttered, the vox cracking under his indignation. ‘Everyone goes through this. It’s a … rite of passage.’
Freya rolled her eyes, and turned to Paxton. ‘Let me guess,’ she mused. ‘You just happened to break down outside Voss Dhraga: known for its twelve tech districts, eighteen food markets, and fifty gambling dens?’
Paxton swallowed heavily. For all the urgency getting Paxton to the market, Virgo hadn’t seemed too concerned about their schedule. But Paxton had been excited to leave, at the time, and hadn’t really noticed.
‘Oh,’ he moaned. ‘I’m such an idiot.’
‘No,’ Freya said. ‘Just …’
‘Yes,’ Paxton interrupted, unfolding the list. ‘I trusted the schematics. But they’re wrong. You can’t find these things in the tech district. No — I’m pretty sure I overheard someone ordering shangles from a food stall, earlier.’
Freya raised an eyebrow. ‘I think you must have misheard—’
‘No, they definitely ordered shangles,’ Paxton nodded, tapping the sheet. ‘Hexagonal bolt-plugs, too. They looked delicious. But — I might need some help finding them again. Need to make sure I get the right ones, you know?’
Freya smiled. ‘I can do that,’ she said. ‘For a shangle or two.’
|# ? Nov 28, 2022 02:30|
At the age of eleven, Billy was confident that monsters, ghouls, and things that went bump in the night did not exist. However, standing in front of the closet he did feel a pang of terror at the possibility that they might be real. It didn’t help that the lights were off because his brother and sister swore the monster only came out in the dark. He put on a tough face and looked back at his siblings, Tyler and Vanessa, who peaked up at him from beneath their blankets. He gave them a nod, which they reciprocated, then he tightened his grip on his baseball bat and used it to pry open the closet door. The door whined as it creaked open into a yawning liminal space.
Billy probed the darkness with the bat until it bumped into drywall. There were no long-taloned fiends to slice him up. No sharp-toothed abominations to gobble him whole. Bravely, he stepped into the closet and pushed his way to the back through the swaying arms of empty clothing to be certain.
Satisfied, he emerged from the darkness to the exultant cheering of his young siblings. It was only then that he noticed the pair of eyes staring at him from beneath his sister’s bed. He gasped. His dad turned the light on.
“What’s going on in here?” their dad asked. “It was bedtime an hour ago, what are y’all three doing up?”
“There was a monster in the closet, but Billy beat it up,” Vanessa shouted.
“Yeah, he wasn’t even scared at all,” Tyler chimed in.
Their dad’s tired expression softened into an amused grin as he looked at Billy standing there with the bat in hand. Billy’s gaze however was fixed at the bottom of Vanessa’s bed.
“Alright now. It’s time for y’all to get back to sleep. You too, Billy,” their dad said as he made rounds to adjust blankets, tousle hair and kiss foreheads. Billy nodded and forced a smile. He feigned a bout of clumsiness to give him an excuse to retrieve the bat that conveniently rolled underneath Vanessa’s bed.
Billy glanced quickly under both beds finding only dust and forgotten toys. No ominous eyes peered back at him. He exhaled, retrieved the bat, and gave a thumbs up to his brother and sister indicating that it was ‘all-clear’, but as he lay in his bed that night, he couldn’t shake the stare of those eyes. It was that they didn’t look like what he thought a monster’s eyes would look like. It was that they looked real, that they almost looked human. There was a wrongness to them though, and the more he thought about them, the more he knew he had to be sure that it was nothing.
When he was sure his parents were asleep, he carefully snuck out of his room and tip-toed across the hall. He gently crept into his sibling’s room prepared for conflict. Tyler and Vanessa snored peacefully in their beds.
Billy knew from his siblings that the alleged monster feared the light, so he dug out the leftover Halloween glowsticks and an LED headlamp he got at one of his Cub Scout meetups. His plan was simple. Sneak in and toss glow sticks under each bed. If anything popped out it was time for the bat, and the noise he would make would bring help in a hurry, but there was no such thing as monsters, and he had nothing to worry about. This was just to put his mind at ease. Just a big brother being thorough in the protection of his younger, scaredy-cat brother and sister.
It’s now or never, he thought before he knelt on a plastic knee guard and slid a glowstick under both beds. A second later he turned on the headlamp and snapped his head in both directions. He readied for action, but nothing fled from the light. That’s what he expected though. Monsters weren’t real. He stood up and dusted himself off then looked around the room in satisfaction. Then Vanessa began to scream. Billy turned towards her immediately only to see her pointing past him.
His heart hammered in his chest. Adrenaline surged through his young body. Fight or flight reactions took over, and his mind settled on fighting. He spun the bat in his hand as if it were a sword and smashed it down hard behind him.
The bat hit the surface of something like what he imagined a person might feel like beneath the wood, but then it sank into the flesh of the thing he struck. Tyler was up now and screaming too. Billy, only marginally protected by his adolescence, did not break as the creature's features rearranged themselves in response to the bat half-submerged in its body. No, he tugged the bat free from the strange creature and swung repeatedly, continuing even as his dad rushed into the room.
“What is going on in here?!” their dad demanded, but then he saw, and he stopped, mouth hung open as he watched Billy, eyes wild with terror, bringing his bat down on a twisted facsimile of a person. “What?” his dad asked of no one as he struggled to process what it was that he was seeing, but they all saw it.
A man that was not a man struggled to maintain its form beneath the fury of Billy’s attacks. Billy struck its head and an assortment of teeth, rodent bones, and other detritus fell from the gooey opening Billy had left inside the monster. The creature was now splattered in discolored puddles all over the room. It coated the bat, Billy, and his siblings. He swung the bat down a final time on the remnant of its false head and a single, crushed eye hurtled through the air and splattered against their father’s pajamas. Their father, still struggling to rationalize the situation, plucked the eye from his shirt and began to scream.
|# ? Nov 28, 2022 02:51|
Entry for Week 538: Snipe Hunt
A Perfect Waste of Time
Jehran sat in his quarters atop the foremost spire of Dovor Castle. A desk free of traditional filigree and embellishments, a humble chair in kind, and a bedroll in the corner beneath the window adorned the room of the King's first consult. Scrolls and books sat atop the desk, and the scrolls jostled as his door flew open.
"Sir Jehran," Olkin, his hulking steward, entered his quarters. "The King has enquired…."
Jehran scoffed, "that impatient twit."
"Tell the king I have a plan," Jehran said as he rolled his eyes.
Olkin crinkled his brow. "You have a plan to save the king?"
"I have a plan."
Scribes wrote through the night, and messengers delivered through the day, a desperate plea:
500 Pieces of Silver Reward
The Great King Horace is ill and requires the nectar of a lionsuckle plant. Tell a royal messenger if you have information about the location of a lionsuckle.
Jehran looked out his window and watched as the messengers scurried throughout the town. His door opened, and Olkin walked in holding a flagon.
"Come, Olkin, watch the show with me."
"The show?" Olkin asked as he sat down next to his superior.
“Aye, a show of arrogance. Horace somehow believes that his subjects care enough about him to save him. He has no idea of their disdain. This is merely theatrics; you might even call it my grand finale."
Olkin laughed. "Your grand finale?"
Jehran sighed. He took the flagon from Olkin and poured two full glasses of beer.
"The king will be dead soon, and I suspect he'll curse me to the same fate with his dying breath."
"There's no such thing as lionsuckle, is there?"
"Sure there is. My mother told me a story all about it. A lovely story, that. It had witches in it."
Olkin held out his mug, "the king's an arsehole."
Jehran clinked his mug to Olkin's. They drank and laughed together.
"I'll miss you," Olkin said. "It's not every councilor that drinks with his valet. You might be the last decent person in this whole castle."
Jehran raised an eyebrow as he sipped from his beer. "You hate it here, don’t you?"
"I've lost quite a bit, sir. I wonder if it's like this everywhere," he replied, sipping from his beer.
"Not everywhere. My homeland was better, for a start."
A week later, King Horace summoned Jehran to his throne room.
"Regard this prisoner!" Horace wheezed from his throne. "Is he of honest countenance?"
Jehran looked at a bedraggled short man, bound by shackles, at the bottom of the steps leading up the throne. The man wore a content smile as he inspected the ground before him.
"My instinct tells me, yes." Jehran offered.
"He claims to know the location of a lionsuckle,” said Horace.
The prisoner glanced at Jehran and winked.
"How far?" Jehran asked the prisoner.
"If we leave now, we can have your grace strolling about his kingdom by week's end."
"Off you go," barked King Horace. "Take my guard with you, and oversee this endeavor. And if this mealworm," the King pointed at the prisoner, "makes any trouble, kill him."
The caravan of The King's Guard, Jehran, and the prisoner traveled west for several hours when Jehran called for respite. While they sat and the guard drank from a nearby stream, Jehran sat next to the prisoner.
"What's your name?" Jehran asked.
The prisoner chuckled to himself. "I had heard of your decency. Bluth, Sir."
"What's your game, Bluth?"
Bluth glanced over his shoulder and saw the guard captain snooping on their conversation.
He lowered his voice to a mutter: "Rumor's been going around for 15 years about this lionsuckle. Just watch my feet, and we'll find it."
Jehran squinted at Bluth but didn't have time to enquire further about the awkward cryptic.
"Breaks over, you lousy bastards," the captain of the guard called out as he kicked one of his men in the rear end. "Onward, I want this plant found and in my palm!"
As dusk settled in, the caravan arrived at a cliff.
"Ah, yes," Bluth called out. "I was here when I was just a lad of 15." He turned toward Jehran and muttered, "A terrible age. Worth skipping, I might add."
He led the caravan along the cliff's edge until they arrived at a long plank and rope bridge connecting their side to a cliff across from them.
"I'm guessing," Bluth started, "that the prisoner should be the first to test this spindly structure?"
Nobody said anything.
"Very well!" Bluth shouted.
He spun around and whistled as he skipped over the first plank and crossed the rest of the bridge two planks at a time.
He arrived at the end, turned around, and waved.
"Feeling brave, Sir Jehran?"
Stoked by curiosity more than anything, Jehran walked silently across the bridge. He arrived at the end just the same.
Bluth greeted him upon his arrival. "I was worried you didn't catch my clues."
"You weren't exactly subtle," Jehran responded. "What's wrong with the 15th plank?"
His question was answered when the captain of King's guards screamed as the 15th plank gave out beneath him. He plummeted downward, and the bridge fell apart.
The remaining guardsmen shrugged and turned around. One spat into the ravine and made an obscene gesture.
"Sir Jehran!" A voice called out from behind a large tree.
Olkin approached him, his hand extended. Jehran swatted his hand away and embraced him.
"Sir Jehran,” Olkin said placing his hand on Bluth’s shoulder. “I'd like you to meet my brother."
"A brother stuck in the jails below the kingdom for how long?" Jehran asked.
"8 years," sighed Bluth. "The air today has been so sweet."
"And sweet it shall be from here on out," cried Olkin.
"What is your plan?" Jehran asked.
"You spoke of a better place. I'd love to see it." Olkin said, beaming.
Jehran nodded. "Off we go then."
|# ? Nov 28, 2022 03:27|
The Court of King Andreas
The young king was named Andreas, a name which meant “warrior” in the language of his ancestors. He had been reminded of this fact many times—too many in fact. In the ten and two years since his birth, the king’s court had been aflutter with stories of his character. The priests murmured about his docile character, an unsuitable trait for a valiant defender of the Church holding lands only recently brought into Christendom. The lords and ladies, dressed in their silk and fineries taken in conquest, gave one another bemused expressions as they watched their ink-speckled sovereign waddle from the palace library to the throne.
Even the tall, gleaming tapestries of his departed father and mother seemed to glower down from their walls. The sapphires woven into their eyes glinted with disgust as the boy wallowed in tales of places untethered from feudal obligation, of adventures and wonders far beyond the castle and its newly built walls.
He often wondered what it would be like to escape his place, but he had obligations to uphold. His rule had been ordained by God. No matter what his court whispered, no matter how much they wished him gone, he could not abandon his kingdom, not while it still stood.
And so, one day, while seated atop his throne, the boy-king called out. “My loyal council, I am neither blind nor deaf. I know I have done little to prove myself as good or noble, to be worthy of this throne claimed by my warrior parents years ago.” The boy looked down, hoping to hold back the tears behind his eyes. “Please, tell me how I might help this kingdom’s people. Tell me how I might make the sun rise over a country that is happy and prosperous.”
There was a pause.
There was a muttering.
There were the sounds of a dozen nobles conspiring a way to rid themselves of a soft ruler, to ready the path for further conquest and glory without sullying their hands.
“My gracious lord, how noble of you to express such concerns.” From the crowd emerged the Bishop, the oldest member of the king’s court, a master manipulator of both the church and crown. Years prior, his forked tongue had produced the crusade responsible for the kingdom. “Have you considered a quest?”
The boy-king’s eyes gleamed. “A quest?”
“Yes, a quest, a grand exploit to prove your worth in the eyes of God and men. An adventure like in your books… Why, perhaps you could reclaim a holy artifact, a relic. One of great importance. Perhaps…” The bishop paused and stroked his beard as if to imitate the wise men of old. “The Crown of St. Grobian?”
“I’ve never heard of such a relic! Not in my books or stories!” Said the boy, enthralled.
The Bishop smiled and spoke in a voice like poisoned honey. “I am not surprised, my liege, for the Crown of St. Grobian is one of the more secret relics of our faith, a wondrous cap that gives its holder power over people far and wide.” The courtiers nodded as the bishop spoke. “Alas, it is held in a hidden place by enemies to our faith, in some nameless town outside the castle walls. If you could venture out and claim it, perhaps in disguise, unknown to any spies…”
The courtiers exchanged glances. Surely, a boy traveling into hostile, foreign lands without protection would be—.
“But how would I return once I claimed the relic?”
“Why, my gracious liege, we’ll leave a secret door unlocked for you. Once you have found the relic and returned victorious, all you need to do is spirit yourself through it.”
No more was needed. No more was said. The boy-king readied himself for a grand expedition beyond the palace gates. The courtiers stripped him of his oversized crown and his oversized robes and dressed him in the garb of a peasant heretic. Then, with painted smiles, they ushered him through a secret gate into the lands beyond.
The door shut quietly behind him. Andreas stood there for a moment and admired the expanse of the countryside before him. Then he set off into the unknown. The court watched gleefully as his silhouette shrank in the distance before, eventually, it disappeared.
Days became weeks. Weeks became months. The court sent a mournful letter notifying the king’s surviving family of his disappearance and readied themselves for his successor’s coronation and the many feasts and celebrations that would follow. Taxes would need to be raised, of course. More exotic goods would need to be extracted from the peasants. The court would have its due.
And after that? Some claim that the boy-king was set upon by marauders soon after his departure. Unaware of his station, the bandits killed the boy and plundered his corpse, only then discovering some secret note he had hidden away describing his sorry tale. Others claim that the boy-king remained committed to his foolish mission, traveling from town to town through the conquered lands. He rescued maidens, saved the innocent, and slew great beasts—all in hopes that stories of his heroic displays might one day lead him to a crown that did not exist. Still others believe that the boy-king fell in with a group of traveling mercenaries who disabused him of all notions of heroism, chivalry, and magical relics. Without his books and the protection of the castle walls, the kind boy became a cruel, bitter man eager for revenge.
Whatever the case, the court’s rule came to an end one calm summer night when a stranger and his supporters creaked open the castle’s secret door, left unlocked many years ago for the boy-king. The intruders crept through the darkness and made quick work of the guards and their nobles. They stripped the rooms of their jewels, tapestries, and fineries and scattered them over the gates.
When the sun rose the next morning, the kingdom was no more. The country was happy and prosperous.
|# ? Nov 28, 2022 04:09|
Trying To Move Past The Grungy 1990s
Can we even be friends anymore? Josh reflected bitterly, feeling raw after the heated exchange.
A still chill hung in the glade between the two teenagers. Kevin sat between the evergreens, with a journal at the ready, strumming his guitar. His gleaming eyes were still transfixed on the clearing in the forest’s canopy, as though nothing had just happened. A perfect starry night, with its new moon sleeping under a shadowy blanket, unfurled above. Josh sat fidgeting with his flute near a yellowing maple at the other end. He couldn’t find a comfortable position in his old spot anymore. His sour eyes squinted at Kevin’s journal. Josh knew it was rich with careful entries. Something between a scowl and smile absently drifted across his face.
He needs to grow up. I can’t believe he’s still at it.
The sentiment, intended to be scathing, ultimately landed on faint admiration. Josh fully smiled now. He returned to his earlier ruminations. He resolved to see things through.
No, I definitely want to be friends. But I can’t just stay behind with him every time. He needs to catch up to me.
Josh tried to let the crisp air cool his temper further, but Kevin interrupted.
“I know you don’t want to be here anymore.”
“You’re wrong,” Josh coolly replied.
“You just want to hang out with Gavin, and be cool with him at lunchtime.”
Josh winced. Why did Kevin have to say it like that? There’s nothing wrong with meeting new people at highschool, people with fresh, exciting interests. People with lives outside of the X-files, or sky scans, or the obscure and paranormal. Hadn’t they been doing this Roswell-type stuff for years now? Ever since elementary, when they met in music class? It’d be nice if they could join the new millennium together.
“It’s nice to evolve,” Josh coyly remarked.
“What makes you think liking Eminem and Limp Bizkit makes you evolved?”
Somehow Josh felt like Kevin had cornered him. But don’t trendy things always seem silly if you poke them? And the things themselves are hardly the point. Enjoying the popular lets you be social, because there’s that something you can talk to others about to create a kind of mutual electricity. It’s important to meet people. Girls especially, who’d lately become very interesting. These half-formed ideas swirled in Josh’s head, but before he could assemble them into a reply, Kevin continued.
“You know what I think’s cool? MKUltra. Polybius. Atlantis. Chupacabra. ESP. Sky scans. Do you have any idea what we could see on a night like this, if we keep our eyes open?”
Kevin’s eyes were certainly open. They were alive and ready to intercept the slightest heavenly movement. Though he strummed a sentimental tune, he was also prepared to instantly chronicle any celestial abnormality into his journal. He spoke without ever shifting his gaze.
“Or what about D.B. Cooper, John Titor, and Roland Doe? How does that stuff not jazz you up too?”
All those words did jazz Josh up. They’d spent years together pouring over all things bizarre. Josh smiled at Kevin’s journal again, and at his unflinching gaze. Was that how he got so many sightings? Josh never saw anything on his sky scans. He’d spent so much time trying to, his mom eventually forbade it unless he was also practising his instrument. Kevin said his mom had a similar rule. They laughed. Once, Josh fibbed about seeing some ‘strange, dancing lights’ just to have something to share at recess.
But as enticing as those experiences were, they produced a different feeling now. The passion had waned. It felt more like wistful nostalgia now.
“I still like all that stuff... I just want to try new things too.”
“If you only want to hang with Gavin, just say so.”
“It’d be cool if you came with us. You should try new things too.”
Kevin’s eyes deadened. His hands trembled. He stopped playing. He wanted to say something, but relented.
“I love this poo poo. I’ll never give it up.”
“You don’t have to. Just come out with us sometime.”
Kevin couldn’t respond until he curled up into himself. It seemed so strange. Josh didn't know what to make of it.
“...But I’m just a weird, spooky loner.”
“There’s more to you than the paranormal... like, if people knew you could do Nothing Else Matters on guitar, they’d think you’re pretty cool.”
“No, I really am just a spook.”
Josh doubted that. Sure Kevin was a raging x-phile for everything supernatural, but that’s only quirky. He just needs to become a little more outgoing.
“You don’t always have to be.”
“... I sorta do. I just get so anxious around most people. Socializing’s really draining for me.”
“It’s tough for everyone-”
Kevin interrupted with a heavy sigh. He seemed frustrated. Something wasn’t communicating. Josh realized he was doing something wrong, but didn’t know what.
“I wish there was a better word than anxious. It doesn’t tell even half the story.”
Josh struggled to understand. All that time his friend spent alone, watching the sky, filling his journal... was there more to that than unflinching dedication? Kevin spent an awful lot of time alone at school too, when Josh wasn’t around.
“When you say anxious, do you mean like, ‘social phobia’?”
“...I think so.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
Josh felt like something important just happened, but he still struggled see the whole picture. He realized Kevin looked so alone, the way he was sitting now.
“Hey, I’m here for you.”
The two became silent. Josh felt like a key had fallen into his lap, one that could secure their friendship just like he wanted to, but he didn’t understand it yet. It would probably take a lot of time. He was prepared to be patient. Not knowing what to say next, Josh played the first few bars of Nothing Else Matters on his flute. He hoped Kevin would join when he was ready to.
|# ? Nov 28, 2022 07:18|
A person can spend a lifetime looking for the Clips. Believe me, I have. What was it that the writeup in the New Yorker said? "An all-consuming appetite for the fuzz-limned penumbra of something that cannot itself be seen, that may well have never existed." Heh.
I was in near the beginning, with my old VHS player that I could strip and reassemble blindfolded like a Marine with his rifle. Mine connected through a rat's-nest of cables and converters to a sensible format for a laptop to display. Sondra went analog, with an equally antique television set now blind to the digital signals. We met as rivals at yard sales, competing over those old tapes. Three rules, they say. Don't get into bidding wars. Don't make it personal. And whatever you do, don't fall in love. We broke them each, in order, and it turned out well enough. Like in the old song, we married our fortunes together. Well, we never married. But we practically lived together, during those days. Learning each other's bodies and private languages, and hunting for the Clips together.
These days the tapes have all degraded. Weren't that good quality by then, to be honest. But today, if you have a VHS tape where anything is visible but rolling noise bars, what you have is a fake manufactured this year by some pranksters in Tajikistan.
What we were looking for was old, personal tapes. Ones with white labels filled with handwritten scribbles promising television episodes, or sometimes a movie old enough to have been aired on commercial television. That old Dolby static ramp indicating a recording off of HBO was out bane, the sign of a sure dub. It's the commercials, always, where the Clips can be found. Even in the tiny scraplets of commercial that represented a diligent recorder's reaction time between noticing the break and pressing the pause button. Just one frame would be enough.
We had a pregnancy scare, two years into our relationship. It came to nothing, but it shone a light on some of our differences that couldn't be unlit. There was no future in it, nothing but the hunt and the sex, and the novelty of the latter was gone. We broke up, almost exactly when the child would have been born. If it had ever been a thing at all.
That was when the Dale Report was published, too. Claiming that the Clips were never real, were just an early internet age hoax that went so viral that it re-emerged now, in the Bitrot Era, with the primary sources too scarce to verify. That the whole narrative, the Bloop, Channer and Mrs. J. never had long, serialized adventures across products and networks, in microchips and subliminals. That we were all a pack of fools. But that's not something we fought over. Neither of us believed the report. Neither of us stopped.
These days it's mostly the young who are the true believers. Came of age after Dale, after the last real VHS tapes faded to static. It's just part of the lore, now. Me? I don't believe, but I don't fully disbelieve either. I hold out a hope.
This is still the Bitrot Era. So much is still ephemeral, based in obsolete media and formats, on cloud servers that fail or are abandoned, are lost to time. Last year my own drives crashed, my backups failing to reload. There was a time when I'd have thought that evidence, of a conspiracy to suppress some Clips evidence that I didn't notice. Not now, though. Now, what I think about is what I've seen, in my search. Things nobody else alive has seen, and nobody will ever see in the future. The ephemera of the lost pre-digital world. Not the movies, not the popular shows, but the failed ones, too mediocre to ever be collected and archived. News broadcasts. Late night talk shows. And the commercials. Not the classics. Forgotten campaigns for things you can't buy anymore and probably wouldn't want. Political ads for failed candidates. Somebody spend days or more making them, and now they're lost but for the inside of my head.
Sondra messaged me yesterday. She's back in town. She left for a job and came back for another. We caught up a bit, over coffee. Neither of us has had anything better, or at least longer lasting, in our love lives.
We didn't mention the Clips at all. We're going out again tomorrow, moving from catching up to trying again. I don't plan on mentioning them. But I might talk about one of those old third-tier stand-up comics nobody else has ever heard of. A few of the jokes still hold up.
|# ? Nov 28, 2022 07:48|
Submissions are closed...
...is what I'd like to say, but I realized I made a typo in my prompt post, indicating that the deadline was tomorrow. Most of you seem to have understood my intentions, but I won't deny the possibility of miscommunication. To that end, anyone who's yet to submit, if you can turn in your story prior to judgment being posted, I'll accept it and rank it as though it'd been turned in today; no disqualifications. Unless of course your post it after I render judgment, then you'd be disqualified.
|# ? Nov 28, 2022 10:25|
fuuuuuck made it in just under the wire
George and the Shiny Lobsters
The Albertson family’s dive vacation had been a complete success until, in the middle of a free-diving trip for lobster, Mrs. Albertson realized that only three out of four sons were accounted for.
“Tim,” she said to her eldest, trying to keep her voice level. “Where’s George?”
Tim looked around, his dark head bobbing in the warm saltwater. “I dunno. He was Pete’s dive buddy. Pete, where’s George?”
Pete frowned. “I dunno. We were looking for shiny lobster. You know, dad’s old joke? And then I saw a big one and went after it.” He held up a spiny lobster for confirmation, its spindly legs flailing in the air. Tim confirmed that it was, indeed, a big one, but Mrs. Albertson was no longer listening. Her ears were filled with a dull, panicked roar.
George was the dreamer of the family, always inclined to wander off without paying attention. He was also the least experienced diver, having only recently been interested in joining his parents and siblings on their excursions. While her other sons expressed that George was probably fine, it’s not like he could go far on a single breath of air, she and Mr. Albertson were already in the boat, calling for help and pulling on the SCUBA gear.
“Ninety seconds,” Mr. Albertson said as he shrugged on his BC. “He’s never managed to stay down longer than ninety seconds on one breath.”
Mrs. Albertson watched her husband tip backward off the side and kick down into the water, following the anchor chain as a guide rope. She wanted to scream. She wanted to blame someone, Pete for spreading his father’s story about ‘shiny lobster,’ like there was some sparkly, gilded, special sort of sea bug down there worth risking your life for. She wanted to blame Mr. Albertson for spreading the story in the first place. She wanted to blame George for believing it.
She pulled out her binoculars and began scanning the water while her other sons scrambled aboard the boat. Terror both compressed and extended her sense of time, the next five minutes might have been seconds or might have been hours, and she nearly burst into relieved tears when George finally popped up above the surface.
“Mom!” He shouted, waving. “Come and see! It’s amazing!”
Mrs. Albertson was not ready to do anything more than drag him aboard and go home. “George! Get up here! Where’s your father?!”
“He’s in the cave! Come on, guys, we found an octopus city!”
The Albertson boys looked at one another, then at their mother. Her immediate reaction of absolutely not, cave diving is the stupidest way to die failed on her lips. “An octopus city?”
“Yeah! Come on, you can get under there in one breath, you don’t need tanks.”
It wasn’t even a squeeze to wriggle under the overhanging rock into the air-filled cavern. A few shafts of light from above provided illumination for dozens of three to five foot deep pools, in each of which were a multitude of tiny octopi, the largest no bigger than Mr. Albertson’s palm. They watched, fascinated, as two octopi wrangled a shoal of diminutive fish. A third approached, handing a seashell to one, which blinked green and blue. The other fish-wrangling octopus echoed the colors, grabbed a fish out of the shoal, and passed it over to the third.
“A hell of a lot better than a shiny lobster, huh?” George smirked.
|# ? Nov 28, 2022 16:20|
Rodent, m, I gotcha.
Friendly reminder, you've got one day to get yours in M.
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 12:15|
Week 538 Results
All in all, not a bad week. I'll keep things brief: Thranguy wins, Kuiperdolin loses.
Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 16:08 on Nov 29, 2022
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 16:06|
Thunderdome Week DXXXIX: Pick-a-Prompt
This has been quite a good year for me in the dome. 6 Wins, 10 HMs, including my first ‘hat-trick’ run of three HMs in a row. And...
I have had to go deep into my Prompt ideas file, though. I could just repeat one, of course. It’s been a while. But instead, I’m going to repeat all of them.
So here’s the deal: when you sign up, pick one of the previous prompt in the next post. The flash rule and subprompt setup for the original prompt will also apply; I’ll flash you accordingly. One prompt per entrant. (In the unlikely event that we get close to running out I’ll change this.) Note: when the original prompt had a one-per-entrant restriction, that doesn’t apply here. You can pick or be assigned things that have already been used.
1000 words (overrides the original prompt wordcounts and bounties with one exception, see below). And you can earn 100 extra words for each crit of a story in a 1-judge week (We’ve had too many of those lately). No limit, and you can post the crits any time before you post your story.
The usual restrictions apply as stated in the various prompts.
Signups close Friday 11:59 PM Pacific time
Entries close Sunday 11:59 PM Pacific time
Albatrossy Rodent-week 353
Idle Amalgam-week 480
Bad Seafood-week 197
Hard counter-week 373
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 00:41 on Dec 5, 2022
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 19:46|
"i will write a no dialogue story cause i loving hate dialogue" said derp while doing an action
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 20:35|
in for 341 cyberpunk week, cyberflash cyberplease
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 21:13|
Sonder please, Socha.
Albatrossy_Rodent fucked around with this message at 21:32 on Nov 29, 2022
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 21:18|
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 21:18|
In, WikiHow week, please set me up with some instructions for tasks
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 21:29|
in for 341 cyberpunk week, cyberflash cyberplease
Tvtropes more or less deleted this page, but the history remains.
|# ? Nov 30, 2022 00:12|
In, WikiHow week, please set me up with some instructions for tasks
How to Escape from a sinking car
How to tell the quality of your Japanese sword.
|# ? Nov 30, 2022 00:26|
Rodent and M Brawl
One Step at a Time
Tom entered his apartment with a sore jaw.
Earlier he said something to a woman, (something offensive enough, he didn’t even want to think about what he said) and she punched him right in the jaw. Sure, he didn’t know a thing about women, but one thing Tom found out then was that their punches hurt.
He definitely deserved it. After all, for guys like Tom, stupid stuff comes out of his mouth all the time. It’s just how his screwed up mind works. He thinks about stuff, and he blurts out his thoughts, relevance and good taste be damned.
Once Tom got back, he checked the voicemail on his phone, and noticed he had two messages. He checked the first one:
“Hey,Tom. I hate to say this to you, but you’re a little late on rent. I’m gonna need about 400 dollars from you by tomorrow, or I’m gonna have to kick you out. Don’t make me do that, okay?”
Crap, Tom thought. He tried to set up a plan where he would regularly pay the rent, but his landlord asked for the money so infrequently that he couldn’t really plan things out in advance. No worries. I’m gonna get paid tomorrow.
He listened to the second message:
“Hey, Tommy. We had a problem with getting your check ready, but it should be ready by next week. Sorry for any inconvenience!”
After hearing that, Tom sat on the closest chair, and cried. Of course it had to be like this! It always seemed like for every step forward he took he was forced to take two or three steps back! Oh God, whatever am I going to do?
Tom obviously knew that the best solution was to call his parents for some money, but he has always thought of himself as a disappointment to them. Thoughts crossed his mind:
Will they be disappointed with me?
What if they refuse?
How many Mountain Dew flavors are there?
He quickly disregarded the last thought. He was the kind of fellow who had random thoughts pop up in his head all the time, and he always seemed like that was weird.
Tom then got a glass of water to calm down, and decided to call his parents. Unfortunately, there were enough ringtones after he dialed that he got nervous again. Finally, he heard a voice.
“Hello?” It was his mother.
“Hi mom!” Tom said, obviously sounding nervous.
“Oh, hey! What’s up?”
Tom swallowed and explained the situation. “My work is having trouble with my check and I need to pay my rent by tomorrow, could you guys please lend me some money?”
There was a small pause, then his mom responded, “how much do you need?”
Tom heard a murmur, as if she was talking to his dad.
“Alright, your father is coming over to give you the money.”
“Are you sure? I was afraid I might have let you down again!”
“Sweetie…you’re our son! You have never truly let us down.”
After talking for a little while, Tom hung up. He sat on his recliner and cried.
It was that easy. That freaking easy. But why did it feel so hard?
It wasn’t easy for Tom to talk to other people, but he figured that talking to his mom today was the first step. Not exactly a difficult step, but a step nonetheless.
When his dad came with the money, he suggested that Tom talked to his landlord about a plan to frequently pay the rent, so a mistake like this wouldn’t happen again.
Tom resolved to do that the next day. Not only to make a plan with his landlord, but to have a conversation with him. After that, who knows?
But Tom knew full well that it was too foolish and scary to plan that far ahead.
One step at a time, he thought. One step at a time.
|# ? Nov 30, 2022 05:41|
In with week #531 - Monsters in the Margins
I'm going to write about these jolly fellows:
|# ? Nov 30, 2022 14:59|
In, with #496 People are Still the Same!
|# ? Nov 30, 2022 15:00|
In with week 480. Will you hook me up with the things.
|# ? Dec 1, 2022 15:26|
In with week 480. Will you hook me up with the things.
|# ? Dec 1, 2022 17:12|
here is a redemption for week 75:
What are people? We are specs of dust. We are atoms. I often think that people are atoms, because we never really touch each other, not really. I touch books, and I touch food. I look out my window at the trees and animals. I am inside, like everyone. Everyone is inside, with only themselves. My room is a body for my body. And my body is the heart inside the body that is my room. My room has everything my body needs: food, air, water, books, health, blood, papers, pens, a bed, a toilet, a place for cleaning myself. It has all the parts of a complete unit, and needs nothing else to be fully itself. Just like my body, and just like an atom.
Why write? I write, because I imagine burying this notebook in the soil somewhere outside, most likely beside a stream. And maybe in 1000 years when everyone has forgotten where we came from and how things used to be, it will be found and shock the world. My room is beside a stream. I like to be beside streams. I also write for myself to remember. I have many hundreds of notebooks full of all kinds of things, and I like to look at them and remember what I know, and remember my thoughts and opinions.
Why I don’t move very often. Some people are constantly on the move and can never see enough sites. Some people keep their rooms moving about even when they sleep. But I like to watch a place, I like to know its secrets and see the animals that live there and the insects and birds. I have been beside this stream for many years. I like to watch it swell and shrink with the storms and I like to watch it freeze and thaw. And I like to notice where and when the fish swim, and what the birds sing, and what creatures drink from the stream when there is snow, or rain, or hot sun. I have other notebooks where I write these things. I have many notebooks that are full of this stream.
Have I been outside? I have been outside three times, and I think this is why I like to watch things more than other people do, because I can imagine things better. I have touched running stream water, and it was so cold and living. I have stepped in snow, and also in mud. I have touched a leaf, and sticks and rocks, and I have breathed the same air as the animals.
Why am I not upset by children? There are plenty of books about children and how the world used to be covered with them. There are even instructions on how children were once made by connecting two types of human bodies together to exchange a liquid that causes children to grow inside you. Most people find it horrifying, but I think that’s because most people haven’t looked at animals as much as I have. All animals let children grow in them, sometimes huge amounts of children, over and over, and they seem perfectly fine after. Even though I know it's not a natural thing for people to do, it seems interesting to me and I think about it sometimes.
Have I thought about dying yet? I have thought about dying, but I don’t remember it. I know because I wrote about it in a notebook. In my notebook I wrote “One day, logically, if I keep looking at things one day I’ll have seen everything. If I ever could never see anything new, then I think I’d be ready to try dying.” But I don’t remember that. I don’t remember worrying about that, so it must have been a long time ago. And now, I don’t think about dying anymore, because of what I wrote in my notebook. If I can forget thinking about that, then I can forget anything, and that means I’ll never run out of new things to look at, because I’ll keep forgetting things. I wonder when I’ll forget I wrote this...
Am I ever lonely? I’m not lonely, not really. I have my books and my notebooks, I have videos and music and if I really tried I could find other people and we could talk by connecting our rooms (only electronically of course.) But I’m not lonely. I talk to the animals and the stream, and I have my books. I have this list of questions I wrote for myself so long ago that I forgot them, and that’s why I’m not lonely, because I have myself in that way.
Have I been to the bottom of the ocean? Have I? I have been down in the ocean. I’ve seen an octopus and I’ve seen the old cities there, but I don’t think I’ve been to the bottom. Have I? I will have to check in my notebooks.... Maybe, after I tire of this stream, I’ll go to the ocean again...
|# ? Dec 2, 2022 04:50|
12 hours left to sign up, cojudges still wanted.
|# ? Dec 2, 2022 20:03|
In for Punked Out. Assign me a punk.
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 03:46|
In for Punked Out. Assign me a punk.
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 04:19|
In for a fiasco (Week 197). Tell me what I'm writing.
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 04:46|
In for a fiasco (Week 197). Tell me what I'm writing.
Crime: cop and "a person of interest in an ongoing investigation
Family: Husband and wife
Money: Wealthy relative and inheritor
To get even...and everyone must know you did it.
Above: infinity pool
Sentimental: exquisitely uncomfortable couch covered with real lemur skin
Mayhem: Cold-blooded score-settling
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 05:50|
i'm taking a stab at doing crits for snipe hunt week, my scattered thoughts are below:
Fautons by Kuiperdolin
-i think i can perceive what this piece is going for, in so far as that shadows, introduced as a metaphor for fall & corruption, actually contribute to Jezip's own fall via his fixation on these lost worlds & shadow entities (evidently caused by his mother's void hanging over his life)
-that's neat stuff imho, but the piece doesn't really take its time to convey the emotional aspect of that journey to really engage the reader (with conflict, tension, evocative/affective descriptions or whatever other devices you might've felt appropriate for the story), despite the idea being rife with potential for good moments
-we essentially just get the relevant, rational details to understand the story's paradigm, and that's it
-while abstraction can be interesting for certain readers, a story composed mostly of these things can also feel very flat to others
-i think the short length, not giving yourself the space go beyond the surface ideas, and get further into the story, paid the original concept a bit of a disservice
-otherwise, it's an efficient little machine of a story
George and the Shiny Lobsters by Chernobyl Princess
-this is a charming tale imho
-i like how the beauty of the octopus discovery was enhanced by its nearness to the relief of the very relatable fright preceding it
-btw i think the emotions of the earlier fright unfurled very naturally, great job
-i think building up the anticipation of this strange octopus city might've enhanced the final moment a little more, since we pretty much teleport right there after it's introduced, that segment seemed abrupt to me, there's certainly a rapid change in gear there
-that seems like something that could stand to have a little breathing room, in a manner of your choosing ofc
-that's just my opinion tho, and definitely a nitpick, otherwise great job
Detritus by Idle Amalgam
-i was a little surprised at the story's conclusion on a snipe-hunt week for fake entities, that's a pretty inventive interpretation of the prompt if i've read the story correctly
-i think some of the details capture the spirit of monster-hunting in childhood pretty well, there were also some excellent descriptions i liked
-i think an introduction that drops more hints might be warranted here, since i didn't quite clue-in into what i was reading in its conclusion until a second go through (i could just be an idiot tho)
-otherwise it was alright popcorn fiction
Eclipsed by Thranguy
-this is a surprisingly rich story for its size, i read it twice to make sure i picked up on everything
-there's some rather provocative hints about this bitrot era that really enticed my imagination, gj
-i also liked that capturing the genuine lost media eventually became the real emotional hook, it's nice to preserve things were meaningful once, even if they were only meaningful to a few
-that idea fits nicely alongside the possible rekindling of an old flame in an era where things just fall apart
-given the above, the only critique i have (and it's a real nitpick) is that the nature of the fallout with Sondra seems a bit too strong for the way this world works, it could've been a stronger parallel for the bitrot era if their relationship ended in another way
-that's just my opinion though, i know things typically go obsolete for a good reason irl
-anyway, this story feels like the full-package, great job
The Court of King Andreas by QuoProQuid
-this story read pretty smoothly, you have a pretty darn good grasp of flow imho
-i enjoyed all the recurring ideas as well
-i think i might've appreciated the conclusion more if the sad, impoverishment of the kingdom outside of the richness of the court, and its stolen goods, were emphasized in the narrative beyond happenstance
-the balancing act needed to bring prosperity and happiness to the country by taking it from the court might've had more impact in that case
-otherwise, this read like an old european fable
The Captain’s Order by rohan
-it was quaint reading a more straightforward interpretation of the prompt
-the scifi setting worked well in bringing new life to an old earth tradition, i appreciated all the world-building snuck in, i love that stuff
-the prose is pretty sound as well imho
-i think this one mostly suffers from being a tad too predictable imho, it feels something i've already read, since (aside from the setting) all this is exactly how a snipe-hunt often plays out irl, it's very no frills
-perhaps imagining a unique way for things to conclude might've added a touch more life to the end
A Perfect Waste of Time by Chili
-this was a fun little story, it set up the stakes and the scenario pretty efficiently, as well as the relevant motivations, it neatly uses details for characterization as well
-i enjoyed bluth's bridge scheme, i thought that was clever
-overall it's a tight package
-i think it only suffers from biting off a bit too much for the word-count (i'm chronically guilty of this too) since the text spreads itself rather thinly to cover all the essentials and nothing more
-i mean it's certainly effective in its own way, but being so compact can bring its own issues, every line can end up reading more like a work of inventive engineering than, say, a stab at self-expression, if that makes sense
-i could just be projecting tho, otherwise, good work
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 06:41|
in with Week #373 (Atari 2600 game cover art)
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 07:42|
crits for that week where there were 3 entries (i was 1)
this is a weird story, but i suppose thats a bit standard for you. theres a lot here and a lot of the details are kind of implicit. harrier is like a superhero-adjacent sort of character, and then theres some weird memery statements and Mythosphere which i guess this is supposed to be about mythical creatures/heroes? and then its sort of about the grief of a superhero injuring someone by accident? but most of the text is dialogue between the imp and the hero which is… fine. i usually like this stuff but its a bit flat mostly because theres not much that the dialogue is actually doing or showing. i dont really feel a central goal here with this story, and theres too many pieces that arent fitting together into a coherent, focused picture. sure, a hero dealing with the consequences of his mistakes is a good premise, but that only comes at the end and there’s no engagement with that idea. the ending line with the mask only highlights how little this story is about that -- in another story, that would land as a meaningful statement that demonstrates the character’s growth. here, i go “oh poo poo i forgot he wears a mask.”
i dont quite like the descriptions of the japan stuff. i dont know how to describe it but it feels pretty flat and kinda like a trip report rather than a character’s description of the place. honestly, theres a level of flatness in the character’s voice that feels off to me, and im not sure exactly how i feel about it. the first paragraph’s tone is a bit odd. it seems so dramatic and vague that it makes me not be primed for a modern setting story. then the rest of the descriptions are just flat and maybe its intentional to create a sort of distance between the setting and the character that the character is feeling, but, i dont know, it just ends up keeping me from getting involved. it does also feel weird because by the end of the story, as the character gets ready to meet the boyfriend, the language becomes more vivid and figurative, which again might be intentional to highlight his shift when he has face the boyfriend, but i think it still frustrates me just how flat the beginning is. i feel like if youre trying to make a boomer, maybe you can make him more annoyed/inconvenience to give a little more energy while still keeping the disconnected feel to the world.
my major criticism is that the character’s motivation just feels so… weird to me? like, i dont know, but i cant quite believe this character’s racism being motivated by world war 2 or whatever. it just feels so… disconnected and flat. its generations removed and its that his grandparents were executed which, sure yeah, that sucks, but idk i find myself not quite buying it. sure, maybe thats just the character trying to justify their racism, but i dont feel like that reading is supported by the text. he seems to understand, in some sense, that his dislike isnt rational, but i dont think we ever get to see like… any level of why he feels that way. theres the lines about the anger from previous generations which is fairly interesting, but we dont ever really see that anger, never see how that anger gets transmitted to the protagonist, that i just, i cant buy it. idk its hard though because trying to make a believably racist character without being harmful is obviously an incredibly difficult thing to do and its also worth having stories where there are racists and exploring them, i just dont think this is quite there in that regards. i think the anger angle is a good one that might be worth exploring more, but i feel like we need to see more of that, because it feels a bit light at the moment. i can kind of also understand being uncomfortable in a more vague sense, but i dont really feel that here and i think youre trying to make the racism more specific but i dont quite feel it.
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 09:35|
in with Week #373 (Atari 2600 game cover art)
Also, Sign-ups are now closed.
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 10:02|
I'll be frank:
I wanted to do something a lot more fun and involved by way of a judgement post, but I am just too drat gassed. I'll keep it simple.
As rodent laid out the terms of the brawl, and M did indeed incorporate some improvements in his story....
the man called M wins.
I'll crit stuff later.
|# ? Dec 4, 2022 03:12|
The Man Who Eats Alone
Deleted post-judgment because the story dunked on a real dead person who has a family who could theoretically read it
Albatrossy_Rodent fucked around with this message at 16:17 on Dec 6, 2022
|# ? Dec 4, 2022 22:39|
The Pure Joy of Noise
“Do you ever miss it?” Atticus asked, stretched out across the grass, his furry belly warming in the sun.
“What? Oh,” Cato replied from the branches above, where he was preening his feathers. “No… no, I don’t think so. It was quite stressful, running around all the time and arguing with other politicians. Nowadays I don’t move unless I want to grab a bite to eat, and just have pleasant conversations. I missed it at first though.”
“What are we talking about?” Julius asked as he trotted out of the forest, Maximus hopping a few paces behind him.
“Whether we miss being human,” Cato replied. “I don’t think I do. Life is much more peaceful now.”
“Why bother asking? It’s not like we can do anything about it,” Maximus said grumpily. “Whether we miss it or not, we can’t change back.”
“I miss eating cooked food,” Julius replied, ignoring his small companion. “At least, I think I do. Honestly I’ve grown quite accustomed to roots and acorns, but a nice cena of oysters… I miss that.”
“I miss women,” said Maximus. “Women and wine, preferably together.”
“I wouldn’t mind having a library to read, I suppose,” said Cato in turn, and he twisted his head to look back at Atticus. “What about you, friend? What brought on this line of questioning?”
Atticus sat up and shrugged. "Oh, it's nothing, I was just… Well, do you promise not to laugh?"
"No," replied Maximus quickly.
"Hush, you little bastard," snorted Julius. "Go on, brown, what's ailing you?"
"I miss playing the lute."
The three companions stared at Atticus, clearly waiting for something more. There wasn’t.
“You mean, being a musician, performing in front of others?” asked Cato.
“Or having admirers fall over themselves to talk to you afterwards?” asked Maximus.
“No, not like that,” Atticus replied. “Just… the act of playing the lute. Making beautiful noises, just for myself. That’s what I miss.”
“What’s stopping you?” asked Julius.
“Are you kidding?” Atticus held up his big furry paws, ending in his long claws.
“Well, yes, obviously,” Julius replied. “You’ll never win the Actian games, but you said you just wanted to pay for yourself. So why not? You can hold the lute, and you’ve got fingers to play, don't you?”
The four companions sat in silence for a moment, and then as one broke into a hurried run to their ship, abandoned and ran aground. Cato flew in gentle circles around the mast, watching as Atticus pried the latch of his locker open. Soon enough, he had his prize grasped gently in his jaw - his lute, old and properly out of tune, but nonetheless intact. Soon enough he had everything arranged - the lute sitting awkwardly on his lap, sheet music arranged on a nearby tree stump, his friends watching nearby.
The instrument didn’t sit comfortable in his paws, and the lack of thumbs made it awkward to keep it in place… but Atticus played the first few notes of some old song, and it seemed like the whole world stood still. His companions held their breath and stayed perfectly still as their friend plucked out one muted, warbling, halting note after the other. The tempo was off and the strings buzzed, the melody so distorted that none of them could tell what song he was playing. But still! It was unmistakable, the sound of music echoing across the clearing.
“This is stupid,” Atticus cried suddenly, pushing the lute to the ground and turning away. “Stupid, stupid, stupid! A bear can’t play the lute! STUPID!”
“Why did you stop? Keep playing!” shouted Maximus as he leapt onto his shoulder. “Come on! You can’t just stop like that, I was listening to that!”
“Oh, leave me alone, you dumb hare. You heard how bad that sounded, don’t lie to me!”
“It was admittedly a little rough,” said Cato carefully, as he flapped around to stand in front of Atticus. “But you just need to practice a bit more, that’s all. With time and practice, a man-”
“But I’m not a man! I’m a bear! I could practice for a million years, and I still wouldn’t be playing it right!”
“Who cares?” shouted Julius, stamping his hoof on the ground. “I thought you just wanted to make some beautiful music for yourself and no one else. Why do you care if it’s right?”
“Because I’m just making a bunch of noise, okay? It’s just noise!” sobbed Atticus, as he buried his snout in his paws.
“Isn’t that what music is? A bunch of beautiful noises?” she said.
There she stood, beautiful Circe the Enchantress, cruel Circe the Temptress, the goddess who had transformed them. She walked into the clearing, picked up the lute, and gently set it back in Atticus’ paws.
“Ah, that joyful sound! Won’t you please play for me a little bit more, little bear?” She gently scratched behind his ears and waited for him to nod in agreement. Then she picked up Maximus and held the hare in her lap as she sat down to listen.
“Okay, well…” Atticus started, a bit hesitant. “This is a song my grandfather taught me when I was a little boy, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Here we go…”
And slowly, but with increasing confidence, he began to make a beautiful noise that filled the clearing and the spaces between the trees late into the night, as his strange audience listened enraptured.
|# ? Dec 5, 2022 05:22|
|# ? Jan 30, 2023 01:21|
WikiHow prompts: How to Escape From a Sinking Car and How to Tell the Quality of a Japanese Sword
The brakes on Brent's old station wagon give out on a rainy summer night, and the flimsy guardrail doesn't even put up a fight against the bulk of hydroplaning metal. The water is just far enough down for Brent to assemble one coherent thought: he's dying because of a Goodwill run. Not a race to the hospital, not a high-speed chase, not even groceries. Goodwill. He fumbles with his seatbelt and braces for impact, following half-remembered emergency drills, even though he knows he's not getting out. Unbuckle, brace, open a window or break one, then -- and then there's the shriek of a baby in the back seat. There's a baby in the car.
There shouldn't be a baby in the car, Brent's rational mind tells him, and there wasn't a baby in the car before they went through the guardrail, but now there is one: tiny and dark-haired, not even belted in, let alone in a car seat. Brent's forebrain tells him he's hallucinating, but Brent's forebrain isn't the one piloting any more, and every instinct in him says save the baby. He faces forward again for impact -- no airbags, thank God -- and grabs the center punch that his mother keeps hanging from the rear-view mirror, as if she knew her stupid kid would be here one day. One punch cracks the safety glass, and the second breaks a hole. Good. Water pours in, and Brent lunges for the back seat, grabbing the baby and pushing it through the open window, guided by the old memory that says kids out first. He's out as quick as he can manage, rough edges of the broken safety glass pulling at his shirt, but he's out, he's out, even as the car sinks --
And the baby is sinking like a stone.
Brent was a high-school swimmer: never good enough for state meets or scholarships, but good enough for this. He dives desperately through murky river water, reaching for the little shape, which seems to glow in the depths. He can still hear it wailing. He catches the baby and forces himself to turn around, to swim towards the dim moonlight above him, with what little strength he has left. He should have taken a deep breath in the last calm moment before impact, should have saved himself more air; he tells himself the river isn't that deep, that he can't have gone down too far. The baby is silent. Brent clutches it close and kicks for his life. Strong legs, his coach had always told him. Good strong legs. Only a few seconds more.
Brent breaches the surface, chest heaving for air air air, and propels himself towards shore. Only once he's thrown himself onto the muddy riverbank does he feel the cold bundle still clutched in his numb arms. It's not a baby. It never was a drat baby, his mind reasserts, with angry post-adrenaline. He's just risked his life for some mirage, a long thin shape wrapped in sodden tissue paper in a plastic bag -- the sword. The goddamn Goodwill sword, a twenty-dollar impulse buy from the display case of things too good for the open floor but not worth auctioning.
Thank you, says a soft voice in his mind.
"What?" Brent doesn't have the sense for any better answer, not even swearing. Dimly, his mind registers the emergency lights above him, the sound of voices. Someone's going to find him here soon, out of his mind and talking to a Goodwill sword. He really ought to care about that, to worry about psych holds and his parents thinking he's on meth, but everything outside of this place on the riverbed feels very distant.
You saw me. For 98 years have I been used and discarded, a tool of wretched men or the trophy of worse. For 98 years have I failed them, and for 98 years have I in return been failed. But today, when you could have left me to the river, you saw my struggles, and you saved me. You are well-tempered, wielder.
"Seriously? I... man, I don't know about swords. Especially not, like, wielding. Is that okay? I just thought..." He'd thought that there was something real there, something meaningful -- a piece of the past, of a story, the kind he'd always hoped to find on a thrift-store run. He'd been too right this time.
All I require, says the sword, is to be appreciated. A fixture on the wall will suffice. Perhaps a cleaning? But enough for now. Your saviors arrive.
Brent stands up, raising one arm to stiffly wave at the figures walking down the bank, carrying bundles of what he hopes are blankets. His rational mind is already working on a cover story, something about grabbing his Goodwill purchase out of the car by dumb reflex, but maybe they won't ask. He hopes they don't. He hopes the ambulance doesn't cost too much. Restoring an antique sword can't be cheap, and Brent intends to have it done properly, once they're home. It's something to think about other than the car and the cold and surviving. He's survived, he and the magic sword both, and isn't that a hell of a story?
|# ? Dec 5, 2022 05:45|